Friday, July 27, 2018

Location, Location, Location



by Pam Hillman

Have you heard the joke… What are the three most important considerations in real estate?

Location.
Location.
Location.

Except it’s no joke.

For anyone buying, selling, or homesteading land, it’s a very serious consideration. But one person’s great location might be another’s worst nightmare.

And a few months ago, at a family get-together I was able to record my mother’s cousins talking about their parents traveling from Arkansas to Mississippi and back again in the 1930-1940s in search of job opportunities, land, and places to settle down.

My niece is documenting our family history, and she’s already found ancestors from England, Scotland, and Ireland who migrated to America for one reason or another. 


Just this week a friend of mine asked about the cost of building a house in our area. My son and daughter-in-law are looking around for a location to build a house in the rural area where we live. A retired couple I know recently sold their house and rented a much smaller home on a lake. Another recently widowed friend is looking to downsize.


Each are looking for something different. A growing community with job opportunities, good schools, nice restaurants for a young family. Boating and fishing played a huge part in my friends who chose the lake house. Manageable living expenses drove my widowed friend’s decision.

So, it got me to thinking about my own dreams. My husband is a cattle rancher. We’re attached to the land. We run cattle, and I expect we’ll still be chasing cows wielding our walking sticks instead of cattle prods when we’re in our dotage. Hmmm, I wonder if I can get a 4x4 scooter for My Cowboy? Sorry, cow … uh … rabbit trail.


As I thought about location down through the ages, what’s changed? Location is still important, but not always for the same reasons.

And what about my characters’ dreams and reasons for relocating?

They say write what you know, and so many of my books have to do with owning property, fighting over property, cattle, traveling toward property, abandoning property, saving the farm, etc. Buying land, saving land, or finding land just seems to be in my blood.


In This Land is Our Land (The Homestead Brides Collection), my characters were desperate to get to land homesteaded by their father before he passed away. My characters in Shanghaied by the Bride (Oregon Trail Romance Collection) traipsed across America on the Oregon Trail in search of land and a new life. Slade and Mariah fought tooth and nail over the Lazy M in Claiming Mariah. Stealing Jake wasn’t about the land specifically, but part of the hero’s struggle was holding on to his father’s land and coal mine. Meeting in the Middle (With this Kiss Collection)…yep, cotton farming in Mississippi.

I’m all about that land.

I wrote a cool story set on a deserted island in the Caribbean. Castaway with the Cowboy. Even though it’s not available to readers right now, I love that story and plan to make it available again soon. Again, location. The location made the story. Without the location, it wouldn’t be that story. It would be something else.

Historically, people moved for much the same reasons as they do now, but religious persecution was much higher on the list way back when than it seems to be today, at least for those moving within the borders of the USA. Religious persecution and a chance at a better life, which overwhelmingly translated to dreams of owning land, were two of the top reasons people have been on the move for centuries. 

None of my immediate family, friends, or acquaintances are relocating for something as life-threatening as religious persecution, but more for practical reasons that have to do with lifestyle choices and careful management. 

In The Evergreen Bride (12 Brides of Christmas), a secondary character’s father moves his family every few months. He’s a sharecropper, and he’s got the wanderlust bug bad. It wasn’t uncommon in the late 1800s, early 1900s for people to just pick up and go. I’ve heard stories of people (who may or may not have been kin to me, ahem) who’d just pick up and move their whole family in the middle of the night back in the 1930-40s. Weeks later, the family would find they’d settled in some old shack and were sharecropping somewhere else.


The Natchez Trace Novel series deals with… you guessed it. Land. A brand new land for a displaced band of Irish brothers. Each of the brothers land in the Natchez District where they come alongside the women they love to save a plantation, a way of life. And they end up putting down permanent roots in the loamy soil along the banks of the Mississippi River.

So let’s discuss your thoughts regarding moving on….

What is your (or your characters) ideal dream spot? A cabin in the woods? An artist’s flat above a bakery? A large sprawling estate? How would that dream translate to life in the 1800s? A townhouse in London? A clapboard home in a Shaker village, or a tepee on the plains with the Lakota or the Sioux? Or even a dugout in Kansas? Which of the photos above catch your fancy?

