Friday, February 19, 2010

Review: The Foundling by Georgette Heyer


The set up: It's hard being Gilly. Everyday well meaning servants and family members dress him, feed him, advise him, watch over him and insure that no harm comes to the "little" duke. And while the Most Noble Adolphus Sillespie Vernon Ware, Duke of Sale and Marquis of Ormesby; Earl of Sale; Baron Ware of Thame; Baron Ware of Stoven; and Bare Ware of Rufford is thankful that his uncle saved him from certain death after the death of his own parents and raised him as his own son, just once, he'd like to do something he'd like to do. Being the Duke of this and that feels more like a prison than a pleasure and when he is forced into an engagement with the kind and honorable Lady Harriet, he feels more trapped than ever.
The Opportunity: However, life for his lesser known cousins is not so privileged and when Gilly learns of a plot to blackmail his youngest cousin, Matt, he sees this as his one and only opportunity to travel out into the world, without his safety net of wealth and connection, in order to set things right. He is determined to be a hero. What he finds is that riding coaches is more glamourous in theory, as are most hotels and highwaymen. Beautiful young women aren't always desirable and life takes more thinking on your feet than he'd ever imagined. After a series of laugh out loud moments, Gilly learns that life as a Duke does have its advantages and that little Harriet who he felt rather ambivalent about might be the greatest gift of his life. Most importantly, Gilly finally has the chance to be a man and rises to the ocassion masterfully.
I give this book 5 stars. I LOVED it. I read it in one night and there were moments where I truly did laugh out loud. The dialogue was not so slow and archaic as in other Heyer novels and the plot twists, genuinely applaudable. I enjoyed every minute . The well drawn characters and the sense of adventure felt so much like David Copperfield (my favorite book of all time) without the tragedy. Finally, I love books in which the hero and heroine find themselves recognizing the other not at first, but at last, when they get a chance to appreciate just who they have in the other. Heyer does that here in spades. Fabulous, fabulous, fabulous!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

CONGRATS TO ELIZABETH FOR WINNING THE GIVEAWAY!!!!!

Congrats Elizabeth for winning My Fair Godmother!! This book is seriously sigh-worthy and I know you'll love!!!! Thanks to everyone for entering! There's still time to enter the giveaway for Confession of a Jane Austen Addict!!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sunday Scribblings -- Writing the Mythic Hero



Ok. So, one of the best things I took away from the Writer's conference were contained in a book called: The Writer's Journey Mythic Structrue for Writers by Christopher Vogler.


Now, not many of us are writing mythic hero books or screenplays. Ancient Babylon is not ususally a dream scenario. However, what most of us don't realize is that we ARE writing a mythic hero or, even more shocking, that if we aren't writing it, we should be.


WHAT?


It's true. This is the mythic hero outline. Attention all writers! Apply this to your plot and see if this doesn't fit your character/plot arc one way or the other.


#1.) Hero introduced in the ordinary world


#2.) They receive the call to adventure


#3.) They initially Refuse the Call


#4.) They are encouraged by a Mentor to


#5.) Cross the first threshold and enter the special world


#6.) they encounter Tests, Allies and Enemies


#7.) They approach the inmost cave, crossing the second threshold


#8.) They endure the ordeal


#9.) They take possession of their Reward


#10.) They are pusued on the Road Back to the ordinary world


#11.) They cross the third threshold, experience resurrection and are transformed by the experience


#12.) They Return with the Elixir, a boon or treasure to benefit the ordinary world.


I couldn't believe how much URGENCY this model lent to the transitions in my story. I had a call to adventure but hadn't realized it was a call to adventure. Once I rewrote the scene, conscious of this purpose, BAM! Urgency.


We're all writing mythic heroes.


Or we should be.




Thursday, February 11, 2010

Elizabeth Barrett Browning -- The Love Story

When you're single in your 30's, everyone wants to know why. So do you. And everyone wants to know how the heck you're going to meet him when you've missed the school, church, young people single niche. And when they panic for me, I always say Elizabeth. Barrett. Browning.

And in the spirit of Valentines and Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, Elizabeth Barrett Browning's wildly romantic story must be shared because, like Juliet Ashton, Elizabeth Barrett's love story began with a letter from a stranger.

The Sickly Young Woman Not Allowed to Marry
She became sickly in her early years with nobody knows what. With 12 children in the family, Elizabeth was well taken care of by her brothers, sisters, mother and father. They encouraged her to stay inside, encouraged her to write and to take morphine for the pain. She did and became an addict. But she also wrote in a scholarly fashion that flabberghasted society. She was a young woman who could read the Old Testament in the original Hebrew and Dante's Inferno in archaic Italian/ Latin. Her father was very proud of his daughter and encouraged her to continue her talent, especially as it was a talent she could persue indoors and at home. You see, Mr. Barrett, a Jamaican plantation owner, vowed that his children would not leave home and would not marry. Rather unusual for the day where most fathers were obsessessed with marrying their children off to further their fortunes, Mr. Barrett promised that whoever married would be disinherited.


