Let me get straight to the point. I don’t like it when we term a book review “bad.” I think of it as someone speaking their honest opinion. I know we don’t like it when someone says the book is horrible. It doesn’t feel nice, that’s for sure. But we discount the person who was at least willing to leave a review.
I am more apt to leave a negative review than I am a positive review of something I like. It seems to be human nature to be critical. You have probably encountered a boss like that. Never compliments what you do well; only points out your faults.
Well, this isn’t Unicorn land. We wrote a book. Not everyone is going to like it period.
Now granted, there are those who seem to enjoy being mean, but that is their problem. We all can spot those reviews on products. They are pissed off at the world, and you just made them madder. But then we have an honest review. I love honest reviews.
Just as there are good writers and poor ones, so you have reviewers. Some know the right words to use, and others don’t. But that doesn’t necessarily make them bad. If you eat dessert all the time, and nothing else, you won’t be healthy for long. If you eat dirt all the time, the same thing goes. A balanced diet is healthy and allows you to grow.
An honest review states what a reader did and did not like. Remember, in this day and age of consumerism; the reviewer looks at your story as a product. It must meet their view of what that product should be. And it is a chance for you the author, just one chance, to make a change. It shows where you might be able to do better. Granted, you can’t please all the people all the time as I said before. And you still must consider the percentages on your reviews. For instance, if you have five good ones (and they are all family) and ten negative ones (who aren’t family and friends), there is a problem. But an honest review gives you direction.
You, as an author, know when it’s an honest review because it reveals a spot where you were unsure of like in plot or advertising. I recently had a review that showed me what I feared; I am promoting my story in the wrong genre. It gave clarity to where I need to list it and how to advertise it. I did this by overlooking the general dislikes the reviewer stated, to understanding this person was saying they had bought a product that didn’t fulfill their needs as a reader. It was not as the advertising lead them to believe. It was only one little review, but they nailed it. I want more reviewers like that. They aren’t good or bad; they are honest.
I am not afraid of hearing you don’t like my story; it grows me as a writer. That is why I send my book to copious amounts of beta readers. Then drag it through edit after edit. I want the best I can produce for those readers who are looking for this particular genre. I’m the same way about my cooking. Why waste my time and food if it’s not going to be palatable?
And yet, hell yes I’m into praise. We all are! I love the “likes” and the “wonderful job” comments. Who doesn’t like a tasty dessert? But I can’t be healthy on that diet. I need honest reviews: honest beta readers, honest editors, and honest customers.
If for you, it’s only about the dessert, the kudos, the Atta girl, find something else to do. It is tough to compete in the book field. Writing is personal, but to become a great author, you need the criticism, just as an athlete needs a good coach. Always try to take the bad and find something useful. None of us are perfect. I’m a fair writer, but I want to be the best writer I can be. I have read other people’s writings and wonder why I even try. There is real talent out there. I recognized that in my teens when I dreamed of becoming a concert piano player, it never was going to happen because I didn’t have the talent. I also feared I’d never make a living as an author, so I worked jobs that honed the skill everyone told me I had for writing. And while I may never have a best seller, that doesn’t mean I’m going to quit trying. And without honest reviews, I will never succeed.
So please readers, friends, family, editors, and customers don’t be afraid. Tell me the worst. I appreciate it. Thank you!
Feel free to leave a comment. Have you ever learned anything from an honest review? I would enjoy hearing your opinion. 🙂
So, imagine you are in a bustling city, and you are asked to walk down the street naked. Just cringed, didn’t you?
That’s what I feel like every time I finish a book and start advertising it. In this age of information saturation, to sell a book, I have been instructed to make a brand, not of my storytelling, but of myself.
I enjoy taking everyday happenings and like clay, forming it into a story. My imagination knows no bounds. There isn’t just one genre that calls to me, but many. In my head are about ten stories all the time, and writer’s block is only prevalent when I work to make that story into a readable manuscript.
But the curiosity a reader may have about me, well that makes me want to hide behind a pen name, and a made-up story about my life. I don’t understand why I like to create with the written word. It’s just images and moments are stored, then my brain gets full, and I move some of the stuff out onto paper. While doing this I have a little fun rearranging it into even better moments. I feel a little self-conscious when I share it. Like, who in their right mind thinks up things like this? But then, there is this strange happiness that fills me when someone actually enjoys my creations of imagination. It’s the same feeling I get when someone likes the slop I call cooking!
