author C.C.Cole's blog

Friday, January 31, 2014

On the Cliché of Forbidden Love

"Anna Karenina"

Many editors, readers, and my mother told me numerous times an important part of a story is a love interest and keeping Shevata from falling for an Edward Cullen-like character is a potential weakness in “Act of Redemption.”  As a writer and creator of a story, I couldn’t give my lead character a love interest until she’s ready, and she’s on a complex journey to get there.  As for love being a must in every story, really?

Answer:  Almost really.  Most stories have a love interest, be in main part, a side story, a weird part, however, but love makes the world go around, and it makes a lot of the fictional world go around as well.   Heroes save the girl, a heroine takes a lover, a man starts a war over lost love (“A Song of Ice and Fire” or “Game of Thrones”), or a couple of young people secretly fall in love with tragic consequences, the prototype forbidden love “Romeo and Juliet.”

To me the idea of forbidden love is almost as cliché as it gets, but as I’ve said before about clichés, they sometimes give strength to a story.  Being the most treasured emotion of humanity, love moves us all, and the idea of forbidden love reminds us that when love is involved (romance being the main topic here, but also love of family) other societal rules are thrown out and characters risk it all; their lives, their kingdoms, the lives of others, the love of their own families to have the person he/she truly loves.  When one considers the possibilities, it’s nearly endless when forbidden love is at stake.  For writers, it’s almost a winner every time when done well.

Are there negatives to using “Forbidden love” in stories?  Answer:  With any cliché, there’s always the possibility of predictability or overwhelming tragedy that takes a very strong story for the audience to relate to.  As in my blog article about the power of devastation, people want to feel the tragedy in their hearts, while others feel turned off.  To me, with well-written stories, audiences can handle a downer ending if truly reeled in.  The example I like using is “Atonement.”  While I felt rage and sadness at the end of the book (and film), I think it’s a great story. 

So writers, who are your characters in forbidden love?  What keeps them apart? What are the consequences of their union or separation?  Tell us about it in your story, and though cliché, it will grip us like few feelings can, because love tears us from the inside out just like it does with the fictional characters.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

On Titles and Title Sequences


                              Title Sequence "Black Sails:      http://vimeo.com/84162805

I’ve blogged in the past about titles of novels, how conceptual titles are often recommended but sometimes simple titles identify the book for what it is:  My prototype example is “The Sword and the Dragon” by M.R. Mathias.  The title explains the genre, the story, and stood out as a banner and his growing fans still follow, as it is a great medieval dark fantasy novel.

For TV and films, I used to keep how much I liked title sequences to myself because I thought others didn’t find them that important.  My ignorance was cured then I read about the over-the-top, outstanding title sequence of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” (American version) because when the film was over, I couldn’t get the dark, bizarre, but cannot look away imagery of Lisbeth’s nightmare out of my mind.  It remains one of the best title sequences I’ve ever seen and when reading more about the film, others appear to agree.

The “Game of Thrones” for fans, especially we readers has a great title sequence with a memorable musical score, a chess-like view of Martin’s world, and my favorite, the “sun” that identifies the story as fantasy.

Most recently, I read an article about the new “BlackSails” series, saying it has a “Game of Thrones” like title sequence.  Hmm…I was curious.  In seeing it, there’s nothing about it that reminds me of Game of Thrones; so perhaps in writing it was to catch attention to GoT fans like me, so good for them, it worked.  The sequence to me captures pirate cultures in an usually artistic way; taking the gritty world of early 1700s maritime crime to a fascinating introduction; like above, I couldn’t look away.

As I think of great title sequences and book titles, I wonder about book trailers.  A book trailer is as close to a title sequence as an author gets.  While the question of trailers remains controversial regarding sales, the idea of a title sequence instead of a “trailer” may be something to consider.

As far as “BlackSails” we’ve had a single episode so far.  I need more to decide if I like a cable series.  Let’s hope it lives up it it’s title sequence.  

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Legolas and Gastar

Legolas "The Hobbit"

The famous battle-capable elf from LOTR and “The Hobbit” meet the lead characters of the Gastar novellas.  Let’s have a bit of fictional fun.

