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JPC Allen Writes

Inspiration for Beginning Writers

DSC_6334_smallWelcome to my writing pages. This is a new adventure for me as I delve into the realm of the World Wide Web!    The main focus of this page is to explore ways beginning writers can find inspiration.  You’ll also find information on the novels I am working on.  My schedule for posting is:

Monday Sparks: Writing ideas to fan your creative flame

Tuesdays and Thursdays – Writing Tips

Occasional Wednesdays – Facts about West Virginia, the setting of my books

Occasional Saturdays – My faith walk as a Christian

You may also find me on Facebook at JPC Allen Writes.

Featured post

Writing Tip — Researching Local History

libraryw-2824901_1280Not everything about history can be found online. If you are interested in historical fiction set in America, researching local history at a library where your historical fiction is set will produce resources you can’t find anywhere else.

As a test, I visited a local history room of library near where I live. I’d still be there, trawling through the trove information like each piece was a jewel from a treasure, but I had a blog to type up. Here are some of the resources I discovered.

  • City directories — From 2000 back to 1859
  • Yearbooks of the local college — Going back to 1909. The college library is another place to check for local history
  • Genealogical indexes — These covered two counties
  • Books of the census — Covering one county, these went back to 1835. I also found it a great source for unusual names, such as Justice T. Calhoun, Zelotes Jones, and Ev Narden.
  • Histories of local churches
  • Book published in 1891 — Portraits and biographies of “prominent persons” from the county up to that time.
  • Spooky tales of a neighboring county
  • Index to Common Please Court — These were arranged both by plaintiff and defendent
  • State phone books on microfiche
  • Fiction and nonfiction by local authors
  • Family histories
  • Card catalog with obituaries — How many of you know what a card catalog is? It’s the paper way libraries indexed their collection. This one had cards arranged alphabetically by the last name of a deceased person, often with a newspaper obituary cut out and taped to the card.

The library had another room, locked, run by the county genealogical society, with hours listed when volunteers are available to help researchers.

Researching  local history may also take you to old newspapers. The library I visited in Parsons, West Virginia, last summer had the local newspaper on microfilm. While scrolling through an edition from the late 1940’s, I discovered why the bridge I drove across was a memorial bridge. It was dedicated to a sheriff who was murdered on duty.

The microfilm was difficult to use and make copies of, so I asked the librarian if any of these newspapers were online. She said they weren’t. My only option was visiting the library.

What kind of resources have you found helpful when doing research?

 

Writing Tip — Guest Blogger, Tamera Lynn Kraft

Web1I am so pleased to introduce another friend I met through ACFW. Tamera Lynn Kraft also writes historical fiction set during a wide variety of different times in American history. 

Me: Why did you select pre-Civil War and early twentieth century American history as the time periods for your novels?

 Tamera: I love American history, but I can’t choose one period I like better. At the moment, I’m finishing up a post-Civil War novel, and I have plans for a series in Colonial Jamestown.

 Me; Which comes first – research or storyline?

Tamera: I usually find a storyline by reading about a period of time in history. My mind starts germinating ideas about what it would be like for the people living through those events. At that point, I start researching, and the storyline comes out of the research.

 MeWhat resources do you rely on for research?

Tamera: First I find out everything I can by Googling the period in history. Then I like to read books about the events and visit the places where they take place. In my latest novel, Red Sky Over America, I visited Oberlin College and talked to the head of the library archives for the college. He was a treasure trove of information. He also steered me toward the right books and journals to read. I also visited Maysville, the Harriet Tubman Museum, and the John Rankin House in Ripley, Ohio and did some hiking across the river from Ripley where most of the story takes place. Lastly, I visited the Freedom Museum in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Me: What is the most unusual resource you have used?

Tamera: In Alice’s Notions, I interviewed my family. The story is set post WW2 and based in rural West Virginia in a fictional town near Kimberly. My mom and uncles grew up in Kimberly, West Virginia, so they were my go to resource about the culture there.

