Interview: Addie Discusses Mutant Mantis Lunch Ladies with Author Bruce Hale

Hi everybody! Today is Addie’s big interview day! After receiving for review from Disney Hyperion A Monstertown Mystery called MUTANT MANTIS LUNCH LADIES, and loving it, she wanted to help me interview the children’s author and illustrator, Bruce Hale. Bruce is an award-winning author of over 40 children’s books and his new series looks set to impress both girls and boys of the third and fourth grade age, especially if they like books like the Goosebumps series.

Addie asked most all the questions and was very excited to read his answers so we hope you all are too. If you have kids reading middle readers, this is a quick, entertaining read sure to get a lot of laughs. Addie said it had her giggling and she finished it in no time flat! I mean she’ll NEVER see her lunch ladies the same again and will always staring at them out the corner of her eye! haha! Enjoy the interview!

Mantis

Welcome to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! My 9 year old daughter and I really enjoyed your book! She thought it was hilarious. Congratulations on your success as a writer! Because she enjoyed it so much she helped me to come up with some questions.

Q:  Where did you get the idea to make a mantis in to a mutant and how did you create them?

A: Back in the ‘50s, they had lots of scary movies about radiation mutating normal creatures like ants (Them!) and spiders (Beginning of the End) into monsters.  I thought I’d like to pay tribute to those movies in my book.  After some brainstorming and a bit of flipping through my Dorling Kindersley insect guide, I hit upon the praying mantis.  I wanted them to be able to take on human form for extra creepiness, so I decided they’d be more than just mantises; they’d have both human and chameleon DNA in them.

Q: The Monstertown Mystery series is compared to Goosebumps by R.L. Stine. We love Goosebumps (and Stine is a Ohioan like us!). What do you like about the series that inspired your own?

A: I love the way Stine strikes a balance between humor and creepiness, as well as the way he plays with some horror traditions.  And like me, he’s really into inspiring reluctant readers.  Although I haven’t yet met him, I admire his work.

Q: How do you feel fourth graders connect with your books and why? (My daughter says by the way that the humor appeals to her – and would to her friends as well – both boys AND girls.)

A: I’m glad to hear your daughter say that both boys and girls would like my books, because I’m definitely aiming to appeal to both.  For whatever reason, I remember very vividly what it was like to be a fourth grader, so maybe my readers are connecting with that.  Also, I try to keep my stories funny and action-packed, two things that young readers appreciate.

Q: What the best part about getting to go out and speak in schools? How do you motivate and encourage reading?

A: There are so many wonderful benefits I get from speaking in schools.  I love sharing my work with new readers, and I love to see the different ways they connect with it — from doing artwork to writing stories of their own.  During my visits, I let my listeners know that I used to be a reluctant reader (I was much more into TV), but that when I found the right book, I became a reader.  I remind them that if they’re not excited about reading, perhaps they haven’t found their right book yet.

Q: Why do you feel it’s important to continually engage young readers and how can we attract their attention to reading with all the electronics and over-saturation by parents into extra curriculars? (this was a mom question!!)

A: Reading is a foundation for success in life, so anything we can do to engage kids with books and make reading fun contributes to making happier, more successful kids.  For those who are more electronically-minded, sometimes you almost have to force them to read, but if you can help them find a book that interests them, this becomes an easier task.  Tailoring the book to the kid is the key, and with electronically-distracted kids, you’ve got to find books that really grab the reader and don’t let go.  Don’t get me wrong — I enjoy technology as much as the next guy – I just want kids to also spend time enjoying reading.

Q:  You’ve written a lot of other books too of course and received an Edgar. What’s it like to have such a large back list? Do you still love writing kid’s book as much as when you first started?

A: It’s kind of amazing to me to look at my office bookshelf and see how much of it is filled by my own books – 44 and counting!  I remember when publishers rejected every story I wrote, and I yearned to get published.  Of course, having such a large backlist makes it tricky when I visit schools, since that’s far too many books to offer kids (to say nothing of autographing them all)!

I consider myself very fortunate to be making my living doing what I love, and I still love creating stories as much as I did when I first started out.

Q: What is your personal favorite type of monster and why?

A: My favorite has always been the werewolf.  Maybe it’s because wolves are one of my favorite animals, or maybe it’s because I love that whole shapeshifter thing?  I don’t know.  I just know that werewolves rule.

Q: What are your plans for the future – both near and far?

A: For the near future, some hot tea and another scoop of ice cream.  No, I jest (but not entirely).  Right now, I’m working on a new middle-grade series called Class Pets, about all the adventures that classroom pets get into when the students are away.  That comes out in 2018.  I’m also starting to brainstorm the story I’ll work on after those are finished, and I’m about to begin a round of work-related travel that will take me from New York to Tokyo.  For the longer term, I’m looking forward to writing and illustrating books for as long as I have stories to share.

Erin/Addie: Ice cream sounds good!! ha! We look forward to your future books. Thanks so very much for stopping by to see us and sharing your love of writing and reading. We will be on the lookout for the next book!

