Seattle: Through The Eyes Of A Fantasy Writer (pt 5)

This is part five of my Seattle trip, and we’re heading into the end of day 2. If you missed part 1, you can find it here, and part 2 is here, part 3 is here, part 4 is here.

So far my wife Sandi, and I have arrived in Seattle in the early hours of the morning, caught sunrise over the city at Gasworks Park, and taken a lot of pictures. Then we headed up to the University District, before booking into our hotel, and hitting up Treehouse Point and Snoqualmie Falls. Then we made our way up onto Cougar Mountain, and back to the hotel to crash for the night.

Day two started with a visit to Fremont to see The Fremont Troll, the Center of the Universe Signpost, and then a trip south to Kerry Park. Once the scenic photos had been taken, we made our way to the Space Needle, took a tour of the city on an amphibious vehicle, and then drove down to the Columbia Center.

For a sneak peek of what I had planned for the three days you can click here.

Feb 14th 2017 – Driving Around & Some Much Needed Downtime

Even after taking the trip up the Columbia Center tower, we had some time to kill, before our next planned stop.

So, Sandi and I drove around Capitol Hill, First Hill, and Squire Park, trying to locate a church that Sandi had used as a template for one in her draft for “A Rose By Any Other Name”. I drove, while she looked up churches on her cell phone, and tried to direct me to them. After a couple of wrong turns, and changes of destination, we finally arrived at St James Cathedral.

I let Sandi out, so I could go hunt down a parking space, and she made her way inside. While there she asked permission to take some reference pictures, under the understanding that they would not be shared online or used to make money. With that in mind, I’m respecting that, and not sharing them here. Even more interesting was the chat Sandi had with one of the pastors about her work, and the churches views on vampires and other supernatural creatures we write about. (And yes, we’re withholding the outcome of that discussion, because it impacts a key scene in “A Rose By Any Other Name”).

In all that time of driving around, I found I was already familiar with many of the streets, and intersections, from hours of wandering around on Google Maps. It was funny watching Sandi’s reactions when I’d point at something and say something along the lines of “There’s where Richard chases the vampire” or “Hmmm, I didn’t realize just how steep this hill was. I’ll have to change that scene”. Admittedly, you don’t get a “feel” for the locations until you’re actually there, but being able to navigate just based on online time is still a lot of fun.

Our next stop was north of the city, near Bitter Lake, where we hooked up with a couple of friends I knew from online, and Sandi knew from her time living in the Seattle area. This was a lot of fun, because everyone was either a writer, a role-player, or both, and it gave us a lot of things to talk about. It also gave Sandi and I a really great opportunity to wind down from a couple of very hectic days of flying, driving, and rushing between stops to see everything we wanted to.

Feb 14th 2017 – The Space Needle (visit #2)

Having decompressed a little, we parted ways with our friends, and returned to the Space Needle.

Now, if you read part four of this series, you already know about the Space Needle, and how impressed I was by it. But that was nothing compared to seeing it all lit up for the night.

Approaching the structure from the parking lot, it’s impossible to miss, and can be seen for miles along any clear line of sight. Because we’d already booked our tickets for the second trip up, we headed straight for the elevators, and were back up the top for another run photographs.

And this time, the views were even more spectacular than during the day. We were able to capture some amazing pictures where the city lights are reflected in the waters of the bay. In some of the shots, the only way to tell where the city ended and where the bay started was from the distortions caused by ripples on the water. Other shots were typical high-angle shots of the city at night, showing buildings and streets lit up, with vehicles heading to who knows what destinations.

Since this was our last stop for the day, we headed back to the hotel to decompress, and make plans for the following day. But honestly, the last day was going to be an was one, because we really hadn’t made many plans.

Feb 15th 2017 – Seattle Aquarium

This was one of the stops that we’d scheduled for another day, but ended up moving so that we had time to do the Ride the Ducks. And I’ll be honest, I’m glad we did that, because it gave us the time to actually see the Aquarium and all the wonderful creatures.

We arrived with just enough time to wander around part of the ‘touch and feel’ exhibits, before they announced that the seal show would be starting shortly.

