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Elissa, 1984 Photo: Rinn Wright

Chimney Rock at first sight. Photo by Margaret C. Murray

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Photo by Steven P. Unger




Photo courtesy of Judith Pierce Rosenberg

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Haystacks on the Dracula Trail Photo by Steven P. Unger

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Door to the White Spring at Glastonbury

(Photo: Judith Pierce Rosenberg)






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Judith Pierce Rosenberg and Tina Rosenberg pay a visit to Stockholm's chilly Ice Bar.

(Photos courtesy of Judith Pierce Rosenberg)

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Karen Wright overcomes misgivings and climbs up a very tall ship.

When you work on a traditionally-rigged sailing ship, the most fun is going aloft to furl or unfurl sails. But when I first started, everything about the foreign world of traditional ships intimidated me. Their size…massive, their height…lofty, their power…a stout wind. I hung back during sail training; slacked a royal or t'gallant brace, nursed my blistered hands, and always stayed on the back end of a line just in case it slipped. Timid is definitely not my style, but timid is what I was that first summer.

Several of the bolder women braved the ratlines to the royal, but not I. “Climb 103 feet in the air on a little half inch ladder of rope? Surely you must be joking? Not on your life! I'll just stay here on deck, cook, and haul the slack out of these bunts and clews. You guys go ahead, I like it right here.”

In truth, I really didn't like it on deck. It was horrendously hot and everyone seemed to have so much fun going aloft that I really felt left out. But I couldn't conquer my fear. We are talking about a very tall mast and Keep on reading ....

©Karen Wright Used with permission. Born and raised a high desert rat and cowgirl near Virginia City, Nevada, Wright cooked for hay crews, round-ups, and then finally for tall ship crews. She began sailing with her husband in 1982, and between sailing trips was a writer, editor, and bookseller. Married, with two kids, two stepchildren, and four grandchildren, Wright is one of nine partners in the Booktown Books cooperative in Grass Valley, California. She also operates a long-time online bookstore at www.thewrightbook.com

Fine Vibrations?

En route to the beaches of Costa Rica's Pacific Coast, Shelley Buck encounters her first suicide shower.

My husband is sick. En route to Costa Rica's Pacific Coast, we've driven all day from the Central Valley in an unfamiliar diesel four-wheel-drive vehicle and crossed to the Nicoya Peninsula over an uneven bridge built recently by the Taiwanese to cement friendship with the Costa Rican people. We've pulled expectantly into the town of Nicoya, home to Costa Rica's oldest church, only to find a modest adobe, not the anticipated gemlike cathedral.

Night is falling.

The town's sleeping accommodations look rough, and I begin to get a bit scared. There's no time to lose: Frantic tourists, we prowl the side streets, searching in vain for somewhere to stay. And we wind up here - a room in an inn set back off the street. We go around the corner to eat at a neon-lit restaurant. Afterwards, we return to the inn, travel again down its long dusty driveway, and fling ourselves into bed.

The walls are thin. In the night there are strange noises from a group of men in the room next door. I lie uneasily beside my ailing husband, wondering whether I will be able to manage the notoriously potholed Costa Rican roads in an unfamiliar vehicle if he becomes unable to drive.

In the morning, my husband is still sick. The room has a shower, but as I'm soaping up, I notice with shiver that a tangle of electrical wires is dangling above my head. I don't know the term yet, but this is a suicide shower. Here there's no muss or fuss about inserting a just-in-time hot water tank or other heating apparatus into the shower mechanism. Water for the shower gets hot as it flows over the sparking of a live wire. Do I feel a buzz?

My husband showers too. He is taller. His head nearly butts against the suspicious wiring. He feels a vibration for sure and exits hastily. Gathering up our things, we flee the scary room, hoping to find no one has made off with the rental vehicle during the night.

But in the breezeway, the innkeeper stands waiting for us. He has laid out a buffet - rolls, butter, slices of fresh pineapple, bananas, fresh-brewed Costa Rican coffee in a coffeepot - all on a lace-edged tablecloth. Our host apologizes for leaving us to eat and check out by ourselves, but it's Sunday and he must be off to church. The dangling edges of the tablecloth sway delicately in the morning breeze as we sit down and pour out coffee.

