15 December 2016

Oops…that’s not what I sat down to write

I’ve been asked dozens of times if I’m a plotter or a pantser (which means I write by the seat of my pants). I’ve often described myself as a plotzer. I try to plot but end up winging the words.
The truth is, my muse is just out-and-out insane, and I’m at his mercy. Sometimes he tells me what’s coming. Other times he prefers to surprise me. A couple of months ago, Mr. Muse shocked me by telling me about this average, contemporary hero named Boone.
Now my muse and I don’t write contemporaries. As a life-long medievalist with interests solidly fixed in the 12th century, a contemporary was never a blip on my radar, much less an option. So, I said no.
He kept whispering.
I ignored him.
He woke me at 3 a.m.
I threatened to eunuch him. He promised me the key to the five-book historical series I’ve been struggling to write for a few years now.
He won. I following his crooked path and found a contemporary novella at the end of it. 
In Something Promised, Boone Robertson and Eden Rivers have to confront injury, greed, and ghosts before finding a future. Even then, a future together isn’t guaranteed. The story is still in development and I haven’t even looked for a publisher but it’s interesting to write about people who aren’t trying to save the kingdom—or the world—they are just trying to find what we all want: someone to love and laugh with.
I find myself excited and challenged by the story’s very normalness (but I’m still holding Mr. Muse to his promise for the historical series).

Mom is naked again.” 
Eden Rivers tripped up the old step, dropping her walking pole in the stumble. She grabbed the rail. Splinters dug into her palm. Balancing on one foot, she caught her breath and waited for the pain to fade. 
“No need to be so dramatic,” her sister said as she snatched up the walking stick. "Did you hear what I said?"
Eden tentatively shifted her weight. No pain. Well, no more than usual.  
“Mom is weeding the yard au natural.” Savannah Rivers-Knott slipped the iPhone into her back pocket. “She is getting more ridiculous as she gets older, not less.” 
“Front or back?” Eden asked. 
“Is she gardening in the front or back yard?” 
Savannah wrinkled her upper lip. “Does it matter?” 
“If she’s in the front yard, we tell her to stop before she causes an accident on 68. In the back, we tell Old Lady Pratt to mind her own business.”

Keena Kincaid is the author of four, full-length romance novels set in 12th century England, as well as several novellas in the same period. Her books are available from Amazon and other online outlets. You also can fan or friend her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

15 October 2016

Nothing new under the sun

Someone recently commented that chaos would follow this election, regardless of who win.

As an historian, I have to confess: the chaos has started.

For the most part, everyone likes history, but I think the one thing you get from studying history versus just reading history is the long-view of life on earth. You learn how to take an event and follow the ripples through the centuries and realizing that seemingly unconnected events are, in fact, so intertwined one would not happen without the other.

The best example of this is probably James Burke’s Connections series. Watch the series. He actually tells you what that has to do with the price of tea in China and gives you an idea of what the long-view can do for how your see the world.

So what does all of this have to do with the current presidential elections? As we all know, this election is out of control. Pundits and extremists on both sides have predicted chaos will follow if “their” candidate isn’t elected.

But if you take the long-view, however, the chaos has started. It actually started decades ago, if not in the fall out of World War 1, which was itself a consequence of our on-going shift from agrarian to industrial one and now to automation.

More importantly for this election, people are losing jobs and those jobs aren’t coming back regardless of campaign promises. The jobs of the future haven’t jelled yet so we don’t know where to go for deliverance. It’s a normal part of the ebb and flow of society but it’s unsettling. Hence the anger, the preppers, the mass shootings, the rioters, the people quietly googling “where should I live after Nov. 6?"

One problem is it’s hard to see the long-view amidst chaos, and many people don’t even look for it.

Business focus on the next quarter.

Politicians focus on the next election.

People focus on the next weekend.

Few of us are looking beyond the immediate pain to see where we’re going and lay foundations to get there. Instead, they want a quick fix and assurances that they will be safe. This is why guns, bunker manufacturing, food preservation and training for the apocalypse have become multibillion-dollar industries.
Trump’s appeal lies in his outsider role and promises of quick fixes. He’s cast himself as the lone wolf hero (a very American literary archetype) and makes it OK to lay the blame for the chaos on whatever scapegoat you choose. And it’s very nice to have someone to blame…whether it’s Christians in Ancient Rome, Jews in Medieval Europe, Witches in early modern times or Communists in McCarthy’s America.

