Finding inspiration for your tale’s location can be tricky.  It’s not always easy to find the exact location that screams, “This is the place!”  Traveling to find the right location can be fun, but it can also be grueling.  Rushing around to see all the usual sites becomes tiring.  The throngs of people make it crowded.   By the time you’re done, you need a vacation from your vacation.

    What if you could travel, see some great sites, and get inspiration for backdrops to your latest book, video, or table top gaming quest?  There are some great locations around the world that fit this description. 

    New Zealand is a phenomenal vacation site with plenty of inspiration (See Te Henga Beach above).  The filming locations of Xena, Hercules, Lord of the Rings, The Wilds, Chronicle of Narnia, Wolverine, and many other movies and shows are located all over the island.  Beautiful locations such as Waikato, Matamata (Home to Hobbiton, left) and Mount Ngauruhoe* (Lord of the Rings Mount Doom, right) are wonderful places to explore for inspiration.

Hobbit Hole
Hobbiton, New Zealand
Mount Doom
Mount Ngauruhoe, New Zealand

    Looking for more medieval locations?  Castles and shires are the locations to visit for inspiration.  Are you a castle buff?  England, Germany, France, and Austria are just a few of the locations you’ll find plenty of castles.  You could make an entire vacation just visiting the castles.

Perhaps you’d like a tour of Alnwick Castle in Northumberland, England (Harry Potter, Downtown Abbey).   

Alnwich Castle

Trim Castle (Braveheart), in Meath, Ireland, is a rugged backdrop for a medieval scene.  This Celtic castle has stood the tests of time.

    A more modern location could be Torenhof Castle(Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, left) in Brasschaat, Belgium. There is also Neuschwanstein Castle (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang), also in Belgium, that lends a 19th century fantasy feel to the area.

Torenhof Castle
Neuschwanstein Castle

 Chateau de Hautefort (Ever After) in Hautefort, France, lends a fantasy-like location to the lives of kings and queens.   The grounds and gardens are beautifully done.  Also check out Chateau de Fenelon and Chateau de Losse, also used for filming Ever After.

Looking for more inspiration or travel sites?  Stay tuned to our next blog where we’ll continue our search for just the right locations.


*Photo by Guillaume Piolle

Dance Like A Chicken

Happy Dance Like A Chicken Day! 

   Everyone loves holidays.  Well, Most people love holidays.  On average, there is at least one recognized holiday per month.   Think about it.  Check your calendar.  

   Somewhere along the line, a bunch of folks put their heads together and came up with holidays for every day of the year!  

   For example, tomorrow – May 15th – is National Chocolate Chip Day (among others).  I love chocolate chips.  Semi-sweet are my favorites.  I bypass the cookie and just eat them by the handful.  Yum!  

   You can find a complete list of unrecognized national holidays at these sites: 

National Day Calendar

Fun Holidays

Daily Calendar Holidays

Chocolate Chips

    So check them out and decide which ones you want to celebrate!  Turn up the music, add the food, bring in your friends, and Dance like a Chicken!  



   Every medieval fantasy book or table top game (ie: Dungeons and Dragons, Pathfinder, etc.) has swords involved.  In ancient times, they were a means of defense, competition, and status.  Only those wealthy enough could own them, and only master blacksmiths could make the best kind.  After all, you don’t want your sword falling apart as you battle your enemy, right?  

     When most people think of swords, their mind immediately goes to the knights of old England or the warriors of ancient Rome.  In both cases, the wielder of the sword worked for a ruler, who in turn provided the sword.  

     In medieval times (400 – 1400 AD), it would take a blacksmith days, possibly weeks, to make a long sword.  Short swords didn’t take a much time.  Blacksmiths used hot coals and heavy hammers to pound out the metal they worked with.  It was hot and tiring work, but great for upper body strength.  Still, it required heating the metal, pounding it out, heating the metal, pounding it out, and sometimes cooling it in between.  Leather and wood were sometimes used to decorate the handle.  Other times, the handles were left polished metal.  Etchings and decorations were especially difficult during that period.

     I found a couple of good youtube videos that show how swords were made, although both use modern tools now; which shortens the process just a bit. Check out How do Blacksmiths Make Swords and Forging a Sword out of a Rusted Iron Chain.  Neither video is very long, but it will give you a good idea of what goes into building a sword.  Just remember, medieval blacksmiths did it all by hand, not power tools.