books, Cover reveal, general wackiness, historical romance, history, humor, romance, travel, Uncategorized, writing

Cover Reveal is Here! Woo hooooooo

Today is the day for the cover reveal of my novelette! I’m flailing around like Kermit the Frog. What do you think? Does it look like the best thing in all of creation, everywhere, at all times? (Errr, okay, maybe I got a little carried away there). My cover designer is Yoly from Cormar Covers, who is not only talented, but also reasonably priced.

Please share it on your blog, Facebook, Twitter Instagram, what have you. Links are below! The story’s release is one week from today, July 5th.

 

Whiter Pastures
Xina Marie Uhl
Publication date: July 5th 2017
Genres: Adult, Historical, Romance

A romantic novelette in the Icebound series, an ongoing collection of polar delights.

Behold dogsleds and penguins. Howling winds and cold, pitiless wastes. This is Antarctica, where the intrepid inhabitants of the frozen ends of the earth battle the terrain, and each other, to find love—in a past much like that of the early 1900s.

Reluctant spinster Florance Barton fled to the British Antarctic base to escape a scandalous love affair, among other things. Amidst the handful of other women there, Florance is the perfect chambermaid, meek, mild, and forgettable. No one has a clue that she’s also a novice spy.

When handsome young Handy McHanagan arrives at the base, he sets everyone agog. He’s charming, artistic, and … an accomplished gardener. His arrival may just be a mistake on the part of naval command. Or is it something more sinister?

Because killer seals and subzero ice storms and aren’t the only danger in Antarctica: a enemy spy is on the loose. Florance has been ordered to choose between queen and country and her heart. Because penguin is off the menu now–and murder is its replacement.

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Author Bio:

Author Xina Marie Uhl lives in sunny Southern California with her husband and assorted furry and scaly pets. The setting of her first novel, NECROPOLIS, has been heavily influenced by her interest in ancient history. She holds both a BA and an MA in history. In addition to fiction writing, she teaches college history courses and writes educational materials. When she isn’t reading and writing, she enjoys hiking, photography, and planning new travel adventures.

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books, Cover reveal, historical romance, literature, Uncategorized, women

Coming Soon! An Ice-Tastic Cover Reveal!

The thermometer is climbing where I am. Today it is in the mid-80s. Not so bad, really. But the temperature is supposed to rise a couple of degrees every day for at least a week. And I don’t have an air conditioner. Is it any wonder that I am dreaming of going someplace like this:

les-anderson-175669

Photo courtesy of Les Anderson

I mean, yeah, there’s not a whole lot to do there after a while, but at least I would not be sweating.

Anyhow. This quite nicely relates to a wondrous event that is happening in honor of my Antarctica-themed historical romance novelette’s debut, whose cover reveal is coming! Soon. Very soon. Woo hoo! Confetti! Screams of excitement! Come on, get into the spirit. Okay, then, how about some actual description for the story to get you hyped.

Whiter Pastures
Xina Marie Uhl
Publication date: July 5th 2017
Genres: Adult, Historical, Romance
Goodreads

A romantic novelette in the Icebound series, an ongoing collection of polar delights.

Behold dogsleds and penguins. Howling winds and cold, pitiless wastes. This is Antarctica, where the intrepid inhabitants of the frozen ends of the earth battle the terrain, and each other, to find love—in a past much like that of the early 1900s.

Reluctant spinster Florance Barton fled to the British Antarctic base to escape a scandalous love affair, among other things. Amidst the handful of other women there, Florance is the perfect chambermaid, meek, mild, and forgettable. No one has a clue that she’s also a novice spy.

When handsome young Handy McHanagan arrives at the base, he sets everyone agog. He’s charming, artistic, and … an accomplished gardener. His arrival may just be a mistake on the part of naval command. Or is it something more sinister?

Because killer seals and subzero ice storms and aren’t the only danger in Antarctica: a enemy spy is on the loose. Florance has been ordered to choose between queen and country and her heart. Because penguin is off the menu now–and murder is its replacement.

