Book Drunkard

“I am simply a 'book drunkard.' Books have the same irresistible temptation for me that liquor has for its devotee. I cannot withstand them.” L.M. Montgomery


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Anne Girard, author of PLATINUM DOLL, guest post


I’m absolutely thrilled to welcome Anne Girard, author of PLATINUM DOLL and MADAME PICASSO to my blog today.  Not only is she an excellent author, but she’s a wonderful person, too.  I count myself lucky to call her a friend.  My review of PLATINUM DOLL will be up tomorrow.

Without further ado, Anne Girard..

 

Researching an historical novel is not so much a job as a wonderful journey…

In many ways, the research phase of a book is my favorite of the whole, complex and wonderful process that I am about to embark upon each time I begin with a new subject. More than just the ‘getting to know you’ portion of a project, the research invariably becomes a great adventure, one that leads me to places, and people—many of them experts—that I can’t even imagine when I am just beginning.

Naturally, the first part of researching a real character for history for a fictional biography requires combing meticulously and laboriously through every existing biography on the subject so that a framework and a preliminary outline can be created. I always seem to write about completely different characters every time so I have often likened this part of the journey to working toward a college degree in a new subject.

Familiarizing myself with the written material by other experts is similar to one’s freshman year.

Next, I try to make contact with one or more experts or scholars in the field. That could be anyone from professors, to biographers or, in one case not long ago, a personal friend of the character I was writing about. I can say without a doubt that meeting one of Pablo Picasso’s last living friends was not only a career highlight, it was entirely unexpected when I began the process of research and writing Madame Picasso.

Not all roads work out. Some of them lead to frustrating dead ends. Some experts are unwilling to work with novelists because of the different perception they hold regarding their work and that of a fiction writer. I can say, however, that in several cases, when I did communicate with these contacts, my research and commitment had rivaled there, so as the cliché goes, one should never judge a book—fiction or otherwise—just by the cover.

At some point during my work with experts, I am also traveling to the location in which the story is set. The iconic author Irving Stone advised me many years ago to always try to walk the streets your characters walked, see the same trees, the buildings, houses. Hopefully, on occasion, if the stars are all aligned, I see some of their personal effects; clothing or furniture. Only then, when I am as immersed in their world as I can make myself, do I believe I can bring them to life for readers.

During the writing of my most recent novel Platinum Doll I was able to walk through a portion of young Jean Harlow’s world in the Los Angele area, which was an enormous thrill. I spent time

inside on of her homes, sat in her living room, and walked up her staircase. I felt like I was seeing the same sun shining through her windows she must have seen when she was the beautiful young queen of Hollywood. Later, I saw some of her actual personal effects, including a bottle of her favorite perfume, a hand-written letter, and a couple of her dresses.

It is all of these components that go into the research of a novel. It is always a long, and often a winding road, once the process begins. I never know exactly where it will take me but, honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love every step.


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Rebecca Hazell, author of Consolamentum, guest post.


Please join me in welcoming Rebecca Hazell to my blog today.  I am thrilled to have been a part of every leg of her blog tour journey so far, posting reviews for the three books in her trilogy.  Be sure to come back on the 25th for my review of CONSOLAMENTUM.  Until then, enjoy this post by Rebecca Hazell!

Consolamentum button final

LOVE AND FAITH

 One of the ongoing themes in my historical trilogy, The Tiger and the Dove, is love and its relationship to faith. Its heroine, Sofia, has endured many trials of both in her journey from princess to slave to wealthy businesswoman and patron of those in need. Having encountered many variations on people’s faiths, she has been shaped into a unique person who transcends her times. Can she find both love and faith in a way that doesn’t put her at further risk from forces beyond her control?

Here is a very brief recap of novels one and two: in The Grip of God, Sofia, a young Rus’ princess, is captured and enslaved by a Mongol lord who falls in love with her, as does his mad brother. She only wants to break free. And she does: in Solomon’s Bride, she flees to what she thinks will be safety in Iran, straight into more Mongol occupation, plus religious strife, including raids and political assassination, by the original Assassins! She escapes and even finds love in a Crusader castle, only to lose her lover to King Louis IX and his ‘holy war’ to ‘liberate’ Jerusalem.

Most of the wars that raged during Sofia’s lifetime were not so much about faith but more about greed, while faith was used to justify them. God was seen to favor those who won. Only King Louis’ crusade was free from such motivations, but he was not prepared for its consequences. And meanwhile, back in France, he had allowed the establishment of what would become one of the most feared organizations in history: the Inquisition. It became the excuse for a virtual invasion by Normans, who destroyed a joyous, creative culture and brought death and fear in its place.

