My Historical Short Stories

Upon completion of a fiction writing course I took in 2001 through the continuing education department of Queens University of Charlotte, I was afforded the opportunity to join the Queens Writers Group. The group thrived under the guidance of Queens University writing instructor Judith H. Simpson.

Before Judy’s death and the subsequent disbanding of the Queens Writers Group, I got to write historical short stories that were published in two books:  Inheriting Scotland, edited by Theresa Reilly Alsop in 2002 and Tales For a Long Winter’s Night, edited by Judith H. Simpson in 2003. Both books were self-published in paperback and printed on-demand.

Look for "The Tailor's Shears" in this book of short stories
Inheriting Scotland, edited by Theresa Reilly Alsop

Inheriting Scotland

For a story to be considered for inclusion in Inheriting Scotland, I had to choose an item that had been hidden away in Lochar Castle in Scotland centuries ago and write a short story around that item’s history when it is discovered in the 21st century. The item I selected was the tailor’s shears. My story, “The Tailor’s Shears,” is set in 1703 and begins on page 177.  Inheriting Scotland is available in paperback and Kindle edition from Amazon.com.

Tales for a Long Winter’s Night

Imagine my surprise when Judy told me that she had selected my story, “Slip-Sliding Away!” to be the lead story in Tales for a Long Winter’s Night! She praised the strength of my story and gave my writing ego a boost. My story is set in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina in the year 1771.

I got the idea for “Slip-Sliding Away” from an oral history story about the funeral of President Andrew Jackson’s father. In my story, why did Daniel die? And why was his funeral so funny? This book is available in paperback from Amazon.com, and my story begins on page 3.

The short story about which I'm proudest.
Tales for a Long Winter’s Night, edited by Judith H. Simpson

It was a thrill to see something I’d written in print for the first time! I had fun writing the two stories and have toyed with the idea of writing several more historical short stories for self-publication in book form. I hold the rights to both stories, so I can publish them as I wish.


What’s next for me?

My semi-confinement due to my fractured leg and subsequent pulmonary embolism seemed like the perfect opportunity for me to pursue the idea of writing a collection of short stories. On February 29 I started working on a couple of short stories. I plan to write several stories set in America in the 18th and 19th centuries.

It’s not been easy to get my creative juices running during this new normal in which we find ourselves. Slowly, though, I’ve gotten back into doing the historical research necessary for the writing of historical fiction. Although I take creative license in imagining some relationships and all conversations, I try to make the setting and the people as true to life as I can based on my research.

Most recently, I’ve enjoyed reading and rereading some documents and various books that offer background information for the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence. Signed by 27 men of some standing in old Mecklenburg County, North Carolina (made up of the present counties of Cabarrus, Union, and Mecklenburg) on May 20, 1775, it predates the national Declaration of Independence by more than a year.

I’ve written a rough draft of a story set in May 1775 in Mecklenburg County from the perspective of a couple who feared that war with Great Britain was inevitable.

You’ll be the first to know when I’m ready to self-publish a collection of my stories! I think it will be a good way to “get my name out there” before I finish editing my historical novel. Self-publication will be a learning experience for me and one that I will gladly share on my blog. Stay tuned!

Since my last blog post

In addition to researching and writing a short story, I’ve been for physical therapy twice. It’s strange to put on a mask and enter a place of business where the receptionist and therapist are wearing masks and to try to make small talk when there’s nothing happening except the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s slowly sinking in that things will never go back to the way they were in 2019.

Restaurants in North Carolina are still open only for take-out or delivery. Banks are open on reduced hours. Essential businesses like grocery stores and pharmacies remain open for pick-up and delivery. As of May 8 at 5:00 pm, a few stores opened in the state, but there are restrictions on how many people can be inside a store at any time. As of Friday, we in North Carolina entered “Phase One” of reopening for business. Gatherings of more than 10 people are prohibited.

Each of the 50 states in the US have their own rules and regulations for reopening businesses and getting people back to work. It is a confusing hodge-podge of conflicting and restrictions. I don’t think anyone knows just how bad this pandemic is and will continue to be for years to come until a vaccine is developed and made available worldwide.

