Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Novel set in the US but I live elsewhere

I have read (almost) all of your posts on Query Shark, so thank you. This is my question (with a short backstory, sorry):

I am an author based outside the United States, writing in English. My novel is set in the U.S. and touches on topics of race, illegal immigration and even a little on religious extremism. If I was to set it in my home country I'd run the risk of it never being published or, if published, having it confiscated by the police and my sorry self ending up needing a lawyer because I've stoked "racial/political/religious sensitivities".

It is a contemporary romance novel, by the way.

Do I need to disclose that I am submitting from outside the U.S. when I query? (1) I can imagine the questions a prospective agent would be asking themselves (ie. why this setting for this story by this writer?) before they proceed with my query.

Or should I just mention that my MC and I are both women of color and leave it at that? (2)

That's two questions, sorry (I'm Asian, we apologize a lot).

Thank you in advance for considering this question. If you tell me that all I need to worry about is the quality of my writing it will be an early Christmas present.(3)

(1) No
(2) Yes
(3) Merry Christmas, now what did you get me?

The only thing you need to focus on right now is the writing. Many of us have clients who live and work outside the United States.  I don't care about anything except the quality of the work first, and whether I want to work with you, and you want to work with me second.

Perhaps we should all sing this new Christmas theme song:

Crazy pants!
Crazy pants!
Crazy's here to stay
oh what fun obsessing is,
as we type away!

Just make sure you have a native English speaker take a look at your manuscript before you start querying. Although it's clear you have command of the language there are some things that can trip you up if it's not your first language.

Tricky little phrases like "get your goat" which is not the same thing as "get your ram" and if you have some scalawag driver trying to ram a car, you really don't want to translate that as goat a car. And goat cars aren't go carts although one would rather hope to see that someday.

And you might make sure you have a beta reader who lives in the US now. Nothing irks me more than geography mistakes. If you've got Felix Buttonweezer running south on Central Park East, in hot pursuit of his mistress who has just stolen his kale supply, well, you've got a problem larger than hot kale.


Carolynnwith2Ns said...

And, we don't use route 66 for coast to coast get-there-fast-travel and route 1 is a pain in a goat's butt. But it is, after all, about the story.

I just have to add, let this be a lesson to all of us in the US, we are still looked to as a nation which accepts opinion, and all forms of writing, as a nationalistic right. (THIS IS NOT POLITAL, IT IS A FACT OF LAW). If I knew how to italicize and bold it I would, but duh, I can't figure out how to do that while I comment here.

Opie, good luck. Your story, and how you are choosing to write it, is as intriguing as "your story".

CynthiaMc said...

Felix Buttonweezer has a mistress? So disappointed in him.

The advantage of having a husband in the hospital is I'm getting a lot more writing done since I can't sleep worth a darn. He got surgery, I got bronchitis for Christmas. Good times.

Next year I'm aiming for a new car and a beach house.

OP - my advice is get a reader from wherever you are writing about (I hope that made sense. I've been up since 1:30). I dearly love my home town but I wouldn't write about it today without running it by my friends who still live there (unless I go back in time to when I lived there).

Good luck with your WIP!

Unknown said...

Robert Ceres12/22/15, 7:41 AM
Amen to what Carolynnwith2Ns! But for the op, I would think the story might be more compelling if set in your country. Why not a pseudonym? (Says the guy from the US where there is little or no risk to publishing.) If it did get published perhaps it could be a catalyst for change, and/or be more appealing to agents/publishers/readers. Good luck, stay safe and God bless no matter where you are.


Lisa Bodenheim said...

Great morning with the goat pics.

I heard the Crazy Pants Jingo in the Lucy approved style https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GcsFcQJeycM.

Yes, Opie, I'm with 2Ns. Curious about your story. Good luck. Do you have a beta reader in the city/state that your story takes place in? Or perhaps you've been here and know the area you're writing about.

Cynthia-glad your husband came through the surgery ok.

Lucie Witt said...

CynthiaMc, hope everyone in your house is feeling better soon!

I'd second the importance of finding great U.S. readers for OP. Even just the immigration themes bring up important language choices. For example, I have a friend who is an attorney for a Refugee Ministry program. She would sooner cut off her pinkie toe than refer to someone as "illegal." My conservative grandparents, on the other hand, would not be okay with the "PC" language of "undocumented."

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Getting beta readers in the US is great advice if you do set your story in America.

