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Delving into History – Denver’s Colorful Past

Delving into History – Denver’s Colorful Past Guest Post By Elaine Russell

Delving into History – Denver’s Colorful Past
Guest Post By Elaine Russell

To write historical fiction, an author must have a vivid imagination and an interest in thoroughly researching the past. I earned an undergraduate degree in history, so I find research a pleasure rather than a task. It’s a little like solving a mystery, unwrapping a treasure trove of fascinating places, people, and events, which add richness and authenticity to a novel’s storyline. I read everything I can find from primary and secondary sources, both online and in person at public/university libraries, historical archives, historical societies and homes, and other specialized organizations. Research centers are also great places to publicize your book once completed, as they usually have blogs, Facebook sites, or newsletters. Some centers have gift shops, which could carry your work. I always travel to my story’s location to gain a sense of place and take dozens of pictures—a great help in writing detailed descriptions of scenes.

Delving into History – Denver’s Colorful Past Guest Post By Elaine Russell
The research for my new novel, In the Company of Like-Minded Women, involved all of the sources mentioned above. In addition, I exchanged emails with helpful research assistants, and ordered popular magazines and novels from the era. The idea for my story originated with my paternal great grandmother, Elizabeth B. Russell, who became a doctor in Denver, Colorado, in 1907. I had never been to Denver and knew little about its past. I started with general history books on Denver and Colorado then books on early women doctors and famous madams in the West, biographies of Colorado’s leading women, and much, much more. I discovered Denver’s rough and tumble early days, as a Wild West center for Rocky Mountain mining towns, and its gradual transformation into a civilized city, known as the Queen of the Prairie.
In June 2016, I visited Denver for ten days, a trip I planned around the annual Historical Novel Society conference held there that year. While online searches are wonderful and convenient, there is nothing like browsing through library shelves to find an unexpected gem or reading original documents in archive folders. Some materials are only available on microfiche at research centers (luckily more and more are being made available online). But I’m definitely old school! 

At the Denver Public Library’s Western History Section and the History Colorado Center’s Research Library I poured through everything from newspapers, city directories, magazine articles, photographs, and theatre programs to individual collections on well-known women leaders, such as Ellis Meredith and Minnie Reynolds. What a thrill to read original letters sent to Ms. Meredith by Susan B. Anthony, Carrie Chapman Catt, and Lucy Stone. I toured the city’s old neighborhoods, historic buildings and local bookstores. The Molly Brown House Museum had a gift shop with interesting books about the era that I had not previously found.

As a result of my research, I chose to set the novel in 1901, the start of the new century, a time of tremendous change and great promise. More women were earning college degrees and entering male-dominated professions. This mirrored the growing fight for women’s suffrage and laws to protect women and children from the grave injustices of the time. Colorado led the charge on many fronts. Women from the Republican, Democrat, and Populist parties banded together to win a stunning victory in 1893, convincing a majority of the State’s men to approve a constitutional amendment granting women the vote (twenty-seven years before women’s suffrage passed at the national level). 

By 1901, a number of Colorado women had held public office and ushered through important reforms. But Denver also had a seedier side that could not be ignored—a booming red light district with lavish houses of ill repute run by infamous madams like Mattie Silks, and a Chinatown known for its opium dens and gambling parlors. A number of Denver’s leading ladies and less savory residents landed a role in my novel.

The challenge in the end was what to select from many diverse elements to include in my story in order to paint an accurate picture of the era and the lives of my characters. It was a little like sorting out a huge pile of clothes to see what fits and is useful. For me, the joy of the writing process is how different pieces suddenly fall into place and connect to one another in a way I never anticipated. It feels like magic!

Delving into History – Denver’s Colorful Past Guest Post By Elaine Russell
Elaine Russell is the award winning author of the novel Across the Mekong River and a number of children’s books, including the young adult novel Montana in A Minor, the Martin McMillan middle grade mystery series, and the middle grade picture book, All About Thailand. Her new novel, In the Company of Like-Minded Women, comes out this month. Elaine lives with her husband in Northern California and part time on the Island of Kauai.