Shevata braced her left side where she removed the arrow.  The bleeding stopped and as she slowly concentrated against the barred door, she felt the pain ease off and her muscles relax.  An elf appeared at the door.  “Are you badly injured?”
“Not injured enough.”  Shevata looked through the bars and saw the handsome elf called Legolas, the son of the King of this small Elven realm she and Zermon stumbled into by mistake.  “Release me.  Someone is with me, very dangerous.   Don’t be stupid. “
The elf smiled.  “You mean that idiot bombastic demon?  My father has him squared away down below.  He has a spell for such creatures, meant for Morgoth in the First Age.”
“So what are you going to do with us?  Keep us here forever? Why not be civilized and execute us?”
Legolas smiled. “You know nothing of civilization, you barbaric murderer.”
“Murderer? How harsh.  How many of your friends did I ‘murder?’”
“None.  But I know what you are.  I examined your weapons.”  His elven eyes sparkled, a trait Shevata found annoying. “Stay.”  He left.  
“This will cost you a life!  Whose life will you choose?” Shevata shouted through the bars.  She let the hours pass until she could stand without pain.  She concentrated on the lock.  It turned.

Zermon stood in the center of the pentagram bored at the Elf King studying him like he was an amazing new pet.  “When she comes, you will die.”  The Elf smirked at his comment and continued to study him.  “We were passing through, and didn’t attack.  I ate several orcs.  I’m known for giving raw deals, but you? “  Zermon groused, but the elven King was unmoved. 

Shevata made a garrote out of a piece of clothing.  One by one, she caught from behind and bound the elves with their own bowstrings.  She didn’t see Legolas.  After some searching, she found her weapons in a bag thrown aside.  She made her way down a path of marble steps led her to an open room, with dim magical lights on the walls.  In the center she recognized Zermon and the Elven King, father of Legolas.  Before he moved toward her, she stabbed the marble floor with her golden dagger, creating a crack across the floor, breaking the pentagram.

Legolas returned from his evening scouting.  Alarmed by his kin bound, he found Shevata’s cell empty and her weapons taken.  When he made it downstairs to his father, he lay face down over the cracked pentagram, bleeding from a large wound to his back.  He turned his father over, who whispered as he died, “Those fall when misunderstanding others.  Don’t take revenge; we shouldn’t have held them.”
He buried his head on his father’s shoulder.  “One life, she said.”

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Games and Gastar

"Game of Thrones"

This blog post is having a bit of fun with the two lead characters of the Gastar novellas, the assassin Shevata and her “it’s complicated” antagonist Zermon, Demon Lord of Hell.  Together they take a tour of Westeros and quick trip to Essos, with Shevata showing Zermon GRRM’s fascinating, terrific world and main characters.

