Drakeshelm Character Gush

I might as well get this out of the way because I know, once the cat is out of the bag, people are going to pester me about it.

Drakeshelm's first name is "Filigree."  No, she is not named after my daughter.  No, my daughter is not named after her.  It's a subtle attempt to make the word a popular name.  Just kidding.  Sort of.

I asked a few people to give me blog post ideas, and Mirriam, queen of character enthusiasm, said I should just do a gush-dump on Filigree Drakeshelm.  Do I love my character?  Yes, absolutely!  What do I love about her?  Well, let's see...


Filigree Drakeshelm is a firecracker - a little, blonde, blue-eyed firecracker.  I'd say she's about three-and-twenty in Drakeshelm, so definitely my junior in terms of age, but she's certainly more capable than I am.  You know, one of those characters you wish you were, but aren't.  Ah, those characters...

sasha pivovarova // russian model

"The Higu—they would have come to us with or without her, but with her I feel we stand a chance. Mayhap she is not bred to war,” [Touchlight] mused, “but the consul has war within her.”
Filigree has the energy of a puppy, the distrust of a cat, the bearing of an empress, the tenderness of a mother, and the dubious cunning of a fox.  She is a treat to write, and I look forward to loosing her on you in the future.   She is not generally a peaceful person, and I think that's what I like the balance between herself and my other main character so much - on the one hand I have the thrumming energy of Drakeshelm, on the other I have the rock-steady calm of Herro.  Balance.  "Balance, Daniel-san!"

Bonus trivia, about a month or two ago I discovered  Russian model Sasha Pivovarova, who is pretty much the spitting image of my mental picture of Filigree: haunting pale blue eyes, bleached blonde hair, exquisitely narrow facial structure which is both young and eerily elfin at the same time.  Bonus bonus trivial, Mirriam sent me an article about my favourite makeup artist, and it randomly contained a picture of the Russian model, which was weirdly awesome.  
 There was a sudden crack of wood being opened; the fire guttered down into a hollow of red light, crouched at the base of the brazier. The sound of snow and sleet rattled in the hall, then Alwin heard the clear, cheerful notes of a roundelay being sung, coming closer, the notes golden at their centres like flames from a candle, and fading at the edges with weariness. 

Where is the place where morning sleeps? 
(Can you tell me? Do you know?) 
Where is the way to dawn’s gold steeps 
(Cloak of swan-down, feet like snow)? 

Where is the orchard of the morning 
(Aisles of silver, fruit of gold, 
Where the gossamer adorning 
Feet like lilies, iv’ry-soled?) 

From the scarps of tempest cloud-hill 
(Truly! truly! morn is sweet) 
Pour the notes of jay and hornbill: 
“Here will peace and justice meet.”

all images via pinterest because duh where else

The Fox in the Cellar (Fan Art!)

Oh, hey, you know what's super flattering for an artist?  Discovering you have inspired other artists!  A fan laboured long and hard on this amazing image for me, just because she wanted to, and I am thrilled!  

"the fox in the cellar," by anita w.
It's got some pretty intense complexity going on, no?  Even a cameo appearance by Rosemary Laronne de la Mare, the mother that we never really get to meet in Plenilune, but whose sad story plays such a pivotal role in the life of yours truly, the main male character.  (For anyone interested, don't worry, we learn more about her later on.  Significant eyebrow-waggling.)  Thank you so much, Anita!  It's an honour to receive such a gorgeous piece of artwork inspired by my novel!

What the Regency & Rome Taught Me About Historical Accuracy

It's no secret that author Rosemary Sutcliff played a crucial role in firing my imagination to write and teaching me much about the craft simply through reading her works.  But within the past few years, I've been able to read some of the author who inspired Sutcliff - Georgette Heyer.  There are few things as widely divergent as Roman England and Regency England, but the one author liked the other and gleaned much knowledge from her.  But while I read Sutcliff say that she took all the bad techniques from Heyer when she started writing, I have to say that, in my opinion, Sutcliff was actually the better of the two.

studying your material

I've read that Heyer was a huge stickler for historical detail.  She would study for years on end, and you get many glimpses of her extensive Regency knowledge through tidbits and comments within her novels.  With Sutcliff, too, you never get the sense that she didn't know what she was writing about.  Their worlds were thick and bustling and alive.  They knew how what they were doing because they knew their material, and they could quickly and deftly go to work.  But there was one massive difference between them for me, a difference which makes me call Sutcliff far and above the better of the two.

too much

Time and again, when I would read Heyer's books and came across multiple allusions to the culture and the time, it was a jangling, abrupt sensation.  I can't even tell you quite how she managed to do it so sharply; she might mention Jackson's saloon, or Beau Brummell, which were influential in their day - and yet, there was always something sudden about their appearance in the manuscript, as if they were there only to remind the reader that this is a historically accurate novel and that the author knows her history.  The easy swing of the soul at one with the time was lacking.

