Tag Archives: historical fiction

The Murphy-Harpst Home: Writing About the Past

Rolling some ideas around in my head. I guess I should tell you where I am before I embark on something new. I have a tendency to get several projects going and bounce around between them.

It wasn’t like that when I wrote Red Clay and Roses. The idea for that story had rolled around in my head for twenty years. Having the time to put the words down brought it all together in a hurry. I didn’t really intend for it to become a published book. It isn’t set in a standard novel template and has its share of faults, but I’m proud of it just the same as if I had set out to accomplish writing a novel.

Naked Alliances was my first attempt at actually putting together a totally fictional story. There are things I like about it and things I don’t. I can’t say that I’m totally thrilled with it. I know authors are supposed to be very confident and write what they want to read and be all excited about putting it out there. I’d be lying if I said that I did not have any reservations.

At any rate, I know it has improved thanks to some wonderful beta readers and a couple of fantastic editors. I just got the novel back from its last pass through an editor’s hands and I am on chapter twenty-one of thirty finishing up those edits and I am much more excited about it now than I was at the start. I plan on continuing the Naked Eye series.

I have rough outlines completed for the next two novels. One involves missing elderly, and another involves development encroaching on wildlife habitat.

I still have Surviving Sister in the works, a 1950s-60 saga that continues with Hannah Hamilton’s family members, particularly her mother and her Aunt, who both suffer from mental illness during an era of major changes in how the mentally ill were treated. Concerning the Hamilton family members, it could be read as a sequel to Red Clay and Roses or a standalone. One of the biggest hindrances to writing this novel is the research required. There is so little documentation of treatment modalities in that era. My personal psychiatrist has given me some reference books that might help move things along. There is also a romance in that book that has slowed me down.

A nice lady from the orphanage that I lived in back in the mid-seventies has written to me. She found a blog post in which I mentioned the Harpst Home. That really has me thinking. I’ve done loads of research on Ethel Harpst and the Harpst Home and still have contacts there. Although it is primarily a treatment facility now, no longer an orphanage as most children are housed in foster care nowadays, it is still home to dozens of youth who would be at serious risk if the home did not exist.

Here is an excerpt on Ethel Harpst from “Georgia Women of Achievement”

 

Ethel Harpst
Ethel Harpst

 Perhaps Ethel Harpst’s biggest gift was the time and effort she gave to so many children in need. Harpst began her long career of caring for children at the McCarty Settlement House at Cedartown’s mill village. During her time teaching there, she took in a number of children who had been orphaned by parents who succumbed to illnesses. The Ethel Harpst Home opened in March 1924 and housed many children until the walls could expand no more.

Harpst traveled to raise funds for a new home, and in 1927 the first modern building, James Hall, was completed. And just in time for children who were displaced and orphaned during the Great Depression. An answer to prayer was the interest and attention shown by Mr. and Mrs. Henry Pfeiffer of New York. Through the Pfeiffer’s and several other friends, money was raised to allow more buildings to be constructed on the campus over the next 20 years, and hundreds of acres of land were contributed to the cause. All this is thanks to the dedication and tenacity of Harpst to continue fundraising. Today, the site houses the Murphy-Harpst residential program, where Georgia’s severely abused children can go for healing and therapy. In 2010-11, the program served nearly 300 children, which included 97 children in residential treatment.”

Sarah Murphy
Sarah Murphy

Long after her death in 1967, the Harpst Home merged with the Sarah Murphy Home. Sarah Murphy was a black woman in the area who had created a home for black youth.  Harpst Home became the Murphy-Harpst Home in 1976, during my last year there when it started integrating.

So, I’ve been wondering if I should write a book about them. It would either be non-fiction or a historical fiction based on their stories.

OR, Should I write a purely fictional story about a resident there and how she saw her world and the changes she went through?

Having been a resident there myself, I could better relate to a fictional character and write in the first person. There were so very many different coming-of-age stories to come out of that place during my short time there, I think it would make for a most interesting read.

What do you think?

What would interest you most?

Historical Fiction about the founders?

An orphan’s personal story?

I remember the first black girl that came from the Sarah Murphy Home to the Ethel Harpst home, and her roommate. I’d love to tell their story.

What would you, my audience, like to read?

Any ideas you’d like to share?

