my love for historical fiction

historical fictveion loI come by my love of historical fiction honestly. Growing up in a family of historians, writers, readers, artists– all of it added up to my creation.

It started when I was young and I would hear my parents talking about historic events at the dinner table. Whether it was Biblical, American, Russian, European, it didn’t matter. Any topic was open for discussion, debate, and ultimately giving my sisters and me history lessons. As I continued in my education, it shocked me that others didn’t know the things I knew already. Not to say that snobbishly, only to say I was blessed in knowing what I knew because of my parents.

Not only did I know it, but I appreciated it. I lived for it. And I always wanted to know more.

I’m pretty sure I only read historical fiction up until I had required reading in school. Even then, the classics to me are from the same pot of tea, so I was always wanting to get my hands on more. However, there are three authors who made me want to read more, and more, and more– and with that, study more, and more, and more.

Ann Rinaldi

Samuel Shellabarger

Elizabeth George Speare

These three authors, to me, filled pages with adventures, challenges, and history that everyone should want to learn more about.

When I first started writing, I knew I wanted to write historical fiction. But it frightened me. I was afraid of the hours dedicated to research to get the details right. I was intimidated by the idea that someone could read my book and decide that I was no true historian, and give me a raving review that was less than mediocre.

I. Was. Afraid.

So I avoided it. I first wrote a YA Contemporary, which I love and hope someday others still might as well, but my editor and CP pointed out the language was very formal. I didn’t understand the concept of it being anything but, and realized that perhaps that came from my choices of reading. When I started reading contemporary novels, I tried to refocus my own into language that wasn’t ‘antiquated’.

Then I moved West, and something clicked inside of me. Having gone through my own adventure of moving with my family cross-country, I remembered books I read about families doing the same in covered wagons. And that’s when I realized I needed to stop being afraid of chasing my passion, and go for it.

I wrote my first historical fiction. And it’s what got me my agent.

History, the past, is a part of all of us. The amazing thing is that we all have our own lineage, our own pasts, our own family stories that have been passed down for generations– but the bulk of it is we all come from somewhere.

That, to me, is the beauty of historical fiction. These stories bring everything that we may have learned or wished to learn to life. Even if we know they aren’t straight facts, they help us feel a part of that time in history. They make us crave for ‘simpler’, or harder, times. And many times, they also make us appreciate the here and now.

You will find me reading just about every genre, and if you question that you can take a look at my bookshelves. But, if we get down to it, I write historical fiction because it made me who I am as a reader and a writer– and I’m so thankful for that.

 

trackback thursday: the northwest ordinance

Every Thursday on the blog will be “trackback thursday.” Here I’ll share something interesting/fun/ridiculous/who-knew-it piece of American history. Being a somewhat history nerd myself, and an author of historical fiction, it seemed like something fun to do.

On July 13, 1787, Congress authorized the Northwest Ordinance.

This established the formal procedures for transforming territories into states. So, instead of massive blocks that first made up the Midwest and West, the territories would eventually shrink into smaller states. The Northwest Territory that it created stretched from the Ohio River to the Great Lakes (South to North), and the Appalachian Mountains to, well, pretty much the middle of current Minnesota.

This eventually lead to the establishment of around six states, which were to be considered equal with the original 13. Though it technically didn’t include ALL of some of these states (see above: half of Minnesota), over time they eventually came about because of it.

Considered one of the most important acts of the Continental Congress at the time, it showed that there would be westward expansion and creation of new states rather than existing states ruling and expanding their existing boarders.

Basically, Congress didn’t want anyone getting greedy and ruining the “good thing they had going.”

 

So, what states eventually came out of this?

I knew you were dying to know.

trackback thursdayOhio- 1803

Indiana- 1816

Illinois- 1818

Michigan- 1837

Wisconsin- 1848

Minnesota- 1858

With all of this, the Ordinance included a Bill of Rights that promised: freedom of religion, right to trial by jury, public education (including a university!), and a ban on slavery. This will be important later (see: Civil War).

 

I have lived in half of those states– and my parents have lived in 5 out of 6.  That’s my personal fun fact.

Check back next Thursday for more #trackbackthursday– the new #tbt.

 

how working with an editor changed the way i write

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I was never good with criticism, good or bad. I have never been good with rejection, and I have never been good with someone telling me how to do something.

