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Monthly Archives: October 2011

Georgette Heyer and Regency Historicals

I have a new addiction–Georgette Heyer. Someone put up a post a while back about going back and rereading Cotillion every couple of years, so I finally downloaded it and read it. Yes, it is highly rereadable! I liked it so much that I downloaded The Nonesuch for 1.99 at B&N, and I’m halfway through it as well.

I feel quite certain that I read some Georgette Heyer as a teenager. But I didn’t pay much attention to author names back then, so they all blur into Victoria Holt and Barbara Cartland. So I have dozens of books to read! This is almost as good as when I first discovered Jane Austen!

What is it about the Regency period that is so entrancing? It’s definitely the culture; take a Regency novel out of England and you have quite a different flavor. Of course, the term “Regency” doesn’t apply much if it’s not in England, because that’s the country that had the Prince Regent in question. Curious that he never seems to show up in any Regency novels …

Has anyone ever read a novel–romance or otherwise–that takes place outside of England during the 1810s and 1820s? Like, say, New York? I would think such a novel would be rather grim. I remember reading a novel that took place in India–a rather torrid romance, as I recall.

But Georgette Heyer is quite clean. One kiss at the end, with no particular details.

If you’ve read Georgette Heyer, do you have any particular recommendations for me?

Guest Post – Cover Art and Symbols

Kimber An is an old blog buddy of mine–you’ve seen her here before! She writes YA fantasy and science fiction. Her Ophelia Dawson novels are a blend of both, like many urban fantasies. Except, since these take place in the wilds of Alaska, they are decidedly not urban. The first book is Sugar Rush, the second (a novella) is Crushed Sugar, and the third, newly released, is Sweet Bytes. Here, she writes about the symbols in cover art.

~*~

Cover Art & Symbols

By Kimber An

Good morning!  My new book, Sweet Bytes, was released by Noble YA last week and I’ve been seeking out cover contests.  C.H. Scarlett did it and I was just stunned.  I’m still rather stunned!  Isn’t it gorgeous?  So, I thought I’d post about the cover symbols.

I was a blogging book reviewer before publication, like Tia, and I’ve seen, I don’t know, thousands of book covers maybe.  And I’ve read the woeful tales of authors who got stuck with cover art they hate.  It seems like every author gets at least one book cover they can’t stand.  A few get more than their fair share.  Only rarely does an author score great cover art every single release, it seems.  Lisa Shearin is one whom I think has been blessed by the cover art angels.  I’ve loved all of hers.

I’ve loved all of mine too!

My latest completely stunned me.  I think maybe it’s the bear and the ice coupled with the young woman obviously longing for her mate.  I think in pictures.  My stories create themselves in full color images like a movie on Blu-Ray.  But, they’re all jumbled together.  I have to work very hard to sort them out in a story.

Sorting out the images for a book cover is beyond me.  I’m baffled how an artist can take all these images and come up with such beauty.

Okay, so here’s the symbols on the Sweet Bytes cover.

First, you have the heroine, Ophelia Dawson, long red hair and in a gorgeous formal dress.  It’s her prom dress, in fact.  The skirt was long, but it ripped half way off while fleeing and fighting the baddies.

Second, you see her spotting a young man in the distance.  That’s Adrian, her soul-mate.  She believed he was dead.  Now, there he is, alive.  How will she react?

Third, you see the ice and snow glistening under an enormous full moon.  That symbolizes Alaska, my home state and where most of the series takes place.

Fourth, the bear is Shesh and she represents Alaska Native culture, which I’ve intertwined with the Scandinavian roots of Ophelia’s family.  Shesh also represents the strong maternal instinct to protect, wisdom, and the wildness of Alaska.

Finally, you see the ravens flying.  In Europe, the raven represents death, but in Alaska the raven is revered for its intelligence and ability to endure.  In the Ophelia Dawson stories, the raven represents the Benevolent Oldbloods, the good vampires.

I love symbols.  I guess because I’m such a visual thinker.  You can convey so much meaning in one image.  It’s powerful.

Thank you, Tia, for having me here today!

