Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Holidays with Rockwell!

This is just a short post to say Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone. I was going to draw a holiday picture, but never got around to it, so instead, I decided to share some of my favorite pictures from my favorite artist, Norman Rockwell! Enjoy, and Happy Holidays everyone!!!

This one always reminds me of the Three Musketeers ;-D






(Obviously, these pictures don't belong to me, but I'm putting this disclaimer here just in case: All pictures belong to the brilliant artist, Norman Rockwell, I am just sharing them with you!)

Nollaig Shona!
Merry Christmas


Slainte, Hazel

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas With the Highwaymen

As a special holiday treat for everyone, I decided to write a short Christmas story with the characters from my book, Ballad of the Highwayman. This one is kind of a filler between book one and book two which is not yet written, but it holds no spoilers, so if you have not read the original book, it will not matter. Eventually, I hope to write a lot of filler stories, both before the first book and between the two, and maybe even some after the second one, and publish them as an anthology once I finish the sequel. This is the first of those little stories, and I hope you all enjoy it!
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A Christmas to Remember
Kilroy Allen rode through town on his way back home from picking up a few things Sylvia had asked him to get for supper. It was already dark, the days being shorter this time of year, and his horse, Horatius’ breath clouded in the cold night air. He leaned over and patted the horse on the neck.
“It will snow within the next couple of days, my boy,” he told him gently and then pulled his cloak closer around himself. It really was cold, but it felt good, and he was happy. It was the first Christmas he would spend with Sylvia in their lovely house since the old days when they were children. And Jeffcoat’s bride, Poppy, who he had married that summer much to everyone’s joy. Kilroy was certainly glad his old partner in crime had found someone to settle down with as well. 
A band of carolers were strolling down the street in front of the warmly lit windows of houses and shops, singing carols heartily. It was a good time to be merry again. The last few years after Cromwell’s death had been much merrier by far since King Charles II had brought back Christmas celebration and merrymaking. Kilroy reached into his purse and tossed several coins into the hat of a lad who was singing with the carolers and the boy touched his forelock and grinned at him.
Kilroy was just passing his old apartment when he caught sight of a slumped figure sitting on the side of the street by the stables next door to his former housing. He pulled up and the small figure looked up at him in slight surprise. Kilroy himself was none the less so.
“George, lad!” he cried. “What are you doing out here in the cold, it’s freezing!”
“I was just sitting out here Mr. Allen,” he said nonchalantly but before he turned his head back down, Kilroy caught sight of bruising on the left side of his face in a street light. He slid off his horse and crouched down next to the stable boy. George had always been a cheerful lad and had taken good care of Horatius when Kilroy used to stable him in the town livery. He did not like to see the boy so depressed and with marks of bad treatment to boot.
“Who did that to you, George?” he asked, unable to keep all the anger out of his voice.
“Oh, I bumped into a wall, Mr. Allen,” the boy told him with a shrug, but he winced and shivered. Kilroy took off his cloak and, to the boy’s protests, wrapped it around his shoulders.
“You don’t expect me to believe that, lad,” he said as he sat down next to him, taking his face gently so he could look into his eyes. “You know you can tell me.”
George sighed and looked down at his feet. “Mr. Ferris sold the livery a month ago because his sister lost her husband and he went to go live with her and help take care of her farm.  He offered to bring me with him, but I do love working with horses, and I didn’t think the new man would be like he turned out to be. He seemed fine at first, but afterward, he started drinking a lot and he would beat the horses for no reason. I didn’t like that and I tried to stop him, but he started to beat me instead. Now, he’s gone off to another town for the holidays and he left me here with no money. I don’t know what to do. I haven’t eaten all day.”
“Why didn’t you go to the Richards’ place?” Kilroy asked. “Mrs. Richards would give you something to eat. You know she wouldn’t turn you away whether you paid or not.”
George blushed slightly. “There’s been so many people there, I...I didn’t want them to think I was begging.”
Kilroy almost smiled at the lad’s sense of dignity and nodded in agreement. “Well, then you won’t have to. You’ll be my guest for the holidays, and afterward, I will find your employer and have words with him.”
“I couldn’t!” George protested. “I cannot impose upon you during your holiday!”
“You can hardly sit on the side of the street either,” Kilroy told him firmly and drew him up with an arm around his shoulders. “Come now. It’s Christmas Eve, and Poppy has a lovely supper planned for tonight. I just picked up some of Mrs. Dayley’s cider to go with it; you look like you could use some cider.”
George smiled for the first time and nodded. “I suppose if you invited me, I can hardly refuse.”
“You cannot,” Kilroy told him in a mock stern voice and lifted the boy, still wrapped tightly in his cloak, onto Horatius’ back. Kilroy mounted behind him and then was off back to the Davies’ mansion, eager to tuck into the meal that awaited them.
The big house was warmly lit as he rode into the yard and George helped him take care of Horatius and put a blanket over him as Kilroy filled his feeding trough with oats.
“Merry Christmas, old friend,” he told the horse with a friendly pat before he put a hand on George’s shoulder and led him inside.
The house was in a merry bustle. The halls had been decked throughly with holly berries and evergreen boughs. That, mixed with the smell of the cooking, brought an instant smile to George’s face and Kilroy grinned at him. “Come then, let’s get you cleaned up a bit before supper. I’ll see if Sylvia can find you something warmer to wear as well.”
They headed back to the kitchen and Kilroy caught sight of Roster Scarcliff lounging in the doorway under a sprig of mistletoe, watching the bustle in the room. He turned as he heard Kilroy growl slightly behind him and grinned in his usual charming way.
“Ah, Kilroy, don’t growl. We’re standing under the mistletoe. We should shake hands. You do know enemies meeting under the mistletoe should form a truce?”
“If you believed that was the only thing mistletoe was good for, I highly doubt you would be standing there,” Kilroy replied blandly. “The only women in there are married, my friend, and if you even dare kiss Sylvia on the cheek, I shall not honor any truce mistletoe might merit.” Roster shrugged, but moved out of the doorway. “Suit yourself, but I should warn you, Claude and Thomas will be coming later. And you know what Claude is like.”
