Sneak Peek into Our Next Adventure

I’ve never written a sequel before. It’s a terrifying thought. Which perhaps makes it all the more appropriate that the plot which often disturbs my dreams is a sequel to my young adult comedic ghost story, Haunting Miss Trentwood.

I haven’t been able to make it out to my writer’s group due to my hectic schedule, but I wanted to share a scene with you.

Image borrowed from the TV show Penny Dreadful because it is so perfectly matched. Penny Dreadful is not suited for children and some adults, nor is it safe for work. It has many triggers, so please do your research before watching this show.

– – – – –

It took the panicked prodding of the young miss beside Mr. Jasper Steele to yank him from his bored reverie. Their hands were clasped, and it took him a moment to remember where he sat.

“May I help you?” he hissed, his pale moustache twitching.

The little brunette, who reminded him a great deal of a former interest, squeaked and nodded in the direction she meant him to look. Mr. Steele looked up to find a fetching young lady floating above the round table as if lifted by her torso like a cloth doll. It was Miss Sewell, the daughter of their hostess. She rotated in air like a suspended top, rotating until stopping to face him. Her upside-down, unseeing stare sent chills down his back. The young lady beside him whimpered.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, for Mr. Steele, this was not his first haunting.

“Ah,” he said. He cleared his throat. “I do beg your pardon. I was… otherwise engaged. Might I help you?”

The séance participants, already on edge, inhaled in unison.

Miss Sewell blinked one eye, then the other. Her soft blonde locks began to fall from their careful coifs, the curls sweeping the table. “Jasper Ssssteele.”

Mr. Steele nodded. “You have the right of it, that’s my name.”

The girl beside him trembled so violently, they almost broke their handshake.

“Do not release his hand!” Dame Hartwell, their séance guide, said.

Jasper gripped the girl’s hand, glaring at her, daring her to let go.

“Jasper Steele,” Miss Sewell said again, far more clearly.

Mr. Steele’s mouth ran dry.

“You must help her,” said Miss Sewell’s unnaturally deep, echoing voice.

“Help whom do what?”

Miss Sewell blinked, her expression clearing, starting to show a moment of horror. “My sister,” she whispered. With a quiet gasp, she crashed to the table, unleashing everyone’s screams finally.

Lady Sewell rose from the table, trying to calm her guests, who all ran from the room as if on fire.

Mr. Steele frowned. He leaned forward. “You don’t have a sister,” he said to the prone Miss Sewell.

“I did,” she said before fainting.

Editing Bullet Journal Tracking for Fiction Writers

If you missed it on Instagram (Facebook, Twitter), I completed the first draft of my novella last week and dove right into editing! I’m so excited, that I’m breaking my monthly posting schedule to share the happy news! Now onto my favorite part: editing.

I love editing because there is material to work with. I can print things out, cut them up, move them around. For this novella, I’m doing a combination of analog and digital editing techniques.

Digital Editing Tools

I keep the manuscript in Microsoft Word and sync it across devices using Google Drive. I edit for passive voice, readability (grade level), and adverbs using the Hemingway App. I bought the desktop version, but it’s very buggy, so if you need an editor I’d use the free online version. This will allow me to submit a manuscript edit to my editor, who will find things I couldn’t, even with the digital tools.

Caveat: Digital editors will never replace a human. I use Hemingway to help find my blind spots. I default to passive voice and adverbs, so luckily, this tool helps me. If you have different writing crutches, you might need to look elsewhere for help.

Analog Editing Tools

I have my little desk calendar to tell me how many days in a month I spend on writing (first image in this post). I also created a bullet journal tracker for editing each chapter. Details below!

Typically, habit trackers are for days, weeks, or months. Whatever the unit of time, assign it as your table column headings. For editing, my columns are each chapter, 1 – 33. So it’s almost like a month anyway.

The rows are the habits you’re tracking, or for editing, the lenses you use to edit your work. I have rows for:

  • Plot holes
  • Research
  • No prose contractions i.e. narrative should not have contractions but dialogue can
  • Ready for editor
  • Ready for beta readers

I have space on the page to add more lenses as they come up. I’m through chapter 6 and haven’t thought of anything yet. I have a list of questions I need to address before the book ends, or little reminders I forgot because it took me three years to write the first draft. For instance, by the last chapter, one of the rooms in the house no longer exists. So half of the chapters I’ve touched included me removing that room and shifting where the characters are interacting.

