Using Handwritten Letters in Writing with C.D. Hersh (and W*n a book)

Today on the Elysian Fields tour, we have a rare interview at Laurie’s Paranormal Thoughts with Alex Warin! He was in a good mood for a change, so more talkative than usual. And I asked DJ the same set of questions, with a few variations, and you’ll see her responses next week. You can enter for the iPad and tour prizes at this stop.

And a review is supposed to go up at Frankie Blooding’s Bookshelf today; it wasn’t up yet as I wrote this at 6 a.m., but should be up later with another chance to enter for the iPad.

* * * *

Today, please help me welcome the husband/wife author team of C.D. Hersh to Preternatura.  Their most recent release is The Promised One (The Turning Stone Chronicles), published July 10 by Soul Mate Publishing.  The second book in the series, Blood Brothers, is tentatively set for release in 2014.

Two hearts creating everlasting love stories. Putting words and stories on paper is second nature to the co-authors. They’ve written separately since they were teenagers and discovered their unique, collaborative abilities in the mid-’90s. As high school sweethearts and husband and wife, Catherine and Donald believe in true love and happily ever after. Together they have co-authored a number of dramas, six which have been produced in Ohio, where they live. Their interactive Christmas production had five seasonal runs in their hometown and has been sold in Virginia, California, and Ohio. Their most recent collaborative writing efforts have been focused on romance.
When they aren’t collaborating on a book, they enjoy reading; singing; theatre and drama; traveling; remodeling houses (Donald has remodeled something in every home they’ve owned); and antiquing. Catherine, who loves gardening, has recently drawn Donald into her world as a day laborer. Catherine is an award-winning gardener — you can see some of her garden on their website.
They are looking forward to many years of co-authoring and book sales, and a lifetime of happily-ever-after endings on the page and in real life.  You can learn more about Catherine and Donald by visiting their website or by visiting them on  Facebook. 
ABOUT THE PROMISED ONE:  In the wrong hands, the Turning Stone ring is a powerful weapon for evil. So, when homicide detective Alexi Jordan discovers her secret society mentor has been murdered and his magic ring stolen, she is forced to use her shape-shifting powers to catch the killer. By doing so, she risks the two most important things in her life—her badge and the man she loves. Rhys Temple always knew his fiery cop partner and would-be-girlfriend, Alexi Jordan, had a few secrets. He considers that part of her charm. But when she changes into a man, he doesn’t find that as charming. He’ll keep her secret to keep her safe, but he’s not certain he can keep up a relationship—professional or personal. Danny Shaw needs cash for the elaborate wedding his fiancée has planned, so he goes on a mugging spree. But when he kills a member of the secret society of Turning Stones, and steals a magic ring that gives him the power to shape shift, Shaw gets more than he bargained for.
And now, let’s hear from Catherine and Donald…
Using Letters in Your Books

Before you think, “I know how to use letters,” you should know we are not talking about the “ABCDEFG” letters one uses to form words, but written letters sent through the mail, penned by hand, folded into envelopes with postage stamps and return addresses, and delivered by the postman. Yes, we realize the art of letter writing is disappearing, but it’s an art form worth saving in today’s world of instant email, twitter and facebook communication.

Recently, Donald was helping an aunt go through boxes of old letters written by his deceased uncle. The letters, written to his first wife and mother, covered the period of the couple’s early romance, his service as an Air Force pilot in WWII over Europe, and the time frame during the Korean War. In the missives, he wrote about his feelings and described what was going on in the war arenas. A huge amount of historical information, insight about this time frame, and personal tidbits about Donald’s uncle were revealed in the two days spent reading these letters

Those boxes of letters, posted seventy years ago, got us thinking about letter writing as a dying means of communication. With today’s instant communication methods of email, twitter, and facebook, which are usually deleted as soon as they are read, there won’t be anything for our descendants to open seventy years from now to see how we lived and what we thought about the events of our daily lives. When you Google “Letter Writing” you will get about 195 million results, from free tips, advice, sample letters to help you write great letters, to letter writing rules for business letters, to letter styles, envelope formats and even how to fold a letter into an envelope. What you won’t get is the feel of old, fragile paper beneath your fingers as you carefully open a window to the past.

So, how can you use letter writing to enhance your books?

In our book The Promised One (The Turning Stone Chronicles) and in the second book of the series, Blood Brothers, tentatively scheduled for release in 2014, handwritten letters are the impetus for major storyline turning points. Because of something two dead characters reveal (one whom the readers never meet), the lives of the heroines in both books are forever changed.

Here’s an excerpt from The Promised One (The Turning Stone Chronicles) showing how we used a handwritten letter to reveal information.

I know it’s been years since you’ve heard from me, not since my brother’s murder, but Alexi’s time has come. I tried to shield her from the destiny, teaching her only the basics of the ring and waiting until she was an adult to start any training. I didn’t want to push her, but now she is developing skills I’ve not taught her. I need someone from the Council to come and assess her, and I can’t think of anyone I trust more than the man I fought beside in so many battles. After making such a mess of Sylvia, I don’t trust my judgment. I need an advocate on the Council and your advice. If you agree with my assessment, I want to present Alexi to the Council this coming Samhain. Please come as soon as possible…

The letter’s date and postmark indicated Baron had written the letter about two weeks prior to his death. Prickles crept over her arms. My time? Present me to the Council? Sylvia’s comment about the Promised One came back to her. Had Baron sent for Eli because of the great destiny he always insisted she had? She closed the door and rested her forehead against the solid surface. Life was already too complicated. She didn’t need this.

