I’d rather be writing… A story of beta readers and taxes

IRS 1040 Tax Form Being Filled Out I’m working on taxes this week.

Normally I’ve completed this task by mid- to late February, but I wanted to get to “THE END” of For King and Country before I dove into the tax forms. Yes, round 2 of edits on the novel are done!

I should have done the taxes last week, but then the first round of comments from my British beta reader, Julie, arrived via email. I had to know…  I could have been satisfied with the general comments in her email: “There was plenty of action and drama, as well as a few tense moments, and some lovely interplay between [snip snip].”  But I was weak and immediately dove into the details and found, to my great relief, she did not note any major concerns or plot holes – at least in the first 75,000 words.

I had just finished tweaking the manuscript based on Julie’s comments when I received the marked-up manuscript from beta reader #2, Jen. I’ve looked over Jen’s comments, but haven’t started on edits yet. I thought I’d be safe when Julie’s part 2 comments arrived on Friday. I’ve been good. I haven’t looked at them…yet.


Medieval Torture

Most writers recommend distancing yourself from the novel before starting on revisions. I know I should do that and let the story rest. But this is torture. It’s worse than facing the tax forms.

May your week be torture free, my friends!

Tax forms shared  as CC BY-SA 2.0 
and linked to www.seniorliving.org for attribution as  requested
“Streckbett”. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Streckbett.jpg#/media/File:Streckbett.jpg


Get swept away to the 12th centuryMen of the Cross
Sweeping battles, forbidden love, and 2 knights fighting for Richard the Lionheart
A 2014 B.R.A.G. Medallion honoree and Readers’ Favorite
Get it for Kindle & Nook and at Smashwords.

Posted in life, revising, writing | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Me as a writer: 7 facts

keyboardI was challenged by Lynne Provost to write 7 facts about me as a writer. I’ve been interviewed about my historical fiction elsewhere, so I’m going back to my writing roots here:

1. I didn’t pen many stories when I was young – the ones I wrote down were required for school. But my imagination was my playground. I had stories of the past, present, and future—of real people and imaginary ones. Apparently I had the Partridge family on Star Trek… And an original character from the future who ended up in the American West of the 1880s and 1890s.  Somehow I’d managed to forget that Partridge Family idea until an old friend recently reminded me of it. (You’ll probably want to forget it too.)

2. I have never taken a creative writing class.

3. The first short story I wrote and submitted was accepted for publication in a role-playing game magazine licensed by Lucasfilm, Ltd. in 1994. Artist Mike Vilardi did an exceptional job capturing the look of my original main character Alex Winger.

4. I get a little upset when people refer to my Star Wars short stories as fan fiction. My stories were vetted by an editor at West End Games and by content editors at Lucasfilm. Though my inexperience as a writer shows in those works, someone saw a glimmer of hope. :)

5.  After publishing several short stories in the Star Wars Adventure Journal, I worked on my first original novel, a SciFi story. I wrote about 40,000 words and got stuck in the middle. I didn’t write another word for almost 6 years. Family came first, and work exhausted my creative energies. I finished a first draft of that SciFi novel around 2005. It’s still sitting on the hard drive. I re-read it a couple of years ago and hope to resurrect it some day.

6. In retrospect, I wished I’d received more constructive criticism on those short stories. Fortunately, I have 3 wonderful ‘teachers’ in the writing group I joined in 2009. I still have a lot to learn, but I feel my writing is improving.

7. Dialogue is my strong point. The first drafts of my 2 published novels were written in what I’d describe as a screenplay format with very little narrative. Once I had the story down, I went back and revised, adding the descriptive elements. I struggle with narrative and description., but as I mentioned in #6, I feel like my writing is improving.

Bonus #8. I got to “THE END” of Book II of Battle Scars, For King and Country. The manuscript has been sent to 2 beta readers.

Keyboard photo taken by me. CC BY-SA 4.0


Get swept away to the 12th centuryMen of the Cross
Sweeping battles, forbidden love, and 2 knights fighting for Richard the Lionheart
A 2014 B.R.A.G. Medallion honoree and Readers’ Favorite
Get it for Kindle & Nook and at Smashwords.

