30 September 2008

Women: Keira, Eliza and Ascot Opening Day

By Evangeline Holland

On the heels of the news that costume drama aficionado Keira Knightley was tapped to star in a remake of the 1965 musical, My Fair Lady, I delved back in history, past Audrey Hepburn, Julie Andrews and Wendy Hiller, to the original 'Liza Doolittle--Mrs Patrick Campbell.

In fact, George Bernard Shaw wrote the play Pygmalion specifically for the celebrated Anglo-Italian actress, with whom he'd become involved in one of his many romantically platonic affairs. Born Beatrice Stella Tanner to a sensitive Italian mother and an adventurous English father who spent most of Stella's childhood attempting to make his fortune in America, Stella--as she was known to her family--was headstrong, passionate and willful, and determined to fight her way out of the dingy impoverishment of her childhood.

A shot-gun marriage to the father of her eldest child, Beo, gave her a first taste of independence, though Patrick Campbell was as ill-fated and poor as her father. They produced another child, Stella, before Pat traveled to South Africa to make his fortune. In his absence, Stella began acting for both an outlet and for money, and by 1888 had become a competent enough actress to make a debut at the Adelphi Theatre in London two years later. With her dark beauty, deep-set eyes and tall, statuesque figure, Stella, who chose to act under the name "Mrs Patrick Campbell" fit the mold of the typical heroine of the "problem play," which characterized the theatre of the 1890s.

The problem play emerged during the 19th century and reached its pinnacle in the last decade of the 19th century, as seen in the witty, urbane plays of Oscar Wilde, and the penetrating realism of Henrik Ibsen. It dealt with social issues through debates between the characters on stage, who typically represent conflicting points of view within a realistic social context. Heroines of problem plays were no longer the typical shrinking violets, many of them adulterous wives, former prostitutes, and disappointed mothers. Mrs Patrick Campbell wowed audiences as Paula Tanqueray, in Pinero's The Second Mrs. Tanqueray, in 1893, and never looked back.

Accordingly, George Bernard Shaw, a fussy, self-educated playwright trapped in a sexless marriage, was bowled over by Stella as well. They engaged in a passionate, teasing correspondence, and Shaw was determined to write a play specifically for her. By the 1910s, Shaw was an established playwright and from this success and his infatuation with Stella, Pygmalion was born. Though written in 1912, the first English production finally opened at His Majesty's Theatre, London on April 11, 1914 and starred Mrs Campbell as Eliza and Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree as Henry Higgins; it was directed by Shaw himself. The play was a rousing success, though Eliza's use of the word "bloody" was shocking, and could have ruined Stella's career.

The story of Pygmalion could have ended here, as Shaw forbade any musical adaptation of his works based on his hatred of the musical adaptation of Arms and the Man (1894), entitled The Chocolate Soldier (1908). It was only after his death in 1950, that the Broadway musical My Fair Lady could be produced, which introduced not only the marvelous Julie Andrews, but gave us an iconic performance from Audrey Hepburn (and Rex Harrison), and the Ascot Gavotte musical sequence, where Cecil Beaton nearly outdid himself with the sumptuous black and white costumes.

29 September 2008

Women: Nancy Wake, The White Mouse

By Anne Whitfield

Nancy Wake is a legendary World War II hero and one I greatly admire.

Her family moved to Australia when Nancy was two. Soon after, her father went back to New Zealand, leaving Nancy's mother to raise her six children. Nancy worked as a nurse until 1932, when an aunt in New Zealand bequeathed her a sum of money which allowed her to fulfill her ambition of travelling to Europe.

Wake lived in Paris working as a journalist, and later married a wealthy French industrialist, Henri Fiocca. In 1933 she went to Vienna to interview Hitler, the leader of Nazi Germany. In Vienna Wake saw Jews chained to huge wheels, being whipped by Nazi troops. She realised the terrible danger Hitler posed and devoted herself to defeating the evil she had seen.

In 1939 when World War II broke out Wake joined the French Resistance, not an official army but a citizen army formed to fight the Nazis. Wake fled France as the Nazis discovered she was helping Jews escape using an old ambulance she had bought. After Wake left France the Nazis tortured and killed her husband, Henri, as he would not betray the activities and whereabouts of his wife.

Wake escaped to London, where she trained as a spy. When she completed her training she parachuted back into France. Her job was to supply the Resistance with weapons, and establish covert communication with bases in England. On one occasion she rode a bicycle 500 kilometres over a period just less than three days, to re-establish a coded wireless communication network which was essential for supplies of weapons.

The Nazis did not suspect she was a Resistance fighter. Wake said, "I volunteered...not because I'm brave...being a woman I was the only one who could do it. When I got back...I couldn't stand up, I couldn't sit down. I couldn't do anything. I just cried."

Wake recalls that as a woman, it was easier for her get through the Nazi checkpoints, and to operate unnoticed by the authorities. Because of this talent for evasion her Nazi pursuers gave her the codename of 'White Mouse', and she was placed on their most wanted list in 1943, two years before the end of the war. Wake went on to lead 7,000 Resistance fighters, and she is reputed to have killed a German soldier in hand-to-hand combat, and to have executed a female German spy.

After the war she received numerous international honours, including the George Medal, the Croix de Guerre, the Medaille de la Resistance, the Chevalier de Legion d'Honneur and the US Medal of Freedom.

As for how she would like to be remembered, she says she hopes to go down in history as the woman who turned down 7,000 sex-starved Frenchmen, and says: "I got away with blue murder and loved every minute of it."

This is an excellent book on Nancy Wake by Peter Fitzsimons, one I've very much enjoyed.

CRADLE THE LIGHT Winner

We have a winner for Vicki Gaia's CRADLE THE LIGHT giveaway:

JEN!

Contact Vicki to give her your info. The book must be claimed by next Sunday or another winner will be drawn. Please stop back later to let us know what you thought of her book! Congratulations!

Weekly Announcements - 29 Sept 08

Sorry about the delay in this weekend's scheduled posts. Family issues means I'm late. Here's the news:

Michelle Styles' newest release, AN IMPULSIVE DEBUTANTE is one of the launch books for Waterstones.com's e-books in the UK, where the Sony e-book reader has just been released. Mills & Boon is now making all of its frontlist available. You can read more here.

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Jacquie Rogers' latest book, DOWN HOME EVER LOVIN' MULE BLUES was released on September 25 from Highland Press.

It Happened in the Idaho Desert

The rodeo clown: Brody wants the thrill of bullfighting and the wind at his feet.
The actuary: Rita doesn't want anything to do with a busted up cowboy--and odds are, Brody will be.
The mule: Socrates understands humans. And love, even if humans don't.
Can Socrates lead Brody to Rita's heart? Will Rita let herself take the biggest risk of all?
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Jean Adams just sold a new contemporary to her publisher, Highland Press. YESTERDAY'S DREAMS is a contemporary set in the Bay of Islands, New Zealand. More details as they arrive!

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If you have an announcement, email Carrie. See you next week...

25 September 2008

Women: Women Behind the Power

By Erastes

1. Cixi: From Concubine to Regent. Born into the Manchu family, at sixteen she was brought to the Forbidden City to join Emperor Xianfeng's harem, a great honour. Her singing brought her the attention of the Emperor whereupon he became infatuated by her and she was soon visiting his chamber on a regular basis. She bore him sons--his only male heirs.

Xianfeng died in 1861 and Cixi's oldest son became the emperor Tongzhi, making her the "empress dowager" and a regent ruler. Cixi relinquished the regency when her son turned 17, but Tongzhi died two years later and Cixi became a regent again, this time for her three-year-old nephew Guangxu.

