2017 Writing Retreat at Lake Cuyamaca

I can’t believe it’s been over two years since my last writing retreat. And it’s not for lack of trying. Life has been quite busy in the meantime and I’ve been doing a lot more traveling than I normally do.

Anyway, I finally managed to go on a writing retreat in October. My friend and I ended up deciding to do a camping writing retreat (if you think that sounds crazy, you’re not alone, judging by the number of strange looks I got before the trip). But it totally worked!

We packed a tent and supplies and drove up on Friday, through Ramona, past Julian, to our campsite near Lake Cuyamaca. I’ve always enjoyed the beauty of the mountains surrounding Julian, but have never camped out that way, despite living in San Diego for nine years.

Our campsite was quite popular and there were quite a few sites booked for the weekend. It definitely wasn’t the isolated experience I’ve had on other camping trips. I camped at Joshua Tree several years ago and I swear there were only two other people there the whole weekend.

We didn’t get started on the actual writing until Saturday morning, but I ended up having one of the best writing sessions I’ve had in months. Really helped me break through the lack of confidence I’ve been suffering lately. And it brought me that much closer to finishing my Tesla book (yes, the SAME book I was working on at the last writing retreat).

View From the Front Door

After writing for a bit, we decided to go to Julian to do a couple things. On the way, we learned of a fire burning at another campsite in Lake Cuyamaca, which made us understandably nervous. The fires were still burning in the California wine country and we were acutely aware even as we left San Diego, that fire danger was high. Luckily, we found out later that they were able to quickly get that fire under control and I don’t believe anyone was hurt.

On the way to Julian, we stopped off at Lake Cuyamaca to look at the lake, take some pictures of the fall leaves, and torture my dog by walking him onto the dock. Zoom in on his face….Elliot was so not amused.

In Julian, we visited our favorite little teahouse, Julian Tea and Cottage Arts, and of course, bought some tea! Then we went and waited in line to get a slice of the famous Julian pie and cinnamon ice cream before heading back to our campsite for a sunset walk around the campgrounds. Our campground was literally right across the road from Stonewall Peak.

That Famous Julian Pie

I was able to fit in a little more writing time before bed that night. The wind had been high all day and it continued after dark, making our attempts at a campfire both sketchy and sort of impossible. We tried to go to bed early, but our neighboring campers kept me up most of the night making sausages. We thought it was funny when they went to bed early, but I guess they were just napping in preparation to wake up and cook sausages around the campfire at midnight! I kid you not, that is what happened.

In any case, I was able to rally myself the next morning and do a little more writing before heading back to San Diego to unpack and get ready for my trip to Colorado.

Stonewall Peak at Sunset

I’ll pause here to explain about a few of the discoveries I made about how a camping writing retreat can actually HELP your writing process.

-No Internet Can Be a Godsend

I’m writing historical fiction and if there’s one thing to be said about historical fiction, it’s mostly researching with a side of actual writing. I’m constantly thinking of things I need to look up/research/doublecheck and it does slow the process considerably. If you don’t know the answer to something offhand, you only have two choices: keep writing and look it up later or stop, drop, and research. With the Internet at my fingertips, I often do the later. But while we were camping, I couldn’t access the Internet unless I gave myself a hotspot and I didn’t want to run down my phone battery doing that. So I was forced to keep going and just write notes for myself and I actually think that is the better method. It took me a lot less time to go back and fact-check my work than it usually does to write and research at the same time. (In case you’re wondering, I don’t do just Internet research, I have quite a library of books that didn’t come along on the camping trip. But the Internet is a great place to start and many times I can find an answer for a small detail or locate the book I need to order if I need more in-depth information).

