Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Catch Fire! CassaFire

Yesterday marked the official release date of Alex J. Cavanaugh's novel, CassaFire. I'm sorry I missed posting yesterday, but it was a day that I felt very needed . . . by my kids, by friends, and by my parents . . .my phone rang constantly, homeschool lesson seemed tough, and I was extremely thankful for the time I had to write last night so I focused on my own novel.

Catch Fire! is awesome celebration that includes blog hopping for Alex, prizes, and awesome bloggers giving Alex the credit he deserves. 

Alex is an encouraging blog buddy for many, and a writer who's work focuses on relationships in the midst of adventure. Both of his books, CassaStar and CassaFire, show us what brotherly love really looks like in action.

Here's the official blurb for CassaFire:

by Alex J. Cavanaugh

CassaStar was just the beginning…

The Vindicarn War is a distant memory and Byron’s days of piloting Cosbolt fighters are over. He has kept the promise he made to his fallen mentor and friend - to probe space on an exploration vessel. Shuttle work is dull, but it’s a free and solitary existence. The senior officer is content with his life aboard the Rennather.

The detection of alien ruins sends the exploration ship to the distant planet of Tgren. If their scientists can decipher the language, they can unlock the secrets of this device. Is it a key to the Tgren’s civilization or a weapon of unimaginable power? Tensions mount as their new allies are suspicious of the Cassan’s technology and strange mental abilities.

To complicate matters, the Tgrens are showing signs of mental powers themselves; the strongest of which belongs to a pilot named Athee, a woman whose skills rival Byron’s unique abilities. Forced to train her mind and further develop her flying aptitude, he finds his patience strained. Add a reluctant friendship with a young scientist, and he feels invaded on every level. All Byron wanted was his privacy…

And here's the awesome book trailer:

Because Amazon likes to surprise their customers with early releases, I managed to get my copy of CassaFire for my Kindle a few days early, and I'll be posting a review at Amazon and Goodreads later today. If you don't know Alex, and you haven't read his books, go meet him at his blog and read his books. You'll be impressed. Follow these links:
Alex J. Cavanaugh and CassaFire at Amazon

Monday, February 27, 2012

Evil Genius Blogfest

Hosted by The Golden Eagle for her two year blogaversary, this blogfest gave me the impetus I needed to spend some time with my villainess from The Crystal Sword.          
       Sihrqayya surveyed the map of Aratir with cold calculation. Flags, stained with the blood of her enemies, were pinned to every country where she ruled through her followers.

                On the continent of Nornen, a lone brown flag flew alongside the flag of Septily. That brown flag represented the traitor. Sihrqayya let out a hiss as the multifaceted crystal on her neck chain glowed red on one side. She tapped the crystal with her magic, and a beam of light shot out of it and coalesced into an image of King Alexandros cowering in his chambers. “You have finished your work?” she asked.

                He trembled and curled the sleeves of his robe in his fingers. “No, Sihrqayya, I wanted your leave to start.”

                Sihrqayya went hot with rage. “You have had my orders for two weeks. What has caused this delay? Your son?”

                King Alexandros nervously twitched his head down and then up. “I had a vision.”

                “A vision more important than the reward you seek from me, and the task I gave to you?”

                “No, my lady, but I thought my son might cause me trouble if –

“Don’t lie to me,” she snarled. “Attack the Triune Halls at once, or I shall punish you severely.” She touched a spot on her wrist, and Alexandros writhed in pain.

“Yes, dark mistress,” he gasped.

With another tap of power, Sihrqayya closed the speaking spell, and rang a bell in her war room.

Charlissa, her trusted servant, came at once.

“Pack my travel bag and make ready my mount. The situation in Skycliff needs my personal touch.”

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Sick Day Reviews

The last few days I've had that stuffy head, sore throat, coughy, dizzy feeling which has been awful. My house is a mess. However, I allowed myself some reading time yesterday . . . actually several hours worth of reading time, in between sleeping on the couch moments. I still have a pile of books I want to read, but I had a bunch of uninterrupted reading time yesterday. Here are my reviews for some  of those books, plus one movie.

