Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The wonders of Tumblr

A few months ago I joined Tumblr so I could participate in photo scavenger hunts with my sis and SIL. Haven't done much of that to be honest. BUT I've had a grand time finding cool Tumblrs to follow.

I follow Historical Non Fiction, All Things Europe, Historiful (pictures of 30's, 40's and 50's movie stars), My Daguerreotype Boyfriend, Soviet Post Cards, 18th Century and my new favorite Old Rags.

Old Rags is entirely fashion. 18th and 19th century fashion to be precise. With lovelies from the 1770's, the 1870's, 1850's, 1830's and pretty much everything else from the 1600's to the 1920's. I see myself carving out time from somewhere to sit and scroll through all the pages of Old Rags. My inner historical costume nerd is in heaven.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Monday, November 14, 2011

Review: His Steadfast Love

His Steadfast Love
by Golden Keyes Parsons

This book is totally separate from the Darkness to Light series, but related at the same time. One minor character is a Clavell descendent. And as in her previous series, each character struggles with doing what is right in a world turned upside down, where each side believes they're right.

Amanda Belle is a woman caught between the sides of the Civil War. Her father is a slave owner, her brother fights with Terry's Texas Rangers, and the man she loves is an officer in the Union army.

What drew me to this book isn't just that I know Golden and consider her a dear friend. I'm also a sucker for Civil War stories, and in this book she mentions the oft-forgotten, destined to fail Red River Campaign of April-May, 1864.

I'm a Confederate through and through, just so you know. I thought Golden handled the complexities of the war with grace, humility, and a light touch without ever playing down the wounds inflicted on both sides. Wounds the South still struggles with and lives with every day. Not once does she tell the reader what to think. Nor does she take the easy way out of turning every Southern character into an abolitionist. I hate it when authors do that.

At first I wasn't sure how the title related to a Civil War story. I kept thinking it was odd. After reading the book, no other title would work. It beautifully sets forth the theme of the book, without slapping you upside the head with it.

If you love Civil War novels, this one is a must-read. My only complaint is I wish more of Kent's POV had been included. In a romance, his POV is always my favorite.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Another milestone

I love it when the milestones start piling up.

First you have to finish it. Check!

I was asked to cut The Color of Love down to 100,000 words. Check!

Every writer needs to edit their manuscript. Check!

Now I'm curious as to how many more passes I'll have to make. For the sake of time and the fact it's been requested by two agents, I really hope two more will be enough. There comes a time when you get sick of it and I'd rather not put a check mark next to that milestone.

Yet.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

ACFW Conference report

It's been three weeks since the ACFW conference. It goes down in memory as one of the best weekends of my entire life.

My Facebook friends and my fellow European lovers found this out the day it happened. But I haven't shared it here yet.

I went with a completed novel, for the first time. I pitched said novel to Tamela Hancock Murray and Rachelle Gardner. Both fall into the category of "dream agent".

Both of them asked for the full manuscript! And Tamela asked for the series proposal too. So I get to put my first proposal together. I'm still in edits and revisions, but they both know that. And besides, I want to send in the best work I am capable of right now. And if that means I don't submit till November, I'm fine with it.

I didn't come home with any new amazing breakthroughs in craft. But I did come home poised for the next step in the writing journey, and completely refreshed in spirit. God did indeed give me this gift of writing and an over-active imagination. And He wants me to develop it and use it to the best of my ability. Who am I to argue with God?

And the cherry on top is my mom--and probably everyone else who knows me--is praying I'll have to choose between the two of them. I might faint if that happens!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Why is Russia a hard sell?

Earlier this week a comment was left on a previous post, and I think it deserves a long-ish response.

The comment was left by Margaret Piton:
I too am trying to sell a novel, suspense variety, set in Russia in the 1990s. I have tons of credentials in non-fiction, but the novel is going nowhere so far. Why do you think Russia is such a hard sell?
 Well, I have some thoughts on this, but they are by no means "the answer".

First and foremost, I think a big part of the problem is pronunciation of names and words. For example, SCHEGOLEVATYH, SHESHUKOV, ZMYZGOV, DJAVAHISHVILI. These are all last names pulled from a Russian surname website that I refer to when creating characters. I can pronounce all of them--albeit slowly--but I'd wager most Americans can't.

