Friday, December 27, 2013

Writing is Good for You

I have felt off all day, and then I settled down and finally just did some writing (even though I really ought to be asleep, because I have an early appointment with the optometrist in the morning,) and now I feel oh so much better.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Horse the Magnificient

I drew this while writing the first draft of Midwinter. His wings got bigger in subsequent revisions.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Future Published #4: The Bride Gift

Today's interviewee is Sarah Hegger, author of THE BRIDE GIFT. You can follow Mrs. Hegger on her Facebook, Twitter, or her blog. In this case I must confess that I am cheating, because I happen to know that the novel has been sold to Soul Mate Publishing and will be out in May, 2014. Thank you, Mrs. Hegger, for journeying all the way to Elflandia.

Mrs. Hegger: Thanks for letting me drop by.

So, tell us about your novel. What inspired you to write this story?

Mrs. Hegger: I have always been interested in the role of women and specifically the power, or lack thereof, they have had over the centuries. Even in times when women were the most powerless, there have been those that stood out. Empress Maude, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Elizabeth l, Victoria and so many more. I wanted to write a story where a woman was powerless and how she worked within the system to get what she wanted.

Who was your favorite character to write?

Mrs. Hegger: My hero Guy of Helston. I set myself a tough task with him. I didn't want to pretty him up, but keep him pretty much your basic medieval fighting machine. Guy is so non-verbal that I had to find inventive ways of getting him to 'speak' and still keep him to growls, grunts and monosyllabic responses.

What motivates your characters?

Mrs. Hegger: In essence, both Helena and Guy are motivated by security. They want to secure their futures. Both of them have been at the mercy of others and are determined never to be in that position again.

Why Medieval England?

Mrs. Hegger: Castles, horses, those lovely bliauts. And I also don't think I ever recovered from seeing the old Richard Harris/Vanessa Redgrave version of Camelot.

Do you ever kill characters? (You don't have to answer that!)

Mrs. Hegger: Oh, yes. This is bad Olde England after all, but I'm not going to give anything more away.

Tell us a little about yourself. What are you reading these days?

Mrs. Hegger: I am a voracious romance reader. I always have one or two on the go. Which is probably why I can never get the titles straight. I never miss a Kristan Higgins or a Jill Shalvis. I love Eileen Dreyer, Madeline Hunter and Lisa Kleypas. I have just finished reading Wounded Wings by Shauna Allen. I managed to get lucky enough to get my hands on an advanced copy.

Where did you grow up?

Mrs. Hegger: I was born in England, but spent most of my life in South Africa. I just mourned, with my country men and women, the death of the incredible Nelson Mandela.

What's your favorite kind of coffee?

Mrs. Hegger: For some reason, since my pregnancies (many moons ago) I can't take strong coffee anymore, but I still love it. I compromise with a Venti Non-Fat Latte every morning

What are you working on, now? Do you have a sequel planned, or something new?

Mrs. Hegger: I am just putting the finishing touches to a new medieval called "Sweet Bea." It's set in King John's England in the year 1215 and I have taken a huge chance and made my hero a thoroughly unlikeable SOB for the front part of the book. He gets better, though, and by the end of it, is as lovely and dreamy as any other romance hero. (This is my hope, anyway). I have also just started a new contemporary and am experimenting with the idea of perfect that we women can get so tangled in.

It's my observation that books seem to reflect their writers. What aspect of you is reflected in your book?

Mrs. Hegger: Hmmm - now you've got me thinking. Probably the fact that most of me heroines present as tough, but they are masks to conceal a softer inside. Actually, a lot of my heroes do the same thing. I like to play around with the ideas of strength and vulnerability and how closely they are tied together.

Would you like to leave us with a quote from your book?

The blurb: 1153, in the period dubbed ‘The Anarchy’, King Stephen and Empress Maud are not the only ones embroiled in a fierce battle of the sexes.

Determined to control her own destiny, willful Helena of Lystanwold has chosen just the husband to suit her purposes. But, when her banished guardian uncle attempts to secure her future and climbs through her bedroom window with a new husband by a proxy marriage, she understandably balks. Notorious warrior Guy of Helston is everything Helena swore she would never marry; a man who lives by the sword, like the man who murdered her sister.

This marriage finally brings Guy close to his lifetime dream of gaining lands and a title. He is not about to let his feisty bride stand in his way. A master strategist, Guy sets out to woo and conquer his lady.

