Where do you get your ideas?

Sooner or later, everyone who writes anything beyond a grocery list will be asked “Where do you get your ideas?” Since I write about history, I get most ideas from reading or finding something that makes me want to know more. I wrote Master Detective after reading a brief blurb about Ellis Parker in The People’s Almanac, Evasive Action after seeing a History Channel show about the capture of the U-110, and Nassau after stumbling of the ruins of the Royal Victoria Hotel while on vacation in the Bahamas.

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But probably the oddest inspiration was The Duckworth Chronicles, a children’s book inspired by an unsuccessful effort to name a thrift shop. Several years ago, a group of people in St Michael’s, Maryland were planning on opening a thrift shop and were trying to decide on a name. Since St Michaels is associated with the Eastern Shore and the Chesapeake Bay, I thought some sort of duck theme might be appropriate, so I came up with a back story of a local duck who had his own wildlife preserve as a result of saving the life of a wealthy local widow. (It actually makes more sense than it sounds. He squawks and wakes her up when a fire starts in her kitchen.) I thought the story could be that the duck actually owns the shop and stops by occasionally. The story would be posted along with pictures of the duck, and I thought the tourists would find it charming. The duck needed a classy name that spoke of both wealth and good taste, so I named him Duckworth. The story concludes by saying that Duckworth was made an honorary member of the St Michaels Volunteer Fire Department, but rumors that Duckworth was running for mayor of St Michaels are probably exagerrated.

Alas, the ladies of the town opted to name the place Treasure Cove instead, and the Duckworth legend was not to be….or so it seemed. At the same time, I had two small granddaughters who were always clamoring for stories, so I told them about Duckworth. Soon, they were asking for more Duckworth stories and of course, I had to deliver. So Duckworth was born and started to spread his imaginary wings with a stream of new adventures. In addition to humor, I incorporated some morals into the stories, mostly examples of Duckworth keeping his head while the other animals went off on tangents. I also tried to put some hidden chuckles in the stories that only adults would understand, such as a crustacean named Buster Crabb, a “racing” turtle named Shelby, a sneaky duck named Cheesy Quacker, an insect named Buzz Bee Berkeley, and Canadian Geese who tell Duckworth to “Keep his stick on the ice.”

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Finally, I had so many stories, I put them in a book, The Duckworth Chronicles, and later into three eBooks, The Duckworth Papers, The Duckworth Dossier, and Duckworth Redux.

And all because of a thrift shop.

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