Le Notre has come to visit again. I am so grateful, for his sternness comforts me as I grapple with the middle of the novel whose ending is still vague. Prune here, he announces. Plant there. Lift and carry and work. It’s physical labor, and I need it. October is a grace month in Houston, when humidity lifts and temperatures drop.
I plant violets, not the proud African ones of my girlhood, with their large heart-shaped leaves and deep purple faces, but Australian ones, the only ones I can find, with smaller, less deep emerald leaves and faces that show both white and purple. I love violets, have tried to start them any number of times in my shady yard, which they should love, without success. Le Notre points to where he thinks they might thrive. If you water, he sniffs. His face is lined with age and knowledge and Louis XIV‘s confidence in him. He’s fashionable for his time, a wig, a satin coat, shoes with buckles, a long, long staff like the one Lully used to direct the king’s orchestra. I like this stern taskmaster who tells me what to do in the garden and bears with no excuses.
I know my garden is symbolic of something, as is my choice of Le Notre as its muse, but I don’t want to probe the symbolism. There are violets to plant. There’s a woman in the novel with a heart-shaped face, who was called a shy violet by history, when it bothered with her at all. She was scorned because she wasn’t ambitious. She turned to God in her pain. Perhaps I plant for her.
Posted in Before Versailles, books, character, Charles II, creativity, Dark Angels, Karleen Koen, life, Now Face to Face, writing
Tagged "Louis XIV", "Louise de la Valliere", creativity, gardening, Karleen Koen writing, Le Notre, Lully, writing and gardening
I love it when a historian echoes one of my hunches. I read a lot of history: biographies, memoir, overviews, always have since I was a girl and became intrigued with the Plantagenets and Elizabeth I. I think I’m looking for tone, the shading I’ll paint under the story I write. I really don’t know; I just absorb and let the vapor appear filtered through whatever it is that makes up me.
So, I’ve read dozens of biographies about Louis XIV, and only this one—by a woman—and just read this week said what my gut told me as I wrote a piece of Louis’s personal story in Before Versailles. “The young King, entranced by the sincerity and intensity of Louise’s feelings towards him, loved her as he had never loved before, and was never to love again.” (Therese Louis Latour 1924) As I read other biographies, in which Louise de la Valliere is a footnote, glanced at and abandoned by the writers, I always felt there was a unique tenderness in the love affair. And that’s what I wrote.
It’s nice to have my hunch validated, even if the writer isn’t current or well known. I think much of what I do has to do with subtlety. And I must trust subtlety.
Grace notes: Saw a dove sitting in her nest in one of my trees. Nests used to mean much to me; they were a symbol of my own task in this younger life I was living.
Posted in Before Versailles, books, creativity, Dark Angels, fame, fiction, friends, George I, historical fiction, history, Houston, inspiration, journaling, Karleen Koen, life, Louis XIV, Louise de la Valliere, love, memoir, Now Face to Face, romance, romance writing, sensuality, story, story and character, story and theme, story and writing, Through A Glass Darkly, writing, writing process
Tagged "Louis XIV", "Louise de la Valliere", creativity, history, hunches, inspiration, love stories, romance, tenderness, writing, writing process
The garden is keeping me sane right now while I struggle with the middle of this book. What I’m really struggling with is not knowing. I have a vague plot, but nothing precise because the way I write, character has to lead to the next action. So I have to feel right in the character before I feel right in the action. Whine. Whine. Wine. Please.
I feel like the carpenter bees that love the cedar of my garage. They drill precise holes and burrow in and out to forage. But the return is never easy. They hover clumsily before the hole they’ve made, can float for hours before they enter. They remind me of landing craft whose pilot can’t make a decision.
So I can’t get in my hole of a story again easily once I leave it. To distract myself from the fear that this time I may not pull a novel together, I garden. I’m in the clean up, prune, unglamorous stage. Sweating. Hauling. But I have focus and a plan. I can see what needs to be done, and I do it. Done. Finished. Finito. New task. Next, please. Straightforward. Right there in front of me. Unmistakeable.
If I look back over this blog, I see my whines about my last novel, Before Versailles. As the Duchess always says, Nothing changes and everything does.
