Beth Camp Historical Fiction

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Celebrating spring . . .

Happy Spring! At least, I hope the snow has melted where you are. We keep finding little nooks here and there on our daily walks where the snow hasn’t quite vanished. But the robins are back. As are the red-winged blackbirds, Canadian geese, sparrows, and coots. Still, we had such an early winter last year, the fall leaves froze on the trees and are just now coming down to decorate the porch in messy brown. We did have a respite – nearly two months in Las Cruces, New Mexico. This year, we were snowbirds treated with warm weather, vistas with mountains and palm trees. I took my writing and quilting with me and had a lovely office to spread everything out and simply enjoy. 

Now, we’re home. Time to get serious, and, after the unpacking and resettling back in, I’d like to set some goals, mostly how to begin revising this current messy draft for The Lost Sarcophagus, and to decide which of four quilting projects come first. A dear relative is in love with purple, so here’s the center for this scrappy quilt I just finished this morning. It’s fun to play with fabric as if I were painting!

And, just for now, you’ll find the e-book for The Seventh Tapestry on sale HERE. Writers like to experiment with different ways to find new readers, so I hope if you haven’t read this art crime mystery yet, you’ll check this out OR send the link to a reading friend.

Meanwhile, despite all those fall leaves showing up, I'm looking forward to tulips, snowdrops, and daffodils. Isn't this the last week of March, with April arriving next week? Have a wonderful spring with new projects and a few adventures! 

Thursday, March 09, 2023

Almost goodbye . . .

Next week, we'll be on the road home, Las Cruces in the rear view mirror, with memories to cherish of friends, mountain vistas, hiking trails, new kinds of birds, morning sunrises and evening sunsets,  and that perfect sense of quiet space that comes with this beautiful home we're staying in. We're fans of vrbo, partly because being short-term renters means staying in a 'real' home, with books and artwork, and, here in Las Cruces, that sense of Southwestern art everywhere.

Organ Mountains sunset (March 2023)

Especially downtown, we can walk along Main Street to visit art galleries and the most amazing bookstore, Coas Bookstore. I think they should consider renaming it Chaos Bookstore, for although they are very well organized, they have sooo many books! 

On Saturdays, if the wind doesn't come up, Main Street is peppered with artisan vendors, 7 blocks worth of every type of craft and fresh-from-the-farm veggies. My feet nearly fell off! We'll miss our favorite restaurants as well, Chala (for its pancakes con crema, only available on the weekends), and Mother's Place, small, but with a trove of native arts and home cooking.

If I'm writing, it doesn't matter where we are. The laptop makes nearly everything possible, though I do miss that printer. I am making slow progress on that current story, happy with the first third and staring at chaos for the rest. I keep asking: Is there enough conflict? Are my characters authentic? Are the scenes in proper order? All needs work! 

And the ending. In the last book, The Seventh Tapestry, Sandra was the one who got into serious trouble. Neil came to the rescue. But in this story, I don't want Sandra to fall into the fainting heroine trope. I need Neil to be the one in trouble!

Just one unexpected update: My story for the Write..Edit..Publish.. (WEP) February Challenge inspired by the classic movie, Gone With the Wind, was a 'runner up'. Wow! That was a treat. You can read my story here on the blog. Maybe you will consider jumping in on the April challenge? I'm already looking forward to revisiting another classic movie, Life is Beautiful.

I have so enjoyed this respite from snow. OK, I know that's rubbing it in, but yesterday was 78F and today, 74F.  I hope wherever you are, the sun is shining. We all can hope for a spring with flowers soon blooming, yes? 

May the coming month be a good one for you!

Wednesday, March 01, 2023

IWSG: Author Envy????

Each month, I'm delighted to take part in the writing challenge hosted by the Insecure Writer's Support Group. First of all, I do love challenges. Trust me, just the process writing brings a host of challenges in so many interesting and unexpected ways! Second, this is a pretty neat way to connect with other writers, especially when I'm far from home (currently we're snowbirding down in Las Cruces, New Mexico). Here's a pic taken yesterday at White Sands National Park, 450 acres of dunes to explore and appreciate. 

White Sands NP (February 27, 2023)
Note: That white sand is NOT snow!

March 1 question:  Have you ever read a line in novel or a clever plot twist that caused you to have author envy? As usual, IWSG's question this month should lead to some interesting reading!

Yes, sometimes I'll read a line in a story and simply stop -- to appreciate what this author has done to create real emotion so simply that the writing appears effortless. I know that's not true! I remember reading Hemingway in a library once when I was a teen and being moved to tears. I've always admired his spare style and willingness to write about really tough issues that we don't easily confront. Was I envious of Hemingway? Absolutely not! After all, I was a teenaged girl, caught up in my own world. And that was part of Hemingway's gift to me -- that his stories took me to another world, a respite from my own challenges.

