author C.C.Cole's blog

Saturday, September 21, 2013

On Richard’s Final Judgment

"The Princes in the Tower" Wiki image

A historic villain meets the lead characters in the Gastar novellas:

“What’s this?” Said Shevata, as Zermon handed her a scroll. 
“I need to be out a while.  There’s a new member to our flaming family in Hell who claims to be of special birth, and requests a higher role down here instead of the usual knee high imps of most newcomers.” 
“Why should we consider him?”  Shevata unrolled the scroll and glanced over it.
“He says he’s innocent of his crime.” 
“How did he get here if he were innocent?”
Zermon laughed.  “I always thought I was innocent.  Didn’t you?  Have fun.”  He strolled out, leaving Shevata standing in front of the huge fire pit, surrounded by the smooth black terrace well known to be Zermon’s domain.  She leaned back on his huge throne, deciding she’d look almost as ridiculous sitting on it as she does doing his job anyway; his prisoner now judging people after death to what level of torment they deserve.
A pair of imps brought forward a young man appearing to be in his thirties, richly dressed.  Shevata motioned the demons to leave them.
Opening the scroll again, she said, “So you’re Richard Plantagenet?”
“King Richard III.”  He said.
Shevata said, “Where is Plantagenet?”
“It’s my family name.  I’m from England, fifteenth century.”  He said.
“Zermon ripped apart the last man brought here from the fifteenth century.  He name was Vlad.  Was he a friend of yours?” 
“Absolutely not.”  Said Richard.
Shevata rolled up the scroll.  “State your business then.”
“I was King and I admit to betraying my promise to my brother.  I meant to be a guardian so his young son could become King, but I couldn’t make it work.  I had his marriage declared invalid, his children made bastards, and I became King.” 
“Betrayal is usual business of Kings and doesn’t get you burned in hell fire.”  Said Shevata.  “Go on.”
“His sons, my nephews disappeared after I became King.  A pair of innocent boys are missing and everyone thinks I killed them.”  He said.
Shevata’s face went blank.  “What happened to them?”  She said after staring at him a few minutes.
“If I knew, I wouldn’t be here.”  He said. 
“This is not a place for lies.”  Said Shevata, tossing the scroll into the flames.  He turned to look with horror as the voices below howled with pain and torment.  “I can make it easier for you.  If kill you in this early afterlife they can’t tear your soul apart slowly over time.  Zermon won’t give you this offer.” 
He looked at her once, then jumped into the flames.  She winced as she heard the horrific process of soul changing begin.  In time he will rise as a lower demon, one of Zermon’s brainless underlings.
Zermon returned.  “What did you think of him?”
Shevata said, “I thought he was guilty.”
“So you pushed him?”
“He jumped.  Nothing pulls people down here like ill deeds cloaked with good intentions. As tragic as it is, the victims are the boys, not Richard."

On Prologue Preferences

"Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire"

Recently on social networking, a fellow writer suggested that authors avoid prologues.  I joined a few with respectful disagreement.  Some find prologues as wasteful with no reason to combine it with a rest of text.  Others find them distracting.  But many of us like them. 

I do understand the negatives of a prologue.  Especially in fiction, if it is a “Chapter one” then why is it not “Chapter one?”  We new authors want to avoid turning off readers before the story begins.   Prologues can be spoilers if not written carefully.  Who wants to see the hero/heroine dead or defeated before the story begins? 

Prologues shine the most in non-fiction and historic fiction as an appropriate place to describe the setting.  Sometimes prologues make me go back and research the history behind the story so I learn more about the background, which adds richness to the book.  I like films to open with a “prologue” even if the book lacked one; it’s an effective method often used to grip the viewer and reel them into the story. 

I think the use of prologues aligns with other writing tools that authors use by preference.  My readers know I like prologues, ellipses, and semicolons.  They also know dialogue and action drive the fast-moving plot.  Is it for everyone?  No.  Is it perfect?  No.  But that’s an advantage of being an Indie writer; we can make our work our own. 

