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Hello, my name is Valorie. I have a Master's Degree in History and a license to teach-- I have been both university professor and public school teacher. Currently, I am a middle school social studies teacher. I love horror movies and spooky things. Every day is Halloween. I am also a passionate book blogger.

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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Blog Tour & Guest Post: Elizabeth Chadwick (The Greatest Knight)

Welcome to Elizabeth Chadwick, who is here on blog tour to promote her book The Greatest Knight, which you can get in book stores now! It is my absolute pleasure to get to welcome her here today. She was kind enough to grant up here at Morbid Romantic a guest post. Enjoy!

Guest Post
Many thanks to Valorie for giving me air time on her blog! William Marshal, the charismatic star of The Greatest Knight is something of a paradox. He was an ordinary guy when he started out. He was born in the English county of Wiltshire in 1147AD. His father's fourth child, the product of a second marriage. There wasn't much left in the family coffers by way of inheritance by the time William came along. However, his father found an education in the military for him and the young man proved so skilled with lance and sword that he was soon earning a fortune on the tourney circuits of medieval Europe and his talents brought him to the attention of the King and Queen of England. He went on to serve in both their households. He was the tutor in chivalry to their eldest son and travelled extensively throughout Europe and the Middle East. On his return from his travels, he married a wealthy and beautiful heiress and turned his attention to raising a family and helping to steer England through some very troubled times indeed. William's career was stellar by the yardstick of any century, his tale a true one of rags to riches. When he died, his name was renowned throughout the known world. Slowly, through the accumulated dust and detritus of passing centuries, that name became forgotten, except by a few. His life story, written down within a few years of his death in a rhyming family history more than 19,000 lines long, was lost for seven centuries. It re-emerged among a pile of old manuscripts for sale in 19th century France where Historian Paul Meyer saw the poem and realised what a treasure he had rediscovered. He translated it into modern French, but it didn't have an audience beyond academic circles. William Marshal, the greatest knight of the Middle Ages, slept on, seldom noticed, his effigy earning the occasional passing glance from casual visitors to the Temple Church in London where he was buried with two of his sons. There were occasional disturbances. William was dug up and reburied just a few years after his death because Henry III wanted to expand the church, so although the effigy is there, no one is quite sure where William's bones actually lie, although somewhere in the fabric is a given. The church suffered bomb damage during World War II and the effigy was slightly damaged, but survived.

 A few years ago, however, there was a major change. Dan Brown wrote The Da Vinci Code -- anyone not heard of it? The story takes the reader to the Temple church in London and mentions the effigies of four knights lying on the floor of the nave. Suddenly William's tomb was a place of pilgrimage! The first time I visited William at the Temple Church, there was only me and a lady from Australia, who was there visiting a different tomb. The following year, I was joined by an American couple who stood in front of the effigies of William and his eldest son, discussing whether or not one of them had been a crusader. I got into conversation with them and the wife said with a smile "You know why we are here don't you?" I shook my head. "The Da Vinci Code." At that point, the book had only just begun to make waves and the couple were part of the advance guard. I told them who William really was. When it came to my next pilgrimage a further year on, the Temple Church was by now packed with tourists embarked upon the "Da Vinci Code tour" and William and his sons were the centre of attention. There must be thousands of photo albums round the world featuring snapshots of proud visitors crouched beside the effigy of one of the greatest men England has ever produced, but all these people know is that he's one of their tick boxes on the Da Vinci Code experience. These days William and his sons have had to be protected from all the attention by rope barriers. There were none when I first went to pay my respects. I find it very fascinating. William was an unknown who became famous and then forgotten again. Now he's famous but anonymous. I am hoping that The Greatest Knight is going to change that state of affairs big-time! 

About the Author Elizabeth Chadwick lives near Nottingham with her husband and two sons. She is the author of 17 historical novels, including Lords of the White Castle, Shadows and Strongholds, A Place Beyond Courage, The Scarlet Lion, the Winter Mantle, and the Falcons of Montebard, four of which have been shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists' Awards. Much of her research is carried out as a member of Regia Anglorum, an early medieval re-enactment society with the emphasis on accurately re-creating the past. She won a Betty Trask Award for The Wild Hunt, her first novel.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Book Review: We Mean to be Counted by Elizabeth R. Varon

Title: We Mean to Be Counted: White Women and Politics in Antebellum Virginia 
Author: Elizabeth R. Varon 
Genre: Nonfiction - History 
Finished: September 28, 2009

The historical consensus is that white women in the antebellum period were excluded from political participation. Varon argues that elite middle-class women were active in political participation, but they did not attempt to occupy the public sphere of men. Instead, women organized benevolent societies, worked as mediators, petitioned, volunteered, wrote, and attended public meetings. This book is not to show us women were always a cohesive force with a long-term goal of suffrage or equality, indeed not because Southern women were generally quite content with the social order. We Mean to be Counted merely rejects the premise that women were entirely excluded from politics by showing that, no, there were women involved. Whether 10 or 10,000, women still found a place for themselves and their talents. According to Varon, women were believed by their nature to be disinterested, moral forces of restraint and education for men and children. In occupying a public sphere through political activity, women were fulfilling the duties of their private sphere of motherhood and wifedom. Organizations such as girl schools and colonization societies were seen as perfect for the nature of a woman, and any political knowledge passed on to her through participation in parties such as the Whig party (Whig Womanhood) was only so that she could use her intelligence to form a patriotic family.

