Desperation, Oklahoma

Welcome to Desperation, Oklahoma,
where hearts meet at the most unexpected times.
Location: West Northwest of Oklahoma City
Population: 2003 2004 and growing!

 I can't remember why I chose Desperation for the name of the town or even when, but it worked well, once I started writing about it.  You see, I happened to uncover  a history behind the name.

 In my first book set in Desperation, Jules Vandeveer, the heroine and a visitor to town, has encountered Tanner O'Brien, the hero of the story, in the local post office, and he's asked her to wait so he can walk with her.  Because this is a romance, she does. :)

“So what do you think of our little town?”
Most of the downtown business area was spread out ahead of them and stretched almost two blocks.  Buildings, mostly one-story, but a few with two, lined both sides of the street.  Quaint and unique were the words that came to mind, as each connected building had a design and character of its own.
“It’s a very nice town.  Pretty and charming.  But I’m wondering...”
“About what?”
When she turned to smile at him, her knees weakened at the smile he flashed her in return.  Shaking off the reaction, she focused on what she was saying, not on the man.  “I’m wondering where the name came from.  Desperation is a little odd.”
“Odder than Monkey’s Eyebrow, Arizona?”
“Not quite,” she said, laughing.
 “How about Hygiene, Colorado?”
Still laughing, she shook her head.
“Yeehaw Junction?  Krypton?  Mudlick?”
“Okay, you’ve got me.  Those are odd.  But why Desperation?”
Before he could answer, they were forced to stop when a man and woman stepped out onto the sidewalk from the Chick-a-Lick Café.
“Excuse me,” the man said, realizing they had stepped into someone’s path, and then recognition lit his eyes.  “Hey, Tanner.”
“Hello, Cal,” Tanner greeted the man, before turning to the woman and touching the brim of his hat.  “Wilma.  Have you two met Jules Vandeveer, Dr. Beth’s friend?”
The woman directed a friendly smile at Jules.  “I haven’t had the pleasure.  I heard Beth had a friend visiting.  You’ll be in her wedding?”
“Yes,” Jules replied.  “In her wedding, making sure all of the arrangements are made, setting it up...”  She laughed, thinking of all the things on her list.  “The date is quickly approaching, and there’s so much to do yet.”
“That’s the way it is with weddings,” Wilma said with a knowing nod.  “It’s good to know Beth has a friend who can help.”
“We’ll see you Friday?” Cal asked Tanner.
“Wouldn’t miss it,” he replied.
Cal took his wife’s arm.  “Wilma has a bride party this afternoon, so we’d better get going.  Don’t want her to miss it or be late.  Nice to meet you, miss.”
When the couple crossed the street, Tanner turned to Jules.  “You asked about Desperation.”
She nodded, waiting to hear what he had to say.
“Well, the story goes that people began moving into the area during the land rush in the late 1800’s, but the town was really settled after oil was found in these parts a few years later.  Those were wild times, before Oklahoma became a state.  People swarmed here in droves, desperate to find their own little patch of black gold.  As it turned out, the pool of oil in this area was only a small one and didn’t last very long.  Eventually people either left the area, disillusioned, or they stayed and homesteaded.”
In Harlequin American Romance books, of which my Desperation series is part of, the towns or neighborhoods are as much a character as the people who live there.  Having spent my pre-teen, teen years and later in a small town only a little bigger than Desperation, it wasn't much of a stretch to create a fictional one.  As references, I stole from many other small towns around the area to keep Desperation from being a carbon copy of just one.

Here are just a few places in Desperation that make it a town:

  • The Chick-a-Lick Cafe, where everyone goes to see and be seen, and to catch up on the latest news and gossip
  • Lou's Place, the local tavern
  • Sheriff's office, located in the building that houses all the municipal/city offices
  • 1st Bank of Desperation
  • Post Office
  • Grain elevator, because, after all, the town is surrounded by farms and ranches
  • Drugstore
  • Grocery store
  • Feed store
  • The Commune, a retirement community where everyone wants to live.
  • Opera House - There aren't a lot of these left in small towns, and those that are still standing aren't always in good shape.  I researched until I found one in McPherson, KS, that has been restored and was perfect for what I'd imagined for Desperation!
McPherson Opera House Restoration

Desperation's Opera House is the home to a real estate office, an attorney's office, a tax preparation business, and the very favorite Sweet & Yummy Ice Cream Parlor, not to mention a beautiful ballroom and theatre. 
This month my 6th book set in Desperation, BACHELOR DAD, is available, and my editor has asked for more.  That means more heartache, weddings, babies, and happily ever afters.  So if you like small towns and haven't visited Desperation, Oklahoma, now's your chance.