Bruce: It’s been a pleasure!  Thanks for the fun questions.

bruce-hale-at-beachBruce Hale, Biography –

Raised by wolves just outside Los Angeles, Bruce Hale began his writing career while living in Tokyo, and continued it after moving to Hawaii. He’s too modest to mention his Nobel Peace Prize and his Olympic Gold Medal (in long-distance procrastination), so we won’t mention them. Before entering the world of children’s books, Bruce worked as a magazine editor, toymaker, gardener, actor, corporate lackey, and DJ.

From picture books to novels and graphic novels, Bruce has written and/or illustrated over 40 books for kids. His popular series include the award-winning Chet Gecko Mysteries, School For S.P.I.E.S., and Clark the Shark, among others.

When not writing or illustrating, Bruce loves to perform. He has appeared on stage, on television, and in an independent film called The Ride, where he played a surfer’s agent. Bruce is a popular speaker and storyteller for audiences of all ages, from the lunchroom to the boardroom. In 1998, he won a Fulbright Grant to teach storytelling and study folklore in Thailand. (No, he doesn’t speak much Thai, but he loves the food.)

A member of the National Speakers Association, Bruce has presented at colleges, universities, and conferences, both nationally and internationally. On top of that, he has visited schools and libraries from New York to New Delhi. (And yes, he loves to travel.)

These days, Bruce lives in Santa Barbara with his wife, his sweet mutt, Riley, and his massive collection of hats. When he’s not at the computer or drawing board, you can find him hiking, kickboxing, watching movies, or bicycling. Bruce also sings with a latin jazz band called Mezcal Martini.

MantisMutant Mantis Lunch Ladies! (A Monstertown Mystery #2), Synopsis –

  • Print Length: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Disney Hyperion (March 7, 2017)
  • Publication Date: March 7, 2017
How well do you know the lunch servers at your school? Sure, they seem like nice people, but what if secretly they are something much, much weirder?
Best friends Carlos and Benny, who just saved their teacher from becoming a were-hyena, have been called upon to investigate the strange goings-on in the cafeteria. Why are the lunch ladies suddenly so grumpy? Why are the girls’ meals different from the boys’? And what was that thing seen scuttling around the kitchen wearing an apron?
Purchase –
Or ask for it at your local indie bookstore or public library!

Praise for Mutant Mantis Lunch Ladies

Along with trotting in a cast of exemplary diversity, Hale spins the scenario in such wild and hilarious directions that even the climactic release of whole garbage bags full of roaches in the crowded lunchroom isn’t the grossest thing that happens. –Kirkus

Addie, Guest Interviewer –

addieAddie is 9 years old and enjoys reading, writing, singing, dancing, art, baking, laughing, sports, gardening, animals, mysteries, and just about anything else – yep she has a lot of interests, especially when they’re fun.

However, she does take her school work seriously, and also strives for great grades. She really into reading stories of all kinds and interviewing authors for a behind-the-scenes look. She’s very happy to review books and wants to start her own blog soon.

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Review: The Varangian (Book 3) by Bruce MacBain – An Exciting Viking Adventure

Today I have a review The Varangian, which is book three in a great historical fantasy series that I’ve been following (Odd Tangle-Hair Saga). However, it looks like it might end up only a trilogy. It’s so well-done though I can’t help but wish for more. You can also read them stand alone, but you’ll get so much more out of it if you read them all. Don’t forget to check out the giveaway for the book at the end of the post!

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Review –

I really can’t say enough good things about the Odd Tangle-Hair Saga penned by Bruce MacBain. The Varangian is the third, and it seems the final, in the series. You can view my review of the second book, The Ice Queen, HERE, and an interview I had with Bruce HERE. I was first drawn to this series because I love historical books that combine into fantasy, especially if they are dealing with ancient civilizations or Vikings.

Bruce’s story telling ability draws in the readers and often as soon as I start his books I’m completely absorbed into the worlds and legend he has created. Of course, with great anticipation, it was the same with The Varangian. Without being over flowerly or academic or hard to follow, Bruce somehow writes in a way that allows to feel as if we are also privy to the story as if we were in it ourselves. It’s like the long lost story your Viking grandpa would tell if you lived in a more far away time and you  had a Viking grandpa (haha)…but you get my drift.

I couldn’t wait to see what adventure Odd Tangle-Hair became drawn up into and as he venture into Byzantine empire in this book, I was as enthralled by Bruce’s authentic details and descriptions of this time and place as much as his protagonist was in the story. Of course, Odd must have some suspenseful mission up his sleeve as always that will take us through excitement, danger, sadness, and this time, even love. Constantinople is the perfect setting for such deep emotions and Bruce plays into that very well, allowing the reader to be swept away as well.

It’s also very obvious that Bruce is a true historian. He knows the people and places of the ancient worlds like he was living among them. This allows the reader, especially historical lovers, to be immersed even more into the story. A true feeling of place is captured in his dynamic prose.

