Weeding Through It

This past week I was struck with plot problems, which coincided with both a beta reader critique as well as a Revise and Resubmit from a publishing company. One major issue was pacing and the other was that I missed the mark on a key turning point for two main characters, which in turn reflected on other issues needing to be strengthened. Yes, this is for book one in the Gothic family saga that’s possessed my time, energy, and effort the past two years. And since this issue was pointed out in the first manuscript the effects will ripple through the seven other stories in the series.

After my initial freak out—which I let simmer over night—I read through the critique/suggestions again and decided to turn to the place I go when I need to plot: the yard. Yes, it’s January but on the Gulf Coast there’s always yardwork to be done. After the last freeze, the remainder of the lantana plants were ready to be pruned for the season and the flower bed was in need of weeding.

So I took my pensive thoughts, grabbed the wheelbarrow and pruners, pulled on my gloves, and set to work. By the first half-hour I knew the problem wasn’t as big as I feared. The situations, people, and history were there already, I just hadn’t dug into that corner of the character’s past thoroughly because I didn’t want to wallow in that part of his dark life. As I worked, I allowed my mind to wander and focused on two despicable people associated with the character in question that I knew could be involved. It was easy to narrow down the right one once I gave myself permission to dig deeper.

After about an hour, I knew which minor character would be the catalyst and began forming the outline of a new character from the shadows of the past I’d kept locked away. The new character was always there, just not named or explored.

With the situation, characters, and history mapped, I processed where in the manuscript the information could be placed. As organically as the history came to me, it was clear to see that there were natural places to insert the backstory into the manuscript without jarring or taking away what was already there. Looking at the coming manuscripts, the revelation only solidifies the anguish and choices he will make in the stories as the saga unfolds. The history was there all along, I only needed to prune away the unnecessary layers hiding the base of the character’s life.

When all else fails, go to the garden.

Where do you go to think?

Writing Presentation Historical Fiction

Autumn and Spring tend to be my busy seasons for author events. Last Friday I participated in a book signing at the Mobile Junior League’s Christmas Jubilee Marketplace. Tomorrow I’m visiting a high school English class. And this coming Saturday, November 18, 2017, I’m presenting an interactive lecture at Baldwin Writers Group at 10am in the Daphne Public Library meeting room. BWG hosts monthly meetings at Daphne Public Library the third Saturday each month on various topics that relate to writing and literature. These meetings are free and open to the public.

 

Charting Your Course: Historical Fiction

 

This month I’m the guest speaker for BWG and will present CHARTING YOUR COURSE: HISTORICAL FICTION.

Whether your story takes place twenty or two thousand years ago, creating authentic characters and finding the best sources for accurate information makes the difference for readers between enjoying a believable story or having it fall flat–which is applicable for all genres. I’ll share my writing process and give tips and examples from my experience with researching and writing historical fiction set in and around the Mobile Bay area, including Fortitude and my current project, a Gothic family saga spanning 1904 through the 1920s.

The presentation is informative for writers of all levels as well as readers interested in learning about how authors craft their novels. Bring your book loving friends and join us.

Silence is Golden

Silence on the blog means I’ve been busy.

How busy?

I did the math and in twenty-one months I wrote 718,447 words and edited six manuscripts between three and fifteen times (the newest one only three times so far.) My last project totaled 105,689 words in fifty-three days. The most cumbersome one finished the first draft at 132,768 words. I’ve whittled it down to 123,787 in six drafts but it still needs more tidying up.

Do I have anything to show for all this work?

The satisfaction of knowing I can now fast draft.

Larger than life characters living in my mind.

Massive amounts of notes/research/photographs/mood music.

Some amazing critiques from writing buddies.

A few rejection letters.

Several “we want to see more” notes.

And patience, lots of (anxious) patience.

If you’ve followed my journey on social media or elsewhere, you’ve probably heard that I’m working on a historical Gothic series for adults. That’s what these hundreds of thousands of words are for, that’s what has caused my housekeeping skills to lapse, and my brain to forget other things. I’ve been living, breathing, and following these characters through the Edwardian Era in the Mobile Bay area for almost two years now and I look forward to the time I can share more with everyone.

For now, you can see sneak peeks at some of the inspiration for the characters and settings on two Pinterest boards. And on Wednesdays from my Twitter account I participate in #1linewed, which shares one line from a work-in-progress based on the chosen theme for the day. So check there for tidbits from these characters. (This week, August 16, the theme is “song.”)

Here’s to hoping all this blog silence turns to many books for you to read in the months and years ahead. And, of course, extra information and news can be found when I send out a monthly-ish newsletter.

And, as a side note, check out this fabulous list by The Grateful American Foundation for Best Books for Kids. (Hint: FORTITUDE is on there!)

World Autism Awareness Day

I find reading the easiest way to gather information. Those seeking to understand Autism have thousands of books to choose from. I personally enjoy autobiographies by those on the spectrum (like John Elder Robison) and novels because fiction is a great way to learn truths. Movies/documentaries featuring autism are a good resource as well. One of my favorite movies with an autistic character is “Molly” with Elizabeth Shue. That story changed how I thought about people with language challenges and helped me better understand the complexities of the human brain. (Yes, even though it’s fiction!)