My cousin, Elizabeth, lives in France- has for thirty years but many of her books are set here in US. She is a well-established writer- more than a dozen titles to her credit. I remember one visit she had here in the US where she grew up, she had me (and much of the family) running all over the South to research her setting for The Dwelling Place, at least I think that was the one. Also, she often has to reacquaint herself with dialect and idioms from region to region. The US is massive and more diverse than we realize sometimes so perhaps make sure your beta readers know the area you are writing about. Have a New Yorker review your manuscript if it's New York or fall into the Felix Buttomweazer delimma Janet mentions :) I would have trouble setting a story in New York and I have family and friends there.

Like Cynthia, I don't think I would ever set something in my home town, even though I love it. I am too close to have perspective. (Cynthia, I am glad your husband pulled through. I hope his recovery goes smoothly, but it's great you are able to write. )

OP, I think you will be fine setting your story here, but I would echo the advice of Robert Ceres. Why not set your story in your own country, use a pen name for safety, and publish here? If that would better serve your story that is. Publishing here should be no problem. My cousin's publisher is American, her agent is Scottish, but his agency has offices in US. It can be done one way or another. Good luck.

Colin Smith said...

Questions like this do, or should, make us consider how blessed we are to live in a country where this kind of situation isn't an issue. May we never take it for granted.

As others have said, Opie, if English isn't your first language, make sure you have a native speaker or two go over your query and ms before submitting, even if you're fairly fluent (which appears to be the case). English that's technically correct may not be colloquially correct, and someone who lives where your novel is set will have a good ear for that. All the best to you! :D

Anonymous said...


If your book is done, all the above advice is just fantastic. These people are very clever. You should listen to them early and often.

But if your book isn't done yet, forget all that nonsense about location and beta readers and properly oriented streets. Focus on the plot. More than anything - write a story that makes sailors swoon. Then worry about beta readers.

I suppose the reason I say this is because I've found myself wondering about the wrong things at the wrong times often in my own writing, and at those times I wish someone would slap me in the face. I get preoccupied with which agents would like my book before I pen the first line. Or I tinker with the plot of my second book in a series before the first book is done.

There's the horse. Then the cart. And then I'm a few miles up the road on foot.

I just wanted to mention this in case you needed to hear it. :) If not, carry on and ignore me! :)

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Colin, you are so right. The liberties we take for granted- how blessed we are indeed. And we should remember how fortunate we are lest we lose those precious gifts. There is nothing more fragile than Liberty - which once lost to a generation never comes to them again. Freedom is so easily conquered. All it takes is silence and the fear of what is not being said.

OP, you are so courageous to tell your story in a place where silence is expected and speaking can have such dire consequences.

Let us pray we never come to that here in America I would rather endure the slings and arrows of raised voices in heated debate where we will never all agree than the stillness of oppression. I fear, most Americans, have no idea what true oppression looks like. Hence, we take these simple liberties for granted.

Colin Smith said...

It was a warm winter’s day at Kale Farm when Felix Buttonweazer pulled himself out of bed.

“Felix! Felix” his mother screamed, her feet pounding up the stairs, the rest of her following close behind.

What now? Felix thought as his bedroom door burst open.

“Stop using italics, young man!” his mother said. “It’s bad for your eyes.”

“Sorry. What now?”

“The goats! The goats!”

“What of the goats?” Felix said,
Pulling a shirt over his head.
The goats have gone! They’ve disappeared.
Felix sat and scratched his beard.
“I don’t have a beard, and why are we rhyming?”
“It must be me, and my excellent timing!”

“Stop it! Stop it! Now get to your point. The goats have gone? Where?”

“I don’t know,” his mother said. “I went to feed them and the paddock was empty.”

Felix pulled on some shoes, then hurried out.

“Wait! Felix! Your pants!” But he was already out the back door.

A warm December breeze wafted among the kale stalks which would have trembled had there been any leaves on them. Felix noticed the broken fence.

“They’ve eaten the kale!” Tears came to his eyes. “The goats have eaten our kale! What are we to do?!”

“You can stop using so many exclamation points, that’s what you can do,” said his mother, catching up with him. “They become meaningless otherwise, like this story.”

“But the goats and the kale—they’ve gone!”

“You need to go find them, son. That’s what you’ve got to do. I’ll tidy up.”

Felix went to the garage, only to find a large hole in the door.

