Thursday, March 26, 2015

Oiling the Hinges of History ... by Robert Kresge

The fourth volume of Winston Churchill’s award-winning memoir of World War II concerns the D-Day landings and is entitled The Hinge of Fate. Historical events can lend themselves to great storytelling for novelists. We need not use events as momentous as famous battles. Even little recognized events can provide opportunity for writers to apply the oil of plot complexity and character interaction.

Discovering a real event, plan, or even a rumor can serve as a pivotal hinge for research, for character motivation, and for developing relationships between characters within an author’s chosen historical setting. When such a story involves real history, finding a hinge around which your story can revolve and oiling it as much as needed are important considerations in completing research, focusing the plot, and writing an entertaining historical novel.

Likewise, readers’ investment in the resulting story is enhanced when an author uses real or plausible new information that contributes to that “willing suspension of disbelief” that all novelists seek. Mark Twain said, “Always be sure you get your facts straight. Then you can twist ’em any way you want.” So I’ve put words in the mouths of such historical figures as Twain himself, Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses Grant, Jefferson Davis, Yellowstone explorer Ferdinand Hayden, famous landscape painter Thomas Moran, Russian Grand Duke Alexis, Buffalo Bill Cody, George Armstrong Custer, and even Crazy Horse, though he spoke no English.

When I was writing my first novel, Murder for Greenhorns, my heroine recalls that Sam Clemens (Twain) told her “Nowadays, Truth goes out in public so seldom, most folks wouldn’t recognize her if they saw her.” My wife complimented me on finding such a good quote. I admitted that I hadn’t been able to find a good enough quotation, so I made that one up.

“How dare you do that? Mark Twain is a beloved American icon.”

“Dear, there isn’t anyone who believes that Julius Caesar and Richard III actually said the words that Shakespeare put in their mouths.” If Shakespeare can do it, every author can.

My 2013 Civil War spy thriller Saving Lincoln, a finalist for the 2014 Sue Feder Memorial Award for Best Historical Mystery and winner of a 2014 Tony Hillerman Award for Fiction, relates the story of a fictional female Union spy working in Richmond who stumbles across a Confederate Secret Service plot to send a wagon bomb filled with explosives to Washington and set it off close beside the White House while Lincoln is meeting with his generals. There were no fences around the executive mansion in those days and honor guards encamped on the South Lawn carried unloaded rifles.

According to the definitive 500-page study of the Confederate Secret Service, Come Retribution, written by a trio of former CIA officers, Richmond really did consider such a plot. And on April 10th, 1865, an important member of the South’s Torpedo Bureau (explosive devices of all kinds) was captured on Munson Hill, overlooking Arlington, Virginia and the city of Washington. There is no record that Federal soldiers found a wagon bomb, and no record of such a device was found in Richmond, where most documents had been burned or carried off by fleeing Confederate officials as the city was falling to Federal troops. The idea of such a device and the Munson Hill arrest served as the hinges I used to plot my 352-page novel.

My 1870s Wyoming mysteries, set in the first place in world where women could vote, includes other hinges I found. My female protagonist, schoolteacher Kate Shaw, is drawn to that place when her application letter is accepted by the fictional small town of Warbonnet, population 130, on the edge of Indian territory. Hinges for plots in this series involve Lincoln’s 1863 Land Grant Proclamation, the 1871 Hayden expedition to Yellowstone, Russian Grand Duke Alexis’ 1872 buffalo hunting trip with Custer and Cody, the presence of Crazy Horse in Wyoming in 1873, and intensely competitive dinosaur hunters from back East in 1874.

Even if you’re not writing historical fiction, placing a plausible recent event into the context of a contemporary novel can give any author a springboard into a richer plot and maybe inspire an entire novel.

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Thanks for being my guest today, Rob! I love to read historicals and am always in awe of the research that goes into producing a fictional but believable novel featuring well-known personalities. Saving Lincoln sounds like a top-notch read.

Readers can learn more about Rob and his books at his website. His newest novel, Unearthing the Bones, is coming soon.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Colorado Gold Contest Opens April 1st

All you unpublished novelists...Get Ready, Set, Submit!

The Colorado Gold Contest is about to open, and it's a wonderful opportunity to get your work in front of impartial judges who will give you a lot of good feedback. And who knows, you might just make the finals.

All of the information about the contest and the submission rules are on the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers website contest page.

