Made by Women Giveaway – Happy October!

I know I have followers of all tastes on Oh, for the Hook of a Book! This promotion (and post) is for fans of horror, or honestly, more appropriately and importantly, fans of kick-butt women. Claire Holland published a book of poetry shortly after mine called I Am Not Your Final Girl, in which she wrote poems about final girls from slasher movies. If you aren’t familiar with the term, it’s the women in movies that make it to the end after an horrific ordeal and often earn retribution and find empowerment, much like the women fighting for so much today!! I really loved this collection!

Now, Claire is hosting a giveaway featuring my own dark poetry and short story collection, BREATHE. BREATHE., which also features strong women, Sara Tantlinger’s LOVE FOR SLAUGHTER, which takes a look at the horrors of love, and her own, I AM NOT YOUR FINAL GIRL.

You can read about the giveaway and see all that’s included, as in addition to our collections there are three movies as well (pictured below), by clicking over to the link to her blog, Razor Apple. As well, you can ENTER TO WIN on that post!

Click here—>

RAZOR APPLE BLOG – GIVEAWAY

Happy October 1. Let the games begin!

Erin

Made by Women Giveaway

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Guest Article: Kevin Lucia on Things You Need, from Clifton Heights Series

Hi everyone! Kevin Lucia stopped by with a guest article in conjunction with the release of his new novel from Crystal Lake Press, called THINGS YOU NEED (out Sept. 28, 2018), which is another release in his Clifton Heights world in the Adirondacks. I really love Kevin’s writing style as its unique and best described, I believe, as cosmic horror leaning very heavily towards quiet horror with a supernatural bent. As Mallory Heart Reviews said, “It creeps up on you with little tiny cat feet.” To me, that’s one of the best types of horror. With Clifton Heights, you can think of Stephen King building up his fictional town of Castle Rock, but as with that, all Kevin’s books have individual story lines. In Things You Need, it’s a collection of short stories with individual story lines as well from the town, and a wrap-around story that makes it even more interesting.

Lucia’s characters quite come alive off the page. Actually, I should say his character Gavin Patchett is the one here at Oh, for the Hook of a Book to talk to us, Lucia was just the facilitator! Patchett will tell us about his investigation into the closing of Blackfort Valley Sports Camp and some….well…interesting accidents that had occurred there, accounts of strange-eyed young men, and an eerie quiet that befalls at night….
Things You Need cover

That’s enough to have me intrigued, you? Let’s let Mr. Patchett take over for now, but this also foreshadows a free novella in the Clifton Heights world that will be out from Lucia around Halloween, called Long Night in the Valley.

***

Rest in Peace, Blackfoot Valley

After two decades of sitting in neglected ruin, Blackfoot Valley Sports Camp  – on Kipp Hill Road, just outside of Clifton Heights – is finally being laid to rest, some twenty years after its “death.” Looking back, I suppose its end was inevitable. Camp owner Jerry Ruben had quietly battled Multiple Sclerosis his entire adult life, though for most of his tenure as camp director, it had remained safely in remission. No one – not even his colleagues – knew of his condition.

His last three years of ownership, however, the MS reared its ugly head. Amidst growing complications, Jerry struggled to run the camp with his usual efficiency. Many folks say they remember how tired he seemed those last three years. Tired, distracted, and distant. He was far more than tired, of course.

He was dying.

And though no one knew it, Blackfoot Valley was slowly dying with him.

Something more than Jerry Rueben’s illness was brewing back then, however. Something changed at Blackfoot Valley after I last worked here as a counselor the summer of 1992. There were accidents, and deaths. Earlier this week I did some digging on the Internet. According to several archived articles of the Utica Times, I learned these accidents and deaths happened after a failed attempt to build more cabins in the woods behind camp.

Because even though he was dying of MS, Rueben was apparently attempting to expand his operation. His purpose seemed hazy at the time – enrollment at camp was falling, so there was no real need for more cabins – but the construction went ahead, regardless. Maybe because he was sick and fighting for something to hold on to, those around him conceded to his plans. He had the money, he wanted to expand…so why not?

Anyway, before reading those articles, I vaguely remembered hearing something about several bad accidents at Blackfoot Valley while I was away at Webb Community College. What I read in the articles shocked me, however. Apparently, over the course of two months, four workers mysteriously fell to their deaths in the small valley behind the cabins, Blackfoot Valley itself, the one from which the camp owes its name.

No one saw them fall. They were discovered in the morning before work, or at the end of the day, or after lunch, crumpled at the bottom of the valley, their necks broken. Officials couldn’t understand how they fell. The valley’s bottom was certainly filled with dangerous rocks, and the valley was deep enough for a fall to be fatal. But the newly constructed cabins were at least thirty feet from the valley’s edge. The workers had no call to come near the valley…at that time, anyway.

Apparently, there had been plans to construct steps and railings down into the valley, for some vague reason Jerry Rubin never clearly articulated. Something about a “nature walk” for a “different kind of summer camp” he was planning. I discovered exactly what kind of camp through my Internet digging.

According to several more archived articles I found, more deaths and accidents followed, even after the expansion was canceled. Again, four in all, also involving the valley behind camp in some way. The first incident involved Laura Mason, a junior from Utica-Rome. The next, Grace Williams, a local who had worked here as a counselor during Cross Country Camp. The last accident which happened while Blackfoot Valley was still in operation hammered the final “nail” into its coffin. Micah Cassidy – a counselor – saw a promising college basketball future destroyed, along with his knee.

That summer turned out to be Blackfoot Valley’s last as the camp many of us had all known and loved. In the off season, during my junior year of college, Jerry Ruben quietly sold Blackfoot Valley to an out-of-town buyer looking to run a summer “spiritual retreat for youth.” This is where, according to some other articles I’ve discovered, Jerry’s expansion plans could be traced. Before his MS had gotten too bad, Jerry had been in partnership with these out-of-town buyers. His plan had been to change the focus of the camp all along, to make it into a “different kind of summer camp.” What kind of “different” summer camp would become apparent soon enough.

Jerry died a year after the sale. Sometimes, in my crueler moments, I wonder if he died in shame over what he’d planned for Blackfoot Valley.

No one knew much about Blackfoot Valley’s new owners, nor did anyone know or understand Jerry’s motivations for partnering with them. They did little to engage the locals. Technically, Blackfoot Valley sits outside Clifton Heights town limits, so the new owners apparently dealt more with Webb County and not Clifton Heights. Under its new ownership, the camp wasn’t open to local youth. It billed itself as a “private spiritual retreat” and was planning on serving only privileged clientele from out of town.

Rumors spread from the very start that the new “spiritual retreat” was little more than a waystation for rich families to dump their kids. Folks in Clifton Heights whispered the camp itself had become a week-long celebration of decadent teenage vice. In the first few years of its new ownership, people reported driving by the camp late at night and hearing loud music and what sounded like an everlasting rave party. Folks also whispered about the strange-eyed young men – presumably camp counselors – who came into town to buy large quantities of liquor and beer during the weeks camp was operating.

According to the rumors, something changed about three years into Blackfoot Valley’s new ownership. The late-night parties ceased, as well as stories of hearing loud music and carousing. People spoke of an eerie quiet descending over the camp, especially at night. The strange-looking college boys still came into town for booze, but they seemed even stranger, and more distant, if that were possible.

That’s when the new stories began spreading. Ones a little more difficult to blame on hard feelings. Stories more fantastic, improbable, even implausible. The “spiritual retreat” at Blackfoot Valley had become a cult. Camp counselors led their charges in devil worship and orgies. And no one – down to the last person – had anything good to say about those vacant eyed, distant-looking college boys who came into town for booze. They acted strangely mechanical, it was said. As if they were pretending to be regular people and didn’t quite know how to act the part.

How credible are these stories?

Hard to tell. It’s tempting to chalk them up to free-floating resentment about Blackfoot Valley’s sale and Jerry Ruben’s apparent betrayal. For years, Blackfoot Valley Sports Camp was the northeast’s finest summer sports instruction camp, right in our backyard. Local sports legends – such as Micah Cassidy, Kevin Ellison, and Grace Matthews – had honed their skills here. Though I was never more than a seventh man at All Saints, I did also. When a shadowy out of town owner bought it in a deal apparently brokered by Ruben himself, Clifton Heights folks took it personal. I’d like to believe lingering bitterness accounted for most of those rumors.

Still.

The stories of those distant, strange-acting college boys makes me wonder. We get our share of drunken college guys from of our own Webb Community College, and nearby Utica State. Folks grumble about them incessantly, but in an affectionate, possessive way. They may be loud, obnoxious, disrespectful louts…but they’re our loud, obnoxious, disrespectful louts.

The way they talk about those camp counselors? No such affection. More like a barely repressed loathing, as if they’re holding back shivers as they speak of them.

In any case, because the camp’s suddenly cloistered state, and maybe also because of this repressed sort of revulsion for the new camp counselors, over the next three years Clifton Heights and all of Webb County entered in a willful denial of the camp’s continued existence. Slowly but surely, people did their best to banish it from their collective thoughts.

Eventually, those odd counselors stopped coming into town. I imagine folks wondered about that, but figured – and prayed – they’d decided to go elsewhere for their beer, like Old Forge or Whitelake. In any case, people talked less and less about the camp in the small valley outside town, until one day…

Someone drove by and discovered it abandoned. Upon further investigation, they also discovered the final body claimed by Blackfoot Valley. A middle-aged man named Charles Hogan. He’d grown up locally in Clifton Heights. After college he moved to Raleigh, North Carolina, where he lived until his only son tragically died. A year after his son’s death and a grueling divorce, he stopped coming into work and disappeared.

No one knew where to, until six months later his body was found stretched out in the overgrown grass of Blackfoot Valley’s courtyard. Coroners couldn’t determine a cause of death. Because of the corpse’s oddly preserved condition, they couldn’t determine the time of death, either. He could’ve lain there for hours, days….even weeks. Also unknown was why Charles Hogan found his way back to Blackfoot Valley, where, incidentally, he’d been a standout basketball player in his youth. His car was discovered in the parking lot, and based on the debris inside – junk food wrappers, styrofoam coffee cups, crumpled packs of cigarettes, empty beer cans, and old clothes – it appeared he’d been living out of his car from a long time before coming to Blackfoot Valley.

The case remains open to this day.

Also unknown is exactly when or why the “new” Blackfoot Valley ceased its operations. Did Charles Hogan die alone in an abandoned camp…or did the campers and counselors have some hand in his death before they left? Is that why they left? No signs were found as to why everyone left so suddenly, or where they went to. Stories say the camp was strewn with supplies, clothes, food, and booze, as if one day, everyone simply got up and walked out, en masse. The lawns and shrubs showed signs over overgrowth, also.

Despite this shocking turn of events, just as Clifton Heights folks dismissed Blackfoot Valley’s existence, they gradually dismissed its sudden closing and the discovery of Charles Hogan’s body. Blackfoot Valley was closed and in ruins, end of story, Jerry Ruben’s shameful legacy finally buried. Some poor sap had been found dead there, probably because he’d overdosed on drugs or something, and that was all. That Hogan had grown up in Clifton Heights seemed of no importance whatsoever.

