Sunday, May 2, 2021

485 years ago today

 Anne Boleyn took a boat ride to the Tower of London. The day before, she and King Henry had been at a tournament. He left early - because he'd gotten his "conclusive proof" that she'd been unfaithful.

It's very unlikely that she was, and certainly not with the frequency and variety of men of whom she as accused, one of them being her own brother.

In Henry's mind, Anne had been the cause of his break with his first wife, his break with Rome (because the pope wouldn't let him divorce his first wife), and a lot of upset with everyone around him. And all she had given him was a daughter.

The combination of miscarrying a son and being less fun to have around (any wonder?) was, for Henry, the last straw.

As I've said many times, the more you know about Henry Tudor, the less you like him.

Here's a snippet about this period from A Wider World.

***

     One day Anne Boleyn was Henry’s cherished queen, and the next she was imprisoned, charged with crimes that would make a man blush. There was a feeling in the air that anything could happen.

     I accompanied Cromwell on one of his frequent visits to Greenwich to meet with the king. We went by river, and I looked down as we passed under the arches of London Bridge. Despite the profusion of shops scattered across—and built up—along its length, the heads of the executed were still visible, and if they were not, I would know they were there by the circling kites.

     We shot the rapids under the bridge with ease, the size of the barge and the time of day making it less risky. I’d seen smaller boats try the same maneuver during a high tide and capsize, and I frequently walked across to avoid an unnecessary trip on that section of the river.

     It was more difficult to ignore the heads when I walked.

     Cromwell was silent for most of the trip, riffling through the papers he carried in a thick folio. An attack of conscience? It could not be that; he had drawn up the warrants himself. Did the idea of her downfall start with him, or with the king?

     He’d once been her champion, but the king was his master, not Anne Boleyn, and the king was convinced that only a new wife would give him a son. Cromwell had to help or be sucked into the maelstrom while someone else did the king’s bidding.

     As we entered the palace, he turned to me. “I’ll meet with the king privately, Lewis. Find occupation as you will: I know you have acquaintance here. Meet me in the outer audience chamber at four of the clock.”

     Did he know I had acquaintance at Greenwich because of my history, or was there something ominous in his knowledge? Cromwell had spies everywhere, but I never thought to question whether he kept an eye on his loyal clerks.

     Because of that, I kept to myself until after dinner, when I met Bess in the hall. We made our way to the suite reserved for the king’s vicar general, principal secretary, and current favorite, all of whom were Thomas Cromwell. I felt a sliver of pride that she would see the oak paneled room where I worked, with its windows overlooking the verdant lawns.

     She noticed none of it, turning immediately to ask, “How is the queen?”

     “I wouldn’t know.”

     “How could they accuse her of such things?” Her brown eyes were bright with anger. “Unfaithful, with her own brother? It’s madness.”

     I gave her a warning glance. “The king is not mad.”

     “He hunted her like a deer,” Bess said, “and now he has his quarry, he is disillusioned and all out of love. That is no better reason to put her away than he had for Queen Katherine.” Her feelings were evident on her face. “I love the king, but he should try to accept life, as the rest of us are made to.”

     Such words could land her in a cell next to Smeaton. “There is nothing you can do,” I said, “except remain quiet and follow my suggestions. I’ll explain further when Tom gets here.”

     “He is off somewhere.” She peered out the window, then settled quietly before me. “Tell me now.”

    “You are too close to the queen.” It had come to me, while eating the king’s dinner, that more people were at risk than just those currently imprisoned. “I am afraid for you.”

     Bess made the same impatient face I’d seen her make for nearly twenty years. “Don’t be silly.”

     I sat down behind a desk, hoping it would lend me some authority. She took direction only from the master of minstrels, who was also her husband. “The queen is in the Tower,” I said. “Very few people return from that place.”

     “But she isn’t guilty.” Bess popped from her seat and paced the floor. “None of them are. Mark is a stupid boy, but not stupid enough to involve himself with the queen, even if she would be unfaithful to King Henry. Which she would not.”

     I gestured for her to lower her voice. “I know you have sympathy for both of them, but you must be discreet. There are more important things to think of right now.” I looked pointedly at her belly, straining behind her front-laced bodice. “Young Harry and this one here, they don’t care what becomes of the queen. They just want their parents.”

