Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Storyworld Begins Here!

Hi Everyone! Audra here.


The idea for writing my post today on the subject of setting hit me while I was enjoying a nice long weekend writing retreat in the quaint mountain town of Estes Park, Colorado. All the sights, sounds, smells, attractions and quirky little details in my fictional Paterra Springs are inspired by Estes Park. I find working on a new series a bit intimidating. I don't really know my characters well yet, much less the town they call home. Visiting Estes Park - about 45 minutes from my home - grounds me and helps me find the character in the town.


Now, you have to understand, I may write inspirational romance novels, but I also have a day job with our county extension office working with the 4-H program. This alone gives me untold fodder for the setting and characters of my books. But, it's February and February means my team along with the local agricultural community, host over 1,000 fourth graders over a 3 day span and introduce them to agriculture. So, long story short, I've been immersed in embryology. And as I was pulling together material for this post, I realized the parts of setting mesh well with the presentation we will be giving (over and over again) on hatching eggs. 


Please humor me as my day world and the world of my imagination collide :)



Courtesy of Backyardchickencoops.com.au


·         The egg shell houses the entirety of the eggs component within it.


That would be your city limits. Think about how you’d like to portray the area where the events of your novel take place.  Think about how you would describe the town through the eyes of your characters. You don’t need to have all the details nailed down as you begin to write, but key locations should be decided and anchored so your hero doesn’t go to the bank on Main Street in Chapter 2 and then the bank moves to the mall in Chapter 7. I like to sketch out a map. It starts out simple – North, South, East, West – and fills in as I get a feel for the geography.



·         The egg has two membranes protecting against bacterial infection.


Think of this as your “Outer Limits” (remember that show?) or the edge of town. I think of this as the outsider (the bacteria) trying to find a way into the heart of the town, only in applying it to the setting, it’s good bacteria (think of beneficial bacteria found in yogurt). Do you have something going on outside the city limits? I do. The homestead that plays a big part in this 3-book series is on the edge of town since it was a ranch at one time. In the case of book 1, this is the property my heroine inherits. She’s always felt on the outside of life – inheriting this property doesn’t make her feel included in the town, either. She works her way through town (as all beneficial bacteria does) until she finds her heart’s desire.

Also, think about what the characters see when they look out the window. Are they looking out over vast fields? High rises? Coal yards? Water? This general aspect of your setting will establish the atmosphere of your story. Remember, whatever surrounds your central area will play a larger part than just a pretty picture. Your characters will work in it, travel through it, play, hide, etc. It must be a part of their lives; the reader must feel a part of it. It is a character that must be nurtured.






·         The Albumen (or egg white) is loaded with nutrients to help the chick develop.


People are the nutrients of life. Surround your character with friends, family, and yes, even foes. These characters not only help your main character on his or her journey to HEA, but they also make your character grow and keep the wheels of the town turning. What characters do for a living, enriches the town and surrounding environment.

If you have a rancher, give him a ranch to work on and describe his activities. A rancher who simply sits around all day mooning over love gone wrong is boring. Give him equipment to work on, fields to harvest, animals to care for, and all the while, he can be conjuring solutions to his problems in his mind, or with a fellow rancher.

Give your characters activities and hobbies. Are they active in the local church? Do they volunteer with the local 4-H organization? Do they nature hike and sketch? The actions and interests of your characters help establish the tone and atmosphere of your setting.

Let the nutrients of your town do their thing and do it well!



·         The Yolk is the central part of the egg, it’s the little powerhouse where all the important nutrients are stored.


Think local customs, history, legends. Think morals. What is the foundation your town or setting is built on? Who built it? How is it maintained? Charity auctions, fairs, holiday dances and other local events all add dimension to the dynamics of the setting. How about food? Is there a special restaurant that offers unique eats that your characters can’t wait to congregate around? Keep ethnic foods and customs in mind, too. No true setting is simply white bread.






