Q&A with Melika Dannese Lux

I’d like to welcome Melika Dannese Lux, the author of Deadmarsh Few, to Layered Pages today!  Melika, thank you for taking time from your busy schedule to talk with me today about our upcoming book release, Deadmarsh Fey. Please tell me about your story and the period the story is set in.

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The story takes place in England at the tail end of the 19th century. I should explain that Deadmarsh is not only the name of a family, but also the manor on the English moors which they call home. The main protagonist of this novel is Roger Knightley, a ten year old boy, who is the cousin of Havelock (Lockie) Deadmarsh, the heir. For nearly every summer of his young life, Roger has gone to Deadmarsh to while away the days with Lockie. He doesn’t expect anything to be different this year, but as soon as he crosses the threshold, he realizes that everyone has changed, especially Kip, the family cat, who has inexplicably grown and altered in other alarming ways. After several terrifying encounters with creatures from a death-haunted world called Everl’aria, Roger begins to understand that something evil has been awakened within the halls of Deadmarsh, something that is not only after Lockie and his older sister, Travers, but Roger, as well. A tapestry of secrets and lies has woven itself around the Deadmarshes, and Roger now finds himself in the position of having to unravel the mystery of why a being called the Dark Wreaker has bedeviled his family for 700 years, just what exactly the Deadmarsh connection to Everl’aria really is…and how his ancestress with the unpronounceable name, whom Roger has always called Bloody Granny B, fits into the grand scheme of things. All this, he must unravel before Lockie’s 11th birthday, two days hence. If he doesn’t, blood will drown the earth. And that’s not an understatement.

Your book cover is amazing! Who is your cover designer and age group this story geared to?

Thank you so much, Stephanie! The designer is Ravven (ravven.com), and she is brilliant! I had a very specific vision for the cover, and she was able to bring every single element of it to life in ways that still astound me.

Even though the main protagonist is a young boy, Deadmarsh Fey is not a children’s book. It is geared to anyone who enjoys an intense and detailed genre-bending story with a supernatural twist—a tale that entwines elements of dark fantasy, mystery, horror, and the inexplicable. As for an age group, I think those 14 and older would be able to appreciate and enjoy this story the most.

What is the research that went into for the setting and period of your story?

My last two novels were also set in the late 19th century, so I was already very familiar with the mores, history, vernacular, etc., of this era. For Deadmarsh Fey, my main research centered on folklore, specifically that of Wales and Norway, which are the two branches of myth that flavor the events of this and the subsequent books in my Dwellers of Darkness, Children of Light series. I love exploring mythology, then coming up with my own legends and histories for my characters. Names and their meanings have also always played a huge role in my novels, but never more so than in Deadmarsh Fey.    Returning to myths…the backstories of Everl’aria and the beings who populate it, especially the Guardians, were my favorite parts of the novel to write.

Please tell me a little about the Deadmarsh name and how you came up with it. 

About 16 years ago, I was watching a sporting event on TV, only half paying attention to what was going on, when I heard the announcer call out the name Deadmarsh. My first thought was, “Wow! What a fantastically creepy and portentous name that is!” And so it stuck in my head all those years until I finally found a story to build around the family which bore that name.

Will you tell me about the Jagged Ones?

Yes, of course! Their identity is rather sensitive, but I can tell you that Carver, the blue menace on the book’s cover, is their leader. There are many reasons why they are called Jagged Ones, and the main one is not revealed till a few chapters from the end of the novel. Basically, these creatures are the servants of the Dark Wreaker, and use their power and mesmeric qualities to trick their victims into doing their bidding, which opens the door for these creatures to have a rather horrifying rite of access to said victims. I really can’t say more without revealing the entire rationale behind the Jagged Ones’ existence!

How did you get into writing Dark Fantasy?

I’ve always been fascinated by writing fantasy. It was my original love, actually, since my first (as yet uncompleted) novel, which I began writing at 14, was a fantasy novel with a decidedly dystopian flair. You won’t be surprised to hear that sharks played a large role in this book. I revisited the novel in 2012, and wrote a prologue and three chapters before realizing it still wasn’t the right time to be working on this project.