“Mom! Come quick!”

Mrs. Buttonweazer ran to her son’s side and gaped into the empty garage.

“They stole the goat cart.”

Now we’re in trouble.

“Don’t italicize in front of your mother! Wait—look, there.” Mrs. Buttonweazer pointed to the floor. The dirty hoof marks were distinctive.

“The Ram Brothers. The goats didn’t get free. They were broken out.”

“This is serious,” said Felix. “Call the police.”

To Be Continued...

nightsmusic said...

I can forgive Felix running south on Central Park East provided the story is worth every word that's in it. And that's the crux of the matter in a nutshell. Do you want your geography correct? Of course! The customs, mannerisms and dialect appropriate for the setting? Absolutely. However, every writer will make the occasional mistake. It's inevitable. But an engaging, engrossing story will cover those mistakes and bring the reader back again.

Susan said...

Cynthia: I hope you and your husband warm get-well wishes!

Colin: Your stories crack me up.

OP: I can't imagine wanting to write and tell a story with that kind of lingering fear--no matter how fictional--or otherwise--it is. Bravo to you for finding a way to write and pursue your dream around that, although I wish it didn't have to be so. Good luck to you!

Here's a question with regards to setting: does it have to be a real country/city/town? Even in contemporary novels, unless there's a plot-related reason or descriptions of famous landmarks that ground us in a specific place, like NYC, can't settings be based off of real places but still fictionalized? As a writer and a reader, what does that mean for the story?

For example, Rainbow Rowell often sets her books in or around Omaha, Nebraska (she specifically states this). I've personally never been to Nebraska, so as a reader, I simply envision whatever she describes, but it doesn't matter if it's true-to-form or not. On the flip side, Liz Curtis Higgs once wrote a book set in my town. I remember I was excited at first (no one ever writes about my town), but it pulled me from the story after a bit because I kept saying, "wait a minute," and trying to picture where she was describing.

I'm asking for my own curiosity, too: I grew up in Pennsylvania, so my books are all set in a town that has our seasons, suburbia and the countryside, historic downtowns, etc, but it's all fictionalized and never named. Even The Damn Novel, set in a small port town in Northern France, is made-up, even though it has a mix of characteristics of places that exist. These fictional representations are what I see in my head, so it's what I write, and I think it lends itself to a sort of freedom for myself as both a writer and a reader.

Now I'm really curious how you all choose your settings...

Dena Pawling said...

I set my stories in fictional places. Yes, they are US, but I usually don't specifically mention the state [altho they are based on CA, because that's where I live]. One is at the mouth of a canyon, and the other is in a beach town. I live at the mouth of a canyon about 10 miles from the coast, so it's not a stretch to set the stories where I did. I chose those settings because those are the settings that serve the story best, but I made them fictional towns so I can take liberties with certain things.

CynthiaMc – so glad your husband's surgery went well. Hope you both feel better soon. Will he be released before Christmas? Several years ago my husband had emergency surgery three days after Christmas, and he didn't come home until after New Year's Day. My kids were not happy about that holiday without their dad home.

Colin Smith said...


PC McGarrett pulled up in the Kale Farms driveway, his car following close behind.

“'Ello, 'ello, wots all this then?” he said as he approached the Buttonweezers.

“Mother, did you dial 911?”

Mrs. Buttonweezer sighed.

“Sorry, no, I dialed 999.”

“PC McGarrett of the BBPSD at your service,” said McGarrett, removing his helmet.

“Bad British Police Stereotype Division,” Felix sighed. “Oh well. Maybe he can help. They know about goats over there.”

“That’s ‘Bobby’ to you, guvnah, not ‘Police’. Now, how may I be of assistance?”

“The Ram Brothers have stolen our goats,” said Felix. PC McGarrett pulled a notepad and pencil from the top pocket of his uniform.
“Let’s get some particulars first. Name?”

“Felix Buttonweezer.”

“Feel whose buttock…?”

Mrs. Buttonweezer gently pulled her son’s sleeve.

“Careful, Felix,” she whispered. “He’s British. Probably raised on Benny Hill, and liable to make a double entendre out of anything. Just humor him, and don’t mention your dongle.”

“Felix Buttonweezer. B-U-T-T-O-N-W-E-E-”

“Wait a minute,” said McGarrett. “In the first part you were Buttonweazer, with an A. Wots all that about?”

