Tag Archives: favorite things

Five: Inspiring Places (U.S. Edition)

Setting is such an important part of a story to me. A lot of times, I build whole stories from the inspiration of a setting. I think I’ve probably written entire fictional worlds based on mental or real pictures of a single place. Here are some of my favorites.

1. New Orleans


Mid- and southern Louisiana, too, but New Orleans mostly. I don’t know if it’s all the unsettling history in the still air and rising water, I don’t know if it’s the French influence, I don’t know if it’s the mélange of culture and beliefs, all I know is that for about two years in college, I didn’t write anything that wasn’t set in New Orleans or surrounding it, and most of what I read was set there, too.

2. Washington State


When I found out Twilight was set in Washington, it made perfect sense to me. Better with You (oh man that one needs an edit bad) is set in Washington, too. It’s beautiful and cool and relaxed, and the geography lends itself well to adventure. Plus, there’s an abundance of my favorite kind of house, giving my heroines cute, cozy places to live and make their lives.

3. Isolated stretches of New England coastline


I’ve thoroughly enjoyed New England every time I’ve been. One of the drafted novellas I have is getting a change of setting, and it was finding out about the lighthouses that finally flicked on the light in the dark room of my mind called How To Fix This Vexing Story.

4. Desert


Hot and dry and, at first glance, dead, the desert is a good place to keep secrets and to find history and to get lost. It’s a good place to put characters to see what happens.

5. Big Sky Country


There’s something really liberating about wide-open spaces, and Montana has them in abundance. It’s so expansive. It’s ready for small stories with a big backdrop, for cowboys and cowgirls and people looking to pretend, for isolation and character exploration.

Sunday Inspiration: MCAD Library on Flickr


The MCAD Library on Flickr has some incredible pictures. First, I checked out Art of the Poster 1880 – 1918, but I ended up staring at the flint knife for so long my screensaver kicked on, and the modern amate bark paper is beautiful.

Places to See on Route 66

1. Lou Mitchell’s Restaurant and Bakery – Chicago, Illinois

Popular with commuters and located near the start of the mother road, apparently this place is the place to stop before you start out. They’ve been feeding hungry travelers since 1923 and if the food is in real life anything like the pictures, I can see why. (The whole How It’s Made page makes me want to put the kids in the car and drive to Chicago for breakfast.)

2. World’s Second Largest Rocking Chair – Cuba, Missouri

Cuba is a pretty cool place; they have the murals. This is a modern roadside attracting in the great tradition of them, and the pictures featured in the Atlas Obscura article capture the fun of roadside attractions. Apparently it actually had to be welded in place once it made the Guiness Book because when it rocked, it was terrifying. You can only sit on it one day a year, but those pictures prove you don’t need to sit on it to enjoy it.

3. Round Barn – Arcadia, Oklahoma

It’s a barn that looks like a fat, short silo and it’s awesome. It was built in the 1890s, made it onto the National Register in the 1970s, and was rebuilt in the 1990s by a group of volunteers (and let me take a moment to say: bless the volunteers, for without them, what would we have left of our cultural resources?). And it’s a museum!

4. The Cadillac Ranch – Amarillo, Texas

This is a bunch of Cadillac bodies half-buried in the dirt on a farm. This place was an enduring myth of my childhood, and little under five years ago, I finally got to see it. My sleeping kid tossed over my shoulder, I made the walk beside my mom, who wasn’t quite a teenager when it was first installed. It was a really neat experience.

5. San Miguel Chapel – Santa Fe, New Mexico

The oldest church in the US and on the National Register and absolutely one of the prettiest places to stop. They even still hold Mass, and I’m not Catholic but there’s always something really profound about religious services held in old places. For a dose of even more history, and a bonus entry-within-an-entry, you can also check out the oldest house in the US, the De Vargas Street house, which was built in the remains of an ancient pueblo.

6. The Petrified Forest National Park – Arizona

I could have gone with the Grand Canyon, and you totally shouldn’t miss it if you’re doing this road trip, but I love the Petrified Forest National Park. I love the badlands, I love that this is the only national park to actually preserve a piece of the original Route 66, and I love all the trees that look like rocks (there’s even a thing called the Little Lithodendron Wash, and “lithodendron” literally means “rock tree”). It’s a nice stop on the way to Flagstaff, which is easily my favorite city on the whole road trip.

7. Santa Monica Pier – Santa Monica, California

The most recently-nominated “end point” of Route 66, the pier is over 100 years old and the website has the niftiest timeline feature. There’s plenty of fun to be had and food to try, and Santa Monica is a pretty cool city in general. Not a bad way to end a trip.


Things I Love: Buying Refurbished

I am secretly a hippie. I take showers and patchouli gives me a headache, but whenever I need to make a significant purchase, especially of technology, I always search refurbished first. The prices are better, I can usually get something nicer for the price range I’m looking at, and buying refurbished keeps dangerous electronics out of landfills in third-world countries. I also believe in sharing positive customer service experiences. How else do you know who to trust?

