Mystery Mondays: Author Tracy L. Ward on Historical Fiction

Today on Mystery Mondays we have bestselling author Tracy L. Ward to talk about history – Canadian History – so that’s fun for me 🙂 Check out her latest book below…

You Can Bet Your Bottom Dollar I Did My Research

by Tracy L. Ward

If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone say, “Canadian history just isn’t that interesting,” I could retire a very wealthy woman. It seems, in comparison to the oft romanticized aspects of American history (a rebellion for liberty from British rule, a civil war to free the enslaved and multiple presidential assassinations) any history Canadians have been a part of feels downright yawn worthy.

How did we become a county? We held a meeting and signed some papers. Yawn.  How did slavery in Canada end? Well, Britain ended their involvement in the slave trade and we just kind of followed suit. Both these major events seem passive on our part, nothing revolutionary, nothing to write home about.

A lot of our apathy toward our own history comes down to how it’s taught.  It’s standard practice to focus on dates, politician’s names and outcomes of battle. But what if I told you this is exactly the WRONG way to approach history?

I certainly had my fair share of “read this, fill in the blanks on this” history classes. If this is the only type of history class that young people are exposed to no wonder adult Canadians aren’t that particularly interested.

How did I get hooked on history? It certainly wasn’t memorizing a list of Canadian prime ministers and writing historical dates on flash cards. I started by reading about people, learning about their individual lives, their goals, their struggles and learning about how they were restricted by society (particularly women) or even constricted by limits of the technology available to them.

I remember reading in Lucy Maud Montgomery’s journals that one winter Prince Edward Island had been hammered with a horrendous amount of snow. The Northumberland Straight, the body of ocean separating the island from New Brunswick, was choked with ice. Ferry service had been cut off for weeks and even the dog sleds used by the postal service could not get through to the island effectively cutting off the people of Prince Edward Island from the mainland for weeks and weeks, much longer than any other winter the locals could remember.

She wrote of the isolation, as no one from the village of Cavendish or beyond ventured to the post office Montgomery ran with her grandmother and grandfather. The boredom was immense, the cabin fever soul crushing. This is riveting history. And probably wouldn’t play out the same way today now that we have Confederation Bridge, automobiles, snow ploughs and this amazing invention called the Internet (you may have heard of it).

I recently read a book titled “Wilderness Sisters” by Charlotte Gray, who wrote about Susanna Moody and Catherin Parr Trail, two sisters from the upper classes of England whose genteel husbands decided to brave the journey over the ocean to claim a homestead in Canada’s bush. It’s amazing to read of their optimism, their belief that the estate homes they lost in England could be re-established in the Canadian wilderness, large homes replete with an army of servants, high tea at 4 in the afternoon, and expansive gardens to rival any back home.

They arrived grossly unprepared for the harsh winters, thick wilderness and primitive lifestyles. Lace gloves were soon traded for calloused palms and cracked fingernails. Both Catherine and Susanna were some of Canada’s first female writers, composing works of non-fiction to hopefully better prepare British citizens looking to emigrate to Canada. Their work continues to be published today as a testament to the early days of Canadian settlement. When you read their stories it’s not about what happened when and what laws were changed as a result. Instead their legacy is of an average citizen, brought to Canada because of a dream and vision many other Canadian hopefuls shared.

I had published six novels set in England before I set out to write my first series set in Canada, Mercy Me, and you can bet your bottom dollar I did my research. I pored over maps of early Toronto. I studied the social climate. I visited museums and memorized early photographs gleaning them for clues as to what people wore, how they stood and what was important to them. But what I didn’t do was memorize dates, or names of men who held political office.

My story was not about them but rather about Mercy Marigold Eaton, a character of my own creation, a single mother to a biracial fourteen year old living in a society that would never accept either of them. You won’t find rote facts or many historical nuggets woven amongst the prose. My story wasn’t about repeating what has already been written about in non-fiction. My story is a human story, the best sort of history lesson. While my characters may be a figment of my imagination, their tale is inspired by those of real Canadians, the everyday people who paved the way, and shaped our country helping making it what it is today.

History can be taught through both fiction and non-fiction and need not be limited to factual recitation. If you haven’t read a historical novel in a while, boy, are you ever missing out.

