Reader Friday – Writers’ Research Vacations

In last week’s post we read our story openings before the New World Ruler, survived his chopping block, and became part of the 1001 Authorial Knights. Now, as we settle into our spartan quarters on the upper floors of the King’s castle, we discover a parchment with a list of rules we must obey.

They are really fairly simple: Produce at least one book every 1001 days (approximately 2 years and 9 months). And don’t cause any trouble.

But, the surprise: Below the rules, is a perk. Out of every 1001 days, we may take a research vacation anywhere in the world. The only requirements: The maximum length of the vacation is six months. We must be accompanied by one of the King’s swordsmen. And we must take notes and report back to the King when we return, telling him what his subjects are doing and discussing, i.e., Is anyone even thinking about rebellion?

So, you reach for the stack of maps and begin considering the possibilities.

Please tell us:

  • Where will you go?
  • Why did you pick that country or region?
  • And what do you hope to learn while you are there?
  • Oh, and one more thing. Do you have any secret plans for while you are there? Do tell.
This entry was posted in hidden agenda, research, vacation, Writing by Steve Hooley. Bookmark the permalink.

About Steve Hooley

Steve Hooley is the author of seven short stories published in four anthologies, a Vella serial fiction, and is currently working on the Mad River Magic series – a fantasy adventure series for advanced middle-grade to adults. More details available at:

37 thoughts on “Reader Friday – Writers’ Research Vacations

  1. ❦ Where will you go?
    Zaragoza, then down to Tarragona on the coast, maybe up to Santiago, if I have time. See below.
    ❦ Why did you pick that country or region?
    It’s the primary setting for Tenirax, my picaro MC.
    It’s also a place that relatively few Americans visit.
    ❦ What do you hope to learn while you are there?
    I’d like to find out how closely I guessed the character and layout of the region. For example, I want to verify how much of the Ebro is navigable.
    ❦ Do you have any secret plans for while you are there?
    I want to study the Moorish architecture and the oldest churches. Secretly? Don’t tell anyone, but I’d like to walk the Camino de Santiago, if I’m up to it, though it might take weeks to qualify for the Compostela, a certificate attesting to completion of 60 miles of the pilgrimage to Santiago.

    • This sounds very interesting, JG. I hope you are able to complete the 60 mile pilgrimage to Santiago. That might be a good time to slip away from the swordsman of the King, at least for a few minutes, and see if there are any rumors of rebellion, or at least some hope for resistance.

      Enjoy your vacation!

  2. Good morning, Steve. That’s quite an introduction to your questions this morning. I’ll try to make my answers as entertaining as your post, though that is a tall order.

    Where will you go? This will surprise longtime regular visitors to TKZ, but I would go to New Orleans.

    Why did you pick that country or region?
    I love the American South in general and New Orleans in particular. One will find in New Orleans a story on every street, either told or waiting to be.

    And what do you hope to learn while you are there?
    How Mystery Street, a three-block corridor in the Bayou St. John neighborhood, came to be so named.

    Oh, and one more thing. Do you have any secret plans for while you are there? Do tell.
    Sure I do, but if I told those assembled, it would no longer be a secret.

    Thanks, Steve. This was a lot of fun. Have a great weekend!

    • Thanks, Joe, for a very enlightening response. If you find the answer to Mystery Street, please let us know.

      I wish you luck with your secret plans, and I hope you can stir up some trouble. Those of us still back at the King’s castle are hoping you have a successful trip.

      Have a weekend full of fun and intrigue!

  3. You come up with the most provocative questions, Steve. Thanks for a fun way to begin the day.

    Where? Israel and Ethiopia.
    Why? The male lead in my series had a mysterious grandmother he never met who was an Ethiopian Jew. I’ve long wanted to research her history.
    What? Her genealogy should yield discoveries to inspire new story plots.
    Secret plan? Hang out on Mediterranean beaches and sneak off for a side trip to explore Greek ruins.

  4. Where will you go? San Fransisco
    Why did you pick that country or region? I have had a good time in the San Fransico area before and would love to go back. If I can’t find enough interesting things to write a story, I am just not trying.
    And what do you hope to learn while you are there? Everything
    Oh, and one more thing. Do you have any secret plans for while you are there? Do tell. Meet my first real girlfriend’s children and husband.

  5. I’m leaving in May for Norway, Faroe Islands, Arctic Circle. No secret plans. Will have camera, 3 lenses, lots of SD cards and batteries, chargers and power converters. My iPad and/or Surface.
    Maybe some clothes.

    • Don’t forget the clothes, Terry, unless you’re going to the Mediterranean beaches with Debbie.

      I thought of you when I wrote this post, and I thought you might make your trip to Antarctica. I hope you show us some of the pictures in one of your future posts or newsletters. And I hope one of your pictures with a telephoto lens picks up a secret meeting between your guard and representative from an enemy of the King. Always need conflict.

  6. Very interesting, Alan. Maybe a trip to Alcatraz will inspire some ideas for escape from the King’s castle.

    I hope that meeting with children and husband of your first girlfriend goes well. It sounds like a trip filled with interesting emotion.

    • One of my high school classmates is an triathlete. He has done the Bay to Alcatraz swim a few times. It is an impressive event.

  7. Good morning, Steve. Maximum of six months vacation you say? I can travel to anywhere in the world. Well, in that case…

    I’ll choose an island tour. I’ll bring my iPad Pro, updated iPhone and Apple Watch, a couple of nice bound, blank journals, clothing. Oh, and two pairs of binoculars and a small apochromatic (triple lensed) telescope on a nice mount. Since the climates will vary, I’ll need a flexible wardrobe, and possibly have climate specific clothing meet me at certain points.