~*~

Sweet Bytes
by Kimber An

Ophelia’s escape from Martin, an Addicted Newblood, came at a terrible sacrifice.  Adrian, the boy she loves, is now infected and hunted like vermin.

As her new Protector, Tristan Li represents the Oldblood determination to destroy Adrian, along with all the Newbloods, addicted or not.

In her grief, Ophelia hates everything about Tristan, until his subtle strength empowers her to resist being turned into a vampire by the High Prefect.

As Tristan helps Ophelia harness her empathic ability, his need for redemption rings in her heart.  Her own strength grows, along with her passion for freedom.

The veil of mourning lifts.

The evil of Martin returns.

Ophelia seizes ownership of her destiny.

 

I Heart My iPad

OMG I love my iPad so much. I got the bottom-of-the-line version a couple of weeks ago, and it is just so fun. Why didn’t Microsoft ever try to make Windows a joy to use as Apple did for their products? I finally understand why Apple computer users have been so loyal over the years.

One of my favorite apps is Flipboard. It has made browsing blogs, Twitter and Facebook a breeze. I have been more prevalent on your blogs these days because of Flipboard. It presents the most recent blog (or twitter, or facebook) articles in a magazine-like format, and I just touch the articles that catch my eye. Google Reader no more!

I also experimented with some mind-mapping software, and none of them were free-form enough for my purposes. So I went to the computer and downloaded Freemind on my laptop, an open-source application, and even it wasn’t what I wanted. So I went back to my old Wiki, TiddlyWiki, and I guess I’ll stick with that for my storybuilding needs.

I also downloaded the Dragon Dictation app, where Nuance software gives you a very nice dictation app in the hopes of selling you the 100 dollar Dragon Naturally Speaking. I am VERY tempted …

Pages is promising but it doesn’t have track changes. A big drawback, but it WAS ten dollars as opposed to one hundred and twenty. I plan to use it to finish reading my long-suffering critique partner’s manuscript, and hopefully find a way to write notes at the same time.

My daughter and I are having fun with the Treasure Seeker puzzle games. We are on the first game. I can see buying up and playing the other games in the series.

The native apps are where the iPad shines. The email, calendar and contacts apps are very elegant and make even browsing email fun. The new iMessage app is fun, but not very useful because of a dearth of people I have to chat with. Same goes for FaceTime. (I know my sisters have iPhones, but none seem to be using these apps.) An annoyance was the newsstand, which you couldn’t even tuck away in a folder–except I found a semi-hack to do that, so now I don’t have to look at it. The Safari browser is a bit of a letdown because it doesn’t seem as easy as the version I have on my iPod Touch (??), and the resolution of the built-in camera is not quite up to the standards of the iPad’s own screen resolution.

But on the whole, I have few complaints, and lot of phrase.

So I’m finding that the IPad works well for some thing, but not very well for others. One thing it’s great for is social networking, but it’s not so great for writing blog posts. You can pull the keyboard apart so you can easily thumb-type while holding the ipad, but you can’t pull the keyboard apart at some nice midrange to allow you to more comfortably touch-type.

Will it help me be more productive? Absolutely! Will it help me goof off? Absolutely! Will I read books on it? Probably not. (Too heavy. My Nook is much better for book reading.) Should you get one? I don’t know. Steve Jobs has died and he was a big reason apple made such great products–he was a brilliant designer. I remember being wowed by the NeXt computer — which was also his brainchild — years and years ago. Do they have another designer as brilliant? I don’t know, but I suspect something will be missing from future Apple products–a part of his designer voice, for lack of a better word. Android tablets aren’t even in the same league. That’s why I waited until a bit of a windfall put an iPad in my price range.

(Actually, I think I did just give you a good reason to go out and buy one–it might be the last great Apple product.)

Bottom line–I love it. If you’re looking for a tablet, you might want to hold out for one of these rather than getting a cheaper Android tablet. The difference is worth it.

NaNoWriMo – Who's With Me?

(I started to write this as my usual 3-in-one Sunday afternoon post–in fact, I already wrote all three topics–but I decided that was stupid and I will post each topic separately.)

Yes, I am going to participate in NaNoWriMo this year! With caveats.

