Vacation, a/k/a Fodder for Writing

Courtesy of Photo Morgue

Some mystery/thriller writer friends and I have challenged ourselves to blog once a month about a topic related to mysteries and/or thrillers. Join us each month on the 13th for the #Lucky13MysteryBlogHop!

When you’re a writer, you never take vacation. Everywhere I go, especially in new places, I enjoy watching people, and (yes, I know this is a bit twisted) thinking about how to kill people and dispose of bodies. That urge to create and solve a mystery follows me everywhere.

Fatal Impulse was inspired by a story I heard when I was 10 years old. My family vacationed in Colorado, near Salida. At some point, Mom talked to a cashier (or a waitress maybe?) about the mountain roads, the steep drop-offs, the dangers of driving. I remember that woman telling a story about a car that went off Highway 50, somewhere near Monarch Pass. The woman said the woman’s body wasn’t recovered until the next summer because the ravine was so steep and rugged that it was too dangerous for rescue crews to go down. The car was left there, a mangled mass of steel. The idea of someplace being so rugged that a body couldn’t be recovered stuck with me. I thought, what a great way to get rid of a body! (yes, even at 10, I thought that way – is it any wonder that I devoured Stephen King novels in my early teens?)

Tell me about a vacation you’ve been on – where would you suggest as a good setting for a mystery?


Mall of America: Ashley Tisdale #TBT

Katelyn and Kelsey

Katelyn and Kelsey

In 2009, we took a true American vacation, one that really honors the traditions and values of our society. We went to the Mall of America in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It was actually a fun trip. Our kiddo took a friend (that’s them to the left, with our Mustang convertible. Dang, I miss that car.). We spent our days prowling the stores (and, to our surprise, finding several good buys) and our evenings in the pool at the hotel.

On our last day, Ashley Tisdale gave a free concert. While we were waiting in line – the first 300 people in line got wristbands to go see Ashley’s movie, Aliens in the Attic, and to get to meet her – Ashley showed up wearing sunglasses and a sweatshirt. She checked things out on stage and then, to the crowd’s surprise and delight, she played several songs from her new album.

Ashley Tisdale

Ashley Tisdale

We had a great view. I went up a level and took a couple of pics. See the column at the top right of the photo below? That’s my hubs leaning against it, and the girls are standing just below and to the left of him. Nothing between them and Ashley but a security barrier. I felt bad for the girls. They stood in line and, wouldn’t you know it, the group in front of us got the 300th ticket. They were so close! But, we still got to see a free mini-concert.

After that trip, I thought I’d check out future events at the Mall of America. The drive isn’t that bad, and it’s kind of a neat place. But I haven’t done it yet. Maybe one of these days . . . (I’d love to go up for their big scrapbook fest. Hmmmm . . . Maybe I should check their schedule out again.)

Ashley Tisdale at the Mall of America

Ashley Tisdale at the Mall of America

Anyway, thinking about that trip got me to thinking about our trips to Minneapolis to see Ashley Tisdale, and Chicago to see Jeffrey Combs and the other Star Trek celebs and Kansas City to see, well, more Star Trek celebrities. And that got me to wondering about you. What’s the farthest you’ve driven to see a celeb?


Vacation: Gas Stop

Route 66: Atlanta IL

Route 66: Atlanta IL

We stopped for gas in Atlanta, Illinois, and stumbled upon a Route 66 gold mine! What a picturesque little town! Loved the Route 66 park with all the beautiful painted highway signs. My favorite, though, was the bullet-riddled sign. Of course, everything on this stretch of road is “Route 66” – including a local mechanic!

Wander: Our first night in Michigan

Stepdaughter and I wading at Long Beach

Stepdaughter and I wading at Long Beach

I tried something new recently – entering a scrapbook challenge. It was fun, and I enjoyed it enough to browse around the internet for other challenges. I came across one called CSI. Does that just scream “ME” or what? The idea is “Create Story Inspiration” and the site is all crime scene themed. It’s a brilliant concept – wish I’d thought of it myself! Ha! Anyway, the layout above is my first attempt – the photo is of Jodi and me looking for tiny little shells for her stepson. We had been up since 4:30 and driven 8 hours to get to the beach . . . tired, but happy!

This was the challenge inspiration from CSI:

CSI: Case File 87

CSI: Case File 87

This challenge was so good for me, because one of the inspiration words was Wander. I’m not good at wandering. I want to plan everything, but this past summer has been very stressful and this vacation was all about healing and relaxing and reconnecting with my stepdaughter, who is now an adult, married, with a stepchild of her own. I allowed myself to wander. And I found a new, adult relationship with her, which was unexpected and so much fun.

