Thursday, January 19, 2017

Come along with us

by Liz Flaherty

I had the idea of blogging about the settings for our books, offering up a travelogue. it was an easy thought for me because most of mine have been here in Indiana, right close to where I live. Oh, except for the ones that were in Kentucky. And Tennessee. And Vermont, the homeland of my heart. The Internet makes it easy to research different places, but it doesn't make it easy to hear those places. Or smell the sea if you're inland. Or stand rapt at the foot of a mountain if you're on flat land. That's where being writers comes in.

I named a tearoom in Every Time We Say Goodbye Seven Pillars. The real ones are a set of caves on the Mississinewa River.

Both that book and my next one, tentatively titled It Was Written In the Stars, take place on a fictitious lake just over and down a piece from where I live. Here is Lake Manitou, the REAL Miniagua.
Photo by Chris McGuire
Back to McGuffey's was set in the fictitious town of Fionnegan, a pretty little place in the shadow of Wish Mountain. Neither of them exist anywhere except my heart, but I "found" them after visiting Jay Peak...

...and Danville...

I love the pictures, both Helen's and the ones I've borrowed for here, but more important than how pretty they are is how they make you feel. Helen mentions below that she can "summon up total sensory recall..." I know jealousy is ugly...but I am. Other than the sound of the ocean and 1960s music--yes, really--not much calls up my senses. I have to find them in pictures.

When I look at Manitou's picture, I remember the smell of summer on the lake. Jay Peak makes me remember driving to its top on a skinny little road. I found out I could hold my breath for a really long time. The picture of Danville brings back the sounds in the general store.

I tend to use big old Victorian houses in my books, and I'll look them up while I'm writing so I can hear the sound of footsteps on the hardwood floor of a high-ceilinged room.

I guess my travelogue became more of a sail through the senses, but I never seem to finish a post the way I start one. I'll be entering the editing process for It Was Written In the Stars soon--that tendency might come back to haunt me!

Have a great day. Where are we going, Helen?

by Helen DePrima


I love Liz’s idea for a travelogue of settings for our books. Although I do occasionally set brief segments in places I’ve never visited, I depend heavily on locations where I can summon up total sensory recall – scents, the songs of birds native to an area, the taste of local foods, even the feel of the air on my face.

To this point, I’ve set my books in the mountain West and in my home state of Kentucky from which I can draw an endless supply of sensations. I’ve helped move cattle; I’ve climbed through the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde and experienced the white-knuckled crossing of Wolf Creek Pass I described in Luke’s Ride, the third novel in the Cameron’s Pride series. I’ve also spent many hours attending Professional Bull Riding events, listening and observing from public seating and behind the scenes to catch the sounds and smells, the cadence of voices to pirate for my dialogue. I set great store by authenticity; nothing turns me off faster in a book than a flagrant error in what might be probable or at least possible. My tastes in both reading and writing are set firmly in reality.

 One locale calling to me lately is coastal Maine.  Living only an hour from the New Hampshire-Maine border, I’ve spent considerable time both on the shore and crewing on a friend’s 40-foot ketch between New Hampshire and Boothbay Harbor, Maine. A tale set on a private island Down East has been clamoring for my attention lately. Maybe it’s time to exchange the smell of sagebrush for the scent of rockweed at low time, the touch of fog and the cries of seabirds for desert air and magpies’ chatter. A new venue, a fresh start.

39 comments:

  1. I have to agree with Liz, I'm jealous of your total sensory recall ability, Helen. Lake Manitou is stunning!

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    1. It is pretty, although it posed well for that particular picture, too. Thanks, Jill.

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    2. Recalling scents has always been highly evocative for me. My dad took me fishing as a kid; he would park me on bridge made of old railroad ties treated with creosote; to this day, the similar smell of tar takes me back to those summer afternoons with my cane pole and can of nightcrawlers.

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  2. Liz, I love your pictures and seriously, some of the best photos I've ever taken are right here in Indiana! No mountains but on a clear day, Lake Michigan can rival the Caribbean! I took my son and family there in May a couple years ago and they were astounded.
    And I love our golden corn fields on late summmer.
    What a lovely travelogue! It's so foggy outside I can barely see the trees on the golf course.

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    1. Lol on the fog--we've had a lot of it this past week, haven't we? I agree about Lake Michigan. My friend Nan Reinhardt, who writes the Women of Willow Bay series, is my expert on it.

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    2. Fog can be a powerful device in narration; mirages appear and sound has no direction. I once crossed Long Island Sound in heavy fog promising to be a good girl the the rest of my life if we made it safely to Mystic CT. I'm sure I'll use the experience in some future tale.

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  3. I want to visit these places! Thank you Helen and Liz for your very evocative descriptions of book locales. While I love the convenience of the Internet for setting research, nothing beats having been to the same or a similar place for the full sensory experience. My September release is set in Lima Ohio on a soybean farm - far away from the big city where I live. But having a brother living on a farm surrounded by soybean farms helped with the mental pictures. A lovely travelogue for this gray, bleak January day here in southwest Ontario!

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    1. Can't wait to see that, Janice. Ohio's right next door. I'm always happy when the farmers around us plant corn or, even better, wheat, in the fields, because I think they mature prettier than soybeans. But farmland is farmland, with a special beauty all its own.