Second, for many Christian fiction readers, publishers, and editors, Russia was the enemy for much of their lives. Russia was the antithesis of freedom and democracy. In some ways it still is. I was 6 when the Berlin Wall came down, and had just turned 10 when Boris Yeltsin and his tanks took down the Soviet Union. I don't remember the "Red Menace". I understand why it was important to get rid of it, but my fascination with Russia coincided with their rediscovery of the treasures of the Russian Empire.

Third, the Russian mindset is so foreign to Americans. We don't understand why Russians think the way they do, why they revere Stalin and deny the existence of the gulag. We don't understand Russian societal and class structure. There is no understanding of basic human rights from property to religion to freedom of speech. Winston Churchill wasn't kidding when he said Russia is a "riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma." It's also true that the only real danger to the Russian people is the Russian people. They have not been conquered by an outside invader since Genghis Khan. And they overthrew Khan control many decades before everyone else.

It takes time and thought and more than a little fascination and study to even begin to grasp the Russian mindset. Most Americans simply aren't willing to spend time on something like that. In most ways, it's the opposite of the American mindset. We value our right to private property, whether it be land or personal possessions. Until 1860, there was no concept of private property in Russia. The average Russian had no idea it was possible to own your own land, instead of renting it from the nobles, who in turn usually rented it from the tsar.

So why do a few of us continue to write about Russia, even though it's the closest thing to an impossible sell in existence? Simple. We dug past the surface, found a culture rich beyond belief, and got sucked through the looking glass. Totally and completely. For me there is no going back to pre-Russia obsession, or even the desire to go back. It's hard to explain to someone who hasn't taken the time to go past the surface taught in history class.

Most never make it past the riddle of Russia. Those of us who do are quickly caught in the mystery, and it's a very short hop to enigma. For me, the more I read and study, the more I want to know.

There's also the whole religion aspect, particularly when dealing with a historical. To be historically accurate, you have one choice: Russian Orthodox. You can find ways to make them other things, but it requires a lot of careful set-up and back story. There exists a huge bias against Catholic and Orthodox characters within Christian publishing. I don't understand why, but it is definitely there.

So there you have it. My thoughts on why Russia is such a hard sell. Unless your name is Michael Phillips, Judith Pella or Tom Clancy, it is extremely difficult to sell a book set in Russia. But I will continue to try. Even if I have to eventually go the small press route.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Review: Wings of a Dream

Wings of a Dream by Anne Mateer


I signed up to influence for this book because I've known Anne for several years through one of my writer's groups. I was so excited when she finally sold this book.

It is in first person, and that's my only complaint. But I knew that going into it. As long-time readers know, first person is not my favorite viewpoint because it usually does not include the hero.

I loved this glimpse into life on a farm in early 20th century Texas. And not just any farm, but a cotton farm. Something I've been doing a ton of research on the last few months.

The setting is common enough--Texas--and it's the year that sets it apart. 1918. It opens six weeks before the end of World War One and touches on the Spanish flu epidemic that killed hundreds of thousands of people.

Rebecca is a girl longing for a life bigger than what she sees before her. That's something we all want. Her journey to accepting God's plan for her life resonated with me.

It's not a romance, so don't pick it up looking for that. There's a strong romantic element with a HEA ending, but it's not a romance. Still a most enjoyable read and one I highly recommend.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Love versus Passion

People who know me well, whether writers or friends or family, know that my passion is Russia. When I first joined ACFW, the project I was working on is what I call The Epic and what my sister calls my Three Volume Novel. (bonus points if you know what movie/play that comes from!)

Unfortunately for me, making a first sell with something set in Russia is pretty close to impossible. The only setting more difficult is probably medieval Japan. Michael Phillips and Judith Pella I am not.

With that in mind, and since I'm serious about this writing thing, I decided it was time to change tactics a little bit. So I started thinking about things I love. The first thing that popped into my head was the South. Kind of obvious since I live here...