I shared this with the Bullet Journal Writers Facebook group and got a positive response, so I wanted to share in case it might help you with your writing!

Tomorrow, we’ll return to my regular monthly blog post: I participated in a monthly writing challenge (six word stories for thirty-one days). With the release of this book coming in April, I expect to break my monthly posting schedule quite a bit.

Here are some additional resources that can help you:

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…

Lucky 7 Excerpt from my Young Adult Civil War manuscript

letter-writingThere has been a “Lucky 7” excerpt writing meme spreading across the interwebs since 2012 if my cursory Google search is accurate. I thought it would be fun to share some of my progress.

In case you don’t know, the rules of the Lucky 7 meme are:

  1. Go to page 7 or 77 in your current manuscript.
  2. Go to line 7.
  3. Copy down the next seven lines as they are – no cheating.
  4. Tag 7 other authors.

Now, I’m nowhere near page 77 of my manuscript, so it’ll have to be page 7. These memes always make me nervous… what if they select a part of the book that’s kind of, well, boring? I suppose the idea is to open your eyes as a writer and make every page in your book compelling.

Anyway, here is my Page 7 line 7 excerpt from my young adult Victorian fiction, without preamble or context:

He opened his eyes in time to see wide skirts sweeping from the room. That confirmed it. He wasn’t at Camp Chase. The only woman allowed in the prison had died a few months ago of the very disease she had been helping her doctor husband fight.

Waking up away from Camp Chase should have brought him some relief, but that woman’s harsh accent filled him with dread. He had never heard anyone speak like that before, not even in the prison. Was he with friends, or simply in a smaller, more lavish prison?

“He’s awake?” he heard a younger voice from down the hall, most likely Alina. Whereas the older woman sounded annoyed, Alina sounded excited. “Have you spoken with him? Can we keep him?”

I don’t have seven writers to tag, so please forgive me. I’d love to see excerpts from:

  1.  Drew Farnsworth
  2. Caitlin O’Sullivan
  3. Eliza Wyatt
  4. Evangeline Holland

Using a (Galaxy Note 8) Tablet to Write a Novel

Looking for an alternative to lugging your laptop around to finish that novel? Frustrated with carrying your phone, your laptop, and your writing journal to make sure you have everything to reference when writing that next chapter? Let me tell you a story about abandoning my laptop, and using my new tablet instead.

Backstory

( Jump to the tutorial» )

The last couple of years I have been traveling many weekends, which used to be my dedicated writing time. The reason for all the traveling was (and is) to attend lindy hop dance exchange and workshop weekends… kind of like mini-conferences about lindy hop dancing technique and methodology.

It’s been a frustrating process, trying to balance my dancing and my writing. Lindy hoppers are pretty obsessive about the hobby… and the culture itself isn’t super forgiving for those who want to dance but also maintain other passions. That said, I’ve been modifying my attendance at dance events (maybe I don’t attend all the classes, and write instead during the day so I’m fresh for the evening fancy dance). I’ve also been modifying the technology I take with me.

researchGermanFactsThe last dance event I attended, I brought my pen+paper notebook, and my smart phone. I did research on my phone in the hotel room while The Boy taught dance classes, and wrote my amnesia character’s backstory in the notebook. It worked out pretty well.

I was excited to be able to do research and get inspiration on the road, and not have to bring an extra bag just for my laptop. We dancers bring at least three pairs of shoes for a weekend, just to give you an idea of how packing works.

But there was a gap. Even though I save my novel drafts to Dropbox (I love their versioning so I can compare differences between first draft and #25), it’s almost impossible to edit a Word docx on a smart phone.

I was determined to not carry my laptop around. But I couldn’t bite the bullet on getting a tablet because they were expensive, I knew I wanted an Android so I could utilize all my apps on my phone, and I wanted one known for handwriting recognition.

Enter my newfangled device, the Galaxy Note 8.

Writing by hand is very important to me. It gives me time to think. So I bought the Galaxy Note 8 because it comes with a stylus designed by Wacom. Those of us who are designers in our day jobs know Wacom is kind of the standard for a good stylus that recognizes pressure, proximity to the screen, etc. I figured if I found a tablet which recognizes my handwriting, I could mimic writing in my journal on the tablet. So far, it’s been pretty awesome.