I've come to accept that every writer has his or her own reality and, yes, doubts.  Whatever gift it is that makes us readers stop to laugh or cry or just remember we are all somehow connected in this complex and unpredictable world, that is what I hope to celebrate. Even the act of putting words on paper is not so simple. For we do not know the impacts our words will have for our readers and for ourselves.  

The purpose of the Insecure Writer's Support Group is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. I hope you will participate! Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about what's going on in your writing life. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writers - aim for a dozen new people each time - and return comments. This group is all about connecting! Be sure to link your name to this page and display the IWSG badge in your post. And please be sure your avatar links back to your blog! Otherwise, when you leave a comment, people can't find you to comment back.

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG.

With special thanks to Alex Cavanaugh for starting IWSG and to the awesome co-hosts for the March 1 posting of the IWSG are Diedre Knight, Tonya Drecker, Bish Denham, Olga Godim, and JQ Rose!

Why not visit our hosts to see what they're up to this month!
And may March bring you many new words!

Thursday, February 23, 2023

On the road with an unexpected sidetrip . . .

 This month, we're snowbirds. We escaped Spokane's 20F weather to spend six weeks in New Mexico's sunshine. Yes, it was a long drive down, but we're grateful to have that car with us to explore the lovely nature preserves and those truly picturesque Organ Mountains just outside Las Cruces.

The desire to go birding got us into a little trouble. Well, really, it was Google's fault. We optimistically planned to join up with a 7:30am birding group at Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park. Google mapped the way as we drove down a gravel road. Sadly, though, Google told us to turn left into an arroyo. We followed tire tracks left by others -- within minutes, we were stuck. Actually up to the hubcaps in sand. "No problem," we said. We'll just call AAA. Ha! No cell service.

We hiked up out of the arroyo to find two women walking their dogs in this isolated spot. Without any hesitation, they dove in to help us. Our new friends gave directions to AAA who said they would be right out. We set up our chairs by the gravel road; Sarah kept us company -- and brought us mandarin oranges for a snack. If you squint, you can see our car deep in the heart of the arroyo.

After a while, the man from AAA arrived to say, "No way can my truck go down that arroyo! I'll try to call someone for you." He left. Sarah said, "I think we can get you out." Within the next hour, about 8-10 people arrived to help. Randy brought shovels and boards. We dug out the car, and, amazingly, these kind neighbors pushed our car all the way back up out of the arroyo. What a relief after the stress of three-and-a-half hours! What amazing Good Samaritans!

But wait, there's more! We finally did make it to the information center at the Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park where we learned many others have gotten stuck in this particular arroyo. The ranger explained a wedding was planned this afternoon, so they were busy getting ready. We went on to lunch, so grateful to be back in the 'real' world. The man from AAA called, pleased to find we had gotten out. Then, Sarah called to alert us that the event truck for the wedding had gotten stuck in the same arroyo!

So, the lesson to this adventure? Don't go off a gravel road even if Google tells you this is the proper direction! Frankly, I'm a little reluctant to go down a gravel road now. 

Lesson #2 is simply that I'm more aware than ever of the kindness of others. Where would we be now without those Good Samaritans? How many such acts of kindness go unrecognized?

These last several years have been challenging for us all. How much have our close communities of family and friends made a difference. I hope that 2023 will be a good year for you.


Wednesday, February 15, 2023

WEP: Gone With The Wind


Write...Edit...Publish (also known as WEP), has given us their first writing challenge for 2023: To write a story inspired by that classic novel by Margaret Mitchell, Gone With The Wind, which is set in the tumultuous times of the Civil War. My story takes a slightly different point of view.

Gone With The Wind

An Old Man remembers his life in the south.

The old man leaned back in his rocking chair. Lightning bugs flickered in the early dusk, little pinpoints of yellow light winking on and off. “Don’t know why you want to talk to me. Don’t like to remember the old days.” He folded his hands, work-grimed and gnarled with age. His lips twisted. “Don’t like to remember them days at all.”

The young reporter sat on the stoop of the small cabin. “They told me at the high school you are the only one left. I was hoping you’d tell me about those days for my paper.”

“You mean back before, when I was a slave?” He grunted. “Weren’t so bad most of the time.” He leaned over and coughed, a deep, hacking that came up from his bones. “They put us in the fields. Dawn to dark, we worked. I don’t know much about them coming over on the ships. That was way before my time. But I was told how it were. Dark and closed up in the holds. Not enough to eat. Then, they was put up on the market. Nobody knew what they was going to do. I didn’t come along until much later, but they told me not much has changed. We was slaves.” He fingered the Bible in his lap.

The girl waited, for any recollection he would share.

