Monday, May 30, 2011

Reading update

My latest "appointment television" show is HBO's A Game of Thrones. I watched the first episode simply because as a fantasy fan I was glad to see a network take the genre seriously and attempt to make quality TV from it. By the second episode I was so hooked I had to read the books too, and I'm still trying to figure out how, as a fan of Jacqueline Carey, Guy Gavriel Kay, and Lois McMaster Bujold, I hadn't noticed them before.

I'm about halfway through Book Three, A Storm of Swords, now. This is fantasy at its best, for sure, epic and high-stakes but above all human. There's some magic, walking dead, dragons, and strange gods, but it's the honor and ambition, loyalty and betrayal, hope and horror, that keep me coming back for more. That said, I have a love/hate relationship with the fact that unlike a lot of fantasy novels, you can't count on the good staying good, the evil staying straightforwardly bad, and the most appealing characters staying alive. It's realistic, and it adds an unusual amount of suspense to the reading experience, but I wish I could trust that, say, Arya and Danaerys will both stay A) alive and B) appealing enough that I'll continue to WANT them alive. I don't always want to be quite this harrowed by my leisure reading. But on the other other hand, when a character does something awesome and heroic, it's all the more thrilling when you're half expecting them to chicken out or choose the dark side, as it were.

My goal is to catch up on the series in time for A Dance With Dragons' release in July, but I'm finding I need a palate cleanser or two between books. Last week I read Kathleen Eagle's In Care of Sam Beaudry. I'm not generally a fan of small-town contemporary romances, since they often seem to carry the implicit or even explicit assumption that small towns are BETTER than cities. As someone who grew up in a small town but went to college in Philadelphia and am raising a family in Seattle, I just can't relate. But Eagle's books aren't like that. Her small town, rural, and Indian reservation settings come across as not better than my world, but fascinatingly different. And I go to books for different.

In my research reading, I just finished Richard Holmes' Redcoat: The British Soldier in the Age of Horse and Musket. It's an overview of all aspects of life in the British army roughly 1750-1850. For me it was mostly a review of what I learned researching The Sergeant's Lady, but a most useful review on points where I'd grown rusty, since both my current manuscripts have an army setting. It's readable and well-researched, and I'd recommend it to any author looking to write a military setting or hero of its era.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday 5-29-11

This week at last we're back in my historical fantasy, Wolf & Huntress. Cass Macdonald, our heroine, is remembering an incident from when she was thirteen and in the middle of the night sneaked out of the lodgings she shared with her sister and grandfather:

Grandda had been waiting for her when she climbed back in through the window just before dawn. Before she could think of an explanation, he’d slapped her hard across the face. “Just what were you thinking you were about, foolish lass?”

“I was hunting vampires,” she said stoutly. “And I was killing three of them.”

“Hunting vampires by yourself?”

Comments and feedback always welcome, and check out other authors' excerpts at the Six Sentence Sunday blog.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Long weekends and the perfectionist

In celebration of the first long weekend of the summer, I'd like to talk about how an overscheduled perfectionist like myself looks at a three-day weekend.

Somewhere around Thursday I realized it was in fact about to be Memorial Day weekend. (It's been unseasonably cold here in Seattle, you see, so it feels more like March than late May. This keeps throwing my mental calendar off, making me feel, for example, that I have a lot more time before RWA National then just a month.)

I thought, “Wow! A three-day weekend! Think of all the things I could get done!” I began making a list in my head. It looked something like this:

-I could clean the whole house and make it so immaculate that my mother would smile down from heaven and think, “At last my daughter has learned to be a good housekeeper. I knew someday she'd live up to my standards.”

-I could read every word of A Storm of Swords. That's the whole thing, beginning to end, all 1128 pages of it.

-Mr. Fraser and I could actually finish stripping the wallpaper from the entry wall, pick a paint color, and start painting the halls.

-I could bake cookies! Miss Fraser would love that.

-I could get so much writing done. I could do 3000-4000 words per day.

-I could work on blog content for the next month or so and get it all cued up and ready to post automatically over the next few weeks.

