This girl keeps popping up in my head

I shared this on facebook and twitter earlier today, so I thought I would elaborate a little.  I get asked by a lot of people who read The White House what happens to Lizzie Poole after that story ends. 

For a long time the truth of it has been that I don't know and I kind of liked it that way. I like leaving readers hanging. I like getting asked what happens next because it means that people care about Lizzie. I certainly do. 

The funny thing about Lizzie is that she was introduced to me, the same way she was introduced to you. I needed another female character in The White House, if for no other reason then to provide a foil for Annie. So I thought I would add a servant girl, and just to show what a louse Silas Poole is I thought we would meet her when he reached out to cuff the back of her head. 

That was when something magical happened. Lizzie ducked. I didn't expect it anymore than the rest of you did. With that one action, the story was no longer just about Annie, or Israel or even Blackbeard. It suddenly became a story about this girl. She just took over. For a writer to have a character surprise us or do something that even we as their creators don't expect is an incredible experience. 

I fell in love with Lizzie Poole, and even though I've moved on to other worlds and other characters that I also love she just keeps popping up in my head. Every once in a while I'll start to wonder what happens next for Lizzie. Where did she go? What kind of opportunities would there be for a girl on her own in the colonies in 1718 and what would Lizzie make of them?

With that said, a few ideas have popped up. Bear in mind that I've done very little research, have no outline, and I have a whole host of other characters to be exorcised before I can get back to our Lizzie. Still, she's there in the back of my brain standing on the porch of the white house looking left and right trying to choose where to go next. 

Which is where this morning's passage came from. It's short, but I think it's a promising start. 

WARNING: Spoilers ahead. If you haven't read The White House, you might want to stop now.

r-BLACKBEARD-SHIP-CANNONS-large570.jpg


You wouldn't think it would take a man's head so long to rot when mounted on a stake in a marsh, but even now Lizzie could see tufts of his famed black whiskers that clung to the slack jaw hanging in mute mockery. He'd been jolly once, a right jovial character for all he'd just as soon kill a person and laugh with them. She reckoned it was the cold that had kept it preserved these weeks hanging at the mouth of the river. Still, she hadn't expected it to look like the man she'd known. She hadn't imagined that it would bring back so many memories of the man himself. For unlike many of the others gawking at the rail as they sailed by, Lizzie Poole had known Blackbeard.   

It was less than a year since she'd seen him last. He'd been loud and boisterous as he'd pulled her into his lap, his ale sour breath wafting over her face as she looked up across the table into the eyes Israel Hands.  For the first time in her life, she'd seen a man that cared enough about her to be bothered by the old pirate's rough handling. It had given her hope. Of course, that was before Teach had ordered the murder of the only friend Lizzie had ever known, before Mr. Hands had beaten her father near to death and Lizzie had learned that hope only got a girl so far. 

The broad woman in filthy homespun beside Lizzie snorted noisily and spat into the water below. "I reckon he got what he deserved." 

"Mmmm," Lizzie muttered, not taking her eyes off the pirate's head. "I reckon he did."

A verra pressing question about dialect

Last fall at the James River Writer's Conference, a literary agent whose name I can't remember (probably a good thing) told a room full of aspiring writers that she would NEVER consider representing a writer who wrote in dialect. If I could remember her name I would certainly be crossing it off of my list of potential agents, as I'm sure she would quickly disregard my dialect laden prose.

She's not the first person I've heard express such a sentiment. I think every writer's forum must have at least one who chimes in whenever anyone mentions dialect and informs everyone that it (much like Prologues) is to be avoided at all costs. If you've read any of my fiction, I'm sure you realize that I don't subscribe to this philosophy.

I love dialect both as a reader and as writer. I firmly believe that a character should sound right off the page as they would sound in reality. So if a character is Scottish, or from the South or of a particular ethnic group or economic stratum, then he or she should sound like it. There is so much efficient characterization and rich atmosphere to be had using dialect. 

The next time you meet someone new think about all the judgments that you make when you hear them talk. You can usually tell where a person is from, and what their education level is by the way they talk, sometimes after just a few sentences. 

If you write historical fiction or fantasy, dialect can go a long way in creating the atmosphere of the world in which you write. People in the eighteenth century didn't talk the same way that they do in the 20th century. Likewise people in the 1950's didn't talk the way that people did in the 1970's. Dialect can create that sense of time and place. 

Would we be as enchanted by William Faulkner or Zora Neale Hurston if their characters all spoke perfect classroom English? Would Huckleberry Finn be nearly as engaging if it didn't sound like it was being told by an adolescent boy from the banks of the Mississippi? 

And would Jamie Fraser be anything close to the heartthrob that he is if, "Dinna fash, Sassenach."  was instead, "Do not worry, English lady."? I think not. 

Even the great (no sarcasm here) William Strunk and E. B. White cautioned against dialect.  It's actually #15 on their "List of Reminders" in The Elements of Style.  

"Do not use dialect unless your ear is good."

I've added the emphasis on the last part. I actually think that is the most important thing. Bad dialect can be jarring and take the reader right out of the story. Good dialect sounds like the voice of the character. Bad dialect sounds like a writer trying too hard to be clever and failing. 

I once read the first 70 pages or so of a best selling novel by a famous writer who I will not name. This writer however seemed to believe that all she needed to do to write Scots dialect was throw in three or four extra R's whenever her Scottish character was talking. Thank heavens there was only one Scottish character or the book would have been considerably longer than it was. I say I only read the first 70 pages that was how long I managed to put up with it. Had her Scot been one of the main characters I don't think I would have lasted that long. 

The key in working with dialect is making sure "your ear is good". Read it out loud. Does the way it sounds in your head match how it looks on the page? Have other people read it. Can they understand it? Did any of it make the reading difficult? All of the authors I named previously have good ears. Their dialect fits for the characters and times and places in which they are writing.  

And they know when to use it and when not to use it. Again, Strunk and White.

"The best dialect writers, by and large, are economical of their talents; they use the minimum, not the maximum, of deviation from the norm, thus sparing their readers as well as convincing them."

Think of it as seasoning. When you're cooking Italian, you use oregano and basil. When you're cooking Indian you use curry powder or cardamom. Hungarian? Paprika. No matter what seasoning you use, too much of it makes the dish unpalatable. 

A few years ago, I got it into my head that I wanted to learn a bit of Scots. So, I picked up Lewis Grassic Gibbon's A Scots Quair.  Now it can debated whether Scots is a dialect of English or a language all its own. However, what cannot be debated is that Gibbon set out to write that series entirely in Scots. I made it through, but it was a laborious read. Slowing my pace to mentally translate every sentence meant that I wasn't as emotionally engaged as I would like to have been.  So, the book did it's job as an academic and cultural exercise, but wouldn't be likely to appeal to a wider audience. 

