Beth Camp Historical Fiction

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

2023: On the Road Again

Outside, finally, I can see more green than snowy white. 

Too late! We're in the final week of packing to travel south to Las Cruces, New Mexico. When I looked last, the temperatures there were in the mid 50s F. Sunny. Way warmer than here. The Organ Mountains and the Tortugas roughly a ten-mile drive away from Las Cruces.

David Mark on Pixabay

My laptop is up-to-date with writing, quilting projects winnowed down and ready, a new journal awaits, and my latest project, watercolor painting, is packed in a travel bin. What I love about writing, and/or drawing/painting is simply the act itself slows life down and leads to introspection. I'm not sure how to describe the simple pleasure of mastering a line -- whether words or a stem of flowers. This learning how to watercolor is too new to share any pictures, but I did wake up this morning already 'seeing' a painting. For now, like any new skill, I'm practicing, a nice balance as I draft scenes on that next art crime mystery.

And about the writing, I did hit a block by writing a series of scenes that simply didn't fit my characters. I came close to putting this latest story away. A friend told me, "Write what you love." Somehow that encouragement led me back into this story set in Cairo, Egypt, with renewed energy. You can anticipate an update later this month.

We'll drive slowly down, visiting friends along the way south, hoping to avoid any major glitches. For at least a week, I won't have to cook! Did you know there's less caffeine in a soda than in a cup of coffee? This time, we'll be gone about 2.5 months, a pretty long time to be away from home, to shake loose the ordinary and explore what is new. Las Cruces offers a welcome mix of Hispanic culture, history, and those mountains, many national parks to explore, including White Sands. The last time we visited this amazing park, 2011, we were stunned by the stretch of yes, white sands, as far as the eye could see. Yet, shrubs somehow survive in this desert.

White Sands National Park (Camp 2011)

May 2023 be good to you -- with unexpected opportunities to do more of what you love!

Tuesday, January 03, 2023

IWSG 2023: Happy New Year!


January 2023. Who can believe we're really here? Another year beckons -- with hope and promise and, most likely, new challenges, whether within our worlds or without.

The Insecure Writer's Support Group (IWSG) never lets us down by posting an optional question each month to inspire us (see below). What IWSG is really doing is asking us to connect with the writing community, with other writers who care about us and offer support, no matter where we are or what projects we're knee deep in. I hope you will, gentle reader, consider joining in!  

January 4 question - Do you have a word of the year? Is there one word that sums up what you need to work on or change in the coming year? Our fearless leader, Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh says, "For instance, in 2021 my word of the year was Finish. I was determined to finished my first draft by the end of the year. In 2022, my word of the year is Ease. I want to get my process, systems, finances, and routines where life flows with ease and less chaos. What is your word for 2023? Why?"

My word for 2023 is simply CHERISH. If you've been reading my blog, you already know that I do want to cherish each day, somehow to appreciate what is and to try to nurture positivity. No matter what. As I was thinking about this, I realized this goal is for more than how I interact with others. I also want to cherish my inner life -- what some will call the muse. To listen to my heart and follow my best intentions -- whether to connect with those I love (family and friends) or to simply write. 

We recently watched that old Bill Murray and Don Ackroyd movie, Ghostbusters, and laughed as they worked hard to clean the slime out of the sewers of New York City. It's probably nerdy, but my writing feels like that pink slime, rolling right along with all else. And I always want to jump in, to see where that fast flowing tide will take me. Not the prettiest of images. Not always positive. But essentially, that part of me that remains mostly hidden comes to life in my writing.

So, I did spend a few hours yesterday, working out my writing goals for the coming year. One is to return each Wednesday to talk with you, dear readers and friends. Know that I wish you the very best in the coming year, even as we already know tragedy comes in a moment. My husband was devastated by Damar Hamilton's unexpected injury last night in the Buffalo Bills game against the Bengals, and so was I. Even as we hope for a positive healing, we are sorry for the agony his family and fans are facing as we wait out this critical next week. Two many of my friends are facing serious health issues, and I don't even want to touch political, economic, and global issues facing us all.

Yet, we will persevere. We know this, and I hope we will together cherish each day.