-I could go through the boxes in the garage and decide what to keep, donate, or throw out.

-I could actually try out some of the recipes from the Once-a-Month Cooking websites and cookbooks and have myself all set up with meals to reheat on busy nights.

-I could go to Nordstrom's. They're having a sale, and I really need to replace my everyday work shoes that are falling apart and get a piece or two more to round out my RWA wardrobe, seeing as how realizing it's Memorial Day meant realizing it's just a month till National.

-I could go car shopping, since our '99 Mazda is on its last legs.

All of those are worthy goals. And if I had, say, two whole weeks off instead of just three days, I could do them all. But my instinct is to try to do EVERYTHING, and then to feel like a failure when I've only managed to clean the den and one bathroom, write 4000 words total, and read maybe half of my long book of choice.

I have a funny attitude toward time. Give me a very small chunk of it, say half an hour before I need to go pick up Miss Fraser from a play date, and I feel like it's useless to do anything and fritter it away on something like iPhone Scrabble. Never mind that I could read a chapter or two of a book, load the dishwasher and take out the recycling, or catch up on email--half an hour just feels to short to be useful. This is what keeps me from being productive many weekday evenings and on days at work when I have a lot of meetings. My motivation tends to collapse in the absence of long, uninterrupted blocks of time.

But give me a whole day, or a long weekend, and the opposite is the case. I think of many things I might do over three days and feel like I should be able to do all of them. Then come Monday morning I'm all dissatisfied with how my weekend flew by and how little I got done.

I'm trying to do better this weekend. My writing goal is simply to make productive use of the windows of uninterrupted time each day when my daughter gets her two afternoon hours on the computer. (Mr. Fraser just taught her to play Minecraft, and she's wholly hooked.) I'll probably sit down tonight, make a list of my fit-for-Nationals wardrobe pieces, and plan a shopping trip for tomorrow. I may test-drive a Sonata, the current front-runner for the new car. I'll try to do a little extra housework atop the bare minimum of laundry and dishes that have to happen. And I may get to page 500 on A Storm of Swords. Really, that's plenty for three days.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Of Wimseys and Wellesleys: No Title for You!

Today I'm going to focus on the critical role of legitimacy in determining who can and can't inherit a title.

Legitimacy in this case cannot be conferred retroactively, and is based on one's parents' marital status at one's birth, not conception. If a duke marries his pregnant mistress as she's going into labor, the child (if a son!) can inherit as long as the vicar completes the ceremony before the birth. If they marry when the infant is a few hours old, that baby is out of luck. This is one of the most common fictional errors with respect to titles and inheritance--a peer legitimizing a bastard son or grandson. Couldn't happen. The law made no provision for it.

A case in point is Wellington's oldest brother Richard. As a young man, he took up with a French actress, with whom he had five children...and only afterward married her. The fact that he eventually married their mother did nothing whatsoever to confer legitimacy upon those children. It probably made them more socially acceptable--both of the daughters made reasonably good marriages, one to a baron, the other first to a baronet and second to the younger son of a duke. But there was no way the eldest son could inherit his father's titles. Once illegitimate, always illegitimate.

Richard Wellesley held two titles: that of Earl of Mornington, which he'd inherited from his father, and Marquess Wellesley, granted for his services as Governor-General of India at the end of the 18th century. Upon his death, the latter title became extinct, since he had no legitimate sons to pass it on to. But since the Mornington title came from his father, it did not die out but went to Richard's brother, William, second oldest of the family, and then to his son and grandson. At that point, in 1863, William's direct male line died out, and the earldom passed to the descendants of the third Wellesley brother, Wellington himself. And there it remains to this day--as mentioned a few weeks ago, the eldest son of the eldest son of the present Duke of Wellington uses Earl of Mornington as his courtesy title.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday 5-22-11

I finished the rough draft of my novella, Jane's Second Soldier, on Friday, and I'll be setting it aside for at least several weeks. I know it's not ready to submit as it stands, and I need some space before I can decide how much work it needs and whether I'm willing to commit to it.

