Wednesday, February 28, 2018

To Be or Not To Be (Accurate)

To Be or Not To Be (Accurate)

That Is The Question
 Facing Authors of Historical Romance

In writing Historical Romance Fiction the author does a balancing act on up on a high wire.  He loves history so we strive to make it as accurate as possible.  Yet, it is fiction, which means an author may to take liberties.  The question is where to draw the line.  While this article was written to address historical do and don't questions, it could apply with any form of fictional world-building.

Historical authors really love history!  We can easily obsess over details that are endlessly fascinating―at least to us.  However, do readers really want that deep of an understanding of the past?  The answer: some do, some don’t.  After all, you are not writing a non-fiction work, historical book, not even a historical fiction novel.  It’s Historical Romance.  As when you pronounce a word, certain syllables are spoken softly while one is accented; when you say Historical Romance always put the stress on ROMANCE.  Never lose sight of that.  My editor on my first historicals, Hilary Sares (formerly with Kensington Books) says readers are tired of “clanking swords, that history is stale, cold, while romance is timeless.”  In this, she touches on the heart of what Historical Romance is:  history is the lesser of the ingredients in the mix.  Love carries the story.  Historical Romance is the cousin of Historical Fiction (which often has romance in them), but they are not the same.

Once a romance author accepts these boundaries then they are left with just how much history do you add?  History is a background for the tapestry you weave.  It should give the reader a sense of period, but never intrude upon the romance, never stall the story out, pausing to explain historical details or to give a history lesson.  After the author reaches that level of what will be good threads and elements to craft into the story, they next face a final hurdle―to weigh the importance of details, the minutiae that draws the historical authors to share their love of the past.

Only here is where it can get tricky.  Sometimes, what readers believe is accurate often is not.  “Bad” history, incorrect word usage, or even how time has changed the meaning of words can stymie the author.  Take the word acquaintance.  Noun: “a person known to one, but usually not a close friend.”  That is how it is accepted in today’s usage.  However, years and years ago the word meant something very different.  Surprisingly, when a man was “acquainted” with a woman, he was saying he had been physically intimate with her.  See the problem?  If you are going for historical accuracy and you say “Mr. Overton was acquainted with Miss Marple.”  In the historical sense you would be saying Mr. Overton had indulged in sex with Miss Marple!  Will today’s readers understand without you having to stop the story and tell them that?  Will a reader, lacking this crumb of knowledge, understand what you said, or will they just believe you are saying Mr. Overton has met Miss Marple, but they are not close friends?  If the author puts that sentence out there and wants the reader to comprehend what they are saying, then they must stop the flow of the plot and the scene and say, “Of course, we know acquainted means he has had sex with her.”  Even then, the reader might scratch their heads and go, hum, it does?  In that instant, you have taken them out of the story simply by using a word correctly, but not right in today’s eyes.  Right is wrong.  Rule of thumb: Rarely is one single word ever that important to risk using, when it can pull their reader away from the imagery to ponder if you are correct or not.

If a Historical Romance came along and used Irish Gaelic spellings instead of Scots Gaelic—which has been known to happen (lol), and this book using becomes a bestseller, then readers can often assume that book to be correct.  Then other authors come along using the correct form and people automatically presume they are incorrect.  So when readers come to the difference they often believe the right spellings to be wrong!  Okay, what then?  Do you knowingly use the wrong spellings of words to conform to what the readers have accepted as correct, or do you go ahead and be accurate and have readers think you are wrong?

Another complexity in to be or not be historically accurate―authors who set their novels in real places, such as the castles of Scotland.  Often, instead of world-building and creating their own castles, some writers pick out a very famous castle for the setting of their stories--even put the wrong clan living there, totally disregarding most castles have a very detailed historical record.  For someone not familiar with Scotland’s past that might not be a problem.  However, the author runs into the sticky wicket of having readers who do, and once more, are taken out of the story because they know the true history of the place.  We must remember it is fiction.  Authors are allowed to bend history a wee bit if it serves to make the story stronger.  I won’t go as far as Randall Wallace did when speaking of the many historical inaccuracies of his screenplay for the movie Braveheart and say history should never get in the way of a good story.  Still, authors should be able to present a romping tale without worrying about being one hundred percent accurate on every single detail.

