Lucky Me!

M.L. Rigdon, from my writers’ group Scribes, is one of my best friends and ALSO one of my critique partners. Which means–and this is the lucky part–I’m her critique partner. We trade manuscripts to beta read. She scribbles with red ink on my pages, and I scribble on hers. She just gave me the first half of her newest book, DROVER’S LANE, to critique. I love all of her books, but I think I love her historical novels the most. Don’t get me wrong. I love all of them, but I have no patience for researching every little last detail for historicals, so I’m happy when someone else does it for me.

Mary Lou, as Julia Donner, writes Regency romances in a Friendship Series that I devour. I was a big fan of Georgette Heyer (who’s in trouble now for being racist, but I never got it at the time. I didn’t read the book that made it so apparent). Mary Lou has the same wry humor and Jane Austen mannerisms with strong females and men who know how to win them. When I want a fun read, her Regencies do the trick. But like me, Mary Lou needs to change it up once in a while, and then she writes fantasies, action/adventure, and historical Westerns.

DROVER’S LANE is a historical Western, and I’m not that far into it, but I’m already hooked. The only things I know about that period of history is what I watched on Gunsmoke, The Big Valley, and my dad’s favorite TV shows. And there are some missing pieces because of peoples’ preferences back then. So far, I’m already enthralled with Millie–a Chinese woman who’s working with the protagonist, a widow, in her bakery/breakfast/and lunch shop. Millie has a sharp mind and a sharper tongue. I love her. But as always, Lillian Flowers–the protagonist–is complex and intriguing and the romantic interest has depths we don’t expect. I’m in for a good read.

I have to say, I have a thing for historicals. That’s why I’m so drawn to Anna Lee Huber’s Lady Darby series and C.S. Harris’s Sebastian St. Cyr novels, along with a few others that I read sporadically. Most of the ones that are automatic buys focus on the Regency or Victorian periods, and those are what drew me to Mary Lou’s Julia Donner Regencies, too. But I’m enjoying the historical Westerns just as much, and I didn’t expect to. But I should have known better. I fell in love with Zane Grey’s THE LAST TRAIL and BETTY ZANE. I read every James Fenimore Cooper Natty Bumppo novel in middle school.

I mostly write mysteries, but when I read, it’s nice to go outside of my genre sometimes. I don’t know if you’re a fan of historicals or if you like Westerns, but I can recommend Julia Donner Western romances. And a warning. Her writing can get mighty spicy–another reason I enjoy them:)

Materialistic or Spiritual?

A wonderful man belongs to my writers’ group.  He’s a retired cop from Milwaukee, AND he teaches philosophy.  He’s writing a memoir about the experiences he had on the force from the time he was young and inexperienced to the time he retired, and his stories go from laugh out loud to deadly serious.  I love listening to him read when it’s his turn to share.

Since he has a philosophical bent, he told me that he believes most modern literature is materialistic, not spiritual.  I replied that I wasn’t sure I agreed with that.  But when he asked me why, I had a harder time coming up with an answer.  I’m not a fast thinker.  I have to ponder ideas and sort them.  But after pondering away, I haven’t changed my mind.  Maybe that’s because of the reading material I choose.

I read predominately mysteries, but I intersperse them with other genres.  And here’s what I think and the authors who’ve made me think it:

First, I don’t necessarily equate the spiritual with religion, just as I don’t necessarily equate justice with the law.  To me, being a spiritual person equates with trying to find the greatest good in ourselves, the divine.  And I’ll be honest.  I struggle with that, because I’m never sure exactly what I believe that means.  Anyway, here are my thoughts about the spiritual in literature:

I’ve only read two William Kent Krueger mystery/thrillers featuring Cork O’Connor–Iron Lake and Boundary Waters–but Cork wrestles with doing the right thing and balancing his Native American culture and beliefs with his Irish-Catholic upbringing.  Indian mysticism flavors everything in the stories.  Nature plays a powerful force.  The books are as much about Cork’s character as they are about surviving and catching the bad guys.

I’m a fan of Anna Lee Huber’s Lady Darby historical mysteries.  Kiera Darby survived a horrible first marriage.  In the 1830s, husbands OWNED their wives.  They could abuse them nearly any way they chose.  Sebastian Gage’s mother married beneath her, a commoner, and her family taunted and ridiculed young Sebastian.  When Kiera and Sebastian meet and fall in love, they both struggle to overcome their pasts and to treat those they meet, even their servants, even people who have wronged them, with respect.  They work to rise above the harsh lessons they’ve endured in life.  The quality of a person matters more to them than titles or wealth.  Is that a spiritual journey?  It feels like one to me.

But I’ve read lots of books where a plot revolves around people trying to find answers and overcoming their faults and shortcomings even while the main plot might rotate around a murder or romance.  M.L. Rigdon’s The Gracarin is a fantasy where the warrior Torak rules a country whose religion is based on nature and music, harmony, and where women are treated as equals.  He forms an alliance with another country that has a more structured religion, but the leaders of both worlds abhor debauchery, cruelty, and excess. They join forces to conquer the corrupt rulers of the wharf.  In many urban fantasies, the theme is good vs. evil.  Ilona Andrews’s Kate Daniels series has an over arcing story question of Kate battling her father, who wants power for power’s sake.   Kate often doubts herself and her choices, which makes her journey all the more real.  Many mysteries star protagonists who try not to be stained by the bad people they battle.  They try not to stoop to their enemies’ levels.

