Guest Article: Catherine Cavendish on the Curse of Gleichenberg Castle

Today, I have a guest article for you to read that I think will really spook you! Author Catherine Cavendish will usually do that to you. She’s one of my favorite horror, and especially Gothic horror, authors working today. Her talent shines through in her work and she always writes cool guest articles to coincide with her releases. On Tuesday, the second stand alone book in her Nemesis of the Gods trilogy, Waking the Ancients, will release from Kensington Lyrical Underground. Congratulations, Cat! Readers – definitely check this one out soon – until then, enjoy the article….

The Curse – and Miracle – of Gleichenberg Castle

by Catherine Cavendish, author of Waking the Ancients

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I have set a large part of Waking the Ancients in Vienna, Austria where many ghosts and restless spirits walk among the verdant parks and lavish palaces. But Austrian ghosts do not confine themselves to their nation’s imperial capital. They can be found in towns, cities, villages and the depths of the countryside all over this beautiful land.

Deep in the heart of the picturesque province of Styria, stands the 14th century fortress of Gleichenberg castle which has been the home of Trauttmansdorff family and their descendants throughout its long and troubled history. Legends abound of miracles and terrible curses from within its walls.

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In fact the name Trauttmansdorff might have died out altogether centuries ago when the sole heir—young son of the then Count—lay dying of lung disease. It so happened that a gypsy came to the Count’s court and revealed the location of a hidden spring. Its water had healing properties, the gypsy claimed and, his doctor shaving failed him, the count was desperate for any chance of saving his son. He uncovered the spring and gave the boy water to drink from it. The boy recovered and grew up strong and healthy. Needless to say, the Count rewarded the gypsy well for his services and, over the years, the spring became famous for its miraculous healing powers.

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Things did not go so well for a later Count Trauttmansdorff who was forced, by the Catholic hierarchy, to find twenty local women guilty of witchcraft. He was ordered to have them executed—the usual punishment for such a crime. Before they died however, they all issued a curse against his family that has resonated down through the centuries.  This was at the time of the wars with Turkish invaders who murdered all twenty one of the Count’s sons and nephews, delivering their lifeless, bloody bodies to the Countess. Understandably she became hysterical and never recovered her senses.

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The curse didn’t stop there though. Phantoms and poltergeists scared workers and others away from the Count’s estate. Windows at the castle shattered, doors slammed for no reasons and loud crashing sounds, for which no cause could be traced, echoed down the dark hallways at night. A family member dug up the twenty skeletons of the executed supposed witches and reburied them in the forest, covering the site with concrete. He might as well not have bothered. Fires started in so many parts of the castle that the interior was destroyed. Soon nothing remained but burned out timbers

Now, the castle lies in ruins. The witches’ curse has been fulfilled. Are they satisfied? Do they rest in peace? The current owner, Countess Annie, lives in a charming house where she can look up at the ruins of her ancestral home, its broken walls reaching up into the sky like skeletal fingers. It was her father who tried to rid the castle of its curse by reburying the skeletons. She is utterly convinced of the malignity that continues to reside there. People have knocked on her door, complaining of unseen children throwing stones down at them from the castle. But there are no children there.

Is the continuing activity still down to the witches – or is there another, more evil force at work? Countess Annie is adamant. Whatever is there has taken over. And it means harm to any who cross its path.

Visitors to the area are advised to keep well away from the ground at night. Defy this and you might well find yourself with some unwelcome company…

Of course, Dr. Emeryk Quintillus knows all about unwelcome company…

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Waking the Ancients

Legacy In Death

Egypt, 1908

University student Lizzie Charters accompanies her mentor, Dr. Emeryk Quintillus, on the archeological dig to uncover Cleopatra’s tomb. Her presence is required for a ceremony conducted by the renowned professor to resurrect Cleopatra’s spirit—inside Lizzie’s body. Quintillus’s success is short-lived, as the Queen of the Nile dies soon after inhabiting her host, leaving Lizzie’s soul adrift . . .

Vienna, 2018

Paula Bancroft’s husband just leased Villa Dürnstein, an estate once owned by Dr. Quintillus. Within the mansion are several paintings and numerous volumes dedicated to Cleopatra. But the archeologist’s interest in the Egyptian empress deviated from scholarly into supernatural, infusing the very foundations of his home with his dark fanaticism. And as inexplicable manifestations rattle Paula’s senses, threatening her very sanity, she uncovers the link between the villa, Quintillus, and a woman named Lizzie Charters.

And a ritual of dark magic that will consume her soul . . .

You can find Waking the Ancients here –

Kensington Press

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Apple

Google

Kobo

Catherine Cavendish, Biography –

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Following a varied career in sales, advertising and career guidance, Catherine Cavendish is now the full-time author of a number of paranormal, ghostly and Gothic horror novels, novellas and short stories.

Cat’s novels include the Nemesis of the Gods trilogy – Wrath of the Ancients, Waking the Ancients and Damned by the Ancients, plus The Devil’s Serenade, The Pendle Curse and Saving Grace Devine.

She lives with her long-suffering husband, and a black cat who has never forgotten that her species used to be worshipped in ancient Egypt. She sees no reason why that practice should not continue. Cat and her family divide their time between Liverpool and a 260-year-old haunted apartment in North Wales.

You can connect with Cat here –

Catherine Cavendish

Facebook

Twitter

Goodreads

Thank you, Cat, for a great article!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Review+Interview: My Dear Hamilton with NYT Best-selling Authors Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie

I’m so excited today to be back with a new post on Oh, for the Hook of a Book! Why am I jumping for joy? Because New York Times best-selling historical fiction authors, Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie are here!! Right now, they are not only physically touring to various events in numerous states, but they are also dropping by around the online world to author and blogger sites. Anyone knows me, knows I love history! Following my review below of MY DEAR HAMILTON: A Novel of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton, we sit down for an interview!

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I’m always very happy to feature Stephanie, as I adore her work, her style, her sense of humor, her intellect, and her supportive nature for other authors, but I’m very happy she’s clued me in to Laura as well. Together, they are a dynamo writing duo of historical fiction of early America, something I love to study and read about, but as well, most of my followers know how much I focus on women in history overall. I’ve always loved Stephanie bringing women of the ancient world to light (her book on Cleopatra Selene is one of my favorite all time books), but now, in the past two years, with Laura, she’s been diving into women of the American Revolutionary period and it’s been refreshing!

I’ll be offering my review here for the book, in short form, first, but please then stay and read the wonderful interview I had with them both. I think you’ll find it as interesting as I did. If you scroll beneath, you’ll find an excerpt too, and further, a giveaway, and all the information you can imagine. Enjoy!

Review –

My Dear Hamilton: A Novel of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton, by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie, exceeded even my high expectations! It was finely tuned, detailed, flowing as movie screen for the mind, rich, conveying, and just overall, a beautiful story of a woman relying on her own inner strength to blossom into a very influential and intriguing female of the time – one readers deserved to know more about!

I sit back in awe of their mastery of the art of historical research and being able to dissect information and facts in order to imagine real people from history in such a way as we feel as if we truly can visualize them. They are believable, relatable, and engaging in such a way that it propels the reader through the story. Characterization is key in novels, and with this novel, I feel their legacies coursing through me. I almost feel I know so much more about the soil of America, the tapestry of people, place, and time, and to know how it felt to be a part of the building of this country. I feel drawn to know more of those featured in the book, but more so, to learn more about others of the time not featured in the book, if that makes sense. It’s a good book that won’t let you forget and draws you in so much.

My Dear Hamilton is around 600 pages, which could seeming overwhelming, especially if you are used to other various kinds of historical fiction and have not yet read work by these authors, but trust me, it won’t feel like you just read that big of a book. It flows so well, with a seamless voice so that you won’t even remember you’re reading two authors, and you’ll find it senseless to put down. I’d earmark a whole weekend in before your summer festivities start, or else take a very long day at the beach. This book will absorb you, but you’ll also absorb it. If you look at it critically, you’ll realize that there is so much factual information needed to be known to write it, but as your reading it, that will ease off you in a way that just lets you get lost in the story. After reading it, you’ll realize you learned so much, but having a lot of fun doing so!

Having a history degree myself, though not a scholar especially in regards to Hamilton, I can tell that most of this book is seeped in real events and written with painstaking formulating, based on reading of real letters, documents, informational sources, etc. in order to create an image of Eliza, Alexander, and other cast of people in the book. Once you immerse yourself in so much information on a person, people, or place, or all, you can then begin to project an image. I feel that is what this book does. Of course, with fiction, you can create scenarios, based on conjecture, encounters that *could* have occurred, but many that are provable as well. With dialogue, it’s always fiction, hypothetical in many cases, though can also be seeped in fact based on the way a person talks in letters or so forth. Anyway, it’s my best guess for anyone wondering how factual this book is for learning, then absolutely it’s very biographical and a great way to learn history in a more relaxed environment; however, there are lots of juicy details too!

The excellent thing is that while writing using the information, these writers do it so well, they infuse passion into the pages. There is drama, struggles, adventures, romance, intrigue, conflict, sadness, and so much emotion. I had a great time laughing actually as they infuse quite a bit of underlying humor into the prose.

Word choice, imagery, descriptive and flowing sentences all will carry the reader away to another time and place. It’s a stellar portrait image of a view of what it was like at this pivotal time in the forming of our country, full of fervor and igniting wills and minds, and Dray and Kamoie are able to show all this to the reader written through the eyes of Eliza. But not only that, we are able to see more clearly the roles of women at this time, not just the group of men known as the Founding Fathers or those surrounding them. More personally, we see Eliza’s struggles with her marriage, with the ups and downs that so many of us can feel, to the downright secrets and critical thinking some of us have had to do. I can appreciate Eliza’s determination, which made me pull for her throughout the novel!

I’m not a huge fan of Hamilton in general, myself, but I certainly am now of Eliza and I did learn a lot about Alexander Hamilton as well! I know about the whole Hamilton musical craze, and would like still adore seeing it, but this book really propelled Eliza’s story to the forefront for me. I want to know more of the women of this time period and how they trail blazed the way for independence early on, even long before ever gaining being able to even vote. So, what am I saying? Basically, that reading this book should be as exciting for you as going to the theater to SEE Hamilton!, because for me it gave me the euphoria of one, minus the music of course. If you’ve seen, or are a fan of the musical, then it’s definitely a great accompaniment to your pleasure of all things the musical brings too.

Personally, I really enjoyed learning that Eliza came from Dutch heritage in New York in the 1600s, as some of my maternal ancestors were of Dutch descent living in New York as well. I wonder if their paths crossed – most likely! I really enjoy learning about Dutch culture, especially in early America, and have been researching it, and I appreciated the nuggets of description from it interspersed in the book. It just is another example of all the little touches that make this book glimmer.

