Reading historical fiction

Historical fiction has never been a favorite of mine. I’d almost always rather read the actual history than a fictionalized account.

There are exceptions. Charlie Cochrane’s Lessons series comes to mind immediately; her stories take place before, during and after WWI, and star two of my favorite m/m characters, Jonty and Orlando. There are others. But generally, it’s not a genre that I seek out.

I’ve made an exception for Hilary Mantel’s books about the reign of Henry VIII. Wolf Hall made such a splash when it came out, I felt like I needed to read it. I finally found it at the library, and enjoyed it, for the most part. Now I’m reading the second book, Bring Up the Bodies, about Henry’s efforts to rid himself of Anne Boleyn in order to marry Jane Seymour.

The story is entertaining. I have no idea how historically accurate it is. The author’s note says that she left some people out. I wouldn’t know; I don’t know a lot about that era. So I can enjoy the book without thinking every other page, “oh, that’s wrong.” I worked in hospitals for years before I became a librarian, and I can’t watch medical shows on TV because the medical details are so wrong. (Two exceptions: M*A*S*H and St. Elsewhere.) I expect that cops feel the same way about cop shows and CSI.

There is one odd thing; Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies are written in third person, present tense. Present tense is weird, and it’s weirder because of the third person, I think. The main character of the book is actually Thomas Cromwell, and he refers to himself as “he.” So, when there’s a sentence that might refer to two or three different men, Mantel writes something like, He – Cromwell – thinks this and that and the other. (Not a direct quote.) It’s very odd, and throws me out of the story every time it happens.

I wonder why she didn’t write it in first person? Seems like it would have been easier to keep the “he-s” straight.

And isn’t that a bit of arrogance on my part, an amateur writer of cosy m/m mysteries, thinking I’d have written a winner of the Man Booker Prize differently?? :)

(But I would have.)

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Writing is weird sometimes…

Right now the next-to-final draft of Stoned to Death is getting fact-checked by a British archaeologist friend of mine, and the first draft of Talked to Death (produced during NaNoWriMo) is being read by a friend. While those things are happening, I’m writing the first draft of Avenged to Death, Jamie Brodie Mysteries #10.

Sometimes writing is a struggle. Stoned to Death was a good example of that. I knew what I wanted to make happen, but I had a real problem figuring out how to do that. With the help of my fiction writing group I think I figured it out, but it was a long slog.

Talked to Death was done quickly, but only because it was NaNo and I knew I had to get those 50K words on (electronic) paper. But it’s going to be a tricky one to finish, too. There are lots of moving parts and I’m not sure they’re moving in the right direction yet at all.

So, for me, sometimes writing is sort of a grind. The “grind” books are still fun, but it’s certainly more aggravating.

And then, sometimes, it’s not a grind at all.

Avenged to Death is pouring out of me. POURING. The concept for it didn’t even occur to me until four months ago, and it’s

Pouring, I tell you.

Pouring, I tell you.

been begging to be written ever since. When I’d finished the story on Talked to Death during NaNo and wasn’t at 50K yet, I started writing the scenes for Avenged that were hollering in my head to be let loose. Once NaNo was over I turned my attention to Avenged, and I’ve been writing, writing, writing ever since.

It’s a good thing that I’m on break for the holidays, because I have to WRITE. I’m at 33K words already and there are far more to come. It’s a complicated story too, but all the pieces are falling into place.

It’s a weird feeling, but I’m rolling with it.

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The soundtrack for Stacked to Death

Making book playlists is fun! I’ve run across songs I forgot about, and songs I’ve never heard but fit a scene perfectly. I’ve discovered that my playlists are more like soundtracks. I’m choosing songs that I think would make great background music for a particular scene, or occasionally, a song or piece of music that gets mentioned or sung in the book.

Since Stacked to Death was published fairly recently, I’ve gone back and created a playlist/soundtrack for it. Here it is, with the corresponding scene.

1. “You Gotta Be” – Des’Ree. “You gotta be bad, you gotta be bold, you gotta be wiser; you gotta be hard, you gotta be tough, you gotta be stronger; you gotta be cool, you gotta be calm, you gotta stay together.” This is Jamie’s anthem at the beginning of the book, when he’s trying to convince himself, his boss, and everyone else that he’s fine after the events of Psyched to Death.