Against a backdrop of vengeance, war and betrayal, Guy and Helena must learn to forge a united front or risk losing everything.

An Excerpt: Her husband. Her uncle had given her safekeeping, her future, into the hands of this man. The Scourge of Faringdon.

He looked the part, a large man with broad shoulders blocking the rest of the room from view. In the scant light, his face was all rough­hewn angles and hard planes. His eyes were light, colder than the stone at her feet.

Helena shivered suddenly.

“So,” she tugged the sides of her robe closer together. “We are at an impasse.”

“Nay, my lady,” he replied with that infuriating calm. “Now we must open the gates.”

“Must we?” she taunted. Why did he not challenge her? She wanted him to demand she do his bidding so she could fling it back in his teeth. He merely stood there for a moment and looked at her.

His continued silence unnerved her. “You do not speak much.”

He moved suddenly and Helena jumped. It was as if a tree had suddenly sprung into life. He motioned for her to precede him. “Gates?” he reminded her in his rough voice. It was the sort of voice accustomed to yelling commands across a battle­strewn field. Urging his men forward to murder and mayhem.

Helena raised her chin. “And why must I open the gates?”

“My men . . . are outside.”

It was so absurd that she started to laugh. When he did not join her, but just looked at her with his chillingly pale eyes, Helena’s laughter died in her throat.

“I am not letting your men into my keep.” She crossed her arms over her chest and stared back at him. This game he played could be equally well­ played by two. He moved toward her so suddenly that she stepped back. Her foot tangled in the carpeting and she nearly lost her balance.

“My keep,” he growled. “And my men. Open the gates.”

Her heart pounded so loudly she could barely speak. He gripped her arm firmly, but not hard enough to be painful. She tested its strength and found it secure. Her anger grew stronger. This was not his keep. Lystanwold was hers. This mockery of a marriage changed nothing. She shook her head.

He stepped closer until she could feel the heat from his body. “Be you willing or not, those gates are opening.”

“Do you plan to force me?”

“If I must.”

The silence stretched between them. His eyes were as hard steel and seemed to stare a hole right through her head.

“Lady?” The soft rasp in his tone warned his patience was at an end.

Helena felt an unbidden surge of elation. “How do I know I can trust you?” she flung at him. “You could have deceived my uncle into trusting you and when I open the gates, your men will run havoc through my keep and her people.”

He frowned as if she had just said something so stupid it pained him to consider it.

“You would not be the first to come here with false promises spilling from your lips.” Helena’s fingers curled into her palms. “How do I know you will not kill us all?”

“You do not,” his voice rumbled through his chest. “You have my word only.”

“The word of a hireling sword?” she sneered.

His eyes narrowed. “Gates,” he insisted.

Helena peered at his grave, stern face. He was tall. She barely reached one powerful shoulder. It made her feel tiny by comparison. She bent her neck to maintain eye contact. The cold, implacable certainty of his eyes held hers. And she knew then it made no difference what she believed or what she wanted. He could snap her in two, right this instant, before anyone in the keep was any the wiser. Her courage wilted within.

Yet she resisted. “If you force me, I will scream for help. My men will roust you before you can make a sound.”

“They will try,” he responded, seemingly indifferent to her threat.

“You are not that fearsome.” She tugged at her arm, but he held firm.

He stared at her, battering her resistance with his quiet certainty.

Her husband. Sweet Jesu. Her breath clogged in her lungs. Her mind spun in ever increasing circles. Do. Not. Panic. Think, Helena, think.

As if reading her thoughts, he rumbled softly, “I will not harm you. Do not be afeared.”

“I’m not afeared.” She tossed her head rebelliously even as she lied.

He raised his brow, a silent mockery of her boast.

Her shoulders slumped to admit he’d bested her. If she did not open those gates, there would be blood, and it would be on her hands.

“Open the gates,” he said softly.

“I do this under duress,” she hissed, beaten for now. But she would fight again. He nodded as if he understood and drew in a slow, careful breath. For a moment, she thought he might have looked relieved. Helena dismissed the notion as ridiculous.

“Have you no slippers?” he demanded.

“Eh?” Helena noticed he stared at her pale feet sticking out beneath her night rail. “I have slippers,” she replied.

“Put them on. The stone is cold and hard.”

Helena looked down at her feet and up at him again, then reached below the bed for her slippers.

