Wednesday, 27 February 2013

A House Divided Progress Update

In the weeks since I last posted I’ve made some progress with the first draft of A House Divided. My original intention was to have 50,000 words completed by Christmas, NaNoWriMo style, but the eye incident detailed below intervened and I was held back. I’ve now (finally!) hit that word count and as I've written the ideas for this story have inevitably continued to evolve. 

A House Divided was always intended to be ‘alternative history’ (after all, the byline is ‘This is not the story you know’—see the cover to the right) but if I bring my current crop of ideas to fruition the story is going to end up considerably more ‘alternative’ than I’d originally envisaged! As a result I’m going to take a short break from writing to do some research and clarify those  idea-germs  further… and decide whether I think this alternative is plausible enough to fly. Ultimately, I’m left with a choice: do I follow my instincts as a historian or a novelist?

In the meantime I'm going to return to The Invisible Infanta and investigate putting it onto a POD footing. I'm also hoping to offer it on Smashwords eventually (thus going beyond Amazon/Kindle) but I can't do that until late April, thanks to Kindle Select. 

My to-do list is therefore:
*Decide whether to use Lulu or Blurb. Any advice/comments on this gratefully received!
*Make changes to the draft to go with either/both. 
*Research the following: Manuel's Portugal, Maria de Trastamara's life after her marriage (if it should be available; very possibly not but that's what extrapolation is for), and try to discover more about Germaine de Foix, Ferdinand of Aragon's second wife...
...and let's not forget my kitchen renovation!

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

The best laid plans...

I started this blog with high hopes and good intentions in November, and spent most of that month collecting snippets and ideas for creating an info-rich blog. After all, that’s what it’s all about! But all these fine plans came to a crashing halt in early December. 

One evening I was in one of my favourite coffee haunts, working on the second book of the Trastamara Chronicles, and I noticed something floating across the screen–or so I thought. I tried to brush it away, to no avail. I concluded the problem was my glasses and tried several times to clean those. No luck. Finally it dawned on me that the problem was my eyes. Now, I’d had eye issues before so I didn’t panic. It just looked like an odd floater. I tweaked my screen and font settings in Scrivener and carried on working, hoping that the strange floatery obstruction in my vision would go away. 

It didn’t. When it was still present the following day, I made an emergency appointment at the optician’s. By this time I was starting to freak out a bit, but tried to tell myself it was probably all symptoms of an oncoming migraine and toddled off to my appointment. It wasn’t good, but it could have been worse. He wasn’t happy with the condition of the retina in my left eye, so we ended up in eye casualty that night, and they confirmed a probable detached retina. I was sent home to my mother’s for total bed rest (it was either there or be admitted). The next day I had a bleed in that eye which delayed things badly; when we returned to the hospital a few days later the retinal specialist said there was so much blood he couldn’t see the retina at all! So I was once again despatched home to Mum’s for another fortnight of lying flat. This included Christmas and New Year. Then back again to the hospital… and the consultant starting humming and hahhing. I have something called retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) which means that basically my eyes are abnormal in terms of how they’re structured, and the consultant wasn’t happy about just rushing in for surgery. He wanted a second opinion. 

So we made a private appointment with another retinal specialist who was lovely. Absolutely lovely. He confirmed both the ROP and the detached retina, but said that as there was evidence of a healed retinal detachment in the other eye he was happy to wait-and-see… and in the meantime I could return to normal. That was a fortnight ago and over that time I’ve been building up my reading, writing and internet time, so I hope it won’t be too long before I can continue with A House Divided in a disciplined manner. 

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Why Trastamara Chronicles?

Late fifteenth century Spain has a special place in my heart. When I was twelve, newly moved to Australia and desperately missing the familiar things of home, I discovered Jean Plaidy's historical novels. I started with The Young Elizabeth and enjoyed it, but the story that irrevocably hooked me, that drew me towards history in general and these characters in particular, was Daughters of Spain. I'm a geek. The family of Isabella and Ferdinand, notably Catherine of Aragon, became my first true obsession - and obviously it never left! I will admit it lay dormant as I discovered other enthusiasms and interests, both historical and otherwise.

Then in May 2012 I went to Barcelona, and a switch was flipped. The old obsession revived, but this time it came with the desire, the urge, to write. As we cruised around the Med I began to make notes on my iPad; when we returned home I started my research in earnest, hampered by the fact that The Invisible Infanta is set in Spain; inevitably, most primary sources are in Spanish ...which I don't read! As a trained historian this makes me distinctly uncomfortable and I intend to remedy it sooner rather than later.
However, it was not the disadvantage it might have been. My main character is almost invisible to history - English speaking history, at least - which left me a good deal of wriggle room. Yet the wriggling takes place within a framework established from extensive reading of the available monographs and biographies of Isabella of Castile and her two best known daughters, Juana of Castile and Catherine of Aragon. I've also dipped a few toes into the biographies of Christopher Columbus. My search for research materials continues; my nirvana is to find English translations of the main contemporary chroniclers of the Catholic Kings - notably Pulgar and Peter Martyr d'Anghiera … and the British Library has papers that I may be able to use. 

The Trastamara Chronicles is conceived as a non-sequential series of possibly three or four novels, each with a different angle or slant on this particular branch of the Trastamaras. I'm aware that this period is a favourite of historical novelists, but I dare to hope that I can offer something a little different. I'll try, at any rate.