The romance high holiday is upon us–enjoy it with your special someone, be they flesh or fiction 🙂
This is the time of year when people start talking about being thankful and counting their blessings. Normally, that’s an easy thing for me to do—I’ve been pretty contented with my lot in life over the past year.
Until the rains came.
My father became very ill in October and spent several weeks in the hospital. I was slated to attend a conference for Math Teachers during that time, and after speaking with the doctors, decided Dad was stable enough for me to leave. It was only for 3 days, but he took an unexpected turn for the worse, and I spent half the conference on the phone with my sister discussing medical options and DNRs. I made it home from CharmCity just in time to receive the call from the hospital, and be with Dad when he died.
His passing coincided with the end of the marking period at school, so I was also bombarded by stacks of papers that needed grading, and e-mails from parents wondering why assignments hadn’t been logged into our system. Every moment I wasn’t making funeral arrangements—or answering all those e-mails—I spent grading. I even enlisted the help of my mother, my sister, and my department chair in order to meet my deadline. And I did. Every assignment that had to go on the first quarter report cards got finished.
And all the while, I had the worst migraine I’ve had in years. It lasted a total of two months, and I’m still feeling the after effects. It was so bad that, during all that grading, I could only read a couple of papers before my vision went blurry from the pain. I shouldn’t have been reading at all, or even out of bed, but I did what I had to do. After the marking period deadline passed, I spent a week in bed in a dark room and another several days learning to be upright again. When I went back to school I kept the lights off, and had my students do all the reading and writing. And they were wonderful! They kept each other quite. They came to me with questions so I didn’t have to be on my feet and moving around. They told me silly stories to cheer me up. And I continued to improve.
Then, of course, I was pulled out of class to meet with the principal and superintendent. That’s when I found out I no longer had a job. I didn’t recover from the migraine fast enough, they told me, and couldn’t be an effective teacher. These people–who were supposed to be my professional family–decided it would be easier to cut me loose and find someone else. Not only did they completely sever my means of financial support and health insurance, but they hurt me personally. These people had promised to support me, and instead they turned on me.
After all that, what could I possibly have to be thankful for? Silver linings on clouds that dark are hard to find.
But I found five:
1. Family They drive me crazy most of the time, but my mom and stepdad are there when it counts. I’ve been living with them since my return to Michigan a year and a half ago, and was just about to sign a lease on my own apartment when I lost my job. They didn’t even bat an eyelash—I just wasn’t moving out. I have a roof over my head, food to eat, and all the wifi I can use for as long as I need it.
2. Friends I tend toward introversion, but my friends (both in person and electronic) have been massively supportive. They check in on me to make sure I’m okay, but give me space to be alone when I need to. They offered advice as well as condolences when Dad’s time came. And the best part: hugs, in real and virtual form. I’ve needed a lot of hugs these past months, and my friends were always there to provide them.
3. Doctor Who No, this isn’t just a cheap way to get in a pic of Matt Smith and David Tennant. The Doctor, his companions, his enemies, and his adventures have been like aloe on a sunburn for me. The show is smart, witty, funny, and exemplifies character development—all of which kept my mind occupied and soothed my soul as life became more and more overwhelming. Plus, the trips to Victorian England—complete with Matt Smith in a frock coat and beaver hat—were especially fun for this history geek 🙂
4. Audio books I discovered audio books over the summer as a means of distraction as I attempted to exercise away the extra pounds I carry. The rest of the time I prefer the written word to the spoken one. But over the last couple of months reading has been impossible. Lying in the dark with a crushing pain in your head is also rather maddening—a person can only sleep so much. What else can you do? Well, if you’re like me, you pull out the old iPod and listen to a book. It didn’t matter what the book was, it was something for me to focus on instead of the pain and frustration of being incapacitated but still conscious. I don’t think I retained much of the stories, but just having them available kept me from going crazy.
5. Flannel sheets and fuzzy blankets This time of year, when the temperature is dropping and the snow is accumulating, I start to miss my former home in Miami. And, to be honest, I complain about it more than I should. But as much as I liked it, there was one thing the MagicCity could never provide: the comfort of flannel sheets or a fuzzy blanket on a cold night. Add a soft pillow and a pet or two to the mix, and you’ve got an evening that relaxes the body like no humid tropical night ever could. Plus, no giant cockroaches to worry about 😉
So those are my five silver linings in an otherwise dark autumn. What are you thankful for this holiday season?