Coming from Soul Mate Publishing in May, 2014

Thanks for everything!

Mrs. Hegger: Thank you for letting me be here.

Midwinter's Labours Lost--Poll!

Yes, I'm working on a sequel to A Midwinter Night's Revolution. I'm still debating about the title, though this one fits nicely with the Shakespeare theme and then, of course, the final book could be Midwinter's Labours Found. According to Wikipedia, the play's title is actually Love's Labour's Lost, but that extra apostrophe is just weird. Anyway, which do you like best:

A. Midwinter's Labours Lost
B. Midwinter's Revolution Lost
C. Revolution's Labours Lost
D. Something totally different!

The picture will probably change, as I'd rather one evocative of loss. But until I get time to draw something, it's pretty enough to keep around. I don't know about Jasper's choice in collars, though. *Shakes head.*

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Stalin vs. Marie Antoinette

Which is worse: A bad system filled with good people, or a good system filled with bad people?

Right, so I was reading about the French and Russian revolutions, and thinking about how glad I am that my country had George Washington instead of Stalin, and feeling bad for Marie Antoinette.

George Washington I regard as basically a good person in a good system. He's underrated these days, but the US did well under his leadership, and he established norms (like peacefully leaving office) which have served us well.

Marie Antoinette and even Louie XVI do not seem, from the accounts I've read, to have been bad people on a personal level. They didn't kick puppies or leave offensive comments on Youtube. But they were definitely part of a bad, oppressive system. Even after they were deposed, they could always call upon the armies of Austria and other allies to attack France and put them back in power (which they actually did try to do.) It did not matter that they may have been nice folks--their continued existence posed a threat to the revolution; their deaths were deemed necessary to end the system.

Russia before 1917 was an abysmal place. People were starving, and the gov't, needless to say, was terrible. It is almost unimaginable that so many starving people wouldn't rise up against a system that was killing them. They established what they hoped would be a utopia, a workers' paradise. Unfortunately, they ended up with Lenin, then Stalin, at the helm, and the tragic deaths of a million beautiful dreams.

You know the history. America remains one of the nicer spots in the world. The French eventually got Napoleon and then kings again and finally democracy, but France is also a fairly nice place. The poor Russians got the Soviet Union.

Of course it is best to have a good system with good people.
A bad system with good people can, I think, eventually work itself out, if everyone involved is devoted to fixing things.
But a good system with bad people will simply turn rotten.

Your thoughts?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Future Published #3: Initiation

"Future Published" is a series of interviews devoted to fabulous unpublished authors whose work I have been blessed to read, and believe is good enough to deserve professional publication.

Today's interviewee is Jesse Sutanto, author of INITIATION. You can read about Ms. Sutano's successful quest for an agent over on her blog, Putputt Eats and Writes.

Thank you for journeying all the way to Elflandia! Why don't you tell us a bit about your book?

Ms. Sutanto: It's a YA fantasy about a shy, fat girl trying to survive the final test in assassin school.

What inspired you to write this story?

Ms. Sutanto: When I first started it, I was addicted to World of Warcraft and Airbender (the series, not the movie), so I suppose those were my two inspirations.

Who was your favorite character to write?

Ms. Sutanto: Hands down, Mara. I love reading YA books, but I noticed a lack of non-skinny, non-feisty female MCs, and I kept thinking, "What about the shy fat girls? Why can't they have exciting adventures too?" Can you tell I was a shy fat girl growing up?

What motivates your characters?

Ms. Sutanto: Friendship. I went to an all-girls Catholic school, and one of the best things about it was the strong friendships it fostered. I value my female friends above many things in life, and I guess that leaked into the story. Throughout the novel, Mara and Lia fight against all odds so that they could maintain their friendship. Of course, there are all sorts of twists and delicious betrayals...

Have you ever hugged a sloth?

Ms. Sutanto: Strangely, no, but I have hugged an octopus. Or rather, the octopus hugged me and I tried to pry myself off. They're very huggy, did you know that? Octopi, I mean, not sloths.

Do your characters ever wrestle with the morality of assassin as an occupation, or is that outside the novel's scope?

Ms. Sutanto: They do, actually. Well, Mara does. At first, I thought it would be all James Bond-ish and they'd just whiz through assassinations, but as it turned out, that wasn't what happened. Mara feels really crappy about what she's being trained to do and rebels against it, which is one of the main things motivating her.

