05.27.2015

A Fairy Godmother And Three Wishes

I recently asked this question on Facebook:  If you had a fairy godmother, what three – fun and TOTALLY indulgent – things would you wish for?

I’d wish for a “reading room” with Adirondack chairs in my backyard, a trip to Alaska to watch wildlife, and the ability to paint flowers. Do share, ladies!!

Here are their answers, please add your own if you’d like…I added a few of my favorite photos. 

 

05.19.2015

Running Naked In “The Last Time I Was Me.”

This is a snippet of the scene where Jeanne Stewart runs naked along a river in Oregon.  “The Last Time I Was Me” is on sale, on kindle, for $6.64.

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=merino+dyed+wool&rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3Amerino+dyed+wool

 

I was hesitant to run naked.

It is not something I can say is in my comfort zone.

It is not something I’ve done before.

I had told Emmaline and the others at anger management class that I would do so.

the last time I was meNow, the first thought racing out of your mind might be that being a naked woman outside your home isn’t safe.  You might also say that a naked woman running alone alongside a river isn’t safe. You might further say that a naked woman running alone by a river, at night, is asking for trouble.

You are right.

But, you see, I had agreed to do it to take me off my path of anger.  As life did not seem especially precious to me, I was feeling a little reckless.

So I had pancakes for dinner at the café with a bunch of chatting, cheery townspeople who somehow soothed my soul, and listened to Donovan sing his favorite three opera songs, dedicating them to his “secret love.” Afterward I promised to come to a retirement part for Bill Brayson on Friday night and a bowling tournament on Sunday.

I tried to ignore the warm gush in my body at these invitations. I was very rarely invited to do anything in Chicago except to get more work done, find more clients, and deal with artsy creative types who insisted on doing yoga in the hallways, brought their giant dogs to work, or hummed when they got nervous.

I did not share with my newfound friends my further plans for my evening.  Around 10:00 that night I pulled on sweatpants and my sweatshirt and headed to a private place along the river. Here, I could still see the trail, but there were no homes.

The rays of the full moon slanted through the trees. It smelled like pine and river water and wood and I sucked in a deep breath.

I took off all my clothes and put them in a small back pack. I retied my tennis shoes. I do not consider wearing tennis shoes as breaking the rules.  I knew I should feel embarrassed standing there naked by the rushing river, but I didn’t.  In one avenue of my mind I realized I’d lost my marbles.

I don’t have huge boobs, so it didn’t bother me that I would be bopping along without a bra.  I looked up at the star studded sky again, catching a glimpse of the full moon. It was clearly a wild night for werewolves and weird women on wacky quests of self awareness.

Overhead an owl hooted and somewhere on the other side of the river another owl hooted back.

I shifted my backpack and started into a slow jog.

 

05.14.2015

Author To Author Interview: Kathryn Craft

Hello everyone,

Today I’m chatting with Kathryn Craft, who opened up a devastating part of her life to write The Far End Of Happy. Tough, gripping story. Life can be so heartbreaking….and beautiful, both.

Cathy Lamb:  Well, Kathryn, we’ll just jump in here to the guts of the interview. Can you tell the readers here about The Far End Of Happy?

Kathryn Craft: This novel is based on my first husband’s suicide standoff at our farm.

“Our little piece of heaven,” he called it, and we spent most of the fifteen years of our marriage renovating it as our forever home. My novelization explores possible reasons for his final decline into depression and alcoholism from the points of view of the three women closest to him—his wife, her mother, and his own mother—who try to sustain hope while awaiting word about the outcome of the standoff between this desperate, armed man and a huge police presence back at the farm.

Was it cathartic for you to write this story?

After toying with writing it as memoir over the course of seventeen years, I ended up writing it as a novel—in ten months, under contract. And I am not a fast writer.

I write in layers, interweaving new arcs and imagery through many drafts—and although basing the novel on familiar material, I was also adding new characters and figuring out a radical new twelve-hour structure.

In those final months I wrote fifteen hours a day, seven days a week. I fully immersed myself in that time in my life, in effect spending more time with my deceased husband than I did with the one who was lovingly tolerating this behavior. Coming out of it at the end was discombobulating to say the least. I think I have yet to learn its true influence on me, perhaps I will as I discuss the novel with book clubs.

