Posts Tagged ‘Historical Fiction’

It is with great pleasure that I introduce to you my latest historical novel, Other Side of the River. It has been releasing in installments for several months, and now that the installments are all out, it has been released as a complete e-book by Helping Hands Press.

The Complete E-book

The Complete E-book



Western Siberia, 1926. As the Mennonite people struggle to maintain their faith and values, the Stalinist regime spreads its jaws to consume even its most remote citizens. 

In the midst of threat and uncertainty, Luise Letkemann and Daniel Martens plan their future. When Daniel realizes the consequences of unrestrained temper, Luise is forced to make life-changing decisions. Will they ever see each other again in the land of the living? Is there peace on the other side of the river?

The print copy is currently being compiled—I just okayed the format and full jacket—so it should be available shortly. I will be in touch.

If you prefer the digital format, please click on the title:  Other Side of the River.

  • File Size: 1091 KB
  • Print Length: 371 pages
  • Publisher: Helping Hands Press (June 18, 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00L4L9SPM

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This post is designed for “My Process Blog Hop” hosted by Travis Perry http://travissbigidea.blogspot.com/2014/03/sharing-my-writing-process-experiment.html, which I’ve joined with several other authors.

My Works-in-ProgressRiver 6

  1.  The project taking most of my focus right now is my historical novel Other Side of the River, which is coming out in installments—volumes—as a Kindle and Kobo read. Six volumes are out, three more to go. I wrote this story a couple of years ago, but am now dividing it into segments, each with its own sub-title.
  2.  On the organize-and-edit plate is my partially completed sequel to River.
  3.  I recently signed a contract to collaborate with a number of other authors on a historical series, but it hasn’t started yet. I have a Scrivener folder earmarked for this project with and filled with as much info as I can scrounge up without knowing the specifics.
  4.  Besides the historicals, I have a cozy mystery that’s been sitting impatiently on my computer, awaiting publication. I’m currently going through it with my local writing group and appreciate their critique.
  5.  My blogsite is another project that’s always underway. Until late last fall, www.janicedick.com was a wasteland hardly anyone ever ventured into. However, due to a push from my publisher, I’ve been putting more time, energy and creativity into my site, with positive results.
  6.   Recently, thoughts came to mind for another historical series. I’ve been planting seeds for this story in my Scrivener folders, and have experienced some sleepless nights thinking about all the elements that need to be figured out.

How Does My Work Differ from Others in its Genre?

My published historicals—Calm Before the Storm, Eye of the Storm and Out of the Storm—are based on family history from the Russian Revolution era, so I have access to family documents, letters, diagrams, maps and drawings, as well as incidents and themes that spark the writing.

My current historicals loosely follow the real experiences of a young man in Manchuria who finds himself and his family caught in a country in the midst of drastic change—for the worse. Truth is stranger than fiction, so I use fictionalize the truth to fit it into the required novel elements. I think this true personal angle adds a unique perspective to the books.

Why Do I Write What I Do?

I grew up hearing stories of times in southern Russia, a once-bountiful land spoiled by war and political greed (sound familiar?). The tales teased my imagination, as did reading classics like War and Peace, Anna Karenina, Crime and Punishment, etc.; and watching movies like Nicholas and Alexandra. When I came upon the documentation mentioned earlier, I felt the time had come to convey these stories of faith under pressure in story form, because that’s how some of us learn best.

My contemporary cozy is a fun attempt at mystery writing, because I love to read mysteries, especially gentle ones.

How Does My Writing Process Work?

Some days I wish I knew. I long ago switched from pen and paper to keyboard, whether for better or worse. I’m always fighting with my internal editor, since I am (she is) somewhat OCD, but I take comfort in the fact that there is no right way to write.

I need an outline, a general idea of how the story will be set out. It may not follow the outline, but I need a realistic goal. If I don’t have that, I feel I waste a lot of time writing things that will never fit.