Me: What advice would you give to someone interested in writing historical fiction?

Tamera: Research, research, research. Don’t write a story and try to make it fit into a certain time period. The time period should be so much a part of the store that it is almost like another character.

RedSkyOverAmericaCoverArt72dpi

 

Red Sky Over America — Ladies of Oberlin, Book 1

By Tamera Lynn Kraft

William and America confront evil, but will it costs them everything?

In 1857, America, the daughter of a slave owner, is an abolitionist and a student at Oberlin College, a school known for its radical ideas. America goes home to Kentucky during school break to confront her father about freeing his slaves.

America’s classmate, William, goes to Kentucky to preach abolition to churches that condone slavery. America and William find themselves in the center of the approaching storm sweeping the nation and may not make it home to Ohio or live through the struggle.

“Red Sky Over America tackles the most turbulent time in history with thorough research and fascinating characters. Tamera Lynn Kraft has woven a tale about the evils of slavery that should never be forgotten.”  — Mary Ellis, author of The Quaker and the Rebel, The Lady and the Officer, and The Last Heiress.

​To learn more about Red Sky Over America, check it out on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

*****

Tamera Lynn Kraft has always loved adventures. She loves to write historical fiction set in the United States because there are so many stories in American history. There are strong elements of faith, romance, suspense and adventure in her stories. She has received 2nd place in the NOCW contest, 3rd place TARA writer’s contest, and is a finalist in the Frasier Writing Contest. Her newest novel, Red Sky Over America is Book 1 of the Ladies of Oberlin series. Alice’s Notions is a historical romantic suspense set shortly after World War II. She also has novellas published in eBook and print.

Tamera been married for 39 years to the love of her life, Rick, and has two married adult children and three grandchildren. She has been a children’s pastor for over 20 years. She is the leader of a ministry called Revival Fire for Kids where she mentors other children’s leaders, teaches workshops, and is a children’s ministry consultant and children’s evangelist and has written children’s church curriculum. She is a recipient of the 2007 National Children’s Leaders Association Shepherd’s Cup for lifetime achievement in children’s ministry.

You can contact Tamera online at these sites.

Website: http://tameralynnkraft.net

Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/cdybpb

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7334438.Tamera_Lynn_Kraft

Word Sharpeners Blog: http://tameralynnkraft.com

Facebook: http://facebook.com/tameralynnkraft

Twitter: http://twitter.com/tamerakraft

Monday Sparks — Writing Prompts — Inspiration from Family Stories

girlsw-614914_1280I come from a family of storytellers. One way we get to know people is to swap stories. I am fortunate to have been told stories about my great-great grandparents. Such as I have a great-great grandfather who died in the notorious Civil War prisoner of war camp at Andersonville.

So if you are blessed with older family members with long memories and great stories, interview them. Besides preserving family history, you may find literary inspiration.

What inspiration from family stories have you gained?

 

Writing Tip — Researching Pictures

albumw1-2974646_1280Studying photos or paintings from the time period you would like to write about is a wonderful way to learn about it. My friend Sandra Merville Hart provides in-depth instruction on how to analyze pictures in this post at Almost an Author.

Being a history major, I love looking at old photos and paintings. It’s a way to connect with people I can’t speak to and places I can’t visit. Because I like Sherlock Holmes, I became interested in Victorian history and Queen Victoria and her family. The interactions of this huge family can provide a writer of any genre with characters and plots galore. The most interesting book I have found on the subject is Queen Victoria’s Family: A Century of Photographs by Charlotte Zeepvat.

Composed almost exclusively of photos and captions, this book covers 100 years of Victoria’s family starting with earliest photos taken of the queen and her husband, Prince Albert. Of course, old photos give accurate depictions of what famous people really looked like and glimpses of the fashions of specific times. But I like to study portraits, either photographed or painted, to get inspiration for characters.

I am a character writer. I have to find a character to inspire me before I start a story. And the development of that character is closely tied to how they look, so I am always hunting for intriguing faces.

