Books by Carol Ervin, ebook series, historical fiction, Historical Fiction Series, Kindle, main characters, writing fiction

The People in my Stories

Charlie’s eyes shifted to his brother. “Will spits ’bacca juice at me.”

“Charlie lies,” Will said.

These are the first words we hear from two young brothers in The Girl on the Mountain, the first book in my Mountain Women series. When I introduced these boys, I had no idea how they would impact the story and no intention of writing a series. In their first appearance, Will and Charlie are eleven and nine and are learning how to survive in a poor family with an abusive father and no mother. The main character, May Rose, has been charged with taking care of the family, which includes the boys’ baby sister, neglected to the point of abuse. Throughout the series, these three children grow up to be important to Winkler, the fictional town that’s the setting for each novel, but they remain secondary characters.

This, I think, is what life is like. We are the main characters of our own stories, but our lives are affected by the secondary and minor characters who make up our world. The thirteen novels in the Mountain Women Series present the lives of people in difficult circumstances who manage to carry on, driven by their own determination but also helped by the characters around them.

The main character (May Rose) is most revealed as she becomes attached to destitute children. First there’s thirteen-year-old Wanda, whom May Rose meets after being abandoned by her husband. May Rose is only a few years older than Wanda and doesn’t know how she’s going to take care of herself. Wanda is essentially homeless, the daughter of an alcoholic prostitute, but she has the confidence May Rose lacks. Throughout the series, Wanda becomes the most important secondary character (and a favorite of readers). She is also the main character of book two in the series, Cold Comfort.

I find writing a series to be easier than writing stand-alone stories because I do not have to invent many new characters and settings. Each of my stories introduces one or more new people who in some way affect the plot. Currently I’ve been reading about the Civilian Conservation Corps, a program in Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal during the great depression. I expect to fit the CCC into the lives of my characters in the next story.

Currently the time period of the series is 1897 to 1934. I’ve written a draft of the final book in the series, set in 1976, in which May Rose is ninety-two. That book won’t be released until I’ve filled in the years with a few others. 

Writing has been a great retirement pursuit. I enjoy the people in my stories, and it’s been gratifying to hear from readers who say they like them too. Thanks for reading!


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indie publishing, Reading, Reading preferences, Uncategorized, writing fiction

No one loves every book

book.loverYou don’t have to love my book, or read it. I understand completely. If you’re a writer, I hope it’s okay that I may not love your book or poem or even choose to read it. I trust somebody will, and I hope your work will find the audience it deserves.

Seldom does a book come along that everyone loves. We might be surprised if we could know what works published today will be read 50 years from now. Probably not the best-sellers. I don’t expect them to be mine. Possibly something obscure, a book that was ahead of its time. Sometimes art is like that–when it’s unique, it takes the public a long time to catch on. Or catch up.

The variety and amount of available fiction reminds me of the cereal aisle in a large supermarket, or an eight-page menu that allows each diner to have his favorite food. If we were truly hungry, we’d be grateful to eat anything. Long ago, with less choice, more hunger, and maybe a less well-developed palate, I read anything.

Since I’ve devoted so much time to writing, I’ve lost my ability to read for pleasure. I’m sad about that. Most of the time I read like an editor, either marveling at the excellence of word choices and sentence construction or wanting to rewrite the whole thing.

Today I get enthusiastic about a story only if it’s different, not a new twist in a plot I’ve read too many times. It must be well written, and I like it even better if it illuminates cultures, concepts, settings, periods, or technologies I don’t know about. I love extraordinary writing; there’s never enough of it. I like to connect emotionally with characters and their stories. I dislike some genres, even when written extremely well. I envy people who enjoy almost any story. I love finding a book that inspires me to write better.

The fact that all writers can now put their work up for sale without the backing of a publishing house has resulted in a lot of poorly-crafted books on the market. A blogger who reviews books under the name “Read 4 Fun” reported on one of these recently, under the headline “Please Do Not Publish Such Annoying Work.”  The review is kind of humorous, but I feel sorry for the author, who may have erred only in not seeking the advice of an editor. The reviewer says it could have been a good book. Maybe the writer will learn from this review and do better the next time.

Though I seem to have lost the ability to lose myself in a good book, I’ve been rewarded with hours of enjoyment (and angst) in crafting my own, and I’ve made many friends of indie authors as well as readers. I’m certain that one day our freedom to publish will result in the emergence of extraordinary products, and maybe a few of those will still be read in 50 years. Best wishes to all.

writing fiction

More, please.

Though I’m always hesitant to give literary advice, I would like to make a modest request to authors of fiction. Please, give us something that’s more.

A lot of fiction is like stale cookies or mediocre pizza, satisfying to people who’ll take sugar, cheese and pepperoni in any form.  I can never understand why, when it’s not required, some will read a book all the way through, then acknowledge it was terrible. Like, “That pizza was really bad.” Belch. I guess they’re hungry.

People read fiction to have an experience–thrilling or horrifying or romantic, and hopefully satisfactory. Guess what, some also read fiction to be enlightened. When I read fiction, I like to learn something.

I’m told more people read non-fiction than fiction. To them, fiction may seem frivolous, unconnected to real life ambitions and concerns.

In truth, the best fiction offers an entertaining experience along with insight, so it’s possible to learn more about ourselves and others, about events, cultures, things, other periods.  Fictional characters can be inspirational and make us care more. Good fiction provokes new thoughts.

I once was a hungry bad-pizza-reader, but after a lot of years, I can’t stomach most fiction. I may be missing some decent works because I have no patience with characters who have wings or fangs; I won’t read horror or erotica, and I’m tired of the themes, characters and situations in most contemporary stories.

In my new pickiest of modes, I even tire of stories that sparkle with brilliant writing. It’s like I must have all my favorite pizza toppings, plus sauce that’s neither too sweet nor too acidic, all on extraordinary crust, the most important part.

My favorite read is a well-written, compelling story with characters who care about each other and feel real. Doesn’t sound complicated, does it? I strive for those elements in my own writing, though I know my products, like my preferences, will never satisfy everyone’s taste. Even so, we all must work to give the reader more.