Saturday, August 31, 2013

Wheel of Fortune Spin and R.I.P. VIII Lists


We are doing what is called a "Wheel of Fortune Spin" in my Fantasy Project challenge (thanks, Classics Club for the idea!). We make a list of 15 books from our lists and I will draw a number randomly tomorrow. Here is my list:
  1. Mr. Darcy, Vampyre, Amanda Grange
  2. The Historian, Elizabeth Kostova
  3. Sunshine, Robin McKinley
  4. Season of the Witch, Natasha Mostert  My spin selection
  5. Prophecy of the Sisters, Michelle Zink
  6. The Summoning, Kelley Armstrong
  7. Marked, P.C. Cast/Kristin Cast
  8. Blue Bloods, Melissa De La Cruz
  9. Nightwalker, Jocelynn Drake
  10. The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman
  11. Good Omens, Neil Gaiman/Terry Pratchett
  12. Dead Witch Walking, Kim Harrison
  13. Blood and Chocolate, Annette Curtis Klaus
  14. Evermore, Alyson Noel
  15. Book of Lost Things, John Connolly

Check out my entire list for The Fantasy Project HERE. Check out the The Fantasy Project challenge HERE.

Click image for details and to sign up
R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril, VIII


Read two books of any length that you believe fit within the R.I.P. categories.

I'm going to read at least two (plus the group read):
  • Joyland, Stephen King
  • Wheel of Fortune Spin selection- Season of the Witch, Natasha Mostert (curious? Look here)

This is for those of us that like to watch suitably scary, eerie, mysterious gothic fare during this time of year. It may be something on the small screen or large. It might be a television show, like Dark Shadows or Midsomer Murders, or your favorite film. If you are so inclined, please post links to any R.I.P.-related viewing you do on to the Review Site as well.

Insidious 2, anyone? I'll be seeing it the first weekend it's out. I can't wait! I'm also hoping to see a film called We Are What We Are. See the trailer HERE. It looks off the hook! I'm sure I will be watching more scary, as I LOVE horror films and anything remotely scary or creepy.

Finally, there's this...



The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. This will be a re-read for me, but it's one of my favorite books and I've often thought I would read it again someday. Why not join in with others in reading it this time? Too right!


Thanks to Carl for hosting once again. I look forward to his "challenges" every year!

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#TuesBookTalk September Selection: Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell


TuesBookTalk Read-a-Longs on Twitter (@tuesbooktalk #tuesbooktalk) and on Goodreads will be reading, Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, in September. Our first discussion will be on Tuesday, September 3. Our chats take place on Twitter at 9:30pm ET/8:30pm CT on Tuesday nights (see hashtag above). If you can't join us on Twitter, feel free to share your thoughts in the Goodreads group. Get the full reading schedule HERE. Hope you will join us!

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Friday, August 30, 2013

Magnolia & Lotus: Selected Poems of Hyesim: Review and Guest Post

Please welcome Ian Haight, one of the translators of Magnolia & Lotus.

For Beginning Writers: The Slush Pile and How to Deal with It

The dreaded slush pile: the place where unsolicited manuscripts for publication and query letters go. I’ve heard junior editors say they will read the slush pile only to make amends with a senior editor. If you’re a writer, avoiding the slush pile or learning how to stand out in it is something you want to do.

Why is ending up in the slush pile such a negative? It depends on the press, publication, agent, etc. you’re submitting to, but the slush pile mostly contains work that has no chance of being accepted for publication, or in the case of an agent, for representation. Why is that? The majority of writing in the slush pile doesn’t follow submission guidelines or simply lacks accepted professional presentation norms. A lot of the writing in slush piles is unformed or unfinished, and so not ready for publication. Another problem with the slush pile is even if the writing is good, follows guidelines and looks professional, it may be unsuitable for what the press or magazine wants to publish at that very moment. Readers of the slush pile know all this going in, so the pile is often avoided or approached with disinterest, when read at all. For a writer, facing a disinterested reader via the slush pile is not good. So what can you do?

Slush piles for book-manuscripts have been all but done away with in this day and age. Except for one or two genres like Romance or Children’s Literature, most major publishing houses will not accept unsolicited manuscripts from anyone except an agent. This is also true of query letters—major publishing houses don’t even want unsolicited query letters. Mid-level presses still accept unsolicited queries, but usually only for genres they specialize in and know how to market (like cookbooks, health, or parenting). Small presses have in some respects followed the example of the major publishing houses: generally they too are closed to unsolicited manuscripts, though sometimes they will read unsolicited queries. So when we’re talking about slush piles, we’re really talking about slush piles for query letters and periodical (magazines, journals, etc.) submissions.

