Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Reviews, choices, and expectations

I just received a lovely review from the Historical Novel Society. It caused me to reflect on the points reviewers made, what gave them pause, what were some common themes, and whether the points I hoped to convey got across.

So far, with only one exception, the reviewers liked my characters, found them endearing, vivid, and likeable (links to reviews at end of article). Since characters are paramount for me as a reader, I focused on making my characters real, and I’m thrilled that I have succeeded in this regard.

This Time is a mash-up of historical fiction and science fiction with a time travel twist. My main character was Richard III, who I brought into the twenty-first century seconds before he was about to be slain in battle. Bringing this medieval monarch over 500 years into the future gave me opportunities and choices in how I would handle his adjustment to modern technology and culture. Early on, I decided that the more interesting (to me) aspect to explore would be his cultural and emotional reaction and adaptation. I felt I should downplay the “wow--you can do that” aspect of the modern world, dealing with most of it, such as things like TV, telephone, and computers in the early chapters, and allowing the reader to imagine how Richard reacted to other technological advances.

Here, reviewers differed on whether I covered this aspect in too much, not enough, or the right level of detail. Interestingly, there seems to have been an even split among those who mentioned this angle. So what am I left to conclude? I think this has to do more with what the readers wanted or expected, rather than whether the book correctly balanced this aspect. Since I made the final editing decisions, I believed I wrote the right amount about Richard’s fish-out-of-water experiences. Some reviewers disagreed--my balance wasn’t right for them.

Fortunately, there was no such disagreement on the historical or emotional elements. For me, that was more important to the story I wanted to tell. As a result, I continue to feel that I met the expectations that I had set by my choice of story and by labeling it a Historical Fiction with Sci-fi elements.

Recently, several blogs have discussed whether writers of historical fiction should maintain historical accuracy where it is known. Some have argued that fiction is fiction and that gives us license to “adapt” the history to fit the story. I disagree. If the author wants to tell a story where someone dies at a different time from when they actually did, for example, then I don’t think it should be called historical because the historical label sets the reader’s expectations that it will at least adhere to the major points of known history. I do think it’s okay to speculate on the unknown such as where those outcomes were in doubt.

So, when I read a book that is supposed to be historical fiction, I expect the history to be accurate within the limits of what is currently known. I also expect most of the characters to conform to the attitudes of their culture except where the character is created as a cultural rebel, or the historical figure is known for writings and actions that did not conform.


Historical Novel Review (Nov 2009)
That’s All She Read
Writer’s Daily Grind
Medieval Woman
The Boogle

(more reviews at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble)

Friday, November 20, 2009

3 National Monuments and Sedona, AZ

After Petrified Forest National Park, we drove to Sedona, AZ, making sure to visit three nearby national monuments of the northern Sinagua, a prehistoric culture that inhabited the Verde Valley until the 1400s when they suddenly abandoned this area. No one knows for certain why they left. This is copied from National Park Service flier for these national monuments:

Montezuma Castle and Well are located about 15 miles south of Sedona and Tuzigoot is about 20 miles southwest. The well is a natural cistern that Sinagua used to irrigate their farms by digging irrigation ditches. View slide showhere.

Tuzigoot is located about 20 miles southwest of Sedona. View slide show here.

The views in and around Sedona are breathtaking. People who live there say that it's like living in Zion National Park, we agreed. On our return to Las Vegas to fly home, we stopped at Slide Rock State Park in Oak Creek Canyon: Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Emoticons and water on the moon

Being an iconoclast at heart, I just love it when I stumble upon surprising facts, information that turns my view of something, large or small, on its head. I know that's a big reason why I was so compelled by Richard III when I discovered that the Shakespearean version is mainly fiction and why I read this Cracked article about the emoticon with great delight. Not only did Ambrose Bierce propose them nearly 120 years ago, but according to this article, Abraham Lincoln used them in his personal telegraphs. Who'da thunk!

Which brings me to another surprise, this one rather larger than the origin of emoticons. I had always thought, based on various articles and books that I read, that the moon was basically a lump of rock, devoid of life, and likely never supported life. On November 14, 2009, the New York Times reported that about a month ago, a satellite crashed into a lunar crater near its south pole and kicked up approximately 26 gallons of water that had been collecting for billions of years. Assuming there is a significant accumulation, the moon now appears to be an ideal candidate for a base, since water, and by virtue of the water, oxygen, would not have to be shipped from the Earth.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Views from the Grand Canyon and Petrified Forest

From Bryce Canyon, we drove south to the south rim of the Grand Canyon. Unfortunately, the closest lodging I was able to get at the time was in Williams--an easy hour long drive to an entrance to the Grand Canyon. If you plan to go, I recommend you make your reservations early enough to stay at one of the motels that are just outside the park's entrance. One of the canyon's treats, is a mule ride down Bright Angel trail. We got to the park too late to take one of the rides but did manage to hike down a small piece of it.

Click this link to view some of the sights we saw.

In addition to petrified wood, The Petrified Forest stretches to the Painted Desert with sights of petroglyphs in between. See the views here..

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Views from Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks

After we left Vegas, we traveled north and stopped at Zion National Park.
Click here to view slide show.

From Zion we continued north to Bryce Canyon where we stayed at Ruby's Inn just outside the park. If you plan on visiting, I recommend staying here.
Click here to view slide show.

Monday, November 2, 2009

New discussion group

The first chapter of 'Richard III: The Maligned King' by Annette Carson examines Edward IV's sudden death from what his doctors called an "unknown illness" just before his 41st birthday. One possible cause was that Edward IV had been given a lethal dose of arsenic.

This topic has already been discussed at some length on different Richard III discussion groups, but because other topics would intersperse this one, I have set up this temporary discussion group to focus on this theory--to determine if the arsenic could have been prescribed by his doctors to cure an illness and they got the dosage wrong, or if he were deliberately poisoned by someone he trusted.

Link to E4Arsenic and ask to join the group if you are interested in participating in the discussion.