This is one of those things no one wants to think about, but that it’s important not to ignore. Operation Underground Railroad is an amazing group working to end child sex slavery (see their inspiring, heart-breaking story here), and Authors United Against Child Slavery is working to raise money to support them. Authors are donating books (and if you’re an author you can sign up to help), so anyone who donates at least $20 gets a free book. Please visit their site, spread the word, and do what you can to support the people working to end an unspeakable evil that often goes unnoticed right under our noses.
(This is the first 250-ish words of my work in progress, a YA historical fiction, posted here for comments and critiques in Michelle Hauck’s Fall First Page Blog Hop)
I, Joan Price, was born to treason. ‘Twas at my father’s funeral I realized it. If I did not choose between betraying my country and betraying my conscience, I would betray them both. Just as he had.
Our parish gave my father a Protestant funeral—buried on holy ground but unshriven, without the benefit of a priest or last rites. Rain mingled with my tears as shovelfuls of mud thumped on the coffin. I pulled the hood of my wool cloak lower to hide the depths of my anger and grief. They were a window into my treasonous thoughts, and anyone might be a spy for Queen Elizabeth.
Some of the other mourners owned the implements to give my father a proper Catholic funeral, bring peace to his soul and mine, but they were too frightened to bring the bells and candles from their hiding places. Too frightened to sing or pray. I glared at them from the safety of my hood, but none even glanced at me. White-livered cowards, every one.
And I the greatest coward of all, for I said nothing. The thought of the gallows choked off my protests. Where was my loyalty?
Blessed Mary forgive me.
Songs for the deceased were forbidden, but I was Welsh. I would sooner give up breathing than singing. As they dumped the last muddy earth over my father’s final resting place, I quietly hummed the Requiem Mass and repeated the lyrics in my mind.
National Novel Writing Month (mundanely known as November) is rapidly approaching, and today I “created” my NaNo novel for this year. Given that I just signed a publishing contract for last year’s project, I’m really stoked for this year. Something about seeing that little word count bar set to “0” makes me want to start typing. This year, though, I’m using NaNoWriMo to write the sequel to my Victorian folklore retelling. I want to wrap up those characters’ stories before I move on to another project, and this seems like the perfect motivation to get it finished. All those continuity issues make writing a sequel scary. But the nice thing about being forced to write the whole thing in a month is that it keeps it pretty fresh in your head–actively writing several hours a day and working through plot problems while washing dishes, making dinner, or walking the kids to school.
NaNoWriMo doesn’t work for everyone, but I find it kind of liberating. I start with a rough outline and a good feel for the characters and then just write and let the story and characters go where they want, not worrying yet if that sentence could be a little prettier or if that scene is a bit corny–that’s what the next eight months of editing are for.
If you’re doing NaNoWriMo too, add me as a writing buddy here!
I’ve been swapping chapters and talking story with some of the other historical fiction writers from Pitch Wars. One of them, Gwen C. Katz, drew this to illustrate a scene in the first chapter of my Victorian ghost story, Within the Sickle’s Compass; or, The Haunting of Springett Hall:
Trust a historical fiction writer to catch the details, right down to the black-on-black embroidery on Sir Edmund’s waistcoat. 🙂
Of course, I’ve noticed that the artist-writers I know have a knack for detail and description. I have a theory that they’re so used to studying and capturing detail that they know just how to convey it to readers. Gwen’s writing was no exception–it provided me with very clear mental images. Since details are especially important to setting the scene in historical fiction, I spend a lot of time studying literature and artifacts from the time period I’m writing about, and I try to keep a strong mental picture of the setting my characters are moving through. I’ll admit to being jealous of my artist-writer friends for whom that process seems to be second nature.
You can see more of Gwen’s work, and a little about her historical fiction, Among the Red Stars (about the “Night Witches,” Russian women who flew biplanes against the Nazis in WWII), at her deviantART web page here.
Pick me, pick me, for your Pitch Wars mentee!
I’m taking part in Pitch Wars this month, a chance to pitch my book to a group of awesome mentors in hopes that one of them will fall in love with the story and help me polish it for the agent round in November. Pitch Wars is hosted by the wonderful Brenda Drake. You can read more here.
Many of the Pitch Wars hopefuls are participating in #PimpMyBio, and I wanted in on the fun, so this is mine. Go here to see everyone in the blog hop lineup. The animated gifs are kind of a Pitch Wars thing, but I’m trying not to go overboard with them, because they’re addictive.
