Saturday, 15 December 2012
Yes, it would be lovely to be able to go the 'traditional' route, but sometimes that just doesn't happen. I know how many truly talented writers get passed by, and I am not speaking about myself. I have a particular friend who is phenomenally talented, in a way that astonishes me every time I hear her read. But, she can't find an agent or a publisher. It happens.
But the way that the world is becoming, especially for the publishing industry, the traditional road is no longer the only road. And that gives me some hope.
And yes, I understand that there are now thousands of talented writers who are choosing a non traditional route, so while it may seem like hope it's hard work to make yourself stand out. You are involved in the production and marketing of you and your work in a way that you never would be, and that is a job in itself.
When I read articles about what's going on in the industry I have hope. There has been a great progression beyond the 'you self publish because you're not good enough' and I think that is amazing. And people who do this and take this route and kick ass at it are starting to get recognized, and I am hoping....I can see it coming, if the progression keeps on the route it's going....that the self published marketplace will earn enough creditability to put those sorts of people on the NY Times bestsellers list, to get these people nominated for the major literary awards.
A lot of discussion has come up since the Random House - Penguin merger, and the talk of Simon and Shuster and HarperCollins doing the same. I've been asked what I think about it and, really, I don't know what to think. It's either going to narrow the market for people trying to break into the industry, causing another influx of people going the self published route, or they will purposefully create new avenues for the new and eager to fall into. I like to see the bright side of things, but that's just me. Others may have a more negative view of the whole thing, but I don't.
In the literary world now, I think it's up to us writers to carve a place for us to fit. What I do doesn't fall into any specific spot, I know that, so I knew I was going to have to make my own way if I could not find one and I have no problem with that. The most important thing to me is you, dear readers. For me to be able to share my work with readers and be able to interact with them in as many ways as I can. It'll be a learning curve for me, but I've been doing a lot of research and learning from others so I have some faith in myself, where not that long ago I felt like I was walking on eggshells in that regard.
But, for those of you who write I encourage you to keep going. And if you have to take a different road to get to where you want to be, then so be it. As someone who weathered a storm I can tell you that there is sunshine on the other side. Keep up the good fight.
Monday, 26 November 2012
When I have an idea for a story, it comes to me in pictures. I heard a saying a long time ago that goes something like 'people who see things in words should paint and people who see things in pictures should write', and that is totally how I see things. Most of my stories play out like scenes from a tv show or a movie, and my process has a lot to do with writing what I see in my mind.
Putting words to paper, in that case, is not always easy. Sometimes the picture is not fully formed. Sometimes it's only in small snippits that don't quite make sense, which is what's happening now. They relate to backstory's of certain character's from The Series, and I don't know yet if they connect together or not.
I still write it down when it's not fully formed, and I put the scenes in a folder and when they finally fuse together I pull the relevant ones out and help piece together the story. If there are ones I don't use on occasion they are the building blocks of something new.
Or, it all appears in my head, as much of Book 1 did. The early scenes, with the ritual and in the village, all strung together with relative ease. I'd had to rework the story itself to fit into the specific timeline, but once I did much of it appeared fully formed in front of me. There was just a matter of making sure I got everything when I wrote what I saw.
But the ritual scene, which I won't go into great detail about for those who haven't read Book 1, was the first idea that I had and the first thing that I saw, and it was as vivid and as real as if I was standing there watching it happen myself.
And now, when I go back and reread it I still see those same pictures. Book 1 has stayed rather true to my original vision the way it is now, and it will be interesting to see as I revisit it if any new things will morph together with the old ones, something that I have never done before.
I am sure you are wondering, what happens if you are working on more than one story at a time? I don't do that often, and I haven't ever wrote two stories at the same time. What generally happens is that I am writing one new story and revising one that's already played out. I haven't tried to do that, but it doesn't mean that I won't. But I think it would be difficult to do if both books were in the same genre, and especially in the same series. Because until you've let one story run its course it's hard to work on what comes next.
But that's a lot of babbling on my part. What's stewing in my head is a backstory, that may turn into a full novel. It's been stewing for a long time but I haven't been able to do anything with it, I admit I am a bit stuck these days. I'm wondering if being stuck means it's not meant to be the full novel, but only a very complicated backstory.
Thursday, 15 November 2012
I did not expect to be seven months after my original publication date and to no longer have that work published. But, guess what? Nothing is certain and things happen. And now, while I am in a good place and in many ways relieved, I am back to the writer's grind of shopping the work around and trying to find an agent and publisher.
I think I've grown and got stronger from this experience. I've taken a lot of kicking in the past year, not just from what happened with the book. A lot of things have happened, a lot of personal tragedy, a lot of absolute bullshit that could have been avoided. But, it's all done now so I have to make the best with what I have, and rebuild. Be reborn, so to speak.
I've done it before, I can do it again. I will do it again. I don't have any other option. And how often does a writer get to go back and revisit their first novel, and fix things? I have to make the most out of this situation.
So, I haven't given up. You have definitely not seen the last of me and my work.
I've been told that, all things considered, that I am doing rather well. If I couldn't take criticism, I would be in the wrong business. This is what writers do. We expose ourselves, take the good and bad, and continue to do so for the love of our work and our readers. And it's the comments and encouragement that I have received from readers that is really pushing me forward. I know that the people that Book 1 did touch enjoyed it, and I don't want to disappoint them.
I also cannot disappoint my Mother, god rest her soul. Going on without her is hard, it's going to be hard. It's going to stay hard, and its a tragedy that she left this earth. She was my best friend, in some ways my only friend, and it's lonely without her. It's a constant and ongoing work in progress. If I didn't have my writing to keep me sane I don't know what I would do.
Being back on the grind is unexpected, but an interesting experience. I am going the traditional route right now but my ideas on that may change. I've seen a lot of cool things done by people who put their books out themselves, and I do find it appealing. I don't think that self publishing is something that happens when no one else will publish you, as was the thought in the past, I think it's a conscious choice for a writer who wants to have much more control. I don't think it's for everybody, it's a lot more work then people might think, and I in no way think it's the easy way out. It's just Option B right now, but may turn to Option A.
But I am on the grind. Anyone else out there in a similar situation?
Any thoughts on traditional and self publishing?
I will be a phoenix and rise from the ashes of all the crap that has happened to me in the past year. I am considering adopting the phoenix as my personal mascot.
Tuesday, 13 November 2012
I feel a bit odd doing this, but I thought I would put it out there.
Are you an agent or a publisher who is interested in my work? Please get in touch with me. I am currently seeking representation for Book 1 and The Series.