-Those People Who Handwrite in the Computer Age Might Not Be Crazy After All

I’ll be honest and say that I have written the vast majority of my books on my computer. Ever since I got my first laptop when I was fourteen, I have been in love with how quickly you can type down your racing thoughts without sacrificing legibility. I have poor handwriting to begin with so the later is an important consideration. Occasionally, I have written short passages in my phone’s notes or jotted them down on scrap pieces of paper (Once, I even used a paper towel!) But I have never intentionally written sections of my book longhand to transcribe later. I know many writers have this as part of their process, but I do not. Though I have to say, I got the chance to try it out at the writing retreat and I am now convinced that maybe those writers aren’t crazy after all. That there’s actually something to it and it doesn’t just create extra work. When I tried out this method, I noticed that I naturally edited my work during the transcribing process, which was pretty neat – I can now see why people write this way!

-A Dying Computer Battery is the Best Motivator

Since Julian is such a tourist town, they actually lack the normal writer refuges: coffee shops and a library. I was still determined to bring my laptop along on this trip since I do prefer to write with it. But knowing I only had so many hours on my battery and that I wouldn’t be able to recharge it, definitely kept me motivated and on track. And with no Internet to waste time on, I definitely made the most of all of the minutes on my laptop battery!

Overall, it was a great writing retreat. If anything, it was a little bit too short…I could have spent several more days on our retreat! But as most writers know, reality often knocks before the writer’s creativity is even close to exhausted.

Have you been on a writing retreat this year? Where did you go? Let me know in the comments below!

Writing Review: September 2017

I think I’m going to post more check-ins of how my writing is going, maybe quarterly to start since I’m a little scared that if I commit to monthly I won’t have much to report. In between working on whatever book project I have going and writing for Isle of Books, I also usually have a couple publications a month on other sites. My freelance articles often seem like feast or famine…either I’m doing just a couple or I’m doing so many I’m genuinely concerned I won’t make my deadlines.

Personal life wise, I’ve had a really busy fall and I don’t expect it to let up until Halloween…meaning that progress on my book has been glacially slow. So slow that I’m a little embarrassed to admit how little I got done during the month of September. Things were going better earlier in the summer until my confidence got a little rattled and the recovery from that has been slow going. Not having time to write consistently isn’t helping much in that department.

On a more positive note, I did get quite a few other things published! Looking at this list makes me feel a little less terrible about how my book progress is going…

I also attended a one day writing conference in May and applied for a scholarship for another writing conference happening at the end of January/beginning of February…fingers crossed that I get it!



For Equine Journal:

How To Create The Most Innovative Equine Products: An Interview with Amy Hassinger


For 2kGrey and Intrepid International:

How to Be Mindful at the Barn

How to Be Mindful in the Saddle


For Minute Marketing:

14 Powerful Ways to Uncover Your Realtor Edge

What’s Your Story? 3 Books That Will Help You Find Your Brand’s Heartbeat

Social Media News: August 2017 Edition

Why You Should Be Future-Proofing Your Business

TRX Scores Big With Video on Facebook

Anthropologie Sells the Free-Spirited Lifestyle on Instagram

How Kayla Itsines Built Her Fitness Empire on Instagram

Adobe Hits it Out of the Park With Great Product Marketing on Facebook


For Coastal Premier Properties:

Cafe of the Moment: The King’s Craft Coffee Co

Restaurant of the Moment: Underbelly

Restaurant of the Moment: Coop’s BBQ

Restaurant of the Moment: Oink and Moo

Restaurant of the Moment: Grater Grilled Cheese


And I was quoted in this article: How to Make Money and Stay Motivated With a Side Hustle

New Article Published: How to Be Mindful at the Barn and Around Your Horse

I wanted to share that I recently had a new article published on 2kGrey‘s blog, Intrepid International. For those of you who don’t know, I’ve been riding horses for over fifteen years, I compete in local shows in San Diego, and I have two horses of my own. My journey with horses has been so wonderful. I’ve learned so much from every horse I’ve been fortunate to ride, but most importantly I think I’ve learned how to be a better human from my interactions with horses. This article talks a little bit about what I’ve learned over the years and I think you’ll find it interesting even if you’re not a horse person because I think we could all stand to be a little more mindful and present in our every day lives.

Check out my article here.

