Housekeeping

Dear Reader,

We have some housekeeping to do here at the blog, namely that we had a contest with Sean MCartney’s book in the Treasure Hunters series. We had a number of submissions, and the winner is…

da dah-dah-dah DAH dah-dah DAH…

Judy Cox, commenter numero tres! The winner was selected using the Random.Org number generator. There were six commenters expressing interest in the book, and the generator returned the number three. So there you have my transparent, incredibly technical process for determining contest winners. I will email the winner and author later.

Those of you who didn’t win a copy of the book, I highly suggest you buy a copy anyway.

In other news, I wrote lots of words last week. Somewhere over three thousand, I think, which has left me feeling pretty good. I have this method where as I’m writing a chapter, I just force it out. Then I leave it for a day or so only to re-read that chapter with historical facts and figures, as well as all of my senses on high alert.

You see, when I write a first draft, I do a lot of telling. A lot. The second time through ensures that I’m delving into the minds and emotions of the characters. I start to describe smells, scents, sounds. I become my own editor, asking why and what does this mean?

In doing so, I will expand a 750 word chapter into a 3000 word chapter, which means I will most likely split it into two chapters.

So there you go. That is my secret. Turns out I’m not a magician after all.

Historical fact of the week!

John_Hunt_MorganI often find it interesting (and a bit disturbing) how many southerners hold close to their heart this hope that the “South will rise again!” Though the events of the Civil War occurred 150 years ago, the memory and impact are very much alive today, but moreso in the south, or so it seems to me.

My theory behind this phenomenon is because 1. the Confederacy lost to the Union and 2. the Union did its best to destroy the spirit of the Confederacy. You see, everyone loves the underdog. And there wasn’t a bigger underdog than the Confederacy.

People seem to forget, however, that the Confederacy had some major wins of their own when it comes to scaring the pants off Union civilians.

Brigadier General Morgan, a Confederate, did enter the Union during the war in 1863. He cut a swatch with his raiders starting in Tennessee, up through his home state of Kentucky, further still into southern Indiana, and into Ohio along the Ohio River. He got as far north as Salineville, which is around 90mi south of Cleveland. That is really far north! Morgan terrified the Union civilians, who until that point hadn’t really suffered from the war.

So there you have it. Your historical fact of the week. Will it end up in The Rebel’s Hero? I have no idea. It might. The heroine is from Kentucky and has suffered from slight starvation due to the Union blockade, and one of the two family slaves has already run across the Ohio River by the time the book starts. Maybe the heroine knows Morgan’s family. Maybe she’s rooting for Morgan. Maybe she thinks he’s a brigand. We won’t know until I write it.

Best,

Belinda

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This post is part of the ROW80 bloghop.

Joining the Ranks

Dear Reader,

Quick update today. I went to rural Minnesota for my grandparents’ 50th anniversary over the weekend, which was a nice break from my usual hectic pace. I mean, the travel was hectic, but once we all got to the farm and I got to play with all the babies and puppies, life was pretty good.

In terms of writing, I have been guzzling articles and books about the Civil War, which is proving very helpful for The Rebel’s Hero. Luckily, I think I can keep most of the premise the same… I only have to change the location and some of the character motivations in order to be true to the time.

I just decided I will be doing A Round of 80 Words – Round Three. As in, just. I feel guilty for not keeping up as a sponsor during Round Two, but oh well. I think my goals will be the same… write at least 750 words per week. Doesn’t matter the project, I just need to keep writing.

And here’s something interesting I read over the weekend while doing research…

From the Notebook

Kentucky was a perfect reflection of the emotional and socio-political climate of the nation before and during the war. Free Kentuckians were split three ways: those who supported the Confederacy, those who supported the Union, and those who were for neutrality. Technically, you could say people were split four ways, because Unionists weren’t always abolitionists. Saying you were for the Union only meant you were against secession, not for freeing slaves.

