Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Funny Historical Trivia & Jokes

Court JesterDid you know that the eighth Duke of Devonshire, known to his friends as "Harty Tarty," was told off by Queen Victoria for picking his nose at dinner. A poor shot, he once killed a pheasant and his gun-dog and wounded two bystanders (one of whom was his chef) with a single cartridge.

"The British empire, sir," exclaimed an orator, "is one on which the sun never sets."
"And one," replied an auditor, "in which the tax-collector never goes to bed."

Baldulf, the medieval soothsayer, prophesied to the king that his favourite mistress would soon die. Sure enough, the woman died a short time later. The king was outraged at the soothsayer, certain that his prophecy had brought about the woman's death. He summoned Baldulf and commanded him, "Tell me when you will die!" Baldulf realized that the king was planning to execute him straightaway, no matter what answer he gave. "I do not know when I will die," he answered finally. "I only know that whenever I do die, you will die two days later."

The shortest war on record was between Zanzibar and Britain in 1896. Zanzibar, now part of Tanzania, surrendered after 38 minutes.

A bus load of tourists arrived at Runnymede on the banks of the Thames in Berkshire, England. They gathered around the guide who explained, "This is the spot where the Barons forced King John to sign the Magna Carta." A fellow at the front of the group asked, "When did that happen?" "1215," answered the guide. The man looked at his watch and said, "Looks like we just missed it by a half hour."

The Sillies...

Why were the early days of history called the dark ages? Because there were so many knights.

What kind of lighting did Noah use for the ark? Floodlights and Ark lights.

What English King invented the fireplace ? Alfred the Grate.

How was the Roman Empire cut in half? With a pair of Caesars.

Why did Henry VIII have so many wives? He liked to chop and change.

Asked by the court barber how he wanted his hair cut, the king replied, "In silence."

And The Utter Sillies...

Michelangelo's Mother: Can't you paint on walls like other children? Do you have any idea how hard it is to get that stuff off the ceiling?

Paul Revere's Mother: I don't care where you think you have to go, young man, midnight is past your curfew.

Mona Lisa's Mother: After all that money your father and I spent on braces, that's the biggest smile you can give us?

Mary's Mother: I'm not upset that your lamb followed you to school, but I would like to know how he got a better grade than you.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Hellifield Peel Castle

Hellifield Peel Castle copyright by Karen and Francis Shaw Hellifield Peel Castle is the home and "restored from ruin to castle" Bed & Breakfast by Karen and Francis Shaw in the Yorkshire Dales, close to Skipton.

The origins of the castle date from 850 CE as a Saxon Aisled Hall House. The Saxon Hall was encased in stone in 1150 and modernized into a Norman Manor House. In 1250, a solar tower was added by Elias de Knole. The main house is from early 1300s and was built by the last Templar Sir John Harcourt. Chapel Bedroom (see below) was part of this enhancement.

Chapel Bedroom (left) and Old Bedroom (right) with original 17th century four-poster beds. Chapel Bedroom also has the original 14th century vaults and arches.
Hellifield Peel Castle copyright by Karen and Francis Shaw Hellifield Peel Castle copyright by Karen and Francis Shaw

The Hammerton family owned it in the late 14th century and added towers and crenelations in 1440s. Hellifield Peel Castle copyright by Karen and Francis ShawSome of the Hammertons ran afoul Henry VIII with predictable results. The Crown was happy to annex their vast holdings from Lancaster to York.

The castle was restored to the Hammertons in 1570 and extensive construction was undertaken to expand and modernize the place. The current turrets and mullioned windows date from this period. In 1780, large Georgian windows and paneled ceilings were added, the interiors updated, and a stone cantilevered staircase installed. In 1914, the castle was leased to Sir William Nicholson, who along with architect Sir Edwin Lutyens set about salvaging the ruins.

Hellifield Peel Castle copyright by Karen and Francis ShawUnfortunately, the up-to-do castle came to the attention of the Ministry of Defense during World War II to house POWs. The ruined castle was then shunted off to the Hammertons briefly before being sold to Harry Lund of Otley. Lund and archeologist Tot Lord stripped the castle of all accoutrements, including paneling, and sold them piecemeal to all comers. In 1965, the Hargreaves bought it and sold it in 2004 to the Shaws.

The name Peel is a corruption of the word pale, which meant within a safe enclosure of wooden palisades, from whence the term beyond the pale arises meaning to be outside the safe area. The name Hellifield comes from the Norse name Helgsfield or Hellsfield, where hell means holy and also representative of Hell, the Norse Goddess of the Underworld.

To raise money and support from Grand Designs on BBC's Channel 4, Francis sent off this teaser: "Restoring castle in the dales, total ruin, previous owner hung drawn and quartered. Are you interested?" To his surprise, they were.