I’ve been told that a novella writer should be able to write a 15,000 word novella in a month, and so I am going to try. Yes, I know that the *official* NaNoWriMo goal is 50,000 words, but I’d have to neglect my family to be able to attain that goal, and I know you wouldn’t want me to do that.

I think 500 words a day is highly attainable. And the discipline of having to write every day will be good for me. I have a very full life (my cup truly runneth over) and I can’t complain at all except that at the end of the day, I am sometimes too wiped out too write. My blood pressure meds are partially to blame, so it’s kind of a vicious cycle. I have a cup of tea in the evening to counteract the sleepies, but I can’t drink too much because caffeine can adversely affect blood pressure.

I’m going to try to figure out some widget that will enable me to put my status up here on the sidebar somewhere. I’m sure one exists.

Not sure what can be done with it, but here’s my NaNoWriMo profile.

Who else is in? Maybe I’ll make a sidebar of NaNoWriMo buddies.

This Week in Research – Little People

When I’m doing research, I often find myself researching the small details. Well, but bulk of my research for my Snow White retelling has been big details about small people: namely little people.

I have become a frequent visitor to LPA, or Little People of America. It’s a fabulous website, chock full of information and things I, being typically sized, would never have thought of.

Achondroplasia is the most common form of dwarfism, but there are many different causes of short stature. Most of the dwarfs in my story have this form of dwarfism. Two characters are merely short. In my story, a female with Achondroplasia is married to a typical man who is short. They have a six foot son. When one person with this condition has a child with someone that does not, the chance of a child with Achondroplasia is 50%.

People with this condition often develop lower back problems. There are certain adaptive products available to little people. These chairs not only have short legs, but they have short seat backs, high arm rests, and sometimes built-in footrests. I never would have guessed the high arm rests, but I learned that many people with Achondroplasia have upper arms and legs that are shorter than their lower arms and legs.

I also looked into mobility products, but since my story takes place in times past, I don’t need to read about things like pedal extenders and extra seat cushions in cars to accommodate driving–but I did anyway. A good many people with Achondroplasia also have to use walkers.

But really, the reason I wanted to write about little people has little to do with the Snow White story. When I came up with the Accidental Enchantments theme, I drew some sketches of some characters I had in mind for four stories. One was the prince in Snow White, who I have mostly kept intact with my original vision. However, I only had 1500 words written. I couldn’t make the story work until I came up with Gretchen, a young woman with Achondroplasia. Then, I was able to write the rough draft in six weeks.

And I wanted to write about such a person because they are rare enough to be memorable, yet so rare in fiction. When I have an interaction with a little person, I remember it for years and years. I realize that this is probably both a burden and a blessing to such people. But because of these people who remain fixed in my memory, I wanted to write this story. I’m glad Snow White gave me the impetus to do so, but i wanted them to be genuine characters, not caricatures. And I wanted them to be the main characters.

I just hope I don’t botch it.

This Week – Acacia Trilogy – Device Chat

Hey! First “This Week” post in a while. And what is the occasion? A guest post scheduled for Friday!

Since I figured I better liven things up around here for my guest, I also have another Weekly Research post, which is where I write about the things I’ve researched lately. Always fun. That will post on Tuesday. Plus, I always have book reviews to write, so I’ll endeavor to write a review on a recent epic fantasy that takes place in a nonwestern culture. WooHoo!

~*~

In other news, David Anthony Durham‘s third Acacia book is out! It’s called Sacred Band, and of course I’ll be getting a copy. In hardcover. Despite the fact that I have several very satisfactory electronic reading devices. Why spend the money? Because I have the other two books in hardcover and it’ll look so nice to have all three. I’m a book snob that way; sue me.

~*~

Speaking of satisfactory reading devices, I bought an iPad. It was a rare splurge. I got the cheapest one, and it’s probably overpriced, and I’m just enriching a corporation that often behaves badly, but damn. You have to admit that Apple puts out a product that is terribly elegant and a joy to use.

It does mean that I probably won’t buy a Nook Touch any time soon. But I am still using my Nook–used it today, in fact–and so far, Barnes and Noble is still putting out updates for it. Which install quite effortlessly on my rooted Nook. Which, by the way, really didn’t bring me anything other than a certain cachet in having successfully hacked something. Which wasn’t really hacking because I followed a set of very specific instructions.

