Sunday, January 30, 2011

Revolution and Destruction


Victorian England is not the only era of history that I enjoy, it isn't even my favorite. The history that really gets me excited is ancient history. In fact my real passion is Ancient Egypt. That's one reason why for the last couple of days I've been on edge and very emotional about the current riots taking place in Egypt.

Amid the protesters and police who have flooded the streets there are those who want to take advantage of the chaos by stealing and destroying the history. This week some were able to break inside the nation's main museum despite the human chain of citizen's who tried to protect their national treasures. They now believe that it is secured against further attempts.

The Egyptian Museum in Cairo has been at the top of my 'bucket' list since I was seven. It houses 'King Tut's' vast collection of riches but more importantly it contains over 4,000 years of historical objects from that region.

They believe that nothing was stolen, the thieves were caught and removed from the building. Unfortunately there was damage. Right now we don't know how extensive it is but what has leaked out doesn't sound good. Two of the nine mummies on display had their heads torn off, they haven't released which ones . At least ten artifacts were also ruined during the break in. Some of the pictures have been posted here. The objects are achingly familiar to me. I even have a small replica of one at home. Now they lay on the floor, smashed and irreparably damaged. I hate thinking that people are capable of doing this.

The optimistic side of me hopes that something wonderful might come of the revolution. I hope that the people are able to gain a government that will address the issues of unemployment and poverty. Maybe, in the end, this will mean a better life for that country. I have not forgotten that America's Independence was also gained through blood and destruction. Maybe things will improve, Egypt will become safer for visitors and I will finally be able to see Abu Simbel and the Cairo Museum. That might help to make up for the tragedy of this loss.

Friday, January 28, 2011

It has happened.

I would like to go on the record as saying that I hated the idea of reading a book on anything other than paper and I was sure that this new e-reading was a quickly passing fad.

Techno freaks could keep these little gidgety gadgety things to themselves. I wanted nothing to do with the Kindle, the Nook, the iPad, the iPod or any of that other newfangled stuff that my husband drooled over when we went shopping. I should warn you that when trying to stubbornly stick to my principles I am know to use outdated language.

When my husband bought his Nook almost a year ago, I flatly refused to use it. Then he did some digging into that list of books that I've always wanted but could never find and he discovered that one of them was available but ONLY as an e-book. I held my nose, tried not to touch the screen too much but finally gave in and read the book. I won't say that I was sold on the idea, we'll just say that I softened a little.

The fact that I am now looking into releasing my own novels in digital form tells you how quickly I progressed into the category of believers after that point. I've heard so many predictions made about how this will effect us readers and writers. It will be the end of books and authors! It will conquer the big bad publishing companies and put the power back into the author's hands (although I can't recall a time when it ever was in the author's hands). I have subscribed to none of the beliefs or theories because the fact is, I don't know.

What I can tell you is that today Amazon.com put out a little business release stating what their sales have been so far this year and for the first time EVER they sold more e-books than they did paperback books. It was only recently, in July, that their e-book sales exceeded their hardback books, they are now selling three times as many e-books as hardbacks. To make thing clear these are sales, they excluded the number of free book downloads.

Has the world shattered? No. Do I think that people are burning books in the streets and worshiping technology. Well, not out of my window at least. But I will admit that my eyebrows are raised and I am curious to see where this takes us.

You can find out more about it on MSNBC.com by clicking here.

Like They Used to...Arthur Tudor

The 'Almost King' Arthur

I have quite a wild imagination and I love history. Maybe this is why my mind drifts into the ideas of the 'what if' realm. Today's handsome figure is very intriguing to me because what if...he had lived.

Arthur Tudor was named after the mythical figure Arthur of Camelot by his father King Henry the VII. His reign was supposed to tie England to it's old noble history and restore the golden age back to the people. He was constantly being tutored and trained to become the next king of England, something that his younger brother did not participate in.

