Writing. Culture. Politics. Wandering.
Welcome to the Desert of Man, blogging home to Science Fiction reader and experimenting writer Mack Meijers. From time to time I open the stage to other creative souls to shine a spotlight on them as human beings, their thinking and their work. This time the light shines on Peggy Rothschild facing the Spotlight Questions and featuring her amazing work, Clementine’s Shadow.
Shall we begin?
Peggy Rothschild grew up in Los Angeles. Always a mystery-lover, she embraced the tales of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys before graduating to the adult section of the library. An English major in high school, she switched to art – her other passion – in college. At present, Peggy lives in the beach community of Ventura with her husband and their cats. In her spare time she focuses on transforming their yard into a drought-tolerant paradise.
After moving to the California High Desert for a new start, Deputy Casey Lang faces a hard truth: She must work through her fear of shooting another child or kiss her career goodbye. The disappearance of a six-year-old girl from a summer concert puts Casey’s resolve to the test.
Set in a scorched landscape of played out silver mines and dry river beds, Clementine’s Shadow tells the story of a child snatched by a predator and Casey’s desperate search to find her. As the temperature rises, three unlikely heroes emerge to help.
What was the challenge of this project?
Clementine’s Shadow is told from five points of view – the perpetrator, Deputy Casey Lang and three other protagonists. All events take place within twenty-four hours and the plot has a very tight timeline. That fact, coupled with the multiple POVs, often caused a ripple effect during revisions – which then required still more revisions. Since I was working with so many POVs, in addition to the character biographies I created, I also wrote out a lexicon for each main character.
Where was the fun in this project?
I enjoyed researching desert wildlife and California silver mines, but the most exciting part of my research was taking the PC832 class at the community college. The class is part of required peace officer training; I was the only person there who wasn’t attending for that reason. The material covered was fascinating. Not only did we explore a wide range of situations and the applicable laws of arrest, we learned how to properly cuff someone, how to use the ‘follow-along’ hold, and had to qualify on the firing range to pass the class. (I did pass!)
What stories do you like to hear, create and share?
I love mysteries – reading, writing, watching. I enjoy puzzling out character motivations while I try to figure out who ‘dunnit’ or why they ‘dunnit’. The best mysteries take readers on a ride that leaves them feeling they’ve learned something about history or human nature or an unknown landscape – or maybe all three.
If you were a teacher, what would be your best lesson to teach?
To crib from Benjamin Franklin: “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.” I’m a big believer in not procrastinating. I think when you delay starting something new, the task can start to feel intimidating – seeming bigger or tougher than it is. Diving into a new task without delay gives me more time to learn whatever I need to get the job done – and moves the task into the ‘familiar’ column, preventing it from seeming overwhelming.
What do you think is the best way to share a story?
For me, it’s through the written word. I love both the quiet of reading and feeling like I’m joining the author on a journey. When I’m writing, the satisfaction of finding just the right words to bring a character, place or scene to life is immense.
Do you think you could survive in the wild, on your own?
That depends on how long a period I’d be out there, but my gut reaction is: Probably not. Though I’ve done a lot of camping and hiking, I’m a non-hunting Vegan who would likely starve or eat something poisonous if stuck in the wilderness for a prolonged period. That’s of course if no wild animals get me first!
How do you get up every morning?
I don’t generally use an alarm clock and wake up between 7 and 8 a.m. After feeding the cats and changing their water, I head out for a hill walk. Listening to the birds while working up a sweat is a great way to start the day. I also do a bit of plotting along the way.
What is the best thing a friend has ever done for you?
I’m very lucky in that I have a wonderful circle of close friends – all of whom I’ve known more than half my life. I can’t pull out an isolated event and say something was more important than anything else. There are so many kindnesses, so many moments of shared laughter… Maybe the best thing my friends have done for me is that they’ve stayed an active part of my life throughout the years.
Have you ever failed? What did you learn from the experience?
