Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Realistic Diversity in Historical Fiction

Readers, today we hear from Jason Henry Evans' latest installment on How to Write and Publish Historical Fiction. This month, Jason addresses diversity in historical fiction, the what, the why and the how.

It is January of 2018 and having diverse characters is still a big deal in historical fiction. But how do you add diverse characters when the market you write in is pretty, well, white? 
I mean, how much diversity was in the English Regency?  How much diversity was in Ancient Rome? Or Tudor England? How much diversity was in the Highlands of Scotland where my Highland Romance takes place? 
Ah, never fear, gentle reader. Never fear. We will go over this. 
But first, let’s check our privilege at the door and understand what diversity really means. 

What Exactly do we Mean by Diversity?

Diversity is not only about race. 
Diversity is about sex. 
Diversity is about orientation. 
Diversity is about gender.
Diversity is about age. 
Diversity is about ableism. 
Diversity is about thought.
If you are a new writer without a formal education in history, sometimes the world can seem pretty vanilla. Sometimes it can seem segregated, too. But with a little research and a little creativity you can peel that veneer off of the tableau you’re looking at and discover a rich and varied world. 
Also – and let me be blunt – you are writing historical fiction. No one is going to get 3 units transferable to the college of their choice by reading your book. You don’t have to be absolutely historically accurate to write a compelling piece of historical fiction. 
Don’t get me wrong – you do have to get the details right. You gotta know your stuff about horses, crops, firearms and swords. You have to know your way around corsets and fabrics and etiquette and politics. But you do NOT have to be perfect. 

How do We Write Diversity in Our Stories?

So, how do we write diversity into our stories?
Maybe you are writing a romance set in the English Regency. You feel diverse characters would add richness to your story and make it pop. But you can’t bring yourself to make one of the supporting characters from Africa or Asia. That’s OK. What if your character were disabled, in some way? A veteran of the war in the colonies who’s now in a wheel chair? Or, perhaps blind? How many romances have disabled characters?  What about a supporting character who is very old, but wise? Someone who can reminisce about the love of their youth and give good advice to the protagonist. 

Cultural and Ethnic Diversity Occur Natural in Times of Great Exchanges

But if you did want someone to stand out because of their ethnicity and background, please remember, the settings of most of our great pieces of historical fiction have been during times of great exchanges. Many take place in cities or on frontiers where cultures meet, clash and trade. It is there you will find the diversity you seek. 
My first novel takes place in 1590s Ireland, in the Queen’s Army. It is a hotbed of war and culture clash. English Anglicans work alongside Irish and Highland Catholics. There are Italian mercenaries and French smugglers. And the Spanish. Boy, are there lots of Spanish. More importantly, able bodied women who work in and with the Queen’s Army. Sometimes, they fight too. 

Don't Force Historical Characters to Adopt Unrealistic Modern Attitudes

I’ve said this before, but there have always been gay and transgendered people. Why not have a gay or transgendered character in your novel? It would not feel right to me for my characters to adopt modern attitudes about the gay and transgendered. I think that would be going too far. (Although, open minded people always existed.) But wouldn’t it be a lovely subplot to add to your novel if your protagonist discovered one of their friends were gay and have to wrestle with that knowledge? And, as the book moves forward, your character realizes that their friend is their friend and comes to accept them? I would read that book. 

Ethnic Diversity in Historical Fiction - It Comes Naturally

But maybe you really want ethnically diverse characters in your novel. Ok. Then let’s talk about diversity. 
Any story set during the Columbian Exchange is going to have diversity. Native Americans went to Renaissance Europe. (Many, unfortunately, as slaves.) The French, Spanish, Papal and English courts all had ambassadors from the Ottoman Empire. (Turkey.) Those ambassadors brought staffs of servants and slaves from throughout North Africa, the Mideast, and Persia. 
If your story is set later, say the 18th century, the same thing applies. However, now you can add Indian, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, and people from Southeast Asia as potential characters into the mix. The closer to our modern period you get, the more diversity becomes apparent. Mexican miners in 19th century Colorado. Black cowboys and buffalo soldiers. Chinese migrant workers who toiled on the railroad and in San Francisco immigrant communities.  
Is your story set in Medieval Europe? Crusaders sometimes came back to Europe with Armenian and Arab Christian wives and servants. Spain before the Reconquesta was a home for Jewish and Islamic scholars and artist for a millennia. People who came from around the Islamic world. As far south as Timbuktu, and as Far East as Jakarta. That is diversity. 
Remember, adding diversity to your story can be as simple as thinking about outside the box about the culture you’re trying to explore. There have always been diverse characters, we just have to illuminate them. 

