Books I Love · Writing

The Words of Wilder and Austen

Image via Wikimedia Commons.

William and I have been reading The Little House series together at bedtime. We’re halfway through Farmer Boy. He’s enjoys it, but I know when he still hasn’t wound down enough to listen.

So I wait…

…and open up my trusty Kindle.

I’m currently re-reading Pride and Prejudice. I absolutely LOVE this story. Oh poor, misunderstood Mr. Darcy! But guess who took an interest in what I’m reading?

William. Wait, what?

Weird.

Okay, enough alliteration. I was totally shocked that my six-year-old son wants me to read Jane Austen to him, but I’ll go for it. So I actually read passages like this to him:

“To Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner he was scarcely a less interesting personage than to herself. They had long wished to see him. The whole party before them, indeed, excited a lively attention. The suspicions which had just arisen, of Mr. Darcy and their niece, directed their observation towards each with an earnest, though guarded, enquiry; and they soon drew from those enquiries the full conviction that one of them at least knew what it was to love. Of the lady’s sensations they remained a little in doubt; but that the gentleman was overflowing with admiration was evident enough.”

I have no idea how much of that he takes in. Every once in a while, he’ll stop me to ask what a certain word means, but he seems to like the flow of the language. He’s asked for me to read it for the last several nights.

And I do a little happy dance inside. 😉

The thing is, I haven’t read the classics for a while. For the sake of my writing, I needed to read modern books. My first draft of Harp Lessons tried to emulate some of Austen’s flowery style and my editors had to chisel away at the manuscript to make it more stylistically pleasing for today’s audience.

I am nowhere near having the command of the English language that Austen did. But when I tried to pretend that I did?

Call the bomb squad!

The result was that my words were fit for weapons of mass destruction rather than to delight a mass of readers. I’m relieved to have had patient editors when I first learned the ropes. They were fabulous people to subject themselves to my pretentious words.

I am reminded of the journal I kept of my trip to England back in 2005.

Hee hee.

While describing the places I went, I was so wrapped up in the experience, I couldn’t resist using the word… wait for it… “alighted.”

Fortunately, I’m the only one who ever goes back and reads that journal. But maybe William will one day read it and forgive my attempt to emulate a favorite author. 😉

I’d love to hear from you!

Have you ever tried, crashed, and burned while imitating the writings of your favorite authors? Did it actually turn out pretty good? Do your kids like to read the classics? Do they “get” it?

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The Stone of Kings · Writing

Meet the Characters of The Stone of Kings – Turlough O’Carolan

Oh! to have been one of those people in that audience! What fun it was making him a character! 🙂

I have done my absolute best to keep myself from going on and on about this fascinating historical figure for this post. It wasn’t easy. But if you’d like to learn more, other than by reading my book (which is a fictitious account), here is the link to his biography.

What He Looks Like

I didn’t have to imagine too much here. Turlough is the only character who was based on a real person hence the above image. I did TONS of research on this fascinating man from Irish history. I chose to illustrate him as a he was in his forties, fully recognized throughout Ireland and yet before he was married.

His Part to Play

The research I did for The Stone of Kings included William Butler Yeats’ book Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry. What does that have to do with Turlough? Here is the crucial line from the chapter on the Trooping Fairies, “Carolan, the last of the Irish bards, slept on a rath, and ever after the fairy tunes ran in his head, and made him the great man he was.”

BOOM!

There was my story. A “rath,” by the way, is a fairy home or fort. Ideas blossomed in my head about Turlough’s music, his relationship with the faeries and druids, and how he influences both them and his fellow Irishmen. But I tried to stay as true to who he really was as I could, so I also read Donal O’Sullivan’s Carolan: The Life Times and Music of an Irish Harper.

