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Thursday, May 11, 2017 - 13:32

Session 97: Would You Write More, or What? The Quest to Publish Historically-Based Creative Writing in the Contemporary Literary Marketplace (A Roundtable)

·      Organizer: Curtis VanDonkelaar, Michigan State Univ.

·      Presider: Curtis VanDonkelaar

A roundtable discussion with Grace Tiffany, Western Michigan Univ.; Amanda Sikarskie, Univ. of Michigan–Dearborn; Merrie Haskell, Library, Univ. of Michigan Library; and Edward L. Risden, St. Norbert College.

Genre fiction has embraced historically-based writing for quite some time, but there now seems to be more openness in “literary” venues as well. The Presider (VanDonkelaar) considers this possibly related to pop culture phenomena like Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones. Introduces the panel:

Grace Tiffany - author of six novels set in the middle ages or English Renaissance Talks about how you integrate your creative work with professional scholarship. Interest grew from reading Renaissance literature (Shakespeare, etc.). Led to interest in creating her own stories. Can explore ideas that arose in the context of scholarship from a different angle. Argues it’s not just pop culture or genre fiction, but people like Hilary Mantel (Wolf Hall).

Amanda Sikarskie - The “odd person out” as an art historian who is now in the middle of writing a novel. [The link is to her non-fiction publications.] Tells a story about the passage in a historic source that inspired her fictionalization of the event concerning a family of silk weavers. She recommends novel writing as a distraction from looming academic deadlines.

Merrie Haskell - Now she claims the “odd person out” title as a non-academic, although she’s working on a degree to become an academic librarian (currently a para-professional). So for her the writing focus drives her other professional interests, rather than the other way around. Many of her books are aimed at the young adult market.

Edward L. Risden, writing fiction as Edward S. Louis - He’s the first presenter who notes negative reactions from his academic colleagues for his fiction writing. This moves into a discussion among the presenters about this point. Tiffany notes that she has consistently written both fiction and academic work at the same time and her institution supports “creative” work as well as research (and she already has tenure).

General discussion about the mechanics of self-publishing, comparing non-fiction and fiction aspects. (This is from Sikarskie who has self-published non-fiction as well as having her research published by others.) Comparison of the economics of publishing for academic presses versus other models.

Question: Do you bring aspects of your fiction writing into your teaching process? Risden: Yes, in terms of process, projects, ideas. Presenting historic material in narrative/experiential format. Tiffany: Yes, especially when interacting with Shakespeare. Have students create their own new interpretations, dialogues, to demonstrate understanding of the characters and material. Having students fill in the “gap” in Beowulf, extrapolating from the existing material creatively.


The presider is now repeating the canard that “major publishers” don’t understand the internet and are behind the curve on using new technologies. Tiffany is challenging this, especially the theory that one needs to have separate literary identities for different types of work. Haskell offers the middle ground that pen names are useful for separate branding, and this works for academic/non-academic divides as well. Further discussion of the dynamics and practicalities of pen names. Tiffany notes that her case is peculiar since her fiction is essentially unknown so there isn’t a set of readers moving from that to her academic work and bouncing off.

Sikarskie provides practical and useful information about why self-publishing is not as great an idea for fiction as many people think. She also notes that she was advised to leave her self-published non-fiction work off her academic resume. Conversation moves on to the problem of trying to make a living as an author. [Very little of the specifics of this part of the conversation will be new to any of my usual audience.]

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Thursday, May 11, 2017 - 11:43
medieval lecture

Yes, it's that time again! I'm blogging the sessions I attend at the annual medieval studies congress at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo. (There will also be reports on book purchases.)

Session 49: When Medievalists Fictionalize the Middle Ages

  • Organizer: Rebecca Barnhouse, Youngstown State Univ.
  • Presider: Sharan Newman, Independent Scholar

The Mean Streets of Medieval York: The Murder Mystery as Cultural Lens

Candace Robb, Independent Scholar

The pros and cons of writing about a real place and real people, but adding in fictitious events (like murders). Her focus is on the city of York itself (which she fell in love with). Not finding enough fiction set in that place, she decided to remedy it. Some tweaking of specific historic details to get the setting she wanted. The rich cultural context of the 14th century provides a lot of potential for interactions.

The pitfall of fictional invention is that lots of people know details about medieval York and will know when you make something up. The pitfall of using the real characters is they don’t always do what you need them to do.  But conversely, real historic events and relationships sometimes provide a perfect context or inspiration for the genre plot you need.