The Antebellum-South (Lori Whitley)

When I think of setting, I'm drawn to Southern Louisiana. My imagination leaps from the legendary French Quarters or the Vieux Carre`, to south along the Mississippi River, to the antebellum era before the Civil War, when cotton and sugar plantations crossed the land in abundance. Majestic homes sit watch over the river banks, and the surrounding grounds have moss-draped trees and bushes trimmed neat. A sea of green grass splashes all the way to the circular drive where carriages arrive all festive and gay, trunks in tow, dragged behind by the footmen. They stay for days. Hoop skirts of the newest fashions were worn and horses whinnied with a stomp of the hoof.

Then my writer's mind peels back the first layer to see what lies beyond, why Nathan didn't see to his wife Cassandra emerging from the carriage, as she peered on with tearful eyes while he moved away to warmly embrace the mistress of the plantation. What secret thoughts did these people have and what secret thoughts did they share?

Before the Civil War one of the greatest differences in the U.S. was slavery in the South. Northern farmers didn't need as much labor as did the Southern farmers because of the crops they grew, grains. the crops Southerners grew were more labor intensive such as cotton, rice, sugar and tobacco. The great majority of slaves were in agriculture, the dominant economic activity in the South. Slave owners constituted the wealthiest class in the nation. The average slave owner was more than five times as wealthy as the average Northerner, and more than ten times as wealthy as the average non-slave holding Southerner. The great majority of white Southern families owned no slaves. The approximately four million slaves in 1860 were owned by about 385,000 individuals, about 72 percent of slave owners owned fewer than 10 slaves, only about 10,000 owned more than 200 slaves.

Slaves could never forget their status as property no matter how well their owners treated them. The relationship between the masters and slaves varied greatly, it ran the compass from compassionate to contemptous. But master and slave never approached equality. Only in the slave quarters were they allowed to be themselves without worry of punishement. Slaves formed communities within the plantation setting, they married, had children and worked hard to keep their families together. The fear of being sold off, always weighed heavy on their minds, never to see one another again. They taught children how to hide feelings to escape punishment and be skeptical of anything a white person said. Men were unable to protect their women if the master of the plantation or his overseer decided they wanted to bed them.

Life wasn't much easier for the women of the South than that of their slaves. When men made the rules and women abided by them. A time when a broken engagement meant scandal for the young girl and her family. One could be disgraced for life and her father's credibility ruined. So therefore, the father's controlled every aspect of their daughter's lives from education, to social events and courtship. After marraige the control transfered to that of her husband. The elite men of the Antebellum-South worked hard to maintain their status and their women's actions directly reflected the status of the their men.

And now almost two hundred years later when I look upon the stately antebellum mansions often abandoned to the ravages of time I see the ghostly apparitions, begging me to tell their stories.

War Torn England in 1940 (Melissa Robbins and Wren and Connor Buchanan)

Hello, my name is Sergeant Wren Buchanan and Melissa asked me to give you a tour of my home. After signing the Official Secrets Act, you have been granted special permission to be here. Traveling to the English southern coastline is restricted. If any of you tried looking for Sandwick, England on the map, you won't find it. The name was changed for secrecy reasons. We don't want the Germans to know what we're up to. I hope all of you wore comfortable shoes. With petrol rations, we can't drive, so this will be a walking tour. Now, if everyone has their gas masks, I'll begin.

Sandwick, England had been the destination for holidays through the years, but the Jerries put a stop to that. Uniforms have replaced swimsuits, not that the women around here are complaining. The Royal Air Force airmen look quite dashing in their uniforms.

Here is my favorite spot, the cliffs of Sandwick that overlook the English Channel. Yes, they do resemble the famous White Cliffs of Dover. Just smell that salty air. On clear day, you can see all the way to France which means we may not be able to stay long if the Germans start shelling us. Sadly, the view is marred by the barbed wire. Please don't go down to the beach. It has been mined to discourage invasion. I would like to avoid showing the hospital ward, although the injured airmen would appreciate seeing a pretty face or two.

To our right, is the Sandwick Castle ruins. A perfect place for picnics in the summertime with all the wildflowers growing about. Down there nestled between this cliff and the Thaddington estate is the village. Don't you just love all the colorful buildings? We'll go down there next.

