Guest Post: Man Oh Man! How Author Marin Thomas Created A Setting For Her Novel

HEApromise 300I was fortunate to read an early copy of The Promise of Forgiveness by Marin Thomas. It’s full of heart, family, and the promise of second chances. It’s her first work of women’s fiction but not her first book. Not by a long shot! Marin has written (sit down now) over 35 romances. When she approached something new, she wanted a special setting. She wanted it to be different from what readers were accustomed to—and different from what her characters expected as well. 

Only an author as skilled as Marin could make a dusty, rough, Oklahoma town full of bristly men a charming place to set a novel! 

Today, Marin shares with us how she created Unforgiven, Oklahoma, as well as advice on writing setting that really hit home for me.

Please welcome Marin to WFW!

Amy xo

the setting in a novel is a place that keeps your characters off-balance

 

A Novel Setting: Turning Reality Into Fiction

 

Guy Town; Austin, Texas

HEApromise 300I love picking a story’s location almost as much as I enjoy fleshing out the characters. More often than not I have to write the entire novel before I get a feel for the setting. With The Promise of Forgiveness the setting fell into place faster than the characters and I believe it’s because the concept for the town of Unforgiven, Oklahoma, had been fermenting in my brain for a long time.

I’ve always been fascinated with U.S. history and I enjoy researching the old west.  My love of history is one reason I jump at the chance to take a ghost tour when I visit new cities or towns.  You never know what nugget of information, name or background of a famous person might inspire an idea for a future story.

In The Promise of Forgiveness the fictitious town of Unforgiven, Oklahoma, came into being in a roundabout way. A few years ago when my husband and I were in Tombstone, Arizona, visiting the famous haunted Bird Cage Saloon, another tourist mentioned that he had taken several ghost tours throughout the state of Texas. He went on to tell us a story about a once famous historical neighborhood in Austin called Guy Town. Weeks later the name Guy Town popped into my head again (when you’re over fifty, things pop in and out of your head at an alarming rate). I Googled Guy Town, 1870-1913, and spent hours reading everything I could find, knowing that one day I’d work Guy Town or the idea of it into one of my stories.

In a nutshell,Guy Town, also known as the First Ward, was a saloon district, comprising eight square blocks in Austin. It was the go-to place for women, whiskey, music and gambling. The boundaries of the neighborhood consisted of Congress Avenue to the east, the Colorado River to the south, Guadalupe Street to the west and 4th Street to the north. Today high-rise office buildings and apartments occupy the area, but its history will never be forgotten.

The saloons in Guy Town were typical of those found in any city of similar size in the West during the mid-to-late 1800’s. The one thing that made Guy Town stand out was that it not only catered to reprobates but also to influential clientele due to The Texas State Capitol located right there in the city. In Guy Town state legislators and other government officials sat side-by-side with common folk drinking, gambling, and dancing with the soiled doves.

For a while Guy Town was just another rowdy red-light district in Texas like Houston’s Hollow, El Paso’s Utah Street, Fort Worth’s Hells Half Acre, Waco’s Two Street, and Frogtown in Dallas, where crime and murders were commonplace. Then between 1884 and 1886 a serial killer, known as the “Servant Girl Annihilator,” terrorized the streets of Austin and Guy Town, supposedly murdering eight victims with an axe. The killer was never found.

On July 15, 2014, the PBS TV show History Detective used historical research and modern techniques like psychological and geographic profiling, to help identify a probable suspect: Nathan Elgin, a 19-year-old African-American cook. Elgin worked near the original crime scenes and had a clubfoot, which was similar to a footprint left by the killer. In February 1886, shortly after the last murder, police shot and killed Elgin when he was caught attempting to assault a girl with a knife. Guy Town was shut down in 1913 after a growing sentiment among religious leaders and women’s groups against prostitution, gambling and alcohol abuse.

There wasn’t a need for a serial killer in my women’s fiction, but the name Guy Town stuck with me.  When I came up with the idea for The Promise of Forgiveness, I knew I wanted to create a place that catered to men and challenged the novel’s theme of forgiveness, so I filled the town with oil roughnecks and ranchers—the kind of men who would have visited Guy Town back in the day. Ruby, the heroine in my book, has a deep mistrust of men, therefore I made sure Unforgiven was a place where women weren’t welcome. Often it is only when people are uncomfortable that they acknowledge the need to change.