     “And they have them.” She softened at the mention of her boy, and the unborn little one.

     “You should go away, at least for a while.”

     Bess laughed in my face. “This is our home.”

     I sighed. “Maybe it was, but the court has changed since you arrived, even since you were wed. The king will have his way, and if it kills the queen, Smeaton, and any other number of innocents, he will not care.”

     She sat down hard, as if her knees had given way. “He wants Jane Seymour now, doesn’t he?”

     “He wants a son,” I said bluntly. “If Queen Katherine had given him a living son—even one—she would still be queen, and we would still be tied to Rome. People forget the king’s father took this throne. King Henry may look secure, but without an heir, anything could happen.”

     “But he has an heir.”

     I pressed my fingers to my temples. “No, he has daughters. No woman will rule England.”

     There was a knock, and Tom entered without waiting. “I’m sorry I wasn’t at dinner,” he said without preamble. “I tried to see Mark.”

     “How is he?” Bess reached out and he sat on the edge of my desk, one hand on her shoulder. She relaxed at his touch. If I could get him to see sense, she would follow.

     “I wasn’t admitted.” His face showed concern. “The guards said he’s been racked. I imagine he told them whatever they wanted to hear, to make it stop.”

     Mark Smeaton was a stupid boy, as Bess said, and perhaps bragged too often about being in the queen’s favor, but he was no more her lover than was her brother George. “I’ve been telling Bess—you need to get away before either of you are pulled into this.”

     “We are not in so deep as that, Rob.”

     “You are master of minstrels, Tom.” I raised my brows. “Which means you supervised him and should have known his whereabouts. It might even be assumed that you were sympathetic.” I looked at his wife. “It’s well known how close Bess is to the queen. She may have looked the other way when Mark came to her.”

     Bess gasped, and Tom said, “You think they would go so far?”

     “I think an outcome has been decided and all that’s left is to build the case.”


Monday, April 26, 2021

Live Reading Accomplished

On Saturday evening, I locked myself in the bedroom with my phone, my tablet, and a case of the nerves. What follows is a brief intro, the first three chapters of A Wider World, and answers to a few questions after. Also: I survived, and it didn't come out too badly. Let me know what you think.

Friday, April 23, 2021

Reminder

 


Just a reminder that the Facebook Live event will be TOMORROW,
Saturday, April 24, 2021 @ 7:00 p.m. eastern

Tune in or catch it later when it's posted on the blog.

Friday, April 16, 2021

And then there was one



Once upon a time there were thirteen cats.

Now there is one.

We had the mobile vet come out today to help Nicky leave the fold. He had been to the vet back in early March for a minor issue, got a clean bill of health - x-rays, bloodwork, urinalysis - but in the last few days, he dropped a ton of weight and lost interest in everything but sleeping. A sudden, massive weight loss is never good, and it can bring on failures of various systems, 

I thought about taking him back to the vet, but decided against it. Nicky was eighteen, more than a good age for a cat, and other than that trip last month, he's needed very little healthcare in his life. Whatever the problem was, whether it was something missed in March or a totally new development, it's unlikely that it would be treatable at his age, and I hated the idea of putting him through more testing, much less multiple car rides to do it. Plus we're still not able to go into the vet's office with him, so he wouldn't have even had the moral support of his people.


The mobile vet was willing to come to the house and euthanize him in the comfort of his own home. It may have been a little too soon - why do we always second-guess ourselves when we try to do right by our animals? - but she confirmed that the process wasn't going to reverse itself, and that there didn't seem to be anything specific wrong other than advanced age.

Now we have one cat, Harriet, who was Nicky's littermate. I never imagined she'd be the last cat standing - and although she's also eighteen, and has some of the same intestinal issues as her brother, she's round and pudgy and bounces around the house like a kitten. So fingers crossed she'll be with us for a while to come.

Bon voyage, Nikolas Vladimirovich von Putintat. I hope the Great Litterbox in the Sky serves abundant salmon and knows that you like it well-watered. You were a good cat.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Good News

 

We had our second shots on April 1, and now, two weeks out, we're considered to be fully vaccinated.

That doesn't mean we can hop in the car and drive to NJ to hug Mario's mom - vaccinated or not, her nursing home has rules about those things - but maybe if we're outside we can at least stealthily pat her without worrying about getting her sick.

