Reading: The War that Saved My Life

Title: The War That Saved My Life
Author: Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Genre: Historical Drama
Length: 316 pages

Summary: Ada’s club foot embarrasses her mother so much, that ten-year-old Ada has never left their one-bedroom London flat. It is 1939, a world war has just begun, and Ada is teaching herself to walk in secret. When Ada’s younger brother returns from school saying all the other children are being sent to the country for their safety, she suddenly sees a way out of her miserable existence…

Excerpt:
“I stared at the paper. I said, “This isn’t reading. This is drawing.”

“Writing,” she corrected. “It’s like buttons and hems. You’ve got to learn those before you can sew on the machine. You’ve got to know your letters before you can read.”

I supposed so, but it was boring. When I said so she got up again and wrote something along the bottom of the paper. “What’s that?” I asked.

“‘Ada is a curmudgeon,’” she replied.

“Ada is a curmudgeon,” I copied at the end of my alphabet. It pleased me.

Why should you read this book?

Ugh. This book was so good! I have to go back and read it again to decipher what made it so compelling… I had a terrible time putting it down. In general, I dislike first person narratives. So many middle grade books are written from this perspective, and this book is no exception. However, the narrative never broke character. The narrator never used words or thought concepts that broke my suspension of disbelief. The historical details weave in and out of the story skillfully. Because Ada has been held captive in her home a la Rapunzel, we learn about the world outside along with her. We learn about horses and trains and taxis. We learn about the changing role of aristocracy. We learn about the importance of the RAF and how terrible their survival rate was. We experience panic attacks when the Germans start bombing.

This book targets middle grade readers, but as an adult, I hardly noticed.

Read this book for an effortless dip into a moment of history told through a unique perspective. A physically disabled, illiterate, but intelligent child. This book really makes you think about how to treat children who are different… How, with the right caretaker, a child can blossom.

Front Matter and Back Matter Fun: Disclaimers and Author Notes

front matter funPart of the work that comes with independent publishing is writing your own front matter. That is, a disclaimer at the front of the book, and for historical fiction, an author note at the end. I’ll admit I’ve kinda of always thought of the front matter as boring and a part of due diligence. But thanks to reading a couple blog posts, my mind is changed forever!

Front Matter: Disclaimers

I read this blog post about writing creative disclaimers from The Book Designer. The point of a disclaimer is supposed to protect the author and publisher from being sued for defamation or libel… you know… “any resemblance to anyone living or dead is coincidental,” etc. However, guest blogger Helen Sedwick makes the claim:

Many authors assume the legal disclaimers at the front of their books are supposed to be boring. They presume some pricey lawyers devised standard legalese, and they dare not depart from the norm.

Not so. The law does not require a disclaimer to be boring. In fact, just the opposite is true. The more interesting the disclaimer, the more likely it will be read. From a lawyer’s point of view, a well-written, well-read disclaimer is best of all.

I loved this idea. I had to take a stab at it for my work-in-progress…

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously to build a believable historical world. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. The aftermath of Lincoln’s assassination, however, was very real. For story purposes, the author altered the timeline of historical events but attempted to stay as close to the truth as possible. Well, as truthful as a story about assassination conspiracy timelines can be.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this disclaimer! I love the idea of beginning the story right from the front matter copy, rather than from chapter one.

Back Matter: Author Notes

This was one of my favorite parts of reading Ann Rinaldi books as a child. It’s one thing to read a thrilling story about girls do heroic things in long skirts, it’s another to read that the stories were inspired by real events that I could learn more about, if I wanted to. Ann Rinaldi began my love affair with historical fiction, and I want to continue the tradition along with authors like Amy Timberlake.

My author note has a number of sections, including the below “Ohio and the Civil War.” I also have sections titled Lincoln’s Assassination; Camp Chase, the Confederate prison that my main character escaped from; John Wilkes Booth; and a couple other sections which would be total spoilers if I shared them with you.

