Saturday, June 25, 2022

Why All My Heroines Grew Up in Iowa

By Linda Lovely

Though it’s been decades since I left home, I remain grateful I grew up in Keokuk, Iowa. My hometown sits on bluffs above a wide swath of the Mississippi River. Take one bridge out of town and you’re in Illinois; the other bridge, and you’re in Missouri. While I can’t overestimate my single mother’s role in forming my value system, Keokuk, Iowa, did an excellent job of reinforcing my belief in the value of education, women’s rights, personal responsibility, and tolerance. So, it’s probably no surprise that all of my heroines grew up in Keokuk, or another small Iowa town.

Growing up beside the Mississippi River

My tenth mystery set for November release is based in the South Carolina Lowcountry. In fact, the strong-willed leading ladies in all of my contemporary novels live in the South, just like me. Yet, in a sense, all these novels begin in Iowa where my heroines came of age.

My heroines’ professions vary. Two have military backgrounds—Army and Coast Guard. One’s a retired FBI agent. Another is a forensic accountant. Yet another is a vegan chef. They range in age from late twenties to a fifty and above. So, given this diversity, why didn’t I have some of these women grow up where they now live—be it Beaufort, South Carolina, or Atlanta, Georgia?

The reason’s probably a combination of laziness and failed imagination. While my heroines may be braver, more talented and smarter than me, they share my values. I’m quite certain women who grew up elsewhere share my beliefs and attitudes. Heck, many of my friends prove that. Yet, as an author, I find it simpler to let my heroines learn some of their life lessons in my hometown.

My Heroine grew up in Keokuk.

How did my upbringing influence me (and them)? It starts with the schools. When I was growing up, Keokuk had fantastic public schools that promoted both education and social acceptance. While elementary schools were primarily neighborhood affairs within walking distance of students’ homes, our relatively small population (under 20,000) meant the town had only one Junior High and Senior High. As a result, my classmates spanned the economic spectrum from poor to wealthy and included boys and girls, Christians and Jews, Whites and Blacks, farm kids and townies.

We studied together and played together. While there were the inevitable social cliques, neither skin color, religion, or economic status excluded kids from advanced study tracks, music, band and other extracurricular activities, Y programs, public swimming pools, or school dances. While I regularly attended a Methodist church, I visited  Catholic and evangelical churches with friends. While I was well aware of prejudices and slights, we didn’t live in a homogenous bubble, and we got along.

I can't image living far away from water.

It's natural to look back on the past with nostalgia, to remember the good and forget the bad. Yes, I’m definitely guilty. Nonetheless, the good in my hometown of yesteryear will always have a special place in my heart, even though the Keokuk I remember no longer exists. I’m startled by the changes every time I return. The vacant stores on Main Street. The crumbling condition of the house where I grew up. Since my mother’s death, my visits primarily coincide with high school reunions. So, when I gather with my classmates, the old Keokuk still lives—and it will be around as long as we are.

     

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Small town or big city...setting sets the tone of my books

 I live in a small town.

A really small town.

Like, an everyone-knows-everyone-else small town.

And I have to admit, it has its upsides and downsides. The upside is everyone knows one another and looks out for one another. The downside is...everyone knows one another and the nosiness factor is HUGE! I used to tell my daughter she couldn't sneeze in school without four people calling me and telling me she was sick. And those 4 people didn't work at the school.

I grew up in New York City. Can't get any more big-city than that, can ya? LOL.

The move from big city to small town was jarring to me at first. I'd never had people actually stop me on the street before and ask after my husband, my daughter, my dog. And I'll admit, I guarded my privacy like it was the crown jewels at first, not giving an inch of information. Over time I grew less stringent and more relaxed. The nosiness was, for the most part, just the townfolk's way of showing they cared.

It's no wonder when I started writing romance I set all my original books in a small town. 

Using a smalltown for a setting in a romance novel allows you to write across all spectrums - from ultra serious to a romcom. My romances tend toward the romcom-y because my characters are quirky. Remember that old Bob Newhart show set in the small Vermont town Inn - and the cast of unusual characters that revolved in and out of the inn on a daily basis? There were the three "Darryl" brothers; George the inept handyman; the clueless sheriff and the snarky welcome wagon lady. All provided comic relief for Newhart and his wife - two big-city people who'd relocated to the tiny Stratford Inn.

In my own town I've met people who mimic those tv characters to a T. What's that saying about art imitating life? Quirky characters can get lost in a big city. In a small town, they're heralded.

In a big city you may not have the individual and close camaraderie you have in a smaller town, but you do have neighborhoods, ghettos where people of the same mindset live, and you have friends to connect with.

