Beth Camp Historical Fiction

Saturday, July 17, 2021

July Heat and a Gondola!

 Hasn't July been full of a lot of hot days and a few challenges?

Update on the writing: Yep, I signed up for the Camp Nanowrimo Challenge with a goal to write 15,000 words this month. I'm on track with 8,350 words just half-way through the month. 

One project I'm working on is a family history of my grandfather -- a cowboy, logger, and forest ranger before he worked for the Bureau of Reclamation in the 1950s . I found a goldmine with lots of neat pictures. Here's Frank Henry working for the Yosemite Lumber Company at Anderson Flat about 1928. This is the man who taught me how to fish and hunt and survive in the woods. He grew up gritty! 

I also shelved the draft of The Island Wife for a month and courageously sent it off to brave and deeply appreciated beta readers. Hopefully by late August, I'll be deep in revision once again. 

Thank you, readers, for keeping me motivated. Should I do another freebie in August? Which book would you like to see as a special offer?

What is summer if not time for a getaway? We did leave town for a one-night stay in Kellogg, ID at the Silverton Waterpark Resort. The highlight, other than getting truly away for a bit, was taking this wonderful gondola ride up (and then down) three mountains, roughly an hour ride. I was a little terrified going up, but nearly hanging out of the gondola on the way down to take pictures. This is my favorite, but it doesn't really show how STEEP that way down was. The smoky skies didn't stop us from enjoying that mountain view.

View from Gondola, Kellogg, ID

Still beautiful, despite the smoke and heat haze!

May summer bring you good memories, time for family and friends -- and for those other creative endeavors that nurture you! 

Wednesday, July 07, 2021

July IWSG: On Writing and Rainbows

Truly, we begin summer now with July temperatures soaring everywhere. The first Wednesday of each month marks a day of sharing thoughts and reading each others' posts as we all pursue our unique writing dreams and goals. Please consider joining in and reading what others have posted by going HERE, the Insecure Writer's Support Group.

Special thanks go to the co-hosts for this July 7 posting for IWSG: Pat Garcia, Victoria Marie Lees, Chemist Ken, and Louise – Fundy Blue! All have encouraged so many of us along the way. Now for this month's question!

July 7 question: What would make you quit writing?

Before the pandemic, I would have thought not much would push me away from writing. As with many others, though, this last year and a half has been one of reflection and perseverance. Challenges from IWSG and National Novel Writing Month (and Camp Nanowrimo) have kept me relatively focused. Writing to a challenge somehow enhances my own commitment to writing. 

I'm working on two projects just now, Island Wife, the fourth historical fiction novel in the Standing Stones series, and The Missing Sarcophagus, the next novel in my art crime series that began with The Seventh Tapestry. Through some combination of due diligence and hope, I'm able to write most days, though worries about friends and family who are struggling with illness make me sad. 

Connections with friends and family mean more each day. Yesterday, my hubby took me to a movie, for the very first time in over a year and a half. The movie was truly horrible. Won't say which one. But we ate a lovely yakisoba in the Food Court with chopsticks and reveled in having a date. 

Another friend recommended Hawaiian singer Israel Kamakawiwo╩╗ole (1959-1997). Wikipedia says his name means 'the fearless eye, the bold face'. I listen to his "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" with awe. This is why we write, sing, dance, draw, and paint! 

For even on those days that challenge us, we need hope for our future. May the coming month bring you moments to cherish.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Morning Musings

Today I begin by musing about my book covers, especially as I am going to add that fourth book to the Standing Stones series later this year.

Here are the current covers for my historical fiction series set in Scotland, Australia, and Canada: 

And the working cover for Island Wife, out sometime this year.

Do the covers really match my audience? 

I write gritty historical fiction and try to wind up with a happy ending, rather happy for now, for my characters always seem to come up out of the working class. Faced with tough circumstances, how do these characters survive? Make a better life? Do they give in to internal demons or do they fight on? I believe they deserve that happy ending -- even if only for now.

Given the experiences we've all faced over the last year and a half, isolation, loss, grief, and a feeling of helplessness, I feel less certain about my stories. My personal reading has become more escapist. I want that happy ending, the hero or heroine who rushes to the rescue. Maybe because I feel worn down, I want to write stories that focus more on light and hope. 

When I first began thinking about book covers, I wanted to be inspired by those greatest historical fiction writers, those who wrote serious stories. Writers like Hilary Montel, Ken Follett, or Edward Rutherfurd. Their more traditional covers promise a particular setting or time and rarely feature faces of the characters. 

So, my original covers, do they seem flat to you -- or do these covers that focus on setting invite you into the story? More than what I'm currently using? Which cover would you tend to pick up -- if you were browsing for a new read in your favorite bookstore or online?

As summer heats up, each day brings new challenges and, I hope for you, the beauty of the season. With temperatures pushing into the 100's already, those fragile blooms of spring seem far away. But, they will return.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Planning ahead . . .