To whet your appetite, here are the final judges for 2015 for each category:

Action/Thriller: Denise Dietz, Senior Editor, Five Star Publishing
Mainstream: Danielle Burby, Agent, Hannigan Salky Getzler Agency
Mystery/Suspense: Trish Daly, Associate Editor, William Morrow/HarperCollins
Romance: Latoya Smith, Executive Editor, Samhain Publishing
Speculative Fiction: Emily S. Keyes, Agent, Fuse Literary
YA/MG: Melissa Jeglinski, Agent, The Knight Agency

Don't be shy. Even if you don't final or win, you'll get that helpful feedback that might help you win next year.

April 1st. Mark your calendar.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The winners of ARCs for "The Readaholics and the Falcon Fiasco"

Our first winner, who correctly guessed the answer to Laura DiSilverio's question

is Marilyn Beebe

Laura generously donated two more ARCs to give away, so thanks to random.org

Terry

and Patricia Smith Wood

also will receive an advance read of the first book in Laura DiSilverio's new

Readaholics mystery series.



Terry, would you please contact us with an email and/or mailing address? There's a link to my email account in my profile -- the link is in the top right sidebar of this blog.

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Readaholics ... by Laura DiSilverio

Normally, my books grow out of a plot point, inciting incident, or protagonist. With the Readaholics, the series idea grew out of relationships. I wanted to write about the growth and interaction of five quite different women who all come together for a monthly book discussion (usually of a classic mystery).

The "I" voice in the story belongs to Amy-Faye Johnson, a 32-year-old event planner. She's been hung up on a former boyfriend for years, but since starting her own small business, Eventful!, and buying a small house, she's ready to move on. Luckily, an attractive detective has recently moved to Heaven, Colorado from Atlanta.

Her best friend, Brooke Widefield, is also a Readaholic. Amy-Faye's age, she married into Heaven's richest family immediately after graduating from college. A former Miss Colorado, she's itching to do something worthwhile with her life (her inlaws object to her working) and have a baby.

Lola Paget was a year ahead of Amy-Faye and Brooke in high school and she went off to Texas A&M for her degree in Chemistry before returning to Heaven and the failing family farm which she has turned into a successful plant nursery. She supports her grandmother and teenage sister, whom she practically raised since their parents died when Lola was fifteen.

Maud Bell is the group's oldest member at 66. She's a hunting/fishing guide during the summer and builds websites and maintains a conspiracy theory blog (www.outtogetyou.com) during the winter. A former activist and corporate bigwig, she distrusts governments and police departments and frequently butts heads with the town's mayor (also a Readaholic).

Kerry Sanderson is in her late 40s and has a teenage son living at home. Her daughter and grandson live in an apartment over the garage. A self-made women who succeeded in real estate, Kerry is Heaven's part-time mayor and the voice of reason when the Readaholics start poking into the murder of their sixth member, Ivy Donner.

Expect lots of humor when these five women dive into investigating Ivy's murder in The Readaholics and the Falcon Fiasco. They quickly discover that reading about murder is a different prospect entirely than solving one . . .

I've had tons of fun getting to know these women as I write about them, and I hope you'll enjoy meeting them, too. Please pre-order the book by clicking here for release on April 7th!

(Oh, and in each outing they're reading a different classic mystery that somehow plays into the murder they're solving. I'll give away a signed ARC to the first person to comment with a correct guess as to what book they're reading in The Readaholics and the Falcon Fiasco!)

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I love the idea of the Readaholics, Laura. Thanks for introducing your cast of characters. I'm pretty sure I know the classic mystery answer.....let's see which of our readers gets it first.

Laura DiSilverio is a retired Air Force intelligence officer and author of 15 mystery and suspense novels. Her first Book Club Mystery, THE READAHOLICS AND THE FALCON FIASCO, hits stores on April 7. Her standalone suspense novel, THE RECKONING STONES, debuts in September. A Past President of Sisters in Crime, she pens articles for Writer’s Digest, and teaches writing in various fora. She plots murders and parents teens in Colorado, trying to keep the two tasks separate.

Learn more about Laura and her books at her website and blog.  She can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Power of Persistence ... by April J. Moore

Thank you for having me, Pat. It’s always an honor to be a guest on your wonderful blog!

Chances are, as a writer, you have an old manuscript tucked away in a desk drawer, or among the deeply embedded folders in the hard drive of your computer, that every once in while calls out to you. Certain scenes—ones with clever prose, or well-done humor—will cross your mind every so often. You know there’s just something about that manuscript . . . but there it sits, untouched, unedited, unpublished.