If you liked this article, I would appreciate it if you would share it with your friends and especially the horse people in your life!

Writing Project Wednesday: The Alta Vista Hotel

The Alta Vista Hotel in Colorado Springs is notable because it is where Nikola Tesla stayed while he worked in Colorado Springs. Though it no longer stands, there are photographs and a smattering of information about it. For today’s Writing Project Wednesday, I’m going to give you the history of Tesla’s home away from home in Colorado!

-The Alta Vista Hotel was built around 1889, just a few blocks from the train station. It was torn down in 1962. You can see pictures of it during the demolition on The Colorado Springs Gazette here.

-It was located at 112 N. Cascade Avenue. The Kirkpatrick Bank and its parking lot sit on that site now. You can see the spot where it stood in my pictures from my trip to Colorado Springs here.

-The Alta Vista Hotel was made of stone and brick. You can see a beautiful colorization of it here. Additional photos of it can be found on The Tesla Universe site here and The Pikes Peak Radio and Electronics Museum site here.

-Tesla stayed in room 207 or 222, depending upon whom you ask. Most of his biographers agree that it was 207. As the story goes, he selected his room because the number was divisible by 3, a prime number.

-Tesla also famously asked for eighteen fresh towels to be delivered to his room every day. The biographies about Tesla abound with these details as if every biographer seems keen to prove Tesla’s eccentricity.

-In researching more facts for this article, I stumbled across a copy of the breakfast menu at the Alta Vista Hotel that is in the New York Public Library’s digital collection. I have to say, some of my most fascinating research is seeing what people used to eat.

-I also found a sample of the letterhead from the Alta Vista Hotel on the Tesla Universe site.

On the next Writing Project Wednesday, I’ll be talking about trains!

Writing Project Wednesday: The Color of Lightning

Growing up in Colorado, I used to think we’d hit the jackpot when it came to natural disasters. Hurricanes never bothered us, earthquakes didn’t happen, and blizzards were easily handled with a pile of blankets and some advanced planning. While we were close enough to the mountains that tornados in our area were rare, we were also far enough away that wildfires weren’t much of a concern. But one weather phenomena we did have in abundance was thunder storms and with it, lightning. These lightning storms and Colorado’s dry climate are the main reasons Nikola Tesla traveled to Colorado Springs in May of 1899.

I’ve seen a lot of these natural light shows. A normal summer day consisted of a hot and sunny morning with a thunderstorm rolling off the mountains in the afternoon. If you wanted to go to the pool, you best not sleep in since eventually you would be chased out of the water by ominous, dark storm clouds.

Living in San Diego, I kind of miss the thunderstorms. In the nine years I’ve been living here (yes, nine, wow!) I’ve only seen an actual thunderstorm a handful of times and aside from the one time we got a tornado warning in Del Mar, it’s nowhere near as beautiful (or as dangerous) as the type of storms Colorado tends to produce. In my parents’ house, there’s a series of pictures that’s been hanging up for as long as I can remember that my dad took one summer. It’s aptly titled “Armageddon”.

Depending on where you live, you might not know that lightning actually comes in colors! Yes, colors! I’ve seen white, of course, but also purple and red and twice I’ve had the fortune of seeing “thundersnow”: the rare phenomenon of a thunder storm coupled with snow! I always thought the different colors of lightning were merely a trick of the light or the eye (is that still a trick of the light?) and nothing more. But as I’ve been doing research for my novel, I found out that colored lighting actually tells you something about the lightning and the atmospheric conditions of the storm!

According to the National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL) “lightning can appear to be many different colors depending on what the light travels through to get to your eyes. Haze, dust, moisture, raindrops and any other particles in the atmosphere will affect the color by absorbing or diffracting a portion of the white light of lightning.”