Somehow, we made it. As early spring flowers blossomed into summer, every view is now colored green. a time of promise, and warmer weather. 

Vaccines now complete, we are venturing into what almost looks and feels like the 'real' world. Hubby is slowly, slowly recovering from back surgery, and each day brings something new (sometimes expected, like a granddaughter's ninth birthday, and sometimes not expected, like new quilting projects).

I can report progress on final revisions for The Island Wife, that long-awaited Book 4 to my trilogy that tells the story of Moira and Dylan in 1840's northern Scotland. Between editing and proofing, though, another story wants my attention. 

This leads me to ask: Can I truly work on TWO projects at the same time???

And to stir the pot, NaNoWriMo just announced a writing challenge for July. Writers set their own goals for this month-long 'summer camp' and track their progress. I'm already signed up! More than ready to get back to work on that art crime mystery I started earlier in the year. My goal? Add another 15,000 words in July. 

Today, I started putting together my journal for The Missing Sarcophagus. Take one inexpensive composition book. Print out images for characters, settings, and conflicts. Paste into the notebook. Start writing notes, impressions, memories, questions, and key dates and/or a timeline. Voila! This little notebook travels more easily than my laptop!

Here's the working blurb:

When art crime experts Sandra and Neil McDonnell fly to Cairo for a month-long honeymoon, they don’t expect to discover a fake sarcophagus at the Egyptian Museum. Pulled into a tangled web of thefts, they encounter smugglers and uncover a plot to steal artifacts from GEM at Giza, the site of Egypt’s newest museum. 

When threats escalate against Sandra and Neil, and dead bodies begin to appear, can they solve the mystery and find their happy ever after?

The Seventh Tapestry introduced Sandra and Neil, so The Missing Sarcophagus will continue their adventures. I'm more than ready to research, draft, and write their story. Much more fun than copy editing!

What do you think? Have you ever worked on two big projects at the same time? How did that work out for you? I could say yes, more than once, when I was teaching, but now, as a retired writer, I'm less sure. I only know this story set in Egypt is calling my name.

With hopes your summer brings you peace, lots of words, good progress (if you are a writer), and adventures to cherish.  Beth

The Seventh Tapestry is available on Amazon


Wednesday, June 02, 2021

IWSG June: Stuck in a three-year loop?

The first Wednesday of the month, brings the IWSG blog challenge: To share our thoughts with other bloggers about writing, to encourage, to reveal our own struggles, and to support each other -- each of us with our own writing goals and progress (or lack of). 
Some months, we dive into IWSG's question. Other months, we wrestle.

June 2 question: For how long do you shelve your first draft, before reading it and re-drafting? Is this dependent on your writing experience and the number of stories/books under your belt?

Aargh! I'm wrestling, for I don't shelve that first draft, unless some calamity has taken over my life. Instead, I read, reread, ponder, make notes, print out and make notes, talk with my writing partner, make more notes, reread . . . and write and rewrite. 

Alas, I'm a slow writer. I can sprint through drafting; my typing speed is up there enough to jam a typewriter's keys (back in the day). Typically, three years mark the beginning and end of a writing project, despite my best efforts to study and apply different strategies to become more prolific.

For example, on today's walk up to the pond, I found myself wondering if my heroine, Moira, has really revealed how much she misses her absent husband. What would she tell herself? What does she regret most? What are her fondest memories -- and why? That will preoccupy me for the next several days of revision.

Maybe the 'shelving' period occurs when I send that 'draft' off to a beta reader. But, by then, I'm feeling finished with the story and ready to start planning the next.

How many novels I've written (so far five) doesn't seem to affect when I stop revising. Can you tell I'm more of a recursive writer, returning again and again to see what works, what's missing, what could be better?  At some point, the ending seems to resonate with the whole story, and I'm finished -- and ready to let go.

I'm looking forward to what others say in response to this month's questions. Even as pandemic restrictions ease up, and spring rushes into summer (in the mid-60's last week; today the 90's), we still need courage and tenacity and a clear vision to achieve our goals. 

May your writing go well and each day bring you something to cherish!

Thank you goes to the co-hosts for the Insecure Writers Support Group's June 2 posting. These generous writers read nearly all of this month's posts. Why not visit and see what they're thinking about? J Lenni Dorner, Sarah Foster, Natalie Aguirre, Lee Lowery, and Rachna Chhabria!

Grandkids at an Oregon Beach (May 2021)

Monday, May 31, 2021

Memorial Day . . . More than Memories

When my husband came home from Viet Nam, the first thing he did on debarking the plane was to stoop down and kiss the ground. He was that grateful to be home. Yes, protestors spit on him. And when he finally made it all the way to Philadelphia and fell asleep on his mom's couch, it was not a restful sleep. His mom came to wake him up by tapping his shoulder, and he decked her. He was still in combat mode.

