Setting is the fictional landscape of a book or a poem. More than a backdrop, it is an essential character that shapes mood, personality, even character. Think about Plainsong by Kent Haruf. And those two grizzled cattle ranchers whose very existence has been molded by the terrain and weather that color every scene. Landscape can be friend or foe. Without it, a book seems untethered, lost in space. Here's another example-Lori Radar-Day's mystery The Day I Died. Anna and her 13 year old son Joshua are on the run, moving from one nondescript apartment to another, staring at blank white walls and unpacked boxes. The absence of home is amplified by memories of the walls of a rotating parade of miserable childhood homes, painted yellow as a cheery stand-in for missing joy. As I learn to write, setting becomes more and more important. Not just as description, but as an active element in pushing the plot. My Dot Meyerhoff mysteries are set in Silicon Valley, an ethnically mixed jumble of people and hidden pockets of poverty embedded in a landscape of wealth. In the forthcoming third book, The Fifth Reflection (pub date July), a child goes missing. The search to find her reveals a horrific irony. The inventions of Silicon Valley have enabled, emboldened and equipped pedophiles and sex traffickers making life harder for the police who are trying to catch them.