Of note also is that I think it’s wonderful they include so much in their author’s note, a Q and A, notes about how the book differs from the musical, discussion questions, and such. It’s a wonderful way to round out the book into a real experience. And that you can find so much more online on their websites is so much fun.

Dray and Kamoie make Eliza shine. This book is polished. This will be one of my top historical reads of the year, no doubt. I appreciate their detailed research, elegant writing, dancing story line, and the infusion of vigor and heart that their own passion for history brings to the pages. This is bench-mark for historical fiction novels, and undoubtedly, for American History fiction. I highly recommend for money well-spent. I’ll be dropping 5 stars on online sites.

-Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi, Hook of a Book
Author of Breathe. Breathe.

And now for the interview…..

Interview –

Hi ladies! Welcome to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! I know you are on a whirlwind tour currently to bookstores and libraries in various states, so thank you for swinging by here for a few moments. I’ll put on the teapot, but I know you’re both so busy with the book launch, I’ll be sure to make it a short chat.

What type of tea would you prefer? Did they drink something special in colonial America? Whatever it was, I’m sure it was with sugar or Washington might still have his teeth!

SD: They were fond of rum punch, and we’re fans of it too, but not while on tour! So we’ll settle for a cup of Paris tea from Harney & Sons. Vive La Revolution!

Erin: Stephanie, I love Harney & Sons tea, but you know, I see no problem in sneaking in the rum punch at all – I have a feeling it’s needed! And what better way to celebrate your release!

I almost feel as if I’m overwhelmed with questions to ask, and I’m also trying not to ask things you’ve already talked about a bunch of times, but I’m sure I will. The good thing is, maybe my readers haven’t read the answers yet.

For Stephanie, I’ve known you awhile and been reading your work for some time, watching this unfold, but how difficult was it when you migrated toward writing American History as compared to ancient historical fiction or other categories you’ve written in? Did you feel it less when writing My Dear Hamilton after writing America’s First Daughter?

SD: I had this crazy notion that writing early American history was going to be easier than writing ancient world history because more information was available and I’d have to make less stuff up. So. Wrong. Not only are there a lot of blanks that still exist, but the Founding Fathers kept pretty excellent letters, so there’s a deluge of information and research that you have to get through. Fortunately, it’s all fascinating and I love it! As for writing My Dear Hamilton after America’s First Daughter, I thought it would be easier because Hamilton wrote fewer letters than Jefferson. Little did I know, they were all at least twice as long.

So the moral here is, and let me channel author Kate Quinn for an instant, with my hand on my hip, is that you should never think anything you write will so easy because these historical figures just LOVE to wreak havoc.

For Laura, since you have been teaching American History and have written non-fiction, comparatively, can you talk about how your plunge to historical fiction has been for you?

LK: It’s been really exciting. I’m not new to fiction–I’ve authored over thirty novels in other genres–but America’s First Daughter and My Dear Hamilton were the first books that allowed me to bring together my historical training and my love of writing fiction. Generally, historians readily acknowledge that even writing non-fiction history requires a recognition of the gaps in the historical record and offers at least a little room for (clearly labeled) speculation or imaginings. So nothing about dramatizing the past or extrapolating unknown moments and scenes from sources about a similar event at another time, for example, made me uncomfortable. Just the opposite was true, in fact. Through writing these novels, I’ve become convinced that historical fiction can make valuable contributions to our understanding of the past and can reveal universal truths even when the facts aren’t completely accurate. So it’s been an intellectually interesting experience and I’m completely hooked!

Erin: I totally agree with you! And you can still learn so much!

You write so seamlessly, how is this achieved when I imagine you probably had different writing styles starting out? What have you learned from each other and what do each of you feel the other brings to the projects?

SD: One thing we both share is agility. We’ve both written several other genres. We can write funny, we can write contemporary, we can write suspense or romance or fantasy. And that meant that we were able to adapt to each other’s writing voice. But we also edit each other’s words freely, which means that our words are all interspersed and that helps to smooth out any seams. But we each have complementary strengths that we play to. And we’ve definitely learned from each other. We talk about that a lot. Just one very small example out of many others that I could give is that Laura is the queen of clarity and heartfelt moments. I’ve learned from her when to be less abstract as a writer, when to linger in an emotional moment longer than I might otherwise, and to spell it out. She also makes brilliant connections all the time, and we fire back and forth on how to exploit them!

LK: Hearing that the writing feels seamless is one of our favorite compliments! It was important to us that the books read as if they’d been written by one author, not two. And we were thrilled that none of our friends nor family nor even our editor could tell which of us had written what parts of the books! The way we trade chapters, revise freely, and work together at the same laptop when we get toward the end and are working on revisions and copyedits means that there’s no page in the book that we both haven’t touched, which we think is key to creating that seamlessness. Stephanie’s right–we talk a lot about what we’ve learned from each other. I’ve learned so much from her about crafting the most impactful narrative structure, which includes everything from finding the right prologue to organizing the scenes in a chapter in a way that best highlights the conflict and draws the reader in. And Stephanie is the queen of identifying and playing up themes in a way that makes a book really resonate. So our writing is a true collaboration from beginning to end!

Erin: Yes, I feel I need tissues now, seriously, this is amazing to see writers connecting with such joy and bringing such a labor of love to the readers. I’ve read some of Stephanie’s work already, so yes, I do feel it’s seamless but I can also see knowing this, what each of you added to it to become a single, new author.

Many years ago, when I started my site and working on projects in publishing and in my own writing, all the agents were saying no to American History and especially Colonial History themes. That saddened me, because I wanted to read more from this time period, but not only in non-fiction reading. I was thrilled to see not only more biographical historical fiction start to be published about women, especially women who stood in the shadows of history’s men, but also in American History. When America’s First Daughter hit big last year, I knew maybe the tide would start to turn even more. Besides your book, what else do you contribute to the change in publishing and reading American/Colonial fiction?

SD: Oh gosh, you might be giving us too much credit there, but we certainly would love to think we played a positive role in it! I think right now the country is having a reflective moment; we’re trying to come to terms with who we are and what direction we should be going. It’s difficult to do that without remembering where we came from. So early American history is a natural place to look.

LK: I agree. And early American history is also having a bit of a cultural ‘moment’ with (much more influential!) things like Hamilton: An American Musical, the Outlander TV series, and the recent AMC series, TURN: Washington’s Spies, just to name a few. Really, historical TV series from all eras seem to be doing really well. Think of The Crown, Victoria, Downton Abbey, the White Princess/White Queen series, The Last Kingdom, or even the new The Terror. Clearly, popular culture is opening some doors where historical stories are concerned.

Erin: Oh yes, and I love all those shows, even Sleepy Hollow and Salem!

Do you feel that we need this more than ever now with the political climate? How does this change history’s views of women besides finally memorializing these women more properly?

SD: I’ll let Laura answer the question on memorializing women, but I’d say in terms of the political climate that both parties like to lay claim to the Founding Fathers. But part of our mission has been to demonstrate that no modern political party owns them and that very little about their ideas or their accomplishments was as simple as we like to pretend.

LK: Stephanie and I feel strongly that centering historical women in their own stories is an important enterprise that makes a real contribution–because stories like ours make it clear that the Revolutionary War wasn’t won by white men alone, and the new nation wasn’t built by white men alone, either. All groups in society–enslaved persons, free black people, Native Americans, and women–played important roles in, made sacrifices for, defended, and contributed to the founding of the United States. Certainly, we saw how much Patsy Jefferson and Eliza Hamilton did to make possible the work and contributions of the important men in their lives. Neither Thomas Jefferson nor Alexander Hamilton would’ve been able to achieve all they did without the assistance and contributions of these women. That’s a story that deserves to be told.

Erin: *More Kleenexes please!* Yes, absolutely!! And I just love that you are telling these stories too. Please keep doing so!

As Stephanie I think knows, my 18-year-old American history buff of a son has George Washington plastered completely all over our home and doesn’t go a day without speaking of him – in fact he drinks from a Valley Forge mug every morning. He was this way BEFORE the craze – you know the Hamilton craze, but now it seems it’s cool to like American History! How do you feel the craze for the Hamilton musical, music, the Founding Fathers, and so forth, got its foot-hold, but further, how is it being sustained so dramatically? Did this make your book more fun to write? Did it influence it at all?

SD: I love that your son drinks from a Valley Forge mug! That’s so fantastic. Tell him that I see that I need to up my game when it comes to Founding Father bric-a-brac. We are totally screaming fangirls of the musical and think it is that special and rare kind of art that did a genuine public service. And continues to do so! Laura just saw it again, so she can speak more about that.

LK: Our new My Dear Hamilton was in part inspired by the musical–I doubt this is any surprise! I happened to see it during its first week on Broadway, and the next morning Stephanie and I talked about Eliza and decided to make her our next heroine. And we pitched the idea to our editor that very afternoon–that’s how sure we were! Now, we were already searching for the perfect historical figure after writing about Patsy Jefferson, and we loved the idea of writing next about a founding mother of the north. While writing–or driving to book events–I can’t tell you how often we listened to the musical’s soundtrack, but suffice it to say that we both know the lyrics by heart! That definitely did make it fun. As did discussing the storytelling choices that Lin-Manuel Miranda made in the musical and how we might be making some different choices in our book. We thought readers might find those differences interesting enough that we wrote an essay on the subject that’s available in the back matter of the book!

Erin: I will tell him Stephanie! He’s always inspired by you though and your glee for cool stuff and locations. He just thinks there needs to be a George Washington musical. haha!

I absolutely love to think about travel to all the historic sites in America that have something to do with early American History. I am sure, and I think I saw, that you traveled places in your research for My Dear Hamilton. What was the favorite place each of you visited and why? Did it make it into the book?

SD: Laura can tell you about our favorite that made it into the book, but I’ll tell you my favorite that didn’t. When we were visiting Fraunces Tavern, they had an exhibit that included a sash worn by the Marquis de Lafayette during the Battle of the Brandywine where he was injured in our cause, and it was still stained with his blood! Fraunces Tavern makes it in, but there was no good way to mention that sash!

Erin: WOW!

LK: In writing My Dear Hamilton, we actually visited a number of historical sites. But I think our favorite–in that it was so impactful to us and on a particular scene in the book–was the Trinity Church graveyard. First of all, we found some humor in the fact that there’s a check cashing business on the other side of the street directly opposite Alexander’s tomb. And that seemed…oddly appropriate in some way! But more seriously, when we visited the graveyard for the first time, the Trinity Root sculptor was still there–a huge 9/11 memorial of the trunk and root system of a tree that’d been knocked down on that terrible day. The sculpture was both sad and haunting and powerful and hopeful–because the roots show all the things beneath the surface that you don’t normally see, but which are vital to sustenance and stability. And that made us think a lot about Eliza Hamilton’s character. It felt, at least in part–in both its sadness and its strength–like an analogy for our book. And that sculpture absolutely influenced the tone of the scene we wrote in My Dear Hamilton that takes place in that graveyard.

