Showing posts from 2012

A Rant About Mady

I wrote a post not long ago about how I didn't have a clear picture of my characters' appearances in my mind while writing them.

In it, I posted two pictures of two young ladies; I thought that those women looked the way I imagined the young daughters of my protagonist would look like when they became adults.

A good chunk of the plot of my WIP revolves around the girls having different mothers and therefore, looking different. That is, having different mothers and being identified as different races makes my fictional family an oddity in Georgian England. I should add that it isn't the fact that their father has two children with different women (lots of men did) or of different races (once again, lots of men did) that makes them peculiar; it's that their father raises them together, as equals their whole lives, that makes many of the villagers scratch their heads.

Transitions Are A Nuisance

Transitions. By definition, a transition is a word, scene, page break, scene break, summarization that eases the reader from one part of a fictional story to the next in the narrative or to a different point of view.

Phrases like "Afterwards" and "Three days later" and "In the autumn" are transitional phrases.

Transitions tend to be part of that great mass of invisible writing. Like the word "said" is supposedly invisible to our brains and descriptions are meant to paint a scene and not force the author's vision into a reader's head, transitions are--and should be--invisible because they have to do with the flow of the words.  They smooth, cushion and direct the reader: this chapter is ending or this scene is ending or the point-of-view (POV is another blog post for another day) is changing.

10,000 page views!

This blog has now hit 10,000 page views!!

Wishing everyone out there a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Casting Your Characters: What Do They Look Like?

Inspired by this thread on the AW forums.

I realized somewhere in the course of this WIP that I didn't know what my characters looked like, beyond basics: if they were tall or short, blond or brunette or in-between, what color their eyes were, and if they were pale or olive-skinned or brown.

I have a folder on my computer with some images--English manor houses, Regency-era paintings, actors in period clothing--but while some of these actors might look like a few of my characters, I don't think of it as a casting sheet. I don't know that it's that important that I know exactly what my characters look like. Do you know what your characters look like? Or do you have your basic stats and maybe a face or voice in your head?

Downton Abbey promotion in the U.S.

Downton Abbey Christmas Special promo

Via Downton Abbey addicts. The trailer for Downton Abbey's Christmas special (airing Christmas Day in the UK) was released Saturday, I believe:

You can check out some promo pictures here: ITV promo for DOWNTON ABBEY (2012) Christmas Special

Handwritten story, circa '99

Once upon a time, back in the Stone Age...

Okay, that's an exaggeration. Anyway. I rediscovered these notebooks crammed in between books on my shelves last night. They are fairly thin notebooks, from a relative or family friend who came to visit from Japan, bearing gifts for the whole family.

I, like many a budding writer in the days before laptops, coveted notebooks. My parents soon learned that bringing me along to Staples was an expensive venture, because I wanted pens and notebooks the way most kids want video games and ice cream.

Circa 1999, I wrote my first "novel" in the pages of these notebooks. I don't know what the official page count was. Truth is, I don't remember what it was about. But I remember staying up past bed time in my room, sitting on my bed, pencil and notebook in hand and continuing the story on from whatever point I'd left it the night before. I'd write it by lamplight, no outline, a total pantser.

I think it's about a dysfun…

The West Indies, 1790s

Basic writing wisdom, if there is such a thing, says when writing a scene, get in and get out. Get in at the last possible moment before the point of the scene and leave the scene and move on soon after that point is made.

That applies to novels as a whole as well. When I was reading submissions as a literary agency intern, I noticed that authors often had too much backstory in the first two chapters. Or the first chapter was all exposition.  I'm guilty of this too, especially in first draft when I'm exploring the idea.

But in the case of my WIP, I've decided that some backstory is necessary to show. My characters lived in the Caribbean before moving to England in 1800. The book opens as they sail toward Bristol. But after ruminating on it and reading Plot and Structure, I see that "the first doorway of no return"--the first plot point--is an important character death which sends my fictional family away from the West Indies to England. Hence, research on the Wes…

It Was All a Dream

This post contains spoilers about Breaking Dawn: Part 2.

A friend and I went to see the last Twilight movie, Breaking Dawn: Part 2, on Thursday night. Although we have both read the Twilight series--a few years ago, to the point where we don't quite remember details--we're not fans of the series, per se. We have a little tradition, where we go to Times Square, buy tickets for whichever theater on 42nd Street is playing the Twilight movie, and then go eat barbeque and get slightly tipsy before going into the movie.