Survey Plans from 1772 that the Shaws are using, among other records, for their resoration work.
Hellifield Peel Castle copyright by Karen and Francis Shaw

Important personages, such as Bonny Prince Charlie during the 1745 uprising, the last Templar Knight Sir John Harcourt, and the Duke of Devonshire have stayed here.

To follow the latest doings of Peel Castle or to book a stay, visit them on Facebook or Twitter.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Picture Day Friday

Cardiff Castle (Castell Caerdydd) in Wales is now the proud owner of a 13th century military machine, a colossal catapult known as a trebuchet. It's a historically accurate replica from the upcoming movie Ironclad by Jonathan English with Paul Giamatti, James Purefoy, and Jason Flemyng. The machine's first public firing on the castle grounds will take place on Saturday, March 27.

Inner workings of a trebuchet: "Using a sophisticated counter balance system, large rocks and stones could be placed in a catapult sling and hurled with such a force they could breach the strongest of fortifications and were capable of firing missiles in excess of 330 pounds."


Trebuchet at Cardiff Castle in Wales copyright by

Cardiff Castle...

Cardiff Castle in Wales copyright by

Thursday, March 25, 2010

PCA 2010 Conference

The 2010 National Popular Culture & American Culture Associations
Annual Conference is going to be held March 31 through April 3 at the Renaissance Grand Hotel in St. Louis.

More details about the conference here, the full conference program here, and detailed list of romance presenters here.

Romance I: Romancing Bollywood
Session Chair: Eric Murphy Selinger, DePaul University

Romance II: The Dark Side of Romance: Rape, Serial Killers, and Power Dynamics
Session Chair: Sarah S. G. Frantz, Fayetteville State University

Romance III: Nora Roberts: Food, Community, and Voice
Session Chair: An Goris, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven/DePaul University

Romance IV: Theory, Criticism, and Ethics
Session Chair: Jessica Miller, University of Maine

Romance V: The Safe Spaces of Romance
Session Chair: Pamela Regis, McDaniel College

Romance VI: Romance Publishing: Canadian Romance, ePublishing, and Erotica, Oh My!
Session Chair: Crystal Goldman, San Jose State University

Romance VII: Romancing Vampires: Toothsome Heroes and Happy Endings
Session Chair: Sarah S. G. Frantz, Fayetteville State University

Romance VIII: Exploring History, Genre, Media
Session Chair: Darcy Martin, East Tennessee State University

Romance IX: So Classy!: High/Low/Middle Class/Culture
Session Chair: Sarah S. G. Frantz, Fayetteville State University

Romance X: The Construction of Gender: (Killer) Heroes and Heroines
Session Chair: Darcy Martin, East Tennessee State University

Romance XI: Happily Ever After: Romance Conventions In and Through Film and Fiction
Session Chair: Darcy Martin, East Tennessee State University

Romance Area Meeting
Chair: Sarah Frantz, University of North Carolina, Fayetteville, and Darcy Martin, East Tennessee State University

The Vampire in Literature, Culture, & Film: Roundtable—Blood, Sex, and Love: Exploring Vampire Romance Novels and Their Impact on the Image of the Vampire
Moderator: Amanda Hobson, Ohio University
Panelists: Jessica Miller, University of Maine and Heide Crawford, University of Kansas

Amanda McCabe for the RITA

Copyright Amanda McCabe and Mills & Boon It gives me the GREATEST of pleasures to know that AMANDA McCABE has been nominated for the RITA for her novella "Charlotte and the Wicked Lord" in the anthology Diamonds of Welbourne Manor.

Copyright Amanda McCabeHere's what Amanda has to say about her nomination: "I'm especially pleased it's this story, since I got to work on this novella with my good friends Diane Gaston and Deb Marlowe. And also because I have two spin-offs from this story coming out! A novel about Nicholas and Lady Emily and another novella Mistletoe and Folly that'll be out this Christmas."

I adored Diamonds as I blogged here. Here's what librarian Super Wendy has to say about it: "The Diamonds Of Welbourne Manor is one of the strongest anthologies I've read in recent memory, and any (or all) of the stories could have been nominated and 'deserved' it. That being said, the Deb Marlowe story was my favorite."

I've known Amanda for a few years now. I started out with becoming a regular visitor to her group blog the Risky Regencies in the early days of her blogging foray. I then graduated to becoming a fan of her work. From there on, we forged a path towards friendship that has only strengthened over the years. She's a writer, whose work has largely been under the radar, which is rather unfortunate. Her talent, her prolific output all deserve the attention that I hope this RITA nomination will bring.