Many of us WAAFs, that's stands for Women's Auxiliary Air Force, have billets in Sandwick. Sorry billet means a place where we stay. I forget many of you may not be familiar with our RAF slang. It's like learning another language. Here is my billet that I share with two other WAAFs. Mrs. Cavendish, a Great War widow, owns the townhouse and allows the WAAF to use it. She decided to stay with her sister in Scotland during the duration of the war. I'm fortunate I don't live in a Nissen hut with several other women on the aerodrome. Beastly buildings made of steel and one lone wood burning stove to heat up the place.

If we walk down this road, we'll come to the Sandwick Library. Another favorite place of mine. Doesn't it look like a church instead of a library? The arched windows let in loads of light to read by. This brick building around the corner from the library is the village hall. That's where the town holds their dances for the service men and women.

Now, let's walk up this hill to Thaddington Hall. Air Commodore Nigel and Lady Evelyn Thaddington offered part of their large house to the Air Ministry at the start of the war. All sorts of operations go on here. Some so secret, I don't even know what they do.

The Bingham aerodrome has become its own little village. Our huts contain all sorts of facilities to accommodate the daily activities of running an aerodrome. Over here, this delightful thatched cottage may look unassuming, but it has been converted into the Royal Air Force Police station where my dear friend Seamus works. Don't break the rules while you're here. Seamus, God love him, will arrest you. He takes his job very seriously.

If we continue down this lane, we'll get to the airfield where you can see the Spitfires. Depending on what's going on, the pilots may be lounging on the ground or playing cricket waiting for the Jerries to attack.

That's the dispersal hut over there. We won't go in. Imagine a place ruled by men without their mums or wives to clean up after them. It's a disaster!

The hut isn't that bad at the moment.

Hello Connor. Everyone, this is my brother Flying Officer Connor Buchanan. Let me guess, the dispersal hut isn't a mess, because you just cleaned it for your Jankers. What naughty thing did you do this time?

Nothing was proven. They just assumed it was me.

I can't imagine why they would think that.

Who are these people? New recruits?

I'm giving a tour of Sandwick and the aerodrome. Fellow writers and readers wanted to see the scenery of our home.

The scenery?

Why are you laughing? Sandwick is a beautiful place.

You have a lot of women with you. I'm sure the 'scenery' they want to view is right over there in uniform. Let's see. We have several dark-haired chaps, myself included, a few blonds, and a couple of gingers if you like those freckled faces. Maybe you can introduce one or two to George. Fine chap, George is. A bit shy, but you didn't hear that from me. Too bad Mac isn't wearing his kilt today. He's always going on about how the fairer sex loves it. Such a shame I can't put that to the test.

You are so cheeky! Some of these women are serious romance writers that are interested in settings of stories.

Romance writers? I can help in that department.

They could teach you a thing or two about romance.

Ooo, is that a promise? Crikey! You didn't tell me Fran was going to be here. Hello Gorgeous! Big fat smooch. Did you get the picture I sent? Come with me and I'll give you a personal aerial tour in my kite.

You can't do that. You'll get in trouble again.

If you don't tell the Wing Co, I can and like you haven't flown in a fighter plane with a certain pi--

Shouldn't you already be in your Spit, alone?

Trying to get off the subject of you, eh? I'm on standing alert and may get moved to 30 minute alert any time now. Oh bugger! Of all the rotten luck!

That would be the air raid siren. The Germans are on their way here. If everyone will follow me, you'll get to see the inside of an air raid shelter. Be careful Connor.

I always am. My offer still stands, Fran! I'll see you later. Kiss, kiss.

Colonial America as a Setting (Penny Rader)

My novel, Sapphire and Gold, takes place in Colonial Philadelphia and Williamsburg, so I thought I'd share some fun facts about these two settings.