Now I’m a sucker for almost any kind of fuzzy sea creature, so having a chance to see the seals in action, and get some photos was an opportunity not to be missed. So much so, that Sandi and I took turns with the camera, and even stood outside in the torrential Seattle rain, while taking pictures.

From there we took in the sea otters, river otters, and assorted fish displays, all the while snapping pictures and pointing out things we wanted to share with each other.

In all, this was a very fun and relaxing way to start the last day of our trip, even if we were subjected to the finest rains Seattle could summon.

Feb 15th 2017 – Ye Olde Curiosity Shop

After spending a couple of hours touring the Aquarium, we had just enough left on the parking to do a little shopping. So, we headed along the shoreline, and checked out a few of the stores and eateries. While we didn’t find anything to eat that we could both agree on, we did find Ye Olde Curiosity Shop, one of the most fascinating places to browse.

Carrying everything from souveniers to locally made fudge, this store has been open, in one location, or another, since 1899.

How has it managed to stay open so long, and become one of the most sought out stores in Seattle? The answer is both simple and elegant at the same time.

When it originally opened, the store carried curios and souvenirs for travelers using the docks. But over the years it has become part museum in the process. With artifacts like their mummies, shrunken heads, mermaids, origami dollars and walrus tusks, it’s hard not to be fascinated by the displays as much as the variety of goods they carry.

And Then We Left Seattle Behind

After considering a trip to the Pike Place Market, we decided to head for the airport, and get a meal inside us before flying home.


Well, that concludes the trip to Seattle, and I hope you’ve enjoyed coming along with me for some of the highlights. Be sure to check out some of the places next time you’re down there.

If you have any travel tips, or think we missed seeing something that really should have been on our list, please feel free to comment below.

B2CyCon might be over, but the fun doesn’t stop!

I just got done with a huge online event (#b2bcycon2017), which I use for networking with readers and authors every year. I’m a three year veteran at The Brain to Books Cyber Convention, and I’m always trying new things.

Trying New Things

My latest experiment was a Fantasy themed scavenger hunt, where I challenge participants to match the first lines of books to their covers. It uses the Amazon “Look Inside” feature to encourage people to actually look at the books featured, and explore the first few pages.

What Were The Results?

It’s proved to be an interesting experiment, because a lot of the participants have agreed to sign up for author mailing lists, and indicated they would do similar quizzes in future.

The event can be found here, for those interested in having a look, and will be available until Saturday 15th April, when I draw the winners

B2BCyCon Fantasy Genre Tour: Showcase & Giveaways Index

Welcome to the Fantasy Showcase & Giveaways

(Brought to you by the Brain To Books Cyber Convention & Book Expo)

As part of the Fantasy Genre Tour, some of the authors asked that we feature books and anthologies that they had contributed to, so that’s what you’ll find here.

  1. Introducing the Prophecy of Hope Saga by Sarah Kennedy
  2. Hell Holes: What Lurks Beneath by Donald Firesmith
  3. Introducing the Spellbound Collection featuring Ash Krafton

Seattle: Through The Eyes Of A Fantasy Writer (pt 4)

This is part four of my Seattle trip, and we’re finally getting into day two. If you missed part 1, you can find it here, and part 2 is here, part 3 is here.

So far my wife Sandi, and I have arrived in Seattle in the early hours of the morning, caught sunrise over the city at Gasworks Park, and taken a lot of pictures. Then we headed up to the University District, before booking into our hotel, and hitting up Treehouse Point and Snoqualmie Falls. Then we made our way up onto Cougar Mountain, and back to the hotel to crash for the night.

Day two started with a visit to Fremont to see The Fremont Troll, the Center of the Universe Signpost, and then a trip south to Kerry Park.

For a sneak peek of what I had planned for the three days you can click here.

Feb 14th 2017 – The Space Needle (visit #1)

Now this is were things got really interesting, because there is nothing like having the opportunity to see a city from above, and the Space Needle is a great way to do that.

