Breaking News

One of the hard lessons I’ve had to come to terms with is this truth: I am a human. Wow! Breaking news, huh?

To be more precise, it used to bother me when I’d discover an editing error either I or someone else missed after my books were published. Not too many errors, fortunately, but errors, such as typos, nonetheless. I am human. We are human. No matter how many times we proofread our manuscript, no matter how many good beta readers we have, such minor errors still get past us. Hey, I’ve even found them in bestsellers: typos, wrong prepositions, an awkward sentence here and there. It happens to all of us.

For some reason, the things we missed jump off our published pages. We needn’t get bent out of shape when this happens (like I used to do). As I said earlier, I’ve found things editors of bestsellers missed. The main thing we need to be concerned about, though, is that we don’t have too many. However, if we miss a couple of things always remember the breaking news: We’re all human, including our editors.

Horse Trivia, Thoroughbreds

While researching my current work-in-progress, a novel about Thoroughbred racing in the antebellum South, I learned a few interesting bits of trivia about these magnificient animals. Although I’m sure most horse people know these things, they were new to me. So, I thought I’d share them.

Thoroughbreds can run between 35 and 40 miles per hour.

The Thoroughbred’s average stride is twenty feet long.

Thorougbreds can reach up to 150 strides per minute.

Fascinating stuff, at least for me.

Source: “Racing Explained: What Makes a Good Racehorse?” Horse Racing Ireland, 12 March 2012, www.youtube.com/watch?v=XOV2Ip69-3E

News Update

February 1: I will be attending the Southern Christian Writers Book Expo at Lakeside Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. The Expo’s hours will be between 10 a.m and 3 p.m. I’ll have a book table and will be autographing books. If you’re in the Birmingham area, come by for a visit!

Characters and Backstory

Olivia De Haviland (aka Melanie Hamilton Wilkes): Gone With the Wind. Photo is in the public domain. Can’t believe she’s 102 years old now!

In all my years of writing historical fiction, I’ve found one thing to be the most challenging, yet also fun. It’s writing a character’s biography.

We writers must write our characters’ biographies, at least all the major characters’ stories, in order to get to know them better. Oftentimes their personalities will surprise us, as well as their motivations, education, strengths, weaknesses, and so on. The more time we spend with them, the more they become our literary “friends.”

What is challenging, at least for me, is writing their backstory. Why? Because their backstory must be believable within its historical context as well as contribute to the character’s personality, motives, and so on.  

Let me use my home state, for example. If I write a story set in 1850s Mobile, Alabama, and use a character’s backstory (or even a flashback) set in 1817 Alabama, I cannot have a significant event happening to him in Montgomery, Alabama in that year, nor could he reach Montgomery by train.

Why not? For two reasons: (1) Alabama didn’t have railroads in 1818. He’d have probably traveled on horseback, in a wagon or carriage, or maybe a stagecoach, a common mode of travel during this era. (2) Montgomery wasn’t a city in 1817. In fact, it consisted of several small settlements. My character could visit one of these settlements and have a few critical events happen in his life there, but not in Montgomery. However, he could visit Montgomery in 1819 after two of the settlements incorporated to form the town.

To sum up, research the history, inventions, modes of travel, and so forth that surrounded our characters’ pasts as thoroughly as we do their present events. Because if their pasts aren’t historically accurate and believable, we’ll certainly lose readers.

Memoir in the Works

Pharmacist’s Mate 1st Class(PHM1C), John M. Cunningham, returned home from World War Two. His sister is on the left, his mother on the right.

As a writer of historical fiction, one of my favorite primary sources are letters and diaries. We can learn so much about an era through reading them. The way people talked, games they played, food they ate, issues people faced and what they thought about certain events of their times …the list could continue for pages.

Regarding Southern history, I own many such sources from my chosen era, the nineteenth century. Among them, The Civil War Diary of Clara Solomon. This diary is unique in two ways: Clara was Jewish, and she came from a middle-class family.

Another excellent source I own is The Civil War Diary of Sarah Morgan. And, if you share my interest in naval history, her brother James Morris Morgan wrote Recollections of a Rebel Reefer. He served in the Confederate Navy.

I own other published diaries and letters, too. I don’t think we can ever have enough of these memories published.

Thankfully, my late father left me written memories of his experiences in the Pacific Theater during World War Two. I also interviewed him about his wartime service before he died, which I recorded on a cassette. I realize we have lots of published memories of these veterans out there, but World War Two was the greatest conflict of the twentieth century and the greatest generation fought it. In the near future, I’ll be culling through my father’s recollections and working on his memoirs. It will require lots of work because he left me with so much, thus, I don’t have any firm date for its release yet. Though subject to change, the memoir is tentatively titled: Memoirs of a Pharmacist’s Mate in World War Two. It will be my second non-fiction book.

Squire, A Mascot’s Tale–Now Released!

Squire, A Mascot’s Tale, a dog story set during America’s Civil War, is now available for purchase at Amazon in both paperback and Kindle.

Synopsis: At the outbreak of the Civil War, and against his wife Rachel’s pleadings, Captain Jesse Webb takes his beloved dog Squire to war as his regiment’s mascot. By 1863, they’re posted in Port Hudson, Louisiana. Here Jesse encounters his old rival for Rachel’s hand, Colonel Hampton Lafayette Marsden, who’d killed Jesse’s brother in a duel a few years earlier. Here, too, Squire kills a fighting bulldog in self-defense.The bulldog’s owner, Aaron Blevin, conspires with Marsden against Squire and Jesse. In exchange for Squire, Blevin’s daughter Giselle promises to have an “affair” with Jesse, designed to ruin Jesse’s honor and marriage as Marsden’s revenge for losing Rachel to him. When Rachel unexpectedly arrives at the garrison and Blevin captures Squire, trouble for both of them ramp up. Squire’s life hangs in the balance; Jesse’s marriage is on the line. Will Rachel forgive Jesse’s “affair” and for losing Squire? Will Squire survive his ordeal and find his way home while the Union army battles the Rebel garrison?