Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Louis XVI with Hunting Dog

A detail from a painting. Via Tiny-Librarian. Share

Helpful Links for Authors

From author Robert Bidinotto:
I am constantly approached by authors — especially those contemplating self-publishing — with requests for how-to information about writing and publishing. That includes questions about resources, such as lists of cover artists, editors, proofreaders, where to buy ISBNs, etc. Also, recommended books and blogs about fiction-writing and publishing.

That’s what this post is about. Rather than continue to respond to writers one at a time, repeating the same things, I want to compile in one place a list of links to places where you can find valuable information, resources, tips, and advice. This will include links to some of the popular advice posts scattered on this site. Some of the links below are to compendiums of other outside links — treasure troves of further information.

This list is just the beginning. I’ll constantly update this post with new information as I run across it, so make sure to check back from time to time. Bookmark this post so that you can consult it when you need further information.

Also, please share the link to this post with other writers, by email and on your social media. To do that on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+, just click their “share” buttons alongside this post.

I’ll organize this post into the following broad categories:

I. General Information and Resources
II. Fiction-Writing Resources
III. Self-Publishing
IV. Marketing Your Books
(Read more.)

Sir Walter Scott and Historical Romance

From Regina Jeffers:
Structurally, Ivanhoe is divided into three parts: (1) Ivanhoe’s return to England in disguise and the tournament at Ashby constitutes the first section. [Disguise, at a point of reference, is a major motif in the novel, as not only Ivanhoe, but also Wamba, Richard, Cedric, and Locksley assume disguises.]; (2) Sir Maurice de Bracy kidnaps Cedric’s party. De Bracy lusts after Rowena. Richard and Locksley free the prisoners.; (3) The Templars and Sir Brian de Bois-Guilbert take Rebecca captive. The trial-by-combat decides whether Rebecca will live or die. 
One of the major criticisms of Scott’s Ivanhoe is the freedom with which Scott employed historical fact. Also, Scott’s depiction of Jews is considered stereotypical at best. Yet, we must recall this is a “romance,” not a historical novel. As I write Regency romance, I am told often by those who write historicals that my novels are meant to please, not to instruct. Needless to say, I would beg to differ. I spend more hours than I would care to count in research, but my purpose here is not to debate whether there is room for imagination in the mist of research. What I wish to point out is how Scott’s opinion of King Richard goes against the idealized image of the King, especially that found in 19th Century England. Rosemary Mitchell, an Associate Principal Lecturer in History and Reader in Victorian Studies at Leeds Trinity University College, UK, says, “This is the message of Ivanhoe, with its equivocal chivalry: you can learn from the past, you can even recreate it, but ultimately you cannot and perhaps should not try to return to it.” [Mitchell, Rosemary, ‘Glory, Maiden, Glory': The Uncomfortable Chivalry of Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe, Open Letters Monthly: An Arts and Literature Review]

“The resolution of the novel has never been universally popular: the very earliest readers found fault with Scott’s decision to marry the hero to the blonde Anglo-Saxon princess, Rowena, rather than the beguiling brunette Rebecca, daughter of Isaac the Jew. Scott’s decision was not taken lightly: the marriage of Ivanhoe, the friend of the Norman King Richard and the flower of chivalry, was intended to symbolise the reconciliation of the Anglo-Saxons with their French conquerors and the foundation of an inclusive English nation. But not that inclusive: Scott, no mean medieval scholar and no rosy-eyed observer of his own time, does not pretend that Rebecca and her fellow Jews were acceptable to the new English people – or even to their nineteenth-century descendants. At the close of the novel, Rebecca and her father depart to Spain and we hear no more of them." (Read more.)

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Right Guard

Without pomp and circumstance, without outrageous language and literary machinations, you led me simply, skillfully and calmly into a cache of information that slowly became overwhelming in its scope and uncomfortably realistic. It is a profound book. One I won't forget for a long while. --Senior Military Officer, Pentagon, on The Right Guard by Alexandra Hamlet
Anyone who enjoys tales of espionage must not miss the debut novel of Alexandra Hamlet, The Right Guard. Based upon dozens of news stories which reported the theft of weapons from national guard and federal arsenals in the late 1970's, Ms. Hamlet weaves a story of political intrigue and treason taking place at the highest levels of the United States government. The author also draws upon her own experience as both a journalist and a defense anthropologist to create a realistic setting in frightening detail. For those who lived through the era in question, reading the book is like journeying back in time, as Ms. Hamlet captures the late '70's without any noticeable anachronisms. Yet the story is as relevant to our own decade as it is to the past, as many readers have already discovered.