Too much seasoning for the average non-Scots reader. 

To sum up, don't be afraid of dialect. It's remarkably efficient at creating atmosphere or building character. However, make sure it sounds to the reader the same way it sounds in your head. And use it sparingly. 

dialect.png

S-Twist Update

Just wanted to mention, since it's not on the front page, but it's a project that I'm really enjoying. I posted a new episode of my serial love story S-Twist. Please check it out.

This is the story of two lives that have become frayed by loss, and how they bond over music and wool. A Scottish sheep farmer and an American tourist's lives twist together to become stronger than they were before.

If you haven't read S-Twist from the beginning, you can catch up here.

 

WWCFD?

We were broke, ramen noodles, mac 'n cheese buh-roke. Okay, we were keeping up with the bills for the time being, but my job wasn’t paying yet. Eric was still looking for a job, and our measly savings was dwindling.

It was March of 2001 and the dot com bubble had burst dropping both my husband and I on the unemployment line. We thought for about a month that he had lined something up that would let me stay at home so I could write, but that contract had fallen through. So, I found myself going back to the company that I had worked for 2 years before doing roughly the same job, and sitting through a training class that previously I might have been teaching. Our trainer, who I had worked with for years announced a quiz, with the added incentive of a $10 gift certificate to the local mall for the person with the highest score. I admit that I had no qualms about using all my prior knowledge to win that gift certificate.

That’s how I ended up in the book store with my $10.  It had been a while since I’d had the money to spend on a book, and I’d run through just about every one we had in the house. I wandered the aisles biting my lip feeling a bit like a kid trying to get the most for my dollar in the penny candy aisle. Maybe it’s my Scottish roots, or my Granny’s example of thrift, but I wanted to make the most of my sudden if tiny entertainment budget, which is how Outlander caught my eye.

It was the thickest book on the shelf promising the most pages per dollar and therefore the most entertainment for my ten bucks. Even better it was only $6.95. Throw in the plaid on the cover and I was sold. I also noticed that Dragonfly in Amber was around the same length and price. It would put me over my $10 budget, but I figured I could go without protein in my mac ‘n cheese for a couple of nights. After a few minutes shifting numbers in my head to see if I could afford the few extra dollars on a book, I bought them both.

I was in need of escape and boy did I get it (for nearly 2000 pages), but I also got so much more. I got Claire Fraser, a woman of such strength and tenacity that you just can’t help but admire her. She’s smart, sassy, and brave. She is thrown into situations far harder than the one I was in on multiple occasions and handles them all like a pro. And when the worst happens, she doesn’t mope around of over-analyze how she got to a certain point. She pushes through and finds a way to focus on what’s most important. I have on many occasions since when things got tough for one reason or another found myself asking, “What would Claire Fraser do?”

Outlander_Cast_Claire_420x560.jpg

Then I started learning about Diana Gabaldon, and found even more inspiration. Like me, she wanted to write books when she was a child. She had more than one career before writing Outlander. She managed to create these incredible characters and tell their stories and be a mother. She made me think it was possible for me to be a writer. She inspired me to pull out the fifty or so pages of The River Maiden that I had already written and get back to it.

It’s been a few years since that fateful day in the book store. My copy of Outlander has since fallen to pieces and naturally been replaced. The book store closed down. I built a career as a corporate trainer, had two kids and realized that I was in fact married to my very own Jamie. Now, I’m in a similar situation. Going back to work after being a stay at home mom for a few years, and wondering how I’m going to carve out time to build a writing career while managing two kids and a day job. But I still find myself saying, “What would Claire do?”. And when the writing gets tough or I feel like I’ll never reach my goal, I pull out my copy of The Fiery Cross and look at the inscription that Diana wrote there at a book signing years ago. It says “Keep writing!”, and I do. 

fierycross.jpg

What can I say to someone on a day when the entire world is gushing about her and wishing her a happy birthday?

All I can say is, thank you and thank you and thank you. You’ve given us all so much, taught us so much and proven that strong women attract the best men. I know I’m just one of millions, but if you’re at all like me every time a reader tells me my stories mean something is precious. Your stories mean so much. I wish you all the best in the coming year, and can’t wait to read what you have for us next. 

2 sides of the same coin (Outlander Spoiler Alert!)

WARNING! If you have not read Diana Gabaldon's Outlander Series THROUGH Dragonfly In Amber, you should stop reading NOW. There be spoilers ahead.

When two book nerd live together for seventeen years and occasionally manage to read the same books, it tends to lead to some interesting conversations. Thus Eric and I found ourselves this morning arguing over the nature of one Dougal MacKenzie. Eric seems to think that Dougal is little more than Colum's muscle and the unwitting pawn of the Geillis Duncan's Jacobite plotting. I would contend otherwise.

My fellow Heughligans and twitter followers probably already know of my love for Dougal, but I dont' think I've ever laid it out in more than 140 characters. I get mixed reactions on my Dougal appreciation. They range from, "I love Dougal, Jamie does nothing for me." to "What about Jamie? He's so dreamy." 

Don't mistake me, I love Jamie too. I love all the characters, because they're real, even (gasp) Laoghaire. Come on, we've ALL known girls like Laoghaire. I don't see this as a one or the other proposition. I think that's because I really see Dougal and Jamie as two sides of the same coin. 

For visual learners out there, I created this side by side comparison to show you what I mean. 

JamieDougal.jpg

There is a tendency to think of these two as adversaries, but I just don't see them that way. They exhibit a lot the same traits. We just talk about them differently. Where people think of Dougal as devious and sly, we see the same behavior in Jamie and call it canny and resourceful.

For example, all of Jamie's spying in DIA is an attempt to prevent or at least prepare for a war and protect his people, that canny lad. On the other hand, when Dougal proposes to Claire in the cave in Outlander, she's appalled because he's willing to give up on Jamie and attempt to secure Lallybroch for the MacKenzies. Sure it seems wrong because Dougal's wife is barely in her grave and Jamie isn't dead yet not to mention Geillis is carrying his child, but he's trying to secure the border of his clan's lands and protect his people. Isn't that the same thing as Jamie's spying?

We hear several times throughout Outlander that the clan wants Colum as their leader because Dougal is too "hot-headed". However, I don't see a lot of hot-headed behavior from Dougal. In fact, with a couple of exceptions Dougal seems pretty calculating to me. Those exceptions of course are his affair with Geillis, which occurs out of our view and the kiss he steals from Claire in the hallway which could possibly be blamed on the drink. 

