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Not the end of The Locket Saga series, just the most recent.

For the entire month of June, I am sharing my books in the first annual Cygnet Brown Book Club Month! All throughout the month, I will be featuring not one, but all the books that I have written to date. I am continuing book club with my most recent published book in the Locket Saga Series: The Anvil

Book Six of the Locket Saga finally takes us full circle in 1800, not back to Boston, but to the wilds of Northwestern Pennsylvania. Robert McCray, the eldest son of Phillip and Elizabeth McCray is a young blacksmith who is missing one of the most important tools of his trade after his employer cheated him. At the same time, the girl of his affection shuns him for another man. He builds a house on his mother’s land and hopes to get his own property only to discover that the land that he desires was purchased by the Campbells.

Robert McCray makes the best of a bad situation and allows the Campbell family to live in the cabin that he built on his mother’s land next to the land that he had wanted and where the Campbell’s land was.

Though he thinks that he has lost everything, over the upcoming months he learns that everything he needs and wants is right in front of him.

Writing The Anvil had been on my mind from the day that I wrote the first line of Soldiers Don’t Cry. I had wanted to bring the family back to northwestern Pennsylvania because that was where the story began between Elizabeth and Phillip. It was also where I grew up and where most of my ancestors live. The Anvil does that. It brings them back to the land where, well, if you haven’t read any of the series, I won’t give a spoiler here. You’ll have to read the book.

I hope you take this opportunity to read the free sample of The Anvil on Amazon and the rest of the Locket Saga. Remember also to follow Cygnet Brown on my Amazon Author Page so you don’t miss the next book in the series: Two Rivers and other subsequent books when they come out.  

When you love it, you can purchase a kindle copy or get it (at no extra charge) on KindleUnlimited

If you prefer paperback, you can purchase your copy on Lulu.com

When God Turned His Head

Soldiers Don’t Cry, The Locket Saga Continues

A Coward’s Solace

Sailing Under the Black Flag

In the Shadow of the Mill Pond

The Anvil


These microscopic diatoms are the descendants of the animals that created the fossils that become diatomaceous earth.

Have you ever heard of diatomaceous earth? If you haven’t heard of it, I’m about to share with you some amazing facts about this substance that can help you avoid the use of pesticides around your house and yard.

Several years ago, I was working at Shearers, a potato chip factory. Some of the varieties of chips that they made were considered organic which meant that they couldn’t be made using pesticides even inside the factory. Therefore, the management kept everything as clean as possible. We not only had to wear shoe covers and hair nets, but as we entered the factory, we walked onto the floor by walking over a mat containing diatomaceous earth because it used a physical rather than chemical means of controlling insect infestation.

Diatomaceous Earth, also referred to as “DE”, a naturally occurring, soft, siliceous sedimentary rock that can be crumbled into a fine white to off-white powder formed from the fossil remains of diatoms. This dried sediment is also very high in silica and its deposits are found all around the world.

Can Use as An Insecticide

Diatomaceous earth is thought to kill insects by dehydrating them or drying them out. If applied carefully, it can be used as an insecticide for fleas and ticks on pets without harmful chemicals. It can be used for the same purpose in the garden or orchard.

Though it isn’t a chemical poisoning that causes diatomaceous earth to control insects, you need to take precautions when using this substance.

First, use only use food-grade diatomaceous earth if using this substance internally or externally on humans and pets. (Nonfood grade DE is used for other applications that do not involve direct use with humans and animals.)

Also, avoid breathing in diatomaceous earth because it is composed of small silica (glass!) particles and though it doesn’t cause skin problems, it can harm the delicate tissues within the lungs.

This is explained more in-depth in my book Using Diatomaceous Earth Around the House and Yard.

It Can Be Taken Internally

In addition to being used as an insecticide, it can also be used for other purposes including taking internally.

When taken by mouth, diatomaceous earth is for treating high cholesterol, and constipation. It is also thought to remove heavy metals from the body through the digestive tract. Ingesting DE improves skin, nails, teeth, bones, and hair health.

Can be Used Externally

When applied to the skin or teeth, diatomaceous earth is used to brush teeth or remove unwanted dead skin cells. And more!

My book Using Diatomaceous Earth Around the House and Yard gives much more details on how DE can be used to reduce the number of toxic chemicals you use around the house.

Now it’s your turn? Do you use DE? How do you use it?


