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Today, Norm Goldman, Editor of Bookpleasures.com and Sketchandtravel.com is excited to have as our guest, Mary Zalmanek.

Mary is the author of The Art of the Spark: 12 Habits to Inspire Romantic Adventures. She is also the founder of Adventures of the Heart.

Good day Mary and thank you for agreeing to participate in our interview.


Mary, please tell our readers a little bit about your personal and professional background.


Jim and I had been married ten years or so when I noticed what was happening to many others who'd been married about the same amount of time. Some were getting divorced; others were having affairs or thinking about it. I remember the morning I woke up and realized that unless something changed, we could end up being a statistic. We could be among the fifty percent of couples who divorce. Soon after that I helped a friend get ready for her date with a new man. In her enthusiasm I saw something I wanted the excitement typical in a new relationship. I wasn't looking for a new relationship, but I wanted that spark back that belongs to one.

Fortunately, I realized this before it was too late. I was still very much in love with my husband, so it wasn't hard to take that first step. We had a good foundation since we did lots of little things to show our love for each other, things that are generally considered romantic. But I wanted more. I wanted that spark, that inner glow. I started putting more effort into making our time together special. It worked. We enjoyed celebrating our love. Now, after thirty years, we still have that spark.

That effort did not go unnoticed. Our friends and acquaintances noticed some of our celebrations, and frequently asked for help planning special occasions. Once I got a call from a man I'd never met. He said, I've heard through the grapevine that you're really good at planning celebrations. My anniversary is tomorrow. Can you give me some suggestions? I spent a quick 20 minutes on the phone with him. He already had a basic plan in place. After asking some questions about her likes and dislikes and his budget, we came up with a plan to turn an ordinary dinner date into an extraordinary romantic adventure. Two days later he called back to tell me his wife said it was the best day of her life.

The satisfaction I felt from contributing to someone else's best ever day was addicting. I wanted more of that. I decided to turn my hobby of helping people plan creative celebrations into a business. In 1997 I founded Adventures of the Heart.


As a follow up, I notice upon reading your bio that you describe yourself as a Romantic Adventurer. Why do you describe yourself as a Romantic Adventurer?


Romantic Adventures are my passion, whether they're mine or someone else's. They're more than simple loving gestures or regular dates, although that's what provides the necessary foundation. A romantic adventure is an extraordinary demonstration of love and commitment, an experience that lets your beloved know that he or she is loved and adored by you. It's an outrageously fun, intimate connection, and the memory of it never fails to bring a smile. It's all the heightened emotions that make romance an adventure.

I'm on a mission to help people in love stay in love, and have lots of fun while doing it. I'm filled with joy when I'm celebrating a special occasion with my husband. It's almost as much fun for me to help others plan their adventures. I get to see their anticipation build. I always learn something from people who are in this state of romantic expression, because we all express our love in such different ways. I get to see the tender sides of serious and driven men when they think about why they fell in love and how they can best honor their beloveds with unique romantic adventures. I get to see busy and harried women revisit fond memories, reflect on their sweethearts best qualities, and make plans for a new best ever day.

More importantly, I've found a way to help you choose, on a personal level tailored to you, where, when, and how often the magic happens. The real gift is that it puts you in control of your love life. That's why I call myself a Romantic Adventurer.


Many of sketchandtravel.com's readers are interested in romantic getaways. Will you share a little bit about your book The Art of the Spark: 12 Habits to Inspire Romantic Adventures with us? How could your book be of help to them in planning that sought after perfect romantic getaway?


The Art of the Spark uses a Romance Profile to help you identify what's romantic to you and your beloved. Together you explore what makes you feel most loved, what interests you share, what new activities you might be willing to try, how much privacy you want, and what level of surprise is comfortable to each of you. Putting parameters around what you're looking for in a destination makes it easier to know when you've found it.


How do you come up with ideas for what you write? What methods do you use to flesh out your idea to determine if it's salable?


The initial idea for a book came to me in 1998 when I was asked to speak to the Pikes Peak Romance Writers. As I prepared the presentation I found there were certain commonalities among the most romantic couples and the way they celebrated. Over the next year or so, I considered those commonalities when I worked with each new client, refining my list as I went along. I realized if I could identify these things I wasn't calling them habits yet and teach them to people, it could inspire their own creative celebrations. I developed two workshops, a one-day class for singles or couples, and a weekend class designed as a romantic getaway for couples. The Art of the Spark is the result of what I learned from students, clients, other romantic people and my own marriage. I realized there was an art to keeping the spark alive.


