Category Archives: Writing
Today I feel the passage of time. We have just under three more weeks in our first beloved house before we move to our new one. This place has many, many memories: so many Halloween parties, holiday dinners, movie marathons, and other get-togethers here. Our daughters were both brought home from the hospital here. We lost one sweet family kitty here, gained a family of three new ones, and our dogs have staked out the perimeter of the yard for their own personal border patrol.
But it’s good to remember that a home is not a house. A home is where your family is, where your heart is. It will be oh-so-good to be with my husband again full time; he’s been living at the new place and away from us during the work week for several months now.
This is a photo of our awesome grandfather clock that I decorated for our Harry Potter Halloween party a couple of years ago. Yes, this clock is going with us to our new home.
For my fellow writers: Let this beautiful and slightly eerie picture inspire you for today. I know it inspires me. I’m sitting on my porch in the the warm sunlight, fighting off the 500% humidity, thinking cool misty thoughts. This is an inspirational fantasy landscape. Don’t you agree?
It seems like every time I’m out in nature and carrying my camera, I take a few “up-shots.” I can’t help it. I love them. I love looking up at trees, leaves, clouds, and sky. Perhaps there’s a lesson here. If life is getting you down, look up. I tell my daughters that so much of our life is how we choose to perceive and handle things, rather than just wallowing in what’s happening to us. It’s a variation on the glass half empty versus half full scenario.
Don’t mire yourself in the mud and dust, look up, look heavenward.
I’ve been unbelievably blog-negligent. But since I’m in the process of moving our household and working on scads of other projects, my poor little RebeccaOfTomorrow blog has fallen by the wayside.
So, instead of letting it get moldy and stale, I thought I’d go with easy blog posts for the time being. I’m going to try to post something light and fun and quick, at least three times a week. I’ll probably go with photos of something meaningful to me, but I might also link to some other people’s writings that speak to me. If any of you have anything you’d like me to re-post, please let me know!
Today I’m going with a photo from my theater days. I hope you enjoy it. I love how so many of these people are still in touch with me, mostly via Facebook. I miss one of them terribly, however. We all miss you, Brett. It’s a “frog-strangler” down here on Earth without you.
So through the night rode Paul Revere;
And so through the night went his cry of alarm
To every Middlesex village and farm,—
A cry of defiance, and not of fear,
A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,
And a word that shall echo for evermore!
For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,
Through all our history, to the last,
In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
The people will waken and listen to hear
The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,
And the midnight message of Paul Revere.
~From “Paul Revere’s Ride,” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Last year about this time I had a new novel on my hands that in its gestation had swung between being adult to young adult back and forth a few times. At this point I had heard about the New Adult genre, but it was being panned from a variety of sources. From what I could tell, not many agents were repping it, and publishers weren’t quite sure what to do with it. Bookstores didn’t quite have a shelf for it.
Fast forward to the present, and all that has changed. There are more and more agents repping New Adult, and more and more publishers actually requesting it. I woke up this sunny spring morning thinking that revising that novel, which can’t find a home in either Young Adult (because it has some themes that just don’t play well in YA) or Adult (because its protagonist is simply too young), would benefit from another revision – a revision that will make it firmly New Adult.
If you’re not familiar with New Adult, there is still all manner of conflicting opinions on it. Some readers claim that it’s just YA laced with porn, but I’m one of the growing reading and writing population that that sort of stereotyping is ludicrous. I like what NA Alley says about it in this piece: “What is New Adult?”
Like young adult lit, adults can read new adult if they want to. In fact, good New Adult has all kinds of cross-over appeal, despite its target readership. Bookstores might not even need to worry about where to shelve it, since quite a bit of New Adult is selling to an e-readership.
I’d love it if you’d weigh in on what you think and feel about New Adult literature. Do you worry that it might be picked up by too young a readership? Are NA topics/themes too sexy/controversial? Do you think people are over thinking the whole thing, and typing a book as NA doesn’t have anything to do with sex anyway? What’s your take?