Now I'm working on both my historical fantasy, Wolf & Huntress, and a new historical romance whose working title is The General's Mouse. Since none of the new sections from W&H made a nice SSS post, I'm posting the first six sentences of my newest manuscript. It's January 1815, and the scene is on a Royal Navy frigate returning from North America. They've just met a ship bound in the opposite direction bearing news of the treaty ending the War of 1812. My hero, a young general whose entire career has been based on his prowess at war, isn't sure what to think of peace:


“To peace!”

Dutifully Jack lifted his glass. “To peace,” he echoed, along with the rest of the officers dining at Captain Tizley’s table.

How many of them truly want peace? Jack wondered as he downed his wine. He couldn’t honestly say he did. After the debacle at Plattsburgh, he had intended to plead with Horse Guards for an independent command.


Comments and feedback always appreciated (keeping in mind that this is the rough draft of something I just started yesterday!). And visit the Six Sunday blog to view other authors' contributions.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Time management for perfectionists

I started writing seriously in 2001, three years before my daughter's birth, but I really got into a good rhythm during the almost two years I stayed home with her after she was born. She was that rarest of infants, a good sleeper. She slept through the night from the time she was two months old, and would've done so earlier had the doctor not said we needed to wake her up for a feeding. And she took reliable naps from 1:30-3:00 every afternoon, which just happens to be the time I feel most awake and alert. (Don't envy me too much, though. I was on bedrest for the last two months of my pregnancy and had a four-day induced labor, so I paid my dues.)

So I wrote during my daughter's naptime. It was perfect. No interruptions, a long enough time slot to produce a respectable daily word count, and plenty of time when my daughter was awake but not needing 100% of my attention for other writerly activities like research reading, networking, and critiquing.

But then family finances dictated that I go back to work. I suddenly had far less time for writing...and I discovered I'd never learned to manage my time properly before because I'd never needed to. For five years now I've been struggling to find just the right balance between writing, day job, and family. I don't have all the answers yet, but I'm going to be giving a workshop on what I've figured out at the Emerald City Writers Conference in October.

All along I've been fighting against a tendency to make overly ambitious plans for what I'll accomplish on any given lunch hour, evening, or weekend. Then, when I fail to meet my rigorous schedule or get seduced into reading just one more chapter or watching just one more inning when I'm supposed to put down the book or turn off the TV, I think, "Oh, well, I've blown it today. Might as well just quit." Sometimes I'll let this insidious brand of perfectionism derail a whole week. I'll have vowed to take the bus to work or write on my lunch hour or stay on Weight Watchers EVERY DAY. Monday and Tuesday go great. But on Wednesday I oversleep and have to drive in, or something comes up at work and I have to eat at my desk, or I get desperately hungry at 3 PM and buy a bag of chips...and I've blown the whole week. Might as well not even try on Thursday and Friday.

Deep down, I know this behavior is just as stupid as it sounds. Unfortunately, that doesn't stop me from doing it, again and again.

But I think I've finally found a solution. About a month ago I sat down and made a list of everything I want to do that I could in theory procrastinate or avoid. Some of them are writing related--the two daily writing sessions I strive to achieve, research reading, blogging. Others aren't--exercise, staying on Weight Watchers, bringing my lunch to work, and cooking in the evening rather than ordering pizza or Chinese, to name a few. I assigned them all point values and set up a spreadsheet. Every time I do something on the list, I give myself the allotted points. Then, when I accumulate 100 points, I reward myself.

So far I've earned two rewards and have given myself lunch at the delicious Indian place near my office, complete with gulab jamun for dessert, and bought myself a book off my wish list, Kathleen Eagle's In Care of Sam Beaudry, which I'm going to read between George RR Martin books to give myself a break from Westeros (which is awesome but exhausting). And if I make 500 points in a calendar month (which ain't gonna to happen in May), I get myself a bigger reward. I think my first one is going to be a Duke of Wellington miniature to go with the rifleman and redcoat already standing guard over the markers on my dry erase board at work.

