Friday, December 14, 2012

The Best of the Archives: The Personification of Place by Mary Connealy

This post first appeared in Seekerville on May 2, 2011.

Personification is a big, old, mean word. It means simply, giving an inanimate object a personality.

The razor sharp knife gleamed with evil intent.

Well, no, the knife has no emotions, no goal to accomplish evil.

The storm clouds growled of the coming danger.

Nope, coming rain maybe, but any menace beyond weather (like a tornado!) is all projected by whoever is watching the cloud. A storm has no goal except to dump its load of water.

The hinges on the haunted house screamed like a tormented soul and promised death to all who entered.

Nope. The hinges just need some WD-40, but where's the fun in that?

Today we’re talking about how a setting can become a character in its own right. Have its own goal, motivation and conflict. (well, almost!)

In the Kincaid Brides series the backdrop is a fictionalized Carlsbad Cavern. I had this book in my head for years before I started typing it and from the first the cavern was the real lure for me because of a trip I took there that just awakened all my creative juices.

The cavern came before the characters and the plot. I wanted it to dominate the whole book. In the end, due to Seth’s somewhat tenuous grasp on sanity, I gave the cavern a voice and even an agenda.  The cavern was no easy-going secondary character.

The cavern became a dominant factor in every choice I made.

You know how I always say, if you've got a sagging spot in your book, shoot somebody?

Well, the cavern made it EASY to ramp up the tension. I'd just have someone fall through a collapsing floor if I needed to stir up trouble. It wasn't even a stretch. NOT falling into a bottomless pit is the main occupation of my characters any time they went into the cavern.
The character of Carlsbad Cavern gave the book it’s feel, it’s limits, and it provided a fair amount of the action and drama. What I wanted to capture was the staggering beauty and the deadly danger.

The lure and the terror.

I wanted to pit these against each other in the characters' minds and send them on a journey where they are constantly struck with awe at the beauty and forced to fight for their lives.
So that place is personified as a villain in the story, but also a heroic character in its majesty.

How about in a book like Rebecca, "Last night I dreamed I went to Manderlay again." That house-Manderlay was the menacing presence of the hero's first wife. Any gothic novel worth its salt as a spooky old house, usually remote. Usually with a murderer roaming the halls.
Another beautifully realized setting as character is that sweet small town with the ugly racial struggles in To Kill a Mockingbird. This is a good example of the good vs evil of a setting. Rocking on the front porch, when the lynch mob shows up.

Never has a setting been so fully realized as the villain than that space ship on 2001 a Space Odyssey. But because the space ship actually talked and took action, it really went beyond personification and became a fully realized character.

Think of Oz. So beautiful and fanciful, so charming--right up until they released the flying monkeys. All we want in the end is to go home, because, there's no place like home.

Today I’m giving away a copy of my Christmas ebook Candlelight Christmas. To get your name in the drawing, think for a bit about setting as a character. In your own book or in a book you’ve read. 

Toss some ideas at me and we can talk about how to ramp up your setting to make it come alive. To make it a person.



  1. Hi Mary:

    This post is a wake up call!

    I’m a big fan of caverns. I try to visit every cavern I get a chance to see.

    You always seem to have strong settings. There was the mountain where Sidney was building his top of the world mansion. There was Yellowstone and the cliff and all the paintings. The paintings seemed to me to become characters in their own right. The Alaska book had a majestic setting. Even your current Christmas novella is at the bottom of a cliff with lots of drop in visitors.

    I think you save a lot of ammunition by having very dangerous locations. Oh yes, there was that flash flood that almost killed the hero before he even met the heroine. I liked that so much I have a flash flood in my “Stranded in a Cabin with a Romance Writer”. The hero jumps the creek on his motorcycle.

    The cabin is in Colorado at 7,000 feet and it on the banks of one of the highest lakes in the country. Since this is a romantic comedy I have not used the setting as a character. I see now this is a major oversight.

    Do you have any ideas about using the mountain and lake, that is, personifying them? I just haven’t even given this a thought.


  2. I'm writing about an old Carnegie library.

    I still can't decide if she's stately and dignified, or snooty and untouchable, or a toughy on the outside with a welcoming soft spot inside.

    Those buildings are pretty darn square, but I'm hoping I can pull off that last one.

