Sunday, August 30, 2015

Why does history matter? (Sunday morning ruminations)

"Why does history matter?"
This is the sort of question my eighth grader asks me when frustrated.

He's my homeschool kid (the other two are in not-home-schools) for a variety of reasons, though we'll just call it "falling through the cracks." He's a smart kid, good at building (with popsicle sticks, in Minecraft, and in taking apart and putting together Nerf guns), good at understanding the ideas of math but not at memorizing times tables. He gets things: from the small concepts to big ones of how and why.

So why is he so resistant to history?For him personally, it's not an interest. And it involves reading and writing.

But why is the USA resistant to history?

Is it because we've taken all the joy out of it by trying to cover everything in the textbooks, without going into any depth or linking our past to the rest of the world? Is it because textbooks are chosen by a committee and quite often the members of that committee are there to push their own political agenda, not to care about kids learning to think about history? Some accuse these school boards of trying to keep the kids from thinking or questioning, which are inherently dangerous to certain politicians.

Of course, there's this:

 “Those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it.” ― Edmund Burke

 But my son is thirteen; he's pretty sure he's not the one making history. He doesn't have the interest or drive. Except maybe he'll invent some fabulous stuff, like teleportation and time machines. Maybe a nice jet pack. I point out to him that in that case, he needs to understand and build on what scientists and engineers have already done in those fields. Standing on the shoulders of giants, as Isaac Newton said.

 “Any fool can know. The point is to understand.” ― Albert Einstein

I have to keep in mind that I didn't actually get excited about history as a discipline until after high school.

My first truly excellent experience with a history class was the year after high school. I went with AFS for a year in France, stayed with a family, and took the last year of high school, Terminale, in a lycée. It was my first experience with Modern History taught in a much more global (though still Eurocentric) way. We studied the history and geography of France, the USSR, Japan, the US, and, uh... a couple more countries, all while zooming from post-WWII to present day.

The difference was that the French curriculum drew together threads from all over the world. I learned how to take notes. I learned how to write essays, a skill my high school teachers had failed to instill in me. I learned to think about history as a global subject, not as a boring textbook developed by a large corporation to be as non-controversial as possible and chosen by a school board. The last year of high school in France is pretty much like AP classes. I got college credit for passing the Baccalauréat.

History is about controversy and change. Part of history is lost if we don't know about everyday lives, about what they thought, believed, loved, did to survive, did to thrive, and so on. But history would be nothing without the big things that happened and sometimes those big things are caused by the small things. Puritans didn't just appear in the Atlantic Ocean and wash up in Massachusetts to found a colony. They ran away from England and drifted to the Netherlands, then drifted around.

What was happening in England in the seventeenth century? I mean, what were these people doing in the "wilderness"?



And why were these people out wandering around? We step back a little further:


It wasn't like the witch trials of Salem were isolated. There were witchcraft trials all over Europe and had been for centuries.  Catholic or Protestant, people still lived with a Medieval mindset of magic and devils and demons. Anyone who didn't fit their mold, say a woman who acted as a midwife (and something like half of babies died before they were two), or who prepared herbal remedies (and even though people took the remedy they would still die, so it was obviously the fault of the remedy), was under suspicion. Anyone who spoke out against authority. Anyone who didn't go to church enough.

If the Spanish Inquisition (whom no one expects) could burn people for being Jewish and Muslim and Protestant and a slightly different type of Catholic, they would certainly arrest people accused of consorting with Satan.

Now here's the bit that actually has to do with my writing:

France had stopped persecuting witches just for witchcraft, but in the late seventeenth century, every time someone died suddenly, they looked at "witches" who might or might not have supplied people with poison to get rid of their family member or rival.

Louis XIVth's second official mistress, Mme de Montespan might or might not have gone to witches to perform black magic to win over the king and then for aphrodisiac potions to keep him coming back for more. We will never know many details, because Louis had his inquisitors gather together all the testimony against her and lock it in a box--which he burned.

France was also moving back to persecuting Huguenots, the French Calvinist Protestants. Louis XIVth's grandfather was Henri IV, who was raised Protestant and who won the Wars of Religion in part by becoming Catholic and yet allowing the Protestants to remain Protestant. He issued the Edict of Nantes in 1598.

Louis, though, started shoving Protestants around, showing how awesomely holy he was. He would billet his cruelest soldiers in Huguenot families and turn a blind eye when the women were raped and the families robbed blind.

Just a couple of years after the Affair of the Poisons died down, in 1685, he decided that all this tolerance had gone on long enough and revoked the Edict. The Protestants were officially not allowed to worship anymore and were required to be baptized by the Catholics.

Basically, he said that because the religious wars had ended and most people were Catholic anyway and Calvinism was false religion, they just didn't need an edict anymore.

