Thursday, November 25, 2010

e-Book on Barnes & Noble

Aurora Rescue is now available as an e-Book on Barnes & Noble.

If you want to download a reader app for a Mac computer, buy the book from Barnes & Noble.

Click on the link to the right.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Aurura Rescue Summary

            The summer of 2024, when Solar Cycle 25 reaches its highest level of solar wind activity, is a time of auroras and adventure for Marty Clark, high school graduate, and her former tutor, Cy Riverton, age 18, a physics and math prodigy entering the master's program at the university.
            For Cy, the hike to Dead Man's Drop Cliff means gathering information to solve the toughest physics problem he has ever faced: How did his friend, Eddie Burrows, disappear from there during 2024 Spring Break and end up in Pennsylvania in the year 1857?
            Marty joins the hike to spend time with Cy, someone she hopes will someday be more than a friend, just days before she is to leave on a two-month history immersion tour. She has no idea just how immersed in history she will shortly become.
            As a joke, Marty calls Cy's cell number while on Dead Man’s Drop Cliff. That starts an adventure through time that takes her from 1748 western Pennsylvania to 1758 Maryland where the fox terrier, Hunter, joins her. She befriends a Lenni Lenape woman, Green Corn, and stays with an English colonial woman, Maggie. She must rely on her wits as she is threatened by tribal warriors and British colonists alike.
            Only after Marty disappears does Cy realize how much she means to him. Unlike Eddie, Marty’s cell has rechargeable solar batteries, which he believes is key to getting her back. He communicates with Marty using text messages as they work to solve the physics involved with her travel back through time.
            Because law enforcement is already suspicious of him due to his involvement with Eddie, Cy decides his best hope for helping Marty is for him to keep her disappearance a secret. Their efforts become more urgent as FBI Special Agent Lee Hardin, refuses to “cold case” Eddie's disappearance and pursues Cy relentlessly.
            Cy and Marty race against time and across eras in an effort to use the power of auroras to become reunited before it is too late for both of them.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

e-Book on Amazon

Aurora Rescue is now available as an eBook on You can find it at the following link:
Or, you can click on the link on the right of my page.
You can also download a Kindle reader for PC, iPhone, iPod Touch, BlackBerry, iPad and Android from this page if you do not already own a Kindle.
Do you want to read the first two and a half chapters for free? Click the link on my Aurora Rescue page on Amazon. I hope you enjoy it so much you will want to buy my book to read the rest.
I loved writing this novel ~~ I hope you enjoy reading it!

Monday, August 30, 2010

In The Mail

Cover letter, one-page synopsis, manuscript, SASE and SASP in the mail--two of them to two different publishers. One was sent Friday, the other today. Until I hear something, on to my next writing project -- either Armitage or the development of the G.O.A.L.S./Jennie Graves series -- details to follow on "Books by Robyn Echols" at

Just as a weird little aside -- one of the reasons I like to watch "Ice Road Truckers" with my husband sometimes is occasionally they slip in a shot of an aurora flashing across the darkened sky.....

Thursday, August 19, 2010

And the Final-Final Is.....

81,300 words. 278 double-spaced 12 pt. typewritten pages.

I am finished -- again -- after how many rewrites? But, yes, I am happy with this one. I am writing up my submissions forms and preparing my letters for submitting to L.D.S. publishers.

Yup! You read it right.

I had not considered this avenue very seriously before. I was not interested in promoting this book to an exclusive L.D.S. audience even though I consider my work very appropriate for this group. After looking into their websites and seeing book reviews of what they are publishing, I liked what I saw. I started digging deeper into publishing guidelines.

I am still hoping for mass-market exposure and sales. It appears that several L.D.S. publishers will fit that bill if they take on my novel.

With no agent, it means I will not receive an advance. Most of these publishers are "pay as you go," meaning I need to wait until the sales come in to receive any royalties. I can live with that.

Here goes!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Series Of Changes

I have decided that the easy part of writing a novel is to get the story down on paper (aka computer). The hard part is to prepare it for marketing. At least, that has been the case with Aurora Rescue.

