So, I was scrolling through the feed and came across this cute little French Bulldog being hushed by a human finger. Well, anyone who knows me knows that I am easily distracted by dogs. I had to click . . . and I’m glad I did. Turns out, the blog post was by Aaron at Sword and Spectres, another book blogger who was challenged in this game. Even though he did not tag me in the game, I thought, hey, since I am starting author interviews on my podcast, why not start with me?
The rules are apparently: Nominate 10 other bloggers and that you should keep the same questions. Aaron said he would reward himself with a hot cup of tea and a few biscuits afterwards, which was the ultimate in English rewards and stereotypes . . . well, I’m all for that!! As an Anglophile, I will heartily partake of that type of reward.
So, here it goes, and afterwards I will tag 10 other book bloggers to follow suit if you wish.
1) Who is your all-time favourite book character?
Yikes, this is really really hard…. hmmm, I think I’m going to have to go with the character that has stuck in my memory the longest, and that is, Anjuli-Bai from The Far Pavilions. The reason? Well, this book is the book that started me LOVING historical fiction. I read this while in high school. On one of my trips to the local library I decided to randomly pick a book from a shelf and read it. Yes, I randomly picked The Far Pavilions, having never heard of M. M. Kaye from any of my teachers.
Her struggle against prejudice from both sides, from Indians and British, as well as Ashok’s (Ashton Pelham-Martin) struggle felt so authentic and real. Her strength and beauty made me think of India, of Kashmir, of the Himalayas, all encompassed in her eyes. I still think of her character to this day, some 40 years later.
2) If you were stranded on a desert island, which book would you take with you? (Survival books do not count)
A Bible. (Does that count as a survival book?)
3) What’s your most unpopular book opinion?
Not sure how unpopular it is (maybe after this post) but I am not a fan of any of Toni Morrison’s books, especially “Paradise“. Don’t get me wrong, I get it, some truly love her writing style. I admire her as a woman writer and success. Yet, I struggled with the cadence and sometimes felt lost in her words. I’m not sure why because I truly wanted to love her books, after all, everyone else does. I guess it comes down to taste… which, after reading Aaron’s take on The Lord of the Rings (which I adored) I guess it makes sense that that is the reason for so many different genres and literary selections.
4) What’s your weirdest bookish habit? Hmmm, smelling the pages before I read? Of course, I think a lot of readers do this, so I think I might be in the majority.
5) What character would you bring to a family event as your fake partner?
LOL, not sure this would sit well with my husband but just for fun . . . maybe, well, Mr Darcy is a shoe-in . . . but, then again, how about Hamlet? Or maybe he might be a little too brood-y. I know, Sherlock Holmes!! Especially if he looked and acted like Benedict Cumberbatch. I love the bookish intellectual types and it would be a hoot to see him around my Southern family!!
6) What made you decide to start a book blog?
First and foremost, my love of books, especially historical fiction. There are so many out there to choose from and so many underrepresented authors that I wanted to do what I can to put in my two-cents, for whatever it is worth among the thousands of book bloggers out there.
7) What about reading and books do you love the most? Escapism. As most people know about me, I adore Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland stories. I’ve been falling down rabbit holes since I was a little girl, creating stories in my head, and LOVING books with a passion. It never fails, if you are having a bad day in dealing with this mess of a world, a good Jane Austen or Bronte book can help you to escape!
8) What is your field of study/desired profession/current profession? My current profession is as a full-time writer and being the best Nana in the world to my amazing granddaughter who helps me to remember Wonderland. I never went to college or a University since life propelled me down the path of marriage and motherhood. But through the years, I’ve immersed myself in the task of reading and studying as much as I can about the subjects I adore (i.e. Shakespeare, the Tudor era, and writing)
9) What are some book recommendations that became your favourites/obsessions? I am obsessed with East of Eden by John Steinbeck; and I am obsessed with anything written by Carlos Ruis Zafon. Also, Outlander and The Mists of Avalon, actually all the books by Marion Zimmer Bradley. Zafon’s books are the most recent books that had me just rereading passages for the sheer beauty of the words. Right now, I am also enjoying the new works by Ellie Midwood about Auschwitz.
10) What is the book you shove down everyone’s throat? My own, of course . . . and definitely, The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruis Zafon.
So, these are my ten things about me. And since I voluntarily accepting this challenge, I am going to opt for not nominating anyone else. However, I’d love for some of my followers who have blogs to do the same so I can get to know you a bit. How about it? Anybody up for following the click bait like I did?
I found this passage while rereading Hardin Craig’s The Complete Works of Shakespeare and found the words immensely agreeable to anyone who might wonder how on earth to completely enjoy reading or watching the plays of Shakespeare.
There are so many I have heard through the years who roll their eyes and sigh with disgust at the very thought of attempting to read or watch anything Shakespearean. I am not of that opinion, nor have I ever been, but I can see if one is intimidated by the wordage or form or style of his plays and sonnets, how they might shrug off any attempt to give them a try.
The passage reads like this and after meditating on the idea Craig offers, maybe if you are not a Shakespearean fan, maybe this will give you the impetus to give him another chance.
Craig says, “All of this repeats from another point of view an age-old criticism of Shakespeare; namely, that he is an exuberant artist, that he is not restrained and classical. But this exuberance has been his chief source of power; we merely cite the facts in order to control, in the interest of a true and vivid appreciation of Shakespeare, idel and unintelligent speculation on the interpretation of Shakespearean characters and plots. We should learn to surrender ourselves so completely and so intelligently to Shakespeare’s artistic appeal that we, like the audiences for whom he wrote, can enjoy his art in spite of its conventions. In doing this we shall not need commentators who insist forever on doing the work over in needless paraphrases of plot and endless discussions of characters. We should put ourselves, if we can, into a sufficiently receptive mood to enjoy Shakespeare’s appeal to simple emotions,, though in doing so it may be necessary for us to suspend our demand for naturalism and philosophy. We should recognize that what we have is a story, told usually marvelously well, with the somewhat crude device of the Elizabethan stage; and that it is a story which, however replete with originality, was usually already familiar to the audience for which it was written.”
Here, here, I say… bravo!! Shakespeare was the Lin Manuel-Miranda of his day. For those Hamilton fans of the Broadway stage, Shakespeare used the devices common to his day to tell the audiences stories of history, of love, of hate, of violence, of jealousy, of joy, of lust, of betrayal, of innocence, of arrogance, of passion, of the travails of the ordinary man as well as noble. The invention of the human, as we all know is still happening on the Broadway stage and lesser stages around the world. The genius of Shakespeare is seen clearly today in our modern versions of Manuel-Miranda and Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Craig also points out: “…the more nearly we can see as Shakespeare meant us to see, the more adequate will be our vision and the keener our enjoyment. Neither the Elizabethan writer nor the Elizabethan audience had a body of ideas like ours, knew what we know or in the way we know it, wanted the same things from life that we want, or thought of drama or life as we think of them… Since Shakespeare did not and could not think and talk in terms of such ideas, he should not be made to do so.”
