Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Memorial Day Musings

I write a lot of death scenes. Understandable, since my books center around wars in the Middle Ages. If you escaped the swords of the enemy, there was always plague or famine to do you in. In Road from the West, my protagonist's younger brother perished, along with thousands of unnamed Crusaders. In Flower of the Desert, the sequel I'm currently writing, I've already killed off three characters, fairly important ones, too.... No names, though. My lips are sealed. You'll have to wait until the book is released at the end of this year.

Monday was Memorial Day, a time to reflect on and honor those who died in the service of our country. While reflecting, I realized that--for all the dire death scenes in my fiction--I've never experienced death at close quarters. I've never had anyone near to me pass away. I'm sure that will change in the near future as time takes its toll on friends and relatives, but as of today, I've never experienced the pain, the grief, the loss of losing someone irrevocably.

For my husband, things are entirely different. He served as a sniper in the U.S. Army over in Mosul, Iraq. Several of his platoon members died following the call of duty, and two friends in particular: Adam Plumondore and Benjamin Morton. When we found out we were expecting twin boys, my husband decided to name them after his two friends, as a way to memorialize them.

Yesterday, the day after the Memorial Day crowds had come and gone, my husband took our two boys down to the Willamette National Cemetery in Portland, Oregon to visit the grave of Adam Plumondore. My sister-in-law Amy went along to take pictures, and she wrote a touching post about the outing on her photography blog. My husband doesn't talk about emotions much, or about friendship, or about his past life in the Army. But when I see how important things like yesterday's graveside visit are to him, I get a small picture of how the death of these close ones has affected him.








They say to write about what you know. Death, and especially the death of soldiers, isn't in the realm of my experience. But human experience can be learned from watching others. And when I see my husband take pains to remember and honor his lost friends, I can understand a little bit better how an eleventh century Norman, in a land not so far away from Mosul, Iraq, would cherish the memory of a brother lost on the field of battle.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Symbolic Animals: The Medieval Bestiary

A Cameleopard
I have a new post up at English Historical Fiction Authors today titled "Of Cameleopards and Lions: The Medieval Bestiary." Bestiaries have always fascinated me, both the beautiful illuminations and the way that science and religion are interwoven in the text.

The two years that I taught medieval history, I had my high schoolers create their own entry for a bestiary. It was great fun to see them research everything from an elephant to a butterfly so they could not only describe f the animal but also discuss what that animal symbolized.

I was intending for this post to go up in June on EHFA, but they needed it early and I'm glad it was all written and ready to go.
Throughout history, from Aesop’s Fables to the Animal Planet network, the human imagination has been captured by the scaly, furry, four-footed, scurrying, slithering, swimming, and winged creatures of the animal world. Not only have the characteristics of animals provided endless fascination, but also the lessons that can be drawn from those characteristics. 
The Physiologos, a Greek book written in the second or third century A.D., was the first book to take brief descriptions of animals and add to them Christian allegories. This book was translated into most of the European languages and is said to have been the second most popular book in Europe (after the Bible).... (read more)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Desultory Remarks IV



On Saturday I attended my first Author Fair, this one hosted by Atkinson Memorial Church, a mere thirteen blocks away from my house in Oregon City. There were about forty local authors there from a variety of genres, and a few less than forty attendees if my guesstimates are correct. I didn't sell a truckload of books (ok, let's be honest--I sold one copy of I Serve), but I had lots of fun chatting with the other authors about books, the publishing industry, politics, religion, and all sorts of other topics not recommended for polite conversation.



Would I do it again? Probably. Although I must admit that it was the first time I had abandoned Marcus for more than an hour or two. He was fine and had lots of fun with his dad and brothers, but I missed him....



* * * 

Last September, when Road from the West was released, we bought three advertising spots for it in Kindle Nation Daily, a website for Amazon e-book promotion. Funny thing is, it's been so long since then that I completely forgot we had our last ad coming out today. Good thing they e-mailed me to let me know.



* * *

Now that David is out of school until September, our summer has officially begun. I'm determined to finish the first draft of Flower of the Desert: Book II of the Chronicles of Tancred before summer is over. I've set myself a writing goal of 5,000 words a week. Week 1 was tough but I made it. My strategy? Not allowing myself to go to bed until I've written 1,000 words for the day. Week 2 sleep deprivation overcame my good intentions, and for the sake of my sanity (and my children's wellbeing) I was about 1,500 words short. Week 3 is currently underway. It's Thursday morning and I'm at 2,854 words. Will I make my goal? It's anyone's guess. 



* * *

Despite a bizarre plummet to almost freezing last night, the weather has been absolutely beautiful this week. The boys have been enjoying the outdoors to no end, and we've all been enjoying the garden that David's labored so long to create.

Our cherry tree and tulips

The sidewalk got the best of Adam 

Playing on the swingset at Aunt Amy's 

Friday, May 4, 2012

Unlocking the Mysteries of the Order of the Garter

Historical stories with multiple versions and incongruous sources have always fascinated me. The foundation of the Order of the Garter is one of those stories full of confusion and contradiction. Today I have a blog post up at English Historical Fiction Authors that tries to make sense of it all:
“Honi soit qui mal y pense – Shamed be the one who thinks evil of it.” So reads the motto of the famous Order of the Garter, a society of knights established by Edward III, the English king who began the Hundred Years’ War with France. But what does the motto refer to and why did Edward choose it? That question is just one of the many surrounding the foundation of the Garter Order.... (read more)
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