Fun with Fast Draft!

Fun with Fast Draft!

Hi, all!

Today is the first day of a 14-day “fast draft” that several writers and I are doing together. What is fast draft, you ask? The original concept by romance author Candace Havens is a breathless writing pace: 20 pages per day for 14 days, no excuses. By the end, the writer has a complete draft to edit.

fast draft kitty

Why so fast? After all, that’s even more ambitious than National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), when you write the first draft of a novel in 30 days.

The idea is to get ahead of one’s Evil Internal Editor, that inner voice that criticizes what you’re writing, and bogs you down. With Fast Draft, you do NOT re-read what you wrote the day before. Since you’re spending every day writing (over multiple hours), it’s fresh in your mind anyway. Personally, I prefer it to NaNo because it’s not in November (any time you want, actually), and I figure I can do anything for only 14 days. *wink*

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It’s incredibly helpful (I’d say absolutely necessary) to be working with a team of fellow writers who are all going through this process at the same time. After all, writing so much while putting the rest of your life on hold can be daunting. It’s wonderful to have one another to cheer each other on. This time around, we have the following fab writers participating:

Elizabeth Anne Mitchell

Melinda VanLone

Rachel Funk Heller

Kassandra Lamb

August McLaughlin

Lena Corazon

Dawn Hobbie Sticklen

Marcy Kennedy-Saylor

 

Here’s what some of them have to say about the process:

“The benefit of Fast Drafting is that you get to see your story play out in your mind’s eye in real time. This is where your plot ideas finally gel into a complete narrative. But to get the biggest payoff, you need to be prepared. You want to have the big moments set up, the opening, the ending, and hopefully the worst moment from the middle. This process will help you fill in those big chunks in between. ~Rachel Funk Heller

I’ve never signed up for anything like this, but it feels like a perfect fit. I’m working on a project that’s exciting and a bit scary (okay, borderline terrifying) and can really use others’ support. Knowing we’re in this solitary-work-called-writing thing together, cheering one another on, is golden. I’m already inspired and it hasn’t even started yet — HA! ~August McLaughlin

The benefit of Fast Drafting is it allows one to outrun the inner critic, to avoid the research rabbit hole, and the word search trap. The story telling takes over, filling in the gaps in the outline, and leaving the editing for a later draft. ~Elizabeth Anne Mitchell

 

Preparation

Getting the most out of fast drafting requires some advanced planning. Even for pantsers (writers who prefer to write “by the seat of their pants”), an exploration of characters, theme, and plot is needed. No one wants to stare at that blank screen and blinking cursor without some idea of where they are going!

writers coloring bookOne of my favorite resources for preparing to write the first draft (whether you are doing it quickly or more sedately), is Rachel Funk Heller’s The Writer’s Coloring Book. The workbook helps writers explore the story’s theme, character profiles, and scene dynamics in both analytical and creative ways. Dig out your colored pencils!

Available here on Amazon

Another resource I love (I’m a plotter at heart) is Author Jami Gold’s worksheets for writers. These are available in MS Excel and Word, and provide useful ways to structure your story.

Jami is an avid fast-drafter, too. Here’s her take on why fast drafting works:

For me, when I write, I’m always struggling to get outside of my writerly head–the doubt of whether this sentence is good, that word choice works, or even whether this plot event will lead to where the story needs to go. Fast-drafting is a shortcut for tapping into our subconscious and getting beyond all that chatter. It’s about getting deep into our characters and the story, becoming immersed in the experience, and finding our “writing zone.”

In addition to writing prep, there are some practical things to plan for in advance, especially if you are the primary meal provider and your family has this thing about not going without food for 14 days (the cat is especially vocal). The crockpot becomes my best friend during this time, along with convenience foods such pre-cooked chicken and pre-cut veggies. Having a supportive family (my guys are great sports) is awesome. I try to get ahead with the laundry and grocery shopping beforehand, but 14 days is a long time, so they pitch in when needed.

So, wish us luck! For you readers of the Concordia Wells Mysteries, I am hard at work on book #5 of the series. Somehow, the lady professor always finds a way to get into trouble….

