Sunday, October 18, 2015


My husband watches some "reality" shows. You know the type, Man Versus Nature, usually in winter, often in Alaska, or an isolated locale in forbidding mountains, or a desolate wilderness inhabited only by wild things.

The men on the shows struggle against enormous obstacles. Perhaps it's the weather: from 20 to 50 degrees below 0; predators: rampaging grizzlies, ferocious wolves, giant cougars, dinosaurs; or machinery breakdowns: snowmobiles or trucks stuck in the snow, or with dead batteries, or out of gas, planes, trains, and automobiles. How easily I digress.....

If the transport requires work to fix, daylight is always fading and the man must spend the night in this frozen inhospitable wilderness.  He relies on his wits and cunning to keep from freezing/starving/dehydrating/being mauled or eaten by predators.

Of course, the first thing he must do is start a fire. The wind may be howling and snuffs out match after  match until they're all gone. So there he huddles, rubbing two sticks together, or scraping his trusty flint, hoping against hope for that magic spark to begin the fire that will keep him alive.

At this point, I tend to interrupt the fictive dream and say, "Why doesn't he ask the cameraman or other film crew member if he could borrow a lighter?" To further annoy, I add, "If I was in that situation I'd hop into the motorhome. Which is probably what he'll do  as soon as he gets a small blaze going and the camera is turned off for the night. Jump in the heated motorhome, have hot coffee or cold beer with the group, watch some satellite TV ..."

We laugh about it, about the fabricated drama added to the story. Effective? Well, the shows do have an audience and run for season after season.

This reminds me that my stories need the element of drama to keep readers turning the page. I don't want obvious fabricated drama, or melodrama, but something that arises in a natural way among characters and situations I created.

Many have said there must be conflict or tension on every page to keep the reader hooked. To me, whichever way you look at it, it's drama.


Tuesday, October 06, 2015


The blessing and curse of writing a historical is, well, the history part.

Some romances are light on history, but this is fine when history does not play a big role in the story--the plot of which dictates the degree and depth of historical details necessary. When I read a romance I don't want to get bogged down in swarms of fine points meant to add ambiance/realism/richness to the story but could have been scaled back so that it doesn't plod. It's different if these are integral parts of the story. And of course a straight historical is different--the history is the story.

That said, I like enough history in a romance to firmly ground me in the time and place. I need to trust that the writer has given me a world that could have been real.

Now for my own tale of joy and woe: joy because I love doing research (but maybe too much at times); woe because my epic/saga requires lots of rummaging around to give me an overall view of the time as well as some pertinent details as they relate to the characters. I have a large cast, so do need a fair amount of these details, some which I will only mention in passing, some which will never make it to the page.

I'm writing about a place I don't live in, a time I may be familiar with from other work I've done, but not how it affects this particular place. This is a large undertaking, but I look forward to the task.

And it keeps me out of trouble.

-- Cat