How I Spent My Summer Vacation #1: Visiting Mondhuoun

I crave the mountains. Not just any mountains, mind you, I want the Blue Ridge. More specifically, I pine for upstate South Carolina.

Spoonauger Falls

My parents both hail from pioneer families whose ties to that part of South Carolina stretch back to when this country was not only a colony but a wild and woolly wilderness. They left the area shortly before I was born, forever dooming me to a bit of an identity crisis. School holidays always brought out the suitcases and the general understanding that we were “going home” to South Carolina. As one Florida born, I never really understood, but I didn’t have to. Those mountains are in my blood. They’re in my very DNA.

My father is a mountain man born out of time. Every chance he gets to this day, he takes off for the land of his birth, finding solace and comfort in the unchanging wilderness of the Sumter National Forest and the Chattooga river. Coming off the trails his arthritic legs can no longer negotiate with ease, he scans the roadway, telling stories of mountain folk long gone, stores and landmarks so buried in time that not even the current residents remember them anymore.

When I was a child, my father took me into the woods and tried to impart his backwoods wisdom. Much of it stuck. On our recent camping trip there, my sons were impressed to learn that my fire-building capabilities surpassed those of my husband, who is no tenderfoot. I can survive a backcountry trail quite comfortably if I had to. At my age, I no longer want to.

I grew up in those mountains, like my parents… like their parents.

Even when you write science fiction, one way or another, you end up writing what you know.

As I’m working on the second book of THE BLACK WING CHRONICLES, the story takes me to places both familiar and distant. When I try to picture the Gallic Highlands of Mondhuoun, the land of Bo’s birth, I can’t help but picture the ancient and rugged terrain of the Sumter National Forest and the Chattooga River. Gallic bluestone was inspired by the blue granite of those mountains.

Like Bo, I was exiled from that land I love. Like Bo, I treasure every visit home.

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