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

Interview with Kilroy Allen

Hello everyone! As my new book, Ballad of the Highwayman was just released, I thought it would be a good idea for everyone to get to know the leading man from it, Kilroy Allen, a little better. I have asked him to conduct an interview for you readers. I hope you all enjoy this! (Don't ask what happened to the stupid numbers. That's what happens when you try to copy and paste things xp)


  1. Describe where and how you wake up every day?
Well, I either wake up at the cabin with Jeff or I wake up in my apartment in the town. When I’m at the cabin, I wake up when Jeff makes breakfast but otherwise, I just have to make do. 
  1. What do you eat for breakfast?
Well, usually porridge when I’m at the cabin, but when I’m in town, I go to the Richards’ tavern and have bacon and eggs.
  1. Describe the clothes you wear most often.
Typical 1600s dress, and don’t forget the feathered hat. But then I wear my emerald coat and highwayman outfit. And again, don’t forget the feathered hat. Or the mask, that's very important. Thigh-high boots as well. Best for riding through the woods, they I usually turn them down when I'm in town.
  1. If you knew you’d be away from home for three months, what three people or things would you want to take with you?
For people, I’d take Sylvia, of course, can’t live without her. Jeff, to cook. And Roster probably. He’s good in trouble. As for things; my horse, my sword... and my feathered hat.
  1. What annoys you?
Stupidity, fools, and dandies. And sometimes Frenchmen, though I don't hold a continuous grudge against them.
  1. What makes you happy?
Being with Sylvia and enjoying the outdoors. Also, robbing is fun when you know the money is going to a good cause and you're robbing mean rich people.
  1. What’s your proudest moment?
My proudest moment will be when I find my father’s betrayer and put him to justice. Not before.
  1. Describe the most frightening or nerve-wracking thing you’ve ever seen, done, or thought about.
Well, probably seeing my father executed as a boy. In Hazel’s day, someone probably would have made me to go to that thing they call "therapy". But I was stronger than that.
  1. If you saw a dog get hit by a car, what would you do?
I would help it. But we don’t really have cars in my time period. Carriages though.
  1. If you saw someone stealing, what would you do?
Well, if they were stealing from the rich, then they would probably be a friend of mine so I would say “good going”. But if they were stealing from the poor, I would give them something to think about.
  1. What would you never, ever do?
I would never, ever betray a friend.
  1. Who can you talk to about anything and everything (share your secret, problems, etc.)? 
I do talk to Sylvia a lot, but yet, there are things I don’t want to tell her for fear she will do something foolish (not that she usually does, she's just too hasty with some things).  The person I always tell everything to is my good friend (and side-kick) Jeffcoat Mullins.

  1. What are your best qualities?
I hope my loyalty, courage and perseverance. Though I can't speak for people who know me.
  1. If you could change anything about yourself, what would it be?
I would make it so that I wouldn’t fall into so many stupid traps.
  1. What do people think you are like?
A highwayman, a rogue--and some of them don’t mind that.
  1. Describe what you think your life will be like in five years.
I hope I will have found my father’s betrayer and perhaps even have a family?
  1. What do you think is going to happen in the story?
Judging from Hazel’s other books, I will probably either be captured by the baddie, or thrashed...or both. Has anyone been given waivers yet?
  1. What do you want to happen next in the story?
I Want to find my father’s betrayer and marry Sylvia. But I don’t think that’s going to happen yet...
  1. What do you like about the story? What do you dislike?
I like this story because it’s a fun adventure and we really are quite witty, right? It’s just fun to be a highwayman, especially such a respected one. I do not like the fact that Giles is trying to win my woman though. That makes me very angry!


So now that you know Kilroy Allen, and if you think he sounds like a nice kind of guy, go and read Ballad of the Highwayman! And then do my new Poll on the top right-hand side of the page and vote for your favorite Highwayman. The highwayman with the most votes will be featured with a colored picture on my blog (as will everyone eventually) Also don't forget to write into Pepys' advice column. He is always taking in letters! Just email all to sirwilliamssquire@gmail.com and put "Pepys' Advice Column" in the subject header. 

Slainte, Hazel