Beth Camp Historical Fiction

Saturday, June 15, 2019

WEP June 2019 Challenge: Caged Bird

 This month's WEP/IWSG writing challenge popped up in my e-mail, distracting me away from 'regular' writing. I was intrigued by the new collaboration between these two online writing communities, so here's my entry, a flash fiction following the theme (353 words). NOTE: This is a blog hop. Please see the links below and have fun reading where this month's prompt takes a variety of writers!

"Caged Birds"

Myrtle quick-stepped to keep pace with the tour guide leading their small group along the jungle trail. Myrtle was eager to see everything despite the humidity pressing down on her and George’s slow pace a few lengths behind.

Freed from their tiny cabin in the bowels of the cruise ship on an overnight excursion, they hiked along a mountain path to a nature preserve high in the Honduran hills. Here, parrots flew free, their red and turquoise and yellow feathers flashes of light in the intense green jungle. The birds wheeled through the trees, calling to each other. A few landed in pairs to preen.

As the light faded, the small group gathered at the nature preserve's open air patio to drink tea and talk about what they’d seen. Myrtle slipped her ice cubes into a large pot that held a fern. She wasn’t sure about drinking the water or the tea.

At dusk, the bus with no seat belts took everyone back to their hotel. Myrtle chattered all the way past the patio filled with red hibiscus and up the winding stairs to their second floor room, the windows open to the garden below.

“Did you think, George, you and me, that we’d ever see anything so wonderful as those birds?”

“It’s why we came,” said George. “That and to celebrate fifty years of marriage.”

“I know, George, but the parrots, they were so beautiful. I read somewhere that they live longer in a cage than they do in the forest.” She took George’s hand. “I read they mate for life.”

“And that’s like us, dear.”

She smiled. “Maybe we can get a parrot when we get home. Think of it. One of those beautiful parrots to wake us each day.”

That night, Myrtle slept close to George, surrounded by layers of mosquito netting, dreaming of parrots and the journey home. But in the morning, George did not wake. Myrtle sat beside him in the quiet of their room, holding his hand, now cold.

“Ah, George,” she murmured. “We got to see the parrots. They belong here. Not in a cage, George. Never in a cage.”

Full critique acceptable: 350 words.

Scarlet Macaws (Matthew Romack, Wikipedia)

For more information about WEP, click: Write...Edit...Publish or for IWSG, click: Insecure Writer's Support Group. Write on! 

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

IWSG: Writing into the dark . . .

Just this last week, I read Nora Roberts' Black Hills as a model for writing romantic suspense. With the first paragraphs, she established her characters, the setting, the mood, and the story conflict with precision. I read her story because I wanted to study what made her romantic suspense so compelling for readers. Then I found out that she has written 225 books. Oofta, as my Hollywood mother would say.
We writers shimmy around our stories. Sometimes, the words pour out and sometimes they just stop. In my quest for more efficient writing productivity, I track words daily, use chapter summaries, scaffolding instead of outlines, and I imagine what my characters would say to each other. Sometimes I get caught up more in revision than writing. But, I persevere and hope to meet a very modest daily word count. Even when I revise and even when I draft.
I wonder what writing process Nora Roberts uses. 

And then a writing friend said, "Beth, you seem so organized. I never realized you are an intuitive writer. Have you heard of Dean Wesley Smith's book, Writing Into the Dark?"  Kaboom! Thank goodness for Amazon. Within 3 days, I had my own copy. My favorite advice so far? "Write one sentence," says Dean Wesley Smith. "Then, write another sentence." And, for the first time in decades, I heard someone truly say, "There is no one right way to write a novel."  Did I mention he's written over 150 books?

This merry month of June, the IWSG's question is: Of all the genres you read and write, which is your favorite to write in and why?

I'm never sure why something I see along the way sticks and somehow morphs into a story. But that germ pushes me to write speculative fiction, historical fiction, and now romantic suspense. One sentence at a time.

Why not click your way over to the Insecure Writer's Support Group and read what others have posted? With thanks to Diane Burton, Kim Lajevardi, Sylvia Ney, Sarah Foster, Jennifer Hawes, and Madeline Mora-Summonte for hosting IWSG this month!

And a very special thank you to Dean Wesley Smith -- and Nora Roberts.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

A community of writers and readers . . .

This week, I had the privilege of sitting down with a group of readers. A local book club at the Medical Lake Library invited me to talk with them about my books and how I came to write them.

They warmly welcomed me and plied me with home-made peanut butter cookies. They listened with patience as I talked about how I became a writer. Then, they asked questions about my stories, my writing routine, and when (oh, when), that next book would be ready for them to read. A few talked about their own writing projects and asked how they might get started.

"Thank you," I said, at the end of the hour-and-a-half we spent together. But thank you seems so inadequate for this committed group of readers, supporters of literacy in their community, and lovers of the written word.

Most of the time, I write alone. I ponder and dream. I revise and edit. And revise again. I wonder if my stories are good enough for that next step -- publication. For  now, it's spring. A time to be grateful that winter has passed. We can think of new beginnings -- or share our stories.

May this turn of the season be very good to you.

