As a writer, I’m constantly looking at settings and exploring scenes. What kind of story can I fit into this scene? Will this setting fit the storyline I’m working on?  Can I use this scene anywhere in a story?

Scene Exploration: Bridal Veil Falls




   For example: last week my sweet daughter-in-law took my mother and me to see Bridal Veil Falls in Provo Canyon. I had been there once before when the water was gushing much faster and fuller than it was this time. Utah had been going through a drought, and it showed in the water levels. Still, I thought of several scenarios with this waterfall. A ledge and a cave hidden by the falls (pretty standard). A water dragon that lives in the falls and comes out to scare away intruders. A city whose water supply comes from the falls. An evil wizard’s tower at the top, beyond view of the uppermost fall.


     I enjoyed the Rocky Mountains surrounding Salt Lake Valley a great deal. As I looked at them one night, I could see a dragon flying overhead in my mind. A quest party rising to meet the Yeti in the high cave. Priceless gems hidden beneath a rock above a ledge near the top. A hole that opens up on an unsuspecting hiker and drops him into an unknown world below the mountains. An alien city nestled in the small valley between mountains.

Scene Exploration: Provo Canyon Mountains
Scene Exploration: Secret Garden Tunnel



     Here’s another example. This is the Secret Garden tunnel at Ashton Gardens at Thanksgiving Point in Lehi, UT. What kind of adventure could this lead to? Give me a few minutes staring at this, and I could probably come up with four to six new scenes. How about you?

     This entire (hidden) exercise led me to looking at a book on fantasy mapping this morning. It’s the kind of book that shows you how to draw a map for your game, story, or quest. That got me thinking of other things. Mountains, waterfalls, valleys, plains. Our world comprises so many environments that adventure could be anywhere! I grew up on the Jersey Shore. I love the ocean. Growing up, I often thought about mermaids, whales, talking fish, and being friends with a dolphin. Our environment—mountainous, plains, oceanic, urban, whatever – is often the same one used in our writing, but it doesn’t have to be.

     Look around you. Can you come up with small scenes of adventure where you are? I would love to hear some of them.

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    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.

   Every parent knows two things:  Reading is an essential part of life and not everyone likes to read the same things.  As a parent who loves to read, I wanted my children to also love the activity.  My eldest fell right into it.  He enjoys many of the same books I do, and he can usually be found with some type of book in his hands.  My youngest, while not as enthusiastic as his elder brother, also enjoys reading.  He loves getting into fantasy adventures, ghost stories, and lately, his table-top gaming books. My middle son was an entirely different story.

    My middle son hated to read.  The letters didn’t make sense.  The words were foreign.  His attention deficit disorder didn’t help the matter any.   He really enjoyed stories, though.  As a young child, he’d memorize his favorite ones by associating the words to the pictures.  So much so that he was able to convince his first-grade teacher that he’d learned the words to the short stories they read all week long.  By Wednesday, he already knew which words went with which picture.  Fooled her!

    As I took matters into my own hands, I had to find a way to teach my son to read.  We began with those incredibly boring, short books just to get him started with sounding out words.  As he learned the words, I hid the pictures.  Soon he was doing much better, but still didn’t like to read.  We replaced reading books with comic books.  Now I had his attention.  Yes, my son learned to read with comic books.  DuckTales was his favorite.

    Push forward a few years.  He’s now in 7th grade, and he’s failing English.  Why?  Because he’s supposed to be reading a book all week long and writing down what he read.  He wouldn’t do it.  His excuse?  By the time he got to the bottom of the page, he forgot what was at the top.  Reality, he just didn’t find the genre that he liked, and being stubborn, wouldn’t listen to me or his brother as we suggested stories we knew he’d like.

    This is the situation that brought Asteria to life.  My son loved playing Dungeons and Dragons with us, so I knew he would get captivated by being plunged into a story revolving around that.  I set my hand and wrote a story about my son and his best friend being launched into a D&D-like adventure because of the actions of his friend’s little sister.  It worked.  He couldn’t put the manuscript down and re-read it several times.  He found his genre.  As a result, he started reading other books as well.  Bigger books still scared him, so we would sit before bedtime and read them together.  He’s still not an avid reader, but he knows what he enjoys reading now.

     Do you have a child similar to mine?  What are some ways to you can instill a love of reading in them?  Here are a few ways you can try.

  1. Start reading early. Introduce books to your toddler.  Read to them.  Like many parents, I would read my children a bedtime story.  I don’t know why, but reading before bed seems to be the perfect time.
  2. Introduce your child to many types of books. Visit the library or bookstore often.  Not everyone is an adventurer.  Perhaps they like mystery, poetry, non-fiction facts, or any of the other books available.  Make sure there are a plethora of reading material around for your child to explore.
  3. Subscribe to a magazine for them. Highlights for Children, Ranger Rick, National Geographic Kids, Muse, Zoobooks, Jack & Jill, and many other magazines are available for children from the ages of 1 through 10.
  4. Set up a time to read. Perhaps you can have a reading time in the morning if you’re homeschooling.  Set time aside at night when the TV, video games, and phones are turned off (yours, too.) and the family reads a story together.
  5. Encourage your child to read out loud. Beverly Swanson, in her post Encouraging Your Child To Read, mentions that you should listen to your child read and praise him for his success.  Maybe ready every other page or every other chapter with him.
  6. Give your child writing materials. She can’t find a book that interests her this week?  Well, reading and writing go hand-in-hand.  Encourage her to write her own story.  The sky is the limit.  Don’t focus on spelling or vocabulary or grammar.  Just let her write.  Look up story starters on the internet to help her get started.
  7. Be an example. As in everything else, children follow what they see their parents do (not necessarily what they say).  If your child sees you reading in your spare time, they’ll do the same.
  8. If your child is still resisting reading, eliminate possible physical or developmental issues. ADD, ADHD, Dyslexia, Autism (even extremely slightly), and poor vision are only a few of the possible medical or developmental issues that can cause a child to dislike reading.  Caught early, you and your child’s doctor or counselor can devise a plan to help him dive into the reading world.

     These are just a few suggestions.  There are probably a hundred more.  Reality is, with a little effort, your child can enjoy reading as much as you do.