We're also going to get together soon with a few friends who've also been vaccinated. Honestly, I feel like asking everyone I meet for their papers right now before I'm comfortable enough to sit down and take off my mask.

Speaking of masks, I know we all got tired of wearing them, but is it just me, or did almost everyone seem healthier over the last year, other than Covid? I didn't have a cold, the flu, my semi-regular bronchitis, or any allergies. It's enough to make you understand why they're effective.

It also feels like progress. I admit to getting a bit weepy when I got my second shot, and not from any kind of pain. It really feels like we're coming to a point in this long, hard road where we can actually see an end that's not a mirage.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Live reading


It's that time again, almost.

A Wider World comes out on Sunday, April 25, 2021, and I'll be doing a live reading - and answering your questions - on Facebook on Saturday night, April 24, 2021, at 7:00 p.m. eastern. You can find the reading by following my page here. If you're not on Facebook, I'll be posting the video within a few days, just as soon as I remember how to do that.

Either way, live or catching it later, if you have any questions about me, writing generally, Songbird or A Wider World, Henry VIII, or something I haven't thought of, please comment and I'll try to answer them all.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Fun with audio

It's a busy time right now. 

I just finished the final edits on the third book in the Tudor Court series and submitted it to the publisher. While I wait for them to look it over again, I'm working on the audiobook for A Wider World. As I work, I am ever more grateful for my years of volunteering with local theater, because it has given me a pool of actors to barter with. 

This book is turning out to be easier than Songbird, probably because it's more recently written and edited, and I don't have to read along at quite the same level this time. I know these words; I've been over them half a dozen times in the last year. Some parts of Songbird were so old that they surprised me when I heard Jen read them out for the first time. 

The actor and I have a system going. He records several chapters and uploads them to a shared Google drive. I download and listen to them through Audacity, which is a fabulous free audio recording/editing software. I do basic cleanup then, looking for background noise or breath sounds, but what I'm mainly listening for are mistakes or mispronunciations or incorrect emphasis. 

I make notes of the sentences that need re-recording and send them back to him. When he does those edits, I can then cut and paste them - just like in Word - into the original audio file. After that, I check the levels to make sure that they're even, divide the files into chapters, and put the correct, Audible-mandated amount of blank space at the beginning and end. Then I convert them into .wav files.

Once that's done, I upload the files into another shared folder (this time with my publisher), and they'll take it from there for final mastering. It's more of a process than many authors with publishers go through, but they understand my control freak tendencies, and I really enjoy being involved in all levels of the production process. 

Eventually, when I self-publish my 1930s book, I want to be able to do all the steps myself - other than logical things like paying for cover art, etc. I might know what I want, and I might know the trends, but I don't have the graphic design background to make it good enough. My time is better spent on words than pictures. Part of being an effective control freak is knowing when somebody else does something better than you do. 

I guess that's also called delegating.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Throwback

 

I do still sew, in case anyone is curious. Not as much as I used to, especially since in-person craft shows didn't happen in 2020, but I do still enjoy it.

What sewing I did last year was mostly custom work, and this was a job I was happy to get. A former co-worker reached out to me in February. Her mother-in-law had just died and her husband wanted to do something with four of her favorite nightgowns. (She had been house/bed bound for a long time and cycled through the same several gowns, and they were what everybody thought of her wearing). 

Remembering what I used to do on the days when I wasn't in the office, she suggested that I make bears out of them - and then ordered ELEVEN.

She drove out to visit and we had a lovely masked chat on the back porch when she handed over the gowns.

Sewing-wise, I flinched when I opened the bag, because they were all very stretchy polyester, and not even all the same. Some were two-way stretch, and some were four. Some were fuzzy and some smooth. All were going to be a nightmare to make small pieces with.

I decided that it would slow the process initially, but speed things along in the end, and I used fusible interfacing on all of it, then cut out the pieces. It kept them from stretching in every direction at once, and saved me from embedding too much profanity into what were supposed to be nice memorial bears.

A while back I had ordered safety joints for use in future bear projects, and I tried to use them here. First off, I think I ordered them slightly too small, but also, the fabric was just so limp that no matter how I tried, the arms and legs just dangled off the body. I removed them - no small feat with a locking joint - and went back to my original method of stringing them through the shoulders and hips with hemp cord.