Erin: That’s totally amazing! Thank you so much for sharing that!

I know there is a gigantic amount of research that goes into writing a book of this magnitude. How did you complete it so quickly together? What are your tips for researching and writing historical books based on true people’s lives like this? Where did a majority of the research come from?

LK: Since Eliza appears to have destroyed most of her own letters, we had to pull resources from everywhere we could find them. That involved significant usage of the Founders Online website via the National Archives, as well as archival research in New York and Albany. We also used a wide variety of papers from other people and institutions of the era, including, for example, Tench Tilghman’s journal, the papers of other members of the Schuyler family, papers of an investigation from the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, and the published recollections of the Washington National Monument Society. That’s just the basics of what you have to do when you choose to write about a real person, though I’m not sure either of us would characterize the research work as having been quick!

Erin: No, it’s NOT quick, and I can certainly understand how time consuming all the research was – but that’s what I mean, to me, I feel it would take 10 years to sift through and also write a book like this, and you both did it all in less than a year! I love hearing the different places you found your information to formulate your characters and book. I’ve been researching a historical fiction book for what seems like forever. I always thinks it’s clever fun to see all the things you can uncover and from where!

In continuing on that, how do you keep on schedule? (Notice I didn’t ask how you stay sane haha)

SD: Hah! Good thing. Keeping on schedule is tough. I’d say between the two of us I’m the more schedule-oriented in that I plan everything out on multiple calendars. But Laura’s scratch it on the back of a napkin method works okay for her too.

Erin: I wish I had your planning skills, Stephanie. Always in awe. I am more of a napkin person myself, Laura. haha. I always hope I’ll get divine advice to change to be more organized to get done more efficiently, but then, I guess it’s all what works for each individual. 

I was so happy for all your success of America’s First Daughter and I’m rooting for you to have as much or more success with My Dear Hamilton. So, what’s next? Will you endeavor to write another next year together or get busy on separate projects?

LK: We’re currently collaborating on a novel on the women of the French Revolution and are having a lot of fun jumping to America’s “sister revolution.” Stay tuned for more on that–we’ll be excited to share when we can!

Erin: Ooooh! I look forward to it!

If you could do a cross-over book featuring a person from American History time-traveling to an ancient civilization, who and where would you choose to feature?

SD: You get bonus points for asking us a question we’ve definitely never been asked before. I’m gonna say Thomas Jefferson to the ancient kingdom of Meroe where the Kandake might have taught him some useful and important things.

Erin: Yay! Very clever!

Bonus question – I mean what was it like to present at the SMITHSONIAN!!?? *drops mic*

SD: AMAZING! Dream come true.

LK: It totally brought out both of our inner history geeks!

Erin: With that, though I’d love to pick your brain more, I’ll let you head out for your next event! Best wishes again for the success on My Dear Hamilton and congratulations to you both for all your hard work! Stop again anytime. Thank you both!

SD: It’s been a pleasure as always, Erin. Can’t wait to hear what you (and your son) think of the new book!

Erin: Thanks, Stephanie. Of course, you can read what I thought here now, and I’m passing along the book to Nassem now. He’s been anxiously awaiting it since the day you announced!

LK: Loved your thoughtful questions, Erin! Can’t wait to do it again!

Erin: Thank you, Laura, I look forward to it!

*Passes more rum punch all around, because…we can…for Liberty!*

Enjoy an Excerpt!

The night before our wedding, the ball at our house was attended by all the best of Dutch Albany society. The Van Rensselaers and the Van Burens, the Ten Broecks and the Ten Eycks, the Van Schaicks and the Douws, and so many others. Neither snow nor ice nor howling wind seemed to deter our New Netherlander friends and neighbors from coming out to the Pastures for the celebrations.

Amidst boughs of holly and the light of countless candles, the grand hall on our second floor hosted festivities that included food and drink, dancing and music, and games and toasts. We danced minuets, cotillions, and Scottish reels until my feet ached and my heart soared. Alexander never seemed to tire, and I determined to keep up with him through every bar and set. I danced with Mac and my brother-in-law, Mr. Carter, a man eight years Angelica’s senior, whose business supplying the army for once permitted him time to join in the festivities. But Alexander could never wait long before declaring himself impatient and claiming me again.

My fiancé appeared more at ease than I’d ever seen him before, and perhaps that wasn’t a surprise, as these days of rest and merriment were the first break from military service he’d had in five years. Indeed, his eyes sparkled as he asked, “May I steal you away for a moment?”

“By all means.” I’d been hoping for a quiet opportunity to give him my gift. He took my hand and led me around the edge of the dance floor as we were stopped again and again by well-wishers, until we finally escaped down the stairs and into the cooler air of the dimly lit sitting room, which afforded us a modicum of peace and privacy. There, Alexander asked me to wait. And while he ducked away I seized the moment to pull my gift from its hiding place in the cabinet next to the fireplace. Alexander returned before I’d barely completed the task—and held a large sack of his own.

“Whatever is that?” I asked.

“He grinned and nodded at what I held in my own hands. “I could ask the same.”

I smiled. “A wedding gift for my husband.”

He feigned a frown and stepped closer. “Your husband, madam? Do I know him?”

Playing his game, I said, “Oh, you know him very well, sir. And your gift is for?”

He came closer yet. “For my wife-to-be. And before you ask, indeed, you know her well. She has a good nature, a charming vivacity, and is most unmercifully handsome”—he arched a brow and closed the remaining space between us—“and so perverse that she has none of those affectations which are the prerogatives of beauty.”

How did he always manage to set my world a-tumble with his words? “Oh, you must be a lucky man, indeed. I hope you’ve shown her your appreciation.”

He barked a laugh. “You saucy charmer!”

I sat in the chair closest to the fire so that I could see by the greater light there, and Alexander pulled up a chair of his own so that our knees touched. With a nervous smile, he placed the heavy sack onto my lap. I untied the its string and worked the coarse cloth over the solid object inside. Impatience rolled off him so forcefully that I had to tease him further by taking great pains to slide the sack evenly off, a little on this side, and then a little on that.

“And to think someone once told me you were the Finest Tempered Girl in the World,” he said with a chuckle.

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Stephanie Dray, Biography –

 

STEPHANIE DRAY is a New York Times, Wall Street Journal & USA Today bestselling author of historical women’s fiction. Her award-winning work has been translated into eight languages and tops lists for the most anticipated reads of the year.

Before she became a novelist, she was a lawyer and a teacher. Now she lives near the nation’s capital with her husband, cats, and history books.

Stephanie Dray Website |Newsletter | Facebook |Twitter | Dray & Kamoie Website

 

Laura Kamoie, Biography –

Laura Kamoieis a New York Times bestselling author of historical fiction, and the author of two non-fiction books on early American history.

Until recently, she held the position of Associate Professor of History at the U.S. Naval Academy before transitioning to a full-time career writing genre fiction under the name Laura Kaye, also a New York Times bestselling author of more than thirty novels.

 

Laura Kamoie Website |Newsletter | Facebook |Twitter |
Dray & Kamoie Website

 

 

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#WomeninHistory: Esther de Berdt Reed -An American Lady of Liberty, by Nassem Al-Mehairi

Today, I have the delightful pleasure of introducing the next author in my Women in History series is my son Nassem! Those who know Nassem understand that though he’s just 18, he’s quite the history prodigy, with a love for American History. Not to mention he’s an extraordinary author. His article below on Esther de Berdt, who formed the Ladies Association of Philadelphia and raised money to clothe the Continental Army in time of dire need by General George Washington, is well-researched and written. I know I learned something! If you liked the article or want to discuss please feel free to leave him comments below. Take the floor, Nassem!

Esther Reed portrait by Charles Peale.png

Esther Reed, Portrait by Charles Peale / Wikipedia

 

Esther de Berdt Reed: An American Lady of Liberty

by Nassem Al-Mehairi

War had been raging on for five years by May of 1780. The Continental Army had just suffered the worst defeat of the war in Charleston, where, after six weeks of siege, Major General Benjamin Lincoln was forced to surrender his forces. General George Washington, taking stock of the present state of his army, worried that the patriots would not have the strength to fight on. Washington wrote to the Continental Congress near the end of May in 1780 that his soldiers were forced to sustain themselves on rotten and limited rations and were clothed in torn, dirty, and poorly-made clothing. Many men were eternally loyal to the Patriot cause, but some grew wary of enduring these conditions in the pursuit of a goal that eluded them and remained abstract. Washington knew something needed to be done to prevent mutiny among his men and continue the fight against the British.

The answer to this call to action came from an unlikely source. A broadside entitled Sentiments of an American Woman appeared on the doorsteps of Philadelphia’s war-weary citizens. The broadside proclaimed that it was time for women to be “really useful” like “those heroines of antiquity” and act on “our love for the public good.” The author of this broadside, Esther de Berdt Reed, just having recovered from a bout of smallpox, founded the Ladies Association of Philadelphia and saved the Continental Army.

Esther de Berdt was born in October of 1746 in London to English businessman Dennis de Berdt and Martha Symon de Berdt. Esther, a charismatic girl who loved books, grew up near the Houses of Parliament. At the age of seventeen, Esther met Joseph Reed of Philadelphia while he was in London to continue his education in law. The duo, by now in love, sought to marry but Dennis refused to consent. Dennis, though partial to Joseph, was not enthusiastic about his daughter moving to Philadelphia with him if they married. Over the next five years, Esther and Joseph, separated by the great Atlantic, nevertheless remained in contact and did not break their engagement. In 1769, Joseph returned to London and reconciled with Esther. Dennis de Berdt had died, leaving his family with substantial debts. Joseph dedicated himself to settling the family’s finances before marrying Esther in May of 1770 at Saint Luke’s Church. The couple decided, then, to move back to Philadelphia together, bringing Martha with them to ensure her financial stability.

Esther and Joseph quickly moved up the social ladder. Joseph became a successful lawyer and political leader. The political uproar that had lingered as a whisper over the colonies soon grew to grip every facet of life. As a native Englander, Esther was initially wary of rebellion against her birth nation. Her views resembled that of many in the colonies, dismayed by the actions taken by the British and the lack of representation in decision-making but also afraid of what open rebellion may cause. Her husband, on the other hand, was an ardent patriot. After the conflict at Lexington and Concord in April of 1775, Joseph facilitated the sending of sums of money to the rebellious colonists in New England. He was elected as a member of the First Continental Congress and he and Esther became close friends with the likes of George Washington and John Adams. Esther, during this time, came to see the revolution as one seeking to reaffirm the right of liberty for all in the colonies. In July, she wrote to her brother that “every person [is] willing to sacrifice his private interest in this glorious contest” and that the revolution was about “virtue, honor, unanimity” and “bravery.” With both Reeds united in the Patriot cause, they soon were forced to separate.