I did experience another round of grieving, though, once my tether to this project had been cut.

What did you learn, how did you change after this very painful experience in your life?

Do you have moments in your life that stick in your memory as if illumined with golden light? One of mine was maybe a year after the suicide, when someone said to me, “Oh you poor thing, having to raise those boys and tend to the farm and run your business all by yourself.”

I knew in an instant that she had it all wrong. I had always wanted children, and it was my absolute joy and privilege to raise them, even if on my own.

I was trying to make that easier by finding good homes for the animals, but that’s not the kind of thing you can rush. Moving was not a consideration—a time of chaos and grief is no time to uproot your children and try to make new friends in unfamiliar surroundings. It’s a time to rely upon the familiar, and the friends who can lend support.

And I had started my desktop publishing business because I cared about effective communications and knew I could help organizations with their marketing—and thank goodness for it, because it was now my sole source of income.

In that golden moment I realized that I was living the life of my choosing, and there is no thought more empowering. We were going through hard times, no arguing that, but I learned that the life that had somehow become my husband’s personal hell was still my little piece of heaven.

And how is life today?

Five years ago, once my sons were well into college, my second husband and I left behind our country lifestyle, with its horses, ponies, goats, chickens, barn cats, dogs, and vegetable patch, and moved an hour east to a townhome in Doylestown, PA. We can now accomplish almost everything we need to do on foot. We love that.

For three months each summer we relocate to a lakeside cottage in northern New York State where my extended family has vacationed for generations. It’s a recipe for annual renewal!

And, as a writer, you need that annual renewal. Speaking of which, what do you like about writing?  What’s a challenge for you?

Does it seem too cheesy to say “everything”? Writing challenges me in all the ways I love to be challenged—from devising the larger story and character arcs down to final word choice and order, from initial research to the final, beloved editing, from motivating self for the long hours alone to reaching out to readers through social media and in-person events—I love it all. I’d say the biggest challenge is managing anxiety while coming up with that next great idea.

I know you teach writing. What are five pieces of advice that you have for people who are not yet published?

Ooh, great question! Let me see:

1) The old adage “Story is conflict” will lead you astray. Story is about a “specific kind of conflict,” and irrelevant inclusions will cause your reader to lose faith in your story.

2) There is a difference between an idea for a story (a woman has to deal with her husband’s standoff) and a story (a woman’s determination to leave her husband is put to the ultimate test on a public stage when he makes good on a previous suicide threat). An idea will peter out—a story will see you through.

3) You probably want to write because you love language—I get it, I love to write pretty!—but that won’t be enough. Love story more, and learn all you can about why classic storytelling structure works.

I once heard literary agent Gail Hochman deliver this truism: “Show me a beautifully written novel with a decent story and I won’t be able to do anything with it. Show me a fantastic story that is adequately written and I’ll make it a New York Times bestseller.”

4) Once she recovers from the incident that rocks her world, make sure your protagonist is engaged in goal-oriented behavior. The story question her goal raises in the reader’s mind (Can this character really achieve her goal?) creates that all-important psychological tension that will keep the reader engaged (“Yes! She’s doing it!” or “Yikes—not looking so good right now!”), and will keep her flipping pages until she gets the answer.

5) If you get stuck, try these measures: a) write about your story as if you were evaluating it for someone else and you will often uncover the problem; b) go back to the beginning and make the story more important by deepening motivation and raising the stakes of failure for your protagonist; c) back up to your last so-so plot point (the sprained ankle) and make it worse (need for field surgery). One of those will usually work!

Excellent advice, Kathryn.

I’d like to throw a little snippet of The Far End Of Happy to our readers….

The pages felt thick with life as they flipped through her fingers.  A long suffering friend, this journal, taking everything she’d throw at it. The questions. The tortured answers. The pros. The cons. Moments rich with beauty. The long, slow death of a dream.

At the top of each page, she’d centered her name: Ronnie Farnham. On the lines below, she’d centered herself.

Ronnie sat on the guest room bed, propped a pillow against the wall behind her, and waited for the jostle as her shaggy little dog, Max, repositioned himself against her thigh. She pressed her pen to a cool, fresh page. Today, more than any other, in these last precious moments before her sons awoke, Ronnie needed the ink to offer up its ever – flowing possibilities.

Her pen stalled after one short sentence.

Today Jeff is moving out.

THANK YOU, KATHRYN! Good luck!

Have a chat with Kathryn here…

‪http://kathryncraft.com (read excerpts, purchase links, sign up for newsletter)

‪https://www.facebook.com/KathrynCraftAuthor

‪https://twitter.com/kcraftwriter (@kcraftwriter)

 

05.05.2015

USA TODAY: It’s Not About The Sex, It’s About The Stud

 Cathy Lamb on Strong-Willed Women, Manly Men, And Lipstick

Cathy: It’s not about the sex, it’s about the stud.

That sounds a bit crude.

But there’s truth to it. I have read many romance novels, and the love scenes, to me, aren’t about the rollicking sex, they’re about the man the woman’s rollicking around with.

I started reading romance novels when I was a teenager. You would have been hard-pressed to find a more gawky, awkward girl. My hair frizzed like I had a small light socket implanted in my head, I was bony thin, rather skeletal, and was generally baffled about life and why I was here.

But in the romance novels I read, there were true men. They were manly. Smart. Protective. Chivalrous.

Surely I’d find a man like that one day? My young heart pitter-pattered.

I later took my love of category romance novels and tried to write them. Rejection, rejection, rejection. For years. After a particularly brutal rejection, I gave up and changed tracks.

I wrote a novel titled Julia’s Chocolates. It was about a woman named Julia who, in the first scene, threw her poofy wedding dress into a dead tree on a deserted street in North Dakota. She swore and cried. It came down on her head.

Julia had an Aunt Lydia who painted her home on a farm in Oregon pink, like a certain body part, and the door black to ward off seedy men. Lydia had five-foot-tall cement pigs in her front yard, each named after a man she didn’t like. Lara, another character, a minister’s wife, was a closet artist, who felt that her life was smothering her. Katie was a mother and married to an alcoholic.

It was women’s fiction, with a twist of romance. It sold. I’ve been writing women’s fiction ever since and am now writing my 10th novel.

In my novels I’ve addressed all kinds of issues: Abuse. Schizophrenia. Addictions. Loneliness. Despair. Stalker boyfriends. An insane asylum.

I’ve also written about a woman who ran naked along a river to get rid of her anger, another who turned a garden hose on in her cheating ex-husband’s Corvette, and a third who secretly made gigantic, colorful chairs in her garage with wings and feet. One of my characters spied on a man with night-vision goggles and laughed so hard she wet her pants.

Heartbreak and laughter, all mixed up. My characters may be broken, but they’re independent, strong-willed, like their lipstick, and they’re going to, eventually, come up swinging.

Romance has danced through most of their story lines. The truth is, I love to write the romance scenes, the tension, the conflict, the hee haw. It simmers and sparkles. Sometimes the woman is ready to jump into the man’s arms and ride off on a motorcycle, hands waving in the air. Other times she’s too troubled to get involved with anyone and she has to work through that troublesome part.

Like real life. Sometimes we can jump, sometimes we want to run. Why? Because we know that romance does not come perfect. In fact, often we have to wander around in the dark and the fog, shooting Cupid’s arrows, before we hit the right person and find the right, forever romance.

I’ve been married for 22 years. If I were to say that every day was bliss, you would know that I was lying like a son of a gun or had been slugging straight shots. I’m not lying and I don’t do straight shots.

There have been beautiful times, and there have been times that had my husband said he wanted to go and study penguins in Antarctica, I would have packed his bag and suggested he try snorkeling while there.

November 24 2014 129Romance, for us, simmers on high now and then, and it sparkles now and then, but mostly it’s being together. It’s movie night. Or a drive to the river. Omelets.

It’s holding each other’s hand when all four of our parents became terminally ill. It’s holding each other’s hand as their coffins were lowered into the ground. It’s weathering job losses and being poor when we were younger, and raising teenagers, who aren’t known for being easy.

It’s worrying together and crying together and laughing with gusto.

It’s enduring. It’s a mess. It’s faithful. It’s hard. It’s funny, loving, true.

