Beth Camp Historical Fiction

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Leap into October!

The end of September signals the beginning of October. Fall leaves. Just an edge of cold in the air at night and early morning. First pumpkin spice coffee. And, just maybe, after that pin is taken out of my foot on October 11, I can begin to walk again -- and drive!  Truly. 

Meanwhile, here's my progress report for September

  • The Lost Sarcophagus: Write 1K (2K drafted). Had fun ordering a new cover, even though the writing will take maybe another 2 years.
  • Family history: Write 1K (actual just 992 words). Finding it hard to access files/photos on desktop from laptop. But got some done.
  • Vella: Decided not to pursue after checking with other writing friends.
  • Reviews: Wrote just two: Really enjoyed Frank Zafiro's Beneath a Weeping Sky. Struggled with Jaye Marie's Ghost of a Chance, well written but not exactly a happy ending. 
  • Poetry: Decided not to write a poem a day for October. Instead, just one (see below).
  • Marketing: Ran one Fussy Librarian campaign for Scattered Stones to reach new readers and perhaps add a few reviews. Gave away 1,314 e-book copies. So far, 16 reviews, and I'm grateful for every single one!
  • Blogging: Met my goal of posting every Wednesday. 
  • Quilting: Finished a quilt top.

What's ahead in October: Besides a long awaited road trip to Redmond, Oregon to see dear friends, here are my goals:

  • Writing: The Lost Sarcophagus: write 3K.
  • Family history: write 1K.
  • Blog: Continue posting every Weds. Recruit 'Meet the Author' x3. Guest post on Stirling Castle, tapestries due early October.
  • Reviews: write 2 reviews. Read and review at least 1 SASP author.
  • Marketing: Develop list of potential reviewers and query x5. 
  • Quilt: Finish last 2 blocks on Jacob Yenter quilt. Make at least 1 comfort quilt.
Here's the poem! Saw a post on FB about the horrors of grammar. Since I did teach writing for nearly 26 years, here's my take.

Writing Advice from an English Teacher, Now Retired

Punctuation and formatting:
How powerful these marks are:
Commas: to link, to sometimes run on and on, always
in plural, and yet, they bring
order to many discrete ideas, objects, images, or
perhaps cohesion, when all else is chaos.
Semicolon: to separate two closely related things,
independent, yet standing alone.
Period: to mark an ending. No words can express
what marks something so finite.
Exclamation point: Used so rarely but must not
be forgotten. Shows absolute awe!
Keep starting each sentence with capital letters,
for that is the true beginning.
Dare I say more? How could I forget the
question mark that opens us up to possibility?
Paragraphing shapes the narrative of the whole.
I leave content and all the rest
to the writer.

May October be a very good month for you. 

See you next Wednesday.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Behind the Scenes: What Do Cats Have to Do With Writing?

 Writers can get stuck when beginning a story. In the middle too, if truth be told, but since I'm in the early days of writing a new story, I'm more interested in beginnings.

I'm never sure what begins a story. A sense of place perhaps, for once I stood in a field near an abandoned Hudson's Bay fort and knew I would write that story. Or a daydream about mermaids swimming under sailing ships that led to a series of short stories. Or standing in awe in front of those famous Lady and the Unicorn tapestries in Paris.

My current project, the second book in an art crimes series, began with wondering where Sandra and Neil would go next. What if, I thought (my favorite question), what if they went to Egypt? Memories of wandering in Cairo, sailing down the Nile, and walking under a pyramid gave me the setting. But then, the story seemed to stall. Yes, I needed research, much more research, but I realized I didn't know my characters very well, even after writing a book about them.

Cats to the rescue!

I came across this book: Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody, inspired by Blake Snyder. The first chapter put me right back to work by focusing on how to discover those internal and external character flaws that shape my character's inner life and outer world. I'm comfortable with my female characters pretty much, but male characters? They remain a mystery! Not any more. That same set of questions that probe deeply into character flaws and motivation can be used to more fully develop secondary characters -- and the villain.

