Monday, November 14, 2011

Creating Lottawatah, Oklahoma

Despite what readers from eastern Oklahoma believe, Lottawatah, Oklahoma doesn't exist except in the Brianna Sullivan Mysteries series. I've given several library talks concerning the reluctant psychic stuck in a small town, adjacent to Lake Eufaula, just south of Interstate Highway I-40. Everyone thinks they know exactly where it is, some are certain that they've been there.

But, really guys, Lottawatah doesn't exist. I made it up. Well, sort of. There is a road named "Lotawatah" (note: we changed the spelling so we'd have deniability in the case any angry Lotawatahians showed up, offended and seeking compensation for the pain and suffering our portrayal of his/her road had allegedly caused.)

Anyway, the real Lotawatah Road intersects I-40 a few miles west of the lake. Anyone who has driven I-40 east from Oklahoma City to Ft. Smith, Arkansas has seen the road sign. I've driven by it hundreds of times. I loved the name, I loved saying the word. And believe me, if an author loves something, it's going to show up in a book.

My co-author and I have written seven Brianna Sullivan Mysteries. (Yes, seven, the last one, Missing in Lottawatah, is going to be born later this week. It was a long, difficult pregnancy, and at one point we feared we'd need drugs and metal forceps to get it out, but it's done.) The first book in the series, I Try Not to Drive Past Cemeteries, had psychic Brianna stopping in Lottawatah for gas and fried pies – not in that order. A ghost hopped in her motor home, begging for her help with a kidnapping. Brianna made the mistake of trying to convey that information to the local police, met the surly but handsome Cooper Jackson, and the rest is history.
Creating the town of Lottawatah was done one or two businesses at a time per book. As you leave I-40 and drive into Lottawatah proper, you'll pass by Tiny's Diner. It's your typical small town diner; abeit a little more rundown than most.
Good EATS…World Famous Apple P…rust Me. The diner hadn't had any glory days, even in its glory days. The linoleum was butt ugly when it was first installed, maybe 30 years earlier. Flecks of brown on a tan background. Maybe the idea was to hide the dirt…it wasn't working. I slid onto the cracked red vinyl stool at the Formica counter and looked expectantly at the guy with a stained t-shirt, standing behind the counter.
I ordered a cheeseburger, fries, and a piece of their world famous pie, then surreptitiously rubbed the grease from the menu on my jeans. I briefly wondered if they sold wine, but decided that a healthy glass of Maalox would be the perfect beverage to accompany my dinner.
The next place Brianna visited was the Lottawatah Police Station.
I shifted on the chair and finished the last stale peanut in the cellophane bag I'd purchased from the station's only vending machine. 10 pm. I'd been waiting more than three hours. Most of the police force, all 8 of them if you include the secretary and maintenance man, had been marching in the Fourth of July parade over on Main until about an hour ago. I'd been stuck with the pregnant staff sergeant whose swollen ankles precluded her joining the Independence Day celebrations.
Even in a small town, a girl has to go somewhere to get her roots touched up and find clues about whodunnit. Sheer Artistry Hair Salon was just the place.
Margo stole a side glance at Sunny, before turning back to me. "Candy and I had a little chat while she did my nails this afternoon. She mentioned you'd been asking around about me and Martha. You're a smart woman Brianna. Sheer Artistry is the place to go to find out where all the bodies are buried." Darn, Beverly. Between her and Candy, the women were unstoppable gossip machines. The whole town probably knew my business.
Since Brianna arrived in Lottawatah in her motor home, she needed somewhere to park it and a part-time job to cover expenses. She found both at a resort on Lake Eufaula.
Ghost or no ghost. Cooper or no Cooper, it was time to get to work. I pulled on my uniform, a pair of khaki shorts and a green polo shirt, with LEC in block letters next to a pine tree and a fish. I thought it suggested that the area was full of dead fish lying next to trees, but Jack Fulsom, the owner, testily informed me that I was missing the high concept nature of the design. High concept my behind! But in exchange for a free full hookup for Matilda, and a commission for every time-share sale I made, I was more than willing to sing the praises of this new, promising condo and cabin lakeside resort. And that meant wearing the cheesy t-shirt. I walked out of air-conditioned Matilda into air so thick you could chew it. The sales office was down a pine-canopied path near the water. I might be getting a free hookup for Matilda, but I wasn't getting a lake view.
Jobs in Lottawatah don't last too long. By February, Brianna was working at a new job and our fictional town of Lottawatah got another new business.
If I was late for my job at Pearl's Soak and Spin one more time, I'd be unemployed and would almost certainly have to hit the road in search of gas and food money. Lottawatah's economy, if it ever had one, had crashed long before the rest of the nation. Jobs, as Miss Pearl had reminded me, didn't grow on trees.
Even though Tiny's Diner was the local hotspot, every town needs more than one place to eat.
By the time Will Dobson let me answer the phone, we'd pulled into the local barbeque joint's parking lot on the edge of Lottawatah. Actually you could be at one end of town and almost see the city limits on the opposite side. Will Dobson had decided that we were going to get on I-40 and head west towards Oklahoma City. The shortest route was right through Lottawatah.
Will just laughed as I struggled with the dog. He didn't notice I snagged my cell phone off the truck floor during the fracas. Outside, I bent down, like I was going to set the dog on the ground, but instead I ran, Leon under my arm like a furry football. I managed enough for a first down before sliding out of bounds under Arnold–the six foot high concrete pig, beloved mascot and icon of the Pig Palace Barbeque Joint. Will Dobson got off one shot. Arnold lost his manhood, but Leon and I just kept sliding until we buried up in a snow bank.
That's all the time (and word space) that I have for our short tour of Lottawatah. To learn more, check out the books. Or you can take that exit off I-40 and see if you can find it. I dare you!

aka The Southern Half of Evelyn David

Brianna Sullivan Mysteries - e-book series
I Try Not to Drive Past Cemeteries- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
The Dog Days of Summer in Lottawatah- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
The Holiday Spirit(s) of Lottawatah- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Undying Love in Lottawatah- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
A Haunting in Lottawatah - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Lottawatah Twister - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

Sullivan Investigations Mystery - e-book series
Murder Off the Books Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Murder Takes the Cake Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Riley Come Home (short story)- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

Love Lessons - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

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