Interested in my previous experiences with fast drafting? Check out these posts:

Fast Draft, by the numbers

What do a crockpot, a mad bluebird, and Earl Grey have in common?

What projects do you have going on that require major planning and support? I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time,

Kathy

P.S. – Be sure to check out the following post for my giveaway and flash fiction fun! Entry deadline is January 31.

You tell the story!

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The Spy Who Stole Tea from China

The Spy Who Stole Tea from China

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With stories in the news lately about hackers from China breaking into corporate computers and stealing proprietary software and information (for example, this 60 Minutes’ feature: The Great Brain Robbery), here’s a little historical gem about Robert Fortune (1812-1880) who accomplished the reverse. The low-tech version.

Image via Wikipedia Commons.

Image via Wikimedia Commons.

From 1845-1848, this Scottish botanist managed to acquire China’s closely-guarded tea-growing and production secrets, along with actual plants to transplant in India. For the tea-drinking world, this was a game-changer. Within a short time, China no longer had a monopoly on tea, and Brits had control over the production of their favorite beverage.

Background:

Robert Fortune was working for the Horticultural Society of London and had already traveled to China and learned a great deal about tea production, along with some surprises:
Chinese merchants had been telling their customers for decades that green and black teas came from different plant varieties. Fortune learned that the difference between black and green teas wasn’t the variety of plant, but the method of drying the leaves. He also discovered that the Chinese were dyeing the green tea purchased by the English.

from Three Years Wanderings in the Provinces of Northern China, by Robert Fortune.

He published his discoveries in book entitled Three Years’ Wanderings in the Provinces of China. It drew the attention of the East India Company, which commissioned him to return to China and acquire tea plants for them. In Fortune’s own words:

I was deputed by the Honourable the Court of the Directors (sic) to proceed to China for the purpose of obtaining the finest varieties of the Tea-plant, as well as native manufacturers and implements, for the Government Tea plantations in the Himalayas.

Fortune had no ethical problem with such a request. In his view, plants belonged to the world for everyone’s use.

The Caper:

The Chinese were incredibly secretive (and rightly so, given what did happen) about how their tea was produced. Fortune spent two and half years in China, shaving his head and adopting the attire of a Chinese merchant (read Sarah Rose’s fascinating book, listed below, for more details). It was sometimes a challenge to evade China’s in-port restrictions, which only allowed foreigners to travel one day’s distance from the ports allowed to Europeans by treaty. But Fortune managed to travel to areas few Europeans ever saw.

Here is Fortune’s own account of how he transported the tea plants he collected, using what was called a glazed case, first devised by Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward:

fortune tea2

 

The mission was a rousing success:

Upwards of twenty thousand tea-plants, eight first-rate manufacturers, and a large supply of implements were procured from the finest tea-districts of China, and conveyed in safety to the Himalayas.

Wow, 20,00! And the equipment and experts to successfully start a tea-growing operation in India. Can you imagine?

 

Want to read more?

Fortune, Robert. Three Years Wanderings in the Provinces of China. London: Spottiswoode and Shaw, 1847.

Fortune, Robert. A Journey to the Tea Countries of China; Including Sung-Lo and the Bohea Hills. London: W. Clowes and Sons, 1852.

Rose, Sarah. For All the Tea in China: How England Stole the World’s Favorite Drink and Changed History. New York: Viking Press, 2010.  Click here for Amazon link.

NPR: Tea Tuesdays: The Scottish Spy Who Stole China’s Tea Empire

 

Happy tea drinking,

Kathy

P.S. – Be sure to check out the following post for my giveaway and flash fiction fun! Entry deadline is January 31.

You tell the story!

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State of the Union as spectator sport

State of the Union as spectator sport

Tomorrow night’s State of the Union address will be President Barack Obama’s last, during an election year already rife with divisive and derisive rhetoric. So, how about we have some fun instead? Below is a post from 2015 that surveyed social media responses to that year’s SOTU. It reaffirms my faith in mankind’s intrinsic smart-a$$ery, an important self-preservation skill in any election year.

What’s new this year? Looks like the White House is trying to sit at the cool kids’ table by joining SnapChat.

