Beth Camp Historical Fiction

Monday, September 16, 2019

Writing, Revising, and Deleting!

Stephen King advises writers to "kill your darlings." He was talking about characters, though, not scenes.

Now that the first draft of The Seventh Tapestry is relatively complete, I'm at what's called the structural level of editing. That's when I go through the entire story, looking for what doesn't fit the overall theme or what's missing. In the process, big chunks may get added and some scenes deleted. So, Neil now has one brother, not two. And, Sandra, new to Edinburgh, finds her own apartment -- without Neil's help!

Here's the scene that got cut today -- for your reading pleasure.

     Neil strode away from the Royal Chip Palace, wondering what he was going to do about Sandra. He couldn’t help his reaction to that glimmer of vulnerability in her eyes, that honey blonde hair, maybe falling to her shoulders, and the way she pulled it back into a business-like scruff at the back of her neck. He wanted to touch that hair.
     Her no-nonsense approach covered a glimmer of vulnerability in her eyes, and her outfit couldn’t quite hide curves, though she’d tried with a simple gray suit. When she stood, her long legs took her nearly to his chin. But, she was an American. Probably high maintenance. Or that’s what Ian might say.
     “How about I meet you there?” she’d said. So, she didn’t want him to know where she was staying. No, that wasn’t it. She needs an apartment. He tapped a number on his cell phone. “Colin, can you help me out?”
     “Aye, me brother.”
     “I just met someone. I’d like you to help her get an apartment.”
     “Whoa. Slow down. You just met someone, and you want me to do what?”
     “It’s not like that. She’s working undercover and just got to Edinburgh.”
     “And I wanna meet her.”
     “Not a chance.” Neil grimaced. OK, I don’t want either one of my brothers sniffing around, but I shouldn’t get involved with her either. Even if I want to. He sighed. “Just send me a list, no?”
     “Okay. Short-term or long-term?”
     “I dinna know yet. Maybe three- to six-months?”
     “Nobody’s in the apartment over my shop,” said Colin. “We could keep an eye on her.”
     “I’ll see her tomorrow and let you know. So, anythin’ new?”
     “Nah. Ian’s coming over the night for dinner and a few beers. You want to join us?”
     “I’ll be there. Headed to work now. Thanks for offering the apartment. That might work out very well, if she says yes.”
     “And if she says no?”
     “Dinna worry. That’s why I asked you for a list.”
    “You like her, don’t you?”
     Colin’s laughter echoed as Neil hit the end button on his mobile. Maybe he should just introduce Sandra to both of his brothers and get it over with. But he didn’t want to.

What I learned about Scottish dialect from writing this scene? Just as we almost unconsciously adjust our word choice based on who we're talking to, people in Scotland will use Gaelic slang most with those who are closest. Kind of like not swearing in front of your grandmother. So if you are American or English, expect pretty 'normal' wording with less dialect, unless the situation is charged with emotion.

Other News: My entry, "A Poem for Frida" made the short list for WEP's August Challenge, the Red Wheelbarrow. What a really fine surprise! You can go HERE to read the winners and other submissions and find out more about WEP's every-other-month writing challenge. (WEP stands for Write . . . Edit . . . Publish.) Why not consider entering their October challenge -- just in time for Halloween!

And what are you up to, now that summer is definitely turning to fall?

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

IWSG: September: A Place to Write

Each month, the Insecure Writer's Support Group posts a question for writers to ponder and write about. September's question: If you could pick one place in the world to sit and write your next story, where would it be and why?

We all remember Humphrey Bogart's, "We'll always have Paris." I would revise that to, "We'll always have Merida."

In February 2018, we spent a month in Merida, Mexico. We rented a house close to the centro. We could walk to our favorite restaurants and open air markets.

House of Frida Restaurant, Merida

The Big Whopper, Merida Style
 Friends came to visit us, and we took day trips to Celestun, Kabah, Uxmal, and Chichen Itzah.
The Nunnery, Chichen Itzah

Great Blue Heron, Celestun
But the mornings began with writing -- whether by the small dipping pool or in the hammock on the rooftop patio.

And for that month, I could drop by Merida's English Library, where a small group of dedicated writers met to critique their work.

Patio Sculpture, Merida English Library
Or we could wander in local museums.

Mermaid Tree of Life, Merida Museum of Popular Art

Facsimile of Mayan Codice, Maya World Museum
Truly, I could travel anywhere in the world and find a place to write. Some places we've lived -- Mexico, Turkey, and France -- still resonate with memories of walks we've taken, history and culture we've discovered, interesting conversations with people we met along the way, and always, time for writing.

May you find your own place that inspires you to write!

Thank you to these hard-working hosts for IWSG's September 4 post: Gwen Gardner, Doreen McGettigan, Tyrean Martinson, Chemist Ken, and Cathrina Constantine!

Friday, August 30, 2019

Labor Day weekend Kindle Book Giveaway!

Standing Stones on Amazon
Just for this Labor Day weekend, you can download STANDING STONES at no cost.

