Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Search Terms!

First, I'm winding up my blog tour today. Thanks to everyone who hosted me. It was fun!

And now, here's some search terms for you. (I cheated a little this time and pulled some from the report for Historical Fiction Online, which I co-administer.)

melusine- water witch- english

None of those foreign water witches, please.

jean plaidy sex

Would you lay off the poor woman? Sometimes "I'm dead, don't bother me" means exactly that.

either hugh

Any port in a storm, huh, Edward?

elizabeth woodville stripped

So that's the explanation behind that mysterious pole unearthed at Greenwich.

anglo saxons women being virtuous

The plot line here could possibly use a little work.

be as perfect as diane de poitiers

We can only try.

the acts of king arthur and his noble nights why does lancelot leave the feast?

He was watching his weight.

north carolina codpiece

Well, we have a state bird and a state flower, so why not?

can someone write my novel pitch?

I foresee problems for this guy's agent. Big problems.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Guest Post from Roger Hudson: What Makes a Good Historical Mystery?

I'm pleased to welcome a guest today: Roger Hudson, author of Death Comes by Amphora, set in ancient Athens. You can read more about Roger at his website. Thanks for joining us, Roger!


Or what do I look for in a good read? I can only give my opinion. Others may disagree.

First, a strong sense of time and place. What grabbed me first with the genre, more even than straight historicals, was the great feeling that the writer has transported me there by time machine as a sort of historical tourist, but able to understand what I am experiencing with the awareness of someone of the time. I want to know what the various settings look like, sound like, smell, taste, feel like but don’t want to be confused and the story delayed with too much description. Steven Saylor and Lindsey Davis were the first to bring Rome to bustling life for me like this. More recently discovered, I.J.Parker’s classical Kyoto was a delight and Nick Drake’s Thebes in ancient Egypt full of darkness and menace. Once there, I want to understand the law and behaviour of the time but not be inundated with explanation every few pages. OK, I didn’t say I’m easy to please. A good author will find ways of integrating the information with the action so that I don’t get the feeling I’m being instructed. On the other hand, nice to learn something new and be surprised too.

Second, believability. The behaviour of the characters, especially the detective character, much be plausible in the context of the times. Now I recognise that, in not a few periods when histmysts are set, if I were actually living there, unless I was a strong and daring person, I would be dominated by fear of God or gods and superiors, of not fulfilling my religious and social obligations (which were often heavy), and by superstitions and the difficulty of travel preventing a lot of mobility. However, if I was strong and daring, I might well not last long, because of the animosity I would arouse. OK, the author has to tell me a story, so I don’t insist on absolute verisimilitude. But I’m not happy when a lone woman ventures into a situation where no such woman would have gone, putting herself at immediate risk of rape, robbery and murder. Similarly, men just weren’t allowed into ‘women only’ places. Some things just throw you out of the story and destroy your full enjoyment. But, then, fictional detectives have always been ones for taking risks, so the problem is when they don’t seem aware of the dangers that everyone else can see.

Other requirements are true of any mystery novel.

Next, an empathetic main character (detective) with an intriguing personality. A bland detective may solve difficult puzzles to bring the villain to book but he/she won’t hold my attention. A few personal relationship problems, maybe some sort of psychological hang-up, confrontations and difficulties that allow for a degree of inner development. Not difficult in most historical contexts where social and gender divisions are strong. Mary Reed and Eric Mayer’s resentful eunuch John in Constantinople and Samson’s Shardlake, increasingly horrified at the growing corruption of his once idealist fellow Reformationists, are successful examples. They also need strong motivation. Easy enough with the PI surrogates like Falco and Gordianus or the established agents of the law like Sister Fidelma and Rahotep, but not so for the amateurs, the Miss Marples of the past, who tend to need a personal motivation until their skill comes to the attention of someone in authority and they are commissioned to investigate.

Then, most important of all, a powerful plot. The reader accepts a lack of other refinements if the plot has a strong forward drive, complexity, loads of suspects, good red herrings, twists and surprises. An intriguing crime where I can compete with the hero in trying to discover the villain first, sussing the clues, evading the red herrings, but where the culprit doesn’t become obvious too early. Bonus points if it has key aspects that could only happen in that place and age. Someone going round asking questions can be a good way of digging into the nooks and crannies of a past age, maybe better than a straight historical novel where the main character may be restricted to one environment and social grouping.

Fifth comes interesting character relationships that develop, maybe with a sidekick, a boss character or rival, a partner or a key suspect, as long as it doesn’t distract too much attention from the main story. Good if these make use of social and class divides and prejudices of the time with potential for inhibitions and a sense of wary rule-breaking.

