Random Friday


I’ve been reading the last paperback I got in London about the Celts. I bought it to understand better where Bran the Raven came from, but I’m using it also for Torik now.  And I started taking notes for the ancient fledglings of Bran the Raven, namely Helios of Sparta, Marco of the IX Legio Hispanica and Gallo-Roman Druidess Blandine who fleetingly showed up in the novels of Vampires Through the Centuries.

I’d bring those to Edinburgh, but maybe it’s better if I take those to Dublin instead. If I’m overwhelmed at Worldcon, I can always go to the Irish Library and study for Drustan and the state of Ireland in the first century CE (when Helios and Marco go there with Bran, and where Drustan is made).

So I’m trying to go through some antiquity history, which I haven’t studied since high school 35 years ago. Of course the first place to look is Wikipedia, but then I expand and look also elsewhere. I’m considering other Osprey books, but since Bran is no warrior, he’s probably going to stay away from wars anyway, so I don’t really need to study campaigns. He’s probably staying in Carthage when Hannibal conquers Rome! 😉

Anyhow, after Silvery Earth I might go back to those vampires. Write the stories of the ones who show up in Future Earth Chronicles and the older ones who don’t make it to the 21st century. And then we’ll see. I might try to write to market after Edinburgh, if I find a genre I like to read (and it won’t be urban fantasy, even though I’m a city woman).

My brain is too fried to make decisions now. I’ll finish studying the Celts and then we’ll see. Have a great weekend! 🙂

Writer Wednesday


Since I shared some of my research when I wrote the historical novel (still in that drawer, by the way), I thought I’d do the same this time. Mostly because I found conflicting stuff! 😉

In the History of the Mogul dynasty in India : from its foundation by Tamerlane, in the year 1399, to the accession of Aurengzebe, in the year 1657 (try to find the PDF version since the TXT is unreadable) I’ve skimmed over Akbar’s chapter and I’ve seen where someone thought something came from.

Chittorgarh. Wikipedia informs us that it had 3 “jahuar” (the self-immolation of royal ladies in case of siege). The most famous being the story of Rani Padmini (siege by the Sultan of Delhi in AD1303), the last being by Emperor Akbar. In the aforementioned book, they’re mixed. Like I said, I only skimmed (while trying to make the text-only version readable) the above book, but it was kind of funny to see two stories set one century and a half apart mixed together. I’ll have to go back and read the PDF! 😉

I also gave up trying to read the mobi versions of any 19th century text dealing with history or other stuff I might need for research. The software really can’t figure out what is written and nobody checks what comes out of it. And if there are notes under the page, the mobi file is impossible to read. So, back to PDF for scanned old paper books! 🙂

Anyhow, from now on, I’ll stick to the suggestions of good ol’ Bram (Stoker, who else?). When criticized because he didn’t go to Transylvania to write Dracula, he said,

Trees are trees, mountains are generally mountains, no matter what country you find them and one description may be made to answer for all this reinforcing the old adage among novelists: Never let the facts stand in the way of a good story.

Before I show off the covers for the former-B.G.Hope-titles, another post on book cover twins. That’s why I prefer to hire artists to do my covers. Here’s more reusable cover art for your historical novels – except mine is (will be) historical fantasy, so… commissioned cover(s) again! 😉

The secret art of reaching “the End” – just in case you still have procrastination problems! 🙂 Or rewriting problems. Or “I want to make this perfect” problems. Finish what you write and move on! 😀 And don’t waste time fighting the wrong war.

Have a great week!

Going down


OK, as I’m definitely on the “down” curve of my yo-yo moods, I better keep this short. I’m too tired and sick to do a summary of the rest of the fair. Know only that Sunday I went there only because Saturday I forgot to buy from my friend the Templar expert. So I just dropped by to pick that stuff and went back home and slept one hour and a half.

Murphy’s law was still hitting me real hard yesterday. Hectic Monday at DayJob – and being depressed didn’t help. It was pouring rain and the streets were flooded and it took 45 minutes for a 20minutes trip. By car, new place, new “job”. Not something you want on a rainy Monday morning. Hopefully it’s really temporary, and I look forward to my little walks to the bus stop every morning.