Jamie on the other hand does plenty of hot-headed things from his explosion in the pub when Dougal exposes his scars to his ill-advised argument with Jenny on returning to Lallybroch to his dogged pursuit of a duel with Jack Randall in Paris over the objections of Claire and just about everybody else. I'm not mentioning other things that occur later in the series, because I want to limit the spoilers to the first two books but I could definitely go on. 

There's a very good reason why despite Dougal's reputation for hot-headedness, the impulsive behavior that we see comes from Jamie and not Dougal. It's because Jamie is a younger version of Dougal. Diana Gabaldon can correct me if I'm wrong, but it's no accident that they both "cackhanded" or that they are both known as great fighters. Dougal is what Jamie might become without the future knowledge and softening influence of Claire. Yes I know that Dougal's illicit squeeze has future knowledge of her own, but let's face it she's a bit mad and definitely a manipulator in her own right. 

However, Jamie proves to us over and over again that apple doesn't fall far from Machiavellian MacKenzie tree. Dougal even fostered Jamie in his teens. He is after all the closest thing Jamie has now to a father, which is why on that fateful moment in DIA where Jamie kills Dougal it's all the more horrifying. It's like Luke Skywalker walking into that cave in The Empire Strikes Back and "killing" Darth Vader only to find his own face behind the mask. The message to Luke being that he could fall to The Dark Side too.

Likewise, Jamie has to chose not to be that sly, devious guy even though the MacKenzies, Frasers and all of his society expect him to. In Outlander, Jamie takes Claire back to Craigh na Dun, and she is forced to make the choice between her twentieth century life and love or Jamie. That moment when Dougal discovers them discussing poisoning Charles Stuart, Jamie is forced to make the choice between his old life and his family and Claire. Of course, Claire didn't have to kill anyone to make her choice, but such is life in the eighteenth century. DG even reminds us of the close kinship between Dougal and Jamie in that very scene. "Dougal's head lay on Jamie's shoulder, Jamie's arms locked around his foster father."

I don't mean to reduce Dougal MacKenzie to the role of a mere foil for Jamie. Dougal is has his own journey through these books and his machinations are essential to the plot. Without Dougal, Claire wouldn't have been treated as nicely as she was when she was found by the MacKenzie men half-dressed by eighteenth century standards. Without Dougal there would have been no wedding, and Claire wouldn't have learned that Jamie was in Wentworth in time to save him. And without Dougal, there be no Roger Wakefield (MacKenzie) or wee Hamish. He even gets the thing he wants most by the time we get to that fateful scene, but he also pays the price for it and we're left wondering if all Dougal's maneuvering was really worth it.

So, yeah. I've got mad love for Dougal and Jamie too. And I'm really excited to see them both on screen. From what I've watched of them, Graham McTavish and Sam Heughan can do wonderful things with subtext, and these two characters have LOADS of subtext. I can't wait. 

Updates & an Experiment

I did not do a Q3 update on my year of living outside my comfort zone, partly because I spent most of Q3 living inside a corporate training room doing client work.

Q4

On the other hand the 4th quarter has been super busy already and way outside my comfort zone. My friends and followers will know that I went to the James River Writer's Conference last month in Richmond, VA. Talking to that many people about my writing and even pitching to a literary agent was a bit daunting, but also exhilarating. I met some terrific people and talented writers. All-in-all a great experience and I would definitely go back, though I hope next year it doesn't conflict with the Celtic Fest. I really missed not seeing some of my pals there.

NaNoWriMo or no?

I did sign up for Nanowrimo in the hopes that it would help me jump start working on the sequel to The River Maiden. I was hoping that the built in "measurable daily goal" would get me moving the way that deadlines real or artificial frequently do. I promptly wrote the first chapter, which showed me that I had more plotting work to do. So instead of getting word on the page, I've been arranging index cards and tweaking character profiles.

That's all great and needs to be done. But I'm afraid that now I have plotting paralysis which is very similar to Analysis Paralysis in corporate speak. I keep sitting down to try to put more words together, but my brain is still working on the high level, so I'm frequently not satisfied with the quality of the result. I have a plan to fix this. I'll get to that in a sec.

The rest of this quarter involves 2 big leaps 

1) I have sent The River Maiden to my editor. I am crazy excited about this. I checked around and got several editing samples and found someone who I think is a good fit for me and my style. It's nerve wracking, but also thrilling. I can't wait to see his feedback,

2) I'm trying something new. I am a plotter. Even my short works start with an outline. I also don't show work to anyone until it's been edited and revised quite a bit. So I'm going to push myself a little by making myself write and publish something with only a vague outline and minimal editing. This feels very dangerous and daring for a super plotter like me. It's sort of like setting out down a country road with no map or GPS.

Also, there is this character that keeps popping into my head. He's not from The River Maiden nor anywhere else in that story-line. He's all new and interesting and he won't go away. Furthermore, I don't seem to have any trouble putting his words together. So I'm hoping this will be a way to flex those word muscles, like a weekly workout. This should help me drill down on that manuscript for the next book too. I'll be posting the episodes here on my site. So please check back each week to find out what happens next. You can read the first installment here

I just couldn't do it

As a busy mom working mom-ing and writing, I tend to gravitate toward the most time efficient way of doing just about everything. If I can run errands, or go grocery shopping, or pick up dry cleaning without two kids in tow, then I will. So, since they are now in daycare in the afternoons, I tend to do those things on my way home from work. It's just faster that way. I thought yesterday when I was making my game plan for today that I would vote before picking them up from daycare.  It would be faster. I wouldn't have to worry about referee-ing, herding and voting all at once. It would just be easier. Then I realized it would be the first time in nine years that I would have voted without one of them with me. It gave me a kind of hollow gut-twisty feeling.

voting2

If you want change, you have to vote. And I want to make sure my children, even if their views may be different from mine, know how important it is. So, I just couldn't vote without them. I love voting with my kids.

voting1

I love explaining the issues to them. I love going through the process with them, and I love how excited they are when they get their "I voted." sticker. When I was a kid I voted with mom, and it has stayed with me. I'm sure my parents wonder some days where they went wrong as our political views lie on opposite ends of the spectrum. Still, I learned at a young age about the importance of participating. We live in an amazing country with a system however flawed is still a system that relies on our participation. If you don't like a policy, it's not going to change if you just throw you hands up and go home.

I picked them up and fetched my husband. We continued a tradition that we started while I was at home with the kids. We voted, each of us taking one of the kids. Then we went to dinner together to celebrate.

 

 

In which I lose my writer's conference virginity

Get your mind out of the gutter, that not what I meant. Got your attention, didn't I?webbadge4 It's been a while since my last post and that's because I've been head-down-hands-on-keys revising The River Maiden. I was right, giving myself an external deadline was a very effective prod to getting the thing done. The good news is that I finished and the alpha reader says it's a much better book and the new ending makes him hungry for more. That external deadline was provided for me by the James River Writer's Conference which I was lucky enough to go to this past weekend.

