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Elsie Elmore’s The Undead: Playing for Keeps Blog Tour

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The Undead: Playing for Keeps by Elsie Elmore
Published by: Curiosity Quills Press
Publication date: September 3rd 2014
Genres: Paranormal, Young Adult

Synopsis:

When an undead woman with serious de-comp issues stalks sixteen-year-old Lyla Grimm, her hope of rescuing her rock-bottom reputation takes a back seat. Especially once Lyla’s new talent of resurrecting the dead draws the attention of Eric, a Grim Reaper with a guitar and a chip on his shoulder.

While Lyla navigates the gossip-ridden halls, Eric works to gain her trust and discover why Death’s clients aren’t staying down. If she passes on her gift, his death-messenger destiny might be altered. But the closer he gets to Lyla, the less sure he is of his plan. The dead are way easier to deal with than the living.

Gossip explodes, the Grimm family implodes, and desperation sets in. Death wants the gift and a soul. Lyla and Eric face hard choices with hidden consequences. Sometimes life’s choices aren’t really choices at all.

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22131059-the-undead?ac=1

Purchase:

–Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/The-Undead-Playing-Elsie-Elmore/dp/1620075997/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1409679431&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Undead%3A+Playing+for+Keeps

–B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-undead-elsie-elmore/1120208213?ean=9781620075999

Elsie

A recipe and an excerpt
Lyla and Cassie appreciate good food and aren’t ones to hit the salad bar line in the school cafeteria. But as Lyla’s troubles begin to pile up, her appetite begins to suffer… which is a real shame. And Eric’s not been able to enjoy real food since his job began. They’re missing out.

recipe

Photo Credit: Flickr by @MARIA@
Excerpt from Chapter 28 :
Her straw wrapper refuses to tear off in flakes larger than two millimeters. “What are you doing here?” she asks, tearing off tiny pieces.
“Having lunch with you.”
“Why would you do that?”
“Once you understand my intentions, you’ll realize that I only want to protect you.” I point to her tray. “You should eat something.” Her blushes show up too easily. She looks tired and thin.
“I can’t.” She eyes the Salisbury steak on her tray and then slides it toward me. “You want it?”
I press my forefinger on the tray’s edge and scoot it back towards her before the smell becomes too clear. “No thanks.” For the first time, the food doesn’t look disgusting and the smell doesn’t bother me, but I might not be able to fake my reaction once I put a bite in my mouth. Repulsion is hard to hide.
“Why do you wear gloves all the time?” She looks at my hands resting on the table. “It’s not even that cold yet.”
“I like the way they feel. I have cold hands.” I watch her eyes as I speak, hoping she’s buying what I’m selling. I’d rather not confess why. My label is hard to live with. “So, what happened with the table of jocks before I walked in? I feel like I missed the main event.”
Her gaze drops to her tray. She rips off a corner of her napkin and rolls it into a tiny ball. “Nothing really. He was making comments about the missing bodies and my family.”
“That bothered you?”
Her expression crumbles when I say that. “Yeah. He was making fun of my family being twisted. I’m not ashamed of what my dad does. It’s a business. He and my mom treat the families who lose people with a lot of care and compassion.”
“I don’t doubt that. Your mom seems like a good person.”
At the mention of her mom, a small smile lifts her lips. I bet she doesn’t realize she did that.
“So the fact that the corpses aren’t staying is bad for your family, huh?”
She nods. “Can we change the subject, please?” Her fingers trace the edge of her tray. “Where are you from?”
I pause. That’s a loaded question.
“Did you forget? You an Army brat that moves around or something?”
“Nah,” I shake my head. “I lived in Miami last.”
“You have brothers or sisters?”
A chill rushes down my back and I zip up my jacket. But the leather is no match for the demons crawling beneath my skin right now. This interaction, this conversation becomes an inquisition, a cross-examination as I sit here. The chill settles in my bones, aching. “Yeah,” I say in a cough. “But I haven’t seen them in a while.” Is that right? Did I?
“I’m sorry. You must miss them.” Her eyes look misty. She’s probably thinking of Ben, who’s somewhere on the campus alive. Her world is near perfect, yet she doesn’t see.
I exhale harder to push away the cold infecting my body, chilling my insides, and churning anger. “We can talk about your gift, if you want.”
“I already told you, this isn’t a gift,” she whispers.