One of my projects this week was to add more summer crops to my garden.

Last week, I showed you how I use the acronym SOFF to seize every moment possible from each day. I start it with a plan and organize my time and material to make the most of that day. I then focus on the planned project so that I can move forward in that area that day. Finally, I finish what I started and have focused on and determine where I will start the next day.

Not only can I SOFF projects and my days, but I can also SOFF for longer periods. This week I am going to share how I SOFF my weeks toward making the most of them.

What Do I Want to Accomplish This Week?

At the beginning of the week, I plan three big projects that I want to do that week that relate to my larger goals. I am going to use this week as an example. One of my big goals is self-sufficiency or in other words, being as prepared as possible for the worst possible situations. One of the key elements of that goal is a perpetually self-sufficient garden and this past week my goal was to get the main summer crops planted. Another big goal that I had was to finish the research from the Lewis and Clark journals for Book VII of The Locket Saga: Two Rivers. (Check out the first six books in the series Here) This next week I plan to get more into developing the plot lines from the standpoint of the characters, but for last week, my plan was to get the research finished.  The third project that I want to do this week is to get my house more cleaned and organized. This is a repeated project that if I don’t do it, life becomes less functional.

Of course, this isn’t all that is being done this week, for instance, the yard needs mowed, and grass clippings added to the garden, and perhaps the plants will need to be watered as well, particularly the seedlings. The dishes need to be washed a couple of times per day, and the laundry and grocery shopping needs to be done once per week. Also, I needed to write my two blog posts this week this one and the one for The Perpetual Homesteader.  However, by starting with these goal-oriented projects in my schedule, I am more likely to get them done by the week’s end.

Breaking Down the Larger Projects

As part of organizing my week, I break down the larger projects that I want to accomplish. Sometimes I have already broken down a project which was the case of Two Rivers. I had determined that every week I would research one week of the journals. This past week was the last month of the journals that were to be covered in the story, so I knew exactly what I was already doing. I have determined that I will accomplish this on

The second project that I am working on this week, involved planting the summer crops in the garden. This is a big project that also takes more than one week to accomplish, and this week I had determined that I would plant sunflowers, okra, cucumbers, zucchini, and other squashes. To get these planted, because I dig my gardens by hand, I needed to weed the areas where I was going to plant them. Monday I would plant the okra and zucchini. Tuesday I would plant the cucumbers, and Wednesday and Thursday I would plant the other squashes.

The third project, organizing the house was mostly planned for later in the week. I planned to deep clean the bathroom, reorganize my desk, and clean out a couple of cupboards in the kitchen. I determined that I would work on these projects on Wednesday and Thursday as well. Fridays were already taken by getting ready for Farmers Market on Saturday.

Focusing or Gittin ‘er Done!

The next important aspect of SOFFing is Focus and that means that I must take action on what I want to do if I want to actually accomplish what I planned.

On Sunday I cleaned the bathroom and finished researching the Lewis and Clark journals. I also planted the sunflowers, okra, and zucchini.  On Monday because I do all the garden work by hand, I spent the day working the soil with my broad fork. On Tuesday I planted the cucumbers. On Wednesday I planted the other squashes and cleaned out my desk where I found the outline that I would use to continue Two Rivers. On Thursday I organized the kitchen so that it would be ready for Friday.

Finishing the Week

Because I was able to get those projects accomplished earlier in the week, I was able to focus all of Friday on the baking and Saturday on the farmers market. On Saturday afternoon, I was able to take the time off to relax. I had finished the week strong.

The Ultimate Keystone Habit

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll love my book The Ultimate Keystone Habit, available on Amazon.


Who owns your electrical power? Where I live, I do (and so do a lot of other people)

A few days ago, my husband and I were talking with a man about how inexpensive electricity is where we live. I asked him if he knew why our electricity was so inexpensive and he said he did not so I told him that it was because we had an electric cooperative rather than being run by a for-profit corporation. I knew it was true, but I didn’t know the story behind it until I looked it up.

The Birth of the Electric Cooperative

In 1935, Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed an executive order creating the Rural Electrification Administration. A year later Congress gave the agency the money and power needed to promote rural electrification by providing low-cost loans to build transmission and generation facilities.

Boone Electric Cooperative was incorporated on June 11, 1936 – the first rural electric cooperative to form in the state of Missouri. By the end of 1937, Boone Electric served just more than 140 members in rural Boone County.

