Monday, June 29, 2015


If you write for a long time, you may find that you repeat yourself.  I mean, how many ways can you have your bad guy try to kill your hero and heroine?

Murder isn’t the only aspect of my stories where I try to be creative.  Yeah, a lot of my heroes are agents for Decorah Security, and a number of them are even werewolves.  Plus a lot of my heroines make their living from the arts, because those are professions I can identify with.  And as an added bonus, when murderers come at them with a knife or a gun, they’re free to pack up their paintbrushes or cameras and disappear.

One thing I try to do in my work is set my stories in interesting places.  I used Washington, DC, a lot because the city has cachet in the world of spy novels.  It also happens to be the city where I grew up, so I know it well.

Similarly, I often use Columbia, Maryland, because I live here now.  And right down the road is two-hundred-year-old Ellicott City, where the kitschy shopping street is wedged between massive cliffs leading down to the Patapsco River.  Another location I go back to again and again is Maryland’s Eastern Shore because of the colonial charm, waterman culture, and opportunities for small-town politics.

I’m kind of embarrassed to say that I don’t know as much about some of the other locations around my state.  But I had an opportunity to remedy that situation at a Blogger Bash sponsored by the Maryland Office of Tourism.  They got a number of writers together with marketing directors from some of the state’s counties and also some interesting vendors.  I knew Maryland had wineries.  In fact I picked up a brochure for the Patuxent Wine Trail, which includes wineries in Anne Arundel, Calvert, Prince George’s and Saint Mary’s counties.  And I had a nice chat with the winemaker from Big Cork Winery, which is thirty minutes west of Frederick.

Talking to the vintners has already got me thinking of a different kind of occupation for one of my heroines.  And something I didn’t know is that we’ve got a distillery, Lyon Distilling Company, in St. Michaels Maryland.  At the reception I tasted some of their wonderful rum, mixed with ginger beer.  Now I’ve got another interesting business to include in my description of St. Michaels, a location I do use frequently, although I call it St. Stephens.  One of my personal rules is that, if I’m going to murder people, I like to do it at a fictitious location.

One of the people I loved talking to at the bash was Betsy DeVore, the Director of Marketing and Digital Communications for the Hagerstown Convention and Visitors’ Bureau.
I’ve driven past Hagerstown a lot of times on my way west.  She made me want to stop there.  It might be cool to set some scenes at the Antietam National Battlefield or the Chesapeake & Ohio National Historical Park.

If you’re looking for interesting locations for a book, use your state’s tourism office as a resource.  The same thing goes if you’re looking for a fun day trip or overnight.

And tell me–where do you look for interesting locations to use in books–or simply to enjoy for a quick getaway?