21 February 2009 @ 01:41 am

What does everybody think about Norman F. Cantor? Will he be useful to me in my "Smells Like the Holy Spirit" research, or does he do "Bad Old Days" writing? Any books in particular I should read?

I keep realizing that I know next to nothing about the middle ages, because of things like this. Norman F. Cantor is a very prominent author of medieval history, and I really have no concept of his work. And yet, somehow, I still know more about the middle ages than most people off the street. There's something wrong in that.

Yes, I am still intending to work on my novel-y thing, even if it means being very silly indeed in the process. And dedicating NaNoWriMo 2009 to it.
I just wrote the wedding night scene. It's awesome. Not because they're having sex all over the place, but because the wedding guests sweep them from the great hall up to the master bedroom, and then the single male guests demand Margarethe's garters, because that's a thing that never actually happened in the middle ages, but I will perpetuate myths if I want to, meh*.

Anyway, the crowd is all, "We wants the garteressesssss," and Luc is all, "You shall not pass! Begone from here!" because his new wife is all freaked out because she's been plunged from the convent into the midst of this ravening crowd, who want her underwearohmigod. And Luc is all protective and finally not a stiff back proper gentleman, thank god. Prior to this, he had about all the personality of a dishrag with a picture of a knight stamped on it.

It is probably the most "romance novel" thing to happen in my story. May there be no bodice ripping to top it.

Must scurry like a little mouse and WRITE MOAR!

*Please don't hurt me for my ahistoricity.
30 November 2008 @ 10:21 pm
I am totally stress eating my way through my last few thousand words with pickles and diet pop. And crudites and Catalina dressing!

In related news, crudites is a way better word for raw vegetables than raw vegetables. Which is why I use it all the time. Crudites, crudites, crudites. Crudités, crudités, crudités. See, the spell checker in Firefox totally thinks that the é is pretentious, because it doesn't recognize that spelling.

In further related news, the knights in my novel have become these sort of terribly crude frat boys. Whenever I need the heroine to feel frustrated or distanced from the hero, the knights show up and fart and burp their way into her ire. Like, I just wrote this:

[Context: Their manor house is all beat up and in pieces, the only bedrooms that are really liveable are their bedroom and the soldiers' barracks, and the hero's parents have just shown up for an unexpected visit. So, ring the doom bells, her in-laws are on her stoop.]

"We cannot put your mother in the barracks. Your father perhaps would not find it such a hardship, but we cannot house a countess with those . . ."

"Those what?" he asked.

"Those men you call knights!" she practically shouted, gesturing toward them.

Luc looked at them and saw what she was on about. The men were currently engaged in a game of . . . well, he was not sure what, but he supposed it could be called wrestling, though a less astute observer might assume they were beating each other.

I have been spending way too much time with my brothers and their friends, who are not knights, but who do stuff like that all the time. So, they'll be talking to each other, one of them will fart, the other one will fart louder, and it spontaneously turns into a brawl -- only they're laughing.

I think I gave up any pretense that I'm writing a romance novel about five thousand words ago, and it's now more of a Judd Apatow film set in the middle ages.

My despair, she is deep! My sense of humor, she is weird! I think I'm a little punch drunk.
Current Music: Tristan -- Patrick Wolf
17 November 2008 @ 02:33 am
So, going over what I wrote today, I have on major observation:

When the hell did I start rewriting Cinderella/Beauty and the Beast?

Summary of events: Margarethe's mother dies when she is very little. Her father remarries to Lady Mairwen* and Mairwen sends her away to a place where she works in the kitchen garden. Her father arranges her marriage to a guy she imagines as beastly but whom she eventually falls in love with. And then, and THEN! Because Margarethe had been in the nunnery for so long with no funding for clothes or anything, she comes to them in a shabby brown cotte, and Mairwen gives her a cast-off gown of hers, which is ripped and frayed all to hell and back. A good fairy servant at the manor tells Margarethe not to worry about it, because she and the other good fairies and mice servants will mend it good as new. Only they make it better than it was before.

I know I keep saying that romances have to be fairy tales to some extent, but I didn't mean it that literally, folks.

