Thursday, January 14, 2016

How Reflective Setting Can Deepen the Emotions of Your Story and Series

You're brushing me off. Totally. Irrefutably. You're sitting there in your cute yoga pants reading that title and saying "Bah! What form of silly babble is this? A tree is a tree. A hill's a hill. A pond's a pond. One lake is like any other, a deep, earth-lined vessel that holds water and provides drinking water, recreational activities, food and cooling in the heat of summer."

Well, you're wrong, my darlings, so grab a cup of coffee, come closer, take a seat and let's talk. 

Hi, I'm Ruthy and I'm no sage. I don't pretend to be, in fact you could probably set the "mistakes made" side of life on one hand and the "got-it-right" on the other and see that I've messed up fairly often, which is why we love a forgiving God!

But something I've noticed over years of avid reading, is that if the setting doesn't add depth to the story, or fights the story, you've lost a fairly simple opportunity to deepen your story without gunfire, mental health, family instability or sudden cardiac infarctions.

Now you know I'm not good with terms... I get POV. (point of view) But that's about it. I don't talk beats, GMC, Deep POV, Deep Writing, Deep Six (wait, that might mean racketeer-related death, scrap that one). I don't talk the talk, but I walk the walk because I'm a really good copycat.  And how do I use that amazingly handy skill in my work?

Well. I copy smart people, and then pretend I'm one of them. Simple, right?

I'm  not even kidding, here's what you do, and it's nothing we haven't discussed before but we've got a lot of new villagers, and these basic tenets of good writing are universal.

Copy good writers.


Study the authors you love, the ones you relate to, and do what they do. Honestly, the more difficult you make this business, the harder it is. KISS rule applies: Keep It Simple, Sweetie

So back to setting. I'm going to show by example here, because I see this as being more fundamental than most of the big-line craft writers let on, whereas I find it crucial to the foundation of a really strong book.

1. Examine your story/series. Get to know it. This might mean writing some of it first (raises hand) while researching ideas/places/thoughts. Feel your characters, envision their character-arc and what they're up against.

In my "The Men of Allegany County" series (Love Inspired Books, Available Here) , I developed Jamison, New York, a small town in a depressed area of the Southern Tier of New York, Northern Appalachia.

Fictional "Jamison" and the real town of Wellsville had fallen on tough times with the collapse of the mining industry and northeast manufacturing. The infrastructure was eroding. Homes were scarred and unpainted. When it's tough to feed the kids, spending hundreds of dollars for paint becomes a non-issue. My first hero was coming back to Jamison to offer payback to the town that loved, sheltered and helped him become the military hero and expert he is today... But for his heroism to stand out, the town's need had to be portrayed strongly. The town's need, threaded throughout the series, helped develop the growing message of hope and joy throughout the books.

2. What's your goal? Family reunited, straight romance, women's fiction, suspense, forgiveness, family secrets unveiled... The goal of the series and/or single story is the moral premise I choose to portray, and The Moral Premise is the only book on craft I've ever used. Honestly, I'd rather practice my craft than read about how to practice my craft, so we all do what works for us. Once I have an idea in my head of the story/stories I want to tell, I hunt for the best place to tell them.

Book One of the Double S Ranch series "Back in the Saddle" comes out in 8 weeks, and I'm thrilled! Early readers have loved the story, editors loved the story and I love the story. In the writing world, darlings, that's a trifecta!

This setting had two goals. The first goal was set by my delightful Waterbrook editor Shannon Marchese who said "Give me cowboys and something to do with a Christmas tree farm..." Did you know there are very few states with both? Who knew??? But when I discovered the achingly broad, lush valley of Central Washington, I knew I found a perfect spot for the haves (the Stafford family, and their multi-million dollar ranch) and the have-nots (practically everyone else in the county, most of whom hate the Staffords for good reason).

I needed a spot where cowboys would thrive (Kittitas County Fair and Labor Day Rodeo with a re-enactment of the Native American fall trek to the valley, you can't get more Western than that, Sugarbeans!) and working folks would have tried to cling to what they could while Sam Stafford took over just about anything and everything.

The second goal was a redeemable town, which reflects all four heroes, Sam Stafford and his sons. Not only had the town suffered economic loss as the political landscape in Washington began to change, they suffered deprivation because one mega-wealthy rancher controlled multiple aspects of their lives. I tiptoed as I invented Gray's Glen, the sweet Western town tucked below the sprawling Stafford empire. It needed to be wounded, not broken, although let me tell you it is mighty hard to mortally wound a cowboy town. And when it suffers a grievous blow, well... it's time for everyone around to cowboy up.

It is all right to take a two minute breather to just gaze at Colt Stafford and his mount "Yesterday's News"...
No one will think less of you for it.
I used the real town of Cle Elum (with great advice from my beloved agent Natasha Kern, who lives in Washington state) as my model for Gray's Glen, and when I visited Cle Elum last May, oh my stars... exactly what I pictured and thought, and it was perfect right down to the maple bars at the Cle Elum bakery!!!

3. Immerse your reader. Your reader should feel the setting. Not in verbose terms where you wax poetically for pages as a butterfly flits through fronds of waving grass. THOSE BECOME SKIMMED PAGES and if you have too many of them, you have now created a skimmed book.

Don't do that.

Develop your setting to the point where the reader identifies with the characteristics. In "Kirkwood Lake"  I wanted a lakeside setting (based on Chautauqua Lake in Western New York, a gorgeous lake surrounded by rural people, rich summer homes and a huge spectrum of folks in between).

In our area there's been annual controversy between lakeshore dwellers, developers and farmers as demographics change and the economy revives. I wanted a theme of "Life Goes On...", as people pass from one season to another but try to maintain what has been for the coming generations.

Still one of my top-selling books.... A beautiful story of second chances.
Kirkwood was clutch in supporting the Campbells, the family who became the center of that series. Two boys were deputy sheriffs. One was a returning war hero who ended up becoming a state trooper. Another hero was a state trooper who relocated there to help his ailing father. The Campbell family bound all aspects of the town together.

The father was the town patriarch, a man of many skills who owned the hardware store and could put his hand to most anything. Charlie Campbell is a mainstay, a good man, with a beautiful big family.

And who doesn't love a big family???

The lakeside setting offered me multiple scene venues, boats, campgrounds, farms, lakeshore houses, and a full village nestled at the northern tip with a tough small city at the southern tip. But more than that it offered me current issues of over-development, politicians wanting to line their pockets, diverse population (poverty in the hills, middle class and upper middle class below, and a fairly firm line of demarcation.) and the growing problem of farm distribution, how farms are broken up when the farmer passes away.  I had to step back and look at the whole picture, what stories I wanted to tell, and have a place to tell all of them. Not just one or two...  but several, and that was part of identifying my goal: To tell a lot of stories.

4. Satisfy the reader.

This is our job. In case you forget that, and decide that editors know nothing and you can write what you darn well please, remember this: Our job is to satisfy the reader, and most editors are pretty good at knowing what a readership likes.

In the brand new "Grace Haven" series I turned the tables. It is also set near a lake, Canandaigua Lake in the Finger Lakes of Central New York, but this is very different from the Kirkwood area.

Grace Haven has never fallen on hard times. Grace Haven is historic and preserved and close-knit, and upscale and filled with tourists spring, fall and summer. It is a go-to spot for destination weddings at a fraction of the Long Island and downstate NY costs, an area filled with vineyards, estates and a large Mennonite community. Grace Haven has been chronically successful, but despite that, people have problems. Life happens. And even without roughed up economics, the human dynamic is the heart of your story. Themes here were appreciation, cooperation, forgiveness, and redemption. Money doesn't buy happiness... even in Grace Haven.

Right now this series is slated to be four books long, but once I have a great setting and a core family, or situation (new business expanding, new tourism, new hotel, new hospital, disaster strikes, storm clean-up, etc) new characters appear, simply begging for their own books! And I am happy to comply.

But without that strong, wrap-around setting that would be much harder to do.

Examine your work. Is your setting elastic enough to be expandable? (Think Deb Clopton, Debbie Macomber, Linda Goodnight, Brenda Minton, Janet Tronstad, authors who've written multiple books in one setting, linking the books in multiple ways and creating their own go-to spot for readers).