Here is a part of the draft author note I’m crafting for my yet-untitled work:

Ohio and the Civil War

Lincoln is often quoted as saying, “Ohio won the war,” and the reason for that is because Ohio volunteered the highest number of soldiers of any Union state. Without the help of Ohio’s men, it’s hard to say what would have happened. All we can say is that those huge numbers bolstered the Union Army so that its might was greater than the Confederate’s.

If you’re interested in learning more about Columbus in the Civil War, I encourage you to visit the Camp Chase cemetery in Hilltop, the Ohio Village sponsored by the Ohio History Connection, and Grove City’s Century Village.

Original 19th Century barns and cabins from all over Ohio have been collected to a single plot of land in Grove City to use for educational reenactments and school field trips. In fact, a couple of the characters in this novel were inspired by stories told to me by Grove City elders. Just remember though, that the personalities and actions of the characters in this novel are my own invention!

Thank you for joining me on this adventure. Your time and imagination are precious.

I hope to share more teaser content as I get closer to finishing the first draft. I’m within 10,000 words of my goal, which is exciting! And a little scary, because that means I’m that much closer to brutal edit mode…

Check out Annette Oppenlander’s “Escape from the Past” YA Historical

Escape-from-the-pastToday we’re spotlighting a newly released young adult historical from Annette Oppenlander. She writes historical fiction for teens, like me! When she isn’t in front of her computer, she loves indulging her dog, Mocha, and traveling around the U.S. and Europe to discover amazing histories. Website | Facebook | Twitter

Read to the end to enter her blog tour giveaway!

Escape From the Past: The Duke’s Wrath (YA Historical) 

Content

Some medieval swear words, mild romance, i.e. a few stolen kisses, mild violence

Summary

When fifteen-year-old nerd and gamer Max Anderson thinks he’s sneaking a preview of an unpublished video game, he doesn’t realize that

1) He’s been chosen as a beta, an experimental test player.
2) He’s playing the ultimate history game, transporting him into the actual past: anywhere and anytime. And
3) Survival is optional: to return home he must decipher the game’s rules and complete its missions—if he lives long enough. To fail means to stay in the past—forever.

Now Max is trapped in medieval Germany, unprepared and clueless. It is 1471 and he quickly learns that being an outcast may cost him his head. Especially after rescuing a beautiful peasant girl from a deadly infection and thus provoking sinister wannabe Duke Ott. Overnight he is dragged into a hornets’ nest of feuding lords who will stop at nothing to bring down the conjuring stranger in their midst.

Praise for the Book

“Fast-paced compelling YA debut.”
Giselle Green, #1 bestselling author of A Sister’s Gift”

“A wonderfully crafted romp to the time of lords, ladies, and knights.”
Lee Ann Ward, author and former Senior Editor of Champagne Books

“Escape from the Past is chock-full of the tiny details that make a story feel realistic and immersive, from the leather ribbons used to fasten shoes to the slimy gruel that formed the bulk of the peasants’ diet….those who love historical fiction or medieval fantasy will certainly enjoy Escape from the Past.”
Mike Mullin, author of the Ashfall trilogy

$25 Blog Tour Giveaway
$25 Amazon eGift Card or Paypal Cash (Ends 9/25/2015)

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com eGift Card or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

Disclaimer: I have my Amazon Associates ID included with the direct purchase links I’ve provided in this spotlight, which means if you purchase this book, I will earn a couple cents for helping you find it.

Reading: The Wild Child

the wild childTitle: The Wild Child
Author: Mary Jo Putney
Genre: Historical Romance
Length: 310 pages

Summary: Meriel’s beauty is more than fey, it is rumored she returned from India after the murder of her parents when she was five-years-old madder than any hatter in all of England. Dominic, though entirely against the idea, has agreed to help his twin brother Kyle to woo the mad, mute heiress. In exchange, Dominic will be awarded land of his own, which is all he has ever wanted his entire life. He never expected to fall in love her. He never expected he would take on the impossible task to make her speak again.

Excerpt:

pg 148 – God knew that he was living proof that, for despite all his warnings to himself, he had fallen in love with her. She elicited tenderness and desire, laughter and wonder, a fierce need to protect her from all threats.

