The Evolution of a Character – The Birth of Charlie Parker
The Evolution of a Character
I rewarded myself the other day. When I finished Thunderbird and shipped it off to Ryan to read through – we coauthored it – it was his turn to check our consummation of ideas – oh that sounded dirty, I like it. Anyway, I rewarded my efforts by taking a small trip. I left East Texas and drove about five hours east to Waco. The mission I was on was the hunt for a motorhome. Sable Hunter needs a research vehicle and Beau Coup needs a traveling office to visit authors and conferences – deductible, you see. Anyway, I found one. I haven’t purchased it yet, I’m waiting to see how much more taxes I have to pay before I sign on the dotted line. But this is it – A Thor Challenger. Pretty spiffy – I am excited.
When I take trips like this, I tend to want to write them off – if I can. As I was traveling west, I passed the area where I set Breath of Heaven – the home of the King Family – El Camino Real Ranch. Actually I traveled out on the King’s Highway for part of the journey. So, my mind began to wander on how I could incorporate this trip and this area into a future book. I considered the historical western I’m putting together, but it will be set between Milam, Tx and Nacogdoches, TX – a romance about a young Texan and a Creole slave. But since this was quite a few miles west, I couldn’t see how I could effectively work it in – and then it hit me.
Justice King and Charlie Parker.
I haven’t named the book yet, but it will be the sequel to A Breath of Heaven. When I was writing that story and building the background, I wrote about Abby’s brothers – and the oldest was Justice. I liked the name. I can already see him – the tall, broad, silent type – who rarely smiles and takes life too seriously. Handsome as sin. Doesn’t expect to fall in love. And as I was writing it, I casually slipped in the name of his future love. Although at the time, I knew nothing about her – nothing. Charlie Parker. The way I did it was have one of his brothers ask Justice about her and had him overreact in a negative way – “the day I take up with Charlie Parker is the day you can have my sanity checked” or some such exclamation. His reaction was the type – “methinks thous dost protesteth too much.”
So, I didn’t know who Charlie was, but I decided she needed to have a Waco connection, so I could write off the trip – make sense?
As I drove, I got to thinking about what type of person Charlie was and who she was. And as my tires ate of the miles, she began to be born and grow and evolve – and BAM! It hit me. In Waco, one of the main tourist attractions is the TEXAS RANGER MUSEUM. And I had never been! I was fascinated by the Rangers, in fact my Ty in My Aliyah was a Ranger, but that arm of Texas law is endlessly fascinating and I wondered – I wondered – were there female rangers? I didn’t know, but I determined to make that my first stop and ascertain if I could make my heroine one of the legendary Texas Rangers.
Of course that was the first step. I had to think about what type of person she was – what she looked like, how she talked – what her background was, her personality – etc. Now, I will confess EVERY heroine I write about is me. Me. – not Sable – the real me. In order for me to immerse myself in the books, I step into them. My experiences, insecurities, hurts, dreams – hopes – humor, sex – - it’s all me, or parts of me. So, I had to dig into my past and find Charlie.
Charlie is a tomboy. Makes sense. Her mom died early in life, and her father had always wanted a boy – hence her name. And by the way – Charlie is her name, not Charlotte or Charlene – just Charlie. So, her dad raises her and she grows up on the ranch, working alongside her dad. Now, here is where I step in. My stepfather raised me. And he was like that. I never was a prissy little girl – back in Louisiana, I roamed the swamps barefoot, brandishing a peach tree switch sword as I chased alligators and let the mud squish between my toes – running rampant along the bayou and swinging from vines into the murky waters. So, when I moved to Texas – it was a scene change but not a far step to horseback and ranch life. I immersed myself with the cattle and horses. Being young, I didn’t know a lot about the facts of life. So when my stepdad would tell me to stay in the house, that he had to go ‘dig up’ a calf. I thought he was serious. Actually he was going to help a mama cow give birth, but in my small mind, I thought he was out in the pasture with a shovel hunting buried bovine treasure. And after he had proceeded to dig up that calf, he would always come get me and I would get calf sugar – my favorite part. Kissing the babies and naming them and proceeding to drive him crazy because I wouldn’t let him sell them when they were older. But what really got my stepfather’s goat was the day he caught me out in the pasture with his shovel, digging small holes all about – trying to dig up my own calf. So, I was able to relate to Charlie.
Charlie is feminine, but she hides it. No one sees her frilly bedroom or knows she wears pretty underwear. She has never been the prettiest girl. Her figure is slight and her breasts are small – but her heart is big, almost as big as her determination to be everything her stepfather wanted - A Texas Ranger. So, she exhibits this tough exterior – s five foot six, one hundred pound ball of fire who takes no crap and always gets her man – except one. The man she loves. Justice King. You see, she’s not woman enough for Justice. He deserves a beautiful woman – and even though she loves him to distraction, anytime they’re together – and they are thrown together a lot – they fight. He is the proverbial thorn in her side, or maybe it’s the other way around.
Anytime Justice hears Charlie’s name – he bristles. Damn woman. She risks her life. She lives dangerously – when all he secretly wants to do is take care of her. But he doesn’t know how to handle Charlie. And Charlie would like nothing more than being handled by Justice – - – and so the plot thickens. Or the plot is born or evolved. As I drove that five hours west, I began to see and hear and feel Charlie.
When I got to Waco, I went to the museum. I parked in the shade so Abby and Mojo wouldn’t get too hot and went in to see what I could do with Charlie Parker. Here is a picture of the museum and a statue out front.
When I got there, it had typical museum atmosphere. The woman at the front desk had a strange look on her face and asked me if I had heard a little child’s voice and I looked at her funny and told her there was one outside on the porch. She looked relieved and said she had been hearing ghosts all day – and then she gave me a pointed stare (obviously she didn’t know who she was talking to ) and told me the museum was haunted. Well, duh. What any self respecting museum with the belongings of long dead cowboys would not be haunted?
I proceeded to walk through – and I was fascinated. Guns, flasks, saddles – hats. Photos. You can imagine what was there. The place was set up in collections – the precious belongings of people and relatives who had loved these men down through the ages. I learned of their lives. How some of them were surveyors or bootleggers. I learned what towns they had saved – what people they had killed. How some had died in battle. Others had won medals of valor. The curator was right, the place was haunted. I could feel the spirits of the men who had conquered the west and fought for Justice and peace for Texas.
When I came to the rear, I found a wall of current photographs that depicted those who are serving in the Rangers now. And as I looked at their faces – some handsome by the way – I found what I was looking for. Three of them – just three – were woman. I stared at their faces and imagined mine there, because remember – Charlie is me. And I smiled.
I’m going to have a good time writing about Charlie Parker. She’s going to turn Justice King’s world every which way but loose.
I left the museum and me and the dogs went to get a hotel room. We travel alone for the most part – its safer that way. Sable is a dangerous traveling companion. Sable does better alone. She’s just a trouble maker. But there was some construction going on in Waco and my hotel was brim full of hunky men. As I was checking in, I was checking quite a few out.
The next day we went to look at RV’s and I found one. When I buy it, I’ll take some photographs for you as I travel the highways and byways discovering other plots and other stories that I can weave myself into.
I live in my books.
And it’s not a bad place to be.
Thank you. If you’ll comment on your favorite vacation, I’ll give away a copy of Thunderbird when it comes out in a couple of weeks. BAM!