I’m content where I am. I expect to live and die on this hill. lol

www.pamhillman.com

Pam again... still celebrating the release of The Road to Magnolia Glen. :)
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56 comments:

  1. I'm the first comment! Having a bit of insomnia tonight. :)

    My ideal spot is the beach--at least for a getaway. I don't know that I would want to live there. But I sure do love visiting. I might like to live on some body of water, though. Maybe a house by a lake?

    Most of my characters live in small towns. I love cute towns with a downtown square and lots of shops.

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    1. Good morning!! Coffee, tea, juice and water are on the sideboard and I'm busy in the kitchen preparing brunch. Us Villagers need to eat, don't we? :)

      Missy, all of those locations sound wonderful. While we've never been beach people, the idea of a long, slow vacation in a breazy condo right on the beach does sound nice. Actually, a long, slow vacation anywhere sounds nice! :)

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  2. Hi Pam:

    I believe that the best fiction is meaningful fiction. For example: if you are writing historical fiction, then make the story such that it could only have happened in those years and in that place. If the story could happen at any other time period and any other location, then those factors are not meaningful.

    Along these lines, James Patterson teaches writers to make each scene change the trajectory of the story. If the scene does not change what will happen in the future, then it was not meaningful.

    Another teacher told me many years ago that I should not confuse action or moving around with story movement. For action to count it must move the story along. In other words, the action must be meaningful to the story.

    A great thing about your Natchez series is that it could only have happen when and where it did.

    I'd like to live near the Trace in the Tupelo area. My good artist friend used to drive home from work on the Trace which was just a few hundred yards from his driveway. I loved visiting him. He had a beautiful lakeside house.

    Vince

    P.S. I think Missy handed off her insomnia to me this morning. :)

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    1. Vince said: If the scene does not change what will happen in the future, then it was not meaningful.

      Interesting concept!! Definitely something to ask ourselves as we write. How does this scene change the story moving forward? How does this scene shed light on past (and future) events in the story?

      While I suppose someone could pluck my series down on the east coast in the colonial period and still have indentured servants, plantations, and highwaymen, I think authors do need to do due diligence on where they place their stories.

      Years ago, I knew I wanted to write about indentured servants, but I had not specifically decided on Natchez and the Natchez Trace. But the more I researched, the more the area felt right to ME as a Mississippian and a Southerner.

      Someone more familiar with the New England states, Kentucky, the Virginias, or the Carolinas might have felt differently. There would have been adjustments to the stories, though, so it wouldn't have been the same, would it? :)

      I mean, there's the Mississippi River to consider as well as the proximity to the gulf.

      Following this fascinating thought, regardless of where an author sets their story, they do need to utilize every piece of location at their disposal to make the story shine.

      Vince, you always make me think, and now I have another idea for a blog post, so I'll stop here, but for those who've read The Road to Magnolia Glen, it's going to be something along the lines of ... "How to get Jonah in the belly of the whale when there's no whale to be had." :)

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    2. Vince, I like to think I'm generous. But I hate sharing insomnia!

      :) Hope you finally got some sleep! I finally fell asleep and slept in a bit this morning.

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    3. Hi Pam:

      Even when the story might have happened somewhere else but something essential was added so it could not have, that very fact can give the story a personality.

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    4. Hi Pam:

      Just down the road in Orange Beach you have access to a beach paradise! Don't dream: drive!

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  3. Oh, locations.... I wish I could visit every one I write about!

    I'm a country girl, raised in the city so I'm comfortable in both locations... but I tend toward small town settings for my Love Inspired books, and a mix with my longer books. And some novellas set in cities...

    I try to go wherever the story takes me. That might be Manhattan (Red Kettle Christmas) or Philadelphia (All Dressed Up in Love) or a mid-sized town in Ohio, Cedar Mills (More Than a Promise)... or cozy hamlets in Western New York (Two Love Inspired series and Wishing Bridge series)...

    But in my historicals, there isn't even always a town, right? Prairie Promises in "Homestead Brides" collection is set outside of a newly forming Omaha, but on the trail west with no town nearby...

    A Town Called Christmas was in Idaho and A Cowboy for Christmas was in Washington State outside of Ellensburg where I also set a contemporary series "Double S Ranch" (both being re-released in September)... and it's fun to see what your current "location" was like 125 years ago!

