Sunday, September 24, 2017

My Collection of Research Books

I was looking around the blogosphere this morning and saw a blog post by one of my favorite historical fiction authors Elizabeth Chadwick, with a huge list of her mountain of research books.

Go check it out here.

So I decided to take a few pictures of my molehill of research books, which I've acquired for a variety of past projects and/or just out of curiosity and exploration of an era.

(Which is to say, I'll get back to the Victorian era when I damn well feel like it).

I used to have Tudors boooks (I'm down to two, which are biographies of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I), but when I finally acknowledged that a) Tudor-land is oversaturated and b) I wasn't actually going to write that story of the monastery being tore apart during the English Reformation, not knowing anything about Catholicism, Anglicanism, or monasteries beyond what Ken Follet's books taught me, those books were sold on Amazon. 

I expect some of these will get rotated out as well, at some point. 

If you haven't read Bury the Chains, by the way, it's wonderfully written and not at all dry. It's about the British abolition movement.

And Asians in Britain was fascinating, super detailed, and I can't wait to weave in what I learned in it into a few of my nineteenth-century set stories at some point. 

The blue book is called Jane Austen: The World of Her Stories. Really great things in there about Jane Austen's era, from the late eighteenth to early nineteenth centuries, and it covers the Regency period and what was going on in the world and how they reflect and come up in Jane Austen's novels. 

Staying Power is about the history of black people in Britain. 

The top two here are when I realized I knew nothing about sailors and specfically, the shipping trade in Bristol in the eighteenth century. Turns out I didn't need to know all that much to write Pearl, but they came in relatively useful. 

Bluestockings is about the first British women to get a university education in the late nineteenth into the twentieth century. I got a few funny anecdotes from it, but it was very focused on Cambridge and Oxford, even though other universities were admitting women as full students much earlier.

The little books are Daily Life in a Victorian House and Colonial Wiliamsburg, which I bought at age eleven in Williamsburg, and tried to use to write an American Girl-style Revolution story. It didn't work out.

And yes, the bottom three are American Girl Collection books. Children's books are awesome for research because they often have maps and pictures. 

These are the print books I have; there were others I read on Kindle for research, but print books are the best for research books, guys. It's harder to highlight, underline, flag, or flip back and forth in an electronic book.

One of my plot bunny ideas is a contemporary idea, where the research will be more like "research." I'm so looking forward to that.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

So long, Bandstand!

In January, when my friends Nali, Jess, and I went to BroadwayCon, there was a new Broadway preview thing, which was dangerous because you sing me a showtune and I get hooked and then there's money pouring out of my wallet because I want to see the shows. 

Hearing Laura Osnes and Corey Cott sing "This is Life" was my "ooh, ooh, ooh" moment. Then I watched their performance on the Tonys.

I finally saw it on September 7th, with my usual Broadway partners in crime and it was everything I expected. Amazing dancing. Like, seriously. Great acting. Fantastic singing (See, Corey Cott's singing at the top of his range. He's doing the male equivalent of belting, said my brain as I leaned forward in my seat. Oh, wait, he just went up a notch on that How did that happen?)

Bandstand was also an original musical, not based on a book or a movie, with new songs. That's rare these days on Broadway.

Sadly, Bandstand, too, closes today, which is why there are two blog posts today.

It starred Corey Cott and Laura Osnes (here's a link to her Bandstand vlog). Corey plays Donny Novitski, a recently-returned WWII army vet and musical prodigy, who is having trouble adjusting back to life in Cleveland. He hears about a MGM music contest and decides to form a band of fellow vets so they can enter the competition--the Donny Nova Band.

The cool thing was all of the band members played their own instruments. Here's a video from a pop-up performance the Donny Nova Band did of "Ain't We Proud."

Laura Osnes played Julia Trojan, a war widow, who happens to sing and write some poetry. She's the widow of a war buddy of Donny's and he checks in on her and learns that she can sing really well. She joins the band as their singer.

I cried at this show--that's never happened to me during a musical. It's not a sad show, but it deals with some heavy subject matter--post-war traumatic stress, namely. Bandstand was so heartfelt; I felt like I'd been emotionally devastated but I was happy that I'd been emotionally devastated, you know?

God, us creatives are such sick puppies.

In essence, I cried a little. I laughed. I had chills. I was cheering. But most of all, I was totally sucked into the show and felt really present.

The music is very 1940s swing and big band, which was a kick to hear. Makes you want to move around. The director is also a choreographer, so the dancing was so amazing to watch--it was super athletic and sinuous and era-appropriate.