The rules of the game for query letters and periodical submissions with respect to slush piles is still the same: large respectable journals approach unsolicited submissions with trepidation and may not even accept them; agents often view query letters as a necessary burden to their business. Which brings us back to the original question: how to avoid the slush pile, or if you are unavoidably stuck in the slush pile, how to stand out in it?

If you’re a beginning writer the easy way is to pay your dues. You have to build a reputation. Start with smaller publications (like with press runs of 100-200) and build up. Determine press runs and the kind of market you’re dealing with by buying one of the Writer’s Market books for your genre (poetry, fiction, etc.). After ten publications (in poetry—with fiction maybe 1-2 stories is enough) with journals at that level, move up to journals with higher press runs, and do not submit to the easier journals. Continue until you get to journals whose publications appear in award anthologies, like the Best American Short Stories. After some years of dedicated work in this manner of publication and you have a sense of your own writing and a possible audience, you might try to query an agent, enter a writing contest, or approach a small or mid-level publisher with a book for publication. 

What attracts the slush pile reader to your unsolicited query at this stage of the game is a publication record. The reader can see you’ve been writing for a while and have some decent publication credentials, suggesting you may know what you’re doing as a writer. This encourages the slush pile reader to give your writing a little extra care and attention than normal. If you’re lucky the dominos fall and maybe in the end your manuscript gets accepted for publication.

Barring this, networking is another good way to avoid the slush pile and potentially a quick pathway to publication. Agents and editors attend conferences where they actively seek out new writers to represent and publish. Attending one of these conferences and personally speaking with an agent or editor encourages them to engage you and your writing at a more personal level with the added benefit of completely avoiding the slush pile. Some agents acquire the majority of their new manuscripts at writing conferences. If you meet an editor at a conference, you can address a submission or query letter straight to him or her, completely avoiding the slush pile. 

When you think about it, the slush pile is one of the big reasons why writers need to be tough-minded people who have patience and tenacity. Until you have an agent for your book, there are few conventional short-cuts to avoid the slush pile. Technology is making self publication via e-books more acceptable, and it is true agents are considering self-published e-books with more seriousness, as are publishing houses. But even with e-books and self-publication, developing a reputation (usually with sales or a large social network) is what helps a writer stand out from the crowd.

My thoughts on Magnolia & Lotus
When I signed up for this tour to review this book, I had no idea that not only would I be reading a wonderful book of poems, but would be getting a history lesson as well. Hyesim (Chin'gak Kuksa Hyesim, 1178 - 1234) was the first Zen Master dedicated to poetry in Korea. Hyesim was a monk and a scholar who became the Chief Abbot of Songgwang Temple in 1210. He was a prolific writer, penning such works as The Enlightened Mind, The Sayings of Chin'gak Kuksa of the Chogye Order, Readings of the Diamond Sutra, Elements of Son School, and Poems by Muuja.

I have always loved poetry. I'm especially fond of poems that have a motivational or inspirational nature. Many of Hyesim's poems are meant to enlighten and inspire. I enjoyed reading his poems. The poems about nature seemed to paint a picture in my mind. However, the inspirational poems were my favorites. Here are a few that I especially loved...

The Delight of Contentment

Being rich and noble, like a floating cloud, means what to me?
Following one's sphere in life is in itself beautiful.
If I have no worries, why do I need wine?
To achieve a tranquil heart is to have made a home.

Small Pond

No Wind, no rippling:
the surface, reflecting all, fills my eyes.
What need is there for so many words?
Observing one another is enough.

Again, a Poem Given at Departure

The somber sky portends rain--
the miserable mountain bears a weary face.
Fortunately, friends of the same practice release clasped hands easily--
but with such heartfelt friendship, it is difficult not to shed tears.

Water Clock 

A breeze of winter--
the months of this year draw to an end. 
Every leaf in a forest eventually falls, yellowing a mountain--
only pine and bamboo retain an inborn breath of emerald.

How many years will a human live?
Time is fleet as lightning.
Details of self ought to be examined--
then the empty dream will not endure.