Rising Book 1: Resistance by Larua JosephsenLaura Josephsen made my day yesterday. I stumbled across a recommendation for this at Alex. J. Cavanaugh's blog, and out of idle curiosity and interest I went to take a look at the sample chapters at Hooked from the beginning, I decided to splurge and buy it for my Kindle. I finished it last night. I loved this book, and I'm looking forward to the next in the series. The main character, Alphonse, is a scholar on vacation when he is thrown into intrigue and chased by enemies of his country disguised as soldiers. I'm afraid to say more, because I would probably ruin the plotline. I highly suggest checking out those sample chapters at

Cassafire by Alex J. Cavanaugh is out! I thought I had to wait until the 28th, but I found it yesterday and purchased the Kindle edition. I'm only 40% into this book, and since I am back to health I don't have a good excuse for sitting and reading all day . . .but I am hooked by Alex's imagination, and the relationships of his characters. Byron may attempt to be aloof and alone, but he is drawn into relationship with a challenging female pilot and a very young linguist who needs his brotherly friendship. Alex's joy-filled descriptions of flight are awesome. Since the Catch Fire celebration of CassaFire is coming on the 28th, I suggest being prepared by getting this book today. I know I sound like a bad advertisement on TV, but seriously, it's a good book and Alex is one of the nicest bloggers I know. Here's the link to Cassafire at

"On her seventeenth birthday, Cassia meets her Match. Society dictates he is her perfect partner for life. Except he's not. In Cassia's society, Officials decide who people love. How many children they have. Where they work. When they die. But, as Cassia finds herself falling in love with another boy, she is determined to make some choices of her own. And that's when her whole world begins to unravel..." - Blurb and pic by
Matched by Ally Condie is a dystopian romance adventure that my oldest daughter picked up at the library on Tuesday. Romance is usually not the main genre in our household - everyone prefers adventure, scifi and fantasy, but this book caught her eye and now there are three of us reading it at the same time . . .well, there are three bookmarks in it anyway. I haven't had my hands on this book since Tuesday (when we picked it up) and we are all vying for turns with it. Well-written and intense, the part that truly drives the story forward is Cassia, the intelligent, determined protaganist in love with words and saddened by her Grandfather's death.

In movies . . . well, I actually went to see Journey 2 The Mysterious Island with my family.

And we liked it . . . because we were prepared for a departure from reality, for some fun, and for some laughter. I still noticed that the helicopter scenes lacked realism (my dad used to have a pilot's license and trained me to look for details in movies) and the part with the flying bees made my husband groan a little (how did they "pilot" the bees exactly?) but we still enjoyed this romp through Verne book on film, Hollywood style. My daughters mainly noticed that the directors didn't do much to segue from this movie from the first one . . .we would have liked a line or two about his uncle, or something to tie into the first movie. What happened to all those diamonds? Why is his stepdad footing the bill? Anyway, apart from that it was a fun ride 2 The Mysterious Island. BTW, the best actor in this movie is . . .Josh Hutcherson, just like in the first one even with Michael Caine and Dwayne Johnson making quips at each other. One reason my family is looking forward to The Hunger Games movie is that we know at least the actor playing Peeta can act well, so we are hopeful that the movie will be good. 
(photo from IMDB)

So, I know I'm off schedule this week - posting on M, T, and Th instead of M,W,F. I'm not sure what my schedule looks like tomorrow - I may be skiing and going to see Brandon Heath in concert at a local church, or I might be driving to Portland to visit our neice and the biggest bookstore in the world (not that I need any more reading material).

Next week: Evil Genius, and Catch Fire!!!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Shake It Up Tap Performance

This video is of my daughters' most recent tap performance. It isn't the hardest routine they've done, but the counter rythm part was challenging . . . so when they get to the part where they are not doing the same steps at the same time, it's on purpose. It's kind of like learning the rules of writing, and then breaking them for an affect.

So, do you ever go counter rhythm in your writing just to see what happens?

Monday, February 20, 2012

D - "Devote yourself to prayer, being watchful and thankful" Colossians 4:2

She Sparkles Scripture Memory Challenge - D Verse Post

Last week rocked with blogfests, and I missed this one . . .but here it is, the fourth memory verse for the A to Z Memory Verse Challenge.

