Beth Camp Historical Fiction

Wednesday, March 03, 2021

IWSG March: Thinking Ahead . . . to Spring!

The first Wednesday of every month is . . . officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) day. We may write a post in response to this month's question. Or, we may write about our writing struggles, doubts, or triumphs. We hope to offer encouragement to other writers -- and we visit each other and comment. Why not, join in? Inspired by Alex Cavanaugh, the founder of IWSG, we persevere! 

IWSG's March 3 question - Everyone has a favorite genre or genres to write. But what about your reading preferences? Do you read widely or only within the genre(s) you create stories for? What motivates your reading choice?

A very tough question for me this month. 

Perhaps like some of you, I've been fighting off depression. Some days are harder than others. So, if I'm talking just about my reading, right now, I'm reading purely for escape, roughly 20 books a month. I'll read pretty much anything in historical fiction, romantic suspense, mysteries, adventure, science fiction, or thrillers, whether cozy or erotic (if the story is too erotic, I skip pages!). 

What I hope to find is a story that takes me entirely away from our present world -- the news, political or pandemic; disasters, environmental or personal. Immersing myself in the world of that amazing, spunky heroine or hero who really does make a difference gives me a little break and inspires me to tackle another day, to cherish those I love, and to find the courage to write my own stories.

Speaking of writing, I want to ask: What can we do every day to nurture our writing? Some say routine. Yes, I can agree. Discipline and structure help. Sometimes, though, we can be inspired by what others create, whether by song, or a painting, or a poem.  Sometimes we need to just listen or look and recognize that very human desire to share something of beauty. 

A few days ago, a writer friend sent me a link to her son's latest song. I felt like I was sitting in his living room, with Andrew just across from me, singing, reminding me that creativity takes many forms -- and can nurture us and inspire us.  

I hope you have a very good month ahead -- one full of opportunity and good health, strength to face down challenges, and time for writing.

Here's Andrew Mason with his song, Prayer for the Weary Traveler

 

Consider accepting IWSG's Challenge! Why not post a response to this month's question on your blog and take a moment to visit other IWSG writers, over 160 of us, to find out what we're up to this month. 

Thanks especially go to this month's co-hosts for the March 3 posting of the IWSG are Sarah - The Faux Fountain Pen Jacqui Murray, Chemist Ken, Victoria Marie Lees, Natalie Aguirre, and JQ Rose!








Friday, February 26, 2021

Are we hibernating . . .

I creak and groan as I wake.
Another day of snow, two or three inches more
atop yesterday's gift; winter's ice
glistens on the roadway.
All I want to do is pretend to be a bear,
roll over in my cave,
burrow down under my winter quilt,
hibernate until spring, when I'll emerge,
half-dazed, hungry,
groggy for coffee, maybe news
the pandemic has eased.
Later, I'll hope for an end to February. 
I'll put on my mask,
walk out to the pond to see 
those first visitors: red-winged blackbirds,
here for the season, and Canada geese,
heading north.

Image by Bergadder on Pixabay

This last week almost lost. Few days spent on writing, but I did get that second vaccine shot, one of the lucky few. Symptoms the day after? Yes, a crushing headache soon relieved with Naproxin and a long nap -- where I found this poem. 

May you be well, staying warm as this last (hopefully the last) winter storm moves through, dropping snow on mountains and even in the valleys. As my colleague from long ago used to say, "Seize the day!" Cherish the moment. Not bad advice at all.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Working towards an ending . . .

I've been writing the rest of Moira and Dylan's story (introduced in Standing Stones) for about a year now, using many strategies to draft (freewriting, outlining, scaffolding, hero's journey). I'm happy about the overall progress (about 80% done with the first draft), as both Moira and Dylan face nicely dramatic challenges. 

Yet, I don't yet know how this story ends.

I've got the cover. I know my characters, their conflicts, and the resolution -- at least the inner resolution. 

The historical backstory is relatively clear. Many people left Ireland for Scotland and the rest of Europe in the wake of waves of cholera epidemics, well before the potato famine that led to the Clearances in the 1840s.

