Making History


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History Cats


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Erik Kwakkel, manuscript scholar, tweeted this photo yesterday from his friend Emir O Filipovic. Through the viral power of Twitter and Facebook, I saw this charming picture, had to share, and added this poem from the Eighth century…

I and my white Pangur
have each his special art:
His mind is set on hunting mice,
mine is upon my special craft.

I love to rest – better than any fame!
With close study at my little book;
White Pangur does not envy me:
He loves his childish play.

When in our house we two are all alone…
A tale without tedium.
We have – sport never-ending!
Something to exercise our wit.

At times by feats of derring-do
a mouse sticks in his net,
while into my net there drops
a difficult problem of hard meaning.

He points his full shining eye
against the fence of the wall:
I point my clear though feeble eye
against the keenness of science.

He rejoices with quick leaps
when in his sharp claw sticks a mouse;
I, too, rejoice when I have grasped
a problem difficult and dearly loved.

Though we are thus at all time,
neither hinders the other,
each of us pleased with his own art
amuses himself alone.

He is master of the work
which every day he does:
While I am at my own work
to bring difficulty to clearness.

Eighth Century Irish Monk

Margaret Frazer


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Margaret Frazer passed on February 5th, 2013. I learned this from the list group I belong to–Crime Through Time, of which she was a member also. A frequent voice of wisdom, sharp eloquence, and intellect, she will be missed. She was generous with advice and praise where it was due, and woe unto you for lazy historical research. I never knew her, except for this list, but I loved her work. Long live Dame Fevrisse and Joliffe.

Her son’s message to her fans is here:

Mirella Patzer, Historical Fiction Author


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Fridays and Saturdays in February, Amazon Kindle is offering a free book by Historical Fiction author Mirella Patzer.  I’m late for “The Contessa’s Vendetta” which was offered on the 1st.  I read it last year and loved it, a tightly woven story of gothic suspense set in 17th century Italy. I highly recommend it.

It’s here:

Stay tuned! I’ll post the link for the next book offered on Friday the 15th.

Advice for National Novel Writing Month


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I did want to give out some Nano advice on how to maximize your typing time, something I’ve always under utilized until I started working as a medical transcriptionist.

Starting with Auto Correct, a nifty little function in Word. I use Word 2003, so you may have to hunt around if you use something different. In Tools, go to Auto Correct Options and click on. Looking at the word list, you can see its use is to automatically correct frequently misspelled words.

You can customize it to suit your story.  If your story takes place in New York City, type in nyc. When you type nyc, the program inserts New York City. If you know you’ll need the abbreviation also, type in nycx for NYC. Your character works for the New York City Police Department and frequently needs to identify herself: nycpd and nycpdx and you’ve saved yourself keystrokes and more of what you need to succeed at Nano: time. Your setting, characters, hair color, eye color, lots of generic forms can be put into Auto Correct, but keep a list handy as you go so you can glance at it as you type.

How about those small pesky words like is, was, the? You can turn those into a single keystroke like z for is, t for the, w for was.

Auto Text is under Format. I like that one for extra large words or frequently used phrases.  As you type the word you’ve inputted to the Auto Texter, it will appear as a little flag and hitting enter adds the word to your text, another time saver. I found this little tool is not there in Word 2007, which is why I went back to 2003.

It will take a little time to go over your WIP and glean out those frequently used words and phrases, but it’s a helpful tool in the long run and likely something already in your Word program. Use F5 to find those frequently used words. And like Spellcheck, it can trip you up, but you won’t have to worry until you have your 50,000 word count, right?

Good luck, hope this helps!

Places of the Imagination


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Welcome to my little corner of the internet.

Part I.

Places of the imagination and the not-so imaginary worlds of novelists. Tours geared towards Diana Gabaldon’s “Outlander” Scotland, J.K. Rowlings’ England and Scotland, Stephanie Meyer’s “Twilight”, Steig Larsson’s Stockholm, Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s northern Colombia…well, once googled, the list goes on.

But I’m a writer interested in the process and had the very distinct pleasure of visiting a place that has lived in my imagination for the past three years: 13th century Tuscany. To be more specific, the commune of Siena.

Now Siena is usually part of tours that include Lucca and San Gimignano, those quaint, tough little hill towns fought over endlessly in the wars of the Guelphs and Ghibellines through the 13th and 14th century.  A day trip to Siena includes the Campo, the Palazzo Pubblico, the Mangia tower, perhaps a church or two. (I call those types of tours Andiamo tours from my first tour of Italy in the 70s where the tour guide shouted constantly “Let’s go!” at a group of 16 to 18 year olds to keep us moving. We saw Italy from Pompeii to Venice in a week.) The Palio, of course, is a trip unto itself, but that’s another post. Hopefully.

We booked the trip for September, a whole week in Siena, way back in January 2012 in Maine, but the journey for me started in 2008 on a trip to Florence, a return trip for my partner and me.  Frustrated with my medieval mystery, I had abandoned it for a time, not sure what the problem was.  I’d set it in England, done tons of research, re-read all my notes and handouts from the classes in medieval history and another on the World of the Crusades I’d taken in 2000. Made more notes as I acquired books on a lengthy list of must-reads in English medieval history and culture. Watched “Lion in Winter” again and again because I have a thing for Plantagenets.  Love that movie. I love medieval mysteries, Cadfael, Roger the Chapman, Justin de Quincy, Dame Frevisse, and sexy Joliffe and Crispin Guest–another list that goes on.  But I couldn’t name you a non-English medieval mystery or sleuth at that time.

Enter Dante.

In Florence, we passed a small museum as a large group of people exited with their tour guide, taking pictures of the place, chatting in German.  A museum dedicated to Dante, his time, his works, this turned out to be.  I never read the complete Divine Comedy, just excerpts from college classes long ago. We entered and walked through Dante’s world, mouths agape. Guelphs and Ghibellines, Montaperti, the battle on the plains of Campaldino. I carried that capsule in time home to Maine with me, where it bubbled and stewed on the back burner of my unconscious. I resisted when it hit me, but my body tells me what’s right when I write and in my gut is where I felt the rightness of changing the setting to–not Florence. Siena. Florence’s rival and the underdog in their exchanges.

I’ve got a thing for underdogs, too.

Part II: What the heck were Guelphs and Ghibellines, anyway?