    We’ll begin in late spring, starting with Iceland, a place I visited in August 2019. I’ll spend two weeks there. Plenty for time to visit Reykjavik, take a six day tour of the ring road, etc. Then it’s off to Scotland, visiting the Orkneys, Shetlands, and Faores as well. A month should do. From there I’ll go to the Canaries, Malta and Balearics. Two weeks. Then we’ll stop in Zanzibar for a week, then the Maldives for the same, a month in Indonesia, another two weeks in the Philippines, meeting my aunt’s relatives, then a month in Japan, and finally a month in the Hawaiian islands. Might visit Fiji before then.

    As to why, well, I love islands. To learn what I can about each island, or region. And also, how my writing might differ depending upon where I’m at.

    I might well have secret plans which might or might not have something to do with the future of our monarchal overlord.

    • Wow, Dale. That’s quite a trip! You should be a tour guide.

      Every one of your stops sounds interesting. I bet Terry would like to take her camera and go along. And, as for the telescope, that means activity at night. Maybe slip the King’s swordsman a sedative in his drink? Then you will have all the time you need to plan and scheme.

      Enjoy your vacation.

  8. This one’s hard for me, Steve, since I. Hate. To. Travel.

    However, if the King’s man could wave his sword over me and make me like to travel, I’d travel back in time to the Holy Land and follow Paul around on his journeys. I wouldn’t take any modern stuff along, just parchment (where can I buy that anyway?) and a quill to take notes.

    I’d take a copy of the O.T. along, but not the N.T., because I’d get to see the originals. How cool is that? And I’d maybe get to watch Paul in his various prison cells as he actually wrote his letters. (I hope I wouldn’t have to experience what he experienced, though . . . some of it was pretty icky.)

    And when I come back through the portal, I’d have enough information to write about a thousand Biblical fiction stories.


    • Deb, have you read Randy Ingermanson’s three-book series City of God? They are time travel novels back to the Holy Land at the time of Paul. Ingermanson’s books are very good.

    • I’m with you on that, Deb. I prefer day trips. So much easier to travel and not haul anything along.

      Your idea for a Mediterranean Paul Travels Trip would be wonderful. I would take along a life jacket on the trip to Malta (or go by land). I’m not that brave or that good of a swimmer to take on a shipwreck. If you go, we’ll pray for you.

      When you write that book, I want to read it. It doesn’t sound like you need to go looking for any conflict. You’ll have all you can handle. Be safe!

  9. I love your thought-provoking questions, Steve!

    Where will you go? The Mideast. We’d start and end in Israel.
    Why did you pick that country or region? My husband and I spent several months in Israel, but it wasn’t nearly long enough. Then we’d go to Abu Dhabi. We have a friend who lives there, and he took us on a Zoom tour once, but I’d like to see it for myself. Then on to Greece to see the island of Santorini for its beauty and Athens for its architecture. Then to the site of the city of Troy.
    And what do you hope to learn while you are there? I want to breathe the air in places that have produced so much history, and I’d like to talk to the people in each of those places to get an idea of how they view the world. Also, I can probably find lots of good settings for my amateur sleuths to find mystery.
    Oh, and one more thing. Do you have any secret plans for while you are there? Do tell. I have no secrets. (Ahem)

  10. Easy one, Steve. I’d go to Utqiagvik (formerly known as Barrow), the northernmost tip of Alaska in the Arctic Circle. Why? During that six-month period, I will experience Midnight Sun and the Northern Lights. What secrets will I uncover? Before the Fall Equinox, I’ll research how to blend into the landscape without darkness. After is for pure enjoyment, to marvel at the Aurora or Polar Lights.

    • Very interesting, Sue. I would have never thought of such a trip. My idea would be to head for the equator.

      I was in Alaska for a family reunion, once. It was the most beautiful vacation I have ever taken.

      Your research would be useful for your books – hiding in plain sight. Probably a lot fewer trees in northern Alaska than in New England.

      I hope you are able to take that research vacation sometime. Take along plenty of layers. And stay warm!

  11. Steve, I love your questions! I would go back to Israel for a six-month archeological dig or just live there, staying at Christ Church and volunteering to serve/cook the meals. If I told you the secrets I’ll uncover, then I’d have to kill you… 🙂

    • Wonderful, Patricia. That sounds like a truly information-rich research vacation. I didn’t know that you wrote special ops or national security thrillers. Those closely-guarded secrets remind me of the plot in Glenn Meade’s The Second Messiah.

      While you’re digging, you might be able to bury your swordsman guard and never have to return to the castle. Better watch your back.

  12. I’d like to travel to Harvest, an Earth colony just a short jump gate hop across the galaxy, to see what my characters from Calculated Risk are up to. But since the king says it has to be in this world, I’ll go to Pellucidar, what Edgar Rice Burroughs’ named the Earth’s core. It’s unexplored, unmapped, and teaming with dinosaurs, saber-toothed cats, and new intelligent species, which I will document. It’s also rife with rebellion as the humans try to overthrow their Mahar masters. I’ll report back to the king that he should support these efforts. When they’ve succeeded, I’ll bring the Pellucidar army to overthrow the king–but of course, I’m not telling the king or my guard that!

    • Wow, KS, that’s quite a trip! How do you travel to Pellucidar? Do you hitch a ride with Jules Verne? And it sounds pretty dangerous there. I hope you are taking some “protection” beyond your swordsman.

      If you survive that trip, I believe you that you could pull off your devious plan to enlist the Pellucidar army in overthrowing the New World King.

      We’ll be rooting for you!

Comments are closed.