Thursday, October 18, 2018

Using Facts in Fiction

Typically, when facts and fiction are mentioned together, it is as fact or fiction. Yet another application of the two words has a very different meaning: facts in fiction. Why is this important to writers and readers alike? Making sure a story is factually accurate when appropriate grounds that story and allows the reader to suspend disbelief.

When I retired from teaching elementary school, I began my second career—writing fiction. My first stories centered on my interest in dance. Seventeen years of lessons and performances throughout the Pacific Northwest provided fodder to keep my fiction real. Still, my experience alone didn't seem quite enough, so I researched professional dancers and read ballet stories. Then I sent Marta and Lynne, my two seventeen-year-old dancers, off to join a ballet company set in Billings, Montana, in the late fifties.

My original intent to write a single young adult story grew into a trilogy, 84 Ribbons; When the Music Stops—Dance on; and Letters to Follow—A Dancer's Adventure, which follows the budding careers of my two aspiring ballerinas. Sharing their hard work during practices and performances provides opportunities to accurately depict classical ballet, while focusing the story on my own growing up years, the 1950s, adds interest and authenticity. For example, the girls lived with relatives or in a boarding house, they used phones that hung on the wall, and they traveled by bus and train. I knew that time well and could convey it with realistic ease.

The trilogy also introduces readers to real places. In book one, 84 Ribbons, Marta comes to appreciate the prairie about Billings, the vista from The Rims, and the Yellowstone River near Lake Josephine. In When the Music Stops, book two, she returns to western Washington and the Pacific coast, an area where I've lived my entire life. Book 3, Letters to Follow, showcases Lynne on her trip to France to join a summer dance troupe and tour famous locations, many of which I'd personally visited. (The rest were thoroughly researched before being included.)

Did the careful attention to authentic details pay off? Absolutely. The trilogy received recognition, including a ForeWord Magazine feature and awards from Feathered Quill and Moonbeam Children's Book Awards, and was an Eric Hoffer finalist. By adding facts into my fiction, I created interest for a wide range of readers, ages 13 to 90—from young girls currently hoping to have a career in ballet to seniors who remember the time period in which the story is set. Tasman, my fourth novel and a very different kind of story, was runner-up in the 2018 Hollywood Book Festival.

After finishing the ballet trilogy, I jumped back a century into 1850 to write about my visit to the ruins of the brutal British Port Arthur penal colony on the southern tip of Tasmania. We toured the Isle of the Dead and the settlement, stepped into convict cells and the isolating silent prison, and visited the prison church. The quiet rural setting held ghosts of its former purpose that I couldn't forget. I knew I had to write the story of the real young man I'd learned about through the museum displays. After months of researching and reading fiction and nonfiction, Ean McClaud emerged. Once he stepped onto the page, the adventure began. Tasman—An Innocent Convict's Struggle for Freedom tested his patience, his strength, and his resilience as he grew into a three-dimensional character that compels the reader to keep turning pages, all the while cheering him on.

It has been said we should write what we know. I say, "Write what you know and what interests you." Add facts to your fiction to bring depth and authenticity to your stories. In my case, realistic fiction grew from a mixture of personal experiences, interests, and research. No matter the genre, using facts in fiction makes stories spring to life for both writers and readers.

If you wish to connect with me, please visit I love to talk about writing.

Paddy Eger is the author of The Ballet Trilogy, and Tasman - An Innocent Convict’s Struggle for Freedom. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Writers Workshops November & December 2018

Whether a one day session, one week conference, or a month-long workshop, writing related events are a good way of communing with other writers, networking, and getting your name out there. In some instances you can meet and mingle with editors and agents. Some offer critiques or pitching sessions. Nowhere will you find a higher concentration of introverts enjoying each other's company.

If you are looking for a critique group or want to form one, a local conference is a good place to meet potential groups or members.

Some are free. Some require a fee. Some are more social than others. Many are for new writers, but a few dig deep into craft. You should chose an event that speaks to your needs and desires.

The following is a list of writer's workshops and conferences for November and December 2018. Click on the links provided for more information.

November 2, 2018 BookBaby Independent Authors Conference, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

November 4-8, 2018 Highlights Getting Your Middle Grade and Young Adult Unstuck, Milanville, PA 18443

November 4, 2018 Boldface Conference for Emerging Writers, University of Houston, Texas

November 8-11, 2018 Crossroads Writers' Conference, Akron, Ohio

November 8-12, 2018 Algonkian Writer Conference, New Worlds, New Voices for SFF Writers, Morro Bay, LaJolla, California,

Novemebr 9-12, 2018 Writing By Writers Manuscript Boot Camp, Tahoe City, California

November 10, 2018 Georgia Writers Red Clay Writers Conference, Kennesaw, Georgia

November 17, 2018 Hampton Roads Traveling Pen Writers Workshop Essential Principles of Modern Writing, Virginia Beach, VA

December 05-7 Literary Writers Conference, New York City, New York

Further reading on finding the right conference and why you should attend:

An Ambivert Walks Into a Writing Workshop

Five Unique Marketing Opportunities

Readers and Writers Pressing Flesh

Agents and Conferences

Ten Ways To Get The Most From Writers Conferences

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 for more information and free writing tools. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Friday, October 12, 2018

The Journey by L. Katherine Dailey — A Review — #FridayReads

The Journey, Volume II of the Viana Memoirs, follows the lives of the three Viana daughters in Victorian era England. Rich in the activities and lifestyles of the time, this fascinating story pulls the reader in to experience the ups and downs of Alexandra Viana as she is pursued by the less-than-gallant Roman Winterfield.

