History

Image © Beaucroft via iStockphoto

During my school years, history, with its dates to be memorized and dusty books, didn’t interest me. (Neither did math, for that matter). English was my favorite subject.

Family history was an important topic in my father’s family, though, and I absorbed much of it almost by osmosis. My grandmother made sure that I and my cousins knew what happened to our ancestors, at least, what she had knowledge of. I learned about our Cherokee ancestors, and about Dr. Pierre Chastain, a French Huguenot who fled religious persecution, arriving in Virginia aboard the Mary and Ann in July, 1700. But beyond that, I had little interest in what happened before.

Until, that is, I had children of my own. The thread of continuity became important to me, and I began to care about the people who came before, what their lives were like, and what they did. And not only my own ancestors, but the ancestors of others.

A friend of Scottish descent often spoke of the fact that his Scottish ancestor was a slave on a plantation near Savannah, Georgia. I was skeptical. And since I also had Scottish ancestors, I began researching Scottish history. And found out he was right…Scots had been enslaved at various times and in various circumstances (Have you ever heard of the Redlegs of Barbados? Read this article.)

“Why do so few people know about this?” I wondered. The answer came immediately. Lots of people are like me–they have no interest in history, and although this information is available in history books, they don’t care to read them. And I thought someone should write a novel, should fictionalize the historic record. If it were entertaining, folks might read it and learn what happened.

I deepened my research and chose a major event in the mid-1700s, The ’45, or, The Jacobite Rebellion, when Bonnie Prince Charlie raised a Highland army to fight for him, to help him reclaim his father’s throne, as the setting of the story. In the aftermath of the last battle of the rebellion, the Battle of Culloden, at least a thousand Highlanders were transported to the American colonies and to the Caribbean, some sold as indentured servants, some as slaves.

And I told the story of that time in the person of Ailean MacLachlainn in High on a Mountain, and I did my utmost to ensure historical accuracy as well as making the story entertaining.

I’ve continued delving into history, following Ailean’s descendants, trying to tell the story of some of the people who went before us.

What about you? Does history interest you?

The Sight

Image © Angel Souto via stock.xchng

In the six years (Gasp! Has it been that long??) since I made my first blog post, I haven’t kept to a regular blogging schedule. I posted when struck by a whim.

And my topics have been all over the board (a little heads up here: they will probably still be all over the board, where ever my imagination carries me that day). But I plan to keep to a schedule from now on, and I hope that, however far afield my posts my posts drift, they will be be more focused, inspired by the images in my blog header.

The photo of the Appalachian Mountains carries me home, back to my roots. [And by the way, that’s Ap – puh – latch – un, not Ap – puh – lay – shun. Appalachian and Apalachicola (you know, the place in Florida?) came from the same word, Apalachee.]

Snippets from my childhood memories come to mind when I look at that photo. I remember the things that shaped my view of the world.

I absorbed my beliefs from my parents, grandparents, extended family, and the culture I grew up in. I don’t have an explanation for some of the things I believe, but I do believe them. I’ve seen too much evidence that supports those beliefs.

Like, The Sight. And, no, I’m not referring to a book/movie of that title (which I didn’t know existed until I wrote this blog post). I’m referring to a belief that originated in the Scottish Highlands…Second Sight (and I didn’t know about its origins in the Highlands until I was doing research prior to writing High on a Mountain).

There are people who “know” certain things about what’s coming in the future. (I’m not one of them, although I do sometimes have forewarnings and premonitions). I accept that. And so The Sight keeps finding its way into some of the stories I write.

And while my stories are fiction, some of the elements (including the supernatural ones) spring from the beliefs I formed while I was growing up.

What about you? What do you think about beliefs in supernatural manifestations, like, The Sight?

…about book trailers.

They say that book trailers are not effective as part of a marketing strategy. That may be true, but I’ve enjoyed putting a couple of them together. (It may be that creating a trailer is just an excuse to procrastinate, to put off doing more needful things. But for me, it’s a time when I can immerse myself in one of my stories and enjoy spending time with my characters again. And, too, I just happen to love any creative activity, whether I’m good at it or not.)

A number of months ago, I created a trailer for the first book in my historical series, High on a Mountain, but I didn’t make a formal announcement on my blog. So, this post serves to rectify that oversight. With no further ado, here’s my book trailer for High on a Mountain:

…about research.

Write what you know, they say.

But what if the story you are burning to tell is set in a place where you have never been? Or in a time not your own? What if you don’t “know” the location or time period?

The answer to your dilemma is: research.

And while the research can provide valuable knowledge of the details you’ll need to include to make your story believable, it will also give you an opportunity to immerse yourself in the “world” of which you will be writing, to get to know the people of that time and place, to understand something of how they lived and what they did. And, perhaps, gain some insight into how they may have felt and what they may have thought. Which can lend an authenticity to your writing.

The amount of research necessary to write “High on a Mountain” seemed daunting when I started. But I found that the learning became an adventure in itself.

Now that the story has been finished, I’m beginning to delve again into the discovery of facts about another time and place and people, to prepare myself so that I can write the sequel to Ailean’s story. But this time, I know what an adventure the research can be, and I’m diving into it joyfully, whole-heartedly.

image copyright tome213 via stock.xchng

…about plots.

There are 36 or 37 of them, they say. Or maybe only 7. And some say there are as few as 2, with many variations.

Whatever.

I don’t really care how many there are. I don’t care what they are. And I don’t even care which “plot” defines the current story I’m writing, just as long as it has a plot and it’s interesting. The important thing to me when I’m writing is the emotion a story generates in me as I write it, and, hopefully, the emotions it will stir in those who read it.

What brought up this topic? I’ve started the process of writing my next novel, the first sequel to “High on a Mountain,” and I’m beginning to get involved in my characters’ lives, to see their faces, to hear them speak, to watch their actions, to understand their thoughts.

And that is what engrosses me as I write — watching these people “come alive.” More than the plot. More than the “arc.” More than the beautiful turn of a phrase (do I even have any of those?).

Granted, there are some technical aspects to writing, and without a plot, there isn’t really a story. But, for me, those technical things seem to apply after the story has been told, and their purpose is to make the reading more enjoyable, so that writing mistakes don’t stand between the reader and an interesting tale.

So, Ailean and Aodh and Cootiyah — I’m watching and waiting. What plot are you going to give me this time?

image copyright Michal Zacharzewski, SXC