Yesterday I got back to Granny's Jig, and it felt like a "homecoming". It's weird, but when I haven't seen my fictional characters for awhile and then return to the manuscript, I have new insights about them and see them in more depth, actually the way it works with real life people.
I knew I wouldn't get any writing done last week. There was cleaning, decorating, baking for neighbors, gift wrapping, cooking for the big day, and then, of course, getting together and feasting. And then relaxing afterwards. But I was happy to see my motley crew of characters again, and yesterday I finished Chapter 12 (this draft). I believe I'm halfway through the re-write -- that is, if my characters don't spring new surprises on me.
I've been reading about the era some more. I had a neighbor, Kitty Flynn, who told me she lost her cousin to the 1918 influenza epidemic. (Kitty passed away about 3 years ago, but she was born the very year of one of the girls in my story, and so I have named that character Kitty.) Anyway, Kitty told me that there was a saying that if a person was dizzy today, you could read about them in the obituary column tomorrow. And in the book I just finished reading, A Time for Courage, by Kathryn Lasky, in the epilogue, a character gets sick one night and is in a coma by the next morning, dying a few days later. Even with the present swine flu deaths, it's hard to imagine how many people died of the 1918 epidemic -- more than twenty million people throughout the world -- and how swiftly it acted. For those of us alive today, it can all seem so distant and settled.
One of the things I appreciate about historical fiction is that it gives you the lives of history, not merely the facts. And it certainly makes you see the present from a different perspective.