When things settle down, I’ll be a little more talkative and tell you more about the new research I stumbled upon when checking facts for the historical novel. I didn’t want to let a day go without letting you know that I’m alive – and struggling! 😉

Have a great week!

On historical novels


This Sunday I found some time to lurk in the Goodreads group forums and found some interesting discussions. Mostly I’ll refer here to the obligation of the historical fiction writer to be factual AKA history and fiction: how much of which – something I’m becoming acutely aware of as I brace myself to add the fiction on the facts of my historical novel.

Group members (both writers and readers) seem to agree that a little leeway is fine, especially if explained in an author’s note. Historical novels are supposedly fiction anyway, and history buffs can turn to non-fiction books to check the facts. But blatant anachronisms show lack of research on the author’s part, although probably the average reader might not catch them.

Because let’s face it, each one of us has a specific period he or she prefers and has probably researched on his/her own. Even historians specialize on a certain century or a certain culture. For my part, I’m curious now to read more books set at the end of the 12th century like mine to see what other authors have found and incorporated in their story set in that time. And hey, someone pointed me to a wonderful site that has 5000 historical novels divided by period… so I bookmarked it, and will hate to study the Angevin Period list! 🙂 Will get there one day…

Dialog was also discussed. Mine sounds too modern even in my fantasy books according to some betas. But as I’m using 19th century translations of the Chansons de Geste for my novel, I’m probably using oldish style (and British spelling, although I probably don’t sound like Jane Austen) for this one. I might even reread Sir Walter Scott for the prose (and to laugh at how wrong he got the history, haha) – when I’m done with the story.

I like the words “informed creativity” to fill the blanks! I sure hope it will help me to give more life to my characters as I do another pass on draft one. If the alchemy works, I’ll have a winner – in September, as I won’t be able to work on it for another week, but sure hope to go through it in August.

And I’ll definitely add an author’s note on how the story came about, which were the main inspirational texts, etc. Anyone has an idea if it should be put at the beginning or at the end of the book? There won’t be any spoilers on the story, only mention of historical events and people… In The lady and the unicorn they were at the end, but maybe it’s better to put them at the beginning?

Historical research


A short Facebook “discussion” between me and Mesmered on Tuesday  prompted me to do this post. Here was the exchange (my comment to her posting of Mark Williams piece about her):

# (me) I see I’m really NOT the only one writing about Richard and John Plantagenet’s times! 😉

# (Mesmered) Medieval era highly popular, Barb. It’s all that ‘no washing’ that does it!

# (me) Funny I’ve just reminded people that they DID wash in the 12th century… 😉

(which is something I mentioned in my comeback post, of course). So here goes the evidence! 🙂

p.s. I know she was joking, but many other people were very serious in their objections, hence this post…

Bathing evidence from the Chanson de Gestes by Chretien de Troyes (translations available at Project Guttenberg)

Erec & Enide

She had laid embroidered cushions and spreads upon the couches, where they all three sat down Erec with his host beside him, and the maiden opposite. Before them, the fire burns brightly. He brought them water for washing in two basins. The table was soon set, cloths, bread, and wine set out, and they sat down to supper.

Cliges

The time for the meal had come, and those whose duty it was hastened to set the tables. The tables in the hall were quickly spread, then while some took the towels, and others held the basins, they offered water to all who came. When all had washed, they took their seats. And the King, taking Cliges by the hand,

made him sit down in front of him, for he wished to learn this very day, if possible, who he was. Of the meal I need not further speak, for the courses were as well supplied as if beef were selling at a penny.

You must know that baths are not lacking here, nor anything else which a lady needs, and which I can think of or recall.

These quarters are good enough for such a guest; for there are bedrooms, and bathrooms with hot water in the tubs, which comes through pipes under the ground.

Yvain

Every day the has him bathed, and washed, and groomed. And besides this she prepares for him a robe of red scarlet stuff, brand new and lined with spotted fur. A Golden buckle for his neck, ornamented with precious stones which make people look well, a girdle, and a wallet made of rich gold brocade.