However, there may be hope for him. When he unexpectedly joins her family and his on holiday in France, Alexandra notes some significant changes in the man she and her sisters once dubbed "The Ogre." Sadly, his distasteful qualities resurface in all their revolting grandeur, and Alexandra is perplexed when he nonetheless appears to win the approval of her family.

Her fascination turns to distress upon her return to England to spend the summer as the guest of Roman's sister, Catherine. Much to her dismay, Catherine is courting one man while falling in love with another—a servant of her father! Catherine chooses to keep both romances a secret, and Alexandra dreads the day when the socially prominent Winterfields learn of her deception. Meanwhile, Roman reappears and announces his plans to stay, which further annoys the already stressed Alexandra and promises to finish ruining what should have been a joyous summer.

Filled with adventure and treachery, The Journey is a classic story of love and misjudgment, a compelling read that will keep the reader glued to its pages from beginning to end.

I worked closely with L. Katherine Dailey on the editing and proofing of this book prior to its 2008 release. She is an amazing writer who loves to read as well as write historical fiction. I applaud her reason for choosing that particular genre in which to write her books. She states that her unique ability to draw readers to her stories stems from her own personal attempts to escape the harsh realities of the modern world, preferring instead to live somewhere in the depths of her imagination and the far reaches of the past. Her latest novel, Once a Thief, is scheduled to be released in early 2019.

Editor Linda Lane has returned to her first love—writing—while maintaining her editing work. Her novels fall into the literary category because they are character driven rather than plot driven, but their quick pace reminds the reader of genre fiction. They also contain elements of romance, mystery, and romance. You can contact her at websites: and

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

What Are Writers Afraid Of?

Photo by HTO [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons
Writers. We’re talking about the folks who create sci fi novels and don’t flinch when confronted with hostile aliens. And horror writers who deal with vampires, zombies, and werewolves (and worse yet, evil humans) without breaking a sweat. And romance writers who create tales of love and sex, the scariest experiences some people face during their lifetimes.

If a writer can handle vicious crimes, terrifying cartels, human trafficking, other tragedies of modern life, and even love, why aren’t they fearless in all things writing-related?

I can’t speak for others, but I can tell you what turns me into a squishy doubter of my abilities and ideas.

1. The sneaking suspicion I don’t know what I’m doing.

In spite of reading hundreds of books and taking many classes and workshops on writing craft, including plot development, point of view, dialogue, and common mistakes, I still screw up. A lot. Like my last manuscript in which I allowed ALL of my characters to develop a shrugging habit. Even worse, I did not catch this incompetence myself, in spite of numerous readings. Each time my editor digs into my manuscript, she returns enough questions and corrections to send me into a deep funk for at least a day or two before I get to work.

2. Fear that a gross error will get past my editor and proofreaders.

If such a mistake gets into the print and ebook editions, readers and reviewers might call attention to the goofs in reviews. Now that I’m writing historical fiction, there are even more opportunities to mess up. The timeline is critical. Words used as slang and even part of regular language need to be checked against word origin sources. Research of weapons, medical procedures, and even animals must be thorough. Did you know the Appaloosa horse was called a Palouse when first introduced in the U.S.? See what I mean?

3. Marketing and book promotion.

Seems like all the writers I know are on superspeed with their marketing efforts. I’m not keeping up. I’ve resolved to do better. For Instance, Colorado Humanities and our new online news publisher, Colorado Sun, have collaborated to promote the winners and finalists of this year’s Colorado Book Awards. My interview and book excerpt from Wishing Caswell Dead was part of the SunLit feature. Still, I fret about marketing and book promotion enough to lose sleep while trying to think of more ways to get the word out.

4. Social media.

Many publishers and agents seem to think authors need a big social media presence as part of a marketing plan. What I’ve found there, however, turns me off. I recently cleaned out my contacts on Facebook, hid some of my profile information, and now try to direct people to my author page. I mostly stick to updates or tweets about books, blog posts from my own site and the Blood-Red Pencil, writing, cats and dogs, and owls. I worry that publishers/agents might consider me a social media failure. I fret about missed opportunities for my number 3 worry about book promotion.

 5. Lousy sales. 

My books were originally published in hardcover and ebook. I have the ability to issue a trade paperback of each novel at a good price and promote like crazy, thus also increasing the likelihood of more ebook sales. I haven’t done it…yet. Sometimes I can be my own worst enemy because of intervening life events, trying to get a new book finished, the irresistible lure of a new project for NaNoWriMo, or simple procrastination. Or doubt that I can self-publish a paperback and do it well.

