All story is built on an idea. Like a great oak is born from a tiny acorn, every idea has to start somewhere. The difference is, unlike growing one plant from one seed, ideas can germinate from multiple sources, blending more into a recipe or blend to serve your own nefarious purposes – to get your hero and heroine, and quite likely your villain, into the proper space and time.
All or Nothing is historical fiction, based upon facts. A series of interesting points from the same time period in Arizona Cavalry history, when mixed together became the story that it is today. What I needed:
- A setting – I chose Tucson, Arizona of the late 1870s. Having grown up there, I used to spend hours daydreaming about the people who inhabited the fort, built the adobe structures, looked upon those same mountains…
- A motivating/inciting incident for my brooding hero – I chose an incident from history that was in my backfile – a newspaper article by Tucson reporter, Bonnie Henry, when she discussed the horrors of the Camp Grant Incident from 1871. A group of powerful citizens of Tucson took it upon themselves to pal up with one side of a Native American war, and see to it they obliterated the Apache tribe under supplication to the military. This horrified me when I read it, and even more when I realized that so many streets, districts of Tucson boasted the names of the men in charge of the mess. How would a soldier with a conscience, doing as told, have handled such a massacre? Thus, became Bowen’s backstory.
- A reason for my heroine to head west, and meet said brooding hero—well, what did a woman do in the 1870s? She was either a wife, a teacher, possibly a nurse, a seamstress. As I’ve always loved the art of stitching—seamstress she became. And, her erstwhile hubby—a dreamer and schemer—received a contract to make military uniforms for Fort Lowell…that she must fulfill after his murder.
- A mechanism for such a strong minded heroine to lean so heavily upon her hero/and a mystery for them to solve, together—An Arizona Highways article led me to the brief blurb about El Tejano, one of the bandits who roamed the Tucson area mountain trails in the late 1870s, terrifying his victims with a horrible mask and the Mexican phrase, Todo o Nada…All or Nothing. Not only the title, but his catch phrase. And, who better for him to set upon than a young widow traveling through the mountains, flying by the seat of her pants, powered by faith that someday things would be better for her.
Years ago, while an archaeology student at the University of Arizona, I studied the laundresses of Fort Lowell, under the tutelage of the Museum Curator, David Faust. He loves to talk about the women who worked the fort, how the officers’ wives felt about them, and how important and unsung they were. Mr. Faust told me about the landscape of the area, gifted me with articles that described the area rivers in detail—now dry and dusty, diverted to reservoirs. I’ve moved those files with me from home to home over the course of fifteen years, and finally found a story worthy of using them.
While I had the framework of the idea, and the story in full swing, occasionally I’d find myself in need of “seasoning.” I no longer had the luxury of running to the Arizona Historical Society to view their archives of photographs, but I did have their web site to sift through. And, thanks to the Google Book Project, I had access to writings and journals from people who lived in the time period and place I was researching. I poured over Martha Summerhayes’ Vanished Arizona, her account of growing up in the west, a new Cavalry wife, available in the public domain. Though only a small portion takes place at Fort Lowell, she taught this writer about what it was like to travel during that time, to be a mother during that time, and provided the name of my hero from one of her lesser characters. Bowen. Loved it. Had star quality, even if her description is a far cry than my own devastatingly handsome hero.
With yellow pad in hand, I took notes. On Martha’s remembered sights, scents, sounds. It was a start, but I needed more. I needed details on dress, costume, what resources were available for a woman in a remote fort. What would she buy at the post store? How would she ride a horse? How long would it take to go by horseback from the fort to the city? To the edge of the mountains? Plus, I had the advantage of hiking that terrain most of my life, and an author’s imagination of how someone from a time with no air conditioning in the heat of the summer, no indoor plumbing, and no ready access to a Walmart would handle the perils and pitfalls of being a woman during that period of history.
Of course, there was creative license. It’s fiction, after all—and sometimes, even with the history in hand, you need to bend facts to meet your plot-needs. But, before bending them, you need to know what really happened, and make it work for your modern audience.
So, how’d it all pan out?
Reviews of All or Nothing have been overwhelmingly positive, remarking on detail, setting, and story. The recipe was sound, the ingredients meshed together in proper flavor, and the seasoning enough to provide an intriguing event for my hero and heroine to reach their happily ever after.