Rural cooperatives formed rapidly to take advantage of the favorable financing. Farm by farm, village by village, the lights went on across rural Missouri and rural America. And as electrical needs grew, the REA continued to provide low-cost financing. Eventually, major generation facilities, built primarily during the 1960s and 1970s, were financed with help from the REA.

The Advantages Continue

Today, numerous advantages exist for homes that utilize electricity from a cooperative over for-profit utility companies.

  • Upon joining an electrical cooperative, I was considered a member and owner rather than a customer.
  • Electric cooperatives are service focused. My coop provides electricity to rural areas while commercial utility companies are looking at their bottom line for their stockholders.
  • My cooperative follows democratic processes, allowing each member to vote in board member elections, participate in policy making, and influence the company in sharing their ideas and concerns.
  • My cooperative is community focused and work to improve the sustainability and well-being of their local and surrounding communities.
  • My electric cooperatives returns its revenues or margins to cooperative members in the form of capital credits.
  • One of the biggest advantages of being a member of an electric cooperative is that my service is constantly getting better at a lower cost per kilowatt hour than it would cost me for if I were with a for profit company.

Could Cooperatives Be the Answer in Other Areas?

Other areas could benefit from utilizing cooperative power over the for-profit interests of a few people. California electric companies have already been thinking of creating electric cooperatives and in order to lower prices, other areas could do the same.

However, what if the idea of community cooperatives didn’t end with providing inexpensive renewable energy? What if cooperatives were used in other forms of utilities? What if cooperatives were created to deal with waste management? What if the waste management cooperative was also involved in recycling? What if they worked toward reselling recycled materials to other companies or even managed to create recycled products from those items. What if the members voted to have more of it done at a community level as part of the cooperative and those items could be sold or even used within the community? Imagine how everyone could benefit because they all own the company that recycles garbage into usable items.

Imagine a Different Type of Insurance Program

Imagine that same cooperative spirit being extended toward insurance where instead of stockholders benefiting from your insurance premiums, the benefits of the premiums go to the cooperative. Imagine fire insurance paying for all the damages instead of there being a deductible and at a lower cost than what you’re paying now.

When I was a kid in the 1970s there were companies that had this type of insurance that offered fire and wind insurance. This insurance was called Patrons Mutual where you paid a small membership fee and then a small insurance premium. Even with the membership fee, the cost was lower than other insurance companies were charging. However, the other insurance companies lobbied the government and demanded that these companies that demanded membership could not sell insurance and that insurance had to be a for-profit business.

Imagine, however, if we could lobby the government to change these laws and allow cooperatives to exist in insurance and not just fire insurance, but in all types of insurance. Imagine health insurance at reasonable costs to everyone. Imagine insurance companies where the recipients could decide if they wanted their insurance to include preventative measures, to include the ability to pay for experimental procedures so that others could live. They could more likely have all these things because they didn’t have to pay for dividends to stockholders and all of the money is being spent by the contributors who are also the recipients of the healthcare insurance who voted for how their insurance money would be spent through a democratic process.  

So, what do you think? Do you think that cooperatives might be the answer to many financial problems we currently face? If not, what problems do you see with this idea? If yes, what do you think is our next move to make cooperatives more of a reality in our communities? Also, what other possible ways do you think that we could develop cooperatives in our communities?

If you have enjoyed this blog post, consider following this blog. If you’re into gardening and homesteading check out my other blog The Perpetual Homesteader too.


Everything on this earth is connected through the water cycle. The most important issues related to the survival of planet earth are the issues related to the ocean. The ocean covers 70 percent of our planet surface. Issues related to our abuse of our natural resources have led to problems in the ocean including the extinction of many ocean fish, dead zones, red tides, and negative changes in sea plants and animals.

As you can see, I actually use these products.

Like the earth’s surface, as adults, we too are 70 percent water and how we treat the earth ultimately is how we treat ourselves. Did you know that more toxins are absorbed through your skin than through the digestive tract? Think about that the next time you put chemicals on your skin.

As I mentioned before, a few months ago. I signed up for The Advanced Permaculture Student Online, facilitated by Matt Powers (former member of “The Cringe” rock group). When I signed up for The Advanced Permaculture Student Online, I received as part of a goodie bag products put out by AMA Sea Beauty.

As I learned more about these products, I have realized that I need to start paying more attention to my skincare and what I put on my skin. If I can’t put a product in my mouth, why am I putting it on my skin?

