Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Finding a Paranormal Home in Victorian London

Today I have a very special treat in store for you lucky readers! No, not tea and biscuits. The author Gail Carriger is here for a guest blog. Her debut novel, Soulless, was released upon the book buying masses yesterday, and lets hope those masses were buying this book, I know I was trying to influence you.... As it says on her website "Soulless, book the first in the Parasol Protectorate Series, is a comedy of manners set in Victorian London: full of vampires, dirigibles, and tea. It is either Jane Austen does paranormal, or PG Wodehouse does steampunk." Either way I'm in, loving anything English, especially Jane Austen and PG Wodehouse. It's like a Buffy and Anglophiles dream! Well, enough of me, you get enough of me every day, it's not that often I hand the reins of my blog over to someone without further ado, I present Gail Corriger:

There is something incredibly appealing about Victorian London. While I'm certain it was stinky, uncomfortable, unsanitary, and largely unpleasant for many of its residents - the romantic appeal is unassailable. I don't know what makes it so alluring to others, but for me it is equal parts the clothing, the manners, and the intellectual revolution of the time. London in 1873 seemed to me a natural habitat for vampires, with all their vaunted urbanity (not to mention the whole "can't enter without an invitation" thing - the only people more obsessed with proper etiquette than vampires were the Victorians), just as the army of the British Empire seemed like the perfect place for werewolves.

There is an odd kind of logic to the Victorian mentality, and that, coupled with a sense of scientific superiority, makes acceptance of the supernatural easy to imagine. One can envision the Victorians sipping tea with werewolves, discussing ancient philosophy with ghosts, or playing cards with a vampire. One simply can't imagine the 19th century French or Italians doing anything nearly so civilized when confronted with fangs or fur.

I just love the idea of a whole genre centered around a stately yet pompous mixture of paranormal and high society, gravitas ab umbraculum. (Dignity in Parasols, or something like.) Gothic literature, after all, had its heyday during Victorian times, and what is the urban fantasy genre but gothic writing modernized? In a way, returning to Victorian London is full circle for paranormal authors. Toss a little steampunk in there and what could be more fun? I, for one, was excited by the idea of urban fantasy quitting its contemporary setting. And since I had nothing better to do – I wrote about it myself.

(Me, Miss Eliza again...I hope you enjoyed that wonderful post, and make sure to go out and get that book and check out Gail Corriger's site, it's lots of fun, it even has an interactive paperdoll! And we all know how much I love those...)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Philippa Gregory's The Other Boleyn Girl Contest! More to Win! THIS COMPETITION NOW CLOSED

Well...the competition is nearly at an end for The Other Boleyn Girl...but just to entice those who haven't entered and to reward those who remember saying if I hit 100 followers, there might me an extra something something? No? Well, never mind that, though I'm surprised a few of you haven't mentioned it...I know how much you love free books! The added bonus prize is Philippa Gregory's The Boleyn Inheritance...hmmm is that a Boleyn theme I sense going on? Or perhaps a plot? Anyway, tomorrow, midnight, get those entries in!


A Paperback Edition of The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory AND A Paperback Edition of The Boleyn Inheritance

Who is your favorite British Monarch? Are you a Henry VIII girl? A Richard III guy? Or maybe you favor a little Queen Victoria with a side of Prince Albert? I'd be interested to hear what you think.

The Rules:
1. Open to EVERYONE (worldwide), and just because you haven't been following me all along doesn't mean you don't matter.
2. Please make sure I have a way to contact you if your name is drawn, either your blogger profile or a link to your website/blog or you could even include your email address with your comment(s).
3. Contest ends Wednesday, September 30th at 11:59AM CST
4. How to enter: Just post below
5. And for those addicted to getting extra entries:

* +1 for answering the question above
* +2 for becoming a follower
* +5 if you are already a follower
* +10 for each time you advertise this contest - blog post, sidebar, twitter (please @MzLizard), etc. (but you only get credit for the first post at each site, so tweet all you like, and I thank you for it, but you'll only get the +10 once). Also please leave a link!

Another Few Awards

Yikes! I'm way behind on passing this award (as well as the others below) on, what can I say? School, work, flu...just excuses when there are people out there waiting to be appreciated and lauded!

Thanks so much to Lori (SugarAndGrits) for the The Heartfelt Award!