Do you ever kill characters? (You don't have to answer that!)

Ms. Sutanto: *evil grin* Yes. Hur hur. My agent actually resurrected four characters throughout the book, but there's still quite a high body count by the end of the novel.

Tell us a little about yourself.

Ms. Sutanto: Um...I am a pink hippo who likes to terrorize people on QLH.

What are you reading these days?

Ms. Sutanto: I just finished reading John Green's The Fault in Our Stars, which was pretty frikkin' excellent. Now I'm reading I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett, because Pratchett.

Where did you grow up?

Ms. Sutanto: Everywhere! I was born in the States, but then my parents moved back to Indonesia and I lived there until I was about seven. Then my parents sent me to Singapore, where I lived until I was sixteen. That was when I moved to California, which is my favoritest place in the world. I moved to Oxford for my Masters, and that's where I'm at now.

What's your favorite kind of coffee?

Ms. Sutanto: You know, I wish I could say that I love some exotic brand of coffee, but to be honest, my favorite coffee drink is the kind with lots of milk and sugar and chocolate and possibly a couple squirts of that horrible artificial hazelnut flavoring. It's my observation that books seem to reflect their writers. What aspect of you is reflected in your book?

Ms. Sutanto: I was somewhat chubby as a teen, and pretty shy. Being chubby in Asia is a Very Bad Thing, and I got a lot of crap over my weight. Even strangers would tell me I needed to lose weight. That's very much reflected in Mara. Lia was someone I wished I could be: outspoken, confident, graceful. Other than that, I don't share their hobby of looking up 101 ways to kill a person or anything. Hur hur.

Would you like to leave us with a quote from your book/query?

Ms. Sutanto: The pitch: Mara the Clever, Mara the Fatty, Mara the Clumsy. If she doesn't pass the final test in assassin school, she'll be Mara the Dead.

More Gorgeous Pages from the Visconti Hours

The letter "M", Magnificat.

God creates the birds (and angels and griffons?)

God judges the sacrifices of Cain and Abel; the four authors of the Gospels, and a dove--probably representing the Holy Spirit.

Angels announce to the shepherds the birth of Christ.

Saint Peter, by the looks of him, surrounded by angels and women, one of whom has three faces, a mirror, and a drawing compass. Also, there's a lion hiding, and what looks rather like a yin-yang symbol.

I assume this comes from the Apocalypse of John. (I am laughing to myself because I automatically say "Apocalypse of John" because I'm pedantic/familiar enough with other apocalypses to make the distinction.) I particularly like the 3/4s back view of the angel on the right.

I honestly have no idea what's going on here, other than the obvious.

This one also eludes me, though I am quite fond of the ladies who surround it.

Samson with the ass's jawbone, surrounded by shields with a dragon eating someone. I'm pretty sure the dragon wasn't in the original story.

The angel frees Peter from prison, I assume, though perhaps it is some other account of someone being freed from prison, because I don't recall the identities of the other folks in the picture.

God creates Eve from Adam's rib in the Garden of Eden.

More of those dragon-shields. Those angels are pretty awesome. Love their wings and their crowned helmety things. The industry going on in the middle of the picture is a mystery to me, though. Folks reading books out loud while others work on some sort of grain pouring thing?

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Visconti Hours

A page from the superbly illustrated Hours of Gian Galeazzo Visconti. This painting is part of a prayer book painted in the 1300s. It now resides in the Biblioteca Nazionale in Florence, Italy.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Future Published #2: Effin' Albert

"Future Published" is a series of interviews devoted to fabulous unpublished authors whose work I have been blessed to read, and believe is good enough to deserve professional publication. Today's interviewee is K. Kellie Edwards, author of EFFIN' ALBERT. I read Ms. Edwards's first page on Flogging the Quill some time ago, and thought to myself, "This is gonna get published. Hey, I should do a blog series about books that are going to be published, but haven't yet." Only I didn't have a blog back then. Since then, I have read more of Effin' Albert, including the in-process query letter, and it has remained strong. So if you see this book at the store one day, pick it up and read it. Preferably after buying it. :)

Anyway, thank you for journeying all the way to Elflandia!

Ms. Edwards: Thank you for inviting me, although your last interviewee is a tough act to follow. She's amazing.

Link to your blog?

