Positive conversations with old and new friends. I'd love for you to join me on my back porch.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Nancy Kimball

Today I'd like to welcome a new friend of mine, Nancy Kimball. She's going to share with us some of her research tips.

I’m honored to be part of Back Porch Reflections today to discuss research. If Jackie would allow me, before we dive into the interview portion, I’d like to give a few do’s and don’ts that would have been big helps before I first tackled research for my writing.
DO work within your strengths, without trying to replicate someone else’s method.
DO recognize that google and Wikipedia are wonderful, but used alone they can do more harm than good.
DON’T feel that you must travel to a location used in your novel to be considered credible.

DON’T spend more than necessary. Money that is, not time. Lots of time will be required.

Why do you feel those suggestions are so important to emphasis?
Other than those are the ones I wasted the most time and stress over? I kid but honestly, I’d become so discouraged whenever I would come across an author who is photographed standing in front of the Great Pyramids, or the Statue of Liberty, etc. and think… will anyone take me seriously because I haven’t been to Rome or stood in the Coliseum? While I would love to be able to do that, it’s not practical for me at this time. The same with purchasing source material like reference books, text books, documentary DVD’s, etc. It’s more work to utilize your local library resources but I shudder at what it would have cost to purchase all the source material I used. This can backfire, so keep a list of titles and authors with the material taken from that source since you won’t be able to pull a book from your shelf and flip for the highlights. And the internet, Lord help us, reminds me of a potluck supper at church. You’re putting a lot of faith in how that potato salad has been prepared, and the quality of its ingredients with no way to check. This should go without saying but use discretion and if at all possible, be sure the information is at least consistent with what you have learned or will learn through other sources.

How much research went into Chasing the Lion, your first manuscript?
That’s almost two separate answers. As my debut novel, a fair amount of craft study happened in conjunction with my research for the novel, but all together, I would say over the past nine months roughly eighty to a hundred hours. Of those hours, about 65% pertained to Ancient Rome in the Flavian Dynasty and gladiator life and culture throughout Roman history.

What were your sources and how did you find them?
For craft study, I went to the local library and found the correct section and skimmed the spines. I pulled the ones that looked like they would be helpful, and checked their publication dates. Anything older than ten years I chose to pass up, since I felt anything older than that would be outdated, especially if related to publishing. Also as I began to research agents, I found many of them make recommendations on craft study books and the titles I saw repeatedly recommended across the board, like Noah Lukeman’s THE FIRST FIVE PAGES, I made sure I requested at the library. Fortunately my library carried it, but that would I probably would have purchased since it was recommended so often.

For the novel, I did the same but with the search feature of the online catalogue for the topics I needed to know about, such as gladiators, early Christianity, life in Ancient Rome, etc. I also did a fair amount of research online, reading articles, perusing various websites, and Netflix of all things proved very helpful. Several documentaries were available there that aided my research tremendously, though one was a bust and a complete waste of time. Fortunately I had done enough research at that point to know their facts were incorrect or skewed.
Did you find conflicting information often and if so, how did you handle that?
Not often, I think about three or four times. In those cases, I let the majority rule and adopted the view or facts supported by the most sources.

Would you share an example of one of those conflicts?
Well the most frustrating for me as a follower of Christ was whether or not Jesus truly was the son of God or, and I’m quoting here, “a criminal justly executed under the laws of Rome for attempted subversion.”
That ‘expert’ made me furious, but in fairness I chose to take that with a grain of salt because it forced me into a broader view of my setting. That was the question two thousand years ago just as much as it is today. Though how anyone can believe Jesus Christ was just a man is beyond me, but that’s another conversation all together.
 One I never could resolve was whether or not Caesar Domitian’s predecessor, his brother Titus, died of fever or Domitian had him poisoned. That’s a fairly substantial conflict, but since only one source supported poisoning, and at least seven blamed fever, I went with fever.
A great tip I wish I had figured out sooner is flip to the back of your non-fiction research books. When I compared three I felt were the best written, most informative and authoritative, I found something very interesting. A few of the source books in the bibliographies were consistent in all three, so I went and found those research books the authors used to write the books I was using for research. That was very rewarding and made my time more efficient.

Any last tips or word of advice in closing?
Don’t try to fit all that great research into your novel. I know, I know… because I too felt like all that became wasted if I didn’t work it in, but it’s not. There’s a fine line between being rich in period detail and overwhelming the story. If you aren’t careful you’ll end up with a narrative non-fiction with a side order of novel and no one is going to contract that.
To give you some idea, only about 10% of everything I learned while researching for Chasing the Lion is actually a part of the finished novel. I’m comfortable stating this is normal, but if you go too far the other direction and pull just enough facts to include to get by, that will be easy to spot as well.
Lastly, think big and go for it. I came across the name of the technical advisor for the Ridley Scott/ Russell Crowe film Gladiator and found her e-mail. To my delight, Professor Coleman at Harvard not only answered my e-mail, but sent me copies of all her published articles I requested. So while you tell yourself all they can say is no, sometimes they say yes, but you won’t know if you don’t try.