2. Anne Boleyn: After seeing how her sister had been treated by Henry VIII (pregnant and abandoned) she insisted on marriage when the King's eye fell upon her. Henry courted her for six years and caused the most important schism in the Church as he tore England from Rome and founded the Church of England.

3. Elanor of Aquitaine: Born and raised in the birthplace of courtly love, Elanor married first Louis VII of France (annulled, how shocking!) and then Henry II of England. However, her marriage to him was tempestuous and she revolted against Henry and encouraged her sons to do the same. This brought about her imprisonment for sixteen years. However, after Henry's death she ruled England for most of Richard I's reign while he went crusading.

4. Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, Marquise de Pompadour: Louis XV of France became infatuated with the young, beautiful and married Jeanne-Antoinette and stole her away from her husband, making her a marquise and installing her at Versailles. She had not a small influence on political matters at court, taking part in the negotiations which helped to improve relations between France and Austria.

5. Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire: Subject of a recent film, Georgiana helped campaign for the Whig party and notoriously was supposed to have sold kisses for votes. However luminous Ms Knightley is, it's fairly obvious that Georgiana wasn't a size zero!

5. Joan of Arc: Hardly more than a child, and born into a peasant family, Joan became a French heroine by leading the army of Charles VII against the English and raising their siege of Orleans. Captured by the Burgundians, abandoned by her Dauphin and ransomed by the English, she was put on trial on charges of witchcraft and fraud. She eventually was convicted only of wearing male clothes, an offense against the Church, and was burned at the stake.

6. Catherine de Medici: She married the Duke of Orleans who became Henri II of France. She brought her Italian influence to the French court, such as music, theatre and food. She acted as regent after Henri's death, actively embroiling herself in court intrigues and attempting to strengthen France's power.

7. Melisende: Melisende married Fulk of Anjou and ruled Jerusalem at his side until his death, after which she ruled as Regent for her 13 year-old-son, who eventually rebelled against her and the kingdom was divided between them.

8. Philippa of Hainault: She invented the clothing and coal industries, faced down 12,000 Scots and rallied the troops when her husband was away...
She interceded with her husband (Edward III of England) and persuaded him to spare the lives of the Burghers of Calais who he had planned to execute as an example to the townspeople following his successful siege. She acted as a regent on several occasions when he was on the continent.

9. Catherine the Great: She married Grand Duke Peter, but the marriage was unsuccessful. After her husband became Tzar a bloodless coup deposed him and put her on the throne instead.

10. Margaret of Scandinavia: United three countries in 1387 and ruled them as a union. Worked on tax reform, monetary reform and even after her great-nephew was old enough to rule, they worked as a team, not as rivals.

11. Isabella I of Castile, Queen of Spain: When Isabella married Ferdinand of Aragon in 1469, both she and her husband became joint rulers of the whole of Spain. They governed independently, however, and Isabella initiated a program of reform which reduced the power of her rebellious nobles, streamlined her government, and encouraged scholarship. Intensely religious, she helped establish the Inquisition in Andalusia, which led to the expulsion from Spain of over 170,000 Jews. With Ferdinand, she conquered Granada, the remaining territory of the Moors. Eventually, they too were expelled from Spain.

12. Zoe Palaiologina, second wife of Ivan III of Russia: She was married to the Russian ruler to unite the Russian Orthodox and Catholic churches. Over the years, Sophia started to have great influence in her husband's decision making. It is thought that she was the first to introduce the Kremlin to grand Byzantine ceremonies and meticulous court etiquette.

13. Sophia of Russia: Peter the Great's sister ruled as regent while he and his brother were boys, and then just came out and claimed the throne. Did a damned good job, too. Lowered taxes, improved fire prevention, raised literacy, reorganized the army, granted a number of women's rights.

24 September 2008

Women: Police Matrons

By Eliza Tucker

Responding to demands made by the American Female Reform Society and the Women's Prison Association of New York City, in 1845, the city hired six women to work as "prison matrons." Their job was to look after female and minor inmates on Blackwell's Island and in The Tombs in Manhattan.

It wasn't until 1891 that women were officially inducted into the New York City Police Department. Before this,
...the task of searching female prisoners was performed by male officers, their wives, widows of policemen, or by the maid at the police station. The widows, known as "bedmakers," were paid out of the Policemen's own pockets. Female prisoners were not housed separately from the male prisoners. In addition, men and women (called "casuals") who came to New York City without money were often forced to find shelter at the station houses. In 1887, at various times, up to 42,000 of these homeless women spent at least one night in a station house.
~ New York City Police Department website
In 1891, after a case of a male police officer assaulting a 15-year-old female detainee, a bill passed that required male and female inmates to be housed separately, and for female officers to attend to female prisoners. After passing the civil service test and each garnering 20 recommendations by "women of good standing," four women were sworn into the position. They were assigned only to the second and fourth precincts, received one day off per month, and were paid $1000 a year (approximately $24,6000 in today's currency). Their rate of pay did not increase until 1918.

1892 -- Police Matrons required for every precinct.

1912 -- Police Matron Isabella Goodwin is the first woman to become a First Grade Detective.

1917 -- Police Commissioner Arthur Woods gives special patrolman's badges to two women, which allowed them to make arrests.

1918 -- Police Matron Mary Sullivan is the first woman to make Homicide Detective.

1919 -- Cora I. Parchment is the first African-American woman to join the NYPD.

These women women, along with their fellow works and the women's organizations that fought alongside them, pushed open doors occupationally, but they worked hard to protect the displaced, suffering women in our communities.

23 September 2008

Women: A Ladder of Maids

By Jennifer Linforth

A house was nothing if not crammed with every kind of maid imaginable. Women were essential to the running of a Victorian household and the maid a very important cog. There were your parlormaids, nursemaids, housemaids, chambermaids, scullerymaids, dairymaids, lady's maids...

Let us climb the maid ladder, shall we?

In less affluent households there was the young girl considered the maid-of-all-work. Basically she was all you had if you did not have the money of more affluent households. The washing, cooking, scrubbing, cleaning and milking all fell on her shoulders. They took care of the children and often had no time to do anything beyond sleeping off their exhaustion and starting over again the next morning.

Parlormaids were up a rung and mostly seen in households that wanted status but could not afford the staff for it. Parlormaid did all the work of both male and female servants. Male servants were paid higher wages after all. They did all the work usually set aside for footmen—answering doors, serving dinner and announcing visitors. Since they were in the public eye like a butler would be they were expected to be pretty.

Next is a nursemaid reserved for houses with children. Like a nanny of today they dressed and cared for the younger children and often took them out on walks.

Climbing up, we have your kitchenmaids which comprised of those lighting fires in the stoves and assisting the cooks with preparing meals. Within the realm of the kitchenmaid are your scullerymaids, those who cleaned the pots and did the dirty work. Scullerymaids were truly the lowest respected maids in the household, their hands often worn raw from harsh detergents and rough scrubbing. A country house might also have a dairymaid responsible for all the milking and churning of butter.

The heartbeat of an estate was its housemaid. These are the women who made the house run. The made fires, cleaned chamber pots, hauled fresh water for baths and took away the dirty. They drew the drapes, turned down beds, and polished the floors. Housemaids often were divided into upper and lower maids; the lower maids doing the polishing and scrubbing while the upper maids did the "easier" work.

On the highest rung of the maid ladder was the lady's maid. She was considered an upper servant and did not live under the control of the housekeeper. Her duty was to see to the lady of the house, dressing her, mending for her or reading her stories. Often she received cast off clothing so she could be well dressed also. If at all possible she was French, for the French seemed to have the most respected lady's maids. If not French, English girls would do so long as they were young and personable.