Jason Henry Evans:  Life is funny. In 2004 I moved from Los Angeles to Denver, newly married with a desire to be a great teacher and husband. I dedicated myself to public education and realized my heart was not in it. So I moved on. At the same time I stumbled into a creative world of art and literature I now call home. It hasn’t always been easy, but it has been worthwhile.
Like my Author Page on Facebook: Jason Henry Evans
Follow me on Twitter: @evans_writer
Read my personal blog at

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Prez Says December 2017

Readers, today we hear from Bowen Gillings, president of Pikes Peak Writers. Look for the Prez Says Column each quarter as Bowen continues to keep Pikes Peak Members informed.

Report on the December 2017 PPW Board Meeting
Happy Holidays! Pikes Peak Writers is about to close the books on another exciting and educational year. My heartfelt thanks to all of the amazing volunteers who have taken time away from their families, friends, and (heaven forbid) their writing to keep PPW going. You make this organization great. I wish for each of you a merry wrap-up to 2017 and a great and Happy New Year.
Your Board of Directors met twice in December. The first meeting covered necessary tasks for upgrading and maintaining our web presence. Our outstanding web team vetted several options for web hosting, membership management and event management software, and website migration. The Board eliminated some choices before our Conference Director ran a few demos with the software. The bottom line is that PPW will soon have a better system for member management, workshop and event submission, Conference and Zebulon registration, and blog functions. Yippee!
The second meeting determined our operational budgets for 2018. Several exciting decisions were made to include allocating more funds for volunteer appreciation, non-conference events, and social media. We approved spending for the new software and web migration. We also approved funds to provide honoraria for presenters at our monthly Write Brain events--something many of us believe has been a long time coming.
On a personal note, I am happy to announce that the Board approved funds to buy books published by PPW member authors. The goal here is two-fold: 1) motivate authors to use our events page so that we can publicize and support their book releases and 2) show PPW’s support of our members by paying for a copy of their new books then giving those books away at PPW events. This proposition is for both traditionally published and independently published member authors.
Next year promises to be our best yet. The Writing is Art event in partnership with Cottonwood Center for the Arts begins its showing in March. If you are interested in contributing to this event, go to the Special Events tab on our website,, and click on Writing is Art. There is still time to submit before the December 31st deadline.
Our Write Your Heart Out event in February is shaping up. This is our annual free preview of faculty presenting workshops at our 2018 Conference.
The Pikes Peak Writers Conference runs from April 27-29 and looks to continue its tradition of excellence. PPWC keynotes will be Jim Butcher, Laurell Kaye Hamilton, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Jonathan Maberry. PPWC boasts outstanding workshops and the return of our attendees’ favorite improvisational writing event, Write Drunk, Edit Sober. Please, drink responsibly, but write recklessly.
If the price of Conference is the only thing keeping you from registering, fear not! Scholarships are available to help defer costs for those who qualify. Check out for more information.
Thank you for engaging with Pikes Peak Writers. If you have questions about PPW and how it works, please reach out to me. The address is

Thank you.

Bowen Gillings
Pikes Peak Writers

Friday, November 10, 2017

Conference Scholarships - Meet Your Tribe

Pikes Peak Writers provides a limited number of scholarships to our annual conference, thanks to the generosity of donors. We ask those who receive Scholarships to Pikes Peak Conference to share a bit about their experience attending Pikes Peak Writers Conference.
Today, we hear from Roberta Crownover, not only a 2017 scholarship recipient, but a top contender in the 2009 Paul Gilette Writing Contest (now known as the Zebulon).
Scholarship applications for Pikes Peak Writers Conference 2018 will be accepted from November 15, 2017 through January 15, 2018.  You can find more information here.
If you'd like to donate to our Conference Scholarship fund, you may do so easily via PayPal.

