Fictional Settings: More Than Time and Place

Setting transports readers to a different time and place. I recently saw an article on what reading does for anxious people. That’s me. I’m a worrier. Reading transports me to another place in the blink of an eye. The setting can be familiar or exotic. But it always has to be meaningul to the characters, which in turn makes it meaningful to me, the reader.

As a writer setting is a tool used to enhance characters and their actions and reactions. It drives suspense. It supports the political and social environment of the story. Setting creates a mood or a feeling in the reader. Or I should say this is a continuing work-in-progress.

My fictional setting of Aspen Lake is that of a small resort town on the prairies. It is modeled after a real-life resort town. A place that is near and dear to my heart. I spent many sunny beach days there as child. I worked in the park for a couple of summers as a teenager. I met my husband there. Have camped their with my own family. It is important to me.

But in BACKLASH, Book 1 of my Aspen Lake series, that isn’t the case for my hero, Constable Chase Porter, who grew up with an abusive father and couldn’t wait to leave. Now he’s back and picking up the trail of wanted gang leader and living next door to the girl he left behind.

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And damn his scheming excuse of a realtor to hell. A quaint, post-Victorian home, his ass. Unless crumbling and broken-down constituted quaint. In that case, he’d nailed the description. Fine by him, he didn’t have forever in mind. A couple years tops, unless he hit the transfer to anywhere else lottery. He hated tranquil and quiet. He preferred noise and movement. Life after nine in the evening. Anonymity.

EXPOSED is Book 2 in the Aspen Lake series and will be released sometime this autumn. Seth Stone is the new guy in town. He’s downing a good job of keeping his head down until Kate Logan, boutique owner and head of Aspen Lake’s annual Gothic Revival Fair (which includes the Mad Man’s Ball), becomes the target of a fanatic.

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More lights, more candles, more pumpkins decorated the impromptu ballroom. Tables covered in white linen with bronze runners held vases bursting with fall flowers. Swags of purple hung down from the roof. It should have looked cheesy, but somehow it all came together with enough shadow to be mysterious and enough light to cast a spell. Seth focused on the nooks and crannies and the plenty of places to hide and countless ways to make trouble.

MIKE and GRACE’S story is the third book in the Aspen Lake story and a work-in-progress. Their pattern of avoiding each other is broken when a cold case pushes local Grace Bighill and Constable Michael Davenport together. Rumors threaten secrets which in turn tests the loyalty of all involved.

Her head swivelled owl-like. The rest of her was scared to move in case any dust escaped her person and landed on any one of numerous pristine surfaces. He seemed to have a thing for beige. Beige furniture. Beige lamps. Beige carpet. Okay the carpet probably came with the place so technically not his fault. But still…Grace made a mental note to clean her whole house which at the moment looked like a yarn factory and pastry shoppe had a war to which there was no clear winner.

I had a hard time narrowing my favourite fictional settings down to three. But this post is long already. If you’ve made it this far – thank you for sticking with it. I decided to pick a book from my childhood, one book pre-kids, and one I read with my book club and is also one of my all-time favourite books.

I can’t think of a book in which the fictional setting impacted me more than Room by Emma Donoghue. Told from the point of view of five-year-old Jack. I was captivated from page one.

I flat the chairs and put them beside Door against Clothes Horse. He grumbles and says there’s no room but there’s plenty if he stands up really straight.

We’ve all met at least one five-year-old along the way. They’re not the most reliable of narrators. But seeing things through Jack’s viewpoint, his thought process, his dialogue, is what makes this novel the incredibly moving and dramatic work of fiction.

In The Mists of Avalon Marion Zimmer Bradley takes us back to Camelot and the Knights of the Round Table. The Arthur legend is a favourite of mine and has been since forever.  But Bradley’s version is very different and told from the perspective of the women of Avalon. it is a powerful look at double standards, male dominance, and the idea of predicting the future.

And then, in one great act of Druid magic, to protect the last precious refuge of their school, they had made the last great change in the world; that change which removed the Island of Avalon from the world of mankind. Now it lay hidden in the mist which concealed it, except from those initiates who had been schooled there or those who were shown the secret ways through the Lake.

