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Guest Post & A Giveaway – Re-creating History - Welcome to Confessions of a Writeaholic, my dear readers! This month’s guest post is by Clyve Rose – a Historical Fiction author. She recently published her debut novel Always A Princess based on the regency era. Along with writing this guest post for Confessions of a Writeaholic, Clyve has kindly offered to do a giveaway of a paperback copy of her book along with the gorgeous handmade bookmark that you see in the image below. To enter the giveaway, read the post and leave a comment below. We will select one lucky winner and contact them via social media (be sure to leave your Instagram/Twitter handles in the comments). Creating History One of the most challenging parts of writing historical fiction is that much of it is ‘re-creating’, rather than ‘creating’. I do not world-build from scratch, and I can not invent my own societal codes or my own world events. I’ve worked in Ancient Greece, 1400-1500s Europe and the Americas, and my regular gig in the Regency era. No matter the time period, this simple truth applies: history has happened, and cannot be changed. This affects the choices I make as a writer. What do I mean by this? Certain references are anachronistic to the world I depict on your page. I can describe a sky as ultramarine blue, but I cannot call it ’turquoise’ before the thirteenth century – because that word itself did not yet exist. If my hero offers a ‘steely glare’, he has to do if after 1200AD. A character cannot think in terms of Christianity, before Christ himself did live, and his teachings are known in these terms. This is the kind of research I must deliver for my story to feel true. Are the readers of historical fiction so demanding? I do not see readers as demanding. A reader’s commitment to excellence in storytelling inspires my gratitude. Readers like this make for better writers. Certainly, they make me a better writer. I recently followed a Twitter thread where Enola Holmes was critiqued for its poor handling of the progression of titles and inheritances in the on-screen adaptation. The source material for the film is the novel, and the novel is inaccurate on this point. Readers do notice you see. As an author, it’s my goal to create a place and world in which my readers can lose themselves, but I am ever-conscious that this world did actually exist. I cannot expect the reader to trust me as a storyteller, if I do not deliver a credible sense of time, place, and history. I can only do this via intensive research. Researching takes at least as long as composition. It’s frustrating of course, because I never know precisely what I will need. I once spent four weeks plotting a route by horse and carriage through the Alps in wartime, where the borders of various territories were changing almost daily – only to cut that entire chunk in redraft. I didn’t even need the horses in the end. Nothing is wasted however; I know that alpine trip fits in somewhere. How does this research affect my writing? While I am not wrestling with mental terraforming like fantasy authors do (much respect to these folks; I find this kind of work hugely challenging), I cannot write the world my characters inhabit while ignoring the etymological limitations of the era in which I choose to write. For instance, in my recent novel Always a Princess, I detail a scene where a little girl’s ‘gaze flicked between brothers as though she umpired a game of lawn tennis’ (page 237). Wait a moment – did tennis exist, and was it called that? Turns out, it did and it was, but I must pause during edits to check. This became particularly interesting for me when I wrote Always a Princess, because Syeira (the heroine) is Romany, (more commonly known as ‘Gypsy’). In Regency England, the heroine and her family would certainly have been referred to as ‘gypsies’. The term was intended as a pejorative by the English, both then and now. I am writing in 2020, and I know this term to be harmful. Not always you understand (indeed, some Romany readers have reached out to indicate they are proud to be known as Gypsies), but it has been used to harm others, and I am aware of this context. So, I had to make a choice: My novel is set in 1814. How do my characters refer to each other, in a time when ‘gypsy’ would be correct, and correctly harmful? I made several decisions regarding this. The first one was not to avoid the word ‘gypsy’. To do so ignores the historical context my characters face in the story and by extension, the lived experience of the Romany people of Lancashire. As a descendant of marginalised people, I know how this kind of omission stings. Besides, as a writer I must stay true to my story – and part of that story is the pervasive prejudice during the Regency era. So ‘Gypsy’ remains part of this story. I also allow the heroine to define how she prefers to be addressed, and I choose to highlight this early. Syeira refers to herself and her family as ‘Romany’. The hero (who is English), allows her to lead this. Is this true to the Regency era? Not likely, but it