THE SPACE BETWEEN

by Stephanie Casher on March 7, 2013

STATUS UPDATE: I am now 2/3 of the way through my next novel, The Space Between, the sequel to When Love Isn’t Enough. I’m writing as fast as I can and thank everyone for their patience with the delays. My goal is to have it sometime in 2014. :)

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Europe 2012 ~ First Leg ~ Amsterdam

by Stephanie Casher on September 14, 2012

As many of you know, I have been hard at work on my next novel, THE SPACE BETWEEN. The next installment in the SOUL MATES trilogy tells Samantha and Damion’s story, and a significant portion of the book takes place in Europe. I was excited to take my characters abroad, but after I started working on the chapters, I realized the travel documentaries and youtube vacation videos I’d been using for “research” just weren’t cutting it. In order to do this story justice and paint these pictures, I needed to GO there. And in September 2012, that’s exactly what I did.

Backpacking through Europe had been on my to-do list since I was in college, but I’d never been able to make it happen. But now I had a legit reason. I had important research to conduct, integral to the telling of this story. An adventure was calling my name and I was compelled to respond. Thankfully I had the resources to make it happen, so after settling on some dates I went ahead and booked myself a flight. Best decision I made all year.

I headed over there on August 28th, for 11 days of solo travel. I planned to cover a lot of ground, so my goal was to travel light. I was determined to make the trip with only ONE bag, and managed to pull it off, which was the next best decision I made all year. Traveling is so much more fun when you’ve been liberated from the burden of excess baggage, literally and figuratively. I appreciated having my hands free and being able to run to catch trains, if necessary. It was also easier to navigate the steep, narrow, staircases that are all over Europe. If you can swing it, I highly recommend the ‘one bag’ approach to travel.

My first stop was Amsterdam, where I spent three lovely days and fell madly in love with the city. Seriously, it is now tied with Sedona for my favorite place on the planet. I spent the first two days wandering around in the picturesque Jordaan District, trying out various coffee shops and eateries, enjoying the bohemian vibe. Took a canal cruise, strolled through Vondelpark, and ran around in the rain (Dutch weather is prone to frequent downpours).

Then I moved on to the Winston St. Christopher’s hostel in the heart of the infamous Red Light District. There is really no way to adequately describe how off-the-hook the Red Light District is; you really have to see it with your own eyes. The RLD is like Vegas on steroids, basically Disneyland for freaks, fetishists and deviants.  Sex is EVERYWHERE and there is nothing taboo about any of it. (How refreshing) One of my hostel dormmates, a lovely Australian gal named Eleanor, was also a female travelling solo, so we buddied up and had a blast exploring the Red Light District. We took in a live sex show at Casa Rosso, admired the stunning (and less stunning) prostitutes as they worked the windows, flirted our way into free stuff from friendly budtenders, french fries at 2am, random run-in with Tony Geary (aka Luke) from General Hospital at an ice cream parlor, and people-watching at its absolute finest. Granted, we didn’t get much sleep, but when there’s so much going on, sleep doesn’t really register as a priority…

And yes, for those who are wondering, perfectly legal to buy and smoke weed at any of Amsterdam’s numerous “coffee shops,” at least one on almost every block!

I was sad to have to leave Amsterdam, but I still had much to see and do. I took comfort in the fact that my love affair with Amsterdam was just beginning.  I knew this would be the first of many visits, and cannot wait to go back. :)

Continue onto the Second Leg ~ Menaggio/Lugano

Europe, The Album

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Europe 2012 ~ Second Leg ~ Menaggio/Lugano

by Stephanie Casher on September 13, 2012

One thing I really loved about Amsterdam’s Schipol Airport was that they had hotels IN the airport. I spent my fourth night in a very comfortable room at the Mercure Hotel inside the terminal and caught an early morning flight the next day from Amsterdam to Milan, Italy.