When people left Ireland for Scotland, they encountered quite a bit of prejudice. Called 'Irishers,' these people, many of them Catholic, already vulnerable, scrabbled to make a living, even when they had good skills.

Did they have a reason to stay? The first waves of Irish immigrants to the United States tended to settle in the Northeast. Here's a snippet from the Library of Congress:

Between 1820 and 1860, the Irish constituted over one third of all immigrants to the United StatesIn the 1840s, they comprised nearly half of all immigrants to this nation.

These Irish had to pay steerage, so those who immigrated were not the poorest, but they tended to be from rural areas. Where did they settle? As they got off the boats that brought them to this new land, they tended to stay where they landed. Were there jobs? Not so easily found. So they shared housing and resources where they could, living in overcrowded tenements and saving money to bring their families from the homeland to their new home.

This sketchy background doesn't sound like a 'happy ever after' ending for Moira and Dylan. It sounds like 'from the frying pan into the fire.'

Here's where I'm stuck. Does Moira and Dylan's story end with the dream of a new life in America -- or the reality?

Readers and writers, please feel free to give me your opinion! 2021 has been tough enough without me getting stuck on this ending! Thank you!

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Winter morning . . .

So cold this morning
no one wants to go outside.
The very air draws life 
out of my Dusty Miller plant, 
hunkered down for winter on the patio,
its white leaves shriveled up,
tucked in upon itself, 
no hope for spring. 
And yet, on yesterday's walk,
up to the pond and back,
I saw a red-winged blackbird,
its shrill call a reminder: this too
shall pass, the sun will return,
as will all those lost words,
somehow like orphan quilt blocks
finding their place, a balance
stretched between intention and design,
moving me at once to just a sheen of tears,
I shake my head and begin to write;
it's too cold to cry.


Image by nickfish03 on Pixabay

A little hard to be optimistic when the thermometer reads 18F this morning, with more snow coming later this week. Shiver. No wonder we like to go traveling in February. Not this year! Instead, I'm watering a basil plant, hoping to keep it alive long enough to go into a salad a little later (yes, with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and those little mozzarella balls). That is, after the writing is done. 

And a special thank you to Tyrean Martinson for hosting me on her blog for her first Author Highlight  in 2021: Check it out for an INTERVIEW and a sneak peek inside The Seventh Tapestry. Thank you again, Tyrean! What a great way to start the day.




Wednesday, February 03, 2021

IWSG February: Snow and rubber bands . . .

 February begins. The first Wednesday of each month, writers are invited to post an update -- their musings about the writing life, sometimes prompted by a question. 

IWSG's February 3 question - Blogging is often more than just sharing stories. It’s often the start of special friendships and relationships. Have you made any friends through the blogosphere?

The short answer is yes. From The Internet Writer's Support Group (IWSG) to The Internet Writing Workshop (IWW) to a medley of smaller online writing communities and challenges. Generous writers have traded drafts and beta reads with me, and they've reviewed my work (as I have reviewed theirs). Over the last some 15 years, they've bolstered my identity and skills as a writer and as an editor of my own work and theirs.

This last year has brought challenges nearly none of us had dreamed of -- except for science fiction writers. Word of deaths from Covid-19 creep closer to our own families and communities. Our long winter seems unending with snow falls measured in feet across the country.

We have hope in new virus vaccines now being widely distributed. Add to our personal challenges that ability to get access to that vaccine! My good news is that I had the first shot just last Thursday, but I couldn't get an appointment for my hubby. I was devastated; his immune system is far more compromised than mine! My failure to navigate the appointment systems online meant only good news on Monday. I got him an appointment! The relief is immeasurable.

Can you imagine I haven't been able to write for a few weeks? And that's where the rubber band comes in, for I have snapped back to work. Yet I know for my family, friends and neighbors in our convoluted pandemic community, we have more challenges ahead.