Here was one war that was based on both faith and greed, and the genocide inflicted on France during the early Inquisition still reverberates through time. In my third novel, Consolamentum, Sofia, having been forced by circumstances to continually move farther west, encounters this war first hand.

And she also encounters the first attempt at reforming the Catholic Church, which had become embroiled in war, greed, and indifference to the plight of the poor. Many people turned away from its precepts in looking to explain their painful lives. The result was a dualistic religion that pitted God against Satan, each equally strong, and both competing for human souls. God, and Jesus Christ, in this version of Christianity, tried to release souls from matter, while Satan sought to entrap them in it. It was a flawed view, and one that Sofia wants nothing to do with. But in an age when faith and politics are intertwined, she too will be affected.

And only love can save her.

 

About the book

Consolamentum editedIn the finale of Sofia’s memoir, Consolamentum, both dramatic and poignant, her dreams of home are shattered when her own family betrays her. Raising her child on her own, mourning the loss of her beloved knight, and building a trading empire, she seeks safe haven for her child and herself. Her quest takes her from Antioch to Constantinople to Venice. A surprise reunion in Venice leads her to France where she runs afoul of the newly established Holy Inquisition, possibly the greatest challenge she has yet faced. Can a woman so marked by oppression, betrayal, and danger ever find her safe haven, much less genuine happiness?

The novel is available both in paperback and Kindle versions and through your local bookstore by special order.

 

About the author

Rebecca Hazell is a an award winning artist, author and educator. She has written, illustrated and published four non-fiction children’s books, rebecca hazellcreated best selling educational filmstrips, designed educational craft kits for children and even created award winning needlepoint canvases. She is a senior teacher in the Shambhala Buddhist lineage, and she holds an honours BA from the University of California at Santa Cruz in Russian and Chinese history.

Rebecca lived for many years in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 1988 she and her family moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia, and in 2006 she and her husband moved to Vancouver Island. They live near their two adult children in the beautiful Cowichan Valley.


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Anne Girard guest post


It’s my pleasure to welcome Anne Girard, the author of MADAME PICASSO, to Book Drunkard today!  If you haven’t read the book yet, run, don’t walk, to your nearest bookstore!  You can check out my review here.

And now, enjoy!

***

anne girardOne of the best things about writing novels based on the lives of real historical figures is going to the places they lived, and worked, getting a true sense of their lives in order to try to breathe life into their stories. Last summer, while I was researching the story behind Madame Picasso, I was given the opportunity of a lifetime to interview a man who, for 30 years, was a close personal friend of Pablo Picasso. To sit and speak at length with a person who had actually known the great icon was probably the most unique situation I have yet faced as a novelist for over 20 years. Meeting the famed French photographer at his atelier in Provence initially seemed like a dream come true.

The actual event, however, became more than that. It was a memorable adventure.

An international celebrity in his own right, Lucien Clergue certainly cuts a daunting figure, even across the internet. I had done my homework prior to our interview and found photos of the distinguished looking, almost regal, snowy-haired gentleman whose intensely pointed gaze leapt off the page at me. But that seemed strangely fitting, considering the legend  of Picasso’s own powerful stare. Slightly unnerved at the prospect of meeting him, but wanting to be prepared, I went on to view the iconic, sensual black and white photographs that first brought Clergue to fame in the 1950’s. Their abstract nature, the essence of them, reminded me of Picasso’s later work, and so further linked the two men in my mind even before we met.

The plan seemed simple enough: I was to be met at my hotel by a liaison who would escort me through the cobbled stone back streets of the French village to the unmarked studio where Monsieur Clergue has lived and worked for decades.  There was no time limit set for our meeting, and I was told nothing other than that he was tired after a delayed flight back from Italy earlier that day. Still, my heart began racing the moment we set off into the Provencal summer heat and the guide deftly maneuvered the narrow shadowy alleyways that looked like a setting for a sequence from Romeo and Juliet. Brightly painted doors, weathered by time.  Window boxes spilling fat geraniums, some of them tightly shuttered from the midday sun. Already to me the scene was other-worldly. And on we walked to an imposing, arched door that looked like, centuries earlier, it could have hidden a stable. She rang the buzzer. French pleasantries were exchanged with a male secretary before the door clicked open and we were issued inside the vaulted, shadowy foyer and the door was slammed shut.  On the walls were huge framed black and white photographs, those I had seen on the internet. There was no denying now where I was.

You’re a pro, I told myself. You’ve been at this for a long time. How daunting can meeting him be? My question was answered quickly as the liaison and I were ushered up a flight of ancient stone steps and into the commanding presence of Monsieur Clergue. Seated behind a massive carved oak desk, surrounded by soaring walls peppered with photographs of himself with Picasso through the years, plus several priceless works of art, many of them signed by Picasso, Clergue sank against the back of his massive leather chair, steepled his hands, raised his eyebrows and said very simply, “So then, what can I do for you?”

