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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Wednesday on Writing: Body Language Basics

As writers we're often reminded to show rather than tell, and it can be a difficult thing for a writer to learn.  Even after nearly thirty years of studying the craft, I still have to remind myself to do it sometimes.

In case you're new to the craft of writing, let me explain: When you're in one character's PV and you want to get something across to the reader about the emotions of the non-PV character, basic body language is a great help.  Clenched fists, furrowed brows, a flex of the jaw, eyes cast downward--these are all great non-verbal, non telling cues. And we all know what they mean when we see them. (I realize I rushed that explanation; if you want to know more, I'd be glad to post a longer blog about it.  Just ask.)

I recently found a site on YouTube that takes videos clips of famous (and infamous) people and dissects their body language.  I warn you, though, it's addicting!  I highly recommend it if you struggle with showing rather than telling, or if you just want to take your body language skills up a notch.

I hope you find it fun and informative.

Happy writing!

Nic

Monday, July 17, 2017

Monday Morning Musing

Had a busy weekend though I can't complain about it.  Got to see some old friends at a graduation party over the weekend, people I grew up with and even one person from high school.  The pictures sent to me afterward had me wondering who those old, fat people were wearing our clothes.  ;o)

Sunday was largely spent working in the yard with hubby and dog nearby. Bliss.

Since I didn't get time to think about what to blog about, I leave you with this gem from Maxine.

Hope you had a wonderful weekend!

Nic





Friday, July 14, 2017

Friday Inspiration

Once upon a time this spot was reserved for a feature called Friday Friends, where fellow authors answered interview questions and promoted their latest story.

But since I'm still getting my feet wet at blogging again, and the main visits to this page have been from me, checking to see if I've had visitors, :o) I think I won't try that just now.

Instead I'll leave you with some writing inspiration, something I have loved for many years and have probably shared before.  But for me, it never gets old:

The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: A human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive. To him... a touch is a blow, a sound is a noise, a misfortune is a tragedy, a joy is an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is a god, and failure is death. Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create -- so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, his very breath is cut off from him. He must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency he is not really alive unless he is creating.
-Pearl S. Buck

Happy weekend!


Nic




Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Wednesday on Writing: Conflict and Character Conundrums

Part of getting to know my characters again involved re-reading Wild Texas Wind, the story in which the hero, Kip Cooper, was initially introduced. It's been an enjoyable time reliving that story, but the problem remains the same: turning a scoundrel into a hero.

Sounds fun, right?  Maybe.  Yes, I loved Kip when I was writing for him, and of all my secondary characters, he gets the most mention.  Everyone wants him to have a story. Including me.

But herein lies the problem. He's not hero material.  He was introduced as a side kick, a bad boy, a con, a cheat. But secondary characters don't have to be quite as complicated as heroes and heroines --they don't have to be heroic (certainly not when you're creating them with no plans to give them their own story, as I did).  I did lay the groundwork for his "reawakening" toward the end of WTW, a near death encounter had left him shaken and ready to change his ways.  But by the end of the book, it's clear he's struggling with the whole "leopard changing spots" idea.

So Wild Texas Bride is partly about Kip's journey to becoming a hero, he's thrust into a position where he learns to care about someone more than himself, even as he's saving his own hide in the process (because Kip is all about saving his own hide--at least he was in the past). Easy peasy, right?

Not so fast.

Now, more than halfway into the book, he's taken my conflict and blown it to bits (I won't bore you with the details). And you know what? Without a conflict, there's no story. That's the first thing that jumped out at me when I opened up WTW to re-read.  Conflict. Convinced this was just a fluke, I grabbed my copy of Northern Temptress and read a few pages.  The first thing to hit me? Conflict.  The same thing happened with The Model Man.  Conflict, conflict, conflict. Maybe this is why I've been struggling to finish this story--it needs more conflict!

So how to wrangle your characters back onto the proper path when they've taken off in a direction of their own choosing? I've always let the characters drive the story, they seem to know more than I, so my gut tells me to simply take this journey with them and see where they lead the story.

