CHARACTERS IN MOTION by Mercedes Rochelle

Hi Stephanie. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to ruminate on my favorite character Tostig, who does his best to justify his position in THE SONS OF GODWINE and FATAL RIVALRY.

The Sons of Godwine

 

Tostig reminds me, in a way, of Judas Iscariot, the perennial traitor. No matter what his motivations, our villain’s reputation is blackened forever by future generations. But like Judas, Tostig had his reasons for what he did, and once in a while a closer look might serve to mitigate the circumstances. This is why I chose to write these two volumes in first person. I don’t think there is any better way to interpret what is going on inside his head.

I think that from the first, Tostig grew up in the shadow of his older brother. They were only a couple of years apart, but it’s widely accepted that Harold was his mother’s favorite. And Swegn was his father’s favorite. Still, if you can believe Editha’s Monk of St. Bertin who wrote the Life of King Edward (Vita Edwardi Regis), Tostig was every bit the heroic figure that Harold was: “Both had the advantage of distinctly handsome and graceful persons, similar in strength as we gather; and both were equally brave…And Earl Tostig himself was endowed with very great and prudent restraint—although he was occasionally a little over-zealous in attacking evil—and with bold and inflexible constancy of mind…And to sum up their characters for our readers, no age and no province has reared two mortals of such worth at the same time.” As this book was completed after 1066—and before the death of Queen Editha—it’s hard to reconcile this description of Tostig with the traitor everyone loves to hate. Throughout his life, Tostig was apparently Edith’s favorite—and the king’s, as well. When Tostig was forced to go into exile, King Edward parted with him most reluctantly and loaded him with gifts.

Tostig really didn’t come into his own, so to speak, until 1055 when he was made Earl of Northumbria. By then, Harold had been an earl since c.1045. As we know, the Northumbrians were a tempestuous bunch and apparently old Siward, Dane though he was, ruled with an iron fist. Tostig was both an outsider and a southerner, and it’s amazing that he even lasted ten years. He was criticized for his own harsh rule, but the real trouble didn’t start until taxes were raised precipitously in 1065.

So what went wrong between the two brothers? By all accounts, relations between Harold and Tostig were civil until the Northumbrian rebellion of 1065. But I think there were other factors at play that might have caused stress between them. What about the Welsh campaign of 1063? Historians tell us that it was a joint invasion between Harold (who came by sea) and Tostig (who came overland). They met somewhere around the island of Anglesey and pushed south, driving everyone before them until they captured and decapitated Gruffydd ap Llewelyn. Many historians laud Harold’s genius and point to this successful venture, but who gives Tostig any credit? I can’t see how there was much plunder to be had, and indeed, it is suggested that the infamous tax hike was needed to pay for this campaign.

There’s another possible reason to explain the new taxes. Historian Peter Rex suggests that reform in the royal household in the 1060s extended to “a move, possibly inspired by Earl Harold, to require that the north pay more towards the upkeep if its own government.” Since the Witan was dominated by Harold, it “would explain why Tostig blamed Harold for the revolt and accused him of conspiring against him.” (Harold II, The Doomed Saxon King).

The Northumbrian rebellion precipitated a crisis in more ways than one. While Tostig was in the south hunting with the king, his disgruntled thegns banded together and totally wiped out more than 200 of the earl’s housecarls, raided his treasury, murdered his supporters, and declared Morcar, son of Aelfgar, to be their new earl. They then proceeded to march south, devastating Tostig’s lands on their way to confront King Edward with their demands. Harold was brought in to mediate, but the rebels declared they would never take Tostig back, putting Harold in an impossible position. Negotiations went back and forth as the rebels became more and more unmanageable. King Edward wanted to raise the fyrd and chastise the offenders, but Harold urged restraint, considering the time of year (October) and the difficulty of forcing Tostig’s rule on unwilling subjects.

And what of Tostig through all this? He must have chafed while his brother negotiated for him, and when it was clear that Harold was not going to support him, he flew into a rage and accused his brother of fomenting the rebellion. As the Vita Edwardi Regis said, “But Harold, rather too generous with oaths (alas!), cleared this charge too with oaths.” I doubt that Tostig believed him, especially as things went from bad to worse and the king was eventually obliged to accept the rebels’ terms. Not only did Tostig lose his earldom, the rebels insisted that he be outlawed from the county. Was that the best his brother could do for him?

King Edward took the loss of royal authority very badly, and he soon fell into a decline that precipitated his death two months later. By then, Tostig was long gone, nursing his wounded pride and probably contemplating the means by which he would return. I imagine he had every reason to assume that King Edward would find a way to bring him back. The king’s death must have been a terrible blow; Tostig may not even have realized he was ill. Once Harold took the crown, did Tostig assume his brother would finally help him? That was less certain, and once his brother married the sister of Earl Morcar, his hopes must have been dashed altogether.

So in reality, Tostig only had one option open to him: the same option taken by his father and his own brother in 1052—the option used successfully at least twice by Aelfgar, Morcar’s father. He would have to recover his earldom by force of arms. This was almost to be expected, and I don’t know why Harold was surprised when it happened. Was the new king so obsessed with Duke William that he forgot to consider Tostig’s claim? Or did he simply underestimate his little brother? Assuredly, Tostig’s aborted invasion in May of 1066 was easily repulsed; perhaps Harold thought he had dealt with this nuisance once and for all. Alas for him and all of England, he was sorely mistaken. Harald Hardrada and Tostig’s invasion of the north drew the king and his indispensable housecarls away from the coast they had guarded so rigorously. If only Harold could have found a way to compensate Tostig for his lost earldom, perhaps things would have been much different when William the Bastard landed unopposed at Pevensey.

About Author:

MercedesTapestry9

Born and raised in St. Louis MO, Mercedes Rochelle graduated with a degree in English literature from University of Missouri. Mercedes learned about living history as a re-enactor and has been enamored with historical fiction ever since. A move to New York to do research and two careers ensued, but writing fiction remains her primary vocation. She lives in Sergeantsville, NJ with her husband in a log home they had built themselves.