·         Chalazae (pronounced: cha·la·zee) are membranes twisted together that anchor the yolk to keep it from twisting in the egg.

So, you’ve sketched up a town, now, per story, where is the anchor? Where do people go to feel connected? Is it the local school? The church? The above-mentioned eatery with to-die-for daily specials? Think about some of your favorite television shows and take note of where dilemmas are shared; problems solved; accomplishments announced or celebrated. My family watches re-runs of Frazier. Where would the characters go if they couldn’t congregate at the coffee shop?  It’s your town, make the central landing place fun and unique.

There's so much more I could say about setting. Details are only limited by your imagination. Have fun with your town or desert or coast or wherever you plan to entertain your characters and your readers. Setting is just as much a character in your story as well, your characters, LOL!


*  *  *


But wait! I have a couple of fun surprise that I’d like to share with you!!





First, I’ve teamed up with 35 fantastic authors to give away a huge collection of inspirational contemporary romances to 2 lucky winners, PLUS a brand new eReader to the Grand Prize winner!

Oh, and did I mention you'll receive a collection of FREE ebooks just for entering? ;D

You can win my novel Second Chance Ranch, plus books from authors like Candee Fick and Dan Walsh. 

Enter the giveaway by clicking here: http://bit.ly/inspyrom-feb2018

Good luck and enjoy!



Second, my debut Love Inspired novel, Rocky Mountain Hero has been packaged in a 2in1 set with fellow LI author, Lois Richer. Rumor has it, this collection has been offered to the bookclub exclusively - for now.

Leave a comment and I'll put your name in the cowboy hat and draw names for 3 copies. Isn't this a great cover?



Audra Harders writes "rugged stories with heart" featuring fearless men who haven't a clue about relationships, rescued by ladies who think they have all the answers. In real life, she's married to her own patient hero, has two adult children, and is surrounded by everything conducive to writing about farming, ranching, and cowboys at her day job in the county Extension office in Boulder County, Colorado. She began writing right after her son was born and sold her first book to Love Inspired mere months before that same son graduated from high school. Surviving those years in between reminds her God does have her plan for her life...and that He has a tremendous sense of humor. You can visit Audra at
Twitter: @audraharders


72 comments:

  1. Audra... this is a great analogy! Limits... borders... safety nets... FOOD!!! and romance! Without romance, that egg's got nothing to develop in its own "chickenish" manner.

    I love piecing out settings. This is trickier in a short novel because you have to parse words and stick to the romance... which I love, but it's not a place where I can wax poetic...

    But I manage to slide things in under the context of dialogue or work or conflict... And this seems to work. So it's like I'm working within that membrane to plant the setting seeds for the reader while carrying the story forward.

    I think that was one of the biggest helps in getting things tightened up enough for category romance, the sweet affordable books we put out with Love Inspired... because slipping setting in between the "lines" keeps the word count down.

    Thank you for this. I love it!

    And I hope EVERYONE jumps on that Booksweeps entry. Those are the best way to reward our readers with a great opportunity to win... and stay in touch with authors.

    I love that in this day of narrowed reach on facebook and Twitter.

    We love our readers!

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    1. Ruthy, yes! Isn't it amazing that our storyworld fits inside the shell of an egg :) Since I've been piecing together this new series from a different perspective -- PLOTTING, so many parts need to be established before you can begin to write.

      It's funny how I was working on our embryology presentation, a presentation I've done for years, and elements of my setting kept popping up.

      Ah well, it made sense to a farm girl :)

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    2. And thanks for mentioning the booksweeps promo! It's an excellent way to reward readers. My book is included with some very fine authors we all know - Pepper Basham, Candee Fick, Susan May Warren, and so many more. Please pass on the great news!!

      And for the tech challenged, you may snicker at this. I posted the promo on Facebook last night and had some shares. I was delighted! And then...somewhere along the way...I deleted the post!! My heart sank, but at least my MAJOR fax paux happened the first night, LOL.

      Lesson learned - do not click on buttons without reading all the fine print!

