When Deborah J. Ross interviewed me for her blog, one of her questions made me reflect on myself as a writer. She asked, “[H]ow does your work differ from others in your genre?”
I reflected a bit, and came to this realization: “My stories sound like my stories, regardless of what subset of the genre they fit in.”
Then this week, I shared a couple of poems I wrote with my sister, Katrinka Moore, who is a poet. (I don’t consider myself a poet; I’ve just been playing around with poetry to learn new ways of looking at language and shake up my creativity.)
She made this observation: “Your poems are very you – as you speaking – and yet very much poems.”
I think a similar observation could be applied to my essays, maybe even my book reviews. What I write sounds like something I would write or say. The only significant writing I’ve done that doesn’t sound like me on some core level is probably straightforward journalism. That might also explain why journalism never satisfied my writing urge, even though I found the work interesting and rewarding: It didn’t have anything to do with me.
My stories, my essays, my poems, all of them have everything to do with me. I don’t mean they’re autobiographical; except for a few pieces I call “flash memoir,” most of them aren’t. But there’s something at the core that comes from me and the way I think and look at the world.
Here’s my review of For the Good of the Realm, by Treehouse Writer’s own Nancy Jane Moore (Aqueduct)
The elevator pitch for this charming historical fantasy is “The Three Musketeers With Women.” That does not do justice to the book by a long shot. The concept is familiar enough, from both the novels by Alexandre Dumas and the many film adaptations. In this swashbuckler tale, heroic, chivalrous swordsmen fight for justice and for their unbreakable friendship. The original, written in 1844, featured men in all the fun roles, with women being either weepy and weak or deviously evil. But why should the men have all the fun? I expect just about every female reader or viewer has railed at the injustice of depriving half the human race of such valorous deeds. Nancy Jane Moore, a thoughtful writer and skilled martial artist, has now set things right.
For the Good of the Realm is and isn’t like The Three Musketeers. There’s a realm like France, a royal couple divided by politics, each served by their own dedicated guard, and the head of the Church bent on cementing their own power. In this world, however, the Queen’s Guard is comprised of women, and the King’s Guard of men, and the queen’s advisors are largely women, as is the Hierophante. Add to this the existence of magic, condemned by the Church, arousing superstitious dread but freely used by the enemies of the Realm. There is no green recruit, D’Artagnan, but a pair of women friends from the Queen’s Guard – Anna D’Gart and Aramis, who fights duels as an amusement and cannot quite seem to give up her bawdy relations to become a priest. Each has a lover from the King’s Guard from whom they must keep secrets, but with whom they occasionally join forces.
The structure of this novel reflects the style to which it does homage. The point of view straddles the divide between third and omniscient, less intimate than is currently in vogue but marvelously evocative of Dumas and his contemporaries. Moore’s control of language and tone never falters as she draws the reader into not only a different world but a slightly different way of experiencing that world. Today we confuse “closeness” in point of view with emotional closeness to a character, but as Dumas and now Moore demonstrate, readers can feel very much in touch with a character through the careful depiction of actions and words. This is, after all, how we come to understand the people in our lives. “The adventures of…” implies an episodic arrangement, but here each chapter and each incident builds on what has come before and lays the foundation for what is to come in subtle, complex ways. The final confrontation between Anna d’Gart and the evil, scheming Hierophante is less a Death Star explosion than it is the inevitable showdown between two highly competent chess players.
In reflecting on the pleasure of immersing myself in For the Good of the Realm, it strikes me as a tapestry created by a master weaver. There is an overall picture but the intricate details and skill of the stitchery – the lives and relationships of the characters – are what lend it depth and resonance.
Order it from Amazon here or from your favorite bookstore.
One of my spiritual children mentioned the other day that she identified as “she/her” but was no longer certain what that really meant. She calls me Xena so there’s that. Being a real woman in our times means being willing and able to whale on anyone to defend your life and family. I know a lot of people don’t believe or understand that, but take it from Xena — yes it does.
In 2004, I began a story about a couple featuring my all-purpose guy, Gary the ergonomic architect, and his wife, a short-sighted, bossy shrew loosely based on awful women I’d known. The idea was “should parents ‘improve’ their children with gene therapy — or should they let nature take its course?” I became interested in the topic because I had become unexpectedly pregnant with my son Anthony and sought genetic counseling. Talking with the counselor inspired my thoughts about the story.
I wasn’t ready to write about this, so I left the story unfinished.
In the story, Gary has interchanges with “House” — an unbranded version of Alexa or Google Home (story initially written 2004).
A slight twist on these commercial smart home devices is that Gary designed House, presumably using tech similar to Alexa — but “House” has somewhat of a personality, as well as safety and help features. House is always offering help to Gary.
When I finished this story, which my ego-mind thinks of as my “Ray Carver” story because of its compression and language (it’s exactly 5,000 words long) I knew I’d achieved many personal goals with my short fiction.