The little diesel SUV is still parked in the driveway. Well fed and recharged, we take the road north, heading for the coast and the cut-off for the bumpy drive to the surfing beach at Tamarindo. My husband is feeling better. In fact, we are unusually glad to be alive.

When we get to Tamarindo, we find our next hotel has posted a warning sign for crocodiles. Read more adventures....

©Shelley Buck Used with permission. Shelley Buck is the author of the travel memoir, East: A Woman on the Road to Kathmandu , You can read more about her travels in the Winter, 2015, edition of Narrative Magazine and in her upcoming book, due out later this year.

The Goose Woman

Sometimes a frequently-asked question creates a bridge between worlds, as Shelley Buck learns during a chance encounter in the Himalayan foothills.

I'm on a hillside not far from the Tibetan refugee village in Northern India, climbing through the forest on the mountain's flank on my way to somewhere, when I meet a tiny old woman in the forest. She's herding geese. The birds are scattered among the trees, pecking busily at morsels only a goose could love.

She's not Tibetan like the refugees in the village down the hill, and I wonder if she has always lived in this place.

She has tied up her clothing so she can scamper more easily along the slopes after her flock, for growing old here does not mean one can sit home and rest while others work. But she isn't poor. Around her neck hang heavy strings of coins and beads, pierced wheels of opaque yellow amber, her family's wealth on display. Clearly there is little fear of muggings here on this mountainside. The bunched-up fabric at her hips makes her look a bit goose-shaped herself.

"Husband?" the elfin woman queries me in her local language. "Baby?" She makes a cradling gesture with her arms, and the meaning is unmistakable.

Such conversations often happen on the Indian trains, with the questions usually coming in rapid-fire barrage, but here, on the sloping side of a tall mountain, the inquiry is more companionable. I've been sizing her up. The goose woman is trying to place me, too. She deserves a response.

I shake my head, somewhat regretfully. The answer is no to both questions. For a few seconds, we gaze at each other across about a thousand years.

I realize I like her.

Then I walk on, wondering if I have somehow tumbled into a fairy tale. But no, my feet - still in heavy hiking boots - are firmly under me. They carry me sturdily forward.

Later, I will be unable to remember where I was going. Read more adventures....

© Shelley Buck Used with permisson. Shelley Buck is the author of the travel memoir, East: A Woman on the Road to Kathmandu,  available from Indiebound, independent bookstores, and online. You can read more about her travels in India in the Winter, 2015, edition of Narrative Magazine.

A Misadventure in Hat-Yai

Border areas can bring surprises, as travel memoir writer Shelley Buck learns during an overnight stay near Thailand's southern border with Malaysia.

Our landlord is wailing and exclaiming. The porcelain sink, which was so proudly and tenuously attached to the wall of our hotel room, has tumbled and shattered. Lee and I had both just leaned on it while brushing our teeth. Boy do we feel guilty.

Hat-Yai, in a largely-Muslim area near Thailand's southern border, is the place to catch the diesel rail car to Malaysia. We have come across Thailand's long southern isthmus by bus from the beaches at Phuket, passing a machine-gun nest at a roundabout as we entered this small city. The presence of soldiers has telegraphed the situation to us. Hat-Yai in 1978 is not stable and is best left as soon as possible.

We are still getting used to the problem of instability - that even countries we had once considered homogeneous are actually not, and that nations sometimes feel in danger of losing territory around their edges. Perhaps influenced by the example of American geopolitics in Vietnam, Thailand - judging from the machine gun nest - prefers to hang onto these edges with the sword.

So I don't expect to discover a paradise, just the train car out.

However, we need to eat. We walk to the night market, where a friendly man is busy grilling up satay right in the street. Satay in Thailand? It's a more southern specialty, and we've never had it. We buy 20 sticks of grilled meat for a few baht, gobble them down Keep on reading....

© Shelley Buck, 2014. Used with permission. Shelley Buck is the author of East: A Woman on the Road to Kathmandu, a 2013 travel memoir of crossing overland from Europe to Asia in the 1970s.

