Tuesday, October 31, 2006

It's almost November...

And you know what that means.

Nanowrimo is here!

I completed a 50,000+ manuscript called Dancer, which I really don't like - which is why you don't see it anywhere - last year. This year, with the extra demands of grad school, I don't expect to finish anywhere near as well. Besides, my focus is on TOTK right now.

But, if you're interested, you can keep track of my progress (or lack thereof) right here. My new Nano novel currently has no plot and no characters, but it does have a great title, The Crazy Grad Student Who Thinks She Has Time to Write a Novel (no, really, that's the title.) As you can tell, I'm going a bit more autobiographical this year.

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Thursday, October 26, 2006

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Loved the movie. Loved the book. This is well worth the read, even if you've seen Clark Gable tell Vivian Leigh that he "doesn't give a damn" about a million times.

(And, if you've never seen the movie... Go rent it this instant! It's a movie that has aged much better than most Hollywood epics of the studio era. I was really surprised by how sophisticated a movie it still is the first time I saw it.)

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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

And Tholly?

I don't have as good examples for Tholly as I do for Pierre. The closest I can come is this image, from Sir Frank Dicksee's painting of Romeo and Juliet:

Sir Frank Dicksee's Romeo and Juliet

That's him... except his face isn't showing.

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If you're interested in how I came up with my characters. Well, mostly they evolved as I was writing them... None more than the character of Pierre, who was a total enigma to me when I began the section where he arrives into Abby's life in Thorn of the Kingdom. He revealed himself to me in layers, just as he did to Abby (whose character was a completely different story. As soon as I realized her story needed to be told from her perspective, her voice was just there.)

However, in recent trollings of YouTube, I rediscovered this Alanis Morissette video, which I remember really making an impression on me when it first came out. (I think I completely missed the point of the song, but that's okay.):

Keep a close eye on the guy on left side of the split-screen. (Yeah, I know it's the same guy on both. But he's not dressed up like the "knight in shining armor" on the right side.)


Well, yeah, a little bit.

Of course, my other big influence on his character was Michael Vartan's version of Lancelot in The Mists of Avalon TV movie. Michael Vartan in

(Thanks to Two Evil Monks for the photo.)

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TOTK Chapter 1

I feel a bit like George Lucas here, re-releasing old material. But, like Star Wars, I guess you can't beat the original. I am finding myself having a lot more sympathy for him tonight than I usually do, though.

As a viewer, I want the movies I saw as a kid. I don't care if the special effects date it. But as the creator of a piece of (is it pretentious to call it "art"?), I look at this version, and all I can see is the flaws. I itch to correct them, or present you with my latest draft.

But here it is... From February 2003... Not seen since last summer on FictionPress... is the original beginning of Part I: Orphaned, Chapter 1.

“Hath not thy rose a thorn, Plantagenet?"
King Henry VI, Part I
Act 2, Scene 4


I have often given thanks that we cannot see into our futures. That we do not wake in the morning and realize that this day will change our lives in ways we cannot even imagine.

Some changes, of course, we could look forward to. Others, we are glad to put off as long as we can. And it is those that I am most thankful we do not portend.

When I think this way, I remember one day in particular. It altered the course of my life forever. For if events had happened differently, I would have never met Tholly at all.

It seems strange to think that Tholly is rightfully King Bartholomew II, now. He will always be Tholly to me.

But, that cold mid-winter’s morning when I was six years old, I was unaware of Tholly, the palace or even events occurring in my own household that were destined to change my life.

I remember hearing strange murmurings in my dreams. It wasn't Mama and Papas’ voices that I heard rising and falling, but they seemed somehow familiar.

I tried to force my eyes open, but they were as if someone had sewn them shut. At times, I seemed conscious, as though I could actually see myself lying there, auburn hair bathed in the sunlight from the room’s lone window, small body twisted up in sweaty bedclothes. But it must have just been the hammering of my head, tricking me into thinking so.

There were faces at times, in front of me. I thought. I was sure of nothing. Nothing seemed real.

I was dreaming again.

And then a horse's neigh came from outside and my eyes flew open. That had been real. A horse was tied up at the hitching post outside the shop, I could have sworn by it. I could even hear it stomping its hooves in the snow.

That could only mean that someone had stopped by the shop to trade. I listened as hard as I could, but only muffled tones came from downstairs. I did not hear Papa's deep voice bartering with a customer.

I reached one of my still-chubby hands up to my eyelids, rubbed, and realized my eyes were no longer throbbing. I tested my head by rolling it from side to side on the pillow and felt none of the stabbing pain that had been with me for...… for I didn'’t know how long.