Book three probably brings us the most compelling and climactic action as Odd finally comes head to head with antagonist Harald, as well as the friction between so many various cultures all coming to a point at this beautiful city of Constantinople. Both Odd and Harald are written with a high level of characterization and depth, but Bruce is also adept at bringing us a strong supporting cast of new characters in each book. They were exceptionally well-done in The Varangian, allowing the time and place to be even more engaing as you can’t have a good story without good characters.

As Odd tells his story, a perfect narrator, I could definitely smell, taste, hear, and see his adventure as if I lived it with him. I’ve completely enjoyed this series and will treasure it for years to come. Very highly recommended.

02_The Varangian.jpgThe Varangian by Bruce MacBain

Publication Date: November 29, 2016
Blank Slate Press
eBook & Print; 341 Pages

Series: Odd Tangle-Hair Saga, Book Three
Genre: Historical Fiction

The third volume of Odd Tangle-Hair’s Saga finds our hero in Golden Miklagard (Constantinople), posing as an ambassador from the Grand Prince of Rus. But his real mission is to assassinate his former master, Harald the Ruthless, who has now risen high in the Emperor’s Varangian Guard. Odd is dazzled by the brilliance of the Byzantine capital and its beating heart–the Great Palace, with the astonishing Throne of Solomon that levitates above the heads of kneeling courtiers.

Here, Odd will meet Constantine Psellus, an ambitious young bureaucrat who mentors him in the ways of the court. He will be drawn into an intrigue that involves the Empress Zoe, who spends her days brewing vats of perfume, and John the Guardian of Orphans, the powerful and sinister eunuch who schemes to advance his family. And Odd will fall in love with Selene, an alchemist’s daughter, who supports herself by gambling in the waterfront taverns.

Finally, after a hard-fought campaign against the Saracens in Sicily and the overthrow of an Emperor, Odd reaches the pinnacle of power and believes he has vanquished his enemy Harald once and for all.

Then disaster overwhelms him.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

Praise for The Varangian

“Thoroughly effective at explaining the intriguing and highly complex circumstances of the time period, Macbain’s (The Ice Queen, 2015, etc.) book shines in a way that only historical fiction can. Who needs King Jon Snow in Game of Thrones when one can get a glimpse of the historically real and undeniably sinister John the Guardian of Orphans? Even the most terrifying dragon pales in comparison to the sheer horror of a society so comfortable with castration. As the story ventures outside of Constantinople, the reader is treated to a plot that can only be described as epic … a highly entertaining Viking adventure.” – Kirkus Reviews

“This is the third and final of Macbain’s Odd Tangle-Hair novels. All three have been spellbinding in their storytelling, though this one may be the best. Odd’s journey takes us around the Mediterranean and eastern European world, and all the way north back to Iceland. The characters are wonderful, the story intriguing, the combat real but never superfluous, and Odd makes for the perfect protagonist. Highly recommended.” – Historical Novel Society

“Written by a historian with deep understanding of the cultures, peoples, and languages of this world, The Varangian speaks with an authoritative and compelling voice that can equally present naval battles decided by Greek Fire and court intrigue culminating in advancement to lucrative rank or in mutilation and blinding. This is a masterfully written and suspenseful tale that weaves fictional characters into the dramatic story of eleventh-century Byzantium and ambitious women and men, some home grown and some drawn from afar, who aimed to profit from an empire of legendary wealth and splendor.” – Emily Albu, Professor of Medieval and Byzantine Studies, UC, Davis

“The Varangian is the third and final volume of Bruce Macbain’s Odd Tangle-Hair’s Saga, and like the first two entries, it is as compelling and wild a ride as historical fiction offers. Macbain brilliantly weaves in his vast knowledge of 11th century Viking and Byzantine life with a great storyteller’s ability to drive the plot forward, a plot filled with intrigue, violence, betrayal, and lust.” – Barton Kunstler, author of The Hothouse Effect

“Detailed and vivid writing.” -Albert Noyer, author of the Getorius and Arcadia Mysteries

Author Bruce MacBain, Biography

03_Bruce MacbainBruce MacBain has degrees in Classics and Ancient History and was formerly an Assistant Professor of Classics at Boston University.

He decided to stop writing scholarly articles (which almost no one read) and turn his expertise to fiction—a much more congenial medium.

His previous novels include two mysteries set in ancient Rome (Roman Games, The Bull Slayer) and the first two novels in the Odd Tangle-Hair series (Odin’s Child, The Ice Queen).

For more information, please visit Bruce MacBain’s website. You can also find him on FacebookTwitterGoogle+, and Goodreads.

Giveaway

To win a copy of The Varangian by Bruce MacBain, please enter via the Gleam form below. Three copies are up for grabs!

Direct Link: https://gleam.io/MTA2D/the-varangian

Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on April 27th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to residents in the US & Canada only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

Follow along with the tour!