Eccentricities belong to all creative people, with writers as a subgroup.  If we didn’t have preferences, our books would be the same, and what a boring place the world would be!  Writers, our work is our own; whether prologues, punctuation, or writing style, go for it.  Originality is what we are about.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

On Cautious Class Climbing

Elizabeth Woodville "The White Queen"

As I wrap up my blog articles inspired by “The White Queen” cable series and Phillipa Gregory’s novels it is based upon, one final point remained with me:  Class Climbing. 

In the story as well as history, King Edward IV of England annoyed his Royal Court by marrying in secret commoner Elizabeth Woodville, whose father was a squire.  She lived out in the country and while not impoverished, she lacked the “right blood” so valued in historic and recent royal marriages. 

The series centers on the outrage of the women at Elizabeth’s beauty, her large family, whom are given choice marriages and estates otherwise given to more worthy noble families, and last, but not least, her extraordinary fertility.  According to Wiki, she had two sons by her first husband that died, and ten more children by Edward IV.  The story capitalizes on the many girls she gave birth to, and gives reference to the tragedy of her two surviving boys whose destiny became “The Princes in the Tower.” (That means you, Richard III).  

As time passes (I’ll try and avoid a spoiler here) Elizabeth continues to attempt to keep her daughters in the Royal line, even as her oldest and her namesake, Elizabeth, says to her it is not worth it and they should return to their original home and be happy away from the danger and scrutiny of the Royal Court.

Question:  Why did Elizabeth Woodville, in this story, after feeling the scorn heaped upon her by snooty nobles that sooner wished her and her children dead, want the same for her children?  Answer:  She knew, despite the problems, nobility is an overall better life during those times than for girls in the country.  Despite the mass murder occurring amongst the Royals, the lives of people living in the country during a war were at higher risk still.  Nobility has a chance of protection, but plain people had none, with fates of unspeakable atrocities seen in most every war over in this planet’s history.

Can I relate to Elizabeth Woodville?  Answer:  Yes.  My moment came when I completed my medical training and moved to a small town where nobody knew me.  I found myself part of a small town court under so much scrutiny that I had enemies I never met for reasons I didn’t understand.  But unlike Elizabeth, my husband and I followed her daughter’s advice and moved to where we could be happy.

Crossing classes isn’t easy.  When I see friendly acquaintances I haven’t seen since childhood, I have a genuine interest in visiting.  But I’m not the same person to them.  While we dream of “better lives” with determination to get there, it’s never what we think it will be.   

Can Elizabeth’s story be an inspiration for an author?  Answer:  Phillipa Gregory thought so, and I agree.

On Great Crazy Women

As I’m blogging through the “White Queen” series, it would be unfair to leave out the antagonist character in the series; Lady Margaret Beaufort, the lead character of Phillipa Gregory’s novel “The Red Queen.”  When I downloaded the trio of books the cable series is based upon, I skipped and read “The Kingmaker’s Daughter” and saved the Lancaster lunatic for last.

Now I’m happy to say “The Red Queen” is a very entertaining novel, surprisingly so.  While the series character is pious beyond reason, obsessed with ambition of having her Tudor son becoming the King of England, the novel brings her to a more personal level that one can appreciate her strength as well as her bizarre outlook on life.

Unlike other young women who wanted to marry gallant men, wear beautiful gowns, and have lots of sons, Margaret Beaufort wanted to become a nun and form her own Christian order.  She considered Joan of Arc to be a true inspiration and thought the battles she lead being swarmed with angels instead of flies over bleeding soldiers.  Even when she brought her fatally injured husband home, she still believed the battlefield she found him in could not have been like that for Joan. 

By watching the series, it’s hard to imagine this character could have any humorous moments.  The novel opens her up to a few:  Married men are rapists, marriage removes all desire for men, men smell bad, and her second husband looked old enough to be her ancestor.  However, she was fond of her older husband and grieved when he died.  Her mother accused her of going on about everything in her life as a tragedy, and she said, “Having children and you telling the midwifes to let me die IS a tragedy.” Well, it’s made clear Margaret Beaufort wasn’t exactly a “Babe” to be fought over other than her title and inherited fortune, which her York enemy King allowed her to keep.  Of course Margaret doesn’t appreciate that any more than the bad former leadership of the mindless Lancastrian King Henry and his wicked Queen Margaret of Anjou.  So what the queen beheaded people, God appointed the Lancasters, so that must be OK, right?  Ugh. 

