Tag Archive: history



****COMING DECEMBER 1st, THE LATEST INSTALLMENT OF THE PARA-EARTH SERIES****

Twenty-five stories, spanning 150 years…

“The Vampyre Blogs – Coming Home” introduced a new cast of characters to the Para-Earth Series. This anthology answers and raises questions about their backstories and relationships.

What otherworldly threats has the Professor dealt with? How did Nathan’s altered self affect his service in the Civil War? What other mysteries linger on Nathan’s estate? What did a German like the Professor do during WWII? Who are some of the other people Nathan has met over his unnaturally long life? Are Nathan and the Professor the only ones who’ve had close encounters with Para-Earth beings?

These and more, including the return of certain characters from “The Bridge” or “The Ship” will be explored within these pages.

REVISED COVER2
KINDLE PRE-ORDERS BEING TAKEN NOW AT THE LINK BELOW: 

“Welcome to Pointer, West Virginia”

 For those who have never heard of this place, do not fret. It doesn’t exist.  I made it up to be the setting for “The Vampyre Blogs”.  A good setting is extremely important to any story.  Your story’s setting can shape your character’s personality depending on how long they’ve lived there.  For instance, if they’ve been there a short time there’s the getting to know the place and the people.  Certain action sequences may take place in particular areas.  The town’s history may come into play.  If they’ve lived there all their lives, they should know a lot of people, have a reputation (are they considered cool, friendly, or weird by the other people?  Etc., etc…)  Already you can see the importance of your setting and you should know the place at least in your own mind, so you can convey it to the readers.  I don’t care if it’s a real place here on Earth or another world.  You need to become familiar with where your story is taking place.

I’ve touched on settings for stories in the past, but “Pointer, West Virginia” is very different for me. You see, I’ve never been to West Virginia.  I do not have any personal knowledge of what the place is like.  I don’t know how people talk there, what kind of accents they have, etc.  

Creating a fictional place doesn’t have to be super complicated, but whatever setting you build has to be believable.  In my case, I like to blend a bit of reality into my settings.  When I created New Swindon in Connecticut, for my first book “The Bridge”, I was familiar with the area where I placed it.  My grandmother had lived in Salisbury Connecticut for years and I became familiar with some of the other nearby towns.  I blended the characteristics of several of them to create New Swindon to make it seem more real and authentic.  I would refer to certain landmarks, roads and the things that actually do exist in real life.  This allowed me to make my town more believable and real.  

 In my second soon-to-be-released book, “The Ship”, I used an actual setting from real life that I was very familiar with.  However, I also took steps to make sure only my characters were fictional and that they blended right in with their real-life setting.  I had the knowledge of Santa Cruz and Seacliff to make this happen smoothly and very believable.  (Remember the old saying:  write what you know about).

So why am I using West Virginia, a place I’ve never been too, as the location for my third novel?  History!  West Virginia is steeped in it, especially when it comes to the Civil War, which is the time-frame my main character Nathaniel lived in.  So how did I approach this situation to so

So what did I do?  Simple, it was time for a little research on the internet and here is some of what I learned:

-West Virginia was created as a direct result of the Civil War.  Most of Virginia sided with the south during that turbulent time, except for the section now known as West Virginia.  They were not inclined to enforce slavery or returning runaway slaves, and decided to break off from the rest of Virginia.  There was a lot of tension when this happened, and there were a number of famous battles that took place within the newly formed state.

So right there I had a rich source of background to play with for my new novel.  However, I still had a number of obstacles to overcome for the story.  Where in West Virginia should I place my fictional town?  I checked over some county maps and saw where towns and cities were located and took notes.  I wanted an area that didn’t already have an actual town, so I could refer to the real places as being nearby.  Plus I wanted a location that was near the disputed Virginia/West Virginia border.  There were some hostilities there, and I had planned for my town’s history to include a bunch of raiders (southern sympathizers) who crossed the border and nearly wiped out Pointer’s population in one terrible “Night Of Fire”.  Could such a thing have happened?  Absolutely, because I checked up on atrocities that took place during the Civil War.  Both the North and South committed atrocities, some extremely barbaric.  So right there, I had foundation to create such a background history for the town.

I also, checked to find out what are the more prominent religions in the area, so I could populate the the town with a churches and denominations.  Plus I researched, what kinds of agriculture and commercial businesses are most prominent and where they are located in West Virginia.

 Now I know a lot of this sounds complicated and detailed, but I simply made a few notes to myself.  The object was to be able to make ‘general references’ to real aspects of the area, to make my fictional town blend in and seem more real.  That’s all.  I won’t be dedicating entire chapters to detailed descriptions, mostly it will be comments and points of reference made by the characters.  I even found where a community college is located in the county where I am placing my town, so one of the secondary characters can be an instructor there.
 