Shakespeare was and is an artist, a writer, and for most of us who aspire to write even one percent of a tenth as Shakespeare wrote, we can understand the significance of allowing Shakespeare to simply be Shakespeare, the artist, and writer. As writers, we all make allowances for artistic expression and for the most part, seek to align ourselves with our audiences for the sake of commercialization. Five hundred years from now will audiences of that future look back on George R. R. Martin’s book series of Game of Thrones or Ken Follet’s Pillars of the Earth and think, “No, I will pass because the wordage and the style are just too complex or too hard for me to tackle.”
The thought should give us a moment to reflect. Shakespearean plays and sonnets are well worth the time and effort anyone might take to sit back and enjoy, whether by reading or watching. We have enough adaptations on BBC and movies to fill our bellies full of quality Shakespearean meat for any who wish to delve into the buffet without actually sitting down with a book. I have to admit, sitting down with an entire folio of his plays and sonnets is rather daunting, so I have listed a few of my favorite movies, and the links to buy, based on his plays for any who wish to give them him a try (in order from my favorite to least favorite):
Henry V – Kenneth Branaugh Hamlet – Mel Gibson, Helena Bonham-Carter
Richard III – Benedict Cumberbatch (The Hollow Crown, The War of the Roses) Henry VI, part 1 and 2 – Hugh Bonneville (The Hollow Crown, The War of the Roses) Richard II – Ben Whishaw (The Hollow Crown) Henry IV – Jeremy Irons (The Hollow Crown) Henry V – Tom Hiddleston (The Hollow Crown) Hamlet – David Tennant Romeo and Juliet – Olivia Hussey Romeo and Juliet – Leonardo di Caprio The Taming of the Shrew – Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton The Merchant of Venice – Al Pacino Richard III – Lawrence Olivier Hamlet – Kenneth Branaugh, Kate Winslet Othello – Kenneth Branaugh, Lawrence Fishburne Much Ado About Nothing – Kenneth Branaugh, Emma Thompson Twelfth Night – Helena Bonham-Carter A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Kevin Kline, Michelle Pfieffer Titus Andronicus – Anthony Hopkins
I have yet to see an adaptation of Macbeth that I truly enjoyed, save for the possible one made years ago by Roman Polanski, but since it has been awhile since I saw that one, I left it off the list. These are my favorites. (addendum to this post: The newest Macbeth with Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard was, in my opinion, visually and intellectually fulfilling!)
So, my advice is to give Shakespeare a try again; who knows, perhaps with these words in your mind, the beauty of his verse may find its way into your mind and heart.
Thanks for reading! Please share and comment if you wish!!
Sometimes as a writer the creative juices usually flowing onto the page are dammed by the realities of the world around you. Ambition and creativity sometimes suffer in this way when an artist of any form cannot function unless words or paint or music is flowing without the weight of problems around them. This makes me think of the character Hamlet, who for all his faults and cowardice, possessed a stilted ambition because of the happenings within the walls of Elsinore. Hamlet was a brilliant mind, a man of words who found himself imprisoned within Denmark through no fault of his own except his own need for creativity to reveal his father’s murderer instead of simply peaking up. Thus, does the character reveal a little something about the man who wrote the play? Perhaps, Shakespeare, as well, struggled with life as a writer and actor. Speaking as a writer myself, we live in a world of make-believe, a world of our own creation, and sometimes because of the world’s we create, the attention to detail and human suffering, our eyes appear more opened to the problems of the world around us.
I don’t know, perhaps it is a curse of creativity. We are mere humans crawling between earth and heaven, striving for the clouds, ambitious creatures seeking fulfillment on a page and acceptance from the world; a world, in truth, that doesn’t care and can pass you by unless you are one of the fortunate ones, the one-in-a-million lottery-hitting authors who snag a huge contract with a big well-known publisher. Yet, even then, yes, even then, does that guarantee happiness and fulfillment?
For some, I suppose so; yet, we have so many examples of those for whom success did not give them completion. Virginia Woolf clamored for something outside of herself, something that words could not fill. When I look into her sad eyes, I see myself; yet different, because I do cherish life, yet I understand the darkness she carried. She owned the sadness of the world that she carried like a grain sack on her shoulders and ultimately, weighed her down in those waters where she took her life. Hemingway, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Kahlo, Sexton, all found solace in silence instead of the healing power of words and paint.
There are times I can relate. I refer to the note written by Hunter S. Thompson, author of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, where he said, “No More Games. No More Bombs. No More Walking. No More Fun. No More Swimming. 67. That is 17 years past 50. 17 more than I needed or wanted. Boring. I am always bitchy. No Fun — for anybody. 67. You are getting Greedy. Act your old age. Relax — This won’t hurt.”
Sometimes when you get to the point where you are facing mortality because of middle-age, you do become greedy, or ambitious, for more. And as a writer, especially a writer who has not seen success for the very thing you have strived for your entire life, there is a certain amount of vanity, disappointment and boredom that comes along with the weight of watching the world around you. A creative mind always wants more, more, more. Even for those successful, something lacks in their success. My personal feelings is that those of us of that nature, who find we cannot wake without thinking of words, are looking for a perfection that will never come, and when we finally come to that realization, we either take our own life or we settle into a creative retirement in which we find that the world is not worthy of what we have to say. Many authors disgusted with the world and the politics of publishing slip into a void of anonymity; ‘Bound in a nutshell’ and declaring themselves ‘the kings of infinite space.’
I find myself greedy for words at this stage in my life, and as I am determined to not travel the path of Virginia, yet I wrestle with the idea of seclusion. Who of us has not considered this? Who of us, this quintessence of dust, has not struggled striving to reach a far off dream? Gloomy words for this wordy passage and this passage of life. Forgive me for these words, but they are the most valuable thing I possess and the only thing I have to share; if anyone is interested.
Grief. That ugly word. That real word. A word you cannot escape once you experience the reality it brings. I have known loss in my life… grandparents, friends, acquaintances, as all of us have, but when the ugly word comes in the form of the loss of a child, well, there is no comparison.
Five years have passed, five years since that heart-wrenching day where we got THAT phone call. The phone call of your nightmares. The phone call where you insist that the person on the other side of the line is making up a story or dreaming or lying. But they are not. You see moments like this portrayed on TV or in the movies, but when it happens in real life, it is quite different. The shock washing over you numbs every nerve ending in your body and the scream surging inside your lungs cannot find a way to your throat, instead you find yourself shaking and sobbing and pulling the covers over your head.
The very personal details are mine, and even after five years, I cannot find the words to speak them. All the reader of this post needs to know is that if ever you find yourself out at a club or with friends or anywhere that involves alcohol, do not drink and drive, or drug and drive. Read this and think of my daughter. Read this and think of my son-in-law. Read this and think of my grandchild. Yes, three lives taken by one man, no, not even a man, a boy; a careless irresponsible boy drugged up and drunk and speeding away from police. My kids were only one mile from their home, driving home happy and oblivious to the oncoming terror. And it happened, in one split second. They are gone and now, here I sit, typing on my computer and spilling the grief which daily wakes with me each morning.
