Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Big Huge Reader Contest - Day 1!

Good, Bad and Kinky Duet by Tilly Greene
Call Me Lucifer
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Paranormal Erotic Romance / Bondage and Light D/s

My Angel
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Paranormal Erotic Romance / Bondage

Book settings are very important. So important, the entire story won't work if the locations are wrong, unbelieveable, or too convoluted to grasp.

When I'm setting up a book and thinking about the basic details [who, what, and where], I remember a particular book where the author used a place I knew and made a simple logistical mistake. Ultimately, I was pulled not just from the scene, but the book of which I had been enjoying, and the author. I never picked that author up again and I really liked them. Harsh, but if that mistake is still in my head almost 15 years later, I have a feeling it would be there if I were to pick up their latest.

Why not just make it up? You'd think that would be the answer for contemporary or paranormals, but the problem with creating a location is that an author can get too heavily detailed [gasp, horror :-)] or, even worse, over compensate and not offer enough information so the reader has no idea where everything is taking place.

So what is the ultimate solution?

Do what fits. Sounds simple, but it's actually far from it, and to mix the real with the made up is even more of a challenge, and I loved doing it.

You see, the Good, Bad and Kinky duet is, out of necessity, a mix of actual and created. They are paranormals with locations required by their plots that are well known to readers, Heaven and Hell, except they aren't available for research visits and many readers already have their own images set for them. Tricky to work with in those parameters and to up the [unintentional] difficulty, there comes a time in each story when the action moves to the surface, and suddenly they're contemporaries with actual locations used. The opening chapters of Call Me Lucifer dabble in a LA courtroom, moves to Hell, and then ends in a beach front house in Malibu. My Angel begins in Heaven and then shifts to small village, Knaresborough, in the north of England.

For the real settings, I visited each place, and took pictures and notes. Confession time: I knew them both Malibu and Knaresborough quite well, lived in one of the towns, but things change over time. Because I wanted to put the reader there, tempt them to visit if ever given the opportunity, I didn't want to rely on memory alone. Let me give you an example. In My Angel Tom and Ann walk from town to his home on the river:

"They walked through the police station car park and into the castle yard. There were a few people playing lawn bowling and some others walking around the grounds, taking in the view. A train chugged over the impressive viaduct and, as they started the making their way down the steep hill, she discovered with each step how beautiful the small town nestled in the valley truly was." [© Tilly Greene, May 2010 [All Rights Reserved]]
And this is the picture I took during my research trip:

Well? Did I put you there? Make you want to visit Knaresborough if you were ever in England?

Hang on, I hear you, what about the paranormal places, like Hell. Can a writer do anything to make someone want to visit Hell?  Probably not, but I can give you an idea of what this particular version of Hell is like. Confession time 2: Heaven and Hell were both fun settings to play, probably because I was able to twist things around to suit me and my characters, without doing too much to interfer with the set image a reader may have of both places. For instance, in Call Me Lucifer, there are no shrill screams echoing down the hallways or people being tortured with whips, but because this is a romance, there are elegant fireplaces, large enough for Satan to walk through with fires blazing. Cool. Sorry, sizzle hot :-)

Now it's your turn: How do you like your settings? Real? Created? Heavy on the details or showing the reader nothing but what's happening on the bed?

Other books of mine where I made research visits:
Extreme Speed, Total Control [Paris, France, Laguna Beach, CA., and Edinburgh, Scotland]
An Invitation to the World: India [Mumbai and Chennai, India]
The Leather Bride [NYC, NY.]
Taming Marie Antoinette [Paris, France]
OohRah! [Laguna Beach, CA.]
The Gilded Cage [London and York, England]
Highland Heat [London, England and Inverness to the Isle of Skye, Scotland]
Double Punch [San Francisco, CA.]
And She Scores! [Laguna Beach, CA.]

Call Me Lucifer [Malibu, CA.]
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My Angel [Knaresborough and Leeds, England]
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Tell me what type of settings you like to read about and you're entered to win a gift certificate to All Romance eBooks [ARe]!

Commenting and/or asking questions on an author’s blog for the day will enter you into the Big Huge Reader Contest for a Pink Sony eReader or one of three boxes packed full of RT Booklovers Convention goodies. Unfortunately, due to the grand prize being an electronic and weight of the other three boxes, this contest is for US residents only.


Missytish said...

I would love to see something from the rurals of either NY or MO

April/Psy said...