Another pitfall is the historically accurate repetition of the same personal names over and over and over again. What do you do when there are two very important John Montagues in your historic setting? (Handout is passed out with detailed family tree of both historic and fictional persons in the series.)

What happens when later information turns up a historic mistake in an earlier volume in a series? Do you revise? Do you shrug and move on? Do you ret-con? (Star Trek’s handling of Klingons is offered as an example.) What happens when someone else uses your fictionalizations as a “historic” source for their own fictions?

The Fantasy Space of Medieval History: The Case of Chaucer, Gower, and Bruce Holsinger’s A Burnable Book

Debra E. Best, California State Univ.–Dominguez Hills

What is the perfect mix of history in fiction? When do facts slow down the action? ABB is reviewed as an excellent portrait of medieval England, but how well does it create a fantasy space within that history? And how does this process interact with the story-internal process of the role of fiction in creating historic reality. It is a murder mystery involving a (fictitious) prophetic book, wrapped in an embroidery, combined with the words of a dying woman and several other clues.

The story centers around objects and events that are not merely fictitious with respect to the modern novel, but some turn out to be fictious creations within the context of the story itself.

Holsinger’s background as a historian drove some of his creative process, writing the book’s core prophecy originally in Middle English, based on historic prophetic examplars, and then modernizing it for the text, but similarly his characters turn out to have created the (story-internal fictitious) prophecy by modeling it on earlier (historic) writers. Thus the process of creating a fantasy of the past is echoed both within the story and in the existence of the story.

The author’s background also shows in a comfort with both the vocabulary of Middle English and the choice of non-historic vocabulary that fits the esthetic. Also: many Easter egg allusions to medieval English literature.

Worldbuilding in Rebecca Barnhouse’s The Coming of the Dragon and Peaceweaver

Patricia H. Ward, College of Charleston

The conflict between presenting a strictly “accurate” historic story, and bringing in modern sensibilites about morality, diversity, etc. in an anachronistic fashion. How do you remain faithful in depicting a historic society (even a fictionalized one, as in Beowulf here)? How do you present the facts while avoiding didacticism?

Potentially problematic topics include valorization of literacy, gender relations, slavery and class differences in general, depiction of Christianity/non-Christian practices. (The paper primarily consists of discussion and summaries of how these types of topics are handled in the books.)

Armored Knights and Winged Faeries: The English Middle Ages and the Medieval Fantasy Novel

Emily Lavin Leverett, Methodist Univ.

Addressing questions about the nature and purpose of accuracy in medieval fantasy. Is it an inherently conservative genre, or can it be used to subvert and expand the historic narrative? This paper particularly addresses the handling of gender in urban (medieval-inspired) fantasy. This work follows the trope of the fantasy-medieval heroine who rises about gender restrictions and disenfranchisement. But even the focus on “rising above” helps establish the default assumption of patriarchy and oppression.


The protagonist here begins as a 21st century American urban woman (possibly two women?) on the verge of entering an academic career. I.e., struggling within an opressive patriarchal society. [I’m not getting a clear notion of what happens in the story, but it sounds like it’s a portal-type fantasy where the modern character(s) enter an alternate medieval-inspired story but where the fantasy story is designed to eliminate some of problematic defaults in order to create an adventure story that doesn’t revolve around tired struggles. Or possibly even the modern setting is an alternate version of our world? Unclear.]

Major category: 
Thursday, May 11, 2017 - 07:00
cover image - Marian

Reviewer Shira Glassman at the Lesbrary says: "One way to describe Marian by Ella Lyons is that it’s a kiddie version of Heather Rose Jones’s Daughter of Mystery — both are costume dramas featuring a traditionally feminine lesbian with a nurturing personality and a lesbian swordfighter living in a world where it’s not customary for women to participate in combat, both feature father figures who a main character is both attached to and in opposition to, and both feature court intrigue — just to name a few similarities. So if you like the Alpennia books, rejoice because now there’s a young adult novel with a similar flavor."

When Marian Banner moves to the glittering city of Nottingham with her father, Sir Erik the Fortunate, her entire life changes. She is no longer allowed to run about the countryside in trousers and braids, climbing fences and shooting turkeys, but is thrust into a life of dresses and jewels and dancing lessons, none of which Marian is particularly pleased about. Her dark mood changes when she meets a tiny whip of a girl called Robin Hood. Robin is fierce and brave, and wants more than anything to become a knight, regardless of her gender. Together they explore the city, becoming fast friends along the way.

