Saturday, June 30, 2012

Magic Mike

So, I'll own up to it. My daughter and I went to see Magic Mike. The first day. Along with an estrogen filled theater of other women and only one brave man. Purely for research, of course.

There was a line of women waiting to buy their tickets (mainly in sunglasses, but this was in Panama City, Florida). Two really cute young women were so anxious at the snails pace of purchasing the tickets (a dear old lady was counting out pennies after exclaiming over the $7.00 price of the ticket) that she slipped the ticket seller her own charge card and bought the woman's ticket.  (We've lost two minutes of heaven!" she exclaimed when she checked her watch and saw that we were two minutes past the published time for the movie begin.)
My daughter and I agree that this will become a must have for a Girls Night In to be checked out for years to come. Someone will discover a way to eliminate the extraneous plot and just Fast Forward to the good parts. The basically good stripper (the role that used be the domain of women) has suddenly become a male who struggles with the angst of his licentious life when he meets a good woman. 

I understand Channing Tatum wrote the script based on a few years of actually living the life. 

My daughter and I actually found the movie a bit depressing, but you'll have to watch it to find out why. 

I truly will use some of what I saw on screen to help me build a scene I have long been planning in the sequel to Southern Soul.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Galleys of SWS Have Arrived!

I really wasn't sure what to expect with galleys. They came in a box as a manuscript where the editor has done the very best he/she could to interpret what I wrote and try to clarify things that were perfectly clear in my own head, but somehow did not manage to relate in my initial writing. Thank God for editors!

With a writer, each word, each thought, each nuance of inflection is their baby and how dare someone mess with that perfect image! Take a week or two off and look back at those words and suddenly you ask yourself, how did I ever think I could actually call myself a writer. Fortunately with the collaboration of writer and editor, it somehow all comes together and I find that the wonderful suggestions the editor made are (mainly) right on!

I found it comforting that the editor also took to heart my concerns that a "just the facts ma'am" approach to "sticking to the story" might hurt the main purpose of the book and that was telling the story of those people within the fort whose stories have been lost in time. While the rally cry "remember Fort Mims" brought many a volunteer to Andrew Jackson's army and eventually made the career for Andrew Jackson setting him up to make a real impact on the future of our country and of course the Indians from whom he wrested 20,000,000 acres of land with his Treaty of Fort Jackson.

In reading over the galleys (my job is to answer the questions the editor still has and spot any errors) I find myself pulled into the story and I still cry at the right places. So, hopefully, if I can feel it, others will as well.

I will now return to my galleys.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Not So Secret Secrets to Writing a Novel

So, what are the secrets to writing a novel?
1. Have a story to tell.
2. Know your characters. Flesh them out with character sketches. They will now begin to tell you their story through the details of who they are. Cast the characters with the movie star they most resemble. That will help you visualize your characters and keep the nuances of their personalities fresh in your mind. Write out a full biography of your major characters and most of your minor characters.
3. Research the time about which you write. Events in history will influence your character and will help you flesh out who they are by their reactions to those events.
4. Research climate and geography in which your story is set.  If you are writing historical fiction, you must be familiar with the total environment, the geography of the area, the weather on the days about which you write, the surroundings in which you place your characters.
5. Don't procrastinate because you don't know where to start. Choose a character and begin. You might have to change that viewpoint later on, but whatever you write will not be wasted. 
6. Don't ever let anyone tell you that grammar does not count. Do you like to look at a person with a wart on his nose? You cannot hear what they are saying because you are focusing on that defect. That is what happens when an editor attempts to read a manuscript filled with grammatical, punctuation, and spelling errors.
7. Remember to add the details enabling your reader to hear, see, and feel the moments of your scenes.

I have already written about a few of the items I have listed above. These are so important I have given them their own page. I will take them one at a time and post about each.

I found a new website this morning that is taking me into a new study on our Native American Heritage -- Lost through which I look forward to learning more about our ancestral roots. There are many with Native American heritage who do not realize they have it. For such a long time that genealogy has been denigrated and hushed up. What a shame! I have discovered an insatiable desire to know more!

I hope to share the journey with you.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Write What You Read

It is pretty much accepted that writers write what they read.