Zermon walked aside Shevata looking around with curiosity.  “Are you sure nobody can see us?”
“Nobody can.  The vampire whom I stole the scroll from says it will last long enough for the tour.”
They entered the gates of King’s Landing.  Zermon sniffed, rearing back his huge demonic horned head.  “It stinks in here.”  Shevata ignored him.  They made their way toward the Red Keep.  A very short man tripped on Zermon’s hoof, apologized, and kept moving.  “What was that?” 
“Shh!  He’s a dwarf, don’t bother him.”  The King was outside the Sept with his young betrothed.  Shevata pointed.  “That’s King Joffrey and Margarey.  They will get married soon.” 
Zermon frowned.  “That kid, who I’ve been hearing about is KING?” (Laughs) “What a stupid world!  Ever heard of revolution, murder, mutiny, the basics of ridding a country of bad Kings?”
Shevata gestured to quiet him.  “That was done with the Mad King, who was worse than Joffrey.  I think.”  She pointed.  “There’s his mother, Queen Cersei.” 
Zermon looked at her.  “She reminds me of my first wife.  I spent some time getting rid of her.  I…”
“Enough, let’s go.”  Shevata turned to leave the city.  “Let’s cross the narrow sea.”  They soon arrived at Yunkai. 
“More weird smells and who are these people? Does anyone wear CLOTHES in this world?”  Zermon grimaced.
“We’re not here to see the people.”  She pointed at a beautiful silver-haired woman in the distance surrounded by three dragons.  “Those dragons are her children.”
“Hmm..I despise dragons and these look like the dumb type.  It will be funny when they eat her.”
“Zermon, they won’t eat their mother and she’s immune to fire.”  Zermon’s eyes glowed.  “I like her.”
“Let’s get out of here before you get more stupid.”  They crossed back to Westeros to the Ice Wall.  Shevata looked up at the massive structure.  “Men are sentenced here for life to guard here.”
Zermon sniffed.  “Bull.  This is where they dispose of the disposable.”  Shevata shrugged, since he had a point.  They went south to Winterfell.  “It was taken by a trusted friend, then taken again by a murdering torturing bastard.  I’m suggesting that he go to your special services at the right time.”
Zermon smiled.  “I’m up for resurrections and burnings anytime.”
They went further south to Dragonstone.  “Weird place.” Zermon tapped a hoof on the ground.  “Volcanic.”
“It’s said dragons were raised here.  The rightful King by law is Stannis, who lives here.  He lost a war to Joffrey.”  Shevata looked at the dragon carvings.
“So this world is about getting that weird looking chair?”  Shevata nodded.
“There’s one more person I want you to see.  A red haired woman walked by.  “She’s a priestess, worshipping a God of Light.  What she really does is burn people alive for her…religion.”  Shevata made a sour face.
Zermon’s eyes narrowed.  “But..is..she immune to fire like the dragon girl?”
Shevata raised her bow.  “Let’s find out.”

Saturday, January 25, 2014

On Saving Sansa

Sansa Stark "Game of Thrones"

As the first season of “Game of Thrones” reeled me in and the series “A Song of Ice and Fire” committed me to the GRRM asylum of permanent unapologetic Thronealholics, as I’ve blogged in the past:  What gives strength to stories?  Answer:  The characters.  Strong characterization will be a winner in my mind.  Side tales, beautifully written backdrops, dynamite film effects lay empty without compelling characters the reader/viewer can relate to in some way, by a protagonist, a lovable drunk, a scary bad dude, and well, yes, there’s always the damsel in distress. 

I’ll be brutally honest:  The only character I disliked almost a much, as Joffrey in Season One “Game of Thrones” was the idiot Sansa Stark.  OK, I’m dodging tomatoes, (or worse) but let me explain.  As a star-struck dumb teenager, she couldn’t see evil when it stood before her, I get that.  When she got her wolf killed because she had no backbone, she was outwitted by a woman miles out of her league in Queen Cersei.  I have a huge problem with dog death, but not Sansa.  At King’s Landing, she goes back to Joffrey, the stupid girl he calls her because she earned it.  I get it that teenagers make mistakes.  But at age thirteen or eighty, I’m not going to love someone that killed my dog!  Then she runs her big mouth and outs Ned to Cersei, but he did it also, so Sansa isn’t directly responsible for her father’s death.  She just made it easier.

As the series continues, we see Sansa get rescued by the Hound, protected by Shae, then marries Tyrion, the smartest and wealthiest guy in Westeros, save his fascist father.  By watching the series move along, I don’t bond with Sansa much at all.  Like Lady Oleanna said, “No, she isn’t very interesting.”

Alas, Sansa is a little more interesting.   In ASOIAF, she is the witness of the goings-on in King’s Landing, so she’s an important POV character.  I won’t spoil, but her situation changes and slowly, as much as she resists, she becomes smarter and realizes someone may not always be around to save her.  It only took five books for her to learn that after her family was wiped out…twice. 

Why am I beating on poor Sansa, hasn’t Joffrey done enough?  Answer: Yes.  GRRM put a naïve damsel in distress in his epic, which is a relevant character that I think will grow and turn the plot at an important time.  Already, she’s changed the politics of Westeros by becoming a Lannister.  As a writer of a strong female heroine, weak females grate on me, but that’s OK.  Sansa’s OK.  Teenagers do make mistakes when they are young.  When I think of Sansa, I think of Daenerys eating the horse heart at her age.  Could she have done that?  To quote Oleanna “Question for the philosophers.”