Road Trip to the War Gods

Following the journey of her characters, novelist Margaret C. Murray prepared for final editing of her newest book by making a road trek to the principal settings in New Mexico and Colorado where the novel's events of magical realism take place. What she discovered there deepened her understanding of the ancient native peoples she writes about in Spiral.

I was on the seventh day of my road trip. After days of driving and camping - interspersed by a stay in Flagstaff with my friend Joyce - I had finally arrived at Chimney Rock, Colorado, the site of my upcoming novel, Spiral.

I had been working on Spiral, a prequel to Sundagger.net, for five years now and I just had to go see for myself. I had to take the same pilgrimage my characters Willow and her son, Little Hawk, take after they flee their home in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, and set out for Chimney Rock, the furthest outlier of Chaco culture.

Driving from California on Highway 40 to Flagstaff and from there to New Mexico, I was intent on first spending a few nights at Chaco Canyon World Heritage Site where Spiral begins.

The Pre-Puebloans (otherwise known as the Anasazi, a name given to them by the Navajo, meaning “enemy ancestors”) likely came the same way, from the South.

Like me, these ancient migrants would have passed by the same red rock mesas. They too would have been inspired, awed, by the deep color of the high desert, the vast vistas and endless sky.

Maybe they too were anticipating a great spectacle - those ceremonies in honor of solstices and equinoxes held in the Great Houses of Chaco Canyon.

Bumping along on an unpaved dirt “washboard” road, I slowly drove through the Navajo Reservation, stopping my car in front of the only sign for 23 miles:

May be Impassable Keep on reading....

© Margaret C. Murray , 2014 and used with permission. Spiral will be Margaret C. Murray's third novel. It is due out in January 2015. Murray's earlier novels - Dreamers and Sundagger.net - are also published by WriteWords Press.

The Boomerang Travel Book

As Shelley Buck sat down to write East: A Woman on the Road to Kathmandu, chance delivered an incredible surprise.

In the year 2012, a strange thing happened. After finishing writing my first book and duly marching Floating Point to a series of readings and events, I turned to another I had meant to write for 40 years – an account of a distant past in which I confronted my terror of traveling alone and set forth on a journey I hoped would take me to India and Kathmandu, using mostly public transit.

As I assembled my own notes, photographs, and intense memories, I also hunted, as I had done many times earlier, for the guidebook I bought at Cody's bookstore in Berkeley so long ago that had inspired me to launch that journey. Once again, I learned that Overland to India was out of print and expensive. But this time I found something else as well: A rough used copy was being offered for $9.95.

I bought it.

My purchase, when it arrived, was truly in less than perfect shape.The cream cover was travel-stained and pen-marked; the spine was cracked. Inside, I could see arrows marking up the margins of the pages. Some text passages were underlined. In a different handwriting, someone using purple ink had scribbled a web address in a margin. On the cover, somebody had written: “THIS IS AN INTERESTING BOOK BUT DON'T PAY ATTENTION TO ANY FACTS IN IT, OR HIS OPINIONS even so . . . IT IS NEAT.”

Ironically, I had paid attention. Overland to India , published the year before I set out, had contained a great deal of valuable and hard-to-come-by information. The author's hints for cost-cutting were sometimes dodgy, and some of the information already needed updating by 1972. However, for the most part, the advice about trains, buses, visas, and cheap hotels had been sound. There had been few other guidebooks available at the time.

Now I held a copy of it again. I looked more closely at the words written across the cover. Who would violate a book that way? The printing was a strange mixture of lower case and capital letters and ellipsis marks – the kind of hasty inscription some person might jot down when casually giving a book away – someone whose cursive writing was illegible. I knew this because my own handwriting is awful.

Suddenly, I stared hard. This printing looked familiar. Keep on reading....

©Shelley Buck, 2014. Shelley Buck is the author of East: A Woman on the Road to Kathmandu, available in print (WriteWords Press, 2013)  and ebook editions.

Going Gothic: With the Undead in New Orleans

Author Steven P. Unger recently revisited  New Orleans as an invitee to the Vampire Film Festival's Midsummer Nightmare. Since Unger is the author of In the Footsteps of Dracula: A Personal Journey and Travel Guide, his focus is naturally —  or perhaps unnaturally — on the city's more Gothic aspects.

