January 25, 2012

Beautiful People - Tip Brighton

After a hiatus which seemed much longer than it probably was, Georgie and Sky have returned with their Beautiful People series. I have already done Tip, but as he is my main character and The White Sail's Shaking is on the mind (approximately seven more chapters left until the end!), I have decided to put January's list of questions to him. Enjoy!

tip brighton, midshipman

1. If his house burned down and he were left with nothing but the clothes on his back, what would he do? Where would he go?

Tip's first reaction would be total shock, and then he would probably be sick; he tends to be or at least to feel ill in the wake of any sudden news, good or bad. As for where he would go, considering that he considers the Enterprize at least as much his home as the house in Ryton, he would go back to sea and try starting over.

2. Is he happy with where he is in life, or would he like to move on?

He is happier with his position now than he has ever been before; he likes the Enterprize and takes pride in serving under Decatur, and he has purpose in his life for the first time. If he had the ability to go back and keep his family from placing him in the navy, he wouldn't do it. At the same time, however, there are things about his present position that he would change if he could.

3. Is he well-paid?

Tip gets a midshipman's wages - that is to say, not much.

4. Can he read?

Oh, he can read. He is perfectly capable of understanding the words on the page. Does he read is an entirely different matter.

5. What languages does he speak?

English. And...English. Tip was never much good at languages (he was never much good at anything in school), though he can read a smattering of Greek and Latin and speak a few words of French. None of these are of any help to him on the Enterprize.

6. What is his biggest mistake?

Just one? That would be difficult, as Tip seems always to be making mistakes. He has a tendency to stick his nose into other people's business, to land himself in situations where he is not wanted, and to try to correct things and thereby make them worse. And the one time he tried not to do all these things, it resulted in a man's death. I believe Tip would say that that was his biggest mistake.

7. What did he play with most as a child?

Tip has always been most comfortable out-of-doors; inside he is too much of a bull in a china shop, especially as with the amount of fine pieces his mother owns, she could start a china shop. As a child he played mostly with whatever came to hand: sticks, pebbles, mud, water, seed pods, the whole shebang. He often built fortifications in his mother's vegetable garden and played out battles of the Revolutionary War (in which the British always lost, with no regard for historical accuracy). For a while he also played with a very ugly toad who lived near the cucumber patch, whom he simply called "Toad."

This is why he wasn't the one to name Scipio.

8. What are his thoughts on politics?

Tip has never thought much upon the subject of politics. He is fiercely patriotic, and now fiercely pro-Navy, but the inner workings of the government mean little to him unless they impinge upon either of these things.

9. What is his expected life time?

Well, this is a sneaky question! I'll only say that Tip hopes to have a good long life, but that considering how things are going at present, he may very well not get it.

10. If he were falsely accused of murder, what would he do? How would he react?

He has been, actually, and he responded in a typical Tip Brighton manner: flying into a temper. He was, however, clear-headed enough to actually give a defense of his innocence instead of merely getting angry.

January 21, 2012

Let Us Be Elegant or Die

The immortal words of Louisa May Alcott (or Amy March, to be precise) ring true for most women - hence bobby pins, curling irons, corsets (!), and high-heels. Most of them look a lot like torture devices to me. But torture or not, fashion has always played an interesting role in society and, of course, in literature as well. It is one of the things that can be used to distinguish the various cultures of a fantasy world, while in historical fiction it creates an authentic atmosphere.

A few days ago Rachel posted about the styles she has been creating for her novel The Scarlet-Gypsy Song, and as it seemed to me like a good idea, I thought I would follow suit. Pun rather intended. So without further ado, here is a glimpse of the fashion in my most recently completed and my in-progress novels.


Justin isn't exactly a fashionable sort of fellow; he is comfortable in his blue jeans and sweatshirts, and suits are agony for him. In Tera, however, the styles are quite different. Ethan's people are horse-centered and the men tend to spend much of the day on horseback, so their clothing has been adapted to that purpose. The tunics are of light fabric to allow for easy movement, and the sleeves can be bound back if necessary in order to give the wearer fuller use of his hands; sashes are worn around the waist, tied to the left if the wearer is still a boy, to the right if they have reached manhood. Breeches are padded along the inner leg for comfort while riding (the Horsemen use neither saddles nor blankets), and they are tied about halfway down the calf, above the wearer's boots.