Lively style and (if appropriate) a touch of humour are important for grabbing my interest and drawing me, and in ensuring my enjoyment.

And last has to be a satisfying finale. Otherwise great novels sometimes let themselves down by suddenly whipping out a murderer who left no clues and wasn’t even a suspect, or so unlikely that you dismissed them totally. The villain needs to turn out to have been a worthy opponent.

Have I left anything out?

Oh, and thanks to Susan for inviting me to prance her stage for this brief moment and give me a chance to explore my thinking on this.

Monday, March 22, 2010

I'm on Kindle, and It's Kool!

Just to let you know that my second novel, Hugh and Bess, is now available on Kindle. I believe the other novels will be following soon.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

It's Official: The Queen of Last Hopes Cover!

Here's the brand new cover for my forthcoming Margaret of Anjou novel, The Queen of Last Hopes (an earlier version you might have seen got on Amazon UK before it was quite ready)! As you can see, it's a new look, and check out the nice red rose. (Now to just-er-finish the book.)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Richard the Mourner?

(First, thanks to Joan for discussing this with me over at the Richard III Society's private Yahoo group.)

On a number of places on the Internet, including both the Richard III Society and the Richard III Foundation websites, it's stated as a fact that Richard wept openly at his queen's funeral. The Richard III Foundation adds the touch that he shut himself up for three days afterward. None of these accounts cite a source for their information.

So did Richard weep at Anne's funeral and shut himself up for three days afterward? Nothing I have found supports either statement. The Crowland Chronicler simply states, "Queen Anne died and was buried at Westminster with honours no less than befitted the burial of a queen." No list of those who attended the funeral is given, and Crowland says nothing of Richard shutting himself away.

Richard himself did not make such a statement. In denying rumors that he had poisoned his queen so that he could marry his niece, Richard said that he was not "willyng or glad of the dethe of his quene but as sorye & in hert as hevye as man myght be." Nowhere in his expression of grief does he mention his attendance at Anne's funeral or three days of private mourning.

As for modern sources, Richard's biographer Paul Murray Kendall, who deeply admired his subject and who would surely would have gotten the maximum pathos out of Richard's weeping at Anne's funeral or isolating himself, doesn't mention him doing either. Joanna Laynesmith in The Last Medieval Queens, which discusses the funeral rites of Anne and other queens, mentions only Crowland's one-sentence account of Anne's funeral.

Caroline Halsted, who wrote a nineteenth-century biography of Richard III, does mention "the tears which [Anne's] husband is allowed to have shed when personally attending her remains to St. Peter's, Westminster." Alas, when one follows the reference Halsted gives, it leads to Richard Baker's Chronicle of the Kings of England (1670). Baker, however, has Richard shedding only "formal tears," not tears of sorrow: "for within few dayes after, whether by poyson, or by what other means, it is not certainly known, she departed this life; and with all solemnity, not without some formal tears of King Richard, was interred in St.* Peter's Church at Westminster."

George Buck, a seventeenth-century apologist for Richard, writes (in the edition of his book prepared by Arthur Kincaid) simply that Richard "was rather taken to be uxorious than otherwise, and at her death expressed it in his heavy mourning, causing very magnificent exequies to be prepared for her, interring her non cum minore honore quam reginat decuit, as the Prior of Croyland testifieth." No funeral tears, no shutting himself up.

Finally, I checked Clements Markham's 1906 Richard III: His Life and Character, and found that Markham does indeed state that Anne "was buried in Westminster Abbey; her sorrowing husband shedding tears over her grave." But Markham cites Buck as his source--and Buck doesn't say that Richard was present at the funeral or was seen to shed tears there. Thinking that the original edition of Buck, the text of which is notoriously corrupt, might bear out Markham's claim, I checked a facsimile of the 1647 edition of Buck cited by Markham and found only this: "he was rather thought uxorious than otherwise; which appeared unfeignedly at her death, in the expression of sorrow and magnificent Exequies for her." Again, this neither places Richard at Anne's funeral nor has him isolating himself; it simply has him grieving and arranging a magnificent funeral.

So, no contemporary source places Richard at Anne's funeral shedding tears of sorrow; this seems to be Halsted's and Markham's embellishment, unsupported by the seventeenth-century sources they cite. And where the story that Richard III shut himself up for three days came from, I still haven't a clue.

Would Richard have even attended Anne's funeral, for that matter? Edward I and Richard II attended their queens' funerals (I haven't figured out whether Edward III was present at Queen Philippa's), but Henry VII, who's known to have grieved after Elizabeth of York died, didn't attend her funeral, and Henry VIII didn't attend Jane Seymour's funeral even after she presented him with his long-sought-after son. It depends, I guess, on whether Richard III followed what seems to have been the earlier custom of presence or the later custom of absence.