In 1775, Joseph left his law practice in Philadelphia to join his friend, the newly appointed General George Washington. Washington personally requested the industrious and honorable Reed join his staff as an aide and a military secretary, appointing him to the rank of colonel. Esther during this time cared for her family, which would eventually grow to include six children, and handled the affairs of the family. Esther was forced many times during the war to leave Philadelphia with her family and always had an escape plan in her back pocket. When the British took over Philadelphia in September 1777, Esther had evacuated her family to Norristown. Joseph spent that cold and bitter winter of 1777-1778 in Valley Forge working with General Washington.

Throughout this winter that tried many souls, Esther, her mother, and her children endured both the separation from Joseph and one of the most dangerous periods for the Patriots. By the time the Battle of Monmouth proved that Washington had built a disciplined and determined army at Valley Forge, Esther’s young daughter Theodosia had died of smallpox.

The spirits of the Reeds soon changed when Joseph was elected as President of Pennsylvania and the family reunited in Philadelphia. Esther, known now as Mrs. President in Pennsylvania, had gained the position she needed to make a real impact on the war effort. She simply needed her chance.

General Washington soon provided that chance in 1780 after the British captured Charleston in South Carolina. Washington reported to Congress in May of 1780 that the men in his army had long sustained themselves on rotten food and were forced to wear ragged clothing. He warned Congress that at this rate his men would not be able to fight on long enough to drive the British from the colonies. Esther, having just recovered from smallpox herself, seized the chance and founded the Ladies Association of Philadelphia. Because of her position as Mrs. President, she had gained the trust and friendship of many of the wives of influential men and women powerful in their own right in Philadelphia, including Benjamin Franklin’s daughter Sarah Franklin Bache.

Now that Esther had built the Ladies Association into a group of illustrious and influential women, she needed something to unify and focus the group’s efforts. She went to work soon writing a broadside to persuade more women to join the cause of liberty. Sentiments of an American Woman was published on June 10, 1780. The broadside warned women that their “barren wishes” for success were no longer enough and, in the spirit of “those heroines of antiquity,” the women of the colonies must fight to reaffirm that all are “born for liberty.” She assured that their “courage” and “constancy will always be dear to America.” She finished by asking women if any material possessions mattered if they did not truly live with their liberty unviolated and issued a call to duty for all Patriot women to donate what they could to ensure Continental soldiers had the supplies they needed.

 

Sentiments-of-American-Woman.jpg

Taken from the Monticello Website

 

A team of thirty-nine women canvassed door-to-door to every household in Philadelphia, distributing Esther’s (anonymously-published) broadside and soliciting donations to the cause. These women broke almost every social convention of the time but did not think twice. They were willing to do whatever it took to affirm their natural right to liberty.

The efforts of Esther and her Ladies Association of Philadelphia exceeded all expectations. Esther, no doubt proud of her fellow women of Philadelphia, reported to General Washington that they had raised over $300,000 continental dollars. When this amount was converted to hard coinage, it stood at the large-for-era amount of $7,500.

Esther believed that the money should go directly to the soldiers, but General Washington thought differently. Washington worried that soldiers might use their money for unnecessary luxuries and responded to Esther asking for the money to go directly to more useful items. Washington wrote on July 14th asking Esther if he is “happy in having the concurrence of the Ladies” he would ask that the much-needed donations go to “purchasing course Linnen, to be made into Shirts.” He wrote that “A Shirt extraordinary to the Soldier will be of more service, and do more to preserve his health than any other thing that could be procured him.” After a series of letters, Washington persuaded Esther to the prudence of his request and she enthusiastically moved to the next phase of her efforts.

The Ladies Association of Philadelphia, having purchased the linen, quickly went to work sewing shirts for the soldiers of the Continental Army. Esther, wanting the contribution of each woman not forgotten, had each seamstress sew their name into the shirts they made. Esther by this point juggled being away from her husband once again, who was back with the army, raising her children, caring for her aging mother, and running the operations of the Ladies Association. When she was struck with acute dysentery when an epidemic swept through Philadelphia in 1780, she no longer possessed the health to recover.

Esther de Berdt Reed died on September 18, 1780, a month before her thirty-fourth birthday. All the citizens of Philadelphia mourned the death of the woman who had organized a grassroots effort to save the Patriot cause but her efforts did not die with her. Sarah Franklin Bache, a pioneering and powerful woman in her own right, assumed Esther’s position and the Ladies Association finished what Esther had started. By Christmas of 1780, over two-thousand shirts were delivered to the Continental Army, supplying them with a necessity they had lacked for a long time. Newly-clothed and with the alliance with the French formalized, the Continental Army was ready to drive the British from the colonies forever.

Joseph Reed returned to Philadelphia after Esther’s death to serve his final term as President of Pennsylvania. During his tenure, while wearing the shirts made by Esther and her Ladies Association, the Continental Army emerged victorious at the Battle of Yorktown in October of 1781. After the war, Joseph returned to England for his health but died in 1785, at the young age of forty-three.

 

Esther Reed grave.jpg

From findagrave.com

 

Esther de Berdt Reed’s journey from British subject to passionate Patriot in the course of a decade demonstrates the power of liberty for all people. Esther saw the fight for the Republic as an affirmation for the inviolable and inherent rights the new government would protect. She refused to abide by societal customs when the fate of her cause was on the line and organized a major association of illustrious women in Philadelphia to save the war effort. Esther persuaded women of all ages in the era that they had the right and the responsibility of being equal to men in patriotism. She forged a new path of passionate patriotism not only for women but for all citizens no matter their position. Her life was dedicated to that fundamental idea of a republic: liberty.

Nassem Al-Mehairi, Biography –

Nassem.jpgNassem Al-Mehairi is a senior at Ashland High School. Born and raised in Ashland, Ohio, he has a deep love of history and America, with plans to further his studies in college and run for political office one day. He’s an honors student, voracious reader, enjoys writing, and serves in various ways in his community.

Volunteering with and on substantial political and awareness campaigns since he was 12, he appeared in the video introducing President Bill Clinton at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, and went on to serve as a Fellow for the Hillary for Ohio campaign in 2016. Besides being passionate about historical stewardship, liberty, and patriotism, he’s also an advocate for women’s liberation and educational opportunity.

You can read more about him on his blog, Seize the Moment, or follow him on Twitter.

Thank you for joining us for this installment of the Women in History (or Making History) series. Watch for more articles to come! If you’d like to participate, please let me know. 

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#HookonWiH: Curtis Freeman Interviews Sadie Lou Who in His Female Horror Reviewer Series (#MotherHorror)

Today in the #HookonWiHM series, the honcho at Cedar Hollow Horror Reviews, Curtis Freeman, interviews horror reader, reviewer, and bookstagrammer, Sadie Lou Who, or as we lovingly like to call her “Mother Horror.” This is the first in his three-part series on women blogging in the horror genre. I’m glad we are getting the word out about other women in horror in addition to all the amazing authors. It takes a community to make the genre shine! Sadie is nothing but pure energy joy and helps so many, not mention really talks up books and authors! She’s friendly, kind, and fun and we all have a great time talking books with her on Twitter and Instagram.

I had been taking interviews by men and women with women in horror, as well as guest articles, throughout the month of February, but I have quite a few still set to post and so I decided to take them all year long. You can find information on this at the bottom of the post. Take it away Curtis – thanks for a great interview with Sadie!

motherhorror.jpg

CHHR: What was the first horror book you ever read?

SH: The first horror book I ever read was Dracula by Bram Stoker

CHHR: What is the scariest book you ever read?

SH: I still think IT by Stephen King is the scariest book I ever read.

CHHR: When did you become a blogger? What made you want to blog about books?

SH: I have actually been blogging FOREVER. I only just started blogging about books though, I’d say like 2 years or so and it started as an overflow to what I was already doing on social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter and Goodreads. I felt like I just had more to say than what I was able to get out in just a few “updates” or book reviews.

CHHR: What annoys you the most with your blog?

SH: That I don’t devote more time to keeping it current but I’m really very busy on lots of other social media platforms and the blog seems to have the least amount of engagement. (even when I do update)

CHHR: Do you think there is a gender bias in horror fiction? Explain.

SH: This is a no brainer. Yes. There is a gender bias. If you Google 50 scariest books and read the various lists, you’ll find that it is very heavily dominated by male authors. Here, I’ll do it right now and tell you the first top five off any random list: House of Leaves Mark Z. Danielewski, The Ritual Adam Nevill, The Haunting of Hill House Shirley Jackson (which I think is a classic horror story but it’s not scary), Heart Shaped Box Joe Hill and Hell House Richard Matheson. The next 5 are all male authors. Actually, the next 15-20 books on that list were male authors with the exception of Night Film by Marisha Pessl (which again, I didn’t think was a horror book, actually.)

CHHR: Do you think there is a gender bias in horror book blogging? Explain.

SH: I think there are just very few women reading horror. That’s been my experience anyways. Being very active on Bookstagram (a bookish community on Instagram where readers have individual accounts dedicated to the sole purpose of posting books) and I’d say that most of the females are reading YA Lit or adult, contemporary fiction and then maybe the next largest genre being thriller but the girls reading mostly horror are few and far between. I think that it’s viewed as normal or acceptable for men to like books heavy on violence, horror and gore but that it’s unladylike for women to like that stuff.

CHHR: How can we fix the bias?

SH: Well first, we can stop with the sexist stereotypes that horror is for dudes. Men can start writing horror books that are not misogynistic towards women and create strong female characters that are not always the victims—maybe they’re the heroes. And we can all do a better job celebrating female authors that are writing horror. Off the top of my head, Nadia Bulkin, Kristi DeMeester and Ania Ahlborn.

CHHR: I find it sad that we still live in a world where women authors have to use initials to seem less female. What are your thoughts?

SH: I think this is the publishers. I think the authors have a very difficult time having a voice in the meetings where things like that are decided and it’s really up to the industry to make those changes. I’m hard pressed to come up with a way readers have any influence on those choices at all, unfortunately.

CHHR: What pushes your buttons with your blog?

SH: I guess I don’t have a lot of complaints. I couldn’t think of anything.

CHHR: Do you think the Horror Writers Association (HWA) should start recognizing horror book bloggers?