From the early age of two Arthur was engaged to marry Catherine of Aragon, from Spain, and at the young age of fifteen they were wed. The morning after, Arthur boasted to his friends that he had 'been in Spain' and that being a husband was 'thirsty work'. It is strange to consider that the history of Catholicism in England and the history of England itself once hung on the truth of that boastful claim.

Only 20 weeks later Arthur had died from a still undetermined illness, one that nearly claimed his wife as well. Before naming Arthur's younger brother heir apparent, England waited to see if Catherine was with child. Any of her issue would have been the future King or Queen of the country. When a child did not arrive the line of succession passed to Arthur's younger brother, a man who was completely untrained and unprepared for the role before him. He was the future King Henry the VIII.

When I look at portraits of the young and hopeful Arthur Tudor I wonder how history might have changed had he lived. How would it have unfolded without the influences of Henry VIII and his two daughters; Queen 'Bloody' Mary and Queen Elizabeth. We might never have heard of Anne Bolyne or the other four of his six wives. England would have been a very different country... had there ever been a King Arthur.

Next Week: Back to Hollywood! The first actress to earn $1,000,000 per movie! Hint-1963

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Good, the Bad, and the Sooty

There is no way to sugar coat today's little historical factoid and it certainly does file itself under The Bad.

For every one hundred babies born in England in 1740 seventy five of them died at childbirth or before reaching the age of six. Since percentages get lost so easily in our minds let's try to put it a different way. Think of a family with four kids that you personally know. Give each one of them a name, a personality, and a future. Now imagine that three of them died before ever reaching kindergarten. The effect that this had on the size of families from that time can not be over stated. It wasn't until the nineteenth century that you find many families with more than four children who reach adult age.

What really shocks me is that this figure does not take into account the survival of the mother which would also lower the size of families. You can imagine how this depressed the population growth for many years and why with a rise in medicine there was an explosion of populations in the cities that the government could not cope with.

Even by 1800 the death rate was significant, 41% still died by the age of six.

Sorry if I depressed anyone to make up for it enjoy this...
See? So cute! Puppies always make bad news seem a little bit better!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Book Review-The Devil to Pay

Liz Carlyle
The Devil To Pay
Historical Romance Novel

In some ways, I didn't want to like this book. Tattoos back then were very painful and I just have a very hard time imagining someone getting a black angel tattoo on their breast of all places. Even worse was how she loved showing it off to people that she had duped like some sort of slutty version of sticking her tongue out at the men. Also the 'hero' was a bit bumbly, the idea of them being in love didn't really mesh well. Then there were other, little things, that I just sort of shook my head at.

But the truth is that I read this book without ever putting it down for more than a few minutes. It was like that TV show that you swear to hate and then find yourself laughing at nearly every scene and grudgingly admit to being hooked and wanting more. The sex scenes were very steamy, to say the least. I'll admit now that I loved reading them. Also I loved that the title was actually used at an important point in the book, it wasn't just something that had been tacked on at the end.

Usually I pick romance stories for the love and romance aspect not for sex scenes and adventure. I want to feel that the two people really deserve their happily ever after and that they are perfect for each other. I can't say that I really found that in this book, but I still enjoyed it none the less.

This is one of those that I must simply call a guilty pleasure and I'll admit that I am excited to read more of what Liz Carlyle has to offer.

4/5

Sunday, January 23, 2011

How I failed Mrs. Manning

Mrs. Manning was my Kindergarten teacher. I still remember her as one of my favorites. She taught me many things like the alphabet, the planets and different methods of counting. We studied Hawaii, teddy bears, outer space, and every color in the rainbow. She taught her students to play well with others and to be polite. Like a good student I absorbed all of this. There was one thing that she could never teach me, no matter how hard she tried. This is where I really failed her.

I can not share.

This is true in so many ways but the most important way for this blog is that I've never been able to share my writing with others. I loved talking about what I was writing and even asking for advice when I encountered certain problems along the way. The real issues with my sharing came when others wanted to read what I had created. Most of my close friends were never allowed this opportunity. The few who did get to read my stories were select teachers and a few friends who had to pry it out of my grasp while I begged to have it back.