    I keep putting in musty books, watery sunshine through the old windows, and creaking stairs.

    Ugh. No.

    I want classic, gleaming, old world elegance but wrapped around the noble gentility of a pure heart.

    The point is how some people see old buildings as pretty or charming, but not very functional. And others view them as living treasures to be protected at all cost.

    Like old people.

    Does that make sense.


    (Hey, you volunteered.)

  3. VINCE--

    I'm not trying to go backward, but I was reading the rest of the comments on the last post (only in Seekerville are the comments as good or better than the actual post)...

    "Imagine having this device on ten different items? You clap your hands and you hear voices coming from all over your house. Why, you'd find things you didn’t even know were lost.

    You’ll both make millions. I’ll be happy to do the commercials."

    I laughed so hard I choked on my water and hubby had to pound me on the back.

  4. Insane Asylum.

    I even went on a tour of an old one (And yes they let me leave)

  5. Oh, I'll start the coffee and put out some pecan sticky buns. I don't know about you but I'm starved.

  6. I read a book set in Shiloh National Park about the monuments to the battles and the way they were described I want to go visit because of the descriptions. She made the place come alive for me.

    I dont need to be entered as I have read the book and just need to do a review. Will try tomorrow. (I decided I want to be an android cos they are not affected by emotions or pain) Both of which have a draining effect on my and my brain.

  7. Good morning, Seekerville! We're getting our FIRST snow dump of the season today & tomorrow! A total of 7-13 inches. Maybe 20+ up at the ski resort! So winter has officially arrived!

    VINCE -- Your setting would be ideal of personification. Like the creek the motorcycle jumps -"yawning jaws stretching below him." :) Wizened mountains could look down on him in indifference, or interest or skepticism as he makes his approach.

    VIRGINIA -- I grew up in little towns in the Midwest and loved those Carnegie libraries! They had a welcoming, dignified friendliness, as if their windows were smiling eyes as I climbed the steps in anticipation. :)

    In honor of our snowfall today, I'm putting out pumpkin cookies and molasses crinkles. Hot chocolate with whipped cream and cinnamon sprinkled on top!

  8. I'm grabbing a molasses crinkle and some of Deb's coffee!!!

    GLYNNA!!! I love the yawning jaws....

    That image is perfect for a life or death jump!

    And lakes can be smug in their power. Sleepy and placid one day, lunging for the kill with a sudden Nor'easter.

    Woods can swallow sound... or a person.

    Hollows can be deceptive. Whispering leaves can taunt or tease....

    I can see the woods mocking him for thinking he can maintain his distance...

    Vince, you will have so much fun with this!!!

    Mary who???

    Oh, that's right. :) It's Mary's day!!!

  9. Virginia, what about if it's a sleeping "lady"... a gorgeous bit of history hidden beneath foolishly modern upgrades?

    A diamond in the rough, left uncared for?

    And they want to make her shine but someone wants landmark protection and that will make doing any little thing next to impossible.

    Thinking out loud.

  10. Mary, I liked this post. I need to be more purposeful in using my setting as a character. You got me thinking about how to make a dance studio into more of a character. :) And a rock climbing gym. Ooooh, you got my juices flowing. Any suggestions are also welcome! :)

    Reading the comments is fun and interesting. Some of you have a knack for this personification.

  11. I love this personification post! Perfect timing for me! (Thanks for mentioning To Kill a Mockingbird--my all time favorite book. :) I'm all smiles.)

    A small, tight community and an old family farm, full of history, are characters in my current WIP. My MC, who is finally free of a painful relationship, returns to the community after being away for many years. Her grandfather's farm and the close-knit town serve as healing salves to her broken spirit and she finally finds the sense of family and home she'd yearned for.

    I would LOVE SUGGESTIONS (from any/all) on personifying my small farming town. The church is the center of the community of long-time residents who harbor secrets as well as forgiveness.

    Happy Friday! Have a good weekend.

  12. MOrning everyone,

    VIRGINIA you are so right about the comments being as interesting as the post. Love it.

    Speaking of that, thanks Miss Mary.

    VINCE I can hardly wait to read Stranded in a Cabin with a Romance Writer. That is hilarious. Or it could be fun. But if the hero is trying to escape by jumping a flashflood on a motorcycle, I suspect it might be more like a thriller.

  13. I love the settings of stories. They are very important to me. I think I got that from my love of James Mitchner's novels.

    And Mary you do a great job with your settings.

  14. Vince one of the reasons I place so many of my books in the north, Wyoming, Montana, Colorado, is because mountains and blizzards provide such great chances for action and danger.
    In Texas I'm pretty much safe except from blazing heat and rattlesnakes so the characters have to do all the work.
    Although I did find a nice canyon with high enough walls I could have things fall off onto my characters heads. :)

  15. I'm still waiting for your Stranded in a Cabin with a Romance Writer book, Vince. It sounds so great. We talked about it when I met Vince and his lovely wife, Linda in Tulsa.

  16. I have this FANTASTIC idea for a murder mystery by a lake. Yeesh I want to write it.
    I wonder if I'll ever have time, I'm really really busy right now writing stuff I'm SUPPOSED to write

  17. i agree that the comments are worth reading. i don't care for caverns except sometimes in novels...maybe because of that! Thanks for sharing all your lovely ideas. i'm waiting to read them all in novels.


  18. I had this great idea for a museum a long time ago, but it's been used I like the idea of a small town coming alive, as in having a character and charm instigated and fueled by the human characters who live there. If you've ever lived in a small town, you know how just by living there, you become a part of it, even if you don't want to. I want the small town in my stories to define who my characters become and how they relate to each other. (BTW, haven't read the book about the caverns, but now I'm intrigued.)

  19. LOVE "personification" and probably overuse it, but I don't think I've used it too much with setting, although I do find myself dwelling on the settings in my Heart of San Francisco WAY more than I did with my Boston series because S.F. is just SO unique and forbidding in so many ways. Like the menacing and dangerous Barbary Coast where a young college student can be slipped a Mickey Finn and end up "shanghaied" as a sailor, never to see S.F. again. Or strange and exotic Chinatown, where young Chinese girls ten and up arrived in ship after ship, promised jobs and husbands only to be pressed into brothel service.

    Other than Mary's books and Laura Frantz's, I haven't seen too many authors personify or depict a place or locale so completely that it becomes another character in the story. But it's a VERY cool idea and can't help but add a unique flavor and depth to any novel, I think.


  20. I love this post (and the commentary as well - agree with Virginia C Munoz's comment wholeheartedly).

    Vince: i want to read your book. i think you'll do a bang up job on personifying the setting a bit once your mind has had time to mull the possibilities fully.

    Mary:have i told you lately that i love your humor and insight? well, i do.

    as an animator, i do the personification thing with everything, much to the chagrin of my longsuffering hubby. i swear the computer mocks me at times when i'm trying somehting new. when it crashes, it's basically saying "i'm done working for the day, go play with the little terror of yours that keeps peeling off my keyboard keys."

    i will defintitely keep in mind how to extend this personification thing to my writing settings. great food for thought.

    i also love old houses. i always think of them as "people" who've seen so much. if their walls could talk...

  21. oh, p.s.
    please put me in the running for winning Mary's book. (crossing fingers)

  22. Mary, your post is good timing for me. Thank you for taking your time to help when you're so busy.
    I can use your suggestions for a slum in a large Eastern city during the early 20th Century. There's plenty of gambling and alcohol, prostitution,robbery and other vices.
    My heroine lives in this neighborhood and works in a settlement house helping newly arriving immigrants. I'd like this environment to stand out as a secondary character and as significant to the story as the exploitive employment practices of the owner of a brewery there. Enjoyed the comments of others. Does anyone else have any ideas? Please place me in the drawing for your book. Many thanks.

  23. mary,
    i love your novels...all of your 'settings' are just perfect!

    kmkuka at yahoo dot com

  24. Good morning, Mary and Seekerville!

    I've tried to apply this principle to my current WIP. There's a lazy, winding creek, overhung with willows, sparkling in the sunshine, dark and shadowy on a cloudy day. It's always there, and I end up mentioning at least once in every chapter.

    I'd like to use it as a defining image of home for my MC - her life is intermingled with the quiet eddies of the changing creek.

    Any suggestions?

  25. The thing that's funny is Personification is one of those stupid ENGLISH words, I mean like English class from back in the day.