And really, that's how it all began. With a cat. Blake Snyder, with his highly useful original book, Save the Cat! (written for screenwriters), suggests to make your villain more accessible, he or she needs to do something that makes that character more human -- like save a cat.

As September winds far too quickly to a close, my wish for you is to cherish each day as the first hints of fall turn green leaves to brown, we dig out our sweaters, and look forward to that first snowfall.

I'll be busy writing and reliving our visit to Egypt where we once visited pyramids, so long ago.

Visiting Saqqara, Egypt (January 2004)


Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Meet the Author: Frank Zafiro

This month's Meet the Author highlights an exceptional and prolific writer, Frank Zafiro, author of some 40 books. His police procedurals and detective novels are set in River City, a fictional name for Spokane, Washington, where Frank served as a police officer for 20 years, before retiring to write and -- where I met Frank first -- to teach workshops on writing. 

Frank's passionate writing takes us behind the scenes to a fictional world where real people struggle each day with that tension between what is right, what is lawful, and what is compassionate. Frank's gritty writing tackles difficult, sometimes hard-to-read issues, like domestic violence, prostitution, emotional burnout, and violent and white collar crime, but he does so with grace and caring. Unless we work in criminal justice, social work, or medicine, most of us are shielded from the reality these men and women wearing a badge face every day.  



FRANK'S INTERVIEW: 

What drew you to write crime fiction? Your bio says you began writing at about 13 and never stopped. Are part of your reasons tied to why you became a police officer? I've always felt like a writer. It's how I identified myself to myself (and occasionally to others). But I knew I would likely need another career to support myself while working on the writing part. There were a few I considered, but the two that resonated the most were being a teacher and being a police officer. The timing worked out in a different order, but I've been fortunate enough to do both in my life. 

As a writer who became a cop, it only followed that what I was experiencing would be what I wrote about. If I'd become a teacher, I don't think the majority of my work would be crime fiction, though the genre has a strong enough draw that I think I'd still have a few entries.

What risks do you encounter in balancing ‘real life’ with fiction? One risk is finding the sweet spot between telling enough of the truth and the process to remain genuine, while eliminating enough of the boring parts to keep a reader interested. Another risk was how to draw from the flavor and texture of my police experience without writing directly about anyone or any event. This is one I "failed" at a few times, as there are a few stories that are closely based on real experiences. One of the most iconic River City characters -- veteran officer Thomas Chisolm -- was closely based on a real person (with permission). 

How did other officers react to you being a writer? It was all over the map, actually. There was support from some, a little derision from others. Mostly, though, indifference, as everyone had their own life to live. I will say, though, that those who took the time to notice were almost always positive and supportive.

What did you learn from their reactions? And how might this help other writers? I learned that I was actually not the center of the universe. Realizing this--that people don't sit around thinking and wondering about you--should free you up to write whatever you want. I'm not saying to be libelous, but I've noticed an overabundance in caution when it comes to writing anything that remotely resembles real experiences. Your ex-girlfriend doesn't have a trademark pending on being a statuesque blond, nor does you ex-boss have a copyright on being a jerk.

What specific advice do you have for writers of crime fiction specifically – and other writers as well? Be authentic, and be true to the story you're writing. Obviously, stay on the right side of your legal comfort zone, but write what feels right, and edit later. Likewise, don't use your fiction as a pulpit, at least not in a way that isn't true to the story itself.

Your characters are richly drawn and suffer – physically and emotionally, until the reader cares about them all, perhaps even the bad guys – a little. That combined quest for justice and compassion seems to influence your stories. Would you agree? Yes, most definitely. The idea of nuance, of shades of gray in a personality, is something I've tried to portray in all my characters . . . because that is how I see them. 

Are there other themes that matter to you? Redemption has been a big one. I mean, Waist Deep is one hundred percent about a character striving to redeem himself for a terrible mistake he made ten years prior. Another theme that has crept into my work lately should be no surprise as I am in my fifties now -- mortality and legacy.

