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Language switching and “Empress Matilda of England”

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As Matilda prayed King Henry quietly slipped into the chapel, “You are still in mourning, Matilda.”

Matilda turned to him and bowed her head respectfully, “Mein König!”

“You are not empress and this is not Germany.”

“Ja, mein König.”

“Stop calling me that and speak English, Matilda,” growled King Henry sternly.

“Pourquoi?”

“Parce que je suis le roi d’Angleterre et vous êtes ma fille!”

“Oui, sa est ta fille, Henri,” confirmed Queen Adeliza as she strode out from behind one of the chapel’s many columns. Adeliza curtsied to Matilda, “Guten Morgen, meine Kaiserin. Fröhliche Weihnachten.”

“Fröhliche Weihnachten,” smiled Matilda before switching to English, “You must be my step-mother.”

If you are a fan of the Legendary Women of World History Series, you are probably familiar with quick language switching from the above except from “Empress Matilda of England” that hallmarks the series. Historical persons speak many languages in the Legendary Women of World History, a reflection of their personal histories and the world around him. Speaking in one’s native tongue, at least occasionally, helps us remember who people are.  Language is a core part of our identity, our psychology, even when we are not conscious of it. Words carry not only their direct meaning, but a cultural subtext that literally alters how we think.  One of the many benefits of speaking multiple languages, at least partially, is the way each language forces us to work from a different point of view.

Chinese, for example, uses the same verb form regardless of singular, plural, or when something happened.  In Chinese things these are signaled through nearby words. For example 我说中文 means “I speak Chinese.” 说 is the verb “to speak.” 她们过说中文 means “they [female] used to speak Chinese. In spoken Chinese the words “he” and “she” are pronounced exactly the same. The ideas of “he” and “she” are contextual in Chinese. 她们过说中文 and 他们过说中文 sound exactly the same and in English are translated the same since English does not distinguish gender in the third person plural unlike French which does (ils sont verses elles sont).

Specific traits from our native language shape our view of the world. Gender is not immediately obvious in spoken Chinese (only in written Chinese) unlike many Western European languages where gender is instantly recognizable. Welsh often begins sentences with the direct object and puts the subject last. A famous example of that from Gwenllian ferch Gruffydd is my favourite line, “Cymraes dw i,” which means I am a Welsh woman. Cymraes means Welsh (person) in the feminine form (the masculine is Cymraeg which is the same word as you use for the Welsh language). Dw i means “I am.” Welsh often mutates. “Gymraeg” is the same word as “Cymraeg” and which one you use depends on context — and is one reason why the language is best learned in person with native Welsh speakers.

It is this massive role that language plays in our lives that requires the persons in the Legendary Women of World History series to occasionally speak a few words of her or his native tongue.  When Baron William Fitzgerald calls Matilda, “F’arglwyddes!” she and you along with her immediately know that William is Welsh. F’arglwyddes, if you haven’t guessed, means “Milady.” Incidentally “Fitz” in a name means “son of” and is the French equivalent of Welsh “ap” in a name.

Fortunately, most of the non-English in the LWWH can be figured out through context. Contextual reading is not usually the way Americans are taught to read, but it is critical skill to develop and one more reason why the LWWH make excellent texts for home schools. Contextual reading means you are working not only on the word level, but the sentence and paragraph level to discern meaning. In chapter one of Empress Matilda, I kick this up a notch in a single scene.

“Guten morgen. Sie müssen Matilda sein. Ich bin Heinrich, der römisch-deutsche Kaiser.” Smiling Emperor Heinrich looked into Matilda’s grey eyes, the blankness on her face making clear to him that she did not understand what he just said. Slowly Heinrich knelt beside her to meet her eyes, his voice soft and reassuring. “Ich werde dich nicht verletzen. Hab keine Angst. Ich bin derjenige, der dein Mann sein wird. Ich bin jetzt dein Kaiser und wenn du alt genug bist, wirst du meine Kaiserin.”

