Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Setting Your Scenes

Sandra here to talk about setting.
In Tucson with Mt Lemmon in background

Grab some coffee and let's chat. I have plenty of Chocolate Velvet coffee. smile

Bigstock photo

The strangest thing happened on the road on our way to Roper Lake State Park. We were driving down a four lane highway out of Apache Junction into the desert.  A red sedan passed us, but as they passed, they must have startled a red-tailed hawk eating carrion on their side of the road because the giant bird flew up, barely missing the red car and smacked into the motor home.

View from my motor home of sunrise over Roper Lake

We heard this loud thump and I was just heartsick. I prayed like crazy, hoping the bird had died quickly and wasn’t suffering.  I really prayed hard, mainly because I felt so badly that we had hit such a beautiful bird. His wingspan practically covered the width of the motor home.

The road narrowed and after about fifteen minutes, we discovered we needed to secure a loose door.  There were steep rock walls around us so not much room to pull over. Finally we came to a pull out and stopped the motor home. The minute we stopped the hawk flew up from the front of the motor home and landed on a rocky outcrop above us. He looked amazingly fine—kind of glaring at us like ‘what were we thinking?’

Redtailed hawk at High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon. He was injured and rescued.
We checked the front of the motor home and there were a few small feathers on the grill and one of the plastic/fiberglass grill bars was broken. Evidently the bird had grasped the grill with his sharp claws and held on as we drove down the highway. From ranger talks about birds of prey, we knew that the bird had powerful claws. He must have used all that power to hold on to the grill.

But do you ever have those experiences when you know that there is more involved than just the incident? I had been thinking about the power of prayer and how God works in so many different and amazing ways. I had this strong feeling that this incident was meant to show me the power of prayer. If God would answer my prayer that the beautiful creature had survived unscathed, wouldn’t He be answering all of my other prayers?

Don’t you love how He uses our life situations to teach us?

This incident impacted me so strongly that you know it is going to have to go into one of my future books. Our life experiences add up to make us who we are. I spend most of my non-working time outdoors. I love nature and the lessons I have learned there. So it stands to reason that the Lord will use experiences in the outdoors to teach me.

Because of my love for the outdoors, I put my experiences into my books. Most of my reviews comment on how I have captured the settings. Our Seeker friend Vince who reviewed LOVE’S DREAM SONG, wrote “Her descriptions of the landscape are the next best thing to being on location yourself. I know this because I've been in many of the same locations described in her books.  Well of course I have because that is what I love. The settings are what I observe.

My settings come alive because I have been there and experienced them. Vince also stated “Leesmith loves, lives and breathes the southwest in her personal life and in each word she writes. Her home is in the southwest but she mostly lives out of her RV home so she can go to the locations she writes about.
Photo taken on Sunset Hike at Lost Dutchman State Park of the Superstition Mountains

Yes, I have lived most of my whole life in the Southwest, so it stands to reason I will be able to bring my experience to my writing. Vince wrote, “Sandra Leesmith depicts the ever-changing southwest light to perfection. She also captures the amazing variety of sounds the desert makes -- an abundance of sounds for all who will really listen. Then there are the desert fragrances carried on the wind and which change as the humidity changes. Leesmith also knows all the wildlife that roams at night. She reports sleeping outdoors and noting the tracks of all the night creatures that have walked around and over her sleeping bag. My favorite is when her characters are laying down at night and looking up at the stars. Each constellation has a Native American folktale to explain it.” Thank you Vince for appreciating my descriptions and setting.

I have lived in many different places and have traveled as Vince mentioned. So I can have settings in different places. My husband and I traveled a lot in our motor home. LOVE’S REFUGE takes place in the Pacific Northwest where we spent many summers escaping the desert heat. I Blog 4 Books wrote in her review, “Love's Refuge takes place on a secluded island in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. The scenery and the simple lifestyle drew me right in and nearly had me packing my bags for a visit.”

Pacific Northwest
The setting for LOVE’S PROMISES is Lake Tahoe located in California and Nevada. We owned a home there for twenty years and my parents also lived there. So we visited often. The experiences we had working on our home there are found in this book. Miranda A. Uyeh, in her review wrote, “The setting was truly breathtaking. Lake Tahoe sounds like somewhere I’d truly like to visit someday. Sandra wove in the environmental issues of this place within this romance story so that a reader can understand the value of nature in our lives and how the beauty of it can add to the riches of human living/existence.”

Bigstock photo of Lake Tahoe
Hubby and I won a trip to New Orleans in 2002 and while there we took a cruise up the Mississippi on the Delta Queen. While aboard ship, I interviewed the crew and CURRENT OF  LOVE was the result. Seeker friend Kav writes, “And the exotic setting -- a steamboat ride down the Mississippi -- added to my fascination. The author made me feel and smell and plain ol' experience the trip right along with the hero and heroine. Honestly, I'm pretty certain I know exactly what Mississippi mud smells like now!  Readers of that book tell me they felt like they had been on the cruise themselves. I tell shoppers that this book is my feel good, fluffy Hallmark movie romance.

My current WIP is set in Hawaii and La Jolla in Southern California. The hero and heroine are surfers. My family lived on the beach in Southern California during my high school years and I surfed. So you can imagine how much fun it has been to bring up all of those memories. Btw the heroine is Debbie Martin from last year's Christmas novella, HOLIDAY HOMECOMING and it appears she might have found a new love while visiting her son in Hawaii.

Bigstock photo
So my experiences are unique to me. What are your experiences? They will all be different. That is what I love about hanging with writers because we all come from different parts of the world. We all have different backgrounds and interesting aspects of life.

Bigstock photo Maui surf
You don’t have to travel to write an interesting setting. You just need to be observant of the environment you are in. Julie Lessman wrote a whole series in a setting she had never been to, but she brought into her settings the experiences of sound, smells, tastes and sights of home that she knew from her own experiences in her home setting.

Ruth Logan Herne’s books are mostly set in Western New York where she lives. When you read one of her books, you feel like you are in the small town she establishes and you feel like you know those characters. She captures the emotional drama that occurs between people in a small town because she observes where she lives.