Now here’s where it gets REALLY interesting. The Emancipation Proclamation only freed slaves from those states that had already seceded from the union. Because Kentucky was in the hands of the Union by this time, it didn’t have to free its slaves. Neither did Maryland, or other northern slave-holding states. Kentucky didn’t free its slaves until it was forced to via the 13th Amendment almost eight months later.

The kicker? Wait for it.

Kentucky didn’t offer its support of the 13th Amendment, officially, until 1976.

Anyone who says history is dead is walking around with blinders on, so says I.

Best,

Belinda

In which I Dance and Grab an Expert

Dear Reader,

I’m gathering resources for The Rebel’s Hero for research. I talked with my resident Civil War expert, a friend from undergrad who majored in Civil War history, and he gave me the best worst news ever: my plot is implausible in the location I chose. He threw a ton of websites, books, and notable names I need to research. He upped my work level, but also inspired me with his knowledge, so even though this project is temporarily on hold, it’s for the best.

So far, I know that the story will be moving from Western Virginia (before it became a state) to Kentucky, with more emphasis on the Ohio side of things because Ohio was such a big player in the Underground Railroad. Go Ohio! O-H!

Abolitionism was huge in Ohio by the time the Civil War began, by the way. With so many Quakers around who felt slavery was against God’s will, it makes sense. This was something I touched upon briefly in Catching the Rose, something I always wanted to really delve into. This rewrite with The Rebel’s Hero is giving me just that chance. Beyond excited about it, though intimidated at the idea of trying to encapsulate so many poignant topics in one book. I know I’m going to fail, on a certain level. I won’t ever be completely accurate, since it is a work of fiction.

But hey, I’m pretty sure I won’t have readers accusing me of being racist with this book! Or maybe they will. If they do, I hope it causes notoriety so more people pick up the book! Haha. Oh the life of a self-made author…

I’m working on a non-fiction book under a different name. Non-fiction, I’m finding, is difficult to write, especially when attempting to write a how-to. It’s a fun challenge. I’m trying to get it out by the time schools start up again.

I had a breakthrough brainstorm at lunch last week for the new Victorian book, My Unwitting Heiress. The ideas exploded in my brain so that I hardly had time to grab pen and paper to write them down. This plot just became much funnier, more plausible, and its beginning will overlap with the ending of Haunting Miss Trentwood.

I’m still unsure as to whether the characters in the books will know each other. I’m guessing not. I’m waiting for them to tell me. I had this image of the heroine, Edith, from My Unwitting Heiress, sharing the train with Mary, from Haunting Miss Trentwood. They don’t know one another, but they’re both going to London for the queen’s golden jubilee. It’s one of those subtle nods that always make me chuckle when I read other authors doing it.

In other news, Suzy Turner, author of the young adult fantasy Raven, interviewed me over the weekend. She asked awesome questions, such as which actors would play the characters in Haunting Miss Trentwood. I had never thought of it before, but as soon as she asked, I knew right away. Check out the interview at Suzy’s blog for my answers!

Unrelated to writing, I’ve been dancing more than ever. Once a week I attend the local swing dance and becoming more deeply involved in the dance community. It’s great exercise and an excuse to socialize. I bought some dresses just because the skirts swirl around my legs like crazy, and I’m pretty sure my leads were trying crazier stunts with me just to see that skirt move. So much fun.

If you have never swing danced before, I encourage you to give it a try. Every city I’ve ever swing danced in has been super welcoming and supportive. We don’t care how well you dance, only that you’re interested in dancing, and you’re coming to the event with a smile. If you’re ever in Columbus, OH, make a point to attend the swing dance. In fact, ask me to dance. I promise I will. And if you don’t know how to dance, I’ll teach you the mashed potato and we’ll have a blast.

I think that’s it on the home front. I’m keeping to my ROW80 goals of writing 750 words a week. It’s a low goal, but since the point is to make sure I’m writing, I’m ok with it. I finished the second round of ROW80, even though I was an awful sponsor this time! I wonder how everyone else is doing?

