Monthly Archives: May 2010

"Memorial Rain"

In honor of Memorial Day, a heartbreaking World War One poem. It’s by Archibald MacLeish, whose “Not Marble Nor the Gilded Monuments” I posted during poetry month. He wrote it for his brother.

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Memorial Rain
For Kenneth MacLeish, 1894-1918

Ambassador Puser the ambassador
Reminds himself in French, felicitous tongue,
What these (young men no longer) lie here for
In rows that once, and somewhere else, were young…

     All night in Brussels the wind had tugged at my door:
     I had heard the wind at my door and the trees strung
     Taut, and to me who had never been before
     In that country it was a strange wind, blowing
     Steadily, stiffening the walls, the floor,
     The roof of my room. I had not slept for knowing
He too, dead, was a stranger in that land
     And felt beneath the earth in the wind’s flowing
     A tightening of roots and would not understand,
Remembering lake winds in Illinois,
That strange wind. I had felt his bones in the sand
     Listening.

         …Reflects that these enjoy
Their country’s gratitude, that deep repose,
That peace no pain can break, no hurt destroy,
That rest, that sleep…

         At Ghent the wind rose.
     There was a smell of rain and a heavy drag
     Of wind in the hedges but not as the wind blows
     Over fresh water when the waves lag
     Foaming and the willows huddle and it will rain:
     I felt him waiting.

         …Indicates the flag
Which (may he say) enisles in Flanders plain
This little field these happy, happy dead
Have made America…

                  In the ripe grain
     The wind coiled glistening, darted, fled,
     Dragging its heavy body: at Waereghem
     The wind coiled in the grass above his head:
     Waiting—listening…

         …Dedicates to them
This earth their bones have hallowed, this last gift
A Grateful country…

                  Under the dry grass stem
     The words are blurred, are thickened, the words sift
Confused by the rasp of the wind, by the thin grating
Of ants under the grass, the minute shift
     And tumble of dusty sand separating
     From dusty sand. The roots of the grass strain,
     Tighten, the earth is rigid, waits—he is waiting—

     And suddenly, and all at once, the rain!

     The living scatter, they run into houses, the wind
     Is trampled under the rain, shakes free, is again
     Trampled. The rain gathers, running in thinned
     Spurts of water that ravel in the dry sand,
     Seeping in the sand under the grass roots, seeping
     Between cracked boards to the bones of a clenched hand:
     The earth relaxes, loosens; he is sleeping,
     He rests, he is quiet, he sleeps in a strange land.

Musetracks giveaway

I’m working on a post about Luddites, the British tradition of collective bargaining by riot, and John Henry, but in the meantime:

My friend and fellow Dorchester author Marie-Claude Bourque has a book out this week! So do Emily Bryan, Christie Craig, and Cindy Holby! So Marie-Claude is doing a fabulous giveaway at her group blog for aspiring authors, Musetracks.

Three bundles of books by Dorchester authors, and the second one includes In for a Penny. Check it out!

All the authors contributed inspirational quotes, too. I know you want to read mine!

I just watched the original Charlie's Angels credits and now I kind of want to watch the show

WOOOOOOO! I have turned in the manuscript of A Lily Among Thorns! Of course this is just the first pass and I’ll be getting a revision letter someday soon, but right now I am still riding the high. Those two weeks of working double shifts were kind of crazy and having free time again is AMAZING! (I’ve already watched almost half the first season of Gossip Girl…)

I thought I’d take this opportunity to post photos from my two signings. Here are a couple from the first one at Third Place Books with Gayle Ann Williams (whose book Tsunami Blue you all need to read–I finally finished it a couple weeks ago and LOVED it! I’ll be giving away a copy here at some point, too). Sorry some of these are not great quality, they were taken on a phone!

Me and Gayle:

I was so nervous at this event and Gayle was so sweet and let me speak first. I don’t know what I would have done without her. Here’s Gayle and Marianne Strnad from our chapter:

And then some great ones from the debut Dorchester authors signing at the Redmond Town Center Borders. That one was me, Gayle, Amy Rench (author of Fallen Rogue), and Marie-Claude Bourque. (Marie-Claude’s book Ancient Whispers is being released today by the way! She has a cool online launch party set up here.)


(L to R: Amy, Gayle, me, and Marie-Claude)

My friend Sonia helped us do a proper Charlie’s Angels pose for this one (luckily since none of us could remember exactly how it should work):

As you can see on the table Gayle brought chocolate for everyone because she is awesome. And this one is actually my favorite, we just look so authorial:

Thank you to all my friends and fellow GSRWA members who came and made the events so fun and successful!

