That’s Not Me, She’s Someone Else

Young ladies 1800s

Young ladies 1800s

I’m reading a lot recently about why we write what we write, and just how much of our own personal life ends up in our novels. This is an interesting and involved subject. The more I thought about it after it was brought up by Jerry Hogan in his workshop at OWL, the more I realized I was not actually recreating myself over and over in my books. I was going a step further.

He wanted to know how much of ourselves we wrote about, but I dug deeper and saw that, I stopped writing about myself after my first few novels, but I never stopped recreating female characters I wanted to be like. As I delved into each one, from the protagonists in my western historical romances, to the woman possessed by a demon in my latest, A Savage Grace, coming out in late September, and all those in between, I saw the truth in my suspicion. I wanted to live their lives. Therein lies the real reason I wrote each book. Because I did live their lives while I was involved in writing the book.

I’m finishing the third in The Victorian series, and there is more of a family connection in those three books than in others. My grandmother and great-grandmother were Victorians through and through. When she was 13 my great-grandmother arrived in Kansas in a covered wagon. She grew up to marry the first policeman in Winfield, Kansas. A story I’d love to one day fictionalize. I was 16 when she passed, having lived into her late 90s by eating a diet that contained loads of butter, cream, sugar, and fats, as was the way then. What a cook she was.

The way the Victorian women were perceived

The way the Victorian women were perceived

Funny I would remember that when what I wish now to have remembered was some of the stories she often told us kids. I was the oldest great-grandchild and grandchild, so you would think I could recall more. Sadly children don’t understand the importance of stories told by adults until we’re too old to realize the wisdom contained in those tales. Then we wish we could go back and grab hold of them.

However, by recreating three Victorian young women plopped down in the middle of Kansas from their home in Manchester, England, I’ve tried to recreate that great-grandmother and live her life through these books. Imagine three girls, already orphaned by a dreadful accident, swept up into a new exciting but dangerous life in the west of the 1870s. With three distinctly different personalities, each has their own way of dealing with this stressful occurrence.

Wilda, the one of the three chosen to marry their guardian, a second son scarred by his father’s disavowal and a bloody war, revolts in fear and choses a handsome but inexperienced outlaw to rescue her from the planned marriage. Thus her adventures begin and she goes from the perfect life to one of danger and fear in Wilda’s Outlaw.armed woman

Rowena, the eldest of the three, loves their guardian, and recognizes his problems because she has gone through some terrible experiences while the three women were living in an orphanage/workhouse. Rowena’s Hellion is experiencing what we now call Post Traumatic Stress, then known as Soldier’s Heart. Men suffering from this were literally tossed into the streets to starve. Sound familiar? Fortunately he has Rowena.

The third and youngest of the three has put aside her Victorian upbringing and embraced the way of the west. Most of the comments, reviews and emails about this character, shown briefly in the first two books, say they can’t wait to read about her. She’s attempting to model herself after Calamity Jane, without really understanding what prompted Jane’s life style. Tyra is rebellious, daring and often foolish in her choices. So when she chooses James Lee, a well settled rancher, her family is relieved. They don’t see Zachariah coming till it’s too late. This gambler, ex-gang member, is a perfect match for Tyra, but together they are liable to get into more trouble than they can handle in Tyra’s Gambler.western women

So, I’ve lived the lives of these three girls with a gusto and adventuresome spirit. They may not have any of me in them, but I have been with them through thick and thin, and feel as if I’ve lived their lives fully as well as they have. I will miss them and their family and friends. There’s only one cure, isn’t there? Create someone new to accompany through the pages of my next book.

 

 

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Spotlight on Tropical Depression by Jeff Lindsay

Spotlight on Tropical Depression by Jeff Lindsay.

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Win $100 Gift Card

Don’t forget to read and enter at Long and Short Reviews Today. You have a chance to win a $100 Amazon Gift Card. Join in and have some fun. teaser 3

Answer a question about BEYOND THE MOON by @veldabrotherton & win a $100 Amazon/BN GC, books & more! #LASR_Anniv wp.me/p2ZcT9-cIH

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Secrets of Dragonwriters

dragonwriters logo

An old joke among writers, and a warning to those we meet, is “Be careful what you say, I may put you in my book.” There’s even a tee shirt with that caution on it.

This weekend a few authors with Oghma Creative Media, aka Oghma Dragonwriters, gathered at Lincoln, Arkansas library for a day of fun and meeting and greeting librarians and patrons. One of the questions asked of us was do you use people you know as characters in your books?