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a writer who is also a teacher will never get everything done she has planned for the month of August. And so my Austen in August participation has not gone exactly as I’d envisioned it.
I own a beautiful Kindle version of all six of Jane Austen’s novels, together in one illustrated file. I also have, waiting on my TBR list, Vera Nazarian’s Austen mash-up Northanger Abbey and Angels and Dragons. It was my intention to read all of these, and I had even triaged a list in case I began to run out of time.
Instead, I got caught in the back-to-school web, and have been focusing on summer reading books—at my school the departments take turns grading the essays the students turn in, and this year my department is up—and getting my classroom ready. Reading for pleasure has been tough to squeeze in.
So instead of reading for our Austen in August celebration, I’ve taken to watching. It’s a different kind of experience to be sure. I’m such a visual learner that seeing actual images leaves a different kind of impression on my brain than creating images as I read. But it’s been exceedingly enjoyable.
Here are a few of the productions I’ve watched this month:
Pride and Prejudice: Having a Ball
Produced by the BBC, this is a 90 minute recreation of the Netherfield Ball from Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. Host Alastair Sooke takes the viewer through myriad preparations: dance students learning the steps to a cotillion, a seamstress making an older style dress into a Regency one, a master chef creating historically accurate ices from Georgian molds. I consider myself pretty well-versed in Regency culture, but even I learned a thing or two (did you know that gentlemen sometimes wore cosmetics?). And the visual display of the finished product was absolutely stunning, not just as an Austen adaptation but as a Regency recreation.
The Lizzie Bennet Diaries
If P&P’s Elizabeth Bennet had been a 21st Century grad student, this is what her life would have been like. This online modernization is presented as Lizzie’s video blog, with each episode running around three minutes. For those of you looking for a classic adaptation, cover your eyes now. This version is coarser than Jane Austen’s (with references to nights spent drinking, and language I wouldn’t use in front of my grandmother, for example). But it’s funny, light, and oddly on the nose so far (one of the developers is Hank Green, brother of Mental Floss’s John Green, so I expected no less). I haven’t finished all the episodes yet (there are 100, plus extras), but I can’t wait to see how the rest play out. Catch the complete series here.
Pride and Prejudice
Colin Firth. Jennifer Ehle. What more do I need to say? 😀
I’m still hoping to get to all the books I mentioned, but I’m officially back to school today, so we’ll see if my free time and energy level will play nice with each other. If not, there are plenty more adaptations to watch!
Way back in May, my little blog here was nominated by Badass Romance for a Liebster award. How cool, right? Some recognition for the work I’ve put in making this little slice of the internet historically accurate and infinitely interesting!
Well, sort of.
The Liebster is a cross between an electronic thumbs-up and a chain letter. It’s a way for bloggers to recognize blogs they think are awesome, yet have 200 or fewer followers. It also requires its recipients to post facts and answer questions about themselves and their blogs, and to continue the chain by nominating other blogs.
What an honor! 😉
In all seriousness, I’m thrilled that Pamela thought of me when she drew up her list of nominees/winners. Not only did I get that nice warm-fuzzy feeling because she likes me (yay!), but I got to poke around on her blog, too. I found a well-spoken woman with similar tastes in books–a kindred spirit!
And now, to fulfill my duties as a Liebster award recipient:
11 Random Facts about Cora Lee
- I have lived in 3 different states, but never outside the Eastern Time Zone.
- I bought my first graphic novel at the age of 30.
- My favorite sport is ice hockey.
- I only became a tea drinker when I returned to the Midwest, and that was under duress—winters are cold here, and one can only drink so much hot chocolate.
- I have owned 3 dogs as an adult, each one larger than his predecessor.
- Even though I write historicals, my characters and scenes are often inspired by modern music (Linkin Park, Queen, Maroon 5, The Platters, etc).
- I’ve found at least one song that I like in every musical genre I’ve ever heard (check my iPod—you’ll see!).
- I’m terrible with plants. Dogs and cats will remind you to feed them, but flowers don’t talk.
- My favorite color is blue.
- I have a fondness for both Richard III and Henry VII.
- When we investigated careers in the 9th grade, one of the three I chose was “writer”. (The other two were, I believe, “teacher” and “pilot”.)
