Tag Archives: Stephanie Plum

Location, Location, Location

by Lillian Csernica on July 16, 2013

English: The Hill House Inn, Happisburgh 16th ...

English: The Hill House Inn, Happisburgh 16th Century coaching in where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote the book “The Adventure of the Dancing Men” in 1903. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My recent trip to the Winchester Mystery House got me to thinking about the importance of setting.  Having been a slush pile reader as well as a reviewer, I’ve read stories where the potential in the setting could have been put to much better use.  I’ve also seen the setting dominate the action to the exclusion of a genuine plot.  Unique locations can add considerable depth and atmosphere to a story, enhancing character and complicating the plot.

Plum Spooky by Janet Evanovich   The key setting in this installment of the Stephanie Plum series is the New Jersey pine barrens, complete with the Jersey Devil and a few other quite colorful characters.  The plot twists and the comedy in the story could not happen the same way without being set in this lonely, spooky, and above all muddy location.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey   The highly structured environment of a mental ward provides the critical setting for the clash of wills between Murphy and Big Nurse.

The Sonchai Jitpleecheep series by Jim Burdett   The mysteries Det. Jitpleecheep must solve could only happen in Bangkok, that city of exotic splendor where to foreigners it seems like anything goes.  Bangkok, with its particular style of Buddhism, its pollution and corruption and amazing beauty, is a character in and of itself.

The works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle   Here again we have a city that becomes a character in the stories set inside its alleyways and majestic buildings.  Sir Arthur knew London so well, right down to the very timetables of the trains, that the city comes alive and is by turns both ally and enemy to Sherlock Holmes.

Stories that take place aboard the RMS Titanic.   So much fiction and nonfiction has been written about the many tragedies surrounding the Titanic, its construction, its maiden voyage, and its disastrous end.  Even though we know the ending, the Titanic continues to figure in the minds of storytellers.

The setting of a story can be so much more than just the backdrop, just the furniture on the stage where the characters act out their scenes.  The setting can have its own vitality, temper, gifts, and demands.  Such marvelous dramatic potential cannot be allowed to go to waste.

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Filed under fantasy, Fiction, Horror, Humor, Uncategorized, Writing

Reinventing my personal space

by Lillian Csernica on March 12, 2013

Three months ago my husband and I bought a house and moved in.  What did I unpack first?  The manuscript, notes, notebooks, and other miscellanea involved in my current novel.  Then I went into the garage and began the excavation required to locate the boxes that contained my Japanese reference library (the novel is set in Satsuma, Japan, 1867).  Next came my favorite fiction, one whole shelf devoted to Terry Pratchett‘s Discworld books and another to Janet Evanovich‘s Stephanie Plum series and another to Jim Butcher‘s Dresden Files.  I find these series to be inspirational.  Not only is the quality of the writing great for recharging my word batteries, seeing the commitment those authors have made to producing novel after novel after novel gives me concrete motivation to do the same.  I’m still looking for the boxes that hold my collection of ghost story anthologies.  I love a good ghost story, especially from turn of the century authors such as A.M. Burrage and Marjorie Bowen.  I’ll find them.

The point here is simple.  Underwear and a toothbrush and caffeine and those other daily necessities can be acquired easily enough.  The exterior space you live in affects your interior life.  I now own the space I live in, both outside and in.  I must take care to avoid unnecessary clutter.  I must surround myself with all that is positive, nourishing, and uplifting, sights and sounds and smells and textures that will support me as I labor through each day, writing the fireworks and sword fights and love scenes as well as helping John with his homework and listening to Michael struggle to tell me about his day.

Beware unwanted clutter.  Beware even more so unloved clutter that stirs up bad memories.  Feng shui says such clutter gets between you and what you really want, slowing you down and sucking away your energy and sabotaging your dreams.  I still have boxes to unpack and tchotchkes to deal with, but I shall be ruthless in the defense of the spaces where I dream, both in my office and in my heart.


Filed under Family, fantasy, Fiction, Uncategorized, Writing