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.
Lynnwood, WA firefighters (Lynnwood Today)
The other evening, as I pounded away at my typewriter, the fire alarm in my building went off. As a romance writer, I knew what to do in such an emergency. I quickly backed up my work in progress and pocketed my USB, then I changed into a nicer blouse, fixed my hair, put on lip gloss, and went outside to wait for the fire truck to arrive.
They came, lights blazing, checked out the apartments (thrill), and turned off the alarm. It turned out the heat sensor in my apartment had a short and set off the fire alarm on my building, but they didn't find that out until they had come out five times.
I'm not complaining. I'm sorry they had to suit up for a false alarm, but I appreciated seeing them in action, and it made me think about my fascination with firefighters.
We all love heroes - from Achilles to Seal Team 6.
They thrill us, they inspire us, they represent some of the human characteristics we most admire, but they can be aloof. They're usually removed from our everyday lives.
Firefighters are our local heroes. We see them shopping at the grocery store (and believe me I know when they shop), they're out on the corner "filling the boot" for charity, and they're on our streets saving lives and property. We can call them when we need them, and they'll come - fast. They're strong, they're brave, and it doesn't hurt that they look good on calendars.
Firefighters - men and women -
Thank you for doing what you do and for feeding my fantasies in the process. I think I'm gonna have to write a firefighter novel.
--And, I promise, I didn't set off the alarm!
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.