The First Letter (edited)
January 10th, 1845 New Cross, Hatcham, Surrey

I love your verses with all my heart, dear Miss Barrett,--and this is no off-hand complimentary letter that I shall write,-- since the day last week when I first read your poems, I quite laugh to remember how I have been turning again in my mind what I should be able to tell you of their effect upon me-- so into me has it gone, and part of me has it become, this great living poetry of yours, not a flower of which but took root and grew... I can give reason for my faith in one and another excellence, the fresh strange music, the affluent language, the exquisite pathos and true new brave thought--but in this addressing myself to you, your own self, and for the first time, my feeling rises altogher. I do, as I say, love these Books with all my heart-- and I love you too: do you know I was once seeing you? Mr. Kenyon said to me one morning "would you like to see Miss Barrett?"--then he went to announce me,--then he returned... you were too unwell -- and now it is years ago--and I feel as at some untorward passage in my travels--as if I had been close, so close, to some world's-wonder in chapel on crypt,... only a screen to push and I might have entered -- but there was some slight... so it now seems... slight and just-sufficient bar to admission, and the half-opened door shut, and I went home my thousands of miles, and the sight was never to be!

But it was to be. Robert Browning returned to 50 Wimpole Street in London with a mutual poet acquaintence and would not move until he met Elizabeth. It began slowly, for Elizabeth was suspicious that such a striking, passionate young man (6 years her junior) could truly love her. Also, they had to remain in appearance tutor and pupil. If her father ever suspected, Mr. Browning would be packing immediately. Elizabeth took all of her rising passions, doubts, longings and turned them into her most famous prose: Sonnets from the Portugeuse. Browning called Elizabeth "The Portuguese" because of her Creole ancestory, her dark coloring. She wrote:

If thou must love me, let it be for noughtExcept for love's sake only. Do not say'I love her for her smile---her look---her way Of speaking gently,---for a trick of thought That falls in well with mine, and certes brought A sense of pleasant ease on such a day'---For these things in themselves, Belovèd, may Be changed, or change for thee,---and love, so wrought, May be unwrought so. Neither love me forThine own dear pity's wiping my cheeks dry,---A creature might forget to weep, who boreThy comfort long, and lose thy love thereby! But love me for love's sake, that evermore Thou mayst love on, through love's eternity

And:

Belovèd, my Belovèd, when I think That thou wast in the world a year ago,What time I sat alone here in the snowAnd saw no footprint, heard the silence sink No moment at thy voice, but, link by link,Went counting all my chains as if that so They never could fall off at any blow Struck by thy possible hand,---why, thus I drink Of life's great cup of wonder! Wonderful, Never to feel thee thrill the day or nightWith personal act or speech,---

And:

First time he kissed me, he but only kissedThe fingers of this hand wherewith I write;And ever since, it grew more clean and white,Slow to world-greetings, quick with its 'Oh, list,'When the angels speak. A ring of amethystI could not wear here, plainer to my sight,Than that first kiss. The second passed in heightThe first, and sought the forehead, and half missed,Half falling on the hair. O beyond meed!That was the chrism of love, which love's own crown,With sanctifying sweetness, did precede.The third upon my lips was folded downIn perfect, purple state; since when, indeed,I have been proud and said, 'My love, my own.'

And:

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee to the depth and breadth and height My soul can reach, when feeling out of sightFor the ends of Being and ideal Grace.I love thee to the level of everyday'sMost quiet need, by sun and candle-light.I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.I love thee with a passion put to useIn my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.I love thee with a love I seemed to loseWith my lost saints, --- I love thee with the breath,Smiles, tears, of all my life! --- and, if God choose,I shall but love thee better after death.


And so it was. Elizabeth Barrett Browning never even left her house, frail and in her 30's she had given up all hope of deep, abiding love. And yet, deep and abiding love will find a way and it came in a letter, a man who would take her away in the night to Italy where they would live together, have their child (she was 43) and remain until her death in 1861.

How is it possible to find true love when there is no one and the world has passed you by? Elizabeth. Barrett. Browning.




Elizabeth and her son (yes, son) Robert Wideman Browning.



Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society

Everyone has already reviewed this book and I guess I'm a little slow in the up take. However, there is no way that I, in good conscious, could read this masterpiece and not comment. This book has it all. I was so amazed with how many times I laughed out loud, cried my eyes out and ultimately swooned, I started to take a tally. How in the world could so much of the human experience be packed into such a small book filled with letters no less? And how is it that this is one book in which I could not predict the ultimate outcome? Because it's genius, that's why. Juliet's laments over why she is still single at 32 had me muffling my laughter in the back of the classroom. The first letter from Dawsey was a magical thing, Ravensbruck brought out a mourning I hadn't expected and by the time it was over, I was web searching cruises to the Isle of Guernsey.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society is a collection of letters between a frustrated writer, her publisher and a cornucopia of wildly eccentric characters from the island of Guernsey who desperately want the world to know what happened to them during the German occupation in WW2. What a tale!

For those of you familiar with the book, it's worth it to check out "Island at War" a BBC miniseries dealing with the German occupation. Fabulously romantic with unbeatable scenery, it really makes the pages of this book come to life. In fact, it's astonishing that the creators of both were not in cahoots. I don't wish to give anything away for any stragglers who have not already partaken of this rare gift. But the heroism, the courage of quiet people in unnaturally horrific circumstances is something that I think we only begin to understand with these testimonies. Their sacrifices only grow as the years separate us.


The island of Guernsey








Tuesday, February 9, 2010

TODAY'S TUESDAY PICK!!! -- STAMPIN' NAT!

Today's pick of fav blog is my friend Nat's (Stampin' Nat!) amazing self made stationary gifts. I don't know how this girl does it! Look how adorable these Valentines are. She teaches classes, blah, blah, and I can barely sign my name at the bottom of a letter. Check out her awesome Valentines at stampinat.blogspot.com. She's even got a section on Valentines condomes -- *%$#&?! Love it!








Monday, February 8, 2010

Monday Movie: Ten reasons we love the NEW Emma!

While the whole world was watching the SuperBowl, those of us who live and die for Jane Austen and Masterpiece theater could barely contain our excitement for the finale of the latest in a long line of Austen masterpieces.


TEN REASONS WHY WE LOVE THE NEW EMMA:

1.) At last! Emma is YOUNG, fun, flirty and not a stuffy, Princess, all calculated grace and no whimsy (Gwenyth Paltrow)
2.) Knightley and Emma are actually friends! When he "scolds" her it is actually teasing and confidence between two very loving friends.
3.) KNIGHTLEY IS HILARIOUS! Not only that he's charming and endearing and too cute for words. No. He's not 6' and deliciously handsome. Thank goodness! Who could ever believe that Emma wouldn't recognize someone like Rock Hudson (or Jeremy Northam) from the get-go? He's definitely and adorable older brother type.
4.) For the first time we truly see just how diabolical Frank Churchill is. Honestly! He was worse to Emma than Willoughby was to Marianne -- and Willoughby did actually love Marianne! (but he was a cad -- no one is sorry for Willoughby)
5.) Harriet is Emma's NEAR equal in looks. We always see Emma as clearly the more attractive of the two but for the first time, she gets a sort of peer in Harriet, showing us exactly why position, education, grace, wealth and wit were sooooo necessary for a woman.
6.) Enter the Ms. Bates. Gasp! Watching Miss Bates wheel her mother home or try to solicit Emma for a bit of company if only not to have to talk to herself -- SHOCKING! It was absolutely terrifying and we all understand Mrs. Bennet a bit better
7.) Three cheers for Mrs. E!!
8.) Great kiss!
9.) No, it was not as "beautiful" as the earlier version. This version is not polished or dandified by any Hollywood machine. It's messy and aggrivating, hilarious, and REAL. Love, love, love EMMA!
10.) It comes out on February 9th to own forever and always!







Sunday, February 7, 2010

Sunday Scribblings... Writers Conferences: An Author's Golden Ticket!


