#HollyBargo #HenHousePublishing #Fantasy #Romance
This week's writing prompt is "What I learned when researching my book." (And, yes, I'm early this week due to the holiday weekend. Happy Easter, everyone!)
Honestly? Not much. Of course, I could be flippant and reply, "Which book?" Because I've got 18 or 19 of them out now. Not bad for four years, if I do say so myself.
What I do learn from research comes mainly from two sources: a business blog I ghostwrite for a Boston business consultant and the articles I write for the World Library Foundation's newsletter. As both editor and staff writer, I produce four articles--down from five--per month for the newsletter. Earlier this year, I lost count and assigned myself six articles.
Sometimes I'm an unwitting glutton for punishment.
Regardless, every article for the newsletter requires research into both contemporary and historical sources. It makes for an interesting juxtaposition of technologies and attitudes. I don't resent it though: being the WLF's newsletter editor is the most fun job I think I've ever had.
Other than writing my own stuff, of course.
When I write my own books, I occasionally veer off into Wikipedia or other sources to verify an assumption or translate a phrase. Did the 1965 Ford Mustang's wheels have four or five lug nuts? What are the "standard" diamond cuts and which one would my character prefer? What are common endearments in Russian? Things like that. Those small details like that that add realism to even the most outlandish and fantastical stories.
For the latest book Daughter of the Deepwood (March 31 release date!), I stole a bit from the Greek language and then mangled it for my own purposes. For instance, the Greek word for demon is daímonas; for fluid, ygró, for fortress, froúrio. Those went into the creation of the country name Daimónagi, the sentient mountain castle Froúrio Daimónafae, and the race of people Daimónio Refstófae. The "fae" part comes from "faerie," of course.
I'm sure any Greeks who read this blog or my book will simply shake their heads in dismay and mutter dark imprecations about ignorant Americans.
What I learned from conducting research for my books can't be summarized in holistic terms regarding any one body of interest. It can only be explained as trivia: little bits about a lot of stuff. Strangely, that comes in handy.
“I … I am Calista,” came the hesitant, wary reply. “Who are you? Are you in the cell next to mine?”
“Calista,” he repeated, savoring the name on his tongue. It was sweet, and it had been too long since he’d tasted anything so sweet. “I’m Falco. I assume I’m in the cell next to you. I saw no other doors.”
“Look for the rat,” came the female voice.
Falco opened his mouth to object, but then thought better of it. He watched the base of the block wall intently, eyes searching out a small hole through which a rat could travel. His vigilance was rewarded with the twitching whiskers and pointed nose of a lean brown rat.
“Do you see him?” came the female’s voice.
“Don’t hurt him,” she begged. “If you see him, then you are my neighbor.”
“Why would I not kill a rat?”
“Because he’s my only friend here.” She made a clucking sound and the rat scurried back through the short tunnel connecting the cells. He heard her coo at the little beast, “That’s my good boy.”
Falco’s heart sank. How long had the woman been in this place that she’d made a pet of a rat? “How long have you been in here?” he asked.
I missed last week's blog challenge due to an unpredictable schedule determined by the needs and requests of my parents. I'm visiting them for a few weeks while Mom recuperates from hip replacement surgery.
So this week's writing prompt concerns writing contests. I've entered a few in my time. Just a few.
Around 30 years ago, I entered a national writing contest sponsored by Otherworlds magazine which I only saw sold at Waldenbooks. This was, of course, before the (public) internet and before my hometown lost all its "new book" bookstores. (We still have a couple of secondhand bookstores.) I submitted a short story. (Either "Silence" or "Dragonspawn," I can't remember which.) It won. Giddy with joy, I haunted that bookstore, waiting to see my story in print. I received a Dungeons & Dragons chess set--which I still have. Even my kids think that's pretty damned cool. And I received three D&D tee shirts. I still have (and wear) those, too. I never did see that Otherworlds issue with my story published in it.
That contest validated my ambition to be an author; it offered proof that I could write a good story.
Fast forward to 2017 and three more contests, two sponsored by Authors Talk About It and the other by Chanticleer. Unlike the old Otherworlds contest, these charged entry fees.
I didn't win either of them. ATAI loved my entry, The Falcon of Imenotash. I blogged about that. Their flattering review is linked on this website's home page and I use it in marketing. ATAI didn't like the cover design, which is pretty much what kept the book from reaching that coveted 5-star rating and being a real contender for the grand prize. Too bad.
ATAI's mixed review of Ulfbehrt's Legacy conflicts with reader reviews. They didn't like the cover design on that book either. Obviously, cover design ain't my forte as far as ATAI is concerned.
The entry fee for Chanticleer's contest was more than twice the fee for the two ATAI entries. I don't know what they thought of my book, because they took my money and I never heard back from them, not even with a critical review. That struck me as dishonest and a painful lesson learned. I won't be going back to them for anything. I have much the same criticism about many book review sites.
Subjective by nature, writing contests offer validation desired by the authors who win them; however, I prefer to receive validation from clients and readers. Those who appreciate my work will buy it.
Disembodied screams woke him. Before he hardly recognized what he was doing, he found himself in the doorway of his sister’s bedroom.
“Hush!” Tabetha hissed at him as she wrapped her arms around her friend who whimpered like a kicked puppy. Zoe’s eyes were wide open, but unfocused.
“What’s wrong?” he asked hoarsely, the young woman’s distress making his heart pound inside his chest. He practically vibrated with the need to hold her, to gather her close to his body and shield her from whatever terrorized her dreams. And then he’d give her greater pleasure than she’d ever known.
“She has nightmares,” Tabetha answered and rocked Zoe back and forth, murmuring childish nonsense to her in a soft, sing-song voice.
“She won’t talk about it. They’ve have been less frequent these past several months, but I suppose recent stress stirred up whatever lurks in her memories.” She sighed. “Sometimes she cries out his name, but I’m never sure if he’s her tormentor or rescuer.”
“What can I do?” Lars asked, wondering who “he” was.
“Go back to bed, Lars. She’ll be fine for the rest of the night.”
“I’ll sit here for a while longer.”
Tabetha shook her head and said wearily, “She’s not yours, Lars.”
“She will be.”
“Oh, God, not you, too,” she groaned.
“Please tell me you don’t believe Dad’s ‘pow’ theory of love at first sight.”
“I didn’t until today,” Lars admitted sheepishly. He reached over and ruffled his sister’s hair. “You’ll find your true love.”
“I’m not looking for him, that’s for sure. I have things I want to do with my life before settling down with a husband and popping out babies.” She looked at her friend, now sleeping peacefully. “I think she has plans, too, that don’t involve marriage and children.”
“Plans can be changed.”
“Oh, you’re such an obstinate man,” she grumbled and threw a decorative pillow at him. He caught it.
“Go back to your room and go to sleep. And keep your hands and dick to yourself.”
Lars tossed the pillow back and reluctantly rose from the trundle bed. He cast one last concerned glance at his sister’s roommate and returned to his own room, making a mental note to investigate her background. If she wouldn’t tell him, then he’d find out what haunted her through other channels.
Hard boiled, scrambled, over easy, and sunny side up: eggs are the musings of Holly Bargo, the pseudonym for the author.
Looking for a place to swap blogs? Holly Bargo at Hen House Publishing is wanting to Blog Swaps in 2018. For more information:
Book Of The Month