About the book
Enlightenment as a process: what might it have been like for a Korean Buddhist monk who lived hundreds of years ago? If enlightenment is an unfolding of wisdom, what progressive awareness is suggested by that unfolding? Imagine, then, this same monk becoming the leader of the nation’s most important Buddhist Order: the Chogye. Magnolia and Lotus: Selected Poems of Hyesim suggests what Hyeim might have valued in life; as a monk; and as an early founder of Korea’s largest Buddhist sect. Despite his achievements, this collection asks, did Hyesim eventually relinquish his position? If so, why? What were Hyesim’s thoughts in his final years? Each of the translated poems, attentive to the nuances of Hyesim’s Buddhist and Confucian background as well as the landscape of Korea, posits the point of view of Hyesim, his voice, and his time.

About Ian Haight
Ian Haight is a writer, educator, and consultant to students, professionals in education, and schools. As writer, Ian was a co-organizer and translator for the United Nations' Dialogue on Poetry series in Pusan, Korea; was given a Citation for Translation Excellence from the Korea Literary Translation Institute (KLTI); and has won five grants from KLTI, the Daesan Foundation, and the Baroboin Buddhist Foundation to translate, publish, and edit classical Korean poetry and Buddhist literature.


Ian's own poetry has placed in or won several award contests, including the SLS and Pavel Strut Fellowships, and Atlanta Review and River Styx competitions. His essays, poetry, interviews, and translations have appeared in literary journals and periodicals both in Korea and the United States, including Writer's Chronicle, Barrow Street, Hyundae Buddhist News,JoongAng Daily News, and Prairie Schooner.

Visit him on his website.

This book tour was organized by Pump Up Your Book.

A copy of this book was sent to me in exchange for an honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for providing it.

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Thursday, August 29, 2013

HFVBT: Age of Desire by Jennie Fields--Review and {Giveaway} #AgeOfDesireTour

GIVEAWAY WINNER--EMMA 


My thoughts
I sometimes find myself enjoying historical fiction based on authors more due to the simple fact that I know so little about their lives. As a former history major and history buff, I have read about numerous historical figures and so, I know at least something about them (usually) before embarking on a historical read about them. However, in the case of most authors of the past, I have not read much about them and so reading a novel about them is like a journey of discovery.

What I liked most about The Age of Desire was the development of the characters. I found myself feeling very sympathetic toward Edith and the situation of her marriage to Teddy. Basically, I felt that she went straight from a loveless childhood (due to her mother) and straight into the same in her marriage. She poured this inner pain into her writing, along with her experiences with the upper crust of society. I know many will feel that I'm wrong in my judgement of Edith due to her actions in the book, but I still feel that Edith was a sympathetic character. In the future, when I read Wharton's novels, I know I will find myself thinking of the Edith in this book.

Anna is a contrast to Edith. Because of their difference in values, Edith's actions disrupts their long friendship. I appreciated Anna's steadfast nature and loyalty to Edith, even if she did disagree with Edith's choices. The men in the book...what can I say. Not very impressive. However, I can't help but think that things could have been far different for Edith and Teddy simply if Edith's mother would have been a kind mother who discussed what it means to be a woman (and married) with Edith and prepared her for what was to come, instead of being cruel and indifferent. Morton? Well, I just won't go there. I knew from the moment he was introduced that he was trouble. Would that we could warn characters to stay away. But then there wouldn't be a story, would there?

I enjoyed this novel and I look forward to reading more from Jennie Fields.

About the book
Paperback Publication Date: May 28, 2013
Penguin Publishing
Paperback; 384p
ISBN: 978-0143123286

For fans of The Paris Wife, a sparkling glimpse into the life of Edith Wharton and the scandalous love affair that threatened her closest friendship.

They say that behind every great man is a great woman. Behind Edith Wharton, there was Anna Bahlmann—her governess turned literary secretary and confidante. At the age of forty-five, despite her growing fame, Edith remains unfulfilled in a lonely, sexless marriage. Against all the rules of Gilded Age society, she falls in love with Morton Fullerton, a dashing young journalist. But their scandalous affair threatens everything in Edith’s life—especially her abiding ties to Anna.

At a moment of regained popularity for Wharton, Jennie Fields brilliantly interweaves Wharton’s real letters and diary entries with her fascinating, untold love story. Told through the points of view of both Edith and Anna, The Age of Desire transports readers to the golden days of Wharton’s turn-of-the century world and—like the recent bestseller The Chaperone—effortlessly re-creates the life of an unforgettable woman.

