Monday, December 20, 2010

Naming a character in Jambalaya Justice

Someone won the naming of one of my characters in the upcoming Jambalaya Justice in the Ebay auction by the First Amendment Project. They also won a signed copy of the book when it is available, early 2011, and either a phone call or a night drinking with me and the real life Big Who, a character from the book, at my bar in the metro New Orleans area. The price ended up being $102.50, and received three bids.

I have never participated in anything like this before, and at first I was worried that no one would bid on mine. There were some well-known writers, and the bids weren't extravagantly high for their auctions, so I was wondering if anyone would even bid on mine. Once I got the first bid, I relaxed, because at least one person was bidding. Earlier today it was still only the one bid, but I was okay with that. Then I saw that someone else bid after that, and it ended with 3 bids total.

I don't know the procedure from here, but I am assuming the First Amendment Project will put me in touch with the winning bidder so we can work out the particulars. It was pretty exciting, although I'm not sure if my nerves could take another auction. I can't wait to see who was willing to pay $102.50 to name one of my characters, and sincerely hope it wasn't my mother!

On another note, I am thinking about posting a bridge between Gumbo Justice and Jambalaya Justice, just to let everyone know what to prepare for when Jambalaya comes out.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

First Amendment Project Auction

The First Amendment Project is an organization that, among other things, provides legal representation for reporters dealing with First Amendment issues. As a writer, the First Amendment is important to me, because I don't want to be censored, I don't want my children to be told they can't read certain books, and I don't want our newspapers and t.v. news to feel they can't reveal the whole truth to us for fear of going to jail or being sued. Freedom of speech has a lot of nuances, and if we take it for granted, it is only because someone once fought for us to have the right. The fight is ongoing, though, and the FAP is one group that continues to fight it.

In one of their fundraising efforts, the FAP is hosting an Ebay auction where writers are auctioning off a name in their next book. All of the proceeds go to the FAP.

I am auctioning off the naming of a character in Jambalaya Justice, which will be out in 2011, and have provided three female characters and three male characters from which the bidder can choose.

I am also auctioning off a signed copy of the book, and either a phone call, or within a year, a night of free drinks at my bar in the metropolitan New Orleans area with me and the real-life Big Who, one of the characters from Gumbo Justice and Jambalaya Justice.

The bids are not cheap, starting at $100.00, but this is really a worthwhile cause. One writer is auctioning not only naming the character in his graphic novel, but drawing the bidder as the character. The Showtime Series "Weeds," is also auctioning off the naming of a character for the t.v. show.

The writers do not make any money off of this, but I still hope every writer makes the sale, because it is such a good cause to support for writers.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Today I have a very special guest, Barb Tarn, who lives in Italy. Her life seems so fascinating and extraordinary to me, and she mentions things like visiting the Louvre as if they happen every day. Below, she blogs about her inspiration for a historical novel she is planning on writing that may be as relevant today as in the 12th century she is setting it in.

Historical Research Frenzy
by Barbara G.Tarn

I always had a wild imagination, and when I finished high school I didn't go to university. I loved the middle ages (probably because of the illustrations of my childhood fairy tales and classics such as Robin Hood) and started writing fantasy because, well, it was FANTASY, so I didn't have to bother with research. Yeah, I know, I was very lazy (and still am today most of the time).

Then I read "The lady and the unicorn" by Tracy Chevalier. I knew the tapestries well (I go to check them every now and then when I'm in Paris), but knew nothing of their history, and I enjoyed the novel take on that part of history. Hence I started researching, and discovered the Middle Ages lasted 1000 years, with lots of changes between Charlemagne and Cristoforo Colombo (sorry, I'm Italian, I'll use his real name. The end of the Middle Ages is officially 1492, so you know who it is). I had to find a more specific time if I wanted to tell a story.

At first I started going to museums. Me, the museum-hater, went to the Louvre galleries of 12th to 15th century painters, and did the same at the National Gallery in London AND the British Museum. I'm the castle-lady (each and every medieval castle open to the public must be seen by me), I'm starting to appreciate Gothic cathedrals, but museums... Cluny was really an exception, because the unicorn is my animal, and those tapestries are gorgeous! ;-)

Anyway, I was looking for a portrait of some anonymous (or not too famous) sitter to inspire me (although I didn't read "The girl with the pearl earring" you understand why I was doing it). Unfortunately there aren't many paintings left of the early Middle Ages (read: none at all. Statues and some manuscripts only).