About a year later, I began work on what would be the fourth novel in Dwellers of Darkness, Children of Light. At the time, I thought it would be the first. I’m glad I wrote that novel, though, because the myths that were explored in it helped me tremendously when writing Deadmarsh Fey, which I quickly realized had to be the inaugural book in the series. So, in 2014, I began working on it in earnest. Deadmarsh has actually been with me for a very long while, albeit unknowingly. It turned out to be the prequel to a fantasy trilogy I started writing in 2003, in which Roger was a grandfather! Life and other projects intervened, and I put that story on hold, but the idea of exploring why Roger’s life had turned out the way it had done became too insistent to ignore, and I decided to go back and create an entire foundation for why the events in that trilogy even happened. Needless to say, it’s been a tremendous amount of work, but great fun, as well, because there were story arcs and strands of legend that I’d only scratched the surface of that I got to reveal in Deadmarsh Fey in all their (sometimes hellish) glory.

And that’s where the dark part of dark fantasy came in. The seeds for writing horror were sown in my last novel, Corcitura, which is dark Gothic horror, along classical lines. Think Dracula instead of Twilight. I’m not a person who enjoys writing “sweetness and light” books, although there are always elements of comedy and sarcasm in my novels. Authorial confession: I can’t separate that from my own personality, so it finds its way into my characters! I have to be engaged when writing, and how this happens for me, I’ve noticed, is placing characters into situations, often dire ones, in which life and death are at stake, then having them battle their way out by using their wits, engaging the help of allies, and sometimes, through a confluence of events that saves them from imminent destruction through no doing of their own. They also don’t always find happy ways out of these situations, just to be clear. It depends on where the story tells me to go.

Who is your antagonist and what is a redeeming quality he or she has?

I have several antagonists in the book, but there are five main ones who wreak the most havoc on Roger and his allies. Two I can mention by name, because the identities of the others are revealed gradually. The first is Trahaearn Coffyn, who we meet in the opening chapter. His redeeming quality, though twisted, is his intense loyalty to the evil powers he serves, specifically to a woman he’s been faithful to for, well…for a good long while.

The other is Carver, the blue fiend on the cover. As I mentioned before, he is the leader of the Jagged Ones, and not someone you’d want to run across in real life. And yet, although I despise him…I also like him quite a lot! I think it’s because he’s so comfortable in his own evilness that he oftentimes came out with lines that cracked me up, even though he was being his despicable self! For quite a while, I was mystified by my being able to laugh at them, until I understood that the reason I could was because Carver knew he was irredeemable, and had no qualms about being so. And, yes, you’ve probably noticed that I’m talking about him as if he is a flesh and blood entity. Well, that’s how he, and all the characters in this book, feel to me. I was just the facilitator who was writing down what they wanted me to say. It sounds crazy, I know, but that’s how it was throughout this entire novel!

On a personal level, how does this story resonate with you?

Writing Deadmarsh Fey was a very intense experience for me. Corcitura was an incredibly complex novel, yet I think that because Deadmarsh Fey is not only its own complete story, but also lays the groundwork for the other novels in the series—it required me to plumb depths I never had before as a writer. I also became very attached to these characters, even growing fond of the villains in some strange way, which surprised me!

But the main thing for me when writing this novel was the gamut of emotions I experienced, especially in regards to Roger. The entire book is told from his perspective (third person), and because of that, I felt like I became Roger in this story. I discovered things as he did, saw things through his eyes, which meant that everything he endured, everything he felt—pain, fear, excitement, terror, disappointment, panic, elation—I felt  intensely, too. It was exhausting and rewarding at the same time. And made it very hard to put him through the ordeals I had him undergo. Very hard, but not impossible, and I did feel terrible afterward, but what the story called for, the story got.

Story wise, the events in Deadmarsh Fey resonated with me because they are about fighting for the ones you love. That is the main impetus that propels Roger’s actions, and the actions of his allies. It’s not just about survival, or stopping the evil of the Dark Wreaker and his servants from  being unleashed upon this earth, but about saving the very souls of those who are most important to you, those you’d give your life for. And that is something that has always appealed to me, not only in storyweaving, but in reality.

Please share with me your writing process and your favorite spot to write in your home.

After writing Deadmarsh Fey in chronological order from beginning to end without deviating, I have become addicted to this process, so that is how I now work. I cannot see myself going back to writing novels piecemeal after this experience.

