Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Hey! Where are we?

Setting. That Place where the book sends you, where -- if the author is fortunate and talented -- you want to stay. It's vivid and evocative and necessary to the story.

If you're a writer, one of the things you learn is how to create a setting that serves as a vehicle for visual and emotional impact, that helps define characters, that subtly influences the opinion of the reader.

If you're a reader, stick with me. This isn't just about writerly tips, but about how understand a bit more of what the writer does can add to your enjoyment of their work.

When author Joyce Yarrow talks about setting, she talks about the "Place of Place." It has been inspirational to her body of work. She bought a ticket and followed her P.I. protagonist from New York to Moscow, and from that experience populated her novel Russian Reckoning with fascinating characters as well as evocative surroundings. 

Author Jeanne Matthew as purchased several tickets -- from Austrailia to Norway to Greece and more -- and used the knowledge she gained to give purpose and depth to all her characters, not just her cultural anthropologist protagonist.

Kait Carson stays closer to home with her Florida-based novels, using setting as a character that can turn from benign and beckoning to dangerous. Her characters must learn to cope.

Author Lisa Stowe pulls the setting even closer -- within the confines of a valley in the mountains of Idaho -- to build tension and danger while showing the reader the worth of her characters. 

These authors (click on their names to find out more about them and their work) all make setting do "double duty" by being a character in and of itself, by showing aspects of their characters that make them more real to the reader, and to influence the opinion of the reader. 

Yes, we're a sneaky lot. We use sight, sound, touch and smell to access the reader's emotional triggers and draw them to a character or push them away. Dialog and action can sometimes be too obvious or overused.

So, how do we do it? I'll tell you my process. The authors above aren't much different -- I know because I've talked to them all about this very subject. 

I start with each scene and ask myself what it should accomplish. Are the characters in that scene brave, bored, excited, in love, frightened? A combination? Are the words coming out of their mouths truth? When I can answer that question for each character, I can then decide how to let the reader know. Their reactions to their environment can help me do that. When Thea walks into the cavernous archives at the Burke Museum (Levels of Deception), we learn a lot about her by her overwhelmed reaction and then resolve to figure out how to accomplish her task. Oh, and by the way, the reader has also been handed a gift: the scene is a foreshadowing the nature of the conflict yet to come and how Thea will tackle it. Cool, huh?

I can also use setting to show a character's comfort or discomfort level. Every time Thea goes to the barn and methodically goes through her riding routine we are reminded of how she reestablishes her own sanity. Paul Hudson feels at home getting his hands dirty on a paleontology dig. One wouldn't expect him to be comfortable in a billionaire's home. However, when we see him there we also see how he's comfortable enough in his own skin to not be overly impressed or be swayed from his goal. Good for him. We like him for that!

A character's "world view" is going to be reflected by their interaction with setting. Someone whose work, traditions and habits center around, for example, roaming the city streets in the week hours is going to have very different observations and feelings than a character whose work and habits have him frequenting the servant's domain in Downton Abbey -- even if they are both up to no good. 

Setting can show us a character's strengths and weaknesses, comfort and discomfort, motive, desires ... all without a single "tell". If you're a writer, make setting work for you. As a reader, you can smile when you catch the author being clever. A good writer won't mention anything that doesn't have a purpose. Setting is one of those things.

I highly encourage everyone, be you reader or both reader and writer, to check out the authors I've mentioned. They are talented women with wonderful stories, all there for your enjoyment. Catch them at being clever!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Kudos for Saving the Queen of Diamonds!

 Indie Book Of The Day has awarded my sixth Thea Campbell Mystery it's top prize for November 7, 2014! I'm thrilled, and seriously wasn't expecting it. It's especially good news because it means all of the Thea Campbell Mysteries will be reaching a wider audience -- and that's the real goal of every author, reaching readers who will enjoy their work.