What challenges or obstacles did you encounter while writing your book? How did you overcome these challenges?

The challenges I encountered while writing the book were typical ones limited time, other responsibilities, making a living. Since it took me seven years to write the book, you can see I didn't exactly master the problem of not enough hours in the day. For me it was more important to be persistent, to not give up even when progress was negligible. Sometimes writing wasn't my number one priority. Writing took a back seat during my father's 10-month battle with cancer. What kept me going was my passion for what I was doing, for wanting to bring more romance and fun into the lives of committed couples.

My weekly writing group was another thing that kept me going. Those six women are the real keys to my success. They were honest enough to say, Mary, this story needs some work. Or here's something that happened to me or someone I know that might ring true for a larger number of readers. Since they were honest enough to tell me what wasn't good, I had more confidence to go forward with something they liked.


I notice you and your husband once had the experience of B&B sitting in Costa Rica.Could you tell our audience something about Costa Rica and if you believe it would be an appropriate place for a romantic getaway, honeymoon or even a wedding?


Costa Rica is one of my favorite places in the world. We had the good fortune to inn sit at the Villa Decary in Nuevo Arenal for two months while the owners were on vacation. The inn is in the rain forest, right on Lake Arenal. Toucans and howler monkey lived in the treetops; ginger and birds of paradise covered the grounds. The full story can be found on my web site.

***** Romance comes easy in this exotic location. The relaxing waters at Tabacon Hot Spring are heated by nearby Volcano Arenal. Lush tropical gardens surround numerous pools and waterfalls. In addition to the hot springs, the resort includes a hotel, gourmet dining room, and spa.

****For adventure lovers, no trip to Costa Rica would be complete without a canopy tour. My favorite was the Sky Trek in Monteverde.

You can soar on zip lines 400 feet above the floor of the jungle. Hiking the well-maintained trails in the cloud forest, watching the tropical birds, and shopping in the unique arts galleries are just a few of the activities available in Monteverde.

****Vista del Valle Plantation Inn , near San Jose, sits on the edge of the dramatic Rio Grande Canyon. Nowhere in the world can you enjoy such an exhilarating view while washing your hair in the outdoor shower in the Mona Lisa Rancho, a private villa. You can hike through the gardens, plantatio and nature preserve, and down to the 300-foot waterfall. Delicious meals are served on site since no one wants to leave this captivating paradise even a minute before they have to.

****Hotel Sueno del Mar is an intimate beachfront hacienda in the busy seaside community of Tamarindo. When we were there, Susan Money and Greg Mullins ran it.

At the time they were just finishing the FlorBlanca Resort, an upscale, all-inclusive resort on a remote part of the Nicoya Peninsula, not far from Mal Pais, but far removed from crowds. When I think about the relaxing, romantic setting they created in Tamarindo, I'd love to check out their newest project on our next visit to Costa Rica.

Any of these places would be ideal for weddings, honeymoons, or romantic getaways.


As you are a romantic adventurer, if you had to choose some of the most romantic venues you have visited in your life, which ones would you choose and why?


I learned a long time ago, going with the right person and the right attitude is more important than picking the right place. I've had some extraordinary experiences in ordinary places, and I've seen how a bad attitude can turn paradise into purgatory. Additionally, romance means different things to different people. Some people may want a romantic spot to include pampering at a spa or dancing at a nightclub, while others might prefer a remote mountain cabin.

Many people think of a bed and breakfast as the ideal romantic getaway. Jim and I have certainly enjoyed a few romantic evenings in B&Bs. However, some of our least intimate encounters have been in what I thought were promising B&Bs, and some truly memorable occasions happened within the confines of large, impersonal hotels.

The key to intimacy, to no one's surprise, is privacy. Some quaint B&Bs are private homes converted to and licensed as public lodging. Private bathrooms may or may not be available. Location of the bedrooms could be adjacent to a public gathering place. While privacy may be expected and likely to be promised in small B&Bs, the actual feeling could be like being a guest in your Great Aunt Gertrude's home.

I'll include some of my favorite destinations, along with a caveat of who might appreciate it the most.