So, I’m E.B. Wheeler, and here are some reasons you want me as your Pitch Wars mentee:
- I’ve worked as a freelance writer for nine years, so I work hard, I’m self-motivated, and I know how to get along with a variety of clients and work partners.
- I’m a member of one of the roughest, toughest critique groups in the wild, wild West (full of talented writers and great people). I’m not afraid of critiques, and I know how to use them to improve my writing.
- I read widely, though I always make my way back to historical stories. Some of my read-’em-over-and-over books include The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Huck Finn, A Midwife’s Tale, The Secret Garden, Northanger Abbey, Night Watch, and The Lord of the Rings. I’m currently reading Unbroken and rereading Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.
- I have a plethora of random skills, like fencing, archery, playing harp and hammered dulcimer, knitting Viking helmets, and getting crayon off walls (heat it with a hair dryer and use dish soap–it wipes right off). And, yes, I know what a plethora is. 😉
- I have direct access to rich, smooth Spanish chocolate. I also make some pretty scrumptious cookies.
- Applejack is my favorite pony, but I’m most like Twilight Sparkle.
- My book, Within the Sickle’s Compass, is a YA historical supernatural mystery (that’s a thing, right?). It was my NaNoWriMo book last year and has gone though a lot of polishing since then. In short:
Lucy is haunting the Victorian estate of Springett Hall, certain she died trying to fix a terrible mistake–one she must remember and set right before oblivion reclaims her.
Still want to know more about me? Since I’m a huge history geek, and this is a war, I decided to use questions from a Civil War veterans’ survey to tell you about myself. The state of Tennessee created this survey to capture “a true history of the Old South.” Some of the questions are so delightfully biased that I’m including them as they were written, though I’m tweaking the answers to fit my purpose. You can find more about the surveys here.
Remarks on ancestry
I’m part Celt (Welsh) and part Viking (Danish), so I go after what I want with dogged determination. Being an underdog just makes me fight harder.
As a boy and young man, state what kind of work you did. If you worked on a farm, state to what extent you plowed, worked with a hoe and did other similar types of work. (Certain historians claim that white men would not do work of this sort before the war.)
Certain historians sure are shady, aren’t they? Not at all like surveys that beg you for the “right” answer. I love history.
As a young woman, I mucked out horse stalls, set up chairs and tables for a local church, and did filing and other paperwork. In college, I worked early morning janitorial, waited tables, tutored other students, worked at a fabric and craft store, and managed a computer lab (not all at the same time). I then taught high school English and went back for my MA in history and MLA in historic landscape preservation. I’ve worked as a teaching fellow, historic preservation consultant, and freelance writer. I’m currently a work-at-home mom with two wonderful, challenging little girls.
To what extent were there white men in your community leading lives of idleness and having others do their work for them?
This question was just too funny (and awful) to pass by. A-hem. In my experience, people of all nationalities, cultures, genders, belief systems, etc., are capable of working hard, and of being lazy. People are people. I generally like them as individuals, and I recognize we all have unique challenges and experiences to add to the human story, but in day-to-day life I prefer to focus on the things we have in common rather than on our differences. Love, longing, heartache, fear, wonder, hope–these are the makings of our shared humanity (and elements of a good story, no?).
State in your own way your experience in the War from [enlistment] on to its close.
By “the War,” we mean writing, of course. I’ve always loved stories. When I was little, I would dictate my bedtime story preferences to my mom, who was often totally baffled by my requests (i.e., “Tell me a story about a unicorn, a dragon, and the Smurfs”). I won some elementary school writing contests and had my stories published as a result. I’ve been involved in a wide range of writing projects as an adult (some paid, some not): community plays, web site content, scripts for educational software programs and training videos, field trip guides, guidelines for historic preservation, and both fiction and creative nonfiction. I’ve gotten plenty of rejection letters along with the successes, but I love writing and telling stories too much to ever quit.
If you were in hospital or in prison, state your experience here.
I’ve never spent any time in prison, but I had an extended hospital stay after I broke my neck and back in a car accident and had to get back on my feet (literally). I now have Brown-Sequard syndrome (1,000 points if you know what that is without looking it up!). So, I’m differently abled, and dealing with that has given me a unique perspective that I try to bring into my writing. I’m currently working on a YA novel based on my experience, and it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever written.