Praise for The Age of Desire

“Somewhere between the repressiveness of Edith Wharton’s early-20th-century Age of Innocence and our own libertine Shades of Grey era lies the absorbingly sensuous world of Jennie Fields’s The Age of Desire . . . along with the overheated romance and the middle-age passion it so accurately describes, The Age of Desire also offers something simpler and quieter: a tribute to the enduring power of female friendship.” —Boston Globe


“One doesn’t have to be an Edith Wharton fan to luxuriate in the Wharton-esque plotting and prose Fields so elegantly conjures.” —Kirkus

“Delicate and imaginative . . . Fields’s love and respect for all her characters and her care in telling their stories shines through." —Publishers Weekly

Beautiful ... an imaginative tour-de-force with the best-written naughty bits I have ever read." —UK Daily Mail

Inspired by Wharton’s letters, The Age of Desire is by turns sensuous . . . and sweetly melancholy. It’s also a moving examination of a friendship between two women. —Bookpage

“A fascinating insight into the life of my favorite novelist. Fields brings a secret side of Wharton to life, and shows us a woman whose elegant façade concealed a turbulent sensuality.” —Daisy Goodwin, author of The American Heiress

“With astonishing tenderness and immediacy, The Age of Desire portrays the interwoven lives of Edith Wharton and Anna Bahlmann, her governess, secretary, and close friend. By focusing on these two women from vastly different backgrounds, Jennie Fields miraculously illuminates an entire era. . . . I gained insight into both Wharton’s monumental work and her personal struggles—and I was filled with regret that I’d finished reading so soon.” —Lauren Belfer, author of City of Light and A Fierce Radiance

“In the vein of Loving Frank or The Paris Wife, Jennie Fields has created a page-turning period piece. Fields portrays a woman whose life was hardly innocence and mirth, but passionate, complex, and more mysterious than one might ever imagine.” —Mary Morris, author of Nothing to Declare and Revenge

About the author
Born in the heart of the heart of the country – Chicago -- Jennie Fields decided to become a writer at the age of six and produced her first (365 page!) novel when she was eleven. She received her MFA at the Iowa Writers Workshop and published her first short stories while spending a postgraduate year at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. But needing to feed her family in the era just post-Mad Men, she became an early female copywriter at an advertising agency, soon rising to creative director and moving to New York. In her 32-year advertising career, she wrote and produced many well-known and award-winning commercials. People even now can embarrass her by telling her they grew up dancing to one of her McDonalds’ jingles.

Still, fiction was her great love. Writing during her lunch hour and after her daughter’s bedtime she penned her first novel, Lily Beach, which was published by Atheneum in 1993 to much acclaim. Since then, she’s written three more novels including Crossing Brooklyn Ferry and The Middle Ages. Her latest, The Age of Desire, is a biographical novel based on the life of the author dearest to her heart, Edith Wharton. An Editor’s Choice of the New York Times Book Review, it describes Wharton’s mid-life love affair with a younger, manipulative man. Why the affinity to Wharton? Because she wrote about people attempting to break society’s expectations for them – which is something Fields has been yearning to do all her life.

For more information, please visit Jennie's website. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter.


Visit other blogs on the tour--Tour Schedule
Twitter Hashtag: #AgeOfDesireTour

GIVEAWAY:
One copy of The Age of Desire to a winner in the U.S. Please leave a comment and be sure to leave a way for me to contact you if you win (email address, Twitter handle, etc). Last day to enter is Thursday, September 12 at 11:59pm CST. Good luck!

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Cat Thursday: Random funnies


Welcome to the weekly meme that celebrates the wonders and sometime hilarity of cats! Join us by posting a favorite LOL cat pic you may have come across, famous cat art or even share with us pics of your own beloved cat(s). It's all for the love of cats! Enjoy! (share your post in the Mr. Linky below)

Well, folks...the unthinkable happened. I almost forgot to post this week. It has been one of those weeks! Thank goodness it's almost Friday and we have a long weekend coming up. Hope you all have a wonderful holiday weekend. Now, enjoy these hilarious kitties...