*The overwhelming winner in the poll.
Current Music: Another Bites the Dust -- Vitamin String Quartet Tribute to Queen
16 November 2008 @ 02:34 am
Which name do you guys prefer as a replacement for Lady Maisry's name? Given that Maisry appears to be from the 18th century and Scottish, I don't want to use it in 13th century Wales.

I'd really prefer it if I could find something that still sounded pretty but actually meant "horrible person with a black heart", but girls don't tend to get named things like that.

So, the two choices I've discovered are sound-alikes, but Welsh. They might not be 13th century or even medieval, but they're a heck of a lot closer than Maisry and also avoid that whole "Isn't that a ballad?" thing.

Mairwen -- Combination of Welsh form of Mary (Mair) with gwen, which means "white, fair, blessed". I guess it could mean anything from "blessed virgin" to "white sea of bitterness", so there's a range of meanings there.

Meinwen -- Means "slender and white", from the Welsh main, meaning "slender", and gwen. I'm sort of imagining Lady not-Maisry as a sort of cross between Lady Macbeth and Galadriel from Lord of the Rings. Ambitious and social climbing, but tall and slender and fair. Also a mega-bitch.

[Poll #1298278]
15 November 2008 @ 09:53 pm
First things first: [ profile] koshka_the_cat, I got the taffeta the other day in the mail and it is MAGIC! It's draped on my dummy like a plastron right now, and I cannot wait to finish NaNo and start sewing. (After I make my little cousin's steeple hennin for Christmas, of course!) There will be pictures.

Next things next:

I've decided that I can't read anymore about Welsh/English history, because it just makes me feel bad for having the hero of my novel be English and the heroine be Welsh. I mean, how the hell can you fall in love with someone who is the oppressor of your people? Who have been oppressed since long before you were born?

It really just means that Not-Luc has to be the most amazing man to ever walk this earth, but also realistically flawed and thoroughly medieval. But not too alpha male, because alpha males leave me feeling kind of icky. And he can't be too touchy-feely, because then he's a girl walking about in a man-suit*.

That's not what I intend to write about here, though. All this reading about oppressed Wales has got me thinking about how political I am. Except I've suddenly decided I don't want to go into too much soul-searching right now, so short version:

Oppression of people is wrong. I kind of feel like I'm writing a story where a slave falls in love with her owner in the antebellum South. I believe in democracy. Bowing to nobles/royalty at SCA events makes me slightly uncomfortable, because I realize that the system that the group is based upon comes from a system of government that's based on divine right and warfare, and I'm not big on either of those things. You guys, I am too liberal for the SCA. (And, yeah, I'm probably being a trifle too serious about it, but still.)

What I need is a reenactment organization that focuses on the lives of non-nobles. There's another thing that makes me uncomfortable: the classism and sexism inherent in a lot of history and historical research. But nobody wants to play at being oppressed.

I think the reasons I'm having so much trouble with this is that a large part of me is idealist, and I want my writing to reflect that, but then there's also a large part of me that is a realist, and kind of sneers at the idealism. I can't bend to the "fantasy" part of literature, because fantasy is by its nature unrealistic, but I really, really want this thing I'm working on to be both realistic and have a happy ending with decisive resolution. Unfortunately, comedies must have happy endings, the villains must be punished, and the problems must be resolved. There can't be any plot "hangnails" bumming around to irritate the reader. And realism, by its nature, is inconsistent and irritating. Unpleasant. It points out the disadvantages of a situation.

Can individuals overcome social boundaries? Overcome them happily?

You guys. Perfectionists shouldn't do anything.

OK, writing for word count now. I swear!

*Dude. Please don't anyone start the "sensitive men are still real men" argument with me. I'm writing a romance novel, here, and . . . agh. I am brain-melty enough right now. Let's just say that I'm trying to write something medieval that doesn't offend my modern sensibilities overmuch, OK? This novel is just not the right forum for that argument.
Current Music: The Gypsy King -- Patrick Wolf
10 November 2008 @ 01:25 am
For reasons I'm not sure of, I have just arranged it so my heroine's stepmother started rumors that she is either horribly deformed or a witch while the heroine was locked away tight in the convent. And that is why they sent her away!

