Sunday, April 20, 2014

A Secret About Running & Writing



That meme up there is absolutely true, and the same goes for a writer... The most difficult word a writer writes is often the first. 

Butt in the chair, right?

But there's something more. Nobody tells you when you're first starting to run that it takes a few miles before you warm up and hit your stride. For years, I hated running and never went further than two miles. Because they sucked.

Well, guess what?

The first two miles still suck. But I put my head down and soldier on, one step at a time. And amazingly, around Mile 3 or 4, almost without fail, it suddenly becomes easier. 

(Side note: That easy bit crashes and burns around Mile 8, but ignore that for the sake of the awesome analogy I'm building.)

Yesterday, I stared in agony at my blank page in Word for half an hour (while writing a battle scene, no less, which should have been easy). I desperately wanted to quit, to throw in the towel with an epic daily word count of... 26. 

But I didn't.

And slowly but surely, the words started to come. It took another half hour to get the four pages I told myself I had to type before I could watch an episode of Doctor Who, but it didn't matter, because those four pages had suddenly gotten easy.

So, yeah, running is hard. And writing is hard. Sometimes they both downright suck. But often, if you just keep at it, you'll hit your stride. And although I'm not promising the miles or the words will ever come easy, sometimes they just might.  

And regardless, when you've finished that long slog of a run or the chapter that almost killed you, you feel really, really damn good. 

And then you can eat ice cream cake and watch Doctor Who.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Mother, Wife, Teacher... Oh yeah, Writer Too...

Let's start this with a confession: I'm jealous of other writers.
  
Specifically those authors who get to stay at home and write all day. Those writers post their daily word counts on Facebook and Twitter and I cringe a little, knowing that mine will never compare.  

But that's okay. 

It took me a while to come to this realization, but I'm a busy gal.  Here's a peek at the not-so-glamorous life of this particular author:

1. Teach five classes of high school students, everything from Psychology and AP European History to Economics and U.S. History
2. Squeak in a run (because I'm a glutton for punishment and signed up to run two half-marathons this year) or volunteer at my daughter's school
3. Help with homework & piano practice
4. Clean/squeeze in social networking/cook dinner/hang out with the husband (who is often sadly neglected, especially if there's a looming deadline)
5. Ferry the seven-year-old monkey to her various activities or otherwise generally entertain her with a round of Clue or Doctor Who Yahtzee
6. Get the seven-year-old monkey to bed
7. Wish I could collapse from exhaustion 

But I can't because...

Becoming a writer means having homework every night for the rest of your life.

Someone posted this on Facebook this weekend, and it's absolutely true. Because every night, no matter how bleary my eyes are or how I want nothing more than to go to bed, I pull out my laptop and plug away. 

Three pages every night. 

It's not much, but little by little those pages add up, and eventually I can type "The End.

(And then celebrate with an ice-cream cake.)

In the meantime, I have to ignore the evil green monsters that rear their ugly heads when people post celebratory messages of writing a novel in two, three, or even four months. I have never, and will never, write that fast. 

But that's okay, because I have plenty of other wonderful things I get to do every day. 

So, what does your writing schedule look like? Are you speedy like the hare, or like me, the dependable tortoise?   

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Goodreads Giveaway: 10 Signed Copies of Daughter of the Gods!



 
 


    Goodreads Book Giveaway
 



   

        Daughter of the Gods by Stephanie  Thornton
   


   

     


          Daughter of the Gods
     


     


          by Stephanie  Thornton
     



     

         
            Giveaway ends April 23, 2014.
         

         
            See the giveaway details
            at Goodreads.
         

     

   

   


      Enter to win


I'm thrilled to have 10 signed copies of Daughter of the Gods up for grabs on Goodreads! Best of luck to all who enter!

And on a related side note, I can't believe May 6th is almost here. Ack! 

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Why I Write the Way I Do

I love historical fiction. 

In fact, I love all types of historical fiction, from epic Gone With the Wind-type sagas to historical mysteries like Gary Corby's The Pericles Commission to read-through-the-night dramas in the style of Kate Quinn's Mistress of Rome or Stephanie Dray's Lily of the Nile trilogy. I read A LOT of historical fiction, and have since I was in high school, maybe even before

But why do I write historical fiction? And why do I write it the way I do?

