Posts Tagged ‘Historical Fiction’
I’m so excited about this! I’ve been waiting for this book for a long time. Greenwood Tree is one amazing concoction of Historical Fiction, Mystery, Fantasy and suspense. It is Agatha Christie and something else all in one. It’s pure imagination at it’s very finest. B. Lloyd is a talent to be reckoned with. She’s my beta reader, my editor, my illustrator and my friend. And I’m so pleased to see this wonderful book at last available. (Or very soon to be, at any rate.) And to celebrate it’s imminent release, I have permission to give you a peek of the cover.
‘Well, what do all mysteries have?’ said Aunt Isobel. ‘Money, mistresses, and murder.’
1783 – and Lichfield society is enthralled by the arrival of dashing ex-officer Orville; he charms his way into the salons, grand houses and even a great inheritance from extrovert Sir Morton.
1927 – and detective writer Julia Warren returns to her home in Lichfield to work on her next novel. Initially she hopes to find plot material from the past and set it in the present. Aunt Isobel, while making preparations for the annual midsummer ball, has managed to root out an old journal from 1783 which might prove a source of inspiration. Once Julia starts reading her ancestor’s journal she becomes absorbed in solving the mystery surrounding officer Orville. Detective fever takes over, and she moves from reality to legend as events from the past seem set to re-enact themselves in the present, and she finds herself unravelling more than just the one mystery. Who was Orville? Who was the agent, Oddman, set to spy on him? And who is helpful Mr Grenall ?
Pagan gods don’t walk away just because you stop looking at them. The Gronny Patch sleeps. Perhaps it dreams. Or perhaps not …
A complex, multi-layered story unlike any other, full of whimsy, horror, and mystery, shifting between the centuries and from source to source, until all the threads are finally drawn together by the imperturbable Miss Warren.
Take a peek at the trailer!
A little about the author!
A Bustle attached to a keyboard, occasionally to be seen floating on a canal …
After studying Early Music in Italy followed by a brief career in concert performance, the Bustle exchanged vocal parts for less vocal arts i.e. a Diploma from the Accademia di Belle Arti di Venezia.
Her inky mess, both graphic and verbal, can be found in various regions of the Web, and appendaged to good people’s works (for no visible reason that she can understand).
At present exploring the mysteries of Northumberland, although if there is a place she could call true home, it would be Venice…while the fields of Waterloo hold a certain resonance for her as well…
More here :
& here :
For those who enjoy Twittery:
Do drop by @AuthorsAnon
as she enjoys a chat
(Warning: Please expect occasional bouts of nonsense).
Are you as excited as I am?
It’s not too early to order a copy!
Amazon UK (pre-order) (hardcover) http://www.amazon.co.uk/Greenwood-Tree-B-Lloyd/dp/1909374563
Amazon US (pre-order) paperback: http://www.amazon.com/Greenwood-Tree-B-Lloyd/dp/1909374571/ref=tmm_pap_title_0
Pre-order page on the publisher’s website : http://www.greycellspress.co.uk/pre-order-our-titles/
I have had numerous requests to continue their story. Really, I thought I’d said all there was to say. Yes, I left it hanging, only . . . not really. I implied where it would go. Roger would have to prove himself, and Claire would have to trust him. And Claire, being an extrovert in contrast to the introverted Imogen, would certainly be able to do that. Sooner or later.
I even had one reader base their review of Moths on the answer to the question of whether the next book is about them. It’s not. It isn’t about anyone involved in Moths. That will come with the third book, but really . . . a theme, and a few minor characters, are all that tie the three books together. (And some rather amazing graphics.)
So what is it about these two that either makes people love Moths or hate it? They are just two minor characters. That is all.
What is it about Claire and Roger? How does their story end? And does it end happily? And you know . . . it got me thinking.
Last year I had a goal to write a short story a month. I didn’t quite make it, and so this year I’m filling in the gaps. It’s Lent. “A season of bright sadness.” What a beautiful expression. What a beautiful idea! And Lent, if you think about it, is such a wise and beautiful holiday. Give up something, sacrifice it, in remembrance of Him who sacrificed himself for us. I like it. And what a better world it would be if we all learned to bridle our passions, to give up those things that poison our lives.
What would Roger have to give up? And would his sacrifice be enough? Can he ever truly win the trust and unadulterated affection of the woman he loves?
I hadn’t thought there was much more to tell of Roger and Claire. It seems I was wrong.
Announcement the first!
