Sunday, September 21, 2008

ACFW Genesis Contest Winners!

Whoo-hooooo! I'm jazzed that Kindred placed third in the Historical category of the 2008 ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) Genesis Contest. Winners were announced last night at a banquet in Minneapolis, during the annual conference. Wish I could've been there, but my photo was, as far as I know, popped up on screen in a powerpoint presentation. Hopefully I can get some first hand accounts, once the conferees come trickling back home.

Can I get a witness?

Here's the full list of winners (I entered Kindred under the title Trouble the Water). Congrats to all!

Chick lit, mom lit, lady lit Category:
1st: Erica Vetsch, Pam On Rye
2nd: Lynda Schab, Mind Over Madi
3rd: Tiffany Kinerson, Stand On My Own Two Hands

Contemporary Fiction Category:
1st: Dan Case, The Voice
2nd: Christina Berry, Undiscovered
3rd: Jim Rubart, Book of Days

Contemporary Romance Category:
1st: Annalisa Daughety, Love is a Battlefield
2nd: Kathleen Haynes, The Quarterback Club
3rd: Cara Slaughter, Joanna's Treasure

Historical Fiction category:
1st: Mona Hodgson, A Thimble's Worth
2nd: Rachel Moore, A Trail of Waves
3rd: Lori Benton, Trouble The Water

Historical Romance category:
1st: Patty Smith Hall, Flights of Freedom
2nd: Karen Witemeyer, Cloud by Day
3rd: Erica Vetsch, Marriage Masquerade

Mystery/Suspense/Thriller category:
1st: Jane Thornton, Menace
2nd Donna Alice Patton, Wrestling Demons
3rd: Janice Olson, Don't Look Back

Romantic Suspense category:
1st: Jenness Walker, Deja Vu
2nd: Dani Pettrey, Quest
3rd (tie): Kelly Ann Riley, A Cowboy's Prayer
3rd (tie): Jane Thornton, Be Anxious

In the Science Fiction/Fantasy/Allegory category:
1st: Chawna Schroeder, Metamorphosis
2nd: Lynda K. Arndt, The Song of Blood and Stone
3rd: Valerie Comer, The Girl Who Cried Squid

Women's Fiction category:
1st: Heather Goodman, 50 Things To Do Before I Turn 30
2nd: Cynthia Ruchti, They Almost Always Come Home
3rd: Kristian Tolle, When Autumn Comes

Young Adult category:
1st: Carla Stewart, An Unexpected Journey
2nd: Stefanie Morris, The Dragon of Delarest
3rd: Kasey L. Heinly, Broken Glass

And to top it off we are having our first lovely rain shower after a long dry summer, the new dog is freshly washed, and my husband just went to get pizza for dinner. Ah.... life be good.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Say What?

Or better yet... Say How?

I've had a lot of fun, and spent a lot of time and sweat, rendering various dialect and accents for my characters in Kindred, including Scottish, French, German, English, Irish, Quaker plain speech, early backwoods American, and the dialects of slaves of varying education and experience.

In fact, it was to do with the subject of accents that I began writing Kindred in the first place. Diana Gabaldon, author of the Outlander series, wrote a minor character into her fourth book, Drums of Autumn. That character was Josh, a slave on the North Carolina plantation River Run, owned by Jamie Fraser's aunt, Jocasta. I was as astonished as the rest of the characters in her book when Josh opened his mouth and out came a dialect of Scots.

What in the world? Well, of course it's explained in context. If Josh grew up owned by a Scottish family, and was exposed primarily to that way of speaking, it follows that's how he would speak. But I was still curious. Had Diana based Josh on someone she found in her research, or was he a fabrication of her fertile imagination? Fortunately, since I've hung out at the Books and Writers Community off and on for about a decade, I could ask her (Diana is on staff there). When she told me she had run across several instances of slaves, owned by Scottish families, speaking both Gaelic and Scots, I began to wonder what that situation might have been like from the point of view of the slave... or perhaps the child of such a slave. Mother and daughter, say... and so Lily and Seona came into being.

Back to the task of rendering such dialects and accents in written dialogue. I've been told that less is more, and to strive for a cadence of speech unique to the nationality of the speaker, rather than employ excessive phonetic spellings (or misspellings) of words. The latter can be hard to decipher and tends to create a visual stumbling block, while the former gives the flavor of accented speech, while remaining easily readable. Choice of words and phrases, a sprinkling of idioms, a few foreign words or phrases now and then, help to render a character's speech into a recognizable and believable accent or dialect.