I use Scrivener to write my books, so I begin by filling Research files, Character and Setting Templates. There will always be more research to do as I go along, and many adjustments, but I need to start by knowing something about the time, place, political situation, world events, etc. I have to find the mood of the piece.

There are numerous rewrites and edits, the earlier ones resembling a bland soup where I almost throw it down the drain, only to realize that this has happened before and will eventually work out. What’s required is a lot of muddling, organizing, messing around with index cards and lists and story/character arcs. Then a printout.

Then it’s back to the grind of re-reading and editing, going through the manuscript many times with a specific goal each time: character arcs, spicing up word usage, literary devices and symbols, consistency of facts, and so on. And eventually I have something I feel good about. Then more polish, and deciding when it’s done.

Why do I keep doing this day after day? Because I can’t not do it. My name is Janice and I’m a writer.


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I love the acronym for Work-in-Progress: WIP. It sounds so snappy, so intense. It isn’t always that way in real life; sometimes the WIP is more like lukewarm soup than hot wings, but we press on.blog-hop-for-writers image

For this 6th post on Ruth Synder’s Blog Hop, we are asked to discuss our current WIP.

1.  I would say the project taking most of my focus right now is my historical novel Other Side of the River, RIVER #5 which is coming out in installments—volumes—as a Kindle or Kobo read. Five volumes are out, four more to go. I wrote this story a couple of years ago, but am now dividing it into segments, each with its own sub-title. The experience is invigorating.

2.  In the back of my mind is the partially completed sequel to River. There are a few things I need to decide soon, such as when to end it. Two books or three?

3.  I recently signed a contract to collaborate with a number of other authors on a historical series, but it hasn’t started yet. I have a Scrivener folder earmarked for this project, so I’m just waiting for the details and the go-ahead.

England Greenbelt 2013 8284.  Besides the historicals, I have a cozy mystery that’s been sitting impatiently on my computer, waiting for publication. I’m currently going through it with my local writing group and loving their helpful suggestions.

5.  I need to include something else in this WIP category, I think. It’s my blogsite. Until late last fall, my website/blogsite was a wasteland hardly anyone ever ventured into. However, due to a push from my publisher, I have been putting much more time, energy and creativity into my site. The results have been good and I’ve discovered that I like to blog. Who knew? The first week of each month I post an inspirational thought, the second week an interview with a fellow author, the third week a review of a book by the aforementioned author, the fourth week a post from my Fiction Writing 101 series. Besides this there are Blog Hop posts such as this one and reposted articles from fellow writers.

6.  One last note: Recently, thoughts came to mind for another historical series. I’ve been planting seeds for this story in my Scrivener folders, and have experienced a couple of sleepless nights this week thinking about all the elements that need to be figured out. Yawn. When I’m not grouchy from lack of sleep, it’s such fun to imagine my way into another place and time.

I’ve so enjoyed this Blog Hop with Ruth and company. Thanks so much, Ruth, for all your work in organizing this effort and to all the other writers who joined in. Maybe we’ll do this again sometime.

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blog-hop-for-writers imageMy favorite genre is historical fiction. Of course, if you know me you might expect me to say that since I’ve read scads of them and have had three complete historical novels published, as well as one being released in installments (shameless self-promotion here).
River volume 4

However, I also love reading mysteries such as Anne Perry’s Victorian series (William Monk / Charlotte and Thomas Pitt), The Cat Who series by Lilian Jackson Braun, and Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache stories. I could list countless others (Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce books are another example), but these are books I read. I have yet to publish a mystery of my own, although I am currently editing a cozy mystery.

That brings me to another favorite genre: cozies. If you are unfamiliar with the term “cozy,” it is a subgenre of the mystery category in which violence is limited and mostly off-stage (my own definition). Something you can curl up with on a dark and stormy night without subsequent nightmares ensuing.

