If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.

July Interview Schedule:
7/3 Jean Stone A Vineyard Summer
7/10 Mark Bergin
7/17 Christin Brecher Murder's No Votive Confidence
7/24 Dianne Freeman A Ladies' Guide to Gossip
7/31 J. C. Kenney A Genuine Fix

Saturday Guest Bloggers: 7/6 V. M. Burns, 7/13 Joe Amiel,

WWK Satuday Bloggers: 7/20 Gloria Alden, 7/27 Kait Carson


Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Susan Van Kirk's A Death At Tippett Pond was released on June 15th. Read E. B. Davis's interview with Susan.

KM Rockwood's "Frozen Daiquiris" appears in The Best Laid Plans: 21 Stories of Mystery & Suspense, edited by Judy Penz Sheluk. The anthology will be released on June 18th.

Congratulations to Margaret S. Hamilton for being a finalist in the Daphne Du Maurier contest. Margaret competes in the Unpublished/Mainstream mystery/suspense category.

Congratulations to Shari Randall for WINNING the Agatha Award for Best First Novel. Her book, Curses, Boiled Again was published by St. Martin's last year. Read the interview about the book here. Yay, Shari!

Fishy Business anthology authors include KM Rockwood, Debra Goldstein, and James M. Jackson. This volume was edited by Linda Rodriguez.

Please read Margaret S. Hamilton and Debra Goldstein's short stories (don't ask about their modus operandi) in a new anthology, Cooked To Death Vol. IV: Cold Cut Files

Warren Bull's Abraham Lincoln: Seldom Told Stories was released. It is available at: GoRead: https://www.goread.com/book/abraham-lincoln-seldom-told-stories or at Amazon: https://tinyurl.com/ydaklx8p

Grace Topping's mystery, Staging is Murder was released April 30.

James M. Jackson extends the Seamus McCree series with the May 25th publication of #6, False Bottom.


Saturday, May 23, 2015

Location, location: choosing setting for books by Anna Castle

Stories happen somewhere in the world. Characters come from somewhere too. You might have to select a number of locations, all things considered, for your next mystery. You’ll spend a fair amount of time in your main setting, especially if you’re writing a novel. Why not pick a place you like?
This is a corollary to my take on the old adage, “Write what you know.” Better advice, in my view, is to write what you want to know. Follow your curiosity, your whims, and your fantasies. The enthusiasm will fuel your writing. Besides, you might need to visit that location for research. You might as well go some place fun.

Settings help define your genre. Cozies take place in small worlds, even if they’re nestled inside a big city. These will often be appealing locales, places the reader might like to visit. Noir has an edgy urban sensibility, even when the action takes place in darkest Montana. They take their readers into dark alleys and dangerous dens. Traditional private investigators can be found in every corner of the globe and even on board ships at sea.

Sometimes another factor will limit your location options. Francis Bacon was a real person known to have occupied specific places, so my historical series is constrained to London and environs. Alas, I have thus been obliged to spend weeks in that dreary backwater! The characters I invent myself come from Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. I’m planning ahead for future books and looking forward to some outstanding rambles.

When I can’t travel, I’m still OK with my UK setting, because the inhabitants of those green and lovely islands have posted pictures of every square inch on the Internet. Try Flickr for setting research. You might not be able to use the photos in your blog, but you can browse them for details for that one great, scene-setting paragraph. I use landscape changes to mark the passage of time, so I bookmark gardening sites and lists of seasonal produce in England sorted by month. Warning: you’ll find more pictures of beauty spots than mean streets in Flickr, although some of its contributors are pretty adventurous.

When I decided to write a cozy series, I went looking for my own small world. Since I enjoy academic mysteries, I considered my alma mater, the University of Texas at Austin. Unfortunately, UT has the population of a mid-sized city and its own police force; not exactly cozy. The social sub-cultures I inhabit didn’t ring bells for me, so I decided to follow in Agatha Christie’s far-reaching footsteps and invent my own small town. Now, where to put it?

Well, I like to hike. I love flowers and the beauties of the natural world. Lucky for me, I live on the eastern edge of the Texas Hill Country, with its charming old towns and spectacular wildflowers. Austin is a boom town, one of the fastest growing cities in America. Growth has its pros and cons... hey, conflict! Just what we need in our mystery novels! I decided to put my small town out at the western edge of the Hill Country, too far for a day trip from the big cities. All my characters have big dreams; now my town does too. Lost Hat wants to put itself on the map as a tourist destination, if only it can figure out an angle.