The longest part of the process was trying to decide on the fabric arrangement. A red plaid, a pink and gray paisley, an ivory with navy blue toile, and a bright white with red cardinals. Other than the plaid/cardinals, none of it really worked. After some thought, I decided to tie them together by using the plaid in the same place on each one - head panel, inside arms, and foot pads. Then the rest of the pieces could be of the different fabrics, and each bear would be trimmed with lace from the neckline of the "head" nightgown. Each bear got a red ribbon to finish.

She picked them up the other weekend - another coffee/chat on the patio, this time rainy and chilly - and she carried them off to Delaware. They'll be distributed to her husband's various siblings and relatives once it's safer to gather as a family, but judging from the photo she sent, he seems pretty happy with them, and maybe his family should be worried about getting them from him at all.



Friday, March 19, 2021

One year later...

So it's been a while. How can it be hectic when time still doesn't have the same meaning it used to?

So we've just passed the one year anniversary of nearly everybody staying home. Remember when we thought it was just going to be a few weeks? I'm thrilled to be past the rubber gloves and wiping down the groceries phase, and I no longer forget my mask when I leave the house, but the fact that it's been a year astounds me. 

I'm very lucky that I was working from home already and the pandemic has changed my work life very little, other than that I actually got more done than before (having few places to go). I have some guilt about my productivity, but that's not useful, and I'm trying to get past it. 

I'm also extremely lucky that Mario has the kind of job he can do from his office upstairs - and that my office is downstairs. I love him to death, and I always thought it would be nice if he could work from home. I still feel those same things, but when life opens up and he starts going back to work, at least part-time, I'll cope. I read an article recently that talks about "aloneliness." We know that loneliness has been a problem - so many people were isolated who had never experienced it before. But what about those of us who need significant amounts of alone time to feel at all normal? We are "alonely," we're lacking in loneliness. 

Mario's presence in the house doesn't affect me that much, but when I'm working, I like to read my writing aloud, and that usually elicits a "what did you say?" from upstairs. I also sing - albeit badly - to the cats, and eat, or not, depending on how busy I am. It is disconcerting to find that most people want to eat three meals a day, and on a somewhat regular schedule.

All this is to say I have nothing to complain about. We're well, and so are our nearest and dearest. I've known people who've gotten sick, but they recovered. The most fragile people I know have been vaccinated, and even Mario and I have achieved our first vaccinations, with our second shot scheduled in the beginning of April. A local clinic had more vaccine than they had arms to put it in, and put out a call for neighbors because it was almost time to shut down, and the Pfizer vaccine doesn't keep. We grabbed an elderly neighbor and made it in just under the wire. 

I have been terrified of needles my entire life, and was a little nervous about this, but was going to suck it up, because what's worse, a jab in the arm or Covid? Mario finished first and sat on the floor next to my chair and held my hand, but I won't need him to do that for the second shot. What I mostly felt, when it was done was gratitude. It's not over yet but it's finally feels like it's beginning to end. 

And that's enough for now.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Cover Reveal and excerpt


Well, here it is, folks! The gorgeous cover for A Wider World, designed by Anthony O'Brien and featuring another ancient ceiling. (I'm sensing a theme here).

The book will be released on April 25, 2021, but if you're an e-book reader, you can pre-order it now on Amazon. I can't tell you how much pre-orders mean to the way Amazon decides to promote a book.

⤧⤲⤲

Chapter One

November 10, 1558

Winterset, Yorkshire

 

“They said I would not end well.”

“And so you have not.” The young man has an air of self-importance, something he should have outgrown by now—but perhaps not. He has, after all, arrested me; mayhap he should feel arrogant.

I walk toward the fire, smiling as he moves out of my way. “I did not begin well, I will grant you that. And my middle was…middling.” The heat warms my face, masking any flush of anger. “But my end is not yet accomplished.”

He speaks again, his confidence recovered. “For your nefarious history with Thomas Cromwell, for your role in the destruction of the monasteries, and your attempts to dismantle the one true church, for promoting Luther and the English Bible, Her Majesty charges you with heresy.”