Restored Edition of P&P

Pride and Prejudice 1995 (Restored Edition) 2010A & E has digitally remastered the pinnacle of perfection, for some, in Jane Austen adaptations, the 1995 miniseries of Pride and Prejudice.

P&P Colin Firth copyright by Amazon"Now you can really see the drops of water run down Darcy's chest after he takes his plunge into the Pemberley pond," says AustenProse.

It's available on Amazon for only $18.99 for two DVDs, and it ships to you on April 27 at the earliest.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

RITAs and GHs

[Edited 3/25/10:
Double RITA nominees: Susan Wiggs, Carolyn Jewel, Elizabeth Hoyt / Julia Harper, Christie Ridgway, Kelly Gay, Marjorie Liu, Kresley Cole, Kate Brady, Carla Capshaw, Elisabeth Naughton, Lauren Strasnick
Critique Partner pairs nominated for RITAs: Tessa Dare & Courtney Milan, Victoria Dahl & Jennifer Echols.
Same Book nominated twice: "The Diamonds of Welbourne Manor", "One Scream Away", "The Better Part of Darkness", "The Gladiator"
Noticeable Misses from list: Jennifer Ashley, Julie James, Jo Goodman, C.S. Harris, Meredith Duran]

GOOD LUCK the authors who entered the RITAs
and the aspiring writers for the Golden Hearts
organized by the
Romance Writers of America.

The list of nominees will be updated on RWA's site continuously throughout the day: RITA and GH.

Regency Bicentennial in 2011

Regency Dancers Cruikshank CartoonThe bicentennial of the beginning of the British Regency is next year, 2011. It was at Carlton House on February 6, 1811 that the Prince of Wales took the oath which made him Regent. At nine p.m. on June 19, 1811 the Prince Regent held a feat at Carlton House in celebration of his assumption of the Regency.

Regency MissAs a lover, reader, and aspiring writer of Regency romances, I was wondering what Romancelandia has in store to celebrate this.

How about a trip to London with your closest fifty friends?

Regency Ladies Playing GamesHow about a lavish foodie banquet with 100 of your close friends?

How about a fabulous Beau Monde conference at RWA National in New York?

I've been searching on the intrywebs in vain for any intimations of celebrations anywhere of this momentous event. Do you know of anything that's been planned?

Saturday, March 20, 2010


I'm down with the flu. This past week, I had banked, scheduled posts that I could count on to keep the blog running. I'm out of those now and so you're most likely to see no posts for a few days as I and my family recover. Thank you for visiting and for reading.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Picture Day Friday

Ice Whale is the title of this photograph of Iceland by Belgian photographer Lucky Alan. It best depicts why Iceland is on my list of places to visit before I die.

[Edited 3/20/10: The website TrekEarth tends to go down frequently. So the image may not be visible below. However, if you click the link above for "Ice Whale," you should be able to see the image.]

Ice Whale by Lucalain, Copyright by

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Drabble Time!

Copyright by MadLibs.orgA drabble is an extremely short work of fiction exactly one hundred words in length, although the term is often incorrectly used to indicate a short story of fewer than 1000 words. The purpose of the drabble is brevity and to test the author's ability to express interesting and meaningful ideas in an extremely confined space. However, sometimes, drabbles can function like MadLibs.

Go HERE to put in your own adjectives, adverbs, verbs, nouns, etc. information to auto-generate the drabbles encoded by Halrloprillalar. After I put in my choices, I hit "Drabble Me" once and then refresh once. Here're the results of my labors...

The Fettered Terror Of The Snow
      It snowed a foot overnight. When they woke up, Josefina and Wulf went out to play. First, they made snow angels. Then they had a snowball fight and Josefina hit Wulf in his neck with a big gleaming iceball. It hurt a lot, but Josefina kissed it verily and then it was all better.
      Then they decided to make a snow man.
      "We'll make a really hopeless snow man!" Josefina said.
      "Why don't we make a snow woman instead?" Wulf said. "That would be more iridescent and politically correct."
      "I know," Josefina said. "We can make a snow bull. That way, we don't have to worry about gender politics."
      So they rolled the snow up tediously and made a dejected snow bull. Josefina put on a horse for the leg. The bull was almost as big as Wulf.
      "It looks frivolous," Josefina said joyfully. "But it seems like it's missing something."
      "Here," Wulf said and held up an adoring beef. "I found this by the pond." He put the beef onto the bull's head.
      It was perfect. For about a minute. Then the bull, even though it was just made of snow, started to move and growl like a ship with full sails unfurled.
      Wulf screamed fretfully and ran but the snow bull chased him until he tripped over a tree root. Then the snow bull laughed him huskily.
      "Nobody does that to my little Incandescent Brandy," Josefina screamed. She grabbed an icicle and stabbed the snow bull through the lip. It fell down and Josefina kicked it apart until it was just a bunch of snow again.
      "You saved me!" Wulf said and they shared an embrace in the snow before going in for hot chocolate.
      The beef lay in the yard until an addlepated child picked it up and took it home.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Orwellian Opinion

"Ultimately there is no test of literary merit except survival, which is itself an index to majority opinion," George Orwell states this in response to Leo Tolstoy's criticism of Shakespeare's work.