Posted in interviews, star wars, writing | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

12th century gems

“…there is none of the above stock [i.e., livestock] there now except for the 2 plough-teams. John, the clerk, who was at that time Thomas fitz Bernard’s steward, transferred 40 hoggets [i.e., 2-year-old male sheep] to the vill of Whitfield at the feast of Saint Martin (11 November) and unjustly took as many good ewes for them at Easter together with their lambs.”
– Walmsley, p. 45

[The bracketed words are mine (based on the editor/translator’s footnotes & text), added for clarification.]

The quote is from Widows, Heirs, and Heiresses of the Late Twelfth Century and goes on to say that John took many casks of beer and an ox. I wonder what became of John the clerk…

Now you’re wondering why I’m perusing this tome, right? I stumbled across it via a footnote in another book. Widows didn’t turn out to be what I expected, but it is a fascinating resource: a translation of a primary text published in 1185, the Rotuli de Dominabus et Pueris et Puellis. The entries in the original rolls reflect a report of 4 itinerant justices gathering information on widows and wardships in 12 counties in England. A king must know what his subjects’ lands and properties are worth to have an “adequate flow of income and services from royal and non-royal sources.” (Walmsley, p. ix.)  And a writer of 12th century English historical fiction must understand what widowhood meant to a woman.

Widowhood, of course, was preceded by marriage. :) Marriages were often arranged when the prospective bride and/or groom were children. In the second half of the 12th century, the Church decreed that consent was the basis for a marriage. Whilst a girl and boy might be contracted to marry by their parents, the age of consent was reasoned to be 12 for girls and 14 for boys. However, this didn’t mean children weren’t married:

“Richard Neville was aged six when he married Anne Beauchamp, the daughter of Richard, earl of Warwick…”
–Ward, p.13

Once married, a girl/young woman went from her father’s house to her husband’s and was subject to his will. Medieval women may have run their estates, but they had no legal  rights in the eyes of the law. If widowed, that changed:

“…the widow…was regarded as an independent figure able to plead in the courts and act as head of her household and estates.”
–Ward, p.34

On a widow remarrying:

“According to the 1225 issue of Magna Carta no widow should be distrained to remarry while she wished to live without a husband, but she had to give security that she would not remarry without the king’s consent if she was a tenant-in-chief or without the consent of the lord of whom she held her lands.”
–Ward, p. 40

While the law might reflect one thing, politics, land, money, or other reasons were at issue and some women were forced to take a second (or third, etc.) husband. There are also tales of women abducted by prospective suitors!  Once remarried, the former widow relinquished her rights and her new husband took over responsibility for her property, and he would hold them if she died.

Fascinating, isn’t it? And ladies… aren’t you glad you live in the 21st century?


Walmsley, J. (2006). Widows, Heirs, and Heiresses of the Late Twelfth Century. Aldershot: SCOLAR.

Ward, J. C. (1992). English noblewomen in the later Middle Ages. London: Longman.


Get swept away to the 12th centuryMen of the Cross
Sweeping battles, forbidden love, and 2 knights fighting for Richard the Lionheart
A 2014 B.R.A.G. Medallion honoree and Readers’ Favorite
Get it for Kindle & Nook and at Smashwords.

Posted in historical fiction, research | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Versatile bloggers

versatilebloggerAlison Morton, author of the Roma Nova series and fellow B.R.A.G. Medallion honoree, named me a versatile blogger.  How cool is that? What a great way to be introduced to readers of Alison’s blog and to recognize other writers. Check out the other individuals she nominated. (I would’ve added at least 2 of them here if she hadn’t nabbed them!)

I’m charged with several tasks. I must:

1. Display the versatile blogger logo –  done.
2. Write a post and link back to the blogger who nominated me – linked above.
3. Post 7 interesting things about myself – see below.
4. Nominate up to 15 other bloggers and explain why I’ve nominated them – see below.
5. Inform them of their nomination – will do.

So here goes…

Seven things about me:
1. At one point in high school, I wanted to attend Georgetown University to study foreign languages and go into the foreign service. I got bored with school and decided to join the Navy instead after I learned they had language schools. My recruiter thought I’d be going to school in Florida, but I ended up in Monterey, California for an entire year. What luck!