For the same reason I teach high school history: to make people care about history. 

It would be a whole lot easier for me to hand out worksheets on Julius Caesar or pop in a History Channel special on the French Revolution. Instead, I doodle-lecture the fall of Rome and run simulations where I get to cut off my students' heads via guillotine. (The guillotine is made of cardboard and yarn... No students were really harmed in the making of this simulation.)


As for the writing side, I once had an agent reject the manuscript for Daughter of the Gods because she claimed that Hatshepsut's story was too fast-paced and dramatic. 

My response: To cackle with glee. 

Why? Because that was precisely what I'd intended. I want readers glued to the pages of my novels like an episode of The Borgias or Game of Thrones. 


People like Hatshepsut, Theodora, Genghis Khan, and Alexander the Great led incredible lives, and I want my readers to curse me in the morning for all the sleep they lost when they were instead reading about the slaughter at the Nika riots, Genghis pouring molten silver down someone's throat, or Alexander's mass wedding celebration at Susa. (I swear he could have submitted to Guiness for that one.)  

Do I focus on violence, romance, and any other weird-things-that-sound-stranger-than-fiction but actually happened? 

Hell yes.   

Now what about accuracy? All that little stuff like what the heck people ate in 13th century Mongolia or what kind of linen Hatshepsut wore? It would be so much simpler if I didn't have to research the exact layout of 4th century BCE Tyre for Alexander the Great to siege, or which beauty products his various wives might have used to soften their skin.  (Swan fat, ground lentils, and powdered deer antler, in case you're wondering.) But what's the point of writing history if you're not going to get the details right? (Side note: my final revision before I send the manuscript to my editor is one solely to insert crazy historical facts I've found while researching. That is, hands-down, my favorite part of writing.)

So I do my absolute best to be accurate about the big events and the tiny details, write in a way that won't make modern readers feel like they're slogging through Shakespeare (who I love, but honestly, Hamlet doesn't make for a really fun read), and if I'm lucky, make people walk away from my books with an appreciation for a period in history they might not have known much about. 

And that's why I write historical fiction.  

Monday, March 10, 2014

5 Star Review: Girl on the Golden Coin




My Review: I've been eagerly awaiting the release of Girl on the Golden Coin since last year, and this book definitely delivered all the drama, romance, and intrigue I was expecting! Frances Stuart is portrayed as honorable and virtuous, yet she's able to manipulate not only King Louis XIV and Charles II along with a whole host of courtiers. I've read several other Restoration-era novels, but this was the first one that really brought the full cast of historical characters fully to life: not only the kings and Frances, but also Barbara Palmer, Queen Catherine, and even the future King James. A remarkable and well-written novel!

Synopsis (From the publisher): Impoverished and exiled to the French countryside after the overthrow of the English Crown, Frances Stuart survives merely by her blood-relation to the Stuart Royals. But in 1660, the Restoration of Stuart Monarchy in England returns her family to favor. Frances discards threadbare gowns and springs to gilded Fontainebleau Palace, where she soon catches King Louis XIV’s eye. But Frances is no ordinary court beauty, she has Stuart secrets to keep and people to protect. The king turns vengeful when she rejects his offer to become his Official Mistress. He banishes her to England with orders to seduce King Charles II and stop a war.

Armed in pearls and silk, Frances maneuvers through the political turbulence of Whitehall Palace, but still can’t afford to stir a scandal. Her tactic to inspire King Charles to greatness captivates him. He believes her love can make him an honest man and even chooses Frances to pose as Britannia for England’s coins. Frances survives the Great Fire, the Great Plague, and the debauchery of the Restoration Court, yet loses her heart to the very king she must control. Until she is forced to choose between love or war.

