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Vacation Inspiration

A common question asked of writers is where we get our ideas for our stories. Some will say it’s the ‘Muse”. Others might say ideas are born from snapshots of characters who speak to us or a seed of inspiration that drops in from the aethers. Both are probably true, but as for me, I believe ideas are born from life experiences.

PJ Sharon here, coming to you fresh (or a little less than fresh) off a twelve day road trip up the West Coast. Call it a much needed and long overdue vacation, a visit to celebrate with my eldest son who just turned 33 (Holy cow! How did that happen? I turned 33 only yesterday!), or call it what it was…research. Since my last big vacation–a Mediterranean cruise with my mother-in-law back in 2011 that led me to write PIECES of LOVE, hubby and I were happy to splurge on some time away from our daily rat race.

Despite suffering the usual vacation mishaps, such as a missed flight, the dreaded airplane flu three days in with a side trip to the ER in San Rafael, and a questionable hotel stay or two, we had loads of fun and saw some amazing sights! And yes, I took copious notes and tons of pictures. I’d like to share some of my experiences and how they might serve to inspire me and my books.

The trip started in San Francisco with a lovely four day visit with my son who lives in wine country out there–the perfect backdrop for a romance novel. We did the usual touristy things like wine tasting in Napa Valley and a ride out to Bodega Bay to cruise the coast. In the city, we took a  trolley up to the cable car museum, then ate at Neptune’s on Fisherman’s Wharf, and watched street performers on the Embarcadero. GhirardelliAnd I couldn’t visit San Francisco without stopping by Ghirardelli’s.doing time in alcatraz

When a tour of Alcatraz landed me behind bars, I imagined the desperate souls who were once imprisoned behind those walls, looking out at the world beyond, the distant voices from the city by the bay a  constant reminder of an untouchable freedom.

After a sad farewell to my boy, we headed up the coast, through the rolling green and gold hills of wine country, and beyond to the Redwood Forests. I hugged some magnificent trees, connecting to their ancient life energy. Trees that have stood since the time of Christ and seen generations pass their way. I imagined a native hugging this same tree some five hundred years ago and felt the spirits deep in my soul. Massive creatures 300 feet tall and 30 feet around, whose roots interconnect with one another in a web of underground life. It sounds crazy to people who aren’t sensitive to such things (or creative enough to imagine), but in my minds eye, I see limbs that come alive and faces in every knot and outgrowth. Elementals perhaps? I can totally see this being the setting for a paranormal series, fey romance or historical Native American romance…oooh…maybe a time travel story.Hugging the grandfather treecrater lake oregon

We said goodbye to the giant Redwoods and continued our journey. Next came a detour inland to Crater Lake, Oregon–a sight not to be missed! Formed from a volcanic eruption 7,700 years ago, the collapse created a crater almost 2,000 feet deep. Over time, the bed filled with crystal clear rain water and centuries of ice cold snow melt. Through checks and balances of seepage and evaporation, the lake has found its way. The story possibilities boggle the mind!

Winding our way back to the coast led us to the quaint town of Florence, up through the seal caves, and along the twists and turns of route 101 until we reached Cannon Beach in norther Oregon. This was on my darling husband’s bucket list, so we splurged on a beautiful hotel room right on the Pacific coastline with Haystack Rock outside our door. Every romance includes long walks on a beach and golden sunsets, a glass of good wine, and two people who would lay down their lives for one another. I’m not sure if I could write romance if i didn’t have that in my life.

Not to be underestimated, the power of alone time is also necessary. haystack rock cannon beach. oregonWaking to the mammoth rock, a cool, dry breeze, and the sound of the Puffins nesting high up on the “haystack” shaped stone, I enjoyed my morning meditation and a much needed yoga practice before we walked around the touristy little town, admiring the glass blown art and lovely beachfront properties.

Then it was up through the small fishing village of Astoria, site of fun and famous movies such as Kindergarten Cop and The Goonies. We ate yummy seafood and visited the Maritime Museum–another of hubby’s “must do’s”.

Our final stay was in my new favorite city, Seattle! An entertaining duck boat tour gave us great views of the sky line and a city tour that helped orient us for the short stay so we could decide what we wanted to see most.seattle skyline Pike Street Market Place and the famous Space Needle were highlights as was the people watching in Westlake Center.Pike street market

space needle 2

Mount St. Helens made for a fabulous day trip despite the deep bowl being shrouded in clouds the day we visited. We didn’t have to imagine what the 1981 eruption might have looked like since there were dozens of pictures taken that fateful day in May over thirty years ago. The twenty minute movie that takes you up close and personal with the destructive force of the event was surreal. Nearly every sign of life in over 200 square miles was destroyed that day, leaving a path of destruction and magma that turned the surface of the Earth to a moonlike St. helens lava flow Acres of trees were flattened or swept away, the nearby Spirit Lake filling with lumber and wiping out much of the water life below. But as with all stories, there came a happy ending when life began to emerge from beneath the ground and under the snow covered mountainside. The current state of new life, growth, and natural beauty give hope for a bright future, made possible by the conservationists committed to preserving the land–a labor of true love if I’ve ever seen it.