Speaking of genres, I recently read a great romance set in Scotland that made me want to hop on a plane to Skye to see the place for myself. Thanks to Carla Laureano for the experience. So although I don’t usually read dedicated romance novels, this one provided a lovely balance of character, plot and setting to keep me hooked from the beginning.

I also have a dear friend who writes gripping Christian suspense, which is a good balance to some of my other reading. Janet Sketchley’s Heaven’s Prey is a recommended read, but I couldn’t write suspense either.

Sometimes we all need a good belly laugh, a book that will make us forget our troubles. I love to read humor, but it’s a challenge to write.

So if I was forced to reveal my favorite genre, I would have to say, “yes!”  To all the above and more. Fiction has “food groups” and I like to have a balanced diet. I think it’s important for readers and writers to read widely. As they say: so many books; so little time.

my library photo

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There are many methods for creating fictional characters. We’ll look at how to:

* create characters from our imaginations

* use people we know and alter them to be unrecognizable

* create conglomerates using characteristics from a number of people

* use actual people

In order to create a character, we need to know what we expect from that individual. Allow me to use some examples from my historical series. In my first book, I wanted two main characters for their specific perspectives of the events of the time and for contrast:  one male and one female, one rich and one middle-class. Certain attributes for Katarina Hildebrandt came from me, from my mother, from other women I knew, to be formed into a woman who was shy but inwardly stronger than she realized.

It’s important to make sure all our characters don’t resemble us. We need to make them unique, choosing paths we might never take.  Book One

Katarina’s male counterpart, Johann Sudermann, took on some of the traits of my maternal grandfather but also developed some unexpected ways of his own. I was able to give him a few of the experiences of my grandfather in his Red Cross service during World War I. We are free to incorporate real events and experiences and fit them into the lives of our characters in order to make them more realistic and credible.

For color and a completely different perspective, I introduced Paul Gregorovich Tekanin. He was strictly a product of my imagination, a minor character included to portray the conflict between the Mennonites and the Russian peasants. However, Paul Gregorovich refused to go away, becoming an integral part of all three books in the series and adding conflict and fascinating information I had not previously been aware of. We may be surprised when we allow our creations to act according to their wishes, within limits.

A character from my second book, Wilhelm Enns, is based largely on my paternal grandfather Book Twoin looks and backstory. He was a lean, handsome, moustached widower, with three young children who needed a mother. It was easy to describe him as I held his photo in my hand.

Heinrich Hildebrandt, Katarina’s father, was based almost completely on what I could discover about my husband’s great-grandfather, a wealthy philanthropist and dedicated pacifist.

Besides these character creations, we can also use real people in our novels. Including actual historical or living persons in our work is trickier than creating our own characters in that we must portray them as accurately as possible.Book three

For example, the name Nestor Machno, when mentioned to a couple of elderly gentlemen who had experienced the revolution in Russia, caused shudders even after all those years. There are many resources for whatever we are writing, and sometimes they don’t agree. What if two sources disagree on a character’s motivation? In my case, I weighed the odds, considering what I knew of the man and chose the most probable course. We do the best we can, always remembering that history is written by the victors.

A question that might come up when using real people in our fiction is, what if their lives are less than exemplary? Anne Lamott says,

“If people wanted us to write nice things about them, they should have behaved better.”

Great quip, but perhaps less than conscientious on our part as writers. We must carefully think through the responses our actions may bring forth.

I have in my library a great resource for characterization, a book called Turning Life into Turning Life into FictionFiction by Robin Hemley. He offers helpful ideas for altering or disguising the people we use in our stories.

A few ideas for learning to know our characters is to apply personality tests. These are available online at such sites as: http://www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/jtypes2.asp. These kinds of checks can help us keep our characters true to themselves. There’s also a great downloadable resource from Jeff Gerke called How to Find Your Story at http://www.marcherlordpress.com/bookstore/writers-helps/how-to-find-your-story-by-jeff-gerke/. Also available is Character Creation for the Plot-First Novelist at http://www.marcherlordpress.com/bookstore/product/character-creation-for-plot-first-novelist-by-jeff-gerke/.