Did you see something cool you think I should check out? Want to hear my thoughts on something? Give me a shout. I would love to hear from you!
Either contact me on twitter @heartbamboo or email me email@example.com
Tuesday, 6 November 2012
Well, let me tell you a bit about something I discovered that might make it more accessible.
Let me begin by saying I love Jane Austen, and I have for many years. But I have not read her novels, my love for her came from the many movies I have seen and from learning about her as a person. Not that I haven't tried to read her novels, I have, but I have had some difficulty. So when I found out that Marvel Comics was releasing graphic novel versions of some of her work I jumped at the chance to pick them up, hoping I would finally be able to devour the work I so cherished and obsessed over for many years.
And, AND, even better, they put out Northanger Abbey, by far my favourite Jane Austen story.
So maybe some will say that I am cheating by not reading the novel in its original form, but I say to them to pick up one of the comics before you pass judgement. Because you may find that the comic is very true to the original, and perhaps adds a new dimension.
I am currently reading Northanger Abbey and its fantastic! It really takes me into the world that I adore but has eluded me for so many years.
So if there is a classic novel you would like to read look up Marvel Illustrated, they have done other works like the Wizard of Oz books, the original novels by L Frank Baum. I highly recommend it!
Monday, 5 November 2012
I think it really started when I figured out that Book 1 was, even though it fit into several, a genre book. And I couldn't help but wonder, can I write something 'else', 'else' meaning something different. Something that, for me, really had nothing to do with vampires and that wasn't young adult. I don't know why I had that criteria, but I did, so it's a thought that has been bouncing around in my mind for some time.
Not that I don't love The Series, and the genre's that they fall in, I wouldn't have written it if I didn't. I have written other things, some were of the supernatural nature, others were not. But I have never really fallen in love with something the way that I did The Series.
And now, sitting in the position that I am in, I feel like this is something that I should explore. That I need to try new things, something outside my usual box. Spread my wings, so to speak.
There are many other things I am interested in. I love a good caper novel, I've always had a thing for spy books, and I love a good coming of age story. I am of course nuts for historical fiction, I'm fascinated by ancient Egypt, love Private Investigation, and I am also very interested in comic books. Serial killers have always been an interest, and I have a book about Squeaky Fromme sitting in my head that is just waiting for it's time to come out.
But with all these other loves, I wouldn't know where to begin. And what did this story mean to me? How much time and energy would I spend on it? Did I want to do a lot of research like I did with The Series?
So while I still love and am devoted to my Series, I am allowing myself the time and space to explore. Because being confined as a person and a writer is a scary thing, and I don't want to do that. It's a way for me to explore myself as a person, and explore my grief from losing a very dear loved one this year.
And grief....oh, I could go on for days about grief! I don't understand it at all, but I can tell you that it is complicated and ever changing, and it will make you feel things that you did not believe you were capable of. Grief gave me a new playing field of emotions, and I think a new level of depth to my personality that I did not previously possess. Grief has shaped me in ways that I have never dreamed of, and brought a new level of devotion to my writing that is unbelievable. I had no idea how much I relied on my stories to get me though the day - and now I don't know where I would be without them.
So, I am exploring. Trying to remain optimistic while I wade through these deep and sometimes treacherous waters.
Sunday, 4 November 2012
As some of you may have noticed, I've posted my review of Bloodborn, the first in the Ulrika the Vampire trilogy by Nathan Long, on my goodreads page. If you'd like to read the review, please head over there (there should be a link directly to it in the 'links' section of this blog), and I won't rehash a bunch of it here.
But I did want to take a little time to talk about my feelings about the work, and at the very elaborate world of Warhammer and it's vampires.
Games Workshop's publishing arm, Black Libaray, is who produces these books. I had not gone to their site until I finished Bloodborn, and when I did I must say I was rather impressed. The quality and standard of the writing in these works is remarkable. I am impressed enough that there are several other titles that I intend on picking up that have nothing to do with vampires, and I am not really one to read straight fantasy, as I would call it. But the characters and depth of story seem so dynamic that it's given me back a bit of excitement that I have lost in recent months.
So, I will continue my journey into the world of Warhammer fiction, and I will be sure to write about it while I do.
I am sure that some of you may have noticed now that there has been a lot of changes in regards to my online presence, among other things. In a span of six months a LOT of things have happened, and now my first novel, which I will from here on refer to as Book 1, is looking for a new home. I won't get into the details, but that is the reality. (I will also refer to the series as The Series from here on out)
And I have full intentions on getting back up and fighting. The world has not seen the last of me or my characters. I thank everyone who purchased Book 1 and supported me on this journey, and I will happily let you know that this is not the end, so keep checking back and I will update my progress. I'll also be interested to hear readers opinions of the original Book 1 and Book 1 reborn, as it will be.
But this is not the end for me, I promise you that. I am not going down, period.
I have also discovered this lovely website and app called Wattpad. What an amazing site! Writer's can upload their work and read and comment from a mobile device as well as a computer -it's like a giant writing group that you don't have to trek out in the snow and bring cookies to. I love the scope of people who have stories up there, there is a little something for everyone. I wish it was something that had been around when I was young, I would have loved to have such an amazing platform to share my stories, and I am beyond excited for it now!
I am a member, and I have only been reading and commenting, but I fully intend on posting at some point - what it is will be a surprise! Keep checking back for my announcement when I have something it up, where it be new projects or part of The Series, we shall have to wait and see!
Here's the link, go take a look!
Monday, 22 October 2012
I was slightly familiar with the game, my older brother had played when we were young and had also spent many years painting the figures with an airbrush. My fiance decided that he wanted to play the fantasy branch of the game, using Dark Elves as his primary army, and I thought from observing I may pick up some ideas for new characters and creatures in my own writing.
We went into the local retail shop and I was surprised when I saw that there was a vampire army in the fantasy branch. Warhammer has vampires? Since when? And, and, they had a figure that looked like my Gigi!
So I started looking into the Warhammer vampires, how long they'd been around and what their stories are, and I was pleasantly surprised.
Now, from reading my fiance's Dark Elves book I had a taste of just how elaborate and detailed the background for these characters really was, and I was amazed at just how elaborate the vampire world was. And this was just the stories that came in the rule books for the specific armies. I didn't discover until our second trip that there were novels set in the same universe.
The first vampire book I looked at was Bloodborn by Nathan Long, the first in his Ulrika the Vampire trilogy. Reading the back I was intrigued, but it wasn't until I returned home and began reading reviews online that I was sold. This specific vampire novel was a return to what made vampire novels great; violent, blood thirsty creatures who still had some human personality traits left in them, but they were real, honest to God vampires. None of this sparkly nonsense that has come up in vampire novels lately, which I am just saying to the world that is not really a vampire, and they were apparently very well written.