Some of the things people want to know confuse me. I’m boring. I don’t live anywhere glamorous. I scrape by like everyone else. My habits, good or bad, are average. My inspirations are relatively low key
When I find a story that captivates me (for I like to consume stories as much as I love to create them) I must admit I only want to know if the author has written other stories I can scarf down. Call me narrow-minded or self-centered, but I have never had a desire to know anything further. As a private person, their lives are their own. It is, after all, just a story.
I suppose there is a curiosity about how a story comes about. What made someone think of vampires, murder motives, science fiction, etc? But the answer is right there. Curiosity. A thing we all have in common as a species. Maybe we love stories because we can escape from our own humdrum existence of paying bills, going to work, and trying to survive. For a moment we can step into fantasy and leave behind the real world filled with its problems.
For the author, it could be the same thing. I create a world that I have control in, and I dictate the outcome. Having a whole lot of pride and control issues might help with the creation of imaginary people, worlds and events. Or maybe I just wish I could control the chaos around me, so I create my own little happy world. Who knows, I don’t always understand my own compunctions.
But does knowing where I live, what I wear, what I do or what I had for breakfast really matter? As some wise person once said, “it’s about the story, silly.”
I have been told it is healthy to voice frustrations in journals or diaries and from what I have read in memoirs and blogs, it has been going on for a long time. I guess blogging is another form of that. And for me personally, writing a story does help me to learn to work things out, and sometimes gives me insight into a problem I have at hand.
Every writer has reasons for the story they develop. It is a personal journey that some are more willing to share than others. I can only hope that if you are a writer and reading this, you realize that you are normal. If you are a reader who has no desire to write, but happily consumes stories, I hope I have given insight into why I’m a writer, but not a very good promoter.
Otherwise, I hope you enjoy my quirky little foray into self-pity for not having any privacy. But then again, why would I whine about that? I should be used to it. After raising five kids, enjoying seventeen grandkids, plastering myself all over the internet, and writing about bloodthirsty Vikings, you’d think I wouldn’t mind walking naked down any street!
And feel free to comment. Wouldn’t mind hearing about you, the reader. 🙂
The hardest thing about writing a book isn’t writing it. Some would say it’s just trying to actually sit down and write it. Some would say it’s the organization, or having the perfect plot, or of showing not telling, or even the construction of the grammar-perfect sentences. I would disagree. It is the editing process. In fact, it is so hard, that many are tempted to skip it or give up on it all together.
I would have to admit, first and foremost, I’m a reader. All my life, reading has been my entertainment, crutch, mentor, and escape. With the event of Amazon I discovered I could comment on books that I bought, so I became a reviewer. Eventually, for some strange reason I still do not comprehend, I felt the desire to even write a book and try my hand at self-publishing. So, as you can see, I’ve experienced all sides of how a book is created.
But I want to thank all those authors who go through the editing process and don’t give up. It is, of all the aspects of the book business, the process I hate the most. I know that I must go through an edit. My editor can verify this and has earned her halo going through it with me.
This doesn’t give me the right to sit in judgment of anyone’s book creating process, but it definitely gives me an understanding of the reasons why it could be easy for someone to not want to do it.
I do admire those writers who persevere. How they give of their time, trudge onward into the wee hours of the night, cussing and cursing, pounding their heads against walls and still come through the other side with a full head of hair.
I grow weary of those who evade the process or think it’s not necessary. I see it in books that have glaring grammar issues, poor formatting, poor plot structure or no plot at all. Something an editor worth their salt would help a struggling author to correct. I tire of those books I review that could be so good and yet when I contact the author to gently suggest an edit, am told that it is great just the way it is.
Or those who profusely produce and could be great, yet can’t see that we all have to go through an edit. I’ve heard many an excuse, but in my opinion, it boils down to one thing, an edit hurts, it is hard work and it takes dedication.
I remember one morning waking up after a long night editing, complaining to my husband, “Why the heck am I arguing with my editor over imaginary people and imaginary plot scenes? It is all just make believe!”
My pride has been stung again and again when I think I’ve written that perfect scene. When I’m sure the sentence is perfect in grammar. When I add so many neat things in a story, only to be told it has nothing to do with the plot, get rid of it. And it goes on and on. I want to believe in the dream of being such a great author that I write it perfectly the first time.
But Reality is, writing a book is not about writing it right the first time. It is about writing and writing and writing until you get it right.