It was clear to me immediately that he was wary of writers who intended to tread negatively on the memory of his dear friend. That was something to respect and a point on which we could begin. In my novel, I sought only to humanize Pablo Picasso, and thus to honor him. So, as our liaison excused herself and left the office, I decided to buck up and make the moments count. After a short exchange in which he told me of several “hit pieces” on Picasso he had seen recently, both books and movies, I told him of my project, my background and my commitment to the story of a young Picasso in love and on the cusp of his great fame.

Suddenly, as if clouds had cleared away from the sun, he gave me a reserved little grin and said, “Ask away. What would you like to know about Picasso?” I had, in that moment, been given a modicum of his trust. I opened my notebook then and went to work.

Over the next hour and a half, I heard story after story about the private Picasso, some tender-hearted things, some acts of kindness and generosity, that don’t often figure into stories about the brash, womanizing artist. As a novelist, it was not for me to judge Picasso’s actions, or his choices. Rather, I believe it was my task—and my incredible opportunity, to learn some amazing private details about someone who was, first and foremost, a human being. He was one, like the rest of us, who possessed strengths and weaknesses. But he was also one who, along the way, became the most famous artist of the 20th Century. Those were all parts of the man I hoped to put into the pages of my novel, especially one who had such a great love for his Ma Jolie, his Eva.”

 

Anne Girard is the author of 13 previous novels written as Diane Haeger. Many of them are historical novels based in fact, on subjects ranging from the loves of Henry VIII and George IV to William Tecumseh Sherman. She holds degrees in English literature and clinical psychology. You can visit her at: www.madamepicasso.com and www.dianehaeger.com

 


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Rebecca Hazell, guest post.


rebecca hazellYesterday, I posted my review of Rebecca Hazell’s book SOLOMON’S BRIDE and today I’m happy to welcome her to my blog with a guest post.

Thank you so much, Rebecca, for taking the time to write such a great post!

MAGIC OR MIRACLE?

 Nowadays, few people credit that either magic or miracles can happen, not now and maybe not in the past, though we have all had the experience of movement at the corner of our vision that alarms us. When it turns out to be a shadow on the wall or a leaf tossed in the wind, we reason away our irrational alarm. But my heroine, Sofia, lived in a world saturated with belief in both magic and miracles, where a shadow or a leaf might be the guise of something much more sinister, where a bishop’s curse can kill a king and a witch can destroy her enemy slowly. People armed themselves and even their horses and oxen with charms, amulets and bells. And of course they also wore crucifixes or made the sign of the cross to ward off evil.

Medieval literature abounds in people seeing devils or angels. Sofia’s story is set in the thirteenth century, but over a hundred years later, Margery Kempe, who wrote the first autobiography in the English language, saw both and wrote about them with great enthusiasm. Martin Luther was tortured by devils from early childhood and is said to have thrown an inkpot at the Devil (perhaps metaphorically).

And lots of small children have invisible playmates—I did, and they formed the basis of Sofia’s. One of my playmates had a bird bill for a mouth, so imagine my surprise when I discovered there was/is a Slavic house spirit, Kikimora, with a bird bill for a mouth! Magic? Miracle? Coincidence? When Sofia’s small daughter sees the same spirits, it may be stretching believability in our modern age, but it would have seemed completely natural to Sofia.

So when mysterious events occur in my trilogy, The Tiger and the Dove, I don’t try to exaggerate or dismiss them. They are woven into the fabric of life: in The Grip of God, Sofia loses a dear friend to witchcraft; in Solomon’s Bride, she accepts that her daughter can see ghosts; and in Consolamentum, a miracle occurs that … well, wait and see.

So while readers may puzzle over whether magic, witchcraft, or miraculous events are real, the important story is Sofia’s journey from spoiled princess to independent woman. In that journey she must come to grips with not only the beliefs of others but also survive in a world of total war, where the biggest superstition may be the conviction that God is on the winner’s side.


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Robin Maxwell guest post


I recently read Robin Maxwell’s new book, Jane: The Woman Who Loved Tarzan and loved it as much as, well, as much as Jane loved Tarzan!  Robin’s books have never failed to thrill me and she has sat on my list of favourite authors for some time now.

I’m so happy to welcome her to my blog today.  Tomorrow I will post my review of the book so come back for that, too.

Please join me in welcoming Robin Maxwell!

