Wednesday, March 26, 2014

LIlian Cooper and Josephine Bedford: Writing a Cranky Lady of History, Two

This post is written as part of the Women's History Month Cranky Ladies of History blog tour. If  you would like to read more about cranky ladies from the past, you might like to support the FableCroft Publishing Pozible campaign, crowd-funding an anthology of short stories about Cranky Ladies of History from all over the world
In the previous Cranky Ladies post I talked about starting the story I'm submitting for this anthology. This time I'm going to move around another aspect of writing the story, one that's important to any narrative fiction: that is, figuring who the narrator will be.
Any story about Lilian Cooper automatically includes Josephine Bedford. They met as young women, somewhere around 1885 or 86, while Lilian was trying to figure a way into medical school, and as I mentioned, Josephine actually suggested a way to do it. When Lilian began her studies, Josephine decided it was time to enter the outside world too. She enrolled in a painting course in Slade School, and she and Lilian shared London lodgings. Thus began a friendship that, unlike many marriages, did last till death parted them, and then only when Lilian, her 50 year medical career over, retired at 80, and died 5 years later, in 1947.
The cover of the "official Lilian Cooper biography" has full face portraits of them both:

Lilian's picture draws on a later source than the one in my previous blog. She's kept the almost clerical collar, but the dress or coat is very plain, her hair is greyer as well as considerably wilder, and her face shows signs of age, though the jaw is still very evident.
The smaller portrait of Josephine epitomises the official biographer's description of her as "dark-haired, small, sedate, but full of the joy of life."  This face speaks to me of serenity, quiet rather than iron determination, and probably a strong if subtle sense of humour. It's the image around which I assembled my first vague notions, via a bath of data, into a hypothetical story arc. With that came the first problematic question: Who is this story's narrator?
Usually, narrators for my fiction find me, bringing the story with them. The trouble comes in building past the opening, "given" segment that the Black Gang, my creative crew, will suddenly land on me out of some Other Place. But with Lilian's story, I was left with a bunch of White Gang - the editorial component - questions about, Is it to be first person or third? Told from where? And whose pov should it be?
I considered third person, omniscient or otherwise. Then, Lilian herself as a narrator. Only the first scene's arrival showed the obvious choice: somebody who knew Lilian well, who lived with her on a day to day basis, someone who, though much less flamboyant, must have had amazing composure and equal determination, who could act as a foil to Lilian's masculinised persona, yet could reveal the complexities behind the brusque medical facade. Well, yes. Who but Josephine?
When the first words actually  hit the page, they were almost inevitable. Lilian, driving somewhere, in her perennial haste to an emergency, Jo with her, doubtless as always. And a fresh confrontation heralded over Lilian's speeding:
“Damn and blast it, Jo, it’s that bloody Higgins again!”
“Now, dear, do try to contain yourself. The man’s only doing his job -!”
Once actually heard, Jo's voice functioned effortlessly, almost as she must have in real life: the quiet but neither passive nor obliterated partner, the one who probably nursed Lilian through her fractured skull after her buggy-horse bolted - and then assumed the job of driving Lilian on her rounds. The one who learnt to change tyres when Lilian bought her car; the one who almost certainly managed their home life, yet shared every social occasion, from play openings to medical association meetings to overseas trips. The one who maintained her own life as a social activist, who unfalteringly supported groups like the SPCA in Brisbane, and the Creche and Kindergarten Association, as well as sharing Lilian's medical interests.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Guest Profile for March: Friend and Writer Deborah J. Ross

As guest for this month I would like to introduce my friend, the prolific writer and sapient editor Deborah J. Ross.

My first encounter with Deborah's work was many years ago, with her first SF novel, Jaydium, but there's a whole lot more. Her short fiction has appeared in F &SF; SF, Asimov's, Star Wars: Tales From Jabba's Palace, Realms of Fantasy, Sword & Sorceress, and various other anthologies and magazines.  Her most recent full-length fiction includes the Darkover novel, The Children of Kings (with Marion Zimmer Bradley, (Amazon, Barnes and Noble); Lambda Literary Award Finalist Collaborators, an occupation-and-resistance story with a gender-fluid alien race (as Deborah Wheeler,(Amazon, Barnes and Noble); and The Seven-Petaled Shield, an epic fantasy trilogy (Amazon, Barnes and Noble). She’s also the author of Azkhantian Tales and Ink Dance: Essays on the Writing Life, (Book View Café, Barnes and Noble).
Deborah's editorial credits include two volumes of Lace and Blade, The Feathered Edge: Tales of Magic, Love, and Daring (Amazon, Barnes and Noble,)  Beyond Grimm (with Phyllis Irene Radford) (Book View Café,  Amazon, Barnes and Noble), Mad Science Café (Book View Café, Amazon, Barnes and Noble), Across the Spectrum (with Pati Nagle,(Book View Café, Amazon), and the forthcoming Stars of Darkover (with Elisabeth Waters). She’s attended Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop, served as Secretary of SFWA, and is a member of the online writer’s cooperative publisher, Book View Café

Deborah's Blog: http://deborahjross.blogspot/com

The Questions:

1)When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

In fourth grade, I wrote and illustrated a little book about a horse who saved the world by stopping all the animals in Africa from fighting with one another. Ever since then, writing was what I loved to do, even if I feared I would never be any good at it. Happily, I am, but I've also had a lot of practice. When my first child was born and I hit career burnout, I joined an informal writers group and shortly thereafter made my first professional short story sale to Marion Zimmer Bradley for the first volume of Sword & Sorceress. That was thirty years ago and I’ve been writing up a storm every since.