Now that’s sexy.

And romantic.

And worth writing about.

Find out more about Cathy and her books at cathylamb.org.

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04.30.2015

Author To Author Interview: Kristy Woodson Harvey

Cathy Lamb: Pretend you’re in North Carolina, in summer, in front of a tough, blunt, poor young woman who has made a choice most of us would find impossible. 

Now, read this paragraph, then I’ll chat with you about Kristy Woodson Harvey, the author behind this intriguing debut novel titled, Dear Carolina.

Parsnips and salsify is the only vegetables that you ought to just leave alone. They’re tough as nails, and it don’t matter how cold it is. My daddy, he used to call me his little parsnip. But I’d bet dollars to doughnuts he didn’t get the comparison. A momma who didn’t want me, always scraping by.  I could survive damn near anything. But, coming up, I didn’t know we were poor. All them rich kids got packed up and sent off to private school. In a room chock full a’ free lunch cards, that dollar I took may as well have been a gold metal…

Now that is great writing. Voice, originality, pain, desperation, and strength, all in one.

Kristy, thanks for joining me today. If I told you that I would give you a mongo – sized box of chocolates if you could sum up Dear Carolina in just one sentence, what would you say?

Kristy Woodson Harvey: Dear Carolina is a book about the ways in which we create our families. (I will do ANYTHING for chocolate. Seriously.)

Cathy Lamb: Ah, a writer after my own chocolate heart. I so understand you.

I found the premise of Dear Carolina – two mothers, the birth and adoptive mother – writing letters to their baby, Carolina, fascinating and original. What was the spark that led to this idea?

When my son was first born, I remember having this moment where I was just staring at him, and we felt so connected that I couldn’t imagine giving up my child, and I wondered what would have to happen in your life for you to be able to do that. And, on the flip side, what it would be like to adopt a baby knowing that he or she would always have this deep, biological connection to another woman. And what I really, really wondered is how it would be to tackle all of these issues within a very open family adoption.

Jodi and Khaki were just in my head that night. I remember lying in bed and hearing Jodi’s voice and playing out conversations in my head. And that was it! I knew I had to write this story.

It’s amazing, the ideas that come to us in the middle of the night, isn’t it? My characters can trigger my insomnia and keep me up for hours.

You’re an interior designer and live in North Carolina as is your character, Khaki. Is Khaki you? How are you the same, how are you different?

I wouldn’t say Khaki is me. But we do have similarities. I have endometriosis and did all the Chinese medicine stuff, so a good bit of that is real. Although, against all odds and what I had been told forever, I got pregnant with no trouble at all! I have my feisty moments, like Khaki, but I think she’s a little more controlling than I am. (I hope!) And she’s braver, for sure. But a lot of her juggling and decision making throughout the book was similar to things that I was going through.

And she has some real wounds that have shaped her and a very tough momma who also made her who she is. I have the sweetest, best mom in the world and no real tragedies, which I am very, very thankful for!

One thing I so enjoyed in the book was how completely, utterly different the two voices of Khaki and Jodi were. That is much harder to pull off than it looks, as you know. Please include one favorite line/paragraph from each of them that you feel best sums up their personalities.

I don’t know if these sum up their personalities, but I love when Jodi says, “The only thing that can really be changed is a dollar bill.” She’s quick and so cute, and she has so much wisdom for a nineteen-year-old. But, even though she’s been through so much, there’s such a vulnerability about her, too. It’s like she understands the harshness of life but she hasn’t let it make her jaded.

For Khaki, “You can never have too many people who love you,” sums it up, for sure. She has some wounds herself, and the way she heals them is by surrounding herself with love. I think she makes some very, very difficult decisions in this book that aren’t necessarily best for her out of her big heart. She can be kind of annoying and over-bearing at times. But she does it with such good intentions.

You have covered many issues in this book. Alcoholism, widowhood, single motherhood, abuse, a restraining order, adoption, the consideration of an abortion, marriage, infertility. Why were all of these topics important for you to address?

This may sound silly but, to be honest, I didn’t really set out to address any issues. I just had the idea for the book and this is how it unfolded. I think all of these things are issues that real women are grappling with day in and day out. But this book was one hundred percent driven by the characters, not the issues.

