Category Archives: Research

H.G. FERGUSON–TO RESEACH HIS OWN…I MEAN RESEARCH

This week I am thrilled to host author H.G. Ferguson as he shares some insight into his research process and how he incorporates that into the story without turning the book into a non-fiction info dump.

For a writer, regardless of genre or subject matter, research is critical.  But it is ever so critical (to quote Jezebelle) for writers of historical novels and stories to craft their tales as close to “historical accuracy” as possible.  French and Indian War British soldiers did not use bolt-action rifles, for example.  And even seasoned “giants” in the field can sometimes crash and burn, as when an unidentified bestselling romance novel author sets her story in 1811 and employs a drug in it that was not even discovered until 1836…

 

This does not mean every single thing must be perfect.  That’s impossible, as horror and historical novelist Robert R. McCammon pointed out.  In his Matthew Corbett tales set in early 18th century New York, he tells us he had to cut corners somewhere, and he did it with money to avoid confusing the reader due to the overwhelming variations in currency at that time.  But his depictions of dress, atmosphere and “feel” of that period are off the charts.  It can be done!

 

I am primarily a visual rather than a literary person.  That means I learn best visually.  And it is also the way I conduct most of my research into stories, whether contemporary or historical.  For Jezebelle I drew upon photos and artistic representations of antebellum southern belles, both from extant sources and contemporary re-enactors.  I also studied closely models, actors, actresses and performers in various media who suggested and/or exemplified certain qualities I sought in the characters.

 

I also paid very close attention to the antebellum portion of the immortal Gone With The Wind starring Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable in order to absorb the “feel” of that time and place so excellently evoked in that movie — the manners, the coquettish flirtation, the vanity, not just of Miss Scarlet but everyone.  I tried to “soak up” as much of the atmosphere and blend it into my story where appropriate.  Ten minutes spent on an accurate visual portrayal of these kinds of things is more effective — for me — than ten hours poring over “Daily Life in X Y and Z for Writers.”  The flip side of that is when I watched the 1992 The Last of the Mohicans for another story — 25 times.  Kid. You. Not.

 

I also draw upon my own experiences in what I write.  My father was stationed at Napier Field, Alabama during WWII and personally encountered German POWs set to work in the cotton fields.  This found its way into Jezebelle.  In 2003 while visiting my ancestral homeland I personally witnessed, in the heart of what was once a bastion of intolerance, a biracial couple in a restaurant just having a meal and enjoying undisturbed each other’s company.  This too appears in my story.  Local color, local texture.  Above all, truth.

 

And that’s the key to research.  Find the truth.  And tell it!

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A native of Southeast Alabama now at home in Phoenix, Arizona, H.G. Ferguson has always loved the strange, the unnerving, the horrifying — in short, looking at things that go bump in the night, particularly monsters, outside the box.  A connoisseur of classic horror both literary and cinematic, he floods his writing with originality, creativity and a passion for Truth —  even when shrouded in shadows, like a candle flickering in a mortuary window.  H.G. is the author of New Blood, and his latest release, Jezebelle, comes out October 31 at Amazon.com

 

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The Thrill of Discovery in Research

Today our featured guest is Marilyn Turk, author of historical fiction and lover of all things history. She is sharing her favorite topic–discovering the story and the characters.

Read on to the end, as Marilyn will be giving away a free copy of her book.

Marilyn says:

People often ask me about the creative process for the story I’ve written, particularly, how I came up with the idea for the story.

My answer is: I didn’t. As a Christian writer who seeks God’s will in my writing, I believe God leads to me find the story, to discover it. I live near the beach and sometimes, I see people with metal detectors scanning the sand to find buried treasure, or more accurately these days, someone’s jewelry that got lost. I feel like finding a story is discovering the treasure lying beneath.

Or I relate to an archaeologist who digs below the soil to find civilizations long since forgotten. How exciting it must be to find the remains of a home, then a village, of people who lived in the past.

As a historical writer, I’m the archaeologist looking for lost stories of people long ago. The more I find out about a historical period or setting, the more I know about the people who lived during that time. And as I discover what their lives were like, I discover their stories.

The research is the most fun because I’m fascinated by information and little known facts I’d never been aware of before. I’m so excited when I find some tidbit or gem that will produce interesting details in the lives of my characters.

In my research for The Gilded Curse, for example, finding out about the history of Jekyll Island and its exclusive “Millionaires Club” was intriguing, introducing me to a world of yesteryear where affluent people once roamed a small island off the coast of Georgia. Some of America’s wealthiest and most famous individuals – Pulitzer, Goodyear, Rockefeller and Vanderbilt, to name a few – escaped to the island during the cold New England winters to play. The “gilded” society during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s brought all the comforts of home with them as they maintained their social lifestyle on a smaller scale.

But the Great Depression and World Wars changed the wealth and the climate of the country, and the gilded generation disappeared, along with their wealth and prestige.