is true to my characters, and my story – and if I get the balance right, it ought to satisfy my readers as well. This is the challenge all writers face, isn’t it? It’s a bit like making a jigsaw puzzle without the picture on the box lid. It’s a re-creation, with a kaleidoscope of pieces that might fit together in dozens of different ways. Which one is right? Which one is best? These are the agonising choices we call ‘the writing process’. I write in 2020, for modern day readers seeking an experience of a past that was once very real. The Regency era existed, and it is not honest to ignore the painful parts of this history. When we re-create the past, we offer ourselves another way to tell stories from that period. Another way to get the words right. When so much of history has been about specifically erasing or curtailing other voices, an opportunity to adjust who is in focus is golden. There is nothing ‘wrong’ with Austen-style Regency novels; with keeping the lens where it has been for over two centuries now – but it’s not enough for me. I know there is more to tell. There is more I can tell, and so I make the choices I make: To create a different kind of metal from my alchemical wordsmithing. It may not be gold to some people. It may not even be precious, but it matters. This is why the words I choose matter. The context in which I choose to place them before the reader, matters. These stories are not just mine, though I am their author. I write fiction, but all fiction is based on truth – whether it be temporal, psychological, geographical, or physical. When we re-create, we have a chance to re-orient ourselves in place and time – and in history. I am not interested in erasing Austen or anything like. I am interested in widening the view. Clyve Rose is an award-winning author of historical fiction both in Australia and the US. She has been writing historical romance fiction for the best part of two decades. She works in the historical romance and paranormal genres. Clyve Rose believes that love is the highest and strongest force in the world and that it manifests when we are our best and truest selves. Anything less, and we diminish our divinity. She will continue writing about love in all its various, glorious forms. One day, her epitaph will read ‘just one more read-through’. Always A Princess is available for purchase on Amazon and Boroughs Publishing. Follow Clyve Rose on Goodreads for updates on her latest release. Unbound – Reader’s Choice Award Winner - My short story Unbound won the Reader's Choice Award at the Fall Short Story Writing Contest. It is the story of a young immigrant girl named Laila and one life-altering decision she had to make. Author Interview – Derek R. King - This month for the author interview segment Confessions of a Writeaholic brings you the interview with Award-winning Author Derek R. King. Guest Post – My Experience with a Hybrid Publisher - Chasing Fae is finally out in the world, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. When I started on my writing journey for this book, I had no idea that I would end up with a newfangled hybrid publisher who would fall in love with my book and take it from a dream to a beautiful reality. Book Review – The Beloved Fire by Chelsii Klein - I was given the ARC of The Beloved Fire by Chelsii Klein in exchange for an honest review. I enjoyed reading the book and writing the Book Review of The Beloved Fire. The Beloved Fire tells the story of Mikayla and her relationship with the supernatural. The base of the story stems from a challenge between the Angels and Demons of Heaven and Hell, respectively, and how Mikayla becomes a part of that challenge due to her previously unknown connections to the supernatural. Chelsii Klein did a marvelous job building the world of the Purgatory with its mansion, hallways, and the doorways that lead to various locations in Hell. I also enjoyed this fresh take on the supernatural genre and also how the author managed to bring in elements of romance and horror in equal measures. The book begins by introducing Mikayla as a confused 21-year-old girl looking for a good time at a party, while her overprotective best friend Ander tries to stop her. In the blink of an eye, Mikayla’s world is turned upside down and she wakes up in “Hell” literally and figuratively. Slowly, Mikayla meets the various characters who have been watching her for her whole life. She learns of the “true nature” of her blood and about the immortals who are invested in her life. In this new world, Mikayla meets the Dream Walker, Blake, with whom she seems to have past history. However, she is confused about her feelings for Blake, as his brother, James, whom she had met earlier at the party, holds some sort of a tug at her heartstrings. As events unfold, Mikayla tries to come to terms with her reality of her being in literal Hell as well as her newfound powers. When she meets Anock, the Prince of Hell, to whom she is apparently betrothed, she realizes that she is only a pawn in a game between the higher authorities of Heaven and Hell. Mikayla is an interesting