11 Questions Posed by Badass Romance…and Their Answers
- What is your favorite actual trophy or other award you can put on a shelf or hang on a wall? My First Place certificate from the Ignite the Flame contest last year, run by the Central Ohio Fiction Writers.
- Jane Eyre or WutheringHeights? I haven’t read Jane Eyre yet, but I remember Wuthering Heights being a bit too Gothic for me.
- What book is the most recent addition to your DIK [desert island keeper] shelf? The audio version of Georgette Heyer’s Sylvester (and not just because it was read by Richard Armitage 🙂 ). Yes it was abridged, and I normally hate that, but Phoebe was magnificent, and Tom was a wonderful side-kick. The story itself was a lot of fun, too—I found myself laughing quite a lot as I listened.
- What book is at the top of your TBR stack? There are so many, it has ceased to be a stack and has developed into several bins and a huge Kindle collection. The last book I ordered was Bosworth by Chris Skidmore, and I’m looking forward reading it…hopefully soon.
- What book keeps getting remaindered at the bottom of your TBR pile, and do you think you’ll ever get around to reading it? I’ve had Dead or Alive by Tom Clancy for a couple of years now, and I’m not sure if I’ll ever get to it. I love the Jack Ryan novels, but there was such a long time between them I’ve forgotten a lot of what happened in the previous books.
- What language do you wish you were fluent in? It varies. Usually it’s French, because that would be immensely helpful in reading and researching British history (which is linked with French history at least since the Norman Conquest). Sometimes it’s Middle English (which is quite different from our modern variety). Lately, though, it’s been Russian—I’ve been on a spy movie/TV show/novel kick lately, and the bad guys are often (still) Russians. I only remember a few words from my college classes, and I’d like to know more 😀
- Medieval castle or Mediterranean villa? The villa would certainly be better for my health than a drafty old castle, but I’d have so much more fun exploring the castle!
- What did you eat for breakfast? Blueberry waffles.
- How do you feel about time travel plots? I like them if they’re set up well. Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series and Sarah Woodbury’s After Cilmeri series are two of my favorites.
- What is your favorite carnival ride? Ferris Wheel
- What blog did you find this week that you love? (time to start thinking about your Liebster nominees!) http://romanceaddict91.wordpress.com/
11 Liebster Nominees
http://rakesandrascals.wordpress.com/ Reviews of a romantic nature and much more.
http://susanaellisauthor.wordpress.com/ For readers and authors of historical romance.
http://regencyredingote.wordpress.com/ Historical snippets of Regency England.
http://cavalrytales.wordpress.com/ British cavalry in the 19th century and other jottings.
http://katherinebone.wordpress.com/ Rogues, Rebels & Rakes
http://lauriebenson.net/ Laurie Benson’s Cozy Drawing Room
http://romancereadergirl.com/ Reading and chatting about romance.
http://janeaustenslondon.com/ Walks through Regency London.
http://philippajanekeyworth.wordpress.com/ Writing, Wit & Wonderings
http://rakesroguesandromance.com/ Historical Romance–because passion lives forever.
http://amypfaffauthor.wordpress.com/ Regency romances with a touch of magic.
11 Questions for the New Liebster Recipients
- If you could visit anywhere in the world, during any time period, where would you go? What would you do there?
- Who is your favorite fictional character?
- Are you a dog person or a cat person?
- What is the best book you’ve read in the last year?
- Have you ever seen a film adaptation of a novel you’ve read? If so, which was your favorite?
- Have you ever seen a film adaptation of a novel you haven’t read that made you want to read it?
- Are you a morning person or a night owl?
- How did you come up with the name of your blog?
- Do you have a writing cave or a reading nook? What does it look like?
- If someone was new to your favorite genre, what book would you recommend they start with?
- Mr. Darcy (from Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice) or Mr. Thornton (from Elizabeth Gaskell’s North & South)?
There you go new Liebsters! Have fun!
And thank you readers for sticking with me through this unusually long post! I hope you learned some things today, and that you found some new blogs to check out 🙂
It’s been a while since I posted to this blog on a regular basis, and I’m afraid I never introduced myself properly in the first place. Oh, sure, there’s the “official” bio on the About page, and all my contact links appear if you click on my picture to the left. But that’s only a small part of who I am.