“I was so excited I misspelled. Can we get back to the case?”

“Stolen goats you say. The Ram Brothers. Interesting.”


“Well, we 'ad a call just 'alf an hour ago about some goats in a car going south on Central Park East.”

“We don’t have a Central Park here.”

“They wuz in New York City.” PC McGarrett put his helmet back on his head. “Right then, we’d better be off. Hot pursuit and all that. You coming?”

“Car chase? You bet!” Felix grinned.

“Oughtn’t you put some trousers on then? No, don’t bother. No time. Let’s go!”

To Be Continued...?

BJ Muntain said...

OP, you are so brave to write something like that where you are, no matter where you base it. Kudos.

Cynthia: Ouch. The surgery was bad enough. Adding bronchitis is like eating a particularly sour piece of kale - kale is bad enough. Hope you both feel much better soon.

Susan: No, places in fiction don't have to be real places, as long as they feel like real places.

Anonymous said...

Warning, this is going to be another long one.

First off. Congratulations to the original questioner. Your English is very good. Second, good luck with this book. You show a lot of courage.

Janet, of course, has given you sound advice.

Carolynn, Colin, E.M., and others, you're absolutely correct. We are so very blessed to live in this country. My father used to say every young person in America ought to serve in the military, not only to give back to the country, but also so they might travel and see how the rest of the world lives. If they did, they'd be a lot more appreciative.

Will, youngest son who has traveled thanks to the Army (though I'm not sure how much the sandbox counts) certainly does.

Anyway, a couple of years ago, Will called and said, "I want to move to China."

After I picked myself off the floor, I asked why.

China has just banned time travel." If they banned it, they must have it. I want to go back six months and rewind my life."

I certainly agree with getting an American to beta read.

At Surrey Eileen Cook commented on the dialogue in RAIN CROW telling her the story was set in the antebellum south without beating her over the head with "y'alls".

I used to cover the Louisiana race tracks and loved visiting with my Cajun trainers. Some of the writers hated it as a few were kind of hard to understand. One older gentleman was particularly difficult if you weren't familiar with him. He drove a New York writer we had for a while insane.

Cajun trainer, "Miss Julie! How da hell you are? I hadn't talked to you in a coon's age."

"I know, Cajun Trainer, it's been far too long. I've missed visiting with you."

"You know, I was talking to dis little horse an' told him, 'Now, Streak, we hadn't talked to Miss Julie for four or three months. You got to go win dis race so dat girl will call us. Yessiree, dat's exactly what I told da little peckerwood, and lookee here. He done went out and win dat damn race by three lengths. Whooeee, you shoulda been here. When you gonna come see us, huh?"

Obviously, a person wouldn't want to write a novel like that, James Lee Burke doesn't, but you can throw in the speech patterns to set your location.

I interviewed Lyle Sankey a bit ago for COWGIRLS WANTED. I was going to open the story at one of their schools in Abbeyville, KS since I had been there and a woman trying to learn how to ride saddle broncs was there. We visited for a while and he suggested I talk to another lady bronc rider who attended their school in Washington. So, now I need to scrap what I had and change to Washington. I'll have to do some research to get the setting right. Incorrect details in a story throw me completely out. That's why I read few westerns or horse stories. Western romances aside from Kari Lynn Dell's are straight on out of the question. I've toyed with writing a real western romance someday, but I would be burned at the stake for blasphemy.

Lucie, I love Snoopy.

Captain, "There's the horse. Then the cart. And then I'm a few miles up the road on foot."

Heh, that made me laugh and want to steal that line.

I always have two books going at once. It may be the second in the series, but usually it's something completely different. Why write the second in the series if you don't sell the first? However, when I'm hung up on something in the main wip, I work on the second one until the boys in the back unravel the plot knot.

I love those goats. I actually dated a boy with a "goat" car. The GTOs used to be affectionately referred to as goats.

Janice Grinyer said...

CynthiaMC - Sending healing wishes and Happy Christmas's to your Husband, you and your family!

And pertaining to today's topic - even if English is your FIRST language, I would advise Beta-readers whose English is their first language also; same thing for geographical issues for reviewing your work here in the states :D

Okay, back to our guests. We had another two inches of snow fall last night, and today we had planned a hike - may have to get out the snowshoes. Yesterday we saw Elk - Montana certainly lives up to its reputation when it comes to the wildlife nature aspect for out of town guests :D

And if my writing fails me, I could open up a Lodge for large appetite eaters. I have made enough food in the last two weeks to last all winter...Baklava, pumpkin pie, creamy mashed potatoes and Brined Turkey leftovers anyone?