Hashtags: #TheVarangianBlogTour #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #Historical #Vikings

Twitter Tags: @hfvbt @BMacbain

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Women in History: Victoria Woodhull for Social Welfare and Women’s Equality

The Celebrating Women Series for 2017 continues with article #9 today. If this is the first article you’ve read so far, March was Women in History month and so I’ve been featuring writers and authors who sent in guest articles surrouding women and topics about women.  In fact, it’s now extending way past March we’ve had so much interest to feature strong, impactful women. You can find a main page for this with explanation and link to all articles here. I’ll add the articles as I schedule or post them. And if you still want to participate, send an article in!

Introducing Neal H. Katz and Victoria Woodhull

Today, I am hosting author Neal H. Katz, a man and early member of HeForShe, whose first novel, OUTRAGEOUS: The Victoria Woodhull Saga, Volume One: Rise To Riches has won eight literary awards both in the U.S. and internationally. Mr. Katz writes in first person as Victoria Woodhull.

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Victoria Woodhull by Bradley & Rulofson

Victoria Woodhull’s Exploits for Social Welfare and Women 

by Neal Katz, Author of OUTRAGEOUS: The Victoria Woodhull Saga, Volume One: Rise To Riches

Victoria and her sister, Tennessee Celeste Claflin were the first women to own a Wall Street brokerage firm and first to own, publish and edit a newspaper. Victoria became the first woman to address the U.S. House of Representatives and in 1872 the first woman to be the candidate of a national party for President. Victoria was demonized and put in jail for daring to seek women equality. These exploits and more are portrayed in the soon to be released SCANDALOUS: Volume Two: Fame, Infamy, and Paradise Lost.

IN HER OWN WORDS: COULD IT BE ANYMORE RELEVANT TODAY?

This excerpt from Volume 2 of The Victoria Woodhull Saga recounts a speech delivered on October 17, 1873, when the corruption of politics had ravaged the U.S. economy during the first Great Depression. Yes, renamed The Panic of 1873 during the 1930s.

Excerpt from SCANDALOUS:

Shunned and not even invited to attend the Women’s Congress convened in New York City, I spoke at Cooper’s Union that same evening. I did not feel well and wore a simple outfit, a pleated black skirt and a black braided jacket gathered at my waist with a starched white shirt underneath. My hair was loose and random, cropped short. The only adornment was a single, half-opened white tea rose in my lapel.

The title of my speech was Reformation or Revolution, Which? Or, Behind the Political Scenes. The crowd, once again exceeded the legal limit as 4,000 packed the hall to overflowing. The boisterous assembly shouted off the stage the scheduled preliminary speakers. I realized I no longer felt the panic I used to feel. I was confident and although suffering a sore throat and a slight fever, I spoke my truth. After introductory remarks I pressed my purpose:

… The action of about fifty men in destroying a cargo of tea, brought on the revolutionary war. If fifty men, out of three millions of inhabitants at that time, with the limited dissatisfaction that existed against the crown, could bring about a revolution, how many men and women out of forty millions inhabitants are required, with the wide spread dissatisfaction now existing, to bring about revolution?

… Two years ago, when I was importuning Congress to do political justice to women, which was denied, I found the wiser portion of Congressmen feared the country was drifting into revolution. … Do not deceive yourselves. Negro slavery was not so great a cause of dissatisfaction then, as are the more subtle slaveries of today, now. Nor were the slave oligarchs any more alarmed about their slaves, then, than are the political, financial and industrial oligarchs for their possessions now.

The bondholders, money-lenders and railroad kings say to the politicians: If you will legislate for our interests, we will retain you in power, and, together (you and the public offices and patronage and we with our immense dependencies and money), we can control the destinies of the country, and change the government to suit ourselves. Now finally, comes in the threatened church power and it says: If you will make your government a Christian government, we will bring all the ‘Faithful’ to your support. Thus united, let me warn you, they constitute the strongest power in the world. It is the government, all the wealth of the country, backed up by the church against the unorganized groups of reformers, every one of whom is pulling his or her little string in opposing directions.

… The developments over the past two years – the corruptions, frauds and failures __ are sweeping condemnation of the system under which they have flourished. From Tammany down to the latest Brooklyn expose, first and last, one and all, they speak unmistakable tones of the approaching culmination of the system. They prove beyond cavil that the government has degenerated into a mere machine, used by the unscrupulous to systematically plunder the people.

… What does the City of New York, this Christian city, with its numerous churches, laden with gold, dedicated to God and Christ, care for the thousands of children who live from its slop barrels, or the thousands more who die from partial starvation and neglect! … I arraign this thing that goes by the name of Christianity, as a fraud; and its so-called teachers as imposters. They profess to be the followers of Jesus of Nazareth,while they neither teach, preach, nor practice the fundamental principles He taught and practiced.

… Then, when we will have accomplished the good work to the future, will begin the long-time sung and prophesized millennium, in which Love instead of hate, equality in place of aristocracy, and justice where is now cruelty, shall reign with undisturbed and perpetual sway, and peace on earth and good will among us abound.