One of the ongoing resources that gives me courage and hope simply remains connecting with you . . . the readers of my blog AND the members of our larger IWSG community, accessible through the generous work of IWSG founder, Alec J. Cavanaugh.  Thank you.

May you be well, stay safe, wear that blinkety-blink mask, and wash those hands. Oh, and write! 

Now, what's in my to-be-read and just finished reading pile? (Note: My site is not monetized.)

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michelle Richardson. I can't wait to read this one. The blurb alone pulled me in. 1930s, a lone woman taking books by mule to the back country. Most likely, she's the victim of prejudice as she's from the blue-skinned folk (historically factual!) of rural Kentucky. The excellent writing entices the reader from the first paragraph. 4.5 stars on Amazon with 15K reviews! I checked this out via OverDrive from my library (Kindle $7.99).


Men of the Cross by Charlene Newcomb. Travel back to the 12th Century to pilgrimage to the Holy Land with two knights -- one a seasoned warrior, the other eager to follow Richard the Lionhearted. Vivid characters, conflicts, and sense-based settings recreate this era as well as asking the reader to consider how war affects us all. Currently 99c on Kindle.


Bad Blood by L.T. Vargas and Tim McBain. Billed as a 'gripping, crime thriller,' this tale pulls the reader right into the crime-filled world of Detroit, where Special Agent Violet Darger tracks down a puzzling, violent murder. I was dazzled and dismayed by the authentic, gritty look at behind-the-scenes police work, mafia structure, and rough life in the projects. At the same time I admire Darger's commitment to solving crime, she questions whether her efforts are worth the sacrifice. One of a series, these books can be read in any order. I've already got the next story on my 'to-be-read' list. Currently 99c on Kindle.


Thank you to Alec Cavanaugh for inspiring and motivating us all -- and thanks go to the co-hosts for this month's IWSG post: Louise - Fundy Blue , Jennifer Lane, Mary Aalgaard, Patsy Collins at Womagwriter, and Nancy Gideon!  Why not join 164 other writers in this monthly, online blog hop? Click HERE to see what others have written.

Just in case you're looking for a good read while snuggling near the fireplace on this last blast of cold winter nights, just a few chocolates nearby, my special for Standing Stones runs through Valentine's Day! 


Enjoy the rest of February as we creep towards spring with tenacity and hope!

 


Friday, January 22, 2021

January's Flying By . . .

 Does anyone else feel like this month is flying by faster than anticipated?

Writing kind of got set aside these first few weeks as we huddled around the television to await election results. Shocked by the mob that stormed the Capitol, I yet admired those Congressional representatives and staff who returned to count and affirm the votes of the Electoral College. That was an unforgettable January 6th.

On January 20th, I woke at dawn. CNN was already busy broadcasting 'getting ready for the inauguration,' and I watched the sun rise, the White House colored a rosy pink and gold. Now, just two days later, has Washington, D.C. settled down again as the Biden Administration gets to work? Along with many others, I hope so.

And then a Congressman tried to sneak a gun to work, despite those metal detectors. Aargh!

The pandemic creeps closer now, with friends reporting friends who are struggling with new diagnoses. We stay at home, sheltering in place, the quarantine sometimes stifling, but leavened with phone calls and the weekly visit with family in our bubble. And the writing beckons, despite doubts. So I shall persevere. 

Perhaps next week, I'll give you a better sense of what's happening to Moira and Dylan in Island Wife, the sequel to Standing Stones.  Meanwhile, I'm experimenting with a new price for Standing Stones

Let your friends know if they like historical fiction set in Scotland in the 1840's, a time and place far from where we are now. You just might find people struggling against injustice, a love story or two, and sheer courage to face down the challenges that seem to come along with every generation.

Be well, stay safe, and cherish each day!






Wednesday, January 06, 2021

IWSG Jan 2021: Into the New . . .


Into the new with a special treat:
An interview with Liesbet Collaert, author of an adventurous memoir, Plunge.

And it's the First Wednesday of the Month, which means time to connect with a wonderful community of writers who share their thoughts, hopes, doubts, and dreams in a monthly blog hop as part of the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Check out this link and try to visit/comment on at least 12 writers' posts . . . You can do it!

