I make things up for a living. There. I said it.
This is probably not a big shock to those of you who know that I’m a Christian romantic suspense author. After all, that’s what we writers get paid to do.
But I make up towns that hopefully sound like real ones. And if you live in Southern California, you might even recognize some of the places, streets, and freeways I name. That’s because I draw heavily on real places.
Laguna Vista, the main town in both of my series, is based on a real Orange County, California, town (It’s a secret which one, though. Locals can probably guess).
The fun part about this, I think, is the research. For my Orange County towns, I used to live there eighteen years ago, so originally I drew on my experiences from that time. But this past summer I spent a day revisiting a lot of those sites. I took video and shared them with my readers, asking them if they could guess which book the location was from.
As a reader, I’m always curious about the locations where stories take place. It’s like taking a vacation somewhere while not having to leave home. Books are so magical in that way. This was what was on my mind when I wrote my book, Off the Map, book one of the In the Shadow series. In this book, the friends take road trip to real national parks in the desert Southwest. In fact, you could re-create their trip. I hope to someday. I loved doing the research for this book.
Holcomb Springs is a place that I mentioned and the characters visit a few times in the In the Shadow series. But in the series I’m currently working on— a Holcomb Springs Small Town Romantic Suspense—it’s the location of the whole series. And in case you didn’t notice, it’s the name of the new series.
Holcomb Springs is more of my own creation. There is an area in the San Bernardino Mountains in Southern California called Holcomb Valley that was the site of the area’s gold rush in the 1860s. I just imagined what might happen if the town hadn’t faded away and had become more of a tourist destination like several of the other small towns in those mountains.
My family and I used to spend time in the mountains hiking the trails and learning about the gold rush era. There’s actually a series of back roads called the Gold Fever Trail, maintained by the Forest Service, that you can follow with a guided map that allows you to see some of these key places and a few relics from the old mining days.
There are actually still some working mines up there today. Some people believe that the real gold vein hasn’t been found yet, and they are still looking for it. Sounds like a story, doesn’t it?
I decided I needed to take a research trip back up there to look at the area with the eyes of my characters and the new series I was creating. A friend of mine and I headed up there for quick trip to answer a few questions that had come up while I was writing. It was fun to look at the area with different eyes, and I came back inspired to write even more.
I love what I do. It’s the best of research and imagination. If you recognize some of the locations in my books, I’d love to hear about it.
Kathleen J. Robison
The Day After Christmas
Do you know what I love about the day after Christmas? It’s over! Before you think I’m a grinch, let me clarify. I start celebrating Christmas the day after Thanksgiving. Tradition has me decorating the house, putting up the tree and celebrating Advent two days later. We go to a Drive-Thru Nativity, make gingerbread houses, do a cookie bake and celebrate Advent every Sunday. So, I love Christmas as much as my friend, who has two storage sheds filled with house and lawn decorations. Not boxes, sheds.
But after all the hustling, though I’ve gone to great lengths to keep Jesus as the Reason for the Season, I’m exhausted, and the day after, I can breathe. My husband and I can revisit Christmas Day and relish the joy in our grandkid’s faces and laugh at the family frivolity. It’s that lull when the house is empty of people, and we can actually look through our gifts and enjoy them. And I love taking the time to pray and give thanks for those who gave me the gifts.
It’s a time I can look for the baby Jesus figurine and return him to the manger. Because he is everyone’s favorite, and one of the grandkids always manages to lose him. Last year he was under the couch. But it warms my heart that they play with the nativity. I have one for them, with a chewed-up camel (the dog found him) and another made of olive wood. A set from many years ago when my college-aged children brought it back from a semester abroad in Israel. That one never gets lost or mangled.
That quiet day after is when I go through our Advent devotionals again. When I can read some of the stories, I missed during the month, and I’m not frustrated because every single one didn’t get shared at a family gathering. No pressure. And where all month long, I focused on sharing Christ with my neighbors, family, and friends through gifts and hostessing, now I can worship my Savior without the distractions of the holiday season. Just Him and me.
I know, I know. Devotions and worship is a daily ritual, and not just at Christmas. I don’t mean that in any way except with the utmost reverence because I covet that morning quiet time every day, all year long, but there’s just something special in the house on the day after Christmas, when I feel alone with God and celebrating His gift of Jesus.
Still, I have to keep myself from slipping into thinking about writing projects, fitness goals, and lofty expectations for the new year. Hide the journals and note pads! But it’s not too problematic because, at this point, I’m totally depleted. But because Jesus is my strength, I don’t need a clean house and a clear head to rest in Him. I can soak in the Word of God and pull out that missed devotional reading. And if it’s not eighty degrees here in Southern California, I can put up my sock feet and snuggle with a blanket. Ahhh, how I love the day after…At least until the kids come pouring back for leftovers.
Merry Christmas, and the day after!