My Favourite Genre

Ben_tnsMy favourite genre (to read and write) is historical fiction. My fascination with this genre was more than likely cultivated by the many missionary biographies I read as a child. I loved “visiting” different cultures and learning spiritual lessons along with the main characters. Historical fiction provides the same opportunities, but the main character may or may not be a person of faith. The main difference between these two genres is that biographies are non-fiction and historical fiction is, of course, fiction. Both biographies and historical fiction usually focus on a time period at least twenty-five years before the current time.

Dictionary.com defines historical fiction as:

“the genre of literature, film, etc., comprising narratives that take place in the past and are characterized chiefly by an imaginative reconstruction of historical events and personages.”
Wikipedia adds:
“Historical fiction presents a story that takes place during a notable period in history, and often during a significant event in that period. Setting usually takes priority in a work of historical fiction, and the author should be making some sort of statement or observation about the period where and/or when the work is taking place. Historical fiction often presents events from the point of view of fictional characters of that time period. Events portrayed in historical fiction must adhere to the laws of nature.”
Some people may think that because a story is fiction, not much research is required. This is absolutely false, at least if you want a realistic story. In order to write powerful historical fiction, you not only need an interesting plot and a believable main character, but you also need to know about the food, clothing, houses, careers/work, and expectations of the specific era you’re writing about. There’s nothing worse for a reader than being “yanked” out of the story by details that are inaccurate. For example, if your story takes place in the early 1900s, no seat belts would be used since seat belts were not installed in vehicles until the late 1950’s.
When we write historical fiction, we are able to use actual historical events as the backdrop for our story and create our own scenes and “extras” to make the story come alive. Some of the people in our story may be actual historical figures (as long as we represent them accurately), but other characters will be fictional. For example, the backdrop of my work in progress, Olga’s Discovery, is the invention and controversial introduction of birth control.
Some of my favourite authors and books in this genre are:
  • The Last Sin Eater by Francine Rivers
  • The Zion Chronicles (series) by Brock and Bodie Thoene
  • Snapshots in History (series) by Murray Pura
  • Heirs of Acadia (series) by Isabella and T. Davis Bunn
  • In the Shadow of the Mountain (series) by Clint Kelly
What’s your favourite genre, and why? I look forward to hearing from you.
NOTE: This is the 5th post in a blog hop I’m hosting for writers. If you’d like to participate or want to read about other authors’ favourite genres, click on the link below.
Blog Hop for Writers

Advice to Beginning Writers

NOTE: This is week 4 of our Writers’ Blog Hop. The theme this week is advice I’d give to a newbie writer. Click on the link below to check out what other writers have to say about the topic.

Button for blog hopDear Beginning Writer,

It wasn’t too long ago that I stood in your shoes. Although I’ve been an avid reader who enjoyed writing for most of my life, I never considered myself a writer until after I attended my first writers’ conference. The best way for me to share advice with you is to tell you a bit about my personal journey as a writer.

I entered The Word Guild’s God Uses Ink contest (Now called Fresh Ink Novice Writing Contest) in 2009 and won first prize in my age category. The prize was free registration for the Write!Canada Conference. I stepped out in faith, booked my flight and attended a conference where I knew no one.

At the conference I learned many things:

  • Writing your book is the “easy” part
  • There are several avenues to having your work published
  • It’s important to start building a platform before you publish anything
  • It’s helpful to belong to organizations where you can interact with other writers and learn from their mistakes
  • If God has called you to write, be obedient and walk through the doors He opens for you

I still remember feeling like I was walking in a fog on a dark night. I knew I was supposed to be at the conference, but I had no clue what to do next. People at the conference were friendly enough, but most of them were from Ontario. I wondered what I would do for support after the conference.

After I arrived back home I decided to do what I could. I sought out support from groups I could access online. The groups I linked up with are:

I didn’t think I had time for a blog, so I joined Twitter and began using it as a mini-blog. I also started a personal Facebook account and enjoyed the opportunities to interact with my friends and family. A few months later, I decided to start a blog as a way to share information from my work as a school board trustee with Northern Lights School Division No. 69.

