Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Thanksgiving at the Beach

It’s Thanksgiving week here in the U.S. Time for half the population to travel to visit the other half. Or that’s the way it seems, anyway.

I enjoyed the recent posts by Aline and Barbara on setting so I thought I’d chime in.

I live in a Southern California beach city. Temperatures here are fairly mild as far as fall and winter are concerned, although we did register unseasonably warm temps in the upper 90s less than a month ago. You never know when a hot spell is going to crop up. Here’s a photo I took on Thanksgiving Day a few years back.

My books take place in the fictional town of Vista Beach, similar to the one I live in, so I look at the events and happenings that occur in my area around the time the book is set. Then I create my own event that’s a take off from the real one. In my last book, A PALETTE FOR MURDER, I have a chalk art festival that is roughly based on the one that happens in Redondo Beach every September. Here’s one of the entries from this past year.

Right now I’m working on a story set in October so I’ve been immersing myself in Halloween for months now. That means my writing has overlapped the actual October here at the beach. This time around I spent some time at the Old Town Music Hall in neighboring El Segundo. The theater regularly shows silents accompanied by live music on its Mighty Wurlitzer organ. This year they played several horror classics including Nosferatu (1922), The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1921) and Phantom of the Opera (1925). In my WIP, I have a scene set at Vista Beach’s own silent movie theater so of course I had to go to the OTMH to see some silent films. I've seen silents there before, but I wanted to double-check my memories.

Old Town Music Hall interior

The other thing that I’m including in my WIP is a version of the pumpkin race that takes place here every year. Yep, people decorate pumpkins, attach wheels to them and race them down the hill toward the pier. It’s quite fun to watch.

My next book is taking place during December so I’m getting a headstart on research for that one by noticing all of the holiday events that occur around the South Bay to see which ones might be good candidates for inclusion. I’ll have one more Christmas season before it’s due, but it’s nice to get a headstart on my research. And fun, too, of course.

That’s it from the beach. I hope everyone in the U.S. has a nice Thanksgiving and, to everyone else, I hope you have a great week.


Marianne Wheelaghan said...

Happy Thanksgiving, Sybil. Sounds like you've been having fun researching. Good luck with the WIP! PS I hope you don't mind but can I be curious and ask why you prefer to set your novels in a fictional setting as opposed to a real setting?

Sybil Johnson said...

A fictional town gives me the freedom to take things from each of the beach cities and put them in my town. I also think it's fun to name streets and create the town. With a fictional town I also don't have to worry about someone complaining about that street isn't there etc.

Marianne Wheelaghan said...

Ah, good point about people complaining if you don't get it quite right! Of course, the freedom of a fictional town makes sense – yes, why be constrained by the confines of a real setting? Thanks :)