Flash Fiction Friday: The Thief of Westhaven

As he walked through the woods, he heard leaves crunching up ahead. He creeped from tree to tree wary of what may lie ahead. As he slipped up behind the large trunk of an old oak tree he saw her, a woman of exquisite beauty.  Her auburn hair appeared to be blazing with the sun’s rays shining on it. Her lips,  red and moist, touted an invitation to a kiss. Her large eyes sparkled in the unusual color of violet and her complexion, a flawless peaches and cream. She paced back and forth wringing her hands. She was dressed in tan leggings and a dark green tunic with a scalloped bottom.  Tied to a cord around her waist hung a lumpy, brown bag that jingled at each of her steps. A bow lay on the ground near her feet, and slung over her shoulder, a quiver of arrows.

He decided on a cautious approach to offer assistance,  but before he shifted from his position a thundering noise came through the trees to his left and a great, sleek, black stallion trotted to the woman.

“Oh, you’re here! I feared you had been killed.” She wrapped her arms about its neck and pressed her face against its jaw as the horse nuzzled her neck with its lips.

“We must get out of here.” She seized her bow, grabbed hold of the stallion’s long, flowing mane and heaved herself upon its back, and as he stood mesmerized at the sight, beauty fled from his undisclosed presence.

A knowing grin slid across his face. No one would believe that the thief of Westhaven was a beautiful woman.

A Great Research Resource

When you write historical fiction, there is a need to do some research:  research on the time period, the clothes people wore and the foods they ate during that time period, the cost of things during that time period, occupations of that time period, the way people spoke/words that were and weren’t used and more.  Also, if your story is set in what was a real place in that time period, you need to know what that place was like, what the weather was like, what the land and buildings looked like.

In addition to time and place, you may choose to have one of your characters working a job you are unfamiliar with or that is no longer an occupation in today’s world or that requires them to work with tools or animals you are unfamiliar with.  These things will then need to be researched also.

Research is time consuming, but it can be quite fun.  You will learn interesting things that you may find fascinating.  You may even find them leading you to research something else as another idea for something to include in your story may arise.

Being something between a plotter and a pantser, when I was in the beginning stages of my novel, I researched what I felt I needed to have accurate information about; mostly setting — place and time period.  I also researched names to be sure my character’s didn’t have names that couldn’t possibly have been used in the time period.  I had a good idea of what people wore but I still did some research to be sure, but I didn’t spend as much time on this as I did on the setting components.  I researched a couple of occupations, one a lot more than the others.

Okay, you might think, but where did you look for the information you needed?  Well, I did a lot of research online.  The internet is a wealth of information, as long as you are careful and check that the websites and/or blogs you get your information from are accurate and legitimate.  I never go to Wikipedia without checking other places to be sure the information lines up, and I rarely use Wikipedia.

One great source for historical research are the websites of museums.  In addition, you may want to call the museum and ask if they have any information they would be willing to send to you through snailmail.  I recently did this and was surprised at how easy it was.  I thought I may have to pay a fee, at least to cover postage and handling, but the lady I spoke with was willing to gather information and send two packets to me.  I was so excited!  I can’t wait for these packets to arrive.  I check my mailbox everyday, Monday through Saturday.  It is is currently about a week and a half and I’m still eagerly awaiting my packets.

Other great resources:  if your story’s time period isn’t too far in the past, older folk who lived during that time love to share memories, books (biographies, diaries and journals or logbooks written by someone who lived in your time period) are still a great resource, speaking with an historian who specializes in your story’s time period, and old newspapers or newspaper archives.  Of course, if your story’s setting — place, isn’t too far away and it’s feasible for you to go there, visiting the actual place and checking out the museums and historical tourist spots is a great resource that really gives you a visual and makes your story’s place come to life.

Do you write historical fiction?  What is your favorite research resource?

Flash Fiction Friday: Out of the Flames

She sat in a heap next to the smoking embers of what used to be a cabin.  Her face was black except where the tears had run down.  Her dress streaked with black had some holes where the fire had grabbed it but she had managed to extinguish those flames.

A rider came into the yard.  She didn’t even look up.

*  * * * *

He was too late.  He had seen the flames from a couple of miles away and smelled the smoke as the wind carried it to his homestead.  He had ridden as fast as he could in hopes of helping whoever was in trouble.

There didn’t seem to be anything left.  Two buildings lay in smoking embers.