Then they say no more about the box, but minister in every way they can to the comfort of my lord Yvain, bathing him and washing his hair, having him shaved and clipped, for one could have taken up a fist full of hair upon his face. His every want is satisfied: if he asks for arms, they are furnished him: if he wants a horse, they provide him with one that is large and handsome, strong and spirited.

She relieves him of all his arms, nor was it the least attention she bestowed on him when she herself washed his neck and face. The lord wishes that all honour should be shown him, as indeed they do. She gets out from her wardrobe a folded shirt, white drawers, needle and thread for his sleeves, which she sews on, thus clothing him.

Lancelot

Standing beside the table, at the end of a bench, they found two basins of warm water in which to wash their hands, with a richly embroidered towel, all white and clean, with which to dry their hands.

Then the knight and his two sons extend a glad welcome to their guests. The rest of the household were not backward, for even the least among them prepared to perform his special task. While some run to prepare the meal, others light the candles in profusion; still others get a towel and basins, and offer water for the hands: they are not niggardly in all this. When all had washed, they take their seats.

Forget Sir Walter Scott! Let’s rewrite the history books! 😀

(and no, they’re not constantly bathing in my novel, but they DO bathe after a journey or stuff like that… they’re well-mannered knights and ladies, after all! ;-))

UPDATE that has nothing to do with the previous post: I’ve had my first interview! Read it at wonderful Chrystalla Thoma’s blog, she was very kind in having me! Check it out, especially if you’re new to this blog! 😀

Chanson de geste


I know that a long time ago I read Tristan and Iseult and some Round Table stories. Don’t remember much. I’m reading them again, free English translations found at Project Gutenberg. At least I don’t have to translate in English some old French and all those medieval terms (although those are 10th century translations… but I guess medieval terms haven’t changed since then! ;-)).

I’ve read the Chanson de Roland first, as Robert and Manfred consider themselves “like Roland and Olivier”. I didn’t do it when I wrote the movies, so I’m adding lines here and there between the two of them about this very famous epic of their time. The translation by  John O’Hagan was fun to read as it was rhymed almost like the original.  In the translator’s words: “It is written in stanzas of various length, bound together by the vowel – rhyme known as assonance. It is not possible to reproduce effectively this device in English, and the author of the present translation has adopted what is perhaps the nearest equivalent – the romantic measure of Coleridge and Scott.” I think he did a very good job. I don’t like poetry very much, but rhymes catch my attention just like songs, so it wasn’t too bad reading it! 😉

Lucca Comics & Games 2009 - everything for roleplaying! 😉

Now I’m reading Chrétien de Troyes, highlighting descriptions of clothes, armors and whatever was supposed to be used at the time. Even if Wikipedia (and a “history of costume” I have in French) says everybody wore bliauts in the 12th century, nobles sometimes had more, so I’m taking notes, know what I mean? 😉

The translation is less good, it’s probably too literal to be enjoyable, but it’s good reading to create the atmosphere of knights and tournaments (that’s another thing I’m highlighting), so it’s good background for the first part, “Tournaments”. I’ll go back to Richard of Holy Trinity chronicle of the crusade when I get to the “Pilgrimage” in part 2. By the way, “crusade” is a 13th century term, so you’ll never read that word in my novel. Robert and Manfred “take the cross” and “go on pilgrimage”.

For part 3, “Landowner”, I’ll probably re-read Lambert d’Ardres – except it’s old French and medieval Latin… see next Happiness is… vignette on Monday! 😉 Oh, and let’s not forget Fulk Fitz Warine… he’s an historical person like William Marshal, so I’m going to use only a little part of his adventures… he’s also struggling with King John (like Robert will), so I have another story to add in the third part (which, by the way, wasn’t in the movies, so it will be something completely new! ;-)). I had found one text, then I found another about the son (they’re all called Fulk…) which is even more interesting! 😀

So far, I’m having fun. I’m going slower than usual, but I don’t care. I’m enjoying the return to prose – writing the screenplay was a bit dry! 😀

Names and other research


Directly connected the the Happiness Is… I’m going to ramble my historical research. I’ve pulled out my old notes again, and I’m still looking for new stuff, to refine my searches. Hence I discovered that the beginning wasn’t quite right and changed the siege of Fougères to the burning of that same castle – still a motte and timber when Henry II destroyed – and found out also an excellent site of medieval genealogies.

