Monday, May 27, 2013

The Unexpected

Ever have one of those "Wow! I didn't see that coming" moments? My mom and I had one the other day while we were researching our family history, particularly the family of her father.

Now, her father, Gene, had 3 brothers, Max, Harry, and Jim Frank. Max was the oldest and born in 1921, I think. I knew all of them and had spent nearly every summer at my great grandmother's house. I thought I knew everything about their family. Then, my mother found this.

This is a picture of the 1920 census from Dothan, Alabama. The highlighted section shows Masco Fowler (my great grandfather) as the head of household, Belle (my great grandmother) as his wife, and Sudie, their three and a half year old daughter, who according to another website was born around December 1916.


Neither my mother or I had ever heard of Sudie. Who was she? Why can't we find any further records or her? My writerly brain is running circles around this mystery. It's probably something like she passed away before any of the other kids were aware of her, and she just wasn't mentioned. But what if it were More?

One of my grandfather's brothers is still alive. My mom is going to ask him if he knows anything. But if he doesn't, who else is still around to answer our questions? Maybe I'll just have to write my own story for Sudie.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Short Story: Mars's Story

When I was writing Spirit World, I did a few shorts so I knew the background on my characters. This one is for Mars, Irish, and V.


Kenny doesn’t remember coming to the orphanage. He has always been there. And for all he knows, he always will be.

Every day he stares out his window, through the bars, to the other kids playing basketball. He notices the asphalt is broken and the weeds poke through. Wonders what it feels like to run on it. Knows that it’s pointless to wonder. They would never let him play. Not anymore.

He used to play with them, but when he was six, he asked them about the strange voices in his head, and what they did whenever they heard the voices. They ran away and told The Ladies.

The Ladies gave him his own room with special windows, because he scared the other kids.

He is ten now, and allowed to come out for meals and supervised recreation, but he doesn’t. The other kids call him “Crazy Kenny” and sing mean made-up songs. So he stays in his room and reads.

The Ladies get him any books he wants from the library. They feel bad he doesn’t have any friends, but they’re scared of him too.

He reads mostly ghost stories until a new girl, who doesn’t know his nickname, comes up to his window and says, “Hi.”

He says nothing. He doesn’t usually talk to the other kids and has forgotten how.

“I’m Irish. The other kids won’t let me play. Will you come out?”

He does. They sit on the broken asphalt, playing jacks.

He practices talking with her. Discovers she makes him good at it.

The basketball rolls through their game and a kid yells, “Hey, Crazy Kenny!” holding his arms out for the ball.

Kenny throws it back, but then Irish asks, “Why did he call you that?”

He shrugs. “Ghosts talk to me.” He had figured that much out from the library books.

“Really?” She sounds amazed, not scared.

It’s a first for Kenny, so he tells her all about Sam and Lily, the two ghosts who talk to him.

She listens, laughs in all the right places.

He’s happy. Maybe for the first time ever.

She tells him stories about her favorite planet, Mars. How she would like to live there one day, what she thinks it will be like.

Really she just wants to escape. Her life has been very wrong lately. That’s why she loves his stories, and why she loves to tell hers.

A few weeks later, a knock sounds on Kenny’s door. It’s Irish, telling him The Ladies have found an uncle, and she’s going to live with him.

His world crashes.

For a solid month, Kenny stays in his room.

When he comes out, he asks The Ladies to get him some books on Mars.

He reads them all, the factual ones, as well as the made-up stories. The ones with people living there are his favorite. That way, he can imagine he’s there too. With Irish.

He sits re-reading Podkayne of Mars and hears another knock at his door. It’s a lady. Not one of The Ladies. Not as old as them either.

“Hello, Kenny,” she says. “My name is Vermillion. Can I come in?”


She sits in his comfy chair by the window. He sits on the bed, legs dangling over the edge.

“I want to talk to you about the voices you hear.”

He rolls his eyes. He’s heard this before. The Ladies used to send strange people in here all the time to talk. He thought they had stopped.

“Your friend Irish told her uncle about you, and he called me.”

He almost cries, afraid they’re going to send him away for scaring Irish, even though he didn’t. “I’m not crazy,” he pleads.

“I know you’re not. I’ve come to help. Irish’s uncle had a brother, Calvin.” His name chokes in her throat. “He was gifted like you. Like me, too.” Her eyebrows lift while she waits for him to understand what she’s telling him.

Slowly, he accepts the truth. “You believe me?”

She doesn’t answer his question. Instead, she asks a new one. “Would you like to come live with me?”

“Why?” He’s still suspicious.

“Because I can teach you all about the Spirit World.”

