Joan of Arc at 600

Joan of Arc, Philadelphia, PA – after the original at the Place des Pyramides, Paris

Today, January 6, is the officially recognized birthday of Jehanne Darc (more commonly known as Joan of Arc), the 15th century peasant girl who led the armies of Charles VII of France to a string of victories against the English and subsequently was burned at the stake after being convicted of heresy.

Born on this date in 1412 (or thereabouts), she came out of nowhere to rouse a listless Dauphin and his dejected knights to a renewed confidence in France’s national destiny, a faith that they had relinquished many years earlier after a series of defeats at the hands of the English.  Martyrdom at the age of nineteen guaranteed her an historical immortality. 

Over the past six centuries countless books, poems, operas and movies have been dedicated to telling Joan of Arc’s story, including my own An Army of Angels in 1997.  Artists, it seems, cannot get enough of her.  No doubt she would have found that unbelievable.  Even more astonishing, the notion that people in 2012, living in countries that didn’t exist when she was alive, would still remember her.  But we do.

Happy Birthday, Jehanne La Pucelle.

So, What Is It?

Every once in a while, I rouse myself to expand my options from the indie scene that I currently inhabit by a return to traditional publishing, so I send off another couple of query letters to literary agents on behalf of V-Squad. So far, no takers. Most haven’t responded at all (something I have no problem with, since I’m aware that that is standard policy when an agent just isn’t interested; I’m also aware of the current turmoil in the publishing industry), but one or two have praised the writing while still declining my queries. I suspect that their hesitance is due to the book’s hard-to-classify nature, a condition that perhaps makes it all the more difficult to pitch to the traditional houses.

It’s easier to talk about what it isn’t than what it is. It isn’t Steampunk. It isn’t Horror. It isn’t Romance. It isn’t High Fantasy, or Sci-Fi. It’s not a Graphic Novel (though it would make a good one). It’s not, strictly speaking, Historical Fiction, since I have taken some liberties with real history, especially in the flashback scenes that go to the heart of the protagonist’s motivations. I suppose that you could make a case for Action-Adventure except that it contains passages of quiet character development that you don’t usually find in that genre. It has elements of Literary Fiction, given that there’s a lot going on beneath the surface, but purists no doubt would dispute that, too.

It just is what it is. Hard to define though it may be, readers apparently like it, and that is gratifying indeed.

Now Available: V-SQUAD!

I’m very happy to announce the arrival of my new e-novel, V-Squad, to digital bookstores where it is now on sale for the Amazon Kindle, the Barnes and Noble Nook, Apple’s iBook for the iPod/iPhone and iPad, and at Smashwords.com.

A vampire novel set in World War II, V-Squad is more character-driven than a roller-coaster action adventure.  And although a real departure from traditional horror fiction, it has little in common with the Sookie Stackhouse books and even less with Twilight‘s fey vampires.  At the same time, it is evocative of both literary and film genres that readers will find familiar.  I like to think of it as Dracula-meets-The Dirty Dozen-meets-Ivanhoe — co-starring ninjas.

For a more detailed description, go here, and here for an excerpt.  You can also download the first thirty pages for free on the Smashwords site.

A Good Day to Write

I have the rest of the week off from my regular job so I’m working on my short stories today, four in all, thematically linked to one another and to my new e-novel, V-Squad, each set in a different time period and location.  This collection gives me a chance to explore a common theme and write about history (my favorite subject) at the same time.  So I’m really excited about having the chance to work on them today.

It’s a little slow-going, though.  I’ve been sweating over the first paragraph of one story for the past month, and still can’t seem to get it right.  Knowing what I want to say is one thing, but finding the perfect words to bring that about is a different matter.  It’s not enough to simply describe the scene visually; the real challenge is to evoke the emotional landscape of the characters in such a way that it immediately resonates within the reader.  And that’s where I’m feeling stuck.  Maybe writing about it here will help.

Writers certainly know what I’m talking about.  Sometimes the words just flow effortlessly from one’s brain to the keyboard; and in fact there are occasions when the writer can barely keep up with that inner voice as it sprints headlong in its haste to communicate.  Those times are rare, however, at least they are for me.

Most of the time I — and I suspect that this is true for the majority of writers everywhere — have to labor over every word in my quest to find the ideal term that will describe what’s in my head and my imagination.  So I write, then rewrite, and rewrite some more, and change things around, then disliking what that has wrought, start all over again.  That’s where I am today.

Meanwhile, there’s a gentle rain falling just outside my window, and I can hear the swollen creek rushing through my backyard a little faster than it normally does.  The cool air smells fresh and sweet, and there’s that subtle sense that spring is definitely on its way.  It’s a good day to write.

V-Squad

Coming soon to Smashwords.com, Amazon Kindle, and Apple iPad and iPod:  V-Squad.  A new novel by Pamela Marcantel, author of An Army of Angels: A Novel of Joan of Arc.

August 1943, ten months before D-Day. Vampires in league with the Nazis plan to murder Prime Minister Churchill and the Allied High Command, and the only other person who knows about the plot is 753 years old.

A fresh, character-driven take on the vampire genre that deals with the enduring literary themes of friendship, love, loss, revenge and redemption.

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