The first of my big, BIG, BIG announcements, is that I am, AT LAST, buying a house! It’s a lovely Queen Anne Victorian, in the historic district where I live, and I’ll be blogging about it! So if you are an enthusiast of old houses, or of Victorian history, make sure you subscribe, because this is going to be FUN! (Our last house was a 1918 Colonial Revival. If you’d like to see pictures of that project, please click here.)
And of course I cannot forget…
Cry of the Peacock comes out in one month!
Are you excited? I’m excited! I’ve worked for a really long time on this book (like nine years!) and there’s never been a better time to release it, what with the hoopla over Downton Abbey and all. It’s set in 1890, around the time of the opening of the London Tube, and it’s a great love story, fashioned, in a sense, after Pride and Prejudice and Middlemarch. What has Peacock in common with Downton Abbey? Well, it’s set on a vast English estate, which is being, and has been, mismanaged. It’s about the rise of a reluctant hero (or in this case heroine) who is being groomed to inherit, though she’s not sure she wants to. Neither does she wish to be set up with the snobbish, aristocratic heir. But has she a choice?
Cry of the Peacock will be available in Kindle and paperback April 4, 2013.
(And in hardcover as well shortly following.)
With the screaming success of my Amazon promotion (a week and a half later, it’s still a bestseller!), I’ve very nearly forgotten about my giveaway. But how could I? EBooks are one thing, a revolution in progress and all that, but PHYSICAL COPIES? How could anyone resist? I still prefer good ol’ hardcovers, but you know how old fashioned I am.
So here it is, the Rafflecopter giveaway. It looks complicated, but it’s really not. Just enter, click the buttons, do what it says and that’s it! You collect points for everything you do. Do one thing, do them all and increase your chances! If I get fifty entries, I’ll double the prize! How’s that? So please participate. And while’s you’re here, why not stay a while? There’s exciting stuff happening all the time.
Arthur Tremonton is a man of wealth and property, yet cursed from birth to live without sight.
Zachary Goodfellow is a young man raised in poverty, once blind, now deaf.
These two, though worlds apart in station and circumstance, have more in common than one might suppose. Not the least of which is the mutual acquaintance of Rebecca Adair, a young woman with an unusual gift, and the wisdom to know that the lack of physical sight is only one of many obstacles which might prevent a man from truly seeing.
Faced with the choice between seeing clearly and seeing truly, which would you choose? Rebecca intends to ask the question of them, but in order to do that, they must be persuaded to meet. Pride, vanity, fear, these prevent them from seeing what they might do for each other, what they might be to one another, if only they would open their eyes.
What would you sacrifice for the gift of sight? What, in fact, does it truly mean to be Blind?
And don’t forget!
In the series on Flawed Heroines, I’ve chosen to go last. Not strategically, so I might benefit from the windfall of readers my wonderful writing buddies have brought to my website (Thank you!) but because I’ve really been avoiding it. I know it must be done, but Imogen’s flaws are very personal. I have received some criticism that her reactions to certain events in her story are overwrought and too drawn out. Before I defend her, let me tell you her story.
When Imogen’s mother died from cholera, she was sent to live with an uncle, despite the fact that her aunt was her godmother. Drake Everard was very wealthy. He had worked in finance, in banking and then investments. And then he began to dabble in personal loans. To be honest I borrowed him from Dickens’ Ralph Nickleby, prurient tendencies included. Like Mr. Nickleby, Everard’s beautiful niece served as some enticement to keep the young and fast set coming to borrow money from him. It was not his intention that he should offer her as merchandise, but there was an unspoken understanding that some favoured patron might win her particular attention. One young man took the challenge, and finding an opportunity one afternoon, when the moneylender had gone out, took advantage of a moment alone with her.
I suppose one must also understand a bit about the education of women of the time. A woman was meant to be pure and innocent, she knew little if anything about the ways of men and women. If she was fortunate enough to have grown up on a farm, then she might have witnessed for herself the reproductive ways of the common beast. Not that this would have served as any admirable example to her own mode of conduct when she found herself so circumstanced as to engage in such activities. Imogen was not raised on a farm, but in colonial India with an absent father, and then in London, with her uncle. She understood that if she made herself appealing, she might have a way out of her uncle’s house. He was not opposed to making his own impositions on her, though he never carried these out to their foulest ends. She knew, at least hoped, that by using some charm and a little feminine encouragement, she might win herself a husband. What she did not understand is how easily a gentleman, and a young one with few principles (he was given to borrow money, after all) might be persuaded to take a little more than encouragement and a little less than marriage. This very sudden awakening to the ways of men and the world is part of Imogen’s trouble.