Give the names of some of the great men you have known or met in your time.
Who are my heroes, you ask? As a kid, I often found my heroes in books. Adaon in Lloyd Alexander’s The Black Cauldron was one of the first people/characters I remember admiring, due to his willingness to do what was right regardless of the personal cost. I also really like Lloyd Alexander himself, who took time to write back to a little girl who loved his books and give her some encouraging words. I think Bill Watterson is one of the great geniuses of our age. There are some historical figures I look up to, including John Adams, Abraham Lincoln, Joseph Smith, Rosa Parks, Ambrosius Aurelianus, and many others who took a stand for what they believed in. My favorite heroes, though, are everyday people I see quietly pressing on, doing good in their corner of the world despite whatever personal hardships they face. That may sound cheesy, but I won’t apologize, because it’s true. 🙂
So, pick me for Pitch Wars, and it’ll be like:
Pitch contests have a lot to offer writers, including feedback on your pitch (the hook, query letter, and/or first page of the book you’ll use to entice agents and editors), a chance to get your work in front of agents, and meeting, learning from, and commiserating with other writers.
As part of the fun associated with the recent In With The New pitch contest, I’ve been tagged by fellow writer Keith W. Willis (@kilbourneknight) in a blog hop. So, it’s my turn to talk about the novel I pitched, a Victorian historical fantasy, Shadows of Elfland.
What is the name of your main character? Is he/she fictional or historical?
Shadows of Elfland is a multiple-point-of-view book, but the two main characters are Cassandra Weaver and Henry Stewart. Cassandra recently moved from the city to Drixton, a (fictional) village in the Victorian countryside, where she’s struggling to play the part of a country gentleman’s daughter while dealing with her new neighbors’ superstitious ways. Henry’s hiding from his past, trying to make a new life for himself in Drixton, and he knows the villagers have good reason to be superstitious.
While my characters are fictional, some of them have significant connections to historical figures and events. I can’t say more, because that would be a spoiler. 😉
When and where is the story set?
My book takes place in England in 1869. I’ve tried to stay true to the historical setting, with the twist that the folklore that many Victorians still believed in is real.
What’s the main conflict? What messes up your characters’ lives?
The Faerie come hunting in Drixton, which throws Cassandra into a reality she doesn’t think she can handle and forces Henry to deal with a past he’s trying to escape.
What’s the personal goal of the main character(s)?
Cassandra’s been uprooted from her home and is recovering from a crippling illness, so she struggles to fit into her new role without losing sight of who she is. Henry wants to prove to himself that there’s a place for him in the human world, despite a rather atypical upbringing.
Where can we see more?
I don’t have any excerpts online at this point, but you can follow this blog to track my progress in my writing adventures.
Who’s next in the blog hop?
I’m going to tag three other In With the New contestants: Marjorie Brimer (@margiebrimer), Jenny Ferguson (@jennyleeSD), and Jaclyn Davis (@jaclyndavis01) ‘cuz I want to hear more about what they’re writing. 🙂 If anyone needs a spot to post their answers, I’m happy to put them up here.
Here’s an upcoming middle grade book from Christian/inspirational publisher Anaiah Press. I have no official affiliation with them, but I think they’ve designed an appealing cover, and I look forward to checking out this book and their other offerings.
Operation Tree Roper: An Eye Above by Robert Polk
Adventures, Anaiah Press
Twelve-year-old Declan Parker was born with only one eye, but all he seems to have trouble seeing in proper perspective is himself. All he wants is for kids to see him as normal before he starts a new school in the fall. To that end, he sets out to make money helping with his dad’s tree care business.
Unfortunately, when his dad lands in the hospital after a climbing accident, Declan’s surgery hopes are wrecked. His only hope remains in a neighbor girl and her uncle, a wounded army veteran. Can they help him save his dad’s business, or will Declan’s once-courageous drive turn into total despair?
Operation Tree Roper: An Eye Above is a well-crafted story about a strong, dauntless young man who redefines the value of self-reflection. Declan is a character you won’t be able to forget.
Welcome to your new favorite book…
October 7, 2014
Anaiah Press: www.anaiahpress.com
Robert Polk lives in western Nebraska where he shares his love of books and the great outdoors with his wife and seven children. He is a former school counselor, business owner, and tree climbing arborist. Robert participates in his church and local community, currently serving on several non-profit boards.