Our final adventure occurred on our return trip home. It seemed silly to spend a three hour lay-over in the Las Vegas airport when we could take a shuttle over to the Vegas strip and have breakfast while checking out the scene.mgm 2 I’ve never been to Vegas before but did a ton of research for WESTERN DESERT, book two  in the Chronicles of Lily Carmichael trilogy. I wished I’d been able to take this trip BEFORE I wrote the second book. It was fun to see the MGM Grand,  but somehow, I imagined the whole strip to be bigger. All the same, Google didn’t do it justice.

Sometimes, the best way to get inspired is to take a road trip.

Have you ever written about a place you’ve traveled to? Where do you find your inspiration?

Launch Party Time!

Welcome friends, guests, and party crashers! I’m so happy to have you all here to celebrate my latest release, WESTERN DESERT, Book Two in the Chronicles of Lily Carmichael trilogy. I’ll get the business end of this gig over and done with so we can relax and have a few refreshments.

Drum roll…Curtain draws back…MC (preferably George Clooney) takes the stage, smiles and says: Without further ado…INTRODUCING PJ Sharon’s latest release!!

Thanks, George! I’ll take it from here…

Available NOW!
Available NOW!

WESTERN DESERT, Book Two in The Chronicles of Lily Carmichael trilogy, takes off where WANING MOON ends. Genetically enhanced sixteen-year-old Lily Carmichael, and seventeen-year-old Will Callahan embark on a journey across a sun-ravaged and decimated U.S. in the year 2057, bound for the Western Desert on a dangerous rescue mission. The survivors they meet along the way put Lily’s healing abilities to the test and challenge Will’s resolve to find his missing father—no matter the cost. But even with the burden of life and death on their shoulders, and the Industry hot on their trail, the greatest challenge they face is trusting their hearts to each other.





Print copies available directly from CREATE SPACE or on AMAZON

If you haven’t read Book One in the trilogy, WANING MOON, it’s available for FREE this week (June 24-28) for Kindle owners!

WM Final SMALL 72 pixels

Also available for FREE is SOUL REDEMPTION, the short story prequel to WANING MOON. You can download it for your e-reader from Smashwords, or read it directly on Wattpad. You won’t want to miss this dark and twisty journey into the mind of a teenager with the power of life and death in his touch. It definitely makes you wonder…what would I do?

Creepy, I know!

Let’s move on to the fun part…

Feel free to pop over to Suze’s page of treats later where you’ll find some awesome recipes for drinks (non-alcoholic ones for our YA friends), and some tasty hors d’oeuvres! But don’t forget to come back, because I have some prizes to give away.

Three of you will be chosen randomly to receive signed copies of one of my first three books. You can choose between HEAVEN IS FOR HEROES, ON THIN ICE, or SAVAGE CINDERELLA. You can find out more about these books by visiting my website’s Contemporary YA Books page. I’ll be happy to mail you your signed copy, providing you leave a valid email address in the comments below so I can contact you privately for your mailing address. Enter ie: maryjanedoe(at)emailaddress(dot)com.

You can also win a nifty swag bag with some cool Lily Carmichael items, including a wooden whistle, a lanyard, bookmarks, and a signed copy of both WANING MOON and WESTERN DESERT.

My grand prize giveaway is a NOOK Simple Touch!

It’s easy to enter. Simply leave a comment below with a valid email address if you want a single entry. For more chances to win, just let me know what you’ve done to help spread the word about my new release. Share this post to FB, twitter (or retweet any tweets with the hashtag #WesternDesert), or you can follow me on any of my social media platforms listed below. You could also sign up for my newsletter (for occasional updates). For each effort you tell me about, I’ll enter your name for another chance to win! Contest ends at midnight on June 30, and winners will be announced next Tuesday right here on the Scribes.

Hang out with me at the following places online:

Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest, Google+

So now that you have the low down on where to find my new book, connected with me at my various online hangouts, and you’ve downloaded some FREE books, pull up a chair and let’s chat. Don’t forget to grab a beverage and a snack and leave your comments, an email address, and what you’ve done to enter for the prizes. I’ll be posting some excerpts today in the comments section below, and look forward to you sharing your questions, responses, and thoughts.

I love a simple bouquet of flowers for a center piece, don’t you? As a conversation starter, tell me what books have you most been looking forward to reading this summer? Any new releases coming out soon that you are dying to get your hands on? Come on, people, dishing about books is what we do around here. Let’s get this party started!

A Place in the Sun

Goddess of the type...This week the Scribes are sharing what joining a writer’s organization means to us. Please stay with us all week to see our stories.

