Thursday, December 14, 2017

All About the Journey

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:  Doesn't it seem like everyone is taking photos of everything? It's almost as if it doesn't exist if there's no photo.  But the talented Wendy Tyson--and if you haven't read her marvelous books, you're in for a treat--uses those photos as an entree into her books.  What a great idea!

(Oh. Especially if the photos are in Italy.)

Welcome to my dear pal Wendy Tyson--who uses her photos to inspire her writing life. And, she's learned, it's all about the journey.

All About the Journey

During my first fiction writing class in college, I wrote a short story titled “Transit.” It’s an admittedly somber story about a woman who becomes the family breadwinner when her husband is severely injured at his slaughterhouse job. The entire piece takes place during the protagonist’s bus ride to the slaughterhouse where she’s now going to work, and it focuses on her internal transformation as she comes to terms with what’s happened and how her life is about to change.

The summer before I wrote that story I joined two friends on a backpacking trip through parts of Spain and Portugal. We didn’t have much money, and the Eurail passes we’d purchased provided both transportation and an uncomfortable place to sleep. The trip made an impression on me, not only because of the people we met or the places we saw, but because of the opportunity for introspection that’s afforded the traveler.

Since then, my fiction has become decidedly lighter and more optimistic, but I’ve always been fascinated with the concept of the journey, however short or long. 
It’s a perfect vehicle for allowing our characters to grow or change. In FATAL FAÇADE, the fourth Allison Campbell mystery, which was released in June 2017, Philadelphia image consultant Allison Campbell travels to the Dolomite region of Italy to meet with a reclusive client. There, amongst the haunting mountain vistas and ancient castles, she finds murder—and acceptance. 

Likewise, SEEDS OF REVENGE, the third Greenhouse mystery, open with protagonist Megan Sawyer journeying home from Philadelphia during a snowstorm. She comes to the rescue of a stranded driver, and from that act mayhem and self-awareness ensue.

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But the journey isn’t an important tool only for the fictional beings among us; it can also be a source of inspiration for authors. The Greenhouse Series was born after witnessing the interactions of shop owners in a small town in the mountains of North Carolina during a book signing. 

The exchanges I witnessed were nothing unique or unusual, but the new setting, the hours I’d driven in unfamiliar terrain to get there, and the feeling of being out of my element, provided fresh perspective that triggered fresh ideas.
In fact, the act of traveling has become such an important source of ideas for my fiction that I’ve begun a photo journal to record moments that move me. Sometimes my subject is something grand that inspires a book, like an abandoned Italian castle (FATAL FAÇADE), a massive field of solar panels (BITTER HARVEST), or a walled convent (THE SEDUCTION OF MIRIAM CROSS). 
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Sometimes, though, it’s something subtle that I might revisit later. BITTER HARVEST, the second Greenhouse mystery, opens with Megan finding a red Adirondack chair that’s been left on a hiking trail, positioned so that it faces her house. That chair was real, only I came across it while hiking in Vermont (it wasn’t actually facing anyone’s house). At the time, the chair intrigued me so I snapped a photo. It wasn’t until later that I realized it would make a haunting opening to a novel.

My family recently moved from Pennsylvania to Vermont. I travel back and forth to Pennsylvania regularly now, a five-hour car ride that’s become second nature.

While I often find myself looking forward to the journey because it offers time in my head to explore ideas, there’s risk in retracing a well-worn path. To keep it fresh, I make a point of looking for something new every time I go.

A few weeks ago, during the leg of the drive that winds through upstate New York, I saw a man walking along a lake on a lonely stretch of road. Dusk was just beginning to fall, and he cast a long shadow on pitted pavement.  I couldn’t stop to take my customary photo, but the image stayed with me—and it’ll be the basis for Greenhouse Mystery number five.

HANK: Oh, I can’t wait to hear about it!

And you know, the say there are only two plots. One, a person goes on a journey. Two:  a stranger comes to town.  And, thinking about hat, that’s the same story. From different points of view. Hmm.