Like the Spanish Moss that drapes the trees of the nearby bayous, mystery and the occult have shrouded New Orleans since its birth. For hundreds of years, families there have practiced a custom called “sitting up with the dead.” When a family member dies, a relative or close family friend stays with the body until it is placed into one of New Orleans' above-ground tombs or is buried. The body is never left unattended.

There are many reasons given for this practice today — the Old Families will tell you it's simply respect for the dead — but this tradition actually dates back to the vampire folklore of medieval Eastern Europe. First, the mirrors are covered and the clocks are stopped. While sitting up with the deceased, the friend or family member is really watching for signs of paranormal activity. For example, if a cat is seen to jump over, walk across, or stand on top of the coffin; if a dog barks or growls at the coffin; or if a horse shies from it, these are all signs of impending vampirism. Likewise, if a shadow Keep on Reading....

© Steven P. Unger. Used with permission. Unger is the author of In the Footsteps of Dracula: A Personal Journey and Travel Guide (2010),  as well as Before The Paparazzi: 50 Years of Extraordinary Photographs with Arty Pomerantz, and a novel, Dancing in the Streets. Watch for a fuller examination of the Big Easy's vampire heritage in the next edition of In the Footsteps of Dracula .

A Puggy Holiday in Carmel

Americans love their pets. According to the American Pet Products Association, dogs can be found in nearly 57 million U.S. households, and nearly one in three dog owners brings Fido along when leaving home for two or more nights. In this selection, author Judith Pierce Rosenberg relates how one California town's hospitality industry welcomes these four-legged travelers.

“We're going to Carmel!” I told Louie, our then 3-year-old fawn pug dog. He wagged his tail excitedly in response.

My boyfriend Michael's text arrived near the end of a very difficult season. I was both thrilled and touched by his generosity and thoughtfulness. I so needed a light at the end of the tunnel, something to look forward to.

Michael, Louie and I had first stopped in Carmel-by-the-Sea the previous year for lunch en route to Southern California and discovered just how dog-friendly Carmel is. As I stepped into a boutique, leaving Michael outside with the dog, the owner invited them in, a gesture that was repeated nearly everywhere, even art galleries! Keep on reading....

© Judith Pierce Rosenberg , 2013.  Used with permission. Judith is the author of A Swedish Kitchen: Recipes and Reminiscences,  winner of a Gourmand International Cookbook Award  (Hippocrene Books) and now available as an eBook ) from Amazon.

An Education in Greece

When Shelley Buck set out  on her own in 1972, hoping to travel overland from Europe to India, she did not realize how resourceful she would need to become in order to make the trip. In this selection from her travel memoir, East: A Woman on the Road to Kathmandu, Shelley tells  how she acquired necessary survival skills on a Greek Island.

Milapota, this valley reached by donkey trail, had its own taverna. Over a small cup of thick Greek coffee there in the morning, I learned that one of the foreign travelers had gone away and that his desirable camping spot – an empty cave – was now available. I claimed it.

The cave was just steps from the taverna. It was not a real cavern, only a hole about a dozen feet deep, one of many that pocked the porous rock face behind the taverna. It had an arched entrance and a flattish floor. To reach it, I climbed the ridge behind the taverna until I was more or less  above the opening, then worked my way a few feet down the slope. Small bushes on the hillside made good hand-holds, and the descent from the ridge to the cave opening turned out not to be as sheer as it looked from above. Getting back down from the cave to the taverna at the beach was not as tricky as it looked, either. I could even slide down, if I didn't mind damaging my jeans.

In no time, I learned how to scamper Keep on reading....

©Shelley Buck, 2013. Used with permission.  In addition to East, Shelley Buck is the author of Floating Point: Endlessly Rocking Off Silicon Valley, a memoir of living on a boat on San Francisco Bay.  Both books are published by WriteWords Press in paperback and as eBooks by ePícaro Press.

A Wedding Feast in Poland

In the New Europe, with its common citizenship and consolidated finances,  citizens of  member countries not only can easily dwell and work in other EU countries, but also marry across national borders. But some traditions of the Old Europe nonetheless linger and thrive. Judith Pierce Rosenberg, the American author of the award-winning cooking memoir, A Swedish Kitchen, discovers this as she attends a wedding feast in rural Poland.