Characters Influenced By Their Surroundings With Clare Flynn

I usually get the initial inspiration for my novels from their settings. Location is a critical factor – there is something about a place that gets me curious – who lived here before? how different would it have been eighty years ago?  Then I thrust my characters into the location and see what happens. While I usually have a rough outline of the plot, the characters mostly have different ideas – so they lead and I follow.

I write a lot about displacement – taking characters out of comfortable and familiar surroundings and transferring them into the strange and unfamiliar – completely outside their ‘comfort zone’.

A Greater World Cover MEDIUM WEBMy first novel, A Greater World is set in Australia, but opens in England. Two characters, Elizabeth Morton, a middle-class woman approaching her thirties, unmarried after the death of her fiancé in the First World War, and Michael Winterbourne, a lead miner and war survivor, jilted by his fiancée, are each forced by personal tragedies to take a passage to Australia and a new life.

Elizabeth, used to a world of tennis matches, orchestral concerts and tea parties is dropped into an isolated and squalid homestead in the midst of the Australian outback and left to fend for herself. She’s probably never had to make so much as a cup of tea back in England, having had servants to do everything for her, but is soon scrubbing floors, sewing curtains and baking potatoes over an open fire.

‘Elizabeth Morton, you’ve led a cosseted life: servants to wait on you; agreeable friends to amuse you; nothing too onerous to do, except teach a few charming but talentless children to play the violin. Now let’s see what you’re made of!’ She jumped to her feet.

‘I won’t let him reduce me to living like a wild creature. I’ve never done housework before but by God I’ll do it now. I’ll make this hole a fit place to live if I die in the process!’

An hour later, the contents of the primitive dwelling were stacked on the ground in front of the veranda and Elizabeth, hair piled under a scarf, was at work with a broom. The dust was thick and the broom missing half its bristles. Her throat burned as she laboured, pausing every few minutes to cough.

Michael, uses his skills as a lead miner and his natural leadership qualities, to work his way up to managing a coal mine. Life in Australia was unfamiliar and offered many challenges but both characters learn and grow from their experiences and lead lives which, while tougher than the ones they left behind, are infinitely richer.

Kurinji Flowers MEDIUM WEBGinny Dunbar in Kurinji Flowers, a London debutante, is destined for a ‘good marriage’ when an abusive relationship makes her the object of a society scandal. Rushed into a marriage of convenience, she is soon on a ship bound for India and a new life as a tea planter’s wife. India has a big effect on Ginny. She has nothing in common with most of the other expatriate Brits and their shallow lives which revolve around the club – tennis, bridge games, gossip and gymkhanas. She is fascinated but fearful of the indigenous Indian population and so is caught between two cultures – until a love affair and a growing passion for painting change her life.

I wasn’t keen to get to know any individual Indians, but I was interested to find out more about their customs and culture. I didn’t want to admit it, but I was slightly afraid of the local people. Not that they would do me harm—despite the constant rumblings among people at the club about the independence movement—all I ever saw were smiling, happy faces. No. I was afraid of their difference from me. The dark brown of their skins, their glossy, raven hair, the little wooden hovels they lived in that were pitch dark inside, and their strange alien smell: slightly sweet, pungent and spicy with a base note of sweat. It was fear of the unknown. Fear at an atavistic level. I hesitate to say this now but, despite my protestations against the bigotry of the rest of the British, I think then I also felt superior to the Indians, viewing them, as many of my countrymen did, as people of lower intelligence. People to feel sorry for. I had absolutely no basis for this judgment as I rarely spoke to any of them, apart from Thankappan and Nirmala, and I knew nothing of their lives. It was blind prejudice and ignorance. My admiration for Gandhi was theoretical—based on his moral certainty and strength of purpose—and the fact he had yet again been slung into prison; it had not been put to the test by a close encounter with a real Indian.

The Chalky Sea LARGE EBOOKMy latest novel, The Chalky Sea, is set in England in a small seaside town on the Sussex coast. For Gwen Collingwood, her home town becomes an alien place with the advent of World War 2, when the peaceful backwater becomes the front line in the Luftwaffe’s bombing campaigns. Gwen’s life transforms from that of bored housewife into a woman with a purpose. By the end of the novel she has discovered love, friendship, self-reliance and self-respect.

For several minutes she was rooted to the spot. How many times had she stood here before, looking down at the town spread out before her? It had always been a beautiful sight, the sea peppermint green under a blue sky, the pier stretching out into the water like a slender finger, the elegant Edwardian hotels lined up along the front, the town houses in their neatly regimented boulevard-like roads and the flat stretch of grassy fields dotted with cows and sheep stretching out to meet the marshes around Pevensey. Today she looked out over an unfamiliar, dystopian world. Meads, the area where she lived, was on fire. The spire of St John’s church, a familiar landmark, was a flaming beacon, the roof below it already collapsed. Through the thick cloud of smoke over the town, fires blazed everywhere. In a matter of moments her peaceful seaside home had been transformed into a battleground.

Letters from a patchwork quiltMy last extract is from Letters from a Patchwork Quilt. Jack Brennan is dragged off a ship as he is about to sail to America and instead finds himself in what feels like a hell on earth in industrial Middlesbrough.

The sky in front of him was washed in the deepest purple with moving vermillion clouds of smoke overlaying it, twisting and writhing in saturnine patterns. Plumed lines of fire cut horizontally through the red clouds in bright yellows and oranges. He stopped and stared. The black bulk of buildings, chimneys and cranes were silhouetted against the multicoloured sky. It was the gateway to hell. The mouth of an angry volcano. Boom. Boom. Bang. Bang. Relentless movement of machinery. The stench of sulphur and smoke clogged in his throat. He saw it as a metaphor for the life that was ahead of him. He was a soul condemned to eternal damnation among the blast furnaces of this god-forsaken town.