So Reds, if someone was walking down YOUR street, what interesting thing might they see? Hmm I see a big hedge that--overnight—was run into and smashed by…something. There’s a story, right?
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How about outside your window?  And—have you ever used a Eurail pass? I always thought that was the coolest thing.

And what's your favorite book about a journey?


Wendy Tyson's background in law and psychology has provided inspiration for her mysteries and thrillers. Originally from the Philadelphia area, Wendy has returned to her roots and lives there again on a micro-farm with her husband, three sons and three dogs. Wendy’s short fiction has appeared in literary journals, and she’s a contributing editor and columnist for The Big Thrill and The Thrill Begins, International Thriller Writers’ online magazines. Wendy is the author of the Allison Campbell Mystery Series and the Greenhouse Mystery Series.



 

Megan Sawyer is determined to farm year-round. So much so that she braves a December snowstorm to pitch her fresh greenhouse greens to Philadelphia chefs. And then she sees a stranger stranded on the side of the road. But this woman is no stranger to Winsome. It’s Becca Fox. A love chemist (you read that right). She’s headed to her aunt’s house to sell her love potions at holiday events.  Or so Becca thinks.

Her sneaky aunt only invited Becca home to reunite her with her estranged father. It sounds noble and kind-hearted, until the man ends up dead.  Megan soon finds herself in the middle. She realizes Becca’s not the only one getting iced over. Megan’s own aunt, the famous mystery author, is dragged into the drama. Now it’s personal. Our Megan must follow a cryptic trail of literary clues, all while sifting through the victim’s sordid past. As she gets closer to the truth...the murderer gets closer to her.
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59 comments:

  1. Wendy, your books sound marvelous . . . I’m adding them to my teetering to-be-read pile . . . .

    Walking down our street, it’s a toss-up as to which you’ll see first, the deer darting across the road or the wild turkeys meandering across the road. If you’re not driving, hope for the deer; the turkeys are just plain mean.
    Looking out the window, if it’s summer, the deer are drinking the water out of the grandbaby’s wading pool . . . .

    It’s impossible to pick just one favorite; there are so many wonderful journey books: the Narnia Chronicles . . . 2001, A Space Odyssey . . . Alice in Wonderland . . . The Wizard of Oz . . . Pippi Longstocking . . . The Best New Thing . . . The Robots of Dawn . . . .

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    1. Oh, what wonderful choices! And the deer and the wading pool..aww.

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  2. Wendy, I have enjoyed reading your Greenhouse mystery series, and I have an eARC of Seeds of Revenge to read this month.

    And yes, I backpacked and travelled alone when I was 19 and 22 throughout Europe using a Eurail Pass. Lots of great experiences documented in travel photos. During the second trip, I also went to the Dolomite region of Italy - the jagged peaks are a clear memory.

    Right now, the view outside my window is a snowy city landscape. We had our first major snowstorm (Monday into Tuesday) with 17 cm (7") of snow.

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    1. And do you still have your photos? What an adventure! You are so brave!

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    2. Hank, my parents were homebodies so if I wanted to go to Europe, I had to go on my own.

      Like Julia, I went before the EU, and had plenty of stamps and visa in my passport. I made (and still kept) the detailed scrapbooks of both European adventures. The first city I visited was Berlin, when the Berlin Wall was still there. Going through Checkpoint Charlie (like in the spy movies) was awesome.

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  3. Waving hi to Wendy! I've also many times glimpsed a person, a setting, an out-of-place thing and created stories and books out of them. I've traveled extensively by myself in the States and in Japan, and completely agree about the change for introspection.

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    1. "chance" not "change" - I hadn't had enough coffee when I typed that!

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  4. So interesting where stories come from. The smallest thing... This is reminding me of when our next-door neighbor's attic window blew in during a storm. And then didn't get fixed. Not until she was carried out of her home a year later and the house (a hoarder's den - you couldn't GET up to the attic) went to auction and got basically rebuilt. It did inspire a book (There Was an Old Woman).

