I've spent most of the month of May vacillating between two very different story ideas for my next writing project. Should I venture off on a new tangent, leaving the Civil War behind and experimenting with a little cozy mystery/romance genre? Or should I respond to the request of a few readers of "Henrietta's Legacy" for Book Three, rounding out the story of what happens to the three Beauchene sisters?
I confess to being tired of South Carolina and the Civil War. I've been writing about them since 2005, and I'm running out of new ideas. There's safety in the familiar theme, of course, but also a risk of repeating myself and boring the daylights out of my readers. I have a good idea of what happens to the Beauchene family and their business after the war. I've covered most of the build-up and collapse of Reconstruction already in the Grenville Chronicles. The impact of Rachel's decision to stay in England will take her off on a different, though not happier, trajectory. Neither her desire to connect with a newly-located mother nor England's ventures as an imperial power promise successful resolutions. The over-riding problem with a "Book Three," however, is that I cannot see a way to weave a coherent and unified storyline out of those separate historical strands.
The much more tempting idea is one that I've been shoving to the back of my imagination for several years. If it is true that an author should write about what she knows, then I have a rich store of memories of what goes on within the walls of a graduate department or behind the fences of a small college campus. Oh, and the characters are so tempting! Graduate students and their professors tend to have certain quirky characteristics in common. Most are highly intelligent, more than slightly compulsive, and ambitious over-achievers. Toss in just a touch of jealousy, paranoia, and irrationality, along with a phobia or two. Put those characters together in a small space, add a bit of pressure, and they are likely to implode all over one another. Delusions, sabotage, and attempted murder are not out of the question.
I guess it's pretty obvious which way I'm leaning.
Monday, May 27, 2019
I’m still trying to figure out a new breakdown of the seasons—one that will add some semblance of order to the way I approach writing a new book. Here’s how I see my life at the moment (as revised from a couple of years ago.)
My new year (at least this year) starts with “Emergence,” during March/April/May. It's a period of new beginnings, of breaking out--triggered, perhaps by the swelling of tree-leaf buds that gives the bare branches a tinge of green. Maybe (as in spring) there's a daffodil poking up through the cold mulch or a single confused flower on my azalea. More importantly for me, there's a stirring of ideas, a shaking off of the past, an eagerness to start something new. During these past three months, I put the finishing touches on “Henrietta’s Legacy, which came out in mid-April, but those were simply details, cosmetic changes. The more important stuff has been going on in my imagination. I’ve been planning, plotting, drawing story arcs, doing character sketches--all the first steps in creating a new book. (But more of that later.)
IMPLEMENTATIONNow comes my season of "Implementation"—June /July/August. Normal people would call it summer. My birthday falls in May, which always gives me a feeling of "OK, another year--here I come!" And then I'm ready to work hard. I've never been much of a summer person. I'm not a swimmer, I hate bugs, and I burn before I tan. So traditional summer will find me indoors, enjoying the air-conditioning, and eagerly pursuing my favorite pastimes of reading, researching, and intensive writing. By the end of the season, I may be indulging in a Camp NaNoWriMo writing challenge, pounding out the first draft of a new novel.
FRUITIONMy third season is "Fruition"—September/October/November--when I set firm deadlines to finish up my current project. I'm one of that weird bunch of people for whom September used to mean the start of the year. We're mostly academics, I suppose, our lives attuned to the start of a school year. There may be a few witches among us--those for whom harvest festivals and Halloween have special significance. And maybe some of us fall into both categories. (No one I know, of course, although a new character may fall into that category!) I still love September, when there's just a touch of crispness to the morning air, when trees start to put on their red and gold show, when gardens no longer need tending, and harvests load us up with delicious and healthy crops. I’m now ready to harvest those ideas that started to form in March and have been growing ever since. My daily planner will include several major goals, most of them involving book publication—editing, re-writing, polishing, and formatting the book I’ve been writing.
HIBERNATIONAnd then I head into the fourth period--"Hibernation"--covering the worst cold days of the year-- December/January/February. These three months are always the most difficult for me because of their emphasis on family and celebrations, while I am distracted by empty dinner tables, missing family members, and the anniversaries of some of the most difficult times of my life. But I will also enjoy the days when dusk falls very early and I can close the shutters and light the fireplace. There is a peace in solitude that allows deep breaths, a straightening spine, and hope for better days to come. Contrary to popular opinion, real hibernation involves much more than sleep. For a writer, it’s a period of drudgery—of reading the final versions of a manuscript over and over again. But it’s also a period of evaluation, self-reflection, and a marshaling of resources, a necessary period of hatching and rejuvenation for new projects to come.
So, there’s my rough schedule for the months that lie ahead. In the next few days, I intend to lay out my specific plans. Stick around and you’ll find out where my next efforts are leading me.
Wednesday, May 22, 2019
Here’s another book series you might enjoy going back to. The Grenville Saga follows a fictional family through three generations of change. The characters may exist only on the printed page, but the events surrounding them really happened.
- · Damned Yankee (https://amazon.com/dp/B00K1P6WI8) follows the family through the Civil War.
- · Yankee Reconstructed (https://amazon.com/dp/B0169CM41A) covers the 10-year period of Reconstruction after the Civil War.
- · And Yankee Daughters (https://amazon.com/dp/B01M1LPY2H) begins with the great Charleston earthquake of 1886 and finishes in the early 20th century.
To finish out the Civil War series, Henrietta’s story comes in two volumes:
Henrietta's Journal (https://amazon.com/dp/
Henrietta's Legacy (https://amazon.com/dp/
Will there be a third "Henrietta" book to follow the fates of her daughters? The last sentence of Legacy seems to suggest that there will, but the question is still open to debate. Look for an upcoming post about my future plans for the latest updates.
Tuesday, May 21, 2019
Do you enjoy historical fiction but wish you could learn more about real people who lived during your favorite period? Try one of these creative biographies and meet some real people living in South Carolina during the Civil War. Choose from:
- Union and Confederate soldiers--A Scratch with the Rebels at: (https://amazon.com/dp/B00I4YU1D0,
- Union army nurses and doctors--Beyond All Price at (https://amazon.com/dp/B07GVRBWBW),
- or the missionaries helping abandoned slaves--The Road to Frogmore at (https://amazon.com/dp/B00A6GM55G).