Mister Furkles said...

topics of race, illegal immigration and... religious extremism

OP: You may have written a political essay as a novel. The problem with those is that they are boring. Both John Grisham and Michael Crichton have done that but first they had written many successful novels and consequently it did not affect sales. The two biggest problems with politics as a novel are: (1) the characters have all the depth and color of monochromatic paper dolls, and (2) the plot is transparently obvious from the first few pages.

If that is the case, consider pulling out the politics and enhance the characters to show them as real people.

Of course, as Lucie points out, you may also be at risk of losing half of the reading public before any other consideration.

Carolyn of the Twin Inns:
Use left and right angle brackets < and >. To start italics use 'i' between them and to end use '/i' between them. For bold, it's the same except use 'b'. The if this works the above is both bold and italics.

Craig F said...

I have a tendency to think of this in terms of resonance. The story needs to resonate with your readers. My current WIP is an American story set in France and Switzerland. It is an American story because of the mindset and thought process of the characters.

The American market can read British books, if they don't go too far with the idioms (see Colin's story), because the mindset is close. It is close because of commonalities in history and Language.

No matter how well translated books are into English they are hard reads. There are a lot that are worth the effort but they don't completely resonate with the American mindset.

In a contemporary romance novel it will be very hard to build the nuance Americans are used to. It can be done but there are very many places to trip up. Don't hesitate to ask for help, as our Queen has prescribed.

BJ Muntain said...

Mister Furkles: OP said it touches on those topics, not that it was about those topics. It's a contemporary romance.

Unfortunately, there are countries where even touching on something like that (perhaps an interracial romance) can get one in deep doodoo.

Craig F said...


My big WHOA SHIT moment for this year
How pollution might have saved my life:

I was supposed to go to China about two weeks ago. The manufacturing process on my last product needed to be redone. Just before I left a weather inversion landed there and the air pollution spiked incredibly.

To lower that pollution the Chinese government went into emergency mode. Part of that was to cut electrical output. Foreign businesses got the most severe cuts. The trip got put off until early next year.

Last time I was there I asked why their plant was where it was. They said they were assigned the spot by the government.That plant was in Shenzhen. If you saw the picture in yesterday's paper you can see the spot I would have been. You can not see the building though, it was totally demolished by that landfill collapse.

Kate Larkindale said...

As a writer living in NZ, but published and agented in the US, I don't set my books in any specific place. I write contemp YA, and I feel like the locations are recognizable. Towns have names, but they're names that could be anywhere. In one book, my MC moves to 'the city'. I didn't name it on purpose because the city could be London, Sydney, Berlin, New York or anywhere else with a subway system. Readers can imagine it for themselves, depending on their experiences and what I describe through the characters' eyes.

CynthiaMc said...

Dena and everyone - thank you for all your well wishes. They have helped immensely. I'm back at the hospital with Hubby today. Fingers crossed he can go home tomorrow. Pain appears to be under control now and he's doing physical therapy. All I want for Christmas is him back home.

Brigid said...

Cynthia, glad he's on the mend. My FIL was just hospitalized yesterday, and it's got us all a bit upset. If you're the praying sort, please remember me and mine, and I'll remember you and yours.

CynthiaMc said...

Julie, you just made me homesick for my Uncle Sid and the Cajun branch of our family down in Empire, Louisiana.

CynthiaMc said...

Absolutely. My prayer list expands to infinity. Wishing you the best.

John Frain said...

Okay, I usually read all the comments before I comment so I'm less redundant than in real life, but I had to skip from 9:18 am till now all because of this:

“Don’t italicize in front of your mother!"

Priceless!, I thought, with my mother nowhere nearby.

Okay, back to regularly ordered comments until my phone interrupts again...

BJ Muntain said...

Oh wow, Craig. That is so bone-tingling... wow. Someone was definitely watching over you.

I'm so glad that it worked that way for you. We value you here.

Praying for Brigid and her family, and Cynthia and hers - and sending praise for Craig's good 'luck'.

CynthiaMc said...

Janet, apologies in advance if I'm posting too much today but it's boring up here and I am writing, too.

