Using Backstory Effectively


This will help all of you who talked about flashbacks and backstory being so all important. This is a good one.

Originally posted on Kristen Lamb's Blog:

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All righty. So we have been discussing “flashbacks” and I have been working hard to pull this blanket term apart because not everything that shifts back in time is the dreaded “training wheel flashback” that make us editors break out in hives. New writers love to shift back and forth in time because they are weak at plotting and characterization and “flashbacks” often serve to prop up these weak spots.

Um, like training wheels.

Before we get into non-linear plotting, I would like to talk about backstory. Often we feel the need to include a lot of backstory right in the beginning because we just simply don’t trust that the reader will “get it.” Sometimes this will be delivered through going back in time so we need to talk about it.

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Our goal in fiction is to hook early and hook deep. GUT HOOK. Get as close to the inciting…

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This Little Light


Thank you Jan, for your courage. Your family as ours is racially mixed and so we do not want our children and grandchildren judged as anything but human. Sweet, innocent lovely children have become the target so many times. Don’t let it continue to happen.

Originally posted on THE RED KIMONO:

quilt Quilt that hangs over the altar at United Church of Santa Fe

I’m ashamed to admit I considered not going to church with my father on Father’s Day. I can weasel out a bit of an excuse–that on Saturday we’d driven ten hours from Dallas to Santa Fe and we were tired.

Fortunately, the “little voice” inside me chastised me when I woke early Sunday morning: (Or, maybe it was God.)

You know how much your dad would like to bring his daughter to church, don’t you? You’re going to regret it if you don’t go. Get your lazy self out of bed.

And so, I went to church with my dad. I’m grateful I did, not only because it was the right thing to do on Father’s Day, but because I needed to hear the sermon given by Reverend Talitha Arnold at the United Church of Santa Fe.


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Indian Head Pennies and a Dollar Haircut

The highway to Durham, Arkansas, and beyond, is known as the Pig Trail. It is a favorite route for those heading south to Little Rock. Despite that, it is narrow and winding with no shoulders and deep wide ditches on both sides. The wide curves tend to fall off the mountain during heavy rains. I’m on my way to meet a man, a special man who has stories to tell me.

After turning onto the Pig Trail I’m forced to concentrate totally on my driving. In Durham I have no trouble finding the building that is being renovated. It and the general store, make up most of the town. After a suitable time of picture–taking and looking over the barn of a structure, I make my way to the barber shop and Dal Collins.

The sagging door to which I’m pointed is at the back of the general store. I peer through the screen into the muskiness. There’s an occupied barber chair, a stooped barber and on a wooden bench, a couple of elderly men and an empty space. I slide in and sit.

The barber, who of course must be Dal, glances at me and  takes a careful snip at the thin gray hair trusted to his shears. He can tell right away that I don’t want a haircut, not unless I want my mostly angry mop styled around a shaved neck and trimmed sideburns. Anyway, this is not one of those new-fangled beauty shops that cater to both men and women.

Dal is used to being interviewed. He’s been quoted in newspapers as far away as Little Rock, even been on television occasionally, mostly because he has plenty to say about everything and no qualms about saying what he thinks. I suspect this notoriety might cause Dal to get a little more colorful than he would otherwise, but I figure to take my chances.

After closing out a discussion about the proposed landfill that has everyone up in the air, he says to the room in general, but for my benefit, “I get a dollar a haircut. Oughta get five. Hear tell they’re charging as much as seven in some places.”

In the gloom of the single-windowed, narrow room with its ancient barber chair, I eye the steady-handed barber. I’ve been told he’s nearly ninety, but I can’t see the age on him.

I ask him about the Durham store and he goes right to the heart of the subject without any meandering. “Place is over a hundred year old. Spencer Bassett, he ran a store there for seventy-five year or more. When I was a kid, we pitched pennies in there. There was cracks in the floor….” He holds up thumb and finger and measures out a good half inch, then continues, “…and they went right on through. Indian heads. Far as I know they’re still down there under the floor.”

