Weeding Through It

This past week I was struck with plot problems, which coincided with both a beta reader critique as well as a Revise and Resubmit from a publishing company. One major issue was pacing and the other was that I missed the mark on a key turning point for two main characters, which in turn reflected on other issues needing to be strengthened. Yes, this is for book one in the Gothic family saga that’s possessed my time, energy, and effort the past two years. And since this issue was pointed out in the first manuscript the effects will ripple through the seven other stories in the series.

After my initial freak out—which I let simmer over night—I read through the critique/suggestions again and decided to turn to the place I go when I need to plot: the yard. Yes, it’s January but on the Gulf Coast there’s always yardwork to be done. After the last freeze, the remainder of the lantana plants were ready to be pruned for the season and the flower bed was in need of weeding.

So I took my pensive thoughts, grabbed the wheelbarrow and pruners, pulled on my gloves, and set to work. By the first half-hour I knew the problem wasn’t as big as I feared. The situations, people, and history were there already, I just hadn’t dug into that corner of the character’s past thoroughly because I didn’t want to wallow in that part of his dark life. As I worked, I allowed my mind to wander and focused on two despicable people associated with the character in question that I knew could be involved. It was easy to narrow down the right one once I gave myself permission to dig deeper.

After about an hour, I knew which minor character would be the catalyst and began forming the outline of a new character from the shadows of the past I’d kept locked away. The new character was always there, just not named or explored.

With the situation, characters, and history mapped, I processed where in the manuscript the information could be placed. As organically as the history came to me, it was clear to see that there were natural places to insert the backstory into the manuscript without jarring or taking away what was already there. Looking at the coming manuscripts, the revelation only solidifies the anguish and choices he will make in the stories as the saga unfolds. The history was there all along, I only needed to prune away the unnecessary layers hiding the base of the character’s life.

When all else fails, go to the garden.

Where do you go to think?

Literary Night Presentation



If you are in the Mobile Bay area, next Tuesday night Gallery 450 on Dauphin Street is kicking off 2017 with monthly Literary Night events, co-hosted by Mobile Writers Guild.

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Yes, I have the honor of being the first presenter. I’ll share my experiences of researching and writing historical novels set in and around Mobile, including Fortitude and my current projects (more news on those to come soon.)

Reminder: If you aren’t signed up to receive my newsletter, now is a good time to join the list.

Fern and the Art of Living

The South has awesome oak trees. Amid the branches you can often see moss, ferns, and other creeping plants growing. Government Street in Mobile, AL is lined with fabulous live oaks—their trunks and main branches support leafy green ferns and mosses. (Mental note: take picture next time I’m downtown.)

The past two years, one of the water oaks in our backyard has been home to a struggling fern of its own. We have plenty of moss/other fuzzy stuff on the different trees.
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But, for some reason, the fern is magical to me. Maybe because it conjures images of faerie laden forests or a tropical getaway. Or the fact that the odds of a plant growing out of rough, tree bark is inspiring. If the fern can cling to life, then I can stick with my goals, right?
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Whatever the meaning, I’ve made a goal of supporting the fern. Hopefully the plant, and my goals, will flourish when the summer heat arrives.

Two Years After: An Oil Spill Reflection

Today is the second anniversary of the worst oil spill in U.S. history. Here are links to two blog posts I did about the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

http://authorcarriecox.com/2010/06/24/on-a-serious-note/

http://authorcarriecox.com/category/deep-water-horizon/

Just last month I finally ate at a local seafood restaurant. I’m still not 100% certain of the safety of the gulf, but next month I’ll take my family to the beach–and let them play below the water line in the sand–for the first time in two years.

On a Serious Note


A week and a half ago, this was the view from our hotel room (compliments of my big sister, booked weeks before the Deep Water Horizon explosion) on Pensacola Beach. Beautiful, except for a slight tea colored staining along the water line. My children and nephews played in the sand, well above possible contamination. And blessed be the hotel’s pools!
But the oil has been gushing for over two months. Response is slow. Lack of nationwide support is disheartening. It might be a political statement from those with the power and money. It might be a way to show the evils of offshore drilling, by slowing the response to create prolonged damage. It might be a control game between public and private and government sectors. Heck, the oil rig might have been blown up by an enemy sub! I don’t know. But I do know our waters, our land, the creatures, and even the people who call this section of earth home are suffering.
Pensacola Beach had clumpy, brown oil washing on shore for several hours. Miles of scenic beaches are now splattered with sticky grime, much more difficult to clean than the previous tar balls. No skimmers were spotted from the shore and the state government admonished the federal government to send more skimmers to protect the coast of Florida. There are only a few skimmers covering the whole state—if you call that “covering”.
Four dolphins washed ashore off Pensacola Beach yesterday. Three were successfully placed back in the water but the forth, oil clinging to its side and face, didn’t survive. It made crying sounds and the rest of the pod—believed to be the dolphins who swim by Fort Pickens every morning—were jumping out of the water, trying to communicate with their lost member. A family vacationing from Arkansas, as well as other bystanders, were the unsung heroes. They shed their own tears as they worked to scrap off what oil they could with their bare hands. It’s difficult enough to explain to a four year old that the gulf water is dirty and we can’t play in it or build castles with the moist, easily shaped sand… but to witness the death of an innocent creature is an unforgettable teaching experience I hope to never encounter.
Bayley’s Seafood, opened in 1947, is a landmark near Mobile Bay. I’m not even local but I know it’s practically historic in nature among the true seafood eateries of L.A. (That’s Lower Alabama, not Los Angeles or Louisiana. I’ve learnt me somethin’ down here!) My family passes Bayley’s every time we drive to Dauphin Island. Their recipes are award winning but the owners are speaking out that they might have to close. Every week there is less fresh seafood to be bought. Less items to sell to customers.
A local charter boat captain—a husband and father—committed suicide on his boat and it is speculated at this time that his worries over the oil spill (dare we assume the fact that he wasn’t able to run his business as normal had anything to do with it?) were the catalyst.
These examples were taken from the first ten minutes of News 5 Wednesday night. Multiply these stories—and all those in the weeks before—by the unnumbered days that the oil will still be gushing. And then, again, by the time it takes the free floating oil to be collected, or washed up on the sugar white sand beaches of the gulf coast. Only then can we accumulate an idea of how catastrophic this is for our earth. For our wildlife. For our economy. For our health. For our children’s children.
And that’s not even touching on the dispersants and other chemicals being used…
On a sweeter note (let’s hope this link works, you might need to copy and paste), here’s a video of Norah Jones preforming “Dauphin Island” earlier this month: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NErh3OuMEzE&feature=related