When it comes to this old adage, I'm no exception. There's a lot that we can't have right now:
- A morning spent writing in a cafe surrounded by the cheerful din of other coffee-drinking patrons.
- The concert-on-the-lawn that I had tickets to attend tonight, but is now rescheduled for August 2021.
- Browsing the book collection inside my local library.
- Even a day so normal, that before last March I would've found it downright boring. Now, I'd consider it blissful.
I'm guessing I'm not the only one missing the old ways. Am I right? But, do you know what I really miss most?
Back in my take-on-the-world twenties, I was bitten by the travel bug. Big time. There was something about wandering unknown-to-me streets, meeting new people, eating exotic meals, and exploring a country with my backpack, a map, colorful currency notes, and my dogeared multi-language translation dictionary that gave me a rush. I thrived on the adventure.
Four continents, thirty-seven countries, and countless foreign cities, towns, and villages later, I'd collected so many border-control stamps, the American Embassy in Prague added pages to my passport. Those were heady days.
Then came grad school back across The Pond, a mortgage, and kids...you know the story. My urban-trekking days became a thing of the past. I'd traded schlepping my backpack for a diaper bag.
Until...I started writing suspense fiction.
While I didn't fully resurrect my globe-trotting days again (I wish!), I've learned to virtually immerse myself in a new culture without leaving my town. I nerd-out on combing through satellite images of foreign cities, watching subtitled/dubbed movies, checking out documentaries, eating--and sometimes even attempting to cook--the traditional foods, reading travel books, blogs, fiction written by local authors, and regional history books to learn historical context and evolution. I've listened to language-on-tape lessons and interviewed people from there and friends who recently traveled to my setting.
Despite having lived in Prague for three years and cultivating an understanding of a people who had suffered generations of oppression, I had much to learn about the circumstances surrounding Prague Spring. I'd only been an infant that summer of 1968, so even my Czech peers didn't have a living memory of the invasion or the soul-crushing aftermath. So, I dug in hard to learn as much as I could. In all of my Prague Spring research, two videos I found online were particularly influential in helping me shape my story:
- A three-minute montage of video clips of live footage from the invasion protests, which was used in the film, Unbearable Lightness of Being (based on the novel by Czech author, Milan Kundera).
- A Prague Spring documentary, which includes a moving vignette (minutes 30-34) about the Czech radio workers who risked their lives to continue broadcasting from underground hideouts after the main station was occupied by Soviet soldiers.
Thus, my short story of historical suspense was born. It was Romeo and Juliet set amid the crushing events that ended Prague Spring. "Czech Mate" was published in Malice Domestic's MYSTERY MOST GEOGRAPHICAL (Wildside Press, 2018). You can read my story here.
My current crime fiction research is taking me to Italy and Russia. Where would you like to visit (virtually or in real life)?
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