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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Writer Wednesday: The Irish Princess


On Writer Wednesday, I discuss another author and his or her book.

Today's pick is the historical fiction book, The Irish Princess, by Karen Harper.

This was the first book that I read by Harper. It tells the story of Elizabeth Fitzgerald, who was a real person. From her childhood in Maynooth, Ireland to living in exile in England and her days at court with the Tudors, Elizabeth (called Lady Gera) is a fascinating character. Her devotion to her family, Ireland and her heritage fuels her passion and her reason for living.

My photo of Maynooth Castle 

Aside from being well-written and engaging, this story was of particular interest to me because I have been to the real Maynooth Castle in County Kildare. It was thrilling to see those stones and mortar brought alive through Harper's vivid story.

My photo from Maynooth Castle, also called Geraldine Castle

Why is this book called The Irish Princess? More than merely a lady in waiting to the Tudors, Elizabeth's father claimed that she had the rights of an Irish princess. Her father, the 9th Earl of Kildare, was the Lord Deputy of Ireland. The Lord Deputy was the representative for the king of England in Ireland. Elizabeth's older half-brother was the famous Silken Thomas, who marched on Dublin with his men when his father was imprisoned and killed in the Tower of London. 

Another tie to The Tower of London and Elizabeth Fitzgerald comes through Henry Howard. Both Anne Boleyn (famously beheaded in the Tower of London) and Catherine Howard were first cousins of Henry Howard. Inspired by Elizabeth Fitzgerald, Henry Howard penned this sonnet in her honor. 

A SONNET by Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey 

Elizabeth Fitzgerald, photo from Wikipedia
Description and Praise of his Love Geraldine.
From Tuscan’ came my lady’s worthy race;
Fair Florence was some time their ancient seat;
The western isle, whose pleasant shore doth face
Wild Camber’s cliffs, did give her lively heat:
Fostered she was with milk of Irish breast;
Her sire an earl; her dame of princes’ blood:
From tender years, in Britain she doth rest
With king’s child, where she tasteth costly food.
Hunsdon did first present her to my een:
Bright is her hue, and Geraldine she hight:
Hampton me taught to wish her first for mine:
And Windsor, alas, doth chase me from her sight.
Her beauty of kind, her virtues from above;
Happy is he that can obtain her love.

If you want to see King Henry VIII, Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Mary from another angle, I encourage you to read this book. If you want to find out more about Ireland in Tudor times, I recommend this book. If you're a fan of historical fiction in general, this is a very interesting read.

My best to you all,

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I love but don't talk about enough

Today's Top Ten Tuesday theme from The Broke and the Bookish is 10 Books I really love, but feel like I haven't talked about enough.

There are a few books that have found their way onto multiple top ten lists that I've written (ahem, Shakespeare, Sherlock Holmes, step aside for the moment). Today's challenge is to put those books out of my mind and focus on the ones that I love and don't talk about much. I've purposefully picked books that I've not featured on previous lists (as far as I remember!)

1. Book: To The Ends of the Earth: 100 maps that Changed the World 
Author: Neil Safier and Sarah Bendall
Why I love it: The history of cartography is fascinating. Drawing from a wide range of cultures and time periods, this book explores not only how maps have looked but what's important to the people who have made them.

2. Book: Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain
Author: Betty Edwards
Why I love it: This is a scientific examination of drawing that offers new techniques to help improve one's ability. Only draw stick figures? This can help hone your craft. The trick is in forgetting that an arm is an arm and really concentrating on only the shape. One of my favorite exercises was drawing a complex image upside down. It's remarkably effective!

3.Book: The Women Who Wrote the War
Author: Nancy Caldwell Sorel
Why I love it: Women in combat. This is an underwritten area of history, especially when it's beyond the most recent decades. This book explores the women who were in combat, not as nurses, but as carriers of the truth.

4. Book: Understanding Global Cultures
Author: Martin J. Gannon
Why I love it: Each country has a metaphor to explain why it's people and customs exist as they do.

