How to Write Historical Fiction Without Really Trying

Today I’m excited to have a guest post on Amie Winters’ blog, the author of Strange Luck and soon-to-be-published The Nightmare Birds (available for pre-order now!). Amie and I write very different books, but we have tons in common, from collecting fun socks to being writers from childhood. In fact, tomorrow is her monthly Throwback Thursday Writer event (#tbtwriter), so check back in with us both for this month’s fun (and usually funny) posts.

Before I wrote Anatomy of a Darkened Heart, I was sure I would never write historical fiction, even though I enjoyed reading it. In fact, I didn’t think it was possible for me to include that much research in a fiction book. So how does someone who is convinced they can’t write a genre end up with a debut novel, an upcoming fall publication, and a 10-year publishing plan that all revolve around that “impossible-to-write” genre? Find out in my guest post on Amie’s blog! Click here to read.

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YouTube Review of Anatomy of a Darkened Heart!

Yesterday, Peter Clark the Writer left a magnificent YouTube review of Anatomy of a Darkened Heart. I’m so excited to share it with you! He even reads some of his favorite passages and lines, and see that in the background? That’s the wallpaper wrapping paper I used to send him his signed paperback. It’s pinned to his board! Coolest guy ever? I think so.

If you’ve read Anatomy of a Darkened Heart or if you’re interested in reading it, please pass on his video! Peter really covers the book and its many facets well. Thanks for watching!

Anatomy of a Darkened Heart Review by Darker Voice!

Yesterday I was blown away by Travis West’s (Darker Voice’s) wonderful words about Anatomy of a Darkened Heart. Travis isn’t a guy who likes any ol’ book or movie, so I was on tenterhooks as I read every word he wrote. Here’s a sample of his review: “The language is melancholy and beautiful, concise but with a Victorian flair that keeps you reading page after page, word after word.”

See Travis’ full opinion here, and if you want to learn more about the man himself, visit him here.

 

19th Century Jewelry!

The website I’ve sponsored this month, The Victorian Era, has a well written and visually stunning post up about Victorian jewelry. You’ll find everything from symbolism in jewelry (you know that’s my favorite section) to styles you may not have heard of, summarized beautifully and succinctly, and did I mention the beautiful pictures?

Come visit Geerte’s post here. I’m sure you’ll love it!

Monday Thoughts on Creativity: Ditching Clichés

Aaaaand we’re back from the weekend. Happy Monday!

creativity-think

I think this quote is true of success in general, but creativity in particular blooms from original thoughts about the same old thing. In particular, think about descriptions.

There are so many clichés out there, so many overused phrases that we accept in every single book. It’s really special when I read a description of someone frowning, or a gesture, or even a color in a way I’ve never read before.

As a writer, sometimes I think, “Well, how else am I supposed to describe a frown?” Really there is an uncountable number of ways, but we tend to automatically feel cornered into clichés like “brows knitted together” or “eyebrows drawn into a V” because they’re what we’re used to – pre-approved and always understood. Creativity is looking at simple things like that and turning them into something that works off the ambiance of the scene, the situation, or the personality of the character: “She didn’t frown – it was too harsh an expression for her, too base and unattractive. Instead, her face remained an unreadable stone, even blank where natural creases should have been.” Here we learn something about the character’s personality (self-righteous and cold), what she thinks of others who frown (vulgar), what she thinks of herself for not frowning (attractive and well bred), and her looks (wrinkle-free skin).

Creativity is thinking outside the box – way outside the box – so that everything comes alive in 3D ways you can practically reach out and touch.

 

Alice in Wonderland is 150 Years Old!

I know I’m a few months late on this (read: 3 months late – “I’m late for a very important date” indeed), but this year Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland turned 150 years old. WOW! Even though it’s been around so long, somehow it still seems new. Maybe that’s because it’s constantly being refreshed through new movies, videos games, short stories, poems, etc. Imagine a 150-year-old story being redone and reinvented so many times. What an accomplishment!

In honor of this momentous occasion, I want to share with you my favorite rendition of Alice in Wonderland.

Have you ever heard of the video game Alice by American McGee, put out in 2000? How about Alice: Madness Returns, a more recent follow-up published in 2011? The former was a very underrated, under-the-radar game with a twist on Alice like you’ve never seen before, and it’s my favorite of the two because of its originality.