As time passes, their friendship into something bigger and scarier and far more wonderful. But then Marian’s father is killed in service to the king and she catches the king’s eye.

Can Robin save her one more? Or will Marian discover how to save herself?

So maybe just for today I should change it up and suggest that if you like Ella Lyons' Marian, then you should also check out Daughter of Mystery!

Major category: 
Wednesday, May 10, 2017 - 16:30

I was planning to skip the diaries this week because of life disruptions from heading to the medieval congress at Kalamazoo, but I have some unexpected down time in Detroit and decent wi-fi, so...

At some point in the past, someone asked about references to knitting in this diaries. At the time, I tried scanning through some of the descriptions of "care packages" and didn't find any. But in Abiel's first letter to Susan this month, he thanks her and Janey for knitting socks to send him. So there's that. "Every time I wear them I shall think of my sweet sisters, whose busy hands furnished me all this comfort."

It's strange to read these entries with the hindsight of knowing that we're within weeks of Lee's surrender.

The Diary and Letters of Abiel Teple LaForge 1842-1878

Transcribed, edited, and annotated by Phyllis G. Jones (his great-granddaughter)

Copyright © 1993, Phyllis G. Jones, All rights reserved

March 1865


Head Quarters "I" Company 106th New York Volunteers  Anglo-French Hotel

Before Petersburg Virginia   March 1st 1865

My dear Susan,

Yours of the 22nd ult[imate] was duly received and I assure you relieved my mind of considerable anxiety.  I had not received a letter from you in so long a time that I began to fear you or some of the family were sick.  This little missive, however, eases me of the load of trouble, and I breathe more at my ease.  I beg that you will not wait for letters from me, because they may be delayed by the mail.  Be assured I send them regularly, and that you will in all probability get them sometime.  I am afraid if I were to wait until you answered my letters before I wrote you each time, our correspondence would not be very extensive. 

I am extremely obliged to Janey and yourself for knitting those socks.  I received one pair of them today.  they are splendid socks and do honor to the dear manufacturers.  Every time I wear them I shall think of my sweet sisters, whose busy hands furnished me all this comfort. Thank you both.

I feel very grateful for your kind congratulations to me upon my promotion, but think if hard fighting could earn it, why then it is justly mine.  I have not got as high as I expect to in this war, and trust I shall not disgrace my rank.  I am still Judge Advocate and should have had a permanent position on the Division (General Seymour's) Staff as such, but that the General already has a full Staff.  I like the General very much and think from his actions and what I hear that the feeling is mutual. [Note: Based on context, I think this may be General Truman Seymour.]

I am most happy to inform you that your kind thoughts that I was again on my way home a wounded hero were entirely unfounded.  It is all very pleasant this visiting home to show honorable scars, but I assure you that those same scars are, at first, deucedly inconvenient, so please excuse me.

In reading your letter I began to fear that the boy was not coming in for a share of the contents, but the last part of the letter accounts for his silence by stating that he is asleep and consequently in blissful ignorance that a letter is being written to his unworthy uncle.

We are having no fighting to do at present. Such, however, is not the case with Sherman.  I am almost afraid that he will not go much farther without encountering a formidable foe, and defeat (if he should be defeated) would be annihilation for him, as he is so far from the seacoast.  However Sherman has a good head for military strategy, and I trust will meet with his usual success.  I often hear the men say that Tecumseh will be joining our left some of these fine mornings.

Deserters continue to come in to our lines in large numbers.  They are very doleful in their accounts of "Rebel feelins".

I must close.  Give my sincere thanks to Janey for her kind wishes for my welfare.  Also, remember me kindly to Perry's people, Mother, Joseph, Martha & the boy, Billings, and the neighbors, especially uncle Stephen's people.

And believe me ever,

Your loving brother


[written along the edges of pages]  The most reasonable explanation of the Aurora Borealis I have heard, is that the beautiful phenomenon is produced by the reflection of the prismatic rays of the sun by the vast fields of ice which surrounds the pole. [Note: a completely inaccurate, but imaginatively plausible explanation!]