Unlike Elizabeth in A Greater World, this trial by displacement proves too much for Jack. Life in a Victorian slum, separation from the woman he loves and easy access to alcohol as a pub landlord sets him on a path self-destruction.

In writing all of my novels I have tried to get under the skin of my characters by immersing myself in the physical places where they interact with each other.  From the hill towns of India to the smoke stacks of Victorian Middlesbrough and the breweries of St Louis, location plays a central role in my novels and significantly shapes the fortunes of my characters.

Thank you, Stephanie, for inviting me to participate in this series.

About Clare:

Clare Flynn

Clare Flynn is a former global marketing director, who has marketed global brands from diapers to chocolate biscuits and has lived and worked in Paris, Milan, Brussels and Sydney. After spending most of the last fifteen years running her own strategic management consultancy in London, now most of her time is dedicated to writing her novels. She has wanted to write since she was four years old.

Clare has won BRAG medallions for her first two novels, A Greater World, set in the Blue Mountains of Australia in the 1920s and Kurinji Flowers set in colonial India in the 1930s and 40s. Her latest novel Letters From a Patchwork Quilt was published in September. The book is set in the late nineteenth century and moves from industrial towns in England to New York City and St Louis.

Clare loves to travel – usually with her watercolor paints. She even went to live on a tea plantation while finishing Kurinji Flowers, staying in a tea planter’s bungalow from the 1930s and blagging her way into the incredibly snooty High Range Club to research the Planters’ Club of the book. The original idea for the novel came to her during an earlier trip to Kerala, during a sleepless night in a hotel in Munnar, on which the fictional town of Mudoorayam is based.

The idea for Letters From a Patchwork Quilt came from Clare’s genealogical research. She stole Jack’s jobs and the English towns he lived in from her own great grandfather. All she had were names and places so she changed the names, kept the places and made everything else up.

Clare is a member of the Alliance of Independent Authors and the Historical Novel Society and is on the organizing commit for HNS Oxford 2016.

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Characters in Motion: On the Way to Boise

By Laurie Boris 

PrintTwo and a half hours to Boise. Margie and Wes had already gone over the calls from their last game, the weather forecast for today’s matchup, and the story of how three of Wes’s sisters had met their husbands. He said she could take a nap if she wanted, and he’d enjoy the scenery, but she was too wound up from coffee and nerves to sleep. The last time they’d umpired in that stadium, she never stopped hearing it from the home-team dugout—the insults, the catcalls, the words she couldn’t say in front of her mother. “Baseball guys cuss,” Mom might say. “What the frig did you expect?

“We could practice your interview skills,” Wes said.

“I told you.” Margie tightened her grip on the thermos of coffee between her knees. I’m done giving interviews.”

Wes drummed the fingers of his left hand against the steering wheel. “That’s it? One negative experience with a bad reporter and you’re giving up. If you’d thought like that in the academy, you wouldn’t have lasted through the first day.”

She knew exactly what he was doing. With those tapping fingers. With those soft, challenging words. He was goading her into having what he called a learning opportunity. And damn it, it was working. “Fine,” she said. “Let’s go.”

Margie capped the thermos and held it out to him like a microphone. “Wes Osterhaus, what’s it like to work with one of the first women crazy enough to put up with this crap?”

A faint blush rose into his freckled cheeks. “I don’t think she’s crazy. And I really like working with her. She loves baseball. She hustles on every play, and she’s always looking for opportunities to learn and grow.”

She grinned. “Because you keep shoving them in my face.”

“No. Because we’re a team. We’re supposed to challenge each other, but in a good way. To make each other better umpires. Now I get to ask you a question.”

Margie handed him the thermos. “Shoot.”

But he kept both hands on the wheel and focused intently on the road ahead. The mountains. The tall pine forests. Finally, he spoke. “As an umpire, especially in the minors when you’re being monitored and judged so frequently, looking strong and confident is very important. You have to project an image of being completely in charge. But how do you do that…when you feel so different? When you feel isolated. Like everyone else is speaking a different language, when they’re even talking to you at all?”

Margie couldn’t find her voice for a moment. And in that moment she wondered if he was referring to her or to himself. In the academy, she’d seen how the other guys treated him. They made fun of him behind his back. Called him names. All because he was smart, and had a lot of questions, and wanted to know the answers to everything. Because instead of going to dollar beer night, he was outside with his telescope, looking at the stars. So what if he was a little different? He was a damn good umpire, and he’d been the only guy in the academy who’d gone out of his way to be nice to her. She could have been partnered up with anyone that spring, and she knew how lucky she was to have ended up with him.

“You just…do it,” she said. “You ignore the jerks. You do the best job you know how. You keep looking for those learning opportunities. And you keep telling yourself that you are strong. That you’re confident as hell. And one day…maybe your insides will figure out that they matched your outsides all along.”

Margie caught him just beginning to smile, and she leaned back in the seat. “Or at least that’s what people keep telling me.”

laurie_promo_pic2

Laurie Boris is a freelance copyeditor. She’s also been writing fiction for almost thirty years and is the author of seven novels, two novellas, and a collection of flash fiction. She’s the recipient of several awards including two indieBRAG medallions. When she’s not playing with the fictional people in her head, Laurie enjoys baseball, cooking, and avoiding housework. This post was based on two characters from The Call, Laurie’s most recent novel.

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Award Winning B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree of, Don’t Tell Anyone & A Sudden Gust of Gravity

Book Description of The Call by Laurie Boris:

As one of the first female umpires in the minors, Margie puts up with insults and worse from people who think women don’t belong in baseball. Forget making history—Margie just wants to do her job and be part of the game she loves.

She’s ready for the rude comments. The lousy pay. The endless traveling. But when she suspects a big-name slugger of cheating, she has to choose: let the dirty player get away with it, or blow the whistle and risk her career…and maybe her twin brother’s major-league prospects, too.

Now it’s up to Margie to make the call.