And the recipe for Salisbury Steak.
Salisbury steak is a big favorite at my house. I’ve used several recipes over the years but this one continues to get rave reviews. I found it on AllRecipes.com a long time ago.

Ingredients
• 1 (10.5 ounce) can condensed French onion soup
• 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
• 1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
• 1 egg
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
• 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
• 1/4 cup ketchup
• 1/4 cup water
• 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
• 1/2 teaspoon mustard powder

Directions
• In a large bowl, mix together 1/3 cup condensed French onion soup with ground beef, bread crumbs, egg, salt and black pepper. Shape into 6 oval patties.
• In a large skillet over medium-high heat, brown both sides of patties. Pour off excess fat.
• In a small bowl, blend flour and remaining soup until smooth. Mix in ketchup, water, Worcestershire sauce and mustard powder. Pour over meat in skillet. Cover, and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
.
Undead

Elsie Says.

Interview with Elsie Elmore, author of The Undead: Playing for Keeps
What led you to write YA paranormal and corpses becoming reanimated?
Explaining my warped creative process is challenging because the stories I tend to create all begin with “What if?” That simple question can take me down a rabbit hole of possibilities and I never worry about whether an idea is plausible. In my mind, the boundary for reality is permeable.
The Undead started as a “what if” after a personal experience. The story then began to unfold in my mind, but it never ventured near The Walking Dead, which is a series I was addicted to once. I wanted the return to be less problematic and gory than the zombies in the apocalyptic stories.

Are the characters in The Undead based on real people?
Every character I create comes from bits and pieces of people that I’ve encountered, but no one person translates into a full character in one of my stories. At least not yet.

Does Eric play the guitar because you play the guitar?
No, Eric plays the guitar because he’s a gifted musician and because I think the guitar is one of the coolest instruments a guy can play. I took piano lessons for several years as a child, but I would not impress anyone with the skills that have remained after all those years.

Is The Undead a series?
I wrote The Undead as a stand alone, although the door was left slightly ajar at the end. While Lyla, Eric and Ben’s tale could go on, it will be up to the reader to determine what happens next.

What’s your favorite genre to read?
I like so many different types of fiction. I have specific favorite books and favorite authors that span romance, action, drama, suspense, and memoir (and for adult, NA, and YA audiences).

Giveaways Be Here

In honor of Elsie’s fantastic debut, The Undead: Playing for Keeps, I will be hosting a giveaway!! Yup, that means FREE so leave a comment, I will choose a winner to get an ebook copy of The Undead: Playing for Keeps. Open internationally. Entries end by October 3rd so stop by often.

JMLedwellwrites Welcomes RETURN TO ME Blog Tour

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This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Melissa will be awarding $25 Amazon GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour, and a $10 Amazon GC to a randomly drawn host. Please click the banner to see additional stops on the tour.

Archaean bounty hunter Marek Coinnich isn’t particularly fond of Engels. In fact, he prefers them dead. But to save his injured brother, he must enter the manor of an Engel enemy. Marek finds himself enthralled by the slave girl nursing his brother back to health. When his enchantment with her lands them in a compromising position, he refuses to let the young beauty pay for the misunderstanding with her life.

Brynn of Galhaven prefers to keep to the shadows. When she is ruined by an outsider, she barely escapes with her life and finds herself left alone in an unforgiving land. Through her struggles to survive, Brynn discovers a world she never imagined and never forgets the enemy Archaean who stole her heart.

Marek can’t deny his desire for Brynn, but these are wartimes, and she is the enemy. And though love knows no prejudice, the world in which he lives isn’t nearly as forgiving.