"During colonial times Philadelphia was one of the greatest American seaports handling a rapidly growing volume of trade. It had a well established foreign and domestic trade, and it served as the commercial trade port for Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the first purchasers of tracts of Pennsylvania land were merchants, shopkeepers, and artisans and, the settlers of Philadelphia created commodities for Philadelphia merchants to export as well as a market for imports. Craftsmen were also attracted to Philadelphia and they practiced about thirty-five different trades. Among the most common were carpenters, sawyers, bricklayers, plasterers, weavers, dyers, tailors, shoemakers, bakers, brewers, maltsters, butchers, potters, clockmakers, cabinetmakers, barbers, physicians, tavern keepers, and carters." (AWM)

"Hoping that Philadelphia would become more like an English rural town instead of a city, William Penn laid out roads on a grid plan to keep houses and businesses spread far apart, allowing them to be surrounded by gardens and orchards. The city's inhabitants did not follow Penn's plans and crowded by the Delaware River and subdivided and resold their lots. ... The city soon established itself as an important trading center, poor at first, but with tolerable living conditions by the 1750s. Benjamin Franklin, a leading citizen of the time, helped improve city services and founded new ones, such as one of the American Colonies' first hospitals." (Wikipedia)

"Penn dispatched his cousin to lay out a city, which he called Philadelphia, from the Greek for 'brotherly love,' and which Penn envisioned as a haven for his fellow Quakers to enjoy freedom of worship and the chance to govern themselves. He charged his cousin with laying out a 'greene Country Towne, which will never be burnt, and always be wholesome.' The city was laid out in a grid, with large lots, wide streets, and a provision for five city parks, four of which still survive. Historians note that Philadelphia was one of the first cities in the New World built according to a plan." (Philadelphia History)

"In colonial times, Philadelphia was the largest, wealthiest city in North America. It was the center of philosophy, drama, music, art and science. The first American magazine was published in Philadelphia (1741)." (Wikipedy)

By 1750, Philadelphia was Pennsylvania’s largest city, with 15,000 people of the 20,000 people that lived in Pennsylvania as a whole. (The Middle Colonies)


"Williamsburg was one of America's first planned cities. Laid out in 1699 under the supervision of Governor Francis Nicholson, it was to be a 'new and well-ordered city' suitable for the capital of the largest and most populous of the British colonies in America. A succession of beautiful capitol buildings became home to the oldest legislative assembly in the New World. The young city grew quickly into the center of political, religious, economic and social life in Virginia." (Williamsburg VA)

"The charter King George I granted Williamsburg on July 28, 1722, officially authorized markets on Wednesdays and Saturdays. In the same sentence, the king established annual fairs December 12 and April 23 'for the Sale and Vending of all, and all Manner of Cattle, Victuals, Provisions, Goods, Wares and Merchandises, whatsoever' free from local tolls or taxes." (Colonial Williamsburg)

"For most of the year, Williamsburg was a small college town and market place, but twice annually, during 'publick times,' the planters' capital sprang to life. It was then that the legislature usually met, and the courts were in session. A crowded social and political calendar attracted men of every pocketbook and profession from all parts of the colony. The population of the town doubled almost overnight, and every available inn, tavern, and private house was packed to overflowing. On some occasions, the rooms were insufficient to accommodate the visitors; at such taverns ... guests might be awakened after only a few hours of sleep to make way for others." (Colonial Williamsburg)

"Williamsburg was a thriving center of commerce and government by the middle of the 18th Century. On the eve of the American Revolution nearly 2,000 people, half of whom were slaves, called the city home. Tailors, carpenters, bakers, gunsmiths, coopers, wheelwrights, merchants, clerks, and their slaves all worked to form the economic nucleus for the governmental system being developed by the capitol city's growing number of politicians and lawyers. In retrospect there is a strong argument that the most important institution in town was neither those of the tradesmen or the politicos. It was the taverns. Taverns were not just for drinking. They were the heart of political, social and cultural discourse." (Williamsburg)


And thus we conclude our mini-tour of Colonial Philadelphia and Williamsburg. :D

Do you have favorite settings? Are there settings you'd rather not read about?

Life's Fun Surprises

I'm running behind on my blog, especially with the time difference since I'm in Kauai, Hawaii at the moment. I know...sad for me. I love it here! This is my absolute favorite of the islands. Beautiful, peaceful...and with lots of life's fun surprises.

Feral chickens is one of those fun surprises. I've been to some of the Caribbean islands and had forgotten how chickens run free everywhere. I hadn't expected to find them roaming the resort, the beaches, racing across the few roads. They particularly like to come in a big group and stroll among the sunbathers by the pool later in the day. Interesting creatures.

We had another "fun surprise" the other day when my daughter and I drove up to the top of what is called the Grand Canyon of the Pacific: Waimea Canyon. We got all the way there and it had been lightly sprinkling. But we couldn't see anything! A big, stupid cloud covered the whole canyon!!! Grrr. We're going to take a helicopter tour later this week and hopefully will see it then.

