16 June 2021

Writing Historical Fiction: Where to Start!?

When I first conceived the notion to write THE COUNTRY GIRL EMPRESS series, I knew from the beginning that I wanted to cover the entire lifetime of Empress Elisabeth of Austria (Sisi), set in 19th century Vienna. While I was quite familiar with her life story and the setting already, I knew there was still so much more I needed to research about this timeframe. The question was: Where should I begin?  Why...with the characters of my book, of course!


Creating Characters


All the wonderful ideas for a grand story wouldn't do me any good if I didn't have people, fictional or real, to play a role in my narrative. However, before I put pen to paper or more accurately, fingers to the keyboard, I had to determine who my main character is and what he or she plans to accomplish in the story. Since my main character, Empress Sisi, was a person who lived in the past, I needed to learn all I could about that her status, lifestyle, and personality. Although historical fiction allows room for interpretation, because it's fiction, after all, it still needs to ring true.

Researching the Era


Once I had a good idea of who my characters  (main as well as supporting)  were going to be, I needed to define the setting of my historical fiction novel clearly. Here are several questions that helped me: What year(s) will the story take place? Will it span over many years, or will it be restricted to one year or maybe just one season? Where will the story take place?  

For my Country Girl Empress series, these questions were reasonably simple to answer, since I had planned to span Sisi's entire lifetime, which in her case was 1837 to 1898. As for the location, it was also rather easy (or so I thought in the beginning): The Austro-Hungarian Empire. Little did I know that the Empress was quite a world traveler, and I had to, therefore, incorporate a lot of her travel adventures into my stories. 

This is when historical research is essential. I borrowed books from the local library, purchased some, and read many articles about the subject matter online. Once I had immersed myself in the setting, I was able to create mental images of the physical landscape and the buildings. Of course, it also didn't hurt that I had visited many of the locations.

Learning About Fashion 


My next step was to research the style of clothing people wore at the time. Learning the names of clothing items and the fabrics used was particularly fascinating to me. Authenticity is, after all, found in the details where historical fiction is concerned, and they are definitely found in fashion.

Studying Architecture


Architecture plays a significant role in writing historical fiction, from the most magnificent cathedral to the tiniest dairy maid's cottage because these buildings reflect the ideals of the people of that given period. Learning the names of some of these structural features and the raw materials used was essential to give my stories an authentic feel. Again, it is all about the details!

Learning About Warfare


Although my book series is not predominantly about war, warfare dominates history. The Austro-Hungarian Empire was involved in many conflicts as well as significant wars throughout the timeframe I chose for my stories. I felt it crucial to study the art and nature of warfare in 19th century Europe, as well as the various weapons soldiers used and the armor/uniforms they wore. 

Researching the Social Status of the Characters


The social status of an individual was of great significance, even though things were beginning to shift within society in the 19th century. Status defined a person's lifestyle and how he/she dressed. There was little fluidity or moving upwards, the betterment of ones' situation. If you were born a peasant, you were, more than likely, remain a peasant for life. In Empress Sisi's case, she was born to royalty, and she couldn't escape her destiny no matter how much she might have wanted to get away from the strict protocol that governed her daily life.

Writing Historically Accurate Dialogues


Once I had written my outline and done my research, it was time to write my first book in the series. Of course, the characters needed to interact with each other.  This is when I felt I could take some liberties with my writing. 

People in 19th century Austria spoke predominantly German. Of course, there was no way I would have my characters converse in German in my story since I was writing for the American market. In my series of novels, they would speak English, sprinkled with the occasional mention of German names. Although this aspect could technically be viewed as an inaccuracy, I don't think it would have done my books any good to write them in German for the American marketplace. Yet, I felt obliged to be mindful of the historical timeframe in which my characters existed. So, they would "speak" a form of formal English, not inundated with 21st-century slang. 

Accuracy is definitely king in historical fiction. That's what makes writing a historical fiction novel so challenging. However, thoroughly researching the subject matter definitely helps. For more tips and tricks, read Writing Historical Fiction: Balancing History and Fiction and Writing Historical Fiction: Chronological Errors and How to Avoid Them.

I hope you enjoyed this article! Since this list of tips and tricks is not all-inclusive, please feel free to  add yours in the comment section below.