22 September 2008

Women: Great to Live in Ancient Egypt

By Jean Adams

As a woman, if you were to be transported back in time to the ancient world, Egypt was the place to land because Egyptian women fared a lot better than their counterparts in other ancient civilizations.

Women could own property, borrow money, sign contracts, initiate divorce, appear in court as a witness, work outside the home, run businesses, inherit property, and live alone without male protection. In many cases they were idealised by men. While women could become Pharaoh only in very special circumstances, they were otherwise regarded as totally equal to men as far as the law was concerned. Of course, they were also equally subject to whatever responsibilities normally accompanied those rights.

Pharaohs' wives were revered as gods along with their husbands, and even shared their wealth. The queens were important, but few women ever ruled the country. It could happen only for a short time at the end of a dynasty when there were no men to take over.

Hatshepsut was the only strong woman ruler. When her husband died, she took over and ruled for her stepson because he was only five years old. She held power for about 20 years. Hatshepsut was referred to as "His Majesty" despite being a woman. She was depicted as a man, without breasts and wearing the costume of a ruling pharaoh, complete with false beard. When the queen died, her stepson erased her name from monuments and broke all her statues.

Nefertiti is the woman depicted in the famous bust, wearing a crown and necklace rich with jewels. She was the wife of Akhenaten and helped him establish a new city at Ahketaten (Amarna) on the east bank of the River Nile in Middle Egypt. Nefertiti is confused with Nefertari, who was the favorite wife of Ramses the Great around 1275 BC.

Even though women could own property, they did not take part in government business. That was most definitely a man's domain but in temple rituals, priestesses played some part.

Women who were not of the wealthy class dealt with every day living and usually were farmers or worked for others. Lower class women were servants. Their work included:

--Twice a day, fetching water and filling huge clay vessels that stood in the courtyard or by the doorway of every house. They also did most of the weaving, spinning linen thread from flax fibers.

--As farmers, women never handled tools with blades. They winnowed the grain, separating the stalks and seeds, and then they ground the grain for baking. Women helped to make wine and beer, and pressed oil from nuts and plants.

--Women did not wash dirty laundry! It was the job of the men to handle the laundry because it was washed in the Nile and there was a constant threat from crocodiles along the river banks.

--Women were sometimes hired as mourners to lead funeral processions. These women were paid to wail and cover their heads with dust. Behind them walked officials and the family group.

The Egyptians believed that joy and happiness were legitimate goals of life and regarded home and family as the major source of delight. If the marriage ended in divorce, the rights of the wife were equally protected. Generally, she was entitled to support from her husband, especially if she was rejected by him through no fault of her own. The amount might equal one third of the settlement or even more. If the bride ended up committing adultery (which was extremely frowned upon for both men and women), she still had certain rights to maintenance from her former husband.

Monogamy, except for some of the higher classes and royalty, was the rule for most ancient Egyptian couples. Love and emotional support were considered to be important parts of marriage. Some of the love poetry of particularly beautiful. You can actually feel the emotion.

Egyptians loved children as people and not just as potential workers and care-takers. Egyptians usually married within their own social group. Girls became brides when they were about 12, and boys married at about age 14.

Pleats, held in place with stiffening starch, were the main form of decoration, but sometimes a pattern of loose threads was woven into the cloth. Women wore simple, ankle-length sheath dresses with a shawl or cloak for cooler weather.

Women both rich and poor owned jewelry and wore make-up, especially eye paint as protection against infection. The favorite eye shadows were green and made of the powdered mineral, malachite, and black crushed lead ore for kohl.

Women loved perfume and rubbed scented oils into their skin to protect it against the harsh desert winds. Face creams, eye paints and body oils were kept in decorative glass and pottery bottles and jars.

Women paid great attention to their hair. Some colored it with henna and for the most part wore it short because of head infestations. The wealthy wore elaborate wigs made from human hair at ceremonial occasions and banquets.

They wore amulets as personal jewelry that were buried with them for use in the afterlife. Call me biased, but the more I learn this elegant civilization, the more in love with I am.

21 September 2008

PIRATES OF THE MIST Winner!

We have a winner for Tracy L. Ranson's PIRATES OF THE MIST giveaway:

ALANA!

Contact Tracy to give her your contact info. The book must be claimed by next Sunday or another winner will be drawn. Please stop back later to let us know what you thought of her book! Congratulations!

Book Release: LIGHT IN A HOLLOW PLACE

This week's guest is long-time contributor Vicki Gaia, here to discuss the third in her Warring Hearts trilogy, LIGHT IN A HOLLOW PLACE.

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Light in a Hollow Place by Vicki Gaia
LIGHT IN A HOLLOW PLACE is the final book in Vicki Gaia's World War II Trilogy, "Warring Hearts." In a Parisian hospital, Richard Hart fears that his blindness may be permanent, as well as the nightmarish episodes. Faced with his disability and fearing he's losing his grip on his sanity, the last person he wishes to see is his fiancée, Claire O'Neill.

Claire comes to Paris, convinced her love will lead Richard through this, and resolute about starting their life together after the war. But as Richard's episodes grow worse, he pushes Claire further away. When a dashing stranger shows an interest in Claire, she fears the gulf between her and Richard may be too great to overcome. German Ratlines, puzzle boxes, love triangles, and intrigue lead up to the final conclusion of Warring Hearts.
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Tell us what motivated you to write historical fiction.

I've been writing short stories for a couple of years when I decided to attempt a novel-length story. I've always been fascinated with history and enjoyed research. I grew up watching 30s and 40s movies. It seemed like such a romantic time but also a time of harsh realities. I wanted to find out more about World War II and so I sketched out a story based on a woman in her early twenties. The war years would shape her life and her decisions.

From my imagination, Claire O'Neill was born. A woman who grew up without a mother, raised by her famous author father, Jack. A woman who wanted to become an artist. A woman who didn't want to fall in love and get married, afraid it'd stamp out the passion within.

Cradle the Light by Vicki GaiaI had to create a strong counterpart to Claire for her romance interest. A man who was as stubborn and would fight for Claire in his own way. I came up with Richard Hart. An intelligence officer who'd been fighting the war since 1939 in Europe. A man who had mental difficulties from being a prisoner of war but strived to overcome them. A man who needed love but didn't deserve love. A man who had to chose duty over all other emotions if he was to live with himself.

From this story, Cradle the Light, first of the "Warring Hearts" trilogy, took life. The final book came out this summer--Light in a Hollow Place--concluding the story of Claire and Richard, and the end of the war.

You can read excerpts for all of my books at my website.

What did you learn from writing a WWII trilogy?

That I didn't know anything about the war! I didn't realize how ignorant I was until I began reading true accounts from this era. I spent a year reading history books and biographies and trying to infuse my story with the realities of war, not just the sentimental journey. The trick was staying true to keeping it a romance.

Fragments of Light bt Vicki GaiaEach book has the same characters, but each is a stand alone and takes place in a different city. Cradle the Light begins in London during the Blitz and ends in San Francisco at the start of the U.S. entering the war. Fragments of Light is set in New York City during the middle of the war. The subplot touches on the black market of confiscated works of art stolen from the Jews and other 'undesirables' deemed by Hitler's death squads. The final book, Light in a Hollow Place, finds Richard injured and recuperating in a Paris hospital. The story begins after the liberation of Paris. The war is winding down, and 'ratlines' are forming--escape routes for Nazi officers and collaborators who must flee Europe or else face trial. Richard and Claire have a choice, to deepen their love or part ways.

Have you tackled other eras besides the 1940s?