I'm super thankful today for my awesome husband, thoughtful daughters, wonderful parents, sweet friends, great family, and faithful church. I'm praying for all of them, especially my cousin Laura who is recovering from Guillan-barre disease, for my friend Traci, and for our friends whose daughter is still recovering from the surgery she had last fall.

Hope all of you are having an awesome day today!

Do you have any prayers of thanksgiving and hope?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Snow Day Poem

Swiftly we drive to the snow that is fresh

Playing in powder is by far the best

We love the black mountains covered in white

Trees covered in crystals glittering bright

Skis, poles, snowboards, boots, bindings all packed

Extra gloves, warm clothes, waterproof jackets wrapped

Around us, with just our noses burning cold

We’re ready for a fun day to unfold

First we climb from car to lodge to the lift

Our feet dangling high above the snow drift

Finally, we slide, turn, ride, spin, jump, skim

From late morning bright to dark skies that dim

Until muscles ache, gloves are damp, breath white

We drive home, heater on, under starry night.

-By Tyrean Martinson
Inspired by a poem at the Northwest Weather and Avalanche center, that was surprisingly part of their forecast today, I decided to write a little poetry for our snow day.  Check out the cool weather forecast poem at NW Weather and Avalanche Poem Forecast
We had a great day today, and brought a friend with us. Unfortunately we were having so much fun that I decided to be a little careless going down a much used and familiar side trail this morning and I tripped on an exposed tree root/branch sticking out of the snow. Tripping on skis isn't fun, so I landed ribs first, then face . . . and twisted my knee a little. Of course, after catching my breath, I got up and skied on until by 6p.m. I knew that I probably should call it a day and then call my chiropractor.
My youngest daughter took two hard falls today, one -  skis popped off (good bindings do this to protect skiers from breaking their legs), and supergirl flight to a hard rib first finish. Two - in the evening, she decided to take a side trail (unannounced to the rest of us) that was unfamiliar and new to her, and she found out that it ended in a two foot drop that she wasn't prepared for, and included going through some tiny trees. Again, her skis popped off, and she flew, but hit nose first. She broke some cartilage in her nose, and learned that there is a reason we want to check a new trail before we fly down it at full speed. And like me, she got up, put her skis back on and skied on . . .for three more runs until we all decided we were too tired to keep going. (I'm just very thankful that she learned her lesson in a relatively easy way . . . a guy I went to high school with learned that same lesson with two broken legs) At least I'm hoping she learned to look before leaping next time . . . she is our family daredevil on skis and has been skiing black diamonds since age 4 and a half. We sometimes consider signing her up for ski racing, but we aren't sure we want to encourage her to go any faster. (She's the one picture in the red pants, and yes, we all wear helmets)

So, do you look or leap first?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Worldview and Writing

Worldview intertwines itself in our writing because it is a part of us. Even if we try to keep our beliefs out of our writing, they show up in the development of our stories because our stories come from the wellspring of imagination within us. The core of our imagination is closely linked with the way we see the world and how we believe everything works. This goes for Christians, Buddhists, Atheists, and all worldviews. A worldview shapes what we see, how we act, and the way we write.

However, I often wonder in my own writing just how much I should share overtly? How much is enough? and how much is over the top?

Check out this passage from Frankenstein (I've been catching up on my classic fiction on my Kindle):
"A human being in perfection ought always to preserve a calm and peaceful mind and never allow passion or a transitory desire to disturb his tranquility. I do not think that the pursuit of knowledge is an exception to this rule." Yes, this is written in a character's voice, but it also stems from the worldview of the author.

So, what do you think, is it a good idea to overtly include our worldview in our writing? How much is enough? How much is too much?

And, have you ever read Frankenstein? This is my third time reading it, and the first time in a decade, but I still find it intriguing.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day Blogfest

Whew! Third blogfest of the month! I feel like I haven't been to see enough of the other awesome entries from I'm Hearing Voices and Origins yet, but I plan to keep visiting blogs for the rest of the week . . . in the hopes of halfway catching up. Thank you Cassie Mae and Hope, for today's Valentine's Day Blog Hop!