The protagonist of The Right Guard is veteran CIA operative Eric Brent, to whom we are introduced in a brutal and heartrending scene in the first chapter. Born in Nazi Germany, Eric, the son of a German officer and scion of an aristocratic family, relocates to America with his family after the war. Eric is dedicated to serving his new country and by the time the novel opens has suffered multiple injuries in the course of his duties. Eric is summoned by his superiors to infiltrate a paramilitary group called "The Right Guard" who have been stealing weapons in order to overthrow the U.S. Government, which they believe has strayed from the Constitution. They plan to restore America to the values and principles of the Founding Fathers. As Eric befriends the leaders of the Right Guard, he is moved by their patriotism and idealism, and finds himself agreeing with most of their views. However, his past experiences and professionalism lead him to be wary, as he uncovers hidden agendas. 

Now Eric has already suffered a measure of personal loss due to his career, which naturally entails secrecy and being away months at a time. One of the losses was the charming and clever young political activist Jill Warren, who nevertheless comes back into his life through a series of coincidences. In the meantime, secrets are revealed, and Eric finds that not only his life is at stake but also everything he holds dear. The Right Guard is a must-read for those who enjoy political thrillers, especially a thriller that is not only historically accurate but also searches the enigmas of the human heart.

Alexandra Hamlet
Alexandra Hamlet kindly agreed to be interviewed for readers of Tea at Trianon, and I am happy to share our conversation.
EMV: Thank you, Alexandra, for making time for this interview. First of all, let me offer my congratulations on the success of your first novel, The Right Guard, which has won several prizes and garnered a great deal of critical acclaim. Could you tell us a little about your writer's journey? How long did it take for such an amazing novel to come together?
AHThank you for the opportunity. It’s my pleasure. The Right Guard has won 9 awards and it is being considered for film. It has been an incredible journey. I actually began The Right Guard in 1978, the same year the story begins in the book.
I wrote it in six months and then worked with it on and off for many years, but it went back into the closet a number of times. Late in 2010 after being in a motorcycle accident and being put into a body cast, I was miserable. I pulled it out again and worked on it to keep me busy - and also sane. This time I finished it
EMV: The research that went into The Right Guard is obviously thorough and expansive. Why did you choose the novel as the medium by which to tell the story you wanted to tell?
AH: I think the medium picks you. I was writing stories since I was eleven. I had always wanted to write a novel but wasn’t sure how. In the beginning, I just sat down and started page one. Little did I know how it would end. Once I started to put together the story, it took off on a life of its own.
EMV: Some people do not think historical novels require as much research as works of non-fiction. Do you agree or disagree?
AH: Historical novels require a huge amount of research. Not only do you have your story to prepare and your characters, you must place them in time and in an historical setting where they will play their parts. It’s a huge undertaking. The author takes on not only creating the genre but researching for facts placed in another world in time.  Giving your characters life to work out the story in the ‘given time’ takes a lot of effort.   
EMV: The Right Guard may challenge how some readers view our country. Do you agree with the old adage that those who do not learn from the past are condemned to repeat it?
AH: Absolutely, I agree. I kept this in mind quite often as I wrote the story. We only have to view the recent past, just before World War II, to see how quickly a nation can forget that appeasement or lack of resolve can lead to disaster. The book is based on real events and I think that is what shakes readers. Many people have contacted me saying they weren’t sure they were reading fiction.
EMV: Although The Right Guard is a work of fiction it contains documentation chronicling the theft of weapons from the National Guard and Reserve armories. Are such thefts still happening today?
AH: No. There was a significant alteration on how those assets are protected today.
EMV: Can you tell us about your next project? Is there a sequel planned for The Right Guard? And is there a movie is the works?
AH: I am working on another suspense thriller now, set in Washington, D.C. and Virginia. It has a female lead and involves the spy world and how a young woman innocently gets caught up in that world.   However, The Right Guard is a series of three books and I will be back working on RG 2 in the near future.
As far as film, my husband and I flew out to Los Angeles to talk with a director and producer at their request. Seems like there is a lot of interest in the book and a contract was floated about.  I now have a film agent as well as a literary agent. I guess now, we wait.  I am as anxious as the readers to see what happens next.
EMV: Thank you so much for answering my questions, Alexandra, and I look forward to the film and to your upcoming novels!
Please visit Alexandra at her website and blog.