Here we are confused and meant to be confused. Matilda is eight years old and suddenly ripped from her home and family in London to be presented to Kaiser (Kaiser means “emperor” in German) Heinrich V to whom she is to be wed. Like most royal brides of the middle ages and early renaissance, she does not speak a word of her future husband’s language. Because we do not understand on a sentence level what he is saying to her, we share in her terror and confusion and in her relief when, soon after in the scene, the English ambassador steps forward and summarizes what Heinrich just said, telling her that this is the emperor to whom she is to be wed and conveying to her his reassurances that he means her no harm.

This is context on the scenic level which is the level that we operate on when in social situations. For example, a simple “Merry Christmas” can express completely different ideas and intentions depending on who we are speaking to, when, our tone of voice, and our histories with the person or persons we are saying it to.

This is the level you are sometimes asked to work on when reading Empress Matilda of England. This is a major reason why Matilda is for ages twelve and up; it requires a more advanced reading proficiency than the six previous books in the series.

Whether Empress Matilda of England becomes your next favourite book or not, it is my sincerest wish that you will never stop reading, never stop learning, and never stop seeking to make tomorrow better than today. Let’s roar!

 

 

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Poll: Henry V or Tudor Romance

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Catherine de Valois was one of the most fascinating people of 15th century Europe.  Daughter to the paranoid schizophrenic Charles VI of France, she was the “Kate” of Shakespeare’s Henry V.

 

But few people know the story beyond Shakespeare’s rendering.  That is why this summer, the Legendary Women of World History is pleased to bring you the true story of Catherine de Valois which will go into audio edition shortly after publication for release in time for Christmas.

 

Being an ever responsive author and historian, I come to you to ask you what fascinates you most about Catherine.  Please answer the following poll and share.

 

Reblog: Five Ways to Write Characters People Care About

The following is re-blogged from http://writersrelief.com/blog/2014/05/write-characters-people-care-about/

 

Princess Anyu from Laurel A. Rockefeller's  Peers of Beinan series

Princess Anyu from Laurel A. Rockefeller’s Peers of Beinan series

“In a previous article, we explored five ways to make your characters more three-dimensional. Once your characters are believable as living, breathing individuals, the next step is to make readers care about them. When readers are invested in the characters’ struggles and personal stories, they are much more likely to keep reading.

Here are five ways to make readers care about your characters:

Make Your Characters Need Something. One of the easiest ways to make your character more empathetic is to expose a vulnerability and establish a need to: save a dying mother, fall in love, crack the code, etc. The need can be as simple as “get to work on time” or as complicated as “save the world.” But it will encourage readers to empathize with the character and root for his or her success.

Example: Joe struggles through failed relationship after failed relationship in an attempt to find his soul mate.

Make Your Characters Take A Stand On Important Issues. A character with strong convictions and a cause to be passionate about will intrigue readers and earn their respect. If your audience is interested in your character’s goals and respects your character’s convictions, they’ll be more inclined to follow the story line to its conclusion.

Example: Leslie stands up for women’s equality in the workplace at a local public forum.

Make Your Character The Underdog. Nothing piques the interest of the reader more than the inspirational story of a hero battling against seemingly impossible odds, struggling to find success under the bleakest of circumstances. Who wouldn’t cheer for the little guy? Think David vs. Goliath.

Example: Despite being an amateur boxer, Andrew is nervous but optimistic before his match against the world champion.

Give Your Characters Idealistic Qualities. Readers love characters that embody qualities and ideals they also aspire to. Even if your character is a scoundrel, make him or her a soft-hearted scoundrel. Characters that exemplify the best of humanity entice the reader to stay engaged and keep reading.

Example: Dan may be a pirate, but he will use his ship to run the blockade and bring food to the starving orphans.

Give Your Characters Formidable Foes. Heroes are only as good as the villains who oppose them. Giving your main character adversaries who present challenging obstacles will bring out the best (and sometimes the worst) in your characters. As daunting as that sounds, the journey to overcome these obstacles will further endear your characters to the reader.

Example: Iago has created a web of lies designed to test Othello’s resolve.