Watching those movies with a buzz is the best way to see them.

As usual, the movie was entertaining in an unintentionally funny way, with some of the most wooden but hilarious acting and cringe-worthy dialogue.

Also, many lessons on how NOT to write a story.

For example, you know that old adage about minor characters becoming more interesting than the protagonists? Completely true for Breaking Dawn. The Volturi, played by Michael Sheen (my friend and I clapped quietl…

The Importance of Beta Readers

There are a lot of factors when it comes to writing a book. One of them is a good beta reader.

Beta readers (the term comes from computer programming) are readers. Some call them critters (for "critique") or readers. But all of these people do the same task, mostly: they read somebody's written work before it is submitted out to the world, whether that submission is a fanfiction site or the rounds of literary agents.

Writers often find beta readers in their critique groups, if they're part of one, or a circle of writing friends or out of their normal group of friends, the ones who are literary. Beta readers are critical to writers because they can pick up on things the writer can't. Does the story work? Does the plot make sense? How are the characters? After a long time laboring over a story or a book, it's hard to be subjective about the story. That's why handing it over to a different pair of eyes is helpful.

A writing professor I had in college once re…

Editing Process: Adding and Subtracting

I hate math, I'm not good at it, never have been. Therefore, I don't like mathematical metaphors, but revising (and its substep, editing) are essentially a lot of adding and subtracting.

So, I finished "editing" my book. Of course, this edit is only a preparation for draft three, so I'm still running well into the "it takes three to five years to write a good historical novel" thing.

Clearly, the next project is going to be contemporary.

Editing is the Opposite of NaNoWriMo

I'm not doing NaNo this year. I have an idea I wanted to try, a new idea, but I also wanted to edit and continue on with the WIP, the same project that NaNo helped me burst through last year.

So unlike the past two Novembers, I am not powering through lack of ideas and lack of sleep to get to 1,667 words a day. Instead, I am crossing out swaths of my manuscript, making notes, ready to do some further research and rewriting.

Editing and rewriting is not what NaNoWriMo is about. In fact, I found NaNo the most helpful in combating first draft anxiety, where the Inner Critic (I named mine Buzzy) flat out inhibits writing--with everything from "But it's  not good!" to "But you need to do more research!"

I knew that trying to reach 50,000 words this month and trying to fine tune the manuscript would result in a very cranky me come the end of the month.

I am reading my book, all printed out, with pen in hand, being tactile with it in a way that editing on a comput…

Hometown Glory: the borough of Queens

It's been a few days since Sandy left New York and New Jersey in tatters and I am finally getting back into the groove of editing my WIP on hard copy. I printed out 20 pages to mark up while I was stuck inside during the storm. I couldn't concentrate. I'm not doing NaNoWriMo this year, so I should be done with the marking up by the time NaNo participants are crossing the 50,000 word mark. Good luck!

This week made me think a lot about hometowns and as I'm once again back in novel-mode, settings in novels. My story takes place in 1800, before photography, and though it's doubtful that an agricultural village would have changed much back then, it's still important to make up a plausible history for the place. The reader doesn't have to know, but I do.

And as this is sort-of a history-ish blog, alongside the writing and the ranting, I hunted for old pictures of Queens. 
If you'd like to donate to the Red Cross to help the victims of Hurricane Sandy, pleas…

On Sandy: Historic Weather

Hey everyone (including new followers!)--an update from Queens, New York here--I obviously still have power (it flickered ominously for a good two hours, but held on; I'm hearing that we could still lose it) and internet (a miracle, considering our cable tends to go out during a regular windy day, never mind a hurricane). We've had a tree fall in front of our house (not hitting our house, thank goodness, though we jumped when we heard the snap) and we live inland and on a hill, so no worries of flooding here. Our main concern 'round these parts is the wind and the trees. But we in central Queens are lucky.

I'm sure, by now, that those of you outside of New York have seen the images of Battery Park City flooding, the power out in Manhattan, have heard of the thousands and thousands without power. Our subway system is flooding, there are explosions and fires, a hospital on the East Side of Manhattan had to evacuate due to lack of power. Breezy Point, in the Rockaways, ha…

Things My Characters Do (Which I'm Now Crossing Out)

1. My characters are always looking somewhere. "Miles looked at..." "Lady Banston eyed the..." "Mady looked at..." As most of the POV is from Miles's POV, then it's pretty obvious most of the time that he is doing the looking, no? Cross out.

