Wednesday, September 29, 2010

"You mean, he's not a Michael?"

I've done a little more genealogical digging. Ireland had a census in 1901 and 1911--so I put in information for my great-grandmother, Annie Talbot McManus, since I knew she didn't arrive in New York until 1912 (she of the famous almost-got-on-the-Titanic story).

I found her, living in County Mayo with her aunt and uncle, at age 16, listed as a domestic servant.

I tried looking up her future husband, but it was far too confusing--McManus being a rather common name.

But the other side? Found 'em. My great-grandfather Michael was 18 in 1911, his birthday being in November, so he hadn't turned 19 yet. He's living at home with older brother Thomas and younger sister Mary Ellen. His mother was Ellen. His father?


"Not Michael?" I exclaimed. Calculating back, Patrick was born in either 1861 or 1860--about ten or so years after the Potato Famine. He's the oldest ancestor I've found so far.

And there was another surprise. I've always been told that the Athys were northern Irish--from Belfast. Well, supposedly, somewhere in between the Tudor plantations and Oliver Cromwell, Catholics in the north were pushed out and sent to the west of Ireland--places where there are only sheep and cows, like Galway and Mayo.

My great-grandfather and his entire family, according to the Irish census of 1911, were all born and living in Mayo.

I'm going to solve this tree--and try to determine which McManus are my McManus--and figure out why I can't find any records on my grandfather's mother, Winifred, who I was almost named after. She doesn't appear in the Irish censuses--I've looked her up under multiple counties, different spellings of her name, etc.

Oh, Winnie, where are you?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Fanfic Post

By special request (you know who you are), I have enlisted the help of my resident adolescent girl cousin to put together this post.

Remember the days of fanfiction? I still read it, from time to time, when I just want more from a particular book or TV show or movie. What happens to the characters after the story ends? What did the writers of those other mediums do that I so would not have done? (I'm talking to you, James Cameron. Killing off Jack Dawson spawned me into fanfic writing.)

Now, the request was specifically for Twilight fic. So here are links:

These may be updated at a later date, so stay tuned.

But--for the rest of you--I posit this question. Why do you think people read/ write fanfic? What fanfic, if any, do you read? Have you written any?

Leave your comments below.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

"It always seemed odd to me that romance protagonists, especially in historical romance, are so ethnically limited."

Yup, it's a double post day. Just bringing this over from an author interview (Zoe Archer) up on Word Wenches:

"While I love all my heroes, the hero of Stranger is one of my all-time favorites. Catullus Graves and generations of his family have been making sophisticated and brilliant inventions for the Blades to use out in the field. He’s basically “Q” in the James Bond films, and that’s where we get the steampunk element—since he doesn’t use magic, just known Victorian science and technology in the design and construction of his devices. But one of the most unique aspects of Catullus as a hero in a historical romance is that he’s a black Briton.
It always seemed odd to me that romance protagonists, especially in historical romance, are so ethnically limited. I really wanted to address the wide variety of experiences and people, particularly given how diverse England truly was and is. The research I did into the history of black people in Britain was fascinating and truly eye-opening. It’s seldom explored in the context of romance. For example, I learned that there were never any anti-miscegenation laws in England, unlike in the United States, which meant it wasn’t illegal for black people to marry white people.
I also learned that the most common interracial relationships from the 18th century to the 19th century were between black men and white women, since migration patterns and other external forces created a larger proportion of black men to black women in Britain. And even though England participated in the slave trade until 1833, there was never a policy of institutionalized racism in the country. That isn’t to say Britain was a paradise of equality, but it was very different from the U.S. All of this impacts Catullus’s character—though he is, first and foremost, a romance hero, which means he’s clever, skilled…and very sexy."
I might go read this when it comes out. And it spurs on my ideas about Mady and her half-Indian Henry...

I seem to be in a reading rather than a writing mood right now, as evidenced by my growing Amazon wish list and the significant lack of pages in my outline. It's going, I'm outlining and thinking about it, but it hasn't really taken shape and taken a hold of me yet and gone into full-blown imagination. *Okay, since I wrote this part of this post last night, I have thought of a few ideas--such as themes--that may make writing this outline a little less painful.*

BUT--I do have new books. I finished (read: devoured) one by Elizabeth Chadwick called For The King's Favor. This is my fourth Chadwick.

I've read one book of hers called The Conquest, which was about the Norman Conquest of England in 1066, told from the point of view of a Saxon woman and later, the half-Norman daughter she has with a Norman lord.

Then I've read her William Marshal books--The Greatest Knight and The Scarlet Lion. These are fictionalized biographies, as in, William Marshal existed and lived and breathed. He was a knight, he fought for and advised Henry II's heir before going on Crusade, then returned to serve Henry II, served Richard I, married an heiress, became co-justiciar of England in Richard's absence, served King John, remained loyal to him, and was one of the architects of the Magna Carta. Oh, and after John died, he became a co-regent of England. And he was Earl of Pembroke. And he and his wife had ten kids. And he was taken as a hostage at age 5 by King Stephen, as assurance of his father's behavior. When William Marshal died in 1219, his son commissioned a poem be written about his life, which is why his life is so well-documented.

FTKF is about a guy called Roger Bigod, son of the Earl of Norfolk, who has to work his way up royal favor to regain his lands and his title after his father rebelled against Henry II. Roger is a quieter personality than William Marshal, but the men were contemporaries and knew each other--William's oldest daughter married Roger's heir (the subject of another Chadwick book that I'm resisting the urge to buy right now b/c it hasn't come down enough in price).