5. Book: Rose Under Fire
Author: Elizabeth Wein
Why I love it: This book is heart-wrenching. I'm not a fan of sad- especially in fiction, mostly because there's enough sad in non-fiction. But- Elizabeth Wein captures this story brilliantly. Rose is full of life, even in the midst of the concentration camp. She also teaches the other girls Girl Scout songs. I'm a lifelong Girl Scout and Gold Award recipient. When Rose muses that they should have had the chance to just be friends, it hits hard.

6. Book: Case for a Creator and Case for Christ
Author: Lee Strobel
Why I love it/them: Using the style of an investigator (he was a criminal investigator in Chicago, Strobel interviews experts to provide concrete historical, archaeological, psychological, philosophical and scientific proof to Biblical claims. In fact, he was an atheist at the time when he set out on his journey of discovery. I am very much of an understanding that faith and science are not enemies and can coexist. These seem especially appropriate to mention in this week before Easter.

7. Book: An Officer and a Spy
Author: Robert Harris
Why I love it: This work of historical fiction follows the Dreyfus affair. As well as learning more about this very interesting part of history, I found Harris to be an engaging writer with poignant characters.

8. Book: Washington: A Life
Author: Ron Chernow
Why I love it: I've been to Mount Vernon, Valley Forge, and Yorktown- all places that were important to Washington. This book was an in-depth, detailed account of Washington's entire life. There were so many interesting pieces of information that were new to me in this book that painted a full portrait of the man and the times.

9. Book: Reason and Persuasion: 3 Dialogues by Plato
Author: John Holbo
Why I love it: This was the companion book to a Coursera class that I took. It explores three of Plato's dialogues rewritten in contemporary language.

10. Book: July 1914: Countdown to War
Author: Sean McMeekin
Why I love it: WWI continues to inspire scores of scholarship and fiction. This book delves into the history immediately before it began- from the time that Franz Ferdinand was assassinated until the eve of the "guns of August". I thought it was so interesting that I bought it for my dad for his birthday this year.

Have you read any of these? What are some of your beloved, but under spoken about books?

My best to you all,

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Exploring Ireland this St. Patrick's Day

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

I am American and for over eight years, I've had the lovely privilege of living in Ireland. Why do I live here? My husband is Irish. I'm thus an insider from the outside... Here's a look at some past posts about Ireland.

7 Things You Might Not Know about Ireland... 

Did you know that Ireland has a world heritage monument older than the pyramids?

We all speak English here, right? A look at differences in the way we speak English. 

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

How do you celebrate today?

My best to you all,

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

In honor of St. Patrick's Day...

In honor of St. Patrick's Day tomorrow, today's Writer Wednesday, features a round-up of previous Writer Wednesdays on books about Ireland.

Dublin was where Handel's Hallelujah first debuted to the world. This book explores the story behind it.

Trivia style information for each of the counties of Ireland is explored in this interesting read.

In 1014, a battle was waged on the outskirts of Dublin between Leinster and Vikings and Brian Boru. This is the story behind it.

Transatlantic is the only work of fiction on this round-up. It explores the special relationship on both sides of the Atalntic that the US and Ireland share through many historical periods.

Have you read books about Ireland? Do you celebrate St. Patrick's Day?

Our tradition is to watch our town's parade and eat lunch at the once yearly buffet of... Indian food. Not what you expected I'd say?  Thought it'd be something more like corned beef and cabbage? Ireland has always been a place of mixing cultures. Many nationalities have made Ireland home, including this American when she married her Irish husband- who, incidentally, has never had corned beef before and thought it was funny when I said that we all wear green on St. Patrick's day or risk being pinched. Some people do wear green here, but it's often with orange and white to symbolize the three colors of the Irish flag. Do you know what they stand for? Green is for the Gaelic and Catholic tradition of Ireland. Orange is for the Protestant supporters of William of Orange. And white is for the peace that stands between them.