Initially also, Southern women were to act as sectional mediators between the North and South. As time went on, though, and slavery debates heated up, the concept of “Confederate motherhood, with its fervent belief in preserving the South as it was. Varon has written a well-rounded perspective on elite white antebellum women and their roles in politics, which she supports convincingly with her source usage. By refuting a popular and generalized claim that women were not politically active in this time, she contributes new information that is unique and important not only to southern history, but women's history and political science. The book is easy to read, flows coherently, and is made interesting by her inclusion of actual quotes and manuscript snippets. The only weakness to be found in this book is that it is absent anything related to women other than the elite class with the occasional middle-class woman thrown in and a small inclusion on African American women after the war. The book would have presented a more complete picture of women in the antebellum period if it included some information about lower class women. Though lacking influence, common women still would have had ideas and opinions political in nature and would have communicated them to one another by some means. It would seem by the evidence Varon gives that the political participation of women was very large in influence and widespread among the gender, but it must be taken into account that she is speaking of a portion of the female population, not just "white women" in general. The authority with which Varon speaks could be misleading in this way. Virginia was a unique state in the South, though, and by isolating it from the rest of the United States, we see just how much it was. This fact must be kept in mind while reading lest the mistake of made of assuming the entire south was like Virginia.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Book Review: The Cholera Years: The United States in 1832, 1849, and 1866 by Charles E. Rosenberg

Title: The Cholera Years: The United States in 1832, 1849, and 1866
Author: Charles E. Rosenberg
Genre: Nonfiction - History
Finished: September 25, 2009

In the Republic era of America, people were assaulted daily by their own visions of success, failure, the expectations and weaknesses of a still developing concept of democracy, poverty, and illness. One such illness, Cholera, infected America three times during this period: 1832, 1849, and 1866. In America, "Cholera represented a constant and randomly reoccurring stimulus against which the varying reactions and systems of Americans could be judged" and it caused gradual changes in social attitudes, government, religious thought, and medicine as people tried to understand and cope with the disease. Historians have recently given little attention to defining and then writing about the social changes brought about by cholera, both as a process and its final result. It is part of history's recent interest in social aspects such as family and school, which medicine is a part of because the two are linked by everyday life concerns.

The Cholera Years is an interesting and easy to read the book. One of its strengths lies in its readability and in how it engages the reader through primary sources. Historical books that tell stories and relate true life accounts and words are more interesting than those that simply move from one fact to the next. Also, Rosenberg is very organized in his presentation of information. The sections, chopped up by cholera year, follow the same patterns as far as how information is addressed. As a result, though we are reading from one year to the next, the progressions of society and thought are easy to follow and connect together. It actually made more sense this way than if Rosenberg had approached the book topically, which would have jumped around and only confused. Unfortunately, as a weakness, Rosenberg is very repetitive. A lot of information and points are stressed repeatedly throughout the book, and in that way, it sort of loses focus a few times. Rosenberg gives an annotated bibliography at the end of his book, which lists aids, manuscripts, public documents, newspapers, printed medical documents, other printed material, and secondary sources consulted. He does make a note in his section on printed material other than medical literature that he has not listed all the documents consulted because they are too numerous, but instead listed those that are most interesting or relevant, which he also does with newspapers. The primary sources include such documents as hospital reports, newspapers, Board of Health and committee minutes, and religious sermons. As such, we are provided with a lot of "from the mouth" accounts of cholera to support the progressions in thought and practice that Rosenberg takes us through from one outbreak to the next. This book fits well into the genre of medical history, as well as cultural history because Cholera had a direct and distinct impact on life, the concept of a person, social equality, and medical care. You won't get the sort of copious gory details that medical history books are known for, which is a shame, but you will certainly come out of reading the book understanding a bit more how America evolved into the country it is now, and how something like one disease could shape a nation.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Guest Post & Excerpt: Sandy Lender (Choices Meant For Kings)

Today at Morbid Romantic, I bring to you Sandy Lender who is out touring her latest book Choices Meant for Kings. It is my pleasure to welcome her here! 

About Choices Meant For Kings 

Chariss is in danger. Her geasa is hampered by the effects of a friend’s marriage. The dashing Nigel Taiman hides something from her, yet demands she stay at his family’s estate where he and her wizard guardian intend to keep her safe. But the sorcerer Lord Drake and Julette The Betrayer know she’s there, and their monstrous army marches that way. When prophecies stack up to threaten an arrogant deity, Chariss must choose between the dragon that courts her and the ostracized kings of the Southlands for help. Evil stalks her at every turn and madness creeps over the goddess who guides her. Can an orphan-turned-Protector resist the dark side of her heritage? Or will she sacrifice all to keep her god-charge safe? 