Here's my entry. It's not very hot, and yet I squirmed through writing it. Don't ask me how I can have an awesome marriage to a hot, sweet guy, and yet I can't really write romance . . . I just think it's better lived than written, but I keep trying to write it anway . . . I know every good story has at least a little romance in it . . . at least the ones I read so here goes:

The crow’s nest was too cramped for anything but companionable closeness. Clara felt Adrian’s hand on her shoulder, and she fought the impulse to lean into it. She gripped the rail as if her life depended on it.

“Are you scared of heights?” he asked, too close to her ear.

She startled and felt herself blush, as a tingly thrill ran through her. She swallowed quickly and said, “No, I’ve always dreamed of flying. In Skycliff I liked to stand on the ramparts above the cliffs and watch the gulls soar on the winds.” Then she stiffened her shoulders slightly, and tried to keep her eyes on the horizon. “To be up here is a privilege I don’t want to lose.”

“Clara,” he said, “you could at least look at me.”

Clara turned and gazed up into his green eyes. “You are strange, and wonderful, and amazing. But we just met, and I have duties to fulfill.”

“You think I’m wonderful, and amazing?” he said, smiling broadly.

She could feel heat run through her, and fire up her cheeks. She tried to misdirect him. “Do you have Captain Crannock’s permission to be here?”


“Then, you’re distracting me from my duties.”

“Oh, like seeing that griffin pair on the horizon,” he said, pointing behind her.

“Where?” she said, trying to twist around to see, but he held her close to him.

“Just trust me,” he said, and he kissed her gently, his lips warm like cinnamon.

Happy Valentine's Day!!!!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Origins Blogfest

First off, I want to thank DL Hammons, Alex J. Cavanaugh, Katie Mills, and Matthew Macnish for giving me leave to wander through my past and try to discover where all this storytelling/writing stuff started for me. If you want to join in this awesome blogfest, go to The Origins Blogfest

Please forgive me if my entry starts out too long winded. If you want just the bare bones, scroll to the bold statement that says, "So what does all this personal past history have to do with being a writer?" and read from there. If you are just bored out of your mind, and you want to read more, follow the links I embedded in the text to see other posts I've written on this subject. (Keywords: my grandmother, Peter Pan, and Star Wars)

Long, long ago (ok, maybe not that long) in a small town on a plateau, by the foothills of Mt. Rainier, I spent the first ten years of my life as one of three children in a small neighborhood of retirees and old fields, a combination of suburban and rural life. An only child, I learned quickly from my parents that I wouldn't be able to spend that much time with the other two kids in my neighborhood because I had a tendency to end up in the emergency room after spending much time with them. When we did play together, they taught me:  to get up with bloody knees and laugh it off, and how not to cry even when you have a piece of curved glass in your foot, or you've been run over by a bicycle and your leg is fractured. It kind of makes sense that my parents wouldn't let me play with them after all of that. (BTW I was only 5 and visited the ER three times)

So, small town, field next door on one side, retirees on the other side, bully boys in the street behind me, Grandparents across the street with fields and blackberry bushes behind them, plus an acre of climbable trees, open grass, and a nice little niche of three old poplar trees that made a kind of fort. My mom and dad practiced organic gardening, so our yard looked like an overgrown Eden.

My best friend (although I didn't tell my school best friends this) was my German Shepherd/Black Lab dog named Charlie Brown. (He slept on a Snoopy blanket). My parents, and my grandmother loved to tell stories, read books, and make music. My dad had an ercoupe (a small plane), and I started flying with him at two months old.

My first favorite books had to do with lost puppies finding homes, fairy tales, the Children's Bible, and classic Disney stories. My first favorite movies were Peter Pan and Star Wars, although I watched many classics like Top Hat, Singin' In the Rain, and Oklahoma.

So, what does all this personal past history have to do with becoming a writer?

Only child, storytelling parents and grandparents, dog as best friend, big yard and area to run wild in = storytelling on the run with tree-climbing, fort building, singing, dancing, swinging on a tire swing until I felt like I was almost flying, swordfights against invisible opponents (with sword-sticks), and a few gymnastic feats thrown in like one handed cartwheels and handsprings. My imagination was a landscape that was almost as real as the green grass, tall trees, and my furry brother. As a writer, I want to recapture that feeling when I write.