Specifically, Louisiana. And plantations. Louisiana is unlike any other state in the country, especially the southern states. We're French. Even now, on the eve of our statehood bicentennial, we're French. Our legal code is French in origin, those of us who grow up here default to French pronunciation when we see strange words, and in Lafayette the street signs are in English and French. When you cross into Louisiana over the Natchez, MS bridge, the welcome sign is in English and French. I'm not Creole, or French, but French things come natural to me because I've lived in Louisiana all but the first 18 months of my life.

From September 2003 to September 2007, I worked at Kent Plantation House. First as a part time tour guide, then head tour guide, then archivist. I spent the most pleasurable five months of my life typing up the ledger/day book of the second owner, Robert Cruikshank Hynson.

In the pages of that book, a plantation was born in my head. Four years ago I decided to turn it into a novel starring the mulatto son of a French Creole cotton planter and the South Carolina born governess he falls in love with. It started out as my "yellow fever story". Naturally it morphed and grew and turned into a three book series, the fever became typhoid, and lo and behold I finished my first novel!

Why did I do that? Because it's something that stands a better chance of getting me in the door and making that crucial first sale. And it's part of a plan. I love my state, I love French Creole history and culture.

But my passion is still Russia. My passion will always be Russia. I've spent the last three years looking for a way to bring a Russian to 19th century Louisiana. I finally found it, and with that book I will introduce my love of all things Russian.

I'm still Russian Rachel! The only difference is I now have a plan. A way to make that crucial first sale, build a reputation as a writer in love with exotic and slightly foreign cultures, and open the door to actually selling The Epic. (which is what I'm working on right now, to reset my brain before starting revisions)

Monday, August 8, 2011

I did it!

I finally did it. I typed THE END on my very first completed novel. At 1:54 pm yesterday afternoon.

Everything has changed now. And yet everything is still the same. I am now completely at ease with calling myself an author, a writer, and a novelist.

I can't remember the statistic for the number of people who want to write a novel. It's big. Very big. But less than a fourth of them actually finish one.

My final word count clocked in at 110,320. I've got some cutting to do, but not as much as you think. I'm targeting Revell, and I love 100K+ books. So that's what I wrote. I only need to cut about 7,000 words. Since I build in scenes, this won't be too difficult. And I'm actually excited about it.

I'm setting it aside for a week or so, to let it settle before I start revisions. I've been wrapped up in this thing for three years so I need a little distance. In the meantime, The Epic is calling. Loudly. So I plan to indulge.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Browsing through Google Books

Writing in 1857 Alexandria, I often find myself wandering through Google Books looking for little pieces of information about this city that have been lost to time. When a city is burned to the ground, finding info prior to the fire is difficult at best, and impossible at worst.

At the time, the only semi-reliable transportation in the southern half of the state was by water, via the Mississippi, Red, and Atchafalaya Rivers. The only way to Alexandria from New Orleans was by steamboat, which is how my heroine arrived there.

While looking for more information on the steamboat routes, I've come across something helpful (I think...) and something that's a little on the ridiculous side. For your reading pleasure, from The American Traveller by T. Addison Richards, published in 1857.

"The exhalations from the marshes in the long hot summers poison the atmosphere, and make Louisiana, in much of its territory, dangerous to the acclimated, and quite unapproachable to strangers at the season when the especial features of the landscape may be seen in all their greatest glory."

Further down the page, I found this little gem.
"Besides the Mississippi and Red rivers, of which the reader will find accounts elsewhere in our volume, the streams of Louisiana do not offer very great attractions to the traveller."

Sounds ridiculous to the modern ear. But it's true! Even 154 years later, it's true. The streams of Louisiana do not offer very great attractions to the traveler. Only to the fisherman. The marshes don't poison the atmosphere, but our climate conditions do make it unapproachable to a large number of people during the summer "when the especial features of the landscape may be seen in all their greatest glory".

This same book makes mention of a railroad line from New Orleans to Alexandria and on into Texas. That line wasn't completed until the late part of the century. Even today, the bulk of our shipping is still done via the Mississippi and Red Rivers. The Port of Alexandria is one of the busiest inland non-MS River ports in the entire country, and boasts the highest military traffic in and out of any inland port.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Independence Day!


