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

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

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Esther Reed, Portrait by Charles Peale / Wikipedia

 

Esther de Berdt Reed: An American Lady of Liberty

by Nassem Al-Mehairi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Taken from the Monticello Website

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Esther Reed grave.jpg

From findagrave.com

 

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

Nassem Al-Mehairi, Biography –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CHHR: What is the scariest book you ever read?

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

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

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

CHHR: What annoys you the most with your blog?

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

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

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

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

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

CHHR: How can we fix the bias?

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

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

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

CHHR: What pushes your buttons with your blog?

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

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

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

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

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

CHHR: What makes a good horror book?

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

CHHR: What scares you?

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

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

SH: Stephen King, Nick Cutter and Ania Ahlborn.

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

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

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

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

Find her mostly on GoodReads, Twitter, and Instagram.

Follow her blog HERE.

About Curtis Freeman –

Curtis

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

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

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

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

WiHM9-GrrrlLogoWide-BR-website

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

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

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

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

Campaigner, social reformer, poet, novelist, and playwright

by S.K. Rizzolo, Author of Historical Mysteries

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

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

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

IMAGE _2 Watercolour_sketch_of_Caroline_Norton_by_Emma_Fergusson_1860,_National_Portrait_Gallery_of_Scotland

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

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

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

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

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

IMAGE _1 Caroline Norton Writing

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

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

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

My heart is like a withered nut,

Rattling within its hollow shell;

You cannot ope my breast, and put

Any thing fresh with it to dwell.

The hopes and dreams that filled it when

Life’s spring of glory met my view,

Are gone! and ne’er with joy or pain

That shrunken heart shall swell anew.

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

S.K. Rizzolo, Biography –

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

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

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

On a Desert Shore cover - by Rolf Busch.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

World Poetry Day, March 21 –

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

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

 

Women Empowerment: 5 Recommended Poetry Reads

Questions for Ada by Ijeoma Umebinyuo

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

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

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Ijeoma Umebinyuo, Biography –

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

the sun and her flowers by Rupi Kaur

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

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

Sun and her Flowers.jpg

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

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

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Rupi Kaur, Biograpy – 

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

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

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

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

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

You cannot burn away
What has always been aflame

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

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

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Nikita Gill, Biograpy – 

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

Sea of Strangers, by Lang Leav

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

sea of strangers

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

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Lang Leav, Biography – 

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

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

Blue Rose by Carol Muske-Dukes

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

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

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

Amazon

Carol Muske-Dukes, Biography

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

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by Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi

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

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

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

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

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Women in History: Life of Jayne Mansfield by Somer Canon

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

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

Jayne Mansfield: The Smartest Dumb Blond

By Somer Canon, author of Vicki Beautiful and Killer Chronicles

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

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

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

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

 

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Photo credit: E! Online

 

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

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

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

 

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Photo credit: coolspotters.com

 

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

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

Somer Canon, Biography – 

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

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

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

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

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

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

D – When did you start writing horror?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

D – Who are your inspirations?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Emma Ennis, Biography – 

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

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

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

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

D.R. Bartlette, Biography –

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

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

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

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

WiHM9-GrrrlLogoWide-BR-website

 

 

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

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

How I Found Historical Inspiration in The Volunteers

by John Nuckel, author of Drive

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ebook

Drive, Synopsis –

Et Omnia Recta—to make things right.

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

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

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

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

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

John Nuckel, Biography – 

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

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

Find more about John –

Website

Facebook

Twitter

Goodreads

Purchase Links – 

Amazon

Thanks for a wonderful article, John!

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

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

Thank you for a wonderful post, Anna!

Waiting for the Baby the Medieval Way

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

02_The Cold Light of Dawn

The Cold Light of Dawn by Anna Belfrage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Purchase Links –

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Barnes and Noble

Anna Belfrage, Biography –

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

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

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

04_The Cold Light of Dawn_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL.png

Tour Schedule is HERE!

Hashtags: #TheColdLightofDawnBlogTour #AnnaBelfrage #historical #historicalfiction #blogtour #booktour #HFVBTBlogTours #amreading #bookblogger #bookbloggers #books #reading #giveaway #bookgiveaway

Facebook Tags: @hfvbt @annabelfrageauthor

Twitter Tags: @hfvbt @abelfrageauthor

Giveaway

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

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on March 30th.
-You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

Enter to Win HERE!