Having never been to a proper writer's conference, I wasn't sure what to expect. But I can definitely say that I was not disappointed.  I won't give you a whole summary of the conference. Rebekah Pierce already did a fine job of that on her blog. I will however try to give a summary of my experience as a conference noob.

I've been to tons of trade shows and conferences in other industries and I have to say this one was very well organized. They even designated Mary Chris Escobar to welcome first timers, which was very helpful.

I attended two of the Pre-conference Master Classes.

Growing Your Online Presence with Erica Orloff and Jon VanZile - If you're new to social media and the idea of online branding, this was a great class. For me, it pointed out some interesting things that I'll be trying going forward and confirmed that a lot of what I've been doing is on the right track.

The Secret: Award-Winning Author Brad Parks Finally Shares It with You with Brad Parks - This was a very engaging class. Parks is living the dream and does a good just of telling others how we can too with lots of humor and straight talk. I left feeling very energized.

The conference kicked off with some terrific speeches on Saturday morning. Brad Parks once again brought his brand of wit to a hilarious "opening prayer" and Carey Albertine of In This Together Media talked about the history and future of publishing. Finally Chip Kidd discussed the importance of cover design and the power of a well-designed book cover. If you haven't seen his TED Talk, I highly recommend it.

The panel discussions I attended were very well put together and fascinating. Since I have a finished manuscript, I stuck mostly to the Getting Published Track, and learned a lot about getting funding, marketing and publicity, and self-publishing. One of the most useful talks for me was given by April Eberhardt who went over the whole spectrum of publishing options and shared her perspective on the merits and ills of each.

I also attended a lunch discussion, "Why I Self-Published & Lessons Learned" led by Mary Chris Escobar. There was a good group for this discussion and we probably could have kept on talking about our experience much longer if the schedule had allowed.

Another useful event was the First Pages Critique in which a panel of agents gave feedback on first pages that some writer's had sent in. I did not send in mine because I was still revising when the deadline hit, but I found their feedback very interesting and left feeling pretty good about my first page.

Overall, it was a fantastic experience and I learned quite a lot about the industry. It also help crystallize what my plans are for The River Maiden. I will likely be going back next year. I just hope it doesn't conflict with my much loved Celtic Festival next time. I missed my kilted caber tossers this year:( Still it was worth going without pipes, haggis (I don't actually eat haggis)and whisky tastings to meet all of the wonderful writers and publishers that I met last weekend. Here are some links for just a few of those folks. They're a great bunch and deserve support. claudiaharbaugh

marychris Neverending Beginnings

Mary Chris Escobar

I just started reading this one.

Her Grace in Disgrace

Claudia Harbaugh

Next on my list

stevensmithSummer of the Woods Steven K. Smith

 My 9 year old will be reading this soon.

Nothing like a Deadline

There is nothiwebbadge4ng like a deadline to get my butt in gear. I've been attempting all summer to balance the consulting gig with revising The River Maiden. Meanwhile my husband/alpha reader has been harassing me about how I need to be sending queries out already and who cares if I think it's ready. Well, I care.  Still, I'll probably always find words that need to be rearranged and things that I could have written better. So, I see his point...somewhat.

In any case I'm trying to finish my revisions and adding to the end to answer some of the questions my beta readers wanted answered. Unfortunately, the list of things jumping in the way over the last few weeks have included no less than, consulting gig, back to school, home renovation and some stuff that was just plain invented to get in the way. (When I finish reading it, I'll review Stephen Pressfield's The War of Art and all of the things he has to say about resistance).

In the spirit of stepping out of my comfort zone, I decided to step out and take myself to a writer's conference. So, I'll be attending the James River Writer's Conference in Richmond next month. Hopefully I'll be connecting with some other writers in the area and maybe even some agents. There is even an opportunity to pitch books on Sunday. I may even step up there and try. In any case, should be a good way to make some connections.

I'm also hoping that the date of next month will put a little pressure on me to step up my revision efforts. Hopefully I can finish this draft before the conference. At the very least it gives me a date to work toward rather than a vague hope that I can finish quickly. They've very nicely added a countdown clock to their page that displays the days/hours/minutes/seconds until the conference. Let's hope that its a good fire starter.

Daydream Believer

I'm just not creative... This is something that I hear all too frequently. It's usually accompanied by a slow puzzled head shake and a glazed look at whatever creative thing I'm doing. It's like they're staring at that thing and wondering why they can't think of things like that. In my consulting work a similar reaction comes when the client hears a course design and asks, "How do you come up with this stuff?"

The simple answer is daydreaming.

I am and always have been an unapologetic daydreamer. For evidence of this see my writer's confession. At my client's office it may seem like I'm just playing or socializing or surfing the internet, but there is always a purpose to what I'm doing. I'm letting my mind go and eventually it will go to the solution that I'm looking for.

Unfortunately, we are conditioned not to daydream. In school we're told that it's bad, unless we're lucky enough to have a teacher who recognizes it for what it is. In adulthood we have responsibilities like jobs and kids that require our focus. On top of that we now have media content (social or otherwise) at our fingertips with which to occupy ourselves. Our natural inclination to daydream gets shut down or pre-empted by life and noise. But we should never underestimate the power of daydreaming.

Now that my training work has increased, I have less time to devote to daydreaming than I did when I was at home with the kids. So I have been seeking ways to promote daydreaming at the appropriate times. Triggers to shut the world off and set my mind flying.

Music is a method that has worked wonders for me when it comes to fiction. I associate certain songs or styles of music with certain characters or situations and use them to put myself in the right mindset. For general purpose daydreaming I try to find classical music to fit the mood of what I'm writing, such as Beethoven for soaring emotions, Grieg for action or Chopin for working through plot questions. These are good for certain characters and mood, but sometimes even with headphones and repetition these triggers have a hard time shutting off the internal noise of to do lists, chores and general worries.

I have also found that "meditative doodling" or Zentangling as some folks call it is a great way to quiet the noise and spark daydreaming. Zentangling is a method of pen and ink drawing that is focused on weaving together shapes and repeated patterns within a defined drawing space usually just a few inches square. It starts with a simple "string" that gives the shapes the patterns will follow. Choosing which pattern fills each shape and how they fit together forces you to make quick creative choices. It's like a jumpstart for the creative process. While the repetition of the patterns leaves room for your thoughts to wander. It's a very relaxing experience and can get your creative juices flowing, like yoga for your brain.

