Beth Camp Historical Fiction

Saturday, July 17, 2021

July Heat and a Gondola!

 Hasn't July been full of a lot of hot days and a few challenges?

Update on the writing: Yep, I signed up for the Camp Nanowrimo Challenge with a goal to write 15,000 words this month. I'm on track with 8,350 words just half-way through the month. 

One project I'm working on is a family history of my grandfather -- a cowboy, logger, and forest ranger before he worked for the Bureau of Reclamation in the 1950s . I found a goldmine with lots of neat pictures. Here's Frank Henry working for the Yosemite Lumber Company at Anderson Flat about 1928. This is the man who taught me how to fish and hunt and survive in the woods. He grew up gritty! 

I also shelved the draft of The Island Wife for a month and courageously sent it off to brave and deeply appreciated beta readers. Hopefully by late August, I'll be deep in revision once again. 

Thank you, readers, for keeping me motivated. Should I do another freebie in August? Which book would you like to see as a special offer?

What is summer if not time for a getaway? We did leave town for a one-night stay in Kellogg, ID at the Silverton Waterpark Resort. The highlight, other than getting truly away for a bit, was taking this wonderful gondola ride up (and then down) three mountains, roughly an hour ride. I was a little terrified going up, but nearly hanging out of the gondola on the way down to take pictures. This is my favorite, but it doesn't really show how STEEP that way down was. The smoky skies didn't stop us from enjoying that mountain view.


View from Gondola, Kellogg, ID

Still beautiful, despite the smoke and heat haze!

May summer bring you good memories, time for family and friends -- and for those other creative endeavors that nurture you! 





Wednesday, July 07, 2021

July IWSG: On Writing and Rainbows

Truly, we begin summer now with July temperatures soaring everywhere. The first Wednesday of each month marks a day of sharing thoughts and reading each others' posts as we all pursue our unique writing dreams and goals. Please consider joining in and reading what others have posted by going HERE, the Insecure Writer's Support Group.

Special thanks go to the co-hosts for this July 7 posting for IWSG: Pat Garcia, Victoria Marie Lees, Chemist Ken, and Louise – Fundy Blue! All have encouraged so many of us along the way. Now for this month's question!

July 7 question: What would make you quit writing?

Before the pandemic, I would have thought not much would push me away from writing. As with many others, though, this last year and a half has been one of reflection and perseverance. Challenges from IWSG and National Novel Writing Month (and Camp Nanowrimo) have kept me relatively focused. Writing to a challenge somehow enhances my own commitment to writing. 

I'm working on two projects just now, Island Wife, the fourth historical fiction novel in the Standing Stones series, and The Missing Sarcophagus, the next novel in my art crime series that began with The Seventh Tapestry. Through some combination of due diligence and hope, I'm able to write most days, though worries about friends and family who are struggling with illness make me sad. 

Connections with friends and family mean more each day. Yesterday, my hubby took me to a movie, for the very first time in over a year and a half. The movie was truly horrible. Won't say which one. But we ate a lovely yakisoba in the Food Court with chopsticks and reveled in having a date. 

Another friend recommended Hawaiian singer Israel Kamakawiwo╩╗ole (1959-1997). Wikipedia says his name means 'the fearless eye, the bold face'. I listen to his "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" with awe. This is why we write, sing, dance, draw, and paint! 

For even on those days that challenge us, we need hope for our future. May the coming month bring you moments to cherish.


Thursday, June 24, 2021

Morning Musings

Today I begin by musing about my book covers, especially as I am going to add that fourth book to the Standing Stones series later this year.

Here are the current covers for my historical fiction series set in Scotland, Australia, and Canada: 

And the working cover for Island Wife, out sometime this year.

Do the covers really match my audience? 

I write gritty historical fiction and try to wind up with a happy ending, rather happy for now, for my characters always seem to come up out of the working class. Faced with tough circumstances, how do these characters survive? Make a better life? Do they give in to internal demons or do they fight on? I believe they deserve that happy ending -- even if only for now.

Given the experiences we've all faced over the last year and a half, isolation, loss, grief, and a feeling of helplessness, I feel less certain about my stories. My personal reading has become more escapist. I want that happy ending, the hero or heroine who rushes to the rescue. Maybe because I feel worn down, I want to write stories that focus more on light and hope. 

When I first began thinking about book covers, I wanted to be inspired by those greatest historical fiction writers, those who wrote serious stories. Writers like Hilary Montel, Ken Follett, or Edward Rutherfurd. Their more traditional covers promise a particular setting or time and rarely feature faces of the characters. 