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    3. I love when Ruthy gets an idea to go on a "research trip" for a future story. It means day trips, fun, laughter, & FOOD! :)

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    4. I've heard! I'm so jealous I'm half a country away from you! I love roadtrips and FOOD!

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    5. Beth, I love that you two travel together for her projects! I hope to do fun things like that someday with my daughter after she graduates. And maybe even with my son if he ever moves close enough to home.

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    6. It is fun, Missy! I hope you get to do it one day with her/them.

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  2. Good morning, Audra! As one who is constructing a new setting after having "lived" in one for 7 books and then in a nearby community for 6 more, this starting from scratch takes a ton of thought. I don't want it to be a cookie cutter of the other locale, but a fresh new world.

    Like Ruthy mentioned, it's harder in a short book or novella to really make the setting come alive. With LI's now 5K shorter than they were when I first started writing them in 2009, it's definitely more difficult to weave in that enriching flavor. I've always tried to blend in description with dialogue and action and not use big solid blocks of it, but it still takes extra thought & creativity to paint the word pictures with less word count now available.

    I LOVE that Estes Park area--fabulous idea for your next series!

    Thank you for EGGxactly what I needed this morning as I build a new story world! :)


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    1. Good morning, Glynna! Your storyworld situation is so similar to mine. Actually, I like the Hawk Ridge area so much, I've decided to move "Estes Park" just down the road from "Crested Butte." LOL, don't you just love fiction? Still there are so many little elements you need to keep in mind when developing your story line. It's easy to forget how much a character setting is in your story.

      I'm glad this was EGGxactly what you needed, LOLOLOL!!!!!

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    2. Groan!!! Setting is a huge part of a story and if it's a series...yup, draw that map and take pictures.

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  3. Audra, great post! This part: Think local customs, history, legends-It's stirring so many thoughts.

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    1. Glad to hear it, Sally! And, I forgot to mention there is an EGGcellent bakery in my new town. I've just set out hot apple turnovers and strawberry muffins. Please, try the local fare!

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    2. Love local fare! I took the kids to a woolly worm festival several years ago. I still remember the food and decor of the town restaurant we to that day!

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  4. Audra! This is a fabulous analogy. You must have so much fun at your job & then being able to incorporate aspects from your job into your stories & settings. So cool!

    Also, I entered into the Sweepstakes & shared it on Facebook. What an amazing haul that would be! :)

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    1. Thanks Beth! I don't think I could write stories set anywhere other than Colorado...well, maybe Montana, too :)

      Glad you entered the sweepstakes. What a Valentine's Day haul!!

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    2. I was in Colorado years ago for a wedding near Denver, but didn't have much time to explore.

      My husband & I will be there for a wedding in July in Colorado Springs. Again, probably won't have much time to explore, but it'll be fun to be out there for our friend's wedding.

      We're hoping to take the kids on a round trip out west in a few years & be able to see more of the western/southwestern states.

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    3. Beth, I lived in Colorado Springs for years in my wild and single days. That was a loooooong time ago :) It's still a lovely city, even though there's just so much more of it now!! I hope you have a wonderful time!

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    4. Thanks! I'm looking forward to it!

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  5. Audra, love Colorado, lived out there for several years while husband in Bible college, Colorado Springs and a tiny town called Fountain.
    Great post on setting. My WIP (and I hope series) takes place in a small New Hampshire mountain town and I try to show how the mountains shape my characters' characters. The mountains are their retreat, their playground, and occasionally their adversary. With setting, I'm always going for "this couldn't possibly have happened anywhere else." I love stories like that, such as Eva Marie Everson's Sunset Key series, Cathleen Armstrong's Last Chance, and Melody Carlson's "River" trilogy.
    Also, LOVE the egg metaphor.
    Back later I hope,
    Kathy Bailey

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    1. Oooh, Kathy! It sounds like you're making great use of your setting!

