Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Visiting Imaginary Friends

With all the information available these days, writing about places an author has never seen requires little more than clicking on real estate ads and vacation sites or opening one of the many geographical guides tailored for writers and armchair travelers. The Writer's Guide to Places is a good one. And did you know the CIA keeps a World Factbook online and updates it every two weeks? Country profiles, maps, flags, governments, and a wealth of other information are just waiting to inform and inspire.

With enough research, I can create the places my characters visit, even if I haven't been there myself. It isn't necessary to see the scene in person. Or is it?

During a recent visit to northern California, the Mendocino coast lured me to see if I'd done a good job describing the home temporarily occupied by the star of my alternate Irish history novels: Taillte Rosaleen Boru, the Crown Princess of Ireland. The house Talty shared with buddies Richard and Nick doesn't exist, of course, but the rugged coast of Mendocino certainly does.

Visiting John and Diane, my dynamic uncle and gracious aunt, is always a pleasure for Mike and me. Last week, they again installed us in the guestroom of their lovely Santa Rosa home. We spent a few days basking in their generous hospitality, touring Napa Valley and Bodega Bay before commandeering one of their cars and heading north. Vineyards and vineyards later, we hunkered down for the night in Fort Bragg and dined in Noyo Harbor watching seals frolic in the small sparkling inlet.

The next day, we invaded the town of Mendocino, an enchanting New Englandish array of houses, shops, and water towers situated on a scenic stretch overlooking the blue, blue Pacific. I pictured Talty strolling there, shopping for groceries, browsing in the bookstore. She might return from Ireland one day for a visit, I thought, and decided that seeing the setting for a story in the proverbial flesh is preferable to surfing the web for real estate ads "fer sure." Not long after, I found the site of Talty's house, cliffs, beach and all!

Well, not really. Only in A Band of Roses. I did imagine dropping in on Talty and the guys for tea, which was enough to make my visit to Mendocino more than worthwhile. That and the armies of redwood trees we passed on our way back to Santa Rosa and Diane's Chicken Osso Buco.

14 comments:

  1. Hi Pat, Hopefully Sydney will be as strong and an awesome person like Talty:) Happy blogging!

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  2. Hi Pat, I do think you're doing a smashing job with your blog! Lots of interesting information in this post! Totally enjoyed it!! Keep up the good work! Beautiful pics!!

    Andrea

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  3. Hey Martha! Sydney has McDermott genes. She'll be strong and awesome no matter what!

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  4. Thank you so much, Andrea. Praise from you is praise indeed. I hope you realize you'll be on my favorite blog list next time it's updated!

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  5. I'm glad Mendocino was so inspiring! If Talty gets a chance to visit her old stomping grounds, we get to read book #4 by Pat McDermott! Yeah!!!

    You may be writing fiction, but maybe focusing so hard on a place eventually brings you there. Perhaps you've taken creative visualization to the next level. I'll be disappointed if you don't end up going on a luxury submarine vacation soon!

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  6. Pat! I love your blog! I am so glad you finally started one! And what great references you gave! I am writing them down. I would have loved to stopped and had tea along with you w/Talty and the gang.

    Great job on the blog, Pat!

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  7. Beautiful blog and great post today, Pat. I didn't know about The Writer's Guide to Places.
    Julie

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  8. Thank you, Julie, Holly, and K8 for stopping by. Your kind comments made me smile!

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  9. Awesome blog Pat!

    I too travel online and through books to get a picture of my setting, but I long to ACTUALLY see some of them, I think it really will help bring the places more to life. I know from some settings I've seen and used they do seem to pop more visibly on paper than others.

    Keep up the awesome posts! Cheers!
    M/E

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  10. No question about it, Eliza. Walking on on a bog in County Mayo is a lot different from reading about it. Same with visiting NYC. You can't imagine all the nuances unless you're there, but we poor writers must do the best we can. Thanks for stopping by!

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  11. Great blog, Pat. Wouldn't it be great if we, as writers, could visit every setting we plop our novels into? And historical writers have additional challenges to make their readers feel as if they're actually living in the worlds we create. But that's part of the challenge and joy for us to imagine and creatively illuminate our stories so readers can lose themselves and experience those happily ever afters.

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  12. Well said, Angela. Thanks for visiting!

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  13. Dawn Marie HamiltonApril 10, 2009 at 9:21 AM

    Hey Pat, I enjoyed the post and links. Thanks for sharing. Now, if only I could fiqure out how to travel to 16th century Scotland!

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  14. Dawn, Your "Garden Gate" series will take many readers to 16th century Scotland. Close enough! Thanks for visiting.

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