Friday, March 30, 2018

Writing Non-Fiction Books – Research and Reward by Linda L. Osmundson

An August post from this blog read “We Are Women, Hear Us Roar.” March, as Women’s History Month, honors many women who roared against impossible odds and found success in science, literature and art among other subjects. My research discovered women artists gained recognition as far back as the 15th Century even though they often faced a lack of acceptance and few choices in subject matter. Their soft voices persisted and soon turned to roars.

For my third book in the How the West Was Drawn series I chose women who painted or sculpted the West. Writing non-fiction required thorough research and meticulous bibliographies. One workshop I attended suggested each fact in your manuscript should have three sources in agreement – not always possible. If done well, research reaps apt rewards.

How do you find information? Where do you start? I started with books.

BOOKS

Non-fiction proposals require bibliographies that conform to the publisher’s particular style even if the publisher doesn’t print them. As I read each book, I followed Chicago Style Manual for the bibliography. I added notes and saved it all in a Word document.

Children’s books provide a good beginning. Their information is simple language and interesting facts. Unfortunately, I found few children’s books on western women artists. One adult book, The Encyclopedia of Women Artist of the American West by Phil and Marion Kovinick sounded like the perfect resource. Its 392 pages, with snippets of information about hundreds of women artists, promised to make research easy. Wrong. Many private collectors refrained from listing their own names and women artists sometimes signed an alias. Over time sources changed, collectors died, collections disappeared and pieces were sold or lost.

Artist Malvina Hoffman wrote Heads and Tales. The book recorded her travels while working on a commission for the Chicago Field Museum. She sculpted 101 heads, busts and life-sized figures representing all the world’s ethnic groups.

The backmatter bibliographies of my print resources provided more book sources. Some I found at the library; others I purchased.

INTERNET

Although Wikipedia is unreliable and unacceptable as a source by publishers, the website includes a sort of bibliography. Bingo! Some sites proved helpful, others a waste of time. Reliable websites such as art museums provided facts, a directory of experts, art images for consideration and collectors’ names.

Once I completed my research and formed a list of more artists and images than needed, I tackled the next step – permissions.

PERMISSIONS

The University of Chicago Press (and most publisher contracts) states, “As Author, you have responsibility to secure permissions that may be needed to reproduce material created by other people, including images and text quotations.” That means the author pays out-of-pocket. I cataloged any permission requirements and fees. I based my final image decisions on artist, image and cost of permissions.

Museums, estates and collectors charge from $100 to $500 an image, seldom less and often more, for it to appear inside the book. An image on the cover requires an additional charge. A museum or private collector occasionally sanctions image use for free. Luck followed me when I visited the Fort Worth office of Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway.

BNSF’s Fort Worth curator toured me through their huge western art collection which included many women. She supplied a catalog of all their possessions, some of which hung in other office locations. She obtained authorization from superiors to allow use of whatever images I wanted at no cost. She loaned me artists’ files and provided jpegs. Of the fourteen images in Women’s Art, seven came from BNSF.

A gallery owner allowed publication of Marjorie Reed’s painting if I purchase his book about her. The price of $60 provided interesting reading and plenty of usable tidbits.

After choosing the images I preferred, I queried publishers with my manuscript and/or idea. Once accepted by Pelican Publishing, I received an advance which helped finance my permissions.

ADDITIONAL PUBLISHER REQUIREMENT

My publisher requested the text for each image be approved and fact checked by museums or contributors before printing.

Although some people say non-fiction is easier to sell to publishers than fiction, much time, research and even money go into the making. The reward – an award winning book.

Linda Osmundson is the author of hundreds of non-fiction articles for children and adults. She authored three books in the How the West Was Drawn series (award winning Cowboy Charlie’s Art, Frederic Remington’s Art and award winning Women’s Art) for ages 7-107. Learn more about Linda Osmundson on her website: www.LindaOsmundson.com or her How the West Was Drawn Facebook page. She lives in beautiful Fort Collins, Colorado, with a view of the Rocky Mountains and Long’s Peak from her deck.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Dover Classics for Women's History Month

Dover Books has been reissuing facsimile editions of literary classics since 1941. During March, for Women's History Month, they feature the many feminist authors in their collection. You'll probably remember some of these titles from your college literature classes.

