Tag Archives: vacation

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 desolation.mt. 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?

What’s in your TBR Pile?

Happy Friday everyone. Casey here.

IMG_2161A quick post today, since I am on vacation this week. And because I’m on vacation, I have a giant TBR (to be read) list. Oh, don’t worry, I’m still writing two books at once. Although it looks like Mystic Hero is winning the word count war.

I mentioned last week that I troll the Kindle Daily Deal everyday, so most of these books are on my Kindle purchased as a result of said “deal”. Here’s what I have on my plate (which is a slim fraction of the TBR pile):

1. The People Who Eat Darkness: The True Story of a Young Woman who Vanished from the Streets of Tokyo – And the Evil that Swallowed Her Up by Richard Lloyd Parky – non-fiction, true crime

2. Little Blog on the Prairie by Cathleen Davitt Bell- YA/Middle Grade

3. Money Shot by Christa Faust – Crime NoirIMG_1352

4. A Bad Day for Voodoo by Jeff Strand – YA

5. Nightwings by Robert Silverberg – Science Fiction

And finally, earlier in the week I read The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (and in case you missed it, Galbraith was outed as JK Rowling). I read my local library’s copy because there is no way I’m spending $9.99 on a digital book. I really enjoyed it. The story sucked me in and I finished in about two days.

So you may (or may not) be asking yourself, with a week of vacation and nothing to do – why are you reading at all? Surely, the time could be better spent just writing. Well, I have been writing (I average about 3,000 words in about 2 – 3 hours).

I also believe, that to be a better writer and storyteller, I have to keep reading. Otherwise, life is no fun for me and my writing actually comes easier if I don’t spend all my time stressing about it.

What about you? What’s in your TBR pile? And if you’re a writer, do you find reading helps with the writing process?

Oh, the Places I Haven’t Been

Hello, Scribelings! Suze here. Over the last few weeks I’ve shared photos and commentary about my recent road trip vacation. There will be more to come (yes, I saw a lot during that week and a half), but today I thought I’d mix it up and talk about places I’d like to go. It’s part of my travel bucket list, in no particular order.

Machu Picchu, Cusco, Peru. This Unesco World Heritage Site (click here and here for more information) has it all for me: stunning mountaintop setting, archaeological ruins, and a mysterious origin. I know someone who trained for months to be able to hike up the mountain to get there; on some level this appeals to me, but realistically I’m thinking I might need to import a couple of Sherpas to get my sorry butt up that high without mechanical assistance. Once I do make it, one way or another, I feel sure I will find Suze’s New Groove.

Photo courtesy of http://www.copyright-free-pictures.org.uk
Stonehenge, Salisbury Plain, England.  I’ve been to England a couple of times. My first trip was with my BFF, Laurie, on a backpacking European tour after college. We were eventually destined for Greece, so we only spent a couple of days in London and then left for Germany. My second was a trip I took with my boyfriend (he proposed to me later on this voyage, and we are still married 20 years later). We went as far as Yorkshire to visit friends, but we never made it to Stonehenge. Standing rocks of unknown significance out in the middle of a flat plain? Sign me up. Click here if you want to read more about current theories and research. Honestly, I cannot get enough of this stuff!

Angkor Wat, Cambodia. What can I say? I have a thing for sacred places and lost cities. Click here , history nerds/nerdettes, for more information. Look at those gorgeous carvings, will ya? Seeing this location, reclaimed from the jungle, would satisfy my inner Indiana Jones. Adventure would be sure to follow!

This list isn’t exhaustive. There are plenty more places I’d like to go before I croak. Now I just need to find a way to make that year off for traveling the world a reality. Ideas? How about you, readers? What places are on your bucket list?

Holiday Road

Greetings, Scribelings. Suze here, back from a road trip vacation. I thought I’d share some of the highlights with you.

First, let me say that most of this trip was unplanned. We had only one time-sensitive place to get to; everything else was flexible as we traveled through and found interesting places to see. We made no hotel reservations in advance. I know not everyone can travel this way–in fact, I’ll bet some of you planning types are downright horrified, aren’t you? But with a smart phone and a Garmin GPS unit, I had no trouble finding us decent hotels/motels every day, wherever we happened to end up. So here are some of the interesting things we saw and did:

The Astabula, Ohio, Wine and Walleye Festival. Yes, for those of you who want to combine your love of both vino and game fish, here’s a festival just for you. If walleye’s not your thing, not to worry! You can also have perch. I had a very delicious, very fresh perch sandwich, a glass of wine, and listened to a good local band at the Rotary Club tent. Later, as we strolled around admiring the vintage cars lined up along the main street, I had a cup of some of the most delicious coffee ever–the beans were roasting right there, and the aroma was intoxicating. If you’re in Ashtabula, even if you miss the W&W festival, stop in for a cup of joe at Harborperk!