Your address is correct.  I have not heard from father since the letter you sent me.  I am afraid he is worse.  I have never received an answer from my questions to the fortune teller.  I heard the letter was lost.

DIARY [resuming after the missing pages, see discussion last month]

Friday [March] 17th

St. Patrick's day.  Very pleasant. A grand show in the shape of horse racing.  I went up to court and then adjourned and went over to the races. There was a platform erected, on which the generals and ladies took their stand.  There was eight or ten of each present.  Everybody seemed in the best of spirits, and nothing could make them mad.  Several hurdle and flat races took place, and finally a sack race.  The riders in the hurdle races were thrown plentifully. One of them, a Colonel, was thrown over the head of his horse and then the horse fell his whole weight upon him.  The colonel was taken off the field in an ambulance.  When we were coming home, of course we had to run horses some.  The one Lieutenant Hepburn was riding ran away and threw him, hurting him pretty badly.  The horse put one of his eyes out when his head struck the ground.  Aside from these little accidents, the day passed off very pleasantly.

Saturday 18th

Extremely pleasant.  This is such beautiful weather that I should think our army would be constrained to move.  We could move more comfortably now than in mid-summer. Nights are pretty cold, to be sure, but fires could be made easily.  I commenced the trial of Surgeon Freeman and have done with the prosecution today.  It is very disagreeable for me to prosecute an officer of my own regiment in this manner.  Still, my oath binds me to do my duty.  I learn that the Colonel of the 7th New York Volunteers, who was thrown from his horse during the race yesterday, is getting over his injury.  Wrote to Annie of S this evening.

Sunday 19th

I still have to chronicle the continuation of pleasant weather.  The Surgeon yesterday told me that he had almost gotten the idea that I was a special counsel for the prosecution.  I wonder if every person who comes before a court for the first time thinks so, I guess.  I wrote to sister this evening,  I hardly know how to praise the boy enough to suit her, so I just am about to commence running him down.

Monday 20th

Another pleasant day, so warm that it makes one perspire by just riding.  Finished the trial of Surgeon Freeman--all but his final defense, which is his own statement.  The officers of the 14th New Jersey gave an entertainment in the Brigade courtroom this evening.  Had a very fine time dancing and singing. Our band officiated. It is the only string band in the brigade, so has plenty of demands. As soon as the officers began to get tight, I left, as I cannot enjoy that any.  I danced a waltz and shotishe and talked the rest of the time. There was much enjoyment until the whiskey began to operate.  Spring is now pretty well advanced, and the army is ready to move at the first advantage the Rebels give us to do so.

Tuesday 21st

Quite pleasant until night, when it commenced raining.  Finished the Doctor's trial today. If I had possessed any malice against him, I could have managed things so that he would have to be cohiered [Note: cashiered?] by the court. But as it is, he will be all right, as the court have acquitted him. I wrote to friend Beaugureau this evening, repaying the pretty girl he spoke of, by sending my love to her.

Wednesday 22nd

The wind has blown a perfect gale all day.  The ground is very dry, and this wind has raised such clouds of dust that it is almost impossible to see two rods.  The dust finds its way into our shanties in quantities large enough to cover everything in no time.  It is difficult to breathe or hold ones eyes open. I was over to Division Head Quarters most of the P.M.  Received a letter from Ex. Lieutenant Munro this evening. [Note: I'm not sure what the "ex" stands for here. Perhaps someone more conversant with army ranks will recognize it easily. ETA: or maybe this is simply "Former Lieutenant"? I need an index so I can track what's been said about Munro in the past!] Also one from 4'.4. [Note: By Abiel's cipher, this should be "M. D." but I'm not sure who it refers to.] Commenced writing to John Clemence, but did not finish. The wind has gone down.

Thursday 23rd

I really believe that the wind has taken a contract to blow all of these plains into the James river at the shortest possible notice.  Such a terrific gale as has been blowing since sunrise, I never saw before.  I have a pretty good idea of a sand storm on the deserts now.  Such clouds of sand and dust I supposed could not be raised by the wind. It kept falling on our tents, with very much the same sound as would be produced by a very fine and thick hail.  Outdoors, great clouds of dust 600 or 800 feet high were driving across the heavens.  Much difficulty was experienced in breathing at times.  Our tents seemed insufficient to keep the sand out of our shanties.  It sifted through them like snow through a thatch.  Everything was covered.  When I ate, I put a newspaper over my head, so as to form an additional cover for my victuals.

