This post was supposed to be about the merits of attending author events – in this case, the Tennessee Valley Fair, where you can currently find my colleagues Christopher Woods and Amie Gibbons (waves. Hi, guys!). Chris set up a collaborative author’s booth and organized several of us coming in for a day or two during the ten-day fair, with a roughly 100,000 person attendance. It was an interesting way to break into new markets outside the con circuit, which while the congoers are already usually fans of the genres we write, the fair is just all sorts of people. I’ll ask Chris if he wouldn’t mind doing a full write-up once he recovers, as I know he’s had a strenuous week.
Instead, this post is about having an adventure. An adventure is someone else far away having a dangerous and miserable time. We love to write about adventures. Having them, well…
As you may have guessed from my phrasing, I didn’t make it down to Knoxville yesterday. We were on the road, having both worked long hours at the day jobs to get off early Friday, arrange the babysitter at home, and pack my little SUV. Boxes of books and art filling the back, we took off down the road. And about 50 miles from home, there was a loud BANG!
I lost control. It was early rush-hour traffic, a full interstate, and my tire had blown apart. I had two conscious thoughts during the time the vehicle was still on the road. First: I had to get us off the road as soon as possible. If I lost control enough to spin us across three lanes of traffic, we were going to die. Second, absurdly, I remember thinking clearly and inquisitively “is it steer into a skid, or…?” As we skidded, the First Reader in the passenger seat, I got us pointed toward the grassy side of the road I could see just ahead, after the underpass and the guardrail. I didn’t make it – hit the rail, but not head-on. We came to a stop just on the line of the right lane, and I couldn’t get the car to start (found out later the front end was a lot more crunched than I could tell at that second).
It all happened so fast. I didn’t fully process it for hours later, and this morning I’m still not sure I have processed it. The first words out of my mouth, I think, were to ask the First Reader if he were all right. He said he was, and a cop pulled over to help us, and then I sort of sat with my nice seatbelt hugging me and shook a little. Now that it’s been 15 hours since the accident, and I’m sitting here with sore muscles and stiff body, but no injuries worth speaking of, I’m thinking of what the accident meant to me as a writer, so I can justify venting at you all in this post.
Firstly: Had the spin taken us in a different direction, this post would not be written this morning. I’m not entirely sure the MGC’ers would even know what had happened by now. Something I must take steps to rectify. But I digress. Had the accident gone as badly as it had the potential to do, I wouldn’t be worried about writing. As a writer sitting here typing and digesting, this is sobering as I don’t have a back-up for my work. I’m not talking about my files – I’ve done a triple redundancy system there, one I could write about in another post. I mean that other than my First Reader, who was sitting next to me, no-one knows how to run Stonycroft Publishing. Even if it never published another thing, there would still be income I’d want to go to my kids. So I need to fix that gap in my prep.
Secondly: It didn’t take me long afterward to start thinking about how I could use the experience in a story. Hey, I’m a writer. It’s a coping mechanism. One of the things that struck me was that it happened very, very fast. I had a handful of heartbeats and two thoughts in the time it took for the accident to begin and end. It wasn’t until later that I could piece together what had happened and start to process it. I feel bad for the officer who took my statement – not only was my handwriting shaky, I couldn’t think well enough to write it out clearly. I couldn’t think clearly for most of the day, on some things. Weird stuff like simple math was just… not there. Stress is an interesting phenomenon in the human brain. I think a lot of the stiffness I’m feeling today is purely from tensing up, knowing we were going to hit the guardrail (or another car). Something I did deliberately in the wake of the accident, since we were both fine, was to push us to stay active rather than sitting still and freezing up. A friend came and got us, we watched the tow truck pick up my poor crumpled car, and we went home to hug the kids. Then we started car shopping, and I bought a replacement vehicle yesterday evening.
Which brings me to my third, and final: we were prepared. Not for the accident, no. My tires weren’t new, but they had decent tread. I’d had a flat a while back, replaced that tire entirely, and had the pressure and tread checked at the time: they were fine for a while. I hadn’t seen any weird wear, or felt vibrations. So the tire tread coming off was a complete surprise. But knowing these things happen, I had AAA, and could call just a couple of minutes after the crash and have the car towed to our mechanic. Who will look at it, shake his head, and say ‘damn, Cedar…’ because it’s toast. However, we were already prepared to replace the car, and had the money in savings enough to be able to walk into a new (to us!) car hours later, and without having to go into debt to do it. My poor old baby wasn’t worth keeping full replacement insurance on it, the deductible would have been more than it was worth. So while the big thing was that we made it through the accident with barely a scratch (the First Reader has a scratched thumb), we were also not sitting on the side of the road wondering what to do next. Towing, a ride home, and replacing the car were all relatively easy to do.
Speaking of which, I need to get up and doing so I can put plates on my new ride today. And because if I just sit here I’ll only get stiffer, and my hand is too sore to write. I’ll break out Dragon Naturally later in the day. During our brief drive, the First Reader evil mused at me and I know what the scene I’ve been stuck on needs!