Guest Post

Guest Chick: Eleanor Cawood Jones

The Chicks are extremely excited to welcome Eleanor Cawood Jones, author extraordinaire of short crime fiction, to the blog today. She may just tell us how she comes up with her stories’ amazing settings. Take it away, Eleanor!

When NIMBY turns to YIMBY for the short story writer

Once upon a time, my oldest first cousin says to me, “I just read your first book.” (A Baker’s Dozen: 13 Tales of Murder and More.) And naturally, since she’s family, I wait for her to say something along the lines of, “It is, in fact, the BEST book I’ve ever read in the HISTORY OF TIME.”

Instead, she glowered at me and said, “You hooked me into 13 sets of characters, and 13 times the stories ended too soon. Now I’ll never know what happened next to All. Those. People, and I got attached to them. Not to mention the ones you killed off.”

Ouch! Sorry, Cousin Carolyn. But that reminds me of a few of the quandaries of being a purveyor of short fiction. One, you have to constantly invent and introduce new characters if you’re not doing a series of related stories. Especially if you’re writing murder mystery shorts and some of the characters aren’t going to come back for sequel stories unless they are ghost guest stars (hey, there’s an idea). And they all need to be fresh and different, each time. It can be a challenge.

Same thing goes for settings.

Searching for settings, real and imaginary, is a constant quest for this writer, and I would think most writers. I was lucky enough to spend a few years traveling the globe (no offense to Flat Earthers, but seriously, you can see it’s round from the plane window), and some of the settings literally jumped out at me. Easter Island, surrounded by statues of giant heads? Yes, that’s a given. (That one ended up in last year’s Malice Domestic anthology, Mystery Most Geographical.)

Green Bay, Wisconsin when you accidentally stumble into a clown convention? Oh, please. Yes, yes, yes. (Malice Domestic: Murder Most Conventional).

Weird and wonderful Florida? Oh, sure. That landed in the 2018 Bouchercon anthology, and if you’re in a weird and wonderful mood and have a minute, you can actually read it here: GirlsGoneChillin.com/Hollywood-Motel.

Eleanor.Book.Photo

But sometimes the best settings are right around you, and you don’t have to go anywhere much at all. Have you ever heard of NIMBY? (Not In My Back Yard; No thanks, don’t build that highrise/superstore/helipad/drag racing track behind ME.) But as a writer, I embrace YIMBY—Yes! In My Backyard!

I was walking through the tiny park behind my condo looking at new spring flowers and BAM—what would happen if a murderer in the next block hid a body in that hollow tree? And what’s lurking under the tennis court next door? And don’t even get me started on what might wind up in the dumpster to my left.

By now you’re all thinking, wow, I bet she’s a lot of fun to walk with. But the point is that whether you travel by armchair, plane, or train, you can find a place to set your story and run with it with just a little imagination. And the good news is you’ll never, ever run out of places if you just say to yourself, “What happens next?”

So I’ve been thinking a lot about where to set my next story, and maybe even creating a set of stories with the same characters—Cousin Carolyn would like that—and I’ve been wondering… As a reader, what kinds of settings do you like to read about, and is setting in fact important to you? As a writer, is setting something you struggle with? Do you use the same settings over again? Are you a YIMBY writer or a globetrotter/I-must-see-it wordsmith?

And do you have a dream setting, that one place you really mean to write about, or read about, someday? I’ve been told setting is a character, and I embrace that, whether it’s right in my own backyard or on that next big roadtrip.

Meanwhile, and speaking of our own backyards, my hometown bestie has just solved the Mystery of the Nesting Chicken. The short version is her new all-girl poultry flock turned out to not actually be all-girl. One day Mary Jane started crowing, and shortly after that, Ingrid started nesting. Could the two be related? And indeed they were. I mention this because it’s a “Chicks” blog, and because they are cute, and just in time for Easter, and it seems a good way to close.

Chick.photo.Eleanor

In fact, I think that’s my next setting… right in her own backyard. See what I mean?

Eleanor Cawood Jones is a former journalist and reformed marketing director who packs a suitcase with very little prompting and spends any spare time creating short fiction, and longs to create longer fiction if just she had the attention span. Find Eleanor on Facebook  and Twitter and visit her website at GirlsGoneChillin.com, too!