Yet another "fun surprise" happened yesterday. We were trying to go up one floor in the elevator...and it got stuck. We were there for 10 minutes at least, but it seemed like days. Let me tell you, it was suffocatingly hot. All those movie scenes flash through your mind where the "captives" climb out through the top of the elevator (so NOT happening), or they start being unable to breathe (I was thinking that WAS happening). Anyway, steering clear of that elevator from now on. And I don't think I ever want that experience again. Not fun.

This little sharing probably wasn't on topic for the month, but I wanted to share the good times that life can give you now and then. Plus all of these can be used in future story ideas. You never know when a story idea or scene pops up. And, yes, I am going to base a book here...maybe several.

My Spirit Travels To The South West

Settings for stories are just as crucial as the plot. If the location doesn't match the tone of the story, it could lose the interest of the reader.

My towns are fictitional, but usually have a central description: small, tight knit communities at the base of a mountainous region.

The heritage that I come from is the exact opposite of my creations. The southern state of George is humid with a beautiful landscape, but not one mountain. The majority of my life, though, was spent in Oklahoma City, since my father was a member of the Air Force. My brief stint of three years in the Philipeans is just a flash of memory, so setting a story in that area would be difficult.

When we moved to Kansas, I eventually met my now husband. His mother is Spanish, his father "gringo." Michael was literally born between the mountains of Taos, New Mexico. When I made my first visit there, the tall mountains nestled my grandpa and grandma's home, near the Indian reservation. When we had the chance, we went up to Taos Ski Valley and I was hooked.

We travel there every year and spend some time either there or in Red River. The gentle winds through the trees, the cold mountain streams, and my favorite thing: the silence. It seems fitting to set a story in this type of place if I desire my characters to have limited access.

(Now, that being said, I also set my stories in Kansas, but I haven't quite developed the knack for it yet. I'm still researching the eastern part of the state and I plan to visit someday to gain a better picture in my mind)

I write what I know. I develop landscapes from where I have traveled and then create my make believe world, that has some truth to it.

Since I am not published, my experience is limited as of right now, but if I ever finish that manuscript and receive "the call" I'm sure my settings will change with each story.

The pictures I have posted are from Taos and the ski valley. If you ever get the chance to visit...

The Proving Zone

This month we're blogging on locations, favorite ones. How can anything be more favored than what seeps out of my own imagination for it is everything I dream it to be?

In the Proving Zone, I can languish under trees as sun dapples my face. A playful breeze teases my ears. My nose is beguiled by scents that cannot be described by words on paper. The sweetness of my gaze lingers on...never mind, that is for my viewing only.

The Proving Zone is a place where my imagination runs free, my body unfettered by achy joints, my gaze clear, the details as tiny or as large as I wish. It is the place where all people of the planet who wish to have children must pass a test. A test of survival. One must walk a thousand miles from the entry gate to the last step in Randar. Then, and only then may they have their sterilization implants removed without blowing up.

No known modern machine works there. Even time pieces go odd when taken into the zone. There are savannas, mountains, and desert areas to avoid, endure, or delight. There is the weather and the wild animals to contend with, but the most frightening of all are....

There are people who live in the Proving Zone. People who want to avoid the outside world for different reasons--some are crazy.

The thrill of adventure beckons as well as the world where everything works as I think it should. I have the joy of being all of my characters for just a bit, feeling the anguish of fear, the triumphant moment of success, the tedium of distance, the loneliness, the sure knowledge of what a lack of toilet paper means, another rip in your precious clothing, and even wishing you could smell wet pavement instead of more mud.

Is that smoke I smell? Dang! Supper burns while the Proving Zone lingers in my head.

Location, Location, Location (Rox Delaney)

I was going to use a pretty picture of Sedan, Kansas, and then I got to thinking about what words I wanted to use to begin my blog post today.  I planned it to go something like this:

When I was 12 years old, my parents decided to move from not only the neighborhood in the city where I was born and had lived all my life up to that point, but from the city itself.  They chose a small town southwest of here, where my mother's family had traveled to from Bavaria, Germany, and settled in 1884-1886.  Because the town is only a twenty minute drive from the city, I'd spent holidays at family gatherings and a few summer weeks staying on my aunt and uncle's farm.  Still, except for a few cousins, I was a newcomer and a fairly dorky 7th-grader, but in spite of being a "new kid," it didn't take long to learn I was related to about 1/2 of the town.  I was HOME.

