Revelations Leading to Researching Grove City, OH

Ohioan Origins by State
Morrison, O.D. Ohio in Maps & Charts, a Historical Atlas: Social, Economic, Political

The untitled work that I’ve been slogging through the last three years continues to morph as I try to figure out just what it is I’m trying to write. It’s been quite a while since I’ve done real research… I knew starting out I wanted the book to be set in Ohio, and I did a lot of research about Ripley as an Underground Railroad hotbed until I burned myself on all the sad stories of escaping slaves.

Revelation #1

I didn’t want to write about Ripley, OH anymore, despite the rich history. I wanted to learn more about my city, Columbus.

So I switched my location from Ripley to Columbus in general… but back during the Civil War, Columbus was much more spread out and disconnected than it is today. Clintonville, Westerville, Grove City… they weren’t suburbs, though perhaps still part of Greater Columbus, they were areas in their own right.

I knew I wanted to write something referencing Camp Chase. What’s left of the Union barracks turned Confederate prison camp consists of the largest Confederate cemetery north of the Confederacy itself. Isn’t that fascinating by itself?

Revelation #2

I didn’t want to write about the sad and scary conditions of the prison itself. I wanted to learn about what happened to those men after the war ended, after Lincoln was assassinated. And how did that effect people living in Columbus?

Revelation #3

Bust mostly, it’s becoming clear to me I want to write something fun and escapist. This has been a challenge for me, because I’ve had some personal issues the last couple years which make it difficult for me to keep spirits high consistently. How would I write cheeky characters if I didn’t feel cheeky myself?

Is this what happens when a teenage writer grows up? She loses her “I don’t care, I do what I want and I’ll be funny while doing it” attitude?

Revelation #4

I was trying to research Clintonville, OH because it’s near where I live and I figured, hey, it should be easy to find information online as a start, and then hit the libraries for in-depth research. No such luck! I couldn’t find anything very helpful about Clintonville.

On my birthday, however, The Boy took me to tour historic Grove City. This is an area south of Columbus, and has been teased over my years in Columbus as “Grove-tucky.” Ohioans have this thing for making fun of people from Kentucky; I don’t get it, I guess it’s because it’s south of us and oh, by the way, Kentucky didn’t ratify the 13th, 14th, or 15th Amendments until 1975? Your guess is as good as mine.

The fact is, Grove city has a lot of historical pride. An art gallery is housed in the first bank (1st floor) and telephone (2nd floor) building. A number of shops are in the old Gantz mill. History was within reach, and I was able to walk on floorboards and peek into old safes that might have been around during the time I’m trying to write about.

Revelation #5

If I’m intending to write about a prisoner of Camp Chase who manages to escape before the prisoners were set free as a whole, then it would make more sense for him to escape south to Grove City, rather than north to Clintonville, wouldn’t it? Oh logic, how thee loves to play with mine heart. Anyway, Grove City has a pretty cool genealogical section in their library, which is how I took the photo of the image in this post. I haven’t had a chance to drive to Grove City in about two weeks, so I’m hoping to get there soon to continue research.

So yes. I’m writing a book that is set in Grove City, for now. I think this could work. I’ve already gotten some anectdotal stories about people’s reactions to Lincoln being re-elected, etc. Oh, the possibilities!

Best,
Belinda

Why this Author Loves Her C Grade

Dear Reader,

Last week I got a review at Dear Author, which was both awesome and a little “meh.” The “meh” came in because I got a C-, which I’ve been told is still a solid grade. To confirm this, I looked up some of my favorite romance authors to see how they fared: they all got Cs as well. Mary Jo Putney, Candace Camp, Lucinda Brant, and more.

Why I Love a C Review

The awesome came in because I got a five page critique from the reviewer. No, seriously. I copied the text into Microsoft Word and it was five single-spaced pages.

Let me repeat that. Five. Single-spaced. Pages.

She went into detail that I would expect from an editor getting paid for her judgment. I kowtow at her feet and offer as much tea as I can brew and she can drink with multiple bathroom breaks. Her critique was spot on, pointing out everything I’ve wondered about my writing. She essentially gave me a checklist of things I need to make sure NOT to do in The Rebel’s Hero.

Do you know how many authors would commit murder for this kind of free feedback?

This is important stuff, I feel, because so often we authors can be a bit sensitive about reviews. And sure, when the reviewer launches into an emotional reason about why they did or did not like the book, that is less than helpful. Still, each review provides a learning experience, positive or negative. It is feedback for the next time we put pen to paper, and we should value them all, garnished with a grain of salt.

Plus, a C-range grade from Dear Author isn’t nearly as bad as some authors feel. It translates to “this book is competent, but not for me.” It’s a “good but not great” book. It’s a book that was “fun, but not sure I’d read it again.”