Why do we read historic fiction, especially from troubled eras? Why do we subject ourselves to a fragile examination of our darkest hours? I really think that reading novels, associating with characters and with their stories, builds empathy and understanding in ways that reading about death statistics or accounts of battles simply cannot. This is one reason why I love Susan Elia MacNeal’s His Majesty’s Hope – Book 3 in the Maggie Hope series. Ms. MacNeal drew me into the heads and hearts of her characters. I felt the panicky sweat trickling down my back as I adventured with Maggie into Nazi Germany. I shared the sickening in my stomach when a new character, Elise Hess – a German nurse – realized what was really happening to her young disabled patients when they were bused off for “special treatments.” I actually bit my fingernails when the enemy pilot and the displaced Jewish doctor were packed away into a high-ranking Nazi’s attic, to hide under the Germans’ own noses.
But in His Majesty’s Hope, MacNeal takes her readers a step past the obvious horrors of World War II. In addition to the horrific plight of the Jews, and Hitler’s cleansing of anyone he doesn’t deem hale and hearty and Aryan, we see that England and the US are far from guiltless in the geo-political machinations of this war.
MacNeal’s writing takes on the morés of that era as well as our own, especially in regards to the consideration and treatment of homosexuals. She doesn’t shy away from showing humanity at its most flawed. There is love and desperation all through this story, and I adored every moment of it, even as I sat on the edge of my seat, worried for the characters who had become real to me. I remain incredibly impressed at the level of scholarship that Ms. MacNeal puts into her work in writing her historical novels, and learned quite a few things in reading her notes and resources at the end.
I didn’t sleep well on the night after I finished His Majesty’s Hope. The things that this war does to the characters, on a psychological level, were sometimes painful to experience, even vicariously. This is what a good book does, though. It makes you think. It makes you feel. In the case of this historical novel, it brings home the kind of ill-will that can supplant the spirit when people have to do things they would never do were they not at war. It makes you realize that hatred and action against other people – regardless of which side you fall down on – takes away a measure of your own soul. Thank goodness for the witty banter, the way Ms. MacNeal immersed me into the music, dance and fashion of the era, and the dry wit and humor that I have come to love in Maggie and her cohort. Throughout the novel, there is always the quintessential element that redeems her characters and, by extension us – her readers: the element of hope.
Here’s an interesting scoop of trivial information for you.
Did you know that in Elizabethan through Georgian times, women unknowingly poisoned themselves for years by applying a beauty product to their faces called ceruse – a mixture of white lead and vinegar? This toxic substance made the face elegantly pale and perfect-looking, while concealing pock marks and acid pitting beneath. (Think Queen Elizabeth I’s white face and eventual blood poisoning.) In addition to making the lady ill, frequently mortally so, it usually had the unfortunate side of effect of causing her to lose her eyebrows. In order to solve the eyebrow problem, ladies would skin rats and glue scraps of fresh rat pelt as artificial eyebrows – the thicker the better, because thick eyebrows connoted youth. This solved the problem of what to do with all the rats they would catch in their traps overnight.
I learned this piece of fascinating information from Sarah Downing’s fascinating book Beauty and Cosmetics 1550-1950.
On little things, as sages write,
Depends our human joy or sorrow,
If we don’t catch a mouse tonight,
Alas! No eyebrows for tomorrow. (Matthew Prior, 1718)
Why am I blogging about this today? Well, it’s Valentine’s Day: a day when countless men and women do what they can to enhance their own natural comeliness – whether by dressing provocatively, applying makeup, getting a new hairdo, or spritzing on a little too much perfume or Axe body spray.
And apparently, it’s fashion week in NYC. For those of us who frankly cannot understand haute couture, much of what can be seen there is about as weird, possibly weirder, as Elizabethan rat eyebrows.