Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The role of secondary characters...

I LOVE my secondary characters. Sometimes so much, I fear they're going to steal the show, so to speak. But they do have a role.

Remember the movie A Knight's tale?? Just when things look the bleakest for Will, a secondary character reveals himself and all is changed...

Now, at first, while I loved the revelation, I did worry about the whole Deus Ex Machina thing, but it turns out that this character only made it possible for Will to face down his foe, he didn't SOLVE the problem for him.

So, in the end, the writer(s) used this secondary character perfectly - building up mystery around him, having him step forward when necessary, but never allowing him to take over and steal the hero's thunder.

Do you use movies to help you with characterization and other story elements?


Currently Reading: Mistress of the Sun by Sandra Gulland
Link of the Day: Sun Court Bibliography

Friday, April 25, 2008

Two queries out...

Ok, so not a spectacular number there, but better than nothing! I'm in the midst of judging AND am expecting more contract work as well. But I keep plugging away. Every time I think I should give up, I read some of my favourite scenes and get inspired again. I LOVE this story so much.

How do YOU stay inspired to keep submitting?

Our weekend looks to be a busy one, with family coming to visit. Should be fun :) Especially as, at least for Saturday, the weather is looking half-decent.


Currently Reading: The Wheel of Fortune by Susan Howatch
Link of the Day: Best of History Websites from Princeton University Library

Monday, April 21, 2008

Caught without a camera...

Grrr. Sean and I went for a great walk yesterday. There are several great trails within easy reach of our house and we ended up on a couple Sean had forgotten about. Both led us to a nearby creek, with spectacular views of both and a neat little footbridge. Then we climbed up a rock face (via a winding path - no real rock-climbing involved) to visit a gorgeous arbutus tree and gaze out over the Georgia Strait to Vancouver Island (where they had 30cm of snow on Saturday morning!).

We were out for nearly two hours and saw so many cool things I wanted to photograph, including old bridge pilings, a cool little foot bridge and a small waterfall. OTOH, it's not like they're going anywhere!

On the writing front, I have a couple of query letters almost ready to go, once I've picked over my one-page synopsis one last time. And I'm almost done with my judging duties for now.


Currently Reading: The Breached Wall by Anita Burgh
Link of the Day: Online Scholarly Primary Resources

Monday, April 14, 2008

Historical Fiction Challenge...

On my recent internet travels, I found this cool reading challenge. Now, for me, six books in six months is usually not an issue, but I still want to participate. There are books in my TBR pile, including the ones I bought this weekend (more on that below) that I have been meaning to read, but haven't quite gotten around to yet. So I'm going to make this list and stick to it:

1) Mistress of the Sun by Sandra Gulland
2) March by Geraldine Brooks
3) Galileo's Daughter by Dava Sobel
4) Versailles by Kathryn Davis
5) The Secret Book of Grazia dei Rossi by Jacqueline Park
6) Burning Bright by Tracy Chevalier

Now, I'm already a huge fan of Gulland and Chevalier, having read all their earlier novels. Brooks is a more recent find - I reviewed her most recent offering - People of the Book - for the HNS. My mum has read March (she gave me my copy) and Year of Wonders, as well as PotB and highly recommends the others.

GD I've heard lots of good things about and the final two have been on my TBR shelf for several years now and I really do want to get to them. This might be just the inspiration to pick them up and read them :)

So, how 'bout you - are you up for the challenge?

As I mentioned above, I bought several books on the weekend, at the book sale in aid of the Friends of the Sechelt Library (where I volunteer). As well as Galileo's Daughter, I picked up The Time Traveller's Wife, a mystery by John Dunning, Georgette Heyer's novel about William the Conqueror, some very cool exhibition catalogues on old coins and militaria and more:

The exhibition catalogues are fantastic - they have pics of swords and medals from my period, along with detailed descriptions and some history. For those who write hf, venture into the art history area of your library and see if they carry any of these wonderful sources. You're more likely to find them at a big research library, than a smaller local branch, or, as I did, at a book sale.

Ok - on with my day, now. We had a busy weekend. Sean stacked fire wood on Saturday, while I worked on burning more brush. Lots to catch up on here in my little office.


Currently Reading: The Wheel of Fortune by Susan Howatch
Link of the Day: Research page of Sandra Gulland's website

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Getting the history right...

Every year I judge a few contests. It's one of the ways I like to give back to RWA. And every year I find myself so frustrated by people who don't seem to do their research. Now there are some things that are obscure and hard to find out, and that's fine.

