The Mystery of the Inspiring Author

by Tammy Trail

I am sitting in my office deciding which author I should choose to focus on for this month’s blog post. Too many to list. Do I pick a current favorite, or chose one from childhood?

We moved around a lot while I was growing up in the 70’s. I think being the new kid is the worst thing, ever. After spending a week or two in a new classroom you realized most of the kids sitting around you lived in the same neighborhoods, attended the same church together and shared the same classrooms from preschool to middle school. I absolutely hated middle school. You could not pay me enough money to relive those years.

Instead of being Miss Popularity (never even got close), I was the bookworm. I had a book with me everywhere I went (I still do). While my classmates were visiting before class, I would pull out my book and read. Once in awhile a teacher had to physically remove a book from my hands  to get my attention. I heard a familiar phrase during those years,  that while they appreciated my love of reading, I had to learn other skills too. So, in honor of that geeky, scrawny, metal mouth pre-teen I am going to choose Carolyn Keene, author of the beloved Nancy Drew mystery series. My favorite Nancy Drew book was “The Secret of Shadow Ranch.”  I imagined myself right there with Nancy as she searched for clues and dared to go against tradition and prove girls can achieve wonderful things just as well as boys can, or maybe even better sometimes.

While doing a bit of research I found that the name Carolyn Keene was a pseudonym for several authors. No one person came up with all of those page-turning stories, but several writers authored the Nancy Drew books. One was Mildred Wirt Benson who wrote under the pen name from 1929 to 1947. She wrote the first twenty-three books of the original thirty book series. I also was amazed to find that her second marriage to George A. Benson, an editor for the Toledo Blade, landed her in my home town of Toledo, Ohio. Mildred was a bit of an adventurer herself, and a fearless like Nancy Drew. She made trips to Central America, traveling through the jungles in a jeep and canoed down rivers, to scout out cultural sites. In 2001 Mildred Benson received a special Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for her work on the Nancy Drew series.

Click to Tweet: I imagined myself right there with Nancy (Drew) as she searched for clues and dared to go against tradition, prove girls can achieve wonderful things just as well as boys can… from @trail_j via @InspiredPrompt #mystery #amreading


I still like a good suspense or mystery story to read. If you are so inclined, feel free to indulge in my story. I wrote a historical romance, with a bit of intrigue for a compilation with three other authors. I hope you will find enjoyment from all the stories.Tammy Trail, Mary Vee, Pamela Thibodeaux

Major John Tennant has recently returned from his post on the frontier to find his home razed to the ground and his children in the care of strangers. He struggles to bring the man responsible for the murder of his family to  justice while providing for his children.

After her fiance is impressed into the Royal Navy, Elaine Henderson is willing to do anything to help her brothers fight against British oppression. For years she has carried a bitterness in her heart until Providence replaces it with two motherless children.

Get Star Spangled Suspense at Amazon

What Is So Historical About Research?

By Tammy Trail

When I began to write my first novel, I knew it would be a historical. I love history. I love the idea of our nation being shaped by hardworking men and women who sacrificed to live in an untamed country. I chose Frontier/American Revolution because that’s what I like to read.

I began of course with WHO, WHAT, WHERE, and WHEN. I was given advice from a writer friend to research everything for accuracy and keep notes on where I found that information. I may need it later to educate or confirm my research.

If you just google Historical Research, you will find a plethora of options. Historical research involves examining past events to draw conclusions about the future. That is one definition I found. Instead of drawing conclusions about the future, we who write historical fiction pour our definition of past events and how they might have affected our characters onto the page.

Some material that may help in your research are newspapers, diaries, letters, speeches, or interview a person with firsthand knowledge. Museums, historical societies, and old pictures are helpful too. I would really love to take a “research” trip one of these days. Williamsburg Virginia has been calling my name for years.

Other information you may need to research.

  • Food
  • Clothing
  • Trades
  • Politics
  • Travel
  • Weapons

In my American Revolutionary story, politics plays a huge role because it set the social and economic climate for that period. I read about some of the lesser known places and heroes that played a part in our winning independence from Great Britain.  I also asked myself what roles would a woman have played during the American Revolution? How does life go on when your men are away from home?

I have even read novels from other authors who write in my chosen time to get a feel for that era. I stay away from books that have a plot like my own. Some authors write blogs about their extensive research to share with others. Something as simple as shoes were totally different over 200 years ago. Beware of doing so much research that your story becomes bogged down with just facts, and not enough story. You can do too much research and never introduce your character to the world.

I have used Pinterest to keep pictures of my character’s lives. I can look at them and imagine what the interior of a home would look like, how my heroine may have dressed for chores, or how she may have dressed for a party.

I also dabbled in writing a western set in Wyoming territory in the early 1800s.  My heroine is a Chinese national who arrives in San Francisco on a ship. During my research for that story, I found a ship that sailed from China to that port in 1854. Now some of the other facts in my story had to be changed to fit that timeline. And that’s OK. It adds authenticity. I also needed to learn about the US Calvary, Indian tribes who were indigenous to that part of the country, and what obstacles my heroine might encounter because she was not born in the United States.

When you have all your questions answered and you begin to write, chances are you will find you have more questions. Keep researching or seek out an experienced author. I find that someone is always happy to help.

Writing Prompt: In what year did the following events take place?

  • Senator Daniel Webster endorses a bill as a measure to avert a possible civil war.
  • Millard Fillmore is sworn into office as President of the United States.
  • California is admitted as the 31st state.
  • P.T. Barnum introduces Swedish Nightingale, Jenny Lind to an American audience.

