Monday, March 31, 2014

Characters like me

Readers often wonder how closely we writers resemble our characters. In my case, I have to say, “Not a bit!” After all, I write the madcap Tracy Eaton mysteries, Revenge of the Gypsy Queen, Dem Bones' Revenge, Revenge for Old Times' Sake, and the latest, Revenge on Route 66, a humorous romp along the Southwestern Route 66. Tracy is too much the offspring of her reality-challenged, zany parents, movie legends, Martha Collins and Alec Grainger, to be anything like me. 

The question I often hear from fans is, “Who are you parents? Anyone we'd know?” See, they assume my parents are also major motion picture stars, or how else could I write the hilarious scenes I create between Tracy and the banes of her existence? I'm flattered that readers regard Martha and Alec as so real, they can't imagine that I simply made them up. But that's what I did.

Tracy also brings the most eccentric approach to crime solving. I'm sure if I were an amateur sleuth, I'd never make my escape from captivity by shimming up a rope with my mother on my back, as Tracy and Martha did in Dem Bones' Revenge. Or when they eluded the bad guys by posing as hookers so the cops would arrest them for solicitation and whisk them away.

In Revenge for Old Times' Sake, free-spirit Tracy cheers when her stodgy husband, Drew, finally loosens up enough to rearrange the nose of his boorish boss, Ian Dragger. Too bad the next time anyone saw Dragger, he was floating face down in the Eaton pool, deader than disco.

I certainly didn't draw on my life for that. Not only isn't my hubby Joe at all stodgy, I don't even own a pool.

Still…I have to admit offbeat things always happen to me. Wherever I go, if there's a person who merely flirts with the periphery of sanity, he gloms onto me like I'm his long-lost twin. My husband always asks if I send out a homing signal that only wackos can hear. I don't know. Do I?

I also always find myself faced with problems that nobody else has to deal with. For instance, I went to a party recently in a gate-guarded community, The road that leads to it is a tough-to-navigate, narrow S-curve that takes a sharp dip where it crosses a creek, which is heavily studded with boulders.

When I stopped beside the gate speaker box, I realized I couldn't remember the code to open the gate. No problem. There were instructions for dialing the houses. Too bad that didn't work. Again and again. In six tries, I got mostly busy signals, although I also hit the voicemail a couple of times. I didn't feel too helpless babbling, “Uh, I'm here, but…”

Okay, Plan B. I decided to call my husband at home, since he wasn't coming. If he didn't know the code, he could call our friend and get it. Why do we have cell phones if not for emergencies? Oops! No network.

Hmmm. There was no way I could back out of there. I must have played hooky the day they taught reverse in Driver's Ed, since I've never learned it. I could barely navigate that entry going in. If I lived there, I'd just park the car in the water and get it over with. And the road was too narrow for a k-turn. Maybe a hundred tiny k-turns would do it, but I'm not too swift on those, either.

Since I arrived late, I wasn't sure when someone else would pass that way. I ended up staying there until a woman walked near the gate and shouted out the code. I was the only partygoer who didn't just breeze in.

Turns out the gate-phone connection stopped working sometime before I showed up, but after everyone else did. But that kind of thing always happens to me. I can't be the only one who's out-of-synch with virtually everybody else. There must be others marching to the un-syncopated beat of goofball drummers that nobody else can hear.

If I were writing that experience for a character, I'd make it read funny. Tracy's always wrecking her vehicles, so that would be perfect. I'd just send the car off the road, where it would float along, crashing into boulder-after-boulder, like Mother Nature's own bumper car ride.

Only in real life, I make payments on that car, and I pay for insurance. I'd be the idiot whose claim the folks working at the insurance agency would laugh themselves silly over — right before the company cancelled my coverage.

Okay, so maybe I am more like Tracy and her gang of daffy misfits than I'd like to admit. Maybe I really am living my wackiest characters' lives. I'm just not having as much fun with them as they are.