What should it be though? Witch or clubfoot? Missing an arm? Horrible lazy eye? Or should I go in the other direction and have her say that the heroine started having holy visions?

I'm not sure why Lady Maisry would do any of this, though.

Oh, yes. Because Lady Maisry is Teh Evol, who only cares about Teh Moneys.

And she totally needs a new name. "Lady Maisry" is a Scottish folk ballad, and I don't think it goes back any further than to the 18th century.

Also, Rhys WELSH GUY (that'd be the heroine's father, who has actually been named Rhys ap Owain now) is apparently a really neglectful landlord, because he takes all his tenants crops and sells them before they get a chance to, so they don't have any money. And then he doesn't put any money back into the land/buildings, so they're all rundown. The hero is SHOCKED by this, because it's bad form. He would never do it.

The only problem is that I'm not sure if that kind of feudalism happened in 13th century Wales or not. I know I've read that feudalism never really took hold in Wales like it did in England and France.
Current Music: We Are the Champions -- Vitamin String Quartet Tribute to Queen
I'm sitting here, typing up what I wrote on my breaks at work today, and my rough draft is cracking me up.

I haven't decided on a lot of the names for characters and places in the story. I don't even really know what part of Wales it's set in, other than that it's somewhere in the southeast*. Why the southeast? It's what seemed right when I thought about it. My heartsong told me! *tear* I'll probably end up changing my mind.

Anyway, I haven't decided what a lot of the castles are called and what the "last names" of any of the characters are. So there's a lot of "Margarethe, daughter of Rhys WELSH GUY" in my writing. Or "Gwillym has promised his niece UNCLE GWILLYM'S CASTLE as a dowry. You will marry at RHYS WELSH GUY'S PLACE. But first you need to find your brother Nicholas to act as a witness. He's in WELSH TOWN WITH A WHOREHOUSE OR AN INN WITH WHORES." All this all-caps, no name stuff is making me giggle. I get bizarrely detailed with it, and it often acts as a placeholder for plot ideas and intentions.

That last one isn't a direct quote, by the way, though it is paraphrased from actual occurrences in the writing. Which is really goddamn bad writing, by the way. Reading what I've written is a little bit like dragging your face against a cheese grater -- it's a relief when you stop, but the pain lingers.

So, I need to figure out what Welsh town, with a whorehouse or possessing an inn with whores, Nicholas can be kicking his heels up at. I already have a scene where Luc discovers him at the inn (whorehouse?), and is all, "You know, Nick, you're going to use yourself up on these prostitutes, and you're not going to be able to do your knightly best, because you'll have the ladies on your mind instead of hacking your foes into tiny bits." Nicholas's response is basically, "She's got a tongue like an electric eel, and she likes the taste of a man's tonsils. Woof!" And Luc is all, "Oh, Jesus. Don't make me get the hose, little brother."

Oh, god. Nicholas might be a more interesting/entertaining character than Luc. He's totally not based on Hal in "Henry IV, Part 1", by the way. Or Lord Flasheart. Trouble!

What I'm trying to do with the characters is set up Luc as the responsible, dependable brother, though he doesn't always like having to do that. His older brother, Benedick** has hared it off to a monastery where he spends all his time rooting in a garden, though Benedick was intended to be their father's heir. Nicholas is free to whore and drink and be wild, and Luc never got that opportunity because when he was Nicholas's age, he was getting a crash course in lordship after Benedick "defected". Both Benedick and Nicholas are free to follow their own whims, and Luc is saddled with responsibility and duty. The marriage and babies for politics thing is only the latest and most extreme manifestation.

*I've been Googling up a lot of pictures of Wales lately, because I don't really know what Wales looks like, as I've never been there. I know it's not arctic or desert or tundra, but I don't know much apart from it being hilly, stony with little mountains, and green. So it's coming as a big surprise to me that a lot of the pictures look a lot like southwestern Wisconsin. A lot of the pictures on this page could have been taken in our pasture or a little bit farther north, where it's hillier. (Apart from the fact that most of our hills are all-natural, and not mottes.) I'm considering making a "Wales or Wisconsin?" post, but I'm not sure if the similarity extends much past that temperate climates start to look the same when they've been farmed continuously for 100+ years.

