Novel Settings

At the moment, I am plotting a book. If you’ve read my books, you know I don’t get excited about the typical setting for historical romance, the London ballroom. I love the lesser known places, the slightly wild and occasionally remote–Durham, Northumberland, the Lake District, Yorkshire, the northern coast of Maine. That’s where my heart lies.

The first book in my new series is set in the 1850s in Kendal, Cumbria, the southernmost gateway to what is now Lake District National Park.

Kendal Castle, which I visited in October. (HSG’s very own Nina Croft used to play in these ruins when she was a child.)

So when plotting the second book, it’s been fun to peruse maps and the web for an even wilder and more remote spot, isolated, in a crumbling castle within which is hidden treasure beyond price. These are my contenders:

The Isle of Skye (off the west coast of Scotland):

Isle of Skye. By John Allan [CC BY-SA 2.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons

An as-yet-undetermined location near Hadrian’s Wall:

Hadrian’s Wall between Housesteads and Once Brewed (fabulous name!). By Michael Hanselmann (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

 County Powys, Wales:

Looking through one of the remaining walls of Castell Dinas Brân towards the north east. Source: Wikipedia.

Lundy Island, off the coast of Devon:

Four Celtic inscribed stones from Beacon Hill cemetery, Lundy. By Grantus4504 [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0, from Wikimedia Commons.

The Yorkshire Dales:

Swaledale. By Kreuzschnabel (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0, GFDL or FAL], via Wikimedia Commons.

I might come up with something entirely different in the end–it’s often more fun (and okay, easier) to look for settings than to actually write the book. 🙂

Writers: how do you come up with your settings?

Readers: What kinds of settings do you like the most? Civilized cities, or natural places? Glittery ballrooms or spooky castles?

And which one do you think I should choose? I’ll give away an ecopy of one of my books–your choice–to a randomly selected commenter!

 

About Marin McGinnis

A lawyer in real life, Marin McGinnis feeds the more creative part of her soul by writing Victorian era romance and mystery. She’s spent almost half her life in a tree-lined, unabashedly liberal suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. She’s been married to the same great guy for over 20 years, and has one teen-aged son. They all live together in a drafty old house with their two standard poodles, Larry and Sneaky Pete.

While her very first book will languish under the bed, the next book, Stirring Up the Viscount, won two contests in 2013 and was published by The Wild Rose Press in January 2015. Her next two books, Secret Promise and Tempting Mr. Jordan, are also available from Wild Rose Press.

Marin currently serves as President of the Northeast Ohio chapter of Romance Writers of America and is hard at work on the next book.

You can find her here, at marinmcginnis.com, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and Pinterest.

Feeding the Muse

As you read this, I am somewhere in England, traipsing over the countryside near Keswick–famous during the 19th century for poets and pencils, known then and now for its breathtaking beauty.

A panoramic view of Keswick, Derwentwater and the surrounding fells, as viewed from Latrigg north of the town. Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0

A panoramic view of Keswick, Derwentwater and the surrounding fells. Photo by David Iliff. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0

The Illustrated Magazine of Art, Vol. 3, No. 16 (1854), pp. 252–254

Pencil-making at Keswick, 1854

October, sadly, is the wettest month of the year in northwest England–by several inches–but I am hoping my new hiking boots are up to the task.

My primary purpose for this trip, aside from the very real pleasure of seeing a few college friends, is for research. The book I am hoping to finish this week (oh please, dear Muse!) is set largely in southern Cumbria–which is also on the agenda.

William Westall, Greta Hall and Keswick Bridge, c. 1840

Greta Hall and Keswick Bridge. William Westall, c. 1840. (public domain)

My friend Helen and I will be visiting Blists Hill Victorian Town (a living history sort of museum, or so I understand), Mayfair (because nearly every English historical romance is set there at least part of the time), the Jack the Ripper museum (it promises to be stomach-churningly gruesome so I suppose we’ll have to eat afterwards…), a tour of Parliament with a friend who reportedly does lofty important things there, a few literary landmarks like Jane Austen’s house and Stratford-upon-Avon, and what I fully expect to be a record number of tea shops and pubs en route.

Jane Austen's House, Chawton, Hampshre. By Rudi Riet. CC BY-SA 2.0,via Wikimedia Commons

Jane Austen’s House, Chawton, Hampshire. By Rudi Riet.             CC BY-SA 2.0,via Wikimedia Commons

I’ve never truly taken a writing research trip before. I have found unexpected inspiration on trips to Italy, Paris, New York, Nebraska, Ohio, and other places, but this is the first time I’m setting out to go where I want to go solely for the purpose of gathering information for my writing (with the advice and consent of my traveling companion, of course, who is strangely willing to indulge me–thank you, Helen!).

I’ll be scribbling in notebooks and taking lots of pictures to share with you all, and I hope the Muses will help fill my head with wonderful stories to tell when I return in about a week–starting with a new book for NaNoWriMo.

Until then, may your Muse be with you, whatever your endeavor, wherever you are.

