"Roundheads and Ramblings"
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"Roundheads and Ramblings"

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"The Community of the Page

Yes, I know I signed off for a week, but a friend just sent me a link to a post that I have to pass on to you.  I met Amy Benson Brown through the internet several months ago, and we quickly discovered that our writing plans and current research overlapped in interesting ways.  We were both contemplating books about the abolitionists who traveled to South Carolina in 1862 to work with newly-freed slaves.  My main character was Laura Towne; hers was Charlotte Forten.  The two women knew each other, worked together, and frequently sustained each other when the going got really hard. Each would become a peripheral character in the other's life story. Since then Amy and I have exchanged tips, bibliographic citations, pictures, and whatever other information came our way. In other words, we have become the counterparts of Laura and Charlotte.

Recently Amy began her own blog, and in her most recent post, she wrote about the type of connection we have forged.  She calls it "The Community of the Page." Please click on the link and visit her blog to read what she has to say.  I think it will encourage you to seek similar communities to sustain your own efforts, whatever they may be.

An Update from Patricia Stoltey

Here's a note that just came in from Patricia Stoltey, who helped with the original book launch for Beyond All Price.
Carolyn, congratulations on all your great accomplishments.  It doesn’t seem possible a whole year has passed since you launched Beyond All Price. It really is true, I guess, that time flies when we’re having fun.
I’ve spent my year writing a new stand-alone suspense novel, working as the Member Liaison for Northern Colorado Writers, contributing weekly to Chiseled in Rock, the new blog associated with Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers (http://chiseledinrock.blogspot.com), and attending two excellent writers’ conferences.
The RMFW Colorado Gold Conference in Denver was just last weekend, so I’m resting up from three days of learning, pitching my novel to an agent, and networking…lots of networking.
I wish you the best of luck with your re-launch as well as future projects. I hope you’ll drop by my blog (http://patriciastoltey.blogspot.com) from time to time and let me know what’s new.

A Re-posted Interview

This column recently appeared as a guest interview on someone else's blog, but it occurred to me that my regular readers might be interested as well. So here's a glimpse into my background.

Deirdra: When did you first know you wanted to be an author?

Carolyn: All my life, I think. I was making up stories in my head when I was just a kid. The real question is when I knew I COULD be an author. That didn’t happen until I actually had a book published. And even then, I wasn’t too sure.

Deirdra: What is your writing and educational background?

Carolyn: I’m an academic at heart. I spent ten years or so as a high school Latin and English teacher. Then I went back to grad school and earned a PhD in Medieval History. I spent the rest of my working career as a history professor at Rhodes College in Memphis, TN. Academics write books, so that’s what I did – big books densely stuffed with footnotes and bibliographies. They are in university libraries all over the place, but I’m not sure anyone ever read one of them. That career also meant that I learned not to expect to make money from writing.

Then I retired and decided to see what I could do as an independent writer.

Deirdra: What makes you passionate about writing?

Carolyn: I love it when someone falls in love with one of my characters. Nellie Chase now has her own group of fans, and she makes me proud.

Deirdra: What was the pathway like for you to get your first book published?

 Well, my first book was a historical monograph on a 12th-century Norman bishop and his impact on the royal family of England. It was ridiculously easy to get it published. I pitched it to an editor in about five minutes at a conference, and she bought it for the University of Indiana Press. They did all the work from there on in. Unfortunately, I didn’t learn much about publishing from the experience.

Deirdra: Were you ever discouraged along the way? If so, how did you deal with it?

 Discouragement came much later. Academic publishing is not a problem. You’re expected to do it, and you do. But then I retired, and learned that without academic credentials, I was a nobody again. My book on the history of the 100th Pennsylvania Regiment was turned down over and over again before a small house took a chance on it. Why? Because it was Civil War history, and my only credentials said I was a medieval historian. I still shrink inside when I remember some of the reviewers’ comments on amateurs trying to write history in a specialized field.

Deirdra: What is your writing schedule like?

 I’m very much a morning person. If I can get up, eat a bite of breakfast, and head right for the keyboard, I can write all morning. If I have other errands to run in the morning, I get little accomplished later in the day

I keep trying to use National Novel writing Month (NaNoWriMo) to spur me to a more regular production schedule, but the pressure from a deadline just doesn’t work for me. I’ve just failed spectacularly at NaNoWriMo Summer Camp. I managed 38,000 words out of the required 50,000, and then broke down and quit.

Deirdra: Where do your ideas come from? How do you know the idea is good enough to write a book about it?

Carolyn: In my case, I’ve learned to take my historian’s training and apply it to fiction. My books are all set in coastal South Carolina during the Civil War. The area overflowed with colorful characters in that period, so all I have to do is look for someone who catches my fancy. But how do I KNOW? I’m not sure anyone ever knows for sure that an idea can become a book. You have to take a chance.