POTUS snapchat

For you political wonks out there, here are a couple of links to help you get ready:

5 Things to Watch for in Obama’s Final State of the Union (NPR)

From this article, I learned that the following phrases would make great SOTU Bingo spaces (or key words for a drinking game), for those so inclined:

shared prosperity

inclusive growth

gun control

immigration reform

initiatives

long way to go

let’s not let the Republicans take us backward

Everything you need to know about the 2016 State of the Union address (Politico)

My favorite paragraph from this source is the explanation of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s nap last year:

politico Ginsburg

Wow, I never knew Ruth was a party girl! Makes you wonder who else isn’t “100 percent sober” at the event. A tweet of Justice Ginsburg’s sleeping pic is included in the original post below.

Will you be watching the State of the Union address? Will you be tweeting, bingo-ing, or drinking? I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time,

Kathy

P.S. – don’t forget to submit your flash fiction tale about the barber shop pole for a free audiobook or ebook! End of January is the deadline. Details here: You Tell the Story!

—————–

Originally posted 21 January 2015:

Today’s post is a bit different from our usual historical and mystery-based themes, and is just for fun. No policies or partisanship here. We want to talk about the stuff that people really care about.

Preparing for the event:

SOTU32

After all, what State of the Union address is complete without a fog machine?

We viewers at home had some preparations to make as well. Bring on the drinking games and Bingo!

Here’s a drinking game that DebateDrinking.com devised for the occasion:

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For the rest of the rules, click here. I would add “veto,” “children,” and “community college.”

Vox.com posted this Bingo card:

SOTU1

 

Not sure how you win when everyone’s card is the same, but at least you won’t be falling asleep:

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Although some appreciated the Supreme Court Justice’s approach:

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Okay, so now we’re ready. Let the pageantry begin.

 

The President Makes an Entrance:

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SOTU5

SOTU6

 

Face-Off: the Men Behind the Man

There were tons of tweets about Biden and Boehner.

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You know, I can see it….

Boehner’s tan drew a lot of attention:

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And what was that silver thing on Boehner’s desk? A couple of theories:

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Biden got his share of tweets, too:

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I’d missed Biden’s facial expression during Obama’s off-the-teleprompt zinger. Thank goodness for social media, LOL.

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The Quaker Oats Guy, or Mad-Eye Moody?

Someone else caught the eye of the Twitterverse last night:

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When generations collide: the astronaut on instagram

The President to astronaut Scott Kelly: “Good luck, and post pictures on instagram!”

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Do they have wifi in space?

Wrapping it up:

There seemed to be a lot of standing ovations. Here’s one reporter’s tally at the end:

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At least the Democrats got their aerobic workout for the night.

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems strange to see the President signing autographs after the address. To add to the weirdness, he signed a tie last night.

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Maybe it will start a trend. But what’s next? Groupies throwing their underthings at the President to sign? *shudder*

 

If you skipped the State of the Union address altogether, here’s one guy’s strategy for catching up:

SOTU25

Hope he’s not part of this teacher’s class today. There may be a quiz:

SOTU27

 

Did you see the State of the Union address last night? Were any naps or drinking games involved? I’d love to hear from you!

Until next time,

Kathy

 

P.S. – 10 more days until the end of the Unseemly Ambition giveaway!

Unseemly Ambition Giveaway

giveawayTora1b

To celebrate the release of my most recent Concordia Wells mystery, Unseemly Ambition, I’m holding a prize giveaway. There’s still time to get your name in!

Click here for easy ways to get your name in the drawing, and a list of prizes!

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You tell the story!

You tell the story!

writerHi everyone! I’ve decided to start off 2016 with something fun and interactive. You all read my stories (thank you!); now I’d love the chance to read yours.

As you may know, much of my primary research comes from the 19th century newspaper archive, Chronicling America. I often stumble upon fun little gems that I didn’t anticipate.

 

Here’s the last line from a newspaper article in The Dalles Daily Chronicle (April 4, 1894). Can you write the story preceding it?

newspaper banner

If you meet a party of eight young men with a barber pole, don’t arrest them. They own it.

Isn’t that a great ending? What do you think happened before that? Let your imagination run wild.

Some guidelines:

  • Just because the original is historical doesn’t mean yours has to be. Set it in any time and place you want.
  • No more than 500 words, and as short as you’d like.
  • Post your story in the comments section of this post.

