Friday, September 28, 2012

The Way Back To The Facts

Someone said "Never Let Facts get in the way of a good story" and that's an important rule for the historical novelist. --
William Martin tells us we must remember that Character and Plot are master and mistress of the novel, but THE WAY BACK TO THE FACTS can be a most interesting journey. Several years ago I conducted a workshop on research after having taken that journey to research my own historical novel.
My dream was to write a multigenerational story of family members connected through three eras - a trilogy with settings in the American Revolution – The Civil War - and early Twentieth Century.   BIG DREAM !
Here are my findings which subsequently became components of a research workshop:
Books, primary & secondary sources filled with details give the power of personality, & personality breathes life into your fiction.
 HISTORY GIVES YOU STRUCTURE and structure means story or plot
It offers beginnings, middles and ends.
 HISTORY GIVES YOU SETTING to help you blend the historical with the fictional
“So, you've decided on an era, a location and the characters you wish to write about.  Some of your characters may be true characters in history.  When you can't be there physically in the setting of your story you must depend on sources of information.” That's how I began my research. My hope for a trilogy ended up as a  single Civil War story which was successfully published in hard cover and Large Print, but the research took five years!
I used Primary Resources, Secondary Resources and Internet Resources.
I Started with my community LIBRARY where I spent countless hours and received much, much help. Be that your Community library, County and State Libraries, or University Libraries,I feel libraries are my best friends and I used that statement in an acknowledgement for one of my books.
My novel was to be about American history; consequently the books below are sources I found that helped with structure and character.
Almanac of American History by Schlesinger
Chronicle of America - Clifton Daniel, Editor
Dictionary of American History (vol. 1 & Index)
American Decades (1st vol. of ten)
Millennium Year by Year A Chronicle of World History
2000 edition A Darling Kindersley Book  
Those were the biggies in my community library, but I also read countless books, fiction and non-fiction, many from the Children's Book Section.  I found children’s books clear and focused, and they contained the most important information on a given topic:
Ex.   Florida In the Civil War,& Florida Historic Homes ( points out details to be found in local settings and gives structure)  Old books like the Seminoles of Florida giving language of Native Americans. 1787 by Joan Anderson a post-revolutionary story sprinkled with true characters such as Washington, Ben Franklin, & Hamilton.
And children’s novels: The Ransom of Mercy Carter, Mildred Taylor's The Land (prequel to  Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry & Chipper,

One scene in my book took characters as passengers in  a mail boat on a trip around the Florida peninsula during the Civil War. For that setting I went to The Historical Resources Library in Sarasota, and visited their archives to find out about lighthouses in the Gulf, who lived in the Keys & how they lived.
When I needed information I couldn't find locally in Library system databases, I went to Primary sources and websites listed below and/or I used books, tapes, periodicals and publications:

Reference Collections in State Libraries

Manuscripts in University Collections and Historical Societies

Newspaper, maps and photo collections

Family History Centers of the Mormon Church

County Courts and Census Records,

The National Archives

Church and Cemetery Records

Library of Congress
           The History Channel
The above internet databases may not be valid in today’s cyber space, because I used them to research my first book twelve years ago!
Whether or not you are researching for historical fiction, today much time is saved by writers (me included) searching the internet for information. Having said that, I still feel that Libraries are a touchstone for writers.   "Libraries are my best friends."


Friday, September 21, 2012

Meet Author Carole Price by Jacqueline Seewald

Carole Price didn’t start writing until she retired. Twisted Vines is her first published novel, and the first in her Shakespeare in the Vineyard mystery series. Her protagonist is a cop/crime analyst from Ohio who inherits a vineyard and two Shakespearean theaters in Livermore, California.

Carole is a member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime. Carole is also a Buckeye. Born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, she moved to Livermore, California in 1980 with her husband and two daughters.

Question: What is the genre of your novel?  Why did you select them?

Answer: I write suspense with just a touch of romance. I love international intrigue crime novels, but alas, am not qualified to write them.

Question:   What inspired this novel? How did it come about?

Answer: I took a college course on Shakespeare, but when my daughter moved to Ashland, Oregon, home of the great Oregon Shakespeare Festival, my husband and I attended several performances. I fell in love again with the Bard and the theater, and after a couple behind-the-scene tours, I was hooked. Why not write a mystery about a Shakespeare festival set in the Livermore wine country?

Question:  Could you tell us a little bit about the heroine and/or hero of your latest novel?

Answer:  Crime Analyst Caitlyn Tilson Pepper inherits a vineyard and two Shakespearean theaters in a northern California town from a mysterious aunt and becomes a target for murder. Cait has a huge decision to make. If she accepts her inheritance, she has to move to California and give up the job she loves in Ohio. If she refuses the inheritance, the estate will go to a foundation for the arts already set up by her aunt Tasha.

Question:   Can you tell us about some of your other published novels?

Answer:  Twisted Vines is my first published book. Island Paradise is the tentative title of the first book I’ve written, but has never been published. After numerous rejections by agents, I tucked it away in a file drawer. Recently, I’ve taken it out for another look and have plans to edit it and try again. It takes place on Martha’s Vineyard. I did extensive research on this book and visited the UK where my protagonist is from. My hope is that a publisher will love the plot and characters as much as I do.

Question:   What are you working on now?

Answer:  Sour Grapes is the second book in my Shakespeare in the Vineyard mystery series. The first draft is nearly completed. While Cait Pepper is learning how to run a Shakespeare festival and cultivate a vineyard, someone from her past as a cop is trying to kill her. 

Question:   What made you start writing?

Answer: My love of a good mystery—the intrigue, the puzzle solving. I love the hunt to solve the crime, and to watch the characters grow in their quest to solve them.