My best to you all,

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Ten Books on my Spring To be Read List

On today's Top Ten Tuesday, from The Broke and the Bookish, the theme is top ten books on my spring to be read list. Here are a few on my list. These are in no particular order

1. Finish what I'm reading currently: Jerusalem: The Biography by Simon Sebag Montefiore

This book explores Jerusalem from its ancient foundations to the present. Each of the major religions as well as empires are examined.

2. The Ancient Paths: Discovering the Lost Map of Celtic Europe by Graham Robb

This book dives into pre-Roman Europe, exploring the Celts who peopled the lands.

3. Titans of History by Simon Sebag Montefiore

This book presents the major figures of history and explains why they are important and what they are known for.

4.The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate by Robert D. Kaplan

I'm looking forward to reading this book on how geography influences history.

5. Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

I'm intrigued by this book which studies how we think in two ways- both fast and instinctual and slower and deliberately.

6. Among the Mad: Maisie Dobbs #6 by Jacqueline Winspear

I've enjoyed the first five Maisie Dobbs books (a female detective and psychologist in the 1920s and 1930s in London) and I'm looking forward to continuing her adventures with her.

7. The American West by Dee Brown

Native Americans, ranchers and cowboys- this book explores each of the narratives of the formative figures of the American west.

8.Emma by Jane Austen

I'm familiar with this story.  This and Mansfield Park are the last two of Jane Austen's books that I haven't yet read.

9. The Irish Princess by Karen Harper

This is a story about the Tudors told from an Irish perspective. It sounds interesting!

10. Your work! www.ExtraInkEdits.com

Have you read any of these books? What's on your to be read list? How do you decide what next to read?

My best to you all,

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Writer Wednesday: Dive into Russia


On Writer Wednesday, I discuss another author and his or her book. Today I am discussing two books that dive into Russia. The first, Russia: A 1,000 Year Chronicle of the Wild East by Martin Sixsmith, is a work of non-fiction and does all the title says- it chronicles 1000 years of Russian history. I particularly found the parts on Catherine the Great's strive toward democracy and 1000 year old Kievan Rus interesting. In Sixsmith's narrative, these points in time are a departure from the largely autocratic history of Russia. Whether under the Mongols, monarchy, or Communism, Russia has often been ruled by central authority in an autocracy. In fact, the Mongols and their conquest, as the first autocratic rulers, pulled Russia away from Europe and toward autocratic Asia. There would be times when Russia's gaze turned west again, but the Mongols kept Russia out of the Renaissance and out of more European ways of living and ruling.

After finishing Russia, I read Notes from Underground by Dostoevsky. This was the first Russian classical literature work that I read. It has been described as being on the cusp of the nineteenth and twentieth century and that was true. It was part philosophy, part regret and part study of how we treat each other.

I purposefully read these books sequentially, wanting to see how the historic knowledge of Sixsmith's book would inform the fiction of Dostoevsky. It is fitting then that autocracy should find a place in Notes from Underground. Dostoevsky asserts that people claim they want freedom, but really they wouldn't know what to do with it. He goes even further then to illustrate that people live through books. Perhaps, it is no mistake then that throughout Russian history, especially Stalinist Communism, writers, poets, and artists were often suppressed. Some ideas were too powerful for the state to contend with in order to keep a united empire.

In a society where freedom allows us the opportunity to read what we choose and write what we wish to, it's our responsibility to read and write freely and to go a step further, to embark on the paths of thought that they create.

Do you ever read literature in the context of its history? What are your thoughts on autocracy, literature and the ability to think freely?

My best to you all,

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Top 10 Mistakes I see in Others' Writing

As an editor, it's my job to help improve others' writing. Having taught college writing, I make sure to always point out what's good in clients' work as well as what needs improvement. Here are a few common errors that I see.

1. Queries that read like synopses- I see this one a lot. Most often, they're long and rambling and try to describe too many secondary characters.

2. Not writing about yourself in your query- This is a close second to the most common mistake that I see. You as the writer are important. You existed before the story did and agents or editors want to know about you. This doesn't mean you should make it super personal, but relevant details about you should be included.

3. Impossible character names- It's ok to be unique with your name choices, but your reader should be able to pronounce it. How else will they tell everyone how much they loved it?