Leo Tolstoy copyright by WikimediaIn his critique, Tolstoy wrote, "I remember the astonishment I felt when I first read Shakespeare. I expected to receive a powerful aesthetic pleasure, but having read, one after the other, works regarded as his best: King Lear, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, and Macbeth, not only did I feel no delight, but I felt an irresistible repulsion and tedium..." He further characterized Shakespeare as "a bad dramatist and not a true artist at all."

George Orwell copyright by WikimediaTo this, Orwell wrote, "One's first feeling is that in describing Shakespeare as a bad writer he is saying something demonstrably untrue. But this is not the case. In reality, there is no kind of evidence or argument by which one can show that Shakespeare, or any other writer, is 'good.' Artistic theories such as Tolstoy's are quite worthless, because they not only start out with arbitrary assumptions, but depend on vague terms ('sincere,' 'important,' and so forth) which can be interpreted in any way one chooses. Properly speaking one cannot answer Tolstoy's attack."

According to Orwell, the only criterion for the merit of a work of art is that it continues to be admired, and hence, the verdict on Shakespeare must be "not guilty," since forty years after Tolstoy's pamphlet Shakespeare remains as admired as ever.

After reading the essay, this is what I conclude for any piece of writing: Longevity as evidence of popularity—a crowdsourcing benchmark of literary merit.

Woman reading in film version of Northanger Abbey by Jane AustenSo whenever romance novels of hugely successful writers come under attack as lacking in literary gravitas, it's important to bear in mind what's really important: the opinions of an opinionated few or the opinions of the wide reading populace, speaking loudly with their hard earned money and even harder earned time. No arguments need to be made of good prose, nuanced imagery, complex emotions, accurate historicals details, etc. etc. The readers have spoken.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Deeply Bookish Qs

Meme from Heidenkind's blog via Wordsmithonia.

Teh Rulez: No two answers can be the same book.

Book next to your bed right now: Talking About Detective Fiction by P.D. James and Time To Write by Kelly L. Stone

Book in your purse: The Accidental Princess by Michelle Willingham

Favorite series: The Mallorens by Jo Beverley

Favorite book: Ransom by Julie Garwood

The one book you would have with you if stranded on a desert island: A huge thick blank book so I can write.

Book/series you would take with you on a long flight: Every year, I find myself on a 36- to 44-hour journey one-way to the other side of the world. I take 3 or 4 single titles with me for each journey and many more for the stay.

Worst book you were made to read in school: War and Peace by Tolstoy

Worst book you trudged through on your own: Atlast Shrugged by Ayn Rand

Book that everyone should be made to read in school: At least one each by Jane Austen and Alexandre Dumas

Book that everyone should read, period: 1984 by George Orwell

Favorite character now: Mr. Darcy

Favorite character as a kid: D'Artagnan from Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

Best villain: Sydney Carton from A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens for being a complex character with strengths and weaknesses, a growth arc, and a heroic end.

Favorite concept series: Julie Garwood's medieval Scotland (Maili's gonna kill me for this.)

Favorite invented world: Georgette Heyer's Regency England

Most beautifully written book: For My Lady's Heart by Laura Kinsale

Funniest book: Practice Makes Perfect by Julie James

Friday, March 12, 2010

Picture Day Friday

Dalai Lama's Potala Palace in Tibet copyright by Sacred Sites

In 637, Emperor Songtsen Gampo built a palace on the hill that is considered to be the dwelling place of the Bodhisattva Chenresi (Avilokiteshvara). From as early as the eleventh century the palace was called Potala, deriving from Mt. Potala, the mythological mountain abode of the Avilokiteshvara in southern India. The Potrang Karpo, or White Palace, was added to the original buildings during the reign of the fifth Dalai Lama from 1645 to 1648. The Potrang Marpo, or Red Palace, was added between 1690 and 1694. Future Dalai Lamas continued the work of addition, change, and repair of the palace buildings. Today, the interior space is more than 130,000 square meters.