I have read so many posts about grief and pinned so many pins over the past five years. One I like particularly says, “There is a word for a mate who loses a spouse, there is a word for a child who loses their parents; but there is no word in the English language for a parent who loses a child.” Why? Perhaps because the pain is beyond comprehension, beyond mere words. Not that the other losses are less, because they are not, but the out of order unnaturalness of losing a child is, well, in truth, there is not a word, or words, to completely explain. All death is unnatural.
So, I wrote a story about my journey. Here I share my words of the day we buried our children. Grief freezes each second of those first days and you become aware of every passing second. I remember every detail. Here is a slice:
Grief in a Downpour
Rain is just rain, unless you have lost a child; unless you have lost children – a daughter, a son-in-law, an unborn grandchild. The vibrations of the drops pelted against my skin as I stepped out onto the sidewalk in front of the funeral home. I stood still, letting each watery bead pop and drizzle, each bead magnifying in my mind like a tsunami surging and cresting around the one thought in my brain. I closed my eyes and tilted back my head; the river from the sky mingled with the ocean breaking through my lashes. The roar of the downpour pressed against me. The greyness shadowed over my shoulder.
In that moment, I saw each solitary droplet, a perfect circle reflecting the world around it; a fleeting flash captured in the essence of liquid. A time capsule. A mirror. An eye on the seconds swimming by – the moving crowd of mourners filing past me out the doors, giving hugs, uttering words and each rushing to their waiting cars as the clouds burst. My gaze fell upon the doe-eyed young mother standing at the curb at the crosswalk, her face full of the future as she stared down at the child in her arms. She pulled the bubbled umbrella closer to shield them from the rain, yet one glistening orb took note of the twitch in her fake smile as she glanced at the business woman darting from the yellow cab. The rain wondered what the young mother regretted as it streaked onto the woman’s back. The woman held her briefcase from the past and above her head, cursing as the slick sidewalk drenched her red-soled shoes and the air frizzed her bottle-dyed hair. The rain broke harder, delighting in the mischievous grin she cast upon the young messenger boy as he sped by on his ten-speed. The rain pondered what she left behind as it beat against the muscles of the rushing guy. He popped a wheelie to the here and now, oblivious to the honking horns, as the oil-slick streets spattered against his calves and his faded blue shirt drank the water. The rain thickened hard against his perseverance, sloshing resistance as he broke through a puddle to send a spray into the opened window of the yellow cab. The rain questioned his carelessness as it slithered down the old cab-driver’s raised fist. The driver rolled up the window against time and youth as a puff of cigarette smoke mingled with the mist and he wiped the residual liquid from his wrinkled brow. The rain clouds rumbled and contemplated what he feared as the droplets beat against the window, unable to reach the young mother and child scooting into the back seat of the now available cab. She shivered from the chill, but smiled and hugged her child close, knowing she had many more miles to go before she braved the storm, before she tasted the stream of time upon her lips, and reached her destination around many corners. Yet, the rain examined her misplaced surety as her eyes touched upon the vision of me standing on the sidewalk. I was once like her, bubble-protected, but now I am a passing vision to her, nothing more; and the rain, a mere inconvenience.
My eyes took notice of the fragility of the weather as they all moved on with their lives; all things replaced with another sunny hue. Time continued forward while my tears flowed into the vacuous depths of the street drains, carrying with them the leaves and the trash of the world. The dirt of my heart. The mire of this sadness. My rain eased to single pronounced droplets from the corner of the awning, plopping onto the glistening concrete and answering my life in a simple resolute response that the details of these horrible days will tear like a daily tornado thru my heart as I travel this lonely path. Each raindrop a detail, each splatter against the pavement – the irony of flowers to brighten a dismal day, the color of my hair graying with the clouds, my husband’s trembling hand clutched in mine, my son’s thunder-filled cry, my daughter-in-law’s rain-shielding hug, my granddaughter’s innocent sunny smile, the grandparents aging with each crack of lightening, and my son-in-law’s parents reflecting back the same dark stormy eyes of loss.
But the clouds roll by and time moves on. This is my reality, this is my rain. There is many days of rain, many storms and each morning I check the weather, each morning I look to the heavens as the sun peeks through the silver-lined clouds and I recall deep inside a distant hopeful dawn. Reaching in my purse, I pull out my sunglasses and cover my puffy eyes, lift my chin and take one step….and another…..and another, till I find the pace that matches the patter of waking to another soft dew-covered morning or falling asleep to another rage-filled stormy night ….and another….and another….and another….and on and on and on. Another yellow cab is coming… another tearful dream-filled night rounding another hopeful dawn…. my daughter is just there…. my son-in-law is just there…. between sleep and awake…. just right around the cloudless corner…..thus, I keep moving forward. I do not give up.
My new work-in-progress “Kingfisher” is now out into the world of querying and agent-seeking!!
This is my first venture into historical time-travel after having published four books in the standard historical and alternate historical field. I must say, it was a challenge and continues to be as I delve into the second and third novels in the series. Keeping timelines and ages and eras separate and linked involves a lot of note taking and organizing this brain of mine, which is not an easy feat!
But, after all is said and done, I am super proud of this book. The characters and storyline has taken me into depths I never imagined and I hope that when fans have the opportunity to read it that they will be as swept away as I was in writing it. After all, the stories are for you!
Here is a synopsis and an excerpt of “Kingfisher”:
While the chaos of WW1 overshadows Wales, Vala Penrys discovers a secret linking her family to the story of Camelot, fuelling her obsession with the legend. She craves escape. Yet, with a father gone to war and a mother going mad, she takes the lead in supporting the war effort and finds an unexpected attraction to Taliesin Wren, a mysterious young Welsh Lieutenant. Adding to the intrigue of her ancestry, a whispering voice beckons her in Merlyn’s Cave while on holiday in Cornwall.
After returning home, she investigates the same voice near a rowan tree on her estate, stumbles through the roots and falls into what she thinks is a well. Suddenly, she is transformed into Vivyane, Lady of the Lake ― the Kingfisher ― in ancient Britain clamouring for a High King. Taliesin awakens her and reveals himself as the Merlyn; then, takes her to Avalon and teaches her the magic and science of time travel. A quest for peace sparks in Vala’s heart when she discovers Morgayne le Fae is her sister, and she links with two powerful allies, one in each era ― Uther Pendragon, the High King; and H. G. Wells, the author of The Time Machine and a member of The Round Table Society of 1914. Wells reveals a hidden truth about Vala’s mother and the legend of the Kingfisher.