 

 

 

Characters in Motion with Cryssa Bazos

When I first started writing, I took a historical fiction course and I still remember the advice that the instructor gave us, which can apply to any fiction: Consider how the character moves around the page. This breathes life into the character as he/she goes about the business of achieving their personal story quest. I quickly found out that it was not enough for them do random actions; instead, the action should do double duty to reflect back on character.

Traitor's KnotTraitor’s Knot, is the story of two fictional characters, James Hart, a former Royalist officer, and Elizabeth Seaton, a herbalist, who fall in love against the backdrop of the English Civil War.

James hasn’t been able to put the war behind him. After the execution of King Charles I, the regicide Parliamentarians are now in control of the country. James refuses to swear allegiance to the new regime, nor will he return home to Coventry to repair his severed relationship with his father. Everyone in Warwick knows him as the ostler of the Chequer and Crowne, but few realize that he’s the highwayman who has been preying on Roundheads.

The first scene that I wrote with that advice in mind is still in my novel today. The scene has been modified through subsequent drafts, but this particular piece survived as it initially written:

“The war’s over, lad. Put it behind you, and look to the future before it’s too late.”

 James studied his chipped tankard. “You have tables to clean.”

 Henry merely snorted and left.

Put it behind him? He’d have to accept defeat first. James traced his thumb along the    hairline cracks in his cup, then rotated it until he found a smooth, unblemished curve. If only he saw this section, would he fool himself into believing the tankard was undamaged? Frowning, he took another swig of ale. The brew failed to wash the bitterness away.’

Here is a man who spent long, bitter years fighting for the king, but now he’s forced to accept that the usurpers have taken over the country. James has had to pretend to pick up the pieces, but he can’t let go of the past. He’s had to swallow his pride while biding his time for the return of the new king, Charles II, to regain his crown. James’s apparent compliance to the new regime is as precarious as that tankard, and any moment he will shatter.

James’s frustration is manifested in many ways. After being rejected by Elizabeth and having to deal with annoying enquiries from the new constable, Lieutenant Hammond, James’s agitation escalates through the scene. At first, as he’s grooming his horse, his brush strokes are harsher than normal:

‘James reached for a brush and started running it through Sovereign’s coat with brisk strokes. He made several passes before the horse tossed his head and took a step back. “Easy,” James said, and grasped him by the halter. When the horse continued to agitated, James grimaced and eased the pressure.’

Later on the scene, when Henry tries to drill into his head, ‘The war is over, and nothing you do will change the fact that these Roundheads control our lives, from that horse brush you’re holding to the ale that flows through my kegs.” James’s temper boils over:

“I will not accept that,” James snapped and whipped the brush into the bucket. The tin rattled and nearly tipped. “If I could, I’d have gone back to Coventry, belly exposed, to take my kicks there. I am not a beaten dog…’”

He then kicks the bucket and sends it clattering across the straw.

But it’s not all teeth grinding frustration for James. Even in a quieter moment of reflection, I use his actions to demonstrate that:

‘Through there were a number of chores he needed to finish in the barn before he turned in, he couldn’t muster the will to leave. Instead, he picked up a long twig and started drawing shapes in the ground with its tip. It was only when the door opened and Elizabeth stepped outside that he realized he had been waiting for her.’

My heroine, Elizabeth Seton, is a young woman who has had her family ripped apart during the war. She and her mother have been shunned in her community after her father was killed during a failed Royalist uprising. After her mother passes away, she is determined to carve out a new life out for herself and moves to Warwick to live with her aunt.

Elizabeth is subtler in how she walks around the page, but her actions reflect her character. Being a healer, she’s keenly attuned to the sense of touch. When she first sees her aunt’s stillroom, she connects to the wonders through touch.

‘Elizabeth’s fingertips brushed over the labels: monkshood, foxglove, and sweet woodruff. I could lose myself in this place. A thrill rippled through her.’

Even her aunt’s coveted collection of herbal recipes is handled with reverence, and as she examines the volume, she’s careful not to crease the pages.

The first time that Elizabeth finds herself alone with James, she’s on a riverbank working out her frustration by throwing rocks in the river. Later, when he’s managed to take her hand, she responds to the awakening of new emotions:

‘His touch was warm and stirring, the contact intimate. His fingers explored her palm, following the gentle curves to its hollow, then lingering on the tips of her fingers. The way his fingers brushed over her skin felt as she imagined a kiss to be.’

Elizabeth is a woman who has to maneuver between living within the rigid constricts of society and expressing her individuality. I often show this in a number of ways, from the way she dresses (she opts for a blue woolen skirt, over more serviceable greys or browns) to even how she deals with her hair.

Women at that time would have worn a coif with hair sedately bound. Elizabeth is no different, however, there is always one dark lock that will not be pinned back or confined, and she is often trying to tuck it behind her ear. I intended this to represent Elizabeth’s streak of independence. While she attempts to subdue it, its nature is otherwise.

Even a first meet market scene provides an opportunity to show her individuality. When James sees Elizabeth wending her way through the market, he notices what draws her attention amongst the stalls:

‘While fancy ribbons and laces had not attracted her interest, a stack of pamphlets and chapbooks made the difference.’

Literacy was growing amongst women during this century, but her interests would have still marked her as unique, and James was struck by this.

I believe it’s important to reveal characters through a variety of different ways, not just through dialogue. How they walk around the page and their reflective actions often reveal more than any declarations they make.

About Author: 

Cryssa

Cryssa Bazos is an award winning historical fiction writer and 17th century enthusiast with a particular interest in the English Civil War. She is a member of the Historical Novel Society, the Romantic Novelist Association and is a co-editor and contributor of the English Historical Fiction Authors blog. Her debut novel, Traitor’s Knot, is published by Endeavour Press. For more stories, visit her blog.

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Characters in Motion With Lindsay Downs

Lady Jolene’s antagonists and how she deals with them.

As the oldest child and senior daughter to The Right Honorable, The Earl and Countess of Hampshire, Lady Jolene Markson is supposed to be able to hold her emotions in check. Nothing should upset or worry her.

