Sunday, August 31, 2014

Author Laura Strickland: Total Immersion in Writing Historical Fiction

Laura Strickland’s latest release is the historical fantasy, Lord of Sherwood: The Guardians of Sherwood Trilogy, Book Three.

As a writer of Historical Romance, I sometimes feel like the conductor on a bus tour into the past.  Pick up one of my books and I’ll punch your ticket. The bus will fire up with a throaty growl and we’ll disappear into the mists of time for a ride you won’t soon forget.  I've been conducting these tours for a while now, and quite a few people book return trips.

But what makes for successful time travel? Well, if you love writing Historical Fiction and want to set up your own tours, here are a few things you might want to consider.

It’s your tour, and those you take along will only see/hear/smell and taste what you share with them.  So you’d better make sure you don’t leave anything out.  If you make a stop in, say, eighteenth century England and drop by a pub to await the appearance of the Highwayman who features prominently in your story, you’d better give your passengers the full experience. How does it smell when you walk in? Like spilled ale and patrons who haven’t washed in six months?  How’s the ale? Dark and foamy? Pungent with a nutty aftertaste? How are the folks around you dressed? How do their voices sound? Make the world you create a tactile one and your passengers won’t want to get back on the bus too soon.

How much do you personally love this world you’re visiting?
I’ve learned that sharing fiction is a bit like osmosis. The writer brings to it a set of emotions and if s/he can convey them properly, they’ll seep into the reader’s consciousness the way water seeps into a sponge.  If you enjoy the way your Highwayman struts into the pub when he arrives, if you notice the way his black hair curls on his neck and the wicked gleam in his eyes, so will your readers. You don’t want to force anything onto your tour members: if you have to persuade them to participate, that wrecks the fun of the tour. You want them drawn into things, so caught up they forget the bus exists.

How immersed are you in your chosen period?
For it to be convincing, you have to live and breathe this stuff. You must be aware what your character ate for supper last night, even if it was roasted swan. You have to think about how heavy a knight’s armor is and how much work it takes for your heroine to draw a bath. You should lose yourself in your story, forget what it’s like to live with electricity/television/cell phones for a while, be aware that not everybody in Medieval England is a lord or queen, and that peasants fall in love too. Breathe the fetid air, smell the water in the moat and listen to the music of the times when you write. In short, for truly convincing prose I recommend total immersion, so don’t hesitate to drive that tour bus right into the nearest lake.

In short, your readers will only believe the veracity of your writing if you believe it. So do whatever it takes to engage yourself in your period, and your writing.  Happy time travel!

The Guardians of Sherwood Trilogy - Book Three
Curlew Champion, master archer, has always known his destiny.  With his cousin, Heron Scarlet, he will become a guardian of Sherwood Forest and further his people's fight against Norman tyranny.  But the third member of the triad is still to be revealed, the woman who will complete the magical circle and, perhaps, answer the longing in Curlew's heart.

Anwyn Montfort has fled disgrace in Shrewsbury and come to Nottingham at her father's bidding.  He wishes her to make a good marriage and settle down.  But the wildness that possesses her refuses to quiet.  She knows she's been searching for something all her life, but not until she glimpses Curlew does her spirit begin to hope it has found its home.

Only the magic of Sherwood can bring them together, and only their union can complete the spell woven so long ago...

For more information on Laura Strickland go to www.laurastricklandbooks.com
Amazon Link

Monday, August 18, 2014

Book Review: The Martian by Andy Weir

Mark Watney is having a really bad day. Due to a chain of accidents the astronaut has been marooned on Mars. Believing he’s dead, his crew left for Earth. He has no way to communicate with either the spaceship or NASA. Not that it matters, because in less than sixty days, he’ll be out of food, water, and air. Yup, a really bad day. Unless he finds a way to survive on a barren planet for four years until the next Mars landing, he will be completely and totally screwed.  

What is Right With This Book?
When you think back on your list of top ten books, more than likely most, if not all, will have been read before you turned thirty. The books you loved in your formative years stick to you like hot fudge to hips and stay a happy memory for the rest of your life. You revisit them now and then like old friends and leave with a warm and happy feeling. (After thirty, you are no longer formative. Mostly you are sludge that can only think with a regular infusion of caffeine and/or sugar—at least for me.) I accepted I would like a lot of books, even love some, but none would ever again make my list of favorites.

I was wrong.

The Martian is not just an example of an excellent science fiction book, but one of the best science fiction books I’ve ever read. There…I’ve gone on record and said it. Why is it great? Several reasons. Not only did Weir create a totally engaging hero, the book has a gripping, story that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Will Mark find a food source? Water? A way to communicate with NASA? Can a rescue be mounted or is he doomed to a lonely death millions of miles from home?