Another contributing factor is the fact that, upon her uncle’s death (which she deems her fault, as it happened when she was trying to resist him) he bestowed her with the entirety of his fortune. This, she deems, is a way of remunerating her for services rendered. She may be spoiled, damaged goods, but she is not a prostitute and she still has some hope of earning a respectable life. If you’re wondering, yes, I did borrow from Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles. In fact the story haunted me so I had to try my hand at rewriting her story.
Another thing that must be considered is the fate of a young woman with money. And money, particularly, that others might get at, and feel they have a right to. Her ability to trust has been shattered. She might not ever gain it back. What hope has she of finding someone who would love her for herself and not for a sheer desire to get at the money that would come with her? And if they did, could she tell them about her past? She might keep the secret, but she knows that others know it. It might be revealed at any time, at which point she’d be ruined. But, like Tess, she is a woman of fatal honesty. She will not misrepresent herself.
So Imogen runs away, and, like Tess, tries to work her way to penance, to carve away a little place in life where she can live quietly and respectably, below the notice of others. But of course, being pretty, and having been raised in something of a genteel fashion, her condescension to the station of a housemaid is somewhat apparent. At least she becomes a curiosity and her employer, and his young nephew, take notice.
All of these things conspire against her when her marriage is arranged, yes, for a fortune. What would you do under such circumstances? The guy may be drop dead delicious, that doesn’t mean you would automatically place your heart in his hands ten minutes after he had bought it. Does it?
I probably needn’t say that my marriage wasn’t arranged. I probably needn’t say I did not inherit an immense fortune, or ran from it or hired myself out as a servant in a large country house. But I did go into marriage with some of Imogen’s issues. And I know from experience how difficult it was to trust, even though I knew my husband to be a good man (which is why I married him). I still had to deal with those issues. And there were rage issues too I had not expected. One minute I would be just fine and the next I thought I would explode. Imogen didn’t have the benefit of counseling or therapy. She didn’t have modern mores to say that a woman going into marriage unblemished was the norm rather than the exception. She had guilt, she had self loathing, she had anger. And a lot of it.
So, despite the injuries imposed upon her, despite her nearly fatalistic need for independence, Imogen’s greatest flaw is the hatred and loathing she bears for herself. How does one overcome it? It can’t be done through another. Her husband may adore her, but that means nothing considering how their union has come about, the deceptions he necessarily engaged in, or that others did in his behalf, in order to bring the marriage about. Not when he has bought her. Not when he has a right at any time to demand of her what Lionel Osborne did, and in any fashion he may like, for she is as surely property to him as the money that came with her. Only that isn’t quite right, because there is another complication in the mix in the way of his uncle, upon whom he is dependent, and toward whom he is indebted. And so, quite understandably (at least to my mind) it takes her a long time to learn that her happiness is in her own hands and no one else has that responsibility. That, despite whatever obstacles might have been placed before her, happiness is ultimately a choice she alone must make for herself. Perhaps it takes her longer than it should. But that is the very point I wished to make.
Perhaps I’m alone in my reaction to my own circumstances. I don’t believe so. And if Imogen gives one other person in this world a reason to hope, there is nothing more I could ask for. It will have been enough.
V.R. Christensen attended Brigham Young University, Idaho, where she earned a degree in Interior Design, while, at the same time studying English Literature, Art History and Sociology. When she is not writing, she is designing impractical clothing, redecorating her historical homes, or making impossible demands of her husband of seventeen years. She travels a great deal and considers herself a citizen of the world.
Currently, V.R. makes her home in Appalachian Virginia, where she lives with her three children, seven cats and a dog named Jasper.
V.R. is a member of Historical Fiction Authors Cooperative, Past Times Books, Authors Anon and Literary Underground, all of which are aimed at ensuring that the publishing revolution now upon us produces some of the finest work available to the reading public–and makes it available.
from The Scattered Proud
by Gev Sweeney
We like to joke about obsession and blame obsessive-compulsive disorder for everything as destructive as drinking too much to the less damaging, if mildly annoying, twisting of a lock of hair around a finger (my trademark stress reliever). But while obsession is a flaw, it can also be a catalyst for hope, if not outright salvation. Janet Watters, the young heroine of The Scattered Proud, is as messy as a character can get without being addicted to alcohol or any other misuse-able medicinal in vogue in America at the end of the 18th century. Though her obsession can’t be seen and is something she hides from others, it governs her life and the lives of those around her.