I just wrote the story as it came to me without thought of word count. For one thing, when I first started writing, I could not conceive writing too many words for my story. I have edited this manuscript several times, and I still find misspells and phrases I want reworded. I was so proud when I got this thing from 148,000 words down to a word count of 106,635.

However, I have contacted several agents, and the rejections keep coming back. Me and my analytical mind keeps looking at the situation and asking, "What might be turning them off? Is it because I am new? Is it my writing style? Is it the plot or characters? What?"

So, back to the drawing board a little. After looking at several agents' Young Adult genre wants for "Edgy" YA, meaning, let's have some drugs, sex and abuse thrown into the plot, I thought of redoing the book more for the Middle-age/Tween market. When I started looking into guidelines, I found YA guidelines along with them. After going through several sources, I have decided this is still a Young Adult novel.

This is more of a futuristic urban fantasy/science fiction adventure story. It turns out that genre fiction for Young Adults, which is what this is, is a lot shorter than what I could get away with for an adult novel. Right now, it is an epic novel, very hard to market in the current publishing climate.

And, that is after I cut off the part I was going to originally write into this book. That section later was designated Book 2. Now it is Book 3, Aurora Recover. Why the change? Because, in order to fit my story into the YA genre guidelines of between 60,000 to 75,000 words, the Kezia story needs to be its own separate book--Book 2, Aurora Redress. (I chose that title to be a play on words for more than one purpose.)

Marty in the colonial world of 1748 and 1758 is enough for a stand-alone book. That is how I feel I need to rewrite it before I query any more agents.

I have already tentatively separated the two sections of the book. I had to rearrange some of the Cy and Lee Hardin chapters to make Rescue work. I am still toying with the idea of changing Marty's age to 16 and Cy's age to 17, making Eddie and Andrea closer friends of them both and maybe involving Marty's younger brother Jason more. I will think on that a bit. My biggest challenge will be to come up with a satisfying ending for a stand-alone book that will also allow me to use the closing scene as a jump-off for the next book.

Right now, without rewrites, I ended up with the new Aurora Rescue at 61,547 words--right in the ballpark. The Kezia section weighed in at 45,337 words, but there is a lot more I can do with that story.

So, I am beyond a quintology. If this group of stories gets sold, I have enough adventures planned, including a trip into a dystopian future, to make it a series.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Bite the Bullet

I am going to have to "bite the bullet", as the expression goes, and fork over the money to buy Microsoft Word for my new laptop. Yes, you can open a Word document in Open Office. No, you can not transfer files interchangeably between the two programs and expect the formatting to hold.

I even tried to save my files in Rich Text Format, which both programs open, and still the formatting went all whacko. When I tried to correct it, I lost my paragraph indents.

So, now I am once again working on my full manuscript in Word, going back through it to not only edit excess, check spelling and grammar, etc., but to be sure all my paragraph indentations, quote marks and other formatting are where I want them.

All this transferring file formats back and forth--not to mention trying the copy and paste to and from the body of emails--has resulted in dropped letters and other anamolies. I know I have been through the first part of my manuscript--the part I need to send to agents--many times. Some of those errors that I worked on today are so obvious, I know I would have caught if they had been my typos. That was before all the file type and computer swapping. But, I fear, some of my sample pages have gone out with errors that will not doubt turn some agents off.


Some literary agents are agents because they love to read. Others, I get the feeling, are closet English professors who consider themselves the grammar and spelling police. Hopefully, my sample pages on which there are a couple of goofs due to my formatting problems of transferring Word files between RTF and Open Office will end up in the hands of the former kinds of agents who look more at the story and understand the little typos are the reason we have copy-editors.

Anyways, I am doing myself a favor and sticking to one version of one brand of software that will transfer text files cleanly from one computer to the other and will produce a clean Rich Text Format document that will copy cleanly into the body of an email. Time to go software shopping.

Oh, by the way, I am down to 107,104 words and not finished with this final edit.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

A Matter of Style

When I described Marty in the first chapter, one paragraph read:

"Her one concession to style was her earrings. The thin gold-plated fishhooks looped through her ears, and dropped in front where each held a polished opal stone separated from a small shaft of lavender quartz by a gold-plated bead."