Here are some of my favorites from their Dover Thrift Collection, most of them priced for $5 or less and also available in ebook format.

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Other titles you will find are:

A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft
Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
The Women's Bible by Elizabeth Cady Stanton
The Vagabond by Collette
Woman in the Nineteenth Century by Margaret Fuller
A Burst of Light by Audre Lorde
The Feminine Future: Early Science Fiction by Women Writers

And plenty of Jane Austen - I confess I haven't been a fan, but intend to change that! There must be a reason she is so popular to modern readers.

I strongly urge you to connect with Dover Books and get on their e-letter or snail mail lists. They often have holiday coupons and free shipping incentives. Here's a coupon good through March 30, 2018 if you buy $40 or more in books. Easy to do with this publisher!


What are some of your favorite classic titles by women authors? Share them with us in the comments. And tell me why you like Jane Austen!

Dani Greer is founding member of the Blood-Red Pencil. You can connect with her on Facebook at Colorado Writers and Publishers group, on Twitter, and on Instagram.


Thursday, March 22, 2018

Red Sparrow: A Broken Winged Bird

I love the actress Jennifer Lawrence. I have watched all of her movies and admired her portrayal of Katniss Everdine in The Hunger Games, Mystique in the X-Men, and Tiffany in the Silver Linings Playbook.

I also love spy movies.

So, I eagerly settled into my theater seat to view Red Sparrow, a tale of a Russian dancer turned Soviet Agent.

*** WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD ***

There was the setup and inciting event: dancer is injured, thereby ending her career and income stream. She has a sick mother who needs medical care (personal dilemma).

Enter the uncle who proposes a new job: become an agent or her mother dies (story goal).

The first twist: she was intentionally injured by the leading man and another dancer. She gets brutal revenge so we see Dominique has the capacity for violence.

Then the plot swan dives: they send her to, in her words, whore school. Neither men nor women are spared explicit sexual exploitation. There she learns to use her sexuality as a weapon and to stay one step ahead of her mark. This is the gun placed to be fired at the climax.

The middle of the movie is a mire of torture porn. Dominique meets her mark, fails her original objective, gets beaten to within an inch of her life, miraculously bounces back, and goes back in the game.

The ending has a satisfying twist and that is the only good thing I can say about the movie, other than Jennifer's acting ability.

Once again, I was sickened by the explicit rape and torture writers rely on for ratings.

Recently, screenwriter Bridget Lawless launched the Staunch book contest for Suspense Thrillers where "no woman is beaten, stalked, sexually exploited, raped, or murdered." The winner will be announced November 25, 2018, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. You can read more about the contest in this article from the Guardian.

Brutal torture, graphic violence, and excessive gore saturate books, films, video games, and television series. I tried to remember a single series (other than cozies) or movie that doesn't feature images of women (and men) bound, waterboarded, beaten, electrocuted, chopped up, raped, etc.

A murder mystery must have a murder, but the act doesn't have to be lavishly filmed (with the verbal or actual camera) in full technicolor detail. The same goes for the ridiculous body counts. You can have one death occur in a story with resounding impact rather than dozens of deaths that go by without connection or emotion. That same tense moment where the heroes are walking the corridors, watching out for bad guys is just as tense without the ridiculous shootouts.It is what happens before the bang, rat-a-tats, or booms that matters.

"But, but," I can hear the objections already, save them. I know films are supposed to appeal to 18 to 30 year old males and they eat that stuff up. I find that gross generalization an insult to men in general, but I digress.

"But, but it's getting into the bad guy's head. He is a sick, evil, twisted guy." Fine. Use that if you can't think of something more original. Quite frankly the drawn out focus on a twisted person's mind is a turn off for me. It has been done to death. Villain is a cruel psychopath? Got it. Understand what that implies. I don't need to watch/read every sick thing s/he does or thinks. It's okay for the sleuth to say, this guy is really sick. He gets off on (fill in the blank). But I'd rather be spared his POV while doing it. Seriously. For me as reader/viewer, that's a good time to pan away and summarize.

