Wednesday, December 7, 2016

IWSG December

Well, it's the last IWSG post of 2016 and what a year it has been. The IWSG posts every first Wednesday of the month. Check us out here. Our co-hosts for December are Jennifer Hawes, Jen Chandler, Nick Wilford, Juneta Key, JH Moncrieff, Diane Burton, and MJ Fifield!

My one insecurity the past month has been: "Where is my writing mojo?" I can't seem to burrow into a project as deep and as much I'd like to. NaNo didn't work out (I came out of it with one complete short story and two beginnings, so it wasn't completely wasted), but yeah, other than short spurts, I'm having a hard time advancing. This happens sometimes, so I'll just work my holiday season and finish reading some books and see how I can get back into my Victorian draft as I plug along.

The IWSG question this month is a big one: In terms of your writing career, where do you see yourself five years from now, and what’s your plan to get there?

My instinct is to give a long sarcastic laugh, because five years ago, my answer would've been "write something, get an agent, get published." Also, because I hate questions like this. What's the phrase, 
"People make plans and God laughs"?

I'd still like to get an agent and be trade published, because frankly, the connections, pay, and exposure are still bigger in the trad publishing realm more so than the self publishing realm, particularly for my genre.

But...there's also the Libbie Hawker method. She writes indie historical fiction in a variety of time periods and subgenres; some of them are published through an Amazon arm, Lake Union Publishing. In my case, while I finish a complete novel, I'm going to keep writing and releasing novellas and short stories on my own. And we'll see if I can stop being tired for a second in order to finish this ridiculous novel. 

In the meantime, I decided to stop limiting myself to just Amazon--Pearl is now available on Kobo, B&N, and iBooks, so if you're so inclined, do check it out or spread the word if you know someone who might be interested. 

Monday, December 5, 2016

Pearl is on B&N, Apple and Kobo!

Hey everyone,

After some thinking, I have decided to expand Pearl's reach beyond the Kindle Select program and put the novella up on other retailers! So if you know anybody who buys their books from Apple or Kobo or B&N (pending), do let them know.

Pearl is still on Amazon, too. But she's wider now and wider she will stay.

Thanks for your support!

On Kobo:

Saturday, December 3, 2016

The Hamilton Mixtape

Sometimes a song will come out of a Broadway show and become a hit or a standard on its own--think of most of the songs in "The Sound of Music" or some of the songs from "Les Mis." But as far as I know, The Hamilton Mixtape, which came out yesterday, is the first "mixtape" of a Broadway show. As in, different artists have reinterpreted, recorded, in some cases have written songs inspired by the show and its music.

When Lin-Manuel Miranda originally thought "ah-ha! I'll write a musical out of this book!" when he read Ron Chernow's biography on Alexander Hamilton, he wasn't thinking of writing a straight-up musical but writing and recording a concept album. Well, fast foward a few years and a megahit musical and Grammys, Pulitzers, Tonys, and various other awards and that "concept album" idea has spawned The Hamilton Mixtape, which was great company on my way to and from work yesterday.

There are demos that never made it into the show: Cabinet Battle #3 (which is about the Slavery Question), Valley Forge (some of that is in "Stay Alive"), and An Open Letter (which is a rap about Hamilton's screed on President John Adams). Lin-Manuel Miranda says it's one of the best things he's ever written and they cut it from the show. He did it once with some cast members in the video below.

Then there's "Congratulations," which was an Angelica Schuyler song from the off-Broadway version that got cut before they moved the show to Broadway. Some of it is still in "The Reynolds Pamphlet."

You gotta love any song that begins, "Congratulations, you've invented a new kind of stupid."

Of the songs in the show that are covered on Mixtape, there's Alicia Keys on "That Would Be Enough," John Legend on "History Has Its Eyes On You," "Helpless" with Ashanti and Ja Rule (yup, 1999 is back again), two versions of "Dear Theodosia," and "Burn" by Andra Day, and "Wait For It" by Usher. It's really easy to think of Mixtape as not versions of the show tunes but as its own separate entity when the cover versions are so different than the show versions. 

Take, for example, Kelly Clarkson's version of "It's Quiet Uptown" versus the show version

Sia also covers "Satisfied" with Miguel and Queen Latifah and it's fun and amazing. Jimmy Fallon covers "You'll Be Back," which is...unexpected.

As for the "inspired by the show" songs, "Immigrants (We Get The Job Done)" is undoubtedly the most powerful, but "Wrote My Way Out" has a special meaning for me, the little writer. "My Shot" is part show version and part original verses.

The first track is "No John Trumbull" by The Roots, which I think was in the off-Broadway version of the show. 