Spring and a favorite walk
through the Rose Garden in Manito Park

Thursday, May 02, 2019

IWSG: The first time . . .

Maybe the first time I thought that 'language had power' (this month's question for the Insecure Writer's Support Group), happened when I was a teenager. I wrote secretly. Short stories, poems. Rarely shared. But once I slipped a short story into a pile of assignments that my English home room teacher had collected. I was thrilled at her note of encouragement.

But the first time I really felt language had power happened when I was about 9. My younger sister had been sent to the grocery store by herself to buy something. I can't remember now what. Eggs. Milk. She held back a few pennies to buy candy, and my mother found out. I was standing in the kitchen, when my mother hit my sister so hard that her head bounced against the pantry door. "You will never lie to me," my mother screamed, and I remember thinking, "Someday, I will write about this."

I left home to go to college at 17 at a time when tuition was free. I only had to pay for my books (and work part-time). I was happy to escape into a world of books, art, literature, and classes with teachers. Maybe those teachers drank, I didn't know. Their words, their lectures filled me with hope.

Much of my life has been spent involved in writing in some way. First, with technical reports as I worked my way through college. Later, I taught composition, business and technical writing, some literature, and humanities at a community college, much like the one that inspired me so long ago. And, once I retired, I returned to writing, to tell the stories that generally involve people fighting against the odds, struggling for survival, regardless of circumstances around them. Sound familiar?

For me, that's the power of words that have shaped (and continue to shape) my life. An old Scottish saying tells us, "In love and life, we have no fear." I believe that is true for writing as well.

Why not join in this month's challenge? Or, visit those hosts for this May posting for IWSG:  Lee Lowery, Juneta Key, Yvonne Ventresca, and T. Powell Coltrin!

Spring at Manito Park

Thursday, April 04, 2019

IWSG: About Blushes and Beginnings

At first blush, this month's question from the Internet Writer's Support Group looks far too easy. If I could somehow magically write [not perfect, but very good], just one scene or chapter for my current wip, which one would it be?

The first chapter.

See? Easy. But my current writing project, The Seventh Tapestry (a contemporary romantic suspense about a lost 16th Century tapestry) has me jumping into a new genre (romantic suspense), and writing from a first person point of view (also new). Here are some strategies I've been using for the last year:
  • Read lots of romantic suspense. Ken Follett is always my favorite, but Amazon's LOOK INSIDE feature allows me to study that opening chapter without overspending my book budget.
  • Research and study what makes a good romantic suspense tale. To start, I've used that trusty Google search: tips for writing romantic suspense. Print out what's useful and take notes. Ditto for writing from first person pov and strategies for writing in general, including that first chapter.
  • Draft.  Apparently the suspense plotline must be carefully (and logically) drawn -- and romantic suspense has TWO plot lines, one for romance and one for suspense. Of course, they have to meld. If you already outline first and draft those character back stories, your drafting process works more smoothly (or so they say). But I'm an intuitive writer, jumping around as the story moves me. I'd like to be more efficient . . . but that shoe doesn't fit.
  • Critiques of work in progress. I'm very grateful for feedback from my F2F writing partner as we meet weekly most weeks. The online resource that consistently  helps me strengthen my story and my writing is the NOVELS-L group of The Internet Writing Workshop. For every chapter I submit to NOVELS-L, I need to critique 2 subs from other writers. Critiques of other writers helps me see my own work a little differently. The real gold, though, is in those critiques I receive -- at every level of analyzing my chapter from writers who take the whole process seriously.
Just now, I'm submitting first draft chapters to NOVELS-L while I finish the last chapters of the whole story. The coming year promises deep revision, but I love the story, and I'm ready to go to work. First chapter? I don't need any magic. In fact, all I need is the tenacity, insight, and, hopefully, the creativity that we all bring to our writing.

Can't wait to see what others have written about that first chapter!

With special thanks to readers and writing friends far and near, online or not,
who encourage each of us -- including the wonderful co-hosts for the April 3 posting of the Insecure Writer's Support Group (IWSG): J.H. Moncrieff, Natalie Aguirre, Patsy Collins, and Chemist Ken!

IWSG's April 3 Question: If you could use a wish to help you write just ONE scene/chapter of your book, which one would it be? (examples: fight scene, first kiss scene, death scene, chase scene, first chapter, middle chapter, end chapter, etc.)

Kate Weiland's blog

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

IWSG: On Writing Heroes

Here he comes to save the day!

I never thought about whose perspective to write from. Nearly all my stories are about survival against impossible odds, the heroine or hero 'leaping tall buildings at a single bound,' fighting against and through limitations and/or challenges brought about by economic shifts, class, gender, and pure evil.

Happiness can be an illusion. I know this far too well, despite decades of a happy marriage. For I trust those happy-for-now endings; life itself is never static, presenting each of us unexpected plot twists.

In the 1950's, that oh-so-handsome Prince Charming was expected to carry a working class girl off to a castle somewhere. The shoe fit, for I grew up in a physically abusive, blue collar family, where chaos could and did erupt on any weekend.