Then along came my character Alexandra Smithfield, the last heir of one of those families. When Lexie returned to the island ten years after her family had left when she was a child, she discovered that in many ways, the island had changed. And in other ways, it had stayed the same. The Gilded Curse is Lexie’s story about what she finds out and how it will affect her life.

I hope you enjoy finding out with her.

Here is a short description of the book:

In 1942, Lexie Smithfield becomes the only heir to her family’s dwindling fortune after her brother is killed at Pearl Harbor. A mysterious telegram beckons her back to Jekyll Island. Ten years before, the family quit coming to the exclusive Millionaire’s Club after tragic events convinced her mother the island was cursed. Club Superintendent Russell Thompson knows the truth, but he swore never to tell. Will he and Lexie discover the real danger before it’s too late? Check out the book on Amazon at: http://amzn.to/1pkiaNJ

To enter to win a free copy of the book, leave a comment along with your email address, and we’ll enter your name in a drawing.

Marilyn Turk has been published in Guideposts magazine, Guideposts books – A Joyful Heart and A Cup of Christmas Cheer, The Upper Room, Clubhouse Jr. Magazine, Chicken Soup for the Soul, and Lighthouse Digest magazine. Her Coastal Lights Legacy series features stories set around lighthouses. Her book, Lighthouse Devotions was published in 2015. Her weekly lighthouse blog can be found at www.pathwayheart.com. She lives in Florida with husband Chuck and enjoys boating, fishing, tennis, and gardening when she’s not climbing lighthouses or playing with her grandsons.

Nuggets of Writing Gold

Co-written with Leeann Betts: Nuggets of Writing Gold, a compilation of essays and articles on the writing life and journey, full of nuggets of ideas and helps for writers at any stage of their career. Topics include the passion to write, making time for writing, organization, editing, dialogue, and a resource section. Available at Amazon.com Learn more. 

Donna

Do Authors Need Editors?

Is it a good idea to have an editor? This article provides an interesting take on that topic.

The short answer to the above question we most often hear is this: Yes. Every book needs an editor. And while Joe gave us a nice set of tools for self-editing last week, I’d like to take a moment to answer this question on a more philosophical level.

I spend a lot of time on Facebook. And one day I floated the idea that not every writer and every book needs an editor.

That’s right. I said it. Learn more.

Donna

Critique Groups

With a new year facing us, now might be the perfect time to think about starting or joining a critique group.

The first thing to do is ask before you start or join is: what is the purpose of a critique group? What do I want this group to do, or not to do? If you are already involved in one group, perhaps you need to assess what that group does for you, and decide to accumulate a different group of writers with different skills. And if you aren’t already in a group, consider what you think you need the most. Maybe you need to join two groups to meet different needs. Learn more.

Donna

Nuggets of Writing Gold

Co-written with Leeann Betts: Nuggets of Writing Gold, a compilation of essays and articles on the writing life and journey, full of nuggets of ideas and helps for writers at any stage of their career. Topics include the passion to write, making time for writing, organization, editing, dialogue, and a resource section. Available at Amazon.com Learn more.

Donna

New Goals

So the new year has been and gone, and now we’re faced with twelve months ahead that have never been lived before. A new calendar can be as daunting as a blank page, however. Where to start? We don’t want to dilly-dally and waste time, because as we know, time is precious and the time for Jesus’ return is short. We also don’t want to fill in so much stuff that we are running around like a chicken with our head cut off.

With the new year stretching before you, here are some steps to take to ensure a successful year behind you this time next year: Learn more.

Donna

 

Whispers in Purple

I’m a guest author over at Whispers in Purple.

You’ve heard the old saying, “a rose by any other name is still a rose”. And I guess when we’re talking flowers, that would be true.

But what about when we’re talking titles? Would you rather read Tote the Weary Load or Gone with the Wind? The first was a working title for Margaret Mitchell. Learn more.

Donna

There Was a Crooked Man

There Was a Crooked Man, book 2 in the By The Numbers series – join Carly Turnquist, forensic accountant, as she travels with husband Mike on a working vacation to a dude ranch in New Mexico – working for him, vacation for her. However, she can’t even get off the plane before she spies out a suspicious death, and Mike knows he’s in for trouble because she can’t turn off her mystery detection sensor. At the ranch, veiled innuendoes, an obviously frightened ranch owner, missing ranch stock and inventory, and a mysterious message in a Bible give Carly lots of fodder for her imagination, but when a murder happens and all the suspects are trapped due to a huge snowstorm, things turn dangerous for everyone. Can Carly identify the killer, or will he—or she—succeed yet again? Available at Amazon.com Learn more.

Point-of-View

Cec Murphy is running a series on Point-of-View.

POV is the perspective from which you tell a story or anecdote and it applies to fiction and nonfiction. Some say it’s the single, most important choice you have to make. I wouldn’t go that far, but POV influences how readers perceive the story.

POV answers:

• Who is my main character?

• Which character do I want readers to empathize with or understand?

• How do I want readers to view the setting? Learn more.

Donna