                           JANE: Queen of the Jungle

 When I was growing up in the 60s, of all the characters I watched breathlessly on late night TV, I was most envious of Tarzan’s beloved Jane (from the 1930s feature films starring Johnny Weissmuller and Maureen O’Sullivan).  I was intrigued by “Sheena Queen of the Jungle” (the leggy blonde Irish McCalla who had her own TV series and ruled her domain without a man).

But while Sheena had a better outfit – a seductive little leopard skin number, gold upper-arm bracelet, spear, and that curved horn she’d blow in times of danger, Jane had a full-blown romance in paradise with the hunky (if dumb) Tarzan.  So what if she stood – as actresses did in those days – in a sophisticated slouch with hands on hips and was somehow a cosmopolitan lady underneath it all.  And who cared that after a scintillating start with her revealing two-piece outfit and a four-minute-long fully nude swimming sequence with Tarzan her tog became a high-necked, brown leather housedress?

It was all right.  The movie-Jane still lived a wild, unfettered life, cavorting with wild animal friends, chasing through one hair-raising adventure after another, and (gasp!) living in sin with a half-naked Adonis.

This was the extent of my girlish jungle fantasy.  As I grew into adulthood no other Tarzan movies were remotely satisfying.  The one I waited for breathlessly in 1984 (“Greystoke:  The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes”) was the greatest disappointment of them all.  This Jane, a delicate, corseted Victorian lady, made her entrance fully halfway through the movie and never put a single toe in Tarzan’s jungle.  Sacrilege!  All the others were forgettable (or like John and Bo Derek’s“Tarzan the Ape Man,” downright awful).  By the time of Disney’s animated version and its live action Tarzan spoof, “George of the Jungle,” were released, I was too old too care.

Or so I thought.

When the idea of a Tarzan story from Jane’s point of view popped unbidden into my head three years ago, I hadn’t had a single thought about the wild couple in three decades.  But the concept hit me hard, then haunted me unceasingly until I took affirmative action.

I began by reading the ERB books in which Jane appeared  (eight of the twenty-four, sometimes only as a minor character).  I had decided to base my novel primarily on the first in his series, Tarzan of the Apes, as it dealt with the most iconic issues: the feral boy’s backstory;  how his lordly English parents came to be marooned on a West African beach; the tribe of talking apes that raised him; his first meeting with Jane, and the foundation of their love affair.

I admit to being shocked and dismayed by ERB’s characterization of Jane Porter in that first book.  She was quite the “Baltimore Belle,” as Alan Hanson wrote in an extensive and erudite essay about Jane’s evolution throughout the novels in which she appeared.  She had come to Africa with a treasure hunting party, accompanying her father and attended by her negro maid, Esmeralda.

Here Jane was a wide-eyed, swooning girl, and though she did have one flash of courage in the book – shooting at a lion about to attack – it was followed immediately by Miss Porter fainting dead away.

Her meetings with Tarzan were all too brief, with few words spoken, and the wildman falling instantly in love with her – the first white woman he had ever clapped eyes on.  This young man brought up from the age of one by “anthropoid apes” somehow knew how to kiss Jane on her upturned lips and even wrote her a love note.  He killed a bull ape creature set on ravaging her, but himself “took liberties” after Jane had told him an unequivocal no to more kisses.  “Again he laid his hand upon her arm.  Again she repulsed him.  And then Tarzan of the Apes did just what his first ancestors would have done.  He took his woman in his arms and carried her into the jungle.”  Today such actions would no doubt be construed as date rape. Then, through misunderstandings and twists of fate worthy of Shakespeare, Jane sailed out of Tarzan’s life, leaving him love-struck and forlorn.  The ending of Tarzan of the Apes was, to my mind, wholly unsatisfying.  It had Tarzan driving an automobile around the American Midwest and saving Jane from a forest fire, then leaving for Africa after giving her up to marry another man for some unfathomable reason, ostensibly “nobility of spirit.”

I learned that Burroughs had been more than a little ambivalent about the female character he had created.  While he’d used Jane as the linchpin of the first book, and a civilizing influence on Tarzan in a couple more (then having them marry, making her “Lady Greystoke”) the author actually killed her off in Tarzan the Untamed.  Says ERB in a letter to a friend: “…I left Jane dead up to the last gasp and then my publisher and the magazine editor rose up on their hind legs and roared.  They said the public would not stand for it…so I had to resurrect the dear lady.” He all but ignored her for eight more novels before returning Jane to the series, finally painting her as a strong, courageous woman adept at “woodcraft” and weapon making, and capable of surviving alone in the jungle.  By Tarzan the Terrible (1921) she thinks as she walk alone and abandoned in the forest, “The parade of cities, the comforts and luxuries of civilization, held forth no allure half as insistent as the glorious freedom of the jungle.”