My little book, Corroded, is celebrating a year in the wild. April is Autism Awareness/Acceptance Month and today is World Autism Awareness Day: the perfect time to read (or leave a review if you’ve already read it) for Corroded. Recommend it to a friend or family member you think might benefit from or enjoy the story. While what the character Ben goes through doesn’t describe every condition/issue individuals on the autism spectrum deal with, it shines a light on the different ways people experience the world. Knowledge leads to understanding. The world needs people who understand where those who are different from them are coming from.

Ordering links:

Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/Corroded-Carrie-Dalby-ebook/dp/B01DWH9NFU/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1460112918&sr=1-1

Amazon paperback: http://www.amazon.com/Corroded-Carrie-Dalby/dp/099733584X/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1459964764&sr=1-1

Nook: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/corroded-carrie-dalby/1123641953?ean=2940152960259

Barnes & Noble paperback: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/corroded-carrie-dalby/1123641953?ean=9780997335842

Books-A-Million paperback: http://www.booksamillion.com/p/Corroded/Carrie-Dalby/9780997335842?id=6604570336082

Indie Bound paperback for purchasing a paperback from a local independent bookstore: http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780997335842

Kobo e-book: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/corroded

Literary Night Presentation



If you are in the Mobile Bay area, next Tuesday night Gallery 450 on Dauphin Street is kicking off 2017 with monthly Literary Night events, co-hosted by Mobile Writers Guild.

450-gallery

Yes, I have the honor of being the first presenter. I’ll share my experiences of researching and writing historical novels set in and around Mobile, including Fortitude and my current projects (more news on those to come soon.)

Reminder: If you aren’t signed up to receive my newsletter, now is a good time to join the list.

Tis the Season

The light of the season is upon us and the books are under the tree.

 

xmas-2016-tree
xmas-2016-books

My children are enjoying the magic of the holidays, though most days they chose These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder as their read aloud as opposed to the traditional picking of Christmas books from under the tree each day. (We’ve been reading the Little House on the Prairie series out loud for over a year and they all love it.)

bellingrath-2016
I was silly enough to begin a new project last week. I’m thirty-five pages in and trying to moderate myself so I don’t completely disappear into the story during this family-centered time of year. I’m trying for a thousand words a day, but yesterday I did double that. Oops. A good “mistake.”

What are you up to this month?

 

Top Ten Facts Behind the Fiction–CORRODED

Corroded-banner

1. The acknowledgement section for Corroded is full of people, but the one that stands out the most is Laurie Halse Anderson. Yes, THE Laurie Halse Anderson. I was blessed to win a full manuscript critique during a fundraiser for the Joplin, Missouri tornado victims in 2011, one of the last full critiques she was able to do. I’ve been in contact with Laurie both before and after the critique and she’s been nothing but supportive. An ultimate mentor—my thanks, again!

corroded-lha-ms

2. Mary Weber is the character that changed the most from how she was portrayed in the original drafts. She’s stronger and more relatable than she was to begin with, thanks in part to honest critique partners and beta readers who shared their displeasure of her with me.

3. In both of my books, my secondary characters vie to over-run the main one, and Corroded is the ultimate example. Ben Thomas was so well-loved by beta readers and my critique group, the story finally morphed to include his own point-of-view chapters.

4. Ben’s sensory issues are influenced by the sensitivities of several people on the autism spectrum including my son and the autobiographical tales by John Elder Robison, Temple Grandin, Donna Williams, and Erin Clemens (who the book is dedicated in part to.) But Ben’s story isn’t a one-size-fits-all autism story. Autism is a spectrum disorder. Each person on the spectrum is unique and lives with a different set of skills and sensitivities, just like anyone else.

5. Weighted blankets can help calm people on the spectrum and other individuals with sensory-related issues. Does it work for everyone? No, but it’s worth trying because it’s a safe, drug-free option to ease anxiety and quiet meltdowns.

6. Ben originally had one obsession—The Avengers, with a focus on Thor because I’m a Marvel girl. As his role expanded, he became more complex with his interests and the history geek emerged.

7. The town in Corroded, Santo Cordero, is based on the Rio Del Mar/Aptos area in Santa Cruz County where I lived during high school. The school I attended had a Mariner mascot—that’s where the idea for Sailor Suzy came from.

8. There was a place on campus called “the pit.” Photographic evidence: that’s me in the middle, rocking my flannel shirt and white moccasins in 1993.

pit
9. I found the Steinbeck Wax Museum on Cannery Row in Monterey totally creepy when I went there, but what else could you expect from a wax museum in a basement? It did not disappoint, in that regard.

10. I have two older sisters who are much cooler and more interesting than me. While growing up, I almost always shared a room with one of my siblings, but I did have my own room for about two years before my sister closest in age moved back in and I was forced to share my space. I played up those two experiences for Mary and Barbara’s relationship trouble.