Hey, here we are. I promised visits from my fellow authors in the Carina Men Under the Mistletoe Anthology today, and they delivered. I decided I wanted them to talk about setting, because for me the setting was the most important part of my story, after the characters, of course. I'll tell you why at the end.
First, from Josh Lanyon, author of Lone Star. First is where Josh usually is in my TBR pile. I love the title. I'm sure Josh would agree with me that if we could just figure out how to write gay vampire/shifter cowboys, we'd be set for life.
I’m not exactly sure why I ended up writing a story set in Texas. I’ve always wanted to write a cowboy romance, but I knew from the start that Lone Star wasn’t it. I guess partly it has to do with that great big emptiness that’s the Lone Star State. I think the best holiday stories address that loneliness, that emptiness we all feel sometimes -- a feeling that’s worse around the holidays. So I decided to write a homecoming holiday story. A story that begins with a chilly arrival -- a star falling out of the heavens -- and which gradually warms up with life and love and a little holiday magic.
The house hadn’t changed much.
Mitch’s footsteps sounded too loud as he walked slowly through the dusty rooms that still smelled of pipe tobacco and, more vaguely, horse liniment. But then it had never been a noisy place. Sometimes he and his old man had gone days without exchanging more than a word or two.
The steamer trunk, draped with a red and black Indian blanket, still sat in the front hall. In the dining room was the heavy old furniture that had once belonged to Mitch’s great-grandmother, including the squat china cabinet full of fragile teacups and saucers that hadn’t been touched in all the years Mitch had lived in that house.
In his father’s room the photograph of Mitch’s mother still perched on the bedside table next to the smaller framed photo of his parents’ wedding. Mitch stared at the neatly made bed with the handmade patchwork quilt. It looked so ordinary it was unsettling. He half expected Dane Evans to walk in and ask him what the hell he was doing in there. Maybe that was why funerals were a good idea.
Ava March's story is setting in a time period I love (and would love to come back to in my own writing): Regency England. I love a pre-Dickens Christmas setting.
In the beginning of My True Love Gave to Me, Alexander and Thomas have recently come from Oxford to spend the holiday season in London, attending social functions and family dinners. Setting plays a significant role in the book and not only because it takes place during the holiday season. During the Regency era, love between men was not just frowned upon but against the law. For Alexander and Thomas to even hold hands, they needed to be very careful about their surroundings.
Reluctantly, he shifted off Thomas’s lap, though he did not move back to the opposite bench. After repairing his clothes and pocketing his gloves from the floorboards, he gave the driver the order to return to Mayfair, to Charles Street, to Thomas’s parents’ house. The scent of sex hung in the air, much too heavy for his father to mistake it for anything but. So he opened the window a bit but left the shade drawn, not willing to lose the intimacy of darkness quite yet.
He settled against Thomas’s side and placed a hand over Thomas’s resting on his thigh. Thomas turned his hand over, gloved fingers sliding between his own bare ones. Such a simple luxury to be able to hold his hand, yet a luxury nonetheless.
Impatient lust sated, and confident in the knowledge he would have Thomas in his arms by dusk tomorrow, he soaked up the unprecedented opportunity to simply be with the man he loved. To rest his head against Thomas’s shoulder and to have his hand in his own without the threat of discovery breathing harsh and heavy down their necks.
There were no words between them. The silence companionable and perfect. The chill evening breeze rustled the shade, letting in glimpses of the golden light from the streetlamps as the carriage wound its way back to Mayfair.
Here are a few thoughts on setting from Harper Fox whose prose leaves me breathless. Sometimes I read one of her sentences and think, "Wow. I should just give up writing because I'm never going to be able to come up with something like that."
I’ll let you in on a secret – Winter Knights started life under a different title, Hallow Hill. I thought about the setting for this one before anything else, and in a way it was going to be – and in a way still is – the star of the show. It’s the first book I’ve ever written set in the place where I live, somewhere I can walk to from my front door. It’s steeped in mystery, bleakly beautiful, and once I got the concept of a cavern beneath the hill I was up and running. It seemed such potent symbol for Gavin’s condition – functional on the outside, hollow underneath, but within that hollow space, enormous potential for magic to happen. It could have gone either way – an empty cavern, or rescue and healing – the hallowed/hollow hill. Here’s a couple of excerpts from my Winter Knights backdrops to give you the flavour...