Kilroy looked up at the mistletoe, considering taking it down when Roster caught sight of George. He grinned.
“Well, good eve, lad,” he said. “What are you doing here tonight?”
“He’s my guest for the holidays,” Kilroy told Roster.
“He looks like he could use a good square meal,” Sylvia commented coming over to them and kissing Kilroy quickly as he was still standing under the infamous sprig. She smiled down at George, taking in his ragged appearance that Kilroy could see all the more now that they were in the light. “Come, George, wash up before supper. And I’ll see if I can’t find you anything clean to wear.”
George thanked her and followed out of the room. Kilroy stepped into the kitchen with Roster to greet Jeffcoat and his wife Poppy who was pulling a meat pie out of the oven. He placed the cider on the flour-covered table and reached for a slice of ham when Poppy smacked his hand with her wooden spoon.
“Not yet!” she scolded him. “You men, get out of the kitchen!”
“Don’t worry,” Jeff laughed as Kilroy rubbed his smarting knuckles. “She did the same to me. Was that George you brought with you?”
Kilroy frowned and nodded. “Aye, it is. I found him sitting on the side of the road. That man who bought the livery from Ferris beat him. Drunkard too; you know the type.”
“I do,” Jeffcoat said darkly, immediately sober. Kilroy knew he had run away from a drunk employer himself to live as a poacher in the woods where Kilroy had found him when they were both boys. “I know the type all too well. Who is he?”
“His name’s Devlin,” Roster said. “I didn’t like the looks of him myself, but I had no idea he was beating the boy. If I had, I would have shown him a thing or two about beating.”
“We should pay him a visit,” Jeff said, his face flushed with anger. “I’d like to show him something myself.”
“Not now, Jeff dear,” Poppy told him, running a hand gently over his cheek as she passed him on her way to the oven. “Kilroy brought George here to make him feel better. Cheer up, love. After the holiday is over, you can go and beat the stuffing out of him.”
Jeff had to smile. “Very well, I’ll wait to beat him until after Christmas.”
“Lovely spirit,” Sylvia said blandly, though not without a smile, as she came back into the kitchen and took up the bottles of cider and several of wine that Kilroy had brought back. “Claude and Thom are here, Kilroy. George is with them right now.”
“Sylvia,” Kilroy told her with a serious expression. “Careful of the mistletoe.”
She laughed at him and patted his cheek gently. “I know how to deal with dear Claude, Roy. You know he means no harm.”
Kilroy snorted and then went out to greet his comrades before Poppy recruited him for table setting as she had done Roster and Jeff. 
He smiled to see George with a happy grin on his face as he was talking to the two highwaymen, Claude du Val, the dashing young Frenchman and Colonel Thomas Blood. The boy looked a lot cleaner though the bruises still spread across his left cheek and Kilroy had the suspicion that there were other bruises covered by his clothing. He was wearing an old outfit of Kilroy’s that had not fit him for years. He wondered at it still being there, but knew that Sylvia had her ways. With his hair brushed and wearing less shabby clothing, George looked warmer and a lot happier; he was laughing at a story Claude was telling him. Kilroy went forward to greet them and the two highwaymen clasped hands with their host, greeting him heartily.
“A present for you Kilroy,” Claude told him, holding up a bottle of wine. “I found this last week in a coach. It’s a vintage from France!”
“You found it, you say?” Kilroy asked with a raised brow, taking the bottle from the Frenchman. 
“You know how it works,” Claude told him with a wink.
“And Maguire sent a keg of his ale,” Thomas added, motioning to the small barrel sitting beside him. Kilroy thanked him. They were all in agreement that the Irishman who ran the highwaymen’s favorite haunt, the Fiddler’s Rant, brewed the best ale to be found in the country. 
“Come in and sit down,” Kilroy told them. “Supper is nearly ready. But we can start off with a mug of the ale.”
They settled down in the parlor, Kilroy procuring mugs of ale for them and one of cider for George who sat by the fire, looking much more like his old happy self as he sipped the drink and warmed his back. Jeff glanced over at him several times and smiled finally to himself to see that the lad really was comfortable and not just pretending for their benefit.
Before long, Sylvia came to tell them that supper was ready and they filed to the table, chatting happily. Kilroy took Sylvia’s hand and sat her at the table properly, taking his own place at the head. 
It was a lovely meal, and the food was expertly prepared by Poppy. Kilroy, for one was incredibly glad Jeff had married the woman, as now they had someone who not only liked to cook, but could do so very well. He still remembered the first time Sylvia had tried to cook supper. They had nearly lost the Davies’ mansion and would have, had Jeffcoat and Kilroy not been so quick with the water. That was the last time Sylvia had tried to cook anything. 
They told stories of past exploits, and many there were with most of the table’s occupants being highwaymen. Through the whole meal, George listened with utter attention, sitting between Jeffcoat and Poppy. He ate heartily, Jeff’s pretty wife filling his plate whenever he emptied it, until he could not eat another bite. As they turned more to drink than the depleted food, Kilroy stood, raising his glass to his guests.
“My friends, my love,” he added, smiling down at Sylvia, “Let me propose a toast. Let us drink to our good King Charles. And to the demise of Oliver Cromwell. Our fair country is once again fair, and thanks to our king, we can once again celebrate Christmas.”
“Here, here,” Roster added, standing up as well with a grin, clashing his cup against Kilroy’s before he drank heartily.
“To friends,” Jeffcoat added, standing as well.
“A health to them,” Claude grinned as he drank.
“To family,” Sylvia added, standing and putting her free hand on Kilroy’s arm.
“Agreed, my dear,” Kilroy told her and drank before he kissed her.
They all sat again and Poppy smiled. “Anyone want dessert?”
They all groaned but in good humor.
“Spare us for now, Poppy,” Kilroy told her with a grin, patting his stomach. “Later, I am sure we will all be up for pies and such, but right now I think we’re completely stuffed.”
“But there’s still food on the table,” she told them with a twinkle in her eyes.
“And we shall clear it, for we plan to go out with the carolers,” Sylvia told them, standing up to start clearing the table. “If everyone helps, we will go faster.” Roster took the first dishes in obediently, the women right behind him. George took platers as well, wanting to do all he could to repay the supper. His belly was fuller than it had been for weeks.
Claude lingered in the doorway of the kitchen, supposedly talking to Roster when Sylvia came back through. He grabbed her and kissed her quickly on the cheek.
