Shannon Bolithoe : A Writing Life


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Battle of Passchendaele (Third Battle of Ypres)


An important part of “Until the Rivers Run Still” is set during the Battle of Passchendaele. This is where Jo’s life is changed forever.

The Battle of Passchendaele (Third Battle of Ypres) was a major campaign of the First World War, fought by the Allies against the German Empire. The battle took place on the Western Front, from July to November 1917, for control of the ridges south and east of the Belgian city of Ypres in West Flanders. Passchendaele lay on the last ridge east of Ypres, 5 miles (8.0 km) from a railway junction at Roulers, which was vital to the supply system of the German 4th Army. The next stage of the Allied plan was to advance to Thourout–Couckelaere, to close the German-controlled railway running through Roulers and Thourout.

Further operations and a British supporting attack along the Belgian coast from Nieuwpoort, combined with Operation Hush (an amphibious landing), were to have reached Bruges and then the Dutch frontier. The resistance of the 4th Army, unusually wet weather, the onset of winter and the diversion of British and French resources to Italy, following the Austro-German victory at the Battle of Caporetto (24 October – 19 November), enabled the Germans to avoid a general withdrawal, which had seemed inevitable in early October. The campaign ended in November, when the Canadian Corps captured Passchendaele, apart from local attacks in December and the new year. In 1918, the Battle of the Lys and the Fifth Battle of Ypres were fought before the Allies occupied the Belgian coast and reached the Dutch frontier.

The campaign in Flanders was controversial in 1917 and has remained so. The British Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, opposed the offensive, as did General Ferdinand Foch the French Chief of the General Staff. Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig, commanding the British Expeditionary Force (BEF), did not receive approval for the Flanders operation from the War Cabinet until 25 July. Matters of dispute by the participants, writers and historians since the war, have included the wisdom of pursuing an offensive strategy in the wake of the Nivelle Offensive, rather than waiting for the arrival of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) in France.


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Potijze Chateau

The Potijze Chateau was used as a casualty clearing station near Ypres. Jo and George from “Until the Rivers Run Still” were treated there. The soldiers who didn’t survive were buried in the woods and lawn outside the Chateau, and remain there today. 


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How to make sure the language in your historical #fantasy novel is period-accurate | Lauren Davis for i09 | craft, historical, #writing

How to make sure the language in your historical #fantasy novel is period-accurate | Lauren Davis for i09 | craft, historical, #writing
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How to Set a Novel in an Unfamiliar Location | WritersDigest.com

For a fiction writer, weaving a real historical incident into my narrative posed an interesting challenge. Here’s what you should know.
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When writing a historical fiction for your novel, you might not need as many facts as you think!

When writing a historical fiction for your novel, you might not need as many facts as you think! 

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Creative Inspiration For Writing Historical Fiction

There’s a joke I’ve seen on Pinterest, a cartoon of a writer watching TV. The character says, “I’m researching!” to the cynical-looking people standing nearby. For those of us who write fiction, we know that watching TV or movies, listening to music, or going for walks really is research because all of it becomes part…
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Mass Observation Archive

The Mass Observation Archive specialises in material about everyday life in Britain. It contains papers generated by the original Mass Observation social research organisation (1937 to early 1950s), and newer material collected continuously since 1981. The Archive is a charitable trust in the care of the University of Sussex. It is housed at The Keep as part of the University’s Special Collections.

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On Researching and Historical Accuracy | Abandoned America by Matthew Christopher

Even the best efforts to research a site sometimes present inaccurate results – how does one deal with human error in historical writing?

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Let us Talk of Many Things; of Books and Queens and Pirates, of History and Kings…: In defence of the indefensible

The value of research when writing historical fiction — especially when children’s laws are concerned. https://t.co/3FkzmlKt0x

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75 Names of Unusual or Obsolete Occupations

The English language abounds with word describing occupations and professions that are rare or obsolete or are otherwise unusual and hence obscure. Here is an incomplete but extensive list of such terms, along with brief definitions. 1. ackerman: a plowman or oxherder 2.

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How to Write Historical Fiction: 7 Tips on Accuracy and Authenticity

Susanna Calkins, author of the 2013 debut novel A MURDER AT ROSAMUND’S GATE, shares advice for writing about historical fiction.

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Do Your Research Right When You’re Writing Historical Fiction

I’m not sure what historical novelists did before the advent of the Internet. What takes a matter of minutes to discover on the Internet today probably took hours of library work in the pre-Web Stone Age.

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7 Easy Ways to Research a Historical Novel (What I Learned Writing Storming)

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The Truth is Quieter Than Fiction

The Truth is Quieter Than Fiction

By David O. Stewart

“An author who has written history and historical fiction talks about crossing the line between truth and fantasy.

As one of the small tribe of writers who produce both history and historical fiction, I’ve been gratified and surprised that crossing that line enriches both for me. Why? The silence.

We never know enough to tell a past story completely. Take James Madison or Aaron Burr, two men I’ve written about. They accomplished extraordinary deeds, yet each left but a few boxes of written records (especially the secretive Burr). Worse, written recollections may be wrong or reflect biases, while other sources are slim: we can only walk through landscapes that they knew, read what they read, and view objects they used. Compare those sources to the constant self-awareness that a fiction writer works with, then add in the surroundings and context, which the author knows intimately. The hush of history can be a pallid competitor with the cacophony of life as we live it…”

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Does Fiction Based on Fact Have a Responsibility to the Truth? – New York Times

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“Each week in Bookends, two writers take on questions about the world of books. This week, Thomas Mallon and Ayana Mathis discuss whether writers of historical fiction need to keep the facts in mind…”