Tag Archives: Pilgrim Cove

Starting Over ~ Fingers on the Keyboard

RESEARCH?  WHO, ME?                   hands on keyboard    

If you’re a fan of historical fiction, you depend on the author to provide an accurate setting for her story. Whether it’s England in 1215 at the signing of the Magna Carta or American soldiers landing on the beaches of Normandy over seven hundred years later, an enthusiastic reader will slam the book shut if mistakes in geography, dress, cultural mannerisms, scientific inventions are found. Readers expect to be drawn into the story completely. They want to be a part of that distant time, and they can be — within the pages of a well written book.  Historical fiction devotees often have favorite time periods they enjoy reading about. Regency England comes to mind. Or the Viking period. Or Colonial America. Or the settling of the American West. Authors are expected to have expertise in showcasing the attitudes and conventions of the times as well as the physical setting.

This is not a novel but a reference book about everything Regency – clothing, clubs, royalty titles, entertainment, food…etc.

What about authors of contemporary stories? The general perception is that they–myself included–get away easy.  We don’t have to bother with research because we live during the time period we write about, and therefore, we know it through osmosis and observation. The things we take for granted — television, computers, airplanes, rocket ships, supermarkets–are obvious. Who needs to research? Well, let’s see…

Try writing a police procedural and getting the crime scene wrong. Readers will condemn you forever, as well they should.

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Try writing about a health condition without getting your facts straight, and you’ll hear about it. Try writing about a career…let’s say air traffic controller, hospital administrator, or bakery owner…and not understanding what goes on behind the scenes…fugeddaboutit! You’ll have lost your readers forever. They simply won’t trust you to tell a story they can believe in. So, authors of contemporary fiction do a lot of research before writing the first paragraph of a new work.

A few years ago, I wrote a four book series set in the fictional town of Pilgrim Cove, MA. The town was modeled on a real town south of Boston along the Atlantic coast. I spent hours figuring out the tides and weather patterns in all seasons. I discovered the existence of a commuter ferry service to Boston. I researched the businesses a town that size could support. And then began the particular research regarding each main character’s background including their careers.

Moffitt Walk for the cure & Pilgrim Cove 007

In the first book, The House on the Beach, the heroine was a voice-over announcer doing radio commercials. What does a recording studio look like? Who would be with her? Does she have an agent to help get assignments? Her background in speech and linguistics helps her connect with the hero’s young son, a boy who stutters. My research included the causes and types of stuttering and how those around the child should react to him. The hero of the third book, Reluctant Housemates, was a marine biologist. I have a fat folder on that topic! And when trouble on the ocean came calling, I discovered how a Fresnel lens works, the kind used in lighthouses.

Recently, I had the idea to return to Pilgrim Cove and catch up on what’s happening. There’s a veterinarian, a single dad, who wants nothing to do with romance. If I proceed, I see tons of research ahead regarding veterinary clinics, common illnesses of dogs and cats. How about birds and bunnies? This vet happens to be part of the local greyhound rescue association. So, now we’re getting specific, from dogs in general to greyhounds and the characteristics of that breed as well as the effects of living the life of a top notch canine athlete. I started browsing this material and was blown away at the tough adjustment these wonderful dogs have when adopted by a forever family.  Of course, a romance is also brewing despite what our hero thinks. So more research awaits on the background of the heroine.

Almost all authors find the research part fun! It challenges us to learn about stuff we never knew before. And it’s interesting. But here’s the bonus:  good research might provide plot points for the story, plot points that the author wouldn’t have thought about on her own. You know how you want to look up something on Google? And how that one search can lead to ten more searches?  Well, that’s what it’s like for a writer to throw herself into her job. I love it!

So now, as part of my research, I need a favor:  can you comment on whether you’d be interested in visiting Pilgrim Cove with me? I’m thinking about setting several new romances in that town. Each romance would stand alone, but the townspeople and the town remain constant. You could jump right in, and it wouldn’t matter if you hadn’t read the first four books. Would readers believe that?