It’s tempting to think of adjectives holding the power when describing setting, but in the above it’s the verbs that grab your attention and hold it.

It was Canada Day yesterday and I can’t think of a more Canadian setting than Green Gables as found in Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables. One of my most beloved stories.

To the west a dark church spire rose up against a marigold sky. Below was a little valley and beyond a long, gently-rising slope with snug farmsteads scattered along it. From one to another the child’s eyes darted, eager and wistful. At last they lingered on one away to the left, far back from the road, dimly white with blossoming trees in the twilight of the surrounding woods. Over it, in the stainless southwest sky, a great crystal-white star was shining like a lamp of guidance and promise.

It’s a panoramic look at what Anne, an orphan, thinks is going to be her new home given to us through Matthew’s eyes. The beauty is in the details.

What are some of your favourite fictional settings?

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Me! Standing on the spot that inspired Lover's Lane!

Me! Standing on the spot that inspired Lover’s Lane!

 

The Act May Seem Random, But Kindness Is Purposeful

It’s true, don’t you think?

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“Practice random acts of kindess and senseless acts of beauty.” Anne Herbert

Kindness is considered a virture. In that it is defined as being “helpfulness towards someone in need, not in return for anything, nor for the advantage of the helper himself, but for that of the person helped”. Or so Wikipedia insists. But I don’t think anyone would dispute it.

“Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.” Lao Tzu

But when I got out of bed this morning my first thoughts weren’t how can I be randomly kind today. They ran more along the lines of the huge rash my daughter has, the dishes from the Father’s Day celebration held here yesterday that are still spread all over my kitchen. I remembered I had to pay the Weed Man. Make a doctor’s appointment. That I have a another appointment later on today. A meeting tonight.

And random acts of seneless beauty? What is that even? I thought I should be checking Facebook. Instagram. Twitter. And how I really needed to write a blog post. So people will notice me and like me and I’ll sell more books.

Me. Me. Me.

Good gravy, marketing is exhausting.

Sounds a tad whiny, doesn’t it?

It’s okay, you don’t lose points for agreeing. Then I saw something about kindness. A light bulb went on and I was all “Thank you, Universe. For providing.” I needed to work some kindness into my day. For others. And myself. Attitude adjustment time.

I scrolled through websites and Pinterest, in the name of research of course, and I came across what I thought was a gem of an idea from a 30 Day Kindess Challenge. It suggested you “Leave a funny note or a little bit of cash in your favourite library book.”

Isn’t that the sweetest idea? Perhaps not the cash bit. A little bit of cash would probably be considered a dollar or two. I’m from Canada, we don’t have one dollar bills anymore. We have one dollar coins we call loonies and two dollar coins we call toonies. I don’t think that would work, nor would the library police enjoy coins taped to the inside of their books. And call me cheap, but leaving a fiver or a ten seems a bit much. But a note? Or a quote? Or why this particular page is your favourite? Or if you like this book you should try this other book? Or just a scribble. I think that’s an awesome idea. You could slip a note in books you loan out. I could slip them in books I sell. In fact, I think I will.

Kindness doesn’t have to be complicated. (Unless your Miriam Toews and your novel is called A Complicated Kindness and the story has to have conflict and be, you know, complicated. AWESOME book by the way!) It just has to be heartfelt. It has to be about the other person. And maybe that’s what marketing myself should be about, with the focus being the reader. What helps them? What would make their day better? Make them smile? Feel engaged. Connected. Important.

In case you’re wondering where to begin you can go here: How to Practice Random Acts of Kindness.

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Taking Safety Seriously

I came across this article on Pinterest. You can check out the article here: Ten Self Defense Tips For Women. I’m not going to talk about all ten, and if you do check out the article there may be some points you agree with, some you may not. For example, I have a huge issue with No. 9. Some of you may not. That’s fine. But there is one I want to talk about.

So…let’s talk about No. 7, shall we.