Fulfilling numerous functions, the Potala is first and foremost the residence of the Dalai Lama and his large staff. In addition, it is the seat of the Tibetan government, where all ceremonies of state are held; it houses a school for religious training of monks and administrators; and it is one of Tibet's major pilgrimage destinations, because of the tombs of the past Dalai Lamas, the venerated statue of the Arya Lokeshvara, and dwelling spot of the Avilokiteshvara.

(Currently, while the Potala stands majestically atop its hill overlooking Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, all the functionality mentioned above has shifted to Dharamshala in the Himachal Pradesh state of India due to conflict with the Chinese government.)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Romance Reader Survey

Colleen Corliss is an MA student at DePaul University and is working on expanding the survey work conducted by Janice Radway in 1984 and catalogued in her book Reading the Romance.

Here are Colleen's survey and blog requesting comments on the survey.

Boke of Cookry: Hazelnut Sauce

Copyright and Robert ShellI blogged HERE about Þe Bors Hede Boke of Cookry and the recipe for Frytor of Erbys. Here's another recipe...


Middle English

Milke of alemauns • flour of rys • curneles of nuten ifried • gynger itried • sucre vort abaten Þe keneschype • nuten yfried abouen

—"Diuersa Cibaria", London BL Add. 46919 and Anglo-Norman recipes from early 14th century

Modern Translation

Hazel-nuts in season, almond milk, rice flour, friend nut kernels, fresh peeled ginger, sugar to abate the sharpness, topped with fried nuts.

Working Recipe

1 c hazelnuts, chopped
1 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp rice flour
1 tsp fresh ginger, pared and minced
2 Tbsp sugar
3/4 c white wine
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup blanched almonds, pulverized

In a small frypan over medium heat, fry chopped hazelnuts in butter until golden. In a small saucepan, stir wine, lemon juice, almonds, and rice flour until well blended. Add ginger, sugar, and half the fried hazelnuts. Cook over medium heat until thickened. Garnish with remaining hazelnuts. Serve over roasted salmon.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Historical Trivia

Here's fodder for your cocktail party conversations about ye merry olde England and its olde laws. All credit goes to that venerated documenter of how the British are ever so funny: The BBC. Did you know that...?

Copyright BBCLondoners are not allowed to keep a pigsty in the front of their homes.

There is still a law in place that requires Royal Navy ships, which enter the Port of London, to provide a barrel of rum to the Constable of the Tower of London.

The acts repealed in 2004 included an 1888 law encouraging emigration to the colonies for unemployed adults and pauper children from the overcrowded cities of England and Wales.

Copyright Wikimedia.orgA law introduced in 1307 ensures that the head of any dead whale found on the British coast becomes the property of the king and the tail belongs to the queen—should she need the bones for her corset.

Until 1835, anyone who carried a trade in the City of London had to be a freeman—a title still taken up by some 1,800 people every year. One of the privileges is being allowed to take a flock of sheep across London Bridge without being charged a toll.

In 1797, a law was passed preventing people from wearing a top hat after London haberdasher John Hetherington showed off his creation round the city. The sight of his hat caused quite a stir, and he was arrested and charged with breach of the King's peace. He was found guilty and fined £50.

Copyright European-Union.caNot technically against the law, but it is not allowed for anyone to die in Parliament. The death certificate is not issued until after the body is removed from Parliament. The reason? Anyone dying in Parliament would be legally entitled to a state funeral as Parliament is part of the Palace of Westminster.

It is still an offence to beat or shake any carpet rug or mat in any street in the Metropolitan Police District, although you are allowed to shake a doormat before 8am.

Red Shoes copyright by ElizabethCostume.netElizabeth I was responsible for the law that banned women from using cosmetics to lead a man into marriage. This included false hair, makeup, false hips(?), and high-heeled shoes.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Ten Blogging Lessons

Markus Urban Mindaugas is a lifestyle designer, travel show host, self-proclaimed cat herder, and entrepreneur. He runs a series of sites about blogging, technology, photography, and unconventional living.

In December 2009, Markus decided to undertake a lofty challenge—"to create a website/blog in one week and get 100,000 unique visitors within a week of launching it. I knew it was possible, and the sheer enormity of it was exciting enough for me to go ahead with the project." Markus's plan was to launch the photography site Hot Shot Photo and blog about how to build a world-class blog from scratch in only one week on Art of Blog.

On February 25, 2010, Markus blogged about his failure to achieve his goal and the lessons he learned along the way for Write To Done, a site created by Leo Babauta about the craft and art of writing.

1. It doesn't matter where you start, just start:
All there ever to start. Start somewhere. Start with something that inspires you.

2. Timing is crucial:
Be aware of what's happening within the time frame that you set out for yourself. Avoid predictable distractions and conflicts.

3. You know a lot more than you think you do:
Become aware of what you know and realize that you have a lot to share with the world.

