Posts Tagged ‘historical fiction’

The problem with good books is that they show me how much I still must improve, to elevate my writing from “good” to “great.”

News of the World, by Paulette Jiles, is one such book. Damn.

An aging veteran travels the backroads in post-Civil War Texas, reading newspaper articles to townsfolk who either can’t read or don’t have access to papers from the big cities. He’s asked to take with him a young girl, captured by the Kiowa when she was six, and bring her back to her relatives near San Antonio. (more…)


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A long-standing obsession of mine has been act 1, scene 2, from Shakespeare’s Richard III. It’s the scene where Richard accosts Lady Anne during a funeral procession and, in the course of a few hundred lines, steers her from unmitigated loathing all the way ’round the bend to a point where she warms to his affection, accepts his ring, and considers his suit for her hand in marriage. Afterward, astonished, Richard asks us:

Was ever woman in this humour woo’d?
Was ever woman in this humour won?

Answer: No. Never. Not in a million years.

The complete implausibility of this scene has always puzzled me. I’ve read analyses of the play, pored through the variorum of the play, all to no avail. Shakespeare, generally quite good at character motivation and development, has shoehorned this relationship into his play, telling us “Just roll with it.”


My friend Barb, who knew of my curiosity on the topic, recommended I read Sharon Kay Penman’s historical opus, The Sunne in Splendour, a historical novel about Richard III. Now that I have, I’m glad I did, but the book is not without flaws. (more…)

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Bath Abbey Fan VaultingSometimes, the word “interesting” isn’t enough.

This weekend past, as well as being sad, stressful, productive, lazy, and maddening, was also interesting.

It was the 31st anniversary of my wedding. It was the yahrzeit of the death of my wife’s mother. It was a weekend of plans, and of disrupted plans. It was a weekend with three reservations to the same restaurant, each one made and canceled in daily succession. It was a weekend of editing, rereading and rewriting my latest short story (“The Book of Solomon”), proofing it, polishing it, and then sending it off to a paying market.

It was also the weekend when I got an email from the Senior Librarian in Sumner, WA, asking if I’d be interested in participating in a panel, this October.

Yeah, “interesting” doesn’t really cover it.


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Stack of BooksFor the past few weeks, I’ve been doing research for The Wolf Tree. It’s been an education, in several ways.

Seattle isn’t like New York or San Francisco or London. I don’t have dozens of books to choose from, rows of scholarly tomes filled with history, details, and anecdotes. (more…)

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Stack of BooksYeah, sure.

“I write because…because I must,” he said as he fell back in a swoon, hand to forehead.

Blah, blah, blah. Flip it to the B-Side, Sonny.

[Jeez…how many of you don’t know what I mean by “B-side,” I wonder?]

Let’s drop the dramatics and be real for a moment.

The truth is, if I never wrote another word, if I never ventured another sentence of prose, I would not die. Yes, that’s right. If I never wrote again, I wouldn’t spend my life in abject misery. I wouldn’t feel the lack of a pen in my hand like the ache from some phantom limb. I wouldn’t bemoan the globe’s loss of my mellifluous prose (nor, most likely, would the globe).

No, I do not write because “I must.” Nor do I write for fame (duh!) or fortune (ditto!). Nor do I write for the approbation of my peers (hell, they’re so busy they can’t even find time to read my books, much less swamp me with approbation.)

Obviously, there are reasons I write. You don’t write nine novels without sufficient reason. But do you want to know why? Seriously, do you want to know?

C’mere. I’ll tell you. (more…)

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Doc Maynard had a wife. Two of them, actually, and simultaneously, some say.

David S. “Doc” Maynard, one of Seattle’s more colorful founders, married Catherine Simmons Broshear Maynard, a widow he had met along the Oregon Trail. He married her almost immediately upon divorcing Lydia, his first wife, a decree granted via questionable–and later, contestable–conditions. (Doc may have implied that Lydia was…deceased….)

Catherine Maynard proved to be as legendary as her husband, helping thwart an attack on the settlers of Seattle, accepting for a time her husband’s first wife under her own roof, and traveling the state on horseback, riding from Seattle across the Cascades to Ellensburg, well into her 70s.

But she did one other thing which, 150 years later, affects every single Seattle homeowner.

Catherine Maynard brought the dandelion to Seattle. (more…)

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Kurt R.A. GiambastianiBack when I had a writing career, I was given some advice. I was having lunch with my agent and the editor of the Science Fiction Book Club. (My first novel, The Year the Cloud Fell, had been a featured alternate at SFBC.) When the conversation swung around to my work, the editor said, “your books have too much history.” My agent nodded, sagely, as if this was the most obvious thing in the world.

I’m very good at not reacting immediately to bad news. It’s a defense mechanism, really. Treat me with rudeness or disrespect, tell me my dog died, or drop a pithy little bomb like “your books have too much history,” and I shut down. The smile stays up. The amenities and little etiquettes are still observed. Platitudes and small talk continue to be exchanged. “How nice.” “It was a pleasure meeting you.” “Until next time.”

Meanwhile, my inner child is weeping, my reptilian brain has fled for a safe, dark corner, and my intellect has gone all blue-screen on me.

“Too much history”? That’s like telling Mozart his music has “too many notes.”


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