On Driving Blog Traffic

Wiki image

As my writer journey continues, sometimes I find myself on the other side of the coin.  Instead of thrashing about in the blogosphere grabbing any life preservers I can to stay afloat, sometimes new bloggers ask me how to get started in blogging. 

To do a quick re-hash of some past articles, I had good advice from The Blog Farm early on about blogging.  The basic rule is posting something for viewers to see (as in a photograph) or read (as in an article).  Anyone is welcome to visit my early posts of this blog, where you’ll see links, videos, and not much of anything. 

Like any stubborn person, of course I had to argue with the expert, like I knew something about blogging?  What am I to post?  Answer:  You’re a writer Stupid, so write something!  So I did. My “New Author” series of articles started my journey as a blogger for reading, writing, and creativity, and I haven’t looked back since.

So for some analysis based on my experience alone, and I’ll make a note many more sophisticated and widely read bloggers are out there.  I’m not small potatoes; sunflower seeds may be a better representation for vegetable comparisons.   What I’ve found that drives blog traffic is original work.  Links might as well come directly from Twitter; you offer a viewer nothing by a link only as a blog post.  The experts say to create a “brand” so readers will know what you are about, be it reading, cooking, book reviewing, or artistic design.   Therefore, the way to do that is to post, yes, I’m writing it again, original work, or a guest post, keeping in the “brand” of the blog.

What doesn’t drive blog traffic?   I’ve learned a bit from doing.  As sad it is to say, and I won’t stop doing it, but book reviews of new authors do not drive traffic.  Why?  Simple:  Nobody knows the writers.  It doesn’t mean I’ll stop reviewing, as I like doing it , though I’m taking a break to finish my third book.  Also, articles hit and miss, which is expected from any writer.  I can spend hours on one article and get “meh” from readers going by traffic, and crank out an article about a bestselling novel and see the traffic peak.  Famous books and stories help blog traffic.  Reason:  Because they are famous, to state the obvious.

A better question:  Does retweeting lead to more blog traffic?  Answer:  Yes and no.  Before clicking off, let me explain.  Most of the time, blogs have a “core” of readers.  Retweets are great to increase the exposure, but the exposure may not be your audience.  Going back to “branding” your tweeps may have different interests than anothers tweeps.  So the exposure is great, and potentially can drive traffic, but when it comes down to just numbers, it’s not a direct correspondence between the number of tweeps seeing your tweet and the number that actually read your article.  It’s doesn’t mean retweeting doesn’t help; of course we all want retweeting!  But I’ve learned to distance myself from the expectation that 20K tweets will add 1000 hits to my blog, which is not always the case.

So writers again go forth and write awesome blog articles.  I love blogging and am a late discoverer to the awesome recipe blogs.  Though the articles compared to novels have a shorter half-life, we live in a “now” culture, so think it, write it, post it, and we’ll read it. 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

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On Those Tolkien Prototypes

"The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug"

I remember as a kid reading “Mother Goose” and fantasizing about weird critters and why that woman had so many kids that lived in a shoe.  My Mom gave me art books for entertainment in the gravel road isolation of rural Mississippi, where AM radio was unreliable. I didn’t realize my favorite painting “Starry Night” was by one of the greatest painters of all time, Vincent Van Gogh. 

Therefore, I had an idea of “elf,” “dragon,” and “magic” before I ever read the Tolkien classic “The Hobbit” and “Lord of the Rings,” which I didn’t get around to until college.  Like other Dark Fantasy fans, I love the story and consider it a must for fiction readers.  The main message of this masterpiece screams loud to even the casual reader:  The smallest can be brave and make the biggest impact in good vs. evil.  In other words, it’s a wonderful “underdog” story, where little Hobbits save Middle Earth from the horrors of Sauron.  (But the hairy feet, with all due respect, Mr. Tolkien?).  Never mind.