Interview with Dana Chamblee Carpenter

Interview with Dana Chamblee Carpenter, author of Book of the Just

Interview with Dana Chamblee Carpenter

What genre do you write and why?

I am proud that answering the first part of this question is rather difficult for me. The second part is easy-peasy. Some have called my books historical fiction or thrillers or horror or fantasy. I smile and say yes. Some say they are cross-genre books. I like to call them genre-defiant. I didn’t set out to write them that way, but it’s not a surprise that they turned out as such because I am an eclectic reader. I love historicals and thrillers and horror and fantasy and . . . well, there’s not much I won’t read. I don’t like to box in my reading so I’m not inclined to box in my storytelling. I let the story go where it needs to go, and if that means crossing some arbitrary genre lines then I’m okay with that—and I think most readers are, too.
Interview with Dana Chamblee Carpenter, author of Book of the Just
Tell us about your latest book.
Book of the Just picks up where Mouse’s story ends in The Devil’s Bible. She’s healing and finally with someone who accepts her as she is, but they are on the run, hiding from her father and from an organization that wants to capture her and use her special power for their own ends. Now that she has a taste of the life she’s always wanted, Mouse isn’t about to give it up. But she has to make some hard choices about how far she’s willing to go to hold onto what she loves. And whether she can forgive herself if she goes too far.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with the bad or good ones?
Just before my first book, Bohemian Gospel, came out, I had several fellow writers tell me not to read the reviews—not the good ones, not the bad ones. I tried to stay away from them. I really did. What can I say? I don’t have much discipline. Goodreads might as well be a plate of cupcakes on the kitchen counter for all my power to stay away from them. The good reviews send a thrill of excitement through you. The bad ones are often a kick in the teeth. It really is good advice to stay away. But it would’ve meant missing out on the incredibly powerful and touching reviews that talk about how inspirational Mouse is for the reader, how she gave them the courage to do something difficult. And I would’ve missed the hilarious review that complained that the book was so scary the reviewer wouldn’t keep it in the house but took it down to the garage in the middle of the night.
What advice do you have for other writers?
The best advice I was given came from Ron Rash. He talked about how, out of all of his fellow students from his MFA program, only he and one other had actually succeeded. On the face of it, depressing, yes? But he went on to say that neither of them was the “best,” most talented writer in the group. What made them different? They were the only ones who didn’t give up. They worked through years of rejection, years of doing other things to pay the rent, of writing failed stories and learning to craft great ones. Seems simple, I know, but it’s actually a hard thing to do—don’t give up.
Who is you favourite character in your book and why?

Mouse is and will always be my first love. I love her fierceness of spirit, her refusal to accept the limitations others try to impose on her, and her constant search for a greater understanding of her self, of others, of the world around her. But in Book of the Just, she breaks my heart—and that’s when the story becomes one about the power of love to redeem us.
The character who unexpectedly captured my heart is a young boy from Eritrea named Birhan. He’s funny and wise and loyal and ever hopeful. Just what you’d want in a friend.

Who inspires you?

I’m rarely inspired by successful people, though I try to learn from them. But the people who give me the most hope and faith and courage are the people who struggle. Most of us are messed up in some way or start in hard, poor places. We don’t fit societal expectations. We sometimes fight with our inner demons. We doubt ourselves. But the people who persevere anyway are my heroes. The ones who keep going, who get up again, who shake themselves off, who forgive themselves—they’re the ones who meet the world with tenderness and kindness. For me, that’s the highest mark of success.

Interview with Dana Chamblee Carpenter, author of Book of the Just
When and where do you write?