Question:   What advice would you offer to those who are currently writing novels?

Answer: Never give up. Enjoy the whole writing process, the ups and downs. Care about your characters. Take a creative writing class and join a critique group. I went through Livermore’s Citizens Police Academy and became a volunteer. I work events, like the wine festival and the Livermore rodeo, and I role-play with the SWAT team. Volunteering has provided me a better understanding of police procedures and the passion the men and women have for their job, and the pride they have for their city.

Question:  Where and when will readers be able to obtain your novel?

Answer: Twisted Vines was released by Five Star/Gale on August 15, 2012. It’s now available on Amazon and also Barnes and Noble.

Comments and/or questions valued here.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Writer Ramblings

I've been thinking about this blog all week and just couldn't put my finger on a really good topic. So, if you don't mind I'll just do some free writing, or rambling and see what pops up. (This is a good devise when you're blocked, and right now I'm blocked!)

What do you do when life interferes with your art? Get frustrated. Yes. Go with the flow. Sometimes. Write anyway. Sometimes. (Life is the fuel that feeds our writing, so getting frustrated is probably not going to be a productive response. But I do get frustrated. When I'm neck deep in laundry and bills to pay all I can think about is sitting on the deck with my notebook and writing. So, maybe I should just get 'er done.)

Do you have to be unemployed or retired to truly dedicate yourself to your craft? No. (But I have to admit to wishing I could write all the time. If I were unemployed I'd probably worry about paying the bills. If I were retired, I can only imagine I wouldn't be able to sit still ALL day and write. So, maybe my writing 30 minutes most weekdays, and a couple of hours on the weekend days is more realistic. Does social network writing count? Never mind. That's a dumb question.)
What do you do when the words just won't come? Keep writing? Read a good book? Go for a walk? Listen to music? Talk to a writing buddy? Sleep? (I've tried all of the above and right now nothing is really working. This is the driest spell I've ever experienced as a writer. I can usually work through with one of these methods, but...maybe I just need to keep trying and hope the dam will break!)

There are three books jamming my brain right now. The one I'm working on and two others I've started but haven't finished. I have a acquisitions editor who likes my writing. So What In the Sam Hill Am I Blocked About? (I don't know, and it really shouldn't matter. I'm a writer and I'm estranged from my passion. It feels awful. Some people treat tough times with retail therapy, psycho therapy, reading therapy, exercise therapy, even drug therapy - I'm not interested in anything that is going to cost me money so that leaves: reading and exercise therapy. Guess I'll keep doing those things and hope that the great white page will stop intimidating me soon. Wish me luck, writer buddies.)

How do you cope with writer's block? 

Friday, September 7, 2012

Getting to Know and Love the IRS

Over the last couple of weeks the topic of the business of writing has come up on various chat lists. Since I have been operating my free-lance writing and editing business as a professional since the 1980s, with a bow to the IRS every year, I thought this might be the time to start talking about how I do it.

Even though the end of the year is four months away, and the filing date for tax returns is a full three and a half months after that, the best time to get organized is now. If any writer is going to file taxes as a professional, you have to be organized and ready before the deadline.

There are several programs that will allow you to keep your information on the computer, and from there you can easily load it into Turbo Tax. You can also keep it in a simple ledger or account book. At my day job, our accountant/auditor uses the computer, of course, but their records include a huge ledger into which they glue (yes, glue) copies of the important statements and documents. As a great fan of Charles Dickens, I find this charming and oddly comforting.

My files record everything related to my business of writing and editing each year--all income (publishing, teaching, talks, consulting, editing) and expenses (and this is where you have to be careful, to satisfy the IRS).

I record my income and expenses by month. I categorize almost everything under one of the following headings: Income, Office Expenses, Dues and Publications, Telephone, Travel and Entertainment, and Books. These headings should make clear what the basic deductible items are--any money received as a writer/editor/teacher (except salaries), any shipping of books, postage, gas and tolls while traveling to give a talk or serve on a panel, dues in MWA or Sisters in Crime, or any of the other writers' organizations. I record conference fees separately, since I don't attend conferences every month. You can record under these categories things like printer toner, paper, envelopes, food at conferences, and mailing samples of your work or stories to magazines. The library you build as a reference resource is also deductible, though the IRS has special guidelines for books. Even Turbo Tax is tax-deductible.

Don't overlook where you do all your writing and editing work. If you work at home as a writer, you can deduct a portion of your house or apartment that is dedicated to your work. If you have a dedicated space where you work as a writer and do nothing else in that space, either a room or a portion of a room, that space is deductible. If you have a home with five rooms and one is your office, then one-fifth of your mortgage or rent is deductible (but you can't use this space also as a guest room or sewing room, for example; it must be dedicated to writing). If you live in three rooms and use half of the dining room as an office, you can deduct one-sixth of your rent or mortgage if the space is dedicated to your work. The same percentage can be deducted for utilities, home owner's or renter's insurance, water, and real estate taxes (though you can sometimes take those off entirely in other ways).

The key to making all this work is receipts. You have to keep track of everything you earn and everything you spend. I have a ledger and a file box for each calendar year. I save and file all receipts, if they have anything to do with my business. At the end of the year, I fill out the ledger. When it comes time to do the taxes, I have totals for the year and just plug them into Turbo Tax.

I think it is important for anyone who is serious about writing to keep track of income and expenses, to track their work as a business and not a hobby. The IRS will consider your writing a hobby if you are not conscientious about this aspect of your life. You don't have to make a lot of money, but you do have to be professional in how you manage your financial affairs.

Tags: writing, editing, IRS, business of writing