Brevity is the soul of wit, and tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes

Hey all! Revisions are BENDING TO MY WILL! MWAHAHAHAHA!

Okay um. I think all the oxygen from my brain is gone because of too much revisions (I just typed “brain from my oxygen”) so I will be brief! Actually brief, not like Friar Lawrence or Polonius when they say that (Shakespeare REALLY liked that joke: “I will be brief” followed by a million lines).

My GSRWA and blogging friend Cecilia Grant (her blog is awesome, you guys) just did an amazing and a half interview over at Romance Writers on the Journey. It’s sooo good. Although I feel that it’s very unfair to post an interview like this when your book is NOT AVAILABLE YET. Here is the description of her first book:

“When a pretty young widow enlists his help in conceiving a fraudulent heir, Christopher Mirkwood knows exactly what to expect: pleasure and more pleasure, and the chance to bestow the sensual awakening of which any such widow must necessarily stand in need. What better diversion from the tedium of a parentally mandated rural exile?

Awakening. Really. Martha Russell is wide awake, thank you, and has more important matters on her mind. Armed with principle, fortitude, and a bone-deep certainty of her own righteousness on all occasions, she’ll do whatever she must to keep her estate, and housemaids, out of her brother-in-law’s hands — even if she must do it with a wastrel who can’t get it through his pleasure-addled head that their arrangement is strictly business.

They need a month of illicit encounters. They’ll be lucky if they make it through a week. But if they can keep from throttling each other, they might find that even the most unromantic of bargains can turn into more than either one bargained for.”

How awesome does that sound! Prickly women with an over-developed sense of responsibility are my FAVORITE. And then the next book which is EVEN FARTHER AWAY sounds, if possible, EVEN MORE EXCITING:

“Martha’s brother’s story: Sworn to provide for a fallen comrade’s widow and child, Waterloo veteran Will Blackshear ventures into the gaming clubs of London in pursuit of quick cash – only to run afoul of a stone-cold cardsharp who’s staked out the territory as her own.

Lydia Slaughter is everything Will doesn’t need: ruthless, untrustworthy, and another man’s mistress. When she proposes a truce, and a tactical alliance, the resulting partnership could make his fortune… or ignite a passion that will leave them both in ruins.”

::drools:: Apparently Lydia is even a mathematician! Glamorous professional gamblers who are secretly math geeks make me SO HAPPY. (Have any of you read The Oracle Glass by Judith Merkle Riley?)

Here is an excerpt from the interview:

“My characters often start out as reactions to something I’ve read. For instance there was a period where I happened to read a whole string of romances featuring heroines who were downright Lady Chatterley-esque in their enraptured wonder at the male anatomy. It made me want to write the opposite: a heroine who’d look at an unclothed man and think, ‘Is this some kind of joke?’ Then it followed that her hero needed to be someone whose whole self-concept was rooted in his appeal to women, because those two could give each other maximum grief.”

Okay, maybe I like that so much because I get a lot of my ideas the same way. But also, that’s hilarious. And THAT IS JUST ONE EXCERPT. IT IS A VERY LONG AND GREAT INTERVIEW. And then in the comments there’s a discussion about emotionally manipulative things that totally make us cry! Which is something I love talking about because I’m a sap. If you want to know how to make me cry this is your chance. ALSO she’s giving away a signed copy of In for a Penny AND of Amanda Forrester’s The Highlander’s Sword (which I hear is a FABULOUS book and has been getting wonderful reviews even though I haven’t had a chance to read it yet) so this is your chance for those too.

…Okay that wasn’t that brief was it? But most of it was excerpts. Oh God I shouldn’t be allowed to make blog posts when I have done about ten hours of revision in a day. Whatever! Go! Read!

"A ferret! Brilliant!"

1. Still deep in revision-land. I took a brief vacation yesterday for a “Robin of Sherwood” (the 80s BBC series) marathon with my friend Gwen. I loved it! Believe me, you will be hearing lots more about that once revisions are over. If you like tightly plotted drama, this show isn’t for you, but if you like humor, engaging characters, villages bursting into flame, well-dressed bickering villains, and some scenery chewing, then yes, this is a show you will probably love. I haven’t laughed so hard in weeks. Also, it gave me the subject line for this post.

2. A couple of days ago I found myself researching how long severed heads stay conscious after decapitation (yes, this was for the book). Luckily I am not the only person who has ever wanted this information. Check out the Straight Dope column. And extra luckily for me, a lot of the most colorful anecdotes are from the French Revolution so my characters can have heard about them! This is my favorite:

According to another tale, when the heads of two rivals in the National Assembly were placed in a sack following execution, one bit the other so badly the two couldn’t be separated.