******Kokopelli's Cave  in Farmington, New Mexico is ideal for those who want privacy more than pampering. This 1,650 square foot luxury cliff dwelling is carved into the face of a sandstone cliff wall, 70 feet below the surface of the mesa and 280 feet above the La Plata River. It's got all the basics, like hot and cold running water, a well-appointed kitchen, and plush carpeting. But it's the extras that will amaze you, including a cascading waterfall-style shower, a flagstone hot tub, and a kiva replica. After the host checks you in, you've got the place all to yourselves. You fix your own meals. The ringtail cat scratching at your patio door to get its nightly ration of dry cat food might be the only living creature you encounter during your stay.

*****Blackberry Farms in Walland, Tennessee sits on 4,200 acres in the Great Smoky Mountains. If you want pampering, you can't get much better than this. If you like to eat, you'll love their restaurant. And if you like to cook, their cooking school is something you'll remember for years to come. You can hike or bike the trails that wind through Smoky Mountain National Park, enjoy some of the best fly fishing east of the Rockies, or take a paddleboat out on the little pond. The spa offers relaxing and unique body treatments.

*****Rancho de San Juan 38 miles from Sante Fe, New Mexico, is wonderful blend of privacy and pampering. It offers delicious meals, luxurious rooms, and a spa, but what makes this place memorable is its Sandstone Shrine. It's a work of art, hand carved into a sandstone butte on the side of a mesa. The smooth, rounded walls are inlayed with stones and mirrors to provide reflected light. If you're looking for an unusual site for a small wedding, consider this spiritual structure.


***** I'd be remiss if I didn't mention some of my favorite places near my hometown of Colorado Springs, Colorado.Naturally, there's the Broadmoor, a five-star hotel in Colorado Springs. It's big and beautiful, with a golf course, spa, and several restaurants and shops.

     ***** The Cliff House at Pikes Peak in Manitou Springs is a bit more intimate with 55 rooms. It's been voted one of Colorado's most romantic hotels.


     ***** The Blue Skies Inn, also in Manitou, is a charming bed and breakfast with 10 guest suites. You can tell this inn is a labor of love. Each room is uniquely painted and decorated by the owner, a talented artist. A delicious breakfast is served in the privacy of your own room.

     ***** The Old Town Guest House in Colorado Springs is nestled in a popular shopping district. Some of the 8 rooms have a balcony with a private hot tub; others have a two-person steam shower.

     ***** Colorado has too many romantic destinations to name, especially in the mountain resorts, but here' a few that stand out. Vail is a world-class ski resort, with just as much going on in the summer as in the winter. If you want to stay in the heart of Vail, the Sonnenalp Resort can' be beat.

     ***** If   you wamt a hilltop 20 minutes away Cordillera has great restaurants and 4 golf  courses.

***** The Stanley Hotel is a grand hotel in Estes Park. 

Finally, there'sat great little picnic spot in the park, that corner table for two in a dimly lit restaurant, that secluded stretch of beach. I don't need to tell you where it is, because it's different for everyone. Once you've been there with your sweetheart and looked into the eyes of love, the memory of it never fails to bring a smile. Go there again, soon.


I understand you are working on two more books, could you tell us something about these books.


While many of my Adventures of the Heart clients wanted romantic adventures, I also helped them with other important life events. The next two books in the Celebrating Our Lives Series focus on the non-romantic adventures, such as:

o o Creative celebrations for special people and events in our lives, and

o o Activities to build happy and productive teams through camaraderie.


How have you used the Internet to boost your writing career?


The Internet is such an integral part of business these days that it's hard to imagine what it must have been like for writers centuries, and even decades, ago. I used it to check facts, research ideas, and find quotes. Without the Internet, self-publishing would not be a practical alternative. It's how I communicate with my book designer, editor, illustrator, lawyer, printer, distributor and publicist. You can go to my web site to get more information about my business and some adventures, and you can use it to order books. I send the free monthly Celebrating Our Lives ezine to subscribers. My computer holds all my information and the Internet is my link to the rest of the world.


Is there anything else you wish to add that we have not covered?


I care about people and how they celebrate. If any of my comments in this interview or stories in my book remind you of stories you'd like to share with others, please send them to me at mary@adventuresoftheheart.com. We can all learn from each other.

Thanks once again Mary for participating in our interview and I wish you the best of luck with all of your future endeavors.

Thank you, Norm, for interviewing me. It was my pleasure.

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