2. “I Wish It Would Rain” – The Temptations. “Sunshine, blue skies, please go away…” When Jamie is walking to Kevin’s apartment after discovering Austin’s body.

3. “Oh Very Young” – Cat Stevens.  “And though you want to last forever, you know you never will…and the goodbye makes the journey harder still.” When Jamie and Frank find Austin Sharp’s friends creating a memorial to him in the stacks.

4. “Comfortably Numb” – Pink Floyd. “I can’t explain, you would not understand; This is not how I am; I have become comfortably numb.” When Jamie sees his doctor for sleeping pills.

5. “Devil Inside” – INXS. “Every single one of us the devil inside.” When it becomes clear that a serial killer is on the loose.

6. “Librarian” – My Morning Jacket. “Simple little bookworm, buried underneath is the sexiest librarian; take off those glasses and let your hair down for me.” Kristen Beach’s theme song.

7. “Lean On Me” – Bill Withers. “Lean on me when you’re not strong.” Pete supporting Jamie.

8. “True Colors” – The Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles. “Don’t be afraid to let them show; your true colors are beautiful like a rainbow.” When Justin comes to Jamie to talk about coming out. This is my all-time favorite arrangement of this song, recorded for the It Gets Better project.

9. “Better Days” – Goo Goo Dolls. “And you ask me what I want this year And I try to make this kind and clear Just a chance that maybe we’ll find better days.” Near the end of the book, when Kevin and Jamie are talking about how recent events have changed them.

10. “Work in Progress” – Alan Jackson. “”Just be patient, I’m a work in progress.” The last scene, with Pete and Jamie in bed.



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Supplemental material

In my fiction writers’ group at work the other day, we were talking about self-publishing and the inclusion of photos or drawings in our books. None of us have done it successfully. One of my friends wanted to include a drawing. He read the instructions, followed them step by step, checked it three times – and the picture still didn’t show. Another wanted to include an author photo, but could never get it to show on the Kindle page.

And that’s just the Kindle experience. I’m sure Smashwords is equally problematic.

Stoned to Death, Jamie Brodie Mystery #8, will be out in January. (With any luck.) Since it takes place in another country, and involves family history (Pete’s this time) and travel, I wanted to include some things – a family tree, some maps. Those things, especially the family tree, will help readers figure out who’s who and who’s where.

But if I can’t figure out how to get them into the book – what to do? Then, of course, it hit me – duh! I have a blog!

What I’m going to do is create a new page for each book to come, with supplemental material. For Stoned to Death I’ll have maps, pictures, that Ferguson family tree, even a playlist. (I am totally stealing that idea from Josh Lanyon.) I’m going to get the page started before the book is published, so you’ll get – not a sneak peek, but an idea of the flavor of a book.

Let me know what you think.


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54,506 words



I don’t know why the PDF itself won’t load. But it looks cool.

Not all of those 54,506 are on Talked to Death – a few of them leak over into Avenged to Death.

More later…


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A writer’s work is never done!

Whew! I’m deep into NaNoWriMo, keeping ahead of the pace so far, writing Talked to Death, Jamie Brodie Mystery #9. In the meantime, I’m presenting Stoned to Death to my writing group for critique this week and next week – I’m recording the comments, as I won’t have time to do any editing on Stoned before NaNo is over.

All this in addition to the day job, which takes up eight hours a day… :D

I’ve also been asked by a friend, a middle-school writing teacher, to talk to her students who have signed up for NaNo. I’m looking forward to that.

And, I’m going to start editing the earlier books for Smashwords. Cited to Death is already there, but none of the others are available on anything but Kindle right now. So I’m going to make that happen – gradually.

It’s still fun!

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Guest post at Whitley Gray’s blog!

Whitley Gray is a terrific writer. If you haven’t read any of her books yet, try Rabbit Wars – it’s a delightful m/m romance and I loved it! She’s been gracious enough to allow me to guest post at her blog today. Go on over and you’ll learn a few things about me… :D

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