Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Read, Set, Imagine…

Vacations for me have been a time filled with possibilities. Without the pressures of school, work and all the other mundane activities I have to deal with on a daily basis, my creative juices begin to flow. Armed with a camera and my imagination, I’m off to enjoy a period of relaxation and periodic fantasy.

From my honeymoon in Aruba and a summer excursions to Jamaica, Antigua and Montserrat, I came up with the idea for a hot and spicy novel. The sand and sunshine just begged to be the setting for a story about a man and woman finally recognizing their attraction to each other and falling in love with a side drama of a kidnapping by a drug lord that threatens to tear them apart. Not that I had problems with drug lords of course, but it makes for a good story.

I took a lot of pictures. Now I plan to make up my own island with characteristics of these different places, including the frightening bus ride in Jamaica. Here’s an excerpt of my book, which is taken directly from personal experience:

“Nicole Robinson screamed along with the rest of the passengers on the bus as the driver cut left in front of oncoming traffic. The chrome of the tractor-trailer's grill sparkled a few feet from her window. A split second before she became the truck’s new hood ornament, the bus cleared the road and rambled through the gates of the resort.

Shoving Sylvia's journal back into her carryon bag, she gave thanks the bus driver hadn't killed them on the two-way road built for one. Sylvia was going to get an ear full about this ridiculous trip.”

On the other hand, there is nothing like going on location after you have plotted out a novel though. One spring a couple of years ago, I came up with the idea for a historical Western—the story of my heart. It took me ages to find the perfect historical background and location. Call it fate, synchronicity or whatever, but I found the perfect spot with the history to backup the real part of the story.

Once I found the fort, I learned of a reenactment taking place there the following month. Thanks to a very supportive husband, I got to pack my camera and go on location. It was breathtaking. It was a walk through history for me that I’ll never forget. I could visualize the drama of the story as I walked around the ruins of the historical locations. I could almost hear the battle that ensued at the end and see my heroine through it all. The reenactors were good sports about the entire experience and did their best to educate me about historical facts, clothing, soldiers and the various Indian tribes as well as the conflicts at that time.

The gorgeous woman in this picture is portraying an officer’s wife. Her real life husband, who also happens to be said officer, made her dress. Later in the day, she gave us a lively demonstration about the layers of clothes under that green dress. I can tell you that I could never wear all of the required garments of the day, especially in the summer. It’s a good thing I was not born in that era.

Have any of you gone to places where you’ve imagined a story playing out?


Sandy Elzie said...


Yes, I've been several places where I could imagine a story being played out. In the mountains of North Carolina to the seashore of California. From the ruins in Mexico to a cruise ship to Alaska...and in Alaska with the bear, eagles and beautiful scenery. Then there was the trip through Colorado, with a stop in Aspen to ski...wait a minute, I think I've already helped write a story about that. (g) (Don't miss Aspen Espose' starting this Sunday!)

Great post...and btw, great husband. Kudos to him for being so supportive.

Sandy Elzie

Tami Brothers said...

Hey Tammy,

This sounds like a neat story. I rode one of those busses in Jamaica and can TOTALLY relate!!!

Most of my stories are set in places that I have lived (Wyoming, Georgia) because it is so familiar. I tried to write one that was set in New York. I made up a street and everything. That one was accepted by an agent and she didn't even laugh at my made up street. Just suggested a really cool guidebook (which has been misplaced during one of my many moves this past 6 years).

But I do love having been to the place I'm writing about. I can actually see the scene in my head as I type. If I haven't been there, then I'm usually doubting everything I write and it doesn't flow as smoothly.

That's just me though. I'm sure I'll get better at it because I know I sure can't afford all the traveling I'd need to do for my writing (although it would be nice....).


Tammy Schubert said...


Thanks for mentioning our group novel. As you kno, the group is releasing the first chapter on May 3rd.

Sandra & Tami,

Traveling is so much fun, but it can be so expensive. If you can't get to a location you are using for a book, Google maps is a good place to start researching. Of course, don't forget those trusty guidebooks to help you get your bearings.

Have a wonderful day!

Debbie Kaufman said...

On a recent trip to Mobile, AL, I visited several out-of-the-way, tourist spots and had a spark for an historical.

I'm very sensitive to place and it easily sparks my imagination!

Tammy Schubert said...


I love it when those sparks happen. The problem is taking the time to write the story down while it is playing through my head.

Sally Kilpatrick said...


I think you're absolutely right about the magic of travel. I started writing a Western myself after visiting Tombstone. I actually based the setting on a little town in Texas where my aunt lived, though. I was inspired by the little museum there and its ode to the Harvey Girls.

I write a lot of stories set in West Tennessee, and going home always recharges my batteris. Ironically, I don' think I would have the distance to write about it if I hadn't moved away because I see something different each time I travel back.

Thanks for the great post!

P.S. I have often wondered how women back in the day survived all the undergarments. For all those of you who are interested, there's this great book called The History of Underclothes or somehting like that--it'll tell you what was worn when and what it was called.

Michelle said...

We spent our honeymoon in Rome and I got really taken with this tiny little museum dedicated to charioteers. Set off a whole story in my head. I love travel. I think it's palate cleansing and let's you get new visual stimuli.

Susan May said...

I love to travel and where ever I go I come up with a story. The key is to write the ideas down and file them away. They can get away from you so quick. Spring break a few years ago I went to England for tea and castles. Today I'm writing books that took place in the castles I visited. The nice thing is that if you write about the places you can take your part of the trip off as a business expense on income tax as reseach.You do have to show you have written about the trip. Makes it double fun!