In an extreme example, in Mark Lawrence’s fantasy, PRINCE OF THORNS, Jorg watched enemies kill his mother and young brother before they leave him for dead.  Worse, when he’s rescued and his father, the king, learns what has happened, he chooses not to go to war over the incident.  It would be too costly.  Angry and disillusioned, Jorg runs away and joins a band of ruffian misfits.  While he’s away, the king remarries, and when his new bride has a son, the king–his own father–wants Jorg dead.  Jorg does despicable things in the book, but it’s hard to hate him, because everyone else is worse, even the peasants.  Their hate is selfish and random.  Jorg’s enemies kill for land or profit, but Jorg kills to build an army strong enough to ultimately make him a ruler.  And he swears he’ll be a good one.  He has a conscience and a code of ethics, but they’re brutal by any standards.  But then, so are the times.  Jorg’s far from the spiritual journey most think of, but his struggles are real and beg the question: Does the end ever justify the means?  Everything in Jorg’s world is relative.  Does that preclude his journey from being spiritual?

I still don’t know if I have an answer to my friend’s question.  It’s possible I’m too practical to be philosophical.  Can a person be idealistic and practical at the same time?  I’m not sure.  But it was fun to consider the books I’ve read in a different light.  Any opinions you’d like to share?

 

 

7 Questions

Last week, I answered questions that my fellow friend/writer, Kathy Palm, asked when she nominated me for a Sunshine Blogger award.  This week, another friend/writer answered questions for me, and Mary Lou never fails to surprise me.  How many people, if they could travel back in time to watch an event in history, would choose the parting of the Red Sea? Okay, that had to be a major event and dramatic to boot,  but I honestly thought she’d pick the sinking of Atlantis, since she has sort of a thing for crystal skulls and Cayce.  Just look at the books she’s written as M. L. Rigdon: http://www.amazon.com/M.L.-Rigdon/e/B0086UZFGA/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1469288066&sr=1-2-ent    Her answers show what a history buff she is.  A movie buff, as well.  Anyway, without further ado, here’s my friend M. L. Rigdon’s 7 questions and answers:.  And if YOU had a chance to witness a scene in history, what would you choose?

7/21/16

Many thanks to Judith Post/Judi Lynn, who invited and suggested this blog thingie. She is my guru. She’s also the Fearless Leader of Summit City Scribes, the best writing group in the world. Many local writers are blessed by her open-hearted support. For me, I cannot imagine a better critique partner. Strike that. There is none. She knows how to slash through my work with unerring directions and corrections, her teacher’s pen bent on perfection. I shudder, and go briefly catatonic, to think what would go into print without her input. But most of all, her encouragement keeps me lifted up and on track. She can tell me with precision what doesn’t work, and as importantly, what does.

 

The deliciously quirky Kathy Palm promoted Judy for the sunshine award. Perfect choice. Here are my responses to Judy’s questions.

 

Wine or beer?

Depends on what I’m eating. German food or pizza, must have beer. Everything else, wine, if I’m not driving. (More than one glass, I’m on the table or under it.)

 

Your favorite food?

Is this a trick question? The list goes on and on.

 

If you could be transported back in time and WATCH a moment of history, what would it be?

The parting of the Red Sea.

 

If you won a trip to anywhere in the world, were would you go?

Scotland.

If you could be any author in the world, past or present, besides yourself, who would you be? And why?

Carson McCullers. All that’s needed to make me teary eyed is to think the title The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter. Read it in my teens and never recovered. Can’t even aspire to that kind of literary empathy.

 

Cats, dogs or guinea pigs.

Dogs. (First up is horses, but you never asked that. Maybe because you already knew.)

 

Your favorite movie.

The Best Years of Our Lives. More than its capture of the aftermath of war on our valiant warriors when they had to return to “normal” life, this work exemplifies the “Greatest Generation.” So few remember what our country had to endure to win two world wars simultaneously, especially stateside. The courage and determination of mothers, who sometimes had to wait for years to hear if their loved ones survived, had to put their children in temporary orphanages to build planes and tanks. What kid today would understand the rationing of sugar, bacon and gasoline? Due to the present, widespread entitlement attitudes, I doubt that our nation could again rise to that level.

 

Thank you for visiting my blog, Mary Lou!  And thanks for being my critique partner.  I value your critiques every bit as much as you appreciate mine.  Every writer needs a critique partner, and we make a pretty good fit:)

And just so you know, Mary Lou also writes Regency romances under the name Julia Donner.  http://www.amazon.com/Julia-Donner/e/B00J65E8TY/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1469289093&sr=1-2-ent    Once every full moon or when the mood strikes her, she also writes a blog:  https://historyfanforever.wordpress.com/

You can find her on twitter at: @RigdonML

Her Facebook page:   https://www.facebook.com/marylou.rigdon?fref=ts

Happy writing, everyone!