Please join me in thanking the generous co-hosts for IWSG's January 4 posting: Jemima Pett, Debs Carey, Kim Lajevardi, Sarah Foster, Natalie Aguirre, and T. Powell Coltrin!  Why not visit and see what everyone's doing as we begin 2023. You just might get inspired! And, yes, IWSG does have a twitter handle at @TheIWSG (hashtag #IWSG). Will you tweet this month?

If YOU would like to participate, please know that it's not too late. The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer - aim for a dozen new people each time - and return comments. This group is all about connecting! Be sure to link to this page and display the IWSG badge in your post. 

Thursday, December 15, 2022

WEP: When you say yes . . .

Here's a short and very true story, just 629 words, inspired by this month's Write...Edit...Publish challenge

Tagline: Saying yes to a simple request can change your life.

"Can I Ask A Favor?"

   By late Thursday afternoon, four new reports ready for final review had already piled up in my inbox. I couldn’t decide whether to go home to my studio apartment in the Marina and flop or join the team for a quick drink after work. I eased my new high heels off to get comfortable, hoping no one would notice.
   Cap, one of the younger guys from operations, strolled over to my desk. He had a funny, lopsided grin. “Can I ask a favor?”
   “I need a ride to the airport. I’m flying out to Cincinnati to see my parents.”
   “Sure, Cap. I can take you.”
   He looked at me apologetically. “It’s Friday night.”
   “It’s all right. No problem.” Actually, I had nothing on my personal schedule for the foreseeable future.
   “There’s one more thing.”
   I arched my eyebrows at him. “Yes?”
   “My plane leaves at midnight.”
    I groaned. “Okay, but don’t say anything else.”
    Cap laughed. “Thanks. My roommate said if anyone was really going to drive me to the airport when I could have just taken the bus, we could go out to dinner at a French restaurant. Can you stop by the apartment after work and pick us up?”
   “All right. That’s tomorrow, your place, about 6?”
   He nodded. I shooed him away and picked up the first report. Friday or no Friday, work had to be done. By the end of the next day, I was more than ready for a break, almost looking forward to a nice meal at a restaurant. After all, there weren’t any fast-food French places, were there? Not in San Francisco. I took the bus home, drove my trusty VW over to Cap’s apartment on Nob Hill, almost found a parking place nearby, and walked up the three flights of stairs to knock at his door.
   A young man with brilliant blue eyes opened the door.
   “I’m here to . . . “ I started to say when he closed the door in my face.
   “I’m sorry,” I said to the wooden door. “Do I have the wrong apartment?”
   The door opened slowly, and he stared at me.
   “Sorry,” I said. “I’m here to pick up Cap and his roommate. I can come back later if I’m too early.”
   “No, no. Come right in.” His smile stretched so wide I could nearly see all his teeth. “Cap’s not home yet, but he should be any minute. I’m Allen, his roommate. We’re going out to my favorite French restaurant tonight, and you must be the person giving him a ride, yes?”
   Cap did come home in a few minutes, and we drove down the hill to the Marina District to find a small restaurant tucked in one of the side streets. After a truly memorable and leisurely meal, punctuated by stories of world travels and various adventures, I drove Cap and Allen out to the airport. We walked through the terminal, said goodbye to Cap, and on the way back to the city, a silence fell. We both started talking at the same time.
   “You go first,” said Allen.
   “No, you,” I replied, for I was embarrassed. When I asked if he wanted to stop for a drink, even though it was quite late, he started laughing. “That’s what I was going to say!”
   So, we had hot buttered rum at the Ben Johnson’s. After the bar closed, we talked and talked as we wandered around Ghirardelli Square, mesmerized by the city lights and the moon reflected in the bay. There, Allen kissed me gently. When Cap came home, we were a couple. Allen told me that the first time he saw me, he knew his life would change irrevocably. Now, nearly fifty years later, I can’t imagine life without him.

How did this 629-word story get started? December's Write...Edit...Publish's Challenge was to write a story inspired by Roberta Flack's "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face." What can I say? This story of how I met my husband immediately came to mind.

I hope you enjoyed reading my short story (any feedback is welcome), and that you will explore other such tales on WEP's website!

Thank YOU for visiting. Have an amazing holiday and HAPPY NEW YEAR!