This sounds like a, “DON’T WORK WITH ME” advertisement as an author. BUT I PROMISE THIS WAS IN THE PAST!

After I finished my first true novel, one that had been years in the making, I sat down and was excited and ready to query. I wanted to start sending out my amazingness and have everyone faun over my words.

This was the dream. Isn’t it everyone’s?

Luckily, at this point in my writing I was blessed with a wonder CP who gently suggested that maybe I should consider working with an editor to work through some slow parts and make my manuscript the best it could be. While I wasn’t sure of cost and the idea of someone openly criticizing and making suggestions with my book-baby, I decided to give it a shot.

After e-mailing and going over some details back and forth, I began working with Katelyn from Stark Contrast Editing. I am blessed because I was basically her first client, and I think this is one thing that really made it easier on me to be open to criticism. She was patient and quick to respond, and understanding of many things I didn’t want to change at the time.

I can’t review Katelyn’s services justly, because she completely changed the way I write. She opened my mind to little things (action, not description) that I was pretty terrible at. Words or phrases that I overused (“sigh” and “that” and descriptive actions of the eyes), and so much more.

Though my first book was unsuccessful in scoring me an agent, I was confident that Katelyn had given me the tools to do even better. Once more, she encouraged me to start writing what I really wanted to write. I had worked with her on a YA Contemporary, but Historical Fiction was my passion, and ultimately I think my calling with writing.

I took her advice to heart and worked hard on my next manuscript. When consulting the very same CP who introduced me to Katelyn, she raved how much better this first draft was, and it was only off of her suggestions that I worked, queried, and scored an agent. Although I didn’t work with Katelyn on this one, I cannot deny that she didn’t completely makeover my writing process.

Yes, your book may be that good to begin with, but it seems to me there is no writer that has never had a typo or even just a sentence that didn’t make sense.

I would always suggest working with an editor over not– even if you don’t think you need one. Everyone needs an editor, and every writer is not an editor. Whether you hire someone or work with another writer in a personal way, it needs to be a trusted relationship that can help develop your story into a true masterpiece.

 

While I didn’t write this as a plug for Katelyn’s services, if you are looking for an editor I cannot recommend her more. She and Nikki (aka my wonderful CP I talked about) at Stark Contrast Editing are masters at what they do, and you couldn’t ask for better people to work with.

 

 

summer days and summer nights review

imageIt seemed impossible to review this volume of short stories in one post, but here I am– trying. Please keep in mind that I’m sure one review can’t do this collection justice, as each story has such fun quirks and it would be easy (but time consuming) to review each one individually.

Purchasing this book was a bit uncharacteristic for me. While I love short stories, I admittedly hadn’t bought a book of them since college. But with the Arizona summer heat settling in, and a collection of stories from such wonderful YA authors, it was too hard to pass up.

I get so wrapped up in each story I find myself always wanting more. I think that’s my trouble with short stories. The desire for more backstory, more details, more development– it’s always in me. So these little blips of love stories that are so easy to gobble up, I have a little heartache wishing for more.

With so many great contributing authors, I don’t want to pick and choose since each author has his/her own style, and each story is great for different reasons. But in the first five stories, I have to say that Libba Bray’s Last Stand at the Cinegore had me laughing out loud the most.

Here is what Goodreads has to say about the book:

Maybe it’s the long, lazy days, or maybe it’s the heat making everyone a little bit crazy. Whatever the reason, summer is the perfect time for love to bloom. Summer Days & Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories, written by twelve bestselling young adult writers and edited by the international bestselling author Stephanie Perkins, will have you dreaming of sunset strolls by the lake. So set out your beach chair and grab your sunglasses. You have twelve reasons this summer to soak up the sun and fall in love.

Featuring stories by Leigh Bardugo, Francesca Lia Block, Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare, Brandy Colbert, Tim Federle, Lev Grossman, Nina LaCour, Stephanie Perkins, Veronica Roth, Jon Skovron, and Jennifer E. Smith.

 

Overall, if you are looking for something to read before the end of the summer, this should be it. These summer romances are perfect for long, sunny days lounging on the beach.

(Or, in my case, acting like you’re in hibernation until “normal” summer temperatures arrive. Thanks a lot, Arizona.)

 

how twitter can get you published

twitter marketing_ehdunnWriting a book is hard enough, but now that you’ve got that (almost, completely, halfway) done, it’s time to start increasing your Internet footprint as an author (or dare I say brand).