Janet has been born into a time when people live close to the notion and reality of death and regard it as a necessary, if disquieting, fact of life that compels them to think about their purpose on earth and what will become of them after they die. Their solace – and, often, the foundation of their life’s purpose – is religion, in this case the Episcopal Church. Janet’s widowed father, a successful and respected lawyer, is on the vestry of St. Peter’s Church in Philadelphia, and has cultivated a circle of influential friends that include the church’s rector and his family. Though Janet is 13 when the story opens, she’s still a very much a little girl, subject to the dictates of her parent and the adults around her. But she has no child’s sense of fun or desire to explore the world. She magnifies what should be a child’s ordinary lot in life into a continuous exercise in dread. She can’t do anything or go anywhere without thinking something dreadful is going to happen to her. And, in an age when girls are raised to become wives and mothers, she disparages herself as unwanted, and foresees a future as a lonely spinster.
Instead of turning to religion for solace or security, she gleans comfort from the presence of Kit DeWaere, the rector’s kindly, understated son who is sometimes the victim of his father’s self-importance. Kit believes that doing little or nothing to help people would be an abuse of God’s trust in humanity. Incited by a sense of servicehood that wavers between humility and hubris, he surrounds himself with people who, like Janet, are flawed: the beautiful but self-absorbed escapee from the French Revolution who becomes his wife; the mentally handicapped toddlers of the orphanage that houses the secret Episcopal mission he leads in late Revolutionary Paris; the victimized wife and son of a former political prisoner, whose attempts to survive have an unlikely connection to Bonaparte’s coup d’etat of November 1799.
Kit himself is flawed. He doesn’t know his own limits. He acts expecting the best because he’s doing his best, as he thinks God intended, but his good intentions go awry. As the vicar of the church’s mission in Paris, he tells Janet, who’s been brought against her will to work at the mission: “We all have only one destination, just as we all have only one journey. Everything that befalls us on the road is another blow from the Great Sculptor’s metaphysical mallet. It’s not a matter of how the blow shapes us, but how we choose to interpret and withstand the blow. Do we allow ourselves to be shattered in pieces, like the proverbial earthen vessel, or do we embrace our circumstances, taking heart from knowing their true source?”
But when Kit’s pregnant wife leaves him, he shows none of the strength his words imply and becomes warped by unspoken despondency. It’s not his counsel that resonates with Janet. What resounds is her disappointment in him, and her eventual guilt at that disappointment:
I conceded to myself that I was glad to leave Kit behind [in Paris]. He had exposed himself as one of those people who spout great thoughts and noble acts when all is well, yet crumble under difficulties that demand them to exemplify their own teaching. I conceded but could not believe. I was equally certain that Kit’s decline was no mere deficiency of character. It was the creeping decay of self that comes from knowing one has not merely made a mistake, but has lived for a long time thinking all was well. I remembered how, so many years before, he had spoken to me about man’s responsibility to use his intellect. Somehow, since then, his own intellect had failed to discern anything about his wife to foretell a withered marriage. He did not know how to live with either himself or the consequences of his error. I should have taken him aside and reminded him what he had said about the Great Sculptor’s metaphysical mallet. (…) But I said nothing. And because I said nothing, I fall asleep at night wondering how different everything could be.
Kit’s decline is a turning point for Janet. Though she says, “I could do no more than await the further lessening of Kit DeWaere, a collapse I never could have imagined, not even in a fevered dream,” she does indeed do more. She continues to dwell upon him. His name and image pervade her interactions with the family who, on Kit’s behest, took her in after her father died, and with George Frederick Cunliffe, the haughty, handsome priest sent to Paris as Kit’s assistant. From obsession comes strength. When Janet and Kit become trapped in political machinations that never should have been their concern, Kit’s fate gives Janet a fresh reason for being. The once-scared, self-castigating child becomes something she never could have imagined of herself: a woman in love with life and the world.
Gev Sweeney has been telling tales since sixth grade, when she was caught daydreaming about a failed jungle expedition. She grew up to become a journalist who did everything from getting caught in a riot to shooting a Brown Bess (not during the riot). She advocates historic authenticity in fiction, but forgives Shakespeare for all those horrid anachronisms in Julius Caesar. She lives at the Jersey Shore with her guinea pigs, Auden and Philip Baby-Boar.
Isabella of France
and the soon to be released sequel, The King Must Die
In 1308, Isabella of France married King Edward II of England. She was not yet thirteen. He was twenty-three, a king newly come to his throne. For much of history, Isabella was known as the ‘She-Wolf of France’, an epithet which far from conjures up an admirable picture of her. But it’s not hard to see how she earned the title. She did, after all, go to France in 1325 with the task of negotiating a peace treaty between France and England, take a lover (Roger Mortimer) while there who was a known rebel and traitor to her husband, return to England with him at the head of an invasion force, force the abdication of her husband and then put their son on the throne in his place. Phew! Hmm, and now I’m going to tell you she had redeeming qualities? Flawed? Yes! Heroine? Let me try to convince you.
