Friday, May 20, 2011

The Last Dance Hall in Niagara Falls

A few years back I was spending Christmas with my sister Lisa. It was the day after, a sunny day with lots of snow and glittery flakes drifting down and we were trying to decide what to do. “I know,” Lisa said, “Let's go to Niagara Falls.”

She lives a couple hours from the Falls and when we were kids that was a frequent destination in summer but neither of us had ever been there in the winter. So we bundled up, grabbed cameras, and drove north. We were there in time for lunch.

It was a wonderful day, very cold but sunny with light snow and very few people around. The Bell Tower was playing Christmas Carols and the Falls were, of course, breathtaking. Most of the businesses were closed but we found a couple restaurants and spent most of the day just walking around getting a look at the Falls from every angle. No matter how many times I have seen them they are always stunning.

I write about this because lately I've been juggling a random selection of seemingly unrelated thoughts in my head and the other night, just as I was dropping off to sleep, that little voice in my brain that comes from the parallel universe where literary characters live whispered, “The Last Dance Hall in Niagara Falls.” I heard it clear as anything and was so startled I sat up, grabbed an envelope and a hi-liter from the bedside table and scribbled it down. The Last Dance Hall in Niagara Falls – there's something behind that.

Like a lot of writers, no matter how many stories/books/projects I am juggling there is a part of me that remains fearful that I'll never have another idea worth writing about again. So when some little shred of something pops into my brain I always get excited. As readers of this blog know, I've been enthusiastic about Hines Wards' performances on Dancing With The Stars. Partly because he's a Steeler and I love them but also because there is something about his approach to learning to dance – his mixture of hesitation and commitment, his appreciation of his teacher/partner Kym, his honesty about feeling so far out of his element. I was thinking about that. Say you are very, very, very good at something. Say you have received honors and awards – won Superbowls, been named Most Valuable Player, and played in ProBowls – and then you are presented with the opportunity to do something very public, very far out of your element where you could easily make a colossal jackass of yourself. What do you do? Well, if you're Hines Ward you say, “Okay, I'll give it a shot.” And if you are Hines Ward you dance like hell and wind up in the finals.

But I digress.

Some years back I became infatuated with an old dance hall in a seaside amusement park up the coast a ways. One hot summer night I dragged current boyfriend with me and we spent a very entertaining evening there. There was a surprisingly large crowd, a retro-Big Band and, between dances, we went outside to walk on the beach. It was a lovely evening and reminded me of nights years before spent at The Balinese Room in Galveston.

So the other night when I woke up with that phrase throbbing in my brain, these various thoughts came together – old dance halls, a man testing himself in a seemingly crazy way, Niagara Falls, the magic of doing something crazy just because you can.

I don't know where this is leading but so far the ideas keep coming, characters are taking form and now, while Depraved Heart rests, awaiting the next round of revision, I am dreaming about The Last Dance Hall in Niagara Falls. Who knows where this might lead? I wrote that one very romantic scene set at Niagara Falls in The Old Mermaid's Tale but I think I need to write more.

That December day in Niagara Falls Lisa and I found a restaurant overlooking the falls where we had dinner before heading back to Pennsylvania. We sipped hot chocolate to warm up and watched as the colored lights blinked on illuminating the Falls. Lisa said, “I'm so glad we did this.” “So am I,” I said. “I'll remember this forever.”

And I have.

Thanks for reading.


  1. Oooh, this already sounds like a winner to me. Can't wait to read it.

  2. Thanks. The ideas for it are coming fast and furious -- I need more hours in my days.


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