Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Researching Carolina Rice Plantations

By Elva Cobb Martin

In my research for a future novel, as well as for magazine articles, I recently took the annual two-day Rice Plantation Tour sponsored by an historic Episcopal Church in Georgetown, South Carolina. The church parish was founded in 1721.

Prince George Winyah Episcopal Church

Did you know that rice was once king in South Carolina? Some would even say more so than the King of England ever was.

From colonial times until the Civil War, rice growing made the Carolina Low Country one of the wealthiest areas in the United States. In fact, by the Revolutionary War, rice, nicknamed "Carolina Gold" made Charleston, South Carolina, the richest colonial town in America with twice the wealth of Philadelphia and New York, according to the ETV program, When Rice Was King.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Resources for Authors and Their Research

I write historical fiction, and researching for my novels brings me the same excitement Alan Quartermain must have felt hunting for King Solomon's Mines.

I've been known to spend an entire day in a library scribbling notes from someone‘s diary, spending a wallet of quarters making copies of maps and old newspapers, and trekking from one book or document to the next with a perseverance Lewis and Clark would have applauded. I enjoy the chase when one clue leads me to the next, to the next…

The South Caroliniana Library
When I venture into a library or archives and history department, wander among the shelves, and delve into boxes of documents, I'm transported into the past and into unknown territory. My efforts are often rewarded when tidbits of information surface and shine like specks of gold in the bottom of a miner‘s tin.

For example, one of the characters in my Civil War era novel, A Perfect Tempest, is based on Oqui Adair, a Chinese gardener, who was briefly mentioned in a SC State Hospital Board of Regents report found in the SC Archives and History Department. The name of the novel itself comes from a quote from General Sherman’s diary that was featured in an issue of the Daily Southern Guardian newspaper. I found it in the South Caroliniana library.

Discovering new resources is always great fun, too. Once, I put an ad in the Civil War Times asking for information about Union officers who were imprisoned in Camp Asylum, a prisoner-of-war camp situated on the SC State Hospital grounds in Columbia, SC, from December 1864 until February 1865, when Sherman‘s troops burned the city. Two gentlemen, one from Maine and one from California, answered my ad, and we wrote to each other over a period of several months. They both sent me materials about relatives imprisoned at Camp Asylum—a photograph, a letter, and an excerpt from a diary.

Sometimes people serve as living, breathing archives. When I was working on my novel, The Chamomile, that takes place in South Carolina during the Revolutionary War, my main characters, a couple who are traveling in the swamps with Francis Marion, decide to get married. I wanted the men to build a honeymoon hut and I needed to know the kind of flowers the campfollowers would decorate with. So, I called Rudy Mancke, a naturalist and a walking encyclopedia of flora and fauna, and asked him what would have been blooming in the South Carolina swamps in May 1781. He was so receptive to my questions and so excited about what I was trying to do, I could hardly write fast enough to keep up with him. What a wealth of knowledge he is! We had the most delightful conversation.

I’ve put together a list of resources when researching for your novels.

Researching – Where to Look

1. Internet (Google; blogs; websites)
2. Library/Archives and History Departments; Books, research rooms
3. Diaries/letters 
4. Newspapers/magazines 
5. Pamphlets
6. Advertisements/catalogs
7. Cookbooks
8. Annual reports
9. Graduation programs
10. Thesis/bibliography
11. Music books
12. Pattern books
13. Architects drawings 
14. Movies 
15. Other novels written during the time period
16.  Museums
17. Visits to actual sites (tours that let you "breathe the air")
18. Reenactments
19. Cemeteries (great resources for names)
20. Photographs
21. Movie productions
22. People—walking archives

Colonial American Cemetery

Susan F. Craft authored the SIBA Award-winning Revolutionary War novel, The Chamomile. The two sequels to The Chamomile, entitled Laurel and Cassia will be release in January 2015 and later that year, respectively. She is represented by Linda S. Glaz, Hartline Literary Agency.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Marketing 101

by Andrea Merrell

Marketing … promotion … social media—what’s a writer to do?

When I first started writing, I didn’t consider the complexities of getting published or establishing a platform. Fortunately, I was blessed with great advice: “Find a critique group, attend writers’ conferences, and network, network, network.” As an editor, I pass along this advice to my clients and stress the importance of promoting their books—whether traditionally published or self-published.

With the recent launch of my first book, Murder of a Manuscript, I have now moved into the marketing arena. Here are a few suggestions that have produced positive results:

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

How Do Writers Who Face Pain Write?

by Patty Smith Hall

Writers are always told that one key to getting a publishing contract is to "put your backside in a chair and write!" But what if you physically cant sit for any length of time without being in a great deal of pain? What do you do then?

So how do writers who face chronic, debilitating pain write?

