Inspiration from the waters

The view from my author residency at Sunny Point on Keuka Lake in 2013.

The view from my author residency at Sunny Point on Keuka Lake in 2013.

Every summer of my life I have visited Keuka Lake, a Y-shaped lake in the heart of New York’s Finger Lakes. On its vineyard ridged hills, the area’s world-renowned wine industry took root, first being heralded as a center for sparkling wine.

Keuka is a supporting cast member in four of my seven published novels, with four more to be published as part of the Caviston Sisters Mystery Series. Why is it so important to me?

First of all, it’s the crystal lake water. Spring-fed, the lake follows a glacier-carved path through beds of shale. Its waves smooth stones into prized skipping tools. You could watch its surface the entirety of daylight and never be bored by the constantly shifting colors and patterns. Glasslike in the morning, roughed up by breezes and boats during the day, then gently calming as the world slumbers — it’s mesmerizing. Even storms are magnificent on the lake. Curtains of driven rain billow across the lake from the south, churning muddy swells that lash through spaces between rickety wooden boards on the dock. When the wind shifts from the north, the lake turns chilly blue as it froths up whitecaps.

Keuka has always been a place of conversations. In my early childhood, it was a place for listening to my great aunts and uncles recall their childhood stories. It was where my siblings and cousins sat around bonfires on its shore listening to my parents and aunt and uncle sing in harmony. It was a place of happy memories as well as retelling tales of catastrophic floods and tragic drownings.

We’d stay there in August with my aunt. In the mornings, “guns” of hot gases shot off repeatedly throughout the vineyards in an effort to keep birds off the ripening grapes. Most of the day would be spent swimming or wandering up a creek to find salamanders and frogs. It was an ideal location for a child’s imagination to bloom.

As adults, we have enjoyed watching the wine industry grow from major operations to smaller, “indy” wineries. We’ve seen the trends shift from savoring native grapes to trying to earn worldwide respect for wines made with vinifera grapes, and now a shift back to appreciating what grapes always did well here.

final-logo-fulkersoneventOf course I am not alone in being inspired to write by the Finger Lakes. On October 21, I will join four other women writers to celebrate Finger Lakes Litspiration at Fulkerson Winery on Seneca Lake. Kristan Higgins, Laurie Gifford Adams, Roz Murphy, and Katie O’Boyle and I will discuss how these lakes inspire us, we’ll read samples of our work and then meet with readers to sign books and answer question.

For complete information, visit Fulkerson Winery’s Facebook page or its website. The event will benefit the Humane Society of Yates County – Shelter of Hope.

All quiet on the wintry front

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It’s bleak midwinter. Snowstorm after snowstorm have been dropping white post cards from the heavens. Winds that skied down the Canadian Rockies and across the great plains have plummeted this area into a frozen state. No better time to stay inside and work on the second draft of my new novel. Right? If only it were that easy. Relentless snowfall requires constant shoveling. My writing den is chilly, so layers of clothing are required to sit here for long spells. Outside there is the sound of snowplows dropping their iron walls on the pavement and scraping along as they shove white walls across my driveway’s recently cleared entrance.

I take long walks with the dog when possible to seek inspiration. Most days I note the different birds chattering. Bluejays seem to grouse the most about the cold weather, I’ve decided. Once we were watched by a peregrine falcon atop a telephone pole. It was hungry, just like the cottontail rabbit in the back yard who has been gnoshing on the Indian corn that adorned the front door in the fall.

This second draft entails typing the handwritten first draft as I edit, but I also end up adding more text. So far I have about five thousand more words in the second draft, and I’m barely a third of the way through the manuscript for this new suspense novel. Once this draft is done, I imagine the third draft will reduce in size. The process is not unlike building a clay bowl on a potter’s wheel. Build, take away; build, take away.

And so I plow along in my small creative world, awaiting the coming spring thaw. Soon, I whisper, soon.