On the eve of England’s Glorious Revolution, James II forces Frances to decide whether to remain loyal to her Stuart heritage or, like England, make her stand for Liberty. Her portrait as Britannia is minted on every copper coin. There she remains for generations, an enduring symbol of Britain’s independent spirit and her own struggle for freedom.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Review: The Debt of Tamar


Synopsis
 During the second half of the 16th century, a wealthy widow by the name of Doña Antonia Nissim is arrested and charged with being a secret Jew. The punishment? Death by burning. Enter Suleiman the Magnificent, an Ottoman “Schindler,” and the most celebrated sultan in all of Turkish history. With the help of the Sultan, the widow and her children manage their escape to Istanbul. Life is seemingly idyllic for the family in their new home, that is, until the Sultan’s son meets and falls in love with Tamar, Doña Antonia’s beautiful and free-spirited granddaughter. A quiet love affair ensues until one day, the girl vanishes.

Over four centuries later, thirty-two year old Selim Osman, a playboy prince with a thriving real estate empire, is suddenly diagnosed with a life-threatening condition. Abandoning the mother of his unborn child, he vanishes from Istanbul without an explanation. In a Manhattan hospital, he meets Hannah, a talented artist and the daughter of a French Holocaust survivor. As their story intertwines with that of their ancestors, readers are taken back to Nazi-occupied Paris, and to a sea-side village in the Holy Land where a world of secrets is illuminated.

Theirs is a love that has been dormant for centuries, spanning continents, generations, oceans, and religions. Bound by a debt that has lingered through time, they must right the wrongs of the past if they’re ever to break the shackles of their future.

My Review
I'm fascinated by anything set in Turkey so I was eager to read this unique take on Suleiman the Magnificent's assistance to the European Jews. Dweck has a lovely way with words that truly brought Istanbul to life: a villa on the Bosphorus, the lush gardens, and even the synagogues. There are several intertwined stories within this novel, taking the reader from Lisbon to Istanbul and then to Paris, and I actually found myself wanting to spend more time with many of the characters before moving onto the next storyline. All in all, The Debt of Tamar is an enjoyable story about faith and love across the decades. 
 

Buy the Book

Amazon (eBook)
Amazon (Paperback)

Barnes & Noble

iTunes

 

About the Author

Nicole Dweck is a writer whose work has appeared in newspapers and magazines across the country.
As a descendant of Sephardic (Spanish) refugees who escaped the Inquisition and settled on Ottoman territory, Dweck has always been interested in Sephardic history and the plight of refugees during the Spanish Inquisition. The Debt of Tamar, her debut novel, was a two-time finalist in the UK’s Cinnamon Press Novel Award Competition.
For more information visit Nicole’s website. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Ice Cream Cake with Five Famous Women

In honor of Women's History Month, I thought I'd invite five famous historical women to talk about politics, world conquest, and men over for peanut butter chocolate ice cream cake.

Barring myself from inviting the usual suspects (Hatshepsut, Theodora, Sorkhokhtani, etc.), here are my invitees and why they're on the exclusive guest list:

1. Catherine the Great: Why? Because she's a freaking rock star. We all know she had scads of affairs, but she also likely had a hand in overthrowing her (loser) husband, oversaw the downfall of Pugachev's rebellion, and was pen pals with Diderot and Voltaire (who I absolutely adore).



2. Boudicca: I first came across Boudicca when reading Manda Scott's glorious novels on the woman warrior. Granted, Boudicca's story doesn't have a happy ending, but the woman stood up to all of Rome. That alone entitles her to a slice of ice cream cake.



3. Berenice, daughter of Herod Agrippa I: Daughter of one king, sister to another, and mistress to Emperor Titus... What's not to love? In addition, there's the salacious rumors that she had an affair with her brother, leading me to suspect she's yet another powerful woman maligned by history.



4. Roxana, wife of Alexander the Great: Okay, I have an ulterior motive for this one, seeing as how Roxana is one of the main characters in my fourth book. I'd dearly love to gossip with her about Alexander and his pal Hephaestion, and how Roxana ended up being such a ruthless witch after Alexander died. 


5. Roxelana, wife of Suleiman the MagnificentYet another not-so-kind woman in history, I'm fascinated by her because she's from Istanbul (well, originally from the Ukraine) and she made Suleiman fall madly in love with her and then became one of the most powerful women in Ottoman history.


So tell me, which women would you invite to your dessert smorgasbord?