Read an exclusive excerpt
As the soldier stepped toward him, Nigel reached out his arm and caught him by the neck. He slammed the captain against the far wall. He pinned him there with his body, leaning against the man as if he could crush the wind from him with his presence. He brought his face close to the soldier’s ear and spoke lowly, fiercely, so that no one could have overheard him. The menace and intent behind the words was as surprising to the captain as the words themselves. “I asked you to accompany [Chariss] on this journey tomorrow because I have faith in your sword, and until this moment I trusted you to keep your distance from her. Now, I find her down here at your side with a look upon your face that suggests more than you realize. So help me, Naegling, the only thing that stays my hand is how displeased she would be if she learned that I sliced you open.” “The look you see is merely my concern for her honor. Nothing more.” “I’m not a fool. And I’ll use every last piece of Arcana’s treasury to pay the prophets to justify my reasons for marrying that woman, so you can unconcern yourself with her honor.” Hrazon stepped off the staircase then and saw Nigel pressed against his guard. “I still believe you’re one of the best soldiers Arcana’s ever seen,” Nigel continued, “and I want you at her side for this journey, but, so help me, Naegling, she comes back alive and well and not confused in the least about her affections for me, or I will string you up from a tree in the orchard and attach your intestines to your horse’s saddle before I send it--” Hrazon cleared his throat. “Excuse me. Is there an issue here I should address?”
Strong Women Offer Courage, Inspiration By Fantasy Author Sandy Lender http:///www.authorsandylender.com
Good stories inspire readers. It only makes sense that good characters inspire readers, too. When those readers are little girls, young ladies, struggling women, older matriarchs seeking something they can’t pinpoint, etc., the good character should, in my opinion, be a strong female lead. When invited to post an article here as part of my current online book tour supporting Choices Meant for Kings, I was asked to comment on why I felt that strong female characters are important in fiction novels. I don’t just think they’re important--I think they’re valuable gems worth mining when selecting reading material. When I was younger, I read Helen Keller, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Lucy Montgomery, and, as I got into college, Maya Angelou, Charlotte Bronte, Jane Austen, and the list goes on. (If you want to read the original feminist writer, I encourage you to read Anne Bronte’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, keeping in mind the 1848 society in which she lived and the conventions she rubbed against in making Mrs. Helen Graham the kick-butt heroine she is.) But having a strong feminine mind behind a strong female character doesn’t mean you have to push a feminist agenda. You could just be offering moral support, good values, a simple message, a heartfelt word of love for your fellow woman, a guide toward womanhood, etc. Women of any age can reach out to a fiction novel character for any number of lessons. As an author, I want those women to find a source of strength in the main character I’ve written. In the summer and fall of 2008, I faced some trials in my personal life that I don’t need to hash out here. A couple of life-altering events were just about wrapped up after many months of paperwork and court dates. A “newer” health event was in full swing so I was visiting a doctor’s office or treatment center almost daily. I felt run down and haggard. The release of my second novel was postponed again and again... You get the picture. A dear friend of mine named Laura Crawford (proprietor of Crawford Writing and Marketing in Minnesota) very kindly read one of my pity-party e-mails and wrote back some wonderful words of support. She pointed out that I’d created (in her estimation) the strongest female character in fantasy literature today. She told me that Chariss, the heroine in my Choices novels, wasn’t born out of thin air, but came from me. Therefore, some of Chariss’s strength was in me. I could beat everything I was going through. So, without realizing it, I had created a strong female character who could inspire me as well as my readers. It still makes me smile to think about it. And it strengthens my belief that women can look to fictional characters for courageous ideas, moments of inspiration, and, yes, strength. “Some days, you just want the dragon to win.” Sandy Lender will be stopping at other places along the net, so follow her tour for a chance to win a first edition, autographed, hard copy edition of the first book in the trilogy Choices Meant for Gods. All you have to do is comment here and on her other tour stops.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Guest Post: Michelle Moran (Cleopatra's Daughter, The Heretic Queen, & Nefertiti)

It is my distinct pleasure to bring to you today a guest post by Michelle Moran, author of Nefertiti, The Heretic Queen, and Cleopatra's Daughter. I have no shame for my obvious envy of Michelle Moran-- she has seen things that I can at this point only dream of... The Mamertine, The House of Augustus, the original floor of the Senate... it's just too much to think about. For this reason, I am absolutely delighted to welcome Michelle Moran to Morbid Romantic to discuss her love of history since I also share a deep love for Ancient Rome and Egypt.

Guest Blog
For every novel I have written, I can look back and say that there has been a very specific moment of inspiration - usually in some exotic locale or inside a museum - where I’ve said, “Aha! That’s going to be the subject of my next novel.” I never began my writing career with the intention to write books about three different princesses in Egypt. In fact, I had no intention of writing about ancient Egypt at all until I participated in my first archaeological dig. During my sophomore year in college, I found myself sitting in Anthropology 101, and when the professor mentioned that she was looking for volunteers who would like to join a dig in Israel, I was one of the first students to sign up. When I got to Israel, however, all of my archaeological dreams were dashed (probably because they centered around Indiana Jones). There were no fedora wearing men, no cities carved into rock, and certainly no Ark of the Covenant. I was very disappointed. Not only would a fedora have seemed out of place, but I couldn’t even use the tiny brushes I had packed. Apparently, archaeology is more about digging big ditches with pickaxes rather than dusting off artifacts. And it had never occurred to me until then that in order to get to those artifacts, one had to dig deep into the earth. Volunteering on an archaeological dig was hot, it was sweaty, it was incredibly dirty, and when I look back on the experience through the rose-tinged glasses of time, I think, Wow, was it fantastic! Especially when our team discovered an Egyptian scarab that proved the ancient Israelites had once traded with the Egyptians. Looking at that scarab in the dirt, I began to wonder who had owned it, and what had possessed them to undertake the long journey from their homeland to the fledgling country of Israel. On my flight back to America I stopped in Berlin, and with a newfound appreciation for Egyptology, I visited the museum where Nefertiti’s limestone bust was being housed. The graceful curve of Nefertiti’s neck, her arched brows, and the faintest hint of a smile were captivating to me. Who was this woman with her self-possessed gaze and stunning features? I wanted to know more about Nefertiti’s story, but when I began the research into her life, it proved incredibly difficult. She’d been a woman who’d inspired powerful emotions when she lived over three thousand years ago, and those who had despised her had attempted to erase her name from history. Yet even in the face of such ancient vengeance, some clues remained.