SH: I mean, that sounds like an amazing opportunity for people like yourself who put a lot of time and effort into their blog and it challenges me, actually, to be more productive with mine. I find more engagement on Instagram and Twitter, actually.

CHHR: How has the horror community treated you since starting your blog?

SH: I love, love, love the horror community. I think it is wonderfully supportive, creative and diverse and I’m glad to be a part of it. People like you, Curtis, have been over the top in meeting my expectations to be welcomed.

CHHR: What makes a good horror book?

SH: Always the characters. Any horror book worth its weight in salt will have engaging characters that the reader can invest in-that way, whatever horror is going on, the story is immediately more dangerous and risky because we fear for our characters. For me, anyways.

CHHR: What scares you?

SH: Ha! Pretty much everything. I have a lot of different phobias concerning spiders, sharks, closed in spaces, crowds, heights but I also have deep seated fears of something horrific happening to my loved ones—having to live through some kind of tragedy or health crisis.

CHHR: Who’s your favorite horror author? You have to pick one or three authors, but it can’t be two.

SH: Stephen King, Nick Cutter and Ania Ahlborn.

CHHR: What books are you most looking forward to in 2018?

SH: Stephen King’s stand alone novel, The Outsider. Paul Tremblay’s Cabin at the End of the World. People should anticipate The Listener by Robert McCammon, I already read it but it’s wonderful. Everyone should buy it. The Hunger by Alma Katsu. Unbury Carol by Josh Malerman.

Sadie Lou IMG_1157Who, or “Mother Horror,” Biography –

Sadie lives in Tacoma, Washington and loves to read horror and anything dark, dark, dark. Most recently, she was the co-founder of Night Worms, a group that reads horror books together online, then post photos and reviews.

Find her mostly on GoodReads, Twitter, and Instagram.

Follow her blog HERE.

About Curtis Freeman –

Curtis

Curtis is a lover of horror books and films and a passionate addition to the horror genre. He reviews at his site Cedar Hollow Reviews and has just begun to interview authors via his YouTube Channel. Curtis even grilled me for over 3 hours one evening. His heartfelt excitement for the genre shows. This is the first in a series of three women horror bloggers Curtis is interviewing for my #HookonWiHM project. You can also find Curtis on Twitter.

Watch for more to come in the #HookonWiH series….

February was Women in Horror Month but we are honoring them all year! It’s time to celebrate and show off what we got! For those of you reading, men AND women both, make an effort to read and watch more horror produced by women this year.

For the #HookonWiH series, or Women in Horror at Hook of a Book, we’ll be hosting interviews conducted by men and women with other women in horror. Watch for those spread throughout the year, and if you want in, contact me! Find more info HERE.

WiHM9-GrrrlLogoWide-BR-website

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Women in History: S.K. Rizzolo Writes on Caroline Norton, 19th Century Social Reformer and Writer

Today I have another guest article in the Women in History or Women Making History series to honor Women’s History Month. I’ll be bringing these to you for the rest of March and into April (along with a poetry series). However, Women in History and Women in Horror will basically last all year if I keep getting posts! I hope you enjoying learning about these fabulous women as much as I have been. Your encouragement and shares can really help us show how important women are in our society!

The post is by S.K. Rizzolo, a California author who pens wonderful mysteries from the 19th Century. She has some great thoughts and an informative article about a crucial social reformer of the time in Britain, Caroline Norton, but how interesting to learn she was also a poet (and writer of other fabulous things as well). Enjoy!

Caroline Norton (1808-1877):
Britain’s 19th Century Social Reformer and Author

Campaigner, social reformer, poet, novelist, and playwright

by S.K. Rizzolo, Author of Historical Mysteries

We go on living with things as they are for a very long time. Centuries pass while we remain trapped in the same old, tired, frozen mindsets that cause so much pain, so much injustice. We cannot seem to overturn things as they are. Perhaps this is because many people (hint: often the ones who most benefit) embrace these systems as natural, inevitable, and moral. Such modes of thought are difficult to question, incredibly tough to shatter.

Just think of the pernicious attitudes toward women that continue to debase our own society. Women have long struggled to achieve full personhood under a belief system that views them as less worthy, less autonomous, less human. But as the recent #MeToo movement has shown, change is possible, and it often starts with a few voices daring to articulate a new truth and inspiring others to participate. I’m sure that speaking out has demanded immense courage from the women challenging the pervasive reach of the patriarchy. There are always risks involved for those who imagine a new and better way. One thing is clear, however. This new way requires a fresh mindset that breaks the chains of the past.

Yes, we look forward. But it seems to me that in the process of reframing the world, using our newly purified perception to form healthier and more just social relations, we must also look to the past and to the women who helped get us here. So today I want to tell you about a foremother who lived in 19th century England, surely an era in which a frozen mindset held many in thrall. It was a time in which respectable women were relegated to domesticity. They were to be selflessly devoted “angels in the house,” while men were free to strive actively for achievements in the public sphere. But neither custom nor law provided for the woman who married a brute or whose marriage crumbled, leaving her without support.

IMAGE _2 Watercolour_sketch_of_Caroline_Norton_by_Emma_Fergusson_1860,_National_Portrait_Gallery_of_Scotland

Watercolor sketch of Caroline Norton, 1860. Attributed to Mrs. Emma Fergusson. Wikimedia Commons. I like this softer, more intimate portrayal of an older Caroline. Wikimedia Commons.

Caroline Norton (1808-1877) was a campaigner and social reformer as well as a poet, novelist, and playwright. Pressured by her mother into marrying a violent drunkard at the age of 19, she became a wife whose husband had the power to abuse her, take her earnings, and ruin her reputation. And she became a mother who was legally deprived of her young children after she separated from this man. To give just two examples of what she faced, her husband—the Honorable George Norton, barrister and M.P—beat her when she was pregnant with their fourth child, causing her to lose the baby. In 1836 George Norton also sued Caroline’s friend, the Whig Prime Minister Lord Melbourne, for a vast amount of money, accusing him of “criminal conversation” or adultery with his estranged wife. Melbourne was acquitted, but the scandal ruined Caroline. And after the trial she discovered that the law did not allow her to obtain a divorce.

Although she never regained custody of her three sons because of George Norton’s implacable revenge, this personal tragedy led her to social activism. Her efforts were a huge factor in the passage of the Custody of Infants Act of 1839, which was a first step in establishing the rights to our children that mothers rely upon today. Because of this law, for the first time divorced women (“of unblemished characters”) could petition the court for custody of their children under seven and had rights of access to their older children. Later, Caroline was instrumental in securing the passage of the Matrimonial Causes Act of 1857, which made divorce more accessible. And she helped lay the groundwork for the 1870 Married Women’s Property Act, which allowed married women to retain their earnings and inherit property.

All this was possible only because Caroline was willing to challenge the orthodoxies of her time. She petitioned Parliament and Queen Victoria and wrote pamphlets and letters to the newspapers to protest a state of affairs in which “a married woman in England has no legal existence: her being is absorbed in that of her husband.” No legal existence. These words erase the self and sound to me like the slamming of the prison cell door—a door that Caroline found a way to crack open. You can’t exactly call her a “feminist,” though I don’t think the label matters. She was of her time, stating that “the natural position of woman is inferiority to man…I never pretended to the wild and ridiculous doctrine of equality.” In my view, this just shows the power of any era’s prevailing mentality and makes Caroline’s accomplishments the more remarkable.

Watercolor sketch of Caroline Norton, 1860. Attributed to Mrs. Emma Fergusson. Wikimedia Commons. I like this softer, more intimate portrayal of an older Caroline.

IMAGE _1 Caroline Norton Writing

George Hayter’s 1832 portrait of the Honorable Mrs. Caroline Norton. Appropriately, Norton is shown with an open book and pen in hand. She and her two sisters, the granddaughters of the playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan, were famous society beauties in their day and were known as “The Three Graces.” Wikimedia Commons.

Today Caroline Norton is mostly remembered for her work as a reformer, but I want to end by celebrating her as a writer and poet. Somehow in the midst of her marital struggles and her grief over the loss of her children, she managed to produce over a dozen poetry collections, five novels, and two plays. Not content to stop there, she was even the leader of a literary salon and the editor of a fashionable women’s magazine! How hard it must have been for her to persevere in her ambitions. Indeed, Caroline acknowledged as much when she wrote to her friend the author Mary Shelley: “Does it not provoke you sometimes to think how ‘in vain’ the gift of genius is for a woman? How so far from binding her more closely to the admiration and love of her fellow creatures, it does in effect create that gulf across which no one passes.”

Well, I hope we can step across the gulf to honor Caroline and assert that her gift was not in vain, no matter what she thought in any moment of despondency, no matter what cultural, physical, and mental chains her society had forged to bind women.

My heart is like a withered nut,

Rattling within its hollow shell;

You cannot ope my breast, and put

Any thing fresh with it to dwell.

The hopes and dreams that filled it when

Life’s spring of glory met my view,

Are gone! and ne’er with joy or pain

That shrunken heart shall swell anew.

From “My Heart is Like a Withered Nut” by Caroline Norton

S.K. Rizzolo, Biography –

02_SK Rizzolo AuthorAn incurable Anglophile, S.K. Rizzolo writes mysteries exploring the darker side of Regency England. Her series features a trio of crime-solving friends: a Bow Street Runner, an unconventional lady, and a melancholic barrister.

Currently she is at work on a new novel introducing a female detective in Victorian London. Rizzolo lives in Los Angeles with Oliver Twist and Lucy, her cats, and Michael, her husband. She also has an actress daughter named after Miranda in The Tempest.

Here is the book cover and synopsis to S.K.’s latest book in her series, On a Desert Shore, of which I reviewed a few years ago HERE.

On a Desert Shore cover - by Rolf Busch.jpg

London, 1813: A wealthy West India merchant’s daughter is in danger with a vast fortune at stake. Hired to protect the heiress, Bow Street Runner John Chase copes with a bitter inheritance dispute and vicious murder. Meanwhile, his sleuthing partner, abandoned wife Penelope Wolfe, must decide whether Society’s censure is too great a bar to a relationship with barrister Edward Buckler.

On a Desert Shore stretches from the brutal colony of Jamaica to the prosperity and apparent peace of suburban London. Here a father’s ambition to transplant a child of mixed blood and create an English dynasty will lead to terrible deeds.

Visit her on her website where you can also view her books.

THANK YOU for a marvelous post, S.K.!!

Keep following us for more guest articles about Women in History or Women Making History throughout March and April.

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World Poetry Day: 5 Poetry Collections of Women’s Empowerment and How They Tie to Mine

Yesterday, I found out it was #WorldPoetryDay. I wish I had known about it sooner to better have better prepared a post; however, I didn’t want it to go by without acknowledging it. On Twitter, I posted about my own collection, BREATHE. BREATHE., and how it features not only emotional reflections on life and its struggles, also dabbling in the mysterious, but also features narrative poetry and stories stemming from folklore of countries like Japan, Thailand, and Egypt. I mention the Egyptian short story, as within the story is a poem in song form.