Ms. Edwards: Wait, I'm not done. She's creative, humble, funny; a gifted and talented writer. I can’t say enough great things about her.

Anyhoo, I blog at kkellie: write me. I write about writing mostly because, you know. :)

Why don't you tell us a bit about your book?

Ms. Edwards: First thing to come to mind is innocence versus evil. Yikes.

The narrator is an eleven-year-old kid named Mike. Since his dad died, Mike's been taking care of his weird brother Albert--weird because of how he looks, and because the kid gets episodes--sees bad things happen in his head, bad people doing bad things.

Mom drinks. A lot. Since the boys' dad died, Mom's developed a taste for Jack Daniel's and rotten men. Her first boyfriend is real asshole but this one . . . this one's a killer. Albert sees the guy kidnap a girl, hurt her bad and shoot her in the head. Albert tells Mike and Mike tells their mom but she doesn't believe him. They should tell the cops except for one thing: Jerkface Knowles is a cop. And he just scared Albert into telling what he saw. The two brothers are on their own--they have to figure out how to stop that fucker before he kills another kid.

Just have to stay alive long enough to do it.

What inspired you to write this story?

Ms. Edwards: I'd been kicking around the idea of a story told by a kid, first person POV, suspense, for sure--his little brother sees bad things. That's as far as my idea went. Then NaNoWriMo 2012 reared its ugly head and a fellow writer over at Absolute Write talked me into giving it a shot. She's really persuasive, so enthusiastic, a wonderful writer and. . .

Don't get me started. :)

Anyhoo, I sat down and started writing. The characters came to me instantly, no problem. The story? Oy.

What was the hardest part about writing this book?

Ms. Edwards: The whole process was hard. It was like pulling teeth the whole way. By the end of NaNo last year I'd only managed 3000 words. Took nine months to drag most of it out of me, another two to write the ending. The ending almost killed me.

The best part?

Ms. Edwards: Mike and Albert. I love 'em. They feel real to me which is weird because, you know. :)

Who was your favorite character to write?

Ms. Edwards: Mike narrates the story so I spent a lot of time with him, really got to know that kid inside and out. Little Albert is so sweet, a little sweetie pie but Mike. Oh man. That kid goes through some shit.

What motivates your characters?

Ms. Edwards: For Mike and Albert I'd say love first, responsibility second. Self-preservation third. For the cop, motives are base. That's the theme throughout my novels, I think--protagonists motivated by love; antagonists, by base desires. For that cop, it's this twisted desire for power, fueled by anger and resentment, amplified by a sick lust for little girls.

He's a horrible, horrible man.

Do you ever kill characters? (You don't have to answer that!)

Ms. Edwards: I have. Some innocent; some, not so much. Tougher for me is when I hurt the characters I care about, hurt them physically, emotionally. I have to gird my loins. Sometimes I cry.

The first thing I noticed about your novel is its strong voice. Which accent do you use in the novel?

Ms. Edwards: Thank you. The accent, vernacular, whatever you want to call it is something that just came to me. I made it up. Eek. Because the story is told by Mike, first person POV pretty much, voice had to sound real and be consistent throughout the book. I worked really hard on that and fretted about it because I knew I had to nail it.

Is this your personal accent, or did you learn it for the novel?

Not mine, I'm a Michigander by way of New England and like I said, I pretty much winged it. I posted some excerpts on AW's SYW forum to double-check that I was still on the right track. Folks there are wonderful, btw. So supportive, so smart and wise and talented. . .

Don't get me started. :)

Tell us a little about yourself. What are you reading these days?

Ms. Edwards: I started writing by accident. Literally. I was a teacher, taught little kids. Loved it. Then I fell off a chair and all kinds of weird shit happened physically. Foot and back and fusions blah blah. I couldn't teach and I was down, really down. Then my husband suggested I try fiction writing. I always loved to write; that, and draw. Decent at both. Anyhoo, I gave it a shot and now it's in my blood. Like a virus or something. :)

Currently I'm reading three different things: my own stuff, a 90K fantasy manuscript, and a novel by Jeffrey Deaver--slogging through that one. The manuscript I'm reading is by someone I met through AW, an amazing writer and an amazing story. I am blown away. The talent out there is incredible.

Where did you grow up?

Ms. Edwards: Michigan, in a suburb of Detroit. I was born in Massachusetts and have spent a lot of time in the New Bedford area. My Gram and Gramp lived there. I love it there.