I’m a rover when it comes to my favorite spot to write in at home. I do have a designated office/study/library, with a lovely writing desk, but I don’t like to stay in one place for too long. I feel like I become stagnant if I don’t have a change of writing scene every now and then. So, since I work on a laptop, I take it all over the house, and settle where I’m most comfortable.

Where can readers buy your book?

The Kindle edition of Deadmarsh Fey is now available for pre-order on Amazon.com  (HERE). The paperback edition will also be available for purchase (through Amazon) on May 2nd, the book’s official release date.

About the Author:

Melika

I have been an author since the age of fourteen and write novels that incorporate a variety of different genres, including historical fiction, suspense, thrillers with a supernatural twist, and dark fantasy. I am also a classically trained soprano/violinist/pianist and have been performing since the age of three. Additionally, I hold a BA in Management and an MBA in Marketing.

If I had not decided to become a writer, I would have become a marine biologist, but after countless years spent watching Shark Week, I realized I am very attached to my arms and legs and would rather write sharks into my stories than get up close and personal with those toothy wonders.

Website: Books In My Belfry

Twitter  @BooksInMyBelfry

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Wish-List 5: Presidential Reading

As many of you know by now, I have just started a reading challenge of the Presidents of the United States. I’m currently reading about Theodore Roosevelt and still working my way though the text. There are five hundred and fifty-five pages to that book. Anyhow, a lot of the books on my list have a ton of pages and I’m beginning to wonder if I will be able to get this challenge complete in year with all my other reading. We will see. I know I sound a bit daunted but I assure you, I’m thrilled to be taking on this worthwhile challenge.  You can read more about the challenge HERE. Below is the book I need next and I’m on the lookout for them through my local independent bookstores.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

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Obama From Promise to PowerObama: From Promise to Power

by David Mendell

Hardcover, 416 pages

Published August 14th 2007 by Amistad

Barack Obama is arguably the most dynamic political figure to grace the American stage since John F. Kennedy. His meteoric rise from promise to power has stunned even the cynics and inspired a legion of devout followers.

For anyone who wants to know more about the man, David Mendell’s Obama is essential reading. Mendell, who covered Obama for the Chicago Tribune, had far-reaching access to the Chicago politician as Obama climbed the ladder to the White House, the details of which he shares in this compelling biography. Positioning Obama as the savior of a fumbling Democratic party, Mendell reveals how Obama conquered Illinois politics and paved the way brick by brick for a galvanizing, historic presidential run.

With a new afterword by the author, which includes a fresh perspective on Barack Obama following his two historic terms as the first African-American president, and with exclusive interviews with family members and top advisers, and details on Obama’s voting record, David Mendell offers a complete, complex, and revealing portrait. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in American politics in general and President Barack Obama in particular.

President ReaganPresident Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime by Lou Cannon

Paperback, 920 pages

Published March 31st 2000 by PublicAffairs

Hailed by the New Yorker as “a superlative study of a president and his presidency,” Lou Cannon’s President Reagan remains the definitive account of our most significant presidency in the last fifty years. Ronald Wilson Reagan, the first actor to be elected president, turned in the performance of a lifetime. But that performance concealed the complexities of the man, baffling most who came in contact with him. Who was the man behind the makeup? Only Lou Cannon, who covered Reagan through his political career, can tell us. The keenest Reagan-watcher of them all, he has been the only author to reveal the nature of a man both shrewd and oblivious. Based on hundreds of interviews with the president, the First Lady, and hundreds of the administration’s major figures, President Reagan takes us behind the scenes of the Oval Office. Cannon leads us through all of Reagan’s roles, from the affable cowboy to the self-styled family man; from the politician who denounced big government to the president who created the largest peace-time deficit; from the statesman who reviled the Soviet government to the Great Communicator who helped end the cold war.

Jimmy CarterJimmy Carter (The American Presidents #39)

by Julian E. Zelizer, Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. (Editor), Sean Wilentz (Editor)

ebook, 208 pages

Published September 14th 2010 by Times Books

The maverick politician from Georgia who rode the post- Watergate wave into office but whose term was consumed by economic and international crises 

A peanut farmer from Georgia, Jimmy Carter rose to national power through mastering the strategy of the maverick politician. As the face of the “New South,” Carter’s strongest support emanated from his ability to communicate directly to voters who were disaffected by corruption in politics.