In addition to sparking those creative juices, you end with a pretty drawing. So, you still have that sense of accomplishment even if what you were thinking about while you were drawing is an ongoing project. I have been using this method over the past few weeks to try to wrap my brain around some of the revisions in The River Maiden with great success. zentangle

Here are a couple drawings that I've done while thinking about what will happen next to Dermot and Sarah.

zentangle2

If you would like to learn more about Zentangling you can check out Zentangle.com for more info.

You can also see some more examples from people better at it than I am on my Pinterest board.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you're interested in reading more about daydreaming and how it can be a powerful thing, check out this article from Psychology Today.

"A Man of Worth"

If you know me at all, you probably know that I am a huge fan of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series. I won't spend this post gushing about how great these books are. (But you should really read them if you haven't yet.) There has been big news of late about this series though. Starz and former Battlestar Galactica producer Ron Moore are working on a TV series based on these books. I'm super excited about that prospect. I can't wait to see these delicious characters on my TV screen. However like any good fan girl, I have my concerns. This is mostly because I've not been too impressed with the Starz shows that I have watched. (Camelot comes to mind.) But with the addition of John Dahl who has directed episodes of shows I love like Justified and Breaking Bad to direct the first couple of episodes, I have hope. I'm also fascinated by watching the process unfold. It's interesting to see how a book series with such a loyal fan base makes that journey from on the page and in our heads to the screen and the role that Gabaldon is playing in that journey.

When the character of the series hero Jamie Fraser was given to an actor who is relatively unknown in theheughan US, Sam Heughan, the reactions ranged from joy that we had a face to put on the character to outright revolt that he wasn't Chris Hemsworth or Gerard Butler or some other hot and/or Scottish actor that certain fans had been picturing in their heads.

Initially, I was satisfied that Gabaldon saw his screen tests and said, "He is Jamie." If the woman who created the character is satisfied, then so am I. He is after all her creation. She ought to know. Then as I watched some of this unfold, I'm getting more and more excited about this choice.

There is a lot of pressure that goes along with getting a part like this. There is the rabid fan-base, that is only going to get larger when the show hits people's screens. And there is the 20 years that people have had to fall in love with this character and build him up in there own minds. And then there is the character himself.

Jamie Fraser is a complicated guy. He's politically savvy and charismatic but also fiercely protective of his family by blood or by choice. He's industrious (spoiler alert) from helping to manage the family farm, printing business and smuggling business in Scotland to leading a colonial outpost in Western NC, to being a colonel in the Revolutionary army. Jamie is a natural leader, a man who helps build and hold together communities just about wherever he goes.  As he says in the books he longs to be a "man of worth". He doesn't mean monetary worth, he means a man of value to his community and extended family. That leads Jamie to get into some interesting situations, but he is steadfast in maintaining that attitude.

Now, I'm not saying that Sam Heughan is Jamie Fraser in real life, but I will say that he seems to be approaching his impending stardom with a similar attitude. An actor in his position could easily celebrate getting the role and then put his head down and do the work without getting involved in public conversations with fans. I for one wouldn't complain about that. I want this show to be successful and I want him to be successful in the role and whichever path he needs to take to be successful he should do that.

However, Heughan has gone above and beyond in embracing the existing Outlander fan base. He engages with them and with Gabaldon almost daily on twitter. He updates people on his preparations and the aspects of the show that he is able to talk about (without giving spoilers of course).  He shares pics on Instagram probably knowing full well that he's providing fantasy fodder for any number of ladies and probably some gents too.

That alone would be great stuff for fans hungry for news about the series, but like his character Heughan seems to be taking it a step further. Prior to this role he raised money for Leukeamia & Lymphoma Research, but doing things like running the NYC Marathon. Now some of the aforementioned Outlander fans calling themselves Heughan's Heughligans, have been inspired by Heughan to raise awareness and money for his chosen charity, and he has embraced their efforts.

In a world that seems to eat stories of misbehaving celebrities like candy. It's nice to see a rising star who is making an effort in the other direction. While it's too early make judgements about Heughan's performance, I think impulse he seems to share with Jamie Fraser to be a "man of worth" shows more about his ability to get inside this character than good looks, red hair or a Scottish accent.

If you would like to help the Heughligans raise money you can go to the Just Giving site.

or

If you're a Sam Heughan/Outlander fan, you can also order some Heughan's Heughligans gear on their Zazzle store.

 

Q2 Review - Giving it all away

I have been sorely lacking in blog posts lately. This is mainly because my training/instructional design client has been taking up a lot of my time. It's also summer and my kids are well underfoot. Still, I wanted to give a little review of the 2nd quarter of my year of living outside my comfort zone. Unlike the last quarter I don't have quite so many things to report. However, this quarter did see me: Return to the corporate training room for the first time in 4+ years Since I haven't lead anyone other than my two children for he past few years, returning to the classroom was more nerve-wracking than I thought. Fortunately, my first batch of trainees was gentle with me and were mostly successful leaving the training room. Client was pleased. I'm feeling pretty good about it. So good in fact that I'm hoping to make this gig a more permanent thing.

Participating & posting online I am a chronic lurker online. I'll find a forum related to something that I'm interested in and watch it for activity without really adding anything. These days I am trying to be more active in forums like the Writing subreddit, and others. More on that stuff in Q3

Made my short stories FREE What started as a Stoddard-palooza promo has turned into something longer. It was a tough decision, because I worked hard on those stories. Still, the royalties I was getting were minimal and I decided exposure was the real priority.

I made them free on Smashwords first and the response was "meh".  That's mostly because Smashwords is a bit of a niche market. However, once Amazon started matching that free price the downloads there took off. Now both A Fond Kiss and The White House have reached the top 100 Free Kindle books in Literary Fiction and Historical Fiction. Now, I went from measuring downloads in single digits to triple digits and I could not be more chuffed. I'm hoping that all these downloads will result in more reviews and more exposure.

I did however, have an acquaintance who downloaded them for free, hand me cash the other day. She said the stories were worth paying for, and she wants more. Makes me a little misty.

Overall, the increased interaction with folks has generated some interesting trains of thought. I've been pondering the concept of Creativity lately and how people can unlock theirs. I expect to have more blog posts to come on that front. I'm currently working my way through Steven Pressfield's The War of Art. and hope to have a review/musings on that for the blog soon.

Q3 Looks like it may include:

  • My entry into fangirl-dom (Can anyone say Outlander!) Because you're apparently never too old for that kind of thing.
  • Spearheading an online Gaelic learning group (if the logistics can be worked out)
  • Home renovations! Finally getting a space for all my work; writing, spinning, knitting, felting, and consulting from home.
  • Putting my kids in a proper daycare. You have no idea what a nail-biter that is.

