01.26.2016

My Youngest Reader Yet!

Babies and books…

Thank you, Cory Megan Coleman! What a beautiful baby!

 

Cory Megan Coleman

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01.19.2016

A Writer On The Run

The best way I know to smash stress and anxiety is to run or walk in the woods.
 
Yesterday I ran my normal route through the towering pine trees, down the dirt trail, around the pond, and back up again, in the rain. Round and round. I looked for the white and gray owl I saw weeks ago who soared right ahead of me on the trail – twice – but he did not show.
 
I splashed through a puddle, watched raindrops fall off leaves, and daydreamed.
 
I chilled out, mellowed out, and breeeaathed. In and out.
 
When I was done, sweaty and soaked, I felt better. Much better. Less worried, less stressed.
 
Wishing you relaxing and lovely runs, walks, camping, and picnics in the woods in 2016.
 
Cheers to you.



 

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01.17.2016

Reading On A Rainy Sunday…

It’s pouring in Oregon so CLEARLY this is a sign that I should stay home, drink coffee, and read books with my cat.

Isn’t it a law that on rainy Sundays books MUST be read? I think I heard that somewhere…

 

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01.06.2016

Writers In The Storm

…Thanks to Writers In The Storm for printing my article!

JANUARY 6TH, 2016

How To Create Compelling Settings In Your Books.

 

I don’t like boring words.

I like scintillating words. Words that are skippy and delicious, or long with multiple syllables that roll like literary candy out of your mouth. Words that make you think, words that sound like what they are, words that dance and tease and have hidden meanings.

I do not like this word: Setting.

Setting.

So boring.  Lifeless. No romance to it. No high jinks. No dynamite.

And yet.

As a writer, the setting is so important in a book. The setting can increase the tension and the conflict, transport the reader to paradise or to terror, and ratchet up the odds, the mystery, the romance or the thrill ride.

Here are a few thoughts on setting, from my fried writer brain to yours. I apologize for using my books as examples all the way through, but hey.  I know my books best and I know why I used that setting as I did, so hopefully it will be helpful. 

1. Use setting to heighten a difficult personal struggle and make life even more challenging for your character.

 

What I Remember MostIn my latest book, What I Remember Most, the primary setting is a small, western style town in central Oregon surrounded by snow capped mountains. You can almost taste the snowflakes on your tongue and see sexy cowboys galloping by on horses.

But within that setting, my protagonist, Grenadine Scotch Wild, is living in her car. Yes, her car. On the run, away from a husband who has been arrested for embezzlement, fraud, and money laundering and will not tell the officials she’s innocent unless she returns to him. Grenadine’s accounts have been frozen by the government, she’s dead broke, therefore, car living.

Do you have a vision of car living? If not, go and park in your car in a parking lot and sit there for three hours.  Stuffy. Hot. Uncomfortable. How do you sleep? Dangerous. Where do you pee? Yes, that. What a problem.

 

The setting worked because no one wants to live in a car and the readers were rooting for Grenadine to get out of it. She was a sympathetic character, a woman who had lost everything, a woman who was fighting to get out of car living, a woman who was working hard, had no help, and was on her own. And oh, a jail sentence hanging over her head.

Use setting to toss your character into chaos.

 

  1. Make your reader shudder. Your setting can be used for tension, horror, angst, crimes. Take them to a place they DON’T want to go. Ever.  Make them uncomfortable. Make them catch their breath.

the-first-day-of-thea9e6c4-1-200x300I put Grenadine in jail for the weekend. I went to jail for three hours on a tour so I could get it right.  Think: Suffocating. Bars. Scary people. Violence. Group showers. Horrible food and who looks good in a blue jumpsuit?

In The First Day Of The Rest Of My Life, I created a small, dusty, cramped house in the middle of nowhere for a crime to take place.  The setting scared me, and I wrote it.

I had an insane asylum in Such A Pretty Face, briefly, where the mother was committed.

Settings can illuminate the plight of your characters, their internal hell and their external challenges.

 

  1. Make your reader gleeful. Let your reader live vicariously through your characters in their setting. 

Later, after working as a bartender and as an assistant to a furniture maker, two exhausting jobs, Grenadine finally got enough money together to rent a place.

So what setting did I put her in next?
A cozy remodeled apartment above a red barn in the country.

I described the two decks overlooking the farmland, the magnificent sunset and sunrise views, the animals she sees, the peace and tranquility.

Why this setting?
I would love to live atop a barn, horses below, in the country.  Many of my readers would, too.

My Very Best FriendIn the book I just finished, My Very Best Friend, which almost made me want to go and live in a cabin, alone, in Montana, and mutter to myself, but that is another story, I set it in Scotland.