A Kick in the Stomach

So, I was hanging things up on my wall the other day, like you do, and I found my framed certificate for Third Place in the Short Story division of the Paul Gillette Writing Contest at PPWC. The year was 2009.
That kicked me in the stomach. 2009 was only a few years ago. The places I've gone since have been so amazing that I can't believe that since that day in October 2008 when my husband said, "Why don't you submit to this contest?" I've covered the distances and built the words and worlds I have.
"Are you nuts?" (This is probably a PG-13 version of my response. No, no probably about it.) "I don't have anything to submit. I've got days before the deadline. I can't do this." I lay my head down on my desk to contemplate my futile attempts at self-expression.
My husband, being a different kind of anal-retentive personality than I, went to the garage and grabbed a banker's box full of paper, which he proceeded to drop on my office floor, spreading dust mites and mold spores throughout.
"What the hell...?" (It's hard to jar oneself out of a good primadonna moment, ya know?) I said while coughing.
"Your writing. From the last twenty-five years." He leaned against the door jamb and smirked. "Every time you asked me to read something, I saved it."
My eyes narrowed. I considered my options. I could kill him or hug him. The best option was to see what he'd scrounged. His sentencing could wait until I discerned whether his gift was worthy. Outwardly scowling, inwardly piqued, I turned my back on him and began to rummage through my past.

Meeting the Person I Once Was

It's a curious thing, meeting the person I once was. The stories I wanted to tell then are lovely reminders of children's birthdays and bedtime stories. There are also angst-ridden bursts of "I need to scream this and don't know how." Sometimes, the two are interwoven. I found myself, more than once, rocking back on my heels and congratulating my former self for not being as stupid as I remembered me being.
2008. Nearly nine years ago.
It still took me a while to get busy.

Writing with Intent

Writing with intent is a process of learning and exploring. I'm not sure I knew that when I started college at the ripe old age of forty-five. I surely didn't know that when I actively started writing my fiction later.
Like most of us, I have always wanted to be able to say "I am a writer." Like all of us, I believe that I have worthy stories to tell. And like many of us, I doubt my skills.
This is where the circle's ends meet. 2008.
I showed in the short story category. I attended Pikes Peak Writers Conference. It was amazing and terrifying. So many people who all had stories to tell.
I'm not a fast learner. It took some time, some years, and a lot of encouragement for me to begin to believe in my stories and my words.
There were some rough landings. When I had to rewrite the first many pages of my novel to reflect my changed understanding of who the characters were and, importantly, who my audience was, I lost hope. For a while. Until some members of the writing tribe came and kicked me in the butt.
Then, to steal a line from "High Hopes," I picked myself off, dusted myself off, and started all over again.
Every time I did so, I learned. I'd find myself treading deep waters and somehow wade to shore.
That somehow was often through the Pikes Peak Writers Conference and the regular events PPW sponsors.

We Writers Are Not Alone

Perhaps the most important facet of all this for writers to remember is that we are not alone. We do have a tribe. Our tribe is eclectic and sometimes eccentric.  It's not easy to pick us out in a crowd. We might have the tallest high-heels, or be dressed in our jammies. It's possible that we appear to be normal people. We might even think of ourselves as normal. (We writers are allowed our delusions, too, ya know.) But we share our stories.
We share our stories. And, because we want others to remember them, we strive to learn the craft.
2017’s conference was another amazing learning experience. All of the presenters I heard offered me new insight into my work. Listening to Donald Maass opened me up to allow odd moments of discontinuity in my characters’ thinking to permit a different kind of aha for both writer and reader. I’m afraid I’m still better at it in relatively shallow ways, but I’m working on it.
There’s another thing I should mention: I’m more than a little terrified of people not liking my work. But that, too, I’m working on. The tribe is keeping me at it.
And now I have something else to hang on my wall – the best of the best rejection letters. This is getting to be really fun.