Of course, I am always working on finishing the revisions to The River Maiden. That includes completely rewriting the end and the death of my much loved Prologue (Read it while you can. I might not leave it online much longer). Looking forward to it all:)

News Roundup

Today I was bombarded with news stories related some of my own stories.  Thank goodness for facebook, reddit and news alerts. I've been working hard in instructional design mode that I might have missed them. But they're pretty exciting. First, archaeologists with the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources will be attempting to recover 8 cannons from the wreckage of Blackbeard's ship, the Queen Anne's Revenge. The ship ran agrounBlackbeard Ship Cannonsd near Beaufort Inlet in June of 1718. If you've read my story The White House (currently FREE on Smashwords) you know that it speculates on the events leading up to the demise of the Queen Anne's Revenge and is loosely based on some other legends surrounding Blackbeard and his relationship to the town of Beaufort, NC.  If you haven't read it then you really should. Did I mention it's FREE right now?

Then I saw a series of stories that relate to The River Maiden. (Yes, I am still working on it, I promise.) Actually, they relate more to the books following The River Maiden than they do to the first installment of Dermot and Sarah's story. So, I'll list these articles without comment to avoid possible spoilers. My husband will say I giving away too much, but he knows how my brain works better than you do. I'm hoping for you these are thought provoking teasers rather than spoilers.

1) A very interesting commentary on the role of Gaelic in the Scottish Independence movement.

2) A mysterious network of Stone Age tunnels stretching from Scotland to Turkey (or vice versa).

3) A European style Bronze Age monument found submerged in the Sea of Galilee.

Yes, I am just nerdy enough to be thrilled by these articles. I get super excited about languages, politics and history of any era, and if I can get them all in one day it's a very good day.

 

 

Pro-cras-tin-ate!

It's been about a month since my beta readers and critique group have given me their feedback on the latest draft of The River Maiden. The general consensus is that the characters and writing are good, and the story is mostly good but there are too many questions left unanswered for a first book in a series. I had come to this conclusion on my own before many of the readers even got back to me, but it was nice to have that confirmed. So there appears to be a good deal of rearranging, revising and rewriting to go into the next draft before it's ready to be shown to potential agents/publishers.  Since I have already outlined the next book in the series, I have some timeline gymnastics to work on.  There is the question of what to reveal in the first book, without completely ruining the plot of the second.  Also, the question of how far the romance in the first book can/should progress and how that might change some of the tension in the next book. There are storylines to be dropped and others to be built up. Needless to say with almost 250 pages of content, this is a daunting prospect, and one that I've been chewing on in the back of my mind like a particularly tough piece of literary beef jerky.

Fear not! I have not been idle while gnawing away on my various writing dilemmas. In fact, I have been even more active than usual though just not in the area of writing. (I know terrible to get out of the habit of working every day, but there it is.) So here are some of the things that I've been up to instead of revising The River Maiden.

- Taken on an Instructional Design consulting client.

- Added a Clearance section to my etsy store and marked down a bunch of items to go in it.

- Organized/customized our closet in the master bedroom complete with drawers and shelves.

- Planted my vegetable garden, succulent garden, herb garden, shade garden, water garden (with fish) and fairy garden

- Completely revamped our deck from it's previous jumbled state into a gorgeous oasis including container gardens, a new gazebo, social area and even a workspace for writing/editing outside while the kids play.

- And last but certainly not least, binge watched 4 seasons of Dr. Who.

I know, I know. I should have been working on The River Maiden. The good news is that I am getting back to the grind. Even though, I'm working for my client during the hours of the day that I would have previously devoted to writing, I have a plan. This morning I got up at 5AM and came downstairs to work on some reading and editing. I know this has worked for other writers with day jobs and I have high hopes. My characters and my story are usually the last thing I think about as I'm going to sleep at night, so maybe getting up and getting to work before any of my other responsibilities intrude will be a good model for getting things done. It went pretty well this morning. We'll see how well it works when I get to writing some of the new material.

Oh! I should also mention that in honor of Stoddard-palooza (Our month long family festival from our anniversary to our birthday's) I will be giving away my historical fiction shorts this month, though not at the same time. Right now The White House is free on Smashwords. I'll keep it that way for a couple of weeks. Then it will go back to its regular price and A Fond Kiss will be free. I hope that Amazon and Barnes and Noble will be adjusting their pricing accordingly, but I don't really control that the way I can on Smashwords. So, if you haven't read them or have read one and not the other, check them out this month to get a free taste.

More than the resting place of Tamerlan Tsarnaev

It's not everyday that our little county makes the news, but it happens occasionally. Today, however Caroline County was in the news in a big way, and not for anything that anyone who lives here did. You might have heard by now that Tamerlan Tsarnaev has been buried in Doswell, VA which is in the southern part of Caroline, about 10 miles from my house.  Personally, I don't think it matters where he's buried and I don't really think it should matter to anyone but his family. The most important thing about Tsarnaev's death isn't where he's buried. It's that there is one less terrorist plotting to hurt innocent people. And by terrorist I mean a person who hurts or kills innocent people, causing mass terror to make a political/religious point. I do not mean Muslim, Chechen Separatist, Arab or any other specific ideology, nationality or religion. Fundamentalism of any stripe is dangerous and leads to that kind of behavior. I would like to think that through reason, kindness and tolerance potential terrorists could be reformed, but that's maybe not so realistic.

There are actually two things that do bother me about Tsarnaev's burial in my neck of the woods.

First - We're a very small and frequently cash strapped rural county. My husband likes to say we live in the Middle of Nowhere. I prefer to view it as the Edge of Somewhere. We're just 25 miles north of the state capital and only 75 miles south of the nations capital, but we're also 10 miles from the nearest grocery store. Here's the Wikipedia page on us if you're looking for more info.  Unfortunately, as idyllic as this rural setting can be it has it's issues, and funds are one of them. Our schools are barely adequate, no matter how hard the teachers and administrators try. Our county water system consists of a series of wells, some of which are prone to run dry in hot summer months. Our police and fire departments do their best to cover 539 square miles.

Now, they have to focus additional attention on protecting one small cemetery near the county line from vandals and hate crimes, whether they like it or not that is their job.  But our county doesn't have the money for that. So, I would like to ask Martha Mullen who arranged the burial how she thinks we should pay for her doing her "Christian duty".  Should the county put off digging a new well, or layoff one of my children's teachers to pay for the additional law enforcement around a cemetery that otherwise wouldn't need it?  Those are the kind of decisions that our county Board of Supervisors face every year, and unexpected expenses like this cause real repercussions for those of us living here.

Second - Caroline is actually a really nice place with some great people in it. On of my favorite things to do around here is ride through the back roads of the county and it really is beautiful. My Instagram followers will be vary familiar with some of the sights here. It's full of rolling hills and tree farms and gorgeous historic homes and a rich history.