    The people who live in that house now have a dining set of outdoor furniture on their back deck and two more complete sets in the back yard along with the frame for a canopy they put up two years ago for a party celebrating their daughter's high school graduation. They have a salad bowl by the front steps which is right now filled with baggies of dog poop, now frozen. Yup, I'm sure there's a story there.

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    1. But I'm not sure I want to know it.... Yeesh.

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    2. Just a little reminder, Hallie, that you can move into the nicest of neighborhoods and still get horrid neighbors. We have no control over who lives nearby.

      I just visited a cousin's home the other day. He, and his mother before him, are most definitely hoarders, although fairly well organized about it. Over the tops of every sofa, and on dozens of shelves on the wall (a rental house, shudder) are thousands, literally, of plush toys and dolls. I cannot imagine why. This is a house where they've lived less than eight months, too. It must have taken every spare moment to wrangle all that stuff.

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    3. Thousands of plush toys? Oh, my gosh.

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    4. Dog poop in the salad bowl? There goes the neighborhood.

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  5. I'm always poking around alleys and photographing potential sites for body dumps. When we were in Italy last month, I became accustomed to the continuous flow of Italian around me. When it was interrupted by someone speaking English, it was a huge jolt.

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    1. Oh that's such a funny observation! Our brains are so interesting..

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  6. Wendy, yay! More books to read! Hank, food for thought--'it's the same story, from a different perspective.' It seems to me that every day we wake up into the unknown, start another journey. Even in the familiarity of home, you never know (hmmmm, sounds like a Hallie plot!) what will happen.

    Looking out my window as I work, I often see walkers passing by. As much a mystery as a new figure going down the road, is the absence of a familiar one--

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    1. I do the same from my second floor office window, Flora. The people from the (someone told me this) schizophrenics' home a block over shuffle down the street in ones and twos. They all have the same walk, and some have lived there for at least the six years we've been in this house. Sometimes there's a new one, and after I while I note the absence of a regular.

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    2. That walk is called the Thorazine shuffle. No kidding.

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    3. I had heard that, Ann. Now I believe it.

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  7. Thanks for the kind wishes, everyone! Hank, thank you for hosting me on Jungle Reds. It's always and honor and pleasure to be here!

    Margaret--I had that same experience in Greece. We spent three week in Corfu, and if you've been there you know most of the Americans come on cruise ships and only visit the main city of Corfu Town. We were so used to hearing Greek or other languages spoken that it took a moment to process English. An amazing trip--beautiful scenery, warm people, delicious food--and so much inspiration for fiction.

    It really does only take a glimpse sometimes to spark an idea. And Flora, you're right--absence can be as intriguing as something new.

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    1. Wendy, wait. A LOVE CHEMIST? Tell us more!

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    2. And I am so sorry about the wacky fonts! I could not get the computer to agree to keep them the same.. SIgh. My fault, not Wendy's !

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  8. Hi Wendy! I've seen the occasional wildlife in our street - deer, wild turkeys. And lots of cats. The cats and the deer act like they own the place. =)

    Mary/Liz

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  9. Mary, we're more likely to see wildlife in Vermont, although we did get fox and the occasional deer in our fairly urban PA home. Always a thrill.

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    1. Oh, I've never seen a fox! What did it do?

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    2. My daughter swears she saw a mountain lion in our treeline. I didn't believe her, but my neighbor says it's entirely possible.

      Mary/Liz

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  10. I did Eurail pass! Between my junior and senior years at Ithaca, I went on a paleolithic dig in Italy, then traveled around and finally came to light in London, where I was going to be in school senior year. I used to for traveling to France and Germany during school breaks as well. Of course, this was before the EU, so we had to stop at every border and show passports to the garde-frontières.

    I love the idea of capturing photographs that might lead to writing inspiration!

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    1. Yes, and then you get all those cool stamps on your passport!

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    2. Not so much with the EuroZone now. I was really disappointed last year not to get my passport stamped at the borders of Austria, Germany, and the Czech Republic.