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    2. Kathy, I drive past Fountain all the time on our way to Pueblo and Fowler. The Springs area has grown so much since I lived there. Fountain used to be way on the outskirts (remember Outer Limits, LOL). Now it's practically incorporated.

      I love how you view setting. It's great to find the unique aspects wherever you set your story and make the package memorable.

      Eggs are Us, LOL.

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    3. Kathy, that sounds like a great setting! One I'd love to learn more about.

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  6. I can't help myself, Audra, so humor me. Which came first, the story setting or the egg? Hahahaha. I crack myself up.

    Ahem...

    As I was reading your post, I kept thinking of the story world I've created in my books. And though they're based in a real town, some of the businesses and such are fictitious, but they've become a part of the egg.

    Audra, I don't think I will ever look at an egg the same again. Or my story world. Congrats again on the re-packaging. And wowzers on the contest. That'll definitely be one lucky winner.

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    1. *rolling my eyes at Mindy's joke*

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    2. Mindy, when my kids were in 4-H, they both excelled in Demonstrations, and went to the State Fair every year to compete. One year, my daughter's "Quilting isn't the same today as it was in Grandma's Day" demonstration lost to a gal who taught the audience how to boil an egg. I still hear her exclaiming "EGGxactly!!" LOL.

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  7. Good morning, Audra!

    The egg thing...that's a great analogy. Everything just works together to create the whole setting!

    Even though they haven't been a series until the now, all of my LIH Amish stories have been set in the same fictional area in northern Indiana. I love have the geography already set when I start the story, and I'm able to bring secondary characters from previous books in once in a while.

    I'm going to check out that Booksweeps giveaway! And congratulations on the re-release of Rocky Mountain Hero in a 2in1! Love Inspired has been doing that for Amish stories for several months now, and they have been super popular...and a great way to introduce our stories to new readers!

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    1. I think setting connects series books almost more than the characters. It's great when you have characters cross over books, I think the readers love seeing familiar faces. My goal is to make specific places in my town memorable enough for readers to say, "hey, I remember the chat nook at the book store!"

      The re-release of the book kind of came as a surprise to me, but hey, I'll take it!

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  8. Wow Audra, great cowboy - er, I mean cover. And I am very impressed with the egg stuff, not so much Mindy's joke, but what a great analogy! I can't wait to read your new book. Please enter me in the drawing.

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    1. You got it, Cindy! Eggs and cowboys, what could be better?

      I love this cover. Who doesn't like cowboys...I know, there are naysayers out there. We're all unique :)

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  9. Audra, what a fun post! I love creating eggs--er, towns! :)

    Thanks for describing how to create our worlds, and especially for reminding us to populate them and anchor them.

    I love creating small southern towns. I usually base them on some of my favorite small towns I've visited. I love a town square, and love how everyone knows everyone and gets in their business. It makes it fun to write!

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    1. I'm with you 100%, Missy. To me, there's nothing cozier than a small town where everyone knows your name :)

      I love how you create your small town settings. Having spent very little time in the South (does Miami, FL count?), I indulge in the small southern love you always create :)

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    2. Thanks, Audra! And I love your ranches and families.

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  10. Audra, a writing lesson and a science lesson in one--very cross curricular (coming from a K-12 curriculum director and instructional coach!) :) I don't spend enough time on my setting. It's one of the "layers" I'm working on to improve my writing. Your analogy has given me some things to consider. Thanks!

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    1. Good for you, Karen! The whole layering of a novel is something I have to constantly work on. I like storyworld the best. It doesn't talk back to me like my characters do at times, LOL!

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    2. Karen, I'm with you. Setting is one my critique partner has to pull out of me. I just into scene with dialogue and just take off. Then my cp has to ask where they are and what they see and how much later this is. :)

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  11. I love showing kids how an egg works... when they want to know what that "string" is... or why the yolk is so big... and around here we have white, brown, green, blue and beige speckled eggs... so that's a lesson in itself.