[Spelling note: Twice in this month's entries, I've noticed Abiel spelling "such" as "shuch". I've standardized the spellings for ease of reading. This doesn't seem to be a deliberate self-conscious "dialectal" spelling as he sometimes features (often in scare-quotes), but it may reflect a phonetic rendering of the word as he pronounces it.]

Friday 24th

Quite cold today, not so windy.  Grand havoc was made with the tents yesterday.  I saw many which had got loose in some part and were blown into ribbons before they could be secured.  I received a paper from Uncle John.  I find that I am consulted as a lawyer might be at home.  If an officer wants an application for Leave of Absence to be made out, it's now, "Captain, you know how that should be; won't you do it for me?"  If one wants to resign he is directed to Captain LaForge.  "Now Captain, won't you make me a good statement upon which to tender my resignation?"  I have just made out one of the last for Lieutenant Collins. [Note: Yet one more example of the esteem Abiel was held in, though of a more practical form that some others. I suspect that practice he gets in law and regulations as Judge Advocate adds to people's confidence in his abilities here.] 

Saturday 25th

Still cold  We were ordered out in considerable haste this morning. The enemy made a sudden dash and succeeded in surprising and capturing two of our forts [on the] Appomattox. One division of our corps was ordered down there and our brigade, being a reserve, was put onto the ground they vacated to hold that from any attack, owing to the fact we were not actively engaged during the day. Our forts were retaken by our men, and many of the Rebs captured in them.

This P.M. an advance was ordered on our left. The enemy were driven back a considerable distance; nearly their entire picket line was captured. Our loss was small in killed and wounded, and none captured. Our division lost in all about 150 men. Most of these were men of the second brigade.

About five P.M., a grand charge was made by the 2nd Corps on the left of their line, which they succeeded in advancing 3/4 of a mile.  During the heaviest part of the firing, the President, Generals Grant and Mead, and other General officers, also many distinguished foreigners, the Generals' wives, and the President's son, came to the fort we were garrisoning and watched the fight with their glasses for quite a long time.  When they went away, the soldiers gave them a hearty cheer. [Note: This appears to be the Battle of Fort Stedman.]

Rained some  just at dark  cold enough to be very disagreeable  we built small fires and tried to keep ourselves as comfortable as possible but it was poor comfort at best,  we were relieved and came into camp at 3-1/2 O.C. after spending the worst of the night on the line.  Taking the day's operations as a whole, it has been a losing game to the Johnnies. [Note: Abiel doesn't have the benefit if hindsight: that day's operations as a whole were the last meaningful action before the Confederate defenses collapsed.]

Sunday 26th

Still quite cold.  I feel pretty lame and sore today.  Ex Captain Briggs returned from leave of absence today. [Note: Then perhaps "ex" is simply straightforwardly "former"?] He is now Lieutenant Colonel. The Quarter Master also returned.  Everything has been quiet, except now and then a shot on the picket line.  Our regiment all went out on picket tonight, with the exception of detailed officers, of which myself is one.  I rode over to see Colonel Smith, the President of our court.  He was reported killed yesterday, but is alive and well.  Major Spangler, one of the members, was wounded.  I wrote to sister and John Clemence this evening.  Received a letter from sister, and one from Sam Clemence this evening.

LETTER [very faint]

Head Quarters I Company 106th New York Volunteers 

Anglo-French Hotel, Before Petersburg Virginia,  March 26th, 1865

My dear Sister,

I received your kind letter of the 14th not about ten minutes ago and hasten to reply.  You will see by my memorandum that our long continued quiet has been disturbed at last.  I judge that the disturbers of our peace have regretted it that they did so, however, for their loss has been much greater than ours and [illegible] they are our enemies and [illegible] the most discontented [illegible] I ever heard of.

The mail man is coming now and I have only time to write a word or two and depend on the [illegible] I hardly expect to [illegible] th[e] boy would be useless yet. I beg of you [illegible] precious as if he was gold and more so [illegible] face looking so bright as when I come home.

Tell Joseph that I am sorry to be obliged [illegible] his invitation to the sugar lick.  Give Janie, mother, Perry['s] People, and the rest my kindest regards and believe me ever your loving brother,


In haste I should judge, Capt. &c.