Best,
Belinda

How to have a Successful Book Festival, Treasure Hunters Giveaway

Dear Reader,

Today we have Sean McCartney, who I highlighted before in an interview and when I met him in person at the Ohioana Book Festival. He agreed to share his experience at the book festival, and is giving away a copy of one of his Treasure Hunters books! Read on, dear reader, read on.

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I want to thank Belinda for having me here today. I’d like to introduce myself again. My name is Sean McCartney and I am the author of The Treasure Hunters Club book series. The second book, Breaking the Beale Code, was released on May 7th of this year. Belinda and I met face-to-face at the Ohioana Book Festival and she asked me to talk about my experience there.

To say I was nervous would be an understatement. When someone asked me who my protagonists were, not only did I not remember what a protagonist was, I forgot I was even an author. I’d never been to one of these before as an author or a patron.

I almost talked myself out of going with a deluge of excuses but as I look back on the festival I am glad I was there.

When I walked into building 110, where all of the authors were selling their books, I found my name tag and set up my treasure chest of books. I was sharing a table with another great young adult author. The area was not very large. In fact I felt like I was at the “kids” table for Thanksgiving Dinner.

After I was set-up I stood and waited for people to come in. I watched the other authors and wondered if they felt like I did. They seemed much more confident.

I have to say that, aside from selling a bunch of books, I was able to meet and talk with two terrific authors and people. Kristina McBride, author of The Tension of Opposites and Erin McCahan, author of I Now Pronounce You Someone Else, provided great laughs throughout the day and was a source of tremendous knowledge and information.

The festival held interviews and book readings by many authors. I was not chosen to do any of that which turned out to be something of a blessing in disguise. I was able to stand by my treasure chest and meet readers who bought my books. When I went to the representative from Barnes and Noble and told her my sales, I think she was surprised and stunned.

Overall I can’t wait to go back. I have been looking into other festivals because for an author like myself working with a small publisher, I need to be out there meeting people.

Though the day was long (two hour drive to Columbus and back) and I was on my feet for the entire event, I wouldn’t have missed it. I am looking forward to next year and the continued success of the Treasure Hunters Club series.

Thanks again for having me and please visit my web site at treasurehuntersclubbook.com and drop me a line.

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Belinda here! So some takeaways from Sean’s experience, compared to other authors I’ve learned from, is that having a display catered to your book genre grabs the attention of passers-by.

Having the author standing and smiling, ready to engage? Also a huge plus. Not leaving your post is a great way to make sure you don’t miss readers, and the fact that Sean avoided looking tired I’m sure kept people coming to his spot until the end of the day.

I saw other authors there who sat behind their table reading a book. I did not visit them. I might have grabbed a postcard if they had one and it looked pretty. When you see someone talking to an author, you want to talk to that author as well.

I don’t remember if Sean had a pitch about his books, but his display was so fun-looking that I had to stop by. It was then that I realized I knew this guy! So having a gimmick, as it were, helps. It shows you put thought into your time at the festival, which tells readers that you really care.

If you’d like to win a copy of one of the Treasure Hunters books, leave a comment. We will use a random number generator to determine the winner.

Best,

Belinda

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.

Fun Times at the Ohioana Book Festival

Dear Reader,

This past Saturday was all kinds of awesome. Not only was it Free Comic Day, but it was the Ohioana Book Festival here in Columbus. If there is one thing you get out of this post, it is this: Belinda got to spend an entire day being a nerd about local books and book shops.

I won’t go into much detail about Free Comic Day because I can’t tie it to historical fiction or romance very well. Suffice it to say I got six free comic books from The Laughing Ogre in the Clintonville area of Columbus, and bought a compilation Sinfest book because, damn, I got six free comic books.

Anyone who tells you free doesn’t work is a liar. Get enough free things quickly enough, and you might feel guilty enough to spring for something more expensive than you would have otherwise bought.