Researching the elements of history were key to success, and most of it, from the comfort of my living room couch, courtesy of my wireless internet access.
Yes, it’s barely necessary to darken the doorways of a library anymore –though I do, whenever possible—because nothing can replace the skills of a knowledgeable librarian, and the scent of book stacks.
- Camp Grant Incident – 1871: Original article pulled—which I spoke with Ms. Henry about at length. The Rebuttal: http://www.azstarnet.com/public/comm_editorials/Peter_Vokac_334394.html
- Fort Lowell – a US Cavalry fort in Tucson, Arizona. The fort was in full swing in 1876, decommissioned in 1879-1880:
- Archives at Historical Society: http://lista.azhist.arizona.edu/cgi-bin/Pwebrecon.cgi?DB=local&PAGE=First
- Museum Site: http://www.oflna.org/fort_lowell_museum/ftlowell.htm
- Plan of Fort Lowell: http://www.oflna.org/fort_lowell_museum/fort_lowell_1880%20map.tif
- Military in Arizona Territory: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arizona_Territory
- US Army Uniforms – Uniforms were contracted out by the Post – researched on Wikipedia, and through visiting numerous sites, including: http://www.ushist.com/cavalry_dragoons.htm
- Costumes and dress of a traveling woman in 1876: http://www.ushist.com/wardrobe/ladies.htm
- Army Laundresses – the women in service of the soldiers, and were in fact paid by the army by the soldier (often paid better than the soldiers!) and also received steady rations. So, what was her life like? Resources like this are useful, found through google searches: http://www.armylaundress.com/theirjob.htm
- Transportation – the train didn’t reach Tucson until 1878, so how would a woman traveling with her sister reach Tucson from Kansas City, Missouri? — I literally ran into an almost train wreck here, having an improper stop on my Atchitson, Topeka, Santa Fe line out of Kansas City. So, back to Google I went – during edits! And found some excellent maps, depicting stops, as well as how one would get from Colorado to Tucson, by way of stage. Searching a variety of resources, including Wikipedia led me to a blip of a station in La Junta, Colorado: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atchison,_Topeka_and_Santa_Fe_Railway
- El Tejano – villains of the old west, vanished treasure, and approximate location, originally through www.arizonahighways.com article, and varying reports. His exact identity uncertain, due to the mask he wore – and his treasure never securely found, this time of year—A quick web search found a story of his ghost roaming the desert, challenging those who seek his treasure with their very lives… http://tucsoncitizen.com/paranormal/2009/09/28/the-ghostly-legend-of-el-tejano/
While writing this article, I’ve discovered something about historical research. It’s possible, when you talk about something long enough, devotedly enough, that you can in fact put your own thumbprint on history. Research of El Tejano, more often than not, brings up blog posts I’ve written on this unsung villain of our desert. See my comments on him here:
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Yesterday was crazy. Life has been beyond insane as of late, and I was taking a few hours out of my schedule to actually get my hair done. My therapy under the expert hands of Dina at the Temecula Salon and Day Spa, with the added benefit of getting an awesome cut and color in the bargain.
At any rate, with one foot out the door, and a final check to e-mail – it came. A note from Elizabeth West. My hero. The one who saw something publishable about All or Nothing. The one who loved my book enough to buy it. AND, I’m discovering, the one who keeps me honest with my writing. She has located every nook and cranny in the pages where I subconsciously cheated. Would RuthAnne say this that way? How could they walk past the stable when they just left it five minutes ago? How could a stagecoach perched on a ledge be wedged in a crevasse? All of the questions on continuity where needless to say – I blew it.
So, time to roll up the sleeves! Elizabeth rocks. I will review each comment with my own fine-tooth-comb, and make sure the characters remain true to themselves and their story. To make sure that my bandit is just as dastardly as he needs to be, and of course, that everyone lives happily ever after.
When I handed the pages back to her last time I thought I was sick of them. Now that they’ve been returned to me – as one of my editor friends mentioned – bleeding from all of the comments and deletes and changes – I am prepared to go to work. To dress the wounds. To resolve the unfinished issues. To find all of my choppy sentences and flesh them out. To not change my name to Miss Placed Modifier (haha) but to institute good grammar wherever I have broken a Chicago Manual of Style rule. Except in conversation!
