Tag Archives: Alexander Dumas

Why I write period fiction

Don’t read this blog if you don’t like history and if you don’t like history what’s wrong with you.

Somewhere in my schooling I heard, from whom I no longer recall, that history is not about dates and legislative acts. Who cares when the Homestead Act was passed. History is about the people and the times. I can relate to that.

Before I tell you why I write period fiction, let me offer three great biographies about people and their times. “Cleopatra” by Stacy Schiff will make you feel you are in ancient Egypt and you will learn more about Cleopatra than you will from any movie. “Jesse James, Last Rebel of the Civil War” by T.J. Stiles is the most thorough study of Jesse James I have read and there are scenes in the book that still haunt me. “Black Count” by Tom Reiss is a revelation about the father of writer Alexander Dumas. If ever a story ever cried out for a movie this is the one.  The story about the Black Count is too detailed, too rich, and to exciting to go into here. All three books are great reads for taking you to another time and place.

And that is why I write period fiction. I want to escape to another time and place. I have no interest in writing contemporary fiction (my short stories an exception) because it is not an escape. When I wrote “Loonies in the Dugout” about a fictional character observing a true story about the 1911 New York Giants baseball team it gave me the chance to go back in time and learn about 1911 New York. I loved the research about buildings, events at the time, the people of the time. I had the opportunity to make true life characters like Christy Mathewson, John McGraw, Damon Runyon, Bat Masterson, and of course Charlie Faust come to life again. They are long dead. I never had a chance to meet them, but by writing about them in my story I was bringing them back to life. I was a kinder Dr. Frankenstein.

Then because I liked my two fictional leads, Chester and Eveleen, I set them in 1922 where they solved the true life murder of William Desmond Taylor, a silent film director, in the book “Loonies in Hollywood.” Once again I brought to life people I would have liked to have met and I solved a murder that to this day is unsolved. I won’t say I had inside information, but I met years and years ago someone who was  involved in the Hollywood scene at the time. My ending is purely fictional though. Although . . .

Then because I loved studying the flapper era with all that jazz, prohibition, speakeasies, and the movies, I gave Chet and Eveleen another chance to solve a murder in a novel that will be released this spring. It takes place in 1927 and though Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, W.C. Fields, Clara Bow, Adolph Zukor, among many others, grace the story along with two fictional characters so important in my previous book, Detective Tom Ziegler and Clancy, my favorite flapper, this story, unlike the other two is not based on a true story.

So if you like history, period fiction, and reading, my Amazon page for my e-books are here. http://www.amazon.com/Terry-Nelson/e/B00EEVHN38

 

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What was Alexander Dumas talking about

Alexander Dumas was a great writer as anyone who has read “The Count of Monte Cristo,” or “The Three Musketeers” can attest. I ran across a quote of his that, except for the last three words,  I understand. But before I get to those words lets start at the beginning.

The beginning is easy. He said, “To learn is not to know; there are the learners and the learned.” I understand this part. What Dumas is saying almost echoes Woody Allen’s line, “Those that can, do; those that can’t, teach; those who can’t do either, teach P.E.”

But let me take the Dumas quote and apply to writers. One can learn to write, but because one learns how does not mean that someone can. Understanding all that you are taught about writing is not the same as implementing what you learned Understanding creativity does not mean you are creative.

The second part of the Dumas quote is “Memory makes the one, philosophy the other.” Memory applies to the learners, philosophy applies to the learned. To learn is to know because you remember what you are taught, so if you are not creative, you teach writing, or if you can’t do that, you teach P.E. I think I got it anyway.

It is the philosophy part that is my bugaboo. Let us look at the quote in its entirety. “To learn is to not to know; there are the learners and the learned. Memory makes the one, philosophy the other.” As a student I was the learner, learning from the learned, my professors. Understanding what they taught me-or at least some of it- is still in my memory. But that does not make me learned. But according to Dumas philosophy does make one learned.

Philosophy, according to my American Heritage dictionary, is “Investigation of the nature, the causes, or principles of reality, knowledge, or values, based on logical reasoning.” It also say, “A system of values by which one lives.”

Perhaps Dumas was saying that to be learned one must implement what one has learned. But I don’t know. The French are just different, as anyone who has read Camus or Sartre, will tell you. Dumas was the learned one and I the learner, but I am not sure what I learned. I guess I should teach P.E.

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We live in hope, we die in despair; what fun

The above quote is from Alexander Dumas, except for the ‘what fun’ part. I threw that in. But what is there in life but hope? We hope the day will go well, we hope we will sell more books, we hope are families will be healthy, we hope to get a date with Jennifer Lawrence (despair rears its ugly head).

The question is, did Dumas mean about dying in despair, that we die alone, a journey only we can take at that moment, or does he mean that many hoped for things will not come to fruition in our lives, thus the despair? Not everything we hope will happen. Not all of us will be best selling authors, especially me (despair once again rears its hideous face).

One unknown writer said, “When we look back on our lives later on, we’ll either have what we want out of life, or we’ll have the reason why we don’t.” I will not get the date with Jennifer Lawrence because I am old enough to be her grandfather, I have as much sex appeal as a starved yak, and my chance of meeting her is as likely as me meeting the abominable snowman. So I have a reason and I can live with that.

As for best selling books, the competition is staggering for Indy writers, and I need more work on marketing and making my presence known. Something I am not good at, but must improve on as I will not pay large sums of money for someone to do the marketing for me. I am trying to make money for myself, not other people. 

So I will plod through the Himalayan snows like the starved yak I am, but plodding through the snow, hoping for some more book sales and a few more good reviews.

Speaking of which you can read the reviews of my books here.  http://www.amazon.com/Terry-Nelson/e/B00EEVHN38

Now that’s marketing for you!

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