I lived there for almost thirteen years, before marrying and moving to a farm not far away and made sure that my daughters attended and graduated from the same high school I did.  After 24 years on the farm, I returned to the small town and took my daughters with me.  We lived there for another two years before we left, and I returned full circle to the city where I was born.

I've written books set in Montana and Louisiana, Texas and Kansas City.  But when I switched from Silhouette Romance to Harlequin American Romance, the first book I submitted took place in a small town modeled after the one where I'd spent my teen and early adult years.  The location of the next six books--a series I've come to think of as Hearts of Desperation--has moved south, out of Kansas and into Oklahoma, where the name of the town is different, but the heart of it is still much the same.  I've loved writing the series and revisiting my favorite characters, but I hadn't set out to write more than a couple of books.  Maybe three.  Or four.  And now it's six!

While it will be hard when the time comes to say goodbye to Desperation, there'll always be a little bit of it--and that small town where I went from child to grown-up--in each small town where my characters live and grow and love.

Yes, that really is a photo of the small town where I finished growing up.  Fall Festival 2010.

And if you'd like to see my idea of what Desperation, Oklahoma, is like and meet some of the people who inhabit it, check out Hearts of Desperation.  Oh, and the sixth book in the series, BACHELOR DAD, is available this month. ☺


Regency Historicals are almost always set in what we know as Great Britain. Back in my time period unity had not yet arrived and we had England (with Wales absorbed), Scotland, and Ireland. The internet has made researching locations fantastically easier than it was in the 1970’s when I started writing. Most towns now have websites or businesses that have websites and all of these usually have a “Contact” button. When I was writing Honour’s Choice I set the first half of the book in Lewes in the shire of Sussex in southern England—it has boundaries on the English Channel. Lewes at that time didn’t have a website but their historical society did. I “contacted” them and found a treasure trove of information. One of the curators mailed me a book on the history of Lewes, A walking map, a copy of an 1810 map and several typed sheets of information from the early 1800’s. For instance it had a population of 5200 in 1801 and that grew to 6500 by 1811. I was interested in shops and got not only shops, but addresses. The Palmer family were hatters starting with Grandfather Richard in 1750 and going through his grandson John in the 1820s. Thomas Marten on Fisher Street Corner authored “Quakerism No Delusion” and bartered hats, bedcovers and Dowlais (I think this means iron products made by the ironmonger in Dowlais Wales).

For Honour’s Redemption I needed information on Blewbury (in 1810 in Berkshire) now in Oxfordshire England where the story began and also on Whitby in Yorkshire in England where it ended. I researched both places and found little on Blewbury until I came across the local newspaper’s website. I again clicked on “contact” and subsequently received an email for the editor recommending I contact his wife, Audrey. When I emailed her I learned they had just moved from Whitby to Blewbury so I an information source on both places. She mailed me a book This Venerable Village Blewbury along with several xeroxed pages on St. Michael’s Church in Blewbury—the father of my heroine was the vicar there. The actual vicar at the time of my story was John Keble whose father was the John Keble of the Oxford Movement This was a group of high Anglican clergy who eventually turned to the Catholic Church. Newman University here in Wichita is named for one of their more famous members John Newman.

While Audrey gave me invaluable information on Whitby in Yorkshire – northern most England . Here is part of an email from her

Here's a short description of the weather in Autumn (or Fall) in the Whitby area. Down here the days will be gettting shorter, with the sun setting by 7 at the end of the month. There will almost never be any frost though the temperature could get quite low by early morning. There'll be rain of course, but not usually really heavy. The leaves will be turning colour, though the vivid colours don't usually occur until early November - an early frost can bring the leaves down overnight then. During the day we can often have brilliant blue skies, but the temperature is usually under 20 deg. Celsius. Sometimes there can be slightly foggy days, with low-lying mist. There is a road from here which goes along the edge of the Downs, towards Reading, and I've several times come to the top of Kingstanding Hill and looked down towards the Thames Valley, looking down at a beautiful white cloud totally obscuring the valley while at the top we are in brilliant sunshine.