As a woman, the misogyny that’s erupted around this campaign reminds that it’s easy to lose rights, even those pledged to us.

My area of study is the 12thcentury, the era of Eleanor of Aquitaine, Empress Matilda, and some men you might have heard about, Henry II (son of Matilda and husband to Eleanor) and Richard the Lionhearted (son of Eleanor and husband to no woman).

Matilda was the only legitimate daughter of King Henry I, who had upward of 20 illegitimate children. His son and heir, William, drowned when the White Ship burned and sank in the English Channel in 1120, throwing the succession into chaos.

At the King’s urging, the barons vowed to support Matilda as “king,” but when the time came to crown her in 1140, her cousin Stephen of Blois raced to Winchester and had himself crowned before the pregnant Matilda could arrive. Enough of the nobility broke their vow and supported Stephen that civil war followed.

By summer of 1141, she was winning. Then the chatter started. Chroniclers tell us that Matilda:
  • Displayed “intolerable pride and willfulness”
  • Possessed an “extremely arrogant demeanor instead of the modest gait and bearing proper to the gentle sex”
  • Was “lifted up into an insufferable arrogance”
  • “Alienated the hearts of almost everyone”
  • Was “unfemininely willful and unnaturally domineering”
Sound familiar?

For the record, I have problems with Clinton. I think her vision is small, short-term and unprogressive. But I also think history will be kinder to her than her peers have been. History takes a long-view and knows when it’s seen this shit before.

Most importantly, though, history also tells us not to despair. Chaos ends, just as fat and happy times pass.

Even in the midst of The Black Death, people still married, still made wills, still sued their neighbor for diverting his sewer into their backyard. On the Camino, you’ll see all types of graffiti but one of the most common phrases is: LIVE YOUR LIFE.

So even as chaos rages, be kind, have faith, and live your life. 

19 August 2016

Do you have a Dirty Little Secret?

To celebrate the release of my new workbook, The Dirty Little Secrets of Character Development, I'm hosting a special Dirty Little Secrets (DLS) online workshop.

The workshop will be an interactive, online course that leads participants through fun, inventive exercises that will help them root out their characters' deep, dark secrets and how to use these secrets to further plot, conflict and (of course) the romance.

The workshop will run Tuesday, Sept. 20 to Thursday, Oct. 20. Cost is $15

Course requirements:
  • Dirty Little Secrets Workbook (now on pre-order; available from Amazon Sept. 6)
  • WIP or partial synopsis (it helps if you have an idea of your characters before beginning)
  • 3 to 5 hours per week for course homework
  • Google email address

To sign up:
  • Send your name, location, and gmail address to Keena Kincaid
  • Subject line: Dirty Little Secrets Workshop Registration
I will send you a registration invoice via PayPal and invite you into my workshop circle on Google+ From there we can post, message, and video chat. 

16 August 2016

The Luxury of Equality

 Over the weekend, my family had a lively discussion about the whiplash of women’s status through the ages, comparing gender equality in ancient Egypt and the modern Western world vs. women’s status in ancient Greece and some modern Middle Eastern countries.

Why would women let that happen? One nephew asked.

But the thing is, women didn’t let it happen. When a civilization collapses and you’re fighting for survival for yourself and your children, men’s superior physical strength quickly unlevels the playing field. 

The fall from equality to second-class citizen with the legal status of a child might be quick or slow, but I suspect it’s always a shock to the individuals involved—and it chafes future generations of women no matter how much time passes.

Because I write medieval romances, I think a lot about the tensions between men and women within the society. Medieval women knew they deserved better and many got better from individuals, but they still faced institutional misogyny.

In An Unexpected Gift—available tomorrow as a stand-alone novella—the heroine is at her most vulnerable. She’s pitted against a society that sees her as someone to exploit or protect, but not stand beside or respect.

Ada is probably my most traditional heroine in that she is at a powerless moment in her life. She’s brave and strong and resourceful, but ultimately she cannot rescue herself, a fact that she hates.
She must place her faith in a stranger—a man who could be her savior or someone even more dangerous than the man who wants to kill her and her unborn child—and that is where the story begins.

Keena Kincaid writes historical romances in which passion, magic and treachery collide to create unforgettable stories. You can find out more about her books here