Don't get me started on hitting people with cars, truck, and trains, with or without heads rolling and limbs flying, and fountains of  blood and guts. Ditto waterboarding, electroshocking nipples, hanging people from the ceiling with chains, charring their skin, or slicing digits off. Do really bad dudes in the real world do this? Possibly. Do we need to watch it? No.

You don't need tired tropes to have a successful suspense story. I would go so far as to state relying on shock value rather than the harder task of making the plot tense is weak writing.

It can be done with fairly simple tools: high stakes (personal and overall story), ticking clocks, limited options, cat and mouse, red herrings, chases, horrifying realizations, and information reveals that change what the protagonist and readers think the story is about. Hero and villain can face off without killing everyone in sight with assault rifles.The deaths of many dilutes the deaths of a few.

If you know of non-cozy mysteries or thrillers that are successful without extreme violence (books or movies), leave a link to them in the comments. I will be sure to check them out.

Continue reading:

Wonder Woman Versus Atomic Blonde

Bad Romance

Reinventing the Hero

The Power of Story


Diana Hurwitz is the author of Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict, Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict, Story Building Blocks III: The Revision Layers, and the YA adventure series Mythikas Island. Her weekly blog, Game On: Crafting Believable Conflict explores how characters behave and misbehave. Visit DianaHurwitz.com for more information and free writing tools. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

These Women Mean Business: 19th Century Women Entrepreneurs

When I initially created Inez Stannert, the protagonist of my Silver Rush series, I made her a part-owner of a saloon in Leadville, Colorado. I did so knowing that she had company in the 1880 census.

Three Leadville women laid claim to being saloon keepers back then… in a town of about 300 saloons! In fact, a quick look at the variety of professions is intriguing: outliers include two fortune tellers, one journalist, one stenographer, four physicians/surgeons, four miners, and two music teachers. There were also 39 managers or employees in the hotel business, 90 boarding or lodging house keepers, and 76 women who were tailors/dressmakers/milliners. I wish I could tease the numbers apart and find out how many “managed” or owned their own businesses versus those who were “employed,” but the census doesn’t make that distinction.

A Dying Note, the newest book in my series, finds Inez in 1881 San Francisco, managing a music store (which she does not own it… yet!). She is also providing loans and financing to other women, who are running their own businesses—laundries, millineries, and so on. I turned to a couple of resources to draw a bead on businesswomen and entrepreneurship in this time frame, to be sure I wasn’t too off-based in my assumptions as to what was and wasn’t possible for women. Capital Intentions: Female Proprietors in San Francisco, 1850–1920 by Edith Sparks was one such resource. (An interesting review of the book appears here on the Economic History Association website.)

Three men and a woman, California Gold Rush. Maybe she's selling biscuits from that basket?
Sparks notes that, during the 1850s Gold Rush era, starting a business, especially for white women, was simple: “Demand for their domestic skills and services, fueled by a dramatic gender imbalance, meant female proprietors were unusually safe risks in the eyes of most creditors, and women enjoyed generous terms for financing new enterprises as a result.”

However, once the Gold Rush ebbed, access to credit for women ebbed along with it. At this point, women began turning for loans to “informal lending networks comprised of female and male acquaintances.” (As Dani pointed out to me, this is similar to today’s ”microfinancing” efforts popularized by Grameen Bank.) One strategy women favored in this post-Gold Rush era was taking over or buying out an already established business… a strategy that Inez is hoping to employ!

 If you’re looking for real stories about real women entrepreneurs of Old San Francisco, you might want to check out The Making of ‘Mammy Pleasant”: A Black Entrepreneur in Nineteenth-Century San Francisco by Lynn M. Hudson. An 1884 article in The Cleveland Gazette stated that Mary Ellen Pleasant had “an income from eight houses in San Francisco, a ranch near San Mateo, and $100,000 in government bonds.” (According to MeasuringWorth.com, that $100,000 in 1884 equates to at least several million dollars today!) You can find a short biography of Pleasant on BlackPast.org.

Mary Ellen Pleasant: One of the wealthiest women in the U.S. in the late 19th century.

So, it appears that women-led “start-ups” are not such a new concept after all! One needs only take a look at history (or maybe I should say “herstory”) for examples from the past.