“Caught under the mistletoe,” he laughed at her as she glared at him for it.
Kilroy grabbed the Frenchman and hauled him back into the kitchen. “I would stay away from the mistletoe, if I were you. It might have escaped your notice, but the only women here are married.”
“We should have invited more ladies,” Claude grumbled and straightened his lapels that Kilroy had grabbed.
Once the supper things were picked up, they bundled up tightly to go out to town. Kilroy loaned George a second cloak that they tucked up so it wouldn’t drag the ground.
“Cozy, lad?” Poppy asked him kindly.
“Yes ma’am,” George told her and she smiled, putting a hand on his shoulder to lead him outside.
“We’ll take the carriage,” Kilroy told them. “We should all be able to fit. Jeff and I will drive.”
“Nonsense,” Thomas Blood said, helping him hitch the horses. “You married men sit with your wives. Roster, Claude and I will sit on the top. You all sit inside with the lad.”
They laughed and chatted happily as they made their way to the town and once there, they made sure the horses were cared for before they went to join a group of carolers. The only ones among them who really had true voices were Poppy and Roster, but no one really sang very well anyway, especially after such a repast, and it was all in good fun. They enjoyed themselves more than anyone else listening to them did.
Mrs. Richards, who ran the best inn and eatery in town came out to meet them as they stood outside her shop and bade them come inside to warm up. They trooped in and crowded the seats, rosy-cheeked and laughing as they pulled gloves and hats off. The kind landlady passed out mugs of coffee and chocolate and hot pastries filled with berries. 
George, on his part, thought, as he licked the berry filling off his fingers, that he had not had such a lovely holiday ever. He had almost felt like he was part of a family again. Mr. Ferris had always treated him kindly, but he had never really felt like George’s family. He remembered only a bit about his parents, who he had lost when he was only six years old, and had almost immediately been found by Ferris and asked to work for him. He realized that this evening alone would make him regret leaving Kilroy and the others. He had not thought of doing anything besides working at the stables as he always had. Now he wondered if perhaps he could find another job. He would not particularly like to work for Devlin anymore, but nor did he want to see the horses hurt by him either. He knew that he would not be able to quit the job unless he knew Devlin would not hurt anyone else.
Just as he was thinking this, the door to the Richards’ inn slammed open and everyone looked up to see a dark-haired, heavyset man storm in, his face red with the cold and anger, and most likely a good bit of liquor.
“Where’s the little brat, eh?” he shouted. “Shirking his duty to sit and drink chocolate! I’ll whip the hide from him, so I will!”
“At least he wasn’t shirking his duty to drink brandy,” Roster said in a dangerous voice and the man spun around to stare at him. He was about to challenge Roster when he caught sight of George sitting between Poppy and Sylvia at one of the tables. The boy went pale as he saw the older man and Sylvia put a firm hand on his shoulder to keep him from rising.
“That’s my boy!” Devlin said, pointing to George. “Let me have him so I can teach him a lesson he has long since deserved!”
“Why don’t you teach it to me instead,” Kilroy told him coldly, standing up and starting to pull the coat from his shoulders. “I have no qualms about how I get my hands dirty.”
Jeff grabbed his arm and shoved him back down. “Not you, Roy. You don’t need to get into any more trouble. I’ll take care of this worthless drunkard.”
He shed his own coat and stepped up to Devlin, his wiry frame looking small next to the heavyset man. Devlin sneered at him.
“I’d like to see you try to take me single-handedly, you scrawny weasel.” 
Jeff grinned at him. “All right, fatty. We’ll see how it goes.” He wasted no time and swung a right to Devlin’s jaw, connecting sharply.
The bigger man staggered back a pace before he swung at Jeff quicker than expected in his inebriated condition. The blow connected with the side of Jeff’s face, and he spun half around with the force, but kept his feet and shook off the hit, touching his split cheekbone gingerly as he turned back to his opponent. Devlin had taken a horsewhip from the back of his belt and he uncoiled it.
“Perhaps this will teach you better manners,” he said and brought back the whip to strike at Jeff.
Jeffcoat, however, knew how to stop a horsewhip. He reached out for it, letting it wrap around his arm before he grabbed it and yanked, pulling Devlin into an unsteady lurch forward. As he fell, Jeff brought his knee up with a resounding crack into the bigger man’s jaw and Devlin fell with a slight whimper into a heap on the floor, out cold. Jeffcoat tossed the whip down next to him in disgust.
“Someone go call the sheriff,” he said. “This man is no longer fit to be roaming the town at will.”
A young man ran out to fetch the sheriff as George stood up to go over to Jeff, looking down at his former employer.
“What now?” he asked, though not necessarily worriedly.
Jeff put a firm hand on his shoulder as he bent to pick up his coat. “George, You’re not going back to that stable. That’s no place for a good lad like you. You need someone who can provide for you; teach you a trade. Poppy and I are going to take you in, lad. We have no children yet, and, well, I would love a son, George.”
George was so stunned by the proposition that all he could stammer out was, “But..But what about the horses? No one will be there to take care of them!”
“I’m sure someone will take over the livery, dear boy,” Poppy told him, brushing the hair from his face in a soothing gesture. 
“And as you seem good with horses,” Jeff added, “You’ll be able to help me very well. I’m going to go into breeding. The fastest horses around is what I want. For special clients only,” he added quietly and winked.
“Do you mean it?” George asked, still in a state of surprise, unable to take it all in at once.
“Of course they mean it, dear boy!” Kilroy told him with a grin. “Jeff and Poppy are two of the most wonderful people I know, and I have no doubt they will treat you like their own son by tomorrow morning.”
George could hardly stop the tears that flowed from his eyes and Jeff drew him to his chest in an embrace. “He’s right, George. And I hope you will see us as much a family as we see you.”
“Thank you,” George mumbled, his voice muffled in Jeff’s shirt. Poppy embraced him as well and leaned down to kiss him on the head.
The town clock struck twelve bells and new songs started up from the carolers in the streets. Kilroy drew Sylvia into his arms and George lifted his head agin, wiping the tears from his eyes with a grin on his face.
“This is the best Christmas ever!” he told them all and they laughed happily.
Kilroy kissed Sylvia then turned to the others. “Merry Christmas everyone!”
They celebrated long into the night, and that was definitely a Christmas George never forgot; the Christmas he got his family.

