Carousels play a significant scene between two sets of lovers, separated by sixty years, in my novel Blackhorse Road. One of the things I love about writing a novel is where the research takes me in tracking down specific facts—one of these journeys was locating an old carousel that existed on Bob-Lo Island in 1900 and one that existed in Fairmont Park, Riverside CA in 1966. Here is a picture of Mountain Dancer that Luci rode in Fairmont Park—a ride that changes her life. https://carousels.org/psp/CrossroadsVillage/LeafHorseRow.html
As most of my friends know, I began writing a novel back in the late winter of 2018. Writing fiction was always a dream—to use my creativity in imagining and writing about regular people and how they faced and overcame challenges. However, it wasn't until meeting and overcoming a significant medical challenge myself that I put a computer keyboard to a digital screen and started writing my first story, Blackhorse Road. Writing this novel has been a journey of fulfillment, personal introspection, insight, and, yes, a stress reducer.
During this chaotic and uncertain time, polishing off my novel during its last round of copyediting has given me a quiet place to hang out with the book's characters. And my characters, in turn, have provided me with a therapeutic escape and the energy to come back and face the real world.
I think all people have a gift of story-telling—after all, we share stories every day with our family and friends! Give yourself a gift of time to put the computer keyboard to a digital screen and write a story, creating characters that will give you a therapeutic escape and a quiet place to hang out for a while.
Book Reviews for my novel Blackhorse Road are coming in, and I'm over the moon!
Midwest Book Review's Senior Reviewer Diane Donavan has given the novel high praise. The full review will appear on the Midwest Book Review's website in March, but here's a peek at one part of the review: "Blackhorse Road, a story of romance, coming of age, betrayal, and recovery that moves from personal transformation to personal disaster in the blink of an eye….Novel readers seeking a tale that closely considers deception and forgiveness, love gained and lost, and family ties will welcome the multifaceted Blackhorse Road's ability to come full circle in a satisfyingly unexpected way."
The full review will be posted to the Midwest Book Review webpage in early March.....wait for more to come.
What genre is my novel, Blackhorse Road?
There was a robust discussion about that topic when my five enthusiastic proofreaders met over Christmas tea last month.
"It isn't just a romance," Marian said.
"It's self-help, but it isn't self-help either," someone else chimed in.
"But it's a love story although not a bodice-ripping romance," said one of them, and that remark caused a howled from all of us.
"Maybe it should be bodice-ripping," I joked, which produced some raised eyebrows and nods around the table.
Seriously, though, my friends had made an important point. Determining a novel's category is essential for many reasons, but from a practical point of view, identifying its genre helps readers find an author's book. While novels may cross over into several genres, having a home base helps to set expectations about the story and subject matter between the book's covers.
So where does that put Blackhorse Road? Read the synopsis and see if you agree with my choice that follows.
It's the turbulent 1960s, and eighteen-year-old Luci Bartolini is following her North Star and new beginnings. Her values are grounded in her Irish great-grandmother's grit, her Italian father's philosophy of choice and happiness, and the era's social justice ideals. A chance meeting at a street dance with a handsome air force cadet sets the stage for a romance that is filled with intimacy without bounds and is as thrilling as a roller-coaster ride. But lurking in the shadows is a powerful foe who robs Luci of her autonomy and shatters her love affair. Discovering the betrayal, Luci tumbles into darkness and a chasm of anger, hate, and despair. Can Luci free herself from the shackles of bitterness and resentment by walking down the forgiveness path? Does she have the strength to restore belief in herself and keep hope alive even as she believes she has lost her soulmate forever?
I believe the foundational home for Blackhorse Road is Women's Fiction. The novel is a story about a young woman on the brink of change who is searching for her place in the world. Her journey is one of personal growth and maturation spanning two decades and that details how she finds love, lives through sorrow and betrayal, struggles with doubt and forgiveness, and acts on her aspirations to achieve a flourishing life.
Cross over genres include Realistic Fiction, defined as stories about real life problems, Adult Fiction, defined as stories about and intended for adults, and for some of the audience, Historical Fiction (after all, the 1960s began sixty years ago) and, of course, Romance—a love story with a satisfying ending.
Publication now: March 2020
I love my copy editor! Copy editor: A person who corrects written material to ensure that it is free of error, omission, inconsistency, and repetition.
In my forthcoming novel, 181 Blackhorse Road, a 1929 D-25 plane and the Aerodrome at Old Rhinebeck, NY make cameo appearances. My copy editor, Kim Bookless, caught my number transposition of D-25 (yeah!), but beyond that she found a terrific YouTube video of the plane filing today at the Rhinebeck Aerodrome. I was so thrilled to see how well the video and the description in my book matched. See if you agree with my description below and the video link that follows:
"Connor surprised the boys by arranging a ride for them in a 1929 New Standard D-25 biplane. They were outfitted in a costume of goggles, leather helmets, and colorful scarves that hurled them almost four decades back in time. Strapped into the open passenger compartment in front of the cockpit, Barry felt the ride was as thrilling as the Comet roller-coaster, except without rails. Barnstorming the countryside and soaring above the treetops, the wind was deafening as it rushed across the airplane wings, but the sights were spectacular. Barry could not help wonder what stories the plane could tell and what it would be like to fly a machine like that himself."
"What the heck is that? It looks like part of an abandoned fort!" Barry exclaimed as the old blockhouse came into sight.
"That's an extension of the Fort Malden defenses built in the late 1830s," she explained.
"Good god, Luci this thing is sturdy. It's all square-cut logs and looks like white oak."
Giving Barry a gentle shove, she teased him, "Remember, the British built it to fight off those annoying Americans."