I am a writer. There. I've said it at last. Yes, by day I teach and tell people I'm a Lit teacher, but it never changes the truth. I write. Even when no one is looking. Even when no one pays me. Even when all odds are stacked so firmly against me that it seems a preposterous waste of time. I write anyway.
This madness has been going on for 20 years. Then it was in notebooks and peache folders in high school, scribbling away about doomed rock stars in the middle of Algebra. My twenties were spent in a maelstorm of screenplay contests, printing off 120 pages on a printer you had to feed individual paper. Today I'm incredibly sophisticated with my pink Dell lap top and my full time job. But how does one break out of their computer and land on the shelves of Amazon.com or the illustrious Barnes and Noble? If you've read anything about publishing, the answer is: YOU DON'T! But, to all the writers who are reading this post, rest assured about one thing: THEY LIED!
There is a golden ticket. For singers, it's American Idol. For writers it's a thing called The Writers Conference. They are expensive (thank you full time job!) but the good news is that they are year round, all over the country and probably coming to a city near you.
Why are Writers Conferences such a boost for new writing careers? Well, anyone who has ever performed the masochistic duty of sending out rounds of query emails (they don't even accept written letters anymore) knows what a trial in self -hatred it becomes. First, nobody cares. Second, even though they ask you to include the first ten pages in your query, they don't read them. Last year, I sent out queries for my book about an international Punk icon who disappears from her adoring (but violent) public and buys a bed and breakfast in the South of England. Now, I realize that punk rockers may not be the first choice for all agents and editors, however, it became clear to me that they weren't even reading the pages when they said things like, "a little more conservative than what I was hoping for". Surprise, surprise, agents really don't read unsolicited material.
At the writers conferences, they have to. It's their job. You can pay an additional fee and have agents write all over your first ten pages and conference with you about what they did love, and what they didn't. They have to look you in the eye and discuss your project. If the agent doesn't like your material, they'll tell you and they'll show you exactly why. If they do, many agents feel kind hearted enough to allow conference attendees to send them material. In other words, you are miles ahead of the email query.
My Experiences at the SDSU conference Jan 29-31st
My book: A gothic teen romance set in the French Revolution in which Martine Demont, a starving girl with an ability to telepathically connect with her loved ones, is saved by a cursed boy.
My Strategy: I researched the attending agents, found the agency I most wanted to work with, someone who was looking for teen Gothic romance and who was relatively new. This helps because new agents actually want clients and I want someone who WANTS me. As for the sacred 10 minute window of opportunity, I decided long before the conference that I would sit down, LISTEN, and at the end of whatever the agent said, if they did not include: "Please send me the rest", I would then ask them exactly when they knew they were not interested in my book. Was it the title? Was it the genre? The first page? Where? I need to know exactly where my pages became a snooze fest or not up to standard.
What Happened: I actually went to a presentation that the agent was giving right before our scheduled appointment. This allowed me to see whether or not I thought I could work with her, if we were the right fit. She blew me away. She was so enthusiastic in her approach to teen lit, so approachable and fun that a terrible gnawing began in my stomach. I suddenly wanted the chance to work with her more than I'd imagined. It was almost cruel. I introduced myself after her presentation and then proceeded to panic. When we finally met, she had written all over my pages clarifying to me what the difference was between good and great (thank you!). She told me what she enjoyed and what was still misty (ha ha) and then said nothing. Oh dear. I took a deep breath and launched into "Where were you out?" She looked at me and said: "I'm not. I want the rest of the book." HOOO RRAAAAYYY!!!!!!!!! Granted, it's just another step in the yellow brick road but every step is forward motion. Even if she just reads it -- it's more than anyone else is reading.
Results: I'm not the only one this happened to. In fact, I know, personally, three people who have had this happen for them within the last year. Considering that I don't know many writers, this is a pretty amazing statistc. My friend Seamus, who has been shopping his WW2 thriller for a year, consulted with the top agent at the conference, had a very less than impressed interview with her and when he asked my get to the point question of "When were you out?" she said the same thing my agent did and even gave him the award for best submission.
Huh.
I guess sometimes, you've got to lead the horse to the water, and ask him why he's not drinking. Apparently, he will then, dip his nose in the water and swallow it down. Not that anyone in this scenario is a horse.
Writers conferences: the golden ticket.

Friday, February 5, 2010

GIVEAWAY!!!! Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict

Courtney doesn't know what's going on when she wakes up in the body of Jane Mansfield (not the 50's bombshell) a reserved, regency beauty. Suddenly, she can needlepoint, dance, ride horses and remember memories that are not her own. She also finds herself in a love triangle she doesn't understand involving people she's never met. Soon, she finds herself falling for the devestatingly attractive Edgeworth. Will she want to return to the present?


This has been a popular title among Jane Austen lovers. And although it was not my favorite, it was an entertaining, quick read.

RULES OF THE GIVEAWAY:

You are entering to receive a free copy of Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler. The Giveaway will be between 2-5-10 and 2-20-10.

* Leave your comment with your EMAIL ADDRESS

* If you are a follower (let me know), I'll enter you twice

* If you are a follower and post the giveaway on your blog, I'll enter you three times!

GOOD LUCK!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Searching for Jane Austen Pt. 1

Jane Austen was not happy in Bath. While it was the center of fashion and entertainment for the vacationing set of Regency England, Miss Austen felt stifled and out of place between the gossips and convention. When her father gave up the rectory in her beloved Steventon, it was with a heavy heart that she was uprooted to the more equitable climate of Bath.

