SETTINGS – Describing Where a novel takes place adds another dimension to the storytelling process. It gives the reader a “feel” for where the story is happening and what to expect the inhabitants will look and sound like. Settings can be a country, a locale, a specific town, a building, a train (The Orient Express), a ship, even a single room. The photo of the Ledson Winery outside of Sonoma, California would make a perfect setting for a romance novel. Change the weather, as I discussed in my previous article,(see below) and you can change the type of novel you write or read. If you use your imagination and make this photo a “dark and stormy night”, with rain slashing the darkened windows, you might find yourself in a Gothic romance or horror story. Or add a single light in one of the tower windows and you could be in a murder mystery. Agatha Christie, the Queen of the Cozy Mysteries, famously used a train, a ship, and various manor houses to “set” her murders. When I traveled to Scotland, I knew I had to set a novel in that wonderful place. MURDER BY HAGGIS is now available in a print edition at Amazon. com. Electronic downloads available from amazon. com, and for tablets etc. from www.smasnwords.com.
April – 2013 – Spring has finally made its appearance in Northern Nevada. In what season is the book you are reading or writing set? Much depends on it, but it shouldn’t dominate the setting. Two examples: Cinderella – Slay Bells for Santa has an obvious season. The weather is affected by winter storms off the Oregon coast. My characters need to wear coats. They eat Misty’s hearty seafood chowder. There are Christmas lights along Main Street. In Kill Cinderella, it is February. Still winter in Northern California and Reno. There is rain, and a snow storm over the Sierras that prevents Cindy from returning to Reno. Little details, seamlessly (hopefully) woven into the setting and story.There can be exceptions. The season and therefore the weather can become another character. Think of the hurricane in Cape Fear or the foggy streets of London hiding Jack the Ripper. Now you know why so many horror stories take place at night. For me, it can be more terrifying when horrible things happen on a perfect summer day in broad daylight!
EGG ON MY FACE: No, this is not a beauty hint but a sincere apology to those of you who downloaded Kill Cinderella before February, 2013. It came to my attention that there were 20! typos in the book. Mea Culpa. The ultimate responsibility is mine. I pulled the old version and redid it so the story is the same but the typos are gone and I found new proof readers. The feedback I am getting is that you like this adventure, but there is an increasing demand that I bring back one of the characters from Dog Gone and Slay Bells. Can you guess who it is?
NEW YEAR’S TRADITIONS: From eating blackeyed peas for good luck in the coming year to a Scottish tradition called “first footing” it seems many of us have hopeful ways to ensure good luck and prosperity in the New Year. I read about “first footing” in our local paper and knew I had to work it into a book. For those of you who don’t know about “first footing” allow me to explain. In Scotland, at the stroke of Midnight on New Year’s Eve, if the first person to cross the threshold is a dark-haired man with a lump of coal in one pocket and salt in the other, it will be a prosperous and fortunate New Year. BUT… if the first person to enter is a red-haired woman… uh,oh! Disaster and trouble will follow. Of course, Jax Hollister, my heroine in MURDER BY HAGGIS (due in Spring of 2013) has an outrageous head full of carrot colored hair. No matter the color of hair, may all of you have a healthy and prosperous New Year.
November 5, 2012. FAQ 1. Where Do Your Ideas Come From? (I tried not to end this in a preposition, but…)
Quick answer: Everywhere but not all ideas become books.
The Idea for Dog Gone came from a newspaper article about a lost dog scam. “We found your dog injured and took him to a vet. Send money for vet bills and airplane ticket.” Money sent, no dog. That idea and some research with a local dog groomer morphed into Cinderella - Dog Gone.
When I was sitting in a dentist’s chair, the piped-in music had a line from a song that became The Wishing Well Ghost. That book stalled half-way through and will never see the light of day.
Places often trigger my ideas. A trip to Cape Blanco lighthouse in Oregon supplied the setting for Cinderlla -Slay Bells For Santa. Fort William, Scotland begged to have a book set there. Watch for Murder By Haggis in the spring of 2013.
As a mystery writer, I keep an open mind to the “What Ifs” of daily life. I have yet to run out of stories.
August 8, 2012 -How I Spent My Summer Vacation
Put on your memory caps. Remember those first-day-of-school assignments when we had to write an essay about “what I did this summer”? Unless you’d gone somewhere with your family or went to camp, it was difficult to make staying home and being bored sound interesting. Today, I could write an article (I did -www.Generation Boomer.com) about a fanatastic vacation.
My high school buddy and I went to Prague (loved it) and Budapest. We boarded the Orient Express (Yes! the OE) and 24 hours later we were in Paris. The OE waiting room in Budapest was like something out of a movie set. What a wonderful way to begin the trip of a life time. On the train, the attention to deatil was magnificent. From the tea service–fine china, silver and a stem of orchids in a vase (picture below), to the polished black cars. I had fun watching other travelers gravitate to the train and pose for pictures, just like I did. From the expression on their faces, people seemed amazedthe train still existed. It was not just a figment of fiction or Hollywood make-believe. I couldn’t help imagining I was in a Murder on the Orient Express movie. The service was excellent, our compartments were compact and comfortable, and the food? I had the best fois gras tea sandwich in the world. If anything, they fed us too much and often. I was never hungry. If you would like to see more, visit www.orient-express.com. It was a magical experience.