Blog? If you can, but we will get to that later.

Right now we are going to talk about Twitter.

I’ll be honest, I had no clue what the point of Twitter was. I thought it was somewhere people shared that they were eating their food or watching a show or in general sending updates into the void that no one cared about.

As I started getting into the writing arena, a very good friend introduced me to the Twitter universe and all I could do to get plugged in. Slowly I was entering pitch contests and using hashtags to connect with other writers. I began exploring the literary world that I had no idea existed through bursts of 140 characters.

So don’t roll your eyes at me when I tell you that Twitter is an amazing tool. USE IT.

It can be overwhelming. You want to create your own hashtags and get the perfect mood of a tweet in so few characters, and you aren’t sure if you should follow your dream agent or ::gasp:: tweet him/her. Take a deep breath. I’ve got a few tips that I have learned over the years, some of which come from professionals.

First, if you’re looking for some handy hashtags for writers, check out THIS LINK and THIS LINK. They have a lot of good suggestions.

Second, follow your favorite people. An agent might tweet about a project they’re looking for that matches your manuscript, (#MSWL = manuscript wish list and it’s SO helpful), or an editor might let everyone know if she or he is open to new clients.

I’ll say it again: Twitter is your friend. USE IT.

Third, don’t tweet too much. Less isn’t exactly more with Twitter but you don’t want to annoy your followers so much that they decide to stop following you.  Using apps like Hootsuite can come in hand because it lets you schedule tweets ahead. If you’re doing a pitch contest, taking part in #1linewed, or just trying to capture people’s attention in general—tweet with purpose. Sometimes that takes planning.

Fourth, and last on my list—stay professional. It can be so easy to slip into an Internet battle or have someone send you something nasty off of an innocent tweet. But this is supposed to be a tool. You don’t want your future agent to remember a heated battle you had with someone over different authors, politics, or current events and decide you’re not worth the drama. Remember that you are using your author Twitter account to build your brand.

Over all, there is an amazing writing community just waiting on Twitter. It’s how I met my agent, through #PitMad, and it’s how many can get connected with the publishing industry.

Sign up. Explore. Learn. And USE IT. Twitter might just be the outlet that leads to your book’s publication. 

 

Are you on Twitter? Let’s connect! You can find me here or #writerslifeapparel here.

 

 

This post was originally written for & posted on Stark Contrast Editing‘s blog. Make sure to check out Katelyn’s amazing new site and the services she and others offer. Plus, more posts by yours truly!

“the guernsey literary and potato peel pie society” review

I am a sucker when it comes to books being written in an un-traditional way. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Anne Barrows is one of those books, and I have fallen in love with it. Fallen hard.

Once again I’m late to the game with this book. Released in 2008, it has been on my TBR list for quite some time. Now that I finally read/finished it, I want to do so again. And again. And again.

Here is the Goodreads description:

“ I wonder how the book got to Guernsey? Perhaps there is some sort of secret homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers.” January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb….

As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends—and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island—boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all.

Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society’s members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever.

Written with warmth and humor as a series of letters, this novel is a celebration of the written word in all its guises, and of finding connection in the most surprising ways.

Since it is presented in the form of letters, all the characters get to present their own voice, matched against Juliet’s descriptions and observations. Guernsey not only comes to life for the MC, but feels like home to any reader as the book progresses.

Not without twists, you find yourself expecting one outcome with Juliet’s life and meeting another that is even more befitting.

My friends, since this book is eight years old, I was tempted to not share a small review, but I couldn’t help myself. I honestly knew nothing of the occupation of the Channel Islands during WWII, and now all I want to do is study it more.

If you love Historical Fiction, and have not read this one yet, move it to the top of your TBR list. You won’t regret it.

 

building your marketing platform

imageWe have all faced a form of rejection. Recently, I faced one that was a big shot. As in, a pop-up wall…like a giant jack-in-the-box.

I imagine you take my meaning.

What I learned from the rejection was that my Internet footprint wasn’t sufficient.

It was scary, intimidating, and if I’m being honest, heartbreaking. 

It was such a shock because I felt like I had worked very hard on my online presence since before I started truly dedicating myself to writing my books. I put a part of me out there that was vulnerable and fun. And I had hoped it was creative enough to stand out.

If you’re wondering how to make yourself marketable, I am not a professional in this department. However, I have learned a thing or two recently, so I thought I’d share my knowledge with you.