You ever see a painting by John Trumbull?
Founding fathers in a line, looking all humble
Patiently waiting to sign a declaration and start a nation
No sign of disagreement, not one grumble
The reality is messier and richer, kids
The reality is not a pretty picture, kids
Every cabinet meeting is a full on rumble
What you're about to witness is no John Trumbull

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Elizabeth Chadwick

Have I waxed poetic on how much I love Elizabeth Chadwick's historical fiction on this blog? No?

I first heard about British author Elizabeth Chadwick several years ago when she was interviewed on The Word Wenches blog about her book The Greatest Knight, the first of her William Marshal books. Now, William Marshal is a famous historical figure of the English Middle Ages: a knight, Crusader, courtier and politician and solider to the early Plantagenet kings, advisor to the English kings, and eventually, the regent of the underage Henry III. He was there when Henry II's sons rebelled against him, he was an important figure while Richard the Lionheart was off Crusading, and he remained loyal to bad King John and was one of the signatories of Magna Carta.

But I'd not heard of him before coming across mention of Elizabeth Chadwick and her novels.

I read a history book on the Plantagenets recently and of course, William Marshal was mentioned and I may have squealed because Chadwick's William Marshal books and her other novels of real historical figures in the late 11th and 12th centuries is so compelling and rich and--although I'm far from a medievalist--her novels always feel authentic.

For example. I just finished Chadwick's second book in her Eleanor of Aquitaine trilogy, The Winter Crown. This novel is mainly about Eleanor of Aquitaine's life during her marriage to Henry II. Eleanor was Duchess of Aquitaine in her own right, so she was concerned with its governance, with grooming her heir Richard to be the next duke, but she was also concerned with maintaining Aquintaine's sovereignty away from Henry II's empire of England, Normandy, Anjou, and other parts of what we would call France.

Eleanor expresses the view that the world is tough for women, that being female in her sphere is to be a political pawn, and she resents it when Henry makes decisions about Aquitaine without consulting her--but none of this feels out of place for this character in her time. Her marriage was mostly for political reasons, so Eleanor isn't bothered when Henry has a bevy of mistresses whenever she's pregnant. It's only when he starts leaving her out of important events and he has the same mistress for a longer period of time and flaunts her in front of the court and their children that Eleanor is perturbed.

Plus, any time I think that research in my so far eighteenth and nineteenth century world is difficult, I read Elizabeth Chadwick's blog about reading pipe rolls written in Latin and researching things like the Crusades and the Templars and Magna Carta. In some cases, for some of the minor characters in her books, their exact dates of birth and death are unknown, the number of children couples had could be uncertain, and other details are sketchy.

I can't imagine constructing a story about a world that is so different to ours in so many ways, but hey, that's what Elizabeth Chadwick and others manage to do and do so well.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

NaNo '16: Day...Whatever

I think we can give up the pretense that I'm still doing NaNoWriMo this year. I have one completed short story ("Haunted Lake") and two beginnings of short stories ("The New Bride of Banner's Edge" and "The N Train"), but that's as far as I got.

I want to complete those stories and the others that I have ideas for, but...not just yet. Work is getting busy, I'm volunteering at the library, and it's November, which means that I'm entering my why-am-i-so-tired time of year.

However, I am back to the Victorian novel--I picked up where I left off and I'm actually really excited to continue writing that. I'll probably be switching between this novel draft and the short stories through the end of the year into early next year.

What got me to turn back to my Victorian novel was watching the new Netflix series The Crown. The Crown is a ten epsiode series (season two is filming now!) about Queen Elizabeth II of England (the current queen). It takes place in the late 1940s into the 1950s and covers Elizabeth's accession to the throne after her father's unexpectedly early death, how she adjusts to the role of queen, how her husband Philip adjusts to being a consort, how Winston Churchill the prime minister guides the queen but also doesn't want to face growing elderly...

It was a great drama full of amazing sets and costumes and it filled the void that Downton Abbey left, so I was quite happy. Plus, I like how it shows the problematic aspects of an empire--some of the things the royals say about their colonies are not the greatest, but then, those were the attitudes they held in the 1940s and 1950s.

It had a similar pace or examination of characters that the Victorian draft was heading towards as well.

I'm also eight chapters in to Elizabeth Chadwick's second Eleanor of Aquitaine novel, The Winter Crown. As usual, Chadwick's writing is evocative and draws you in. And I picked up three paperbacks at my favorite bookstore, The Strand, last week because bookstores are magical and soul-healing. I bought 1984, Wide Sargasso Sea, and Room.

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