4. Historical settings that are vague, not historic- This story takes place somewhere in the eighteenth century, where they wore long dresses. Cringe. Your setting, historic or not, should be important and for more than just wardrobe choices. Historical fiction settings are necessary for the story to take place in. Without the setting, the story couldn't happen- at least not in the same way. That's a major trademark of historical fiction. Therefore, it's important that there be an actual historical setting that is precise and necessary to the story.

5. Describing your characters physically- especially too much, too soon. Have you ever empathized with a person because they had blue eyes? Probably not. Just because the person is on the page doesn't mean that the rules of connectivity are completely different. If appearance isn't important to the story, it's probably not important to the reader either.

6. Chapters that end with no sense of urgency-  If there's no forward momentum, then readers may be less inclined to continue reading.

7. Not introducing the crux of the story soon enough- What is the central question that this book will answer? This should be addressed early on to create interest. It may be about plot or character or both. The important thing is that there's a question and that the reader knows what it is.

8. Titles that are unappealing- No sense of suspense or question in the title will not attract a reader's attention. Titles are the names by which books introduce themselves to the world. Make sure the world wants to get to know that book. If you need title assistance and are an indie author, I offer this service to help you find the perfect fit for your story. Why do I not offer this to traditionally published authors? Because agents or editors may change your title.

9. Not saying upfront what the genre of the book is- This is true for query letters as well as for marketing. If the reader has to guess halfway through the query or blub what the genre is then there's a problem.

10.  Synopses that aren't interesting enough- Writing a synopsis can seem impossibly difficult. How do you squeeze an entire book into a page or two? This is a learned skill. It's important, though, that you make your synopsis interesting. Keep up the pace, the intrigue and write in present tense. This moves the synopsis along and, with a little luck, will get the agent or editor craving the whole book.

Do any of these resonate with you? Are there any particular areas that you'd like to learn more about in writing? I'm open to post suggestions.

For all of your editing needs, visit Extra Ink Edits.

Happy writing!

My best to you all,

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

20,000 Views Query Critique Give-Away!


My blog is reaching 20,000 views soon. Yay! In honor of this milestone, I'm giving away a FREE query critique from Extra Ink Edits.

Comment below for your chance to win. When 20,000 views are reached, I'll announce the winner! The more shares, the quicker the prize will be given.

My best to you all,

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Top Ten: In the Mood for Classics that are relevant

On today's Top Ten from The Broke and the Bookish, the theme is top ten books for when you're in the mood for X. I'm choosing my X to be Classics that are still relevant.

1) Book: The Complete Works
Author:  William Shakespeare (Ok, technically everyone else gathered his material, but he did write the plays.)
Why I picked it? Referenced in court, TV, books, music- everywhere! Although Shakespeare died 400 years ago, his words are clearly alive still.

2) Book: The Complete Sherlock Holmes
Author: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Why I picked it:  Mystery at its finest

3)  Book: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass
Author: Lewis Carroll
Why I picked it:   This examines our size and place within the world and looking at things with fresh eyes.

4) Book: To the Lighthouse
Author: Virginia Woolf
Why I picked it:  This explores the interconnectedness of all people and how we influence each other.

5) Book: The Wind in the Willows
Author: Kenneth Grahame
Why I picked it: Humorous, charming, lovely

6)  Book: Sonnets from the Portuguese
Author: Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Why I picked it: Beautiful poetry and love is never out of style.

7) Book: To Kill a Mockingbird
Author: Harper Lee
Why I picked it:  Embedded in this book is the timeless message to protect the innocent.

8) Book: Fahrenheit 451
Author: Ray Bradbury
Why I picked it: Ideas and books are immensely powerful.

9) Book: Franny and Zoey 
Author: J.D. Salinger
Why I picked it: This book, more than just a tale of discontented youth, deals with belief and consecrating the ordinary.

10) Book: Jonathan Livingston Seagull 
Author: Richard Bach
Why I picked it:  This teaches all to soar.

Have you read these books? What would you include in a list of top ten relevant classics? 

My best to you all,