(I had to come back and add this...I wanted to thank everyone for your lovely comments regarding Alice and Arya last week. I told them what everyone said and I could hardly abide them, they're heads grew so big. HaHa! Anyway, I do appreciate it and I'm sorry I didn't respond in the comments. I meant to and then...well, busy is such a common word...how about swamped. *hugs* to you all!)





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Monday, August 26, 2013

HFVBT: Review--The Tudor Conspiracy by C.W. Gortner #TudorConspiracyTour


My thoughts
Gortner has done it again! The author who writes engaging and accurate historical fiction does not disappoint with his latest edition in the Spymaster Chronicles.

I'm a big fan of Elizabeth I so any stories that involve her are always a draw for me. With the Spymaster Chronicles, we are introduced to an interesting character, Brendan Prescott, who seeks to protect Elizabeth and to see her safely take her place on the throne. In The Tudor Conspiracy, Mary is now queen and although Elizabeth is her sister, it does not matter. In the eyes of the court and the current ruler, any potential heir to the throne is a threat. Throw in the Spanish interest and you have the makings for some serious court intrigue.

Each time I read historical fiction that centers on the past royals of England, I am struck by how truly treacherous the times were. Gortner skillfully brings the reader straight to the middle of these dangerous times. It's edge-of-the-seat reading for sure.

Gortner has become one of my favorite historical fiction authors. I am so looking forward to his next book. If you have not read him, I recommend you start with The Last Queen.

About the book
US Publication Date: July 16, 2013
St. Martin's Griffin
Paperback; 352p
ISBN-10: 0312658494

UK Publication Date: July 18, 2013
Hodder & Stoughton
Paperback; 352p
ISBN-10: 1444720856

Hunted by a shadowy foe in Bloody Mary’s court, Brendan Prescott plunges into London’s treacherous underworld to unravel a dark conspiracy that could make Elizabeth queen—or send her to her death in C.W. Gortner's The Tudor Conspiracy

England, 1553: Harsh winter encroaches upon the realm. Mary Tudor has become queen to popular acclaim and her enemies are imprisoned in the Tower. But when she’s betrothed to Philip, Catholic prince of Spain, putting her Protestant subjects in peril, rumors of a plot to depose her swirl around the one person whom many consider to be England’s heir and only hope—the queen’s half-sister, Princess Elizabeth.

Haunted by his past, Brendan Prescott lives far from the intrigues of court. But his time of refuge comes to an end when his foe and mentor, the spymaster Cecil, brings him disquieting news that sends him on a dangerous mission. Elizabeth is held captive at court, the target of the Spanish ambassador, who seeks her demise. Obliged to return to the palace where he almost lost his life, Brendan finds himself working as a double-agent for Queen Mary herself, who orders Brendan to secure proof that will be his cherished Elizabeth’s undoing.

Plunged into a deadly game of cat-and-mouse with a mysterious opponent who hides a terrifying secret, Brendan races against time to retrieve a cache of the princess’s private letters, even as he begins to realize that in this dark world of betrayal and deceit, where power is supreme and sister can turn against sister, nothing—and no one—is what it seems.

Praise for The Tudor Conspiracy
“The Tudor Conspiracy weaves a suspenseful, tangled skein of intrigue. It is a vibrant historical mystery and crime-thriller with an A-list cast of characters. Here are Elizabeth Tudor and her Robert Dudley in a light you’ve seldom seen them. —Margaret George, author of Elizabeth I

“C.W. Gortner has done it again! Intrigue at the Tudor court never looked more lethal than in his capable hands, as forbidden desires and deadly rivalries turn sister against sister and plunge our bold hero into a labyrinth of deceit. Full of breathtaking action, dark twists and unexpected revelations, this is an unputdownable read!” —Michelle Moran, author of Nefertiti

“In C.W. Gortner’s skillful hands, the plots and counterplots come to seething life, with Brendan using every ounce of his brains and courage to protect those he loves while struggling to stay alive. . . . Lovers of Tudor history and suspense fiction will be riveted by this swift-paced, sexy, enthralling novel.” —Nancy Bilyeau, author of The Crown

“Suspense, intrigue, betrayal, and deadly rivalry: what more can you ask for? From the serpentine halls of the court to the vicious back alleys and stews of Tudor London, Gortner has brewed a swashbuckling, perilous adventure that you simply can't put down!” —M.J. Rose, author of The Book of Lost Fragrances

“C.W. Gortner has an unmatched talent for bringing the past to life. The Tudor Conspiracy is historical fiction at its best: a compelling story masterfully told, vivid characters fully drawn, and an accurate depiction of history of the time. A novel not to be missed.” —Tasha Alexander


About the author
C.W. Gortner holds an MFA in Writing, with an emphasis in Renaissance Studies. Raised in Spain and half Spanish by birth, he currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

He welcomes readers and is always available for reader group chats. Please visit him at www.cwgortner.com for more information. You can also follow Christopher on Facebook and Twitter.


