They say reading gives you somewhere to go when you have to stay put, so take my hand and let me lead you to some of the most precious places you’ll find in my books, and I’ll share why I found them so inspiring.
1. Whyte Avenue in Edmonton, Alberta
Also known as 82 Ave, Whyte Ave was once the main street of the City of Strathcona - and now runs through the district of Edmonton knows as ‘Old Strathcona’. ‘The Ave’ was named in 1891 after Sir William Whyte, who was superintendent of the Canadian Pacific Railroad's western division from 1886 to 1897 and then knighted by King George V in 1911.
These days, Whyte Ave is a neon strip of quirk lined with bars and shops and eccentricity as the heart of Edmonton's arts and entertainment district. It is also the whimsical street just off which my heroine, Shaynie, lives - the perfect place for my new age dreamer/carpentry artist to hang up her tool belt or sequins...depending upon where she's been working that night. Whyte Ave also serves as the locale upon which “Has Beans” is, the coffee shop where she invites Weste to go for a latte here:
“Latte isn’t even a word. It’s just a couple hoity-toity syllables that make people feel sophisticated when all they’re really doing is ordering coffee with cream.”
She sagged against the security door. “So I take it you don’t want a lesson on The Sun?”
“I didn’t know The Python served lah-tay-dahs.”
“It doesn’t. Has Beans.”
She laughed, couldn’t help it. “It’s a place, not an insult. A coffee house on Whyte. Need an address?”
“Are you determined to be difficult?”
“Well then go ahead and sulk. I, on the other hand, will be sipping a lah-tay-dah in Has Beans and looking out at all this glorious snow. I guess I’ll either see you or I won’t.”
Shaynie goes to Has Beans (which, in real life, is Continental Treat right here):
and she waits…and waits…and waits, but...Weste never shows. So she trudges home, dejected and chilled by Whyte’s wintry January temperatures. And then this happens:
The temperature had plummeted and cold shredded her lungs. Still she looked, once more, down the street.
Something looked back.
She gasped, the sound erupting as a puff of ice crystals. The street was deserted, yet...she fell perfectly still, silence swallowing her feet’s crunch of snow. “Hello?” she called.
The question floated, an ice ghost of frost, and nothing replied, yet she could feel them—Eyes, alive in the cold.
“Weste?” She shifted, one booted foot to the other. “Not funny.”
But that was just it. It wasn’t funny. Which meant it wasn’t Weste. A dark feeling, not unlike the Eyes themselves, slithered inside, and her hand crept to her pocket, finger curling around the taser trigger. Head up. Eyes open. Andrew’s mantra, and she heeded it as she crunched, one step then another, breaths hanging in the air like visible heartbeats.
The distance between her and her apartment building shrank, but the Eyes…
Behind you! she felt and whirled—no one? How can there be no one?—then bolted, dove into her truck and fired the engine in one seamless motion. Safe! Safe I’m safe I’m...
Her cell rang.
Swallowing a shriek, she jerked into gear. The engine screamed, unwilling against the cold, and as her cell rang again she shoved the gearshift back into park—don’t die don’t die! She tapped the gas, gunned the engine.
Her cell phone kept ringing.
Damn it! Foot hopping on the gas she wrestled it from her bag. “Hello?”
A hiss, indistinguishable. Nonsensical. Her truck purred. “Pardo—”
“I said—,” the annunciation crackled with clarity, “—Does. It. HURT?”
Her ear burst, and with a little cry she yanked the cell away, jerked her truck into drive. Cranking out onto Whyte, she re-engaged the phone, eyes half on and half off the road as she scrolled through features—last call, last call—then jabbed it.
Huh. I guess someone showed up for coffee. But it sure wasn’t Weste.
Want to hear Shaynie’s whole story, and see more of Whyte Ave (and the rest of Edmonton)? The link to Divinity & the Python (paperback) is HERE, and you can find the ebook HERE.
Now let’s head to
2. Osoyoos, British Columbia
The first time I visited Osoyoos (pronounced o-SOO-yus) I fell in love; an oasis encircling a lake, the town is then, in turn, surrounded by orchards whose trees rain perfume and petals in the spring…and a bounty of fruit throughout summer and fall.
Osoyoos struck me as a fairy tale paradise right here in Canada, and I knew as I walked around the lake there one spring that the heroine from my current work-in-progress, The Shadow Collector, needed to end up there in her happy-ever-after.
Natasha Nikoslav, a psychic shunned and targeted by residents in her superstitious town back on the Alberta prairies, knows two things:
1. She will never find love. Her Baba, a powerful clairvoyant, has always assured her of this. “Love is for other people, Natasha." she says. "Not for you.”
And Natasha also knows
2. That a mysterious man covered in tattoos and filled with suspicion is her only hope in saving a couple she sees targeted for murder in the future—a vision that's shocking for, up till now, her ability has been limited to Shadows of the past. Never has she seen future, so that's how she knows she has to heed this call to adventure…and so off she treks from the Alberta prairie to the lush perfume of Osoyoos in the Okanagan Valley, intent on saving two strangers…and perhaps discovering that maybe Baba’s prediction - “No love for you, Natasha” - might not be true after all.
Here’s one of the orchards that takes Natasha’s breath away. Looks like a magical place to fall in love to me...
