Friday Conversations With A Self-Publishing Writer 04/03/15

SETTING THE STAGE

OH the history of it all! Are there any readers out there who will agree with me that the TV series, Downton Abbey, is possibly the best they’ve ever seen produced? The research must seem daunting, yet it is obvious that their team of writers loves what they are doing and dig deep into history providing authenticity and reality.  The lives of the characters of Downton are greatly affected by actual events such as the sinking of the Titanic (etched in my memory because of Molly Brown, resident of Leadville and Denver, Colorado) and  World War I.  They’ve also lived through the Spanish flu pandemic, the formation of the Irish Free State, the Teapot Dome scandal, and the UK’s general election of 1923. POINT being made: Setting requires historical research on multiple levels.

Below are research tips you might want to consider:

  1. Think about ancestry.  The geographical and cultural influences within that geography will give you excellent foundation for the current setting your characters live in.  For example, if they (or their parents) came to the U.S. from Ireland or Italy the setting/stage of their growing up years (or their current environment) would be in distinctive neighborhoods within “The Bronx.” Several Chinese and Japanese migrations created “China and Japanese Towns” in nations, states and cities around the world. It is the ancestral influences of values, attitudes, food preparations, etc. that develops unique settings—distinctive differences in home interiors, office spaces, restaurants, etc.
  2. Importance of Cultural, Social and Political environment. This aspect also plays into the development of your characters and their perspectives.  However, in relation to setting the stage for them, look to the images available online about the time period of your novel. For example: The political stage of Abraham Lincoln’s first nomination for President of the United States is dramatically different from the political stage we see today. Lincoln had only about 18 months of formal schooling, yet practiced law and was accepted as “highly qualified” to be President. He promoted women having “the vote” in 1836. He was the first President to use the telegraph. Yes, indeed, in that Lincoln Era the political stage was a unique place.
  3. Eras of Historical Significance. Throughout known history those who have a passion for such studies have divided the years into several geographic and national categories.  They include Ancient History, The Postclassical Era, and Modern History, which are further delineated with such categories as Ancient Rome or the Six Dynasties (of China), etc. Events (important to a specific setting) that have happened during the Era you’ve selected will give your novel the same authenticity and reality that is mentioned here about Downton Abbey. One other point to consider when researching your specific era is to learn about the population of the city, town or village where your characters came from and are IN currently. This element will help you fine-tune the “feelings” of characters as well as place your readers with them.

AS you’ve probably deciphered by now, research is a big part of novel writing. It is absolutely necessary that you—the writer—are able to “walk the streets” with you characters, cook in their kitchens, sleep in their beds and read the headline stories in their newspapers.  If you are able to “set the stage” to such a detailed degree, you’ll most certainly have a BEST SELLER.

Royalene ABOUT ROYALENE DOYLE: Royalene Doyle is a Ghostwriter with Outskirts Press, bringing more than 35 years of writing experience to authors who need “just a little assistance” with completing their writing projects. She has worked with both experienced and fledgling writers helping complete projects in multiple genres. When a writer brings the passion they have for their work and combines it with Royalene’s passion to see the finished project in print, books are published and the writer’s legacy is passed forward.

Happy Memorial Day, Self-Publishing Authors

It’s Memorial Day; a day for remembering those who have died while serving in the US Armed Forces. I didn’t grow up in a military family, although my father was in Civil Service for 40 years.  When I was 22 I moved to a military base in Germany, where I acquired gainful employment and enrolled in college.  I remained tightly associated with the military for the next 21 years.  Wow, did this change my perspective about those who serve!  I am in awe and so very, very thankful for those who answer the calling to serve our country.

I lost friends to battles, and I make a point of reflecting on them each Memorial Day.  I’ve visited Arlington National Cemetery and had the eerie and yet peaceful heaviness descend upon me as I observed ceremonies for soldiers I didn’t know.  I’ve donned helmet and Kevlar and flown into Bosnia where I observed hundreds of soldiers living without modern conveniences and very little privacy because they were on a mission; a mission they may not return from.  They are all very special people.  I think about them too.

Prior to my close association with the US Armed Forces, when I choose a book to read purely for pleasure, I tended to navigate toward the Science Fiction and Fantasy genres, but during and after my association with the military, my tastes turned to historical and military fiction novels.  I love a well-written book I can read that has the entertainment value of fiction combined with the historical basis that I can learn from.  Many of the novels I read really drive home the statement that, “Freedom isn’t free.”

Maybe some of you have a story to share about a soldier you loved and lost.  Consider presenting the story as fiction based on a true-story. Self-publishing can help you honor that special person and share their story with the world.

ABOUT JODEE THAYER: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Jodee Thayer works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable customer service reps and publishing consultants; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process in order to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Jodee Thayer can put you on the right path.