This year I became a writer. What makes one a writer? I don’t know. For everybody it’s different. But for me I became a writer when I decided to stop sitting on my hands and get my work out into the world.

I had no idea how to go about that. I did a little research discovered that no, I could not just send my manuscripts off to the big six and expect a book deal. (Sigh.) I also learned that a literary agent might be helpful but soon discovered that they weren’t very easy to get. So, for a long time I did nothing,afraid to send out my work for fear of rejection. I was at a loss. I took solace in reading my favorite authors and imaging that one day my book would be on a shelf near their’s.

Shortly thereafter I noticed that one of my favorite romance writer’s had the words RITA Award winner next to her name, actually many of my favs did. What the heck was a RITA? All I could think of my elementary school bus driver, who wore ice blue eye shadow and had a nasty smoker’s cough. So I googled it (Thank God for google) and discovered that a RITA is an award given out by the Romance Writers America or the RWA. An organization for writers? Sign me up! I joined, immediately forgetting about that new pair of boots I was salivating over.

I started getting their magazine (the RWR or Romance Writers Report) every month. Which I would read cover to cover, taking in all the advice my brain could hold. One month they announced the recipients of the RITA and in the contemporary section the winner was Kristan Higgins. I had never read her work before and thought the cover was cute so I ordered it, enjoyed it and put it aside. A couple of months later in the contest section of the RWR I noticed one called The Write Stuff  and after I stopped singing New Kids on the Block,(You got the right stuff, baby…) I entered. I needed feedback on my writing and knew that the winners of these contests got their work seen by an editor.I thought I would give it a shot.

Months later I got my scores back. One judge gave me really fantastic constructive criticism that got me thinking about my work in a way that I never thought possible. And when I scrolled down to see who this person was, it was none other than the fabulous, beautiful, awesome shoe wearing Kristan Higgins. I was so excited that I called my mom and told her about it.

To which she replied, “Who’s that?”

Putting aside my frustration with my mother’s lack of knowledge , I sent Kristan an email thanking her for her comments and asking her for some writerly advice. It was through her I learned of my local chapter of the RWA, an organization I never thought of joining. It was there I met fellow newbie and Scribe, J Monkeys, the mastermind of this excellent blog.

I was nervous at my first meeting. But when I walked through those doors I felt a type  kindness and support that I didn’t know was possible. I was always that kid who didn’t fit into one group. I never had a place where I felt I truly belonged but that all changed when I found them. For once I was in place where people wanted me to succeed and I wanted the same thing for them.

This is my love letter to them so to speak. So thank you to the President who loses so much of her writing time to make out chapter thriving. And thank to the Vice President who brings us the programs that make us better writers. And thank you to the author that introduced me to this group. And thank you to all the members who went out of their way to make me feel like I belonged.

So why join a writer’s organization? Knowledge. Support. Friendship. Who couldn’t use a little of that?

Your turn! Are you a apart of your local writer’s group? If not, what’s up with that? Share your thoughts, stories and comments. We love hearing from you.

So You Think You Can Blog

Katy Lee here. It’s Sunday, and the hills are alive…well, not really but here’s a little music to a writer’s ears:

“I couldn’t put your book down.”

Ah, the greatest compliment a reader can give a writer. It means you did your job right. You gave them just enough information on page one to keep them interested, and willing to stay with you, until page three hundred. You took the reader on a satisfying journey, unfolding the story little by little, bit by bit. You were careful not to overload them with too much information up front.

But If there’s anything I’ve learned since I joined my fellow Scribes, it is that being a writer does not make me a blogger. In fact, I have had to learn a whole new style of writing from what I was used to. It turns out that writing for the web takes on an opposite approach to writing fiction. But take heart, because it’s still all about satisfying your reader. Just in a different way.

Most traffic to your blog will come from search engines, like Google. People who are looking for an answer to some question or information on a certain topic. They’ve typed in a keyword that your blog contains, and Bingo, they’re on your page. They’re not here for entertainment and you probably have ten seconds or less to keep them reading. Talk about pressure!

So how do you do it?

Well, just like fiction, you give them a hook, but you can’t stop there. And this is where the change comes in, because you then have to follow it up with your best stuff right up front. It is no time to tease. Give them the answer they came looking for. Give them the same satisfaction in the first paragraph that your book readers have when they read your last page.

The Unlocked Secret:  Take more of a journalistic approach when writing for the web. Feature your most important information first, followed up by more good and necessary content to support your idea. By doing it this way, you earn the reader’s trust right up front, and they’ll continue reading to the very end. But wait, I think I hear music playing. If you earn their trust, they won’t hesitate to come back again and again.

And that is the greatest compliment a blogger can get.

Do you have questions about what it entails to start a blog? Or if you have a blog, what kinds of things have you learned from it?