Thursday, April 29, 2010

My Great Grandmother's Iris

Every spring as long as I can remember the purple and yellow iris would bloom along the wall bordering my parent's house. Their deep pearly hues would bring splendid elegance to the post World War II cape cod home, with its white shingles and deep green shutters.

As a little girl I'd look at the blooms every day. There would be new blooms here and there, and the pedals of their elders would wither and droop in close succession. I grew up alongside this humble, but imperious garden and my love for it deepened over the years into nostalgia. 

My husband and I bought our first home in 1991. One of the first things we did was build garden plots. My father offered me a boatload of iris bulbs, and they are scattered in the front and rear yards. I can hear him as clear as day say, "These must be at least one hundred years old." What he really meant was the bulbs had been coming and going for a century. He too had inherited bulbs out of his parents' garden. They inherited theirs from my great grandmother's garden in Washington DC.

Alice Horan Stepper started the tradition of passing down bulbs by giving some to her daughter Florence after she was married in 1911. She had no idea that all these years later the purple iris would be blooming in her great granddaughter's yard, sixty miles away from where they originally grew. For all we know, Alice might have acquired her bulbs from her mother. 

I think of notable books such as The Secret Garden, A Child's Garden of Verses, or my own novels where I do not neglect to include nature --- forest, fields, moor, mountain, garden, and hedgerow. In writing fiction, do not fail to include the surroundings of your characters. They live 'inside' a house. But there is the 'outside'.

Remember in Sense and Sensibility when Marianne hurt her ankle? Willoughby brought her a fist-full of wildflowers. Colonel Brandon brought her a bouquet of hot house blooms. That scene alone told us so much about all three characters and intensified the romantic in Marianne, but also intensified the rivalry and dislike between Willoughby and Brandon. If Jane had simply written that they stopped by to visit, without any flowers, it would have made the scene dry.

So by all means, pass some perennials down to your children.  .  .and don't forget your readers.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Young, married, and wishing to be cowboys...

I had to post this. It's another clip from the Frederick News Post 100-years ago. Just goes to show nothing is new under the sun. Boys will be boys.

David Knight must not have been happily married if he had decided to run off with 16-year-old Elmer Tabler for the plains of Ok to become cowboys. Imagine, Elmer's father advised the authorities to arrest these lads. I wonder what Elmer was charge with. Was it illegal to run away from home back in 1910? I don't doubt Mr. Knight was charged with abandoning his wife. What were they thinking? Can you imagine what he faced when he got home to his wife?

Here's the actual clip.
David Knight, a young married man of Hagerstown, (Maryland) and Elmer Tabler, 16-year-old son of Edward Tabler, of Mondel, were arrested in Hagerstown upon advice received from young Tabler’s father, who stated that they were running away to Oklahoma to become cowboys.

Once again, if you write fiction, newspaper clips can give you some interesting ideas.


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Just to let you know....

....a few things going on. I'm working on a 'secret project'. I love secret adventures like this one. Thing is, I've been exhausted but that is part of the deal. When the right time comes, I'll make an announcement about what it is.

Liz Curtis Higgs, one of the Christian book industries bestselling and well-loved authors of historical fiction will be featured in 'Stepping Stones Magazine for Readers' in May. Liz's new book 'Here Burns My Candle' was just released. The link is right there in the side bar. See it? Pop over. Linda Clare and Loree Lough are featured at present with their 'Letters to Readers'.

Cynthia Ruchti, president of American Christian Fiction Writers will also be featured in May on SSMR, my fellow Abingdon author. Her book 'They Almost Always Come Home' was recently released.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Finding What Works for You

If you put a group of writers in a room, and you ask the questions, 'What techniques do you use to write a novel? What helps you to get-r-done?" you will get a variety of answers.

Some might say:
"I outline."
"I use a storyboard."
"I use index cards."
"I write on the seat of my pants."

No method is wrong. You have to find what works for you. 

When I wrote my first full-length novel back in the mid-90s, I didn't own a computer. I wrote the entire thing out by hand first, then when I purchased one of those typewriters with the small computer screen that was attached, I typed it out and saved it on a floppy disk.

When my husband realized how serious I was about this writing thing, he insisted I move up to a computer with a printer.

But back to handwriting. This is the method I use to get-r-done. I call it rapid writing. You do not pause to edit. You just write and write as the scene unfolds in your imagination.

When I begin a new novel, I buy a hefty loose leaf notebook and label it with the book title. To get the momentum going, I write on the first pages about the main characters - my hero and heroine, their names and information about them. 

I put on some classical music, sit at my dining room table or out on the deck with notebook and pen. (Do this away from your computer desk.) I then start writing out scenes as I see them in my mind. I have a brain that is visual. I see my stories like movies. Thus I write down what I see on the silver screen of my imagination. I write quickly this way and can get an entire chapter written in one sitting...which usually lasts for several hours. Then I transcribe the scene into my Word document. It changes of course...tweaked here and there...added to and subtracted from. But it works for me. It's the best way to overcome writers block in my opinion.

Of course when the first draft is finished there is the time for revisions. A historical takes me several months to write, sometimes a year depending. But now that I have a relationship with a fantastic publisher I am committed to deadlines. Rapid writing is what's getting me to my goal of a complete manuscript on time.

What methods do you use to get-r-done, to build momentum in the writing of your novel?

P.S. If you do write your stories in a notebook, keep them, and date them. Put them in a safe place. You may have a grandchild or great grandchild that will want them one day.