The Products

AMA Sea Beauty sent me six full size products for me to try. The DeepSea Macroalgae serum, The SeaGlo Microalgae oil, VitaSea Thalassotherapy Treatment, SeaMist Marine Mineral Toner, SeaScrub, and SeaTea Beauty Bath Ritual.

I started using the SeaMist Marine Mineral Toner and the VitaSea Thalassotherapy treatment in the morning. I put on the thalassotherapy onto my dry face and then spritzed on the SeaMist Marine Mineral Toner. At night I gently work the SeaGlo Microalgae Oil into the skin on my face and on my neck and then finish my nightly routine with DeepSea Macroalgae serum. My skin seems to be getting healthier and more youthful every time I use it.

I have to admit, that the first time I used the SeaScrub, I thought it was a little too drying BUT after I used the other products for a week , I found that it did a wonderful job scrubbing away the dead skin cells on my face leaving it shiny clean.

Since it is winter, I decided to use organic coconut oil as a moisturizer on my face. The skin on my face is soft and smooth.

The SeaTea Beauty Bath Ritual

The sixth product, (not shown in the photo) the SeaTea Beauty Bath Ritual was perfect for a home spa day! I started filling the tub with bath water (not too hot, not too cold) and hung the bag over the spigot as per the instructions. At first the water came out clear, but as the bag became soaked, the water turned a beautiful aqua marine blue. No artificial color did that! It was all natural!

I soaked in the tub for about 20 minutes. It felt wonderful. The aroma was light and smelled slightly like some sort of flower blossom. I towel dried and applied the organic coconut oil that I keep in my bathroom. My skin was soft and healthy looking. the dry skin I usually feel this time of year has been nonexistent. My skin felt rejuvenated and clean. I highly recommend this high-end quality beauty products.

The AMA Sea Beauty’s Mission

On the AMA Sea Beauty’s website, https://www.amaseabeauty.com  they say that they are a team of ocean lovers who are dedicated to natural beauty practices. Their beauty promise is built on regenerative practices of water, plants, light, and their belief in the healing powers of the sea. They are vegan, cruelty free, sustainable, recyclable and clean.

They use bioactive compounds from the sea that deliver potent unparalleled restorative and regenerative nutrients which feed us at the cellular level. Not only are the products superb, but they help protect the sea environment. Every purchase of AMA Sea Beauty products goes to their mission. I feel that this is a company worth supporting. Their 25-acre ocean farm Pharmersea is off the coast of Santa Barbara and is dedicated into supporting blue economies while addressing climate stability.

I don’t receive any compensation for my recommendation, but I definitely recommend them to anyone who, like me, wants to use natural products on their skin. The fact that they also help preserve the environment in the process is an added bonus!

I have written a related book!

If you haven’t read it, get your copy today at 60% off at http://www.lulu.com/shop/cygnet-brown/help-from-kelp/paperback/product-22518936.html

Here are the first of the sweet potato slips that I recently transplanted from the ice cream bucket in the same photo. So far I have four plants and they are growing.

As many of you know, I am moving out into the country to my homestead this spring. I talked to my son Jeremy the other day. We discussed moving my trailer onto my land. Unfortunately, the ground there is still too wet to move the building, but it is not too wet for me to start planting  garden transplants indoors here in Springfield.

Sweet Potatoes

I actually started the weekend after Thanksgiving when I planted a single sweet potato in a container in my kitchen. To tell you the truth, I wasn’t sure that it would grow because the sweet potato had been scrubbed so much that some of the outer skin had been scrubbed off. However, the sweet potatoes did grow. It grew so well that last week I separated some of the first of the slips (the green leaves, stems and attached roots) from the sweet potato tuber and planted them in soil. Some gardeners place slips in water, but I believe that the slips will transplant into the garden better if they are planted in soil rather than allowed to root in water. I left one green leaf on the tuber so that more slips can grow from the tuber.

I just started these last Wednesday (2/5/2020 and I already have Winter thyme, cabbages and onions starting to sprout!

Onions– This year I have two kinds of onions that I am starting from seed. One is yellow Spanish sweet onion and the other is a Red Florence which is an heirloom variety. I planted about four seeds in each cell. The reason I did this is so that when the time comes to plant the cell, I’ll simply pop the cell in the ground and I’ll have four onion plants to work with rather than one. This means that I will be able to plant much more quickly and I won’t have to deal with one single skinny little plant.