What will you win?

In addition to the satisfaction of entertaining your audience, each storyteller (up to 30 participants) can select either an ebook from my Concordia Wells mystery series (choose from books 1 through 4), or an audiobook version of book 1 or 2!

Concordia series 1to4

 

 

So, start creating! This will be open until the end of January, when I will post the original story for your amusement. Those 1890s college kids were a mischievous bunch….

What stories have inspired you lately? I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time,

Kathy

 

 

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Is there a Santa Claus? A 19th century answer.

Is there a Santa Claus? A 19th century answer.

Today I’m re-posting something from 2012 that I hope will get you all in the holiday spirit. For those of you who celebrate, I wish you a very Merry Christmas! See you in 2016!

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It seems fitting that, with just a few days to go before Christmas, we take a look at that classic editorial from a veteran newspaper journalist to a little 8-yr-old girl, Virginia O’Hanlon.

Yes, I’m talking about the unsigned editorial:  “Is there a Santa Claus?” published in The New York Sun on September 21, 1897.  The writer was later identified as Francis Pharcellus Church.

F.P. Church; image via newseum.org

Looks very serious, doesn’t he?  He should; he was a Civil War correspondent.  What he wrote in reply to this young girl has become a timeless piece, reprinted whole or in part more often than any other newspaper editorial in the English language.  The phrase “yes, Virginia” has become part of our lexicon.

Virginia O’Hanlon, date unspecified, via wikipedia

When 8-yr-old Virginia asked the question that makes all parents of young children squirm -“Is there a Santa Claus?” – her father, Dr. Phillip O’Hanlon, suggested she write to The Sun for her answer.  (Strategic parental deflection; quite impressive).  Below appears the entirety of the editorial in answer to her letter (which has since been verified as genuine).

For more about Virginia’s life, the editorial, and what has been done with it since, check the following links:

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” – Wikipedia

“Yes, Virginia” – Newseum

I wish each of you a wonderful holiday season, whether Santa is part of it or not!  And thank you for reading and supporting this blog over the past year.  I so appreciate all your comments and tweets.

After today, the blog will be on holiday hiatus until the new year.  I’m looking forward to catching up with you then!

Happy New Year,

Kathy

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Grandma under the mistletoe!

Grandma under the mistletoe!

…and you thought folks were prudish in the 19th century. Ah, the magic of mistletoe. For the young, and the young at heart. Go, Grandma!

The Corvallis Gazette (Corvallis, OR), Dec 24, 1897. Chronicling America, Library of Congress.

The Corvallis Gazette (Corvallis, OR), Dec 24, 1897. Chronicling America, Library of Congress.

 

Careful who you kiss under the mistletoe, however:

Anaconda Standard (Montana), 24 Feb 1895. Image via Chronicling America, Library of Congress.

Anaconda Standard (Montana), 24 Feb 1895. Image via Chronicling America, Library of Congress.

 

Was he letting people kiss his wife so he’d have an excuse to kiss the girl? Hmm.

Mistletoe was a sought-after item at Christmas-time in the 19th century, and holiday revelers placed “kissing boughs” in strategic places (though never in a church, as the custom originated among the ancient Druids, and sometimes involved human sacrifice). There is a difference between English and American mistletoe, and apparently back then clients in the northeastern U.S. were very picky, preferring the English variety. Perhaps some “explosive kissing” was anticipated? See below:

The Evening Star (Wash, DC), 24 Dec 1889. Image via Chronicling America, Library of Congress (highlighting mine).

The Evening Star (Wash, DC), 24 Dec 1889. Image via Chronicling America, Library of Congress (highlighting mine).

Those folks really knew how to revel, didn’t they? How does one “use up” mistletoe? …never mind.

Do you decorate with real mistletoe? (We have an artificial mistletoe ball in our house – the berries are poisonous. A sick cat is hardly romantic). For that matter, has anyone even seen real mistletoe recently, or has it gone the way of the Druids?

