Tag Archives: sensory writing

Writing Forts

Nothing screams “summer blog post” more than a hulking, stone fort, am I right? Suuure. I can see the heads shaking. What you’re probably asking yourselves is: What does a fort have to do with writing? Well, let me tell you about that.

I’m always on the hunt for relevant writing-life ideas to blog about, things both useful and personal. I hope you learn something fun and different after reading my posts, that you engage in your own writing or reading in a new way, become inspired to change something in your writing repertoire or habits. See things from a fresh perspective.

So to find ideas, I check out the holiday calendars to see what’s going on, I read other author blogs (check out this list for some cool ones, but be warned, some links are out of date), I review Writer’s Digest and other online sources for inspiration.

And sometimes I simply walk outside and see what my imagination fires up. In the case of this month’s post, “Writing Forts,” my inspiration was two-fold: calendar spark and walkabout spark.

One of the many things I love about St. Augustine is its history. One big chunk of that history is the Castillo de San Marcos, a National Park, located at the northeastern edge of historic downtown. With July named as National Park and Recreation Month (the calendar spark), and me so enamored of this massive fortress—also a designated National Monument—I knew I had to blog about it.

Which leads me to spark number two, the walkabout. Because I’m fortunate to have this historic fort in my backyard, I’m free to wander the grounds for inspiration whenever I’m able to go downtown (and able to find parking).

Water in the moat of the Castillo de San Marcos
The Castillo at night, with visitors.
Canon fire at the Castillo

Those of you who’ve read my previous posts know how much I love being outdoors, love Florida’s warm, mostly sunny weather. I carry my notebook everywhere, and I love writing longhand outside. Weather permitting, naturally, but also in the rain. As long as I’m covered and my notebook is dry, I’m good.

Sometimes, writing in the rain is actually better, depending on the scene. A moody, rainy day can be perfect for stalking, murder, surprise attack, even simply an eerie feeling or two. I think you get my point. Writing outside or somehow exposed to the elements, exposed to the ambience of a historic space, imbues my writing with a vitality I can’t always capture when sitting at my computer behind a desk and gazing through the window. Kinda like life, you know. Sometimes you have to stop reading and writing about it and go out and live it.

Now, about this fabulous fort. I’m intrigued by history (I’m not a buff, mind you, but forever learning). Those of you who’ve read Emerald Obsession know that while it’s a contemporary mystery, it has its roots in history. The Castillo has survived over 300 years as the oldest masonry fortress in the United States.

Rambling over the fort grounds, reading the educational material the park rangers offer, climbing stone steps to look over the Matanzas River and all the way to the Atlantic Ocean, steeping myself in the environment and knowledge of its age brings the fort’s history to life, helps me imagine what living there centuries ago could’ve been like.

Being able to experience such a unique piece of history firsthand is extraordinary. When I walk through historic places, I feel the weight of time surround me. I feel the lives and deaths of those who passed that way before me. A quiet settles in, respectful and deep. I knew the fort would find its way into my writing somewhere, somehow.

And here’s where I get to tease a little info about Treasure Bound, Book Two in my Found Mystery Series. I’m so excited. This story follows up Emerald Obsession to continue Lexy and Jack’s treasure hunt, and part of the story takes place in St. Augustine. Surprise, there’s also a scene or two set at the fort. Hope I do it justice.

To learn more about the Castillo de San Marcos, click here. It’s one of my favorite places in St. Augustine. And don’t forget to take your writing outside! You may not have a fort at your disposal, but any outdoor spot will offer a new angle and enliven your writing.

As ever, to weigh in on this or any of my posts, please share, share, share in the comments section, or on social media. You can find me in all the usual places. Thanks again. : )


6 Easy Travel Activities to Enliven Your Writing

August is a popular time to travel, and the hub and I jumped on the bandwagon this month. Our recent trip to see family and friends in NYC allowed us to revisit old haunts and try new ones on for size.

Freedom Tower and Empire views from the SI Ferry
Freedom Tower and Empire views from the SI Ferry

The trip prompted me to write this post about my version of travel writing.  : )

I love to travel. It’s one of my favorite things, right up there with eating, sleeping, reading, writing … you get the idea. The thing is, travel is an incredible learning experience. It gives you the opportunity to discover so much about other places, other people and cultures, other ways of life. And you can learn a great deal about yourself along the way, too. Bonus.

On top of those—in my opinion, fabulous—reasons to traipse the globe, there’s another. If you’re a writer like me, when you return from your adventures, you have the incredible opportunity to share them through words. Which is one of the reasons I call the books I write “adventure mysteries.”

I love incorporating elements of travel, food, people into my stories to add character and depth to the tales. To add a greater level of intrigue and excitement a reader might otherwise not get, or expect to get, from a book.

In my first novel, Emerald Obsession, Lexy explores a Bahamian island, Eleuthera, then returns to Manhattan to solve the mystery of cursed pirate jewels. How fun for me that my vacation in the Bahamas sparked an entire novel. Of course, when you see photos from my stay, you’ll understand the inspiration. Check out this picture, then click the link to my Photographs page for more.

Eleuthera Sunset 2
Eleuthera Sunset

I’m continuing the trend with my second book—still called TB for now—which is set in a couple of fun places, namely the Turks and Caicos and St. Augustine, Florida (shocker, right?). Wait till you read it! ; )

In the meantime, have a look at these six tips for bringing travel to life in your writing.

1—Take lots of photos. They capture the essence of a place, a people, and will refresh your memories and evoke the emotions you experienced while traveling. Besides, you already carry your smart phone, right? So snap away. ; )

2—Keep a travel journal. I find this easiest when I journey solo, but even noting in your cell where you went and when is a good tool for setting scenes, recalling distances and understanding time. Jot down relevant details and pull them out later for a dose of believability.