Standing over 600 feet, this is one of the tallest landmarks in Seattle, and was once one of the tallest structure west of the Mississippi River. What is most impressive not only it’s height and structural stability, but the fact that it was built in 1962, for the World Trade Fair, and they had to lay a 300 foot deep foundation to support it’s weight.

From the base of the structure to the Observation Deck takes a mere 41 seconds in the elevator. Once there, you have an uninterrupted 360 degree view of Elliot Bay, the mountain ranges, and the city skyline.

Sandi and I took the opportunity to make two visits over the course of the day, but I’ll get back to our second visit later.

Feb 14th 2017 – Ride The Ducks Tour

The next stop on our tour actually came about as a last minute decision, and it’s one I’m glad we made, even if it didn’t fit into my original plans for the day.

Ride the Ducks of Seattle is a city tour with a difference, because you ride through the city in a WWII amphibious landing craft (AKA a Duck). The route takes in the Seattle waterfront, Pioneer Square, Pike Place Market, the downtown shopping district, and then eases it’s way into Lake Union for a leisurely view of the city from the water.

Throughout the tour, the crew provide a guided tour of the city, covering history, architecture, famous figures, and even a few glimpses of sights from movies filmed in Seattle. It’s a fun ride, full of music, and entertainment for all ages. And then you’re in the water.

This was where things got really interesting, because we floated right by Gas Works Park, which we’d visited the previous day, and it looks so different from the water. And then as the craft motors it’s way around the bay, there are opportunities to take some amazing shots of the skyline. There are vantage points on the lake that give you views you couldn’t get from anywhere else. I highly recommend this tour to anyone visiting the city.

Feb 14th 2017 – Columbia Center

Not done with visiting tall buildings, our next stop was the Columbia Center, famous for it’s Sky View Observatory. At 943 ft in height, for a total of 76 stories, this is the tallest structure in Seattle, and covers a full city block on it’s own.

Up on the 73rd floor, at a height of 902 ft is the Sky View Observatory, which wasn’t actually intended to be part of the original layout for the floor. Originally designated for office space, it was converted into an observation deck and provides an unprecedented view of the city.

Tune in next week for Part 5 of this series, when we finish out our second day, and head into our final day in Seattle.

Seattle: Through The Eyes Of A Fantasy Writer (pt 3)

This is part four of my Seattle trip, and we’re finally getting into day two. If you missed part 1, you can find it here, and part 2 is here.

So far my wife Sandi, and I have arrived in Seattle in the early hours of the morning, caught sunrise over the city at Gasworks Park, and taken a lot of pictures. Then we headed up to the University District, before booking into our hotel, and hitting up Treehouse Point and Snoqualmie Falls. Then we made our way up onto Cougar Mountain, and back to the hotel to crash for the night. For a sneak peek of what I had planned for the three days you can click here.

Feb 14th 2017 – Fremont Troll

Waking up early seemed like it was going to be the theme for the trip, so why break the habit? Yep, we got up early again, had breakfast at the hotel, and drive west toward the northern side of Seattle, for the second time.

Our destination wasn’t so much a where, as a who… The Fremont Troll.

Having made this creature the antagonist in my latest short story, “April Fool”, (releasing soon in “Book Dreams: Volume 1” from Brain to Books), I’d have been remiss in not paying him a visit, out of respect. There are only two ways to approach the site of the troll. The first is to walk along North 36th Street, which crosses right in front of the huge stone beast, or to walk uphill on the aptly named Troll Avenue.

Honestly, I think the second route is the more interesting approach, since you are walking right under the Aurora Bridge, with the troll waiting at the top of the hill. You get a great view of him from the bottom of the hill, but until you have taken that steep climb, you can’t really appreciate just how huge the art installation is. To put it into perspective: That is a REAL VW Bug he’s crushing under his left hand.

Feb 14th 2017 – Center Of The Universe

Having sated ourselves with the photo opportunities at the Fremont Troll, we decided to investigate another of the areas landmarks, the Center of the Universe Signpost. This was one of those really crazy things that came up while I was looking at Google Maps for things to do in Seattle, and it’s a little hard to get good photographs because it is located in the middle of a fairly busy intersection.