As a young girl Nefertiti had married a Pharaoh who was determined to erase the gods of Egypt and replace them with a sun-god he called Aten. It seemed that Nefertiti’s family allowed her to marry this impetuous king in the hopes that she would tame his wild ambitions. What happened instead, however, was that Nefertiti joined him in building his own capital of Amarna where they ruled together as god and goddess. But the alluring Nefertiti had a sister who seemed to keep her grounded, and in an image of her found in Amarna, the sister is standing off to one side, her arms down while everyone else is enthusiastically praising the royal couple. From this image, and a wealth of other evidence, I tried to recreate the epic life of an Egyptian queen whose husband was to become known as the Heretic King.

Each novel I’ve written has had a similar moment of inspiration for me. In many ways, my second book, The Heretic Queen is a natural progression from Nefertiti. The narrator is orphaned Nefertari, who suffers terribly because of her relationship to the reviled "Heretic Queen". Despite the Heretic Queen's death a generation prior, Nefertari is still tainted by her relationship to Nefertiti, and when young Ramesses falls in love and wishes to marry her, it is a struggle not just against an angry court, but against the wishes of a rebellious people. But perhaps I would never have chosen to write on Nefertari at all if I hadn't seen her magnificent tomb. At one time, visiting her tomb was practically free, but today, a trip underground to see one of the most magnificent places on earth can cost upwards of five thousand dollars (yes, you read that right). If you want to share the cost and go with a group, the cost lowers to the bargain-basement price of about three thousand. As a guide told us of the phenomenal price, I looked at my husband, and he looked at me. We had flown more than seven thousand miles, suffered the indignities of having to wear the same clothes for three days because of lost luggage... and really, what were the possibilities of our ever returning to Egypt again? There was only one choice. We paid the outrageous price, and I have never forgotten the experience. While breathing in some of the most expensive air in the world, I saw a tomb that wasn't just fit for a queen, but a goddess. In fact, Nefertari was only one of two (possibly three) queens ever deified in her lifetime, and as I gazed at the vibrant images on her tomb - jackals and bulls, cobras and gods - I knew that this wasn't just any woman, but a woman who had been loved fiercely when she was alive. Because I am a sucker for romances, particularly if those romances actually happened, I immediately wanted to know more about Nefertari and Ramesses the Great. So my next stop was the Hall of Mummies at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. There, resting beneath a heavy arc of glass, was the great Pharaoh himself. For a ninety-something year old man, he didn't look too bad. His short red hair was combed back neatly and his face seemed strangely peaceful in its three thousand year repose. I tried to imagine him as he'd been when he was young - strong, athletic, frighteningly rash and incredibly romantic. Buildings and poetry remain today as testaments to Ramesses's softer side, and in one of Ramesses's more famous poems he calls Nefertari "the one for whom the sun shines." His poetry to her can be found from Luxor to Abu Simbel, and it was my

It’s the moments like this that an historical fiction author lives for. And it probably wouldn’t surprise you to learn that my decision to write Cleopatra’s Daughter came on an underwater dive to see the submerged city of ancient Alexandria. Traveling has been enormously important in my career. My adventures end up inspiring not only what I’m currently writing, but what I’m going to write about in the future. For more information about Michelle Moran: Website Blog

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Blog Tour & Guest Post: To Tempt the Wolf (Heart of the Wolf, #2) by Terry Spear

First, I must apologize to author Terry Spear because I was to have this up yesterday and time ran away from me! But it is my pleasure to bring to you her wonderful guest post, which is an honor to have up to welcome her to Morbid Romantic. I have yet to read To Tempt the Wolf, but I have a copy of it won from another blog that I look forward to reading when time allows. So, without further ado:

The Human Side of Wolves, er, Werewolves!
Thanks for inviting me to share my werewolf world at Morbid Romantic where I wish to dispel the myth that werewolves are the bad guys! Well, some are, but some really are not--think sexy, naked humans, who are very comfortable in their skin, human and wolf alike. :) In my latest book, To Tempt the Wolf, Tessa Anderson has a mission: rescue her brother from prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Hunter Greymere has a mission too: well, he was supposed to be rescuing his sister, but a little accident happens and now he’s lying on an Oregon beach right before a winter storm rolls in. The same beach that Tessa goes to find firewood before the storm hits. What do they have in common? Wolves. He’s one, and she’s obsessed with them, photographing them whenever she gets a chance. But other wolves are obsessed with her right back. Welcome to my world of wolves--werewolves that is. But when they’re in their wolf form, they’re just like wolves, except they have human sensibilities. And what does this mean? No matter what they’d like to do as wolves...their humanity steps in. On the other hand, their wolf instincts stay with them whether as man or wolf. Not only that, they have their “werewolf” side to consider--no matter what, they can’t be exposed for what they are. So three sides really. :) That makes for a lot of man! And woman! I was reading another author’s blog on how she wrote about horses in her story, but didn’t really know much about them. So I’ll make a confession also. I’ve never once met a werewolf. But I’m sure if I did, I’d find him just like the heroes in my stories. At least I hope I would. I wouldn’t want to run into the nastier werewolf characters in my stories for sure. “But wait!” you say. “You write that your werewolves are like real wolves. Do you know any personally?” Okay, no, I admit I’ve watched video tapes of them, both in social settings and...ahem, settings that should not have been caught on tape--a little privacy folks. But it did give me an idea for Seduced by the Wolf that I used to good purpose. I’ve also listened to numerous tapes on howling--forget music as a backdrop for story writing. And I’ve studied numerous photos on their behavior. Plus, I’ve read a lot about them from wolf biologists’ points of view. And yes, I’ve seen them in zoos before. But those aren’t the kind of wolves I’m creating in my stories. Although no, I haven’t sat and played with their pups or gotten to know a real wild wolf. Urban fantasy is fun to create. I’m not writing about Dances with Wolves here, where the wolves are real, but werewolves who appear to be real wolves. :) Plus, I raised tons of dogs, and they still exhibit some of the wolf behavior. When my standard poodles would play with each other, they would snarl, and bite, and growl, just like when we would play tug of war with our Labrador retriever. And when we played chase with our Afghan hound, she was terrifying!!! They’re from Afghanistan and are bred for speed and hunting agility. One nip in the back, and after that, she’d have us pinned to the ground. In every instance, they were playing, just as wolves do. But it’s a way for them to show who’s boss also in the pack. And chasing and taking each other down? It’s a way to keep their hunting skills in good working order. I love dogs. I love wolves. And I LOVE werewolves. The perfect, sexy beasts are great protective guys to have around year round! So what do you think? If you had a chance to go on a wilderness trip with a guy who really knew how to take care of a girl, would you consider a werewolf hunk as your guide? Companion? ...and More??? Hope you check out just how hunky werewolves can be, and shatter that myth that they’re just scary old monstrous beasts. Thanks for dropping by, and again, thanks to Valorie for having me! :) Terry Spear “Giving new meaning to the term alpha male.”

To Tempt the Wolf--In Stores September 1

In this third in the series, wildlife photographer Tessa Anderson must prove her brother innocent of murder charges. But when she discovers a gorgeous naked man barely alive on her beach, she's got a new world of troubles to deal with, not least of which is how he affects her with just a look, a touch, or a whispered word. Hunter Greymore is a lupus garou, a grey werewolf. Hoping to keep a low profile at Tessa's cabin on the coast, he's drawn into her life--and into her bed. His animal instincts war with his human half, but in the end, the only thing he can do about this fascinating, adorable woman is to leave her forever --unless she becomes one of them. 

About the Author 
A retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves, award-winning author Terry Spear has an MBA from Monmouth College. An eclectic writer, she dabbles in the paranormal as well as writing historical and true life stories for both teen and adult audiences. Spear lives in Crawford, Texas. Her 2008 Sourcebooks Casablanca release, Heart of the Wolf was named a Best Book of the Year by Publishers Weekly. Destiny of the Wolf and To Tempt the Wolf are in stores now, and more are on the way: The Legend of the White Wolf (February 2010) and Seduction of the Wolf (August 2010). For more information please visit Terry at the following places: 

Monday, September 14, 2009

Book Review: Born Losers by Scott A. Sandage

Title: Born Losers: A History of Failure in America 
Author: Scott A. Sandage 
Genre: Nonfiction - History 
Finished: September 14, 2009