I worked at this very hospital for 9 years and knew almost every inch (at least the surgery floors, ICU and trauma). 4 years away (I transferred to a sister hospital in another area) and a remodel later and I have no idea
where I am. It's been a weird experience of familiar places and two steps later entire wings that weren't there before. I just went down a new hallway and caught sight of the old entrance and the old cafeteria. It was surreal. Like going back in time.

And then it hit me. When I worked with my surgeons I was writing a time travel about a doctor who came back to the hospital named for him. That was inspired by 3 generations of surgeons having an argument at my desk over which generation practiced the best medicine. I loved the idea but set it aside when I left from down here. Today I know exactly how my old doc summoned from the past felt walking down corridors he used to practically live in, seeing no one he knew when he used to know everyone, lost in his own hospital. I have no idea where that manuscript went, but I'm writing it. Because now I know exactly how he must have felt.

I saw one of my old surgery residents yesterday in the waiting room. We didn't get to talk. I was with Hubby's surgeon and he was with his patient's family but we waved and smiled at each other across the room. He was one of my favorite residents and it did my heart good to see how well he's doing now. So proud of him.

Okay, that's it for me. Going to pick up Daughter from work. I have one more night to get the house in shape and will Christmas it tonight since Hubby insists that I go home after dinner and get a good night's sleep (little does he know I'll probably be writing all night).

Steve Stubbs said...

Great post. One question: when I lived in Manhattan I used to go east on Central Park South, but I never did go south on Central Park East. I know there was a storm there a few years ago. Did it turn the island 90 degrees?

John Frain said...

Regarding setting, I'm reading Lee Child's Make Me right now and Child plays with setting the way a lot of authors do and I'm taking it to heart.

This story is set in a fictional town called Mother's Rest. He doesn't even name the state, although clues will lead most readers to surmise Kansas. So he can create anything he wants in the town of Mother's Rest.

At the same time, parts of the story also take place in Oklahoma City, Los Angeles and elsewhere where he describes specifics (like the LA Times building and a hotel in West Hollywood) that need to reflect real life.

So take the cue from that, and may others: You're allowed to use both real life and fictional life when creating setting. But don't let the two mix.

Colin Smith said...

The goats were nowhere to be found when PC McGarrett and Felix Buttonweezer arrived at Central Park, but they had left their hoof prints in the grass, and their muddy marks on the pathways.

Lots of young people were out getting a tan for Christmas, so Felix and McGarrett asked if they had seen five goats led by a couple of rams getting into a car and driving away. No-one had noticed anything.

McGarrett and Buttonweezer turned to leave when a man in a large raincoat and flip flops approached them. He pulled his trilby to shadow his eyes.

“Ya lookin’ for some goats in a car?” he murmured to them.

“Yes!” said Felix.

“They headed south on Broadway. I heard one of the rams say something about catching a show.”

Felix and McGarrett jumped in the car and sped off.

“Look! That’s my goat cart!” said Felix, pointing at the car with the fluffy white tail going 60 miles per hour as it turned from Broadway onto 52nd Street. They followed close behind, left down 42nd Street, north on 12th Street, three loops around the Empire State Building, a sharp turn around the Statue of Liberty, and under the Eiffel Tower, until they finally zoomed past Big Ben where the goat cart crashed into the Washington Monument.

McGarrett and Felix pulled up behind them, but the goats ran from the broken cart before they could get close.

“Hey, yous guys!”

They turned to see a policeman approaching.

“What’s the meaning of this?” he said.

“And you are…?” said McGarrett.

“Sergeant Baloney, BAPSD. Now would one of yous bozos explain why I got goats running amuck on my streets?”

“Bad American Police Stereotype Division,” McGarrett whispered to Felix.

“And that’s 'cop' if ya don’t mind, Limey!”

“My goats escaped,” Felix began, but before he could say another word, Sergeant Baloney was slapping cuffs on his wrists.

“I’m arresting you for letting goats drive a vehicle without a license, for criminal neglect of comment rules, and for grievous mental harm with a blunt story…”

“And that,” Felix said to the Carkoon Chronicle reporter, “is how I ended up here.”

RachelErin said...

The comments about finding beta readers from specific geographical locations led me to check out the map with all of the blog readers on it. I'm sure most of us wouldn't mind getting pinged by another blog reader with a request for a location-based beta read (even if we couldn't help for some reason).