2. Characters are turning to look at something (even worse than simply "looking"). "Alex turned to look at..." *shudders* This might be a problem of writing the story as if it were a movie or TV show translated from my mind, where actors invest the characters with life and are pointedly looking at something or moving their heads to see a person. That doesn't work in a novel.

3. Walking. "Miles walked to..." "Alex walked back to..." Yes, walking is essential to life and all, and they would have walked much more in 1800, but walking is not a very exciting verb. Striding. Running. Jogging. Loping. Hoofing. Taking mincing steps. All much more descriptive than walking. Yo…


I know a subplot when I see one. Subplots are secondary plotlines involving supporting characters. Sometimes they  link with the main character's storyline, sometimes they don't.

As I have my editorial cap on at the moment--reading my printed out WIP ten or twenty pages at a time, marking it up, making notes, etc.--I'm taking note of what is a subplot and what is not. I'm also seeing that I might need to eliminate some as I go along.

In Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell, Bell says subplots, too, must be written with a character, their desires and a conflict in mind. He didn't mention how much space a subplot should take up or how many there could be in a roughly 90,000 word novel.

Anybody have any ideas?

Hard Copy Time: Another Part of the Revising Process

It's time to break out the cute Hello Kitty pens and get scribbling.

There's something playful about scribbling, crossing out, circling, writing notes and questions on a printed out version of your story, no matter how long it is.

I remember the last time I did a revision--Last Request--and I went a wee bit overboard on the highlighting. In fact, I think I even stuck some of those Post-It page marker flag things on it, for whatever reason. I had a color-coded system of highlighting everything, along with scribbled remarks, comments, cursing and exhortations to a higher power.

I can be a little dramatic.

On Sybil

This post contains spoilers. Don't read if you haven't been watching the latest season of Downton Abbey.

I'm Not Moving: Part 5

Disclaimer:I do not own the movieOnceor the musicalOnceor any of the songs written by The Script, clearly. This is purely for entertainment purposes, based on an idea that my friend and I riffed out while cutting through the crowd in Times Square after seeingOncethe musical.
Read Part Four
Part Five The song was finished. The guy pressed a few keys on his computer and listened to the playback. This was a more restrained song that any of his past ones. It was less morose as well. The guy supposed he was moving on from his ex-girlfriend, which was good. But if he was moving on from her, what would he write about now?

Why I Like Tom Branson

Downton Abbey is back, though it won't be shown here in the States until January. Being impatient, I am unable to wait that long without being completely spoiled, so, yes, I have been watching.

I am one of those creatures who loves costume dramas, romance novels about lords and ladies, and historical fiction, enjoying the pretty costumes, big houses and Jane Austen plots of inheritance, marriage and Society--


I find that I love costume drama-romancey-fantasy things more when there's a dose of something different in the mix: a rebellious character or a sweeping social change or a cultural confrontation, an injection of reality and conflict amidst the fantasy of what the past would have been like, if one was rich. This is the root of my own work-in-progress.

And it's because of this tendency that I like Tom Branson, the former chauffeur, now Sybil's husband, on Downton Abbey. Branson represents not only the Irish (being half Irish, this naturally catches my interest),…

I'm Not Moving: Part 4

Read Part Three 

Disclaimer:I do not own the movieOnceor the musicalOnceor any of the songs written by The Script, clearly. This is purely for entertainment purposes, based on an idea that my friend and I riffed out while cutting through the crowd in Times Square after seeingOncethe musical.

Part Four

The guy logged in to the website, his fingers tapping out the login information as deftly as they played his guitar. The computer was secondhand, old and slow as hell, but it still worked and working at Best Buy the last four months had taught him how to program the bloody thing so he could make scratch recordings of his songs.

Step 2 of revising?

I wrote a while ago that I thought I'd try a post-draft outline to see how far my story has deviated from my original vague outline and to see if I could fix a couple of big issues (plotlines, subplots, etc.) without becoming distracted by the mounds of crappy prose I'd written.

Hey, it's a draft.