After losing the love of my life in September, I have floated aimlessly on the waves of change, until the last few weeks. Then I decided to get back into my second passion in life.
I’ve taken control of the helm once again through the re-organization of my writing world. First was to hire someone that had knowledge of the vast digital world I am helpless in. Starting with my blog, you will notice new banners, social links and a page advertising the upcoming new book due to Mr. Richter’s skills, email@example.com. I have revised the first two books and added two children’s books as well.
For those of you who have been following my journaling on the 33 years of travel through cancer with my husband, (Living in the Shadow of Death) do not fear, I am still working on it. It will now be available on my Author website. It will be linked here and notification served through Facebook.
I needed the freedom to post again about my writing journey and to re-blog some of the awesome blogs I run across in my travel through cyber-space.
I must sadly report that I’m still editing Norse Hearts. This is a 100,000 worded romance, and trust me, grammar is not a talent of mine, just ask Chryse Wymer, http://ocdeditor.weebly.com/, my ever long-suffering editor. But when it is finished you will be inundated with advertising joy.
Meanwhile, thank you for following my little corner of insanity.
Recently I decided to raise awareness of the upcoming release of “Norse Hearts” by entering the cover in Little Book Corner’s Book Cover contest on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/littlebookcornerpage
Thank you to all who came out and voted! I am touched and very appreciative of your support. Now I would like to give you a little reward for your effort.
The following is the first chapter of the soon-to-be-released, “Norse Hearts.” Enjoy!!
Norse Hearts – Chapter 1 – The Raid
“That which has a bad beginning is likely to have a bad ending.”
Britain – 760 AD
Einar stood in the ship’s bow as its oars sliced the water in perfect unison, powering the ship effortlessly towards the riverbank. Uneasily, he rubbed the back of his neck. There would be no honor to Odin in what they were about to do. Watching the giant man at the steering tiller, he waited. At the helmsman’s nod, Einar raised his arm in a silent signal. The oarsmen quietly pulled in the sculls through the oar locks. The dragon ship’s momentum sent her bow onto the shore with a hiss. He glanced over as a second ship, with a larger, ornately carved bow, slipped in beside them.
Leaping ashore, the men took on solid form in the ghostly fog. Woolen cloaks covered their broad shoulders and leather tunics studded in various designs of worked metal. Heavy brows pulled into fierce intent and created granite profiles framed by beards. Unhooking their shields from the railing of the ship, those who had swords slid them into wide leather belts or scabbards. Others carried heavy war axes. They shoved helmets—wrought into fiendish metal faces—over wild sea-salted hair.
Church bells pealed, sounding hushed in the fog, as they called to the faithful for evening vespers.
All went silent.
Then, from far off, Einar heard something faint and growing steadily louder: a deep-throated singing—people chanting. Rolling through the humid air, their voices rose in ethereal waves.
The band of warriors moved silently around the trees. Finally reaching the edge of the forest, Einar saw a small, grassy incline with the chapel and monastery at the top. The little hamlet of Seletun had the only church on this stretch of the River Ouse. The stained-glass windows in the sanctuary glowed with jeweled colors. Quickly scanning the area, he saw that there was no challenge. It looked like there were riches to be had here, but he had no desire to kill unless in the heat of battle. In this moment, he was simply being loyal in following his jarl’s orders.
Time slowed as the choir’s chant gave an unholy rhythm to the sounds of creaking leather and the warriors’ heavy breathing. With brightly colored shields, black shadows for eyes under helmets, and swords or battle-axes now in hand, it looked as if heaven and hell were about to collide.
The chant ended just as Einar and his horde hit the chapel doors. Crashing into the sanctuary, he stared at the worshipers’ startled faces. The monk turned from the altar and froze in fear. Women raised their hands to their mouths that had opened in screams. The faithful scrambled to their feet to escape their impending doom. With an animal-like howl, his shield in front of him and his sword held high, Einar led the charge as they fell upon the hapless victims.
Terrified monks pushed over an iron-wrought candelabrum as they fled from the invaders. Flames crept up the heavy tapestries hanging behind the altar, adding the acrid smell of smoke to the carnage’s hellish glow. The warriors struggled and fought with any who stood against them. Their swords’ bright glint was now dulled by blood from those hacked without pity.