7. ANSWER THE DOOR

Typically, we’ve been told, “If you’re home alone and someone knocks, don’t answer – they’ll go away.” Recent events, though, are showing that more and more, burglars are doing home invasions assuming that if no one answers, it’s safe to go in. Locally, we’ve been told by our police department to answer with a call for who it is, and let them know you’re on the phone or won’t be answering the door or other ways to let the person know you aren’t going to be opening the door. Never actually answer the door even for a service person you are expecting until you’ve been able to confirm that they are actually who they say they are.

Do not invite a predator in.

I have a little bit of personal experience with this one. One day the doorbell rang. I was a little slow to answer it. The door knob rattled but didn’t open because for once it was locked (which didn’t happen a lot). Weird, I thought. You have to know at this point that at the time I lived in a reasonably safe neighborhood of my city. I wasn’t thinking anything bad. I was just thinking strange. Possibly, I’d watched too much television. Because, hello, don’t criminals case a joint before they rob it. Make sure it’s empty? And who would rob our house. We had nothing worth stealing. This was in the days before huge televisions that weighed next to nothing, computers, cell phones, iPads, etc. We were young, had a young family; all our money went to food and shelter. We had one small 15 inch television.

And it was the middle of the day.

But I digress, so what did I do. I OPENED THE DOOR. Wide open without a ‘Who’s there?” or “Who is it?” And there stood a young man in a track suit over six feet tall, looking quite presentable, and clean cut if a little shocked. He eventually smiled when I looked him in the eye and said, “Hi there, can I help you?”

That’s me. Still not having a clue. Did I mention that I’m a very trusting person?

He fumbled around for something to say. And finally settled on, “I’m looking for Broad Street.”

So…Broad Street is a VERY major street in my city. And it’s nowhere near my house.

Now I’m starting to get suspicious. But I still explain to him where Broad Street is just in case he’s actually lost. I know! Polite to the bitter end. Which thankfully it wasn’t.

And he said, “Okay, thanks for your help.”

Because he was polite too. This is Canada after all. Those rumors are true.

I shut the door. They drove off. Yes, there were more men in the car outside. It’s okay to think what you’re thinking. I have more sense now.

By then I’m thinking maybe I should call the police. Because that was really, really weird and obviously he wasn’t looking for Broad Street and they were scouting out empty houses. The police took my call very seriously. They took down my information and checked to see if a car similar to my description had been stolen recently. Probably not a good idea to go about robbing houses with your own vehichle.

They called back not fifteen minutes later asking more specific questions and looking for more details because apparently they just drove further down the street and found a house where someone wasn’t home and broke in. A neighbor spotted them.

Now, I didn’t invite him in. But, if he’d have wanted to come in without an invitation, he could have pushed his way in. Easily.

And that was a humbling thought.

I like to think I’m more careful now. Better at keeping the door locked and asking who it is if they’re unexpected. But I did get a scolding in the grocery store the other day for leaving my purse unattended in my cart. By a well meaning guy who said I really shouldn’t walk away and leave my purse, wide open, for anyone to snoop through or steal.

I thanked him. What he said was true.

So…just remember, stay safe.

Monday, June 1st we’re hosting a Facebook Party (my first one): Romance: Past, Present and Future from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm MST.

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The Grand Prize is a $30 gift certificate. There will be prizes, trivia, games, snippets and lots of laughs. There’s a little bit of something for everyone, romance and some stories with romantic elements. Everything from historical (1940s), to contemporary, suspense, paranormal/urban fantasy, and science fiction. Join us!

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BACKLASH

When dedicated teacher Lily Wheeler interrupts a vicious gang attack on one of her students, she vows it won’t happen again. But her rash interference puts her in the path of a cold-blooded killer and the constable tracking him — a man she has little reason to trust, but can never forget.

Constable Chase Porter returned to Aspen Lake to see justice done, not renew old acquaintances. But when he rescues the woman he once loved from a volatile situation, he realizes his feelings for Lily haven’t lessened over the years.