4. Get people involved:
Ask people for feedback along the way, attribute their contributions, and they will be more likely to help you spread your message.

5. Put yourself out there:
Just put yourself out there. You are great just the way you are. And you’ll be surprised at all the positive feedback people will give you.

6. Keep it simple:
Define your purpose or goal in super clear terms, and keep it simple, right from the start.

7. When you fail, own up:
Own everything you do, whether it’s positive or negative.

8. Failure is never failure:
Failure by itself never really happens. It is only when you accept that something failed, is it ever failure in reality. Action begets opportunity. Even action that "fails" ends up opening more possibilities and opportunities that present themselves.

9. You never know where it will end up:
Keep your mind open and embrace the opportunities that present themselves along the way. Embrace new directions.

10. Don't take it all so seriously:
Win or lose, have fun and remember why you're doing this in the first place. Don't take it all so seriously.

To this list, I add my one point...

11. Don't expect to be brilliant all the time:
Don't set your expectations too high and don't be ruled by too many shoulds and musts and other people's expectations. Take the pressure off yourself and enjoy the process of blogging.

For details about each of Markus's ten points, visit his full blog here.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Online Self-Editing Workshop

Copyright Angela JamesWorkshop with Editor Angela James of Carina Press

Dates: March 15th — March 29th, 2010

Cost: $10 for WRW members, $20 for nonmembers
(All registrants must provide their RWA membership #.)
Register via PayPal.

Join Angela James for a two week workshop as she shares some of the common pitfalls she’s seen in submissions and contest entries. She’ll give you ideas, tips and tricks for polishing and self-editing your manuscript. Discuss things such as dialogue tags, whether all forms of “to be” really evil and just what you’re doing to your life expectancy with your use of that exclamation point. The course will guide you from the basics of self-editing and grammar in a clear, conversational manner with examples, to more advanced topics such as show versus tell and passive voice. Through it all, she’ll be available for clarification and questions in order to help you on your way to a cleaned-up manuscript and understanding the basics of editing your manuscript.

Executive editor of Carina Press, Harlequin’s digital-only press, and veteran of the digital publishing industry, Angela James is a well-known advocate for digital publishing. James has enjoyed a long and varied publishing career that has included ownership of an independent editorial services business, work as a copy editor for electronic book and small press publisher, Ellora’s Cave, and executive editor for Samhain Publishing. James frequently travels to regional, national and international writing conferences to meet with authors and readers, and present workshops on digital publishing for both authors and readers of all genres of fiction.

Cost: $10 for WRW members, $20 for nonmembers.
(All registrants must provide their RWA membership #.)
Register via PayPal.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Picture Day Friday

A Public Service Announcement: This medieval fortress in the Corbières region of the South of France is for sale (price by inquiry only), should you be interested in a vacation home or relocating there permanently. It is located near the village of Saint-André-de-Roquelongue in the Départment d'Aude.

This paltry 247-acre estate at a mere 590 feet above sea level was acquired and fortified by the powerful Narbonne family in 978 CE. Due to its strategic location and strength and the power and wealth of its owners, the castle has attractd its share of tumultous events in its 1000 years of history. As a Cathar fortress in the 13th century, it underwent the depredations and ruination forced on all Cathars in the High and Late Middle Ages. In the 16th century, the Narbonnes sold it "to an Italian family and the surrounding land turned into a farming estate with several houses. During the 18th century, the castle was abandoned and gradually fell into ruin. Classified as a historic building in 1926, the property was sold in 1990 to private owners who have restored it."

While retaining some original buildings, such as the 10th century chapel within the castle, it was continuously remodeled throughout its history and boasts a 13th-century keep and round tower, battlemented walls from the 15th century, an outstanding water storage tank from 17th, and a large guard room from an unknown period. The local area includes Fontfroide Abbey, a Cistercian monastery also founded by the Narbonnes in 1093.

For more information and pricing, please contact Patrice Besse, who specializes in French castles and historic buildings, at your earliest convenience. Enjoy!

Cathar Medieval Fortress in South of France For Sale Copyright by Patrice Besse

Thursday, March 4, 2010


I like books that unfold leisurely. That is not to say, borrrring, but where words, emotions, setting, nuances are meant to be chewed upon and savored by the reader.

By the same token, I'm not enamored of stories where I'm galloping after the author and her story, my sides heaving with effort. Nothing brings on the famous Regency ennui like these so-called fast-paced novels. Flooding me with sensory overload doesn't snag my attention; I get tired. (*koff*DanBrown*koff*) By extension, I'm not fond of a rush towards the climax (hur!) either.

