My parents' estate (yes, Mom, I hear you laughing to have me call it that) has always been a place for the imagination to run wild. Twenty minutes from a local family owned and operated grocery store (thirty-five+ minutes from the nearest chain supermarket), it's a wild, natural place filled with trees and deer, tractors and horses, gardens and (lately) skunks. I grew up with a room that looked out to a forest, and at night, I could watch the movement of the galaxies through the canopy of oak trees outside my open window. The whole place has a lot going for it as far as inspiration for a fantasy author in the making. For example, there's this:
That's now the view outside my old bedroom window. Of course, the rainbow isn't always there. When I was growing up, the forest I previously mentioned obscured the view quite a bit, but a fire several years ago burned up to the very edge of the house, so now there's a lovely view up the canyon.
With all the fires burning upstate in California, my parents' place has been under a thick layer of smoke for the last week or so. Here's the same view as above, only take a few days ago:
This picture was taken in the middle of the day. Though the picture is small, you can see the sun in the branches of the tree, sitting there like a jewel caught in the limbs.
It was this picture that inspired the idea for a future story in the Madison series. First, it looks so lonely--empty chairs in what looks like a fog. Especially the one chair near the center of the picture. It's like just through the fog beyond the chairs is the ocean, dark, cold, and mysterious. But it was the sun that caught my fancy. It looks like part of the tree, like a portal or a creature, or even a creature's nest. I'd already planned on having a plot revolving around fire two or three books down the line, but seeing this picture, it all came together. How cool is that!