As the story behind her mother’s insanity emerges, each of Vala’s sisters melds into their roles as the other powerful women of the Kingdom. Vala’s twin, Isla/Igrayne, gives birth to Arthur, but who is the father? Gwynna/Gwynevere marries a German deserter, yet loves a handsome knight. Eilwyn/Elayne teeters on the edge of instability but hides a secret about Gwynna’s lover. Maegen/Morgayne le Fae weaves a spiderweb of lies, revealing her hatred for her sisters and her lust for power. Vala/Vivyane embarks on a journey to rewrite history, one spanning across the past, thru WW1, and onward to WW2.
WHO AM I?
My name is D. K. Marley (Dee) and I specialize in historical fiction, as well as alternate historicals, Shakespearean-themed, and time travel novels. After working on my first novel, Blood and Ink, for fifteen years, and taking three research trips to England, I joined the Shakespeare Fellowship and started writing blog posts for the Marlowe-Shakespeare Society, with the intent of finding an agent. I attended a 10-day intensive writing retreat founded by Gary Provost to hone my skills and make connections. Then, tragedy struck my family. I lost my daughter, son-in-law and grandbaby to a drunk driver in 2015. In an attempt to regain my lost power and self, I used writing to heal, writing three more novels and self-publishing all four. My first novel won a Bronze Medal in 2018 and a Silver Medal in 2019 for Best Historical Fiction from two top book blogger/reviewers. The experience strengthened me in ways beyond words. Now, with my current novel and the four following in this time travel series, I hope this generational time travel story will do for Wales what Diana Gabaldon did for Scotland, and what Poldark did for Cornwall. I am ready to traverse the traditional route of publishing, knowing that sometimes adversity moulds you into a better writer with a stronger voice. I have an active FB page, FB group of over 1500, a growing Twitter account, and my own blog where I review books for Netgalley and Goodreads.
In the beginning, a madwoman created Camelot; and in the fall of 1914, at the violent convulsion of the Great War, the legendary story sucked me into the past through the roots of an ordinary tree. I say ordinary, but sometimes first appearances deceive. Oft-times alluring with awkward beauty, yet hiding a vacuous secret in the depths.
People and trees, how very similar in form. At first glance, nothing special to gawk at, such as the lonely Rowan overlooking our manor home, Tyalwyn; save for the gnarled trunk twisted to one side, a cluster of white berries brightening the grey branches, and a tangle of roots spreading over the ragged rocks. At the base, oozing from the depths, a slight bubbling spring etched a path down the cliff face, connecting with the River Usk snaking though the Brecon forest. The tell-tale liquid indicated the watery heart pumping deep below the entwining roots; and yet, as with most people, the signs passed unnoticed. Except by me.
And how do I know this tale? I sometimes wonder if I am the insane orchestrator . . . or did I inherit the story from my mother . . . or even, my grandmother? Who was this madwoman obsessed with King Arthur?
Isla, my identical twin, and I celebrated our twenty-eighth birthday on the 28th of June 1914, the same day as the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie, in Sarajevo, as ordinary girls hiding an echo in our rooted souls.
Our father, Ian, gifted us a new gown, each, on that day. Mine, a flowing tea gown in white voile with sheer inserts across the breast, puffed sleeves to the elbow and narrowing to the wrist, tiny mother-of-pearl buttons cascading down from the nape of the neck to the waist and French lace edging the high neckline, the prevailing fashion of the day. Isla danced round the drawing-room with her white eyelet lawn dress, and we made plans to wear them to Ascot come springtime, along with appropriate straw hats and parasols. Those innocent pastimes we devised the month hell vomited across Europe, spilling all the way to our once bright home boasting over the rolling Welsh moors. The details of a simpler, languid time; a time we expected to continue. How wrong we were and, dare I say, how naïve.
One month and a few days after our celebration, my father sat at the breakfast table on August 5th, performing his familiar ritual of reading aloud the headlines from a freshly ironed page of the London Times, while my mother scanned over the society column of the Glamorgan Gazette. My sisters and I waited, church mouse quiet, as the minute sounds of routine accented his words like tiny accompaniments—my mother’s breathy sighs, Maegan scraping a spoon along the side of her teacup, Eilwyn muffling a giggle as Gwynna hummed, Isla whispering a hush with a finger against her coral lips, and then, the rustle of the newspaper as Father silenced us with a firm cough.
I must admit, my mind drifted. Talk of battles on the European continent made me yawn, as well as the fact that my head pounded after a restless night’s sleep. Another incessant dream, the same since childhood—an aggressive raven and courageous kingfisher locked in battle; flapping wings, bloody beaks, and the ever-present suffocating sensation of crashing waves over my head, which always woke me with a start.
Two iridescent blue tit birds fluffed their wings on a holly branch outside the opened window, and my eyes followed my mother’s stare towards them. Their sweet chirping and hopping from one limb to another enlivened the dull words of impending war, yet my father’s voice sparked, almost hopeful, upon the news. The brief and strained conversation or rather, performance, followed the daily script. Father’s curt remarks. Mother’s drained replies.
“The Times announces we are at war,” he announced. “The buggers soundly rejected the ultimatum, can you believe it? This aggressive attack from Germany, first against the royalty of Austria and now against Europe, should strike a chord through the noble houses of England. Russia is supporting Serbia, so who knows what else may develop. War is upon us, and we must prepare to support in any way we can.”
“Surely, this will pass,” I said with another yawn.
“No, Vala, this is quite different,” he replied, sternly.
“What does the politics of Europe have to do with us here in Wales anyway?” My mother questioned in her faint distracted words.
Father folded the paper, tucking it underneath the lip of the gold-edged Crown Derby saucer in front of him. He crooked his finger in the handle of the teacup and held the edge to his lips, pausing to answer before he sipped.
“A significant amount, unfortunately. Countries are taking sides in this strife. Great Britain remains a loyal ally of France and Russia, and though she sustained diplomatic relations with Germany, she chooses to side against the Kaiser. We have a civic and patriotic fidelity to the Crown, and since my former service in the Boer conflict in South Africa, I must return to active duty,” he said.
Mother sighed, once more, and touched her fingertips to her forehead. “No more talk of war, Ian. Please,” she said. As she covered her face with her hands, small teardrops slid down her wrists along with her unmistakable whisper. “O, for a life of sensations rather than of thoughts . . . “
I knew the remark, so often I had heard her quote the line from Keats. She lived forever looking out windows to the horizon as if in search of some lost secret in the past. Father usually ignored her words but this time, he slapped the rolled newspaper against the table top causing all of us to jump in succession, all six pairs of eyes fixing on his reddened face.
“Isla, fix your mother some of her medicine.” He snarled.
My sister rose and stepped over to the long burled walnut sideboard, popped the cork on a squat green bottle, and poured a dram of brown liquid into a jigger, then walked round to hand her the glass. Mother threw back the “liquor” as if she slugged Scottish whiskey, although I knew better. When younger, perhaps twelve or so, I received a swift slap across my face after touching my tongue to the edge of the bottle, so I learned the bitter gall of ‘mother’s medicine,’ as well as the daily, almost hourly, odour of laudanum on her breath.