Located only a short walk from the Fremont Troll, this is one of those sights that is as much an interesting little aside to the tour, as it is an interesting perspective on your actual location in the scale of things.

There are arms for a diverse number of places, including (but not limited to):

The Milky Way, The Louvre (in France), Rapunzel, Noogie (Top of Head), Fremont Mischief Brewery, Polaris and Taiwan.

Since we were already parked in the area, I took the opportunity to take some amazing pictures from the Fremont shoreline. Meanwhile Sandi was ordering an early lunch for us at Solsticio, (and here) a lovely little cafe/diner. This is one of those treasures of Seattle that might be overlooked, unless you knew about it, or stumbled across it by accident. In our case, it was the latter, since it was located right beside where we’d found parking for our visit to the Fremont Troll. The food was amazing, but that was nothing compared to the staff, who were a font of useful information about the area, the city, places to get great photographs, and more. This is one of those places I highly recommend anyone stopping in and visiting. There is something on the menu for almost any dietary requirements.

Feb 14th 2017 – Kerry Park

Only a short drive from Fremont, is Kerry Park, which had come to use as a recommendation from the travel site I was using to plan the trip.

While parking here is at a premium, because it’s in a residential area, it is well worth taking the time to visit if you want great photographs. Yes, we probably only spent about ten minutes here, but it was more than worth taking the time to divert off our planned route.

The park provides views of Mount Rainier, Elliott Bay, all with the city acting as a backdrop. I almost wish we’d managed to get here toward sunset, because the views were stunning, and I can only imagine what it looks like later in the day.

Tune in next week for Part 4 of this series, when we tackle to Space Needle, and the Columbia Center.

Seattle: Through The Eyes Of A Fantasy Writer (pt 2)

This is part two of my Seattle trip, and we’re still on day one. If you missed part 1, you can find it here.

So far my wife Sandi, and I have arrived in Seattle in the early hours of the morning, caught sunrise over the city at Gasworks Park, and taken a lot of pictures. For a sneak peek of what I had planned for the three days you can click here.

Feb 13th 2017 – U-District

From Gasworks Park, we drove east toward the University of Seattle (also known as U-District), and the first of the areas that feature heavily in the Shadows Over Seattle series.

Bizarrely we somehow forgot to take any pictures while we walked around looking at buildings, parking structures and the areas Sandi used to live-role-play in. So, unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures to share that might help readers place the fictional location of The Devils Own, which has magical defenses that stop mortals from finding it by accident. So, maybe there’s not so much of a coincidence involved after all.

Having figured out a rough location for the bar, we decided to head a couple of streets west and found ourselves a cafe for breakfast. The ambience was friendly, inviting, and it made me feel at home almost immediately. It was almost a shame to head back to the car, which was in short-term parking under the University, and get back on the road.

Feb 13th 2017 – Treehouse Point

The next leg of our journey took us east to Bellevue, and the hotel we’d booked into for the duration of our stay. The staff were friendly, and had some great suggestions for places to visit, and things to do while we were in the area. Unfortunately most of those will have to wait until our next trip.

The room was on the third floor, with easily accessible parking, but unfortunately the elevator was out of service. Considering I have trouble with my knees during the winter, due to old injuries and arthritis, this wasn’t an ideal situation. Thankfully though, the weather was kind to me and Sandi for the most part, and the stairs didn’t end up being too much of a chore.

From there we headed even further east, cutting across the northern edge of  Cougar Mountain toward Issaquah and Treehouse Point. The drive was extremely pleasant, as we passed through woodlands for the majority of the time. And we hadn’t even come the other side of the forest when we turned off the road and into the parking lot of Treehouse Point.

The first picture shown here is the view from the parking lot, looking straight at one of several treehouses nestled in the trees on this four acre property. We had booked a tour well in advance, since it’s the best way to get a look at the treehouses, unless you book to stay overnight in one.

On arrival, we were invited to wait in the lodge, for the other couple who were taking the tour. The lodge is a common meeting point for guests staying at the site, as well as the location of the kitchen, offices, and gift shop. The atmosphere is warm, comfortable, and guests are welcome to settle in front of the fireplace come winter time.