I was determined that Jane reach this elevated state by the end of my stand-alone novel.  And since this was meant to be story from her perspective, I needed to spend sufficient time illuminating her upbringing, circumstances and character before letting her embark on her African adventure. Considering she was an Edwardian girl brought up in an English society stultifying for most females, I gave her a head start – a father who moved mountains to provide his daughter with not just an education, but a vocation – paleoanthropology.  I established Jane as a tomboy and outspoken, rule-breaking, free-thinking “New Woman.”  She was  an equestrian, proficient archer and skeet shooter, a young lady with big dreams based on the exploits of her personal heroines – outrageous women explorers and adventurers like Mary Kingsley, Annie Smith Peck and Lady Jane Digby.  Though a spinster at twenty, my Jane was not immune to lustful daydreams and even experimentation. I felt these traits would allow for modern readers, particularly intelligent female fiction readers, to relate to a protagonist who lived a hundred years ago;  make believable the extraordinarily radical shift in her character that was about to occur.

I wanted more than anything a story that bespoke of equality between the sexes.  It was vital to me that if Tarzan saved Jane, then Jane would in a different but equally important way, save Tarzan.  They would serve as each other’s teachers.  The ape man’s character arc would be as sweeping and dramatic as Jane’s. The pair, by the end of my book, would be “fit mates” for one another.

To be fair, I had an advantage over both Sheena and Maureen O’Sullivan’s Jane.  I had a brilliantly detailed, exotic world into which I could set my protagonist down, a boyfriend like no other whose own unique history had been crafted by a master storyteller, and generous permission and authorization to change it to my discretion.

It was a posthumous gift given me by the late, great Edgar Rice Burroughs.  I can only hope that he would approve.

Robin Maxwell is the author of JANE: The Woman Who Loved Tarzan.  It is the first Tarzan classic ever written by a woman and the first from Jane’s point of view.  Coinciding with the Tarzan Centennial Year, it is fully authorized by the estate of Edgar Rice Burroughs.

 


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Barbara Lambert Guest Post


Please join me in welcoming Barbara Lambert, the author of The Whirling Girl, to Book  Drunkard today!  Thank you so much for stopping by, Barbara 🙂

Stay turned for the end of this post for a giveaway for my Canadian readers.

Squeaky Delectable Little Bites

 At the mention of Italian travel (or travel in France for that matter) first to come up is almost always the matter of food and wine.

            French cuisine is justly famous. But (don’t tell Escoffier!) it got its start when Catherine de Medici of Tuscany went to Paris in 1533, to wed the heir to the throne — taking along her entire kitchen staff, and introducing the French Court to her favorites including, I am told — gasp! — vegetables.

Presto! Into a jumbled culinary style that seems to have included sweets and savories and meats all eaten in any order, marched the soothing five-part panoply so familiar to those who have dined out in Tuscany: the antipasto, followed by the pasta, followed by the secondo, accompanied by the contorno (those veggies!), further followed by the dolce — with added grace-notes of a café and/or a digestivo.

As to pasta itself — Italy’s most iconic food — while some claim that the famous twirling noodle was brought back from Asia by Marco Polo, the response to this in any Tuscan trattoria, would be a simple, “Beh!” (Bringing the fingers to the lips, then releasing them in a sharp explosive gesture!) And aside from this unbeatable argument, there’s excellent archaeological evidence that pasta-making dates from Etruscan times.

In an Etruscan tomb near Cerveteri, there’s said to be a mural showing servants in a kitchen mixing water and flour on a large table with raised sides — with all the familiar pasta-making equipment in the foreground. A ladle, a rolling pin, even a cutting wheel.

So really (though don’t tell Deng Xiao Ping!) we might even make the case that the noodle was brought to China in the Middle Ages by that famous Italian traveller.

Further evidence, from excavated Etruscan sites, reveal a people for whom eating was brought to a high and convivial art. The joie de vivre expressed in tomb frescoes, and the fascinating domestic  detail, provide vivid evidence of the importance of banquets in the Etruscan social scene — banquets at which husbands and wives held an equally important place (as opposed to the situation among the Greeks or even the later Romans).

Etruscan women, indeed, may have been unique in the Classical world for the respect and equality accorded them. But that’s another story.

And what exactly did they eat? (Apart from pasta?)

The earliest “classical” cookbook to come down to us was written by a Roman, Apicius. Here we can read about (or even try!) any number of ancient delicacies — some appealing even today (a layered cheesecake whose only surprising ingredient is bay leaves; honey-glazed shrimps; fish in a coriander crust). And some less so. (Notably the famous fermented fish sauce, liquamen, involving whole fish fermented for three months, strained, bottled, and used in large quantities on almost everything. The smell of making this popular concoction would seem to have been so terrible, that production was outlawed in urban areas.