Readers, please say hi to Eleanor and tell her the favorite place you’ve ever visited–bet she’s been there!

36 thoughts on “Guest Chick: Eleanor Cawood Jones

  1. Eleanor, thanks so much for joining us today! The title “All Accounted for at the Hooray for Hollywood Hotel” is one of my favorites ever. And I LOVED the story!

    Liked by 4 people

    • Lisa, you’re the best! One of my favorite photos at a convention is when we met and we were dressed alike. Another good travel memory! And I love that you loved the story ❤️

      Liked by 2 people

    • Lisa, thank you. Remember when we met at a convention and we were dressed alike? That is such a great travel memory. End of story idea… What if you met a favorite writer and you were accidentally dressed alike but the writer thought you were copying her? But that could never happen? LOL
      Thank you for the kind words about the story, which warms my heart.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. LOL, I guess Mary Jane’s got something to crow about! Eleanor, my globe-trotting friend I’m a fan — really loved “Killing Kippers” and getting to meet you in person at Malice and LCC. Such a treat to have you hanging out with the Chicks today!

    Liked by 4 people

  3. I can attest — YOU ARE a lot of fun to walk with, and remember the cluttered antique shop! Sounds like a good setting to me. 😉 I can’t choose a fave from all your stories, they’re ALL my faves! Keep on chillin’, girl!

    Liked by 4 people

  4. I love YIMBY (ha ha!) and your stories!! SO glad you’re here!

    I’m a fan of settings that seem ordinary and familiar but that hide a mystery. Or a body. And I would love to go on a walk with you! I’m sure inspiration (and hilarity!) would be around every corner.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Since I write a series, I definitely don’t have to create a new setting every time and it’s definitely YIMBY (seeing as I live a mere hour away from the Laurel Highlands). Well, I do create new settings when I venture to short fiction.

    We have a furry convention in Pittsburgh every year. I think my protagonists have to be visiting town that weekend and something dastardly happens. 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

    • The Laurel Highlands…sigh. Sounds so perfect. If you write that one–and please do–I’m first in line for furries!

      Like

  6. Favorite place I’ve visited? Do I have to choose?

    Right now, I’m really wanting to visit a redwood forest. I grew up camping in the redwoods and I really miss them.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Hi, Karen!! Did you make it to Vancouver this year? Still dying of jealousy, though I’ve been there. Thank you for those kind words. I’d walk with you, too, bwah ha ha… 🙂

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  7. Eleanor, so glad you guested with us! I envy all your travels. #1 on my bucket list is the Haworth Parsonage and Bronte moors. As to favorite place I’ve visited, well, that answer is pretty obvious. NOLA, baby! Laissez les bon temps rouler!

    Liked by 4 people

    • ooooh! the Bronte moors. Now there’s a fine thought!! Yeah, NOLA, baby. And they’re bringing Bouchercon back there!!!!

      Like

  8. Love this post–YIMBY is especially fabulous. And this may not surprise you–supper club sisters and all–but I am *exactly* that kind of walker too. I would adore walking with you and imagining a landscape riddled with mysteries! Thank you so much for visiting us today, Eleanor. xo

    Liked by 4 people

  9. I love following your travels, Eleanor, and love your stories, too! That twist at the end of “All Accounted for at the Hooray for Hollywood Hotel”? I’m with Cousin Carolyn – I’m still thinking about those characters.
    Place I love to visit? Paris! Set a story there!

    Liked by 4 people

    • Well, you sure did make me grin. You and Carolyn, what will I do with you? 🙂 Paris is a great idea! I should go back for research. And a walk…

      Like

  10. I love reading about new places, but I do get why folks tend to keep their series in the same location: Once you’ve met all those side-kicks and secondary characters, you want to hang with them again and again!

    That said, I really want to set my Sally Solari number 6 in Hilo, Hawai’i, where I live half time. It’ll be a fish-out-of-water story, and who doesn’t want to read about hot lava and Maitai cocktails?

    Thanks so much for visiting the Chicks today, Eleanor! And love the chicks photo and story!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Which explains why I met you at LCC Hawaii. Hilo is wonderful. I love your posts. I’d read about lava and Maitais in a New York Heartbeat.

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