We all chuckled, because of course we do. Dusty Richards said, “You just make sure they never recognize themselves.” Mike Miller grinned maliciously. To be used as a character in his books could mean a mass murderer, a psychological or twisted killer, so he did not reply. I had to be honest as well. “I steal names.” One of our visitors had a marvelous name, so I told her it would appear in one of my books. My secret is that I never use first and last together. Someone with the last name will appear side by side with someone with the first name, both of which I stole because I liked them so well. I never combine them with that person’s characteristics.

Dusty’s wife Pat chimed in with a good suggestion. “Steal phone books from the places you visit to research your book. Then you have names that fit the locale.” Great idea. I did that once, in a way. Angel’s Gold, which I set in Circleville, Kansas, has names in it from a phone book from my sister-in-law’s memorabilia, so I had a good treasure of names from the nineteenth century.

Speaking of keeping books true to time and place, ever watch a movie or read a book set, say during WW II and they start using slang from today? I get so angry at lazy authors who do that. I was watching a movie last night where the hero told his love that he was there for her. And he said it twice in slightly different ways. The movie was good and this didn’t make me turn it off but I certainly scoffed at those who would allow today’s jargon to appear in an historic story.

Fortunately I have a good editor plus some Beta Readers and we count on them to catch everything. I thought I had everything correct for the nightshade my heroine used to poison a bottle of wine, but one of my readers caught the inconsistency when I called it a narcotic. He is one of our authors and also knows all about that kind of stuff. Thankfully, the correction was made to the galleys. Coming Soon: A Savage Grace hard cover

It’s so important to have everything right. Once upon a time writing fiction meant you could make up everything you pleased. Not true today. All the surrounding facts must be dead on because readers are intelligent and particular. Opinions are one thing, but facts are quite another. I can write that Donald Trump is an idiot. That’s my opinion, and since he is a public figure and an idiot, I can write that. I can’t write that Donald Trump had an affair with Hillary Clinton.

cartoon Trumpcartoon Clinton

Well, if I’m also an idiot and want to be a public figure, I guess I could say that. After all it’s been done over and over in the past, hasn’t it? But I’m not an idiot, I’m a writer. The two may be closely linked, for who wants to work ten hours a day, six days a week, for ten cents an hour? That’s not to say we don’t all make a mistake or two occasionally, but we can try to keep them small and inconsequential. I’m probably too picky, being a writer, but I’ll just bet that you readers have run across stuff that was incorrect. If you have, you might care to share one or two in the comments here.

Tell you what. The funniest shared mistake I’ll gift a Kindle copy of my latest mystery, #2 of The Twist of Poe Series, The Tell-Tale Stone. Wouldn’t it be even more fun if you found a mistake in that book? If you do, I’ll gift you a copy of Beyond the Moon, a love story you won’t soon forget.

Two short excerpts:

Here's the cover of my latest

Here’s the cover of my latest

The Tell-Tale Stone

At the cabin, she ran through the dew-sprinkled grass, unlocked the door, and slipped inside. The yard light blinked once and went out, plunging the room into an intense darkness. Into the utter silence, something that sounded like a heartbeat fluttered to life. Slow at first, it sped up to match her own pulse.

Good God, what was that?

Beyond the Moon

Cover by Casey Cowan

Cover by Casey Cowan

“Know what I remember? The first thing?

“She was almost afraid to ask.

“No, what?”

“You. I don’t remember getting out or coming home or being here. I just remember looking up one day and seeing you sitting beside me out there by the creek. The sun made your hair all shiny, brighter and more beautiful than anything I thought was left in this world. I touched it, and it felt like silk. Your skin was like satin.” He rubbed absently at her cheek. “You were making me sketch, and I didn’t know why or how we got there. But none of that mattered as long as you didn’t go away. I would have done anything you asked me to. I thought you were an angel and I’d died and gone to heaven.”

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Look at Hopping Heads and Who Said What?

90s Book Signing

Here we are, authors at a 90s book signing  Looks different than today. Hmmm?

As society changes the way it looks at things, does things, and views entertainment, we’ve come to see writing differently. What was once “the way to write right” has changed with the times.

In the early 90s, when my early western historical romance novels were published, we thought nothing of head hopping from one character to another, and as a result we weren’t worried that much about point of view (POV). We thought nothing about stepping back from our characters to tell the story or using the camera viewpoint to show what was happening. Narration and exposition were tools of a different kind.

