Thursday, October 18, 2012


The winery in the mountains

Judith Arnold

I’m back from a recent trip to San Diego, where I spent a few days with a group of friends from college. We met as freshmen and bonded instantly, and we’ve remained close ever since. We gather every year for a long weekend, sometimes on the East Coast, sometimes the Midwest, this year California.
I was able to book non-stop flights round-trip. Just me and my netbook and five hours of writing time each way. No internet. No email. No Scorpion Solitaire. I can’t remember when I last had five uninterrupted hours to write. This trip was not just a reunion with my friends; it was also an excellent opportunity for me to make some progress on my current manuscript.
So, winging westward, I wrote. While my seatmates zoned out, flipped through magazines, watched videos on the mini-screens embedded in the backs of the seats in front of us and munched on the bland snacks that pass for airline food these days, I let my fingers fly over the keyboard. Every scene, every line of dialogue, every plot point, glimmer of introspection and swirl of description that I’d worked out in my mind the previous week was put into words and saved to my hard drive.

I spent the next several days with my friends, hiking in the hills, strolling along the beach, nibbling on brownies, sipping wine. We talked. And talked. We sat around a blazing fire-pit on our hostess’s patio and talked. We lounged on the oversized leather sofas in her den and talked. We drove to a winery in the mountains, tasted seven different wines and talked.

After four glorious days, we hugged one another goodbye and boarded our separate planes home. I settled into my seat, buckled my lap belt...and panicked. Five hours of flying time loomed before me, and I had no idea what to write. I’d used up every word I had on the trip west. My brain was blank, my muse hiding inside an air-sickness bag.

Yet I couldn’t waste the writing time the flight provided. So I pushed myself to move forward with the story, staggering and stumbling but forcing out one word and the next.

Suddenly, energy infused my fingers. I typed that while driving home from work, my heroine glanced at her rear-view mirror and noticed a Mercedes tailing her. Unsure whether she was truly being followed, she took a detour. The Mercedes remained with her, taking the same detour. It didn’t speed up, clip her bumper or try to force her off the road. But it was definitely following her.

My heroine arrived home without incident. She eased her car into her garage. entered her house, locked the door, peeked out the window and watched the Mercedes idle by the curb for a moment before driving away. Only then did she realize she was trembling uncontrollably.

Where did that Mercedes come from? I don’t know. Who was driving it? I’m not sure. It’s a mystery as bewildering as the mystery my heroine is trying to solve in my manuscript.

During the four days I spent visiting with my college sisters, not once did I give a thought to where the plot of my work-in-progress was headed beyond what I’d written on the flight west. Yet when I settled into my seat on my flight home and applied my fingers to the keys, inspiration came to me in the form of a luxury sedan that scared my heroine half to death.

Inspiration is a strange thing. If we seek it, we usually won’t find it. But a change of scenery, a gathering of friends, ocean breezes, a long walk on a path up a foothill in the coastal range, a winery in the mountains... Somehow, that blend of ingredients goaded my muse into giving me a Mercedes and sending my manuscript’s plot in a wonderful new direction.

Like my heroine, I moved forward but checked the rear-view mirror. What I found reflected in that mirror’s silver surface was inspiration.

Bestselling author Judith Arnold had made her comic novella,
CHOCOLATE KISSES, free to readers at Amazon ( and other ebook venues. For more information about this and her other current releases, please visit her web site:


  1. Filed this under what I need to remember always: "Like my heroine, I moved forward but checked the rear-view mirror. What I found reflected in that mirror’s silver surface was inspiration."

  2. It was great when it happened! Now I'm stuck in the manuscript again.... Maybe I need another trip to California. But since that's impossible, I'll just keep my gaze on that rear-view mirror. For all I know, inspiration is right behind me, hot on my tail.