With my first post-academic book, A Scratch with the Rebels, I chose to write about my great-uncle, who was a Union soldier stationed in South Carolina (and killed there) in 1862. I cared about him, but it turned out that there was not enough information or excitement in his life to sustain a whole book. So I found a Confederate soldier at the same time and place, and played them off against one another.

Deirdra: Can you tell us a little about your book "Beyond All Price?"

Carolyn: Beyond All Price is based on the life of a real Civil War nurse, Nellie M. Chase. She appeared—briefly—in A Scratch with the Rebels, because she was the nurse who served with Uncle James’s regiment. I found her fascinating, but she didn’t play much of a role in that first story. She deserved a book all her own.

Nellie was a teen-age runaway, a battered wife, a lone woman trying to survive in world dominated by men. She joined the Union Army with no credentials and little hope, but she became one of the unsung heroines of the Civil War. Determined to atone for the mistakes of her early life by dedicating her life to the service of others, she rose to a responsible position as head matron of a 600-bed hospital in occupied Nashville. Then she retired into obscurity, where she lingered until the world offered her one last chance to demonstrate her remarkable courage.

Deirdra: What do you hope readers will get from your book?

Carolyn: As a historian, I hope I have offered some glimpses into the problems of the Civil War that don’t appear in history books. Nellie has to deal with such matters as the state of medical knowledge at the beginning of the war, the limitations placed on women by 19th century society, and the problems raised by freeing slaves who were not ready to handle life outside of slavery.

On another level, I think Nellie will resonate with many readers. There are hints that she had an abusive father, and we know that her first husband beat her and tried to turn her into the madame of a brothel. She had to struggle to support herself and to build up her self-confidence. She’s a modern woman, seen through the lens of an earlier age.

Deirdra: How many beta readers review your manuscript before you send it to your editor?
Carolyn: Well, against all advice, I do my own editing. I must have read the manuscript nearly 20 times, trying to view it through the eyes of the creative writing teacher I once was. Then I sent it to five beta-readers – each one of whom could bring a different perspective to the book. I had a young woman going through a divorce, a Civil War re-enactor who is descended from a member of the regiment Nellie served, a military tour-guide in Charleston, an engineer with an eye for detail, and the head of an association of writers and publishers.
When they finished with their comments, I edited the whole manuscript one more time.
Deirdra: What kinds of inspiration do you use during your story creation periods?

 The best inspiration for me comes from visiting the locales of my story. It’s a real hardship, you understand, to have to plan a trip to Charleston or Hilton Head, but I struggle through. Once there, just walking through the same streets that my character knew sets all sorts of new ideas flowing.

Deirdra: Who has made the greatest difference for you as a writer?

Carolyn: Oh, I owe so many people. But in the end, the support of my husband matters most. He’s a gem. He cleans the house and runs errands so that I can have free writing time. He travels with me on all those hardship research trips and takes the photographs that will later refresh my memory. He’s my greatest cheerleader and my shoulder to cry on. He makes it all possible.

Deirdra: What authors do you admire, and why?

Carolyn: I have lots of favorites and for many different reasons. But if I had to choose one, the prize would go to Carl Sandburg. His poetry is wonderful, of course, but he also wrote a historical novel called Remembrance Rock. In it he manages to show his readers the entire story of American history through the eyes of recurring characters and a recurring cat. I loved it each time I read it, and I still go back to examine how he did what he did. The book taught me the art of story-telling as well as history.

Deirdra: Besides writing what other talents or hobbies do you have?

Carolyn: Most of my free time goes to Lions Clubs International, the world’s largest service organization. I’m president of my local club and first vice-president of Mid-South Lions Sight and Hearing Service, a charitable organization that provides free sight and hearing care to indigent individuals in a four-state area.

Oh, and my four fuzzy wonders are pacing my office, reminding me that I’m also a cat-lover. That’s where the name of my publishing imprint comes from: Katzenhaus Books means cat house (no, not that kind!)

Deirdra: What words of advice do you have for other writers who desire to have their manuscripts become books in print?

Carolyn: Slow down. If you are going to do it, take the time to do it correctly. And be prepared for a long struggle. Real success does not come quickly or easily – not if you want it to be permanent.

Deirdra: What are you working on now?

 My upcoming novel is The Road to Frogmore. It is based on the life of Laura M. Towne, the founder of the Penn Center on St. Helena Island, SC. She was a Philadelphia abolitionist who came to South Carolina to provide medical care to abandoned slave communities during the Civil War. The book will address her own transformation from doctor to teacher, her efforts to help the freedmen become productive citizens despite military and governmental interference, and her struggle to gain acceptance for the fact that she lived with her best friend and partner, Ellen Murray.

Deirdra: Where can our readers go to find your book and order it?

Carolyn: A Scratch with the Rebels and Beyond All Price are both available on my website at http://www.katzenhausbooks.com. They are also available from Amazon.com and the Kindle Store.

Deirdra: Any final words you would like to share?