Given the Etruscan dominion over the seas in pre-Roman times, it’s reasonable to assume that it’s from the Etruscans that the Romans inherited a fondness for this smelly delicacy.

And there’s one further special treat that we know was inherited from them. In the Etruscan museum in the hill town of Chiusi, among a collection of kitchen implements, is a lidded terracotta pot studded with little holes, and shelves built round and round, inside.

This is a gliarium. A container for dormice.

Dormice. Those sweet furry little creatures small enough to snuggle into the palm of a hand. Noteable, too, for the length of their hibernation period — up to six months of every year.

And who could blame them, knowing what was in store.

In Etruscan kitchens they were kept close to hand in those jars, fattened on a diet of walnuts, acorns, chestnuts, after which they were dispatched and stuffed with more of the same sort of delicacies they’d eaten — or glazed in honey and rolled in poppy seeds, and toasted on skewers, perhaps even at the couch-side banquet table.

Delectable squeaky little bites, indeed.

~X~X~

Delectable!  Thank you, Barbara.

Many thanks to the Saima Agency for allowing me to giveaway a copy of The Whirling Girl.  If you read by review yesterday, I know you all want to read it!  To win a copy, comment on this post with your email address and where in the world you’d like to inherit a house from.  For an extra entry, comment on yesterday’s review.  Sharing, etc, will get you more entries, so don’t forget to mention those in your comment.  Contest ends on October 15.  Good luck!


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Cassie Stocks guest post and giveaway!


I’m so happy to have Cassie Stocks, the author of Dance, Gladys, Dance, guest posting on my blog today.  If you didn’t read my review of her book yesterday, go check it out!  You can also read an excerpt HERE

Join me in welcoming Cassie –

The Problems of Characters

 My name is Cassie Stocks and I have a character problem. It’s not that I have trouble creating them or that, once created, they wreak havoc on my carefully crafted story. The problem is that they appear too regularly in my beleaguered brain. If I let my mind have its way, I’d be writing Russian-style novels in which the reader would have to keep a list of all the characters in order to follow the story.

The problem is once a character occurs to me, they seem to arise fully formed and oh so interesting that to not use them seems like some form of murder. How to relegate a named person with foibles and dreams and an interesting past to the ‘Not Using’ file?

Sometimes I don’t have to, the character Girl (just about everyone’s favorite) in Dance, Gladys, Dance was originally to be a bit character, but once she emerged in all her disheveled glory, I kept on with her and she ended up being an integral part of the story (let me apologize in advance for what happens to her). Marilyn, the wildly drunken screenwriter, appeared because someone needed to answer the door in the deadbeat hotel that Frieda is taken to visit. I honestly didn’t know who was going to answer the door. When Marilyn appeared she too ended up having a story to tell that affected the main story.

I think it’s more than a little like real life. The people we meet all have their stories, pasts, dreams, interesting connections, and complex inner lives but we rarely come to know them in all their individual glory. The complexities of an inner self make people interesting. ‘Why’ is the operative question I have to keep asking myself. In real life, if I want to, I can say, “Bob is a jerk” and leave it at that. In writing fiction, if Character A is a jerk, I have to ask, “Why is he a jerk?” Did his best goldfish just die? Is he ill? Did he always want to be a ballet dancer but had weak ankles? Did he lose someone important to him and never recover? It’s a valuable intellectual/psychological exercise for me. If I can find compassion for Jerk Character A in my fiction, maybe, in real life, I can extend Bob the Jerk the same empathy. As a writer, it’s the most interesting thing I get to do, to delve into a person profoundly to discover everything about them, to stretch the boundaries of what I know about different types of people, and to discover what lies beneath the surface of their behavior.

`~`~`

Thanks so much, Cassie!

And now for the giveaway details.  I have one copy to give away to one lucky Canadian.  Comment on this post with your email address.  Then, tell me what your favourite book by a Canadian author is.  For another entry, tell me if you’ve ever seen a ghost!  (for me, the answers are Anne of Green Gables and no)  Contest ends on August 1oth.  Good luck!


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An American Family by Peter Lefcourt – Blog Tour Post


As part of the BookTrib blog tour for An American Family by Peter Lefcourt, I’m going to be posting an excerpt and short guest post.  Enjoy and make sure you check out more of tour of the BookTrib website!

“But Nathan Perl gave money to Israel and to the B’nai Brith and could tell you exactly who was Jewish and who wasn’t on Stratford Drive.

