Stuck at Home

Wow, it’s been a minute! Since I last wrote on this site, my writing has taken a WAY back seat to some major life changes including a new job, a pandemic, and the beginning stages of the adoption process. Many people have asked me when that next book is coming, and my honest answer is… I’m not sure it is? I just don’t have it in me right now, but maybe soon! The thought train certainly hasn’t slowed! You would think that having literally nothing to do outside of your home for months at a time would lend itself to hours and hours a day to write, but for me, it just left me feeling confused and sad… which doesn’t lend to much creatively! At least for me.

I do think I’ll be starting a series of short stories here featuring a new character I absolutely love, so stay tuned for those and I’ll post them here!

For now, though, feel free to check out the new additions to my site, including the story of our adoption from China and kid’s ministry tidbits I’ve collected over the past year.

Now What?

I’ve been gravely wounded. By that Kraken… the demon monster that haunts the wee hours of every writer’s mind. That moment every writer dreads. The point in time where the vast chasms of your mind are filled with a million great plot points and captivating characters but they just can’t make their way onto the page (or screen… let’s be real.  This is 2019). I’m afflicted. I’m beaten down… by writer’s block.

They say it happens to everyone, but since I conveniently and lazily spread out the writing of my first novel over a span of four years, I never had moments like these. Now that I’m attempting to write the sequel to The Darkest Current, and probably DON’T have four years to do it if I want it to be remotely applicable to any reader who’s read the first one, I now find myself completely annoyed with… myself.

I know what I want to say and do, and just can’t do it. Everything comes out jarbled and uninteresting, whereas in my mind’s eye, the story is colorful, intriguing… you name the juicy adjective, it applies.  But I can’t translate that to actual words. I’m supposed to be a writer… not a thinker. Thinkers live in their own worlds. Writers share their thoughts with the world around them. Writers give. But right now… I have nothing to give.

But enough dwelling in my own pity party. This is where practice comes in. I must continue to write. Whether it’s ten words a day, or 1000. Whether I delete it all at the end because it actually is the garbage I’m sure it is, or whether a few words can be salvaged, I must keep going. Or I’ll get worse.

Isn’t that what life is like? We get stuck. And we get frustrated. And we wonder, “why bother?” More often than not I find this with physical exercise, which at it’s very core, I loathe. I get motivated by some new routine for a week or two and then I hit a wall and say, “I’ll just take today off.” And then three months later I look back and realize that one day turned into 90 without a second thought.

As a music teacher by trade, I often tell my kids… “if you keep messing up on a measure… play it 3 times, but then keep going. It’s okay to move forward even if it’s not 100% there and come back to it later… or you’ll just get stuck there.”

Such is life. We have to just keep moving forward. Even if it’s only an inch a day.

So, today I will write. It will probably be worthless and probably be just five words. But I’ll do it. Because if I don’t at least try, I’ll just be here lashing out at the Kraken for eternity.

A Little Piece of Me

My daughters are young – elementary and preschool aged. So when they heard I had written a book and we were going to be able to have a physical copy, they immediately demanded to know who the characters were, what they looked like, what they wore, etc.,

mirror_1551284438Children are visually stimulated at that age. That’s why I’m in awe of picture book authors and illustrators because they’re so good at creating brilliant imagery through words and pictures that help you see exactly what they were seeing in their minds when they were crafting their stories.

So when my five-year-old asked me for the umpteenth time what “Amelia,” the main character in The Darkest Current, looked like, I had to pause for a second. Then, ashamedly, I had to go back to my manuscript and look up how I described her.

It’s not that I had forgotten, or couldn’t see her vividly in my mind. It’s just when I went to answer my daughter, I realized that in my brain, Amelia looked just like me. But then again, so did her sister Adele, and their friend, Devon (who is a guy). Embarassingly… in my mind’s eye, all the characters are basically… me.

Of course, I didn’t describe them that way when I was writing the book. They all have distinguishing features. Admittedly, Amelia does look the most like me because she has long, dark hair. But Adele has blonde hair and blue eyes. That’s 100% NOT what I look like. But… I created her, and thus, she is reflective of me in many ways. Even the villain of the story personifies many character traits of myself, albeit those that I’m not necessarily proud of, because… villains.