Most of this was for selfish reasons. Books we want to read often sound better in our head than when it is discovered on the page. I loved that sometimes my friends' impressions of my books were better than the actual book. In their minds my writing had no typos, no huge editing flaws, and gaps in the story could be filled in as I went. I'm great at creating captivating tales around the campfire and was the designated ghost story creator for sleepover parties. I was born to be an oral story teller but I live in a time of writing. Fears about my own flaws have prevented me from doing what every great author does, share. Perhaps Emily Dickinson would have understood my need to hide this part of my life away from all but a select few.

On Friday night I posted the cover of the first book that I will be releasing to the world. I had a wonderful outpouring of excitement and support from friends and family. All of them were looking for excerpts or blurbs, any little bit that they could get their hands on. They all seemed to think that it would be wonderful.

My first instinct was to go back into hiding again, forever. Why should I crush their expectations by showing them what I actually write? Could I ever live up to the genius that some might expect? Imagine stage fright so crippling that you can't breath. I finally calmed myself by remembering that everyone has their own insecurities to overcome. I wondered how many other writers have hidden or destroyed their works because they didn't have to guts to show it to someone else.

I don't fear having someone tell me that they didn't like it. I was in debate for four years, I can handle criticism and rejection. What I really fear is sharing. It's like a severe phobia that can be laughed at until the moment comes when you are faced with it. Then it is very real and very frightening.

I had so much fun writing Reluctantly in Love and I am looking forward to sharing it with others. If anyone has even a tenth as much fun reading it as I did creating then it will be worth all of the nerves that it takes me to release it.

Mrs. Manning I promise that I will learn to share. One day I may even like doing it.

Book Review-The Greatest Lover In All England

Christina Dodd
The Greatest Lover in All England
A historical romance novel

This was my first taste of Christina Dodd's writing. Somehow I've just never picked up any of her books before. The title, although a bit presumptuous, had me intrigued. I thought about all of the pressures that such a nick name would come with and I wish that the novel had gone in that direction. Instead, without ever explaining why he deserved the title, it was the hero's nickname of sorts. Even the back of the book sounded great; an actress pretending to be a boy so that she could play men's parts in the theater. When she gets caught by the hero she must play the difficult part of his wife, in an arranged marriage.

I've heard it before: don't judge a book by it's cover. I really should have taken that advice. There was no arranged marriage, it was like the blurb writer had read two pages and assumed the rest. There wasn't even a marriage, until the very end of the book and well after they had fallen in love.

For me the characters lacked depth and understanding. I couldn't relate with either one of them. The worst for me was how he had groped her a couple of times and so his hand kept forming itself into the shape of her breast and...ahem. I get what Dodd was trying to show, obsession, I just felt that it was creepy. The side stories were too long, but somewhat amusing.

As far as a fun quick read, this book wasn't that bad. There was fighting, romance, mystery, and a few other themes thrown in. I've heard so many good things about Christina Dodd. Hopefully the next one of her's that I try will live up to the hype.

3/5

Saturday, January 22, 2011

New Book Cover-Reluctantly in Love


I now have a cover and a release date for my debut historical romance novel, Reluctantly in Love. It will be released for electronic download on February 15th, 2011 through amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com. More information and an excerpt with be forthcoming but for now I wanted to share this exciting bit of news.

For the cover, which was designed by the ever talented Deeply Dapper, we decided to try something different than most of the historical romance covers that are out there right now. We wanted to mix up something a bit lighter but still give it a romantic appeal.

What do you think of the new style?

Also I am now on Facebook. You can become a fan here!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Like They Used to...Josephine de Beauharnais


“I awake full of you. Your image and the memory of last night’s intoxicating pleasures has left no rest to my senses.”