That’s fair. I’ll take that. Some of my favorite authors have multiple books in that “not sure I’d read it again” category. Darling Reader, I invite you to read the review and leave your opinion in the comments. The review was more than fair, and the comments were very nice. I would be interested to see your responses, as I know some of you left reviews on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, etc.

Tumbling Around the Interwebs

Completely unrelated, I created a Tumblr for the videos, photos, and inspirational quotes I want to share that don’t warrant an entire blog post.

If you follow me on Twitter and Facebook, then you will see the content there. The fun part about Tumblr is that it’s an easy way to ask me questions, or to submit fun content for others to see. I’ll see you over there!

And finally, if you’re a fan of Readability, we have a new link available in the sidebar. Read now or later, this is a quick and easy way to syndicate the blog.

All right, I think that’s it for this week! Best,

Belinda

 

 

Fairy-tale Inspired Books

Frog Princes all in a row by Shawn Zlea at Flickr
Happy holidays! I thought I’d throw out a fun Tuesday Thirteen list today, this one having a theme of fairy-tale inspired books.

I haven’t read some of these books in ten years, but for some reason they still haunt me. Here are my favorite fairy-tale inspired books (in no particular order)! I had to cap it at thirteen otherwise the list might never end. Though, there is a shortage of good fairy tale re-tellings, for some reason… I wonder why that is? Are there any really good ones I should know about that aren’t on this list?

  1. Spindle’s End – Robin McKinley
  2. Enchantment – Orson Scott Card
  3. Spellbound – Ru Emerson
  4. Golden – Cameron Dokey
  5. Seven Daughters and Seven Sons – Barbara Cohen and Bahija Lovejoy
  6. The Book of Atrix Wolfe – Patricia McKillip
  7. Deerskin – Robin McKinley
  8. Briar Rose – Jane Yolen
  9. The Door in the Hedge – Robin McKinley
  10. Phoenix and Ashes – Mercedes Lackey
  11. The Lark and the Wren – Mercedes Lackey
  12. The Pearl of the Soul of the World – Meredith Ann Pierce
  13. Sabriel – Garth Nix

Actually, there is this one retelling of the frog prince and I can’t remember the title of it.

I do know that the prince was turned into a frog as part of a magical conspiracy, and that the princess/girl fell in love with him when he was a frog, and that his own brother/uncle/relative throws him across the room so he hits the wall with a sickening crack. The girl, distraught, thinks the frog died, but he actually just broke the spell by angering his relative into chucking him across the room.

Anyone know the book I’m talking about? It was really good. Anyone have any books to add to the list?

Choose the Bolder

“When you cannot make up your mind which of two evenly balanced courses of action you should take–choose the bolder.”
– Ezra Pound

This month, you’re doing what many think is the impossible: you’re writing a novel-length book in thirty days.

Fifty-thousand words in thirty days.

Are you insane?

Yes, yes you are, and I love that about you.

I know many of you might be struggling at this point. This is the rough patch, really. You’re close to the end, but so far from it, you know?

So I’m sure you’re at a crossroads. You don’t know the next step your characters should take. You’re tempted to go back and edit what you have written. Whatever you do, don’t do that.

Here’s a suggestion: choose the bolder path. What would happen if, say, one of your characters died? Or did something almost  as radical?

Maybe it makes sense, what you’re about to do. And then again, maybe it doesn’t. That’s not the point of NaNoWriMo. The point is to put pen to paper, and at the end of the month, have something to workshop. Get that? Have something to workshop by the end of the month.

Good luck. If you need a place to vent about your work, leave a comment and we’ll see what we can do about sparking your imagination.

In the Midst of Living

“My ideas usually come not at my desk writing but in the midst of living.”
– Anaïs Nin, French Writer

First, I need to say that last week the lovely Evangeline at Edwardian Promenade awarded the I Love This Blog to me, and I have to spread the love around. See the end of this post for the award, and my nominations. ❤

This week’s exercise is to take a look around you. So often do we writers get lost in the act of writing, that we forget we are supposed to be writing about life. Who are these characters that we spend our every waking moments with? How can we possibly know who they are, and how to make them distinct, if all we do is sit around our houses dreaming about them?

NaNoWriMo is a difficult time for any writer, whether you have a plan/outline or not. I found that during the second week, I began to lag a little. Things weren’t coming as quickly, and I was losing some of my pep.

I knew I had to leave the computer. There was something about sitting in the same spot day in, day out, writing to fulfill the daily goal, that exhausted me. I took a digital camera and small writing journal, and went for a walk.

