Archive | October, 2013

On Location —

24 Oct

No, I’ve not been away from home, but I have been a busy writer/editor/formatter, etc. Explanations will follow during the next couple of months, I promise.

A note from a friend reminded me of the fun of visiting the location about which you’re setting your next novel. It’s not just fun, but vitally important for accuracy. For instance, visiting any place in Colonial America, a modern-day tourist is constantly bewildered by how small the rooms are, or how low the ceilings. It makes you realize that we’re growing larger as a people. Better food, better nutrition, better living conditions, better medical care, have all helped us grow larger than our parents, who were larger than theirs, etc., etc.

When you read that a historical person was ‘very tall, close to 6 feet’ you chuckle to yourself, because in our time, that’s not very tall, at all! In fact, in a time when 7 footers are more prominent than ever before, those 6-footers are almost miniscule! So if a historical person was really ‘bigger-than-life’ (think Henry VIII or his grandfather Edward IV) it’s no wonder they were magnetic and commanded respect. They really did literally ‘tower’ over their subjects!

My first published book (Secret Shores) appeared in May, 1993 and the prequel (Windsong) the following February. Both books are set primarily on Mackinac Island, Michigan. Having grown up in Michigan, I’d visited the island several times, but not for many years before I began to write the first of these books. So I took myself up there for 3 days. (I’d have been thrilled to stay for 3 months, but my budget would have been most unhappy.)

Anyway, I found it an incredible experience in so many ways. The prequel was set in 1837, while the other one was 1961. Almost all of the buildings in the main portion of the island port were in existence before the first of these! Some of them had been remodeled, it’s true, or added on to, but they were basically as they’d been since about 1800. The Fort, however, predated both stories, having been dismantled from the burnt-out fort on the mainland (read: Pontiac’s revenge) and brought across the frozen lake in 1781 by Captain Patrick Sinclair of the British Army. Once all the salvageable pieces were there, he set about constructing a new fort to protect the burgeoning fur trading business. Previously, the island had been home to many American Indians and the French, who came down the St. Lawrence River from Quebec and Montreal. The French also brought along their favorite flower – lilacs – and there are (or were) still some of those original trees still standing, with the help of props supporting their weary limbs.

I learned so much history about this time and place, that for the next few months, I sounded like a history book! In fact, the first travel article I ever wrote was about this ‘Enchanted Island’ as it was called until the early 1900s! You can read it here. http://www.frugalfun.com/mackinack.html  (As the article is now 17 years old, you should add that number to any of the dates mentioned therein.)

I felt the same way when I went to England. My particular favorite person from the 1400s is Katherine of Valois, who became the wife of Henry V, and it was an unaccountable thrill to visit places where she had been. Even if the inept person I encountered at Westminster Abbey (where she’s buried) had never heard of her!

So, if your story is set in a historical place, try to visit and see for yourself what it might have looked like during the time of your tale. It may have been vastly different then, but still, the ground itself will not have changed all that much, and you’ll find that extra touch of verisimilitude will imbue your work with an unprecedented degree of authenticity. Try it! I highly recommend it.

Please do feel free to ask questions, or offera  comment, if you have them. The e-mail for all inquiries is: bookmechanic@gmail.com  Thanks!

Happy Writing!

I can’t think of what to write!

9 Oct

How many times have I heard this from the attendees at a workshop or class that I was speaking to? More times than I can count, that’s for sure!  Once upon a time, young writers were told to ‘write what you know’ – never mind the fact that most of us didn’t know anything at all, at least not at that time! Or at least we didn’t know anything that anyone else would care to read about!

 Now, however, It’s just more important to get started on something, even if it’s not what you’re hoping will be the finished product. “Nothing happens until someone writes something!”  is one of my favorite sayings, and it’s true!  Actors on stage or in movies are frequently credited with having said something funny or perceptive or loving – when really, it was the writer who put the words on paper, not the actor!

 From a young age, I only knew I wanted to write. But what? That was the biggie question, and held onto that status for a good many years.  The next piece of advice was ‘write what you’d like to read.’ Oh, sure. I loved the stories of Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers and lots of other female writers of mystery novels. But I could never figure out whodunit or why, so that wasn’t much help.

(Now that I’m older and know some mystery writers, they sometimes say they didn’t know whodunit either until the very last pages of the book!) Oh, right. If the author doesn’t even know, how in the world was I supposed to be able to figure it out? So, I put my writing on hold for a while. For a long while! 

But then, I decided to write a book, only it ended up being a play instead. Well, that was okay – at least I’d finished something! There’s a lot to be said for finishing something – trust me on that.  So while I was busy trying to figure out what to do with the play I’d written, I was still reading a lot, and about a year later, an idea for a book popped into my head. Hmm, I thought. I dutifully made notes so I wouldn’t forget, and that night I dreamed about it. Well, that was strange – for me, that is. I know authors who dream  an entire book, then just sit down and write it. Not me.

But still I made more notes, and after it happened the third time, I began to wonder if I was getting secret messages from Mars, or was it finally my time to write? YES! It was. Three weeks after I started it, there was BERTIE’S GOLDEN TREASURE! It was a novel set during the British Regency period, and I was so proud of it! But what to do with it? That wasn’t so easy, but eventually I found my way to Romance Writers of America, and twenty years later, it was published!

Of course, by the time Bertie saw daylight, I’d written several other books, two of which had been published in the early 1990s. Seeing your book in print never gets old. So, that’s why this blog post is a day late. (Sorry!) I’ve been busy doing what a writer/editor should be doing – writing and editing. I’m happy to say that WINDSONG is now available as a Kindle http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00FN1USEE  The cover is a tad cock-eyed, but that’ll be fixed soon, as both regular and large-print versions will also be available soon through CreateSpace.

And I’ve had an enjoyable time of working with a long-time friend to get her book ready for the world. Her Kindle version will be up first, followed by regular and large-print editions, as well!  It’s exciting – and fun!

Even if you’ve never thought of writing your own book – you might find it’s a really fun thing to do. And you’re the only one who can do it!  So – what are you waiting for?

If you have questions or comments, please do send them along.  BookmechanicATgmail.com 

Cheers!