Where Dreams Meet the Business of Writing

Posts tagged ‘Writers Zen blog’

IWSG

Today I’m writing for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group’s blog hop. The first Wednesday of each month, we write in inspiration to a question posed by the group’s administrators. We don’t need to write in response to the question posed, but I like to use their query as the springboard for the monthly post.

This month the OPTIONAL IWSG Day Question is: If you could pick one place in the world to sit and write your next story, where would it be and why?

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As If There Were Any Question

Laguna Beach, California is where you’d find me writing if I had my druthers. Scotchman’s Cove, Diver’s Cove or Heisler Park – wherever I could find an empty bench or a sandy spot for my beach towel with the fewest people around.

And why there? Because it’s one of my favorite spots on earth and the sun, the salty air and the pounding of the surf nourishes my soul and heals me. It opens me up to write from my inner being. But although that’s my all-time favorite place, I wouldn’t be adverse to a week nestled along the shoreline at Big Sur either. I’d say any other beach – but that would be a lie. I’m a bit of a beach snob and am fussy about where I spend the little beach time I have. Which, now that I live in Texas, is about nil.

It wouldn’t be Huntington Beach. It wouldn’t be Seal Beach. It’s wouldn’t be…any of the other flat boring expanses of sand that graces so much of the coastline. It has to be rocky and craggy, where the surf can dash itself against the cliffs. Where there are tide pools to explore. I don’t even have to dip my toes in the water. All I need is the sights, the sounds, the scents of the vast ocean in front of me.

But you know – barring no acceptable beach, I could also disappear into the mountains where jays are screeching and the wind rustles through the pine trees that perfume the air with their fresh pungent scent.

Alas, since I’m thousands of miles from a beloved beach, who knows how many miles from a decent mountain forest, and its 95-degrees outside as I write this, I’ll settle for writing at my keyboard, tucked away in my home with the AC blowing full blast and the bit of nature that I’ll revel in right now is the teensy little spider trying to build a web outside in the corner of the window frame.

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Any other historical fiction authors here? In April I started a weekly newsletter – Pages of the Past – celebrating historical fiction. Each week I have an author spotlight on a historical fiction author, along with a Reading Roundup of 1-2 books from different eras. If you’re an author and are interested in being interviewed for an author spotlight, email me at texastrishafaye@yahoo.com. Right now I’m scheduling authors for October and November. Also, if you have any books you’d like featured, email me and let me know and I’ll get it scheduled into the next newsletter for that era.

If you’d like to take a look to see if you’re interested, here’s a link to the May 31st newsletter.

Get Pages of the Past delivered to your inbox every Friday!

Join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/184527085517941/

laguna beach 2.jpg

Patience Required #IWSG

IWSG

Today I’m writing for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group’s blog hop. The first Wednesday of each month, we write in inspiration to a question posed by the group’s administrators. We don’t need to write in response to the question posed, but I like to use their query as the springboard for the monthly post.

This month the OPTIONAL IWSG Day Question is: Has your writing ever taken you by surprise?

The awesome co-hosts for the June 5 posting of the IWSG are Renee Scattergood, Sadira Stone, Jacqui Murray, Tamara Narayan, and LG Keltner!

 

Patience Required

calendar flying by

I thought I was prepared for a freelance writing career. Before I gave notice to my employer, I prepared. I’d read about a freelance writing life. I started submitting long before I gave my notice. I had some money in the bank. I was ready. I had a plan. I had patience. I had this!

And then – the realities proved that I didn’t.

Knowing that I wouldn’t work and get a paycheck two weeks later (immediate cash compared to how the writing money trickles in), I had enough cash to get through three months.

And then…the car broke.

I had a plan and I was submitting.

And then…the acceptances didn’t come in fast enough.

And then…

Much to my dismay – and what wasn’t planned – was me taking a part-time job. But, I discovered that I really do like to eat! And the car, now fixed, really likes to eat too. And so do the plethora of cats that fill the house.

Several things caught me by surprise. The first was that even thought I thought I had a well-thought out plan – it wasn’t adequate. The second was that even though I thought I was patient – I wasn’t patient enough.

But a fun surprise down the line was having small checks appear in the mailbox unexpectedly.

When I started out, I sent submitted some devotions to The Secret Place. They only accept three submissions a month, so January, February and March of 2015 I sent in three a month. By then the realities were starting to show themselves and I knew I needed something that paid larger amounts and paid faster. So I stopped.