Empathetic Characters Don’t Always Have To Be Good Guys

Creating characters that evoke empathy in the reader can be challenging, but these five methods will ensure that your efforts are successful. And keep in mind that empathetic characters don’t always have to be likable. Try your hand at writing an unlikable (or even villainous) character that exudes empathetic qualities. Think Patrick Bateman in American Psycho or Severus Snape from the Harry Potter series.”

Author Interview: Ritch Gaiti*

The Big EmptyGood morning! Today we have author Ritch Gaiti with us to talk about his writing and his new book, “The Big Empty.”

PoB:   What if any social issues do you explore in “The Big Empty?”

 

Set in downtown New York City and the Bronx, the book starts as a simple mystery and slowly evolves into a major conspiracy around historical events. The ultimate message in the book has been the American’s injustices towards the American Indian but that is not evident until later in the book. The story takes place in locales far away from what we normally associate with the American Indian. Yet, New York, once the center of our government and commerce, is where it all began. Woven into the fabric of the plot, are nuggets of American history and Indian culture to provide some of the historical basis of past events and tragedies.

PoB: What formats are you offering your book in and why?

Ebooks of all kinds and paperback through Amazon. Most people are reading ebooks these days but occasionally, the feel of the paper texture adds a pleasant sense to the act of reading. And maybe someone would want to put The Big Empty on the bookshelf just to impress his or her friends. 

 

PoB:  How have your experiences living and working in New York City shaped this book?

The core of the book takes place downtown Manhattan, Wall Street, to be precise. I spent most of my prior career there and I loved the area.  I have always been fascinated by the architecture, the mix of new and historical buildings, and the seemingly incestuous streets that wind into themselves. I described the environment as I saw it and felt it and made many trips back to Wall Street as I wrote The Big Empty. I brought this sensitivity along with a sense of history into the book – keeping in mind that the ‘wall’ of Wall Street was once the boundary of civilization in America.

PoB:  I lived in Brooklyn for several years.  What will New Yorkers and former New York city residents like me find familiar in this book?

 

I was brought up in Brooklyn. In fact, my last book, Dutching the Book, was about gamblers in 1960’s Brooklyn. The Big Empty however, takes place in Wall Street and the Bronx. The lead character, Rick Wallace, who has been away from New York for too long experiences it once again. I tried to deliver the sensibilities and sensations of someone who is not accustomed to the city the way the city folks are – from the loud cacophony of the subway, to the tall overpowering buildings, to the beauty of Wall Street, to the dirty water street franks, to the mixed architecture and diversity of the Bronx. A real sense of the city from all strata is delivered. I also introduced New York/American history into the story line – I find it fascinating and sometimes we all take it for granted.

 

PoB:  In what ways do you see your background working on Wall Street reflected in the plot and characters of “The Big Empty?”

 

Some of the characters are based on composites of people I have met along the way.  But my role on Wall Street was technology development – diametrically opposed to the lead character’s background.  In fact, the lead character was a far away from Wall Street as you can imagine. Yet, he was deeply affected by some significant business events. Other than conveying my impressions of the physical environment and a sense of business, my background did not reflect in the story. What did reflect, however, was the research and homework I had done on American history, Native American culture and my passion to bring out past injustices

 

 

*Disclaimer:  Opinions expressed in author interviews belong exclusively to the authors featured and do not represent the viewpoints of the Peers of Beinan series, author Laurel A. Rockefeller, or any other related entity.  Presented interviews do not constitute endorsement of any product, service, or point of view.  Readers are encouraged to form their own opinions concerning presented content herein.

Where in the world is Princess Anyu?

Where in the world is Princess Anyu?

Where is Princess Anyu?  You tell me!  If D425E25 Tertius turns out to be Earth, where should the princess spend her seven yen-ar long exile and why?