Eliza's Hope by Vicki GaiaBetween writing "Warring Hearts," I'd published Eliza's Hope, a book set in the Edwardian Era in New York City. A very fun book to write! I loved researching Greenwich Village and the bohemians and suffragettes who defied tradition.

Long Strange Trip by Vicki GaiaMy first book published was Long Strange Trip, about a young professor who is about to trip the light fantastic with Rose Red during the Summer of Love in San Francisco. I was born in Northern California, therefore I set many of my stories in San Francisco, a city rich in history.

Now that you finished the final book in your trilogy, what are you working on?

Whew! That book almost did me in. It was very difficult to write and it went through several rewrites before it was completed. My poor critique partner was tearing her hair out as we went through plot change after plot change. Once I handed the final edits to my editor I went into a total writing funk.

I couldn't write a word and didn't want to. I had the summer looming ahead and no stories in the works, no books contracted. My slate was wiped clean but this only made writing more daunting.

Did I even want to write anymore?

After a month went by, I decided to leave behind my pity party! I gave myself permission to take time off and do what I love--travel, read, review manga, have fun with friends and family. I took two fantastic writing classes from Margie Lawson--Deep Editing and Empowering Character Emotions. This jump-started my creative juices and relit the passion for writing. Writing became fun again.

Now that you're back to writing, what's next?

I needed a challenge. Tired of writing straight historical romances, I wanted to try a new genre. I've always loved ancient history and have visited several ancient sites in my travels--Knossos, Pantheon, Roman Forum, Stonehenge, Carnac, Neolithic 'goddess' sites in Malta. I'm drawn to a good mystery, esoteric philosophy and the goddess religion.

It's recommended when you don't know what you want to do with your life, go back to the things that you love. Combining my love for research with my personal interests, I decided to write an Urban Fantasy set in San Francisco. It's about gods and goddesses and angels. What is very different from my other writings is it's written in first person perspective, from the viewpoint of my female antagonist.

While this isn't a historical fiction, it is based on mythology, and my research is as intensive. I have a thick binder sorted by several categories--gods, goddesses, ancient civilizations, mythical creatures. Writing this book has put fun back into my writing life. I don't have it contracted yet, but I hope to by next year.

Unedited excerpt from WIP, In the Shadow of the Goddess, copyright Vicki Gaia 2008:

Across the bay, the Golden Gate's trestles flickered from behind gray mist. A cold picture of orange-red steel illuminated by the full moon and street lamps. Strange were the black mass of ravens clustered around the bridge struts. I pulled at the collar of my thick wool sweater, a deep black mass of fear overwhelming my confidence.

Tendrils of fog rose up the cliffs like clinging ivy. Any moment I'd be shrouded in damp, dreary mist, blotting out the twinkling lights of the city. I prayed this wasn't an omen of things to come. I prayed my courage would be enough. I prayed my secret didn't destroy me.

I prayed but didn't believe.

The overhead branches rustled and the angel stepped out from the shadows. My neck cramped from looking up. Long disheveled hair glittered silver in the moonlight, dusting his shoulders, creating a cobweb of tangles. A face ageless and beautiful, and ravaged by eternity.

"The ravens lining the bridge struts failed to herald your entrance," I said, using my sarcasm to sharpen my wit.

The angel bowed, his arm sweeping in an arch. "Your goddess sends her most trusted servant to meet with me. I'm honored."

"I'm no servant, and you asked for me." I spit out the words through clenched teeth. The angel's terrifying beauty smothered my breath, slowly. "Why did you ask for this meeting?"

"Information, of course."

The angel's insufferable white-toothed smile provoked me. Angels weren't fluffy sweet cherubs strumming their harps in the sky. By nature, they were dangerous and cunning and shrewd.
Any final words?

I have a list of positive affirmations I keep on my desk. It keeps me in the right mind when I begin my day. I've learned this past year, it's the journey that's important, not the destination.

I want to thank all my readers for their support. I love writing a good story and hope to continue in the future.

I have several ways for readers to get in touch with me: my website, MySpace, and blog. If you want to receive my newsletter list, email me and I'll be happy to add you to the list.

Reviews:

"LIGHT IN A HOLLOW PLACE is an emotionally driven story that is loaded with descriptive details of a war-torn France, just barely coming to life again after the war. Exceptional plots and incredible characters weave an exciting tale of one couple who is trying to save their love while still fighting the after effects of the war." -- Wateena, for Coffee Time Romance

"Vicki Gaia does an excellent job guiding readers through this intricate story, introducing us gradually to the large cast of characters. Postwar Paris provides a vivid backdrop, historical details setting the scene yet not detracting from the plot. And what a plot!" -- Kimber, for Fallen Angels

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Thanks for joining us, Vicki! She's giving away an e-book copy of the first in the "Warring Hearts" trilogy, Cradle the Light. Tell us if you find any aspect of the WWII era romantic and why, or just leave a comment or question. A winner will be drawn next Sunday.

20 September 2008

Weekly Announcements - 20 Sept 08

Carol Spradling's COST OF FREEDOM received a great review from Long and Short, and has been nominated for their "Book of the Week." You can read more about COST OF FREEDOM here.

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Elizabeth Lane's upcoming books now have release dates. THE BORROWED BRIDE will be available in November, and her San Francisco earthquake-set romance will be released in April 2009.

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A Question of Improprietyby Michelle StylesMichelle Styles has received a two lovely reviews for her November UK release, A QUESTION OF IMPROPRIETY--one from cataromance and another from the Pink Heart Society.
Michelle Styles is a skilled wordsmith who can make any period of history come gloriously to life and AN IMPULSIVE DEBUTANTE is a testament to her breathtaking storytelling prowess. Sexy, stunning, heartwarming and absorbing from start to finish, Michelle Styles proves once again that she's one of the most refreshing and original voices in historical romance writing today!
You can read an excerpt of A QUESTION OF IMPROPRIETY here.

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Join us tomorrow when long-time contributor Vicki Gaia will discuss LIGHT IN A HOLLOW PLACE, the third book in her WWII trilogy from Awe-Struck.

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We'll also draw the winner of Tracy L. Ranson's PIRATES OF THE MIST. Leave a comment for your shot at winning.

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Have a good weekend. If you have an announcement to make for next week, email Carrie. See you next week...

17 September 2008

Women: The Laxdaela Saga

By Michelle Styles

Much of what we know about the Vikings and their way of life comes from the sagas--stories which celebrate the male warrior culture. However, one saga in particular is devoted to the female and how she shapes history--the Laxdaela Saga.

It is believed to have been written around 1245 by an unknown author. But how much faith can the reader put in the story? And was the author a woman?

It is best known for the complex love story of Gudrun Osvif's-daughter. Gudrun is a spoilt beauty who married against her will to her lover's best friend succumbs to a fit of jealousy and rage and compels her husband to murder her former lover and thereby to forfeit his own life. She eventually ends up a nun but she is considered to be one of the great tragi-romantic heroines of all time.

But a Gudrun Osvif's-daughter existed. there are references to her four husbands in the Book of Settlements. Iceland's first historian, Ari Thorgilsson the Learned was her great grandson, and her daughter apparently lived to a very old age. It is speculated that she might have died a few years before Ari was born and that many of the stories about his great grandmother were handed down. Exactly how forceful the historical Gudrun and exactly who she loved best remains lost in the mists of time.

The early part of the saga is dominated by the matriarch, Unnr the Deep minded and her influence in settling Iceland. Magnus Magnusson points out in his introduction to the Laxdaela Saga that is probable she existed. Too many places names appear to be derived from her and her descendants.

However, it is improbable that the Irish princess who became a concubine and whose son becomes fabulously wealthy actually existed. It appears to be a bit of female wish fulfillment along with the wife who is able to sink a sword into an unfaithful husband and emerge triumphant.