How about now? Can I get an “Amen”? There’s one more thing you can give me, if you’re feeling generous. You can sign up to post the reveal when it happens on Wednesday, June 28th, 2017. Xpresso Book Tours will send you an email with the posting information two days before the reveal. All you need to do is to SIGN UP HERE.

Thank you in advance from the bottom of my (sweaty) heart!

Uncategorized, writing

Greener — no, Whiter Pastures

Happy Wednesday, everyone! Last week found me freaking the heck out over a hellacious car repair bill and other personal drama and I was a bit of a basket case. I didn’t even answer comments to my post – my apologies! This week has been much better, though. I’m a freelance writer of various educational projects but I’ve been getting burned out on that front lately. I’ve done a few children’s nonfiction books work for hire (my name wasn’t on them) and I so enjoyed them that I’ve really been wanting to do more – and Tuesday I was offered that chance for a new client. YAY! And this book will actually have my name on it! Amazing!! I’m jazzed.

Source
Source

Wednesday is the day I join K. L. Schwengel‘s band of merry writers in doling out a date-related snippet of my work in progress. Today I have 18 paragraphs from my story Whiter Pastures. Don’t worry – they’re mostly short. Florance is struggling with a load of coal when …

She had gone no more than a dozen yards when suddenly the weight in her right hand vanished.

“Let me help you with that, miss,” said a warm, strong male voice.

“Oh!” Florance squeaked in surprise. “Why thank you, sir.”

A flash of white teeth and a cheerful grin. Lively brown eyes met hers.

“My pleasure, you can be sure.”

She glanced at him as they walked. Younger than her, most probably. A foot taller at least. Thick dark hair neatly combed back around a zigzagging side part. And a face that she found utterly, completely, transformatively gorgeous in all ways. She tried to control her burgeoning excitement. He must have arrived on this morning’s ship. She would certainly have recognized him otherwise.

Source
Source

On the steps of the administration building he paused, looking out at the post as people scurried about hatless and in shirtsleeves. At 35° she was practically sweating herself.

He looked vaguely troubled. “I was sure it would be different here.”

“In what way, sir?”

His eyes flickered to hers, and he gave a rueful smile. “Greener.”

She didn’t understand for a moment. Out here, green was for tinned vegetables and putrefying wounds, nothing else. Then she realized what he meant.

“Glory be, not another one! No one told you that you are headed to Mason’s Point and not Mason’s Mill?”

He shook his head mournfully.

“And that Mason’s Point lay in Antarctica?”

“Australia… Antarctica. They sound a bit alike.”

No, love, she thought. They really don’t.

“If it’s any consolation, you’re not the first to have made that same mistake.”

“I’m afraid I need a bit more than consolation right now,” he said, looking rather crestfallen about the whole situation.

That’s it for this week. Join in if you like:

Uncategorized, writing

Switching Gears Yet Again

Welcome to another version of WIPpet, the work in progress extravaganza run by the intrepid K.L. Schwengel. To participate, make sure the snippet of your work in progress has something – however tenuous – to do with today’s date. I’m going short and sweet today, and switching gears as I do so frequently. Last week I posted a bit from my children’s nonfiction history book – thankfully I was able to send out the requested chapters to an agent who displayed the barest hint of interest in it, so now there’s nothing to do but wait and drive myself up the wall, or work on something else entirely. This snippet is from Whiter Pastures, the first volume of my Icebound series, which is a sort of alternate history of the polar regions of the planet from about 1880 – 1930. Here is 18 sentences (10 + 8 = 189) from the story’s beginning. All comments, reactions, whatever are welcome. Oh, and the rather unusual spellings of the names are intentional.

The coal pan in the bottom of the room heater had jammed again. Florance tried all her usual fixes: shoving it in further and yanking it out quickly, shimmying it from side to side, wedging the metal handle of her favorite scrub brush in it to pry it open, but nothing would work.