Unforgiven is a safe haven for men. A place where roughnecks and cowboys check their morals and values at the door. The men have secrets and regrets. Their lives have been built on mistakes and bad decisions. At home the men answer to their wives or girlfriends but just like in Guy Town, there is no one in Unforgiven to hold them accountable for their actions or words.

Ruby is nothing like the wives and girlfriends who are at home waiting for their roughnecks and cowboys. She is as hard as the gemstone she’s named after. She, too, has secrets and has made her share of mistakes and bad judgment calls. The town is a reflection of Ruby—unforgiving and suspicious.

The best advice I can give about setting in a novel is to create a place that keeps your characters off-balance.  If you give the setting it’s own voice and viewpoint, it can help guide you in creating richer, more meaningful characters.

What’s the most unusual setting you’ve read in a book?

 

Marin Thomas writes Women’s Fiction for Berkley/NAL and western romance for Harlequin books. To date she has contracted over 35 projects for Harlequin. The Promise of Forgiveness (March 2016) is her first work of women’s fiction.

High Res Colored Photoaf9e7b_9bdd7616e076462e9fda0e3400dace17Marin grew up in Janesville, Wisconsin, and attended college at the University of Arizona where she played basketball for the Lady Wildcats and earned a B.A. in Radio-TV. Following graduation she married her college sweetheart in a five-minute ceremony at the historical Little Chapel of the West in Las Vegas, Nevada. Marin and her husband are recent empty nesters and currently live in Houston, Texas, where she spends her free time junk hunting and researching her next ghost tour.

 Buy the book! http://bit.ly/BuyPromise

 Website www.marinthomas.com

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Want to learn more about Guy Town?

http://bob-texashillcountry.blogspot.com/2011/02/few-things-about-old-west-you-may-not.html

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Guest Post: Facing Fears In Writing And In Life by Author Julie Christine Johnson

Final_CoverWhat fears do you share with the characters in your novel? What fears or phobias do you give her that are not part of your life but that you want to explore? Today, debut novelist, Julie Christine Johnson shares with us a real life fear that worked its way into her novel, and how she — and her main character — have triumphed.

Share your story in the comments and please welcome Julie to WFW!

Amy xo

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Guest Post: Persistence On The Road To Publication by Author Phoebe Fox

HEART CONDITIONS frontNothing fills my writer’s soul than hearing other author’s road to publication. Or their road to not being published yet. It reminds me that while writing is something we do on our own, our experiences are shared. One for all and all for one. 

Today, Phoebe Fox shares her journey to publication with us. She uses words like REJECTION and PERSISTENCE. Words every writer can relate to. 

Please welcome Phoebe to WFW and share your own stories of persistence in the comments! 

Amy xo

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Guest Post: Do Readers Cross The Romance/Women’s Fiction Line? By Laura Drake

Thumbnail CoverWhat do my readers want from me? In today’s publishing climate, we’re often afraid to give something new a try, afraid of losing our readers, our followers, our mojo even. Sometimes our publishers are afraid as well, using the word “brand” to help us shape our new books. Staying within genre makes sense, but it’s not always possible. Especially when we have a story we want to tell that falls outside certain industry parameters. (I have a few floating around myself.)

Today we have with us, Laura Drake, multi-published, award-winning, romance author whose first women’s fiction title is releasing today! She wonders if fans of her romance novels will read her women’s fiction. Will the new readers she acquires with this book pop over and give her romance novels a try? Below, Laura shares with us her excitement and her fears for her new journey. She’s also sharing an short excerpt. 

Please welcome Laura Drake to WFW! And tell us what you think, in the comments.

Amy xo

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Guest Post: How Author Sharon Maas Navigated The Pathways Of Publishing

winniecoverHappy New Year! We’re kicking off 2016 with post by multi-published author Sharon Maass, about her publishing journey. Publishing nowadays looks different to everyone. It’s different for everyone. Even authors on the same path encounter different rough patches, different times of great ease (wait, I’m not sure those exist). 

