Posts Tagged ‘Settings’

A hiker creates a fake forest

The Grove Cover_blogsizedOn Friday, I talked about how I built a fake town called Sitka’s Quay for The Grove. Today, I’ll discuss how I created the Grove for The Grove. As I said, one of my first decisions, I make when writing a story is if I should make up the setting, or set it in a real place. But there are also a few different things to consider if one is building a place where no humans live than creating a town.

As many of my fans and friends know, I am an avid hiker so I’ve been to many trails near the Ocean, in the mountains and forests. I have lived in the Pacific Northwest my entire life and I have done some volunteer trail maintenance. Trails are designed both to work with the environment, is dependent upon who owns the land and how that landowner wants the land to be used and with the people who uses them. Since when I am writing I want it to feel real…

When I envisioned the Grove, I wanted most of the trails to be family strolls, not hard wilderness hiking. The reason? It’s logical.

The landscape was inspired by Hug’s Point State Park, CapeLookout State Park, Ecola State Park, OR and Kalaloch Beaches, WA (which I’ll go into more depth in an upcoming blog post about inspirations.)


Kalaloch Beach 4 Trail

Sitka’s Quay is two miles north, so its not going to be wilderness hiking. Like many places on the Oregon Coast its right off of Highway 101. Part of the Grove, is covered by the brackish Lake Elsie which would expand during the winter and contract during summer. This area would be covered in boardwalk.  The main trails basically circles the forest and then leads down to a beach. It would be fairly accessible. People would walk their dogs there or go fishing in the lake.


Tycho surrounded by ferns, salal and blackberries

Also though there is some hills and cliff faces off the beach, realistically this would only be a couple 100 feet over sea level even at the highest point


Trees would be Sitka Spruce, Douglas Fir, and Western Cedars. Smaller plants would include Oregon grape, thickets of salal, wild lilies, and ferns.

I describe it thus in Chapter 1, Scene 3:


That being said, not everything remained the same, I originally named the Grove, Sutter’s Grove for Sutter Kane the writer whose work opened doors to another dimension from In the Mouth of Madness. However in the dialogue everyone called it “the Grove” and I ended up removing the three times it was referred to Sutter’s Grove in narration by draft 3.

So that’s how I created the Grove within The Grove. Let’s talk worldbuilding! What are some of your favorite things to create? How often do you change things?
The Grove is available for Kindle at Amazon and it will be coming on September 13th in Paperback and everywhere else.

Building a fake town in a real state, in a real country


The Grove Cover_blogsizedWhen working on The Grove, (or any story really) one of first the decisions I made was if I should set The Grove in a real town or a fake town. I have set books in real places. I set Out for Souls and Cookies and the opening scenes of Other Systems and The Light Side of the Moon in Seattle and Lure was set in the Klondike.

When researching this book, I traveled down the coast and visited many of the small towns. Yes, I could have set it in Cannon Beach, OR or Ocean Shores, WA and not changed much of the story, however I wanted to write my own history for this town. I already started when I visited MOHAI and began learning Chinuk WaWa (also called Chinook Jargon) I also know that meth abuse is a BIG problem for much of rural United States and many small town rely on tourist dollars. While I mention places in the novel which are real such as Seattle or Portland, the main setting of Sitka’s Quay is a fake town.

Sitka Quay Tourist Map.jpg

While the book was in editing, I created this tourist map, using all the locations I mention within the book. 

Inspired by real places during three trips to the Oregon Coast, I took notes and decided to create data for the 2010 Census in order to create the setting. Once I have this data, it is easy to create something that feels so real, the reader thinks they could actually go there.


Faces the Pacific Ocean to the west and is hemmed in by two headlands, the city would have a total area of 1.54 square miles with all of it land. Highway 101 runs through town.


473 fulltime residents of the town in 207 households.  The average household size would be 2.07 and the average family size was 2.70.  The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females, there would be 96 males.  23% of households have family members under 18. The median income for a household was $36,708.

Males had a median income of $24,203 versus $22,272 for females. 17.1% of households fall below the poverty line.

Racial Makeup: I decided early in the writing process that Sitka’s Quay would be much more diverse than the population of my inspiration towns due to an influx of an artist’s colony in the 1960’s and 70’s. Two generations after the free love era, there is much more people who claim two or more races including the protagonist, Dayla Fisher, because love knows no racial/nationality/religious bounds.

40.2% White

37.1% from two or more races

12.7% Latino

4.4% Asian American

2.2% African American

1.6% Polynesian

.4% Native American

1.4% Other/Chose not to answer

Religious Makeup Special Note #2: In the novel, the antagonist, Jonah Leifson, claims that “Sitka’s Quay has a 30% Wiccan Population.” That is technically incorrect, but since he’s an outsider, Dayla didn’t bother to correct him. (So I don’t want to hear any guff when the book comes out.)  Careful readers will see a variety of people with a variety of faiths. In the hypothetical census, Arial Fisher (Dayla’s father) would have said Jewish, even though he doesn’t actually practice Judaism anymore. And Mia Blaise (Dayla’s mother) would have probably picked Pagan or Indigenous Faith, depending on her mind set when the question was posed. Both would be correct.

26.4% Non-denominational Christian

22.3% Catholic

18.3% Wiccan

10.3% None

7% Hindu

6.7% Pagan

4% Jewish

1.7% Indigenous Faiths

1.2% Muslim

.5% Other Faiths

.6 Chose not to answer


There are 612 housing units at an average density of 408 homes per square mile. The summer population swells to 2000-3000 individuals who rent or own summer houses. (Of course, they would answer the census from their primary residence.)


Sitka’s Quay has a mild and wet climate due to its proximity to the Pacific Ocean.

Annual precipitation averages about 90 inches. From October through April, daytime temperatures range from the mid 40s to the high 50s with abundant rain.  Nighttime temps drop ten degrees. Snowfall is rare but winter floods are a common occurrence.  May and June are mild with average temperatures in the upper 60s. July, August and September temperatures average in the mid 70’s – although daytime temperatures can occasionally soar into the 80s and 90s for days at a time.

Current Primary Language: English

Other Languages: There are small populations who speak Spanish, Chinuk Wawa, and/or Siletz Dee-ni. In fact, there is a Catholic Service in Spanish and Siletz Dee-ni every Sunday, because it’s a way that Father Ben can feel close to his people though he must live apart.

Besides English, I decided Dayla also knows Siletz Dee-ni , Chinuk WaWa, some French and Yiddish.

So that’s how I built a town. I’d love to hear from you.
Do you like books set in real or fake towns? What are some of you favorite “fake” towns?

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