What part did your Christian faith play in writing this novel and in the characters and their character arcs?

My faith is very important to me, but I didn’t really set out to include that in the book. (In fact, my work in progress really has none of that.) This was a very Southern story, and I think Christianity is something sort of ingrained and intrinsic to this culture and, in particular, these characters. It almost felt like I couldn’t tell the story without a little faith woven in because they would have been raised with that as such a critical part of their lives.

This is your first book. (Whooee!) What did you learn during this process? What advice would you give new writers? Are you working on another book?

Getting your first book deal is a bit like jumping into the deep end before your first swimming lesson. It has been fun and amazing and trying at times. But so, so gratifying. A dream come true! I learned patience at a level I have never known, for sure. So my advice to new writers is to submit when you can, know you’re going to wait a long time, and keep writing. It makes the waiting so much easier. And then, if you get a big stack of rejections back, you have a brand new book to submit.

My next book, LIES AND OTHER ACTS OF LOVE, is coming out April 2016. I’m about halfway through my third book, but I haven’t been working on it much with the launch of DEAR CAROLINA. I can’t wait to dive back in.

Can you describe for us your writing process? Do you write a first draft and then edit multiple times, or do you edit as you go? Do you ever feel like banging your head against the wall when you’re writing?

I always start the book with a scene that won’t let me go. For DEAR CAROLINA, it was the scene where Jodi is on the beach, deciding whether to give up Carolina, the cover scene, actually. I write those really critical scenes that are in my head and then weave the story around those. I try to write a first draft fairly quickly and then I edit and edit and edit, put it away for a couple of months, come back and edit again. I value my writing time so incredibly much because, as a stay-at-home mom, I don’t get it as regularly as I would like. So, usually, I’m ready to jump in.

Some days, I muddle through those 2,000 words and think they are terrible. But, funnily enough, I tend to come back to those passages where it felt like pulling teeth later and think they are great. Weird, right?

Well, there’s a lot that is “weird” about writing, that’s for sure. I can go on and on about that very topic, but I won’t.

We’ve jumped ahead a little bit, but it’s not too late. Tell us about you, especially your adorable three year old. What is a normal day like for you, when do you write, when do you work, what do you like to do, etc.

I think a “normal” day might be a bit of a stretch! Hahaha! He’s in preschool four mornings a week so, ideally, I drop him off at school, write my 2,000 words while he’s there, and hopefully get some emails answered. After he goes to bed, I do my design blog, author blog, freelance work etc. I help my husband a bit at his dental office so sometimes my little guy gets to come do that with me. It’s not always pretty, but it usually tends to work out.

We spend pretty much every weekend at the beach, and I always try to get some writing time in while Daddy is on duty. I love hanging out with those boys and always try to get my girls’ nights in too. I got my yoga certification a few years ago, so I try to fit a bit of that in there, too. This has been a very, very fun and happy time in my life, and I know I will always look back on these years as some of the best.

I just have to ask this, as I’m curious and am not good at decorating: As an interior designer, can you give us five To Do Tips For Decorating and Five Don’t Do Tips For Decorating?

I don’t believe that one bit. You couldn’t have written Grenady without being a good decorator! But, all the same, here’s my two cents:

To do:

1. Buy things you love.

2. Pick out rooms you like in magazines, on Pinterest, etc. to help give you a clear vision of what you want.

3. When in doubt, start with art. One focal point can totally make a room.

4. Buy the best furniture you can afford and keep it for years.

5. If you aren’t sure of your “look,” buy your major pieces in neutral fabrics and change up the pillows and accessories with your mood.

Don’t:

1. Buy furniture without measuring first. Scale is so important and the wrong scale can ruin the look of a room.

2. Decorate with trends. Nothing is timeless, so you’ll probably have to refresh your look every few years, but you don’t want to buy furniture that you like for a season only to have to turn around and do it all over again.