I was a voracious reader from the moment I learned to read. I don't know if I was a chubby little girl because I read or if I was a chubby little girl and therefore, in the loneliness of the rejection by my classmates and my own self-consciousness, I read. Whatever was the cause, by the time I was twelve, my mother was letting me read whatever came through her Book of the Month Club. That summer I read every book in her library (a room with every wall covered floor to ceiling with books, except for the two windows and three doors in the room). That was my favorite room in the house.
That Christmas I asked for Peyton Place, Lady Chatterley's Lover and Spoon River Anthology. Quite an odd selection for a twelve year old. I finished Peyton Place Christmas day. Where I had ever heard of Lady Chatterley's Lover I really cannot remember! But I read it. Under the covers. With a flashlight! I still remember the vivid imagery in that novel. D. H. Lawrence was a gifted writer so while the content might not have been the most appropriate for a twelve year old, the exposure to a writer with such a vivid style was probably a good example for a budding author. I had been exposed to Spoon River Anthology in school and loved it! Each tombstone told the story of the individual there interred.

Perhaps that selection of books was prophetic. The type of books I now write tell the story of an individual (Spoon River Anthology) with an interesting love story (Lady Chatterley's Lover) interacting in a community (Peyton Place).

I now write historical fiction set in an environment that creates conflict through which I build the story around characters who, like all of the rest of us, are motivated by one of the strongest of all human urges, the need to love and be loved. That is what separates historical fiction from nonfiction -- introducing and developing characters with whom the reader can develop empathy.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Hurricane Confusion

Hurricane Debby cannot make up her mind and sits stirring things up in the Gulf.  All the best laid plans can come flying apart in just a very brief time. What a metaphor for life!

Our son and daughter-in-law have just given us our fourth grandchild and second grandson, Samuel Robert Ramsey. She came home to a new house in a new town fortunately very close to our vacation home in Panama City, Florida. Though the birth was easy, the recovery has taken a scary turn. Just like Hurricane Debby.

So, we have decided to evacuate the entire family here in the Big Bend of Florida, including our oldest granddaughter and take them to the security of our inland home in Lower Alabama. I am taking the time to post now because when we get home with all that crew, there's no telling when I will make my way to the peace of my library and my computer!

Most of what I write is historical fiction based on our Native American heritage. My interest in this area of history came while doing genealogy and discovering that my fourth great grandmother, Vashti Vann, was the first cousin of Chief James Clement Vann of the Cherokee about whom I remembered reading in elementary school. She was also a descendant of Chief Powhatan of Jamestown fame through his daughter Cleopatra (known as the Shawano) because he actually had TWO daughters by different mothers named Cleopatra. I decided to take the Tribal DNA test just to confirm this Native American heritage and got more than I bargained for. Not only was the Native American genealogy the second highest ancestral source of my DNA, it was not just Native American, but Mexican Mayan Native American. Now that opened up a whole new realm of research and great potential for a super prequel to some of these that I have already written. I find that truly exciting. Author/Architect/Archaeologist/Creek Indian Richard Thornton on his website tells a fascinating story of Mayan presence in the area of North Georgia where my ancestors would have lived.

The metaphor of the hurricane and the confusion that results from that tropical storm reminded me of the confusion that must have led to the exodus of Mayans around 900 A.D. from their homes to disappear from history. That mystery compels me to learn more -- and build a story around it.

Life is good. I am excited about learning more and then sharing this aspect of our history through historical fiction.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Networking Matters

I used to pooh pooh the call to network. However, I have come to the conclusion that it is critical in the writer's world. My own situation is a case in point.

I wrote for years and sent manuscripts out one after the other. I tried publishing houses. I tried going the agent route. Then one day a friend who had read my manuscript and told me that sure enough I could write and could truly get published said, "You simply must help drive these writers around for our Books Alive event."

How in the world driving writers around to the different events was going to help me get published was beyond my understanding, but I did want to meet these folks and hear their stories. I had a great time with people who share my passion. About that time our Friends of the Library group started talking about raising money for a new library. I suggested Author Luncheons. That is a win/win proposition. Authors get to bring their books to share. Bibliophiles get to meet the author personally and hear them tell of their writing experiences and the topic about which they write.