Ann Parker authors the award-winning Silver Rush historical mystery series published by Poisoned Pen Press. During the day, she wrangles words for a living as a science editor/writer and marketing communications specialist (which is basically a fancy term for ìeditor/writerî). Her midnight hours are devoted to scribbling fiction. Visit AnnParker.net for more information.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Rosie the Riveter and Lilly Ledbetter

The posters of Rosie the Riveter were created to encourage more women to join the wartime labor force and fill traditionally male jobs in the Defense Department left vacated when men went off to fight the enemy in World War II. Yes, I said POSTERS. Most people identify the iconic image of Rosie with her polka dotted bandana and “We Can Do It” motto, illustrated by J. Howard Miller and produced by Westinghouse in 1943, but it was not the only one. In fact, Norman Rockwell’s illustrated version of Rosie for the Saturday Evening Post in 1943 was far more popular. It wasn’t until the 1980s that the original Rosie was adopted as a feminist symbol of strength as the movement took hold and women everywhere got on the bandwagon for parity.

The identity of the original Rosie was also a subject of contention. Two women claimed to be Rosie. You can read more about that here: Rosie the Riveter Inspiration and Rockwell’s Rosie here: Norman Rockwell - Rosie the Riveter
 
Rosie, and what she represented, changed the American way of life. Women left the kitchen or mundane jobs for work in the higher-paying defense industry, increasing the work force by fifty percent. They were paid only sixty percent of what their male counterparts were making, though it was more than they made in their previous jobs. (We’re still fighting that one.)

Women from all walks of life contributed to building the planes, tanks, and weapons that helped win the war, unleashing a new work force on the American landscape, breaking down racial barriers, and necessitating child care centers. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, a stalwart supporter of women’s rights encouraged this phenomenon by being a role model to women everywhere.

When Johnnie came marching home again-―yes, I know the song is from the Civil War – latitude, please―they also marched right back into the jobs they left, and the women who wanted to stay were harassed and forced to leave. According to the State Department, the women were fillers, and now they were discarded to find other jobs. But the "damage" had been done.

Employment for women never fell to pre-war levels, and for the millions of women working today, we’ve never quite matched men in pay or respect. Though the Equal Pay Act, signed into law by John F. Kennedy in 1963, abolished pay disparity based on sex, women still make seventy-nine cents to every dollar earned by a man and ten thousand dollars less on average per year.

Image result for lilly ledbetter

Lilly Ledbetter, an employee of Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, filed and won a three million dollar suit for wage disparity that went all the way to the Supreme Court, which overturned the lower court’s decision.

Ledbetter will never receive restitution from Goodyear, but she said, "I'll be happy if the last thing they say about me after I die is that I made a difference." I'm sure she has. Her suit created the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, signed into law by President Obama.

We need lots of Rosie the Riveters and even more Lilly Ledbetters to fight for women. We’ve come a long way, baby, but not long enough.


Polly Iyer is the author of nine novels: standalones Hooked, InSight, Murder Déjà Vu, Threads, and Indiscretion, and four books in the Diana Racine Psychic Suspense series, Mind Games, Goddess of the Moon, Backlash and The Scent of Murder. A Massachusetts native, she makes her home in the beautiful Piedmont region of South Carolina. You can visit her website for more on Polly and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

A Look at Amazing Women

Recently, I have been binge-watching episodes of Turn: Washington's Spies on Netflix. The story is set in and around New York during the years of the American Revolution, and it has been fascinating to look back at this period in history, even knowing that not all the details, or characters, are true to the facts. The series is based on a book, Washington's Spies: The story of America's First Spy Ring, which was known as the Culper Ring. The book was written by Alexander Rose, who focuses on the true historical facts instead of the dramatized version of events seen in the television series.
Photos courtesy of  AMC
What is true is the Culper Ring, headed up by Abraham Woodhull of Setauket, New York.

Set primarily in New York where the spy ring started in the town of Setauket, the story does cover key places and people in the fight for Independence throughout the Colonies.