So there’s the “before” and “after” LOTR for fantasy:  Once one has crossed the LOTR, there’s no going back.  The education is now a solid bachelor’s degree in Elves, Dwarves, Half-Elves, Dragons, Orcs, Wizards, Hobbits, Wraiths (Nazgul), Ents, Upper Demons (Balrog), and special humans (Aragorn).   After the experience of this epic, we not only know the story, we know the characters, and know the creatures, and have re-learned whatever we thought they might have been before.

So is this a bad thing? Answer:  No.  Tokien gave us more than just a great read with LOTR; it’s legacy rings loud today as it is still widely read, made very popular in films, role playing games, and inspires we writers to use such characters in a variety of ways as we weave our own fantasy in our stories.  So when I tweet “Orc” most know what I’m talking about.  “Elf” most writers think of Tolkien’s elves (may be exceptions), and probably the most controversial is “Dragon,” since these fascinating mythical creatures are in so many world cultures.  Meaning, Eastern dragons are not necessarily talking dragons, and are not necessarily dragons that carry riders.  Even with the dragon variables, Tokien still gave us an unforgettable dragon in Smaug.

I haven’t come so far in my writing journey that I have forgotten or put aside the work of Tolkien.  I have my gripes, like the lack of female characters and the poorly understood goal of Sauron.  These days, as a GRRM reader, I don’t consider “A Song of Ice and Fire” a new LOTR.  Why would one epic stand against another?  No, epics stand out on their own as detailed fantastic stories with well-developed characters, complex plots and sophisticated backgrounds.  Regardless of the next big popular series, the Tolkien prototype will always be with us.

On Losing the Good Guys

"Game of Thrones" Red Wedding

As a follow up to my article “On Why Ned Stark’s Die” GRRM continued to remind us in the HBO series “Game of Thrones” and the books “A Song of Ice and Fire” that losing Ned was only the beginning of an avalanche of tragedy for House Stark.  Against the powerful Lannisters, the corrupt Baratheons, the absentee Targaryen, who finds them all as her enemy, there’s not much left after the infamous “Red Wedding.”

Instead of going back and use the second major Stark wipe out to be a “lever” for the story, this time I think Martin is reeling in the results of bad decisions of youth coupled with competent adversaries.  Robb Stark, only sixteen in “A Song of Ice and Fire” married the wrong girl because he had a sexual encounter/fell in love with her and did the honorable thing, a similar line of thinking of his father Ned.  Afterwards he had the gall to ask Lord Frey for his men to assist in his war.  As we feel sympathy for Robb, he found out the hard way battles alone cannot win wars.  Politics do matter, and he didn’t speculate the actions of the Freys or the formidable Lannisters. (In ASOIAF, Robb’s wife wasn’t from Volantis, her family was Tywin Lannister’s bannermen, so  imagine the situation these lovebirds put their families in).

My brother argues with me constantly about ASOIAF, saying the good guys lose too often.  But do they?  I say no, they lose, but more Starks are surviving than Targaryens (not exactly the same). Also, if you believe the direwolves and the Stark kids are connected, look what happened to them.  The young Stark boys and Jon Snow have their direwolves with them and are doing better (won’t spoil here) than Robb, who distanced himself from Greywind, Sansa got Lady killed, and Arya is on hard times after having to give up Nymeria.  More factors than the direwolves involve the fate of the Starks, but as a fiction reader, I think they play a role.

What about the bad guys?  Do they ever lose?  I won’t spoil with information in the books, but if I did, it wouldn’t add much.  Winter IS coming.  The Stark enemies know it, but they don’t really believe it.  Even Tyrion “The Inp” knows about Daenerys and her dragons but he cares as little about three dragons as his selfish sister does.  Though Martin will make we readers work for every inch of this story, Winter WILL come and the bad guys will experience it while the Stark spirits will not have to, and the young Starks will grow up and remember what happened to their family.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

On Understanding BadAsses

"Dirty Harry"

I’ll go ahead and ask forgiveness for my first profane word in a blog article, and I’ll respectfully invite any reader that can provide a synonym for “Badass.”  Meaning, another word for a character that will mow down other characters without letting little details like honor and justice getting in the way; vigilante is a close description, but placing the law into one’s on hands is vigilance; doing it well is badass.  For this article, I'm keeping "Badass" for protagonist characters.