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    2. My husband and I take long road trips during which I collect farms with my Nikon. Handsome barns have a sculptural magesty, and the smell of freshly turned soil is perfume to me, even better dressed with a healthy layer of last winter's manure. Sometimes I get a chance to stop and dig my fingers into deep rich soil like dark velvet. Once a country girl . . .

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  4. Thank you for taking us along to some of your settings . . . and experiences, Liz and Helen!

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    1. One of the best parts of writing is reliving and sharing great and terrible memories.

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  5. Okay, you've made me want to head east. I've been to New York, but never New Hampshire. And, working on a boat, what fun.

    Pamela

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    1. Helen has had the coolest experiences!

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    2. I spent some of my happiest moments sailing, also some of the scariest. We almost lost our anchor overboard in the Gulf of Maine in a near gale and suffered considerable hull damage before making to harbor. I'll never again take being safe and dry and warm for granted.

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  6. I love finding settings. I don't travel as much as I used to when my husband, who loved to drive, was willing to just "head out" to find interesting places. I loved going into bookstores to find books on local lore. I agree with Liz that seeing, smelling, drinking in the flavor of a place is just the best. Second best is buying travel books. I like those back-roads ones. To me settings tell so much about characters. And I love the variety in the Heartwarming stories.

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    1. Ah, small town bookstores! I've found so many goodies in such shops; thrift stores and library sales also yield up buried treasure. Such fun to read my way through the landscapes sliding past the car or train windows. I've devoured Tony Hillerman while eating lunch on the Navajo Rez, Mary O'Hara's Green Grass of Wyoming and The Virginian during stays on a cattle ranch on the Colorado-Wyoming border. And Exodus traveling in Israel many years ago.

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    2. I have a book on Indiana's road trips I bought before I retired with the intent of taking a week and going on all our back roads. I haven't done it yet, but I hope there's still time.

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  7. Wonderful settings. I do love to read about the settings and how the characters experience the sights and sounds. And Helen's right, the smells.

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    1. The smells are great, but I can't really remember them unless I'm reminded. I do love being able to smell the seasons outside though. I'm sniffing hard for spring already! :-)

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    2. A wonderful spring smell that carries me back to my childhood is fresh bark mulch, or as we call it in Kentucky, tanbark. A fresh layer spread in show rings for horse shows made nice footing for the horses and a slightly softer landing for riders who don't quite have things under control.

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  8. Liz and Helen, Your setting photos are beautiful. Most of my stories begin with setting. When I visit a place, I like to imagine who might live there and what their lives are like. How does setting contribute to their problems and the decisions they might make to solve those problems.

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    1. I do that, too, with those big old houses I mentioned. I love inventing families for them.

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    2. As someone who has always lived close to the land, weather often acts almost as a character in my stories. I was delighted with Heartwarming's choice of Into The Storm for the first Cameron's Pride novel; it worked on many levels, both in the present tense and especially in my heroine's past. A sad reality: many people live in artificial settings almost totally divorced from the natural world.

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  9. Settings really make the book. And the Heartwarming authors are so good at it. I love these photos. And Liz, McGuffey's is just how I pictured it!

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    1. We are good at settings, aren't we? :-) I'm still grateful to Carol Ross for taking me to Alaska--it's the closest I've come!

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    2. Awwhh, thanks, Liz! Like you guys, I feel like setting is almost like another character.

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  10. One of my favorite things about reading is how it can transport you to another place. I love all the settings y'all have described and so glad you can take readers there with you!

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    1. Remember the really old Harlequins that almost all took place in so many exotic places? Although I'm glad the books have changed over the years, I'm glad the settings have stayed as vibrant as they always were.

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    2. My dearest hope, that readers enjoy the ride.

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  11. What beautiful settings!!I love imagining them and then seeing them come to life from authors' pictures. Thanks for letting us see into the places you've written about.

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    1. Hi, Laurie! We feel so lucky having readers like you!

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  12. Beautiful pictures. It's so nice to know where other authors get their settings. Thanks for sharing.

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  13. I fell in love with Astoria because the waterfront smells of salt air and diesel, just like my childhood home of New Bedford, Mass. My mom took my friend and I to the beach every morning of the summer. She mixed iodine and baby oil to protect our skin and help us tan. Colognes do it for me, too, and bring back dates and dances and other special event I wore Golden Autumn by 'Prince Machabelli' (sp?) in my early twenties, 'Jean Nate 'body splash in the hot L.A. summers when I was working, 'Charlie' in my 30s. A walk through The Bon's fragrance aisle can take me back through my entire social history. Love the post, guys. And your photos. You're both such wonderfully descriptive writers.

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    1. Oh, sweet memories. I remember iodine and baby oil--I burned myself to a crisp more than once! I do remember one of your books, Muriel (although not its name) where the heroine was a bookstore owner with two daughters. I think it was set in Astoria, wasn't it? I remember feeling right at home there.

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    2. Yes! Trust a Hero involving a mystery about our underground tunnels. You have such a good brain. I should be so lucky.

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  14. This is so neat, Ladies! These photos are gorgeous. Fionnegan is perfect, Liz. I want to go there! (Heck, I wouldn't mind living there.) Helen, I'm a fan of authenticity myself. Like you, I don't like it as a reader or a writer. Thanks for sharing!

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