Audra Harders and Tina Radcliffe bring the Rocky Mountains to life.  Glynna Kaye puts you in the heart of the Arizona high country.

When you read books written by Missy Tippens, Pam Hillman, and Myra Johnson, you know you are in the South. They bring their own experience into the setting that brings it alive.

So how do you do that?

·      Observe the settings around you. Are you outdoors, indoors, in a small town, large city, a farm or the beach?

  • ·      Write down what you experience in that setting.
  • ·      Document the five senses. What do you see, hear, smell, feel and taste?
  • ·      Note unique features of the setting
  • ·      Research historical information about the setting.
  • ·      Study the geological history of the setting.
  • ·      Take note of the environmental issues of the setting.
  • ·      Gather photos of your setting.
Once you have done this, start incorporating all of the information into your story. Often I discover information that will become plot twists that I incorporate in the story. For example, research into the setting of the Mississippi Steamboat gave me the dark moment in CURRENT OF LOVE.  Much of the suspense in LOVE’S PROMISES derived from environmental issues that were unique to the Tahoe Basin. Janet Deans historical, COURTING MISS ADELAIDE, revolves around the orphan trains that she learned about in her research of her neighborhood.

You will have your own experiences and deep profound loves. Please comment and let us know something about your setting where you live. Maybe some interesting history.

I will be giving five winners a copy of one of my Audible books. Please indicate in the comments that you would like Audible. I will also give away to one winner a copy of choice from my list of books. I picked the last of the oranges off my tree so please help yourself to a fresh orange. They are so sweet and delicious. 

Oranges off my tree. (I have plenty more - smile)

Sandra Leesmith writes sweet romances to warm the heart. Sandra loves to play pickleball, hike, read, bicycle and write. She is based in Arizona, but she and her husband travel throughout the United States in their motor home and enjoy the outdoors. You can find Sandra's books here on Amazon. Three of Sandra's most popular books are also audio books at Audible. You can read more of Sandra's posts here.


Marianne Barkman said...

The things the reviewers wrote about your novels are spot on, Sandra! YOU ROCK!. What you wrote about the other authors are also what I observed. But then, you are all part of the community of Seekerville, which I love. I think I have all your novels, so please give the praises to someone who will enjoy them as much as I do! Safe travels, Sandra, and happy pickle balling (?)

Tina Radcliffe said...

Well, I can honestly say I have never heard of Mt. Lemmon, so I had to look it up.

Mount Lemmon, with a summit elevation of 9,159 feet, is the highest point in the Santa Catalina Mountains. It is located in the Coronado National Forest north of Tucson, Arizona, United States.

Trixi said...

Sandra I sure do love an author who can make me feel with all five senses like I'm right in the middle of wherever they set the book. There have been many a book setting that has me putting that particular place on my want-to-visit-someday list. And I'm sure your travels in the motor-home are rich research for anything you write!
Hubby & I want to do that someday, buy a 5th wheel/truck combo to travel with when he retires. There's so many places to visit in the USA! :-)

I live on the Oregon coast (part of the Pacific Northwest) and it's beauty can take ones breath away! I just love the smell of the salt air, the feel of the sand between my bare toes, the brilliance of a sunrise or sunset, the taste of freshly caught dungeness crab, and the sound of seagulls above your head. There is also a vast rich history here...The Oregon Trail, Indian folk legends & a myriad of others I've yet to discover. I can't imagine any author running of of material to write living here! :-)

I love your post today & as I've said, I appreciate when an author can appeal to each of my senses in a book! Since I don't listen to audio-books, please add my name for a print copy of any of your books....thank you! :-)

Cindy W. said...

Hi Sandra. I love it when an author creates a setting that pulls me in and allow me to experience the sights, sounds, smells, etc. of the setting. One, it usually makes me want to go there and two it helps me escape into that world on a 'mini vacation'.

I would love to be entered into your giveaway for a print copy of one of your books.

Many blessings,
Cindy W.

Jill Weatherholt said...

I always enjoy seeing your gorgeous photographs, Sandra. A surfer? Wow...I'm impressed. And here I thought I had an exciting life when I worked as a skate guard at a roller rink while in high school. :)
I grew up in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. Although I've yet to write a story set in D.C., many take place in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia and the mountains of West Virginia.
I'd love to be entered for a print copy of one of our books.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Marianne Thank you for your compliments. And I am laughing because you are such an avid reader it would be hard to find a book you haven't read. chuckle. I love that about you. Maybe if you win, you could give it to a friend.

Happy reading.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Tina Thanks for looking up Mt Lemmon. I need to go back in and correct my spelling as I only put one m in the name. You need to go there some day. It is really gorgeous up there. Arizona is so amazing because you could be down in the desert and then you travel up in elevation and change so many ecological zones. There are pine trees and high desert temps up there.

Waving at Glynna who lives in the high country.

Caryl Kane said...

Hello Sandra, As a reader, I love to be swept away by the story. I appreciate authors who create this wonderful experience.

Your lemons "smell" delightful!

Please enter me in the drawing for a print copy of one your amazing books.

Sandra Leesmith said...

ha ha ha Tina I should have known you would have fixed it for me. Thanks girlfriend. I went back to go fix it and there it was already spelled correctly.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Trixi Super Great Job on describing the Oregon Coast. I could hear the seagulls as I read that. Wow, I bet your settings are wonderful in your books. You used all of the senses in that one paragraph. woo hoooo

You are so right. The use of the five senses is what makes the setting come alive. Bringing in the five senses puts the reader into the story.

Have a great day.

Glynna Kaye said...

Good morning, SANDRA! I love how you use setting in your stories. I'd never been to Lake Powell until last summer, but as I was on a mini-cruise back into some of the canyons, I immediately envisioned your story set in the many, many remote, water-filled canyons there, your descriptions having been so evocative.

I'm looking forward to that surfer story!

