The problem with vacations is that I get so relaxed anything seems possible. I get so little writing done that I’m conscious of time passing and the days suddenly seem so damn long. Surely, if I were smart about it, I think to myself, I could harness all this idle time and get more done. If I can travel 120 miles in two hours idly staring out the window with all these great thoughts percolating through my mind, I could easily spend another two in front of a computer just writing them down and produce…what?…. surely pages and pages of awesome stuff!
Ten pages? Twenty? Why, that’s enough to get a novel done in a month! Twelve novels a year? How damn lazy have I been all this time that I can only average a novel a year?
No, rein it in, Wade.
Vacations are inherently stimulating and stuff a lot of experience in a small sliver of time, even if all I’m doing is sitting around watching clouds form over the ocean. And like the clouds, my ideas are hazy, not fully formed, and only I can see the shapes in the fluffy blobs. The time-consuming effort and brain-draining energy loss comes from explaining *what* I’m seeing in the clouds to someone who isn’t even there. I can’t point and say “see, that bit there is a nose, that’s the arm, and he’s heaving a javelin at that hippopotamus shape one cloud over.
Nope, I have to start from scratch and write out all the details without overwhelming the reader with a bunch of stuff that isn’t interesting. That’s why they call this stuff work.
But I am having fun.
My wife and I are taking a much-delayed vacation for our 20-year anniversary. It was supposed to be in 2020, but stuff happened. In 2021, stuff was still happening, depending on where you lived and your political leanings. California was not Texas. In 2022 our daughter was graduating from high school and we were focused on that. So this year, we ran off to Napa, California and spent a long weekend seeing what all this wine country bru-ha-ha was all about.
I gotta say, if you like wine even a little bit you’ll love Napa. It’s a valley 30-miles long with some of the most beautiful climate and scenery you’ve ever seen. Blue skies, green vineyards, over-the-top tasting rooms carefully crafted to appeal to modern architecture lovers, charming Victorian aficionados, or old-world European vibes. We did two tasting tours, one on bike and another by chartered shuttle and I had fun on both. The bike tour (on e-bikes, which was a first for me and technically felt more like cheating than riding a bike), slowed the day down for me so I could take in the scenery and smell the early summer blooms on the air. We took as many slow and country roads as possible, so I felt like we got to dive into parts of the valley too easily overlooked by driving on the highways. The charter tour covered more ground and more vineyards, but was still laid back enough that we got to know the others on the tour with us a little better until we were all best friends by tour’s end.
I came away from this weekend with the sense that unless you’re born into it, winemaking is an old man’s game. Our tour guides and tasting hosts were generally 50+ and wine tourism is a second or third side hustle from their primary jobs, or a post-retirement gig that keeps them in what I suspect is an underground winery worker’s network full of secret handshakes and exclusive access to crazy expensive wines without the crazy expensive markups. My bike tour guide, Rick, called Napa a grown-up version of Disneyland and he wasn’t far off.
To be sure, (just like Disneyland) it’s not cheap, though it doesn’t have to be expensive. Even knowing this was a splurge for my wife and I we still managed to keep things reasonable with picnic lunches in state parks (great hiking in Napa, despite the rattlesnake we saw on day 1), reading by the pool, and just driving the scenic byways through oak and chapparal-filled hills already familiar to me from watching Westerns, 80’s television, and Star Trek as a kid.
The trip’s filled me with so many new ideas and cockamamie plans to uber-optimize my time so I can write all the books ideas that came up, or blow through all the jobs currently on my plate now that I’m “fully relaxed.” But I temper that knowing vacation carries its own weird time-space continuum that warps reality and makes me think future Wade can do superhuman things if he would just lock himself in the office, forgo a little sleep, and take fewer bathroom breaks. Then he could go back to Napa a conquering hero, maybe write there full time in the mornings and give bike tours in the afternoon, educating clueless tourists on the life cycle of a grape vine and mysteries of wine making.
Maybe someday, but for now I’ll savor the trip’s experience and let the ideas ferment into something beautiful down the road.
This month, I’m in another free book promotion, no theme, just Science Fiction and Fantasy books.
I’m testing the new cover for Badlands Born, and would appreciate your help by taking a look and letting me know if the cover works compared to the others, stands out from the crowd (either in a good or bad way), or gets lost in the stacks. As always, this is an opportunity for you all to find new books for free in exchange for giving out your email.