“Do you have to make such a racket, girl?” Electa said in a voice which somehow managed to communicate boredom, disdain, and irritation all at once. She didn’t bother looking up from her typewriter. She was plucking the keys one by one, hunting and pecking for each one as if she were a particularly choosy hen searching for the perfect piece of corn.

Florance gritted her teeth. Electa knew her name – Florance had informed her of it on at least three separate occasions – but she couldn’t be bothered to call her anything other than girl. When she deigned to speak to her at all, that is.

It vexed Florance that people insisted upon referring to her as a girl when eternal spinsterhood was drawing ever nearer the closer she got to 30. Florance knew the reason for it, though. She was a rather quiet person usually, not a stupid one. The help always had to scurry around – seen but not heard — while the decent people went on with the important work. Her ability to be so very invisible had brought her here to begin with, after all.

With a discordant screech, the coal pan slid free, unbalancing Florance so that she landed squarely on her bustle. Coal dust puffed up in a cloud around her. Florance sneezed. Electa rolled her kohl-lined, brilliantly-blue eyes in exasperation.

That’s it for this week. Join along if you like:

inspiration, Uncategorized, writing

My Writing Process Blog Hop

K.L. Schwengel, fantasy author extraordinaire and founder of the weekly WIPpet (work in progress snippet) challenge, tagged me here to participate in a writing process blog tour. So here goes!

1. What am I working on?

Currently, I am finishing up the next to the last draft of the first book in my new historical adventure series, called City of Ages. I will be finished with that draft within a matter of days, and then it goes out to my beta readers and back to me for final fixes. I met some agents and an editor at last year’s Historical Novel Society Conference in St. Petersburg, Florida and I’d really like to get the book out to them sooner rather than later. I’ve written about 50,000 words of Book 2 in the series, but it’s a rather a rough state, so as soon as I hear back from the various agents and editors and figure out how the book will be published – hopefully via a traditional publisher, since that’s what I think would be the best fit for this particular project – then I will continue on with the rest of the books in the series. In the meantime, I will be researching and researching and researching some more.

Picture of books and files.
This is some of the research I have for City of Ages – the hard copy stuff anyhow.

I also have a fantasy series that I wrote 20+ years ago that I’m determined will see the light of day this year. So that will be my next major project, rewriting and editing and sweating blood over that one. It’s exciting, though, because I spent so much of my life, passion, and energy dwelling on it over the years, so the fact that might bear fruit soon makes me happy.

2. How does my work different from others of its genre?

Well, I guess that is different for two reasons:

a. Intense focus on characterizations and an accompanying fascination with their emotional journeys, which always forms the core of whatever I’m working on. I try not to be too heavy-handed with it, because such a thing is more of a theme than a plot device, but some sort of transformation and emotional journey/quest really forms the core of my work  more than anything.

b. Historical detail and setting/details in general. Throughout my life I’ve also kind of swung between obsession with history — which utilizes the more analytical, critical thinking centers of my brain — and writing — which utilizes the creative part of my brain. At this point they have merged together to produce historical fiction. I have a master’s degree in history with a focus on the Ancient Mediterranean, so the ancient world and its influence on the Early Middle Ages really floats my boat. The world and setting of my first novel Necropolis really has been influenced by this, although it is not a straight historical book but rather a fantasy world. It’s based on the societies of the Ancient Mediterranean rather than those of many fantasies, which are based on the societies of Western Europe.

3. Why do I write what I do?

Because there’s only one me, and despite the fact that I am only one small flickering light in the blazing sun of the universe, I have a unique take on certain things, or so I would like to think, anyhow. Because of that hopefully my work will appeal to other like-minded people. I had a rather difficult childhood and a lot of health problems in adulthood so reading has really been a wonderful escape for me from the pain of daily existence. I would like to bring that same escape and wonder to others.

4. How does my writing process work?

Sam and Dean Winchester from season 6 Supernatural
This bag from Comic Con hangs over my computer monitors as … inspiration.