Today, Sharon will share with us her own story. And hip-hip-hooray — it has a happy ending for Sharon that culminates with the release of her latest novel, THE SECRET LIFE OF WINNIE COX. (Here’s another secret: it’s $2.99 for Kindle  and Kobo, and $3.99 for Nook!)

Please share your own journey, or any questions, in the comments.

Amy xo

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Guest Post: Author Bette Lee Crosby Says “Write Where You Are.”

WHR - Ebook SmallWe’ve all heard it before. Write what you know. I’m not sure that always means what we think (a post for another day) but today, USA Today bestselling author Bette Lee Crosby puts her own spin on things with Write Where You Are. She was unintentionally inspired to write her new book, What the Heart Remembers, Book Three in the Memory House Series during a trip to Paris. 

How do you take advantage of where you are? And when was the last time you were unintentionally inspired?

Please welcome Bette Lee Crosby to WFW!

Amy xo 

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Guest Post: Author Cora Ramos Travels Her Own Path To Inspiration. What’s Yours?

Lately I’ve been thinking about the inspiration for The Good Neighbor, because I now know, from experience, that’s what readers want to know. I’ve realized that this new novel sprung from several seeds, not just one. Today, author Cora Ramos shares with us her inspiring sources of inspiration. 

Please welcome Cora Ramos to WFW and tell us — what was your path to inspiration for one of your books or stories?

Amy xo

What Is The Path To Inspiration?

by Cora Ramos

Dance the Dream AwakeJust as there are plotters and pantsers, and writers who use Scrivener and those that must use pen/pencil and paper, so too we all find inspiration into our stories in different ways. There is no one path nor is it the same for every book. For me, it is through the senses that my work is brought into form; a painting, a song, a smell, the feel of a silk scarf or in the case of my first book, a déjà vu moment when all the sensory details came together in one poignant moment of time that changed me forever.

It started on a trip to the Yucatan, Mexico and a visit to the ruins of a little known complex of pyramids called Coba, most of which are yet to be excavated and restored. In one déjà vu moment, the pyramid came alive and my senses tapped into some reservoir within me that sensed there were certain places I could access in the pyramid. I followed the intuition of the moment and found a room in the center. I felt like I knew things, and smelled the past of a Mayan life there. There were feelings that confused me but when I got home after the trip, it stewed in my brain until one day when I had to quick–write a story for a teacher writing in-service. I remembered that experience and wrote it out.

Soon after, I visited a private writing class that a friend of mine took me to. I wrote out the scene and the teacher encouraged me to keep writing and join her class. Then I had to come up with a story. I wracked my brain for a plot and when it wouldn’t come, I took out paint and paper and did a quick painted a shamanic woman dancing around a fire. The story started to form in my mind and motivated me to start writing even though I had no idea where it would go—yeah a pantser.

That began the long journey of learning how to write while plotting out a story that is now published with Black Opal Books, Dance the Dream Awake. Many of the experiences I had on that journey to Mexico were woven into the story.

My second novel, Haiku Dance, came about in a surprising way. I was writing a sequel to my first book, in the viewpoint of the male character. I have a samurai sword that inspired me to choose a Japanese past life. The paranormal element in my stories is past lives, and this past life would be in Japan, 980 A.D. in the Heian Era. That era is one of the jewels in the history of Japan, marked by the first novels written by women—the pillow books of Japan, The Tale of Genji, written by Murasaki Shikibu, being the most famous.

There is an element of letting go (which is why I can’t be a plotter in the beginning) and feeling your way through to the story to the moment of inspiration. It can come from anywhere but for me it is through the sensory details I seek out wherever I go, or some sensory element remembered in a moment of reverie.

cora head shot 3Cora J. Ramos is an award winning author of short stories of mystery and suspense that straddle the edge-whether that edge is the paranormal, a deadly decision or the place where science ends and magic resides. A collection of her stories can be found in the anthology,Valley Fever, Where Murder is Contagious; stories set in the San Joaquin Valley of California.
She is the author of DANCE THE DREAM AWAKE, a present day romantic suspense with a captivating Mayan past life.
Her newest novel, HAIKU DANCE is awaiting publication this year—a spicy historical romance of a samurai and a courtier in the Emperor’s court of ancient Heian Japan, 980 A.D. at the time when the Tales of Genji, Sarashina Diary and The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon were written.