Today, we’ve adapted our writing styles to suit the readers who prefer to step into that story, much like gaming, if you look at it that way. We’re told don’t pull your reader out of the story with your style. They want to become your character, especially the point of view character, and we don’t dare drag them from that enjoyment. The writer should never be heard from.

So we have quickly adapted. Here are some of the “rules” if you will. Use as few tags as possible. Such as he said, she yelled, etc. When you’re with a character, stay with them in dialogue, action, narration and exposition. Don’t waste a lot of time with description, show surroundings during action. Voice and style is all important. And flashbacks and back story are kept to a minimum and MUST move the story forward.

When I scan through those books written back in the 90s, I have to laugh. Boy have things changed since then. Recently my new publisher, Oghma Creative Media, asked if they could republish those books, specifically the Montana Series. I said yes, but when I began to go over the manuscripts, I shuddered. This could mean massive rewrites to suit today’s style, to fit the way I write now. So I had a talk with my editor.

Now Available on Kindle The Three Book Series

Now Available on Kindle The Three Book Series

“I can’t make these changes. I don’t have time. If you can’t adapt your editing to suit this old fashioned style, then I’m not going to do this. There’s head hopping, lots of “God’s eye” settings. I just don’t have the time to fix everything.”

He smiled and said, “That’s okay. There are lots of people reading today who like that style, so I don’t think we’ll have a problem.”

Here’s an example of yesterday’s style: She knew what he wished for. She knew too that one day soon he would ride away, leaving her here. Today, we might write it this way. It was clear what he wished for. One day soon he would ride away, leaving her behind.

In other words, we don’t write of our pov character using terms like she knew, she thought, she saw. We simply show those things as if the reader might be experiencing them.

When we write dialogue, we no longer continuously use said. “I told you over and over what to do.” Joe smashed his fist on the table. “And yet you never listen, you just do what you please.” He stomped from the room, slamming the door behind him. Easy to see who’s talking without one said, shouted, etc.

Readers may not notice these subtle differences, yet books are easier to read, suiting the way readers perceive everything in life today. You can see this much more clearly if you watch movies from thirty or forty years ago and movies today. See how slowly the plot unwinds in old movies, how there’s much more dialogue and not so much action. Books are the same way, and so we have changed the way we write our stories.

When the Montana Series comes out in print I hope readers who have never read my work will consider the writing style as simply the style of the times, and not viewed as bad writing. These books were originally published by Penguin, at the time the largest publishing house in the world. We hope to attract all new readers for the series that has recently been available only on Kindle.

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Some Stories Cry to be Written

 

teaser 3This book is incredible! After I finished the last page, I just sat there, stunned. This is the true cost of war. For the rest of the day I was quiet, considering Katie and Glen’s struggle and (almost) Katie’s descent into madness. My heart went out to them and to anyone else who has ever dealt with the after effects of fighting a war.

This is part of a review I received for my book, Beyond the Moon, the story of two people whose struggle to defeat the demons born of war nearly destroys them. A love story you’ll never forget; a story you should always remember.

Here are some facts most people do not know about the Vietnam War.

The war ended in January 1973, with a negotiated cease fire. 591 prisoners, or only about 12 percent of those requested by the US, were returned during “Operation Home Coming” in February and March 1973.

Laos was another story. More than 500 pilots were shot down over Laos during the war. But none were returned, even though the Laos government indicated they desired to release American POW’s. Laos connection

February 19, 1973 (UPI): “A Pathet Lao spokesman said his group is holding American prisoners of war who will be released after a cease fire goes into effect.”

So what happened to those pilots and those 88 percent who did not return? After all this time, one might just shrug and say, “Oh, they’re all dead now anyway.” In the past ten years some remains have been recovered and identified.

Helicopters in war

Beyond the Moon tells the story of one of those pilots shot down over Laos. It is based on true occurrences that took place during and after the cease fire. Some of which were never brought to light.

Somewhere in California a group of Laotion mercenaries were hired out to rescue American pows being held in Cambodia, North Vietnam and Laos. In the early 1980s they rescued uncounted prisoners and brought them back.

Beyond the Moon tells the story of one of those men, held for nine years, kept for the most part in a bamboo cage while being tortured on a regular basis. He was not alone.

The real story is Katie’s, for she is the angel who battles Glen’s demons and drags him back from the very gates of hell, not once but several times. This is not a story about war, but rather about the ravages of war. What it does to the men who fight and the women who love them.