Posted in Before Versailles, books, character, Charles II, creativity, Dark Angels, fiction, George I, historical fiction, history, Houston, inspiration, Karleen Koen, life, Louis XIV, Louise de la Valliere, love, Now Face to Face, romance, romance writing, story, story and character, story and theme, story and writing, theme, Through A Glass Darkly, writing, writing process
Tagged "Louis XIV", carpenter bees, gardening, inspiration, lack of inspiration, nature, rough drafts, the Dutch Wars, writing, writing is hard, writing process
Sitting in the backyard swing under the big, old camphor tree and words came:
A glass of wine—
fat carpenter bees —
wind swirling green-tipped trees—
April heaven in the garden bower…….
Normally I play to turn it into a haiki, but I was too April lazy. It had been awhile since I’d had an impulse of words. I need to leave more time for daydreaming.
Research news: I leave for The Netherlands soon. I meet with a historian in Maastricht to talk about Louis XIV and his war on the Dutch. And we’re going to Paris for the day on the bullet train to see the war museum and an exhibit on the musketeers. And I’ll meet a historian friend of his there who specializes in the musketeers.
Lucky me. One for all and all for one………
Posted in Before Versailles, books, Charles II, creativity, Dark Angels, fiction, George I, historical fiction, inspiration, life, Louis XIV, Louise de la Valliere, Now Face to Face, story and life, Through A Glass Darkly, war, writing process
Tagged "Louis XIV", April, haiki, Houston, Maastricht, The Netherlands, writing
Le Notre and I are busy. He walks around my yard, leaning on the gold-headed cane gifted him by Louis XIV, and commands me to prune and pick up and plant. I love it when he visits. It’s that time of year, when my yard becomes a siren, and I lured to toil. It’s good to put one’s hands in soil, to dig and rake and straighten. To put a seed down. Seeds are the epitome of hope. I need hope in these days of my aging. It’s my botox.
Posted in Before Versailles, books, Charles II, creativity, Dark Angels, George I, historical fiction, history, inspiration, Karleen Koen, Louis XIV, Louise de la Valliere, Now Face to Face, romance, romance writing, spirituality, Through A Glass Darkly, Uncategorized, writing
Tagged "Louis XIV", botox, gardens, hope, Houston, Karleen Koen, Le Notre, spring
What a strange life I lead. I am researching details to write a war scene. I’m reading about demi-lunes and covered ways and bastions and ricochet fire. I’ve already researched it, but I’m going over and over it in my mind before I write it. A character will die in this war scene. If I see the siege in my mind, I’ll be able to make a reader see it. I’m in 1673 internally. In 2014, I’m at my computer looking at old drawings and making notes and diagrams. As the wicked witch told Dorothy, what a world, what a world.
Posted in Before Versailles, Charles II, creativity, Dark Angels, fiction, George I, historical fiction, Karleen Koen, Louis XIV, love, Now Face to Face, romance, romance writing, story, story and writing, Through A Glass Darkly, war, writing, writing process
Tagged "Louis XIV", romance, story and life, Vauban, war, writing, writing process
Here’s something I wrote for Creative Madness Mama. At first I felt like I had no idea what to say, but I started anyway and before I knew it, words flowed out. That’s the way it is with writing prompts, why I like them, why writers who feel stuck should practice with them………
I wish I were creatively mad. Perhaps then I wouldn’t worry so. But when I think about it, creative madness does have me. Why write about a family in the early 18th century and become so engaged with them that you take the story backwards instead of forwards to write about the grandmother? Why take the story backwards instead of forwards? Why spend your days imagining what a character might have said or how she/he would react? Why read biographies and social commentaries and memoirs and funny old almanacs and recipe books? People around me rise at 7 am, go off to work in a cubicle. I can stay at home in my pajamas and daydream about other centuries and people who aren’t real, or who were real but now are gone. That’s crazy, that’s madness. That’s creative……………..
The best part of creative madness is when I know I have the story. It’s when the characters become as real as someone I live with. To leap off the reams of biography and commentary about Louis XIV and know him when he was 22 and vulnerable and wanting to live up to an ideal was crazy and incredibly liberating. I became very fond of him in Before Versailles. I hope you become fond of him, too…….
Do you ever experience creative madness?
Posted in Before Versailles, Charles II, creativity, Dark Angels, Geroge I, historical fiction, Karleen Koen, Louis XIV, Louise de la Valliere, Now Face to Face, Through A Glass Darkly
Tagged "Louis XIV", Before Versailles, creativity, nurturing creativity, writing, writing prompts