 

FIGURE OUT YOUR TARGET

You need to know who you’re writing for and what you’re writing topic or theme is before you start a blog. If you’re an author, you need to make your blog relatable to the potential audience of your books. Whether that’s the writing community, teens, or little kids, make your online presence relatable to your future book readers.

 

BE CONSISTENT

The last thing you want when turning yourself into your own brand is to be wishy-washy. Whether you’re posting once a month, a week, or daily, always schedule your posts for the same time. This way your audience knows what to expect, and it will make it easier for them to depend on you. This helps with your image.

 

BE ACTIVE

Marketing yourself takes work. Posting on your own blog and sending out some tweets is not going to be enough. Reach out to those who are in similar boats as you; visit their sites or respond to their tweets, and eventually you’ll find others doing the same for you. This is a give-and-gain scenario. You will not be marketable or able to grow your brand if you aren’t proactive. Period. Give at least ten minutes a day to your online presence. Your activeness will eventually have a snowball effect and will pay off.

 

BE PATIENT

Creating a platform for yourself takes time. Once you decide what your platform is, it’s up to you (and eventually your agent and publisher) to build it plank by plank. But you are the front-runner in making sure it is supported so that it can grow.

 

Everything in the publishing business takes time, no matter what route you take. But every day you spend working on your platform is one more follower, one more re-tweeter, one more reader.

The publishing world is cutthroat, and publishers want to see that you know how to navigate the marketing waters. The time to start building your platform is right now! Design a blog, make a website, Tweet and Follow and Friend and Post, and do it every day.

 

 

my author Twitter account is: @emily_hdunn

#writerslifeapparel Twitter account is: @writerslifeapp

my Facebook page is: Emily Herring Dunn

my IG is: @emilyherringdunn

#writerslifeapparel IG is: @writerslifeapparel

 

Share yours in the comments! I’d love to connect and help each other out :).

 

 

This post was originally written for & posted on Stark Contrast Editing‘s blog. Make sure to check out Katelyn’s amazing new site and the services she and others offer. Plus, more posts by yours truly!

when life & writing overwhelm you

It is very easy for life to get the best of you.

And when I say you, I mean me.

Oftentimes life does not go as you wish. Days produce nothing but a longer to-do list for tomorrow, and months seem pointless when you haven’t reached that writing goal that’s been pushed to the back burner  because of family, or your daytime job, or personal reasons.

Believe me, I get it.

More than not, I find myself at war with my to-do list. Instead of cleaning my kitchen, I sit down to write for thirty minutes. The next morning, I’ll sometimes regret it. I mean, who can work when the kitchen is a mess? Not me. Or instead of writing, I’ll zone out in front of Netflix when the day is done and I’ll tell myself, “I’ll write twice as much tomorrow.”

If you remember a few past posts of mine, you know this is typical for me.

But the thing is, your writing is yours.

Sure, you may be stressed out about edits or deadlines. You may be stressed out over questions, blog posts, interviews, reviews–whatever. When it comes down to it, though: your writing is yours. Even if you signed away the rights for the movie, or for a translation, or any of that– your writing will always be yours.

And that shouldn’t overwhelm you.

I don’t want to be one to tell you what should and shouldn’t overwhelm you, how you should and shouldn’t feel. Everything in this life comes with a balance, and you have to find yours.

So here’s what I do when life & writing start getting to me and stressing me out, when really, they shouldn’t.

DO A LITTLE DANCEgiphy

Put on your favorite dancing music and shake it. There is nothing like movement to help you feel better.

 

EAT SOME CHOCOLATE

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Chocolate is actually proven to raise your spirits. Seriously. I read it somewhere. Just a hershey kiss could be what it takes.

 

TAKE A NAP OR GO TO BED EARLIER

giphyKids aren’t the only ones who get cranky when they don’t get enough sleep. While you might think another cup of coffee and burning the midnight oil is the way to go, sometimes you do just need to slow down.

 

JOURNAL

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Your feelings, fears, excitement, dreams– get it all out so you can clear your head. It’s amazing how much better you feel after you put into words what’s overwhelming you and driving you crazy.