When I started Bobbing for Watermelons, my first attempt at a novel, back in 2004, I had no clue what I was doing, but thanks to my critique group, I soldiered on. In 2008, it became a Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Colorado Gold finalist, but even then, it needed work (as evidenced by the mounting rejections I continued to accumulate). I set it aside and began a new project. Over the years I thought about it, even swearing I’d heard it call to me through my laptop speakers. I’m pretty sure it was my main character, Helen, telling me she was tired of being ignored. By last year, she was really fed up and screamed at me to pay attention.

So I did.

During a three-day writing retreat through the Northern Colorado Writers, I edited the first third of the book. I spent a lot of that time cringing, embarrassed I had actually sent it to agents. At the same time, I was pleased to see how far I’d come in the ten years of studying the craft of writing. Putting that much distance between myself and the manuscript gave me new perspective; the book wasn’t ready for publication back then and I needed to grow as a writer.

When I started the book, I was around 27 with a six-year-old, and now, I’m closer to my character’s age who also has teenagers. I finally could relate to her, which led to more vivid, realistic scenes that I only guessed at before. At last, I felt the emotions my character would experience in certain situations, and I could convey them in a way that rang true and authentic.

Not only was my goal to write a great novel, but to make it a publishable one as well, so if a section didn’t work, I didn’t bat an eye when cutting it out. I deleted scenes, added chapters, and even rewrote the entire last third of the book. Applying the lessons and techniques I’d learned over the years, from being both an avid reader and writer, I ended up with a book I’m very proud of.

I encourage you to unearth an old manuscript, breathe new life into it—perform CPR if necessary—and see what it has to say. My characters usually don’t talk to me—or at least I don’t typically admit they do—but Helen’s voice rang out loud and clear. She wanted her story told, and I knew deep down, so did I.

April is giving away one copy of Bobbing for Watermelons to a U.S. or Canada reader who leaves a comment on today's post by midnight Mountain Time Saturday, March 21st. The winner's name will be posted here on Sunday.

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April, thanks so much for being my guest today. Can't wait to read Bobbing for Watermelons.

April J. Moore grew up writing and drawing and continues on both paths, providing illustrations for cards, journals, and books. A love of history, resulted in her first book, Folsom’s 93: The Lives and Crimes of Folsom Prison’s Executed Men and her love of humor and quirky characters, encouraged to write Bobbing for Watermelons. When not writing or illustrating, April is usually enjoying the Colorado sunshine by working in her vegetable garden, kayaking, or hiking, and spends the cold, wintry months curled up with a good book and a mug of tea. Her favorite activities, however, is spending time with her husband, sixteen-year-old son, and ninety-five-pound lap dog.

Bobbing for Watermelons, a work of women’s fiction, is due for release in late March 2015, from Hot Chocolate Press. April’s first book, Folsom’s 93: The Lives and Crimes of Folsom Prison’s Executed Men (Linden Publishing, 2013) is available at Amazon. You can learn more about April at AprilJMoore. She can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Housebound and Trying to Make Lemonade....

Okay, here I sit (briefly) with my wrapped and splinted foot elevated and an ice pack on my ankle, on day one two of my recovery from foot surgery. Yesterday Monday afternoon I had a screw put in a break in the fifth metatarsal of my right foot.

First thing I will assure you I will not be posting photos of the incision, so don't worry about following me on Facebook or Twitter.

You might be curious how I did such a thing to myself. I'm not real sure. I did a lot of walking through airports to get over to Illinois, did a lot of walking at my destination to run errands and such, and then walked again at O'Hare -- halfway to my gate I stopped for caramel corn and then for lunch. And when I started to continue my journey to my gate, I was hit with excruciating pain in my foot and could not put my full weight on it. The rest of that walk was awful, and by the time I got to DIA, I had no choice but to order a wheelchair. I have been on crutches and a walking boot until yesterday Monday (and had instructions not to put weight on the foot even with the boot). And after a few days of the dressing and splint, I will get a cast which will stay on for a while. It will not be a walking cast.

Now I'm either in a chair on on the couch with the foot elevated, and when I have to move about the house, I stand, pivot on the good leg, and sit in the wheelchair. This will be my life for the next few weeks.

And once again, my knee replacement surgery has been postponed. That's life.

We have more guest bloggers here through April 2nd and then I might be doing the transfer to the new website/blog. I'm not sure of the timing yet, but when I'm ready to schedule more guests, I'll let you know.

I'll be doing lots of reading now and have a list of movies to watch. And of course, I'm hoping for some writing time if I can sit up long enough. I'll post here when I can.

If you have some great book recommendations or must-watch movies, let me know.