Until my next blog post

Be creative. Be careful. Stay safe. Stay well.

I hope you have a good book to read. Last night I finished listening to Big Lies in a Small Town, by Diane Chamberlain.

Let’s continue the conversation

Do you like to read short stories? Would you consider purchasing a book of my short stories? (Don’t worry. I won’t hold you to it!)

Janet

3 plotline considerations

In my blog on March 25, 2016, I wrote about my writing instructor, Judith H. Simpson. Taking her fiction writing course at Queens University in Charlotte in 2001 was a life-changing experience. Writing the 95,000-word manuscript of a historical novel with the working title The Spanish Coin has brought me much joy. When I started my writing journey, I didn’t even know what I didn’t know. Some days, I think that’s still true.

Today’s blog post looks at some of the things Judy taught about plotline. She said in developing a plotline a writer needs to consider the stakes, “that dreaded middle,” and plausibility.

No matter which genre, a book’s main character must have something at stake. Something the main character holds near and dear must be at risk.

Pics for Blog 008

Chances are the writer has the book’s beginning and end well in hand before “that dreaded middle” comes together. The main character must take two steps forward and one step back throughout the middle portion of the novel. Every time the main character makes progress, that forward movement must be met with a setback.

Is the plot plausible? It cannot sound contrived. When the reader finishes a book, he must be able to look back and know that the manner in which the main character went about solving her problems, dealing with conflicts, and meeting her challenges was logical.

Without high stakes, a compelling middle, and plausibility, the reader will be disappointed in the plot and, therefore, will not be satisfied when he finishes the book — IF he finishes it.

I invite you to also follow my writing journey on Pinterest www.pinterest.com/Janet5049, where I have various boards pertaining to writing and some of my other interests.

 

 

The value of a good writing teacher

It was my privilege in 2001 to take a fiction writing course through the Continuing Education Department at Queens University in Charlotte. The instructor was Judith H. Simpson. Judy was a jewel and a natural-born teacher. She always had time for each of her students, and she organized and moderated the Queens Writers Group — a group that any of her former students were eligible to join.

When I get stuck, bogged down, confused, or just need a little encouragement in my writing life, I can turn to the words Judy left behind in her book (Foundations of Fiction), my notes from her class, e-mails from her that I printed and kept, or postings she made on our yahoo group’s site.

Judy Simpson's book cover 002

Judy had a way of explaining things in a nutshell and giving examples that clearly illustrated the points she was making. She delighted in seeing her students improve and succeed. I wish Judy were still here to nudge me along to get a literary agent and get my historical novel, The Spanish Coin, published.

It has been my experience that most writers are happy to share what they have learned with those of us who are still just beginning our journeys as writers. If you aspire to be a writer, I hope you will find a writing instructor/mentor like Judy Simpson. Through her class and caring, Judy helped me to take my first steps as a writer. She gave me the confidence to keep putting one foot in front of the other and to keep writing after she was gone. Come to think of it, is that not the true definition of a teacher?

Canton Public Library Author Event

On Monday afternoon, December 1, I had the pleasure of talking to people who had participated throughout the month of November in National Novel Writing Month “write-ins” at the Canton Branch of the Haywood County, North Carolina, Public Library about my experience while writing a book for Arcadia Publishing. This was different from all my earlier speaking engagements about by vintage postcard book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.

The audience members were attentive and asked some good questions at the end of my presentation. I enjoyed my time with them. I felt like we were kindred spirits since I, too, hope to get a novel published someday.

In addition to talking about my experience in writing a book for Arcadia Publishing, I told them about Judith H. Simpson’s book, Foundations in Fiction and recommended that they look for it. It is a good “nuts and bolts” how-to book about writing good fiction. Judy was my teacher fall semester 2001 at Queens University in Charlotte. Her Fiction Writing course was a life-changing experience, and one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. Judy is no longer with us physically, but she is a very real presence every time I sit down to write. Judy was a gifted teacher.

Each time I have a speaking engagement, I feel a little more at ease than the previous time. I hope that means I’m getting better at it, too!