Absolutely anywhere and any-when I can. There are loads of ideal recommendations by any number of writers out there about finding a place with a door, a place designated solely for the purpose of writing, and about writing at the same time every day, preferably in the wee hours when all the other distractions are asleep. I’m not dismissing these recommendations—they truly are the gold standard. But as a professor teaching four classes per semester and all of the other responsibilities that come with the career and being a mom of two who homeschools, if I waited until my schedule offered these kinds of ideal moments and locations, I would never get any writing done. I look at my schedule week by week and block off writing times, but I also plan ahead to be thinking about what I’m working on even in the moments where I have to be away from the keyboard. Drive times, waiting rooms, errand running—are all perfect times to let my mind play with a problem scene or with character development. I keep my journal on me at all times (and more often than not, my laptop) so I capture any magic moments that I can then use in my work. So, write anywhere and anytime when that’s all you’ve got. I do keep my summers clear so I can build more of those ideal times and places into my schedule. But I won’t let busyness keep me from telling stories.

Do you believe in writers block?

I believe that writers can sit down, fingers on the keyboard, and have nothing to give the blank page, but I don’t think there’s anything “blocking” them. Envisioning an insurmountable wall shutting us off from our creativity is certainly daunting and probably expresses the writer’s sense of panic in the moment. But I think the term and image are counter to what’s actually going on inside the writer in these moments. It’s not something blocking us, but rather an empty well that keeps the words from flowing. We’ve been pounding out the story, hard at work day in and day out puzzling through plot problems and developing character, and we forget to play. We keep siphoning from the same well to fuel the creativity, but we don’t put anything back in that well. I teach workshops about how important play is to a writer in filling the well. And when I say “play,” I really mean something fun, frivolous, without purpose—like a child would play. It’s like plugging in your imagination for a recharge.

What is your work in progress? Tell us about it.

I’m working on a first book in a new series that tells the story of the Lusk family—a mom, dad, and seven sisters, all of whom are witches like their father. All except one. Set against the backdrop of the great Mississippi flood of 1927 when the river breaks through the levies and pours into the Delta killing thousands, the story vibrates with the ancient history of the land as a dark magic is awoken and seeks vengeance.

What are you currently reading?
I actually have several books going at the same time. I’m reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows to my son, who is experiencing it for the first time. So I spend most of my day building up my emotional fortitude to get through the heart-crushing next chapter. I do not know how I will hold it together when we get to the end.
I am also devouring V.E. Schwab’s A Conjuring of Light, the last in her Shades of Magic trilogy. I am trying to make myself slow down but it is so hard!
And finally, I’m using Bryan Robinson’s Daily Writing Resilience: 356 Meditations and Inspirations for Writers to keep my well full as I word on the new book.

5 Essentials For Setting Writing Goals You’ll Stick To

5 Essentials For Setting Writing Goals You’ll Stick To, Guest post by Jan Fortune

5 Essentials For Setting Writing Goals You’ll Stick To, Guest post by Jan Fortune 

We write for so many reasons, but whatever motivates you, you need to find your ‘why’, set achievable targets and take yourself seriously in order to stay on track. 

A couple of years ago, I was running the independent press I founded 13 years ago, editing and promoting the writing of lots of great authors, teaching writing courses and working longer and longer hours to do it all, but my own writing was always the thing that constantly got pushed off the ‘to do’ list.

Then I began working on a novel trilogy that had been simmering for years. I got an Arts Council grant to travel to do research and take time out to write and it forced me to make the leap of commitment.

Two years later, I still love running Cinnamon Press but it’s no longer all-consuming and I’m passionate about sharing ways to give writing the time it needs and about sharing how other writers can do this. 

So how do you take control of your writing life?

1. Have a clear sense of your ‘why’

Any writer worth his salt writes to please himself… It’s a self-exploratory operation that is endless.-Harper Lee

Writers have a million reasons for writing, but you need to know what your reasons are.  Dig into your motivation and get clear. Ask yourself why you write.

Imagine the answer is ‘to communicate with the world’

Next ask ‘Why do I want to communicate with the world?’

If you answer ‘because I want to bear witness to X (some particular even or idea)… then next ask – ‘Why does this matter?’

Keep digging – it might take 8 or 9 layers of question, but get down to your personal motivation.

When you know what motivates you, you are much more likely to take it seriously and make it a priority.

