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07 Feb Margaret Frazer, 1946-2013

Last Monday night, the world lost one of the bravest women I’ve ever been privileged to know.

Margaret Frazer’s double-Edgar-nominated Sister (later Dame) Frevisse books were my introduction to historical mysteries. Margaret, whose real name was Gail, was prolific, funny, strong, generous, and heartstoppingly gallant—she fought her great enemy cancer for twenty years and wrote twenty-five novels and a baker’s dozen of short stories while she was doing it. With one hand tied behind her back. (Well, not really, but you know what I mean.)

I remember a long thread on the Crime Thru Time email group when Gail was trying to figure out the title for her book The Sempster’s Tale. It was the world of the historical fiction writer in microcosm—“sempster” was the word that would have been used at the time of the story, but would readers understand? Should she change it to “sempstress”? “Seamstress”? In the end she stuck with “sempster,” because she was fiercely dedicated to historical accuracy. And you know, that one word, I think, set the tone for the book and the story.

Vale, Gail. May they have an endless, endless library on the far side of the universe.

Margaret Frazer’s website, with a complete list of her wonderful books and short stories, is at www.margaretfrazer.com.

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29 Jan Vale, J.D. Salinger

“If only you’d remember before you ever sit down to write that you’ve been a reader long before you were ever a writer. You simply fix that fact in your mind, then sit very still and ask yourself, as a reader, what piece of writing in all the world Buddy Glass would want to read if he had his heart’s choice. The next step is terrible, but so simple I can hardly believe it as I write it. You just sit down shamelessly and write the thing yourself.” —From Seymour: An Introduction.

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09 Nov Sailing Away into Time

I’ve been devouring a huge stack of historical fiction over the past couple of weeks. How I love boarding a frigate (hat tip to Emily Dickinson) and sailing away to other times and places!

The Queen of Subtleties by Suzannah Dunn, sailing me away to Tudor England. An eye-poppingly different take on Anne Boleyn, plus much delicious play on the word “subtlety.”

To the Tower Born, by Robin Maxwell, sailing back a bit more in time to 1502. Just what did happen to the little princes in the Tower? Ms. Maxwell has her own ideas about the mystery, and very intriguing they are.

The King’s Grace, by Anne Easter Smith, continuing my voyage back in time. It’s now 1485, and who is that mysterious “secret boy” at Margaret of Burgundy’s court? Why, it’s Perkin Warbeck. Is he one of the princes from the Tower, come back to claim his rightful crown?

The Courtesan, by Susan Carroll, tacking off across the Channel to France and 1575. The second book of a trilogy (which I didn’t realize until I started reading it), featuring a beautiful “daughter of the earth” with unusual painting skill, confronting the dark and complex Catherine de’ Medicis. My only question is, why is the woman on the cover wearing a Directoire gown?

Mistress of the Sun, by Sandra Gulland, running before the wind to the France of Louis XIV. This is the tale of Louise de la Vallière, and I gobbled it up, having first met Louise in my beloved Angélique books, many years ago. A lovely, lovely book.

How I’ve enjoyed my travels! Now, I think, it’s time for me to steer my frigate back to Edinburgh…

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14 Jul Gōng xǐ, Lisa Brackmann!

Huge congratulations to my friend and crit-group partner Lisa Brackmann (sometimes known as Other Lisa), who today announced the sale of her first novel, Rock Paper Tiger, to Soho Press, for release spring/summer 2010. Lisa’s agent is Nathan Bransford of Curtis Brown.

Rock Paper Tiger is an unique and evocative novel of existential suspense (Lisa admits she just made up that category, but I think it sounds edgy and cool and having read the book, I can vouch for every existential and suspenseful moment) set in modern-day China. And when it comes to China, Lisa knows whereof she speaks. In fact, she just returned from Beijing and learned her book deal was signed, sealed and delivered as she was getting off the plane. How cool is that?

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22 Feb Relentlessly Optimistic

If you do any sort of creative work at all, you have to read this:

Relentlessly Optimistic

It uses actors as a reference, but it’s about writers, too. Do we not throw our tender hearts out in front of the speeding trains of beta readers and agents and editors? Do we not have to learn to take one more chance, even though we swear our hearts can’t take it?

Read this. You must. And then dig around in Communicatrix’s site. Connect with stories? Of course we connect with stories. We’re storytellers, after all.

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05 Jan A Real Monday at Last

After two holiday weeks (and I do love the holidays, but still) of not knowing for certain what day it was at any given moment, I am now firmly anchored again. It’s Monday. As Pippa sings in Mr. Browning’s famous poem/play Pippa Passes, “God’s in his heaven—all’s right with the world.”

I think I need to put together a fantasy writers group of men, too. Robert Browning, of course. Algernon Charles Swinburne (swoon). E.F. Benson, author of the glorious Lucia books. Who else?