Home-Grown Fiction


Weatherford Hotel, Flagstaff. The story: the hotel’s (fictional) owner is a devastated widow who puts heart and soul into the operation, vowing to avoid love. And then he falls for Linda, a humble server with a violent ex who won’t leave her alone….

Here are some images I got in various seasons around Flagstaff, my hometown. I processed most of them via multiple exposures (HDR), which can look fairly whimsical if you’re not real subtle about it. I guess I probably crossed that line here a few times.

Alleyway, Flagstaff. But also the site of a (fictional) murder. The killer leaves behind a single clue, a shattered jar of locally made honey. It’s up to the alcoholic ex-detective who moved here to hide from a failed life to pull himself together and figure this one out, to save his girlfriend, who had a conflict with the victim and just happens to own the town’s only honey shop.

I’m posting these here because a) I’m determined to get to posting again, and b) to explore the notion that there’s a wealth of creative material for fiction right where one lives. Seems like the trend these days in mass-market fiction as well as literature has been to feature exotic locations– which has many fiction writers scrambling to Cuba or Africa or Asia to generate settings for their stories, many of which I imagine could be created much closer to home. I would argue that the human heart gets in and out of drama-worthy conflict with self or others whether the protagonist is saving elephants in Kuala Lumpur or flipping burgers at the backyard BBQ.

El Pueblo Motel, Flagstaff. The tale of a series of itinerant travelers, all with pasts that eventually converge.

This comes to mind as I finish up a long slog on my present novel and start exploring ideas for the next one. (I’ll probably avoid current events and politics next time around. That element has plagued me mightily with this one, which addresses immigration, with things changing so constantly…and now Trump…)

Carnival, Flagstaff. The story of a roustabout and his outre life.

Beaver Creek. An elderly man whom everyone thought was long dead suddenly appears at a campground by a local creek. His story is unbelievable. But…possibly…true.

Elden Trail in winter, Flagstaff. Telemark skiers keep disappearing from the trail. Finally, the police chief’s daughter joins the list, and the only suspect the chief can ID is his wife/best friend/mom….?

I have something of a theme rattling around for the next one, but I’m wondering where to set it. Exotic elements can add flavor to a story (and I do love to travel!), maybe more important than ever for today’s multi-jaded reader (are there still readers?) who is exposed to everything everywhere at all times via our ravenous media culture, from news to reality TV productions set on faraway islands or featuring round-the-world journeys.

Train station, Flagstaff. 80-year-old Sanford J. Smith came to the area as a young man and has worked on the railroad until his recent retirement. The novel is a memoir of his fictional life as it chronicles the history of rail in the region and the U.S.

So…all elements of a story should be interesting, but how crucial is it that this include the story setting, or is the primary source of interest the writer’s ability to conjure deep and meaningful emotions and ideas, regardless of where the story happens (yes, but…there’s more to think about here…) Both, you say? What do you say? If a story can be set anywhere–if the location doesn’t play an irreplaceable part in the theme and/or storyline–is it truly necessary to site a story in some exotic locale? Does that mostly represent gravy for a good tale, or a dodge to prop up a writer’s pedestrian talents? Both? Neither? Depends on the writer? The story? Just asking. Love to hear your thoughts on this.

Oak Creek, night. The story: This one is all yours. There’s water, a canyon inhabited by locals and Sen. John McCain (one of his seven homes). Gotta be a story here.



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