The Great Outdoors

Yesterday we took a drive to the lovely Pedernales (pronounced Ped-er-NAL-es, officially, but most natives call it PERD-nal-es) River in the Texas Hill Country. We went in my parents' RV with all the comforts of home (including Krispy Kremes, breakfast tacos and a fridge full of sodas.) We hiked down to the river (okay, they hiked, I wheezed) and planted ourselves on some rocks in the water. There's one thing about the Pedernales - there are plenty of rocks in the water. After maybe an hour of watching people float by on rafts and tubes, my stepdad and I decided to try to go upriver a bit and float down on our backs. My husband and son had done it, so we could, too, right? Huh. You know the rapid-y part of rivers? It's made that way by rocks. Big rocks. Not necessarily smooth rocks. I think I hit every one on the way down. My tailbone is sore, and I will likely not have to shave my legs for some time. Not one of my smarter moves, although the rest of the day, we joked about it.
"Want some water?"
"Sure, as long as it doesn't have ROCKS in it."
I'm pretty sure Pedernales is Spanish for "bumpy river."

Two years ago, my husband planned a trip to the Grand Canyon. At that point, we’d been married 15 years. I just looked at him. “You’re taking me on vacation to a place where you have to go outside? Me?” Okay, so it turned out to be quite civilized, and is my favorite vacation of all time, but I just couldn’t get over that he would take me out in the middle of nowhere and :::shudder::: rough it.

I’m working on the third book in a row where the characters have no toilet, no showers, no McDonalds. Gee, if you’re supposed to write what you know, I’m way out of my league. My hero and heroine are trekking through the Rocky Mountains, the Belizean rainforest, the African wilderness. Can my characters stop for a donut, eat ice cream, even drive on paved roads? Nooo. They have to sleep in tents on hard ground, in musty smelling sleeping bags, in backs of SUVs. I can’t sleep in a hotel without Tylenol PM and two pillows, and the last time I went camping was when I was 13. I did not have fun.

So why do I write about characters who live this life?

For me, writing is about being all I can be, especially if I don’t have to be there. In my books, I can do things I’d never have the nerve to do in real life: scuba dive, fight forest fires, heck, travel overseas! I can be a doctor without borders, an archaeologist, a marine biologist. And as I learn about these things that I never thought I’d do, I learn that they might be so scary, after all.


Anonymous said...

I'm always terrified when I start writing about what I don't know. But sometimes, the more I learn, the easier it gets. Good luck!

MJFredrick said...

Michelle, I know just what you mean. Then I get so worried about getting it right that I forget to just get it written. What's cool is when you go back and read it and think, "How did I KNOW that?"

Trish Milburn said...

Your outdoor trip sounds like it's right up my alley. :)

Kelly (Lynn) Parra said...

Wow, your vacations sounds great, and something we'd never do. LOL! I guess we're forever grounded in town with a TV, fast food, and the internet. Really sounds wonderful, though! - Kelly =)

MJFredrick said...

Trish, I was thinking of you when we were out there. You WOULD love it.

Kelly, you know, it's really hard for us to break our pattern, which is usually sitting in front of the TV, me at the computer and my dh with the laptop. But I'm glad we got dragged outdoors!


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I'm a mom, a wife, a teacher and a writer. I have five cats and a dog to keep me company. I love bookstores and libraries and Netflix - movies are my greatest weakness.
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