So, my original covers, do they seem flat to you -- or do these covers that focus on setting invite you into the story? More than what I'm currently using? Which cover would you tend to pick up -- if you were browsing for a new read in your favorite bookstore or online?

As summer heats up, each day brings new challenges and, I hope for you, the beauty of the season. With temperatures pushing into the 100's already, those fragile blooms of spring seem far away. But, they will return.


Thursday, June 10, 2021

Planning ahead . . .

Somehow, we made it. As early spring flowers blossomed into summer, every view is now colored green. a time of promise, and warmer weather. 

Vaccines now complete, we are venturing into what almost looks and feels like the 'real' world. Hubby is slowly, slowly recovering from back surgery, and each day brings something new (sometimes expected, like a granddaughter's ninth birthday, and sometimes not expected, like new quilting projects).

I can report progress on final revisions for The Island Wife, that long-awaited Book 4 to my trilogy that tells the story of Moira and Dylan in 1840's northern Scotland. Between editing and proofing, though, another story wants my attention. 

This leads me to ask: Can I truly work on TWO projects at the same time???

And to stir the pot, NaNoWriMo just announced a writing challenge for July. Writers set their own goals for this month-long 'summer camp' and track their progress. I'm already signed up! More than ready to get back to work on that art crime mystery I started earlier in the year. My goal? Add another 15,000 words in July. 

Today, I started putting together my journal for The Missing Sarcophagus. Take one inexpensive composition book. Print out images for characters, settings, and conflicts. Paste into the notebook. Start writing notes, impressions, memories, questions, and key dates and/or a timeline. Voila! This little notebook travels more easily than my laptop!

Here's the working blurb:

When art crime experts Sandra and Neil McDonnell fly to Cairo for a month-long honeymoon, they don’t expect to discover a fake sarcophagus at the Egyptian Museum. Pulled into a tangled web of thefts, they encounter smugglers and uncover a plot to steal artifacts from GEM at Giza, the site of Egypt’s newest museum. 

When threats escalate against Sandra and Neil, and dead bodies begin to appear, can they solve the mystery and find their happy ever after?

The Seventh Tapestry introduced Sandra and Neil, so The Missing Sarcophagus will continue their adventures. I'm more than ready to research, draft, and write their story. Much more fun than copy editing!

What do you think? Have you ever worked on two big projects at the same time? How did that work out for you? I could say yes, more than once, when I was teaching, but now, as a retired writer, I'm less sure. I only know this story set in Egypt is calling my name.

With hopes your summer brings you peace, lots of words, good progress (if you are a writer), and adventures to cherish.  Beth


The Seventh Tapestry is available on Amazon






 


Wednesday, June 02, 2021

IWSG June: Stuck in a three-year loop?

The first Wednesday of the month, brings the IWSG blog challenge: To share our thoughts with other bloggers about writing, to encourage, to reveal our own struggles, and to support each other -- each of us with our own writing goals and progress (or lack of). 
Some months, we dive into IWSG's question. Other months, we wrestle.

June 2 question: For how long do you shelve your first draft, before reading it and re-drafting? Is this dependent on your writing experience and the number of stories/books under your belt?

Aargh! I'm wrestling, for I don't shelve that first draft, unless some calamity has taken over my life. Instead, I read, reread, ponder, make notes, print out and make notes, talk with my writing partner, make more notes, reread . . . and write and rewrite. 

Alas, I'm a slow writer. I can sprint through drafting; my typing speed is up there enough to jam a typewriter's keys (back in the day). Typically, three years mark the beginning and end of a writing project, despite my best efforts to study and apply different strategies to become more prolific.

For example, on today's walk up to the pond, I found myself wondering if my heroine, Moira, has really revealed how much she misses her absent husband. What would she tell herself? What does she regret most? What are her fondest memories -- and why? That will preoccupy me for the next several days of revision.

Maybe the 'shelving' period occurs when I send that 'draft' off to a beta reader. But, by then, I'm feeling finished with the story and ready to start planning the next.

How many novels I've written (so far five) doesn't seem to affect when I stop revising. Can you tell I'm more of a recursive writer, returning again and again to see what works, what's missing, what could be better?  At some point, the ending seems to resonate with the whole story, and I'm finished -- and ready to let go.

