In the writing room right now ...

In the writing room right now ... I have taken down the brown "butcher" paper that held ideas, photos, drawings, and my hand-drawn maps and plot outlines for the past five or six books. I've placed all those items into three-ring binders, and cleared the deck for paintings and photographs that involve courage, as I move forward in GHOSTKEEPER, the new novel set in Lyndonville, Vermont. My 1850 Vermont adventure THE LONG SHADOW is under contract with Five Star/Cengage -- I will give you a publication date as soon as I know! Scribbling lots of poems, too. And there's a possible route to publication of the "Vermont Nancy Drew" novel I built on Wattpad (see right-hand column). Yes, I guess I do like multi-tasking! How about you?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Long Road of Research

The photo here is part of the remains of the Ely Copper Mine in central Vermont. I took the back roads home today from the Vermont History Expo, in order to find the site and catch a couple of photos. This adds to information that I already have from a scientific researcher for the site. Look hard and you may spot the remains of a laid dry-stone wall at the rear -- I think perhaps from a rail bed. I stayed on the road to snap the photos, as walking on the land is banned.

And it all is part of the long, slow accumulation of detail for a book that I'll probably start in 2012 -- working title "Crowd Control" but that's just for the file folder. I already know it involves a haunting, and the long consequences of injustice. Will it be for young adults, or older readers? I won't know until the characters start speaking to me.

But for the moment, I'd rather they only whisper. COLD MIDNIGHT and THE FIRE CURSE are occupying about all of the writing brain that I've got!

Just for the fun of it, here's a photo from the History Expo, where I met with readers and history buffs at noon. The Expo takes place every second year and is well worth attending! In the photo are members of the Vermont Civil War Hemlocks (Civil War re-enactors).

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Summer in Vermont!

It's cool and rainy today (sweater weather for the evening!), but here's a photo taken on the deck yesterday morning, settling in to re-read Blood of the Wicked, a definitely dark crime novel from Brazilian author Leighton Gage. I also dipped into a Denise Mina (Glasgow) crime novel last night -- but fear not, this evening (if and when I finish writing and editing!), I'm planning to enjoy reviewing a new and very gentle Vermont novel by Laura Stevenson. Take a peek tomorrow morning if you like, at my mysteries (and sometimes poetry) review blog, kingdombks.blogspot.com.

Friday, June 25, 2010

More Stories That Matter: Local News

Here's a photo of the construction team headed to work on the rooftop skylight of the St. Johnsbury (Vermont) Athenaeum today (cell phone photo, so a bit fuzzy!). Problem: Skylight work means the Athenaeum's noted art gallery is closed for the season. Opportunity: Another part of the building, Athenaeum Hall, has a glorious history including visits from President Benjamin Harrison, Henry Stanley ("Dr. Livingstone, I presume?"), receptions for other speakers like "Mrs. General Custer," Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, Horace Greeley -- this was a hotbed of discourse in the late 1800s! So a handful of us collaborated this spring in researching these "stories" and an exhibit will open in a week or so, lingering through summer and early fall, giving visitors to the Athenaeum a new set of adventures.

To see the work of creating this exhibit, check out our "workspace" at http://stjathenaeum-hall.blogspot.com.

I am so excited as I tell people about "Libbie" Custer and her powerful effect in redirecting history around her husband's disastrous battle; about how Stanley pandered to Victorian taste in his narratives (that are now strongly in doubt in several portions); about President Harrison's light-bulb moment that resulted in flags in public schools; about Lincoln's argument with Horace Greeley. If people can be seen as plants, our roots are in these stories, and our blossoms and fruit are shaped by them, whether for good or ill.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Chinatown, Boston: Today and 1921

How can I walk back through time to discover Boston's Chinatown in 1921?

One way is through the Chinese Historical Society of New England, which graciously allowed me to join a group tour earlier this month in order to hear about the district and how it has changed, along with the memories of CHSNE members and details from their studying and collecting. Thank you, Caroline, Nancy, and more.

Most important details learned in terms of 1921: no New Year's parade or festivities outside the home at that time, and VERY few women, due to the harsh conditions set by the (US) Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which by 1921 had widened into the Asian Exclusion Act.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

History Sleuthing

When I'm working on an action novel or mystery set in another time period -- like THE LONG SHADOW, set in 1850 during the Underground Railroad in Vermont -- I'm in full detective mode. I carry a small pocket notebook, file cards, pens, camera, and sometimes even a magnifying glass. And I hit the road for almost as many hours as I'm at the desk.

Most critical in triggering THE LONG SHADOW was a visit to Rokeby, the best documented Underground Railroad station in Vermont. If you'd like to visit, the site is open in summer, or drop in at the website: http://www.rokeby.org/home.html. At Rokeby are photos, letters, furnishings ... all the reality of life lived fully, more than a hundred and fifty years ago. And Director Jane Williamson's research on what "really happened" in Vermont at that time -- I can say absolutely that this was key to the adventures and view of events that unfold in the novel.

Also important, as any story takes shape, are the details of clothing, food, roadways, forests, wildlife. The Vermont Fish and Wildlife team helped me pin down the presence of wolves in 1850; a friend at the Smithsonian Institution provided resources for the "how" of 19th-century dishwashing, which I needed to know about in order to get enough detail into some family scenes. And I used early photos and drawings of the village of North Danville, Vermont, found mostly in a graduate thesis by Gerald LaMothe.

It takes more than a village to research a book properly!

This week I'm excited about visiting Chinatown in Boston, for a tense scene in the novel now unfolding at my computer: COLD MIDNIGHT. I need to know what Chinatown looked like, felt like, smelled like, in 1921. I'll fill you in on some of the discoveries next week.