So, the next time my fiance went to the local shop without me he picked up Bloodborn and the third in the series, Bloodsworn, and we would look for the second later. I couldn't wait until I could crack it open, and when I did I was once again surprised.
I am still reading it, I will post a review when I am finished, but I am thoroughly enjoying it. When I really got into it I really wanted to jump up and cheer! A real vampire novel with guts, I wasn't sure they existed anymore. And not just guts, but a story. An honest to God story, with character's that aren't animals or too tame. My faith has been renewed, and I am excited for the vampire genre again.
So, dear readers, those of you who are looking for a real, honest to God vampire book, check out the Ulrika the Vampire series, and the Black Library site, which is the publishing arm of Games Workshop. I'd love to hear if you had the same feelings I did!
Monday, 17 September 2012
I apologize for being M.I.A for so long! But, things went from slightly chaotic to super chaotic really fast. Don't worry, I am okay! And all is well in my world again. I know that people probably have a lot of questions, but I can't answer them! They will answer themselves, eventually, but I can't actually answer them. It sucks, I know, but it is what it is.
So, let's talk about something else!
I finally saw the new Sherlock Holmes movie, which I will write a full review for soon. I loved it, but I am not as enamored with it as I was with the first one. That's all I will say about it for now.
I'm trying to read as many books as I can. but I'm having trouble getting into anything. I saw an interview with E.L James today, the writer behind 50 Shades of Grey, and that was interesting and inspiring. She said something at the end, which are really words that I live by, 'write what you love'. And that is what I have been trying to do for some time, and I feel good as a writer when I do that.
Because, really, I am not writing for anyone other than me. Yes, I'd like other people to read it and love it but that's not what I am thinking about when I am diving into a book. I am thinking about me and how I feel during this process, because it is really food for the soul for me. Writing is what keeps me going, and what keeps me sane. And I write the type of book that I would want to read.
Right now what I am doing is trying to expand my horizons. Prove to myself that I can write whatever I set my mind to, and just sitting and writing whatever comes into my head as an exercise to keep my mind moving. I am looking at books that I would not normally look at (50 Shades of Grey, hello!), and trying to think outside the box. I've been reading a lot of Donald Maass and his Breakout Novel books, and thinking about the ideas that he presents in his book for making you a better writer. About upping the ante, about what my breakout novel would be, could be, should be.
I am taking time to learn, grow, and work on my craft right now and that's what I'll be writing about. I promise I won't neglect you as much anymore, dear blog readers! I appreciate your support and the fact that you keep coming back to read, big and wonderful things are on the horizon!
Wednesday, 29 August 2012
I bet your wondering about the new name for this blog.
The name needed a change (can't elaborate, sorry!), and for Valentines Day last year my boyfriend bought be pieces of bamboo twisted into a heart that I am totally obsessed with so I thought it made sense. I've attached a photo, just so you all can see.
So welcome to Heart Shaped Bamboo!
Sunday, 5 August 2012
The thing about The Dark Knight rises is that it had one major thing in it that, depending on how it was handled, would sway me into either loving or hating the movie. That thing would be Catwoman.
I have been a huge Catwoman fan for as long as I can remember, even leading back to the Adam West Batman tv series, and Michelle Pfieffer in Batman Returns was incredible. To a 10 year old she was beyond incredible, but I have to say that watching that movie again recently it hasn't lost any of its magic.
So, when I heard that Catwoman was going to be in The Dark Knight Rises I knew that I wanted to see it, but I was concerned. I knew that she would be handled in regards to Nolan's writing, but in terms of the actress to play her I was not sure who could pull it off. But, I had also been unsure of Heath Ledger as the Joker and...well...I don't think I need to explain, if you've seen it you understand. That's why I didn't get bent out of shape when I heard it was going to be Anne Hathaway.
Now, let me get into talking about the movie.
In a lot of ways, it was what we had all come to expect from a Nolan Batman movie. Killer script, a villain to really get excited about (yes, Handsome Bob from Rocknrolla is Bane. Can you tell? They did a good job of making Tom Hardy not look like Tom Hardy), some interesting twists for Batman fans that I won't give away. (When I found out that Marion Cotillard was in the movie I was confused, why didn't she play Catwoman? But she's perfect where she is.) I don't know the Batman universe too well in terms of the comic storylines but I have been told that they didn't follow certain things, and my comment to that is - have you seen any of the Xmen movies?
And now we get to Catwoman. I was a bit disappointed because I did not feel that the script did as much with her character as it could've. There were some scenes, specifically the first scene that Hathaway and Bale are in together, where Hathaway is phenomenal but in other parts she feel short. I was not impressed with the costume at first, but when I saw how the weird ears were really glasses (you have to see the movie to understand what I mean) I really liked that, I thought it was an interesting touch. I did not hear her referred to as Catwoman once in the movie, it was only referenced when Bruce Wayne was looking at her police file.
Did I like Hathaway? She did the best she could. I'd be interested to hear what other Catwoman fans thought of her performance.
But the movie as a whole was pretty good. I think that anyone who liked the other movies will enjoy it, and may feel at the end that they should write some letters to Nolan to try to get him to do another. I would personally love to see David S Goyer pick up the reigns and see what he can do with it.
I would recommend this to fans, but I have to say to you now, its not The Dark Knight so don't walk into the movie expecting that. It is a great movie, but it's just not the same.
Tuesday, 17 July 2012
Well, its not really about that. I am a writer, of course I want people to read my words. But a blog is so much more than words, its more thoughts and opinions. And I guess I never thought I would ever have anything interesting enough to say.
But, wow! Seeing the counter on the blog every time I pop over is very encouraging, and to me shows that I'm not rambling on too much. I am so happy that people are stopping by, and it seems that some are coming back too....horray!
It reminds me in a very immediate way that I have readers and really keeps me going. Because, really, anyone who tells you that the novel writing is easy is....well....either I missed something or they're on another planet, and I'm inclined to go with the other planet theory.
Not that I am complaining, because I love it. I love the work...hell, I even love the editing and revising. And right now its keeping me balanced and sane while in the throws of recovery from a personal tragedy, as only art could. That was one thing that my Mother taught me from a very young age, to feed this compulsion and it will give you purpose and strength, as her sculpture did for her. And its there for you in a way that a human being cannot be, and its a place for you to seek personal refuge if need be. Knowing all that, I think, was what gave me the courage and pig headed ambition to keep at this no matter what, giving up is never an option. It still isn't now, and never will be.