I'm looking forward to what others say in response to this month's questions. Even as pandemic restrictions ease up, and spring rushes into summer (in the mid-60's last week; today the 90's), we still need courage and tenacity and a clear vision to achieve our goals. 

May your writing go well and each day bring you something to cherish!

Thank you goes to the co-hosts for the Insecure Writers Support Group's June 2 posting. These generous writers read nearly all of this month's posts. Why not visit and see what they're thinking about? J Lenni Dorner, Sarah Foster, Natalie Aguirre, Lee Lowery, and Rachna Chhabria!


Grandkids at an Oregon Beach (May 2021)

Monday, May 31, 2021

Memorial Day . . . More than Memories

When my husband came home from Viet Nam, the first thing he did on debarking the plane was to stoop down and kiss the ground. He was that grateful to be home. Yes, protestors spit on him. And when he finally made it all the way to Philadelphia and fell asleep on his mom's couch, it was not a restful sleep. His mom came to wake him up by tapping his shoulder, and he decked her. He was still in combat mode.

When I met him in 1974, I could tell he was a vet. He always knew where all the exits were, and any loud noise caused him to go on the alert. Like the time a kid threw cherry bombs under our park bench on a Fourth of July celebration.

In 2004, we spent some time in Paris and spotted a peace march passing by as we finished our lunch at McDonald's. We walked with them. As the crowds dwindled, an old woman, bent with age and wrapped in a black shawl, asked Allen if he was American. She got down on her knees and kissed his hand. "Thank you," she said. "This is to remember all the soldiers who came to save us during World War II."

Later, I worried about my community college students who had served in Afghanistan. One dropped out after receiving reports his brain had multiple small tumors. Others confided they suffered from severe headaches and sleeplessness.

Service. Honor. Sacrifice. 

So it's no surprise that last week on PBS, John Yang and Dan Sagalyn reported that soldiers who served in Afghanistan and Iraq are now suffering from brain cancers or lung disorders caused by smoke. Once diagnosed with cancer, these vets do not have long to live. Their families are struggling to get coverage.

The surprise is these vets have to fight to get the VA to recognize their illness as service-related. According to PBS, tens of thousands of soldiers need VA approval to get medical benefits or disability payments for these burn-pit related illnesses. Families have struggled to get that crucial VA approval. What about the vets who don't have anyone to advocate for them?

ACTION NEEDED: Two Senators (Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat, and Marco Rubio, Republican) have introduced a bill dubbed 'Burn Pit Legislation' that would set new eligibility requirements for these vets with cancer or lung disease. 

I hope you read the two links provided above.

With the current divide between Democrats and Republicans, do we have any hope such a bill could pass the House and the Senate? 

Is it time to write our Congressional representatives?

Friday, May 28, 2021

As May winds down . . . a book recommendation!

Sometimes I wonder if people realize what gifts they give passersby when they plant their gardens. 

As we slowly emerge from the isolation that pandemic brought, even ordinary life events can seem more challenging. At least, I've found it so as my husband recovers from surgery. So that daily walk has led me to discover some favorite spots along the way. That early blooming cherry tree has now given way to a climbing clematis, and the robins have returned, hopping their way across finally green lawns.

I'd like to tell you about a wonderful writer I know, Sandra Mason. She recently released her inspirational tale, Into the Fire! about what Big Ed Pulaski's life was like when he left home at age 15, and how he became that heroic forest ranger who saved 40 lives during the Great Fire of 1910. 

I would have enjoyed reading this fictional biography when I was a teen, dreaming of far horizons and adventure. I loved reading it now. Sandra has a unique gift of describing what life was truly like, and Ed Pulaski's generous spirit and work ethic comes through beautifully.

Sandra graciously answered a few questions to share with you. 

1. What inspired you to write Into the Fire!? I have always loved to tell stories, and to write. Actually I’ve done more poetry writing than longer stories. Into the Fire! is my first historical novel. And my first real book. I was researching the Pulaski tool for another project, and investigated the U.S. Forest Service Website.. I happened on an essay written by Edward Pulaski titled “My Most Exciting Adventure as a Forest Ranger.” It was very short, only about a page. I was captured by his adventure and thought “We have a real hero in our own back yard.” I was so inspired that I had to tell his story!