Blackfoot Valley Sports Camp fell completely silent for the next twenty years. At some point, ownership must’ve quietly reverted back to the county, but there’s never been any talk of developing the property for other uses until now. No one has ever seemed to care much about trespassing. Looking back on my short time as an English teacher at Clifton Heights High, I remember kids talking about braving old Bassler House (a teenage rite of passage in Clifton Heights) and exploring the ruins of Zoo Town up behind Raedeker Park. Thinking on it, I don’t remember any of them saying a word about messing around at Blackfoot Valley Sports Camp.

Thanks to my own case of willful amnesia, I hadn’t thought twice about Blackfoot Valley myself until I was talking to Kevin Ellison (one of those former standouts I mentioned) in his bookstore, ArcaneDelights, and he mentioned it had finally been purchased by the Nuemann Development Company. It was scheduled to be demolished by the end of the week.

I decided I needed to see it one last time before it came down. After finding those archived articles detailing Blackfoot’s increasingly dark history, I called Bobby Nuemann. He and I attended and played basketball together at Blackfoot Valley High. I called him on the pretense of writing a book about Blackfoot Valley, about who bought it after Jerry Rueben sold it, what may have led to its sudden closing, and the mysteries of its accidents and deaths.  Bobby’s not much of a reader, but he knows about the books I’ve written. He said I could poke around the old camp to my heart’s content.

So here I am.

*

But now that I’m here, standing at the mouth of the cracked asphalt drive, I wonder if I could ever express my true feelings about this place. So many days spent here, playing under the hot blue summer skies, from sixth grade to that last summer before my senior year in high school. Days spent running and jumping, the air split by whistles, coaches barking demands, players yelling while sweat poured down faces, stinging eyes and tasting salty. Nights spent sleeping in bunks, dreaming of the future, of basketball glory, or of the college girls interning in the infirmary that week. Sleeping and dreaming, calves and thighs throbbing with the pleasant ache of exercise.

Proceeding up the warped asphalt path toward the main office building, my flashlight cutting a narrow path ahead in the darkness, I remember also the unpleasant things which happened here, bad things which unfortunately can’t be blamed on anything supernatural. Much as we’d like to preserve memories in a crystalline amber of nostalgia, we have to acknowledge the darkness hiding behind the light. In all our beloved memories, dark things lurk. Blackfoot Valley is no exception.

Approaching the old mess hall, I remember campers dumped here for a week not because they liked basketball or because they wanted to improve their game, but because their parents wanted to pawn them off. I remember their discontent, and in many cases, their misery. I remember how coaches and other players showed these square pegs no mercy. I also remember talented players gone bitter, laboring under the yoke of their athletic parents’ grandiose expectations. From all accounts, Laura Mason, the first victim of the Blackfoot Valley “curse” (yes, that word has actually been used), was one such player.

I remember the bullies, also. Coaches, counselors, and other campers. The desire for power over others knows no boundaries, no age limit. There will always be those who desire most of all to dominate those around them. Much as I loved basketball in high school, as an aggressive contact sport, it does provide ample breeding ground for those who are stronger to overpower those who are weaker. It pains me to admit it, but in my heart, I can’t deny it.

These bullies, who tormented younger campers, the counselors who ruled their cabins with mercurial fists, and the coaches who wielded their whistles like finely honed razors. They linger, these dreadful ghosts, right alongside the good memories. A brooding reminder, I suppose. The brighter and higher the sun, the darker and longer the shadows.

*

As I walk between the main office building (where the camp caretaker bunked during camp) and the mess hall, I can’t see much of the buildings under my flashlight. I suppose that’s a good thing. I even wonder if that’s why I kept puttering around Arcane Delights before it closed, chatting with Kevin Ellison and roaming his stacks aimlessly, without really looking for anything. Maybe I subconsciously knew seeing Blackfoot Valley one last time by the dim moonlight would let me see it as I wished, would let me use the darkness to re-construct an image from cherished memory.

But even the darkness can’t hide the mounds of garbage bags piled on the main house’s front porch as my flashlight sweeps by. It can’t hide the wildly overgrown lawns, or the coach’s dorm behind the main house, which now leans sideways, its roof caved in.

I skirt the coach’s dorm and move past it, walking along the mess hall, which we raided late nights as counselors. We plundered the cereal supplies and leftover desserts after playing hours of basketball. I enjoyed many nights there with my friends, so maybe it’s the best place to start my tour.

I round the corner for the mess hall’s front door, leaving the ruined coach’s dorm behind. I shouldn’t be surprised at what I see…but I am, regardless.

The mess hall door is gone.

The doorway looms open like a black mouth stretching wide in a soundless scream. My hand shakes and hesitates for just a moment (making me feel foolish, like a child) before I steady my hand and direct the flashlight’s beam into the darkness inside.

It doesn’t penetrate.

The flashlight’s white lance fades into the darkness, almost like it’s being absorbed. It’s not reflected or anything like that; there’s no inner door it’s hitting. The deeper it penetrates into the darkness, the flashlight’s beam fades, as if the darkness is absorbing it…or draining its luminescence.

Staring at the dark, I shiver and again think of all those unaccounted years when the mysterious out of town owners ran their private “spiritual retreat,” what Jerry Rueban called “a different kind of summer camp.” I think of  the rumors about what went on, and the discovery of Charles Hogan’s body in a camp abandoned Roanoke-style. I think of the strange-eyed, distant camp counselors,  who didn’t seem to know how to act like real people.

I want to dismiss those stories as hard feelings. Seeing the dark in the old mess hall draining my flashlight, I imagine it cavernous and empty, and I can’t help but think of the stories about strange rituals and even orgies. Abruptly, I want to be as far away from the mess hall as possible.

Soon as I swing my flashlight from the gaping darkness and face the path leading up the hill; I feel better. A subtle pressure is lifted as I turn away. Of course, I dismiss my unease as a product of the night, those whispered rumors, and too much Mary Sangiovanni in my reading diet.

Surely whatever happened here at Blackfoot Valley in its years as a “spiritual retreat” wasn’t anything as unclean as I imagine it to be. Maybe uncouth or unseemly, yes. It’s not hard to imagine Blackfoot Valley turned into a drunken away-camp for rich kids whose parents want to be free of them for a summer. I have no problem swallowing the stories of drunken rave parties and ordinary teenage lust. Surely the other stories are nothing more than dread fancy.

Surely.

But as I face the heaved asphalt path leading to the cabins (which look oddly preserved in the moonlight), the bath house, the main gym at the top of the hill, and the courts beyond, a great sadness fills me. Blackfoot Valley Sports Camp and its memories will be wiped away for good when the bulldozers rumble in tomorrow. All those memories – good and bad – will be torn up and plowed under by moving steel. Whatever may have happened here after the deaths started occurring, or when it became a “spiritual retreat,” will be plowed under, too.

I know why I’ve come, now. I’m at the wake of a dear old friend who went soft in the head and a little crazy at the end, a friend who maybe even went bad…but a friend, nonetheless. And because it seems I’m forever drawn to haunted, abandoned places everyone else has forgotten, it only seems right that I’m here to bear witness when everyone else has forgotten or has chosen to forget because remembering is too painful. I’m a writer, after all. That’s why I write. To remember what others choose to forget.

So, gripping my flashlight tighter, I proceed up the cracked asphalt walk, my flashlight’s beam wavering before me, wondering what strange tales linger in the ruins of Blackfoot Valley Sports Camp, waiting to be gathered and named, lest they be plowed under by moving steel and forgotten forever, and wondering what I’ll start writing about tomorrow, when I sit down at my desk, and pick up my pen.

Gavin Patchett
Clifton Heights, NY

Purchase Things You Need to read more from Clifton Heights:

http://getbook.at/ThingsYouNeed

GoodReads

Thanks so much for reading and to Kevin for joining us!

If you follow along the tour that Kevin put together, you can read many more articles and insights from Gavin Patchett, puzzle pieces if you will, as well as interviews with Kevin Lucia. Enjoy!

Frank Errington MichaelsSeptember 17th – Gavin Patchett’s The Name

Frank Errington Michaels – September 18th – Review

Anton Cancre – Sepember 19th – Hiram Grange’s Vaguely Inappropriate With Gavin Patchett

Amber Fallon – September 22nd – My Lament

Rebecca Snow – September 24th – Interview

Joe Falank – September 26th – Interview/The Man Who Sits in His Chair

Kevin Lucia at Cemetery Dance Online – September 28th – Special Edition of “Revelations”  on Cemetery Dance Online, about how the Greystone Bay Series, edited by Charles L. Grant, influenced Clifton Heights

John Questore – September 29th – The Crayfish God

Erin Al-Mehairi – September 30th – Rest in Peace, Blackfoot Valley

Wesley Southard – October 1st – The Sidewalk Scavenger

Ryan G. Clark – October 3rd – Review

Yvone Davies/The Terror Tree – October 5th – The White Cat of Samara Hill

Mark Allen Gunnells – October 7th – The Cairn

Things You Need

 

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My Collection Breathe. Breathe. on .99 Cent Sale – Best Labor Day Special Yet!

Hey everyone! I wanted to stop by the site to let everyone know that my dark poetry and short story collection, BREATHE. BREATHE. is on sale now through Sept. 4, 2018 for just .99 cents in e-book per my publisher Unnerving. After almost a year since it published, and a 4.8 out of 5 star rating on Amazon, you can find it for your Kindle on sale HERE!

Also, the anthology HARDENED HEARTS, which includes my short story or revenge and dark horror/fantasy, “The Heart of the Orchard,” which published in Dec. 2017, is also on sale for the Kindle for .99 cents! It’s full of stories of love gone weird and wrong and has a rating of 4.3 out of 5 stars on Amazon. The Ghastly Grimoire said my story is “the one that really rocks the Twilight Zone/Night Gallery feel, for the record.” You can purchase that HERE.

In fact, there is a selection of Unnerving titles on sale by some amazingly talented writers I call friends. If you like to weird horror, sci-fi, or fantasy, check out what they have to offer from Unnerving.

Thanks to everyone for all the support of this book. It took many of my tears and much of my strength to write, but I also some really cool times using my imagination and being creative as well. I poured my heart into it and all your purchases, shares, reviews mean so much to me and my family.

Breathe ad labor day 2

About BREATHE. BREATHE.

Breathe. Breathe. is a collection of dark poetry and short fiction exploring the surreal depths of humanity. It’s a representation of how life breaks us apart and words put us back together. Purged onto the pages, dark emotions flow, urging readers into murky seas and grim forests, to the fine line between breathing and death.

In Act One, readers are presented with a serial killer in Victorian London, a lighthouse keeper with an eerie legacy, a murderous spouse that seems to have walked right out of a mystery novel, and a treacherous Japanese lady who wants to stay immortal. The heightened fears in the twilight of your minds will seep into the blackest of your nights, where you have to breathe in rhythm to stay alive.

In Act Two, the poetry turns more internal and pierces through the wall of denial and pain, bringing visceral emotions to the surface unleashing traumas such as domestic abuse, violence, and illness.

