The Life of a Blog

Today, I’m looking back at the journey I’ve taken with A Writer of History. And no … this is not the end of A Writer of History. Just an opportunity to contemplate how it has evolved.

It all began early in 2012, when I decided to “push the reset button” and create a new blog to focus on the writing of historical fiction. I’d kept an earlier blog (now defunct) called One Writer’s Voice where I wrote about the business of writing and the notion of being an author entrepreneur. Ultimately, though, I decided to shift gears and create A Writer of History. You can find that first blog post about new beginnings here.

The last seven (!!) years have been a wonderful experience. One that has connected me with many authors, bloggers, and readers, and I’m grateful to all of you who have come along with me on the journey, to those who have contributed thoughts and content, and to those who visit from time to time. I’ve written 817 posts (818 if you include this one). And visitors have grown from 964 in 2012 to over 56,000 in 2018. Never would have imagined that!

At the beginning, I decided to survey those who read fiction with an emphasis on historical fiction. I thought a survey might be useful and I could share the results on A Writer of History. One of the results from that survey was a list of Top Historical Fiction Authors and from there I went on to interview some of those authors including Elizabeth Chadwick, C.W. Gortner, Hilary Mantel, Jacqueline Winspear, Margaret George, Helen Hollick and many others. I also interviewed bloggers who focused on historical fiction included Amy Bruno, Richard Lee,

Because I was writing novels set during WWI, I included many posts exploring my findings – from fashion, to military strategy, to WWI trench standing orders.

At some point, I began to receive book review requests – the first one being The Twelve Rooms of the Nile by Enid Shomer. I was astonished to be asked for a review … imagine, someone ‘out there’ had noticed my little blog. I have to confess that I don’t do many of those anymore given that reading and then reviewing is such a time commitment. Instead, I invite authors to guest post or be interviewed, which also offers a chance to feature something about their latest novel as well as a book cover.

Over the years, various topics have attracted my interest: the role of social media and reading, the life of an author, the excitement of historical research, the daunting challenge of marketing, my self-publishing journey, and the joy of being published. I’ve also included snippets from my own writing and sources of inspiration including my grandparents’ photos and mementos.

I belong to three book clubs and have often posted about our book selections and the lively discussions we have. And for several years now, I’ve posted ‘A Year of Reading’ list with brief thoughts on each novel read that year.

More surveys followed in 2013, 2015, 2017 and 2018. Each survey was an opportunity to discover more about the world of reading and to explore what the findings mean for authors. Although time consuming, the surveys have prompted much interest and I’ve used some of the insights in my own writing and marketing as have others.

My first novel Unravelled was self-published in 2013 followed by Lies Told in Silence in 2014, and then Time and Regret was published by Lake Union in 2016 – I posted about them here and you celebrated with me.

A few years ago, I decided to focus on a themeInside Historical Fiction – to look under the covers of historical fiction and illuminate those attributes that make it different from contemporary fiction. Many writers and readers contributed their thoughts. Another theme was Successful Historical Fiction. Last year’s theme was Transported in Time and Place which began with Dazzled by a Green Door. I’ve written about the purpose of historical fiction and compiled a list from the 2015 survey of favourite historical fiction novels. Another popular series were the WWI letters home from my husband’s great-uncle who served in France and Africa. I tagged these Somewhere in France and Somewhere in Africa.

On the blog you can also find writing tips from well-known authors like Emma Darwin and personal postsWill the Real M.K. Tod Please Stand Up; Grateful for Every Day (a post following the plane crash my husband and I survived), and one on my own #metoo experiences called A Lifelong Feminist.

Much to my delight, in 2016 Writers Digest selected A Writer of History for its list of 101 Best Websites for Writers – and they repeated the honour in 2018. I’m grateful for the acknowledgement of what we’ve built together.

So my friends, it’s been a rewarding journey. You’ve helped me along the way by cheering me on, adding your voice, and contributing your posts. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it and look forward to much more.

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION FOLLOW A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

 

 

 

 

Dazzled by a green door

Dear all – this is the first post in a new series I’m calling transported … hope you enjoy it.