2. What kind of research went into writing this book? First, I explored the U.S. Forest Service website for anything I could find about the 1910 fire and Edward Pulaski. Then I made an appointment to visit the Forest Service Idaho Panhandle National Forests Headquarters in Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho. They kindly allowed me access to their archives. Shawn Gibson, Forest Archaelogist, patiently walked me through the mountains of material they had on the 1910 fire. Then she turned me loose to explore on my own. I also did quite extensive reading about the 1910 fire, particularly Fire in America, by Stephen Pyne and The Big Burn, by Timothy Egan. 

I also visited Wallace, Idaho, particularly the Wallace Mining Museum. My husband and I hiked the interactive trail to the War Eagle Mine Tunnel where Ranger Pulaski and his men sheltered from the fire. It was an educational, inspiring, and beautiful hike. I researched railroad firemen, steam engines, horse shoeing, mule trains, mining, Buffalo Soldiers, Senators Heyburn and Clark, Joseph Gurney Cannon, Speaker of the House, President Theodore Roosevelt, Gifford Pinchot, first head of the U.S. Forest Service and others. The whole process was fascinating.

3. Any surprises along the way? I was surprised and delighted with how helpful the keepers of Idaho history were. They were generous with stories and ideas. I hope to introduce many others to the brave men of the U.S. Forest Service and firefighters in general. Now both men and women do that work.

4. What advice do you have for aspiring writers? Believe in your story, do your research, listen to other writers. And NEVER give up!

   


Sandra's shown here holding a firefighting axe that Ed Pulaski invented.

Find out more about Into the Fire on Amazon!

Thank you, Sandra! 

May June bring us all comfort, healing, and new adventures outside -- nearly mask free!


Wednesday, May 05, 2021

IWSG May 5: Surprises and Ripples . . .

You probably already guessed that the first Wednesday of the month belongs to the Insecure Writer's Support Group (IWSG), a lovely online community of writers who at least once a month share hopes and concerns. Our mission to support each other as we pursue our dreams! 

This month's question: Have any of your readers responded to your writing in a way that surprised you?

Yes! I was surprised when readers wanted to find out what happened to certain characters AFTER the story ended! For example, at the end of  Standing Stones (which introduced the McDonnell family), one couple, Dylan and Moira, are separated. Now, in 'real' life, sometimes such separations, regardless of intention, become permanent. For a long time, I thought that's what happened to Dylan and Moira. Book 2 in this series, Years of Stone, follows Mac and Deidre to 1840's Australia. Book 3, Rivers of Stone, tells what happened to Dougal and Catriona in 1840's Canada. Mind you, writing each story takes me about three years. 

Progress report: Readers really did surprise me by caring about my characters! And they truly wanted to know what happened to Dylan and Moira. With April being Camp NaNoWriMo (a writing challenge where you set your own goals), I can now report that I wrote an additional 15,000 words in April on Dylan and Moira's story. Hooray! Now for editing and, if all goes well, their story will go live before the year ends.

And Ripples: You may have noticed I haven't been posting so much here this month. Part of that is the Camp NaNoWriMo challenge, and part has been dealing with health issues in my family. Additionally, a family friend of many years died late in April, far too young at 43. Bright, curious, creative, he inspired many. 

As spring has finally come to the Great Inland Northwest, we are surrounded by flowering trees, tulips, daffodils, and green, green trees. I leave you with this: Cherish each day. Celebrate your own creativity, and nurture those you love!

 Flowering Ornamental Cherry Tree taken on one of my daily walks

The awesome co-hosts for the May 5 posting of the IWSG are Erika Beebe, PJ Colando, Tonja Drecker, Sadira Stone, and Cathrina Constantine!  Why not visit the IWSG writers to see what everyone's up to? And join in!

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!

 


Friday, January 22, 2021

January's Flying By . . .

 Does anyone else feel like this month is flying by faster than anticipated?

Writing kind of got set aside these first few weeks as we huddled around the television to await election results. Shocked by the mob that stormed the Capitol, I yet admired those Congressional representatives and staff who returned to count and affirm the votes of the Electoral College. That was an unforgettable January 6th.

On January 20th, I woke at dawn. CNN was already busy broadcasting 'getting ready for the inauguration,' and I watched the sun rise, the White House colored a rosy pink and gold. Now, just two days later, has Washington, D.C. settled down again as the Biden Administration gets to work? Along with many others, I hope so.

And then a Congressman tried to sneak a gun to work, despite those metal detectors. Aargh!

The pandemic creeps closer now, with friends reporting friends who are struggling with new diagnoses. We stay at home, sheltering in place, the quarantine sometimes stifling, but leavened with phone calls and the weekly visit with family in our bubble. And the writing beckons, despite doubts. So I shall persevere. 