Who is your favorite character? Kind of a tough question, like who is your favorite kid? I'll stick with River City novels to make it easier, though that only makes it marginally easier. Gun to my head, I have to say Katie MacLeod. Why? She is not afraid to be vulnerable or admit that vulnerability, but she has grit. She is afraid but does her duty anyway. That, to me, is true courage. Plus, she started out as two separate minor characters in the first draft of River City #1, and by #3, she was the core of the series. 

What is your favorite story? Another toughie. Honestly, I think this might change depending on how I'm feeling when the question is asked, but one that I often mention is "The Worst Door." And why? I could say that it is because it was a Derringer Finalist (one of four times I've been a finalist--but zero wins). But the real reason is because I like how the intersection of the personal and professional side of a police officer's life is explored. I like the raw emotion that Detective Finch feels. What happened to him never happened to me, but I've felt what he felt.

If you could change anything about your writing career, what would you change? Not a thing. Because it has gotten me to right where I am now, mistakes and all. I may not be on the NY Times bestseller list, but I've written forty novels, all of which are rated above four stars on Amazon. The lessons I learned that got me there were hard won. If I changed any of them, would I be here?

How do you connect with readers? A variety of ways. I have a newsletter and use social media. I exchange emails sometimes. But the most fun is meeting them at conferences like Left Coast Crime and Bouchercon. 

What would you like your readers to know about you? That it really matters to me that they have read my book. More than that, if they connect to a character or a scene that resonates with them, then my goal in writing it has been achieved. I think it is magical that a writer can feel something, write about it, and evoke that same (or similar) emotion in another human being. So, on those occasions when a reader has shared with me that this has happened, it represents the highest form of satisfaction.

Now, for that killer question: What’s next? The Worst Kind of Truth (River City #11) is out September 20, featuring Katie MacLeod. Also, Live and Die This Way (SpoCompton #4) will launch October 11, featuring a pint-sized burglar who is trying to stay above the water line while she takes care of her addict brother. 

I'm also currently working on the next Stefan Kopriva novel (#4). The Stefan Kopriva Mysteries are a spinoff from River City, but instead of a police procedural, they are private investigator books. Outside of that, there are too many other projects to list here. I'd encourage folks to check out my website and subscribe to my newsletter to keep abreast of my new work. And if I'm new to you, there's a significant back catalog you can jump into.

NOTE: I'm excited to read The Worst Kind of Truth because I had just finished reading Frank's riveting novel, Beneath a Weeping Sky, and was drawn to Katie MacLeod's character for her courage and tenacity in a predominantly male world. In The Worst Kind of Truth, Frank revealed that Katie has been promoted to detective. She's the lead on two rape cases that will bring her face to face with her hidden vulnerabilities as a victim. Frank has that ability to create characters that inspire us, and I'm looking forward to discovering anew Kate's strengths. 

A LITTLE ABOUT FRANK. I hope you enjoyed Frank's insights into writing. It's hard to shrink Frank's experiences down to a paragraph in ways that include his U.S. Army work in military intelligence, to his 20 years as a police officer (from patrol officer to detective to captain); to his teaching criminal justice at the college level, and, teaching writing workshops. Thank you, Frank, for writing and for sharing your thoughts with us today!


Frank Zafiro, Auntie's Bookstore, Spokane

If you haven't already, perhaps you will read his books, short stories, his blog, or listen to his podcasts. Here's where to find out more:

Frank Zafiro's website: https://www.frankzafiro.com/ 

Wednesday, September 07, 2022

IWSG September 7: Finding the Right Shoe

 As my poor right foot heals from minor surgery, I wonder how many weeks before I can wear proper shoes, and not this oversized black rubber 'sandal' that sticks out 3" in front of my toes. At least, I can walk, and grateful I am for each pain-free step!