The climb would be easy. I was almost disappointed. The few inches of snow that had fallen hadn’t concealed the footpath leading up from the road onto the moors. In fact it was clearer than usual, in the cloud-bronze light of the moon. She was high near the zenith, competing with snowflakes and stars for the night sky. Briefly I looked up and tried to meet her weary, ancient gaze. What are we up to now, then, Gavin?
Ma’am, I’m sure I’ve no idea.
No. That wasn’t true. I was off to investigate the possible scene of a relevant local myth. I could see Sewingshields lifting its stupendous hill-flank under the snow. The crags, sharp sheer granite cliffs, were on the far side. This was sill-and-fault country, where intruded bands of igneous rock turned the landscape to a frozen wave-troughed ocean as the sandstone around them eroded away.
I knew the roads around here well, but I’d never seen this one. There wasn’t anything strange about it. The valley still stretched out to the south, rocking gently with the Rover’s movement. To the north, if I could be bothered to lift my head, I would see the line of the Wall, the great whinstone plates of the dragon’s crest. We were heading deep into the hills, the road narrowing down to a single track so tight the bare thorn branches tapped and scraped against the windows. I supposed there were lots of far-flung villages I’d never discovered on my travels.
This one was called Drift. I only caught a glimpse of the sign as we passed. Art was driving slowly, feeling out the crunch and slither of ice, hands steady on the wheel, but a mist had gathered. I hadn’t noticed it start. One second the air had been clear, the next we were passing through silver-grey rags, a cobweb that seemed to have woven itself out of starlight. Drift, I thought, after the sign had appeared in the headlights and vanished. Not a bad idea. I closed my eyes.
That brings me to my story, The Christmas Proposition. Now don't get all maudlin on me, but I came up with the idea for the story because I had to travel back to a small town in Pennsylvania for my grandmother's funeral. The town had been radically changed by the hydrofracking industry—including a well right next to our car in the hotel parking lot. I couldn't believe how it had changed since she'd left, since it had always seemed like the land time forgot. I saw some rowdy gas workers at a restaurant (in fact, my wife and I could have been those tired out-of-towners Mel waits on at Skippers) and the plot bunny sank his teeth in and raced away with a story.
The town in the story is fictional. I couldn't find an Epiphany on the map, but I think my grandmother would have loved it—and the reflection of the town where she spent thirty years of her life. She loved my books—though she skipped those scenes, as she told me. (I sincerely hope so.)
Mel, my narrator, has a love/hate relationship with his small town for a variety of reasons. He's deeply rooted and yet longing to leave.
There was still about an hour of daylight, but I stuffed a flashlight in my jacket pocket as I walked to the base of the mountain. We always kept a few unpruned trees up here for the customers who liked their trees with “character.” I pulled some dead weeds from around their trunks as I walked, heading up toward the edge of our property, marked by a low crumbling rock wall. I didn’t know how old it was, only that the valley and mountains were littered with walls like this one. Stones, the most consistent harvest for a Pennsylvania mountain farmer. The wall started near a stream that cut along another edge of our property before meeting up with the Cross Creek that gave our road its name.
There was a little ground cover of snow from the other day. I dusted off the wall and sat down, chucking tiny pine cones and twigs into the stream. It had always fascinated me since Da told me that some of this water would eventually make it all the way out to the ocean and around the world. It was hard to imagine, since the stream stayed pretty much the same. Even when it was swollen in the spring or down to a trickle in a dry summer, there were the same mossy rocks. But I always liked to think of my pine cones being carried all the way out to an ocean I’d never seen. Imagined myself small enough to ride there with one.
Men Under the Mistletoe is available anywhere you usually get your ebooks.
And Bad Boyfriend, where fun sexy things happen to guys in Baltimore is also now for sale.
See you in two weeks.