Perhaps next week, I'll give you a better sense of what's happening to Moira and Dylan in Island Wife, the sequel to Standing Stones.  Meanwhile, I'm experimenting with a new price for Standing Stones

Let your friends know if they like historical fiction set in Scotland in the 1840's, a time and place far from where we are now. You just might find people struggling against injustice, a love story or two, and sheer courage to face down the challenges that seem to come along with every generation.

Be well, stay safe, and cherish each day!






Wednesday, January 06, 2021

IWSG Jan 2021: Into the New . . .


Into the new with a special treat:
An interview with Liesbet Collaert, author of an adventurous memoir, Plunge.

And it's the First Wednesday of the Month, which means time to connect with a wonderful community of writers who share their thoughts, hopes, doubts, and dreams in a monthly blog hop as part of the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Check out this link and try to visit/comment on at least 12 writers' posts . . . You can do it!

The awesome co-hosts for the January 6 posting of the IWSG are Ronel Janse van Vuuren , J Lenni Dorner, Gwen Gardner Sandra Cox, and Louise - Fundy Blue!

Before we 'plunge' into Liesbet's interview, here's IWSG's question for January 6thBeing a writer, when you're reading someone else's work, what stops you from finishing a book/throws you out of the story/frustrates you the most about other people's books?

I almost hate to admit this but . . . missing punctuation and incorrect grammar on the first page are a serious distraction. Once I'm caught up in the story, I'm more forgiving. But that first page? Oofta! 

What else makes me stop reading? If the characters (yep, either male or female) are insensitive, exploitive, and brutal, I just don't want them in my head. Bad guys can be bad guys, but rape? Torturing children? Not going to read that. I don't expect HEA every time. Isn't that true to life? We don't always catch that golden ring. But I want to celebrate with my characters when they are successful, surmount obstacles, and create new and better worlds. Especially as we face into this second and challenging year of the pandemic, writing that affirms hope is important to me.


And now for that wonderful interview with Liesbet Collaert who so kindly and thoughtfully answered my questions about how she came to write her memoir, Plunge. How did I meet her? Right here on IWSG! 

How did you get started writing your memoir? Like many adventurers, probably, I stated “One day, I’ll write a book!” That must have happened after a second extended backpacking trip in South East Asia and Down Under when I was in my twenties. I managed to create hardcover photo albums (remember those?), but working full-time as a primary school teacher in Belgium didn’t allow for book writing.

When I returned to the US from a year-long RV trip in Mexico and Central America in 2007, I actually considered writing a travel memoir, came up with a structure, and jotted down ideas and notes. Nothing came of that project, because three months later, my husband and I were head-deep into sailing a new-to-us catamaran. This change of lifestyles turned into an eight-year sea journey during which I kept track of our experiences in blogs, diaries, and Word documents.

Once we finished our wanderings in the Caribbean and South Pacific and opted for a relatively settled life in the United States, I did get serious and determined about actually creating my debut memoir. It took five years of work – on and off depending on the logistics – before Plunge was published! I was most productive while we house- and pet-sat for months in other people’s homes. Barely anything got done when we were on the road in our camper van. 

What strategies did you use to organize your memoir?
I had a few well-defined goals in mind during the creation of my book: it had to be different from other sailing narratives and memoirs, written in the present tense to pull the reader into events and emotions to reflect my impulsiveness, and incorporate foreshadowing and flashbacks as well as be suspenseful. 

I never took writing classes or English literature (Dutch is my native language). I just followed my guts and cranked out the first draft, utilizing my memory, notes, and blog posts. This version was way too long! About twice as what I had in mind for the end product, an intense page-turner. Editing the manuscript required many takes and huge cuts. The final version – which I sent to a substantial editor for review – is a mostly chronological account of my tumultuous thirties with the previously mentioned elements intertwined.

How did you know when your memoir was “done”? As a perfectionist, I had the most difficult time to “let go” and call it quits. I can reread something forever, tinkering and polishing and improving! “Perfect doesn’t exist,” I had to tell myself. A friend’s advice helped as well: “Perfect is the enemy of good.”

To be honest, I promised myself to publish Plunge in 2020 and made that my main focus of the year. This project had taken long enough. There was no time for anything else and still, I barely succeeded, as my travel memoir published on November 28th, my 45th birthday! Hiring a professional editor and cover designer caused unexpected delays. Writing the book is one thing, self-publishing it quite the other. It was extremely hard work, time consuming, and seemingly never-ending (as that perfectionist popped its head up again) with a steep learning curve.