TINA--you'll have to get to the southern part of the state sometime and explore. beautiful country! Arizona has such diversity of terrain.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Cindy W. Yes, I love to read a book and go on a "mini" vacation. I enjoy reading about different locations. I also love to read a well-written book set in a place I've been. If they do it well, it brings back wonderful memories.

Using the senses do help to engage the reader.

Happy writing.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Jill A roller skate rink guard. Wow, I'm impressed. I never could master skating. smile

And you do have tons of history in Washington DC chuckle. But I love the Shenandoah Valley and the Virginia Mountains even more.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Glynna I waved at you earlier. Yes, we have such diversity in our state of Arizona. smile

I love how you bring the Pine Country alive in your stories. When I read your books I feel like I am right there smelling the Ponderosa Pines.

And I'll be heading your way soon. Hope to see you.

Happy writing.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Caryl I'm glad you can smell those oranges. Last month the citrus trees were in bloom and they smell so sweet. A whole neighborhood can smell good when one of those trees blooms on a warm spring day.

The thing I love about citrus is that you don't have to pick it right away when it ripens. My oranges ripen in January and we can pick them all the way into April. So this will be my last batch. Hubby likes me to slice them and mix them with chopped walnuts. They are yummy that way.

Glynna Kaye said...

SANDRA--I've seen one of those hawks at Bearizona, sweeping low over the heads of visitors. HUGE wingspan. How wonderful that he came to no harm when he hit the RV. Totally amazing!! I can see how it's a reminder that God listens to prayers.

Your shot of Roper Lake is gorgeous.

Looking forward to seeing you, too!! :) Bring your woolies, though--it was 34 degrees yesterday afternoon, wind chill of 23, and lots of snow squalls moving through most of the day. Brrr.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Oh my goodness, Glynna. See how you can find so many differences within a few miles? It was in the upper eighties here in the Southern part of the State. I sure do hope it warms up before we arrive. LOL I'm a wuss when it comes to the cold weather.

Yes, the wingspan has to be close to eight feet. That is the width of our motorhome.

Wilani Wahl said...

Sandra, you are so right. Setting the scene is so important. I am striving to do this in my writing. It is amazing how in tune I am finding myself in life's circumstances so that if I include some of life's experiences in my writing, I will be able to fully describe everything surrounding it.

This morning I am experiencing something new and strange and frightening. When I got up, I looked down at my leg and wondered why I had a big scab. I couldn't remember hurting myself. I reached down to check it out. It wasn't a scab. It was a tick, I have never seen a tick before. There was no pain before I pulled it off, But afterward, I have some stinging. I immediately did a Google search on ticks. Now I am waiting for the doctor's office to open. To me what is amazing is how I am analyzing the whole situation as to something to add in my wip while at the same time that is keeping me from totally freaking out.

Please include me in the drawing for an audible book.

Renee McBride said...

Good morning,Sandra!

Thank you for your post today. I'm inspired by your sense of adventure.

We have a lot in common. I grew up on the beaches of Sothern California too. Now I'm a Midwest transplant and loving it. My settings have been in Nebraska and the Black Hills of South Dakota. Although, I keep threatening to write a Laguna Beach setting. Or Balboa Island... So many great small town possibilities in Socal that people don't realize still exist.

My husband and I talk about selling our home and living in a motor home. We both have portable careers. Now to just sell my work! Ha!

Do you find it difficult to stay on track with deadlines when you're traveling?

~ Renee

Janet Dean said...

SANDRA, thanks for the reminders of incorporating setting into our stories. Your books are always rich with the location where they're set. Thanks also for these gorgeous pictures! Eye candy without the calories. :-) I've been to some of the places you describe. The deep blue of Lake Tahoe was breathtaking.

I'm impressed you were a surfer! You're definitely Seekerville's athlete.


Sandra Leesmith said...

Oh Wilani I hate ticks. I am so glad you are going to the doctor. And you described it so well I am getting chills myself. And what a positive attitude to already be thinking how you can put that in your story. You are such a writer. Lol

Take care. Praying for you.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Renee. How wonderful that you are thinking of traveling. No I write anywhere. Sometimes it is easier on the road as being near friends can be distracting for me anyway. And there are less chores in an rv than in a house with yard upkeep , etc. It only takes half hour to clean rv and four hours to clean the house.

I would love a story set in Laguna Beach. That would sure bring back memories. Smile. However the Black Hills are facinating too and have wonderful history. Oh my. You will have to do both as it would be hard to choose. Lol

kaybee said...

WILANI, you are a REAL writer if you can find a tick and plan how to write about it!

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Janet , I wasn't a very good surfer. I wiped out more often than not. Lol. And I was scared of big waves and didn't like the fish nibbling on my legs. But that was where all the cute guys were. Remember I was in high school. Haha

Sandra Leesmith said...

Kaybee Isn't that the truth. Lol. Thats what I love about writers. They take every experience and put it in their book. Lol

kaybee said...

Thank you, Sandra. This is a good post.
I ranged pretty far afield in my first two series (Oregon Trail/Oregon Territory and New York City right after World War I). Had to do a lot of research and am still coming up against occasional research faux pas. DID YOU KNOW that the paper bag wasn't invented yet at the time of the Oregon Trail? I do now, and have to find another way for my people to haul stuff home from the mercantile, sigh.
I have yet to "write what I know," except I do know a lot about the human heart. But I'm going to put those aside for a while, until they sell, and I'm going to start a new series at the beginning of next year set in Revolutionary Boston. I'm an hour from the Freedom Trail and Lexington/Concord, so I'll probably do better on the ambience. I'm pretty sure they didn't have paper bags either, ha ha.
May be back later,

S. Trietsch said...

So hard to concentrate on the J-O-B after reading your post! I just want to dive into my WIP (and perhaps plan the next camping trip with the hubby)!!


Sandra Leesmith said...

Oh Kaybee What a funny story about the paper bags. Now you have me curious as to what they did use. In some states they are banning plastic bags so it is interesting to see what folks come up with. Maybe the pioneers will give a good idea.

A series set in Boston sounds interesting. Have fun with the research.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Stephanie You are too funny. Of course you need to go camping. Writing is a great excuse for anything. I just tell hubby "Its research honey." He usually goes along. Smile

Sandra Leesmith said...