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    1. We candle the eggs for all the kids so they can see the development over 3-5-7 days after fertilization. White shells candle best, but we have the colored ones too to talk about where they come from :)

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    2. I love those pretty, colorful home-raised eggs!

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  12. Wow a science lesson and a writing lesson. You, my dear, are a wealth of information. Very smart idea and a reminder, a very good one at that, to include all this parts to make the whole book viable...err readable and love it as we're reading. Great job and I know Paterra Springs is going to be a fab place for fab stories.

    I'm printing this out as a reminder. (BTW a GREAT writing retreat!!)
    Hugs, L.A. Sartor

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    1. I want to attend a writing retreat in Colorado! :)

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    2. Hi Leslie, good to see you here! I hope I incorporated a few helpful tidbits and a little bit of humor today :)

      I second that comment -- great writing retreat!

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    3. Missy, EP is truly a mountain getaway. C'mon out here! You'll never want to go back :)

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  13. Audra, I love Estes Park! We'll be headed up there for a few days this spring. The Y is such a fun place to stay. :) You're fortunate to live so close. :)

    I love the way you bring so many aspects of setting into this post! It sparked some ideas and questions I need to consider for my story. :) Well done!

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    1. Well, maybe we need to have a Seekerville get-together at EP! :)

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    2. Jeanne, you sweet thing. Sparking is good, right?? Yes, let's all have a writing retreat in EP. Although, C.Sprgs has some beautiful places, too. Like the castle!!

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  14. An excellent post, Audra! As a fantasy author a great deal of the developing of my story goes into world building so this topic is very near and dear to my heart. I tend to draw maps too though my maps are a little more larger scale showing where the cities, borders between countries, rivers, and mountains would go. It's always fun to design a background for your world. Legends, tales, civilizations of old.

    Please enter my name in the drawing!

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    1. I stand in awe of you, Nicki! I like building towns where all the building blocks are familiar. I wouldn't even know how to start thinking fantasy. You go, girlfriend! Create those worlds!!!

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  15. Hi Audra, one of my biggest struggles in story world is smells. I have so many sinus and allergy issues, I miss a lot of smells. I'm much better on seeing my story world. Thanks so much for sharing. And yes, it's a beautiful cover!

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    1. Jackie, I share your struggle. My allergies are so bad; I'm allergic to all airborne stuffs - too bad I'm not allergic to food! I finally went through years of shots. I can breathe without sneezing (yay), but my sense of smell leaves lots to be desired.

      I'll hook my arm in yours and we can just look at our storyworlds together :)

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  16. Setting is just as much a character in your story as well, your characters

    Yes! When I'm reading, I like for the story and setting to be so interwoven that I can't imagine the story in any other setting ("To Kill a Mockingbird" immediately comes to mind as an example).

    So glad to see the re-release of Rocky Mountain Hero. I had such a 'feel' for the town and the ranch by the end of the story. And a hunger for barbecue, too :-)

    Nancy C

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    1. You are way too kind, Nancy, but I love hearing it :) I hope my settings never disappoint you!

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  17. Great post, Audra. I need to flesh out my town a bit better in my novel as I rewrite it. I haven't really done a map or anything, and I know I need to. My novel revolves around a tornado, so setting is important.

    I love Estes Park. I haven't been there in so long. This weekend we are going to Denver for my nephew's Eagle Scout ceremony. We haven't even been there for about 8 years, so glad to go again.

    Please enter me in the drawing for the book!

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    1. You got it, Sandy! When you talk about a tornado, the first thing I think of is, hmmm, any map you might make is going to change, LOL.

      Eagle Scout! Tell him congratulations! That is such an awesome accomplishment. Enjoy yourselves!!!

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  18. Terrific post, Audra! Reading this triggered so many great memories of my visit to Estes Park. I was in the third grade, but I remember every moment of my 3 week stay. My parents still have a photo taken with me and the gunslinger, after the "shoot-out."