Napolean Boneparte was obsessed with the woman he crowned as France's first Empress. Some of his love letters still exist and it is hard not to blush while reading them. They stopped abruptly after word reached him that she was cheating on him with other men, it appears to have broken his heart. Even after their divorce and his marriage to another women, Napoleon could not keep her out of his head. His dying words were “France, the Army, the Head of the Army, Jos├ęphine.”

Josephine was known to be elegant and stylish with a beautiful voice. When looking at her gentle face it is hard to imagine that she ravaged the heart of the man who conquered Europe.

Next Week: The man who might have been King of England.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Movie Review-Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
I was shocked that I didn't love this movie. Everything about it screamed what a classic it would be and the opening number seemed to set it up perfectly, plus I love musicals, Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell. Most of it was delightful in a fun but fluffy sort of way. The main problem is that I think I look for more than fluff in movies lately, especially the ones that are considered to be such classics. I want something timeless or at least touching. Maybe part of the problem was that I didn't care about most of the plot points and what their conclusions would be. I was just along for the ride. So my main complaint was that it didn't engage me to the level that I expected it to. Don't get me wrong, the movie was good, I laughed a bit. The little boy was wonderful. But I don't have any impulse to watch it again. I guess that re-watch value is huge with me.
3/5
A trailer can be found here.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Book Review-One Night in Scotland

Karen Hawkins
One Night In Scotland
A Historical Romance Novel

It seems popular right now to write a take on Beauty and the Beast, this was her version of the classic story. You can find out more about the novel here.

Normally I don't enjoy the intrigue and suspense kind of romance novels, they are really hard to pull off well without the answer being obvious or the spy games becoming silly. What helped this book was that it felt a bit more like a mystery novel with curious bits of too much information and not enough detail to piece it all together. I also loved that she did enough research into Egyptian history that the few facts she did include were correct. My two complaints is that I expected more information to come out about the fire and the Earl's wife, also Mary's maid was simply annoying. As it is a new series, not much of the primary mystery really gets solved. It appears that I will have to stay tuned for what comes next. Overall it was a quick and enjoyable read.

4/5

Friday, January 14, 2011

Like They Used to...

I'm sure that he's charming, but Fabio just doesn't do it for me. Neither does Robert Patterson or even Colin Farrell. In my opinion that old saying is true; they don't make them like they used to.

There is something so romantic about men and women from the past. Think about the wild appeal that James Dean, Humphrey Bogart, Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe still have in our popular culture. Now let's go back even farther. Imagine the grandeur of Cleopatra, stare into the eyes of Mona Lisa, or take in a mosaic of Alexander the Great. Maybe Abraham was hot too and the bible was just a bit too prudish to mention it, I mean he did have two wives after all.

We hear enough about the modern day hotties for me so I'm going to focus on the kind that you don't find anymore. The ones that aren't likely to be on the cover of any magazines, except maybe National Geographic.

To start off this week I've brought back Todd Karns. You may have never heard his name but most of you have seen his handsome baby face with that off kilter smile or at least can recall his famous line at the end of It's a Wonderful Life, “To my big brother George, the richest man in town!"

I love actors like him that were supposed to be little more than a bit character but their charm brings them to the foreground where they can't be ignored. He scores double points when you add in the uniform. No girl can turn down a man like that!


Next Week: The woman who conquered the heart of France's first Emperor.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Movie Review-Bell Book and Candle

Bell Book and Candle

This was my first Kim Novak movie and it will not be my last! It is an old classic from 1958 that I stumbled across today. There is a magical cat, love story, bongo drumbs, and Jack Lemmon; not sure what else I could have asked for. The cast also includes the talented James Stewart and whimsical Elsa Lancaster. It was a very funny show and a bit sexier than I would have expected.

4/5

A trailer for it can be found here.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Good, the Bad, and the Sooty

Most of my writing takes place in England during the nineteenth century and as a historian I can't help but love it when I dive into the research and find something new that I didn't expect. I use a romantic view of the era for my books, you won't find many who want to discuss just how filthy and grimy everything was at that time. Yet there are also amazing things that happened during those hundred short years that changed peoples lives and the future of our world forever. Things were becoming globally distributed, even before Prince Albert's Great Exhibition of 1851 and there were great leaps in technology that almost overnight altered the modern households. When possible I'd like to start sharing what would have been the good, the bad, and the just plain sooty parts of life had I lived during that tumultuous time frame.

