6 Principles for Writing Historical Fiction | Jane Friedman

Research is one of the very first steps on your journey to becoming a historical fiction author. Here’s a safety warning: you’re about to dive down a whole load of research rabbit holes. From ancient cutlery to medieval agricultural techniques, there is a lot of stuff historical fiction writers need to know about. Secondary sources are your starting point, but primary sources, particularly letters, newspaper reports, and diaries are also vital.

Don’t be afraid to push the boat out and visit some archives, and, for that matter, do go and visit historical sites relevant to your story if you can. If you want to get really immersed, you can read the fiction of your period, cook the food, or even try and find authentic recreations (or possibly recordings, depending on the era) of the music.

Here’s the thing, though: you’re going to do all of this research, and then you need to discard 95 percent of it. Don’t actually delete your notes, obviously. What I mean is, only a very small fraction of your research should actually make it into your book. The sum total of your research will make the world you create feel real and authentic, and you need to deploy little details carefully and selectively to immerse the reader, but don’t be tempted to show off and dump everything you’ve learned onto the page. Otherwise you’ll end up with a dry tome of a history book, not an engaging historical novel.

via 6 Principles for Writing Historical Fiction | Jane Friedman

Reorganizing My Space


Hi, everyone. Like so many these days, our household is taking advantage of the shelter-in-place to reorganize. For the past week, the target was my office. To be honest, it’s been a disaster for a long time.

The first steps were to take everything off of the surfaces and the floor and move them out (whether in boxes or into the trash … as we did some of that on the fly). Then, everything was mopped down and washed. At long last, I moved my day job office materials from the dining room table to one work surface, and my personal set-up to the other. What you see above is the net result. Details of each set-up follow. While it’s a work-in-progress, I can at least now function properly … and have a deliberate separation between the day job and my own time.

This is my “day job” set-up. Note that I still have some fun, personal items to keep it interesting.
This is the author side of the house. I’m still working on getting things exactly as I want them, but I can function now without feeling cramped.

Weekend Reads: “Ace Boon Coon”

5/5 Stars

I received an ARC of this book via NetGalley in exchange for a review. The book is scheduled for official release on September 15, 2020.

When I opened the first Elliot Caprice novel, A Negro and an Ofay, I told my husband that I wanted to be Danny Gardner when I grew up. His prose takes you smack into the middle of a scene (in that particular case, a Chicago jail cell during Jim Crow) and doesn’t let go of you until after you close the cover of the book.

In this sequel, Caprice is still trying to help save his uncle’s farm, as well as figuring out how many of his old friends from childhood are involved in a racketeering “short paper” operation (aka, collecting protection money) … and why so many of them seem to turn up dead.

One of the things that was a little confusing is that flashbacks to Caprice’s childhood were not readily delineated. You had to figure out from context that he was now a little kid, or a teenager, or a soldier … and then you’d find yourself back in the main setting of the book. It was a distraction at times, as I had to go back and re-read to make sure I understood what was going on.

In the end, though, Gardner presented another solid historical noir detective story with more twists and turns than Chicago has back alleys. Highly recommended.

Music Monday: “Trying to Get to You”

I’m trying to get back on track with my regular blogging features, so now we’re on Day 11 of this challenge: a song you wish you could witness live.

This is a tricky one, as I’ve been fortunate to see so many of my favorite artists in concert. Many of them have passed now, so that’s the list I went to for answers.

I finally came down on the side of Elvis Presley performing “Trying to Get to You.” This performance is from the ’68 “Come Back Special,” which aired when I was four years old.

This really is my favorite Elvis era. I even visited that leather suit when I was in Memphis.