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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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!

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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.

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#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!

woman in water.jpg

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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#NationalPoetryMonth: Poems by Linda D. Addison, Bram Stoker Award Winner

I’m continuing on today in my series for National Poetry Month (April) with some three wonderful poems, two of them never before published, from the amazing poet Linda D. Addison! Linda D. Addison is the award-winning author of four collections, the first African-American to receive the Horror Writers Association (HWA) Bram Stoker Award®, and recipient of the 2018 HWA Lifetime Achievement Award. I’m quite honored that she agreed to be part of this series and thrilled she’s offered two unpublished poems for release here at Oh, for the Hook of a Book! Not only talented, she’s always a bright light with an enormous smile and a kind word for all.

Enjoy!

The first poem was nominated for a 2018 Rhysling Award and was published as the Afterword in the HWA Bram Stoker finalist Sycorax’s Daughters anthology of horror fiction/poetry by African-American women.

Linda Addison cover Sycoraxs Daughters

Sycorax’s Daughters Unveiled

by Linda D. Addison

Descendants of the unseen,

born from uterus: bruised, abused, loved, rejected.

Alive, in spite of the promise of death,

giving birth even while silently weeping blood.

 

We paint red memories of our lives

before prison, on walls made from

our sweat, our anger, and the blood of

our children: unborn, reborn in mourning.

 

Descending from human to property,

turning to Nyavirezi, lion goddess, for hope,

for a way to survive each bitter breath,

to use the growing Shadows for transformation.

 

Finding truth in rivers, rain, tree roots,

flowers, herbs. Earth delivers healing &

a way for revenge, for freedom, even if

just surrendering to a cliff’s edge.

 

Ascending back to Self, the dream was

never deferred, but a tiny seed, carried

deep in tortured wombs, fed by near madness,

rising from ashes, rebuilt from courage.

 

As daughters of daughters,

we speak Our fables

from mouths full of lightning:

of mermaids, magic, demons, vampires,

journeys to hell and back, shape shifters,

ravished bodies & strengthened souls,

alternate futures, babies wanted & rejected,

firestarters, ghosts, and transhumans.

 

Revoking banishment,

read Our words & know:

We Are Here.

_________

This next one is a funky poem about writing.
It’s published here for the first time!

Notorious-BIG

How to be Notorious

By Linda D. Addison

Be like

Biggie Smalls

The Notorious B.I.G.

write loose and easy

flow dark and semi-autobiographical.

 

Tell your story

like junior M.A.F.I.A.

feud with the best

spend nine months in jail

just because you got

Business Instead of Game.

 

Start a band

with fiddles and banjos

play everything from jazz and blues

to rap and waltzes

keep your audience

guessing and confused.

 

You could be quoted

by shamans everywhere

because your imitation

of Notorious B.I.G.

is so dead on they suspect

reincarnation is involved.

 

Or you could

be yourself

unique and imperfect

kiss discretion good bye,

sing when others cry,

dance when they pray,

treat status quo

like the poison

it can be.

_________

This third poem was inspired by the movie “Life of Pi” and Linda changing everything in her life by moving from NYC to Tucson AZ. We are very lucky to publish it first here.

life-of-pi-1

My Life with the Tiger

By Linda D. Addison

My old life shipwrecked.

I am stranded in between.

The Tiger: imagined fear of the unknown future,

looking into the eyes of that wild animal:

“I am your vessel,” I say.

“Above all, don’t lose hope.”

 

I feed the creature,

we are connected,

finding an uneasy balance.

I look it in the eye,

my determination for life

stronger than fear.

 

And yet fear keeps me alive.

I plead with danger

“Come out and see God.”

In a relentless storm

“Why are you scaring me, God.

I have given Everything to You.”

We are tossed by Your storm.

 

Almost drowned I approach the Tiger,

my life, to revive it.

I lean the beast’s head on my lap.

When we finally land, barely alive,

on safe ground, my danger, my Tiger

walks into the jungle, its home,

without looking back.

 

And now more about Linda and her latest project….