The Toledo, Ohio, German-American Festival. This was our only planned stop. Let me emphasize that this was NOT an Oktoberfest. Because it was August, sillies. And yet … it was JUST LIKE an Oktoberfest. Go figure. From men in Lederhosen to a live Glockenspiel performance every hour on the hour (sponsored by Jaegermeister) to a humongous beer tent with a live German band, this is the next best thing to being in Munich. There was even a Steinstossen event. Now apparently this is a real sport in Switzerland. Men (and even some women) lift a 138 pound rock (only 75 pounds for women–definitely doable…ha!) over their heads, then see how far they can throw it. We only saw one guy almost drop the rock on his head. Fortunately, it only struck him a glancing blow on the noggin, then hit his shoulder, and fell to the ground.


There was also a Swiss cheese eating competition. Contestants lined up to see who could eat a 1 pound block of Swiss cheese the fastest. We saw a couple of people finish, and when one guy looked like he was going to blow, we left.

Finally, also in the Feats of Strength category, is the Stein Lift. No, this is not a drinking competition, but it does involve beer and glass steins. Contestants line up to hold a full glass stein of beer, straight out from their bodies, for as long as possible without spilling. This is not as easy as it looks. Try holding a 2 or 3 pound weight in that position for a couple of minutes. (Try it and let me know what happens. I’m not going to do it myself. It looked painful!) The winner managed over 5 minutes, but it was a strain. Everyone walks away from this competition a winner, though. They get to drink the beer even if they lose.

Tony Packo’s Hungarian Restaurant. This is a landmark in Toledo. Fans of M.A.S.H. will recall that Corporal Klinger was from Toledo, and this is one of the places he apparently referenced in the show. The walls are lined with, I kid you not, autographed hot dog buns encased in plastic. The food was great and the atmosphere was better. My chicken paprikash was worth the stigma of having to tell you all that I went to Toledo on my summer vacation.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Cleveland isn’t really a dull place, kids! The Hall of Fame is loads of fun. Right now there’s a big exhibit on the Grateful Dead. In other parts of the museum, you can see some of Stevie Nicks’ costumes, Michael Jackson’s sequined glove, Johnny Cash’s tour bus, Janis Joplin’s Porsche, and my personal favorite, ZZ Topp’s furry drum set. The food, unfortunately, is not that great. Go someplace else for lunch.


Yes, that’s a leg lamp in the window!

A Christmas Story House. This was both a huge thrill, and a huge-er disappointment. I love Ralphie! Christmas day is just not complete at the Hardy household till we’ve opened presents and watched Ralphie finally get his Red Ryder Range Model Air Rifle (good thing there’s a compass in the stock and a thing that tells time). Unfortunately, Ralphie’s house (and the museum and gift shop in two separate buildings across the street), were not open on the day that we were in Cleveland. Sigh. But we did go and see the outside of the house anyway. Bonus trivia question for you–from which direction did the Bumpuses’ dogs come? We were trying to figure out which house would have been theirs, but couldn’t remember.

We did tons more stuff on our vacation, so stay tuned for another installment.

Where did you go on your vacation this summer? Would you ever travel without reservations?

With a Rebel Yell!

Happy Friday everyone! Casey here.

Thomas Jefferson once famously said, “A little rebellion now and then is a good thing.” Or at least that is what my new t-shirt from Old Sturbridge Village tells me.

This past Sunday, younger son and I attended OSV’s 6th annual Redcoats & Rebels event. It is the largest Revolutionary War reenactment in the United States. Despite the ninety degree weather and suffocating humidity, we had a great time.

As you can imagine, I took a lot of pictures. I won’t share them all, but here are a few.

When we entered the town green, it was populated with a sea of white tents. This is the Colonial Militia’s camp.

An industrious colonial woman embroidering. There were over a dozen groups from states all over New England. Each was assigned a location throughout the village. All were friendly, passionate about history, and super informative.

French artillery company. Their standard is an owl.Obviously, I am their biggest fan.

Next stop, over on the Redcoat side, formal inspection before the first battle. The royal encampment was filled with fancy military officer’s tents. Younger son couldn’t believe they had persian rugs on the floor. Indeed they did. They carted around all the finery they could. We all know how well that turned out for them.

Over on the rebel site, the Colonial Militia goes through a similar exercise.

The battle on the hill. We were in the middle of this melee (yes, we were very close). It was exciting and loud.

A skirmish in the woods. The Redcoats were ambushed by the Colonials, who liked to take sniper shots from the trees.

The final battle of the day took place at Freeman Farm in their vast fields. This time they included cannon fire as well.

In addition to the battles, throughout the day there was music (fife and drum, natch!), cannon demonstrations (super loud), and hands on activities. If you are in the area and love history, consider attending. It’s a two-day event, first weekend of August. I can’t wait until 2013 so we can attend again.

And, no, I didn’t think about writing the whole day. Okay, maybe a little. Speaking of writing, over at my blog, I’ve been awarded The Sisterhood of World Blogger’s Award. There are two scribes listed and I expect you ladies to play along! And I’m also blogging at the Soul Mate author’s blog – Step Back in Time.

What fun things have you all done lately? Anyone attended a cool event or fun vacation?