Posts Tagged ‘writing’

Dancing into Research

August 22nd, 2014 • by Karen A. Chase • 3 Comments


I believe every great historical book set in the 18th century should have a dance scene. Dancing was socially expected, and it’s within those scenes a character’s character can be shown. I’m also a big believer in conducting first-hand research. So this week, accompanied by my very good-natured friend and writer Mary Chris Escobar, I attended an English Country Dance lesson.

Men lined up one side. Women across. Anyone who has seen this scene from Pride & Prejudice knows this line dance. I watched it and other period films to help write a scene in which my protagonist first dances with his love interest. However, now having spun down the line myself, I’ll make some adjustments.

First, dancers must maintain eye contact. How evocative if you fancy them. How torturous if you don’t. Dancing was also one of the few times men and woman would publicly hold hands. Some hands are strong. Supportive. Others are clammy. Wilting.

Words describing the moves are indicative of the social structure. When you let go of your partner and spin away to move down the line, it’s called “casting off.” If a man ends up on the woman’s side of the line (or vise versa), it’s called “improper.” When you cut through another couple, you are “crossing over.”

I used to think these dances looked easy, but I was literally flushed from all the spinning. And I was not in a corset and layers of silk, or partnered with Colin Firth. Oh, Miss Bennet, no wonder your cheeks hath such a rosy hue.

Authors, what have you done in the name of research?

If you’d like to find an English Country Dance group near you, a partial list of Country Dance Groups across the US can be found here. (Although my Richmond chapter is not on here.)


August 8th, 2014 • by Karen A. Chase • 4 Comments
Photo by RogerMcLassus

Photo by RogerMcLassus

As I go forth into a writing career, I have decided to change up my blog a bit. Until now, it has been about Design, Photography and Writing–the three things I did somewhat equally with my time. Now, with my head either on the page, in a book, or in a library, Compositions will become about Writing, Reading and Research.

In the world of a writer these elements gather to create a composition. Readers and writers bring their own thoughts and expression to how stories are made, and research delves into how history shapes those perceptions. Here at Compositions I’ll share stories, writing tips and thoughts, and historic adventures. All at or around 250 words per post.

So as I begin again, let’s start with words. I recently watched this Ted Talk on What Makes a Word “Real”? It speaks to how/why words are added to our English language dictionaries and how our view of words has changed. Boy has it.

“Troll” was hanging out under bridges, warts and all. Now it means to “surf” the internet. Surf, not stream. “Streaming.” To have shows running on your computer while you eat Spam. Or delete spam. I say this with abandon. Although “abandon” in the 14th century meant to subdue. I’d say it sounds awful that so much has changed, but “awful” in the 13th century meant “inspiring wonder.”

What words have changed meaning for you? If you could add one word to the dictionary, what would it be?

Let That Banner Wave!

August 1st, 2014 • by Karen A. Chase • 9 Comments


I have an agent!

About eight weeks ago I promised I would fly the Canadian flag and replace it with the US flag when I found an agent. I can scarcely believe it’s happened so quickly, but last week the joyous news came in. A call. Early morning. Area code 212. New York.

“Hi, this is Rebecca Gradinger with Fletcher and Company.” My ears thrummed. Once my composure returned I found Rebecca saying things all writers hope for. “I was reading it on the subway… I only got to page 100… I just had to call…”

However, it was not her praises that made me say yes. She was professional and warm. Thoughtful and engaging. She knows this business well, but she is also known for being nice. I said yes, because I feel like she is going to be someone to count on. With Rebecca and her assistant Jennifer in my corner, the next rounds are going to be less of a fight. More of a joy.

She’ll be here to help with editing, finding a publisher and more. Rebecca best describes the role of an agent in this post from Poets and Writers.

So, I have another enthusiastic partner in the building of my literary career. That’s only right for I did not get here alone. Freelance editors. Early readers. Researchers and historians. Other authors. Even finding Rebecca came with help. I was introduced by another historical fiction author, Kathleen Grissom (a Canadian). Rebecca (also Canadian) has been her trusted agent.

Isn’t that ironic? After six years writing about the American Revolution, among those helping me find a publisher are two other Canadians. So here is promise to them.

I will fly this American flag until we find a publisher, at which time that Canadian flag will go back out.

For now, let these stars and stripes wave! Carrying Independence and I have an agent.

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Stay tuned for more posts about what comes next. How does a writer work with an agent? What is the process toward publication? I hope you’ll follow along. Sign up for the blog (in the right-hand column) and the tales will come right into your email.