Piper is the author of several non-fiction books, and recently added six historical fiction novels to her ever-expanding collection of published writings, In the Shadow of Her MajestyThe Country Girl EmpressA Life in the Shadow of the Crown, The Perpetual TravelerExcerpts from the Imperial Diaryand At the Castle of Dreams.. When she isn't busy typing on her computer, she can be found chasing after her furry children or holding on tightly to a good cup of coffee. Follow her on LinkedInFacebook, and Goodreads.
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09 June 2021

Dog πŸ• BakeryπŸ‘©‍🍳: Lip-Smacking Pumpkin-Banana Doughnuts 🍩

Show your pup(s) some love with a batch of doughnuts! Quick and easy to make and packed with flavor. My dogs love these delicious treats - and soon, your furry friends will crave them, too!




The 4th of June was National Doughnut Day. And since I didn't want my three pups to feel left out, I baked them their very own doughnuts. Of course, these treats only use a few ingredients that you probably already have on hand. So, this week, instead of writing about my passion for writing, and everything associated with it, instead I shall share my recipe for these yummy pumpkin-banana doughnuts.




It's no secret that I love to spoil my dogs. What can I say? I love to bake - for my canine companions just as much as for my human family members. But what I love even more about my homemade dog treats is that I know what my dogs are ingesting. For many years, it has been my tradition to bake yummy treats for my furry friends to help celebrate whatever the occasion may be. While the baked goodies are made for my dogs and their friends, they can also be consumed by humans, although they might not be to their liking due to the lack of sugars. 


Pumpkin-Banana Doughnuts

Ingredients for Doughnuts:














- 1 large banana 
- 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1 large egg
- 2 1/2 cups rice flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder


For Frosting:














- 3 tablespoons cream cheese
- 2 tablespoons sour cream
- sprinkles (optional)

 Directions: 














1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and set it aside.
3. Mash banana in mixing bowl.
4. Add honey, pumpkin, and eggs. Mix on medium speed until blended and smooth.
5. Add flour and baking powder, and mix on low until combined.
6. Move the dough onto a floured work surface. The dough should be slightly sticky. Add more flour if necessary.
7. Roll dough out to 1-inch thickness.
8. Use cookie cutters to cut out doughnuts and place them on the prepared baking sheet.
8. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the doughnuts comes out clean.
9. Remove doughnuts from the oven and allow them to cool completely on a cooling rack.
10. Once the doughnuts have cooled, frost them with cream cheese/sour cream mixture and garnish with sprinkles, if desired. This recipe yields six doughnuts. 




Do you love baking for your pup(s)? So do I! Over the years, I've prepared many homemade canine meals, such as this yummy wholesome canine Thanksgiving dinner or these delicious birthday pupcakes. Looking for more recipes? Check here: LIVING WITH CANINE EPILEPSY.

Notes:
You can serve these doughnuts to your pup(s) with or without the frosting. It's entirely up to you.
The ingredients in this recipe are generally recognized as safe for dogs. And although I am comfortable feeding these treats to my furry friends, I always like to suggest consulting your vet beforehand.

Thank you for stopping by, and Happy Baking!



Piper is the author of several non-fiction books and recently added six historical fiction novels to her ever-expanding collection of published writings, In the Shadow of Her Majesty , The Country Girl EmpressA Life in the Shadow of the Crown, The Perpetual TravelerExcerpts from the Imperial Diaryand At the Castle of Dreams. When she isn't busy typing on her computer, she can be found chasing after her furry children or holding on tightly to a good cup of coffee. Follow her on LinkedInFacebook, and Goodreads.
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02 June 2021

Month in Review - May 2021


Hello June! I still cannot believe that the month of May has come and gone already. Summertime is here, and the outdoor fun has just begun. But, before I get sidetracked by my newest gardening projects, it's time to recap last month. So, without further ado, here's the list of the most popular blog posts for May 2021, chosen by you, the readers:

Writing a book takes many hours and dedication. Often it takes an author away from their loved ones. Most writers get paid much less than you might think; most of them write because they love to tell a story. The one or two dollars they make in royalties per book barely buys that next cup of coffee that fuels the next chapter...

Summertime means lots of fun in the sun for us and our four-legged family members….well, that is when the weather plays along. While long days are spent frolicking outdoors creates many priceless memories, it can also pose hidden dangers to your fur babies. However, when you follow common sense, you can ensure everyone, including your pet(s), enjoy summer safely...

 

Editing has a lot of people moaning in frustration. Writing is a creative process, and every writer I've ever known can't wait for that moment when the words just pour out. But the editing process is sort of the opposite. It's precise, with a stringent set of rules that must be obeyed. That's probably why most authors say it is one of their least favorite parts of the writing process, aside from perhaps marketing...