Sycorax’s Daughters

Linda Addison cover Sycoraxs Daughters

edited with Kinitra Brooks, PhD & Susana Morris, PhD

ISBN-10: 1941958443; ISBN-13: 978-1941958445

Cedar Grove Publishing (March 2017)

33 authors; 28 stories, 14 poems

Cover by Jim Callahan HWA Bram Stoker award® 2017 finalist

Thought-provoking, powerful, and revealing, this anthology is composed of 28 dark stories and 14 poems written by African-American women writers. The tales of what scares, threatens, and shocks them will enlighten and entertain readers. The works delve into demons and shape-shifters from “How to Speak to the Bogeyman” and “Tree of the Forest Seven Bells Turns the World Round Midnight” to far future offerings such as “The Malady of Need”. These pieces cover vampires, ghosts, and mermaids, as well as the unexpected price paid by women struggling for freedom and validation in the past.

Linda D. Addison, Biography –

2017 LindaAddison closeup selfieLinda D. Addison is the award-winning author of four collections, the first African-American to receive the HWA Bram Stoker Award®, and recipient of the 2018 HWA Lifetime Achievement Award. She has published over 300 poems, stories and articles and is a member of CITH, HWA, SFWA and SFPA.

Addison is one of the editors of Sycorax’s Daughters (Cedar Grove Publishing), a Bram Stoker finalist anthology of horror by African-American women. Catch her latest work in anthologies Cosmic Underground (Cedar Grove Publishing), Scary Out There (Simon Schuster) and Into Painfreak (Necro Publications).

Links –

Website

Amazon page

Twitter

Thank you, Linda

 

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#NationalPoetryMonth: Five Ways Poetry Can Strengthen Your Prose by Sara Tantlinger

In celebration of National Poetry Month this April, I’m doing a small series featuring poets/poetry. Yesterday, Christina Sng stopped by and shared three of her fabulous poems! Today, Sara Tantlinger is here to discuss how poetry can help strengthen your prose writing.

I really appreciate her offering this piece, because I can’t believe how often I tell other writers that poetry, if not read for enjoyment, at the least, can be a great asset in blossoming lengthier writing. It brings me great pleasure to know that other poets out there feel the same and that she, as well, plays with words and poetry to assist with things such as character development. I’ve only met Sara online this year, but she’s a wonderful and talented human being and I’ve enjoyed getting to know her. I am super excited for her next release later this year, which is a collection of poems inspired by H.H. Holmes (you all KNOW I love me some serial killer anything).

And now, take the advice of this informative, mentoring post! Will you try poetry today?

wp1843807

5 Ways Poetry Can Strengthen Your Prose

by Sara Tantlinger, author of Love for Slaughter

1) Let’s talk about purple prose vs. poetic prose. Purple prose is a term most often used to describe exposition that is “too much” in some way. Perhaps it is dripping with adverbs or excessive adjectives, or maybe the language superfluously describes a tree for two pages. Writing is such a stylistic and subjective field that what is “purple” can be difficult to pinpoint.

For example, the following would most likely be considered purple prose:

“The summer day was bright and warm; the sun beat down with scorching rays, heating the river up to a sizzling temperature. Occasionally, a gust of wind would blow violently through the trees, shaking the sun-soaked leaves onto the rippling water’s surface below.”

Okay, we get it. The day is warm, the sun is bright, the wind is blowing. Let’s boil this down into something more concise but keep the language strong. After all, poetry itself is all about how to say a lot with a little, how to wield language as a powerful tool. It only makes sense that this should translate well into prose.

“The sun beat down with scorching rays, heating the river despite the occasional gust of wind. Speckled leaves from the surrounding woods broke free and cascaded onto the rippling water.”

The description of the sun is enough to let our readers assume it is summer without being told. The descriptions of the heat and wind have been significantly reduced to something more concise, but the meaning is just as clear. The language paints a strong image but does not use superfluous or repetitive descriptions to achieve that objective. The more you write, read, or study poetry, the more natural and easier it becomes to spot these repetitions or “purple” bits in your exposition, thus allowing you to tighten up your prose while keeping it poetic in description.

2) Poetry is meant to be read aloud. Hearing the words better allows you to listen to the rhythm and cadence, to feel the way each word forms in your mouth. Poetry is something to be savored and tasted, and prose should be the same.