By day I am a high school teacher—not in English or in History, as most people would assume, but in Mathematics and Psychology. I majored in History because I loved it (still do, more than any other subject). But by the time I realized my place in the world was in a classroom, I had half of an engineering degree completed…including a whole bunch of math. And so I’ve been teaching high school math for the last 10 years. Psychology was kind of an accident–it was part of the position when I applied, and no one wants to take it over. I’m okay with that, though, because it’s actually a really fun class! And I can’t even count how many times I’ve had an insight into one of my characters while teaching a lesson.
By night—and on weekends, school vacations, and over the summer—I’m a writer. I love books of all kinds, and get ideas in a bunch of different genres, but my specialty is historical romance. Right now I’m working on the first book in a Regency series that focuses on three brothers and their attempts (consciously done or otherwise) to reunite with the women they loved, but lost. Some parts (mostly the big things) are progressing well. Some parts (mostly the little details) are taking forever. I have no representation or publisher, just two wonderful critique partners and a fabulous circle of friends who support me as I muddle through 🙂
At all times, I’m a patient with three chronic illnesses. I have doctors and medications to help me along and regulate many of my symptoms, but one thing I never seem to have enough of is energy. Most of it is spent at school with my students, their parents, and my fellow educators. Tasks are prioritized not just by due date, but by size and the amount of effort required of me for each one. I’m very careful to watch my schedule, weighing each invitation and event against the big picture, and what it will cost me physically to go. I write more slowly, don’t devote as much time to social media, take longer to research things because of my health. But when I get published, the victory will be all the sweeter because I worked so hard to get there.
Most of my posts here will be history-related, focusing on the Regency period (because that’s what I’m writing) but including anything else I find interesting. Some posts will deal with writing, or the life of an as-yet-unpublished writer. Occasionally I’ll post about other things: school, my personal life, my illnesses, sports, Psychology, how the hero of my first novel is like Batman (yes, really!). Whatever the subject, I hope to inform and entertain. And I hope you’ll keep coming back for more 😀
I was going to do a post on titles, but M.M. Bennetts beat me to it, and is more entertaining!
I thought today that, for a change, I would do something useful. Indeed, I went so far as to decide that this blog must be both fun and accurate.
(I even tried to contract those two words into one for this purpose: Fun + accurate = fu…Yes, yes, stopping now.)
Because, you see, there is this small matter which apparently requires clarification. For those who find it tricky.
And it is, as the bold letters at the top of this bijou blogette would suggest, to do with the use of titles. Which as I say appear to cause untold confusion in some quarters.
So I thought I’d do my best to lay it out clearly. For my friends… (Yes, that’s right, I do have friends.) …Who occasionally write about Englishy things, but get tripped up by this.
View original post 1,175 more words
I was reading the reviews on Amazon a couple of months ago for some Regency-era novel, and one reviewer was upset because the book was set in England (not the UK—she specifically mentioned England, so Scotland, Ireland, Wales, and the rest of the old Empire were apparently exempted). She went on to comment that so many historical romances were set in England these days that she was sick of them all, and wondered why authors never used more exotic locales.
My first reaction was indignation—how dare she disparage a place and period so near and dear to my heart?! And it was a Regency novel she was reviewng, what did she expect? But the question rolled around in my head for a while, and I began to wonder the same thing, minus the resentment. Why is England so popular a setting for historical fiction authors?
My attraction to English history is partly personal. I adore reading about many locations and periods of time, but many of my ancestors are English, including my grandfather. It’s interesting to me to study the history of a country so closely tied to my family. And since said grandfather died before I was born, it’s also a way for me to connect with him, to get to know him through the culture and events of his first home.
I think, too, that Samantha Brown (from The Travel Channel) hit the nail on the head when she said that visiting England was, at least for Americans, Europe-light. It is exotic for us with the differences in food, accents, and dialects, but it’s not way outside our comfort zones. Traveling to London from the US seems kind of like visiting, say, Atlanta when you’re from Minneapolis—go with me on this one. Some accents are hard to manage, sure, but they still speak English and you can make yourself understood. Some of the food is decidedly different from what you’d find on your table at home, but it’s recognizable and you can find something you like. Your trip is full of new and exciting experiences, and you don’t have to worry about whether or not you can read the street signs.
So what do you think? Are there other reasons readers might favor stories set in England? Or are there locations you prefer when you’re choosing a book?