Back in the early nineties, when my boy was but a wee bairn, a worldly thief by the name of Carmen Sandiego came into my world. Little did I know, Carmen had been around for a few years via a video game before coming to small screens everywhere in the form of a cartoon where kids were encouraged to engage their brains and figure out in thirty minutes or less where in the world was Carmen Sandiego? Carmen traveled the globe using her thieving craft for the good of mankind by stealing artifacts before real thieves had the chance to snatch them and line their pockets with the proceeds off the world’s treasures.
Kids learned and moms everywhere were entertained as they sat on their couches with their mugs of coffee trying to peel their eyes open and pick the Cheerios out of their hair. Maybe that last part concerning breakfast cereal was just me. You see in those days, I was not only working full-time in a name-brand clothing manufacturing plant (read jeans factory) I was also a full-time college student. Throw in a toddler and a fiancée and you can well imagine I wasn’t my best-self most mornings. Tired was an understatement. However, as I sat picking Cheerios out of my hair and drinking gallons of coffee, my toddler and I would watch Carmen Sandiego and learn by figuring out with each episode where she was and what she was up to.
Little did I know, eventually my life would mimic Carmen’s to the extent I’d be a world traveler of sorts. Although in all my travels, I’ve never perpetrated a grab-and-go of a world treasure. I’ve seen a lot of world treasures, though.
In a matter of five years from the time I discovered Carmen and started watching her religiously with my son, I found myself married, divorced, graduated from college, and remarried to the right man and thus the adventures began. After a couple of stumbling blocks, I managed to find my very own happily ever after and have been living a very privileged life ever since. It’s this privileged life that led to me pursuing my dream of publishing my sappy love stories a little over ten years ago and it’s that life which lent me so many ideas for my heroes and heroines and all the places they’re from and go. Being married to a military man has given me the opportunity to see and do things most people only dream of, and those things helped open my imagination up to creating the worlds my characters live and love in. Much like watching Carmen all those years, as I traveled around with my husband, I was learning as we went. Now that he’s retired, we don’t travel as much, but it’s something we enjoy and now we have an RV we drag around behind us on our adventures rather than a sea bag. Nonetheless, traveling is still occurring and learning along with it.
While my international travels have been limited to Asia, I have covered some ground in the continental US by traversing over half of the states so far and visited our nation’s capital where I learned more about the Lewinski scandal riding in a cab than I cared to know. I digress.
There’s something to be said for writing what you know. While you can research darn near everything on the web, it’s not quite the same as experiencing it for yourself. Having seen something up close, immersed yourself in it, there’s a sense of realism then when you write it because your emotions about whatever you saw or did make what would otherwise be flat three-dimensional. You know by your senses exactly what a place, person, or thing smells like, tastes like, feels like, sounds like, and looks like intimately. You know how it made you feel. Having actually experienced something first-hand is a boon when it comes to conveying the same experience to your intended audience.
Here’s a bit of advice for my writer readers. While traveling extensively isn’t a privilege everyone has access to, I highly suggest at least exploring your immediate surroundings in detail. Hang out in the local coffee shop and take notes; people watching is a top-notch skill and helps with character development in ways you can’t imagine. See your local sights. Explore your own state extensively with day trips.
Another way to hone your knowledge about what you wish to write is by joining a writers group geared toward your genre and taking advantage of the seminars and classes they offer. In the romance arena, it’s pretty common place to find such classes on everything from autopsies to cowboy life to bondage depending on which writing group you belong to and speakers’ availability. Some groups even offer their seminars to those who aren’t members for a small, reasonable fee.
For my reader readers, keep a look out in the coming weeks as I share some of my favorite places and things to do there that have inspired some of my stories. Where to start, where to start…
In the meantime, it seems Carmen has made her way to Netflix recently. If you’ve never watched her traverse the globe saving the world’s treasure, I highly recommend you do. I know I’ll be watching and reliving the days before my own adventuring began. There will be coffee. Cheerios are debatable.