Now, the dangerous killer Chase has sworn to capture has Lily in his sights. Can Chase and Lilly learn to trust each other again before it’s too late — or will old insecurities jeopardize their future?

Available Now

Available Now

Do you have any safety tips you’d like to share?

My Efforts to Declutter My Office and My Life

Sexy Suspense

I’m this close to getting a release day for EXPOSED, the second book in my Aspen Lake series. I can’t wait. I love this story.

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Kate Logan needs a safe haven. A place to start over after her modeling career disintegrates in scandal. But her hometown of Aspen Lake isn’t the sanctuary she hoped. Her vow of a low-key life is disrupted by a break-in and other strange happenings at her boutique. As the chair of Aspen Lake’s Gothic Revival Festival, she’s also drawn the ire of a religious fanatic. Kate is up to her stilettos in drama and intrigue including one sexy carpenter who’s determined to get in her way.

New to town, Seth Stone is seeking inspiration and solitude to concentrate on his art. Short on funds, he agrees to take on a second job restoring the damage to Kate’s Closet. Trouble erupts along with the desire to get to know Kate better. When he’s used as a pawn in a smear campaign against his gorgeous boss Seth fights back. But now the whole town is watching. Including the man determined to further his own agenda. Time is running out with nowhere to hide.

While that’s happeing, I’ve been on a mission to declutter my office. It’s working. Things are looking good in here. I even dusted. Threw more stuff out. I seem to need to do this in stages. I can’t do it in one big surge of elimination. It’s too traumatic. Especially with the amount of things I still have in here of which of my kids had a hand in creating. But as they grow older, and I grow more mindful of being in the moment, it’s easier to celebrate the people they are right now. Even if it means they are seperating from our nest and that makes me want to hang onto their childhood memories harder.

The other part has been deciding what works for me in terms of organizing my very day life. I tried desperately to use my iPhone to organize appointments and make lists. That doesn’t work for me. I need to use a paper and pen to do these things. Old school, I know. But something about writing it down versus typing it in helps me to remember.

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Important papers have been filed. Systems created to keep track of stuff. Now to remember to use them!

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But there’s still work to be done. I’ll let you in on a dirty little secret. In my basement are two GIANT bins of my kids’ art, schoolwork, and various projects. HUGE. I’m going to go out on a limb and say they don’t want to keep their math worksheets from elementary school. And most of this stuff is elementary school age. In high school at the end of the year, my son took all his papers out to the firepit and burned them in celebration of the year being over. Yeah, that’s my kid. My daughter’s high school story is a whole different book I’ll write someday.

But I found a blog post that address this in a simple, clear, reasonable way. How To Decide What School Papers to Keep from 365 Organize. It also doesn’t involve spending a lot of money.

Another little gem of advice I found –  Keep it if…It’s sentimental gold. “The more memorabilia you have, the less emotionally valuable each individual item becomes,” says Emily Wilska, an organization consultant in San Francisco. Instead of saving every card your beloved uncle ever sent, pick the one that captures his spirit best.

And the cutest decluttering advice: Toss: Yarn and string scraps in your yard. Bits of leftover twine and yarn are perfect liners for a bird’s nest or robin roost. Place these bird goodies on bushes in your yard as the weather begins to warm, and odds are that you’ll be keeping a feathered friend and her brood a bit toastier this season.

 

What are your decluttering tips? What is one of your favourite momentos?

 

K Is For Kites! #AtoZChallenge

Sexy Suspense

A to Z April Blogging Challenge

I have a daughter who loves kites. And what’s not to love! It’s an excellent stress reliever. One can’t downplay the importance of stress relievers these days. I recently read an article on the effect stress is having on women and their health. I imagine men too.

DSC_0183“Throw your dreams into space like a kite, and you do not know what it will bring back, a new life, a new friend, a new love, a new country.”  Anais Nin

Summer 2011 017“You will find truth more quickly through delight than gravity. Let out a little more string on your kite.”  Alan Cohen

Hard to be stressed when you’re watching your kite soar and circle. It’s forces you to look up. And the sky is right there. So big and wide. The wind takes it and all you can do is  hold on or let out more string. It’s hard not to be present in that moment. To just breathe it in and wonder.

