Friday, February 21, 2020

Weekend Roundup

An letter from Anne Boleyn to her king.
16th century handwriting transcribed
by the folks at Hever Castle.
I post a lot of interesting historical goodies over on my writer Facebook page, but for those of you not on the festering dumpster-fire that can be Facebook, I thought I would share the more interesting links over here, on a semi-regular basis (as in whenever there are enough of them to make it worth our mutual while).

To the left, a transcription of a letter from Anne Boleyn to Henry VIII. It wouldn't pass as a love letter these days - then again, neither would a letter - but that was apparently enough to keep the king hot and bothered.

When I was a kid, I was fascinated by metal detectors. This treasure hunter found a ring which may well have belonged to one (or two) of Henry's queens.

And for readers of Songbird, you'll have noted that the sweating sickness was mentioned several times. It was a strange and often deadly disease in Tudor times. There were only five documented outbreaks, but they were memorable. History.com has a good article about it here.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Never mind. Just one more section.

The strangest thing happened the other morning. It was good strange, but I will probably never experience its like again.

I've mentioned before how much I like Twitter, and how many like-minded writer folk I've found there. Well, there's one who I've gotten friendly with - we discuss our reading and plot ideas both on Twitter and by DM - and she started reading Songbird a few weeks back.

Life got in the way and she hadn't been able to progress very far, though she assured me she was enjoying it.

And then I woke up yesterday to a tag which said she'd been up until 3 a.m. (west coast) reading. There's no better feeling than keeping someone up all night. Then I checked my messages, and she LIVE MESSAGED HER REACTIONS AS SHE READ THE BOOK. It was a long, long string, because she read for over 3 hours, but it made my day.

I told her during the day how much it meant, seeing her reaction in real time to what I put my poor characters through, and I got to experience it in even more real time as she finished the book last night - thankfully before my bedtime.

As I sat on the couch alternately watching TV and reading Twitter messages on my phone, Mario asked, "Which one of you is supposed to be entertaining the other here?"

I think it was mutual. I know that I value these messages even more than her Amazon and Goodreads reviews, because I got to actually watch my work hit home and hear her reactions to my story. That's not something every writer gets to experience. Honestly, some probably wouldn't like it, but I did.

I really did.


Monday, February 17, 2020

Fait Accompli - for now


I should have posted this sooner, but I've been taking a little down time and recovering. I finished the first draft of my second Tudor novel on January 31. That was my goal, and I did it.

 A first draft is a rough creature. In the sewing realm, where I still meet a lot of my readers, it would be a jacket with three sleeves or a skirt with a zipper at the top and the bottom. It might be the wrong
fabric for the intended purpose. Or the right fabric, but the wrong garment.

As with all completed projects, written or sewn, it's going into the magic closet for a month to rest. I'll be able to see it a lot more clearly after that. At this point, I'm not even dipping back into the document to look for the highlighted portions, which are things that need to be researched for the second draft. I'll get there. But this was a longer book than I thought it was going to be, not so much in words but in span of time, and there are still incidents during the period that need to be researched so I don't don't sound like I'm talking out of my butt.

That's both the joy and sorrow of historical fiction. You have to be accurate, and when you can't be accurate, you have to at least be plausible. You can't come up with something that will jar readers out of the story, make them cock their heads and go, "Huh?" At the moment, I fear that would be the reaction in at least several crucial places. So Robin Lewis, and the dissolution of the monasteries, and Thomas Cromwell and all sorts of other fun, are sleeping it off in the magic closet.

I'll let you know when they emerge. In the meantime, I'm thinking of new projects...

Friday, February 14, 2020

Happy Valentine's Day

So you thought because the book was published that the snippets would stop?

Alas, no.

This is from a moment partway through the book where Bess, the protagonist, is being particularly obtuse with Tom, her oldest and dearest friend, who feels a lot more than friendship toward her.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Quick, get my smelling salts!


Well, this was a lovely treat to wake up to this morning. Mary Anne Yarde, a historical fiction author and book blogger, reviewed Songbird on her blog this morning, and I haven't completely come down to earth yet.

My favorite bit:

"There are many great Historical Fiction books based on the Tudor era, but Songbird by Karen Heenan is something not only extraordinary but also unique. It is witty and inspired and so incredibly vivid. I loved every word, every sentence. It is a book that deserves to be read over and over again. Songbird is a vastly entertaining read and absolutely impossible to put down. It is tense, and it is powerful — a real treat."

