Beth Camp Historical Fiction

Friday, January 04, 2019

Just Jot It in January!

I've been pretty sick for the last seven days, enough so that my writing has completely stalled. Yesterday was the first day I sat down at my computer to begin to catch up with reading and posting . . . perhaps on my blogs.

Several of my online writing friends mentioned playing around with Just Jot It January, an idea created by Linda G. Hill that encourages us to jot those ideas down, even a sentence! That sounded pretty perfect to me, since I haven't been writing at all. For the first time, as I sat quietly in the library, staring out the window at a winter scene, thinking about writing, Inspired also by Rui Chan's haiku, I used the NOTEPAD feature on my I-phone to jot down this:

Like crocus pushing their way up
through the cold earth, 
I begin healing,
winter into spring, 
once again.


Linda's website offers daily prompts and guidelines, and so I shall persevere as I dive back into my own writing with #JustJoJan. Why not join in?


Wednesday, January 02, 2019

IWSG: 2019 begins

I'd like to share that 2018 ended beautifully. It sort of did, if you set aside the residue and hard work involved in moving from one apartment to another, and nearly two months of very bad colds. Thank goodness for Sudafed!

My BookBub promotion paid for itself and ACX kicked in an unexpected sales boom, but marketing overall has slowed nearly to a stop as I work on a new genre -- romantic suspense set in Edinburgh and Paris.

In The Seventh Tapestry, American archivist and investigator Sandra Robertson comes to Edinburgh to track down a pattern of missing artifacts at the Museum of Medieval Art. Along the way, she finds a historic and undiscovered 15th Century tapestry and is drawn to Neil McDonnell from Edinburgh's Art Crimes Unit. I'm about 40K into the story. Just this month, I decided to switch from third person to first person, mostly because I feel closer to my main character and the details of the story flow more easily (Yes, I have my storyboard up and mapped out) -- even including the seasons.

Winter in Edinburgh (Source: edinburgh.org)

Least favorite question: When will this story be done? Published and ready to read? I say 'least favorite' because I'm more of an intuitive writer and do lots of research. I'm never quite sure when my story is finished!

Most favorite question: I love X character because . . .  Why did character X do this? Will another book follow these characters? How did you find the research that supports this story?

Happy New Year. May 2019 be filled with good reading, lots of writing, good health, and a few adventures to keep things interesting!

With special thanks to Alex Cavanaugh and this month's hosts: Co-Hosts: Patricia Lynne, Lisa Buie-Collard, Kim Lajevardi, and Fundy Blue! Why not visit the Insecure Writer's Study Group and see what other IWSG writers are up to?


Wednesday, December 05, 2018

IWSG: December end-of-year musings . . .

Each month, the Insecure Writer's Support Group asks us to share where we are right now, our celebrations and our doubts.

Tomorrow is my birthday, a good time for looking forward and looking back. Tomorrow I will be 75. Who ever thought I would live this long? I always believed tall people lived short lives.

I'm grateful for each day, recognizing I have a little less stamina, but knowing I'm still stubborn enough to work toward my goals (I blame Viking blood). And I'm always grateful that some 45 years ago, I met the man who brightens each day, and who is the reason I have a daughter close to my heart, an amazing son-in-law, and two granddaughters nearby.

Since retiring a decade ago, I've become an indie author, written 3 historical fiction novels, and am knee-deep in a new genre, contemporary romantic suspense with a historical back story (15th Century). Maybe The Seventh Tapestry will take us back to France and Scotland. But, how many more stories can I write? Should I write that family history/memoir that will tell stories I don't want to share?

Celebrations? No chocolate cake, please! Last month, I did take the plunge and forked out $$$ for a BookBub ad for Standing Stones, sweating until sales covered the cost. Did I say I'm a frugal indie writer? Gained possibly 25K new readers, and thankfully added +30 new reviews. Got wonderful comments on Rivers of Stone from Writer's Digest's  25th Annual Self-Published Book Awards. Rejoined The Internet Writer's Support Group and am slowly critting other's wips and subbing that first draft of  The Seventh Tapestry.