Chives– I only had a few chive seeds left so I planted them in a couple little cells. When the chives reach size, I will either transplant them into a larger pot or directly into the garden.

Asparagus-Though not usually as successful at starting from seeds as they are from crowns, I have started some plants from seed. Asparagus is a perennial vegetable that once established in three years should give me at least 20 years of production. I’ll probably be picking up a couple of crowns too. This way I’ll be able to get harvest a year earlier than I would with just the seeds.

Lavender-Lavender is another plant that is easier to grow from a plant than it is from seed, but again I am going to give it a try. If it doesn’t get started by the time spring comes, I’ll pick up a plant or two from the plant nursery.

Parsley is also an herb that I am growing that can be difficult at times to get started. To assist me at getting this plant started, I put the seed packet into the freezer and then stored it in the refrigerator until I was ready to plant. From what I understand, deep chilling the parsley before planting encourages the plant to sprout.

Basil-This is sweet basil that is specifically designed to grow in a container. I planted a few plants now, but I think I might plant more when I plant my tomato seeds for transplants. This herb is considered annual in temperate climates is actually a tropical perennial. If I can grow a couple plants of this herb in a container, I may be able to maintain this herb fresh all winter.

 Oregano-Oregano is a very common herb used in Italian cooking. It is not just a common herb, but it is also perennial.

Winter Thyme– This plant is also a common perennial herb that grows like a low growing ground cover. It can be grown between rocks in a walkway or patio and will give off a pleasant scent if stepped on.

Lemon Mint-This lemony member of the mint family is often grown for drying to make a tea. It also is a perennial.

Cayenne Peppers-I’ll probably get a few other hot pepper plants as plants, but I am going to try to grow cayenne from seed this year. I will be able to dry the seeds and dry the flesh separately. The flesh I’ll dry and grind for cayenne powder. The seeds I’ll dry and use whenever I want to add a little more heat when I’m cooking and to save for seed to keep the variety going every year in my garden.

Sweet Peppers-I’m starting my peppers a little earlier than my tomatoes this year so that perhaps I may be able to get peppers and tomatoes ripening at the same time. Sweet peppers are one of the key components (along with tomatoes, onions, garlic, oregano, thyme, and basil) in my home canned tomato sauce. They are also a key ingredient in pickle relish and my homemade salsa. I’ll also enjoy eating them fresh and freezing them in various forms in the freezer to enjoy next winter.

Newly germinated cabbages

Copenhagen Market Cabbage-Since I will be able to put out cabbage about the same time that I put out the onions, I planted a few cells of cabbage. I have other members of the cabbage family that I will put out as the season progresses, but I thought that a few cabbages grown early would be a nice to have in the garden.

Potatoes

I have a few small potatoes that I have been over wintering in my refrigerator with the sole intention of saving as seed potatoes that I will be planting this coming spring. They are of red, white and blue varieties. Back in the fall I wrapped each individual potato in brown paper and put them into a paper sack in the refrigerator. I pulled them out and looked at them a few days ago and not one of them was rotten. About two weeks before I intend to plant them, I will be taking them out and sprouting out the cherts at room temperature.

There you have it. The start to my garden, especially my herb garden. In the next couple of weeks, I’ll be starting other plants for transplanting including my tomato plants. More on those and my garden’s progress later.

Are you thinking about starting a garden this year? My book Simply Vegetable Gardening is full of tips to help you have the best one possible!

(Makes a Great Gift for any gardener in your life too!)


How will you begin 2020?

Planning the First 100 Days of 2020

Can you believe 2019 is over and 2020 is already here? During this past month, I have been planning for the first 100 days of 2020. First, I need to finish out this year.

Reflecting on 2019

I started out the year with several writing goals. One was write an editing book based on this blog that I have been working on this year. This book, though essentially finished still needs a final chapter and an index.

In addition, I was going to finish and publish three other books, but I never did. Those are all still in draft form.

In January I started watching a copious number of YouTube videos about prepping, homesteading, and gardening. I continued watching those videos throughout the year. I started a garden on my front patio by growing potatoes, tomatoes, lima beans, onions, and greens in five gallon buckets.

Jeff (my husband) and I decided that we were going to buy some property out in the country. Originally, we were going to move last summer, but because we didn’t find the place soon enough, he got a new job, and I had a regular substitute position until the end of this current school year, we decided that we would stay here until then. We found and bought the property in August.