One of my friends, in a moment of fatigue and foolhardiness, has volunteered to go through the outline and then, perhaps, to skim through the manuscript (though I hope she latches onto something in it and actually reads it...)

I only made it as far as Chapter 17 in the outline. I'm not a detailed outliner anyway, so while the process has been helpful in many ways, it is unremittingly dull, too.

Here's how this step 2 of revision, outlining, has been helpful:

Analyzation. I've been able to analyze scenes, characters and plotlines more in a barebones way. Does it add to the story? Is it hokey? Does it make sense? Why are my chapters so long?Distance. Distilling it down t…

I'm Not Moving: Part Three

Disclaimer:I do not own the movieOnceor the musicalOnceor any of the songs written by The Script, clearly. This is purely for entertainment purposes, based on an idea that my friend and I riffed out while cutting through the crowd in Times Square after seeingOncethe musical.

Read Part Two. 

Part Three "I don't understand," his girlfriend said for the billionth time as they walked home from the subway after one of his gigs. "Look, it's not that I don't support your music. I think you're wonderful. I don't know why you're hawking a CD you made full of songs about me."

Structure & 3 Acts

I've come to realize, through outlining (a truly tedious exercise, but helpful, I suppose) and through reading Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell that one of the problems I am having with my WIP is not its plot--apparently, it actually has a plot and subplots as well--but its structure.

I thought beginning when my lead moves to England would be a good starting point, but actually, it's almost as cliched as starting a story when a character wakes up. There are lots of hints about his past, but I've come to see that while his past is tension-filled (i.e, good stuff), it's not showing as well as it could because the reader doesn't get to go on the journey with the characters because it's happened already. It's not getting shown. I need to use some of the immediate backstory to make this character clearer. In fact, when I do that, my story will have a three-act structure.

The Three Act Structure comes from the theater. Basically, the beginning, middle and …

Fanficlet, part two: I'm Not Moving

Disclaimer:I do not own the movieOnceor the musicalOnceor any of the songs written by The Script, clearly. This is purely for entertainment purposes, based on an idea that my friend and I riffed out while cutting through the crowd in Times Square after seeingOncethe musical.

Read Part One here

Part Two
"So are how things then?" The guy asked into the phone. "Oh, they're grand," Da replied. "Shop's doing well." "And Barushka?" "Grand." "Well, grand," the guy said. They fell silent for a few beats. "I've been playing gigs here and there. Open mics and such."

Marginally Okay Second Draft

From Shitty First Draft to Marginally Okay Second Draft. There are a lot of things about the second draft that bother me----but that is why writers revise. And, in my case, now that the second draft is done, I will now proceed to outline the sucker to see what I can easily eliminate (the first scene is now on the chopping block), send it off to a beta reader, sleep, have a good think, read other people's books once again and continue reading and doing writing exercises from Plot and Structure.

Then it's on to the third and hopefully last draft. What'll we call that one?

So, stats:

First Draft
Words: 94,926
Pages: 351
Chapters: 43

Second Draft
Words: 86,268
Pages: 313
Chapters: 40

Downton Abbey Official Series 3 Trailer & Previews


James Stephen

In a tale that proves that history is often stranger than fiction, I bring you an abbreviated version of the tale of James Stephen's romantic woes in eighteenth century England; it makes the romantic entanglements of my main character look tame by comparison.

James Stephen became a lawyer in the British colony of St. Kitts. However, upon arrival in the West Indies on the island of Barbados, he witnessed a trial of slaves generally believed to be innocent, who were found guilty and burned to death. Horrified,  Stephen became an abolitionist, sending correspondence and evidence back to William Wilberforce, the only MP fighting to abolish slavery in Britain.

 In 1800, Stephen married Wilberforce's sister. He helped draft the 1807 bill to abolish the slave trade. He became an MP. His great-granddaughter was author Virginia Woolf.

Downton Abbey series 3 press pack

The Downton Abbey press pack for series 3 is now out: Press pack. Interesting things are going to happen to our beloved estate and characters in 1920.

For those afraid of spoilers, the press pack doesn't necessarily spell everything out, exactly. There are new characters this season belowstairs as well.
These are probably crazy girl hormones talking, but god, my novel is horrible. My prose is even worse. Who am I even kidding?