Now enjoy an excerpt:

It was the scream that caught his attention, the sound of pure terror. A woman’s ultimate terror — he’d heard it many a time throughout his hardened life. For a quick moment, Marek’s eyes shifted in search of the treeline instead of the soldier he battled. The swing of an Engel sword narrowly missed his shoulder and sent him staggering backward on his heels. Marek barely escaped the bone-crushing blow. The soldier advanced on horseback, whereas Marek battled on foot. Regaining his stance, he blocked the Engel’s next blow with only seconds to spare. He couldn’t focus — he worried for her safety. Damn woman. He was going to get himself killed.

Marek was torn between the two battles. Did he attempt to fight the man he engaged, praying Brynn could fend off her attacker until he could reach her, or did he make a run for her, hoping to surpass his own battle? Given another few minutes, Marek would slay his opponent. Another scream sent him reeling. The Engel held a blade high above her.

Damn, she won’t be afforded another few minutes. He was out of time, and no risk was greater than that of her life. Narrowing his eyes, Marek charged his opponent and wrenched him to the ground. The soldier, caught off guard, slid from the saddle, dropping his weapon. With one swift jerk, Marek’s sword slid along the man’s throat, severing it. A wild fray of blood spurted at the sky as the body slumped to the ground. Marek spun on his heels to race across the field.

Losing his footing to the slick mud, he skidded to his knees, realizing he’d never make it to her side in time. The soldier would have the dagger in her chest before he could intercept. Marek fumbled for the protruding handle of the knife still wedged in his boot. Finding it, he pulled the blade from its sheath. With his heart racing and his hand oddly trembling, he whirled the knife into the back of the soldier’s skull.
.

Melissa grew up surrounded by dragons, fearsome creatures, and damsels in distress from the wonderful world of make believe. She soon found her ideas on paper, littering her desk with world maps and character biographies. Study hall was used not for homework but for writing. Although she pursued a career in theater, the written word never left her. Melissa now leads a full life with her husband and children (five amazingly adorable clones to be exact), though she still finds time to write in her “spare time”. She sports a Military Wife badge of honor, and is lucky enough to have her own knight in camo armor.

Melissa enjoys writing everything from sexy, sword-toting heroes to spit-out-your coffee funny romantic comedies. Her passion lies within the ancient walls of fantasy and historical romance, where anything is possible.

Melissa MacKinnon: http://melissamackinnon.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MelissaMacKinnon602?fref=ts

Facebook Fan Page: http://www.facebook.com/melissa.mackinnon.author

Twitter: https://twitter.com/M_MacKinnon

SMASHWORDS  | KOBO | ITUNES

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Also, Don’t Forget!! PRIZES So please please Comment. Remember this is the Prize that Melissa will be giving away so please stop by and comment often. WIN that prize!

Enter to win a $25 Amazon GC! A Rafflecopter Giveaway

If you want to up your chances of winning Melissa’s giveaway follow the Blog Tour link for more chances.

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Blog Tour and Review The Dance of The Spirits

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Please join Catherine Aerie as she tours the blogosphere with HF Virtual Book Tours for The Dance of the Spirits from August 11-22, and enter to win your very own copy!

02_The Dance of the SpiritsPublication Date: November 16, 2013
Aurora
Formats: eBook, Paperback

Genre: Historical Fiction

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Spring 1951: it is the fiery zenith of the Korean War, a war that the youthful US Army lieutenant Wesley Palm and his men thought that they had won… until the Chinese swept across the Yalu River.

Traveling with the million-man army bent on driving back the march of “American imperialism” is Jasmine Young, a Chinese surgeon who has volunteered herself into the war for unspoken, grave reasons. Through a chronicle of merciless battles, freezing winters, and the brutality and hypocrisy of human nature, the two will find themselves weaving through the twists and turns of fate and destiny. Though their love is forbidden, their passion and pursuit of liberty cannot be quenched.