fin.

If you liked this, go and get a copy of Ballad of the Highwayman either from my Createspace store listed in my links or from Amazon.com. And also don't forget to write in to Pepys' Advice Column for holiday questions, or any questions really, whether they be troubles, or questions about historical customs and such. And do remember to check the poll to tell me who your favorite highwayman is. It will be up by the end of the month! 

Slainte, Hazel

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Types of Villains Through Literature

This is a companion post to my last one "Four Character Types in Four Musketeers" and as a special treat, I have asked Mara from 667B Bakerstreet to co-post with me since she has read a lot and I needed someone to help me think up different famous villains from books as examples. We found there are a few more different villain types than there are heroes. But then, your baddies are usually a more complex character than your heroes so that's kind of understandable. Anyway, we found some examples for you to take into consideration. As I have not read all the books Mara mentions, I added my own villains to the different types as well. Hers are in italics and mine are just regular.


Gehn from Myst: The Book of Atrus (Rand Miller) 
Your classic god-complex villain. Driven by grief for loss of his father, his wife, and his entire race (the D’ni), Gehn becomes bitter and hardened towards everything. He slowly became corrupted by the idea that his people – the D’ni – were superior to all races; that they were virtually gods, and he becomes obsessed to the point of insanity with controlling other worlds – as their god. Gehn hates his son, Atrus (the hero), because Atrus does not share Gehn’s “god dreams,” thus Atrus embodies the weakness which Gehn believes led to the D’ni’s total destruction. Gehn is a villain the Reader wants to, at first, feel sorry for, but as the story goes on, the Reader learns that Gehn has no humanity left. His insanity is cold, calculating, and he never does anything without a purpose, which makes him so frightening. He destroys entire worlds without thought, and his unbelievable cruelty to Atrus, his own son, isn’t necessarily for spite, but simply to cow one of his servants into submission once more. 


The villains who have this complex are incredibly dangerous, and the kind you just want to off in the worst way. Gehn to me sounds almost borderline Hitler which always makes for a memorable villain, no matter what you're writing. I'd like to bring to attention that (though, I've probably said this before in an earlier post) the villain is truly the most important character in the book. Your hero might be great, but if he doesn't have a good villain, well, he can hardly be a hero! In the short, making a memorable villain will make a memorable book!

The Keeper from Entwined (Heather Dixon) 
The mysterious villain who is undeniably attractive, and never loses his cool. Even when he is being horribly cruel, The Keeper behaves as a gentleman. When the Reader first meets him, you’re not sure if he’s a bad guy, but at the same time, you get this creepy feeling along your skin that something about him is just not genuine. This is a villain who utterly lacks a compassionate side to appeal to. The more you suffer, the more The Keeper is happy, even if he acts as if he isn’t. Here is a villain who has magical powers, but he rarely uses them, proving that he doesn’t need them to get what he wants. 


This type of villain reminds me a bit of Mordaunt from Twenty Years After by Alexander Dumas. When he was first introduced, you weren't sure what he was really like, but as he kept popping up later in the book, you saw him for who he really was.  He also had a somewhat high and mighty appeal and used it to his advantage to get what he wanted, and to escape the law. I liked Mordaunt as an incredibly well-crafted villain, though I would never want to meet him on a dark night!