Writers are artists in that they create a world in their heads and then attempt to lay that down on paper effectively. I’ve heard many an author say that they write because they have these stories billowing up in their minds that NEED to be told and they can’t rest until they’ve alleviated that urgency.

Darkest Current Right Side Cover

Writing is a labor of love. And time. And persistence.  You spend so much time in the world of your characters, you feel as if they’re real tangible people that you might bump into on the street in your neighborhood or in your favorite cafe. But good writers also write what they know, and who do you know better than yourself?

So, when you read The Darkest Current, now you know how I came up with the characters. They’re each just a little piece of me.

 

Get your copy of The Darkest Current.

The Darkest Current is also available at Lawren’s Gift Shop in Huntsville, Alabama.

Pardon Me, Do You Happen to Have a Copy of the Sears Roebuck Catalog, Issue Number 118?

I’m a nerd. I love doing research. When I was in college I was that girl you could always find deep in the “stacks” smelling the old books. I mean, come on, isn’t that what good English Majors do?  We read, we dig, we transport back and drop ourselves in the setting of any historical time or place.  It’s half the fun of reading!

When I set out to write The Darkest Current, I had wild notions of how fun it was going to be to create an exotic world from a time gone by. A better time. A romantic time. In my mind “Oak County,” Georgia was as vivid as a painting and I knew it would be pure joy to put my vision onto paper. I set aside some time. Frothed by foam for my latte I would giddily consume while my fingers flew across the keypad, and set to work.

And it was so fun.

Until that moment when I realized I didn’t know how much a wedding dress from a catalog would have costed in 1893. Or what it would have been made of. Or what the Catalog would have even been called.

Darkest Current Right Side Cover

Now Available!

In Historical Fiction, the setting is just as important as the dialogue and plot. It’s a character in and of itself. And to draw your readers in and keep them in that place with you, it has to be done correctly.

So, you can’t just write what you see in your head. That would encompass a total of five pages, ten if you have an immense vocabulary.

Spoiler alert– you probably already know this because you’re a reasonable individual, but it honestly hadn’t crossed my mind — the base price of an umbrella in 1893 is not a fact that materializes itself in your mind, no matter how hard you try.

Fortunately we have the internet. So most of these random facts are easily accessible and found in seconds. Because some genius out there had the foresight to scan copies of the Sears Roebuck Catalog in 1898 so we can all peruse them now to our heart’s content.

So, once I came to the inevitable conclusion that I would need to brush up on my skim reading skills, I thought it would be just a matter of hours spent at the desk Googling on repeat.

But then, I hit the trial scene and in spite of all of my best internet sleuthing skills, I couldn’t find a full transcript of a trial in 1890’s America online. Bummer.

So, I had to dig deeper and eventually came across the Lizzie Borden Museum in Massachusetts  where I was able to request and received a copy of the full court transcript from her trial (yes, the one where she gave her mother forty whacks), and from there I was able to recreate a trial in 1893 to a greater accuracy than my limited imagination was ever capable of.

What’s the moral of this tale? It’s this. No matter how beautiful of a scene you’ve created in your head, sitting down to write an Historial novel won’t be the romantic fever-pitched experience you envisioned it would be. But if you do the work, the end result may be.

-Meagan Kish

The Darkest Current is now available in Paperback or Kindle Edition.

 

 

 

Suspended Reality for the Sake of Suspense

Opposites attract. It’s an immutable law of nature. Everyone knows it. My romantic world is no different. My husband and I couldn’t be more opposite in personality and tastes if we tried, and I discover this in new ways all the time.

The most recent instance of this came when he read the first chapter of my novel, The Darkest Current. The book opens with the heroine, Amelia, diving headlong into a river because she needs to blow off some steam. This river is her solace, her “happy place”, to use modern terminology. It’s where she goes to think and collect her thoughts.

As I was writing this scene, I could smell the algae in the water, hear the rush of the rapids, feel the goosebumps because it takes place at night in early Spring. It felt appropriately vivid to me and completely believable for this character who was already fully alive in my head to be doing this. It was romantic and thrilling. Something every good Victorian heroine would do during a crisis.

My husband saw this completely differently. He read the scene and looked up at me and said, “You expect me to believe that this nineteen year old girl just dove into a river in March, at night, just because she was mad? No one does that.”