3—Become a temporary locavore. By far my favorite. Eat, eat, eat and savor the unique flavors and spices, colors and scents of the regional food or cooking style. Use them to saturate your stories with local authenticity.

4—Meet the locals. When possible, have a resident show you around their hometown. Who better to give the inside scoop on all the fabulous particulars of a place than someone who lives there?

5—Stop by specialty events and places; do things you can’t elsewhere. Walk the High Line, a park built on a section of elevated former rail line on Manhattan’s west side. Take in a free beach-side rock concert. Unique experiences are everywhere.

6—Track your journeys on a map, either digitally or old-school-wise on paper. Use your cell’s GPS to get up close with where you’ve been, or stick pins into your wall map to plot your journeys for a great overview.

Brooklyn-born brunch
Ferrara’s, Little Italy


Night skyline
Night skyline
Ft W
Fort Wadsworth and the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge

And here’s an extra tip for when you can’t get there in person: use Google maps and zoom in to the street view to get a feel for a place. A note of caution: though maps are accurate, the street-view photos can be out-of-date, so double-check your findings with a second or third source. Try Trip Advisor. So many travelers there, happy to share their favorite, current photos. Have fun with your online journey, too.

Now that you’ve heard my tips for using travel to enliven your writing, please tell me about your experiences. What’s your favorite destination? Or your favorite thing to do while visiting a new place or an old fave? And always a good question: where are you going next? More than half the fun is in the planning and anticipation, right? : ) Share your thoughts in the comment section. I can’t wait for some new travel ideas.

Please tell your friends about my website so they can sign up for my newsletter to read all the latest. And stay tuned for more travel adventures!!


Writing Food, Writing Love

Since I’m “sociable” these days in my expanding role as an online book marketer, I’m exposed to new sources of zany information. Take food, for instance (thank you, I will). Food holiday notices pop up often. Maybe I’m just hungry, but I’ve seen a ton of foodie goodness highlighted this month. To start with, April is National Garlic Month. Guess what’s in tonight’s dinner. : ) So far, I’ve encountered National Empanada Day and National Cheese Fondue Day. We’ve also enjoyed Beer Day and World Malbec Day. And I’m looking forward to Pigs in a Blanket Day and Shrimp Scampi Day. I had no idea such tasty fun abounded online.

Of course, what this really means for a foodie like myself is hunger. All day long. And the need to satiate that hunger. So, what does that have to do with writing?

Let me make the distinction that I’m speaking of writing about food within the context of a story. I don’t write as a food critic or food blogger, though I’ve investigated those avenues. After research and thought, I knew I much preferred incorporating my food love into novels and stories.

I grew up near and in Manhattan. One of my favorite things about the city is the availability of crazy-diverse food offerings around the clock. In my opinion, it’s one of the things NYC does best: supply an endless bounty of succulent bites.

Alaska roll and sushi yumminess

A large part of my existence in the Big Apple (see, it’s even nicknamed after a food), involved eating and dining out. While deciding whether to move to St. Augustine, a considerable factor was its gastronomy effect: could the town sustain me? After significant sampling of the local fare, I had my answer: a resounding yes. Thank goodness.

Cheese plate from The Floridian...a fave.
Cheese plate from The Floridian…a fave.

Given the enormity of my adoration, it made sense to bring this huge fixation into my writing. Food is one of my great loves (don’t worry, my hub is right there, too), so I had to blend it with another of my great loves, writing.

Writing about food creates ambiance, develops character, evokes setting, propels scenes …. Food plays a role in the bigger picture that is the story.

People think of food with a range of emotion. People relate to sustenance as a universal language. We connect to others through cuisine and cooking. The experience of food involves all the senses: taste, touch, smell, sight and hearing. The inclusion of these five items is critical to brilliant, captivating writing.

This food writing is not about sensory overload, though. It’s about setting a time and place, creating relationships between the character and the food, the situation, the other characters. It’s about bonding and enjoyment, craving and the simple truth of necessity.

In my first novel, Emerald Obsession, the lead character Lexy, much like myself (shocking), indulges in a variety of food and drink experiences. From the juicy, homey burger at Walker’s to the garlicky, piquant gambas at Las Ramblas, her emotions progress from consolation to camaraderie. A beer with a suspicious character in a neighborhood pub segues into a drinking contest and lends zip to her feisty attitude and competitive nature.

And in my forthcoming novel—I’ll call it simply TB for now—I have the cast meeting the newcomer in a seaside Caribbean locale over crunchy conch fritters and a crisp Turks Head beer, while breezes ruffle the palms overhead.

I hope my stories transport people somewhere exotic and exciting. Writing about food and the surroundings in which it’s shared is a great way to escape the everyday. Or to remind us how good it is.

So, friends, fans and followers, how do you feel when you read about food? Does that delight you and make you hungry, like me? Share your favorite foods and restaurants in the comment section. I’d love to hear what sets your taste buds zinging. One of my ABSOLUTE faves—which I was fortunate to have on a recent visit north—is my mom’s homemade lasagna!!! Check out the photos. I surprised her (not really) by having three servings that night. Whee … heaven! : ) Thanks for reading and sharing = caring.

Lasagne with Mom
Lasagne with Mom
Lasagne, pre-oven
Lasagne, pre-oven
Mom's best lasagne, after I got my hands on it!
Mom’s best lasagne, after I got my hands on it!

PS—If you’re in the St. Augustine area this weekend, 4/23/16, stop by the Annual Taste of St. Augustine for delectable nibbles from our local restaurants, a highlight of my spring. Be on the lookout for me and the hub.

Outside enjoying delicious St. Aug food