Why should you read this book?

Another book which tackles the aftermath of a traumatic event, this time the raid of a compound while in India which leads to the murder of the heroine’s parents. Meriel returns from India a mute, content to spend her days in her extensive English garden communing with nature and ignoring the pain of the human world. When Dominic arrives, having never been able to stand watching any animal hurt, he finds a kindred spirit in Meriel, despite her silence.

Though the plot is fairly standard for historical fiction, as always, Putney’s characters shine. Meriel has these inklings, a different understanding of the world. She sees beauty in weeds, auras around those who matter, and disregards societal rules. Which made for her seductive pursuit of Dominic rather entertaining. She had watched animals in rut for years, she thinks she understands what is to be done. Poor Dominic, though he had rakish years, is mortified, making for humorous and sensual scenes where he clutches the arms of chairs and refuses to look at Meriel as she pursues him.

I feel as though the treatment of the relationship between the twins Kyle and Dominic could have been explored more. I loved the tender and passionate relationship between Dominic and Meriel. Again, this is a story where the beta hero shines, helping the heroine come out of her shell so they can have a healthy, equal relationship. Read this book for an unconventional heroine, a wonderful beta hero that I’d want to bring home with me, and hints of Putney’s Guardian series through the odd little quirks Meriel exhibits.

Guest Post: Beating the Thriller by Michael Seeley

Today we have a guest post from Michael Seeley, something I’ve been meaning to post for… FAR too long. Sorry Michael! Anyway, let’s find out how Michael suggests how historical fiction authors can balance the market away from thrillers and modern romance.

Michael SeeleyWe all know that thrillers and modern romances are the biggest sellers. They dominate the markets, and it seems to be what all our friends are reading. But what if you’re not into the newest spy-chase novel and the modern romance isn’t your thing? For me, the draw of historical fiction has always been stronger than the idea of writing-for-profit in a genre that will probably sell better. But, that leaves historical fiction writers at a disadvantage.

Or does it? What can we as author of historical fiction do to balance the market for us?

Write for the Public

First off, you must try to use what’s currently popular. What do you see in movies/other popular books/popular culture? For me, a military historian, a prime example of this is works on Rome and ancient Greece. The ancient world is hot right now. It’s sexy. Films like Gladiator, 300, Alexander, Centurion, The Eagle, and many more capitalize on that. They may not be exactly factual (but neither, strictly speaking, is historical fiction), but they do increase the public’s care and concern for history. For me, that means that works on Rome and ancient Greece will sell better. In fact, I’m in the process of planning a novel set in that age.

This works for other subgenres, like historical romance as well. Look at Downton Abbey and the like. Romance itself is timeless; make money from that. If you see that the Middle Ages is catching the public’s eye, use that to your advantage. Right now, Victorianism is ripe for writing. With Steampunk (a fantastic genre that is easily mixed with historical fiction), Sherlock Holmes, and others making a dent in pop culture, take advantage of it. Tailor your work for the public.

 Use Historical Fiction to Change Your World

Although the money is fun, all authors also long to be remembered in their works. They want to have a lasting impact on their world. Don’t you? I’m just finishing Mary Renault’s masterpiece, The Last of the Wine. It’s set in Athens during the Peloponnesian War and follows a young soldier and student of Socrates. The protagonist, Alexias, falls in love with an older student and another philosopher, Lysis. The book tells the story of these men’s love, their lives, and the tragedy that is war. But what’s more is that it was written in the 1950s. At that time, being a homosexual was not only unpopular, it could be ruinous to one’s career, to one’s very life. Renault wrote the work in part to paint a larger picture of the issue.

She wrote the book because, as a homosexual, she was tired of the backlash. She wanted to show that, throughout time, homosexuals were just as capable of doing great deeds, of being human. Her works all touch on this and other social issues.

So can yours.

