Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Spotlight on Europe

February is bringing something very exciting to the world of Christian historical fiction. Steeple Hill's Love Inspired is launching a new line, Love Inspired Historical. This has me very excited because easy to read, well written historicals will be available at practically every Wal-Mart in the country. This is fabulous!!

What really has me excited is the book that's launching the line. The Briton written by Catherine Palmer. Not only is it a historical novel, it's a European historical. And a medieval too! I don't see myself ever writing a medieval, but I certainly do love reading them. CBD has it listed as available in March, but Amazon and the LI website both have it available next week.

I also know for a fact that there are several Regencies in the LIH pipeline and that the editors are open to European set manuscripts. In fact, there are several Regencies coming out this year that aren't LIH. I see this as a very good thing, as I've said multiple times in the past.

My Wal-Mart is FINALLY carrying LI books, so next week I shall be haunting the book section waiting to see if the Historical line will be put on the shelves.

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Friday Fact

Muslin Disease

I mentioned muslin disease on my European historicals loop a little while back and was kind of shocked to find out how many of my fellow history fanatics didn't know about it. Well, maybe I should excuse them from it since they do focus on Regency England and Muslin Disease was rampant in Empire France... :D

Muslin was an extremely popular fabric choice for dresses in the Empire period. (1800-1814) It was lightweight, easily affordable, and best of all it was clingy. I'm pretty sure only the merveilluese took full advantage of the clingy properties though.

The merveilluse were the "loose women", and their male counterparts were the "incroyables" or dandys. Napoleon was all about classical Greece. He thought Alexander the Great was the best thing that ever happened to human kind. After Napoleon's first foray into Greece, he decided that members of his court were going to dress like that.

Back then, they didn't know that the ancient Greek statues had once been brightly painted. This is why plain muslin was so popular for a little while. Bright, garish colors and gaudy prints were also popular. These are the French we're talking about after all.

So the merveilluse decided they wanted to look exactly like the Greek statues. They wore white muslin dresses over pink body tights. Often they would splash water on their dresses to enhance the clinginess. They didn't care what the weather was like that day either.

Naturally they would get sick. Since it seemed to be happening the most to the ladies who wore muslin dresses, somebody started calling it Muslin Disease. In reality, it was just good old-fashioned viral pneumonia.

Muslin Disease eventually died out as muslin favoritism was replaced with cotton and silks. But not before claiming its most famous victim--The Empress Josephine. Muslin Disease on a death certificate seems more romantic than just plain ole pneumonia.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

News and reviews

There's some exciting stuff coming here in February! Lynette Eason's blog tour, a European historical scavenger hunt, a review of Ruth Morren's "The Rogue's Redemption" and possibly an interview with her. I'm excited!

I'm over halfway done with The Midwife of St. Petersburg. And I'm disappointed. I am not enjoying it like I thought I would because of one little thing. Too much dialogue! This is the best example of how NOT to write a middle that I've come across in a long time.

Too much dialogue you say? Yes, too much. Too much talking about things that don't move the plot forward. A full 2/3'rds of the book takes place in the span of about 10 hours and is one long speech after another that does not move the plot forward. Yes the causes of the Revolution are interesting, but I don't need to be subjected to lecture after lecture after lecture from one particular character on what all is wrong with autocratic Russia. This book is supposed to be about Karena, not her brother.

The hero and the heroine still don't even really know each other and there's less than a 4th of the book left. They're not even in St. Petersburg yet! I don't feel like I know Karena or Alex. I know her brother very well though. But he's not a main character and he shouldn't be getting so much face-time. The bulk of the plot should NOT be revolving around him.

The back cover blurb also isn't jiving with what's going on. There is no romance between Karena and Alex. Just physical reactions to each other's presence. They've spoken maybe 100 words to each other that don't have something to do with Karena's brother. The book is nearly over and since it is supposed to be a historical romance I expect the hero and heroine to have already made their declarations of love to each other and they're fighting for recognition that they're doing the right thing. Considering their very different backgrounds, that would be a lot more interesting to me than listening to Karena's brother and uncle.

There's a very interesting sub plot going on with a jeweled brooch, which I feel should have been given more importance than the brother's situation because the brooch directly affects Karena. Who is supposed to be the main character.

Mrs. Chaikin has written over 30 books. I expected more from this one. Seeing as how Russia is my favorite subject and I write Russian historical fiction, this worries me. A lot.

