Saturday, January 25, 2014

Writing on the River

Hi, Folks.

After we read and enjoyed Dora Machado's article about Colorado being a perfect place to write last week, she asked me to post some pictures of The Sacandaga River, the place that inspires my muse. 

So, here I share with you one of my favorite locations on earth, The Adirondack Mountains of Upstate New York. I posted these in 2009, but the place still stirs my creative juices, and I love sharing it with you. You can even listen to my river murmur and rumble in the video, below. ;o)

Aaron Lazar

I've known for decades that certain locations work for me as a writer, because each time I've had a chance to travel - whether it was through a work conference to San Antonio or a family vacation to Cape Cod - I've come away with scads of new ideas for scenes, action, and characters. I can't help but soak up the new details of such locales. Of course, being away from the day to day worries and chores also helps to fuel the creative fire. And that's half the battle, right?

In 2009, my wife and I discovered a rustic cabin in the Adirondacks. I say rustic, because it doesn't have all the amenities of home. It wasn't like we had to use the old outhouse (there was one), but there was no cable (who cares?), no washer dryer (So? Bring extra clothes!) No cell phone service (ahh..peace and quiet) No Internet (Okay, I admit, I was in withdrawal) No neighbors...

That was the best part. It took a while to get used to the idea that we weren't being observed by casual drivers by or neighbors (I like my neighbors, but I liked this better...) By the end of the first day, we'd grown addicted to the delightful presence of the water rushing beneath us and the quiet calm of the woods.

The river had a personality of it's own. It's sound - more than a murmur, less than a roar - was cathartic. I opened my window at night to let in the cool (sometimes cold!) breeze to hear the river while I devoured books and slept like the proverbial log.

Of course, there was a reason I'd chosen to escape to this spot. I'd been stalling a little on my current WIP, a paranormal mystery set in the Adirondacks. But I hadn't been there in so many years, I was calling on distant memories and Internet photos. It worked fairly well, but I needed more. I needed the feel of the cool woods around me, the scent of balsam, the crunch underfoot of pine needles on soft dirt. I needed to be immersed. (For the Birds, book 1 in Tall Pines Mysteries)

And of course, the ability to up and go on the spur of the moment is actually one of the hidden blessings of being laid off from my job at Kodak. I never would have taken this week in May to go play in the woods for a whole week. But, with a good tax refund in hand, the possibility became a reality.
For hours each day, my wife and I sat in Adirondack chairs on the edge of the cliff that overlooked the gorgeous Sacandaga River in Hope, New York. (see above)

We were just about a half hour's drive inside the Adirondack Park, on the south side. The cabin reminded me of my childhood summers at camp in Maine (Tremolo: cry of the loon) and was absolutely perfect. We kept the fire going in the old Triumph woodstove.

It was pretty chilly in the morning and the tall pines overhead kept the cabin cool) all day. I cooked gourmet meals at night. We drank a bottle of Riesling most evenings, sat with a glass of Amaretto on ice in the afternoons in the warming sun that went down behind the mountain overlooking the river. At night we watched dozens of our favorite movies.

I read three books in six days: More Deaths Than One by Pat Bertram (fantastic plot!), Longshot by Dick Francis (a wonderful reread that reminded me what damned good writing is all about), and Marley and Me by John Grogan (hilarious and a heartbreaking work that also reminded me simple writing is often the best).

And folks, I wrote like the wind. God, did I write. The scenes flowed as easily as the Sacandaga River, set in the very cabin we stayed in. The cabin became the location my protagonist Marcella's mother had been stashed by the kidnappers; the river became the spot she fought with a rogue FBI agent, the island across the way became the secret spot her mother was abandoned, tied to the tallest pine tree in the center of the island.

In six glorious days, I wrote 13,000 words, and also set up the rest of the scenes in the book. Now I know where the lost "treasure" is located. And I know what form that treasure takes. And I've got all the lovely woodsy details to get Marcella, her mother, and Tony to the top of the mountain where they'll face a surprising end to a twisted story.

But the week was well balanced. Between writing for a few hours each day, reading, just spending time with my wife, and cooking, I also was able to do a little work I'd promised (back in January) on a friend's manuscript. Got about fifty pages done on that, which lessened my ever-present guilt.

I hiked and took photos every day - first around the cabin on the pine needle covered access roads, like this:
Next, I ventured into some grassy trails nearby where I shot wildflowers.
And finally, the day before we left, I accepted my own challenge to climb a local mountain to a remote lake. The experience was humbling, and damned hard. But I wouldn't have given that up for the world. And now I have the location of the final scene in For the Birds. ;o)

You can be sure this little orange newt (or salamander?) is going to show up in the book. ;o)
Even if you can't get away for a whole week, try a walk around the block or a country drive with your honey. Change your routine a little, and take a saunter down a path you've never checked out. Bring your dog and let him choose the way. Be sure not to get lost!) But whatever you do to change your environment for a little while, when you get back, I'll bet you'll write like the wind!

Aaron Paul Lazar writes to soothe his soul. An award-winning, bestselling Kindle author of three addictive mystery series, writing books, and a new love story, Aaron enjoys the Genesee Valley countryside in upstate New York, where his characters embrace life, play with their dogs and grandkids, grow sumptuous gardens, and chase bad guys. Visit his website at and watch for his upcoming Twilight Times Books releases, SANCTUARY (2014), and VIRTUOSO (2014).


Unknown said...

Beautiful! Gorgeous pictures. I can see why you are inspired by this gorgeous river and its environs. I hope you get to go there again and again!

LMcLendon said...

Inspiring, Indeed :)