I enjoy both the created settings, such as from the Pantheon Novellas, on Mt. Olympus, and real places like Greece or Austrailia.

practimom said...

I like both settings. The imagination can create something so wild and crazy that I never would have dreamed of. but then to think of some place that i can actually go visit myself is cool too.

Andrea I said...

I like both types of settings. I prefer details which draw you into the setting rather than just sex.


DawnsReadingNook said...

I like both created and real settings. Mix them together is even better if you write it right. :)


Tilly Greene said...

Missytish - oh man, I can imagine a fantasy in a rural setting, that would be cool!

psyche.soul - you know me, Mt Olympus is in my heart and soul but there are places I'd love to set books and know I'd have to visit it first to do it justice.

practimom - I'm one of those that wants to visit a location discovered in a book. I once watched an animated short based on a book and when we visited the area, went to visit the village, and the place was as magical as it was in the short. I bought the book there and had the artist sign it - the author was on a holiday - fabulous experience :-)

Tilly Greene said...

Andrea I - yeah, me too, otherwise I skim the scene. If I can't picture it in my head, then I have no connection.

Raine Delight - I'm with you, darlin', both as a reader and a writer :-)

Pamk said...

lol I did a double take when i saw all the places you visited for research. Did you write those particular places in books so you could do the research. I know I would have lol and more places besides. I would love to travel the world if I could just afford it. Maybe after the kiddos are gone we can see more. We do travel a bit more than most folks we know now. I try to do different places every time. Sometimes that is just not feasible. But I have to be able to invision a place in the book. Doesn't necessisarily have to be a real place. I know in Sherrilyn Kenyon's book in NOLA there are places that aren't real but it gives you the same flavor you get when you visit there. I went a couple years ago and kept expecting or maybe hoping to see a werehunter or darkhunter walking down the street.

Anonymous said...


Well, I understand that you can't send your prize across the pond....phew, that would cost a pretty dollar...hehe!!!

So, don't pull my name for the contest but I'll be popping in to see who is here and to add some books to my ever growing wishlist. :))

in Germany

Jennifer Mathis said...

oh i love books with setting that are nothing like what I live at. I'm not a jetsetter but I can be in books

Kimberly B. said...

What a great question and a great giveaway! Usually the two kinds of settings I like best to read about are places I've lived, especially places I liked living in and am nostalgic for, or places I want to visit. If it's someplace I've lived before, I like the kinds of details that remind me what it was like to live there. If it's someplace I've never been, there should be details that inspire me to visit, or get me excited if I'm already planning a trip!


i like to read about places that I haven't been to give me ideas where to go on vacation.


Tilly Greene said...

Pamk - England/California I go to a couple times a year each - family :-) - and mixed with the old saying you write what you know, is often true. Others have been trips that inspired an idea or it was already planned and I merely researched as I went. The idea of taking a real place and fictionalizing it is totally doable, adds a bit of unique magic to a place.

Hallo Valerie - I'm sorry to not be able to ship abroad, but today I'm giving away a gift certificate to All Romance eBooks [bookstore and it will help with that wishlist :-)] and that can be used abroad - so you're in the bowl!

Jennifer - I like the way you think! Books are meant to take us someplace beyond our four walls and the setting helps. I'm reading one now that's set in Sweden and even though the last scene I read it was nasty weather, I would love to visit.

Kimberley B - Same here on the lived in bit, take me back there and show me some other way to enjoy it, and yet that's exactly what caused me to stop reading that author! They got a simple detail wrong and I was bugged by it - they would of been better to not mention the insignificant detail of time :-)

Loretta - absolutely! I remember or write down little things that I want to do if I ever get a chance to visit.

CrystalGB said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
CrystalGB said...

I like settings that are real or created. Some of my favorites are small towns, tropical locations, and countries I would love to visit.

Anonymous said...

I like all settings. When I read a book about Scotland (present or past time), I think "This is my favorite". Then I read a book about a ranch in Texas and think "This is my favorite". And it goes on like that with every book I read. I just like Mind-travel to every place and every time.

s7anna said...

Oh man...so much for participating in the giveaway...I live in Canada...I don't qualify *waaah*

je suis desole. :-(

I love to read stories in both real & made-up settings...I love the creative license authors have in pushing the boundaries and giving the readers a custom-made experience.


Erin said...