Once a fan mentions “Badass” the interpretation is almost instantaneous in fiction:  Martial arts, big guns (BFG 9000 in the game “Doom” anyone?), or other “wicked skilz” as a fan of my books mentioned in a review.  Badasses defeat the bad guys and make no apologies as they make our dreams come true as we read fiction; we want the A-hole bad guys to pay and pay BIG.  So let’s “kick-butt” and rub them out.

So for some analysis on these popular characters:  One “Badass” is not equal.  Meaning, these characters often have more depth than a zest for being a killing machine.  Some have lost friends/family important to him/her to the antagonist; so revenge is an important and popular motivator for the Badass.  What else can create a Badass?  What’s so terrible about a character that finds murderers a bit more distasteful than the justice system and jailing isn’t enough?  How about child soldiers, as in my Badass character Shevata’s case?  She was raised to kill lawbreakers by death orders; so rubbing out killers is business as usual for her. How about a Badass that’s just so tough there’s not alternative?  My example would be the cartoon “The Tick” hilarious when he found the ocean not so bad, just a bit “sharky.”

I see criticisms of Badasses.  Some say they’re cliché, over-used, chick girls kick butt need depth, but really?  OK, maybe cliché sometimes, I’ll give the critics that.  But even Badasses can have weak spots, which can be compelling drivers of a story’s plot.  Somewhere along the way, most Badasses I’ve seen or read about get kicked down by the antagonist usually, and find their way back to smear the bad guy into the ground.

Writers, if you have Badasses in your story, I think for the most part readers want is to make them feel.  Give them a human element, or make them grow into it.  If you give them a bit of substance, the action will go a long way.  Action and/or strong plot turning is what every reader expects of a Badass.

On Throne Theorizing

"Game of Thrones"

It’s only been with the coming of the fourth season of “Game of Thrones” that I’ve run across a speculative article on how the epic “A Song of Ice and Fire” will end.  I agree with meme showing skeletons waiting for the fourth season of the HBO hit series, while poor book fans like me wait for the next book as a T-Rex skeleton in this overstretched, highly sophisticated epic story, “The Winds of Winter.” 

I’ll share this blog article with the warning that the blogger also gives that this article is better read by readers.  So if you’re super-spoiler sensitive, you may not want to read it, because it gets into details of “A Feast for Crows” and “A Dance With Dragons.”  To me, I don’t think it’s a big spoiler, because the last two books didn’t advance the plot very much and the single BIG game changer isn’t mentioned.

For the article: 


Readers, please be polite to this blogger who dared to think “outside the norm” in the way most of us think of this story.  When I check, my comment still says “Awaiting moderation” so if you can’t see it, I suppose he decided not to post it.  Overall, I disagreed because of the core belief that Martin’s characters drive the plot more than the sideline stories.  I believe Jon and Daenerys are Ice and Fire protagonists.  Whether they fall in love and marry, knowing GRRM, he’ll find a way to spoil our happy fantasy.

But who’s to say?  This blogger may be right. Will Jon Snow and Daenerys end up on opposing sides?  Are the Others misunderstood? Because Targaryens are conquerors does that mean they are all evil?  Better question:  Which is life, Ice or Fire?  To maintain balance in the fictional world must Ice win over Fire?

To me, in fiction, undead are not death; they are the absence of life.  There is nothing natural about an undead, so undead, night, and darkness are usually associated with an antagonist.  Also, I disagree with this blogger, to steal newborn male babies is not a misunderstood noble act.  To remove innocent of a single gender, in fiction often the reason is the need of innocent blood for an evil purpose.

As for Fire, regardless of one’s belief in ancient history, the discovery and maintenance of fire is of utmost importance for survival, and is the method used for war.  Modern war of today uses some variance of fire for weaponry.  But to use ice as a weapon by humans for a good purpose, certainly can be used in fiction, and this blogger brings about some interesting points. 