Praise for The Dance of the Spirits

“…On the surface, The Dance of the Spirits is a story of love and of war, but on a deeper level, it is a story of the misery that the communist ideology brought to millions of souls in the twentieth century. Whether that philosophy is related to nationalism, internationalism or faith, Catherine Aerie reminds readers that when a system that will entertain no contradiction in thought or deed comes to power, no one is safe — and no one is free. Aerie draws a vivid picture of war and its price, and a tender image of love…” – Readers’ Favorite (5 Stars)

“…a love that is stronger than all the horrors that war can throw at them… compelling…poignant… sensitive and beautiful…” – San Francisco Book Reviews (4.5/ Stars)

“Adversaries in the Korean War find love in Aerie’s debut novel. The story starts in the middle of a firefight… Out of the rubble, two characters emerge: an American officer… and a Chinese military doctor… Their paths cross again and again… In the intimacy of the war, these coincidences don’t feel forced, nor even particularly fated–it’s just the way things went… Readers will likely find Palm a decent, very human person, but Young has more complexity and vibrancy… As the war rages around them, Palm and Young fall in love… but their romance is ill-starred and open to tragedy. Aerie keeps readers on their toes with the twists…fleeting but intense…
An often engaging tale of a flickering moment of love during a forgotten war.” – Kirkus Reviews

Buy the Book

Amazon (Kindle)
Amazon (Paperback)
Barnes & Noble

About the Author

Catherine Aerie, a graduate from the University of California, Irvine with a master degree in finance, grew up in China as the daughter of a Shanghai architect. She was inspired to write The Dance of the Spirits while researching a family member’s role in the Korean War, deciding to revive an often neglected and overlooked setting in fiction and heighten the universality of resilient pursuit of love and liberty. Her debut novel was finished after about two years of research. She currently resides in southern California.

For more information please visit Catherine Aerie’s website. You can also find her on Facebook and Goodreads.

The Dance of the Spirits Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, August 11
Review at A Bibliotaph’s Reviews
Spotlight at Mina’s Bookshelf
Interview at Library Educated

Tuesday, August 12
Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews

Wednesday, August 13
Review at Book Nerd

Thursday, August 14
Review at Queen of All She Reads

Friday, August 15
Review at JM Ledwell
Review at Based on a True Story
Spotlight at Passages to the Past

Monday, August 18
Interview at Caroline Wilson Writes

Tuesday, August 19
Review at Book Babe

Wednesday, August 20
Review at Unshelfish
Spotlight at Princess of Eboli

Thursday, August 21
Review & Interview Back Porchervations

Friday, August 22
Spotlight at Just One More Chapter

Giveaway

To win a copy of The Dance of the Spirits please complete the Rafflecopter giveaway form below. Giveaway is open to US & UK residents only.

Giveaway ends at 11:59pm on August 22nd. You must be 18 or older to enter.
Winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter on August 23rd and notified via email.
Winner have 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

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My Review of The Dance of the Spirits

As a writer of Asian fiction and Historical novels with a sweep-this one sounded close to my heart.

I’ve read some reviews which warned of heavy combat action and gruesome details of a little-known, not much discussed war. As war epics go, certainly this one-set against the sweep of the Korean War-stands out. Yes, it has combat scenes and all the vivid details one would expect in a novel set against the battlefield. But this is not an “Asian Band of Brothers”, and if that’s the take-away, it misses the mark.

One could make comparisons to Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago, with a bit of Joy Luck Club thrown in. As the main character, Jasmine Young holds up the whole book. The novel opens with a window on the hero and the heroine as we are thrown into their lives mid-combat. Then, we are whisked away to Jasmine’s past, her idyllic and pampered childhood in Shanghai on the eve of Revolution. Aerie pulls us closer, to see the inner workings of a family in torment, Jasmine’s loving, though recalcitrant father who refuses to stay faithful, and brings a series of children he fathered by concubines into the house. This has disastrous effects on Jasmine’s mother’s self-esteem and will spin the family into far greater disaster and poignancy. I really felt for the mother here. She was not easy to love, or like for that matter. She’s tough. She’s not soft but there is a tragic sense of pity I felt with each one of the father’s infidelities. Aerie makes me care about the mother, and without giving too much away, really feel for Jasmine’s plight as she tries to cope with dark changes within the family. This is my favorite part of the book.