My mom couldn't give me time outs as a punishment because although I hated sitting still, I relished the time I could spend daydreaming without interruption. "Five minutes on the couch, doing nothing? Sure, can we make it 10? I'm not done with my story yet."

My stories that I write today are still rooted in all of that. I love sword fights scenes, gymnastic feats, action adventure, quests, flying, and the hero or group of heroes that fights injustice. I'm still daydreaming some of those old daydreams. I just attempt to put them on paper now, and that challenging, determined attempt to share my imagination with others is what makes me a writer.

Friday, February 10, 2012

I'm Hearing Voices Blogfest Entry #3

Rules for Day #3 I'm Hearing Voices Blogfest: Emotion Flash Fiction: Emotion is the engine of a story. Pick an emotion and in a flash fiction piece of 250 words MAKE us feel it! We want to connect with your character. This will be a challenge in 250 words.

Clara felt her heart beating hard in her chest, and heard her breath gasping in her helmet. The shouts above them were loud, and there were cries of pain mixed with the crashing sounds of steel.

Two steps below the entryway, Stelia paused, and gave her the hand signal for “close,” which meant stay close to her.

Clara tried to say something in response, but her throat wouldn't let any sound out. It was dry. She was drenched in sweat. She unsheathed her sword and followed Stelia into the hall. Nearly deafened by the sound, Clara just stood there for a moment, shocked at the blood and the fighting. Red Drinaii were slaughtering everyone in their path. Sword Masters, Guards and Apprentices fought a losing battle, outnumbered on three sides.

Stelia punched Clara in the arm to get her attention. She pointed to the right, where a group of Shepherd students crouched behind a desk, protected by a single apprentice in gray leathers. Clara didn’t recognize him, but she knew he needed help. She pulled her sword out and began fighting her way to him. It wasn’t like any practice bout. She didn’t take the time to size up her opponents. She just hacked, slashed, and kicked her way through them. The first man she killed spit up blood as he slid down her sword onto the floor. Stelia put her boot on him, and helped Clara wrench the blade free. Clara felt sick.

Author note: I'm on the run this morning and just cut and pasted this piece . . . I'll be checking out all the other awesome entries tomorrow. Have a great day everyone!!!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

I'm Hearing Voices Blogfest Entry #2

Rules for the Day: Dialogue Introduction: Have two characters introduce each other using only dialogue—no backstory, no internalization, just dialogue between the two. Max 250 words.

“Hoy there, lassie, I never caught your name, back there when we picked up you and your friends. I’m Gurnsey, you may have heard, ship’s crew and fellow refugee.”

“I’m Clara, thanks for waiting for us. I didn’t even know there were ships waiting to pick us up when we came out of the caves under Skycliff. I was just focused on getting out of the city, and staying alive, and then . . .”

“Then you nearly single-handedly defeated those Red Drinaii scum. You didn’t seem to need a rescue as much as a ship. You know you’re younger than I thought the Champion would be.”

“Champion? You mean, like in the prophecy? That doesn’t make any sense. I’m a sword apprentice. In the caves, in one of the Maker’s testing chambers, I was given this amazing crystal sword, but that doesn’t make me the Champion from the tales and prophecy.”

“Well, now I’m just a sailor, and refugee from the Far Islands, actually called Chain of Hope by my people, but I don’t think you’re going to stay just a sword apprentice for long. That sword isn’t just any crystal sword, not that I have one, mind you, but I’ve seen them.”

“I just want to help free my people from Sihrqayya. That doesn’t make me Champion.”

Monday, February 6, 2012

I'm Hearing Voices Blogfest Entry #1

I’m Hearing Voices Blogfest Entry #1 Monday’s Entry: Character on the Couch: Have one of your characters answer the following questions (to make this work to your benefit, choose a character who is the hardest for you to write.) Max 250 words (Not including the questions – only the answers).

On the Couch: Clara, my MC from The Crystal Sword. For some reason, I’ve been struggling with her in the third draft, and I just want to finish. It’s been like getting drilled at the dentist for what feels like an eternity – I know because I just had that happen just last week. (Must floss).