3. Be in such a rush to get it all done that you sacrifice what you really want for convenience.

4. Buy anything that you don’t love. Period. If you don’t love it, it doesn’t have a place in your home.

5. Forget to let your personality shine through. Your home should be a reflection of your family.

 

Visit with Kristy on her website http://www.kristywoodsonharvey.com/

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=2725779

 

To buy Dear Carolina…

 

BARNES AND NOBLE | INDIEBOUND | BOOKS A MILLION | AMAZON | POWELLS | TARGET | iTUNES | GOOGLE PLAY | KOBO

04.23.2015

A Heart Brownie – Calorie Releaser

You do know that if you cut a heart in the center of a pan of brownies, the heart lovingly releases all the calories into the air, right?

This is why I was able to eat four brownies, extra chocolate chips. This trick is how I keep my girlish figure. (That is a JOKE for those of you who have not met me, by the way. We’ll just politely say that I CURVE.)

 

April 20 2015 102

04.20.2015

For Writers: Old Homes With Secrets, Car Living, and Scottish Men in Kilts. 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.

In 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.


Janelle Rachel Travis baby photos 2014 051Do 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 one her own. And oh, a jail sentence hanging over her head. 

Use setting to toss your character into chaos. 


2. 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.


I 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.
montana October 2013 0123. 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.

In 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.


4. Tap your readers’ inner most imaginations.

In 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 in the top floor of her little green house. I described the colorful tables and chairs, 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?

5. 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 washistory 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.


I 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.

Sept 21 2013 book group 0157. Make your setting something that readers can laugh about.

 In 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 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.

Scotland 079There 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…

*** originally published in Velvet Morning Press http://velvetmorningpress.blogspot.com/

 

 

 

04.11.2015

A Little Heart…

I love when nature sends a heart. Wishing everyone a beautiful week.

 

04.07.2015

My Addiction To Books

I posted this on facebook recently. Maybe you can relate.

Do other book addicts share my problem? I have an obsession with books. I love them. I always have. I’m going to be one of those old, dottery ladies with a bunch of cats crawling all over me, and I’ll have stacks of books and a multitude of kindles.

I’ll travel and read and write and mutter to myself and think that the characters in the books I’m reading are family and friends. I will talk back to them. I will scold them. I will laugh at their jokes. I will fall in love with handsome men characters and think they’re real.

I’ll wear funny hats. It will be 50 – 50 on whether or not I’ll be wearing matching shoes. I’ll smile a lot, in a dazed and confused sort of way. I keep buying books – will I EVER read all of them? It saddens me to think that I might not have enough time. This is ridiculous. I am ridiculous.

Obviously, there are a lot of people out there just like me…

  • Dana Velvet Pixie Bokelman I already do these things, except for me its flower crowns not hats cause I’m magical like that and YOUR characters are who I wanna live with 
    10 hrs · Unlike · 4
  • Karen LaLiberty Books are my passion! They become my friends and take on their own life; one that I live as I read them.
    10 hrs · Unlike · 2
  • Barb Dowdell MacKenzie I KNOW your pain.
    10 hrs · Unlike · 1
  • Iris Harrison I’m proud to be ridiculous!
    10 hrs · Unlike · 2
  • Denise Gibbs I feel you!
    10 hrs · Unlike · 1
  • Laila Ibrahim Amazon has rid me of the delusion that I could possibly read all the wonderful books in the world. But it’s also confirmed for me that I will never run out of wonderful books to read. A great book and time to read is one of life’s greatest pleasures.
    10 hrs · Edited · Unlike · 2
  • Janet Castillo You are preaching to the choir! Haha! I can’t BELIEVE how many books I buy and there is no way I can read them all. But if I don’t have a book I kind of panic. And I do EVERYWHERE with a book because YOU NEVER KNOW! I could get stuck in an elevatoSee More
    10 hrs · Unlike · 3
  • Lindsay Hartgroves Sounds just like my life. Old and batty long before my time. I ALREADY wear purple…..
    10 hrs · Unlike · 1
  • Danee Marquand Hayungs Books take me places and allow to live lives that I could only imagine! Oh the people I have met and got to become! We were so poor growing up and I read The Journey of Natty Gann and was hooked and knew I could become anyone I wanted. I went from a below average reader to the advanced class in one school year. Tell me though, am I the only one loves the smell of books??
    9 hrs · Edited · Unlike · 4
  • April 6 2015 069Jenny Collins Belk