The Award:
The Heartfelt Award

What's it all about (Alfie)?:
Do you reach for a cup of cocoa or tea when you're relaxing, seeking comfort, or sharing a plate of cookies with family and friends? You know the feeling you get when you drink a yummy cup of cocoa, tea, or a hot toddy? That is what the Heartfelt Award is all about...feeling warm inside.

1) Put the logo on your blog/post.
2) Nominate up to 9 blogs which make you feel comfy or warm inside.
3) Be sure to link to your nominees within your post.
4) Let them know that they have been nominated by commenting on their blog.
5) Remember to link to the person from whom you received your award.

The Nominees:
Ashley at Books Obsession

Bingo at Bookin' with "Bingo"

Bri at What Bri Reads

Cindy at Princess Bookie

The Empress, the Queen and the Princess at Royal Reviews

Jessica at Cover to Cover

Lenore at Presenting Lenore

Nomadreader at Nomadreader

Tina at TinasBookReview

Also, Lori has been extremely generous with the awards headed my way! I also have gotten The Splash Award! I'm so humbled and honored to be thought of as amusing and bewitching (see below)! Now everyone go check out Lori (SugarAndGrits)'s blog, Some of My Favorite Books for being such an awesome blogger! Yes, do it now before you get distracted by all the winners!

The Award:
The Splash Award

What's it all about (Alfie)?:
The Splash Award is given to alluring, amusing,
bewitching, impressive, and inspiring blogs.

- Put the logo on your blog/post.
- Nominate & link up to 9 blogs which allure, amuse, bewitch, impress or inspire you.
- Let them know that they have been splashed by commenting on their blog.
- Remember to link to the person from whom you received your Splash Award.

The Nominees:
Amber at Must and Lust for Books

Briana at From Briana’s Point of View

Falling off the Shelf at Falling off the Shelf

Froggarita at Froggaritaville’s Bookcase

Genevieve at Genevieve’s Blog, Something Bookish…

Krista at Life or Something Like It…

Liyana at Liyanaland

Nina at jadorehappyendings

Titania86 at Fishmuffins of Doom

The lovely Zia, over at My Life in Not So Many Words has also given me an award. I just feel so loved! It's very nice, warm and fuzzy. Also so pretty and B as in beautiful blog!

The Award:

What's it all about (Alfie)?:
This award was started by Bookin With BINGO and here are the rules:
This "B-I-N-G-O" BEAUTIFUL BLOG AWARD means that this blog is...

The Nominees:
B: Beautiful: The Ravenous Reader at Tales of a Ravenous Reader

I: Informative: Shauna at Book Giveaways

N: Neighborly: April at Good Books & Good Wine

G: Gorgeous: Anna and Jenny at Book

O: Outstanding: Kristen at Bookworming in the 21st Century

The Guild Season 3, Episode 5: Application'd

<br/><a href="" target="_new" title="Season 3 - Episode 5: Application&#39;d">Video: Season 3 - Episode 5: Application&#39;d</a>

Monday, September 28, 2009

Banned Books Week Begins

Sometimes I reflect on what it would be like to have lived at a time when books were not so readily available and the thought just scares me. To not have the wonderful stories and worlds right there at my fingertips is a frightening prospect. When you think that there was once a time when books were the most sacred and valuable possession someone owned because the printed word was scarce and cost so much you realize how lucky we are that we live now. But to think of a time, our time, when knowledge is readily accessible, when words and books can be found almost anywhere and be available to anyone and then have that taken away by censors. That just terrifies me to me very core. There are appropriate and inappropriate books, there are good books and bad books, but there is no one who has the right to tell you that a book is not fit to be read. Anything that has been written has the right to be read if someone wants to read it. There is not some all powerful governing body who has any right to tell me I can't read a book. Knowledge is not to be monitored, it is to have an ever expanding ceaseless horizon. Go out a increase your world view and read a banned book.