Come on inside, the coffee is on, it's hot and fresh and we can chat. Ask questions. I'll either have the answers or sure as shootin', I'll make one up!

And I do believe I've got some copies of my newest 4 Star Love Inspired novel up for grabs... So give a shout in the comments and like Julie said yesterday, if you've read "An Unexpected Groom" and liked it or loved it, I will treasure your reviews on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and if you've a mind to, that is!

Ruthy loves to chat with and possibly annoy people on facebook, so come on over and be her friend..... visit her website at or e-mail Ruthy at

She loves to hear from readers and writers alike, and she probably won't make fun of you until she knows you for at least a little while. Like an hour.

More or less.


  1. Didn't someone say that copying is the most sincere form of flattery? Or something like that. I don't do Deep Six or deep writing or deep POV either. Oops I'm thinking I need coffee so here's some for you too and cinnamon Danishes!

  2. I do believe you have made Vince a happy man. We have just been chatting about setting.

    Vince! This post is for you, pal!

    And Ruthy, once you create a town, you sort of fall in love with it, don't you think?

  3. Hi Ruth:

    How's this for creating a 'living' setting. Years ago I read several books by a LI author who wrote about a small town in Arkansas. The cover art looked just like downtown Bentonville. I only went to Bentonville a few times a year so I was not that familiar with the roads or stores. Eventually when I drove around Bentonville looking for a business or landmark to fix my position in the town, I had trouble determining if what I was looking for was actually real or if it was a location in this LI author's fictional town. (I never did find the barber shop I was looking for. It must have been from the LI book. I know I saw it on the town square somewhere!)


    P.S. "An Unexpected Groom" is next up in my TBR pile after I finish "Rocky Mountain Reunion". How about if I could be in a drawing to win the cat dish? Iconic!

  4. Hi Tina:

    I don't have a problem with anything Ruth wrote here. I'd say Ruth gets it! I'll look it over again in the morning when I am not so tired.


  5. Excellent points made.

    Count me in for a copy of "An Unexpected Groom" thank you.

  6. Good morning, Marianne! Yes, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and when I was a younger person I thought that was like stealing someone's copyright... Of course it isn't, it's a learning curve, well-used! And it helps us to really see how to make a story, when to zig and zag.


    I think Vince has made this point well since New Year's, that setting is often overlooked, and to me, setting is crucial to having the reader identify with the story. I want them to feel like Kirkwood and Jamison and Grace Haven and Gray's Glen are their home towns... their neighbors, their fears, their goals.

    Adding quirky characters adds to that, but the base... like the bottom of a humongous Lego creation.... is the setting. That stabilizes everything. Would you like coffee, Marianne???

  7. Tina, I do fall in love with them! And then I have to go back and visit the prototype real town because I can see all my fictional characters walking around, doing business!

    Beth is pretty sure I'm whacked. Mandy is 100% sure I'm whacked.

    But it's kind of like going home for me, too!

    1. My biggest dream/goal is to create a (long) series about several families in a fictional town!! Not sure how to proceed but love the concept! You rock!

  8. Vince, I've had people e-mail me and say they visited Angelica, and didn't find the quilt shop, or they visited Wellsville and didn't see the military manufacturing facility, but they did see The Texas Hot! :)

    And honestly, if you took time to eat at The Texas Hot, that's reason enough to travel to Wellsville, right there! Isn't it funny?

  9. Vince.

    The cats are highly insulted by the thought that their plastic dish could be callously given away...

    They suggest you buy a quart of sherbet, eat it and then used the rinsed container because that will be just like theirs!


  10. I know Vince, this is great stuff!! That's what Zi meant. Totally addresses your marketing theories!!!

  11. Clearly if it made sense, it was IN ERROR.

    When you smart guys start offering approval, I get nervous!

    I may have had someone else write this....


  12. Thanks for the post, Ruthy. I always struggle with setting. I never know if it's best to put my stories in real towns or fictional towns, or real towns with fictional stores/roads/locations.

    Wish I could hang out her with y'all all day, but sadly I need to get up and get dressed for the day job.

    While I love nothing grater than getting packages in the mail from Seekerville, please don't put my name in the cat dish for this one. I actually just finished reading An Unexpected Groom two days ago. It was wonderful!

  13. Hi Ruthy,
    I've loved the Kirkwood Lake and now Grace Haven series, Reunited Hearts especially as it was my first book that introduced me to the phenomena that is Ruthy. I think your settings are so well loved because not only do people want ideal relationships but they want to live in ideal towns, not perfect ones, but places full of charm and character. Your settings do that, as does Tina's Paradise, Colorado.

    I'm looking forward to how you continue to weave your magical settings in Grace Haven, Grey's Glen and beyond. Your settings become like characters themselves. Like a fine tapestry woven together, beautiful in its intricacy when finished.

    Happy Thursday all!

  14. Rhonda, I'm so glad you loved it! Thank you so much for that shout out!!!!

    I always go with a fictional town in a real setting and I study the local area and add bits and pieces of it into the story. That way it fits the setting as if made for it because it was... and then it avoids upsetting people in a real town, because you'll get it wrong.

    This way I have some leeway and license, and offend almost no one! :)

    I studied how other successful setting authors arranged theirs, and other than if I'm using a big city (MUCH MORE LEEWAY HERE) I make up the place.

    So for Red Kettle Christmas, that was NYC 1947... and it was locked in.

    For Try, Try Again, that was solidly NYC and Princeton, and it was locked in.

    But when I'm creating a small town, or small city series, I want some leverage and creating a fictional town (often modeled on a real town, like Jamison > Angelica, Gray's Glen > Cle Elum but this way I can invent some things that don't exist.

    And no one gets mad at me! (read: anxious to please!!!!)

  15. Tina would agree that I am a phenomenon, LOL! She and my family might not always agree that it is a GOOD THING!!!! :)

  16. Let it be known to all, near and far, I love, love, love Tracey Hagwood!!!!


    Honestly, your words are balm to me, kid, because setting is a big thing to me. It's like setting the table for a big dinner... We could eat on plates on the couch and often do, but sometimes the setting adds a whole new layer, and that's what I see in books I love.

    Lisa Wingate is really good at this, too, as is Mary Connealy, Karen White, etc... that's the problem with listing, you're always going to forget someone!


    Tracey, you named my exact goal: to make the setting strong enough to be another character. Thank you!!!!

  17. This post is anything but "silly babble," Ruthy. Great stuff here and I completely agree with the KISS rule. Why would we want to make it tough? That's no fun!
    I'd love to be entered into the drawing.

  18. Lol, thanks for the love!

    I have enjoyed all my trips to Ruthy settings including Washington state in Back in the Saddle. Now I'm off on another trip to Cedar Mills, Ohio where "poysen" cookies are being served. Ruthy is one of my personal travel agents and I do t even have to buy an airline ticket or back a bag. I love virtual armchair traveling!

  19. .
    Imitation: okay.
    Replication: no way.

  20. Tracey is reading about "poyzen cookies" "More Than a Promise", LOL!!!



    I kept it simple!

    Oh my gosh, Tracey, I love that story, I just laugh out loud thinking of it!!!

  21. But I had to learn the difference as an author, you know? It wasn't like auto-brain-assimilation, it was trial and error.

    So that takes us back to another basic tenet: Write, write, write.

  22. Ruthy
    someday, when I grow up, I wanna write like you do.

    I love your settings (and Tina's Paradise, CO - 'cuz I'm all about Colorado). I appreciate you providing a list to follow as well. Seekerville is such an awesome school of learning for writers.

    That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

    Name in cat dish for Unexpected Groom please. THANKS!!!!

  23. "Just like theirs"!!!

    I don't want sunglasses 'just like' Elvis wore! I want the sunglasses that Elvis wore. It's the difference between a cat meowing and the 'cat's meow'.

    I think TWINSIES are just being catty.

  24. Question of the Day:

    Do you know what the Realtor® said were the three most important things in a romance novel?

    Setting, Setting, and Setting.

  25. Or, location, location, location, LOL!

  26. A lot of good information here, as usual. I like balance with setting and emotion being woven in dialogue or action. I admit I skim long passages of either. But like the backdrop of a play, the story would be blah without a good setting.