As with the above example, concision and strong imagery are the building blocks for poetry. Practicing this in prose can significantly empower the exposition. Adding cadence into the mix can strengthen those descriptions too, but I do caution not to overuse this in prose since it could potentially exhaust the reader if you’re writing like the lovechild of Nathaniel Hawthorne and James Joyce (though I love them both). So, read your prose aloud. Hear it, find the rhythm in the words that make each sentence something wicked or gorgeous or both.

3) Poetry can help immensely with sentence length, sentence variety, and the use of punctuation. With poetry, every punctuation mark, every line break or stanza shift is significant and purposeful. E.E. Cumming’s “Buffalo Bill’s” piece is one of my favorite examples of how to play with spacing. Obviously, most prose isn’t going to do quite that unless you’re getting very experimental, but writing poetry can strengthen your sense of how powerful punctuation, pauses, paragraph breaks, and other structural elements are.

4) One of my favorite exercises is to write a poem from the point of view of different characters when I’m writing prose and feeling stuck with a character. Would your protagonist and antagonist write the same poem if they were forced to write poetry? Probably not, but maybe they would. Maybe they’re more similar than you thought. Maybe they enjoy writing poetry!

Playing around with things like this is a great way to get to know your characters better. It can also help to write a poem about a particular scene or setting to help get the language flowing and translate it into prose later.

5) And finally, poetry is one of our oldest associations to human emotion and is strongly connected with traditions of oral history. Being a verbal art, it was sung and recited, made into chants and hymns to help pass on important stories and information. From Greek epics to contemporary slam poetry, the evolution of words has continued to impact us deeply. Whether the poem is beautiful, haunting, romantic, frightening or something else, poetry has a way of reminding us how much we may have in common with a stranger, of how art itself can break down barriers.

The lessons poetry teaches us about the range of human emotion and the amazing power of words is something we can all continuously learn from, for both our writing and for our mission to live fulfilling lives.

Sara Tantlinger, Biography –

Sara Tantlinger

Sara Tantlinger resides outside of Pittsburgh on a hill in the woods. She is the author of the dark poetry collection Love For Slaughter, and her next collection, The Devil’s Dreamland: Poetry inspired by H.H. Holmes will be out later in 2018.

She is a contributing editor for The Oddville Press, a graduate of Seton Hill’s MFA program, a member of the SFPA, and an active member of the HWA. She embraces all things strange and can be found lurking in graveyards or on Twitter @SaraJane524 and at her website.

Love for Slaughter, Synopsis –

LFS

This debut collection of poetry from Sara Tantlinger takes a dark look at all the horrors of love, the pleasures of flesh, and the lust for blood. For discerning fans of romance and the macabre, look no further than Love For Slaughter.

Amazon Link

LFS back

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#NationalPoetryMonth: Poems from Christina Sng, Bram Stoker Award Winner

April is National Poetry Month, and though I’ve been behind on getting many posts up about it, I’m hustling and featuring several poets I know and love from the dark fiction/horror/fantasy/sci-fi genres this week. I’d want to thank the authors that agreed to hustle with me in order to be able to offer this small April series to readers. In the future, I plan to hopefully feature poetry here, beyond my own, at least one or two times a month as a special project.

One of those amazing ladies I adore for her positive spirit, her friendship, her talent, is Christina Sng! She’s a ray of sunshine to me every day and her creativity in both art and writing inspires me. Christina won a 2017 Bram Stoker Award® this year for her collection, A Collection of Nightmares from Raw Dog Screaming Press. She’s garnered more than 70 awards and nominations, including the Elgin, Rhysling, and the 2018 Jane Reichhold International Prize.

I’m very honored and excited that Christina chose to feature three of her 2018 Rhysling Award poems here on my site! They span various genres of science fiction and horror and were first published in various magazines as noted below. I hope you’ll love Christina’s work as much as I do. My favorite here is the one about Little Red Riding Hood.

And it was World Book Day yesterday as well, and Sng, lives in Singapore!

Enjoy….

starlight

STARLIGHT

It was far too early
When I woke this morning.
Starlight glimmered
In the sky like fireflies.

Yet the clock read ten
Despite the blanket of night,
Flung over the moon’s smile,
Leaving no crack of light.

That was when the news arrived.
The sun had just died.
We had but eight minutes
Before the Earth turned to ice.