When you’re location shopping, follow your whimsy. You might start with this list of mysteries by location, although just because it’s been done before doesn’t mean you can’t do it too—and better. Then you can try searching for “Most popular destinations in Iowa” or wherever it is you want to hang out. Search for images of “San Francisco Tenderloin district” or “wine country France” in Flickr or Google images and zoom in on whatever catches your eye.

You could pull out your bucket list and pick a place you’ve been meaning to go. Traveling with a book in your head is enormous fun. But even if you’re only travelling by keyboard on the information superhighway, places that tickle your fancy will inspire you more than the ones that make you yawn.

Anna Castle writes the Francis Bacon mysteries and the Lost Hat, Texas mysteries. She’s earned a series of degrees—BA Classics, MS Computer Science, and Ph.D Linguistics—and has had a corresponding series of careers—waitressing, software engineering, assistant professor, and archivist. Writing fiction combines her lifelong love of stories and learning. Find out more at www.annacastle.com.

When the Internet service provider in a small town in Texas blackmails one client too many, murder follows. Photographer Penelope Trigg has to rattle every skeleton in every closet in Lost Hat to find the  killer and keep herself out of jail.


James Montgomery Jackson said...

Anna -- I can see your point about writing about places you want to know about. I try to use places I already know, but it doesn’t always turn out well. I started a character with a Boston background. Which was fine because he was there when I lived in that neck of the woods. Now, years later, I have him returning and neither he nor I know what’s changed.

Field Trip!

~ Jim

Warren Bull said...

Lost Hat is a great name for a town. Learning what you want to write about is excellent advice.

Anna Castle said...

Jim, I have the same problem, even with my own home town. I'd have to go and check out any Austin location, because things keep changing in this fast-growing city. Although it must be fun to re-discover a place along with your character.
And Warren, my advice is more "Write about what you want to learn." What you said, but with a twist :-).

Donnell Ann Bell said...

Anna, where have you been all my life? What sage advice. Thank you for these wonderful tips. I love writing about the places I've lived because I truly have lived in some beautiful/amazing places, but to place a book somewhere I haven't lived is daunting. Thanks for this blog. You're such a wise woman!

KM Rockwood said...

What a great blog! It points out a number of seemingly obvious things about locations for stories that I hadn't thought about.

In my series, I invented a small city, since I wanted to include aspects of two places in Maryland--Hagerstown and Taneytown--and have it on a river. So I put in touches of Fairmont, WV, although sometimes I realize I'm describing something in Wilkes Barre, PA. I named it Rothsburg, because so many of the places in the area where I set it are "burgs" named after a founder.

I figure no one will point out to me that the alley doesn't really run next to the funeral home; it's a driveway with no egress. Or that the hospital is actually on the opposite corner.

Not long ago, I wrote a short story set in Gettysburg, very near where I live. Since I wanted the setting to be accurate, I went to the specific site and took notes. But I had to go back at dusk to see how dark it was when the lights came on. And back again to make sure the escape path I used actually ran through where I thought it did. And once again to see if the surface of a vacant lot would permit someone to drive on it without puncturing a tire. And yet again to check to see if a wall was too high to scale easily.

I got the story done, but I think I may stick to imagined or semi-imagined sites in the future.

Anna Castle said...

Thanks, Donnell Ann!
And KM, I have the same problem. I never manage to look at the everything I need to look at. Frustrating, because I can't just hop across the Atlantic whenever I please. I can drive out to the Hill Country, though.
And I did kind of the same thing with Lost Hat too. It had to be fictional, because I'm going to slander many fine citizens. But I'm not good at making up maps and other such right-brained things. So Lost Hat is basically San Saba (home of Tommy Lee Jones) with the river in a different place.
Gettysburg would a fabulous setting for a story. What luck to live nearby!

Gloria Alden said...

Welcome, Anna. An excellent blog. I created my fictional small town in the area I live in, and it's sort of a composite of many of the small towns in N.E. Ohio. I refer to some of the larger towns not to far away without including specific details. I've actually drawn a map of my town so I can write down where the different businesses and homes are to refer to.

Shari Randall said...

Anna, I had so much fun reading your post and looking at those great links you shared. Thanks for stopping by the blog - I'll be looking for your books.

Grace Topping said...

Thanks, Anna, for your post and sage advice. I think coming up with your own place makes life a bit easier. You don't have to worry that readers who live in that town will be asking, "Where is that restaurant. We don't have a restaurant in town called that?" When you create your own location, no one can question anything you put in it.

Polly Iyer said...

Good blog, with lots of thought where it concerns the setting of your book. I don't write cozies, but I do incorporate places I know. My latest takes place in Cherry Grove, north of Myrtle Beach, and in Boston, my home town. What I really want to do is write a book set in Italy so I can do research. Now that's an idea.