(added in darker ink)  Ever thine, no storms which may come across our paths in after life, can sever the bonds of love which now bind our hearts. [Note: This line has the feel of a quotation, being a slightly more poetic register than Abiel's usual language. But I can't identify a likely source by googling key phrases of it.]

Lafy [Note: this appears to be a new nickname Abiel gives himself, clearly a shortening of "LaForge".]

Monday, March 27th 1865

Day quite warm. Our whole regiment came off picket this evening about 10 O.C.  The men were pretty tired, cold, and sleepy.  The rebs attacked the picket of the 2nd Division driving them back a considerable distance.  That division advanced their line too far from the breastworks yesterday.  Dr. Carpenter received his commission as Surgeon of the 43rd New York Volunteers. He says that he does not care whether he can get mustered or not.

Tuesday 28

Very pleasant. Another move is on foot.  Part of the army of the James has came to this side of the river, and are moving up to the left.  I understand that Sheridan is to take an expedition off to the left for some purpose.  He may try to move on Weldon or strike the South Side Rail Road. I think we shall move tomorrow.

Wednesday 29th

We were ordered to move at 8 this A.M.  Broke camp and moved up to the ground occupied by the 2nd Corps. The expedition has started to the left.  We were deployed on the breastwork until 4 P.M. and then assembled,  got our supper, and were then marched out on the picket line. Our whole regiment went on.  I had charge of the regiment.  Deployed them on the picket line and then went up to the reserve.

Thursday 30

On picket all day. Tained pretty hard all last night and today. There has been some very hard fighting on the left. Sheridan is evidently stirring the rebs up.  Orders came that we were not to be relieved tonight, as a charge on the enemy's lines was to be made.  Major Paine came out to relieve the officer of the day.  A little after dark I went through the whole picket line with him, to show him where the line was. We had to wade two pretty bad swamps.

I had already been three times over the line and was very tired. I tried to get a little sleep when I got back to the reserve post, so that I should feel a little more like fighting, but before I got to sleep, two reb. Deserters were brought in. They said that they had a strong picket but the men in the breastworks were deployed three paces apart.  I made up my mind that if we were not all killed by grape and cannister we could carry the works easily. After disposing of these, I again laid down, but before I got to sleep, two more deserters were brought in. They said that a brigade of rebs had just arrived at the works. This made things more doubtful.  Just after these were disposed of, an order came that we should not charge the works.  Half an hour after, this was countermanded: we were to charge about 2 oclock. A final order came not to charge, so we are not in a way to cover ourselves with glory after all. [Note: I'm imagining Abiel doing some Olympic-level eye-rolling as he writes this up.]

Friday 31st

A very fair day, but rained all night and until 9 A.M.  After two nights awake, I felt very tired and sleepy, but before we could get a chance to get breakfast, the brigade was ordered out again. We marched to the top of a hill so as to show ourselves to the rebs and remained there until an hour before sundown, and then came back and were assigned to the camp previously occupied by the 4th New York H.A. [Note: Not sure how to explan "H.A."]  A very good camp. I only hope we may be allowed to keep it all night, so as to get our much needed rest.  Heavy firing has been heard at intervals all day, three or four miles to our left.

Major category: 
LaForge Civil War Diaries
Wednesday, May 10, 2017 - 07:00
cover image - Christmas at Winterbourne

Christmas at Winterbourne by Jen Silver was perhaps a bit more topical as a holiday book when it was released back in November. But if you like contemporary lesbian romance with large complex casts, check it out! You can get a taste of the book at the Book Clips series of The Lesbian Talk Show podcast. (Disclaimer: my own Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast is one of the Lesbian Talk Show segments!)

The Christmas festivities for the guests booked into Winterbourne House have all the goings-on of a traditional holiday. The only difference is that this guesthouse is run by lesbians, for lesbians.

When the guests arrive, tensions are already simmering between the house's owner Wilma (Wil) and very pregnant partner, Gabriella. Wil has a lot on her plate...ensuring the smooth running of the events, looking after all the guests, including her in-laws and business partners. What she hasn't planned for is a ghost from Christmas past.

Wil inherited Winterbourne from her adopted mother, Kim Russell, author of a series of successful lesbian novels. Most of the guests who stay, do so because they are fans of the author.

One guest, Sally Hunter, is on a mission to write Kim's official biography. She meets with resistance from the people at the house she tries to interview, stirring up memories from those who knew the reclusive writer well.