The beauty of this system is that it keeps me from tripping over my own perfectionism. So, I didn't ride the bus on Tuesday. That's OK, when I ride it Wednesday, that's 2 points. So I didn't write on my lunch hour on Thursday. That's no reason not to write late at night after my daughter is asleep, nor to skip reading a chapter in my current research book or working on a blog post, because I can still salvage a good score for the day.

It's elaborate and, I admit, kinda strange. But it's working for me, so I put it out there for other overscheduled perfectionists.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Of Wimseys and Wellesleys: Dukes

This week we at last reach dukes, the highest rank short of royalty in the British peerage. (I'm going to leave royal dukes out of it, because A) the Wellington and Denver dukedoms that are the subject of this series aren't royal, and B) they're not generally an issue in fiction, because most authors of, say, Regency romances aren't going to create fictional royal dukes.)

The first thing you need to know about dukes is that they're rare. Currently there are only twenty-seven extant dukedoms in the British peerage (you can find a list of them here). To become a duke, in general you either needed to be an extraordinarily influential and powerful aristocrat...or else have the good fortune to be Charles II's bastard son. (He created the Dukedoms of Monmouth, Richmond, Lennox, Southampton, Grafton, and St Albans for his offspring.) The closest thing to merit-based dukedoms that I know of are Wellington and Marlborough, and it's not like the first holders of those titles were of anything approaching humble birth.

Dukes, being a cut above the rest of the peerage, are addressed differently. They are not called "my lord," and if you encounter a reference to "Lord Wellington" in a novel set during the Waterloo campaign (i.e. after he was granted his dukedom in 1814), the author missed that detail. If you someday have the chance to, say, travel in the TARDIS to observe the Battle of Waterloo (a fantasy of mine, I admit), you should address Wellington as "Your Grace," unless you feel yourself to be on familiar, equal terms with him, in which case "Duke" or "Wellington" would be appropriate. Or "sir," but in the "Yes, sir" sense, not the knightly one.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

I have items in Brenda Novak's auction!

One aspect of being a published author I'd been looking forward to for years was being able to donate my work to Brenda Novak's On-line Auction for the Cure of Diabetes. One of my nephews has Type 1 diabetes, so the cause is close to my heart. This year, I've finally arrived!

All the offerings I'm involved in are listed on the Carina Press page. I'm offering a first-chapter critique of a romance novel, I'll be at a networking breakfast at RWA in NYC next month, and my books are on the loaded Kindle and Nook.

While you're there, have a look around. It's not just books and critiques. There's sports memorabilia, jewelry, decor, even Celine Dion tickets (not my thing, but as Wash on Firefly said, "Some people juggle geese").

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Of Wimseys and Wellesleys: Heirs' Courtesy Titles

This post was up for at least a few hours last week but disappeared during Blogger's issues, so I'm reposting it now.

First of all, a quick clarification from my previous post about heirs apparent vs. heirs presumptive. I stated that an heir apparent is the eldest legitimate son, or occasionally the eldest son's eldest son, of the current title holder. I should've said eldest living legitimate son. If a duke has two sons, and the elder dies without fathering a legitimate son of his own, the younger son then becomes the heir apparent. They key is that the heir apparent has to be the direct descendant of the current title holder, who will definitely inherit as long as he doesn't predecease him. If the current peer is your brother or uncle, you can only be the heir presumptive, because it's at least theoretically possible you could be displaced by your brother or uncle's son.

But...if you are the heir apparent of a duke, marquess, or earl, you probably have an heir's courtesy title derived from one of your father's subsidiary titles. High-ranking peers almost always have more than one title, generally through accumulating lower-ranking titles on their family's climb through the ranks of the peerage. So the peer's heir apparent bears the next highest of his father's titles and is addressed accordingly. And if the heir apparent has an eldest son of his own, he gets the next title on the list as his courtesy title, and so on.

It's probably simpler to give an example, and the currently living generations of the Wellington family provide an extensive and tidy one:

- The current Duke of Wellington (the 8th duke) was born in 1915 (the Wellesleys are a long-lived bunch--"the" Wellington lived to be 83, pretty impressive for his time).