    Words that seemed designed for the sole purpose of making students nod off in English class. And yet here I am talkin' about it.
    Even celebrating it.
    The world is WEIRD

  26. a really great example of the personification of place is Phyllis Whitney and her gothic romances. Of course no one did it better than Daphne du Maurier (I can never spell that woman's name without looking it up!!!)

    (not that it comes up that often)

    But a spooky house or a haunted house is a great character.

    Have I ever told you I wrote a gothic romance once.
    It's all done. Sitting on my computer.
    It's in two forms. Contemporary and set in about the 1950s, revised to pitch somewhere.

    I'd love to sell it. It's about the most fun I ever had writing a book.

  27. In the books I remember best and the authors I follow, setting is always a major character. Whether it's the frozen North, the steamy South, or anywhere else, I expect the characters to be deeply affected by their surroundings. What a different story it would have been if Scarlett and Rhett had lived in Alaska.

    My problem with the setting of a story I've been trying to write forever is how to capture the flavor of a real life heritage music trail without sounding like a travel brochure. "The Crooked Road" winds for more than 250 miles, much of it isolated, but with all its many destinations honoring the roots of country music.

    And which destinations do I showcase? Choosing the "Pickin' Parlor" and "Stringbean Coffee Shop" over the "Art and Cultural Center" and "Mountain Art Works" brings to mind two different worlds. Or does it? Maybe I've been wrestling with the story for too long. But every time I try to narrow the places my h/h visit, I end up with a different set of characters and a different story.

    Hmmm, maybe there's my answer. Choose the characters whose story I want to tell and they'll choose the places they want to visit, or vice versa. Either way, the characters would also pick up on the things around them of importance to their story.

    Who was it who said they wrote so they'd know what they were thinking? I could have deleted this entire post, but I've spent too much time on the thought process behind it to send it quietly into nether land. Besides, maybe someone will point out any erroneous thinking on my part.

    This posting hit home. Oops,a cliche. Sorry, Myra. :)


  28. Virginia, wow, I love the Carnegie Library idea. But as for making it a person, I guess it depends on what your story needs. Does it need sadness and wear and decrepit age? Does it need menace? Does it need an old world elegant presence?

    I might not be the best person to ask. The last library I wrote about had a dead body in the store room.

  29. CaraG, maybe make it a series. Then you can focus on one point of interest on the trail without really having to reject those other ideas. Just pick one, knowing you can move on to the next one in the next book.
    It sounds like a cool idea for a series.

  30. VINCE, put your clapper device on kid's shoes. I'd have re-mortaged my home for that.

  31. Debra, an insane asylum is so perfect. OH MY GOSH!!!!!

    My imagination just lit up!

  32. C.E.Hart, well, I know all about small farming communities. I've lived near one all my life.

    Have you ever read Nosy in Nebraska, my cozy mysteries? I think you can buy one of them for about $2 on Kindle, but they're been re-published under my Mary Nealy banner.

    I make gentle fun of small farming communities. And I think I'm allowed because it's my home and I love it.

  33. C.E.Hart the one running overarching truth in my book about small towns is:
    If you do something stupid, illegal, lazy or fattening everybody knows.
    If you need help, if you've had surgery (no matter how personal) have a new baby or a death in the family everybody knows and is there with a casserole. (which really is handy!)

    The best thing and the worst thing about a small town is the same thing. EVERYBODY KNOWS

  34. Misty, If you've got a museum idea there's no harm in writing it. Even if it's been done before YOU haven't done it and you'll make it your own.

    I was once walking down the street of this living history town in Grand Island, NE (Pioneer Village) and BAM an idea for a book. Again, one I never used because it's crazy and involves time travel and all kinda weird and cool stuff. But it was a sweet idea.

  35. Thanks, Mary. I'm ashamed to admit I hadn't even thought of a series. But there's easily more than than forty destinations, so I'd still have to group them in some way--maybe into old time music, Bluegrass, etc. But it's a start.

  36. Jan, that creek sounds so lovely. I want to go there. I think it could be used as a way to personify a character or personify the theme and tone of your book.
    You could even change it. Have a spring flood and thunderstorm whip it up and turn it dangerous.
    Have beautiful graceful herons wading and nesting along the banks at sunset when you're wanting to cast a romantic tone.
    Have the brook laugh and tumble along when you want to be playful. Have gray days and sluggish, slow moving waters when you want a sad mood.