The invitation says it all.

And now here on my blog....

A couple weeks ago I found myself writing a Fourth of July picnic into the WIP. It's set on a central Louisiana French Creole plantation, and the Creoles tended to keep themselves apart from the Americans. Even in 1857.

There's only one surviving record that I know of that records Alexandria's Fourth of July celebrations. Unfortunately I don't have access to it right now and couldn't remember what Mr. Hynson said for 1857, so I made it up.

A picnic seemed like a safe choice, considering the culture I'm writing about. French Creoles weren't usually a terribly patriotic bunch of people when it came to the United States. They much preferred their own culture to that of the crass and boorish Americans.

Plantation residents always looked for an excuse to get together outside of church. Tossing in a picnic seemed like a good setting for that particular scene and sets the stage for the next Door of No Return.

I'm still going to do some stuff about French Creole architecture, but I still have to put it together. I spend yesterday writing on the WIP instead and clocked in a new daily word count high: 3,540!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

ACFW Conference: On Being A Sponge

This year's conference in St. Louis will be my fifth conference. I guess I'm somewhat of a seasoned professional.

Or not.

Like many other writers I'm an introvert. The prospect of attending my first conference was both exciting and terrifying. I'd made friends through the email loop and blogging, but what if I didn't have the nerve to talk to them? What if I end up at a table with an editor or an agent and they ask what I'm working on and I don't know what to say? What if nobody sees me?

I did find the nerve to talk to my new friends. I did end up at a table with an agent or editor and was able to talk about what I was working on. Lots of people saw me. I talked to my favorite author and she was sweet as can be. I had a great time!

A first conference experience does not have to be scary. It can be the most thrilling, exhilarating thing you've ever experienced. How?

Be a sponge.

I attended my first conference in 2007 with the mindset that I was there to have fun and learn. And that's exactly what I did. I learned new things in every class and had more fun than a barrel of monkeys. I arrived home exhausted, but happier than I'd ever been in my whole life.

I still take this mindset with me every fall. I'm not there to make that first sale, or meet that editor, or talk to that agent. If God makes it happen, great! I'm there to learn and have a good time with 600 other people who know exactly what it's like to argue with people who exist only in your head. Who don't think it's weird that someone is on the floor in the corner scribbling like a madman.

I also made the choice that first year to not make any appointments. I think that was the best choice I ever made. No pressure. At least of the pitching kind. This year, I'm doing appointments. But the thought doesn't scare me because I took the time to just observe and enjoy myself.

So if you see someone looking like a sponge, it's just me, enjoying myself and soaking up everything I can. (And if I have that glazed look in my eyes that says I'm in another world--while I'm walking--step out of my way. I won't see you in time to keep from running over you.)

Monday, June 27, 2011

New photo!

When I started using this template, I wondered if there was a way to change the photo at the top. Turns out there is, I just had to scroll through all the HTML code until I found it. Obviously, I did.

The above photo is probably the most famous balcony in all of the French Quarter. It's above the River's Edge Restaurant on the corner of Decatur and St. Ann. When you orient Jackson Square to the points of the compass, it's a diamond shape with the cathedral on the northwest side. This balcony in at the point where southeast meets northeast. Jackson Square itself is to the left of this picture and the French Market three blocks to the right.

This particular picture was taken by my friend Ria in 2006 when she came to visit me. We stared at it the whole time we ate beignets across the street at Cafe du Monde and she just had to have a picture of it. It's in mid-September.

Since I'm currently writing about French Creole culture, what better picture to have than the first mental image people get when you say French Creole?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Review: The Lady of Bolton Hill

The Lady of Bolton Hill
by Elizabeth Camden
Purchase at Amazon, B&N, or CBD.

I signed up to be an influencer for this book based partly on the cover, and partly on the prologue that Elizabeth has posted on her website. What I read intrigued me, largely in part because it starts out in the man's POV. I'm a total sucker for that.

The rest of the book did not disappoint. An excellent debut from a wonderful new author and one I am very much looking forward to reading more from.

I'll let the back cover blurb speak for itself. You can read it at any of the links above. I wish you could see the back cover of the book. It's even more beautiful than the front.