If you've been reading my blog for awhile, you know that the first Wednesday of the month is the day many writers (some 319 of us) post a response to IWSG's challenge question:  This month, a simple, direct question: 

 

What genre would be the worst for you to tackle and why? At first, I thought, oh, easy question. For I would have a hard time writing erotica. I'm too shy. Still believe some scenes happen behind closed doors. Sexual violence, no. Romantic suspense, yes! Mysteries, yes! Historical fiction, yes! Maybe even science fiction?

And then I realized I probably would not write Young Adult. Hmm, you might say. My childhood was too dark, and that darkness spills over into my writing. Even drafting a memoir was hard work, and I put it aside for the more accessible family history, allowing me to jump into the far away and safer past. I'd rather write about some treasured antiquity, wonder how it was made, who created it, and why it might be lost today -- and rediscovered. 

I have no words of advice other than this: Write what you love, what you feel passionate about, what affirms life, what you cherish. And, then, revise, revise, revise!

Other news? Celebrate the launch of Scattered Stones with me, perhaps the last in my historical fiction series set in 1840's Scotland. Here, you'll find the tale of Dylan who facing evictions, leaves his island home and wife behind to search for work, not knowing Moira is pregnant. As evictions continue, Moira travels to Inverness to find him. Will these two find each other?

The Insecure Writer's Support Group (IWSG) is an online writing community of writers who, once each month, share their thoughts about writing and connect with others (at least 12 other writers each month!) by reading their blog posts. Alex Cavanaugh, our fearless leader, challenges us 'to rock the neurotic world!' And, so we shall.
 
Why not visit our IWSG home page and discover what other IWSG writers have written? And while you're busy following Alice as she chases the rabbit, why not visit our hosts for this September 7 posting to thank them! Kim Lajevardi, Cathrina Constantine, Natalie Aguirre, Olga Godim, Michelle Wallace, and Louise - Fundy Blue!  

For fall begins. A perfect time to discover new writers and curl up with a book!


Beginnings of fall at nearby Manito Park (2022)




Wednesday, August 31, 2022

August ending; September beginnings.

The end of summer marks the beginning of fall, and the last Wednesday of the month is that time to look at what I've gotten done and what lies ahead. 

AUGUST accomplished:

Scattered Stones, the fourth (and perhaps final) in the McDonnell series has launched in paperback and e-book format! Just wow after 2 years of work! If you are interested in a review copy, please let me know.

  • Did you notice the updated Blog layout? Thanks to BookBrush for the new banner. Emma Kathryn was my delightful "Meet the Author" for August.
  • Posted 6 chapters of Mothers Don't Die to Vella for those who love mysteries delivered in serial form.
  • Reviewed 4 books this month. 
  • Worked on quilting projects.

What's next for SEPTEMBER? 

I wish I could give you a concrete plan. This morning at 6:15 am, I showed up for outpatient surgery on that darn right foot. The hardest part? Having to stay off my feet for about 2 weeks. Thank heavens I do have an angel of a hubby who promises to take care of me AND order pizza when we get bored with rice and veggies!

But I will be working on The Lost Sarcophagus, that art crime mystery set in Egypt. Mostly I'm intrigued just now by finding out more about the villain. What motivates him to take things that don't belong to him? Why art? Is it just money or something darker, something that motivates him to kill if he doesn't get what he wants? More research is needed! Interlibrary loan, here I come.

Best movie I've seen in a long, long time? Tuesdays are 'movie day' so last night, we saw Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, a Journey, a Song

Really, words fail me, for Cohen not only wrote songs that reach our hearts, but his poetry challenges every hope or aspiration to be creative, to accept challenges and to celebrate this amazing gift of life. I hope you are able to see it. Here's a snippet from youtube.

May the beginning of fall bring inspiration and love!  

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Behind the Scenes: In Egypt . . . With A Lost Sarcophagus

 Now that Scattered Stones is out in the world, I'm turning to my art crime series to start writing the story that tells us what happens next to Sandra and Neil after The Seventh Tapestry!