It was important to describe the earrings. It was important to have them made of materials that would not be too modern. She gives them to Green Corn, my Lenni Lenape woman, in what Marty later learns is the year 1748.

Speaking of style, that is where I am delving. No, not into fashion, but into editing. Chicago Manual of Style is the industry standard for law and other technical fields, but what I own is Webster's Standard American Style Manual. Necessary, if not fascinating, reading when one is doing the final edits on a manuscript.

I have also found a professional copy-editor (Is that styled correctly?). Unfortunately, she is leaving on a month-long vacation. But, hey, at least I know that when I get an agent to say, "We are interested in your manuscript. But, Hon, you really need a copy-editor to go over this thing before it goes to a publisher," I have one I can hire. (Now, was that a sentence that needs copy-editing, or what?)

I am still whittling down that word count. I am claiming this novel at 107,000 words. I currently am at 107,478 words. Go, delete key!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Choose Your Pick

YES! I did get my first email query for Aurora Rescue off to an agency.

NO! It was not an easy process.

As if it was not enough to study from among my pre-selected possible agencies to be sure I was preparing a submission according to their guidelines, I was dealing with another issue.

I want to track my submissions on my new laptop, sans MS Word. Even though Open Office is supposed to be compatible, well it almost is. It is the little quirks that are not real compatible that just about drove me nuts last night.

As if that was not bad enough, transferring the ODT document that originated as a DOC document into the body of a Thunderbird email message was less than delightful. More formatting there in hopes that once the query and sample pages were sent, it would look like something decent on the receiving end.

Then there was that other little quirk.

After a little more editing--okay, I admit, I can edit 'til the end of time if I let myself--my grand total of words for Aurora Rescue in Open Office is 112,475. I took the exact same manuscript and dumped it into a MS Word document and came up with 110,571 words. A little bit of a discrepancy, wouldn't you say?

So, what I am I going to say to those agents who want a word count included as part of the query? I guess I can choose my pick.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Red-Letter Day

Yesterday was a "red-letter day." I not only have finished my Green Corn segment in Aurora Rescue, I finished the editing. I am at 110,749 words. A little over the upper goal of 110,000, but a far cry from the 148,004 less the Green Willow section and the double-paste Section Three to get to 106,648. I added the Green Corn, which upped it a few thousand words, but I cut-cut-cut from the Kezia section. As far as I am concerned, I'm good until I am told I have to cut some more.

My next project was to get everything transferred to my new computer. I may have mentioned earlier that I bought it when the older laptop started to stick, jump and otherwise act up. As I write this, I am still using it. But, I have the new one just in case this one decides to "crash and burn" on me.

As for transferring everything for tracking my agent queries and beyond (love that ten-key for numbers), not as easy as one would think. I bought the new laptop stripped of software, and decided to go with Open Office. Unfortunately, because there is a trial version of MS Word on there, it keeps activating when I open Word documents. So, I have converted all my files on the old laptop to Open Office. I mean, between my writing and my research notes, there are HUNDREDS of files that needed converting. That took me HOURS.

The actual text of the novel, the five-page sample, the ten-page sample and the first chapter sample (different editors want different samples for consideration) are all in rich text format. I have that plus all my novel files and my publishing files backed-up three places. Now, I will transfer it to the new laptop. My goal is to send out my first agent query tomorrow.

Part of the object is, you see, to get from the red into the black. I want to get this novel sold!

Saturday, May 29, 2010


Writing the Green Corn segments into Aurora Rescue has become a compulsion. I am spending almost every waking minute not committed to something or somewhere else sitting on my backside with my laptop perched on my knees. My legs get cold (Yes, I know it is late May, but it has been a cold spring.), my feet get numb and I eat without tasting my food, only half-mindful that I need to keep crumbs away from my keyboard. All not good except for the creative surges flowing from my brain to my keyboard.