Well, work wouldn’t exactly be the term I’d use for it LOL. Back in the day when I first started writing it was like falling in love, effortless and exciting and all-consuming. I wrote and wrote and wrote with nary a thought for passive verbs, run-on sentences, and stupid plot lines. Then I grew up and obsessed over those things for so long that I didn’t get any writing done for many years.

My latest book City of Ages started its life as fanfic, believe it or not. I’ve been heavily involved in a fandom which I will not name here, although you can figure it out if you look at the accompanying photograph, and I used the two lovely leads as inspiration for the main characters in this book. Justus’s physical appearance is based on the physical appearance of the blonde dude here, and Tristan’s is based on the physical appearance of the dark-haired guy. That’s pretty much where the similarities end, because their personalities are original, as is the storyline of the novel.

Anyhow, I participated in a fandom challenge that provided me with support and a deadline that I really needed to crank out the first draft of the book. It was quite a painful experience. I literally only wrote 100 to 200 words a day for months on end and it was like pulling teeth. I collapsed into a dramatic weeping heap upon finishing it because it had been such a difficult experience. Yeah, I wish I was kidding about that, but sadly, I’m not.

Upon reflection, I think that is because I allowed my critical mind – my editor’s mind – too much hold over me when I was trying to write the first draft. Plus I find plotting really difficult, and my process until now has been to just jump in feet first, and wander around like a lost little puppy trying to find the signposts that make for a satisfying story. Afterward, then, I figure out the book’s theme and write the one to two sentence logline describing what happens therein, and generally just figure out what it’s all about. My dear friend Cheryl Dyson introduced me to a different way of setting up and plotting a book called the Snowflake Method, which basically does this process in reverse. You figure out your book’s theme, then create a short description, in-depth profiles of characters, scenes that fill up the book, and then you write. It seems like a much more efficient and – hopefully – quicker means of writing. I’m going to give it a shot. Wish me luck!

~

So here’s the place where I tag three other writers to continue on with the Writing Process Blog Hop. Since one of these writers is currently on vacation, I’m going to put the deadline for their blog posts out at April 21, 2014.

  • Cheryl Dyson’s father’s occupation as an actual cowboy caused the family to move around a lot – in fact, she’s lived in so many Western towns that she can’t remember them all. As a youngster, she competed in professional Appaloosa horse shows, winning numerous ribbons and trophies in varied events. Her favorite thing to do was ride a horse (at a dead gallop) to a nice, secluded spot where she could read in peace. When she eventually ran out of books, this habit led her to writing. Adulthood brought experience working in various accounting positions, all the while writing novels, short stories, and screenplays. Cheryl lives in Washington state where she spends her free time cooking, crafting, and—of course—reading and writing. Her status as Commander of the Universe, coupled with her prolific writing of Harry Potter fan fiction, has garnered her many groveling peons (and several marriage proposals) in the U.S., Russia, and China. Cheryl’s available ebooks include The Gauntlet Thrown and The Challenge Accepted, Books One and Two of the Gauntlet Trilogy.
  • Janet Loftis – Born and raised in the Midwest, Janet fled to sunny California to escape the cold, dark winters, only to now explore the colder and darker sides of human nature in her horror and fantasy fiction. With a BA in Anthropology and Archaeology, and a MA combining Cultural Anthropology with Creative Writing, Janet’s stories are inspired by the mythos of cultures around the world. From science-fiction to fantasy to horror, and from short stories to screenplays, Janet has seen her fiction published in a variety of online and print magazines, and placed in the finals and semi-finals of screenplay competitions. Next on Janet’s agenda are more horror shorts, a horror screenplay, and the marketing of (believe it or not) a family-friendly screenplay! Janet’s available story collections include Skin and BonesZombies and AliensMother’s Day, and Gnomes & Aliens.
  • Deb Ochery has had an interesting and vaguely checkered history, although it probably more closely resembles paisley than checkers. She has roamed the earth searching for suitable converts to add to her growing stable of sturdy boytoys and like-minded friends. She loves to meet new people and spends most of her non-writing time studying unsuspecting humans for fiction fodder, or sometimes bedroom fodder, or occasionally both. Deb has a deep and abiding interest in all things erotic with a particular slant towards romantic erotica. Let’s face it, sex is much more enjoyable with some nice foreplay, whether it be a glass of wine and dinner out or choosing a selection of silk ties and lubricants for the bedroom. Deb is very open-minded when it comes to sex and her books and stories reflect that. She believes human sexuality is fluid and ever-evolving and her characters often face some unexpected attractions that lead to difficult, albeit ultimately rewarding, choices. Getting there is half the fun. Her erotica novel Be Careful What You Wish For, the first book of The Kendra Chronicles, is available now.
history, travel, Uncategorized, writing

