Friday, January 27, 2012

The Where of It All

The clock has been my enemy today, so for those in some timezones I've definitely missed my Flashback Friday date with y'all. But for the rest of us (and of course for you all living in tomorrow!) I hope late is better than never.

For today's Flashback, I thought I'd bring back some of my stories with unusual settings. I've been lucky enough to travel, study, and work in some hella awesome places, and the impact they had on me was deep and wide. I try to bring a sense of place -- and an attendant sense of wonder -- to all my fiction.

Why not judge for yourself with these backlist titles set in Cuba, Kenya, and Appalachia?

Commenters to this post will be entered in a random drawing for a $5 Torquere gift certificate, to be drawn over the weekend and announced here and on the Torquere Social Yahoo Group.

My very first published story was THE HUSTLER PRINCE, set in the Cuba of the 1990s.

Martín, an American anthropologist in his early thirties, is settled in his life if still bruised from his latest break up. Then he visits Cuba on a fact-finding mission and discovers Alexei, a charming young man with hidden scars. Alexei introduces Martín to his dangerous and what had begun as an attraction deepens into love. Returning home and leaving Alexei behind nearly kills Martin. 

Then Alexei takes matters into his own hands. Fighting to keep Alexei with him in the States isn't going to be easy but there's nothing Martín won't do to keep Alexei safe, even if it means asking help from a man he despises.

Also set in Cuba was BAILAME, the AZUL Color Box:
A principal dancer with a Havana company, Lola misses his big chance to defect from post-Soviet Cuba because of an injury. Left behind by his faithless lover, Lola finds his health and attitude improving as he develops a friendship with his mysterious doctor, Adán.

Adán has a secret, though, one he's guarded from everyone since he returned from medical training in Mexico. If Adán's secret identity doesn't destroy their relationship, the vicissitudes of Lola's job might. When Lola gets the chance to dance again, will he choose Adán, or his career?

My time in East Africa was a while back, but even so some of the settings and anecdotes in ASKARI (the SMOKE Color Box) are closely based on my own experiences.
Noble is an American medical anthropologist who wants to save the world. His work in Kenya is off to a slow start until he accidentally moves into a brothel. The night guard, Harry, is more than what he seems, and soon he’s helping Noble take his research, and love life, to a whole new level.

Their work among the poorest of Nairobi’s poor is challenging, and they find great comfort in each other until an old crush calls Noble away and sinister forces mass against him and Harry. From slums and whorehouses to game parks and Indian Ocean beaches, this isn’t the tour books’ Kenya, and Harry and Noble aren’t your ordinary couple! Can simple love triumph against the complex forces of corruption, prejudice, and public health crises? Or is it just a curl of smoke, ready to be blown away

Last but not least, I did a lot of research for my story for the anthology SOMEPLACE IN THIS WORLD, partly because I've never lived in Appalachia, but because PACK HORSE was my first historical story, set during the Great Depression.
Wendall’s congressman father exiles him to the hinterland to ‘make himself useful’ after a series of indiscretions. Working as a pack horse librarian, Wendall meets Henry, and the isolated man changes Wen’s mind about getting back home.

Tell me what you think: Do you sometimes choose stories based upon their settings? What settings excite you? What settings do you avoid? What places do you wish your favorite authors would use in a story?

Thanks for having me this evening!  Have a Flashy Friday, everyone!

Lee xo


Angie said...

I like new and different settings, but I also like familiar, comfortable ones. It depends what kind of mood I'm in.

Some things I'm just not into -- frex., despite liking historicals, I'm really not into anything much after the very early 19th century. Once things get all industrial and depressing, I'd just as soon look elsewhere. I make exceptions here and there, but most of the 19th century up through the late 20th really isn't my thing. (Once we hit the point where I was alive, it becomes "Contemporary" as far as I'm concerned, and that can work fine. :) )


Anas said...

Places I visited are good, because than I can relate and remeber but then again I recently read about SCA and how they try to recreate living in the Middle Age, which I also thought would make a great place for a story. (Not the Middle Ages but such a SCA kingdom) ;)

PS.:I loved Some Place in this World, it's a great antholgy with fabulous author's!

Angie said...

Anas -- If you can find these, 'cause they're out of print, Mary Monica Pulver wrote a series of mysteries where the detective was in the SCA. :) The first one (published, although not the first chronologically in the series) is called Knight Fall, and it's set at the Pennsic War, which (when I was in at least) was the single largest SCA event each year. Some cliches are perhaps played up a bit, to get the idea across to mundane readers, but it was great fun anyway, and I enjoyed the whole series, although I'm not particularly a genre mystery reader. :)


Anonymous said...

I do not choose stories based upon their settings but I find unusual places (or that are not used often) refreshing ;)
Have a great weekend!!

Lee Benoit said...

I hear you on the allure of the familiar, Angie. I will say, though, that when they're well done I relish the gritty industrial age settings. Maybe it's because of the contrast of machine age with underworlds (a la Luc Sante's Low Life) or maybe it's my grad student mom killing two birds with one stone by using her Dickens assignments as bedtime stories for us. Who knows?

Lee Benoit said...

Anas -- Thank you for your kind words about SOMEPLACE. I really loved working with all of those wonderful authors.

Ang -- Seriously? An SCA detective? That sounds fantastic!

Rapidess -- Lovely to see you here! I'm always hopeful that people who have visited (or live in) settings I use recognize those places. I strive to treat places with the same respect as people, if that makes sense...

Angie said...

Seriously? An SCA detective? That sounds fantastic!

I thought so too. Unfortunately, not enough people agreed and the publisher killed the series after... I think five books, or maybe six. Which is more than a lot of series get, I'll grant you. The author had to change her name and start over, as many midlist authors do. :/

It was great fun while it lasted, though, even if none of the other books featured the Society as much as Knight Fall.


Loveless3173 said...

I sometimes choose books based on their settings but I usually don't. I read absolutely anything I come across so long as it sounds interesting. As for which ones Excite me or I like more... I think i prefer contemporary or otherworldly/supernatural. I read a lot of those.
I try to avoid Historical. I do and have read a few but... meh, not really my favorite cup of tea.

Hmm... It's hard to think about what settings I'd like to see used. There are so many great original worlds out there that there almost doesn't seem a need to ask for another, only choose one. lol... but I think It would be great to see more play/fair tales. A what if's of tales. Like say, what if Rapunzel was actually a fair man? or What happened to the Huntsman after he let Snow White free? (like what horrors did he face and who was there to help free and save HIM) things like that. I'd really be excited to read those!! :D