The Austens spent a very little time in happy circumstances. Her father died, leaving the Austen women bereft much like Ann Elliot prejudiced against the city after her mother's death in Persuasion. Bath is a shockingly small community and the relationship between rank and street address was keenly felt. The farther away from the Crescent a person lived, the farther they had fallen in life. During Regency England, the center of the town with the Pump Rooms, the Crescent, the Cathedral and theater was splendid. It was therefore, quite astonishing to most how degraded the living quarters became the closer one moved towards the river. Jane had to watch her family of nearly destitute women move closer and closer to the river and therefore, ruin. She was powerless to stop it.

She did not write for 10 years.

However, it is nearly impossible to believe these solemn facts when you visit. My mother (having hired a car and nearly losing our lives on several ocassions) literally gasped when we turned off the highway and started down the narrow road leading into the Greater Bath area. The city sprawls out over the most glorious hillsides and it is true, the stone is golden and catches the light whatever time of day it is. Bath is not a bustling city, all noise and movement (although Miss Austen typically spoke of it as such). You stroll in Bath, you take the double decker bus and they linger. The shops are glorious (special mention to Waterstones: the most FABULOUS book shop in the universe) and everything is an easy walk.

More importantly, everything is Jane Austen. It is ironic that her least favorite place is so indelibly stamped by her having lived there. I'm sure many things have happened in Bath (the Romans for Heaven's sake) but no one cares about that. In Bath there is the overwhelming certainty that the city is what it is today because Northanger Abbey and Persuasion were written by a young lady who hated the city but immortalized it through her heroines.














My mother and I stayed at a bed and breakfast that should be a MUST for all Jane Austen fans. Grosvenor Lodge is a true Georgian building, completely refurbished and absolutely the most lovely rooms we have ever stayed in. It was the closest to Jane Austen living as we were going to get.





Collin is the owner and quite possibly the funniest human to have ever walked God's earth.




















The Roman Baths are extensive and yes, the water is still bubbling. Sad to say, but it is no longer possible to dip into them for their healing purposes :)




A little further walk away from the Pump Rooms and the splendor of Roman ruins is the Jane Austen Center. They do a wonderful overview of Jane's life and especially how colorful her brothers were. There is very little authentic memorabilia and none of it directly related to Austen, however, upstairs is a DELIGHTFUL tea room where every menu choice is related to an Austen character. I had the Darcy tea and ate the entire piece of chocolate cake myself.







This is a picture of Gay Street where the Jane Austen Center is situated (look closely and see the man dressed in Regency just visible). One of Austen's houses is two doors up but is currently a dentist's office. You can't help but laugh at that -- A very appropriate progression considering how she felt about Bath in general.




Check out this movie I made after I came home: Austen's greatest hits! I was so inspired. But then... how can we not be? video

Monday, February 1, 2010

MY FAIR GODMOTHER GIVEAWAY!!!!!!!!!!!!


There are few books as fabulous as "My Fair Godmother" by Janette Rallison. To be fair, my dear friend Natalie (under my followed blogs under: Stampin' Nat) was the one who alerted me to it and told me it was the "perfect" book. She was right.
Savannah is a Junior in high school and having the worst day of her life. When her godmother, a punk teen more interested in shopping than accurately granting wishes, gives Savannah a taste of what she believes to be her deepest desire, Savannah is thankful to get back to life as usual. That is, until she realizes her choices have affected someone else, a shy choir boy by the name of Tristan. She must do everything in her power to help Tristan before it is too late. Together, they make a formidable team and Savannah realizes that one should NEVER underestimate choir boys!


Granted, this is a lame review. I simply can't spell EVERYTHING out because it would positively ruin the whole story. One of the great charms of this book was the spectacularly surprising turns the story takes. I was floored after the first chapter. I laughed out loud in the second. I gasped (again, out loud) in the third and nearly fell over in the fourth. The only thing I can say about this quick read is READ IT! It's the kind you read in one night and spend the rest of the next day in the glow of possibility for a relationship you never actually had.
The author, talented Janette Rallison, was kind enough to talk to me and divulged that she is in the middle of book two! Same fairy -- different thwarted lovers and she promises she is working hard to insure that "new boy" is every bit as swoon worthy as our Tristan.

Sigh.

RULES FOR GIVEAWAY:

You may enter to receive a free copy of "My Fair Godmother" between February 1st and February 15th.

This contest is open to everyone

Enter by commenting on this post and LEAVING YOUR EMAIL.

Followers will be entered twice (please mention you are a follower)

Be entered three times by posting this giveaway to your blog!

Good Luck!!!