"And since by this fact the execution of the Edict of Nantes and of all that has ever been ordained in favor of the said R.P.R. has been rendered nugatory, we have determined that we can do nothing better, in order wholly to obliterate the memory of the troubles, the confusion, and the evils which the progress of this false religion has caused in this kingdom, and which furnished occasion for the said edict and for so many previous and subsequent edicts and declarations, than entirely to revoke the said Edict of Nantes, with the special articles granted as a sequel to it, as well as all that has since been done in favor of the said religion. "

And he set out to imprison any nobles who weren't Catholic and confiscate their lands. And told them they weren't allowed to leave. And the ones who had left had to come back and be baptized or their lands would be confiscated.

You can imagine most of the Huguenots didn't just roll over and be baptized. They sold what they could and fled. Brain drain. Financial drain. And where did these people go? The Netherlands, England, Switzerland, Germany, the Americas. And guess what? Those countries were already French enemies.

So the REFORMATION again. And continued nervousness about Protestants--after all the crazy Protestants had beheaded the English king earlier in the century. A KING! The dude with Divine Right and all that! Plus, they kept fighting wars against the gloriously Catholic kingdom of France! They obviously couldn't be trusted.

And back to our Puritans and their witch trials: it was the 1690s. The Pilgrims had been around for a few generations and some people dissented against the authority of their preachers. People had land disputes. People were human and sinned.

A group of girls got bored and their Barbados slave did magic for them.


THAT is why we study history. You start following the threads back through time, looking for causes and effects. These things don't happen in a vacuum.

Arthur Miller knew that. He wrote that play because of the Un-American Activities Communism Witch Hunt. He saw his friends and fellow liberal thinkers being named in secret lists and losing their livelihoods and careers and everything they had because someone who disliked them denounced them as Communists.

Nowadays, there are people freaking out about immigrants. And about Muslims. And all sorts of things. How long until we get to the point with one or more of those issues that we start prosecuting and persecuting people accused of having immigrant parents? Or not hating Muslims enough?

THAT is why we study history. Because people will repeat it for their own gain and the rest of us are doomed to brace ourselves. Education is subversive.

BONUS for those who read this far: this article on the Huguenots and their exodus from France.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015


You must forgive me, I am just a TINY BIT excited.


The release date of The Indispensable Wife is OCTOBER 7, 2015.

Let's take another look at the cover-y goodness:
But what is it about?

Aurore was delighted when a marriage was arranged with the boy she loved, her older brother’s friend Dominique, Comte de Bures. But in a few years the first rush of joy has worn off, and their promising life seems ruined by loss, betrayal, and misunderstanding.

One terrifying morning mercenaries overrun their château and usurpers take Aurore hostage. Miles away at Versailles, where he is required to dance attendance on Louis XIV, Dominique is nearly killed by a crossbow bolt.

Escaping, Aurore travels with a troupe of itinerant musicians, hiding in the open while discovering hidden resources within herself.

Dom sets out to find his wife. He needs his old life back. He needs revenge. But his lands, his title, and his honor mean nothing unless he can win back the love of his indispensable wife.

And then we will direct our attention to the Goodreads button. And I humbly request that you click upon it to add the book to your Goodreads "I want to read this!" list.
=====>The Indispensable Wife (Book 1, Châteaux and Shadows)

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Edits and Louis XIV and Dominique de Bures

I've been editing like a ... editing person type thing.

I realized that Chapter 3 of Book 3 was almost all "Are we there yet?" so decided it really needed to be trimmed. And then Chapter 5 is more traveling, so it needs to be shorter, too. And I'm not really sure what the point of Chapter 4 is. Once I figure that out, I'll be ready to decide which parts stay and which go, because not much happens except the hero gets along with his family for a change.

Also, I need a better grasp on various locations. Like stables.

The stables at Versailles are HUGE. I wish I knew exactly when each part was built, but in the meantime, isn't this lovely?

Still no date for when The Indispensable Wife comes out. I'm on tenterhooks!
So here's a sketch of Louis XIV to tide me over.

There's something about a sketch (this one by Charles le Brun, so apparently a study for a painting) that brings home to me, more than a finished oil painting, that this was a person. With the hair just squiggles, only the brim of a hat, and some flat cravat thing, my eye is drawn more than usual to his face: his pouty expression and his enormous nose. 

This is a finished portrait (that is in Versailles still... I think) by le Brun. By my unpracticed eye, I'd say he's a bit younger. There's less profile (so the nose is less startling) and the focus is shared by his lacy cravat and shiny armor. This is from about 1662, which is shortly before the Indispensable Wife takes place. He (and the hero of Indispensable, Dominique, who is the same age), is 24. He had been king for almost 20 years and had been declared "of age" at 16.

A close-up with the colors a little off, but you can see his shadow of a mustache.