In Born Losers: A History of Failure in America, author Scott A. Sandage points out that the nineteenth century, despite being an age of capitalism, industrialization, and promise, was also an age of great economic hardship and loss for men and women who together created a culture of failure that personally and morally defined them. Society and the government held people individually accountable for failure despite circumstance, and relief was hard to come by because the government did not have the systems in place to manage it. When failure occurred, it was “a reason, in the man.” The prevailing idea that “no one fails who ought not fail” identified men to such a point that failure was a matter of personal worth, morality, and virtue. That only a man himself could be blamed for failure no matter the cause created a multitude of dynamics: drive vs. risk, innovation vs. safety, and failure vs. the possibility of any future success. Once failure was stuck to you and became a part of your identity, it was a hard label to shake. Especially with the birth of Tappan’s very first credit report agency that sent out personal information to aid in assessing the possible risk and success of others. Sandage’s greatest strength lies in his usage of primary source documents and the many stories and examples they provide his book. They, large in number, not only give creditability to the story, but they raise interest so that the book is enjoyable to read. It is an illuminating and fun look at something that is normally depressing in nature--failure and stigma placed on personal identity. It is obvious by the number of sources used and documented that Sandage has put a great deal of research into the book. In the sense that it is well researched and documented, it is a reputable piece of scholarship for something paid little attention to. Sandage also suitably links the identity of failure to today by tracing how ideas and perceptions formed into what modern people think and feel. There is a clear connection between past and present, which gives the book modern day relevancy. I would have liked, though, a section to provide a less narrow focus. Perhaps not for the whole book, because the subject itself makes it necessary to focus on specifics, but a chapter to help place failure within the larger scheme of things. While Sandage provides a great number of failure stories, his success stories are few and far between such that it is hard to get a grasp of whether failure was as prevalent and powerful as made to seem suggested by primary source evidence and first hand accounts. It is impossible to tell from the book if failure, while still being a serious issue of self identity and crisis, was a small percentage as compared to relative successes. The evidence given begs the question: would the government have acted faster to aid those in need if failure was truly so prevalent? The answer is: I don’t know. Nevertheless, the question and answer could have been addressed to further illuminate the culture of failure and its political ramifications. It would have also helped to frame the larger scope of American life and identity to pay more attention to the successes and contributions of women, the poor, and laborers. While not as numerous or as devastating as riches to rags middle class male business failure/success stories, as culture defined these things, it would still serve to paint a more complete image of the situation experienced by all of America, not just business men. This would also include black men and a more in depth look at how failure and success came to define them during the Antebellum and Reconstruction years. Sandage does not try to define, “what is failure?” That is not the point of the book or his reasons for writing it. The book is about how failure was perceived and how it came to define people and their worth. Failure is simply what it is: a lack of success. Born Losers was written to tell the other side of America in an age of trumped success and unlimited possibility. Sandage is not only a great historian, but an excellent storyteller. There is no droning of dry, fact-by fact history here. Sandage paints a picture that reads as easily and fun as a novel, even more entertaining because he is speaking of something real and relevant. There is a lot of humor in the story, but none done out of disrespect. The book, while funny and fun, stays respectful to the people involved. You will definitely feel like you got something out of this book by the time you put it down, whether it be from the vast knowledge or the pure entertainment value. We all love to laugh at tragedy, after all, especially when it is not our own.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Blog Tour & Guest Post: C.L. Talmadge (The Green Stone of Healing Series)

It is my pleasure to welcome C.L. Talmadge to Morbid Romantic, who is here to give us a lovely guest post about love. She is here promoting her Green Stone of Healing series, of which book four Outcast is to be released in October. And yes, there is even a giveaway at the end!

About The Green Stone of Healing Series

The series features four generations of strong-willed female characters who inherit a mysterious green gem ultimately revealed to mend broken bones and broken hearts, protect against missiles, and render its wearers undetectable. For more information about each book, please visit http://www.greenstoneofhealing.com/.

Love and healing by C.L. Talmadge

During a romance, life often seems brighter, happier, packed with promise and possibilities. The rush of romance is compelling and exhilarating. It’s also so tantalizing that we always crave more of it. We want every day to be full of the excitement and allure of romance. Why not? Romance is based, at least in part, on love (as well as on lust and self-illusion), and love is healing. Not just in an abstract or conceptual sense, but in a most literal manner. Love is the ultimate healing force in the entire cosmos. So what is love? All of us feel and perceive love in a unique way. Frequently, the hidden issue between romantic partners is their different understanding of what love is and how love feels to give and to receive. Each side loves the other to the best of that person’s ability. Even so, each side also cannot give to the other the kind of love that the other person can recognize and accept as love. The tragic result? Each side in the relationship does not truly feel loved. Eventually, romance dies. It might help a great deal, then, to define love. Since love is healing, defining and exploring the nature of love is one of the major themes of the Green Stone of Healing® speculative epic. At its most basic, love is unconditional. This means no judgments, no standards, no hooks, no exceptions, no expectations, no ifs, ands, or buts. Just love. Other words for unconditional love are grace and agape, which definitely have spiritual/religious connotations. Because it has no limits, unconditional love is the most powerful essence in a universe that is based on vibration. Everything that exists in our universe vibrates at some level. Unconditional love just happens to be the ultimate vibration -- the highest, finest, fastest, lightest vibration possible at any given instant. Other words for this unconditional love-vibration are God, Yaweh, the Great Spirit, Allah, Universal Mind, etc. More spiritual/religious implications. Unconditional love heals by raising the lowered vibration rates of anyone who comes in contact with it. This ineffable, illusive healing experience has been described by saints and mystics, yogis and rabbis for millennia and regarded as something reserved only for the fortunate (or crazy) few. That’s not true. The healing power of unconditional love is freely available to all of us, provided we know to ask, know where to look for it, and how to welcome it within ourselves. Since unconditional love is not tangible, we cannot hold it in our hands like we do a lover. Instead, we hold and feel unconditional love in our hearts, with the help of our souls. Most of us, however, cannot manage this consistently, even though we yearn to feel loved unconditionally. Instead, we and our world suffer from a severe shortage of unconditional love. Such is certainly the case for Helen Andros, first-generation heroine of the Green Stone of Healing® series, and the culture of cruelty in Azgard, the island nation where she lives. Helen is deeply wounded emotionally and spiritually, and has almost no sense of self-worth. She longs to feel unconditional love, yet when she does so, she cannot claim it for very long. Same goes for the society around her. It is brutal and repressive because the majority of its members regard love as a weakness instead of recognizing that love is the ultimate strength. Helen and her descendents go all of their lives searching for unconditional love and suffering from doing with out it. Where they could find it and how they could claim it for keeps is explored in depth throughout the series. C.L. Talmadge is the author of the Green Stone of Healing speculative epic. The fourth in the series, Outcast, will be published Oct. 1. Vote for the first book, The Vision, through Sept. 25 and get a free e-book on healing, love, and spirituality. Details at her blog: www.healingstonebooks.com/stonescribe.