I Is For Independent Booksellers #AtoZChallenge

Sexy Suspense

A to Z April Blogging Challenge

May 2nd is Authors for Indies Day! Across Canada authors will be at their local independent bookstores helping to sell books and show their support.

I can’t wait to talk books and share the love of reading.

Regina

SK Books & Collectibles Inc

919C Albert Street
Regina, SK S4R 2P6
www.skbooks.ca

Contact: Stewart Klyne

Phone: (306) 565-2111

Authors: Bruce Rice, Bev Lundahl, Brenda Niskala, Alison Lohans, Annette Bower, Karyn Good, Gerald Hill, Linda Biasotto, James Daschuk, Byrna Barclay

G Is For Grammar! #AtoZChallenge

Sexy Suspense

A to Z April Blogging Challenge

A2Z Challenge

Usually once a year I decide I need to upgrade or learn something new about the craft of writing. This time it stemmed from a freak-out over punctuation. Gawd, the English language with its they’re, their, and there, proving it has the zaniest spelling system ever invented. It requires a quirky understanding of past and present tense, among many other eccentricities.

We’ll begin with a box, and the plural is boxes,

But the plural of ox should be oxen, not oxes.

Then one fowl is a goose, but two are called geese,

Yet the plural of moose should never be meese,

You may find a lone mouse or a whole nest of mice,

But the plural of house is houses, not hice.

Part of a Poem Attributed to Anonymous

It’s important to have reference resources at your fingertips to fight the good fight.

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“I’m exhausted. I spent all morning putting in a comma and all afternoon taking it out”  Oscar Wilde

It was time brush up on some skills.

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E is for Elflock #AtoZChallenge

Sexy Suspense

A to Z April Blogging Challenge

elflock

Meaning: Tangled hair, as if matted by elves.

Origin: 1590s

As in: Jeez, Karyn, look at the state of those elflocks — brush STAT!

That’s it. That’s all I’ve got. On account of all the food, chocolate, and wine from the Easter celebrations yesterday. And also because I love owls.

D Is For Doubt #AtoZChallenge

Sexy Suspense

The A to Z April Blogging Challenge

A2Z ChallengeDoubt. It can be paralyzing. At different times I find myself doubting myself, my abilities, my instincts, my actions. It’s times like those that I remember a piece of advice given to me: Never aim for perfect.

doubtThat’s a lot of pressure to achieve an impossible state, which in turns creates doubt. I’ll never be perfect, or write the perfect book, or be the perfect marketer. But maybe it’s not so important to be perfect as it is to be positive. To do a little better each time. To take small steps, make progress. To set realistic goals. Reach. Repeat. Till what you achieve is success according to the goals you’ve set and worked towards.

yourselfSomeone else once said, “When in doubt take the next small step.”

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C Is For Curiosity #AtoZChallenge

Sexy Suspense

A2Z Challenge

 

The A to Z April Blogging Challenge

Curiosity isn’t just for kids! And forget about it killing the cat. It’s imperative for writers, and many others I suspect. Curiosity fosters imagination which encourages inspiration. This helps when we’re creating plot lines, characters, and dialogue, etc.

Recently a family member commented on the fact that I notice things she never would. Probably not true. Probably we notice different things. She’s very interested in facts and amassing them and somehow manages to retain them, where as I have no interest in retaining that stuff. But what makes people tick? Oh, yeah. What makes people do the things they do? People and their choices fascinate me. Do I take note of what they do when they think no one is watching, you bet. I pay attention to the way people speak, react, or reply. In line. At the doctor’s office. At the beach. Well, you get the idea.

Being curious and exploring means we’e engaged, living in the moment, and making connections. It’s about exploring the world around us. So embrace your curiosity. Have conversations, read books, watch films, take a walk, ask questions, take a class, try a new hobby. Try a new recipe, a new look, a DIY project.

Have fun! How do you embrace your curiosity?

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 Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit. – E.E. Cumming