The better we know our characters, the better they will be able to tell the story. We must also remember that every main character must change over the course of the story. These changes can be plotted on a character arc.

When we develop unique, three-dimensional characters, they will become part of us, sometimes more real than the people around us.

Stay tuned next month for a closely connected element: dialogue.

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Amber Schamel is a multi-published author of Christian Historical Fiction. Her passion for history and culture has led her to travel extensively throughout the United States, Europe, and the Holy Land. Amber is actively involved in her church and enjoys volunteer work and music ministry.  Raised in a family of twelve children and homeschooled throughout her education, she currently resides in the beautiful state of Colorado where she also serves as bookkeeper and marketing director for their family businesses. Find Amber on her blog, or on all the main social media sites.

Take a read through this blog by novelist Amber Schamel, then check out her latest release below.

Amber Schamel

Amber Schamel

How Veggie Tales Inspired a Biblical Novella

It was a summer evening, I was in the kitchen making dinner while my little siblings (for some odd reason) were watching The Toy That Saved Christmas, a Veggie-Tales movie. My publisher had asked me to write a Christmas story and I was deep in thought wondering what I should write when I suddenly tuned in to what was playing on the screen.

Grandpa George was reading a scripture to Bob, Larry and Buzz-saw Louie. “And she brought forth her first born son and wrapped him in baby clothes and laid him in a manger.”

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Wait a minute, the passage didn’t say baby clothes. In the King James it says swaddling clothes. That got me to thinking, what exactly are swaddling clothes? Are they just baby clothes? Or is there another meaning to them?

I looked up the passage in Luke chapter two and noted that it was mentioned not only once, but twice that Mary wrapped her first-born son in swaddling clothes. So I began my research.

I found out that swaddling clothes did not necessarily mean that Mary and Joseph were poor or destitute. Swaddling clothes were used by people of all classes to wrap a newborn in hopes that it would help their limbs grow straight, as well as calm the babe. But if swaddling clothes were so common during that era, why was it specifically mentioned as a sign to the shepherds of who the Messiah would be? So I searched some more.

Another source said that in the eastern countries they would use a cloth to put between the yoke of an ox, and the ox’s shoulders. When Mary and Joseph were in the barn, they had nothing else to use, so they used this ox’s cloth that was translated as swaddling cloth to wrap the Messiah that would carry the yoke of our sin and bondage.

Many hours and websites later, I emerged armed with a ton of information, four different theories, and a story forming inside my head. So, I guess you could say that my new book The Swaddling Clothes was inspired by a Veggie Tales movie.

The things that inspire people, or give them an idea is very interesting to me.


 The Swaddling Clothes Synopsis:

SchamelSwaddling-6 x 9 Flat Cover

Through the ages, many stories have been told about Mary, Joseph and the birth of the Messiah. Stories of shepherds and sheep, kings, angels, and stables. But there is one story that has never been told. One story that has remained hidden in the fabric of time. The story of The Swaddling Clothes.

Mentioned not once, but several times in the Scriptural text, what is the significance of these special cloths? And how did they make their way into a stable in Bethlehem? From the author that brought you the Days of Messiah series comes a whole new adventure critics are calling “intriguing…thought provoking… a fresh twist on an age old story.”

“I get tired of Bible stories sometimes, but The Swaddling Clothes brings the story to life.”

“Heartwarming…truly inspired. A story you will want to read again and again. Rich details and a suspenseful plot will keep you reading while giving you a glimpse of God’s wonderful power and His amazing love.”


Blog: http://www.stitchesthrutime.blogspot.com

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/AuthorAmberSchamel
Twitter: @AmberSchamel
Pinterest – http://pinterest.com/AmberDSchamel/


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Julius Saturnius stands guard in the heat of a Jericho day, but he doesn’t mind because he’s waiting for another glimpse of the beautiful young Jewish girl he’s seen at the well.