I’ve owned up to my worries and doubts. So what about you, writers? What are you afraid of?

Check out these related Blood-Red Pencil blog posts:

Writing’s Four-Letter Word: Fear
Tackling Historical Slang
Marketing & Selling: The Same?

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), a finalist for the 2018 Colorado Book Awards.

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.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Truth and Controversy in Writing

Truth—or lack thereof—and controversy seem to hang over us like a thermal inversion in a windless desert valley, where the smog of dissension and division dictate the behavior of distressed residents. Normally calm, rational people react to this toxic environment with unprecedented anger as they spew forth vile language and violent demonstrations against what they perceive to be a threat to their belief systems and lifestyles.

Is that threat real? Only time will tell. Will vocal and physical resistance stem the tide of unwanted change? Again, time holds the answer. Can writers weave the growing unrest into the fabric of their stories? Of course, but beware. Unwarranted assumption and words quoted out of context can send misleading or false messages to the reader and incite an ugly retaliatory response. The war of words is then on, and the battle rages.

Newspapers, magazines, television programs, and documentaries report truths, half-truths, unverified stories, and personal opinion, frequently presented as though all "facts" had been researched and proven  accurate. Sadly, many of today's news stories would not receive a passing grade from any of my journalism instructors several decades ago, when accuracy and integrity counted for a significant portion of a student's grade. Neither would they have been presented to the public until every "fact" had been documented and all remnants of personal opinion removed. I was taught that opinion pieces appeared on the editorial page, and content was clearly acknowledged to be that of its writer and not the publication.

What about that editorial page? Do opinion pieces work? Have you heard of Thomas Paine? His political writings are credited with influencing the Revolutionary War and helping to inspire the Declaration of Independence. However, they were clearly his opinion, and his readers knew that. This speaks volumes about the effectiveness of the op-ed.

Another path exists for the expression of political opinion and community concern. Both fiction and nonfiction books often depict the mentality of the time in which they are set. Current events inspire numerous reporters and commentators to expound on their take of what's happening, as well as its short-term and long-term impact on society.

Fiction writers, on the other hand, can use current settings and events to comment on public figures and troubling scenarios through their characters. They can choose to be in the reader's face, or they can subtly and discreetly use logic and gentle persuasion. In either case, beware of writer intrusion. For the work to be most effective, it needs to be a natural outgrowth of the character's personality, not an obvious insertion by the author.

We live in troubled times. Controversy and contentiousness challenge compromise and collaboration in so many situations. Are we all affected? Definitely. Yet, our unique gifts as wordsmiths offer us a variety of platforms through which to reach people. These gifts, however, come with great responsibility because of their potential impact. Our articles, editorials, books, and stories can educate, warn, console, encourage, and accurately inform those living now, as well as future generations. It is essential that we speak in truth rather than controversy. Just as in the time of Thomas Paine, the pen is mightier than the sword.

Editor Linda Lane has returned to her first love—writing—while maintaining her editing work. Her novels fall into the literary category because they are character driven rather than plot driven, but their quick pace reminds the reader of genre fiction. They also contain elements of romance, mystery, and romance. You can contact her through her websites: and

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Writing Steampunk

As the mists of October roll in, there is no better time to curl up with a good Steampunk novel.

My love of steampunk started with Cassandra Clare's Clockwork Angel series, continued with Susan Kaye Quinn's bollypunk Sisters of Dharia series, The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman, and the Lady of Devices by Shelly Adina to name a few.

I have added to my toppling to be purchased list with these titles from Best Sci Fi

Initially a combination of Victorian steam age and futuristic mechanics, the genre has expanded to cowboy punk, spacepunk, cyberpunk, bollypunk, elfpunk, mythpunk, and atompunk.

The story skeletons are firmly rooted in Science Fiction and Fantasy, sometimes with a little Romance thrown in. Westerns also get a retool with cowboy punk. Some could be considered alternate history. Others have a literary feel.

In steampunk, world building is a unique mixing of old and new worlds in the costuming, settings, vehicles, and props. The only limits are your imagination.

There was a Steampunk'd decorating competition show with a brief run in 2015 where tinkerers and makers created steampunk themed sets and costuming. It is well worth a look for inspiration.

You can hobnob with Steampunk lovers at themed conventions, fairs, and local events.

If you would like to try your hand at the steampunk genre, which comes with a built-in fan base, here are some articles to get you started.

1. Writing Steampunk ~ Writers Digest

2. 8 Tips and Tricks Every Steampunk Writer Should Know

3. Better Steampunk Secrets

4. Girl Goggles Tips for Writing Steampunk

5.The Joys and Perils of Writing Steampunk

6. Geared Up Steampunk

7. Hustlers, Harlots, and Heroes in Regency Steampunk

8. Writing Steampunk

9. Beyond the Goggles, Writing Steampunk

10. Writing Steampunk

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 for more information and free writing tools. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.