I know a lot of my readers may have never stepped foot in West Virginia, but there will also be some how do live there and I want them to feel like I treated their state fairly.  I try to make the settings enjoyable and fun to think about.  Who knows, some people may even want to visit them one day to see what it’s like for themselves.  It depends on the picture you paint, so to speak.

A few of your might be asking, how much time did I spend on researching the area?  Well, I’d say I spent a total of maybe 10-12 hours over a several day period to get my vision for “Pointer”.  I checked Google for images so I can describe buildings and streets, I checked maps for counties, I looked up the state’s governing body and typical law enforcement agencies, as well as the average population of towns so I could populate mine with the right number of civil servants and local government.
Finally, as I mentioned earlier, I checked out some of the state’s history.  Again I didn’t go into great detail, but simply made notes I could refer back to in order to make the town fit in and seem real.  Even the name of my fictional town comes from actual state history.  In May 1788 Fort Donally was attacked early in the morning hours by a group of indians led by Cornstalk.  The fort housed soldiers, wives and children.  One of the defenders who helped keep the gates blockaded and fired through a hole in the gate, was a slave named Dick Pointer.  For his courage and loyalty during the fight, he was given his freedom AND a piece of land with a cabin that people built just for him.  A rare honor at the time.  Upon his death in 1827 he was buried with military honors in Lewisburg West Virginia.

For my story, I’m going to have it that one of the children who saw him in action that day helped found my fictional town and named it after his hero.  A town named for a former slave would understandably be targeted by the raiders in my story and make it more believable.
So there you have it.  Here’s another one of my methods for making a believable fictional setting.  What are some of yours?  Please share in the comments below or give us links to a blog where you may have discussed your style of doing things.
I hope this entry has helped some of you.  And as always, take care and keep writing.

Why The New Blog?


Before I get into promoting my new blog, I thought I should explain myself to you all.  The reason why I’ve created “The Vampire Blogs” was simple.  It’s part experiment, and part story building.  With the popularity of vampires in books, it was only a matter of time before I found myself getting drawn in, although I had sworn to avoid the genre.  Yet, like any writer, I couldn’t help speculating on  “Well, if I did a vampire story, I’d make it more original and do this, this and this…”  Naturally, an idea came and began to snowball on me.

I wanted to keep most if not all the typical strengths and weaknesses of the traditional vampire, while at the same time making such a being fit into my Para-Earth Series world.  The being I would have a reasonable explanation for the various abilities such as shape-shifting, turning into mist, etc.   I would also give him a few new traits that fit with the being I had made him out of.  I won’t go into any more details at this point, because I don’t want to spoil things for the readers of the novel when it comes out.

So, I created Nathaniel and made him into a vampire.  Is he good or bad?  Well, I’ll let you all find out over at the other blog and in the book.  He’s human, let’s say that much.  He can be good or bad like any person.  It all depends on how he’s treated and if he’s pushed too far.

Still, none of this answers the original question of why I created an actual blog for a novel that isn’t going to be ready until December.  The answer is very simple.  I wanted to see if I could generate a lot of interest for the book, by giving my prospective audience and chance to get to know some of the characters in advance.  To let the readers inside these people’s heads and know where they’re coming from and what kind of lives they’ve led.  Remember, like in any book, these lives are going to be turned upside down and forever changed by the end of the novel.  Whether these changes are going to be for good or for bad, only time and the novel will tell.

But there was also a secondary purpose for creating the blog.  It is going to help me as a writer to get to know these characters as well.  I’ll have time to really figure out who they are, what events have shaped them, and what are their hopes and dreams.  I’ve encountered so many people who always wanted to know more about certain characters in books we’ve both read, but sadly the authors don’t always have the time to give us more.  Unless the writer is doing a long series, there are always so many unanswered questions about the people we meet within the pages of those books.  Maybe the author doesn’t even have all the answers, I know I didn’t sometimes.  So this time, I hope to have those answers and can share them in advance with all of you.

Whether or not this experiment is a success or failure, time will tell.  But you’re all invited to come along for the ride and see what happens.  Please leave feedback here or over at  “The Vampire Blogs”, because I’m looking forward to hearing people’s thoughts on what they are seeing.

I just finished putting up a new entry there today, where my lead character “Nathaniel Steward” has just finished his first entry.  Come and meet the vampire who I hope will capture your hearts and minds…

http://thevampyreblogs.blogspot.com/2014/01/first-blog-entry-of-nathanial-steward.html


Roanoke The Lost Colony

 