Visit other blogs on the tour--Tour Schedule
Twitter Hashtag: #TudorConspiracyTour

Stop over and read the author's excellent essay on queen Mary Tudor HERE.



A copy of this book was sent to me in exchange for an honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for providing it.

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Sunday, August 25, 2013

My Upcoming Events and a Revamped Reading Challenge


I'm hosting another write-a-thon! Sit Down and Write 4 starts on Monday. I'm hosting at my writing blog, Stories Inside. This write-a-thon is not only for people who are writing novels or short stories, but also for people who need to catch up on blog writing, etc. For all the details and to sign up, visit this POST at Stories Inside.


Over at Castle Macabre, I'm hosting two events this Fall. Gothic September, featuring a read-a-long of Robert Parry's Gothic historical novel, The Arrow Chest (about the book). In October, I'm once again hosting Season of the Witch. For all the details on both events, visit this POST at Castle Macabre.


On the reading challenge front, come check out my revamped fantasy challenge, The Fantasy Project: 101 Books in 10 Years. You can get the details and sign up at the dedicated blog. We also have a Goodreads group!


And don't forget about the FrightFall Read-a-Thon! It's just a little over a month away! Sign ups coming soon at Seasons of Reading.  

I hope you will think about joining me for one, or all, of these events/challenges!

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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Cat Thursday...Catching up with Alice and Arya


Welcome to the weekly meme that celebrates the wonders and sometime hilarity of cats! Join us by posting a favorite LOL cat pic you may have come across, famous cat art or even share with us pics of your own beloved cat(s). It's all for the love of cats! Enjoy! (share your post in the Mr. Linky below)

This week I thought I'd share a slide show of recent pics of the girls. Please let me apologize for the poor quality (cell phone camera) and, of course, Alice is incredibly hard to photograph without a good camera because of her coloring. I hope you enjoy my sweet girls. =O)

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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Classics Club Spin (3)...My Spin Selection

Drum roll, please! My number 4 selection is Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte. I probably shouldn't have included rereads in my spin list. Next time I won't. However, it has been a long time since I read this one so...let's see if I can actually get it read. =O)  (see my original list below)




I failed miserably on the last spin and I'm still (slowly) reading The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. So, I'm here to give it another shot with Spin # 3. This time, I'm going to do it a bit differently. All 20 titles on my list will be chosen randomly using random.org. Wish me luck!
  1. Howard's End, E.M Forster
  2. Out of Africa, Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen)
  3. Kristin Lavransdatter, Sigrid Undset
  4. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte
  5. A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
  6. The Marble Faun, Nathaniel Hawthorne
  7. The French Lieutenant's Woman, John Fowles
  8. The Devil and Miss Prym, Paulo Coelho
  9. All the Pretty Horses, Cormac McCarthy
  10. The Once and Future King, T.H. White
  11. Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
  12. The Magnificent Ambersons, Booth Tarkington
  13. What Maisie Knew, Henry James
  14. The Golden Bowl, Henry James
  15. Queen Margot, Alexandre Dumas
  16. The House of the Spirits, Isabel Allende
  17. The Stone Diaries, Carol Shields
  18. The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath
  19. Vanity Fair, William Makepeace Thackeray
  20. The Silver Chalice, Thomas B. Costain
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Monday, August 19, 2013

HFVBT: The Tudor Conspiracy by C.W. Gortner--Guest Post #TudorConspiracyTour


Mary Tudor: A Catholic Tudor Queen 
An Original Essay by C.W. Gortner

Mary I of England is without doubt one of history’s most reviled and misunderstood figures—a queen who overcame tremendous odds to win her throne in 1553 yet who managed by her death in 1558 to have deeply divided her realm, responsible for a savage persecution that terrorized her realm. She ruled only five years but so terrible is the memory of her deeds that she has earned the sobriquet of “Bloody Mary”, a name for which she is still known today.