5 Essentials For Setting Writing Goals You’ll Stick To, Guest post by Jan Fortune
2. Have a place to write

Understanding your why is crucial because in busy lives we can only focus on a few priorities at any one time so having clarity will help you stay on course, but there are also practical things you can do to support your writing.

Whatever your living circumstances you need to carve out a bit of space where you can write without being interrupted at least some of the time. It might be your bed or dining room table first thing in the morning or a room where you can hang a ‘do not disturb’ sign at least a few hours a week.

If you are lucky enough to be able to grab a dedicated space, personalise it with things that get you into the writing frame of mind, whether it’s a picture of a place that calms you or a candle.

3. Have a time to write

Writing takes time so you have to consider when in your busy life you will make that time.

It’s amazing how much of life is spent on

       activities that drain us
       tasks that fragment our attention
       things that leave us feeling dissatisfied

Make a list of all the ways you use time and all things that can be dropped to make the time you need. Annie Dillard is reputed to have said ‘It’s endearing how people think writers have the time to dust.’

What activities have to go if you are going to write? It might be the dusting or surfing social media or some of the time spent watching TV… Make sure everyone knows that’s now your writing time and it’s sacrosanct.

5 Essentials For Setting Writing Goals You’ll Stick To, Guest post by Jan Fortune
4. Have goals that are challenging yet realistic

Once you know why you write, where and when you will write, then you can set goals. Small steps soon add up so don’t overwhelm yourself, but by the same token give yourself a challenge that you can constantly recalibrate as you get into your flow.

If you have only half an hour a day, don’t expect 1000s of words a day, but if you have 4 hours a day you can raise the bar.

1000 words a week is 52,000 words over the year and chances are you can soon push to 2000 words a week and have a draft of full novel within a year. 

5. Take yourself seriously as a writer

In addition to knowing your motivation and having the logistics in place, you need to believe that you are a writer.  When people ask you what you do, don’t just mention the day job or that you are a mum or … also say ‘I’m a writer.’ If you don’t believe it, no-one else will.

How would you describe the writer you want to become in the third person? Be bold. Be imaginative. What needs to change for you to move towards being this writer?"

5 Essentials For Setting Writing Goals You’ll Stick To, Guest post by Jan Fortune
Jan Fortune is the founding editor of Cinnamon Press and has taught courses online and across Europe over the last 13 years. She blogs at and is passionate about helping writings develop their practice and writing lives.  Her most recent books are the first two novels in the Casilda Trilogy, This is the End of the Story & A Remedy for All Things.

Excerpt: Creatus Talis by Carmen DeSousa

Excerpt: Creatus Talis  by Carmen DeSousa

Title: Creatus Talis
Author: Carmen DeSousa
Publication date: December 18th 2018
Genres: Adult, Paranormal

Excerpt: Creatus Talis  by Carmen DeSousa
About the book:

For four thousand years, creatus elders have insisted that the creatus population concealed themselves from human beings because humans had hunted the creatus almost to extinction...

But one woman's research reveals that when creatus first arrived on this planet, humans didn't fear the alien beings that looked so much like the human race. That is, until the creatus started to breed with humans, creating a ferocious killer feared by humans and creatus alike. A creature so fierce that its legacy of death and destruction has fed nightmares for millennia. And now, a new breed of creatus has been born — or rather, reborn.

Vev, one of the first generations of creatus talis, finds herself torn between her younger family members and a forbidden love as she fights to save the young talis from being turned into a weapon — or worse, annihilation.