Fort Malden, located on the banks of the Detroit River in Amherstburg, Ontario, Canada, and its extension on Bois Blanc (Boblo) Island, evolve as poignant places of remembrance and loss for protagonist Luci in my upcoming novel 181 Blackhorse Road.
Built by the British in 1795, the fort was a defensive fortification and was a British stronghold on the Detroit frontier during the War of 1812 and in the Rebellions of 1837-1838. The dialog above appears in my novel when Barry and Luci are exploring Bois Blanc; a place that had transitioned from a military fortification to a favorite rendezvous for lovers.
Imagine the chill and goosebumps that floated across my body when I came face-to-face with this photo of the Bois Blanc blockhouse today! The small photograph was tucked among a scattered grouping of old family pictures, and as my eyes took in the features of the old blockhouse, I couldn't believe how its description in my novel matched the photo completely:
"This is in remarkable shape," he commented as they circled the building. "Look at the line of gun slits on all four sides of the first and second floors," he pointed out to Luci. "I guess the British were pretty damn serious about holding on to this piece of real estate," he chuckled. Peeking through the first-floor gun slits into the darkened structure, Barry noticed there were narrow openings cut into the ceiling of the first floor. "That's curious. What the heck?" he remarked. "Hey, Luci, I've read about this before but have never seen it." Lifting Luci so her eyes could reach the narrow openings to see into the building, he instructed her, "Take a look at those long slots in the ceiling."
"I see them! What are they?" she questioned, looking at the unusual slim openings.
"Those are murder slits," he said.
What happens between the two lovers on Bois Blanc Island? You will have to read the book, but meanwhile, it's okay to let your imagination run wild!
Writing a novel is the creative part. Thank goodness my skills in health information systems project management are transferable! Taking my novel, 181 Blackhorse Road, through to publication is a good test of my abilities in managing scope, time, scheduling, cost, quality, procurement, communications, risk……..So far, the project is on track with my novel sent to the copy editor yesterday. Now back to my GANTT chart to tackle the rest.
Spent the Labor Day weekend doing one final pass of 181 Blackhorse Road before sending it off to the copy editor....There's nothing that gets me up in the morning better than the thought of working on the novel!
Ask, and you shall receive! A week ago, I asked my professional Network and friends to help me decide whether to include chapter titles in my upcoming novel 181 Blackhorse Road. They made their voices heard with 39 people answering the survey, and others contacting me through email. When you need input, its best to go to the source; I was not disappointed! The raw results can be found here if you want to take a peek. https://www.surveymonkey.com/stories/SM-63XPZMBV/
Here is my analysis of the data:
Over half of the respondents prefer chapter titles, but their preference came with some caveats. To be meaningful and keep the reader engaged, chapter titles, they said, must function as guides in suggesting what's ahead, but they must be intriguing, perhaps even fun, and not give the chapter content away. For books that jump from character to character or between time periods, chapter titles seemed to be a must. One insight was that chapter titles can function as navigators helping the reader find a passage they liked if they forgot to bookmark it or dog-ear it (depending on the medium).
About five percent of the respondents said they disliked chapter titles, and they were steadfast and direct in providing thoughtful rationales. Chapter titles they said can be amateurish (something I want to avoid in my novel) and can stifle readers from using their own creativity in figuring things out. These responses I thought dove-tailed with the Chapter Likers; if titles are amateurish or give content away then they stifle the reader's own creativity and engagement.
Over a third said they could take or leave chapter titles, but they had their opinions as to what made up a good chapter title. Like those who preferred chapter titles, these respondents didn't want the titles to detract from reader engagement. If titles are included, they need to add to the dimension of the story.
So, to my dilemma of whether to include chapter titles in 181 Blackhorse Road:
According to my survey group, if I include chapter titles, I must do it in a smart way that enriches the story. My chapter titles must be a roadmap that builds intrigue and engagement and makes the reader want to keep turning the pages to figure out the intersection between the chapter title with the content of the chapter. In other words, add some spice, add some zest, add a little mystery.
So, if I include chapter titles, I must be inventive, imaginative, and crafty enough to satisfy one hundred percent of my potential readers. WOW! That is one tall order that tests my strength of creativity. Am I up for the challenge?
No spoiler alerts! It will be for my readers to determine if I was up to the challenge and included engaging chapter titles or if I flaked out and used the fallback of Chapter 1, Chapter 2, and …..
My colleagues and friends who know me will probably guess correctly.
As previously posted, I've traded in writing textbooks for taking on the challenge of writing novels. Writing behavioral objectives and multiple-choice questions are now dead to me!
When I started writing my first novel, 181 Blackhorse Road, I was torn between using or not using chapter titles. After all, I told my hyper-curious self, I like a carrot dangled before me about the mystery, conflict, or situation that the next chapter holds. On the other hand, a good book that keeps me in the dark about what's around the corner makes me turn the pages too.
I started 181 Blackhorse Road without chapter titles. Then, about half-way through the book, I added titles, because, well I kind of liked them. Then on draft eight, I took them out but added them back in draft nine.
Just for fun, I took a random sample of fifteen novels to see how the authors treated chapter titles. Disappointing for the researcher in me, the null hypothesis proved true (almost). Fifty-three percent (8/15) included titles, whereas forty-seven percent (7/15) did not!
So, the question remains, should I or should I not use chapter titles in my completed novel?
Then a brilliant insight! I should query my potential readers, friends, and colleagues to help me by asking them what they like and why.
Help an author in a quandary! Do chapter titles ring your bell or not (or who the heck cares)?
Make your voice heard on your preference for chapter titles by taking my three-question survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/YJDT3JL_ChapterTitles I'll report the results in about a week.
P.S. I apologize! The first and third questions on the survey are multiple-choice! Yikes, you can take a person out of academia, but you can't take academia out of the person.