“I remember my wife like yesterday. She were so nice. They brought her in from another plantation. She were pregnant, but I didn’t care. We jumped over the broomstick, and the baby, he was mine.”

The old man was quiet for a bit. The rocking chair creaked as it swayed back and forth.

“They say we got beat. That happened. We all have scars of one kind or another. I never got to work in the big house. Cotton was my master. That and the overseer.” He held out his hands. Even in the failing light of dusk, she could see the marks on his hands.

“During harvest, we began at dawn and worked half the night, filling our bags and then toting them to be weighed. If we didn’t pick enough, we got whipped. If we picked too much, they wanted the same the next day.”

He cleared his throat. “Still, wasn’t the hardest. The hardest was when they took her away. Her and the boy, sold off somewheres. Don’t know why. For a while, I didn’t give a damn. Some of the boys, we run. Some got caught and hung up in a tree, but I made it. Found work here. Got this place after a while.” He shrugged. “The rest don’t matter. It’s all gone with the wind, but I still miss my Cherie. And my boy.”

455 words.

Full critique acceptable. 

AFTERWORD: I barely remember seeing the movie, Gone With the Wind, sometime in the early 1960’s, but I remember devouring the book back then and being enthralled by the love story of Rhett and Scarlett as well as appalled by the horrors of the Civil War and slavery. 

I prepped for writing this short story by finding a copy of GWTW. A prologue written by well-loved author Pat Conroy, reminded me that the love story was only part of Margaret Mitchell’s intention. Immediately controversial, GWTW was a barely concealed love story about the Old South itself, the way things were, and the way of life many white people in the South wanted back. Anger about the Civil War and the changes it brought resonates even today. 

I'm not quite ready to reread GWTW, but I hope my story  honors those who survived. Maybe there’s a different way to read Rhett Butler saying, “Frankly, Scarlett, I don’t give a damn.”

“No day dawns for the slave, nor is it looked for. It is all night — night forever.” Slavery in the American South. Constitutional Rights Foundation.

Write...Edit...Publish encourages writers to post in response to a prompt and to read what others have written. Sharing our writing and commenting helps us all grow as writers. To visit other WEP writers, here are your links:

Email Denise or another team member if you have more questions:
1. Denise Covey  6. J Lenni Dorner  11. Roland R Clarke  
2. Yolanda Renee  7. dolorah@booklover  12. Pat Garcia  
3. Nilanjana Bose  8. N. R. Williams  13. Damyanti Biswas  
4. Olga Godim  9. Jemi Fraser  14. Beth Camp  
5. Sonia Dogra  10. Roland Yeomans  

Wednesday, February 01, 2023

IWSG: Covers, Decisions, and More . . .

We're driving south from Spokane, all the way to Las Cruces, New Mexico, the car loaded with all we will need for the next two months. I can report that in the last week, I have survived the freeways of Los Angeles and Phoenix (7 lanes in one direction). Are you surprised that not much writing got done? We're one day away from peace and quiet in our temporary home. 

Meanwhile, that first Weds brings IWSG's challenge question:

February 1 question:  If you are an Indie author, do you make your own covers or purchase them? If you publish trad, how much input do you have about what goes on your cover? As a frugal indie writer, I can only report that I've experimented with making my own and purchasing them. I really do prefer making my own! Book Brush is currently my favorite and a very useful resource in making covers and marketing images. 

I began by studying best selling authors of historical fiction. For example, Edward Rutherfurd uses primarily landscapes in his best sellers. But, what truly appeals to readers? 

My current thinking is that even historical fiction is character driven. Despite the when and where, we want to find out what happens to those characters we fall in love with. So, as you can see from the header above, my historical fiction series features the faces of intrepid women.

I'm still undecided about which cover to use for that relatively new art crime mystery series. Should I use a cover that shows the main characters or one that links to the setting? 

The Seventh Tapestry begins with the discovery of a seventh tapestry that belongs to that very famous lady and the unicorn set of tapestries currently displayed at the Cluny Museum in Paris. Yet, once the tapestry goes missing, the story is about art crime and the two investigators who try to track down what's behind art thefts and a murder. 

So, currently, I'm undecided. Which book would you pick up in a bookstore or click on if you were online? And why? 

IWSG's question this month should lead to some interesting reading!

The purpose of the Insecure Writer's Support Group is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: 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 your name to this page and display the IWSG badge in your post. And please be sure your avatar links back to your blog! Otherwise, when you leave a comment, people can't find you to comment back.

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG.

With special thanks to Alex Cavanaugh for starting IWSG and to the awesome co-hosts for the February 1 posting of the IWSG are Jacqui Murray, Ronel Janse van Vuuren, Pat Garcia, and Gwen Gardner! 

Why not visit our hosts to see what they're up to this month!
And may February bring you many new words!

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!