Einar’s gaze swept the front pews, noting a kneeling woman. Her bowed head was covered in auburn plaits. A fur-rimmed brown cloak, held together with a large gold brooch, draped over her thin shoulders. He strode forwards, catching an arm, and pulled her up, looking into her fear-widened eyes. He stared for a second at a plain silver cross that hung from her neck and then tore it from her violently. Reaching for the gold brooch, he ripped it from the cloak. Shoving her aside, she fell to the floor with a thin scream.
He whirled, facing the cry that had erupted behind him. A slim girl with copper-tinted hair ran past him, kneeling at the woman’s side, helping her to sit up. He watched a peasant rush the chapel door, and a single slash by the Norseman guarding it sent him into eternity. In the confusion, a monk who had a blonde, petite woman clinging to him screamed as she watched her family and friends die. Einar saw one of his men raise an axe to forever quiet the blonde, but the kneeling redhead lurched to her feet and darted forwards. Shoving the monk and the girl behind her, she glared at the warrior with her arms spread wide, protecting them. The sword hung in midair as the Norseman hesitated, startled by her defiance.
The twinkle of jewels caught Einar’s eye as the cross around her neck swung with the swirl of her cloak. He grasped the warrior’s axe hand, speaking roughly, “Gunnar, hold! She is the one we seek.”
Glancing at the weeping blonde, Einar snapped out, “Spare them. Slaves bring good profit, and we still have room for a few more.” His eyes narrowed as his gaze raked over the redheaded vixen. Her breast rose rapidly with quick breaths, anger setting her face in hard lines. A tan wool cloak, edged with gold embroidery and lined with fur, covered her slight frame. Without another word, Einar grabbed her arm and yanked her against him, fingering the gold cross, staring into her wide green eyes.
“Slitting her throat would lose us a chance of a better profit in ransom. I am taking her with us.”
Gunnar ground out angrily, “Then I claim first rights to her.”
Einar shot back, “No, she is mine. Take the other two.”
He watched Gunnar’s brow furrow and his knuckles whiten as he gripped his axe handle before bringing it down on a bench with a dull thud, the wood splintering. Kicking at the shattered bench, Gunnar pulled the axe loose. Looking at the trembling blonde who still clung to the monk, Einar heard him grunt, seemingly unimpressed with what was left. Slipping the axe handle into a leather loop on his belt, Gunnar grabbed them, joining him.
The redhead beat at Einar with her fist, screaming, “Nay, nay, let me go!” He tightened his hold on her wrist, smiling grimly to himself when he heard her sudden gasp.
Heading out of the church, the warriors grabbed everything of value and quickly searched the bodies lying about for anything of worth. Einar led the horde as they made their way back to the dragon ships, going a little slower for the captives taken and the loot carried. A few Norsemen trailed behind to discourage anyone who found the bravery to get back what had been stolen. The only noise in the foggy evening was the heavy breathing of men fired up from battle and the occasional whimper from the prisoners.
A few of the monks who escaped had gone into the bell tower, and clanging tones now called for help from the village.
Impatiently, Einar tugged on the struggling girl to hurry her along. Breaking from the forest’s edge, he almost lost his grip on the arm he was clutching. Grunting, he turned around, seeing she had wrapped her free arm around a slim tree trunk and dug her heels into the damp soil. Teeth clenched, her lips curled back, and her green eyes had a feral gleam.
“Nay. Nay!” she cried as he increased the pressure on her wrist again. Suddenly, she let go of the tree and braced both feet against his calf, throwing herself back. Her move startled him, and for a brief second, her hand slipped in his grasp. Twisting, she kicked up with her right foot between his thighs. White-hot pain seared through his groin, the air in his pain-constricted lungs leaving in a whoosh through his clenched teeth. His grip loosened while he instinctively sought to clutch his injured manhood. Wrenching free, she fled like a startled rabbit.
Suddenly, Gunnar’s laughter turned into a shout. “After her! She is the lord’s daughter!”
Gunnar had a head start on him, but Einar scrambled over damp rocks, stumbling through the deadfall littering the ground, until he came across a small path. Up ahead was a small meadow, and he watched her run across it, thinking that if he wasn’t in so much pain, he might appreciate the deer-like grace she had in full flight. She definitely knew the forest and had the advantage.
Still limping, he watched Gunnar gain on her. They both disappeared into the woods. His ragged breathing sounded harsh in his ears as he tried concentrating on any nearby noise. Tripping over a tree root, he muttered, “By all that is Thor’s, if he does not beat you, I will!”