As I write this I wonder, in a funny way I hope, that someone like me is reading this, someone who has a passion for something that they want to explore but don't have the courage, or have people in their world that don't quite 'get it', or they hide it under their bed or outside in a shed somewhere where no one would ever look. If this is a part of what you are as a person then you need to express it and damn what anyone else says!
That's why I smile at 992, because now that for the first time in, probably, my whole life I am being who I really am, my thoughts are acknowledged. Thank you all for that. Its a beautiful gift, but also humbling at the same time.
Thursday, 12 July 2012
Determined to make her own path in life, Princess Merida defies a custom that brings chaos to her kingdom. Granted one wish, Merida must rely on her bravery and her archery skills to undo a beastly curse.
I had wanted to see this movie anyways, but it was an added bonus to be able to take my father to see his first 3D movie since Epcot in the 80's. And I have to say, if you going to experience the 'new 3D' for the first time, cartoons are really the way to do it.
The overall scope of this movie is impressive. The visuals, not just the scenery but the attention to detail is impeccable. The tiny fine details are beautiful, creating an amazing visual experience as Pixar seemed to do incredibly well.
The mentioned Princess Merida has the most amazing head of red hair that I guarantee that you will leave the theatre wanting to do a drastic color change. And, she's a butt kicking princess. She's actually the sort of princess I've been waiting for Disney to turn out for years - they started a bit with Tangled, but truly hit the nail on the head in that regard with Merida.
The story really centers around Merida's relationship with her mother, and the expectations that are put on her as she grows up, and how the dynamic of that relationship needs to change and evolve.
The storyline is great, keeps you interested through the whole movie, and is really fun for the whole family. (Did I just say that? That's so cheesy, I'm sorry). All of the characters are great, including the three little brothers who are up to no good and never speak a word. The mother character, Queen Eleanor, did tug at my heart strings on a variety of levels.
I left this movie thinking about Scotland, and about the Scottish characters in my own work, and with how great Brave is constantly on my lips. If you are only going to take your kids to one movie this year, especially girls, Brave is it.
Saturday, 7 July 2012
I wanted to take a little bit of time to talk about the movie Brave. I'll do a full review soon, but I'm so excited to talk about it I thought I'd say something first.
I have to start by saying, thank goodness for Pixar! Its quite an amazing achievement. Its stunning to look at, the animation is beautiful and they've done a wonderful job of creating a fictional Scotland. It was awe inspiring.
And the characters were well developed - Princess Merida is the princess we've all been waiting for! She's a butt-kicking-arrow-shooting-while-riding-a-horse sort of girl, which is right up my alley, and just what I needed while working on my edits and rewrites for Book 2. I am always on the search for inspiring women and Pixar gave me a young woman that really gave me hope for cartoons. The Disney Princesses were starting to make me sad.
And having that visual of Scotland in my head is a beautiful thing, it makes me dream of beautiful Scottish landscapes and want to write something set in that magical land. There is so much beauty and rich history in Scotland I think it would be amazing to write about, and I've really felt that way since I read Susan Fraser King's book called Lady Macbeth, a must read for historical fiction fans I might add.
Also, happy past 900 views! I can't believe it! Thank you to all of you for reading, and for coming back! I appreciate all the support. I'll have lots more content for you soon!
Tuesday, 5 June 2012
I love the Snow White story, not just because of its connection to Countess Bathory, but because of how genuine it is. How you could take the general plot and put it in any time, any place, and it'll still work well and make sense.
This particular retelling was exceptional on a variety of levels.
Before I get into it, a bit about the plot from imdb: In a twist to the fairy tale, the Huntsman ordered to take Snow White into the woods to be killed winds up becoming her protector and mentor in a quest to vanquish the Evil Queen.
Ok, first off, visually this movie was stunning. Colleen Atwood, visionary costume designer behind Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, Memoirs of Geisha, Sleepy Hollow and many others, really outdid herself. Charlize Theron, who is already one of the most beautiful women in the world in my opinion, was transformed into the Evil Queen Raveena in the most stunning way by these gowns and crowns. The costumes only highlighted her performance, which was incredible and at times really scary!
Theron was really the highlight for me, but I have to mention Kristen Stewart and Chris Hemsworth as Snow White and the Hunstman. Both did incredibly well, and I thought Stewart would be overshadowed by the force that is Charlize Theron but she held her own, and it gave me a new respect for her as an actor.
The plot did not sway far from the Snow White story, with the exception of Snow White coming back in the end as a sort of warrior princess to defeat the Queen, and Stewart really delivered in that regard.
The visual effects were stunning, to the point where I wondered sometimes why the movie was not in 3D. It was a feast for the eyes in so many ways.
How do I feel about the movie overall? I thought it was great. Really well done on so many levels. The writing was nothing ground breaking but still good, and I think this movie could be enjoyed by lots of different people. (I went with an 8 year old boy and he seemed to enjoy it).
Thursday, 24 May 2012
I'd been hearing good things about this book since it first came out, and loved the premise behind Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the first of the mash up genre and by the same author, Seth Grahame Smith, so I figured that it would be alright. It has vampires, and its a twist on alternate history, so I thought it would be right up my alley.
And I'm not writing this because its not, or because I hate it. I'm writing this because I've had to stop reading it. Because of recent events in my life, that book is just not something I can dedicate my time to right now. I"m a little over half way through the book and its started to get more violent and I can't stomach it.
So I guess for all the vampire loving uber violent folk it'll be right up your alley, but I can't give a real review of this book right now. Hopefully no one was waiting for my review, and I'm hoping I'll be able write a full review at some point, but for now I'll just give my initial impressions.
I don't know anything about Abraham Lincoln other then that he was a U.S President. I've seen images of him, the iconic ones of him in the big hat with the beard that most people are aware of. So I went into this book knowing little to nothing about the details of the subject matter.
Do I think that matters? No, not really. I don't think these sorts of books are written for people who don't know anything about the real story, and most of the reviews I'd read are from people who know Lincoln's story rather well.
What I will say is that the format that the author decided to write the book in, at some points, tended to drag. The concept behind how the book came to pass is very creative and well thought out, but because of the format it was slow at times and didn't always keep my interest.
And when I had to stop was where it started to get more violent, and I suppose where the book picked up. Its sad that it was the point that I had to put it down.
If you're in to these sorts of books, I suggest picking up The Secret Diary of Elizabeth Tudor, Vampire Slayer by Lucy Weston. The concept of the book and how it was put together was brilliant, and Ms Weston's is a character herself and following her online makes it that more interesting.