I'm going to go and lie down until the swelling in my head subsides. If you want to read the entire review, it's here.


Friday, January 31, 2020

Happy birthday to me

Today is my 56th birthday. I find it increasingly hard to believe I'm as old as I am, but I also realize that 56 is not what it was when I was a kid. I don't just mean in the childlike sense of anyone over 50 seemed ancient, but even looking at photographs of my mom and my aunts, in their 50s, they were much older than I look or feel today.

I've wanted my entire life to be a writer. I've written for my entire life. It took me until I was 54 to start seriously seeking publication. At 55, I signed a publishing contract and published my first book. Now my birthday gift to you all is to say if there is something you want to do with your life, get off your butt and do it. You're not getting any younger. If you wait 5 years to start all you will be is 5 years older.

I may regret the time I spent not attempting to publish, but I still wrote. Many of those stories are on my computer now, in one form or another. Many more are in my head, asking to come out. I am bulging with stories. And now that I've started, I will not allow anyting - including me - to derail the path that I should have taken long ago.

I've said it once, and I will say it as many times as I need to. Get out of your own way.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Book Review: Empire's Legacy

A while back, I asked if you'd all be interested in the occasional book review on the site, and happily, some of you said yes.

My first review is actually for a trilogy, though I read Empire's Legacy as individual books before the author put them out in a single volume. I also swallowed them in a three-day weekend, so that tells you something about them before I even get into the story.

The books are a re-imagining of early European history - the author calls them historical fantasy. I prefer alternate history, because "fantasy" to me means that there might be elements of magic in the store. The only element of magic here is just how good a storyteller Marian Thorpe is.

The first volume is Empire's Daughter. Here's the blurb:
For twenty generations, the men and women of The Empire have lived separately, the women farming and fishing, the men fighting wars. But in the spring of Lena’s seventeenth year, an officer rides into her village with an unprecedented request. The Empire is threatened by invasion, and to defend it successfully, women will need to fight. When the village votes in favor, Lena and her partner Maya are torn apart. Maya chooses exile rather than battle, Lena chooses to fight. As Lena learns the skills of warfare and leadership, she discovers that choices have consequences that cannot be foreseen, and that her role in her country’s future is greater than she could have dreamed.

This gives you the bare bones of the story, but Lena's journey is totally engrossing, from her start as a village fisherwoman to her role as a trained soldier of the Empire. I enjoyed the well-developed, credible division of worlds - boys are taken away for military training at the age of seven, while women stay in their villages and do everything else. Men visit twice a year for arranged festivals, sometimes to rekindle established relationships, and sometimes to just keep the population going. It's a system that works for everyone, until the Empire comes under a threat too large to be handled by the men alone.

Book two, Empire's HostageThe Empire and the northern people have been at war for over a year, but a truce is finally at hand. As part of this treaty, Lena, now a Guardswoman on the Wall, is asked to stand as hostage, to go north to live and learn among the people of Linrathe. But not everyone there will welcome her.

One thing I particularly like about this author is how deftly she handles military and political intrigue. In some books it can get heavy, but here, the plot moves as quickly as an action film, even while you're delving into the necessary histories of the different nations involved in the war and the treaty. Lena continues to be a fascinating protagonist, with identifiable emotions and thoughts not ancient or modern, but wholly appropriate to her created world.

Finally, book three, Empire's ExileExiled from the Empire as a traitor, Lena travels into long-unknown lands, determined to find Casil, the legendary city of beauty and learning in the East. Her experiences in the first winter leave her scarred and afraid, but, resolving to heal, and supported by an unexpected love, she continues her search. A chance meeting with envoys from the Empire and Linrathe, desperately seeking help from Casil, forces her to a difficult decision. Struggling to keep faith with her choices, facing the almost-certain destruction of her land and her people, Lena’s journey takes her to a deeper understanding of loyalty, sacrifice, and the dimensions of love.

Best book book of the series - until the next one comes along. Lena's relationship (not going to spoiler, but it's GOOD!) and her interaction with the other characters gives you a broad picture of the world the author has developed over three books, the cost of war, the choices people make when given no choice, and the resilience of the human heart. Bonus points for making me cry.

All three books (or the trilogy) are available on Kindle Unlimited. You can find out more about the author on her website.