Can you imagine being put in charge of a country at the age of 5? Well, his mom, Anne of Austria was running things, along with Cardinal Mazarin, the Chief Minister who took over from Cardinal Richelieu, but Louis was the king. According to his father, Louis XIII, his mother was NOT supposed to be the regent, but Mazarin and Anne wrested power from the council that was supposed to rule. Girl power! Priest power, too.

In 1661, Mazarin died and finally, he was king on his own two feet. He announced he was going to be his own Chief Minister and not bring in a Richelieu or Mazarin. The centralization of power in France became even more centralized.

He had advisers and cabinet members, but HE was large and in charge.

Back to Dominique, the husband with an Indispensable Wife. His father died when he was nearing 20, so he had a more normal childhood - for the son of a noble. Yet he spent a lot of time with the king as a boy. There were certain noble boys selected to be the king's peer group. They were supposed to let him win, of course, but Dom sometimes had trouble with this. His father had been a secret supporter of the second Fronde, the part where the nobles fought back, trying to get back some of the rights they had lost to the centralization of power. They lost, but Dom's father always considered the request to have his son at court to be more of a command - and a hostage situation.

Dom still isn't happy with all the time he's supposed to spend at court. He's not happy about the time he spends away from his lands and from the little military school his dad started. He also has definite opinions and tends to express them in a cold, blunt way. He doesn't have many friends outside of his wife's family, so finds himself the victim of rumor and without strong assistance when his château is taken and his wife held hostage. And the rest... you'll have to read the book.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Dates, names, and other series nightmares

Not long ago, I realized that over the course of the three books in the Châteaux and Shadows series leading up to the one I was finishing (Book 3, Emmanuel's book) I had NEVER given the Baronesse de la Brosse (mother of Aurore, the heroine of Book 1, Indispensable Wife) a first name. It seemed significant to me that even I overlooked her; she was mean and spiteful because she was an afterthought to her husband (and became an afterthought to her children, too, because she was horrid and distanced herself from them).

So I gave her a name. A fabulous name. A name straight from a spiteful, vindictive character in Moliere's The Misanthrope: Arsinoé.

"Wow! Great name! Way to go, me!"


Well, not long after, I discovered that I had, in fact, given her a first name.

In the first book.

The one I was reading the galleys of.

I probably had that name (Gabrielle) in the very first draft. So for YEARS, this lady had a name and I had forgotten it. I started to feel some pity for her. She's still awful, but even I forgot her name.

The thing is, I started an Excel file of the family and their birth dates and names and so on a long time ago, but I managed to misplace it somewhere in the workings of some computer, probably the laptop that croaked a couple of years ago. At least I'd like to think I didn't mindlessly delete it.

Also in revising Emmanuel's book, I discovered that I had forgotten some people when I was writing a rough draft of what will likely be Book 5, featuring one of the Baron's grandkids. I mean, the book had the lovely, sweet Diane (second daughter of Jean-Louis, the Honorable Officer of Book 2) as a secondary character. According to that Book 5, there were only her and her older sister. But according to Book 3, there are 4 kids by 1678 and another due at any moment. Good thing I caught that now instead of a year or two from now when the book comes out.

Now I have a new Excel file, full of names and dates. I know what year people were born in (even though I don't necessarily know their exact birth dates). I know their spouses and children's names (if the spouse and child has been assigned a name and a birth date, that is). I know what year and season of the year the love stories take place in.

Some people are devoted to a writing program called Scrivener, which lets you set up a "series bible" and names and dates and descriptions. It sounds too complicated for me with a lot of setup.

But really, someone's going to have to keep track of my characters, since I seem to be falling down on the job.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

School happens. News at 11.

It's how it usually goes. I start blogging and figure I'm going to keep it up this time! Then I run out of stuff to say.

School prep -- and now school -- happened. 

I got up early today and drove my 2nd grader to school. She has the same teacher her biggest brother (now in high school) had for 1st grade. Crazy.

I came home and got my 8th grader (the Homeschool Boy) up. I read to him from the history textbook, we started reading a side book about the Salem Witch Trials, I made him do cursive and typing and spelling. Oh, and read a poem by Anne Bradstreet (of whom I don't know if I had ever heard, but she was an English-American Puritan poet well before the witch trials). And we got done early. Starting slowly.

And I kept having to nag my 10th grader that really, he really has to do his English summer homework, since now it really is due tomorrow. REALLY.

And then post-school treat, karate for oldest kid, grocery shopping, a few minutes of peace, cooking dinner... So here it is almost 8 pm and I'm wiped out.

Edits to start...uh... tomorrow? I need to do a revision of Book 3 while it's fresh in my mind, but not TOO fresh. Look out, Wild Rose Press, I'm going to be submitting it soon.

Homeschool Boy is going to take classes (math, science, art, creative writing) two days a week, starting next week. That is going to increase my driving, but will also increase my time ALONE. Have I ever mentioned that I'm an introvert? Good article about the homeschooling introvert in Susan Cain's Quiet Revolution blog today. I replied while hiding in the bathroom. Shhh...