Because I see this for humanity, in the near future, I have been willing and able to endure what its advocacy has cost me of personal discomfort and of public censure. Finally, in conclusion: May the God, Justice; the Christ, Love and the Holy Ghost, Unity — the Trinity of Humanity—ascend the Universal Throne, while all nations, in acknowledging their supremacy, shall receive their blessings – their benedictions.

 The next day the newspapers reported that a standing ovation and unison clapping shook the rafters and floors of Cooper’s Union for past a full hour.

Find out more at www.thevictoriawoodhullsaga.com

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Outrageous, The Victoria Woodhull Saga, Volume 1: Rise to Riches, Synopsis

Women empowerment, overcoming adversity, social change, and hope were the cornerstones upon which Victoria Woodhull (1838–1927) and her younger sister Tennessee Celeste Claflin built their incredible lives in Victorian America. OUTRAGEOUS, Rise to Riches sets the psychological verity and traces Victoria from childhood poverty and horrific abuse to becoming one of the wealthiest women in America, founding the first women-owned brokerage firm on Wall Street, and the first women-owned newspaper. Victoria will stop at nothing to achieve her destiny.

 Written in the first person from Victoria’s viewpoint, Neal Katz weaves a compelling page-turning story that cleverly unfolds history while providing a wonderfully entertaining ride. Katz has pledged one half of book sale proceeds to charities dedicating to the empowerment and sustainable economic improvement of women, especially single mothers.

Purchase

Amazon

Neal Katz, Biography

NHKatz-SQsmNeal Katz is a serial entrepreneur. He harbors a passion for women’s rights and his lifestyle is centered on self-awareness and love. His award winning historical novel, Outrageous: The Victoria Woodhull Saga, Volume One: Rise to Riches (thevictoriawoodhullsaga.com) is about two sisters who dynamically advanced human rights and women suffrage in Victorian America and delivers a searing exposé of manipulation in the financial markets. Volume Two, scheduled for release in early 2017, follows the sisters through their daring entrance into politics—Victoria becoming the first woman to be nominated for President of the United States.

Thanks for following the series!

Women in History

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Women in History: The Great Russian Ballerina Bronia Nijinska

The Celebrating Women Series for 2017 continues with article #8 today. If this is the first article you’ve read so far, March was Women in History month and so I’ve been featuring writers and authors who sent in guest articles surrouding women and topics about women.  In fact, it’s now extending way past March we’ve had so much interest to feature strong, impactful women. You can find a main page for this with explanation and link to all articles here. I’ll add the articles as I schedule or post them. And if you still want to participate, send an article in!

Introducing Eva Stachniak and Her Russian Ballerina

I’m very excited to start this week off with my sweet friend (a truly wonderful person!) and fabulous historical fiction writer Eva Stachniak. Eva lives in Canada and is the award-winning and internationally bestselling author of four novels, several of which are my favorites, and her newest, is soon to add to this list!

This newest novel, The Chosen Maiden, is her fifth novel and features the life of Bronia Nijinska, a Russian ballerina – in fact one of the greatest to ever live…but not without fighting for that title. Read on and find out why.

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Caption: Bronia Nijinska as a student at the Imperial Ballet School

Living in the shadow of giants: the story of Bronia Nijinska

By Eva Stachniak, author of The Chosen Maiden

The history of Russian ballet is full of extraordinary women, but for me Bronislava Nijinska or Bronia as she was known among friends, is particularly appealing. What drew me to her? First, the tantalizing connection to her beloved elder brother, Vaslav Nijinsky (1889-1950). Known as the God of the Dance, he was one of the best dancers of all times, especially known for his leap and his groundbreaking choreography of Rite of Spring—the one that caused now famous riots in Paris when it premiered on May 29 of 1913. I was also drawn by the powerful strength of her dancing roles in Ballets Russes of Sergey Diaghilev, the legendary impresario who transformed the face of modern ballet: Ballerina Doll in Petrouchkaor the Chosen Maiden in Rite of Spring, a dance Vaslav created especially for her. And last, but not least, I admire her fortitude in the face of obstacles and misfortunes which could’ve crushed anyone less strong and resilient than she was.

Growing up alongside her famous older brother meant that Bronia Nijinska had to stand her ground. Like Vaslav she was educated at the world-renowned Imperial Ballet School in St Petersburg. Like Vaslav, she danced at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg and then, in 1909, joined the Ballets Russes which revolutionized modern dance and dazzled Paris with their Russian seasons. But whereas he was almost instantly declared a genius, she had to fight for recognition all her life.