The Muses Garden, by Lionel Noel Royer (public domain)

The Muses Garden, by Lionel Noel Royer (public domain)

 

 

About Marin McGinnis

A lawyer in real life, Marin McGinnis feeds the more creative part of her soul by writing Victorian era romance and mystery. She’s spent almost half her life in a tree-lined, unabashedly liberal suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. She’s been married to the same great guy for over 20 years, and has one teen-aged son. They all live together in a drafty old house with their two standard poodles, Larry and Sneaky Pete.

While her very first book will languish under the bed, the next book, Stirring Up the Viscount, won two contests in 2013 and was published by The Wild Rose Press in January 2015. Her next two books, Secret Promise and Tempting Mr. Jordan, are also available from Wild Rose Press.

Marin currently serves as President of the Northeast Ohio chapter of Romance Writers of America and is hard at work on the next book.

You can find her here, at marinmcginnis.com, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and Pinterest.

Travel vs. Moving

I love to travel, which is probably a good thing, because I’ve spent all my life moving, from one place to another. I’m going to give the short blog, list version of my travels….

Long Island to Fort Lauderdale, FL

Fort Lauderdale to Grand Rapids, MI

Grand Rapids to Pittsburgh, PA

Pittsburgh to Manila, Phillippines [a side trip to see the Pope and visit distant family there]–a once in a lifetime opportunity that I earned by writing an essay. Paid-for-trip by the Knights of Columbus… I always stick a dollar in their Tootsie Roll fundraising. 😀

In here, I travelled the country with a mission group, stopping in many states of the western side of the United States–MN, WI, KS, OK, TX, NM, CA, CO…

Pittsburgh to Fairfax, VA

Fairfax to Steubenville, OH [for college, where I got married]

Steubenville to Denver, CO [for husband’s post-grad]

Denver to Steubenville, OH [back to our old stomping ground to start off “real life”] ***also where I started writing!!

Steubenville to Fairfax, VA [where we lived with my parents and husband studied for the CPA exam]

Fairfax to Decatur, IL

….and then we joined the ARMY! haha.

Moving vs. Travelling

There are always two sides of the moving coin. The excitement of starting off new, of tweaking behavior, trying something different. And the sadness of leaving friends and family behind. I think what I love about moving around so much is the chance to grow more roots, make new friends. Find something different to make my life fuller. Maybe the truth is…I’m not much of a traveller at all. I like being home. Maybe that’s why I’m destined to move so much.

Now, if I could just get the Army to move us to Belize! or Ireland! or Spain–for a season! 😀 Have a great weekend, folks. Enjoy where you are.

And don’t forget to comment for a chance to win this month’s prize.

About Beth Rhodes

Beth jumps into life with both feet…or head first. Impulsive and spontaneous to a T, she joined Passionate Critters and never looked back. She loves writing and reading, which made this wonderful group of woman a perfect match for her.

Where’s your writing spot?

DSC_0149.JPGStop!

Take a deep breath.

Do you smell the air? The scent of flowers teasing your nose or maybe the aroma of barbeque floating from the nearby street stands?

Do you hear the sounds of the rolling waves? Or the toot of the ship docking by the pier?

DSC00772How about the stillness of mountains? Or do you feel the texture of sand between your toes?

Now reach for that drink…and open your eyes.

It’s amazing where your imagination may take you but wouldn’t the real thing be so much better?

I’ve traveled so much in the past few years and find that different places have sparked different ideas for my writing. No matter where I go, my imagination always brings me back to Hawaii–to the white beaches, blue waters, sweet smell of ocean air, and corn grilling on stands on the side of the road.

Depending on my mood, I always find that I write best when I can relax and push all my everyday life worries out of my mind. Yes, it may take a lot of wine for that to happen, but Hawaii has always given me that freedom to let my muse run buck wild.

I love sitting on the beach with my notebook and spending the afternoon plotting or lounging on my back porch with my laptop while I watch the sunset. Sometimes I used to walk the golf course in my backyard and count the exotic birds that would stop by or fly above my head while I’m outlining my stories in my mind (Of course, I’m running away the minute I know they see me…).

DSC01047I miss the days of peace and quiet, of being able to take the time for myself. Whether or not I’m still in Hawaii, my mind always brings me back to where I’ve found the most joy and peace.

So go on that trip you’ve always wanted to and venture to wherever your heart brings you. Experience it. Say it’s research.

Find your writing spot. Where do you envision it to be? Where do you most want to go?

Mine would have hot men climbing trees down the street…

DSC00750

 

About Clarissa Yip

Constantly on the run, Clarissa leads the life of adventure and mischief. When she’s not getting herself in trouble, she’s usually busy studying the art of eating and curling up with a good book or spending numerous hours reading and writing. It’s really hard to find her in one place for too long…

Guest Post — Gina Conkle

How Do You Feel About Adventures?

Years ago my oldest son asked that question while we ran errands.  He was near the end of kindergarten and summer stretched before us. But, his simple question started a family tradition that we all love — The Adventure List.

Every summer and Christmas break, our family makes a wish list of things we want to do on poster-sized paper.  Sometimes our quests are simple: see the latest superhero movie, day at the fair, or go-karts.