For illustration purposes, I'm going to use two novels by Linda Lael Miller, an author whose westerns, on average, I adore. I will state at the outset, I'm not an academic scholar, nor a reviewer, nor do I claim to have an English degree pedigree. My "expertise" on western history and ways of life are gleaned from novels by LLM and Jodi Thomas (honorable mentions to debuts by Jo Goodman and Kaki Warner). So my comments here are as a lay reader.

The books are: The Man from Stone Creek (TMFSC) and McKettricks of Texas: Tate (MOTT). The former's pace is galloping, the latter's is trotting; neither is plodding. (For comparison purposes, a P.D. James novel would be a walking pace.)

Sam O'Ballivan and Maddie Chancelor are the protagonists in TMFSC and Tate McKettrick and Libby Remington are the main characters of MOTT. TMFSC is a historical, MOTT Sam's an Arizona Ranger working undercover in Maddie's town as a schoolteacher. Libby's runs a tea shop in the town near McKettrick huge ranch. Sam has wealth, but that's unknown to Maddie. Tate's wealth isn't in question. Every character has past emotional baggage—that's the heartbeat of a rippin' good yarn.

TMFSC jumps from tragedy to death to destruction to heartrending loss with virtually non-existent sexual tension and nary a kiss till the hero and heroine make hasty love in the aftermath of the climactic tragedy. MOTT, gently but inexorably, draws the hero and heroine together like a loom holding the warp threads of backstory and joint history in tension and interweaving the weft threads of current emotions and secondary characters in them.

In TMFSC, after that first love scene, everything unfolds magically and quickly into a new, fancy two-story house with a wraparound porch, a whole new life in a new town, new careers, children from the tragedies settled in comfortably, and every character still alive towards the end of the story situated happily. In MOTT, the loving happens as an inevitable escalation of the tension and takes the story to a deeper, more intense, and more introspective level. The h/h do rethink career options but not so that the HEA is achievable, but more as an organic growth to their characterization.

Neither TMFSC nor MOTT are stories with only the two central characters; their host of secondary characters do play integral roles there. But the pacing is what makes the difference. In MOTT, it feels like every character has breathing room to discover himself and reveal herself to the reader. In TMFSC, it feels like the characters are so busy saving themselves and so involved in their own concerns that they have no time for the reader to get to know them.

For full disclosure purposes: I had to stop and start TMFSC four times; I read MOTT in one sitting. I persevered with TMFSC, because I could not believe that an LLM novel could give me this much trouble. There wasn't anything wildly shocking or hateful about it. That is what got me thinking about why I liked one and not the other.

Have you read these two novels? What is your take on their pacing? Have a favorite author and/or book of western romances to recommend? Go ahead. I'm soliciting.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Cædmon's Hymn

Whitby Abbey copyright by WikipediaCædmon is the earliest English poet whose name is known. An Anglo-Saxon herdsman attached to the double monastery of Streonæshalch (Whitby Abbey) during the abbacy of St. Hilda (657–680), he was originally ignorant of "the art of song," but according to Bede learned to compose one night in the course of a dream. He later became a zealous monk and an accomplished and inspirational religious poet.

CaedmonThe only known survivor from Cædmon's oeuvre is his Hymn (audio version). The poem is known from twenty-one manuscript copies, making it the best-attested Old English poem after Bede's Death Song, and the best attested in the poetic corpus in manuscripts copied or owned in the British Isles during the Anglo-Saxon period.


Nu scilun herga hefenricæs uard
metudæs mehti and his modgithanc
uerc uuldurfadur sue he uundra gihuæs
eci dryctin or astelidæ.
he ærist scop ældu barnum
hefen to hrofæ halig sceppend
tha middingard moncynn&ealig;s uard
eci dryctin æfter tiadæ
firum foldu frea allmehtig


Now let me praise the keeper of Heaven's kingdom,
The might of the Creator, and his thought,
The work of the Father of glory, how each of wonders
The Eternal Lord established in the beginning.
He first created for the sons of men
Heaven as a roof, the holy Creator,
Then Middle-earth the keeper of mankind,
The Eternal Lord, afterwards made,
The earth for men, the Almighty Lord.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Writers Boot Camp

Copyright by Bob MayerFor Seattle-area writers, WRITERS BOOT CAMP with author BOB MAYER is an intensive five-week writing series every Tuesday evening in March at Bellevue Library. Organized by the King County Library System.

Registration required. To register, click on each of the date links below. Books will be for sale at these workshops.

Who Dares to Win by Bob MayerNew York Times bestselling author Bob Mayer has over three million books in print. He travels frequently as a leadership speaker, consultant and writing workshop presenter. He graduated from West Point and served in the military as a Special Forces A-Team leader and a teacher at the JFK Special Warfare Center & School. His latest book is Who Dares Wins: The Green Beret Way to Conquer Fear & Succeed.