1. What is your biggest vulnerability? Do others know this or is it a secret?

Clara: That’s the issue right there. I have huge doubts about whether I can wield the crystal sword, even though I know I’m an awesome swordswoman. I found out that I really don’t like killing people, even when I’m defending my people from the Red Drinaii and Sihrqayya. Yet at the same time, when I was at my worst, most painful doubting moment, I received the crystal sword. It doesn’t make sense. Why would I be given such an honor, when I clearly don’t deserve it? And yes, everyone knows. Well, not everyone, but my closest friends and family know. My mentor, Master Dantor, thinks that the Maker gives us the swords we need to fill our weaknesses. But that still doesn’t make sense. If I have doubt when I’m wielding it, the sword might crack. I’ve seen it happen to other crystal swordsmen. If they lose faith, then they lose their sword. I’m expected to battle Sihrqayya and her Red Drinaii, or at least King Alexandros whose become a traitor to our people, and my sword will crack under the pressure if I don’t find a way to get rid of my doubt.

2. What do people believe about you that is false?

Clara: Other than my closest friends and mentors, and the student apprentices who escaped with me through the underground tunnels when our city was attacked, people believe that I’m a hero, a champion of light, truth, and faith. Those moments when I’ve been heroic I just surrender myself to the Maker, and I don’t feel like that’s anything that comes from me.

3. What would your best friend say is your fatal flaw? Why?

Clara: Salene would probably say I spend too much time alone, especially since my parents disappeared on a mission for the Triune Halls. She’s a wonderful friend, and I know out of everyone she probably understands best since her brother was killed five years ago by Sihrqayya’s agents. Her family is stuck in Skycliff, and they are probably prisoners of the King, or worse. She has to be hurting as much as I am, but it’s hard to start that conversation.

4. What would the same friend say is your one redeeming quality? Why?

Clara: She would say that I care deeply about my friends, family, and our people, the Septilians. Why? Well, once I was a sword apprentice because I wanted it. Now, I’m a swordswoman because my family, friends, and country need me to be one. She might have said once that I had a clear faith, but now . . . well, that's up for debate.

5. What do you want most? What will you do to get it?

Clara: Freedom for my friends, family, and people, freedom from evil and oppression, freedom to live and live with joy. When we're free, well, I might like to find someone like Salene has found Prince William, but for now I have too much to do. When those I love have that freedom, then I will be free. To get it, I will fight even when I feel doubts. I will push myself to keep going, and I will do everything I can to defeat King Alexandros, the Red Drinaii, and Sihrqayya.

If you want to join in on this awesome blogfest hosted by Angie at Live to Write, Edit When Necessary and Cassie Mae at Reading, Writing, and Loving It Or follow this link: I'm Hearing Voices Blogfest

In the midst of my interview with my character, I found the flaw in my story that I had been struggling with . . . and now I can fix it!!! Thank you Cassie Mae and Angie!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

C - a week late

C - "Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me." Psalm 51:10
She Sparkles:A to Z Memorization Challenge This verse from She Sparkles is a week late . . . sound like a familiar refrain on my blog?

In many ways last week blurred by me at high speed, and in the midst of thinking about story details I forgot life details, blog details, and just details in general. Thankfully, Jesus is my salvation, and God creates in me a new, pure heart, renewing a steadfast spirit with me. And I have some wonderful, forgiving, blogging buddies.

I hope to be back in the swing of blogging next week, and back on my feet and running at high speed through life as well.

BTW - Blogfests are Beautiful, and I'll be involved in three in the next 10 days. Check out the sidebar on the right.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Insecure Writer's Support Group - OOPS!

Uh oh, just realized I missed the fantastic, amazing, awesome insecure writer's support group day yesterday . . . I feel like my whole life is off by three days.

I've been writing about how details are important to stories, but have forgotten the details that are important to life.

Please forgive me, and I'll post something cool for next month . . . or at least I'll post something, cool or not.

For now, all I can say is . . .thank you for being my blogging buddies and being awesome, even when I slip up.