[gallery ids="428,645,429,646,424,647,648,649,652"]

But like everywhere, we also have some bad apples. When the news broke today, some residents were actually calling 911 to voice their displeasure over the burial as if they could send police out with sirens blaring to stop something that happened yesterday. I've seen some of the comments on facebook and in our local paper loaded with intolerance. What the Tsarnaev brothers did was horrific, and inexcusable and people are angry about it with good reason. Unfortunately, I have no doubt that at some point someone from here or from outside the county is going to vandalize that grave or the whole cemetery. They are going to show the intolerance and bigotry that simmers under the surface of American society in ways that will not affect Tsarnaev or his family but will hurt the families of the innocent people buried there.  I would like to think that we're better than that, but just like reforming fanatics that too is probably unrealistic.

That should not be the face that Caroline shows to the world. There is a lot more to our home than one cemetery.  For me, this is the place where my ancestors first owned land in America after coming here as indentured servants. It's also the place where William Clark of Lewis and Clark fame was born. This is where John Wilkes Booth was killed after assassinating Abraham Lincoln. Until recently this was the home of Boy Scout Jamboree. This is where Secretariat was born.

Most significantly on the subject of tolerance, Caroline was the home of Richard and Mildred Loving.  The Lovings grew up in Caroline, but were forced to leave when their interracial marriage was discovered by local authorities. At the time miscegenation was illegal in Virginia and many other states. The Lovings challenged that law, and in 1967 the Supreme Court found anti-miscegenation laws were unconstitutional. If it weren't for the Lovings and their desire to live here in Caroline, those laws might have taken a lot longer to be struck down. There are a lot of couples in America who owe the legality of their marriage to the Lovings. Here's the trailer for an HBO film about them.

I sincerely hope that my neighbors of all creeds will put their best feet forward while the world is watching our little corner of Central Virginia. I would like for Mildred Loving's beautiful and determined face to be the face that represents Caroline County to the world, not the face of Tamerlan Tsarnaev and not the face of intolerance.

First quarter of 2013 - Overcoming Inertia

Now that the bombers have been caught and America (especially those of us who live and/or work near target cities like D.C.) can let out that breath we were collectively holding through most of last week, I can get to that blog post that I had been planning before last week's tragedy. I didn't so much make a New Year's resolution for 2013 as a sort of pledge to myself at the beginning of the year to step out of my comfort zone. If left to my own devices, I would be a hermit and by hermit, I mean never picking up the phone, only communicating through email and only going to the store to buy food and craft supplies. I am by nature and introvert with a capital I. This is one of the reasons that being a writer is a good fit for me. It's also one of the reasons why my writing and other creative efforts tend to fly under the radar.

Through an unfortunate series of events toward the end of 2012, I was rather forcibly made to look at the state of my life, career, accomplishments…and realize that I was pretty much being that hermit that my little hater (for a definition of "little hater" see this video) would like me to be. I did a little research and realized that two of the professions in America that are most prone to depression are Writer and Stay-at-Home-Mom and for much the same reason. The work is solitary, and the recognition of success is almost non-existent. Oh, and the pay sucks.

Of course as a Write-at-Home-Mom I'm like a Double Strength Depression Magnet. This is not to say that I was depressed or am now nor was I in January, but I did suffer from Post-partum depression after my daughter was born, so I know enough to recognize the turn off for that bumpy road to Misery Town.

It became strikingly apparent to me that if anyone was ever going to read the novel that I had just finished much less publish it, and if I was going to emotionally survive the process of submission and rejection that will eventually get me there, I would have to start interacting with more people and putting myself out there.

So instead of a resolution, I personally declared this the year of stepping out, putting myself out there for people to see and basically changing what normal is for me. With that in mind. I did a number of things.

  • I cut off the long hair that I'd been hiding behind for years.
  • I joined a gym, and started going to classes. For an introvert who's been overweight since puberty, I can't overstate how big a step it is to work out in front of other people. It's huge.
  • I joined a local critique group where writers come and read their work to be critiqued in person. I'm no stranger to public speaking, I actually enjoy it, but it's a first for me to be reading/speaking in front of people about anything other than tax software or instructional design.
  • I joined a very thorough online critique group that tackles one member's novel every 2 weeks. I like this because it forces me to stick to their schedule instead of pushing things off as I am prone to do. And right now, they're all reading The River Maiden. I can't wait to hear their feedback.
  • I eventually started working with a personal trainer.
  • I sent The River Maiden out to beta readers. This is very big, because it's been in my head for over 10 years. These characters are very personal to me, and I feel protective of them.

My results have been a little mixed. I haven't lost as much weight as I think I should have in 3+ months, but I am much more physically fit than I was in January (and probably have been in years), and I push myself further every week. I also feel 100 times better than I did last year. I'm actually starting to enjoy the feeling of sore muscles and dripping sweat. I learned that even when stepping out of my comfort zone, I'm not interesting in getting my hair cut every 3 weeks which is the approximate time that it takes from my short curls to grow from cute and sassy to old lady hair helmet. So, I'll be letting it grow out a bit.

In the second quarter of this landmark year, I'm planning to…

  • Start querying agents for The River Maiden. I'm happy to take recommendations from anyone who knows a good agent
  • Keep showing my work to more people
  • Keep building my online social media presence
  • Overhauling my etsy store, something I've been putting off for too long.

…among other things. I'll update you on my progress.

 

Wake Forest Oral History Film

I won't bore you yet again by telling you how amazing my grandmother is. She's absolutely the best for any number of reasons. Just one of those reasons is her incredible memories of life in the early 20th century. This is a segment of an oral history documentary from her local museum. It's very well put together. She keeps saying that she's not going to do any more interviews, because it makes her maudlin. Still, when you're 95 there aren't that many people around who can compete with your historical insight.

This film also has the memories of some other ladies from this lovely little town. You can find them at their website.

"Choose a suitable design and hold to it."

I am a plotter. I think I've mentioned this before. I'm always amazed when I hear people say they just write by the seat of their pants. I can't even conceive of the idea of writing without knowing how something is going to end. Maybe it's my non-fiction background, or my academic bent, but for anything larger than flash fiction I have to have an outline. I think it was probably said best by those wise writing gurus Strunk & White. "Writing, to be effective, must follow closely the thoughts of the writer, but not necessarily in the order in which those thoughts occur."

This is not to say that I'm never carried away by a scene or character into something that I hadn't foreseen or planned. Much of the Alex Budge parts of The River Maiden were expanded based on the strength of the character as he appeared in my head while I was writing. Still, I start a project knowing where I will end and what things need to be covered along the way.