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Caption: Bronia NIjinska in Petrouchka

How did she manage to free herself from Vaslav’s shadow? It helped that Vaslav recognized her talent. He was not only her mentor and teacher, but also readily acknowledged that Bronia was the best interpreter of his choreography. Then the vicissitudes of European history intervened, for the siblings were separated by war and revolution. Vaslav never returned to Russia, and by the time they met again in 1921 her brilliant brother’s career (and life) was destroyed by mental illness. In the meantime, during the Russian Revolution and ensuing Civil War, in Kiev, Bronia created avant-garde experimental ballets which inscribed her name in the history of modern dance. And after her escape from the Soviet Union she became one of the very first female choreographers employed by a ballet company—for Sergey Diaghilev hired her as a choreographer in 1921. This is where she created her masterpieces: The Wedding, Les Biches or Le Train Bleu (for which Coco Chanel designed costumes). All of them achievements that are truly extraordinary.

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Caption: A painting by Vadim Meller inspired by Bronia NIjinska’s modern ballet, Mephisto, that she created during her time in Kiev.

However, it was not only Vaslav’s shadow Bronia Nijinskahad to free herself from. She had to stand up to the misogyny of the ballet world, all her life. When she was a young ballerina at the Mariinsky in St. Petersburg she was faulted for her too strong and muscular body, her “un-ballerinalike” looks, her “too high” jumps. Then, in the Ballets Russes, she saw how male dancers and choreographers ruled supreme while women were mostly given supportive or transient roles. When, after her escape from Soviet Russia, she re-joined Ballets Russes, the same Sergey Diaghilev who hired her could not stop himself from telling her: “Oh, Bronia, what a great choreographer you would’ve been if only you were a man.” Yet, despite these obstacles, she had a long career as a dancer, choreographer and teacher, both in Western Europe and the US where she emigrated in 1939.

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Caption: An arrangement from Les Noces (The Wedding) Nijinska choreographed in 1923. Music by Igor Stravinsky.

Where does it come from, such strength, such resilience? From early childhood Bronia Nijinska knew dancing was her vocation. She placed the art of ballet in the center of her life and never veered from it. But love of art would not have been enough to sustain her, not without the fierce support first of her mother, Eleanora, and then her daughter, Irina. The evidence of their loving, nurturing relationship is beautifully documented in the archival materials of the Bronislava Nijinska Collection, at the Library of Congress. Dairies, letters, and snapshots of family life show how the three generations of the Nijinsky women, grandmother, mother and daughter, stood by each other through thick and thin all their lives. This female solidarity gave Bronia the inner strength to be an artist, rooted her, and, in the end, shaped her who she was.

Links of Interest

Recreated ballets in which Bronia and Vaslav danced or choreographed 1913—35

http://www.evastachniak.com/2016/11/05/the-chosen-maiden-ballets-1909-1913/

http://www.evastachniak.com/2016/11/05/the-chosen-maiden-ballets-1914-1935/

Eva Stachniak, Biography

evastachniakEva Stachniak is a writer of historical fiction. Her latest novel, The Chosen Maiden, was inspired by the art and voice of Bronia Nijinska.  She lives in Toronto.

Find more out about her and her fabulous books on her website.

 

The Chosen Maiden, Synopsis –

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Publisher: Doubleday Canada and US
Date: Jan 17, 2017

The passionate, sweeping story of Bronia, an extraordinary ballerina forever in the shadow of the legendary Nijinsky–Russia’s greatest dancer and her older brother.

Born on the road to dancer parents, the Nijinsky children seem destined for the stage. Vaslav is an early prodigy, and through single-minded pursuit will grow into arguably the greatest–and most infamous–Russian ballet dancer of the 20th century. His talented younger sister Bronia, however, also longs to dance. Overshadowed by Vaslav, plagued by a body deemed less than ideal and struggling against the constraints of her gender, Bronia will have to work triply hard to prove herself worthy.

Bronia’s stunning discipline and mesmerizing talent will eventually elevate her to the highest stage in Russia: the prestigious, old-world Mariinsky Ballet. But as the First World War rages, revolution sparks in Russia. In her politics, love life and career, Bronia will be forced to confront the choice between old and new; traditional and groundbreaking; safe and passionate.

Through gorgeous and graceful prose, readers will be swept from St. Petersburg and Kiev to London and Paris and plunged into the tumultuous world of modern art. Against the fascinating and tragic backdrop of early 20th century Europe, and surrounded by legends like Anna Pavlova, Coco Chanel, Serge Diaghilev and Pablo Picasso, Bronia must come into her own–as a dancer, mother and revolutionary–in a world that only wishes to see her fall.