  37. CaraG, I don't recommend a 40 book series but still, if you had such a thing in mind, a notion that you would, in the future, return and do justice to other places, it might help you move forward with a single place, knowing you weren't ignoring the other places, at least not FOREVER.

  38. You're funny. I can't even imagine a forty book series much less writing such. In case I wasn't clear, I meant I could group 15 or so places into different types of country music. Then it could be a three book series. All of a sudden, after the forty book shock, that sounds doable. :)

  39. Hi Mary:

    You just gave me an idea for a very original Christmas novella! How about a small town where NO ONE KNOWS or even cares!

    That’s right.

    Nobody knows anyone else, even their next door neighbors, because everyone minds their own business. It’s called, “A Christmas Murder in Hostile, Montana”. I’d call it an uncozy mystery romance.

    The mayor is found dead and no one in town can even remember having a mayor. The major’s name is Lee Smith.

    Here’s what the first town person says to the country sheriff, “Lee Smith is dead? We have a mayor you say? First tell me this, are we talking about a man or woman here?”

    Every small town cliché is backwards in Hostile. Think of all the possible jokes.

    Mary, thanks, you’re a regular idea generator.


  40. Hi Virginia:

    I just listened to a lecture on Carnegie yesterday. I love the idea of an old Carnegie library.

    Have you considered having the library suffer from what we call in real estate a ‘psychological impact’?

    Is the library considered to be haunted?
    Was there a murder there?
    Is there a rumor that Andrew himself would not enter this library? Why was that?
    Is it the only Carnegie Library in which x, y, z happened?

    When I was growing up in New Jersey there was an old house built in the 1860’s. It was called the Ford Mansion and everyone said it was haunted. It was on a large triangular acreage and all us kids would walk a half a mile around it rather than risk crossing the property. The very idea that it was haunted changed my observation of it. There is ‘seeing’ and ‘seeing as’ and whatever was really there, I was seeing it as something very different. I think something like this could have a powerful impact on your readers.

    Oh, that’s why the law calls it a ‘psychological impact’.


    P.S. I hope my ‘clapper’ comment did not wake BABY up. That would be twice in one day for the poor child. As I was writing that comment, I could hear Tina's voice telling me to give a “Spew Alert” and then I thought ‘no, that’s kind of arrogant to think anything you write would be that funny.'

  41. Mary, this post is brilliant, just a perfect explanation of personifying setting. You are a fabulous teacher!

    Julie, I love San Francisco and can see the potential for trouble there.

    Vince, a heartless small town shakes my writing world. LOL


  42. Hi Sandra:

    The motorcycle jump takes place at the very start of the story. It goes to the hero’s state of mind. The hero must decide whether to say in the Army or get out and start a new life before it is too late. He must get to the cabin to give him time and quiet in order to work out a ‘midlife crisis’. If he does not jump the creek, he will have to go home. There is no other way to get to the cabin.

    He’s thirty-six and thinking as he looks at the creek.

    I can make it. Why be single with no dependents if I can’t take a few wild chances?
    It’s an easy jump. Just do it.

    Within one page the reader will know that the hero is at a major turning point in his life. He is ready for change. The poor heroine has been ready for change for over ten years. Things are about to explode but alas this is not a suspense. Just a rom-com.


  43. Vince, you're a big fan of caverns? Are you really BATMAN?????

  44. A 40 book series?

    Didn't Gilbert Morris write one of those?

  45. Hi Glynna and Ruth:

    Your comments are so helpful. I’m thinking in a totally different category. I never thought of ‘personification’ in terms of language. I only thought of it in terms of actions. Like “the mountain is trying to kill me”. And on several occasion things fall off the mountain and almost kill the hero.

    This is literal personification. I also thought in terms of the environment or setting mirroring the actions in the story. Elizabeth Lowell has a volcano rumbling throughout a story and it erupts at the same time the story climaxes. Myra in “Autumn Rains” has the unusually excessive heat build as the story gets more tense and then the rains come at the climax. This is what is found in the best literature.

    I also like to have the description of the outside world be a reflection of the pov character’s current state of mind. But this is the character influencing the environment. What I’d like to work on is having the environment influence and change the character’s inner state and not vice versa.