Anyway, I’m also thinking of hacking my old iPod Touch because Apple doesn’t put out updates for it anymore, and it has some damned annoyances. It is an orphan device. I’m feeling the pressure to buy a new one, rather than foisting this old, soon-to-be-hacked one off on my daughter. I wonder if, in two years, Apple won’t likewise orphan my iPad because they want me to upgrade to their new whiz-bank device of the year.

I’ll probably be really good at hacking these things by then.

Review: The Case of the Missing Servant

The Case of the Missing Servant
by Tarquin Hall
Simon & Schuster

Cozy Contemporary Mystery

I did a Debut Showcase on this novel a while back and I always meant to go back and read it. Now, I finally have.

The Case of the Missing Servant is about Vish Puri, a Delhi detective. Unlike most detective stories that I’ve read, this novel is not about Vish’s origins as a detective. He is a well-established detective, highly competent, with contacts in every nook and cranny of Delhi life. He is portly and unassuming, and is happy to have people underestimate him–including his clients.

The cover above is wonderful. The picture of the traffic is not exaggerated–which will be a bit unbelievable to Western readers, who are accustomed to orderly traffic, with well-enforced traffic laws. One of the running gags in the story is Vish is trying to get his driver to abide by traffic laws–including following the speed limit laws–which is just a bit unreasonable to the driver, who lives on the verge of quitting over the matter.

I’m not as happy with this cover, for the UK. What were they thinking?

Anyway, the reader is immersed in the world of Delhi’s upper middle class, with its household servants, corrupt court systems, and gentlemen’s clubs. It’s fun. What it’s not is suspenseful. Don’t expect a nail-biter, here. The reader is presented with a small set of cases that Vish is involved in during the span of time it takes for him to solve the main murder mystery. This includes the investigation of a man for a potential marriage match, and the the investigation of Vish’s attempted murder (which he shrugs off) by his mother (who is considerably more upset by the matter). Oh, and the missing servant.

It is also fairly critical of some aspects of Indian life, especially it’s court system. Remember Bleak House? That novel was so bleak that I couldn’t get through it. As in Dickens’s England, cases take years to churn through the court system. People go broke while waiting for their cases to be solved, and they grow old and die to have the matter taken up by their children. Bleak? Yeah. Fortunately, Mr. Hall does not dwell on it overmuch, but I’m not sure if actual Indians will enjoy this novel.

I enjoyed this novel quite a bit, reading it from cover to cover in just a few days. The next Vish Puri book is out, The Case of the Man who Died Laughing. It’s on my buy list. If you like cozy mysteries, then this is one to check out.

Sample Sunday #1 – From The Sevenfold Spell

I decided to take part in #samplesunday, a Twitter hashtag that links to one of your books or works-in-progress. The idea is to post your sample, and then read and retweet other people’s samples.

In this sample, Talia is starting to regret her promiscuous lifestyle, and to wish for something different.

~*~

My infrequent confessions went something like this:

“I have not been chaste, as a maiden ought,” I would say to the priest.

“With whom have you not been chaste?”

“A butcher. A baker. A candlestick maker.”

“And are you sorry for these sins?”

“No, I can’t say that I am.”

“Then until you are, your soul will bear its burden.”

The local bachelors talked about me, I know. They traded stories—but they always went happily to my bed. To the aisle? Never.

I spoke of it to Harla, sometimes. “I would make a good wife,” I said.

“I’ve no doubt of that,” she said.

“I’m ready to be faithful to a good man who would have me,” I said. “I would devote myself to him and his children.”

“You’re thinking of Willard.”

“Yes.”

“Did you love him, then?”

“I didn’t think of it as love. There wasn’t any time to think of anything but having him.”

“We all thought you went mad for him.”

“I did. I wanted his child.”

She looked at me in shock. “Out of wedlock?”

“I couldn’t have him, so I wanted a piece of him.”

“Then, you really did love him.”