I ignore him. “You, who have interrupted my supper with your warrants and demands, who are here to see me to that end—you have no idea of my beginnings.”

Mongrel, they called me. Bastard. Unloved, I should have withered. I did not. I forced myself to flourish, to prove the world wrong.

“The world did not, early on, consider me of enough importance to care whether I lived or died. Now, I have achieved importance in the eyes of some—though only some see my true value. Whether you come to see it remains to be seen.”

The young man—William Hawkins—snorts. A laugh? A sound of disbelief? He drops into my empty chair, his black boots stretched toward the blaze.

I watch him in the small convex mirror, which stands on the cupboard, a memento of my Venetian travels, just unpacked. “You were told I was clever, to beware my words. I do not appear dangerous, do I?” A man of fifty-odd, dressed in clerical black. Thin to the point of gauntness, though seemingly healthy. A man with few attachments in this life, and those well concealed. “I can see you are interested.”

Hawkins demurs, but his eye stretches at my words, and I continue, “The storm will not abate before morning. It is not solely in my own interests that I suggest you ask your men to stand down.”

Hawkins is unwilling but sees sense in the end. I try not to listen as he speaks to his men. Nine of them—as if I require an army to be brought to justice. They shed their wet cloaks and settle themselves in the hall. I’ll have ale brought out; their goodwill will be more easily won than my captor’s.

I look at him again. He gives the impression of wearing armor, but in truth, he has nothing more than layers of damp wool, like the rest of us, with a well-cut doublet on top to show his status. “We may as well pass the evening in conversation.”


Friday, February 5, 2021

Coming Soon - A Wider World

We not only have a publication date, but we have a blurb!

Mark your calendars for A Wider World, the story of Robin Lewis, the chorister-turned-royal-secretary who first appeared in Songbird. He's all grown up now, and in a rather tight spot, as explained below:

Memories are all he has... 

Now they could save his life. 

Returning to England after almost five years in exile, Robin Lewis is arrested and charged with heresy by the dying Queen Mary. 

As he is escorted to the Tower of London, Robin spins a tale for his captor, revisiting his life under three Tudor monarchs and wondering how he will be judged—not just by the queen, but by the God he stopped serving long ago. 

When every moment counts, will the journey—and his stories—last long enough for him to be saved by Mary's heir, the young Queen Elizabeth?

Monday, February 1, 2021

Book recommendation: Empire's Legacy

Even though I'm supposed to be writing, I still read. A lot. 

My public school education was decent, but it wasn't what taught me to write. Reading did that.

One of the best things about becoming a published author is becoming friends with other writers on social media (and eventually outside of social media, once we can travel again).

I've read Marian L Thorpe's Empire's Legacy trilogy before - in its separate volumes - but because she recently commissioned a new cover for the combined trilogy, I was lucky enough to receive her author copy (she lives in Canada and Amazon has issues, and the post office has issues, and it was just easier for me to review it for her). But that means I know have a whomping big paperback trilogy that she'll soon be giving away to US readers on her mailing list. Which you can join here

Amazon files these books under alternate history / historical fantasy. It's a hard genre to pin down, because to most people, "fantasy" means elves and magic systems, but in this case, it's a variation on post-Roman Britain, with different names, a slightly altered map, and a thoroughly reimagined history, including a society (logically) divided by gender. The history is so well done that I feel like I'm reading about a time period I've just never explored - it doesn't feel "fantasy" in the slightest. Which makes sense - one of her reviewers actually calls it "Fantasy for people who don't read fantasy."

Monday, January 25, 2021

Songbird Book Trailer


My publisher put together a quick trailer for Songbird using some of my reference photos, with Bess's signature song, The Cuckoo, performed by Elizabeth Larsen. If anyone has seen my Facebook live reading at Songbird's launch, I paused the reading to have a small breakdown play this at the appropriate point in the story.

This was a pleasant surprise for me, and I hope you enjoy another look into Bess's life.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

What's been going on

I hate it when I go quiet. I'm assuming you're not fond of it either, dear readers - you keep showing up here, and it would be nice if I gave you something to read.


Things are happening behind the scenes, of course. We're down to just final copy edits for A Wider World. The cover has been finished, and I've scored an absolutely mind-blowing quote for the cover from a Tudor author whose work I really respect. Coming soon, I promise.