For a bit of extra spice to the festivities, add in an unexpected snowstorm, a disappearing guest, and an imminent birth. Join the guests and staff at Winterbourne for a Christmas you'll not soon forget.

And talk about large complex casts, the third Alpennia novel, Mother of Souls, braids together the points of view of five characters: Serafina Talarico, a frustrated thaumaturgist from an Italian/Ethiopian family who seeks a teacher in...Margerit Sovitre, appointed thaumaturgist to the princess of Alpennia, who is struggling to understand the seeming curse looming over the land but finds the rock of her existence in...Barbara, Baroness Saveze, tackling the challenges of adding to her estates and responsibilities while getting further enmeshed in Alpennian politics...whose cousin Antuniet Chazillen has decided to ensure her legacy with a new and different alchemical project to the dismay of her lover...Jeanne, Vicomtesse de Cherdilac, who is finding a new vocation in training Antuniet's apprentice as a salonniere and is expanding her patronage of overlooked women artists like...Luzie Valorin, a widowed music teacher who has an ambition to write an opera on the life of the medieval philosopher Tanfrit, and who finds an unexpected collaborator in her tenant...Serafina Talarico!

Major category: 
Tuesday, May 9, 2017 - 07:00
cover image - Timekeeper

Timekeeper by Tara Sim looks like a fascinating story, and one I haven't heard any buzz about in the circles I run in (which are usually pretty interested in young adult fantasy, especially books with queer romantic elements). I hope some of my readers check it out and let me know what you think!

Seventeen-year-old clock mechanic Danny Hart’s father has been trapped in a Stopped town east of London for three years. Though Danny is a prodigy who can repair not only clockwork, but the very fabric of time, his fixation with staging a rescue is quickly becoming a concern to his superiors. And so they assign him to Enfield, a town where the tower seems to be forever plagued with problems. Danny’s new apprentice both annoys and intrigues him, and though the boy is eager to work, he maintains a secretive distance. Danny soon discovers why: he is the tower’s clock spirit, a mythical being that oversees Enfield’s time. Though the boys are drawn together by their loneliness, Danny knows falling in love with a clock spirit is forbidden, and means risking everything he’s fought to achieve. But when a series of bombings at nearby towers threaten to Stop more cities, Danny must race to prevent Enfield from becoming the next target or he’ll not only lose his father, but the boy he loves, forever.

The Great November Book Release Re-Boot is a month-long series covering November 2016 books that may have been overlooked in the aftermath of the US election. I encourage people to check these books out, and to give another look at my own November release, Mother of Souls, the third book in the Alpennia Ruritanian regency-era fantasy series.

Major category: 
Monday, May 8, 2017 - 20:00

For the month of May I'm going to be covering a number of books that fall in the catalog/encyclopedia genre. Due to their broad coverage, I won't be adding content tags.

I recall encountering this book in the college library when I was an undergraduate in the late ‘70s. That might have been the 1975 second edition or may well have been the original first edition. It was one of a handful of books I encountered then and during the following decade that gave me hope that there were historical treasures to be found if I only looked hard enough.

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Full citation: 

Foster, Jeannette. 1985. Sex Variant Women in Literature. The Naiad Press. ISBN 0-930044-65-7 Third edition of the original 1956 publication.

Publication summary: 

An extensive catalog of literary references to women who challenge heteronormativity in some fashion.

This book is an extensive catalog of literary references to women who challenge heteronormativity in some fashion, although it would be misleading and anachronistic to apply the label “lesbian” in most cases. Approximately 20% of the book covers the entirety of literary history up to the late 19th century. Another 20% is speculation on the sexuality of a handful of pre-20th century women, primarily writers. The remainder covers the 20th century, or more broadly the “post-sexology” era. The scarcity of pre-20th century material cannot entirely be attributed to the literary focus of the book, but is certainly shaped by the greater availability of resources on more recent publications. There is an extensive bibliography, both of primary publications and of academic literary studies. The second and third editions each added an appendix of selected titles published since the previous edition (with notes that the much greater number of publications made it impossible to be comprehensive).

For these reasons, it’s difficult for me to recommend this as an active reference work except for the state of the field as of the mid 20th century and as an early pioneering stab at a comprehensive look at queer women in literature. I don’t advise using it for an understanding of the available material prior to the 19th century as the deficiencies in scope are too great. Therefore it is of little practical use for the purpose of the current project, but would be invaluable for someone interested in literature of the first half of the 20th century.

