When Hummers Dream, my first novelette, came about as one-quarter remembrance and three-quarters imagination.
The setting and the tone of this story is idyllic and even a bit magical. Based in part on a real experience I had, I remember so clearly the beauty of that day as my friends and I enjoyed lunch in a gorgeous garden with a spectacular ocean view. And then something bad happened . . . and it transformed into something transcendent, as you’ll see in this novelette.
In real life, we’d been enjoying ourselves, the experience made more marvelous by the hummingbirds flitting over bright blooms, when a hummer flew into a glass wall. My friends pronounced the little creature dead, but I thought not. Lifting the delicate bird, I carried him to a far corner of the garden, spoke to him as he rested in the palm of my hand, and felt his spirit near. After half an hour he flew off. Not only was I elated, but for the following year, every time I was in that neighborhood, a hummer “buzzed” me as if to say “Thank you!”
I knew I would write about this one day, and would try to include the magical-mysterious-spiritual aspect of the experience. Sure enough, the little bird tapped on my window pane as my publishers were preparing novel #1 of my series for launch. “Aha,” I thought. “It’s time!” Believe it or not, while I wrote this novelette, a hummer repeatedly hovered in the frame of one particular window pane, my little winged editor making sure I got the story right.
So yes, some of this story actually happened . . . but much of it takes place in the imagined life of my protagonist who helps her little bird by painting a dream-garden for him. Where reality ends and imagined-reality begins is hard to say.
And one element that did NOT happen in real life was the arrival of “Lime Woman” — a bossy, intrusive pill of a woman who barged into my story, startling me as much as she startled my protagonist Miranda. She seemed to arrive of her own accord and I had no choice but to let her walk all over my beautiful, peaceful story! But my author-self knew enough to trust that she actually belonged, even if I’d have loved to kick her out.
Comic relief . . . dramatic tension . . . extreme contrast . . . she serves all those purposes. She had me laughing, then my editor laughed out loud, and soon my readers decided she was a “contrarian favorite”.
When Hummers Dream launched, and this novelette flew to the top of the best-seller lists. The story, published as a prequel to What the Heart Knows, set a trend for prequel short fiction, and was embraced by the huge communities of hummingbird lovers I’d never known about, who wrote to me from all over the country. How wonderful to discover so many of us treasure these precious, tiny but mighty birds who fly thousands of miles each year, bringing joy when they arrive.
So even if “Mrs. Lime” doesn’t love hummers—nor much of anything else—see if she brings you a laugh as you enjoy your visit to the magical garden in Milford-Haven.
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