Roger marries Ida de Tosny, who was a teenaged mistress of Henry II and gave birth to a royal bastard. I suppose my historical reading has gone from the Tudor era back to medieval times, which is highly ironic as the outline I'm trying to piece together takes place in the early Tudor era--from 1510 to 1540, ending as Henry VIII forms the Church of England and has Cromwell take away all of the church's lands, resulting in this: The Pilgrimage of Grace, the greatest rebellion Henry VIII faced during his time on the throne.

Of course, the good thing is, the Tudor era is so well-documented that research won't be terribly hard. But I want to try to emulate Chadwick's writing style; she's so descriptive and her characters are so well-rounded and real, plus she has a great grasp of the time period. I first learned about her from Word Wenches; she was interviewed on the blog. I love her admission that she kept thinking someone would write a William Marshal novel and when it didn't happen, she figured she'd be the one to do it.

Friday, September 10, 2010

What's Your Name?

I have a thing about names. It comes, perhaps, from having a strange name and reading and hearing new names, turning the sounds of it in my head, wondering if that name would fit me better than the one I have. Plus, names do tell a story--as was illustrated by an 11th-grade paper an English teacher had us write about our names and their meanings (Ann=graceful. Rei (from Reiko)=pleasant. Hahahaha!) and how we got them.

Character names usually come to me with the character or the story idea. Eva in Last Request was always Eva Fontaine--though, apparently, I've used the name Eva in other things I've written. Brixton was originally called Grayson--that is, until my nephew was born and he was named Grayson. Considering what Brix goes through in Last Request, that's just wrong. Thus, Brixton, which sounded suitably WASP-y and is from "Guns of Brixton," a Clash song, which was released not long before Brix and Eva would've been born.

In my fanfics, the Mary Sue character was usually called Amanda or Anna, to give it that bit of distance between moi and them.

In the romance novel, my main heroines are named Alexandra, Madeline and Laura. Very girly, classic names that were used in the 1790s, when they were born. Think of Jane Austen's characters, for example. They don't have outlandish names, but because she was writing about her own time, the names are normal, appropriate and, as this article pointed out, say something about the characters or their parents. At the time, ancient Greek and Roman culture was all the rage, which is how Alexandra came to be. Madeline is French, but was used for English girls and Laura is just one of those names, isn't it?

I don't usually have issues naming my main characters at all and the secondary characters often name themselves as a I move along.

But this time, since I'm writing an outline of a story set between 1510 and 1540 in England, the Tudor era, names became a little more complicated. You see, in the middle Middle Ages, the names were Norman inspired. Lots of Isabels and Alines and, yes, Williams and Johns.

But by the Tudor era, it seems that everyone was named John, William, Henry, Robert, Edward and Thomas, while all the women are named Elizabeth, Anne, Mary, Margaret, Jane and Catherine/Katherine. Think about it. Henry VIII's wives were named Katherine, Anne, Jane, Anne, Katherine and Catherine. His kids were named Mary, Elizabeth, and Edward. It's incredibly boring, name-wise.

The protagonist is named Ignatius--a bit of a family joke, it's my uncle's awful Confirmation name, and it's Latin, originally Etruscan. His parents are name Clement and Alice, who later takes the name Benedicta when she becomes a nun. Alice's brother is named Robert. His wife is Mary, his daughter Margaret. Another character is named Tom, another Agnes, I have a Sister Catherine, a woman named Cecily (which is a cool name, for the time)...

But what to name the sort-of heroine? I thought Anna, but it was too close to Agnes for me. So I was Facebook chatting with a dear friend, who gave me many suggestions ("Victoria? Joan? Joyce? Lettice---no, wait, that sounds like a salad") and we decided that Grace was the best of them, era-appropriate, area-appropriate (England, before the Reformation), and not resembling a salad. Yay!

As the outline grows, I'll have to name other characters. Ignatius travels through France, Germany, Italy, and then along the Silk Road into Central Asia and the Holy Land. So--time and language-appropriate names will have to be thought of.

In fact, as my friend and I were trying to name Grace, I was going through Wikipedia, looking at the list of names for the House of York (Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville's kids), then the extensive Dudley family (they had a son named Ambrose and an infant who died named Temperance), and other noble families of the day; some of them had 13 kids. I thought--there must be variety there!!

Rarely. They almost always named children after relatives or the parents or godparents. Or if a child died young, a younger sibling would be named the same thing.

A few blogs on names: Word Wenches.

Do you have go-to names in your stories? Do you have characters' names you love--and did they illustrate personality or place or time? What is your favorite name?

Monday, September 6, 2010

Writing Through Pain...and other stories

An interesting and thought-provoking post from Word Wenches, called Writing Through Pain. The comments and post itself suggest that published authors, at least, don't find writing while they are in a stressful, painful, or sad situation helpful--to the piece they're writing or themselves. They find reading familiar books more helpful.

I can see how that would be--I mean, if something drastic is happening in Life, but you're on contract for a light-hearted book, then your angst wouldn't fit with the book and it might be stressful to pretend to be carefree on the page. For me, writing is what I do when I'm extremely happy or down-in-the-depths depressed. I mean, yes, I read during those times--and it is often easier to read someone else's finished, well-organized, entertaining, moving, edited work than to write your own. As a teenager, I kept a journal--I wince reading parts of it now, but it was my truth back then and I seem to have gotten the raw-and-repressed-and-depressed version of adolescence. I used to say that writing has kept me (relatively) sane and saved my life at various stages.

So what do you people do when you're in pain? Do you find your reading varying with your moods? If you write, does getting out your shit on a page help or do you find extreme emotions a detriment?