a sea of musket balls and gunpowder

I am neck deep in 18th century lists of military stores; things like powder horns, bayonet belts, grapeshot, and bear skins. It is heavenly!

I spent the weekend on the road. On Saturday I went to the Fort Plain Museum in Fort Plain, NY for a small (but wonderful) Revolutionary War encampment/reenactment.

Sunday was a long, fantastic day at the RevWar encampment/reenactment at Old Sturbridge Village. Nearly one thousand reenactors were there: soldiers, artisans, women, and lots of their children. All of these people are passionate about understanding the Revolutionary War and have made it their hobby. They go to these encampments to live as people did in the period. They dress, cook, work crafts, relax, have military drills and mock battles all as close to the original thing as possible.

This is a Patriot militia unit.

The British had fancy-pants uniforms and they still lost.

There were plenty of women with General Washington’s army. They were not ladies of the night. They were hired to cook, clean, sew, and help the sick soldiers. Many of them were married to soldiers. Some had their children with them.

The reenactors could not have been more generous with the time. I asked a bazillion pesky questions about the tiny stuff – how does one fire a flintlock musket in the air (answer: one usually doesn’t), the finer points of cooking in a dutch oven, and the art of rolling paper gunpowder cartridges.

Back to work on my story now. Remind to tell you about the guy who let me taste gunpowder…


The minor family emergency didn’t escalate, thank heavens. My mother fell Tuesday night and we spent yesterday doing the rounds with doctors and the hospital and x-rays. She’s home now, though I won’t say she’s exactly comfortable. She broke three ribs.

She’s going to be fine; the fractures are uncomplicated and there were no other injuries. In a week, she’ll feel much better. Normally I might ask for funny stories I can tell her, but laughing hurts too much right now, so if you have a kind thought or a prayer for comfort, those sure are appreciated.

J.L. Bell has another cool post about how an alleged John Adam’s quote turned into historical “fact.” This is a must-read for anyone thinking of writing historical fiction or non-fiction.

Today’s goal: Write 15 minutes.

Today’s mindset: sowing conflict.

Today’s prompt: Take your favorite picture book or fairy tale and write what happens next, after the last page of the story. Add on a new challenge for the character; a new story arc of complications and solutions, and character growth. Hint, you’ll probably need to introduce a bold conflict right away.


Fact Checking and WFMAD 23

There is a great story in many history books in which John Adams calls the year 1777 “the year of the hangman” because all those sevens lined up together looked like gallows. The implication was that if the British defeated the Patriots in the American Revolution, the Patriot leaders (like Adams) would all hang.

It’s a great quote; vivid, layered, and short.

I wanted to use it in the book I’m working on right now, so I started hunting for a primary source so I could verify the wording. Couldn’t find one. I found many people saying Adams said this, but no one pointed to the evidence that actually proved it. I could not find it in a searchable database of his writing, nor several other collections of his writings.

I turned to an 18th-century expert who writes a terrific blog about the time period: J.L. Bell of Boston 1775. He did his own investigating and came up with some surprises for me. And now I have to find a different quote. Darn.


We’re having a minor family emergency here, so this will be short today.

Today’s goal: Write 15 minutes, no matter what else is happening around you.

Today’s mindset: family comes first, but writing is a close second.

Today’s prompt: this is a free association drill. I’d like you to scroll down, down, down, until you get to the magic word of the day. When you do, write about all the images this word conjures in your head. Be specific and detailed in your descriptions. If you get stuck, repeat the word over and over out loud, no matter how silly you feel, and write whatever is flashing through your mind. If you stumble across a particularly vivid image, or one that for whatever reason hits you emotionally, stay with that one and write to your heart’s content.

Scroll down for the magic word…

Keep scrolling…

Almost there…..

Magic word = Spam (the kind you eat, not the kind that clogs your email inbox)


Magic Monday & WFMAD 21

My weekend was a quick research trip, lots of library time, weeding the garden when the rain stopped, and – last night while hanging out with the family – cracking open dried cherry pits so the meat inside the pit could be added to the dark cherry liqueur I am brewing up for Christmas time.

This dog was the funniest thing I saw while researching.

I think his owner was reenacting a soldier from the British 24th Regiment of Foot. Which means the dog belongs to the 24th Regiment of Paw, of course.

WFMAD Day 21

The headshrinkers say it takes 21 days to form a new habit. If you have written every day for the last 21 days, then congratulations. Poof! You made it. You have a new writing habit! Like all habits, this one needs constant watering and attention, so please remember to write tomorrow and the day after that and the day after that, etc., etc.

If you haven’t been able to write for 21 days in a row, write down the reasons why – what interfered? I know for a lot of you the answer is “vacation.” Nothing wrong with that. But if you couldn’t make the time to write when your time was truly your own, what’s it going to be like when you’re back in your work routine?

I’m not scolding here. This is all about helping you reprioritize a little so you can make the time to follow your writing dream. We have ten days left in the Challenge. Imagine that from now until the end of the month, each one of your waking hours represents $1,000. Think of your choices about spending your time as money-spending choices. Be mindful where you spend your everything.

Today’s goal: Write for 15 minutes.

Today’s mindset: fresh-start

Today’s prompt: if you fall off a horse, you have to get back on again or else, what’s the point? Start fresh today by choosing a different place to write in. Putting your body in a different space to write can help your mind be open to new ideas and perspectives.

Today I’d like you to write about your writing dream – what are you trying to accomplish? Be specific and detailed. If you are a calender-based person, what do you want to accomplish by January 1st? If you are a season-based person (like me), what do you want to have done by the Winter Solstice (December 21st)?


When maps don’t know where you are & WFMAD Day 15

No, we don’t live that far north.

While I would never want to live in Los Angeles, an upcoming art exhibition makes a trip tempting. Dave McKean’s work will be at the Merry Karnowsky Gallery 7/19-8/16.

From the comfort of your own home you can enter David Macinnis Gill’s ARC Giveaway Contest!

My desk is aswarm with note and books and articles, my head is buzzing with voices that I am trying to get down on paper. While I’m researching and writing, I’m making a little time to sketch a little, too. There are so many vivid images in this story, I’m trying to understand them in as many ways as possible.

Today’s goal: Write for 15 minutes. Maybe draw something, too.

Today’s mindset: seeking.

Today’s prompt: Write about a family secret. You can burn the paper when you’re done if you don’t want anyone to know. Or write about a family secret that you wish were yours. Or about a family secret in your character’s life that s/he doesn’t know about.