Book Review: Beacon of Vengeance by Patrick O’Bryon

I have been catching up on some sequels and series. There are some new authors I have been introduced to this past year that have really managed to keep me engaged and Patrick O’Bryon is one of the best.

You can read my review of his first book: “Corridor of Darkness” here.

“Beacon of Vengeance”, the new thriller inspired by his late father’s undercover life in Nazi Europe, is Volume Two in the “Corridor of Darkness” trilogy.

Book Review:

Patrick O’Bryon, a self-proclaimed Europhile who has traveled extensively, has a writer’s voice, language, and eloquent writing style perfect for Historical Fiction of this time period and location. O’Bryon’s ability to create realistic imagery and evoke human emotion with his words is incredible. “Corridor of Darkness”, his debut novel, sent chills up my spine as he described pre-war Germany in all of its splendor and chaos, and a thrilling and perilous chase across the countryside. The breath-taking book was masterfully crafted.

“Beacon of Vengeance” has Ryan Lemmon, an American professor and spy, intent on finding his friends, pursuing and being pursued across Occupied France. The pace is quick and steady throughout the book as spies and double agents appear, setting the stage for intrigue and suspense. Ryan Lemmon, as main character, was slow in getting out of the starting gate, but the author again masterfully set the stage for his next adventure. As things heated up I could not turn the pages fast enough to quell my anticipation.

The characters are people that we come to know intimately, both good and evil. Horst von Kredow, the dastardly, sadistic, Nazi villain, exercises cleverness that rivals that of Ryan Lemmon forcing Lemmon and his colleagues into dangerous and life-threatening situations. As often found in war, the lines blur between friend and foe. There are shocking revelations along the way. The author has a genuine gift in creating real presence for the reader. You feel as if you are there, participating in the story with the well-developed characters. Tension builds as you take two exciting steps forward and one horrifying step backward to finally come upon the phenomenal “show-down” conclusion. “Beacon of Vengeance” is a splendid central core for the trilogy and I eagerly await the final volume, “Fulcrum of Malice”. New characters have been introduced that have me excited for the next great adventure.

I am fascinated with the author’s skill and talent and highly recommend.

5 of 5 stars

You can visit with Patrick O’Bryon here, and read about his own personal experiences traveling abroad and his military history, as well as some delightful (and sometimes frightening) stories of his youth.

“Beacon of Vengeance” easily stands alone, but I recommend starting with the first book if you are new to the story:

Writing Styles: One or Many?

cn_image.size.prisoners-of-style

For most of the last century, America’s cultural landscape—its fashion, art, music, design, entertainment—changed dramatically every 20 years or so. But these days, even as technological and scientific leaps have continued to revolutionize life, popular style has been stuck on repeat, consuming the past instead of creating the new. Like clothing fashion, books seem to have developed their own anticipated styles. I guess you could drop that 2012 guy’s pants below his shorts and put a hoodie and some sunglasses on him. (If you would call that current acceptable style.)

You often hear comments made about a writer’s style. Reviewers remark on disliking or liking an author’s style. I can read a book and say whether I liked the writing style, or not.

Writing style refers to the manner in which an author chooses to write to his or her audience. A style reveals both the writer’s personality and voice, but it also shows how she or he perceives the audience. The choice of a conceptual writing style molds the overall character of the work. This occurs through changes in syntactical structure, parsing prose, adding diction, and organizing figures of thought into usable frameworks.

A WRITER’S STYLE IS WHAT SETS HIS OR HER WRITING APART and makes it unique. Style is the way writing is dressed up (or down) to fit the specific context, purpose, or audience. Word choice, sentence fluency, and the writer’s voice — all contribute to the style of a piece of writing. How a writer chooses words and structures sentences to achieve a certain effect is also an element of style.

Style is not a matter of right and wrong but of what is appropriate for a particular setting and audience.

To read these descriptions of writing style, especially concerning personality and voice, one would think that style is almost innate. That it cannot change. But note what they say about choice.

For several weeks I was awash in stream of consciousness producing sentences of internal monologue, detailed description, and using associations to move from idea to idea.

Recently, I felt that my writing was getting serious and emotional. I needed a break from it.

I picked up my crime novel that I had placed on the back burner and read through it. That prompted a flurry of new ideas and I put down over 2000 words in one day.

The writing style is completely different from my historical story. Totally.