With the school year coming up (my oldest does K12) and my new job set to start at the end of the month (I have a contingent offer!), I decided we needed a new desktop until HP repairs our All-In-One and Sitel sends me their equipment. So I checked Amazon, because 5% cash back and two day shipping, and found this seller offering refurbished professional computers. Perfect.

Except, of course, once it got here and I got it out of the box, it didn’t work. I was feeling kind of stressed before I realized that they’re literally an hour and twenty minutes away. We had some flooring to return to Lumber Liquidators, anyway, so when the email support didn’t solve my issue, I packed the computer, the flooring, and the kids into the Jeep and headed up to OKC.

I could not be happier with the customer service. It took ten minutes for Mark to run diagnostics and repair the computer. While I was there, I picked up an extra monitor, too, and now I’m all set for my new job.

If you’re shopping for a sturdy desktop for yourself or your kids, and you’re looking for a deal and Five Star customer service, check out JSM Computers in Oklahoma City and on Amazon.

On Anniversaries

The mister and I have been married for ten years. A whole decade. Not bad for only knowing each other a few weeks before we decided to take the plunge, and taking that plunge less than three months after we met.

The last few years in particular have been really tough. Buying a house, having a second child, multiple surgeries, separating from the Army, transitioning back into civilian life and dealing with the realities of his disabilities, starting a small business… It’s been pretty intense. And right now we’re near the end of flipping our first house, so money is tight and nerves are frazzled and our anxiety disorders are flaring up, but even with all of that, there’s no one else I’d rather be with.

I genuinely enjoy him as a person, not just because he’s hot (he is), but because he’s smart and thoughtful and nice and talented. He has his flaws; everyone has flaws (he has put up with all of mine for ten years, I’m pretty sure that makes him a saint). But it’s hard to focus on them when he has so many excellent, exceptional qualities that make me feel like an incredibly lucky woman. And I don’t think I could have picked a better partner. We work so well together, shore up weaknesses with our complementary strengths. It’s nice to know there’s someone there who has my back, and it’s nice to have his. I like being married, and I like being married to him.

It’s been a great ten years. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for ten more.

Sunday Inspiration: Jaime Beechum


Jaime Beechum, road trip photographer extraordinaire. Just… wow.

Road Trips

I love the Internet. Relevant to this post, how easy research is because of the Internet. Before anything I ever wanted to know was at my fingertips, I had to use the library, other people, personal experience, and hope. I remember once, when I was 18 and before research on the Internet was as easy as it is now, mentioning to someone I was writing a story set on Molokai. She gave me a weird look and asked, “In the leper colony?” I had no idea there was a leper colony, because the material I had on Molokai hadn’t mentioned it. Now, though, we have Wikipedia, which may not be the most reliable resource to begin with, but it does give me a place to start whenever I want to learn something new or research something I don’t know anything about.

I also love road trips. That love, and a massive crush on Dean Winchester, was what initially inspired Cass Gets Her Kicks.

The thing about Cass is that it takes place in a romance novel-style universe, where bad things don’t really happen, and even when they do our heroes and heroines get happy endings, anyway. That’s what’s so nice about HEA and HFA. So on real-life road trips, obviously I advocate being careful.

Planning for your road trip is nice.

There’s a .gov website to help with fuel economy, and sites to help with planning the whole trip or even suggesting trips and finding scenic drives. Now you can even plan ahead for roadside attractions.

I’ve been on a lot of road trips. By far the best things to come from them have been the unexpected discoveries. My friend and I turned around on a detour in Arizona when we saw a place called Bad Ass Coffee, and honestly it’s probably the best coffee I’ve ever had. When my mother was working in Andover, I went to see her, and one day we drove up to Vermont, where–at the rest stop, no less–we discovered Green Mountain Coffee. Now I can get it at Sonic, which is nice because it’s not always available in local grocery stores. We also checked out the Green Mountain Visitor Center while we were there, and oh my gosh those views were amazing. (On the subject of views, one of my favorites has always been from the first rest stop just past the Arizona state line headed out of New Mexico, the one on I-40 in Apache County.) I can’t remember exactly which state we were in, Vermont or New Hampshire or Connecticut or Massachusetts, but one of them had this place to get the most amazing sandwiches on a winding back road. I think I remember covered bridges being important that day? I do remember that the sandwich, turkey with cranberry spread, was incredible. In Ohio last year, on our way up to see the in-laws, we stopped at The Valley Marketplace and got amazing truffles, fantastic cheese, and some really great jerky, among other treats. The same year we discovered Bad Ass Coffee, my friend and I stayed at the Step Back Inn in Aztec, NM before we saw the ruins. That trip, we also discovered that Econolodge, despite the price point, has the best showers. When I was little–younger than my oldest is now, probably–we stopped somewhere in Arizona or maybe New Mexico had a roadside stand that served Indian Bread. I’m not sure if this is it, or if it even exists anymore, but I found this place on Facebook. These places are on Facebook now!

With summer in full swing, road trips are happening. Maybe you’re even thinking about your own. The Internet has resources, whether you’re planning to head out on the road yourself or send out a character. I’ve shared some of my favorites. I’d love to see some of yours in the comments below.