He had gotten out of Poland years before the holocaust. His older brother had survived the Warsaw ghetto by joining the underground and then emigrated to Israel, where he taught math in high school and sent them a card every Jewish New Year showing suntanned young people working on a Kibbutz.

Nathan talked about visiting his brother Yidl in Israel but never went. I’ll go next year—when I have the time. The brothers hadn’t seen each other for thirty-five years, and, outside of the New Year’s card, and a few strained telephone conversations after the war, they’d had no contact.

Nathan’s uncle Meyer, a feisty little tailor who still lived on the lower eastside, was the only one in the family who was in the least way religious”

Guest Post:

Scripts vs. Novels: Peter Lefcourt’s Take on the Similarities and Differences

The similarity pretty much begins and ends with the fact that both careers involve writing. But that’s about as far as it goes. As many other writers, I came to Los Angeles with the intention of making enough money to finance my lifestyle as a novelist. As it turned out, I found that television writing was not only lucrative but a good apprenticeship in the art of story-telling. You learn how to tell a story economically, which is an invaluable skill in fiction writing. And you learn how to write to a deadline. On the other hand, you soon learn that in Hollywood the writer is a fungible element in filmmaking, summarily replaced by another writer when he/she offers resistance to all the “creative” input from directors, studio execs, producers, and actors. You are, essentially, a hired gun, at the beck and call of others – a well-paid hired gun perhaps, to be sure, but one with very little control over the product.

Moreover, there is very little “voice” in screenwriting. In books it is often the way you tell a story and not the story itself that compels readers. I am drawn to language and voice; and with the possible exception of a facility for dialogue (a skill that is almost impossible to teach: I learned how people talk driving a cab in New York in the sixties – an education worth more, in my opinion, than a PHD in Creative Writing) — these elements are not valued in screenwriting.

Nevertheless, Hollywood has allowed me the wherewithal to travel a great deal, to perfect the craft of story telling and, ultimately, to reinvent myself as a novelist and have both careers mutually reinforce each other. I’m not sure I would have succeeded in one without the other.


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These Girls review and interview with Sarah Pekkanen


I’m excited to share my review of THESE GIRLS by Sarah Pekkanen today AND am extremely thankful that she agreed to answer a few questions for me, too!  I love her answers.  Some of them are the exact answers I would have given, too!  Please join me in welcoming Sarah to my blog today and be sure to read the my review of the book at the end of this post.

Q.  Of the three women in the story, which one is most like you and in what ways?

A.  There are little pieces of me in all three main characters. Like Cate, I’m pretty driven with regard to work, and I adore kids, as does Abby. Like Renee, I can be outgoing but also a bit insecure at times. I didn’t feel as if one of the characters represented me more than the others, but I loved slipping into each of their skins while writing the book. At one point my editor asked me which was my favorite of the women, and I told her it was whichever one I was writing at the time!

Q.  Do you personally have friends/friendships like the ones you write about in THESE GIRLS that you were able to draw from?

A.  Yes, I have a terrific circle of friends, and they’re so important to me. It’s interesting because I’m surrounded by guys – I have two brothers, but no sisters, and three sons, but no daughters – so the primary female relationships in my life are with my friends. And as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to prioritize the relationships that are the most caring and positive.

Q.  Have you or would you ever choose a man over a friend?  What are the circumstances under which that could happen?

A.  I’m sure I did at times when I was a teenager, but I never would now. I’m happily married, but my girlfriends are vital relationships in my life, and I always make time for them – because our friendships nourish and uplift me. I guess if I had to imagine a scenario, it might be one in which a husband and a friend didn’t get along and you had to choose between them – although I would just spend time with them separately!

Q.  Did you know the ending when you started out writing this book?  Or did it just sort of happen?

A.  I knew Abby’s ending, but one scene toward the end of her story (the one that takes place in Trey’s apartment) came as a complete surprise! I plotted this book fairly carefully before writing a single word, since it was the first time I’d ever written a novel under a deadline, but I veered away from my outline at times, too.

Q.  When I read a book, I often imagine an author in her/his writing space.  What is yours like?

A.  It changes all the time! I have three boys, so I write anywhere and everywhere I can grab a bit of time. I’m actually able to write in the passenger’s seat of a moving car, and I do a good bit of writing there. I’ve also piled up pages in the orthodontist’s waiting room, at Starbucks, on my couch, in my bed, and in preschool pick-up lines if I arrive a little early. I do have a nice desk in a little corner of our sunroom, but I mostly use it for paperwork.

Q.  You can have dinner with two people, living or dead, at the same time.  One is an author and one isn’t.  Who would you pick?