In romance you can write a fabulous meet-cute in a big city you wouldn't be able to someplace smaller. Say two people meet by happenstance during a tour of the Empire State building, or maybe a military widow is visiting Ground Zero and meets her next great love. There's the ballet, the opera, the theater district - all places you don't find in small-town settings. Those places set the tone for your romance book, too. Fast-paced, loud, lively. All things a city is.

Small towns have a slower, more relaxed vibe to them. I was the proverbial fish out of water when I first arrived from NYC to smalltown USA. That scenario alone sets up a great romance story - the fish out of water meets the dyed-in-the-wool small towner. Conflict is inherent in just the meet-cute, never mind the setting!

When I start a new book it's usually the characters I see first in my head. Once I have them figured out I think about the setting. Putting a metropolitan doctor who is used to the treat 'em and street 'em world of an urban emergency room into a rural, backwoods town where many residents don't have running water is a great way to juxtapose that fish-out-of-water scenario. Maybe his nurse is a lifetime local and she has to educate him in the ways of suburban life and medical care.

Or take a world-famous writer who's used to jet plane travel and first-class accommodations and have part of her book tour be in a town famous for nothing other than a huge snow storm a half-century ago and nothing close to a five-star hotel. The owner of the town bookstore is her love interest and right there you've got a champagne vs. beer romance setup. The tiny town is everything she's not used to but everything she comes to love.

Setting is so important to how a writer tells her story. I've written my share of both smalltown loves and big city HEA's. And I don't have a favorite. I simply write where the characters tell me they live...or want to.


Visit Peggy at peggyjaeger.com where she blogs daily about the things in her life that make her say, "What??!!"

Monday, June 20, 2022

The Inspiration of Setting … Delsora Lowe

Writing is all about setting. In this case, I’m not talking about the setting of our books or articles or poetry. But the setting in which we place our desk and computer or pad and pencil.

Oak and Sunset From My Window


Moon Playing Hide and Seek with the Oak

For me, visuals are important. I need the distraction of scenery or activity, even if it’s a scene of squirrels chasing each other around my oak tree trunk in the spring or gathering acorns in the fall. OR birds pecking the ground for bugs. OR the profusion of dandelions springing up across the brown turning to green lawn. OR the arrival of elementary-aged kids bicycling or skipping or skateboarding to school, wearing backpacks laden with who knows what.

All those common-day occurrences are fodder for the imagination. When I can’t think of a word or I can’t figure out why the heroes of my story are acting out or not doing anything at all, which is unacceptable in a story that must move along, these little distractions allow my brain to observe and become distracted. That little act of woolgathering helps to empty the mind and allow the muse to take charge and create.

But sometimes, the same ‘ole, same ‘ole just won’t do the job of releasing the muse. A change of scenery is needed. That can be taking a walk around the block, enjoying neighbor’s gardens to free up the brain, or getting away for a self-imposed, writing retreat weekend, where you can stare at waves pounding the rocky shore in New England. OR the vibrant sunsets dipping below the red rocks in Arizona. OR eagles flying over a calm lake surrounded by tall evergreens as far as the eye can see in the Adirondacks. OR the expanse of white sands meeting a blue sky of a North Carolina beach, with only the flight of native birds for company. OR a sunny day in Colorado with the range of snow-covered mountains as a backdrop.

Red Rocks of Sedona, AZ Painted by My Grandfather

Unfortunately, those types of retreats are a bit out of my budget. But, even a three-block trip to the local coffee shop to people watch while inhaling scents of dark roast, spicey chai tea, and cinnamon buns, can elicit memories and help create a new outlook on story.

So, when you’re stuck, or need a break from whatever activity is holding you hostage, take a mini-vacation around the neighborhood, or plan a weekend getaway to really rejuvenate your muse or relieve stress of the day-to-day drudgery that can totally shut us home-bound writers down.

To choose which I prefer, sitting at my usual writing place with the familiar scene or exploring new places with a view, is a toss-up. I know where things are on my desk (even though it is a frightful mess.) I know what I’ll see out the window as I gaze blankly looking for the correct wording. I know I can jump up and grab my favorite mug for a cup of tea, the flavor to match my mood of the day.

The Oak in Early Spring

But changing up my writing environment, puts a new spin on the world and makes my brain do a reset, opening up my mind to think differently. Observe a new prompt to jumpstart my stalled writing. Or bring me in contact with an overheard conversation or new image that will spark an idea for a brand-new story.

Hanging at the Beach

Both the familiar and the unfamiliar have a place in reenergizing our minds and souls, and jumpstarting our writer’s muse…or anything in your life that needs jumpstarting.

What’s your favorite setting?

 

The Love Left Behind

Amazon  https://www.amazon.com/Love-Left-Behind-Hartford-Estate-ebook/dp/B08L5N5DS9/

Books2Read   books2read.com/u/mglVqK

 

cottages to cabins ~ keep the home fires burning ~

Delsora Lowe writes small town sweet and spicy romances and contemporary westerns from the mountains of Colorado to the shores of Maine.