To visit other WEP Writers, here are your links:

Wednesday, December 07, 2022

IWSG December 7: Winter Doldrums?

We have another 6-8 inches of snow coming tomorrow, roads are slick and mostly unploughed, and yet, temperatures are closer to freezing today and tomorrow instead of the low teens. Celebrate the wintry moment! This is the time of year that I like to huddle in my office, cold fingers poised over the keyboard for that next scene, preferably set in some warmer clime.

Yesterday was a milestone: my 79th birthday. I feel so grateful to have reached this age (my mother died at 55), and I can report that health issues are few, family is nearby, we've downsized and are happy in our little apartment. True, the view outside is mostly white, with about a foot of snow on nearby roofs. We leave for Las Cruces, New Mexico, late January, for a leisurely drive south, and I'm ready to hit the road, writing projects organized, research materials as close as the internet (and a box of books).

This month, the Insecure Writer's Suppport Group asks us to consider this question? Are the holidays a time to catch up or fall behind on writer goals?

Well, I'm not sure. I do set goals each month, and I am making steady progress, but . . . that major writing project has hit a little snag. I wrote a scene where Neil takes Sandra to meet his parents. But they weren't nice to her, and I didn't like the scene at all. I think that scene is gone. It doesn't contribute anything to the actual story. Maybe knowing when to cut words is a good thing. I want to write stories that look beneath the surface and yet that bring joy to the reader. So, I'm happily back to plotting and drafting. Not always in that order.

The essence of IWSG's question is when are we writers working on our writing? I do think we're working whether we're actively putting words on the paper OR we're out for a walk, slipping on that wintry snow -- and an insight comes to us as we see the last of the Canada geese heading south. 

So, I say cherish the moment, every moment. Keep your characters close. New scenes may come to us when we're dreaming at night or daydreaing. In the words of Rick Bylina, write on!

Please join me in thanking the generous co-hosts for this December 7 posting of the IWSG: Joylene Nowell Butler, Chemist Ken, Natalie Aguirre, Nancy Gideon, and Cathrina Constantine! Why not pay them a visit -- and stop by other IWSG writers who've posted this month. You can find them HERE.

May this December bring you new words, good revision, and/or whatever your writing heart desires!

Friday, December 02, 2022

December begins . . . with a song

It's 20F outside just after lunch, with snow everywhere in our parking lot. Yesterday, I helped several neighbors push a woman's car stuck as she tried to leave our complex. Her tires were bald. Maybe she drove safely once she was on the main roads.

December ahead looks unusually cold, with lows expected below 10F and highs most days below freezing. That says the snow dump of 6-8 inches won't be going anywhere soon. Yet, we'll persevere, grateful for those moments that bring brightness and a renewed appreciation for each day.

A reader wrote me this week, caught up with the story of Deidre and Mac in Years of Stone. She wanted me to know she was listening to U2's song, "Van Diemen's Land," a song I'd never heard. What an amazing tribute to honor those who lived so long ago. Here's the link to the song itself on Youtube and the words from U2 (the last stanza shown here). Truly heartfelt. We can learn much from the past. Thank you, Eastern Rogue.

Hold me now, oh hold me now
Till this hour has gone around
And I'm gone on the rising tide
For to face Van Diemen's Land.

As December begins, I'm grateful for so many things. Some days, yes, I struggle with writing, to tell the stories that keep talking to me. Family, friends, and fans near and far, I hope your December brings you only joy.

Friday, November 18, 2022

November hastens! Holidays ahead.

 Thanks to encouragement from friends -- and that push from National Novel Writing Month, I'm up to 36K words already written for that next book, The Lost Sarcophagus, projected to be about 70K when I'm done, right?

Today's treat is the opening scene (for now). Sandra and Neil are on their way to Cairo, at the request of the Director of the Egyptian Museum. Just before they get to their hotel, here's what happens!

     “Let’s get this over with,” said Pete. The two burly men carried an immense floral arrangement of lilies and pushed their way past the uniformed attendant into the spacious lobby of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. They tromped up the red carpet and stopped at the front desk under the crystal chandelier as if they belonged there.    

     “May I help you?” asked the clerk. His voice quavered slightly.

     “These are for McDonnell,” said one of the men, his voice low, almost a growl.