Mary was the sole surviving child of Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, daughter of the Catholic Monarchs of Spain. Catherine was sent to England to marry the Tudor heir, Prince Arthur, but his sudden demise left her a widow. Catherine claimed the marriage had never been consummated, and her impoverished isolation in the years that followed stoked the ardor of the new heir, Henry, who, upon his coronation, wed Catherine despite a six-year difference in their ages. Catherine and Henry were married for twenty-four years; stalwart and devout, indubitably in love with her husband, Catherine endured numerous miscarriages and the death of an infant son before finally giving birth to Mary in February of 1516.

As Henry’s sole heir (for despite his later obsessive quest for a son, a daughter could inherit his crown) Mary was adored by her parents. Historical sources recount numerous occasions when the handsome king displayed his fair-haired daughter to his court, showing off her skill with music and graceful charm. But Henry’s disillusion with his aging, now-barren wife catapulted him into a tumultuous affair with one of Catherine’s ladies in waiting, the ambitious Anne Boleyn, who would settle for nothing less than marriage. Thus, at the age of fifteen, Mary’s entire world was turned upside down, her status yanked out from under her as she watched her mother, clinging to her title and rights, exiled to a remote manor, where Catherine died in appalling conditions and in fear for the safety of the daughter she’d been forbidden to see. Anne Boleyn also vented her spleen, forcing Mary to serve Anne’s infant daughter by Henry, Princess Elizabeth, and even, sources claim, plotting to have Mary killed. The cataclysm unleashed by Henry’s passion for Anne changed England forever, resulting in a nascent reformation that would in time make Protestantism the official faith, even as Anne waged desperate battle to protect herself and her child. In 1536, Anne lost her battle and was executed on trumped-up charges; within weeks Elizabeth joined her half-sister Mary as a bastard daughter of the king.

Mary’s struggles continued while Henry married four more times. Steadfast in her Catholicism, the faith in which she’d been reared and which her mother had exhorted her to uphold, she finally gave into her father’s demands to acknowledge him as Head of the Church—an act that haunted her for the rest of her life, as she felt she’d betrayed her mother’s trust and her own belief that the only true church was the Catholic one. In those years, she developed an often uneasy relationship with her half-siblings, Elizabeth and their brother Edward, born of Henry’s third wife, both of whom had imbued the radical spirit of the Reformation.

Various suitors for Mary’s hand came and went; at the age of thirty-seven, when many women were considered unmarriageable, she found herself in the hunter’s snare once more when John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, usurped her claim to the throne upon Edward VI’s death and set his daughter-in-law, Jane Grey, in her place. Often neglected and ignored, prematurely aged by self-imposed seclusion, Mary displayed her innate Tudor ferocity, eluding her pursuers to amass an army and march on London. She may have been a Catholic spinster but the people cheered her as the rightful queen and rallied to her cause. She was crowned in the summer of 1553, sending Jane Grey, Northumberland and his sons to the Tower. Many of the new queen’s advisors, including the wily Imperial ambassador, Renard, urged Mary to execute her prisoners but she consented only to Northumberland’s death, promising release in time for Jane and the Dudley sons. Even in questions of religion she expressed caution, citing her people’s hearts could only be won back in stages. Nevertheless, one of her first acts was to overturn the annulment of her mother’s marriage to Henry VIII, casting further doubt on Elizabeth’s legitimacy.

The advent of her marriage to Philip of Spain, son of the Hapsburg emperor and Mary’s cousin, Charles V, who had long been a scion of support, if not actual assistance, changed everything. Suddenly, Mary saw the possibility of happiness bloom before her: the chance to be love and be loved, to become a wife and mother. As Renard pressured her to deal with all remaining threats to her faith and crown, including Elizabeth, whom he believed was the active figurehead of Protestant opposition, the deep-seated wounds inflicted on Mary since adolescence flared anew. She remembered her hatred of Anne Boleyn, her helpless horror over her father’s zeal to amass the Church’s wealth and abolish its power, her heartrending sorrow at the separation from, and death of, her mother, and the long years of humiliation. The past could be absolved, she believed. Everything that had gone wrong could be put to right, if only she roused the strength that Catherine of Aragon had shown; the unstinting fervor that her maternal grandmother, Queen Isabella, had employed to unite Spain. She saw herself as a savior, who must do whatever was required to bring about her people’s return to the Catholic fold.

Caught in a maelstrom of her own convictions, Mary precipitated her tragedy.