Testimony January 2010One of the most helpful books I read was Writer Mama: How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids by Christina Katz. One piece of advice she gives is to research markets, write, submit, and start over. In other words, you don’t sit around waiting to see if one piece is accepted before you start on another piece. And if your piece is rejected by one market, you do some more research and send it out again. I started my journey to publication with the winning entry I wrote for the Word Guild contest. It took several months (and many rejections), but my memoir piece entitled Gifts from a Loving God was accepted by Testimony magazine in November 2009 and published in January 2010. It was subsequently reprinted by two Sunday School papers.

Something else I found helpful was Brian Henry’s Canadian Writer’s Contest Calendar. I purchased my first copy in 2010 and began entering contests as a way to learn how to follow writing guidelines and also to receive honest feedback on my writing. The contest I enjoyed the most was Fiction in Five, where I won several prizes and had a few of my short stories published. One of those short stories became the basis for my novella, Cecile’s Christmas Miraclewhich was just published in December 2013.

Cecile's Christmas Miracle Book Cover Although I live in a fairly remote rural area, I’ve been able to take advantage of several writing courses which have helped me hone my skills. The Christian PEN offers courses throughout each year, where lessons are sent by e-mail. Class members are added to a Yahoo listserv and able to send in homework assignments, ask questions, and interact with each other. Long Ridge Writers’ Group and the Institute of Children’s Literature offer writing courses where you receive materials in the mail and may either submit by mail or e-mail. In these courses you are matched with a published author who acts as your instructor and gives you detailed feedback and suggestions.

My writing journey continues with many ups and downs. My prayer is that I’ll be faithful to God’s calling on my life. The rest is up to Him.

If you have questions or suggestions you’ve found helpful, please leave me a comment. Thanks 🙂


Anna Tymchuk – My Hero in Olga’s Discovery

NOTE: This is the third topic in a blog hop I’m hosting for writers. To check out what other writers have to say on this topic, click on the button below:Blog Hop for WritersToday I would like to introduce you to Anna Tymchuck, a minor character from my historical fiction book, Olga’s Discovery. The stock photo below is exactly how I envision Anna. The story is set in the late 1950’s. Anna lives on a farm in rural Alberta. I’m aiming to have the book published in 2015.

Happy senior woman

She may be diminutive, but Anna is no pushover. Her graying hair is culture_heritage_201050_tnsusually pulled up in a bun, covered with a kerchief. Smile wrinkles line her face, belying the hardships she’s experienced in life. Blue-gray eyes twinkle with delight as she observes her nearly adult children. Her non-Ukrainian friends complain that she always smells like garlic. She just smiles and tells them they don’t know what good food tastes like. People who know her well will tell you she’s always humming. She claims it keeps her sane.

BibleAnna starts and ends her day with prayer. Her prayer book is tucked into her apron and is read often throughout the day. As the matriarch of her family, she takes her role of spiritual leader seriously. God is not some remote being to her, but a personal friend who walks close beside her each day. She prays often that her children will also develop personal relationships with their Heavenly Father. Although she trusts God, she does worry, about many things. Especially her children.

golden_wheat_icon_tnsShe spends many hours in the kitchen, but she’s equally at home around horses or doing field work. Just don’t ask her to drive a truck or tractor. She claims they have a mind of their own and are dangerous. Her hands are calloused and rough, her arms muscular, from a life of hard work. From the time she was a young child, Anna worked alongside other members of her family to eke out an existence in the Ukraine. She was courted by Wasyl Tymchuk, a tall, handsome young man from her village. At their marriage ceremony, she pledged to love, honor and obey him until death. They emigrated to Alberta, Canada, where they homesteaded and started raising their family. One tragic day, Anna had to lay Wasyl’s body to rest after a tractor crushed the life out of him. Despite the loss of her husband and the realities she faced raising four children by herself, she is a kind, gentle, godly woman.