Imagine my surprise to discover just over 20K already drafted on this new story. The Lost Sarcophagus has a working outline and snippets of scenes. In the past, I've been inspired by the hero's journey to organize my stories in a kind of quest to be more productive (and take less than three years to write a story!).

After reading through what I've got so far, I found my outlining a little hard to follow and somewhat ponderous. So, I did what many do. I jumped sideways and took an online podcast from Savannah Gilbo called "The Five Mistakes Most Fiction Writers Make and What To Do About It." Note: Savannah's website has many other resources for writers.

Here I was introduced to the difference between what bookstores use to sell books (commercial genres) and what readers expect (content genres). 

Wow! New concepts as I discovered my story is truly plot-driven and falls in the crime genre. Readers of mysteries have very strong expectations about 1) a sense of mystery and intrigue, 2) an early scene where a dead body is found, 3) scenes that help our hero uncover clues that lead to the murderer, and finally, 4) did my hero succeed in bringing the murderer to justice? These questions take me right back into my story in a very direct and compelling way.

So, just to let you know how much fun I'm having researching and drafting, here's a snippet from The Last Sarcophagus (forthcoming) to intrigue you! Neil and Sandra from The Seventh Tapestry have just arrived in Cairo -- on their honeymoon:

“April is a perfect time to visit. Cooler now.” The driver chuckled as he angled past the faded pink Egyptian Museum. “Maybe you go out to the pyramids? I know a guide.”

“We’ve already made arrangements through our travel agent, but thank you,” said Neil.

“I give you my card, just in case.” The driver pulled up with a flourish at the circular drive in front of the Royal Egyptian Hotel. An attendant in bright red at the entrance took charge of their luggage.

“This is pretty posh,” whispered Sandra. The elegant reception glittered with ornate crystal chandeliers, red carpets, and mirrors edged with gold filigree.

Neil leaned close to Sandra. “It is our honeymoon. You deserve pampering.” He nodded as he handed a tip to the attendant who helped bring their bags to their room.

“Not bad,” said Sandra. A large floral arrangement competed with a view of Cairo as dusk turned to night, and the Nile below glistened with lights. “These flowers are beautiful,” said Sandra as she leaned close to smell the white lilies cascading down the front of a large glass blue vase.

“Watch it.” Neil pulled Sandra away from the flowers. “What are these doing here? Don’t breathe deeply.”

Sandra stilled, shocked by Neil’s sudden movement. “What’s wrong?”

“Looks like that centerpiece is an Egyptian blue water lily. Could be either poisonous or psychedelic. It shouldn’t be here.”

“You mean it’s poisonous? That’s strange.”

“I’m calling downstairs.” Neil guided Sandra to the sofa near the floor to ceiling windows. “Just sit for a moment.” He grabbed his phone. “Reception? I need someone up to our suite right away. I have a problem with some flowers here. They look poisonous. Yes, thank you.” He turned to Sandra. “Someone will be here shortly, and they can just take them away – even if they are gorgeous.”

“Are you sure about this?”

“Yes.” Neil began pacing around their suite as he waited. “Something’s not right.”


Egyptian Blue Water Lily (Leandro Avelar on Wikipedia)

Thank you for reading my blog and following along this writing journey. Enjoy this end-of-summer blast of warmth, for September will be here before we know it!

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Meet the Author: Emma Kathryn

 I'm not sure when or how I first met Emma Kathryn. Somehow, I signed up for one of her newsletters, and her irrepressible and positive outlook on life snared me! So I wasn't surprised at all when I invited her to appear on my blog, Emma said yes! While we swelter throughout most of the US, know that Emma is happily living a cool life in Melbourne, Australia.

Readers seem to love pictures of pets. Do you have a pet picture? I’m afraid I don’t have a current pet picture, because I don’t have pets now. Not really suitable to have them where I live. But I will give you this one. This is me in 1988, aged 17, with my dear, beloved cat Sunny.