As for the women, the only thing about their clothing that really strikes Justin on his arrival in Tera is the veils. Every girl past the age of ten covers the lower half of her face, and only her father and eventually her husband is allowed to see behind it. All colors except white are acceptable for unmarried women; white is worn by the married women alone, setting them apart.

the white sail's shaking

And with this we go from fantasy to historical fiction. I must admit that the fashion here is much simpler than it was in Wordcrafter: all but one of the characters wear uniforms. Even here, though, one can add spice. The distinctions between ranks was reflected in the amount of trim and the number - and position - of epaulets on the uniform. Midshipman, for instance, were fairly plain with blue cloth and gold buttons, although in the American Navy they managed to get gold trim on their hats as well (as far as I can tell, the Royal Navy was much duller and didn't allow their midshipman such frivolities). Lieutenants had a single epaulet on the left shoulder, although if they were commanding a ship, they switched it to the right - this would have been the case with Stephen Decatur during his command of the Enterprize. Captains got the distinction of having two epaulets and a lot more gold banding on their uniforms. (Sailing masters didn't get any gold at all - poor them.)

All this is pretty generic, but I doubt that men would have dressed in exactly the same manner simply because they were peers. Tip Brighton and Charlie Bent are both midshipmen, but Charlie, being by far the more refined of the two, has much more "frill" to his outfit; Tip is just a backwoods young man from a none-too-wealthy family, uncomfortable enough in his uniform itself without adding decorations to it.

So there you have the styles in Wordcrafter and The White Sail's Shaking. Naturally it is possible to overdo in this area; but then, it's possible to overdo in any area. You can always go too far and burden the reader with unnecessary and unwanted details, and you can also show the reader nothing and thereby rob them of the ability to experience that element of the story. A good thing to do, therefore, is to create as you write (or before you write, depending on how you like to plan) and let your imagination run, and then later you can edit the descriptions as you like: move them, space them out, polish them, or even delete them if you find you no longer want or need them.

don't forget to enter the new year contest!

January 16, 2012


Romance. It takes up a large majority of the Christian book market, even those that are placed under a different genre (as you may have noticed if you've glanced at the novels labeled "historical fiction"). For those writers who find such books sappy or simply poor imitations of Jane Austen's classic works, it can be tempting to flee romance altogether and to scoff at the idea of writing it. But the fact of the matter is that most stories, particularly ones with female main characters, will end up having some degree of romance in them, and writers must take this into account.

Over on her blog, authoress Rachel Coker recently talked about her reasons for including romance in her novel Interrupted, due to release in February. And, interestingly enough, they were pretty much the reasons that prompted me to do the same with The Soldier's Cross. Originally I resisted the idea of having there be any romance connected with the main character; I didn't want my story to end up being just another romance under the Christian label. But in the end I did it - and not because I knew readers would want that element and that they would hate me if the book didn't have a happy ending. There was in fact one basic reason behind my decision: a writer cannot leave his or her main character at the same place in the end as they were in the beginning. This is especially true for female protagonists like Fiona, who start out the story alone and vulnerable - "uncovered" in the biblical sense of having no male protection. If you leave your character in this position at the end, you leave questions unanswered.

Perhaps one reason why some writers balk at the thought of bringing romance into their stories is that they think of it in its stereotypical form. The hero meets the heroine, there is immediate attraction but seemingly insurmountable obstacles, lots of tension and angst and butterflies in the stomach, the obstacles suddenly give way, hero marries heroine and they live happily ever after. This is the usual formula for romance novels (there are, after all, only six plots in the world) and it is no wonder that some writers shy away from it. I even read a novel a while ago where a character stated that it is impossible for anyone to be in love if they don't have the usual butterflies. But the fact of the matter is that this is not how romance has to play out, especially in novels where it is not the focus of the plot.

Take, for instance, Rosemary Sutcliff. Many or most of her novels deal primarily with themes of friendship, duty, and honor, and yet she also incorporates romance in a refreshing way. Instead of coming packed with angst and emotion, the romance between the young man and the young woman is often more implicit than explicit. The reader is given to understand that the characters love each other; no great show is needed. In Sutcliff's novel Simon, the protagonist only needs to be with the girl in a few scenes for it to be clear that there is an understanding between them, which Sutcliff then establishes in the end.

