Alleyne Dickens, Author

History with Mystery and Passion


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The Queen of Science – The woman who tamed Laplace.

On Ada Lovelace Day, let’s celebrate all the woman who’s contribution to science made history — even if HIStory chose to ignore them.

The Renaissance Mathematicus

In a footnote to my recent post on the mythologizing of Ibn al-Haytham I briefly noted the inadequacy of the terms Arabic science and Islamic science, pointing out that there were scholars included in these categories who were not Muslims and ones who were not Arabic. In the comments Renaissance Mathematicus friend, the blogger theofloinn, asked, Who were the non-muslim “muslim” scientists? And (aside from Persians) who were the non-Arab “arab” scientists? And then in a follow up comment wrote, I knew about Hunayn ibn Ishaq and the House of Wisdom, but I was not thinking of translation as “doing science.” From the standpoint of the historian of science this second comment is very interesting and reflects a common problem in the historiography of science. On the whole most people regard science as being that which scientists do and when describing its history they tend to concentrate on the big…

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More on Process

In trying to encourage a friend who struggles with her writing process, I thought more about mine.

I have struggled, too, wasting days and weeks and months in not writing. I knew I could. I had. When I used to work outside the home, I’d go into the office and hour early every day. It was quiet and they had a computer — an enormous word processor with 8 inch floppy disks. My roommate had an electric typewriter. I had paper and pens. That tells you how long ago it’s been!

Back to the day job. I wrote for an hour every work day. Every. Day. Sometimes at lunch, too. Telling the story was my only goal. I wrote for the joy of writing.

The problems began when I stopped working to be a stay-at-home-mom. There’d be plenty of time to write… later. I cranked out a couple of manuscripts, mostly when my daughter was very small. I got involved with other things that sapped my creativity and energies. Writing took a back seat.

In an effort to restart my productivity, and to become what I’d always wanted to be — a writer, I found and joined Virginia Romance Writers and Romance Writers of America. I had found my sisterhood! It was glorious!

But the more I learned about craft the more I procrastinated. The more I talked about writing, the less I seemed to do it. I wrote, slowly. I entered and won contests. I got requests, but it seemed to take me forever to finish a book and an eternity to edit it. My Internal Editor ground me to a halt.

I tried NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month – 50K words in November). The first year I crashed, but the second year I won! Came close the 3rd year. That’s when it hit me. I needed a goal.

Not an abstract goal like finishing a book, but a finite, quantifiable goal that I could measure. That turned out to be number of words. 50,000 words in 30 days ends up being 1667 words per day. I could do that. I also discovered that Scrivener, the writing program I use, has a feature that not only counts the number of words you write each day, but uses them to calculate how many more you have to write per day to reach your goal.

I became more and more excited to see the numbers per day dropping. It pushed me to write more words so that the next day, I had fewer to write. I finished my 4th NaNo on November 25th! I reset my goal and kept going. That 120K word manuscript is waiting to be revised, while I revise my previous NaNo success for the agent who wants it.

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OCD doesn’t run in my family, it leisurely strolls along saying hello to everyone. Let me tell you, my OCD (in this case making the “to write” numbers shrink) can kick the snot out of my Internal Editor. The giddy pleasure I get out of opening Scrivener  and seeing how much I have to write makes the words flow.
This might not help you if you’re struggling, but it’s an idea. Try it. You never know what works for you until you find it.


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A Stop Along The Tour

When Denise Golinowski invited me to participate in the My Writing Process Blog Tour I didn’t have a real blog, but I didn’t let that stop me. Oh, I’d signed up for this WordPress site a few years ago when I took a PRO-Class. But I’m the world’s worst online class participant. I never finished reading all the instructions and consequently never finished setting up the site. So many thanks, Denise, for inviting me to play — and kicking my… err, motivating me to get into the modern world. You can visit Denise at http://denisegolinowski.blogspot.com/. If you go to her blog, you’ll see that she’s writing a sequel to her terrific shape-shifter paranormal romance, Collector’s Item.

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So, here I go. And, of course, I’m traveling by airship!

What am I working on?

Last month I finished the first draft of Burning Lily, the second book in my historical fantasy/gas lamp fantasy/steampunk series. Now I’m doing revisions to the first book in the series, Stalking Horse. I’m also pre-writing a novella that will fill in some of the world building detail as well as tell what I think is a very romantic story.

And I’m always getting new ideas…

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

As you’ve probably noted in the previous answer, I’m a little bit iffy on genre. I think I’m more historical or gas lamp fantasy than strictly steampunk. But rather than worry that I’m not following a trend, I’ve decided that I am ahead of the curve! Readers want what I’m writing. Publishers crave what I’m writing. Agents are dying for what I’m writing. They just don’t know it yet!

I’ve based my fantasy world on the real Victorian one with real historic events. I’ve added advanced technology, different religions and a secret cabal of powerful men planning to take over the world. Corny? It’s all in the execution.

Why do I write what I do?

I’ve always written historical fiction.

Always? I wrote my first “book” in junior high, and come to think of it, it was more historical fantasy than historical fiction, but there was romance! I wrote my second novel in high school — Tristan and Iseult with a twist.

Then I wrote a medieval romance. I tried Gilded Age mystery. I wanted to be the next Elizabeth Peters, but using in American characters. Sadly, that time period wasn’t selling then. Moved on to regency. Won some contests, got some requests, wrote more regency, but didn’t feel I was getting any closer to publication. I needed a break, but not a break from writing.

I decided to do the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and do something different. I can’t remember why I decided to try my hand at this (whatever it ends up being called), but once I started writing Stalking Horse, it flowed out of me! It was like being in love for the first time. It was exciting and fun and I’ve never enjoyed writing so much! The second book was pretty much the same, even more fun and words coming at a gallop. I was hooked!

How does your writing process work?

I always thought of myself as a “plotser.” A hybrid — not completely writing by the seat of my pants, but not working from detailed outlines either.

For Burning Lily I wrote the synopsis before the book — a first! And I used a scene list to keep me working toward the goal. Well, I used it up to a point. I listed the scenes I knew I needed, including who’s Point of View the scene was in, what the character’s goal was and what the conflict that would keep them from getting it was. I tried to think anything that would move the story forward and hinder that characters — because I love to make it hard for them! It wasn’t a complete scene list — I could only write as much as I knew, but my following it, I was able to figure the rest of it out.

Nuts and bolts – when I’m home I write mostly late at night. That seems to be the time when my “internal editor” goes to sleep. I love to write in public places and with other people. I can breeze through 1000 words in an hour in the right circumstances and struggle to get to 500 in a day if they’re not. I’m working on that.

This wasn’t so hard. I might keep this up! Thanks again, Denise!!!

On March 3rd, my Virginia Romance Writer sister, Stephanie Gurnsey Higgins will share her writing process! Stephanie writes contemporary romance and women’s fiction. She lives with her family in Central Virginia and happens to think that life is too short to read books that don’t have happy endings. Check out her thoughts at http://www.examiner.com/romance-novel-in-richmond/stephanie-gurnsey-higgins


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It might be time to blog…

I’m late to the party. What else is new? But really it might be time for me to dip more than my toe into social media.

I’ve been very active on Facebook for the last five year (I know how long because they told when they offered to make a movie of my activity over the last five years).  It’s my preferred social media outlet. I also have a twitter account, but tweeting is like pulling teeth for me. I’ll have to try that more too.

So this is my first blog post. Hopefully it won’t be my last!