It was my first time at the Ohioana Book Festival, and I was appalled until I realized that the festival was only in its third year. I was in grad school in another state the last two years, so no wonder I hadn’t heard of the festival. It was located on the lovely campus of Fort Hayes, and the history of that campus would be worth a blog post by itself.

In brief, Fort Hayes was the first federal arsenal in Columbus, commissioned during the first year of the Civil War in order to provide arms for the men called to duty. The first building was completed in 1864 and was called the “shot” building because that’s where they made shot for the guns. This is totally fitting, right, because I’m working on a Civil War book, and it’s the 150th anniversary of the war. Believe me, I was geeking out.

Today, the buildings that are not boarded up or falling apart on the campus are used for an alternative high school which emphasizes the arts and preparing for professional life. And events like the Ohioana Book Festival (OBF).

The OBF caters to Ohio authors and authors who write about Ohio. An author is considered an Ohioan if they have lived in the state for five years at some point in their life, which I find a little sketchy. One author hadn’t lived in Ohio for thirty-seven years! But who am I to judge. The festival didn’t accept self-published authors, so even if I had known about the festival in time, they wouldn’t have accepted me. Oh well. One can hope. I own my publishing company, have an editor, etc. One of these days, I will be at that festival. So say I.

Anyway, I got to meet Sean McCartney in person, who you might remember I spotlighted this past winter. He was doing a great job! There were ninety-nine other authors he competed against, and he had sold eleven books by the time I got there in the early afternoon. He writes adventure fiction along the lines of Indiana Jones, so if you have a kid in your life who thinks they don’t like to read, try giving them one of his books.

I got to meet three historical fiction authors, two of which were on a guest panel about writing the genre. I was happy to meet Carrie Bebris, who writes the Mr and Mrs Darcy mysteries. Yes, you are guessing correctly: she writes Regency mysteries using the hero and heroine from Pride and Prejudice as her protagonists. Sounds like an absolute blast, right?? The author herself was soft-spoken and had a kind face, and was appreciative when I said I’d like to highlight her in my blog. You should check her out.

Lisa Klein and Karen Harper were the guests on the historical fiction panel, and it was fascinating to watch them interact with each other.

Klein writes young adult historical fiction, something along the lines of Ann Rinaldi, I imagine. Which means I will most likely be picking up one of her books to review because I devoured every Rinaldi book I could when I was younger. In fact, Rinaldi’s method of providing author notes and bibliographies at the back of her books is what inspired me to believe I could write historical fiction in the first place. Klein just released a Civil War book about two young women living in the Gettysburg area during the Civil War.

Harper writes historical fiction for adults; she likened it to women’s fiction but set in the past. Unlike Klein, who stays true to the historical record but whose protagonists are creations of her imagination, Harper only writes about people who actually existed. Think Susan Holloway Scott.

Both authors seem fascinated by the Tudor era, but also branch into other eras. Harper is currently writing an Amish series and released a book last year called Mistress Shakespeare, a tale about the woman Shakespeare was engaged to before he was forced to wed pregnant Anne Hathaway.

The really interesting thing about these authors is that they are both teachers. Harper taught Elizabethan history and Klein was a literature professor. In fact, Klein said she didn’t like history in school! It wasn’t until a history teacher in college had the class read a novel that represented each era they studied that she saw how fascinating the past is. Harper mentioned that because she writes about real people, she often gets letters from readers who point out her mistakes… something Klein hadn’t experienced. I suspect this might be because Klein writes for young adults, and they probably just don’t know enough to question her.

This post is getting super long, so I’ll stop here, but I urge you to check out the authors and books I highlighted from the festival. It was a great event that left me supercharged to write a thousand words that night. Definitely see if you have a local or state book festival. You’ll get to meet authors, check out their latest books, and basically nerd out for free.

And if you’re lucky, you might get to meet Amelia Bedelia, like me. Cross your fingers.

Best,

Belinda

 

 

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This is part of the ROW80 bloghop. I’m keeping up with my goals. Are you?