Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Something kind of random.

I cannot be the only person kind of weirded out by the song Escape (The Pina Colada Song).

Monday, March 29, 2010

A slight diversion

Before I get on the promised topic of why I wanted to write about Dracula, I want to discuss how historical research gets done.

Historical research is mostly done from written sources. The three main classifications of sources are tertiary, secondary, and primary (historians are not known for creative classification names).

Tertiary sources are the most common and the most easily accessible. A tertiary source is one that is not written in the period in question. Tertiary sources discuss current research and current attitudes about that particular topic or time period. Tertiary sources include text books, book reviews, timelines, and encyclopedias. They are very useful places to start research.

Secondary sources are still written out of period, but refer to period sources. They are often specialized books, dissertations, or theses that look at available period evidence about a person, place, thing, or idea. They are a good place to grasp a complete view of a culture. They also vary greatly in quality, complexity, and scope (this is where you use the book reviews and abstracts to determine which one). This is King John by W.L. Warren, one of my very favorite secondary sources.

A primary source is a source created at the time you are studying by a contemporary of the action or person. They are more scarce and more difficult to understand, but a whole lot more fun to work from. Examples are coins, inscriptions, buildings, portraits.

Secondary and tertiary sources are often blended sources; they have pictures, quotes, graphics, and facsimiles of primary sources in them. This is extraordinarily helpful - you can get feel for a primary source without having to find it in its entirety.

Frequently, primary sources are published in collections or in thematic arrangements with introductions. Primary sources are not limited to written material; paintings, coins, carvings, artifacts (surviving physical evidence), tapestries, buildings, and photographs and photocopies of any of these are primary sources.

The best and hardest way to write history is from primary sources. The further away a text is from the original actions, recorded by contemporaries, the deeds and thoughts recorded lose their freshness and immediacy. Secondary and tertiary sources are often the cause behind the "history is boring" reputation. After all, novels are exciting for their attention to detail, their focus on action and consequence.

History is the story of murder, betrayal, love, greed, tenderness, and lofty dreams for humanity. Well- researched, well-written history is "edge of the seat" exciting and explains where modern attitudes and problems came from.

Next time, I promise, I'll talk about Dracula himself.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The s*** just got real.

History gives contexts for contemporary problems. How can we hope to overcome hatred and violence without knowing where that anger came from?

When you study history, you not only learn who you are. You learn how how the world works. And that is no small task, both for the student and the teacher.

Back in 1970, David Hackett Fischer demanded more from historians than what we had been doing for decades. This quote from his book, Historian's Fallacies, demands that we put ourselves out there for the world.

[N]othing is more necessary to the peace of the world. Let us have no romantic humbug about brotherhood and humanity. What is at stake is not goodness, but survival.

Men must learn to live in peace with other men if they are to live at all. The difficulties which humanity has experienced in this respect flow partly from failures of intellect and understanding. Historical knowledge may help as a remedy- not a panacea, but a partial remedy. And if this is to happen, professional historians must hold something more than a private conversation with themselves. They must reach millions...and they will never do so through monographs, lectures, and learned journals.

I doubt that they can hope to accomplish this object by literary history or by the present forms of popular history. Instead, they must begin to exploit the most effective media of mass communication - television, radio, motion pictures, newspapers, etc. They cannot assign this task to middlemen. If the message is left to communications specialists, it is sure to be garbled in transmission.
(p. 316)

No pressure, David. :)

This quote has guided how I felt about history since I first read it in graduate school. I hope it gives you some idea on why I like to write fiction with a strong historical bent and why I'm starting this series.

Next up:

Delving into Vlad Tepes, and why I wanted to write Dracula's Secret.

Photo of Dr. Fischer from
Doesn't he look like
he'd demand the best of you?

Opening quote shamelessly stolen from Hot Fuzz.
Who stole it from other people.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

History Geek.

I don't usually talk about my background in history. I'm not an American historian nor did I study things like who wore what, ate what, or invented what (history nerds call that cultural history). I will sheepishly admit that I studied political history.

Political history is the field that every student hates. Who signed what. Who declared war on whom. How monotheism came about. How religions interact. What diplomat did that boneheaded maneuver and what the hell was s/he thinking.

And guess what!

I've decided that you few, you lucky, happy few, will get to hear all about what I spend far too many years of my life figuring out. *evil toothy grin*

Brace yourselves! The horror is coming. :)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Another question for the ages.

Men's underwear - what is the sexiest -

Boxers, briefs, boxer briefs, or none?

I never know what kind of undies to put my heroes in.

Monday, March 15, 2010

A question for the ages.

Why do men wear black socks with shorts??

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Embrace your Beloved.

Last night, my paternal grandmother died. She was 93.

Grab someone (heck, it can be your pet!) you love and give them a long hug. Then go celebrate something together.

Embrace life. It is the reason we write. And it's the best way to mourn a loss.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Grooving to the baseline.

In my head, I never work hard enough and I never get enough done. I'm sick of it.

For the next two weeks, I am taking aim at my anxiety about 'working enough'. I'm going to overwhelm it with (get this) actual data on my work habits. I'm getting a baseline of behavior.

All I'm doing is keeping a simple log on
  1. What I am doing: Am I in meetings? Updating my blog? Doing promotional work? First draft composition? Brainstorming?
  2. How long I'm doing it: pretty self explanatory there. And
  3. How I feel about the work. Basically, did I think I did ok work, good stuff, or Yowza! level material.

I've been doing it for three days so far, and I am already amazed by my real progress versus my imagined progress. My early prediction for this experiment is that I will find out just how much I downplay how productive I really am.

I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Talking back.

It's time to revamp my website and blog, so tell me what kinds of things you like to see on an author's site.

Writing excerpts? Industry insight? Writing how-tos? Craft? How not to drive yourself crazy as a writer?

I also have a Facebook account now. Find me under Linda Mercury. :)