Author of the Starlight Grille series, Serenity Harbor Maine novellas, and the Cowboys of Mineral Springs series, Lowe has also authored short romances for Woman’s World magazine. Her newest novella is The Love Left Behind. Two holiday books will be released this fall.

Social Media Links:
Author website
: www.delsoralowe.com
Facebook Author page:
https://www.facebook.com/delsoraloweauthor/community/
Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.com/Delsora-Lowe/e/B01M61OM39/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0
Books2Read Author page:
https://www.books2read.com/ap/8GWm98/Delsora-Lowe
BookBub Author Page: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/delsora-lowe-93c6987f-129d-483d-9f5a-abe603876518
Goodreads Author Page:
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16045986.Delsora_Lowe
Instagram: #delsoralowe / https://www.instagram.com/delsoralowe/

Photo Credits:
View From Desk, Oak Tree, Painting:
Photos by author
Kids with backpacks:
Free Pictures Of Backpacks, Download Free Pictures Of Backpacks png images, Free ClipArts on Clipart Library (clipart-library.com)
Thinking: People Thinking Clipart, Transparent PNG Clipart Images Free Download - ClipartMax
Steamy Cup: Clip Art - Free Steamy Cup - Google Search


Saturday, June 18, 2022

How My Location Helps My Writing by Joan Ramirez

I have two locations for writing. One is the family home in Staten Island where I can walk in a nearby park and relax while looking at nature and wildlife. 

I do what they call Mind Mapping. 

As I walked through one day while calming my mind from a stressful morning, I thought about the protagonist, Margo, in my romance novel called Secret Desires. I’d planned to have her go to the family cabin in Upstate New York by herself. As I walked, it started to rain and I thought, what if they were going for a drive and it rained so hard they had to stay overnight? 

I only enjoy walking in the rain in the tropics. However, almost getting drenched, as the author, motivated me to write the first love scene. No peek scenes for readers of Judith’s wonderful posts. You’ll have to read the book.

My second location is a friend’s condo overlooking the ocean on Long Island.  It inspired me to write the scenes with Margo and her lover on a getaway to an exotic island.  

However, be careful what your character wishes for. 

Margo is thrilled to be on a tropical paradise with her love until he reveals his true feelings about an issue that is central to her beliefs. No setting can compensate for a relationship that is in trouble. However, I do admit to loving writing on the beach. The combination of sun, sand, and sea rejuvenates and inspires me.

Joan Ramirez

J.L. Regen’s book was inspired by a real life story of lovers who join hearts against
many odds. 

She lives in the New York metropolitan area, is a published photojournalist, has short suspense stories online, and has taught English as a Second Language to students around the globe. 

This is her first contemporary romance. She has also published four nonfiction books and her historical suspense novel set in World War II is under review.

Learn more about Joan on her social media:

https://www.amazon.com/Secret-Desires-J-L-Regen-ebook/dp/B01N137HX5

 https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/secret-desires-j-l-regen/1125516296?ean=9780998409900

https://www.facebook.com/Secret-Desires-1819428604992553

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Google your Way to Genuineness by Eleri Grace

Setting plays an important role in my novels, but I mostly make do with experiencing the setting from afar. Much as I would love to travel and do first-hand research, some of my settings are simply too far-flung or currently dangerous for that to be a viable option! For those novels, Google has become my best friend, and I'm grateful to have so many resources at my fingertips. It's hard for me to imagine how I might have created the level of detail that I do in my novels without the internet and all its fabulous resources. 

Restored control tower and base of 100th Bomber Group, Thorpe Abbotts, England (2016)








For my first novel, set primarily on a US bomber base in southeastern England, it was easy to draw on my experiences from having lived in that very area while studying abroad in 1989 and from a more recent research trip led by the National WWII Museum. That tour allowed me the opportunity to not only visit two of the restored air bases but also to chat with some of the locals who were children during the war and have vivid memories of those years with all the American airmen who served there. While we did not visit the base that I had already chosen as the focal setting for Courage to be Counted, it was still incredibly helpful to see these bases and imagine how similar they were to what my characters experienced at Chelveston. 

Historical re-enactors: 95th Bomber Group, Horham, England (2016)

St Andrews Church, Quidenham, England, stained glass window in honor of USAAF 96th Bomber Group

Red Cross Girls doing laundry in a river in New Guinea, circa 1943
My second novel Carry a Crusading Spirit followed my heroine from Australia (that would have been a great trip if I could have managed it!) to New Guinea and then to Tinian Island in the Northern Marianas. Time and finances didn't allow me to visit these places in person (and New Guinea is not particulary safe either), but I made great use of online sources. Google Earth is an extraordinary resource for authors looking to get a better feel for the topography, and I used it often for my hero's New Guinea flight scenes. In addition to photos, maps, and Google Earth, I have had great luck with videos -- not only current ones that show a general idea of the lay of the land, but many historical videos are available online. 