 

–Laurel A. Rockefeller

The Peers of Beinan series

http://www.peersofbeinan.com

http://www.amazon.com/Laurel-A.-Rockefeller/e/B008YVJJFE/

Ghosts of the Past shows a sexier side to Beinarian society

Ghosts of the Past digital cover

Ghosts of the Past is book two of my Peers of Beinan series.  Set three generations after “The Great Succession Crisis,” and spanning four generations, Ghosts follows the descendents of Princess Anlei as they struggle with terrorism and violence.  Readers of “The Great Succession Crisis,” will remember the revenge promised by Lord Janus.  Now Janus takes his revenge from the grave directly through his new incarnation and through his descendants in this story where you never know who or when someone will fall to terrorism or murder.

True to my narrative style, none of this violence is graphic; you don’t need to see every drop of Beinarian green-yellow blood to know someone is dead!

Sex too is an inevitable part of Ghosts of the Past as generation after generation is born.  None of this gets explicit, but there is a lot more sex to Ghosts than its prequel.

A reader or two has suggested that this sex is not necessary.  So this morning I would like to take a look at this sexier side.

Character building and sex:

As early as chapter one, we see our first hero, Lord Knight Elendir, seduced by Princess Cathryn, then by Lady Elita in the chapter of the same name.  Is this sex for the sake of sex?

Let’s take a look at what happens and why.

Early in chapter one, we watch the sixty yen-ar old Elendir elevated to knighthood.  This sounds pretty old, until you realize that Beinarians come of age at 50 yen-ars and live over 300 yen-ars barring accident, illness, or violence.  Ages 50 to 80 for Beinarians are therefore roughly equivalent to Earth humans aged 18 to 21 with all of the same habits for reckless behavior that comes with that age.

Typical of a such a young man, Elendir starts out vulnerable to his hormones, finding it difficult for him to assert mind and will over his body, especially when faced by attractive women who know how to exploit this flaw.  As a knight of Ten-Ar, he has been trained to resist his body, of course, but is far less successful at it than his ancestor, Lord Knight Corann, from book one. Elendir is therefore a flawed young man whose failings come to haunt him — and those he loves — later on in life.

Elendir’s best friend, Prince Kendric, also has some serious problems.  The treaty that “resolved” the Great Succession Crisis has forced him to marry a woman he doesn’t know and doesn’t love over the woman he is very deeply in love with.  But Princess Lidmila is not your typical nobleman’s pawn.  With secret connections to the same terrorists behind the healing center bombings, she abuses Beinarian fertility technology to drug and control her unwilling husband.  These drugs take a serious toll on the young prince who in time resumes his relationship with his sweetheart, Lady Aurnia.  As with Elendir, the sex described after the fact is used to convey key information about Prince Kendric, Princess Lidmila, and Lady Aurnia.

Finally, there is Kendric’s youngest daughter Constance who becomes the youngest ever Gurun dynasty queen after her father’s murder (celebrated in the song she sings at the crime scene).  Constance is in a tight place.  Both her parents are dead.  The terrorist strikes have now raged for over 100 yen-ars (300 Earth years), decimating her family, and the future of the planet is on her narrow, adolescent shoulders.  Attracted to Elendir’s son Corann, she marries according to her political instincts.  But time cannot erase her attraction and affection for Corann, setting in motion what comes later.

Ghosts of the Past IS a sexier story than its prequel, but for good reason as I hope I have demonstrated.  Far from erotica (most of it is done through metaphors and vague descriptions), it shows very poignantly the consequences of our choices and the impact of poor decisions from our youth on the rest of our lives — and others’ lives by extension.  In Elendir’s vulnerability to his body, he becomes more real to us than some cookie cutter knight from a storybook; whether we admit it or not, every single one of us has felt the intensity of that particular fire from adolescence.  Therefore in sharing this experience, we also feel his agony regarding the deaths of his parents by terrorism and feel his struggles more intensely.

This I hope makes Ghosts of the Past more than just a murder-mystery, but a story we all can relate to, even from a galaxy far far away from Beinan!

 

–Laurel A. Rockefeller

The Peers of Beinan series

http://www.peersofbeinan.com

http://www.amazon.com/Laurel-A.-Rockefeller/e/B008YVJJFE/