My author self wanted to yell “yes they do!” but then my reasonable self– let’s face it, the much less dominant side of me — thought, “huh. He has a point. No real person would actually do this… so why did I write it that way?”

Then, this flash of a memory took me back to a literature class in high school where I first heard the term “suspension of disbelief,” or the idea that readers are willing to temporarily separate what they know to be true and set that aside for the sake of the story. This is done for a number of reasons — it’s more romantic, more dramatic, more fantastic, etc.,

This then, is why I wrote the scene the way I did. It’s so much more fun to read about a girl throwing her boots aside on a log and diving into a river still wearing her dinner gown than it is to be told, “she was angry, so she paced in the hallway for several minutes.” At least, it is for me.

But for some readers, (I would argue probably half the population), these leaps away from reality for the sake of the tale just pull them out of the story altogether. They’re distracted by the unreliability of it all. This isn’t wrong by any means. It just means that they prefer a more realistic style of writing. They exhibit a more scientific and analytical approach to reading. And to be sure, there are some amazing writers out there who cater to this preference, and do it brilliantly.

Unfortunately for my husband, I’m not one of them.
-Meagan

The Darkest Current is now available for purchase!

 

Family Matters in Historical Suspense

I recently attended a mystery writer’s conference and sat in on a Historical Fiction session where several successful authors discussed the role of the family in Historical Fiction as opposed to contemporary fiction. As I thought back on my writing process for The Darkest Current, I realized that I inadvertently made almost every character a relation to another character in some way. Family is EVERYWHERE. And when you think about it, that makes sense, doesn’t it? In 18th and 19th century America, neighbors were distant, and the family unit meant everything. You relied upon family beyond all else.

In today’s world–and this is reflected in contemporary literature– family is much more broadly defined. Family can be a character’s close knit set of friends, colleagues, roommates, etc., And of course, much of literature still grounds the main character with nuclear family relationships. But a character can be totally estranged or unconnected from all family and yet still have a strong support system, whereas in Historical Fiction, it would be almost completely unbelievable that a character could be emotionally stable without the support of their family.

Over time and as our access to the world has expanded drastically, the definition of “family” for a main character has also expanded, but in some way, it has stayed the same. Literary characters need support, whether that’s from their nuclear families or beyond, if we are to find them validating of the human experience.

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

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1893 – The Year Nothing Happened

As the release date for The Darkest Current lurks around the corner, I’ve begun that trip down nostalgia lane to when I first conceived of the concept for the novel. I’ve had many (almost a scary amount, really) of people ask me, “why did you pick 1893 as the setting for your book? Like, I don’t remember learning anything about that year in school?”

“Oh but you’re so wrong! Let me tell you about the literal perfect storm that was 1893!” is my typical response… at which time most people politely smile and accidentally spill their coffee down their shirts in order to escape the conversation.

For those that don’t have a dark beverage within reach and are forced to listen to my ramblings about another time and place, the following are the bullet points and basis for the setting of The Darkest Current.

1893 was just after the massive railroad industry collapse that financially bankrupted a large majority of the south. Trains heading west were a hot business, and so the thought was, let’s build a network of railways to connect all of the major southern cities! The problem: EVERYONE had this same thought and so the market was saturated before it ever really launched. No good…

– 1893 was the year the Sea Islands Hurricane hit the lower Atlantic coast. Thousands lost their lives – most of them freed slaves and their descendants who were still struggling to establish themselves in a still very divisive and non-inclusive society.

– The Sea Islands Hurricane led to the solidification of the American Red Cross as a natural disaster aid organization. Prior to this, the Red Cross had been more of a wartime aid only, but the combination of a fire in Charleston and the Sea Islands Hurricane thrust Clara Barton and her relief efforts into the role we now recognize them for today.

-1893 also found America deep in the throes of recovery from the Civil War and the South was finding it hard to keep up. Deep in the mulch of discontent and growing cries for social justice were sown the seeds of discontentment at the obvious lack of gender equality and opportunities for women.

And there you have your history lesson for the day that you didn’t know you wanted! There actually WERE things happening in 1893, particularly in the South, and the ripples of these events were felt for decades to come.

Come back in a few weeks for more sneak peaks into the world of the Sullivans and Amelia’s struggle to find her footing amidst the chaos of the end of the 19th century!