But there is a corollary and it is waiting patiently outside my office. Ah yes, I have an office now! No-fricking-way-yes-way.
Yes, even we have a robot vacuum now. This isn’t specifically an endorsement for the brand, but “Eufy” is now a member of our household. Because we have no stairs, there’s little fear that even if Eufy goes rogue in the middle of the night, he will trip Bruce, turning him into a quadriplegic like Telly Savalas in the “Living Doll” Twilight Zone episode. If you haven’t seen that — it’s basically what the Chucky movies are — let’s say — “inspired by.” Good old Talking Tina.
You know what the most awesome thing about living in our times is?
I’m pretty good about predicting the colors for next season, thinking of things that will happen next, and imagining products of the future.
You know that “sorting hat” in the Harry Potter stories? That’s the closest metaphor for what’s coming next based on genetic profiles. People have written about it in a very negative way (used for classism, “ubermensch” etc). They can f-off and by the way anybody who’d say that or think that is by definition, untermensch trash. They’re scummy crap humans.
I know a lot of people don’t want that but not wanting that is a lot like the people who don’t want others to have anything, for the sole reason they fear somebody will — heaven forbid — get some of their stuff.
Stuff is stuff. It’s sure as hell not worth fighting over. Though I have to say, “Eufy” is somewhere between “stuff” and a living thing. I know that’s controversial but I think “Robots R People too.”
The future is great as long as we make our present moments of today as wonderful as possible.
I for one am glad that “Eufy” has come to live in our home. And I’ll put my genes up against anyone’s. That’s the point. It’s not about you pieces of trash that invest every waking moment in getting over on, ripping off, exploiting, looking down on, or presenting you are “better” than others. You’re Carolyn in “Perfect Stranger.” You’re Denny, who can’t even respect his own dad. You’re Donald J. Trump even as you tell yourself how much better you are than him. F off. Go to the lonely, sad, scared place that is your withered and black tiny shriveled heart.
Live life like a human for a change. You might learn something and enjoy yourself for a moment.
I’ve frequently observed that my high school history teacher taught us that the Civil War was fought between us and them. Since this was in Texas, you can probably guess which side was “us”.
In the past, I said this more or less as a joke. Not that it wasn’t true – it was very true – but my intention was to mock those history lessons, to point out that the small town where I went to high school was so far behind the times.
Now, though, as Texas and other states pass laws to prevent history teachers from telling the truth about U.S. history, this memory of my education makes me want to cry. While I was fortunate to grow up in a family that rejected the Lost Cause narrative and Jim Crow racism, the rest of the world in which I lived was defined by those lies at every turn.
I saw those lies for what they were, but I somehow managed to both assume that things were changing – it was the time of the activist Civil Rights Movement – and that some things, like monuments to the traitors who led the Confederate Army, would always be with us.
I turned out to be wrong on both counts. We did make some progress on racism, enough that these days there are many powerful African American voices that call it out regularly, but not enough to keep it from remaining a powerful force in this country and not enough to fix all the systemic racism that we are only now beginning to discuss.
And we are finally reckoning with the fact that the Civil War was an act of treason by those who wanted to continue enslaving other human beings. Despite the backlash going on from white supremacists and in some state legislatures, we’re talking about this horrific part of our history in terms I never expected to hear. Continue reading “Time to Learn Our Real History”…
I had yesterday off, so I took the opportunity, fully vaxxed as all parties were, to drive up to visit my daughter and son in law, whom I had not seen in well over a year and a half because, well, you know what happened.
What did we do? Hugged, first off. Lots and lots of hugging. And talked (we are not, under the best of circumstances, a taciturn family, but I think we set a world record for nattering. Ate sushi in quantity, walked around the downtown area, ate frozen custard and Italian ices (in combination. Weird, but delicious). Talked more. And every so often there was more spontaneous squishing, because it’s been a long long time between hugs.
It pleases me to think that this is a play being enacted all around the country. So happy to do my small part in it.
Some years ago I started work on an alternate universe where the English Jewish population is significantly larger than the one we know, where there are many types of magic and much administration to keep it polite and then I thought, “I want a superhero novel set in that universe.” More than that, I wanted the superheroes to come from our universe. I set up a pocket universe to bridge the two and wondered what it would be like if a twelve year old Australian girl entered by mistake and never left. I wrote a novella to test the idea and then I went to France in 2018, to research it.
I researched many other things at the same time, for I’m still and always an historian and I had many questions I needed answers for. My burning one (not for the novel) was what happens one hundred years after land is destroyed by war. How do people find culture, rebuild, talk about the past? I’ll write about my discoveries one day.
What I wrote into my novel was modern Amiens, and a town in my little pocket universe. The town’s architecture came from what I learned about post-war building and the dances and culture I gave the good people of Tsarfat began there but included more recent French culture, both the good and the bad.
