Archive | April 2013

Know your History

When I was in High School I received a History award at the end of my senior year. I loved history, and still do.

I was blessed to have a teacher who spoke about history with  passion and made it interesting.  He didn’t focus on dates, (which I hate to admit has caused me a few problems along the way!), but he focused on events. Yes, the dates are important, but more than that, the facts of the event are the most important.

In my previous post I talked about research, and talking to people who specialize in the subject matter that you’re writing about. On top of that, it’s important to research even the smallest detail. Don’t ever assume that something existed in the past that we have today.

Yes, you may know that there were no cars, microwave ovens, or cell phones in the 1800’s, but did they have toothbrushes?

Ireland-31 The simplest things can make the biggest difference. One tiny detail may pop out and make a reader stop reading, or an editor roll their eyes and wonder if you really researched your material.

And, if history isn’t your thing, and you don’t like research, then try creating a whole new world!  You can do anything you choose when you’re making up something new.

Best advice…write what moves you. For me, it’s history, and falling in love.  A great combination!

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Editing…

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Though I’m writing fiction, being that it is “historical” fiction, it’s very important to know my history. And even if I wasn’t writing historical fiction, and was writing a story involving horses, then I had better well know a lot about horses!  I’ve always heard, “write what you know.”

I confess. When I started writing about the Civil War, I knew very little. Aside from the fact that I knew the North won, and that slavery was an issue in the war. Having grown up in the Northwest, I learned more about Lewis & Clark than I learned about the war. I can’t say that I remember much about them either.  The things we learn in school often times drift out of our memories, unless we have an interest in a particular subject. If you’ve ever watched an episode of “Are you Smarter than a Fifth Grader” then you know what I mean!

So when I started my books involving the war, I decided that talking to an expert was a good idea. Sometimes the information I get on the internet isn’t completely accurate. Hmmm…

I took pages and pages of notes and when I completed the chapters pertinent to those notes, I forwarded them to my expert, holding my breath until I heard back from him. He told me that all but one small detail was accurate. Whew! So, change that one small detail, right?  Sure!  Not so easy. I think I finally understand what so many fellow writers have told me about editing. As a writer, I’m “in love” with my work, and it’s hard to change it. But I’ve found that if I listen to people who know what they’re talking about, I will have a much better product.  So, I toyed with the event, and hope I came up with a good alternative. I’m still waiting to hear back from him on the changes.

I could have just stuck my nose in the air and said, “It’s my book. I know better about what it needs than you do.” But, that wouldn’t have helped my story. I would be destined to have that one Civil war expert read it, (though I’m not sure many of them read women’s fiction), and have him throw the book across the room screaming, “How could she be so stupid?!”

Having experts on board is a plus. My good friend, Diane, is my horse expert. When she read my “horse” chapters, she gave me incredible insight into horse behavior. Her words of wisdom ended up driving my story forward in a way I’d never expected. Thank you, Diane!

Moral of my post: Be willing to edit, even if it hurts!! It will only make your stories better.

 

What makes a Five-Star Book?

I remember the days when I was sick as a child, and had to stay home from school. To pass the time, I would read. Reading took me away from home on adventure after adventure, and the hours flew by. I think there may have been times that I probably wasn’t sick enough to warrant staying home, but the books called to me, and I managed to convince my mother that I was “very” sick.

One of my favorite series of books to read was “The Chronicles of Narnia.” I could polish off one of those books easily in a day’s time. And then, as I got older, I read “The Hobbit” followed by “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy. Other favorites included “Watership Down” and “Christy.” As an adult, I continued reading fantasy and went on the adventures in “Dune” and the “Thomas Covenant” books. And I can’t leave out the books about Merlin and Arthurian Legend by Mary Stewart; “The Crystal Cave,” “The Hollow Hills,” and “The Last Enchantment.”

All of those books have stayed with me through the years, and I enjoy reading them over and over again. When I began reading romance, I was drawn to “The Thorn Birds” which is not your typical romance. Maybe that’s what has made my writing far from “typical.”

I know there are many more books that I’ve not mentioned, but what I want to say is that to me, all of the books I mentioned rated five stars. They took me away to other places, captured my heart, and made me feel like I was a part of them. Any author who can achieve that in their writing is gifted. I hope that I will achieve that goal with my stories, and if at first I don’t succeed, I will keep at it until I do. I pray that I’ve been blessed with that gift.

My goal is to touch the heart of my readers, and maybe even give them something to think about. Perhaps even take them to places that they’ll want to journey to time and time again.  I want my characters to feel like brand new friends, whose lives are being shared.

So what are some of your “Five-Star” books, and what makes them rate so high for you? And…if you don’t mind sharing…what is the first thing that turns you off from a book and makes you put it away without ever finishing it?

 

 

 

Great Intentions

Last month, I made up my mind that I would post at least two blogs a week!  And then…I had a little accident and nearly lost the end of a finger on my right hand. I am now finally able to type with both hands again, even though that finger has little-to-no sensation.  Thank goodness for muscle memory!!

When I became a writer, I told friends that what I love about writing is that I don’t have to dress up to do it, and unlike being a singer, it doesn’t matter whether or not I can use my voice. And…if I injure a leg and can’t walk, I can still write!  I never dreamed that I would hurt my hand in a silly accident. I guess that it goes to prove that we should never take anything for granted and be grateful every day for even the little things that bless our lives.

Good health is a biggie!!  And getting enough rest so that you don’t make silly mistakes is also important. In case you’re curious, I stuck my hand into the spring mechanism of a reclining sofa. Yes…big OUCH!  Eight stitches later…and a great amount of pain, I’m on the mend.

The best thing of all is that in the time I couldn’t write, I was writing in my head, and once I could “hunt & peck” with my right hand, I started getting all those thoughts on paper.  I’m working hard on the sequel to “Marked” and am very excited about the progress I’m making.

The new book is entitled, “Forgotten” and takes place at the end of the Civil War.

Now that I can type again, I plan to blog more!!  See you again soon…