I think about that a while. Maybe I won’t write anything about the rare pennies. I wouldn’t want an army of treasure hunters overrunning the quiet little town in a state that, for some unknown reason, attracts its share of those.  Of course, he could be applying what I’ve come to call the “hillbilly yank” on my leg.

His other tales are for another time, and when I thank him and push open the creaky screen door, he says, “You come back again, real soon.”

I never got around to paying him another visit, and he’s gone now. Nope, he didn’t retire, he passed away one night and just didn’t open up the next day to open his shop. By then he was surely otherwise occupied. Do angels need haircuts?

From Wandering In The Shadows of Time, 1994 Edition with update.

Interviews and wanderings by Velda Brotherton

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Deep P.O.V. Part One—What IS It? How Do We DO It?


If you don’t listen to me, pay attention to Kristen Lamb.

Originally posted on Kristen Lamb's Blog:

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of FromSandToGlass Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of FromSandToGlass

Writing is like anything else. The trends and fashions change along with the audience. For instance, Moby Dick spends an excruciatingly long time talking about whales, namely because the audience of the time probably had never seen one and never would. If we did this today? Sure, feel free to walk around in a literary gold-plated cod piece, but er…

Yes, awkward.

Epics were also very popular. Follow a character from the womb until death. FANTASTIC STUFF! Why? Because no one had HBO, Pinterest or Angry Birds. Books were a rare indulgence usually reserved for a handful of literate folks with the money or connections to get their hands on…a book.

Also, since writers were paid by the word, their works were padded more than a freshman term paper. Their motto? No modifier left behind. These days? We have to write leaner…

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Keeping Memories

A Long Time AgoMe on Grandparent’s farm 1940

I’ve noticed something peculiar about approaching 80 years of age. More and more I dredge up memories and spend time in the past. I remember when my mother-in-law told me, as she aged she lived in her memories. I thought that strange that she would want to shut out her life. But as I get to where I have to rest more and let my mind wander, I’m doing the same thing.

Signing Books at B & N

Here I am back in the day with Radine Trees Nehring,and Dusty Richards.

As a writer this is worrisome. I need to continue to visit with Tyra and Josh and Zach in Tyra’s Gambler, my work in progress, and not drift away to other times in my life. It’s important to me that I be able to continue to pursue what I love, which weighs in just after who I love. But more and more I find myself talking about the past with friends or revisiting it when I take a break.

Holton KS

Signing copies of Angel’s Gold in Holton, Kansas

Perhaps this is a signal that it’s time for me to write that memoir I’ve kept packed away in boxes. Over the years teaching workshops I’ve always encouraged others to write their life stories, if only to preserve them for family members. And to write them in a way that allows those interested to enjoy the reading.

with Don OWFI

With Hubby Don at OWFI in 1999

So maybe I’ll do that soon. Just as soon as I finish this next western historical romance and the next Twist of Poe mystery, The Pit and the Penance. Oh, and there’re those other characters knocking on my mental door, waiting in line for their turn.

Oh, well, maybe I’ll get to that memoir in a few years.

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The Tell-Tale Stone (A Twist of Poe Mystery Series Book 2)

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In “Love” with a Narcissist/Sociopath: Althea’s Story


This has an adult warning on it, but is so important for women to read. August McLaughlin pulls no punches.

Originally posted on August McLaughlin's Blog:

When I put word out that I was planning a series on dating a sociopath, starting with my own story, I heard from numerous people who had done so. They’d moved on with their lives, learned a great deal and wished to weigh in.

Then I heard from a friend who I haven’t seen in a few years, whose story is quite different.

I’m currently in a relationship with sociopath/narcissist, she wrote. I’d love to help!

Wow. I asked if she could speak publicly and openly about her experience. Not all sociopaths are abusive, after all. I’d recently read about a neuroscientist who discovered, rather by accident, that he is a psychopath—and an overall good person. He’s what some call a pro-social psychopath; he’s chosen to lead by intellectual empathy.