Suddenly, he heard a loud shriek and a muffled “umph” as something hit the forest floor. Pushing past the pain, he started jogging. Finally reaching the forest’s edge, he saw Gunnar stretched out over the girl’s small frame. He had both hands imprisoned above her head as his weight pressed her flailing legs into the moist earth.
“Gnògr!” Gunnar growled.
Einar noticed the girl’s sudden stillness, and before he could call out, Gunnar shifted his weight, holding her wrists with one hand while his other hand slipped down her cheek, resting on her throat. The girl tried to move her knee to escape, and suddenly, his fingers tightened, cutting off her air. She froze again, and Gunnar loosened his hand and slid it down over her body, checking out the soft curves.
“Get off of me, you filthy lout! Murderer!” she shouted, struggling wildly again.
“Shhhh,” Gunnar hissed in her ear, pressing her against the ground with his full weight to stop her from moving again.
“Gunnar!” Einar barked.
Gunnar looked up, his brow wrinkling in anger. “What? I caught her, and I have claimed her—again—since you can not seem to hold her.”
“I have first claim and am holding her for ransom. Get off her.”
“Let me have a few minutes; then you can have her back, if you can keep her.” A smirk covered his face.
“Ekki! Let her loose now. Her ransom will cover the worm’s debt. Will you interfere with the jarl’s profit?”
“She is mine!” Gunnar spit back.
Folding his arms over his chest and leaning a shoulder into a tree, Einar stared impassively down at Gunnar. “Fine. You explain to the jarl why she is no longer a maid and why we have nothing to bargain with. I will wait here until you are finished.” He noticed that the girl had stopped struggling, watching the two of them intently. Finally, with a glare, Gunnar brought up his knee beside her hip, still holding her wrists, and with a rough jerk, he drew her up with him as he stood.
“I am not conceding my claim,” he snarled, pushing the girl towards Einar.
Pulling a length of leather from his belt, Einar quickly wrapped it around her wrists, binding her hands before her. Tugging at the length of remaining leather, he started back down the path as Gunnar walked behind, pushing if she slowed.
“You heathen swine! Give me one moment with that fancy sword on your back and I will hack you to pieces. You are nothing but thieving barbarians with pig dung for brains. Lord Allard will see to it you are nothing but food for worms.”
Einar glanced back at her, one eyebrow raised in surprise. Quite a bloodthirsty little thing, he mused. Maybe this is why her betrothed wanted her dead. He could see how her fiery temper might be daunting for a pasty-white worm like Cecil Allard. But Einar found her insults to be quite entertaining.
When the dragon ships came into view, the little vixen planted her feet—having caught her breath and strength—and started fighting again. Gunnar’s laughter grated across his nerves.
In one swift turn and scoop, he slung her over his shoulder. Putting his arm around her legs, he kept her still. She beat against his back with her bound hands and screamed.
“You son of a boar! Murdering heathen! Put me down!”
Loud laughter from the warriors around the boats drifted up, only adding to her agitation. A young, lanky warrior came up alongside him.
“I see you caught her. She sounds like a cat in season. If they did not hear the bells, they certainly will hear her.”
Einar grunted. With a few long strides, he reached the dragon ship. Her shifting movements and the tug on the scabbard strapped across his back warned him that she was trying to pull the sword out. Suddenly, Einar dropped his shoulder, dumping her on the ground. She took a deep breath to scream, but his large, rough hand descended over her mouth, cutting it off. He felt her lips pull back as she bared her teeth to bite, but he pressed her head against the side of the boat, his hand pushing against her mouth.
He said to the lanky warrior beside him, “Tell her to cease.”
“Why? You can speak Angles just as well as I can.”
Einar glared at him. “Do it.”
Stepping up, the Norseman spoke quietly in the girl’s language. “Ladye, if you do not cease your struggles, Einar will bind and gag you.”
Taking his hand away from her mouth, Einar’s fingers grasped her arm in a tight grip.
The girl stilled, staring at the warrior who had spoken. She took a deep breath and spoke softly. “How is it you speak as I?”
Einar watched Dagfinn pull his shoulders back and straighten. “I was born in this land and once was slave to the Norp weg. I am now called Dagfinn, shield hand to Einar Herjolfsson, your new master.”
Her eyes opened wide as she stared at the youth for a few seconds.
“I . . . I am no one’s property! I will not be anyone’s slave. Tell your lord to slay me now.” She drew herself up, squaring her shoulders, and stared into the dark holes of Einar’s helmet, seeking out the eyes behind it to convey her defiance.