Had we used email to send this letter, the heroine Alexi might not have believed the letter came from her uncle. Anyone can type an email and claim it comes from an alleged sender. The specialty return label and her uncle’s loopy handwritten script on the envelope convinced Alexi the letter was real.

In our second book of the series, Blood Brothers, seeing her missing daughter’s handwriting, instead of a sterile email printout, impacted the heroine intensely and spurred her on to a life changing decision, which we can’t reveal just yet.

You can also use the art of letter writing to discover new things about your characters by having them write letters to another character in the book. We did this exercise for our antagonist, Roc, in Blood Brothers (The Turning Stone Chronicles) and discovered several things. For the sake of space in this blog, we can’t reveal what we learned here, but if you are interested, please click on this link, read the letter and see how it worked for us.

Have you ever read a book that used letters as a way to change or move the plot? If so, how did they impact the story?

Thanks, Catherine and Donald.
Thanks, Catherine and Donald! For me, in Royal Street, DJ learns a crucial bit of information about her mentor Gerry by reading not a letter but a written diary. What about you guys? Leave a comment for your chance to win a copy of The Promised One!

29 thoughts on “Using Handwritten Letters in Writing with C.D. Hersh (and W*n a book)

  1. Thanks for having us today. Diaries are a great way to let the reader know backstory. Catherine loves reading diaries from historical eras.

    • Sandy, We didn’t realize that about Dracula. Catherine has a vampire phobia, so she’s never read Dracula. Shape shifters, ghosts, and other spooky things are ok for her, though.

  2. One of my favorite books is “Freedom and Necessity” by Emma Bull. It is an epistolary novel, written entirely as letters between characters. If done well, as Emma Bull did, it is a lot of fun. I’d love to read The Promised One as see how they did the letters.

  3. Anne Frank’s Diary is the only one that comes to mind right now. I remember reading it many times YEARS ago. Thanks for the giveaway!

    I still haven’t recovered my google pw… so I’m having to post as anonymous again… sigh…

    Linda Townsend
    lindalou (at) cfl (dot) rr (dot) com

    • Anne Frank’s Diary. Who could forget that? A very powerful story told through a diary.

      Sorry to hear about the PW. That has to be a huge pain.

  4. in a sense i think letter are bittersweet thing for character…so many things could have been changed if the letter arrived on time or wasn’t lost etc…it’s more emotionnal.
    I prefer the idea of a diary because when we write those we don’t expect it to be read so the emotional link is different because there are feeling when you can see the deep thought of someone, his secret side but the impact is different less bitter

    and i can’t really remember the titles i came across with that but i did read several ( of course gerry diary is one of them^^)

    • You’re right. Most people don’t expect their diaries to be read until they are dead and long gone. When you’ve buried your deepest secrets and longings on those pages, imagine what chaos could be stirred up if someone reads them before you’re dead. Lots of potential for mystery, mayhem, and conflict when that happens.

  5. Thanks for the great spotlight. This books sounds very interesting 😉 Ummm… I really can’t think of one that I’ve read that utilized letters that haven’t already been mentioned… but I do enjoy them as a part of the narrative and not the whole… but I prefer letters or diary entries to text and emails… dunno why…

    • Erin, Glad you think the book sounds interesting. Part of the reason we think people might prefer letters or diary entries to texts and emails is how personal they seem to us today. When we lived away from family, long before email, each letter was a personal connection to home.

    • Well, if you should win our book it does have some handwritten letters in it. Thanks for commenting, even though you haven’t read a book that contains handwritten letters

  6. I have read a book that contained dairies of young women as they crossed the west by wagon train. I wish I could remember the name because it was very interesting. I love the use of letters to advance a plot in the story. It always gives a different insight into the characters. I enjoyed the excerpt very much.

    • Diaries from the pioneer era have always facinated Catherine. Donald doesn’t find much use for them. Letters in stories are great because you can get so much history from another point of view. Glad you enjjoyed the excerpt.

  7. I have read The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. It starts with a letter at the beginning of the book. The other two books I also read is Diary of Anne Frank and Dracula. Charles Dickens and Jane Austen have used letters in their books as well. There is another book that uses letter format by Stephanie Lauren. I’m blanking out and I passed by the book every time I’m in Rite Aid.

  8. Thanks everyone for stopping by and commenting. We enjoyed hearing about all the different books you have read that conatined letters. We are glad you enjoyed the exerpt and good luck with the giveawary.

    Thanks, Suzanne, for hosting us. It was fun.

  9. Excellent post! In The Lake of Dreams by Kim Edwards, letters are used to reveal a hidden family history. Lucy Jarrett,the modern-day protagonist, learns about Iris, her suffragette relative, through a collection of letters. These are interspersed throughout the book.