character who comes across as any normal young girl of this century. When she is suddenly thrown into a series of frightening challenges she reacts accordingly. While the author has tried to write Mikayla as a strong character, she seems to wait around for the alpha-male characters like Blake, Ander, and James to come to save her. I would’ve liked to see her taking things into her own hands sooner than having to wait until the very near end to see that happening. It may be because this is the first of a series, but there was hardly any scope for character development. However, the pacing of the novel makes up for that by taking the story through an interesting journey towards the beginning of a series. I say this because at the end of the book you are left with some questions that you know will have to be answered in the upcoming books. The Beloved Fire sets the stage perfectly as the first installment for a series. For a debut novel, Chelsii Klein has done The Beloved Fire justice. The story and the characters are intriguing as is the fantastic world of the Purgatory set between Heaven and Hell. The writing has potential for improvement and the author could do well working with an editor. Overall, this book is a good read for all those who enjoy the paranormal romance/fantasy genre. The Beloved Fire is currently available on Kindle Unlimited for Free. Click HERE to grab a copy. You can also follow Chelsii Klein on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, or Join Her Spoiler Group to stay updated on Books 2 and 3 of The Beloved Series. How to Instagram as an Author - As of 2019, Instagram is one of the top 10 social media platforms for engagement ranking second, behind only Facebook. Think about it, a platform for engagement that’s better than Twitter? Yep, you read that right! 5 Steps To Your Non-Fiction Story – Karina Monteiro - My first encounter with non-fiction was Irving Stone’s The Agony and the Ecstasy. I was in college when I read it. The book infused in me some of Michelangelo’s spunk, a keen interest in his sculptures, and inspired me to travel to Florence six years later. I’ve been writing non-fiction for the past five years – specifically, human interest stories for social impact or employee engagement. It’s been a long and arduous journey with its fair share of heartbreak and of course some wisdom. For what it’s worth, here’s what I learned: Start with one idea Brainstorm over an overarching theme or moral for your story. With non-fiction, you often discover information as you progress. More often than not, you find your story pulling in multiple directions. A clear idea to focus on gives you a big picture and helps you separate the wheat from the chaff to move in a clear direction. Establish an emotional hook An extremely hard lesson to learn. If you need people to care about what you say or in social impact parlance, change the way they think or act, get them to care. No amount of stats or reportage will help you achieve this. But a few other things can. Human interest stories. Start with your neighbor, or an unsung hero you know, or someone from an underrepresented/marginalized community, or even you. That’s what makes Humans of New York resonate with people the world over. Real-world examples of people who set up or changed the way things are/work. Whether it’s learning to trust your instinct, like we learned from the firefighter’s example in Blink, or learning from genius in Mavericks at Work, showing rather than telling, inspires reflection and action. Impact stories have always helped me raise funds for emergency response, or donations in kind and emphasize program outcomes. Research If you’re narrating a hero’s story, maybe a David V. Goliath story, speak to people closest to your protagonist. If it’s an issue or topic you’re exploring, speak to people at the heart of the matter or most affected. Know what you don’t know, and pursue it through focused interviews or archival footage from credible sources. A clear beginning, middle, and end Establish whether your story arc depicts a hero’s journey or a cautionary tale or is a cliff hanger. Sometimes, your initial idea evolves and becomes a whole new idea, or just changes. That’s okay. Now that you’ve established what your story is, where it’s heading, and why, keep going. Outline scenes or sequences in a spreadsheet or create a mind map. This helps structure your writing. I find that after I outline, I begin freewriting/pantsing. Whatever you do, stay true. Edit, edit, edit Non-fiction is whipped into shape at the edit table. In fact, sometimes, that’s when your story emerges. Of all your data points and notes, focus on content that is personal, relatable, and/or evokes curiosity. If there is one thing I cannot stress enough, find that common. Trust me, your readers will thank you for the surprise. At work, I usually have a peer review or a developmental review system in place for content I create; I do the same as a reviewer. In the writing community, I understand beta readers, critique partners and developmental editors help you add finishing touches and