There are without a doubt wrong ways of bringing romance into a story - too many to list. But there is no one right way of doing it, as evidenced by Sutcliff's approach; she did not tread the well-worn path of romance, and in the end she produced a much more realistic take on love than is usually found in fiction. Every couple in real life is different, and couples in novels ought to be different as well. At the outset ignore, as best you can, the popular or classics romances of fiction, even such enjoyable ones as Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet or Mr. Rochester and Jane Eyre. Consider your hero and your heroine, who they are, how they think, and how they emote. Think about backstory and how it might affect the manner in which they love. Are they the type to love passionately or to love quietly? Does the romance need to be blatant, or can it be a quiet understanding? If you are writing historical fiction, don't dismiss the cultural norms or forget how the people would have acted. If you're writing fantasy, remember that every culture has those norms and try to incorporate them. There are so many variables to take into account, and these are what will make the romance unique.

There was an anxious strain in her voice, though she was evidently trying to conceal it, and it sent a warm, almost lazy contentment through Tip like the sunshine he had been dozing in. She did care, and though the thought did not thrill him as her kiss had, it pleased him—and somehow that was more satisfying.

- the white sail's shaking

January 9, 2012

Imago Dei

I'm reading a book (whaddya know?) called Noah's Three Sons. It is the first in The Doorway Papers, a series of essays on theology and anthropology by a Canadian named Arthur C. Custance, who is, I gather, not very well known. Probably the reason is that he thinks so very much outside the box, and that while I have thus far found him very orthodox, he challenges the norms of biblical interpretation. In Noah's Three Sons he traces God's plan of redemption through the lines of Shem, Ham, and Japheth and the impact that those three families (Semitic, Hamitic, and Indo-European) have had throughout the history of Mankind. While I will admit up front that I don't agree with all his theories, his major point is profound and well worth considering.

It is Custance's contention that Man has a threefold nature (not surprising, perhaps, when it is considered that Man was made in the image of a triune God) and lives in three realms: the spiritual, the physical, and the intellectual. He further argues that each son of Noah was entrusted by God with a particular responsibility relating to that - Shem, to Man's spiritual need; Ham, to the physical; and Japheth, to the intellectual. I could hardly do justice in one post to Custance's arguments in support of this, which span about 300 pages, but a cursory look at history tells in favor of it. Consider: the three major religions of the world (Islam, Judaism, and Christianity) are all Semitic in origin. It has been discovered that the vast majority of basic (and ingenious) inventions were created by Hamitic people, who, Custance postulates, were the first to spread and subdue the earth. And philosophy was cultivated by races of the Indo-European stock, most notably the Greeks.

Custance does not try to say that individuals of each stock can only focus on that one part of their lives. But he shows the way each race as a whole has carried the responsibility for the part of Man's nature that was entrusted to it, and further shows how the relations between Shem, Ham, and Japheth down the ages have been used as a vehicle for the workings of God. In laying out his arguments, too, Custance bears witness to the glory of God's prime creation, Man, even as he has been corrupted by sin. It is the belief of some that Christianity - or any religion at all - robs Man of his greatness; but while it is true that one of the basic doctrines of Christianity is that we are nothing outside of Christ, yet it is also true that in another way, Christianity exalts Man more than any other religion or "non-religion". He is created in the Image of God. He is a little lower than the angels, but crowned with glory and honor. He is capable of unimaginable things, good and, fallen as he now is, bad. He is a creative genius. His soul was made for God. He lives in time, but God has set eternity in his heart. It was for Man, that creation which God pronounced "Very good," that Christ was slain before the foundations of the world.

Man is all this, and more. Day to day it is difficult to see; one does not easily look at a stranger and remember that the image of God resides in them. Sin has done its corrupting work, and continues to do it. But the difficulty does not lessen the reality of the fact. Sin is not of the essence of Man, and by that I mean that when it has been stripped away, Man does not cease to be Man. Oh, no! In His essence Jesus was Man, but he was not sinful. Man as created is a glorious being, and even now that glory, derived from His Maker, remains.