But running as an outsider was easier than governing as one, as Princeton historian Julian E. Zelizer shows in this examination of Carter’s presidency. Once in power, Carter faced challenges sustaining a strong political coalition, as he focused on policies that often antagonized key Democrats, whose support he desperately needed. By 1980, Carter stood alone in the Oval Office as he confronted a battered economy, soaring oil prices, American hostages in Iran, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

Carter’s unpopularity enabled Ronald Reagan to achieve a landslide victory, ushering in a conservative revolution. But during Carter’s post-presidential career, he has emerged as an important voice for international diplomacy and negotiation, remaking his image as a statesman for our time.

Write It When I'm GoneWrite It When I’m Gone: Remarkable Off-the-Record Conversations With Gerald R. Ford

by Thomas M. DeFrank, Thomas M. DeFrank

Hardcover, 272 pages

Published October 30th 2007 by G. P. Putnam’s Sons

In 1974, Newsweek correspondent Thomas M. DeFrank was interviewing Gerald Ford when the Vice President blurted out something astonishingly indiscreet. He then extracted a promise not to publish it. “Write it when I’m dead,” Ford said – and thus began a thirty-two-year relationship.

During the last fifteen years of their conversations, Ford opened up to DeFrank, speaking in a way few presidents ever have. Here the award-winning journalist reveals these private talks, as Ford discusses his experiences with his fellow presidents, the Warren Commission, and his exchanges with Bill Clinton during the latter’s impeachment process. In addition, he shares his thoughts about both Bush administrations, the Iraq war, his beloved wife Betty, and the frustrations of aging. Write It When I’m Gone is not only a historical document but an unprecedented portrait of a president.

NixonlandNixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America

by Rick Perlstein

Hardcover, 895 pages

Published May 13th 2008 by Scribner/Simon & Schuster (NYC)

Politically insightful, Nixonland recaptures the turbulent 60s & early 70s, revealing how Dick Nixon rose from the political grave to seize & hold the presidency. Perlstein’s account begins with the ’65 Watts riots, nine months after Johnson’s landslide victory over Goldwater appeared to herald a permanent liberal consensus. Yet the next year, scores of liberals were tossed from Congress, America was more divided than ever & a disgraced politician was on his way to a shocking comeback.

Between ’65 & ’72, America experienced a 2nd civil war. From its ashes, today’s political world was born. It was the era not only of Nixon, Johnson, Agnew, Humphrey, McGovern, Daley & Geo Wallace but Abbie Hoffman, Ronald Reagan, Angela Davis, Ted Kennedy, Chas Manson, John Lindsay & Jane Fonda. There are glimpses of Jimmy Carter, Geo H.W. Bush, Jesse Jackson, John Kerry & even of two ambitious young men named Karl Rove & Bill Clinton–& an unambitious young man named Geo W. Bush.

Cataclysms tell the story: Blacks trashing their neighborhoods. White suburbanites wielding shotguns. Student insurgency over the Vietnam War. The assassinations of Rbt F. Kennedy & Martin Luther King. The riots at the ’68 Democratic Nat’l Convention. The fissuring of the Democrats into warring factions manipulated by the dirty tricks of Nixon & his Committee to ReElect the President. Nixon pledging a dawn of nat’l unity, governing more divisively than any president before him, then directing a criminal conspiracy, the Watergate cover-up, from the Oval Office. Then, in 11/72, Nixon, harvesting the bitterness & resentment born of turmoil, was reelected in a landslide, not only setting the stage for his ’74 resignation but defining the terms of the ideological divide characterizing America today.

Filled with prodigious research, driven by a powerful narrative, Perlstein’s account of how America divided confirms his place as one of our country’s most celebrated historians.

Check out my fellow book bloggers wish-lists!

Holly at 2 Kids and Tired
Colleen-A Literary Vacation 
Heather at The Maiden’s Court
Erin at Flashlight Commentary
Magdalena at A Bookish Swede

stay-calm-and-support-book-bloggers

Highlighted Reviews: A Jane Austen Daydream by Scott D. Southard

FIVE YEAR ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Now with a new foreword and an updated cover showcasing Jane’s own handwriting, this re-imagining of Jane’s life continues to charm and delight readers of literary fiction worldwide.