     “Yes, sir. We expect Mr. McDonnell a little later today.”

     Pete scowled. “Just make sure he gets these.”

     “Yes, sir. We will put them in his suite immediately. Did you wish to leave a message?”

     “Do I look like I want to leave a message? Just do it.” The man turned away, his shoulders straining the edges of his black jacket. “Come on, Karim. Let’s get out of here.”

     The clerk watched the two men swagger out the entry and sighed in relief. “Glad they’re not guests,” he muttered to himself as he snapped his fingers for an attendant. “Take these up to the Nile Executive Suite on 12.”

     Outside, the two men made their way from the hotel. “Glad that’s done,” said Pete as he jerked his tie loose.

     “Flowers? That’s not what we usually deliver. Did Cochrane say why?” asked Karim.

     “I don’t know, and I don’t care. The boss speaks. I do what he says. You better do the same, or you won’t last long.” He turned south to Salat, the transit station. Karim followed. Soon, they were lost in the crowd.

So, what did you think? Are you ready to turn the page?

Here's the Great Hall, as we entered the Egyptian Museum so long ago

And me visiting Cheops pyramid,
back in the day when you could touch the stones!

With Thanksgiving just a week away, that to-do list just keeps getting longer! Hope your list is a little easier to manage. But, one day at a time, we're getting those tasks caught up. Really. The car has new tires, our living room lamp is fixed, and even the toilet works again!

Our dear granddaughter decided she really, really wants to have Beef Wellington for Thanksgiving dinner. So, we shall feast. Meanwhile, back at home, I've added a Turkey Day family dinner on December 4. How can we not have turkey? So the menu: Roast turkey with stuffing (or dressing, as folks in the west like to say), mashed potatoes, gravy, green bean casserole, and cranberry compote. But what else??? I'm not sure. Maybe a Southern Comfort Pudding? Pumpkin pie? Fruit salad? What would be the healthiest? the tastiest? What would your family miss most on Turkey Day?

Be well, enjoy each day, and happy holidays!!!!

Wednesday, November 02, 2022

IWSG November 2: NaNoWriMo Already?

Yesterday began NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), and while I'm not quite ready to commit to writing 50,000 words in one month, this writing challenge always takes me in new directions. 

The Insecure Writer's Support Group question this month simply wants to know if I've ever participated in NaNoWriMo. And why or why not?

Several writers I know surprised me by saying just the thought of trying to write 50,000 words in one month is too overwhelming. But you can be a NaNoWriMo rebel -- and set your own goals! Or you can be a purist and go for the gold. Yes, attempt to write 1,666 words every single day! I've found that pushing myself (perhaps not every single day) to write more than the meager 250-500 words a day I normally attempt really does lead to interesting insights.

Perhaps those of us writers who participate in IWSG's monthly post are particularly prone to sign up for NaNoWriMo. After all, we set challenges for ourselves all the time, right? Something deep inside me chirps to life whenever someone says, "Oh, I don't think you can do that!" 

Participating in NaNoWriMo over the last decade has helped me flesh out five books, write unexpected poems (that writing challenge comes around in April, National Poetry Month), and celebrate a very personal commitment to writing. Not every day goes well, but isn't that rather like life? We can accept a challenge and decide exactly how we want to respond. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, the results are not quite what we want. For writers, that just means revision. And more revision.

Other News:  While my to-be-read pile is piled up much too high, the Insecure Writer's Support Group has a book club on GoodReads! This month's suggested books both look interesting -- as does the follow-up discussion highlighted in this poster. I just might 'see' you there. 

About IWSG: One of the strengths of posting on the first Wednesday of each month for the Insecure Writer's Support Group for me is connecting with other writers. I appreciate learning what other writers think about the goals they've set, the progress they're making, and the support we offer each other. At times, we all need that connection. Writers do need readers as well. And reviews. And new ideas. Facing down that blank page, or a messy outline without a clear plot, or revising a scene that wanders -- the list goes on! -- all is a little less daunting when we connect with other writers and readers.

May November, despite hints of snow this coming week, 
be very good to you and your writing!

And please consider dropping by to thank IWSG's co-hosts for this month: Diedre Knight, Douglas Thomas Greening, Nick Wilford, and Diane Burton!