Stephanie You are too funny. Of course you need to go camping. Writing is a great excuse for anything. I just tell hubby "Its research honey." He usually goes along. Smile

Kav said...

I love the way you make a setting come to life -- it's like the best secondary character ever. I'm not prone to travels at all so I really get a kick out of feeling like I've been all over the world via fiction. I'm reading What Happened on Beale Street by Mary Ellis right now. It's set in Memphis and I feel like I'm right there, all senses engaged. Adds an extra dimension to my reading enjoyment.

Don't enter me in your audible giveaway, Sandra. I don't have a kindle and they don't work on my laptop. Luckily I've read those books anyway so I'm not missing out.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Kav Great to hear from you today. I bet you are enjoying Memphis. And you are right. One of the best ways to enjoy a place is in your comfy chair and escaping via a good book. Enjoy and happy reading.

PS Thanks for your wonderful reviews.

Julie Lessman said...

OH. MY. GOSH. SANDRA!!! The true story about the hawk is AMAZING, and it gave me goose bumps, especially when applied to the power of prayer!!

I totally concur with Vince, Miranda, and Kav that your settings are some of the best I've read. Love's Dream Song was especially powerful for me in this regard, not only because of the almost-real-to-the-touch setting of the Arizona desert during an archaeological dig, but the way you wove in the magical thread of the ancient Anasazi and Navajo spirituality throughout. I've only been to a desert once, but your descriptions bring it alive all over again and more so!

Cannot WAIT to read the novel set in Hawaii and La Jolla about the surfers -- I'm already itchy to get my hands on that book!! When will it release?

GREAT POST, my friend!!


Julie Lessman said...

SANDRA SAID: "Julie Lessman wrote a whole series in a setting she had never been to, but she brought into her settings the experiences of sound, smells, tastes and sights of home that she knew from her own experiences in her home setting."

LOL ... you are SO right, my friend. I kind of gulp now when I think of the audacity of me writing SEVEN books and TWO novellas in a place I've not only never been to, but really didn't do a ton of research on. And you're right again when you say that was because my real setting was the O'Connor household in Boston's Southie neighborhood. As one of thirteen children, I had the family dynamics down and dwelled mostly there in all the plots of my Boston books.

However, on my next family saga, The Heart of San Francisco series, I didn't have that luxury. You see, my editor GREW UP in San Francisco, so alas, I had to roll up my sleeves and reallllly research it. When I did, I discovered just how much fun that is to do, and I've even received reviews stating that reading those books was almost like going on a tour of San Francisco, which did bless me. But not as much as my editor did when she said I nailed it to the wall. (My words, not hers!) ;)


Keli Gwyn said...

Wow, Sandra! What an incredible experience you had with that hawk. I'm so glad it had a happy ending. I love the part prayer played in the story.

I've set most of my stories in California's Gold Country where I live. I enjoy bringing the early days of my native Golden State to life on the page. One reason I can do that is because I'm writing about what I know--and dearly love.

My first novella, coming out in December, is set in the Texas Hill Country. I haven't been there, but I've talked with people who have lived there. A non-writer friend looked at me like I was nuts when I asked her what the air smells like, but details like that are what help me put the reader in the story.

I think it's cool that you live on the road and see so many incredible places. Of all those you've visited, which are your favorites, and why?

Sandra Leesmith said...

Oh Julie how exciting that your editor who knows San Francisco really loved your coverage of it. I agree. You did a fantastic job of bringing to life my old stomping grounds. smile. And the family dynamics of your stories are so powerful and that is because we can all relate to those with our own family experiences.

Now you understand why we love the research. That is my favorite part of writing a book. I love the research.

Hopefully the surfer book will be out this summer.


Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Keli I love your settings and probably because I grew up in California and LOVE the history as well. Your part of the country is one of my favorite places. I would have to say Lake Tahoe is one of my favorites and that is because of all the family memories as my parents lived there and we would have so many family gatherings. And of course it is gorgeous.

The color country of Northern Arizona and Southern Utah is my favorite geography. I love the color, the rocks, the history and the many adventures hubby and I have had there--hiking, biking, boating, etc.

Smart to get someone in the area to help you with the Texas Hill Country. That is what I did with the Mississippi book. I had been to New Orleans but only for four days so when I wrote the book, Margaret Daley helped me with ambience and accuracy.

And I love that she asked why you wanted smells. Tooo funny. But you are right. Those details make the setting authentic.

DebH said...

I love the outdoors, so that's probably why I love reading your stories. The settings are places I love. I'm looking forward to reading your surfing story, especially since I enjoy the ocean but can't surf worth a lick. I'd rather be diving. Snorkeling is just a tease since I don't have great lung capacity - but scuba diving around 30 - 40 feet down... so cool.

I love to see how you'll integrate your hawk incident into a story. I'm sure it will be awesome. Probably as awesome as discovering the bird wasn't terribly damaged by its brief stint as a hood ornament. Laughed at your description of it glaring at you with the "what were you thinking?!?" line. I can so picture that.

Thanks for this post today. No need for my name in the draw since I've got your books and don't really to the audio thing. Sort of technically challenged in that area. *heh*

Vince said...

Hi Sandra:

I am a big believer in the importance of setting in fiction.

I think that in writing fiction, McLuhan's famous dictum that, "The medium is the message", is also equally true of setting.

Consider this definition from Wikipedia:

"The medium is the message" is a phrase coined by Marshall McLuhan meaning that the form of a medium embeds itself in the message, creating a symbiotic relationship by which the medium influences how the message is perceived.

Substitute the word 'setting' for 'medium' and I believe the definition is just as valid.

I also believe that using setting for all it's worth is the last great unexplored continent of fiction writing. (That and giving heroes a sense of humor :) ). Setting can easily have the importance of a major character. Setting is a very powerful marketing tool as well.

A careful selection of details in the setting can make a paranormal scene seem normal. Setting has the power to create the context that makes the story breathe with an air of reality.

