Saturday, February 19, 2011

There is an interesting blog at Word Wenches about linked books, a trilogy or a series. In the romance novel sense, it means that book one will be about A and B, while book two is about C and D, with possible links or appearances by A and B. Series, Book 2.

I quite like a series. And I agree with some of the comments that a romance should really have a happy ending--but perhaps this is merely my PMS talking--but one comment niggled me a little. It's about how the reader will only read romance because of the happy endings--"Only a fool will spend money on fictional grief when so much is available for free."

I love a happy ending, but certainly not in everything. In romance? Yes. In historical fiction--I just want to be taken away to the period. In more contemporary literary fiction (like a McEwan novel), then it depends on the style of the author and the book itself.

After all, Atonement, my favorite novel of all time, is not exactly...happy.

That sentiment strikes me as incredibly limiting. It's like this friend I have, who only reads books he has been taught in school. I have my particular preferences (historical fiction over thrillers, for example), but if I only ever read the books I'd been taught in school, I don't think that I would be me. I wouldn't have had the imaginary experiences wrought by books I read outside of school--and I've read far more outside of school than in it.

 The Scarlet Lion by Elizabeth Chadwick was a great read, but it had a very sad ending. Lady Macbeth is overall a fairly bleak sort of book.

As it's shaping up, Iggy is going to have a bittersweet sort of ending.

I'm reading Alison Weir's Henry VIII (chock full of info on his life and his court). I found out that Henry had Italian sculptors on his payroll (I'm stealing that little detail), as well as how holidays were celebrated, clothes, food, etc.

I'm sure those facts will their way to the wiki soon.

Do we like happy endings in books? Does everything have to be upbeat and sweet all the time or can there be a little bit of messiness in fiction, too?
You know how one of the guidelines of good writing include the following: Don't use the same words all the time. Do not be redundant. Vary your word choice and sentence structure. 'Cause, you know, otherwise it gets boring.

The same goes for advice and long speeches.

I say this because my manager has given the department the SAME DAMN LECTURE--verbatim--for the past week. "Make your credits. Do your goal. Don't make your goal on the register, make it on the floor. But most of all, do your credits. It's not that hard! Ask them!"

Then she proceeds to chase some poor innocent customer and in a shrill, fake voice, ask them if they want a card.

Most, of course, say no.

I saw several of those customers running right quick out of the department today after just such an encounter.

Then the lecture moves into: "If you don't have good numbers on your metrics [stats that come out every Thursday] and don't have your points [points are given on the metrics every week based on percentage of goal done, credits done, etc], then we're in trouble. If you're not doing your job, then you're going to get me in trouble! And you'll get fired!"

"Also, don't leave any rods in your sections. Make sure they're clean! Remember your MAGIC training!"

There's emphasizing a point, then there's beating it like a dead horse.

I've been entertaining myself at work by thinking about a possible sitcom based on my department. Perhaps in April, for ScriptFrenzy? Not as nuts as NaNoWriMo---just a 100 pages of script in 30 days, this time. Imagine a department in a department store--the messiest part of the store--with a manic-depressive manager, a crazy cashier, a bewildered sales girl, a girl who perpetually texts while she's supposed to be working, and another who keeps divulging things about her personal life that nobody wants to know... (No really. I don't want to know these things about this girl).

Friday, February 11, 2011

Downton Abbey and other things

I kept reading about a British series called Downton Abbey on various historical fiction blogs. So when it aired on PBS as part of Masterpiece, I decided to give it a try. It's like the rule of advertising/ marketing from college--if a consumer hears of it three times, then they might read your book/ watch your movie/ buy your product.

They showed Downton Abbey in four episodes over here and I really did enjoy it. It begins when the Titanic sinks and the Earl of Grantham's heirs die on the ship in 1912. By the last episode, it is summer 1914 and WWI has just been declared. It's Edwardian drama: a title and an estate, a new heir, three sisters (one of whom wants to know why her father can't just separate her mother's money from the title and give it all to her), a new car (and the new chauffeur), servants, and a brand-new telephone. Another season is supposed to start filming soon.

I have my Downton Abbey ship. So, I've been reading fanfiction again. And reading a book about Henry VIII's court. Woot.

Monday, February 7, 2011

I can't seem to find the answer to a relatively simple research question.

The question is, Did monks and nuns live together (not together-together, obviously, but in the same institution)?How did that work?

It seems that there were very few communities with both monks and nuns. Fine. I expected that. The one example I have is Ken Follett's World Without End, where monks and nuns live in the priory of the fictional Kingsbridge Cathedral, sharing the church, but their financial affairs are separate, their buildings are separate, their obedientries are separate.

*(obedientries---special positions that nuns/ monks have in their communities)

I've written my fake priory to be a more integrated sort of place: the buildings between monks and nuns are certainly separated and the monks and nuns have their own leaders, but their finances are shared, the obedientries are mixed, etc.

I suppose I could just go with what I've done, as long as I make it plausible. But is it plausible? :/

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Different Worlds

I recently got new reading material--my own birthday present to myself:
It's the sort-of sequel to The Pillars of the Earth, which is focused around the building of a cathedral in England in the mid-to-late 1100s. I loved Pillars: the historical detail, the architectural detail, the pace, the characters. Follett chose to tell the whole story of how this one fictional cathedral was built and as you all may remember from Global History, cathedrals took a long ass time to build. So, characters grow up and become adults, marry or not, have children or grandchildren...

World Without End takes place in the mid-1300s, in the same town that Pillars was set in, with some of the descendants as protagonists. Of course, it's two centuries later, so the descendants are different from the main characters in Pillars. And the big sweeping theme is the Black Death.

But I'm enjoying it equally so far, if not more, because there are some strong female characters in this book and I find the details of life at the time so interesting. The plague has not come up in the book yet, however, so I've got a ways to go.

I have a thing for historical epics. But more than that, I like the world-building effect of a really satisfying novel or series. Not only the big, sweeping historical moments like wars or social movements or monarchs, but the everyday details--what do they wear? what do they eat? how do they live? what did they think about love and survival and religion?

World-building is why Harry Potter is so well-written. Think about it. 7 books and the rules of Rowling's magical world are consistent. Even when tensions escalate, it makes sense in the context of her world.

The Lord of the Rings has languages and cultures with natural evolutions, steeped in the history that Tolkien created. Of course, that story has the hero setting out on a quest set-up, but think about the places he passes through. He meets different species in different lands. It's an adventure story, but there's a lot of detail and description and myth and lore that went into the entire imagining of Middle-Earth.

Then there are Elizabeth Chadwick's books, which make you feel like you are inside the heads of her lead characters, living in the Middle Ages.

This love of a whole, complete, foreign-to-my-existence-world may explain my apparent fetish for Regency-set romance novels. Even if they are not part of the same series, the world is familiar after reading about it.

I bring this up because as I'm writing more of Iggy's story (which, unlike Pillars of the Earth, is not about a priory in its heyday, but one on its decline), the historical background is already there. In the early parts, the historical background consists of the early years of Henry VIII. Later, it's the divorce, Reformation, execution of Anne Boleyn and the Pilgrimage of Grace. The scope of this story is rather wide. I'm feeling some Follett influences in that respect.