As the series ramps up for the fourth season, I’m looking forward to see the characters come to life with a great production and talented cast.  Though I disagree with this theory, I applaud this blogger for putting this idea out there, outrageous to some, brilliant to others, and all of we “Martians” know we’re probably all wrong in one way or another.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

On Lost Love: Elizabeth and Cersei

Elizabeth of York, "The White Queen"
Cersei Lannister, "Game of Thrones"

As the fourth season of the series “Game of Thrones” approaches, I’m always excited to see the better-than-average translation from book to film of the epic by George R. R. Martin “A Song of Ice and Fire.”  As a reader, while I love watching the characters come alive by a talented cast, I still await “The Winds of Winter” like a T-Rex skeleton in the meme.

My other favorite series “The White Queen” aired last fall on Starz, and that’s when I found out Martin took inspiration from the history during the time of the War of the Roses.  In my “Game of Queens” article, I do an analysis on the known inspirations, and also did my own analysis comparing Richard III to Stannis Baratheon as the loyal brother in the background, until the time arrived to take the throne, Richard took it from the heir boy Prince Edward, who went missing in the Tower of London and Stannis, who went to war and burned people for his gain, and almost burned his bastard nephew Edric Storm.

But a pair of women had me thinking more about this analysis.  Generally the relationship between Cersei and Sansa is Margaret of Anjou and Anne Neville.  But a young Cersei reminds me of Elizabeth York as written in Phillipa Gregory’s “The White Princess.” 

Elizabeth of York, raised as a Princess of Edward IV of England, had the training and luxury expected of such a status.  Unlike her controversial mother, her marriage would be to a very high noble by arrangement.  In the book (I’m setting history aside for a moment) she fell in love with her Uncle King Richard III.  He promised her he would make her his queen and she was very happy, because otherwise she was betrothed to Henry Tudor, whom she never met.  But at Bosworth it didn’t happen that way.  Richard didn’t win and was killed.  Henry won.  Elizabeth married him, and gave birth to the children of the wrong man that returned from Bosworth.

Cersei in ASOIAF was raised like a Princess, though she was not. Her powerful father Tywin Lannister promised her in when she was a little girl, that she would marry the kind, honorable, and handsome Prince Rhaegar Targaryen.  Before the tournament when the betrothal was to be announced, Cersei and two friends saw a maegi to have their fortunes told.  Cersei’s fortune was “You will marry the King.”  She thought that meant she would marry Rhaegar after he became King, so good enough.  (I’m leaving the rest of Cersei’s future out..spoiler)  But when the time came, the King and his Prince left the area and no betrothal was announced.  The Prince married another.  Her heartbreak affected her deeply but she hid it from her brother Jaime, whom she eventually developed an incestuous relationship with.  When Robert’s Rebellion happened, he killed Prince Rhaegar on the Trident because Rhaegar ran away with his betrothed, Lyanna Stark.  After Robert was crowned, with a lost love, Cersei did as expected and married him.  For her the wrong man returned from the Trident.

Fantasy and history sometimes intertwine and to me bring light to both.  Since I’m not educated in history, I like to read about the background of stories.  For fiction, the real live people breathe real life into our fantasies, making us feel their regrets, their hopes, and their pain of lost love. 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Guest Post: Richard and Anne's own Courtly Love Story by Andy McMillin

Richard and Anne's own Courtly Love Story
I'm happy to again share my blog space with ace medieval scholar, historian, and fan of "The White Queen" series Andy McMillin.  Her blog, listed above, is excellent, and I suggest you take a click to see her work.  Below is her second guest post here about the controversial King Richard III: 

In BBC’s “The White Queen,” Richard, Duke of Gloucester (later King Richard III) portrayed by Aneurin Barnard finds Anne Neville, the Kingmaker’s daughter (Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick) portrayed by Faye Marsay, and rescues her after the battle Tewkesbury, where her husband is killed, and the Lancastrian cause is defeated.  He tells Margaret of Anjou to get back in her litter and go home while safely whisking Anne away to safety.  It is something out of a fairy tale. Handsome knight rescues princess in harms way. Did events shown, portray an accurate portrayal of how did these events actually did historically unfold? Did he really rescue her from crazed solders or was there another story, more fact that is more true to what really happened? How chivalrous was Richard to go chasing after Anne Neville?