Food is never far away at a Polish wedding and the bride was Polish. So although the couple had met in Dublin and now lived in Ireland with their baby daughter, their wedding took place at a conference hotel overlooking a lake deep in the forested countryside of northeastern Poland Keep on reading....

© Copyright, Judith Pierce Rosenberg, 2013. Used with permission. Judith is the author of A Swedish Kitchen: Recipes and Reminiscences, winner of a Gourmand Cookbook Award (Hippocrene Books) and now available as an Amazon ebook.

Taking the Dracula Trail

Inspired by a visit to Whitby, England, site of the burial of Count Dracula in Bram Stoker's 1897 horror novel, author Steven P. Unger set out to trace the footsteps of the fictional vampire's real-life bloodthirsty counterpart, Vlad the Impaler. Unger's quest, naturally, took him to the mountains of southern Romania and to Transylvania.

The graveyard in Whitby where Count Dracula spent his days sleeping in the sepulcher of a suicide looks the part that it plays, with its weathered limestone tombstones blackened by centuries of the everpresent North Sea winds.

In my mind's eye, I could see the un-dead Count Dracula rising at night from the flattened slab of the suicide's gravestone to greedily drink the blood of the living.

That graveyard made the novel more visible, more visceral, to me, and I wondered if the sites in Transylvania and in the remote mountains of southern Romania would evoke the same feelings. Keep on reading....

©Steven P. Unger. Used with permission. Unger is the author of In the Footsteps of Dracula: A Personal Journey and Travel Guide (2010), as well as Before The Paparazzi: 50 Years of Extraordinary Photographs with Arty Pomerantz, and a novel, Dancing in the Streets.

The Other Worlds of Glastonbury

In a visit to this ancient town in the West of England, Judith Pierce Rosenberg, author of the award-winning cooking memoir, A Swedish Kitchen, discovers the New Age is alive and hopping, right alongside the ancient one.

Fairy wings flutter in the audience as the “burlesque fairy” at the front of the room blows kisses of green glitter. In the crowd are pirates, flower fairies, and even geishas as well as aficionados of Steam Punk style (think Victorian in goggles a lá Jules Verne). A man in moon boots and a woman in a tutu are dressed all in white with strands of blue LED lights. In a corner, two mermaids are combing their long tresses Keep on reading....

© Judith Pierce Rosenberg, 2013. Used with permission. Judith is the author of A Swedish Kitchen: Recipes and Reminiscences, winner of a Gourmand Cookbook Award (Hippocrene Books) and now available as an Amazon ebook.

A Train Ride to Provo

At age 23, like many in his generation at the depths of the Great Depression, John A. Palmer, "packing a toothbrush and razor in the lapel pocket of my jacket and armed with the clothes on my back and a pack of cigarettes," hit the road, heading west. He had $7. Palmer's memoir, A Walk to Somewhere, relates the adventure that ensued. In the book's introduction, written when he was a very old man, Palmer noted: "...the Depression engendered a diversity of feelings; among them, frustration at our inability to advance and succeed. An ever-increasing lack of opportunity in our country, together with the ever-present picture of abject poverty and despair, presented a scenario which we were ill-prepared to accept. Our 'walk' was more a journey to understand what happened to our dreams." In the edited excerpt which follows, Palmer tells how, when faced with crossing the Rocky Mountains, he and two companions hopped a train outside of Laramie, Wyoming.

Off we went into the night, lurching and rumbling and jerking. The beginning of the trip wasn't too bad, and we amused ourselves by huddling in one corner of the gondola, lying about our various road experiences. At times, wearying of that game, we withdrew into our individual reveries and, as all good conversationalists do, respected the silent interludes, interrupting them only to comment on a shooting star or to mutter an oath upon a particularly inconsiderate lurch of the train. Keep on reading....

© John A. Palmer, 1993. Used with permission. A Walk to Somewhere is published by Vision Books International.

Chilling Out in Stockholm

Judith Pierce Rosenberg, author of the award-winning cooking memoir, A Swedish Kitchen, spent summers at the edge of the Swedish archipelago when her children were young. Journeying back to Stockholm, she checks out an unusual, and rather chilly, nightspot.

