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Moving to a new location is a theme encountered from the classics to contemporary genre. In a physical move, the hero leaves behind all that he or she has known. This can include family and friendships, a career and coworkers, hobbies or volunteer work, and the familiarity of home. That familiarity can extend to everything that affects a daily life, from the local grocery to a dentist to places the hero has passed every day without thought.

Vicki's Key

The move throws the hero into the unknown. Perhaps they move to a small town in pursuit of serenity, only to discover the house they move into is haunted—a theme which I used in Vicki’s Key. Moving can be found in horror, thrillers, suspense—but also in romance and comedy.


Regardless of the genre, the hero encounters the unexpected and may go through trials and tribulations before emerging on the other side, better for the experience they had undergone, because in the process they discovered strengths and talents and even renewed purpose.


My mother was born in Spring Hill, Tennessee long before the auto plant was built that caused the tiny town of 416 citizens to swell to more than 37,000. She was grown before their house had a telephone, and her grandparents that lived in the county never did get indoor plumbing. It was expected that my mother would never move but would live out her entire lifetime in that town of 416 (give or take a death or birth) much as her mother and her grandmother had.


But Mom married a man that would become an FBI Special Agent at a time when agents were transferred on a routine basis. By the time I came along, they were living in Washington, DC and over the next ten years we would move to Cleveland, Ohio, Waldwick and Washington Township, New Jersey, Monterey and Pacific Grove, California, and to the Mississippi Delta. The woman that was accustomed to living in a town where one could walk to all four points and literally where everyone knew her name found herself living in an apartment in downtown DC and homes in the north that were completely different from the culture where she had grown up.


Butterfly ParadeI never experienced fear or trepidation when we were told we were moving, because my mother made every move into a game. Moving excited and invigorated her, and she passed those positive thoughts to her children. She treated each move like the new chapter that it was; knowing doors would open and our lives would be richer and deeper for the experience. Not every move was positive; apartment living with three young children and thin walls had to have been nerve-wracking for a young mother—but I remember how proud she was when she navigated a city bus with us one day, purely for the experience. And though I was convinced our home in Mississippi was haunted, she found the silver lining—and blamed my nightmares on Barnabas Collins.


As I look back at my moves, I remember participating in the Monarch Butterfly Parade in California; the swing set I loved in Cleveland and how tree roots buckled the sidewalks, which made walking them an adventure akin to Middle Earth. I remember Christmas in shorts on a California day, and Christmas bundled under so many layers that my elbows couldn’t bend in New Jersey.


And later, I would move alone from a sleepy town in the Mississippi Delta back to the place of my birth in Washington, DC, an experience I drew from when writing Kickback.


The heroes in books might relish the move, or they might seek to avert it, but when the book opens to find our hero heading for an unfamiliar place, we know whatever they find will forever transform them and make them into the people they eventually become.

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