Blog Archives

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!

headshot-cropped

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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Difficult Seasons

There are seasons in our lives that are very difficult. In fact, this day is bittersweet for me–it’s my mother’s birthday. She’s been gone more than 30 years.

This article provides writing tips for writers during hard times.

“I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help” (Psalm 121:1 KJV).

I stare out the living room window, my vision blurring and tears forming. I shuffle into the kitchen and peer out the back window. Perhaps the view from there would be different and change my situation.

It didn’t. My brother was still gone.

And I had writing deadlines. 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

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

 

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

Social Media for Writers

It is important for writers to have a social media package. This article provides some helpful tips.

After launching my social media and online book campaigns, I decided to reach out to local libraries and schools about shelving my indie book. When they responded asking for my press kit, I panicked. But after doing quite a bit of research, I found that a) I already had most of the materials and b) it’s pretty simple.

Every press kit requires 8 main parts: Contact Information and Bio, Product Information, Promotional Information, Interview Resources, Media Reactions, Press Release, Book Excerpt, and Title Page.

Let’s start from the top. Learn more.

Donna

Time Management

This is a great reminder at the first of the year to re-evaluate our time management.

We all struggle with time management, but as social media steals away more and more of our minutes, our angst over lost time grows. Here at Books & Such, we’re always brainstorming how to get to the “real” work. Our days are frittered away reacting (to emails, phone calls, social media) rather than initiating action.

When we’re merely reacting, we’re not engaged in the most productive work we should be doing. For example, it can feel good to clean out your inbox by the end of the day, but in actuality, did you engage in your highest priorities? Probably not. Learn more.

Donna

The Midwife’s Tale Part Five

The Midwife’s Tale Part Five

Joseph smiled, then raised the child over his head. He closed his eyes and looked toward heaven.

“Elohenu.”  Blessed are You, O Lord our God.

I smiled, eyes closed. He was praying the traditional Passover blessing over his child.

“Thank You for entrusting us with this gift from You, Yahweh. You have favored us with Your presence in the form of this child. We will raise him and train him to hear You. He is Emmanuel, and He will save His people.”

I was spellbound with this dedication of the child to God. I knelt before them, my heart full and my eyes overflowing with tears. I may not know much about the ways of God, but at that moment I knew I was in His presence as never before. And for perhaps the first time in my life, I was speechless.

I don’t know how long I knelt there, praising God in my heart. All I know for sure is that when I finally stirred, the sun was peeking over the eastern gate.

I rose stiffly, knees protesting the hours spent on the floor.  Mary and Joseph slept side by side on the hay, and the infant lay in a manger, wrapped in some old cloths Joseph had found tucked in a small box. When he’d first pulled out the lengths of rough cloth, I’d been appalled that he would be content to wrap his child in cloths used to rub down newborn lambs. I’d even offered to go to my house and bring back some proper baby clothes.

Joseph shook his head. “Scripture says Emmanuel will come like a lamb to save His people. It seems fitting He should be wrapped in lamb’s cloths.”

A child sent as a lamb? It didn’t make any sense to me.  Lambs were used as sacrifices and  Jews don’t sacrifice their children, so I knew he didn’t mean that.  “How can this child be like a lamb of God?”

“All I know is what God has told us. This child will save His people.”

Outside the stable, I heard the sound of footsteps. I walked toward the opening of the cave and peered out.

Several men dressed in shepherd’s garb paused outside the stable.  They looked into the dawn sky and then back to the stable.

The oldest one spoke. “Is this where the Christ child can be found?”

Christ child? I knew about the Christ child. The one promised who would set the Jews free, who would operate in the anointing of God.

“What do you know of this child?”

One of the shepherds stepped forward.  “An angel appeared to us while we were standing watch over our sheep.  He told us to come here to see the Christ.”  He gestured to his fellow shepherds.  “Then more angels sang the child’s praises.”

More angels.  This couldn’t be any ordinary baby.  I looked into the night sky.  A large star shone upon the stable.  “Is that how you came to be here?”

The youngest nodded.  “The angel told us to look for a bright star that would point us to the child, and that He would be wrapped up like a lamb.”

Lamb’s rags.  I pointed to the baby inside. “He is in there.”

I wandered out into the courtyard area, listening to the sounds of the city coming awake for another day. I felt sorry for the people. I was pretty sure they had missed a miracle.

Don’t get me wrong. As a midwife, I know every birth is a miracle.  As a Jew, I believe the scriptures that say we are created by God, formed by His hand, known from our mother’s womb.

No, the miracle I’m talking about is that God would come to his people in the form of a tiny child, a lamb, to set His people free.

I know a big part of me was set free that night.

I’m going to keep an eye on this Christ-child. I think He is destined to something bigger than His parents, these shepherds, even I can imagine.

And I want to be there when that happens.

Donna