Imagine: Hot Scotsmen in kilts. Bagpipes. Green rolling hills. Charming villages.

Who wouldn’t want to go to Scotland?

I’ve also set stories on quaint islands, Oregon beach towns, a town along a river, a schoolhouse transformed into a home, Cape Cod, a lavender farm, a tree house, and a Queen Anne house.

Take your reader on a trip with you. They want to go. Their bags are packed and ready.

 

  1. Tap your readers’ inner most imaginations. 

such-a-pretty-face-hi-res-1-1-205x300In Julia’s Chocolates, Lara is a closet painter. I gave her an attic, then described all the wild, free wheeling paintings in there.

In Such A Pretty Face, Stevie had a garage where she built and painted chairs – huge chairs, with feet and wings and stripes and polka dots.

Grenadine is a collage artist and painter. I gave her a studio on the top floor of her little green house. I described the colorful tables and cheers, the jars full of paints, sequins, fabrics, brushes, lace, etc. The books on art, the plants, the windows.  Being an artist appeals to readers, to their dreams.

Build settings that encourage your readers to think, to be inspired, to dream.  What if…what if I started painting again? Building again? Writing? Making a collage? What if I changed my life? What if I became a new me?

 

  1. Relate to your readers’ real lives with your setting.

In A Different Kind Of Normal I created a home that belonged to my character’s ancestors. There was history in that house.  Jaden was walking up the same stairs as her ancestors, looking out the same windows, crying at her kitchen table, which her ancestors had probably cried at, too.

Your readers have homes they love and miss, homes that have prickly memories. They have grandparents, crazy aunts, beloved dead fathers, too. They have Godzilla – type ex spouses and distracted boyfriends.  They have funny pets. They have jobs and bosses they hate in the corporate world. They go to family reunions at the lake and take tranquilizers while they’re there.

They have failing businesses and cliques they have to deal with in the suburbs.

Link your readers’ personal lives to the setting in your story, which will make your book more relatable, and personal, to them.

 

      6.  Know your readers. What do many of them like? Use it.

Henrys-Sisters-203x300I think my women readers like lingerie. It’s frilly. Pretty. It inspires passion. So in If You Could See What I See,Meggie had a lingerie company, filled with silk and lace.

In The Last Time I Was Me, Jeanne Stewart gutted and remodeled a dilapidated house. I think my readers like reading about remodeling and décor, new kitchens and paint colors.  They have homes, too.

In Henry’s Sisters, the sisters were running a bakery.  Giant cupcakes, wedding cakes, delicious treats. Yes, I think my readers like bakeries and sweets.

Appeal to your reader via your setting.

 

  1. Make your setting something that readers can laugh about.

Julias-Chocolates-194x300In Julia’s Chocolates, Julia is out on her Aunt Lydia’s farm.  Aunt Lydia has tons of chickens. Chickens in brightly painted chicken coops, chickens who chase each other, chickens who have quirky personalities. And the roosters, those dandy fellows!

Aunt Lydia also has a wooden rainbow bridge in her front yard, toilets overflowing with flowers, and four foot tall ceramic pigs who each have a nametag.  The pigs are named after men Aunt Lydia doesn’t like.

Her front door is painted black to “ward off seedy men.”

Funny, right? Good. Readers like to laugh.

 

To sum up this huge essay, which I did not intend to be quite so long, write your settings to evoke memories, emotions, thoughts, tears, laughter, etc. from your readers.  You want them to feel. You want them to think. You want them to block everything else out of their life and dive head first into your story.

Use the setting in your books to help them do so.

There is so much more to say about setting, how to use weather, charging rivers, frothing oceans, seasons, evocative or dangerous landscapes, bleak neighborhoods and destitute countries, etc.  but that is enough for today. I have to start writing my new book now, if I can get my brain to work.

I do know the setting, though. It’s a tugboat on a river, complete with ducks who lay eggs in pots on the deck, a blue heron, geese, sailboats, and odd ball neighbors. Including a secretive man who lives two houseboats down…

 About Cathy

 

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12.27.2015

KC The Cat And The Vet. Can You Relate?

 

Can you relate?

This is KC The Cat at the vet yesterday.

She cowered and hid underneath the bench and had to be wrestled out to see the vet, fighting the whole way.

This is exactly how I feel at the doctor’s office. I just want to hide under a chair.

 

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12.16.2015

Santa’s Naughty List: You’re On It

 

Daaannng, people. The North Pole just released Santa’s Naughty List and a bunch of you are on it.

What on Rudolph’s green Earth happened?

 

 

 

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12.13.2015

“What I Remember Most,” On Sale For $2.99 On Kindle

$2.99, on kindle, for a short and sweet amount of time, “What I Remember Most.”