 

Mercy Me

MercyMeFrontMercy Marigold Eaton has a special connection with the dead, able to piece together the lives of those who have passed on with a single touch. When an injured man nearly dies in her arms she isn’t given much time to work her magic before Detective Jeremiah Walker arrives and places her and her fraudulent fortune telling business under suspicion.

A day later the body of a woman matching a description given by Mercy is found in Toronto’s derelict neighbourhood The Ward, leaving Walker no choice but to involve her in the case. Wary and fighting her own demons rooted in mistrust of the law, Mercy uses the skills she herself doesn’t fully understand to give the detective the clues he so desperately needs.

Thrust together by circumstances even Mercy couldn’t predict, the pair soon finds themselves falling for each others’ charms. In an effort to remove temptation Walker pushes forward without her, not realizing the killer has already darkened Mercy Eaton’s front door.

WHO IS TRARCY L. WARD?

Author HeadshotA former journalist and graduate from Humber College’s School for Writers, Tracy L. Ward is the author behind the best-selling Marshall House Mysteries.

Mercy Me is the first book in a new series set in 19thcentury Toronto. Currently, Tracy lives on a rural property outside Barrie, Ontario with her husband and their two teenagers.

 

 

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Selling Books To Non-Bookstores #Sale

The Author’s Guide To Selling Books To Non-Bookstores is on sale. You can get it for 50% off through Smashwords.

AGTSBNB

Published by Imajin Books

Imagine walking into a grocery store, gift shop or other non-bookstore and seeing YOUR book for sale.  This wonderful experience is within your grasp—if you’re bold enough to pursue it.

Selling to traditional bookstores and making a profit can be extremely difficult, but there is an alternative. In this step-by-step guide, I’ll show YOU how to move beyond the bookstores and sell to other retail outlets. Every step is detailed, from formulating a plan to collecting money.

I sold more books through non-bookstore retail outlets than through traditional bookstores, and YOU can too.

This was my favorite moment with the Author’s Guide…

 

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Farley’s Friday: Woo Hoooo!

Farley here,

I love, love, love running down a hill.

Here’s the game. I let my humans scramble down the hill ahead of me while I wait patiently at the top. And I mean patiently. They’re really slow.

Then, I let it rip…

Farley Running

This hill is as steep as it looks in the photo. But I’m not scared.  I keep going until the flat bit below.  I may not live in the  mountains anymore, but I can still handle the terrain!

Woof Woof

The Story Arc & Why Stories Captivate!

Are you struggling to make your story work?

The story arc can help you.

The story arc is made up of the Inciting IncidentPlot Point 1, the Midpoint and Plot Point 2, and the Climax.

There are those who think the story arc is a formula to follow and that it will stifle creativity. I don’t believe this. I think the story arc is about form, not formula, and it inspires me to tell better stories.

Writing a novel is a personal story arc.

Inciting Incident: You’ve been living your life, but something just isn’t right. AND THEN…your brain tells you that you need to write a story. You don’t know yet how hard this is going to be, but the world has changed, and you’re going to roll with it. So here’s the problem. How are you going to write 80,000 to 100,000 words and get people to like it?

Plot Point 1: You’ve written 20,000 words or so, spent hours doing this, and there is no turning back. You’ve invested emotion, time, brainpower and you won’t give up.

Midpoint: You’ve made it halfway. Now you really get working. Everything you have is going into the story. This is where you figure how hard it is to write a novel, but you’re determined to solve the problem.

Plot Point 2You can’t possibly go on writing. Your structure is a mess. Everything you’ve written since the middle is making it difficult to bring the story together. You don’t know how to end the story, but you know you must work hard to finish or you’ll lose the whole story — and maybe a little part of yourself, too.

Climax: You are going to overcome your demons and finish the story. Your adrenaline is rushing. You’ve got this. You just have to fight your way through and you can write the resolution. There’s the word count you needed, and you’ve solved your problem.

I searched for an interesting way to describe the story arc. And then I found Tomas Pueyo and had to share his video.

This entertaining and insightful video will motivate you!

It’s time to stop struggling to make your story work.

Why not evaluate your story arc and see if you can make the story better? You’ve got nothing to lose by learning and trying — as long as you save your work before making large changes…

 


Fictionary is online software that simplifies story editing. Fictionary draws a recommended story arc and draws the story arc for your story. You can see how to improve the structure of your story within seconds.