When I first began writing about Isabella, it was from Edward’s perspective in one of The Bruce Trilogy books, Worth Dying For. I had to learn not just what Edward might have thought about her, but what she was truly like. That led me on a detour and the more I learned about her, the more sympathetic I felt towards her. Their marriage was an arranged one, meant to forge a political alliance between England and France. Four years later, she was pregnant with their first child. They had three more over the next nine years. Eventually, however, Edward’s favoritism towards two men, Piers Gaveston and later Hugh Despenser, strained their marriage irreparably.
For many years, Isabella tried to maintain a harmonious relationship with her husband. But when Hugh Despenser began to assert himself to the point of influencing Edward to give him titles and land, sometimes at Isabella’s expense, things became strained. It reached a breaking point after Roger Mortimer escaped imprisonment in the Tower of London and Isabella, under suspicion, had many restrictions placed on her. For a period of time, she wasn’t permitted to travel, nor could she see her children and her income was reduced to a fraction of its former level. A dutiful wife and diplomat for many years, her back was now up to a wall. Can you imagine being in a position like that? Women back then were expected to do as told and not speak up. Divorce was not an option, either.
So, Isabella took matters into her own hands. She convinced Edward to let her go to France to help with the peace treaty, but once there, she fell deeply in love with Mortimer. He had been married for over 20 years and had twelve children with his wife Joan. But he fell in love with Isabella, too, and couldn’t resist the opportunity to have his own revenge on Edward. All these events unfold in my book Isabeau, A Novel of Queen Isabella and Sir Roger Mortimer. The sequel, The King Must Die, which is due out this April, follows events after Edward II’s abdication. At this stage, she became more avaricious and even a little manipulative, probably in an attempt to maintain her hold on power. But her greatest flaw, her love for Roger Mortimer, eventually proved to be her downfall.
Isabella was a woman ahead of her time. She stood up for herself in an age when women were not supposed to be outspoken and she did what she thought was for the better, however unpopular it may have later proven. Did she do it in the best manner possible? That’s a matter of conjecture. I can’t imagine being in her position, trying to make things work and yet feeling utterly powerless. Without a doubt though, she was a woman of determination and great passion.
N. Gemini Sasson is the author of The Crown in the Heather (The Bruce Trilogy: Book I), Worth Dying For (The Bruce Trilogy: Book II), The Honor Due a King (The Bruce Trilogy: Book III) and Isabeau, A Novel of Queen Isabella and Sir Roger Mortimer (2011 IPPY Silver Medalist for Historical Fiction). She holds a M.S. in Biology from Wright State University where she ran cross country on athletic scholarship. She has worked as an aquatic toxicologist, an environmental engineer, a teacher and a track and cross country coach. A longtime breeder of Australian Shepherds, her articles on bobtail genetics have been translated into seven languages.
Isabeau, A Novel of Queen Isabella and Sir Roger Mortimer is available in paperback and eBook formats. The sequel, The King Must Die, is set for release in April 2012. Gemini is a member of Historical Fiction eBook and Past Times Books, both excellent sources for Historical Fiction of the highest quality. Check them out! You can also follow her on Twitter and Facebook.
I cannot identify with Lara Croft, (at all) Elektra, Yu Shu-lien, or the myriad other superwomen gracing many books and movies today. To me they are enticing but unrealistic, unattainable. They are almost as bad, in their way, as the Catholic Mary. What mortal woman-of-faith can live up to such spotless virtue (as defined by men?)
Let’s take Lara Croft. Not only is she completely pure of heart, she is stronger, bolder, more courageous and wiser than any man, anywhere. To top things off, (ha ha) she has gigantic (Freudian) boobs. In the first Tomb Raider movie, Lara uses a familiar karate move (one outstretched leg and foot) to strike a statue that comes to life and attacks her. Any normal human attempting this would find him or herself with a broken leg. The statue is made of solid rock, after all. Not Lara. She actually hurts the statue. The solid rock statue. Then she outruns a four-legged beast-like stone statue without even getting breathless. Later, faced with a choice between doing the “right” thing and doing what she longs to do, she weeps but does the right thing. Of course. There really are no surprises in the Tomb Raider movies. Lara does exactly what you would expect, all the time. Yawn.
In the second Tomb Raider movie, Lara makes a huge issue about how she “needs” Terry Sheridan. She “cannot” accomplish her mission without him. She gets him released from a high-security prison, then, the very first time he is required to make a decision, she refuses to listen to his advice. “We’re going to do it this way,” she states, and takes off on her motor scooter. Why was he even in this movie? She obviously did not need him so badly, after all. (She was “bold” while he was cautious. Poor, weak, man.)
