Monday, May 23, 2016

Fiction and Research by Jacqueline Seewald

You’ll notice that a lot of writers set their novels and short stories in places they either live in or have lived in. This may seem provincial, but in fact, it makes for good writing. If authors know a place well, they can create a realistic setting, an intriguing background for their writing. Setting is one of the important components of any piece of fiction.

My adult mystery series, featuring amateur sleuth and psychic librarian Kim Reynolds, consists of four novels: THE INFERNO COLLECTION, THE DROWNING POOL, THE TRUTH SLEUTH and THE BAD WIFE, all set in Central New Jersey where I lived for forty years.

But what about historical fiction, writing about times and people of long ago? The answer here is that writers need to do research. The fact is that every type of fiction, contemporary or historical, requires a certain amount of research, some more than others.

I believe the best fiction combines elements of what we actually know with research into what we need to find out. I’m no fan of info dumping in fiction, but writers do need to read and discover a lot more information than they will actually use in their work before they begin writing.

A good way to find out about a particular period in time is to peruse available reference books at your local library on the period. Examine time lines first. What important events were happening in the world, in that particular country and in the geographic area, historical as well as political? How did people dress? What did they eat? What were their general beliefs?  How were women treated? Your library catalog will allow you to locate appropriate books that you can borrow as well. Reference librarians can also provide helpful input.

One historical novelist suggests writing the book first and then researching the areas that need filling in. But I prefer immersing myself in an historical period and setting before starting to write. It’s true there will always be some essential information that requires further research. However, that should be part of the revision process.

I tried to seamlessly incorporate the culture and history of the turbulent historic West into my novel THE KILLING LAND. The characters represent the viewpoints and prejudices of those times. A lot was going on in the Arizona Territory in the 1880’s. And a lot of it was pretty violent. You had cattle barons and ranchers opposed to sheepherders and homesteaders and vice versa, leading to range wars—people fighting over land rights. Then there were Native Americans, many of them hostile to the people they saw as usurping their ancestral lands. There were also lawless outlaws to contend with.

My main character, Mary MacGreggor, is no cream puff, but as a settler coming from the East with her family, she discovers life in the West poses many challenges that she was unprepared to contend with. The reader discovers them right along with Mary.


There’s a lot of satisfaction is both reading and writing well-researched fiction whether historical or contemporary. Which do you prefer?

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Making Mother’s Day Memorable 2016 by Jacqueline Seewald

The idea of an official celebration of Mother’s Day in America was first suggested by Julia Ward Howe in 1872.  She became famous with her Civil War song, "Battle Hymn of the Republic". Anna Jarvis is actually recognized as the Founder of Mother’s Day in the United States. She never married or had children herself. However, she got the inspiration for celebrating Mother’s Day from her own mother Mrs. Anna Marie Reeves Jarvis, an activist and social worker. Mrs. Jarvis expressed a desire to have a day set aside to honor all mothers, living and dead, and pay tribute to the contributions made by them. 

 By 1911, Mother's Day was celebrated in almost every state in the
Union, and on May 8, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed a Joint Resolution designating the second Sunday in May as Mother's Day.  Mother’s Day is now celebrated in several countries including the US, UK, India, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Turkey, Australia, Mexico, Canada, China, Japan and Belgium. People take the day as an opportunity to pay tribute to their mothers and thank them for all their love and support. Sadly, Anna Jarvis became disillusioned by the commercialization of the holiday.

Today mothers are honored with many kinds of gifts: cards, perfume, jewelry, candy, flowers, plants. If a mother is a reader, books are great Mother’s Day gifts, either print or digital.

What most of us who are mothers appreciate most is simply spending time with our children. Sharing a meal like a brunch or dinner together is one way of making the day special. If children live and work too far away to visit, a phone call is always appreciated.

My gift to other mothers this year is some fun free reading--since this is International Short Story Month as well.

For a Mother’s Day story:

“The Art of Listening”

BEYOND THE BO TREE is a collection of ten romantic short stories of all types and lengths. Amazon offers the first one, “The Phone Call,” as a free read:

For a flash fiction story take a look at “Bacon Bits” in SAINT RED:

Many of my mystery short stories are free reads from such publications as: THE GUMSHOE REVIEW and OVER MY DEAD BODY!

What are your thoughts regarding Mother’s Day? How do you think this holiday should be spent?