I didn’t reply, but I did wonder about that. Why did I offer myself to him? Although to lie with him had been my own choice, it would have never been a choice I would have made had we been able to marry. I thought of the child I had wanted so badly, of little Aurora who was never conceived. She would be coming on her menses about now, had she been born. More often, I thought of Willard. Eventually, I realized that I had loved him, just like Harla said. It was the only explanation that made any sense.

And it was the only explanation that accounted for my odd taste in men. I was picky, in my own way. I looked for the men so often rejected by other women: the too thin, the too chubby, the too pocked, the too graying. But I also looked for shyness, for awkwardness, for the socially inept. Was I looking for another Willard? Perhaps. I never found one, but I did find some men who stayed with me for lengths of time that measures in months rather than weeks. One even stayed with me for over a year.

Only one was handsome.

~*~

I bet you think you know what is going to happen in the next scene. However, I think it will surprise you. It certainly surprised me.

The Week in Research

Welcome to a new feature. I hope it interests you. It’s where I write about what I’ve researched, lately. I love research, and I’ve been meaning to start this feature for quite some time.

So I’m writing about some events that take place on a farm. Yeah, I know, The Sevenfold Spell also took place partially on a farm. But farm life was very common in the centuries before this one and the previous one, so I think I’m good.

Another important fact about the story: it takes place in an unnamed Germanic country.

Anyway, I had envisioned this scene that took place at the top of a grain silo. When did farmers start using grain silos, I wondered? I looked it up. Not until grain elevators were invented. In other words, fairly recently. Scratch that scene. It’s been totally rewritten.

See how research can drive the story?

Anyway, I’m happily writing away about life on this farm, and I have this scene envisioned that takes place in a kitchen. I start wondering if German kitchens had any significant differences from ours. And then I wondered if I was totally off in my vision of a typical family farmhouse in Germany during Little House-ish times, or maybe a hundred years before. What was the kitchen like? How were the bedrooms arranged? Did they even have bedrooms?

Good thing it occurred to me to wonder that. Behold, the German Farmhouse:

The Low German Farmhouse, to be exact. It is what’s called an einhaus, or a “one-house”, called so because the house and the barn are one. Note the windows in the back. That’s the part of the house that’s inhabited by humans. The rest of the house is occupied by cows, horses and other farm animals–except pigs. They get a separate building because they stink so bad.

That big yawning door opens to an aisle between animal stalls. Where the window starts, the aisle becomes the top of a T, where the kitchen is, toward the back-center of the house. Behind that is the living area. The farmhands and the female servants have quarters just before the T–between the animals and the people.

Fascinating.

It changes huge swaths of my story.

But it also adds a lot of atmosphere and interest, I think. I thought briefly about taking away the German-ness of the story, but I decided to carry on. Snow White is a German story, and I wanted to make it German from the start. I have given everyone German names, and right now, it would be very difficult for me to change them.

I love that picture. Pictures are so valuable to research. Descriptions are all and good, but a picture can tell you so much more. So I have scoured the Internets for pictures of the interior of that Low German Farmhouse, without success. I found German open air museums–the above picture is from one, in fact–but they only have pictures of the exterior.

I did find a floorplan:

Fortunately, the Wikipedia entry gives a translation. Mostly. Google Translate helped.

  • Einfahrstor – entrance gate.
  • Diele – threshing floor. The harvest was gathered there, and the wagon was stored here. A huge hall. Could be used for parties while the cows and horses looked on. The chickens were kept near the entrance gate.
  • Stall – stalls for horses and cows.
  • Futter – food. Maybe a pantry? I also saw another plan that identified this as the room for the farmhands.
  • Gesinde – servants.
  • Flett – large, open-air kitchen and dining area.
  • Feuerstelle – fireplace.
  • Seitentor – side gate.
  • Stube – room. The living area.
  • Tragender Holzstander – identifies the locations of the weight-bearing columns. Some farmhouses were 3 or 5 posts wide. This one is a two-post house.

And that is my fascinating research entry for the week. I hope you enjoyed it. And if you happen to have any pictures of the interior of a Low German Farmhouse–perhaps from a museum trip (I understand there’s one in Iowa, so this isn’t too much of a stretch)–I would love to see them.

Is Iowa too far away from Florida for a road trip? Hmm.