In the game, Alice is now a teenager. The beginning sequence shows us that when she was young girl, a fire started in her house, and her parents were trapped behind their bedroom door. She escaped, but her parents died, which scarred her psychologically not only for losing them but for not really trying to help or save them and instead just saving herself. She is admitted to a psychiatric hospital because of this traumatic event, and the game picks up when she’s a teenager still in the asylum. Cue the rabbit hole and Wonderland, which keep her trapped inside her mind as her only way to deal with the trauma in a way she understands. Now Wonderland is tainted and some characters are helpful while others try to kill her. They all represent sticking points in the recovery from her childhood trauma, and she must fight her way through Wonderland and, ultimately, the Queen of Hearts in order to escape her own mind.

That storyline was love at first read for me. What a way to spin a children’s classic into a teenage adventure. It’s also a great way to discuss trauma and recovery through a familiar character. It’s never mentioned straight out in the video game, but on the main menu screen and a couple of images in the video game, self-harm is implied, brought on by survivor’s guilt. Self-harm is a HUGE and important topic for teenagers (and other ages) since many of them deal with serious issues by hurting themselves. For it to be dealt with in a teenager-geared video game, regardless of that fact that it’s only implied, is something to be applauded. Ultimately the video game sends the message that Alice is standing in her own way of recovering and she can only escape if she’ll let herself, a positive message to plant in teens’ heads.

Some may see this as perverting an innocent classic tale, but I think the creativity is commendable, especially the positive message of escaping your own demons with time, dedication, and serious work. (Side note: Recovering from trauma without professional help is not necessarily possible for all victims of varying degrees of trauma, but this is still a positive message.)

Between Alice and its more popular sequel, Alice: Madness Returns, there is a ton of fan art, cosplay, and both official and homemade merchandise due to not only the character’s dark outfit but her strength in the face of inner demons. There are very few positive (and fully clothed) female video game role models out there, and even fewer that send an encouraging message about trauma recovery. I think it’s a great way to integrate serious messages into enjoyable entertainment.

What’s your favorite rendition of Alice in Wonderland? The original or a reboot?

Character Study: Psychopaths Are(n’t) Always the Same

I love studying the way different authors, filmmakers, and artists represent various kinds of characters, so why not share my conclusions with you? Sharing makes these things much more fun.

Let’s start with psychopaths. There are so many to choose from, but I have two particular ones in mind, and they’re not from books. My two favorite but opposite psychopaths are from films: Richard Widmark in Kiss of Death (1947) and Johnny Depp in Black Mass (2015). You’d never normally relate these two characters, but while they have major differences in their superficial characteristics, they are extremely similar in the core of what makes them psychopaths.

How they’re different:

  • Widmark often laughs his insane, maniacal laugh, even during and after his despicable acts, while Depp is very serious and rarely laughs
  • Widmark never carries a gun so the cops can’t pin anything on him, while Depp is unafraid of being caught with a gun
  • Widmark takes his sweet time getting around to eliminating snitches, while Depp moves quickly to get rid of them

How they’re similar:

  • Neither has any mercy or compassion
  • Both know how to avoid being caught for their many crimes, yet both have spent time in prison
  • Both are masters of vetting potential members of their gangs
  • Both have trusted men on their side but turn immediately on those who show a crack in their loyalty
  • Both enjoy violence and not only don’t shy away from it, but they take great pleasure in threatening and hurting others themselves
  • Neither have respect for women and are just as violent towards them as men

But the most fascinating thing of all is how these actors portray their psychopathic characters. Because the characters’ cores are the same, they are drawing from the same place within themselves to outwardly exhibit their mental state. Just look at these pictures and how similar they are, even with the characters’ superficial differences listed above.

Psychopaths Widmark vs. Depp

What does this say? That psychopaths can have their own individual ways of handling things outwardly, but their inner cores are duplications of each other. You can creatively toy with their methods and the cause of their madness, but there’s only so much deviation you can believably make to their psychology. This may sound limiting, but it’s actually really great because it allows for unique characters at the same time that you already know what they’re made of inside. So their baseline creates certain expectations that are always fulfilled. As you can see from the time periods of these movies (and real psychopaths throughout history), the basic psychology has always been the same, something dependable, although that’s a strange word to use to describe it!

Who are your favorite psychopath characters, whether from fiction or fact? Film or book?