Clara Endicott is a reporter, the daughter of a well-off, influential pastor in 1870's Baltimore. Danial Tremaine is the son of a steel worker killed in a horrible accident, bent on revenge against the mill owner. Wrong side of the tracks romance; done to death, right? Elizabeth makes it fresh!

There's a good suspense thread throughout, though it is light. This is a historical romance, not a suspense. The secondary character of Bane is very intriguing. Clara shows herself a true Christian, that she's not just talk.

The writing throughout is more formal than I'm used to seeing in modern historical romances. But it worked. Well. Very evocative of the year it takes place in. The speech patterns, while stilted to modern ears, are exactly the way the people spoke back then.

It also covers another aspect that many historical writers ignore: Unions. The unions of Baltimore play a crucial role in the plot. I was very pleasantly surprised. Unions have been in the news an awful lot this year.

The passion that binds Clara and Daniel together is music, specifically Chopin. I love it when historical authors use "contemporary" composers in their books.

There's also a strong thread of redemption throughout the story, and how God will go to whatever lengths it takes to rid us of our idols. Daniel's idols are his inventions, his patents, his thirst for revenge. Sometimes threads like that can be overdone or melodramatic, in my opinion. Not this one. The entire progression was believable and never once made Daniel seem less of a man. He remained committed to his goal throughout, and allowed God to change that goal. That's a real man!

I don't believe in rehashing the back cover copy or giving you a synopsis of the book. This is what I liked about it. This is what made it fresh for me. These are the things that stood out to me.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Character ruminations

I don't identify at all with the "modern woman" or the career woman or any of that. As a consequence I really struggle with making my heroines believable. Everything that a woman was expected to be in the 19th century (and in most cases actually wanted), is my ideal of the perfect life for a woman.

The seeds of how I need to create my heroines were planted last fall in a mentor appointment with Tracie Peterson at the ACFW conference.  At first I was running with the whole "fish out of water" thing and just not fitting in.

This week I've discovered that wasn't quite right. I've been having lots of troubles with the heroine in my current WIP, The Color of Love, set in 1857 central Louisiana. Turns out I've been trying to create her based on the wrong components of my personality!

So I've totally redrafted her, chunked everything I thought I knew, and started over. Now I'm going with intelligence that threatens men, a desire to learn all she can and share that with the generation behind her, while still desiring all of the things that make the typical 19th century woman.

A historical heroine doesn't have to be a suffragete or a royal pain or a journalist or a college graduate to be forward thinking. That's a huge revelation for me. She can be forward thinking simply in the way she views the world and the books she reads and daring to have an opinion on anything and everything.

That I can relate to.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Guest post from Michelle Griep

Today I have Michelle Griep here to us about her new Viking time travel, Undercurrent.


Top 5 Reasons to Admire a Viking

Guest Blog by Michelle Griep

1. Sweet Texting Skills
The Viking alphabet, the Futhark, is a series of straight lines. Super easy to carve into a stick, a skull, what-have-you. Much of their communication has been unearthed by archeologists, down to shopping lists, threats, and love notes.

2. Viking Men Put Metrosexuals to Shame
Contrary to popular belief, Vikings were a meticulously clean and well-dressed people group. Unlike the English, they didn’t hold any ridiculous superstitions about bathing opening the door to demon possession. Once a week they soaked in their bubble bath and daily combed out their hair. Clothing was bright and fashionable, often incorporating imported silks and furs.

3. Debt Free Living
These people paid their debts and paid them fast—or were kicked out of the country. Everything had a monetary value, even a life. If you killed someone, you had to reimburse the deceased’s family (called wergild).

4. CEO Determination
They knew what they wanted and went after it. Gold and silver, mostly, though land was high on their list as well. And if a Viking showed up on your doorstep, you’d probably better cooperate. They employed ruthless practices such as the ‘blood eagle’ (I won’t go into detail to spare the squeamish at heart, but let’s just say this activity involved surgical skill, bone cracking, and organ removal).