Father took a deep breath, steadying himself as he drank his tea and then, motioned for Eilwyn, Maegan, and Gwynna’s dismissal. “You may leave, girls. “
All three stood in a hurry, curtsied, and left us. Mother rose, as well, and placed her palm against her tight, corseted stomach. With her other hand, she fingered the black pleated edging round the scooped neck of her simple grey silk day dress.
“I will be in the orangery. I think the orchids are dying,” Mother said, as she meandered out of the room leaning on Isla and leaving my father and me alone in the dining room.
Father stared out the window, the sun breaking in brilliant streaks through the mullioned glass. I sensed the anxious thoughts weighing upon him, darkening the shadows beneath his eyes and thickening the air, but I remained quiet. We played out the circadian pattern in the Penrys household—silent understanding, silent knowing, but no deep discussion at or beyond the breakfast table.
Daring to tear down the impenetrable wall, I reached across and brushed my fingers on his sleeve.
“Father?” He grunted a ‘yes’ but did not greet my inquiring stare. “Are you all right?”
He answered my question with silence, to which I continued. “I had another one of those dreams last night, the one of the raven and the kingfisher. Do you suppose it is still from when you saved me from drowning in the Usk when I was eight?”
“Yes, most like,” he answered, abruptly.
“But, Father . . . this time there was more. This time I saw a wondrous island in the mist and a sword rising from the waters . . . as clear as day. More like a memory than a dream.”
He gruffed in his throat, finished off the remainder of his tea, tucked the paper under his arm, and strode towards his private study. As his hand gripped the handle, he looked over his shoulder, working his jaw as he searched for the proper answer to give me.
“Vala, I’ve told you before that you must stop this silly dreaming nonsense. Leave it alone or else you will end up like your mother.” He held up the newspaper. “Don’t we all have more important things to focus on than flights of fancy about birds and swords?”
The door slammed, leaving me alone, and the two tit birds startled into the sky. I sighed and poured another cup, drawing the edge to my lips and blowing the steam across the surface with my breath.
Father disliked me, or perhaps disliked the burden he saw looking into my face. He lived in a house full of marriageable girls still sitting at his table and supping his bread. The two of us, my twin and I, at our age teetered on the spinster life, a substantial weight to our parents with no prospects in sight for fifty miles in any direction, especially with the onslaught of this war. After spending several seasons in London from the age of seventeen, we vied for the attention of every viable young gentleman with a worthwhile income and estate, fighting an impenetrable queue of suitable and elegant young ladies backed with their strong-willed mothers.
Regrettably, we lacked the necessary sort of mother and, according to the gossip which reached our ears, Isla and I both lacked those flourishing adjectives: suitable and elegant, with disparaging comments such as:
“. . . too freckled . . . unruly mousy curls the likes of a bird’s nest . . .” and the final blow, “. . . the gloomiest blue eyes . . . so much like their sad father . . . and no wonder his sadness for happens every time a Welsh boy marries an English girl.” (It was true—while my mother was half-Welsh, half-English, she leaned more towards her London-bred father in looks and in disposition; a sort of highbrow arrogance acquired while rubbing shoulders with the swells of Grosvenor Square.)
And then, there were the words whispered behind Maegen, Gwynna, and Eilwyn, such as:
“. . . their white skin and golden hair is their only saving grace . . .“
and the clincher, “. . . pale as a ghost with soulless eyes . . . like that unhinged mother of theirs.”
In truth, we all favoured her in different aspects, Isla and me, most of all, the same face save for our dark hair and freckles. The other girls all leaned more towards the dangerous unstable personality rather than acquiring Mother’s features.
Our unhinged mother, Isobel Penrys, was a blonde will-o’-the-wisp with nary any of the will, portraying the ever ailing tragic Victorian woman on the verge of collapse at any moment.
And as we all grew older and more aware, the knowledge of our mother’s sickly ways made us realise that she leaned more towards madness than desuetude. Her turmoil led to the negligence of not only her daughters but of her husband and herself.
In truth, I detested the word, the label, vowing to safeguard her from the rumours murmuring through the nearby villages of Crickhowell, Abergavenny, and Llanginadyr, and praying not to notice any signs of the trait in myself or my sisters. Yet, even in my vowing and praying, I could not change the fierce rage coming upon Britain or our house, however much I prayed.
I looked over to the closed study door. My father’s neglect affected us differently. He abandoned all emotion when he lost his wife to the depths of her mind; and now, with the start of the war, he vacated us physically, as well.
A hand squeezed over my right shoulder and my sister, Isla, sat down in Father’s chair. In rote, I poured her a cup. She smiled and tucked a strand of my hair behind my ear.
“Your hair never wants to stay in place,” she whispered, sipping the Darjeeling.
I snickered. “Perhaps if I used twenty pins as you do.” We giggled and clasped our hands together.
“You seem distracted this morning, Vala,” she noted.
I lifted my right eyebrow, a habit Isla revealed to me one day as she plucked the tiny hairs into an arch. “Distracted? Well, I suppose I am with all the war talk.”
“Is that all? I know you better than anyone, Vala, and something else occupies your mind. Am I wrong?”
I squeezed her hand. “No, I mean . . . yes and no. I am discovering the nearer I approach thirty, the more I long for escape from . . . well, everything.”
Isla sighed and rested her chin on her opened palm. “Understandably, sister. By now, we should be married with children of our own. The security of a husband and motherhood keeps a woman’s mind grounded, I suppose.”
I huffed through my nose. “Not according to Mother’s actions and words. Nothing about her life here grounds her mind. Distracted is her forté, and ‘give me my medicine’ is her mantra. Perhaps I am jealous of her escaping mechanism, or maybe I am searching for a way to run away, or desperate for things to stay the same.”
She wrinkled her pert nose and I wondered if I looked the same when she spouted nonsense.
“I know how it sounds, Isla, a complete contradiction of sorts. I want escape but I want things to stay the same. Odd, is it not? I think the only way to explain it is . . . “
She tilted her head in a combination of understanding and sympathy, patting my hand. “You don’t have to explain it to me, Vala, I understand all too well. Our minds were set on simple things such as attending Ascot in the spring, or the new window displays at Harrods . . .” she took a sip of tea and giggled. “Do you remember, we were only three or four, I think, when Mother took us for a ride on the moving staircase there? Such a treat!”
“Yes,” I replied. “We made faces in the plate-glass balustrade.”
“I remember!” Her smiled disappeared, returning to the previous conversation. “Vala, I’m afraid those idyllic days will never return, especially with this war. And then, what shall we do about our situation?”
Our situation. I knew what she meant. Ascot and the Queen Charlotte’s Ball had been the best chance of finding a suitable husband since attending from the age of seventeen. Approaching thirty, our chances faded with each passing year. Now, I wondered if the ravishments of the war ripped away all the excitement of a new Selfridge gown or the awkward virginal introductions at Buckingham Palace. How might one reclaim innocence lost?