The Tower of London

My characters take a trip to London in my novel and as one of the prime tourist attractions of London, even in 1801, there is a scene at the Tower of London.

For those who watched the Olympics in the last few weeks, the Tower was pretty much front and center whenever NBC showed the sites of London, along with Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge, and the London Eye. Visual porn for Anglophiles.

The Tower of London--officially known as Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress--has become a symbol of its country. It was founded by William the Conqueror in 1066, when he had the old Roman city walls torn down along the River Thames to make room for the White Tower, a stone keep, in the center of the complex. Building the White Tower (which gained its name when it was whitewashed) was begun in 1078.

The Tower is an official royal residence of the monarch. It was also infamously used as a prison, especially in Tudor times. The Royal Mint was also within the Tower a…

A Troublesome Plot Line

I doubt that novel writing by polling ever actually works, but...

Okay. I'm revising. You know that. I had this storyline (which I expressed my doubts about here). Basically, the daughters of my protagonist: the older one is white. The younger one is half black. They have different mothers. Stir in a merchant father, the year 1800 and the English countryside and upper classes and you have my novel.

I had a plot thread that was winding around my novel, that the girls, who are quite young, were never told that they had different mothers--so they believe that they have the same mom. For some reason, in the draft, this plot became kind of important and the revelation to the older one that Mama isn't her Mama was going to be part of the almighty hard to reach climax.

The more I'm dealing with this plot, the more ridiculous and soap opera-like it feels.

BUT... the more I'm revising, angsting and hating this ridiculous book (and hacking, cutting and relooking at sources), anot…

Downton Abbey 3 clip

The Dowager Countess being oh-so-delicious again.

A Little Fanfiction Interlude

As I'm slogging through revision--and debating whether to completely delete a particular storyline in favor of something a little less melodramatic--I got some creative renewal last week by going to see Once the musical on Broadway.

All of this means that my friend and I made up a mini-fanfic in the middle of Times Square on the way to the subway.

So here's part 1.

Broadway Baby


Plot & Climax

Remember when I wrote that I wasn't sure exactly what the climax of my story was because my first draft was crap and fell apart toward the end (as usual) and then I wondered about the plausibility of a particular story line anyway?

I am in the home stretch of this revision, so to speak (about 23, 000 words to go) and because the first draft falls apart at this stage, I've had to think harder about how to wrap it up and end it. I worry that the story threads are predictable, cheesy, feel unrelated to other aspects of the story or are just plain bad. 
But I've been most worried about the climax. It has to happen naturally. It can't seem forced. The rest of the story has to build to it then lead out of it. It's a big deal and I don't know that I've ever written an effective climactic scene. 
Book the First didn't really have a peak. The first incarnation of this book had a neat climax purely because it was a romance--obviously, the hero and heroine are in …

The Post-Revision Outline

A few months ago, I read a post on Kristin Nelson's blog Pub Rants about her method of creating an editorial road map to highlight plot points for her clients.

I thought it sounded like a good idea. Writers divide themselves into outliners and pantsers--those who outline a little (or extensively) and those who go with the flow of whatever they are writing. I'm in the middle--I have a short, vague outline or a couple of paragraphs with the premise. Sometimes, I have bullet points telling me what the major points are, even if it turns out not to be very helpful sometimes.

The last time I had a draft to revise--Last Request, I think--I forced it on some friends to read, I gathered their comments and questions and emails, printed out the entire thing and read two of Margie Lawson's packets. I scrawled all over the pages, highlighted in every conceivable color, and then found at the end that I had no idea how to fix the problems in that story.

Ran Spellcheck. Yikes.

Yes, I know, I've been updating like a fiend lately.

When I write, I turn the squiggly spell check and grammar lines off. First of all, because the grammar check never seems to be accurate. Second of all, spell check hates everything. Squiggly lines remind me too much of writing papers in college and it is distracting.

I'm on page 241 of the revision as of now. Miles is getting himself into trouble at the moment. I'm not sure what it says about me that most of my male characters are horndogs in a small way.

Realistic, I should think.

Anyway. So I decided, at nearly 300 pages, that I should run spellcheck on the WIP. Which I did. Come to find that a) my spelling is far more atrocious than it once was and b) I seem to be unconsciously using British spelling, which is wrong when your Word goes by the American English dictionary.