Hesitantly, Vev stepped forward. She’d never kissed a male before. Wasn’t even sure how it worked. She’d read about it, of course. Watched it. But as with everything, her knowledge only took her so far. Life experience, she was learning, was invaluable.
Zach’s heart rate sped up again, and the musky scent she’d noticed intermittently throughout the day escalated. Every beat of his heart fanned the potent scent, filling the room. In response, all of Vev’s senses intensified, as though she were hunting game.
“Vev,” he said, stepping toward her again, “please stay.” His hand stroked her cheek, brushing back a strand of hair. He took another step, this time slipping his arm around her waist.
The pounding in Vev’s heart exploded into such a fast rhythm she could hardly breathe. She gulped, licked her lips. Zach moved just his head toward her this time, pressing his lips to hers. A kiss. Her mouth parted unconsciously as his mouth moved back and forth.
She closed her eyes and inhaled. He smelled so good. So delicious—Vev pulled back so fast that Zach fell forward.
She twisted her body, jerking away. The door. The sun must have set. Regardless, she needed to leave.
“What happened?” Zach’s voice cracked.
“I must go.”
“Vev?” His warm hand made contact with her shoulder and she lurched forward, as far away as the room allowed.
She wheeled, facing him. “I’m not human, Zach. Can’t you see that?”
His lips turned up slightly, revealing curved lines that framed his mouth. “You feel plenty human to me.”
“I’m not!” Vev insisted. She reached for the only thing in her vicinity. A broom. She snatched it from the corner and held it up. She didn’t know how much strength humans had. According to Marguerite, not much. “Can you break this?”
“Why would I want to break my broom?”
Vev huffed out a breath. “Can you?”
“I guess. If I leveraged it against something, I could.”
Vev brought the broom down over her knee, splitting it in two, then squeezed her hands around each part, pulverizing the wood until each piece was nearly sawdust. She released the slivers and shards, crumbling the pieces.
Zach’s eyes grew wide. His heart raced disturbingly fast. She hated scaring him, but she had to make him see the danger. Marguerite had said that her research revealed that the earliest humans hadn’t been afraid of creatus, but that they had become jealous of their beauty and strength, and started hunting them. Vev had never understood that. Now she did. Humans hadn’t hunted the original creatus because they were jealous; they’d been frightened. Because humans smelled good. Because even though she liked the feel of Zach’s kiss, a part of her imagined biting his neck and feasting.


Excerpt: Creatus Talis  by Carmen DeSousa
About the Author:
My stories overflow with romance, suspense, a hint of humor and, of course, a few Kleenex moments. After all, what would a great story be without an emotional event setting the stage? All of my novels are sensual, but not erotic, gripping but not graphic, and will make you cry, laugh, love, and hope. Although some of my books include supernatural or ghostly beings, my stories dance on the edge of make believe. My hope is that as you read my stories, you'll wonder, "Hmmm...what if?"

Like most authors, I blame my leap into a full-time career as a professional writer on my love of reading. Reading has always been an escape for me. When life was rough as a child, I could always disappear into a book. But I found something else too... I discovered that writing out my thoughts was healing. Not only could I create hope for my protagonists, but I could do away with the antagonists--legally.

When I penned my first novel, "She Belongs to Me," I allowed only my cousin and best friend to read it. They are the reason I write. They pushed me to publish, as they felt my stories would give hope to others who've experienced tragedies. So now, even though I still write for myself, I also write for my readers who continually tell me that my words touched their soul.

Currently, my husband of twenty-seven years and I live in California with a very spoiled "rescued" calico we lovingly refer to as "Baby Kitty," even though she's eleven years old. Hubby and I love to experience different areas, so we move a lot. We've lived on both of Florida's coasts: Cocoa Beach and Tampa Bay; Charlotte, North Carolina; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Chicago, Illinois; Bullhead City, Arizona; and now the Northern Central Valley of California. But we're always looking for our next adventure, so we travel every chance we get.

Most of my novels share some of our favorite hobbies, mostly, anything to do with the great outdoors. We both love to read on the beach--or in a coffee shop if it's raining--and if the weather is really nice, we love to go kayaking and hiking. We rarely spend our days off at a movie theater or the mall. In fact, I hate shopping, and my hubby would rather do anything other than take me to a movie when I've already read the book. :)

Author links:


How To Write a Synopsis For Your Novel

How To Write a Synopsis For Your Novel, Guest post by Marty Thornley

How To Write a Synopsis For Your Novel, 

Guest post by Marty Thornley 

One of the most difficult things for any writer to do is to take the newly finished masterpiece that they have worked on forever and reworked and edited and reworked and edited… and chop it up into a synopsis. Any long-form project, like a novel or screenplay, will have all the characters and backstory and sub-plots and all that other stuff that was so important, it required well… a long-form story. So how do you tell the same story without all that?