Since I personally knew a few authors, we invited them. I, of course, told them about my novel which happened to be about the Creek Indian War. Karen Spears Zacharias, author of Will Jesus Buy Me a Double Wide Cause I Need More Room For my Color TV?, had her first book published by Mercer University Press and suggested I contact Marc Jolley because he was real interested in the Creek Indians and Benjamin Hawkins, American Agent to the Creeks, in particular. I had not thought about Macon, Georgia, being the site of the Creek Agency. Had I done so, I would have realized that would be a logical place to send a novel about the Creek War! Karen had to come all the way from Oregon to enlighten me about the geographical impact of where to send a novel.

Had I not volunteered at the conference, I would not have met Karen. I would not have heard of Mercer University Press and Marc Jolley. I would not have sent Swimming with Serpents to Marc. Swimming with Serpents would not be coming out in September nor would Nest of Vipers (about the Seminole War) be scheduled for the following year (2013).

So, networking matters.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Beginning

Today is June 19th and I sit at the kitchen table of my home where my granddaughter (nearly 2) sits on the antique children's sofa watching Winnie the Pooh. (We have already been swinging in the back yard and she now snacks on oranges and apples.) I remind myself to enjoy the moment and not chain myself to a computer because life is fleeting and what matters plays there in that room.

I sit here marveling that at 62 I can actually finally call myself an author. I have my first novel coming out from a respected press (Mercer University Press) September 30 and I have signed a contract with them for the sequel to Swimming with Serpents (Book 1 of the Serpents series), Nest of Vipers (Book 2 of the Serpents series). After years of admitting to being mainly "just a housewife" I can now claim a career. I am a writer. What pleasure comes with those words! This has been my dream and it has come true!

You can have it all. Just not at one time, my friends.

So, how did I get here? Look at that guy. What female in their right mind could resist those dimples? Certainly not me.

 First came love, then came marriage (with Joel Ramsey since 1969), then came babies in a baby carriage (Cecily, Drew and Brooke (in the picture), all now with babies of their own -- Lily, Megan, George and Sam). I remember jumping rope to that little ditty and sure enough! Here I sit in the home my husband's parents built in 1950 entertaining their great-grandchildren.

My husband and I married while still in college at the University of Alabama, he in Law School and me in the College of Education. I was a Tri Delt and he was a Pi Kappa Phi. Oh, the parties! Those friends we made then have remained among our very best (Rondi, my roommate, Yancey, Susan, who married Joe's fraternity brother, Margaret, and, of course, Joe's roommate, Robert). Those years certainly go to mold the person you become and I can honestly say that my sorority helped build my confidence and open doors for me later on. Perhaps I will write of those days later on. The picture below includes Pam, Yancey, Rondi and me -- all Tri Delts with Joe and his brother Ed and my dear friend, Randy.

So, how does all this pertain to writing. Many of you are reading this for tips on the writing process and this one is the best of all -- live life! Read! Write --anything. Take classes and learn. There is nothing that you experience in life that won't find a place later on in what you write.

I looked at my mother one day and thought, she can do anything! So I set out to learn to do a little of what my mother seemed to be able to teach herself! I took a Master Gardener course. I learned hand sewing and how to smock. I made christening gowns for my granddaughters. Though I had begun my Masters at the University of Alabama, we had to leave for my husband to get his military commitment out of the way and had to wait and finish getting the Masters at Troy State. I then taught middle school and high school in public and private schools and on the university level at Troy University and Gulf Coast Community College.

Details make the difference when you write. You get the details from knowing stuff. Always use concrete nouns and vivid verbs I taught my high school English students. But, how can you be concrete if you only have general knowledge? How can you write vivid verbs if you are limited in your vocabulary?

And then my mother challenged me to learn more about her genealogy (which resulted in my website and I discovered our Native American ancestry. The offshoot of that study led to these novels.

All the while I wrote. Letters to the editor, short stories, a recipe book and family history for my family, articles for local magazines, and then -- my website which last month had nearly 8,000 visitors. While many of my friends declared they would NEVER use a computer, I was learning Front Page Maker. The point of which is that you are NEVER too old to learn a new skill. Or begin a career. And that is what this blog is all about.

I look forward to hearing from you and answering questions you might have regarding the process of writing, the time and place about which I write -- or any other topic you might be interested in. I have found it fascinating that the most visited page on my website (other than A Simply Southern Wedding is the Manners and Etiquette page (! So the topics you choose are those about which I will write.