Ralph Nickleby from Nicholas Nickleby (Charles Dickens) 
Here’s your money-pinching villain who thinks of everyone as a cockroach, and considers his brother’s widow and two children a mere inconvenience that won’t go away. Ralph Nickleby does everything he does to the hero (his nephew, Nicholas) purely out of spite. Nicholas, a young man who won’t tolerate tyrants, defies him at every turn and cares greatly for his remaining family. He is a constant reminder to Ralph what it is to be family, and there is, deep, deep down, a softer part of Ralph that he has boarded up. This makes his spitefulness all the more despicable, as Ralph throws Nicholas’s sister in the way of dishonorable men, and assists those people who would harm Nicholas’s friend, Smike. 


The "Evil Uncle" will never go out of style. This one obviously doesn't need any explanation. You might think of Hamlet's uncle, or even several in actual history. 

Bill Sikes from Oliver Twist (Charles Dickens) 
The villain lurking in a dark alley, waiting to murder you. Bill Sikes is the uneducated, bred-in-the-gutters, mean drunk who won’t hesitate to bash in the skulls of those who cross him. He’s malicious, purely brutal (he really will bash your skull in, quite literally), and totally believable. If someone threatens his interests, he’ll kill them, no matter what their age or gender.


These villains are probably the most dangerous, if not usually as smart as the more cold and calculating types. They'll do anything to get what they want, but they are not brave themselves. I could name a handful of these from the Louis L'Amour books and even from my own. 


 We both agreed that Morgarath from John Flanagan's Ranger's Apprentice series would be classed as a "relentless" villain. He will stop at nothing to right the wrongs done to him in the past as he shows in the books, continually trying to get his revenge on Halt for botching his battle plans years before. He's not necessarily the most evil villain perhaps, and a bit of a coward as he continually runs whenever things are looking bad, but he also has a commanding presence and a lordly nature as he was once a Baron and fancies himself able to be king someday.



Another villain choice that I personally find the most terrifying is the lady villain. I don't know why it is, but they are always the worse. Women can so often be much more cruel than men, and it's even more terrible when she is up against a male hero. Men of scruples will not usually want to hurt a women no matter how bad she is, but she will have no such scruples. (This is why, dear writers, you must give your poor hero up against a female villain, a strong woman by his side so she can take the villainess down!) The best example of female villain is Milady de Winter from The Three Musketeers. I don't usually get the shivers reading about baddies because I like to study them for myself, but Milady scared me in all her female evilness. She could also be called a relentless villain, for she would stop at nothing to get her revenge on the men who had "done her wrong" in the past. She manipulated people, she was cold and calculating, and had friends in high places so no one could really touch her. She was even the mother of Mordaunt, but though he was evil as well, he never seemed to me quite as terrible as Milady herself. I still shiver to think about what she would have done to poor Athos and D'Artagnan had she not been stopped!


A favorite type of villain of mine and a popular one when writing in the mystery genre is the mysterious, little seen villain that causes dastardly deeds, but yet stays in the shadows. What better example of this can we use than Pro. James Moriarty from Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories? His and Holmes' duel is legend in literature yet they never really meet until they fight on Riechenbach Falls in 'The Final Problem'. I remember when I first started reading the stories that I was a little disappointed in the fact that there was really not much about Moriarty and Holmes in the series. But over the years, I've come to love the little hints you see, but the stories with Moriarty in them are still my favorite.


And lastly, I am going to mention the type of villains the the reader might end up feeling sorry for. These villains are sometimes controversial, as not everyone might feel sorry for them, but they are also good to get your readers thinking. One such villain that I thought of was Brian de Bois-Guilbert from Scott's Ivanhoe. He started off to be a pretty mean guy who had done some really bad things in his past, but as the book goes on and he genuinely falls in love with Rebecca, he softens and, in my opinion, becomes a much better man. This is obviously seen as he fights Wilfred in the end and does not kill him. I rather liked Bois-Guilbert by the end of the book as well as his friend deBracy. Though deBracy is kind of one of those characters you have to laugh at because he's such a dandy.


In truth, if you want to do a proper study off all the villain types, you can probably read Brian Jacques' Redwall series. I think that through all the books, he used every type of villain imaginable.


I hope you all enjoyed reading about these villians and I hope this might help some aspiring writers. I'd like to give a big thank you to Mara for helping me with this as well!


Slainte, Hazel

Monday, December 5, 2011

Four Character Types in Four Musketeers

In writing--and even real life--there are truly only four different character types. (This is true for heroes anyway, villains are a different matter and I will probably get into that later) These four character types are seen in books and movies all the time whenever you have a group of characters. You will also probably be able to cast your own friends in these rolls. I know I can ;) I'm going to be using a popular example that I hope everyone will know. The Three Musketeers and D'Artagnan. They characterize the four character types perfectly so they will be a good example. If you have not read the book, then just listen to what I'm saying ;)

First of all we have D'Artagnan. He's the hero of the story, the main character and that which most of the story revolves. Heroes can take on any of these character types I write about today, but the usual popular traits given to your protagonist are like D'Artagnan. He's young, to start with. (Again, this may not describe your hero, but bear with me, this is only an example!) He's rash, and a bit arrogant as most young men are. He's not yet worldly wise, and he gets himself into trouble because he's too quick to act before thinking. This is a good way to start your hero out. Make them a bit stupid maybe. Characters, especially main characters sometimes need to experience growth where they learn by the end of the book not to run around slap-dash and get yourself challenged to three duels in one day. Now, D'Artagnan was rash and foolish, but he was also brave, and noble and he was loyal to his friends and would really do anything for them.