He’s intrigued. “Will I get to see Irish again?”

“If you like.”

That settles it. But he has one more question. “Can I call you V?”

She considers it. She’s never really felt like a Vermillion. And she wasn’t Millie anymore either. “Yes, I think I would like that very much.” She stands and holds out her hand. “Are you ready, Kenny?”

“Call me Mars.”

And they walk out the door.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Kiya by Katie Hamstead

I'm excited to bring you a blog post today by Katie Hamstead, author of the newly released Kiya: Hope of the Pharaoh. She's here to tell us a little bit today about researching her book.

First up, thank you for having me! I’m really excited about my debut NA Novel, Kiya: Hope of the Pharaoh. It’s is a Historical Romance released by Curiosity Quills. It’s the first book in the trilogy following Naomi’s (Kiya) life. It’s set during the late 18th Dynasty of Egypt, and begins when she is taken to be a wife of the infamous heretic pharaoh, Akhenaten.

This story took a lot of effort to write. With most of the characters being real historical figures, like Kiya herself, Akhenaten, Nefertiti, Horemheb, Ay, the three Queen daughters and Tutankhamen just to name a few, I needed to do a TON of reading and research on each and every one of them. I then had to figure out a timeline of events and line all their lives up. There was a lot of math to work out ages and corresponding dates.

I read up on Egyptian culture, especially during the Amarna period and the tension which ensued. The Amarna period was an enormous upheaval from the traditional ways as they moved the capital and disposed of all the gods except Aten. So I needed to understand a great deal about their religion too, and which god each of the characters favored and had to keep concealed.

I also read about daily living, what they wore, ate, how they went to the bathroom. All the small details counted to make it believable. With Naomi being Hebrew, that culture needed to be researched as well. The contrast between the Hebrews and Egyptians was dramatic, and a great source of internal conflict for Naomi. Being a stark believer in Elohim according to her people’s traditions, living in Amarna under the strict Aten only regime is hard for her and causes her trouble.

After doing all this research I was finally able to begin. But as I wrote I found I needed to research more and more so I was in a continual state of shifting events to match which historical theories I wanted to slot into the plot line. Incredibly, I enjoyed every second of it. I’d recommend reading about the time period. Being more than 3000 years ago the history is in fragments, especially as later pharaohs (especially the 19th Dynasty kings) tried to erase the Amarna period from history, and tomb robbers desecrated the Valley of the Kings for its wealth. So historians often have contradicting ideas, but that was part of the fun of it! I could pick which theory I liked the most and use it in my plot.

Some books I used while doing my research are below:

  • Littleton, C. Scott. Mythology: The Illustrated Anthology of World Myth and Storytelling
  • Tyldesley, Joyce. Egypt’s Golden Empire: The Dramatic Story of Life in the New Kingdom
  • Hawass, Zahi. Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs

That’s only three books, but most of my research came from online journals, museum and university websites etc.

Oh yes, Kiya. Make him love you, make him hold you in his highest regard....

When Naomi’s sisters are snatched up to be taken to be wives of the erratic Pharaoh, Akhenaten, she knows they won’t survive the palace, so she offers herself in their place. The fearsome Commander Horemheb sees her courage, and knows she is exactly what he is looking for…

The Great Queen Nefertiti despises Naomi instantly, and strips her of her Hebrew lineage, including her name, which is changed to Kiya. Kiya allies herself with Horemheb, who pushes her to greatness and encourages her to make the Pharaoh fall in love with her. When Akhenaten declares Kiya will be the mother of his heir, Nefertiti, furious with jealousy, schemes to destroy Kiya.

Kiya must play the deadly game carefully. She is in a silent battle of wills, and a struggle for who will one day inherit the crown. If she does bear an heir, she knows she will need to fight to protect him, as well as herself, from Nefertiti who is out for blood.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Caged Graves by Dianne K. Salerni

Happy book Birthday to my fabulous critique partner Dianne K. Salerni. Her YA historical, The Caged Graves is out today from Clarion.

The year is 1867, and seventeen-year-old Verity Boone is excited to return from Worcester, Massachusetts, to Catawissa, Pennsylvania, the hometown she left when she was just a baby. Now she will finally meet the fiancé she knows only through letters! Soon, however, she discovers two strangely caged graves . . . and learns that one of them is her own mother’s. Verity swears she’ll get to the bottom of why her mother was buried in “unhallowed ground” in this suspenseful teen mystery that swirls with rumors of witchcraft, buried gold from the days of the War of Independence, and even more shocking family secrets.

Also, check out her blog for a chance to win a Caged Graves prize pack! Congratulations, Dianne!