Well, that’s not entirely true. There are several people and groups which annoy her to no end. Her antagonists.

At the top of this list is the Metropolitan Police Service, the Met.

As with her parents who had to deal with Bow Street and their runners, Jolene finds the Met to be useless for the most part. Frequently she points out they will find a suspect, guilty or not, and claim they have the criminal. More often than not this person hires her to prove their innocence, which she does with great regularity.

When presented with a case Lady Jolene does her best to make sure they, the Met, learn nothing of what she has found. It’s not that she wishes to make them look bad, they can do that without her assistance.

To Save a Lady by Lindsay GrahamIn the case set forth in To Save a Lady she easily proves to the investigating officer, Thomas Spencer, there was no way his prime suspect, Miss Julia Patrick, could have murdered the young man. He then offers his, without his superiors’ knowledge, assistance in bringing the criminal(s) to justice.

At first Lady Jolene had her reservations about allowing Spencer to partake. Her thoughts change when she notices an affection developing between him and Julia. Eventually Jolene comes to trust him but makes it very clear Spencer is the exception as she will still work to embarrass the Met.

It goes without saying, but I will anyways, her younger brothers and sisters do tend to antagonize her. With them, depending on what they do she usually doesn’t tell on them but deals with the troublesome one on her own.

Without a doubt, though, Lady Jolene’s worst antagonist is none other than The Most Honorable, The Marquis of Lange aka. Brendon.

They had first met years ago and for the most part grew up together. The reason, his parents and her godparents are His and Her Grace, The Duke and Duchess of Clarion.

For Lady Jolene his most annoying trait, sticking his nose into things that aren’t any of his business. He tries to steer her away from possible danger and she constantly resists. Even though they tend to be at each other’s throats at times it is in reality more of a love-hate-love relationship.

She does have one way, and it’s priceless, of keeping him in line. Her collie, Samson. More often than not the dog achieves the desired purpose. Annoy Brendon by his presence.

Well, my good ladies and gentlemen those are the primary antagonists in Lady Jolene’s life. Yes, Stephanie asked for five of them and I presented three. Well, actually more if you were to count her siblings, the officers at The Met along with Brendon and the years of antagonism between him and Jolene.

If I was a nice guy, of course then I wouldn’t be driving my readers crazy with red herrings and cliffhangers I would tell you a secret. Then again, if I did that then it would be a secret. You’ll have to buy To Save a Lady.

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About me-

Lindasy Graham II

I’ve been an avid reader ever since I was old enough to hold a red leather bound first edition copy of Sir Walter Scott’s The Lady of the Lake in my lap.

So, it only seemed natural at some point in my life I take up pen and paper to start writing. Over time my skills slightly improved which I attribute to my English teachers.

My breakthrough came about in the mid 1970’s when I read a historical romance written by Sergeanne Golon, Angelique. This French husband and wife team opened my eyes to the real world of fiction. Stories about romance, beautiful damsels, handsome heroes and plots which kept me hooked. Of course, being a man, I had to keep my reading hidden from others as that wasn’t appropriate reading for men.

With this new-found appreciation of the written word I took up other books and devoured them as a starving person would a plate of food. I them attempted to write again. I still wasn’t satisfied so I put it aside for years as other events entered my life.

Finally, in the early years of the new millennium I tried again to write and once again met with limited success. At least now I was able to get past the first page or two. Then, in 2006 a life changing event brought me back to my love, I took a job as a security officer. This allowed me plenty of time to read different genres.

My favourite was regency. As I poured through everyone I could get my hands on I knew this could be something I wanted to attempt.

Since 2012 when my debut regency romantic suspense released I was hooked and have, except for a few contemporaries, focused on this genre.

Since 2012 I’ve lived in central Texas. I’m also a member of Romance Writers of America and the Austin, TX chapter.

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Characters in Motion with Meghan Holloway

“Often times the best inspiration comes within us.” Writer Meghan Holloway shares with us how she fleshes out her characters to drive the plot.

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Storytelling is, at heart, an exploration of the human condition. More than evocative imagery or lyrical prose or a captivating plot, a story must have a character at its center in whom I can invest.

Achieving a fully-fleshed character is one of the most challenging aspects in writing. Creating a paragon or a villain is a simple thing, but also a flat and unsatisfying achievement. Building a well-rounded character—humane, flawed, fallible, and nuanced—is a task as formidable as it is rewarding.

We writers tend to be a solitary lot for we pursue a sequestered craft. We are watchers, though, sentinels of interaction, cartographers of existence. It is through this lifelong pursuit of observation that we find the lens through which to view the human experience and the clay with which to build our characters.

When I tell a story, I have a two-fold beginning:  I have a plot arch in mind first or a particular setting and event in history I want to explore; but the key piece that moves this germ from idea to tale is character. The plot is what creates the arc of storytelling; the character is the vehicle in which the reader is transported.

Meghan Holloway

About Author:

Meghan Holloway

“My dearest darling …” That was how my grandfather began all of his letters to my grandmother while he was stationed in Okinawa in World War II. I never knew my grandfather, but I’ve poured over his letters. I used to draw lines up the back of my legs, just as my grandmother had as a young woman whose nylons had been donated to make parachutes, and I’ve endlessly pestered my paternal grandfather for stories of his childhood and service. The worn letters and patiently-told stories cemented my interest in history, especially in the WWII era.

I found my first Nancy Drew mystery in a sun-dappled attic at a friend’s house and subsequently fell in love with the grip and tautness of a well-told mystery. I flew an airplane before I learned how to drive a car, did my undergrad work in a crumbling once-all girls school in the sweltering south, spent a summer and fall in Maine picking peaches and apples, finished my graduate work in an all-girls school in the blustery north, and traveled the world for a few years. Now I’m settled down in the foothills of the Appalachians, writing my third and fourth novels, and hanging out with my standard poodle.