5. Packers Suck
Enough said.

Now that your appetite is whetted for big, beefy Vikings, there’s a book you really shouldn’t pass up. Take a trip back in time and experience these wild and winsome people in UNDERCURRENT…

People go missing every day. Many meet with foul play, some leave the social grid by choice, but others are never accounted for. Such is the fate of successful linguistics professor Cassie Larson. She leads a life her undergrad students hope to attain, until she tumbles into the North Sea and is sucked into a swirling vortex…and a different century.

Alarik, son of a Viking chieftain, is blamed for a murder he didn’t commit—or did he? He can’t remember. On the run, saving a half-drowned foreign woman wasn’t in his plans.

Ragnar is a converted pagan shunned by many but determined to prove his Cousin Alarik’s innocence. He didn’t count on falling in love with Cassie or the deadly presence of evil that threatens his village in Alarik’s absence.

UNDERCURRENT…dare to be swept away. Available now at Amazon or Risen Books


BIO:
Michelle's been writing since she first discovered Crayolas and blank wall space. She resides in the frozen tundra of Minnesota with 5 other mammals (both human and canine). And don't forget to check out her debut novel, GALLIMORE...a Wizard of Oz tale with a Medieval Twist, available at Amazon or Black Lyon Publishing.


Saturday, April 30, 2011

Review: Shadowed in Silk

Shadowed in Silk by Christine Lindsay.
E-book release date:May 1
Paperback release: September 1.
Read the back cover blurb here.
Purchase for you Nook here.


Even though it's the printed word, Shadowed in Silk is a feast for the senses. Christine paints India with words that bring it to life. The textures and scents and culture of India almost breathe on the pages of her debut novel.

No part of Indian culture is left out of this book. Christine weaves Hindu words and beliefs into every chapter and does it beautifully and naturally. The themes of redemption, forgiveness and God's grace live on every page and in every decision Geoff and Abby make.

Geoff is a man struggling with his faith in the aftermath of World War One and losing many of the men under his command. I found many things in his spiritual journey that I identified with. He struggles with forgiveness, as I have over the last year.

Abby starts out a little naive. The India she returns to is not the India of her childhood. Even without knowledge of God until the end of the story, she is a woman of faith, ministering to all those around her. Especially the untouchables and orphans. The fact that she "sees" everyone around her is what draws Geoff to her.

But she's a married woman. The way Geoff dealt with those feelings is one of the rare times I've seen this done in a realistic manner in a Christian romance. He doesn't just pray about it and it magically goes away and he can be around her all the time. No, he struggles with it throughout the book, tries to avoid her, tries to see her as nothing more than a sister. In the process he hurts Abby. And grows from it.

The secondary characters are also richly drawn and just as fleshed out as the main characters. Eshanna in particular is well done. A young Hindu widow cast out by her family, she embraces a God who makes her a princess. Christine is able to give the reader a true representation of the musical accents most Indians have when they speak English. And never once does she use any sort of dialect to do it.

This book has it all. Love, betrayal and sacrifice. Spies, gun-running and suspense. Christine's love for the people of India also shows on every page. Her passion gives the story life.

Shadowed in Silk is a rich historical romance that is not to be missed. Don't let the unfamiliar setting put you off. It is well worth the time.

As of this posting the Kindle version of the book is not live yet, but keep checking. For some reason there's a delay in the book being posted on Amazon.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Review: At The Captain's Command

The third book in Louise Gouge's East Florida colony series did not disappoint. The rich prose and characters with deep convictions that I've come to expect from Louise were richly evident in this novel.

Thomas Moberly doesn't understand why the colonists are rebelling against England's rule. Dinah Templeton, younger sister of Jamie Templeton from The Captain's Lady and a devout Loyalist, captures his attention at first sight. Already aware that this is his brother-in-law's sister, he takes it on himself to make sure she's being taken care of. Unbeknownst to him their families have been scheming for years to get them together.

Dinah is living with her foster sister in St. Augustine and assists the doctor at the fort. It's there she first sees Thomas Moberly. Their romance develops quickly, but believably. I particularly loved the elegant language Thomas used to express his affections and the proposal scene goes down as one of my favorites. Dinah is a strong character, but still period appropriate. Her Quaker upbringing shows in her strong convictions that never waver.