I'll keep you posted.

Meanwhile, I am going to take my own advice and re-read everything I've written so far in WTB, just to reacquaint myself with the story.

BTW the picture of Owen Wilson is more than just eye candy. This is pretty close to how I picture Kip.





Monday, July 10, 2017

Monday Morning Musing... Is Blogging Still Relevant?

So a week or so back, while looking for the post on the heroes of Gettysburg (turns out, I had never posted it here, but on another blog) I came across my old author blog.  I say "old" because I'd forgotten all about it, neglected it, and quite honestly, thought I'd deleted it ages ago.

As I scrolled through, I was struck by how many memories it brought back.  Of my dad during the long journey of his illness, my boys when they were just little guys, my beloved dog when he was just a pup.  I've never been one for keeping a journal (Yikes! I don't want anyone reading my most private thoughts after I'm gone) but this was the next best thing.  A snapshot of a time in my life that was very different than now. Not better or worse, per se, just... different. Life now is teenagers (who ever said boys don't do teen drama was very, very wrong!) elderly in-laws who are not well, worrying about hubby, whose health is affected by the stress of caring for said IL's on his own and an old dog who, at 11-1/2 is slowing down on me. But here I am, still trying to balance, home, job, kids, etc without sacrificing sanity.

When I reached a milestone birthday last fall, it triggered not quite what I'd call a midlife crisis so much as evaluating and taking stock. I realized I'd let life and work push writing to the background and that I went days at a time without doing something for myself--not even one small thing.  I guess as moms we just get used to putting ourselves last, but I realized I was letting something important slip away--the writer in me.

I reconnected with my longtime critique partner and have been trying to resurrect my writing self.  It's hard.  That same muscle that we know gets stronger with regular writing definitely has weakened from lack of use. And reconnecting with characters I created a decade or more ago hasn't been easy, but I really want to get to know them again and see where they take their story. The new characters clamoring for space in my head can wait their turn.  ;o)

So here I am, trying to find time in my day for a little writing and, since I realized how much I'd missed blogging, trying to resurrect that as well, at least once or twice a week.

We'll see if life lets it happen!




Saturday, July 1, 2017

The Other Heroes of Gettysburg

 I’ve always loved American history, in particular the Civil War. And when it comes right down to it, I admit…I’m obsessed with Gettysburg. So obsessed that I set my 2014 release, Northern Temptress, right in the midst of it all.
But it's not just the bloody battle fought by soldiers in blue and grey that intrigues me— it's the battle fought by some incredibly brave people. The civilians of Gettysburg.

 Since we are smack dab in the middle of the anniversary of the battle (July 1-3, 1863) I'd like to introduce you to some of the heroes you may not have heard of.
Some fast facts before we meet our civilian heroes:
The town of Gettysburg consisted of 2,400 civilians. 
When the armies moved out, they left behind 22,000 wounded men. 

In all 51,000 men were reported killed or missing. 
And let’s not forget the hundreds of horses, mules and livestock killed during the battle.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t even imagine having my hometown turned upside down by a battle of that scale and then being left to deal with the results of said  battle. 

While John Burns and Jennie Wade are arguably the most famous civilians of Gettysburg, there are other unsung heroes and heroines who quietly did what needed to be done.

Elizabeth Thorn.  German immigrant who was acting as caretaker of Evergreen Cemetery, a job normally performed by her husband, Peter.  But Peter was with the 138th Pennsylvania, and during the Battle of Gettysburg, he was stationed at Harper’s Ferry and Washington, D.C.  Elizabeth moved her family, which consisted of her elderly parents and three sons ages 7, 5 and 2 from their little gatehouse out of harm’s way and back again more than once during the three-day battle.  She also dug graves for more than 90 dead soldiers during those three days.  Elizabeth was six months pregnant during the battle of Gettysburg.