I love reading books set in Chicago, South Dakota, the North East, anywhere I've lived. A well-described location is like a beautiful coloring book, with just the right amount of detail, and I get to color in the lines.

But usually I don't connect to things set in Italy. The writer's version never matches the mood, people, or place I remember from living there. I've often wondered why - lots of authors write books set in places they've never lived in (that I know well) and completely convince me.

I think it has to do with the "mindset" mentioned above. Most of the books (and movies) set in the Italy still have a US mindset, and portray a US vision of the country. So having people read for "mindset," as fuzzy as that is, is probably as important for someone in the OP's position as being accurate in other respects.

Anonymous said...


Was it a cart like this?

My mother brought a billy goat home for me once in her car. It took months to get the stink out. That was back when I had illusions of being a champion goat tyer.


Christina Seine said...

Cynthia, glad your husband is better. Now YOU get better!

Colin - you're killing me! =D

Dena - That's it, I'm moving in with you.

Julie - my husband wants goats one of these days. I stand firmly in the camp of wanting a wee Dexter cow instead. Because goats stinketh muchly.

Craig - Holy Cow! Thank God for crazy coincidences!

Brigid - prayers for your FIL. I hope he gets better soon.

Also, geographical accuracy does matter. Unless you're a map maker, apparently. If you're a map maker, Alaska can float off the coast of Baja California and that's okay. If that were true it would be better than okay, but it's not. Seems a bit spiteful if you ask me.

Janet - a Christmas gift for you:

Christmas in Carkoon (sung to the tune of Let It Snow)

Oh, the publishing world is frightful.
But Janet’s blog’s delightful
For wee woodland creatures who write.
Janet’s right, Janet’s right, Janet’s right.

Some writers get downright teary
When it’s finally time to query.
But on this blog you’ll see the light.
Janet’s right, Janet’s right, Janet’s right.

When our queries we all don’t botch
How we’ll thank our fierce single-finned teacher
We will buy her a fifth of scotch
and kidnap and bring her Jack Reacher.

Oh the lessons we learned from Chum Bucket
All the times we all almost said … forget it!
For flash fiction that’s out of sight,
Janet’s right Janet’s right, Janet’s right.
(Sing it, minions!)
For good times morning, noon and night,
Janet’s right Janet’s right, Janet’s right.
Her blog family is really tight.
Janet’s right Janet’s right, Janet’s right.

Unknown said...

Sometimes there is nothing more to say, so I'll say nothing. (BTW this keeps me to under 100 words.)

Karen McCoy said...

Street views in Google Maps can often be helpful, as are travel books (if local libraries don't have them available for check-out, see if you can access them through Amazon or worldcat.org). I had a novel set in a magical version of 19th century Ireland, and I was lucky enough to get to the country and have a look around. I emailed a library in Tralee beforehand, and they were kind enough to have records and archival material available when I arrived. Also, a lot of libraries are becoming digitized, and have their collections view-able via the internet, provided there aren't too many firewalls to jump through.

Regardless of all else, Janet is right--keep writing!

BJ Muntain said...

Janet's right, Janet's right, Janet's riiiiiiight....

Julie's YouTube link

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

If this doesn't work, Reiders that have slimmed the comments will wonder what the blazes is she doing.
I hope it worked. If not, I'm done trying to be e-savey.

Anonymous said...

I received some brochures, pictures, and information about two locations I'm using in RAIN CROW today. I contacted some museums and chambers of commerce in the area. They were not only very helpful, but referred me to other organizations who had information for me also. I've always been very fortunate to find people who love to share information about their areas.

Craig, that is so scary. I'm glad you missed your trip.

Cynthia, I'm so glad he may be coming home soon.

Brigid, prayers already sent for your FIL and your family.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Oh well, it didn't work. Sorry for the extra nonsense.

Megan V said...

Cynthia—very glad to hear that your husband may be coming home soon.

Colin Smith said...

Julie: Not quite, but that's a fascinating story--thanks for sharing. And wow--goat tying! The things you learn here... :)

Christina: Excellent! Yes--Janet's right, Janet's right, Janet's right.

BJ: Thanks for doing the linkifying for me. :)

Colin Smith said...

2Ns: I'm tempted to post a tutorial on how to italicize and bold... but I'm afraid Janet would hate me for it. :)

John Frain said...


Autocorrect just sent a message: they're taking the rest of the night off. Too dizzy from trying to change your message!