2. I trained as a communications technician/interpretive (CTI) in the Navy. In 5 years, I spent all of 9 weeks on a Navy base. Fresh out of boot camp, I spent 12 months on an army base for language school and 4 months on an Air Force base to learn about radio telecommunications. Then I was booted back to an army base at Ft. Meade, Maryland. Can’t talk about the work in any detail. It felt like something out of science fiction. Go read a Tom Clancy novel. I’m in there…

3. Favorite television show as a kid: I think that would be Star Trek. (RIP, Mr. Spock). Favorite Star Wars movie: Episode 5, The Empire Strikes Back.
Favorite book: Heir to the Empire. It renewed my interest in Star Wars, and led me to writing and publishing my first short story.

4. Currently watching: Game of Thrones (season 4), Agent Carter, and Downton Abbey. Currently reading:  The Blood of the Fifth Knight, A Game of Thrones, and I just finished Knight of Jerusalem (4.5 stars)

5. I got rid of cable tv about 5 years ago, and I get no reception from stations nearby. I love my Roku box. I get my fixes through Netflix, Amazon, and streaming from the networks (for the few current shows I watch).

6. My day job includes coordinating data collection and library publishing activities. Who knew librarians did such cool things! I’m a tenured professor, which means I was privileged to go on sabbatical for 5 months in 2010. I spent 9 weeks in the United Kingdom visiting university libraries and learning about their technical services operations. My Brit colleagues said I’d seen more of the country than many of them had. And lucky me – I lived in Nottingham for 3 of the 9 weeks. Sadly, I didn’t know that the short story Battle Scars I’d penned in 2009 would be the beginning, er,  the ending of a novel when I lived there. At the time, Men of the Cross wasn’t even in my sights.

7. I bought my first personal computer in 1993. I discovered AOL chat rooms in 1994, and attended the first online chat of a group of female Star Wars fans. The group became Club Jade. Thirty of us met in Las Vegas in 1997 to watch the special editions, and the group continues to meet annually. I attend when I can (which isn’t often enough) and keep in touch via social media. Many of us have worked at Celebration conventions for the remarkable Mary Franklin of Lucasfilm. I wish I could be in Anaheim next month, but it’s just not possible this year. I’m hoping to attend the 20th reunion in 2016. :( Enough about me.

Now on to the nomination of other wonderful, versatile bloggers:

1. E.M. Powell – Her agent calls her books “car chases with chainmail.” Historical fiction, action/adventure. I loved her 1st book, and just started her 2nd.
2. Catherine Hedge – a retired educator who gives some of the best critiques in the world. She is an amazing and gifted writer.
3. Raji Singh – Move over 1001 Nights. Raji’s characters are full of whimsy and will captivate you.
4. Jen Fitzgerald –  Jen and I met online through our love of Robin Hood. She’s a writer of romance novels, and actively involved with the Texas chapter of the RWA.
5. Helena P. Schrader – Helena writes historical novels rich with detail, but it won’t bog you down.
6. Derek Birks – Derek’s about page says he writes historical fiction with attitude! Historical action-adventure, War of the Roses. His novels are on my to-read list.

All right. Off to tap these folks for their assignments.

Posted in blog reading, life, social media | 3 Comments

Writing update and a snippet from For King and Country

Nottingham Castle

Nottingham Castle

Title: For King and Country (Battle Scars II)
Current word count:  141,122 words

Revisions: I am at the 116,444 word mark in my 2nd round of editing the manuscript. A few weeks ago, I teased 3 readers with chapters 1-2 and received some positive feedback. Two beta readers have the first 71,000 words in their hands, and with luck, I hope to ship the 2nd half of the novel to them within the next 3-4 weeks. Then I sit back and twiddle my thumbs. (Don’t I wish!)

Snippet from the WIP
To set the scene: Robin (not yet the man of legend Hood) has recently befriended Much the miller’s son. Working undercover for Queen Eleanor (remember, King Richard is in captivity in Germany), Robin must infiltrate Nottingham Castle. 

St. Peter’s bell pealed Terce welcoming sunlight streaking through the clouds. The miller’s wagon appeared as it struck, just as Much had promised. It lumbered up Castle Road amidst Nottingham’s mid-morning bustle. Robin hopped onto the bench. The younger man wore a sheen of sweat. That, and the grain filling the bed, was ample evidence he’d had a busy morning.