What is striking to the modern reader is the strength of the women characters. These are not meek or mild mannered women. These are women who fight back and who used all the weapons at their disposal including sex to achieve their aims. They are intelligent women who rule and shape events through the forcefulness of their character, rather than the strength of the sword arm.

Ultimately the Laxaedala saga is a classic feud saga but it is unique in that it is told from the strong women's point of view. Women and their concerns dominate this saga in a way that they dominate no other saga.

It is easy to imagine women in the audience cheering as again and again, women are shown to be strong and capable.

Was it written by a woman? We shall never know but it was certainly written with the women in the audience in mind and as such must rank as one of the earliest forms of women's fiction.

16 September 2008

Women: Harris's List of Covent Garden Ladies

By Anita Davison

In Georgian England, for a man about town to enlist the services of a prostitute was an accepted part of life. London in1797 contained a total of 50,000 'Ladies of the Night,' which was around one in ten of the total female population. Covent Garden theatres were built with 'retiring rooms' connected to the boxes in order for the entertainment of clients while they enjoyed an evening out at the theatre. Even the vocabulary used to describe them was colourful.

-- Prostitutes who waited outside theatres for the plays to finish were called 'spells.'
-- Lower class streetwalkers were 'flash mollishers.'
-- Covent Garden Ague was a term for venereal disease.
-- Covent Garden Nun was another name for a prostitute.
-- Covent Garden Abbess was a bawd (madam) most of whom started out as whores themselves.

Between the years of 1757 and 1795, a publication was produced each Christmas entitled Harris's List of Covent Garden Ladies. This book was handwritten to begin with, but soon went into print and sold a quarter of a million copies during the thirty eight years it was produced. The List, priced at two shillings and sixpence, was a catalogue of around eighty up-market prostitutes. It included biographical details of each lady, together with a description of her appearance, personality and her sexual specialties, together with their charges.

Jack Got Safe into Port with His Prize
The name "Harris' referred to a Jack Harris, the head waiter at the Shakespeare's Head, a Covent Garden tavern frequented by sea captains and the directors of the East India Company. Harris christened himself the "Pimp General of All England," but in 1757, he was in Newgate prison for debt. He gave an impoverished, heavy drinking Irish poet by the name of Samuel Derrick, permission to use his name for the book.

A 'common whore' could be purchased in London for a shilling, perhaps two or three shillings to enjoy her company in a bedroom in a local tavern or lodging house. The average wage at the time was around a pound a week, and two pounds was a fairly large sum of money. With some of the ladies on Harris's Lists charging a guinea a time, the lists represented the top end of the market.

Jack Oakham Throwing Out a Signal for an Engagement
An account of one young woman from the 1773 edition reads:
Miss M__tague is a well-shaped girl, about twenty-three, good-natured and said to be thoroughly experienced in the whole art and mysterie of Venus's tactics and as soon reduce a perpendicular to less than the curve of a parabola. She is rather generous and you may sometimes find your way in there free of expence.
From the 1780 edition, the entry for a Miss B____rn. of No. l8 Old Compton Street, Soho:
This accomplished nymph has just attained her eighteenth year, and fraught with every perfection, enters a volunteer in the field of Venus. She plays on the pianofort, sings, dances, and is mistress of every Maneuver in the amorous contest that can enhance the coming pleasure; is of the middle stature, fine auburn hair, dark eyes and very inviting countenance, which ever seems to beam delight and love. In bed she is all the heart can wish, or eyes admires every limb is symmetry, every action under cover truly amorous; her price two pounds.
The list also alerted its readers to those women who were best avoided, a Pol Forestor was reported as having "breath worse than a Welch bagpipe" and warned against the "contaminated carcase" of a certain Miss Young from the Turk's Head Bagnio. And warning them off Miss Robinson, at the Jelly Shops, "a slim and genteel made girl--but rather too flat."

A review of one resident of Drury Lane reads, "Very impudent and very ugly; chiefly a dealer with old fellows. It is reported that she uses more birch rods in a week than Westminster school in a twelvemonth."

And another:
Known in this quarter for her immense sized breasts, which she alternately makes use of with the rest of her parts, to indulge those who are particularly fond of a certain amusement. She is what you may call, at all; backwards and forwards, all are equal to her, posteriors not excepted, nay indeed, by her own account she has most pleasure in the latter. Very fit for a foreign Macaroni - entrance at the front door tolerably reasonable, but nothing less than two pound for the back way.
A Mrs. Crosby of 24 George Street, for example, "being particularly attached to the sons of Neptune," (sailors) had married an elderly sea captain. When he died he left her a small annuity. This was enough to keep her off the streets, but not enough to live on--so she worked as a part-time prostitute. Harris's List says, "Mrs. Crosby could be contacted at home during the day or in the theatre at night. She has dark hair flowing in ringlets down her back, languishing grey eyes and a tolerable complexion." She charged one guinea (£1.05).

Men of War Bound for the Port of Pleasure
Of a Mrs. Grafton of Wapping, her "...best customers are sea officers, who she particularly liked, as they do not stay long at home, and always return fraught with love and presents." At 40 years old, the lady "...could give more pleasure than a dozen girls half her age. Her price was 5 shillings (25p). Most naval officers could afford that, as a day's pay for most captains in this period was about 20 shillings (£1.00).

Harris often used nautical terminology when describing the charms of the women. Miss Devonshire of Queen Ann Street had "...fair complexion, cerulean eyes and fine teeth," and "...many a man of war hath been her willing prisoner, and paid a proper ransom…she is so brave, that she is ever ready for an engagement, cares not how soon she comes to close quarters, and loves to fight yard arm and yard arm, and be briskly boarded."

The mood turned against such 'immorality' when a Mr. Aitken was convicted at the Kings Bench for the offence of publishing Harris's List in November 1795, which hereafter went out of print.

A copy of the 1790 edition was sold for £5,170 at auction in March 2008.

15 September 2008

Women: Romany Wedding Ceremony

By Lisa Marie Wilkinson

In any culture, one of the highlights in a woman's life is her wedding day. The rites and rituals associated with the wedding ceremony across different cultures and across time make fascinating study. The Romany people (aka "Gypsies") prize purity in the bride and even attach a "bride price" to the negotiation between the families of the prospective bride and groom. Similar to a dowry in other cultures, the bride price is paid by the family of the groom to the family of the bride as compensation for the loss of their daughter.

The wedding ceremony, called the abiav, is rich in symbolism but devoid of religious significance, and is as varied as there are different Roma tribes. The ceremony is followed by feasting and celebration, at the conclusion of which the bride leaves the home she has always known and becomes part of her new husband's family and tribe.

The following excerpt from STOLEN PROMISE (Medallion Press, March 2010) features a description of a Romany wedding ceremony circa 1800, based upon historical research. (Please note that in this excerpt, Evan has been coerced into the marriage and, as a result, he is not the typical besotted groom usually found under these circumstances).

Their wedding day was warm, with a freshening breeze. A meadow near the camp provided an idyllic setting for the ceremony. A placid stream gurgled beneath large shade trees under a sky so blue and bright it seemed to mock her. She could hear a dog whining in the distance, and the laughter of children. The aroma of spices and roasting rabbits drifted on the air. For most in camp, the worst day of her life was an ordinary day like any other.

Jade stood swathed in a satin dress the color of fresh blood, a gossamer scarf of scarlet shot with gold threads wound around her throat. As a Roma woman, her wedding was the rare occasion where she would wear red. The color was usually considered unlucky. How more unlucky could she be? She was about to be married to a man who despised her and planned to abandon her at the first chance. Even worse, she had fallen in love with him.