Why does any of this matter today? Because we continue to create wounded warriors every day in the Middle East, that’s why.

POW Vietnam

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A War In Which We Did Leave Men Behind

pow Vietnam

Today, with our troops in the far East being wounded, captured or killed, we hear more and more about honoring our wounded warriors, in fact honoring everyone who serves. And for the most part we as a country are doing that. And we hear also that no man is ever left behind.

I pray this is true today, but there was a time when that last statement was not true. For when I was young and our youth were being thrown into the wicked maw that was Vietnam, the country ended in leaving a lot of men behind. I remember it well, and it was one of the things that prompted me to write BEYOND THE MOON. That and so many books and movies that portrayed the women who were left to deal with men traumatized by the war as everything from bitches to disloyal, impatient, unfaithful harridans.

As my friend Pamela Foster says often enough, it takes a lot of courage to remain with men so damaged, sometimes it takes more to leave them.

I wanted to write a story about a woman who, like Pam, was an angel who did not leave her man. Who loved him, who protected him, who kept him safe, and in the end saved him from the worst that could happen. I understand that today three of America’s hero/warriors commit suicide every day.

The research I did lasted more than six months, back in the day when computers and online research were the dream of some, but not yet a reality. I dug long and deep and found much more than was released to the general public. Facts hidden in short obscure reports found in the back pages of magazines like Newsday and Time and local newspapers.

I based much of my story of Glen Thomas, a navy pilot whose helicopter was shot down over Laos, on that information. This is a man who spent nine years living in bamboo cages in Laos, Cambodia and North Vietnam, daily tortured almost beyond endurance.

But the story is not his, not really. My story belongs to Katherine, who bonds with this damaged man. It’s not a war story, but a love story about two people who rebuild their shattered lives and how they do it.

The following is an excerpt from an article published online which you can read in its entirety if you’re interested in this dark period of our history.

“Following the Paris Peace Accords of 1973, 591 American prisoners of war (POWs) were returned during Operation Homecoming. The U.S. listed about 1,350 Americans as prisoners of war or missing in action and roughly 1,200 Americans reported killed in action and body not recovered. Many of these were airmen who were shot down over North Vietnam or Laos. Investigations of these incidents have involved determining whether the men involved survived their shoot down; if they did not survive, then they considered efforts to recover their remains. POW/MIA activists played a role in pushing the U.S. government to improve its efforts in resolving the fates of the missing. Progress in doing so was slow until the mid-1980s, when relations between the U.S. and Vietnam began to improve and more cooperative efforts were undertaken. Normalization of U.S. relations with Vietnam in the mid-1990s was a culmination of this process.”

“It’s kind of hard to hang in there, day after day, in my case, 2110 days, you’ve just got to have absolute belief that someday your country’s going to come get you. When I went to Vietnam, I was prepared to be killed, to be wounded, even to be captured. But I was not prepared to be abandoned by the country that sent me there” – former American POW.

Katie and Glen at the Vietnam Monument:

She pretended not to hear for fear of what she would say, raised her gaze, and saw herself and Glen reflected beyond the names like beings sucked into its ebony essence. Their faces stared back from the jet mirror, expressions bewildered and tightened in mourning. She had a wispy vision, a fearful thought that each visitor was somehow captured in the reverse image and stored away within the pure stone slashed from some faraway mountain. It would forever hold the names of the dead and their tortured souls as well as a piece of all who came to lament their passing. The fury of the place burned like a fire, names of the slain marched forever across the black headstone against which lay flowers, pictures, letters, and medals, all spotted by salty tears. It was as quiet as if the world had ended.

This is probably the lowest point in the story once she gets him home. One reader, the wife of a Vietnam Vet who suffers from PTSD, wrote about this book: “Wow, you wrote my story.”

gargantual moon

Go to: http://www.amazon.com/author/veldabrotherton to find this and my other books. Please do me the favor of writing a review if you like any of my books. All are available in ebooks and soft cover. Beyond the Moon is also available in hard cover, which would make a marvelous gift.

Go here: http://www.pinterest.veldabrotherton.com and check BEYOND THE MOON Board to see a large collection of memorabilia pinned by veterans and others interested in this era as well as photos representing my idea of the Glen and Katie characters.

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Looking at Life

Don & meHubby and I taken a while back when we both looked fairly young 

After a rough few weeks, I’ve decided to write about what has happened recently. Perhaps there are others out there going through similar tough times. Blogs should be upbeat, but right now that’s difficult to achieve.