Miriam doesn’t want to admit even to herself that she’s attracted to the handsome Roman centurion; after all, Rome is the enemy and she should not even look at him.

Through increasingly tense circumstances, Julius and Miriam become acquainted, but what can ever come of an attraction between a Jew and a Gentile? The impossibilities mount up into a high wall that separates them with faint hope of every being broken through. What Miriam doesn’t realize it that Julius knows her secret, and the Lord God knows the secrets of both their hearts.the Roman's Quest

This well-written story is set in the time the Romans ruled over the Jews, and the author has obviously gone to great lengths to research and depict the setting accurately. The characters are real and easy to identify with, and the plot leads the reader ever deeper into the impossible love story with each page. The Roman’s Quest is a sweet romance set in dismal and dangerous times, but where God is involved, miracles can still happen.

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Before we begin talking about plot outlines, character development and setting, let’s discuss a little concept called genre. The word is pronounced john-ra or zhon-ra, and it simply means kind or variety. In our case, it refers to the kinds of stories we read and write.

There are as many kinds of stories out there as there are crayons in a box.photo Some of the basic genres are:  Mystery (Anne Perry’s William Monk or Thomas and Charlotte Pitt series), Thriller/Suspense (books by Brandilyn Collins), Horror (Ted Dekker), Sci-Fi (DragonKeeper Chronicles by Donita K. Paul) , Fantasy (J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings), Western (Louis L’Amour), Romance (Karen Kingsbury), Historical Fiction (Bodie Thoene’s Zion Covenant and Zion Chronicles), Children’s (classics like A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle), Young Adult (excellent theme books by Melody Carlson), and Short Fiction. Each of these genres can be broken up into sub-genres, of which new ones are being developed every day. For example, some of the sub-genres in the Mystery theme are:  Amateur Investigator, Bumbling Detective, Cozy, Legal, Police Procedural, Whodunit, etc. See the following link for more information: http://www.cuebon.com/ewriters/genres.html.

What’s your genre? The key question to help you discover this is usually: what kinds of stories do you most like to read? I say usually, because I love reading and listening to mysteries, but I haven’t figured out how to write a good one…yet. I also love reading historical fiction, and the more I read, the more I learn about how it’s done.

Based on your favourite genres of fiction, which would you most like to write? Why? I like Historical Fiction because it reminds me that every historical figure that inspires me to write about them has actually lived and died, loved and hated, succeeded and failed. Each is real and unique and deserves to be known and understood, at least to some degree. When I create characters in historical fiction, it is with the hope that they will become as real as if they had actually lived.

Perhaps you wish to write Children’s Fiction because you love to tell stories to the little people in your life. Maybe you want to try writing for teens in order to help them better understand themselves and their parents and life in general. The draw to Fantasy may be the opportunity to create a new world with its own set of rules and parameters. Of course, there’s always help on the web. Here’s just one site of many to check out:  http://fictionwriting.about.com/od/genrefiction/a/How-To-Choose-A-Genre-For-Your-Novels.htm

Although most of us know what kind of story we want to write, the conundrum that presents itself is whether to write what’s on our hearts or what will sell best. The answer depends on our goals. If our number one objective is to sell our story, then we must research and write what’s selling. My agent once suggested that anything with a buggy and bonnet on the cover would sell. (I can’t tell you why, after all this time, but that’s another issue.) We can still be creative when we write for the market, but we must make sure we’re okay with it.

Personally, I need to write from the heart, whether it sells immediately or not. Pair that with the premise of Kevin Costner’s movie, Field of Dreams:  “Build it and he will come.” Write it, and the readers will come, so we hope and pray. The choice is up to us as individuals.

For the Christian writer, published or not, the choice of genre is important. If we plan to build a platform (the genre and style of writing that people think of when they recognize our names, also referred to as our brand), we will need to concentrate on writing in one genre until we are known by our readers.

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