When I met him in 1974, I could tell he was a vet. He always knew where all the exits were, and any loud noise caused him to go on the alert. Like the time a kid threw cherry bombs under our park bench on a Fourth of July celebration.

In 2004, we spent some time in Paris and spotted a peace march passing by as we finished our lunch at McDonald's. We walked with them. As the crowds dwindled, an old woman, bent with age and wrapped in a black shawl, asked Allen if he was American. She got down on her knees and kissed his hand. "Thank you," she said. "This is to remember all the soldiers who came to save us during World War II."

Later, I worried about my community college students who had served in Afghanistan. One dropped out after receiving reports his brain had multiple small tumors. Others confided they suffered from severe headaches and sleeplessness.

Service. Honor. Sacrifice. 

So it's no surprise that last week on PBS, John Yang and Dan Sagalyn reported that soldiers who served in Afghanistan and Iraq are now suffering from brain cancers or lung disorders caused by smoke. Once diagnosed with cancer, these vets do not have long to live. Their families are struggling to get coverage.

The surprise is these vets have to fight to get the VA to recognize their illness as service-related. According to PBS, tens of thousands of soldiers need VA approval to get medical benefits or disability payments for these burn-pit related illnesses. Families have struggled to get that crucial VA approval. What about the vets who don't have anyone to advocate for them?

ACTION NEEDED: Two Senators (Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat, and Marco Rubio, Republican) have introduced a bill dubbed 'Burn Pit Legislation' that would set new eligibility requirements for these vets with cancer or lung disease. 

I hope you read the two links provided above.

With the current divide between Democrats and Republicans, do we have any hope such a bill could pass the House and the Senate? 

Is it time to write our Congressional representatives?

Friday, May 28, 2021

As May winds down . . . a book recommendation!

Sometimes I wonder if people realize what gifts they give passersby when they plant their gardens. 

As we slowly emerge from the isolation that pandemic brought, even ordinary life events can seem more challenging. At least, I've found it so as my husband recovers from surgery. So that daily walk has led me to discover some favorite spots along the way. That early blooming cherry tree has now given way to a climbing clematis, and the robins have returned, hopping their way across finally green lawns.

I'd like to tell you about a wonderful writer I know, Sandra Mason. She recently released her inspirational tale, Into the Fire! about what Big Ed Pulaski's life was like when he left home at age 15, and how he became that heroic forest ranger who saved 40 lives during the Great Fire of 1910. 

I would have enjoyed reading this fictional biography when I was a teen, dreaming of far horizons and adventure. I loved reading it now. Sandra has a unique gift of describing what life was truly like, and Ed Pulaski's generous spirit and work ethic comes through beautifully.

Sandra graciously answered a few questions to share with you. 

1. What inspired you to write Into the Fire!? I have always loved to tell stories, and to write. Actually I’ve done more poetry writing than longer stories. Into the Fire! is my first historical novel. And my first real book. I was researching the Pulaski tool for another project, and investigated the U.S. Forest Service Website.. I happened on an essay written by Edward Pulaski titled “My Most Exciting Adventure as a Forest Ranger.” It was very short, only about a page. I was captured by his adventure and thought “We have a real hero in our own back yard.” I was so inspired that I had to tell his story!

2. What kind of research went into writing this book? First, I explored the U.S. Forest Service website for anything I could find about the 1910 fire and Edward Pulaski. Then I made an appointment to visit the Forest Service Idaho Panhandle National Forests Headquarters in Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho. They kindly allowed me access to their archives. Shawn Gibson, Forest Archaelogist, patiently walked me through the mountains of material they had on the 1910 fire. Then she turned me loose to explore on my own. I also did quite extensive reading about the 1910 fire, particularly Fire in America, by Stephen Pyne and The Big Burn, by Timothy Egan. 

I also visited Wallace, Idaho, particularly the Wallace Mining Museum. My husband and I hiked the interactive trail to the War Eagle Mine Tunnel where Ranger Pulaski and his men sheltered from the fire. It was an educational, inspiring, and beautiful hike. I researched railroad firemen, steam engines, horse shoeing, mule trains, mining, Buffalo Soldiers, Senators Heyburn and Clark, Joseph Gurney Cannon, Speaker of the House, President Theodore Roosevelt, Gifford Pinchot, first head of the U.S. Forest Service and others. The whole process was fascinating.

3. Any surprises along the way? I was surprised and delighted with how helpful the keepers of Idaho history were. They were generous with stories and ideas. I hope to introduce many others to the brave men of the U.S. Forest Service and firefighters in general. Now both men and women do that work.

4. What advice do you have for aspiring writers? Believe in your story, do your research, listen to other writers. And NEVER give up!


Sandra's shown here holding a firefighting axe that Ed Pulaski invented.

Find out more about Into the Fire on Amazon!

Thank you, Sandra! 

May June bring us all comfort, healing, and new adventures outside -- nearly mask free!