The sun fell on me, but it was cold winter sun and my sweat-soaked nightshift gave me no warmth. I shivered as I lifted the covers off and slid my feet to the side of the rope-bed, but I had to know who was downstairs. Perhaps there was a thief pilfering through Papa’s hard-earned trade goods.

My feet made contact with the rough-hewn boards. I held on to the side of the bed to steady myself as I rose, and made my way out of the small bedroom onto the landing, balancing against the wall as I went.

My head no longer pounded, but I felt strangely lightheaded. The landing opened up to the shop below and I had to grasp the wooden railing when I saw how far I had to fall.

The shop was as dark as always, with only the sunshine filtering down from upstairs, the fire, and what glow came from the chinks around the door to light the room. It took my tired eyes a while to adjust to the coziness and see the three figures gathered around the fire, talking softly.

Two I recognized as Cunningham and his wife.

Cunningham was a neighbor, and I knew Papa considered him a friend. His wife, however, was the bossy matron of a brood of twelve. The youngest Cunningham was my playmate, but her mother had always intimidated me. I shrank next to the stair post; at the sight of her, thankful Cunningham'’s wife seemed intently focused on the conversation.

The third figure was an elegant stranger. The woman’s heavy royal blue cloak only slightly concealed an elaborately brocaded gown. Her headpiece was similarly intricate. Her neck and most of her head were wrapped with cloth as I had seen nuns wear, but instead of a habit, she wore a large circlet of wrapped blue and white cloth on the crown of her head.

I had never seen such a person in my life. Certainly this strange person must have come to our home from one of the ships in the harbor. No one in this land could own such finery. Even the richest women in my small coastal village, and I counted my own Mama among them, could only dream of brocaded silk gowns.

And yet, despite her splendor, the stranger seemed perfectly content to sit and talk with Cunningham and his wife. It was if she sat around in small merchant's dark shops everyday.

It was puzzling. I found my legs were weakening, so I lowered myself to sit on the top step and peeked through the railing, trying to listen in on the conversation.

"fevered... child... we sent for you..."

It was impossible. I could not understand half of what they were trying to say. I wondered why Mama and Papa didn't come out of their own room underneath the stairs and meet this stranger. Why were the Cunninghams sitting there in front of the fire, entertaining their guest?

Frustrated, I scooted down a few more steps, trying to get closer.

The three adults' heads spun towards me when one of the stairs creaked. How could I have forgotten the third step from the top was so noisy?

“Why it'’s the young missy, out of bed,” Cunningham exclaimed as if no one else could see that fact with their own eyes.

His wife lifted her considerable frame off of her stool and started clucking, "Abigail, what yea be doing out of bed? Yea, getting over fever." She took heavy steps up the stairs and when her breath allowed, continued, "Get back in bed... bed... I say... Yea sitting there in the draft with naked feet... Oh, if yea mama could see ye..."

I clambered to my feet, desperate to reach the safety of my bed before Mistress Cunningham reached me. But, I rose so fast, it took a moment for the room to stop spinning again. When my eyes cleared, I looked down. The stranger was looking up at me and smiling. Her well-featured face seemed so familiar somehow... especially her brilliant blue eyes. Even in the dim light, I could see eyes that matched the color of the ocean.

But that glimpse was all I got, for Mistress Cunningham had reached the top of the stairs and was forcing me back into the bedroom by the scruff of my neck.

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Where do you find TOTK, anyway?

Anonymous said...
I tried to find a published copy of Thorns of a Kingdom in bookstores, online, etc but I couldn't find it :-(. I reallllyyyy wanna read it. Where can I find it?

Part of the reason I started this blog was to keep my FP readers up-to-date on what's happening with TOTK, so I'm glad you asked this.

I want you to read Thorn of the Kingdom. I'm excited that you're excited about it.

Unfortunately, it isn't available anywhere online at the moment.

As I was writing the first draft, several years ago, I posted each chapter to FictionPress.com. As I got closer to what I thought was the end of the revising process, I took it down because I thought I was close to sending my manuscript off to agents and publishers. Then I decided it needed one more draft before it was "ready for prime time."

And so, my faithful readers are in limbo right now. My new goal is to begin searching for an agent before the end of the year, but the publishing business is notoriously slow, so it could be a while yet before you can order it from a bookstore.