Top 10 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2008:

  1. And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
    Reasons: anti-ethnic, anti-family, homosexuality, religious viewpoint, and unsuited to age group
  2. His Dark Materials trilogy, by Philip Pullman
    Reasons: political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, and violence
  3. TTYL; TTFN; L8R, G8R (series), by Lauren Myracle
    Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group
  4. Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
    Reasons: occult/satanism, religious viewpoint, and violence
  5. Bless Me, Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya
    Reasons: occult/satanism, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, and violence
  6. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
    Reasons: drugs, homosexuality, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit, suicide, and unsuited to age group
  7. Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily von Ziegesar
    Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group
  8. Uncle Bobby's Wedding, by Sarah S. Brannen
    Reasons: homosexuality and unsuited to age group
  9. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
    Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group
  10. Flashcards of My Life, by Charise Mericle Harper
    Reasons: sexually explicit and unsuited to age group

Tuesday Tomorrow

Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby
Published by: Riverhead
Publication Date: September 29th, 2009
Format: Hardcover, 416 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"In a dreary seaside town in England, Annie loves Duncan—or thinks she does, because she always has. Duncan loves Annie, but then, all of a sudden, he doesn’t anymore. So Annie stops loving Duncan, and starts getting her own life.

She sparks an e-mail correspondence with Tucker Crowe, a reclusive Dylanesque singer- songwriter who stopped making music twenty-two years ago, and who is also Duncan’s greatest obsession. A surprising connection is forged between two lonely people who are looking for more out of what they’ve got. Tucker’s been languishing (and he’s unnervingly aware of it), living in rural Pennsylvania with what he sees as his one hope for redemption amid a life of emotional, familial, and artistic ruin—his young son, Jackson. But then there’s also the material he’s about to release to the world, an acoustic, stripped-down version of his greatest album, Juliet, titled Juliet, Naked. And he’s just been summoned across the Atlantic with Jackson to face his multitude of ex-wives and children (both just discovered and formerly neglected), in the same country where his intriguing new Internet friend resides.

What happens when a washed-up musician looks for another chance? And miles away, a restless, childless woman looks for a change? Juliet, Naked is a powerfully engrossing, humblingly humorous novel about music, love, loneliness, and the struggle to live up to one’s promise."

Nick Hornby going back to what Nick Hornby does best, complex interpersonal relationships and music! After having spent the last few years doing his column for The Believer, which was awesome, and writing a Young Adult novel, Slam, again awesome, he's back on more familiar territory for his fans. Sure to be another modern classic you should definitely pick up his newest book for the author of High Fidelity.

Nick Hornby is also going to be touring the United States with this book and I strongly recommend you go. I got to see him speak when he was promoting Slam and it was a great experience, didn't hurt getting my books signed and talking about the cover design for Speaking with the Angel.

September 29th in New York
Barnes & Noble – Union Square, 7:00 PM

September 30th in Boston
Brookline Booksmith, 6:00 PM
Location: Coolidge Theater

October 1st in Washington, DC
Politics & Prose, 7:00 PM

October 6th in Los Angeles
Book Soup, 7:30 PM
Location: Skirball Cultural Center

October 7th in El Cerrito, CA
Barnes & Noble – El Cerrito, 7:00 PM

October 8th in San Francisco
City Arts & Lectures, 8:00 PM
Location: Herbst Theater

October 9th in Seattle
Elliott Bay Book Company, 7:00 PM
Location: Seattle Public Library

Soulless: The Parasol Protectorate Book 1 by Gail Carriger
Published by: Orbit
Publication Date: September 29th, 2009
Format: Paperback, 382 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Alexia Tarabotti is laboring under a great many social tribulations. First, she has no soul. Second, she's a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquette.

Where to go from there? From bad to worse apparently, for Alexia accidentally kills the vampire -- and then the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate.

With unexpected vampires appearing and expected vampires disappearing, everyone seems to believe Alexia responsible. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London's high society? Will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing? Finally, who is the real enemy, and do they have treacle tart?

SOULLESS is a comedy of manners set in Victorian London: full of werewolves, vampires, dirigibles, and tea-drinking."

This book has everything, parasols, the supernatural, tea, parasols, werewolves, vampires, did I mention parasols? (After Amelia Peabody and Miss Gwen, parasols are something to look forward to!) The cover has that perfect blend of darkness with just a hint of Steampunk, love the goggles on her top hat, The Doctor would approve! If the authors website and bio are anything to go by, this will be a wonderful debut with wit and just the right level of self deprecation. Even more exciting, Gail Corriger will be doing a guest blog right here in the near future! How exciting is that!?! You don't have to go traipsing about the net, the author comes right to you! Although...her website IS cool, so perhaps you should check that out as well...BUT be sure to keep your eyes peeled, she'll be here shortly! Did a hear a cloak rustle? Perhaps a parasol is leaning against the stoop that wasn't there before...

Gail will also being appearing at Borderlands Books in San Fransisco on October 11th and 28th.