I did some further research trying to determine the credibility of this versus the likelihood it was an urban legend, but all I could find was that that the anecdote is attributed to Samson, the guy in charge of the guillotine. If anyone knows more, I’d love to hear it!

3. Have any of you taken a workshop with Bob Mayer? If you have, then you may think this is as cool as I do! I think Bob’s a fabulous speaker, and luckily for me he’s a GSRWA member and lives in the Northwest and also sometimes does programming at libraries, so I’ve gotten to hear him present several times over the last year.

There’s a clip from the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line that he likes to show as a good example of how to deal with rejection. (I couldn’t find the clip anywhere online but I was able to find Bob’s blog post about it, which you can read here and which contains a transcript of the short scene.)

In it there’s a music producer/talent scout who rejects Cash’s gospel but likes “Folsom Prison Blues.” This character had previously mainly been interesting to me because he was cute, savvy, and kind of sarcastic, which are qualities I like in a man. But I was recently listening to “Carl Perkins’ Cadillac,” a song by the Drive-By Truckers (an alt-country band I recently discovered), and I noticed this lyric:

“Sam Phillips found Johnny Cash and he was high
High before he ever took those pills”

Yes! This song I love by my new band I love is in fact about that cute talent scout from that clip I’ve seen several times in Bob Mayer workshops! It’s an awesome world.

The song is about…well, it’s kind of complex song but what it’s mainly about for me is creative expression and why we do it, whether it’s for the money or the fame or the lifestyle or because of something else entirely. The backstory is that Sam Phillips promised to buy a Cadillac for the first guy he was producing who got a gold record, and it was Carl Perkins. Here’s a video of the Truckers performing an acoustic version of the song live:

It was the best audio quality I could find. The lyrics are here, too.

Hope you’re all having a great weekend!

Too busy for a clever subject line

As I mentioned in my last post, I am currently in the middle of revisions for A Lily Among Thorns. And revisions means fact-checking and research! Here are some hilarious tidbits I’ve come across over the last few days:

1. “The piety of Hannah More was ‘practical piety,’ and to her must be assigned much of the distinction this kingdom derives from that all-glorious sentence now so often read in so many parts of it — a sentence that, beyond all others in our language, makes, as it ought to make, an Englishman proud —

‘SUPPORTED BY VOLUNTARY CONTRIBUTIONS.'”

AWWWWW. From S.C. Hall’s biography of Hannah More in his A Book of Memories of Great Men and Women of the Age from Personal Acquaintance, available here.

2. From the Wikipedia article on Cockney English:

‘Some of the features may derive from the upper-class pronunciation of late 18th century London, such as the use of “ain’t” for “isn’t” and the now lost reversal of “v” and “w” (as noted by Dickens regarding Sam Weller/Veller). This element of Cockney as parody is often underestimated, it dates to a time when Cockneys earned much of their income from the rich, who they then derided at home or in the pub.’

Ooh, neat! And here’s a related one:

3. I discovered a new possible explanation for the origin of the British curse word “bloody.” Now there are so many explanations that the real answer at this point is probably “no one knows,” but this one seems pretty plausible and I like it! I can’t remember where I first read about this, so if another author talked about it on their blog recently, I’m sorry for stealing! Let me know and I’ll credit you/them.

From the Online Etymology Dictionary:

‘But perhaps it ultimately is connected with bloods in the slang sense of “rowdy young aristocrats” via expressions such as bloody drunk “as drunk as a blood.” [cf. “drunk as a lord,” which is common in Regency romances.] Partridge reports that it was “respectable” before c.1750, and it was used by Fielding and Swift, but heavily tabooed c.1750-c.1920, perhaps from imagined association with menstruation; Johnson calls it “very vulgar,” and OED first edition writes of it, “now constantly in the mouths of the lowest classes, but by respectable people considered ‘a horrid word’, on par with obscene or profane language.”‘

4. Also from the Online Etymology Dictionary: ‘To be figuratively on the fence “uncommitted” is from 1828, from the notion of spectators at a fight.’ Isn’t that great? It’s completely not the image I had created for myself, which related more to the idea of a fence as a boundary between two things.

And now back to work! Don’t forget to come visit me at the B&N forum!

Me talk pretty one day

So I don’t have time for a post with actual content because:

1. My deadline for A Lily Among Thorns is coming up in a few weeks and I am revising every spare minute that I have. The only reason I was able to snatch this time to post is that I’m printing out the MS now to do a hard-copy edit and my printer is REALLY SLOW.

2. I’m going to see David Sedaris speak tonight and I have to leave soon to pick up my friend for dinner! I’m so excited. I’m hoping he’ll talk about his mother since it’s Mother’s Day. I LOVE his essays about his mother. Although right now I miss my own mother so much that if he does talk about his, I’ll probably cry. (Also, happy Mother’s Day to all you moms out there! Moms are great.)