So if you critique other drafts, know that your efforts to consider quality of writing, storyline arcs, conflict, authentic and empathetic characters, underlying theme, setting, reader involvement, etc., etc., are ALL appreciated. Truly. So, today, I celebrate the act of writing, the community that writing creates between writers, and between writers and readers. And I wish you many more stories to tell.

IWSG's December question asks: "What are five objects we'd find in your writing space?"  Even in this new apartment, with boxes not entirely unpacked, I can celebrate:
1. A peaceful view out the window, currently of sun-splashed pine trees tipped with frost at about 25 F.
2. A pot of African violets blooming next to the printer, despite the cold.
3. Always my computer/work station, ready to go.
4. Books mostly tidy in bookshelves, ready to be read and reread, organized by topic and interest, books I can't quite part with despite my efforts to downsize or reliance on Kindle for bigger print.
5. Quilting projects ready to pick up when inspiration stalls, for the sewing itself, by hand or machine, leads me to reflection.

Snowman with hat and granddaughters

Thank you to co-hosts for this December 5 posting of the IWSG:  J.H. Moncrieff, Tonja Drecker , Patsy Collins, and Chrys Fey  Go to Insecure Writer's Support Group for more inspiration! If you have any advice for me, please leave a comment!

Thursday, November 08, 2018

IWSG: A Moving Tale

We almost counted the boxes that surrounded us on moving day. What took five strong men two-and-a-half hours to carry down three flights of stairs led to a veritable mountain of recycling. And reflection. Four days without internet.

As an OTA (older than average) writer, I truly appreciate now living in a first floor, disability access apartment. My challenge? Recreating order out of chaos as I ask: 'What is essential?'

My office has a new configuration, so now I ask which books go where, which books do I need most? How do I keep writing when all around me needs attention? Distractions abound with election drama, the morass of scathing political attacks, and, now, this morning, another shooting. This month, two funerals and friends facing serious illness.

Maybe some IWSG writers are already thousands of words towards their NaNoWriMo goal. I've barely begun. I'm thinking 3x5 card scaffolding on that blank corkboard over my computer. My characters are still talking to me in dreams and dialogue.

And I shall cherish each day.

Maybe as we all move to the end of the year, it's time to be thankful for the many blessings we do have and to consider what good we can yet do to bring about, yes, world peace.

Thank you, co-hosts for November 7's post for the Insecure Writer's Support GroupEllen @ The Cynical SailorAnn V. FriendJQ Rose and Elizabeth Seckman.

This month's IWSG optional question is: How has your creativity in life evolved since you began writing? Why not see what others have written over at the Insecure Writer's Support Group!

Even in the snow (Camp 2017)




Friday, October 12, 2018

Friday: A Hint of Winter to Come

First frost this morning, and I’m busy scaffolding Section 2 of The Seventh Tapestry, my first romantic suspense. 

With Section 01 behind me, I'm currently at about 8K words towards my goal of 30K for this section. I’m building those scenes that heighten romantic tension between Sandra and Neil, while the plot thickens with mystery over stolen museum artifacts. This section is the notorious middle, where if all is not carefully plotted out, we writers dread a slump.

Here in eastern Washington, the weather already has that nip of winter, and I know snow is coming. Now I realize that I haven’t set the time of year for any part of my story. Ouch! For Edinburgh has a long, cold, and rainy winter, with occasional snow in January and February.

Is it too much of a cliché for Sandra and Neil to meet in the fall, face their darkest threats in winter, and reconcile for that happy-ever-after by spring, the season of hope?

Winter in Edinburgh (source: This is Edinburgh)


Wednesday, October 03, 2018

IWSG: October Thoughts


Each month begins with an invitation to share our reflections with other writers who are a part of the Insecure Writer's Support Group. We post our musings and read what others have written. Sometimes we are challenged and sometimes we find encouragement by what we find.

Each month IWSG posts an optional question. This month, the questions are: How do major life events affect your writing? Has writing ever helped you through something?