  27. Thank you, Ruthy.
    So far I haven't had to "create" a setting. My Oregon Trail series takes place, well, on the Oregon Trail and in a small Oregon Country settlement. I did create the town of Hall's Mill in the Oregon Country, so there's that. A hardscrabble logging town where people from all over the fledgling United States have to build a new world together. And my "City On a Hill" series takes place in New York's Hell's Kitchen. So with already-established settings, the onus was on me to make them real enough. I would love some day to create my own small town and watch the dynamics. Maybe in my third series, or if I need a break from working on these two.
    Right now as a reader I'm obsessed with Cathleen Armstrong's "Last Chance" series, about this quirky little town in New Mexico which has an amazing ability to heal people. Emotionally, not physically. (That would be the "Song of Bernadette.") She does a really good job of portraying the town, from the local diner to the bossy mayor, and how the people come together for each other in the things that matter.
    Yeah, so anyway, I am facing a shake-up in my day job which may allow me more time to write, or if I have to get a third job, a lot less. Fourteen days into the New Year...God's got this one. 2016, do your worst.
    Kathy Bailey
    Possibly starting over in New Hampshire

  28. I've enjoyed my cup of joe with you Ruthy, but alas it's "the month of the mammogram" so I'm off, with Todd, Randy and Amos to keep me busy in the waiting room. I hope I can keep up with them, haha.

  29. I am also pleased to hear that you learn by reading other writers rather than craft books. It seems to work for you. I do a little of both. I study POV and GMC, now more than ever, but I am also constantly reading and seeing how other writers do stuff. Sometimes consciously, sometimes by osmosis.
    I am reading a Karen White book now (if we mean the same Karen White). Does she write about the South? The one I am reading is "The Sound of Glass."
    Off to work, for now anyway, will try to check in later.

  30. Great artickle Ruthy and reminder of what we need to do.

  31. Vince, Vince, Vince....

    There is beauty in imitation. The sky reflects the earth, below. And is it not lovely in its azure gown?????

  32. Love this post about setting! I realized as I was writing last night, the different stories I have been working on are all set in the same town. A business comes to town, a new person shows up, many possibilities. This post came just in time to really concentrate on how to interconnect the different stories. Thank you! You inspire me, Ruthy! I also realized a theme runs through my books- Your past doesn't define you. God does. He sees your heart, not your past.

    I would love a chance to get a copy of your new book An Unexpected Groom!

  33. Hi Ruth:

    You wrote:

    "I can see all my fictional characters walking around, doing business!"

    Which made me remember this about that Bentonvillesque fictional town in Arkansas. Within the general setting of the town there were individual mini-settings with their own cast of quirky characters, like the barber shop, the hardware store with the working potbelly stove, the bakery and the Christian church to name a few.

    The thing is, if like you, I was walking in that fictional town and went into one of these mini-settings, I would recognize the characters and pick up right away in their conversations and I know they would be wondering who the heck I was!

    Also when you knew, as a reader , that the story was headed for one of these mini-settings...well, you just knew...that you were in for some fun. That's right 'fun'.

    An interesting question to ask:

    Do you have fun mini-settings set in your location? Mini-settings are like minute details that help give the big picture a greater sense of reality. Like a girdle, fun mini-settings have a way of disguising a sagging middle.* (I'm just playing. : ))


    P.S. Warning: you can make the setting so interesting and appealing, that while readers can still remember your town and characters for years later, they have often long forgotten your name!!!

    *The sagging middle is still there. The reader just doesn't notice it!!!

  34. Deb H., LOL! I will be so happy when your time opens up before you! Praise the Lord, I will be dancin' that day!

    Thank you sweet thing, and your name is going right in.

    Kiss Guppy for me!

  35. Vince, LOL! I agree with the Realtor!!!!

    A flat setting has no bounce.

    Gotta have some bounce.

  36. Elaine, I'm so glad your husband is doing well! Happy dancing!

    I agree, the balance is clutch... And that's coming from a fairly unbalanced person! :)

  37. Kathy Bailey, I hear you.

    When I started writing I'd been working two jobs for 18 years, with six kids at home. Hence the middle of the night wake up call.

    When I got the call I was working three jobs to make ends meet. I didn't give up the third job until my third book got published.

    I considered hard times a dare, and I took that dare and shook it like a dog with an old rag (or a chicken, but that sounds plain mean!) and stuck with it.

    Never think you're the only one, and I love that facebook notice going around talking about how folks at age 57 were living out of cars and hadn't written a word. Those folks were Laura Ingalls Wilder, Louise Hay, Colonel Sanders, and Steve Covey... Hang in there, and hang tough. God's got his own time plan. We're along for the ride.

  38. Tracey, the boys will LOVE going to the diagnostic! Randy will be pretty sure there's a dark art going on, Todd will be embarrassed as heck, and Amos will pick his cute little nose!!!!

    "More Than a Promise" coming in March from Franciscan Media.

    I can't wait to hear what you think of it when it's done!

  39. KayBee, I love Karen White. I found her when she was newly published and I've loved her and her work ever since.

    She's just as delightful in real life as her books are in the fictional world. I'm glad you're reading her!

  40. That's it?

    Sandra did a drive-by??????

    Did anyone see her?

    Did anyone get her coffee????? OH, SAAAAANDRA???????

    Sure, you give her a gold medal for Senior Olympics and she's suddenly too busy to chat!

    Or I'm jealous because I don't know the first thing about pickleball!!!!

    That is a more likely scenario!

  41. Sally Shupe, that's awesome! Now that you've realized that, you can start adding things to the stories to deepen the setting and its meaning to the characters. And of course I'm putting your name in! Thanks for stoppin' by!

  42. Ruthy, you made me think this morning! You've given me some really good examples that set my brain to working. I never thought to make the setting fit with a particular group of themes. I love how you showed us the difference between your two geographic locations/settings. Thank you!!

  43. As you have suggested, my best teacher is reading authors I love (like Ruthy) and copying them. Thank you for easing my guilt about loving this method over reading craft books and also for copycatting.
    I stayed up as late as I dared last night, but I still have about 50 more pages to go in Back in the Saddle. This morning I'm so excited that I still have 50 more pages to enjoy tonight! Oh if only the work day would end and I could go home and curl up with Colt, er, I mean, well you know what I mean.
    I was going to say I want to go to Gray's Glen and taste those maple things, but I think I already did that as I read. In my opinion, dear Ruthy, you have mastered that setting thing! I don't know how you can keep making each book better than the last one, but somehow you do it. Please, please tell me there will be more Stafford books. Nick and Trey need to find a lady - right?
    Please throw my name in for An Unexpected Groom! I love all the winter and ice on that cover.

  44. Vince, I like that anecdote. And I love fun mini-settings, too. In Grace Haven, the junior high baseball field is a gathering spot, but now I'll have to examine for these.

    The candy stores in Jamison and Wellsville were sweet (no pun intended)... in Kirkwood, the hardware store, but it's tricky to do too much of that in 55K without it being cut because it's not intrinsic to the romance.

    I'm going to try harder!

  45. Missy, aw, you just made me so happy! I DID SOMETHING RIGHT!!!!!

    Now I need fresh coffee to celebrate. Anyone else want a cup???? Price is right!

  46. Hello Ruthie! I love that cover with the Cowboy! I haven't read An Unexpected Groom or Rocky Mountain Reunion yet. please toss me into the dish..

  47. Cindy, thank you for all of your nice words, and huge thank yous for reading Back in the Saddle ahead of time! I am so grateful to all of you who jumped in on that, and I'm looking forward to those reviews! (and some have already posted on Goodreads, so that's wonderful!)

    Yes, Nick and Trey both get a story and both stories are WRITTEN so that's a delight to know that I can tweak them as needed, but both are done, and I love them, love them, love them!

    And that town, how could I not love that town?????? I could honestly live in Central Washington and be happy and there aren't a lot of places I can say that about. Rain doesn't bother me, snow doesn't bother me, the people are so darned nice and normal with normal problems and there are big, thick trees. I love trees.