CROATOAN

A lone word carved on a pillar of a fort that had once housed a colony of 90 people from 1587 until 1588 or ’89 perhaps?  Who can say, because in 1590, there was no trace of the colonists who had made the isle of Roanoake their new home.  No sign of a struggle or battle could be found, and the local native Americans on the island proclaimed no white men had ever settled there.
Roanoake, or “The Lost Colony” as it has come to be called, is an actual mystery right out of early American history.  Many ideas and theories have been put forward to explain the disappearance of the nearly 100 settlers, but no hard evidence has been discovered to say exactly which theory if any is the correct one.  As for the word carved in the lone pillar “Croatoan”, what did that have to do with anything?  Well according to those who’d come to check on the settlers in 1590, a plan had been set in place where that word would be left in plain sight if the settlers decided to pull up stakes and flee to another nearby island.  The name of that island was Croatoan (today it is called Hatteras).
But again, there has been no solid evidence found to prove the settlers did indeed go that island.  They might have been lost at sea, or changed their minds and dispersed elsewhere.  No one knows.  Again, it remains a mystery.
So what does this have to do with writing.  Two words “inspiration” and “ideas”.  With an unsolved mystery like this, a writer can have a lot of leeway to build an entire story around what might have happened.  Now I was first introduced to the story of Roanoke when I was in grade school.  Naturally I was immediately fascinated by the story and kept wondering what might have happened.  Of course, being so young I never really did anything with it.  But the idea of coming up with an explanation, even a fictional one always stayed with me.
Today, as I’ve gotten about 3/4’s of the way through my second novel, I’ve finally found a use for this historical mystery.  The story does not focus around the mystery or Roanoke, but does utilize it in a very effective manner.  Without giving too much away, I’m using a fictional scene of what happened to help demonstrate the power and age of the ‘Big Baddy’ in my novel.  Something that has lasted for over 400 years and is still creating new terror in modern day.
But one does not have to simply rely on unsolved mysteries from history to get ideas.  Oh no.  History is chock full of events you can focus on or have play a part in your story.  Disasters like the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in New York 1911, is another example.  According to the records the owners of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, LOCKED and BLOCKED all emergency exits, effectively locking in their workers to make sure they got a full day’s work out of them.  The conditions inside the factory were attrocious and extremely unsafe.  Literally a disaster waiting to happen.  And in 1911 it did.  A fire broke out and raced throughout the building.  And of course with the doors all locked, no one could get out.  Many jumped to their deaths from the upper story windows rather than burn.
Now there is no mystery to what happened in that factory, just simple facts.  But a writer can build a story around the circumstances leading up to and including such a disaster.  It doesn’t have to be Triangle Factory fire.  A fictional factory or place under similar conditions can be created along with reasons for the disaster.  What if it had been done on purpose?  Lives sacrificed, but for what reason?
History gives us a lot to work with.  You only have to look into a subject that is of interest to you.  Maybe it was a rumor or event you read about when you were a kid that always stuck with you.  Or perhaps just curiosity or a fascination with a subject you have.  Explore that subject through history and see if you get some ideas.  There’s plenty for us to work with folks.
Until next time, take care and keep writing.

Within the last 2 years I’ve taken 5 different dance classes: Ballroom, Jazz, Ballet, Latin and Improvisation.  Plus I intend to take more in the fall over at my college.  Now I do these because dance is well-within the tolerance levels of my Fibromyalgia.  Plus I learn so much more about “Core-Building”, fluid movements, music, etc.  Plus, I enjoy trying all these different styles and seeing how they make me feel body-wise, emotionally and mentally.  Quite frankly I find it all quite stimulating and refreshing.

Now what does all this have to do with bringing characters to life and making them feel more real?  Simple.  To me, a person’s life is the sum total of their experiences both good and bad.  How we react, what choices we make, all of these things shape who we are and who we may yet become.  So if a life is shaped by experiences and how they made you feel, how can your characters be any less human than you or me?  But a character is a made up person with no real past or experiences, EXCEPT for the ones we as writers give them.  In my case, I give some of my own personal life experiences to my various characters.  For instance I’ve given the skill of Ballroom Dance to two of my characters.  I gave them different levels of experience, one was a beginner the other was extremely advanced and taught others.  Now, in no way am I an expert in Ballroom, BUT I knew people who were and was able to get some insights from them.  I transferred SOME of these insights and experiences to the characters.  You’ll note I said SOME of these insights and experiences.  Because unless the main story revolves around Ballroom, why should I bore the reader with pages and pages about that kind of dance?  I give the audience snippets of those insights and the joy and feeling of dance.  Enough let them get more information about this character and what makes them happy and why.

But there are other life experiences I’ve  drawn upon as well.  But I’ve also given my characters experiences from the sad times in my life such as  losing someone close to me.  The pain, the feeling of being lost and confused by the experience of someone no longer being a part of your life.  People can relate to all of this and can feel sorry for or commiserate with the character in these situations.  It makes the reader feel more like the person they’re reading about is more human, like someone they know.

Hobbies or jobs are another way of making your creations seem more like real people.  Their pet peeves at the job.  Annoying co-workers, friends, what they do off the job together.  All of these help make a character seem more like a real person.  Draw from your own life, give bits of your feelings or experiences to your people to make them more than 2-dimensional caricatures from a comic strip.  Remember, your characters are your children, shape them give them life and the audience will appreciate and love them as you do.

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