Click to Tweet: What Is So Historical About Research @InspiredPrompts #writetip #amwriting

 

Blast From the Past

It has been called the last great decade. I don’t know about that. But for me, it was one exciting ride! During those ten years, I had two babies.

My son made quite an impression. He was the biggest baby in the nursery weighing 9 lbs., 6 ozs.

Not one to be left out, my daughter weighed 9 lbs. and was the only girl in a nursery full of boys.

Blast from the Past house moved

While our family grew, we moved our house to its current position and remodeled it. Later on, this former drop-out became a life-long student and chose to homeschool her children.

No question about it. The 90s were unforgettable—the good and the bad. Do you remember…

News

First Gulf War-Operation Desert Storm
Mandela freed from prison, won the Nobel Peace Prize, became President of South Africa
Presidential candidate William Jefferson Clinton (D) became the 42nd President of the United States of America
Genocide in Rwanda
O. J. Simpson Trial
Oklahoma City Bombing
The Una Bomber
The Clinton Scandal

Television

Friends (Remember the raves over Rachel’s hair?)
Seinfeld
Home Improvement
Full House
Family Matters
Saved by the Bell
Dawson Creek
X Files
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Law and Order

Movies

Titanic
The Silence of the Lambs
Forrest Gump
The Matrix
The Lion King
Saving Private Ryan
Jurassic Park
Home Alone
Star Wars: Episode I -The Phantom Menace
Men in Black
Beauty and the Beast

Books

Notice a lot of these books became movies. Do you have a favorite on the list?

Bridget Jones’s Diary
Golden Compass
Harry Potter
Outlander
Ella Enchanted
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
The Notebook
The Firm
A Walk to Remember
The Pelican Brief

Sports

Tiger Woods (21) youngest golfer to win the Masters
Tara Lipinski (14) youngest figure skating champion
LeAnn Rimes (14) youngest Grammy winner.

Toys

According to Stitchlabs.com the top selling toys of the 90s include the following:

Ninja Turtles
Power Ranger action figures
Razor scooter
Furbabies
Beanie Babies
Buzz Lightyear
Tickle Me Elmo

Prices

Fun facts from 90s.com

Postage stamp: .25–.32
Bread: 1.29–1.62
Milk: 2.15–2.41
Gas: 1.08–1.11
Cars: 9,437.00–13,600.00
Houses: 128,732.00–119,250.00 (No, I didn’t write the number backward. Houses were less expensive at the end of the decade. WOW!)

Now you know my story, how about sharing your own blast from the past in the comments!

Click to Tweet: It’s been called the last great decade – A Blast from the Past.

Writing Prompt:

From the headlines above, choose one incident and write a scene. Where is the setting and what is your character doing? Try to incorporate all five senses to help your reader visualize the scene.

Save

Genesis – Back to the Beginning

By Tammy Trail

Our family was never big on going to church. We did attend a local Lutheran church down the street  for an occasional Sunday School class, or Vacation Bible School during the summer breaks. I learned about Jesus through this sporadic exposure to the Bible.

In 1994, when I worked as a paraprofessional at a local grade school, I was invited by a small group of teachers to join their Bible study group. Just like all things that are meant to happen for a reason, it changed my life and set me on my path of true healing.

Our first study was a survey of the Old Testament. My love of history and genealogy made the book of Genesis my favorite Old Testament book. Granted there are parts of this narrative that have always made me scratch my head, but what great stories of  God’s promises to his  people.

Examples of incredible faith are found in the pages of this book. Of course, Creation is the main story everyone remembers from the book of Genesis, but you’ll also find plenty of heroes and heroines. This is the beginning history of God’s chosen people, the Hebrew nation.

The story of Abraham and Sarah is a great testament of faith, and obedience. What an adventure God sent them on, and all the while he blessed them with wealth, knowledge, protection, and wisdom. Noah is a favorite of my grandsons now. I asked my four-year-old grandson, Kayden why he thought it was good to remember Noah. He didn’t know, so I told him that Noah listened to God and did what God told him. That is why we remember Noah. Kayden told me he wants to listen to God too. Yep, I’m starting them young!

Who could forget the story of Jacob? His story reminds me of the soap operas on daytime television not so long ago, the exception being that God was involved with Jacob’s life. Jacob’s youngest son, Joseph, had an equally amazing story to tell. God’s fingerprints were all over this young man from the very beginning. He had set a plan in motion from the time Joseph was born. I especially like Josephs’ story.

Everyone usually associates Joseph with his coat of many colors gifted to him by his father, Jacob. Like Joseph, my life growing up was not all roses and sunshine, and having excuses to hold grudges or unforgiveness was understandable. God had other plans for me, just like he did for Joseph. Forgiveness can be a learned experience, and blessings may come out of following God’s plan for it.

 I have continued to learn from studying my Bible. I confess I don’t do it as much as I should these days, but I will always be grateful for the invitation to attend that first small group Bible study. It set me on a good path.

Click to tweet: A small group Bible study changed my life and set me on my path of true healing. #Bible #smallgroups

Writing Prompt: Fanny Mae wanted to stay home on this rainy, chilly day. Her only reason to go out was she didn’t want to get behind in the Bible study of …………

What Makes a Cartoon Classic?

For your entertainment and enlightenment, I am interrupting our regular posting schedule to provide a look at a classic cartoon (via YouTube).

What makes a cartoon a classic, besides the obvious fact that it’s old?

Writer’s prompt: Watch this cartoon (or you can fast forward through it if you don’t have time to watch all of it).

  1. What classic elements does it contain?
  2. Can you guess the era?
  3. Is there a message?

Remember: Completing one of our Writing Prompts gains you an extra entry in our quarterly drawings! Submit your completed writing prompt via Comments.