It is too simple to condemn her as a monster, though she behaved in a monstrous way. Her execution of Jane Grey and subsequent burning of over two hundred Protestants, among who were Cranmer, archbishop of Canterbury, and Bishops Ridley and Latimer, blackened her name and left her country in chaos, the smoke of the pyres only clearing once she took to her deathbed after a false pregnancy that may have been uterine cancer. She left behind a realm ravaged by political and religious dissension, widespread famine and penury. The loss of England’s last possession in France, the city of Calais, was a blow Mary declared would be found engraved on her heart. Even in her final hours, she was beset by those who implored her to condemn Elizabeth—an act she refused. In doing so, Mary unwittingly accomplished in death what she had failed to do in life: She gave England back its hope, in the form of a virgin queen, whose unparalleled grandeur and longevity would define an era.


About the book
US Publication Date: July 16, 2013
St. Martin's Griffin
Paperback; 352p
ISBN-10: 0312658494

UK Publication Date: July 18, 2013
Hodder & Stoughton
Paperback; 352p
ISBN-10: 1444720856

Hunted by a shadowy foe in Bloody Mary’s court, Brendan Prescott plunges into London’s treacherous underworld to unravel a dark conspiracy that could make Elizabeth queen—or send her to her death in C.W. Gortner's The Tudor Conspiracy

England, 1553: Harsh winter encroaches upon the realm. Mary Tudor has become queen to popular acclaim and her enemies are imprisoned in the Tower. But when she’s betrothed to Philip, Catholic prince of Spain, putting her Protestant subjects in peril, rumors of a plot to depose her swirl around the one person whom many consider to be England’s heir and only hope—the queen’s half-sister, Princess Elizabeth.

Haunted by his past, Brendan Prescott lives far from the intrigues of court. But his time of refuge comes to an end when his foe and mentor, the spymaster Cecil, brings him disquieting news that sends him on a dangerous mission. Elizabeth is held captive at court, the target of the Spanish ambassador, who seeks her demise. Obliged to return to the palace where he almost lost his life, Brendan finds himself working as a double-agent for Queen Mary herself, who orders Brendan to secure proof that will be his cherished Elizabeth’s undoing.

Plunged into a deadly game of cat-and-mouse with a mysterious opponent who hides a terrifying secret, Brendan races against time to retrieve a cache of the princess’s private letters, even as he begins to realize that in this dark world of betrayal and deceit, where power is supreme and sister can turn against sister, nothing—and no one—is what it seems.

Praise for The Tudor Conspiracy
“The Tudor Conspiracy weaves a suspenseful, tangled skein of intrigue. It is a vibrant historical mystery and crime-thriller with an A-list cast of characters. Here are Elizabeth Tudor and her Robert Dudley in a light you’ve seldom seen them. —Margaret George, author of Elizabeth I

“C.W. Gortner has done it again! Intrigue at the Tudor court never looked more lethal than in his capable hands, as forbidden desires and deadly rivalries turn sister against sister and plunge our bold hero into a labyrinth of deceit. Full of breathtaking action, dark twists and unexpected revelations, this is an unputdownable read!” —Michelle Moran, author of Nefertiti

“In C.W. Gortner’s skillful hands, the plots and counterplots come to seething life, with Brendan using every ounce of his brains and courage to protect those he loves while struggling to stay alive. . . . Lovers of Tudor history and suspense fiction will be riveted by this swift-paced, sexy, enthralling novel.” —Nancy Bilyeau, author of The Crown

“Suspense, intrigue, betrayal, and deadly rivalry: what more can you ask for? From the serpentine halls of the court to the vicious back alleys and stews of Tudor London, Gortner has brewed a swashbuckling, perilous adventure that you simply can't put down!” —M.J. Rose, author of The Book of Lost Fragrances

“C.W. Gortner has an unmatched talent for bringing the past to life. The Tudor Conspiracy is historical fiction at its best: a compelling story masterfully told, vivid characters fully drawn, and an accurate depiction of history of the time. A novel not to be missed.” —Tasha Alexander


About the author
C.W. Gortner holds an MFA in Writing, with an emphasis in Renaissance Studies. Raised in Spain and half Spanish by birth, he currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

He welcomes readers and is always available for reader group chats. Please visit him at www.cwgortner.com for more information. You can also follow Christopher on Facebook and Twitter.


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