So, I had to change ageing to aging and travelling to traveling and and chiselled to chiseled. Ugh. I seem to think the double "L" is natur…

The Hollow Crown: Henry V

Okay, I know I promised this post yesterday, but I didn't get around to finishing Henry V until now. This story wasn't a complete stranger to me like the past three in The Hollow Crown series, so I had an easier time following the plot. And actually, I didn't have a problem understanding the language either--except for those times when there was very quickly spoken French and my rudimentary high school French couldn't keep up.

This version opens with Henry V's funeral. As I've been waiting for this particular episode, I've been reading about Henry V and his French queen Catherine. Henry, after his military victories, died at 35 from dysentery. He missed becoming king of France by two months, leaving his infant son as the king of two countries. France soon returned to the control of the French royal family, aided by Joan of Arc. England went into the turmoil of the Wars of the Roses. The queen Catherine took up with a Welshman named Own Tudor and became an …

Downton Abbey, Season 3 spoilers

PBS had their Downton Abbey season 3 panel on Saturday and these are some spoilers from the third season trailer.

New cast photo:

And spoilers, below:


i just noticed that this blog hit 5,000 pageviews yesterday. Cool!

To wit: Remember the last post? About the Story of England by Michael Wood? Well, I came across a link to an article Michael Wood wrote, about Britain's first black community, dating from Elizabeth England.

I love the excerpts from the parish register. A real taste of average people's lives back then. And the stories he writes about Mary Fillis and Lucy remind me of the stories detailed in the doctoral dissertation I have combed through for research. Real minority people, in the past, and their stories, living among a majority population.

I'll be posting later today about the last of Hollow Crown series, Henry V.

The Story of England and small villages

My dad will readily admit to not having an imagination. By this, he means that he doesn't read novels. He likes movies, but prefers documentaries. He doesn't follow serialized television, but the DVR is rather full of documentaries and reality TV.

One of these recent documentary series on our DVR takes care of both of us. It's history and being a pair of history buffs, we happily watched Michael Wood's Story of England, which is available to watch on

Historian Michael Wood tells the history of England--from pre-Roman to the Anglo-Saxons to the Danelaw through to the Norman Conquest and beyond--through the evidence collected from archeological digs, DNA tests, contemporary accounts and very well-maintained records of one English village: Kibworth, Leicestershire.

Now, actually, Kibworth is three villages, I believe: Kibworth Harcourt, Kibworth Beauchamp (prounounced Bee-cham), and Smeeton Westerby.

The Hollow Crown: Henry IV, Part 2

After reading the play summary for Henry IV, Part 2, I wasn't sure why there was even a part two. I kind of figured that the major events happen in Part One and maybe Part Two was fan service on Shakespeare's part.

After watching it, however, I can see that it completes all the character arcs set up in Part One. Part Two is the ultimate pay off. It sets up Henry V and resolves the longer arcs of the father-son relationship between the king and Hal and Hal's ultimate repudiation of his old hell-raising life. 

The Hollow Crown: Henry IV, Part 1

I've just finished watching Henry IV, Part 1. I was a little confused in the beginning because I haven't ever seen other movie adaptations of this play, so I wasn't sure of the plot. Apparently, there aren't many adaptations. I wonder if that's because there are two parts to it and would absolutely require a sequel.

Warning: There Be Spoilers After This Point

Paying Calls

In the 19th century, a great deal of social discourse was done by letter writing and by paying calls.

But what is a call, exactly? In the days before Alexander Graham Bell, a call was a visit.

Back in the day, a well-to-do lady would pay morning calls to her friends and acquaintances. First of all, in the Regency, a morning call was more likely to take place in the early afternoon. Say that this lady has just come to London for the Season. She gets into her carriage and calling cards in card case, takes off for her acquaintances' homes. She has a servant drop her calling card off at the homes.

The card is dropped onto a silver tray in the front hall by the other person's servants and later given to the mistress of the house for perusal.

The Hollow Crown: Richard II

I'm not sure how many of you know that for the next few consecutive Saturdays, in the UK, as part of the Cultural Olympiad before the London Olympics, the BBC is showing film versions of Shakespeare.

The tetralogy (I learned that word recently; it means a four-part story) began on June 29th with Richard II.

I just finished watching it. It doesn't actually air in the U.S. until January, so I found a link, let it load and plopped myself down. C'est la vie.