I thought I’d focus first by sharing where World Poetry stems from and what it entails. So I pulled this excerpt of explanation from the United Nations website. Following, I’ll suggest a few books of poetry from around the world or with authors/poets from other cultures and countries.

As I looked at my list of those I wanted to feature, I realized too, that they were all women. Sorry men, maybe next time. This fits right in with my Women in History/Women Making History series I’m hosting here on the site. But besides those commonalities, even though these female authors are from different backgrounds, the pain and grief and struggles of life as a woman all seemed to ring the same, much like in my own writing as well. I commend these ladies for their witness and strength of purpose for themselves and all women all over the world.

World Poetry Day, March 21 –

Poetry reaffirms our common humanity by revealing to us that individuals, everywhere in the world, share the same questions and feelings. Poetry is the mainstay of oral tradition and, over centuries, can communicate the innermost values of diverse cultures.

The observance of World Poetry Day is also meant to encourage a return to the oral tradition of poetry recitals, to promote the teaching of poetry, to restore a dialogue between poetry and the other arts such as theatre, dance, music and painting, and to support small publishers and create an attractive image of poetry in the media, so that the art of poetry will no longer be considered an outdated form of art, but one which enables society as a whole to regain and assert its identity.

 

Women Empowerment: 5 Recommended Poetry Reads

Questions for Ada by Ijeoma Umebinyuo

This cover is GORGEOUS and it accompanies the powerful, meaningful, beautiful, and strong poetry within this debut collection. I love it. I can’t wait to read more from Ijeoma.

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The artistry of QUESTIONS FOR ADA defies words, embodying the pain, the passion, and the power of love rising from the depths of our souls.  Ijeoma Umebinyuo’s poetry is a flower that will blossom in the spirit of every reader as she shares her heart with raw candor.  From lyrical lushness to smoky sensuality to raw truths, this tome of transforming verse is the book every woman wants to write but can’t until the broken mirrors of their lives have healed.  In this gifted author’s own words—“I am too full of life to be half-loved.”  A bold celebration of womanhood.

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Ijeoma Umebinyuo, Biography –

Ijeoma Umebinyuo was born and raised Nigeria. Her writings have been translated to Portuguese, Turkish, Russian and French. She shares her heart with raw candor. There is an intimacy about her writings, an unapologetic presentation of truths and her unconventional ways of telling a full story even in her shortest of poems.

the sun and her flowers by Rupi Kaur

An Amazon Best Book of October 2017, this second poetry collection by Kaur came out mere days before my own debut collection, BREATHE. BREATHE., and though I stayed riding at #2 Amazon Top Paid New Releases in Women’s Poetry behind her highly sought after work for weeks, I was still honored even if there was no way for me to make the top spot! I mean, the book not only debuted as a #1 New York Times Best-seller, but it had the biggest editorial reviews from all the right places (The Boston Globe called her “the most popular poet in America”) and was published and backed by one of the premiere publishers.

She is a beautiful artist and illustrator, which is showcased in the book, as well as a lovely poetic lyricist. Even the poem within the introductory cover copy sells me. It’s exactly how writing poetry makes me feel.

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Divided into five chapters and illustrated by Kaur, the sun and her flowers is a journey of wilting, falling, rooting, rising, and blooming. A celebration of love in all its forms.

this is the recipe of life
said my mother
as she held me in her arms as i wept
think of those flowers you plant
in the garden each year
they will teach you
that people too
must wilt
fall
root
rise
in order to bloom

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Rupi Kaur, Biograpy – 

Rupi kaur is a #1 New York Times bestselling author and illustrator of two collections of poetry. She started drawing at the age of five when her mother handed her a paintbrush and said—draw your heart out. Rupi views her life as an exploration of that artistic journey. After completing her degree in rhetoric studies she published her first collection of poems ‘milk and honey’ in 2014. The internationally acclaimed collection sold well over two million copies gracing the New York times bestseller list every week for over a year. It has since been translated into over thirty languages.

Her long-awaited second collection ‘the sun and her flowers’ was published in 2017 and debuted as a #1 New York Times bestseller. Through this collection she continues to explore a variety of themes ranging from love, loss, trauma, healing, femininity, migration, and revolution. Rupi has performed her poetry across the world. Her illustrations, along with her design and art direction are warmly embraced and she hopes to continue this expression for years to come.

Wild Embers: Poems of Rebellion, Fire, and Beauty, by Nikita Gill

This collection is full of thought-provoking reflections with dramatic imagery and visions. If you doubt your place in the universe and you need to draw strength, this one is for you. Another compelling cover, but the words inside are what will latch ahold of mind and soul, reminding you of your inner power.

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A stunning collection of poetry on feminism, trauma, survival, and empowerment.

You cannot burn away
What has always been aflame

Wild Embers explores the fire that lies within every soul, weaving words around ideas of feeling at home in your own skin, allowing yourself to heal, and learning to embrace your uniqueness with love from the universe.

Featuring rewritten fairytale heroines, goddess wisdom, and poetry that burns with revolution, this collection is an explosion of femininity, empowerment, and personal growth.

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Nikita Gill, Biograpy – 

Nikita Gill is a British-Indian writer and poet living in the south of England. With a huge online following, her words have entranced hearts and minds all over the world.

Sea of Strangers, by Lang Leav

This collection is a mixture of poems, thoughts, essays, reflections on love and life. Her perspective is honest yet unique and also contemplating. I love collections that make you think and apply the questions to your own life. Don’t let the simple cover fool you, this is an international best-selling author for a reason.

sea of strangers

This completely original collection of poetry and prose will not only delight her avid fans but is sure to capture the imagination of a whole new audience. With the turn of every page, Sea of Strangers invites you to go beyond love and loss to explore themes of self-discovery and empowerment as you navigate your way around the human heart.

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Lang Leav, Biography – 

Lang Leav is an international best-selling author and social media sensation. She is the winner of a Qantas Spirit of Youth Award and coveted Churchill Fellowship. Her books continue to top bestseller charts in bookstores worldwide and Lullabies, was the 2014 winner of the Goodreads Choice award for poetry.

Lang has been featured in various publications including The Sydney Morning Herald, The Straits Times, The Guardian and The New York Times. She currently resides in New Zealand with her partner and fellow author Michael Faudet.

Blue Rose by Carol Muske-Dukes

I’m afraid I can only say I’m looking forward to this one, as it doesn’t publish until April 2, 2018, but I am highly interested in reading it and thought some of you might be as well. Carol’s reviews indicate she has a knack for the complexities of life and womanhood and her writings couldn’t be more poignant for today. I’ll be checking it out.

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A new collection of emotionally rich, issue-oriented poems from an award-winning poet whose work “has long been essential reading” (Jorie Graham)

Carol Muske-Dukes has won acclaim for poetry that marries sophisticated intelligence, emotional resonance, and lyrical intensity.  The poems in her new collection, Blue Rose, navigate around the idea of the unattainable – the elusive nature of poetry, of knowledge, of the fact that we know so little of the lives of others, of the world in which we live.  Some poems respond to matters of women, birth, and the struggle for reproductive rights, or to issues like gun control and climate change, while others draw inspiration from the lives of women who persisted outside of convention, in poetry, art, science:  the painter Paula Modersohn-Becker, the scientist and X-ray crystallographer Rosalind Franklin, and the Californian poet and writer Ina Coolbrith, the first poet laureate ever appointed in America.

Amazon

Carol Muske-Dukes, Biography

Carol Muske-Dukes is the author of eight books of poems, including Sparrow, which was a finalist for the National Book Award; four novels; two collections of essays; and Crossing State Lines:  An American Renga, co-edited with Bob Holman.  She is Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Southern California, and was California Poet Laureate from 2008 to 2011.

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by Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi

Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi is the author of the dark poetry and short story collection, Breathe. Breathe. from Unnerving (Oct. 2017), which features emotional poetry and prose dealing with domestic violence, assault, illness, and grief, as well as the magical, mysterious, and dark.

She’s also been published in the anthology Hardened Hearts, My Favorite Story, and Enchanted Conversation: a fairy tale magazine. She is currently the guest editor at Unnerving for an anthology of poetry and short stories with a Gothic theme called Haunted Are These Houses. She’s currently working on many other pieces in process.

Working a journalist, editor, publicist, and marketing and public relations professional for the last twenty years, she has bachelor of arts degrees in Journalism, English, and History from the private college, Ashland University.

Born in England, she now lives in the woods in rural Ohio and serves as chair of the board of the local mental health center and rape crisis domestic violence safe haven.

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Women in History: Life of Jayne Mansfield by Somer Canon

As part of Women in History Month, I’m posting guest articles about women in history or women making history for the month of March and April. I did this special series in 2014 and 2017 as well, which you can find archived on this site under the tab Women in History. I’m always willing to take guest articles on this subject for the series, or any time of the year as well. I have quite a few fabulous ones coming up soon!

Today, I welcome horror author Somer Canon, who also has an obsession with old Hollywood! She did a great article last year on Lauren Bacall, and now, she presents us with Jayne Mansfield!

Jayne Mansfield: The Smartest Dumb Blond

By Somer Canon, author of Vicki Beautiful and Killer Chronicles

Born Vera Jayne Palmer in 1933 in Bryn Mawr, PA, the future Jayne Mansfield knew from an early age that she wanted to be a movie star.  Jayne fell in love with Hollywood after a vacation there with her family as a child, and like Marilyn Monroe (her upscale contemporary), she became enamored of the blond bombshell image watching Jean Harlow.

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Jayne got the name Mansfield from her first husband, a high school boyfriend who she married at the age of seventeen.  Soon after, she gave birth to her first child, but that wasn’t even close to enough to chain Jayne to a kitchen stove, performing the domestic life.  She completed her high school education and then went to college.  She studied acting, of course, but she also took more academic classes.

You see, Jayne Mansfield was smart.  Mensa smart.  She spoke five languages and played violin well enough to stun professional concert musicians.  The sadness to her intelligence is that, while doing research for this article, it was easier to find Jayne’s measurements, different ones throughout her life, than it was to get a consistent measure of her IQ.  You can find her bust size after pregnancy easier than you can verify whether or not she was ever actually a member of Mensa.

Part of this was Jayne’s own doing.  She put that powerful mind of hers to work making her aspirations for stardom come to fruition.  Jayne was the queen of publicity stunts.  To a modern eye, a lot of that seems very familiar.  Today, publicity stunts are not at all new or rare, and in truth, they weren’t in Jayne’s time either. Jayne just kicked the standards for publicity stunts into a different atmosphere.  She loved “wardrobe malfunctions”, the most famous of which is a picture of Jayne sitting at a table with Sophia Loren, Sophia looking at Jayne’s spilling bosom with a hilarious look of disapproval.