“I’d have helped load the sacks,” Robin said, “but there’s no need to have your father asking questions.”

“You’re certain no one will recognize you at the castle? Might be a knight returned from the Holy Land knows you. And I’ve heard many a man from the garrison speak of serving the old king in Normandy. You might have fought them.”

“Do you expect any of those men will be in the kitchens?”

Much looked around warily to see if anyone was watching. “Well no, I suppose not.”

Robin smiled to himself. “All you’ll need do is show me the path to the tunnels.”

Much kept his voice low. “We shall not have much time.”

“Just get me inside and you may go on your way.” Robin felt for the hilt of his sword. He felt naked without it, but grain deliveries from town were not guarded, and peasants weren’t permitted to carry swords. He carried two daggers, one on his belt, the other in his boot. “If I am caught—”

“You’ll tell them the miller’s son led the way.”

“I would not,” Robin protested.

“If they torture you?”

“I will say I was lost. I was seeking a job in the kitchens and started to wander. My da’ always said I was too too curious for my own good. Dark stairways deserve exploration like a woman’s body. I was feeling my way along every crevice…” Robin paused to let Much’s mind fill in the details. “And suddenly, there I was, stumbling into a tunnel.”

Much pulled up on the reins. “A woman’s body?” He looked incredulous, yet mortified at the same time.

“I spin stories well, my friend. Look at this face.” He pointed to himself, twisting his head from side to side. “Have you ever seen such an honest face?”

Much rolled his eyes. “You could get lost down there.”

“One main tunnel with small alcoves, the third of which leads to a passageway. On the north wall, a door. Through that, the stairwell leads to a large underground chamber.” Robin scrubbed his hands.

“You remembered?”

“Of course!” Robin laughed. “Now all you must do is forget you ever saw me.”


Photo of Nottingham Castle taken by me (2010). CC BY-SA 4.0


Get swept away to the 12th centuryMen of the Cross
Sweeping battles, forbidden love, and 2 knights fighting for Richard the Lionheart
A 2014 B.R.A.G. Medallion honoree and Readers’ Favorite
Get it for Kindle & Nook and at Smashwords.

Posted in Battle Scars, historical fiction, revising, teasers, works in process | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Author Charlene Newcomb


I am visiting with Stephanie Hopkins at Layered Pages today. Join us!

Originally posted on Layered Pages:

Charlene Newcomb-BRAG

Hello Charlene! I am so delighted to be talking to you today about your B.R.A.G. Medallion Book, Men of the Cross. Before we get started talking about your book, please tell me a little about yourself.

Hi Stephanie! I was born and raised in South Carolina, but left home at 18 to “join the Navy and see the world.” That “world” ended up being duty stations in Florida, California, Texas, and Maryland. My job as a communications technician led to a post-Navy career in academic libraries, where I’ve worked since the early 1980s. Somewhere in there, I had 3 children – now all grown and independent – completed a B.A. in U.S. History and a Masters in Library and Information Science, and moved to Kansas. I started writing in 1993 and published a series of short stories in the Star Wars universe. Due to life’s curve balls, I didn’t…

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are you stuck in the middle?


Pulling one from the archives…. But with an update: I never did set daily word count goals. I have found I make steady progress if I write/revise at least an hour a day. I rarely miss that goal. What about you? Daily word counts? Or writing time?

Originally posted on The Many Worlds of Char....:

red, yellow, green leavesThere is nothing more exciting than the moment when an idea invades your brain. Characters, settings, and scenes for that next story appear out of nowhere, or come in dreams, or when you’re sitting at a stoplight. (Why are those people honking at me?)

So what do you do? You jot down a few notes and start writing. Right? 30,000 words later, you’re stuck in the middle of the novel. Burnt out. You can’t find your way to the end. That doesn’t mean you don’t know how your story is supposed to end. You just can’t figure out how to get there.

I found myself in this predicament at the 40,000 word mark of a sci fi novel I started writing more years ago than you’d want to know. The manuscript got shoved aside for more than 3 years until I re-read it and decided I was ready to tackle it…

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