Another movie that bothered me, although not so blatantly, was King Arthur. Here we have Guinevere, (Keira Knightley), a “warrior babe in face-paint,” to quote the Amazon.com editorial review. It’s like they tried to make her believable then at some point forgot their goal. The historical Guinevere might have actually been a warrior. Her fighting skills were not a problem for me, neither was her courage. Where I got lost? When she goes into battle in a tiny leather bikini, while her male compatriots are in full body armor. Really?
Now I love fantasy. I love Return of the King, Pan’s Labyrinth, V for Vendetta, Ever After, 300, and Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, all of which contain strong, intelligent, courageous women.
One of my all time favorite movie lines is “I am no man,” coldly uttered by Eowyn just before she kills the Nazgul witch-king. This character is allowed to feel and act like a woman, and also fight like a real warrior, trained from childhood, would fight. She is completely believable.
I love strong, intelligent, courageous female characters, and I know for a fact that women, real and fictional, can be believable and strong, intelligent and courageous. They cannot be both believable and invincible. Besides the fact that such a concept is boring.
Ancient Great Britain offers up three women who, though foggy, have managed to not disappear completely from history:
Aife: Queen of Alba, said to be the most famous woman warrior of the Celtic heroic age.
Scathach: One of the greatest warriors and teacher of warriors. Some believe her legend proves there were women’s military academies among the Celts.
The renowned Boudica, a historical figure if ever there was one.
More can be read about these women in several books, one of which is: The Encyclopedia of Amazons: Women Warriors from Antiquity to the Modern Era, by Jessica Amanda Salmonson.
Current stories seem inclined to portray women as flawless, lacking even the perfectly normal “flaw” of not having as much physical strength as males. For Aridela, I wanted to create a protagonist who is strong, yes, but real and believable. I wanted to show how she acquires her strength, rather than simply shoving her out there already formed, as if by magic.
Child of privilege, daughter to the Queen of Crete, she has never known want or suffering. She has never experienced betrayal, humiliation, subterfuge or fear. Ten years old at the book’s outset, Aridela is an indulged, sheltered princess. Adventurous, bold, and charismatic, Aridela is inherently ready, yet profoundly unprepared, to take the throne of Crete. The people adore her, her mother dotes on her; she impresses even the hard-nosed royal counselors. Like many of Crete’s citizens, Aridela reveres beauty and beautiful things. She doesn’t realize how shallow she is, because most around her are the same. The reader might be excused for thinking this child will grow up to be a spoiled, unlikeable woman, emphasis on “spoiled.” Naturally, I wanted more for her.
When Aridela meets and crushes on Menoetius, it’s easy to understand why. He’s a gorgeous, charming, seventeen year old foreigner with a delightful accent. What ten-year-old girl wouldn’t fall for a guy like that? But he goes home and Aridela grows up. Now she hankers after another youth—no surprise that the object of her affection is a dazzling, celebrated bull leaper. It’s when the warriors of the mainland converge upon Crete, determined to win the Games and become the next bull-king, that real challenges begin chewing away her comfort zone. Chrysaleon, the arrogant prince of Mycenae, introduces Aridela to passion. Again, it’s easy to see what draws her: he’s good looking and a prince. It takes her awhile to realize the guard he’s brought with him is none other than her first love, Menoetius, but a profoundly different Menoetius than the boy she knew. No longer beautiful, he is the first challenge Divine Athene sets in her path. How will she deal with this angry, wounded man? She has no experience with the kind of pain he’s suffered. Harpalycus, another mainland prince, introduces her to cruelty and shame. Harpalycus is Aridela’s first exposure to humiliation, to fear, to a sense of weakness. He and the other mainland competitors lay bare the encroaching danger of the world outside her safe island paradise.
Aridela, a coddled princess, faces challenges that will either destroy her or incorporate the necessary components needed by all rulers from antiquity to the present: humility, caution, empathy, and compassion. Immortal Athene takes her child into the blackest, deepest pit where life no longer holds value. From that place, Aridela will survive and recover, honed by adversity, or she will become what her oppressors want. Either way, she will be very different from the child who brazenly entered the ring and joyously danced with a wild bull.