I want to read her Silk House series, but I think I'll be checking my library for it first.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Spotlight on Europe

To celebrate the re-release of Oksana as The Sovereign's Daughter, today's feature is the Heirs of Anton series by Susan May Warren and Susan Downs.

The series consists of 4 books: Ekaterina, Nadia, Marina and Oksana. What I like best about this series is how Susie tells the story backwards. She starts in the modern day with Ekaterina and by the end of that book the reader knows almost the entire story of what's been going on since the October Revolution.

It's not until Oksana that it's revealed just who these women are descended from. It is a "lost Romanov" tale, which has no basis in reality anymore since the last two skeletons have been found, but nevertheless it's an engaging, well-written, wonderful story that is believable. That's the key to these lost Romanov stories, keeping it believable.

This is the series that got me hooked on Susie. I was drawn to it because it was set in Russia. So of course I HAD to have it. And then I decided, well, Susie's really good at this whole writing thing. Let me check out some of her other stuff. So I did and I've never looked back. Susie being a member of ACFW is what finally got me to join.

Nadia is also falls into the Cold War spy thriller category. And Marina is set in WW2. This series has something for everyone. Whether you devour historical fiction or not!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Oscar Noms

The Oscar nominations are out. Here's the full list.

Once again, I've never heard of most of these movies. What is it with Hollywood and nominating all of these movies that nobody ever sees?

I have seen a few of them. Bourne Ultimatum, At World's End, Sweeney Todd and Enchanted. My biggest beef this year though is not that they're once again nominating movies that nobody's ever seen, but that they are nominating movies that don't deserve it.

Sweeney Todd has been nominated for Best Actor, Best Picture, Achievement in Art Direction and Costume Design. This movie was NOT THAT GOOD. It was ok. There were a few moments where it was even mediocre. I don't regret going to see it, but I'm in no hurry to ever see it again.

This movie was not Johnny Depp's best performance. I wouldn't even put it in his Top 5, maybe not even his Top 10. Cap'n Jack is better, Benny and Joon was WAY better, even Blow (which I can't stand) was better from an acting standpoint. His character in Benny and Joon was just wonderful, he was a Buster Keaton wannabe and did a fabulous job. It doesn't get much better on the comedy front than watching Johnny Depp make grilled cheese sandwiches with an iron and "smashed" potatoes with a tennis racket.

Sweeney Todd does however deserve the Costume Design Oscar. The costumes were amazing! For once it wasn't a whole big mish-mosh of periods and decades. The designer actually knew what she was doing and paid attention. She did a marvelous job on that front. It's up against Elizabeth: The Golden Age, so that'll be interesting. The costumes I saw from Elizabeth are pretty awesome too.

Enchanted has also been nominated, for all 3 of its songs. Which were wonderful. I love That's How You Know. I've a sneaking suspicion Alan Menken will be going home with another Oscar for that one. (His other one is Under The Sea)

I'm also glad to see Pirates FINALLY getting some Oscar noms. Visual Effects and Make-up Design. I still wish Hans Zimmer's genius would be acknowledged on the music front though. But I'll take what I can get. The make-up design for all the pirate lords was pretty doggone awesome.

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Friday Fact

I've been thinking about dishes a lot the last couple of weeks. Part of this stems from inventorying my hope chests and discovering no less than 3 dozen complete place settings among my possessions. As well as a curious little casserole dish that has the words "Fire King" on the bottom.

Anybody who keeps up with the collectibles market knows what Fire King means. This post is for those of you who don't.

Fire King was a line of dishes produced by AnchorHocking from 1942 to around 1972. My little dish is probably 70's judging by the color of the fruit painted on it. It originally started out as a type of glass called jadite. Also known as milk glass. Jadite is a specific color though--sea foam green. These dishes were originally produced for use in restaurants because they're very resilient and Fire King was the first brand of oven-proof glassware.

The dishes are very hot collectibles and my little casserole dish is probably worth about $50. My uncle has a few Fire King pieces worth over $100.

So why am I talking about Fire King specifically? Went to the flea market today and, as usual, there were several Fire King pieces and one entire set. But one seller had some Anchor Hocking glass labeled as Fire King. It wasn't Fire King and things like that just bug me.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Spotlight on Europe

So I realized at 10:40 last night that I forgot to post this yesterday. As Ann Landers used to say, 10 lashes with a wet noodle!

This week is The Lady of Milkweed Manor by Julie Klassen.