Henry IV Parts 1 & 2 and Henry V follow in the successive weeks. The plays are based on three historical kings of England: Richard II, who was deposed by his cousin Henry Bolingbroke, who became Henry IV. Then Henry IV found it hard to keep control of his nobles and his kingdom, including his errant son. That son became Henry V, England's great warrior king, who won a decisive battle at Agincourt against the French.

Here's the trailer for the series, which is being called The Hollow Crown after a speech in Richa…

Symbolism and follies

I am on page 212 of revision.I realized the other night, while going back in the manuscript to check a detail, that I actually have symbolism in here. So what? you say. Isn't that par for the course with novels?

I have ranted in the past about all the English classes in high school where symbolism was such a big deal. Here.
Here are some of the more ridiculous examples I remember from high school English:

Holden Caulfield's hat was a symbol for his hunt for...what was he hunting for again? Oh, yeah. And "Holden" could symbolize his efforts to "hold on." (Hold on to what? Being a brat?)Ethan Frome and the sled being a need to escape. I thought that one was quite obvious, actually.  Symbolism is defined as the practice of representing things by symbols or by investing things with a symbolic meaning or character. 
The broken vase in the beginning of Atonement. The moors in Wuthering Heights. Lady Mary's stuffed dog in the second season of Downton Abbey. Har…

200 pages of revision=blog party for myself

I hit my 200th page of my Marginally OK Second Draft tonight, which means that I have about 150 pages left and then hopefully somebody will read it and I get to revise all over again...

Anyways. Here's my reaching 200 pages party.

First, gratuitous current crush picture. It's from Wimbledon, which opened yesterday. It's just candid enough that I can pretend that I was lurking in the background somewhere.

You might not recognize him--a friend who saw his latest release exclaimed, "Whoa! He looks so different!" when I helpfully Googled him for her. He was in The Avengers, which I blogged about back in May: here.

Second, Thought Catalog article about current crush: Husband Material, Volume 7: Tom Hiddleston

And finally, via Downton Abbey Addicts. If you like your period dramas as I do. This is hilarious. Jane Austin is My Homegirl (Down Town Abbey) Rap


Hey everyone--

This blog hit 4,000 page views today. Thank you!

The London Season: 19th century society

For the fashionable people and the social climbers of centuries past, the London Season was the highlight of the social year.

Parliament was in session. Debutantes were presented at Court and had their debut balls. Royal Ascot occurred during the Season, as did the Derby, and the regatta. Calls were paid, routs and balls were thrown, huge amounts of money were won and lost by gambling and people were engaged to be married.

For most of the year, many families would live on their country estate. Come early spring, they would move to either their London home or rented accommodation, if they chose to participate in the Season. On Downton Abbey, the Crawley family leave Yorkshire for London for Sybil's debut, for example. They refer to staying at Grantham House, their London home.

Aunt Rosamund: “There’s nothing like an English summer, is there?!”
Mary:“Except an English winter.” 
Aunt Rosamund: “I’m sorry you haven’t received more invitations. But then after four seasons one is less a d…

Never Seconds, and the time Sunflower's article was banned in school

Let me tell you a little story about a school paper called The Beacon. I was on that paper, in high school, for two years. I wrote several articles in it, as well as copyediting bits and pieces as needed. Our advisor was very fond of reminding us not to plagiarize.

One day, our advisor told me that he wanted me to research and write an article about censorship--particularly of school papers. So I wrote the article--I can't remember a word of it and I'm pretty sure it was awful to begin with. It wasn't incendiary in the least.

I thought.

Because our principal banned us from giving out the paper.

It became our most popular issue.

The Climax

I am on page 168 of my revision. I'm running about five pages ahead of my first draft at this point in the story.

It also means that I am about to reach the climax. The image above is Freytag's classic pyramid. I remember learning this in English class in high school. Freytag came up with this after studying ancient Greek dramas and Shakespeare.

Plotting has never really been my strong suit when it comes to writing. I think for a long time I thought it was the list of events that occurred in the story and not really a moving forward of the plot. If I was more of a plotter, then I think endings would've come easier to me.

The further into this rewrite I get, the more analyzing I am doing. I've been trying to think of what is the climax of this story; or, which climax is The Climax.