She felt Evan's stiff-backed presence beside her as they stood together before her father. She did not have the heart to look directly at Evan. She felt numb and hollow, as if the ceremony about to take place signified grief and despair rather than joyous union. She should have broken with tradition and worn white, the color reserved for mourning.

Jade raised her chin. If Evan could stand beside her and endure this torture, she could, too. Her friend Starlina drifted to stand to her right while Liberina took her place beside Evan. Starlina held a silken white cord and a gleaming knife with an ornate handle. Liberina clutched a bundle of twigs from seven different types of trees in her hand. After selecting a weather scrubbed, gnarled branch from the bunch, Liberina handed it to Milosh.

"I will now tell you the meaning of the marriage bond," he said. He snapped the twig and tossed it into the wind, his face somber. Liberina chose another branch and placed it in his hand.

"You must not break this pledge," Milosh said. "It must live on between you and be buried with you." He broke the second branch and scattered the fragments.

She blocked out the drone of her father's voice and the significance of the words as he continued to speak and snap branches. The words meant nothing to Evan, who had called the ceremony 'heathen.' At this very moment he was probably dismissing the ritual as a savage, primitive rite and planning his escape.

Jade was escorted to a wagon painted bright yellow with white trim. She found a basket containing a small loaf of bread, a bag of coarse sea salt, and the bucket of water she had filled from the stream earlier that morning.

Returning with the items, she placed the basket and bucket at Evan's feet. Milosh quietly coached Evan, who withdraw a small tin cup from his pocket and filled it from the contents of Jade's bucket. They had reached the moment when they would drink from the same cup as man and wife, for only this one time in their lives.

Jade turned to face Evan. He was scrubbed, groomed and handsome in borrowed black trousers and a dark gray shirt whose sleeves were decorated with hand sewn ribbons of blue and silver. His hair was gathered at the nape with a strip of leather.

He sipped from the small vessel and held it out to her, his jaw rigid. She lifted her eyes to his and nearly dropped the cup as she took it from him. The gaze resting on her was cold steel. The planes of his face were hollow with displeasure. She closed her eyes as she choked down a gulp of the tepid water, opening them again when Milosh murmured his next instruction.

Evan snatched the cup from Jade's unsteady hand and ground it beneath his boot. Jade looked down at the bright bit of metal lodged in the soft brown earth, feeling as if her heart had been crushed beneath the brown leather.

"Abiav," Milosh said solemnly.

The mingling of the blood.

Jade glanced at Evan. A flicker of emotion passed over his face and was quickly suppressed. She guarded her own expression. He would interpret even a small smile as proof of her guilt. She was a bride with no reason to smile on her wedding day.

Evan turned his attention to Milosh. Without being told to, he extended his right arm palm up as Starlina placed the knife in Milosh's hand. Milosh made a shallow cut on Evan’s exposed wrist using the long ceremonial blade. Jade stared dully at the thin red line of blood. Milosh took her wrist in his hand and made a similar cut. It stung, and she felt faint as Milosh grasped Evan’s arm and joined Evan's wound to her own, causing their blood to mingle.

Starlina handed the silk cord to Milosh. He took Jade's wrist and bound it to Evan's with the soft white cord, wrapping the length around their joined wrists. He sealed the bond with three knots.

"One knot is for constancy, one is for fertility, and one is for long life," Milosh intoned as he secured the final knot.

With their wrists bound together, they were forced to stand close to each other. Jade could feel the thrum of Evan's pulse beating against her own, and the power of the well-muscled arm pressing against her. She inhaled his familiar tobacco and bay rum scent, recalling what it felt like to be held in his arms. She leaned into him, heat fanning from her core in a molten flare. He leveled an icy stare at her, stiffened, and pulled away.

A muscle twitched in Evan's cheek as Milosh slowly untied the cord binding them. Once free, Evan quickly separated himself from Jade. Milosh retrieved the loaf of bread from the basket, broke the small loaf of bread in half and gave them each a portion to eat. Jade choked on the dry bread, while Evan displayed even, white teeth as he chewed viciously.

Milosh broke the remainder of the loaf over their heads, scattering the pieces on the ground. He returned to the basket to fetch the bag of sea salt, and instructed them to each take a handful of the salt and toss it over their left shoulders. Evan gathered the salt in both hands and flung it over each shoulder, answering Milosh's censorial glower with a defiant smile. Starlina cut the silk cord stained with rusty ribbons of their blood into two pieces and handed the cords to Milosh.

"The threads must be kept for two years," Milosh told them as he handed a section of the cord to each. "After that time, if you wish to divorce, you must present the cord."

"But only the elder who performed the marriage is eligible to dissolve it," Evan observed in an arch tone.

"So you do know our customs," Milosh said, laughter rumbling in his massive chest.

Evan lifted his hand as if to fling the cord to the ground. Instead, he stopped and handed it to Jade. "I will have no need of it," he said.

Now married as securely as any Roma couple, Evan and Jade were allowed to freely roam the encampment. Liberina kissed Jade and offered shy congratulations to Evan before disappearing in the direction of her father’s wagon. Dimitri pointedly ignored the newlyweds, but was seen trudging toward the far end of the encampment dragging a barrel of beer as consolation.

A feast had been prepared in their honor. Fires blazed from newly dug pits, and jugs of beer and brandy were scattered throughout the camp. The aromas of roasting pig, rabbit, and hedgehog mingled with boiled cabbage and potatoes seasoned with garlic and rosemary. Despite the unusual circumstances surrounding their union, those in camp treated them like any other newly married couple, bestowing token cash gifts upon them, along with the traditional blessing:

"From me, a little money, but may God give you plenty."

14 September 2008

BEATS A WILD HEART Winner!

We have a winner for Jean Adams' BEATS A WILD HEART giveaway:

CINDI!

Contact Jean to give her your contact info. The book must be claimed by next Sunday or another winner will be drawn. Please stop back later to let us know what you thought of her book! Congratulations!

Guest Blogger: Tracy L. Ranson

Good Sunday to you! This week we welcome Tracy L. Ranson to celebrate the release of her novel PIRATES OF THE MIST, available now from BookStrand Publishing.

***

Pirates of the Mist by Tracy L. Ranson
Old legends told a tale of a pirate curse placed on the town of Mystic Harbor, death to anyone on the beach the night of the anniversary of the pirate Tristan Hamilton's death. The fog, thick and white, rolls in from the sea at midnight. Michaela tries to outrun it, but it was too quick for her. When she awakens, she finds more than she bargained for aboard Tristan Hamilton's ship.

Tristan Hamilton, a legendary pirate, doesn't know what to make of the strange lass aboard his ship. Where did she come from?

Through dangerous waters and pirates, Tristan and Michaela form a deep and passionate love that would stand the test of time. Looming over them, besides the dangers that threaten their love, is Michaela's knowledge of his history and future. Will she let history take its course or alter it and risk a possible paradox in her own time?
***

What inspires you to write?


Everything inspires me to write. The feeling of being alive is what prompts me to pour my feelings and thoughts into a book.

Where do you come up with your stories?

Sometimes, I come up with the title first or perhaps a bit of the plot then I construct the entire story around that particular tidbit. It's a process that takes time.

What was your favorite novel to write and why?

I will have to say Pirates of the Mist was my favorite. I got the idea many years ago after seeing the movie, The Fog. I swore to myself then (keep in mind, I was about ten years old) that if I ever got good enough to write a book, I'd use this plot. So I did.

What is a typical day like for you?

My day typically starts at around 6 am. I get myself ready and take care of all the pets. Then it's off to my dreaded day job. When I get home, I try to fix a bit of dinner then I settle down to writing.

