Friday, January 13, 2017


Write what you know, they tell us. But that’s a tall order for those of us who write science fiction romance. We might be pilots, scientists, military vets, cops or medical professionals on the job, but it’s for certain none of us have traveled in an interstellar spaceship or stood on the surface of another planet. And for many of us our day jobs are even more mundane; working the front desk at the Y was no help at all in writing my Interstellar Rescue series, I can tell you.

Thankfully, like any SFR writer, I have a big imagination and a voracious appetite for books of all kinds. I’ve also seen wonders on this Earth that no author could ever imagine. If you think about it, so have you.

Bison chill by the hot springs in Yellowstone
My husband and I just came back from a trip to the first U.S. national park, Yellowstone, with takes up parts of Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. As every schoolchild knows, Yellowstone sits on a massive caldera, the magma climbing from deep in the earth to near the surface and heating ground water to form bubbling mud pools, hot springs, fumaroles and geysers. Chemicals in the water turn the springs and pools dramatic colors and, seen at a distance, the ground seems to smoke. Who could make this stuff up?

Yellowstone has been on my “bucket list” for years. But I’ve seen some spectacular things over the years, many of which I’ve used in some way in my writing:

2) Homestead Crater Dome in Utah—a hot spring inside a huge limestone dome. I went swimming in the warm water. Dark and a little creepy, but fun!

3) Mammoth Cave in Kentucky—the world’s longest known cave system. Stalactites and stalagmites, squeeze-through passages, an underground lake. Unforgettable!

4) A giant sequoia tree named General Sherman in California—the world’s largest tree (by volume) and its longest-living organism.

5) Stonehenge on the Salisbury plain, England—How? And why?

6) Aquamarine waters falling over a chalky white terrace in Pamukkale, Turkey—so bright it hurts your eyes and so delicate visitors must remove their shoes to step over the rock.

7) The Grand Canyon in Arizona—Phenomenal!

8) The ocean glowing with phosphorescence on a moonlit night in The Gambia, West Africa—Tiny diatoms in the water glowed in the dark.

9) An elephant—Think about it. No alien would ever look stranger or evoke such speculation that sentience lurked in a creature’s eyes.

10) An active volcano—Mine happened to be Kilauea in Hawaii. We stood on a cliffside of freshly-made black volcanic soil and watched lava flow out of the side of the mountain down to the sea, where it disappeared in a billow of steam. Primal!

I’ve been lucky enough to see these things in person. But long before I could travel, I had books, then television and movies, to take me there. I “know” a lot more than just what appears outside my window.

How about you? What spectacular sights have you seen here on Earth that inspire you to create new worlds in your fiction?


I enjoyed Pippa and Laurie’s vastly different takes on PASSENGERS this week. I particularly appreciated Laurie’s line-by-line take-down of the critics on this much-maligned movie. But then, you and I obviously agree on the salient points, Laurie! I’m glad you enjoyed the film despite its flaws, Pippa. At least you gave it a chance, which is more than I can say for many of the critics out there. Unfortunately, the state of criticism these days is such that professional film geeks tend to confuse “ponderous” with “deep” and “bleak” with “sophisticated.” Out-of-the-box thinking is not their forte, and this was an out-of-the-box film.

Cheers, Donna


  1. Fun blog! I've always been fascinated by the Great Uncomformity. It's a huge gap of time in the geological record where over a billion years of history have disappeared. Somehow, geologists determined that a massive mountain range once rose up in the approximate position of the present day Rocky Mountains and it wore away to a flat plain over the eons, erasing the geological record.

    Imagine a newly colonized planet with a huge span of missing time...and what events it might have hidden.

    Glad you enjoyed the Passengers reviews.

  2. Well, I've talked about the possibly more mundane and yet inspiring places close to home. But for the more out of this world variety...
    I'll take Avebury's stone circle over Stonehenge - so huge it circles an entire village and far more standing stones than Stonehenge though perhaps less well preserved. And for other Neolithic sites - Wayland Smithy, a less well known site maybe, but there's something about it. A burial chamber, but not creepy just ethereal, and one of my favourite places to visit whenever I went to visit my friend in Newbury.
    More exotic: Taiwan, the place that really did feel like a whole nother world and what I use as a basis for my characters visiting alien places for the first time. And while there, the Beitou hot springs, where the landmark sight is the Thermal Valley, also known as Hell Valley: a long stretch of bubbling, odd coloured mud and water that stinks to high heavemn with sulphur and looks like the inspiration for Yoda's home planet. :-P
    I have no regrets over going to see Passengers even if I didn't love it as much as you and Laurie. Like I say, I think the girl cooties got it an automatic thumbs down from some critics sadly. :-\


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