O LORD, our LORD, how excellent is Your name in all the earth!

- psalm 8

January 4, 2012

There I am the Expert

"But people? Their hopes, their aspirations...
I am the expert."
- Emma (2009)

This weekend my family and I were on a short road trip, and the drive afforded me an opportunity to gather some names. You see, I have a terrible time coming up with surnames for random characters. And I've found that it is necessary to be able to do so for books like The White Sail's Shaking, as extremely minor characters who may or may not need to be named often pop up in one scene or another. Thus, I have started a notebook in which to collect names as I come across them. I found six or seven during this trip, and I thought it would be fun to take them and try to form an idea of what sort of person would have each name.


A teacher or a doctor. Middle-aged and stocky with thick sandy hair (baldness is a long way off) and perhaps sideburns; he has pale blue eyes and his eyesight not being the best in consequence, he wears strong glasses. His suit is usually grey and he sometimes carries a cane with an engraved silver head. He likes to jog and his shoes do not always match his suit; his passion, however, is the study of medicine - its history, development, and practical use. Although of a decidedly no-nonsense turn of character, he is not a bad sort and quite knowledgeable in his field.


Winslow is a man of about thirty, dark-haired and -eyed, always with a black suit, an impeccable cravat (his manservant is especially good at cravats), and a silver watch that doesn't work but which looks like an antique (don't ask if it is, and don't ask him the time). He comes from a rich family, but their wealth is a new development; his grandfather began to amass it and then his father's successful speculation increased the family's standing still more. Winslow has a head for business, but I daresay the speculation will ruin him.


A rough fellow with a strong accent (and a strong smell). Hugely blond, he keeps some of his hair and his beard plaited and on special occasions will grease the braids with some manner of fat. Rhyne falls into the category of "brawn," not brains; his life revolves around being paid and sitting in his favourite tavern until the wee hours of the morning. He works on docks and has all his life. I wouldn't get on his bad side (which is most of him), especially after his first few pints at the aforementioned tavern.


Miss Genevieve Awtrey. Miss Awtrey is a small young lady - mouse-like, in fact - but her brunette hair has definite red highlights and so does her character, once you get to know her. Her features are pale (except for her mouth, which is too small and red) and distinctly pointed; she has light freckles and very grey eyes. She is not very pretty at first glance, particularly because of her habit of wearing a shade of grey that makes her look washed-out, but she does have character. She rides well and enjoys hawking with the other ladies, but she also likes reading poetry and Shakespeare aloud, paints landscapes well, and can embroider passably. The piano forte, however, is her Achilles' heel. (Actually, this young lady will probably make her way into one of my stories at some point.)


Moreland is one of those dark, brooding hero-types - the Count-of-Monte-Cristo-vampire kind. Of course he has black hair and eyes and shows no emotion (except maybe when his eggs are done improperly), but contrary to his staffs' belief, this is not owing to any childhood tragedy; he's always been like that. I think he never got over the annoyance of being born. However, he consoles himself passably by spending his days hunting with his three dogs, in making plans for improvement to his house (which he never puts into action), and in importing wine from the Continent. Tough life, isn't it?
meet the authoress
I am a writer of historical fiction and fantasy, scribbling from my home in the United States. More importantly, I am a Christian, which flavors everything I write. My debut novel, "The Soldier's Cross," was published by Ambassador Intl. in 2010.
find me elsewhere
take my button


Follow by Email

published writings

The Soldier's Cross: Set in the early 15th Century, this is the story of an English girl's journey to find her brother's cross pendant, lost at the Battle of Agincourt, and of her search for peace in the chaotic world of the Middle Ages.
finished writings

Tempus Regina:Hurled back in time and caught in the worlds of ages past, a Victorian woman finds herself called out with the title of the time queen. The death of one legend and the birth of another rest on her shoulders - but far weightier than both is her duty to the brother she left alone in her own era. Querying.
currently writing

Wordcrafter: "One man in a thousand, Solomon says / will stick more close than a brother. / And it's worthwhile seeking him half your days / if you find him before the other." Justin King unwittingly plunges into one such friendship the day he lets a stranger come in from the cold. Wordcount: 124,000 words

Bookmarks In...

Search This Blog