Sunday, 20 May 2012
Tim Burton and vampires? I'm in!
I walked into the movie having a slight idea what I was getting into, knowing a little bit about the soap opera from the 70's that the movie was based on.
So, let me give you the set up:
Dark Shadows centers around Barnabas Collins, a man who pissed off the wrong woman in the 17th century and was cursed to become a vampire and locked in a coffin for 200 years. In 1972 the coffin is discovered by accident and opened, and Collins returns to his ancestral home to find the world a very different place and his descendants in need of his help.
I thought this movie would be funny from the way it was advertised. The trailer spins this movie like its a comedy, and I can assure you that it is not. It is very much a drama, and does not have any of the camp that the original tv show had (it least that's how I remember the show).
The casting is good, Johnny Deep does well with what he's got and the amazing Eva Green really turns it out as the 'pissed off wrong woman', who is in fact a witch and the one who created the vampire curse.
Visually its an attractive movie, typical for Burton and will be appealing to his long term fans. The script was done by Seth Grahame Smith, the writer behind some of the most popular monster mash-ups Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter (which I am currently trying to read), and I found it a bit dull and dragged in some spots. I'm not sure if this was Smith's first movie script, but it needed some pizazz that just wasn't there.
Overall the movie itself is a bit dull and drags in some spots. The visual effects are really well done, and the 'big fight scene' between Depp and Green was amazing, but it was only one of several glowing parts of a movie that feels like its missing something.
So, all you Burton fans out there, you'll probably see it anyways, so let me know what you think. Everyone else, if you're interested in this as a drama, not a comedy, its worthwhile watching.
Tuesday, 15 May 2012
My entire life writing has been a point of refuge. When things have got too much for me to deal with, I retreated into my fictional world, or I'd simply put my thoughts to paper. Why hadn't I been doing that until now?
When something bad happens, sometimes its hard to put it on paper. Because actually seeing it written down like that is almost too much to bare. And, as many writers will tell you, there comes a time when you realize how truly inadequate words are when you reach the point at which you have something really important and meaningful to say. So my place of refuge has become a little empty and lost because I simply do not have any words right now.
And that's why I decided to write this blog post, to try to express, even though they are edited for internet, some of those thoughts. Even though I may not find the words, perhaps saying anything will clear my head enough that I can start finding the right words, and at some point they'll stop feeling cliche, or silly, or totally inadequate. I'm a writer and this is how I express myself, and I think this will be the way I am able to recover from all this madness.
Even though its going to be a process and something that will never truly end. Grief does strange things to a person's mind, and for creative types the world begins to spin in the most insane ways, bringing things to the forefront that you thought you were not capable of thinking. Even the fictional world you have created starts to take a darker turn - so, in a way, the darkness that already surrounds me is just getting darker. I'm excited to see how that comes out in my writing, because so many things for me have come from the dark, not just fear but my characters...the list could go on for days. I've come to the conclusion that I am made up of darkness, a product of it. I can't imagine that there aren't a lot of others who feel the same way.
Some people the darkness in their life takes over their existence and makes them into something monstrous, something intolerable to other human beings. I think my darkness has become an integrated part of my person that even though it scares me, its my home. Its where I feel like I belong.
Wednesday, 25 April 2012
So, as I hit 600 page views (thanks so much, readers!) I've decided that I'll be going through which pages have been the most viewed in previous months and try to do more posts like those.
Thank you, all of you, for coming over to check out my blog in the first place, and for continuing to come back. I look forward to hearing from you, so drop me a line to say hello, or if you've got a questions about anything I'll try my best to answer them.
Happy 600 everyone!
Tuesday, 24 April 2012
I really like the concept behind this website, and since I have an inspiration board in my office already I think its fantastic that I can now share some of those images online with my readers.
So, look up my inspiration board and follow me if you've got an account!
And my profile page is
Wednesday, 4 April 2012
I must admit, I'm a bit in shock. I never thought people would read my blog, but I'm so happy you are and, dear reader, I hope you continue to!
So, if there's anything that you want to see or hear about for me, let me know! Either post a comment or you can email me at the address listed in the 'about me' section. I look forward to hearing from you!
Saturday, 3 March 2012
Do I need a map? A character visual? Some music?
Then yesterday I was sitting in my local pharmacy waiting for a prescription to be filled and I began to stare aimlessly at the stationary section. I don't need pens, I don't need white out tape......wait a minute!
The yellow legal pad jumped out at me. For the longest time I had used these pads for my brainstorming and outlining - they're cheap and portable and worked for me the way my dry erase board works. And it turned out that was what I had been missing. Yellow legal pad, or as I call it, scratch pad.
Now, I don't think I've ever met a writer who goes about things the way that I do. To be honest, I don't think any writer does things the same as another. We pick up habits that work for us along the way, learn things from observing other writers, and take bits from books (if we read writing books) to build our tool belt.
And I admit, my habits may make things a bit more tedious but they work for me.
A teacher I had in college told me that dry erase boards work really well for outlining and brainstorming. I'd tried the card outline thing and it didn't work, so I got a massive whiteboard on sale somewhere (and its massive, its like the size of my bathroom door). The teacher did say, the bigger the better, and its been fantastic.
Also, when I was in school and working on one of my trunk novels, I would take any free time I had to write. So, I had a pile of scenes hand written that I had to transcribe onto the computer, and this turned into a habit. Now, its the way I do everything. I'm comfy that way. I only have one brand and type of pen I use, Papermate Profile in either black or blue, its advertised as the worlds smoothest pen, and its the only pen I could use when my carpal tunnel first flared up and it is now the only pen I use. I use white out tape, the sticker like thing that acts like white out. I don't have a brand or anything, they all smell chemically, but it does the job. Scribbling things out is too messy.
So, I guess what I'm getting at is that how you decide to write is not what makes you a writer, There is no specific 'way' to do things, you just do. Do what's natural and comfortable, because that's when you'll be the most successful.
Monday, 27 February 2012
Let me start by saying I had been waiting a long time to see this movie.
I was not disappointed. I didn't know what to expect, really, and I must say that the trailers did not do a good job explaining the plot of this movie.
Which is, at its core, what if the plays attributed to William Shakespeare were, in fact, not written by William Shakespeare?
The movie itself was presented like it was a play. It's a bit hard to explain, it opens as if its being presented as a play then dives into the actual movie and I thought that was pretty brilliant. The appearance in general was amazing, it was quite the visual of late Tudor London.