Nancy, thanks so much for joining us today.

To learn more about Nancy visit her blog:

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hot Air

The other night while riding our bikes in the park , a truck pulled up into one of the fields. They pulled out a hot air balloon and began preparing it. First they filled it with air.

It was a beautiful balloon. As I watched, it occurred to me that the words of my mouth were only words. After a certain amount of air filled it, they shot a flame into that balloon.
When the fire mixed with the air, the balloon rose and did what it was meant to do. When the Holy Spirit lights a fire in me I'm able to use my words for His glory.
Have a great week.

Next week Regina Tittle is going to interview me on her blog a mustard seed of faith.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


There's a park in the back of my neighborhood. The other night we were riding bikes around the walking/bike trail. In the center of this trail are many soccer fields.
One team was finishing up for the day, and I heard the coach call out and ask the little boys and girls to gather round. He said, "I loved the teamwork. I loved the passing. I loved your attitude." That was all I heard as I rode by, but that replayed in my mind for the rest of my ride. Wouldn't it be great if we all worked together in our jobs and life? How much smoother would life be?
The Bible is full of encouraging scripture. Encouragement means to strengthen or stimulate. Barnabas means son of encouragement.
Hebrews 3:13 says, "But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness."

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Liebster Blog Award

I was touched today to discover my good friend, Mildred Colvin, awarded me the Liebster Blog Award.
The Liebster is awarded to blogs with less than 200 followers. It's an opportunity to shine the light on fantastic blogs and their authors in an effort to build readership. Each blog I've listed here are ones you'll love to read.

Here are the rules:

1. Thank the giver of the award and link back to them.

2. Give the Liebster to five bloggers and let them know with a comment to their blog.

3. Copy and paste the award onto your blog.

4. Have faith your followers will spread the love to other bloggers.

5. Have blogging fun!
Here are my five Liebster Awards:
Romantic Reflections
a mustard seed of faith
The Queen City Quill
Nancy Kimball
Sandra Orchard

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Last year my dad broght me a flower he dug up for me. It was wrapped in a damp paper towel to survive the trip. I planted it and waited. It never showed much promise last summer, but I kept it. Early this summer a little green sprouted up. It wasn't very showy, but I left it alone. I knew my parents wouldn't have given it to me if it didn't pay off. Finally it has begun to bloom, and it's beautiful. If I hadn't had faith in my parents gesture, I would have dug it up and thrown it out long ago.
Another flower I have that symbolizes patience to me is the resurrection lily. Every spring green leaves shoot up and die. Then toward the end of July the flower pops up.

Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.
James 5:7-8 (New International Version
There are many areas of my life where I need to be patient. I hope to trust God for the outcome and be patient in the process.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Brainstorming Retreat

I got back last night from a brainstorming retreat with Rose, Jennifer and Christy. I had never met these women before. They welcomed me and offered me some great ideas. It was so fun to bounce ideas off each other. Rose's husband joined us late Friday night and offered his perspective.
Before leaving Saturday, we visited a pre-Civil War house.
This is Rose and Christy with me in front of the Peck House in Cynthiana, KY.

As I understand it, when all the homes along this street were burned during the Civil War a lady ran out to the soldiers. She begged them not to burn this house because some really nice people lived there. This historic home would not be here if that lady had not been brave enough to face the soldiers. Also the family must have been extremely nice, and the soldiers felt some sort of sympathy in order not to burn it down.
I wonder if I'm that brave. I have great neighbors, but would I be that heroic in a similar situation? And if my house was about to be burned would any of my neighbors think I was nice enough to step up for me?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


I went for another bike ride tonight. When I ride in the park I think the sun is setting over Harrodsburg Road. I have an exact spot in my mind where I think it is. But as I wound my way out of the park last night I noticed the sun setting behind a neighbor's house. This did not match the direction I perceived from the park. So tonight I asked my husband to help me pay attention to the angles. I wanted my perspective to line up with reality.
On our way out of the park, we ran into a neighbor. He shared a story with us of following God's will.  God impressed something upon him last year. He didn't know how it could possibly happen, but he moved forward because God told him to. He had a concrete deadline to achieve. He did everything he could, followed every lead God gave him, but the day arrived and he fell short of his goal. That day though God amazed our friend and finished the mission.
From a human perspective this was an unattainable goal. But from God's perspective it could be done.
I've dreamed about writing and tried to write on and off for the last few years. But two years ago, I felt  God gave me a green light to pursue my dream. I'm still striving toward the goal of being published. I've learned a lot and made good friends the last two years.
I wonder what God's perspective is on my writing. After listening to my friend, I feel rejuvenated. I'm going to work harder than ever on my writing and hope to please my audience of One.


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