What are your favorite hobbies?

Knitting, painting, sewing, cross stitch, needlepoint, crocheting, and just about anything else I can lay my mitts on.

How do you unwind and relax?

Knitting is my favorite passion right now. After I get done writing, I'll sit and watch a bit of TV and knit like an insane person.

Excerpt:

The Caribbean, 1720

"'Ere, now what do we have?"

The cockney voice pierced her dreams, bringing her back to reality. Michaela opened her eyes, blinking hard. The first thing she saw was a length of scarred wooden planking underneath her cheek. Where was she?

Michaela turned her head to see the bright sun shining against the pale azure of the cloudless sky. Distantly, she heard the sound of water splashing against wood as the vessel rocked beneath her. What sort of dream was this?

She looked to her left and felt real terror surged through her. She was on some sort of old-fashioned ship outfitted with sails and rigging. Men, in various stages of dress, stood staring at her from the mid deck with lecherous eyes. What in the hell was going on? She scrambled to the safest corner of the quarterdeck. If there was ever a time to wake up, it was now!

"'Ere, now love, there's a no bein shy," said an older man, his frizzy gray hair flying out all around his head. "We ain gonna hurt ye."

"This is all a dream," she whispered quietly to herself, willing the dream to go away. "I've got to wake up."

"Ye are awake, my lady." Her captor entered her haven of the quarterdeck with his wicked looking cutlass drawn and pointed at her chest. "Now, tell us how you got on our ship."

"This is a dream." Splinters of the wooden side dug into the flesh of her back as she pushed herself harder against the side. "I'm going to wake up any time now."

"The only thing you gonna do is see the captain, missy," the old man snapped. "If'n he's in a good mood, he may not make ye walk the plank."

"Who is your captain?" she asked, trying to go along with the dream. Maybe, just maybe, it might help her to wake up.

"That would be me," issued a male voice from behind the old man. She heard his bootheels hit the quarterdeck and walked around her captor. Fear nipped at her very bones. What sort of man was their captain?

A throng of bodies parted and allowed him to come into full view. She held her breath as her heart thumped hard in her chest. "You're Captain Tristan Hamilton." She swallowed the lump growing in her throat and looked away. "Now I know this is a dream."

"Who are you and how did you get on my ship?" he boomed, his hands going to his linen breech clad hips.

She couldn't think for a minute because he was too utterly handsome for his own good. Auburn hair, streaked golden by the sun, was long and held back by a brown leather thong. Loose fitting linen wrapped around his muscular upper torso, vaguely reminding her of the pirates on some of the romance novels she'd read.

Her gaze dropped lower. His breeches, snug enough to outline his powerful thighs, tapered down into his black boots rising over his knees.

"You still haven't answered my question, woman," he demanded as his stare swept over her. "What are you doing on my ship dressed so strangely?"

"This is just a dream," she answered. "You were born out of my fantasy."

Captain Hamilton continued to stare at her, his dark eyes conveying his rage. "This is no dream. You are aboard my ship, uninvited." He stormed toward her and grabbed her wrist, dragging her to her feet. "Who brought you here?"

"I don't know what you're talking about," she snapped, wrenching her wrist free of his grip. "You're in my dream so back off, buster."

A look of stunned surprise crossed his face. "How dare you speak to me in such a manner!" He towered over her with his handsome face twisted into a menacing scowl. "I should throw you overboard."

She crossed her arms in front of her. No dream figment was going to intimidate her. "Go ahead, you weasel. I'm not frightened of you."

Hushed gasps echoed through the crowd as his face turned to dark mask of fury. "So you are not afraid," he said in a low, sharp tone. "Let me see if I can make you afraid."

Reviews:

5 Stars: "I was enthralled from page one and finished Pirates of the Mist in one sitting." --Debra Gaynor, Review Your Book

5 Stars: "...a rollicking joy ride of a story, filled with action, deception, sea battles, love, lust, a hot hero, feisty heroine, and did I mention sex? --Susiq2, Ecataromance

Reviewer Top Pick/4.75 Hearts: "The author crosses the t's and dots the i's awarding us with an intelligent and intriguing time-travel novel." --Dee, Night Owl Romance

4 Angels: "Pirates of the Mist is a terrific time travel story that romance readers will enjoy!" --Susan T, Fallen Angel Reviews

4 Hearts: "A stimulating battle of wills where it is hard to tell if they are going to fight or make love and where many times these encounters end in a combination of the two. For adventure and romance, Pirates of the Mist is a story sure to thrill its readers." --Anita, The Romance Studio

***

Thanks, Tracy!

Would you like the chance to win a copy of Pirates of the Mist? Of course you would! Just drop us a comment, maybe telling us what appeals to you about pirate stories--the men, the adventure, the new lands? A winner will be drawn next Sunday. Good luck!

13 September 2008

Weekly Announcements - 13 Sept 08

Carrie Lofty will be teaching a workshop in February for the STAR chapter of RWA. Titled "Beyond Research: Fact and Fiction for the Historical Romance Author," Carrie--a recovering historian--will discuss the importance of integrating historical research that reinforces point of view and creates the most compelling story. The workshop runs from Feb 2-27, 2009 and will be $20. Sign-up begins soon, with details posted here when available. For more information about STAR's workshops, visit their website.

***

A Question of Improprietyby Michelle StylesMichelle Styles has received the cover for her November UK release, A QUESTION OF IMPROPRIETY. Here's the blurb:

Diana Clare has had enough of London--the balls, the rakes you can never trust... Now, having returned home in disgrace, she is trying to forget what drove her from the ton.

But rake and gambler Brett Farnham, Earl of Coltonby, seems intent on making Diana remember exactly what it was like to be whirled around the ballroom and seduced by the glint in your partner's eye...

But Brett has 'mistress' rather than 'marriage' in mind, and Diana is not sure her reputation can stand up to another scandal...
You can read an excerpt of A QUESTION OF IMPROPRIETY here.

***

Join us tomorrow when guest author Tracy L. Ronson will discuss her high-seas adventure romance, PIRATES OF THE MIST.

***

We'll also draw the winner of Jean Adams' BEATS A WILD HEART. Leave a comment for your shot at winning.

***

Have a good weekend. If you have an announcement to make for next week, email Carrie. See you next week...

11 September 2008

Women: The Historical Romance Heroine

By Anna C. Bowling

1. Ringside seats at historical events.
2. Comes with great wardrobe.
3. Endless career opportunities, from scullery maid to queen. Possibly both in same lifetime.
4. If in a series, potential for second career as wise matriarch to sisters, daughters and granddaughters to come.
5. If in a standalone, knowledge that you truly are the most amazing woman in the entire world.
6. Resourcefulness--whether finding creative solutions to relatives' debts, defending a castle or thwarting enemy spies, you'll carry it off with aplomb.
7. Potential for being oneself carried off with aplomb by alpha hero.
8. Potential for carrying off alpha hero.
9. Better than average health thanks to or in spite of state of the art medical care of your era.
10.Never at a loss for words, since your dialogue is provided by some of the best minds in the business.
11. Resiliency--kidnapped by pirates? Enduring the Depression? Caught in the middle of an uprising? Down with what looks like the Plague? Don't worry; you'll bounce back.
12. A hero worthy of you.
13. Guaranteed happily ever after.

10 September 2008

Women: Margaret Kemble Gage

Carol A. Spradling

A rebellious community threatens tradition, safety, and his country. British general Thomas Gage is determined to carry out orders to bring the American colonies back in line with support to the crown. His training and reputation are above reproach. He knows how to lead thousands of men, strategize intricate military maneuvers, and make examples of traitors. But when spy tactics are suspected in the most unforgivable of places, can he honor the vows he has taken, one to his country and another to his wife?