The more I write the Green Corn story, the more I love it. I loved the longer Green Willow story that will go in Andrea's book, Aurora Remembrance, but this new segment is a golden addition to Rescue. So exciting! It resolves one of the criticisms from some of my readers who wanted more action.

Unfortunately, I am back up to 109,505 words and I have a few hundred words to go to finish Green Corn. Aargh!

I guess I better plan on doing a little cutting, trimming and alteration on the upcoming Kezia dressmaking section (pun intended) to stay under 110,000 words.

Monday, May 24, 2010

A Little Fine-Tuning

I hate it when a document that I have saved in 2 or 3 places disappears in the great electronic beyond. That is what happened to my solar cycle chart. So, I went back on the internet and found a site that had that chart.

However, I decided to also copy the information into another document and combine it with other records of aurora sightings and documented atmospheric electrical events. It was then I noticed my mistake.

My Green Corn scene was set in a year that I guessed might be a year of a solar cycle high. After looking at my chart again, I realized I had actually set it in a year that was probably a solar cycle low. I do not have a record of the solar highs back that far in time, only a record of the start of each solar cycle. I had to go to more modern years to figure out the average time a solar high occurs after the start of a solar cycle, then extrapolate it to the earlier years.

What that ended up meaning to Aurora Rescue is, I need to set my Green Corn, and, therefore, my Maggie Grimsby story, 3 to 4 years later than where I have them now. it was back to my research books and papers to find out what was happening then.

So, the Green Corn story is basically the same. It even has some of the same historical information. It just needed a little "fine-tuning" to get it set four years later in time.

Last Saturday I reviewed my research; today I did the rewrites to the chapter. On to fine-tuning Maggie's story.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Paste, Paste -- Whoops!

Got that word count right down to acceptable numbers today. 106,648, and still editing.

How did I cut that much? Simple. I wrote this book a chapter at a time, one chapter equals one document. Then I combined groups of chapters into sections. Once I finished all my chapters and all four of my sections. I made one GIANT book-length file by combining all the sections. But, I made one eensy-weensy mistake. As I did the copy and paste for section three into the book-length file, I hit the "paste" twice.

Now that I have taken the second "paste" out, it dropped my manuscript from the 130,321 words (most recent count prior) down to 106,648.

Not the prolific writer I thought I was.

I can live with that. It puts me in the safe zone between 90,000 and 110,000 words. Now, I just need to finish my edit for the rest of the book and work on those queries to prospective agents.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Going Green

Green Willow? Green Corn? Both are names I have given to two of my Native American characters.

Green Willow is the name I gave to my Anasazi medicine woman of Chaco Canyon in 1054 A.D. Green Corn is the name of my Lenni Lenape woman in Western Pennsylvania in June 1744.

I guess I like green.

Actually, I pulled Green Willow's story out to use in Book 4, Aurora Remembrance, and I may change her name. I like her story too much to have cut it down to nothing to make it fit into my novel's word count parameters. Even as I wrote it, but for the word count, I wanted to expand this story.

Green Corn has her name in honor of the ceremony that was practiced in the spring by the Lenni Lenape. There is a reason for her name, so it stays.

The tribes lived on opposite sides of the continent, but had much in common.

1.) They were both agrarian societies, with the women responsible for growing the food crops.

2.) Like most Native American agrarian societies, the clans were matrilineal and matrilocular. The women were the heads of their families and the clans. When couples married, the husband either moved in with the wife, or visited the home of the wife but continued to live with his own clan. The women owned their homes and crop lands. Their children belonged to their clans, not to the clans of their husbands.

Men and women had different responsibilities. However, they were much more equal in status than women in either patriarchal Native American societies (more predominate in hunter-gatherer tribes) or the European societies of the Americas until within the last century.

The war chiefs were generally promoted based on ability. However, the tribal chiefs (sachems in the eastern tribes) who governed and negotiated treaties with the Europeans were selected either by virtue of their descent from the women of their clan or they were chosen by the clan matriarchs. The women spoke at the tribal councils and occasionally served as a chief.