The awesome co-hosts for the January 6 posting of the IWSG are Ronel Janse van Vuuren , J Lenni Dorner, Gwen Gardner Sandra Cox, and Louise - Fundy Blue!

Before we 'plunge' into Liesbet's interview, here's IWSG's question for January 6thBeing a writer, when you're reading someone else's work, what stops you from finishing a book/throws you out of the story/frustrates you the most about other people's books?

I almost hate to admit this but . . . missing punctuation and incorrect grammar on the first page are a serious distraction. Once I'm caught up in the story, I'm more forgiving. But that first page? Oofta! 

What else makes me stop reading? If the characters (yep, either male or female) are insensitive, exploitive, and brutal, I just don't want them in my head. Bad guys can be bad guys, but rape? Torturing children? Not going to read that. I don't expect HEA every time. Isn't that true to life? We don't always catch that golden ring. But I want to celebrate with my characters when they are successful, surmount obstacles, and create new and better worlds. Especially as we face into this second and challenging year of the pandemic, writing that affirms hope is important to me.


And now for that wonderful interview with Liesbet Collaert who so kindly and thoughtfully answered my questions about how she came to write her memoir, Plunge. How did I meet her? Right here on IWSG! 

How did you get started writing your memoir? Like many adventurers, probably, I stated “One day, I’ll write a book!” That must have happened after a second extended backpacking trip in South East Asia and Down Under when I was in my twenties. I managed to create hardcover photo albums (remember those?), but working full-time as a primary school teacher in Belgium didn’t allow for book writing.

When I returned to the US from a year-long RV trip in Mexico and Central America in 2007, I actually considered writing a travel memoir, came up with a structure, and jotted down ideas and notes. Nothing came of that project, because three months later, my husband and I were head-deep into sailing a new-to-us catamaran. This change of lifestyles turned into an eight-year sea journey during which I kept track of our experiences in blogs, diaries, and Word documents.

Once we finished our wanderings in the Caribbean and South Pacific and opted for a relatively settled life in the United States, I did get serious and determined about actually creating my debut memoir. It took five years of work – on and off depending on the logistics – before Plunge was published! I was most productive while we house- and pet-sat for months in other people’s homes. Barely anything got done when we were on the road in our camper van. 

What strategies did you use to organize your memoir?
I had a few well-defined goals in mind during the creation of my book: it had to be different from other sailing narratives and memoirs, written in the present tense to pull the reader into events and emotions to reflect my impulsiveness, and incorporate foreshadowing and flashbacks as well as be suspenseful. 

I never took writing classes or English literature (Dutch is my native language). I just followed my guts and cranked out the first draft, utilizing my memory, notes, and blog posts. This version was way too long! About twice as what I had in mind for the end product, an intense page-turner. Editing the manuscript required many takes and huge cuts. The final version – which I sent to a substantial editor for review – is a mostly chronological account of my tumultuous thirties with the previously mentioned elements intertwined.

How did you know when your memoir was “done”? As a perfectionist, I had the most difficult time to “let go” and call it quits. I can reread something forever, tinkering and polishing and improving! “Perfect doesn’t exist,” I had to tell myself. A friend’s advice helped as well: “Perfect is the enemy of good.”

To be honest, I promised myself to publish Plunge in 2020 and made that my main focus of the year. This project had taken long enough. There was no time for anything else and still, I barely succeeded, as my travel memoir published on November 28th, my 45th birthday! Hiring a professional editor and cover designer caused unexpected delays. Writing the book is one thing, self-publishing it quite the other. It was extremely hard work, time consuming, and seemingly never-ending (as that perfectionist popped its head up again) with a steep learning curve.

Is your wonderful blog your primary connection with your readers? I’m a debut author, and my life consists of much more than writing. When I produced my sailing blog – It’s Irie – Sailing the World the Way It Is – from 2007 to 2015, comments weren’t much of a thing and I documented our travels for myself, my friends, and my family. My readership was benign and interactions rare.

