How does an author spend their day? Up at dawn, start the coffee brewing, then sit down to type page after page of the characters’ lives that are buzzing in their mind. They break to pop a frozen diet meal in the microwave, wolf it down, then back to the typing grind.
Not so. An author’s life can be solitary, but, it can also be filled with adventure, intrigue and unseen dangers. Not the, ‘Darn it, I just broke my nail on the keyboard.’ danger. I’m talking about the kind of danger that can get you shot, scared spitless or eaten. How can this be, you ask?
Research, deliberate or accidental, can be as docile as reading an article or as perilous as standing in a crack-house. The research for my recent novel, Dark Side of Valor, provided me with both types of experiences. Studying the Sudan, the jungles of the Congo, interviewing child advocates, even pulling from my experience of working in a homeless shelter as a nurse, seemed mundane compared to some of the crazier things I’ve done for the sake of a novel.
Research for the most harrowing scenes from the book came totally by accident. Some years ago, my husband and I were interested in buying rental properties. We’d venture into boarded houses with our real estate agent. The strong smell of rodents would stop me near the front door. On a good day I’d make it to the living room. I was more afraid of the rats then standing amid the litter of needles, syringes, broken crack pipes, piles of trash or looking through the splintered floor boards wondering if I were going to fall through. Going to house after house, the heroine, child advocate Lelia Freeman’s encounters became crystal clear. I thought, ‘This is what Lelia sees when she is going into the crack-houses to save her children.’ Through those experiences, I was able to infuse the emotions I felt, the things that I saw, the smells I smelled, into the story.
More perilous times lay in store for my husband and me on a research trip to a former rice plantation, turned bed and breakfast, in South Carolina. It was about 11:30 pm when we got near the location. We passed the entrance to the plantation several times before we saw the plank signage, turned onto the dirt path, then stopped underneath the sign to stare into a hole cut into the woods. When the inn keeper told us that the bed and breakfast sat about a mile and a half off of the road, I had no idea that it sat ‘off the road’ down a single dirt path, cut through very thick woods. Did I mention that there were no street lights, no moon light and that it was 11:30 pm? My husband said, “Uhhh, are you sure about this?” To be honest, I was ready to turn around to try to find a Holiday Inn, but in my mind I kept chanting, ‘bestseller’s list, bestseller’s list.’ Gritting my teeth, I said, “Let’s do it.” and we drove on.
About a half a mile down the road, I was about to ask my husband to turn around and find that Holiday Inn when he decided that it would be fun to turn off the headlights! Driving 35 to 40 miles per hour isn’t fast, but when it’s pitch black and you can’t see…it feels like warp-speed.
In stressful situations, I’m a fairly calm natured person and generally don’t cuss, but that night was not a ‘generally’ night. I was yelling at him to turn the lights on, he was saying how awesome it was driving in the dark and all of my previous thoughts of being a bestselling author went out the window.
We finally made it to our room, had a de-stressing sleep and started the next day by venturing all over the plantation. It sat on 500 acres, most of which used to be rice patties, river beds and swamps. Behind the plantation’s main house, there were acres of tall grass, paths and cut-outs in the tall grass. Each cut out had a trench furrowed in the ground that led down to the river. I thought about the amount of rain it took to hollow out the trenches and was fascinated. I knelt down to examine the river at the top of each trench, had a wonderful time being one with nature.
The following day we had the delight of meeting Captain Sandy, our tour guide. We told him about walking though the grass and the trenches. He told us, “Yep, those trenches are where the gators slither down into the river. They lie in the grass waiting for their dinner to come along, catch them in their snouts, then drag them down in the water. Hold them there till they drown.” Of course, we didn’t venture back into the tall grass for the rest of our stay.
So, on any given day, the life of an author isn’t boring. It can take you to the streets of the inner city to the perils of the vast outdoors. It all depends on a willing heart and the pursuit of the ultimate prize, a great story.
About Alicia Singleton
Born and raised in Philadelphia, the Howard University graduate embraced the written word at an early age. She credits this to her loving, older sister whom, while they were youngsters, made the author eat lotion on a regular basis. Realizing the need to sound-out the ingredients on the lotion label, Alicia stopped the lotion-eating practice, but continued to read the labels of the concoctions her sister brought for her to try. This early necessity to read flowered to a passion; hence, a writer was born.The award winning author resides in Maryland with her wonderful husband and son. Still an avid reader, label or otherwise, Alicia is hard at work completing her next suspense novel. Her latest book is the suspense novel, Dark Side of Valor. Visit Alicia’s website at www.aliciasingleton.com.
About Dark Side of Valor
Child advocate Lelia Freeman saves children for a living. As the director of ChildSafe Shelters, she ventures to abandoned squats and crackhouses to rescue teens from the hellish streets of Los Angeles. When she is summoned to Washington to serve on a committee that aids the children of a war-torn African nation, Lelia is kidnapped and becomes a political pawn in a sinister conspiracy. Oceans away from everything she knows, she must trust a mercenary to save her life, or die in the clutches of a psychopath.
Hunting, combat and staying alive are Elijah Dune’s specialties. Vengeance is his passion. Haunted by past demons, he’s travels to the Motherland to collect a debt. A debt that demands one payment. Death.
Caught in the crosshairs of a madman, Lelia and Elijah must survive the jungles of Zaire and the horrors of their pasts or be forever consumed by the DARK SIDE OF VALOR.
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