From the moment Captain Thomas Moberly entered the scene in The Captain's Lady, I wanted to know more about him. He struck me as a man of deep character. He did not disappoint. He and Dinah are Loyalists and I found it very interesting and wonderfully written. That's not a viewpoint seen often in fiction set during the Revolutionary War. Louise made me see their side of the issue and how it mattered to them.

Having Thomas on the cover of the book is also a huge plus. The book lives up to the promises made by the cover.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Historical accuracy vs. political correctness

In one of the writer's groups I belong to, we've recently had a discussion about historical accuracy versus political correctness when trying to portray the antebellum South. It's been quite interesting and very eye-opening to learn just how many editors are out there who think political correctness should trump historical accuracy.

This bothers me. A lot. My family has lived in the South for over 200 years. My family roots go all the way back to the Mayflower. And yes, members of my family owned slaves. But they were greatly outnumbered by the tenant farmers and share-croppers in my family tree.

I think the whole hullabaloo with Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer illustrates this very thing that we, as a society, are grappling with. I also think it's a giant neon red DANGER sign that political correctness is going too far.

Rewriting history to make it "less offensive" serves no one. If we white-wash the past, how can future generations learn from it?

Yes slavery and racism was a very real problem in the South. Racism still is. But guess what? Slavery and racism have existed since the dawn of time, and neither will go away until Jesus returns. How does removing it from history make it any less of a problem?

The job of a historical novelist is not to rewrite the past. It is to paint it with the truest colors possible while not offending, so that people can learn from it and not repeat those mistakes. My current novel WIP deals with slavery, in a rather blatant manner. It's crucial to the plot. There is a character who uses "the N word"( and I don't mean the one that ends with "o"), because that's the kind of person of he is. He doesn't see his slaves as human beings. People like that really existed and we shouldn't ignore it.

If we start changing Mark Twain's written words, who's next? Will we sanitize other pieces of great literature that have "offensive" things in them? Will we go after The Picture of Dorian Gray because it might offend old people? What about Poe, or Dickens? Will they be safe?

This is a very dangerous path to tread. As a historical writer, I find it very disturbing.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Great is Thy Faithfulness

I've been reminded over the last few days how God never abandons His children. When you're in the middle of a storm it's so easy to lose sight of His hand cupped around you, shielding you from the dangers. I get so caught up in just keeping my head above water that I forget I don't have to do it on my own.

My words disappeared at the end of November, 2009. After two new personal best word counts, the week of Thanksgiving is where my life really turned upside down. I moved halfway across the country and the man I thought I knew turned out to be a lie. I was shattered and broken.

There were a few trickles here and there over the last year, but nothing consistent. Nothing really worth keeping. It took me a year to add 8,000 words to my WIP. It was torture! The desire to write would peak its head out every now and then, but it never translated into actual words.

I'd been living in a desert and forgotten how sweet it is to have the words and plot points and ideas flowing freely.

Well, the desert is being watered, the dam has broken and MY WORDS ARE BACK! It all happened last week. I'm at my Mimi's house, helping her out after surgery on her broken leg. I came up here hoping I'd get some good writing in. I would have been happy with 2,000 words.

God had other ideas. I've added 4,000 words to The Yellow Flag since Thursday. I haven't tracked the daily word counts to see which day was the most productive, but it doesn't really matter. The word count is climbing steadily again, the sub-lots are focused, all necessary characters are talking, the set-up for the sequels is being built in, and I'm having the time of my life!

Look out, world, here I come!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Yes, I am alive

If anyone actually reads this anymore, I am still alive.

Shortly after my last post to this blog, as cliche as this is my life turned inside out and upside down. And not in a good way. I'm back home in Louisiana. I won't be returning to New York.

I'm not going into any details here on the 'Net. Too risky. I've got some tough decisions to make the next couple months and I covet all the prayers I can get!

Much of last year I didn't write. The words dried up. It's only been in the last three months that things have unlocked again. I hope to get my blog back up and running this year, preferably by the end of spring. But that depends on "real life" and what all I end up having to do. I've got some ideas on better ways I can use it and keep it interesting, while building my platform.

So if you think about me, pray for clear direction on what I need to do next. Once everything is resolved I may share a little more.