I’m in school. I’m learning every day. My husband asked me this week where all of this entrepreneurial and creative energy stems from, and honestly I don’t know. All I do know is that I write because I love it. I love this story as much as I love the home that I am cozying up each and every day. Each wall that I’ve painted. Each plant that I’ve dead-headed, planted, grew from a seed, or hole I’ve dug with the strength of my arms and the sweat of my brow.
The story is growing, as my garden is growing. The fact that Elizabeth is pouring her heart into these pages is stunning to me. She is equally involved in RuthAnne and Bowen finding each other. Realizing they are made for one another. Making sure that nothing tears them asunder. This project that began in the wee hours of a fall morning, with Ellie asleep in the swing, in a post-newborn, hormone induced frenetic moment – is now a labor of love for my editor and me. And so, it is with great care that I will go back and read each note. Evaluate each one in the spirit it was given, and finish this story so that we can get this book to print. All by July 10th. Holy cow.
Thank you, all of my author friends who’ve been up this creek I’m frantically paddling… for your sage advice. I honestly don’t know where I’d be without you!
This week is for celebrating. And abject terror. I sent my official final draft of All or Nothing in to Elizabeth yesterday – thanks to feedback from my Temecula Writer’s Group… special thanks go out to Dan and Denise Harmer. Denise is now my hero. You have a gift for technical writing. A gift that skipped me, I might add! *embarassed to the max with the majority of my repeated technical errors.* Let’s all pause for a note of thanks to the proofreaders out there. All right? 😉 Let’s move on!
I felt like I was at AA last week during writing group – I admitted that whenever I pause in thought during heated writing – I type a comma. this results in TONS of revisions as my comma splices are identified and plucked out, one by one. Does anyone else have such bad writing habits?
So – all worry aside that Elizabeth will receive All or Nothing and want to throw it in the trash! – This week will be for celebrating. I need to scare myself up a bottle of Ruby Cuvee from Southcoast Winery… EXCELLENT offering, I might add. Ideal for celebrations.
I’ve been reworking All or Nothing – per my editor’s comments – to look for Point of View violations. Point of View, interestingly enough, is also the focus of my writer’s group this month. And, it just so happens that I’ve learned a few things in the process of fixing these Point of View errors.
- You generate suspense when your character/reader doesn’t have all of the information.
- The need to go back and reread something for clarity is all but removed when the POV is right.
- Deciding who has the most to lose in a scene – and therefore should be the POV – is a challenge. A BIG one.
I’ve got 30 pages or so to finish and then I can call it a book. Read it one more time and send it on its merry way to Elizabeth. Who, incidentally, has the same name as my sweet Ellie. A God thing? Maybe. I’m just terribly grateful for such a professional, wonderful editor. She’s really helping me become a better writer and I am learning to love the process.
Does anyone else feel that when you are forced to edit something, nothing is so juicy as all of those ideas that are floating in the aether? I have to force myself to edit when all I want to do is idea generate. To plot and plan. I have three books waiting to get started – new ideas, not to mention the three ideas on the back burner to be rewritten from scratch. *SIGH*
30 pages. Not insurmountable. Just need to knuckle down and get it done.
I found out on Wednesday night that I had tonsilitis. What adult gets tonsilitis? Me, apparently. At least it explains my ping-ponging fever, and why I could no longer swallow. Perry was sick last week, me this week, I’m praying the girls stay healthy.
I’m 50 pages from being done with my first pass at revisions – then it’s off to the next phase – the Editorial phase – of which I’ve never been on this side of the coin. Scary! exciting! I’m so ready. Reading all of these authors – these women on the Wild Rose Press message board – I can’t wait to say that my book is on the market.
I’m also toying with several ideas on stories for the White Rose Line. So, we’ll see what happens next. For today, I need to go play with Ellie. Rachel and Perry are doing the Dino Dad Day at school. Ellie needs some mommy time. If I can work in edge wise around Grandma. Ha!
Well, ladies and gentlemen…I’m officially “in the garden” as they say. I have my author’s link up on The Wild Rose Press website. View it here…
I’m also meeting some fantastic fellow authors – the ladies in the garden are most prolific. It’s actually most exciting and gives me a great deal of hope that All or Nothing will be more than a single title for me. Those who know me well know that writing has always been my heart’s desire. And, wow. Here we are in rewrites.