Almost two years ago – hard to believe – my husband and I spent three weeks living in a Paris apartment. We walked the streets searching for evidence of Paris 1870, the setting for Paris in Ruins, an as yet unpublished novel. The idea was to live like Parisians do, while absorbing the culture and feel of the city which still reflects that time period.

Historical fiction has the privilege and challenge of transporting readers in time and place. Readers say that’s the number one priority of historical fiction. Walking the streets, I focused on discovering little details that might create exactly that feeling for readers.

One day I was dazzled by this green door. What emotion does it evoke? What time period does it represent? Who fashioned the almost sinister-looking knocker? What would the knocker sound like? Look at how the shadow extends the length of the fingers. Did you notice the woman’s hand bears a ring and the wrist is framed with a ruffle? What sort of people passed through the door? Why is there a grill at eye level?

Imagine the scene: Exhausted and bedraggled, Mariele lifted the brass knocker shaped like a woman’s hand and let it fall. She smiled limply at her mother and knocked again. Maman’s cheeks were sunburned and her hair, normally tightly coifed, now lay like thick ribbons down her back. Their clothes were dirty, their hands scratched from climbing fences, their legs so fatigued they could barely stand. Mariele wore no boots, her feet bound in strips of cotton torn from her petticoat, were cut and blistered, the cloth damp with blood. – from Paris in Ruins 

Or maybe this could happen: Claire was curious about the door, not only its vivid green colour but also the brass knocker shaped like a woman’s hand. Stefan had told her to meet him at the shop with the green door but he’d said nothing about the knocker or the small grill that allowed the owner to scrutinize visitors before letting them in. “Details are the lifeblood of espionage,” Captain Lucas always said. If she made a mistake now, the mission would fail.

Or this: Breathless and with blood oozing from the wound to her side, Lisette lifted the knocker – the one Michel fashioned in the shape of her very own hand. She let it fall once and then twice before collapsing to the ground.

Every time I see this photo, I’m transported to another time and place.

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION follow A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

The Ten Thousand Things – exploring successful historical fiction

In February I included a list of award winning historical fiction with the thought of exploring what readers think made them superb examples of the craft. I didn’t get very far on this topic and thought I’d return to it today with a look at John Spurling’s The Ten Thousand Things, winner of the Walter Scott prize for historical fiction in 2015.

What’s it about? In the turbulent final years of the Yuan Dynasty (13th century China), Wang Meng is a low-level bureaucrat, employed by the government of Mongol conquerors established by the Kublai Khan. Though he wonders about his own complicity with this regime—the Mongols, after all, are invaders—he prefers not to dwell on his official duties, choosing instead to live the life of the mind and his paintings. A novel of fated meetings, grand battles, and riveting drama.

One reviewer on Goodreads writes: “Spurling’s writing is exquisite. He creates scenes with a sensitivity and attention to aesthetic detail that seems light and effortless, yet deeply moving. To read this book is to plunge into another world, to be transported, not into some dimly remembered past, but a very real and vividly imagined world that is thoroughly convincing.”

Another says: “I now feel like I’ve been to China in the 13th century.”

So clearly Spurling is a master at transporting readers in time and place.

Many readers attest to Spurling’s wonderful prose, comparing it to the beauty of the paintings his protagonist creates. Another praises the dialogue and comments that Spurling’s experience as a playwright may be the source of his excellence.

There are numerous references to the authors blending of philosophy and politics into the story. “The Ten Thousand Things is a literary masterpiece that reveals classical philosophy and art of 14th Century China.” “Any student of Chinese history will appreciate the story and the insights into the politics, art and history of that time period.”

Kirkus Reviews has this to say: “The great strength of this novel is not so much the plot but the rich detail that sets the reader in the middle of China.”

The South China Morning Post [Hong Kong’s major English newspaper] says: “Like one of Wang’s paintings, this story is a highly crafted masterpiece that cannot be enjoyed in one sitting … Even a reader who starts out with no interest in China or Chinese artists will be sure to return to this story over the years, as its truths remain timeless.

So – superb writing, evocative time and place, timeless truths, rich details. I’ve certainly looked at enough reviews to add this one to my TBR list.

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION follow A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.