Indie Book of the Day website is an excellent place to look for new books to read. They have a "Past Winners" list that can help you pick some more excellent books!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Meet My Character -- Blog Tour

I've been asked by author Kate Wyland, who writes wonderful romantic suspense novels, to participate in the "Meet My Character Blog Tour". You should pop over to her blog -- when you're done here, of course -- and see what she has to say about one of the characters she writes about. However, since you're here, allow me to introduce you to Thea Campbell, the protagonist in my mystery series.

1. What is the name of your character?
Thea Campbell ... unless you're her mother. Then her name is Theodora Bernadette Campbell. Big name for a little person.

2.Is she a fictional or historic person?
Totally fictional -- I swear.

3. When and where is the story set?
The setting is not fictional. It's present-day, in the real-life town of Snohomish, Washington -- at least in most of the books. Thea also will find herself in Montana, Issaquah, WA, and Seattle.

4.What should we know about her?
She's 29 when the series begins and single, owns her own accounting business that she operates out of her small Craftsman style house, and owns a horse she rides dressage. Her younger sister Juliet lives in town, too, as do her great aunt and uncle. Her sister is a bit of a wild-child, so Thea feels responsible for her (not an easy thing). Her aunt and uncle are transplanted Brits, and lend support to both the young women when trouble comes their way -- and her uncle (a former Olympic dressage rider for Great Britain) coaches Thea in dressage. I probably should mention, too, that Thea's horse seems to have a psychic connection with her.

5. What is the main conflict? What messes up her life?
In the first book, Death By A Dark Horse, Thea's horse is stolen and the thief is found murdered. The supposed thief also happens to be Thea's uncle's start student and Thea is suspected of offing the young woman. 

6. What is the personal goal of the character?
Thea believes she has her life all planned out. She likes her nice predictable life. A lot. She throws her energy into clearing herself of suspicion of murder. In the process more pieces of her life start to shift and fall out of her control, including her love life. Sure, she has a boyfriend ... a nice, safe (is he really?) attorney who doesn't inspire her. She doesn't expect to be blindsided by a paleontology professor with intense blue eyes and a tendency to wade into the middle of trouble.

7. What are the other books in the series?
Death By a Dark Horse is the first. In order are ...
Levels of Deception
An Error in Judgment
Shooting to Kill
Saving the Queen of Diamonds
and ... brand new, not a mystery, but a romantic comedy ... Carried Away

Next week look for Kait Carson, who writes mysteries set in the hot tropics of Florida, and Lisa Stowe whose mysteries are set in the beautiful but dangerous mountains of Idaho.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Carried Away -- Available Now!

You can preorder my new romantic comedy, Carried Away, right now, just in time for the holiday-crazy-season. Think of it as a little gift for yourself, to take a break from "too much to do and to little money to do it with." It's short (won't take but an evening to read) and only .99 -- and for that you get to laugh, gasp and sigh ... and maybe be glad your life isn't like Thea and Paul's. 

When you're getting married to the same man, what could possibly go wrong?

Struck by guilt after her and Paul Hudson's impulsive Las Vegas wedding, Thea Campbell plans a second, traditional affair while keeping the first secret. The last thing she'd wanted to do was hurt her friends and family by not including them. Too bad she didn't count on her ex-almost-fiance showing up at her door just hours before the ceremony. There's a good chance that at least one person will get a little carried away.

Available from Amazon in e-book format only

Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Author Next Door

Sunday, November 2 is going to be icky and rainy. Come brighten your day at the Snohomish Library and meet a whole bunch of authors -- including me, Lisa Stowe, Carole Dagg, Aarene Storms, Lish McBride, Valerie Stein, Isle Smit and Dorothy Read. 

We're all part of the kick-off for Sno-Isle Library System's "Author Next Door" series that will be presented during the month of November at various libraries in Snohomish and Island Counties. If you live here, or are planning a visit, check out the Sno-Isle website to see what fun you can have!