Carolyn: I would like to invite your readers to follow me on the internet. Links to my blogs and social networks appear on my flashcard at http://about.me/CarolynSchriber

Thank you so much, Carolyn. It’s a real honor to get your insights.

A Guest Blog from Terry Odell

Please welcome Terry Odell as she fills us in on what she’s been up to for the past year.  

  Thanks so much to Carolyn for inviting me back, and congratulations on your one-year anniversary for BEYOND ALL PRICE.  

A lot has happened since I posted here a year ago. We're settled in to our new home, and living in the mountains provided so much inspiration and book fodder that I had to write a book about it. 

I chose to write another of my Blackthorne, Inc. books. However, after much consideration, I took a different publishing route. Five Star, the publisher of the rest of the series had remaindered my first book, WHEN DANGER CALLS, shortly after I signed the contract for the second, WHERE DANGER HIDES. They also contracted a third book, ROOTED IN DANGER, which is due out in April of 2012. Because of the slow turnaround time, combined with the fact that the fourth book, DANGER IN DEER RIDGE, isn't quite as 'action' oriented, I opted to go the indie route and publish it myself. 

DANGER IN DEER RIDGE was the first book where I went the total indie-route. I learned a lot, and invested time and money with a cover artist and a professional editor. I firmly believe that no writer can edit her own work. (For the record, the cover was made of two images we took near where we live—the cover model posed in our front yard!) And, for those who prefer print, I've used Create Space to make it available in that format as well.  

Also, after numerous delays, the anthology DECEPTION containing one of my mystery short stories is finally being published. I wish I had a specific date, but so far, all the publisher says is, "We're looking at August." It's a total departure for me, since it's not romantic suspense, but rather a straight police procedural, and for some reason the protagonist insisted on a first person narrative. I'd love to revisit his character, and perhaps offer a small collection of more short stories as an e-book.  

And, I'm waiting to get the rights back to two of my earlier books so I can offer them for sale myself.   I've revamped my blog, http://terryodell.blogspot.com  And now, in addition to guests once a week, I've added a "What's Cooking Wednesday" feature. Would love to have reader contributions. And, I'm a once-a-month guest blogger at The Blood-Red Pencil, http://bloodredpencil.blogspot.com/  Hope to see you at my blog, or on Facebook, Twitter, or now, Google+.

And again, congrats to Carolyn.      

Random Drawings, Random Thoughts

Yesterday's visit with Helen Hollick was a rousing success.  I am grateful to all my regular readers who welcomed her, and to the new visitors who found "Roundheads and Ramblings" for the first time.  I hope you'll come back often. By the way, Beth Caudill was the winner of the random drawing for the free copy of Sea Witch.  Congratulations, Beth.

Helen will be back later in the summer.  I've asked her to stop by sometime in August and talk a bit about the experience of doing a blog tour.  This method of reaching out to readers without having to do an actual book tour comes highly recommended. Personally, after doing one traditional book tour, I swore I'd never do another. I'm hoping that Helen's venture into the virtual world will prove more rewarding.

My main objection to book tours? The author spends a great deal of time and money traveling from book store to library to coffee shop, never knowing whether the proprietor will have set up a successful get-together or not.  Oh, I had some lovely experiences. One library put on a lavish spread of hors d'oeuvres and attracted a large and attentive audience. I sold a goodly number of books and felt like a celebrity.

But the very next day, I found myself sitting in an empty book store -- one whose owner had forgotten I was coming and had done no publicity at all.  It was the day before a holiday weekend in a resort town full of visitors and there was a good local tie to the book.  But for three solid hours, not one soul entered the store.  The single clerk and I made small talk as long as we could manage, and I ended up buying books from her just to make her feel better. I also absorbed the cost of a three-hour drive to get there and an overnight motel stay, along with meals. I felt like a failure, and the glow from the previous day's library visit faded when I looked at the negative balance in my account book.

So, thanks again, for making Helen feel welcome here. i suspect virtual tours are the way to go.

In other news, I've completely lost my mind and signed up for NaNoWriMo Summer Camp!  I know I swore off ever doing another writing marathon, but the new book, The Road to Frogmore, is clamoring to get itself down in print.  I've been re-thinking, revising, re-reading, and reconsidering the plot line ever since I returned from Beaufort in April.  It's so easy to procrastinate by doing just one more bit of research!

Anyway, I've been writing sporadically, and I've made my way through some 20,000 words.  But now it's time for the big push. I don't intend to be a complete fanatic about the process this time.  I'll get as much done as possible.  And if I don't make the 50,000 word goal in July, there will be another camp session in August.

This should be a good work period for me.  We have no trips planned.  No major holidays interrupt the  flow of days.  And it's too hot to do anything but stay inside in the AC, anyway.  Might as well write!  I'll keep you posted on my progress. In the meantime, I'll be back tomorrow with some tidbits for Civil War Friday.