Planning (Way) Ahead

Monday, February 5, 2018

Everyone except my daughter (and maybe our husbands) probably thinks I’m crazy. I have my vacations planned through the winter of 2020/21. Caroline is as bad as I am (I wonder where she gets it from šŸ˜‰), and Roland and Pete have learned to live with our fanaticism. This year Roland and I are going to Italy, next year to the Baltic Sea on a cruise that includes Russia and Scandinavia, and the year after that we want to go on another cruise that goes up the Amazon River.

So what does this have to do with writing? It affects the way I plan my future middle-grade novels. I can see the puzzled looks on your faces, so let me explain.

In addition to our annual vacations, I usually take a trip to research my next book. The one I am currently writing is about a riverboat accident, so this past September we went on a Mississippi Riverboat cruise. The next book will be about the Siege of Vicksburg during the Civil War. Although we were in Vicksburg on our cruise, I had just enough time at that stop to visit the two museums that discussed riverboat travel. So this summer I’d like to take a driving trip down there to see the battle ground and do some research among the city’s historical archives. Beyond that, I had thought about writing a story that takes place at a lighthouse, with a research trip along the New England coast in the summer of 2019.

That’s a year too early. The Baltic cruise is a summer trip, while the Amazon cruise will be a winter one approximately eighteen months later. My addiction won’t let me go that long without a multi-week trip, so I looked at the atlas to find another location in the northern part of the country that would be a good setting for historical fiction. And I found something. I’m going to write a story that takes place on the Erie Canal, so the research trip will take us along it’s entire length from Albany to Buffalo, New York. Then I did some more thinking and decided to write that book before the one that takes place in the lighthouse, which would leave the lighthouse trip for the summer of 2020.

So you may call me crazy, but here are the trips I have planned through the winter of 2020/21.

  • Summer 2018—vacation to Italy.
  • Summer/fall 2018—research trip to Vicksburg, Mississippi.
  • Summer 2019—Baltic cruise vacation.
  • Summer/fall 2019—research trip along the Erie Canal.
  • Summer 2020—lighthouse research trip along the coast of New England.
  • Winter 2020/21—vacation cruise to South America and up the Amazon River.

Those are the plans, anyway. Still, I need to remember one of my father’s favorite Bible passages:

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord will, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:13-15, ESV)

But if the Lord wills, I’ll be planning vacations and research trips for a very long time yet.


The pictures at the head of this post represent my next four books, including the one I am currently writing. I took the first and the last photos, and the other two images are in the public domain because of their age. The first picture shows the riverboat American Queen docked at Natchez during our trip this past September; the second is an idealized view of cave life during the Siege of Vicksburg and comes from Harper’s Encyclopedia of United States History (Vol. 10) (1912); the third is a 1908 postcard of a boat being towed along the Erie Canal by mules or horses at Buffalo, New York; and the fourth is Wind Point Lighthouse in Racine, Wisconsin, from a trip with my mother in 2014.

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