So maybe, I thought, my friend and her guy were making it work! Maybe they’ve both embraced his diagnosis and she’d like to show…

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Always look for rainbows and stars

Cutting our cake on our 50th Anniversary

Cutting our cake on our 50th Anniversary

Recently I saw a quote on Pinterest that was so suitable for me that I pinned it and remembered it too. It simply said, “When it rains look for rainbows, when it’s dark look for stars.”

Night has always been my favorite time. Funny, cause when I was a kid I was afraid of the dark. It always felt like something was reaching out for me. The hairs on my neck would waver, a fist would clutch my stomach and a lizard crawl up my spine. Yet, all my life I’ve loved to look at the moon and the stars. Stare endlessly at them while my imagination flashed in the darkness, making up tales of adventure and romance.

Other things live in the dark and we can see them if we concentrate. Lightning bugs, known as fireflies up north, cavort in the summer nights. Ivory moon flowers reflect light from the stars, comets criss-cross black space, while on the ground critters scurry, their eyes bright as diamonds.

The past couple of months have been difficult for my family, with my husband going downhill so fast we could scarcely believe it. The craziest thing of all is there is nothing wrong with him, or so the tests show. He’s just going somewhere both physically and emotionally where I can’t follow. Not even dementia or alzheimers is indicated. He has some strange symptoms. We’re going to see if an ENT can see him as they appear to be something to do with crystals in the inner ear, from what we can learn. But we’re not doctors.  My daughter Jeri has exhausted herself looking out for both of us, and she is my support.  I will be forever grateful to her.

Here's the cover of my latest

How strange it is to have this going on and learn that my latest book, The Tell-Tale Stone was released today. Feelings are so mixed. It’s difficult to celebrate while dealing with life as it is right now. I’m so excited about the book. The cover is gorgeous, designed by Casey Cowan and published by Oghma Creative Media. I couldn’t be happier than I am with the people who work with this publishing company. The editors, mine is Staci Troilo, are fantastic, the writers are superbly talented, and Casey holds it all together with such expertise it’s amazing to watch. And he’s so caring of each of his authors, so concerned about what I’m going through with my husband.

Casey wishing we happy 79th birthday

Casey wishing we happy 79th birthday

The writing community in Northwest Arkansas is supportive as well. In all the years I’ve been involved with writers, none have been so kind and helpful as they are now. We have a fabulous group in our Northwest Arkansas Writers Workshop, and on a wider scale all those involved with Arkansas Ridge Writers and Oghma Creative Media. Coming to my aid also is an old friend, Sara Bartlett, who is skilled in the care of the elderly and has offered me a helping hand. I’m so thankful to be within their comforting arms during this difficult time.



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An Interview with C. J. Fosdick

It’s so good to have you as a guest on my blog, C. J. I understand you are giving away two ebook copies of Accidental Wife to names drawn from the comments. Make sure to leave your email address when you comment, readers.


  1. Please tell us something about yourself and how you came to be a writer.

A: I was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and learned very early that it was a beer capital of Wisconsin–if not the world. My grandfather would carry me in a cardboard box to the corner tavern and while he drank beer, I munched on the chocolate bars his buddies threw in the box to keep me happy. To this day even the scent of chocolate keeps me calm and happy!      When I was ten, I won $5 in a writing contest and though I blew the winnings on candy dots, the greater prize was acknowledging the bud of talent. As an editor of my high school paper and a teen columnist for a local paper, I honed that talent and planned to study journalism in college. That dream ended prematurely after I found my soulmate on a New Year’s eve blind date and married after my freshman year. When my husband took a job with IBM, we moved to Rochester, MN. and raised a family…and a menagerie on a hilltop hobby farm we call Mt. Pegasus.      Writing was never abandoned, but the “great American novel” dream gave way to shorter freelance stories and articles in local and national publications for years. I also gave summer riding lessons for 15 years. Now, with an empty nest…and an empty barn, I am blazing trails to catch up with more novel projects after  The Accidental Wife.


Q: What do you see as the central message of your book?