His heart lurched.  Was that a woman?

He rode a bit closer, then dismounted.  Yes, it was a woman, but she didn’t move a muscle, didn’t even seem to be aware that he was there.

He stepped closer.  “Ma’am?”

No response.

He squatted and touched her arm.  “Ma’am, are you okay?”

When her eyes met his, his heart plunged into his stomach.  Her eyes displayed emptiness.  A couple of stray tears trickled down her cheeks.  She seemed unable to speak.

She appeared to be a few years younger than he.  Her empty eyes were smoky gray and her brown hair lay in tangles on her shoulders.  He was certain that cleaned up she’d be right pretty.

One thing was certain, she was alone and needed help.  He wasn’t about to leave her here.

“Ma’am, my name’s Joshua Collins.  I live just a few miles from here.  I’d like to take you home with me.  I promise no harm will come to you, but you can’t stay here.  Can you stand?”

He took her hand and placed his arm around her waist to help her to her feet.  She didn’t appear to have any injuries aside from some blisters on her hands he reckoned she got from trying to stop the fire.  He led her to his horse and helped her mount.  He climbed up behind her and headed back to his homestead at a much slower pace than when he was trying to get here.

At his homestead, he got some cool water and cleaned her hands and face.  He put some ointment on her hands.  She was exhausted and hadn’t spoken a word.  He let her have his bed and he slept on a chair in the living room. He’d see about getting her some things tomorrow.

He had just dozed off when a woman’s scream startled him awake.  He went into the bedroom to find the woman sitting up in the bed.  She was screaming, “Clint, no, Clint don’t go in there!  The barn’s too far gone!  Clint!”  Then she started sobbing.  He sat down and held her in his arms.  “It’s okay.  You’re safe.  I’m so sorry about Clint.”

When her sobbing quieted, he told her to lie back down, covered her with the blanket and went back to his chair in the living room.  This poor woman had a long road ahead.  He would do whatever he could to make it easier for her.

One-Day Super Saturday Writers’ Conference

A writers’ conference is a great place to learn more about writing techniques and marketing and publishing opportunities and possibilities.  It is also a great place to meet other writers and make connections and form bonds, which is a wonderful thing since writing is a lonely business.  You can make lifelong friends who can help and encourage you and you can do the same for them as you walk your writing journey.  I attended this event last year, and cannot wait to attend this Saturday.  If you are anywhere near Lancaster County, I invite you to come and see what this one-day conference has to offer, and if you like, I can meet you face-to-face if you let me know you are coming so we can connect.

LANCASTER CHRISTIAN WRITERS HOSTS ONE-DAY CONFERENCE ON APRIL 11, 2015, AT LANCASTER BIBLE COLLEGE

For a bargain of excellence and price, no writer, whether beginning or advanced, within driving radius will want to miss Lancaster Christian Writers’ Super Saturday 2015!! to be held April 11th, 2015, from 8:30am.-4:30pm at Lancaster Bible College, 901 Eden Road, Lancaster, PA 17601.

This one-day writers conference offers a full slate of workshops taught by top industry professionals in both fiction and non-fiction fields. An early registration price of $50 is due by Wednesday, April 8, and includes soup/sandwich buffet lunch (think Panini!) and LCW membership. Registrations after April 9 and walk-ins day of the conference are $60.

A fiction track will be taught by award-winning novelists Dina Sleiman and Kelly Long along with children’s author Brenda Hendricks. Non-fiction faculty include TV/radio speaker, marketing expert, award-winning author of 19 books Karen Whiting, professional memoir and ghostwriter Shawn Smucker, journalist/social media experts Lisa Bartelt and Alison McLennan.

Keynoting the opening session will be linguist, missionary, and author Grace Fabian. Workshops cover such topics as: 

Market Yourself Now! Learn Tools to Develop Press Kit, Bio, Website, and Other PR Products.

Writing Blockbuster Scenes: How To Keep Readers Flipping Pages and Asking For More.

 Transformed Manuscripts: Repackaging Your Ideas (Sold or Rejected) to Expand Marketability.

 The Unfortunate Truth in Fiction: Addressing Hard Issues Without Pulling Down Your Story.

 A Story To Tell: Surefire Do’s and Don’ts to Write a Gripping True Life Story or Memoir.

 Myers-Briggs for Your Protagonist: Applying Personality Types to Create Characters with Distinctive Qualities, Motivations, and Voices.