Mary
One of the aspects of the story I have enjoyed the most is the way the strength of women is portrayed, especially, Mary, Abraham's wife, Anna Strong, and Peggy Shippen. When Abraham gets into dangerous situations, coming close to being exposed as a spy for Washington, Mary and Anna band together to formulate  plans to get him out of that danger. Both women gain more and more strength as the story evolves, especially Mary who attempts to kill Major Simcoe, a ruthless man who relishes killing and torturing Colonial sympathizers and takes up residence at Woodhull Manor, the home of Setauket's magistrate, Abe's father.

Peggy, from a prominent Philadelphia family, is first aligned with the British and falls in love with Major Andre, the head of intelligence for the Queen's Army. Andre convinces her to renew her friendship with Benedict Arnold in order to gain intelligence on the Continental Army. The plan goes awry when Arnold mistakes her overtures of friendship as romantic interest. Peggy goes from being manipulated by what high society expects of women, as well the men in her life, to taking a stand and aligning herself with the Patriots.

I looked online to find information about how much of the dramatic elements of the story are true, but couldn't find hard facts other than the formation of the spy ring and key players, and some television critics have suggested reading Rose's book for accurate historical facts. Since I do love to study history, I will do that at some point, but in the meantime I will enjoy the rest of this series that highlights such strong women. All of them suffered great hardship before finding their inner strength and that is what attracted me to their characters.
   
For some time now, I have used the tagline "Writing books that celebrate strong women" as part of my brand, and that started after the release of One Small Victory. The central character, Jenny, is based on a real woman who infiltrated a drug ring in a small rural town in Michigan and helped to bring down a major supplier. This followed the death of her oldest son in a car accident, and she used the depth of her grief to find the strength to bully her way onto a drug task force, rising out of hardship to do something amazing.

When I read the news item about this woman in The Dallas Morning News many moons ago, I was struck by her ability to channel her grief that way. She was a single mother of five children, and I couldn't imagine how a woman, a mother, could find that kind of courage. I don't think I could. But then, we don't know how strong we can be until we are faced with a significant challenge.

What about you? What challenges have you faced down, in your writing or your everyday life? I think we take strength from knowing what others have accomplished, so please do share.

Maryann Miller - novelist, editor and sometimes actress. She won her first writing award at age twelve with a short story in the Detroit News Scholastic Writing Awards Contest and continues to garner recognition for her short stories, books, and screenplays. You can find out more about Maryann and all of her stories at her Amazon Author Page  * Website   * Blog  and follow her on Facebook and Twitter. 

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Twelve Fascinating Fe/male Spies

History is written by the victors, mainly male victors, leaving the tales of heroic women buried in the sands of time.

A simple search for female spies led me to a hundred different heroines whose stories deserve to be told.  I present a few of the most fascinating.

1. Mary Bowser and Elizabeth Van Lew

Mary was born a slave on a plantation in Richmond, Virginia owned by the Van Lews. Upon Mr. Van Lew's death, Mary was freed but remained as a servant of the household. She was sent to the Philadelphia School for Negroes by Elizabeth Van Lew and learned how to read and write. That would make a riveting literary tale, but it gets better. Elizabeth was unpopular for her Union sympathizing and pretended to be crazy to deflect from her efforts to aid a spy ring and hide escaped soldiers on her estate. Mary adopted the pose of a feeble minded servant to spy on Jefferson Davis in his own home. These two actress activists deserve at least fifteen minutes of fame.

2. Belle Boyd

Belle was a confederate spy caught after she killed a Union soldier. Instead of ending her days in a dark prison, her Union captor became her lover and let her go. They reunited in England and married but later returned to the United States. Belle trod the boards as an actress but her lover died in prison. Truth really can be stranger than fiction.

3. Sarah Emma Edmonds

Sarah Edmonds was destined for an arranged marriage, but escaped with her mother's help and traveled as a man to the Connecticut colony. Sarah's disguise allowed her to serve as a male field nurse during the Civil War. She used many disguises, even posing as a black man to infiltrate and spy on the Confederates. She developed malaria and left her post to avoid discovery. When her alter-ego was outed as a traitor, she simply reverted to being female and continued to work as a nurse/spy.