Wednesday my husband will be transferred from rehab to long term care. He simply can’t rehab any further. It’s been an upsetting time for both of us and other family members as well. We’ve been together since we met in high school. I was 14 and he was 16 when we had our first date. Though I went out with other guys for a while, it soon became obvious that we were a couple. We were engaged out of high school. I was barely 17 and we married that December when it became possible he would be called up for the Korean conflict.

As it turned out, the war came to a close soon after we married. That was 1953 and as they say today, we had a lot of rough patches in our marriage, but here we are still together, separated for the first time by circumstances beyond my control. He went to bed one day and that’s where he stayed. No matter how much we cajoled, doctors warned, nothing would convince him otherwise. Soon he could no longer stand or walk. Though he is healthy otherwise, that’s where he’s at now. His mind is wandering at times, though he does not have dementia.

I am learning to live alone, I happen to like my own company. Often I talk to myself or the cat just to hear the sound of my voice. I’m not afraid to be alone, it’s just strange. My daughter Jeri is a Godsend. She cleans the house and does my shopping, which she has done for quite some time as I’m physically unable to do a lot of chores. Her husband Farrel repairs stuff around the house and is preparing to put a new roof on for us. He will be paid for that as part of the spend-down for my husband’s Medicaid application. Our “other” daughter Chrissy props me up with visits and she and her hubby Brian help out as well.

I have learned a lot about the care of people and how it is paid for. I learned that Medicare covers the first 100 days of the rehab process, providing the patient is truly working on his physical therapy. Then it becomes private pay or a long, drawn out process of applying for Arkansas Medicaid. All assets are liquidated except home and car and divided in half. Then the patient’s half must be spent down on family expenses, such as medical bills, car repairs, home repairs and certain other allowable items.

It is wise during this process to obtain a competent attorney. His fee becomes part of the spend-down. Get someone where the spouse is being treated to recommend one.

During all this process I had to look at what might happen with me in the future. My daughter Jeri, who had found the North Hills Rehab for her Dad, was busy checking out retirement places for me. We considered Assisted Living, but I balked at this, still being able to do most things for myself. I don’t need a caregiver at this point as long as she can do the things she does for me. After checking several places, she found Nantucket. It’s set up for the elderly. I shudder every time I think of myself in that way. They have apartments equipped for the disabled and regular apartments. It’s more like having your own home. So she filled out all the applications and we were put on a waiting list. It may be a year, but I have qualified.

Sara Bartlett, a long time writer friend who is with CareSupport Services, has been advising me and she suggested I remain where I’m at while the stress level is so high. Perhaps live here for the winter before deciding to sell and move. It’s a difficult decision to make because I’m still very active. I attend writer’s events and friends help me when I need it, but I still drive most of the time. I visit my husband twice a week.

According to Sara it’s smart to plan ahead so you don’t have to arrange everything under pressure. This past week I’ve visited the funeral home and prepaid our funerals, attended two writer’s meetings during the pouring rain, worked on several projects for my next book and taken care of duties for my new job as Distribution Director for Oghma Creative Media, which happens to be my publisher. I’ve asked them to keep me busy and they are doing that. I’ve also worked at learning new tasks on the computer. 

It is important during times like this to stay busy, keep your mind occupied, cry when necessary and socialize with good friends. Don’t sit and stare at the wall, don’t lay in bed all day, sleep well, read a lot and don’t watch daytime soaps. I love movies so I take a break from writing around 5 in the afternoon, watch a couple of good movies or catch up on streaming my favorite shows, then I write for a couple more hours before going to bed where I read for an hour or more.

lilacs redbuds 005

I planted this lilac bush in 1972, a start from my Aunt Allie’s yard to mine.

I live in the country amid the songs of birds, the wind in the trees on the mountain slope behind us, the leaves dancing in sunlight in the hundred-year-old maple out back, the fragrance of magnolia and lilacs and iris as they bloom, and the night sounds of frogs in the creek, a whippoorwill high in a tree, the owl who calls to her mate every night. I wait like her for the sound of his voice in reply. Without these my life would be drab, and so I’ll stay here for a while longer, keeping the windows open so a breeze can flutter through bringing the outside to me.

This photo was taken just down the road from our place

100_0206

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Using Backstory Effectively

veldabrotherton:

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:

Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 11.12.56 AM

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.

Screen Shot 2015-05-04 at 12.42.49 PM

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

veldabrotherton:

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.

Reverend…

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