The fact that there's no contemporary evidence that Richard attended Anne's funeral, wept for her there, and shut himself up for three days doesn't, of course, mean that he didn't mourn her, though it does leave us only with his word that he did. Nor should it be taken as evidence that he hastened her death, which I've never believed. It does show, however, how unsupported assertions gradually acquire the status of historical fact and, thanks to the Internet, gain vigorous new life.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Back to Bloggin', Sort Of

Eek! How long has it been since I've blogged? I've been doing a blog tour, and Margaret of Anjou has been a hard taskmistress (as you might expect), but I hope to be back to some more posting soon. In the meantime, here's Stripes in what passes for my office (which is actually a wall of the kitchen that has gradually been overrun by bookshelves). Note those half-empty shelves begging to be filled!

I wanted to thank everyone who enjoyed my post on the Wars of the Roses on Facebook, and in particular Sharon Penman for mentioning it on her Facebook page. (I let out a big squeal that day!) And I also want to thank everyone who's hosted me on my blog tour. You can see where I've been and where I'm going in the sidebar. And another thanks to those who have reviewed and/or bought The Stolen Crown!

There are some giveaways of The Stolen Crown in the blogsphere, so here's your chance! Laura's Reviews has one closing April 2 (US/Canada); The Burton Review has one ending March 27 (US/Canada); Alaine at Queen of Happy Endings has one ending around March 19 (two weeks from March 5) (US/Canada); Psychotic State has one ending March 19 (US/Canada); and Fresh Fiction has one coming up, I believe. If I've missed one, please let me know!

Since I'm in me mode at the moment, if you're on Goodreads, stop by my question-and-answer page, where I'll answer questions about my books and anything else (except for my Social Security and bank account numbers).

I hope to be journeying to the library today to make headway on a question that's been nagging me during the last few days: was Henry Beaufort, Duke of Somerset, still in Bruges in March 1462, or had he already left for Scotland? Cora Scofield, based on the Paston letters, says Scotland; Michael Jones, based on a Burgundian source, goes for Bruges and cites a source in French, which is supposed to be on the shelves of the library. I'm more inclined to go with Jones, since he's done extensive research in this area, but I'm obsessive enough to want to look for myself. Anyway, it gives me an excuse to go to the library.

And finally, since I gave Stripes some face time, here's Onslow, King of the Files (my husband is changing offices):

Friday, March 05, 2010

The Wars of the Roses on Facebook, Part 2

Here's the continuation of my previous post. (I did you a favor and jumped over some of the more obscure years.) And be sure to check out the second part of Edward II on Facebook by Kathryn and Rachel and of Henry VIII and Friends on Facebook by Rachel!

Margaret of Anjou, Queen of England and Don’t You Forget It, Either! loves it when men do some serious groveling.

Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick has sore knees.

Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick joined the I Love the House of Lancaster! No, Really! group.

Edward IV, King of England joined the Don’t Think of It as Exile, Think of It as a Holiday! group.

Elizabeth, Queen of England, No Matter What That Frenchwoman Says is going for a nice little rest at Westminster Abbey sanctuary.

Henry VI, King of England wishes someone would explain to him why he has to come out of the Tower and put on the king outfit again.
Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick sent a message to Henry VI: Just sit tight. I’ll explain it all to you when I get there.

Elizabeth, Queen of England, No Matter What That Frenchwoman Says joined the Let’s Name Our Firstborn Son Edward and Bug the Hell out of Future Historical Novelists group.

Edward of Lancaster, Prince of Wales, is really looking forward to chopping off some Yorkist heads.

Edward IV is BACK!!!!!! PARTY!!!!!!

Margaret of Anjou joined the Decorating Your Prison Cell for Less group.
Henry VI left this group.

Anne Neville is thinking of taking some cookery classes to cheer her up in her widowhood.
George, Duke of Clarence likes this.

Richard, Duke of Gloucester thinks it’s high time to get married.
George, Duke of Clarence commented: Maybe there’s a Woodville girl free?
Richard, Duke of Gloucester commented: I was aiming a bit higher, brother dearest.

George, Duke of Clarence joined the Decorating Your Prison Cell for Less group.

George, Duke of Clarence said he’d like to drown his sorrows, but he didn’t mean it lit--

Edward IV has an annoying head cold but should be just fine in a day or so.
Richard, Duke of Gloucester commented: Hope you feel better soon, bro!

Richard, Duke of Gloucester is wondering how he would look in purple.

Edward, Prince of Wales changed his profile to read Edward V, King of England.
Anthony Woodville, Earl Rivers likes this.

Edward V is going to London with Uncle Anthony. Hope to see Uncle Richard and Uncle Harry on the way!
Richard, Duke of Gloucester and Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham like this.