A Reddit Ask Science forum also had this to say about the colors of lightning: “When white light passes through the Earth’s atmosphere, the molecules that make up the air (nitrogen, oxygen, and argon) will scatter the wavelengths of visible light disproportionately. Shorter wavelengths are scattered more than longer wavelengths by a factor of roughly 3.5:1. This causes a beam of white light to appear yellowish. As the light travels through more air, the shorter wavelengths are depleted even more and now the yellow wavelengths are being significantly depleted causing the light to appear reddish. So the more air between you and the light source the redder the object appears. A lightning flash reaches temperatures of about 30,000 K (54,0000°F) which is five times hotter than the surface of the sun. Objects with this temperature would emit a brilliant white light. The closer the lightning flash is to you, the whiter it appears. Distant lightning flashes will have a yellowish color because the light has to travel through more air molecules. If there are raindrops between you and the lightning flash, the color will appear reddish. Sometimes fine dust particles are eroded from the surface by the wind beneath the cloud and lifted into the air. These particles will also scatter the light and give the lightning flash a yellow/orange appearance.”

In lay terms, basically the closer you are to the lightning and the less interference from dust and other pollutants, the more white it will appear. The further away it is and the more dust and pollutants in the air, the more yellow or even orange it will appear. You can think of a flame…the center is often white or nearly white where the fire is hottest and the outer edges appear orange and red where the fire is cooler. Raindrops in the air also cause the lightning to appear reddish…you have probably often seen purple lightning with thunderstorms that have a significant amount of rain. Other colors are possible, though more rare. The NSSL mentions that during the thundersnow phenomena, the lightning can appear pink or even green!

Bonus fact: if you’re always trying to remember whether lighting or thunder comes first, lightning comes first because light travels faster than sound! You cannot have thunder without lightning because lightning causes thunder. NSSL has a great description of how lightning causes thunder here.

A little off topic, but while doing research I found these two insane videos of what happens to wood when lightning hits it…worth a watch!

Next week I’m going to be diving into the great feud between Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison, the “War of Currents”!

Writing Project Wednesday: Nikola Tesla and Elon Musk’s Tesla Car

I haven’t talked about my writing that much on the blog lately. But, yes I am still writing! Slowly, but surely. I’m actually still working on my historical fiction novel about Tesla. Nikola Tesla, the inventor, not the car (more on that in a sec). I’ve been working on this book for five years now! Eek! Off and on because I wrote a draft of another book and worked on an older book during that time, but five years still.

One thing I find a lot is that most people haven’t heard of Nikola Tesla the inventor. The Tesla car, absolutely! But the genius inventor? Not so much. Internet cartoonist The Oatmeal has a great primer on Tesla here, if you’re curious.

Credit: The Oatmeal

In my new series, Writing Project Wednesday, I’m going to be talking about my writing projects a lot more going forward. Specifically, all of the random research that goes into them. Even if you’re not writing historical fiction, you’re almost always going to have to do a boatload of research and become an armchair expert on something or the other like knitting needles or postage stamps. Seriously, there is no escape.

I’ve always said, if going to school and accumulating degrees was a career, I’d probably be doing that. I LOVE learning stuff. I LOVE reading (duh) and I LOVE falling down rabbit holes on the internet on semi-obscure subjects (I’m looking at you Jonestown) so being a writer is a good fit. Another thing I really love doing, is teaching people. Thus, this new series!

Ok, back to Tesla and the Tesla car. One incorrect assumption I hear a lot is that people think the Tesla car was invented by a guy named Tesla…thus the confused train of thought I see pulling into the station when I talk about my book. The process goes something like this:

  • Light of Recognition: Oh I’ve heard of Tesla! That’s cool you’re writing about the car, it’s so popular right now. You know my neighbor has one. Did you know it can drive itself?
  • Dawning Confusion: Wait, you said historical fiction? But that doesn’t make sense, the company can’t be more than fifteen years old…
  • Apologetic Murmuring and Appreciative Nod: Oh, ok so there was an actual guy named Tesla. My mistake. I thought you were talking about the car. You said he was an inventor? Did he invent the car? Your project sounds cool by the way!

So many conversations roll like this, I’m honestly surprised when someone knows I mean Nikola Tesla and then can name an invention of his. That person immediately becomes at least 20% cooler in my mind. Sorry, not sorry.