Travel East, Travel West

I’m still working on my 2nd to last edit of City of Ages and it continues to proceed at glacial speeds. I had to come up with a spreadsheet to motivate my butt because I tend to lose interest and enthusiasm as I’m plugging along. For some reason, tracking how many pages I’ve completed per day, or words I’ve pumped out really makes this whole novel thing concrete.

Today is the day of the week where I share a little snippet of my work in progress, thus, a WIPpet. It is posted as part of a challenge hosted by K.L. Schwengel. My WIPpet needs to have something to do with today’s date. And so …

Today in 1595, Cornelis de Houtman’s fleet of ships set sail to Asia by traveling through the Cape of Good Hope. Just who is this gentleman, you might ask? It turns out that Cornelis ended up discovering a new sea route from Europe to Indonesia, an achievement that began the Dutch spice trade. This was a big deal since at the time the Portuguese held a monopoly on it. The voyage itself, though, was none too fun. Insufficiently supplied, scurvy set in after a few weeks. By the time they made it to Madagascar seventy sailors were dead. Further on, quarrels ensued and pirates attacked the vessels. De Houtman and his men decided to wreak vengeance on the locals for the pirate attacks, raping and savaging to their heart’s content. The voyage continued on, establishing trade relations to subvert the Portuguese. By the time the ships returned home only 87 of the original 249 crew remained alive.

Sailing was quite the dangerous enterprise back in the day, making modern-day cruise ship disasters seem ridiculously tame in comparison.

Anyhow, this snippet is ship-related, and focuses on landing just 50 miles from Jerusalem:

Docking had been more troublesome in Jaffa than anywhere else. Richende had watched from the deck as three dusky-skinned, robed port authorities inspected their papers and letters with suspicion. They clustered together to confer using fast Arabic and abrupt gesticulations for entirely too long. At last they called Justus over and demanded an entry fee so large that Justus’s eyes bulged. His voice became both deeper and louder as he spent nearly an hour negotiating and arguing in a broken mishmash of Latin, Frankish, Greek, and Arabic. Finally, Richende, hungry, impatient, and drooping with exhaustion, called to him.

                Justus came after a moment, long legs striding up the gangplank in a manner that betrayed the frustration he had been dealing with over the past hour. When he spoke to her, however, his voice held no rancor.

“My lady?”

          “Dear Commander, your efforts to reduce the port fees are duly noted, and greatly appreciated. But in this instance I’m begging you to relent to their demands.”

          “But–“

          “Please.”

          He gave an irascible grunt, his lips twisting into a frown. “I truly believe that another hour or so will profit us much.”

          Cristina, who had been watching the whole exchange near Richende, gasped and shot her mistress an exaggeratedly alarmed look. Richende ignored her.

          “Thank you, dear Justus. But no. Please.”            

Justus made a gesture of frustrated surrender and walked back into the office to follow her wishes. Once he had his fee in hand, the head portmaster’s mood brightened, and at once he became the soul of hospitality. He greeted Richende at the end of the gangplank, eyes gleaming, his smile solicitous.