CiCi Barnes said...

Love to travel, and as a writer, there's always a story lurking about the places I've been. I've used Charleston and Savannah in my books, having been there many times. And such history in those places.

One day I hope to write a story based in Europe where hubby and I traveled several years ago.

Right now, my stories are set on parallel worlds, so I guess my chances of visiting those places are about as good as the proverbial snow ball.

Traveling to do research is the ideal for writers. How much fun is that while you're 'working'! What a perk.

Good thoughts, Tammy.


Marilyn Baron said...

I had an interesting experience many years ago that I hope to incorporate into a book one day.

I was traveling with my photogrpaher in North Carolina on a shoot for a series of slide shows for a corporate client, when the word "Love" kept popping into my head and it wouldn't leave. This kept going on for some time and suddenly I shouted to the photographer, "Pull over and stop the car."

We got out and looked around. We had stopped at an old family graveyard and all of the headstones were memorials for the "Love" family.

I am pretty psychic but even that experience freaked me out.

Other than that I've been to many wonderful places around the world that I hope to use in future novels.

I enjoyed your post and I love that picture of the woman on the horse.

Marilyn Baron

J Perry Stone said...

You're evil mentioning the Caribbean to me, Tammy. I am so dying for a vacation there, it makes me ache to read about yours.

As for your question, I had a strange experience a couple years ago. As many of you already know, I'm Buddhist therefore believe in past lives.

As I was researching the setting for my first historical rom, I decided upon North Wales. I Google Earthed it and spent a morning perusing illustrative websites, but then decided that what I didn't know, I could make up. Considering the book takes place in the early 19th cent, how accurate do I have to be?

A year later, however, I had the opportunity to actually go there.

I had described PRECISELY! I do not think it was an accident I chose North Wales for my setting and when I finally got there, I could not get over the fact that it all felt so familiar to me.

Gorgeous place.

Was your fort visit the setting for Liam's story? I'm still dying to read that, you know.

Jessica Doyle said...

Tammy, location, schmocation -- I want to write a whole story about the reenacting horse rider and her awesome dressmaking officer husband.

Tammy Schubert said...


It sounds like many of you have had some wonderful travel experiences.

Marilyn, your psychic abilities are intriguing.

Jessica, I'm glad she inspired you. She is actually the inspiration for my heroine in the book of my heart. Happy writing!

J Perry Stone,

Actually, this has nothing to do with Liam's story. It's actually the one I started before Liam. I just don't feel like I have the skills to write it just yet. I'm working on it though.

Thanks everyone for such wonderful responses.

Cyrano said...

I loved your excerpt. I truly enjoy reading little bits and pieces of people's tales.
I'm not a world traveler myself. I've been to very few places in my 37 years. I've never been outside the country and I've only visited a handful of locations in the U.S. Woe is me.
Luckily, however, RWA affords me opportunities to travel and in SF last year I was able to see first hand my WIP's setting.
There are a few places I would love to see before I die. Scotland is one. Egypt, another and Figi yet another.
But something I'd like to see more than anything in the world are whales. Yes, whales. I want to get in one of those small boats and ride alongside a Hump Back or a graceful Blue. Close enough to see the sun glisten off their skin and look into their wise eyes. God, what an amazing treat that would be.
I plan on seeing them one day, when my kid's lives aren't so busy. And when I do, maybe I'll be inspired to write a romance that revolves around those magnificent creatures.
Have a truly inspiring day,

Anna Steffl said...

I've been quite a few spots in Europe and lately in Puerto Rico, but don't find them calling for me as locations. What's up with that? The short story I'm percolating is set on an airplane. I guess I like being suspended between places.

But...I do love the re-enacting stuff. I would definitely wear the get-up. As a kid I poured over those giant costume history books in the library, then made my Barbies some lovely antebellum ensembles.

Linsey Lanier said...

Until I joined GRW, I never knew there were others as sensitive to place as I was. Today's post and the discussion has reminded me of that.

I loved the virtual imaginary tour you gave us today, Tammy, and I enjoyed your excerpt, too.

You do have a great hubby!


Tammy Schubert said...


You have a way with description. While you were describing the whales, I got a visual image. I hope you get to go on the vacation. Maybe you can even get to touch one of those whales as it glides through the water.

Speaking of description, you did a lovely job in the group novel we did. For those of you who would like to read the book, we are releasing the first chapter on May 3rd.

Tammy Schubert said...


I love the reenactment stuff, too. If they are truly keeping to historical details, they carry you away to another era. It would be fun to wear one of those dresses for a day-in the winter.

Being suspended between places is really interesting. You can get a lot of stories out of that. I wish I could explain why you haven't had stories on the ground. You've stumped me.

Tammy Schubert said...

Thanks, Linsey. I'm so glad you enjoyed the post.

Barbara Monajem said...

I'd really like to write a story that takes place in Curacao. I've been there a couple of times on business trips, and unfortunately there wasn't enough time to explore. I'd love to go back and see all the sights, especially the historical stuff.

Your group story sounds like a lot of fun. I can't wait to read it!

Tammy Schubert said...

You got to go to Curacao for a business trip? Wow! What company do you work for? Can I sign up? :)

Maxine Davis said...

Was out of town, and sorry this is late. YES. Isn't it fun when you go somewhere and suddenly you can see a story taking place there? I can't wait to read one of your books.