A big chunk of my research is found right in the prologue which is in the Amazon sample. 🙂 As a little side note, I was crushed to realize that I wrote “County Mead, Ireland” when I know there is no such place. I obviously meant “Meath,” however, after further research realized that it should have been Roscommon (the prologue was added during editing). I blame gluten. But it doesn’t change the story anyway. 😉

What He Means to the Story

Turlough is, of course, the famed blind harper of Ireland. He had many guides to assist him in his travels, and at the time of my story, his guide is Thomas. Turlough is very fond of Thomas because they have a similar background, and he treats him as family. Oddly enough, I couldn’t find a meaning for Turlough’s name, which doesn’t matter in the slightest. But he was occasionally known as Terrence, which is the alias that Hannah gives to Thomas while they stay at the Bed and Breakfast in 2023.

The most important thing about Turlough is that he underscores the idea of uniting the Irish despite creed, which is a major theme of the story and his own history. Turlough was a person I would LOVE to have known. He was a friend to anyone who did not oppress people. My kind of friend!

His Failing

He is a bit of a drunk and has a temper. In the story, he forgets that there is a time and a place for drowning your troubles in the drink, and not when you are on a rescue mission with an immortal druid. His temper, while justified, gets him in some tight spots. He also doubts his own usefulness while they attempt to rescue Thomas and Ardan. After all, he is merely a blind bard…right? Hmm…

His Strength

Like the others, he is loyal. Both to his friends, especially Thomas, and to his country. He also harbors no prejudices. He is kind and courteous to the English family they encounter, despite the fact that the English government continue to oppress him and his people. He allows the English family to prove that they are not an oppressive sort, and therefore judges them to be kindred spirits.

And, of course, there is his magical and mysterious music. But how can music bring Thomas and Ardan back to the year 1715 or save Bresal from the judgement of the druid council?

Have you ever heard of Turlough O’Carolan? Do you find him to be a fascinating character too? Are you familiar with his music? What is your favorite Carolan song?

Next week…meet Hannah!

The Stone of Kings · Writing

Meet the Characters of The Stone of Kings – Thomas

This is a farm that was abandoned during the potato famine in 1845-49. But I can imagine that Thomas could have farmed such gorgeous, dramatic landscape in the 1700’s. It would build his physique and admiration of his country. Then it was taken from him. Ugh. Image attributed to Kevin Danks via Wikimedia Commons.

Sorry for the delay. Life got in my way yesterday. 😉

What He Looks Like

I am unashamed going cliché for this – Thomas is tall, dark, and handsome. He is by trade a farmer, but was forced to try his hand at becoming a blacksmith until Turlough O’Carolan came along and offered Thomas a job as his guide. Naturally, all that manual labor buffed him up. So yeah, he’s got some serious muscular action going on. Just wait till he ditches his 1715 garb for a modern-day T-shirt and khakis. 😉

His Part to Play

Thomas is illiterate and has no desire for higher learning. He has a tendency to live in the moment because the English have taken his family’s land. He LOVES his homeland. This is why being a guide for Turlough O’Carolan is a pretty cool consolation for not having land to farm anymore. He’s happy where he is at the start of the story, so he’s pretty livid when that world is turned upside down by Ardan’s curiosity. But when he meets Hannah… hmm. Well, maybe he should start thinking more about his future and his role to play in the history of the country he loves.

What He Means to the Story

Thomas’s name actually means “twin.” I could say, “Yeah, I used it because he has a dual life. He has a strong impact on Ireland’s past and future.” Because…he does.

*giggle*

I was probably more influenced by my four-year-old’s infatuation with a certain steam train character when choosing a name for Thomas. While Irish readers may not have an issue with names like Ardan, Bresal, Turlough, or even Taichleach, my hubby reminded me that American readers would probably trip over too many of those kinds of names. So Thomas, it was. 🙂 The fact that his name means “twin” is coincidental.

He is the male romantic figure in the story, the trouble is, he falls in love with Hannah who lives three centuries after him. He struggles to keep his emotions in check while he and Ardan are dependent on her for their survival of the twenty-first century.