A: Without a doubt, it’s the transforming nature of love—in any era. I think many of us have a life tape that we follow, sometimes from the cradle to the grave. Maybe a few “life glitches” give pause along the way, but ultimately we own who we are and what we want to do with our lives. My heroine has survived her glitches, but is determined to have a career without any emotional encumbrances. But everything changes after the grandmother who raised her dies and the mysterious legacy she inherits causes her to slip back in time—literally into the shoes of her look-alike great great-grandmother. As an instant wife/ mother/ sister /friend, all shades of love in a simpler era tangle with her beliefs…and also threaten her life.

Q: Why choose Wyoming for that particular setting?

A: I grew up in the television era of westerns and always longed for a horse. I also have a passion for history and survival stories, especially from the colorful 19th Century. On a family vacation to Old Fort Laramie and Yellowstone, I fell in love with the stark beauty of Wyoming. It has a rugged, honest history that was also very progressive toward women. Ft. Laramie played a huge role as an oasis to caravans of settlers for nearly two thirds of the 19th Century.  Part of that long first novel I’ve tucked away is also set in Wyoming and at the famous outpost.

Q: Do you intend to continue to write time travel romances, or do you have your heart set on another genre?

A: I love what we can learn from history, and how a creative portrait-in-print can make us think, compare, even transform us into “armchair time-travelers.” Time travel is just the vehicle driving characters into a historic setting with a sprinkle of fantasy. Like my inspiration, Diana Gabaldon, I want to explore multiple genres in one book, and like Velda Brotherton, I’m game for tackling straight contemporaries or mysteries. My characters seem to have great input on where they end up, and I love to surprise the reader with O’Henry-type twists.

Q: How much marketing do you do for your published works or for yourself as a ‘brand’?

A: I ­grew up left brain creative—in the typewriter age. I hate electronics and all the marketing stuff you must do to get noticed and followed. Fortunately, I married a right-brain IBMer who can help me, but even he is baffled by all the possibilities and curves social media throws out. Becoming market-saavy is like getting a PHD in hieroglyphics—a necessary evil. I’m learning slowly, but it sure cuts into the writing time. I try to tweet something every day and I’m studying Pinterest now. I DO have a guilt trip over blogging far too infrequently on my website.

Q: What are you working on at the moment / next?

A: Right now marketing keeps me from finishing the sequel to The Accidental Wife. Hopefully, it will be available early next year. I’ve also committed to write a contemporary short story for a Valentine anthology for Wild Rose Press—based on candy heart messages. Last on the agenda is an article for a writer magazine on what I’ve learned from attending eight writer conferences in the last few years—including one in London, (my least favorite.)

Q: What commonality can readers expect to see in your books?

A: Animals and redheads, a mystery or legend, memorable characters and facts, and surprise twists.

Q: What is your creative process like? What happens before sitting down to write?

A: I put in a lot of “mind time” in the shower…on walks…while exercising. Sometimes, there’s a circus going on in my head, over-thinking and editing what will work and what won’t—even before I get to my lap top. When everything clicks, I’m in a zone—time traveling in a stuffed armchair. I also re-read what I wrote the day before to start the flow again. With my coffee mug and stash of snacks, I can write for eight hours straight without moving more than my fingers.      However, I did pay dearly for that eight hour scenario while writing The Accidental Wife last year. Cramps in one leg turned out to be blood clots from the inactivity. In a test study at Mayo, I learned I had a blood mutation that puts me at risk for clots, thanks to an ancestor who lived 35,000 years ago. I now exercise regularly, take a low dose aspirin daily, and set a timer to remind me to get up and move.  The “Factor Five” mutation affects 5% of the population, so you might say—by way of discovering it—the book saved my life.

Q: What sort of music do you listen to when you write?

A: Easy listening instrumental and light classical. On a trip last fall to Britain and Scotland, I picked up some Scottish and Irish CD’s that I’ve almost worn out already.

Q: What advice would you give aspiring writers?