Anthony Woodville, Earl Rivers is taking an unexpected trip to Pontefract.

Edward V, King of England would like certain people to remember that he’s the King of England. Not them.
Richard, Duke of York sent a message to Edward V: Uncle Dickon giving you trouble?
Edward V, King of England, replied: He’s a prick. I’ll text you.

Richard, Duke of Gloucester is reading What Color is Your Parachute? A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers on Goodreads.

William, Lord Hastings is getting ready to go to a boring council meeting. Then supper with Mistress Shore. Sweet!

John Morton, Bishop of Ely hopes everyone likes the nice strawberries he’s grown.

William, Lord Hastings fails to appreciate how wonderful it is to be the first person executed on Tower Green.
Anne Boleyn likes this.

Edward V is really pissed that his Uncle Richard is making him close his Facebook account.
Edward, Earl of Warwick: Bummer, dude. Text me.
Richard, Duke of York: C U Soon, Ned!

Richard, Duke of Gloucester changed his profile to read Richard III, King of England.
Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham likes this.

Anne, Queen of England is wondering if she’ll have time to get to the hairdresser for her coronation.
Elizabeth, Queen of England No Matter What that Stupid Dickon Says commented: Just put a bag over your head, dearie. No one will notice.
Anne, Queen of England: Well, I never!
Elizabeth, Queen of England No Matter What that Stupid Dickon Says: Yes, that’s why you only have the one child, dearie.

Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham is feeling very important today.

Richard III, King of England is having a great time on his royal progress. They like me! They really, really like me!

Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham is feeling confused.
John Morton, Bishop of Ely sent a message to Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham: What’s wrong, your grace? Maybe I can help.

Henry Tudor is looking for “England” on Map Quest. Oh, there it is!
Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham likes this.
John Morton, Bishop of Ely likes this.
Jasper Tudor likes this.
Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond, likes this.
Elizabeth Woodville, Queen of England No Matter What That Stupid Dickon Says likes this.

Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond, wrote on Henry Tudor’s wall: You are my own sweet son and all my worldly joy. I will be so happy when you arrive in England.
Henry Tudor sent a message to Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond: Er, Mum, next time could you send that to me privately instead of posting it on my wall?
Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond replied: Sorry, my dearest. I haven’t got the hang of the Internet yet. Did you pack a pair of warm slippers for the voyage over?

Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, should have checked The Weather Channel before leaving Wales.
Richard III, King of England commented: God, you’re pathetic, Harry. You know you couldn’t organize an orgy in a brothel, much less a revolt.
John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln likes this.

Henry Tudor sent a message to Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond: Don’t worry, Mum, I'll get here sooner or later.
Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond: Sigh.

Elizabeth of York is SO looking forward to getting out of sanctuary and staying at Uncle Richard’s court.
Richard III, King of England commented: Be sure to bring that dress I mentioned that time when I visited you and your mother in sanctuary.
Elizabeth of York: But isn’t that the one you said was tight, Uncle?
Richard III, King of England: That’s the one!

Eleanor de Clare, Lady Despenser invited Elizabeth of York to join the My Uncle the King Is One Swell Guy group.
Elizabeth of York accepted the invitation.

Anne, Queen of England joined the It’s Not Consumption, It’s Just a Nagging Cough group.

Richard III, King of England just wishes people would mind their own business for a change. Can’t a lonely widower be friendly to an extremely good-looking, buxom young lady who happens to be his niece without everyone posting on Facebook and Twitter about it?

Elizabeth of York: Stupid Sheriff Hutton. Where’s the sheriff, anyway?

Henry Tudor sent a message to Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond: This time, Mum, I’m coming. I promise.
Margaret Beaufort: Don’t forget your warm cloak.

Richard III, King of England, is headed out to show that Welsh upstart who’s the boss around here, once and for all.
William Stanley and Thomas Stanley like this.
William Stanley and Thomas Stanley unliked this.

You have an invitation from Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond to become a fan of Henry VII, King of England.
Elizabeth of York became a fan of Henry VII, King of England.

Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond started the My Son is King of England, and What Does Your Son Do for a Living? group.

Henry VII, King of England is pleased to announce the birth of his second son, Henry, today.
Catherine of Aragon likes this.
Anne Boleyn likes this.
Jane Seymour likes this.
Anne of Cleves likes this.
Katherine Howard likes this.
Katherine Parr likes this.
Elizabeth I likes this.
The Church of England likes this.
William Shakespeare likes this.
The British tourism industry likes this.
Hollywood likes this.
The English-language publishing industry likes this.

Arthur, Prince of Wales is wondering what all the fuss is about. Stupid baby brother.