 

What I’m still learning– and probably will always be learning– is when things are getting to me… it’s usually best to clean the closet and let go of things that aren’t necessary. It’s hard to put yourself first sometimes, but especially when you get to a breaking point, it’s a necessity. You can’t give to others if you’re running on empty.

they are the exception. your writing is the rule.

imageEvery day I plan to write at night time. When I’ve taken care of everything on my to-do list, finished clean-up duty, and snuggled in to the couch with a blanket and my laptop.

And almost every day, I never get much, if any, writing done.

My name is Emily, and I am a morning person.

You’d think the progression of life would have changed the way I feel about mornings, but I have always been the one to get up early and seize the day. I feel most at peace when I have my first cup of coffee, sit down with my journal and planner, and figure out how the day is going to go.

It’s just how I am. But somehow I have yet to learn that that’s the time I should be writing.

We all have the idealistic relationship with writing. Let’s sit down with a snack, our laptop, our thoughts, and hash out a few thousand words in one sitting. Some people can do that. Some people have the luxury to do that, but most of us don’t.

 

Let’s be real.

 

So what do we do? How do we figure out the best time to write? And more importantly, how do we stick to it and make it happen? At what point do we need to put other activities to the side so we can dedicate more time to our writing? 

Figuring out the right time of day to write can help you when it comes to making writing the rule, not the exception.

 

TAKE NOTES

Are you grumpy in the morning and bouncing off the walls around 2pm? That’s your high-time! While you may not always be able to dedicate your best time of day to writing, at least find five minutes to jot some things down to feel accomplished.

 

BE INTENTIONAL 

Be intentional about making extra time to dig deep and work on your project, especially on the weekends or holidays. I’ve found myself setting my alarm for what may seem as an ungodly hour, but it works wonders for me to get those words on paper. When I’m able to seize those extra moments, I start my day feeling accomplished instead of getting to the end of the day feeling guilty for doing “nothing.”

 

DON’T FEEL GUILTY

There are always going to be times when you miss a moment or opt out of it to do something else. Writing may be your life and it may be your job and it may be your passion, but you’re always going to have other things to do, too. Don’t beat yourself up for not getting up one morning because you had a late-night with the baby. Or not staying up and writing but instead going out with friends.

 

There are always going to be special occasions. Visitors. Things to do. But the important thing is that they are the exception, and your writing is the rule the majority of the time.

 

You got this. Set that alarm and drink some more coffee—you’ve got some writing to do.

 

Like this post? Check out: finding the time to be a writer and writing through the distractions, too! 

 

This post was originally written for & posted on Stark Contrast Editing‘s blog. Make sure to check out Katelyn’s amazing new site and the services she and others offer. Plus, more posts by yours truly!

an author’s dream

an author's dreamWhen I was younger, I used to dream about being famous.

Didn’t we all?

It started with writing. From a young age I loved to read and write so much, I dreamed of my books being in the book fair catalog, and it only escalated from there. Every couple of years it would switch– pop star, movie star, Broadway star, symphony member–but overall it was the same concept:

I wanted to be known. I wanted to be recognized. I wanted to be famous.

That’s the world we live in. We want to be set above everyone else and talked about by people we don’t know. Even, sometimes, if it’s negative.

As I’ve gotten older, the dream has settled with my writing. While I still admittedly dream of being the next Ann Rinaldi or Janette Oke, mostly I just want to get my stories out there.

I want to release them into the wild. I want them to be read. I want them to be appreciated.

The written word is a beautiful thing. Someone has slaved away to string sentences together in a new style, his/her style, to form a story of his/her imagination.

I’m not trying to give myself too much credit here. But writing is work. Don’t be fooled in to think differently.

It is fun, of course, too. It is amazing when those voices come to life and everything flows like a stream in the desert–but the times when the water runs dry are the times you wonder what the heck you’re doing, and then realize how your passion is also work.

I know there are still those out there who dream of being famous. Who write to make the bestsellers list or hope their works will be turned into movies. There’s no shame in that.

But I think, over all, authors–writers–write because they have to. Because there are these stories inside just bursting through every pore of their bodies, and if they don’t come out, it’s like they’re purposefully trapping a dream from coming to life.

And we wouldn’t want that, would we?

If you are able to make your dream come to life, to the best of your ability, the only person who you harm if you don’t–is yourself.

If you’re an author, keep dreaming. You’re going to make it.

My coffee mug was a birthday present from my amazing CP/BFF. You can get yours here. Also, if you missed it & liked this piece, make sure to check out: own the word: you are an author.