- His eldest son, the current heir apparent, was born in 1945 and is styled the Marquess of Douro.

- Lord Douro's eldest son, born in 1978, is styled the Earl of Mornington. If you've been following this series and have a good head for details, you'll recall that was the title of the original Duke of Wellington's father. Wellington's oldest brother had no legitimate children, and his second brother's legitimate male line died out at some point in the 19th century (YES, I'm feeling too lazy to look up the exact date--there are limits to even my pedantry), so the title fell to the Wellington branch of the family.

- Last year Lord Mornington's wife had twins, one of whom is a boy, styled Viscount Wellesley.

Probably a good thing they have so many titles to go around, since all the men above are named Arthur Wellesley. (Of course they are. Feel free to hum "Tradition.")

Note that there is no rule that a duke's heir apparent must be a marquess, that a marquess's must be an earl, and so on. In our fictional example, Lord Peter's nephew, the heir apparent of his brother the Duke of Denver, is Viscount Saint-George. The heir's courtesy title is just the next highest ranking of his father's titles, whatever that happens to be.

Make sense?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday - back to Jane's Second Soldier

Taking a couple weeks away from Wolf & Huntress to finish my first draft of Jane's Second Soldier, which I'd been neglecting, since it's so much more fun to play with a brand new manuscript you won't have to edit for MONTHS than to write the last chapter or two of one you know is going to need serious editing before you can send it out.

Anyway, here's a scene from early in Jane's Second Soldier. Her new husband, Ben, doesn't have a lot of experience with women, but he has fine instincts:

And then she began to sob. After a moment’s hesitation Ben set his bowl down, removed hers from her unresisting hands, and pulled her into his arms—though not without a covert glance to see if they were making a spectacle for the whole camp. The twilight seemed to be hiding them, or at least everyone was polite enough to pretend, so he turned his attention to his wife. He wasn’t sure what he was supposed to do. He had never held a crying woman before. But he rocked her, and patted her shoulders, and smoothed her hair, and murmured things about how sorry he was, and that she should cry all she wanted, and he was there and he’d take care of her.

Six Sentence Sunday is a weekly blog event where authors post brief excerpts from their work. Comments and feedback are always welcome, and do visit the home blog to see what others are posting.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Of Wimseys and Wellesleys: Heirs Apparent and Presumptive

Today's post is a quick side note before we take up heirs' courtesy titles and how to address dukes: the difference between an heir apparent and an heir presumptive.

An heir apparent is an heir who will definitely inherit a title as long as he doesn't predecease its current holder--which, in the British system we're focusing on, means the oldest legitimate son of the current title holder. (Or, if the oldest son predeceases his father but fathers a son of his own before he dies, that grandson would be the heir apparent.)

An heir presumptive is the person who will inherit a title as long as he isn't displaced by the birth of an heir apparent. Generally speaking, a peer who has no legitimate sons has some other relative--a brother, a nephew, or cousin--who'd inherit the title if he died. Note that this heir must be a legitimate descendant in the direct male line of the original title holder (titles that can be passed through daughters exist, but are very much the exception rather than the rule). If there aren't any left, the title becomes extinct. An heir presumptive can't become an heir apparent even if it's certain the current title holder will never father more children--say, if he's elderly, senile, and impotent. For all the law knows, he might make a miraculous recovery and marry a younger woman who'd then give birth to a son displacing the heir presumptive.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday - Wolf & Huntress

I'll keep posting from my historical fantasy WIP, Wolf & Huntress, as long as y'all are enjoying it, but I'm deliberately leaving gaps in the story, trying to play it more like a movie preview and less like a synopsis or a serialization. At least in this, I want to be a tease!

Anyway, this week Cass is breaking up with the fiance who had the nerve to save her life by pulling her out of a fight (on the instructions of another character who has the Sight and sees big things in the future for Cass):

“I am not your lass!” she cried, her voice echoing off the hillside. “Just...go. Help the others. I’ll take Shonnie, and get safe away, but not so I can save Scotland. I’ll use Caitriona’s money to buy silver shot, and I’ll bide my time. I’ll find the Campbell werewolf when he’s not looking for me, and not expecting my scent, and I will avenge my sister.”