I must admit I will not miss the painful moments of standing alone and rejected at the edge of the ballroom, or fanning my flushed cheeks as my ribs ached from the ever-restricting corset. And yet, there is one thing I will miss—the sheer delight of sudden independence from the imprisoning walls of our home, Tyalwyn, . . . from Father’s disapproving glare, and Mother’s hollow stare.
I poured out the remaining tea into my cup, the droplets dripping from the spout edge and popping on the surface. Like a mirror, both Isla and I sipped at the same time. She was right. More inundated my mind than whether or not we might attend another London Season.
“Yes,” she replied, setting her cup on the table.
“Do you remember when Mother used to tell us the story of Camelot?”
“Of course, she was obsessed with the story,” she answered, her gaze drifting off towards the window captured by a long-ago memory. I followed her eyes with my own and the tit birds returned, chirping merrily.
“Sometimes,” I said, closing my eyes to recall the dream. “I wish we could hide away in some faraway land. Imagine, you and I, on our own, independent and self-reliant, without any care of wedding days, or corsets, or absent parents, or wars; watching the rustling Autumn leaves dance against the gentle breeze blowing across the Usk.”
Isla turned her head towards me. “I will say the same thing Elinor Dashwood says to her sister, Marianne—‘it is not everyone who has your passion for dead leaves’.” We both snickered and Isla patted my arm.
“Please, dearest, do not let your fanciful daydreaming morph into Mother’s likeness,” she said.
Reaching across, I pinched my sister’s cheek and smiled. “Never mind, me, Isla, dear. Your sensible view keeps me in check. Queen Victoria and Father would be proud of you.” A thought seized me and I grabbed hold of her arm, lowering my voice to a whisper. “Isla, but, what if? I know you as well as I know myself, and I’ve seen your romantic performances in the attic room. Your fairy-tale notions run as deep as mine even if you try to hide it behind a conventional demeanour. What if we escaped, you and I, together?”
Isla’s eyes widened and she pressed her hand against her heart. “Escape? Whatever do you mean, Vala? Leave Tyalwyn?”
“Yes,” I said, breathlessly, half-hoping she might reply with a quick ‘let’s go’. Instead, she placed her palm across my forehead and clicked her tongue to gauge the heat rising in my cheeks.
“Well, you feel all right; no fever. And where do you propose we go, sister, dear? India? Jamaica? Or America?”
Narrowing my eyes, I answered a reply she did not expect.
The word silenced her and her eyelashes fluttered as she searched for the correct response to my outlandish whim. She cleared her throat, imitating Father, and tilted her head intimating her worry and fear. Wrapping both her hands round mine, she shook her head.
“Vala, listen to yourself. Avalon? We really must curtail our play-acting in the attic. If you don’t collect yourself, how in heaven will any of us get along with Father gone and Mother, well, essentially gone, as well? Please, Vala, you know how we all rely on your strength. Now is certainly not the time for fantasizing about mythical worlds when our own world is falling into chaos.”
I gripped her hands in return. “Now is the perfect time. How else can we brave the day ahead of us than to fall down rabbit holes?”
“Stop it, Vala.”
“No,” I pressed. She rose up from her chair to leave, but I held her fingers fast. “Wait, please, Isla . . . I promise to stop if you indulge me for a moment. Will you?”
She lowered herself back onto the chair and gnawed on her lip. “When have I ever been able to deny you anything, my dear sister. Of course, I will listen.”
I stood and offered her my arm, which she took, and I steered her out of the dining room towards the library at the end of the hall beyond the staircase.
“Where are we going,” she whispered as a conspiratorial accomplice, accompanied by a nervous giggle.
Touching my finger to my lip, I opened the door and ushered her inside, pausing for a moment to suck in the inspiring aroma of leather and ink. Isla did the same, both of us incurable bibliophiles. Father’s library, his second sanctuary, was a sight to behold, a two-storied wonder with a spiralling ornate staircase in mahogany. Shelves stretched from floor to ceiling with every yard packed with books on every subject, some more favoured than others, such as: atlases and geography, archaeology, and two cases full of books about India, Sanskrit, and Rudyard Kipling. The pads of my fingertips tingled as I ran my hands along the spines, finally resting on the certain one I wanted to find.
“We aren’t suppose to be here,” Isla whispered.
I said nothing, but she was right. Father sternly demanded his sanctuaries off-limits unless invited. Only once in my lifetime had he extended a welcomed invitation. On my sixteenth birthday, he allowed me to select a book of my own from his libraryand without hesitation, I withdrew Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur. He baulked at first, asking me to choose something different, with a spark of anger in his eyes I did not understand, nor did he offer an explanation. After much pleading, he relented but made me promise to never ask him about the “damnable story”.
The second unwelcomed invitation included a reprimand before the desk in his study after he discovered one of his Kipling books missing from the collection. Still, even after the scolding and a night without supper, the spell of books and stories lured me again and again. The game of stealth and of snitching the books without discovery thrilled me.
Wrapping my fingers round Isla’s dainty wrist, I urged her towards the centre oak table and the stack of books adorning the top.
“Look,” I directed, and her eyes followed my fingers tracing across the gold embossed lettering on three large leather-bound manuals of sorts.
“What is it?” She leaned forwards and read. “Mabinogion . . . I am sure I’m suppose to know what this is, Vala, but unfortunately, I do not.”
Opening the front cover, I pointed to the cover page. “The Mabinogion by Lady Charlotte Guest. This first one is Volume One, consisting of the Arthurian romance of Geriant and Enid; and then, this one,” I fanned open the third volume, “holds the stories Four Branches of the Mabinogion and and the Book ofTaliesin.”
Isla crossed her arms and crinkled her nose. “Again, what am I suppose to understand?”
“Well,” I replied, “Mother used to tell us the stories of Camelot, don’t you remember? Beneath the rowan tree? And now, here Father owns the Mabinogion, the translation of the earliest Welsh legends of King Arthur, the stories Tennyson himself based his Idylls of the King on.”
Isla waved her hands outwards, encompassing all the books in the room. “If you haven’t noticed, Father owns books of all sorts. Why do you think are these so special amongst his collection?”
I tapped my toes against the parquet floor, the irritation rising in my stomach. “Surely, you recall, Isla. You cannot be so daft . . .” I waited as she searched her mind, then continued as she shrugged. “Lady Charlotte Guest? You don’t remember her grandson, Oscar Guest, five years ago at Ascot? The one with the flourishing moustache and puppy-dog eyes who followed you round for most of the day?”
Isla gasped, touching her fingers to her chin. “Of course, I remember him. And this is his grandmother, the author?”
“The translator,” I answered. “The original works are in Welsh, which were mostly just outlines since the stories were never written down, only passed down by word of mouth by Bards who travelled from village to village, swapping tales for food and lodging. Most of the stories were embellished as they spoke them, the details flowing from their imaginations.”
“They were cyfarwyddiaid, just like us,” she added as she flipped through the pages, stopping a moment at an elaborate illustration of a man handing over a baby boy to another seated on a horse.