The Story is In the Details, Part 2

First off, I want to apologize to all of you for not keeping my regular post schedule this week. In the last week I was sick for three days, celebrated my oldest daughter's birthday twice, (once with family, once with friends), took part in a open house for homeschool co-op, spent some extra hours (yes, hours) in a dentist chair and have sworn off diet soda (partial reason for the dentist chair).
The result: I've been exhausted, and completely behind.

Now, on with the post that I meant to post on Monday.

The Story is in the Details, Part 2

In my last post, I discussed integral details to storylines, like knowing why a character reacts in a certain way to certain stimuli. Remember my writing friend’s story about the character who broke up with the guy who jingled his keys . . .her father jingled his keys every night when he came home. One night, there was no jingle. He never came home that night. So for that character, the jingle of keys brought deep sorrow.

Details can be the keys to plot-lines, or a grouping of notes that when played will make beautiful music, or jarring, spine-tingling music . . . whichever direction the story is heading.

But what about details that seem inconsequential, like setting and world building details that don’t seem integral to the plot-line? Why do these matter?

You can throw your reader out of your otherwise well-crafted story with a detail that's out of place.

For instance, my daughters have been fans of American Girl products for many years now, and when we received this year’s new catalog with the 2012 American Girl of the year, we found just one little problem. The 2012 American Girl is a character from Seattle. That’s cool. I was born in Seattle, and still live within a 45 minute drive on a clear traffic day. (BTW, if you live in Washington state, never state how many miles it is to a certain point, but how many minutes or hours is takes to drive there)

This new American Girl has a school outfit that includes an umbrella and rainboots. It’s cute. It’s not Seattle.

Why not?

If you lived near Seattle, you would know that while the weatherman may say it will be sunny, it still might rain. It could rain any day of the week. It could rain with wind gusts that will rip an umbrella out of your hands or bend it backwards. It could drizzle, then gush, then mist, then drizzle again for four days straight. Once wet, umbrellas stay wet. They don’t store anywhere well when they are wet. It might be a week until they dry. Mold can be a problem here. We have rain in every season. Umbrellas are clunky, stay wet, and are just annoying to carry everywhere every day. We use them for special events like outdoor sporting events. Most of us aren’t sure why Seattle “had to have” a new retractable partial roof for the new sports arenas – a fad from California? We might bring an umbrella to something like that where we are just going to sit for hours. Otherwise, we just shrug and go about our day. It will rain again later, or it might just be cloud covered all day, or it might be sunny for a few hours. Who knows? The weatherman usually doesn’t.

Rain boots are for special events too. We wear them specifically for stomping in puddles, or when we own farm animals and have to walk out to feed them. Otherwise, we just get wet. Sometimes outdoor games are “rained out” but that’s usually because we are trying to save the soccer fields or baseball fields from becoming big mud pits, so actually outdoor games can be “mudded out” but usually not just “rained out.” As a kid I played soccer, and I only remember a handful of sunny day games. I came home caked in mud regularly from practice. Shoes are often parked in houses next to heating vents so they can dry out. Leaving them on the porch invites mold and slugs to make a home in them.

So, why does all this silly reaction to the details of an American Girl doll matter?
Because I've had the same reaction when reading novels based in Washington when those novels are written by someone from outside the state. In fact, I rarely read fiction that's based here if the author doesn't live here because I know some small detail is simply going to bug me.

Readers have a tough time shrugging away details that are misplaced.

So, please, if you base your WIP in the Seattle area, make sure your MC only uses an umbrella and rain boots for special events, not for school days or work days. Seattle area Washingtonians wear layers and carry hooded jackets in their cars. Short hair and ponytails are popular ways to keep the frizz at bay.
I tell my kids "hoods up" when we go outside in the rain. It's also popular to say, "oh, you're not going to melt" when someone whines about getting wet (that's just not in my household).

However, if you base your WIP on “the other side of the mountains” in Eastern Washington (divided by the Cascade Mountain Range), all this is useless advice. Eastern Washingtonians are used to being dry, and they call us Western Washingtonians “coasties”. Eastern Washington grows apples and potatoes, Western Washington has Evergreen trees and coffee stands.

So, to wrap up:
Stories are strengthened by the accuracy of their details, and plotlines can hinge on knowing the details of your character.

What are the details about your state, town, or country that might surprise a “newbie”, “tourist” or fiction writer?