Next we have Athos. He's the unproclaimed leader of the four friends as he's one of those natural leaders who anyone will trust in a bad situation and will go to first when asking advice. He's quiet, he's melancholy, and he has a dark past that haunts him to make him so. Athos' character is another popular one to choose for your hero/protagonist if you're a fan of dark brooding heroes (which I am ;). He also is very loyal, seemingly unflappable though certain things might push him over the edge. Sardonic, though not without feelings for his good friends. Athos was almost a father figure for D'Artagnan in the books though he was not really old  enough to be thought upon as one. But there were many times he treated the young Gascon as a son or younger brother with advice and help when he needed it. If your main character is like D'Artagnan, you'll probably need an Athos to keep him in line and help him on his way.

Third, we have Aramis. Aramis is the scholar, he was training to be a priest before he got into a duel with someone and decided it was better for him to become a musketeer. He's somewhat undecided with his life, he fluctuates his feelings, but yet he is always wise and is the one who keeps the friends together, getting between arguments and such, though not above causing his own. He keeps many secrets, though none dangerous and is one of those somewhat transparent people that you can always see through and tell when he's lying. He may not tell his friends the truth, but they all know anyway. Characters like Aramis are the "quiet ones" the ones who always know what you need them to when someone needs information. Again, a type of character that is important to a book.

And lastly we have Porthos. Porthos is the rock of the group. He has no dark past to haunt him, he has no secrets and qualms, he's a man who lives life as it comes. He acts on the spur-of-the-moment and yet does not seem as rash as D'Artagnan. He tells the jokes, he's the comic relief, and because of that is a very endearing character. He might seem lackadaisical in a normal situation, but he will always come around when needed and there's danger to be taken care of. Every group of friends, needs a Porthos.

Anyway, that was my little character type analogy with the Three Musketeers and D'Artagnan. It's not definitive by any means, but these are truly the four most popular character types you see. I hope to write a companion to this post about villains. They are completely different creatures all together!

Slainte, Hazel

By the way, if there is ever any particular aspect of writing you wish me to address, please let me know! I'm here to help you inspiring writers or even seasoned ones who need a new idea. Don't hesitate to ask!
And also write in to Samuel Pepys for holiday help! You know what to do!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Books of Note: Two Cozy Stories for the Holidays

Looking for a cozy Christmas story to curl up with this holiday season? Here's a couple suggestions from me written by Lynn Kurland, the writer of medieval time-travel romances. Her two short Christmas stories The Three Wise Ghosts  and The Gift of Christmas Past are fun little reads, with enough cozy and definitely lots of good humor, especially in The Three Wise Ghosts where three match-making ghosts cause all kinds of trouble to get two of their descendants to fall in love, including blowing up the guy's laptop, his car, and destroying all their clothes so that the only thing they have left to wear is medieval outfits--including curly-toed court shoes. The Gift of Christmas Past sees the heroine falling into a faery ring on Christmas eve and finding herself stuck in Medieval England as the guest of this dashing knight. And also, there's the ghost of her old cat.

Both of these stories can be found in Kurland's anthology Love Came Just in Time, which can be found on my Amazon AStore.

And don't forget to write into Pepys' advice column!

Slainte, Hazel

Monday, November 28, 2011

How to know when you have written a good Death Scene

Happy subject for the holiday season!! But really, I think this is an important thing to touch on for writers, especially inexperienced ones. I think everyone has trouble with death scenes--at least when it comes to killing off good-guys, but I'll also be getting into villain deaths as well.

First off, the different levels of character death:

One: Death before the book actually begins or in the prologue. This is a popular plot choice to give your hero some angst or make him an orphan or such things. If your hero has no parents and might have to fend for himself at an early age, this might change him into the kind of person you need him to be later on. I use this myself in Ballad of the Highwayman where Kilroy's father is executed, thus giving me my whole plot line, as he tries to find the man responsible for betrayed him. Louis L'Amour also uses this plot in several of his books like The Lonesome Gods and To Tame a Land. Or Marcus' father in Eagle of the Ninth.

Two: The extras. These are the lackeys and unnamed soldiers your hero or villain cuts down in his course of action. These are what movie makers call "extras". The gap fillers. No one really cares about them enough to cry when they die, but they serve their purpose as well. Especially when it comes to the villain. It's important to show the reader what the villain is capable of before he gets his hands on the hero so the reader will have terrible anticipations about what might happen when he gets into the villains clutches. These people are the front line, the message boy who brings bad news to the baddie and such like that.

Three: Sidekick/mentor deaths. These are a little harder to write as these are usually main characters who might be in it just as much as the hero, but are still dispensable if need be. It's not popular to kill off a sidekick, but it can be done if you wish. Sometimes in a book you need to get rid of one of the good characters to drive the hero. Best friends will work or even killing off their love interest (which is a very cruel and overused plot anyway) Usually the mentor/father figure is the one to go. I've always been a fan of the mentor/father figure characters in books, though I'll admit that I have not yet killed one of my own off.

Four: Actual hero deaths. You can always choose to kill your hero off. Even if he's just mostly dead or something. This is usually called a tragedy (unless he's mostly dead like in The Princess Bride), for those of you who have not studied literature. Though if you're writing a historical fiction, you cannot always help the fact that the person you chose to write about is going to die. That's just what you get for writing about people like William Wallace or Joan of Arc!