Friday Conversations With A Self-Publishing Writer 10/25/13

When talking with a neighbor today, I mentioned my appreciation for novels of “historical” fiction and how much I’ve learned from them.  She asked for an example, and I immediately thought of an exceptionally well-written book about how many Christians—living in Germany at the time Hitler was coming into power—“looked the other way” when facts were revealed about the treatment of their Jewish neighbors.  My neighbor then showed me a book she’d just read, a self-published novel titled Barbed Wire and Daisies by Carol Strazer.  “It is the story of a mother and her children trying to escape the hell of German occupation in WWII,” she said.  “And it’s so visually written that I could almost stumble over the rubble of destruction.”

She continued,  “The sadness I feel today when reading books like that goes beyond the horrific truth of those events because I become even more aware that we humans haven’t learned much from those experiences.”  Then she asked me if I’d read any of the “soldier blogs” that pepper the Internet.  I had to admit that I haven’t.  “These are the real life histories that need to be developed into books,” she stated.  “Only the truth, told from the perspective of these soldiers—these boots-on-the-ground—can make the world taste the dust storms and feel the pain of war.”  After that conversation, I have a lot more to think about.

Personally, as one of the millions of people who breathe in our FREEDOM every day because of the sacrifices of our military men and women—and their families—I can only agree with my friend.  I have no immediate knowledge of what it really feels like when bunk-mates don’t return from a mission.  I never stood to attention at a desert memorial service as my platoon saluted each of the lost soldiers whose kevlars had been placed on their weapons, their dog tags hanging below their helmets as they should have been hanging around their necks.

So, today, I have no specific writing advice to share with you; only the hope that someone who is reading this will begin writing the true stories of the real life histories they’ve lived.  Or, if you’re a writer and know one of our soldiers/warriors, maybe they could tell you their experiences and you could develop the book.  Our world is being forever changed by these events.  We need to know what has happened—from many perspectives—so that we have the real opportunity to make the future better and brighter.

Royalene ABOUT ROYALENE DOYLE: Royalene Doyle is a Ghostwriter with Outskirts Press, bringing more than 35 years of writing experience to authors who need “just a little assistance” with completing their writing projects. She has worked with both experienced and fledgling writers helping complete projects in multiple genres. When a writer brings the passion they have for their work and combines it with Royalene’s passion to see the finished project in print, books are published and the writer’s legacy is passed forward.

Friday Conversations With A Self-Publishing Writer 10/18/13

I LOVE Historical Fiction! Not only do I find inspiration, hope, and encouragement when I read these books, but I often become acquainted with a new author (new to me, anyway) who took the leap into self-publishing.  When a writer dives into researching everything from footwear and clothing to politics and mores within a specific time period, readers become their beneficiaries—and learn life survival skills that are easily passed forward within this genre.

The most recent historical/biographical fiction I’ve worked with is set in the late 1800s, early 1900s.  The central character is a young woman who stepped way outside her comfort zone in the world of medicine to become one of only a handful of women physicians in her generation.  I can still picture the scene—during her medical school days—when a cloth screen was set up in the classroom to separate her from her male classmates.  The professor thought it “indelicate” to discuss the subject matter of his class in “mixed company,” and that was his solution.  This was a true occurrence and added to my understanding of how my grandparents thought about male/female relationships and why they often seemed confused—even embarrassed—by their grandchildren.

The huge success of recent TV series period pieces should also encourage the historical fiction writer.  More than other genres, the details that must accurately paint these stories are perfect for film development.  Plus, the characters from days-gone-by are easily portrayed as bigger-than-life, while retaining the elements of humanity with which we can all identify.

I’ve come to discover that good fiction tells a good story, excellent fiction introduces readers to a character they will never forget, and award winning fiction compels the reader to live the life of the characters as they walk through each and every event.  This happens—for me—most often within the pages of historical fiction.

Can any writer become an award winning historical fiction author?  Here is a little quiz that will help you answer that for yourself.

  1. Did you enjoy history classes in school?  Could you picture yourself living in log cabins, or animal-skin teepees, or caves?
  2. Do you like the smell of libraries?  Some current writers do most of their research on the Internet; however, discovering that one “key element” and/or fact among library archives is a real treat!
  3. Can you hear, see, smell, taste, and touch the environment of the time period you’re writing about?
  4. Do you share the same passions of your main character?  Rather than “walking a mile in his or her shoes,” could you walk a thousand miles beside them?
  5. Do you understand the motives behind your main character, his companions and the antagonist(s)?

I’ve known folks who have worked on (and off) on their historical fiction novel for years.  If you are one of those writers, I would like to nudge you (sharply) to GET IT DONE and GET IT PUBLISHED!  Other people may have written about your hero, but only you can tell it with the passion that you hold.

Royalene ABOUT ROYALENE DOYLE: Royalene Doyle is a Ghostwriter with Outskirts Press, bringing more than 35 years of writing experience to authors who need “just a little assistance” with completing their writing projects. She has worked with both experienced and fledgling writers helping complete projects in multiple genres. When a writer brings the passion they have for their work and combines it with Royalene’s passion to see the finished project in print, books are published and the writer’s legacy is passed forward.