Once my husband and I quit the cruising life and I started a new blog (Roaming About – A Life Less Ordinary) about our lifestyle, I also reported on my progress as an aspiring author, once a month. Because of all these reasons, yes, my blog is the only thing that connects me with my readers as my readers so far are my blog readers. And my writing updates could act as a newsletter.

I appreciate and respect the readers of my blog tremendously. They make efforts effort to catch up on what’s going on, read what I have to share, and often comment. They dedicate some of their precious time to connect with me. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance to me to reply to every single comment I receive. I enjoy the connections, conversations, and even real-life encounters that have ensued this way!

How do you come up with topics for your blog? This is easy. My subjects emerge from life. Unlike others, who attempt to break into a niche or monetize their blog, I don’t care about that. This allows me to write about whatever I want. It’s my blog. Topics come easy because of our exciting, alternative lifestyle, my (undesired) tendency to get in trouble, my never-ending thoughts and ideas, and my openness to chat about anything. Just like I will never get bored in my life, I will never run out of topics for my blog. 😊 Plus, there are always photo challenges or writing prompt challenges to participate in, if the mood strikes or the well threatens to dry up.

Do you belong to a community of writers? I envy writers who belong to an in-person writing or critique group. That would be so awesome and helpful. But, because I am a nomad, this will never be possible. Luckily, there is the internet and the ability to be a part of online groups. That being said, due to our non-stable resources, I am only a member of three non-committing Facebook groups – the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG), the We Love Memoirs Author Group, and the Women Who Sail Who Write group – and participate in the monthly IWSG blog-hop.

By following other blogs, sometimes started by someone visiting my blog first, I have become acquainted with many fantastic, knowledgeable writers and maintain a good relationship with them. They are a helpful bunch and posing a question or inquiry by email or on a Facebook group often provides an answer.

Do you work with beta readers? Yes! When you read about the writing craft, you soon learn some important lessons. One of them – besides hiring a professional editor and utilizing proofreaders at the end – is working with beta readers. As a new author, it was hard for me to decide exactly when to do this. On hindsight, I should have waited before engaging them. The version my eight beta readers (from different backgrounds, relationship angles, and nationalities) received was too long. But, one of the main things I struggled with in year two of the writing process was what to leave in and what to take out. My beta readers were a tremendous help with so much more than tightening the prose and I am eternally grateful for all their feedback.

What is your biggest challenge ahead as a writer? Good question! Because I am a free-spirited, flexible, and frugal person, I actually possess a lot of freedom – to write or to pursue other pursuits. But there is one challenge, and this has always been the same challenge: my preferred lifestyle. Being a perpetual nomad, living, traveling, and working on the water or on the road is challenging and exhausting. Adding a writing schedule to that is impossible. It is no surprise or secret that I am most productive when settled somewhere with running water, unlimited electricity, and reliable internet for periods of time. Yet, often to my companions’ and my own frustration, I keep trying to combine my two passions. I am faced with a question that has repeatedly haunted me: do I keep traveling, or do I focus on my writing? How do I find a healthy balance?

Links for Plunge! 
Social Media & Blog Links
Plunge! Book Blurb 

Tropical waters turn tumultuous in this travel memoir as a free-spirited woman jumps headfirst into a sailing adventure with a new man and his two dogs.

Join Liesbet as she faces a decision that sends her into a whirlwind of love, loss, and living in the moment. When she swaps life as she knows it for an uncertain future on a sailboat, she succumbs to seasickness and a growing desire to be alone.

Guided by impulsiveness and the joys of an alternative lifestyle, she must navigate personal storms, trouble with US immigration, adverse weather conditions, and doubts about her newfound love.

Does Liesbet find happiness? Will the dogs outlast the man? Or is this just another reality check on a dream to live at sea?



Thank you, Liesbet, for sharing your thoughts about writing your wonderful and inspirational memoir. May this New Year bring you -- and all of us -- good health, happiness, a sense of peace, many more adventures, and many more opportunities to write!