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 are 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.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

November 8, 2016

I'm writing this more for myself than for an audience, so feel free to not comment if you don't want to. I feel like history is made and it passes us by and we forget about it--and this is particularly true of Americans, the country in which I was born, the country in which my father was born, the country where my mother immigrated; Americans are stereotypically not very good with geography, other countries, or history.

Just to note: November 9th, today, is the anniversary of Kristallnacht, which happened in 1938. And not to equate a democratic American election with the Night of Broken Glass which ushered in the Holocaust, but just a note there.

Nazi Germany started with an election, too. You think it can't happen in America?

We've had an arduous election cycle--something on the order or two years of yammering, inane politicians, attack ads, ridiculous rhetoric, and far more disturbing, large rallies of rural, working class, not-terribly-well-educated, mostly white people gathering in large numbers to hear a blowhard asshole with no class talk about banning Muslims, building walls on the Mexican border, repealing Obamacare, stuffing the Supreme Court with heavily conservative--if not downright so-far-to-the-right judges that they might as well be living in 1930s Germany.

I'm a 30-year-old biracial New Yorker. I went to college in Boston. So yeah, I'm Northeast, East Coast liberal. I'm a registered independent who switched to Democrat this autumn. I have gone to school and interacted with people of all races, ethnicities, religions, and sexual orientations my entire life. Yes, sometimes it can be a mess, trying to harness people of disparate origins, but I strongly feel that my life experience has been the richer for it.

I'm sorry for those for who don't feel that way: people who've never met people who don't look like them, sound like them, go to church like them, or whose sexual orientations or gender expectations don't fall precisely in line. I'm sorry for those who aren't curious about the wider world or the past or who are clinging to outdated beliefs. Because this goes beyond a little sideye to the unfamiliar--this is unadulterated hatred for all the things I thought America stood for and was still developing and standing for.

We're a nation of immigrants. I know where my family comes from. Do you? White people didn't just spring up out of the ground in Carolina, you know. Y'all came from somewhere.

Freedom of religion. Apparently, that only applies to Christians. I'm afraid for the Muslims among my friends and acquaintances.

Cooperation and leadership in the world. NATO, everyone? How's that going to go? How are our allies going to respond to this election? How are our cooperation skills going to work?

Basic human decency. How about not making fun of people with disabilities, people of different races, not trying to fucking "convert" LGBT kids, acknowledging that women are people capable of making decisions about our bodies and futures and that we deserve respect?

After 2008, when Barack Obama was elected, there was talk about a "post-racial America," which was utter bullshit then and has been shattered in a million pieces now. The president-elect (I refuse to use his name. You know it. It's written in giant gold letters on the sides of all his buildings) was endorsed by the KKK.

The K-fucking-KK.

In 2016.

When John Kerry lost in 2004, I was disappointed. That was first election I voted it. I thought I abhorred McCain and Romney. But this? This has gone beyond disappointment, guys. This election and its result has acutally caused me to have real fears. It's made me see my country in a completely different way and I'm so incredibly sad, depressed, disappointed, scared, and angry that this is where we are as a nation.

I'm actually devastated.

Some people are like, "Well--we still have Congress to block things. We have laws to block things he wants to do. And we can vote out a lot of Congress in 2018!"

That's not making me feel better, guys. A lot of damage can be done in 2 years.

Still, to quote from "Hamilton": "Rise up. Rise up. Eyes up."




Monday, November 7, 2016

NaNo '16: Day 7


Current Word Count: 8,105 words
Where NaNo Says I'm Supposed To Be On Day 7: 11,666

This is my fifth NaNoWriMo and unlike past NaNos, I'm behind by quite a bit. Three thousand words is no joke, y'all! However, because I'm writing short stories this year (a whole mess of them), there's a new little spark when I begin a new story and that keeps me writing a bit longer and writing more, which is good.

Win NaNo this year or not, I want to have a few shorts that I can configure and maybe sell in 2017. That's the real end goal here.

The last time I did NaNo was in 2014.

Things That Have Happened Since the Last Time I Did NaNoWriMo in 2014:

In 2014,  I wrote 50,000 words of an early version of my Victorian not-yet-finished novel. Since then, I have:
-written and published Pearl
-written a short story, revised the short story, published the short story as "When Mary Left."
-continually written and stopped and started on that Victorian novel
-become a Distracto Monster when it came to the Internet

So I'm not dependent on NaNo to help me reach the end of a project anymore--just to maybe help quicken my usual snaily process.

So far, I have finished my first short story, "Haunted Lake" and moved on to my second, "The New Bride of Banner's Edge."

Here's a bit from "Haunted Lake":

Kimiko and Chris drank coffee in silence the next morning. Her hair was damp from her shower. His nose was buried in a magazine they'd picked up from the check-in office yesterday called The Monadnock Region.
She had never known Chris to play golf. His dad did, which was probably why his parents had this place as a timeshare. Were they going to attempt the links? The only time she'd played golf was miniature golf on a family vacation. Did they have mini golf here? That'd be cool. Maybe not a full weekend sort of cool, but still…
"Oh," Chris said to himself.
"Hmm?"
"Haunted Lake."
She scrunched up her face. "Haunted Lake? What's that?"
            "Well, its real name is Scobie Pond, but yeah, Haunted Lake. It's close. We used to go there when we came up here. Want to check it out?"
She took a long sip of coffee, swallowed, then asked, "Uh, why's it called Haunted Lake?" She didn't consider herself an expert on lake nomenclature, but there had to be a reason why a lake was called "haunted."
Chris leaned back. "Well, there are a lot of stories about that, I think. Someone told me about a fire that happened on the shores once. But it's seriously gorgeous. It's not even ten minutes away."
She shrugged. "All right."
"Maybe we'll go to town first? It's quaint and New England-y." His very blue eyes searched her eyes out. "Let's go be in nature, Kim."
Be in nature? Did that phrase seriously pour out her boyfriend's mouth? Chris was the most Internet-addicted person she knew. The man couldn't live without wi-fi. He liked doing city things: cafes, the ability to walk two minutes from their apartment and see both people and actual civilization, skinny jeans. Be in nature? And he wasn't being ironic?

            She took a longer sip of coffee. What else didn't she know about him?


Wednesday, November 2, 2016

IWSG November




It's November and it's time for the monthly IWSG blog hop! The IWSG is a large group of writers who come together for commiseration and we post every first Wednesday of the month! Come check us out here.


Well, NaNo has begun. I'm writing short stories this year, but unlike past years, I'm very aware that I don't have all the time in the world to hit that 50K, which is one of the reasons why I decided to write short stories. Anyway, before I try to get more words down, let me answer this month's IWSG question:

What is your favorite aspect of being a writer?

Well, there are many fantastic aspects of being a writer. One of them, to quote a historian I've recently begun reading and following, is that history lets him indulge in "licensed nosiness"--and I feel like writing lets me do the same thing sometimes. Being a writer lets me explore different things and I'm quietly nosy, quietly collecting dialogue, characters, settings, and anecdotes in my head to twist around and combine and refine into a story. 

Also, I like creating characters--trying to figure out how they tick, what their deal is.