Each winter, deep in the boreal forests of northern Sweden, a hotel is built anew, all of ice. Reindeer hides cover the ice beds, where guests are ensconced in down sleeping bags. There is even a wedding chapel, akin the Snow Queen's palace in Hans Christian Andersen's tale. Or so I imagine, for the touch of frostbite I got at the Norwegian Olympics in 1992 has left me with little inclination to sleep on ice, no matter how well insulated.

However, I was still curious, so I did the next best thing and visited the Ice Bar in downtown Stockholm. Keep on reading....

© Judith Pierce Rosenberg, 2012. Judith is the author of A Swedish Kitchen: Recipes and Reminiscences, winner of a Gourmand Cookbook Award (Hippocrene Books). Her earlier non-fiction book, A Question of Balance (Papier-Maché) profiles contemporary writers and artists who have successfully faced the challenges of combining creative careers with motherhood.


Novelist Margaret C. Murray returned in December from a journey to South Africa. The things she brought back will not fit in any backpack or suitcase.

I just returned from a trip to South Africa with my two sons. I wish I could do it over again, not to change anything or do it differently, but because I still want to be there. So today I'm bringing back Africa.

First, I'm bringing back tolerance for myself. I'm really talking about bringing back if you will,  the tolerance – the forgiveness – shown by South Africans I met, a freedom and lightness I saw in their eyes. It was everywhere – in the malls we stopped at, the restaurants Keep on reading....

© Margaret C. Murray, 2012. Used with permission. Margaret C. Murray is the author of Sundagger.net. Her new novel, Dreamers, is a coming-of-age love story set in the Sixties (WriteWords Press, 2011). 

A Cowtown Hula

On a visit to Hawaii's Big Island during a recent recession, Shelley Buck learns it's not necessary to buy  a luau show ticket in order to experience the hula.

Forget the bare lava fields, palm trees, and rain forest. On a flattish area of the Big Island of Hawaii, just to the northwest of mist-shrouded Mauna Kea volcano, lies a world no traveler who hasn't been there could anticipate. There's rangeland. Red cattle with white faces are scattered over golden spreading meadows, their noses down, chewing the rich island landscape. And there are cowboys. Cowboys who hula? Keep on reading....

© Shelley Buck, 2011. Used with permission. Shelley Buck is the author of Floating Point, a memoir of living on a boat just off Silicon Valley during the millennial technology boom.

A Great Start in Venice

In this excerpt from her new book, Perfectly Crazy, novelist Mitzi Penzes takes a successful woman entrepreneur, teams her up with a man as esirable as the Michelangelo statue, and folds both into Venice. 

Finally they were in Venice. They stayed in a small room in Hotel Flora close to Piazza San Marco. Despite being in an alleyway, the room was intimate and charming, with a huge bed and its own bathroom. They had access to a little garden, a small enclosed oasis in the built up quarter.

Only minutes away were the piazza, the Grand Canal, and little cafes and restaurants. The characteristic small bridges crossing over smaller waterways looked like the backs of fighting cats Keep on reading....

© Mitzi Penzes, 2011. Used with permission. Author Mitzi Penzes grew up in Hungary, where she trained and practiced as a neurologist before coming to the United States. Now an entrepreneur, she lives with her family and cat in Napa, California.


Chasing Karma/Teaching Tibetans

In the year 2000, novelist Jacob Sackin taught English in Dharamsala, a village in the Himalayan foothills where the Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader, and many refugees from Tibet have settled. In these excerpts, parts of a longer essay, Sackin chronicles vivid and bittersweet moments as exiles and a new generation of young Tibetans confront both their roots and their expectations from the West.

Dharamsala, India – Today is the anniversary of the Buddha's enlightenment and good deeds are worth 10,000 times more good karma, so everyone in town is giving lots of money to the dozens of Indian beggars who have come up from the surrounding towns. The banks ran out of one and two rupee coins because the Tibetans wanted to give to as many beggars as possible. Keep on reading....

© July, 2004 by Jacob Sackin. Used with permission. Sackin is the author of the young adult novels Iglu (2011) and Islands.  He lives in Northern California. Sackin's full essay is posted on Google Docs.


