Saturday, 28 March 2020

Author Drēma Drudge stops by on her blog tour!

I am pleased to host Drēma Drudge as part of her Book Tour.

By Drēma Drudge

In 1863, Civil War is raging in the United States. Victorine Meurent is posing nude, in Paris, for paintings that will be heralded as the beginning of modern art:
Manet's Olympia and Picnic on the Grass.
However, Victorine's persistent desire is not to be a model but to be a painter herself. In order to live authentically, she finds the strength to flout the expectations of her parents, bourgeois society, and the dominant male artists (whom she knows personally) while never losing her capacity for affection, kindness, and loyalty. Possessing both the incisive mind of a critic and the intuitive and unconventional impulses of an artist, Victorine and her survival instincts are tested in 1870, when the Prussian army lays siege to Paris and rat becomes a culinary delicacy.
Drema Drudge's powerful first novel Victorine not only gives this determined and gifted artist back to us but also recreates an era of important transition into the modern world.
(Victorine is currently up for pre-order on Amazon US only)

Here is a tempting excerpt from the book.

Victorine’s Song

After our morning session (Manet thoughtfully brings me a brioche and un café in an enameled mug), he leaves me to sort out my affairs, but not before foisting some francs in a monogrammed handkerchief upon me.
“An advance,” he says. I take the coins gratefully, offer him back his handkerchief, wishing he had advice to dispense as easily: I have no idea what to do now. The “friends” I had while with Alphonse quickly fell away as Willie and I wrapped our lives as one, two bodies in a bath towel. To return to my former friends would be to return to their hopeless way of life. I will not. To go back to Madeline is quite as impossible.
The room lights up with the sun as if the answer leaks in with it, but it doesn’t, not even as I acknowledge that the rosy bits of sky look like Willie’s cheeks. I reject the sky’s proposal: One does not welcome a tornado into one’s room. True, I have survived Willie, but just. My hungers do not scare me, but even I can recognize an unwinnable bout.
I pace the studio, but the room is too quiet, and the sun insists I listen to things I will not. I pick up my worn canvas bag, the one I used to carry my schoolbooks in, now filled with my portable life. Hesitating briefly, I pull the door shut, lock it behind me.
Paris will tell me what to do next, I think, as I promptly stumble over a loose brick. At the time, it doesn’t occur to me to be grateful. “Haussmann,” I mutter as I grab my ankle.
I’ve watched the architect ruin our city, block after block, a hungry monster with the sightline of a sugar-crazed toddler, squashing decades, centuries, of our history, obliterating my people, the poor, as if they were a nest of rats. Poorer Parisians have run from him from quarter to quarter, but no sooner are we safe in one house than Haussmann finds it, has his people give us notice one day, and tears it down the next. We can only watch, hope to rescue a brick from the house where our grandfather was born. I despise him.
There is, however, something euphoric about the planned natural disaster; I love the confused buildings that seemed so stable and secure now shaken. Watching them collapse thrills me. The rubble is a symphony of colors and textures. We see the inside turned out. We see things we are not meant to see. I notice that most people avert their gaze when they pass a worksite. Not me.
His new lines are straight and wide, and though I hate the uniformity of his design and his disregard for history, I do admire his ambition.
The wide boulevards are to aid, it is rumored, in the moving through of troops in case of another uprising. True, but there is such space now that has so often been denied us. I hate the daily cost as I watch the poor get poorer, as they pile into a house twenty thick, disease following them. At least outdoors we have all of the space God created; they cannot take that from us, and Haussmann creates even more as he purges the city of centuries’ worth of buildings.
While some have praised his sanitary building of public urinals in the streets, others have been scandalized that men would touch themselves in this manner publicly. Once when I had to go very badly, I lifted my skirts and managed to utilize one as well. Though there were men on either side of me, the cries of protest I heard behind me weren’t aimed at them, even though my wide skirts more than covered me.
My stumble provides me with an answer: A nearby sign in a window announces a room for rent. I bend over and kiss the brick before limping over to the soiled tavern.
I have to pay extra rent because the proprietress assumes I am a prostitute. I don’t bother to correct her because I don’t care what she thinks of me, and the “extra” isn’t enough to matter. For the first time I am to live alone, and though it is cold (I have bought no coal yet and it is not equipped for gas) and though it is dirty (I will clean it), it is a space that belongs entirely to me.
I strum the lovely, dove gray rails of my bed in my newly rented room. A few good wallops smooth the worst of the lumps in the horsehair mattress. I must carry my water up at night and my slops down in the morning, but I don’t care. It will give me an excuse to buy flowers from the little stand nearby. Flowers trump even night soil, and they certainly help mask the odor.
The first night I create shadow puppets on the walls to ease my loneliness and the slight ache in my ankle, in my heart. I wake to see a melted candle stub—I kept it burning not out of fright but because I adore the way the flame lights the walls.
My clothes hang from stray nails. That is all there is to my room besides the two windows and the cold tiled floor. I need nothing else besides enough dishes for one, possibly two if I invite anyone else over. I don’t know that I will. This brand of loneliness instructs, and I mean to surrender to it until I’ve learned all that I can.
I grab a chair and yank the paint skin from the ceiling in pieces, showering myself with plaster but revealing splotches of pink overhead. I laugh as I walk past the cracked mirror and see my whitened face. I stop and really look, see things now the other artists haven’t, like the humor at the corners of my eyes, the content set of my lips.
I’d rather model forever than paint flowers on a cup that someone is going to drink from without seeing. Tiny sips of beauty ruin the deeper thirst for art. Pretty cups and cheerful hats are made to mollify women.
Why can’t I paint myself? Create myself? I count the francs left. I may not be able to go to art school, but I can buy some art supplies. I pocket the money. There is next week’s rent to consider. Mine, not my parents’ rent, because they have decided that my money is not worthy of saving them. I must find a way to get them to accept. They cannot afford their pride, but I don’t think they know that yet and they may not before it’s too late.
And without a teacher, someone respected by The Academy, no one would take me seriously as an artist anyway. “So what?” begins gently stirring in me, and I crave absinthe. Instead, I carry up some water for a wash. It may have taken God a week to create the earth, but I have gone from homeless to having my own place in one day, which seems an impossible task. Being a woman and so young, I’d say I’m giving Him a run for His money; I think I can do without a drink for one day. Without meaning to, I cross myself.