— Christina Sng

Previously in Space and Time #129

playground-drawing-night-moon-rocket-buildings-hd-720P-wallpaper-middle-size

MOONLIGHT IN THE PLAYGROUND

We wander the quiet playground
Hand-in-hand, chain-linked
And bound, blood thick within blood.

The moon is ivory rich tonight,
Shrouded by grey cotton wool clouds
Casting a soft filter on the foggy night.

My little girl softly hums
A bedtime melody about
Dragons and warrior children.

We pass by elephant swings
And an octopus roundabout,
And then she spies it,

Lets go of my hand,
Racing lightspeed toward it,
The dragon of her dreams:

Spiral loops wound in the air;
Musical notes crescendoing
Into a grand finale–

A dragon-headed slide, where
The little one now glides down,
Laughing with sheer joy,

My sweet soprano;
The high notes on
A child’s piano.

My boy is swinging
Upside down from
One of the spirals;

My bass clef, arms now
Outstretched, reminding me
Of those dexterous acrobats

We saw on television last week.
When did he let go
Of my hand to go play?

My focus has lost its razor
These days. Perhaps it is truly
Time to rest and hibernate.

The clouds yawn, puffing apart
To reveal a luminously silver moon.
She brightens up the entire night sky.

I call to them softly, kiss
Their disappointed cheeks,
Remind them that

Even the best orchestras
Need to end; and all living
Things need to sleep.

They nod in acquiescence,
Pondering now what wondrous
Adventures their dreams will bring.

And so I begin to sing,
An old melody my mother
Taught me as a child.

I hold their hands tight,
Feel our shared blood
Pulse between us.

Slowly we fade to star dust,
Drifting back into the skies,
Into the mysterious universe

Where we belong.

–Christina Sng
Previously in Spectral Realms #6
little-red-riding-hood-illustration_00436387.jpg
LITTLE REDLittle Red,
Motherless babe,
Taught to be self-sufficient
And brave at a young age.She gathered fruit,
Hunted squirrel, trained herself
To be a sharpshooter
With the wooden crossbow she made.

Werewolves in the forest,
The local rumors howled.
Little Red was unperturbed.
She had no fear at all.

She’d fought off snakes,
Outrun grizzlies,
Shot alligators
While spearing fishes.

“But this is new,” her ill Gran said,
“This is a cross between a wolf and a man.
He’s wily, wicked, and dangerous too.
I worry he might outsmart you.”

“Fear not, dear Gran,” Little Red said.
“I’ll fetch the doctor. Go back to bed.
My aim is true. If he causes trouble,
I’ll take care of it.”

Through the woods she walked,
Eyes ever watchful,
This fragile little girl,
Cloaked in a velvet red hood.

Predators stayed away,
Fearful of Little Red’s spear.
Only the new ones in the wood
Dared to venture near.

A soft woosh betrayed his presence.
Little Red sent two shots his way.
A yowl of pain from the south.
Little Red sent four more that way.

Out leapt the werewolf,
Dripping blood like bread crumbs.
That furry crazy-eyed wolf thing,
At Little Red he lunged.

She stepped artfully aside,
Shot him another two times:
Once in the head,
Once in his eye.

Another two for posterity,
And he was down
Splayed and drunk
Like a sheep skin rug.

Little Red rushed home,
Doc in tow.
Gran was sitting up,
Unnaturally flushed.

Her smile revealed
Stalactites in the snow.
She tore the good Doc in two
Without so much as a hello.

Little Red stared in dismay.
For the first time, she could not aim.
Scarecrow-still, she watched
Gran turn, face elongating,

Arms sprouting fur, like
Seedlings in slow-motion.
Gran’s nails and teeth
Grew like rabid weeds.

In her eyes,
A familiar crazed expression but
None of the love nor recognition
Little Red used to see inside.

She swung her new talons
At Little Red’s head, unfroze her
With the knowledge
That this was no longer Gran.

Gran would never
Raise her hand
At her beloved granddaughter.
This was truly some other monster.

Twin head shots
Dispatched that alien thing.
Little Red wept with sadness and rage
As she carried Gran’s body for burying.

Now marked
A new era for Little Red.
It was time to grow up;
Time to hunt predators instead.

