A student asked me where I get ideas for stories. I know some writers start with characters or situations, or even an overheard snippet of a conversation, but I usually start with the setting. Certain places call out for a story.
Blue Mountain Magick is set in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. The Appalachians exude age and mystery. I was thinking historical and I particularly wanted to focus on the Scots-Irish immigrants who settled back in the hills after the Jacobite Rebellion. As I was researching, I uncovered a long history of witchcraft dating back to the Native Americans prior to European settlement. The witchcraft was based in earth energies. As the Scots moved into the area, the practitioners of this magick were generally women doing root work or herbalism known as "granny magic." The history and remoteness of the settlements in the mountains, the magick, and the witches - that was my starting point. I made the story contemporary, but it's all rooted in the secrets of the past.
The Western Alphas series that I'm currently working on also came from settings. It started in Laramie, Wyoming, another location steeped in history. My son went to school in Laramie, and as we road-tripped through Wyoming and Montana, I was struck by the character of the land, so different from the green softness of Washington or the mystical secrets of the Appalachians. It was beautiful but harsh and unforgiving. I wanted to write a story that would capture the struggle of individuals in this powerful environment. Then I saw a bumper sticker on a truck. It read "Shoot, Shovel, and Shut up". It referred to the antagonism between ranchers and the federally protected wolves, especially in the areas near Yellowstone. I'd been thinking about doing a contemporary take on werewolves, and this was perfect. My first thought was What would you do if you were a werewolf in ranching country? My answer was Jim Winters, the hero of Laramie Moon and the Alpha of his pack. He survives and protects his pack hiding in plain sight by running the biggest, most successful ranch in all of Eastern Wyoming. The heroes and Alphas of the rest of the series each face their own dilemmas as they deal with their particular environments. While Laramie is straight cowboy, Missoula presents more of an urban/suburban scenario, and Wind River portrays a brand new pack moving into a very small, tight-knit community. The fourth book is set in Reno and deals with money and politics and corruption.
My current work in progress is set in Austin, my hometown. A recent visit brought up all kinds of sensory memories. While the Austin I grew up in has mostly been eaten up by new growth, South Austin has preserved the smaller, older community feeling that resonated with me. I came up with the characters and plot while I was sitting in a Church's Fried Chicken on South 1st watching a pair of cops.
I don't know what place will speak to me next, but I'm open to it when it comes.
It's a natural pairing - cowboys and ranchers on the one side and wolves, and their paranormal brothers, werewolves, on the other. Cowboys and wolves have a long history. They share a love for the land and the wildness of the spaces that most men never see. Romantically, they have a similar nature. They're both tough. Some times they're loners, but they recognize the pack, and they look after each other. And most romantic, they mate for life. Unfortunately, that's more true of wolves than cowboys, but ideally, the cowboys out there are looking for that special one who'll be the one for life.
It's like the Tim McGraw song:
I'm gonna live where the green grass grows
Watchin' my corn pop up in rows
Every night be tucked in close to you
Raise our kids where the good Lord's blessed
Point our rocking chairs towards the west
Plant our dreams where the peaceful river flows
Where the green grass grows
As I've been writing Laramie Moon, I've been listening to a lot of country music. That's been no hardship because I love country music. I like lots of different music - rock, punk, metal, even the occasional Broadway musical (I'm not big on jazz, much to my husband's dismay) - but country music has a soul-baring purity that I love. As Brad Paisley says,
This is real.
This is your life
In a song.
Yeah, this is country music.
A while back I was driving in the car, listening to the radio, when a song came on, and I instantly knew, that was Jim's song. Jim Winter - a cowboy and a werewolf - is the hero of Laramie Moon. The song is "I Wouldn't Be a Man" by Josh Turner, and it speaks of the feelings Jim has for Sissy.
People often say country music is sappy and corny, but it is unabashedly romantic and heartfelt.
Here's my playlist of some of my favorite romantic country songs. I can't hear "Somewhere Other than the Night" without crying, and without fail, if my sweet husband hears me play it, he'll come give me a kiss. You can't beat that.
Keith Whitley – Don’t Close Your Eyes
Keith Whitley – When You Say Nothing at All
Garth Brooks – Somewhere Other Than the Night
George Strait –Carried Away
George Strait – You Look so Good in Love
Josh Turner – I Wouldn’t Be a Man
Steve Holy – Good Morning Beautiful
Clay Walker - Fall
Billy Currington – Must Be Doing Something Right
Lone Star – Amazed
Chris Cagle – Miss Me Baby
Mark Wills – I Do
John Michael Montgomery – I Can Love You Like That
John Michael Montgomery – I Swear
Tracy Lawrence – Stars Over Texas
Randy Travis - It's Just a Matter of Time
Clint Black - When I Said I Do
Doug Stone – Different Light
Doug Stone – Why Didn’t I Think of That
Jason Aldean – Why
Jason Aldean – Don't You Wanna Stay
Blake Shelton - Nobody but Me
Tim McGraw – I Need You
Kenny Chesney – You Had Me at Hello
I write fantasy and paranormal romance. I love having the ability to create new worlds and new histories. My first book LARAMIE MOON will be coming out soon, so stay tuned.