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Real Settings

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The Encinitas sign at night.

I never planned on setting Family Ties in Encinitas, or even in California. Unconsciously, the settings I was imagining as I wrote the first draft were familiar to me. In the end, connecting my characters to a setting I knew helped me to better connect with them. The same thing with The Downward Spiral. I didn’t intend to set it in San Diego, it just made sense to me that I set it there which led to me connecting the story and characters to characters from another book I’m working on and its fictional setting in Southern California – if you’ve read The Downward Spiral feel free to guess which characters you’ll see again in the future.

There are more real settings in Family Ties than in The Downward Spiral. While in Southern California on our road trip I took some pictures of places mentioned in Family Ties along with some pictures that inspired a scene in The Downward Spiral.

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The fictional Encinitas High School and La Costa High School in Family Ties are based on different areas of San Dieguito Academy (formerly San Dieguito High School). The parking lot is where Sara gets picked up and dropped off at La Costa High School. It has changed a bit since I went to school there but not too much.

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This is the courtyard of the school where Sara, Arissa, Jason, and Damien spent many lunches.

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Outside the fictional biology room and where Sara and Jason spent lunch alone further down.

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Magic Mountain which was mentioned but did not have a scene. I took this as we were driving to L.A. from Napa.

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A view of Moonlight Beach from the parking lot. This is the first beach mentioned in Family Ties.

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The picnic tables at Moonlight Beach where one scene took place in Family Ties.

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Cardiff State Beach where a couple of nighttime scenes were set. It wouldn’t be nearly as pretty if I tried to take a picture of it at night, though.

For more on Encinitas, you can check out this video from the Encinitas Coast Life Blog.

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Entrance to Hotel Del Coronado.

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The backside where Sara and Jason would’ve walked through to get to the beach…

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There were more places I wanted to take pictures of after leaving Coronado but we got called away and had to go back up to Carlsbad. Included in what I wanted to take pictures of was San Diego Bay, which had a scene in The Downward Spiral.

While researching Jason and Sara’s apartment in L.A., I searched for buildings within walking distance to UCLA and found the Levering Arms. They included floor plans in their photos and I chose one of them as their new home.

The other real setting I used in The Downward Spiral was Balboa Park. We met up with my friend and fellow author, Richard D. Mellinger, one afternoon and spent several hours wandering through the park while chatting. I’ll share more about that in another post. What’s important for this post is that I was inspired to write a scene that takes place in the Japanese Friendship Garden on the deck of the Inamori Pavillion. The garden is rather large and Inamori Pavillion, if you take the same route we did, is a natural stopping point before returning to the entrance.

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This bridge is one of several in the garden. One of my favorite things to photograph in Japanese gardens are the bridges, particularly drum bridges.

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Ikebana inside Inamori Pavillion.

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Last but not least, the koi that inspired a funny moment in The Downward Spiral.

My next book takes place in mostly real settings but it’s also set in the 1990s, so many of the businesses that I use are no longer around. In some cases, the buildings themselves have been torn down. Intrigued? I’ll give you a little peek of one location in closing…

Make Horse

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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The Downward Spiral: Chapter One

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The blank canvas taunted him, chided him. Whatever you do to me will amount to nothing. You can paint whatever you want, no one will want me. I’ll sit in the corner of this studio collecting dust until you paint over worthless little ol’ me.

He shut his eyes, listening to Seether—willing the music to drown out the negativity. He pursed his lips, raising his hand to strike.

You’re no artist. You’re a waste of oxygen.

He slashed the brush across the canvas and then diagonally upward, putting his whole body into it like a taiko drummer. He continued the wild strokes until the brush emptied of color. After dropping the brush in the black jar on the table next to him, he pulled one out of a jar of crimson paint. He attacked the canvas again.

Stepping back, he surveyed his work. A fucking trainwreck.

He threw the brush at the canvas in frustration, it hit with a dull thud. The brush fell to the floor as he dropped into his chair, spent physically and emotionally.

 

Kyra tossed her keys on the table in the entry, dumped her briefcase underneath, and thumbed through the mail. The house was quiet, absent the usual rock music playing and aromas of food cooking in the kitchen.

“Ky! I’m home!” she called upstairs. Her twin brother didn’t answer.

She kicked off her black patent leather pumps and climbed the stairs, entering the first room on her right. Three of the walls were set with large windows, allowing natural light to flood the room during the day.

Kyle was slumped in a chair, arms hanging at his side with a glass of red wine in his hand. His short burnt sienna hair was messy and his jeans and white t-shirt were spattered with paint. An easel with a large canvas, full of angry, dark brush strokes was in front of him.

“Hey, Ky,” Kyra said, leaning against the doorjamb with her arms over her chest.

He startled in his seat, almost spilling his wine, and then glanced at her. “Hey, Kyr. I didn’t hear you.”

“What’s up with that?” She gestured to the canvas with her chin. “It looks like roadkill.”

“Elisha broke up with me again.” He took a sip of wine.

“What was it this time?” She’d lost count of how many times Elisha broke up with him, and couldn’t keep track of the myriad reasons she gave when she did so.

“I don’t pay enough attention to her.”

“You don’t pay enough attention to me either,” she joked, smiling. “Maybe I should breakup with you too.”

“You couldn’t if you tried.” He chuckled. “We share too much DNA.”

“Lucky for you.” She paused with a slight smile. “I’m guessing you didn’t cook dinner.”

“Sorry.”

“Order some Chinese while I change and pay the bills.”

“What do you want?”

“Shrimp with snow peas. And pour me a glass,” she said, nodding at the wine. “No reason for you to be drinking alone.”

“You bet.” He grabbed the phone off the table next to him.