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

Published by: Scribner
Publication Date: September 29th, 2009
Format: Hardcover, 416 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Six years after the phenomenal success of The Time Traveler's Wife, Audrey Niffenegger has returned with a spectacularly compelling and haunting second novel set in and around Highgate Cemetery in London.

When Elspeth Noblin dies of cancer, she leaves her London apartment to her twin nieces, Julia and Valentina. These two American girls never met their English aunt; they only knew that their mother, too, was a twin, and Elspeth her sister. Julia and Valentina are semi-normal American teenagers -- with seemingly little interest in college, finding jobs, or anything outside their cozy home in the suburbs of Chicago, and with an abnormally intense attachment to one another.

The girls move to Elspeth's flat, which borders Highgate Cemetery. They come to know the building's other residents. There is Martin, a brilliant and charming crossword puzzle setter suffering from crippling obsessive-compulsive disorder; Marjike, Martin's devoted but trapped wife; and Robert, Elspeth's elusive former lover, a scholar of the cemetery. As the girls become embroiled in the fraying lives of their aunt's neighbors, they also discover that much is still alive in Highgate, including -- perhaps -- their aunt, who can't seem to leave her old apartment and life behind.

Niffenegger weaves a captivating story in Her Fearful Symmetry: about love and identity, about secrets and sisterhood, and about the tenacity of life -- even after death."

Audrey Niffenegger has become vastly famous for basically writing one book, The Time Traveler's Wife. But her longed for second novel, I'm not counting The Adventuress or Three Incestuous Sister being not really novels and more graphic in nature, finally arrives this week. This book looks far more interesting to me being set in England and revolving around a set of bizarre characters living near Highgate Cemetary. I'm sure to read it and I hope you will too.

Audrey Niffenegger will be doing a few appearances for Her Fearful Symmetry across the US.

Septmeber 29th @ 6:00PM
Newberry Library
Chicago, Illinois

September 30th @ 7:30PM
The Swedish Museum
Chicago, Illinois

October 1st @ 6:00PM
Boston Public Library
Boston, Massachusetts

October 2nd @ 7:00PM
RJ Julia
Madison, Connecticut

October 5th @ 7:00PM
Barnes & Noble Union Square
New York, New York

October 29th @ 7:00PM
Location TBA
Washington, DC

November 2nd @ 7:30PM
Baileys Crossroads, Virginia

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
Published by: Bloomsbury USA
Publication Date: September 29th, 2009
Format: Paperback, 864 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"English magicians were once the wonder of the known world, with fairy servants at their beck and call; they could command winds, mountains, and woods. But by the early 1800s they have long since lost the ability to perform magic. They can only write long, dull papers about it, while fairy servants are nothing but a fading memory.
But at Hurtfew Abbey in Yorkshire, the rich, reclusive Mr Norrell has assembled a wonderful library of lost and forgotten books from England's magical past and regained some of the powers of England's magicians. He goes to London and raises a beautiful young woman from the dead. Soon he is lending his help to the government in the war against Napoleon Bonaparte, creating ghostly fleets of rain-ships to confuse and alarm the French.

All goes well until a rival magician appears. Jonathan Strange is handsome, charming, and talkative-the very opposite of Mr Norrell. Strange thinks nothing of enduring the rigors of campaigning with Wellington's army and doing magic on battlefields. Astonished to find another practicing magician, Mr Norrell accepts Strange as a pupil. But it soon becomes clear that their ideas of what English magic ought to be are very different. For Mr Norrell, their power is something to be cautiously controlled, while Jonathan Strange will always be attracted to the wildest, most perilous forms of magic. He becomes fascinated by the ancient, shadowy figure of the Raven King, a child taken by fairies who became king of both England and Faerie, and the most legendary magician of all. Eventually Strange's heedless pursuit of long-forgotten magic threatens to destroy not only his partnership with Norrell, but everything that he holds dear.
Sophisticated, witty, and ingeniously convincing, Susanna Clarke's magisterial novel weaves magic into a flawlessly detailed vision of historical England. She has created a world so thoroughly enchanting that eight hundred pages leave readers longing for more. "

A new re-issue of the wondrous Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. No, back off, stop picking on me, I need this edition too, look shiny new introduction by Neil Gaiman. You can never have too many copies of this book...really you just can't, it's total impossibility. That is not my bookshelf groaning in the distance!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Life Immitates Art