Do you care about the environment? Look at Victorian England and the damages just beginning by the Industrial Movement. How about immigration — do you find immigration policy today unfair? Look at Ellis Island. Use your genre to shed new light on an issue you’re passionate about. The beautiful thing about the past — the thing which let Renault get away with such commentary in an age of repression — is that everything is in a different context. In the age of kings and revolutions, actions are different than today. Looking into the past gives us the freedom to be critical, to be un-shaking in our critique or our praise for once was and is now lost. Your readers will make the connection. Your book can truly change your world.

 Tell a New Story

How often have you read a story that sounds just like all the others? I can’t tell you the number of times. It seems like people are becoming more and more unoriginal. But you, as an author of historical fiction, have access to thousands of years and millions of stories waiting to be told. As authors in this genre, we have the license to find the gems in the past that get lost.

Recently, I was researching a famous general from the Napoleonic Age, but he almost never made it to manhood; as a child, he almost suffocated to death by pretending to be a dog. He got stuck in his family’s doggy-door, and because he was pretending, he refused to use his voice. All he did was bark. And his parents laughed at their funny son. Until he passed out. And turned blue. Obviously, he lived, but anecdotes like this are beautiful. You simply can’t make some of these things up!

Now, I’m not telling you to steal your stories. But, unlike those spy thrillers that sound the same, we have millions of people’s tales waiting to be redone. Research. Add your own voice. Change things. But draw from that amazing well that history gives us. You can then write a new story that will capture and inspire.

So, if you’re sick of people complaining of the power popular genres, use your tools. Write to fit what’s popular, use your historical lens to change the world, and bring amazing stories from the past to life.

Then see those run-of-the-mill thrillers compete.

At an early age, Michael Seeley found himself devouring books about the past. Then he started writing his own. His first novel, The Faith, is the opening to a trilogy about revolution and regicide. His second novel, Duty, asks what might have happened if Napoleon had won the Battle of Waterloo. His collected short fiction, Men of Eagles, offers new perspectives on the wars of the Napoleonic Age. Michael has found inspiration from the winding alleyways of Paris, the tall forests of Norway, and the impressive Acropolis of Athens, but he currently resides in the Midwest with his beautiful wife, listening to the winds whisper across the prairie. Find more about his work at http://www.seeleywrites.com and http://www.amazon.com/Michael-Seeley/e/B004M6J5PO/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1 .

Getting Schooled about the Civil War

trh_smallDear Reader,

Last week I came to the point in The Rebel’s Hero where I realized I need to do more research because I was operating on assumptions. I kind of freaked out and ran to the library to check out fifteen Civil War books. It was rather a sad event, actually. When I wrote Catching the Rose, there were two more shelves of books. For whatever reason, they have thinned the herd a bit. And this being the 150th anniversary year of the Civil War!

Anyway, one of the main events in Catching the Rose was the First Manassas battle (Bull Run to Yankees), so I got out a bunch of books about the first two years of the war. I got home, started looking through the books in detail, and realized if I wanted to give my characters any hope of a happily ever after, I needed to shift the timeline and location.

I’ve shifted the timeline back a year or so, and moved the location from a house in Richmond, Virginia and a plantation in South Carolina to farms in western Virginia and Ohio. Sadly, I know just about nothing about what the Civil War was like in these areas… except:

  1. Any battles in Ohio were in the Cincinnati area when Confederates tried to take over supplies etc and break into Union territory, and
  2. In 1861 western Virginia had seceded from Virginia to be its own state and in 1863 the Union welcomed West Virginia to the fold.

It kind of ticks me off, having to pause writing until I know more about the war and how it affected the areas I’m writing about. This is time I’m losing! But on the other hand, it has to be done. I’m excited to travel to some of the locations I’m writing about because they are within driving distance. At the very least, I need to make friends with the historical societies in Ohio and West Virginia, and chat up my friend who got his undergrad degree in History focusing on the war. I have a plan. It’s a plan that is pushing my deadline out, but it is a plan.

Have you ever had a project, writing or otherwise, where you were excited, going gangbusters, and then had to stop and backtrack to get more information?

