Beth Camp Historical Fiction

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

IWSG April 7: On Risks and Challenges . . .

 Today is the first Wednesday of April, and it's time to check in with the Insecure Writer's Support Group. This online community of writers 'meets' via a blog hop, so join in to support other writers and to share your thoughts/reactions in response to this month's question.

April 7 IWSG Question: Are you a risk-taker when writing? Do you try something radically different in style/POV/etc. or add controversial topics to your work? Please read on!

Doubts and fears since last month? No one is surprised that the pandemic has affected our writing habits and commitment. Somehow 'normal' challenges that can occur have seemed magnified through March. Usually, I write every day. Not last month. April also marks National Poetry Month, the one time a year I do attempt to write a poem a day. Again, not this year. 

For National Novel Writing Month (November), commonly referred to as NaNoWriMo, has issued a challenge and an invitation to Camp NaNoWriMo. For the month of April, participants set their own goals (writing and/or revising), and measure progress daily. And, I'm in. Happily in. My goal's set for a minimum of 500 words a day for a total of 15,000 for the month on my current project, Island Wife. Seven days in, and I've made/surpassed that goal of 500 words every day so far. 

Before, when the writing slowed down, I stopped.

Now, instead of stopping, I'm blocking out scenes and writing. When I slow down, I use scaffolding (a simple list rather than formal outlining) to map out the scene. This just might be a new skill I needed to learn. I hope my experience will help you!

Which brings us back to the question: What risks do I take when writing? Simply put, I'm pretty concerned with the story, somehow stuck in 1840's Scotland for this project. My characters are working class, so they have plenty of problems. My focus is on bringing my characters, their struggles, their emotions, and their setting to life. So, I don't feel like much of a risk-taker (other than being a writer, ho ho). 

Maybe the risk is in telling the story entwined with two points of view -- Moira and Dylan, separated at the beginning and perhaps reunited by the end of the story. Like following a braid, the reader travels deeper into each character's journey -- at least, that is my intention.

The question of taking risks is an interesting one that I hope to return to when I resume work on my art crime mystery series set in contemporary times (Egypt and Paris). For now, I'm making notes and hope to learn from what others have written for IWSG this month!  

Stop by to thank the co-hosts for IWSG's April 7 posting: PK Hrezo, Pat Garcia, SE White, Lisa Buie Collard, and Diane Burton!  As Ninja Captain Alex Cavanaugh, our fearless leader says, "Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!"

PS: Draft covers for Island Wife. Not sure which one . . . yet!

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Closing down March. Moving to April!

March ended with a few firsts. Our first foray south -- a road trip to Redmond, Oregon, to see dear friends, after a year of staying at home. Fully vaccinated, we drove south through Tri-Cities, down along the Columbia Gorge, and then through the rolling hills to a week away. How good it was to have conversations with our friends, to share memories of trips from long ago, to discover several new restaurants together (all safely masked), and to try new recipes -- see below!

One highlight: a drive out to Smith Rock to admire the view:

Another highlight, watching the deer parade so calmly through the garden out back, as if they were at home.

Maybe I'm like you -- not always ready to cook every single night. Here's an inspiration: Top a simple cheese Freschetta pizza with your own combination of sliced yellow pepper, artichoke hearts, ham slices, chunks of fresh pear, and chevre! Thank you, Jamie.

Now about the writing. March brought slow progress on Island Wife, that story about what's next for Moira and Dylan that's about 60% drafted. But, to borrow a Southern phrase, 'bless its heart,' March is nearly over. Camp NaNoWriMo posted an April writing challenge, and I'm in. Goal? 15,000 words in one month. Are you with me?

I'm hoping the month ahead will be filled with light each day -- for us all!

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!