In Queen Victoria’s Family, a few photos arrested my attention. On page 117, there is a photo of the four daughters and only son of the last Tsar, Nicholas II. I can never look at photos of those kids without thinking how awful it was for them to be murdered for their parents’ incompetence. What catches my attention in this photo is Marie. All her siblings are looking straight ahead, very serious, wearing what the caption calls “Court dress”, and Marie is glancing off to the side with an amused smile. What did she see? Did she have a good sense of humor? Her expression makes her more real to me.

On page 126 is a photo of a great-grandson of Victoria’s, Prince Rupert of Teck, taken around 1919. He looks like a boy who could be one of my kids’ classmates. On page 132 is a portrait of the husband of Victoria’s oldest daughter. Kaiser Friederich III stares directly into the camera. Something about his expression always makes me stop and study it. Maybe it’s because, if you shaved off the beard, he looks like someone you could meet today.

If you have old photos of relatives, take the time to examine them. You can learn a lot about your own family history and may just get some literary inspiration. I am blessed to have some photos of my great-grandparents and even one of my maternal grandmother’s grandparents, who were alive during the Civil War.

Have you found inspiration in historical photos?

Writing Tip — Guest Blogger, Cindy Thomson

authorpiccindy-thomson-LR-2I am so excited to introduce you to a friend of mine I met through chapter meetings of ACFW. Cindy Thompson writes historical fiction set in ancient Ireland and early 1900’s America. I highlighted her nonfiction book, The Roots of Irish Wisdom, back in March. Since my focus this month is on historical fiction, I am very pleased Cindy had the time to answer questions about her genre.

Me: Welcome, Cindy! My first question is why did you select ancient Ireland and the American immigrant experience of the early 1900’s for your novels?

CindyI love history and there are many time periods that interest me. I got interested in the early Christian period of Ireland when I started learning about St. Brigid at an Irish festival. The Ellis Island series, on the other hand, was recommended to me by my agent at the time. He knew there were publishers interested in that subject so he thought I should write about Irish immigrants.

MeWhich comes first – research or storyline?

Cindy: For me the history comes first. I start learning about a time period and the people who lived during that time, and then the story comes after.

 Me: What resources do you rely on for research?

Cindy: Whatever I can find. Researching 5-6th century Ireland wasn’t too easy, but there are books about the social history of the time. Whatever books I can find, biographies, novels in that time period, and for later time periods newspapers and personal accounts.

 Me: What is the most unusual resource you have used?

Cindy: For Sofia’s Tune I wanted to learn about people who lost their twin. I discovered there is a national group called Twinless Twins, and they put me in touch with someone who was willing to tell me her story. She influenced the formation of my character Sofia. I’ll leave it at that so I don’t spoil the story too much for those who haven’t read it, but I would say that was a pretty unique resource.

 Me: What advice would you give to someone interested in writing historical fiction?

Cindy: Make sure you have a passion for it and you enjoy research. Do your research thoroughly so that you don’t make glaring mistakes. There will always be readers who will nail you if you use a place name that is modern rather than historical or use inventions that had not yet been invented at the time your novel is set. These anachronisms will leave readers wondering if you’ve done any research and cause them not to trust you as an author.

You should feel a connection to the people who lived during the time you are writing about.

Enjoy. It’s my favorite genre and historical fiction fans are always eager for the next intriguing tale!

Me: Thanks so much for your insights and advice!

Please visit Cindy at the links listed below.

 

Cindy Thomson is the author of eight books, including her newest novel, Enya’s Son, releasing this summer. Being a genealogy enthusiast, she also writes articles for Internet Genealogy and Your Genealogy Today magazines, and children’s short stories for Clubhouse Magazine. She has also co-authored a baseball biography. Most everything she writes reflects her belief that history has stories to teach. Cindy lives in central Ohio near their three grown sons and their families.

www.cindyswriting.com

www.facebook.com/cindyswriting

www.twitter.com/cindyswriting

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