Another is nationality.  It can come into play in perceptions of what is wrong and right.  Take the simple way you name the floors of a building.  In Britain and Europe, even today, the first floor of a building is the ground floor.  In America, you work on the first floor in New York, while in London you are working on the ground floor.  The first floor in Europe is actually the second level.  When Regency and Victorian periods were in flourish and they had their Seasons in London, they lived in fancy townhouses.  The first floor (second floor to Yanks!) was where they did most of their entertaining.  So, if a woman entered the front door, and went upstairs to the first floor many Americans would assume the author is making a boo-boo, despite they were being entirely correct!

These are just a few of the bumps facing historical authors when trying to keep the faith with history, yet also do a balancing act with the today’s readers and just how accurate do readers truly want their historical romances to be?

Just remember to keep rooted, and that romance and flow are vital to telling a whopping good yarn.

 Deborah Macgillivray
Internationally Published Author of the Dragons of Callon™  series

#PrairieRosePublications #HistoricalRomance #MedievalHistory #ScottishHistory #AuthorsTool  #WritingHistoricalNovels 

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Party On Down, Cher!! Mardi Gras New Orleans Style

Mardi Gras
a celebration of excess New Orleans style 

Mardi Gras is French for Fat Tuesday.  It is the day before Ash Wednesday--when you give up luxuries for Lent.  Facing weeks of doing without the things they enjoy, people went on merrymaking binges, knowing they would have to remain in their homes and fast afterward.  Carnival is another word you see associated for the festive period.  It comes from Medieval Latin, meaning remove the meat.

While several places around the world celebrate Carnival, New Orleans is likely the best known.  The very first Mardi Gras celebration there took place in March 1699.  French explorers, Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville and Sieur de Bienville, landed near what is known today as New Orleans.  Their party held a big celebration and christened the spot where they landed, calling it Pointe du Mardi Gras.

The King's Jester

Krewe Zulu Parade

The French settlers that followed celebrated the day with street parties, masquerade balls and lavish feasts.  However, when the Spanish took control of New Orleans, they were disgusted by the excesses, so they banned the celebrations and rituals.  This dictate remained until 1812 when Louisiana became a state.  In the late 1820s, groups of young men donned colorful costumes and paraded and danced through the streets.  The celebrations began to expand each year, until the first official Mardi Gras celebration was recorded about ten years later. 

The day is now a legal holiday in the state.

Krewe of Poseidon 

In the antebellum era of New Orleans the first Krewe was formed.  A Krewe is a secret society that sponsors a parade and ball.  The Mistick Krewe of Comus set the tone for all Mardi Gras celebrations thereafter.  Now there are many Krewes:   Poseidon, Rex, Orpheus, Bacchus, Endymion, Hermes, and Zulu are just a few-- so many their parades have to be on different days or times.

Bourbon Street

some parades are during the day, some at night

It's not advisable to wait to the last minute to go join the magnificent celebrations.  Finding rooms near is impossible, so plan ahead, book ahead!  Be sure to part take of a Poor Boy sandwich, Gumbo, Beignets, and especially don't miss having a big slice of King Cake.


Krewe Leviathan 

King Cake and King Cake Donuts

Laissez Le Bon Temps Rouler

Remember Dawn on 10th Anniversary of her passing

We do not forget, Dawn.


Saturday, February 3, 2018

Wedding Excerpt - A RESTLESS KNIGHT, Dragons of Challon Book1

Dragons of Challon 
Book One

As they rode out of the fortress, destined for the kirk, Tamlyn spotted a magpie landing on the open gate.  Her breath sucked in.  One magpie was a foretelling of sorrow.  She breathed again as a second one fluttered to sit by the first, then a third.  And fourth.  The presence of the birds caused the cold bile of unease to rise in the pit of her stomach.

Challon, riding at her side, noticed her dark mood.  “What brings forth such a scowl on this joyous morn, my lady?”

She glanced back to the birds, seeing three more had perched alongside the others.  “The birds.  ’Tis most peculiar for them to roost there.  Lore sayeth when they gather in numbers they are foretelling the future.  One means sorrow.  Two for mirth.  Three bring blessings for a wedding.  Four be an augury for a coming death.”  Her words died as the images of the nightmare flooded her mind.  Cold dread rushed through her being.

“Only blackbirds with white feathers, naught more, Tamlyn.  Likely, similar to the ones that haunt the passes.”