Then one day late in October, my husband came home and told me that he “found someone else” and that he was moving out. He was giving me the property and enough money to put a home on it. I had thought that the plan was “our plan”, but apparently it was MY PLAN. Painful as his revelation was, I decided to continue with my plan and that much of that plan will begin to be implemented during this next year.

Advancing in Permaculture

At the time that my husband decided to leave, I was contemplating the idea of taking an advanced permaculture course. I have been thinking a lot lately about how I am going to leave a legacy for my children and their posterity. I joined the course and have already made great strides in completing the course. During the first 100 days of 2020, I will be completing my PDC (permaculture design course) project and begin my advanced permaculture design. I am excited to be sharing more about this in the coming weeks.

Honoring My Wins

During 2019, I think that the biggest win was recently when I connected with my son Jeremy’s family and in deepening my relationship not just with Jeremy but with my other children as well.

Finishing 2019 by Putting My Best Foot Forward

I have several things that I am doing to clear out some of the projects that I have to finish this year so that I can start off 2020 with a clean slate. Of course, there’s Christmas to clear out and a house to clean. In addition, I am canning turkey broth of turkey remains that have been taking up space in my freezer.

I desire more than anything to present myself to 2020 as my best self. I am not denying that I am hurt by my husband’s actions. No matter what he’s doing, I still love him, and I refuse to let any bitterness take hold and desire to make the best of my current lot in life, and pass on a legacy to my children and their posterity.

The property is just two doors down from my son Jeremy’s house and I am excited to share this new adventure with all my readers!

I hope your Christmas was joyful and Your New Year is Blessed! Happy New Year!


The Locket Saga is currently the only fiction series by Cygnet Brown.

I can’t remember when I first started writing my historical fiction series The Locket Saga. I think I was living in Pennsylvania when I first started writing Soldiers Don’t Cry. It wasn’t that I first started writing back then because I had been writing fiction since I was about 12 years old.

You might ask, “But isn’t When God Turned His Head the first book in the series?”

I am glad you asked. Yes, When God Turned His Head is the first book in the series, but Soldiers was the first book that I started in the series. The book started as a dream. I dreamed that a young woman and young man were sitting on a puncheon log bench in front of a log wall. She was sitting on one end and he was sitting on the other. He said to her that they had met each other when they were children. Then I awoke and knew that there was a story there.

When God Turned His Head came about while I was writing Soldiers. There’s a scene where Elizabeth and Rachel are talking about their parents and that they had been indentured servants. That made me wonder what happened to their parents? It was around that time when I learned of the John Codman murder.  I decided to make the story part of The Locket Saga. Once I had written the story, I wrote the prologue to Soldiers.

At the same time, I started the first chapter of Book 3 of the Locket Saga: A Coward’s Solace where I brought back a character from When God Turned His Head who was supposedly dead.

(If you look back at the prologue of Soldiers, you’ll know who actually survived although it is not obvious at the time.

Sailing under the Black Flag also came out of Soldiers Don’t Cry, The Locket Saga Continues when I decided that I wanted to know what happened withthe impetuous Jonathan Mayford who sails the seven seas for an American privateer. The story ends just after the end of the American Revolution.

At the end of Book 3 of The Locket Saga: A Coward’s Solace, the characters go to the then frontier town of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Book 5 of The Locket Saga: In the Shadow of the Mill Pond picks up a decade and a half after the end of Sailing Under the Black Flag. In this book, the Thorton, McCray, and Mayford families are in the middle of a feud between the United States government and the frontier corn farmers on the western frontier. In addition, a man is murdered leading Lacey Mayford into a search for the truth that will free Matthew Thorton from being hung by vigilantes.

Book 6 of the Locket Saga: The Anvil picks up with Robert McCray in love with a young aristocrat and the Thorton and McCray families going up the Allegheny River and French Creek to build their homes in what would be Concord Township in Erie County, Pennsylvania.

This last book actually represents what the McCray family faced when they came to Northwestern Pennsylvania around 1800. I have particular interest in this family as they were my own ancestors. I am a descendent of Robert the Younger who told the family story. I, of course, have taken a lot of literary license in the events of the novel, but I believe I have written a book that captures the character of the people who settled there.

Is This the End of the Series?