– Christina Sng

Previously in Polu Texni, September 2017

And here is Christina’s latest collection from Raw Dog Screaming Press, the Bram Stoker Award® winning A Collection of Nightmares…..read all about it below…
CONStoker.png
A Collection of Nightmares
By Christina Sng
ISBN-10: 1935738984
ISBN-13: 978-1935738985
Raw Dog Screaming Press, July 2017
92 pages
Bram Stoker Award® Winner, Elgin Award nominee, and one of LitReactor’s Best Books of 2017, A COLLECTION OF NIGHTMARES takes us through a surreal dreamscape of seasonal creatures, bone carvers, listless gods, vengeful angels, and post-apocalyptic survivors, to the end of all things good and evil.
Christina

Christina Sng, Biography – 

Christina Sng is an award-winning poet, writer, and artist. Her work has been published in numerous print and online venues worldwide and garnered more than 70 awards and nominations, including the 2018 Jane Reichhold International Prize. She is the author of A CONSTELLATION OF SONGS, CATKU, Elgin Award nominees AN ASSORTMENT OF SKY THINGS and ASTROPOETRY, and 2017 Bram Stoker Award® Winner A COLLECTION OF NIGHTMARES. Visit her at www.christinasng.com.

Photo: Art pulled from various free wallpaper sites.

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Guest Article: Catherine Cavendish on the Curse of Gleichenberg Castle

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

The Curse – and Miracle – of Gleichenberg Castle

by Catherine Cavendish, author of Waking the Ancients

pic 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Waking the Ancients

Legacy In Death

Egypt, 1908

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

Vienna, 2018

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

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

You can find Waking the Ancients here –

Kensington Press

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Catherine Cavendish, Biography –

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

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

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

You can connect with Cat here –

Catherine Cavendish

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Thank you, Cat, for a great article!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

Review –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And now for the interview…..

Interview –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Erin: WOW!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Erin: Ooooh! I look forward to it!

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

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

Erin: Yay! Very clever!

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

SD: AMAZING! Dream come true.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy an Excerpt!

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

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

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

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

“Whatever is that?” I asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

He barked a laugh. “You saucy charmer!”

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

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

Jenoff Quote Card

Wife, Widow, and Warrior in Alexander Hamilton’s Quest for a More Perfect Union

From the New York Times bestselling authors of America’s First Daughter comes the epic story of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton—a revolutionary woman who, like her new nation, struggled to define herself in the wake of war, betrayal, and tragedy. Haunting, moving, and beautifully written, Dray and Kamoie used thousands of letters and original sources to tell Eliza’s story as it’s never been told before—not just as the wronged wife at the center of a political sex scandal—but also as a founding mother who shaped an American legacy in her own right.

Order your copy of MY DEAR HAMILTON today!

A general’s daughter…

Coming of age on the perilous frontier of revolutionary New York, Elizabeth Schuyler champions the fight for independence. And when she meets Alexander Hamilton, Washington’s penniless but passionate aide-de-camp, she’s captivated by the young officer’s charisma and brilliance. They fall in love, despite Hamilton’s bastard birth and the uncertainties of war.

A Founding Father’s wife…

But the union they create—in their marriage and the new nation—is far from perfect. From glittering inaugural balls to bloody street riots, the Hamiltons are at the center of it all—including the political treachery of America’s first sex scandal, which forces Eliza to struggle through heartbreak and betrayal to find forgiveness.

The last surviving light of the Revolution…

When a duel destroys Eliza’s hard-won peace, the grieving widow fights her husband’s enemies to preserve Alexander’s legacy. But long-buried secrets threaten everything Eliza believes about her marriage and her own legacy. Questioning her tireless devotion to the man and country that have broken her heart, she’s left with one last battle—to understand the flawed man she married and imperfect union he could never have created without her

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Stephanie Dray, Biography –

 

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

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

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

 

Laura Kamoie, Biography –

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

Esther Reed portrait by Charles Peale.png

Esther Reed, Portrait by Charles Peale / Wikipedia

 

Esther de Berdt Reed: An American Lady of Liberty

by Nassem Al-Mehairi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Sentiments-of-American-Woman.jpg

Taken from the Monticello Website

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Esther Reed grave.jpg

From findagrave.com

 

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

Nassem Al-Mehairi, Biography –

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

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

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

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

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