I often wonder why is there this need to portray women in the current fashion: invincible, superhuman strength, wise beyond logic, bold beyond reason, unassailable in mental purity? Perhaps because there is a sense that women want to break free of their past, where they have been so openly subjugated. I am only guessing. But if that is the case, is this attempt any more helpful to women than the previous notion (or expectation) that they were chaste, virtuous, pure, untouched, innocent, flighty, silly, and weak? “Creatures,” (as they have often been labeled, as in not quite human) who must be protected, guided, and controlled?
For myself, I feel that portraying women as “superwomen” is just another manipulation, the same as when we were expected to be pure, selfless, and silly. Why can’t we just be human, real, appreciated for all the wonderful qualities we offer, that have from the beginning made this world a better place?
I want the women in my books to achieve great things under their own mind-power, as real women must do.
Rebecca fell in love with the stories and myths of the ancient Greeks and wrote her first story at a very early age, due in part to the wonderful children’s book, “D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths.” She honed the craft of writing alongside formal education, marriage, and child rearing. Concurrent with building the series, she owned and operated a successful writing/editing company, helping authors prepare their work for publication and providing hundreds of articles on demand for marketing use and teaching seminars.
“The Child of the Erinyes” is mythic historical fiction that begins in the Bronze Age and winds up in the near future.
Writing Influences? Patricia A. McKillip, Margaret Atwood, Anita Diamant, Peter S. Beagle, Anne Rice, and Yevgeny Zamyatin, to name a few.
It took about fifteen years to research the Bronze Age segments of the series, and encompassed rare historical documents, mythology, archaeology, ancient writing, ancient religions, and volcanology. For Rebecca, a rather obsessed historian, the research, the struggle for perfection, never ends.
“The Year-god’s Daughter” is her first novel: Book One of “The Child of the Erinyes” Series. “The Thinara King” is scheduled for release in spring 2012. All of Rebecca’s books will be published in paperback and eBook forms.
Though she cannot remember actually living in the Bronze Age, the Middle Ages, the Victorian era, and so on, she believes in the ability to find a way through the labyrinth of time, and that deities will sometimes speak to us in dreams and visions, gently prompting us to tell their forgotten stories.
Who knows? It could make a difference.
The Year-god’s Daughter is available in paperback and eBook formats. The sequel, The Thenara King, is set for release in spring 2012. (I’m very excited about this.) Ms. Lochlann is a member of Historical Fiction eBook and Past Times Books, both excellent sources for Historical Fiction of the highest quality. Check them out! You can also follow her on Twitter and Facebook. Visit Rebecca’s website to learn more about her and her work.
(and the others in the Nell Sweeney Mysteries)
by P.B. Ryan
No character that I’ve ever written has generated as much fascination among my readers as the highly flawed, deadly handsome, dangerously charming Will Hewitt. Will is my governess-sleuth’s partner in detection—and love interest, although they dare not speak of it—in the Nell Sweeney historical mysteries, set in post-Civil War Boston.
The black sheep son of Nell’s wealthy employer, Dr. William Hewitt was regarded as the finest battle surgeon in the Union Army before his capture and incarceration at the notorious Andersonville prison camp, where he was reported to have succumbed to dysentery. Four years later, his family is stunned when he turns up alive and accused of a vicious murder he won’t deny having committed. Plagued by survivor guilt and the pain of an old bullet wound in his leg, Will roams the world frequenting high-stakes poker games and back-room opium dens, where he seeks blessed oblivion in the arms of Morphia.
When we meet him in book #1 of the series, Still Life With Murder, Will is deeply damaged inside and out, an addict who walks with a limp and doesn’t care whether he lives or dies. Bloodied from a police interrogation and in the grips of opium withdrawal, he frightens and disgusts Nell—yet she can’t help but be intrigued by his touching protectiveness toward women and his occasional courtesies, which “hint at the gentleman beneath the wretch.”
Despite Will’s shortcomings, I found him totally captivating, but I thought, well, maybe that’s just me. Maybe there’s something twisted in my psyche that makes flawed men appealing to me. So imagine my surprise when, following Still Life’s publication by Berkley Prime Crime in 2003, I was inundated with mail from readers who were just as in love with him as I was. What, I wondered, would make such a seemingly hopeless piece of work attractive to normal, well-adjusted women?
Will’s flaws are both physical and psychological. Let’s start off with the physical: the injured leg. Wounded heroes are nothing new in literature, and I recently discussed their appeal with the noted literary historian Susan Koppelman (who, I’m pleased to report, will be delivering a presentation about the Nell Sweeney mysteries at the upcoming national conference of the Popular Culture Association). If the male is historically considered the dominant partner in a heterosexual relationship—as was certainly the case in pre-20th century settings—then an injury would serve to diminish his physical supremacy, putting him on a more equal standing with the heroine.