While I wrote the novel I dreamed of a bal musette in a country where people have green skin. I dreamed of what powers people could win by going through a dangerous door, and I listed all the different kinds of magic England could have based upon its history and historical beliefs.
This is the moment before my dreams reach the outside world.
Each novel has its own path in the outside world. I have a deep and vast desire with this one that readers will take my dreams and add their own, that they will walk in my France and my England and my Tsarfat. I took hundreds of pictures as my world came to life in my mind. To make it easier, I plan to share my pictures, some on Patreon in a few days, others on any website or at any online convention that wants to join my magic journey.
Why do I have this deep and vast desire? An imagined journey is the perfect way to explore in this difficult time. I love the thought of safe excitement in the strange time we live in.
For the Good of the Realm made its official bow into the world today (June 1). This is my second novel, a tale of swordswomen and witches that owes a debt of gratitude to Alexandre Dumas and The Three Musketeers.
It’s from Aqueduct Press. You can order the trade paperback or ebook editions (both epub and mobi) directly from them. Here’s an excerpt to whet your appetite.
Here’s what some others have had to say about the book:
Publishers Weekly: “This lighthearted, female-led fantasy adventure from Moore (The Weave) follows a pair of Queen’s Guards—staid, circumspect Anna and feisty, impulsive Asamir—as they become em–broiled in the machinations of the rulers of Grande Terre. As the threat of war looms and a sinister undercurrent of forbidden magic becomes harder for Anna to ignore, the two women must out-fight and out-think the enemies of the realm in a series of duels and cloak-and-dagger intrigues…. With a principal cast of mostly women, this is sure to appeal to readers looking for stories of empowered female characters that go beyond simply giving them swords.”
Lesley Wheeler, author of Unbecoming: “For the Good of the Realm is a sparkling tournament of a novel, full of thrills as well as feats of storytelling bravado. Moore has invented a feminist medieval otherworld that is egalitarian in its sword and sorcery, yet political intrigue ultimately rules as Anna, a stalwart member of the Queen’s Guard, collaborates with a range of surprising characters to foil the nefarious plots of a power-hungry Hierofante. Spirited and funny, this is a great read.”
Tansy Rayner Roberts, author of Musketeer Space and The Creature Court Trilogy: “For the Good of the Realm is a splendid, swashbuckling romp that captures the very spirit of the Musketeers. The author weaves palace intrigue, swordplay, romance, and divided loyalties into a deeply satisfying fantasy adventure with women at the center of the narrative, wielding and negotiating power.”
In addition to the publisher’s website, you can order this book through:
On Memorial Day of 2020, as the pandemic was really getting going and many were sheltering in isolation, a new tradition was initiated: Taps Across America. Assisted by publicity from Steve Hartman of CBS’s On the Road, the movement inspired thousands of Americans to pause at 3:00 p.m. local time and play “Taps.”
The idea came from the National Moment of Remembrance in honor of Memorial Day, an annual event initiated by Congress in 2000. Americans, wherever they are at 3:00 p.m. local time on Memorial Day, are asked to pause for one minute to remember those who have died in military service to the United States. Because the pandemic had us staying at home instead of getting together for barbecues in 2020, this was a way of doing something together to honor the moment.
It’s almost enough to make me want to learn to play the bugle. Though I am not a buglar, I do play the clarinet, and I intend to play “Taps” at 3:00 p.m. on Memorial Day this year.
Because it’s this kind of shared moment that can save our country. This kind of thing brings us together, at a time when so many forces are seeking to divide us. This kind of moment is what America needs to heal its collective soul.
While my own immediate family doesn’t include military veterans, my spouse’s family does, and I will be honoring them as well with my playing. I invite you to join me in this moment, if not by playing “Taps,” then by observing the National Moment of Remembrance.
When I first started thinking about getting a dog, I knew that I wanted a companion who could come along with me on hikes.I thought a lot about the physical characteristics I’d want – and kinda overlooked the mental elements.
Most healthy dogs will take a long walk with you. Not every dog is cut out to be a camping buddy, with its discomforts, intrusions by other people – and wildlife – and often unpredictable weather.I knew Max had the legs and stamina to keep up with me on a camping trip.But would she enjoy it?
It turns out, lots of readers want stand-alone short fiction — short stories, novelettes, even novellas, which are basically short novels. They like being able to finish a story in a single sitting, as well as the conciseness and jewel-like precision of short fiction. I’ve been bringing out some of my best, most recent, in this format.
“The Poisoned Crown,” will be out on June 1 and is available for pre-order here.
The king is dead, long live the prince, but not for long if his stepmother the Queen Regent has anything to say about it. So he appeals to the one person he can trust, his father’s best swordswoman and secret lover. Venise wants nothing more than to bury herself in her grief at the king’s death, but her conscience will not allow her to abandon the young man who is so like his father. The only question is whether the two of them can stand against the Queen Regent’s black magic.
I hope you enjoy it! To whet your appetite, here I read the opening.