How To Write a Synopsis For Your Novel, Guest post by Marty Thornley
The first attempt at writing a synopsis will be painful. That is okay. That is how it goes. However, it is definitely worth it. In fact, I highly recommend writing a synopsis after you consider the project done, but BEFORE you let anyone else know that you consider it done.

One of the great side-effects of trying to break your own story down into a simpler form, a quick pitch that can get the story across to someone who does not know every detail, is that it will help expose any weaknesses in the concept, the plot, the characters, the tone, the genre, and so on. One of the great joys of writing is that you get lost in that world, the same way you do when reading a book or watching a film. The problem with that is that it all makes sense to you like a dream makes sense as you are dreaming. But, have you ever woken up and tried to explain a dream? It does not always translate, and you realize, now that your awake and not trapped in that dream world, there are some gaps in the logic. Some plot holes, if you will.

I do not want to give advice on how long a synopsis should be, or what it should include, or whether it should be a sales pitch or just the facts of the story. You will usually see those described when someone asks for a synopsis. Oh… Did I mention? You will have to do LOTS of different versions of a synopsis! Maybe a 10-page, maybe a 3-5 page, maybe a 1-page… Then there is the couple of paragraphs for the back of the page or the Amazon listing. Then, of course, there is the one or two line pitch, known as a logline in the film world.

So here is how I approach it.

Start in pieces and don’t worry about length at first. Like I said, you may have to produce any number of these, so if one runs long, that’s fine. Try some realistic goals, like a paragraph for each chapter. Maybe a page for each section, if you break your book up into three or four sections or acts. That might get you anywhere from 3-10 pages. When you barely introduce the main characters, and you are onto page two, you will see immediately how difficult a one-pager will be.

This is where you might start to freak out. How am I EVER going to cram my epic tale onto one page? Don’t worry, just keep going. Or… Look back and start cutting. Summarize that page or two in a paragraph. Then the next page or two in another paragraph. And so on.

One thing to keep in mind, especially if you are working on a shorter synopsis is that you will only have the space to mention the main protagonist and antagonist and possibly hint at anyone else. Keep the story details to the main plot line.

I like to imagine that I am telling someone about a movie I loved, but they have not seen it yet, and I don’t want to give away any spoilers. As much as you want to reveal it all, would you really walk out of The Sixth Sense and tell someone the ending? Would you walk out of The Empire Strikes Back and say “You won’t believe who Darth Vader really is?” No.

So, write it like that. It should be a teaser. You want people to read your book, right? If you tell them every detail, why should they read it? Like describing a film you loved, mention the main character, the opening situation in detail, then use broad strokes for the middle, and build up to a tease of the ending that makes them eager to read your epic masterpiece, where you don’t have to leave out anything at all.

How To Write a Synopsis For Your Novel, Guest post by Marty Thornley
Marty started writing short stories as a teenager, inspired as much by favorite books and movies as the environment and characters that define the South Shore of Massachusetts. The pull of the movies dragged him first to film school and finally to Los Angeles, where he poked at the outskirts of the industry with screenplays and short films.

As his interest in a film career fizzled, he rebuilt himself bit-by-bit as a programmer. He spent the next decade building websites, finally realizing that something had been lost. His stories were collecting dust in the back of his brain while he sat through conference calls and code reviews.

So he returned to the woods of New England and the calming darkness under the trees. He returned to find the things that crawl in the undergrowth and turn them into words on the page. He dusted off one of his screenplays and turned it into his first novel. In the process, a dormant storyteller was awakened and is now seeking the next blank page to fill.

Author links:

How To Write a Synopsis For Your Novel, Guest post by Marty Thornley

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