4. Chevalier Charles Genevieve d'Éon

The Chevalier was a gender-fluid spy, French diplomat, and freemason, at times posing as male and others as female as needs suited. He was part of a secret network of spies, Secret du Roi, employed by King Louis XV. He posed as a woman to infiltrate the Russian court to work against the Habsburg monarchy. As Lea de Beaumont, he served as a maid of honor to the Empress of Russia. He returned and resumed his male identity to fight in the Seven Years' War. d'Éon claimed to be born female but raised as male because of inheritance issues. At his death, doctors found he had "male organs in every respect perfectly formed," but also feminine characteristics.

5. Zora Fair

Zora lived a short but adventurous life as a spy. She disguised herself as a black servant to infiltrate Sherman's headquarters in Atlanta. Little is known about her life and sources disagree about whether she was caught and questioned by the Union Army. She died in North Carolina shortly after the Civil War ended.

6. Eileen Mary "Didi" and Jacqueline Nearne

This sister duo worked as Britain's Special Operations Executives (SOE) during World War II. Eileen worked as a home-based signals operator, receiving secret messages written with invisible ink on the back of typewritten letters. Eileen was caught and tortured by the Germans. She escaped and fled to Leipzig until the arrival of US troops. Meanwhile, Jacqueline was sent to France to work as a courier. She was trained in Morse code and was outfitted with a suitcase radio. She also had parachute training. She carried spare parts for radios inside her cosmetics bag. She spent fifteen months aiding the French resistance and returned to Britain in 1944.

7. Cecile Pearl Witherington

Cecile was born in France to British parents. Along with her mother and three sisters, she escaped occupied France and went to London. Like the Nearne sisters, Cecile joined Britain's Special Operations Executive (SOE) where she became an expert marksman. She was parachuted into France in 1943 and worked as a courier posing as a cosmetic saleswoman. When her boss was arrested by the Gestapo in 1944, Cecile became the new head of SOE Wrestler Network. With the help of her fiancé, Henri Cornioley, she played an important role in fighting the German army. The Nazis issued a one million pound bounty for her capture. Her small force was attacked by thousands of Germans in June of 1944. She escaped, regrouped, and launched a large-scale guerrilla attack on the Germans. She ultimately presided over the surrender of 18,000 German troops.

8. Violette Morris

Violette challenged female stereotypes and sexual norms. She was born in 1893 and raised in a convent. She married briefly, then lived life on her terms. She was real-life super hero (or villain) material depending on your point of view. Any sport a man could do, Violette claimed to do better: shot put, discus, women's football, water polo, boxing (defeating men), road bicycle racing, motorcycle racing, car racing, airplane racing, horseback riding, tennis, archery, diving, swimming, weightlifting, and wrestling. She earned two gold and one silver medals at the Women's World Games in 1921–1922. Her smoking, swearing, and bisexual lifestyle got her banned from the 1928 Summer Olympics.

She was invited to attend the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin by Adolf Hitler and became a German spy. She served as a military nurse during the Battle of the Somme and a courier during the Battle of Verdun in WWI. She is credited with gifting the Germans with partial plans of the Maginot Line, strategic points in of Paris, and schematics of the French army's Somua tank S35. She lived through the German occupation of France in a houseboat on the River Seine and worked against the British SOE. She was sentenced to death in absentia and was murdered by members of a French resistance group on 26 April 1944, at the age of 51.

9. Loreta Janeta Velázquez

Loreta was born in Cuba but raised and educated in New Orleans. She dodged an arranged marriage by eloping with a Texas soldier. With the outbreak of the Civil War, her husband joined the Confederate army. Upon his death, Loreta posed as a male to enlist. After fighting in major battles such as Bull Run, her disguise was blown. She changed identities and locations and reenlisted. Her second cover blown, she turned Confederate spy/double agent working at times as a man, others as a woman. She died in 1923  in a public psychiatric facility.

10. Majda Vrhovnik

Madja was raised in Ljubljana, Slovenia. While enrolled in medical school, she joined an underground Communist movement. She became a courier during the occupation of Yugoslavia and was sentenced to life in prison in absentia. Her parents were held hostage for months as leverage. She continued her work organizing a print shop for the resistance and carrying manuscripts. She assisted her brother in setting up a bunker in May 1943 reproducing copies of The People's Justice and the Slovenian Reporter. She then turned to instructing students for Young Communist League of Yugoslavia (SKOJ). In the fall of 1944, she disguised herself as a peasant girl and spent months organizing committees for the Liberation Front. She was betrayed and arrested, tortured, and killed by the Gestapo but lives on as a people's hero in Yugoslavia.