    So thank you and I hope you love all three stories!!!! Spread the word, darling!

  48. Deanna, you are tossed into the dish, darling, happily! And yes, that cover for Back in the Saddle is gorgeous, eye-catchingly gorgeous, and I love it... and the cover designer laid out her plan for book 2, Nick's story....

    and I loved it to pieces!

    She had me at "hello"!!!!! No cover reveal on that one for a while, but I loved her ideas, she totally captured the essence of Nick in the story... Tossing your name in!

  49. It's cold here, adding wood to the fire....

  50. Ruthy! I need some good setting - how else am I to imagine the characters and their story, to get a feel for their world?!

    I'll bring the hot cocoa and marshmallows for anyone who wants to come sit by Ruthy's fire!

    Please toss my name in the dish...

  51. Super advice today, Ruthy--as always!

    And I am giving a HUGE shout-out to VINCE because he knows Realtor is a trademark and should always be capitalized!!!

  52. Wonderful post Ruthy! When the setting is done right it helps draw me into the characters and the book. It helps everything come alive to me as a reader.

    Now if I can just learn to write so it is like that!

  53. I love a book where the setting is like a secondary character. I know the story wouldn't work anywhere else. And that leaves me thinking -- which came first, setting or character? But it doesn't really matter because they play supporting roles for each other and that makes for a richer read.

    Also -- a good setting settles me into the story. It's funny how it can tickle my imagination even before I get to know the hero or heroine. I loved the Barrett's Mill series by Mia Ross. I adore that town!!! And I was mightily miffed when she moved on to another locale for her latest book. LOL Though I'll admit to being enamoured with Oak's Crossing now too.

    Don't toss me into the cat dish (I wouldn't fit anyway) because I have An Unexpected Groom already. Read it. Love Grace Haven and am looking forward to all the possibilities for romance we'll find there.

  54. Sarah, I love to talk setting! As in ALL SMALL TOWNS ARE NOT CREATED EQUAL!!!!

    The fire is coooooozy now, so yes, grab that hot chocolate and we'll chat.

  55. Will read all of this later...but WANT to be in for your new LI book! I did read Back in the Saddle and can't wait 'til time to post my review......great book.

  56. Historical settings:


    Idaho, "A Town Called Christmas"... "Prairie Promises" set just west of Omaha when Omaha was a sin-riddled bastion of naughty behaviors!!!!

    South Dakota... I started there with "His Beloved Bride" a beautiful marriage of convenience love story that just made folks sit down and message me or e-mail me, and that was the BEST FEELING!!!!! so then I expanded on that idea because I love that raw, Western South Dakota feel, I mean that was not an easy, happy-go-lucky place to settle! And that began my "Sewing Sisters Society" novellas, set in Second Chance, South Dakota, just a small mudhole of a town in the wet, and dusty brown in the dry, but in between... A country was formed!

  57. Myra, you are correct as always, but I didn't take time to find the little symbol in my reply. But I do capitalize it, because every now and again I get something right!!!! :)

  58. Wilani, you just said the right thing... Now if only I can learn....

    Copy it.

    Seriously, study why it works for you and copy it.

    Layer in your bits of setting in quiet moments or in rambunctious storms. See it through a child's eyes, and an adult's vision.

    See the critters... feel the dust sting your eyes.

    Watch the mud fly every which way as they try in vain to unstick the big, huge tractor...

    Thin-handled teacup or lead-heavy mug?

    You can do this! I know you can!!!

  59. Kav, Barrett's Mill was a great setting, wasn't it?

    I think the two things come together, at least when I'm beginning they do.

    I knew I wanted a bridal industry series.

    I knew I wanted sisters who hadn't always gotten along (Like there's a shocker!!!!)

    I knew they had to come back for various reasons, but their connection was because their father is undergoing treatment in Texas.

    So then it was where can I set this to be:

    A. Friendly to bridal
    B. Friendly to romance
    C. Easily accessible
    D. Broad-ranging enough to spread stories
    E. Close-knit enough to create a realistic town
    F. High end without being snooty
    G. Picturesque
    H. Hero-friendly

    Now that last might sound funny, but there are some settings where it just doesn't leave the door open for a real-sounding hero.

    So I needed the chance to delve (because I wasn't sure who my heroes would be at that point) and I wanted them to be able to embrace their pasts, presents and futures...

    So far so good! Drew Slade is the security point man to the New York Senator running for president (and the likely winner) while Kimberly arranges the crazy dynamics of a politicians daughter marrying a country super star...)

    Grant McCarthy is the highway superintendent, a man who's been hurt before and has twin toddlers to raise on his own... and he has absolutely no reason to be interested in another fashion-friendly woman, so when former Miss New York Emily Gallagher helps him plan his deployed sister's wedding, there is just no telling what will happen!

    And Rory is the youngest, and scrappy and tough and faithful and she's got everything mapped out, the next two years on a mission trip to Central America, teaching, helping, embracing... But when Manhattan lawyer Cruz Maldonado is brought back to town to help her care for two orphaned Mexican children, can she send these two little souls back to the depths of the Mexican cartels? Or stay and help raise them?

    And hero #4 (if approved), well.... he's made some mistakes, grievous errors, and he'd been back on track for a while, but no one in town knows who he is or what he's done, so this is an eye-opener... Just when you think you know someone!!!!

  60. Jackie Smith, thank you for being one of my early readers for "Back in the Saddle"!!!

    I'm so grateful!

    Tossing your name in, "An Unexpected Groom" is a delightful story and I've gotten lots of love mail on it... and not one hate mail, so we're golden so far!!!!

  61. I loved this, Ruthy. And the way you pick your settings to enhance scene locations, issues that would affect the characters? Wow. I haven't really thought to do that. I'm hoping to write what I call a sister-series. The stories of three sisters. The first book is written, but maybe with the second and third, I can set them in another part of the city that offers more for scene opportunities.

    LOVED this. :)

    Oh, and please toss my name in for An Unexpected Groom. :)

  62. btw, Ruthy:

    I absolutely LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the "Sewing Sisters Society" novellas. I want them all... oh, wait, I think I do, well, the ones pubbed anyway.

  63. I have to admit, Ruthy, I learned the value of copying long ago. So it seems like everything from parenting skills to baking bread to writing are things I've copied someone else doing.

    I've copied your writing skills more often than I can count. :) And I learned how to weave the setting into the story from you.

    And from JRR Tolkien.

    Both of you are adept, in different ways, of using the setting in your stories.

    Tolkien takes the grand, sweeping, epic look. I always think of a landscape painting by one of the Hudson Art School painters when I read his work. His settings reduce the characters to a small part of the work - which in an epic like the Lord of the Rings, is perfect. Each character, no matter how small, has a key part to play in the overall story.

    Your settings are intimate. In "The Unexpected Groom," for instance, you fit Drew into the small town of Grace Haven like a jigsaw puzzle piece falling into place. I could almost here the "snick" as he locked into position - even if he does try to wiggle free throughout the story. He and Grace Haven were made for each other.

    I found myself using both techniques in writing my last book (Mattie's Pledge, due out Sept. 2016). The characters are traveling throughout the story, so I wanted to use open vistas and compelling landscapes.

    But as Mattie longs for adventure, the intimate details of the settings work on her, pulling her toward home.

    I've said enough - I have to get to my word count sometime today!

    Great post, Ruthy. Great. :)

  64. Ruthy, I love the way you write...and your settings! Great blog. Perfect timing. I'm creating a new town for a new series. Lots to consider. Thanks for all the food for thought today. Reaching for another cup of coffee. I hosted book club last night and have a tray of cookies and cakes to share for a morning pick-me-up. Enjoy!

  65. Jeanne, I love family-oriented books. The Campbells came by it almost accidentally, but then it worked so well that Melissa and I jumped on it... and the three brothers in Washington...

    And now the three sisters in Grace Haven/Central New York.

    I find it so much easier to work their stories around the familiar and the dis-similar as I go. Tossing your name in!

    And I blame Nora for the always fun, excellent family series, I fell in love with them and I don't think anyone does that part better... but I love the other mentioned authors for their settings, they deepen that part of the curve so well! In my humble opinion!