I feel that stories which could only have happened in their given settings tend to provide the most satisfying reading experiences.

I have been blessed to have been to many of your settings! I've been to Lake Tahoe several times. I've landed a small plane on an island airstrip much like the one in your first Promise book. I've been to the southwest many times and even lived for a time in Tucson. Lake Powell is one of my favorite places on earth. I want to go back there as soon as I can.

And yes, since I lived in Pasadena for years, I been to many beaches in southern California and off the coast of Santa Barbara. I've taken the same riverboat ride in the same boat as in "Current of Love" on my honeymoon.

Yet, I'm still waiting for a Mesa Verde book and maybe even a mystical story set in Sedona. A heroine searching for 'vortexes' and a hero who debunks 'vortexes' would by yummy.

I've never been to Hawaii, however, so that book may be my first chance to experience your settings as someone who has not been on location.

As far as the settings I've actually been to, yours are the best. Looking forward to more Leesmith books.


I have all your audible books. I wish someone who really loves to listen to audio books wins them. Your narrator is so good I would use her if I had a book to provide Audible.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi DebH Yes, I'm in agreement with you about diving being more interesting than surfing. As I told Janet, I was not that great of a surfer. I thought hubby was half fish when I met him as he loves to snorkel and dive. So you know I do a lot of that with him. smile

I'm laughing at your comment, "by its brief stint as a hood ornament." Never thought of it that way and its so true. Yep. He was glaring at us.

btw do you have any of my children's books? If you don't, you might want to reconsider the drawing. The Gupster would love one of those.

Janet Dean said...

SANDRA, motivation is everything. In life and in our stories. LOL


Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Vince Thanks for the comment on the audible books. Yes, Rachel Fulginiti is a wonderful narrator. I really like her voice and that is so important in an audio book.

I didn't know you'd been on the riverboat cruise. It is my favorite cruise. I loved all the history and being close to land while traveling. Much more interesting than open water.

Hmmm about Sedona. I do have a wip set in Sedona. But the vortex thing--not sure I could write that with much sincerity. Although it does come into play come to think of it. How could it not, when you're dealing with Sedona. chuckle Reminds me that I better get busy and finish that one.

As for Hawaii. You will love it. I loved the warm beaches. The only problem was my hubby and I would sit on a beach and think this would be a perfect place to park the motorhome. LOL

Sandra Leesmith said...

You got that right Janet chuckle

Keli Gwyn said...

Sandra, Lake Tahoe is gorgeous. If you plan to be up that way in the future, let me know. We live just an hour away and welcome any reason to head up the mountain. It would be great to sit at a restaurant at the lake's edge and talk.

Sandy Smith said...

Great post, Sandra. When I read books that really bring the setting to life, I always want to go visit. That is the power of setting in a book, I think. I live in Nebraska, right where the Oregon, California, and Mormon trails ran through, so there is a lot of history in my area. The author who did the most justice to this setting is Willa Cather. She is one of the most descriptive authors when it comes to setting.

Right now I am writing a book in which a tornado destroys a fictional town in Nebraska. With the weather forecast for today, I am actually hoping not to get first hand experience. However, I have been hunkered down during a tornado, so I do know a little bit from experience. I plan to watch the Weather Channel today, figuring it will come in handy with weather details I need.

I would love to win a print copy of one of your books.

Jeanne T said...

Such a great post, Sandra! I spent a number of years in the San Diego area for college and beyond. LaJolla was always a treat to visit. :) I still remember some of the windy roads and cute shop fronts. And the pier. :)

Your suggestions for creating accurate setting are helpful. Thank you for sharing from your expertise in crafting realistic settings. :)

I love the Rockies, having grown up in Colorado, and living her currently. Seeing the weather patterns, the beauty of light and shadows on the mountains makes my heart sigh with joy. Hopefully I can convey their beauty in my stories. And Hawaii. We have family there, and visiting always gives me opportunity to study that place. Maybe I'll set a book there someday. :)

I'd love to be in the drawing for one of your Audible books. :)

Myra Johnson said...

Love all the photos, Sandra, and such great examples of how setting can not only inspire story ideas but bring them vividly to life!

That's one reason I have enjoyed writing about Arkansas. We've vacationed in Hot Springs for so many years that I couldn't help becoming interested in the history, and the more I learned, the more the story ideas started percolating! One thing builds on another, characters take shape, and intriguing plot complications arise.

Tina Radcliffe said...

The medium is the message. I am printing that out, Vince. You are so right.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Oh Keli That sounds marvelous. This summer is planned to tour friends to Yellowstone. But maybe in October. We might be coming through. If we do come through, I'll be sure and get in touch because it really would be fun to sit and talk.

Tina Radcliffe said...

I was just reading a book where the author spoke about the dust in Montana, and I was pulled out of the story. Dust in Montana? The average humidity in Montana is between 44 and 80. The average humidity in Phoenix is 23 to 47. So immediately I am thinking, what dust???

Of course it's so minor as to not matter in the scheme of the story, yet, it pulled me out.

Scene setting details do matter.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Sandy Yes, you are in Mary's country. Did you have a fun time at the conference you all were going to? And wow, I would certainly use that tornado experience in your stories. And yes, when I visited Nebraska, I was impressed with the history there because of the trails crossing through.

Happy writing.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Do any of you remember Nevile Shute's "A Town Like Alice", where the hero is observing the outback, and how the only one who really "got it right" was an abo (aborigine) who was painting it... because, as Joe said... "but then, he was painting his place."

I see setting like that. I think our love for certain settings bleeds through our words. I love the north, and I'm very comfortable describing it, but I also love the south and think I'd do okay there, too....

But I don't think I could or would write AZ or TX with the same intensity that folks who live there instill in the setting. I think people would know I was making it up as I went along, instead of head over heels in love with the town/village/place I'd created.

I am heading to AZ soon, and we'll see if I'm inspired to set work there, but I honestly think it's done better by folks who know the nuances. And that wouldn't be me.

But by going there I can use it as a hero or heroine's past.... and that I could sell nicely!