In May 2015 I got two rejections from them. Crickets on the other seven submissions. By then I was looking at other markets and never submitted anything else.

In October of that year, nine months after I sent the first devotion, I had one acceptance. Four months later I had another acceptance. And then an even louder chorus of crickets.

Two and a half years after sending in the first batch of three submission, I was pulling some weeds in the back yard. By then, thoughts of the other submissions never even crossed my mind. I heard the mailman drive down the street, so wandered out to the mailbox, expecting only a bill or two, possibly a letter from a friend. When I pulled out an envelope from Judson Press, I was confused. The name seemed familiar, but it didn’t match anything that I knew I had out.

I couldn’t wait to get to the letter opener. I tore the envelope open walking back to the house. There was a check for $20! Checking my list of submissions, I found it was to a devotion I’d sent in February 2015 – and a check arrived in June 2017 – two years and five months later!

I didn’t complain. It was just the right amount to buy a new printer cartridge, so I sent up a silent thank you to the heavens. After that, three more checks trickled in, one a quarter.

Now I regret not continuing on with my submissions. In my impatience of not seeing immediate results, I stopped and went to other avenues. I should have kept writing and submitting and I might have had other checks coming in through the next few years. But I stopped. So that pipeline is now dried up.

These periodic checks, while small and not large enough to retire on, showed me that patience is truly a large part of being a writer. That is one of the many things that I’d underestimated when I first stepped onto this writer’s road.

 

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Any other historical fiction authors here? In April I started a weekly newsletter – Pages of the Past – celebrating historical fiction. Each week I have an author spotlight on a historical fiction author, along with a Reading Roundup of 1-2 books from different eras. If you’re an author and are interested in being interviewed for an author spotlight, email me at texastrishafaye@yahoo.com. Right now I’m scheduling authors for October and November. Also, if you have any books you’d like featured, email me and let me know and I’ll get it scheduled into the next newsletter for that era.

If you’d like to take a look to see if you’re interested, here’s a link to the May 31st newsletter.

 

Get Pages of the Past delivered to your inbox every Friday!

 Join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/184527085517941/

The Three Cline Children Live On

iwsg

Today I’m writing for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group’s blog hop. The first Wednesday of each month, we write in inspiration to a question posed by the group’s administrators. We don’t need to write in response to the question posed, but I like to use their query as the springboard for the monthly post.

This month the OPTIONAL IWSG Day Question is: What personal traits have you written into your character(s)?

The awesome co-hosts for the July 3 posting of the IWSG are Erika Beebe, Natalie Aguirre, Jennifer Lane, MJ Fifield, Lisa Buie-Collard, and Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor!

cline kids

The Three Cline Children Live On

Oh, so often my characters end up with my own personal traits. After all, one of the common pieces of advice is ‘to write what we know.’ And what do we know better than our own personal traits – be they flawed, noble, or inaccurately perceived.

The three Cline children – I and my younger brother and sister – from our younger years have come to my aid on my newest work in progress. I want to write a series of three books about a set of 1934 quilt squares that were stitched by real people over eighty years ago – a chapter book, a middle-grade book, and a novel for adults. I initially planned to have one of the real people as the main character in the books. But, knowing there would be descendants of this real person, I didn’t want to write the book from their point of view and then discover that I’d grossly misjudged their character or what they were like in their younger years.

Since the tales will be told in a fictional manner, I created a family that is going to move to town. I needed two younger girls for the chapter book and middle-grade book, and a mother for the adult novel. Let’s put a boy right in the middle of the two girls and voila! There’s my family. The oldest daughter (me) is Faith, my middle name. A brother two years younger is played by Edward, my brother’s middle name. And the littlest sister is played by Elizabeth, my sister’s middle name.

Naturally, Faith, the oldest is a bit of a nerdy book worm. She’s more interested in books and crafts – mostly books. Edward is curious and active and loves to pester his two sisters. And Elizabeth has those huge, brown eyes that she bats furiously when she wants to get her way.

These younger Cline siblings may be older now, the two girls now grandmothers and the brother supervising from the heavenly realm. None of the three of us were even around in 1934. Our parents weren’t even born until 1934 and 1936. But thanks to the wonderful world of fiction, the three Cline kids will have their own Marty McFly vehicle, but instead of flying to the future, we’re stepping back in time to become characters in a tale from long ago.