In the eastern tribes especially, the women did not worry about themselves or their children being abused by their husbands. If a husband beat his wife, he had to deal with revenge from the men of her clan. Parents did not strike their children, but corrected them verbally. The most physical form of child discipline known was to dump a bowl of cold water on a child's head.

I imagine there will be several Christian readers, including members of my own faith, who will not appreciate the attitude Green Corn has towards the Bible. However, I have tried to be historically accurate.

Most Christian sects of the day used the Bible to oppress women to a secondary status, claiming the Adam and Eve story dealt with Eve's sexual seduction of Adam. To overcome this supposed female weakness, women were to be submissive to men. They must obey their husbands. Women had limited property rights and very little recourse to abuse. They had no active voice in government or religious affairs.

During the 17th and 18th centuries in North America, many women (especially indentured servants who were often treated like slaves) who survived being captured by the northeastern American tribes, preferred to be adopted into the tribe rather than return to "civilized" Christian society. Many chose to live with the greater freedom and status women enjoyed among the Native Americans.

I think it was all summed up well in Marty's thoughts after she heard Green Corn's story:

"Marty was stunned into silence, unsure what to say. She dare not explain that where she comes from, it is mostly a Christian society. Women have a voice in their family and government affairs. They do own land and they have as many rights as men. Society is very much opposed to any kind of abuse. But then, Marty realized, it has not always been that way. Women had to struggle many years to claim their rights. She knew the nation was already making plans for a big celebration of the 250 year anniversary of the Declaration of Independence in two years. Yet, she was a freshman in high school in 2020 when the nation celebrated the centennial of women gaining the right to vote.... "


Well, I THOUGHT I finished my novel. I thought I was moving into the editing stage. Instead, it feels like I am making alterations. It is kind of like taking an old coat made of thick velvet and trimming and changing pieces around to create an elegant evening gown.

First, I turned the "Eddie" backstory in Chapter 3 into a prologue. One of my new readers (Others I have not heard from, yet.) said she did not like it. The prologue version was her first introduction to the novel. She (a) had trouble grasping Cy and Marty as the main characters, and (b) had trouble wondering who Eddie was and how he fit in the story.

Part of the reason for the prologue was to keep the reader wondering about Eddie and Andrea. But, even though they show up again in the book, this particular story is not mostly about them. Based on that, I decided to put the book back the way I had it and introduce Marty and Cy first. They are the ones for whom I want the reader to develop the strongest emotional attachment.

So, I took out the Green Willow story and knocked my book from 148,004 words down to 128,577. Take out the Eddie backstory and add the prologue and a new chapter with Green Corn, and I was back up to 135,337. Not doing well on cutting that novel down to its goal of 110,000-120,000 words. Umm-umm! However, by going through and editing, I have knocked it down to a marvelous 133,580 words.

I think I can do some serious word reduction on the transition chapter between Chimney Rocks and Smithburg Station. Plus, one of my readers strongly hinted that (speaking of dress-making) while all the information on sewing Marty's new pre-Civil War era clothing was interesting to her, it was a bit much. I need to be not so revealing on the clothing, so to speak. That will cut more words.

I am going to get this word count down to where, if this novel could be compared to an evening gown, it will cling in all the right flattering places rather than hang like a gunny sack.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Momentous Day

Today has been a momentous day in several respects.

First, I cut Section 2, "First People", out of the book. Marty is going to be going to only one part of North America in this book. That cut my work count down to 129,906. Whoo-hoo, only 9,000 to 19,000 more words to cut (note the sarcasm).

Next, I started on redoing the front of the novel. I have always liked prologues. I took a section of flashback from Chapter 3 and turned it into a prologue. I like what it did for the novel. (enthusiastic whoo-hoo.) But, unfortuately, that added a few hundred words. (That's a boo-hoo.)