Roberta Crownover writes historical fiction and teaches history at a local community college.  Roberta can be found online on Twitter.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Readers, today we share the news of J.T. Evans' Griffin's Feather, an urban fantasy novel that debuted on October 28, 2017.   J.T. is past-president of Pikes Peak Writers and we're pleased to share his news.   Thank you to contributing editor, Kathie Scrimgeour find her on facebook for ensuring that you, our members, are informed of the accomplishments of fellow PPW members.

Congratulations to J.T. Evans on the recent release of his debut novel, Griffin’s Feather (Wordfire Press, 10-29-17, 214 pgs, ISBN: 978-1614756040). You can purchase his book at

Marcus Barber is a two-thousand-year old immortal, a former Roman Centurion who now works as a bounty hunter for supernatural creatures from the ancient world. When he’s not pounding the pavement as a private investigator for mortal clients, Marcus chases down missing mythological creatures for the Ancients. Now, in the heat of San Antonio, Marcus must search for Nemesis's missing Griffin while trying to rescue a melting Ice Pixie from an eccentric collector.

J.T. Evans writes fantasy novels, and also dabbles with science fiction and horror short stories. He is the former president of Colorado Springs Fiction Writers Group and Pikes Peak Writers. When not writing, he develops interactive voice recognition systems at the Day Job, home brews great beers, spends time with his family, and plays way too many tabletop games. From West Texas to Montana, J.T. has landed in the Colorado Springs area.
You can find J.T. on his website on Facebook, and on Twitter.  J.T. can be contacted by email at

Monday, October 30, 2017

Readers, today we hear from Bowen Gillings, president of Pikes Peak Writers. This month, Bowen provides a report on Pikes Peak Writers 3rd quarter Board of Directors meeting  Look for the Prez Says Column each quarter as Bowen continues to keep Pikes Peak Members informed and aware.

Report on the September 2017 PPW Board Meeting

Continuing with my goal to keep you, the PPW member, engaged and informed about our terrific organization, I present this latest update on the efforts of your amazing Board of Directors.
The PPW Board met at the end of September to hold our annual elections for various Board positions. You may check out our bylaws (available to the public at to know the necessary process for becoming a member of our Board. It is not very difficult, but does require candidates to honestly depict their qualifications, goals, and reasons for wanting to be part of the Board.

This election brought in new Members at Large Damon Alan and Gabrielle Brown for two-year terms. Our new Vice President is Kameron Claire. She is a regular attendee at PPW’s monthly improve writing event, Write Drunk, Edit Sober, so come by and meet her. Also, Treasurer Charise Simpson will continue for another two years, as will Member at Large Karen Fox.
When I became your President in March, I replaced our Immediate Past President, J.T. Evans, who had 18 months remaining on his term. At that time I felt it improper for me to step into nearly a full term as President without an open election. The position of President was open to the entire PPW membership in September, yet no one submitted his or her name for consideration. So, the Board voted to keep me in place until the September 2018 elections when the position will again be open for a new candidate to serve a two-year term.

For a full look at your current Board of directors, go to These are the people you can reach out to with ideas and concerns regarding PPW.

The Board also took a hard look at our web footprint. In late August, an outstanding trio of volunteers joined forces to become our web team. Todd Gleason heads this group as Webmaster and is supported by Jim Beavers and Liz Jeffries. Together these three have worked with our previous Webmaster to take over the managing and maintenance of our website, our membership database, and our submission portals.  Along with Gabrielle Brown, the new managing editor of our blog, they’re also working to streamline blog functionality as well as our news feed. For a tech noob like me, these seem daunting tasks, but these folks charged right in and set to work.

In the next few months you can expect to see some changes to our site. The team is building proposals to make our site more functional and easier to maintain. With a 100% volunteer workforce, simplicity is key for continued success. The Board will be deciding in November which changes to make and which products to use.

That is it for this installment of Prez Says. If you have questions about PPW and how it works, please reach out to me. The address, again is

Thank you.
Bowen Gillings
Pikes Peak Writers

Friday, October 20, 2017

Today is National Day on Writing. I write because I must. NYT has 650 prompts here  #WhyIWrite

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Is the Time Ripe for Multi-Genre Novels?