    Pam, you've given me reason to think hard... and to travel!

    But it's farm season here, too. And no traveling on the horizon.

    Dagnabbit.

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    1. Ruthy, as I read through your list of locations, I could see a pattern of the area you're mostly familiar with, the NE. But then, like the brilliant author you are, you have branched out and migrated west. :)

      And I love what you said about going wherever [ie. location] the story takes you.

      YES! That's it in a nutshell!

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    2. Hi Ruth:

      "But it's farm season here
      Dagnabbit."


      'Farm season'...you say: Four ears of corn for a dollar! Strawberry heaven! Water melon price wars!
      Dagpraiseit!"

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    3. Hi Ruth:

      I'd love to see you and other Seekers with lots of books out there add a section to your websites headed:

      "Location, Location, and more Locations"

      And then list each story and where it takes place. I for one like to pick stories for their locations…especially if the author is new to me.

      You've already done a lot of the work here. As for me, "I'll take Manhattan". :)

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    4. Hi Pam:

      About location and time.

      If you watch "Midsomer Murders" on PBS, which has been on for over 20 years, you'll notice they always have annual events, sometimes silly, taking place somewhere in the county, which time and date stamp the story and/or they have a specific location within the area that's important -- like the town observatory! (If the crime needs an observatory, well there is a town in the county known for its municipal observatory! No wonder they could never cancel this show -- even after the original cast retired!)

      Personality!

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    5. We love Midsomer Murders, too, Vince!

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    6. Cool! That's definitely writing in a lot of location "props" to anchor the series.

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  4. Hi Pam,
    I love that you are so content in your spot on the hill. I'm much the same way in my suburban ranch style house. We live 3 miles from where we both grew up, have been in this house 30 years and raised our three kids here.
    However for the sake of the dream location question, I wouldn't mind a smaller house with less maintenance with a water view.

    I have The Homestead Brides and Oregon Trail Collections on my TBR shelf, thanks for reminding me to get them out and read those stories!

    I'm loving your Natchez Trace series, those O'Shea brothers, whew, wherever they are is a dream location!

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    1. "....those O'Shea brothers, whew, wherever they are is a dream location!"

      Ha! Well, there is THAT! :)

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  5. Great topic, Pam! My dream spot would be a tie between two places. The first is where I live now. In the woods, on a cattle ranch on the coastal plains of Texas. However, in a perfect world, I would only live here during the winter months. Summers would be spent in Ouray, Colorado where my books take place and where my husband's grandfather had a photography studio back in 1920. A mountainside cabin would be lovely. It would be the best of both worlds. Ah, if only we were independently wealthy.

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    1. So true, Mindy. I'd love to have a summer home in a less humid locale. I love my spot on the hill, but MS in summer can be brutal. I've been thinking of opening an "Open Air Sauna". It should be a huge hit!

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    2. New Hampshire is having that kind of summer right now. You could put a straw in the air and drink it, except I'm off straws. I don't know how you stand it all the time. But I've heard the same thing about our winters, which are merely Something To Endure.

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    1. Yep. Can't you just see some of us racing around on one of those in our dottage? Beep beep... here comes Ruthy!!! Get out o' the way!

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  7. Setting is so important. My first contracted novel is Oregon Trail, so it was a no-brainer, and the sequel will be set in a settlement in the Oregon Country.
    My second historical series, as yet unpublished or contracted, deals with a young nurse in New York's Hell's Kitchen just after World War I, again a no-brainer.
    My contemporary Christmas romance, not yet contracted, takes place in a small Northern New England town and also couldn't have taken place anywhere else. I've been lucky so far. Dumb luck. I've had settings that grew organically from what my main characters were doing. Expect my luck will run out at some point.
    Pam, I agree about the land. Several of my characters in the historicals are Irish, and their dream is owning their own land instead of working for the English landlords.
    My ideal spot would be a huge old Victorian on a New England lake, with a wraparound porch and a tower room. I'd probably claim the tower room as my office. I'm a lake person, not an ocean person, so I'd write all day and then take a dip. I'd have a huge library and hire someone to dust the books. Some day...but I'm also grateful for the home I have.