Oh Italia, how I love you… The food, the scenery, the lovely sounds of the Italian language all around me.  I successfully made my way via train from Milan to Lake Como, where I would be spending the next two days. My mother insisted I visit Lake Como on my trip because “George Clooney has a house there!” I’m sorry to report that I did not randomly run into George Clooney as I explored the lakeside towns that make up Lake Como, but I can definitely see why he would want to own a home here!  Stunning lakeside vistas framed by green, villa-studded hillsides provided a serene setting for my Italian stopover.

View from Menaggio Youth Hostel

After I arrived by train in Como, Italy, I travelled by boat to the small town of Menaggio, where I would be spending two days at the Menaggio Youth Hostel. This hostel is fantastic — comfortable, affordable accommodations with a family-like hospitality. The owners cooked dinner every night at 8pm, and for 12 euro you could partake in a scrumptious three-course home-cooked meal with the rest of your hostel mates. This was a fantastic perk, and coupled with the 1 euro gelato and liters of wine for 2.5 euro, it was an appreciated respite from some of the overpriced establishments in town that catered to tourists. I highly recommend this hostel for the budget traveller.

I had a lovely, laid back couple of days enjoying the peace and tranquility of these small lakeside towns. Menaggio was quite charming, and I also took the ferry across the lake to the town of Bellagio, where I enjoyed lunch, then an impromptu hike through the residential neighborhoods and the stunning Villa Melzi Gardens. Back at the hostel in time to enjoy dinner with the rest of the group.

After leaving Menaggio, I took a two-hour bus ride to Lugano, a town on the banks of Lake Lugano. Lugano was technically in Switzerland, but what is considered “Italian Switzerland,” so folks were still speaking Italian, and all the cultural norms of Italy were still intact. Spent two lovely days in this region, the first night in the tiny town of Morcote (pop. 752) at the family-run Albergo Della Posta. Yet another peaceful day on the lake, as I worked on my novel at the hotel’s private lido. The tranquility of lake life was contagious, and I was overcome by a sense of calm as I enjoyed my surroundings.

Had a fabulous Italian meal on the terrace of the hotel’s restaurant, enjoying bread, wine, a caprese salad, some pizza, gelato and limoncello over the course of three leisurely hours.  Europeans have the most fabulous approach to the act of dining.  Meals are to be savored, not scarfed down like Americans do. Waiters don’t hurry you out of restaurants to turn over the table, in fact, they will not even bring you the bill until you ask for it. I wish this practice was more common stateside. Infinitely more civilized.

The next day I migrated back to the heart of the Lugano, and spent the night on the stunning grounds of the Montarina Hotel and Hostel, another hostel that I HIGHLY recommend. I’d requested a female dorm, but they only had mixed dorms available when I arrived, so they upgraded me to a private room. :) On the recommendation of the hostel staff, I had dinner at La Tinera, another family-owned grotto that was a favorite of the locals (I prefer local eateries over tourist traps any day of the week), and enjoyed yet another fantastic authentic italian meal.

It pained me to leave the lake region of Italian Switzerland, as I very much love this area, but it was time to start making my way across Switzerland toward Geneva…

Continue on the Third Leg ~ Switzerland

Europe, The Album

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Europe 2012 ~ Third Leg ~ Switzerland

by Stephanie Casher on September 12, 2012

So it’s been established that I love Amsterdam. I also love Italy. You are probably not surprised to read that I also love Switzerland, lol.

What’s not to love? This land-locked country in the center of Europe is a land of rolling green hillsides and pristine mountain lakes framed by the towering, snow-capped Swiss Alps. Mother Nature is at her most radiant in this stunning country, and everywhere you turn provides a feast for the eyes.

Switzerland has a very sophisticated and well-integrated public transportation system, and if you purchase a Swiss Pass (I got one for four days) you are granted unlimited travel on all trains, buses, ferries, and funiculars throughout Switzerland. This makes it incredibly easy to be spontaneous as you plan your itinerary and take in the sights.

