Let’s Write a Legend

Setting is the theme this on JPC Allen Writes, and today’s prompt is inspired by my family’s visit to the King’s Hollow Tunnel (or King’s Switch Tunnel or King Station Tunnel–this place has more names than a member of the British royal family). This tunnel is part of the Moonville Rail Trail. The Moonville Tunnel is reputed to be haunted, but I think the King’s Hollow Tunnel is a much better site for a ghostly legend. So let’s write a legend for this setting.

As usual, my mind turns to crime. I imagine that when the trail was a railroad in the 1800’s, a body was found alongside of it. It took authorities awhile to identify it, but the dead man was an exiled king of a small European country. People in the area believed the ex-king was traveling incognito but his enemies caught up with him on the train. That’s how the place got it’s name–King Hollow. Legend says that the ghost of the king still walks the trail, looking for his killers.

Now it’s your turn. What legend can you imagine for this setting?

A Story for Easter: “Dad Sent Me”

I wrote this Easter story a few years ago to express how I think about Easter. May you be blessed during this most hopeful holiday of the year!


I am trapped.

The boulder is heading straight for me. I can’t escape.  What good would it do anyway?

I’ve ended up in this exact situation before, too many times before, so why try to get away?

It’s my own stupid fault.  I finally get that.

There’s nothing I can do.

I huddle down. How much will it hurt this time? I can’t take much more pain. I am so sorry. So very, very sorry. Not that that matters.

I’m knocked to the ground.  But not by the boulder.

A man, a stranger, shoves me out of the way. I twist around to him. The boulder smashes into him and shatters into a pile of rubble, burying him.

I gape. I stare. Why would a stranger save me?

The pile moves. Flinging off the rocks, the man stands up.

I splutter, “B-b-but how?  But who?  But why?”

Brushing off the dust and dirt, the man gives me a huge grin and answers all my questions with one sentence.

“Dad sent me.”

Creating a Hybrid Setting

As we continue to follow through the year “The Journey of a Book”, how a book moves from inspiration to publication, this month’s theme is all about that most overlooked literary element, the setting. To kick off our theme, Penny Frost McGinnis is back to describe creating a hybrid setting, which means incorporating imagination with a real setting. Thanks so much for coming back, Penny!

For me—setting is another character in the story. 

In my Abbott Island series, the place where my characters live is based on and inspired by beautiful Kelleys Island, Ohio. In creating Abbott Island, I’ve taken some poetic license to add places and events, but the inspiration comes from the people and places on the little island in Lake Erie.

My husband and I had visited Kelleys Island a few times when the idea struck to set the story I had mulling in my mind on an island similar to the one I was standing on. The natural setting of parks, hiking trails, and water appealed to me and drew me there. As we hiked the alvar, the state park, and random trails across the island, it drew me in more and more. The beaches and water sports tugged at me. Where better to set the stories of the folks who inhabited my island? 

As I shaped and shifted Abbott Island to fit my characters’ stories, I imagined the activities they could partake in (which included actual events on Kelleys Island.) I inserted the real with the imagined creating a world my characters loved, to the point where the setting felt like a character.

In using a real island as inspiration, I had to be careful to honor the original place. Nothing I wrote should mar Kelleys Island. I changed the name of the island, added new businesses, renamed current businesses, kept a few of the prominent ones, and referred to a few I left unnamed. 

I incorporated the alvar, a unique natural phenomenon that occurs in a few places in Ohio in book two of the series, Home Away from Home, along with a kayak rental we used. The woman who owned the kayak booth became inspiration for Marigold in book two. She no longer runs the rental in real life, but I met her nieces and told them how she had inspired me. 

However you choose to create a setting, look for inspiration, do your research, and honor the place you choose. Pick a setting you want to spend time in, because you’ll live there while you write your books.