Five Reasons Children Should Learn Cursive Writing

From Time:
Research suggests that printing letters and writing in cursive activate different parts of the brain. Learning cursive is good for children’s fine motor skills, and writing in longhand generally helps students retain more information and generate more ideas. Studies have also shown that kids who learn cursive rather than simply manuscript writing score better on reading and spelling tests, perhaps because the linked-up cursive forces writers to think of words as wholes instead of parts. (Read more.)

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Marie-Antoinette's Wardrobe Book, 1782

Tiny-Librarian quotes Antonia Fraser:
The Wardrobe Book of 1782, in the care of the Comtesse d’Ossun, survives. Each outfit is categorized and accompanied by a tiny swatch of material. There are samples for the court dresses in various shades of pink, in shadowy grey-striped tissue and in the self-striped turquoise velvet intended for Easter.  

But what is notable is the preponderance of swatches for the more casual clothes, the loose Lévites shown together on one page in an array of colours, from pale grey and pale blue through to the much darker shades of maroon and navy, sometimes with small sprigs embroidered between the stripes.  There are redingotes (from the English word riding-coat) in the same palette of blues, as well as a particular mauve marked Bertin-Normand, coupling together the names of the couturier and the silk-merchant.  Swatches for the so-called ‘Turkish’ robes are shown in self-striped pink and very dark mauve, for the robes anglaises in turquoise and self-striped mauve as well as dark maroon striped in pale blue.  One swatch of material, supplied by the other celebrated silk-merchant, Jean-Nicholas Barbier, uses the Queen’s favourite cornflower to good effect, set in a design of wavy cream-coloured stripes. (Read more.)

The Reformation: Truth and Falsehood

From Eamon Duffy at The Telegraph:
For five centuries England has been in denial about the role of Roman Catholicism in shaping it. The coin in your pocket declares the monarch to be Defender of the Faith. Since 1558 that has meant the Protestant faith, but Henry VIII actually got the title from the Pope for defending Catholicism against Luther. Henry eventually broke with Rome because the Pope refused him a divorce, and along with the papacy went saints, pilgrimage, the monastic life, eventually even the Mass itself – the pillars of medieval Christianity.
To explain that revolution, the Protestant reformers told a story. Henry had rejected not the Catholic Church, but a corrupt pseudo-Christianity which had led the world astray. John Foxe embodied this story unforgettably in his Book of Martyrs, subsidised by the Elizabethan government as propaganda against Catholicism at home and abroad. For Foxe, Queen Elizabeth was her country’s saviour, and the Reformation itself the climax of an age-old struggle between God, represented by the monarch, and the devil, represented by the Pope.
Fear of Catholic Spain, the greatest power in Europe, gave Foxe’s story urgency. That fear escalated under the Stuart kings, for all of them married Catholics, and were suspected of favouring their wives’ religion. The prospect of a persecuting Catholicism imposed by an apostate monarchy fuelled Protestant anxiety. It led to Civil War, and the execution of King Charles I. Ironically, Charles was a loyal Anglican, but both his sons, Charles II and James II, did eventually embrace Catholicism.
In 1679 fear of Catholicism triggered a last orgy of persecution. The so called Popish Plot, to murder the king and seize the throne, was a paranoid fantasy concocted by Titus Oates, but it unleashed a wave of gruesome executions, including the judicial murder of the Catholic Archbishop of Armagh, Oliver Plunkett. (Read more.)

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Queen of Scots as a Young Child

A drawing of Mary Stuart as the small girl who charmed the Court of France. Via Tiny-Librarian.

And HERE is an article about the four Maries. Share