Will a Change of Venue Help Writer’s Block?


Well, it’s not exactly writer’s block … sort of. In 2015, my cousin and I took a trip to Scotland to follow some family ancestry as well as for me to do some research for the fifth book in my series, “Partners, Heart of the Phoenix”. For my main character, AJ Donovan, it took years to find the Scots-Irish father he thought had abandoned him. Now a father himself for the first time, he and his wife, Quin, chose to take a trip to Scotland where Ethan Donovan and his family currently lived. AJ was excited to meet his many half siblings and introduce his son, Reilly to his grandparents.

Ethan’s landscaping business had made him quite wealthy and that wealth bought him enemies. Unfortunately, some of his enemies were within his own family. He had to determine which of his children were embezzling funds from the family business. AJ’s siblings welcomed him warmly … except one. This brother perceived AJ as a threat to his inheritance – to the point he was willing to eliminate him.

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At the RWA conference last year I roomed with a friend who was retired military and had spent much of her life in Scotland and Ireland. She pointed out several flaws in Irish-Scottish relationships that made the background for my story somewhat implausible. Changing those details would require changing background facts going back to Book I. So, I pushed the book aside and went on to other things. Not a good way to enhance a successful writing career.

So, one of the annual writing conferences I attend is “20 Books to 50K”, the focus of which is indie authors supporting indie authors. They are in Vegas every year but have also been doing conferences in Europe. This year, in July, it will be in Scotland. I was immediately interested. It’s time to go back and seek my muse. I need to work through the story issues and come back with the ideas I need to fix them. Not to mention that Edinburgh, Scotland is one of my favorite places in the world.

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I’m curious if other writers find new energy when doing research in countries where your story takes place. Do exposure and new facts make you more zealous to get back to your story?


Does Your Story Write Itself?

So, I started my series of books, Partners, the Odyssey of the Phoenix, many years ago. It took way too long to get the first one out, but once I did, the next ones flowed. The story is about AJ Donovan, firefighter-paramedic, who is excellent at his job but his personal life is a train wreck. He suffers from closet claustrophobia and PTSD, the origin of which is unclear. Due to things that happened to him in his childhood he is emotionally shut down, which doesn’t work well when trying to establish a relationship (which he really does wants). Then a new firefighter-paramedic joins the station. There’s an instant attraction to Quinlan O’Leary but she puts him on notice that she’s focused on establishing her credibility as a firefighter, paramedic and a woman. Sleeping with a partner would be at odds to that end (regardless of how drop dead gorgeous he is). One thing AJ never experienced was a platonic relationship with a woman. Quin does things for him because she wants to not because there was sex involved. When the rescuer becomes the victim of a near drowning, it’s Quin who saves him and stays by his side during a life-threatening bout with pneumonia. AJ develops a level of trust in her that tears down his wall and paves the way to love.

In Book II, Partners, the Challenge of the Phoenix, Quin and AJ are starting out life together in their new fixer-upper. A man from AJ’s past surfaces and makes good on his promise to make his life the proverbial living hell. The police are minimally effective at protecting him. Saving his life is dependent on his engaging in a covert police operation. At the worse possible time, a memory is invoked that uncovers the origin of his PTSD. He must work past it to survive. A police sergeant, his partner Chris, Quin, and the father he hasn’t seen since he was three years old, join the fight.

In Book III, Partners, the Sacrifice of the Phoenix, AJ is coerced into going to medical school as Quin feels being an ER doc is safer than being a firefighter and rescue technician. AJ isn’t academically inclined and misses his works as a firefighter. He hates being away from Quin for the better part of four years. Weeks away from graduation, a crisis occurs that threatens his success in finishing medical school. Quin and his friends rally support. He succeeds in getting a residency at the same hospital where he took his patients as a paramedic. His life is finally on safe ground, right? Not. AJ’s black cloud follows him wherever he goes. An abduction, a desperate situation, and a run for his life through a forest upends the theory that working in an ER is safer. He has to use every skill he knows to escape, including seduction.

Book IV, Partners, the Transformation of the Phoenix, starts after AJ’s first year of residency (his intern year) chews him up and spits him out. Communication between he and Quin disintegrates and false rumors threaten to break them apart. AJ faces the issue head on and their strong love prevails. In the meantime, his second year of residency (and being a licensed physician) has him on a helicopter crew and working with a partner, Dylan Jorgenson, who is also a USAR/disaster doc. During a flood, the need for him to jump back into a rescuer role forces him to face his fear of drowning. Dylan is starting a non-profit disaster team and wants AJ and Quin to join them. AJ, who’s never been east of Arizona, finds himself in the Caribbean after an earthquake. It’s quite a culture shock for him. They are warned about drug activity in the area. AJ stretches his skills on a field amputation and a confined space rescue. Just as they’re packing to leave, members of a drug cartel abduct Dylan and Quin and it’s up to AJ and Dylan’s homicide detective wife, Annie, to find them. It engages the HEART team with a federal USAR, DMAT and even the National Guard.

So how did this story go from the trials of an emotionally unavailable firefighter to an ER physician trying to find his abducted wife? I didn’t write the story, they did. Most of the writers I know have had this experience. The characters write the story; we just get to be the first to read it. Being a panster, I work off a basic outline of where we’re starting and where the story might end. In Book IV, I had no idea how it was going to end. What’s interesting is that things crafted into the story early on, or even in previous books as a point of interest, somehow become integral to the plot toward the end. One of those things is how American Sign Language, that Quin teaches AJ in Book I, becomes an important mode of communication in Book IV. When AJ decides to learn police work in Book I, I didn’t see how important that would be in Book II. AJ’s knowledge of wilderness survival established in Book I saves his life In Book III. His tenacity as a warrior established in Book II comes back into play in Book IV.

See what I mean? It makes you wonder if those characters in your head aren’t manipulating the story right from the beginning. The problem is, they tend to send me ideas when I’m driving or wake me up during the middle of the night. We have to work on their timing.

I’d love to know how other writers experience this strange phenomena.

Well, I have to go. They’re calling me with a new plot twist. They’re already working on Book V. Where will it take us? Scotland perhaps?

If I’ve stimulated your interest, Books I and II are up on Amazon and Book III will follow shortly.

Book I: http://amzn.to/2dqqSb9

Book II: http://amzn.to/2ewyFUN