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Characters in Motion: Bestselling Author Margaret Porter

A Pledge of better timesLady Diana de Vere, the heroine of A Pledge of Better Times, was born into an aristocratic and prominent family of the late 17th century. Her father is an earl, a courtier and trusted advisor to Charles II, a position he retains—for a time—under James II. The landscape of Diana’s life, therefore, consists of the royal palace of Whitehall in London—her extended family’s dwellings lie within the palace complex. In a very real sense she’s closed off from the common citizen, from ordinary life, apart from her interaction with servants. Her world is one of opulence and privilege, and also one of restricted movements. A large part of my research was visiting sites were familiar to her during her lifetime, which allowed me to envision her in the actual spaces she had occupied and to imagine her in the ones that no longer exist.

Her father, Lord Oxford, welcomes her questions and provides supportive guidance. Her mother, despite a scandalous past as a courtesan, is far less tolerant of what she perceives as Diana’s faults, and she’s determined that her daughter will achieve a wealthy and advantageous marriage. As a maid of honour to Queen Mary II, my secondary heroine, Diana finds a sort of freedom living away from home, following queen and court from Whitehall to Hampton Court to Kensington and back. Not only does her position remove her from her mother’s orbit, it enables a semi-clandestine courtship by Charles Beauclerk, son of King Charles II and actress Nell Gwyn. As married woman and duchess, Diana’s intelligence, independent spirit, and tendency to speak her mind create conflict on more than one occasion.

Diana’s habits and pursuits are typical of an aristocratic female of her time—needlework, music, dancing, and drawing. Religious instruction in her early life takes firm root, and her faith is a source of strength in difficult times, and supports her during life’s soul-searing tragedies. Her fondness for gardens and sewing and devotional writings make her the ideal companion for Queen Mary, who shares and fosters these interests.

Diana’s personality is a mixture of calm serenity, attractive to the troubled and often agitated Queen Mary, determination, and occasional tempestuousness. In her youth she has convictions but lacks empowerment, but as she matures she gains a certain amount of agency. She will exert herself to control or to remedy a situation, and then faces the consequences with resignation. Her loyalty to her queen, her duty to her family, and her fidelity to her husband are ruling attributes. But she can be prejudiced as well, and finds herself unable to warm to King William—she sees firsthand the distress he causes his wife through his frequent absences. Yet her husband secures His Majesty’s favour, and retaining it is paramount to him.

Diana’s greatest antagonist in early life is her own mother, who values her as an asset to exploit for the family’s advantage, and who hopes to sever her daughter’s relationship with “Nelly’s brat.” Queen Mary’s antagonist is her sister Princess Anne, who causes much grief and anger from insubordination and through her relationship with her confidante Sarah Churchill, the Countess and later the Duchess of Marlborough. The latter is not only an antagonist to the queen, she pulls strings to shatter one of Diana’s most cherished hopes. Sarah was born a commoner, and her unkindness towards Diana—an aristocrat from birth—arises from jealousy.

Charles, Diana’s suitor and eventual husband, faces antagonists at court and on the battlefield—as does her father. For them, the greatest personal antagonist is King James II. Each man strives in different ways to cope with the stubborn and imperious monarch, with varying degrees of success. King James, a Roman Catholic convert, is so fanatical about his religion that he disregards Parliamentary laws and protocols, and thus brings about his destruction. Lady Oxford, Diana’s mother, is antagonistic towards Charles, mocking him in public and in private. In her opinion, he’s an unworthy husband for a de Vere and lacks the money needed to restore the family’s fortunes.

My characters’ self-image is of great significance, with powerful impact upon plot and conflicts within the story. Royal blood flows through the veins of Charles Beauclerk, Duke of St. Ablans: his father and grandparents and prior ancestors were kings and queens of England. Yet his mother was the lowest of commoners. Nell Gwyn, raised in a brothel, sold oranges in the theatre and was an actress before the king made her his mistress. Charles can never feel completely comfortable at the royal court, especially after his father’s death. He chooses instead a voluntary exile in order to become a soldier. As an army officer, he believes, he can rise to prominence on his own merits. This ambition is unexpectedly undermined, and when he discovers by whom he does not react well.

As for Diana, she is a woman of sterling reputation and great depth, but most people in her world (and down through history) regard her primarily as a court beauty. The greatest painter of the day painted her—repeatedly—and she retained her looks till her dying day. Her mother believed that the girl’s lovely face destined her for a brilliant match rather than a match based on passion, affection, and compatibility. As a married woman, Diana wonders whether her beauty alone attracts her husband instead of other qualities she values in herself. Her beauty, like Charles’s bastardy, is isolating, troublesome, and a source of inner conflict. She tends to judge others as critically as she does herself, but that judgment is usually tempered by an effort to understand…something her husband is slower to do.

Lord Oxford, Diana’s father, has lived long and seen much. He tends to regard himself as a relic of the past, yet he’s pragmatic enough to be progressive when necessary. During the Civil Wars he was Royalist—twice he was imprisoned by Cromwell on suspicion of being a spy—and believes himself forever loyal to the Stuarts. When James II tests this loyalty in unexpected ways, his lordship’s conscience as a member of Parliament and as a Protestant force him to turn against his king and support the Williamite cause.

Queen Mary, for a variety of reasons, has low self-esteem and a poor self-image. Her uncle King Charles married her off to her Dutch first cousin, a complete stranger. But her dread and sorrow at leaving England for a foreign court gave way to a true and lasting love. She’s tortured by guilt over her repudiation of her father the King when her husband seizes the crown for himself. Although her claim to England’s throne is stronger than William’s, she regards herself as his inferior, unfit to rule, and willingly cedes all authority to him. Yet it is she who is—most unhappily—left in control of the nation while he’s away fighting his endless wars. At the same time she must deal with her recalcitrant sister Anne and the problematic Lady Marlborough. Adding to these woes is her husband’s infidelity, and the fact that his mistress is a courtier—and much less attractive than Mary.