As always, thanks so much for stopping by. I hope to see you for the next edition of Starting Over.

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NEW CONTEST FOR NOVEMBER:  I’m celebrating my co-authors of our Celebrate! anthology which was released last month. The winner of the November contest gets to choose two books from the list below. All are other works written by Rogenna Brewer, Barbara McMahon, Deb Salonen, Karen Sandler and moi.

Available October 3rd

ARe DEBRA SALONEN 7-1

BluebellsBlowout

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bn Love Be a Lady

Starting Over~Fingers on the Keyboard

HERE WE GO AGAIN!   hands on keyboard

There is nothing scarier for a writer than staring at a blank computer screen, unsure where to start. Fingers, type something! Type anything. Truly, anything will do. Nora Roberts said so, and that lady knows a little something about writing books. Paraphrasing Nora here:  you can edit poor word choices, but you can’t edit a blank page.  She is so right. I’d better get crackin’.

I’m starting a new book, I’ve written fourteen other novels and should have the confidence to forge ahead without a second thought. But it doesn’t work that way. At least not for me nor for many other writers in my orbit.

I look at that blank screen and feel my heart race, my palms sweat. Oh, my God. I’ve got to come up with about 300 pages of story. I have to introduce fabulous characters and new conflicts to be resolved. I have to take readers on such an emotional ride that they won’t stop reading until the very last page.  At this point my stomach hurts, too. I visualize a tall, teetering pile of manuscript pages that should emerge at some point and have to take a deep breath. I need a pep talk. So I give one to myself.

My daily pep talk comes with coffee: Once upon a time there was a beautiful and talented writer...

My daily pep talk comes with coffee: Once upon a time there was a beautiful and talented writer…

Calm down. You can do this. You’ve done it before, and you’ll do it again. You love to make stuff up. You love getting to know new characters and figuring them out. You love making them work for the ending they deserve. I keep talking and listening. Everything I’m saying is entirely true. But that insecure little devil in me challenges: Aw, come on. It’s hard work.It nags at you 24/7. Do you really think you can do it again?

I’ve got the hero in mind. I’d met him a few years ago in Pilgrim Cove. A widower who’d recently gone through a broken engagement. I’d left him alone with his little girl, and ever since, readers have been after me to give Adam his happy ending. Okay, now is the time. But who would be the right woman for him? A woman who’d challenge him and drive him crazy? A woman he can’t stop thinking about? She has to be the perfect match for Adam.

I scroll halfway down the first page. My fingers rest on the home keys, and I slowly type Chapter One. I double space and Indent. I’m ready to start Page One, Paragraph One, Sentence One.

Would she use the ramp or try the stairs?

And suddenly, I’m back in Pilgrim Cove, where the ocean is at your doorstep and the residents are in your business. I’ve got a handle on this woman, but I’ll get to know her better when I see how she reacts to the situation she’s in. And the situations I throw at her.

Once again, I’m engrossed in creating a story, in finding out what happens next. I’m not thinking  about the number of pages in the whole book. At this moment, I’m thinking only about Chapter One, Scene One. This time my heart’s racing with excitement. I’m having fun! Again.    

Are there activities that scare you, but that you want to try anyway?  A parachute jump? Living in another country for a time? Or, perhaps writing a book?

POST A COMMENT AND YOUR NAME WILL BE ENTERED INTO THE JUNE DRAWING FOR GREAT PRIZES. The winner will receive TWO of the books shown here (your choice), all written by the members of On Fire Fiction as well as a $25 gift certificate to Amazon or BN (your choice).

All of these books are traditional romances. Some are funny, some are more serious in tone. You can browse them at your favorite etailer and Look Inside the Books.  You might be the winner!

As always, thanks so much for stopping by. I hope to see you for the next edition of Starting Over.

Linda

LOVE, TEXAS cover

 

 

 

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