Oh MY!

Tonight when my husband and I returned from a walk at the close of this rainy Iowa day, we were looking up at the roof for some reason, and I spotted something that looked like a bird…sort of. But bigger.

Lance is nothing if he’s not persevering. He hung out until he captured an image of the creature…I can’t believe it! We have cardinals, house wrens, hummingbirds, and of course, crows in our yard. But this…never thought I’d see the like. Not here in our yard.

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Isn’t this the cutest baby owl? I’ve never spied one before, and this one added excitement to a rather gloomy, although productive day here in the Midwest. I’m a lot like my fiction characters, I guess – it doesn’t take a whole lot to make my day.

And this experience also goes to show that you can enjoy someone else’s hobby almost as much as you enjoy your own. Barn owls have made appearances in my historical fiction, and this little one…oh yes, you can bet she (or he) will pop up somewhere in a future story.

Good morning, sunshine!

A quiet Sunday morning, but after a great rain last night, our plants are grinning all over the porch and deck.

Geraniums garner fresh sunshine . . . the plant on the right has TWELVE blossoms right now.

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Rosemary and basil greet us . . .

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Petunias and johnny jump-ups join in.

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Yesterday the first edits for A Purpose True, the sequel to Addie’s story, arrived. A time to pay attention to details, to make things better, to brighten the world around us, and to enjoy the process.

Already, tomato blossoms promise a fruitful summer . . . what more could we ask?

Scene Visits and Perseverance

Recently, I met the man who built our house, and he said during the excavation, workers found a Native American matate, or grindstone. I’d been having Abby, the heroine of a novel set here in 1870, watch for the natives–now I have evidence they were really here–nice to spend some time in the setting, as Tracy Groot shared with us last month.

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In the past two years, someone already unearthed a pumice pestle, perhaps the one used with that grindstone. Pretty cool, eh?

And here are a few pottery shards found in front of our place. Our friend gathers them when she comes up here, in an area where water washes down.

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I have yet to discover one, but I’m getting the idea of what to look for, and enjoy the “hunt.”

This past couple of weeks  my writing has brought a few bumps in the road: a rough critique of a would-be novel’s beginning and word from the editor of my first contracted women’s fiction novel: your file’s been corrupted. Send me another. Oops.

Well, that’s the writing life, I’m thinking. Take the downs with the ups and keep at it. Some day, you’ll hold your fiction book in your hand, just as some day, hopefully, I’ll find some pottery shards right in our front yard. Yes, this is a picture of what I  peruse in my search.

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Anybody want to share how you’ve persevered in your writing life, or in anything else, for that matter? I’d love to hear your stories.

Setting and Scenarios

Our neighbor Roy, 93 and a World War II veteran, feeds the elk regularly. One of them even allows him to stroke her muzzle. What a great hobby for someone who sacrificed so much building airstrips on Pacific Islands seventy-some years ago.

IMG_1255_2Yesterday I heard him croon to an elk, “You back again? Getting a little selfish, aren’t you? You know I like to feed the deer, too.”

Roy writes his story one day at a time and the elk act it out. He just supplies the grain, or shall we say, fodder?

There’s so much novel fodder here under the Mogollon Rim. One of my novels (hopefully publishable at some point), tells the story of a young woman desperate to belong. After losing her family in freak accidents, she’ll pay any price, and does. Every day, she watches the sun climb DOWN the Rim, since it first has to peak over the other side to reach this valley.

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Ah, how life twists things around! Dottie, the World War II heroine I’ve mentioned before, experiences the topsy-turvy effects of a horrendous war.

But both of these characters, and all of us, find courage and tenacity during these tough times. The question is, will our characters make changes necessary to their well-being?

Soren Kierkegaard wrote, “All change is preceded by crisis.” And for fiction writers, crisis is integral to the plot. And as Tracy Groot shared with us the past two weeks, so is the setting: feeding Arizona elk  or working at a 1947 small-town Iowa boarding house demand different mindsets. In both Dottie and Abby’s lives (and our own), character and setting meld with plot as crises arise.

I’d like to hear your favorite fiction crisis . . . Scarlet O’Hara’s dilemma, the harried chase in True Grit,  or some other difficult situation? Or share how you blend setting and scenario in your own writing.

Sara Goff won the giveaway of Tracy Groot’s The Sentinels of Andersonville–congratulations! Thanks for stopping by, and have a great, creative week!

Tracy Groot on Setting and Site Visits

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Elk and javelina epitomize these rugged Ponderosa forests, the setting for one of my novels, and time spent here makes all the difference in writing.

Today, Tracy Groot shares about visiting the site of your novel.

“Site visits are very important. “The land speaks” even decades or centuries or millennia later. Visits have an orienting effect and always, always, always yield the unexpected: my visits to Andersonville for The Sentinels of Andersonville yielded impromptu interviews with the mayor, a storeowner, a museum curator. 

“Visiting a site can infuse your story with small but important details–lovely specificities that round out the tone of many scenes. Also, check out any local museums—they usually have dynamite bookstores.

“My visit to France for Flame of Resistance yielded such a wealth of information, I cannot imagine how the book would’ve turned out without it; I ate the local food in Normandy, visited multiple WWII museums, talked with elderly folk who’d been around during the war. Priceless! And fun! And we’ve learned to combine site visits with family vacations, to save money.”

Did I mention I’ve been working on a World War II series set in Southern France for a looooong time . . . maybe a visit is in order!

Last week we focused on character, so here’s a bit more from Tracy on that. (Can’t you just see character in this scrounger eating food scraps?) 

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Character always informs story and plot for Tracy. “I love what British historian Arnold Toynbee said, that character results from a person’s heredity and interaction with his environment; so I research where one of my characters is from to  develop his or her story and personality. Getting to know the character and realizing how they act or react, helps to inform plot.”

What story does Tracy resonate with most?

“Each book has something that is a part of me—scenes in every one came from the gut—and it’s still a thrill and joy that these scenes actually made it to paper. It’s hard to nail down a favorite—I usually pick the one I’ve last worked on, ha ha! Maggie Bright, a story about the rescue of the British army at Dunkirk, is a current fave. It comes out in May 2015.”

Heartfelt thanks to Tracy for giving us an inside look at her vocation—perhaps readers will get a feel for the commitment she puts into each novel. And writers, she’s given us a wealth of food for thought. Feel free to comment about anything and everything. And be watching for Maggie Bright.

Please include contact information with your comment in order to vie for the prize of Tracy’s The Sentinels of Andersonville. We’ll announce the winner next week and send the copy to you posthaste.

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