I still have a few "Outtakes" from TOTK on my FictionPress homepage. Think of them as "deleted scenes" from a DVD. (I'm having some trouble viewing content on FictionPress right now. I don't know if it's due to their recent upgrade, or if I'm just to stupid to figure out the new features, but just to let you know you might have some troubles with it too.)

But, in the meantime, I think I'll post the original opening here, as a sign of good faith.

Thank you for your patience!

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Thursday, October 05, 2006

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

Epic is about the only thing to say about this story. It's intimidating just because of its size... At close to 1,500 pages, it's thicker than some Bibles. But is it worth it to read the unabridged version? I think so.

There's a lot of information in here that has nothing to do with the plot... but it contributes to the mood. And the plot, itself, is full enough.

I challenge you to name a human emotion that it not found in these pages, somewhere. From compassion to greed to desperation to anger... it's all here.

And, I also happen to love Les Mis, the musical. I wish I could have seen it on Broadway.

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Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

Golden paints a vivid portrait of Geisha life in early 20th Century Japan. How he did it, I don't know, but as you read this novel, you might find yourself wondering if it actually is a true story. It isn't, but Golden went to great pains to recreate a culture that doesn't really exist in the modern world anymore - not in the way it did before World War II when most of this novel is set.

It's one of those books that leaves you with a sigh of contentment when you finally put it down. I love that kind of book.

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The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Don't ever compare this book to the trashy Demi Moore movie. On the surface, it is about adulterous sex, but don't expect any steamy stuff.

I don't even know how to explain this one. It gets deep into sin, guilt, pride, revenge and love.

Go ahead and skip the introduction, "The Custom House," if you want to. It really doesn't add much to the story, and has little to do with it. Go back and read it once you're done.

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Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare

While we're talking plays, I might as well mention my favorite Shakespeare. Again, I have to recommend the movie version. If you haven't seen the Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson version, you need to. It's the movie that made me "get" Shakespeare for the first time and now I'm as nutty a Shakespeare nut as they come.

Anyway, the play:

Beatrice and Benedick have always hated each other. They have a war of words every time they meet.

So, of course, their friends and relatives decide they'd be perfect for each other and come up with a hysterical way to set them up! It doesn't prove too hard to do, of course. Maybe they didn't hate each other as much as they thought they did.

There's a few other plots running through (after all, it is Shakespeare), but Beatrice and Benedick are the reason to read this play. They're as witty and fun as old B.S.* gets.

(* "B.S." stands for "Bill Shakespeare." It's what my old high school English teacher used to call him.)

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Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand

Actually, this is a play... and perhaps the best story of unrequited love on record. I highly recommend the Gèrard Depardieu film version.

Cyrano is lover, poet and a fighter, but he's just too scared to tell the beautiful Roxane how he feels about her. Meanwhile, he's helping a much more handsome man woo her with the words of love that spring from his own heart. When Roxane confesses she's fallen for the poet, and not the pretty face, Cyrano may have some 'splaining to do.

It's sweet and tragic. Man, I seem to be on a "sad endings" kick tonight. Kleenex anyone?

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Ride the Wind by Lucia St. Clair Robson

This novel is based on the true story of Cynthia Ann Parker, who spent most of her life with the Comanche after she was captured off her family's Texas settlement by them in 1836 at the age of 9. Fortunately, she was considered young enough to be adopted into the People and escapes the rape, murder and torture that befall her older relatives. (Word of warning: St. Clair Robson doesn't gloss that part of the story over.)

Cynthia eventually comes to the lodge of Pahayuca, a band leader of the Comanche. She eventually accepts her new identity as Naduah, Keeps Warm With Us, and comes to love her new life. She also comes to love one of the People's young leaders. Their relationship - based on friendship, desire and love - stands up with John of Gaunt and Katherine, and Jamie and Claire Fraser, as one of my favorites in literature. But anyone with a passing knowledge of late 19th Century Texan history will know their life will not have a happily-ever-after ending. The Comanche's way of existence is slowly being eradicated by the Parkers and people like them. This book is definitely a tear-jerker, but oh-so-worth the read.

The only hesitation I have in recommending this book is that others may do what I did. After reading it, I eagerly sought out St. Clair Robson's other books - and eventually came to the conclusion that she was a one-hit wonder. This was her debut novel and though I have read several of her succeeding titles, I have not found one nearly as engaging as this one. There's a new one out about the Revolutionary War that looks intriguing, but I keep picking it up and putting it back down at the bookstore, thinking I've been burned once too often by her. Maybe someday I'll work up the courage to try again.

But please don't let that discourage you from reading this book that I love.

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