Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Pictures from my trip to France

Some amazing wisteria

A lovely little chateau nearby - La Chatoniere

Such narrow, deep streets! The medieval town of Chinon. From between the buildings you can look up a steep cliff to the fort. I considered this research for writing a some point.

The fortress at the top of the hill at Chinon has beautiful grounds. The bare branches of the tree against the stone was especially striking.

The Latin Quarter in Paris has some peculiar architecture. I wonder what the rooms look like in that little green house? I loved looking at all the buildings.

Limestone steps that are a couple hundred years old. I loved all the textures and colors of the stone.

The formal gardens at Villandry were phenomenal. We walked all over. They have miles of gardens, all different kinds. This one made me think of Alice in Wonderland and chessboards.

It was a fabulous trip but I think it will take me a long time to absorb everything I saw and learned there.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Ancestor's stories

As I am searching through records for my Hungarian relatives, all sorts of stories suggest themselves.

I had a marriage record that gave me a whole scenario. He was 18, she was 17. His job was listed as day laborer, hers as servant. Young kids in love, working hard. What could their dreams have been?

My grandmother's sister had 6 children. Or I should say that I found 6 records of birth with her listed as the mother. Then I found 5 records of death. Only one child survived. One child lasted a day, one lasted 10 months. I found it incredibly sad to post each death. So when I found the only surviving child's marriage record, I was so happy. Not only did he manage to survive to adulthood, he married and would probably start making grandkids.

I found a female relative that married late in life and the age difference was big - 30 years. She was in her forties and he was in his seventies. His occupation was listed as land owner. A step up from all the farmers in my family. She gave him one child. He died ten years after the marriage. Bet that was an interesting decade.

A cousin named Mihaly (Michael) married and had a son named Mihaly. The boy was born a few months after his father died fighting in WWI. The son died in WWII. His death was posted many years after the fact, cause of death roughly translated as "Disappeared in Russia".

The names make me wonder. I would say there must be some superstitions or traditions about using the same names. My relatives only seem to use 3-4 male or female names. The family tree software keeps asking me if I'm loading the same person over again. Each family names the kids after the parents and grandparents. So I end up with a Jozsef son of Jozsef who is also a son of Jozsef and on and on.

The other habit that seemed a bit morbid is reusing names. Very often I will find 2 children with the same name in the same family. That lets me know the first one died. It seems odd to me to name a child the same as a dead sibling. But perhaps it is to honor them. It has me coming up with all sorts of scenarios that need stories of their own. Are they names of saints? Or locals of authority? Considered safe or lucky?

The more I dig, the more questions I have. And the more stories present themselves

Thursday, January 16, 2014

When a twist becomes a break

I just finished reading The House on Durrow Street by Galen Beckett (book 2 of the Mrs. Quent series). It's a gentle adventure that I describe as Jane Austin on another planet, with magic. There's a lot more to it. I enjoyed it as a total departure from some of the dark Urban Fantasy I had been reading. Especially because I trusted this author not to deviate from the tone he had set. There was adventure and danger but nothing too gory or brutal. In fact there was a point where I was sure that my favorite character was about to be captured and tortured, but no, it didn't happen. I was heartily glad that it didn't because that was why I was reading the second book in the series. I knew/hoped this author wouldn't change midstream.

Now let me wade in on Downton. **Spoiler alert**

I love my hour of Downton on Sunday nights. The last episode let me down badly. The show has been about society and family, relationships and conflicts, tragedy and perseverance. The rape doesn't fit. It was so brutal I am still stewing about it 4 days later. And they did it to a sweet character. It broke my connection as a fan. I am disappointed, horrified and wondering if I will continue to watch the show. They didn't just violate the character, they violated my expectations.

I read about twists and reversals and various ways to make a story more interesting. But sometimes I think that it's the writers or the actors that are bored with the action, not the fans. I watch period drama to see people being conniving and manipulative in an elegant manner. If I wanted brutality, I'd stick to crime shows. I think that, in an effort to remain fresh, writers step outside of the original premise. They forget why the fans came to the show in the first place.

Somewhere I read a quote about writing that has stayed with me. The first chapter of a book is a promise to the reader. It tells you what the book is about. I have run across some bad examples of that. If the first chapter is a raging battle against Evil and the rest of the story is a romance, you've broken your promise to the reader. And without a doubt they will no longer trust you as a storyteller.

I've seen a couple of my favorite TV shows suddenly shift darker. I stop watching them. When I tune in for a procedural, that's what I want. When I look for a lighthearted mystery, that's what I want. I don't want the character to go dark and broody and commit crimes that will become unforgivable. I want the promise of the premise to endure.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

A look at 2013

I like to start the year with a look back at what I achieved in the previous one.

According to Goodreads, I read 30 books in 2013. Actually that means I took the time to review 30 books. There were a couple I didn't care to review and I'm sure a few I forgot or didn't have time to review.

I found a kitten. Bertie is doing really well now. Her broken leg has healed perfectly. She has put on enough weigh that I'm wondering if I should cut back a bit. She's playful and affectionate and seems to have gotten over being trapped in the crawlspace for days.

Went to France. Had a fabulous time.

I developed a genealogy addiction. My family tree has surpassed 1000 people. I have spent hours online going through photos of handwritten records of births, deaths and marriages in the 1800s. I also reached out to some long lost relatives and got some wonderful responses.

Through a relative I found a Hungarian in Budapest that has patiently done some translations for me. Thanks Gergo!

The garden suffered this year due to insane amounts of rain. 2013 was the wettest year ever. I think we got rain nearly every day, all summer. Regardless, we had an excellent blueberry crop. Just about the only thing that didn't struggle in the gray, soggy weather.

I built some raised beds in the spring and that was about all that saved the garden from becoming a mud pit.

My external drive died. I had some files on there without backups elsewhere. A BAD THING! So some things are gone and the scary part is, I'm not sure what they all might be.

I published Unintended Consequences, but the cover was one of the files I lost. Need to rebuild that.

I wrote about 40,000 words on a new story.

Got 2 rejections on a flash story that may now go into a small collection.

And I feel pretty good about it.