My mother's motto, "Don't let the bastards grind you down," taught me to fight back. And, I did. Despite reams of social studies that say each generation walks the same path, one of my sisters and I escaped, got educations, and built, brick by slow brick, positive relationships and rewarding careers.

The biggest writing challenge? Writing male characters -- protagonists or antagonists -- who are not abusive in overt or subtle ways, for our stories work on so many different levels.

Someone once said that each writer writes the same story over and over again, like striking a single note on a bell. But I believe just as we learn craft with each revision, we also can gain insight into not only how we write but what we write about, including the deepest themes that shape our work.

And that's what brings me back to the process of writing itself, a kind of anchor that lets me dream past my childhood and shape my own destiny, inventing worlds where my heroines and heroes really do achieve that happy-ever-after ending.

May your own writing -- and all else -- go well!

With special thanks to readers and writing friends far and near, online or not,
who encourage each of us -- including the awesome co-hosts for the March 6 posting of the Insecure Writer's Support Group (IWSG): Fundy Blue, Beverly Stowe McClure, Erika Beebe, and Lisa Buie-Collard!

IWSG's March 6 question: Whose perspective do you like to write from best, the hero (protagonist) or the villain (antagonist)? And why?

(Source: Meme)

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

IWSG: February and back on the road

Maybe I moved around too much as a kid. Worse than an army brat. Attended maybe 8-9 different high schools -- and as many colleges. I always dreamed of settling down someday in one of those pretty little cottages behind a white picket fence. And then I met a man who loved to travel all over the world. That was over 40 years ago.

We can't rattle the suitcases at our house. Usually if one person says, "Let's go (doesn't matter where)," the other person will say, "Well . . . ." But at our house, if one of us says, "Let's go," the other person says, "Where are the suitcases?"

Tomorrow morning, January 28, we'll awake at 4:15 am to catch the first of three flights to Miami Beach, a short stop on our way to Seville, Spain, for a month-long stay, all of February. I'm taking my netbook, a few working files, and am more than ready to shake the snow off my boots, settle down on the patio, watch the birds fly from palm tree to palm tree, and write. With time off for an occasional coffee at one of those sidewalk cafes or a visit to a local museum.

If the Insecure Writer's Support Group question for February is: "What inspires you to write?" Then I can only answer this: When we're on the road, all that is non-essential seems to fall away. I gain distance to those issues that underlie my stories, and feel at home really just anywhere, as long as I can write.

That's my wish for you, regardless if you stay at home or write whenever or wherever you please. May you find the words that bring you joy.

Check out what others are writing for February's check-in HERE at IWSG's website. Visit a few folks. And celebrate what inspires YOU to write!

Friday, January 04, 2019

Just Jot It in January!

I've been pretty sick for the last seven days, enough so that my writing has completely stalled. Yesterday was the first day I sat down at my computer to begin to catch up with reading and posting . . . perhaps on my blogs.

Several of my online writing friends mentioned playing around with Just Jot It January, an idea created by Linda G. Hill that encourages us to jot those ideas down, even a sentence! That sounded pretty perfect to me, since I haven't been writing at all. For the first time, as I sat quietly in the library, staring out the window at a winter scene, thinking about writing, Inspired also by Rui Chan's haiku, I used the NOTEPAD feature on my I-phone to jot down this:

Like crocus pushing their way up
through the cold earth, 
I begin healing,
winter into spring, 
once again.

Linda's website offers daily prompts and guidelines, and so I shall persevere as I dive back into my own writing with #JustJoJan. Why not join in?

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

IWSG: 2019 begins

I'd like to share that 2018 ended beautifully. It sort of did, if you set aside the residue and hard work involved in moving from one apartment to another, and nearly two months of very bad colds. Thank goodness for Sudafed!

My BookBub promotion paid for itself and ACX kicked in an unexpected sales boom, but marketing overall has slowed nearly to a stop as I work on a new genre -- romantic suspense set in Edinburgh and Paris.

In The Seventh Tapestry, American archivist and investigator Sandra Robertson comes to Edinburgh to track down a pattern of missing artifacts at the Museum of Medieval Art. Along the way, she finds a historic and undiscovered 15th Century tapestry and is drawn to Neil McDonnell from Edinburgh's Art Crimes Unit. I'm about 40K into the story. Just this month, I decided to switch from third person to first person, mostly because I feel closer to my main character and the details of the story flow more easily (Yes, I have my storyboard up and mapped out) -- even including the seasons.

Winter in Edinburgh (Source:

Least favorite question: When will this story be done? Published and ready to read? I say 'least favorite' because I'm more of an intuitive writer and do lots of research. I'm never quite sure when my story is finished!

Most favorite question: I love X character because . . .  Why did character X do this? Will another book follow these characters? How did you find the research that supports this story?

Happy New Year. May 2019 be filled with good reading, lots of writing, good health, and a few adventures to keep things interesting!

With special thanks to Alex Cavanaugh and this month's hosts: Co-Hosts: Patricia Lynne, Lisa Buie-Collard, Kim Lajevardi, and Fundy Blue! Why not visit the Insecure Writer's Study Group and see what other IWSG writers are up to?