A quick commercial message…I’m over at Lady Scribes today with the results of the “Guilty Pleasures” poll. Stop by if you have a chance and be in the running for this week’s gift card.
Please help me welcome my friend Betty Bolté back to Preternatura for her monthly column. Betty’s latest book is Hometown Heroines: True Stories of Bravery, Daring, and Adventure, a collection of historical fiction tales based on the lives of 19 girls living in the 1800s in America. These stories were inspired by the fact that each of these girls have a landmark dedicated to them in America as a result of their efforts. Today, she’ll talk about, well, graveyards.
Betty writes both historical and contemporary stories that feature strong, loving women and brave, compassionate men. No matter whether the stories are set in the past or the present, she loves to include a touch of the inexplicable (i.e., supernatural or paranormal). The first edition of Hometown Heroines: True Stories of Bravery, Daring, and Adventure won Honorable Mention in the 2003 Writer’s Digest International Self-Published Book Awards and 2000 Writer’s Digest Writing Competition. She’s the author of several nonfiction books and currently marketing a romantic historical fiction trilogy. Watch for her romantic ghost story, Traces, to be released in the near future. You can learn more about Betty by visiting her website, on facebook or by following her on twitter.
ABOUT HOMETOWN HEROINES: Did you know that girls and young women made a difference in America’s history? During the 1800s, many girls helped America grow bigger and better, yet are missing from many history books. Virginia Reed, at 12, survived the trek to California with the Donner Party. Joanna Troutman, at 17, created the first Texas flag. Belle Boyd risked her life to spy for the Rebels during the Civil War. Grace Bedell wrote a letter to Abraham Lincoln that changed the way he faced the nation. Kate Shelley, at 15, crawled across a high trestle in a ferocious thunderstorm to stop the next train from falling through a washed-out bridge. A young teacher, Minnie Freeman led her 17 students to safety through the blinding snow of the Blizzard of 1888. These are just a few of the 19 inspiring true stories of 19th century American girls who touched the hearts of their hometowns. You can remember them today by visiting their historical markers, monuments, exhibits, and parks, or by reading their poems, and singing their songs.
And now, let’s hear from Betty…
Tools of the Trade
By Betty Bolté
When you think of a tool, what do you picture? Perhaps a hammer or screwdriver. Maybe a can opener or spatula. Your tools might be related to painting, or farming, or any of a myriad of tasks and endeavors. We often take a simple tool and find a new, creative use for it. I used to love the plastic microwave meal plates to use under indoor potted plants. I’m sure each of us has, at some time, converted old tools into new ones for one reason or another. The real people as well as characters in my stories also tend to recycle tools.
Kate Shelley, one of the girls featured in Hometown Heroines: True Stories of Bravery, Daring, and Adventure, repurposed old miner’s gear to create a makeshift lantern. Here’s an excerpt from her story: “She looked around the cozy kitchen and spied the frame of an old lantern and a miner’s lamp. The Shelley farm was situated near a coal mining area so they had collected some useful items from the men who dug the coal out of the mines. She hung the miner’s lamp inside the frame of the lantern, then filled the little lamp. She tore a strip of fabric from an old flannel skirt and used it as a wick.” She carried the lantern with her as she crawled across the high railroad trestle to warn the next train about another trestle collapsed during a ferocious thunderstorm in Iowa in 1881.
Minnie Freeman converted a length of rope into a lifeline during the blizzard of 1888 in Nebraska. After the roof caved in on the one-room school house, she had to act. “Minnie realized the children would not be safe inside for long. …Ice and snow pelted her face, and she could barely see where she was heading. Wind roared in her ears. The sky had darkened with the thickness of the snow clouds. Minnie struggled on, pulling the line of students behind her. Occasionally, she could feel a tug on the twine as someone behind slipped in the snow or had trouble stomping through the deepening drifts. She didn’t try to talk to the student behind her, rather motioned with her hand to provide direction and comfort. Minnie knew they must keep moving if they were to have any chance of reaching the house.”
Sometimes tools are used as weapons, which is another form of repurposing, right? I mean, we hunt for food using tools such as guns or bow and arrows, but if we turn them on another human those tools become weapons. Similarly with a bat or even a hammer.
In my debut romantic women’s fiction, Traces (to be released in April), Meredith Reed turns her knowledge of architecture to demolition, converting her tool of experience into a weapon against her family’s heritage. “Meredith Reed glared at the plantation home she’d inherited from a grandmother she only vaguely recalled and plotted its demise.…The architect in her appreciated the symmetry of the Greek Revival style as well as the quality workmanship of the brickwork, but neither aspect added value for the salvage companies.”
Tools in an author’s toolbox include more than the alphabet strung into words rearranged on the page. We draw upon our experiences, our observations, a sense of humor or anger to inform the characters’ motivations and reactions. We might draw upon established tropes or create our own new twists on tried and true storylines. We may base our settings on a real town or invent a world of our own. Doing so takes more imagination and insight than writing an email or tweet. But, like a rope or gun, words can become weapons as well. Hurtful barbs flung at each other, or lies told to harm someone’s reputation. While nobody enjoys being on the receiving end of such missiles, these too are tools in a writer’s toolbox to create the conflict that drives the story.
In the end, almost everything is a tool, one that can become a weapon depending on how we use it. Have you found a creative use for a tool, or been forced to use a simple tool to defend yourself? What tool would you reach for to be a weapon if needed?
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Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts and opinions!
Thank you, Betty, for stopping by today. And what an interesting question. I’m looking forward to reading the responses! I’m afraid mine isn’t very original: duct tape. I have taped my car’s side mirror back on. I have plastered it over a broken car window. I have taped a cardboard barricade over my fireplace to prevent bats from coming in (well, okay, that one didn’t work too well–cagey bats). I have taped up a skirt hem. I have taped on a broken shoe heel. I have NOT made an outfit of it yet…but it could happen. I could protect myself with it if I could tape up my assailant’s nostrils and mouth. Heh.
So…what about you guys? What have you done the Mcguyver thing with?