The sentences are shorter, there is humor, and things (especially clues) are plainly stated and described.  It is rational and scientific; there is no literary dallying with side-issues, no subtly worked-out character analyses, no “atmospheric” preoccupations.  There is no method to hold up the action and introduce issues irrelevant to the main purpose, which is to state a problem, analyze it, and bring it to a successful conclusion. I am having fun with it.

Having only written one book in recent years, I went back over some old manuscripts. The writing styles were clearly different.

My published book is a historical novel. There was much setting the time period, and description, character development and some internal dialog.

With all of the talk about building an author platform, I have seriously considered starting a new blog that focuses on crime novel writing or a specific image to that effect. Experts say that you need at least ten published books and preferably a series if you want to make your mark as a genre writer. What do you think?

I can’t say that I am a historical writer, fantasy writer, romance writer, crime fiction writer or any such thing as a defined writer of fiction. I am exploring.

Do you have a style? Could you deviate from it and feel comfortable or have you found your comfort zone? Is it innate talent for you, or do you feel it is a learned skill? Do you feel a genre specific platform is necessary?

Trusting Internet Research:The Bees in my Bonnet

I write fiction built on the past.

compliment of wikipedia
compliment of wikipedia

In 1947, Raytheon built the “Radarange”, the first commercially available microwave oven, It was almost 1.8 metres (5 ft 11 in) tall, weighed 340 kilograms (750 lb) and cost about US$5,000 ($52,273 in today’s dollars) each.

An early commercial model introduced in 1954 consumed 1.6 kilowatts and sold for US$2,000 to US$3,000. In the 1960s, Litton bought Studebaker‘s Franklin Manufacturing assets, which had been manufacturing magnetrons and building and selling microwave ovens similar to the Radarange. Litton then developed a new configuration of the microwave: the short, wide shape that is now common. Sales volume of 40,000 units for the U.S. industry in 1970 grew to one million by

tabletop model
tabletop model

1975.

Formerly found only in large industrial applications, microwave ovens increasingly became a standard fixture of residential kitchens. By 1986, roughly 25% of households in the U.S. owned a microwave oven, up from only about 1% in 1971. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that over 90% of American households owned a microwave oven in 1997.

Also, Liven’s design for the domestic dishwasher did not become a commercial success, and dishwashers were only successfully sold as domestic utilities in the postwar boom of the 1950s, albeit only to the wealthy.

I HATE WHEN THIS HAPPENS!

http://www.retrowaste.com/1950s/  This site is colorful and appears to offer much accurate information to inform us all of eras of the past.  Go to this site to discover erroneous statements:

“The household also became much more modern. Many appliances that we take for granted now were invented or perfected in the 1950s. Truly it was the decade of the modern American family, who finally had enough money to buy these new conveniences. The average fifties household had a television, a microwave, a dishwasher, electric appliances and much more.”

Furthermore, as a writer of historical fiction, I wrote a comment suggesting they remove the microwave and dishwasher from the sentence explaining why. That moderated comment was promptly deleted. In fact, the only comments you will see on this site are those praising the site for what a fine job they are doing.

Then, I wrote a comment indicating that inaccurate web sites were why the internet could not be trusted as a source for accurate information. This was promptly removed, as well.

What would it take for them to remove microwaves and dishwashers from the average 50s household affordable appliances? Delete two words, use other examples.

That tells me that they know they are wrong and don’t care.

The site is awesome in many ways, but it is filled with inaccuracies.  You cannot trust the internet. You must double; triple check internet sources or your work is not going to be accurate or believable. With the era I write in, much of my long term memory is very good. I still recall my phone number from 1969. But sometimes I need a quick reference for fashion, toys, music, cars.

Some sites don’t care, as long as they feel you are being somewhat entertained.

Be careful! You could contribute the Cadillac to Henry Ford if you are not cautious. I have seen it done.

I read Sylvia Plath’s “Bell Jar” was published posthumously and wrote that in my book. I later discovered it was not. It was awarded the Pulitzer posthumously. The novel was, in fact, published under a pseudonym three weeks before her death.

One error like that and you can lose your credibility. I had to revise that with my book and still need to update in my paperback version. Why?

With much writing, “The Devil is in the Details!”

You owe it to your readers to be accurate. It would be most ridiculous to read about a housewife popping TV dinners into the microwave in the 1950s. They were baked in the oven, also served in aluminum trays back then BTW, and coffee was perked on the stove top. A word spellchecker doesn’t like.