Right. Bedtime for small person who's exhausted but won't admit it. And for her big mama.

Friday, August 7, 2015


Aurore was delighted when a marriage was arranged with the boy she loved, her older brother’s friend Dominique, Comte de Bures. But in a few years the first rush of joy has worn off, and their promising life seems ruined by loss, betrayal, and misunderstanding.

One terrifying morning mercenaries overrun their château and usurpers take Aurore hostage. Miles away at Versailles, where he is required to dance attendance on Louis XIV, Dominique is nearly killed by a crossbow bolt.

Escaping, Aurore travels with a troupe of itinerant musicians, hiding in the open while discovering hidden resources within herself.

Dom sets out to find his wife. He needs his old life back. He needs revenge. But his lands, his title, and his honor mean nothing unless he can win back the love of his indispensable wife.

Coming SOON! At least I think everything's done. SO EXCITED!

Wait, what day is it?

As it is now August and school starts next week (AAAAAH!),
and I have a homeschooler in eighth grade,
and I am teaching history and literature (and a few other things) at home,
and I have done exactly nothing to prepare, not even choose the books we'll read,
I finally opened the history textbook yesterday. US History, California standard-issue 8th grade, exploration to just before WWI.

Boy-child might be mildly dyslexic and it's only eighth grade, so I'm not destroying his brain with Scarlet Letter and Last of the Mohicans and Moby Dick, but we're doing American Lit. I'm trying to think of fairly short, but interesting, mostly classic fiction. And as the year wears on, my plans get more tentative.

Of course, all those big Hollywood movies about Mohicans and Amistad and the Patriot are R-rated (and not necessarily true to the books, much less true to history) and I'm not really comfortable with that. He's thirteen and I'm not a fan of a lot of the PG-13 things, for that matter.

And I'm listing wayyyyyy too many books. I love reading! But he doesn't. Quite a few of the books I'm choosing have audiobooks available at the library. Neither of us is a good auditory learner, which might be a problem.

Anyway. At least that is... sort of done. I put it in an Excel spreadsheet so I can make changes, because on graph paper it was getting too weird.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

BUSY: being, staying, and too

I looked at my calendar for the next two weeks and thought I have too much coming up. Then I realized that I am judging the run-up to school against the summer and not the usual school year.

There are gaps! And we still haven't gone to either the coast or the mountains. So if I squint really hard and call first thing Monday morning to change an appointment, we could leave tomorrow. Or Monday. Spend a couple of days someplace where it's not 100 degrees out. See some large body of water.

And be back by Wednesday when I have a thing to do in the afternoon. Thursday, Darling Son #1 (DS1) goes to the dentist and me to a planning meeting and Darling Daughter (DD) to her first soccer practice. Friday, I go to critique group and take DS1 to pick up his schedule at his high school. (Oh please, oh please, great gods of scheduling, let's not mess it up this time.)

I'm a big fan of kids having time to be kids. I'm also a big fan of me not being a Minivan Mom. In other words, I am too lazy to ferry kids around to more than one activity each. I mean, other than school. Plenty of ferrying with that. Even the homeschool boy, Darling Son #2 (DS2) is going to have to be ferried to classes this year.

Well, thank goodness Camp Nanowrimo was in July. Because we were more Sitting around and less We're late. 

I wrote just over 25,000 words, finished one project and started another. I think I know where the new one is going, which is huge, though of course I figured the conflict out on July 31st. I need to do edits and rewrites on the one I finished, untitled Emmanuel's Story, Book 3 in Châteaux and Shadows.

Book 1, Indispensable Wife, is coming this fall. Don't forget!).
Cover reveal coming SOON! Come see my Pinterest page for Indispensable Wife for a little pastiche of clothing and weapons and famous people and castles.

And then I will go back into this new project, which is a novella about the gay brother, Henri, who at the time of the story (immediately after Emmanuel's, so it's Book 3.5) has been with his partner for ten years and is having health problems. Funny how his intense neck and upper back pain is exactly like the problems that left me with a useless arm last spring. And some trouble at his job (they didn't like gay people in 17th century France, even though the king's brother was notorious) and then his partner's nephew shows up and they have to pretend they're not sleeping together. Basically, Henri's life is falling apart and he's too stubborn and sarcastic to show weakness.

And--watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat--I plan on doing the editing and new writing during the school year. I hope we'll get into edits of Book 2 of Châteaux and Shadows, The Honorable Officer.

I want those three things done before November rolls around and the real Nanowrimo kicks in. No dilly-dallying allowed in November. You don't get to set your own lazy summer goal. It's 50,000 words OR BUST.

So what's the next novel I need to write? Hmmm... Châteaux Book 6?