But there are basic things that can be found easily with a quick search that just seem to be ignored. And words that get used that yank me right out of the story. And it frustrates me. Why bother writing a historical if you're not going to do the research? Now obviously, we can't write in Middle English, but don't use words that are so clearly out of period. And again, a quick check at Etymonline and Dictionary.com (which seems to have added some etymological entries) will tell you whether or not you're way off base.

And don't assume you know something about a period. Really - that's very dangerous. I can't even count the number of times I've been caught out by that - thinking I KNOW something, when in fact I'm dead wrong.

But I still go back to my question - why write a historical if you don't want to at least make a half-decent attempt at recreating that world? Is it the pretty costumes? The heroes in armour? What?

This is a plea to all those who want to write a historical romance - do your research. Please. Even if it's just a wall paper historical, you need to get the basics right.

Ok - rant over.


Currently Reading: The Wheel of Fortune by Susan Howatch
Link of the Day: History Buff - Author Michelle Moran's blog

Friday, April 04, 2008

Books and reading...

Melissa's post got me thinking about books and reading. Like her, I've been reading for as long as I can remember. I get this from both sides of the family, especially my mum's side:

That's my Nana as a young girl. SHE was a reader and my mum and my aunts are as well - don't know so much about my uncles. Interesting that it runs in families - is it nature or nurture? Would I have been a reader if my mum hadn't been? I've no way of knowing. But it's a bond that holds us all together. I remember writing to Nana about books I'd read and was touched when my mum chose a couple from her collection for me when she died.

My babcia read a lot as well,

as did my paternal aunt.

Similarly, my sister is also an avid reader, and her kids are too, especially my older nephew who read Harry Potter himself when he was seven and is happy to curl up with a book pretty much any time.

Like Melissa, I'll buy books and leave them alone for years before actually reading them. It's comforting knowing they're there, waiting for just the right time :)

Fortunately I married someone who appreciates books and reading as much as I do! He understands my need to acquire new "friends", though does insist from time to time that I send some out for adoption so there's room for the new ones *g*. In fact, when I go to the big book sale in aid of the Sechelt library next weekend, I'll have to remember not to bring home the friends I sent out for adoption *vbg*.

That's why I love volunteering at the library - I meet people who are book lovers like me. And find all kinds of interesting things to read in the stacks there - the collection is quite varied. And I love seeing all the children in there.

I catalogue my books using Book Collector (I know I've mentioned this before) and hope at some point to be able to get the CueCat Barcode scanner or maybe even the very fancy laser scanner, to help speed up the process. I enter books as I buy them now, but am still way behind on inputting much of my collection.

Are books a big part of your life?


Currently Reading: I'm trying to decide what to read next
Link of the Day: My collection at Library Thing

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Thanks and family history, again...

First - thanks to all for the encouragement and advice. Yes, chocolate does help :) I did manage to do a bit yesterday. Mainly starting a chart to show how my three stories link together and try to figure out how to make sure the threads stay untangled. And hoping that I might spark some ideas. I also have my contemp story that has started to nag again. Hmmmm.

Meanwhile, Sean sent me a link the other day for passenger lists for ships leaving the UK b/w 1890 and 1960. I was able to find two of my uncles, but not my dad, aunt or babcia. Very strange. Even using wildcards didn't help, yet I'm certain they didn't fly over here.

That however, got me started at the overall website, FindMyPast.com and I was off and running. I managed to track down the info for the death certificates for quite a few of my relatives. Of course, they cost seven pounds a pop, so I won't be able to order more than one or two at a time. But I'm hoping the info contained therein will help me work back even further.

One cool thing I did discover when looking through some of the paperwork I already have, is a child born to my great-great-grandparents in 1859/60 who doesn't appear in the family tree. Why? Because she must have died young. She's there in the 1861 Census return (aged 1), but not in 1871. Coincidentally enough, the only daughter of one of my cousins has her name.

Family history has a way of just dragging me in. My background, like so many of us here in North America, is quite varied - one branch of my mum's family is descended from Sephardic Jews, while waaaaaay back in my maternal grandmother's heritage are the Teutonic knights. I LOVE reading through the original docs when I can find them, noting down street addresses etc. A friend of mine has written the history of one side of her family and I'd love to do the same, though narrowing it down to which particular story to tell isn't easy, as there's so much to choose from.

What about you? Are you into genealogy/family history?


Currently Considering ReReading: The Wheel of Fortune by Susan Howatch
Link of the Day: Family Search