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National Bestseller

“A tale of intrigue, love, betrayal and redemption set in the realm of art and artists, exploring the line between dedication and obsession, creation and madness. . . . Stachniak weaves together beautifully the myriad moments that bring this fascinating family and period to life.” —Toronto Star 

“Carefully researched and capaciously imagined. . . . More than just an absorbing historical account of an avant-garde artist, The Chosen Maiden is a fully-realized tale of family, love, loss and enduring resilience.” —Cathy Marie Buchanan, New York Times bestselling author of The Painted Girls

“Many works of fiction take as their inspiration true events and persons of historical significance, but few do so as lovingly and imaginatively. . . . The Chosen Maiden delves into the workings of an artist’s mind and reveals the resiliency of art in a time of worldwide political upheaval and war. . . . A remarkable work of historical fiction.” —Quill & Quire

“Exquisite. . . . Dance fans will welcome this graceful and entrancing foray into the recent past.” —Library Journal

“Reading The Chosen Maiden is like entering Aladdin’s Cave, where a vivid, strange and enchanting world awaits. It is the thrilling world of the Great Nijinsky and his passionate and unforgettable sister Bronia, whose discipline and talent rival her famous brother’s, but whose greatest genius may be her will to survive. Spanning two world wars and the Russian Revolution, Eva Stachniak’s sumptuous and evocative dance of the Chosen Maiden is the dance of 20th century history.” —Shaena Lambert, author of Oh, My Darling and Radiance

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Women in History

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Women in History: Arsinoe – Cleopatra’s Treacherous Sister

The Celebrating Women Series for 2017 continues with article #7 today. If this is the first article you’ve read so far, March was Women in History month and so I’ve been featuring writers and authors who sent in guest articles surrouding women and topics about women.  In fact, it’s now extending way past March we’ve had so much interest to feature strong, impactful women. You can find a main page for this with explanation and link to all articles here. I’ll add the articles as I schedule or post them.

Introducing Catherine Cavendish and Arsinoe

Today’s guest is Catherine Cavendish, one of the best authors in this modern age of gothic horror. At least she’s one of my favorites and I’ve enjoyed reading her books. She always has the most informative posts too. As well, she’s a good friend and a dear supportive soul to many other writers and authors, even from her haunted abode in the UK! As you read on you’ll see she’s featuring Arsinoe, Cleopatra’s sister. The Ptolemy family is one of my favorites to study and read about, as scandalous as they are, so I’ve been super excited about this one!

Arsinoe – Cleopatra’s Treacherous Sister
by Catherine Cavendish, Author of Wrath of the Ancients

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Virtual Recreation of Arsinoe

We’ve all learned about Cleopatra – even if only by seeing the 1963 epic film of the same name. Elizabeth Taylor triumphantly entering Rome and sweeping Richard Burton (Mark Antony) off his sandaled feet. But what of the rest of her family – in particular her younger sister (or possibly half-sister), Arsinoe?

Cleopatra and Arsinoe’s family – the notorious Ptolemies- were by any standard an evil lot. Intrigue, murder, incest, torture- and that was among themselves. In short, the Ptolemaic dynasty made Vlad the Impaler look like a pussycat (albeit one with extremely long claws and fangs). They would stop at nothing to gain power and dispose of anyone who attempted to wrest it from them.

In order to keep the bloodline pure, the Ptolemies opted for incestuous marriages; brothers wedding sisters, sons marrying their mothers, and all were expected to produce heirs to secure the dynastic continuance.

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Ptolemy XII Auletes

Arsinoe and Cleopatra’s father – Ptolemy XII Auletes – fathered a number of children including a son, also called Ptolemy. In keeping with family tradition none of the siblings cared for the others, and treated them with a great deal of suspicion. Wisely, as it turned out. By now, the great Egyptian empire had become a shadow of its former glory and waned at the time the Roman Empire was expanding and growing. As a result, Ptolemy XII relied increasingly heavily on Rome’s support in order to remain in power. He bribed, tortured and murdered members of his own family but was driven out of Egypt in 58 BC when, following the death of his wife (who was also his sister), his eldest daughter, Berenice IV, became sole ruler of Egypt. Ptolemy was determined to return to power and grew increasingly in debt to Rome. He gained the support of Aulus Gabinius, pro consul of Syria and returned to Egypt with a Roman army supporting him. He then proceeded to murder his daughter, Berenice and recapture his throne.

He proclaimed his daughter, Cleopatra, his queen but broke with Ptolemaic tradition by not marrying her.

On his death in 51 BC, his eldest surviving son and daughter – Ptolemy and Cleopatra – were proclaimed co-regents. This was never going to work. The two hated each other. Before long, Ptolemy dethroned Cleopatra and she fled from Alexandria to Palestine.

pic 3 - Cleopatra

Cleopatra

In 48BC, Julius Caesar arrived in Alexandria and Cleopatra secretly returned. All the lessons she had learned at her father’s side came into play and she seduced the Roman leader. The mighty Caesar had never met anyone like her before. Clever, independent, strong-willed and determined, she was her father’s daughter.