Swept Away in Felton, California

On Father's Day, Shelley Buck discovers an exotic destination may sometimes lie quite close to home.

“Write about a cultural stretch,” the instructor in my TEFL* program had told me, raising fantasies about dining on lamb's eyes or chocolate-covered crickets at some exotic San Francisco eatery. But since it was Father's Day, and the choice of restaurant was not my call, I wound up being towed along by the hero of the day Keep on reading....

*TEFL=Teaching of English as a Foreign Language © Shelley Buck, 2004. Used with permission. Shelley Buck is the author of Floating Point, a memoir of living on a boat just off Silicon Valley during the millennial technology boom. A paperback edition is due out in July, 2011. She holds a certificate in TESL/TEFL from the University of California at Santa Cruz.

Road Trip into Death Valley

In Margaret Murray's novel, Sundagger.net, six New Age seekers journey to Death Valley in a cramped VW bus, together with their sweat lodge leader. The group's intent is to hold a Native American vision quest, once there. In this excerpt, the mostly-urban travelers encounter a wild land of fierce winds and disorienting geological trompe l'oeil.

The wind was coming up. Rowan fumed as the bus slid all over the road. They passed ragged chocolate mountains forming a ridge around a lake of dried mud and the beehive furnaces he remembered from his trip to the TPC/IP conference in Palm Springs last spring.

“It's a mirage! A what-do-you-call it, oasis!” squeaked Tracine. Keep on reading....

Used with permission. Copyright 2008 by Margaret Murray. Her new novel, Dreamers, is due out September 15.

Off the Trail: Walden Pond

Author and conservationist Ron Strickland is perhaps best known for his role in establishing the Pacific Northwest Trail. This excerpt is from his latest book, Pathfinder: Blazing a New Wilderness Trail in Modern America, due out May 1. In it, Strickland describes an "outlaw expedition" to Walden Pond in Massachusetts, the site where transcendentalist writer Henry David Thoreau built his famous cabin in 1845 as an experiment in living simply.

I met Tine, then-39, the old-fashioned way, via the Internet. Actually I was looking for a backpacking partner with whom to explore the Sea-To-Sea Route. Instead I found a 4-star hotel maven Keep on reading....

From Pathfinder: Blazing a New Wilderness Trail in Modern America by Ron Strickland, published by Oregon State University Press, 2011. Excerpted with permission from the publisher. More information about the book is available from: http://oregonstate.edu/dept/press/o-p/Pathfinder.html

Aloft on Google Earth

Flying doesn't require wings or strings, as Shelley Buck found out on this nano-voyage to her childhood home. Follow her on Twitter: @ShelleyBuck

You can go home again. I don't very often. I wasn't that fond of growing up in the boxy Washington, D.C. suburbs. When I was there, I was always burning to be somewhere else: India,  Japan, Hawaii, Cambridge,  (never New York, but that's perhaps because I already had an aunt there and it was known territory). Even Washington, D.C., across the bridge, where the drinking age was 18, was a steady lure.

After I moved to the West Coast, going back to Falls Church never topped the list of wanna-be destinations. My parents had moved away, and I associated the place with anguished teen years.

And then I discovered Google Earth. Keep on reading....

The Language of Boats

Shelley Buck had to tackle an ancient and very foreign language as she searched for a boat to live on. This excerpt is from her 2010 eBook, Floating Point, which chronicles her move to the water as a means to shorten an awful commute. The book is due out in paperback in 2011.

Go see Phil," the harbormaster instructed. "Phil is a yacht broker who can help you." Dutifully, I copied down his directions for finding Phil.

Before  confronting Phil, I went home to study up on yacht brokers. I was running out of marinas to scope out and did not want to blow our chances of getting a berth by appearing ignorant. I learned that yacht brokers are people who buy and sell boats. Yacht brokers do not sell—or even talk about—Alviso specials or rattletrap wooden-hulled clunkers. Instead, they publish tantalizing Keep on reading....

Surfing Santa

Margaret Murray, author of the upcoming novel, Dreamers. relates an encounter with a mythic figure at the ocean's edge. (And no, it is not a shark.)