I won't give too much away, but the movie takes us through a journey of what if the plays were written by a nobleman named Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford and apparent lover to Elizabeth I. There's many controversies presented, including the much debated idea that Elizabeth I had lovers and, in fact, multiple illegitimate children that were hidden by her adviser William Cecil.
The only problem I had with that was the particular boys they picked to be Elizabeth's children - was the Earl of Essex not Robert Devereux, the child of Lettiuce Knollys, great grandson of Mary Boleyn, and stepson of Robert Dudley? The incidents that happened imply that this is the same Essex, but they seem to have forgotten these facts....
Here's the wikipedia link, with many more details, a full cast list and some comments about the critical reception:
I loved the feel and the presentation of this movie. The filmmakers did a fantastic job in creating an atmosphere that really felt like late Elizabethan London. The casting was fantastic - Rhys Ifans was brilliant as the elder Edward de Vere, but I have to say that Ifans has been good in every movie I've ever seen him in. Vanessa Redgrave was fantastic as the elder Elizabeth I, and the casting of Redgrave's daughter Joely Richardson as the younger Elizabeth was so spot on it it was impressive. (you may remember Richardson as Katherine Parr in tv's The Tudors). I could not name the actor who played Shakespeare, an opportunist actor who took it upon himself to make himself appear to be the author of these plays as opposed to another and milk it for everything he could get, but he was very good.
And, the young man who played Arthur in the most recent tv version of Camelot played the young Edward de Vere - he was fantastic as Arthur, but not given enough screen time to do much in this role. It was nice to see his face, and I expect to see more of him.
Other than that little thing about Essex, this movie was lovely. Totally worth watching on a variety of levels - for historical fans, for conspiracy fans, and for Shakespeare fans. And for Rhys Ifans.
Saturday, 18 February 2012
Let me start by saying, I am used to referring to her as Princess Mary, because that's how I came to know her and begin to study her. She has been a huge inspiration to me, as I said in my previous post titled The Influence of Mary.
And to mark her birthday I thought I would put up some interesting links and and some of my thoughts on the various interpretations of Mary that I have seen over the years.
If you have no clue who I'm talking about, here's the wikipedia link
Now, I haven't read a biography of just Mary alone yet but Alison Weir's The Children of Henry VIII is a fascinating read. Six Wives of Henry VIII by David Starkey is a brilliant look at all the wives and many other things that were going on, including some information about Mary in relation to the women her father chose.
I have heard David Loades's biography on Mary is the one to read, but I have also heard good things about Linda Porter's work. I sincerely hope that David Starkey does something on Mary, I heard there was a tv program about her and Edward but I have yet to find it.
The Anne Boleyn Files does fantastic reviews of Tudor related books, here are the links to a few about Mary, I hope to be picking up some of them soon
There has been lots of fiction written about Mary, and I can't say enough about I Am Mary Tudor by Hilda Lewis. Carolyn Meyer has also written a fantastic book called Mary, Bloody Mary, done from the perspective of Mary as a teenager. But, I think my favorite piece of fiction right now that includes Mary is The Queen's Fool by Philippa Gregory. Its sympathetic but not syrupy, doesn't get too much into the religious aspect and has other interesting characters that made the story appealing. I have yet to read Jean Plaidy's In The Shadow Of The Crown.
Now, I have to admit, I haven't seen very many Tudor related movies. I'm waaay behind in that regard. But, I will say that I LOVED Sarah Bolger as Mary in the tv program The Tudors. After being so irritated at how badly they boggled up Henry VIII's sisters I was beyond pleased with the representation of his daughter. I remember a scene from the second season, when Mary has been sent to live with the baby Princess Elizabeth and has had everything stripped from her and she is sitting alone in her room, stunned and horrified by all that has happened to her, and she still gets up and tends to the poor baby Elizabeth when she's crying. And when she's at Jane Seymour's bedside, asking her not to die....oh, she nailed it! I think that there is a tenderness to Mary that so many people have missed, and Sarah Bolger's facial expressions were spot on for conveying the emotion she must have felt.
I don't remember Mary in 'The Other Boleyn Girl', movie or book. The lady who played her in the 80's movie 'Lady Jane' was marvelous.
The depiction of the older Mary that I most enjoyed was from the BBC movie about Elizabeth, with Anne Marie MacDuff playing Elizabeth. That production was marvelous on a variety of levels, but I thought Joanne Whalley handled Mary quite well, where she seemed too much like a lunatic in the Cate Blanchett version of Elizabeth.
Now when I just feel like reading a little something about Mary, I turn to this fantastic blog, Mary Tudor Renaissance Queen
The post about Mary's coronation was wonderful! And there is a very interesting review of a book about Mary's husband Phillip of Spain currently up that's work looking at.
But, I hope you've enjoyed this post and that you'll take some time today to learn something new about this much misunderstood queen. If you want to know more about why I admire her so, please see my previous post The Influence Of Mary.
Friday, 17 February 2012
Also I wanted to talk a bit about novel mechanics, since I have decided for the first time to write something in the 3rd person. I'm a bit nervous about it, but that's a good thing! It's good to step out of your box and I think its good for a writer to try something different, it could be really good. It could also be really bad, but I'm not allowing that idea to pop into my head.
So, how does one prepare for such a story? Well, mechanics pay a huge part in it. You need to plot, and (sigh) outline, especially in historical's some form of outline is important. You need to use your mechanical writer brain to decide how these stories will weave together and how, for the love of god, you're going to make it work.
Can you tell by how I'm explaining this that I'm nervous about it? I've never done alternating view points, and third person is very hard for me. So, I'll just have to write it and see how it goes.
It also gives me the chance to get into the head of some of the other characters, and that's what I'm really looking forward to.
I'm not going to talk about how I plan/outline, because I think that process is really individual to every writer. You have to do what's comfortable for you, and its taken me so much time to get used to it in general that I don't talk about it much, since I feel its really mashed together and I would never ever want to have to show them to other people. But no matter how scatterbrained they may seem and look, that's what works for me.
Wednesday, 15 February 2012
Here's the link: http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/writing-rules-10-experts-take-on-the-writers-rulebook?et_mid=538945&rid=3009756
Now, after reading that I thought it was a good time to write a post about my thoughts on 'writers education' as one might call it.
Style is not something that can be learned, but it is something that can be fine turned with practice. Writing is a lot more work than most people think, and fine tuning your craft is a life long process. If you look at a piece of your own writing and honestly think 'this is as good as it gets', then you're in some trouble.