When Jasmine goes off to war to save her family from further disgrace in the post-Communist takeover of South China, we start getting the Zhivago feel again. From the homes taken over and sectioned off, to the hopelessness and dazed way Jasmine’s father sleepwalks through his ruined world to the romance that blossoms mid-war between Jasmine and Wesley, an American officer at the Korean front. They grab hold of what they have, brief and shining, yet intensely real, perhaps felt all the more because of circumstances. Wesley offers Jasmine his whole soul, but “can make her no promises”. And while there is a passionate, brief and heart-breaking love story, overall, the book ultimately makes the case for the life of the inner self versus the greater good sacrifice of Communism. The joys of having dreams, hopes and fears kept alive when the rest of the crazy world outside-the war and the Communist rigmarole is telling you not to; to get rid of your thinking problem as Jasmine is reprimanded again and again. This only serves to steel her heart and her spirit, to grab what is hers and hold true in a difficult, shifting landscape.

We need more books like this. We need to get back to the meaning in fiction. Luckily, this book has a great love story, and interesting time period and a beloved heroine. I loved it.

The Dance of the Spirits

Cover Reveal The Undead-Playing For Keeps Elsie Elmore

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The Undead Cover

THE UNDEAD: Playing for Keeps by Elsie Elmore

Genere: YA Paranormal

Publisher: Curiosity Quills

Cover Artist: Alexandria Thompson (gothicfate.com)

Release Date: September 3, 2014

Blurb

When an undead woman with serious de-comp issues stalks sixteen-year-old Lyla Grimm, her hope of rescuing her rock-bottom reputation takes a back seat. Especially once Lyla’s new talent of resurrecting the dead draws the attention of Eric, a Grim Reaper with a guitar and a chip on his shoulder.

While Lyla navigates the gossip-ridden halls, Eric works to gain her trust and discover why Death’s clients aren’t staying down. If she passes on her gift, his death-messenger destiny might be altered. But the closer he gets to Lyla, the less sure he is of his plan. The dead are way easier to deal with than the living.

Gossip explodes, the Grimm family implodes, and desperation sets in. Death wants the gift and a soul. Lyla and Eric face hard choices with hidden consequences. Sometimes life’s choices aren’t really choices at all.

Chapter One Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE

Lyla

 

My stomach drops when I see the dead woman lying on the table. Convinced the dim light is playing tricks on my eyes, I reach over and flip the switch. The overhead fluorescents flicker on and light cascades down onto the body. Dread replaces the doubt. I move closer for a better look. She’s not peaceful like the others. This is bad, really bad. Mom will go ballistic when she sees this.

“Lyla, what are you doing back here?” Ben whispers and gives me a playful shove.

I flinch, almost coming out of my skin. Ben’s always been better at the scaring game we started a long time ago. While I both love and hate our game, I also suck at it.

I turn and squint at him. “Asshole. This room should be off limits.”

“Language,” he chides and clicks his tongue. After glancing at the body, he steps up beside me and snickers. “You’re in so much trouble,” he says, drawing out each word as if it were a paragraph.

“No, I’m not.”

“Where’s Kate?”

“She’s gone, I guess.”

Kate Huntington, the eccentric beautician with tacky green highlights is gone, and only her handiwork remains. Glittery blue eye shadow and sapphire eyeliner cover the dead woman’s lids. Black mascara coats her lashes so thickly that her eye sockets resemble piles of tangled spider legs. She looks like a showgirl, an old, dead showgirl. I don’t even want to acknowledge the dark foundation, the cherry red lipstick, or the words “I quit” scrawled in eyeliner across her forehead.

“Mom and Dad are going to freak when they find out she left this. Mrs. Weller’s visitation is tonight.”

“Wait.” Ben’s interest shifts and he takes a closer look at the still body. “This is Mrs. Weller?”