The Martian is also surprisingly funny. Science fiction that is heavy on technical data rarely brings a chuckle. Often it is pretentious and stuffy, but Mark Watney faces impossible odds with a hysterical, self-deprecating sense of humor that made me laugh-out-loud.

Finally, science fiction books often suffer from poor characterization, particularly of females. Let’s face it, most are written by men. Women come across as little more than cardboard cutouts stuffed in a space suit. Not so, The Martian. Although Watney is alone on Mars the book’s point of view bounces from him to the mixed-gender crews of the spaceship and NASA. Female characters are fully formed and completely believable.

What’s Wrong With It?
Nothing. Seriously, not one single word. I can’t remember the last time I’ve loved a book so much from start to finish. The Martian outshines anything I ever read by Niven, Herbert, Clarke or any of the other supposed grand masters. Okay, if you put a gun to my head, I’ll admit I hate the cover. It’s ugly.

Why YOU Might Not Like It 
Some books, even well-written ones, should come with a warning. The Martian is one of them. You will hate this book, not even make it through the first chapter, if you don’t like hard science fiction. What is hard science fiction? It is a story that is heavy on the science and technical details.  I’m a dweeb, I admit it. I love the sciency stuff. If you can’t stand techno-talk, please don’t start this book. You’ll hate every single page, think I’m crazy for writing a glowing review, and make me cry very salty tears. Don’t bother picking it up.

I received a copy of The Martian for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for this review.

L. A. Kelley is a co-blogger at The Book Cove.  She writes stories with adventures, romance, humor, and a touch of sass. You can find her at http://lakelleythenaughtylist.blogspot.com

Saturday, August 2, 2014

When Fact Collides With Fiction

Blogging today at The Book Cove http://www.thebookcove.com/




Sometimes fiction collides with fact in the most unusual ways. Beverly Nault talks about her novel, Fresh Start Summer. 

This is the story of two towns, one real and one imagined, that came together in an unusual way. Several years ago I began a book series based on a small town filled with folks you’d want to as friends in a setting you’d never want to leave. They would have their share of squabbles, but the quirky and colorful characters would get past their differences to strengthen friendships and their community.

Each title would take place during one season, so I pictured a main street with the changing appearance of trees, from the icicled branches in winter to spring’s promise of buds and blooms. I “planted” cherry trees that would blossom in the spring along cobblestoned walks lit with modern gas lamps, inviting park benches, and curiosity shops beckoning a leisurely visit.  This town would need the perfect name, something referring to the cherry trees. I searched the map and found a small town in Kansas named Cherryvale.  I hoped they wouldn’t mind me using their lovely name.

So began The Seasons of Cherryvale with the first title Fresh Start Summer. As the book released and I began marketing, I’d all but forgotten about the real town until I read a blog comment from a fellow named Richard. He asked me if I knew about the “real” Cherryvale.

Gulp. Yessir. I did. Hope you don’t mind me using your name!

I waited to see the town’s reaction. As it turns out, they did NOT mind at all.  After local inhabitants read the first book, they invited me to not only visit, but also bring my books to their next Cherry Blossom Festival. I graciously accepted and—after having to reschedule due to a freaky spring snowstorm—was treated to a VIP weekend where I had a very successful book signing, an appearance at the library, a private tour of the Cherryvale Museum and saw many sights around town escorted by my new friends, residents of the “real” Cherryvale.

How similar were the two Cherryvales?
They were so much alike I was shocked and pleasantly surprised. Both Cherryvales have a B&B, a beautiful town lake, lovely homes, and a quaint Main Street. Also, lots of school spirit as indicated by the high school football game we attended, and of course, challenges that any community has. Everyone has an interesting history—and some even whispered juicy nuggets for future storylines! Everything you might expect from any small town.

One of the most unusual likenesses between book and town was that in Fresh Start Summer a Hollywood crew arrived to film a movie. This sets off events that turn the town upside down. As I arrived in the “real” Cherryvale, a Hollywood crew had just finished filming a movie about “The Bloody Benders,” a notorious gang famous for their short but violent reign in the late 1800’s. (My fictional movie was not bloody, however.)

My favorite similarity though, is that like the fictional town I’d dreamed up, I felt an immediate sense of welcome as soon as I arrived in the real Cherryvale. I continue to keep in touch with my new “neighbors” through social media, and consider myself an honorary Cherryvalian, anxious to return for another visit as soon as possible.

We all want our neighborhoods to be a place of warmth and friendship, and readers yearn to read books to help them escape to a place or to go on an adventure they can remember fondly forever. I believe both Cherryvales fit their bills nicely.

FRESH START SUMMER is a finalist in the 2014 Reader's Favorite Book Award contest in their Humor and Inspirational categories. 

Beverly can be found at:
Twitter @bevnault
Amazon author page
bev@beverlynault.com