If you know your character is going to die--because, face it, some characters just have to die, it's the way it is--than you will probably be dreading that part of the story until you get to it. There are several points to touch on when thinking of a death scene, here they are:

One--How much gore is there going to be? This is a question I'm sure anyone writing a death or even a fight scene will ask themselves. Truthfully, this depends on the writer, and the audience you will be writing for. If you're writing for young readers, then you should probably tone down the blood as much as possible, but in young adult to adult, hey, make it as gory as you like. Especially if you write Medieval because Medieval is one of the most gory time periods to write about. If your characters are using rapiers of light swords and such, it's probably not going to entail as much blood as broadswords. (See my previous post "Hack and Slash or Dash" for details)

Two--Emotions. I think death scenes need emotions; I don't like reading books where someone dies...hey, who cares? The character you're killing off has to have some kind of importance, or his/her death will seem pointless. Your aim is to make your reader feel the same as your other characters do about your character's death. Which means you have to make your characters feel these emotions well enough to convey that to the reader. Even if they're guys who loose a comrade on the battlefield, don't hesitate to let them shed a few tears. Your hero needs to be brought low sometimes too and if he doesn't cry when he looses his friend/brother etc. no one will care for him because he obviously doesn't feel anything. This is the power of angst.

Three--Historical deaths scenes. If you write historical fiction, then, using characters who die is your call. Unless you are writing an alternate history, you're probably going to end up having to kill someone off eventually. Especially if you write Scottish or Irish historical fiction. All their heros ended up dead practically, and most of them met really bad ends. You can choose though to tone things down a bit, if someone meets a particularly bad end like Wallace. Nigel Tranter did well with his death scene. It was visceral (for want of a better adjective o_0) but it was also poignant and compassionate to where it was more heartfelt than unfeeling. I've read so many Wallace novels, but his is still my favorite. I didn't care for Henty's version of Wallace's death because he seemed to mention it more as an aside and then--Hello Bruce!!! (Despite that his book In Freedom's Cause was very good) Jeff Shaara, another amazing historical writer, also did a very good job with both Raoul Lufbery's and Manfred von Richthofen's death scenes in his book To the Last Man. Lufbery met an especially nasty end, but Shaara toned it down in the book. I run into this problem a lot as most of the people I want to write about met some unfortunate end. When you write a novel with three major death scenes, all before you get to a lovely execution scene in the end, it's really something to take a toll on you! But it won't stop me from writing historical novels either.

Four--Villain deaths. On to something most people enjoy; killing off the villain! All readers root for the hero to finally get his man. You need to ask yourselves the same thing about villain deaths as hero deaths. How much gore? Unfortunately, if your hero is a gentleman, then he's going to need to be all chivalric and off him as quickly and un-messily as possible. Though (once again see "Hack and Slash or Dash") there are those heros who don't follow rules and don't care what other people think, and, frankly, sometimes you just have to have the "bad boys" around to give you satisfaction when there are really nasty villains. No one wants to see a terribly nasty scoundrel get off easy with a bullet between the eyes. Come on people, we all know we like to see justice done. That's why you should usually pair the nasty villains with the grey heroes. Grey heroes are going to get the job done the "right" way--if not the-ahem- chivalric way.

So how do you know when you've written a good death scene? Well, if you find yourself vegging out on the couch watching cooking shows when you're done because it thrashed you emotionally...then...yep, I think you nailed it.

Slainte, Hazel


(By the way, Mr. Pepys is still and always accepting letters to his advice column. Just email to sirwilliamssquire@gmail.com with Pepys' Advice Column as the subject. Don't know what to get someone for a Christmas gift? Have problems with the in-laws? Ask Mr. Pepys, he's always there to help!)

Friday, November 25, 2011

That Time of Year Again: Christmas Shopping!

So, it's a month until Christmas and you're probably starting to think about what to get your friends and family. I don't have a clue myself, so I know your dilemma! However, here are several fun ideas that might help you.

Tomorrow is Small Business Saturday, so think about shopping in the small places! Family owned businesses are great and fun places to shop with unique gifts. As a self-published author and owner of an online store, I like to consider myself in the same ilk. So if anyone on your list would enjoy one of my novels, well, there you go ;) Also take a look at Lynnann Richards' novels as hers are incredibly wonderful as well.

I also have my historical novelty shop on Cafepress, History Buffs Unlimited

Also check out my Amazon Astore, where I have all my favorite books and things that you can buy strait from Amazon.com

My cousin, who writes, Meg's Nature Photography Blog also has an online store with lots of amazing things with prints of her lovely pictures on them. You can find her store here.

There's so many fun things to find of sites like Cafepress and Etsy where you will also be supporting the home-front so to speak. I always love to get those emails from Cafepress to tell me I just sold something :)

I hope everyone had a very good Thanksgiving, and I would like to thank the people who shared some shortbread recipes with me on my other blog Bonnets and Broadswords. I will be getting to those soon! If you have a good shortbread or even any other Scottish recipe to share, pop over to my other blog or send me an email.

Remember to shop at your local small businesses tomorrow! It would mean a lot to everyone!