  66. Deb, thank you! I love those stories, too!!! Anne's will come out in our spring novella series in April, and it's one of those stories I absolutely knew and felt long before I had time to sit down and work on it. Thank you so much for saying that!!!!

  67. Hi Tracey:

    I'm off for a MRI at 2pm. I'll say a little prayer for the both of us. I've been praying slowly and in turn I've been healing slowly. I'm not sure there is a connection but there could be.


  68. Hi Ruth:

    You wrote:

    " Kirkwood, the hardware store, but it's tricky to do too much of that in 55K without it being cut because it's not intrinsic to the romance."

    Maybe in Kirkwood but in Bentonvillesque there are three old men sitting around the potbelly stove trying to matchmake the new eligibles just as if they were a bunch of women at a quilting bee. Quirky, yes. Intrinsic to the romance, you bet. : )


  69. I am actually sitting here in yoga pants, Ruthy, but I think CUTE might be the wrong word!

  70. No yoga pants because I'm not that cool.

    Has anybody noticed women with daughters dress better than women with only sons? It's a theory I have.

    Great post Ruthy. As I edit I'll consider your advice!

  71. Have I told you lately how much I love you, Ruthy? I love your sense of humor, your down-to-earth advice, and, of course, your storytelling ability. Now don't go getting a big head--not that you would. Is the coffee still hot? I brought French Vanilla creamer and a boatload of no-calorie banana bread.

    MARY, my yoga pants are in the wash. You can only wear them so many days before people start noticing you're covered in dog hair.

  72. Hi Ruth:

    The macro setting (re: environment) can also be used to great effect to mirror the events of the story from the first page to the last page. Elizabeth Lowell has done a great job of this: one time it was a volcano trembling until the climax, the other was the rumblings of an earthquake until the climax. Myra also did this to great effect in "Autumn Rains". The atypical heat followed by the cathartic rains at the climax leave the reader emotionally spent!


  73. Oh, and please throw my name in the hat for a copy of your book. :)

  74. Great, Ruthy! Settings are BIG in my reading and writing interests. Being immersed in the setting (including the characters' lives) may be my favorite thing about reading. I travel vicariously through reading about different places (real) and eapecially enjoy small fictional towns and all the characters. I've lived in small communities and LOVE them (and identity with those economically hurting towns with their strong, faithful residents)....great story potential! I'm planning a small town I appreciate your KISS advice. I need simple to "get'er done"....soon. Thanks for the reminder of The Moral Premise which I need to put on my to-buy list. Yes, I want to copy smart people!

    You will like the small church we're temporarily attending, there is a gal who mentioned she reads Christian romance. We started chatting about Christian authors, and she has many of your books, some I haven't read....specifically she mentioned the one about breast cancer and the one about the guy who adopts his nephews. Anyway, I loaned her Refuge of the Heart! which she didn't know about. We were so excited to find we have Ruthy in common! We are both amazed at your ability to write so MANY good books! Bless you!

    Thank you for getting me thinking and focused on beloved settings. I found An Unexpected Groom at my local WalMart, so don't enter me this time. Looking forward to plenty of small town reading. I KNOW I'll love Grace Haven and Gray's Glen. (I've been many places in beautiful Washington state and know you've chosen an enchanting mares for your setting.) *grabbing some coffee as I head off to do some small town plotting*

  75. "eapecially" = especially and "mares" = area.....need to proofread before publishing, eSpecially on this tiny screen. And I AM wearing yoga pants....and a down vest this morning! :)

  76. Hi VINCE,
    Thanks for the prayers, I'll say one for you too. Hope your recent injury will speed up healing soon.

  77. Ruthy, I would love to win your book! You are a QUEEN of settings, and I need to study you more! Thanks for all the great tips and especially the encouragement!

  78. Ruthy, I love to read about setting. It is also really important in the book I am writing set in Nebraska about a tornado. I plan to create a fictional town possibly set here in the area of Nebraska where I live, but I might move it around if I decide I want it to be closer to Omaha. I also struggle with knowing how much of a real setting to use in the book. I need to concentrate more on making my setting come alive.

    Please enter me for your book! Also, I plan to buy Refuge of the Heart with the Amazon gift card I got for Christmas. I look forward to reading it.

  79. Ruthy,
    I think Randy may have it right with the mamo and the dark arts, haha

    Re: His Beloved Bride, You know the whole time I was reading it, I was imagining you as Grace Hawthorne. Everything about her matter-of-fact logical personality reminded me of how I thought you would react in the same situation :-)

    Re: Sewing Sisters Society, I agree with DebH, I loved Macy and Nellie and now we have an Anne to look forward to. The possibilities in that story thread are endless with so many people going west, YES!

  80. Aw, Jan that's the greatest compliment ever. I don't even know what to say, except that I love your work... and if I was any part of that, well, then God surely blessed us by putting us together.

    I love Tolkien too. And I love waxing poetic from time to time, but of course you have to have the right venue for that, and too much is just as bad (or worse!) than too little.

    You have put a smile on my face! Here, have some chocolate, and no more crazy talk about me being good or helpful or all that.

    Before you know it folks'll be wantin' this, that or the other thing.

    Can't be havin' that!

  81. VINCE, thanks again for mentioning Autumn Rains. It will always be one of my favorites.

  82. Debby Giusti, I was just thinking of you! First to thank you publicly because Debby Giusti's book club is going to use "Refuge of the Heart" as their next selection, and I couldn't be more honored and I mean that so sincerely.... THANK YOU, DEBBY!!!!!!

    And second because I was thinking about suspense and series...

    Because that's different. It's so totally different, that you have to differentiate that difference first, and here's why:


    Now, having said that, it's different in big cities. Crime follows people, crime follows the money, crime follows power. So in a big city setting, you have crime, people expect a certain percentage, and they have a police force overseeing everything. Let me just say I love the NYPD.

    BUT.... Not all suspense can be placed in big cities, so then we have the small town/rural/agricultural setting.

    Now that's where I live. I mean, that's upstate NY to the max, and similar to so many other things, and the only thing that would bring a bunch of crime worthy of suspense to a smallish area like this is"

    1. Drugs... And that includes mountain meth labs, mobile meth labs (yes, they have them!) country house meth labs, heroin rings (all around me, it's unbelievable) cartel connections (yes, again!) and actual whole families involved in the drug trade.

    2. Power... mineral rights, drilling rights, easeway to new highway that no one knows about, etc. or owner of land slated for new shopping mall close to new highway exit...

    3. Jealousy.... jealous of other people's success, the haves and have nots, the ones who've been pawns in someone else's get rich quick scheme, or simply undercut in prices.

    4. Gangs... this is to a lesser extent because they stick out in a rural setting, lower population, but in bigger rural suburbs, they're all around.

    I can't write suspense, it is just not my talent, but as I read good suspense, (like Debby's military investigations, Mary Stuart, Shirlee McCoy, Irene Hannon and others) that small town setting has to have a reason that the reader will believe, because if it was riddled, people would leave if they had the means to do so. So their investment (land, family, pride, whatever) is what keeps them there and invested in solving crime.

    And I was exercising when I was thinking all that, then got back here and saw Debby's post so said too much, but it's funny how brains work. 'Sall I'm sayin'.... ;)

  83. Vince, you'll be happy to know that I have a trio of older gentlemen who meet in the diner daily and annoy/enchant the hero, but sometimes those things get cut before printing. I see it as intrinsic to development, but editors don't always see that the same way, so they may or may not make it into the final copy.

    I know exactly what you mean, and I love those things (Linda Goodnight often has quaint/quirky characters in her stories and it really makes them stand out) but I do have to rely on the balance that makes the editorial staff love the book.

    Now in my September Franciscan, there are some fun, fun characters... and in the cowboy series, there are some cranks and cuties! But again, if an editor doesn't see it as organic to the story... it gets snipped, which means I didn't do it well enough, or I short-suited the romance!

  84. Mary, you are tres chic.

    I own no such thing, no yoga pants. I'm not even sure what they are, except that they're tight and the world does not (I promise you this!!!!) need to see these legs in anything tight other than Vera Wang tights from Kohls with tummy control.