What are you working on now?

Ms. Edwards: Well, I'm tweaking EFFIN' ALBERT as I wait on my second round of betas, who are so awesome. I am so lucky. And I'm trying to get CHERRY published. Right now the full is out there, a couple of agents and an indie publisher are considering it. Waiting is part and parcel but ugh.

I started a new novel at the beginning of this year's NaNo, got three cpts. in then set it aside so I could concentrate on ALBERT. I have three other novels waiting in the wings for me to tweak. I think they're all decent and could be viable. First, though, ALBERT and CHERRY.


Do you have a sequel planned, or something new?

Ms. Edwards: Already answered the second part. As for any kind of sequel, no. I've written five complete novels now, all stand-alones. Don't know why. I wish I could write sequels. I have to write what comes to me and thus far, what has come to me are discrete stories, complete in one volume. Except CHERRY, in that one, the ending was kind of nebulous, so. . .

It's my observation that books seem to reflect their writers. What aspect of you is reflected in your book?

Ms. Edwards: Yikes, I'm everywhere. Especially in EFFIN' ALBERT. A lot of the things that happen to those two kids happened to me, or to somebody I know. For instance, that beginning scene when Mike's feeding the worm--I did that. The escalator scene? Happened to me and my sister. My brother-in-law drew a black dot on his nose with permanent marker one Halloween. A sister-in-law smacked her gum on a table and cut herself four new teeth, just like that. My dad died when I was four, we kids pretty much took care of ourselves. I had a lot of the same feelings Mike has, emotions bubbling up, being afraid, feeling helpless, screwing up, finding out how strong I was.


Would you like to leave us with a quote from your book/query?

Ms. Edwards: My query for EFFIN' ALBERT is in process so I shall leave you with an excerpt from the book. Thank you, btw.

Okay, here we go.

I don’t want to think about if it ain’t the right way so I think about that girl. Amy. I don’t know her last name. Maybe it’s Wong then I remember the dad ain’t Chinese so probably it ain't Wong, probably it’s a plain name like Smith.

Amy Smith. She got real shiny black hair. I bet that’s why he picked her. Amy Smith, you better watch out. He’s making my brother tell your last name, he got my brother where are you Albert? Please be okay. Please do what he wants don’t let him hurt you Albert, please—

I’m crying again and don’t even know. It’s so hot. I try to stop crying and finally I do, I think ‘cause I’m dried up.

The tent’s way back there, I can see the top of it from the ditch. I don’t remember walking so far. There’s a big field on my side of the road, I don’t know what they got growing, oats or wheat maybe. Across the street there’s another field, who cares what they got growing in it, I don’t care, I just wanna go home. I want Mom. I want my brother. I want a big giant bottle of Coke, ice cold Coke so cold your skin freezes to the glass. I don’t care, I don’t care if my skin freezes to the glass and peels right off.

I think I got heat stroke. You go crazy and start thinking weird stuff then you go unconscious then you die which means I’m gonna die but I can’t go no further, I just can’t or maybe I don’t want to. Maybe I just want to die right here.

I get myself out of the ditch and sit cross-legged like a Indian ready to die. The ground’s hard and little rocks hurt my butt but I don’t care. I say a prayer for Albert, Dear God, protect my brother from Jerkface Fucker Knowles.

Then I shut my eyes and wait for the ax to fall.

Me: Good luck and thanks for everything!

Lyta's Mask

The mask Jasper gives Lyta after he accidentally runs her off the road on their second meeting. It has a magic charm on it to make the wearer unnoticeable if they want to be, which is rather useful for sneaking into/around masquerades, especially if you're covered in mud and don't have a ticket, like Lyta. (I'm rather pleased with how it turned out.)

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Roses and Revolution

I recently finished A Brief History of 1917: Russia's Year of Revolution by Roy Bainton and The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco. Eco gives me some hope for my own work, that something described as "intellectual" might appeal to a wide audience despite--or perhaps because of--this. Bainton's history does not seem to have received the favor I think it ought to, being a fairly accessible introduction to the Russian Revolution, with some fascinating first-hand accounts.

I'm now reading The French Revolution: A Very Short Introduction, by William Doyle, a smattering of other things related to the revolutionary period in Europe, and The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World, by David W. Anthony, which I hope will be good. I'm also trying, of course, to squeeze in more writing.