For me, writing biographical historical fiction requires the weaving of three necessary strands to form a plot. First there’s the factual biographical record of the individuals depicted—gleaned from period diaries, newspaper accounts, portrait sittings, memoirs, family genealogies, and other primary sources. Then there’s the factual historical record of their times—what significant events did they participate in, how were they affected by events near or far, with whom were they likely to interact on a regular or irregular basis. And lastly, but in a way the most important for a fiction writer, is the imagination, the creative component that enables the author to invent.

The bare facts of biography can’t really reveal how a real-life individual felt at any given moment. The private aspects of life—personal opinions, passions, deepest feelings about self or others—are concealed areas of past lives, the least accessible aspects of the individuals. Especially if the characters are relatively obscure, as Diana and Charles are. I must therefore invent conversations, reactions, consequences for my characters. I have to draw conclusions from research that I hope bear a semblance of accuracy, but I can never lose sight of the fact that I am telling a story for the purpose of entertaining—informing about history and enlightening about the human condition are wonderful side benefits. That combination of elements made me love historical fiction in childhood, and they’ve kept me writing it throughout my adulthood!

A Pledge of Better Times

“Porter’s ambitious novel of 17th-century England is brimming with vivid historical figures and events . . . rigorously researched and faithfully portrayed.” ~  Publishers Weekly

“A true delight for fans of monarchy. . . Porter does a sensational job portraying the time period . . . the relationship between Charles and Diana is complex and interesting.” ~ The Examiner

“Elegant prose and vivid detail…sweeps you into late Stuart England.” ~ Marci Jefferson, author of Enchantress of Paris and Girl on the Golden Coin

margaretporterthumb1Because I was born into a family of readers and writers and scholars and travelers, there’s no mystery about how or why I found my profession. From a very early age I invented characters and composed scenes and stories in my head. At about 10 years old I first saw my own words printed–in the grammar school newsletter that I co-founded, typed, and published. Around the same time I decided to combine my theatrical and my writing ambitions, and adapted all my favourite youth novels into scripts.

Since then many, many more words have been published: novels, nonfiction articles on British history and travel and theatre, website content, book and film reviews, my M.A. thesis, advertising copy…and more.

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Characters in Motion with Janet Wertman

I’d like to welcome Janet Wertman to Layered Pages today. Janet is taking part in my characters in Motion series and talks with us about her earliest draft of Jane the Quene. Be sure to check out her links below and click on her website to learn more about her.

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Janet WertmanFirst, let me thank you for this series and the opportunity to discuss Characters in Motion. It was a fun exercise for me – especially since it was a topic I struggled with. I didn’t get to create the story from my characters, I had to create my characters from the story…and likable ones at that!

My debut novel, Jane the Quene, is the story of Jane Seymour, the third wife for whom Henry VIII executed Anne Boleyn. A lot of people know the basic facts, and virtually all of them are Team Anne.  But there is a way to tell Jane’s story that highlights its natural poignancy. That’s the story I wanted to tell, the one that would give Jane a team of her own – or at least acceptance.

The earliest drafts of the novel failed to do that. I wanted to make sure I got the story factually right, so I established my markers – very specific dates on which things happened – and I filled in the characters based on how they were reported to have acted at that time (I did have some wiggle room thanks to conflicting reports from inconsistent chroniclers, which let me pick and choose from a tapestry of stories that many had heard before, and reinterpret them in the way that felt right to me). As my writing books suggested, I told each scene from the point of view of the person most impacted in it …but that led to me giving voices to eight people – Jane, Henry, Edward, Cromwell, Anne Boleyn, Anne Seymour, even Mary. Jane’s voice and experience were lost, and the story was flat.

Then I found a great developmental editor who told me that I needed to forget the objective story and make it all about Jane’s personal experience. I could keep my timeline but I had to drastically cut the POVs. She originally suggested keeping only Jane’s voice, but I knew I needed a second someone to tell the other side of the story, someone who could detail the actual plotting that was taking place. Cromwell was the perfect choice – he was another vilified character with a poignant story (though the poignancy does not emerge until the close of this book), and he allowed me to reveal more of Henry (Jane saw him as good, Cromwell saw him as evil).

jane-the-queen-book-cover

From there, everything just fell into place. Since everything I wanted to say had to be filtered through Jane or Cromwell, I found myself showing more and telling less. Making each scene unfold slowly, with sensory details to anchor it. This was fiction after all and I was able to layer in the imagined private moments of Jane’s journey.  The September 1535 meeting in the gardens, the April 1536 hunting trip where Jane learns that Anne will die…these were the key pieces of the narrative. Invented, but still loosely based on facts (like the fact that Henry loved concocting medicines…the fact that hunting involved unmaking the deer and sharing the “good” organs on the spot…).  I had almost free rein with these, except for one particular pivotal scene: The December 1536 confluence of two blessed events (Mary’s return to court, London gathering on the frozen Thames to cheer on the royal procession to church) with two tragic ones (Jane’s father dying and another miscarriage). Luckily, everything worked (assuming a relatively speedy messenger!).

I’m finding the same challenges in the sequel: I am currently working on The Path to Somerset, which is the story of Edward Seymour (another vilified character with a poignant story…I have a pattern!) during the second three-set of Henry’s wives (Henry’s crazy years). Jane was about morality, Somerset is about power and risk. I am really enjoying getting to motivation in between the things we know happened…though I have to say I look forward to the editing process as I already know some places to be smoothed out a bit!

Janet Wertman

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For more information on Janet and her book Jane the Quene, go to her wonderful website, where she blogs on Tudor history.

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Be sure to check out Nancy Bilyeau’s  interview with Janet!

 

 

 

 

Characters in Motion with Wendy J. Dunn

Often times the best inspiration comes within us. How do you flesh out your characters to drive the plot?

