We are thrilled to announce Out of Excuses II: the second annual Writing Excuses Workshop and Retreat! Our event last year was a resounding success, so we’ve polished our microphones and carved out our schedules and we’re raring to go. And we want you to join us!
He stopped and for a moment appeared to hold his breath. It was imperfectly held, though, and a small thin stream of air leaked out in a tiny whine such as an Asgardian god might make after being thrashed by Hulk.
I’ve used Pinterest for the last couple of books to collect my visual reference material. It’s been very, very handy. They just added a feature today where you can pin the locations to a map. I’d been trying to do that with Google Maps, but having the pictures and my notes all in one place is amazingly useful.
Tomorrow, the 17th, is our twelfth anniversary. It’s a day on which I unplug from the electronic world and just hang out with my husband. This weekend, it also coincides with the end of harvest and crush at the winery. Rob is taking his first days off since harvest began in September.
To celebrate that, I’m unplugging today and spending the rest of the weekend offline. See y’all on Monday.
It’s NaNoWriMo time again. That means that I have a novel in progress and am looking for people who want to read along.
With Shades of Milk and Honey, I posted the first three chapters in the clear as I wrote them and then password protected the rest. For Glamour in Glass, Without a Summer, and Valour and Vanity, I also had people reading along and found it very helpful so I’m doing the same for book 5, Of Noble Family.
Some of you already know the drill, but let me explain for the newcomers.
First, let me be clear: This is the sequel to a novel that isn’t out yet. Although I’m writing these books with the intention that you can pick up the series at any point, there will be spoilers for the previous books. Going back to the other three after this will mean reading them like prequels. I want a mix of readers so I know how it plays for people who have read the other books and people who are coming in blind.
All you have to do is ask me for the password using the contact form in this post. Before you fill it out, I just wanted to take a moment to explain the ground rules, so to speak.
This is a raw draft. I’m posting it as I finish so you will see [brackets] where I’m making notes to myself, rough prose, and the occasional retcon as I change my mind about something you have already read.
What I’m interested in knowing is how you are find the story, but I am not over-worried about the language at this point. In particular, things that I’m interested in are: things that confuse you, bore you, or that you just don’t believe.
I was at a convention in one of my Regency gowns, and someone asked, “What did black people wear?”
The answer is that the clothing expressed a wide range of styles depending on a person’s station and where they lived but— since I think that question came from a place of wanting to do historical cosplay as something other than a servant… Here are some Regency-ish* era free people of colour living in Europe, the West Indies, and the Americas.
*I’m cheating a little and going about ten years past the Regency in both directions.
Phillis Wheatley (May 8, 1753 – December 5, 1784) was both the second published African-American poet and first published African-American woman.
Portrait of a Young Woman by Jean-Etienne Liotard
The Barbadoes Mulatto Girl after Agostino Brunias
Portrait of a Gentleman by Joshua Johnston. Believed to be a portrait of the Revd Daniel Coker (1780 – 1846), one of the founders of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
General Alexandre Davy de la Pailleterie, also known as Alexandre Dumas, (25 March 1762 – 26 February 1806) was the famous African European general in French history and remains the highest-ranking person of color of all time in a continental European army. Also the father of Alexandre Dumas.
A Mulatto Woman with Her White Daughter Visited by Negro Women in Their House in Martinique
Juliette Noel, Mrs. Pierre Toussaint
1815, Portrait of Charles Lee Jones, son of Absalom Jones who established the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia.
Portrait of John Moore, Jr.
Portrait of Yarrow Mamout by Charles William Peale
Jean-Baptiste Belley was a native of Senegal and former slave from Saint-Domingue in the French West Indies who during the period of the French Revolution became a member of the National Convention and the Council of Five Hundred of France.
Portrait of a Black Woman, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, ca. 1822
Head and shoulders portrait of an Anglo-Indian girl
A Mulatto Gentleman by Fabre
I would just like to add that a well-tied cravat is a thing of wonder.
Sandra Tayler is joining us today with her picture book project The Strength of Wild Horses, now on Kickstarter.
What’s Sandra’s favorite bit?
I didn’t intend to write a second picture book. I thought my daughter only needed one story. That was foolish because we all need hundreds of stories at various stages of our lives. The stories help us explain ourselves and show us how to go forward from where we are. It is why I wrote Hold on to Your Horses, and why my daughter immediately started asking the question to which Strength of Wild Horses is the answer. At six she didn’t have the ability to give nuance to her questions, but what she was asking was this: “What are wild idea horses good for? How can being head-strong and full of creative energy lead to anything but being endlessly in trouble?” I held her in my lap and gave her all the best answers I could think of, but I could tell she didn’t believe me. Not really. She could see how she got into trouble, she couldn’t see what I was trying to describe. She needed another story.