As for the section I cut out of this book, I realized where I can use it. It will no longer be effective as a place for Marty to visit, but it will be great in Book 4, Aurora Remembrance. Just need a character name change. That means that section, along with another chapter that I already wrote when I was in that research mode several months ago, puts Book 4 at one-quarter finished already. (happy dance whoo-hoo)

Last, my new Toshiba laptop with 10-key, web-cam and Window 7 came in. Probably the most important feature was the keyboard cover I purchased extra. $20 seems like a lot for a molded piece of soft plastic. However, I eat and sleep at the keyboard some days. I think the reason my current laptop keeps skipping and sticking is because of food crumbs under the keys. Hopefully, this will help.

How soon will I transfer my files over? Who knows? It takes forever to set up a new computer. Probably the first file to go will be my spreadsheet with prospective agents. It will be so nice to have the 10-key for entering phone numbers and dates. (great big whoo-hoo!)

In the meantime, I have gone over the prologue and chapters 1-3 today, just whittling away at that word count the best I can.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Get the Scissors Out, Baby!

Or, more to the point, I need to get ready to hit the delete key on the laptop a lot.

My novel is finished. Now, I know that it is edit and revision time. That is an absolute must to polish my work before submitting it to an agent for consideration. But, before I started it in earnest, I decided I better review the resource books I have collected over the years to refresh my memory about what is good editing, how to find an agent, how to write a query letter and well-crafted synopsis, etc. I even went to the magazine rack in my local book store and purchased a Writer's Digest guide for getting an agent.

(There was an effective piece of marketing. If the pages in this 128 page "magazine" which was printed on newsprint paper were reformatted to book-sized pages, it would have been a nice 300-350 page paperback book. The topic is geared to a limited audience. As a book, it would have been buried away where many would not find it unless they were deliberately shopping for one on the subject. Because most books of this nature are expensive hardbacks which many of us cannot afford to indulge in too often, it never would have reached a large segment of its intended audience. Instead, although priced like a paperback book, for several months it is prominently displayed on the rack with magazines of like topics. It is easy to spot by the magazine-budget crowd.)

But, I digress. One important piece of information this "magazine" provided me was the industry standard of word counts publishers, and therefore agents, look for in the different genres of fiction. The UPPER limit for my genre is 125,000 words per novel. 100,000-110,000 is better.

Right now, Aurora Rescue is 148,004 words.

Get the scissors out, baby! Cut! Cut! Cut! Hit that delete key like there is no tomorrow. Get that narrative and dialog trimmed up, tuned up, and reduced to a manageable size! It is going to be tough to butcher up my beautiful baby, but better that than to get the ax from agents and publishers alike based on word count alone.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Another Wake-Up Call

As I go through my resources again on how to find an agent and get published, one reality of publishing has jumped out and caught my attention. Most publishers want to publish one book a year per author, especially if the book is part of a series.

I have five books planned. They are futuristic. Right now, they are set within a six month period in 2013. At one per year, I will be past 2013 before I can get half of them published. That is, assuming all goes well. That will not work.

So, wake-up call! I need a "Plan B".

One of the key components of the book deals with the events happening during a solar cycle high. The peak for Solar Cycle 24 is estimated to take place May 2013. Since solar cycles are, on average, about eleven and a half years apart, the earliest the next solar cycle could be expected would be 2024.

Back to the drawing board -- or the research library and Internet search engines, in this case. Time to look into what technology the ultra-techies think will be available in the next 12-15 years.

I am not looking at hard-core science fiction like traveling to other galaxies a la Star Trek. I just need to know what my cell phone and computer will look like in fourteen years.

We know things will change. I look back fourteen years, and I seem to remember bulky cell phones that were strictly phones with no Internet access, no cameras and no full-color screens. Also, a lot of people carried pagers instead of cell phones. My camera still required film. Broadband, GPS and high definition T.V. were still something in the future. And, those cream-color Windows 95 computers with the big, bulky monitors were the latest thing.

Hubby thinks I should leave it as is rather than rewrite the whole thing. However, most of the novel will not need to change. Using "ctrl-F" to find words and phrases that I need to update is a cinch.

Now that I have had my wake-up call, my bedtime reading of choice is Popular Science.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010




The end.

I finished writing my first novel, Aurora Rescue. Forget my original 350 page estimate. This baby will probably weigh in at over 400 pages. But, I finally finished it.