Once in a while, we get brave and go big.

Our latest plan?  Tallinn, Estonia for Christmas!

Maybe you’re scratching your head…Estonia-where?  Then you consult a map and see how close Estonia is to the Arctic-freakin’-Circle!

But here’s a few gems to consider:

iStock_000011311558Small-Tallinn Old Market Square decorated for Christmas*Tallinn, Estonia’s home to one of Europe’s best preserved medieval old towns.  Why not celebrate the holiday at the Christmas Market on Raekoja Plats (Town Hall Square) decorated for the season in Middle Ages style?

Tallin_Tavern*Need to keep warm? Try Black Pepper Schnapps in one of Europe’s oldest still-in-business taverns.  That ceiling? It’s over 700 years old.

*Like variety? Explore a multi-cultural mix of architecture: German built castles, Russian Onion Dome churches, and Baroque Kadriog Palace (when Peter the Great ran Estonia) all in the same city.  But, if that’s not old enough for you…

Old town of Tallinn Estonia*Talinn’s Old Town is 62 square miles of antiquity ready to be explored.  A UNESCO site, the Old Town boasts archaic shops with people still living in medieval buildings.  And the pharmacy? Opened in 1422 and famed for everything from marzipan to “powdered unicorn horn” (for male potency)! Even Russian Tsars ordered medicine from that very shop.

iStock_000004151112Small-Pepper Pot turrets, Tallinn*Do you like wi-fi and a cappuccino with your history? Tallin’s counted among the top ten digital cities in the world. You can experience the past with present comforts. While sipping your hot beverage, meander past pepper pot turrets, architecture that was all the rage in castle building from the 13th century through the Renaissance.

 

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral*But if that’s not old enough for you, learn about war-like Oeselians (Estonian Vikings) whose relics are thankfully found only in museums.  Ptolemy wrote about them in Geography III (2nd century BC), and famed Viking skald Snorri Sturluson recorded their antics in Norse Sagas.

Now, we’re getting to time periods I love.

Archaeologists recently uncovered a rich Viking grave site (a two ship burial) on the Estonian island of Saaremaa, and I plan to visit those Norse artifacts in toasty, warm Tallinn museums.

Not a bad list of offerings for a place once described by a Muslim cartographer as “a small town.”

Adventure comes in all shapes and sizes, but sometimes going off the beaten path yields the best treasures.

What’s on your Adventure List?

~*~*~*~

19129_255294294601511_2017641803_n_(397x349)Gina’s a lover of history, books and romance, which makes the perfect recipe for historical romance writer.  Her passion for castles and old places (the older and moldier the better!) means interesting family vacations.  Good thing her husband and two sons share similar passions, except for romance…that’s where she gets the eye roll.  When not visiting fascinating places, she can be found in southern California delving into the latest adventures of organic gardening and serving as chief taxi driver.

On my website: http://ginaconkle.com/

On twitter: https://twitter.com/ginaconkle

On Facebook: http://on.fb.me/180kL1y

On Pinterest: http://bit.ly/180l9gu

~*~*~*~

Norse_Jewel-800pxDon’t miss Gina’s Latest release, Norse Jewel

A stolen woman of rare qualities…
Helena, a captive woman, wants her freedom. The Frankish maid wasn’t born a slave but marauding Danes have taken her and she’s desperate to escape their camp.  Her savior comes as a fierce Norse chieftain, Hakan, who takes her far north.

A hard Norseman who’s lived by the sword…
Hakan wants to lay down his sword and live a peaceful farmer’s life. Betrayal left him cold to other women, yet his heart thaws to clever Helena. She lures him with kindness, weaving happiness that’s short lived. Deceit and old loyalties vex the warrior, calling upon his sword arm.

A clash of cultures amidst a kingdom in transition…
War erupts…a kingdom’s in the balance. Can Hakan defend his homeland and save the woman he loves?

 

About Beth Rhodes

Beth jumps into life with both feet…or head first. Impulsive and spontaneous to a T, she joined Passionate Critters and never looked back. She loves writing and reading, which made this wonderful group of woman a perfect match for her.

Welcome to a month of exotic locations and out of this world settings!

ws_Red_Surf_Board_1600x1200From sandy beaches to ski slopes or out of this world trips to the future, the month of August will find the ladies of Heart-Shaped Glasses thinking about exotic locations.

We hope you’ll stop by often to journey around the globe and the universe with us this month as we explore vacation destinations, settings in our novels or places we only wish we could visit!

And this month one winner will be chosen at random from all the comments to win a free digital download of their choice of a title from the new TEASE line at Decadent publishing – a big thank you to Clarissa Yip for donating the give away this month!

This month we’ll have guest blogs by Gina Conkle on August 15th and Robin Bielman will be stopping by on the 30th!

We’re looking forward to a fun month around here…how about you?

 

About Debora Dennis

A believer in second chances and that time should never be an obstacle to finding love, Debora writes time travels with modern snark and spice! When she’s not writing, she’s spending time with her family, reading, or trying to figure out a way to get chocolate into every dish she serves.

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