Throughout the tour, our guide provided a lot of information about the site, the issues they’ve had to face to be able to rent out the treehouses, how they were constructed, which local artists provided works for display and much more. Every member of staff was friendly, knowledgeable and more than happy to take time to chat with guests. And if it wasn’t for some of their suggestions about local sites, we’d never have added our next stop to our trip.

Snoqualmie Falls

Snoqualmie Falls was a little bit off the trail, considering our next planned stop was Cougar Mountain, but more than worth the visit. This two acre parkland contains a visitors center and gift house, spa and lodge, and observation deck.

To say the view of the water churning over the falls and into the depths below is anything less than stunning would be a lie. This is possibly one of the most impressive natural sites we saw during our travels in the Seattle area. Just a glance at the photo here shows just how much mist is generated by masses of water dropping almost 270 feet.

Now imagine just how impressive it would look if the majority of the water wasn’t diverted into local hydroelectric power plants. I did, and what I pictured looked very much like the Canadian side of Niagra Falls.

Tune in next week for Part 3 of this series, when we visit Cougar  Mountain, before getting some sleep, and revisiting the city.

Seattle: Through The Eyes Of A Fantasy Writer (pt 1)

Back at the start of February, my wife and I went on an adventure to Seattle. This trip was a combination of research for my writing, an opportunity to get my feet on the ground and get a feel for the city, the honeymoon my wife and I didn’t have 12 years ago, and a chance to enjoy weather that wasn’t cold, snowy and wind-blown.

My wife, Sandi, already knew the city reasonably well, since she had lived down there for a while, but I’d never had the opportunity to leave the airport until then.

Now, three days is not a lot of time to visit a city, see the sights, and still find time to get out into the wilderness. I had HUGE plans for those three days, and based on what research I’d been able to do, we would be on a very tight schedule…

This series of posts is a run-down of our trip, and will probably go over the next few weeks. I’ll link every post together as we go through the series.

Feb 13th 2017 – The Start

We landed in Seattle at a little after 5am and took an airport bus out to the car hire center to pickup the vehicle we’d booked. Imagine my shock at finding the airport large enough to have the car hire several minutes drive from the terminal.

Let’s put that into perspective for a moment. I GREW UP IN LONDON. That means I had access to Heathrow Airport, one of the busiest and largest airports in the world, covering a little over 12 square miles an dealing with 70%-80% more traffic than Seattle.

And yet, I was still stunned by the size of the airport and surrounding support services. But once we were on the road, I found myself settling into the idea that I was actually in a real city again. Sorry Alaska, but I’ve yet to visit a REAL city, even though I’ve lived there 12 years.

Feb 13th 2017 – Gas Works Park

dscf0672We’d not slept since early morning on the 12th, so what we did next would have been considered crazy by some people. We drove north from the airport, through the city. After a few wrong turns, following the GPS program on my wife’s phone, we arrived at Gas Works Park, and it was STILL dark.

Now, for those who don’t know, Gas Works Park used to be a coal gasification plant on the north shore of Lake Union, which shut down in 1956. Since then it has been turned into a public park, with renovation and remodeling still ongoing.

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The park itself is an amazing experience, but that’s nothing compared to the views over Lake Union, and being able to watch the sun come up over the Seattle skyline.

For those of you who know my writing, you’ll know that I used the Seattle skyline on the cover of my first release “Under A Hunter’s Moon”. Seeing the entire city skyline laid out ahead of me with the sun coming up behind it was stunning. And then you look a little to the right, and there’s the Space Needle rising up over the surrounding buildings.

Seeing this iconic structure from the distance just gives you an idea of how much work went into the construction, especially since it was built for the 1962 World’s Fair.

Since this was such an important feature of the “Under A Hunter’s Moon” cover, I took a lot of shots, and even managed to catch some shots through the pipework of the gasworks.

Unfortunately, I’m not as good a photographer as my wife, so I have a lot blurry pictures. Some of them are good reference photos of the city skyline, but I did get a few good images that I potentially use for future book covers.

Tune in next week for Part 2 of this series, when we visit U-District, and get out into the wild…