Beth Camp Historical Fiction

Wednesday, October 06, 2021

IWSG: Where do we draw the line?

Amazing October! For the last month, we've been staying in an adobe-style house just outside Santa Fe. The leaves are beginning to turn, the temperature at night is starting to drop, and it's far too soon to be heading north to home.

Santa Fe has been a delight with its emphasis on art, museums, pueblo culture, and the sheer beauty of its landscape (rolling hills, purple mountains, and incredibly blue skies), lots of ravens, and green chile-infused New Mexican cuisine. I should have had plenty of time to write, yes? Not when we're traveling with four other people who want to go in different directions at the same time.

But I can answer the Insecure Writer's Support Group question for October: Where do I draw the line -- with either topics or language. 


Revelation #1: Some of my character cuss. 

Revelation #2: Nearly all of my characters' bedroom scenes take place behind a closed door. 

Revelation #3: I hope that I follow my characters wherever they wish to go. That means I haven't yet met a topic for a story that intrigues me that I'm willing to put aside because of some inner censorship or social expectation. Isn't the goal of a writer, regardless of the story, to seek 'truth' as we know it, perhaps to challenge what we think we know about ourselves and our culture? 

One squishy issue remains: What is my story and what belongs to others? At first, when a male character took over the story line, I doubted. Could I understand the male psyche? Be true to who this character was? 

If my characters and/or story 'live' well outside my experience, does research give me enough insight? What line do I cross when I explore cultures far outside my experience? Even if I write in good faith, how do I respect what truly belongs to others? 

Now back to real life: We leave this paradise in 3 days for maybe 10 days of driving on our way home by way of various national parks, to explore, hike, take pictures, and dream just a little longer of once faraway places -- and our place in this world.

To celebrate the writing lives of those who follow the Insecure Writer's Support Group, you may take advantage of a freebie, starting October 6 through October 10th! The Seventh Tapestry: An Art Crime Mystery has a new cover, and the Kindle version will be available free. 

I'm offering this as a thank you to everyone who writes and reads with hopes you'll continue to find pleasure each day . . . Stay safe and well!

And try to visit our October 6 IWSG hosts to say thank you: Jemima Pett, J Lenni Dorner, Cathrina Constantine, Ronel Janse van Vuuren, and Mary Aalgaard.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Revision and re-vision . . .

Henry James (1843-1915), that influential writer and philosopher, distilled thinking about revision into one compelling statement that has echoed over and over again for writers. His words, "the act of revision, the act of seeing it again," take us down the rabbit path that mixes logic with intuition.

So many words have been written about how to revise. And yet, here I am, this early September morning, surrounded by printouts from my beta readers, ready to jump into my story once again -- to begin reading, with hopes to revise, and with no certain path ahead. My only hope and goal remains this month, while we're in Santa Fe, New Mexico, to perhaps finish this story and move to the next. 

The clearest guidelines I've found are with Reedsy's "How to Revise a Novel: 6 Steps to a Smooth Revision." And I have next to me my favorite books on writing and revision. 

This early morning is quiet. Truly, the time to begin is now.

"Morning" by Kim Dae Jung on Pixabay

Wednesday, September 01, 2021

September IWSG: Finding Success . . .

Welcome to September and the Insecure Writer's Support Group! Here's this month's writerly question:

September 1 question:  How do you define success as a writer? Is it holding your book in your hand? Having a short story published? Making a certain amount of income from your writing?

Whoa! This shoe doesn't fit. Yes, I'm thrilled when I spot my books anywhere, a bookstore, a friend's house, or a library. And I'm thrilled if I have something published -- a poem, a story, or a novel. And I'm relieved when the monthly book sales reach a certain point. I always feel a little embarrassed when someone compliments me on the writing.

Because, for me, being successful as a writer tags to something else entirely: Immersing myself in the craft of writing. Nearly every morning. When the story unfolds as fast as I can type. When I laugh with my characters or cry. When the words zing on the page. When the scene 'feels' finished, and the next story emerges.

Like right now, this moment, as I balance between final revisions on one project and the first draft of another. Yes, I can be insecure (and, in case you hadn't guessed, introverted). Success as a writer means bringing my stories to life in a way that reaches out and moves readers, perhaps enriching their lives -- even for a moment. Which means leaping out of my comfort zone to face down that other challenge -- reaching out to readers!

My question in return is: Given the pandemic and all that has changed, when was the last time you reached out to your readers? What did you do? What tips can you share? How does your relationship with your readers strengthen your writing?

What's next? Why not join this wonderful community of over 160 writers who care about the craft and who, like me, tackle each day with a weird mixture of doubt and courage. All you need to do is post your own thoughts about writing on your blog and then go to the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Read posts from 10-12 participating writers. Maybe even start with this month's awesome co-hosts: Rebecca Douglass, T. Powell Coltrin @Journaling Woman, Natalie Aguirre, Karen Lynn, and C. Lee McKenzie!