    My mama raised me right! :) (Steel Magnolias)

  85. Jackie, Beth, Mandy and Lacey will mock me if I mess up what I wear.

    They will make me change.

    They are bossy.

    But I rarely look downright stupid so they are worth everything. :)

  86. "You can only wear them so many days before people notice they are covered in dog hair..."

    Barbara Scott, that's perfect!!!!! Laughing!

    Thank you, I am avoiding The Big Head by virtue of being a mother. There is no having The Big Head for Yankee mothers, we are known to be tough, in-your-face, God-fearin' women whose children require extensive therapy.

    That kills the big head right there!!!!

  87. Mmm...chocolate!

    And I can't promise I won't compliment your writing ever again...but I'll take a break for a while.

    Meanwhile, you can get back to being your usual snarky self. ;)

  88. Note from Vince (Ruthy copies and pastes...) "Have earth shake...."

    "Bring rain..."


    I will say I sometimes agree. Other times I find it gratuitous and obvious, so it depends on how the author uses it for my personal preference.

    One of the few times I saw that used flawlessly was in Skylark, the sequel to "Sarah, Plain and Tall". (By the way, "More Than a Promise" is my modern day grown-up version of "Sarah, Plain and Tall").

    In that sequel the land is dry and barren, the drought has settlers heading back east (early 1900's, just so everyone knows we've had droughts before, and my guess is we're likely to have them again. Just like the "wet".) and when fire takes the barn, so much is lost and Sarah goes back east with her stepchildren... and her aunt realizes she's pregnant. Sarah didn't see it because everything around her was drying up, the land, the crops, the animals and she was older... she felt dry and infertile, too. And in that one instance, those few lines, I was really impressed with how Patricia Maclachlan reflected the conditions to the person. You'll find a lot of this in Very Depressing Literary works, but I would sooner slide hot red peppers beneath my fingernails than read such things.

    Not that I have any strong feelings on that!!! :)

  89. Ruthy can't write suspense? You're kidding me. Second Chance Sheriff in With this Kiss contempary was suspenseful to the max. Salena and Jim on the run from Miami thugs, I was on the edge of my seat. I even called it a suspense in my review and so did Kav, so we have a consensus.

  90. Sherida I had figured out the especially, but the mares... well, shucks, I just figgered you liked Colt's horse real well! :)

    AND YOU FOUND A RUTHY READER!!!! AND SHE LOVED "HIS MISTLETOE FAMILY" (my highest selling Love Inspired to date, they ran a sale that month at Walmart, an ohhhh MAMA!!!! Those books like to FLEW off those shelves!) and "The Lawman's Second Chance" which I used as an example here... it was the first Kirkwood Lake book, and Lisa's story is always close to my heart because the real Lisa is one of my dearest friends, a mother of four who was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer when her youngest was 14 months old. We walked that walk with her, and I dedicated that book to her but she really DOES NOT HAVE TO DO ANY MORE LIVE RESEARCH FOR ME!!! She did more than her share!

    She is doing great now and she is three years out of treatment, and I wear her reminder bracelet on my left wrist always, so I never forget. It will come off when we hit her five year mark, and not before. That is just a beautiful story, you tell your new friend at church that I'm so grateful to her!!!! I'm just beaming right now! (That could be my big teeth, though.)

  91. Meghan Carver, I'm tossing your name in and I am so delighted for you and stinkin' proud of you! (This time I really am beaming from joy, pure happy-for-you joy!)

    To see so many great people get the chance to jump that moat and hit the mainland thrills me/us here in Seekerville. It is truly amazing. (Now if I start to list, I'll leave someone off and some of youse are on facebook with me, but Meghan, Jill, Angela, Laurel, the Suspense Sisterhood, Cate, ... do not hate me if I left off your name, you know I'm a bit flighty!!!)

    And Meghan, I love seeing your family on facebook. You just make me smile!

  92. Sandy Smith, thank you for your kind words! Yes, play with it. See what you think, move the setting around. I usually keep writing as I do this and if I need water... I move the setting closer to water.

    A city?

    Make one up or make it a suburb.

    We have so much latitude and mega-information at our fingertips, so that's clutch in creating settings. It is so much easier for us to get it right now!!!! GO INTERNET!!!!

  93. Tracey, I just loved Grace and Phillip's story. And I loved bringing an illustrious member of the prominent Dickinson family WEST!!!!! Phillip knew his own head and his own heart and he wasn't willing to be on anyone's leash. That was fun!

    Once I've met my contracted obligations this month, I'm slipping back to do some sweet historicals.... I can't wait, so that's my gift to myself when I'm done with Grace Haven 3....

    Breather time and a Ruthy historical!!!

  94. Jan Drexler... PHEW!!!!

    Thank you, goof!

  95. Tracey, I had so much fun doing "Second Chance Sheriff", and I liked it, but I think it was by LUCK that it didn't stink. :)

    Or I copied Debby Giusti, which is a smart thing to do! And actually the reason I wrote it was because Deb was going to be in that collection and I thought two suspense novellas would be good... but then her timing changed and we had to use her at Christmas (and that was a GREAT NOVELLA... She TWINED everything perfectly to balance that story) so I was channeling my inner Deb then.

    And honestly, it worked! :)

  96. Yes yes yes! Loving everything Ruthy wrote on this post (including the hunky cowboy and his horse on the cover of "Back in the Saddle.") As a reader, I love to read the process writers go through, and this is one of them. Thanks Ruthy for sharing.

    Please throw my name in the cat dish (if Vince didn't already try to win it!) LOL.

  97. RUTHY ... you caught me! "sitting there in (my) cute yoga pants!!! Only they're not so cute and neither is the broad wearing them, all bundled up in bulky jackets and a blanket while she works outside on her veranda in 60-degree weather!!

    YOU SAID: "if the setting doesn't add depth to the story, or fights the story, you've lost a fairly simple opportunity to deepen your story without gunfire, mental health, family instability or sudden cardiac infarctions."

    AMEN AND AMEN!!! I couldn't agree more!! -

    YOU ALSO SAID: Now you know I'm not good with terms... I get POV. (point of view) But that's about it. I don't talk beats, GMC, Deep POV, Deep Writing, Deep Six (wait, that might mean racketeer-related death, scrap that one). I don't talk the talk, but I walk the walk because I'm a really good copycat". And how do I use that amazingly handy skill in my work?

    LOL, THIS is one of the things I love MOST about you, my friend, that we are two peas in a pod when it comes to terms and writing-related workshops, books, blogs, you name it. ENOUGH ALREADY --- I just wanna write!!! But I realize not everyone is that way and honestly, I could stand reading a few books to brush up on things, I know, but we both know that's not gonna happen anytime soon. ;)

    Your books sound AMAZING, Ruthy, and I cannot wait to read them FOR PLEASURE, which I don't get to do very often due to the books I'm obligated to read for business reasons, so that's what's taking me so long. :(

    BUT ... every time I see that cowboy on your cover, I melt ...

    GREAT BLOG, my friend!!


  98. Ruthy, excellent post on the importance of establishing and using setting in our books. You're a pro at that!

    As a writer of historical novels, it struck me that readers have a preset expectation for small town settings in the past and the folks who would live there. We authors need to meet those expectations and allow them to tromp through the businesses, churches and streets, encountering quirky, snoopy, delightful small town characters that provide a read that is satisfying, fun, and meets those expectations. Perhaps the goal is to make each setting unique while providing a sense of timelessness, changelessness, universality.


  99. Even though you're a Yankee, Ruthy, you'd feel comfortable down south. The only thing different about mothers here is that when they commiserate with each other, one of them can be counted on to say, "Bless your darlin' little heart. Now, in MY day . . . [fill in the blank with any story you want]." ;-)

    I'm going to reread and "copy" the settings in your books!

  100. Hi Ruth:

    You wrote this about mirroring the setting:

    "I will say I sometimes agree. Other times I find it gratuitous and obvious, so it depends on how the author uses it for my personal preference."

    I agree 100% with this. The key to doing this is to make the reflection so low keyed (and never point it out in the story as some authors do) that most readers will finish the story without ever realizing that the mirroring was going on.

    However, the highly perspective readers, like you and moi, not only get it but also derive a naughty sense of pleasure in the knowledge that the non-illuminati did not get it. : )

    Just playing: everybody is enlightened, aren't they?


