Saturday, December 5, 2015

Maho Bay or Bust

Maho Bay, St. John, US Virgin Islands

As a writer, I've spent years cultivating a small group of reliable sources for a variety of information. I've got a health care professional for when I have medical questions, a former cop for police-related matters, an antiques expert for when I'm furnishing a fictional home, and so on. One such source is my dear friend Shari, who serves as my go-to gal for fitness-related questions. Not only is she one of the healthiest, most fit people I've ever known, she's also always gracious and happy to help.

She's not a fitness professional, she's just someone who really takes care of herself and lives an active lifestyle. Considering that I sit in a chair for eight to ten hours a day, whenever my characters are athletic types, I usually end up having to pick Shari's brain.    
Shari and her husband Sheldon after running a 5K

One such conversation took place back in 2003, when I was working on what I figured would be a very physically-taxing scene for the heroine of A Quarter for a Kiss.  Here's the setup: Callie and Tom are boating off the island of St. John, USVI, when they pull into a cove at a popular campground. Tom anchors the boat so that Callie can hop out, run up to the campground's gift shop, and buy a newspaper (into which the villain has placed a coded message, but I digress.)

The problem is that I used a real campground, Maho Bay, which is set on the side of a steep hill. To get from the beach to the Maho Bay gift shop, a person would have to take about six flights of stairs.  And my girl is in a hurry.

So I called Shari, explained the scenario, and asked her, "When Callie has run up all those stairs, how out of breath is she? Is she barely winded, is she gasping for air, or is she somewhere in between?" I didn't have to add that I personally would be needing CPR right about then.

Shari thought about it but finally apologized and said she just didn't know, it wasn't something she'd ever paid attention to before.  I thanked her anyway and we ended our call. Taking my best guess, I kept going with the scene, but I'd barely made it a few paragraphs before my phone rang. It was Shari.

"Okay, so this is about it," she said.

"About what?"

"About how winded she would be. I just ran from the upstairs to the basement three times, as fast as I could."

After I finished laughing, I sat there and listened to Shari's breathing and together we decided she was "slightly winded."  And since Callie is equally fit, I wrote the scene this way:

I was slightly winded by the time I reached the top but managed to catch my breath as I followed the wooden arrows to the gift shop...

Talk about a true friend! Shari has helped me out many times since that hilarious moment, but I'll never forget the day that, for the sake of research, she ran up and down the stairs of her house over and over until she could correctly answer my question.

If someone used you as a writing resource, what sorts of questions would you be answering? (Maybe things about your occupation, your hobbies, locations you're familiar with, parenting, etc.)  Everyone's an expert on something. What sort of expert are you?


  1. What a great friend! This story put a smile on my face. Thanks for sharing!

    If I was used as a writing resource, I would be answering questions about life, marriage, and parenting with a severe chronic illness. And maybe some questions about social media, crocheting, and medical treatments from a patient's perspective.

  2. That's great, Rachel. I know not all of the above was by choice, but I think it's awesome that you can use the wisdom of your experience to guide others. There's no comparison, of course, but I well remember those days when my kids were little and I'd wake up with the flu and then I'd realize that being a mom is the one job where you can't call in sick! My heart goes out to you, but I applaud your positive spirit. :)