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?

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Research = Stories. Which is what I love about this stage of the book.

It's pretty cold up here in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont today. Morning began around minus 24 degrees (F), full of bright sunshine, and I pulled out my "long johns" and layered up for an excursion to the nearest frozen pond -- and also to deliver a book to a neighbor, and pick up our mail. It's good to realize, after more than half my life spent here, that I really do know how to dress for comfort, even in such extremes.

Plus, of course, it puts me back into the mind of Almyra, the young woman in the book I've just started writing (no title yet, but the first chapter begins right after a snowstorm: "The silence woke her. That, and the cold."

Almyra would be outdoors on a day like this -- she had little choice! And she'd add layers the way I did, although I doubt that she would have worn the pair of brightly striped Ecuadorean knitted legwarmers that made my final-layer fashion statement of the morning. But she would have loved my fuzz-trimmed hood! I already know that she seeks comfort, at the hardest moments of her life, in going to a quiet place outdoors and letting her heart become calm. Me, too.

But other than her personality, everything else about Almyra's story, set in 1899, depends on research to frame it. So I walk a lot in the nearby towns, looking for signs of the "old days" along the way. The "Gold Medal Flour" advertisement on an upper wall of the "Brick Diamond" building in Lyndonville (better known locally as the building where Edmund's Drug Store used to be) captures a bit of that 1899 commercial feeling.

The Census from 1900 also provides details that I need -- here is one of its pages showing my "target of reseacrh," Albert Stern, still living at home with mom and dad even though he's 19 -- but then again, so is his older brother Samuel, 23, and their sister Clara, 25 ... or was it just something like a family meal that brought them together with the younger teens at home, Isabelle (17) and Benjamin (15)? Here's where the author's choices take over from the facts.

Also on target this week: the Poor Farm in St. Johnsbury, Vermont, as mentioned in an article from the Vermont Historical Society; Census pages describing the Dolgin family, which didn't arrive in the area until 10 years later; an oral history project with a couple of the Dolgin family members, giving the feel of the early century; and photos of trains in snowstorms.

What's next? Well, I know it's hard to imagine, but in the next post here, I'll show you something with shillings and pence ... from Vermont!

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