Susan tells me this is considered a metaphorical “gelding” of the hero, and that the symbolism is especially pointed when it’s the leg—thought to represent the phallus—that has suffered the injury. Gee, maybe I really am twisted, I thought, since there are three other male protagonists besides Will who’ve limped their way through my books. Maybe I’m subconsciously castrating my heroes. Or maybe a cigar is just a cigar. After all, not all of my wounded heroes had leg injuries. Or so I reassured myself until Susan laughingly reminded me of my medieval romance The Sun and the Moon, in which the hero is a mercenary knight who had a thumb chopped off, after which he couldn’t wield his sword.
Thumb. Sword. Oh, dear.
On the other hand… is a little bit of gelding necessarily such a bad thing? Bear with me here. There’s been speculation among those who study such things that the irritability, hostility, and mood swings that women sometimes experience during PMS are what men experience pretty much all the time. Which, if true, would make women the more emotionally stable and, dare I say it, civilized sex. By chipping away at the hero’s most prominent masculine characteristic—his physical dominance—could it be that we’re not symbolically lowering him to the heroine’s level, but elevating him to it?
The classic hero is strong of mind as well as of body, and more often than not somewhat self-contained. We’ve been brought up to feel that real men don’t bare their souls. But if the heroine can’t penetrate the armor the hero wears around his soul, how can she really know him, much less love him? The answer: create a flaw in the armor, an opening your heroine—and reader—can see into. As Susan Koppelman puts it, “If you think of the hero as a closed container, the only way to know what’s inside it is to wound it.”
Which brings us to William Hewitt’s drug addiction. Judging by hundreds of letters from smitten readers, Will’s dependence on opiates does nothing to diminish his appeal; in fact, it may amp it up. I think this is because a psychological flaw, like a physical flaw, can serve in some cases to level the playing field of the relationship. The hero may pretend to be emotionally invulnerable, but we know better.
With a hero whose problems are mental rather than physical, I think it’s important to at least hint that he’s not completely irredeemable; there’s a reason he is the way he is, and there’s also the potential for recovery. In Will’s case, he started smoking opium to numb the physical pain of his bullet wound, but he persisted in it to deaden memories he couldn’t escape any other way—memories in which his courage and valor failed to prevent his brother’s tragic death. Will’s emotional vulnerability, which he conceals beneath a droll and world-weary façade, tugs at the heart, arousing an instinctive urge to take away the pain that haunts him.
And that brings us to the bottom line: The flawed hero is almost always a fixer-upper. During the course of the story, the heroine often manages to vanquish whatever demons were tormenting him, or even heal his physical wounds, thus restoring the trappings of full manhood—and making him capable of a real relationship. In real life, men who need fixing tend to be Bad News; there are few pursuits as futile as trying to change or improve a loved one. But that’s exactly why such a transformation is so thrilling when a fictional female manages to pull it off. By making the hero a better man, physically and/or emotionally, our heroine triumphs—and the reader closes the book with a smile on her face.
About P.B. Ryan
Pat tapped into her fascination with 19th century urban America to create the Nell Sweeney mysteries for Berkley Prime Crime. Set in post-Civil War Boston, the series stars Nell, a young Irish-born governess with a disreputable past that must be kept hidden at all costs. Nell is assisted in her sleuthing by her employer’s black sheep son, William Hewitt. A former Union Army battle surgeon, Will is now a professional gambler who smokes opium to dull the pain of his wounds, both inside and out. The reaction of the series’ fans to the complicated, slowly evolving relationship between Nell and Will (“the beating heart of the series” as one reader put it) delights Pat, who is deeply wrapped up in them herself. The series has been as popular with critics as with readers, and Murder in a Mill Town was chosen as a finalist for the Mary Higgins Clark Award.
Upon getting the rights back to the six Nell Sweeney books (as well as to six novels of medieval romantic suspense written for NAL), Pat published them in digital format. The first book of the series, Still Life With Murder, has made it to the #1 spot on Amazon’s historical mystery bestseller list. In 2010, Pat and fellow author Doranna Durgin launched backlistebooks.com, a showcase of author-published out-of-print ebooks. Once upon a time, Pat worked in the publishing industry as a promotion manager and editor, but she quit her job when she was offered her first publishing contract in 1994, and she’s been spending her days making stuff up ever since.
Visit P.B. Ryan’s website to learn more about her and her work. Her work is available at Amazon and online wherever books are sold. I’m proud to have met Ms. Ryan through Historical Fiction eBooks, where Historical Fiction of the highest quality is brought together in one source. Check them out! You can also follow Ms. Ryan on Twitter and Facebook.