Tuesday, March 2, 7-9pm
The Original Idea and Conflict: The Core of Writing and Selling Your Book:
Can you say what your book is about in 25 words or less? This is essential to both writing a tight book and then selling it. Discover ways to find and state your original idea so you stay on course while writing the book. Learn to use the Conflict Box to create conflict between your protagonist and antagonist.

Tuesday, March 9, 7-9pm
Outlining, Plot, and Writing Scenes: The Events of Your Story:
Before you begin writing your book, you should spend some time outlining and developing your story. Discuss types of outlines along with techniques for efficiently developing the strongest possible story based on your original idea. From the exciting opening that grabs the reader through the escalating conflict to the climactic scene and ending with the resolution—the entire structure of the novel with be covered with emphasis on hooks, the remote control effect, building suspense and creating satisfying endings.

Tuesday, March 16, 7-9pm
Character and Point of View:
The point of view you write in is your voice as a writer. This goes beyond just first person, third person and omniscient voices. The most critical component of a novel is character. Discover how to go from writing flat two-dimensional characters to vibrant three-dimensional ones.

Tuesday, March 23, 7-9pm
The Publishing Business for Writers: Selling your book, Marketing Yourself and Your Book:
Develop a writer friendly approach to marketing your book efficiently. Understand the flow of a query at a publishing house and how decisions are made to buy a book. Learn to create cover letters that grab the reader, how to do a one page synopsis, and other practical tools to sell your work. Discuss what you can do marketing-wise to be a success in this business and cover a variety of techniques from book-signings, media outlets, publicists and other innovative ways to promote your book. Learn up-to-date information on the publishing business including: Fee-charging agents; sell-through and sales numbers; E-books; print-on-demand; shrinking mid-lists; corporate mergers and self-publishing.

Tuesday, March 30, 7-9pm
Introduction to Warrior Writer:
For fiction and non-fiction authors, this is a workshop that focuses on educating writers about how to be authors. Warrior Writer is a holistic approach encompassing goals, intent, environment, personality, change, courage, communication and leadership that gives the writer a road map to becoming a successful author. Many writers are focused on either the writing or the business end. Warrior Writer integrates the two. Warrior-Writer fills a critical gap in the publishing industry paradigm. Discuss how to conquer the fears that hold writers back and how to set strategic and tactical goals.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Children in Stories

We visited a working farm this past weekend, on one of those rare spring days when they open it up to visitors, particularly the little ones, who enjoy seeing baby animals. The farm is owned by one family of husband, wife, and a passel of kids, ranging in age from late teens down to a toddler.

As I spoke with the kids about the animals and saw them work in and around the barns, stables, and outdoor areas, I was struck by how mature and responsible these kids were. Modern, middle-class, urban kids the same age are far less so.

You could say that these farm kids had no choice but to grow up fast. You could mourn the loss of their childhood under adult responsibility. You could blame the parents for not hiring enough outside labor to allow their own kids to mature at their own pace. Or you could admire the parents for inculcating in their tender years, virtues that will stand their kids in good stead for their adult lives.

But that is not the thrust (hur!) of my blog here. My focus is on how circumstances make the children into who they are and how historical authors do children incorrectly in their stories.

First of, I'm not even considering those stories where the children are mere props for plot purposes or to act as sounding-board secondary characters.

I'm talking about those stories where the children are well-developed child characters. Only problem is: They sound like modern urban children with modern urban sensibilities.

Our children are, for the most part, mollycoddled and cerebral. Their concerns are, for the most part, themselves and their personal quotidian events; whereas, the maturity levels of kids in different historicals periods were far different.

Kids of the Regency had far more freedom to wander around, discover for themselves how things worked, fall into mischief, and learn about things we (modern people) don't think children should see/hear/know. Kids of the Middle Ages were considered grown and fostered out at seven years of age. Girls were married at twelve; boys became squires at thirteen.

These children also were not around adults 24x7 but around peers. Naturally, their thoughts, speech, and behavior were colored by their experiences.

Consequently, authors need to take this into consideration when choosing how their little characters will be on the stage of their story.

For example, the concern for and carrying on by the Regency hero's children about the hero and the heroine and their ongoing love struggles, might add to the precocious cuteness factor, but is historically inaccurate. Another example, a six-year-old medieval kid afraid of sleeping away from his mother in a separate room of his birth keep and his mother thereby having him sleep on a pallet in her room or in her bed. (And no, nothing bad happened to the kid or the mother in the past.)

What do you think about my conjecture here? Do you have any examples that help underscore your thoughts? Is it a valid concern that authors should worry about being historically true to all their characters?