You’ve got to love being a writer – the magic we can weave with our words!

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Any other historical fiction authors here? In April I started a weekly newsletter – Pages of the Past – celebrating historical fiction. Each week I have an author spotlight on a historical fiction author, along with a Reading Roundup of 2-3 books from different eras. If you’re an author and are interested in being interviewed for an author spotlight, email me at texastrishafaye@yahoo.com. I’m scheduling authors for August and September. Also, if you have any books you’d like featured, email me and let me know and I’ll get it scheduled into the next newsletter for that era.

If you’d like to take a look to see if you’re interested, here’s a link to the May 31st newsletter.

 

Living in the Past

iwsg

Today I’m writing for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group’s blog hop. The first Wednesday of each month, we write in inspiration to a question posed by the group’s administrators. We don’t need to write in response to the question posed, but I like to use their query as the springboard for the monthly post.

This month the OPTIONAL IWSG Day Question is: Of all the genres you read and write, which is your favorite to write in and why?

The awesome co-hosts for the June 5 posting of the IWSG are Diane Burton, Kim Lajevardi, Sylvia Ney, Sarah Foster, Jennifer Hawes, and Madeline Mora-Summonte!

time-707642.jpg

 

Living in the Past

In true Gemini eclectic fashion, I read and write in many genres. A little children’s. A little contemporary. I dabbled with some romance that didn’t go too far. I plotted out a mystery – or rather, started plotting out a mystery. Lots of nonfiction and magazine articles get their share of keyboard time. But my all-time favorite genre? The one that sings its siren song, luring me to its shores?

Historical fiction. The days of the past. The eras long gone. Those are the stories that I long to tell.

Sometimes an old vintage photograph kicks off the tale. Many times an old postcard. A name inscribed on the flyleaf of a hundred year old book. Sometimes it’s simply touching an embroidered piece that starts the story unraveling. I touch the threads that an unknown woman touched fifty, eighty, or a hundred years ago. My mind drifts and I wonder…Who made this? What was she like? What were her hopes and dreams? What was her life like?

That’s all it takes. In a flash I’m living in the past. I dropped into 1850, or 1910, or 1934.

Who needs Marty McFly and his time-traveling DeLorean? All I need to teleport me to another time is a dish, a cookbook, a photograph, or some other memorabilia that began its life many years before I drew my first breath.

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Any other historical fiction authors here? In April I started a weekly newsletter – Pages of the Past – celebrating historical fiction. Each week I have an author spotlight on a historical fiction author, along with a Reading Roundup of 2-3 books from different eras. If you’re an author and are interested in being interviewed for an author spotlight, email me at texastrishafaye@yahoo.com. Right now, I’m scheduling authors for July and August. Also, if you have any books you’d like featured, email me and let me know and I’ll get it scheduled into the next newsletter for that era.

If you’d like to take a look to see if you’re interested, here’s a link to the May 31st newsletter.

 

N: Names

N: Names

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Choosing names for the characters in our historical fiction works can be difficult. Maybe not difficult, but we need to choose the names with care. After all, if I’m writing a tale set in 1910, a female is most likely not going to have an Ashley or a Taylor, especially not with a creative spelling such as Ashlee. But on the other hand, there’s only so many Mary’s and Elizabeth’s that can grace our pages.

One thing to keep in mind is the era you’re writing in and what names were popular at the time.

Another is where the story takes place, or if there’s an ethnic background. A story set in Scotland in the 1600’s would have a completely different cast of characters than my 1930 story set in the U.S.

And – as you are probably aware of and I don’t need to point out – watch the starting letters too. A story with a Mary, Margaret and Madeline could become very confusing for the reader. We want them to keep reading. We don’t want them getting distracted by trying to keep all the characters straight and knowing which ‘M’ one this was without thinking about it.

The Academy of Saint Gabriel has an excellent article that discusses choosing a medieval name.

The Academy is a group of around 50 volunteers who research medieval names and armory. Our primary purpose is to assist members of medieval re-enactment groups like the Society for Creative Anachronism to find historically accurate medieval names and coats of arms. To this end, we maintain the Medieval Names Archive and Medieval Heraldry Archive.

https://www.s-gabriel.org/names/dietmar/hints.html

The History Girls also have an informative blog that discusses names in the medieval period.

https://the-history-girls.blogspot.com/2017/04/personal-names-in-historical-fiction.html

Historical fiction author Elizabeth Pye has a video clip on her site from an interview. (Go take a look – it’s short, just under two minutes.) One of the questions was about how she chose the names in her French novel. One additional piece of advice she has at the end is: “Do you like it? Does it seem to fit your character?”