Comments, reactions, impressions, constructive criticisms – all are treasured, should you choose to provide them.Visit my fellow WIPpet participants here, or join the fun yourself:

 

 

 

history, writing

Lighting Up the Dark Ages

Good morning! Please bear with me as I try something a little different this morning. Wednesdays are the days that I participate in a challenge hosted by K.L. Schwengel that has me providing a snippet of my work in progress (a WIPpet). This snippet is supposed to be related in some way to the date, whether it be some sort of convoluted math equation (26th line of the 3rd chapter or 18 words arrived at by adding 3+2+6+2+0+1+4) or something which happened on this day in history (my personal favorite).

Last week I was visiting my chiropractor getting my back cracked back into alignment while he regaled me with writing ideas and suggestions. These usually involve something I am not in the least interested in, i.e. “You should write a 23 volume encyclopedia on the history of library cats in Idaho.” However, this day he began quizzing me about the setting of my new novel series, which occurs in the Dark Ages. It soon became apparent that he knew close to nothing about the age. He prides himself on a passing familiarity with history, so he suggested that I come up with an explanatory note at the beginning of my book orienting the reader in time and place. Have you seen other historical novelists include notes on the time period? What do you think of this idea? My main concern is that it would throw people out of the story. I worked up the following summary, which I can always use in my communications with agents and editors if nothing else. Your comments and impressions are greatly appreciated!

700 ad. It falls squarely in the middle the Dark Ages, an early medieval period whose lack of source material – letters, histories, accounts, and more – have conspired to veil the time in an obscurity lacking in other eras. Little is known about the inner workings of the surviving peoples of Western Europe.

The prevailing power in the Mediterranean, the Roman Empire, had crumbled away into dust, trampled beneath the feet of crude and desperate barbarian peoples from northern wastelands. The Christian church stepped into the void left by Rome, taking on the role of arbiter and agent for society, leading the flock by providing a bastion of law, charity, and education against the rough-hewn forces of chaos.

And while times were grim in Western Europe, the other frogs about the pond of the Mediterranean thrived. Islam united diverse desert tribesmen with Muhammad’s revolutionary teachings. Together, they exploded out of the Middle East in a conquering fury. The Roman Empire, while fallen and dissolute in the West, thrived in the East, around the bulwark of civilization that we know as the Byzantine Empire. The Byzantines, despite the fact that they spoke Greek, called themselves Romans, for they were the rightful heirs of the Roman Empire. For a thousand years beyond the accepted date of Rome’s fall – 476 ad — Constantinople glittered on, a jewel of wealth, culture, debauchery and intrigue. So also did other, lesser known forces carry on with daily life – pirate fleets, tribesmen from the steppe, gangs of bandits, and more. The collision of cultures is evident everywhere the young knight Justus and his companions travel, for just because the age was dark does not mean it lacked spirit and vitality. Instead, it served as rich peat for the blossoming of power, passion, and adventure that begins in City of Ages.

Visit my fellow WIPpet participants here, or join the fun yourself:

Uncategorized

A Moment on the Road

It’s Wednesday again, and thus the day of the week where I share a little snippet of my work in progress, thus, a WIPpet. It is posted as part of a challenge hosted by K.L. Schwengel. Comments, reactions, impressions, constructive criticisms – all are treasured, should you choose to provide them.

Visit my fellow WIPpet participants here, or join the fun yourself:

 

I am, yet again, too lazy to look up what happened today in history, and will instead post a few lines from the fifth page of the third chapter (3/5). Usually I post on Wednesday evenings, but I’ve got a long day in store for me tomorrow so I’m posting early for once.

With no further adieu, a little from the newly christened City of Ages:

 

They traveled ten miles that first day, slow miles over gentle, rolling hills, following the rock paving on the old Roman road, passing by the vivid green trees and lush undergrowth of the forest. Tristan led a long-eared, long-faced mule that he called Henry.

“Henry?” Justus asked, dubious and amused. Tristan was less apt to take offense to him lately, but Justus tried not to goad him too much since that might change at any moment.

“Henry is a strong name,” Tristan declared, patting Henry’s thick brown neck.

“It is well that you have such affection for him, since you are responsible for his care,” Justus pointed out.

“So it is,” Tristan agreed. “Would that I had such affection for all my duties.” He slid a sly glance at Justus.

“Hmmph,” Justus replied, then aimed a light kick at the back of Tristan’s head, the doing of which caused a minor scuffle as they swatted at one another, laughing, until Justus remembered that his place as leader of this expedition probably did not allow for such foolishness, and he better comported himself.

history, writing

Battle at the Bridging of Two Worlds

WIPpet Wednesday BannerIt’s Wednesday! I took a two week hiatus, but I’m back again on this hump-day to bring you a snippet of my work in progress (thus, WIPpet), a challenge hosted by K.L. Schwengel. Basically, you post a snippet of your current project which in some way relates to the date. Most participants do various mathematical formulas to come up with the amount of words or sentences or whatever to post, but I decided to draw inspiration from today’s date in history.

History.com informs me that on January 8, 1877, Crazy Horse fought his last battle. Crazy Horse is the Native American leader who famously defeated General George Custer with a force of Cheyenne and Sioux six months earlier. Alas, he was not to remain successful long, for the U.S. Calvary in Montana outnumbered them and forced them to retreat, ending their organized resistance.

My work in progress, Book 1 of the Dark Ages trilogy, in which reluctant knight Justus must redeem a thief (Tristan) and guide a barren woman (Richende) on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, has no Native Americans, but it does have cavalry and battles. Here is one particular battle which takes place at a bridge …

This close, everything sharpened and slowed as only happened when Justus found himself fighting for his life. He made out the curly gray hairs in the barbarian’s beard, and smelled the rank scent of his unwashed body. The strong, nervous horse had froth bubbling from the corners of his mouth, and his sides heaved with the effort of the run and the melee of combat. The horse pranced back and forth, making the rider struggle to control him and causing Justus to pay attention to its steps lest he find himself crushed beneath heavy feet.

The barbarian, a Lombard from the cut of his tunic and fringe on his boots, passed the axe to his left hand and swung at Justus from that angle. Justus countered by chopping at the wooden axe handle with all his might, trying to break the head off, but succeeding only in lodging his blade in the wood. With his other hand he grabbed the back of the axe head and yanked, ripping the weapon free from the barbarian’s startled grasp. He flung the axe and his sword both–joined together–to the ground and snatched his dagger from the sheathe at his waist. The barbarian, now disarmed, let loose a stream of curses in a guttural Germanic dialect that Justus could not identify, and pulled the reins of his horse to the left, simultaneously urging the beast to carry him away from Justus.

Justus heard a harsh burst of laughter–realized it was his own–and applied his boot to the axe in an effort to free his sword. A few quick yanks did the trick, and he spared the time to grab the axe handle and stomp down on the blade, causing the head to break off. The last thing he needed was someone else picking that thing up and splitting his head with it.

Comments, reactions, impressions, constructive criticisms – all are treasured, should you choose to provide them. Visit my fellow WIPpet participants here, or join the fun yourself:


history, travel

Color Me Intrigued: Color in History

One of the more recent trips I took was to St. Petersburg, Florida for the Historical Novel Society‘s yearly conference. The fact that it was held in June kept me inside the hotel 95% of the time, due to the humidity and heat. When I did step out of the hotel to take a few pictures, my camera immediately fogged up and it was almost a week before it worked correctly. (note to self: keep camera in a plastic bag when traveling to such destinations in the future!).

RGB color wheel 36
The most interesting session I attended at the conference was Colour in Historical Novels by British member Jay Dixon. Below, I’ve jotted down some notes from the session, and at the end I included some interesting links if you wish to explore further. Dixon opened the session by saying that she entered an Italian restaurant on a rainy English day and the site of the ochre-colored paintings transported her back to Rome, where she lived for some time. Color, she asserted, can be very evocative of a place. Some examples:

  • Rome – ochre or gray stone
  • London – gray skies; green grass
  • Greece – blue skies; white clouds

Authors should keep in mind the following facts about color:

  • Mauve – first named 1856 – before that it did not exist
  • Purple – a royal color, called such because in antiquity the purple dye was so expensive that only royalty could afford it.
  • Scarlet – connected to the Catholic Church (or a disgraced woman – The Scarlet Letter)
  • White – never used for weddings until the reign of Queen Victoria; women simply wore their best dresses.
  • Black – Puritans (although they only wore this color when they went to have their pictures taken; ie when they were in their “good” clothes. Most times they dressed like everyone else at that time. Little black dress – came about in the 1920s; before that black was worn for mourning.
  • Green – color for wallpaper; it was dangerous because the process that created it involved arsenic, which poisoned people.
  • Indigo – it was produced in India; it also grew wild in America. In addition to its beautiful color, it repelled mosquitoes, which was important in preventing disease.
  • Red (synthetic) – did not become available until the mid-1870s. Before that, red would have consisted of russets and orange-reds – natural colors. Why did armies use red in uniforms? To disguise blood.
  • Blue – true blue came from lapis lazuli, and is a pale color. Rich blue became synonymous with wealth in the 1400s. Early blues had more gray and violet. Clear blue signified divinity.

In the past you would not be surrounded by today’s vibrant colors – colors would look drab to us because the majority of the people only had access to natural colors. The wealthy, however, wore purer colors. For example, the Greeks only had natural colors: black, white, ochre, brown, and red. Where did the “wine-dark sea” of Homer come from? The color of red wine at the time.

Ottheinrich Folio288r Rev6A
1530-1532; The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Revelation 6:1-8
The symbolism of color has been different depending on the culture and time period.

  • To the Aztecs’ blue turquoise signified fire; while green turquoise signified fertility.
  • Pseudo Dionysus of the early Middle Ages equated darkness with God, not light.
  • In Europe, turquoise and sapphire equaled good luck.
  • In 14th century Europe colors had religious meanings: gold (God, the Father), scarlet (Jesus’s blood), green (the Holy Spirit). White represented faith, red clarity, and green hope.
  • In the Middle Ages the four horsemen of the Apocalypse were equated with colors:
    • White – illness or Pestilence
    • Red – war
    • Pale Green – death (the color of a corpse)
    • Black – famine
  • In the Red Badge of Courage, author Stephen Crane used color at the end of each chapter to symbolize different things: red – blood; yellow – vivacity and excitement; blue – how the soldiers saw one another. Therefore, the reader was left with the vivid afterimage of color.
  • By 1918 the color red became associated with blood and death because of World War I.
  • Today, we consider red and green a strong juxtaposition of colors. In the Middle Ages, yellow and green were considered strong colors playing off one another.

And, a couple of notes about fashion:

  • In the 1780s, in Europe, it was fashionable to wear an indigo coat and yellow trousers, as evidenced by The Sorrows of Young Werther.
  • In the 1880s the aristocracy considered yellow a vulgar color.

One of the more interesting things Dixon spoke about was the medical condition Synesthesia, in which one can actually taste different colors. I had never heard of it, but this article by NPR talks a bit about it, as does this editorial and the associated TED video. Most of us have heard of Color Blindness, a genetic condition that occurs more frequently in men than women, and usually affects perception of the colors red and green. However, it can also affect blue-yellow color vision. It can even result in an absence of color vision entirely. The NOAA’s National Weather Service website includes an interesting visual simulation of the different color blind conditions:

Four photos of a little boy with sunflowers display what people with different color blind conditions can see.

Further Reading:

  • Jay Dixon handed out a document on the color wheel, primary colors, and other color related information: Colour by Jay Dixon (right click and choose “save link as” to download).
  • The Web Exhibit site called Pigments through the Ages provides a wealth of information on colors, including their history, how colors were made and used, and, especially for historical writers, an easy to read chart about color through the ages. In addition, Causes of Color and Color Vision and Art are but two of the informative exhibits at the same site: http://www.webexhibits.org/ (where you can also find out about the history of butter … bet you didn’t know you were curious about that, did you?)