Richard, Duke of Gloucester, and Princess Anne "The White Queen"

The story of Richard and Anne, was highly popular because it exhibits and proves that chivalry was alive and well during the 15th century. Hence making the match one of admiration and desire in many people’s eyes. The same can be said about Elizabeth Woodville and Edward IV’s relationship.
What do we know about Richard? We know he was an avid reader and had copies of many books while he lived in York in his younger years. One was found to have tales of chivalry, classical history, and two Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer.  Proving he was quiet educated, which was expected of nobles. Also noted, he had a copy of Tristan, the Gottfried von Strassburg (d. 1210) version which was adapted from the 12th century legend of Tristan and Iseult . The story itself, is modeled after most popular courtly romances of the time and with rhyming couplets. A rhyming couplets is the style and structure of the poem meaning “two lines of poetry that rhyme and have the same meter.”
Also as an accomplished military man, Richard would have also known what the chivalric code was, a reason for it being in his books.  For he had to have studied it at one point in time, as loyal as he was to his brother, as well as upbringing. Some of the principles he would have been familiar with would have been: 

Richard, Duke of Gloucester
Duties to countrymen
Duties to God
Duties to women
The third is where we see how he handled what really happened with Anne; “the idea that the knight is to serve a lady, and after her all other ladies. Most especially in this category is a general gentleness and graciousness to all women.”  This popular notion might have been some of his motivation to find her, and desire to keep her safe and want to marry her, adding to his beliefs a strong moral and loyal disposition.
Now how did the cat catch the mouse? In reality, Anne was not at the battle with her former husband, Edward of Westminster, that May 4, at Tewkesbury. Where she actually was, is a little unclear.  What we do know is she was imprisoned after the battle by Edward VI and taken prisoner.
George, Duke of Clarence, in trying to make any marriage between Richard and Anne difficult, took Anne with him first to Coventry, then to his London house, where he kept her as his ward and opposed her getting remarried. She even wrote Elizabeth Woodville, Elizabeth of York, and Edward IV of her ordeal and to plea her case, yet all requests failed.  The assumption was that George was wanting access to both of the girls inheritance, wanted to keep Anne as his ward in order to do this so he could claim her share of the money. Interestingly literature of the time such as The Crowland Chronicle reported that;
"so much disputation arose between the brothers and so many keen arguments were put forward on either side with the greatest acuteness in the presence of the king … even those learned in the law, marvelled at the profusion of the arguments which the princes produced for their own cases'. Whilst the acquisition of land, wealth and power was a factor in Richard's determination to marry Anne Neville it is reasonable to assume that their marriage was successful for there is no hint of scandal or mistresses.”
Concluding, the rift between the York brothers, and Neville’s youngest daughter’s inheritance and initial intent, was a bit scandalous at first, but laid to rest once things played out.

Exactly how Richard found Anne, remains disputed. One account states she escaped and sought refuge at a cooking shop in London, disguised as a servant, and second, Richard actually went looking for her, tracked her down, then took her to sanctuary at Church of St. Martin le Grand, where they were later married. 

Richard and Anne's marriage "The White Queen"

Adding the whole courtly love theme into the dynamics of the actions of Richard and Anne being discovered, is also why some of the details of their childhood also have an importance to this theme.  They were acquaintances of each other. An interesting part about their relationship is that they actually knew each other before marriage, which was very uncommon. Marriages in the Middle Ages especially among the nobility were for political and diplomatic reasons. Getting married for love or the notion of was practically unheard of.  Both Richard and Anne had grown up in the same household for a while at Middleham Castle, in Yorkshire. But there is no documentation of how each other felt for one another. So the concept of a long drawn out love affair of admiration; is hard to prove.
When looking at the elements of this relationship and the popularity of courtly literature of the time and the idea of their sought after relationship; makes their story very popular.  It is one that was perceived to many as one of romantic notion and of what many authors before and contemporary wrote about. It was a story with its own elements yet similar to Tristan and Iseult. Thus, their story became quite popular, and is still of popularity today. For it was a 15th century romance within itself.