What you can learn from classes or courses is important tools for structure, plotting, details about crafting a story that fits into a certain genre (this is especially true for the romance genre), and when you learn about plotting you learn about flow, pacing and other mechanical details that are important in crafting a novel. I have not taken a short story writing course, its something that is now on my to-do list, but I believe that mechanics are especially important for short stories.
While I think, if you really wanted, you could learn a lot from books, the experience of going and being with other writers in that capacity is very important for growth. I would not advice a critique until you've developed a sense of how they operate, because by nature even if these people are your bestest friends it can be harsh and demoralizing.
You can also learn a lot from reading other novels, which is why its so important for a writer to read like its going to kill them if they don't. I learned a lot about plotting from reading Harry Potter, JK Rowling is an absolute master at it. But, I would not trade my writing class experiences for anything, and I learned a lot of very valuable things from taking them. They were courses offered at my local community college, and the age range of people was from 19 to 80, which I thought was fantastic. The range of life experience was incredible.
But, I do believe a writer needs to educate themselves. The proper way to structure a novel is very important. I'm not saying you have to write outlines, the biggest debate among writers, it seems, but you need to know how to make the story flow through from the beginning to the end without running off in too many different directions. I also think you need to educate yourself on what's going on in the genre you wish to write in. Know what's popular, who the 'stars' are, so to speak, what the content of the actual book looks like. Is there a book club section? Did the author offer up some of the research material they used?
You need to know exactly where you're going, the route you are going to take to get there, and the details of the path. And the only way you can do that is through education.
I would love to hear what you thought of the writer's digest article, and what you think about a writers education. So, please, post in the comments section and let's start a conversation!
Friday, 10 February 2012
I have to say, Snyder is a remarkable writer. She has way of weaving a world that really sticks to you, her world building and characters is truly inspired and I think that she's a strong voice in the fantasy genre.
Let me say a bit about the Study series:
It focuses around Yelena, a young woman that we first meet in Poison Study in prison, where she is offered the option of being executed for the crimes she has committed or become the Commander of the land that she lives in, Ixia, personal food taster. She chooses the tasting job, and we are lead into her world where she trains with the Commander's right hand man personal assassin, Valek, and deals with the repercussions of what she's done. She cannot run, because Valek has given her a poison and if she doesn't have some of the antidote daily she will die.
Now, I won't dive too heavily into the plot because I don't want to give it away, but I will say that there is enough realism woven into the fantasy that Yelena's world and the land of Ixia doesn't seem so far away from our own. Yelena's abilities become more complex then just being a simple poison taster, and when a plot is uncovered to try to assassinate the Commander Yelena is instrumental in helping foil it. It has enough twists and turns to keep you up at night so you can see what happens next.
In Magic Study, Yelena is free and we learn more about her life before she ended up in prison, about her family and about her blossoming abilities (did I mention they were magical?). She returns to her homeland of Sitia, the country that borders Ixia, where she was kidnapped from 14 years earlier. Trust becomes a major issue and Yelena spends a good portion of the book trying to prove she isn't a spy for Ixia; something she does after she foils the plot of a serial killer who is stealing the souls of girls to try to gain more power. Snyder really dives into her word in this book, revealing the nature of magic and power and we meet many interesting characters in this book, my favorite is a Story Weaver called Moon Man.
In Fire Study, everything comes to a head. It's a bit hard to explain without giving things away, but I think this was my favorite of the Study series. Snyder is really in her element in this book, and with both the land of Ixia and Sitia established at this point she can now put the world's that she created to their optimal use. And she does not disappoint. Also, one of the major characters from Magic Study, Opal, comes back and we learn about her life which leads us into the next series Snyder has that focuses on Opal, the Glass Series starting with Storm Glass.
Wow, I hope I've explained things well without giving too much away. But Snyder's work is something you really need to read for yourself, and do not make a judgement solely based on the back of the book matter because the Study series (same with Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments series) is SO much more than that. A true study of the fantasy genre, no pun intended.
Tuesday, 7 February 2012
There are several ways that a writer can step into using supernatural creatures. You can create your own, something that can be fun but is also very complex, or you can use the great wealth of creatures that are in myths and legends today.
In my research I have learned that every culture has myths and legends about the supernatural. Depending on the location in the world, some are similar. But, regardless, every culture has something that could be classified as a vampire, or a shapeshifter; you name it, it'll be there.
I used a variety of sources to help create my creatures.There were specific traits that I needed, and depending on which direction I decided to go it wasn't hard to find what I needed, but in some cases I needed to spin some details.
For example, my vampires. I'm not entirely comfortable with the idea that all vampires cannot walk in the daylight. So, I wanted to find a way so that a certain 'type' could; and to do that I had to use what I call the 'Dracula model' for vampires. And with me deciding to do that, those vampires I modeled in that form would have other traits that were associated with Dracula. Because the reality is that Dracula could walk in the sunlight; he also had control over nocturnal animals, could shift his form in a variety of ways, including turning into mist, and had control over the weather, among other things. When I used the Dracula model, I had to make sure that all the other traits were taken into consideration, I may not have used them all immediately but because I had decided to follow that model they were at my disposal.
This is what I like to call Creature Creating by Blending Different Myths.
I also had to do this with the dhampir (half human, half vampire), and as I write I continue to build on my idea of this particular creature. Because the details of what would happen throughout these creatures lives would be so complex it just continues do build, and it seems to be a creature type that I will continue to use. The original dhampir myth has them generally being male - not in my world.
I've done things like this in a number of cases, this is the fun part of supernatural fiction. If you take something traditional as the jumping off point and use your imagination it can guide you in amazing directions.
I needed to use the model of a skinwalker and place them in my own location. Now, if you read into skinwalkers you know this is a myth associated with Native Canadian and American cultures, but it seemed strange to me that similar creatures would not exist all over the world. So I took that original idea and spun it, creating a similar myth for my chosen location and giving the skinwalker a little extra power to make it my own.
Once you grown accustomed to doing such things, they seem to come naturally. And now as I'm writing and trying to build the lives of some of the other characters these threads are appearing before me, and in some cases its tying a real historical person to a supernatural myth, and a story appearing fully formed in front of me.
I would suggest, if you're going to do this, that you have some kind of folder or place to put all the information that you have used and thought up to create these characters because it'll be hard to keep it all in your head. I've heard straight fantasy author's refer to this as 'world building', and some have extensive binders with maps and all kinds other bits and pieces that they used to build their world - but character creation should be its own sub section. Some people use questionnaires and other charts to create their characters, what I can say is do whatever comes naturally, and if you're handwriting something do it in pencil.