Sandra, loving the coffee! Raising a mug of chocolate velvet in your honor!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Am I the only historical lover who didn't love Willa Cather's work?

I think she was a step above me, Sandy, because I tried twice to read her stuff and it felt like the scenes would never end, like I was being tugged across the dry, dusty prairie without a hint of humor or warmth.

Is that because I'm a snark, or was Willa that dry to others?

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Jeanne Wow, you have a lot of possibilities for settings. How fun. And you lived in San Diego. That is where hubby grew up. So fun but things have really changed over the years. smile

Happy writing.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Myra I love your settings in Arkansas. And you are so right. The settings can so enhance the drama in the story.

Happy writing.

DebH said...

oh Sandra
you are correct. I do not have any of your children's books. I know the Gupster would love one of them. He is currently into legos and earns lego sets by reading books. thanks for suggesting that. Would love a chance at one of your children's books.

ps. glad you got a kick out of the hood ornament comment... ;)

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Tina Well there is a lot of humidity, but we have been on some dusty roads in the mountains in Montana. On a hot summer day of course when it hasn't rained in awhile.

But oh my, to be pulled out of a story isn't good.

Best wishes.

Sandra Leesmith said...

OH Ruthy You are so funny. ANd it shows how much you love your neck of the woods. I can so see your small towns and feel the community in your stories.

But it would be fun to show you around the wild west.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Deb H. Your name is in the dish for the drawing.

What a great incentive for reading. Legos. Yay

Sandra Leesmith said...

And Ruthy You are such a powerful writer, I think you could sell us on anything and anywhere. smile

Pam Hillman said...

Sandra said ... You don’t have to travel to write an interesting setting.

Nope, but you sure do make me want to!!! Road trip!!!! :)

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hey Pam I'm game anytime girlfriend. Where to?

Actually I should come visit you. Your state is the only state in the US I haven't been to.


Ruth Logan Herne said...

Sandra..... I love you to pieces.

But you know, I meant that sincerely. I think when you love a place or a time it helps elevate the story-telling to a new level.

Kind of like you're unwinding your soul.

And I'm grinning because you do know me well, I love my Life in a Northern Town existence!!!

And I love big cities, too, but maybe that's because I was raised in a city until I was 15???

Who knows. But I know I do love a setting that doesn't invade, it enrobes.

Kind of that warm blanket on a winter's eve feeling.

(feeling poetic today)

Pam Hillman said...

And those oranges!!!!

I've been making Orange Creamsickle Shakes. SO good and so easy. I'm sharing the link to a recipe below, but I haven't used any protein powder, flaxseed meal, or walnuts in mine. I use almond milk frozen in ice trays instead of ice, vanilla extract and a dash of salt, and some sweetener.

AND... I haven't added any of the peeling. What a yummy idea to give it some zing!! :) Yes, adding peeling next time. Yum!

Also, if you make this, go really light on the water (or leave out completely) until you see how thick it is. If the orange is really juicy, you won't need any water at all.

Here's a recipe to get you started. Tweak to fit your own tastes (and ingredients on hand!) ... http://www.shape.com/healthy-eating/healthy-drinks/10-new-smoothies-youll-love


1 scoop vanilla protein powder
1 orange
1/4 orange peel
2 Tbsp Walnuts
2 Tbsp flaxseed meal
1 cup cottage cheese
1.5 cups water
3 ice cubes

Directions: Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. For a thicker shake add less water or more ice cubes.

Sandy Smith said...

Sandra, the conference in Omaha is this weekend. I am looking forward to it.

Sandy Smith said...

Ruthy, I do know other people who don't like Willa Cather. Maybe you need to be an English teacher from Nebraska! :) As you might imagine, Willa Cather is an important part of the literature curriculum in Nebraska schools. When I was in college, I took a four-week seminar class in which we visited her hometown of Red Cloud every week. We were able to visit many of the places she wrote about. My favorite book of hers is My Antonia. The images and symbolism are beautiful in my opinion.

Pam Hillman said...

Sandra, you're going to have to visit MS! Just one state and you'll have them all! Wow! What an accomplishment!

Sandra Leesmith said...

You are poetic today Ruthy And I love it. You said, "But I know I do love a setting that doesn't invade, it enrobes.

Kind of that warm blanket on a winter's eve feeling." That is very poetic and so true. Its a good way to approach the setting so that it enriches the story and deepens the characters by how they react to it.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Pammers What a terrific recipe and great for a warm desert day. I'm going to grab one of my oranges and try it. Oh wait, I don't have protein powder. guess I better hop into town. Sounds yummy. Thanks

Sandra Leesmith said...

Oops Sandy I am really off on my time clock. How fun that you still have that to look forward to. I'll be excited to hear how it went.

Give Mary a hug for me.

Sandra Leesmith said...

I have had people recommend a book to me and rave on about it and then I read it and wonder why? Or vice versa. I've recommended books and my friend goes ho hum.

Which is why one editor might love your work and another might not.

We all have different tastes and that is okay. We are all different. I think our Creator loves variety. smile Certainly keeps things from being boring. LOL

And we all have settings we love and settings we aren't so crazy about. Sometimes it has to do with experiences in those settings but then often it is just how we are made. For example, I'll take a day in the mountains any time before a day on the beach. The constant washing of waves on shore exhausts me. i love the beach. But to find relaxation, I love a quiet meadow in the mountains. Now hubby will take the beach. He loves the energy of the waves washing on the shore. He loves the smells and sounds. I guess that is why the Lord created so much variety as well. smile

Sandra Leesmith said...

Jeepers. Ruthy is waxing poetic. I'm waxing philosophical. chuckle Oh well. We are having fun. Yippee!!!

LeAnne Bristow said...

What an amazing story! Can you imagine what that poor hawk was thinking on that ride? Wow! Settings are so important to books. When I was in high school, I had never been more than 100 miles away from my central Texas hometown. I devoured Janet Dailey's Americana books because I loved the settings.

And Tina, did you know Mt. Lemmon also has a ski lift? My kids count down the snow days every year so they can go Snowboarding close to home and not have to drive to Flagstaff or Sunrise.