His Failing

Thomas is too complacent. He is comfortable with his illiteracy and he is comfortable being the guide for Ireland’s greatest harper. He fails to realize that he has more to offer the country he loves. He thinks he is just a simple farmer and cannot do anything about the unfairness of losing his land. But everyone has something important to bring to the table…

His Strength

He is unfailingly loyal and trusting. He obeys his instincts and they almost never fail him. He is not so stubborn that he cannot switch roles. He starts out as the guide for a blind bard, and has no qualms when he needs guidance himself from Hannah. This proves an important quality when he faces a certain member of the modern-day IRA.

And there is the obvious, his old-fashioned strength, which comes in handy against leering scoundrels and brainwashed gunmen. 😉

Do you find yourself being too complacent? Would it take a wild faerie spell to wake you up to your talents? 😉 How would you feel if the land you loved was taken from you and you couldn’t do anything about it? 

Next week…meet Turlough O’Carolan!

Guest Posts

Wednesday Welcomes: Heather Gray!

Whew! Summer is busy now that I’ve got a kid who’s been in school. It shouldn’t be any different than before he started, but somehow it is.

Weird.

Anyway, I can still do guest features pretty easily! 😀 So without further ado, I’d like to welcome back the delightful Heather Gray! Enjoy!


Back Cover Blurb:

Hiding in the shadows just got harder.

When tragedy strikes, Juliana and her family must flee their home. Can they persuade a virtual stranger to help them? Juliana isn’t so sure, especially after their chaperone threatens to cane him. Even as Juliana struggles to trust him, she finds herself drawn to this mysterious man. Surely all she wants from him is refuge…

Rupert is a man whose life depends on his ability to remain unnoticed. What, then, is he supposed to do with this family he’s inherited?  His life is overrun with an ancient chaperone who would terrify a lesser man, two spirited girls, and the secretive Juliana – someone he comes to think of as his own precious jewel.

With this new responsibility thrust upon him, Rupert will have to make sacrifices – but will God ask him to sacrifice everything?

 

 

Excerpt:

1810

A duke had been cut down in the prime of his life. According to the War Department, The Hunter was to blame.

Jackal had been put onto The Hunter’s scent and told to ferret him out at all cost. It was his job, his duty to the crown, and he treated it with the seriousness it demanded. Evil could not be allowed to go unpunished, and people who took pleasure in destroying the lives of others would not walk away with impunity, not on his watch.

Jackal met with his contacts in the Austrian government and found no gratification in revealing they had a traitor in their midst. It had been a necessary move, and now the problem would be dealt with. The Austrians would put The Hunter down, and England’s hands would remain clean of the mess, exactly as the minister wanted.

Grim foreboding furrowed his brow as he left the meeting with the Austrians. His lack of evidence mocked him. He’d done as ordered, and they’d believed him, but had it been his choice, he’d have gathered more proof first.

Jackal climbed into his carriage and slapped his hand against the roof, signaling the driver with his readiness to depart. A lengthy ride awaited him. He would leave the carriage and his current identity behind in Munich once he arrived there. New papers and fresh horses were waiting for him. The same would happen again when he crossed over into Stuttgart, and then again in Brussels. His task was clear: remain alive long enough to claim each of the new identities and return safely to his homeland.

Sitting back on the roughly cushioned seat, he accepted what he’d begun to suspect. This would be his last assignment for the crown. He was getting too old for the job. The time to retire was upon him. The younger bucks were willing – if not entirely ready – to take their place among the ranks of the unseen, unknown, and unnamed heroes of war. Jackal shook his head. Not too long ago, he’d been one of those young bucks. Ready for retirement at age thirty-two? The thought would be laughable in any other career. In his line of work, though, only those who retired young lived to be old and grey.