I've also completed and submitted Lady, in Waiting before my New Year's Eve deadline, and now I'm doing rewrites before re-submitting. (That first submission was so the publisher could see that I actually had something that could be reasonably wrangled into book shape; now comes the actual wrangling). It's going pretty well, though, and I hope to have this draft done by end of February.

What I'm also doing is recovering from a really good online Christmas this year. While sales were down in my vintage Etsy shop, they were booming over on the handmade side. Being prevented from doing holiday shopping sent people online. Go figure! Even with postal delays, almost everything arrived on time.

I had to end Christmas stocking orders early. I sent a batch to a shop I work with in Philadelphia, and would have sent more, but ran out of the vintage quilts I like to use. It's getting harder to find ones that are in good enough condition to use, but with enough damage that I don't feel guilty cutting them up. Luckily, I scored two on Ebay just after the holidays, and a hunter-gathering neighbor found a third for me.

My favorite order of the season was from a customer who sent me a box of quilted placemats made by her recently deceased mother-in-law. She wanted them turned into stockings for the family, and have a holiday table runner made with the leftover. I'm working on the table runner, because we realized it wouldn't happen by Christmas - especially with the postal difficulties - but I think her stockings came out well. I'm not a fan of precise patchwork (not making it, anyway) but the placemat fabrics really lent themselves to my more random design ideas.

Now I must go back to my other writing. Just wanted to pop in, look around, make sure people were still here. Back soon.

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Plans for 2021

I wouldn't call them resolutions, which I've always been crap at keeping, but one thing I am good at is meeting a deadline.

The collage here is something I put together as book 3 became clearer in my head. I like a physical representation because I can then convince myself that it's real.

Back in May, when I submitted A Wider World to the publisher, they told me if I wanted my third book to follow along within a year (April 2022), I would have to submit it by the end of 2020. We negotiated that to mean a readable first draft, which I managed to do - by mid-afternoon on New Year's Eve. (I'd actually finished it the day before, but I wanted to accomplish a few last minute tweaks).

I now have until the end of February to do proper edits, and I think that's doable, but only because I didn't get a decent grasp of my main character until later than usual and rewrote the entire first half to get her properly in line. So it's really only the last half that needs hard work, and then shaping and polishing for length, as it's currently about 13k over its word budget. (I've been worse, so not too scared).

Also for early 2021, I've got to do final copy edits for A Wider World. Once those edits are done, I need to get the book to the voice actor for the the audio, and I'd like to do the edits again, because it really gave me a feel for how the project went together. The book launches on 
April 25, the day after my husband's birthday, so he might not be the total focus on the day, because there'll be another FB Live reading - which I'll mention on here, and post afterwards for those who miss it and/or don't do the FB thing anymore.

I'd like to raise my head from the 16th century and get back to the 1930s project I talked about a while ago. I've been working on it in some dim corner in my mind, but once the third book is with the publisher and I'm waiting on their edits, I'd like to start in again. Now that I know I can produce a readable draft in a certain amount of time, I'd like to produce that one, edit it, have it gone over by a few trusted writer friends, and self-publish it in the fall, so I have a book of my "own" out in between books from my publisher. 

Those are the writing goals, but there are also other goals to do with marketing and getting the books in front of people who will leave reviews, which will in turn cause more people to buy the books.

And for all that I love writing, it's not bringing in anything that I can class as an income - yet. And Covid has pretty much eliminated office work as I know it, so I'll be concentrating on doing more online transcription and building up my handmade and vintage Etsy businesses so that they're worth keeping. So long as the post office recovers from its current hellscape, I'll be okay. I have a basement full of vintage from relatives and flea markets that can, eventually, be turned into cash, and I'm hopeful that there may be some masked and outdoor craft events this year.

I'm also going to keep moving - we walked a LOT in 2020, trying to keep from climbing the walls, and we'd like to keep it up. I'll also walk on my own, because that's when some of my best writing gets done, just me, the trees, and my phone, listening to me babble.

So those are my plans for the new year. They are, as always, subject to change, but I've tried to make them achievable goals, spaced out in a way that I shouldn't get too overwhelmed, or at least not too often.

What about you? What do you have in line for 2021, and what are you hoping to change up after making it through 2020?