Saturday, March 16, 2013

Writing craft: Beyond the sea

In the not-too-distant future I'm going to be heading off on vacation - to the beach, to be specific.

I really can't think of a place I love more than the beach. I grew up in Southern California so I'm partial to that state's coastline, but really, as long as the it's that stretch where the ocean meets the land, I'm happy. I love the smell, I love the sound of the waves. There's a feeling of timelessness about the beach that's comforting somehow.

I like the beach in summer, when it's playtime. And I like it in winter, when it's good for wandering.

The beach is also very inspiring to me. It resets my mental equilibrium. The smell alone relaxes me. One time, when life was not going all that well, I stopped at one of my favorite beaches - El Capitan State Beach, just north of Santa Barbara. I paid the day use fee and spent a few hours wandering the shore and the coastal trails.

Best ten bucks I ever spent.

The beach is a big influence on my writing. You'll notice that the "good" places in my books - the fictional towns of Los Cielos, CA in The Day After Yesterday and Haven Cove, BC in Ashes - are coastal towns. Los Cielos is based on several real places that include my hometown of Redondo Beach, CA, as well as Laguna Beach. Moreover, Daniel's walk up the state of California in The Day After Yesterday takes place mostly on the coast, with particular attention called to the coastline of Ventura and Santa Barbara, and his journey ends in another coastal town, the fictional Faber.

My characters often have epiphanies on the beach, or at the very least experience life-changing moments there. The scene that opens The Day After Yesterday takes place at a beachside diner, and is the linchpin for much of what happens in the book. Likewise, in Ashes Jennifer celebrates the one-year anniversary of her survival at the coast, and the book's climactic scene is at a house near the sea. And in Ashes' forthcoming sequel Reckoning, there is another crucial event on a beach, this time in Maine.

So you can imagine that I'm looking forward to spending a few days near the beach. I've got reading material picked out, local restaurants researched, and oh yes, have a vague idea of what clothes I might pack. (Hey, I've got priorities.) And I'm definitely bringing the journal in which I keep my story ideas and musings. I'm looking forward to some long walks on the shore, and who knows, maybe that experience will appear in another book.


  1. I just finished Day After Yesterday and purchased Ashes as a weaning device for my soul. Thanks for a super-amazing-wonderful read! If you are ever up towards Oxnard - we are at the beach - I will buy you lunch!

  2. Thank you! I hope that you enjoy Ashes. If you do, let me know - I'll be publishing its sequel, Reckoning, in the autumn of this year, and I can give you a head's up as soon as it's available.

    I'm in the Oxnard area a few times a year, usually on our way to Solvang. It's a lovely part of the state!