In the short stories, you’ll meet residents of Valhalla Lane whose lives are on a violent parallel track to collision, a man who is driven mad by the sound of a woodpecker, a teenage girl who wakes up on the beach and can’t find another soul in sight, a woman caught in a time shift pitting her against the Egyptian goddess Anuket, and a little girl whose whole world changes when her favorite dandelion yellow crayon is discontinued.

Amid these pages the haunting themes of oppression, isolation, revenge, and madness unfold through folklore, nightmares, and often times, raw, impulsive passion crafted to sear from the inside out.

With a touching foreword by the Bram Stoker nominated author Brian Kirk, Breathe. Breathe. will at times unsettle you, and at times embrace you. Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi, a veteran writer and editor of the written word, offers up a mixed set of pieces, identifying her as a strong, new voice in dark fiction that will tear the heart from your chest, all the while reminding you to breathe.

PRAISE for BREATHE. BREATHE.

Al-Mehairi creates engaging characters and often has twists to her plots that make for a unique reading experience. The highlight of this section would be the story “Dandelion Yellow,” a magical realist tale about a young girl and her box of crayons. It’s a rich, colorful tale with a suspenseful build up and haunting ending. Overall, the fiction section of the book is very well done.” – Cemetery Dance Online

“Erin paints scenes and evokes emotions with precision and skill. These are the kinds of stories and poems that tighten your chest and leave you holding your breath.” – The Scary Reviews

“Breathe. Breathe. is as honest and raw as writing gets. Erin bares her soul with these poems, particularly during Act 2 in which the verses take on a much more personal and reflective nature.” -The Grim Reader

“Breathe. Breathe. is a great collection of poetry and short fiction. The poems are dark and vivid. They touch at the core of the human condition. The poems are gritty and chilling. You can feel the doom and dread in each of the poems. Breathe. Breathe. is an emotional rollercoaster. The characters are troubled, and the author gives them just enough depth.” – Cedar Hollow Reviews

“I am certain many readers {and not only female} will find themselves breathing shallower, or holding their breath, as the vividness of these scenes awakens memories. Other readers who may not have these particular types of painful memories, will nonetheless wince in empathy. I am equally certain very few will walk away untouched, and very few will forget.” -The Haunted Reading Room

“Raw, risky, and brave.” – Selcouth Station

“Overall, Breathe. Breathe. is a must-read for any poetry lover. It is rich in themes and ideas, from heartbreak and heartache to women fighting back their abusers, to Japanese mythology to an ancient Egyptian goddess taking a human life for a greater purpose. I highly recommend it.” – Nadaness in Motion

“I feel the poems are at their best when folkloric in nature – I particularly like “Ningyo’s Misfortune”, “The Driftwood of Wishes”, and “Offerings to Nang Tani”. The short stories “Destination: Valhalla Lane Loveless, Ohio” and “Life-Giver of the Nile” are both clever and brutal, and the standout.” – Julie K. Rose, author of Oleanna and Dido’s Crown

“Wow. This collection really leaves bruises on the soul. I’m not a huge fan of poetry, yet, I found myself glued to the words and emotions pouring out of this author. The short stories were great too. My favorite was “Lunch Served at Noon”, as it had a Twilight Zone-ish quality to it. To fans of dark literary fiction and poetry, I recommend giving Breathe. Breathe. a try.”
– Tim Meyer, author of Sharkwater Beach and Kill Hill Carnage

“At times sinister, definitely dark, atmospheric and heavy with foreboding, this collection of poetry and short stories from Erin Al Mehairi touches our deepest fears. Murder, domestic violence and even an ancient Egyptian goddess all move within these pages where nothing is ever simple or straightforward.” – Catherine Cavendish, author of Wrath of the Ancients

It’s full of the unexpected – bits of lace cut through with the odd and the horrible and the beautiful. Through it all I sense the power of a survivor!! And I love that!”
—Sue Harrison, internationally bestselling author of Mother Earth Father Sky (Ivory Carver Trilogy)

“Breathe. Breathe. is at times haunting, visceral, bittersweet, and tender. Erin Al Mehairi bares her soul and invites readers to devour it whole.”
—Hunter Shea, author of We Are Always Watching

“Erin Al-Mehairi weaves a web of narrative and poetry both beautiful and nightmare-inducing in Breathe. Breathe., invoking heartache and the need to see through the shining masks life presents us to confront the darkness it truly holds.”
—Michelle Garza, co-author of Bram Stoker nominated Mayan Blue

“I loved Dandelion Yellow.  I was hyperventilating at the end, but it was such a beautiful, painful and artful tale. I’ll be saying that last line to myself for weeks at least. Just beautiful.  I’m re-reading the rest.  One read just isn’t enough because DAYUM.  Beautiful.”
–  Somer Canon, author of Vicki Beautiful and The Killer Chronicles

“In Breathe. Breathe., Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi employs sharp, jagged words arranged in sparse, disturbingly visceral clusters to force readers to “breathe” through the fear and pain of abuse and personal terror. It’s a sense reinforced by the deceptively quiet but disquieting story, “Dandelion Yellow.” Filled with sharp sensory detail, the highlight is “Life-Giver of the Nile,” an evocative circular time-shift tale in which an Egyptologist’s soul is required by Anuket, ancient and modern goddess of the Nile, for a greater purpose. Whether in poetry or prose, dark kernels nestled within horror tropes indicate that Al-Mehairi writes from the gut and from the heart but with the fierceness of a survivor, the soul of a fearless champion. This mixed collection is a fine introduction to a strong, intriguing new voice in dark fiction.”

-W.D. Gagliani, Bram Stoker Finalist, author of Wolf’sTrap (Nick Lupo Series)

Hardened Hearts

17 stories of difficult love, broken hearts, lost hope, and discarded truths. Love brings pain, vulnerability, and demands of revenge. Hardened Hearts spills the sum of darkness and light concerning the measures of love; including works from Meg Elison, author of The Book of the Unnamed Midwife (Winner of the Philip K. Dick Award), Tom Deady, author of Haven (Winner of the Bram Stoker award for Superior Achievement in a First Novel), Gwendolyn Kiste, author of And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe and Pretty Marys All in a Row, and many more.

Hardened Hearts dips from speculative, horror, science fiction, fantasy, into literary and then out of the classifiable and into the waters of unpinned genres, but pure entertainment nonetheless.

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FOREWORD – James Newman
IT BREAKS MY HEART TO WATCH YOU ROT – Somer Canon
WHAT IS LOVE? – Calvin Demmer
HEIRLOOM – Theresa Braun
THE RECLUSE – John Boden
40 WAYS TO LEAVE YOUR MONSTER LOVER – Gwendolyn Kiste
DOG TIRED – Eddie Generous
THE PINK BALLOON – Tom Deady
IT’S MY PARTY AND I’LL CRY IF I WANT TO – J.L. Knight
BURNING SAMANTHA – Scott Hallam
CONSUMED – Madhvi Ramani
CLASS OF 2000 – Robert Dean
LEARNING TO LOVE – Jennifer Williams
BROTHERS – Leo X. Robertson
PORCELAIN SKIN – Laura Blackwell
THE HEART OF THE ORCHARD – Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi
MEETING THE PARENTS – Sarah L. Johnson
MATCHMAKER – Meg Elison

Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi, Biography –

Erin is the author of BREATHE. BREATHE., published by Unnerving, and her collection and a mix of dark poetry and short stories and has been an Amazon best-selling paid title, debuting at #2 in Women’s Poetry right behind Rupi Kaur, who is a NYT best-seller, and holding various places in the Top 100 best-sellers there and in horror short stories for the three months since publication. Her story “The Heart of the Orchard” is also featured in the anthology from Unnerving called HARDENED HEARTS, which published in December 2017. Her story “Dandelion Yellow,” from Breathe. Breathe., is also featured in the MY FAVORITE STORY anthology of the Project Entertainment Network along with Jonathan Maberry, Christopher Golden, Brian Keene, Mary SanGiovanni, and more, which published also in December of 2017. In February 2018, her poem, “Chained by Love” was published in Enchanted Conversation: a fairy tale magazine. In July of this year, she had a poem published in DARK VOICES, which is an anthology of dark fiction and poetry. Her poem, “Wrapped in Battle” anchored the collection. Currently, she is working on a new project as the guest editor for a new anthology coming from Unnerving this year, called HAUNTED ARE THESE HOUSES, which will feature poetry and short stories.

Erin has Bachelor of Arts degrees in English, Journalism, and History. She has 20 years of experience in the communication and marketing fields as writer, journalist, editor, publicist, and a consultant among many other things.

She writes fiction, essays, stories, and poetry and is an avid reader of many genres. She has edited poetry anthologies, novels, fiction pieces, and other various non-fiction and journalistic pieces. As a journalist, she’s written, interviewed, and edited for various newspapers, magazines, media outlets, and online news sources at both ends of the spectrum in media and public relations.

As an entrepreneur, she owns two businesses: Addison’s Compass Public Relations and Hook of a Book Media, in which she acts as a PR/Marketing Consultant, publicist, and editor for authors, publishers, and others. Besides her team of freelance authors she works with, she also an editor for Sinister Grin Press and works doing PR for Raw Dog Screaming Press as well.

A past Young Careerist of Ohio and Woman of Achievement Award winner in her community, she volunteers her time in the community and is the chairwoman on the board of directors for a local mental health center and rape crisis and domestic violence safe haven.

She is the mother of three school-aged children and a cat. She lives with her family in rural Ohio nestled in the forest—a place just ripe for nightmares. Her passions are reading, writing, book hunting, hiking, and entertainment such as movies/film, television, and music. She’s also a huge basketball fanatic, as she loves to watch her Ashland University Lady Eagles and the Cleveland Cavaliers in as many game as possible.

Erin used to co-host with her #MarketingMorsels segment on Project Entertainment Network’s The Mando Method, an award-winning weekly podcast for new and veteran writers. She is looking into a new podcast opportunity.

You can e-mail her at hookofabook (at) hotmail (dot) com and find her easily at http://www.hookofabook.wordpress.com. You’ll also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest where she loves new friends.

 

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Fresh Off the Hook: Interview with Janet Benton, Historical Author of Lilli de Jong

Last summer I read and reviewed the wonderful book, Lilli de Jong, by Janet Benton. You can read my thoughts on the book in my review I posted last year, right here. I really enjoyed this historical fiction title about an unwed mother in 1883 Pennsylvania who is banished from her Quaker home, and yet, never gives up her fight.

Many others enjoyed it as well as it acquired numerous accolades following its release such as being an finalist for The Langum Prize in American Historial Fiction 2017, a GoodReads Semifinalist, Choice Awards 2017, in Historical Fiction, and many more which you can find below.

Now, in celebration of the paperback release last week, with a new cover you can see below, Janet stops by the site for an interview. Congratulations, Janet! 

Readers, enjoy the interview – it’s fascinating! Come on by and enjoy the discussion and a cool drink with us.

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Paperback Cover

Hi Janet! Welcome to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! I’m glad you could drop by Ohio today, which isn’t far from you, we are neighbors to the Pennsylvania folks. In fact, I meant to tell you I saw that you went to college at Oberlin. I live just 45 minutes from there and frequent it often. Such a wonderful place.

Can I interest you in some peach iced tea? If you’d prefer another drink, let me know what you’d like. We could sit on the porch since it is summer, but not so hot at the moment. My 14-year-old has been baking muffins over summer break. Mostly blueberry.

