Reflections on Cottonwood Lake


I sit alone on the shore of Cottonwood Lake in the high mountains of Colorado on a sunny summer afternoon. The quietude is breached only by the freshening wind whooshing through the towering pines and the slapping of the waves against immense granite boulders scattered randomly along the shore. My daughter and Michael are kayaking on the blue waters.

My mind confronts the solitude uneasily, as if it is a unwelcome stranger beating on my front door. My uneasiness is vanquished after a few moments as the quiet overwhelms the chatter in my head. I realize that this moment asks nothing from me except appreciation. In my aloneness there is freedom to quietly contemplate my latest writing project, the sequel to my novel, Anahuac.

There is an excitement in writing historical fiction/crime novels. It is like constructing a puzzle for readers to solve. I love to sprinkle in tidbits of daily life that have been forgotten over the past fifty years. The completion of Anahuac, brought a simultaneous sense of accomplishment and loss. Living in the imaginary lives of my characters is pleasurable. Completion of a book brings a separation from my imaginary friends. Since “A Texas Story” is a series the characters don’t leave me for long. There is one inescapable truth about writing. If your butt is not in your chair with your hands on the keyboard there is no tangible product.

Early in my writing career I was intensely focused on getting a story on paper. I spewed out pages upon pages without clarity and sometimes without even a purpose. Those pages required copious revisions. Now I sit by the lake and calmly work in my head. This cerebral exercise will produce a better product when I am ultimately behind the keyboard.

I made substantial progress on the sequel to Anahuac during the first part of the summer. My efforts slowed about a month ago and I was worried that it was writer’s block. Instead I believe it only the Universe gently suggesting that I pause for a while to receive important information.

When the important information came I was attending a play called Heisenberg, written by Simeon Stephens. It was a strange play about a relationship between a man seventy-five years old and a women about forty-two. I didn’t find that premise particularly realistic. , but I did enjoy studying the dialogue techniques of the playwright. Near the end of the performance there was a brilliantly written line. It was the nugget that gave me insight about relationships. Stephens’ elder character says to his young love interest,

“We hold very different perspectives on experiences we imagine we are sharing.”

Upon hearing the line I understood why my writing had been slowed. My sequel explores all manner of social and business relationships. The line from the play gave me a perspective on relationships I had never considered. Often romantic relationships dissolve in bitter quarrels when one or both partners see that the relationship no longer works for them. Is that true because many romantic relationship are based on an initial euphoria of unexplainable emotion, physical attraction, unrealistic expectations and a bit of fantasy?

The Stephens’ line posits that partners in relationships often imagines the relationship as something the other does not. This thought has my characters scurrying around in my head. I am betting that sorting out how my characters will react to their partners will be fun. I am excited about how my clarified thoughts will sound when they find their way into my characters’ dialogue.

Abruptly without warning, the brisk breezes off the lake turn cold. The sun’s warmth has been defeated by a chilly gale from a thunderhead roiling threateningly above a nearby peak. The kayakers are back on shore and Michael says we have to leave before the lightning is upon us. We are busy stowing the kayaks in the back of the truck and repacking the gear when the first large monsoonal rain drops sting our faces.

My characters are protesting, “We have things to tell you.” I wish I had time to listen but the lightning is nearing us. The chaos of the storm has broken my reflective calm. My characters continue protesting, but now I am at peace in the safety of backseat of the truck. I have been “writing” this afternoon, just not the way you might imagine. My characters and I settle in for the winding drive down the mountain.

Yes, my characters, I hear what you want me to write, soon my imaginary friends, soon.