 

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Photo credit: E! Online

 

Many appearances in Playboy, and even a publicity stunt with Anton LaVey of The Church of Satan, got Jayne the much-wanted attention that she worked for but she always fell short of superstardom.  She was dubbed “the working man’s Monroe,” never quite hitting the same high and needing always to fall back on those stunts.

The irony is that Jayne’s biggest roles were parodies, making fun of the dumb blond image that Marilyn Monroe was banking.  In “The Girl Can’t Help It “and “Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?” Jayne’s characters are poking fun at the blond bombshell to the point where her Marilyn-like breathy way of speaking is obviously parody.  Unfortunately for Jayne, with the emergence of Twiggy and Audrey Hepburn, the curvaceous dumb blond fell out of style and she was forced to resort to the club scene, singing and dancing in tiny outfits.  Hollywood suddenly had no place for her kind any longer.

She rebelled against studios who wanted to own her sexuality by not hiding away her children.  You see, in those days, sex symbols weren’t mothers and they weren’t supposed to be married to beefcakes like her second husband, bodybuilder Mickey Hargitay. Studios thought a woman’s sensuality was compromised by marriage and motherhood, but Jayne wouldn’t allow that.  She maintained sex symbol status through three marriages and five children, one of whom you may recognize if you’re a fan of Law & Order SVU, Mariska Hargitay.

 

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Photo credit: coolspotters.com

 

On the night of June 29, 1967, Jayne, three of her children, and her current boyfriend piled into a car after one of her club shows and planned to drive through the night for an appearance the next day.  It was foggy and the young driver didn’t see that the truck in front of them had stopped until it was too late.  Jayne, her boyfriend, and the driver were killed.  She was 34.

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Although some of Jayne’s methods may be unseemly to some, her stunt-queening and grabs for attention sometimes coming off as cheap, she got fame and she did it on her terms.  Even when Hollywood turned its back on her in favor of more fashionable categories of beauty, she never stopped working and hustling and I believe that if she were alive today, we would still be seeing pictures of the lovely Jayne sitting poolside in a bikini and smiling coquettishly at the camera, soaking up that which she craved.

Somer Canon, Biography – 

Somer CanonSomer Canon is a minivan revving suburban mother who avoids her neighbors for fear of being found out as a weirdo. When she’s not peering out of her windows, she’s consuming books, movies, and video games that sate her need for blood, gore, and things that disturb her mother.

But enough about me, you’re here for the fiction!  Please find her on her website and feel free to find me on Facebook (Author page only, please!) and Twitter.

Watch for Somer’s next upcoming book this year, The Killer Chronicles, in e-book and print from Bloodshot Books. Until then, you can read her novella Vicki Beautiful, as well as some short stories and anthologies she’s featured in, like Hardened Hearts.

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#HookonWiH: Author D.R. Bartlette Interviews Irish Author Emma Ennis

Today in the #HookonWiH series, author D.R. Bartlette interviews Irish author Emma Ennis! This is a fabulous interview that I really enjoyed so I hope you do too! D.R. is one motivated lady and I’ve been happy to meet her on Twitter. I look forward to reading her stuff. Not knowing of Emma at all before this, I’m really glad I was introduced through this interview, we have a lot of similar writing and book interests. I mean, Gothic?!

I had been taking interviews by men and women with women in horror, as well as guest articles, throughout the month of February, but I have quite a few still set to post and so I decided to take them all year long. You can find information on this at the bottom of the post. Thank you D.R. Bartlette for the interview!

D – When did you start writing horror?

E – I’ve been watching horror since I was about 5, reading it from a little older. As a consequence I dream a lot, which I consider writing in a way. Writing on my subconscious. Many of my dreams have become stories, and some of my happiest mornings follow one of my epic zombie dreams.

That’s all well and waxy and poetic, says you, but when did you actually first put horror to page? 2009. It was a short story called “Come On In.” People loved it. Said it was chilling. It is one of the stories in my collection, Red Wine and Words. I’d been writing a lot longer than 2009 though, unsuccessfully so, and not horror.

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D – What is it about horror that inspires you (i.e. why horror)?

E – I love the thrill of fear. And by fear I don’t mean the kind where you watch all your loved ones die off around you of some terminal disease. The other kind. The kind that makes a girl with a deathly aversion to heights go do a bungee jump.

Mystery and the unexplained give me the same kind of thrill. I don’t really like horror that’s all neatly wrapped up and tied with a bow in the end. I prefer questions and what-ifs. Monsters don’t scare me; monsters can be killed. It’s psychological horror that bakes my bikkies.

I read a story once in a big-ass anthology of creepy stories. It was a long time ago but the gist is that this man had come to take in a young boy after his sister died. The child was seriously messed up in that he wouldn’t come out of hiding or eat for anyone. I think he starved in the end. Anyway, through the course of the story somehow, it came to light that the mother had resented the little boy because her husband had drowned saving him. So she set out to make the child depend completely, utterly and solely on her. She painted his room with glow in the dark figures to terrify him at night, even playing scary noises at from a gramophone hidden in a panel in the wardrobe. There were lots of other twisted things I can’t remember, but in the end, when the child could not live without her, she killed herself.

The story knocked my socks off. It messed with my mind while highlighting how psychology can be used to mess with people’s minds! And it made me want to mess with other people’s minds, thrill them like I’d been thrilled.

D – Who are your inspirations?

E – The latest  and greats: Conan Doyle, Poe, Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker. I love that Gothic feel to horror. Wuthering Heights, The Woman in Black, The Haunting of Hill House, even Jane Eyre was a bit creepy. I wrote a book a few years back that should be released any day now – Walls of Grey, Veins of Stone. Turns out it’s a textbook Gothic horror. Whoodathunkit?

It’s not only books that inspire me. Movies and games do too. In the latter category sit Silent Hill and Resident Evil. In the former there are too many to name, but I would eat up anything by Guillermo del Toro or Joss Whedon. I’m also liking what the Justin Benson/Aaron Moorehead duo are doing – weird, unexplained, but with feels. Kinda reminds me of what goes on in my own head much of any given day.

D – Do you think being a woman brings a different perspective to your storytelling? How?

E – I was recently told by a man who knows his shit, that women write emotion and feelings better than men. I see that. I see that some men have difficulty in showing women’s emotions, and who could blame them? How on earth could you go about unpacking all that if you’ve never experienced it first hand? I would like to say that women tell love stories better than men, but then I remember Joss Whedon and I realise I’d be talking out of my arse if I did say that.

At the end of the day though, male and female are different perspectives. In all walks of life, language, emotion, science. You could have a predominately masculine female who can tell a war story better than a veteran, or a feminine male who’ll write a love story to rival The Notebook. By feminine male and vice versa I don’t mean camp, or butch, and I’m not talking about body shape. But men or women who have a strong connection with the opposite side of their nature.

That got awfully technical, didn’t it? To simplify, I think every writer, whether male, female, child or geriatric, human or greyman, brings a new, different perspective to the world of stories. Demographics bedamned; that’s fake news.

D – Do you have certain themes or motifs that are common in your stories? Why?

E – Love and loss. Darkness. Psychological shenanigans. My stories are usually left quite open. As I said, I’m not fond of plots that end neatly and tied up with a bow. You know the ones – boy gets the girl, girl gets the boy, killer behind bars, detective gets a promotion and a big fat pay rise. Shiver. Happy happy endings make me feel dirty.

I think those stories which are not so clear-cut at the end and leave some questions unanswered tend to stay with us longer. And that’s what I want. I want people to remember my work days, months, years after they’ve finished reading it. So far I’ve had a lot of reports saying I have achieved this with my writing. This pleases me. This is essential my master plan.

Emma Ennis, Biography – 

G27658858_10210555769321702_368162432_nrowing up with siblings who were old enough to have stacks of books & movies Emma really should not have been reading or watching, it was inevitable that things would get mildly deranged in the old noggin. Writing gave the crazy somewhere to go.

 Now, not even an apocalypse will induce her to stop. In fact, when it comes she’ll most likely write about it. Her second obsession being movies, in 2016 she got tired of waiting around for Guillermo del Toro to find one of her books, & started writing her own films. When asked to comment on this she said, ‘You’re welcome’.

Emma lives in Wexford, Ireland, where she indulges freely & copiously in her third & fourth obsessions: cats & red wine. You can find out more about her and her books on her website.

Thanks to D.R. Bartlette for her interview with Emma!

D.R. Bartlette, Biography –

DRBphotoD.R. Bartlette is a Southern author who writes smart, dark fiction. A nerdy weirdo who hung out in libraries for fun, she discovered horror at an inappropriately early age, and her mind has been twisted ever since.
She wrote her first short horror story in eighth grade. Since then, she’s written dozens of short stories, articles, and essays from topics ranging from school lunches to the study of human decomposition.
Her first novel, The Devil in Black Creek, is set in 1986, when 12-year-old Cassie discovers an unspeakable secret in the local preacher’s shed.
She lives and writes in her hometown of Fayetteville, Arkansas, where she still hangs out at the library for fun. Visit her at her website.

Watch for more to come in the #HookonWiH series….

February was Women in Horror Month (#HookonWiHM) but now we are honoring them all year! It’s time to celebrate and show off what we got! For those of you reading, men AND women both, make an effort to read and watch more horror produced by women this year.

For the #HookonWiH series, or Women in Horror at Hook of a Book, we’ll be hosting interviews conducted by men and women with other women in horror. Watch for those spread throughout the month, and if you want in, contact me! Find more info HERE.

WiHM9-GrrrlLogoWide-BR-website

 

 

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Guest Article: Historical Inspiration Peeked from Rough Riders to The Volunteers by John Nuckel

I welcome John Nuckel to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! to talk about the inspiration for his latest book, Drive, which he found after reading about the Rough Riders and The Volunteers. I’m always intrigued by secret societies and this time period in NYC. John uses his research as the basis for a modern day crime thriller. I hope you enjoy the article as much as I did. Enjoy!

How I Found Historical Inspiration in The Volunteers

by John Nuckel, author of Drive

My latest book, Drive, is the first novel in The Volunteers series.

The idea for The Volunteers came to me as I was reading the history of Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders. I found that many of the men in that troop came from my hometown, New York City. It was especially compelling to find that many of the officers in the Rough Riders were from prominent and wealthy families. I learned that William Tiffany of jewelry fame died as a result of a fever he developed during his time in the Cuban jungles with the Rough Riders. In that era people of a certain class were expected to serve and to make a contribution towards the greater good.