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perf5.500x8.500.inddAll her heroines find love in the end–but is there love waiting for Jane?

Jane Austen spends her days writing and matchmaking in the small countryside village of Steventon, until a ball at Godmersham Park propels her into a new world where she yearns for a romance of her own. But whether her heart will settle on a young lawyer, a clever Reverend, a wealthy childhood friend, or a mysterious stranger is anyone’s guess.

Written in the style of Jane herself, this novel ponders the question faced by many devoted readers over the years–did she ever find love? Weaving fact with fiction, it re-imagines her life, using her own stories to fill in the gaps left by history and showing that all of us–to a greater or lesser degree–are head over heels for Jane.

Scott D. Southard, the author of A Jane Austen Daydream, swears he is not obsessed with Jane Austen. He is also the author of the novels: My Problem with Doors, Megan, Permanent Spring Showers, Maximilian Standforth and the Case of the Dangerous Dare, and 3 Days in Rome. With his eclectic writing he has found his way into radio, being the creator of the radio comedy series The Dante Experience. The production was honored with the Golden Headset Award for Best MultiCast Audio and the Silver Ogle Award for Best Fantasy Audio Production. Scott received his Master’s in writing from the University of Southern California. Scott can be found on the internet via his writing blog “The Musings & Artful Blunders of Scott D. Southard where he writes on far-ranging topics like writing, art, books, TV, writing, parenting, life, movies, and writing. He even shares original fiction on the site. Currently, Scott resides in Michigan with his very understanding wife, his two patient children, and a very opinionated dog named Bronte.

About the Author:

Scott Southard author pic

Scott D. Southard, the author of A Jane Austen Daydream, swears he is not obsessed with Jane Austen. He is also the author of the novels: My Problem with Doors, Megan, Permanent Spring Showers, Maximilian Standforth and the Case of the Dangerous Dare, and 3 Days in Rome. With his eclectic writing he has found his way into radio, being the creator of the radio comedy series The Dante Experience. The production was honored with the Golden Headset Award for Best MultiCast Audio and the Silver Ogle Award for Best Fantasy Audio Production. Scott received his Master’s in writing from the University of Southern California. Scott can be found on the internet via his writing blog “The Musings & Artful Blunders of Scott D. Southard” (sdsouthard.com)  where he writes on far-ranging topics like writing, art, books, TV, writing, parenting, life, movies, and writing. He even shares original fiction on the site. Currently, Scott resides in Michigan with his very understanding wife, his two patient children, and a very opinionated dog named Bronte.

Author Links:

Amazon US

Audible

Author Website

Highlighted Reviews:

“A Jane Austen Daydream is very much a lovely dream. It’s not always a pleasant one—Jane has her own brand of villains and obstacles to contend with along the way. Yet overall, Daydream is an interesting, entertaining look at a life that Jane could have had.” -Laura Hartness from goodreads

“The author brilliantly mashes up an authentic Jane Austen, many of her real family members, intermingles many of her own famous literary characters and tops it off with a generous helping of her most famous lines.” -Jeffery from goodreads

A Jane Austen Daydream by Scott Southard is by far the best Jane Austen “fan fiction” I’ve ever read or listened to.  -Lilmissmolly from goodreads

“For those of you who are exhausted by the innumerable retellings of Austen’s novels, this is a style entirely new…. be rewarded by a quick paced novel unlike any you can ever have read, which injects new ideas and possibilities into the world of Jane Austen.” –Laura Boyle, The Jane Austen Centre

“Mix one-part biography and one-part historical re-imagining…add witty characters and some surprises and you have A Jane Austen Daydream. This was a delightful read.” – Amelia Rodriguez, Jane Austen Society of North America 

“…Lovely, thought-provoking novel. Fans of Austen will adore this book.” – Lori Nelson Spielman, author of The Life List.