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  11. Wendy, wait--A LOVE chemist? Tell us more!

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  12. In our Cincinnati yard, half a mile from the city limits in both directions, we have seen deer, turkey, red fox, grey fox, skunk, raccoons, opossums, groundhogs, a couple of coyotes, squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits (including the lopeared ones that escaped from the neighbors'), African pygmy goats (also escapees), plenty of hawks, snakes and turtles. A few years ago someone reported seeing a mountain lion, but I'm skeptical, and there was a black bear loose in town for a week or two, although I never saw it myself.

    Wendy, I have found the same thing true when I've traveled, especially solo. You do learn so much about yourself, don't you? And observing other human beings reveals endless stories outside of one's own mind.

    Love the idea of your series! I think I have the first one, but just have not read it yet. Time to get crackin'.

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    1. WOw. Did you see the TV series ZOO? You might be living in it....

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    2. Ha! We've lived here for 32 years, so that accounts for part of it.

      Steve's studio is right down the street, and for the last fifty years he and his dad and brother have photographed all manner of wildlife there. It's astonishing to know how close to nature we all live. We just need to be open to seeing it.

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    3. We live within a block of Washington Grove, a 40 acre wood in the middle of the city. It is home to all sorts of beasties and things that go bump in the night. This year we have an irruption of snowy owls. Yes, that is what it is called.

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    4. Ann, that's so cool. I've never seen one.

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  13. Welcome Wendy. Your books sound intriguing.

    Outside my window I see snow, icicles hanging from the eaves, and across the street, a mattress.

    It is trash day up here on the tundra, and, unfortunately, too cold and snowy for my morning walk. I adore trash day, seeing what other people kick to the curb. I'm not too proud to sift through interesting piles, seeing what treasure I can find. Anyone need a toilet bowl? Toaster oven? Broken fencing?

    Last week I put my 40 year old Cuisinart food processor out, worked fine except the bowl was cracked and what could go wrong with that? Immediately the cracked bowl was taken, leaving the working part behind. Intriguing. But not a story to base a book upon.

    I think I will hire the young man who does odd jobs for us to haul those boxes of garage sale junk up from the basement to the curb. We all know I am never going to have a garage sale, right. Maybe someone will find her treasure in my trash.

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    1. We did that! And wow, we had an entire dumpster full of stuff. Jonathan stopped me before I threw in the charcoal lighter.

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  14. I loved Fatal Facade and its setting in the Dolomites -- it's one of my favorite reads of the year.

    Our street ends dead ends at our driveway, which continues on for about 300 gravelly yards with several blind curves -- when walking the dogs, we've surprised and been surprised by bears, deer and foxes among other wildlife. If someone comes down the driveway, they are either (1) expected, (2) lost, or (3) up to something. One night, my husband was out of town, and at about 11:00 at night I saw headlights through the bedroom window. The car did not immediately turn around, and I was convinced it was (3). After about 5 minutes, they finally turned around and left, so I guess it was (2), but my imagination was going wild. Thankfully, we have 3 very noisy and protective dogs.

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  15. Wendy! On the street where I am today, someone would see me putting out apples for the deer or a person going for a contemplative walk and countless statues to Saint Francis. No bears!

    I love the journey concept. Every story has one for the reader as well as the characters and the author.

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    1. Aw...you are so sweet, Ramona. How do you know they like them?

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  16. Wendy, I have your first two Greenhouse mysteries on my Nook, to be read. I love the covers of your books! It would have been so cool to travel around Europe as a college student. My parents were very traditional though, as in you're out of your cotton-picking mind if you think you are going to do that! To be honest I don't think I had the nerve to travel by myself. As to what is outside our front window? I still have plants and bushes that workmen haven't destroyed. That's a positive! A lot of people amble by, walking their dogs. People ride by on their bikes, both residents and workers. The squirrels use the telephone lines as their highways. At night, the possums do the same. We get some noisy, sometimes tipsy, people walking at night, on their way to their cars after visiting some eating and drinking establishments a couple of blocks away. It's always interesting.