Lost in melancholy, Jackal barely noted the change from the raucous noise of a bustling merchant district to the quiet pastoral sounds that would accompany him on most of this journey. Europe was a large land with rich cities interspersed with vast emptiness dotted with small hamlets. Traveling by carriage would take weeks, but as long as he could report back that he’d done as ordered, it would be worth the time.

He settled into his seat. They were still days from their first sanctioned stop. As always, the best defense was to keep moving.

 

****

 

A change in the carriage’s soothing methodical movement woke Jackal from his doze and alerted him that something was amiss. Awareness coursed through his veins, pushing away the remnant of sleep. A quick glance at the curtained window told him it was late morning. They’d ridden through the night to put as much distance as possible between them and Vienna – the current hub of Austrian government.

The carriage was moving with a wildness he’d felt only one other time in his life. Dread snaked through his middle as he accepted the truth. There was no longer a driver in control of his conveyance. Jackal crouched low on the floor for balance as he prepared to throw open the door and jump. Perhaps he should have sought retirement one assignment sooner.

Before his hand could touch the door, a jarring force threw Jackal against the seat to his left, shooting pain up his arm. They’d been boarded, then, and his driver – an agent he’d worked with for years – had likely not been alive to sound the alarm. Emotion would come later. For now, Jackal needed to focus on one thing: Survival.

The carriage gained speed under the skillful hand of whoever now sat in the driver’s seat. I should have jumped when I had the chance. Jackal shook his head as he calculated the odds of survival.

Palming his gun, he pounded on the roof of the carriage, commanding the driver to stop. Surprise flared to life as his conveyance did indeed come to a standstill. Rather than slow to a gentle stop, the carriage halted its forward momentum in a skidding bone-shaking fashion. It was the kind of stop that guaranteed no beast would be able to walk away from it afterward.

Jackal jumped before the dust could settle. His best chance would be to go on the offence and catch the driver off-guard. Though he’d assumed the driver had a partner, nothing could have prepared him for the vicious attack awaiting him on the other side of the door.

Jackal no sooner touched the ground than he was trampled under the anxious feet of a high-stepping horse. He’d not even had a chance to gain his footing. As he lay on the ground, Jackal both heard and felt the breaking of bone in his left leg. A couple of his ribs surrendered to the heavy hooves as well. Rolling onto his side, he took aim at the perpetrator. The sun blinded him, and he could distinguish no features on the man whose gun dared him to move. In the split second it took for him to reassure himself he was not aiming at an innocent bystander – for they were indeed in one of the numerous modest hamlets that dotted the continent’s countryside – the rider pulled the trigger, and pain seared through Jackal’s already throbbing leg. It felt as if the lead had burrowed its way into his very bone.

He pulled the trigger of his flintlock pistol, and the man on the horse recoiled. Even as Jackal reached for the gun concealed at the ankle of his wounded leg, he knew it was futile. The rider had a second gun in-hand before his own fingers even brushed against the grip of his hidden weapon. Pain tore through his shoulder, immobilizing his shooting arm. Another ball of lead ripped into his middle. He felt his blood seeping out onto the street.

Accepting his fate, he asked only one thing. “At whose hand am I to die this day?”

Laughter vile enough to sour port met his question. “Today the Jackal shall meet his end at the hands of The Hunter.”

The Hunter? The Austrians were supposed to have him by now.

“Your plan failed, and I am free. Prepare to die.”

Blackness closing in around him, Jackal released the last thought held captive in his mind.

Why God?

Cold claimed his body as he slipped into darkness. He neither heard nor felt the next shot.

 

Author Bio:

Heather Gray is the author of the Ladies of Larkspur inspirational western romance series, including Mail Order man, Just Dessert, and Redemption.  She also writes the Regency Refuge series with titles His Saving Grace, Jackal, and the soon-to-be-released Queen.  But that’s not all!  Interested in contemporary Christian romance?  Take a look at Ten Million Reasons and Nowhere for Christmas.