I like just about all settings, I love to travel and wish I could do more of it, often reading is the closest I get. I suppose I'm particularly fond of Italian and British settings if I have to choose - plus they're great places for you to visit as "research" :D

Cathy M said...

I love reading paranormal romances, and appreciate the care that an author uses in bringing us both real and imaginative settings. I don't like pages of details,(tend to skim those), just enough to get the flavor of the story.


*yadkny* said...

You are absolutely right, Tilly, sometimes authors can get a little over detailed when it comes to creating a location. The reader can become so heavily involved in trying to imagine every detail that author has set out in the description that you can loose focus as to the reason why we are there to begin with. When that happens I find myself back-reading to get back on track with the story. There needs to be a balance of enough detail, but of course every author is different, so everyone's opinion will vary. How does one go about finding that descriptionary balance? Trial and error, maybe?
As for what type of setting I like to read? Well that would be just about anything. I don't really have a preference. If an author can mix both elements of creation and reality, to me, that can make a story truly magical and something I will remember versus a setting that was strictly one or the other.

Tilly Greene said...

CrystalGB - one of the first romances I read was a tropical locale and I remember it fondly. Even though I lived at the beach, the one the author described was different - time and place - and sucked me right in that world, lovely :-)

Patsy - He he he! The book we are reading and loving is always our favorite - we are that involved in the story, love that!

s7anna - I'm sorry darlin', the cost of shipping the boxes is almost half the cost of the eReader, they're that heavy - but today I have an ARe gift certificate which I'd also love to have and throughout the month many authors are giving away an ebook as well, so it's good for everyone :-)

Now, Stella and Audra Price write series that push boundaries, and I love those books. Like your "custom-made" description, that's spot on!

Erin - for me, the reader, books are armchair travel. It's another place other than where I am, mentally and physically.

Tilly Greene said...

Cathy M - I'm with you on this. There's an author who does a couple paranormal series that I enjoy and can admit it took me three tries to get through the first book - the details and backstory were too heavy for me, but I think they figured that bit out because it doesn't happen anymore - but at the time, I was a breath away from putting it down for good.

yadkny - We as readers want to know it all, but reading shouldn't be hard work or a memory task. You're right that everyone has an opinion and it's a hard place to be for an author to be. We like to think everything we write down is necessary and perfect when sometimes we need to remember the Coco Chanel quote: "before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off." As writers, we need to take out what doesn't move the plot forwad - it may be the best sentence we ever wrote, but if it does nothing but look or sound fabulous, delete.

Stephanie said...

Hi Tilly :)

As long as a story can take me away from my everyday life I'm happy to let the writer take me where they want to go. Real, imaginary, or a mix of both if the scenery sets up the ambiance of the scene I'm okay with it. Just so the details don't roll over the main actions.

Nikki said...

That photo is beautiful!! WOW!!

With settings, I like details, but not so much detail that it takes away from the action in the story. I like to get a sense of what's around the characters, and to envision it in my mind, as If i'm there, and away from reality.

Anonymous said...

Whichever setting the author is writing, I like a medium-amount of details. Not too wordy or leaving me trying to figure out the setting.
How fun was that to research? Enjoyed reading the comments.

Tilly Greene said...

Stephanie - darlin'! Hello and how are you :-) I like how you put that - so the details don't roll over the main actions - that says it all. Give me enough as a reader so, when the phone rings, I almost look around to see where I am.

Nikki - trust me when I say the photo does not do Knaresborough justice, it's a beautiful town. It's funny how, throughout reading these comments, I've wanted to say: Calgon, take me away! Books are my calgon and it looks like they are for others as well :-)

For those who don't know Calgon, it was a bubble bath - the commercial showed a woman, after a hard day at work, looking for an escape - sound familiar?

Joye - hiya! Medium is perfect, enough to put us there, and yet enough for us to fill in how we want to see it :-)

Personally, I love the research stage of writing. On site or from a book, I take in so much and it doesn't all make it to the end, but I love the learning aspect, no matter what the subject - well, within reason, I'll never really enjoy maths - HA, watch my next hero or heroine love maths :-)

The comments have been really interesting - no writing for me today :-)

Unknown said...

Hi Tilly! I like details, details, details. *L* I like the world to be well-built whether it is made-up or real. When I read, I want to feel I am there--walking, breathing, just being. Makesense? *L*

And oh yeah, mistakes in setting drive me crazy! I keep thinking about the mistake to the point that I have actually written to the authors. *L*



Anne said...