Journey vs Destination

Family Truckster

When we last spoke, I told you about Lisa Bearnson’s instructions on how to find Joy in the Journey. And that’s really what this blog is all about, that’s what I am all about – the Journey. Many years ago I recognized that I often enjoyed the Journey more than the Destination. When I was little, the trip across Kansas in our wood-grain-sided station wagon was an adventure. Mom and Dad were waaaay up front, and my little brother and I were aaaallllll the way in the back, in that huge expanse. We had packed Hershey’s chocolate bars for snacks, but Bro & I discovered that they melted quite well in the sun, then we could squish the chocolate out the end and suck on it. I don’t recall Mom’s reaction, but I’m sure she wasn’t quite as amazed as we were at that discovery. We watched out the window for antelope and buffalo, and got excited when we actually saw one. Bro irritated me, I irritated him. “Mom, he’s touching me!” “Mom, she crossed the line!” We had staring contests. Mom instituted the “Let’s See Who Can Be Quiet the Longest” game, but neither Bro nor I were good at that game. But it was still a fun trip.

When I grew up and began to make purchasing decisions, actually getting something wasn’t nearly as satisfying as pouring over the details, making lists, researching the pros and cons. That’s true for everything from decorating my house to deciding which fitness watch to get. Again, it’s the Journey that brings me the most satisfaction.

My writing life may be the same way. When that perfect day happens, and I actually get a book published, will I be satisfied? Of course I will. You’ll probably hear me whooping and hollering all the way over there. But the Journey has been wonderful so far, and I expect it will just get better. My critique group has become my touchstone. Those women are hard on me – they tell me what I’m doing wrong, what doesn’t make sense, what I need to do better, but they also support me in a way that no non-writer could. Those I’ve met at conferences have shared their experiences, encouraged me to persevere even when the market is tough and have passed along their knowledge. The online writer’s community is also supportive and full of information. And then there’s the personal Journey. I’ve learned so much about myself since I began writing. It has made me a better wife, mother, person. I’m sure I have a lot more to learn on this Journey, but I fully intend to enjoy every moment of it and find Joy in this Journey.

How about you? Do you enjoy the Journey or the Destination more?

The Value of Vacation

ImageWe (we being my kiddo & I) escaped to Florida on vacation over the summer. It began as a mother/daughter trip, then we invited my uncle & cousin along, then my parents. My cousin wasn’t able to go, but the rest of us embarked upon our journey in late May. It was a good trip, with the highlights being, in no particular order, seeing Harry Potter’s Wizarding World (more on that in a moment), experiencing Blue Man Group, petting a penguin, and meeting an astronaut. We left on a Monday, came home on Friday. The perfect amount of time – we were all still happy, all still having a good time, but were just starting to miss home (admission of guilt: I really missed my little dogs . . . missed my hubby, too, but REALLY missed my dogs!).

Looking back over the week, I realize it was money well spent. Airline tickets, rental car, hotel, food (Joe’s Crab Shack is my new favorite place to eat), admission tickets (seriously, there is a LOT of money going thru the gates at Universal Studios) and souvenirs add up to a LOT of money. But the memories are priceless. The experiences were amazing. And that is the value of vacation: experiences. We need varied experiences to enrich our lives. They don’t have to be once-in-a-lifetime trip-around-the-world experiences – they just have to be different from your normal routine. Even if you can’t afford a “real” vacation this summer, treat yourself with new, exciting experiences.

Need some ideas?

Watch a movie you wouldn’t normally choose.

Read a book you wouldn’t normally read.

Eat at a new restaurant.

Drive a different route to work.

Spend a Sunday doing NO work – I mean NONE. Sit on your deck and read, or watch all those episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation that are taking up all the space on your DVR (surely I am not the only one . . .).

Feel free to add some ideas of your own below.

(P.S. Harry Potter rant follows. Getting into Universal Studios: Islands of Adventure was expensive. And I hate rides. They make me sick. My kiddo has a medical condition and can’t ride roller coasters. If you don’t ride rides, Islands of Adventure is a giant waste of time and money. If you’re like me and go purely for Harry Potter, yeah, it’s cool to see Hogsmead. Going through the castle is interesting. But they could’ve done SO much more with that place. Maybe a couple of stores actually set up to look like the real stores instead of like dollar stores. A flying broomstick would’ve been a fun touch. Perhaps a rail station to take you from one end to the other. A store where you could buy pens and scrolls. I looked all over for connections to the books – maybe an autographed book. Nothing. Waited in line over an hour to get a wand at Ollivanders, only to find out that the 2 minute show only let’s ONE person get a wand. Everyone else gets to stand shoulder to shoulder to butt with the gazillion other people who want a cheap wand that doesn’t even begin to warrant the spending of $39. Thought a goblet might be a nice souvenir, but was sorely disappointed in the cheap plastic one with LED lights blinking in the base. OK, rant over. Proceed.)