    Trying to write well is a never ending humbling experience. Thanks for your comments.


    P.S. I’m rewriting my “Stranded” story today between these posts. There are four good contests coming up in the next thirty days or so. All your help can be immediately put to use. Thanks.

  46. The flying monkeys. Yes, that was quite a wake-up call about craving home and all the warm and fuzzy feelings that go with that image. I'd forgotten that example. Glad it was repeated here. Great post, Mary. It gave me an idea for a twist in my new WIP.

  47. Hi Tina:

    "Vince, you're a big fan of caverns? Are you really BATMAN?????"

    We love bats, too. If Linda and I are on a cross coutry trip and we see a cavern, a restored working train, or a restored frontier Army fort, we have to stop. We saw millions of bats take off at sunset at Carlsbad Caverns. It’s amazing. The sky darkens and the noise is like something out of a horror movie. Then in Oklahoma, we have the longest alabaster cavern in the world and the bats there are only about ten inches above your head as you walk trough the cavern. I hope you saw this when you lived in Oklahoma.

    While I’m not batman I am a man who likes bats – especially the ones that eat insects.


  48. Hi Julie:

    I think the most memorable setting in your books is the dance hall on the pier in Boston. I thought of that place as a character and a real danger to the heroine. That place just seemed alive. Wonderful.


  49. Vince your Town That Doesn't Know could be a twisted tale like Christmas with the Cranks.

    I can totally see it. Go for it.

  50. In a way, a haunted house is such a perfect 'personification' that we need to consider the idea of a haunted house and then ... sort of ... abandon it, to get away from the house having actual menace or personality in a sci-fi way, and giving the house or place have it's own agenda at the same time it's not 'magik'.

    Deep Trouble, my book set at the Grand Canyon was me attempting to capture the canyon and give it a role and shape the story just by it's overpowering presence.
    That moment when they figure out how to get down into the canyon and then they have to decide, do we go or not.
    And the hero, who's been along to protect the heroine but absolutely NOT interested in going down is suddenly going, for sure, whether anyone comes with him or not.
    The canyon caught him and drew him in.

    What I'm trying to capture with Deep Trouble and also Seth's Cavern in the Kincaid Brides stories is:

    The lure and the terror.
    The beauty that is irresistable, the danger that is screaming at you to run for your life and never come back.

  51. Ohhhhhh, Ruthy.

    I completely forgot about landmark protection.

    Oh my. And now the renovations have a whole new angle.

    Thanks! That was easier than Google!

  52. Mary, NO BODIES!!!!!

    No bodies anywhere. Not in the storeroom, not in the office. Not in the mailbox, not in the... What rhymes with office??

  53. It's okay not to have dead bodies, Virginia. But they do liven things up.


  54. VINCE:

    My nine year old was reading over my shoulder and laughed himself silly over 'Hostile, Montana'. He thinks that would make a kids book. The kid is the only one who sees and know everything but the inspector never listens, just keeps asking the oblivious adults. All in the kid's POV, naturally.

    And ohhhhhh, now I have another interesting angle on the Carnegie. (See, our old library was a Carnegie that I practically grew up in, but then they got some fancy $5M structure. Pretty, but not the same. I'm settling old scores with this WIP.)

    I'd go with a dead body, but LI frowns on that. Hm. Haunting doesn't work either. No ghosts. Errrrrr.

  55. Mary-

    have you read Alan Bradley's Flavia DeLuce series?

    Gruesome. My favorite dead bodies by far.

    But I'm pretty sure LI says no dead people. Maybe even obliquely.

    Everyone lives forever. Or dies off-screen.

    Maybe a gravesite or two, with the body nicely tucked away.

  56. Someone mentioned snow send some! this humidity at 91% is not helping an already exhausted person sleep.

    Mary I remember reading Deep Trouble and when they are at the top of the canyon and go wow I could picture it and thought of Wiamea Canyon (sp) in Hawaii.

    On Bats and caves We do have a bat cave in Naracoorte. We have world heritage caves and one is a breeding place for bats. they even have a viewing area with cameras so visitors can watch them in there. There are several caves you can tour both with guided tours and caving. some for caving are tight and you crawl on your stomach. in the guided tour in one area they will turn of the lights and it is dark.

    ok back to bed to pretend to sleep for at least another hour!