HOWEVER, in the meantime, here are links to some stuff:

1. Ten of my favorite romances, over at Dear Author! What an awesome new feature, I LOVE hearing about other people’s favorite books.

2. An interview with me over at The Romance Reader! I talk about my introduction to romances, my day job, my attempts at writing “serious” literary fiction in college, and a bunch of other stuff. An excerpt:

What led you to write romance?

I’ve been writing since I was a tiny child–after a certain age it was fanfiction for classic British lit, mostly. My first attempt at a novel was a sequel to Ivanhoe when I was ten. I wanted Rebecca to marry Brian. I got into romance when I was twelve. My middle school had a little career internship thing in seventh grade, and they paired me up with a local writer. She in turn introduced me to Carola Dunn, another local author who was writing traditional Regencies at the time (she’s doing mysteries now). I read everything by Dunn in the local library, some of it more than once. The following year a friend loaned me my first Georgette Heyer, and it was all over.

3. My thread is up at the Barnes & Noble forum! Come on over and say hi! (And if you have any questions about In for a Penny, this is a great chance to ask them, the thread is spoiler-friendly!)

4. And don’t forget about my contest! I’m taking suggestions for the plot of a short story set in the In for a Penny world. You can submit ideas through May 31st, and then I’ll pick my favorite and write the story over the summer and post it September 1st.

Do/did any of you watch Smallville? I watched some old episodes with a friend this week, and I forgot how incredibly wonderful Lex is! It’s kind of frustrating because it’s like the show figured out that he looks beautiful and heartbreaking when he’s sad and/or terrified, and then they had him do that every week. On the one hand, I enjoy it, but on the other hand, sometimes I just want him to be happy! I want the episode “Lex And Clark Go On A Picnic In Lex’s Porsche And Nothing Bad Happens.”

It’s a great lesson for a writer, though, I think: if your villain is arguably your most compelling character and you don’t make him clearly villainous enough, it makes your good guys look like jerks. And also, you need to have a good balance between bad things happening and good things happening, or your reader gets worn out. (A few reviewers of Penny mentioned this rule, actually, which I think is fair; I did throw a lot at Nev and Penny. If I had it to do over again, I’d probably add a couple more scenes of them just being happy together…although what I’d cut to make space, I don’t know.)

Aaaaand, gotta run! I’ll be back with content soon, I promise. I’m even talking to a copyeditor friend about doing some guest posts, it’s gonna be great!

EEEE!

Eloisa James has read my book!!!

Okay I know I am supposed to be a professional and not act like a fan and blah blah blah but ELOISA JAMES HAS READ MY BOOK. AND SHE LIKED IT. And she posted about it here for her Barnes & Noble blog/column! I read it this morning at 4:30AM before going to work and of course when I got there I immediately told my coworker all about it:

ME: It’s like every month she does a theme and she talks about books that fit the theme, and–
COWORKER: What was this month’s theme?
ME: …Um. Protagonists who aren’t very bright.
COWORKER: [after laughing quite a lot] Is one of your protagonists not very bright?
ME: Well, I never thought of him that way before? He likes classical music and studied Latin at Cambridge and stuff. But I definitely see what she means because he is pretty hapless and not good at math, and in the genre there are lots of uber-competent brain surgeons running around and–
COWORKER: Doesn’t your book take place in the early nineteenth century?
ME: Yes.
COWORKER: So maybe a brain surgeon wouldn’t be the best choice for a hero for you?
ME: You have a point.
COWORKER: The reader would think, “Ooh, a brain surgeon,” and then he’d walk on with, like, a hammer and bone saw. “I’ve discovered that this part of the lobe controls deviant behavior! Stand aside while I cut a hole in this convict’s skull!”

For some reason I am picturing this hero as Hugh Laurie’s Wooster in my head. Okay, and what’s sad is that I have such a thing for mad scientists (I’m not kidding, I think they’re dreamy!) that I would probably read that romance. Even though I have a lot of strong and negative feelings about historical psychiatry, ESPECIALLY when it involved surgery (often it was non-consensual surgery!).

Anyway, you should read James’s piece, and then check out the B&N Romance board for conversations about the piece and about my book and all kinds of stuff!

Which is a good time to mention–I will be one of the B&N feature threads for May!!!!!! I am so honored and excited you guys. My thread is here and I will be hanging around the boards and the thread all month, but especially I will be there regularly next week, starting Monday the 10th, to chat and answer questions and talk about books and also probably Star Trek because this is me. I can’t wait!