Janet: Thanks, Erin! Lovely to know you’re near Oberlin. I haven’t returned since graduation but hope to do so in 2018.

Erin: Have a seat and I’ll pour the iced tea. Let’s talk about your book, Lilli de Jong. This was your debut novel, but yet, you seem like such a seasoned writer. As an editor, both freelance and for a publisher, I read and edit many books and submissions. So I say it with all honesty that your debut work was written with an experienced hand. Have you been writing awhile? When did you start to write Lilli?

Janet: I’ve been telling stories since before I could write, and I’ve spent three decades so far as an editor, writer, and teacher of writing, so I’ve got a lot of experience with words. I started to write Lilli, in tiny bits, a few lines now and then, about a dozen years before the novel was finished.

Erin: I know most writers don’t want to be asked about their inspiration, but I truly would love to let readers into your mind. How did you decide to write this book?

Janet: While I had a newborn baby, I began to learn about mothers of the past, including unwed mothers who were forced by prejudice to give up their newborns, most of whom died. I also learned about the profession of wet nursing and found out that many unwed mothers became wet nurses as a way to earn a living, since they had milk. A voice began to come to me while I was nursing my baby! I go into much more detail in the author’s note at the end of the novel.

Erin: In your research, what was the one item you had most trouble pinning down or working into the puzzle or plot of the novel (without giving spoilers)?

Janet: I’m afraid the one thing that comes to mind would be a spoiler!

Erin: You researched in Germantown. What was that like now as compared to then? What did you find most fascinating?

Janet: There are many buildings still standing that Lilli would have seen (if she had been a real person) in 1883. But many more are gone—and most of all, the meadows, farms, and other relatively open spaces—even ponds and streams—are gone. The area had more small factories then, though, which no doubt created noise and pollution. Overall, it’s less prosperous now, and a lot more crowded.

Erin: I feel this book is so important to our generation and future generations in terms of women’s rights. What is your public stance on various portions of women’s rights and what do you hope to have readers learn about them through your book?

Janet: I am a committed feminist, which means I believe that someone’s sex should not affect their life prospects. I also know that our culture has to do a better job of supporting motherhood, with paid parental leave (for fathers, too) and many other ways of lessening the lifelong financial penalties that mothers pay.

Erin: Your character development is so strong. How did you get into their mind, especially those of Quakers, to really make Lilli and the others come alive off the page?

Janet: That’s the writer’s job—if you can’t do that, you won’t have much of a story. In the case of this novel, though, I only had to get into Lilli’s mind, since she is telling the story in her diary. Her mind and heart were places I loved finding my way into and living in while writing!

Erin: I felt so close to Lilli by the end and so admired her courage and strength. I am the mother of three and not once did I think I wouldn’t do the same! And yet, for so many women  it was so much worse even that what it ended up for Lilli. What stories did you come across that hurt your heart for women of this time period? How do you hope your work helps to share their trials?

Janet: Congratulations on being the mother of three! So many aspects of women’s lives at that time hurt my heart greatly. They couldn’t vote, for one thing. They were paid drastically less than men—the difference was even greater than it is today. Many working women were so poor—working six or seven days a week, 12-hour days—that they could hardly buy food and pay rent on a shared room. And if married, they faced issues related to keeping their earnings, getting a divorce, home ownership, rights to children, and so on. It was also terrible to read how restricted women’s lives were—public speaking was considered shameful, for instance, though many powerful women did it anyway, such as Lucretia Mott, the Grimke sisters, and Sojourner Truth. We still don’t have an Equal Rights Amendment guaranteeing women equal rights in all aspects of civic life.

Erin: What plans do you have for more novels? Yes, I am hoping you write some!

Janet: I have several novels in process. I hope to be able to focus on a certain one, which at this point takes place in the present day, by December 2017—after three more months of frequent book events.

Erin: If you didn’t already answer, I saw that you have a degree in religion. I am assuming this helped you choose making your character, Lilli, a Quaker, but do you think you’ll write more books that have a religious bent?

Janet: I think it’s safe to say that everything I write is concerned with issues of meaning, such as, How do we make sense of suffering? What makes life worthwhile? What lessons do we learn from experience? What are our obligations to humans and the earth? How can we love one another better? What do we owe in exchange for this gift of life?

Erin: Also, I am curious, in studying religion, sometimes those seeped in religion did the most judging to the character in your book. How do we bring compassion to everyday lives now instead of judgment? How do we learn from the past?

Janet: Good questions! I think we learn from the past by imagining the lives of those who came before us—imagining them as full, real people, not so different from us. And as far as bringing compassion instead of judgement to what we see in our everyday lives, there’s a powerful message in the expression “There but for the grace of God go I.” Whether we think of God or fate or happenstance as the grace here, we could have ended up in the same difficult circumstance, had we faced the same challenges all along. This is always an accurate awareness to have in the face of others’ suffering. If you take that message to heart, it’s difficult not to have compassion.

Erin: Thanks so much for stopping by Janet. You’re welcome back anytime so keep me abreast of any new releases! Let’s have another blueberry muffin while we enjoy the summer breeze.

Janet: Thanks so much for inviting me, Erin! And thanks to your fourteen-year-old for the blueberry muffins.

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Hardback Cover

Lilli de Jong by Janet Benton

Publication Date: May 16, 2017 (Hardcover)
Paperback: July 10, 2018
Nan A. Talese
Hardcover & eBook; 352 Pages

Genre: Fiction/Historical/Literary

READ AN EXCERPT.

A young woman finds the most powerful love of her life when she gives birth at an institution for unwed mothers in 1883 Philadelphia. She is told she must give up her daughter to avoid lifelong poverty and shame. But she chooses to keep her.

Pregnant, left behind by her lover, and banished from her Quaker home and teaching position, Lilli de Jong enters a home for wronged women to deliver her child. She is stunned at how much her infant needs her and at how quickly their bond overtakes her heart. Mothers in her position face disabling prejudice, which is why most give up their newborns. But Lilli can’t accept such an outcome. Instead, she braves moral condemnation and financial ruin in a quest to keep herself and her baby alive.

Confiding their story to her diary as it unfolds, Lilli takes readers from an impoverished charity to a wealthy family’s home to the streets of a burgeoning American city. Drawing on rich history, Lilli de Jong is both an intimate portrait of loves lost and found and a testament to the work of mothers. “So little is permissible for a woman,” writes Lilli, “yet on her back every human climbs to adulthood.”

Praise, Accolades, Awards –

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Purchase Links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | iTunes | IndieBound | Kobo | Powell’s

Praise for Lilli de Jong

“Lilli de Jong, discharged from her teaching job and banished from Quaker meetings because of her father’s selfish choice, finds comfort in the affections of her father’s apprentice, Johan. The night before he leaves to embark on a new life, she succumbs to his embrace with his promise that he will send for her. Soon thereafter, a pregnant Lilli finds herself shunned and alone, her only option a Philadelphia charity for wronged women. Knowing that she must relinquish her newborn, she is unprepared for the love that she feels for her daughter. Lilli quickly decides to fight to keep her, but in 1883 that means a life of hardship and deprivation. Telling Lilli’s story in diary form, debut author Benton has written a captivating, page-turning, and well-researched novel about the power of a mother’s love and the stark reality of the choices she must make. VERDICT A great choice for book clubs and readers of Geraldine Brooks.” – Library Journal, Starred Review

“A powerful, authentic voice for a generation of women whose struggles were erased from history—a heart-smashing debut that completely satisfies.” —Jamie Ford, New York Times bestselling author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

“Beautifully written, emotionally resonant, and psychologically astute, Lilli de Jong is the story of an unwed mother in late 19th-century Philadelphia who, facing peril at every turn, will do almost anything to keep her daughter alive. Benton turns a laser eye to her subject, exposing the sanctimony, hypocrisies, and pervasive sexism that kept women confined and unequal in the Victorian era—and that still bedevil many women today. A gripping read.” —Christina Baker Kline, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Orphan Train and A Piece of the World

“A stunning ode to motherhood. Lilli de Jong reminds us that there is no formula to being a good mother. Love is the essential ingredient, and only it gives everlasting life to our legacies. A debut of robust heart that will stay with me for a very long time.” —Sarah McCoy, author of The Mapmaker’s Children

“Janet Benton’s remarkable novel Lilli de Jong is historical fiction that transcends the genre and recalls a past world so thoroughly that it breathes upon the page. From the first sentence, Lilli’s sensitive, observant, determined voice casts an irresistible spell. Benton combines rich, carefully researched detail with an imaginative boldness that is a joy to behold—though reader, be warned: Lilli’s story may break your heart.” —Valerie Martin, author of The Ghost of the Mary Celeste

“[A] gorgeously written debut . . . Lilli’s fight to craft her own life and nurture her bond with her baby is both devastatingly relevant and achingly beautiful. A stunning read about the fierceness of love triumphing over a rigid society.” —Caroline Leavitt, author of Is This Tomorrow

“The trials Lilli undertakes to keep her baby are heart-rending, and it’s a testament to Benton’s skill as a writer that the reader cannot help but bear witness. In a style reminiscent of Geraldine Brooks, she seamlessly weaves accurate historical detail as well as disturbing societal norms into the protagonist’s struggles . . . An absorbing debut from a writer to watch.” —Kirkus Reviews

“A heartrending debut . . . Benton’s exacting research fuels Lilli’s passionate, authentic voice that is ‘as strong as a hand on a drum . . . that pounds its urgent messages across a distance’ . . . Lilli’s inspiring power and touching determination are timeless.” —Publishers Weekly

“A harrowing look at the strictures of nineteenth-century American society. . . . [Lilli] is a full-fledged heroine, persevering despite seemingly insurmountable odds. . . her voice is distinctive, her fierceness driven by a mother’s love.” —Booklist

“I loved this novel. Lilli de Jong is deeply moving and richly imagined, both tragic and joyous. Janet Benton has an exceptional ability to bring history to life . . . It’s not only a compelling, beautifully crafted historical novel, however: it’s also important . . . Lilli’s life-and-death struggle is shockingly common to women even today.” —Sandra Gulland, author of the internationally bestselling Josephine B. Trilogy

“Writing with a historical eye akin to Geraldine Brooks and incisive prose matching that of Anthony Doerr, debut novelist Janet Benton magically weaves a gripping narrative of hardship, redemption, and hope while illuminating a portrait of little-known history. The result is an unforgettable and important reflection on the maternal and, ultimately, the human bond. Stunning!” —Pam Jenoff, author of The Kommandant’s Girl

“A confident debut . . . Sentence by carefully-crafted sentence, Benton ensnares the reader.” —The Millions

03_Janet Benton.jpgAuthor Janet Benton, Biography

Janet Benton’s work has appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Glimmer Train, and many other publications. She has co-written and edited historical documentaries for television.

She holds a B.A. in religious studies from Oberlin College and an M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and for decades she has taught writing and helped individuals and organizations craft their stories.

She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and daughter. Lilli de Jong is her first novel.

Visit Janet Benton’s website for more information and updates. You can also connect with her on FacebookTwitterPinterest, and Goodreads.