Tuesday, 31 January 2012
When one does research for a book, it is, in many cases, to answer questions. I found that this can be a useful way to build a character as well.
And while you are answering questions about a character, you can extrapolate a hypothesis from the known facts. Find something, even if its something small, that would connect the character to something supernatural. Perhaps its something common, and it works best if it is. Perhaps it is something from their ancestors, or about the place where they live, or something that they did as a young child. It can really be anything.
But, in this case, you really need to know your stuff when it comes to the supernatural to be able to tie it in well. If you're writing the sort of book that has these beings, your going to want to learn. It is possible to pull it all out of thin air without knowing any of the folklore or mythology or history. I would not advise it, and I know one famous case that did it (I'm not mentioning names) but unless its contemporary I wouldn't advise it.
Because that's the thing about history. The beauty in the small things.
A few of the things that I just mentioned came from Jack Whyte, a hsitorical fiction writer that my mother has read for a very long time, and who I admire greatly. I went to a lecture where he was talking about his new book 'The Forest Laird', and he has this brilliant theory that the Robin Hood legend was actually based on William Wallace (yes, the Mel Gibson Braveheart. But I did not know until then that someone else actually carries the name Braveheart, not William Wallace). That in itself blew me away. And then he said these things.
Do research to answer questions.
Extrapolate hypothesis from known historical facts.
The exact little things, small but brilliant ideas, that I needed to weed my way through the mountains of potential research. Now, I start with a list of questions of things that I need to know about every aspect of what's going on in the book.
I think its a mantra for life, actually - find beauty in the small things.
That was something I had to learn, and took a long time, because I was so worried about the big picture life was passing me by. I was so worried about having that '5 year plan', like most people my age have, that strange things started going on in my head. When I realized that, whether I like it or not I'm not going to be like everyone else things got easier. I started making realistic goals for me, and stopped thinking about what other people my age are doing. I put everything into my writing and the books and stopped worrying about buying a condo. If its supposed to come, it will. Enjoying now and preparing for later is important, but it needs to go in that order.
And apparently I like the post title Beauty In the Small things - perhaps I should make it a reoccurring topic?
Monday, 23 January 2012
And, not just because it was in 3D. I must say, unless your a die hard Underworld fan the 3D might not be necessary, but for all you die hards (like me) it does not disappoint.
Now, I'm not going to get into my problems with the last movie, Rise of The Lycans (continuity errors much?), but I will say first off that you do not need to remember, or even have seen the other Underworld movies to enjoy Awakening. The opening of the movie does a good catching up on what's previously happened, without bogging you down, then drops you right into the action.
The general plot of the movie is: humans have discovered the existence of vampires and lycans. So the war they'd been in with each other for centuries turned into a war with human beings - and through what they refer to as 'the purging' they rid the world of most of the vampire population and left lycans all but extinct. During the purge they tracked down our heroine, Selene (played by Kate Beckinsale, thank god she's back!) and Michael, the hybrid, and tear them apart, taking Selene prisoner.
12 years later the movie really starts to kick in, when someone wakes Selene from a freezing tank in a lab and allows her to escape. This is when things start to get interesting.
I've always loved the Underworld movies for the action, and the back story is always creative and ballsy in a way that supernatural movies should be. By removing a major factor from the first two movies (I'm trying to be a bit vague as to avoid giving too much away for those who are interested) the opportunity arose to give Selene something new to fight for, and that came in the form of a young girl. Another hybrid, and one bad ass 12 year old. It gives Selene a very unexpected dimension, and in a way reboots the franchise because there is now this new story with the girl - she has to take care of the girl, and the lycans cannot get their hands on her. And they now have the humans to worry about, with the other vampires running scared and a new form of lycan popping up the action in this movie doesn't stop for the hour and thirty minutes.
I loved this movie....but you must keep in mind, its an action movie. I think it had its bits of brilliance but its not going to win an academy award for best screenplay, you know what I mean? But that's a given with most action movies. So, fans make sure you get out to see it. It won't disappoint (this is not a case of Rise of The Lycans, trust me).
Another great thing was seeing the home grown talent, Kris Holden-Ried, the werewolf from one of my favourite shows on tv right now Lost Girl, as a serious lycan who gives Selene a run for her money. I hope he doesn't mind getting type cast from this point on - because he's so damn good at it.
Friday, 13 January 2012
I found out really quickly that you have to be very particular about the keywords you put into a search engine, because you'd be shocked by some of the randomness pops up, especially when you're looking for something vampire related.
I also found out that some historical texts people have not bothered to put online. I don't know why, but the information is just not there. And, yes, wikipedia is a good jumping off point but those books that they list at the bottom as reference are NOT online! Most of that info isn't even close to being online, and anyone who tells you different is seriously deluded.
The reality of internet research is that all it does is point you in the right direction. In no way will it give you all the information you need, and if you want to write books with any kind of history in them you're going to have to kick it old school and read a book.
And, history books are really...well....wordy? I'm not sure the best way to explain it except there is a lot of extra information, especially royal biographies! When you pick up a royal biography, probably 100 pgs out of a 400 pg book are actually about the person, the rest about the political climate and other details about what was going on in their country during their reign. While this is all important, its not so helpful in building a character.
Kelley Armstrong recommended these fantastic encyclopedia's about supernatural beings that are amazing when creating a character - most of these sorts of books have information from several different cultural references right at your fingertips. It's as good as the internet, and looks cool on your bookshelf. I suggest to anyone who's writing something with fantasy creatures (and I'm talking everything from mermaids to vampires to dragons to banshee's to morrigan's) to pick up these sorts of books wherever they can find them. It was one of the best pieces of advice I ever got.
So, I must say quite loudly to anyone who's starting to research a book, do not be so naive to think you can find everything on the internet. You will be disappointed, and I wouldn't want your novel to come to a screeching halt just because you have to kick it old school. And that's what writer's do, right? They read. If you don't read, you'll have a hard time writing a book in general.
So dig out your dusty old library card, here in Toronto you can order from the library's online site and get it sent to your local branch, and get digging! And you may want to make a budget for yourself to buy research materials - the library is for those that are too pricey to buy, unless you can find them used.
Another major issue that I've seen in regards to research is that a writer can get so bogged down in it that they never write a word. In a strange way, you'll always feel like you don't enough. But, the beautiful thing is that you can simply write it the way that you see it while you're doing research, you can always go back and change it, if needed.
I think that some people walk into a book that involves writing history thinking its simple, assuming that since they know a little they know everything , but its very far from it. Then they get so overwhelmed by what they need to know, sometimes they even give up. And I think that's sad. We lose a lot of great stories that way.