Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Again, A Cover Reveal! And Christina Rossetti and heroes and heroines and romance and...

Happy Tuesday!!
This? This is just for fun. It's a stock brownie picture that I leave on my hard drive because with all this blogging (hahahaha, I hardly ever blog) I need to throw out some culinary bling now and then.
 I know, it seems like every time I post, I reveal another cover, but I'm writing my brains out here. Now that I've figured that time writing= actual books, I'm committed to writing  on a firm schedule. Well, I mean committed in a "if there's nothing good on TV and everyone's asleep and I've read every stupid article on Yahoo news" sort of way.
So, without further ado (which always makes me think of Much Ado About Nothing, which has been made into a film by Joss Whedon!!!!) here's the new cover:

Oh, pretty! Now, we went around and around a few (hundred) times and this is what we got. I'm happy. I think the designer working for Kim Killion is currently on a 5150 hold but that has NOTHING TO DO WITH ME. (Kidding. She seemed very sane during our last e-mail exchange. Very relieved to be done with me, but sane.)

 Honestly, when I first saw this cover I thought, "she looks SO WHITE". I mean, ghostly white. Pale like the dead. And then I smiled. Because the heroine has been kept in an ivory tower for most of her young life, being pampered and spoiled and coddled. Then one day she discovers the ugly underbelly of her city, and everything changes. She changes. Her ideas of beauty and truth and wealth and honor, they all change. So, the more I look at this cover, the more it makes me smile. First impressions can be so wrong. At first glance, she's a rich white woman without a care but at heart, she's fighting a losing battle for Chinese laborers on the railroad, who were treated worse than cattle or dogs. It's not a pretty world she's thrown herself into, and it won't be pretty when she reveals her biggest secret.

The title? "It makes no sense" you say? Well, it comes from an old poem, just like the title of the first in the series (All The Blue of Heaven). 'A Royal Princess' by Christina Rosetti is about a (yes) princess who is lonely and afraid. You can read the entire thing here.

 It starts like this:

"I, a princess, king-descended, decked with jewels, gilded, drest,
Would rather be a peasant with her baby at her breast,
For all I shine so like the sun, and am purple like the west.

Two and two my guards behind, two and two before,
Two and two on either hand, they guard me evermore;
Me, poor dove, that must not coo—eagle that must not soar."

I love Rossetti's poetry. We know exactly what this girl is feeling. She's draped in velvet and jewels, but has no one. She has guards to protect her, but can't make a sound. She's a dove. Wait... she's an EAGLE.

Here's the thing about eagles: they do soar. But they are also fierce, powerful, intelligent. You don't want to cross a mother eagle protecting her nest, or any eagle in a controlled dive for prey. Christina Rossetti has given us a glimpse into the heart of our princess. She's a beauty, but she's smart and observant.
I love a powerful heroine. I love a woman who has all the cards stacked against her and still comes out swinging. There are fierce and powerful women everywhere, throughout all of history. But how do we make our heroine, the love interest in a romance (which this book is, of course!) also tender? Because our princess is seeking LOVE, too.

More from the poem:
"Alone by day, alone by night, alone days without end;
My father and my mother give me treasures, search and spend—
O my father! O my mother! have you ne'er a friend?"

When does it change? When does her loneliness turn her vision outward, to the suffering world around her? Well, in the poem, the princess observes her father's callous practices, ordering men around, sometimes to their deaths. She also overhears a conversation between servants, laughing over the famine that is killing the people of the kingdom.

"My father counting up his strength sets down with equal pen
So many head of cattle, head of horses, head of men;
These for slaughter, these for breeding, with the how and when.

Some to work on roads, canals; some to man his ships;
Some to smart in mines beneath sharp overseers' whips;
Some to trap fur-beasts in lands where utmost winter nips.

Once it came into my heart, and whelmed me like a flood,
That these too are men and women, human flesh and blood;
Men with hearts and men with souls, though trodden down like mud."


Now she knows. Our pampered princess knows what's happening and who's causing it. What does she do? What CAN she do?

Remember, she's not just fierce and fast, but she's intelligent and observant. She comes up with a plan. At least, in MY story she does.
Christina Rossetti's princess doesn't really have a plan. The people are rioting:

'Sit and roast there with your meat, sit and bake there with your bread,
You who sat to see us starve,' one shrieking woman said:
'Sit on your throne and roast with your crown upon your head.'

Yikes. They're torching the castle. So what does she do? She walks out of the castle, holding all her jewels, hoping...

"With a ransom in my lap, a king's ransom in my hand,
I will go down to this people, will stand face to face, will stand
Where they curse king, queen, and princess of this cursed land.