Six Sentence Sunday is a weekly blog feature where writers post six sentences of their work, whether a WIP or a published book. Stop by the main blog to check out other authors' contributions.

NOTE: I won't be commenting much myself this week, as I'm having a pinched nerve flareup that's limiting my screen time.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Of Wimseys and Wellesleys: Lords (but not Dukes)

Today we tackle how to address all lords--i.e. all peerages below the rank of duke.

My real life example for this series, Arthur Wellesley, was granted a viscountcy in 1809 after his victory at the Battle of Talavera. I don't know why he became a viscount rather than a baron (plenty of men were granted baronages for military and naval achievements during the era), but my guess it was some combination of the fact he was born to the aristocracy rather than the gentry, his family's good political connections, and that it was becoming evident by that point that he was a damn good general. :-) (I'm pretty sure I would've wanted to strangle Wellington on a regular basis if I'd known him for his political views and elitism, but AFAIC he was second to none on a battlefield.)

At the lower ranks of the peerage, a lord's title is often the same as his last name. John Smith becomes Baron Smith, addressed as Lord Smith. E.g. the other major British hero of the Napoleonic era was ennobled as Viscount Nelson. This wasn't an option in Wellesley's case because his oldest brother was Marquess Wellesley (we'll see more of him later when I get around to who can and can't inherit and how titles become extinct). Since Wellesley himself wasn't available to be consulted, being occupied fighting the French, the College of Heralds (who keep track of such things) consulted his brother William, who pulled out the map and found a town in Somerset called "Wellington," near where their ancestors came from before going to Ireland. At that point our hero became Viscount Wellington of Talavera and Wellington, and William wrote to say, "I trust that you will not think that there is anything unpleasant or trifling in the name of Wellington." To which the new Lord Wellington replied that he thought William had chosen most fortunately. His wife was less pleased, mentioning in her diary that "Wellington I do not like for it recalls nothing."

I describe the name selection process at such length because it'd feel so odd, to me at least, to have your name changed for you, as an adult, and to just have to live with it whether you liked it or not. William could've saddled his brother the goofiest name on the map, and there wouldn't have been much Wellington (or, in this version of things, Lord Catbrain or Lord Netherwallop or or Lord Hoo) could've done about it. OK, those probably wouldn't have flown with the College of Heralds, but STILL.

Anyway. I digress. Up until 1814, Wellington kept getting regular promotions, as it were, becoming the Earl of Wellington, the Marquess of Wellington, and finally the Duke of Wellington. Until he became a duke, the proper address for him didn't change. He was Lord Wellington, addressed as "Wellington" or "sir" by those who were more or less his social equals and as "my lord" by inferiors. He signed his letters "Wellington." His wife was Lady Wellington, and she signed herself "Catherine Wellington." "Wellesley" almost disappears as far as they're concerned. (Their children are a different story, and a post for another week. It's about time I tackled heir's courtesy titles.)

Incidentally, when a peer holds a military rank in addition to his title, you call them Rank Lord Title--i.e. General Lord Wellington, Admiral Lord Nelson.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Writing and hand update

Back in early April, I posted about my plans to write every day during the month. And I succeeded, making progress on both my historical romance novella and my historical fantasy. Some days I only wrote a paragraph or two, but that was enough to keep my mind in the story. Insofar as I can, I mean to keep writing every day no matter what in the future.

That being said, I didn't write a single word yesterday. My hand and shoulder pain came back with a vengeance, and I barely made it through the day at work, so when I came home all I did was rest.

As it happens, I'd just seen my hand specialist last week, and she advised me to make plans to have carpal tunnel surgery. I was all set to do so but I had this gut feeling that something wasn't right. It seemed that everyone who was advising me, but especially the hand specialist, was all but ignoring my complaints of shoulder, back, and neck pain. I could tell that my hand got worse when my shoulder got worse. I couldn't believe they were unconnected. I didn't want to sign up to have my wrist slit open if that was only going to fix part, or maybe even none, of my real problem. So I talked to my primary care provider and asked if she'd refer me to someone who could evaluate and treat a possible pinched nerve. My first physical therapy appointment is this Friday.