And Sandra, I can't wait to read your surfer story. I can just see you out on the waves!

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi LeAnne We sure are enjoying your setting. smile And I can just imagine that hawks thoughts. Whew!!! I am still so thankful he was able to fly away.

And I read those Janet Dailey books too. She used to travel to each state in her Airstream and write a story set in each state. That's when I got the idea of writing in the motorhome. I loved those stories.


Happy writing.

Debby Giusti said...

Sorry I'm late. I needed to finish a 25 page file on my AlphaSmart and just got done. Are there any oranges left?

Love the pictures and loved reading how you weave your travels into your stories. That makes them come alive, Sandra! Keep traveling and keep writing!

CatMom said...

Loved this post, Sandra - - and I am in awe that you were a surfer--Wow! :)
And that hawk story was amazing---SO thankful he survived, thanks to your prayers.
YUM!! Those oranges look soooo good! Thanks for sharing today.
Hugs, Patti Jo

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Debby Thanks for the compliment. You are so sweet. And yes, we still have plenty of oranges. Did you see Pam's recipe?

Congrats on finishing your file. Don't you just love the Alpha Smart?

Now its time to kick back and celebrate. Wish I was there to sit with you.


Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Patti Jo Yes, I am so thankful also. I love animals and it breaks my heart when they suffer because of our human interference.

Happy writing.

Trixi said...

SANDRA....sorry for the misunderstanding I don't write books, but yeah like I said, I love when an author uses all 5 senses in their book setting. You're not the first to mention to me about being a writer....Lord Howdy, no way! Writing book reviews is enough for me :-)

Thanks for the fresh oranges! I snagged one to go with my lunch....nothing like the tang of orange spray as you peel the skin off & the juicy sweetness as it hits your tongue....yummy! Funny thing (and true), I don't care for orange juice but I love eating oranges....no idea why either! Unless I'm fighting a cold & I crave orange juice, then I know I'm sick...lol!

Talking about Red-tailed hawks, we see a lot of those here too. And similar looking ones as well. Seeing them soar lazily in the sky is such a magnificent sight! Along with the Bald Eagles and Turkey Vultures. My grandma was an avid birdwatcher, albeit on a much smaller scale limited to back-yard birds. She'd set out quite a few bird-feeders to attract chickadees, sparrows, cardinals, bluejays, etc and also squirrels with the dried corn cobs. My favorite thing to do was grab the pair of binoculars she had and look out the kitchen window identifying each species I saw. I still do that today, they are magnificent animals God created :-) If I could have my dream job, it would be working in a bird of prey sanctuary rehabilitating them! I'm so glad to hear the one that hit your RV turned out okay! And yeah, I can see him glaring at you with those beady eyes...I'd say if you were his prey, you'd be roadkill...haha!

Thanks for listening to my rambling thoughts :-) I love coming back to see all the comments during the day. It's like having an ongoing conversation with everyone at the same time...can you imagine us all in the same room...haha! Anyway, I pray blessings on the rest of your evening. I must check out one of your books soon, I'm sure I have one on my shelf (read or digital) somewhere.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Well, I take that back. I have finished researching Montana. Apparently the part of the state I am familiar with is not the same as the part of the state that has dust storms. So I bow to Mother nature.

Crystal said...

Sandra, you have definitely convinced me I need to take some time to just sit and observe and feel my settings closely. My WIP setting is in Cincinnati, OH, just across the river from where we live. While doing research for my historical novel I found that one of the incline planes traveled past a medical college. Students would bring cadaver parts up from the brewery's shared ice house and wave them at passing cars, women in particular. Some passengers would pass out at the sight of it. I couldn't pass up using that little detail in my novel. ;-) Oh the things you discover when researching. I love your setting descriptions and pictures. I will have to check out one of your books for a read. Have a great evening!


Crystal said...

Sandra, you have definitely convinced me I need to take some time to just sit and observe and feel my settings closely. My WIP setting is in Cincinnati, OH, just across the river from where we live. While doing research for my historical novel I found that one of the incline planes traveled past a medical college. Students would bring cadaver parts up from the brewery's shared ice house and wave them at passing cars, women in particular. Some passengers would pass out at the sight of it. I couldn't pass up using that little detail in my novel. ;-) Oh the things you discover when researching. I love your setting descriptions and pictures. I will have to check out one of your books for a read. Have a great evening!


Barbara Fox said...

Sandra - Thanks for your interesting post. I think I'll make sure my camera is ready. Have a tendency to forget the details of scenes that I'm very accustomed to.

I learned a lot about Tahoe reading Love's Promises. Your descriptions are superb.

Re the Vortex- I used to live just outside Sedona and have had people stop me at gas stations to give me rocks that came from the vortex. My favorite Sedona story has to do with Bell Rock opening so a space ship would carry people away. Have you run into it?

Sitting here in the Midwest these days I think about the hedgerows which were planted because of the Homestead Act and the dust bowl in the 1930s. They were intended to keep the soil from blowing away.

I'm in a suburb of Kansas City. Kansas City was home to gangsters, particularly during prohibition mainly because the Pendergast political machine made sure that prohibition didn't exist in Kansas City- consequently it was a hotbed for the mob.

But even earlier it was the home of Jesse James. His brother Frank is buried in the park where I exercise my dog. The guy whose family donated the land for the park raised fast horses! Go figure.

Oh yeah, and Walt Disney attended the Kansas City Art Institute.

Hmm, what does all that say about this part of the country?

Debby Giusti said...

Crystal, loved the details you uncovered. Cadavers! Oh my gosh!

I'm an OSU grad! Drove through Cincinnati a lot of times. Nice city, although downtown traffic was rough the last time I visited. But isn't that everywhere!

Susan Anne Mason said...

Hi Sandra,
Great post! What an amazing story about the hawk. I love that you travel around and experience the world! There must be great freedom in that.
I am hoping to go to California this summer and drive up the coast. Never even thought about stories, but now I'll be sure to take in everything and make notes as I go - for future reference!
Would love to win an Audible copy of your book!

Crystal said...