  101. I love the cover of your new book, Ruthy! So romantic and "wintery"! Very nice!

  102. Ruthy, my poor fictional army post and surrounding area in my Military Investigations series had so many shootings over the course of the series. It's a wonder anyone stayed on post or in the neighboring town of Freemont. :)

    MIA: MISSING IN ACTION took place in inner-city Atlanta, and I loved writing that setting. Seems LIS readers like small towns so I've been in South Georgia since then. Although the city is calling me...

    My next series will take place in North Georgia. Lots of mountains (okay, really hills, but we call them mountains), winding roads, snow and ice in winter, undeveloped areas, scant population, but good people and lots to draw from. Hope my editor agrees.

    So excited about my book club reading REFUGE OF THE HEART!!!

  103. Vince, praying for good results with your MRI. Do you listen to music during the scan? Prayer helps too!

  104. Annie, you're in and I'm hanging on to this cat dish with TWO HANDS!!!!!!

  105. Julie, hey, girl!


    'sall I'm sayin'! :)

    Now that I'm done laughing at you (nicely!!!) I agree, we both jump in two feet and attack... and then re-write at leisure, but I learn so very much from that rewrite phase, LOL!

  106. DEBBY said: "my poor fictional army post and surrounding area in my Military Investigations series had so many shootings over the course of the series. It's a wonder anyone stayed on post or in the neighboring town."

    This is so funny! I have similar thoughts about some of these cop/CSI/NCIS shows we watch. Like, why would anyone want to live in Las Vegas or New Orleans or Norfolk when there are so many murders?

  107. Janet, I agree. I have had so much fun setting up Second Chance, South Dakota, and the characters there are a hoot... And I've employed the typical settings with atypical people...

    So that's a lot of fun! But I know that I have to be careful of that in the shorter LI stories because the focus on the romance is clutch. There's a 20K length difference, and that cuts my side trips real short! I love your technique for developing towns with a blend of characters, it's lovely and I'm not afraid to copy your excellent example! I copy a lot of Mary's historical work, too, in the quick back and forth. It's fun and I figure if I enjoy reading it, so will others.

    I love working history!

  108. Ruthy, as someone who's grown up in a rural small-town area, I can vouch for that! Every place, every setting fictional or real, needs something that uniquely identifies it to residents and visitors alike.

    What's your favorite kind of setting?

  109. VINCE SPEW ALERT !!!!!!!

    That was funny and true and that just shows I am an egotistical jerk.

    Thanks for pointing that out, by the way. We can share the title.

    HEY how is the pain? How was the MRI? Do you need more cookies?

  110. Valri, thank you! Didn't they do an absolutely lovely job???? I love it!

  111. Debby, I can totally see the new setting in North Georgia. It's got enough woodland to make it somewhat inaccessible and for bad guys to be holed up anywhere (like our Southern Tier, Northern Appalachia) and the small town, the fields, the spaces... Yes, yes, yes!

    The military ones worked because they're going to shoot you if you run away!!!! :) okay, slight exaggeration, but there's a promise given to base housing, so then you're almost captive, and you played that very well because the reader felt the discord among neighbors, the base, etc.

    Loved them!!!!

  112. Myra, yes!!!! We are in accord, oh brilliant one!

  113. Ruthy, thanks for sharing your secrets in creating settings your "readers can feel"!! I've loved the settings in all your books I've read.

    A long time ago, in a California lawsuit, a group of villainous lawyers convinced a Federal judge in Big Stone Gap, Virginia, to block the monumental case. The California plaintiffs had to hire a Virginia lawyer to send the case back to California. Who knew there was a Federal courthouse in this remote Blue Ridge Mountain town? In researching this case, I discovered a charming romance book called Big Stone Gap, written by Adriana Trigiani. The book is now a movie. A setting became the focus for a romance!!

    I always felt guilty for copying...but since Lady Ruth has decreed it acceptable...I shall go forth and COPY!!

    Would love to be entered in the drawing for your book, Back in the Saddle!

  114. Sarah, favorite setting????

    I don't have one, and I'm not being coy, it's whatever one I'm working on at that moment.

    I love setting up series, but I'm just as focused when it's a single title book... I have a novella in "Toss the Bouquet" coming out in March with Zondervan, and I set that in Old City Philadelphia, the region of the city nearest Independence Park.

    I love that area, and I haven't been there in ten years, so I had to reacquaint myself with it, but it's a great city neighborhood. It is da bomb!

    So I love doing the city settings, but I love creating my own towns and villages, too.

    I think the game for me is getting the "match" right. It's like a Realtor's joy when they match client to house, not just for the sale aspects, but the match.

    You want to get it right.

  115. Kathryn, that's fascinating! What a fun twist on a story, and I want to know what the federal judge was "smokin', drinkin' or playin'" that they got him to rule on that.

    Generally those things come down to money or blackmail, don't they????

    I love that trivia!!!

  116. BARBARA SCOTT....your comment about your pants "covered in dog hair" had me my world dog hair is an accessory!!

    DEBBY AND MYRA...I've often thought that about Cabot Cove from Murder She Wrote...who would stay there...especially if a writer had to help the Sherrif solve the murders!

    Have a wonderful Thursday everyone~

  117. Kathryn Barker,YES!!!!

    Who's going to stay in a town where the old lady is the sleuth????

    I know it's cozy mystery stuff, but ay caramba! NO! MOVE AWAY!!!!!

  118. Ruthy, the company involved in the lawsuit is the largest USA producer of construction aggregates and has a huge aggregate plant in Big Stone Gap. Money talks!! The case is now part of law school curriculum in California. Quite a fascinating story...lots of road bumps, switch-backs, and near fatal crashes...but all turned out well!!

    Take care!

  119. Kathryn, that's fascinating. When Zach's home (our NYC lawyer/author) we talk about some of the oddities of the law and judgments....

    It's very interesting and often sounds corrupt!

    Yes, money talks!

  120. KATHRYN BARKER...that's so true about dog hair. The other day a friend came over for lunch, wearing all black. Good thing she's a really, really good friend. Before she left, it took 15 minutes to clean her up with my sticky lint roller. She had enough white dog hair on her to knit a sweater.

  121. Thank you for the welcome packet. I wasn't expecting it. Nice surprise.

  122. Love, love this post! I'm not wearing yoga pants (although I could get a good workout trying them on)and I wasn't truly blowing you off, but I have to admit I was a little reluctant to try and wrap my head around anything that sounded that deep. Now I'm so glad I read it! I learned a lot, and laughed a lot. You are one funny lady! Thank you so much!

  123. Are we talking dog hair? Glad you can't see my office carpet where my hairy black mutt sleeps most of the day. Even vacuuming twice a week, we can't keep up. I have a sign in my bathroom that says, "No outfit is complete without dog hair." I keep a lint roller in the glove compartment so I can get the worst of it off on the way to church every Sunday.

  124. Setting. I enjoy a setting so strong that I can't imagine the story happening anywhere else. A setting that has shaped the characters as much as their life experiences have. The southern town of To Kill a Mockingbird immediately comes to mind. Sometimes whether the character stayed in the setting or couldn't get away fast enough (only to return later) gives me lots of clues about the character.

    All of which is my way of saying thanks, Ruthy, for a post stressing how important setting is. And my oh my what a cover for Back in the Saddle :-)

    Nancy C

  125. Hi, Ruth! Reading one of your books right now. :)

  126. Hi Debby, Ruth, et al:

    MRI was a disaster! They wanted me to lay down on my back for over 30 minutes on a very lumpy, narrow, gurney. It took one second to hit a 9 level pain!

    I should have researched what a MRI involved. I've had them before but always with xrays and CAT scans so I never really knew which was which.

    I had to call off the MRI. I told the technician that if I could lay on my back for 30 minutes, I'd consider myself cured! It was very painful and I needed help trying to get off that gurney and back into a wheel chair.

    Of course Linda had to take me and we wasted two valuable hours. It really is my fault: a patient must take primary responsibility for his or her own treatment. You must research what is going on and be able to call a stop to something if it seems to be going wrong.

