#32 Crapometer

Historical Romance


An Irish princess raised unconventionally by her widowed father, Aisling of Clan O’Ceallaigh is serious and quiet, with a questioning spirit engendered by her mother’s early death. Ciaran MacDonnell, an outgoing young warrior, meets Aisling when she arrives at the household of Clan O’Carey, where four years of traditional fosterage are about to begin. Lorcan McKenna, a fearsome Irish chieftain who knows what he wants and has no compunction about doing anything necessary to obtain it, will irrevocably change both their lives.

Fifth Century Ireland is a rough jewel of a country, untouched by the now dying Roman Empire. Rumors and prophecies of a stranger bringing a foreign god have been circulating, fomenting fear and unrest among the people of this remote land. When a former slave named Patricius lands on the eastern coast of Ireland, it seems the prophecy has come true. His foreign god is as approachable as the pagan gods are not, and the druids see the nearing end of their reign. The royal tribal dynasty of the Ui Neil are moving southward, annexing tribes and clans, and significant battles are being fought in the land known to the ancient Romans as Hibernia.

You’re falling into a trap here of being both in the historical moment and describing it from the outside.

For example: “Fifth Century Ireland” supposes a Christian calendar. My guess is the Druids marked time differently. Yes, WE the readers know what Fifth Century is, and it’s important to know when this novel happens, but for consistency I’d say “1500 yeears ago” rather than marking time from the birth of Christ. Also, would someone in Ireland at that point refer to themselves as pagans? Probably not. The Romans aren’t ancient in 500 AD. They’re alive, kicking, ruled by an Emperor who’s converted to Christianity and might think of the Greeks and Eqyptians as ancient, not Rome.

Against the fierce beauty of the Irish countryside, in a time before towns existed and the family was all, Aisling and Ciaran fall in love. But when Lorcan McKenna’s eye falls on Aisling, she is abducted on the long-awaited day of her return home. Taken away from every known friend and protector, Aisling has only herself to rely on as she fights to escape the Irish chieftain who is determined to have her at any cost.

You’ve spent a lot of words telling us about the when, but very little giving us an idea of what actually happens, much less anything of substance about the characters. And how does that wily beast St. Patrick fit into all this?

The tale of her quest to outwit her merciless captor is the story of a girl who matures through adversity into the woman who will sacrifice her own life to save the two men she loves most.

This isn’t awful, it’s just not complete. It’s like a window onto a lovely view, but the window needs to be washed. Soap up!


dick clinch said...

Is Snark your real name?

Laura said...

If the heroine 'will sacrifice her own life to save the two men she loves most' does this mean that she actually does die, or only that she's prepared to die? If she does die, that would seem to me to make this lack the Happy Ever After that is required in a romance.

RQY said...

Thank you very much, Miss Snark, for your comments and the time you are taking to help aspiring writers. It is greatly appreciated.

Gabriele C. said...

I've always used the modern time references when talking/writing about my historical fiction projects (how the characters define time is another matter) and I though that goes for a synopsis as well. It's new to me to use "inside" time references for it.

Not the first time I learned something from this blog. Thank you.

Dhewco said...

Actually, Western Rome died about 476 AD...so there wouldn't be an Emperor in 500.

But your point still stands. It's not ancient. Rome left Britain in the 4th century...a 100 plus years is only ancient to a child. LOL

David Hewitt

Miss Snark said...

David...fifth Century Ireland is 400-499 AD.
First century = 0-99
Second = 100-199
third 200-299
fourth -300-399

and so on.

Carla said...

Gabriele: I use modern time references (5th century Ireland, etc.) to describe my writing. I also usually try to give a couple of sentences on the history that features in the story (e.g. Ireland is fragmented into small warring kingdoms, the Roman Empire has largely gone from neighbouring Britain, St Patrick's Christian mission is gaining ground, some of the Irish kings and/or their bards/Druids/priests feel their power threatened by this new religion, etc.). The rationale for this is that while '1066' or 'Julius Caesar' convey something immediately to most people, I write about an obscure time period and 'AD 633' or 'Penda of Mercia' or 'Battle of Heavenfield' are less recognisable, so I feel I have to put in some background. But this goes in one paragraph in the query letter. The synopsis doesn't give any background, it just summarises the story. I have no idea if this is the right way to do it.
Miss Snark, when the CrapFest is over and your eyes are uncrossed, could you comment on whether the synopsis for a historical should cover the background, please? What would you want to know about the 'when' of a story, and would you want it in the synopsis or the cover letter?

Dhewco said...

Miss Snark said: Probably not. The Romans aren’t ancient in 500 AD.

I'm not stupid, YOU were te one that used 500 AD, not me.

I wasn't being snarky with MY post.


Anonymous said...

Dick, is your male appendage clinched?

If you bothered to read the blog, you would discover the answer to your question.

Gabriele C. said...

I have the same problem. How many readers would immediately connect 410 AD with the sacking of Rome by the Visigoths (which weren't even Visigoths then, but Tervingi and Greuthungi, plus assorted smaller tribes), or could sort out the tribes living north of the Hadrian's Wall in ~122 AD. It's easy to sneak some info in in the actual novel, but what about a synopsis?

You've got some interesting projects there. ;-)

Elektra said...

This is really late, so perhaps no one will read it, but...
I actually just studied this in one of my classes (ah, the joys of a classics major), and by this point in time (actually, it was 123 AD), Hibernia and Brittania were using the Roman calendar. Meaning they were probably counting years, like the Romans, from the founding of Rome. And I'm not positive on this one, but I'm pretty sure that Ireland wasn't part of Hibernia--that was Scotland

Gabriele C. said...

But most modern readers don't know the Roman calendar any better than the way the tribes north of the border (Selgovae, Votadini etc.) counted seasons and moon cycles. *grin*

BTW, I wrote '~122 AD' because Storm over Hadrian's Wall takes place over about three years And yes, it needs a better title, too, because they only start to build the wall towards the end of the book. If you want a - not so serious - blurb: There's a reason the Romans built the Hadrian's Wall, and his name was Talorcan mac Ferac. ;-)

Elektra said...

I understand completely if you say no, but your book sounds really interesting--is there any way you would let me read a couple of pages?

Renee said...

Elektra - I'm flattered ( I think ) that you'd like to read a couple pages, but of course I'm wondering why. I appreciated your comments on the Hibernia topic. From my research, it seems that the name Hibernia can be attributed to both Ireland and/or Scotland, depending on which ancient historian you read. I sure wish I had a better understanding of writing a synopsis before I submitted mine to Miss Snark. I think I wasted an wonderful opportunity that won't come my way again any time soon!