Participating Sites:

September 2: A.F. Stewart 
September 3: Wendi Zwaduk 
September 4: Laurie J. Edwards 
September 5: Deborah Panger 
September 6: Lily Stone Books 
September 7: Space Snark 
September 10: Fang-tastic Books 
September 11: Amber Scott 
September 18: Inspiration Ink 
September 19: Marianne Arkins

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Blog Tour & Author Interview: The Treasures of Venice by Loucinda McGary

I would like to thank Loucinda McGary for stopping here at Morbid Romantic as part of her blog tour for The Treasures of Venice. The Treasures of Venice is a book that I am looking forward to purchasing because, let's face it, the Renaissance is just beautiful. And a Renaissance scene set in Venice, the most beautiful of all. So, welcome Loucinda McGary!

An Up-Close and Personal Interview with Loucinda McGary

Thank you for inviting me to be a guest here on Morbid Romantic. My second romantic suspense novel published by Sourcebooks Casablanca was ‘officially’ released this week, though it has been popping up on store shelves since the last week of August. I’m excited to be promoting The Treasures of Venice, because not only does it make me a multi-published author (that phrase has such a lovely ring to it!), but it is also the first romantic suspense I wrote and is truly the book of my heart.

The Treasures of Venice is unique in the romantic suspense sub-genre because it has a few paranormal elements, and features a dual storyline set in both modern day and Renaissance Venice. Here’s a blurb describing the story: When American librarian Samantha Lewis and Irish rogue Keirnan Fitzgerald set off to find priceless jewels, they become embroiled in a 500-year-old love story that eerily prefigures their own... In 15th century Venice, beautiful and wealthy Serafina falls in love with Nino, a young Florentine sculptor. They decide to flee to Padua, and to fund the trip, Nino copies a set of jewels that then disappear. In modern-day Venice, Keirnan needs Samantha's help to locate the jewels so he can pay his sister's ransom. Samantha must decide whether the man she's so drawn to is her soul mate from a previous life...or are they merely pawns in a relentless quest for a priceless treasure?

Now that you know a wee bit about my book, I thought I’d answer some personal questions. I’ve heard from both reliable and dubious sources that readers like to ‘get to know the real author.’ So I asked my intrepid critique partner Cathy D. to send me some questions she thought readers might like to have answered. So here are my answers warts and all!

Q: When you are reading for pleasure, what is the one thing that will make you put down the book and quit reading?
A: Glaring mistakes that pull me out of the story. Two examples that spring to mind were both in recent novels written by well-known authors. The first was actually in a book set in Venice and the heroine was running around for hours during Carnevale wearing nothing but a bedsheet -- no shoes, no undies, nuttin’ honey! Well, I’ve been in Venice just a few days after Carnevale (that’s why The Treasures of Venice is set at the same time of year) and trust me, she would have had hypothermia after about thirty minutes. The second story had the hero taking his motorcycle for a long drive west of Los Angeles. I’m a native Californian, so I fell on the floor laughing, but you only have to look at a map to see that the only thing a long way due west of LA is the Pacific Ocean!

Q: When you were in Ireland and Venice, did you know you would be setting novels in those places?
A: Afraid not. I visited long before I started seriously writing for publication. But both places left lasting impressions on me, and I always take photos and keep extensive travel journals on my trips. Pulling those things out stimulated my memories and made me recall the sights, sounds, smells, and other things I experienced. I also bought guide books and maps before I started writing to be sure I had my facts straight. No long drives into the Adriatic or the Irish Sea!

Q: How do you pick names for your characters? Are they family names for the Irish heroes?
A: Most of my main characters pop into my mind with their complete names -- first, middle, and last -- intact. Though I will say that my hero Keirnan’s nickname, Sionnach came about when I was looking up some Irish Gaelic phrases. I came across the Irish word for “fox” and thought it the perfect moniker for my clever hero. I purposely try not to use family names for my Irish characters. Wouldn’t want to insult any relatives (any more than I usually do), or give them an over-inflated ego! While researching online, I ran across a great website that lists the most common Irish surnames (from 100 year old census records) broken down by county. I use these largely for secondary characters, since as I’ve said, my main characters appear with their names.
Interestingly enough, when Keirnan Fitzgerald popped into my imagination, I knew he was from County Kildare, where they breed many Irish thoroughbreds, and that his father was a horse trainer. Later, when I looked at the most common names from County Kildare, Fitzgerald was on the list!
Trust your characters. They really do know best.

Q: Are you hurt when someone criticizes your books? How thick is your skin?
A: Even after years of rejections, I’m afraid my skin is still not quite thick enough. Negative reviews do get to me, and no matter how many wonderful, glowing reviews I get, it is the negative ones I remember most. Go figure! A: I know not everyone likes the same things, and I really don’t mind when a reader or reviewer says something like, “this story just didn’t appeal to me.” But it is another thing when they attack the genre (if you know you don’t like something, don’t read it!!), or they totally miss what I was trying to achieve with the plot or characters. A: Usually, after I read a really negative review, I’ll pour myself a tall, cool drink and hurl a few choice Irish curses as I quench my thirst. :-) All right, I’m afraid I may have revealed entirely too much of the real me! Do you have any other questions about my writing process? My books? Where I came up with such cool Irish curses? Ask away!

