About a dozen years ago, maybe more, my sister and some friends were planning a pre-Christmas shopping weekend in Erie, Pennsylvania, and invited me to join them. I'm not much for shopping but I wasn't about to turn down a weekend away, so I grabbed my friend Carol and off we went. While the others spent the days at the outlet malls, Carol and I holed up in our room and pounded out words. At night we joined up with the shoppers for dinner and fun.
On our second afternoon, Carol and I needed a break, so we headed out of the hotel and wandered into a little gift shop next door. I don't remember the name or what else they sold, but one photograph caught my eye. I'm usually not a visual person, but something about this photo dug into me. It felt like the perfect metaphor for where I was in my writing career at that time: the door to publication was there, in sight, but still inaccessible. And yet, despite the vines and the branches, it was there. All I had to do was find the way to clear the path and I could open it.
I bought it immediately and it has occupied a place of honor in my office ever since.
When I was writing Picket Fence Surprise, I needed ways to pull my hero and heroine, Xander and Heather, together. He's helping her with a job search. One requirement of a job she's hoping to get is that she prepare sample tourism materials. As Xander helped her with layout and formatting, I wanted to include some a photo that he had taken. And since both Heather and Xander have pasts that can definitely be described as challenging, I knew this couldn't be a sunshine-and-flowers shot.
Enter my photo.
It worked perfectly. From the moment Heather saw it, she caught the same undercurrents that Xander felt when he took it. They each had waded through more than their share of brambles and barriers in their pasts.
But now - perhaps - it was their turn to walk through the door.
I've moved homes in the last year, and have a whole new office, but the picture still hangs just to my right, easily in my view with a quick turn of the head. There's always another door beckoning. Whenever I see the photo, I - just like Heather and Xander - am reminded that if I can just get through the brambles, I'll be able to walk straight through.