“Southard has taken the facts about the great author and woven them into a credible, touching, and also entertaining portrait of a life.” -Historical Novel Society

Blog Tour Schedule:

April 23rd

Book Spotlight-The Writing Desk

April 24th

Book Review – Kate Braithwaite

Book Spotlight – before the second sleep

April 25th

Book Spotlight – Let Them Read Books 

April 26th

Book Spotlight – Locks, Hooks and Books

Book Review – Pursuing Stacie

April 27th

Book Review Highlights –Layered Pages

A Jane Austen Daydream by Scott D. Southard Tour Banner

 

 

Cover Crush: Meeting with Remarkable Manuscripts by Christopher De Hamel

Cover Crush banner

I am not a cover designer but I can agree that cover layouts play an important role in the overall presentation of stories and I must admit, often times I first judge a book by its cover.

Meeting with Remarkable Manuscripts by Christopher De HamelAbout the Book:

Hardcover, 640 pages

Published September 22nd 2016 by Allen Lane

This is a book about why medieval manuscripts matter. Coming face to face with an important illuminated manuscript in the original is like meeting a very famous person. We may all pretend that a well-known celebrity is no different from anyone else, and yet there is an undeniable thrill in actually meeting and talking to a person of world stature.

The idea for the book, which is entirely new, is to invite the reader into intimate conversations with twelve of the most famous manuscripts in existence and to explore with the author what they tell us about nearly a thousand years of medieval history – and sometimes about the modern world too. Christopher de Hamel introduces us to kings, queens, saints, scribes, artists, librarians, thieves, dealers, collectors and the international community of manuscript scholars, showing us how he and his fellows piece together evidence to reach unexpected conclusions. He traces the elaborate journeys which these exceptionally precious artifacts have made through time and space, shows us how they have been copied, who has owned them or lusted after them (and how we can tell), how they have been embroiled in politics and scholarly disputes, how they have been regarded as objects of supreme beauty and luxury and as symbols of national identity. The book touches on religion, art, literature, music, science and the history of taste.

Part travel book, part detective story, part conversation with the reader, Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts conveys the fascination and excitement of encountering some of the greatest works of art in our culture which, in the originals, are to most people completely inaccessible. At the end, we have a slightly different perspective on history and how we come by knowledge. It is a most unusual book.

Cover Crush is a weekly series that originated with Erin at Flashlight Commentary.

My thoughts:

I believe I stumbled upon the cover on Instagram. The image is beautiful and love the soft tones of the background. I wonder where the image of the tree comes from?

Stephanie M. Hopkins

Other great cover crushes from my fellow book bloggers: 

Magdalena at A Bookaholic Swede
Colleen at A Literary Vacation
Heather at The Maiden’s Court
Holly at 2 Kids and Tired
Meghan at Of Quills & Vellum

 

Presidential Reading Challenge

Theodore Roosevelt and coffee

My friend and fellow book blogger at Flashlight Commentary started a Presidential Reading Challenge in January and as I have been following her progress, another friend and I became intrigued with her journey. I has spoken to her about her challenge earlier in the year and talked about doing a reading challenge of First Ladies in 2019, because I am backlogged on book reviews to get out. Alas, this wasn’t going to do. I am thrilled with her challenge and admire her for taking on a substantial project worthwhile.

I’m a bit late in the game but I have decided to join the challenge with another friend and I decided to start with Theodore Roosevelt because I wanted to read about him so bad! *laughing* Anyhow, silliness aside, I’ve decided after I finish this book, I will go back and start with Obama and work backwards. Since Trump is the current sitting President, I will wait. I would prefer not to read about Presidents while they are alive but since I am doing a challenge, it will have to do.

The lesser known presidents might present a bit of a challenge and most likely I will order them from Amazon and scouring thrift stories and independent bookstore’s. I’m also in the process of clearing the shelf you see behind me in the picture below to dedicate space for the presidents.

Me in March 2018

Stephanie M. Hopkins

Be sure to check out Flashlight Commentary’s post on this challenge. She has listed some wonderful titles. Also, I was looking for biographies on my Great, Great Uncle President Woodrow Wilson and stumbled upon it this amazing site: My Journey Through the Best Presidential Biographies

I will be blogging about my presidential reading journey often and will be compiling material and notes to create a journal for this project.  History teachers should consider doing this with their students. I think it would be a great tool to learn and visuals really help.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

The Importance of Writer’s Workshops

Book with glasses

This past Saturday I attended a Writer’s Workshop at the Book Exchange in Marietta, Georgia led by Susan Crawford, Author/Publisher. There was a great group of women writers there and it was a delight to meet them and discuss different aspects of story-telling. Crawford really inspired us and gave a wonderful outline with the right tools to structure our writing and developing our characters. The opening topic was “Experiencing vs. Showing/Telling”. We talked about the balance of the two and it was quite interesting to talk about when it is okay to tell rather than show.