 

1 Comment

Filed under Guest Posts, women in history

Review: Medieval Historical Fiction – The Cold Light of Dawn by Anna Belfrage

Anna Belfrage is probably a name that longtime readers of my site have heard before when visiting. This historical fiction writer has probably been reviewed, interviewed, and hosted on my blog upwards of almost 15 times. I must really like Anna and her work – and yes, I do!! From her time travel historical Graham Saga to her newer one, The King’s Greatest Enemy, her stories always capture my attention. I’m proud that her books take up a whole shelf of my bookcase with their beautiful covers. I even can see Anna’s beautiful smile and her energetic essence emanating from them.

She’s proved and earned her regard with me and so I couldn’t be more pleased to share my review of The Cold Light of Dawn, the fourth book in her The King’s Greatest Enemy series, as well as a wonderful guest post that you’ll find in the post following this one. Check out the information for the book and then follow it into my thoughts on the book.

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The Cold Light of Dawn by Anna Belfrage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review – 

I’ve really had a wonderful time reading this series, which was at first supposed to be a set of four. You can find my reviews of In the Shadows of the Storm (#1), Days of Sun and Glory (#2), Under the Approaching Dark (#3), and now I’ll be discussing The Cold Light of Dawn (#4). I have a particular fondness for medieval historical fiction and so I was thrilled to read this series, with book four culminating into all the drama, intrigue, action, and peril one might imagine from the pages of not only a medieval book, but specifically a Belfrage book. And for those of you that haven’t read Anna, you should know that her books are riddled with it, as well as a good dose of wit, snark, and above all else, resilience. The Cold Light of Dawn is no exception, and in fact, features a high level of all the emotions of life one might handle while also being sautéed in a frying pan. This means that at times, you’ll feel so deeply for characters in the novel you’ll cry, sometimes cheer or sneer, and sometimes just get angry. This is what makes TCLOD a stellar read as it holds nothing back. I think if I remember right at first it was supposed to be the final book, and it certainly does climax, but in the afterword at the end of the book, Anna revealed that she left the door open for more books in this series. Her characters, once again, lead her, and her main male squeeze of the book, Adam, seems to think he needs more time. I certainly fine with that.

The Cold Light of Dawn takes place in early 14th century after the rebellion. Edward II has died, leaving Queen Isabella and Roger Mortimer as regents since Edward the III was so young when he was crowned. However, he’s growing older and coming into his own, and Adam is caught between his mentor in Mortimer and his loyalty and respect for this young King who is showing his own capability while they are showing they might just be power hungry. You can read this book as a stand-alone, but there is so much more depth given to the characters and their situations if you read the series.

As readers, we see the story through the eyes of Adam and Kit, a couple who both have important roles at court, but that seem to have to judge the ebb and flow of so many just to keep on the right side. And sometimes, that leads to betrayal even when you try your best. But Adam and Kit know how to survive and keep their bond strong, even through the good times and bad. Anna always creates proper couples in the highest character development, juxtaposing them to each other in the most natural ways. You feel as a reader that Adam and Kit truly exists and your cringe and groan for them, as well as smile as their debates, discussion, and banter. As for the other characters, Anna always seems to match off people in twos, or less, and she gives them so much depth that it makes her one of the BEST authors in regard to creating a cast that is easily identifiable, accessible, and discernable. In this fourth book, Adam really shines at his best though. He probably was worried it was the end of his story because things sure did get exciting for him in all sorts of ways, but also by the end, terribly heart-wrenching.

Those who know me and my reviews know I don’t really ever talk directly about plot or what happens in books, as I want that journey to be the reader’s own, but her dialogue, flow, continuity, and scenes were tied together in a way that made you turn each page as if you were right there in the story. As far as historical accuracy, Anna is the utmost painstakingly perfectionist in her research, and it shows, to create a detailed backdrop that gives us a good glimpse to this time period and reign of court.

I’d highly recommend all of Anna’s books, including The Cold Light of Dawn. If you haven’t read any books by Anna, you could even start with this one, but I’d certainly give the whole series a whirl. Her writing, on this fourth book, and in all, creates a story(ies) you get lost in. There isn’t heavy-handed history or the type that is so dry you’d rather not learn even learn history let alone enjoy it. It’s captivating, almost like a dream, and always over before you want to close the last page.