Surfing Santa on Capitola Beach? "No way," you say? But yes! Well, sort of. Santa actually arrived in a long, narrow canoe in the rolling surf just south of Santa Cruz, California. True to character, Santa came right on time, the Saturday after Thanksgiving at noon--in sync with the famed Macy's Parade through New York's Times Square.

My granddaughters, my friend, and I stood in the rain Keep on reading....

Centrifugal Travel

In this selection from her new book, Floating Point: Endlessly Rocking off Silicon Valley, Shelley Buck tells how the decision was made to move to a boat by Silicon Valley.

We didn't start out intending to set up housekeeping on a boat. It was June. We had had our own business, but it was closed. We had lived eight years in our inland suburb, with its large lawns and neighborhood schools. But suddenly it seemed that everything we wanted or needed wasn't there.

And then there was the commute. Keep on reading....

Not a Bird

In this excerpt from his novel, Chameleon, John Joss describes the ascent of Mt. Patterson, in the Sierra Nevada Mountains—by sailplane.

Mount Patterson consumes my attention. I should not have come up, a ‘climber without ropes’-an earlier decision, a modest task. My instructor said, years ago: “Don't go into the mountains alone. If you do, you may regret it.”

If I don't master this lump of Sierra Nevada granite, I might...die. Keep on reading....


In this selection from her travel memoir, East, Shelley Buck recalls her first flight across the Atlantic.

The plane out of Los Angeles was packed with returning Scottish tourists. We were all bound for tiny Stansted Airport, outside London. I nestled into my seat, fastening my seatbelt.The upholstery felt scratchy, but that was OK. I was on my way. I tried to talk to my seatmate, but it was difficult. Although we both spoke English, we could not understand one another. I gathered generally that she had been to visit her grandchildren in Los Angeles and was now going home. We took off, and as the plane gained altitude, I looked down at the hills beneath us, still green with winter’s rain. I thought, “I’m going to miss a California summer.” Keep on reading....


In this excerpt from his novel, Simia, John Joss describes the dawn at Ayers Rock, held sacred by aboriginal people in Australia as Uluru. An inselberg is a monolithic mountain or rock formation arising from a surrounding plain.

The instant he turned off the engine, the Outback's immense silence seeped back to engulf them. He got down without a word, followed by the other two.

The sound of slamming doors seemed sacrilege in the stillness surrounding them. Three pairs of night-adapted eyes turned west in unison toward the inselberg just becoming visible through the gloom, ten miles away to the west across the scrub-covered desert floor.

The bulk of it assaulted the mind Keep on reading....

Tea and Sweet Potatoes

Food writer Judith Pierce Rosenberg unexpectedly finds a sweet potato restaurant in Kyoto.

In one of the most elegant and minimalist shopping plazas in Kyoto, a city of elegant and minimalist Zen architecture, a city known for its tea shops serving mochi, traditional sweet rice cakes, is Chaimon, a restaurant devoted to tea (cha) and sweet potatoes (imon).

My twenty-something daughter, Tina, and I were visiting Kyoto when we happened upon Chaimon. As soon we stepped inside, we noticed the two piles of sweet potatoes Keep on reading....


Novelist Margaret Murray evokes a well-known place, envisioned in memory, in this excerpt from her upcoming novel, Dreamers.

I had my own dream and it began in Pittsburgh, the city where I was born and grew up.

What was it like to grow up then? Rivers and hills surrounded me. Hills were everywhere, hills were Pittsburgh, hills and rivers and bridges crossing them, and the great green trees bowing beneath the haze of summer sunlight, the cobwebs and mazes of bare branched trees in winter, fronting a backdrop of smog and flames from the steel mills Keep on reading....

The Globe

Shelley Buck traveled to India in 1972 by boat, train and bus. This is from East, her account of that journey.

“I don't want to travel with a woman,” explained the beefy American from San Diego, turning me down. “You get hassled.” We stood in the narrow lobby of Istanbul's Hotel Güngör, in the city's ancient Sultan Ahmet District. Timeworn and jammed with longhaired backpackers, the Güngör served as a kind of Council Bluffs for the overland traffic to India–a place to scrutinize ticket prices, plot out routes, and forge alliances. Keep on reading....









BREAKING! - East Wins Global Ebook Award


Coming January 2015


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Now available on Kindle!

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