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Review: Trial on Mount Koya by Susan Spann – Historical Mystery

Review – Trial on Mount Koya by Susan Spann

02_Trial on Mount KoyaSeveral months ago I was fortunate enough to read Trial on Mount Koya by Susan Spann, which is the sixth book in her Shinobi Mystery series. Anyone follows my reviews must know by now how much I love this series, so I was highly anticipating this new one. The fifth book last summer, Betrayal at Iga, I had felt was her best yet, but I didn’t have much doubt that she’d still excel with this one as well. It released July 3, but I held my review until now as part of a larger scheduled publicity tour.

Once I found out that her childhood, and I suppose her adulthood, love of Agatha Christie inspired her to give a nod to And Then There Were None, my personal favorite Christie novel, I was instantly sold anyway. Couple that with ancient Japan, the same amazing characters in master ninja Hiro Hattori and Jesuit Father Mateo, and Spann’s elegant writing, and I couldn’t wait to tear open the cover.

Publisher’s Weekly gave it a stellar review: “Cleverly riffs on Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None… Spann has never been better at balancing mystery with the politics of the era.”

As I tell readers in my reviews with all these books, they can be read as stand-alone novels as far as each plot goes. But as with most mystery series in which same characters reside, you certainly get more out of the characters, their lives, and their development if you read the entire series, but it doesn’t matter much which one you start with, so if you choose this one, going back later to the first book and trending through would be pleasurable reading too.

In this adventure, Hiro is asked to go to Myo-In, a Buddist Temple on Mount Koya, to deliver a secret message to an Iga spy posing as a priest. Of course, in proverbial mystery style, a snowstorm arrives locking everyone in, and so does a killer, taking them out one-by-one.

First, it’s probably the best place to reiterate just how much Spann has been able to grow Hattori and Mateo throughout the series. Her character development leaves us as long-time series fans feeling as if we know these two in real life. That said, in each of her books, never more true than with this sixth book, her surrounding cast of characters are also very dimensionally developed even if they aren’t featured in more than one book. I love how her writing can be so descriptive and deep as to make us immediately be able to view these characters and their surroundings in our minds like we’re watching a movie. With Trial on Mount Koya specifically, the two main protagonists are in an enclosed setting, making it increasingly harder one would think to nurture a character outward, but Spann intricately, through dialogue and pace, shows us just how strong these men are when faced with such pressure. As always, one of the best parts of reading her books is the humor between the two gentleman, and from page one, it was right there, drawing me in feeling as if I was back traveling with friends (oh, and a cat!).

In talking about setting then, with the severe storm, they all are in enclosed and in tight circumstances, which makes this novel atmospheric and claustrophobic, just as a real classic Christie novel might or a good film. This plays well with Spann’s descriptive writing and her amazing handle on dialogue, leaving us as the reader on edge ourselves.

Spann’s writing is highlighted in this novel by her ability to challenge herself with each book, her adept use of cinematic prose, and her talent for suspense, this time psychological thrills. I felt on the edge of the movie theatre seat of mind for the entire read.

Not only was this a blast to read, and a much needed one for some reading stress relief, but it was also so interesting to learn more not only of Japan in past books, but of Buddhism and its history and meanings. Spann also, in lieu of the other political themes from 16th century Japan in her other books, shows us various cultures and personalities of priests and characters adorning the plot of this novel and how they intersect (or don’t) with each other, which was very interesting as well. As always, Spann is a wealth of knowledge, but you almost forget you’re learning as you’re wrapped up in her succinct and engaging plot.

Spann is currently climbing 100 summits in Japan and spent release day on Mount Koya. I can’t imagine a more spectacular way to celebrate another novel. If you only read one book a summer, I’d with great pleasure suggest reading Spann’s Shinobi Mysteries. Trial on Mount Koya beats out Betrayal at Iga for best of the series, and also is my favorite read of 2018 so far. Not many books for pleasure reading are capturing my attention at the moment, and as a book editor, many are making me halt and want to get out my red pen, but Trial on Mount Koya was like taking a grand vacation! This is what good reading is all about, fellow bibliophiles.

Trial on Mount Koya is a mystery full of suspense, chilling atmospheric tension, and unique characters that will keep you guessing till the last page when you’ll scream at your cat laying next to you, “I should have known!!” Spann fools me EVERY time. If you want a historical mystery full of substance, beautiful imagery, comedic dialogue, and serious killers pitted against a stubborn ninja, then Trial at Mount Koya is for you. Spann brings Agatha Christie to feudal Japan and takes mystery writing to the next level.

I can’t wait for the seventh book!!

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Trial on Mount Koya
by Susan Spann

Publication Date: July 3, 2018
Seventh Street Books
Paperback & eBook; 256 Pages

Genre: Historical Mystery
Series: Hiro Hattori, Book #6

 

 

Master ninja Hiro Hattori and Jesuit Father Mateo head up to Mount Koya, only to find themselves embroiled in yet another mystery, this time in a Shingon Buddhist temple atop one of Japan’s most sacred peaks.

November, 1565: Master ninja Hiro Hattori and Portuguese Jesuit Father Mateo travel to a Buddhist temple at the summit of Mount Koya, carrying a secret message for an Iga spy posing as a priest on the sacred mountain. When a snowstorm strikes the peak, a killer begins murdering the temple’s priests and posing them as Buddhist judges of the afterlife–the Kings of Hell. Hiro and Father Mateo must unravel the mystery before the remaining priests–including Father Mateo–become unwilling members of the killer’s grisly council of the dead.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound

Praise for Trial on Mount Koya

“A page-turning and atmospheric historical mystery that beautifully melds fascinating Japanese history with a cleverly constructed mystery reminiscent of And Then There Were None—if the famous Agatha Christie mystery had been set in medieval Japan on a sacred mountaintop during a snowstorm.” —Gigi Pandian, USA Today–bestselling author of the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mysteries

“Susan Spann is up front in saying that Trial on Mount Koya is an homage to Agatha Christie. Believe me, she does the great Dame Agatha proud. This excellent entry in Spann’s series of Hiro Hattori mysteries offers plenty of esoteric clues and red herrings that are fun to chase. Along the way, she even does Christie one better, giving readers a fascinating glimpse of life and religion in feudal Japan. This is a book sure to please Spann’s growing legion of fans as well as anyone who loves the work of Agatha Christie.” —William Kent Krueger, Edgar® Award–winning author of Sulfur Springs

Author Susan Spann

Susan Spann is the award-winning author of the Hiro Hattori mystery novels, featuring ninja detective Hiro Hattori and Portuguese Jesuit Father Mateo.

Susan began reading precociously and voraciously from her preschool days in Santa Monica, California, and as a child read everything from National Geographic to Agatha Christie. In high school, she once turned a short-story assignment into a full-length fantasy novel (which, fortunately, will never see the light of day).

A yearning to experience different cultures sent Susan to Tufts University in Boston, where she immersed herself in the history and culture of China and Japan. After earning an undergraduate degree in Asian Studies, Susan diverted to law school. She returned to California to practice law, where her continuing love of books has led her to specialize in intellectual property, business and publishing contracts.

Susan’s interest in Japanese history, martial arts, and mystery inspired her to write the Shinobi Mystery series featuring Hiro Hattori, a sixteenth-century ninja who brings murderers to justice with the help of Father Mateo, a Portuguese Jesuit priest.

Susan is the 2015 Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ Writer of the Year, a former president of the Northern California Chapter of Mystery Writers of America and a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime (National and Sacramento chapters), the Historical Novel Society, and the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. She is represented by literary agent Sandra Bond of Bond Literary Agency.

When not writing or representing clients, Susan enjoys traditional archery, martial arts, photography, and hiking. She recently packed-up her home in Sacramento and moved to Japan with her husband.

For more information, please visit Susan Spann’s website. You can find Susan on Facebook and Twitter (@SusanSpann), where she founded the #PubLaw hashtag to provide legal and business information for writers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Giveaway!

As part of Historical Fiction Historical Book Tours, there is a giveaway of five (5) copies of Trial on Mount Koya! To enter, please click this title Trial on Mount Koya, which takes you to the Gleam link.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59 p.m. EST on August 8th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US residents only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

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Sample My Writing with “The Purple Hex Society” Flash Fiction Story #LOH

I like writing from prompts, so when Nina sent me a photo as a writing prompt for her Ladies in Horror monthly challenge, I was ready for the challenge. Having supposed to have written a poem or flash fiction up to 300 words, I of course, went on to write a 1,100 long flash fiction. Luckily, she still accepted. So click the link to Nina’s site and read my story “The Purple Hex Society.” Leave a comment and let me know what you think. I’m thinking of expanding the The Purple Hex Society (the organization) into a larger piece or series of work.

Thanks so much to Jason Parent and Dustin LaValley for pre-reading and offering great advice and to Tim Busbey for editing it. A special thank you to Nassem, my 18-year-old son for his advice which made me re-think the end and turn it into something special.

READ THE PURPLE HEX SOCIETY HERE

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Cover Reveal: THE BLUE by Historical Thriller Author Nancy Bilyeau

My writer friend Nancy Bilyeau has penned a new book, following the success of her historical fiction series that started with Oprah pick THE CROWN. I am so excited for her new book!!! Nancy is a fabulous author and talented journalist/editor and screenwriter. She is currently the editor of The Big Thrill, the digital magazine. Not only is Nancy amazing, but this book looks divine. I LOVE the color blue and anything featuring history of porcelain or art, so this will be right up my reading shelf. Maybe yours too! I’m pleased to be one of the first to reveal it today!

And so, I give you, THE BLUE!! Coming Fall 2018.

The Blue by Nancy Bilyeau

Publication: Fall 2018
Endeavour Quill

Genre: Historical Fiction

What would you do to possess the most coveted color in the world? The year is 1758, and a headstrong woman artist, 24-year-old Genevieve Planche, is caught up in a high-stakes race to discover the ultimate color, one that threatens to become as deadly as it is lucrative. When Genevieve’s mission is complicated by her falling in love with the chemist behind the formula, she discovers the world of blue is filled with ruthless men and women and how high the stakes really are. The story sweeps readers from the worlds of the silk-weaving refugees of London’s Spitalfields and the luxury-obsessed drawing rooms of Grosvenor Square to the porcelain factory of Derby and, finally, magnificent Sevres Porcelain in the shadow of Versailles. And running through it all: the dangerous allure of the color blue.

“Bilyeau’s sumptuous tale of mystery and intrigue transports the reader into the heart of the 18th century porcelain trade—where the price of beauty was death”’ E.M. Powell, author of the Stanton & Barling medieval mystery series.

Praise for Nancy Bilyeau’s Fiction

“Bilyeau deftly weaves extensive historical detail throughout, but the real draw of this suspenseful novel is its juicy blend of lust, murder, conspiracy, and betrayal.” —Review of The Crown published in Oprah, which made the book a pick of the month.