During yesterday's bad flareup, I looked up the symptoms of a pinched nerve in the shoulder, and I'm shocked and not a little angry that my hand doctor didn't consider the possibility. It sounds like if anything I have a classic case. The nurses I work with and the massage therapist who was able to fit me in for an appointment this afternoon agree. They also said that they don't think I've done any permanent damage yet, because my muscle tone is still good, if hellaciously tight in spots, and the massage therapist gave me good advice on what to do between now and my first meeting with the physical therapist.

Still, I'm very frustrated. If I'd been treated for a pinched nerve back in December, I might be all better now. I might have finished my novella and submitted it to Carina in, oh, February. Assuming my editor and the rest of the acquisitions team liked it, I might even have my next release date.

But I know it could be a lot worse. A pinched nerve is hardly life-threatening. I'll get through this. I'll do what I'm doing right now and use Dragon software until I'm better–something I couldn't do during most of April because of a bad cold threatening to wreck my voice. One way or another, I'll keep writing.

Of Wimseys and Wellesleys: Name Changes

Today's post isn't about titles of the nobility, but about how malleable surnames were in Britain 200 years ago.

I mentioned in a previous post that Wellington's last name up into his 20's wasn't Wellesley, but Wesley. And his paternal grandfather wasn't born a Wesley, but a Colley. (Or a Cowley. The further back in time you go, the less consistent people were about spelling even their own names.)

So, how did a Colley become a Wesley? It was a matter of inheritance. When Richard Colley inherited an estate from a Wesley cousin on his mother's side, he changed his name accordingly. Note that he inherited property, NOT a title. With very rare exceptions, titles can't pass through the maternal line, but as long as property isn't entailed (a subject for a different post), one could leave it to pretty much whomever one liked. There wasn't a requirement to change one's name upon inheriting from a differently-surnamed relative, but it was commonly done. You can see something similar in Jane Austen's Emma, in which Frank Weston is adopted by his wealthy maternal grandparents and becomes known as Frank Churchill.

Two generations later, how did the Wesleys become Wellesleys? Basically, Wellington's oldest brother Richard decided he liked Wellesley better, and the rest of the family followed suit. Wellesley was indeed the original form of the name, if one went up the family tree a few generations.

Name changes of this kind were perfectly legal and didn't require the formal bureaucratic process a similar change would entail now. As long as you weren't doing it with intent to defraud someone, the powers that be didn't care.

Another form of name change you see a good bit in the 18th and 19th centuries is hyphenation, upon informal adoption, inheritance, or marriage. The second of the Wellesley brothers, William, inherited estates from a cousin by the name of Pole and is known to history as William Wellesley-Pole. He had a son, also named William, who married an heiress named Catherine Tylney-Long. When a woman brought a lot of money and/or family prestige to a marriage, sometimes her husband added his name to hers...which in this case led to the exceptionally unwieldy moniker of William Pole-Tylney-Long-Wellesley. For reals.

Next time, we'll go back to titles proper.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday - more Wolf & Huntress

Since y'all liked last week's excerpt from my historical fantasy WIP, Wolf & Huntress, so much, I figured I'd give you a little more from the first chapter. Cass Macdonald, our heroine and point-of-view character, is being forcibly restrained from going to her sister's aid in a fight. As I mentioned last week, she's just discovered she can hear werewolf telepathy, though she has no idea such a thing should be possible (it's an extremely rare ability in this world, maybe one or two people per generation) and doesn't understand why she has such a strong sense of this particular enemy's intentions:


Mary’s head rolled to the side, and for a second the sisters’ eyes met. Then the light of life died, and Mary’s eyes went still and empty as glass.

The wolf raised his head, dripping with gore. Your turn.

Cass swallowed down her grief and shock, breathing hard. Revenge first, then mourning.


Comments and feedback always appreciated, and be sure to check out other authors' contributions.