Now, I started writing The River Maiden years ago, and when I did I had a very useful mind mapping program that helped us turn abstract ideas into outlines. Unfortunately, since I no longer work for that company, I don't have access to that program anymore. So, now that I'm in the process of plotting the next book, and was looking for a way to get all of the various themes of this book that have been swimming around in my head into some sort of outline. I found a few methods for plotting a novel, including mind mapping as I had done before. But I also found the information about how to use a snowflake diagram.

That's a lot of very specific steps (so specific that they've now made software for it) that get down to more specifics than I'm ready for right now. Instead I'm using it help me layer the various themes of the plot. I have 6 main themes and each section is for outlining that theme and how it all fits together.  I built my own tool for using the snowflake diagram using a folding foam board.

IMG_20130329_151832

This helped me brainstorm the different movements of the plot and how each of the main characters get to where they need to be at the end. Instead of going through all of those steps however useful they may be, I used the snowflake structure to organize my brainstorming. Since I've had some scenes running through my brain for a while now, this gives me a chance to get them out and organize the. Not all of these points of the snowflake have specific events lined up with them, but it does give me a look at what is needed to move Sarah and Dermot and company to where they will be at the end of this book. While brainstorming the plot, I used the side panels to note locations and characters who need to be fleshed out further. I did this with post-its on the board so that I can move things around as needed. This also enables me to use the board again for the next project (did I mention I'm cheap?).

Snowflaking as we've started to call it around here is becoming quite the thing. My six year old is even using it to plot her work-in-progress "The Day it Rained Kittens". I helped with the writing, but the plot points are hers. I can't tell you how important organization is when your story is being dictated by a six year old.

IMG_20130329_152007

9 Unlikely Things I Learned While Writing The River Maiden

One of the things I love best about writing is research. I'm a naturally curious person, so it's just the way I operate. It's one of the reasons that I fell into training in my corporate life. I just wanted to know how things workphone pics 232ed and I didn't mind explaining what I learned to other people. It struck me the other day when I caught myself reading up on the parking brake of a 1990 Honda Civic, that I've learned some unexpected things on my way to finishing this novel. There are the obvious things; Celtic lore, Appalachian culture and off the grid living. Naturally,  my Gaelic vocabulary has increased about ten fold.  there are also some unlikely things. These are things that I wouldn't have thought of until I got to that point in the novel, things that I probably wouldn't have Googled if I hadn't been writing this book.

1) The basic geography of Nova Scotia.

2) This looks like an awesome place to spend a summer vacation.

3) The little blue house on Ransom St. that I used to live in is no longer blue, no longer has a porch swing and has fallen even further into disrepair.

4) The basics of moonshining. I watched a lot of how to videos. Here's a relatively short one.

If you're interested in moonshine or moonshiners you should check out these videos about the late Popcorn Sutton who was part of the inspiration for the appearance and voice of Alex Budge.

5) How to malt barley and corn for making liquor.

6) Recipe for peach brandy.

7) The path of ocean currents from Nova Scotia to the Gulf of Maine.

8) The basics of disarming someone with a handgun. Just one of the many ways it pays to be married to a former Marine.

9) And, of course, this is the parking brake of a 1990 Honda Civic.

Favorite Literary Crushes - Darcy and beyond

By pure coincidence, today marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of Pride & Prejudice, and just a few days ago I got word that Dermot Sinclair is the object of his first reader crush by way of one of the lovely folks on authonomy.com who has read the first three acts of The River Maiden. It's incredibly gratifying to have created a character worthy of a reader crush and since I've had a crush on Dermot for ages, it's nice to know I'm not alone.  41NDXC2JR4L._SL500_AA300_Of course one of my first reader crushes is Fitzwilliam Darcy. Because really how can a girl resist a guy that by turns calls you plain and refuses to dance with you, tells you your family is and embarrassment and then goes completely out of his way to fix things when your ridiculous sister practically makes your family untouchable all the while trying VERY hard not to seem in the least bit vulnerable and failing miserably until he says something like this.

"By you, I was properly humbled. I came to you without a doubt of my reception. You shewed me how insufficient were all my pretensions to please a woman worthy of being pleased." Oh, Darcy!

Of course, Darcy isn't just the romantic hero of Pride & Prejudice, and many adaptations since. He is all of the guys that look down their noses at smart, witty girls who don't quite fit in. He's the society that tries to tell us to be one way, because that's what's expected of us when all we want is to be another. And Elizabeth Bennett manages by persistently being herself and speaking her mind to bring him around to appreciating those very things that make her different and special. And he manages by being there when she needs him to show her that sometimes what society wants for you isn't completely intolerable.

I love Jane Austen with her sharp eye and witty pen. If there is a heaven for writers, I like to imagine Jane Austen, Johnathan Swift, Mark Twain and Dorothy Parker relaxing over a few drinks and having a great laugh over some of the more overwrought and self-important writers in literary history. My husband likes to sneer at my love for Jane Austen almost as much as he sneers at my love of romance novels. But, what he doesn't realize is that Austen's novels are just as full of social commentary as the Sci-fi and post-apocalyptic speculative fiction books that he likes to read. Same scathing look at society, just wrapped up in corsets and ribbons instead of gadgets and gun straps.

There are today on HuffPost Books two articles arguing the merits of the  two most visible actors to play Darcy in the last 30 years. There is of course Colin Firth who plays Darcy so well, he's done it in the BBC mini-series and in both Bridget Jones movies. There is also an article making a credible argument in favor of Matthew MacFadyen. This article has some good points, and had me wondering if part of my own preference for Colin Firth's Darcy wasn't wrapped up in my strong preference for Jennifer Ehle's Elizabeth to Kiera Knightly's. Still, it left me wondering about other people's preferences.

This naturally led me to wonder about people's preferences for OTHER literary crushes. Such as, Edward Rochester, or Heathcliff.  Click on each one for a list of actors who have played these roles. I was going to put lists here, but they're far too long.  I'm telling my favorites.  Which ones are yours (comments please)?

Fitzwilliam DarcyColin Firth. Period. End of story.

Edward RochesterMichael Fassbender, though if you haven't see the 1943 version with Orson Welles, Joan Fontaine and a very young Elizabeth Taylor you really should.

Heathcliff: I'm not really a Wuthering Heights fan, but I know Heathcliff excites a lot of readers, and audiences. I will suggest that you watch the delicious Tom Hardy in the 2009 TV movie version and then watch him in The Dark Knight Rises. I think you'll find a lot of similarities in his portrayals of Heathcliff and Bane.

If these guys don't float your boat, who is your literary crush. My other big two haven't been lucky enough to be in film yet, though Sony Picture TV is working on an Outlander TV series. So we may see Jamie Fraser on our TV screens before too long. Alas, I don't foresee a Lymond Chronicles movie or TV series anywhere in the future, though I think Francis Crawford would give James Bond a run for his money.