Above all, know that your words are appreciated, and, especially these days, your writerly gift is needed to comfort, heal, and sustain the rest of us.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Almost on the Road . . . Again!

We're just home from a trial run, a relatively short trip up to the Wallowas in eastern Oregon. Here's the view from a picnic bench along the way, near Hat Point, an overlook near Hell's Canyon. Despite all the challenges and calamities, these trips remind me what a beautiful world's around us. OK I won't tell you about the 20 mile one-way gravel road, with sheer drop offs, but gorgeous views. 

Update on the writing: Yes, I always bring the laptop on any trip. A little HP netbook that had nearly no memory. When I opened my file and began to type, the cursor didn't move! So no writing other than scribbling in my journal. Oofta! Now home again, hubby surprised me with a new computer. Argh! This Lenovo has so much stuff going on (and memory), I probably need to take a class. 

No writing at all for about a week on the road. So, after unpacking and cleaning the fridge, I thought maybe a little nap would help because I want to get back to my writing. 

Five minutes later, I wake up with a scene floating in my head. Sort of. A woman’s driving a car, and a guy is seated next to her. I don’t know who they are. I don’t know their names. They begin talking.

“So, are you going to take that job?”
“No, I’m not going to take that job. It’s a paid hit. I’m not doing that.”
“How much were they going to pay?”
“Doesn’t matter. I’m not taking the job.”
“You want to tell me about that black SUV that’s been following us?”
“What black SUV? Oh, shit.”

I'm left wondering what happens next! And who these people are! That's how another story starts. 

Meanwhile, we're getting ready for that longer trip. Writing projects with me? 

  • Island Wife, that fourth (last?) story in the 'stones' series, now a tetralogy or quadrilogy (from the Greek). Hoping for feedback from my beta readers so I can begin the next round of revision.
  •  And the next art crime novel, The Last Sarcophagus, set in Egypt (draft stage), so that means a few research books come along too.
  • Maybe the family history. Just finished the working draft about my grandfather, Frank Henry, one of the first forest rangers back in the 1920s, and will begin next with my grandmother, Sigrid Torgny, a woman I always thought was born in Sweden (since that was so important to her). Turns out, she was born in Chicago. Anyone else like 
  • Oh, yes, that dream? I might just find a few more scenes along the way.
Meanwhile, may the end of the summer be good to you. May this crazy world calm down a bit. May Delta stay far away from you and those you love. And if you write (or read), I hope you enjoy every moment!

Wednesday, August 04, 2021

August IWSG: On Writing and Curiosity

August begins with hot days and here in the Pacific Northwest, a lot of smoke. Yesterday, our Air Quality Index was 181, pretty much unhealthy for everyone. That means more staying inside, wearing those masks everywhere, and doing the daily walk at a nearby mall or Rite-Aid!

The Insecure Writer's Support Group challenges writers to participate with a blog post on the first Wednesday of every month. IWSG's purpose? 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!

Why not join in? 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!

August 4 question: What is your favorite writing craft book? Think of a book that every time you read it, you learn something or you are inspired to write or try the new technique. And why?

Consider taking a look at Elizabeth Lyon's Manuscript Makeover. Her comprehensive, analytical discussion of style, craft, and characterization consistently invites me to improve my editing skills. I especially admire her ability to teach WITHOUT using 'should' and 'don't'. Instead, clear writing goals and specific examples lead my way deeper into revision. Yes, I have a shelf of other how-to-improve-your-writing books, but Lyon is truly my first choice.

Writer's Digest, though obviously not a book, is my other favorite resource that sparks my thinking about writing. For example, the May/June 2021 issue focuses on curiosity. 

Which led me to ask: How does curiosity shape my writing?

Immediately, I'm kicked back in time to that moment about ten years ago when DH and I visited historic Fort Vancouver near the Columbia River. We passed a sign in an empty field: "Native Americans and Hawaiians once worked here." The small, out-of-the-way sign inspired me to write about the McDonnell family in the mid-19th Century, and led to now four books in the series! Well, three and one at beta reader stage. And that need for research led us to meandering trips through Canada, Scotland, and Egypt. With a still untold story about Jamie McDonnell at ten, who signed onto a clipper trading ship headed for China, again in the 1840s. Maybe another trip, post-pandemic?

Writing Update: For those who are drawn into writing challenges and like to track word counts, yes, I did complete July's Camp Nanowrimo at 14,000 new words, just a thousand short of my goal. Along the way, my latest project, a second art crime mystery, The Missing Sarcophagus, set in Egypt, is taking shape.  

Can I really work on drafting one project while finishing edits on another? I'm not sure, but I'm having fun along the way.

Now, why not visit the hard-working and generous co-hosts for IWSG's August post: PK Hrezo, Cathrina Constantine, PJ Colando, Kim Lajevardi, and Sandra Cox!  And leave an encouraging comment!

Happy writing ahead!

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.