Tag: beach

Do You Take Time to Rest and Recharge?

Things aren't this bad. Yet.

Chores. Ugh. At least things aren’t this bad. Yet.

I spend a lot of time working. A LOT. Much more than my family would like. I work more than 40 hours a week, and then I still find time to turn around and work on my fiction. And then there’s social media… I love talking with all of you. My family doesn’t always appreciate that, though. And my household chore list is woefully long because of my hours. But I digress…

After all that computer time, the eyes get tired, the body gets sore, and the mind gets muddled. At least, that’s what happens to me. And after several months of that? I’m pretty useless to anyone.

At work or at home.

Surf and sun... all to ourselves. Gorgeous!

Surf and sun… all to ourselves. Gorgeous!

That’s why I jumped at the chance to vacation at a private beach. Two weeks, surf and sand and silence. Lovely!

I didn’t expect to have no Internet or cell service, though. I admit, that gave me anxiety for a while. But then I embraced the concept. It was like my childhood again. I wasn’t attached to any tech. It was liberating.

Yeah, my kids didn’t necessarily agree, but I needed the downtime. The sunny days, the lull of the waves… how could anyone not love that? (tweet the thought if you agree)

Then Tropical Storm Bill hit. We lost power. We lost beach days. But we still had fun. Card games, jigsaw puzzles, old stories… It was wonderful. And yes, I think even the kids enjoyed it.

And then I came home, where I found over 4,000 emails had backed up, my company had reorganized, and my work had piled up. And the anxiety came right back.

But I was able to better deal with it. Because I had rested, recharged, refocused.

I’d go back to my private paradise in a heartbeat. But I’m glad to be home. Back in the familiar. Back with my characters. Back with you.

medici protectorateMy novel Bleeding Heart will be coming out soon. And now I’m around to actually talk about it, so that’s exciting. Visit often; I’d love to talk about it with you.

What about you? What do you do to recharge? Do you have a favorite activity? Or a favorite place to visit? Tell me about it.

In the meantime, if you can’t get to the beach, maybe you’ll enjoy a few pictures from my trip.

Casey loved to jump the waves.

Casey loved to jump the waves.

Sammi reenacting a photo from her infant-days.

Seth and his dad posing for a picture like Corey had taken with his dad years ago.

Max had a blast... until he swam out too far and got frightened. But he rebounded soon and got back in.

Max had a blast… until he swam out too far and got frightened. But he rebounded soon and got back in.

After the storm passed, this was my view.

After the storm passed, this was our view.

3 Writing Lessons Learned While on Vacation

One of our favorite vacations is going to the beach. I’m sure I mentioned it before; we’ve been to Jamaica, California, Hawaii, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and several East Coast beaches ranging from New Jersey through Florida. There’s something about a vast body of water—the breeze bringing that briny scent to your nose—and wiggling your toes in the grainy sand that just sings “relaxation” to me and my family. Having the sun warm your skin and cooling off by jumping waves… that’s one luxury my family splurges on and doesn’t feel guilty about it. Well, not too guilty.

Hilton Head

View of Hilton Head Beach

One year, when my daughter was three, we went to Hilton Head, South Carolina with my husband’s family. We arrived on a Saturday afternoon and decided to go to Mass that evening so we would have all day Sunday on the beach. My little girl was ramping up into a full blown fit. She didn’t think she should have to go to church when she was on vacation. Finally, my mother-in-law came to our rescue and began talking to my daughter.

She reminded her that Jesus died for our sins, so it wouldn’t be nice for us to ignore him just because we were on vacation.

File:Andrea Mantegna 036.jpg

The Agony in the Garden.
Image via Andrea Mantegna [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

My daughter promptly stomped her foot and crossed her arms over her chest. She replied, “He does that every year. You’d think he’d know not to go into that garden by now.” Then she turned to go get ready for Mass.

Yes, you read that right. She was three.

On one hand, I was mortified that she was so belligerent with us and my mother-in-law. On the other, I was proud that she remembered the story of Christ’s persecution and crucifixion.

My family still attends Mass regularly. We go every Holy Day and every Sunday, even when we’re on vacation. It’s more than just a family tradition; it’s part of who we are. Neither of my kids even complain about going. Whenever I doubt my parenting skills, I think about how accomplished my kids are intellectually, athletically, and especially spiritually, and the doubt goes away. For all my faults, we’re raising two wonderful children.

It made me wonder if there were any lessons I could take away from those experiences that would help me with my writing. And as usual, there were.

