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Saturday, March 19, 2011

When Things are Not as They Seem...



A few years ago, one of my neighbors announced that she knew exactly what time I got up every day.

It seems that a group of ladies walk around the neighborhood at the crack of dawn and they noticed a light came on in my house each morning at precisely 5:30. Realizing that I was still sound asleep at that time of day, I was rather intrigued.

It turns out that I have the Sun-Rise Lamp, a nifty device that wakes you up with light instead of or in addition to, sound. And one of my house guests had set the clock while they were visiting, and unbeknownst to me, it was still coming on each morning at 5:30 and turning off automatically at 7:00 am while I was in another part of the house entirely.

But my neighbor was so convinced that she knew what time "the famous author" woke up each day that she spread the word rather quickly.

There was a time when no one knew who I was and what time I woke up interested absolutely nobody. I wonder if I might look back on that time as "the good ole days" ...

Once my books became successful, it appears that people will grasp at anything they think they know about me as an opportunity to tell others how intimate we are. When my vehicles are in the driveway, they "know" I am home, even if a friend has taken me to the airport and I'm out of the state. When my vehicles are gone, they "know" I am out of town. When I might, in fact, be curled up on the sofa watching TV.

This whole concept of people thinking they know what's going on inside my house or my life so intrigued me that I wrote this into my suspense/thriller, Exit 22. One of the main characters, Brenda Carnegie (who was up to a whole lot of things the neighborhood would have been buzzing about, had they known) had a series of timers in her home that made it look as if it was lived in even when it wasn't. Lights came on and off at all times of the day or night. And a neighbor who walked her dog each night was absolutely convinced she knew exactly which rooms Brenda was in or moving through, based on those lights...

Back in the 1970's I had a professor who always had a cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth. It was never lit but always dangling. He talked with it popping up and down with the movement of his lips. Several months into the course, he asked the students if he smoked. We all laughed. Of course he smoked. He was never seen without a cigarette in his mouth.

But the fact was, he didn't smoke. Never had. Never even lit one. He didn't own a lighter. Didn't carry matches. Each morning, he put a new cigarette in his mouth because he liked the way it felt there. And he walked around with it all day and discarded it when it got ragged or rained upon.

Look around you. Are things really what you think they are?

Or are things not as they seem to be, after all?

4 comments:

Penny said...

Hmmmm . . . . it is good to keep 'em guessing. When our kids were young adults and my husband was an over-the-road truck driver . . . our dining room light would burn all night. Someone was always still out . . either working shift work or out for the evening, etc. One evening it was turned out . . . by mistake. The very next morning one of our neighbors was at the front door to make sure everyone was ok. They had been watching our patterns. I have heard crooks also do that. It is fun to keep 'em guessing !! I loved "Exit 22". Can't wait to read your new one !!

Pamela June Kimmell said...

Great story to illustrate your point Trish! Things truly aren't always as they "seem" which - when you think about it - is the hallmark of a great suspense/thriller or mystery. Leading your reader down the path with hints and clues which may or may not be leading to the truth of the situation. Nobody does that like you do! Your suspense is always "edge of my seat" and your readers quickly learn NOT to make assumptions because things are often not as they seem. Great blog!

Douglas Brown said...

Great post. Enjoyed the brilliant way you showed how to lead the reader one way while closing with a perfectly reasonable, yet different, explanation. The blog got me thinking about the other point of your article as well. Being "out there" can be a tad creepy. Just like your neighbors paying such close attention to your habits. I recently had a similar consequence of being a writer. I wrote a guest commentator article for my local newspaper. I signed it but I didn't reveal in any way that I was a writer. My article, I knew, could be a tad controversial since it was slightly political. In the online section of the newspaper I took a beating. But where this becomes a problem is that one person researched me and published my bio from my publisher site. He also inferred that I was probably not even a firefighter anymore since I was a professional author. Heck, my debut novel isn't even out yet. His comment was to undermine me since my article was written by me as a ff. I found it unsettling that he posted my information on a site that was being venomous toward me. I know, not the same but similar.

p.m.terrell said...

Wow, Douglas, that is really scary. There is a definite downside to being out there in the public eye. I can't imagine how high profile celebrities and politicians deal with it. Especially all of the misinformation and/or distortions and slanted agendas.
Penny, I liked reading your comment. I have several neighbors who keep an eye on my house and property and call me if they think something might be amiss, which I deeply appreciate. It's the folks who jump to conclusions that are disarming...
Pam, thank you for being such a fantastic friend - and fan! I am still waiting for the sequel to "The Mystery of David's Bridge!"