Is the Time Ripe for Multi-Genre Fiction?

Today we hear from Steve Janss, who's Dead in a Red Dress can be classified as a dramatic, suspenseful thrilling political spy novel, and more.  Steve shares with us the facts of genres and multi-genres, today and in classical literature.  In addition to working on his second novel, Steve leads the CS Writers group in Colorado Springs.  You can find out more about CS Writers at the end of this post.

What Genre is Your Novel?

"What genre is my novel?  Why, it's a multi-genre techno-thriller!  No wait…  Let me explain…"
If this resembles a conversation you've had, I might not be alone.  Have you ever been told, " 'Multi-' is not a genre -- you have to focus your work into a specific genre, or agents and publishers won't know what to do with you."  In an age when most movies and TV shows cross genre lines at will, combining science fiction, suspense/thriller, and action-adventure onto the latest silver and LED screens, I had to ask myself, "Why is the multi-genre approach still not respected in literary fiction?"
Although puritanical gatekeepers will burn you at the stake for crossing genres in fiction, we writers desire to combine elements of multiple genres in our fiction the same as we see being done in other media.  Doing so provides a rich increase to our creative pallets, and if we like it, our readers might like it, too.

Genre, Subgenre, Microgenre, NanoGenre...?

Classic lists of literary genres typically include comedy, drama, horror, fantasy, realism, romance, satire, tragedy, and mythology.  Naturally, as do all good things which have been analyzed to death, these break down into about 21.3 billion genres, subgenres microgenres, etc., so one must be very careful as to whether or not their protagonist's brown plaid jacket seams were hand-sewn in Surrey using a blanket stitch or in neighboring Berkshire with a wrapped backstitch.  While the truth isn't quite that bad, I recently discovered my first novel, Dead in a Red Dress, isn't the murder-mystery I had envisioned after all, but rather, a multi-genre novel with the following taxonomy:
Genre:  Drama
  • Subgenre:  Suspense Fiction
    • Microgenre:  Crime
    • Microgenre:  Detective
  • Subgenre:  Thriller
    • Microgenre:  Political
      • Nanogenre:  Spy Fiction
Thus, it looks like it's still of just one genre, albeit of multiple subgenres.
Taxonomies of literary genres have grown increasing complex, numbering a couple dozen or so in the middle of the 20th Century to more than 300 today.  If you think that level of hyperfocus is a bit too constraining, you're not alone.  Even so, many writers and most books on writing continue reiterating the same thing:  "Pick a genre and stick with it."  With so many genres out there, however, it's nearly impossible to write a novel that stays in its lane.

Multi-Genre Fiction is Not New

Fortunately, articles such as Considering Alternatives: Multi-genre Literature and Multi-genre Writing (Scully, 2008) remind us that award-winning multi-genre fiction isn't exactly new.  Robert A. Heinlein, for example, has won the Hugo five times, with eleven nominations, even though most of his novels are a mix of science fiction, romance, political, thriller, and even western genres.
So, do you want to allow yourself to be stuffed into a nice, tidy label, or do you want to write about that for which the masses are hungry?  I prefer the latter, and I hope you do, as well.  Even so, we still live in the real world, and if we want to be published, we need to adhere to at least a few standards, including those involving genres.  This doesn't mean that you can't write a book that fits into multiple genres.  You can, and public demand has long been dragging the publishing industry in the multi-genre direction.  Readers like it because it's fun, and people everywhere are usually willing to pay for fun, so until someone crafts a non-purist reason for always coloring within one's genre lines, be creative and pass the popcorn.

About CSWriters:
CSWriters meets for camaraderie, study, and critiques at 6:00 PM every Friday night at Agia Sophia Coffee Shop.  Guest Speaker Jeff Gerke will be joining us to discuss his "Hack Your Reader's Mind," October 27th.  Find CS Writers on Facebook or at to learn more.

Steve Janss went to high school and college in Virginia before serving our nation in the Air Force.  He holds advanced degrees in management and business administration, and has been running CSWriters for nearly three years.  He is currently writing Body on a Cold Beach, the second of five novels in a series.