Beth Camp Historical Fiction

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Revision and more revision . . . Barn Owls or Cougars?

This month, I'm working on the first real read through of Rivers of Stone. I wish I could report that each day is relatively the same as before, but some sections require deep revision and other days additional research. Yesterday's challenge was to accurately report Cat's dream and hint at her fear of abandonment.

My first draft had her dreaming of the scream of a mountain lion. Preliminary research suggests there may have been some mountain lions (cougars) in the rolling pine forests and swampy marshlands at York Factory in Upper Manitoba. But the sightings are quite rare and tend to be word-of-mouth. Here's that mountain lion sound:

If there were few mountain lions in Upper Manitoba, could I use an owl's scream instead? What really does a barn owl sound like? Does it sound like a woman's shriek? I never could have answered these questions without the internet!

But apparently, barn owls do not travel as far north as York Factory. Instead, swampy owls and barred owls (not barn owls) make their home around Hudson's Bay. Unfortunately, their attack calls sound 'cozy' compared to the barn owl. 

So after all this research, I'm back to the cougar. Here's the passage from Chapter 14, Rivers of Stone:

The morning the Fur Brigade left began dark and cold, with the men scrambling to bring cargo down to the landing and to fulfill the last directives from Mr. Hargrave. Shouted orders, groans, and a few curses filled the air as those who were leaving York loaded the boats and canoes. A few of the voyageurs held out for a last farewell from their native wives, the children clinging to their fathers, but Dougal stayed away from Cat.

Cat was afraid she would cry. Last night she had heard an cougar shrieking in the night. Everyone was right; it did sound like a woman screaming. The men had laughed uneasily; perhaps it was a bad omen for those who were leaving this morning. Cat still thought she could have slept by the river, with nothing between her and the wild creatures but a carefully tended fire. She could have kept up with the deadly pace Dougal had described. She was sure of it.

Available on Amazon
What am I reading this week? L. A. Meyer's Bloody Jack: Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary "Jacky" Faber, Ship's Boy caught my eye. 

The title pulled me in first because my current wip, Rivers of Stone, features Catriona, a young woman disguised as a boy. Bloody Jack is also written in roughly the same era as my book.

After reading that first paragraph, I was hooked. Meyer uses an engaging and delightfully earthy first-person narrator (somewhat rare in historical fiction). For example, Jacky's reaction to signing on that sailing ship as a ship's boy? A girl what's born for hangin' ain't likely to be drowned.

My thoughts exactly.

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