Monday, May 8, 2017 - 07:00
cover image - Of Fire and Stars

The Great November Book Release Re-Boot is to focus attention on books that might have been over-shadowed by reactions to the US election results--at least, books that might be of interest to my readers. Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst is a young adult fantasy targeted at the "princesses and magic and horses and girls kissing" readership.

Betrothed since childhood to the prince of Mynaria, Princess Dennaleia has always known what her future holds. Her marriage will seal the alliance between Mynaria and her homeland, protecting her people from other hostile kingdoms. But Denna has a secret. She possesses an Affinity for fire—a dangerous gift for the future queen of a land where magic is forbidden. Now Denna has to learn the ways of her new kingdom while trying to hide her growing magic. To make matters worse, she must learn to ride Mynaria’s formidable warhorses before her coronation—and her teacher is the person who intimidates her most, the prickly and unconventional Princess Amaranthine, sister of her betrothed. When a shocking assassination leaves the kingdom reeling, Mare and Denna reluctantly join forces to search for the culprit. As the two work together, they discover there is more to one another than they thought—and soon their friendship is threatening to blossom into something more. But with dangerous conflict brewing that makes the alliance more important than ever, acting on their feelings could be deadly. Forced to choose between their duty and their hearts, Mare and Denna must find a way to save their kingdoms—and each other.

A lot of us have waited a long time for fantasy novels about girls falling in love with girls to find their place on the bookstore and library shelves as just one more part of the world of stories. One of the driving inspirations behind my Alpennia series is to write the books that I didn't get when I was the target age for books like Of Fire and Stars. If you like fantasy novels where you're allowed to hope that the girl might get the girl, check out my most recent book, Mother of Souls.

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Sunday, May 7, 2017 - 10:50
cover image - After Atlas

Although my Great November Book Release Re-Boot series is aimed at November 2016 books that might have been shorted on buzz due to post-election anxiety, there's no actual requirement that a book be languishing in obscurity to be included. After Atlas by Emma Newman is on the recently-announced Clarke Award shortlist and has received a fair amount of attention as the not-a-sequel to her previous Planetfall. But I confess I'm most familiar with Newman as the hostess of the Tea and Jeopardy SFF interview podcast. If you enjoy tea, conversation, mild peril, and singing chickens, you should check it out. As for After Atlas, here's the blurb:

Gov-corp detective Carlos Moreno was only a baby when Atlas left Earth to seek truth among the stars. But in that moment, the course of Carlos’s entire life changed. Atlas is what took his mother away; what made his father lose hope; what led Alejandro Casales, leader of the religious cult known as the Circle, to his door. And now, on the eve of the fortieth anniversary of Atlas’s departure, it’s got something to do why Casales was found dead in his hotel room—and why Carlos is the man in charge of the investigation.

To figure out who killed one of the most powerful men on Earth, Carlos is supposed to put aside his personal history. But the deeper he delves into the case, the more he realizes that escaping the past is not so easy. There’s more to Casales’s death than meets the eye, and something much more sinister to the legacy of Atlas than anyone realizes...

I confess I can't think of a clever way to tie in Newman's science fiction novels with my own November 2016 release, Mother of Souls. So I'll just admit to this entire book re-boot series being a ruse to spend the entire month re-promoting my historic fantasy series. It would be interesting to know if any books get sold because of it. Let me know!

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Saturday, May 6, 2017 - 11:00
cover image - Merrow

I'm seeing a lot of mer-folk in my Twitter feed currently -- evidently there's some sort of "Mer-MAYd" art meme going around. So today's November book-boost fits right in. Merrow by Ananda Braxton-Smith is a young adult fantasy about being caught between two worlds.

The people of Carrick Island have been whispering behind Neen’s back ever since her father drowned and her mother disappeared. The townspeople say her mother was a merrow and has returned to the ocean. Neen, caught in her hazy new in-between self—not a child, but not quite grown up—can’t help but wonder if the villagers are right. But if her mother was a merrow, then what does that make Neen?

The Great November Book Release Re-Boot is a series I'm running during the month of May to point attention to books of potential interest to my readers that might have been lost in the shuffle of the US election results. The third novel in the Alpennia historic fantasy series, Mother of Souls, also touches on themes of being caught between different worlds, as Serafina Talarico tries to find a place for herself and her magic.

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