I won’t ask y’all about any plans for “explosive kissing” (*wink*), but I’d love to hear what else you’re up to! And I’m still giving away ebooks to commenters (up to ten copies in total, and good until Christmas), so if you want a free copy of any book in my series, let me know which book and whether you prefer epub (Nook, iPad) or mobi (Kindle), and I’ll send it off to you.

Concordia series 1to4

No matter what you are celebrating this season, I wish you the brightest of holidays!

Until next time,

Kathy

 

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Gifts for the avid reader, 19th century style

Gifts for the avid reader, 19th century style

‘Tis the season for buying gifts, and books are among the best gifts out there! (So sayeth the book lover). If you go on Amazon (which got its start as an online bookseller back in 1994) and look for best-selling book suggestions, you’ll see something like this:

21st century books

 

But what did readers – and those who loved them – choose from in the 1890s? How did they decide? Obviously, there were no internet recommendations to consult. They relied upon ads in magazines and newspapers, recommendations from friends, or their corner bookshop proprietor. Not so different from today, if you think about it. The ad below gives us an idea of some of the hot books of the time:

1895 chromolithograph, Armstrong & Co, Boston. Image via wikimedia commons.

You’d better know your Latin numerals! 1895 chromolithograph, Armstrong & Co, Boston. Image via wikimedia commons.

 

Famous authors often put out new pieces around the holidays, too. These days, we have Grisham and Patterson. In the late-19th century, readers had Mark Twain:

Cover of the New York World, Christmas 1899. Image via wikimedia commons.

Cover of the New York World, Christmas 1899. Image via wikimedia commons.

Nothing says “Christmas” like “My First Lie and How I Got Out of It.”

 

Perhaps a magazine subscription for the avid reader in your life? But the December 1893 issue of The Strand Magazine is when Doyle kills off the Great Detective, Sherlock Holmes.

Sorry folks, Holmes is dead. Oh well…Merry Christmas!

 

The Strand, December 1893. Image via wikimedia commons.

The Strand, December 1893. Image via wikimedia commons.

Do you give books or magazines as gifts? I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time,

Kathy

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The Spirit of Christmas

The Spirit of Christmas

The more ad-weary among us have wondered if the spirit of Christmas is shopping, but after a few cleansing breaths we can see that it’s really about stepping outside ourselves to serve others in some way. Whether it’s a bottle of Aunt Gertie’s favorite perfume, donating a turkey dinner, volunteering at a soup kitchen, or shoveling snow for an elderly neighbor, we are making someone’s day a bit brighter.

We are inspired by stories of a person’s need being met by a generous heart. And our great-grandparents were, too. Here’s a December 24, 1899 article from The New York Times:

 

 

Now, with the power of social media, we can make our charitable giving less haphazard and even more effective. Today is #GivingTuesday, a designated day of charitable giving. It was first created three years ago, in response to the uber-consumerist traditions of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

givingTues2 Check out their website (or Facebook or Twitter) for more info on how you can get involved today. You can even share your story on their Facebook page and on Twitter. They are going for the Guinness World Record for most online charitable donations in a single day! Wouldn’t that be awesome? Many local television and radio stations are also participating, offering apps for your smartphone that make it easy to check out the needs of local schools and charities in your neighborhood. Amazon has also set up Amazon Smile, where you select your charity, make purchases through that site instead of the regular Amazon site, and Amazon donates 0.5% of certain purchased items (indicated on the screen whether the item qualifies). There are a lot of charities participating, so if you don’t immediately see your favorite (our fave is S.O.M.E. – So Others Might Eat – and it’s on there!), there’s a search bar you can use.

In the spirit of giving, I want to offer the first twenty commenters of this post a gift. No strings, no random drawing later. If you’ve already read all of my books, feel free to gift it to someone else. Just let me know which one of the following you would prefer:

Your choice of ebook (please indicate your preferred file format – epub or mobi):

…or my new release, Unseemly Haste!

UnseemlyHasteEbookCover

 

Or, you can choose an audiobook instead:

DangerousAndUnseemlyAudioNEW

 

UnseemlyPursuitsAudio

Not familiar with The Concordia Wells Mysteries? Read more about the books by clicking on the blue square below:

Concordia logo FINAL small

What’s your favorite charity? Have you heard of Giving Tuesday? I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time,

Kathy

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