From CBD:

Charlotte Lamb, a fallen vicar's daughter, hopes to secret herself away in London's grim Milkweed Manor. But once there,she is mortified to find herself in the care of a former suitor, a physician whom her father long ago rejected as unsuitable, a man who now hides secrets of his own. Both are determined, with God's help, to protect those they love. But neither could guess the depth of sacrifice that will be required of them.

This book is a Regency, and even though I don't generally like Regencies I'm very heartened and upbeat about its release. Regencies being picked up and published by CBA houses bodes VERY well for non-American historical fiction in general. This year is bringing the release of a lot of Regency books in the CBA, and I wonder if it's at all connected to the buzz over the new Jane Austen movies and the recent success of the Pride and Prejudice adaptation that starred Kiera Knightley.

As a writer with a passion for European historicals, I choose to see the upcoming Regencies as a positive sign for the world of historical fiction. Readers who devour Regencies tend to pick up anything that's set in Europe, hoping to get that same "flavor". While I personally don't care for them, I know that readership is going to be a huge part of any marketing efforts I may to have be involved in later in the future.

***

And a Genesis update! I have my pages all done, 15 this year. I have one more round of edits to make thanks to the CP's and then I'm sending my precious baby out into the world. This will be the very first time that these characters have ever been seen by judges. They've been living in my head for nearly 15 years now. It's both exhilirating and frightening to let them take flight. Exhilirating because I know this is an important step in my journey to become an author, and frightening because it's the first time I've sent my writing out into the world, so to speak.

Am I nervous? You betcha! Am I excited? Of course! I've had a couple people tell me that it's good enough to final, and maybe even win. I selfishly hope so. That would be amazing. But I also know that the outcome is in God's hands and that no matter what happens to this story, I'm on the right track and I am where He wants me to be. And that's what this whole writing journey is all about anyway.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Little Mermaid

Disney's newest stage production, The Little Mermaid, is being blasted by the reviewers. I'm not terribly surprised actually, after having seen the show. Which I loved every minute of and the box office receipts agree with me. The show has consistently been in the top 5 for the last month, that's made most impressive by the fact that it's only been officially open for 4 days.

For some strange reason, I feel compelled to respond to a particularly scathing review in the Canadian newspaper Globe and Mail. The review itself is here. Now, as a HUGE fan of the movie, I spent the last two years waiting with baited breath for this show to actually make it to the stage. They've actually been working on it for at least the last 5 years. And knowing Disney, probably longer. TLM is the most popular Princess movie among fans.

The director, costumer and set designer hail from the opera world. Because of that, the show is very different in appearance. Like nothing Broadway has ever seen before. So, IMO, the reviewers hate it for being different and not fitting into the box they've built for Disney Broadway. I for one was entranced with the somewhat abstract way the show was staged. I mean really, how else can you put an ocean environment on a Broadway stage? Yes, some of the staging and choreography fell a little flat, but most Broadway shows fall a little flat in the first couple months of performances. It's the nature of the art form.

My main beef with this particular review is this little piece here:
Wright recasts the story as a dysfunctional family drama writ large: Ursula is Ariel's aunt, upset because she has been banished by her brother for her black magic.

My problem is that the reviewer is assuming that Wright added new material that he came up with on his own. This is not the case. All die-hard TLM fans know that this very plotline hails from 1991 and originated with the writers of the TLM TV cartoon. That episode was never made and the plotline was transferred to the Marvel people to use in their short-lived comic book series. (which is a real shame, because it was superbly done. It took me 4 years, but I finally tracked down all 12 issues) Again, the plotline was never done. So it's been sitting in the Disney vault.

Wright did not make this up. Disney writers made this up. Therefore it is what fans call Disney canon, even though not very many of us like the idea. But Poseiden was Triton's father, so I guess it's conceivable that he could father an octopus too. TLM fans prefer to pretend that Melody and Morgana from TLM 2 just don't exist.

This section of the review is also Disney canon:
Wright also roots Triton's fear of the human world in the death of his wife, who was apparently caught in fishing nets.

Again, this plotline was developed, BY DISNEY, for the comic book series. It was scrapped when Marvel canceled the comic series. The forthcoming TLM 3 movie will address this very thing. Last we heard anyway.