Slainte, Hazel

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Alfred Noyes' Highwayman

A lot of people I have talked to about my book have mentioned the famous poem "The Highwayman" by Alfred Noyes. I've also noticed that several novels have been based off of it as well. Personally, while I like the poem, especially the visionary in it, thought it was rather sad and dour for a highwayman story. While a lot of highwaymen stories end with the hero getting hanged or something, this one ended particularly badly for everyone. However, I did take a few things from it for my book like the fact that Kilroy is always going to Sylvia's window at night, I took from the verse:

He whistled a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord's black-eyes daughter,
Bess the landlord's daughter,
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.

My favorite verses are the first two though, and the highwayman's outfit described in the poem, was a large base for Kilroy's.

The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees,
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon the cloudy seas,
The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
And the highwayman came riding--
Riding--riding--
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.

He'd a French cocked-hat on his forehead, a bunch of lace at his chin,
A coat of the claret velvet, and breeches of brown doe-skin;
They fitted with never a wrinkle: his boots were up to the thigh!
And he rode with a jeweled twinkle,
His pistol butts a-twinkle,
His rapier hilt a-twinkle, under the jeweled sky.

As I said before, you can see the lovely descriptions in this poem which was what won me. Even though the poem was pretty sad. But hey, at least his lass actually tried to save him and didn't hand him in like in another famous highwayman song from Ireland "Whisky in the Jar":

I went up to me chamber,
All for to take a slumber, 
I dreamt of gold and jewels and sure it was no wonder
For Jenny drew me charges
And she filled them up with water
Then sent for Captain Farrell to be ready for the slaughter.

Yah, Kilroy was lucky to have Sylvia ;) 

But I'm probably going to take a couple more elements out of this poem to use in my second book, though I promise there will be a good ending to it....well, I shouldn't say anything more, I suppose :)

In the meantime, if you wish to hear a lovely version of this poem turned into song, here's a link to a version sung by Loreena Mckennitt: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=teq2m0BN-Wo

So until I post something else, I wish everyone a happy Thanksgiving and hope to see you all again soon!

Slainte, Hazel

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Three Musketeers 2011: Overblown swashbuckler doesn't apply

Okay, I know what I said earlier about not liking overblown swashbucklers with fantastical fight scenes, but I take that back in one sense for the new Three Musketeer movie that came out! And here's why:

One, they didn't add any supernatural elements like Pirates of the Caribbean. There were no (ghost?) pirates and cursed gold. The characters relied on their own skills that might have been a little uncannily good, but hey, they were legends weren't they? There was an underlying Steampunk feel to the movie, which instead of being annoying to me, was rather interesting. Hey you can't go wrong with airships, can you?

Two, they actually put in some parts/quotes from the book! Is that not amazing? Especially for anyone who saw the 1993 Disney version that had hardly anything to do with the original story. The only reason I remotely liked the Disney version was because of the guy who played Rochefort. He was actually who I heard in my head when I wrote Jack Moore in my book Freedom Come All Ye. (So if you want to know what Moore sounds like, you're just going to have to watch that movie.) Also, it had a good humor/adventure to it like the books. My main plot complaint was that Buckingham was portrayed as the villain, but I can forgive that because it was very amusing to see elf/pirate hero Orlando Bloom play the baddie for once ;) Especially with that hairdo.

Three, they picked the best people to play all the characters. I have never seen a version of Musketeers yet where they got everyone right. And Matthew MacFadyen was the only person in my opinion who ever played Athos right. Athos is a hard character because I think he's a favorite and his character is one that if you don't have that slightly dark/melancholy feeling to his character he's ruined. Athos and D'Artagnan (also portrayed wonderfully by Logan Lerman American accent and all) are my favorite characters from the books so usually as long as they are portrayed well, I'm happy. But I got into the bargain Porthos and Aramis (if you want to know who played them, you can look it up) But they were great. And you wouldn't think Porthos would be a hard character to play, but whoever that was who played him in the Disney movie got it so bad that it was like Porthos got abducted my faeries. (no, I don't believe in aliens, only faeries ;) So I was happy with the good guys, but I also liked the guy who played Rochefort in this movie as well. He was throughly evil enough, and also King Louis was perfect. I always had to laugh in all his scenes, especially because he kind of looks like my character Giles in my book Ballad of the Highwayman though Louis is a better guy than Giles. And Constance (D'Artagnan's lass for anyone who has not read the books) was there only when she needed to be. No unnecessary girl stuff, so the female characters never got to be annoying besides Milady but she was the villainess, so you don't have to like her anyway.

So yah, this is my new favorite movie. I had some misgivings when I saw the trailers and stuff, but after I watched it, I was just simply amazed. This is probably the best Three Musketeers yet; not only because it's so action packed, but because they got the characters spot on and the plot line was not nearly as messed up as a lot of other ones. I think this was the film that put the Three Musketeer movie ghost to rest. Oh, and can we expect a sequel? =D

Go see this movie, everyone! And that's all I have to say right now.

Slainte, Hazel

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

My Own Q&A!

Hey dear readers! I didn't want to post this on top of my other post from earlier today, so please scroll down and read that one as well, but I did want to let everyone know that I just started a Q&A Discussion Board on Goodreads where you can ask me anything you really want about my books as long as it fits under the discussion topics. I heartily invite all my readers to come and visit it, and if you don't have a Goodreads account, get one, it's free! And it's a lot of fun to. Anyone who gets a Goodreads account, has right to get a friend invite from me. (Feel special, people--just kidding!)

Here's the link: http://www.goodreads.com/group/show/57625.Q_A_with_Hazel_West

Feel free to invite any of your friends as well. Get as many people as you can! Remember that if you are joining the discussions, check in to the introductions first!

Hope to see you there!

Slainte, Hazel