Will this be the last book in the series? I doubt it. I still have first drafts and subsequent drafts of the series that I want to share, but I have recently been drawn in other directions. (More on that as plans get more structured.)

So, tell me. Have you read any of The Locket Saga? Which book was your favorite? Who’s your favorite character?


If you have read this before, there’s a link at the bottom of the page with more researched information on a YouTube video. If you haven’t, it is an interesting read!

howmyspiritsings

skeleton in chains

I mentioned in one of my earlier posts that I have been doing some research in a book called the History of Erie County, Pennsylvania (written in 1884) one of the things that I found interesting was idea that before the Native Americans lived in the area, there had been another group of people who lived in North America.

The Erie County Connection

According to The History of Erie county, there had been many indications that proved conclusively that the county had once been peopled by these giants. When the railroad link of the Erie and Pittsburgh Railroad from the Lake Shore road to the dock at Erie was being built, the workers dug into a great mass of bones at the crossing of the public road which ran by the rolling mill. From the way the bones were thrown together, the workers surmised that a terrible battle had taken…

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Get Ready to Edit the First Draft

me_on_the_laptop

Time to Edit Your First Draft

Last week we learned that we have three basic editing steps-content editing, line editing, and proofreading. We read through our manuscript and determined the various story lines of the story and color coded each of these story lines as they weave throughout the story. To read this post, click here.

Develop Better Story Lines

Stories don’t merely happen simply by throwing a couple of characters into a setting. You must write the story. You must show the reader what’s important, where to focus.

You must create a mood and choose words to elicit an emotional response from the reader.

You create the path for characters to follow, a path that readers will also be willing to follow.

This week we are going to look at the foundation of the story line called the “Story ARC” to determine whether our story is well-structured. If you are a Plotter like I am, you probably worked with story ARCs when outlining and writing your draft, and you may have subconsciously created your ARCs if you’re a Pantzer who writes a book as he goes along, writing by the seat of his pants. However, in either case, it’s imperative you re-evaluate this aspect of your novel again once the first draft is completed.

What is a Story ARC and how do I use this in my editing process to improve my main story line?

A story ARC in a novel is the development or resolution of the narrative or principal theme. Many novels contain four or six-issue ARCs, the primary arc and secondary ones.

Story arcs are the overall shape of rising and falling tension or emotion in a story. This rise and fall occurs through plot and character development.

The term “story arc” was coined in 1988 regarding a television series and quickly adopted for other uses. However, the idea regarding a story ARC is not new (Aristotle (367 BC – 347 BC) wrote about effective dramatic structure:

‘A whole should have a beginning, middle and an end… A well-constructed plot … must neither begin nor end at haphazard.’

In other words, a strong story ARC shows rise and fall, cause and effect in a way that makes sense.

The Purpose of the Story ARC

If something seems amiss in the storyline, the first place to look for a problem is often in the story ARCs.

The purpose of a story ARC is to move a character or a situation from one state to another; in other words, to effect change. This change or transformation often takes the form of either tragic fall from grace or a reversal of that pattern. One common form in which this reversal is found is a character going from a situation of weakness to one of strength. For example, a poor man goes on adventures and in the end makes a fortune.

Story ARCs often follow the pattern of bringing a character to a low point, removing the structures the character depends on, then forcing the character to find new strength without those supports. In a story ARC, a character undergoes substantial growth or change, and it ends in the last few chapters of a story.

Every classic plot passes through several stages and should be used as points in the writing process. These stages are statis, trigger, the quest, surprise, critical choice, climax, reversal, and resolution

Stages of the Story ARC

Stasis

This is the “everyday life” in which the story is set. For instance, a group of teens could be riding in a car talking about one of their friends at school and how he’s such a “nerd”.

Trigger

Something beyond the control of the protagonist (hero/heroine) is the trigger which sparks off the story. For instance, in our scenario, the car hits a pothole and the car veers into the opposing lane of traffic and the car is struck by a semi-truck.

The quest

The trigger results in a quest – an unpleasant trigger—for instance, the hero/heroine may have to deal with survivor’s guilt and the quest might involve a quest to return to the status quo. A pleasant trigger might be that no one was hurt in the accident, and the hero/heroine has a vision where he/she is to do some quest toward further enlightenment.

In the case of the story above, the protagonist could have to fight back from a debilitating injury and deal with family members of dead friends.