Without further ado, allow me to give you the facts and unravel the mystery of Nikola Tesla, Elon Musk, and the Tesla car!

-This is Nikola Tesla. Nikola Tesla was a genius inventor who was born in Serbia in 1856 and died in New York in 1943. Nikola Tesla developed the AC current motor in the 1880s, which later put him at war with Thomas Edison and his Direct Current (DC) design. He also invented or conceptualized a bunch more things. A cloud of conspiracy surrounds him to this day.

-This is Elon Musk. Elon Musk is a businessman who was born in South Africa in 1971 and is still alive and kicking and currently dating Johnny Depp’s ex-wife, Amber Heard.

-Tesla, Inc. is an American car company founded in 2003 by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning. Elon Musk is the face of the company as its current CEO. Fun fact about the logo: Elon Musk said it is intended to represent the cross-section of an electric motor!

-This is the Tesla Roadster, the first Tesla car. It used an Alternating Current (AC) induction motor so they named the company and the car after Nikola Tesla since the car’s motor is descended from Tesla’s original design.

-This is the extremely popular Model S. It also runs on an AC induction motor. It is the new status symbol of wealthy people who care about the environment and also want to drive a cool car. I want one, too. Elon, if you feel like sending me a Model S, I will gladly take it off your hands! Any color, my friend!

tl;dr Nikola Tesla was an inventor who invented the AC motor. The founders of Tesla named the car and the company after him because they use an AC induction motor in their cars that is modeled after Nikola Tesla’s invention patented in 1882.

Next week, I’m going to talk about lightning!


An Evening With Neil Gaiman in Review

In an effort to become a better writer, I’ve been doing a lot of things lately that are kind of outside my comfort zone:

1. I joined a writer’s group. I’m still not sure why they like me, but I’ve spent enough time around horses to know not to look a gift horse in the mouth!

2. I went to a writer’s conference. Which I realized I still need to review on the blog. More on that later then.

3. I signed up to go to a second writing conference in May.

4. I got tickets to go see Neil Gaiman speak in San Diego.

The last one is notable because I bought a ticket without finding out if I knew anyone who wanted to go with me. At the time I was thinking I’d probably find someone to go with and we could carpool. Which did not happen. So I’m super proud of myself that I didn’t flake especially because I had to drive myself downtown to go.


Anyway, back to the event. I really had no idea what to expect. It was billed as “An Evening With Neil Gaiman” which is all I really needed to know. What I didn’t expect was how many other people find Neil Gaiman as cool as I do.

Earlier that day I was explaining to someone how the event I was going to was at the San Diego Civic Center. To which they pointed out that it’s an enormous space for an author to book. I looked this up later – The San Diego Civic Center seats 2,967 people. While not every seat was filled, the majority were. And that is just so cool for an author to fill that many seats with booklovers and wordnerds. I’ve been to concerts and sporting events, but there is just something so uniquely magical about gathering a crowd of overly excited introverts together to talk about books.

The setting itself was just as dramatic: a single podium on that massive stage. No signs, no backdrop, no video screen. The whole evening was blessedly free of pomp and circumstance. Just Neil and a microphone.

As could be expected, he did some reading of his work. Nothing I had actually read before so it was nice to experience it for the first time being read by the author. He read a story from his book Norse Mythology and he also read a short story about a genie.


Apparently Neil had also been accepting questions prior to the event. I didn’t know about this, but it was okay. He had quite a stack of questions up there on the stage which he picked from. Some of the questions required longer answers, some just a few words.

Overall, I really liked how the evening was unscripted and fun. It ended up feeling like a very intimate event, despite the fact that perched high on the balcony I had to squint to see the tiny figure on the stage. My only real complaint was that 90 minutes was over much too soon.

If you get the chance to hear Neil Gaiman talk, I highly recommend! He’s as lovely and entertaining as all the Twitter posts have led you to believe.

Speaking of Twitter, this happened the next day:


Life. Made.