We rarely hear about the hundreds of brave women who served during the wars, much less the successful spies. Beyond biography, you can bring their stories to life through Literary Fiction, Historical fiction, Suspense Thriller, or screenplay. There is no shortage of intrigue to work with.

I love a story where a character is undercover with the possibility of exposure around every corner. Stories that encourage me to learn more earn bonus points. Stories that highlight history's forgotten female heroes earns higher bonus points.

Continue Reading:

New Stories

History's Mysteries


Diana Hurwitz is the author of Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict, Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict, Story Building Blocks III: The Revision Layers, and the YA adventure series Mythikas Island. Her weekly blog, Game On: Crafting Believable Conflict explores how characters behave and misbehave. Visit DianaHurwitz.com for more information and free writing tools. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Strong Women Helped Shape History

March is Women's History Month, and we at BRP are honoring prominent women both historical and present-day. When I began to consider this topic, several names came to mind. I whittled the list down to three, but I couldn't in good conscience eliminate any of those because of their impact on history.

Queen Esther, an orphan girl living in Persia during the reign of King Ahasuerus, descended from Jewish captives and grew up in the city of Shushan. The king sought a replacement for the disobedient queen he had banished, and he ordered the beautiful virgins in the land to appear before him so he could choose her successor. Warned not to divulge that she was a Jew, Esther was chosen to be the new queen and soon earned the reputation of treating her husband with great humility and respect. When she learned the Persian prime minister plotted to kill all the Jews and, in fact, had authorization from the king to do so, she humbly but urgently appealed to her husband without first gaining permission to speak with him—an unlawful act that could have resulted in her being put to death. As a result of her courage and the humility and respect with which she approached the king, the Jews were not only spared annihilation, but they eventually were released to return to their homeland.

Harriet Tubman, born Araminta Ross, later adopted the name of Harriet in honor of her mother and kept the surname of her first husband, John Tubman. As a child, she was hired out to various masters and beaten regularly. One master, throwing a heavy metal weight at a runaway slave, instead hit her in the head, fracturing her skull and leaving her with lifelong headaches and seizures. Determined not to be deterred by what some would today declare as disabilities, she escaped the fetters of slavery to become an abolitionist and humanitarian and serve as a spy and scout (as well as nurse and cook) for the North during the Civil War. She rescued some 70 slaves—family, friends, and others—and helped them escape captivity via the Underground Railroad. A courageous leader, she headed an armed raid that ultimately freed some 700 slaves. After the war, she retired to care for her aging parents in a home on property she had purchased in New York. Years later, working alongside suffragettes such as Susan B. Anthony and Emily Howland, she spoke widely and publicly in favor of giving women the right to vote. She was also keynote speaker at the first meeting of the National Federation of Afro-American Women in 1896. Harriet Tubman died in 1913 in an old folks' home for elderly African Americans she had helped to establish years earlier.

Marian Anderson, American contralto born in Philadelphia in 1897, was reportedly declared by famed conductor Arturo Toscanini to possess "a voice heard but once in a century." She began singing in church at the age of six and was soon earning 25 to 50 cents for singing at local events. As a young teenager, she received as much as four or five dollars per performance, a significant wage in the early twentieth century. Denied entry into the Philadelphia Music Academy because of her color, she studied privately through the black community and won first place in a singing competition sponsored by the New York Philharmonic, which earned her a concert performance with the orchestra in 1925 and won raves from attendees as well as critics. Despite her incredible talent, however, racial prejudice prevented her from achieving the success she so richly deserved. Even a stellar performance at Carnegie Hall in 1928 didn't open the doors of opportunity, and she made her European debut in London in 1933. Back in the States in the late thirties, she performed in some 70 concerts but was still not allowed lodging and meals in a number of establishments. In 1939 the Daughters of the American Revolution denied her manager's request for a performance at Washington DC's Constitution Hall, where DAR policy permitted only white performers. The backlash from this denial reverberated throughout the country, led by Eleanor Roosevelt, who withdrew her membership from that organization in protest of its racial prejudice. The public uproar resulted in an invitation to perform at the Lincoln Memorial; that open-air performance was attended by over 75,000 people and heard by millions more on the radio. In 1955 Ms. Anderson became the first black person to appear on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. She sang the national anthem at Kennedy's inauguration in 1961, and two years later, he presented her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Among other awards and recognition for her immense talent and her contribution to the acceptance of future black entertainers, she received the Congressional Gold Medal in 1977, the National Medal of Arts in 1986, and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1991. Marian Anderson died at age 96 in Portland, Oregon.