Picking up an ear for accents has been a long, organic process. From reading primary sources like letters from the period, and journals, to novels written at the time (I just finished listening to Robinson Crusoe, published in 1719, and which my literate characters would likely have read). I also read as many modern historicals as I can get my hands on, in which the author has done a skillful job in rendering whatever accent I'm currently struggling to bring to life on the page.

It's also great to belong to an international writers forum where I can vet my German, French and Scottish accented dialogue with obliging folk who live in those countries or speak those languages fluently--or know those who do--and will correct my errors without laughing their heads off at me (at least not to my cyber face *s*).

Another thing to do is listen on line to various dialects at sites like Sounds Familiar? Accents and Dialects of the UK. This is a page of audio files featuring short conversations with folk living in the different regions of Wales, Scotland, England and Northern Ireland. A treasure trove for anyone trying to differentiate between Aberdeen and the Highlands in the speech of Scottish characters.

And just for fun, Project Gutenburg has a dictionary of Scottish proverbs you can read on line, or download for free. The Proverbs of Scotland, by Alexander Hislop.
"A bark frae a teethless dog is as gude as a bite."
This post is getting long. I'd meant to add a few more snips of dialect from Kindred, but I'll be after saving them for future posts.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

The One Liner

I've long meant to work up a one line pitch (or hook) for Kindred. Not an easy thing to do, capsulizing a Very Long Novel into one sentence, without making it run on via endless clauses for a solid paragraph.

So why bother? Editors and agents like them, for one. They work great in query letters. And when someone discovers you're writing a novel and asks what it's about, it's nice to have a concise sentence ready to roll off the tongue, instead of meandering over 800 pages of setting, plot and character, which I tend to do in such situations.

In a series of posts on pitches agent Kristin Nelson recommended examining the first 30 to 50 pages of your manuscript when writing a pitch/hook. Zero in on the main catalyst that starts the story forward--the main conflict from which all else in the novel evolves. She's talking about a pitch paragraph. But I reckon the same holds true for a sentence. It's just a little harder. Maybe.

I've played around with it from two POVs (point of views), Ian's and Seona's. While I had every intention of both characters having equal part in telling this story, Ian took control (stubborn, head-strong guy he is) and now more like 2/3 of the novel is told from his POV. Still, Seona's voice is integral.

Current one line pitches. Ian's POV first, then Seona's.

When prodigal son Ian Cameron journeys to North Carolina to become his uncle's heir, instead of settling to the life of a gentleman planter he becomes obsessed with one of his uncle's slaves—who bears a disturbing family resemblance.

When the master's nephew returns to Mountain Laurel as heir apparent, the boundaries between the Big House and the slave quarter are irrevocably breached, and one slave's secrets perilously exposed.

Anyone prefer one over the other? So far, I prefer the second one, although the two of them together make a fuller, clearer picture of the storyline (which is not genre romance).

Thursday, September 04, 2008

The Best Laid Schemes...

The best laid schemes o' mice an' men/Gang aft agley.

Or so says Robert Burns. Proverbs puts it, "The mind of a man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps."

I meant to focus on writing this summer (more so than usual, that is), in hopes of finishing the last section of Kindred before the ACFW conference. One thing and another has distracted me from that goal. It's been a year when death and illness has visited so many that I love, drawing me away to travel or to grieve. It's part of life, and some things are more important than writing. But the longing to be here weaving words and expanding Seona and Ian's world is always strong.

So here we are, with July and August gone and September well underway. The nights are getting cooler, though the days are still summery. It's back to school week, as I note by the kids trekking up and down my street morning and afternoon. And my writer friends are blogging about the upcoming ACFW conference.

The conference will be held over the weekend of Sept 20th. In the little over two weeks until then, God willing, I'll push aside as many distractions as possible and write with all my heart.

I managed to get a few chapters written in the in-between times when I've been home and my soul has been settled, as well as read parts of several books about the Great Dismal Swamp, which straddles Virginia and North Carolina, and contains the earliest dug canal in the United States (the digging began, conveniently, in 1793, so I could plop a few of my characters down along its banks in spring of 1794). That ought to be my last major research topic for this novel.

But you never know. . . .