One of the first questions I get from people when they find out I'm a writer is: How do you write a book? This article is meant to take the mystery out of the process a bit one part at a time...

 
Welcome back to part two of #WritersLife: How to Write a Book in 14 Steps...


Piper is the author of several non-fiction books, and recently added six historical fiction novels to her ever-expanding collection of published writings, In the Shadow of Her Majesty , The Country Girl EmpressA Life in the Shadow of the Crown, The Perpetual TravelerExcerpts from the Imperial Diaryand At the Castle of Dreams.. When she isn't busy typing on her computer, she can be found chasing after her furry children or holding on tightly to a good cup of coffee. Follow her on LinkedInFacebook, and Goodreads.
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26 May 2021

Why You Really Should Read Your Manuscript Aloud

 

Editing has a lot of people moaning in frustration. Writing is a creative process, and every writer I've ever known can't wait for that moment when the words just pour out. But the editing process is sort of the opposite. It's precise, with a stringent set of rules that must be obeyed. That's probably why most authors say it is one of their least favorite parts of the writing process, aside from perhaps marketing.


And I am definitely no exception. Ugh! Just thinking about it has me wishing for a genie to edit my writings for me. However, it is part of the writing process. So, I pick up my proverbial red pen and get to work. There's definitely something utterly satisfying about reading a paragraph and then picking it apart, analyzing it from beginning to end, trying to find a way to improve it. But nothing, in my humble opinion, beats reading my work out loud. It's one of those simple tricks that can help your story tremendously. 


So, now you probably wonder if this really works and why!? The answer is fairly simple: When we read quietly, we can read extremely fast, but when we read aloud, we are forced to take our time to form the words with our mouths. This slows us down tremendously, and when we slow down, the brain can actually see what we're reading rather than see what we think is there. 


Quietly reading requires our brain to do quite a bit of processing. We're seeing, interpreting, and perceiving the words. But reading out loud adds an acoustic component as we see the words and hear them as well. This requires our brains to process even more information. This, in turn, leads to better editing. 


The end result? When you read your scribbles aloud, you're bound to catch a lot more mistakes than when you just rush through your manuscript quietly. Here are some of the problems that reading aloud can help resolve:


Misspelled Words



We're so familiar with our own stories that when we read them in our heads, we tend to see what we meant to put down on paper rather than what we really wrote. Reading aloud helps us see (and hear) the typos, misspellings, dropped words, and other blunders that are so easily missed. So just reading the manuscript out loud once can have a notable advantage.


Repetitions



Many astute readers become quickly annoyed with sentences that contain repeated words and poor sentence structures. When you have numerous sentences in a row that begin with "I did...", these recurrences can start to get on the readers' nerves. Read those paragraphs aloud, and the repetitions will suddenly pop out at you, letting you know which sentences need to be rewritten.


Inadequate Sentence Structure



When we read aloud, we're more likely to read the words how they would be spoken. When we start rambling or reach an overly wordy sentence, we will probably stumble. That fumbling can indicate that the sentence isn't as straightforward as it should be and probably requires revision. It's not as likely to happen when we read in our heads, so reading out loud is a significant step toward tightening the writing.


Unnatural Dialogue



Readers will quickly pick up on stiff, pompous, or unnatural dialogue. Often, the dialog can seem a bit stilted to our modern ears, especially when reading historical fiction, where it's frequently just part of the book's charm. However, in most cases, it's just annoying. Reading aloud can help you identify places where your character's speech needs to be refined. 


The Pace Is Off



We've all done it: We hit a boring part of a book, and instead of reading through it, we just wanted to skip ahead to the more exciting chapter. This urge to skip sometimes entire chapters becomes more apparent when we read out loud because you can hear yourself skipping certain content. Identifying the issues in our writing is often the most challenging element in the writing process. Pacing, or lack thereof, is one of those sneaky errors that just seems to pop up out of nowhere. So when you slow down and read the words aloud, you can better see where the pace is dawdling or too abrupt.


Perplexing Paragraphs



When we're not skimming a paragraph, it is much easier to be analytical. Our aim as writers should always be clarity, even if it is delayed for a dramatic effect. Does this statement
 make senseWhile reading aloud, we can keep this question in mind, and it will become more apparent when something is obscure or unintelligible.

The benefits of reading your work aloud go on and on; this list is by no means all-inclusive. I highly recommend reading your whole manuscript out loud at some point. It doesn't have to be all at once or even consecutively. However, reading every word aloud during the editing process can help improve your story in so many ways. It is definitely worth the time and effort, as it ultimately leads to a more gratifying experience for your readers.



