I Get Around
I’ve been a lot of places. I started out in Michigan and, aside from a few vacations, stayed there until I was old enough to know better. Michigan’s a beautiful state with four seasons and a lot of outdoor opportunities without any major risk of dangerous wildlife. Oh sure, you can be gored by a deer and there are wolves, black bear, coyotes, moose, and elk the further north you go, but not very many. Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is filled with wonderful natural locations: mountains, rivers, waterfalls, shoreline of the great lakes, and (mostly) a lack of industrialization. My family owns some land up near Marquette, in fact, complete with a small river and a water fall on it (and no power!). It’s a breathtaking getaway in the summer or winter. The UP became part of the inspiration for my book, Dark Earth.
But I left Michigan at the tender age of 18. I joined the Air Force and went to Texas. I came back and ended up moving around lower Michigan, mostly near Lansing and Kalamazoo. I’m not sure which city I preferred more, but for nature and landscape my heart was still set on the UP. Then my wife and I visited my in-laws in Phoenix, Arizona and I was blown away.
It’s hard to compare temperate forests with a desert landscape. It felt like I was on another planet, although a very neat one. I never visited during the high heat of summer so I got to enjoy mild temperatures and an outside and diverse countryside. It was every bit as beautiful as Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, but in a totally different way: tall and severe mountains, dry washes and gullies, sagebrush and cacti. Not to mention the ghost towns (real or fabricated for tourist traps). It fired up my imagination in ways I never expected and became the backdrop for several books, including Wanted, The Lost Girls, Bound, and Black Widow.
Next came a move to southeastern Utah. A little town called Moab which has the title of the mountain biking capital of the world. In the summer with tourism the population can swell to 5,000. Massive. But for the lack of size and numbers it more than makes up for it in high desert beauty. It’s similar to Phoenix but not as hot, a lot higher altitude (close to a mile up), and a little wetter. Moab is located in a canyon and it hosts countless natural wonders that steal your breath and bring a tear to your eye. Towering columns of rock, massive canyons bested only by the Grand Canyon, the Colorado River, and the arches of rock made famous in post cards, portraits, and license plates. Heck, John Wayne called Moab “where God put the west.” Indeed, many of his films had scenes shot in or around Moab, as well as Thelma and Louise (the car driving over the edge of a cliff), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (the tank chase), and several others I can’t remember. Moab also factored heavily into my books, Ice Princess. Just south a couple of hours is Monument Valley, which was an important location in my book, Traitor.
While we lived in Moab I had the opportunity to get away for a vacation to Las Vegas. My first trip there (I’ve been back once since and really enjoyed it the second time) was a little rocky due to lack of sleep and some major blisters from walking the strip excessively (had to make sure I saw it all!). I didn’t get away from Vegas at all to see the countryside (I still want to visit Hoover Dam someday), but I saw enough and experienced enough to factor it heavily into a couple more of my books: Wolfgirl and Bounty.
Then I came back from Utah to northeastern Ohio, near Youngstown (about an hour southeast of Cleveland and an hour northwest of Pittsburgh). Ohio is considered the midwest and by and large it was fairly flat land with lots of agriculture, industrialization, and forested land. A fair amount of lakes and even Lake Erie an hour to the north. We really enjoyed living here even if I missed the raw excitement of nature. Great schools, great people (mostly – I have a few exceptions to that generalization), and great opportunities. It wasn’t until we followed a suggestion by a friend and checked out a place called the Nelson Ledges that I really found something natural and awesome. It reminded me of a miniaturized and temperate version of Moab. Ledges, ravines, waterfalls, even some small caves. In the middle of nowhere, it was amazing. So amazing that the Nelson Ledges became a critical location in my book, Devil’s Icebox.
And now it looks like we’re heading back up to Michigan. This time on the eastern side, near Detroit. I sincerely hope this is the last major move, but by no means is it going to be the end of my travels. I’ve been on a cruise in the Caribbean and would love to do it again. I’ve got a passport and a strong urge to visit Europe and Australia, and perhaps other places as well. I may not want to move but I’ve got a lot of years and a lot of miles left in me. And as you can probably tell, I get a lot of inspiration from traveling so it’s definitely time to find some new backdrops for some exciting stories!
Hmm, I wonder if I could vacation in Hawaii and claim it as a business expense?
To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to read about him, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.