I have this dumb problem of writing books set on the water. I HATE being on the water. I get sick the minute I step off the dock into a boat. The only thing I can tolerate well is speedy forward movement. That’s actually fun.
Despite my nausea, I have forced myself to go exploring so I could get a feeling for what the characters went through. When I wrote Captain Garrison, for example, I made myself take a 45 minute sail in a tall ship on Lake Michigan. I was vomiting by the end, but I did it.
So I should have drawn a line in the sand and said NO MORE BOOKS INVOLVING WATER.
But no. I began writing an adventure series set on the St. Joseph River. Then, when my family met for a gathering in Iowa last year in the quaint town of Lansing, Iowa, on the banks of the Mississippi River, I decided that one of the books should be set there. Apparently I love being miserable.
So before we went back to Iowa last week for a family gathering I told Marnell that I really should go out on the Mississippi River. To be thorough, I should know what the town looks like from the river, since the boys will go out on the river.
But only for ten minutes. And only a fast ride. Bobbing around by the dock is basically equivalent to sticking fingers down the throat.
How would I accomplish a ten minute boat ride on the Mississippi? Boat tours and cruises go for an hour or two. Besides, rentals and cruises are so expensive. The ideal situation would be finding a local person who would give me a very short ride. But how would I find the right person?
So last Friday morning, I conscripted my twin nephews Tony and Zach to go with me for a 45 minute overview of the town and we set out. Marnell had some studying to do and agreed to keep an eye on Anina. Perhaps I could arrange a time for he and I to go out on a boat later in the day before the rest of the family showed up for the gathering.
We made several stops on the wonderful old Main Street of the town, then walked down to the shops along the river.
As we approached riverside, a man rolled down his window and asked me to check the road behind him for cars. Apparently, this is the local tradition for backing safely out of the river parking spots- hail a passerby to check for you.
Since he felt okay asking a favor from me, I decided to ask one of him. I explained my plight. I needed to get out into the middle of the Mississippi, but only for a few minutes because I get sick on the water.
“Ask Justin.” The man motioned to his left. “He just pulled in with the gray truck.”
Well, I know a trail when I see one. Perhaps this Justin man would be the person with the boat who would offer to take us out on the Mississippi. Like a pack of hounds, my nephews and I snaked among the vehicles and came upon a man with two dogs, who had just emerged from a gray truck.
I explained my plight to him. “Ask S&S Rental.” He tugged on the leashes of his dogs.
I sighed inwardly, but thanked him. I know when people start passing a request off to others. And I had been hoping to find a private citizen who could take Marnell and I out. The rental company would charge a lot of money, but I didn’t seem to have a choice.
We got back into our vehicle and drove to the rental sign.
“Are we going on a boat ride?” the twins asked.
“No,” I said. “We are just going to find out about boat rides for later.”
I say I drove to the rental sign, because as we pulled into the parking lot, I could not identify any actual building, except for a bathroom house.
“There’s a sign that says OFFICE pointing that way!” A twin shouted.
Sure enough. We clambered out, crossed the parking lot, and descended rough wooden steps to a dock. Passing a nice pontoon with leather seats, we opened a spring loaded door that let us into an office perched like an overgrown closet at the water’s edge.
“Can I help you?” asked the man behind the high counter.
“Well… I don’t know if you can,” I said. “I’m not a boat person. But I’m doing some writing about this area and I really need to see the town from the river. But I get sick on the water, unless I’m moving fast, so I just really need a 10 or 15 minute ride.”
“Does right now work?” He asked. “I’m just ready to go to the sand bar to pick up my houseboat instructors.”
I gulped. Speedy forward movement. Short duration. Beside me, the twins nearly stopped breathing.
“Er… well…” I stammered. “I was thinking of doing it with my husband.” But likely it was now or never. “Sure, why not?”
The man got us life jackets, and we all settled into the leather-seated pontoon. I called Marnell as he climbed in, and he was in full support of the venture.
Soon, we were shooting across the water.
“How fast can it go?” One of the twins asked.
“How fast do you want to go?” the man replied, before revving up the boat. We shot down the center of the Mississippi River, past the Main Street of the old town, and under the majestic steel bridge. The bluffs rose high beside the river. We passed a tugboat loaded with barges, and arrived at the sand bar. We ferried the houseboat instructors around, picking up two, and dropping one off at a different location, then setting off back to the rental shop. The men told stories about the river and mishaps along it, and answered my questions about fishing tournaments.
“Did you get what you needed?” the man called as we approached.
“This was perfect!” I said. “What do I owe you?”
“Happy to do it. I was going anyway!”
Note: I have a blog post burning a hole in my brain, which I’ve been waiting eagerly to share with you. However, I agreed to work a couple of nights over Labor Day weekend since Marnell can be with Anina, so I won’t write anything new. I’ll post Chapter Three of Trapped in the Tunnel for those who are following along, and will probably send an “Anina email” as I usually do. If any of you don’t want to sign up for the email list, but would like to hear from Anina, or have missed the earlier installments, you can access them on Kindle Vella under the title 1st Days on Planet Earth.
Can the boys escape the tunnel?
Times are simpler in the 1980s. Terry, Gary, and Larry love their maple tree, their boat called the London, and the friendly face of the St. Joseph’s River. Gary finds comfort on the river, where he can use his upper body strength to row, and almost forget about his wooden leg and lost dreams.
But nothing is simple when Mom spots suspicious characters in the empty house next door and suggests it may be time to move away. And nothing is easy when Dad and Mom assign the boys a summer project to learn about the fruit of the Spirit.
Terry, Gary, and Larry set out to investigate the strange characters and prove that their neighborhood is safe. But then, the detective work backfires, and the boys are trapped.Trapped in the Tunnel, Book One of the Brady Street Boys Midwest Adventure Series
What is the Brady Street Boys series? Based on the fruit of the Spirit, it is expected to have 9 books. Trapped in the Tunnel is Book One. Here is the series description:
Terry, Gary and Larry Fitzpatrick live in northern Indiana along the St. Joseph River. President Reagan lives in the White House. Gasoline costs 90 cents a gallon. For families like the Fitzpatricks, computers and cell phones are still things of the future. The boys’ Christian parents teach them to pray and give them a project to learn the fruit of the Spirit. They help Gary navigate the pain of losing his leg and his firefighting dreams.
But having a wooden leg doesn’t keep Gary from adventures. With Terry the acrobat, and Larry the brain, Gary begins a quest to find an answer to the most important mystery of all.
What happened to the surgeon who amputated Gary’s leg, and has now disappeared?Brady Street Boys Midwest Adventure Series