The Good:
Today is something I love because it combines history and a bit of romance. You might be so old fashioned as to think that a woman should never propose to a man and that it is only a modern practice followed by a few feminists. Luckily we have the example of Queen Victoria to look back on. Owing to the fact that she was already the Queen of England it was considered proper that she should choose her husband and be in the position of offering him a marriage instead of it being the other way around. It is clear that this somewhat annoyed her future husband as it put him in a weakened position. Prince Albert had to wait around in Germany for several years to see if she would propose even though he had decided that he wanted to marry her. While this custom did not take hold, another from their 1840 wedding did become common place. Queen Victoria is accredited as having started the tradition of wearing white wedding dresses.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Downside of Our Wonderful Snow


My husband and I moved to the New England area last year and had hoped that the weather would be somewhat similar to that which we had enjoyed in Idaho and Montana where we both grew up. There have been some sharp differences, like the increased humidity during summer and the fifth season they refer to as 'Mud Season'. The most disappointing difference that the East brought has been a lack of snow.

While our friends back home bragged of playing in the snow in early November we were living in a barren land. With our fall colors gone and no pretty white stuff to make up for it New England seemed rather dreary.

We were some of the only people excited by the idea of the huge New England storm that passed through around Christmas time. While others were terrified of power outages and bad roads we gloried in the idea of finally getting some snow for our dogs to play in. Our hopes did come true although it was not the two feet that some claimed it would be. A nice safe six inches fell and no power outages occurred.

Since then I think I've learned why some locals hate the snow as it has all turned to ice. The days here are the perfect temperature to only partially melt the snow and then freeze it at night into a hardened layer. I'm used to this in Idaho but only a thin layer and it rarely gets warm enough to melt more than the top half inch. Right now our entire yard is about four inches thick of solid ice due to a freezing rain we had. Our dogs slip and slide when they go out and I've fallen down twice already. If this ice is the price we have to pay to have snow then I might be willing to give up on getting any more of the fluffy white stuff for this year.

How is the weather going in your area? Do you prefer your winters to have the classic snow cover or would a trip to Hawaii suit you just fine instead?

Saturday, January 1, 2011

January Reading

Happy New Year!

There is a fresh stack of new books waiting to be read and new book ideas are filling up my head. This is a very good start towards having a happy New Year!

As mentioned before I would like to start posting a monthly review of classic novels and I ask anyone willing to join in. I've decided to start things off with one of my favorite female author, Jane Austen.

She holds a place in my literary heart because I've never read one of her books without laughing. The fact that I can still enjoy her humor in the modern age is thrilling plus she has a bit of a dry wit and often makes fun of her main characters even as she's writing from their point of view.

I've chosen her famous novel Sense and Sensibility for a few reasons. It gives us a possible view into her personality as some claim that the two characters are based off of her and her sister. I also like that it was the first book that she finished, at age 19, although it then went through heavy rewrites over the next few years. I will also admit that I am a fan of the 1995 movie adaptation staring Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, and more importantly Alan Rickman. For those who can't find time to add the book to their reading list I encourage you to enjoy the film, although it does lose a bit of Austen's humor.

Excerpt from Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility:
"I abhor every common-place phrase by which wit is intended; and 'setting one's cap at a man,' or 'making a conquest,' are the most odious of all....if their construction could ever be deemed clever, time has long ago destroyed all its ingenuity."

Sir John did not much understand this reproof; but he laughed as heartily as if he did, and then replied,-

"Ay, you will make conquests enough, I dare say, one way or other. Poor Brandon? ...he is very well worth setting your cap at...


So tell me what do you know about Austen and her novels? Have you ever read one of her books before or was she one of those that you worried that your English teacher would force you to read?