“Yeah.”

“Leave her. Nobody will come see her anyway.” His nose wrinkles at the lifeless form. “Everybody hated her.”

“You hated her. I don’t think everyone else did.”

“She was horrible.”

“You’re still holding a grudge? You were in seventh grade when she busted you for taking off during the Chamber of Commerce field trip. Let it go.”

I lean closer to Mrs. Weller’s face. She looks like a sweet old lady, if you ignore what Kate did, but Ben always hated her. Then again, Ben dislikes most of his teachers. They all want him to work harder to meet his potential. Ben has other plans for his potential.

“Whatever. You wouldn’t know. Your nose stays stuck so far up their—”

I elbow him in the ribs. “Grab me a wet washrag. I’ve got to fix this.”

“No. I’m not touching anything in here, her included.”

“I didn’t ask you to touch her. I just asked you to get a washrag. You scared?”

“Disgusted is more like it.”

I huff, walking over to the sink. The room reeks of disinfectant, but it’s better than the embalming room smell that clings to everything like cobwebs.

“Are you worried Dad will mistake your help for interest? You know, this place isn’t the enemy.”

“Easy for you to say. He’s not trying to steal your future.” He crosses his arms. Ben’s senior year has been a struggle about his future. He and Dad both want control.

Grimm Funeral Home is now run by the fifth generation of Grimms. Dad worked here part-time as a teenager and returned after college just as his father before him had and so on and so on.

“What are you doing here anyway?” he asks. “Mom and Dad will be pissed if they catch you back here.”

“I came to ask Mom about spending the night at Cassie’s.”

“But Mom’s not in here.”

“I know. But I couldn’t walk by the door without peeking. And this is what I found.”

The water from the faucet splashes around the big white ceramic basin. Every room down the back hallway has too much white: white walls, white counters, and white cabinets. Everything feels sterile, worse than a doctor’s office.

“You’re really going to touch her?” Ben asks, now standing farther away from the table.

“Yep. I am.” I haven’t thought about it enough to freak myself out, unlike Ben. “It’s just a body without a soul, like a table. No big deal. Well, except for the horrendous makeup.”

“I wouldn’t. Mom and Dad are going to rail on you if you screw this up, which you’re going to do.” He sweeps his dark hair off his forehead while he inches backwards. “You don’t wear makeup. How are you going to know how to put it on?”

“I’ll rely on my artistic ability.” I dab Mrs. Weller’s face with the warm rag. “Besides, I do wear makeup.”

“Lyla, stop.” He points at the table. “Aren’t you supposed to be licensed or vaccinated to do this? What if she was sick or something?”

Is that genuine concern in his voice? “I’ll be fine. Besides, it has to get done. Mom’s got too much going on today and Dad doesn’t know the first thing about makeup.”

“Touching her is a bad idea,” he snaps.

 

Want to put The Undead: Playing for Keeps on your Want To Read list on Goodreads:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22131059-the-undead?from_search=true

 

ElsieElmoreAuthor Bio

Elsie Elmore lives in North Carolina with her husband and two kids.

With a science education degree from NCSU, she never imagined she would someday write stories that challenge the laws of nature. She loves the color red, has an appreciation for chocolate and coffee that borders on obsession, and wishes fall temperatures would linger year round.

Elsie is a member of several writing organizations: RWA, SCBWI, and WSW. The Undead : Playing for Keeps is her debut novel. Find her on the web: on twitter at @ElsieWriter, her blog, or on Facebook.

Historical Research Tips For the Writer

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If you’re writing Historical Fiction you’re most likely in love with the past. While writers adore research and taking notes, diving into costume templates and other delights, it’s important to remember that unless you’re writing a text book there’s Story and there’s History. Don’t confuse the two.

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Historical facts are like backstory. Their there to enhance, not overwhelm. A delicate hand is needed to spice up stories if we’re going to transport readers to the world we are recreating. It’s rich details, the little bit of this, and little bit of that we can use to enliven stories without dumping a lot of unnecessary, dry facts on top of readers who will turn away.