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    1. Yes, hired help is a must in our dream worlds! :)

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  8. Still thinking...so much of our country's history is tied up with the search for land, the Oregon Trail thingy, the Land Rush. The Scandinavians in the Midwest. The Irish fleeing starvation, landlord troubles or both.

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    1. And range wars out west. It goes on and on, doesn't it?

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  9. Fun post, Pam. I am quite content to live where I do in Nebraska in what I consider a medium-sized town. I don't have any desire to move somewhere else for retirement. However, I would love to travel and visit different locations for extended stays. I especially love the ocean, which requires long travel from Nebraska!

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    1. Sandy, I'm like you. I can't imagine ever selling my home, but I would enjoy extended stays elsewhere. So many fun locations that I mostly only visit in books.

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  10. My husband and I just moved to what had become sort of our dream spot last year. Suburb of the Nashville area where he has a job at a great school. Closer to some family. Not too far from things like mountains or the Atlanta Braves. I suppose in my dream world, the craft stores would be a little closer, but we found a cute house with a great yard, and an amazing church family.
    I have discovered over the last few years that home plays a huge role in my stories. I grew up moving every few years, so never really felt like I had true roots. That tends to color my characters' perspective of where they live, too. I hope my family can stay here for longer than six years (the longest I have ever lived anywhere) and then maybe my future characters can settle down better, too. Ha!

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    1. Wow, Amy, I can't imagine moving so often. I've lived in 3 different places my entire life, not counting the 3-4 months we lived with our in-laws while our house was being built.

      And you're right.. our experiences color our characters. Even now my home is only about 6-7 miles from where I lived from a baby until my early teens, and only about 4 miles from my mom's house. So I don't have that urgent need to have my characters' long for home because of any particular desire, but that's a great way to show angst in your characters.

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    2. Amy, all my characters long for home too. It's part of what makes us human.

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    3. Thanks Kaybee. I'm glad I'm not the only one.
      Pam, don't worry. My husband didn't move much until college. He lived the same place from preschool through high school graduation, so he helps keep me grounded, and I help him adjust every time we move again. Ha!

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  11. Where I live now isn't too bad...an hour's drive from Boston, an hour from New Hampshire's Lakes Region, a couple hours from the White Mountains, and a half hour and change from New Hampshire's miniscule seacoast and Maine's longer one. My location, location, location is pretty good, good, good.

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    1. Wow! You have LOTS of destinations to choose from! :)

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  12. I love this post, Pam!

    I think the longing for us to have land (or a home, no matter what it looks like) is a deeply rooted need in our psyches. We spend our lives on our pilgrimage to the City of God, our final Home. This is the theme of so many books, like you said! All of my stories have that looking-for-home aspect.

    And your post is so timely - my husband and I went from dreaming about our retirement home (and land, no matter how small) in the Black Hills to actually planning for it this week. We'll be downsizing and looking for a place where we can live for the next twenty years or more (the longest we've ever lived in one place is seven years!)

    So now we're working with a realtor, getting our mortgage pre-approved...the works, and the search begins. I'm expecting that it will take months. And now I'm wondering how this search will affect my future stories!

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    1. Wow, Jan, that is a big step. Design your office first, everything else will fall into place.

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    2. So cool, Jan! I do like the idea of downsizing. Our home is about 1800 SF. Only 2 bedrooms and a huge (to me, anyway) den. Very open and airy. I used to dream of building on... more bedrooms, an office, etc. But now I'm thankful my "carpenter" hubby never got around to it.

      My plans are to take the spare bedroom and turn it into an office / play / guest room with a hideaway bed. Our adult kids live nearby so it will be rare to have overnight guests except for the grandkids, so my office stuff can be rolled away and they can take over. :)

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    3. That office sounds wonderful, Pam! I'm using one of our four bedrooms for an office, but we really don't need so much space.

      Finding existing housing that fits our needs/budget is difficult. People just don't build small houses around here unless they're vacation cabins. But I think I need more than 400 sq. ft., LOL!

      We've been toying with the idea of building. And yes, Kathy, I would design my office first!