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    1. PatD, we call them the squirrel highways, too! Amazing how they can zoom across.

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  17. Wendy, I love your journey concept. As much fun as it is to travel with a good companion, I love traveling alone, too. You notice so much more. I did Eurail passes with my parents for a couple of trips when I was in college. My folks were great travelers, so adventurous! Then after college I saved up and went to England and Scotland by myself for about six weeks, traveling all over with a bus pass rather than Britrail. (I'd decided that you get to see a lot more interesting things from a bus, you can go more places, and it's cheaper.) I think the introspection on that trip was probably the beginning of my desire to write about England.

    Oh, what I see from my window, here in my sun porch working at my desk: Over the top of our back fence I can just see the next intersection on the main street that runs by our house. And I can see the regular car crashes. Seriously! About once a week someone pulls out in front of oncoming traffic. You have to wonder what people are thinking (or doing) to pay so little attention. And that's the beginning of a story...

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  18. And Wendy, a love chemist??? Can't wait to read this one. And the one set in the Dolomites!

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  19. Sounds delightful Wendy, and delicious! Your journey concept is spot on. I love traveling alone or with others. During college I was on the road more than in class and I loved it. I managed to hike and work my way through Europe and the Caribbean. Different times, and I'm glad to still have my notes.

    Outside my window? A house under construction on the banks of the Caloosahatchee River. The river is filled with alligator, and who knows what else since Hurricane Irma prompted the release of overflow from Lake O. Anything can be lurking beneath the weed bloom.

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    1. Lurking beneath the weed bloom? Sounds like a book to me.. xxo

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  20. Greenhouse Mystery #5? I'm thrilled!

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  21. Wendy, your Greenhouse Mysteries sound amazing. I don't know why I haven't explored them sooner, but they are going on my series TBR list. That red chair is calling to me, as is the love chemist. I love that you look for something new each drive you take to Pennsylvania and back. That would make for a most interesting trip. I need to do that more when driving the short one-hour drive to my daughter's. Of course, I'm always on the lookout for deer on that drive when it's dusk or dark, because quite a bit of it is in deer traveled territory. I've seen a couple of foxes on that drive, too. In our own backyard, there the rabbits, squirrels, opossums, and occasional groundhog. Then, I so enjoy the different birds.

    Best book about a journey? I'm thinking physical journey is what is being referred to. I'm sure that there are several, but one that came to mind quickly is The Mountain:A Novel by Lori Lansens (author of one of my all-time favorite books, The Girls). There are several important journeys that meet in different hiking journeys on a mountain. " Nola has decided to hike up a mountain to commemorate her wedding anniversary, the first since her beloved husband passed. Blonde, rail-thin Bridget is training for a triathalon. Vonn is working out her teenage rebellion at eight thousand feet, driven by family obligation and the urge to escape her mistakes. Still reeling from the tragic accident that robbed him of his best friend, Wolf Truly is the only experienced hiker in this group of four strangers but has come to the cliffs on his eighteenth birthday to end his life. When a series of missteps strands them together in the wilderness, these four broken souls soon realize that their only defense against the brutality of nature is one another."









































































































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    1. Whoo, that was scary for a minute. DO you all see a big blank space under Kathy's lovely reply?

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  22. The view out my window? Tall buildings, Puget Sound, construction sites, traffic. A plethora of life! Sometimes I see and hear protest marches and the helicopters whirring overhead filming them.

    I can't wait to read what you do with the lone man walking down the road, Wendy. Do you always take the same route from Vermont to Pennsylvania?

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    1. SO different from mine, Ingrid. Love that. It would be glorious to see Puget Sound out the window.

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    2. I love watching the water and the weather change, Hank. It's always different!

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    3. I hope I get to see that someday…

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  23. Outside my window I can see the top of the Cyclone, the ocean, the train, the parkway, the construction and other tall buildings. Out the other window, I can see the train yard which would make for a great mystery as they have several places to hide a body.

    Looking forward to reading the next Greenhouse book.

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