Stay in Constant Prayer

Dealing with constant pain usually does one of two things to a person; either it sends you running in every direction, chasing every lead for a reason for the pain, a why behind the agony or it drives you to your knees. Ive done both. But one very important question Ive put before God (besides the whole why me?) is if writing is in His plan for me. I wanted to make sure I was in Gods will and had to prepare myself if God required me give up writing or the hope of publication. Its a dark place at times, but also one where your faith is stretched in new ways each and every second of the day.

Equally important is the need to be ready to handle the pain if He sends confirmation to continue writing. Working through chronic pain or illness takes a inhuman toughness only God can give. So Ive turned even more to His Word for encouragement. Sticky notes on my computer with scriptures--my favorites are 2 Corinthians 12:9 and Romans 8:28.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Divine Moments

by Yvonne Lehman

Some of you reading this blog know about this wonderful book just released by Grace Publishers because you are among the contributors. For the benefit of those who aren’t familiar with it’s beginning, I’d like to mention it and thank the ACFW-SC contributors.

One evening, after a day of participating in the 2013 Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, several us sat in the beautiful lobby of Mountain Laurel hotel on the campus of Ridgecrest Conference Center in North Carolina.

Cindy Sproles told a story that had us all gasping with amazement of how God showed up in an almost unbelievable way. Someone else, then others began to remember and share their stories. Some were sweet, some humorous, others serious, but all were about knowing his presence with us. I thought of the praise song, “Our God is an Awesome God,” in which the words are repeated over and over. I’ve often wanted to say, “Go further. Don’t just repeat the words. Tell me in what ways you are amazed by God.”

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Use What You've Got--Learning to Write in Bits & Pieces of Time

by Edie Melson

I had always believed that I needed at least an hour, and preferably three, to make any progress at all with my writing.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

In the past year, I’ve learned how to use the time I have, even if it’s just fifteen minutes. Today I want to share with you the things I do to increase my productivity when life intrudes.

1. Decide to use what you’ve got. This is the biggest part of the puzzle. If you wait for perfect circumstances, chances are you’ll never finish your book. Truthfully, things rarely line up. When they do—celebrate! When they don’t—just decide to work harder.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Motivation-Reaction Units (MRUs)

by Susan Craft

Here’s an excerpt from the draft of my manuscript, Laurel, before I edited it: 

Her heart sank when she noticed John standing at a distance, his expression aloof as if a curious spectator.

What’s wrong with it? The motivation-reaction is wrong. In other words, the stimulus should come before the reaction.

Here’s how it should have read:

She noticed John standing at a distance, his expression aloof as if a curious spectator, and her heart sank.

Motivation-Reaction Units, a key to compelling fiction, are created by alternating between what your POV character sees, hears, smells, tastes, or touches (the motivation) and what he does (the reaction). Motivation is external and objective (presented as if by a video camera).

In one paragraph, write motivation so your reader experiences it.
Example: The tiger dropped out of the tree and sprang toward Jack.

In a separate paragraph, write your character’s reaction, exactly as he would experience it from the inside, giving your reader insight into your character.

According to writing instructor Dwight Swain, “The reaction is more complex than the motivation. The reason is that it is internal, and internal processes happen on different timescales.   When you see a tiger, in the first milliseconds, you only have time for one thing -- fear. Within a few tenths of a second, you have time to react on instinct, but that is all it will be -- instinct, reflex. But shortly after that first reflexive reaction, you will also have time to react rationally, to act, to think, to speak.

You must present the full complex of your character's reactions in this order, from fastest time-scale to slowest. If you put them out of order, then things just don't feel right. You destroy the illusion of reality. And your reader won't keep reading because your writing is "not realistic."
Example: A bolt of raw adrenaline shot through Jack's veins. He jerked his rifle to his shoulder, sighted on the tiger's heart, and squeezed the trigger. "Die!" he yelled.

There are three parts to the reaction: feeling, reflex, and rational action -- in that order.

In our example, feeling comes first because it happens almost instantly. Reflex is a result of the fear and requires no conscious thought. Lastly, come rational action and speech.

You can leave out one or two of these three parts, but whatever parts you keep in must be in the correct order.

Write each scene and sequel as a sequence of MRUs. Each motivation and reaction should be followed by another motivation an reaction. You can't afford to write one perfect MRU and then be happy. You've got to write another and another and another. Reaction will lead to a new motivation that is again external and objective and which you will write in its own paragraph.

Continuing the example we've created so far: The bullet grazed the tiger's left shoulder. Blood squirted out of the jagged wound. The tiger roared and staggered, then leaped in the air straight at Jack's throat.

When you run out of motivations or reactions, your scene or sequel is over. Don't run out too soon. Don't drag on too long.

Credits: Several years ago, I took a writing class led by Dwight Swain, and much of this post is from the notes I took while there. The drawing of the man aiming at a tiger was copied from the blog, Aussiehunter.

Susan F. Craft is the author of The Chamomile, a SIBA award-winning Revolutionary War inspirational romantic suspense.