So I took Amy, a character who was already beloved, and I sent her on a new adventure. Or at least I wanted to, but sequels are tricky things. I thought I could use the same formula that worked so brilliantly in the first book. Lots of picture book series do that, because young children like the comfort of knowing that the main character will be embarrassed on page eight and will figure out the solution on page twenty-nine. So, I wrote the story using the first as a guide. It was flat and lifeless, because Amy had already had an adventure where Mommy was there for her to help with a pivotal realization. I had to set the story aside because I didn’t know how to write it yet.
Then came a fall afternoon when I’d wandered into my back garden to survey all the work that I needed to do to prepare for the coming cold. I wasn’t thinking about stories or Amy, or so I thought. Yet that was the moment when something inside my head shifted, and instead of not knowing how to proceed, I knew exactly where to go. What Amy needed was a moment like that one I had. A moment when her internal viewpoint shifted and problems became opportunities. So for Strength of Wild Horses I set up some glorious problems that Amy created for herself. Then Angela Call, the same artist who illustrated the first book so beautifully, created vibrant pictures that made Amy’s unintentional havoc clear for everyone to see. In the midst of the havoc there is a moment when even Amy becomes aghast at what she has done.
Consequences seem unavoidable and Amy can’t just keep going onward. In that low place Amy is finally quiet enough to observe that she is not the only one with struggles. The other characters in the book become clear to her in a way she did not see before. Then there is a moment of need, and in that moment, Amy changes.
All of her ideas become solutions instead of problems, even though they are exactly the same ideas that they were before. We get to see how elements of the glorious havoc are pulled into. That is my favorite bit of the story. Amy transforms problems into solutions and thanks to Angela it is done in a way that a six year old can see and comprehend. The only thing that could be more favorite than that, would be if somehow Strength of Wild Horses can be part of a change inside the mind of a child who reads it.
Sandra Tayler is a writer of children’s books, speculative fiction, and blog entries. She has sold stories to anthology markets and in 2009 her blog, onecobble.com, won an AML award for online writing. Sandra spends much of her time as the publication and distribution half of the Schlock Mercenary comic business. Sandra’s publication work and her writing are frequently pre-empted by the needs of her four kids, who alternate between being incredibly helpful and incredibly distracting. Some day in the future Sandra hopes to experience this free time that she has heard so much about.
My first instinct was the defensive one: “Well, it’s the Regency and they’re in a small town. It would be pretty homogeneous.”
First of all, no. There would have been a range of classes and abilities/disabilities. Just because the author that I was modeling my world on didn’t deal with those, doesn’t mean I had to ignore them as well.
Second. People of color were throughout the UK and Europe and had been basically since people started to travel, which means always. Because of the slave trade, the black population in England was quite large. The Gentlemen’s Magazine in 1764 reported on the number of black people saying, “the number in the metropolis only is supposed to be near 20,000.” This is at a time when London had a population of 750,000 people. That’s a significant percentage of the population.
When you start looking at the birth, death, and marriage records you see people of color all through England, Scotland, and Ireland. Granted, most of these people were living at the poverty line or were working as servants, but not all. There were tradespeople, artists, and “people of quality” represented.
Now I will grant that it is possible for someone living up in the mountains in a small town nowhere near a trade road, to go through life without seeing a person of color but — that someone isn’t likely to be the main character in a novel.
Finally, and this is the important one, o’ writers. I chose where the story was set. I chose the conditions that “forced” me to have all white people all the time. I chose my cast. This is part of why I send Jane and Vincent to London in book three, Without a Summer. I knew that there was a wide range of people of color living in England at the time. Since most had settled in and around London and other port towns, this gave me the greatest range of choices.
For historical accuracy, I didn’t need to do that. I could have widened the diversity of my cast at any point simply by the choices that I made as a writer. The options were there.
The first person who says, “Yeah, but it’s unlikely that a black person would be able to–” will get a huge eyeroll in response. How many books have you read about a white farmboy who goes on to rule the world? It’s as likely as that.
So don’t blame the lack of diversity on historical accuracy. It’s the author’s choice.
The magical book that might result if Jane Austen’s Emma were set against the Luddite uprising in the Year Without a Summer Up-and-coming fantasist Mary Robinette Kowal enchanted fans with award-winning short stories and beloved novels featuring Regency pair Jane and David Vincent. In Without a Summer the master glamourists return home, but in a world where […]