Now comes the hard part--the final polishing, then finding an agent who will love it as much as I do.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Butterfly Emerges

A funny thing happened on the way to the end of Chapter 21.

To set the stage, starting with Chapter One, mention was made of Cy's tutoring student and friend, Eddie Burrows, but not much. I had a story to tell and it wasn't that much about him.

But, because I knew Eddie was going to turn up towards the end of the book, I asked my readers from the start to share their opinions of him. Based on what little information was given about Eddie in the first section of Aurora Rescue, I asked, is he a believable character? Do you like the character of Eddie Burrows?

In my mind, Eddie was a fun-loving, adventurous university senior who was doing only what he had to do to get his degree. Other than that, his big focus was on marrying Andrea at the end of the school year. He was not very serious about life in the adult world. He was really no one exceptional. His big claim to fame was this: he disappeared.

But, then, enter Eddie in Chapter 21, the second to the last chapter of the book. Okay, Chapter 21 is a very L-O-N-G chapter, and I will probably split it into two chapters. However, it is still almost at the end of Aurora Rescue. What surprised me is this: the more I wrote this chapter, the more I liked Eddie.

The traits and talents for Eddie that I wrote into the first chapters of the book turned out to be a boon for him by that time. Somehow, the goofy college kid of the twenty-first century proved to be leading man and hero material by the time he was two and a half years older and living in 1859.

Marty and Cy become the best of friends, but there is no budding romance between the two in this book. As I finished this chapter, I knew that if Eddie had not already been madly in love with Andrea, Marty could have done a lot worse than fallen for Eddie Burrows.

However, several of my readers are probably not going to be happy with the choice Eddie makes as Chapter 21 closes. Well, hang onto your hat. Eddie is going to be in three of the next four books.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Perils of Not Keepin' Up

Well, did I get a wake-up call today!

I started my heavy-duty science research on Aurora Rescue in April 2009. Several of my files show a date of April 24, 2009. The latest word was that Solar Cycle 24 was expected to peak on one of two months: either a large high in October 2011, or a small high in August 2012. I set my novel in June, 2012, in the middle of those two dates.

Wouldn't you know it, on May 29, 2009, a mere five weeks after my massive research effort into the subject, NASA came out with a new prediction that the Solar Cycle 24 high will be in May 2013.

So, I am down to one and a half chapters left to go. Today I changed my novel's event calendar to reflect a solar cycle in 2013 instead of 2012. Now I need to go back and change a few things in the body of the novel. That is the bad news.

The good news is, I have another year before my futuristic events are part of the past. Thank goodness I ruled out any connection to the Mayan prophecy of 2012 a long time ago.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

One Step Back, Now Full Steam Ahead

Okay, I know I am mixing my metaphors, but, hopefully, I am communicating where I am at present.

In my last post, I mentioned six books that arrived Monday. A seventh arrived Tuesday (That is not counting the three that arrived last week that have nothing to do with my research for Aurora Rescue.) As of this morning, Wednesday, I have read the better part of three of them, and a bit of the fourth. The ones that explained the actual conditions slaves in the United State in general and women slaves in particular endured prior to emancipation gave me two things. First, I received additional insights into the actual conditions, not the perceived conditions as portrayed in much of the literature out there, regarding those who were forced into slavery.

Second, there were several quotes by slaves or former slaves in their dialect. I do not need to worry as much about critics saying Black people do not talk that way today. I have information from the records showing how they talked then.

Even the diary of Agnes Lee, the daughter of General Robert E. Lee of Civil War fame, written when she was a teenager in the 1850's gave me a glimpse into the attitudes of some white families. She mentioned a few times she taught her "dark" or "sable" students on Sunday nights even though she was a student herself during the week. She made several affectionate references to her "mammy", who was old, grew sick and died during the time covered by the journal. The thing I found most interesting was that she always referred to the family's slaves as servants, never as slaves. Yet, I know from the other sources I read that this was not typical of the conditions most slaves lived under.

And, call it what you will, compulsory servitude is not freedom.

