Monday, February 26, 2018

Give Me Love

Valentine’s Day is long past, but the subject of adult love is never ending.

How’s that for a stunning bit of wisdom? But love is an endless discussion topic, no matter what our age, gender, etc. Why? Maybe because we really don’t understand it?

I’ve never fancied the “and they lived happily ever after” books. That happens, but so does “and they lived miserably ever after”. Marriage is often work. Sometimes the passion isn’t mutual or the transitions from initial romance do not occur equally. Sometimes love doesn’t fit the stereotype. Sometimes it just plain terrifies us.

Have I made love sound downright dismal?

Surprise! There are a couple of happy marriages in my books, but I do try to portray the complexity and fluidity of the emotion. We often think adult love should be “a certain way”, permanent and “proper”. We try to fit it into a straightjacket, then get all panic-stricken when it won’t stay in the fool thing. But rather than get into modern debates on divorce, infidelity, or the changing roles of marital partners, I try to stick to the medieval, while acknowledging that psychology hasn’t changed much in a few millennia.

In the upper classes, marriages were usually arranged for family profit. Some of those unions evolved into a mutually satisfying form of love and partnership. Some most certainly did not. In less property-oriented families, people more often did marry for love. That, too, can be either a delight or a disaster.

There were gay people back then, but the concept of a “homosexual” was nonexistent. (In my chosen era, sodomites included anyone who had non-Church approved sex.) Most gay people, as was expected, married the opposite gender and had sexual relations with their spouses for the approved purpose of begetting children. Many of those marriages were companionable. Like heterosexuals, caught in less than satisfying marriages, gays also had lovers outside the approved union. How gay men and women survived emotionally and formed relationships was fascinating research. For this, I thank my character, Brother Thomas.

Contrary to popular opinion, medievals weren’t na├»ve about lust and sex. It was a largely rural society, and, even in urban areas, cats and dogs did it in the streets and never scared the horses. (Hildegard von Bingen, a woman raised by an anchoress, wrote knowledgeably about sex.) So it should come as no surprise that my Prioress Eleanor, although raised in a convent, was fully aware of sex. With a genuine vocation, however, she assumes she can deal with any temptation, but, when she meets Brother Thomas, her feelings about him would make an NC-17 movie rating blush. How does she handle this? Her journey is another look at the complex nature of love, as is his with her.

Monday, February 12, 2018


Welcome to my new blog!

After several years with the delightful group of authors in the LadyKillers, I realized that blogging is not scary. It’s possible to be irreverent, irrelevant, opinionated, curmudgeonly, or just curious about a topic without coming to any conclusions. In short, it can be fun.

So what can you expect here?

I can’t pretend to be an expert about much. Writing is a craft, not a science, so there are as many opinions on what works as there are authors and readers. After 14.5 books, I may have the right to observations but not to state rules. As for medieval history, I am passionate about it, care to get the details right, and believe the study of history is as crucial as math and science. That said, I have no degree in it and must therefore remain an ardent amateur. I did officially study literature, but all that means is I learned to be an observant reader, a habit as addictive as some opioid, perhaps as dangerous in intolerant societies, but rather useful if one opts to write.

What I can do is present my thoughts on stuff. Not all stuff. My mother tried to teach me that there are three things one never discusses in polite company: religion, politics, and money. Like much else, she only partially succeeded in training me properly. What I won’t do is talk about explicit religion or politics (innuendos allowed), but I can promise never to ask how much anyone earns.

For those who have read my Author Notes or any of the blogs I wrote over the years with LadyKillers, you have a pretty good idea of what to expect, at least in tone. For others, who might be dropping in for the first time, I offer a warm welcome, maybe a bit of humor, hopefully the rare interesting thought, and a promise to respond to comments left (should you be so inclined).

My plan is to write an entry every other Monday, so, assuming the Fates are in a good mood and I manage to post successfully, the next entry will be on Monday, February 26th.