So readers or viewers of the series don’t leave “The Red Queen” out if you check out the books.    Margaret is a stronger character than Anne “The Kingmaker’s Daughter,” and though delusional by religious zeal, she doesn’t whine and crazy women are definitely something most of us can relate to as acquaintances, friends, or relatives in our lives. 

On The Game of Queens

Richard III "The White Queen"
Stannis Baratheon "Game of Thrones"

With the US release of “The White Queen” cable series, again I find myself behind as usual on literary works and history with my vast hard science educational background.  While I knew about The War of the Roses, I’m embarrassed to admit I asked my liberal arts-educated husband if it took place before or after Henry VIII and what Plantagenet meant.  To top it off, I argued with certainty that Lancaster was the white rose and York was the red rose.  My ignorance was not bliss.

As I’ve watched and enjoyed this series, and swatted the scathing reviews by some, (be comforted, “Fifty Shades of Grey” will be a film soon, if that’s your preference), I do agree it begins focusing on love story between King Edward IV of England and his queen, commoner and widow Elizabeth Woodville.  I agree the production doesn’t place the viewer into the gritty world of 1400s England, but I don’t believe it was meant to.

What hit me right away were characters screaming through the screen and through my kindle as I read the books by Phillipa Gregory (“The White Queen” “The Red Queen” “The Kingmaker’s Daughter”), I see all-to familiar characters from the megahit series “Game of Thrones” and books “A Song of Ice and Fire” by George R. R. Martin.  It doesn’t take much of a google search to find out Martin took significant inspiration for his books from the War of the Roses and the work of Phillipa Gregory, amongst many other writers and historic events.

The most obvious character to me was the Earl of Warwick, “The Kingmaker” played by ace actor James Frain almost equated to Tywin Lannister.  (“Lannister” screams “Lancaster” also).  As a powerful man fit to rule, sorely lacking in the blood connections to be King, he maneuvered his power to land on the winning side.  The “Bad Queen” (badass queen, I say), equated to Cersei Baratheon, and her relationship to Anne Neville, as written in the “Kingmaker’s Daughter” is very near the Cersei/Sansa Stark relationship in the second GoT season or the book “A Clash of Kings.”  The tyrant Edward Lancaster prince became our favorite love-to-hate Joffrey Baratheon as we want to slap him off of the Iron Throne. The Starks are comparable to the Yorks, and the Targaryens comparable to the Normans as invaders and conquerors.

But there’s another character that strikes me I didn’t see mentioned:  (It may have, I just haven’t seen it) Richard of York, the famed King Richard III.  The series to me carries his story very well, keeping him in the cautious background, but always there, so serious, so supportive of his York brother King Edward IV.  My husband didn’t have to give me a history lesson about Richard, since I’m a fanatic true crime reader.  Richard, to me screams Stannis Baratheon in GoT.  Like Richard, Stannis was loyal to his brother King Robert, but when Robert died, with the incestuous royal kids exposed, he thought he should have the Iron Throne.  To win, he almost sacrificed the boy Edric Storm by burning, and burned others and I believe will meet a bad end.   

Richard’s historic story is well known with a pair of princes, sons of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville, his nephews “disappearing” in the Tower of London after he became King.   Phillipa Gregory makes an interesting alternative theory about the mystery of the missing Princes, but I disagree, though no one knows, obviously.  I’m not a historian, but I know Niccolo Machiavelli didn’t write “The Prince” based upon future royals; it was about European Royal culture.  One of his points was that The Prince must remove all potential enemies, regardless of age.  Therefore, the missing Princes are to me Martin’s fictitious Stark boys, Bran and Rickon.  In history, I agree with Shakespeare.  Sorry Richard III, you were King, and if you didn’t do it, it was on your watch. 

When I started watching “The White Queen” series I expected to read Phillipa Gregory’s books.  I didn’t expect to see “Game of Thrones” characters.  I applaud both writers in reminding us about history in two very different methods.