Is your wonderful blog your primary connection with your readers? I’m a debut author, and my life consists of much more than writing. When I produced my sailing blog – It’s Irie – Sailing the World the Way It Is – from 2007 to 2015, comments weren’t much of a thing and I documented our travels for myself, my friends, and my family. My readership was benign and interactions rare.

Once my husband and I quit the cruising life and I started a new blog (Roaming About – A Life Less Ordinary) about our lifestyle, I also reported on my progress as an aspiring author, once a month. Because of all these reasons, yes, my blog is the only thing that connects me with my readers as my readers so far are my blog readers. And my writing updates could act as a newsletter.

I appreciate and respect the readers of my blog tremendously. They make efforts effort to catch up on what’s going on, read what I have to share, and often comment. They dedicate some of their precious time to connect with me. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance to me to reply to every single comment I receive. I enjoy the connections, conversations, and even real-life encounters that have ensued this way!

How do you come up with topics for your blog? This is easy. My subjects emerge from life. Unlike others, who attempt to break into a niche or monetize their blog, I don’t care about that. This allows me to write about whatever I want. It’s my blog. Topics come easy because of our exciting, alternative lifestyle, my (undesired) tendency to get in trouble, my never-ending thoughts and ideas, and my openness to chat about anything. Just like I will never get bored in my life, I will never run out of topics for my blog. ­čśŐ Plus, there are always photo challenges or writing prompt challenges to participate in, if the mood strikes or the well threatens to dry up.

Do you belong to a community of writers? I envy writers who belong to an in-person writing or critique group. That would be so awesome and helpful. But, because I am a nomad, this will never be possible. Luckily, there is the internet and the ability to be a part of online groups. That being said, due to our non-stable resources, I am only a member of three non-committing Facebook groups – the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG), the We Love Memoirs Author Group, and the Women Who Sail Who Write group – and participate in the monthly IWSG blog-hop.

By following other blogs, sometimes started by someone visiting my blog first, I have become acquainted with many fantastic, knowledgeable writers and maintain a good relationship with them. They are a helpful bunch and posing a question or inquiry by email or on a Facebook group often provides an answer.

Do you work with beta readers? Yes! When you read about the writing craft, you soon learn some important lessons. One of them – besides hiring a professional editor and utilizing proofreaders at the end – is working with beta readers. As a new author, it was hard for me to decide exactly when to do this. On hindsight, I should have waited before engaging them. The version my eight beta readers (from different backgrounds, relationship angles, and nationalities) received was too long. But, one of the main things I struggled with in year two of the writing process was what to leave in and what to take out. My beta readers were a tremendous help with so much more than tightening the prose and I am eternally grateful for all their feedback.

What is your biggest challenge ahead as a writer? Good question! Because I am a free-spirited, flexible, and frugal person, I actually possess a lot of freedom – to write or to pursue other pursuits. But there is one challenge, and this has always been the same challenge: my preferred lifestyle. Being a perpetual nomad, living, traveling, and working on the water or on the road is challenging and exhausting. Adding a writing schedule to that is impossible. It is no surprise or secret that I am most productive when settled somewhere with running water, unlimited electricity, and reliable internet for periods of time. Yet, often to my companions’ and my own frustration, I keep trying to combine my two passions. I am faced with a question that has repeatedly haunted me: do I keep traveling, or do I focus on my writing? How do I find a healthy balance?

Links for Plunge! 
Social Media & Blog Links
Plunge! Book Blurb 

Tropical waters turn tumultuous in this travel memoir as a free-spirited woman jumps headfirst into a sailing adventure with a new man and his two dogs.

Join Liesbet as she faces a decision that sends her into a whirlwind of love, loss, and living in the moment. When she swaps life as she knows it for an uncertain future on a sailboat, she succumbs to seasickness and a growing desire to be alone.

Guided by impulsiveness and the joys of an alternative lifestyle, she must navigate personal storms, trouble with US immigration, adverse weather conditions, and doubts about her newfound love.

Does Liesbet find happiness? Will the dogs outlast the man? Or is this just another reality check on a dream to live at sea?



Thank you, Liesbet, for sharing your thoughts about writing your wonderful and inspirational memoir. May this New Year bring you -- and all of us -- good health, happiness, a sense of peace, many more adventures, and many more opportunities to write!