Sunny loved life, and he loved me. He had a beautiful, happy, positive personality. Just being around him, and hearing his cheery meow, always made me feel better! Whenever I came home from school, he’d come rushing to greet me. Such a strong character, so delightful and vivacious. My dear, dear friend, and in those difficult teenage years... my comfort and support. My saving grace.

How did you get started writing? How did you choose the genres you write? 
I’ve been writing ever since I could hold a pen. Just followed my natural urge to write from when I was a little girl. I’ve never stopped. I write romance, both mainstream and erotic, both historical and contemporary, simply because I was naturally drawn to it.

What is your favorite story you’ve written and why? Very hard to pick a favourite story. Just might be Her Virtue. It’s my sequel to Gaston Leroux’s novel The Phantom of the Opera. It’s not based on any stage musical or movie of the story. It’s a sequel to the actual novel.

I wrote it because the whole thing is very close to my heart. It was an emotional and indulgent experience writing it. But the novel has been a surprise success- indeed, my bestselling one to date. You don’t always expect such a personal novel to be a success, but it was.

How do you connect with readers? What would you like to know about your readers? I connect with my readers through my newsletters and one-on-one email exchanges. And I’m going to be appearing on Tiktok soon- watch out for me!

I always want to know if my writing makes my readers happy. That is what I am after.

Does being an Australian writer influence your stories and writing life? Are most of your fans from Australia? Not at all. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Australian people, but I am of English stock, and I’ve always felt, looked, and acted much more English than Australian. That’s just me.

Less than six per cent of my newsletter subscribers are Australian. A hefty slice are British, and a fair few are Canadian, but most are American. I’ve got awesome friends in America, too. Maybe I’m a child of the world.

What is your biggest challenge as a writer? How do you tackle this challenge?
My biggest challenge is anxiety. I just have to pace myself. When I sit down to write, I set a time frame when I’ll do nothing but write. And when I sit down to worry- ahem, work out problems- I set a time frame when I do nothing but that. Then I try and swear off worrying for the rest of the day!

What advice do you have for writers? To those who are just starting, and are not sure if they ought to be, I’ll say: own it. Everyone has a story to tell. You have as much right to do so as anybody.

To writers in general, my advice is always the old quote by Calvin Coolidge: “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”

Your website talks about your love of theater and your experiences as an actress and performer. In what ways does this inspire your writing?

You’d just need to look at my novels The Pathbreaker, Heart of a Thespian, A Song to Sing, and Her Virtue

The Pathbreaker focuses on an actress who works as an extra on a very popular tv show, like I did. In my case it was the legendary Australian soap opera “Neighbours.” Yet she has a much more fulfilling experience in fringe theatre and does a whole Melbourne Fringe Festival show from the ground up. Based very closely on my own, the story follows the adventure I had with the Melbourne Fringe Festival.



And then there’s Heart of a Thespian, where a young woman is first introduced to theatre. All the fun of it, and the first show jitters, and the larks, drama, tension and triumphs of being with a theatrical troupe- again, based closely on my own life.

A Song to Sing is actually Gilbert and Sullivan fan fiction! It’s inspired by the Gilbert and Sullivan show “The Yeomen of the Guard.” I am a big Gilbert and Sullivan buff, and yes, I’ve been in a number of their shows.

In Her Virtue, the heroine is a performer. The fact that I’ve done so many shows stood me in good stead to understand her experiences. I bring the classic characters of The Phantom and Christine to England in this book. So, it was a real pleasure to write about them performing Gilbert and Sullivan songs together at private soirees!

Thank you, Emma. And it was a real pleasure to welcome Emma today. I've read a few of Emma's books, most recently, The Pathbreaker, a moving story about a walk-on actress that goes well past the surface. Plot twists abound as Hannah, who has Asperger's, balances writing, acting, and the struggle to earn her way in a world that doesn't easily accept her.

For more about Emma Kathryn, visit her blog: https://emmakathrynauthor.com/ or check out Emma on TikTok as Dimity Mae Moon.

Have a great week! See you next Wednesday!