“English history buffs and mystery fans alike will revel in Nancy Bilyeau’s richly detailed sequel to The Crown.” —Parade magazine review of The Chalice

“The story in The Tapestry is fiction, but it is a sheer joy to have Henry’s court recreated with an eye to the reality of its venality, rather than the trendy Wolf Hall airbrushing of its violence and rapacity. The tone is always modern and light, but with none of the clumsy thigh-slapping faux period language. Bilyeau’s writing is effortless, vivid, gripping and poignant, bringing Tudor England to life with sparkling zest. If you want to see the Reformation from the side of the English people rather than the self-serving court, it is tough to do better than this trilogy.” —Review of The Tapestry by Dominic Selwood, published in The Catholic Herald

“As always, Bilyeau has done her historical homework, bringing the drama, and details of Henry VIII’s court to life. You’re basically watching the rise and fall of Catherine Howard, Thomas Cromwell, Walter Hungerford and Thomas Culpepper through Joanna’s eyes. Her private moments with the king were among my favorites in this book. This a true historical thriller. It’s a Tudor novel full of suspense, intrigue, brutality, and death. It’s a well researched page turner. If you’re looking for an exciting historical read, this will be on your list.” —Review of The Tapestry by Sandra Alvarez for Medievalists.net

“Nancy Bilyeau’s passion for history infuses her books and transports us back to the dangerous world of Tudor England. Vivid characters and gripping plots are at the heart of this wonderful trilogy. Warmly recommended!” —Alison Weir, author of The Marriage Game: A Novel of Queen Elizabeth I and many bestsellers

“Nancy Bilyeau’s polished, inventive debut has all the ingredients of the best historical fiction: a broad cast of characters, well-imagined settings, and vivid story-telling… In Joanna Stafford, Bilyeau has given us a memorable character who is prepared to risk her life to save what she most values, while Stafford’s desperate search for a lost religious relic will satisfy even the most ardent mystery fans.” —Deborah Harkness, author of A Discovery of Witches

About the Author

Nancy Bilyeau has worked on the staffs of InStyle, DuJour, Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, and Good Housekeeping. She is currently a regular contributor to Town & Country and the editor of the digital magazine The Big Thrill. Her screenplays have placed in several prominent industry competitions. Two scripts reached the semi-finalist round of the Nicholl Fellowships of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.

A native of the Midwest, she earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan. THE CROWN, her first novel and an Oprah pick, was published in 2012; the sequel, THE CHALICE, followed in 2013. The third in the trilogy, THE TAPESTRY, was published by Touchstone in 2015. The books have also been published by Orion in the UK and seven other countries.

Nancy lives in New York City with her husband and two children.

For more information, please visit Nancy Bilyeau’s website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads

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Filed under Cover Reveals

Interview: Historical Novelist Mary Sharratt on Ecstasy, a novel of Alma Mahler

It’s always a happy day here when critically-acclaimed historical novelist Mary Sharratt, who has been featured here before on her books Iluminations and The Dark Lady, stops by for a chat! We welcome her to talk about her new book of 2018, Ecstasy, which I loved – but I love all Mary’s books, each one different, but wholly mindful of women’s place in history. Ecstasy was an Amazon Book of the Month, a New York Post Must Read Book, and a Chicago Review of Books Best New Book of April 2018.

“Both during her life and after, Viennese artist Alma Schindler Mahler Gropius Werfel (1879-1964) received countless love letters; Sharratt’s passionate novel is another, one notable for its focus on Alma’s artistic talent and early feminism as well as her beauty. . . . this winning historical novel offers an enjoyable portrait of an ambitious woman whose struggles are as relevant today as they were a century ago.” – Publisher’s Weekly

You’ll see my review within the next week. Today, Mary talks about her book on composer Alma Mahler and writing women back into history. This is one not to miss!

Enjoy!

_____________

Hi Mary! It’s always such a pleasure to have you stop by Oh, for the Hook of a Book to talk about your books and all the women you’re highlighting in history. Finally, spring looks to have made its way to Ohio – we had sunlight and daffodils blooming this weekend. I’m sure we’re still in for rain, after an already long rain and snow season here, but I’ll take a few days of nice weather. I’m not sure how the weather is in England now, but of course, we both know that there is likely chance of rain.

So, let’s sit on the back porch together, listen to the birds in the trees as we speak, and I’ll pour you a Bellini – do you like them? We can have them with some assorted chocolates! I know it’s not afternoon tea, but it’s lovely weather, and there is no reason to not celebrate your wonderful book in such fashion with a chilled cocktail!

Mary: Ooh, a Bellini sounds absolutely delightful, not to mention the chocolate. I’m sure Alma would have loved it, too! And how lovely to sit on the porch after being snowed in in Minnesota on my recent book tour. It’s such a pleasure to be invited back to chat on your wonderful blog.

Erin: Alma did love champagne, I think! Oh, my goodness – I was so glad to hear you made it across the pond to the U.S. for your tour! But snow? I know, it’s really one of the first nice days we’ve had here.

Sit back and relax for a while with me and let’s talk about your newest book Ecstasy, a novel of Alma Mahler, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. The cover is FABULOUS – since it’s the cover, the icing on your masterpiece, let’s start there. Who and how did they come up with the art design for such spectacular art? Do you think it’s done its job in helping to sell your book?

Mary: I am so grateful and excited about ECSTASY’S stunning cover. The designer is Martha Kennedy at HMH. She has created quite a few of my covers. She is a genius! The jacket image is from a poster by Alphonse Mucha that was originally created as a perfume ad! He was a contemporary of Alma and Gustav and hails from what is now the Czech Republic—then part of Austro-Hungary. Not only does the beautiful art reflect the Art Nouveau zeitgeist but I think it truly captures the mood of ECSTASY. The large white rectangles with the bold black typeface spelling out the title were meant to evoke piano keys and this motif continues inside the book under the chapter number headings. If you can bear to pull back the gorgeous jacket, you see that the book binding itself is just exquisite. There’s kind of a marbled effect on the cover. The book is such a beautiful object that it’s certainly a selling point! I hope my readers will find the writing inside as beautiful as the cover and design!

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Erin: Oh, I’m positive they will! As for the book content, written again in your elegant and engaging style, what drew you to write on Alma? What did you learn the most about her while researching that allowed you to so vividly create her character for readers?

Mary: As a lifelong Gustav Mahler fan, Alma has always fascinated me. Few twentieth century women have been surrounded by such as aura of scandal and notoriety. Her husbands and lovers included not only Mahler, but artist Gustav Klimt, architect and Bauhaus-founder Walter Gropius, artist Oskar Kokoschka, and poet and novelist Franz Werfel. Yet none of these men could truly claim to possess her because she was stubbornly her own woman to the last. Over fifty years after her death, she still elicits very strong reactions. Some people romanticize her as a muse to great men while others demonize her as a man-destroying monster. Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s famous observation that well-behaved women seldom make history could have been written about Alma.

Although Alma was a composer in her own right, most commentators, including some of her biographers, completely gloss over this fact and instead focus quite narrowly on her sexuality and on how they believe she failed to be the perfect woman for the great men in her life. How dare she not be perfect!

But I wanted my fiction to explore who Alma really was as an individual—beyond her historical bad girl rep and beyond all the famous men she was involved with. Once I sat down and did the research, an entirely new picture of Alma emerged that completely undermined the femme fatale cliché. I read Alma’s early diaries compulsively, from cover to cover, and what I discovered in those secret pages was a soulful and talented young woman who had a rich inner life away from the male gaze. She devoured philosophy books and avant-garde literature. She was a most accomplished pianist—her teacher thought she was good enough to study at Vienna Conservatory, though her family didn’t support the idea. Besides, Alma didn’t want a career of public performance. Instead she yearned with her whole soul to be a composer, to write great symphonies and operas.

 

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from PBS.org

 

Erin: Of course, I know that in all the stories you’ve written of women, you’ve brought them back out from their hiding places on the fringes of history, and into the limelight for posterity. Do you feel you accomplished this with Alma? Changed mind, introduced to others, and created a historical legacy? Why?

Mary: I certainly hope so. I hope my readers will gain deeper insights into this ambitious, intelligent, fiercely loving, creative, and complex woman. I hope they will look up her music and appreciate her as a composer and life artist who was so much more than a femme fatale.

If you go to my website, you can download a resource sheet with a link to Alma’s complete recorded songs on YouTube.

Erin: Why do you feel it’s important to re-surface women such as Hildegard von Bingen or Alma Mahler or others? Each woman is different, admired for each of their own gifts and contributions, so what do you feel Alma offers to other women? What will she speak to some of them about?

Mary: I’m on a mission to write overlooked women back into history, because, to a large extent, women have been written out of history. And women like Alma who do stand out and clam their power are often the most maligned. Even an amazingly accomplished polymath like Hildegard von Bingen—she was a visionary abbess, a composer, theologian, physician, and scientist—was nearly written out of history. Historians disputed the authorship of her work and decided it was all really written by some unknown man! Hildegard’s contemporary rehabilitation and resurgence was due to the tireless efforts of the nuns at Saint Hildegard Abbey in Germany. In 1956 Marianne Schrader and Adelgundis Führkötter, OSB, published a carefully documented study that proved the authenticity of Hildegard’s authorship.

Alma has been traditionally viewed through a very male-centered lens. Only within the last decade or so have more nuanced biographies about her emerged and only in German! ECSTASY is currently the only book available in English, to my knowledge, that takes her seriously as a composer and as a woman who had something to say and give to the world besides just inspiring genius men.

What Alma’s story reveals how hard it was (and often still is) for women to stay true to their talent and creative ambition in a society that grooms women to be caretakers—wives and mothers. How do you stand true to your belief in your own talent if the wider culture is telling you you’re selfish or inferior for wanting to do anything else than take care of others?

Alma was not only a composer. Ultimately she pioneered news ways of being as a woman that was in itself a work of art.  

Erin: In most of your books, and many by other historical fiction authors of today, women helping men, but who weren’t credited or acknowledged, even when they created their own amazing art, literature, music, are the main feature. Can you give us some historical base for as to why they weren’t at the time, and why you think they have advantage to be remembered now? Do you think that women still play second fiddle to men, even in the arts?

Mary: I think men in male-dominated culture just expect women to be their selfless helpmeets. In his twenty-page letter to Alma stipulating that she stop composing as a condition of their marriage, Mahler asked her if she could think of his music as her music from then on. And to a great extent she did. She tirelessly transcribed hundreds of pages of his symphonies and even filled in the notation while he was off in his composing hut working on the next movement. Yet many Mahlerites would be loath to acknowledge her as his collaborator and colleague in this regard.

Women definitely still play second fiddle to men in the arts. I am a passionate classical music fan and go to many concerts and I have never once seen a female composer in the repertoire. Even now in 2018! As for the visual arts, walk into any museum and you’ll see far more female nudes by male artists than any kind of work by female artists. Even in the literary world, male authors are still taken more seriously, more widely reviewed, and more likely to win major prizes. And they probably get bigger advances.

 

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Gustav and Alma Mahler / gustav-mahler.eu

 

Erin: Alma, as many women then, was forced to give up music for marriage. How and why did this happen? How did they find their way back to their true calling and specifically, did Alma, and how?

Mary: Gustav Mahler famously asked Alma to give up her own composing career as a condition of their marriage. Bowing to social pressure and faced with the enormous wall of misogyny that told her she was inferior and could never achieve what a man could achieve, Alma reluctantly agreed to his demand, even though it broke her heart. In this way her story is a starkly cautionary tale and also, alas, one that is all too relevant today. What do women still give up in the name of marriage and motherhood? How much female potential never reaches fruition because of the demands of motherhood and domesticity. Even now the bulk of this work is placed on women while men can still pursue their careers and dreams.