I enjoy both real and created settings. I'm not to partial to stories which take place in the far distant future which is definitely created, but I like Urban Fantasy which can be totally created too.

I've read books which have very little setting, but they tend to be short stories or novellas and generally speaking, I like full novels with more setting.

Good luck with the contest!

booklover0226 said...

I enjoy both types of settings. I like reading about places that exist and I'm familiar with. I also like created settings, so I can use my imagination.

Tracey D
booklover0226 at gmail dot com

Jane said...

I enjoy both, but I like real settings a little more. I think it's because you feel a little excitement when you read about a place you've visited or lived at. I'm all for details and don't feel it weighs the story down when the author provides a lot of detail.

Amy said...

I enjoy both real and created settings, but one of my favorites is one I have rarely come across in my reading (doesn't mean it isn't out there, just that I haven't run into it): I love, love, love, love Puerto Rico! I have visited three times and each was as magical as the time before. The colors of the waters, the nusic everywhere, the blend of urban and rural, Spanish and English, historic and hip, the familiar and the new and exciting... Well, I'll just say I'll be going on another trip there either later this year or next year.

Lil said...

I like to read both real and imaginary settings. It is the descriptions of the area in passing or pertinent to the scenes that make the story richer and more believable to me.

Tilly Greene said...

Maithe - hiya darlin'! I am so with you! Put me right there, toes dipping in the cool water right beside them, but don't I don't want to know about the fish swimming below the surface unless it's going to be caught and ate or shift into the vilain.

I am so happy to hear you write authors about mistakes that stayed with you while reading it.

Anne - I think many people have a genre or two that they can't buy into, no matter how well it's written, and that's fine because there are so many fabulous books out there that aren't in the far distant future. You're also right about shorts, there's not much wordage dedicated to the setting, but what's there has to be even stronger so the reader can find their place :-)

Tracey D - it is a great moment to start a book and discover a place you've been before and loved, want to go to, or one you wished existed - that's when you snuggle down with a smile and don't want to close the book.

Jane - I love details, tell me about the trees surrounding the pond rustling with a slight breeze, the chilled water feeling refreshing on the hot day, the big rock to sit on and take it all in, but don't tell me about the fish swimming close to the surface unless it's going to shift into the hero or villain - then again, I'm not a big fan of fish, so that could've colored me against it coming into the tranquil setting :-).

Amy - you know what, maybe your inner writer is trying to tell you something, maybe you should dabble whilst there :-) In my mind, it is such a culturally deep country, it would need a personal touch - meaning written by someone who has been, from or is there - could be the time for PR is here.

Tilly Greene said...

Lil - "richer", I like how you put that. As an ipso facto type of person, I like details, but I don't necessarily want everything all at once. When that happens, it can feel like I'm carrying overpacked suitcases, and I have no room to add more as the story carries on :-)

Ann said...

I love any setting that draws me into the story, even if it's a place I wouldn't necessarily want to visit on my own. Although if I could ever find a way to visit Lackey's Valdemar, i'd go in a heartbeat.
As for writing, I love creating the setting, or adding creative touches to a real place (I created a mews in London in my urban fantasy).
At the moment I'm setting my stories in places I know (or have created wholecloth), but I'd love to travel, and hey if I used it in my writing I'd could write it off. :)

Nancy G said...

When reading, I love it when I can recognize places, as a certain author does with her series. She writes using my town and it works for me. But another of my favorite series' is a totally fictional town, and I'm okay with that too, as long as it fits the story.

Meg Kinch said...

I love when an author makes up a town or a city, so there aren't any mistakes or anything. I like when things are centered around a smaller town and not a big metropolis type place. I like when there is some detail but the perpetual descriptions of where the scene is set can be quite annoying.

snowl3prd said...

I like both real and created settings. As long as the author is descriptive, then created worlds can come alive.
I can't wait to read these two new books.

Fedora said...

Hi, Tilly! I love both real and created settings, as long as they're somewhat consistent within the world the author has set up. It's fun that there's so much variety in where stories are set up, because it's a great way to armchair travel, too! Thanks for sharing!

f dot chen at comcast dot net

Tilly Greene said...

Ann - When a writer makes me want to visit the created place is what I enjoy and often go back to reread again, trying to figure out what was there that made we want to step on those streets.

LOVE mews and see why you'd want to dabble with one. They are unique, separated, quiet gems in teh midst of a large city. Yeah, have passed a few of those, and the writer in me is always intrigued.

