Writing Inspiration Destination: Catalina Island, California

Catalina Island on a cloudy day in February 1992. (Photo by Susan Ruff. Sorry for the poor photo quality. The picture was scanned from an old photo album.)

On Valentine’s Day weekend in 1992, John and I went on our very first cruise together. It was a little 3-day jaunt. It sailed from Long Beach, California, to Catalina Island, to Ensenada, Mexico, and back to Long Beach.

At the time, I considered it a test. Neither of us had cruised before, and I wasn’t sure whether I would enjoy it. Would I get seasick? Would I be bored during all those hours on the water?

It turned out to be a wonderful experience. We’ve gone cruisng many times since then to all kinds of interesting places in the world. But there’s something about your very first port-of-call that makes it special forever.

In our case, it was particularly memorable, because we almost didn’t get on shore. January and February tend to be California’s rainy season, and that year was no exception. Our cruise ship anchored near the harbor at Avalon, and the ship’s tender boats were supposed to carry us on shore. Because of the rain, the water was so rough that the captain decided not to lower the tender boats.

I was very disappointed! Our first port on our first cruise, and we couldn’t go ashore. We went up to get breakfast and stared out the window. We were on one of those huge cruise ships with multiple levels, so looking down from the dining room to the water was probably like looking down from a ten-story building.

From up there, the sea looked a little active, but nothing too bad. About an hour later, when the captain decided that the weather had eased enough to allow safe passage on the tender boats, John and I ruished downstairs to get aboard one.

Suddenly the words “rough seas” had new meaning for me. Waves crashed around and rocked our little tender boat back and forth as we made our way to land. It was definitely a roller-coaster ride. (At the time, we called it an “E-ticket” ride. How many of you out there still remember that reference?) When we looked back at the cruise ship, it was as solid as a skyscraper — those big ships are amazingly stable.

Once we got on land, rain continued to pour down and water filled the sides of the streets, but we didn’t mind. We were on vacation and having fun and it was a grand adventure. The rains kept the crowds away, and we felt like we had the whole town of Avalon to ourselves. We avoided the downpour by ducking into shops, and we toured the Casino, a beautiful dance hall that was famous during my mother’s generation. In all, it was an extraordinary day and a great place to visit.

Inside the Casino, Catalina’s historic dance hall and museum. (Photo by Susan Ruff 1992.)

So what is the writing inspiration in Catalina? Obviously, for a fantasy author, there is something mythic about going west over the water to a place called Avalon. But since John and I don’t write Arthurian fantasy, that was not a direct inspiration for our novels. Instead, I think the whole atmosphere of the day was the real inspiration — the rain, the rocking boat ride, the beautiful seaside community, and the grand adventure of it all.

And, by the way, if you are a fan of fantasy novels, the ebook version of our novel The Keyhole Wizard, is on sale today and throughout this weekend (February 3 – 5, 2023) for 99 cents on Amazon.com. Click here to find out more: The Keyhole Wizard.

If you like clean fantasy, there is also a group promotion going on right now for Noblebright and Clean Fantasy stories:

One of our short stories Reflections of Disdain is included in the promo.

Have a wonderful February! Talk to you in March!

-Susan 2/3/2023

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s