Drēma Drudge

Drēma Drudge suffers from Stendhal’s Syndrome, the condition in which one becomes overwhelmed in the presence of great art. She attended Spalding University’s MFA in Creative Writing Program where she learned to transform that intensity into fiction.

Drēma has been writing in one capacity or another since she was nine, starting with terrible poems and graduating to melodramatic stories in junior high that her classmates passed around literature class.

She and her husband, musician and writer Barry Drudge, live in Indiana where they record their biweekly podcast, Writing All the Things, when not traveling. Her first novel, Victorine, was literally written in five countries while she and her husband wandered the globe. The pair has two grown children.

In addition to writing fiction, Drema has served as a writing coach, freelance writer, and educator. She’s represented by literary agent Lisa Gallagher of Defiore and Company.

Connect with Drema: Website • Twitter • Instagram • The Painted Word Salon.

Tuesday, 17 March 2020

The Wars of the roses and the Tudors in Wales

The Fyne Companye of Cambria
Every so often during the summer I get together with a few friends and dress up in Tudor finery and swish around castles. I've lived in Wales for more than twenty years and love the castles and places of historic interest. I was surprised to discover just how large a part Wales played in the wars of the roses and the transition from Plantagenet to Tudor rule.
Henry  Tudor - Wikimedia commons
When Henry Tudor won the crown of England and married Elizabeth, the eldest daughter of Edward IV, he united the houses of York and Lancaster, thus ending years of strife in the realm.  The castles, palaces and manor houses of Wales  sheltered some of the key players during this time. 

Before the battle - reenactors at Raglan Castle
Henry Tudor’s mother, Margaret Beaufort, was married to Edmund Tudor at around the age of twelve. As a young bride she lived with Edmund during his campaign in Wales on behalf of Henry VI. The lived together at Caldicot Castle, Lamphey Bishop’s Palace until Edmund died at Carmarthen Castle of a combination of wounds sustained in battle and the plague. 

Margaret Beaufort - wikimediacommons
Finding herself widowed, Margaret turned to the protection of her brother in law, Jasper Tudor, Earl of Pembroke, who took her to his stronghold at Pembroke Castle where she gave birth to Henry.

Pembroke Castle
Just outside Abergavenney in Monmouthshire lies Raglan Castle where the young Henry Tudor spent much of his childhood under the care of William Herbert before escaping overseas with his uncle, Jasper Tudor.

Raglan castle
A short distance from Raglan is Tretower Court and Castle – a fabulous reconstructed Tudor manor house that belonged to William Herbert’s half-brother, Roger Vaughan. He fought at Mortimer’s Cross and Tewkesbury and was beheaded at Chepstow by Jasper Tudor in an act of vengeance for beheading his father, Owen Tudor, ten years previously.

Tretower Court

Toward the end of the wars of the Roses, Carew Castle belonged to Rhys ap Thomas who turning his back on Richard III supported Henry Tudor at the battle of Bosworth. He was richly rewarded with a knighthood and land which enabled him to make vast improvements to the castle in the late 15th century. His son Rhys ap Gruffudd was later executed for treason by Henry VIII in 1531.

Carew Castle - Wikimedia commons

All the above mentioned castles are within easy reach of where The Fyne Companye of Cambria and we hope to expand our horizons in the future.

Cydwelli Castle