Kyra returned downstairs to the master bedroom, stripping out of her black pencil skirt and ivory blouse. She donned a pair of black yoga pants and a lavender tunic sweater—it was almost spring in San Diego and she got chilly at night—then pulled her hair into a ponytail. She sat at the desk in her office as her twin brought her a glass of Tempranillo.

They sat on the floor in front of the coffee table with their white takeout boxes and glasses of wine, watching a rerun of Game of Thrones. Kyle slouched and peered into his box of Beef Broccoli while Kyra picked out a snow pea pod with chopsticks from her box.

“Are you going to try to get her back?” she asked.

“I’m done with women.”

She laughed. “If I had a dollar for every time you said that.”

“I’m serious, Kyr. I’m tired of relationship drama. I’m going to focus on my art.”

She chewed her food, pondering his declaration. She had never been fond of Elisha, but she never voiced that to Kyle. He needed a supportive sister, not another person to question his choices. She wouldn’t argue with him focusing on his art though. Anything to keep him out of the clutches of his ex.

“How was your day?” he asked.

“The usual fun day of contracts and meetings.” She winked at him. She was a lawyer for a tech company, focusing on their contracts. She didn’t do litigation—it wasn’t her thing. Not every lawyer belonged in a courtroom. She preferred writing and pouring over legalese. Analyzing suited her.

He cracked a smile and snickered. “Want to go to the museum with me this weekend? They have a Picasso exhibit for a few weeks I want to see.”

“Sure.” She settled against the sofa, cradling the wine glass in her hand with the stem between her middle and ring fingers.

Kyle lifted his glass, stopping before taking a drink. “Do you think I’ll meet someone else?”

“Only if you don’t hide in your studio.” She sipped the Tempranillo, pressing her tongue to the roof of her mouth.

He refilled his glass and then hers. They sat in comfortable silence, nursing the wine and watching Tyrion’s trial.

Kyle let out a deep sigh and poured another glass, emptying the bottle. “Do you want more?” he asked Kyra. “I can open another bottle.”

“Sure.”

She watched him stroll to the wine rack in the dining room. She knew he would be moody. After the other breakups, he hid in the studio most of his waking hours and then drank himself to sleep when he was done. This would be no different.

Being each other’s twin for the last thirty years was never easy. Where Kyle was emotional and given to temperamental outbursts, Kyra was rational and thought everything through before acting. Maybe it was what made him a good artist and her a good lawyer.

But others expected them to be the same, and that would never happen.

 

Kyle gazed at his twin as she sipped her wine. They looked enough alike that if someone was paying attention, they’d notice the familial resemblance in the shape of their oval faces and long noses. But no one ever guessed they were twins because they noticed the differences first—her darker hair and her light hazel eyes compared to his light brown eyes.

He slid his arm around her, resting his head on hers.

How can I have a relationship while working on my art? Will other women feel the same as Elisha about me and my work? Or will they be more respectful of my time and process?

His ex didn’t like his intense focus when he was into his work. It’s not that he forgot about her, it’s that he was driven to see his vision take form. Once the idea was in his head he had to get it on canvas, otherwise he ruminated over it.

Ruminating led to madness.

© 2016 Debi V. Smith, LLC

 
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Posted by on September 7, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Skating On Review Ice

Books from the bookstore are great, but so are the ebooks by my friends.

Reviews and ratings are a tricksy thing. As writers, what do we expect from our friends in the public eye when we put our work out for the world to consume? Ego stroking? Reassurances? Love it or else? Honesty? Flattery? We want people to like our stories, but the truth is, not everyone will. I knew this before I gave my beta readers Family Ties. I knew there was a possibility that someone would tell me they hated it. While they stroked my ego with the praise in their notes, they were honest with what needed work and what they wanted to see. Did I use every piece of feedback? No, but I used the majority of it to make my story richer, which is what feedback is supposed to help writers do.

My initial experience with Goodreads when I started using it a year ago, was to rate books usually with a four or five star. Then I started reading books where the phrases were wrong, plots were thin, characters weren’t developed, and nothing was believable. I stopped and reassessed what I was doing because when all is said and done, if I’m rating/reviewing something high when the writer’s skill in that particular piece of work really isn’t that high then it reflects back on me. I consider the technical writing with plot, character development, continuity, and realistic behavior/situations when rating/reviewing. My emotional response factors in there, but not as much. I recently rated a novel by a well-known sci-fi author with three stars because it wasn’t his best.

When I see reviews (because I do all I can to avoid reading them) on Amazon or Goodreads that are four or five stars when the book is riddled with plot holes, inconsistencies, unrealistic behavior/situations, and/or typos it makes me wonder what everyone is thinking when they’re reading the same thing I’m reading. Reviews are completely subjective and we are all drawn into a story in different ways. But there are storytelling basics to be followed and if they aren’t, I question the ratings and reviews. Even before discovering Goodreads, I didn’t put much stock in book reviews as a reader. I never choose what book I’m going to buy/borrow based on reviews.

I tend to be honest and blunt because I don’t believe in sugar coating things, and working with teenage boys for a decade honed that tendency. It wasn’t helpful to them to be anything but forthright after all they had been through before I worked with them. We want people to be kind to our “baby” when we publish it. We want people to like it. We want our friends and family to support us because it’s invaluable, especially coming from our most trusted loved ones. But does that support include a review/rating that isn’t entirely truthful? Just like with the boys, it’s not helpful. It’s not true validation and it’s misleading to potential readers/fans who do read reviews before purchasing a book.

I want genuine feedback about my writing, especially from my friends. I want to know what I missed so I make sure to make it present in my next novel. I want to continually hone my skills and I can’t do that if reviews only pile on the praise.

 
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Posted by on January 9, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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