Why not check out Fictionary’s free 14-day trial and tell better stories?

The Climax In The Context Of The Story Arc

The climax scene is where you get to shine as an author. Every word you’ve written up to this point is going to pay off.

What is the Climax?

You’ve built you’re story up to the climax with rising action, and now the climax scene (or scenes) will have the highest level of conflict, the greatest tension, or the most devastating emotional upheaval.

Up to this point there has been no scene as intense as the climax scene.

I read a book where the most intense scene occurred at the midpoint. A woman trapped in a car was slowly being submerged. The scene was wonderfully written and had me turning the pages. The book could have ended there. If I’d stopped reading there, I would have left the book feeling satisfied.

Unfortunately, I had no idea the climax was going to be a let down compared to the midpoint scene. The climax was less tense and less emotionally satisfying. The author built up the expectation by putting a ripper of a scene in the middle of the book and couldn’t keep the excitement rising. I felt let down at the end.

The protagonist must be in your climax scene, or you risk alienating your reader. The protagonist should face the biggest obstacle in the story and determine her own fate.

After the climax you’ll follow up with a resolution to the story.

Earlier posts cover the Inciting IncidentPlot Point 1, the Midpoint and Plot Point 2.


Famous Climax Scenes:

Note: there are story spoilers, so don’t read this section if you want to read the book or see the movie.

Gone Girl: Nick plans to reveal Amy to the world in a novel that reveals the true story of what she did. He thinks he has the upper hand until she tells him she’s pregnant. In order to protect his unborn child, he’ll never be able to leave Amy.

The Martian: Mark is finally at the moment where he launches his space ship so he can intercept with the crew on the Hermes. The tension is built when his ship doesn’t have the range to reach the Hermes and he has to pierce his space suit to propel himself to the Hermes.

The Philosopher’s Stone: Harry, Ron, and Hermione must protect the Philosopher’s Stone from (they think) Snape. They want to stop Snape from giving the stone to Voldemort. Ron sacrifices himself during the climax, and Harry faces the final confrontation alone.

Twilight: Bella gets injured by James when as she tries to save her mother.


Placement Of The Climax

The climax should happen somewhere around 90% into your novel. This is a guide so you can check you’re not writing too much before or after the climax.

If the climax occurs too early in your story, the reader may get impatient with a long resolution and start skimming.

If the climax appears to late, the resolution may lack depth and the reader finishes the story without being satisfied.

Here’s an example of a story arc from Fictionary. The brown line shows the recommended story arc, and the green line shows the actual story arc for the novel.

Image Source: Fictionary

You can see above, the inciting incident occurs too late in the story, plot point 1 occurs too quickly after the inciting incident, and the middle occurs too late in the story.

After that, plot point 2 is reached too quickly, denying the reader story depth. By appearing too early, it also means the last act is dragging. Act III is going on for too long.

And on it goes until the climax is too late, and there isn’t enough time for a satisfactory resolution. Meaning the reader won’t read the writer’s next book.

I’ve love to know what you think and if you have any questions 🙂


Fictionary is online software that simplifies story editing. Why not check out Fictionary’s free 14-day trial and tell better stories?


Post written by Kristina Stanley, best-selling author of Look The Other Way (Imajin Books, Aug 2017).

Top 5 Fiction Elements For A Mystery #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

Nano Blog and Social Media Hop2Thank you, Raimey Gallant for organizing the #AuthorToolboxBlogHop.

This is a monthly blog hop on the theme of resources/learning for authors: posts related to the craft of writing, editing, querying, marketing, publishing, blogging tips for authors, reviews of author-related products, anything that an author would find helpful.

To continue hopping through other great blogs in the monthly #AuthorToolboxBlogHop or to join, just hop on over to Ramey Gallant!

This week, I thought I’d focus on my favorite genre – Mysteries (my fav ’cause that’s the genre I write in).

Top 5 Fiction Elements For A Mystery

Self-editing a mystery is one of the joys of the writing process. You get to use your imagination to lead the reader through your story.

 

If you’re a mystery writer, it’s important to keep track of your story, and not only in the context of what you share with your readers but also what your characters know.

You don’t need to keep track while you write your first draft, but once you’ve written a draft, go back through your manuscript and rewrite it with the following 5 key elements of fiction in mind.