Einar chuckled. “She is worth more alive. Quite dramatic, is she not?”
“Ladye, Einar refuses to slay you. A dead slave brings no profits,” Dagfinn said, a smile quirking at the edges of his lips.
“My father, Lord Landis Forthred, will pay him, if this is about coin. I am to be married tomorrow. My dowry is substantial, and my father will meet his demands,” she said, standing straighter, pushing her chin out.
Einar’s intense gaze sized her up.
Gunnar joined them, leaning against the side of the boat. “If what she says is true, there are several Forthreds who are related to the King of Northumbria. They can well afford a large ransom, but we have to meet with Roald in a fortnight, and he may not appreciate the problems she brings. Or did you think about any of that before you spared her?”
He gazed coldly back at his stepbrother. “We held our end of the bargain. She is gone—he does not have to marry her—but he did not hold up his end, so she will pay his debt, one way or another. You would pass up a chance for increased profit?”
“I think she would make a wonderfully obedient wife; do you not agree, Einar?” Dagfinn replied with a wolfish grin.
A scowl darkened Einar’s face. “Boy, if your sword arm was as quick as your wit, I would not need half of my men.”
Sudden silence fell between them as they stared at her. The girl shifted, her hands twisting in the bindings. Einar finally snarled out, “We need to go.”
Dagfinn translated quickly. “We are leaving. He will consider your offer.”
She beat her bound hands against her legs, the fingers laced and white as she spit out, “Did you not tell him I am to be married tomorrow? The lout can speak to my father now!”
Einar grabbed the leather lead; she pulled back against it, stomping her foot to emphasize her words. “I will not go. I must marry Lord Allard tomor . . . .”
Her words were muffled as Einar suddenly grabbed a length of leather from his belt and turned her around, his brawny forearm crushing her against his chest. She started to scream, but he shoved a rough piece of leather into her mouth, tying it off behind her head as she thrashed. Trying to shriek around the gag, she choked. She brought up her elbows, shoving into his gut. He caught his breath, scooping her up and pressing her against his chest, squeezing the air from her lungs.
“Move it, boy!” Einar ordered Dagfinn. “I am tired of her beating me like a dog!”
Gunnar’s laughter rang out as Dagfinn quickly tied another piece of leather around her ankles while she kicked, hampering the efforts. Einar lifted the squirming bundle up to several of the men in the ship, and they dumped her against the wooden mast.
The sound of wood clacking against wood sounded muffled in the fogged air as Einar and his men hung their shields along the gunwale of the ship. Nimbly vaulting up and into the ship, he made his way to the bow, meeting the glare of the bound and gagged redhead. Seating themselves on wooden trunks, his crew set the oars on end, waiting for his signal. Loot and other captives had been put in the holding area at the base of the dragon ship’s tall mast, and the captives knelt with their hands bound, their faces reflecting misery, fear, and shock.
Einar raised his hand, and, as one, the crew slid the sculls out into the water. Glancing up, he watched the ghostly forms of trees slipping by the dragon ship as it moved silently through the fog. The mist rolled around them in a moist caress as the proud bow disappeared into the gray.
So it has been a long time since I last posted. During the creation of my last novel, it seemed I couldn’t find the energy to fit one more word in anywhere. I apologize for my lack of consistency, to you, the blog enthusiast.
Let me share now, that during the phases of the edit, I had an epiphany as a writer. My poor husband has to go through two stages of my writing a novel. The first is every morning, after a long night of typing away furiously, he gets to hear me read out loud what I have written. I don’t know about anyone else, but I must do this to hear the flow of grammar and sentence structure to catch my errors. Then, lucky man that he is, he gets to read it after it is edited.
It is during the final reading that I waffled between wondering if I’m a tour guide or an author. Ever been on a tour of any kind? Museum, historical, or bus tour? That is where someone tells you the history of the object or place you are touring. They give you little tidbits into what has occurred. Giving facts that help guide you to understanding.
It is hard as a writer to know when, where and how to let you, the reader, know what is going on. When to reveal the facts, to keep you wanting to read on, and not giving away to much to soon. Readers are usually a very savvy, smart, intuitive group. They have been down a storyline a time or two and they have learned the tricks of an author. When something out of the blue is mentioned, or when a character says something that is odd, the reader is on alert as to where it is going to lead them.