“Nay, those be ravens.  Magpies have the white markings and are smaller.”  She stared at the birds sitting in a row.  Their heads turned slowly, their eyes following her as she rode passed.

  Julian leaned over in the saddle and placed his hand over hers.  “’Tis seven birds only.  Mayhap, they heard tides the Dragon of Challon weds his beautiful betrothed this morn and wish to witness it.  What augury does seven magpies speak?”

“Seven herald a secret that must never be told,” she told him.  Unsure what they truly forewarned.  Did their presence warn her not to tell Challon of her dark dream, of things yet to come?  Would he even believe her if she warned him?  Oh, she wished she could speak to Evelynour.  She would ken their message.

He gave her a soft smile.  “Pay it no need, my lady.  I make my own luck.” 

They reined their horses before the church, and Moffet rushed forward to take the leads.  Pagan rubbed his muzzle against the mare’s neck, murmuring to her.  Challon lightly smacked the nose of the randy horse and pushed him back, so he could lift Tamlyn from the sidesaddle.

As Julian set her upon her feet, his eyes locked with hers.  The breathless moment spun out long threads, as he seemed to want to speak something of grave import.  Her heart swelled as she hoped he might finally say he loved her.  Instead, he placed a kiss to her cheek.  “You are beautiful.  A bride worthy of the Dragon of Challon.”

 When he saw she was still feeling skittish, his hand lightly circled the side of her neck and gave it a small squeeze.  Growing concerned, Challon looked down on her.  “Those birds?  They still bother you?”

“Unsettled me a wee bit,” she admitted.

A cloud passed through his dark green eyes.  “Be that all that distresses you?  Not having a second think on this marriage?”

She shook her head.  “Nay.  Truly that does no’ plague me.  As I spake before, ’tis the will of the Auld Ones.”

“I would wish for acceptance, not resignation.”  He took her hand and led her to the steps of the ancient kirk.  The throngs of people, lining both sides of the road, fell in behind them, following.  Malcolm, dressed in his robes of the Culdee, stood on the top step, waiting.

“We bid well-come to Tamlyn and Julian who have come to plight their troth...”

As her uncle began the ceremony, Tamlyn nervously glanced about her.  So many people had gathered to witness the union of the Chosen Daughter of Clan Ogilvie to the Black Dragon of Challon, their new lord.  Everything around her had a pall of unreality.  She trembled as she tried to concentrate on the faces of the people of Glen Shane.  Most were vague to her mind, as if she were having trouble focusing on their features.

Though she had convinced Challon there was no need to move the wedding date forward he had still insisted.  Through the Kenning she finally sensed he was simply eager for the ceremony to be done, to put a seal to their bonding.  She had asked him to learn to tolerate the ways of her people, so she had to accept his will as well.  They reached a compromise, and Malcolm agreed the wedding could take place within a sennight’s time.

 To her right, in a line behind Julian, stood his brothers, both dressed in the black livery of Challon. After them, came Baron St. Giles, though he wore ramients of greys.  ’Twas Clear to all the men bore the stamp of Challon.

The days passed in a flurry of activities.  With all the preparations, there was barely time to catch a breath.  Despite the hectic rush, concern over the continued absence of Lord Ravenhawke had cast a dark note.  Challon sent out riders in all directions, but none had seen the handsome black-haired man.  At Coinnleir Wood, her cousins admitted sharing a horn of mead with him, but had no idea where he could have gone.

Much to their surprise, early yestermorn, he had shown up at the gates of Glenrogha.  His clothing was neat, he was clean.  In spite of his pristine condition, he seemed disoriented.  When he finally was able to talk coherently, he spun a long tale about being taken and held captive by the Faery Queen.  Challon had laughed, thinking his cousin merely made up a story to cover his absence.  Tamlyn wondered.  All had heard how Thomas of Erceldoune was carried away by the Queen of Elfland, so many of Glenrogha’s people cast little doubt on Damian’s explanation.

The long, thick lashes lifted and Damian’s eyes collided with hers.  St. Giles’ eyes were green, a trait of Challon, but a grey-green, neither one color nor the other, yet both.  Their lightness was emphasized by the trappings of grey clothing he wrapped himself in.  The pale gaze seemed to look right through her.  The way he stared at her set Tamlyn to unease.  