2) What is your writing process? When do you write?
I wish I could say I followed a disciplined schedule because part of the time, that’s true. The other part of the time, I “settle” at different times during the day, and work in different places and for different lengths of time. The only consistent principles are that I work every day, even if it’s only contemplating the next scene while walking the dog or washing the dishes, and I don’t work well at night. As I’ve gotten older, I also don’t work well first thing in the morning, either. I need my tea and yoga stretches first. It isn’t fair, but there’s no benefit in pretending otherwise.

3) How would you characterize your fiction? Are you writing to/for a particular audience or audiences?
I'm interested in a lot of different things and write for readers who are, too. My first two novels, Jaydium (an adventure through alternate time paths, complete with six-foot silver slug-like aliens) and Northlight (set on a lower-tech world, with romantic, ecological and spiritual themes) were science fiction. Besides six Darkover novels, I’ve written epic fantasy featuring strong women heroes, science fiction dealing with gender and power, and some rather oddball young adult fiction that turns the usual paranormal tropes inside out.

My short fiction has provided me a place to be wildly inventive. I've written a Star Wars story (Tales From Jabba's Palace) and whimsical fantasy, vampires (funny ones in Sisters of the Night, or a friendship between a vampire and an observant Jew in "Transfusion" in Realms of Fantasy), I've done kids' stories (in several Bruce Coville anthologies), and almost-not-science-fiction pieces about grief and obsession and courage, grim near-future dystopic sf, and epic fantasy. Then there’s wacky stuff like "Harpies Discover Sex" for Olympus. A historical fantasy based on the life of Dona Gracia Nasi and another from the Indus Valley civilization. A story for Marion in Return to Avalon, based on the history of opera. My most recent short fiction has included “Among Friends” (F & SF) about Quakers, the Underground Railroad, and a slave-catching automaton, “A Borrowed Heart” (F & SF), which pits a prostitute against a succubus, and “The Hero of Abarxia” (When the Hero Comes Home 2) in which the hero, of course, is a horse.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Lilian Cooper, MD, FRACS: Writing a Cranky Lady in History, One

Or, The Bearable Lightness of Finishing a Draft

This post is written as part of the Women's History Month Cranky Ladies of History blog tour. If  you would like to read more about cranky ladies from the past, you might like to support the FableCroft Publishing Pozible campaign, crowd-funding an anthology of short stories about Cranky Ladies of History from all over the world
Yesterday was a lay-day, as they probably say on the  Tour de France. Had intended to do a long walk in the morning but forgot the monthly Irish Session Sat. night. Consequently, got to bed about midnight, and when the alarm went off at 5.00 am I groaned and muttered, Not today, Josephine.
Which is more than usually apposite, since the main reason for the lay-day was that Sat. afternoon around 5.00 PM, I finished the first draft of my proposed Cranky Ladies in History story.
Oh, the relief! Oh, the bliss of one less deadline leaning on the shoulder, muttering, Gotta get this done *soon*, there's that paper coming up, and then there's the novel edit somewhere in the offing, And, AND, AND!!
But Lilian's Story, or my version thereof, is now on the page.
Or the screen, if you prefer.

Originally, after being invited to contribute at end of December,  I spent a good month trying to recycle my previous favourite cranky lady, of whom more later. Unfortunately, she was already established in a full-length novel, and devious, remarkable and norm-busting as she was, shrinking her to a smaller version just didn't work.
Fortunately a friend and colleague at James Cook (Uni) who did her PhD writing short stories based around a now-demolished but notable Brisbane house, suggested someone SHE had written a story round: Lilian Cooper.
Writing Lilian was a refreshing change, firstly, because this was a fully documented historical character. My previous cranky candidate, born sometime in the 6th Century BC, had to be extrapolated from a couple of seriously devious anecdotes and a pocket bio in Herodotus  With Lilian, I had historical records, photographs, even a couple of other reference books and a whole biography. Luxury.
(This is the pic in the ABC's news article, probably quite a young photo of Lilian, though she is already wearing her trademark high mannish collar and in this case, a pretty version of a bowtie. Her hair is still quite dark and not so frizzy as in some of the later pix, but her jaw is as prominent as always. No doubt, from that face, that she had determination wired in.)

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Great Ebook Sale

 Train - Read an Ebook Week 2014 
It's Promote an Ebook Sale Week so I've put the four Everran books, Everran's Bane, The Moving Water, The Red Country and The Seagull up for half price for the promotion period. It's a bargain!
Visit my Smashword author's page direct to find the books: