Friday, October 30, 2015

In case you wonder I have been doing with what's left of my life....

There is a debate among historical novelists as to what is too much history and what is not enough. To a large degree, it depends upon the marriage of the reader and the writer.  If I read a historical novel in which the entire story could just as easily occur in modern San Bernardino, for example, perhaps that's where it belongs.  There needs to be a purpose for placing a story in another time slot. Sometimes the incentive to do so is the simple truth that some historical periods are more compelling than others. Setting a story in the 16th century, for example, requires the author to visit there and carry its magic to the reader.  To do so with panache requires more research than a quick visit to Wikipedia, although at least some excursion there would help. It is a reasonable place to start.

One issue a historical novelist needs to address is whether the protagonist or the history drives the plot. One example of how this tricky issue can be handled is Light in the Labyrinth by Wendy Dunn.  Doctor Dunn has a wealth of knowledge of Tudor history tucked into her head, and her depiction of the last days of Anne Boleyn is stunning, but the story remains very much about Catherine Carey and her acceptance of her step-father's love. As heart-rending as Queen Anne's beheading is portrayed, while the story centers around Anne Boleyn, it is not Anne's story. It is Catherine's. . Dr.Dunn's ability to master the distinction sets her book apart from other novels about the execution of the queen.

Applying my observations as a critic and reviewer to my published works, I have revisited each of them and asked the same question.  Even my debut novel The First Marie and the Queen of Scots is not a fictionalized biography of Marie Stuart's life.  It is about Marie Flemyng, aka 'Mally,' and her struggle to seize control of her own story. Doing so requires her to resolve her relationship with her cousin the Queen of Scots, without rejecting her entirely or becoming her apologist.  To that end, the novel is successful.  Does it have a tad too much history for some readers? Yes, indeed.  I did away with some of it in the second edition, which reads better than the first.

  I am going to do something drastic to my second book, perhaps making it into a trilogy. If it has too much history, it is because the protagonist William Kirkcaldy did too much living to cover in anything but a tome, and tomes are out of style.

 The Legacy of the Queen of Scots

 When I began writing the books in the Legacy of the Queen of Scots series, I was ready to write genuine historical novels. Viola!  While reviewers have not been forgiving of my editing errors, I am no longer being told to stop calling my work historical fiction and start labeling it fictionalized history.  At the risk of too much hype and not enough blog, here is a brief synopsis of each of the four novels to date in the series.

The Midwife's Secret: The Mystery of the Hidden Princess:  

During the latter half of the sixteenth century, rumors persisted claiming the Queen of Scots gave birth to a live daughter just before she escaped from Loch Leven in 1568.  According to the queen's secretary Claud Nau, the child was smuggled to a convent in France. Sometime between 1568 -1573, the Abbess Renee d' Guise, the Queen of Scot's aunt, brought a child named Marguerite d' Kircaldie to Saint Pierre les Dames du Rheims.  When visitors came to the Abbey, the child was hidden in the cellars. Most residents in the convent believed she was the child of Sir William Kirkcaldy of Grange, the Scottish knight executed in 1573 for holding Edinburgh Castle in the name of the Queen.  But Kirkcaldy's only child, Janet, Lady Ferniehirst, died mysteriously in London in 1570-72.  Madame Renee's risks her position as abbess and the pressures of her powerful family to thwart those who either seek to destroy or exploit the sequestered child while the resolute young postulate known as La Belle Ecossaise struggles to pursue her destiny, regardless of her origin.

The Other Daughter: Midwife's Secret II:


There is another Marguerite Kirkcaldy. She is indeed the daughter of the Knight of Grange, born posthumously to a laundress in Edinburgh Castle who is a relative of Mariel Fraser, the midwife in the first of the legacy series.  Her family and friends know her as Daisy, the Scottish version of the French name  Marguerite.  Her mother chose it because Kirkcaldy loved the blue variety of the Daisy popular in France, les Marguerites   Daisy is a precocious child who ends up well-placed in the entourage of the Countess of Argyll, who takes the laundress Violet Frasier and her bastard infant under her wing. In her adolescence, she hears the tales of the other Marguerite and her curiosity is aroused.  Ambitious and adventurous, Kirkcaldy's daughter grows into a young woman who defies convention and makes a name for herself as her step-father Will Cockie's apprentice in the jeweler's trade.  On a person note, she struggles between her infatuation with reiver warlord Sir Andrew Ker of Ferniehirst, who happens to be her nephew,  and the king's browdinstair Will Hepburn,  the bastard son of James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell, to  Norwegian heiress Anna Tronds.  
The two men in Daisy's life have more in common than their pursuit of Daisy. When Andrew was a child, he was taught to think of the wee lass his mother escorted to France in 1572 was a member of his family, the Knight Kirkcaldy's child.  But Will Hepburn is convinced the nun La Belle Ecossaise is the fabled daughter of his father James Hepburn and the Queen of Scots. Unfortunately, there are others in Scotland who have heard the rumors of the birth at Loch Leven.  One is King James VI, and another is Will Hepburn's first cousin, the present Earl of Bothwell, Wild Frank Stewart, who plans to locate the king's half sister and use her as a pawn, no matter what price La Belle Ecossaiseis forced to pay.

1603: The Queen's Revenge

Elizabeth Tudor is dying, and the King of Scots is tapped to inherit her throne.  But Francis Stewart, the Earl of Bothwell, once the king's favorite and a darling of the Protestant Kirk, has become the champion of the Catholic earls of the Scottish North. He brokers a wild plot to the King of Spain and the Pope, seeking support for a plan to capture the nun Marguerite d'Kircaldie and carry her off to Scotland in an evasion force he and the Duke of Alva will command.  

But he has not counted on the return from the dead of Will Hepburn of Hailes, who is believed to have been lost at sea, or the ingenuity of his cousin Will's guidwife Daisy Kirkcaldy, Edinburgh's notorious wad wife. In an adventure culminating in the Spanish Netherlands, exiled James Maitland, Madame Renee and La Belle Ecossaise's beloved champion Charles de Guise, Duke of Mayenne, join the little band of Scots to save the Stuart monarchy and protect La Belle Ecossaise from becoming a pawn in a struggle likely to destroy her life.

In The Shadow of the Gallows:     

And now, hopefully in time for November 5, best known as Guy Fawkes Day, comes the latest in the Legacy series, as Will and Daisy ride south to rescue their son Wee Peter, who has been kidnapped to force Hepburn's silence concerning a plot brewing in England aimed at killing the royal family. Is this a plot of aristocratic zealots, or does the Gunpowder Treason have deeper roots, some of which implicate persons in high places, some of whom are Scots?
Join Will and Daisy, the Kers and Trotters, and James Maitland of Lethington as they balance their determination to rescue six-year-old Peter Hepburn against their commitment to the King and Queen of Scotland and England and their children.  All of my books except In the Shadow of the Gallows are available on Amazon and as Kindle books.  The Shadow of the Gallows will be joining them next month.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