Click here to check it out on Amazon!

Share with friends, if you’re already a fan. And thank YOU for being a follower of my blog.

This story began my love affair with the McDonnell's. Here’s the blurb!

In 1842, Lord Gordon claims his new estate in Northern Scotland and plans to replace farmers and fishermen with sheep. 

Mac McDonnell, suspicious of Lord Gordon from the beginning, leads protests – despite the impact his actions will have on his sister and three brothers. When evictions begin, a second protest at Westness turns violent. What will Mac risk to protect his family, his sweetheart, and his livelihood?

Set in the Orkney Islands during the time of the Clearances, Standing Stones won an award from the Pacific Northwest Writers Association for historical fiction and was called “a very promising work, with appeal to a broad audience, peppered with a variety of characters the reader can identify with sympathetically or instantly distrust.”


“Well-developed characters and well-researched background & history made this an excellent book that I found hard to put down. I felt as if I was a friend of the McDonnell family, living on the island and sharing their love and hardships.”

Update on other writing: Working on final revisions for The Seventh Tapestry, a contemporary romantic-suspense set in Scotland with plans to publish before year-end. Here's the blurb: 

Newly hired museum curator Sandra Robertson is pulled into danger when she finds clues to an undiscovered 16th Century tapestry in Scotland and attempts to rescue it from the black market with help from Neil McDonnell, Edinburgh’s Art Crimes Unit.

May the end of summer bring you a sense of celebration as those leaves turn from green to brown and families gather.  Beth

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

WEP/IWSG August Challenge: A Poem for Frida

Imagine Frida Kahlo at the 7-11,
in that hour before the stars reveal themselves.
She just stands there, checking out
cold rows of Dos Equis in the cooler,
the blistered pizza barely warm,
clicking her red fingernails on a torn Lotto ticket,
glancing out the back window at
a weather-worn, red wheelbarrow on the patio,
bristling with mariposas and frangipani,
barely visible on some warm, summer night.

She would come into that space, trailing incense;
her earrings dangle to her shoulders,
jasmine flowers in her hair.
Her swirling long skirts cover a limp,
her fingers marked with blue and green
and yellow oil paint,
her wide, red lips and dark eyebrows,
dangerous and seditious. Revolutionary.
Her sorrows fall away in jolting lines of color.

WEP/IWSG’s August Challenge asks writers to reflect on William Carlos Williams lovely and short poem, “The Red Wheelbarrow” and see what writing emerges.

I’m remembering that Williams scribbled some of his poems on his way to house calls as he was a doctor. “The Red Wheelbarrow” was written one year before his death. I also learned from Wikipedia that Williams believed that writing poetry was an essential way to understand life. I agree, for the act of writing poetry leads me to observe more specifically and to reflect.

Williams also wished he had painted, admiring his mother’s work. Although many in my family have painted, I’ve always written poetry, though the work and lives of Van Gogh and Frida Kahlo inevitably make me cry.

The wonderful portrait of Frida Kahlo was created by Jane Perkins and is used here by permission. Explore her extraordinary work HERE. And, if you are a Frida-fan, check this out

You may read more about Williams on Wikipedia HERE.

Hard work goes on behind the scenes to make the WEP/IWSG Challenge possible. THANK YOU Denise Covey, Founder/Host. L.G. Keltner - Co-host, Nilanjana Bose, Blurbs/Host, and Olga Godim, Badges. And at IWSG: C. Lee McKenzie, liason IWSG/WEP, Pat Hatt, tweets and promo, Nick Wilford, judge, and Elizabeth Seckman - IWSG Newsletter.

This month's CRITIQUE PRIZE for August 2019 comes from the generosity of
CHRYS FEY  who's promised a critique of a First Chapter, Magazine Submission, or WEP Submission.

Why not read what others have written? See GUIDELINES and LINKY below.

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

IWSG: May All Your Surprises be Happy!

The first surprise this month came when the introductory chapter to my current writing project got dumped. Totally rewritten. I wasn't expecting a brand new chapter at all, but now the story begins in the middle of action instead of back story. Are you surprised I'm happily working on revisions for the next three months or so? And that new story ideas are popping up? Hard work ahead, but I will persevere.

The second surprise this month began with my granddaughter now seven. She's starting to write her own books, embellished with her drawings. Here's a page from her latest story of the adventures of a Unicorn and a Caticorn (she loves cats). She puts her latest story written on folded pages under her pillow at night, just in case she wants to read it once again.

Her enthusiasm makes me wonder: Exactly when do we begin to express our creativity? Recognize that inner spark that leads us to draw, or write, or sing, or dance? And how is such creativity nurtured?

Do you remember those grade school art classes where our finished works were displayed and critiqued? I knew even then that what I made was for me -- not for an assignment. Art and writing were things I did 'between' other commitments, until that happy, unfettered time (retirement), led me back to writing stories.