I also spoke with a person whose opinion I value because she is in a position to be well-acquainted with young adult fiction. Also, although I do not know her history or where she grew up, she has some Negro heritage. (I cannot say African heritage, because the discoveries in DNA and genetics these days indicate we ALL have African heritage. The only question is, how far back do each of us go until we find our ancestors in Africa?) Anyway, she gave me her opinion about a few things that helped me know I was on a safe (read: "non-offensive to most") track.

This morning I took all the samples of slave dialect that I had marked with torn strips of post-it note paper and typed them up for reference. I made a spreadsheet with the words and their meanings based on usage and sorted them in alphabetical order. I will adjust my dialog to reflect the majority usage of the dialect I found in my research (even in these direct quotes, there were some differences of pronunciation based on spelling) and move ahead with my story.

I really like my Kezia character. She is a woman of her time who was shaped by her experiences. She is also a courageous heroine, and a determined role model who knows what she wants in life. She is going to show up in future books--at least two of the five. I want her to be someone my readers will look forward to meeting again after they finish reading Aurora Rescue.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Political Correctness Landmine

I am working on my last chapters of this book, and realize that I am dealing with a political correctness landmine.

This section deals with Marty meeting Kezia, a young runaway slave woman. The storyline, on the surface is no problem. My main concern is creating a believable character for this slave woman. I want her to be a likable character, someone with whom the reader can empathize and want to cheer on to freedom.

However, as I write Kezia's dialog attempting to portray the speech patterns typical of a slave in this woman's time and place, I realize that, no matter what I do to try to be accurate, I am going to upset some readers.

For one thing, I have no Negro ancestry. What do I know about it, right? And, for those who will claim that Black people, African-American, slaves from West Africa--however they want to refer to people in that circumstance at that time and place--did not talk that way, all I can say is this:

I have been reading novels and non-fiction about the time and era for months, knowing that I will be writing these chapters. I have copied and saved samples of slave dialect. I have particularly looked for writings of that time period. The one thing I can tell you is this: the dialects all these sources attributed to slaves or former slave of the 1830s to 1870s is not uniform. And, whether some of my potential Black critics will admit it or not, I suspect that changes in accents and grammar developed in Negro dialect based on region and time period, just as it did in the English spoken by different immigrant groups from Europe based on where they came from and where they settled.

I read an interesting 1890's document about a chicken co-op written in Negro dialect. I read an analysis of Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin which warned that the author did not correctly portray Negro dialect. Instead, she portrays it almost identical to the dialect of poor whites living in the Ohio River Valley. In addition, she changed usage styles from page to page.

Another problem is that, largely due to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, slaves were not allowed to learn to read and write. And, even if those free blacks of the era did become literate, they would probably have written in the accepted correct English grammar style to the best of their ability rather than an accurate portrayal of the dialect and syntax of their spoken language.

It is sort of like my situation. I have picked up the Oklahoma-Arkansas syntax from being around my husband and many of the people who migrated to the San Joaquin Valley during the Dust Bowl years. Yet, when I write, I try to express myself as much as possible using the correct English grammar I was taught in school.

So, what am I, as a writer who wants to portray this as accurately as possible, to do?

I decided I need to do more research. I ordered more books about the era and the people, trying to focus on those written by authors who have done doctoral dissertations based on original documents research. Today was like Christmas. Since we were out of town Saturday, we picked up two days worth of mail. In it were six of the books I ordered.

One is Only What We Could Carry: The Japanese American Internment Experience. I do not need it for this book, but know it will be of value for Book Two, Aurora Recover.

Out of many choices, I selected one book on the historical study of how slavery came to North America.

However, I particularly wanted to understand the experience of women slaves, so I chose two other books that I hope will give me greater insight.

Lastly, I chose two of many offerings about white Southern women of the antebellum era. One is a diary of the Civil War years. The other is based on document research. I am also waiting for a diary written by a teenage white girl in the 1850's, in which she discussed her views of the family having slaves.

I am hoping to gain as much insight as I can of what really went on during that time. I want my Kezia character to be someone most of readers will not only find believable, but someone they can believe in.