raise the bar with your story. So there you have it. I’ve always believed that fiction and non-fiction are based on the same principles. The only difference is reality and make-believe. Now that you know more, what do you think? My Journey to Becoming A Writer – Paul C. Thornton - “You’ll be dead in six months.” It was May 29, 1985. Those words started me on the path to become a writer. I just didn’t know it at the time. When I wrote my first book, a memoir intriguingly titled White Man’s Disease, I faithfully depicted the scene I vividly recalled where I was with my crying wife and the brain surgeon who said those words to me. White Man’s Disease was published 30 years after that scene took place. I became a writer at age 58. When I woke up on the morning of December 6, 2014, I had no plans to write a book. When I went to bed that night, I was a writer. December 6 was my oldest daughter Kina’s wedding day. In the months leading up to the wedding she would occasionally remind me of the father-of-the-bride’s obligation to address the wedding reception. “What am I supposed to talk about?” I would brusquely respond. I was not excited to speak to the room of friends, relatives, daughter’s friends I knew vaguely, and guests on my son-in-law’s side that I did not know at all. I do a fair amount of public speaking in my professional life, and am actually quite good at it, but it is something I have always just tolerated and never particularly enjoyed. “You’re supposed to talk about memories of me growing up,” Kina said. Generally, memories of a daughter growing up is an easy lift for most fathers: standard stuff like school sports anecdotes, first date and prom stories, trips to Disney. Yes, I covered all of that. However, for me the most powerful memory of Kina growing up wasn’t standard at all, and my speech would lack authenticity if I did not mention it. When Kina was six years old, and I was 29, I was stricken by trauma—the medical situation which caused the aforementioned brain surgeon to utter the “you’ll be dead in six months” phrase to my wife and me. Upon my discharge from the hospital after twelve hours of brain surgery and weeks of hospitalization, I had to work on regaining my normal faculties—to the extent possible—including relearning how to walk at a normal gait. So, every day little Kina would grab her seeming giant dad by the hand, and with a cane in my other hand we would walk my mom’s neighborhood in Long Island, NY. I incorporated the story about the walks with Kina in my wedding talk; but I went further. I needed to put context around the story; what led up to it, and amazingly, its aftermath. I say amazingly because I shared information at the wedding related to my convalescence and return to “normalcy” that I had hid and held inside for 30 years, out of shame and embarrassment—things my mom didn’t even know. Here’s the interesting thing: as I spoke, I could feel a huge burden lifting off my shoulders. The more I shared, the better I felt. It was liberating; cathartic; therapeutic. When the speech was over there “wasn’t a dry eye in the house.” I needed to hold on to that feeling I had when I was opening myself up to the wedding guests. I felt renewed, free, and empowered to be myself. So, I went back to my hotel room, got my iPad out and became a writer. I wrote everyday and it felt wonderful; like the wedding speech it was therapeutic. In fact, as White Man’s Disease approached completion a little over a year later, I underwent a little bit of a funk. Writing the book had become a passion, and I was worrying what life would be like without that passion. (Little did I know about the marketing effort that was in front of me—so my apprehension about my life being no longer heavily intertwined with White Man’s Disease was misplaced!) My six-year-old writing muse, Kina, all grown up White Man’s Disease was named Winner, Creative Nonfiction & Memoir, North Street Book Prize, a judged, independently published writing competition with a nice cash prize, and a few other perks. Winning Writers called White Man’s Disease “gripping and inspiring” in the press release announcing the award. Accolades, and more importantly, reader feedback provided me with validation, and that has enabled me to maintain the good feeling I felt when I was writing. Just as I did after I finished that talk at my daughter’s wedding, I wanted to hold on to that feeling. So, it was an easy decision to write another book. The Joy of Cruising is my new book, a narrative nonfiction journey featuring amazing cruise travelers—millennials to 90-something’s; Grammy winner, Poker Hall of Famer, winner of the TV series Last Comic Standing, to “ordinary” cruisers doing extraordinary things. The Joy of Cruising will fascinate anyone who has ever cruised, aspires to take a cruise, or just loves travel. The Joy of Cruising seems a stark departure from White Man’s Disease, yet at the heart of both books is passion, and how passionate people do wondrous things. Speaking of passion, I am passionate about writing. Besides the fact that writing enabled me to become comfortable with