Crawford was open to questions we had and her insight was much appreciated. She led us in three writing exercises that we were able to read out loud to the group and one of them was about, “Opening Line.” This was probably my favorite exercise because as readers and writers we know the “Opening Line” needs to grab us. I’d like to share my opening line with you. This particular line is from a scene of one of stories I’m working on. I wanted to see how it would work with this exercise and it turned out great!

The opening line below is from a story that takes place in North Georgia: Untitled

“As she entered the hiking trail alongside highway 515, she heard an approaching car heading straight for her.”

Writing that as an opening line was interesting- the line grabs you and you want to know what happens next.

I want to encourage you to try this exercise and see what you come up with. It doesn’t have to be from a story you’re already writing. Try to make something up off the top of your head. I know I will be practicing this exercise often and next time, I won’t be using a line from my story.

I learned several valuable lessons at this workshop and now I fully understand the importance of workshops for any writer. For example, meeting with other writers to discuss the different aspects of  story-telling, and the encouragement from these events motivates oneself to keep writing.

These are some other topics we discussed that was a refresher for me:  Reading your work out loud really does help, a deeper understanding of how to experience what is inside your character’s head, and an in-depth look at point of view. Most of all the discussions among fellow writers about the right prose to describe senses, emotion, the setting and so on…

The class lasted two hours and afterwards Crawford critiqued one writers work. Alas, I had not brought my manuscript for this aspect of the workshop but next time…I would love to hear Crawford’s thoughts on my story.

Thank you, Book Exchange for hosting this workshop and for your gracious hospitality.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

More about Susan Crawford:

Susan H. Crawford

Susan grew up in Miami, Florida. She later moved to New York City and then to Boston before settling in Atlanta to raise three amazing daughters and to teach in various adult education settings. A member of The Atlanta Writers Club and The Village Writers, Susan works for the Department of Technical and Adult Education and is a member of her local planning commission. She lives in Atlanta with her husband and a trio of rescue cats, where she enjoys reading books, writing books, rainy days, and spending time with the people she loves.

Author Website

Interview with Susan Crawford at VoyageATL HERE

Book Exchange Website

Book Exchange Facebook Page

Other Layered Pages posts about the Book Exchange:

Bookish Happenings

The Book Exchange: An Independent Book Store

 

 

Medieval Passion, Arthurian Obsession & Courtly Love with Jessica Cale

Today Author Jessica Cale talks with me about her collaboration on Sexuality and its Impact on British History, about her Medieval passion, Arthurian obsession and her fascination with courtly love. -Stephanie M. Hopkins

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When Hunter S. Jones asked me to be a contributor to Sexuality and its Impact on History: The British Stripped Bare, I was thrilled. This was the kind of opportunity I always dreamt of when I was a kid. (Yes, I was a weird kid.) When everyone else wanted to be doctors, astronauts, and entertainers, I was at home watching History’s Mysteries and wanting to be Leonard Nimoy. Everyone else knew him as Spock, but to me he was the host of my favorite show on the History Channel.

corn palace

Behold, the Corn Palace

From there, things progressed as you might imagine. Medieval history was my passion, and I decided to go to school for it. Growing up in Minnesota, the closest castle was the Corn Palace, so I knew if I wanted to study the Middle Ages properly, I was going to have to get on a plane. Fortunately, I was accepted to my first choice school–Swansea University in Wales. As far as I’m concerned, there is no better place to study British medieval history than Wales. With more castles per square mile than anywhere else on earth, it was my idea of heaven.

My first degree went so by so fast I barely felt it. I was fortunate to have a lot of great teachers, in particular the late Ifor Rowlands, who supervised my undergraduate thesis. It was Ifor who suggested a way for me to combine my love of Arthurian literature with the history behind it: I would compare the stories with the Life of William Marshal.

coat of arms

William Marshal’s coat of arms as Earl of Pembroke. Look familiar?