But, as we see in the novel, Alma eventually does take back her power in a really big way. She would go on to publish three collections of her songs and to see her work performed on stage.  

Erin: For people who aren’t reading your work, or haven’t read it yet, what contributions did Alma make to the musical landscape? Where are here fingerprints still found now? Can she influence future generations?

Mary: Alma mostly composed lieder, or art songs. The lied (song in German) is a musical genre that sets a poem to classical music and is generally performed by a solo vocalist with piano accompaniment. Alma’s lieder, composed under the guidance of her mentor and lover, Alexander von Zemlinsky, are arresting, emotional, and highly original and can be compared with both Zemlinsky’s work and the early work of Zemlinsky’s other famous student, Arnold Schoenberg. Alma’s passionate songs plunge you straight into the zeitgeist of turn-of-the-twentieth century Vienna.

According to her diaries, Alma wrote over a hundred lieder, several instrumental pieces, and the beginning of an opera. However, most of her work was lost when she fled Austria after the Nazi Anschluss. Only seventeen songs remain. The good news is that they are now being performed and recorded.

I certainly hope she will influence future generations of female composers.

Erin: What kinds of struggles did she have as a female composer?

Mary: To start off with, no one took her seriously. Her first teacher, Josef Labor, was very harsh and said things like, “If that’s the best you can do, you might as well give up.” Or if she composed something he halfway liked, he would say, “That’s a very honorable accomplishment—for a girl.” For a long time he refused to teach her counterpoint, because he thought it would overwhelm her delicate female brain. Alma had to be a truly determined creative soul to keep composing in the face of such scathing and unconstructive criticism. Alexander von Zemlinsky, her second teacher, was the first to treat her with respect. Under his guidance she made the leap from being a talented amateur to an aspiring composer bordering on the professional. Then she met Mahler, who demanded that she give it up. I wish she would have married Alex instead, but her parents absolutely forbade the courtship.

Even today some (mostly male) commentators refuse to take her seriously and say she was a just an overrated dilettante. 

Erin: Beyond her work, many men were drawn to and interested in Alma from a romantic point of view. Why were they and how did play out in her life? What did you draw on from this for your novel? How did you find the balance between romance and biographical plot? Tell us about your focus.

Mary: While Alma struggled to be taken seriously as an aspiring composer and fought a constant battle against her own self-doubt, one place where she did receive much praise and validation was in the salon where men admired her for her beauty and charm. But those who were drawn to her beauty sometimes didn’t look deeper than the surface. As a result, Alma felt that she had two separate souls that were constantly at war with each other—herself as a distinct creative individual and herself as an object of male desire. Meanwhile she was under tremendous family pressure to marry.

Alma truly longed to become a “somebody” and make her mark on the world. It seemed that her experience of trying to be taken seriously as a composer was so discouraging that she thought she could more easily make her mark by becoming the muse of a great man. And she was a muse par excellence for Mahler. During their married life she became an indelible part of his every symphony. She was also his feedback sounding board and he took her critique seriously and made substantive revisions based on her advice.

But as far as the romance in the story goes, reclaiming her sexuality was a major way that Alma reclaimed her personal and creative power. She knew could mesmerize and inspire brilliant artistic men, and if her husband over the years began to take her for granted, she could shine her light elsewhere. Her aura of enchantment and seduction was her superpower. It would be a mistake to say she was running from one man to another. By reclaiming her sexual freedom, she was reclaiming her independence and self-determination. I almost see it as a shamanic soul retrieval. She took back her sovereignty.

Erin: Why are so many gifted women, with lots of male suitors, often persecuted by both men and women? Does this happen even today? How perception change?

Mary: Like sexually liberated and unconventional women throughout history, Alma to this day faces a backlash of misinterpretation and outright condemnation. We still have a monstrous double standard when it comes to female sexuality. We still love to slut shame women. Can you imagine doing the same to a man—ignoring Picasso’s art and simply slamming him as a terrible husband and boyfriend with his loose, promiscuous ways? Gustav Klimt could get away with using his working class models as a kind of harem. He reputedly had syphilis and left behind fifteen out-of-wedlock children. But he’s a “great man” so we focus on his art and benevolently overlook his quirks and foibles.

Erin: Vienna, historically, was a place of open creativity in the arts and progressive in its creation, and yet, also very misogynistic and conservative. How did those two things clash? What kinds of research did you to about Vienna at the time and what was one of your favorite discoveries?

Mary: Vienna, at this time, was the capital of the vast Austro-Hungarian Empire at the very height of its power. While it was artistically innovative with radical new art, music, and literature, it was also a deeply conservative place. Both misogyny and anti-Semitism were pervasive. In many ways it was a neurotic, schizophrenic culture. Vienna in this period had the world’s highest suicide rate. It was no accident that Freud invented psychoanalysis here—look at all the raw material he had to work with! I went on several research trips to Vienna and did a lot of reading to evoke this sense of time and place. I steeped myself in the art and music of the time.

One of my favorite discoveries were Alma’s friends, Ilse and Erica Conrat. They were from an upper middle class Jewish family and their parents wholly supported their ambitions. Ilse, who was exactly Alma’s age, became a professional sculptor, exhibited in the Secession Museum alongside the work of Klimt, and won major prizes. Erica was the first woman to get a doctorate in art history from the University of Vienna—they had only just opened a few of their academic faculties to women and were far behind the rest of the Western world in this regard. So while Alma sacrificed her music for marriage, she had these two ambitious accomplished friends who were pursuing their dreams. The bitter irony is that I had never heard of the Conrat sisters despite their amazing achievements—they were written out of history. But Alma is remembered because she was so enmeshed in the lives of famous men. It was only through Alma’s diary that I learned these women existed.

Erin: Alma’s life seemed to begin to change when she came to America. What facets of America at the time helped at the time and are they still in place, or are we falling backward?

Mary: An anti-Semitic smear campaign in the Viennese press all but forced Gustav to resign from the Vienna Court Opera. Then he and Alma started a new life in New York where he conducted with the Metropolitan Opera and later with the New York Philharmonic. This move would change Alma forever.

Back home in Vienna, her life of self-sacrifice, of subsuming herself in her husband’s existence, had seemed normal, because it was the norm for the vast majority of Austrian women. But in New York Alma would meet an entirely new breed of women who were far more liberated even than her friends, the Conrat sisters.

Before I did the research for this novel, I had no idea that the person who reinvented the New York Philharmonic for the twentieth century and who became its president was a woman—Mary Seney Sheldon. Nor did I even know of the existence of ethnomusicologist, Native American rights activist, and composer, Natalie Curtis. These women made a deep impression on Alma and forced her to rethink everything she thought women were capable of.

Then, as now, America was plagued with social inequality and yet it was far more egalitarian than Austria with its emperor and rigid hierarchies. America had opened its universities to women decades earlier than most places in the Old World. A woman from a wealthy patrician background could accomplish a great deal. Notably Mary Seney Sheldon was married with children and she was an ambitious high achiever who completely reshaped the cultural landscape of America’s leading metropolis. She and Natalie Curtis held up a mirror to Alma’s self-sabotage, to how she had given away every last scrap of her power. Meeting these women unleashed an alchemical transformation inside Alma that would culminate with her taking back her power and living her life on her own terms.

I hope America continues to be a haven for strong, accomplished women working to change our world. We can’t afford to let it slip backward.

 

Vienna Court Opera.jpg

Vienna Court Opera / Wikipedia

 

 Erin: What other women in history do you hope to write about in the future, if you’re continuing on with this writing journey? Or will you write something else next? Tell us what’s happening for you going forward?

Mary: Revelations, my new novel in progress, should be of special interest to fans of my 2012 novel, Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard von Bingen. Here I return once more to the realm of the female medieval mystics. Revelations is the story of the intersecting lives of two spiritual women who changed history—earthy Margery Kempe, globetrotting pilgrim and mother of fourteen, and ethereal Julian of Norwich, sainted anchorite, theologian, and author of the first book in English by a woman. Imagine, if you will, a fifteenth century Eat, Pray, Love.

Erin: Oh, I’m VERY excited!! I am so happy for you that Ecstasy has received such major media and outlet praise. Other than books sales, why has this been important to hear and does it inspire you to keep writing?

Mary: Every author needs validation or some kind of proof that their book has reached an audience who finds the book meaningful. I hope my readers will be as moved by Alma’s story as I am. I think the time has truly come for a more nuanced and feminist appraisal of Alma’s life and work, and I hope ECSTASY challenges some of the commonly held misperceptions about her.

Erin: What books are on your own most wanted list for you to read this summer?

Mary: Amy Bloom’s White Houses and Ariel Lawhon’s I Was Anastasia.

Erin: How is life overall and how are the beautiful horses?

Mary: Miss Boo, aka Queen Boudicca, my beautiful Welsh mare, is in fine fettle and enjoying the rich spring grass. She sends pony kisses to you and your readers. The fields over here in Northern England are full of baby lambs and I have daffodils and tulips in my garden.

 

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Miss Boo . Courtesy of Mary Sharratt

 

Erin: It sounds so beautiful, I can’t wait to get back to England one day. Kisses back to Miss Boo! Thank you so much, Mary, for coming and sharing a Bellini with me and talking about your book. You’re welcome anytime! Cheers to more fabulous success of Ecstasy and many more books. Let’s pour another and enjoy the view – cheers!

Mary: Cheers! Or as Alma would say, zum Wohl! It’s been such a pleasure chatting with you, Erin!

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ECSTASY BY MARY SHARRATT

Publication Date: April 10, 2018

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Hardcover & eBook; 400 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction/Literary

READ AN EXCERPT

In the glittering hotbed of turn-of-the-twentieth century Vienna, one woman’s life would define and defy an era.

Gustav Klimt gave Alma her first kiss. Gustav Mahler fell in love with her at first sight and proposed only a few weeks later. Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius abandoned all reason to pursue her. Poet and novelist Franz Werfel described her as “one of the very few magical women that exist.” But who was this woman who brought these most eminent of men to their knees? In Ecstasy, Mary Sharratt finally gives one of the most controversial and complex women of her time center stage.

Coming of age in the midst of a creative and cultural whirlwind, young, beautiful Alma Schindler yearns to make her mark as a composer. A brand new era of possibility for women is dawning and she is determined to make the most of it. But Alma loses her heart to the great composer Gustav Mahler, nearly twenty years her senior. He demands that she give up her music as a condition for their marriage. Torn by her love and in awe of his genius, how will she remain true to herself and her artistic passion?

Part cautionary tale, part triumph of the feminist spirit, Ecstasy reveals the true Alma Mahler: composer, daughter, sister, mother, wife, lover, and muse.