I took pictures of whatever I saw that inspired me, with the plan to print them out and tape them to the walls around my desktop. I sat by the little lake at the center of my campus, and absorbed. I never wrote anything.

Three years later (i.e. a couple of weeks ago), that moment crystallized into the following:

At Ohio State, my favorite place on campus was Mirror Lake. There are beautiful flowering trees there in the spring, and ducklings that swim in time with The Truman Show soundtrack on my mp3 player. In the winter, the lake freezes over and everyone tests their courage by walking across it. In the fall, the most zealous Buckeyes jump into the lake to show their loyalty against M*ch*gan. There are benches, and sometimes people play their guitars. I would walk around the lake, usually listening to classical music, and breathe it in. I’d stare at the fountain in the center, and how it sometimes made a rainbow on very bright days.

Simple, reminiscent, evocative. Do you have such a moment, and can you use it for your writing?

Awards to Blogs I Love

Dreaming on the Job

Graham Carter

Tales of a Fantasy Scribbler

Word Nerd

(Listed alphabetically)

Everything is Ready

“If we wait for the moment when everything, absolutely everything is ready, we shall never begin.”
– Ivan Turgenev

When someone finds out I’m a writer, I inevitably hear about how they have a couple stories of their own lurking in their head, or three novels half-started, etc. Which I applaud, because I’m always happy to hear about fellow writers doing their best to write.

Rarely have I ever heard a story where they finished the work.

Sometimes this is because they’ve lost interest. Sometimes they cite the dreaded Writer’s Block. Sometimes they just don’t know how to begin.

J.A. Konrath declares that there’s no such thing as Writer’s Block. He also says you shouldn’t listen to people who say you must write every day to be a writer. Which I agree and disagree with.

Writer’s Block happens to me, but only because of the quote at the beginning of this post: I suffer from perfectionism, which means there are times when I want everything to be ready for me to write. I want to write, but some part of my brain tells me that the conditions aren’t right, aren’t “ready,” for writing. So I stew, fuss, and complain until my brain figures out that I don’t need perfect conditions to write, I only need to make time to write.

So I do agree with Konrath’s point that you don’t need to write every day. I’d like to alter his assertion, however, by claiming that even if you don’t physically write every day, you do at least think about writing. While you’re waiting in line at the grocery store, ask your characters questions to know them better. Study the people around you and note interesting personality ticks that could help flesh out your characters.

There’s no such thing as perfect writing, remember. There is always room to improve. So don’t let your need to get it right the first time stop you from writing. Let me tell you that you won’t get it right the first time you put it on paper.

Don’t let that blank sheet of paper intimidate you.

If you feel like writing, but don’t know how to begin, write about that! Write about how you’re feeling about your work, or lack thereof. Write about what you did today. The point is to get used to writing, in any form.

Like musicians, writers can only improve by practicing. This includes reading and writing a lot. When you feel the urge to write, just do it. Don’t let your fears crowd your ideas. The moment you put pen to paper, you are ready. There is no better moment to begin than now.

Because We Must

I run great risk of failing. It may be that I shall encounter ruin
where I look for reputation and a career of honor. The chances are
perhaps more in favour of ruin than of success. But, whatever may be
the chances, I shall go on as long as any means of carrying on the
fight are at my disposal.

 – Anthony Trollope (1815-1882) English Novelist

I love this quote. As creative persons (a.k.a. writers), we continually run the risk of failing, and failing miserably.

There will be readers who e-mail us, not to praise us, but to complain that the ending was horrible, that no man would ever say those words, that no woman would ever react that way. They will tell you that your facts are wrong, that trains didn’t exist then…even if your pile of research books sitting beside you as you politely type a response say otherwise.

There will be agents who say your work simply isn’t publishable at this time. Not because it isn’t good writing, but because you missed the trend train, and your topic has “come and gone.” Still other agents will request a partial, or even a full, only to back out for some reason which cuts your heart in two.

Your publisher, should you find one, may put a Fabio-like beast of a man on your cover, despite your claims that you’re writing a sweet romance. Why do they do this to you? Because they know, really, they know, that sex sells. Even to people that don’t want to see sex on the cover. Even if the book doesn’t have an ounce of actual sex within it. Go figure.

So why do we keep writing? Why do we pursue a published career? Why do we do this to ourselves?

Because we must. It’s what we know, it’s what we breathe (sometimes), it’s what drives us through the Writer’s Block and Purple Prose and 2D characters. We have a story to tell, we writers, one that cannot be silenced by external distractions, or doubts.

Continue to write, despite your fears you’re not as good as you think you are. You’re only right if you stop writing, stop practicing, stop reading. Everything will fall into place, and you’ll find yourself with a work that shines. Always know that you have at least one person in your corner rooting for you, and her name is Worderella.