  57. Friday visits to the archives are so fun! This is a really good one, Mary!

    I'll always remember the summer we visited Carlsbad Caverns. After touring the cave during the day, we went up at dusk to that place where the bats fly out for their evening hunt. Absolutely amazing to see thousands and thousands of them pouring like a black cloud from that hole!

  58. This comment has been removed by the author.

  59. Deb Marvin, which asylum did you tour?

    Was it the one not far from Angelica? It was closed when I was there, but the caretaker/owner who gives tours...

    a very interesting choice of homes.

    (If you saw my keyboard just shudder, you'll understand my lack of desire to live in an asylum... My children would say I already do. They're brats. Have I mentioned that?)

  60. It's okay not to have dead bodies, Virginia. But they do liven things up.

    dead bodies liven things up just strikes me as funny. oxymoron?

    Mary, when i grow up, i want to be like you.

  61. Virginia, you don't need death...

    You need a history with the building the either ruins the H's life...

    Or gave them hope and promise and they come back to restore the building because of that.

    If it ruined their life, the building and the people in it, past and present (in an everybody knows everything type of small town) are a menace to the H's goal and peace of mind. He or she must come to terms with the building... and then you could have the building threatened by demolition because it's not quite a landmark or not designated as yet...

    and H must examine conscience about holding a grudge against a building because that's silly....

    And then he/she get married and LHEA.

    OR.... the building is an old friend and he/she is standing in the way of desperately needed progress/jobs/financial security by fighting to preserve the old goat...

    er... building.

    So many fun things you can do here.

    And in the end the building wins, one way or another.

  62. Mary,

    Everytime I read the title Nosy in Nebraska, I want to know all the other ideas you've come up w/for a series.

    Tempted in Texas
    Pouting in Pennsylvania
    Overlooked in Okalahoma
    Cranky in Colorado
    Angry in Alabama
    Agony in Arizona
    Frightened in Florida
    Desperate in Deleware

    These are just a few off the top pf my head, but there would be never ending possibilites. I wondered if you came up w/a lot of cute titles that could go with Nosy in Nebraska.

    Connie Queen

  63. Connie, here's what your comment made me think of.
    We used to drive through North Dakota on our way to summer vacation in western Minnesota.

    So, we'd enter the state and here's this big big big PROUD sign saying, "North Dakota-Catch the Spirit"

    And I'd say to my children, "North Dakota, the Exorcist State"

    I'm sure my children never tired of my wit.

  64. Now Ruthy, don't discourage Virginia from mayhem. You know that's wrong.

    How about the old library has a cat and the cat brings the heroine a note, an old note. A note from the time the library first opened, 100 years ago. And the note is a love letter that ignites a mystery. She's agreeing to go away with him. Run away with him. Or she's REFUSING to run away with him.
    First, who is the woman, second does the note being found by the cat mean it was never found by the woman's beloved?
    So the heroine begins to search in old, abandoned newspapers and town history books trying to find the mysterious Kate, or maybe Mary (generic name if there ever was one) because the note is so touching.

    Then the cat brings another note. It's clear now the first note never was found.

    Anyway, in the end you can find a woman's mummified body dead, frozen in time, writing another note to that betraying !%#@$ who never came for her.

    Perhaps they could find his body too, with a knife sunk in his back.
    Perhaps they could find an engagement ring in his pocket telling the tale that he was going to propose but he was just too dang slow!!!!!!

  65. OH, and a hero in modern times needs to help the heroine search through things to find who wrote the love letter. And while they get newsprint ink on their hands, and cobwebs in their hair exploring the attic and cellar and hidden passages in the old library for the source of the letters, they fall in love.

  66. Which reminds me, I was supposed to buy cat food today. RATS!

    And speaking of rats, Bats are nothing but mice with wings and as such are utterly loathed by me. I do have though, an absolutely hilarious bat story, which is too long to tell here.

  67. Prayers

    I just heard about the mass killings at a school in Newtown. I used to live in Newtown and went to first grade there. I’m on my way to PT but I will stop to say some prayers on my way back. I can’t even imagine the pain of being one of those parents.