Absolutely! With all the construction going on now, it is even worse. :-)

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Pammers!!! You must take pics and bring this to the cafe.

Folks will love this idea!!!

I have a bullet thing that Tina talked about last year.

I have yet to use it but it was a really good deal! :) Beth has used it... I still can't figure out how it works. One of these days I'll play, and I bet I'd love this recipe, Pam!

Sandra Leesmith said...

So sorry folks. Unexpected company showed up and I got sidetracked for longer than I should have. Please forgive me. I will get to you folks pronto.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Trixi Oh my goodness. Wouldn't it be a hoot with all of us in the same room? Oh my.

Thanks for letting me know you are a reader, not a writer. However, I must tell you that you write beautiful descriptions. I could almost smell the orange you were peeling. And I can so see all the birds surrounding the corn cobs and see you standing there with your binoculars. So you are a writer. smile Just not a writer of novels.

And I LOVE listening to your rambling thoughts. That is what makes Seekerville so fun.

Hugs and blessings to you also.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Tina You are the most industrious person I know. All that research you do comes in handy on so many levels. I am in awe. smile

Sandra Leesmith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sandra Leesmith said...

Crystal I am laughing so hard at your description of medical students waving cadaver parts to the passing motorists. Oh yes, that must go into a book. And be sure and let us know which one.

With that tidbit of info, I'm anticipating what else you are going to find.

Happy researching.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Barbara You are definitely into the settings. I love all those tidbits of history and lore from all of those settings. Wonderful. And it sounds like you are planning on using them in your stories.

No I haven't heard of the space ship out of Bell Rock but it doesn't surprise me in the least. I just know that you don't dare make fun of any of the vortex stuff around the locals because all of that vortex stuff brings in millions of tourist dollars.

Thanks for joining in and sharing.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Okay Debby What does OSU stand for? Ohio State University? That's a guess. Just curious. I would have loved knowing you in college. chuckle

Sandra Leesmith said...

HI Susan You are going to love the drive up the California Coast. It is gorgeous. I hope you see the giant redwood trees also. They are amazing. LOVE'S MIRACLES was set in the redwoods. I lived in them for seven years when hubby and I were first married.


Sandra Leesmith said...

Ruthy I was thinking the same thing when I saw that recipe. It would be perfect for the Yankee Belle. And oranges are a major crop in the South. Fits right in with the Belle. smile

Sandra Leesmith said...

It has been so much fun today to talk about different settings. Thanks for joining all of us. Thanks Wilani, Jeanne and Susan for wanting an audible. I'm surprised more people haven't put their name in for the drawing. I discovered audible books when I had to proof those done for my books. I had to listen to them to be sure the narrator pronounced names and places properly, etc. Anyway, listening to those really turned me on to audible books.

Vince said in his review of the audible of LOVE'S MIRACLES " I just thought that if I didn’t have to read it, the story events would be more ‘out there in the world’ and not so much inside my head. This approached worked. The Audible reader’s great ability to bring the story to life made the emotions come alive in the characters' souls to give the story an interpretation I could experience to the end."

He is right in a way. It is different to listen to a story rather than read it. But I like the idea of hearing a story while I'm doing mindless chores. I like to listen while driving, cleaning house, folding clothes, etc. I get more books "read" that way.

If you haven't tried an audible book, you might want to try it. You can download it on your telephone. You just need an kindle app and it will be on your phone. Plug in earphones and you have it made. I bought an ipod that is the size of a credit card. I slip that in my pocket and can walk around listening to a story.

Crystal said...

Please put me in for an audible, lol. I didn't think to add that. Audiobook are great for things like driving to the ACFW Conference. :-)

Sandra Leesmith said...

Great Idea Crystal Do you have to drive far? I love listening to an audio book while on a long road trip.

And what great news that you are going to the ACFW conference. You will love it.

Your name is in the drawing.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Well its almost time for the next blog so I'll be signing off. If you are a latecomer, be sure and comment anyway because I do come in and check out the comments in the early morning. Usually Edwina pops in and says "hi". Waving if you do tonight.

Thanks to all of you for coming by and commenting. It means a lot to us. We love hearing from you.

Happy Writing.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Oh yes, Since I offered five audibles, everyone who requested one will get one. So be sure and log into Audible.com and pick out which book you want to listen to. Type in my name: Sandra Leesmith and my books will come up. The three I have in audible are:


Thanks again for your interest.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Drawing for the book will take place later. I will wait to see if there are more comments. So be sure and let me know what you want to be put in the drawing for -- audible or print.

Happy writing.

Happy reading.

Rebecca McLafferty said...

I really enjoyed this article. Incorporating a setting's description is one of the most exhilarating parts of writing...truly emerging the readers into the settings. I live in the midwest (Wisconsin) and some people might think, "What's so special about that?" My stories will show them exactly what is special, regardless of whether we're on a farm, a bed and breakfast, or on the beach. Thanks for reminding us of the power and importance of our senses, and thanks for this lesson.

Rebecca McLafferty said...

I forgot to say...please enter me in the print drawing. Thanks!

Carrie Golden said...

Love this post :) The challenge for me is that I am losing my vision plus I am hearing impaired. Trying to rely on memories is difficult so I have to incorporate research to be sure I have certain aspects of the setting accurate. Needless to say, being descriptive in my stories is a "weakness" as a writer so I try to focus on dialogues and actions to aid in creating settings. Any advice on how to effectively use these to building a setting? BTW I love to win your Audible1 :)


Mark Abel said...

Hi Sandra,

Love your story about the red hawk, wow that was must have been so amazing!

The Lord answered your prayers beyond what you thought was possible but also surprised you with what He knew would give you great joy and praise!

I agree, writing is about who we are and telling our stories. It is true each of us has a book inside but only some of us will take the time to write it down. In my case I have thought that if it gets published and people might ask, "who is this character, or, that character must certainly be so and so." My answer will be, "No, actually, all of them are me. That's right, the good the bad and the ugly parts, that's me." It's true but also a good way to dodge the question. Ha!

Take care and thanks again for so much...