myself after living 30 years in a self-imposed confinement, it represents a way for this thoughtful, but off-the-charts introverted individual to communicate comfortably. And I crave validation from readers. Marketing a couple of books is very time-consuming for an independent author and I long to get back to writing. My new book: The Joy of Cruising While I am focused on marketing The Joy of Cruising right now the urge to write is gnawing at me. I had such a blast writing The Joy of Cruising, interviewing and telling the stories of the passionate cruisers that I featured, that I have begun to outline More Joy of Cruising. Sounds like a good reason for me to go book a cruise or two. You know, research. Interview with Literary Agent Eric Smith - One of the decisions I had to make as a debut author getting ready to hit the publishing world was the route I wanted to take: should I go traditonal, indie, or self-publish? I researched each route and found that they all have their own pros and cons. One of the most important aspects on traditional publishing was landing the right Literary Agent to represent your book to the publishing world. Finding an agent to represent you is not an easy task these days and if you are not well prepared it is near impossible. I figured, the best way to find out would be to ask Literary Agents themselves. In that spirit, I reached out to Eric Smith, a Literary Agent with PS Literary, an agency that represents a diverse list of internationally published, award-winning, bestselling and debut creators. Eric is also a Young Adult Author. His next novel, Don’t Read the Comments, will be published by Inkyard Press in January 2020. Click Here to Pre-order the book for very cute pins and bookplates! Follow Eric Smith on Twitter for more information. As much as I would’ve loved for this to have been an audio interview, Eric has a very busy schedule which meant that I had to do a written interview with him. Read on to find out what Eric has to say about traditional publishing, finding a literary agent, Writing Conferences, and more. Rashmi: In today’s marketplace, how difficult is it for a writer to succeed without an agent? Do you think every writer needs an agent? Eric: Honestly I think it depends on what your goals are as a writer, both for your career and your book. There are scores of wonderful indie presses out there who don’t require an agent, but for the most part, if you want your book to land at one of the larger publishing houses, you’ll need an agent to help you get it into the right hands. An agent’s job isn’t just to sell your book though. We help talk about your career as a writer. We discuss next projects. We make sure the publisher is handling everything they’re supposed to. We dig into contracts and keep track of your royalties. We’re there to support you and be in your corner. But some authors don’t need agents. Some self publish their books, some know their audience well enough to do their own thing, and sell to who they have to. It’s on the writer to know what they want for their career and books. Rashmi: What is a debut author’s chance of getting you as an agent? What are you looking for? Eric: Really high. I mean, every author had to debut at some point. There are debut novels selling and being announced every single day. All I’m looking for, when it comes to fiction, is a good story and a person I want to work with. There isn’t any special equation and list of things I need other than that. Give me a riveting tale, written by someone I want to support, and off we go. Non-fiction is different, as I’m looking for platform. An expert, someone who regularly publishes articles or essays, pieces in their field. That’s a whole other conversation though. Rashmi: What has been the highlight of your career as a Literary Agent? What makes you happy doing this for a living? Eric: The tricky thing about publishing, is that sometimes the biggest highlights of your career are still secrets that you can’t quite talk about yet. Ah, the joys of secrets. So the biggest thing is something that I still can’t quite dig into yet, but the ongoing highlights are when I get to give authors those phone calls, and let them know their book (or books!) is being published. Nothing beats that call. You get to make dreams come true, you know? And that’s probably what makes me happiest doing this for a living. Making those calls, and then seeing those books on the bookshelves. Going to the authors’ events, taking pictures, just being wildly proud and seeing them have their moments. You get to change someone’s life, and consequently, the lives of readers by introducing them to their work. It’s the best. Rashmi: Why should an author still hire an agent? It’s so easy to self-publish today, also there are a lot of disillusioned authors who are tired of asking agents and publishers to pick them, so what would be some of the advantages of working with an agent? Eric: Agents get you through to the bigger publishing houses, keep track of things in your career, and they also hustle to sell things like your foreign rights, sub rights, help