Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category
Hi all! Happy Thanksgiving if you live in the States, just a general happy fall if you don’t. Look at this great tree I discovered in my research:
It’s called a spindle tree and it has really unique fall colors.
I know the blog’s been a little quiet. That’s because all my time is going to revising my next book, Sweet Disorder. I’ll still be around on tumblr, twitter, and facebook though, even if less than usual. (Links to me on those are in the sidebar at the left.)
I’m so thankful right now for all your support. I wouldn’t be where I am today without all of you. You rock! Olivia Waite did a post about how thankful she was for readers that about sums up how I feel.
I saw someone on Tumblr talking about John Wilkes Booth’s death today, and his last words were so melodramatic I was fascinated. Here’s the whole story, from his Wikipedia article:
Before dawn on April 26, the soldiers caught up with the fugitives, who were hiding in Garrett’s tobacco barn. David Herold surrendered, but Booth refused Conger’s demand to surrender, saying “I prefer to come out and fight”; the soldiers then set the barn on fire. As Booth moved about inside the blazing barn, Sergeant Boston Corbett shot him. According to Corbett’s later account, he fired at Booth because the fugitive “raised his pistol to shoot” at them. Conger’s report to Stanton, however, stated that Corbett shot Booth “without order, pretext or excuse”, and recommended that Corbett be punished for disobeying orders to take Booth alive. Booth, fatally wounded in the neck, was dragged from the barn to the porch of Garrett’s farmhouse, where he died three hours later, aged 26. The bullet had pierced three vertebrae and partially severed his spinal cord, paralyzing him.
In his dying moments, he reportedly whispered, “Tell my mother I died for my country”. Asking that his hands be raised to his face so he could see them, Booth uttered his last words, “Useless, useless,” and died as dawn was breaking. In Booth’s pockets were found a compass, a candle, pictures of five women, including his fiancée Lucy Hale, and his diary, where he had written of Lincoln’s death, “Our country owed all her troubles to him, and God simply made me the instrument of his punishment.”
Who were the other four women?? Also, “Useless, useless”! It reminds me of two other really dramatic life-and-death stories: Henry II muttering “Shame, shame on a conquered king” before dying, and this one about the robber baron Henry Clay Frick (anarchist Alexander Berkman tried to assassinate him after Frick’s Pinkertons attacked striking steelworkers, killing 7):
The bullet hit Frick in the left earlobe, penetrated his neck near the base of the skull, and lodged in his back. The impact hurled Frick off his feet, and Berkman fired again, again striking Frick in the neck and causing him to bleed profusely. Carnegie Steel vice-president (later, president) John George Alexander Leishman, who was with Frick, was then able to grab Berkman’s arm and deflect a third shot, saving Frick’s life.
Frick was seriously wounded, but rose and (with the assistance of Leishman) tackled his assailant. All three men crashed to the floor, where Berkman managed to stab Frick four times in the leg with the pointed steel file before finally being subdued by other employees, who had rushed into the office. As the police entered the room, guns drawn, Frick reportedly yelled, “Don’t shoot! Leave him to the law, but raise his head and let me see his face.”
“Raise his head and let me see his face”! It’s like something out of a movie. Do people naturally behave like this in times of crisis? Or do they do it out of a sense of what’s expected of them because they’ve read a lot of books and seen a lot of theater/movies? And is that even a meaningful distinction? Speech, being communication aimed at someone else, inherently has an element of “for effect” in it. And raising a child without ever telling him a story isn’t “natural” either (well, I guess especially if you were doing it to find out how he reacted when you shot him). It’s fascinating.
When a friend read my upcoming A Lily Among Thorns, she pointed out that my heroine is good at everything. She said it got a little improbable.
It’s a totally fair criticism: I did originally intend Serena to be the female version of the “good at everything but feelings,” dark-pasted alpha hero.
But the hidden truth, the one I should maybe have played up a little more in the book, is that there are plenty of things Serena’s bad at. Millions of things. But, up to the point where she meets Solomon, she’s very carefully arranged her life so she only has to do things she’s good at. It’s a major limitation in her life, and something that’s always at the background of her consciousness: “If I might not be in control of my image while doing this, I can’t do it.”
I had the realization recently that I have a tendency to do the same thing. Not, obviously, to the extent that Serena does. But I really, really don’t like doing things I’m not good at. Even if I want to do them. I never learned to ride a bike because I didn’t learn when I was a kid and then when I was older everyone else already knew how and it was easier to say, “I don’t ride,” than to wobble or fall in front of friends (or strangers!). I rarely have the courage to sing karaoke or dance in public. I hate working out where other people can see.
You might notice a trend in this list: I have always thought of myself as a klutz, someone who’s good with her brain but not very coordinated or sporty. But the truth is, I love sports. I played soccer and basketball as a kid…but it wasn’t until I started fencing in middle school that I found a sport I really could love wholeheartedly.