  1. Routine, in any endeavor, gets things done.
    Just as we didn’t, and don’t, stop attending Mass because of vacation, bad weather, or general inconvenience, I don’t stop writing because of those things either. The best way to complete a manuscript is the SAW method—Sit And Write. There will always be things that call you away from writing. The trick to getting your work done is to ignore those things. You can’t get published if you don’t complete your work, and you won’t complete your work if you keep walking away from it.
  2. A change of scenery can do wonders for you.
    Just as we take vacations and do things we enjoy to recharge our batteries, when I write, sometimes I get in a rut. Sometimes I even get writers block. I agree with the experts who say the best way to get past the block is to writer through it. Just write anything. But I also believe that the status quo may not be the best way to go about it. If you write in your office, try your patio. If you write in a coffeehouse, try working in the park.
  3. Don’t try to change who you are.
    In life, pretending to be someone you aren’t and abandoning your values and traditions will never result in anything positive. There are those who believe in the “fake it till you make it” philosophy, but I believe in honesty and integrity. Just as I live my life that way—no pretenses, no acting—I write that way. I’m not saying you have to write what you know. I’m just as able as the next person to write a story about a time and space traveler who defeats an alien army one hundred years in the future before it comes to and conquers Earth. Do I “know” that? No more than the next person. I mean really, who could possibly know about time and space travel and about defeating an alien army? No one. It’s never been done. But if I’m true to my writing style, if I develop my sci-fi characters the same way I develop my romance characters, if I construct my settings and weave my plot with the same attention to detail I do in my romance writing, then I am being true to myself and my abilities. And that’s what will create rich story worlds and realistic characters.

I’m sure all of you have stories in your past that are just cute little anecdotes you tell over coffee at family events. Consider looking at those stories for life lessons. For professional lessons. Do you have one or more in mind? I hope so. Why don’t you share with us in the comments section?

How to Best Spend your Summer Vacation

Hi everyone! For those of you who follow me on Twitter and Facebook (links can be found by clicking the words or in the side panel), you’ll have noticed that I was silent this past week. Sorry for the disappearance, but I was on vacation.

Hilton Head Usually we go to the beach. We’ve been to plenty of them: Jamaica, California, Hawaii, the Bahamas, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and many on the east coast (from New Jersey through Florida). We’ve done amusement and theme park vacations, zoos, cities, and even a cruise, but we always go back to the beach. Sun, sand, surf… it doesn’t get better than that.

Until this year.

This year we spent our vacation in Pennsylvania. My husband and I are both from the same home town, our kids were born there, and we still have family and friends in the area. It’s a two day trip by car, but we stayed with family on the way there and back, so it was kind of like a two-for-one vacation. Sure, I miss the beach, but I have a pool if I want to swim, and I wouldn’t trade my visit home for anything.

pirate baseballWhen we crossed through the Fort Pitt Tunnel, the sight of Pittsburgh greeting us on the other side was spectacular. The only time it looks better is at night. We saw the fountain at The Point, the Gateway Clipper fleet on the river, the city skyline, Heinz Field, the Carnegie Science Center, and after a short drive, PNC Park (where a baseball game was in progress). I would have loved to have stayed in the city. There’s so much to do there—shopping and eating at The Strip; going to the four Carnegie Museums (Art, Natural History, Science Center, and Andy Warhol); visiting the Pittsburgh Zoo, the Allegheny Observatory, and Phipps Conservatory; riding the mt. washington, paInclines (Duquesne and Monongahela); touring Carnegie Mellon University so the kids could see where their parents went to school; attending a Pirate game; spending a day at Kennywood Park or Sandcastle… I could go on, but we didn’t stay in Pittsburgh. As awesome as the city is, we had better things to do.

We went home to see family.

vandergriftWe’re from Vandergrift, Pennsylvania… it’s a little town about forty minutes northeast of the city. Its claim to fame is that it’s the first worker-owned, industrially-planned town in America. Frederick Law Olmsted, the landscape designer who designed Central Park, was responsible for designing the town. My husband and I met, dated, fell in love, and were married there. We still have a lot of family and friends in the area, and we went home to see them. That beats any trip to the beach, or anywhere else.

family visitWe spent time with my ninety-five year old grandmother, looking at old family photos and hearing wonderful tales of days gone by. We visited my husband’s grandmother and his great-aunt and uncle where we listened to stories of family and friends. We stayed with my parents-in-law, where we played games and enjoyed each other’s company. We ate many meals with my family, trying to celebrate Father’s Day and my dad’s birthday with the appropriate fanfare his holidays deserve. We spent time with siblings and their families, and ate the foods that we’ve been craving but can’t get here—both homemade and purchased spumoniitems. We even attended Mass at our hometown church… a church that is a national landmark and was designed in the gothic style (something that we just don’t see here where the churches are of modern styling).

It was fabulous!

scalzott familyThe best part was the reconnecting with family. We heard stories and histories that reinforce who we are and where we’re from. Some of the stories I’d heard before, and some were new, but they were all new to my kids, and watching them absorb their heritage was a golden experience.

I’m not sure what your vacation plans are this year. I could certainly recommend a trip to Pittsburgh. There’s plenty to do, to see, to eat… You wouldn’t be disappointed. But instead, let me recommend a trip where you can connect with your roots. That’s where the real memories will be made.

My entire family enjoyed our trip (adults, kids, and even dogs!), but I’m definitely going to benefit from our visit home. Not only were the areas good for me to revisit because my novel series is set in Western Pennsylvania, I now have fodder for several other stories as well. I bet a visit home would give you some ideas, too.

Have you ever taken a trip where you got ideas for a story? Why don’t you share the experience with us in the comments.

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