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    1. Jill, I count myself so fortunate to live this close to Estes Park. For years, I hated going up there because I'd get car sick. Fortunately (unfortunately??) when we had our tremendous flood in 2013, the highway had to be recarved. Now it's a nice, wide highway and my stomach/head thanks it very much.

      3 weeks? Wow, what did you do there for so long?

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  19. Wow, what an egg-cellent example of creating a compelling story-world. Thanks Audra! I was reading through the comments thinking about how most of my novels & novellas have been all over the map. The Natchez Trace Novel series is the first that I've written where the characters are in the same area.

    I've never thought about continuing to write in one location indefinitely. Very Mitford'ish, don't you think?

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    1. Mitford'ish? I'll take it :) I like working in the same setting, maybe not so much for the place, but I like working with the characters I've gotten to know.

      I wish I could change gears as easily as you can, Pam! I always seem to find my back to small, mountain towns :)

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    2. Pam, you may find you really enjoy staying at that location to be able to use your carefully crafted world a few times. :)

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  20. What a unique way to think about stories :-) As a reader, I can appreciate everything there is to a book, from setting (buildings, surroundings, sights) to what the characters see or do everyday. It's funny, I was thinking about that game people used to play a lot (maybe still do?) called SIMS where you build your town, characters, jobs your characters do & etc. I don't know what made me think of it, maybe when you said don't have a ranch owner sitting around all day pining for a lost love...have him or her doing something; feeding chickens, repairing fences, you know ranch stuff :-) I've never played SIMS but you can build an entire virtual world and I think you get points for each task or goal completed (??) to buy more stuff or whatnot.

    Anyway, what a fun post. I think setting and environment are just as important as characters, adding depth and painting pictures in a readers mind. I especially love reading books set in places I've been to because it always brings back some great memories!

    I'm loving seeing these 2-in-one books being re-released by Love Inspired! So fun :-) Please add my name to the candy dish to win a copy. Thanks Audra!

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    1. Absolutely, Trixi! You are in the candy dish :)

      I haven't thought about the SIMS game in ages! I remember some of the towns the kids built were so intricate. Ha, I'll have to see if I can find a copy and play with it.

      I'm glad my post made you think. I had a judge once tell me my character always thought he was busy, but in reality, I never had doing anything at all. That made me sit up and pay attention. That whole show vs tell thing, you know :)

      Have you been to Estes Park? It's a beautiful place to visit and pretty incredible to write about. I think you'll enjoy the new series :)

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  21. I love how your job informs your writing! 1000 fourth graders? Um, you deserve a medal or something!

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    1. LOL, Erica! By the time Friday comes around, I'm reciting how an incubator hatches the egg in my sleep :) I love writing, but I love my job, too. I think the good Lord figured I need to work in an environment that helped me with research so I didn't have work at that when I'm writing.

      That's my strategy and I'm sticking to it :)

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    2. Erica, she definitely deserves a medal!

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  22. Thanks for sharing your embryology lesson on writing. Only a reader but I thought it was eggs-elent!

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    1. LOL! Thanks, Anne AND, there is nothing ONLY about being a reader!! I love you!!!

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  23. Wonderful analogy, Audra. Thanks for another post full of great information. And I just wanted to say I have a soft spot for Estes Park as well. Almost 20 years ago, my hubby and I spent the week there on our honeymoon. And other than the fact that he had not previously been acquainted with my fear of heights, we had a wonderful time! There isn't much more beautiful landscape than the Rocky Mountains. I can see how it inspires you!

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    1. What a wonderful honeymoon! I'm certain your memories of EP are fond, if not for the heights, LOL! I hope I capture the beauty of EP in my upcoming novel. You'll have to let me know if I succeed!!

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  24. Thank you for a great post, Audra!

    Yes, I agree - wonderful cover!

    May God bless you and all of Seekerville!

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  25. I am only a reader but I am tempted to try to write after seeing your "recipe"! Please throw my name in the hat.
    Happy Valentine's Day!!
    Connie
    cps1950(at)gmail(dot)com

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