Before Beltaine, he had watched her, but it was with a coveting, a sadness, knowing his feelings weren't returned and could never be.  Now...well, she was not sure what she saw in his eyes.  A question?  Only, Tamlyn had no idea what that question was.  Oddly, yestereve he had sought her out and declared himself her champion.  The avowal surprised her.  Emotions lived within him that had no right to exist.  His haunted eyes seemed to speak to her.  But what?  Regret?  Reassurance that all was for the best?  Envy?

Her questions were pushed aside, as Julian turned to follow the direction of her eyes.

Malcolm’s voice carried for all to hear.  “Therefore, if any man can show just cause why these two may not lawfully be joined together by God's Law and the Laws of the Realm, let him now speak, or else forevermore hold his peace.”

Julian lifted at warning brow at Damian, who had the grace to lower his eyes to the ground.  Turning back, Julian sent her a stare of reproach.  A proud man, he would not brook her looking upon another in favor.

At Julian’s silent admonishment, Tamlyn quailed inside.

Available in Kindle and Library Quality Print

#ScottishRomance #MedievalRomance #HistoricalRomance

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Greetings of the Festival of Imbolg

Beannachtaí na Féile Imbolc a Chairde
Greetings of the Festival of Imbolg

Imbolg or Candlemas Eve is a night that belongs to the goddess Brid or Bride.  In the old Celtic calendar it was the nocturnal welcoming of the first day of spring.  Small plants begin to bloom, and ewes start to lactate; the flowing of milk was viewed as the life-giving force returning to the land, finally the end of winter.  In old Scotland, the month of February fell in the middle of the period known as Faoilleach, the Wolf-month, for wolves were hungry, and still prowled the lower lands trying to survive.  Sometimes, it was called an Marbh-Mìos—the Dead-month, for leaves were not out yet, and things were still hard and cold.  Still, signs of new life were appearing.  Baby lambs come.  Soft rains sees the grass greening up.  Ravens and magpies begin to build nests, and start their fanciful dances of mating.  Meadow larks’ songs herald springtide across the glens.

blessing of the fields

I wrote about this ritual in RavenHawke, Book 2 of the Dragons of Challon, and in many areas remnants of this tradition are still carried out.  People would carry torches or large candles through the fields to purify them with the sacred smoke.  Once the parade was done, the remaining trash from the previous years crops was set aflame and the grasses were burnt to the dirt.  A ritual with purposeful meaning behind it.  The burning removed grass seed, and already rooted grass, which made the fields clear for plowing and planting.  Also, the trash becomes potash, which is fertilizer for the crops, producing stronger root systems and more abundant crops.  It also made them more able to withdraw periodic droughts.  Even today, I see people in the Southern US burn their yards down to the dirt, to reseed.  It gets rid of the weeds and the seeds that prove unwanted and makes for a dark lusher lawn.

alter of lights for Brid's Night

The lore says the old Lady of Winter, The Cailleach, is now being reborn as Brid, the Maid of Spring.  Brid is the light-bringer, she is tender, yet grows stronger as the sun’s time lengthens.  Brid’s name means exalted one.  Scottish artist, John Duncan, pictures her as young and fair, in his painting of Coming of Bride.  As with female deities in Scotland, she was a strong goddess, so rooted is her lore that you see the commonality of stories echoed through many countries in various similar names: Brid, Bride, Brigid, Bridget, Brighid or Brig.  In the 10th century, Cormac’s Glossary, she was described as the daughter of the Daghda, the Great God of the Tuatha de Danaan.  Brid is the personification of wisdom, a patron goddess of poets (poets covering bards).  Since the discipline of poetry, filidhect, was interwoven with seership, Brid was also seen as the goddess of inspiration, divination and prophecy.

welcoming of Bride's light

She was said to have two sisters:  Brid the Healer and Brid the Smith, but this is a repetitive theme of the Three Faces of the Goddess—the maid, the mother and the crone aspect of one single goddess, reflecting the wheel of life, death and rebirth.  Aside from the spiritual part of her nature, she was a patron of other worker crafts of early Celtic and Pictish society: dying, weaving and brewing.  A goddess of regeneration and abundance, she was greatly beloved as a provider of plenty, who brought forth the bounties of the natural world for the good of the people.  

Scottish Artist John Duncan's
"The Coming of Bride"

Brid's Symbol hanging on ancient door

Beannaichte Latha Brid!!

Happy Brid's Day