So as an author, I can’t be as open as a tour guide. I can’t give you all the facts right up front. I must draw it out and weave a story around it. Yet, if you aren’t given enough facts, dropped like little bread crumbs at just the right time, I lose you, the reader, as well. A confused reader is an unhappy reader.
So when my husband is done, I quiz him. As if he hasn’t already been through the wringer! Did he understand the reason Einar raised his sword in anger? Did he know what was going on in Einar’s head through his actions. Did Einar say to much and give it away? Was there enough emotion, enough dialogue, enough suspension, enough, enough, enough……
I must allow you, the reader, to think for yourself, to figure things out so you can feel independent, smart and informed. I can not hand feed you everything. It is a fine balance, like seasoning a meal, so you can have a fun and entertaining read.
To me, this is the hardest thing about being a writer. You can study all you want on how to write a story, but if you don’t have the feel of this, when to spill the beans, how to build it up to that ‘Ah Ha’ moment, your story is flat. It is a learned rhythm that takes lot of practice and yet, for some, it is just a natural talent.
I’m not sure where I fall in the story writing category, but, in essence, I have answered my own question. I guess I am both a writer and tour guide.
Thirty-eight years ago, for ten cents, I picked up my first Historical Romance at a garage sale. To this day “The Wolf and the Dove,” by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss, remains my favorite. This started my addiction to romance stories. I quickly found some to be better than others and the dream of writing my own was shuffled to the back burner as I started raising a family.
The one part of history that fascinated me was the Vikings. So little was known about them, but they made a huge impact on the world that is still seen to this day. Through the years I gathered notes on scraps of paper, watched every documentary, checked out books at the library, visited the Smithsonian when they had a traveling exhibit, and bought research books. Thirty-eight years later, I finally decided to make my dream come true.
And that’s where it got interesting. I thought I was pretty knowledgeable, but even though I had some facts in my head, I didn’t have them all. Writing my first two books had been easy. They were based on the here and now and information was readily at hand. Starting from the first page of Norse Hearts, I had to step back into time. In the 700’s town names were not the same. Language and customs were not the same. Walmart didn’t exist of course, and everything had to be made by hand. Words we use now, were not used then. To get someone from one continent to the other, was daunting and took weeks. How would I fill in the time during the journey?
Depending on the time period you choose to write about determines, of course, how much research will go into it. I was delighted to find they had a website on “How to Curse in Norse.” I found that they used more animal parts then and less curse words, much to my husband’s delight. Since it was a man dominated time period, I leaned on his manly expertise on the art of cussing, fighting and insulting.
Every story is like a well prepared meal. The courses must compliment each other, the spices must be just right. So how much of the Old Norse language do you use? How many of the strange personal names of the period can you put in before you lose the reader? How much detail do you describe about food, clothing, ships, customs and routines? How about their religious beliefs and practices?
Since I never do things that are easy, of course, I picked a time and period of history that not much is known about. So what were the wedding ceremonies like? How much fiction can I invent before it is unbelievable or not historically accurate? Even the historians disagree, so what happens when I have a reader who believes I have not done my research because they hold a different view of the facts?
Last but not least, I discovered the irritating problem of trying to write a scene, being in the moment, then suddenly realizing I would have to go back to my ocean of notes and references to find one small detail such as does Norway have skunks? Or what type of tree would they be burning in their firepit?
Though I had a lot more freedom as to plot, and my imagination went wild with the possibilities, I was not prepared for the mountain of time research would continue to play during my writing process. My husband was a dear during this time. For instance, it is one thing to see a sword fight in my mind, another to try and describe it. I know the neighbors definitely wondered about us as we picked up kitchen spatulas to simulate the moves during a sword fight so I could get a feel of how to describe it.
During one of my rants at my inability to find a tidbit of fact that I had just had the day before, my husband unwisely noted that I should not get so hysterical over such a small piece of information and the joke in the family began. I became quite cranky over the inquiries about how my “hysterical romance” was progressing!
Overall, it was a great challenge and I’m grateful I waited until this time of my life to try my hand at writing this form of romance. It is not for the faint hearted, easily discouraged, or impatient writer. It has stretched my organizational skills to the limit, but was one of the most exhilarating writing experiences I’ve ever had. Writing historically gave me a chance to develop characters who were not as confined by laws, society and religion as we have now. Because I used Vikings, I was able to create people who were not afraid to live, express their feelings or be colorful and headstrong.
Maybe it’s just that I’m now in a permanent state of hysteria, but either way, my editor has her work cut out for her!