I was so confused, I read "slimming" to mean people who were shortening their messages to keep it under 100 words. Then I realized, oh, she means skimming!

(Any excuse to throw italics in these days!)

John Frain said...


If the next Odd Couple movie features Buttonweezer and a British McGarrett, we'll all have your back when you go to collect royalties. I was sorry to see The End (even if it was in bold italics). Was hoping the last entry for tonight would be Cont'd and you'd pick up chapter 5 tomorrow morning.

You don't even need seed words anymore!

Anonymous said...

Carolyn, it's easy. Really. Do this:

(i) words you want italicized (/i)
(b) words in bold (/b)

EXCEPT, instead of parentheses, use the pointy brackets. The slash tells the computer when to stop.

Nothing to add to the advice to the poster other than Good Luck!

Craig, so glad you weren't there!

Anonymous said...

OOOPS! I left off one of your NNs! Mea culpa.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

kd said I could

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

It worked it worked. Watch out, I will be driving Janet crazy.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

And I did it on my Kindle rear-view mirror screen. UGH.

BJ Muntain said...

Yay 2Ns!

Unknown said...

CynthiaMc - best wishes for a complete recovery for both of you. :-)

I'm going to be singing "Janet's right..." all day. Maybe I can teach the song to fellow shoppers.

Back in 2009, there was a charming young Scot at Thrillerfest who had just received an advance of $800,000. on a 3 book deal. I was curious about the NYC setting for the first book, since he didn't live in the States. On the first page of the book, he mentioned that November was the worst time of the year for weather on the Eastern Seaboard. Decidedly not, as any New Yorker knows. It gets much worse in January. He spent time there while doing research. He had fact checkers. But, he also had a pretty good story. And, he had that $800K firmly in hand.

DLM said...

2Ns, congratulations!

Is it wrong that I am more shocked to learn Felix has a beard than to learn he has a mistress?

Julie, I love your son's logic (and GTOs!), and am immensely grateful for all those who serve or have served.

Craig, thank goodness you are safe, and Brigid - may the prayers be with you and yours. Cynthia, post as you need to, surely we all understand.

Yesterday, my boss's autocorrect wished me a FELIX NAVIDAD. Of all places in the world, this wish can have no greater currency (nor layers, as I'm sure some of you know Latin) than here. FELIX NAVIDAD to all, and to all a good night ...

RussellA said...

Happy Holidays all!
I've found Google Earth to be a good resource for scenes involving building descriptions, street routes, neighborhood settings, etc. I have a beta reader in my foreign locations who follows up, but we've found the info from GE to be fairly accurate.

Emi PdeS said...

Hurrah to how things seem to be progressing for all since the start of this thread!

As a complete tangent, Janet's goat comment resonated strongly with me. My parents were working on their Masters' degrees at UC Berkeley when I was a small child, and my family subsequently returned to our home country. As a result, when I (re)immigrated to the US, I found I have a good command of grammar and no accent - but struggle to no end with slang. I've been living here for almost two decades now, and can enjoy the idioms and voices now, but I won't tell you the story about how I learned the difference between "knocked out," "knocked down," and "knocked up."

Anonymous said...


"On the first page of the book, he mentioned that November was the worst time of the year for weather on the Eastern Seaboard."

Stuff like that will certainly trip a person up and there's really no reason for it. If someone wanted readers to believe they were familiar with West Texas, they'd mention the annual ice storm that blows into town with the Odessa rodeo. Every year a storm comes in the first couple of weeks of January. Other than that, there aren't many guarantees.

The winter of 1860-1861 was extremely warm. Cherry and peach trees bloomed early in Washington DC. However, in the spring, floods hit Virginia wiping out three major bridges. It's important to know these things and the information is available.

I despised THE HORSE WHISPERER. I know, shock. I could absolutely see the author sitting down talking to a horse trader and eagerly writing down every tired old, cliche horse trader joke. The author giggles maniacally and scribbles down each pearl, "Oh, yes! I have to use that!"

Sometimes an author needs to know when not to use information they gather even if it is fascinating. Research information can be like spices. You need enough to flavor the cake without overwhelming it.

Of course, he has $800,000 and I have a fan club for a book I haven't written. What do I know?

Unknown said...


I have a similar situation - a great fan club, but not the 800K. One of these days, maybe we'll have both. Maybe in that world we're allowed to have whispering horses, and cherry trees blossoming in NYC in November. ;-)