Thursday, September 1, 2016


As I'm re-reading and editing my next Chateaux and Shadows book (#4, working title: Melisande because I'm bad at titles, that's why), I'm remembering how when I was first writing it a couple of years ago, I kept going over to Google to find Catholic saints. And once I found the Saint of XYZ, I had to double check he/she was already a saint in 1680-something.

Melisande is learning Catholicism from her extremely pious birth father (a comte who was wild as a young man, fathered her by sleeping with a palm-reading witch, and is now angry and bitter and not a nice guy....but he's religious, so he's sure he's awesome) and part of this book is her acceptance of religion. The hero is Lucas, who is extremely pious, but starting to think that the comte's angry, judgmental version of religion, which he uses to gain influence at court and to feel superior, has some serious flaws.

As I'm not Catholic and have attended masses maybe three times ever (and a couple of weddings), it's not a natural fit for me. But hey, I am intrigued by France, especially Old School (Sorry: Ancien Régime) France, which means learning more about the religions of the time.

Which brings me to my novella, "Henri et Marcel", which is currently being line-edited and should soon get a release date.

Henri is the third son of a baron and was destined for the church. He might even have been a priest if he hadn't hated the monastery where he was dropped off as a teenager. He begged his father to bring him home and his dad, a softy, did. He was always rather caustic and used to fight with his little sister (Aurore from the Indispensable Wife), but has only become more ornery over time.

(Get it? The French pronunciation of Henri sounds a lot like certain accents' pronunciation of ornery? Get it? Yeah, whatever, Philippa.)

I always pictured Henri as having a sort of awful, sarcastic, sneering shell reminiscent of Severus Snape. He's taller than the book Snape and not greasy, but he wears dark colors and is often downright cruel. Well, he was cruel as a defense mechanism. He pushed people away, because it would not be good for everyone to know he's gay. Back then, not only was it a sin, it was illegal. The church/government would excommunicate you (with no chance of atoning for your sins), condemn you to hell, and execute you.

Unless, of course, you were royalty, I guess. Louis XIV's brother was notorious for his parties and for his lover. He nonetheless fathered children with two wives and I won't now go off on a sidetrack about bisexuality or how Louis was thought to have fathered at least one of those kids. Whoops, too late. Sidetrack.

Side note: I CANNOT WAIT for the Versailles miniseries to be available on DVD here. 

So anyway, I deliberately used "religions" way up there (then I bolded it, so maybe you would notice). Because not everyone was Catholic. I mean, they still aren't all Catholic in France. The French government is officially neutral, but funny how there are laws about keeping businesses closed on Sundays and how they get random religious holidays off of school.

Late 16th/early 17th century: Henri IV (the other reason I called my character Henri) became king after years and years of bloody, brutal religious wars, massacres, and war crimes from both the Protestant (Huguenot) and Catholic sides. Henri IV went back and forth from Huguenot to Catholic more than once, as his parents were split on the issue. He ended up becoming Catholic in order to consolidate his power when he was the last heir standing. "Paris vaut bien une messe" which means "Paris is well worth a Mass." He signed the Edict of Nantes to give some freedoms to Protestants, then was assassinated by a Catholic fanatic.

Marcel first appeared in Book 2, Honorable Officer, as Jean-Louis' right hand man. He's living under a false name (Fourbier, which comes from fourberies, which means deceits or slyness and which is from the title of a play by Molière, Les Fourberies de Scapin). He ran away and joined the army when his brother-in-law threatened to out him. He's a tailor by birth and by trade, with a love of beautiful, sensual things (and not dark, formless, utilitarian clothes made from cheap, scratchy fabrics).

He's one of those people who brightens a room by entering it. He's the guy who gets things done. He's fairly caustic, too, but in a subversive way. And yes, in Honorable, I sort of tossed him and Henri together and didn't give their relationship much depth before they announced they were together. I made it fairly easy for them because other than the tacit approval of Henri's family (who are trying to not think about it too much), they've got a long, long row to hoe in their society. Henri has a long row to hoe, too, to become more mellow and it's Marcel who is helping make him softer and less angry.

I picture Marcel as short and dark and vibrant. Once Lin-Manuel Miranda was suddenly on everyone's radar a few months ago, I thought yes, Marcel is a bit like him. He's just so alive, so charismatic, so compelling. A genius, but Marcel designs furniture and decorates. I'm sorry I'm describing him that way because yeesh, what a gay stereotype. I'm sorry. I didn't start out with him that way. He started as the guy who held together Jean-Louis' "household" in the army camp and kept Jean-Louis looking properly officerly and noble.

Anyway, no matter how much the Catholics and Protestants were willing to shed blood about You're Doing Christianity All Wrong, they agreed that homosexual was about the worst thing you could be. The Huguenots were Calvinists (and the reasons why they were called Huguenots seem to have been lost in the mists of time) and had more in common with the witch-hunters of the English colonies at the time. And this is just around the same time as the Salem Witch Trials, which did not happen ina  vacuum.

One of the components of Calvinism is that you are predestined to either Heaven or Hell and you can't escape it by asking forgiveness. You then spend your life either living right, which means you are probably going to Heaven, or sinning, which proves you're probably going to Hell.

And.... I'm not really sure why this works. If you mess up even once, are you going to Hell? Because everyone messes up.

The idea is that there is no redemption. I guess if you pray hard enough and do good deeds, then maybe you can outweigh your sins and show you were predestined for Heaven all along? Though, uh, isn't getting into Heaven the point of Catholic confession and all those novenas? Personally, I would think that as soon as you had committed a few sins, you might as well give in and be sinful, since you're going to Hell anyway. So this is what Marcel is struggling against. He's managed to put it out of his mind mostly for a long time, but seeing his birth family again and experiencing their condemnation is messing with his peace.

I was raised in a fairly liberal, welcoming protestant church in a mainstream denomination. We prayed to God directly instead of talking to priests and saints. We had potlucks, not praise hands or speaking in tongues. And we weren't predestined. So my religious education was never Catholic OR Calvinist.

It is all very odd for me to be writing these books with all the discussion of religion, as my own religious leanings these days are.... let's just say I'm more spiritual than religious. Let's also say that I'm curious and fascinated with religion.

I am SO NOT a candidate for writing an Inspirational Novel.

And yet here I have a novella that's partly about religious doctrine and a novel which is mostly about it.

But I'm pretty sure I'm a heretic according to any and all religions, except the UUs and the Quakers.

And.... TL/DR: Catholics vs everybody else.

AND... Go pre-order The Chevalier. It'll be out in SIX DAYS.

AND...The first in the series, Indispensable Wife is only 99 cents until Friday!

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