Histort tUDOR AT DINNER

Because history to me is so enjoyable, when I approach a project in the early stages, I give myself a time limit to do research. It helps keep me centered on story, and prevents a trip far off field that will prevent me from actually writing the story and over-researching. In fact, I under-research. In the beginning. When I get into the draft, I leave blanks if I haven’t read deeply enough and go back after my first draft is done to read more on the topic so I can flesh out the scene first. Always remember, story first. I typically limit my initial research to two weeks to a month, depending on scope and familiarity with subject matter. I watch documentaries, read primary and secondary sources and research costumes. I do not research technical aspects yet, such as weaponry and language. Once I start writing the draft, I review notes and let the story guide me. If something needs more research, I’ll note and go back. The old Stephen King Cleveland trick. These things are usually things I want also to see in person. I’ll watch a YouTube video first, then schedule an appointment with a local expert. That’s it.

hist hieroglyph

It’s crucial not to get overwhelmed with details. If you’ve loaded your draft with too much detail or find your characters speechifying-teaching history-you’ve gone too far. History like backstory is a spice. While I want readers who enjoy that time period to be charmed and delighted, I know I’ve done my job when I’ve transported a reader who knew nothing about the era. Those are the ones you should be aiming at. Don’t be afraid to use foreign words with elan, these are the things that bring your world to life.

If you don’t know how to do it, try something like, “I wrapped the rich uchikake around my shoulders for warmth. It was always welcome to have padded kimono on a night like this.” You’ve defined the item once, now be free to use the word again without having to define and the effect is seamless. The reader gets it.

Hist Mantionette

How do you like to research? Do you dive in or do you do just enough to sprinkle the story?

Getting Serious About Writing

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I was chatting the other day during my errands. Writing came up, and they grew wide-eyed and interested as they asked, almost conspiratorially, “You’re a writer? How do you get published?” I realized then, that the novice who dreams of writing, is all too interested in putting cart before horse. It was only after I was slugging bundles in the back seat that I wished I could have said more.

Vict CRit Part

I vaguely recall that place. Where the drive is nascent but not yet crystalized enough to carry them through the long days night. They really have no idea what they are doing. It’s dangerous, and kinda exciting too. Pull up a chair, or a bed because it’s not easy and it’s not over night. It’s not even next week, maybe not even next year.

1.) Forget publication. For now.

So often when we start thinking the world is ready for our stuff. If you’re just starting out, the world is not ready. You’re not ready. Develop your craft. Take classes through Writers Digest or local extension schools. Write and write some more. If you’ve written a novel or have a Nano project that was never EDITED TO DEATH, forget about subbing. You’re barely out of the gate.

2.) Get in the habit.

Write every day. If you want to write a novel, make an outline first. I started out years ago as a panzter. It made the editing process extra-long and while the book got better with every draft, I knew there was a better way. There are great books on craft out there. Story structure will save your life. You can’t hope to plot out a novel correctly without some form of road map.

3.) Get an obsession.

If you find a higher reason to write all the better. Figure out why you want to do this, not money. Not fame. And when you do, don’t talk about your work. Keep your novel close while you’re in writing phase, don’t show it to friends and family. Trust me, your enthusiasm will wane. It always works for me. This will help you through the endurance phase, when your writing buddies quit, but you have the chops to stick it out.

4.) Speaking of writing buddies.

If you can’t post your work because you can’t take it, you’re not ready. You need good critique partners to swap with. They are your only line of defense in a tough industry. Getting editorial help is a good if you can afford it, but it WILL NOT GUARANTEE success. Why? You pay editors. They have a pecuniary interest in your work. They also take too many projects, if they are in demand. You need unbiased truth here, the kind you will only get from friends who want you to succeed and who play a valuable role helping you along the journey. You help them, they help you. They are the best help you will get, and you will learn hugely by critiquing their work.

5.) Read often.