At the time, I thought I was so much happier fencing because I was better at it. Looking back, I suspect it’s because it was less awkward for me socially. The other fencers were mostly geeks like me, and because it wasn’t a team sport, no one got mad or blamed me when I lost. (Plus, come on, fencing! To a history nerd, it’s the most glamorous sport EVER.)
I’ve found myself swooning over dancing in movies lately. All kinds: tap, krumping, swing dancing, Broadway musical, ballroom, popping and locking. It just looks like so much fun!
I can’t do that, right? I have no sense of rhythm! I’m uncoordinated! I have two left feet! I’ve never done any kind of formal dancing in my life unless you count that British folk dancing class in college where I could only really do the English country dances, not the Scottish ones, because the English ones only required me to remember where to walk and the Scottish ones required me to learn special footwork and keep a beat! I can dance at parties, but I certainly can’t dance with anyone without feeling hopelessly foolish!
And the thing is, I’ve always just thought of this as part of who I am. It’s something I’m not good at, something I can’t do. But I don’t really believe in natural talent. We’re good at things we care about enough to work at and spend time on. I’m a good writer…because I’ve been reading and writing stories consistently since I was a tiny child. I’ve never put the effort into music or dance. Partly because I was busy with other things, and partly because the other things I was busy with didn’t give me a sneaking sense of inadequacy.
I think maybe it’s time to step outside my comfort zone and sign up for some beginners’ dance lessons.
When’s the last time you did something outside your comfort zone? Did it work out? I could use some inspiration!
WARNING: mild spoilers for the new Harry Potter movie, which I went to see this morning. I may never talk about anything else again.
Sonia and I were discussing that scene in the new movie where Voldemort slaps a sickly, pathetic-looking Lucius Malfoy and says, “How can you live with yourself, Lucius?”
US: Um, he was doing fine until YOU came back.
Then we had the realization…was he? Sure, we saw him swanning around the World Quidditch Cup and stuff, but…he mostly seems to pick on kids!
LUCIUS: Hey, where are those kids you don’t like from school? Maybe we should put them in their place again.
DRACO: Dad, why don’t I ever see you bullying other adults?
LUCIUS: For some reason, they aren’t as intimidated by my snake-cane and sweet hairdo.
I mean, sure, he got in that brawl with Arthur Weasley at the beginning of book 2, but that isn’t really very dignified, is it? Maybe all the adult wizards are laughing at him behind his back and Harry just doesn’t know! Maybe they make fun of his hair! Maybe he has Imposter Syndrome! Maybe he’s ALWAYS been THIS close to a complete loss of confidence/nervous breakdown.
At RWA and having a blast! It’s so great to see/meet everyone!
I mostly ended up staying by my table during the signing (thank you, people who stopped by, you made my YEAR, and it was so nice to meet those of you I already knew online in the flesh!!) but I did sneak out for a bit near the end and managed to get a few signed books to give away on the website over the next little bit: The Betrayal of the Blood Lily by Lauren Willig (this book has one of my favorite difficult heroines and one of my favorite bad first marriages EVER), His at Night by Sherry Thomas (actually her only book I haven’t read yet, how did that happen? I think I got confused and thought I had read it. Should have bought two copies! Luckily I have my Kindle with me), The Spymaster’s Lady by Joanna Bourne (I may have gotten gushy about how much I love Adrian), and Wild Ride by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer (!!!). I got a little starstruck while talking to Jenny Crusie and forgot to tell her that my dad is a huge fan as he asked me to, I hope he won’t be too mad. (Yes, I got my dad hooked on romance!)
I’ve been reading a lot lately and haven’t had time to post on Goodreads, but the conference is making me want to spend hours talking about books! So those of you who have me friended on Goodreads and Twitter may be deluged by reviews in the next few weeks. Sorry!
Also Susanna Fraser and I went to the Pompeii exhibit this morning. So awesome! Apparently the discovery of the ruins of the nearby city of Herculaneum in 1709 and the later discovery of Pompeii and their excavation was really important to the creation of modern archaeology and a lot of that was happening in the 18th and early 19th century. I wish to learn more. LOTS more. Anyone have any book suggestions?
That was a lot of exclamation points, huh? Whatever, it’s that kind of week.
1. My The Persuaders! post is up at favoritethingEVER.com! How can you resist a show with this promo shot:
How? I ask you.
2. Cecilia Grant just made a fantastic post about the importance of the reader’s input in genre fiction:
They played this one number – a quieter love song that had been a radio hit – and the audience, most of whom seemed to be young women and all of whom seemed to know the words, sang along. And when the chorus came around for the second time, the singer stepped back from the mike and the audience kept on singing by themselves.
I suppose this isn’t uncommon in rock concerts, but in that moment, it just seemed like such a clear and lovely illustration of the audience’s role in realizing – completing – a piece of popular art. The artist writes the song, records it, sends it out into the world, and it’s not really complete until it’s received by someone to whom it means something. The audience gives it that last little spark; makes it real, like the Velveteen Rabbit.
Readers and my imagined audience and my experience as the audience of other people’s stories and my connection with other writers/readers are a HUGE part of my creative process so this post really resonated with me.