Using a Tablet to Write a Novel

I created a handy-dandy infographic to illustrate my process, mainly because words can muddy what is otherwise a simple process…

writeNovelonTablet_process

Sync via Dropbox

Ensure your latest draft is on Dropbox, then install the Dropbox app on your tablet.

Immediately save a copy of your file to your actual tablet, in case you are ever without data or wireless. That way you can continue to work if you’re “unplugged.” When you’re done with editing/writing, navigate to your documents folder and share the file back to Dropbox.

I  edit the file using Polaris Office, which apparently can read and edit the docx file format. This is awesome, because I can write and edit whenever I want on a thing that fits in my purse and will sync with my desktop so I’m prepared for the inevitable hours-long, binge-writing session.

* I have found that if I leave the file open, let the device sleep for hours, and then try to continue to work, the cursor jumps all over the place. I had to save the file, close it and the app, and re-open for the cursor to stop freaking out. Which then allowed me to stop freaking out, because for ten minutes I thought I’d have to scrap the entire process.

Build Your Digital Research Library

If you use the Chrome browser, you can install the Evernote browser extension. Makes it super easy to save research, articles, etc across the web. It’s like a scholarly, private Pinterest.

CbusHistory_evernote

Also don’t be afraid to go to the library and take pictures of your research and upload those photos to Evernote. You can literally digitize your entire research journal!

Take Your Research with You

Install the Evernote app on your tablet. A tablet is kind of the perfect size for consuming the research clipped into Evernote due to its large paperback book size (5.5″ x 8″).

Evernote lets you save full PDFs, images, and copies website content so you don’t have all the distracting ads. I love that I can pinch-zoom the large PDF scans of the old Ohio Daily Statesman so I can pull quotes from the local newspaper.

That’s it!

Pretty simple, right? So far it’s working well for me. I like to write on the sofa, in a terrible slouched position, which just doesn’t work with a laptop. Having a tablet I can angle any-which-way to write on and then sync, is awesome.

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

Making Progress and Taking Names

Dear Reader,

How are you doing? I’ve been wondering about you lately. There are a number of you who comment due to being a part of Round of Words in 80 Days, but those of you who don’t comment often, I’d love to hear how you found me, and what you find interesting about this blog.

The Latest Project

My new work-in-progress, The Rebel’s Hero, is coming along nicely, I have to say. It is a rewrite of Catching the Rose, so the characters, locations, and the overall plot inspiration are the same, but not much else. My mother keeps asking why I’m rewriting Catching the Rose, that people like that book for what it is: a historical romance from the mind of a 17-year-old girl.

But I’m not 17 anymore, thank god, and the characters are telling me they deserve a second chance. The writing for this book really picked up around mid-March, and as yet, I’ve accumulated 18 000 words.

If you follow me on Twitter or my Facebook fan page, you’ve been seeing my links from 750words.com, where you get a taste of the main words I’ve been using, the overall tone of the chapter I’m writing, how long it took me to write the chapters, etc. It’s kind of fun documenting the progression of a book like this.

For instance, on Sunday March 27, I wrote 2 435 words in 1hr 25min. I had no distractions (i.e. I didn’t stop typing for three or more minutes). The mood was happy and the characters were concerned about home. They were uncertain, but positive.

But most importantly, in the word cloud at the bottom of the page, you see two names: Brad and Veronica. The reason why I’m rewriting Catching the Rose is because the first time I wrote the book, I never had a good handle on Brad’s motivation. Why does he dislike Veronica? Why does he save her from danger in the middle of a battle gone awry?

A grown man isn’t swayed by beauty for much longer than a couple of months. There was something else making Brad stick around despite his annoyance with Veronica’s spoiled upbringing. And in The Rebel’s Hero, I finally figured it out.

I’d love to tell you, really I would. But that would be one of the many spoilers that is making The Rebel’s Hero so much fun to write. Instead of spoiling anything, I want to remind you that everyone subscribed to my newsletter will get a free advance ebook copy of The Rebel’s Hero. I’m not certain of dates, so you will have to bear with me.

These are exciting times! The Rebel’s Hero is coming along, and the next book in the queue to be written finally got a title that I like… My Unwitting Heiress. The only thing I will say about that book is there are identical twins involved.

Don’t forget to tell me how you are doing! Whether you’re a reader, a writer, a mixture of both or none of the above, I’d love to hear from you.

All the best,

Belinda