One of the best ways to see Switzerland is via the rails. There are several “scenic rail journeys” that travel guides recommend (all free with the Swiss Pass), and I took two of the five as I made my way across Switzerland. I rode the Wilhem Tell Express from Lugano to Lucerne, and then hopped on the Golden Pass route from Lucerne to Geneva. A very relaxing way to enjoy the Swiss countryside, and each train has a dining car and food service. You can also hop on and off as much as you like (with a Swiss Pass) to break up the journey with strategically placed detours.

Leukerbad

I took an awesome detour when I decided to hop off the Golden Pass route in Interlaken and head high up into the Alps (via bus) to the tiny mountain town of Leukerbad (pop. 1590), the “largest thermal baths and wellness resort in the Alps.”

Thermal baths and wellness?  Sign me up!  And Leukerbad did not disappoint.  I stayed at the Hotel Heilquelle and included in my room rate was a pass to Burgerbad, an impressive hot springs facility/resort with over 10 soaking pools of varying temperatures along with several waterslides, fountains, and waterfalls to play in. After nine days on the road, this opportunity to soak my body was most welcome, and I truly enjoyed this stopover. Another place I would highly recommend if you’re in the area.

After spending one night in Leukerbad, I made my way back to the train station, hopped back on the Golden Pass route, and headed for Geneva, Switzerland, my final destination. My last night in Europe was pretty low-key since I had to be at the airport at 6:30am the next morning, but I did get to see a bit of Geneva (which reminded me of an international version of San Francisco). It was strange to be back in an urban area after so many days in tiny, little towns, but it did prepare me for re-entry back into the “real world.” The first thing I saw when I exited the train station in Geneva was a Starbucks, something I hadn’t seen since I left the Amsterdam airport. It was nice to see a familiar sign of “home,” but also a little sad because I knew my adventure was drawing to a close. But at the same time, I was ready to come home.  I’d had the time of my life, and accomplished everything I set out to accomplish, but I was definitely starting to miss my boy and my Bizzles. :)

All in all, I give my European adventure 5 glorious stars. :) Though friends and family worried about my decision to travel to Europe ALONE, I must say, travelling solo in Europe was a fantastic experience, very safe, and one I would highly recommend. Please feel free to hit me up for travel tips and recommendations… I can only hope I’ve inspired some of you to plan an adventure of your own. ;)

Europe, The Album

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Update on the SOUL MATES… Trilogy?!

May 11, 2012

Any artist will tell you that true inspiration seldom takes a linear or predictable path. We have no control over when the muse strikes us, or where she may take us once we engage the creative process. Sometimes you end up in surprising places.
My experience writing my first two (and soon to be three) novels [...]

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Another Year Begins…

March 6, 2012

Happy 2012 people! I know I’m about two months late for new years salutations, but I’m pretty much two months late on everything these days, so better late than never, right?
I don’t know about you, but 2011 was one of those ‘blink and you missed it’ kinda years for me. It passed in [...]

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Love Letter to My Fans

February 14, 2012

Dear Fans,
My foray into the publishing world (in dual roles as an author and publisher) has been quite the whirlwind.  I wear many hats (on top of holding down a very demanding day job), and the past year has been quite challenging as I struggled to keep all those balls in the air. But the [...]

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Entrepreneurial Fatigue

December 15, 2011

I came across an article recently on Entrepreneurial Fatigue. I’d never heard the term before, but it is as familiar to me as my last name. It is the result of wearing too many hats, having too much to do, and not getting nearly enough sleep. Any entrepreneur can tell you that it takes [...]

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My very first Book Club meeting

November 7, 2011

One of the coolest experiences I’ve had as a published author so far was my very first book club meeting. Last month, I invited up to Sacramento to meet with the lovely ladies of Stella Book Club. What a great afternoon! This was the first time I’ve been able to sit in a [...]

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The WL Contest Winner is announced!

November 2, 2011

For the past few months, TPC has had a contest underway… To encourage folks to post reviews of WHEN LOVE ISN’T ENOUGH, we announced that when we hit 30 reviews, we were going to hold a drawing and give one lucky reviewer a $150 amazon gift card. Well, we passed the 30-review mark – check [...]

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