Thursday, July 23, 2015

Journey to an Inspiration

In the summer of 2006, my husband and I decided to spend our 25th anniversary on South Carolina's eastern coast. We chose a place we'd never been before--Georgetown, located between Charleston and Myrtle Beach. It was the beginning of a days-long adventure that led us to a land steeped in rivers, marshes, and history, and the inspiration for a novel that took more than eight years to see the light of day. 

On the first day of our journey, after checking into a hotel with a beautiful view of a marina on the Winyah Bay, we drove up to Pawleys Island--famous for their handcrafted hammocks--to spend a few minutes at the beach before heading out to see what other wonders we would find. A few minutes quickly turned into an evening after a twelve-week-old Golden Retriever pup named Savannah bit into the back of my Capris during a walk on the beach. While trying to extract those sharp puppy teeth from my new pants, my foot shifted in the sand and I somehow dislocated my hip. It was an excruciating pain that somehow outdid childbirth. With me in pain and my foot sticking off in an odd direction, things looked bleak, but as we know, all things work together for good for those that love the Lord and are called according to His purpose. Even the smallest of things. Despite the pain, the injury actually changed the trip for the better.


Copyright Kimberli Buffaloe
First, because I was unable to walk, we were treated to a gorgeous sunset full of riotous clouds. Then, after my husband put my leg back into place (serious. I was not about to spend my 25th anniversary in the ER), the following day, we visited Hampton Plantation. The moment we exited the car, we were attacked by mosquitoes so large, my husband could see the yellow bands on their legs. He rushed (I limped) to the trunk where we kept our hiking packs and sprayed ourselves with insect repellent. Now repugnant to the tiny beasts, we toured the house and grounds.

How is that better? Hampton Plantation was Plan B. Plan A had been a visit to an isolated, pristine island in an archipelago known as Cape Romaine Wildlife Refuge. We'd planned to take a ferry to the island where we would have spent the day exploring. We later learned the mosquitoes we ran into at Hampton were known to be horrible on the island that time of year. Had we gone, we would have been stuck there for several hours serving as the main course for thousands of hungry mosquitoes. Now that would have ruined our vacation.

The adjusted itinerary next led us northward. The day after visiting Hampton, we climbed into the car and crossed the bridge over the Grand Pee Dee and Waccamaw Rivers, where they empty into beautiful Winyah Bay. North of Pawleys Island, we discovered Huntington Beach State Park, named for the Huntingtons, who once owned the land and who donated it to the state to preserve the pristine shore. (Spoiler alert, I wove that detail into the story. Not as a gratuitous mention, but with a purpose.)

I was using my hiking stick as a cane to help me walk, but as I'd discovered at Hampton the previous day, walking longer than a few feet put an immense amount of strain on the injured joint. So while visiting the park, I could only walk a few yards down a boardwalk over a marsh. But oh, what a sight I saw. Acres and acres of marshland in water so clear, I could see down to the pluff mud where fiddler crabs (or muscle crabs as I call them thanks to their one big claw) skittered around clusters of oyster shells. Large white birds called egrets flew gracefully above the marsh under a sunny sky. I didn't want to leave!

Copyright Kimberli Buffaloe
But we continued down the road, straying into North Myrtle Beach, home of dozens, it seemed, of seafood buffets. It was dark by the time we returned, and we were stunned when we caught sight of a statue of two stallions locked in combat at the entrance to Brookgreen Gardens, a formal garden located just across the street from the state park. A place--and scene--we'd missed earlier that day due to our preoccupation with the park.

When we found Huntington Beach State Park and Brookgreen Gardens, we had no idea we'd stumbled into a hamlet called Murrells Inlet. We found out when, during the trip, we cut down the business highway and drove down what some may call the main drag.

On the surface, it was a road with nice houses and then a strip of restaurants. But we sensed something more. Something that immediately captivated our imaginations. I couldn't explain it then any more than I can now, but I've met others who experienced the same.

I think it was the history. You can barely take a step on any spot of soil within South Carolina's borders without walking in some historical footprint. Murrells Inlet is no different, and it has an intriguing history. But we didn't know that during our first visit. We were simply mesmerized by the place. So much so, when we pulled into a parking lot of a restaurant and saw the scene before us (pictured below, which we used for the cover) a novel was instantly born. It was one of those occasions where I literally took a napkin and made notes on it while we waited for our food.

It took only forty days to write the first draft and nearly nine years for the vision, the theme, and the nuances to sharpen to the point the story could be released. It is a story of the events that happened in Murrells Inlet one Fall in Eden.


 Months after a heart attack reduces his life expectancy, Adam Tucker leaves Atlanta and his workaholic ways to spend his final days relaxing in a forgotten paradise.

Paradise has other plans.

Fall in Eden. A love story for the Church. Available for Kindle on Amazon.

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