b6_3d_coffee03_tnsPeople in the community of Gillmore look to her for friendship, wisdom, and grounding. If they need advice, she is the first person they seek out. The coffee is always on and Anna stops whatever she’s doing to sit and visit with whoever drops by to see her. Her pampushke (yeast buns filled with a poppy seed and fruit filling) are legendary.

pillar_column_108209_tnsAnna is not one of the primary characters in Olga’s Discovery, but she is twenty-one-year-old Olga’s (the main character) mother. Olga loves and respects her mother, but doesn’t share her mother’s view of God. This is a source of great concern to Anna. Throughout the story, she gently, and not so gently, reminds Olga that she needs to nurture a close relationship with God. As Olga’s life unravels, she leans more and more on her mother to be her pillar. Anna is able to offer her daughter strength because of her own faith.

If you want to stay informed about my writing and works in progress, follow me on Facebook.

 


New Project: The San Francisco Wedding Planner with HHP

Cover for Wedding Planner Series
Welcome to Donovan’s Wedding Service!
Helping Hands Press asked me to join five other authors to do an e-book series. You’ll experience a little fun and light romance as Heather Donovan struggles to keep all her clients, and business associates, happy. She’s so busy helping others plan the most magical wedding, she doesn’t have time for a romance of her own. But is she truly happy being alone?
Other Main Characters:
Gloria Donovan – Heather’s mother who spends half her time chasing men of all ages and the other half trying to find a man to catch her busy daughter’s eye.
Raul Tate – The administrative assistant whose Metro ways sometimes cause trouble for those at the office – and for his brother.
Bryan Tate MD – Raul’s brother, a tall/dark/handsome orthopedic surgeon, who recently moved back to town to be closer to his family.
Indigo D. Crane – The eccentric photographer Heather prefers to deal with who is still waiting to be discovered as a true artist.
Mario –Playboy extraordinaire, Mario is a chef by day and often caters weddings for Heather’s clients.
Skye Jansen – Heather’s best friend since high school and biggest cheerleader- when she’s not busy with her children or trying to save the planet from PCBs, MSG, and all things chemical or artificial.

Wedding Planner cover on iPadThis project is a bit different than others I’ve  done. First, after we signed the contract, we were given an introduction to the plot and the characters involved in the story. Second, all six authors are sharing one interconnected plot. Each author plays off the action presented by the previous writer. Third, the series will be done in three parts.

Part one: We each write one volume, a short story of about 10,000 words.

Part two: We each pick a character to focus on and tell some of their backstory.

Part three: We write another volume to wind down the plot and end the series.

Volume 1: The Initial Consultation will be released February 2014!


Guest Post – A Touched Life

Today I’m happy to welcome Murray Pura to my blog. Murray was our keynote speaker at the 2013 InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship Fall Conference. I appreciate his emphasis on saying “yes” when God asks you to do something. You can find out more about Murray and his writing at http://www.murraypura.com/.

Murray Pura

Murray says: “I started writing stories when I was eight or nine, hand printing them on 5 x 3 index cards, drawing the covers, and giving them to my mom to read. One thing led to another and early in the 21st century I was invited to write my first inspirational non-fiction for the US market. My passion from that early time forward, is still to create such well crafted writing that it takes you inside of itself, somewhere you can deeply experience and truly enjoy. I hope you’ll give one of my books a try and if you have read one or two and enjoyed them drop me a line and let me know about it.”

A Touched Life

When I do research for historical fiction one of the first things that strikes me is how much everyone has suffered down through the ages. That we no sooner cure the world’s ills – like leprosy or TB or polio or the Black Death – only to have other ills take their place – lung cancer, obesity, dementia – or see the old ills return with a vengeance. Wars have not lessened, or rape, or violent crimes, or the death of children by the dozens, the hundreds, and the millions. Always leaving in their wake those who experience the loss and who grieve. And many who find the strength to get up and keep going and not only keep going but do great things, important things, powerful things, things that bless.