Okay, so my friend and I are looking through Those Glorious Glamour Years, an awesome old book I have about female movie stars’ costumes in the 30s and 40s. And we just stumbled across this:
Although many Hollywood stars made fortunes during their careers and actually wore glorious outfits like these off screen, acceptance by the blueblood society were often out of reach. Several stars married titled men in an effort to break into polite society, but most marriages were a sham. One designer who often fitted stars in their homes remarked that he once went to the home of a newly married and newly titled star and found that her bedroom was an enormous and gorgeous thing. There was a dressing room, a huge bath, and vast closets. A little hallway led to a small, meagerly furnished bedroom where the ‘prince’ slept. He entered her bedroom only on call was paid an allowance by that star for services rendered.
And now all I want in the world is a romantic comedy set in the 30s about a charming and impoverished English lord who marries an imperious Hollywood star for her money and then woos her charmingly while she bosses him around and tries to redecorate his enormous ancestral home in garish American styles. It would be ADORABLE. There could be a creepy housekeeper à la Mrs. Danvers from Rebecca only the heroine would be totally unimpressed by her and boss her around and Mrs. Danvers wouldn’t even know how to deal with it.
I WANT THIS BOOK.
Susanna Fraser is a new author of historical romance learning the publishing world while juggling a day job and a family. Her first novel, The Sergeant’s Lady, was released August 23rd from Carina Press. She’s my critique partner, and I can tell you firsthand that her book is fantastic. Plus, look at this sweet cover:
Thank you for inviting me to be a guest on your blog! Today I decided to skip the usual discussion of how I became a writer, what inspired The Sergeant’s Lady in particular, and so on, and talk about an unexpected side effect of historical research.
You get crushes on dead guys.
Or, I do, at least. It’s sort of like actor/character crushes, only instead of Team Edward and Team Jacob, you get, say, Team Napoleon and Team Wellington. And I’m on Team Wellington. In a big way. He isn’t the only man of the era I admire–I wouldn’t kick Michel Ney out of bed for eating crackers, f’rex–but Wellington is on top of my time travel Free Pass List.
When I started researching the British Army of the Napoleonic Era, I was predisposed to dislike Wellington. I’d picked up a vague impression that he was a cold, heartless elitist. But when I actually met the man on the pages of history, I discovered that he was a level-headed, reserved man in a world that favored the expansive and emotional, that he worried more about seeing that his soldiers’ needs were met than making himself loved…and that he was totally an elitist. I could never agree with his politics, and I can’t even wrap my common American brain around his views on class.
But still. Six months or so into my research, I read some anecdote where Wellington was waxing snarky on some underling–I think it was the one where a commissary officer complained that one of the divisional generals had threatened to have him hanged if he was late with the rations again, and Wellington coolly responded something to the effect of, “Then I should be on time tomorrow if I were you. Picton is a man of his word.” I thought, “Dang, but I like that elitist Tory sumbitch.”
And the next time I encountered his portrait–it may have been this one–I thought, “And he was kinda hot, too. Actually, not even kinda. Just hot.” Something about the long nose, intense eyes, and general air of confidence and competence is hella sexy to me even when it’s an oil painting of a man of my great-great-great-great-grandfather’s generation. He wasn’t unusually tall, but he was long and lean in a way that the men’s clothes of the era totally flattered. And he’s on a horse. The Old Spice Guy is totally right about the hotness of that.
Would Wellington have liked me, though? Well, he seemed to like his women friends, platonic and otherwise, to be intelligent and politically savvy, and I like to think I’m both. On the other hand, no amount of admiring his hotness, snark, and brilliance as a general could ever make me agree with his politics–I mean, come on! He opposed the Reform Act of 1832! Talk about being on the wrong side of history!–and I don’t get the sense being disagreed with was one of his turn-ons. So even if the TARDIS shows up on my doorstep tomorrow and the Doctor offers me a trip to 1812 or so, I doubt my husband needs to worry about my fidelity too much. (Unless it’s the Ninth Doctor, yum…just kidding, dear!)
Tell me your favorite historical crush, or how crazy you find the concept of having the hots for a dead guy. One commenter wins a free download of The Sergeant’s Lady, a book I’m sure Wellington would’ve disapproved of for its cross-class love story…though he did read the romance novels of his day. On a voyage back to England from India in 1805, his reading list included novels with the suggestive titles Illicit Love, Lessons for Lovers, Fashionable Involvements, Filial Indiscretion or the Female Chevalier, and Love at First Sight. There’s a mental image for you…the future victor of Waterloo lounging in his cabin with a love story.
I have to admit, Susanna’s Wellington crush has totally rubbed off on me. Yeah, I’d hit that. Of course, I’ve always been a sucker for a big nose. I have to disagree with her about the Doctor though–it’s Eleven all the way for me.
You can buy The Sergeant’s Lady here. Plus, Susanna will be giving away a free download of the book to one commenter on this post!
So comment away: tell us about your top historical crush, whether you’re on Team Wellington or Team Napoleon, or who your favorite Time Lord is!