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  13. I love your post as well Pam! Retirement is sneaking up on us in four years as the Air Force has mandatory retirement for my husband. Not that he'll actually quit working - he plans on finding something else to keep him busy. But we're also planning on finding our "dream" home now that we plan on staying here in central Canada on the prairies. We always thought we'd go back east but after five years we love it here and don't want to leave. I think the theme of searching for one's home, whether a "heart" home or a "real" home is a subconscious one in all of our Christian stories. My debut book takes place in a small town of 900 people and the heroine is finding her way back to God and hasn't had a real home in years. And when I was writing it, I didn't even realize that I'd centered on the theme of "coming home" until I'd finished my last round of edits. thank goodness for great editors! :)

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    1. Laurie, thank you for your sacrifice. Military families "give it all" too. Or at least offer it.

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    2. Thank you, Kaybee! My husband did one tour in Afghanistan in 2010 and was gone 14 months. He's traveled all over the world with the Air Force. I'm happy he's back doing Search and Rescue "at home" in Canada now. :)

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    3. Sorry for the delay... I've been baby sitting today.

      Yes, Laurie, thank you and your husband for your service!

      And while I'm okay with not having to move over and over throughout my life, I can see the benefits of living in lots of different places. Eventually, when you can live anywhere you want, you have lots of options to choose from. Enjoy your semi-retirement in Canada! :)

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  14. My Amish characters love the land. It's part of who they are. Their houses are simple but filled with love. Lots of community around them. What's not to like? :)

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    1. Yes, it's hard to imagine the Amish books without a strong tie to the land, isn't it?

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  15. I'm one of the people who have lived in numerous location .Th T Lord has enabled me to be content wherever I am at the time. 3 countries.8 states and 16 cities or towns.

    I now find myself looking longing to return West but yet very happy to live in NC

    Of course I long for heaven

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    1. Sometimes I envy those of you who've lived all over. So much fodder for stories and just plain LIFE!

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  16. Ooohhhh -- if you're handing out dream locations I'll take an Irish castle please -- as long as it comes with servants. Otherwise I'll take a thatched cottage. Please and thank you.

    I love armchair traveling through fiction where I get to sample the best locations ever. Just finished Mia Ross's last Liberty Creek novel and I just love the way she builds a town. I always feel like I should be able to google it and get some real pictures and real estate info 'cause I always want to move there.

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    1. Kav, I'm interviewing staff for your castle now. Pack your bags! ;)

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  17. Oh the places that I've traveled to in my book adventures.

    I did visit Israel in May and it was an INCREDIBLE experience!

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    1. Caryl, I imagine it was awesome! My husband went to Israel in his teens. I've never been and I'm to the point in life that I'm not interested in flying internationally. I fly, but I don't like it THAT much.

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  18. Enjoyed the post about location and the comments on where everyone lives. I grew up surrounded by farmland in rural PA. then moved to Philly, the big city, fifty years ago with parents and have lived here since. I have a large flower garden and across the street is a vast city owned park with hiking, horseback riding and bike trails and a creek for my boys to fish as they grew up. I'm a country girl at heart. Hubby and I have all the conveiences of a large urban area so if the time comes and we can't drive we won't be isolated. Still,if I had my dream wish I'll love to live in the Cotswolds in a thatched roof cottage and be able to look out on sheep grazing nearby. Still, as long as I have plenty of space to flower garden I'd be contented.
    In my debut novel, the heroine is forced to leave home for her safety and come to the U.S. She longs to return to her family in wartorn London and to help there. As a transplant, she finds a purpose to pursue in her new home and falls in love. In time and after more life experiences, she comes to realize where home truly is for her.

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    1. Wow, Pat, you DO have the best of both worlds. In the city, but with a park across the street and a creek to fish in. That's amazing. I'm officially jealous! :)

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  19. Right were i'm living right now. Downtown in the city. Get to see a lot just from my apartment window and only 1/2 block from the transfer point for the bus system here.

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    1. Kim, that does sound like a great location. We love living in the country, but there is a lot to be said for city life and a bus right down the street! :)

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  20. I enjoyed your post, Pam. I love where we live. We're in northern Utah in a beautiful valley surrounded by mountains. We can get to several different canyons within 20 minutes.

    I love visiting other locations in books, though. It's fun to see what other places are like. Your books sound wonderful. I've heard so many great things about them, but I haven't read any of them yet. I need to fix that soon! :-D

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    1. Oh, Winnie, your location sounds like a hiker's dream! :)

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