Surprise

This stage involves not one but several elements and takes up most of the middle part of the story. “Surprise” includes pleasant events, but more often means obstacles, complications, conflict and trouble for the protagonist.

Surprises shouldn’t be too random or too predictable – they need to be unexpected, but plausible. The reader must be made to think “I should have seen that coming!”

For instance, a surprise could be that the boy that they were talking bad about in the car could bring her flowers while she is still at the hospital.

Another could be overhearing her boyfriend say that he was only still with her because he didn’t want to look like the bad guy. He said that he planned to break up with her after a specific dance that he had asked her to attend.

Critical choice

At some stage, your protagonist needs to make a critical choice. This is often when we find out exactly who a character is, as real personalities are revealed at moments of high stress. The character must decide to take a specific direction – not just something that happens by chance.

In many classic stories, the “critical choice” involves choosing between a good, but hard, path and a bad, but easy, one.

For instance, the girl could have to choose to go to a dance with her boyfriend who was just taking her to the dance out of pity or go with the nerdy boy who really likes her and her friends would make fun of her.

In tragedies, the unhappy ending often stems from a character making the wrong choice at this point – Romeo poisoning himself on seeing Juliet supposedly dead, for example.

In this case, the girl could make the decision to go to the dance with her boyfriend and bring a gun with her shoot him at the dance before he can tell her that he wants to break up with her.

Climax

The critical choice(s) made by your protagonist need to result in the climax, the highest peak of tension, in your story.

In the case of our story it could be that the girl is standing on the dance floor her hand in her pocket shaking as it touches the cold steel of the gun in her purse ready to shoot the old boyfriend.

Reversal

The reversal should be the consequence of the critical choice and the climax, and it should change the status of the characters – especially your protagonist.

Your story reversals should be inevitable and probable. Nothing should happen for no reason, changes in status should not fall out of the sky. The story should unfold as life unfolds: relentlessly, implacably, and plausibly.

In the story line we’ve created, let’s say that she looks over to the corner and sees the nerdy boy has come to the dance and their eyes meet. She decides that the old boyfriend isn’t worth the trouble and removes her hand from the purse and breaks up with him.

Resolution

The resolution is a return to a fresh stasis – one where the characters should be changed, wiser and enlightened, but where the story being told is complete.

Our heroine goes to the nerdy boy and asks him to dance and he accepts. The story ends with the two of them dancing.

Don’t Reinvent the Wheel

You can borrow from archetypal plot ARCs which are core types of narratives based on the protagonist (main character involved in the ARC). These are called archetypal because they follow common patterns that countless stories are based upon. The six core types are:

1. Rags to Riches (a complete rise)

2. Riches to Rags (a fall)

3. Man in a Hole (fall then rise)

4. Icarus (rise then fall)

5. Cinderella (rise, then fall, then rise)

6. Oedipus (fall then rise then fall)

Use the ‘5 W’s’ to plan each Story ARC

‘Who’, ‘what’, ‘why’, ‘where’ and ‘when’ are the basic building blocks of any story. When you think about it, stories are basically the 5 w’s plus change. As you’re reviewing your own story ARCs, think about how each might change and impact your story ARC in the process. When reviewing and editing how your plot arc developed, ask:

1. How did the cast of my story (the ‘who’) grow or diminish? In what ways did new central or secondary characters create extra tension, plot complications or emotional impact?

2. What new character motivations (the ‘why’) or external forces affected the course of the primary story ARC? For example: Did a misguided motivation lead to a fall, followed by enlightenment and change?

3. How did the story setting change (the ‘when’ and ‘where’) and what did this add to story ARCs? Could relocating setting increase tense and drama?

4. One thing that shouldn’t change is your story’s ‘what’. To maintain cohesiveness, the subject matter and themes of your novel need to maintain some relation to each other.

Create a Diagram of Your Story ARCs

To get a strong sense of your novel’s action, it helps to create a visual representation of your story’s structure. Use the archetypal plot ARC type you used as your template. Plot your novel’s core events and themes on this timeline. By visualizing your story this way, you can find ways to add reversals and turns of events that sustain narrative tension and keep the readers guessing. The color coding that you did last week should help you develop this diagram.

Update Your Storylines

Once you have created your Story ARCs, it’s time to start your second draft. What I like to do is open a new document and mark it as the second draft of this book. On this document, I fill in the Story ARCs and include any corresponding details from the first draft.

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