“Yes, exactly,” I replied.
Our mother prided herself on insisting that while her own father was a very English commander with the British Raj, her mother was as Welsh as the waters of the Wye, and a storyteller, or cyfarwyddiaid, to boot. While she never directly admitted, I suspected my grandmother, Illya, was a sort of gipsy, or traveller of some kind, dispensing fortunes and stories as the ancient Bards, until the day she caught the eye of Lord James Thackeray. In short time, they married and left for India, living near Lahore along the Ganges River. This small bit of knowledge of my grandparents was all I possessed of either of them, collecting with the other things not discussed in our family.
Isla closed the book and eyed me with curiosity. “And what, pray tell, is your interest in these particular volumes?”
“Well, curious, is it not, that Mother used to tell us the stories all of the time, that Father owns these books, and we live only a half a day’s horse-ride away from Caerleon, the supposed site of Camelot?”
Isla shrugged. “What of it, Vala? We live in Wales, dearest, we cannot help being surrounded by all things Arthurian. I think you are making more out of this than is there. Perhaps your desire for escape is luring you down this rabbit hole.”
She turned and set off towards the door but I stopped her with a small passage from The Book of Taliesin.
“Wait . . . before you go. Listen—
A coiling serpent, Proud and merciless, On her golden wings, From Germany.
She will overrun England and Scotland, From Lychlyn sea-shore To the Severn.
Then will the Brython Be as prisoners, By strangers swayed, From Saxony.
Their Lord they will praise, Their speech they will keep, Their land they will lose, Except wild Walia.
Till some change shall come, After long penance, When equally rife The two crimes come.
Britons then shall have Their land and their crown, And the strangers swarm Shall disappear.
All the angel’s words, As to peace and war, Will be fulfilled To Britain’s race.”
Isla stopped and looked over her shoulder. “That sounds like a prophecy.”
“Yes, a prophecy,” I said, arching my eyebrow. “A bard spoke these words centuries ago, and Lady Guest translated them in the mid-1800s, a long while before any hint of this war, this coiled serpent from Germany.”
I set the book down and urged her towards the cushioned seat beneath the large arched window. “Isla, you and I both know there are secrets in this house, do we not? What if some of the secrets relate to the stories of Camelot? What if we are all linked in some way? I feel it in my bones; there is something more to this story.”
Well, it is official. It has taken a while but Sir Derek Jacobi and Mark Rylance have convinced me after all these years. Not that my opinion matters in the least to them, after all, they are huge stars . . . and what am I? A mere unlettered writer who dreams of being a success. I guess I grew up with a fondness for the Stratford man, the Shakespeare we all know by his face and works, since I aspired to be another one of those wannabe writers who did not have the luxury of going to college but aspired to be something greater than a glove-maker.
While in high school, I learned of the extraordinary genius of Shakespeare, and marveled at how this man, a school dropout, could write such words. Mind you, I had big plans of going to college but life circumstances sent me down a different path, a path I do not regret – thus, as Shakespeare, life has schooled me in sometimes the most harsh and bitter way. Don’t get me wrong, Iife has also given me some of the most incredible gifts in the world (i.e. my family).
Anyway, for so long after graduation, Shakespeare was my idol. I absorbed everything he wrote and daydreamed about the day I might get to visit his home in Stratford. And then, it happened. No joke, I fell in KMart . . . slipped through a spilled bottle of detergent after passing two employees chatting nearby. For two months I had to go to a chiropractor to readjust by back but I was in heaven, for not only was my therapy paid for by the BigWigs at Kmart but I paid for my first trip to England with the funds. Two weeks roaming Britain. Ahhhhhh!!!!
1997. September, to be exact, my husband and I touched down at Heathrow airport. Two weeks after Princess Diana was killed. While I played the perfect tourist, gawking at every historical thing I could find, I will never forget the melted candle wax along the pathway to Kensington Palace and the flowers still in the gate. Heartbreaking!!!
We made the normal rounds of sight seeing, onward to Stratford-upon-Avon to see Shakespeare’s homeplace and walk the streets where he lived (suddenly I’m singing Freddie’s song from “My Fair Lady”). I was quite overcome with emotion and bought countless souvenirs in the local shops. When back in London, we visited the Globe Theatre in Southwark and took a tour. During the tour, a sort of exhibition was being held in the lobby area, a walk-through about Shakespeare’s life, and the very last display depicted the faces of five men with the headline “Who Was Shakespeare?” Needless to say, I had never heard the story, so I stood there and read every word. I’m not sure what drew me to Kit Marlowe but in his eyes I found the compulsion to write my first novel. For the next 15 years, non-college related, I studied and studied and studied . . . and wrote and revised, wrote and revised . . . on and on and on . . . all with the premise that Christopher Marlowe actually wrote the plays and sonnets attributed to Shakespeare. To me, the story was plausible but I have to say, I never confessed to be a scholarly historian, just a simple writer with what appeared to be a great idea for a book.
In my book, “Blood and Ink”, Marlowe is not killed in Deptford. He is exiled by Lord Burghley but continues to write and publish his plays through Shakespeare. There is a a lot of spies, intrigue, murder, betrayal, love, rejection, ambition; you know, Shakespearean stuff. I had the privilege of corresponding a few times with Mr. Peter Farey about the topic of Marlowe, and whose research fueled my writing to such an extent that I will be forever grateful. I, also, was fortunate enough to meet Sir Derek Jacobi and Mark Rylance at the Globe Theatre when I returned in 2007 at an authorship debate concerning the Earl of Oxford and Francis Bacon. I remember asking Sir Jacobi, “what about Marlowe?” He was so congenial and gracious, allowing a quick selfie on my phone (to which I lost ages ago), and even allowed me to tell him about my book. When I left the debate, I was not convinced about Oxford or Bacon, as my mind was fixed upon Marlowe’s star.
Now, thirteen years later after that debate, my book is published (and has won a couple of awards), and I was determined to hold to the idea of Marlowe as ‘the man’, the true author of the plays, even after meeting the two men who are advocates for the Oxford as Shakespeare idea.
That is, until recently. During this pandemic of 2020, as with most people I suspect, I’ve spent my days staring endlessly at the telly watching hours of movies, documentaries, and mindless soul-snatching dribble to fill the soul-snatching historical year. In my clicking and adding to my ever-growing ‘watch list’, I added items I know I’ve watched in the past but piqued my interest once more. “Anonymous” directed by Roland Emmerich and starring Sir Derek Jacobi, “Nothing But the Truth” and “Last Will and Testament”, two documentaries also starring Sir Derek Jacobi – all covering the topic of Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford, being the true author of the plays and sonnets of Shakespeare. I watched them all with intent, even finding myself chuckling at the same passages I used when referring to Marlowe’s life now being used to show Oxford’s life. Did it cement my resolve towards Marlowe? Well, here is the rub.