  68. It's so terrible, Vince. It's just ... probably not even possible to put into words.
    How someone could look at those little children and then do such a thing.

  69. I'm just catching up on this news myself. I can't imagine what could make someone do this.

    On a separate note, I'm out of the drawing as I have the book already.

  70. This comment has been removed by the author.

  71. MARY- maybe we could have the doomed lovers bricked up behind an old wall a la Cask of Amontillado?

    And then she finds a mummified cat?

    And then it's an Egyptian tomb, and the heroine makes a ton of money and the hero is a treasure hunter who tries to steal it from her and the first cat claws his eyes out.

    Then she can be his nursemaid like Jane Eyre after that pig Rochester pitched his wife off the roof when she burned down his house.

    *sigh* Romance rocks.

  72. Ohhhhhhhh, reading the comments, reading the news.

    Lord have mercy on us.

    Going off to hug my kids. :(

  73. A Call to Use the Gift

    Who can bring comfort to those who have suffered a great loss? Who can offer hope to those who have lost all hope? Who can open the doors that were closed with the expressed intention of keeping God out?

    The hero and heroine have both lost their only child in a school shooting. The emotional repercussions have destroyed each of their marriages. They are bitter and inconsolable. Then years later they meet. They can understand each other’s loss. They share the same bitterness and lack of faith.

    Who has the wisdom, the insight, the sensitivity and the craftsmanship to write this story and bring this couple back to God and to a loving trust in life?

    Think of all those who have suffered a great loss and who could be inspired by such a book. Think of how much comfort such a book could bring to those who have long since forgotten what comfort was like. Think of this as God’s way to open the doors to the very souls that need Him the most but that are keeping Him out.

    If I had the skill, I would write this book, or one like it, but it is well beyond my ability. A project like this would be like an act of prayer. It would be painful to write but the labor pains might well bring forth a blessing.

    I wish I had the gift.


  74. VINCE SAID: "I think the most memorable setting in your books is the dance hall on the pier in Boston. I thought of that place as a character and a real danger to the heroine. That place just seemed alive. Wonderful."

    AW, thanks, Vince -- that's because it was SUCH a fascinating place that really existed and pretty much blew me away. Consequently, I wanted to make sure I painted the picture correctly, especially since several of the main scenes in the book take place there.

    And Sutro Baths in San Francisco for Love at Any Cost is the same way -- FASCINATING location for a scene, almost a man-made wonder with seven freshwater and seawater swimming pools under glass where 10,000 people could swim at once with water slides, tobbogans and trapeze ropes. It used to sit on the shore beneath the famous Cliff House, where another scene takes place. San Francisco is a virtual wealth of fabulous scene settings!!


  75. Praying for the families in CT.

    And a question. Would it be okay to give a personality to a Church building? I had to read all the comments before I could comment, I am OCD that way. so I hope I am not too late.

    When my kids were kids their favorite thing was to explore churches. Whether the building was new or old and whether or not it was just to visit or be there a while they would find some way to inspect every nook and cranny. In one Church we were at for a few years the kids were sure one wall was there to close something off. Even after we had been there for a while I would catch one of them knocking or listening at that wall just sure there was something behind it.

    This post and all these comments have the wheels turning in my little brain again. Churches are dedicated to God and for worship I don't know about giving one a personality. Of course you said Mary, that you used the overpowering presence of the cave as a big part of the stories maybe that would be better than actually giving a Church building it's own personality. Here I am thinking as I type again. If any one has any ideas let me know.

  76. Mary Cline, I think giving a church a personality would be great.
    It could be holy or warm and friendly or awesome in it's beauty. I attended a church as a child that built a new building and that old church, long gone now, still holds a kind of lure for me. There were so many little rooms and a big tower with classrooms up high below the bell, and winding stairways.

    I could give that church a personality so easily.

  77. I think a writer could personify the French Quarter of New Orleans. It's fascinating, but kind of creepy, at least to me.

    I'm jealous of the snow Glynna is going to get. It was cold in nw Florida today, but alas, no snow.

  78. I had to stop watching the news for a bit. Oh my. A kindergarten room. I just can't get past that.

    Ruthy, the state asylum in Willard.
    Seneca County

  79. I work with young children, so this hit home very hard today.

  80. Thank you, Mary! You sparked a fabulous twist for my story! :D