A: Read-read-read the best in your genre and work toward emulating, equaling, then surpassing. Join some writer groups, network and absorb at writer conferences, try out some online writing webinars, figure out wise use of twitter, email, Instagram, facebook, and definitely create a website. Test the waters with something short—poems, stories or articles for local publications or contests that will give you unbiased feedback. When you get something published or win a writing award, you have more credibility to build a bio that stands out. And, of course, write and re-write. If you think you’ve nailed something, give it time to percolate. Look at it again in a few days or weeks and you’ll be surprised at how much you can edit in or out of your script.

BL-reading a book excerpt

Bio:  Cj Fosdick has fiction and non-fiction published in local and national publications such as Rochester Women, The Post Bulletin, Woman’s World, Writer’s Digest, Seventeen, and three short story anthologies for High School Literature textbooks. She received a grant to publish the successful Minnesota anthology, Blossoms & Blizzards in 1986 and compiled a catalog of 150 local writers from 1854 to 2004 for Rochester’s Sesquicentennial. This devoted Outlander fan is also an award-winning member of RWA, Women Writing the West, and The Historical Novel Society. Follow her on facebook, twitter and her website at

Her debut novel, The Accidental Wife, was published last month by Wild Rose Press as a mainstream historical. It is available in Print and eBook at Amazon and Wild Rose Publishing and in eBook at B&N, Nook, Itunes, Bookstrand, Kobo, and All Romance.

Excerpt from Accidental Wife

In the moonlight, he rose from the Adirondack like an old man and moved toward me, his green eyes fanning me from head to bare feet. He touched my face with both hands, feathering his fingers across my forehead, into the wells of my eyes, over my nose and cheekbones, like a blind man needing to know who stood before him. I tried not to stiffen at his touch, willing myself not to blink, not to release the fresh tears that had begun to pool. He collared my throat with his long fingers and ran a thumb over my lips.

“I want my wife back. Come back to me, Mitawin,” he whispered.

The word on the teacup; the hallmark of my deceit. Our eyes locked, and I felt my throat closing and my knees begin to quiver. For a few seconds his grip tightened around my throat, and I clamped my eyes shut with a fleeting thought. Yes, take my breath…end this tormenting deception. When he suddenly released me, I could see the pain twisting his face. He turned away and rubbed his chin against his shoulder, bracing both arms on a porch railing.

“My shirt looks good on you, Jess,” he said hoarsely. You always did have a thing for my shirts.” I cleared my throat. “You, can’t sleep out here,” I said after a long silence. “Come to bed.” His shoulders flinched. “Is that an invitation?”        “I only mean…you can’t be comfortable sleeping in that chair.” We both started by the sudden hoot of a nearby owl, and like the volume turned up on ear phones, I was suddenly aware of other night sounds, crickets, wind rustling through the sage, my heart bumping in my chest.


He was sleeping commando. I, who never expected to spend a night in bed with any man, woke up on my thirtieth birthday in a wilderness Wyoming cabin with a rooster crowing at the window and a naked man beside me. Not just any man. Oh Lord, this wasn’t a dream channeled by a humming teacup. I was in bed with my great-great grandmother’s legendary first husband.

Thank you so much, C.J. I’m sure my readers can’t wait to read your book. Don’t forget, when you comment to leave your email address to get in the drawing.

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Why Passion Trumps All (An inspirational post)


This is such important advice I had to share it.

Originally posted on Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors:

Today’s post is inspired by a blog post written by a 24-year-old dying man who offered some words of wisdom I believe can be useful for us as writers.  This isn’t really a “how to make money” or “this is how to run your business as a writer” post.  It’s more of an encouraging post.

ID 38413064 © Ivelinr | ID 38413064 © Ivelinr |

Passion is the driving force for true enjoyment (and possibly success).

I’m not going to promise you’ll find success in writing what you’re most passionate about, but the man who wrote the post I linked to above had an excellent point.  He wrote, “Patience, passion, and dedication come easily only when you love what you do.” For longterm sustainability in this business of writing, I believe passion is the driving force to maximizing our chances of success.

If you are writing what you’re most passionate about, it’s easier to…

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