They shall take all to buy them bread, take all I have to give;
I, if I perish, perish; they to-day shall eat and live;
I, if I perish, perish; that's the goal I half conceive:

Once to speak before the world, rend bare my heart and show
The lesson I have learned which is death, is life, to know.
I, if I perish, perish; in the name of
God I go."

Hm. Now, I love the sentiment. I know she's going out there to help, to give up everything she has so that the starving people can eat. But she's walking into a rabid mob that's trying to burn her where she stands.

Smart? Maybe not.
And I do love a smart heroine. I would love it if our Rossetti princess could have come up with a better plan in the weeks between her realization and gathering up her jewels and sacrificing herself.  A 'goal I half conceive' is pretty much a half-baked plan. It could use some work. Some scheming. Some thought.
Part of the poem's power is that we're pretty sure she's just ended her life while trying to right some wrongs. But this book is a romance and I'd rather not write a death scene for my fierce, intelligent heroine. Someday I may write an ending like that, but not this time, not this book.

Sometimes even fierce, intelligent heroines must resort to a little subterfuge. Sometimes they must work behind the scenes. Sometimes they have to look sweet, dainty, pristine, and pampered on the outside, while battling murderers and bullies.

Now, Christina Rossetti's poem ended in the princess walking to her death, without ever finding someone to call her own, without ever finding a kindred spirit. But our heroine, Margaret, finds someone just like herself. She doesn't see it right away, because she's got her eye on the prize, where it should be. But that's the thing about walking the hard road, fighting for justice, doing the will of God: you end up right next to people just like yourself.
In the midst of battle you glance to the left or the right and you see... a friend. A person who is as passionate about fighting the bullies as you are, a person who has been working in their own way toward the exact same goal, for the exact same reason.

A heroine doesn't just happen. She's made. By her decisions, hopes, fears, prayers, and dreams. And a hero doesn't fall from the sky. He's right next to her, working for the same goal.
And then no matter what it looks like on the outside, whether you're dressed like kings and queens or ragged paupers, your heart is one. Which is the most important part of all.

So, thanks for wandering through the inspiration for the title. (That was just the TITLE, ha!) This book should be tidied and ready to go... oh, sometime soon. I'd like to say in the next few weeks but editing is a bear and we know editing can make or break a good book. So, I'll drop a line when it's out. In the meantime, you can always come visit over on my Virginia Carmichael facebook page.




  1. Virginia, this was a fabulous post. Sort of like a college lit class, but more fun. You've really whet my appetite for this story.

    1. Let's not go check what the experts say about the poem! We'll pretend my interpretation is correct!

  2. Virginia,

    I agree with Mary Curry in that this was a great post and, being an Americanist, I learned a lot about Rossetti. I love the cover and I am looking forward to reading another great story from you! Your working pace is inspirational indeed.

    However as brilliant as Mary Curry is, I do not agree with her comparison of your post to a college lit class. Ahem. All of my classes, where I teach college lit, are just as much fun as this post! :)


    1. Sorry, Piper. ;)

      I actually loved my lit classes, but they never started off with brownies and certainly didn't end wi clasped hands.

      One memorable one did include Christina Rossetti, but I don't remember this poem. What I remember most from that class - it was taught by a team of professors - one of whom told me I resembled a Pre-Raphaelite angel.

    2. Piper, I had amazing college put classes! I would go into class exhausted, burned out. Beat down. Discouraged. I would come out swinging at the bad guys, ready to take on the world.
      College lit teachers rock!

  3. Mary Curry,

    You have me there. But then again, I am not a brownie fan, but these do look lucious. And the students want to get huggy at the end, but there are rules against that sort of thing these days....

    And I'm so glad to know a Pre-Raphaelite angel!

    1. Want to get huggy?? With each other? With you?? Now that is some serious teaching if you're getting hugs at the end!

    2. The rules say (and I had to have training this summer, so I know), that the students can get huggy with one another all they want. It's when they want to get huggy (or huffy as autocorrect wants to put in) with me at the end of class that potential problems all works out in the end. What can I say, serious teaching is what I do.....

  4. Oh, I can't wait! I'm so excited about this! When's the release date?

    1. Now that I had time to re-read it, I just had to come back and say how much I love this post. So beautifully written. And this is just the glimpse into the story.

  5. Thank you, Cindy! That means a lot, coming from you! :D And the release date is... soon. I wanted to release it by the end of August but it's not back from the editorial peeps so I'll let that date remain flexible. I got hung up on this story for a while and lost a few weeks worrying over plot.
    Ah, plot!!

  6. Love your cover, and lust after the brownies. Christina Rosetti. Any relation to Theresa Rosetti?