AVAILABLE IN HARDCOVER & EBOOK –

AMAZON | AMAZON UK | BARNES & NOBLE | BOOKS-A-MILLION | INDIEBOUND

ALSO IN AUDIOBOOK –

AMAZON UK | BARNES & NOBLE | BOOKS-A-MILLION

 

Praise for Ecstasy –

“In ECSTASY, Mary Sharratt plunges the reader into the tumultuous and glamorous fin de siècle era, bringing to life its brilliant and beguiling leading lady. Finally, Alma Mahler takes center stage, surging to life as so much more than simply the female companion to the brilliant and famous men who loved her. Sharratt’s portrait is poignant and nuanced, her novel brimming with rich historic detail and lush, evocative language.” – Allison Pataki, New York Times bestselling author of The Accidental Empress

“A tender, intimate exploration of a complicated woman, Mary Sharratt’s ECSTASY renders in exquisitely researched detail and fiercely imagined scenes the life of Alma Mahler — daughter, wife, mother, lover, and composer — and the early 20th Century Vienna and New York in which she came of age. I loved this inspiring story of an early feminist standing up for her art.” – Meg Waite Clayton, New York Times bestselling author of The Race for Paris

“Evocative and passionate, ECSTASY illuminates through its tempestuous and talented heroine a conundrum that resonates across the centuries: how a woman can fulfill her destiny by being both a lover and an artist.” – Jenna Blum, New York Times bestselling author of Those Who Save Us and The Stormchasers

“Mary Sharratt makes a triumphant return to the page with this masterful portrait of Alma Mahler, the wife of the famous composer Gustav Mahler. Set in a time and place when a woman could only hope to be the power behind the throne, Sharratt brings a meticulously researched and richly illuminated account of a young woman who was a brilliant composer in her own right. Alma may have had to suppress her own talents to support Mahler; however, ECSTASY reveals that she was a woman who “contained multitudes.” ECSTASY is an important work of historical fiction, as well as a timely and topical addition to the canon of knowledge that needs to better represent important women and their contributions.” – Pamela Klinger-Horn, Excelsior Bay Books

“Alma Mahler’s unexpected, often heartbreaking journey from muse to independence comes to vivid, dramatic life in Mary Sharratt’s ECSTASY. Sharratt skillfully evokes turn-of-the-century Vienna and the musical genius of the era, returning Alma to her rightful place in history as both the inspiration to the men in her life and a gifted artist in her own right.” – C.W. Gortner, bestselling author of Mademoiselle Chanel

“Mary Sharratt has more than done justice to one of the most interesting, shocking, and passionate women of the 20th century. Overflowing with life and lust, ECSTASY explores this flawed but fascinating woman who was not only muse but a genius in her own right.” – New York Times Bestseller, M.J. Rose

“A deeply affecting portrait of the woman rumored to be the most notorious femme fatale of turn-of-the-century Vienna. Mary Sharratt’s ECSTASY is as heartbreaking and seductive as Alma Mahler herself.” —Kris Waldherr, author of Doomed Queens and Bad Princess

Author Mary Sharratt, Biography –

03_Mary Sharratt.jpgMARY SHARRATT is an American writer who has lived in the Pendle region of Lancashire, England, for the past seven years. The author of the critically acclaimed novels Summit Avenue, The Real Minerva, and The Vanishing Point, Sharratt is also the co-editor of the subversive fiction anthology Bitch Lit, a celebration of female antiheroes, strong women who break all the rules.

Her novels include Summit Avenue, The Real Minera, The Vanishing Point, The Daughters of Witching Hill, Illuminations, and The Dark Lady’s Mask.

For more information, please visit Mary Sharratt’s website. You can also connect with her on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads.

Giveaway –

To enter for a paperback copy of Ecstasy, please enter via the Gleam form at the direct Link: https://gleam.io/skN0R/ecstasy

Giveaway Rules –

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on May 18th. You must be 18 or older to enter.

– Giveaway is open to US residents only.

– Only one entry per household.

– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.

– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

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Tour Schedule

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Filed under Q and A with Authors, women in history

#NationalPoetryMonth: A Poem by Nada Adel Sobhi – Poet, Writer, and Journalist

We’ve almost finished up National Poetry Month with the end of April in our sights, and also, my series this week for it. However, I’ve committed myself to including poetry highlights here at least one to two (or more) times a month ongoing as time permits. It’s been such a pleasure to host something I love here so much, poetry and poets!

Today, Nada Adel Sobhi is here with a poem that I just love. She wrote this over a year ago, and yet, if you know my own work and thoughts, it might seem almost as if she’s channeling my thoughts with her utilization of breathing, water, and women’s empowerment. This is what the universe does, which is fascinating. I’ve read this over several times, thinking about it – it’s so powerful!

Nada is from Egypt and manages the Nadaness in Motion blog as well as monthly writing prompt called “Takhayyal/Imagine,” which is how I first met her on Twitter when she read my own collection. Since then, we’ve become friends and are able to talk and share in the poetry and writing world together and I’m enjoying getting to know her. She’s an amazing strong individual with such talent.

Enjoy!

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Reawakening
by Nada Adel Sobhi

Feet on the scorching sand

I edge forward

Crystal clear blue water beckons me

I obey

Numbing-cold

But the glittering blue takes that away

My eyes open, but unseeing

My mind jumping between a million thoughts

The cold banishes them,

Send them to the back of my mind

They can linger there

Till they’re needed – if needed

The cold water calls me to the present

While the sun burns my head

I know what I must do

Instead,

I hesitate

My lower body acclimates to the water

Urging me forward

 

But,

I hesitate.

 

I close my eyes

Breathe in

And let go

 

I dive!

 

Cold drenches my sensitive, warm scalp

But I ignore it

Pushing forward

Till my lungs beg for breath,

For air

 

I rise,

Releasing my pent up air

 

And breathe

 

It’s different

I’m different

 

I feel it

 

I’m alive

 

Taking another breath

I go in again

 

Fish greet me as one of their own

 

How do they know?

 

The cold water caresses me

Driving away all the negativity,

Anxiety, worry, anger,

Frustration, pressure.

It draws them out

And drives them into the darkening depths,

Filling me with life, strength.

 

Rising from the water

My morning plans change.

I know what I want and need to do

Something I have long deserted,

Threw in the back of my mind

When it should have been at the forefront

 

Tonight

With nothing but the moon and stars to guide me

I’ll reawaken the magic,

The witch within.

______________

Nada Adel Sobhi, Biography –

 

Nada

Born in Cairo, Egypt, Nada Adel Sobhi is a poet, writer, book blogger, translator, journalist, and most importantly a lover of chocolate and all things paranormal.

Nada earned her BA in English Language and Literature from Cairo University in 2009. She was the editor of her department’s student poetry and creative writing magazine “The Muse” from 2006 till 2015, and the Editor-in-Chief of HR-focused HR Revolution Middle East e-zine.

Nada currently blogs about her writing, including poetry, book reviews, author interviews, and a monthly writing prompt called “Takhayyal/Imagine” on her Nadaness In Motion blog.

Nada’s poetry has been published in Scripting Change’s projects, “Beyond the Words” (2014) and “Breaking Free” (2016), the proceeds of which go to charity. Her poem “Remember” was published in Paragram’s poetry anthology under the same name in 2015.

Nada is also an editor and translator with over 6 years of experience with the language pairs English – Arabic – English. She is currently the managing editor of Mubasher.info’s English portal providing economic, financial, and stock market-related news for the Middle East.

Get in touch with Nada and stay up to date with the latest news on books, authors, and Takhayyal via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

Twitter

Nadaness in Motion Facebook

Instagram

Nada on LinkedIn

And check out her wonderful Nadaness in Motion website!

Thank you, Nada!!

 

 

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#NationalPoetryMonth: A Poem by Author/Screenwriter Dustin LaValley

I’ve been celebrating National Poetry Month (April) all week long, trying to fit a splash in for poetry before the month ended. I’ve featured three amazing women of poetry so far, but today I have a poem for you by Dustin La Valley. Dustin writes books, stories, comics, and for the screen. His psychological thriller novella, The Deceived, has been optioned for film and his screen credits include award-winning short films and work for major networks.

He doesn’t really consider himself into writing poetry necessarily, though he likes to read it, but he’s a very good friend of mine, not to mention UBER talented, and as I read his work, or he offers me to read snippets of micro-fiction, sometimes micro-poetry, I can obviously see his ability to be a lyricist, a poet, and one of those writers, who like me, love word play, being unique, and throwing emotion into their work. The amazing person he is though, of course, he gave me a poem to feature! It really shines a light on the relationship between father and son, fond childhood memories, and in a good way, which is something we don’t showcase enough sometimes. Read it over several times and let it sink in for you.

Enjoy!

____________

And, Baseball with Dad

by Dustin LaValley

with the shop’s neon light
sizzling, flickering, fading,
he walks to his car

where he sits in the darkness
of the night and listens not to the radio,
not to the follies of drunken passersby,
but to memories of his father,
telling him to choke up on the bat
as he threw baseballs
over home plate

______________

Dustin LaValley, Biography –

Dusty

Dustin LaValley is an author, screenwriter, and comic book creator. His psychological thriller novella The Deceived, has been optioned for film, while several of his short stories have been adapted to short films by TYO Productions and Twisted Drive Pictures. July 2018 will see the release of his three novella collection, 12 Gauge: Songs from a Street Sweeper, from Sinister Grin Press. His limited edition hardcover comic book with illustrator Daniele Serra, BEETLES!, is now available from SST Publications.

LaValley and his work have been featured in/on PBS, NPR, Yahoo News, Decibel Magazine, Rue Morgue, and 3AM among others. He was unable to attend the black-tie gala to receive the 2009 SUNY Parnassus Award for Creative Writing, as he had a fight in New Hampshire the same night, where he brought home gold. His Professor was not impressed. His professional record is 3-0-0. He lives in the Adirondacks of New York, where he’s a practicing Sensei of Seito Shito Ryu karate, Okinawan jujutsu, and Judo.

12G_Front_001.jpg

12 Gauge: Songs from a Street Sweeper, Synopsis –

12 Gauge: Songs from A Street Sweeper includes three white-knuckled novellas.

Spinner

A prison escapee leads law enforcement on a chase through the Adirondack Mountains, where they encounter a reclusive elderly man with a dark secret.

H/armed

An ultra-violent satirical commentary on societal norms, cliques, and obedience.

The Deceived

A criminal pair invade the home of the wrong man on the wrong day.

Praise

“Spinner is a thriller, a horror story, and an adventure narrative. It’s also a lot of fast, bloody, violent fun.” – Gabino Iglesias, HorrorTalk

“LaValley creates a non-stop, adrenaline ride of violence and mayhem, in a setting Americans know all so well. H/armed is a bloody, relentless and visceral assault on the senses. Wickedly entertaining.” – Paul Hough, writer/director of The Human Race

The Deceived is equal parts thrilling, creepy, and downright brutal. A wonderful tale.” – Ronald Malfi, author of Bone White

Available July 1, 2018 from  Sinister Grin Press

Amazon

Also….he’s a comic book writer!

Beetles

BEETLES! is an homage to the classic horror and sci-fi “big-bug” films of the 1940s and 1950s, written by Dustin LaValley, illustrated by Daniele Serra, and released as a signed and numbered, limited edition hardcover from SST Publications. There are only 100 available, so act fast.

BEETLES! is available online from the publisher at https://sstpublications.co.uk/Beetles.html.

Thanks, Dustin!

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