 

A short and sweet synopsis: Her name is Grenadine Scotch Wild.

She was told to run one foggy night in the mountains when she was a child. She doesn’t remember anything else.

She’s now a collage artist and painter.

She’s on the run again.

 

Chapter One

 

I hear his voice, then hers. I can’t find them in the darkness. I can’t see them through the trees.

I don’t understand what’s going on, but their horror, their panic, reaches me, throttles me. They scream the same thing. Run, Grenadine, run!

It’s them.

 

Chapter Two

 

I needed to hide for awhile. To do that, I had to change my appearance.

I went to a cheap hair salon and had them cut six inches off, to the middle of my shoulder blades, then I had them cut a fringe of bangs.

I went home and dyed my hair back to its original auburn color, from the blond it had been the last ten years. I washed it, then dried it with my back to the mirror.

I turned around and studied myself. Yep. That would work.

For the last year I had been Dina Hamilton, collage artist, painter, and blond wife of Covey Hamilton, successful investor. Before that, for almost twenty years, I was Dina Wild.

Now I would be Grenady, short for Grenadine Scotch Wild, my real name, with auburn hair, thick and straight.

Yes, I was named after ingredients in drinks.

It has been a curse my whole life. There have been many curses.

I am cursed now, and I am packing up and getting the hell out of town.

Central Oregon was a good place for me to disappear from my old life and start a new one. I drove south, then east, the fall leaves blowing off the trees, magenta, scarlet, gold, yellow, and orange. It would be winter soon. Too soon.

I stopped at the first small town. There were a few shops, restaurants, and bars. It had the feel of a Main Street that was barely holding on.

There were several storefronts that had been papered over, there were not a lot of people, and it was too quiet.

Still, my goals were clear, at least to me. Eat first, then find a job. I had $520.46 total. It would not last long.

My credit and debit cards, and my checking, savings, and retirement accounts for my business and personal use, had been frozen.

I had the $500 hidden in my jewelry box and $20 in my wallet. The change came from under the seat of my car. To say I was in a bad place would be true. Still. I have been in far, far worse places than this.

At least I am not in a cage. Sometimes one must be grateful for what is not going wrong.

I tried not to make any pathetic self – pitying noises in my throat, because then I would have pissed my own self off. I went to a park to eat some of the non perishable food I’d brought with me. I ate a can of chili, then a can of pineapple.

When I was done, I brushed my hair. I pulled a few strands down to hide one of the scars on my hairline. I put on makeup so I didn’t look so ghastly.

I put extra foundation on the purple and blue bruising over my left eye, brushed my teeth out the car door, and smoothed over my shirt. I was presentable.

I took a deep breath.

This would be the first job I had applied for in many years. I started selling collages and paintings when I was seventeen, and I had not required myself to fill out an application and resume.

I looked into the rearview mirror. My car was packed full of boxes, bedding, bags, and art supplies.

My skin resembled dead oatmeal. “You can do it, Grenady.”

My green eyes, which I’ve always thought were abnormally and oddly bright, were sad, tired, and beat, as if they were sinking into themselves.

“Come on, Grenady,” I snapped at my own reflection. “You got a moose up your butt? Get it out and get moving.”

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12.08.2015

Finishing A Novel, Caribou, and Cat Talking

And that’s a wrap! Novel number ten is DONE and out the door to NYC.

One draft, eight mind numbing edits, five journals, many heartfelt talks with my cat, much wondering if I should quit and go live in the wilds of Alaska and ride caribou.

Novel will be out in September of 2016. Happy day to all of you. I’m going out to play.

 

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12.04.2015

Talking To Oneself On Deadline

You know you are in Deadline Hell when you say, OUT LOUD, to yourself, “Do you want to wash your hair today, Cathy?”

And you answer, OUT LOUD, to yourself, “Nah. Not today.”

Sigh…

 

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12.02.2015

Only Two Small Fires In My Kitchen

Something for me to be proud of: When I cooked Thanksgiving dinner, there were only two SMALL fires in my kitchen.

One stuffing wrapper was accidentally pushed into my gas stove which Darling Laughing Son held up, flames burning, and said, “Uh, mom?” And the other small fire was in my oven from the turkey.

After seeing the flames I said to my brother, a firefighter and paramedic, “Jimmy…” And he drawled, utterly calm, “Just shut the door, Cathy, shut the door.” And, voila! Fire out. Turkey not burned.

Next year my goal is: NO fires in my kitchen. It’s a lofty goal, but I am pretty sure – with strength and courage – that I can do it.

Hope you had a great, no – fire, Thanksgiving!

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Cathy Lamb
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