    I won't let this happen again. I hope Tracey had a much better outcome. It's back to letting time and prayer do the healing.


  127. Well as a testament, I think I can recall a good bit about the setting of every Ruthy book I have ever read. And considering how bad my memory has become, that is saying a lot! It must be a Jedi mind thing.

    I enjoyed the heck out of Back In the Saddle! Cute kids, a small town with lots of problems but, even more heart and hunky cowboys galore! I'm waiting to see how the rest of the men in the family find love and happiness.

    Please throw my name in for An Unexpected Groom!

  128. Anne, you're welcome! Tina sends those out, I'll pass it along to her. It's always fun to get stuff in the mail!!!

  129. Oh VINCE, so sorry for your bad experience! My test was super easy, thanks for your concern though, it's appreciated.

    I've had a few back issues, so I can almost feel your pain. Does putting an ice pack on it offer any relief? I've heard there's an alternate MRI machine, I think my BIL used it once when the laying down one made him claustrophobic. It's worth looking into.

  130. You said -
    "You're brushing me off. Totally. Irrefutably. You're sitting there in your cute yoga pants reading that title and saying "Bah! What form of silly babble is this? A tree is a tree."

    Actually, I was thinking how smart you sound, my friend. :)

    Okay, back to reading the rest. I just couldn't let that go unaddressed.

  131. Laura, I'm so glad you liked it! And I know when we look at something that seems basic, we get automatically skeptical, but I figured if I made fun of people, they'd stick around! Glad you did!!!

  132. Nancy, I'm glad you like the post and the cover! LOVE IT!!!!!:)

  133. Now I must know which one, J. Baugh!!!! Whichever one, I hope you enjoy it!

  134. Vince, if I were closer I would gently hug you and get you sweet tea. And cookies. And Meg's Allegany fudge!!!!

  135. Donna!!! Thank you so much for being a pre-reader, I'm so grateful... and so glad you loved it! Me, too!!!!

    Tossing your name in and glad that the stories have sticking power!

  136. CATE!!!!! LOL! :)

    It wouldn't be me if I didn't start with making fun of sweet, innocent people!

    Hey, I brought cake for the evening session, yellow cake filled with homemade custard and dark fudge frosting....

    Ruthy-style Boston Cream Pie, double layered! Grab a fork and a china plate. Cake always tastes better on china, you know!

  137. RUTHY! You are awesome! You have a wonderful way with words.....

    Please put my name in the dish....

  138. Hi Ruth:

    You wrote:

    "Vince, if I were closer I would gently hug you and get you sweet tea. And cookies. And Meg's Allegany fudge!!!!"

    Wow! Thanks. Somehow we have to get you closer! Does it help that I have a New York state of mind?


  139. Ruthy, do you know what's amazing?

    It's how you switch between different places and different settings so fluidly.

    I'm currently working on a sequel to 19th century Japan fan fiction work. I went back and started reading the first story in the series and realized how "off" my draft writing sounds vs. the first story. Your ability to switch cities and "feels" of cities is definitely part of your talent.

    And I love the Pacific Northwest, so I can't wait for your next book.

  140. "Immerse your reader, satisfy the reader"...that's what I like about a book :-) If I can wile away hours at a time and not care, and then sigh at the'll have this reader coming back for more!!

    Please add my name to the dish for a copy of your newest book, Ruthy! Great post today, I learn so much more about writers :-)

  141. Trixi, glad you stopped in!!!! Writers are a strange breed, but when surrounded by other writers we feel almost normal!!!!

  142. Vince, I'm all over a New York State of Mind.... or an Empire State of Mind....

    OR THIS:

    A New York memory...



    Gosh, thank you! As you can see it is vital to be a GOOD COPYCAT!!!!! :)

    Here's a secret: I am more productive if I switch up venues, time periods, etc. I feel stale if I hug one thing too tightly, and I think that's especially true if category is a genre we write for.... because I love my Love Inspired books and audience, but it freshens me to jump into other spheres. Otherwise I start to feel repetitive. Fresh eyes are crucial.

    The nice thing is Walt that you get to tweak things so the tones match now. I'm amazed when I see some things from 8 or 9 years ago that felt right then, and how much work they need to be publishable now, but we smarten up as we go along... and keep writing, right???

  144. I liked your comment how too much setting makes for a skim by a reader. So true.
    I always enjoy your books and your posts!
    Becky B

  145. Hi, Ruth! I'm reading REUNITED HEARTS. Enjoying it very much!

  146. Hi Ruth:

    Enjoyed the New York video. Here's one for you. Jeter's walk-off rbi last at bat.


  147. Love the post, Miss Ruthy, and you're right on about setting being uber important. I love developing strong, emotive settings that deepen the story. And I also LOVED Back in the Saddle and count myself one of the blessed to have already read it. Highly recommended!

    Hugs from Okie country.

  148. I ALWAYS love a Ruthy-post - - even when I'm a day late reading it. :)
    YOU are one of the authors I have learned and am learning from, Ruthy (may I just say that I'd love to live in Kirkwood Lake? Something about that place...).
    Thank you for sharing your wisdom (and humor) with us - - you really are amazing.
    Hugs, Patti Jo

  149. As per your usual, you continue to push and make us think.

    Great points and yes yes - satisfy the reader!!!! That's primo.

    Thank you, Ruthy
    Hope Vince wins the cat dish. ;)

  150. Thanks for a great post, Ruthy!!

    Books settings are important to me, as a reader. As one who loves to travel and used to travel quite a bit, I love realistic book settings I not only can mentally picture - but in which I feel at home!!

    Thanks for the pleasure and inspiration from your beautiful writing, I'd love to read "An Unexpected Groom"!!


    Head Hurt Alert!

    Note:This comment was delayed until long after anyone would likely read it. It appears for the record only.

    I think there is a tendency for writers to look at setting as being similar to the props used on a theatrical stage or the plants, gravel, and decorative stones found in fancy aquariums. I think on the surface this is true. It is even more true today when often at an opera or play settings are minimal and often only suggest a minute representation of the total scene. In these 'sets' there really is no attempt to realistically create a scene. It is as if the physical theater has adopted 'the theater of the mind' made famous by radio plays.

    This 'bits and pieces' symbolic representation of reality also very much reflects what is being done in modern fiction. The long realistic descriptions of the naturalist authors of the late nineteen century are long gone. Given widespread photography and visual media today's readers already know what most locations around the world look like. They don't need the Eifel Tower realistically described in five paragraphs.

    Settings that try to be like photographs in their realistic detail are what I call 'shallow settings'. They are shallow because they leave the least to the imagination.

    Setting that go beyond what one can see with human eyes are what I call 'deep settings'. These settings are most often unseen but they have the power to breath life into the narrative without the reader even being aware of it.

    To use the 'aquarium' analogy: the 'shallow setting' is made up of the plants, rocks, decorative stones, and maybe even a deep sea diver or mermaid figurine. This is what the viewer sees in the tank.

    The 'deep setting' in this analogy is the water in the tank. The water makes the aquarium come alive. It gives the fish a 3-D milieu in which to swim and live. But it is not noticed by most unless it is dirty or absent.

    The thoughtful writer, who is into 'deep settlings,' is very aware of the 'water' in her settings and is thus in a position to make her settings the most emotionally fulfilling and artistically satisfying in her craft.

    It is this invisible, almost unknowable, intuitive awareness of 'deep settings' which provides the sine qua non of great art.

    'Deep settings' offer a profundity of writing wisdom and are thus worth an investigation.

    May your journey be a deep one.

  152. It's really chilly here tonight and raining too. It's damp, cold and miserable out. Ruthy, I've read some of your Love Inspired books , actually I read some of the Christmas ones last month. What fun ! Hubby is here watching hockey and I'm trying to read but he keeps talking to me. Don't they understand it takes concentration to read ? I may go to my library room to read and no tv is in there. Please enter me for the Ruthy book. We all want to read a Ruthy book : )

    Deanne P.

  153. As a reader, I really appreciate learning about all the thought and behind the scenes work from you all here at Seekerville! Thank you for sharing and I always love picturing the settings as well as characters while reading. Thanks for the giveaway too, please throw my name in the hat!