But Sutcliff had that.  Pick up nearly any one of her Roman novels, and suddenly you're there, no looking back, breathing the heart and soul of the same air her characters breathed.  Her novels are chockablock with Roman surroundings - you can't escape the sturdy reality of Roman, which was the backbone of the ancient world in those days - and yet I can't recall being pulled up short by some otherwise historically accurate comment which left me feeling as if the spell had suddenly been broken, the dream had been popped, that I was suddenly back in my chair reading a physical book and not living the lives of the characters at all. 

heart and soul

Maybe that's the key.  Heart and soul.  No matter how much you know or don't know about the time period, it's never going to walk and run and soar with life until you've stopped tinkering with the dead bones of it and breathed life into it, until you've given up the amateur fear of being "correct" and have let the spirit of the story take you.  When a story has spirit, when it has heart and soul, the reader can see and feel it.  That's when the structure of historical accuracy that you have given it has dimension just as a dream has dimension.  Without heart and soul, historical accuracy is just a VBS backdrop to a one-dimensional play.  You can't keep trying to compress your story into "historical accuracy" or it will grow stagnant and pot-bound and wilt.  You've got to let it go.  You've got to let it live.  You've got to give it heart and soul, which are things historical accuracy can't give you: only you can give it to your novel.
...finally his thumb brushed over her lips and he let her go as a man lets go a wild thing he hopes might come back some day.

Chuffed As a Cat, & Other Aspects of Drakeshelm

You know that slog I was going through during the holidays?  The one with the depression?  I think I'm slowly coming out of the woods now; February has some promises to look forward to, and I am doing what I can in my own way to get through the difficult aspects of my little life.  I think a large part of me simply grows tired with being beaten down and sad, and hardens against the blows; a part of me grows tired of being tired and stops paying it any mind.  It is a stubborn response, and one which some of my Plenilune readers found oddly shocking in my characters, but it is undeniably a fighting sentiment, and life is full of fighting.

Drakeshelm is finally over 50,000 words!  You know, two months after NaNo (which I was not participating in), I finally reached that benchmark.  Boy oh boy, that's ridiculous.  And before you say, "Oh, but Jenny - " (do you call me Jenny? I usually do go by Jenny) " - you have so many other things you have to do!" let's be honest here and just take a gander at all the times I could have been writing, but I sat staring at Pinterest instead.  Okay?  Let's get real here.  No excuses.

Despite some serious terrain alterations in the novel (and accidentally forgetting to take care of a plot point), the novel is coming along smashingly.  I am very pleased with this particular book.  Talldogs gave me heapsuh trouble, but Drakeshelm is being a much better-behaved creature thus far.  Even better than Plenilune, if we're honest, although the scope of the two is wildly diverse and I don't think you could fairly compare them.  Well, anyway, I'm just going to keep saying I'm chuffed as a cat what got in the cream with this book, and I'll keep saying it until I spill the cream all down my front and I'll let you know when it's being a booger.

He nodded. “Heretofore,” his eyelids flickered open, caught in a circle of lamplight as hazel-coloured shards, “I had held it off. But this time I knew it was coming up. Couldn’t stop it.”
“That sort of demon, only thing to get it out is with prayer and vomiting.”

A bleak snow-sky overcapped them, but in the west there was a break in the clouds where the golden evening furnace burned and washed the air with light, so that the few soft-blown flakes of snow which were falling were tinged on their sides with yellow and looked like scattered petals of white roses going by. Alwin sat in the shade of the porch, bundled in his lionskin with a heavy rug of wadmal thrown across his lap. Destrian lounged against the railing beside him where the west made a silver-lined silhouette of his helm and a spark off the chape of his scabbard, and together they watched the consul come up the street on horseback.

I will take it as a compliment,” he lashed back angrily, “for I have seen that you measure no one genially, and your praise, hard-won, is rarely forthcoming. Thank you!”
She leaned back upon her heels, her head up and her hands dug down into the froth of her furs. The back of the wind feathered her figure for a moment…then she rocked back down into the shelter of the porch wall and murmured,
“Don’t let go your anger yet, Commander. It is at present what gives you strength.”
“I have more than you know,” he replied crisply.

...something caused her to look round once more, just once, to see the orderly sitting forward, touching his Commander as if to anchour him to life, his other hand draped limply over his knee. She was put in mind of a sudden of a tapestry she had once seen, a picture of paradise, in which the massive gilt lion with its scarlet maw and flashing tail lounged side by side with the lean, pert greyhound.

She smiled like a wolf in summer.

He turned his head to look at it, feeling an odd detachment from the gesture, wondering why it did not strike him as outrageous that the slip of golden demon, which spun free of any sort of touch from mankind as a feather in the wind, should be human enough and solid enough to put her hand upon him and not vanish into the air. She had a ring on her middlemost finger, rather heavy for a woman’s piece, and it was a real, red thing in the muddled, blackened room.
Mars, he thought. Her ruling house must be Ego.