How do I flesh out my characters to drive my plots?  I could answer this very simply, by saying inspiration, of course, is the key to all my writing, but to answer this truthfully, I must talk about the real key unlocking this inspiration, a story beginning on the day of my tenth birthday. That day, a school friend gave me a child’s book of English history and changed my life forever. At ten, I desperately needed a hero, a guiding light to help me navigate through those difficult growing up years. Because of a chapter in this book, Elizabeth I became my first hero; my search to know more about her introduced me to my second hero, her mother, Anne Boleyn. They both gave me examples of strong and determined women – women who claimed their voices and true identities in a time when women were told to be silent and remember their inferiority.

Dear Heart How Like You This

As a child and teenager, I was also told to be silent and that my worth did not equal that of the males in my world. I was told it was a waste of time to educate girls. Learning about Anne and Elizabeth taught me otherwise. Their stories were the beginning of my understanding that I was not the one at fault, but my world – a world where I learned not only to navigate my ‘woman’s life’ but also one mapped out by patriarchy.

My interest in Elizabeth I and Anne Boleyn soon grew to embrace the whole Tudor period, and grew into a passion turning me into a writer. I not only hold Elizabeth and Anne responsible for my two Anne Boleyn novels (Dear Heart, How Like You This? and The Light in the Labyrinth), Falling Pomegranate Seeds: Duty of Daughters, the first book my Katherine of Aragon trilogy, a novel I hope to see published this year, but also my doctorate.

While my novels are shaped through vast research, I am first and foremost a writer of fiction. My stories are initially ignited by research and then imagined, or dreamed, onto the page. This ‘dreaming’ draws from the compost of my own life experience, which makes me empathise with my characters, especially that of my female characters; this empathy helps me flesh them out. My human experience, faced as a woman, is one common to all humanity: I have experienced rejection, sorrow, love. I have also known what is to hate, but if there is one thing my life has taught me, it is hate gets us nowhere. Writing has been a wonderful tool to help me let go of hate. I don’t even hate Henry VIII. One of the reasons I revisited Anne Boleyn’s story in The Light in the Labyrinth was because I wanted to be more fair to him. I don’t like him, but I don’t hate him; writing Kate Carey’s story helped me to pity him.

I once heard the very lovely and talented Australian author Sophie Masson say, ‘A writer is a lifelong learner’. How true that is; writers learn from observing and thinking about their world. When we write, our thinking goes to another, far, far deeper level. This deep place is where magic happens, through the writer’s engagement with imagination – a magic that builds a bridge between the writer and the reader. But it is more than this. Every time I embark on a new, novel writing adventure, I rediscover the truth of Kundera’s claim that creating a novel ignites a catalyst for change (2006).

The Light in the Labyrinth

For me, this catalyst of change not only happens through the practice of writing, but also through engagement with stories of women from long ago. It is by telling these stories, I realize, yet again, what being a feminist is all about – and how all my writing comes from my standpoint as a woman. Reclaiming the voices of women of the past illuminates for me that the battle for gender equality is one not won – and that women (and men) must keep fighting to achieve it. Women of the first world must fight not only for ourselves, but also for our sisters who live in oppressive cultures where women and female babies are killed because they are regarded as worthless and replaceable. This fight is not one to be won through violence – but through the education of both girls and boys. It is my hope that by giving voice to Tudor women through the construction of fiction, young adult women will engage with my stories and reflect about the possibilities for their own lives.

It goes without saying, despite the passing of hundreds of years since the last Tudor monarch drew her final breath, patriarchy still rules our world. I feel deeply about my historical women. It breaks my heart to think of how Anne and Katherine of Aragon ended their lives – simply because the man they loved had the power to destroy them. It breaks my heart that this still happens in 2016. Last year, in Australia, two women a week were murdered by someone who once professed to love them. The majority of the murderers were men. It is one of the greatest tragedies of our time that there are men who see their female partners and children as possessions – possessions they have the right to destroy.

I flesh out my characters through passion. I’m passionate about giving my historical women voices – not only because they were too often silenced and refused justice during their lives, but because giving them voices also gives me a voice.

I live in hope if enough women speak up about their lives then we might yet discover the truth of Muriel Rukeyser’s words: ‘What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open’ (Cited by Gandolfo  2008, p 142).

 Smile, I hear again my imagined Anne Boleyn speaking in my mind, telling me she would like the final word:

Defiled is my name full sore

Through cruel spite and false report,

That I may say for evermore,

Farewell, my joy! Adieu comfort!

For wrongfully ye judge of me

Unto my fame a mortal wound,

Say what ye list, it will not be,

Ye seek for that can not be found.”

REFERENCES:

Gandolfo, E  2008, ‘Feminist Fictionmaking’, New Writing, vol. 5, no. 2, pp. 140-149.

Kundera, M  2003, The Art of the Novel, Reprint Edition, Harper, Perennial Modern Classics, New York.

Wendy Dunn

Wendy J. Dunn is an Australian writer who has been obsessed by Anne Boleyn and Tudor History since she was ten-years-old. She is the author of two Tudor novels: Dear HeartHow Like You This?, the winner of the 2003 Glyph Fiction Award and 2004 runner up in the Eric Hoffer Award for Commercial Fiction, and The Light in the Labyrinth, her first young adult novel. Her third Tudor novel, Falling Pomegranate Seeds, will be published with Madeglobal sometime in 2016.

While she continues to have a very close and spooky relationship with Sir Thomas Wyatt, the elder (Tom told the story of Anne Boleyn in Dear HeartHow Like You This?), serendipity of life now leaves her no longer wondering if she has been channeling Anne Boleyn and Sir Tom for years in her writing, but considering the possibility of ancestral memory. Her own family tree reveals the intriguing fact that her ancestors – possibly over three generations – had purchased land from both the Boleyn and Wyatt families to build up their own holdings. It seems very likely Wendy’s ancestors knew the Wyatts and Boleyns personally.

Born in Melbourne, Australia, Wendy is married and the mother of three sons and one daughter—named after a certain Tudor queen, surprisingly, not Anne.

After successfully completing her MA (Writing) at Swinburne University Wendy became a tutor for the same course. She gained her PhD (Human Society) in 2014.

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