Heather loves coffee, God, her family, and laughter – not necessarily in that order!  She writes approachable and flawed characters who, through the highs and lows of life, find a way to love God, embrace each day, and laugh out loud right along with her.  And, yeah, her books almost always have someone who’s a coffee addict.  Some things just can’t be helped.

 

Buy Links:

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Barnes & Noble

Smashwords

iTunes

 

Where to Find Me:

My Website – http://www.heathergraywriting.com

My Blog – http://www.heathergraywriting.com/blog

Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/heathergraywriting

Google+ – https://plus.google.com/+Heathergraywritingnow

Twitter – http://twitter.com/LaughDreamWrite

Pinterest – http://www.pinterest.com/LaughDreamWrite

Blogging Contest · NaNoWriMo

#7 Self Publishing Or Publishing Contract?

Image attributed to InfoGibraltar via Wikimedia Commons.

One of the things that I love about Kristen Lamb, is that for as much as she supports a self published writer, she doesn’t knock those who prefer to go the more traditional route.

I think I’ve used up my trust-me tokens on financial investments. “Trust me, spending my last semester at Cambridge, England will make me a better teacher.” Well, that part was actually true until my (then unknown) gluten allergy caused my anxiety and depression to “flare” so badly that I had to resign. But England was a big investment.

And so would it be to self publish.

I hate red tape and “dry thinking.” I’d rather just be creative and write the book. But for the purposes of this post I decided to look into it. It’s probably good for me anyway.

I found this article on Bloomberg about the real cost of self-publishing. And already I’m not liking this. So, let’s pretend that I’ve decided to self publish The Stone of Kings (instead of what I really did, and send it to my publisher.) The first thing the Bloomberg article says that I need is an editor and I’ll go with the $3.50 charge per page. I’m assuming that the pages must be double spaced, since that what I had to do when I submitted it to Astraea Press. Okay, 296 pages at $3.50 per page comes to $1,036.

Can you see that conversation with your hardworking spouse on a single family income? Yeah, I can’t either.

Well, that just made this post easier to write. After editing, I still need cover art, printing, software purchase, and ISBN number. I’m not sure I would do the rest of what is suggested. I’ve got the WANA Way for that 😀

I’m happy with Astraea Press. So long as they like what I’ve got, I don’t have to pay anything. I get full say in the cover art and editing process. I’d rather give them part of the sales later than do all the dry stuff myself first.

[This post was written as a part of the NaNoWriMo Pre-game Kick Off over at Jessica Schmeidler’s blog.]

NaNo word count: 6620

Writing

Fly Like An Eagle

The Hampton Court Clock. Very cool looking, but seriously outdated. Note the SUN revolving around the EARTH? Image attributed to Mike Cattell via Wikimedia Commons.

I’ve always liked the Hampton Court clock. First of all, because I was fortunate enough to see it in person during an excellent tour of the palace, courtesy of one of my Cambridge professors. Secondly, because it gives me the impression that there are more hours in the day. All 24 hours are represented, giving me the proof illusion that I have plenty of time to complete my projects and squeeze in some ‘me’ time.

Maybe I torture myself.

A few weeks ago, I started to realize that my postings were quite irregular, and many times I just couldn’t come up with anything to write about making that my excuse for not posting at all. So I set a goal that I’d post something, anything on Monday mornings. Last week, I got my post ready days in advance and relished that I was able to tweak it here and there to make it better before Monday. But it is Monday morning as I type this one… *sigh*

The lyrics to that Steve Miller song keeps running through my head – Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’, into the future.

A big chunk of my time is devoted to my boys. Other spaces are filled with housework, researching the next inspiration for my book, getting the inspiration written, and now I’ve added harp practice to the blend. But this last gave me a nice idea for the subject of another post when I have more time to devote to it. 😀  So yeah, I’m just going to get back to the illusion of more time via Hampton Court’s clock...

How does time, or the lack thereof, frazzle affect you?