1. CLUES

A clue tells the readers something that will help them solve the mystery. You don’t want to give clues too early and have the reader guess who the villain is. You also want to give enough clues, so when you reveal the villain, the reader is surprised, but also feels the choice is logical. You can also call this a revelation. Any you let the reader know that’s important to the story.

2. FORESHADOW

Think of a clue as a piece of a puzzle. You need all the pieces to solve the puzzle. Foreshadowing is hinting at some future event. It’s not solving the puzzle. Foreshadowing will keep the tension rising throughout your story. It’s the anticipation of something bad happening that will draw your reader in.

Usually, I’ll put foreshadowing as the purpose of a scene if it includes foreshadowing. Then I can quickly check where I’ve done this.

3. POINT OF VIEW CHARACTERS

You need to decide early if your antagonist will have the point of view (POV) for any scenes. If your antagonist has a POV scene, you cannot let the reader know everything the character is thinking.

In a thriller, the reader often knows right away who the villain is, but in a mystery, the villain is kept secret until the very end.

4. WHAT PROTAGONIST KNOWS

Keep track of everything the protagonist learns. You need control what she/he knows versus what the reader knows. Your protagonist can only act on information she/he has.

5. WHAT THE READER KNOWS

This is very important if you write from multiple points of view. Keep track what the protagonist knows and if the reader knows something from another POV character that the protagonist doesn’t know.

Happy editing!


Check out Fictionary’s  free 14-day trial  and tell better stories.

Fictionary is online software that simplifies story editing.

Plot Point 2 In The Context Of The Story Arc

It’s the end of act II and all is lost. Your protagonist must work hard to get what she wants or lose everything.

The story arc has been around for over 2000 years, and is a proven way to tell a good story. It’s not the only way, but it does work.

Evaluating your story arc in the context of the three-act structure should spark your creativity, not box it in. Use the story arc to make your story better by understanding why certain key events happening at the right time will engage your readers.

The story is yours. The arc helps you make it better.

Today, we’re talking about Plot Point 2.

Earlier posts cover the Inciting IncidentPlot Point 1 and the Midpoint.

 


What Is Plot Point 2

Plot Point 2 (PP2) signals the end of Act II.

Plot Point 2 will be a low point for your protagonist. Her actions since the middle have caused disaster. At PP2, she becomes more determined to reach her goal.

 


Famous First Plot Points:

Note: there are story spoilers, so don’t read this section if you want to read the book or see the movie.

Gone Girl: Amy comes home and lies about being kidnapped. Nick wants nothing more to do with her, but can’t get away. Amy will frame him for attempted murder if he leaves her. Life looks bad for Nick.

The Martian: Mark leaves his base for the final time and has to cover 3000 km in a hostile environment. If he misses the window for the crew to pick him up, he’ll die on Mars. This is serious motivation.

The Philosopher’s Stone: Harry encounters the Voldemort in the Dark Woods. Voldemort tries to kill Harry, but a centaur rescues Harry. Harry will have to confront Voldemort at some point if he’s going to survive.

Twilight: A vampire is going to go after Bella for her blood, and Bella must leave Fork. Bella wants to survive.

 


Placement Of Plot Point 2

Plot Point 2 should be somewhere around the 75% mark in your novel. If this plot point comes too late, the story will feel like it’s dragging. If it comes too early, the story may feel rushed or lacking in depth.

Here’s an example of a story arc from Fictionary. The brown line shows the recommended story arc, and the green line shows the actual story arc for the novel.

You can see above, the inciting incident occurs too late in the story, plot point 1 occurs too quickly after the inciting incident, and the middle occurs too late in the story.

After that, plot point 2 is reached too quickly, denying the reader story depth. By appearing too early, it also means the last act is dragging. Act III is going on for too long.

And on it goes until the climax is too late, and there isn’t enough time for a satisfactory resolution. Meaning the reader won’t read the writer’s next book.

I’ve love to know what you think and if you have any questions 🙂

 


Fictionary is online software that simplifies story editing. Why not check out Fictionary’s free 14-day trial and tell better stories?

 


Post written by Kristina Stanley, best-selling author of Look The Other Way (Imajin Books, Aug 2017).

Kristina Stanley is the best-selling author of the Stone Mountain Mystery Series and Look The Other Way.

Kristina is the CEO of Fictionary.