Not everyone can get up again and do that. For some the suffering is so great they simply shut down. They may go through the motions for the next 10 or 20 or 30 years but they’re not really there anymore. They expect nothing, hope for nothing, believe in nothing. Life is over.

For others, most I would guess, the energy returns, the focus returns, they carry on with their lives, even if they still bleed a little inside every day for the rest of their lives. They do good things for their family and friends, even for strangers, do good work at the office or store or company, and are good and kind to their neighbors.

Then there is the touched life, the truly touched life. I find them in my research now and then. I see them in the world around me now and then. People whose hearts and souls have been absolutely flattened, who have lost pretty much all there is to lose without losing their own lives, people you’d expect to lie down and never get up again or to wander off and never be seen again. Yet somehow a miracle happens – not only do they recover, not only do they get back to blessing family and friends and neighbors, they go farther than they ever have before because of what they’ve suffered, not in spite of it. They turn their suffering into heroic acts, they turn it into enormous courage, they create great films, great books, great music, great legislation, great inventions. They will tell you their suffering showed them the way, opened the door, motivated them, inspired them, challenged them, fired them up to change a broken world.

It is always moving and astounding when I uncover these lives. Sometimes their stories are well-known, other times no one has ever heard of them before. It doesn’t matter because once a decent writer gets their hands on the material they can give the story to the world and by so doing breathe new life into millions.

I call it a touched life. A miraculous life. Touched by God and angels even if some of them might not believe in God and angels. To overcome suffering and loss and devastation is one thing. To become much more than you ever were before, to be made anew and made better by that suffering and loss and devastation is something else again. I wish for more such lives for the world around us. The suffering will always be there. I pray the touched lives may always be there as well.


Guest Post – How Veggie Tales Inspired a Biblical Novella

Today I’m featuring a guest post by author Amber Schamel.

Amber Schamel is a multi-published author of Christian Historical Fiction. Her passion for history and culture has led her to travel extensively throughout the United States, Europe, and the Holy Land. Amber is actively involved in her church and enjoys volunteer work and music ministry.  Raised in a family of twelve children and homeschooled throughout her education, she currently resides in the beautiful state of Colorado where she also serves as bookkeeper and marketing director for their family businesses. Find Amber on her blog, or on all the main social media sites:

http://amberschamel.com/
Blog: http://www.stitchesthrutime.blogspot.com

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/AuthorAmberSchamel
Twitter: @AmberSchamel
Pintrest – http://pinterest.com/AmberDSchamel/

Amber Schamel

How Veggie Tales Inspired a Biblical Novella

It was a summer evening, I was in the kitchen making dinner while my little siblings (for some odd reason) were watching The Toy That Saved Christmas, a Veggie-Tales movie. My publisher had asked me to write a Christmas story and I was deep in thought wondering what I should write when I suddenly tuned in to what was playing on the screen.

Grandpa George was reading a scripture to Bob, Larry and Buzz-saw Louie. “And she brought forth her first born son and wrapped him in baby clothes and laid him in a manger.”

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Wait a minute, the passage didn’t say baby clothes. In the King James it says swaddling clothes. That got me to thinking, what exactly are swaddling clothes? Are they just baby clothes? Or is there another meaning to them?

I looked up the passage in Luke chapter two and noted that it was mentioned not only once, but twice that Mary wrapped her first-born son in swaddling clothes. So I began my research.swaddling

I found out that swaddling clothes did not necessarily mean that Mary and Joseph were poor or destitute. Swaddling clothes were used by people of all classes to wrap a newborn in hopes that it would help their limbs grow straight, as well as calm the babe. But if swaddling clothes were so common during that era, why was it specifically mentioned as a sign to the shepherds of who the Messiah would be? So I searched some more.

Another source said that in the eastern countries they would use a cloth to put between the yoke of an ox, and the ox’s shoulders. When Mary and Joseph were in the barn, they had nothing else to use, so they used this ox’s cloth that was translated as swaddling cloth to wrap the Messiah that would carry the yoke of our sin and bondage.