Ptolemy XIII meanwhile, had also learned from his father – just not as well. He had Caesar’s rival, Pompey executed, and presented the Roman leader with his head. Caesar was disgusted. Such behaviour was barbaric. He had to choose between the brother and sister as to who would rule Egypt. Ptolemy XIII took one look at Cleopatra sitting next to Caesar and knew he had no chance. Petulantly, he threw his crown to the ground and stormed off into the street, calling his sister a traitor.

pic 4 Ptolemy XIII

Ptolemy XIII

Now it was Arsinoe’s turn to emerge from the shadows. Aged possibly around 15 or 16, although her birth date is uncertain, she sided with her brother to topple Cleopatra. Along with her mentor, the eunuch Ganymedes, she led the Egyptian army in revolt against the Romans and proclaimed herself Pharaoh. Months of struggle ensued and, at one time, Caesar and Cleopatra were besieged in the palace when one of Arsinoe’s advisers poured seawater in the cisterns, rendering the water undrinkable.

Arsinoe: 3D render

Arsinoe

Arsinoe was now co ruler of Egypt with her brother. But her triumph was short-lived. Roman forces arrived and Ptolemy XIII drowned in a mighty sea battle.

Arsinoe was captured and sent to Rome where she faced the real possibility of a public strangling for her treachery. Cleopatra, in 47BC was once again proclaimed queen.

Caesar spared Arsinoe from strangling and granted her sanctuary at the great temple of Artemis in Ephesus. From there, the younger sister monitored the older sister’s movements, aware that Cleopatra was just as wary of her.

For as long as Arsinoe remained alive, she would remain a real threat to Cleopatra’s power. By now, 41 BC, with Caesar dead, Cleopatra and Mark Antony were living an ultimately tragic love story. The queen bore the rather dim-witted Mark Antony a son. Arsinoe was now too much of a threat to leave alone.

On the orders of Mark Antony, Arsinoe was murdered on the steps of the great temple – in itself an act of terrible violation, widely condemned in Rome.

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Temple of Artemis atE phesus

There she remained until, in 1904, archaeologists discovered a tomb containing bones, housed in an octagonal structure on the site of the ruined temple. What then follows is still hotly disputed. Many of the bones apparently disappeared in Germany during the Second World War but an Austrian scientist, Dr. Hilke Thur, claimed to have found the rest of the bones still in the tomb and performed DNA analysis on them. This proved inconclusive as the fragments were contaminated by so much handling over the years. Nevertheless, Thur maintains the circumstantial and historical evidence strongly supports the theory that the body in the Octagon was that of Arsinoe. The monument itself is said to bear a striking resemblance to the lighthouse (Pharos) at Alexandria – one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. From records and photographs taken of the missing bones early in the twentieth century, Thur recreated the head and face of Arsinoe, concluding that her features hint at African descent. Since the Ptolemies were of Greek lineage, this would indicate that her mother was African.

pic 7 - artists impression of the Octagon at Ehesus

Octagon

Given Arsinoe’s upbringing, terrible family example and the culture and beliefs of the time in which she lived, was she more sinned against than sinning? I leave that to you to decide. Cleopatra, meanwhile, still rests in an unknown grave but, if current theories are correct, archaeologists are closing in on her.

In my book – Wrath of the Ancients– Arsinoe appears as a vengeful spirit, determined to make her sister pay for murdering her for all eternity. But then, if you had been murdered at your own sister’s behest, I doubt you’d be too pleased about it either!

Here’s a little more about the story:

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DESTINY IN DEATH

Egypt, 1908

Eminent archeologist Dr. Emeryk Quintillus has unearthed the burial chamber of Cleopatra. But this tomb raider’s obsession with the Queen of the Nile has nothing to do with preserving history. Stealing sacred and priceless relics, he murders his expedition crew, and flees—escaping the quake that swallows the site beneath the desert sands . . .

Vienna, 1913

Young widow Adeline Ogilvy has accepted employment at the mansion of Dr. Quintillus, transcribing the late professor’s memoirs. Within the pages of his journals, she discovers the ravings of a madman convinced he possessed the ability to reincarnate Cleopatra. Within the walls of his home, she is assailed by unexplained phenomena: strange sounds, shadowy figures, and apparitions of hieroglyphics.

Something pursued Dr. Quintillus from Egypt. Something dark, something hungry. Something tied to the fate and future of Adeline Ogilvy . . .

Wrath of the Ancients is available for pre-order now from:

Amazon * B&N * GooglePlay * Kobo * Apple

Catherine Cavendish, Biography

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Following a varied career in sales, advertising and career guidance, Cat is now the full-time author of a number of paranormal, ghostly and Gothic horror novels, novellas and short stories including: The Devil’s Serenade, The Pendle Curse, Saving Grace Devine, Dark Avenging Angel, Linden Manor, The Second Wife, Miss Abigail’s Room, The Demons of Cambian Street, The Devil Inside Her, Cold Revenge and In My Lady’s Chamber.

 Wrath of the Ancients is the first book in a trilogy of ancient obsessions and eternal revenge.

Cat lives with her longsuffering husband and black (trainee) cat. They divide their time between Liverpool and a 260 year old haunted apartment in North Wales.

You can connect with her here:

Author Website and Blog: http://www.catherinecavendish.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CatherineCavendish

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Cat_Cavendish

Goodreads; https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4961171.Catherine_Cavendish

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Women in History

 

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