If you’re writing a story set in the US, the Social Security Administration has a great searchable list by decades that begins in the 1880s.

Do you have any favorite methods for choosing your period character names?

 

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celebrating historical fiction, sign up here.

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Language and Idioms

Join us in the 2019 A to Z Blog Challenge as we celebrate historical fiction. These posts will also be shared in the weekly newsletter, Pages of the Past, which debuted April 5th.

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Language and Idioms

Was It Even Used Then?

Words and phrase can be something that easily trips up historical fiction authors. Common phrases used today can easily sneak into our period writing. I was caught on this just last week. I brought a snippet from an early 1930’s short story to my writing group. In it, the characters went to one of the just released Shirley Temple movies. One of the members asked, “Would they have called it ‘the movies’? I remember my Grandma always talking about going to the ‘picture shows’.” Yikes! She caught a good one, one that had slipped by me completely.

Granted, some instances are fairly minor and may not raise many issues with readers. But sometimes it can be a glaring problem. I’ve also seen where readers report that an issue was major enough that they shut the book and don’t read any further.

What do you do if you’re unsure? One of my favorite sites is the Online Etymology Dictionary. You can search a word for its earliest known use. For instance, if I type in ‘heebie-jeebies’, I learn:

heebie-jeebies (n.)

1923, said to have been coined by U.S. cartoonist Billy De Beck (1890-1942), creator of “Barney Google.”

So, I can definitely use this in my short story set in 1928. While the word most likely wouldn’t have been used in 1922, if I’m writing a tale set in that year, I can probably still get by with it. It’s going to be close enough to the time period that most readers would still feel as if they’re in the time. However, Mittie Ann, the girl that came to Texas in the 1850’s in a covered wagon definitely wouldn’t have used that phrase.

How Much Period Language to Use

Another part of language that becomes a balancing act is how much period language to use. M.K. Tod, on A Writer of History, speaks of using dialogue in historical fiction. He writes:

Dialogue – dialogue that is cumbersome and difficult to understand detracts from readers’ enjoyment of historical fiction. Dip occasionally into the vocabulary and grammatical structures of the past by inserting select words and phrases so that a reader knows s/he is in another time period. Don’t weigh the manuscript down or slow the reader’s pace with too many such instances. And be careful. Many words have changed their meanings over time and could be misinterpreted.

In ‘7 Tips on Accuracy and Authenticity’, Susanna Calkins, with a Ph.D. in history, talked about how accurate her first novel, A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate, was going to be. She wrote:

When I was first dreaming about my story, even before I had worked out the plot or characters, I knew one thing for sure: By gum, this novel would be accurate. Every detail, every word, would be accurate. Historians everywhere would use my book in their classes and would revel in my accurate tale.

That idea lasted about two seconds.

Not only would using accurate language make my story unnecessarily pendantic and cumbersome, but many seventeenth-century words and phrases don’t translate readily today. Certainly I could say “The footpad bit the Roger, tipped the cole to Adam Tyler, and then took it to a stauling ken.” But I have a feeling modern readers might not understand that I was saying that a thief has stolen a bag, passed it to a fence, who in turn sold it to a house that receives stolen goods. Unless my editor let me write a companion volume with glossary and explanatory footnotes, this isn’t too feasible.

Just as in life, where sometimes an issue becomes a balancing act, so is it in writing historical fiction. We need to use enough language of the times, to help frame the time period and help the reader feel as if they’re really there in the midst of the tale, without being so accurate that as Susanna Calkins says, it becomes “pendantic and cumbersome.” And, we also want to make sure that the phrases we’re using to help set the tone of the story are accurate and of the period we’re writing.

If you’d like to receive Pages of the Past, a free weekly newsletter
celebrating historical fiction, sign up here.

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Keeping the Memories Alive

Join us in the 2019 A to Z Blog Challenge as we celebrate historical fiction. These posts will also be shared in the weekly newsletter, Pages of the Past, which debuted April 5th.