3. Jasper, Alberta
A rift tore them apart, and it’s been fourteen years since Andrew Gavin has seen his soul mate, Elizabeth McBrien. A lifetime of guilt has left him feeling unworthy, so it was only fitting that when he first sees her again it is here, upon the Elegant Jasper Park Lodge balcony where, as stunning as her surroundings, Elizabeth plays classical guitar at his sister’s wedding, as untouchable and breathtaking as the summits surrounding them.
Jasper was a major inspiration for Within The Summit’s Shadow. The Rocky Mountains provided the stones between which memories echoed, trapped and reverberating forever as per the folklore, Stone Tape Theory, hinted at throughout the story. And trails like this one
wending through the trees and up the mountains, they are hairpin paths turning back upon themselves and losing direction again and again…sort of like the secrets and lies underpinning this supernatural love story.
Elizabeth, on a quest to Summit Centre north of the Jasper townsite— “hit the trail at a run, using the tree roots as stair rungs, vaguely charmed by the way they resembled a crudely wrought fretboard” while Andrew, unable to be as captivated as she is by the charm back home in the Rockies, is far more reticent as he takes the trail. This is what he sees:
Tree roots buckled up out of the ground like ancient, gnarled fingers. Come, they beckoned. We remember.
Summit Centre Trail. A sheet of sweat soaked Andrew’s back. He didn’t want to remember.
Poplars arched over the path, bent in a way that made them look like they bowed and prayed. Come. Their root fingers reached for him. We’ll hold you.
Scents of deadfall and damp earth, once perfume, now clogged his throat. “I can’t,” he whispered, yet his feet yearned. All trails, especially this trail, were once his favorite places to go. But now—“It’s too quiet.”
Want to visit our majestic Canadian Rockies but can’t get there physically anytime soon? Take a trip through the paperback version of Within The Summit’s Shadow here, or the ebook here, where you’ll not only see Jasper, but also be immersed in the love story of a lifetime.
Or perhaps Los Angeles is more your style
4. The Hotel Cecil in L.A.
You can check out any time you like…but can you ever leave?
The real-life rabbit hole also known as the case of Elisa Lam—the young woman found inexplicably floating in the Cecil Hotel’s rooftop water tank—introduced me to the notorious Cecil and its grim history. Pouring over the bizarre story of Elisa’s death (and the even-stranger CCTV footage of her within The Cecil’s ancient elevator), I found I couldn’t sleep until I at last exorcised the horror through a story of my own. No Vacancy is an anomaly for not only is it the only piece of fiction I’ve sold that falls strictly within the Horror genre, but it is also the first story I’ve crafted whose setting is somewhere I’ve never, truly been.
Although God knows my mind has wandered into The Cecil enough. Like here
Luke looked down. The floor, clean and gleaming, had a compass rose laid into the marble at the center of the atrium. Just in case you’re a Lost Angel, he thought, again wildly, and deposited Della in the center of it.
“Wait here,” he said, then hurried to check in.
The front desk was one more tribute to yester-year: brass columns, a marble counter, and a bank of old-school pigeonholes, glossy black and holding bona-fide retro lock-and-tumbler keys. “I have a reservation,” he said to the desk clerk.
The elevator schunked to a stop as ‘10’ lit above, and the door burst open to tomato bright walls.
“Oh!” Della jerked back as if she could see the red shock.
“Del—” he began, but she lifted her chin.
“Well, don’t you look like you just opened an artery?” she said.
An internal bath of chipped ice flooded Luke’s chest.
“Let the games begin,” Della said softly.
“There’s a bust—well, a whole statue, really. Between you and the elevator, a Greek revival relief and her eyes—”
“No.” She flicked an impatient hand. “It—she’s—lying.”
He gaped and reflexively edged back.
“She’s only a symbol. Blind,” Della repeated, and her mouth worked. “Remember ‘blind’, Luke. It’s important. Real important.”
Nodding, and mindful of the statue that now seemed to smile, he jabbed the elevator button to rise.
Halloween is not that far away, so if you’re up for the trip, let’s dive completely into The Cecil, in No Vacancy, an ebook only, but on permanent discount for .99cents right HERE.
5. The Mothers of Darkness Castle
Another place I’ve never been—and would not be able to visit even if I wanted to. Deep in the forest of Belgium, this palace (also known as Chateau Amerois ( Castle of Kings) ) has also been referred to as the “place of a thousand points of light”. (Bonus points if you can recall where you have heard that phrase before).
Formerly owned by the Saxe Gotha Coburg family (who you know as The Windsors, or the British Royal Family), The Mothers of Darkness Castle was once also the center of one of Belgium’s biggest-ever pedophile scandals, when a person known as Mark Dutroux was arrested for organizing orgies and sacrifices of children in Satanical rights where many of Europe’s wealthy elites were known to be present.
Whoa. So who needs to write fiction when the facts are like that?
Nevertheless, The Mothers of Darkness Castle—or a version of it—will be the focal point of my Secrets & Shadows Book IV, “Shattered Shadows”, within which my hero—clairvoyant, thief, and possible murderer, Jakob Michael Nikoslav and his love, religious studies professor Railey O’Brien, embark to uncover exactly how much blood has soaked into the castle grounds…and who it belongs to.
So many places. A wealth of untold stories.
I hope you enjoy mine and, if you’ve read a work of my fiction, please be so kind as to leave a review on Goodreads and Amazon so that others then see my novels pop up in their newsfeed and can perhaps enjoy my books too.
Thank you, and ...safe travels!