 Let’s Ride the Seesaw: Recruiting Your Inner Child to Communicate with Young Readers.

 100% Guaranteed (Oh, Yeah?) Secret to Blogging Success Beyond Your Wildest Dreams!

A conference bookstore will offer a wide variety of writer resources and faculty titles. Conference attendees can get personal consultations with faculty on a first-come, first-serve basis. Lancaster Christian Writers welcomes writers of all churches and denominations, all levels and genres. Monthly meetings offer opportunities for manuscript critique, networking with other writers, workshops and guest authors.

Having Fun Experimenting

I am still working on the story that I am still outlining.  I am also working on some nonfiction short pieces to submit to some magazines.  I have also simply been “pantsing” a story just to be consistently writing something.

For a while I struggled in trying to decide on what genre I would write.  Then a wonderful writer advised me to write what my passion is and to feel free to try several genres.  It has also been suggested to me that I could write more than one genre, as many other writers do.

So, what I have found is that every story I write seems to have some romance in it.  I have decided that is my passion; clean romance, of course.  I have also found that there is a need for good fiction for boys ages 10 – 12, as well as for Young adults.  Therefore, the story I am outlining is geared for young adult girls.  The story I am simply “pantsing” is for adult women, although I’m not sure what will become of it.

However, this week I was helping my ten-year-old son with a story he was assigned to write for the Writers’ club that he and seventeen-year-old brother participate in.  They were assigned to write an Historical Fiction story, and I have to say that helping him with an Historical Fiction story began some wheels to turning in my brain, and I now have ideas for three Historical Fiction stories — one for adult women; one for girls ages, 10 – 12; and one for boys, ages 10 – 12!  I’m so excited, but I really need to get writing!  With all of these ideas, I’ll be writing for a couple of years without having to worry about finding some ideas.

I never would have thought that I would enjoy writing Historical Fiction.  I never liked history when I was in school, though I enjoy it much more now that I am homeschooling my own children.  I never thought I’d want to do a lot of research before writing something either, but all that research entails is reading (which I love to do) and taking some notes for what I want to write.  I’m looking forward to trying this new genre.

How about you?  What genre do you have a passion for?  Do you write more than one genre or for more than one age group?  Leave a comment and let me know about it.

Plot and Structure

The last workshop I attended at the writers’ conference was presented by Tracy Higley.  She did a fantastic, fast-paced presentation on plot and structure, based on examples by Christopher Vogler who wrote Writer’s Journey and Michael Hauge of storymastery.com.

Tracy explained that plot is critical to keep readers moving through your story because even if they like your characters, if nothing is happening, you’ll lose them.  You need to have a story goal for your protagonist and it can be either a concrete,visible goal or an abstract, inner goal.  She gave examples:  The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe — story goal — defeat the witch and The Wizard of Oz — to go home; abstract goal — learning to be content at home.

When the story goal is reached, the story is over. 

Your story needs an obstacle and conflict.  An obstacle — something solid that’s trying to keep your character from reaching his/her goal.  Conflict — needs to be significant.  Your character will have to go over, go through, or go under the obstacle to reach the goal.  Create story goal, obstacle, and conflict over and over again, scene by scene with each ending being a disaster/failure and use your character’s reaction to connect these.  Scene and chapter endings fade in the middle of the conflict or right after the disaster or right after a new goal is made.

This pattern should be followed for each book you write with an overarcing pattern for a trilogy or series.

Tracy suggested reading Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler (there are several editions available); Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell and check out Michael Hauge’s website and his book Hero’s Journey, which is available through his website:  http://www.storymastery.com/.

Tracy writes wonderful historical fiction and you can find her at:  http://tracyhigley.com/.

I love to read historical fiction, and though, I like to do research occasionally, I don’t think I’d want to write a genre that would require me to do extensive research for every book, so I’m glad we have authors like Tracy who do the research and write the wonderful historical stories.  I love to read so many types of fiction, I think that is why it was difficult to decide what type of fiction I should write.  That’s why I’m so glad I have a loving God that I can turn to for guidance.  I am also very blessed and thankful for a supportive husband and an encouraging oldest son.  I know the writer’s life can be isolated and that not every writer has supportive friends and family, so I hope that if you are one of those writers, you can visit my blog and find support and encouragement here.  Feel free to comment if you want some personal support and encouragement and I’ll be happy to be your support and encouragement.