The weather in the Whitby area is almost always a degree or two colder, and Spring comes a little later and winter a couple of weeks sooner. The main difference is the wind. We lived for a time in Saltburn, which is on the coast somewhat North of Whitby, and the wind there had a biting edge to it which could chill you to the marrow in next to no time. The other peculiarity about that whole coastline is the Haugh, the sea-mist or fret which can cover the whole coastal area for 2 or 3 miles inland from the sea. It can stay for days at a time even when only 5 miles inland there could be clear sunshine.

Actually, we love Whitby and that area. It has an air of independence because it is cut off from any other large cities, and it has the most dramatic Abbey on the hill above the town. These days I personally find its mixture of seaside tat and Kiss-me-Quick hats and fish and chips with the more up-market jet shops and the Abbey very appealing!"

One problem I had with Whitby was that I needed very detailed information on the abbey ruins there for running battle through it. From one web site contact I received all the maps etc I could ever want and gorgeous photos. I just have to buy the gentleman that sent them a “brew” whenever I visit Whitby which I hope to do one day!


Even though I live in a metropolis, I’ve decided I’m a small town girl at heart. And my writing reflects just that. I love tiny towns, itty-bitty burgs and charming little communities full of interesting people. Besides, writing about small towns makes it easier to let my quirky cast of characters out to play since they don’t have far to go in their fictional settings.

Plus, and here’s the peculiar thing, in nearly every manuscript I’ve completed, the heroine owns either an inn or a bed and breakfast and/or they own some sort of food establishment. Understand that this was not intentional and was not decided after some outrageous bribe from the secret society of caregivers. Apparently, it comes from some deep down place in my soul and only realized after one of my critique partners brought it to my attention. You don’t suppose it was her polite way of saying “get out of your butter-flavored Crisco-induced writing rut” was it?

Here is a random sampling of some of my towns and the heroine’s that reside there.

In The King of Hearts the town is named Angel’s Cove, Kansas and the heroine, Bailey, owns a small bakery named Angel Bites. The smell of her chocolate is what leads the hero to her shop after dark. Think Pied Piper with tight jeans and bulging biceps.

Faith Hope & Gloria features the youngest of the three heroines running the diner in the best bowling alley/beauty shop in Heartbreak, Kansas. After being rescued by the hunky fireman, Gloria makes the world’s best chili to put a little spark in their relationship.

After Santa Claus sends his twin sons to Pottersville, Texas, in Make Me Believe, they transform this ho-hum community into a Christmas theme city and change the name to Tinsel Towne. Naturally the heroine, Holly Wood, runs the cozy bed and breakfast the good-looking twins are staying at. The brothers are there incognito, so she unknowingly fattens the future Santa with her excellent cooking. Good thing, he’ll need a little meat on his bones if he’s going to fit into the red suit. And drive the big sleigh. And get the girl.

So when it comes down to it, I guess I'm proud to be a small town girl at heart and I’ve got the flour-smudged apron to prove it.


My favorite setting for a book

Pat Davids here.
My favorite place to write about is a place very dear to my heart. I know you think I’m going to talk about the setting for my Amish series, but I’m not.

No, much as I like Hope Springs, Ohio, I’m a Kansas gal at heart and I love, love, love the Flint Hills.

I love the wind-swept treeless expanses of rolling hills covered with prairie grass for as far as the eye can see.

I love them in the spring when the great fires turn the night orange with their glow.

I love them in the fall when the grass turns amber and gold like the fire lives inside of it.

I love them in the winter when the snow-covered hills look like gigantic loaves dusted with powdered sugar.

The Flint Hills look the same today as when covered wagons first rolled across them. Oh, the buffalo and pronghorn antelope are pretty much gone, but the bluestem grass that fed millions of them now fattens thousands and thousands of steers who will make their way to your kitchen table and BBQ grill in the coming year. Some of those cattle belong to my dad and brothers.

My current release, Balancing Act, takes place outside the town of Council Grove, Kansas. A real town with heavy ties to the old west. It's the story of a New York dance with a shameful past and a single dad rancher with twin daughters and a cat named Bonkers.

Cowboys are as common as pickup trucks in Council Grove.
Some of those fellows are cute enough to make a romance authors heart go pitty-pat.

By the way, the guy in this photo is my brother. He’s a true cowboy and he loves the Flint Hills even more than I do.

I hope to one day set more stories in my beloved hills, but truth be told, I’d rather visit them than write about them. There is this one beautiful, spring-fed creek lined with trees where the bass bite like there is no tomorrow.

I know we’ll be discussing our favorite places to set books this month, but where is the one place you’d love to go visit and why?