with film and TV, you name it. If you’re ready to be your own publisher, do your own marketing and publicity, handle all of that huge picture stuff… self-publishing is fine! Plenty of people do it. But do it because you’re making a business decision. Rashmi: Even if an author hires an agent and traditionally publishes a book, he or she might still want to self-publish. Is that a possibility or would the contract with an agent be a hindrance to that? Or do agencies work with authors in this journey? Eric: Nope, it’s fine. Plenty of traditionally published authors put out short stories, novellas, novels, etc. in addition to the other books they are putting out there. Talk to your agent about your plans, of course. They might even be able to help you sell the audio book rights or something. Every agency is different though, so I can’t speak to whether or not agents will work with their writers on that particular journey. Rashmi: There’s a popular belief among authors that if they self-publish and demonstrate that their books can generate huge sells, a traditional publisher will take an interest in their work. Is this true? What’s the reality? Eric: Yeah I’m not sure where that came from. I think it’s because this has happened a few times, which is great! Good for those authors! But if this is your plan and tactic… it’s a bad one. Even with a ton of sales… maybe that just shows the agent you’ve hit everyone in your market? Again, self publishing is a business choice. You’re ready to be your own publisher. You’re ready to get your work out there. You aren’t doing it to snag an agent or a bigger publishing deal down the line. You’re doing it because you want to publish your own book. Rashmi: The biggest complaint I hear from authors who have traditionally published is that they are left holding the marketing bag. When you sign an author with a traditional publisher what should they expect as far as marketing? Eric: There’s no one answer here, it varies publisher to publisher. No matter the publisher, at the end of the day, you’re a team. There’s always going to be a lot of lifting on both sides, and if you aren’t interested in that, that’s going to be a bit of a problem. Talk to your agent about marketing and publicity, have open conversations with your publisher. Get an idea of what to expect, and how, if it isn’t delivering exactly what you want, you can work together to get to where you want things to be. Rashmi: What is it that makes an agent take notice of one author over another? Eric: It’s all about just writing a good query letter. And at the end of the day, the book just has to be good. Rashmi: When should authors start querying agents? Do agents normally represent the client book by book or on a career basis? Eric: When your book is finished and as polished as you can get it. I always tell my friends, if you’d feel comfortable with your book being on the shelf as-is, maybe you’re ready. And that varies agent to agent. Some are book by book, some are career. Rashmi: How effective is it to attend Writing Conferences as a writer who is querying? Do agents take a genuine interest and look for new talents? Eric: I think conferences are great places to make new writer friends and connections, which are arguably the most important thing about them. The community that surrounds publishing and writing makes the whole process a lot easier, both form a business side and a personal, emotional side. It’s a lot more fun when you have friends with you along the way. Agents take pitches at all of these things, but remember, you can pitch agents via email just as easily and effectively. I’ve signed one person at a conference, and tried to sign a few others, so they do work. But you can totally pitch via email. Conferences can be expensive. Sending queries via email is free. Thank you, Eric Smith, for agreeing to this interview and taking the time to answer my questions. I am sure this is helpful to aspiring authors, especially those embarking on the querying journey for the first time.
- Unbound – Reader’s Choice Award Winner Posted in: Short Stories, Writerly Articles - My short story Unbound won the Reader's Choice Award at the Fall Short Story Writing Contest. It is the story of a young immigrant girl named Laila and one life-altering decision she had to make. Continue Reading
- Guest Post & A Giveaway – Re-creating History Posted in: Guest Posts - Welcome to Confessions of a Writeaholic, my dear readers! This month's guest post is by Clyve Rose - a Historical Fiction author. She recently published her debut novel Always A Princess based on the regency era. Along with writing this guest post for Confessions of a Writeaholic, Clyve has kindly offered to do a giveaway of a paperback copy of her book along with the gorgeous handmade bookmark that you see in the image below. To enter the giveaway, read the post and leave a comment below. We will select one lucky winner and contact them via social media (be sure to leave your Instagram/Twitter handles in the comments). Creating History One of the most challenging parts of writing historical… Continue Reading