We may admire those who set aside all else to simply create -- without worrying about what's next. They seem to have that gift of saying these precious days, here and now, we will cherish and celebrate with our own unique creations. For no one knows how our days are numbered. One question: How do we nurture our own creativity? Every day? For ourselves and those we love?

My last surprise is about my readers. They're reading my books! Against popular advice to indie writers, I do check sales daily. There I find mysterious readers who are buying my books. Are they readers intent on reading that next book in the series? Are they new readers, just starting the adventure? I just don't know, but I'm grateful for everyone who reads my stories and/or who leaves a comment or a review. That's always a truly wonderful surprise. Thank you!

Thank you, Insecure Writer's Support Group (IWSG), for posting a question each month  for writers to ponder. This month by August 7, the question is: Has your writing ever taken you by surprise? For example, a positive and belated response to a submission you'd forgotten about or an ending you never saw coming?

And thank you to those generous co-hosts for the August 7 posting of the IWSG are Renee Scattergood, Sadira Stone, Jacqui Murray, Tamara Narayan, and LG Keltner!  Why not sign up? Check out what other writers have posted this month right here at IWSG?

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Not for the Faint of Heart

Several art historians with excellent experiences of working at museums generously volunteered, over the last several weeks, to give me an intensive, behind-the-scenes look at what they did.

I discovered an entirely different culture than anything I experienced while working at an international bank (profit-centered corporate gamesmanship) or teaching college-aged students (collegiality among colleagues and intellectual freedom in my own workspace to nurture students).

Behind closed doors, museum staff offer a passionate mix of idealism, love of history and culture, and a desire to protect, preserve, and share artifacts that illustrate where we've been, what we can create, and what is possible for us all.

What did all this new research mean for my current story, The Seventh Tapestry, about a young woman who discovers thefts at a medieval museum?

At first, my characters and my story seemed as mired in mud as this warthog, spotted on a trip to Tasmania a few years back. After reviewing notes, building new administrative structures for my imaginary museum, and new plot lines, I set all aside.

One day passed without writing. Then, two and three. I fretted a bit as all writers do. And then I remembered a time when my very livelihood had been threatened.

It truly happened like this: I had been working for a large corporation for several years while attending night school. One of the administrative assistants in a different division began receiving abusive and sexually threatening notes left at her workstation. Because of the nature of the threats, an outside investigator was pulled in. 

I knew nothing of this situation until the investigator called me into the president's office and accused me of writing those notes. I was shocked at what the investigator knew of me, where I lived, and what I did outside of work. He interrogated me three times. Then he threatened to fire me, whether I confessed or not.

Despite the president warning my boss not to get involved, he asked me point blank if I were involved. I said no. He said I was not going to be ‘interviewed’ again without him present. I was encouraged to take my two-week vacation, not knowing if I would have a job when I returned. 

When I came back from vacation, the case was solved. Everyone knew that the administrative assistant had written those notes herself. She was gone. The investigator was gone. No one apologized to me for this devastating experience. 

What on earth does this experience have to do with my story? Remembering the shock of those accusations, that sense of betrayal, I began writing anew. All fell into place. I was ready to step outside job descriptions and 'torture' my characters. The joy of writing THIS story returned! 

This saying makes me smile.
We writers do play with words, but we are never 'faint of heart.'
The picture was taken near Redmond, Oregon.

Thursday, July 04, 2019

July IWSG: Finding the Pearl

This month's question from Insecure Writer's Support Group asks writers to explore "What personal traits have you written into your character(s)?"

My first blush reaction was, "Gosh. I don't know." 

But then I realized all of my protagonists fight the good fight. They're stubborn and independent, taking on impossible odds, facing challenges that come from sweeping economic and political change we have little control over. They're kind, compassionate, idealistic, and they fight for change. They struggle. They fail. They persevere. These are the good guys we all want to be.

And my antagonists, caught up with greed, set aside their concern for others to achieve their goals. Shaped by nightmares, cultural expectations of race and class, driven by their own egos, they wreak havoc in a world I don't want to be a part of. They are faceless night monsters, unethical, and quick to forgive their own weaknesses. They appeal to others because they can be charismatic, seductive, and then manipulative. I try to find their redeeming qualities. Writing the villain is the toughest challenge I face.

Famous film-maker Federico Fellini (1920-1993) once said, "All art is autobiographical; the pearl is the oyster's autobiography."

A page from Sandra Brown Jensen's amazing journal.
Used with permission.
What a shining sense of what a person's (or character's) life can mean.

Here's the rub. Neither we nor our characters can escape our pasts. What we write has the potential to influence others. That's a responsibility and a challenge we may not see when we're knee-deep in our stories. For as we construct a character trait by trait, experience by experience, we confront our villains anew.

Don't we all hope to find that pearl in our villains' autobiography? And aren't we all working for that sometimes hard to find 'happy for now' ending?

With special thanks to Erika Beebe, Natalie Aguirre, Jennifer Lane, MJ Fifield, Lisa Buie-Collard, and Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor! for hosting this July 3 posting of IWSG. Why not check out what others have written -- or join in IWSG right HERE?