A.  Jane Austen and Ryan Gosling! (Ryan could show up with or without a shirt on. Without would be better. Much better. Can we pass an international law that says Ryan Gosling must always be shirtless, in fact?).

Q.  When you aren’t writing, what hobbies do you enjoy?

A.  Mostly spending time with my family and friends. I also have the world’s sweetest dog, a rescue lab named Bella, and we love going for long walks together (sometimes I work out the kinks in scenes on those walks, too!) I adore reading and can go through three or four books in a good week. And I’ve been known to watch a little reality TV. I’m addicted to The Voice right now, and having trouble deciding if Blake or Adam is hotter!

Q.  If you could pick any era to live in, which one would you pick and why?

A.  Ooh, how about the 20s? Then I could learn to dance!

Q.  What do you think about the increase in e-book use?  Do you prefer a ‘real’ book or have you been converted?

A.  I like both, though nothing beats the feel of a real book in my hands. But when I’m traveling, it’s wonderful to have a lighter suitcase because my books are on my iPad. I also like being able to download a book in a pinch, if I’m stuck in a long line and have nothing to read!

Q.  What are your top two favourite books?

A.  Pride and Prejudice and Seabiscut!

* Thanks so much for having me! And I’d love to connect with any readers on Facebook or Twitter so please come find me if you’d like to chat more!

Thanks so much, Sarah!  And yes, Ryan Gosling should forever be without a shirt!  🙂

MY REVIEW:

In a world where girls are constantly catty with each other, THESE GIRLS by Sarah Pekkanen renewed my faith in the power of female friendship.  Cate, Renee and Abby have their own issues, are each struggling with something internally.  But, the combined strength of the trio keeps each of them afloat.

I love the characters in the book.  None of them is perfect – which made them all the more likeable to me.  No one wants a perfect heroine every single time.  I could see my own flaws in some of theirs and it actually made me feel better about them.  Trey, Abby’s brother AND Cate and Renee’s crush, can be my book boyfriend anytime.  I adore him.

It’s a beautifully written book with a sprinkling of humour, some sadness and of course, happy times between friends.  After reading it, I really wanted to just go and hang out with the girls – and take the book with me to share.

You can get more info on Sarah’s incredible book HERE or on her website.


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Cynthia Hill guest post and Idol Hands e-book giveaway!!


If you’re a regular reader of my blog, then you know I recently had my mind blown by a little book I like to call “OMGWTFREADTHISBOOK!”  Seriously.  Other people might call it IDOL HANDS – that works, too!  You can check out my review here.

I’m so happy to welcome Cynthia Hill to my blog today.  Enjoy her post and then enter to win an e-book of IDOL HANDS.

I’m starting to think of Idol Hands as the Fight Club of books. You know the movie, right? Brad Pitt and Ed Norton beating the crap out of each other for kicks? That’s about all I know of it, as it’s not really my type of movie, but everyone knows the famous line:

The first rule of Fight Club is that you do not talk about Fight Club.

Take the words “Fight Club” and replace them with the words “Idol Hands” and the premise stays the same. If you read just about any review, it says the same thing:

So then if reviewers have trouble talking about a book, how does the author promote it? To tell the truth, I sound like a total idiot when I talk about it to people. “It’s uh, about a boy band… well, no, not really about a boy band, but about this girl who was the girlfriend of a boy band member… but it’s not a romance… I know it sounds like chick lit, but it’s darker than that…” I sound like a blithering idiot.

There are fun parts of it, though. I get the emails, Facebook posts, and Twitter DMs after people finish reading the book and just have to talk about it “with SOMEONE”, and every single one makes me smile. I’d love to see some book clubs adopt Idol Hands just because I see how much people want to talk about it after they read it, but so far there seems to be an understanding by the readers that they don’t want to spoil anything for people who haven’t read it. It’s like getting to be a part of a secret club: there are those who have experienced Idol Hands, and those who haven’t. Remember being one of the ones to have seen The Sixth Sense and then coming across someone who hadn’t? Being able to give them that knowing, “Ohhh… so you don’t know then?”

No matter what, though, I am so very grateful for the reception that the book has been given by its readers and reviewers, and for the people who are trying their hardest to spread the word about it. As a new author, my best allies are happy readers who tell others. Then they can be a part of the club, too!

One lucky reader of this post will also get their mind blown when they win an e-copy of IDOL HANDS!!  I’m jealous.  I wish I could experience the book for the first time all over again.  To enter, comment on this blog post with your email address.  For extra entries, Tweet, Facebook, or blog about this giveaway.  Just leave links in the comments section.  Contest is open to anyone and ends on March 31, 2012.  AND, if there are a lot of entries, I might be able to persuade Cynthia to add another e-book to the pot.  So tell your friends!!