My friend Jess is a dancer; she'd seen Bandstand a few months ago and loved all the swing dance, so she took a couple of classes and through Audience Rewards (@audiencerewards #GetRewarded), got to take a dance class with the dance captain of Bandstand doing the show choreography, which is sooo cool.

Jess is the one in the front in the white tanktop. There's video as well, but I couldn't get it to upload.

Goodbye to Groundhog Day

This year, I've seen four new musicals, which is quite a lot to see within a year for me. Alas, of those four, one closed right after my friends and I went to see it and today, two more are closing.

Groundhog Day and Bandstand are playing their final performances today, which is a real shame. They were my favorites this year and they really deserved to go on longer runs. So I'm writing goodbye posts for them, but they're separate because I have a lot of feels, mmkay?

Groundhog Day is based on the Bill Murray dramedy about a cynical weatherman who gets stuck covering Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney, PA and living the same day over and over again.

The main reason I was really excited to see this was the composer, Tim Minchin. He composed Matilda the Musical, which I loved, as well as a bunch of rude and comic songs, which I also love.

Andy Karl--who tore his ACL onstage just before the musical officially opened--played Phil Connors, the cynical weatherman, and Barrett Doss played Rita Hanson, Phil's associate producer and romantic interest. I've seen the show once; on the night I was there, not only was Andy Karl still wearing a knee brace for his injury, but they had to stop the show for a few minutes when a set piece on one of the stage's revolvers didn't move on cue.

What I loved and connected to the most in this show is the message of hope, that we should strive to be our best selves, that we should try not to waste our time on earth with petty shit--but it isn't sappy or like a typical musical, I guess. All of that wrapped in a musical with great melodies, fantastic staging, and lots of movement and really clever lyrics.

My friend Jess, who has seen the show several times, when asked what resonated with her the most from Groundhog Day, said, "I think superficially I love the humor and cleverness of it from the lyrics to the staging. But then the message I got from it was a reminder to not be self-absorbed but show kindness to others. And redemption is possible, just have to work at it."

My friend Nali has seen Groundhog Day four times. At the August 31st performance, Tim Minchin came out for the curtain call. She said the audience was really into the show that night as well, which is so great to hear. Because the show was fresh for her, she had a lot to say about what resonated to her: "For me it was definitely the snark and wit in the lyrics -- a seemingly inspirational song (Hope) about not giving up hope which is actually about him giving up hope that he can kill himself. Overall the message does move the audience to be less self involved but it's not preachy -- it's the theater version of "showy not Telly.'"

Nali also noted, "The set design was crazy amazing! They weren't elaborate set pieces but even when they moved it was like a dance and fluid. They managed to create a sense of perspective. Looking into the room from outside, then you're inside. But then it's sparse -- there are moments when he wakes up and it's just his bed. You don't need the rest of it anymore because his room is already well defined. And the room's size changes with his mental state. When he's dismissive or frustrated, the three pieces are locked in. When he realized he can do whatever he wants - the set piece was just his bed. The town only had a few characters and I felt like I really got to know all of them. It wasn't just a Phil story."

Jess is seeing the show again tonight, so I'm sure it'll be an emotional last show. Groundhog Day is going on a national tour, though, so keep your eyes peeled!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Random snippet time!

Guys, I have nascent plot bunnies whispering in my ear...

I really only have two, though, at the moment.

But the current WIP is chugging along. There's a plot now and progress on said plot, so yay!

Here's a snippet!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

IWSG: September

It is IWSG time again. On to this month's question:

Have you ever surprised yourself with your writing? For example, by trying a new genre you didn't think you'd be comfortable in?

I'm half convinced that writing is meant to be surprising. For example, when a character reveals something to you in a scene that you didn't expect. Or when a new character walks on and takes over the whole show.

So yeah, I've been surprised by my writing. Writing historical was not that surprising; I love reading it, it's what I gravitate towards, so it seemed a natural evolution to get stuck in writing it. Even now as I'm writing a historical romance or historical fiction with romantic elements (Which way will it swing? It's a subtle difference, but that'll be a surprise!), it feels like a huge leap to write something romancey for me, but it probably isn't, since I read quite a bit of historical romance.

But ghost stories? So not me. I'm a scaredy cat. Horror is not even remotely my genre. And yet, somehow, "Haunted Lake" came pouring out of me because there's something intriguing about a real lake called Haunted Lake that begs to be written.

And now I want to write more horror or supernatural-like short stories, so we'll see what happens.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Ireland: A Contrast in Museums

Liz and I visited two museums in Ireland; there are so many more that I'd love to go back and explore and learn from in the future. But I've been thinking about the two we went to and how they represent two sides of Irish history.

Dublin Castle courtyard

 Dublin Castle