A friend of mine from Gays Mills mentioned the same thing when she got home from a walking tour of Ireland, England and France, though, so maybe it's not just me.

**I still need to find a new name for Luc, as he's the odd man out. Benedick, Nicholas and . . . Luc. It doesn't really fit, does it?
Current Music: O Frondens Virga -- Garmarna
03 November 2008 @ 02:09 am

Second day of NaNo already and I'm going:

What were you thinking, dummy? This is such a dumb idea! You don't know the first thing about medieval knights and ladies and anything. This is going to be a big fat failure of a novel. Just like last year. You're going to get through the first four chapters, then lose momentum. Or you'll skip to the end, to write that, and then forget to write anything that happens in between. You suck, Sarah! You're a lousy writer! Way lame.


Flargen bargen blah grah. I've been resorting to the all-caps a lot lately. I need to stop.

Today I made cinnamon rolls, and didn't write a word. The cinnamon rolls are pretty awesome. The writing not so much. Wait, I wrote a lot for my Yuletide recs, which I did tonight simply to avoid writing about Margarethe and her prayers in the unnamed nunnery.

Man. I never put myself through this sort of angst when I wrote things for the paper. It was all, "Well, here's the facts. Let's make them intelligible." And then I did it.

I've got the facts. I have two reluctant people, who are being forced to get married, for the sake of money, politics, and peace. Luc (which is not his name anymore, but I don't know what his name is) doesn't want to get married because he thinks it will cut in on his freedom to go and smash people with a sword and saddle him with responsibility. He'll have to stop being a bachelor and set up house with this woman he doesn't know, and then they'll have kids, and he'll be responsible for them. His father, Roger, is all, "I'm old, I want to stop fighting, Longshanks told me I could retire, so get hitched and knock this chick up already. Oh, and pick up your brother Christopher to act as a witness, because I'm going home to your mother." And Luc is all, "Fine. I'll do it." And then we switch to Margarethe, who is praying, "Please, God, let my father send word about my future. Don't let me hang in limbo here as a not-a-nun!" And God kind of answers her prayers, because her brother Owain shows up and is all, "Surprise! Uncle Gwilliam arranged a marriage for you!" And then Margarethe has to leave her beloved nunnery to go home to her neglectful father and horrible stepmother.

And my brain won't let me communicate that through prose. Can I just write a really detailed summary for NaNo? Or can I write it snarky blog post style? Like the IM messages of two 14-year-old girls?

~*~lamb_o_god~*~ omg, mel, did u here bout maggie + luc?
melisande no wut
~*~lamb_o_god~*~ like luc's father maed a deal w/ maggie's uncle Gwilliam, and now their all 'maggie marry luc, luc marry maggie, it'll make the king happy'
melisande oooh, longshanks hes hott
~*~lamb_o_god~*~ ya, he's pretty dreamy, for an old guy lol
melisande how many times do i have to tell u hes not old hes sofistikatd
~*~lamb_o_god~*~ i dont even know what ur tryin to say
melisande hes cultured and stuff
~*~lamb_o_god~*~ ask the saracens lollollol
~*~lamb_o_god~*~ annyway, maggie's stepmom Maisry told her that shes kinda fugly, so she's luck to be getting married
~*~lamb_o_god~*~ and maggie was all, 'i dont even wanna get married, so tell this dude to go away'
~*~lamb_o_god~*~ and maisry said that she didn't care, she was gettin married anyway
~*~lamb_o_god~*~ n then maggie's freind Nest came in and spilt wine all over maisry and maisry hit her with a shoe
melisande o no she dint!
~*~lamb_o_god~*~ it's totally ture. i heard it from luc's brother christopher, who is all friendly with the ladies
melisande oh christoperh's really hott he looked at me at mass n i thought i was gonna swoon and stuff
~*~lamb_o_god~*~ hes got a thing for nest
melisande omg eva, y do u got to be so meen to me? is it because im fat?

I predict that it will be a bestseller.

I have absolutely no documentation for Maisry as a medieval name, so that's probably going to have to change. Unless, does it strike anyone as overtly modern?
Current Music: Wind in the Wires -- Patrick Wolf