A few tips if you are inspired by an actual place:

  • Follow their social media
    • Facebook
    • Instagram
    • Twitter
  • Read books about the place
    • History
    • Current
  • Visit in person, if possible 
    • Take lots of photos
    • Talk to the locals
    • Experience events and activities
  • Connect to the library
    • Research

I often look for books to read that have a setting I enjoy. I’m drawn to books on the east coast, islands, and small towns. Readers are often looking for a place to go and relax, like a vacation. Create a place your readers love. Happy writing!

Thank you for the great tips on how to use real world settings to inspire imaginary ones. To read Penny’s previous guest post, click here. Be sure to check out Penny’s newest release below!


Home Away From Home: Abbott Island series book #2

Will Marigold and Johnny embrace love late in life?

When Marigold Hayes turned fourteen, her mother died, and her father went missing. For forty years, she has searched for her dad and lived a quiet life on Abbott Island, until she met Johnny. As her love for Johnny grows, her sorrow from the relentless search for her father breaks her heart. She begs God to help her move forward with her life before she has no love left to give. Then three mysterious strangers show up who could change her life.

Johnny Papadakis moved to Abbott Island ten years ago. His ex-wife had pushed him away and discouraged him from having a relationship with their daughter. After years of hard work, his restaurant flourishes, so does his relationship with Marigold. As he seeks Marigold’s hand in marriage, his daughter shows up on his doorstep, looking for a place to call home. 

Can Marigold and Johnny settle the past and move toward the promise of a blessed future?


If Penny Frost McGinnis could live in a lighthouse or on an island, she would. Instead, she and her husband are content to live in southwest Ohio and visit Lake Erie every chance they get. She loves God, adores her family and dog, indulges in dark chocolate, creates fiber arts, and enjoys watching baseball. She pens romance with a dash of mystery and the promise of hope. Her life’s goal is to encourage and uplift through her writing. 

Connect with Penny at her website, FB author page, Twitter, Goodreads, Bookbub, and Pinterest

Building Blocks for a YA Story

Although the month has changed, I still have one post for last month’s theme of YA fiction. My Monday Sparks Writing Prompts have been about the building blocks for a YA story, encouraging readers to vote on a protagonist, antagonist, plot, and setting. All the elements are pictured above and I’ll list them below. I’ll write an opening with these building blocks for a YA story and you can use the same building blocks to write your own opening in the comments. I’d love to know how these elements inspire you!

  • Protagonist: Young man
  • Antagonist: Young woman
  • Plot: Puzzle. A mysterious problem the protagonist must solve and the antagonist tries to prevent him from solving. Does not have to be crime related.
  • Main settings: Small-town library and pizza place

“That’s too cool,” said Ava as she tried to cram another coffee table book on the shelves for oversized books. “How many people get invited to the reading of a will? I hope you have to go to Mrs.Vander’s house in a storm at night.”

“Actually, it’s in the lawyer’s office tomorrow at 11 am,” I said, moving down the aisle to slide a book into the pets section. “And my mom’s going with me since I’m underage.”

“It still might storm,” said Ava with a grin.

Once I’d emptied my cart of returned books, I wheeled it into the main walkway through the adult nonfiction. And almost crashed into Amyra Vander.

“You aren’t really coming to the reading of the will, are you?” she asked, flinging long strands of red-enhaced hair over her shoulder.

My eyes were swelling wide open. In the two years I’d worked at the main branch of the library, I’d never seen Amyra in it. In fact, although we’d been in the same grade since kindergarten, I couldn’t remember the last time I’d spoken to her. Being an average-looking guy with average-brains and below-average talent and ambitions seemed to keep me off the radar of the High Queen of the High School.

“She probably only left you $50.” Her brown eyes–maybe hazel–narrowed to mean little streaks. “She couldn’t have left anything more to her lawn boy.”

“Then I’ll get my check and leave.” I gave her my polite, I’m-working-so-I-can’t-chat smile that I always kept handy for any patron who saw me as target for a conversation.

“Why humiliate yourself? Just don’t show.”

I kept walking away.

“I know you heard me. You’d better not show.”

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