Tag Archives: Great War

I get a free critique of the first 3 pages of SOMEONE

One of the benefits of signing up for a Writers Digest Webinar, is that you get a bonus after it has ended. The first webinar I took allowed us to send in either a query letter of the first 300 words of our manuscripts. This webinar, titled  HOW TO HOOK AN AGENT, offered to send the agent leading the webinar the first three pages of your novel-in-progress. Accordingly, I sent in the first 3 pages of my second novel, titled HE MUST BE SOMEONE.

Set in 1922, it is a coming-of-age story about identity, forbidden love and family secrets. When Dominick Rossi arrives at Georgetown University to study at the School for Foreign Services, he dreams of meeting his aunt and three half-sisters. But Rossi’s actions lead to an unexpected death, and a forced separation from the woman he loves.

To my great surprise, I received a reply from the agent about a day after I sent in my pages. She liked them, but she also told me something useful. She said that my style of writing led me to do too much telling, which had the effect of distancing the reader.  This helped me to understand what it was about my writing that the other agent “didn’t love”.

Next: I enter the Amazon novel context

–Cynthia Haggard writes novels.  She is currently seeking representation for ONE SEED SOWN, TWO MURDERS REAPED, the Richard III story told from the point of view of his mother. For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories. (c) 2011. All rights reserved.

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I sign up for Unicorn Writers’ Conference

As I mentioned in a previous blog, my goal at the end of 2010 was to try and find an agent for my first novel ONE SEED SOWN, TWO MURDERS REAPED. While I had received some expressions of interest, by December 2010, no agent had signed a contract with me. I decided that my goal for 2011 would be to try and get my second novel HE MUST BE SOMEONE to an agent, while continuing to send ONE SEED around.

HE MUST BE SOMEONE is a very different novel from ONE SEED. While ONE SEED is set during the period of the Wars of the Roses, and is the Richard III story told from the point of view of his mother, SOMEONE is set in 1922, and is the story of a young woman who goes to Berlin to study violin (based upon the true story of my violin teacher).

When stylish widow, Angelina Pagano Miller, invites a potential suitor to supper one  evening, things don’t go as planned. To Angelina’s chagrin, the mysterious dark-eyed stranger finds her seventeen-year-old daughter Grace more appealing.  Angelina seeks revenge by trying to find out who her daughter’s suitor is, but her efforts are derailed by her sudden death.

Grace and her sister Violet are hustled out of town, and finally wind up in Berlin, where Grace, a gifted violinist, is accepted as a student by one of the foremost violin teacher of the day. Grace dreams of having a career as a soloist, but inadvertently acquires two other suitors. What should she do? Should she pursue a career as a violinist, or should she marry? And if she does marry, which one will it be?  It is hard for Grace to decide, as she feels drawn to each of her suitors in turn. Finally, she shocks her family (and creates a minor international incident) by disappearing on the eve of her marriage to her aristocratic suitor, Count von Lietzow.  Where is Grace, and why did she flee?

I needed to get some feedback on this MSS, and so I looked around for various writing conferences that occur during the spring, so that I would just have time to fix up the MSS to send off to Squaw Valley, which occurs in August. I stumbled upon The Unicorn Writer’s Conference, which is going to take place in a castle in Portland CT. What I liked about this conference is the fact not only do they have interesting sessions to attend, but for a little bit extra you can sign up for a one-on-one with a speaker, an agent and an editor.  I lost no time in signing up!  The conference takes place on Saturday April 9. Stay tuned.

Next:  Why writing conferences are important.

Image: triobrioso.com

–Cynthia Haggard writes novels.  She is currently seeking representation for ONE SEED SOWN, TWO MURDERS REAPED, the Richard III story told from the point of view of his mother. For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories. (c) 2011. All rights reserved.

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Book Review: Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises

“Robert Cohn was once middleweight boxing champion of Princeton. Do not think that I am very much impressed by that as a boxing title, but it meant a lot to Cohn…”

With these words – which immediately give us a narrator with attitude – Ernest Hemingway begins his first big novel, published in 1926.  This novel perfectly evokes the twenties. It is a portrait of a group of British and American expatriates enjoying the café scene of Left Bank Paris, who decide to take an excursion to Pamplona in Spain to see bullfighting.

sunalsorisesWhat could be more charming or interesting than to see (or hear in Hemingway’s inimitable dialogues) these well-educated bright young things? And yet the ravages of the Great War lurk underneath the surface, with ruined bodies, ruined minds, cynicism and spiritual dissolution.

It is helpful to remember that when people talk about the “Lost Generation”, they mean the survivors of a horrible and wasteful war. This war killed so many young men (the first day of the Battle of the Somme in 1916 cost England 23,000 young men), that plenty of women had to live out their lives without any hope of marriage and family.

It is not surprising that the twenties – when people tried to cope with the aftermath of so much destruction – evokes so many images of light and darkness.  This book is particularly relevant today.

–Cynthia Haggard writes short stories, novels and poetry.  During the day, she is a medical writer and owns her own business.  For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories.  For more about her medical writing services, go to clarifyingconcepts.  (c) 2009. All rights reserved.

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Book Review: Pat Barker’s The Ghost Road

41d69a8nskl_sl160_pisitb-sticker-arrow-dptopright12-18_sh30_ou01_aa115_Writing with verve and panache, Pat Barker captures England in the last months of the Great War, where W. H. R. Rivers is treating battle-scarred soldiers so that they can return to the front and fight again.

This novel is a study of W. H. R. Rivers (1864-1922), who was a British psychologist and anthropologist, best known for treating the poet Siegfried Sassoon for shell shock during the Great War.  In this novel, we see Rivers going about his work of treating his patients, and also having feverish memories of his time in Melanesia where he did anthropological work on color vision.

In Barker’s masterly fashion, River’s story is interwoven with those of fictional and non-fictional characters.  Billy Prior, a fictional character, is a patient of Rivers who volunteers to return to the front in the company of a fellow officer: the famous poet Wilfred Owen.  By now, neither Prior nor Owen believes in the war, yet they consider it their duty to fight.

This novel accurately portrays the cost of war and the ways that men and women try to cope in their daily lives.

This book is the third book and culmination of Pat Barker’s World War I trilogy (the other titles are An Eye at the Door and Regeneration). It won the Booker Prize.

–Cynthia Haggard writes short stories, novels and poetry.  During the day, she is a medical writer and owns her own business.  For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories.  For more about her medical writing services, go to clarifyingconcepts.  (c) 2009. All rights reserved.

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Book Review: Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs

51q6vsj14jl_sl160_pisitb-sticker-arrow-dptopright12-18_sh30_ou01_aa115_It is the spring of 1929, and an enterprising young woman named Maisie Dobbs opens a detective agency in London.  What is remarkable about Maisie is that not only is she female, but she comes from a working-class background.  A perceptive employer noticed the promise in her 13-year-old maid and so Maisie studied her way to Cambridge.  Now she is solving her first case, which seems easy enough: an open-and-shut case of infidelity.

But the Great War lurks behind the polite and pleasant facade of the life of a privileged young woman in 1920s London, and as Maisie delves deeper into the case, she also delves deeper into her own past. Finally she gains the courage to force herself to face a terrible tragedy that happened to her during the war.

Jacqueline Winspear does a good job in conveying London life in 1920s London. But perhaps it is too good, for in rendering Maisie’s rather stilted and prissy way of expressing herself, she risks alienating the reader.

–Cynthia Haggard writes short stories, novels and poetry.  During the day, she is a medical writer and owns her own business.  For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories.  For more about her medical writing services, go to clarifyingconcepts.  (c) 2009. All rights reserved.

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