Once again, Anna creates a skippy plot, engaging dialogue, and beautiful descriptive scenes in The Cold Light of Dawn, and then, wraps them all up in extraordinary characters migrating on a spectacular dramatic voyage in which they polish the dramatic era of the 14th century with a wide range of emotions and intense finesse.

Purchase Links –

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Barnes and Noble

Anna Belfrage, Biography –

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

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

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

04_The Cold Light of Dawn_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL.png

Tour Schedule is HERE!

Hashtags: #TheColdLightofDawnBlogTour #AnnaBelfrage #historical #historicalfiction #blogtour #booktour #HFVBTBlogTours #amreading #bookblogger #bookbloggers #books #reading #giveaway #bookgiveaway

Facebook Tags: @hfvbt @annabelfrageauthor

Twitter Tags: @hfvbt @abelfrageauthor

Giveaway

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

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on March 30th.
-You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

Enter to Win HERE!

 

Facebook Kings Greatest Enemy Series Banner

4 Comments

Filed under Book Reviews

International Women’s Day: A Poem, A Word, A Pledge

A Step Forward

You hear our voices,
you say you stand with us,
but you should break down those walls,
and SEE us, in all our magnificence,
because we glow, yes we glow.

We are the passion of the universe,
contained within our hearts.

We are women.

– Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi, 2018

 

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Found on the Internet for WallpaperSeries.com

 

It’s #InternationalWomensDay, or #IWD2018, and people around the world are rallying and protesting against gender inequality and sexual discrimination. I’ve been promoting this day for a decade, and this is the first one I’ve seen as much movement as I have in utilizing it as a catalyst for change not just awareness. I’m glad to see it happen. Women are amazing individuals with so much to offer the world. In theory, if things were fine, I wouldn’t even have to make that claim!

In essence, International Women’s Day is the marker to honor the Women’s Rights Movement and all those who came before us who were spit on, jailed, starved, ridiculed, and more as they fought for women to have the rights to vote, own land, have a bank account, and not be locked away in asylums. I’m glad to see women are taking ownership and heading back toward making progress again. In fact, the theme this year is #PressforProgress.

On my site here, you’ll find many great articles on women in history and making history, both on the page dedicated to that series, as March is also Women in History Month, but in interviews and book reviews as well. I’m currently taking articles about these women, so please contact me to send them in. I often interview and review books by women on this site and you’ll easily see that if you take a quick perusal through the archives.

Outside of publishing, I’ve spent decades fighting for women’s causes, from when I was news editor at my college paper and I fought against campus rape and it being reported, to when I was in healthcare and became the Young Careerist representative for Ohio at the national Business and Professional Women’s organization’s annual conference where I spoke about making strides for heart health in women. I’ve sat on a sub-committee for women’s health education, primarily in regards to those underprivileged, of the board of the Ohio Governor’s Office for Women’s Initiatives (a department and program that Republican Governor Kasich did away with when he took office) and assisted with statewide events to empower women. I’ve raised funds through events I’ve put on for women’s health, women’s shelters, and those battling cancer. Currently, I am the chair of the board at a local mental health center which also oversees our local rape crisis and domestic violence shelter.

In publishing, I advocate for women in certain genres, like horror, to have their voices heard and offer platforms for them to do so. In my writing, I fight against domestic violence, rape, assault, and confinement. My collection Breathe. Breathe., of poetry and short stories, in my story within the anthology Hardened Hearts, and even my poem in Enchanted Conversation magazine have all tackled these themes. On the site, on social media, and in articles, I share the life and times of historical writers, in several genres, because often they’ve also been involved in women’s liberation.

I still feel I don’t do enough. There is always more to do. I’ll keep doing it. I promise now I’ll get back to writing more essays so my own voice is heard. I’ll keep those women in history alive, those marginalized, those without a platform. I’ll keep serving those crying out in need and the disadvantaged. I’ll keep helping women out of domestic abuse situations.

And it’s not only women need to fight and showcase women, it’s men too. It’s going to take unity of both genders to make this work.

What will you do?

 

international-women-s-day.jpg

Found at Picsymag

 

 

 

 

 

4 Comments

Filed under Feature Articles, women in history