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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Helen and Henry: Bringing Characters to Life

Rick and I love walking through the Boston Christmas Festival at the World Trade Center exhibition hall on the waterfront in Boston. The originality and creativity that is evident there restores  our faith in "Made In U.S.A." labels. People who go there are selling not only articles but a part of their own spirit.  The smiles and the hustle and bustle there are always the beginning of the Christmas season for us. Our senses are overly-filled with beautiful sights, tempting aromas and happy holiday music. It reminds me of walking the streets at Downtown Crossing as a child, looking in the windows at the competitive seasonal decorations between Jordan Marsh (always the winner) and Filene's (marketing an older, fashion-conscious audience.)

To our surprise and delight, we found an artist who makes ceramic dolls ... large dolls of senior citizens, about the size of two-or three-year old children.  Their faces, arms and hands, legs and shoed-feet are all of ceramic, with fabric covered stuffed bodies and clothing that fits their personalities.  I love that they are sized like small children, for in many aspects they seem to be reliving their childhoods in their 'happily ever after' days.

I had just begun writing my first fiction book, the mystery titled The Quilter's Quarters.  My characters had begun to develop, and I was in the process of choosing their names. When we rounded that corner at the festival we found Henry and Helen, and I knew then that they were the couple about whom I was writing.

Henry is pleasant, confident fellow who dresses in a plaid flannel shirt and jeans on most days. He wears his white sox and his black work boots when he is out in the barn fulfilling his dreams of woodworking through his retirement.

Helen, who had taught for decades, has finally begun working on her own dream; she and Henry have added a quilt shop to his Wooden Toy and Gift shop, and they are avidly seeking buys on fabrics, notions and such. Helen spends some days in the shop cutting fabric remnants into what quilters call "fat quarters." Henry spends his days out back in the newly renovated woodworking shop of the barn. They delight in having a short commute of ten steps from the back door of their home to their workplaces.

Helen and Henry will be the main characters in several stories yet to be written. That they exist now, here in our own quilt shop / wooden toy and gift shop is a serendipitous advantage to my writing. I can see them. I can imagine their conversations, and pose dilemmas to challenge them and rewards to delight them. They are very real for me now. Their names, borrowed from Rick's uncle and my aunt, help guide me in writing consistently within their personalities, and their actions are believable as a result.

They  have taken up residence in the shop, sitting together with Henry's arm sheltering Helen's shoulders, a quilt of mine carefully tucked over the laps to ward off winter's chill in the barn.

All  authors need inspiration for their writing. My own memory is somewhat limited these days by the illnesses I have experienced. Having Helen and Henry here with me keeps me on track in writing their stories.

The first book is written and available at my webstore, at Amazon, at Barnes and Noble and other online sellers. The second book is begun, and may be published before the winter's end. The third will be started soon after in the pleasant environment of a warmer, freshly aired shop. The mysteries happening in the shop, and the challenges facing these two wonderful old folk will continue through the series.

I invite you to join me in Henry and Helen's world, and in my world, at our new blog, "At Quilters' Quarters." You'll notice that the name of the blog is plural, for it is a place designed for many quilters to gather and enjoy the progress I'm making in writing these books and in living out my dream of owning a quilt shop. Please come, sign on to follow, and enjoy the journey with Helen, Henry, Rick and me.