I am now a convert. The huge amount of evidence and reasoning portrayed in these documentaries, especially astounded me beyond anything so at the last I am declaring, “How can it not be DeVere?” While this does not at any rate take away from my novel Blood and Ink – I still stand behind what I wrote, after all, as I said before, I am a historical fiction author (alternate historical in this case) and not a historian. Whether it was Marlowe, Oxford, Bacon, or the actual Will Shaksper from Stratford-upon-Avon, you have to admit, the stories do make for great historical fiction. I still present my novel as a sound story. While not historical fiction, it is an alternate theory which will boost those in favor of Marlowe as the author. Who knows, maybe this second watching of these shows have sparked another novel in the making! And I am all for that notion!!
I loved some of the quotes they used in the second documentary, some of the famous men throughout history who also believed in the Earl of Oxford as the man, or at least believed the man from Stratford was not the true author.
Such as, Henry James, author of The Wings of the Dove and The Portrait of a Lady, who said:
I am “a sort of“ haunted by the conviction that the divine William is the biggest and most successful fraud ever practiced on a patient world.
Or these others:
“In the work of the greatest geniuses, humble beginnings will reveal themselves somewhere, but one cannot trace the slightest sign of them in Shakespeare … I am not concerned with who wrote the works of Shakespeare … but I can hardly think it was the Stratford boy. Whoever wrote them had an aristocratic attitude.” – Charlie Chaplin, actor
The Egyptian verdict of the Shakespeare Societies comes to mind; that he was a jovial actor and manager. I can not marry this fact to his verse. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
“I no longer believe that William Shakespeare the actor from Stratford was the author of the works that have been ascribed to him.” – Sigmund Freud
“But what if it turns out, as it just possibly might, that William Shakespeare of Stratford was not the author of the plays ascribed to him? There is a theory, advanced by reputable scholars, seriously and, in my opinion, plausibly, that Shakespeare merely lent his name as a cover for the literary activities of another person … If, by some terrible chance, this theory should be proved, then straightaway Stratford’s tourist status would dwindle.” – Sir William Tyrone Guthrie, Tony award-winning theatre director
“Isn’t it odd, when you think of it, that you may list all of the celebrated Englishmen, Irishmen, Scotchmen … clear back to the first Tudors — a list of five hundred names, shall we say? — and you can … learn the particulars of the lives of every one of them. Every one of them except one — the most famous, the most renowned — by far the most illustrious of them all — Shakespeare!” – Mark Twain, author of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn
“I think [an alternative candidate] wrote Shakespeare. If you don’t, there are some awfully funny coincidences to explain away.” – Orson Welles, Actor
“I am firm against Shaksper — I mean the Avon man, the actor.” – Walt Whitman, American Poet
Thank you for reading my ramblings or listening to my Southern un-degree’d voice talk about high-falutin’ things!!
So, this is a blog post I’ve been wanting to write for some time (and a podcast episode) and now that I am back on a roll with my postings, I thought, well, here it goes.
I mentioned a few days ago in a podcast episode that I did about who I am, the episode titled “Who’s the Chick?”, that I’ve been a huge Anglophile since I was very young.
That being said, I am now ready to admit that I used a large portion of my life defiantly wanting to ignore my Southern roots. Before you go off on a tangent and blast me for that, let me explain . . . let me do some ‘splainin’.
I don’t know if any of you are like me but my obsession with all things British had me craving to live there, speak with the accent, decorate my home in Georgia in a Tudor style, and read as many historical fiction books about England that I could possible absorb. I’ve taken three trips to Britain over the years and I cannot deny the overwhelming feeling that I belonged, somehow. I truly felt that the desire was more than an obsession. I felt at home walking down the streets of Windsor or Stratford or London, or riding the train to Salisbury, or simply sitting in Hyde Park to relax. I definitely could be an expatriate living in the UK.
I think of how Robert Browning felt in his poem “Home Thoughts, From Abroad”, even though he spoke of his homeland, the words resonate with me.
Oh, to be in England Now that April’s there, And whoever wakes in England Sees, some morning, unaware, That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf, While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough In England—now!
I think that is why I started writing historical fiction since I already read about Britain all the time, the next step made perfect sense. After all, writing and reading is an escape from our life (which I use to the fullest sense in my new novel awaiting publication – Kingfisher – which tells the life of a bibliophile obsessed with another time and place).
That being said, I must confess I have spent many years heckled by my husband over my desire that people not know of my Southern roots. Honestly, I hated my drawl, LOL, and I hated living in the South, which I know will cause all kinds of comments and opinions.
But before anyone says anything, this post is about my finally coming to terms and feeling comfortable about where I live and how I sound. I even created a podcast using my own voice so people can get to know the real me. A little bit of a disclaimer here: I used an actresses’ voice on a few opening podcast episodes just so I could get comfortable with the new medium and to see how podcasting works. From now on, you will hear me, the real me, without any filters or British inflections. In other words, I won’t talk like Jersey-born Madonna living in the UK and adopting a slight British speak.
The closest I ever got to that is a game my kids and I played. Sometimes when we were shopping, I would say ‘OK, today is talk like a Brit day’ and we would have to go around pretending we were British for the entire day. It was fun and I think with my Southern-twang accounts for some of the strange looks I received sometimes.
That used to bother me, now, however, I suppose due to age or resignation, I fully embrace my Southern heritage, my voice and where I live. I have written one historical book about my area called “Child of Love & Water” which involves the 18th-century history of Jekyll Island Georgia, but that is about as far as I’ve gone in writing about my home. I know they say that writers should write what they know, and perhaps I might one day, but while I am acknowledging and accepting my Southernness, I am not going to abandon those British roots that show ever day in who I am as a person and as a writer. After all, I really do have British roots, my family ancestry is from Wales and Scotland with very British surnames such as Jones, Talley, Wall, Wynn, and Wauchope.
Those early days of six and seven when I obsessively played the Beatles over and over again started me on the path of who I am. I was Alice in Wonderland then, and I am still her today.
So, here is my confession and my all-embracing post about being a true Southern girl with British roots. Yes, I talk with a twang, and yes, I love Britain. I hope you enjoy the combination!!
So many people have opinions about writing historical fiction. Another blogger shared her view which swept across the historical fiction boards and groups I am a part of, and made me curious . . . what do you think?
Well, if most people do not know by now, my blog is seriously off-track. About two months ago I lost all my links due to a mishap with my bank and a hacker, so now I am trying to redo everything on this blog.
I am trying ever so hard to be patient and do things slowly in this recovery, but I am so frustrated!! Sometimes computer stuff and marketing and blogging gets the best of me, but I am trying. I ask that you continue to be patient as I reboot this blog for all my historical fiction fans and awesome fellow writers out there.
Soon, I promise, I will start having featured authors and posts on the site for you to read, as well as new reviews for great new historical fiction.
My own novel, Kingfisher, the fifth in my repertoire, is now out searching for a home (i.e. literary agent) so I will keep you updated on that process, as well.
Thank you for your patience as I try to collect myself.