When you browse the bookstore, the shelves are full of series. They have a premise that spans several novels, the characters all residing in the same world. For some the stories are human and take place in modern day. Some are paranormal with otherworldly elements, but each book shares a common theme.
I spent a long time trying to figure out what I wanted my theme to be.
There’s an adage in writing, “Write what you know.” You go with your strengths. And while I wanted to go with what I do well, I also wanted to learn. I want each one of my books to develop something in me as a writer, to strengthen an area. And for four books I will be exercising the ways one tells a story.
I'm walking my planets.
I know that sounds weird. In short, it’s the elements with a twist, based on a hobby I’ve had since I was young.
After you read book one—FIRE—I’ll fill you in on how it works.
It’s interesting, I promise.
With each manuscript, I immerse myself in perspective of the characters. With fire, I experienced what my heroine did, to know what she saw and how she felt. I felt a racehorse’s heartbeat under my palm, the spirit in him.
Moving forward, I’ve found myself in a new place with book two, the next element in the theme. It’s a step away from fire, more solid, industrious. The characters are different than before, where I have to keep a more practical mindset.
It's about hard work and delayed gratification. The rewards of patience and diligence.
I knew preparation for this one would take time.
I knew preparation for this one would take time.
With those principles stuck at the back of my mind, I went on a short trip. My last vacation for the year, I was invited to go apple picking. During the days preceding my departure, I caught myself noticing the details of things more.
The little things, in people especially.
I visited the coffee kiosk in my local grocery store, able to stay and watch for once. And what I saw struck a chord with my current theme.
The young guy manning the store is early-twenties and tall. As I know the manager of the store well, I’d seen a revolving door of employees come and go over the months, the turnover from summer jobs to back-to-school making for a merry-go-round of new faces. I remembered the guy from early in the season, back when he was just starting out.
In the beginning I saw him fumble, scatter the coffee, make mistakes with the steps required to prepare the café drinks. For weeks he stepped up to the charge, and continued to grow. Despite the long lines, the overwhelming tasks and perpetual stare-downs from impatient patrons; he greeted customers pleasantly, made small talk, ran the register and poured the coffee.
His dedication made me think of an online article my critique partner shared with me. A comparison of work ethics between the generations, it talked about what expectations our parents had compared with those working to gain job security now.
It struck me as interesting because that is what my current book is about—working hard to get where you want to be.
Days later, while browsing through aisles of glorious apple trees, I returned to the farm’s main building to see a girl, no older than my youngest niece, answering a visitor’s question: Why are some pumpkins green, and others white and orange?
I hung around to catch her explanation. The daughter of the farm’s owner, she knew so much for her years; everything from the growing seasons to how climate affects the crops. A new generation.
The following Monday, I made a pit stop at my coffee place before my return to work. The tall, young guy greeted me with a smile and used my name. He recanted my favorite order to the last detail, asking if he was correct.
I confirmed and smiled, wondering how many people he spoke to in a day. How many hellos, how are yous? How many Skim or two percents? and You want whipped cream on thats?
He shuffled the cups like a magician, careful to include the second E in my name. He topped off the drink with timed finesse, his technique entertaining. The coffee tasted perfect.
As I walked away, I thought of all the little things done anonymously each day.
The ten-second transactions, the clang of registers, the thundering beat of everyday commerce. A recognition to the people who spend their days boxed-in, juggling papers, steaming milk, reciting hellos, goodbyes and the myriad of words in-between.
The jobs that aren't acknowledged, that are immensely important but unrecognized. The millions of fleeting moments that one hard-working person makes good with their positive attitude.
The invisible gears that run our world.
And there are young people in this new generation of workers that get it. I see them every day, doing the work, putting in the time.
I was lucky to see it, the research I needed, right in front of me. The center of the earth element.
It taught me something about giving.
A job may feel like an endless loop, a line of exertion with little appreciation at the end of the day, but there’s a gift in doing the work. A touch that is passed on with every good experience you convey.
Service, whatever form it takes, is no small thing.