I've got:

The payoff on the 'Alexandra is an impulsive tomboy' arcThe 'we have different mothers?' storylineEither the formation of or the breakup of Miles' ill-advise…

Sharing a Link: Danger of Superficial History in Fiction

Read this blog post and was reminded why I'm compelled to write the characters I am writing:

The Danger of Superficial History in Fiction

I like the look of the Regency, for instance. Jane Austen. Bath. Empire dresses. Balls.

But I've become interested in the real history of the Georgian and Regency eras as well and irritated by the endless drove of dukes and other assorted nobles. Any time Ireland is mentioned at this time, of course, I know what that really means. Or any time someone mentions a plantation on Jamaica, that means slavery. Or India: colonization. Macau and Canton: colonization, opium.

As one learns about the real history and the personalities of the time, you start thinking, "Well, where is all of this stuff in my historical romance novels?"

When I thought up the fictional family in my WIP, I started researching for real families of the Georgian era like them. I'm biracial, but that doesn't mean that I read a book and go, "Where's the …

Mourning Customs

Sunflower here, looking up mourning customs.

Morbid, huh?

The family in my WIP are in mourning because their wife and mother has died before the start of the story. However, my character Miles being himself, he chose not to have black mourning dresses made for his young daughters. As a man, all he needs for mourning wear is a black armband and black gloves.

I've had to go back and look up specific points of mourning customs because I have a character who is a widow and she grows in importance from page 150 onwards, so I want to be sure that I get the mourning aspect of her character correct.

Sh*t Writers Say

I wonder if you guys have seen this video on YouTube:

I LOVE "How does my book end?!!" and "Can somebody fix my book?"

5 novels

I joined the AbsoluteWrite forums the other day and realized, while I was writing a post, that I have written five novels.

1) Book the First
2) The Keegans, version 1.0
3) Last Request
4) Iggy the unfinished
5) My current WIP, Keegan, version 2.1

Really? When did that happen?

Which is hilarious, when you think about it, because I've written all of those while having this blog, which means that they're documented--and even so, I didn't quite realize how many books I'd written.

Granted, Iggy isn't finished.

And the WIP is really a better version of the same characters as Book 2...

Things I've Learned About My Writing/Revising Process

I have had this blog for three years. I have had it open to anyone who happens to know how to work Google for...about a year? Year and a half? It's mostly a self-indulgent venture, sort of an electronic, multimedia, social version of my teenage journals, except it's happier, less whingey-moony-annoying and mostly about my writing.

Or just stuff I like.

Of course, my writing and especially my revision processes are still evolving and will continue to do so. But here is what I've learned about my writing process in the last three years:

"I'm Going To My Mind Palace."

Have I ever mentioned how much I love BBC's Sherlock (shown in America on PBS)? 
I adore it: the intricate cases, the acting, the long-winded deductions, Sherlock, Watson, the snarkiness, the floating text, the writing. 

Sherlock going to his "mind palace," a phrase that I am now stealing.

I even taped it on my bedroom wall.

Interior Decorating For Writers

Reading another writer's words--whether in their work, their letters or memoirs, or just a simple, pithy quote--can be enormously inspirational. 
My very lavender walls used to have posters on it. Movie poster there, photos there, magazine picture of an actor I had a crush on there, collage my friends and I made of a band we liked over there...
Things have come up and come down on my walls. Either I got sick of looking at it. Or I outgrew it. Or the tape didn't hold up against the walls. 
So recently, I've been cutting up bits paper I have, writing something on it, and taped it firmly.

What Makes a Good Villain?

Sunflower here, on a fairly productive writing day, musing about villains. Or, as they're called in literature, antagonists.

Antagonists are defined as "a character, enemy or institution which represents the opposition against which the protagonist must contend." Sometimes, the antagonist is the foil to the protagonist and they are directly locked in competition with each other. Other times, the antagonist is more representative of an idea that opposes the main characters.

For my money, the most frightening literary villains I have read come from fantasy: Sauron in TheLord of the Rings and Voldemort in Harry Potter. They have a lot in common, those two. Not only are they representations of evil, but they're also disembodied, menacing, dangerous, and their plotting, their minions and their ideas of world domination and racial purity are scarier than any thriller's criminal or terrorist could be, to me at least. They both echo Hitler, after all.