But I mostly found new chronicles and in one there was the story of the 1173/1174 revolt against Henry II where Radulfus de Fulgeriis (Raoul de Fougères, my protagonist’s father) had some part and two of his sons are mentioned. Uh-oh. I hadn’t considered those names. So I went looking for his genealogy tree and found the real name of his wife and of his 5 children (I added two, my character and his younger sister – they’re not recorded in charters, so what? I’m a novelist, not an historian! ;-)). Cool. BUT. I had a problem. With names. I’m not going to use the Latin version because they used it only on official records, but which one should I use? French spelling or English spelling?

Some names are identical (Robert, Richard, Simon), some similar (Philip/Philippe), some completely different (Gautier/Walter, Guillaume/William)… so how do I write them? I decided French, Norman and Breton have the French spelling, Anglo-Norman and the English Kings (who are Normans, but well…) the English spelling. So the Plantagenets and William Marshal can still be recognizable to English readers. Supposedly they were merged by now, one century after the Norman conquest, and most families had lands on both sides of the channel, but Anglo-Norman were bilingual, while Normans spoke only French.

Chateau de Vincennes - a Norman castle

I’m also putting back in stuff I had cut out of the screenplay version for “movie timing”, so I’m going through all my notes trying to find interesting bits to add. I had to change most names of my knight’s family, but as one of his brothers disappears from the charters, I’ve come up with some back story which includes the aforementioned rebellion, Henry the Young King and tournaments. It will be told as conversation/flashback, as he wasn’t present (he was in Normandy, training to be a knight, at the time of the facts), but it’s still another bit of information on life at the time. That chronicle said Raoul de Fougères, dispossessed by the king, hid in the forest… Robin Hood anyone? 😉 Of course it’s Brocéliande, and not Sherwood forest, but he’s closer to Merlin than Robin ever will be, after all! 😀

And I still have to read the Chrétien de Troyes “novels”… but the Chanson de Gestes are for another post! 😉

p.s. today for some obscure reason WordPress doesn’t show my blogroll… which means I will be late this week on visiting all your blogs! My apologies… I WILL come, though, as soon as the list appears again on my sidebar! .-D

Love-story with… medieval architecture


I’m told that when I was a child I was taken to Chartres cathedral, a masterpiece of gothic art, and refused to look around. Honestly, I don’t remember. My love for medieval castles and gothic cathedrals started probably in my late teens.

Now I try to visit as many medieval towns as I can all over Europe (guess why I can’t do it in the U.S.? ;)). Sometimes I even re-visit them – I lost count of how many times I went to the Tower of London or Notre Dame & Sainte Chapelle in Paris. Also the medieval foundations of the Louvre (built by Philip Auguste), Leeds castle in Kent and a few more.

Fougères - my knight's home castle in Little Brittany (pic taken in 2000)

My favorites are castles, from Norman stone castles to Renaissance palaces, preference on the former, though. As for gothic cathedrals… they were real temples of God, I can’t find anything like that in more recent churches.

Yes, I favor the early Middle Ages, and they weren’t as dark as they’re painted now. Hope to shine some light on the late XII century with my historical novel! 😀 Sometimes I think I had a very intense life back then – ending badly when gunpowder reached Europe. In fact I love swords and hate guns! 🙂

But I digress. I love exploring dungeons and narrow corridors, imagining knights and ladies hanging in Vincennes or Warwick castle, and I still have to see a live tournament with re-enactors in front of a real stone castle.

New York Renaissance Faire 2002 - real joust, fake castle...

Might be because I grew up on fairy tales with princesses and castles, or because of my past life, but my love for history sprang from my love for (mostly) castles. I’ve seen many in Italy, Little Brittany, Scotland and around the London area (the furthest being Warwick Castle which took its one-day trip from London). Hope to see more English castles real soon… My favorites so far are Bodiam Castle (used in Robin of Sherwood with Jason Connery) and aforementioned Warwick – and I still have to visit Bamburg Castle (also seen in Robin of Sherwood – as the castle of Simon de Belleme). And I know there are dozens more… sigh! 😦

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