In April, 1775, Sam Adams received word from a daughter of liberty informing him of an upcoming British march. The unequally yoked woman, who supported the Colonists though her husband did not, revealed the number of British soldiers being sent to Concord. This cryptic information made Adams aware that the objects of the march were the merchants and not himself and Hancock.

It was also rumored that the same woman warned Joseph Warren that her husband's troops planned to raid armories at Lexington and Concord. This information led to Paul Revere's famous Midnight Ride.

The warning was sent days before soldiers and Patriots departed Boston. Because of this coincidence, British General Thomas Gage was called into question where he revealed he had told only one other person about the Concord march before revealing it to top officers. That one person was his American born wife, Margaret Kemble Gage.

Granddaughter of New York City Mayor, Stephanus Van Cortlandt and daughter of Peter Kemble, a successful businessman and politician, Margaret and Thomas were wed on December 8, 1758.

Though never proven guilty of spying, General Gage sent his wife home to England at the start of the war. Questionably done out of love and concern for her safety, he removed her from danger. Of course, if found to be true, her traitorous acts would cause his possible embarrassment and ruin his career, not to mention, it wouldn't bode well for her continued good health.

After the war, General and Mrs. Gage remained married. Their first son became Viscount Gage and a daughter married British Admiral Charles Ogle. In honor of her dedication to her country, Gage Road in East Brunswick, New Jersey, the town of her birth, is named for this courageous woman.

09 September 2008

Women: Dead Maidens Floating Down to Camelot

By Sandra Schwab

By this time the report of the accident had spread among the workmen and boatmen about the Cobb, and many were collected near them, to be useful if wanted, at any rate, to enjoy the sight of a dead young lady, nay, two dead young ladies, for it proved twice as fine as the first report.
~ Jane Austen, PERSUASION
Nineteenth-century ideology divided the world into two different spheres: the public sphere and the domestic sphere. The public sphere (work, politics, money) was the realm of man, who was thought to have greater reason and thus greater intellectual capacities. The domestic sphere (the household, raising the children), by contrast, was the realm of woman, who was considered to be more emotional than man and to be unable to withstand the cruelties of the big, bad world outside. All in all, men were supposed to be active, women passive. The model woman was the so-called Angel in the House, a term which derived from a poem by Coventry Patmore, who described ideal female behaviour this way:

Man must be pleased; but him to please
Is woman's pleasure; down the gulf
Of his condoled necessities
She casts her best, she flings herself.
Because women were considered to be angels, they had to look frail and ethereal and had to faint a lot; many drank vinegar to gain an interesting pallor. In ideological terms, the most ideal, because the most passive, woman is a dead woman, and depictions of dead or dying women abounded in the nineteenth century. Indeed, the topic was popular and widespread that it threatened to become a cliché.

Illness, especially consumption, was idealized and regarded as a gentle fading away into death – a most suitable end for innocent, young girls such as Jane Eyre's friend Helen.

Love could also prove fatal for those poor fictional women: in Tennyson's "Lancelot and Elaine" the heroine dies of unrequited love (because Lancelot, the cad, is in love with the queen), but before that happens she composes the Song of Love and Death:
I fain would follow love, if that could be;
I needs must follow death, who calls for me;
Call and I follow, I follow! let me die.
Furthermore, artists and writers used death as a means to subdue the unruly woman and an overly developed, and hence threatening, female sexuality. (Remember, women were supposed to be angels--and pure angels don't know anything about lust or passion!) One of the most popular dead women of the Victorian Age was Tennyson's Lady of Shalott, who sits in her tower, looking into her magic mirror and weaving night and day, until Lancelot comes riding along. When she dares to look out of the window, a curse strikes the lady and her mirror and web, the basis of her existence, are destroyed. She leaves the tower, takes a boat (which she conveniently finds on the banks of the river) and, floating down to Camelot, she dies. One of the most famous paintings on the topic is Waterhouse's Lady of Shalott:

Other artists such as William Holman Hunt chose to depict the Lady's digression, namely the looking out of the window. Given the sexualised imagery in the description of Lancelot, this moment can well be regarded as a sexual awakening (for which she is punished by death). Therefore, Hunt's Lady is a sexual creature, with naked (gasp!) feet and loose, wild hair (Victorian women only took their hair down in the bedroom), who gets entangled in her unravelling web while pigeons, symbols of innocence, fly out of the window.

Being a nineteenth-century heroine was certainly fraud with dangers!

08 September 2008

Women: Wartime Flyers

By Carrie Lofty

During WWII, as the majority of fit fighting men in the Allied countries joined the armed forces, women took an increasingly prominent role in occupations previously tended by their male counterparts. We've all seen posters of Rosie the Riveter and heard stories of women working in assembly plants and as code breakers. Actress and mathematics prodigy Hedy Lamarr even developed a type of airwave frequency transmission in 1941, one so advance that the US Army couldn't make use of it until engagements in Cuba in the early 1960s.

Another way women helped was by flying airplanes. The Air Transport Auxiliary in the UK employed men who were missing limbs, missing eyes, or perhaps a little over the hill--but who were still able to ferry repaired, new, and reserve aircraft to where they were needed all over the UK, and then into Allied territory on the mainland. Eventually, as ATA pilots began to transport troops and provide field ambulance flights, even these men did not meet demand. The ATA quickly opened their rolls to women.

ATA pilot wingsOne in eight ATA pilots were women, and 15 lost their lives during the war. The ATA became the first organization within the British government to authorize equal pay for equal work, and thereby attracted women from around the world to participate. Pilots began with single-engine aircraft and worked their way up to larger, more difficult planes, including massive four-engine bombers. The only planes women were not permitted to fly was the flying boat. Together with the men, they delivered over 300,000 aircraft to their destinations.

Fifinella the GremlinIn the US, a similar civilian ferrying system was established in 1942, called the Women Airforce Service Pilots, or WASPs. Roald Dahl and Walt Disney conceived of their mascot, Fifinella the Gremlin, which eventually became their official shoulder patch.

But the WASPs' management was considerably less organized than the ATA. From Wikipedia, regarding conditions where WASPs trained outside Houston: "[They] had minimal medical care, no life insurance, no crash truck, no fire truck, a loaned ambulance from Ellington, insufficient administrative staff, and were trained with a hodgepodge of aircraft--23 types." In addition, they received as little as 35% of the pay civilian men received for the same operations, yet over 50% of aircraft ferrying in the USA was handled by the WASPs. Eventually, their duties were expanded to more dangerous roles, such as towing targets for aerial gunnery practice, simulated strafing, and running check of repaired planes. Some women went on to become flight instructors.

Four WASPs training to fly B-17 Flying Fortress bombers
A bill introduced into the US House of Representatives to provide WASPs with the same military benefits as their male colleagues was defeated when male pilots protested--some because they'd rather stay in the US for ferrying work rather than be sent to the Pacific, where the war showed few signs of slowing. Thus instead of receiving their due, after delivering 12,650 aircraft, the WASPs were disbanded in December of 1944. Although 38 WASPs died in service to their country, records of the entire organization were sealed for 35 years, and it wasn't until the Carter Administration that they were awarded full military benefits and honors.

Marina RaskovaSoviets were the only women in the war to became combat pilots. In 1941, Stalin ordered that all women without children who were not already employed in the war effort should join the military. Three all-women pilot units--fighters, bombers, and night bombers--were organized, although many women flew with male regiments. Valentina Grizodubova became commander of a 300-man long range bomber squadron, and when Marina Raskova (right), who organized the female fighter regiments, was shot down and killed in 1943, the Soviets held their first state funeral of the war.