Writers read. It’s that simple. You can’t learn the craft if you don’t read what others do. Read wide, in your genre and read outside your genre. If you’re trying to get published, read as many debuts as you can to crack the code.

6.) Believe in yourself.

Not everybody can write, despite the old saw that everyone has a story inside. If you can’t write, you’ll find out sooner or later. But if you learn the craft and stick to it, you may be able to get better. It takes grit and a thick skin, those who would give up at the first rejection letter will give up. They won’t believe in themselves or their story. They’ll be swayed by one agent’s opinion and won’t realize that while they can always improve, writing is subjective. Not everyone will love their story. But someone will.

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Here’s a great link to K.M. Weiland’s site on Story Structure. I highly recommend the book.

http://www.kmweiland.com/book/structuring-your-novel/

If anyone is interested, e-mail me I have great Theme/Structure Chart you can use to help plot your novel. It’s copywrited by a well-known agent so I will not post. But it helped me immensely.

Happy writing!

Matsumae Daimyos of Japan’s North Hinterlands

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When I was researching my book, The Secret Life of Concubines, I was interested in setting the story in a portion of Japan not as well known. I had seen the movie Silk, and my imagination was immediately captured by snow on pine. Hokkaido was that outpost that I chose to set my series. When I was looking around for inspiration for my daimyo-antagonist character, Matsumae couldn’t have been more perfect.

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Though the character of Matsumae Yoshinobu is fictional, his backstory is one of rebellion and going it alone. The Matsumae ruled a portion of the island of Hokkaido, “Ezo” as it was known in the 1600s, and were given a unique fiefdom from the shogun. Most of the territory was wild, impenetrable forest. The native peoples called Ainu had settled it for years and were down as far as the Kuril Islands. The Ainu were tribesmen, completely different to the Japanese. They lived off the land, hunted and were considered unkempt and inferior. In exchange for protection of the northern borders against Russian and Ainu incursions, the daimyo were given a free hand. This was huge. It meant that the Matsumae didn’t have to travel every other year in a costly tribute journey like most other daimyo. They were left alone and they developed a thick skin.

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The life was hard. Rice didn’t grow, they had to import their rice because winters were long, and the Matsumae relied on trade with the Ainu, of which they ran several taikin outposts as they began to subject the native peoples. Historians have noted that Matsumae daimyo are weak, inconsequential and occupied an anomaly in Edo’s otherwise centralized system of daimyo management. The shogun needed them. He was across the Straits on another island, Honshu, and that made administration of the hinterlands difficult. The northern borders were extremely important especially when Russia began to make more trips into Japan, and by the 18h century, there was real fear that they meant something more sinister.

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In 1792, a seminal voyage from the Russians convinced the Edo government that the Russians were up to no good, that they had reason to suspect conquest. A Russian ship led by an officer of Finnish-descent, Adam Laxman landed in Hakodate and wintered at Matsumae castle. They demanded trade, and needed supplies. They pulled out papers signed by their Empress giving them authority to offer trade with the shogun. They had Japanese castaways with them that had washed up on Russian shores. They wanted to return them as a sign of goodwill. Europe was in flux. The French Revoltion infected the Russian Empress with paranoia who suspected the castaways as spies, but that was beside the point. The Russians meant to leverage them. It was all for naught. What started as a “friendship mission” was viewed with disdain and hostility. The daimyo met with the Russian ship, but told them they were unwelcome to trade. He gave them a paper that said they should go to Nagasaki if they wished to return and one ship a year would be recognized. This paper has been debated for centuries. The truth is, the Japanese were really calling the Russians bluff, and didn’t expect they would return.

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The trip was considered a disaster. The Russians lingered through a never-ending winter with meager supplies and no trade treaty, but as the first Russian voyage to step foot in Northern Japan, they were treated somewhat decently. They didn’t help themselves to the women of Matsumae, and they behaved when they were told to leave in spring. But the threat was there. It was real and the Matsumae daimyo performed a valuable service in keeping the Russian bear from marching on Edo.