Many hours and websites later, I emerged armed with a ton of information, four different theories, and a story forming inside my head. So, I guess you could say that my new book The Swaddling Clothes was inspired by a Veggie Tales movie.

The things that inspire people, or give them an idea is very interesting to me.

What are some odd things that have given you an idea or inspiration?

*****

Download Amber’s newest release from Amazon, Kobo, or Barnes & Noble

The Swaddling Clothes


Area author publishes novella | Cold Lake Sun

Area author publishes novella | Cold Lake Sun.

By Theresa Seraphim, Cold Lake Sun

Monday, December 16, 2013 12:03:24 MST PM

“Cecile’s Christmas Miracle” is, indeed, ready for Christmas.

Glendon author Ruth Snyder’s story was released on Dec. 4. It is currently available on Kobo and will be out in print in the New Year.

Snyder, who has had articles published in Testimony, Chicken Soup for the Soul, and FellowScript magazine, said the story is about a girl who turns down her boyfriend’s marriage proposal to go overseas to help at a medical clinic.

“He can’t forget her and she can’t forget him,” noted Snyder.

She used the years she and her family spent in the past in South Africa and Botswana as reality background for the story. Historical events played a role, too, especially the discovery, in the early part of this century, of a cache of diamonds in Botswana, resulting in the forced eviction of people in the area. For example, in the novella, Cecile is told she has one day to pack up and get out of the clinic.

Snyder said she has always enjoyed writing, a pleasure that came with the exercise of letter-writing skills when her family lived in Africa.

“The only way of contact was through letters, so I learned to describe what was happening,” she said.

Then, several years ago, Snyder competed in a contest called Fiction in Five, in which writers were given a prompt on Monday and asked to use it to write a story by Friday.

“One of the prompts was ‘Christmas in the desert is so boring,’” she said, adding that’s the summer season over there.

“We used to eat watermelon and go swimming on Christmas Day.”

Snyder knew in August she would have to have “Cecile’s Christmas Miracle” written by Nov. 1.

“I wrote most of it in October,” she commented.

Snyder is currently at work on a full-length novel called Olga’s Discovery, a Canadian-based mystery dealing with a woman whose fiancé passes away – or may not have, as the case may be.

Snyder said her editor “is waiting for the first 20,000 words of (that) novel and she’ll give me a contract if she likes what she sees.”

Snyder is also president of InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship.

@ColdLakeNews


Blog Tour

Today I’m participating in a blog tour at the request of my friend and fellow author, Tracy Krauss. “Participating authors answer a series of questions about their writing, sharing their journey with other authors and interested folk.”

What are you working on right now? My first novella, Cecile’s Christmas Miracle, was just launched on December 5th. Besides spreading the word that it’s now available, I’m also working on a full-length novel, Olga’s Discovery, a Christian historical fiction work. My main character, Olga, is a first year teacher in rural Alberta. Her fiancee, Viktor, is far across the country in Ontario pursuing his dream as a science researcher. A serious accident, a mysterious and unexpected death, and a private investigation all challenge Olga to figure out who she really is and what she wants in life.

How does it differ from other works in its genre? The story is a mixture of historical fiction, romance, and mystery.

Why do you write what you do? Writing often helps me process things in my own life. I hope it will do the same for my readers. Writing is something that I not only enjoy, but I also feel compelled to do. I believe God created each one of us with unique abilities, experiences, and messages. I want to be faithful sharing my unique messages with people God brings me into contact with, whether face to face, on the internet, or through a story.

How does your writing process work? When I write, I generally work best if I have an overarching outline or plot. I need to know where I’m starting, a few major points in the middle, and where I’m going to end up. The details come as I write. I’ll do some preliminary research before I start writing, but my major research comes as I’m in the process of writing and I need details to fill out my story. The hardest part for me is getting the first draft written down. Once that’s done, I enjoy the process of editing and revising. I find it easiest to “write” at the keyboard of my computer. The only time I write with pen and paper is when I’m writing in my journal.

Look for these authors participating in the blog hop next week:

[polldaddy poll=7607007]

What do you look for in a story?