My latest novel in progress is set in India and Burma (now Myanmar). Obviously Myanmar is not a safe destination at the moment. I found quite a few travel blogs -- most of which relate to trips taken prior to the last couple of years -- with great photos and details. One travel blogger drove the old Ledo Road, and he included some incredible photos that show how arduous the construction must have been. Speaking of video research, just this past weekend, I found myself wondering if it was possible to kill a tiger with a bow and arrow, and lo and behold if I don't find a video (circa 1963 no less) that literally shows a skilled archer bringing down a tiger in India. 

Red Cross Girl in India, circa 1944

So even though I don't have personal photos in my collection from these Asian locales, I've been intrepid enough to locate some pretty amazing sources that have added depth and variety in bringing the settings of my novels to life. 

You can buy my books on Amazon, learn more about me and my writing on my website, and follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest

Saturday, June 11, 2022

Location, Location, Location - Sue Moorcroft

In the summer of 2021, when I was writing Summer at the French Café, travel between the UK and France was tricky. I did have a research trip booked but Covid restrictions obliged me to cancel. However, I’d chosen to set the novel in Alsace, France because I’d researched the area for Just for the Holidays and therefore had contacts, my memory bank, and a great photo library. I also had, ready made in my imagination, the village of Kirchhoffen and the town of Muntsheim.

Maybe you’ve noticed that those names sound more German than French. Alsace has a mixed history, as it has several times switched between being French and German. The border between France and Germany now seems settled as the Rhine River (Rhein in German, Rhin in French, Rijn in Dutch) but Alsace has a Germanic appearance, to this British eye. It’s a beautiful region. Many of the buildings are tall and narrow, brightly coloured and timbered. The Rhine and The Rhône have a multitude of tributaries to provide not just a border but a network of smaller rivers and canals, spanned by iron bridges edged with flowers.

It’s not unusual for menus to name dishes in both French and German and many languages are heard owing to Alsace’s position – not just sharing borders with Germany and Switzerland but close to The Netherlands, Belgium and northern Italy, and having its own dialect: Alsatian. Alsace is also within striking distance of Brits, once they find their way over, under or across the English Channel. I flew to the largest city of Alsace, Strasbourg, but I’ve also driven through Alsace en route to Switzerland, having gone beneath the English Channel on the train.

The village of Kirchhoffen, where Kat lives in Summer at the French Café and Leah and family stay in Just for the Holidays (Just for the Summer in the US and Canada), is based on Ostwald, where a friend of mine lives. It’s on the same tramline and is the same distance from Strasbourg but I usually like to fictionalise my settings so I can add and subtract at will.

The park in Summer at the French Café, where both Kat and Noah work, I have transplanted from Northamptonshire, in England. Wicksteed Park has everything from rollercoasters and carousels to lakes, wild walks and formal gardens. Unsurprisingly, it’s known for miles around. My own home is built on land bought from the park nearly a hundred years ago. I understand that the site was a pony track, and we found several horseshoes in the garden when we first moved here. When my local gym was closed, I walked in the park almost every day and not only mentally transplanted it to Alsace but added a parade of shops, including Café et Livres, the book café that Kat runs. (I know that ‘Café et Livres’ is ungrammatical to the French eye but the book café is owned by Brits and the name they chose is easy for tourists to understand. Also, even a French friend couldn’t come up with anything better.) I’ve used the park layout for Parc Lemmel and ‘borrowed’ a little of its history, having it bequeathed to the public by a successful industrialist. I’ve added staff quarters, but their position is hazy in my imagination. I’m afraid they’re probably situated where homes exist in real life.

Summer at the French Café and Just for the Holidays are connected only by setting and Kat, who is the heroine of the former and made a fleeting appearance in the latter. But with a combination of real places and a village and town I created, these novels needed just one more thing – sunny weather! And that, I was delighted to add. A long, hot summer is everything in a summer book.

Sue Moorcroft is a Sunday Times bestselling author and has reached the #1 spot on Kindle UK and Top 100 Kindle US. She’s won the Goldsboro Books Contemporary Romantic Novel Award, Readers’ Best Romantic Novel award and the Katie Fforde Bursary. Published by HarperCollins in the UK, US and Canada and by other publishers around the world, Sue’s next book is Summer at the French Café (Avon, HarperCollins) published on 12th May in paperback, ebook and audio.

Part of a British army family, Sue was born in Germany and then lived in Cyprus and Malta before settling in the UK. She left Germany at only six weeks old but has since learned enough German to order beer (several kinds).