Oh my. My failures are too many to count. I do have high standards for myself, so even when I succeed at something, there’s usually a little failure mixed in there, too. And that’s OK. If you’re not falling on your butt every now and then, you’re not trying anything new.
Given the chance, how would you travel the world, where, and why?
If I were ridiculously wealthy, I’d probably travel by ship to foreign lands and when there, hire a driver to cart us around. I have a horrible sense of direction and having someone else drive would make for stress-free travel – and it’s not fair to always have my husband navigating. I’ve gotten to do some traveling, but haven’t been to Spain (I want to see the artworks in the Prado) or Barcelona (to see the amazing buildings designed by Gaudi). I’d love to go back to France and Italy with enough time to explore big cities and countryside at a leisurely pace. Though I’m ‘cold averse’, someday I’d also like to go to Antarctica and see the penguins and the harsh beauty of that landscape.
What place has technology in your life?
While I don’t tend to get excited by the latest gadget – except for my GPS – advances in technology make researching and writing much easier – not to mention my day-to-day life. I do a lot of internet research for writing and, with the advent of smaller laptops, notebooks and tablets, writers are no longer chained to a desk and can work pretty much anywhere. That said, I do like to periodically ‘unplug’ and turn off the cell phone, refrain from checking email or social media, and focus on enjoying my surroundings.
If your life was a book, who would you like to write it?
I don’t know who the author would be, but I’d want someone whose stories always have a happy ending.
What place has knowledge in your world?
I love to learn – whether by listening to a lecture, visiting an exhibit, attending a concert or reading a book or article. In addition to mysteries, I also read across genres and always have at least one gardening book close at hand.
The old biddy nearing him in the supermarket aisle looked sharp-eyed and cranky. He didn’t recognize her, but still averted his face. After she passed, he studied the candy selection. Dolly craved bright-looking treats with wild colors. A lollipop of swirled blue and pink drew his gaze, the candy disk as big as his palm. Dolly would want it. The concert in the park started at seven o’clock. He would try to hold off until 7:15 before he gave Dolly her treat. Hard to resist those big green eyes.
A shopping cart rattled. He looked toward the sound. A young mother approached. Her daughter clutched at the woman’s leg, the girl’s fingers scrabbling without success along the skin-tight denim. The mother brushed away the girl’s hand, her attention focused on the package-lined shelves.
Another brainwashed drone who thought she could buy the ingredients for happiness. He knew better. Happiness didn’t nest in material things.
The woman moved away, pushing her basket toward the frozen food section. Her daughter trailed behind. He lingered by the candy display, peering at them through mirrored sunglasses, unobtrusive in his studies. Little girls, age five or six, moved like young deer, awkward and graceful by turns. This one’s sticklike legs made him think of a fawn first learning to run. Lovely. Vulnerable. The vibrations began to rise inside him.
“No!” The little girl spun away from her mother. “You promised candy.” She ran straight at him.
No sudden moves. Remain calm. The girl neared. He strolled from the candy aisle toward the baked goods section.
“Brittany. Get back here. I don’t have time for this.” The woman abandoned her half-full cart, marched after the girl and grabbed her shoulders. “Want candy? Then behave. Don’t make me chase you all over the damn store.”
The girl stared at the array of sweets. Her lower lip and voice trembled. “You promised.”
“Jesus Christ. We’ll pick something out when we’re done shopping. Now, come on.” The woman tugged her daughter’s hand.
The girl’s lower lip retreated. “OK.” She sniffed then trotted along beside her mother. The two returned to their shopping cart.
He stared after them. The young mother so confident she and her daughter had nothing to worry about except wasted time. Foolish – like most mothers. He took a deep breath, trying to quiet the hum inside his brain. He needed to stay focused for tonight. Nothing could go wrong. Stick to the plan. Make it happen.
Tonight he would offer Dolly her treat. When Dolly saw it, she’d smile and come to him.
Dollies always did.
Thank you, Peggy Rothschild, for your openness and your work!
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