I keep thinking about national events that hover, not always in the background, as I write. The Kavanaugh/Ford hearings, waiting for the FBI report, that sense the vote will move ahead regardless of what is discovered, the news about the children, illegal immigrants, some 4,000 shunted to tent cities in southern Texas, global warming, tsunamis, the gradual rise of the oceans, the 'tribalism' that shapes our politics -- all these are not quite background.

I write historical fiction, stuck somehow in mid-19th Century, and through research and intuition, try to re-create what life was like then for those who don't make the headlines. My writing keeps me focused. More observant. Maybe even hopeful about the future, for don't we survive somehow?

  • I am saddened by the women who have confided in me their own stories of sexual harassment and rape. For women who grew up in the 1950s when, yes, that Ozzie and Harriet Nelson household was the ideal we aspired to, perhaps we were particularly vulnerable.
  • Social change occurs slowly, very slowly. In that mid-19th Century, women and children were routinely sent into the mines to dig coal, for they could reach places men could not. Literacy was a dream and, for many, not a reality.
  • We have the 40-hour week now, at least for hourly workers, though if you are a 'professional,' the week is as long as it takes to get the work done. Before I retired, I routinely worked 60-70 hours a week to read my students' papers and prep for classes. I'm not complaining, for I loved working with my students. Just maybe that's why I never began to truly write until I retired.
My thoughts are darker this month. All I can offer is an affirmation that writing on large or small projects keeps us connected to our own creativity, to the unique promise of each day, even as the seasons shift to fall, and, perhaps, through groups like the Insecure Writer's Support Group, we gain that precious sense of community.

Dahlias at Manito Park (Sept 2018)
Thank you, co-hosts for the October 3 posting: Dolorah, Tanya Miranda, Chemist Ken, and Christopher D. Votey. Now, go check out what others have written over at the Insecure Writer's Support Group!



Monday, October 01, 2018

About roots, DNA, and bears . . .

This morning at water aerobics, a classmate asked me about my latest book, Rivers of Stone. He was intrigued by its setting in 1840's Canada. He didn't know when his family came to Canada or how they moved to the United States. I immediately thought perhaps he might be part Métis and asked if he had taken a DNA test to determine his family heritage. He told me yes, and that he was strictly a mix of European and Croatian. The mystery of his family's movement from Europe to Canada remains.

My own family told tales of Cheyenne ancestry from that time my grandmother was born in Oklahoma Territory at Fort Reno, in the late 1800's. Sad to say, a DNA test revealed my roots are Swedish, English, and Irish (49%), with a mish-mash of European (18%), and a smidge (4%) of Neanderthal to keep the results interesting.

Walter Johnson in Army uniform,
his wife, Clara Mary Linthicum,
and my grandmother, Carolyn Mabel Johnson,
Fort Scott, Oklahoma, about 1900.
But I have always been drawn to Native American cultures. Their history is one of upheaval and displacement. Yet the people remain rooted in their beliefs, not the least being we are stewards of the earth and should strive to live in balance with all creatures, including nature itself.

What does this have to do with writing? When we write outside our own experience, intuition and research guide us. My hope is that when I do write about Native Americans, my characters are drawn with respect. Here's a snippet from Rivers of Stone. Machk, a Cree, takes Catriona to see the polar bears hunt on Hudson's Bay in November, 1842. 

     Before them, about one hundred yards out on the ice-packed bay, a ring-necked seal rested next to a small patch of open water. Some fifty yards past the seal, an older, male polar bear, its fur golden in the morning sun, watched the seal with intensity.
     "You watch. You learn," said Machk.
     The polar bear slunk forward until his whole body was flat on the ice. He slid a little closer, slowly moving behind a chunk of ice. He raised his head for just a moment and then lowered it, as if he were testing the wind to smell if the seal had noticed him. The seal cast his head about, sniffing the air, but it didn't move.
     Cat almost laughed as the polar bear slunk around the chunk of ice and entered the water without making a sound.
     Machk pointed at the little space of open water between them and the seal.

Polar Bear (https://www.naturespicsonline.com/)

The rest of this scene plays out in Rivers of Stone. I'm not sure I would or even could follow Machk out onto the ice of Hudson's Bay in November where temperatures hover around 20F, but Catriona did, and she listened to Machk's teachings.