Speaking of rewrites, here’s a note as to progress:
I’m up to page 87 of 304. I feel really good of about 80 of them. (The page number/total changes as I rip scenes out, rewrite the POV, and I have to admit – some I mourn the loss of and others I can’t believe I ever clung to as if a liferaft in a stormy sea!)
My overwhelming issue has been with my supporting cast, if you will. Yes, it’s interesting to know who they are and how they think and feel, but as Elizabeth has reminded me again and again, the story is about RuthAnne and Bowen. And come to think of it, I’m a glosser over myself when I’m reading chapters such as these. AND when you gloss over your own chapters, that would be a big warning bell I would think.
The Online Writer’s group I’ve joined is really neat. So far, I’ve “met” an author/cover artist from San Diego – and Canada – and various other well wishers who all lend phenomenal support. I’ve evaluated my character’s opinions about me… (yikes. Never suspected Bowen would consider me a gossip!) and all of that. Crazy. Now I am looking to consider my writing process. Well, fits and starts seems most appropriate these days.
I have a stack of half finished plot outlines, WIPs and scraps of paper with ideas that I had at 3:45 am – which apparently is when my brain wakes up with creative fervor! my body however, flings a pillow over my head and forces me back into a restless slumber. That is, until I’m summoned by two year old Ellie to soothe a nightmare, fetch a cup of water, and now for heaven’s sake! take her to the potty. She’s 2! she potty trained herself and doesn’t even use her pull up at night! must limit her fluid intake prior to bedtime. MUST. *sigh* Maybe I’ll finally get the hang of motherhood by the time they go to college.
Of course, last night – my inspiration is this love of time travel romances that is flitting through the garden. I have one in my drawer – in need of a rewrite since many elements from that one migrated to All or Nothing (my stories are by no means monogomous in their pre-published formats).
SO – perhaps this one – Working title “The Hawk and the Raven” – a 3:47 am inspiration – might get my attention next. I will say this. Seeing all of these amazing women working on multiple projects, juggling family, career, life, the universe, and everything is incredibly inspirational. I finally feel like I’ve found where I belong.
FYI: Ellie is missing from Pic as she couldn’t stop climbing the Cave of Wonders, and had to be removed by her daddy – whom I am quite sure was bummed about not watching Jasmine. Look at her! I would have been bummed, too!
This morning, Rachel slept in and I spent some serious snuggle time with Ellie watching Dora. Then we wrote names on her Leap Frog clickstart computer. She’s learning how to use the mouse. She’s also digging the song I taught her to spell her name – what 2 year old can spell Elizabeth? Mine can. 🙂 So proud. Then Rachel came downstairs, hair looking more like Madeline Kahn after becoming Mrs. Frankenstein, asking when Grandma was coming. HOLY COW. My mother’s coming out this weekend. My house! Where’s the housekeeper! What about my rewrites????
Then I remembered. Priorities. First my immediate family. Then my extended family. Then the rest of my life (writing, work, etc. etc.). I’ve added a new plate into my juggling routine. I now have to write in order to remain accountable. BUT – suddenly, it’s all I want to do. BUT – therein exposes my need to prioritize. Daily. Hourly. By the minute. What the heck am I doing blogging right now, anyway?
Anyway, after a nice note from my editor, I’m able to breathe again. Did I mention how cool it is to write for TWRP? They are endlessly helpful, my fellow authors are enormously encouraging, and I feel I’m drinking from this well off creativity – so much I’m overflowing! However…
It’s impossible to maintain a certain level of excitement for an extended period of time. I’m also going to have to step back from the message boards so I can get something done today other than lurk. Ha. SO – this morning, I’m contemplating the questions that the moderator of our online author’s group asked of us. Namely:
- How does your main character feel about you?
- What position do your characters sleep in?
- Describe your story in under 25 words.
All challenging. I love this. So, I’m submitting my responses -and must go back to solving the world’s bibliographic problems! so that I can pick up my kids and take them to the park. Oh. And go to writer’s group tonight. Thank heaven for an understanding husband. If only I could find him underneath all of the laundry.