Salome Myers.  Salome “Sally” Myers was a schoolteacher and assistant to the principal in Gettysburg.  She lived at home with her family during the battle.  Her father was a justice of the peace and the Myers’ were one of the wealthier families in town.  She admitted to being squeamish at the sight of blood, yet got over this quickly and cared for many wounded men from both sides of the battle.  She risked her life many times by traveling back and forth from her home to makeshift hospitals. In the early days of the battle she cared for a badly wounded soldier by the name of Alexander Stuart, sitting with him for days until he succumbed to his injuries.  In late July of 1863 she received a thank you letter from his mother.  A year later Stuart’s mother—along with his brother Henry—traveled to Gettysburg to personally thank Miss Myers.  A romance developed between Sally and Henry and they married in 1867.

Matilda “Tillie” Pierce.  Tillie was only 15 years old at the time of the battle.  Her parents sent her to a neighbor’s farm to wait out the battle.  The farm sat behind what we now call “Little Round Top” and  Tillie became an eyewitness to some of the fiercest fighting of the Battle of Gettysburg.  Tillie provided food and water for the wounded and assisted surgeons and nurses caring for the wounded.  Twenty six years later she wrote of her experiences during those three days in July, 1863.
Virginia “Jennie” Wade.  Jenny, as most people know, was the only civilian killed during the battle. The twenty year old was baking bread to feed the Union soldiers when  she was struck by a single bullet that traveled through two doors on the third day of the battle. 

John Burns.  Much like Jennie Wade’s story, Mr. Burns’ story has been told and retold so many times it’s hard to separate fact from fiction.  Nearly 70 years old at the time of the battle, John Burns was a veteran of the War of 1812. When the rebels invaded his hometown, the elder patriot took up his trusty musket and joined the Union soldiers in battle.  He fired 18 of his 25 rounds of ammunition before he was wounded, and claimed to have killed three rebels.

Elizabeth Butler, AKA “Old Liz”.  53 year old Elizabeth Butler was a washerwoman in Gettysburg.  Her husband Samuel was a wagon maker. They owned their own home and enjoyed a comfortable standard of living compared to most African-Americans in 1863.  In the earliest days of the battle Old Liz was taken captive by the Confederate army, with plans to be returned to the south and sold into slavery.  She escaped her captors and returned home the day after the Confederate army retreated. 

Daniel Skelly.  Daniel was a teenager during the battle. While confederate troops camped in the street outside his home on Baltimore Street, Daniel and his mother hid union soldiers in their cellars and outbuildings. Later during the battle he helped his mother care for wounded soldiers.
Daniel also went on to write about his experiences. 

Catherine Garlach.  Catherine and her 12-year-old son, Will also lived on Baltimore Street. Since their house was in direct line of fire for Union sharpshooters, they hid in their basement.  Several times Confederate soldiers tried to commandeer the Garlach home –and each time they were driven back by Mrs. Garlach herself. 

Albertus McCreary.  First young Albertus was nearly killed by Confederate sharpshooters while peeking out a rooftop door of his home.  Then a short while later, while standing on the porch of his family home, wearing a Union kepi given to him by a solider, a Confederate officer tried to take him captive, assuming he was a soldier.  It was only over the protest of his father, and after questioning several neighbors as to whether or not the boy actually lived in town, that the officer let him go.

Agnes Barr.  While other townspeople hid inside their homes on July 3, avoiding the fetid smell of decaying men and animals, Mrs. Barr left her home on Baltimore Street—darting between buildings to avoid the sharpshooters—many times in order to take food and supplies to the makeshift hospitals and care for wounded soldiers. 


Source: When the Smoke Cleared at Gettysburg, George Sheldon; Days of Darkness: The Gettysburg Civilians, William G. Williams; What A Girl Saw and Heard by Tillie Pierce Allman; A Boy’s Experiences During the Battle of Gettysburg by Daniel Skelly.

Wednesday on Writing: Body Language Basics

As writers we're often reminded to show rather than tell, and it can be a difficult thing for a writer to learn.  Even after nearly th...