Then I saw "Kingdom of Heaven" after reading a book about crusades and was appalled by the historical inaccuracy of the movie (check Balian of Ibelin on Wikipedia if you don't believe me). Now, I wasn't going to rewrite that story, but my mum is also a Middle Ages lover, and knows everything on the Arthur cycle and Tristan and Iseult, etc. And all those were started by Chrétien de Troyes in the 12th century. I was already playing with the idea of the minstrels and the crusades - Christianity vs. Islam being a theme still very heartfelt today.

I even found the picture of a 12th century statue called "Return of the Crusader" with this very intriguing caption: Return of the Crusader - Hugues de Vaudémont, who left in 1147, goes back to his wife - legend says he went on crusade and she waited for him faithfully for 14 or 16 years... That's the Second Crusade (1145–1149), and I'm following the third (1189–1192), but you get the point!

So I decided to write the life of a knight at the beginning of chivalry, when minstrels sang of long lost past, tournaments were melees and heraldic was barely starting. I settled for the end of the 12th century - Third Crusade, Richard Lionheart - and started researching more. I intended to close the story with the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215.

At the time I had just started writing in English, and I was writing screenplays as
the form (the prose) was simpler for me. I started writing my story and by page 120 (in screenwriting one page equals one minute on screen, new writers are not allowed to exceed 120pages) the knight had barely started off for the Holy Land. I could either make it a TV mini-series (but I don't watch TV, nor have History Channel to check how they do it), or cut it to make it more of a movie. So I "cut" the story to nine years (knighthood, crusade, return) and sent it to a coverage service.

Reading some of the objections by the poor reader, who obviously hadn't spent two years reading ancient medieval chronicles in Old French and Latin or English 19th century translations, I gave up the project and put it in a drawer - OK, I'll admit my thought was "Those Americans have no sense of history whatsoever". I apologize.

Then I gave up screenwriting altogether and tried prose in English. My main genre is still fantasy, but in these two years I've earned enough confidence that my prose will sustain an historical novel. The narrator is slightly more omniscient than in any other genre, and I can start when the hero is two and end shortly after his death like I originally intended (his son will sign the Magna Carta for him) without bothering of being misunderstood by some Hollywood reader.

So next year I'll brush up my notes and my screenplays, will do a little more research on topics such as clothes (that would be the costume designer duty on a movie set - my job if I write a novel, sigh) and write my story. Then I will send it to a few agents and see if I can publish it traditionally (the fantasy will be self-pubbed e-books).

I hope to make those years (1166-1215) come alive for readers, trying to be more historically precise than Sir Walter Scott and other 19th century "historical" novelists. I have learned to love my research when I found little gems that I could incorporate into my story when reading those old chronicles. I'll probably try to interview some reenactors as well, because even if I own two medieval costumes that I use for medieval dinners, and a sword, I never really used them, while I know there are people out there who reenact tournaments and other medieval events and are even more passionate than me about that time.

It's a story of love, friendship, faith and betrayal that hopefully will be appreciated everywhere, even if it's set between France, England and the Holy Land. I know I will write more historical novels in the future, but I still have to pick up another time period (Italian Renaissance? Mumble mumble...). I jotted down people and/or events in my "history" notebook for future use, but we'll see. I look forward to next year and my brand new adventure.

Barbara G.Tarn is a writer, artist and world-creator. She hopes to reveal the might of her world, Silvery Earth, as soon as technology allows her. Or maybe she'll turn into an historical writer, who knows. In the meantime she writes, draws, ignores her day job and blogs at

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Today I talked about promotion as a guest blogger on Creative Barbwire, my friend Barb's website. Barb is also a writer, and in a few days will guest blog here about her latest work. Until then, stop at and pick up some tips from yours truly. While I have a lot left to learn about promoting, why reinvent the wheel yourself if you can benefit from my experiences?