Friday, December 4, 2015

Hiding in Plain Sight

My favorite place in the world has always been the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina. I grew up in Louisiana, but my maternal grandparents lived in Hendersonville, NC, and that's where we spent our summers. They had an amazing homestead, about 40 acres of beautiful, rolling farmland with two ponds, lots of trees, and pastures for their horses. Their home sat at the highest point on the property, and from there they had a perfect view of the mountaintops in the distance, including Mt. Pisgah. It wasn't just their place that was great; they were awesome too, simply the best grandparents a kid could ask for.

Fast forward many years, the farm was eventually sold off, the house torn down by the new owners, a bigger fancier house built in its place. We were, of course, so sad to see it go. But I'm happy to say it lives on--in print, at least.

How? Well, that's today's Insider Info: Because I snuck it into A Dime a Dozen. Here's the passage, from the very last chapter of the book:

I didn't know what our destination would be, but finally we slowed and turned into a driveway of shells, crunching along as we pulled through overgrown trees and up a gentle incline. It looked like a farm of sorts. We drove along a white wooden split rail fence, passing a small pond with two ducks floating on the surface. As we climbed, the driveway curved to the right, and up ahead I could see a house lined on one side with giant picture windows. The leaves on a weeping willow tree blue gently in the breeze next to a stone terrace...

A few paragraphs later, once the characters are inside the living room, gazing through the picture windows:

From there we looked out over a long, sweeping lawn, the pond down below, and more mountains visible in the distance. In a side pasture, I spotted several horses grazing among giant oak trees. Tom gave me a tour of the elegantly furnished home, taking me full circle through the entire place and ending on the terrace outside.

The story goes on from there, but you get the idea. Readers often ask if I put real people into my books. My response is, "No, but I do put real buildings sometimes."  Guess that's the power of words, that they can keep such a wonderful place alive forever, even if only in the imagination.

3-year-old Mindy with Grandpa Dickerson in 1963

A friend of my brother's, on a swing built by my grandfather. Note the grape arbor in the lower right, also built by him. Grandpa could make anything!

Mindy at 15 on Sue, our favorite horse

Grandma Dickerson peeking out from behind my mom, down by the pond

So how about you? If you were a writer, is there some place from your past you might memorialize in a story?


  1. I love to write and this is a wonderful writing prompt! I'll have to think about favorite places. But I have to admit, that picture of the swing made my heart skip a beat -- it's so high! Loved the picture of you on the horse, and your mama is so pretty. Thanks for sharing your photos and stories.

  2. Isn't that swing crazy? The guy in the photo had one goal that summer, to swing so high that he could get it to go all the way around. (Like 360ยบ around. Ack!) Nobody thought he could do it except for my dad, who was a real genius with science and had worked out the physics of the matter. According to him, it was possible. Sure enough, exactly once, the swing got all the way to the top...and then kept going. What a thrill it was to watch. We were all screaming. In this litigious day and age, I can't imagine anyone would even have something like that in their yard. But this was back in the 70's, when everything was dangerous and kids still got things like bb guns for Christmas. :)

  3. Oh yeah, for what it's worth, once our friend set out on his goal, Grandpa added foot holders to the seat of the swing, kind of like what holds your feet to water skis. After that, whenever Mike went out to the swing to try going higher, he would put his feet in those first. It wasn't exactly a harness, but at least it kept him a little bit safer.