Creating the world is hard work but it's also offers an endless amount of possibilities. HA! Already thinking of the write off :-)

Nancy G - "Fits the story" is it! A writer shouldn't force it because the ill fit will eventually show. I may have been burned by that one author making the mistake, but another author used the same place - happened to have been my home town - and it worked beautifully.

Meghan - Have you been burned before? Kidding :-) I enjoy those Mayberry like settings - everything is made up and could be the town down the road or nothing like what surrounds us. Jan Karon's Mitford series comes to mind on this one.

Heather - You're right, how they manage to be descriptive is the key, especially with the created worlds. They may want to put it all there at first so the reader knows where they are but really, I want them to take their time and use the entire book to complete the picture. Give me the outline at the start and then paint it throughout to The End.

Flchen1 - So right! If every writer wrote about the same place, it wouldn't be interesting. I like it when they take a place and give readers another aspect of it - take them off main street :-)

Sue A. said...

I don't know where the fine line is between a well drawn setting and a setting that's too detailed as to cause me to skim over it. I like both real and created settings and as I don't travel much, they're mostly all new place to me. I like it if the setting is weaved into the story and made an integral part of it like an extra character rather than just the backdrop of the story.

Tilly Greene said...

Sue A - I have a feeling the feeling a setting is a backdrop is when it's given all at once [given each time the scene changes] and as the reader, you need to carry the details along with you. Your saying weaved into the story as character would be is an excellent way to describe how it should be done.

Tilly Greene said...

Jane [6:53pm], just drew your name from the bowl for a All Romance eBooks [ARe] bookstore - but I have no email addy for you.

Congrats and please get in touch with me noting an email address I can send the gc to :-)

Everyone, remember to put your address in your comment, or at the very least make sure you have a Blogger profile where it's listed. I'd hate to draw your name for the ultimate prizes and not be able to get in touch with you.

Deb830 said...

How do you like your settings? Real? Created? Heavy on the details or showing the reader nothing but what's happening on the bed?

I love that photo of Knaresborough! For me, I like both real and created settings as well as what's happening in bed. I've been fortunate enough to visit some exciting places with and w/o my family when I was young (i.e., Australia, England, Ireland, Belgium). When its real, I like it when I can say, "Oh, I remember that" or "I've been there". On the other hand, I find it amazing when a created setting is so vivid and breathtaking that you wish you could actually go there.

deb ;0)

Jane said...

Thank you, Tilly.

mrsshukra said...

Real or created settings, I like both because it adds to my enjoyment of what I'm reading -- as long as it's not described to death. I would rather the focus is on the characters!


Armenia said...

I prefer real settings. Oh I envy the trips you've taken to research your books. I relish the history behind the story which enhances my enjoyment.

Suzette said...

I prefer the real settings because it makes for dreaming of going there closer to reality. I have a dream to visit Scotland and Ireland in huge part due to reading Nora Roberts. Mind you, I do like created worlds but real is definitely awesome.

Sherry said...

I like both a lot of times a real setting wouldn't work out in a book as good as a created one. I think a lot of times it depends on the author and what kind of story their telling.


Marcia James said...

I like real settings, when they are large cities, like Washington, DC or Las Vegas. I like created settings when they're small towns, like a rural fictional town in Ohio or Virginia.

-- Marcia James ;-)
www. MarciaJames . net

Anonymous said...

This is a wonderful thing that you are doing!!

Carol L. said...

Here's another I thought for sure I had left a comment. Not here. Love the pics posted.Interesting post
Carol L.

Lovie said...

So glad I found your blog - its wonderful of you to spotlight different authors.

Rosie said...

I enjoy reading about all locations . . . it gets me away from home via book.

Booksrforever123 said...

I like some realism in settings and I'd like to be able to picture where I am at. Not enough detail leaves one wondering where the story is taking place and I agree with you about too much dragging the story out too much.

Redz World Reviews said...

Lucifer never looked so sexy, How do you keep eroticas fresh with a new angle on them?

Anonymous said...

I enjoy created and realistic - especially since my reading tastes are all over the place. Exotic locations, isolated, cityscapes - I am fan of it all. (and for the record yes the photo/line you shared for Knaresborough did make me want to visit :)!!).

Pam S

Nicole Zoltack said...

I like both. I'll read anything.

Nicole.Zoltack AT gmail.com