Keeping the Memories Alive

Luetta and Amanda.jpg

(Not a family photo – simply the inspiration for the two women in my 1928 short story)

It’s always fun as an author when we can use elements of our family history as part of our writing. It feels like you’re keeping a small memory of your beloved ancestors alive – at least in a small fragment. Others may not realize that they’ve read something that was inspired by a family member past, but you as the author know.

I’m finding out that I’m not the only one that enjoys this small tribute to our loved ones. Last year, in a guest post – Mom and Dad May Be Gone but They Live on in My Series – author Lindsay Downs shared about how characteristics of his parents live on in his Upson PI mysteries. (Lindsay is the featured author in Pages of the Past April 19th issue)

You’d think that writing further back in time, say in the time of Mary Queen of Scots, it wouldn’t be possible to include family snippets. Not true. Author Emily-Jane Hills Orford, in writing Queen Mary’s Daughter, was able to use characteristics of her beloved grandmother as a the grandmother in the tale. In the debut issue of Pages of the Past, Emily-Jane shared how her grandmother was a factor in her historical interests. In her author spotlight, she shares:

“I have always been fascinated with the life and times of Mary Queen of Scots and Queen Elizabeth I. Once again, this was a shared interest with my grandmother.”

In my own writing, pieces of family history and characters have been used here and there. One of my Vintage Daze Short Stories I was working on ended up being the most fun when Grandpa Jones (deceased since 1976) pushed his way into the story.

Two small 1928 cookbooks were the original inspiration for ‘Best Thing Since Sliced Bread.’ One I’d purchased in an antique store and one I’d inherited from one of the elderly women that lived next door to us when I was a child. That’s all I knew about the story – is that it would be set in 1928.

I researched events in 1928 to see if there was anything I could work into the story. I saw that in Chillicothe Missouri, the first loaf of sliced bread came out that year. My Grandpa Jones grew up in a small town, Dawn, outside of Chillicothe and his brother, Uncle Scott, had a farm outside Chillicothe where my mom and Aunt Ida were born. Voila! I had the place. The vague outline of a young flapper girl and her quest for cooking began to form.

I also saw that Chillicothe held a popular Chevrolet Day that year. And I read that that’s the year the Hall Brothers Company, in Kansas City, changed their name to their trademarked Hallmark, and started using the new Hallmark logo on their cards. Since I work part time for Hallmark, I knew I wanted to include this part, so the young flapper, Luetta, instantly got herself a boyfriend that just happened to work for Hall Brothers.

The story had been ‘brewing’ for several weeks and I was a few scenes into it, when I happened to be talking to my mom one afternoon. I was telling her about the new story idea and where it was set. “Grandpa would have been a young boy in 1928 though?” I asked.

“Oh, no. He was born in 1908, so he would have been twenty years old.”

“Twenty years old? So if Chillicothe had a Chevrolet Day, he would have been there then?”

“Absolutely,” she replied. “He was a Chevy man his whole life. That’s all he ever drove. I’m sure he would have been there.” Mom continued to tell me a family story that Grandpa had repeated many times throughout his later years. He was driving through town – in a Chevy – and had one arm around the girl in the car. (Pre-Grandma Jones’ days) The constable pulled him over and said, “Casey, you need to use both hands.” Grandpa, the smart-alecky young man that he was, responded, “But, officer, I need one hand to drive with.”

Well, Luetta already had a boyfriend, but now – how to work a young Grandpa Jones into the tale? Luetta’s best friend, Amanda, had to meet Casey so I could work this family story in.

A short time later, my cousin – not knowing I was working on this story- texted me one morning about another Grandpa Jones story. Uncle Alvin had shared about when Grandpa was running a trunk load of moonshine up from Arkansas to Missouri, stowed in the trunk and covered with armloads of hay. He was stopped and the officer said his lights were out. Grandpa played dumb like he didn’t know. The officer opened the trunk asked, “What’s with all the hay?” Grandpa replied, “Why, officer, you feed animals with it.” And the officer closed the trunk and Grandpa went on his way.

Yes, that was written into the short story too. In real life, the Grandpa I knew was such a quiet, unassuming man. Yet here he is forty years later getting a little pushy from the afterlife, pushing his way into the story. No one else will know as the read that these two parts are real life tales, from a Grandpa’s younger days so long ago. But I’ll know and feel good about keeping a small part of his history alive.

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celebrating historical fiction, sign up here.

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