Even during his lifetime, William Marshal was widely regarded as the greatest knight in the world. His life had a lot of interesting parallels to the Lancelot of legend, and in my thesis, I made the argument that the depictions of Lancelot coming out of Marie de Champagne’s court (most notably that from Chrétien de Troyes) were directly inspired by Marshal himself. He was a rock star of the High Middle Ages–handsome, noble, and his prowess was second to none. He was the tutor and companion to Henry the Young King, the eldest son of Henry II, and was rumored to have had an affair with Henry’s wife, Margaret of France. Whether or not he did, no one’s sure, but it wouldn’t be difficult to imagine the hottest gossip of the day popping up in the stories told around court.

Marie de Champagne’s court is best remembered as the unofficial birthplace of the idea of courtly love. At the very least, it is where Andreas Capellanus wrote De Amore, or The Art of Courtly Love, the entertaining, often bonkers, and nevertheless revealing treatise on the ideal and practice of courtly love in the Middle Ages.

In The Art of Courtly Love, Capellanus lays out a number of rules for being in love. Some of them are common practice, but other have changed some over the years. For example, Capellanus argues that jealousy is a good thing and that love cannot and should not exist within marriage.

real castle

A photo I took at Pembroke Castle, William Marshal’s residence as Earl of Pembroke

As an Arthurian obsessive and a Historical Romance author, I have always been fascinated by the idea of courtly love, so when Hunter asked if I would like to be involved with her book, I jumped at the chance to examine it further. One thing that struck me as particularly interesting was the discovery that in spite of common belief and even Capellanus’s recommendations, people did marry for love.

In fact, according to Gratian, you couldn’t be married without it. Three things were required to make a marriage: love, sex, and consent. That’s right–consent. Although forced medieval marriages is a popular trope in historical dramas, in practice, the Church viewed consent as a crucial component of any marriage. Yes, people could feel pressured to marry by parents or just circumstance, but that was the exception rather than the rule. The Church frowned on marriages made only for material gain. Procreation was not the only purpose of marriage, and people also married for love and companionship as they do today.

Love in the Middle Ages was not so very different than it is now, and is it any wonder? While the world changes, human nature does not, and we have a lot more in common with our medieval ancestors than you might guess. I cover a lot of ground in my chapter from common law marriages and annulments to sex, homosexuality, and contraception. Did you know that most of the medieval churches in London were built with the profits of prostitution? True story. It was tolerated and licensed by the Church. Surprise! Along with facts like that, I found recipes for herbal abortifacients, sex magic practices involving fish (what?), a gay king (it’s not the one you’re thinking of), and transgender individuals more or less accepted in society. The more you look into it, the more you find that the Middle Ages weren’t as “medieval” as we’ve been told.

I hope you’ll enjoy reading all about it with me in my chapter in Sexuality and its Impact on History: The British Stripped Bare.

Jessica ColeJessica Cale is a historian, editor, and Historical Romance author. Originally from Minnesota, she earned her B.A. (Hons) in Medieval History and MFA in Creative Writing from Swansea University while climbing castles and photographing mines for history magazines. She is the editor of Dirty, Sexy History and you can visit her website .

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1 + 2018 Sexuality in History Brits Stripped BareSexuality and its Impact on History: The British Stripped Bare

Would you swig a magic potion or plot to kill your husband in order to marry your lover? These are just two of the many romantic and sexual customs from British history that you will explore as seven authors take us through the centuries, revealing that truth is stranger than fiction when it comes to love. From bizarre trivia about courtly love, to techniques and prostitution, you’ll encounter memorable nuggets of provocative information that you’ll want to share.

It’s all here: ménage a trois, chastity belts, Tudor fallacies, royal love and infidelity, marriage contracts (which were more like business arrangements), brothels, kept women, and whorehouses. Take a peek at what really happened between the sheets. Each story provides you with shocking detail about what was at the heart of romance throughout British history.

Sexuality and Its Impact on History: The British Stripped Bare chronicles the pleasures and perils of the flesh, sharing secrets from the days of the Anglo-Saxons, medieval courtly love traditions, diabolical Tudor escapades—including those of Anne Boleyn and Mary Queen of Scots—the Regency, and down to the ‘prudish’ Victorian Era. This scholarly yet accessible study brings to light the myriad varieties of British sexual mores.

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