The creation of The Volunteers series came to me after my research led me to another wealthy New Yorker who served with the Rough Riders. Woodbury Kane was a relative of the John Jacob Astor family. It is Kane in the foreground in Remington’s painting of the storming of San Juan Hill, pistol in hand. When I sought out his bio and read that his profession was Yachtsman and Bon Vivant, I had to use him as a character.

The story starts when Kane returns home to New York and is no longer content to live the life of the gilded set. He forms the Volunteers to fight against the tyranny of Tammany Hall around the turn of the last century. Kane is joined by his friend, Jacob Riis, the trailblazing journalist, and Teddy Roosevelt himself. Together they work to do what is right: “Et Omnia Recta.” Their purpose is to lift the common man from the oppression of the corrupt Tammany government.

Like any great world city, New York has more interesting characters and events to count. In Drive, Kane and Riis deal with the forbearers of the American Mafia, Paul Kelly, and Monk Eastman, the enforcers for Tammany politicians and founders of the gangs that produced Myer Lansky, Lucky Luciano, and Al Capone, among many others.

The Volunteers have stayed active in the background to this day. They still meet in the saloons and mansions of the early years and remain steadfast in their calling, Et Omnia Recta.

The parallel story in Drive takes place in today’s New York, when Annie Falcone, a NYPD officer, is recruited to protect America’s greatest technological mind from a murderous Chinese hacker. Her assignment takes her to Martha’s Vineyard, where it will take all of her skills and her “drive” to survive the mission.

The Volunteers series will cover many of the scandals and news events in New York City over the last 120 years. The second book in the series, will be set during the Harlem Renaissance. The famous Cotton Club was owned by and Irish gangster, Owney Madden, and is the heart of the story.

Every crooked politician, mob king, showgirl, and jazz musician in New York spent time in the club. What could possibly go wrong? What fun to write and read.

I hope you enjoy Drive and that you will join me on my journey with The Volunteers series.

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Drive, Synopsis –

Et Omnia Recta—to make things right.

n the late 1800s, a secret society is formed by a captain from Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders with the support of the nation’s leading industrialists and bankers. Over a century later, the tradition continues, in the same saloons and boardrooms of New York City where it all began.

In this crime thriller, where history and current events unite, Woodbury Kane, Jacob Riis, and Roosevelt himself fight the tyranny of Tammany Hall in the first mission of the Volunteers during the turn of the last century.

In today’s New York, the descendants of the Volunteers recruit Annie Falcone, a New York police officer, who takes the oath: Et Omnia Recta. She is to provide protection to one man, America’s top technological mind, from his longtime adversary, Sheng, China’s most brutal hacker.

Annie is unaware that she’s merely a decoy to draw Sheng out for the hit squad that was sent ahead of her. Her instincts alone will be the force behind the success or failure of the mission.

Like so many other Volunteers before her, Annie’s survival depends upon her courage, her skill, and her DRIVE.

John Nuckel, Biography – 

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John Nuckel went from the welfare apartments of a middle-class town to a successful career in the financial world. Even in the midst of his accomplishments, he knew he needed to express himself creatively. He’s always said he met enough characters sitting on barstools on Wall Street to fill a dozen books, so now he’s embracing his creative spirit by writing. He encouraged others to do the same on his radio show, “Wake Up and Dream.”

He is a New York Times contributing writer and the author of three white-collar crime thrillers in The Rector Street Series (The Vig, Grit, and Blind Trust), as well as two short stories (The Victory Grill and The Garden). Drive is his latest work.

Find more about John –

Website

Facebook

Twitter

Goodreads

Purchase Links – 

Amazon

Thanks for a wonderful article, John!

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Women in History: Waiting for Baby the Medieval Way by Anna Belfrage

In the last post, I reviewed Anna Belfrage’s The Cold Light of Dawn, and now, as part of her online tour for the release of the book and my Women in History series, Anna has stopped by to talk about pregnancy “rules” in the 14th century. At the end of the article, she gives an excerpt from her book showing how this culture was practiced in her book, but as well showing the remarkable ease in which her main characters loved and conversed with each other.

Thank you for a wonderful post, Anna!

Waiting for the Baby the Medieval Way

by Anna Belfrage, historical fiction author of The Cold Light of Dawn

In our time, women are generally encouraged to live their life as normal while pregnant. “Being pregnant is not an illness,” some will say, and this is one of those truisms that may very well grate on the ears of the pregnant lady in question. Yes, a pregnancy is not an illness, but for some it is a hardship.

I imagine the wise old women back in the 14th century were of the same opinion: being with child was a blessing, not an ailment. However, the medical (and social) expertise of the time considered it very important that a woman nearing the delivery date be shielded from the more brutal aspects of life, which is why high-born ladies generally spent the last month or so of their pregnancy in confinement.

Confinement meant the lady in question was restricted to her rooms. To avoid too much sensory stimulations, the windows were shuttered, the walls hung with fabrics in muted colours and pastimes were restricted to things like sewing or praying. Men were strictly forbidden—unless it was a priest. Personally, I would have gone bonkers.

Lower class women could not afford confinement. First of all, they probably shared one room with their entire family, so where was she to be confined? Secondly, her family depended on what income she may have brought in, be it doing laundry or baking or brewing beer. No, our lower class mothers worked until the baby decided it was time to enter the world and likely were back at work some days later, even if a recently delivered woman was considered unclean until she’d been adequately churched. The solution to that little problem was that the woman in question worked from home for some weeks.

The confined woman was expected to rest, to turn her focus inwards as she prepared herself for the coming ordeal. Everyone knew women birthed their children in pain and blood—a divine punishment meted out to women because of Eve’s curiosity in the Garden of Eden. Accordingly, all expecting mothers knew they were in for a tough time. There were no drugs, no anaesthetics, no caesareans. If the baby got stuck or died in utero, the mother died as well. And she often did. So the expectant mother spent a lot of time praying: for the child, for herself. She prayed to God, the Virgin and to St Margaret of Antioch.

I suspect most women were in two minds about the confinement. Yes, it gave them ample opportunity to rest, but there must have been an element of frustration—especially if the soon-to-be-mother was one of those women who carry their children with ease. Some women seem to have avoided being confined—Edward I’s second wife, Margaret of France, is famous for having given birth to her eldest son after a long and gruelling ride. But for most, there was no choice.

The confinement chambers were ready. The bed had been re-hung in the mildest of yellows, the walls adorned with tapestries depicting flowers and gentle creatures such as unicorns. A sanctuary for the expectant mother, the rooms were furnished with cushions and expensive carpets, a brightly coloured wooden statue of the Virgin and her child adorning the altar in the adjoining little chapel.

A new chair set before the hearth, a basket of embroidering silks with which to pass the time, ells of fine linen to convert into smocks and gowns for the eagerly awaited babe. Yes, all in all, the chambers were ready—and as asphyxiating as a prison, Kit thought, supervising the two men who were finalising the hanging of the heavy drapes that were to cover the windows. Once Philippa retired within these walls, she would not be seen until after the birth of her child.

“Never,” Kit told Adam when she was given leave to accompany him on a walk. “Promise me you’ll never demand that I retire to my chambers for my laying in.” They were well into the cooling shade of the woods, the river running silent and dark beside them.

“You’ve been brought to bed of seven babes without being thus confined. Why would things change now?” He drew her close and kissed her brow. “Besides, I dislike being deprived of your company and proximity, no matter that Mabel maintains it is most inappropriate that we share a bed all the way to the birthing.” There was a twinkle in his eyes. “Sharing in every sense, sweeting.”

She laughed softly. “Philippa is of a like mind, but for her there is no escaping the conventions.  Isabella is adamant: the queen goes into confinement after Sunday mass.” She pressed her bosom against his arm in a provocative gesture. “Five more days in which she can share her nights with her husband.”

02_The Cold Light of Dawn

The Cold Light of Dawn by Anna Belfrage

Publication Date: February 16, 2018
Matador & TimeLight Press
eBook & Paperback; 434 Pages

Series: The King’s Greatest Enemy, Book #4 Genre: Historical Fiction

After Henry of Lancaster’s rebellion has been crushed early in 1329, a restless peace settles over England. However, the young Edward III is no longer content with being his regents’ puppet, no matter that neither Queen Isabella nor Roger Mortimer show any inclination to give up their power. Caught in between is Adam de Guirande, torn between his loyalty to the young king and that to his former lord, Roger Mortimer.

Edward III is growing up fast. No longer a boy to be manipulated, he resents the power of his mother, Queen Isabella, and Mortimer. His regents show little inclination of handing over their power to him, the rightful king, and Edward suspects they never will unless he forces their hand.

Adam de Guirande is first and foremost Edward’s man, and he too is of the opinion that the young king is capable of ruling on his own. But for Adam siding with his king causes heartache, as he still loves Roger Mortimer, the man who shaped him into who he is.

Inevitably, Edward and his regents march towards a final confrontation. And there is nothing Adam can do but pray and hope that somehow things will work out. Unfortunately, prayers don’t always help.

The Cold Light of Dawn is the fourth in Anna Belfrage’s series, The King’s Greatest Enemy, the story of a man torn apart by his loyalties to his lord and his king.

Purchase Links –

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Barnes and Noble

Anna Belfrage, Biography –

03_Anna Belfrage.jpgAnna was raised abroad, on a pungent mix of Latin American culture, English history and Swedish traditions. As a result she’s multilingual and most of her reading is historical – both non-fiction and fiction. Possessed of a lively imagination, she has drawers full of potential stories, all of them set in the past. She was always going to be a writer – or a historian, preferably both. Ideally, Anna aspired to becoming a pioneer time traveller, but science has as yet not advanced to the point of making that possible. Instead she ended up with a degree in Business and Finance, with very little time to spare for her most favourite pursuit. Still, one does as one must, and in between juggling a challenging career Anna raised her four children on a potent combination of invented stories, historical debates and masses of good food and homemade cakes. They seem to thrive…

For years she combined a challenging career with four children and the odd snatched moment of writing. Nowadays Anna spends most of her spare time at her writing desk. The children are half grown, the house is at times eerily silent and she slips away into her imaginary world, with her imaginary characters. Every now and then the one and only man in her life pops his head in to ensure she’s still there.

Other than on her website, www.annabelfrage.com, Anna can mostly be found on her blog, http://annabelfrage.wordpress.com – unless, of course, she is submerged in writing her next novel. You can also connect with Anna on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads.

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Tour Schedule is HERE!

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Giveaway

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away a complete set of The King’s Greatest Enemy series to one winner & two winners will win a paperback copy of The Cold Light of Dawn! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on March 30th.
-You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY.
– 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.

Enter to Win HERE!

 

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