Best, Belinda

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This is part of the ROW80 bloghop

3 Ways I Knew I Write Young Adult Historical Romance

Dear Reader,

I have been struggling with my genre for almost a year now. I write historical fiction, that much I know because I write stories about fictional people set in a historically-based setting. I use real-world facts to provide the skeleton of my story, fill in details, and let my imagination run wild from there.

My stories also have a romantic element. I write about emotions, fears, hopes, dreams, struggles between personalities. I care about the vulnerability of opening one’s heart to someone else, knowing they may destroy, cherish, or be apathetic to it.

As such, I’ve been saying I write historical romances. Quirky historical romances, if I were to be precise. The quirky is because I bring in elements from the other genres I read for inspiration: fantasy, science fiction, women’s fiction, etc. My last book was pegged as gothic because of the setting, ghostly elements, and suspenseful mini-mystery.

Yet, historical romance doesn’t feel like such a great fit, either. Why? Because I read a lot of historical romances. The Julia Quinns, Candace Camps, Mary Jo Putneys, and Amanda Quicks of the world might raise a brow if they actually read one of my books. Why? I don’t write sex. I’m not interested in writing about it, I never hint at my hero/heroine having sex or even thinking about it. There is sexual tension, of course, or else they wouldn’t be attracted to each other.

Thinking about this made me wonder, you know, maybe I’m writing historical romances for young adults. After some soul searching, I realized there are three ways to tell that I’m writing historical romances for young adults.

1. I include enough historical detail to keep the attention of a fifteen year old, and not much more.

I make no claim to being a historian. I am, at best, a hobby historian. I’ve always loved learning, I am a very disciplined sort of researcher and can access a lot of information in a short amount of time. I had two journals full of handwritten notes from multiple primary and secondary sources for Haunting Miss Trentwood.

Yet the one complaint I hear more often than anything else about that book is I could have gone into a little more detail. Just another paragraph or two in a few spots. My point is that I had more than enough information with which to choke the story. Should I have included a little more? Yes, if it would have helped the story. It is not my goal to provide a history lesson, it is my goal to entertain, without stretching the facts of history as we know it today.

For The Rebel’s Hero, I do plan on writing an author’s note at the end of the book because there will need to be more historical background. I’m covering a part of the Civil War that you just don’t hear about as often, and I won’t be able to cover it in as much detail as I’d like within the actual story.

2. My protagonists are coming of age.

Now, Mary from Haunting Miss Trentwood was in her mid-twenties when the story occurred, which is a bit older than the traditional coming-of-age story. The fact remains that in the story, Mary goes through a change and comes into her own, as it were. She has a romance, deals with family struggles, and makes decisions about who she wants to be and what she can do to become that person. Pick up any young adult book, no matter the genre, and it will be addressing the same issues. Think of Libba Bray, Ann Rinaldi, Laurie Halse Anderson.

3. My stories are fairly straight forward.

If the protagonist is in a love triangle, you will probably be able to guess who they will pick before the end of the story. I don’t like tricking my readers into thinking they’ve figured someone out, and then writing a sort of “Gotcha!” where the character suddenly runs off with someone else. I believe I do this because in every love triangle I’ve seen in real life, only the third wheel sees the love triangle. The couple who is actually falling in love has no idea that third wheel is there.

When there is conflict in my stories, it is something where the hero and heroine need to work together… after or while they work through their interpersonal struggles. I find this is a common thread in young adult stories as well: the hero/heroine don’t quite understand one another, but they are attracted and WANT to understand each other. They go through the growing pains of attempting to become a couple, and their bond is strengthened by a common goal. Again, it is the relationship that is important to me, the coming of age within a relationship that occurs.

This isn’t to say that a young adult historical fiction doesn’t have plot twists and turns, of course.

Thoughts?

There are other ways, I’m sure, that are pointing me in the direction of young adult. But these are the three that came to mind immediately. What are some other ways to tell if you’re writing (or reading) a young adult book?

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This is part of the ROW80 bloghop.