An Old Post with a Strong message. THE POLARIZATION OF AMERICA

When a child goes missing under suspicious circumstances, we are told that the first few hours are critical.  That is the reason behind the Amber alerts. When I was a prosecutor working with the San Bernardino County specialized detectives of the Crimes Against Children unit, we were amazed at the audacity of those who kidnap a child, often in daylight on a busy street or out of an enclosed front yard. But what kind of audacity does it take to highjack a nation? 
Is the culprit stealthy or bold? Surely, I ask myself, there must be myriad witnesses to the crime. But who are they? And then comes the obvious answer. We all are. Every single one of us stood by like the citizen across the street who thought he was watching a parent retrieving a toddler from day care, or picking up his kid on his way home from soccer practice.  We were just that oblivious to the snatching of America.  But now that we know that America is missing, we should have little difficulty recovering her.  A nation is hard to hide.  And again the answer is obvious. Her hi-jackers are not hiding her.  They have changed her and released her back to us. At first glance, she seems just fine, but what we fail to recognize unless we look very, very carefully, is that America is not America anymore.
And when we look closely at one of the widely circulated views of America, we do see a change. America was once populated by Americans--new ones, old ones, Native Americans, immigrants, but Americans, or at least, living breathing people who resided within the boundaries of the United States.  But according to the map I see almost every day at one site or another, the new America is not populated by people.  It is filled by red and blue pixels. There is no United States. There are Red states and Blue states, and a few that are in an identity crisis and shown in pink or pale blue or in several shades of gray. 
So here is my question of the day (Day 2): Until the past five years, when have you looked at a map of the United States divided into Red America and Blue America, other than during a Presidential election campaign?   This new America does not have a past or a future, but just one never-ending election campaign.  And to those who counter that having an informed populace is a good thing, I submit that having a misinformed populace fed a diet of polemics and propaganda is not so good.  At least think about it.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Watch for Speed Bumps, and as the English say, Mind the Gap -and other comments about aging.

It's been a long time since I've posted on my own blog. I've become accustomed to always being a guest and never a hostess. It's time for me to start expressing myself on those matters guaranteed to offend someone somewhere. Better to express them here than on someone else's site.
One of the most exciting things I've done in 2015 is functioning on the Board of the M.m.Bennetts Award. One of my duties was screening entries to make sure that met the criteria we established, guided by the legacy of M.m.Bennetts, a highly gifted historical fiction author who spent years as an editor and reviewer and had just begun to produce her masterworks when cancer struck.  Not a happy story, but one of which we should all take heed. So, whoever you are and whatever you do, my advice is to hurry up and live your dream.
There are some lessons about aging best learned while we are young, but unlikely to be appreciated until you are old enough to realize the Golden Years are a thin layer of the good stuff over the brass.  Here are a few of them:
Sex is a function. Love is a sentiment.  They can co-exist, or not.
Do not trust any automated program to present your written product the way you typed it.
Do not trust your fingers to duplicate your thoughts.
If you are a writer, even if you have to sell your designer shoes at a garage sale, get an editor.
If you are a writer, even if you cannot find an editor who will work for what your designer shoes earned at the garage sale, sell your jewelry and your family heirlooms and get an editor.
Do not trust financial institutions who peddle their credit cards one month and lower your credit line the next because you took the bait and now have too many cards.
Do not trust banks that encourage you to transfer balances from your 'highest interest credit cards' to one of theirs, and then lower your credit limit when you do, because you have used too high a percentage of your available balance.
When you see a photo on Facebook of your closest friends at a party given in honor of another friend, and it's the first you heard about it, time to revise your list of friends.
If you have large dogs, switch to Industrial Chic furniture with metal legs. The young ones chew and the old ones pee.
If you want total privacy, stay off the grid.
Never waste your money on expensive frames for photos of your children's spouses until they've been married at least fifteen years.
Celebrate your birthday by throwing out all of the things you inherited from your elders and never liked.
Clear your bookshelf of every book you've never read, and sell them at a garage sale or throw them in the trash.Then clear your bookshelf of every book you've read once but will never read again, and donate them to a thrift store operated by a charity. Next, clear your bookshelf of every book you've read and think everyone should read at least once and donate them to a library. Finally, reshelve the books you consider a part of who you are and BUY MORE BOOKS.
Repeat the above as to the clothes in your closet, and the jewelry in your jewelry box.
If you are a woman over 75  or have osteoporosis, get rid of your three and four-inch heels.
If you suffer from vertigo, don't get up too fast.  Peeing in the bed is better than peeing in a bedpan.
Consider doing your holiday shopping out of the treasures you have stashed.
If you want to be a blogger, blog at least three times a week.  It's like exercise.  It gets easier if you start small and ease into it.
It's better to laugh than to cry.  It takes a while for laugh lines to form. Red swollen eyes are visible immediately, and you'll have to wear sunglasses even when it's dark.