About the Author

Loucinda McGary took early retirement from her managerial career to pursue her twin passions of travel and writing, and sets her novels of romantic suspense in the fascinating places she has visited. She was a finalist in the 2006 Romance Writers of America Golden Heart contest in Romantic Suspense. She lives in Sacramento, CA. For more information, please visit http://loucindamcgary.com/.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Guest Post: Judith James (Highland Rebel)

I would like to welcome Judith James to Morbid Romantic. I was fortunate enough to get to review Highland Rebel, so it is a double pleasure for me to get to have Judith James, author herself, guest blog here. Welcome!

Judith James Guest Blog, author of Highland Rebel Morbid Romantic; September 4, 2009
Fact, Fiction and Stereotype
The Encarta dictionary describes stereotype as an “oversimplified conception or standardized image of a person or group” Obviously stereotypes have some basis in fact. The key word is oversimplified. Stereotypes take complex phenomena and simplify them so they are easily communicated and understood, but in the process they loose the tremendous diversity and complexity that lie at the heart of what they describe. One thing research has taught me is not to mistake historical stereotype as fact. Many common stereotypes we hold about the past are mistaken for absolute historical truths, to the point that things that actually happened are sometimes challenged as anachronistic; modern day habits, customs and mores applied to older times. Many of them revolve around women’s roles, social life, and patterns of speech. Here are just a few I came across researching Broken Wing and Highland Rebel. Aristocrats never took to piracy they say? A little research on the Huguenot expulsions from France and the history of the buccaneers might just surprise them. Female upper class pirates historically inaccurate? A modern fantasy imprinted on older times? What about Grania, the Irish chieftain who stood toe to toe with Elizabeth in the 16th century? It’s said that Elizabeth gave her a handkerchief and enjoyed her immensely, even though, to the horror of the gathered courtiers, she blew her nose in it. What about Lady Mary Killigrew of Cornwall, the female pirate and lady in waiting who got herself into hot water with Elizabeth when she oops...got greedy and took an allied vessel and Elizabeth could no longer look the other way? She was a bloodthirsty woman who had a nasty habit of putting the crews she captured to death until her husband was ordered to lock her up. And then there’s the language. It makes some people cringe to see the F#@% word used in historical fiction. Well they may object on moral grounds, but they certainly aren’t on firm footing on historical ones. If the word upsets them they wouldn’t want to read any of the works of the 17th century court poet Rochester or those of his merry band of f#@#sters, or the ode a young Horace Walpole wrote to the Earl of Lincoln. Seventeenth century gentlemen also used slang, much of which is not repeatable here, and contractions such as won’t, don’t, can’t, ben’t, shan’t, etc., were all in common use at that time. A quick read through Sam Pepys diaries or most any Restoration era play will convince you if you believe it an’t so. These are just a few examples of some common stereotypes I found to be less fact based than I originally thought. There are enough about women and their roles to merit a blog on their own and I will be talking about that at a later date, but for now I guess it won’t surprise you if I tell you that my stories aren’t full of well bred lords and proper ladies in lovely gowns, though of course there is some of that. I am always more interested in characters that challenge the stereotypes of their time and gender. My characters curse and swear, they fight and kill, and though they all have their own sense of honour they tend to be rebellious, and question and challenge the rules of the society in which they live. They also deal with moral issues and moral ambiguity, and they insist on living life on their own terms, something some people have been doing all through history. These are the people I find most interesting from a story telling perspective, and it’s particularly true of Catherine and Jamie in Highland Rebel. It’s something that draws them together from the beginning and forms the basis of a friendship that leads to many adventures and makes them question everything they were taught to believe. I’d like to thank the Morbid Romantic for inviting me today. What a great name! And I’d like to thank everyone who stopped by. All comments are welcome and I’m delighted to answer any questions you might have, but I also like to end with one of my own. I remember a book by Bettina Krahn called Caught in the Act that made me pick up a book of poetry by Ovid when the hero read it to her in Latin and her toes curled, and more recently Lisa Marie Wilkinson’s exciting Fire at Midnight made me look up The Great Storm of 1703. Has anything like that ever happened to you?

Highland Rebel by Judith James, in stores September 1, 2009!  

Amidst the upheaval of Cromwell's Britain, Jamie Sinclair's wit and military prowess have served him well. Leading a troop in Scotland, he impetuously marries a captured maiden, saving her from a grim fate. A Highlands heiress to title and fortune, Catherine Drummond is not the woman Jamie believes her to be. When her people effect her rescue, and he cannot annul the marriage, Jamie goes to recapture his hellcat of a new wife... In a world where family and creed cannot be trusted, where faith fuels intolerance and war, Catherine and Jamie test the bounds of loyalty, friendship, and trust... 

About the Author 
Judith James has worked as a legal assistant, trail guide, and counselor. Living in Nova Scotia, her personal journey has taken her to the Arctic and the West Coast. Her writing combines her love of history and adventure with her keen interest in the complexities of human nature and the heart's capacity to heal. For more information about Judith, please visit http://www.judithjamesauthor.com/.