These three women paved the way for others to follow in their paths. Role models in their lifetimes, they indeed deserve their place in history. What women past or present do you admire?

Editor Linda Lane has returned to her first love—writing—while maintaining her editing work. Most of her novels fall into the women's fiction category, but she will be venturing into the thriller realm with a new book scheduled for release late this year. You can contact her through her websites: LSLaneBooks.com and DenverEditor.com.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Women’s History Month: Stories of Tragedy and Survival

Ordinarily, when I think of Women’s History Month, I tend to look at the stories of great women whose accomplishments were often overlooked during their lives, or those whose achievements were noteworthy because of the obstacles overcome along the way.

Recently, however, when researching Illinois history sites, I stumbled across a story of women whose health was damaged while they worked diligently to earn a living for their families in the 1920s. The article was called The Radium Girls: An Illinois Tragedy. I’d never heard of the women who died of radium poisoning years after working at a radium dial company, painting dials with a special mix that glowed in the dark. The article suggests perhaps thousands of people, mostly women, died from the poisoning. Kate Moore wrote a book called The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women (2017) and discusses women who worked at similar companies in other states as well.

Consider another great tragedy that affected a large number of people in 1911, most of them young, female immigrants from Europe. This disaster is well known, and the whole horrible story can be found on the OSHA website. The factory was in the garment district of New York City, the workers located on upper floors of a building with only one fire escape, many locked doors, and a firefighting crew whose ladders were too short to reach the fire.

You can search for “triangle shirtwaist factory fire” on Amazon to see how many books have been written about this fire over the years.

To come back to Illinois history, is there anyone who does not know the tragic story of Richard Speck and the 1966 torture, rape, and murder of eight student nurses at a hospital in Chicago? History.com and other sites have the story, and numerous books have been written about the tragedy and the murderer.

The site history.com is a great resource for those who love history. This is where I read more of the details of the army and navy nurses taken prisoner in the Philippines when the Japanese took over the islands in 1942 (the Angels of Bataan). Although the numbers vary according to different sources, approximately 80 nurses were taken prisoner and held until 1945. In spite of disease, near starvation, and unfathomable fear, these strong women kept each other alive. All returned home, although some never fully recovered physically or emotionally from the trauma.

Again, several books have been written about these nurses, both non-fiction and fiction. I first learned of this story from my mom who in 2014 wanted to read a recently released book for young readers called Pure Grit: How American World War II Nurses Survived Battle and Prison Camp in the Pacific. As a civilian nurse (pregnant with me at the time) working in an Army Hospital in 1942, she knew many of the nurses who’d gone overseas, but her knowledge of what they went through was limited to what she’d read in newspapers at the time.

Non-fiction writers take note. Fiction writers as well. Exploring history can reveal the tales that shock readers, teach what went wrong in the past, and help implement change. We could spend years discussing all the sad events that have faced women throughout history, but learning the stories help put today’s benefits and today’s disasters in perspective. Doing the research and writing about these events continue to educate long after the events have occurred.


Pat (Patricia) Stoltey is the author of four novels published by Five Star/Cengage: two amateur sleuth, one thriller that was a finalist for a Colorado Book Award in 2015, and the historical mystery Wishing Caswell Dead (December 20, 2017).

Pat lives in Northern Colorado with her husband Bill, Scottish Terrier Sassy (aka Doggity), and brown tabby Katie (aka Kitty Cat).

You can learn more about Pat at her website/blog, on Facebook, and Twitter. She was recently interviewed for a Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers podcast that you can find at the RMFW website.