Piper is the author of several non-fiction books, and recently added six historical fiction novels to her ever-expanding collection of published writings, In the Shadow of Her MajestyThe Country Girl EmpressA Life in the Shadow of the Crown, The Perpetual TravelerExcerpts from the Imperial Diaryand At the Castle of Dreams.. When she isn't busy typing on her computer, she can be found chasing after her furry children or holding on tightly to a good cup of coffee. Follow her on LinkedInFacebook, and Goodreads.
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19 May 2021

Canine πŸ• Summer☀️ Safety 🦺 Tips

With Memorial Day weekend and the official start of summer right around the corner, I decided to write another article about a subject matter near and dear to my heart. As most of my readers know, I am a devoted pet owner, and I just adore my furry children.

Summertime means lots of fun in the sun for us and our four-legged family members….well, that is when the weather plays along. While long days are spent frolicking outdoors creates many priceless memories, it can also pose hidden dangers to your fur babies. However, when you follow common sense, you can ensure everyone, including your pet(s), enjoy summer safely.

Please, do not leave your pet in the car!



I have read the heart-breaking story too many times. Someone’s beloved pet was found dead in a vehicle, even though the pet parent was only gone for a short period. Even with the windows cracked, the inside of a car can heat up in a matter of minutes. Leaving the A/C running also does not guarantee your furry companion’s safety. If you are planning on running errands to places that do not allow pets on their premises, consider keeping them at home. You would not leave a human baby in the car with the windows cracked open! Then why would you do that to a furry baby? 

Hydration is key! 



Pets that spend time outdoors in the heat require plenty of water. To avoid dehydration, always bring fresh water with you and offer it to your pet at least every half hour. There are many styles of portable dog bowls available that are convenient to carry in a small handbag; some dogs even learn how to drink from a bottle and water packs.  

Pets can get sunburned, too!



Dogs and cats are susceptible to the same damage from ultraviolet rays just like we are. This is especially so for white or light-colored pets and areas of the body with thin hair, such as the nose, ears, and bellies. It might look a bit silly, but a light T-Shirt can help protect them, along with some pet-safe sunscreen. 

It's time to chill out!



The amount of time a dog can exercise in the warm weather depends on several factors: How long and often has the animal been exposed to hot temperatures, the animal's current health and fitness level, and hydration status.

In general, once it gets above 85 degrees Fahrenheit, dog owners should be cautious when exercising their dog outdoors. For most of them, moderate activity for thirty minutes is safe. When the temperature exceeds 95 degrees Fahrenheit, it is probably best for pet and pet parent to skip the outdoor workout until it cools down.

If your dog displays rapid or labored breathing, starts to resist walking or acts depressed, your dog may be overheating. In these cases, stop, rest, and re-hydrate. This does not mean you need to cease exercising because your dog is panting, just be mindful of your dog's behavior. Watch him/her carefully to determine if the panting is excessive or abnormal. When in doubt, take a break!

Water safety

Many pet owners enjoy taking their animal companions to the beach for a dip or a boat ride. Such activities are great ways to bond with your furry children. I love to include my pets in outdoor fun whenever possible, but not every animal is a strong swimmer. When you plan to take your pet in the water or on a boat, please consider the use of a pet flotation vest.  The ones with a sturdy, convenient handle will allow you to safely retrieve your companion should he/she get tuckered out from swimming or fall overboard. Fun in the sun can get hot, so remember to provide plenty of shade and lots of drinking water during your outings.

After an enjoyable day in the water, you might want to give your dog's coat a quick rinse with plenty of clean, fresh water and some pet shampoo. Don't forget to clean and dry the ears (especially the floppy ones) with an ear cleaning solution! Ear infections are often caused by allowing moisture to remain in the ears after swimming or bathing.

Summertime is a great time of the year for people and their pets. The activities you share with your furry companions this season will last a lifetime. Be smart, and stay safe!


Piper is the author of several non-fiction books, and recently added six historical fiction novels to her ever-expanding collection of published writings, In the Shadow of Her MajestyThe Country Girl EmpressA Life in the Shadow of the Crown, The Perpetual TravelerExcerpts from the Imperial Diaryand At the Castle of Dreams.. When she isn't busy typing on her computer, she can be found chasing after her furry children or holding on tightly to a good cup of coffee. Follow her on LinkedInFacebook, and Goodreads.
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