For me, inspiration often comes from the unexpected. Take this horse, for instance. Understand, I live in a bustling South Florida urban area and narrowed down, my specific residence overlooks a community lake in a 55+ development. Yes, it’s pretty placid here. But the lake itself is filled with gigantic turtles, huge carp, a bunch of other fish I can’t identify, awesome storks, and, of course, loads of ducks. I love watching them all.
However, the one thing you wouldn’t expect to see here is a horse. And yet, one day recently I was sitting on the screened-in patio we have, chatting on the phone with an author friend in North Idaho, and suddenly, here comes this gorgeous horse. It wanders into the lake, because I gather horses like lakes. Me? I kept my friend on the phone, and shot out the screen door faster than Batman swooping from a 70-story building. Photos, my brain screamed at me. I must get photos!
Mind you, I have no earthly idea whatsoever about horses. Don’t know how to approach them. Don’t know what clucking or sounds I should make to ensure it understands I’m not dangerous. None of that bothered me. The thrill of the moment is all that mattered. I sat on the grass on the bank and look, look how close I got to getting that beautiful animal to come to me! (I had my author friend Dawn Keur, who most assuredly does know horses, on the phone and telling me how to advance toward it, what to do, etc.)
After the horse splashed around a bit, drank copiously from the lake water and began to approach me, more neighbors started to cautiously appear. I think that spooked the horse a bit, so it amicably got out of the lake and ambled to a nearby canal. (Wish I’d had a carrot to give it.) Presumably, the horse was headed back to wherever it came from, and you can be certain I followed as long as I could.
Someone called the Sheriff’s Department. Someone called Animal Control. The stunning horse ultimately was traced to a small barn or boarding area about a mile away, buried deep away from the major roadways surrounding our community. I know because my friend Marlene Passell, who also knows about horses and lives five doors away, leaped into her car to try and find the authorities and the horse, which she did. Marlene’s the one who told me the horse’s name is Betty, and that this wasn’t the first time she managed to get loose and go exploring.
Now after that story, you really think I won’t manage to finagle Betty or some horseback riding situation into my upcoming novel? (Currently, that novel is simply referred to as “Claudia No. 4,” since the others are already published: In the Spirit of Murder (still free), Quietly Dead, and Deadly Associations.) Can you tell I write murder mysteries with a pretty tough and savvy female cop?
All I know with certainty is this: That encounter, where least expected, gave me the high of my weekend and it will live within me forever. That’s how writers get inspired.
P.S. That patch on Betty’s face? I didn’t know what it was until I asked Dawn. It’s some sort of mesh covering to keep flies and gnats off the horse, but the horse can easily see through it. Clearly, Betty had no problem with it.