This reviewer also has a major problem with the ending. Yeah, they rewrote it from the movie and yeah it's a bit deflating and kinda flat. But if the reviewer has a way to re-enact Ursula's spectacular death by impalement on a stage, please sir, share it! Because no one else knows how. I'm a Disney traditionalist and I didn't howl at the ending. I wasn't totally pleased with it, but I know it's better than the ending they were using in Denver. It fit with the other changes that were made, and I for one thoroughly enjoyed the fleshing out of Eric's character. He has substance now, he's not just another cardboard Disney prince. Yes he is still entranced by Ariel's voice, but in the show he also realizes that Grimsby is right when he says "A girl of flesh and blood is far better than any dream girl". What's right in front of him may very well be his dream girl. In If Only, Eric is wishing his mystery girl would show up while Ariel wishes he would see her for who she truly is--the mystery girl with the spellbinding voice. And then he ends his part with the realization that if the mystery girl shows up at the singing contest, he may just very well lose this mute girl who's stolen his heart. He's not the least bit surprised when he finds out that this mute girl is his mystery girl. He already knew it anyway.

So there's my soapbox for the month. I've even emailed the critic. Doubt he'll read all of it, but I've done my civic duty as a loyal fan of The Little Mermaid. Movie, tv show, comics and Broadway musical. Now if my cast recording would just hurry up and get here...

Friday, January 11, 2008

The Friday Fact

The Hope Chest

So, I just got finished inventorying my hope chest and have them on the brain. I also have enough dishes to feed an army...

The Hope Chest dates back to medieval times. Back then a dowry consisted of things that could be used in the couples' new home. Everything from linens to dishes to furniture. Over time it evolved into the hope chest.

The hope chest is generally a wooden box. Since 1919 the box has been lined with cedar to keep the moths out of the girl's linens. The chest was slowly filled with items that the girl would find useful after she was married. Linens, dishes, quilts, lingerie, cookbooks, special items from her childhood, etc.

The Lane Company is responsible for the cedar lined hope chests. During WW1 they won a contract to produce pine ammunition boxes. After the war they converted that factory into an assembly line for cedar lined chests and began an ad campaign for the Lane Hope Chest.

My mother was given her hope chest when she was 13. She carried on the tradition with me and my sister. My hope chest is cherry on the outside and cedar on the inside. In the chest are some of my treasured Little Mermaid clothes from my childhood and all sorts of linens and things made of fabric. I have some WW2 lingerie in there that I plan to use on my wedding night and a beautiful linen tablecloth with matching napkins that belonged to my great-grandmother Smith.

The tradition had slowly begun to die out with the first wave of liberal feminists and was almost unheard of when I got my hope chest in 1995. None of my friends had one and didn't understand why I was so excited about getting a big chest for my birthday. In that chest lie all of my hopes and dreams for my future married life. I very rapidly filled it up and have 4 more "hope chests" out in the garage. These are actually Rubbermaid boxes. And in those boxes are the things that Louisiana humidity can't destroy. Including my obscene number of dishes that I could use to feed an army. And I really need to go buy yet another one. There's not just a whole lot I'm going to have to buy when I get married.

If you're by chance interested in reviving this tradition for yourself or your daughters or if you're just curious about it, I recommend the book The Hope Chest: A Legacy of Love by Rebekah Wilson. The book can be purchased from The Vision Forum or Amazon.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Spotlight on Europe

This week it's The Galway Chronicles by Brock and Bodie Thoene.

I'm really at a loss as to how to summarize the series! It's set in the 1840's in Ireland, amidst the potato blight and great political upheaval. I read these books when they first came out nearly 10 years ago and was completely enthralled. Anyone who's read a Thoene book knows exactly what I'm talking about.

I want to say that somewhere, I read that these books are loosely based on Brock's family history. Spent some time flipping through the books themselves to see if that was in there but I couldn't find it.

Not only are the books rich in setting, but they're rich in dialogue. Bodie manages to convey the beautiful Irish brogue without bogging the reader down in dialect. It's done almost entirely with the sentence structure. Beautiful writing.

Friday, January 4, 2008

A new year

2008 has arrived. Hard to believe for me. Why do the years speed up as you get older?

There was no Friday Fact today because I need to go back through my archives to see what I've already done. I'll get back to my regular schedule next week (I hope) now that the holidays are all over and I'm done traveling for awhile.

I've finished my first round of edits from my CP's on A Time For War. I need to make at least one more pass through it. It's really coming to life now with their well-placed comments. I'm so excited over the direction that my writing is going to go this year. Quite the thrill.

The new job starts on January 21st. For the next 2 and a half weeks I'm happily unemployed. The time will be used to get my room cleaned up good and finish getting my desk properly organized. Also a lot of stitching will get done. I've missed that so very much, being addicted to it and all.

I spent most of my birthday money on books. I'm having a devil of a time figuring out what to read after I finish Revealed...