In the newest, and I think most ingenious ways to promote a tv series, a fictional television writer's book is coming out. And not just any fictional character, but Richard Castle, played by that leader among Browncoats, my Captain, and I hope yours, Nathan Fillion. To catch you up, Nathan Fillion, that most wonderful and understated of actors finally has a show that wasn't canceled right away. On ABC's Castle, he plays the wildly successful crime novelist Richard Castle. This Tuesday, Richard Castle's newest book, Heatwave, is coming out. You might remember last week on the series premiere, he said, now is the time to write... Also there is hope that this isn't just a crappy novel used to lure in viewers, which it obviously is on some level. But such great crime writers, the likes of James Patterson, have appeared on this show, so perhaps one of them is the actual writer... You might be saying that this smacks of "The Bro Code" and sure they might have done this in the past, but this time there's a new twist. Nathan Fillion, in character, is going to be doing Richard Castle book signings...oh, if only I lived in California! Be sure to check this book out, and I'll be sure to post any interesting new developments, because I (heart) Captain Tight Pants.

Heatwave by Richard Castle
Published by: Hyperion
Publication Date: September 29th, 2009
Format: Hardcover, 208Pages
To Buy

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009 @ 7:30PM
Borders Northridge
Northridge, CA

Monday October 19th, 2009 @ 7:30pm
Barnes & Noble at The Grove
Los Angeles, CA

Friday, September 25, 2009

Book Review - Helene Hanff's The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street

The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street by Helene Hanff
Published by: Lippincott
Publication Date: 1973
Format: Hardcover, 137 Pages
Rating: ★★★★★
Out of Print

The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street is Helene Hanff's followup to the popular 84, Charing Cross Road. This book though is not a continuation or a building on of the twenty years of correspondences between Helene and Marks & Co. but a look into what the writing of 84, Charing Cross Road brought to Helene's life. Due to the popularity of the book, Helene, while not becoming exceedingly famous or wealthy, developed a sort of cult following which enabled her to go to England to promote her book. Her long dreamed of sojourn to England was made possible by this little book and in return we are blessed with another, her diary of the trip. The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street, the title Helene bequeaths to herself, is just as sweet and engaging as the original, but with a little more structure due to the day by day progression without long periods of time missing, which so annoyed me in 84, Charing Cross Road. We follow Helene's journey across the ocean to a world populated by people who's lives were touched by her book. From Frank Doel's widow and daughter, to a Colonel, to a portrait painter, to a famous actress, to an old Etonian, all these people populate her time in England, from sightseeing to dinners (because the fewer dinners she has to pay for herself, the longer she can stay in England.)

After the publication of 84, Charing Cross Road Helene was literally besieged by people saying she must go to England now. But in the book you had sense of hesitation on Helene's part. Whether it was just her fear of travel or the country not living up to her expectations she kept putting off the trip, and at the end of the book you felt that perhaps she had waited too long, ending on a bittersweet note. But Duchess is not in the least bittersweet, euphoric would be the word Helene would use. She realizes, that while people keep telling her that she's about 15 years too late, she isn't. There is still Donne's St. Paul's, Shakepeare's local ale house, even Dicken's London (even if she isn't really a fan). Everything is as she had pictured it in the books she had read. And while she regrets not being as well read as others, being a re-reader to the point of memorization, she would not change it because of the words that flow into her as she enters St. Paul's from Walton's Lives. Having "the whole lovely passage right there in my head" and "for at least that moment, I wouldn't have traded the hundreds of books I've never read for the handful I know almost by heart."

Despite being a middle aged women having just undergone a hysterectomy, she is like a kid in a candy store. Everything is perfect and just as she always wished it to be. Her dreams were literally coming true and you have a desperate urge to just take her book and get on the next plane to see if thirty years later it is the same as when she left. From Russell Square to Hyde Park, Helene revels in her one shot of glory that has enabled her to live her dream. Even if, at times, she does seem a bit of a leech. Whatever she can get out of others in order to stay a day longer she accepts, mainly in the form of food. Of course England seems enamored of her as well as she of it, and they view her presence as enough, either at book signings or on the radio. When Helene runs into an old friend who is as baffled as she is as to England's love of her, she has a strong desire to tell her that the fairy tale will soon be over and Cinderella will go home, to the old jeans and gin while typing away at her 2nd Avenue apartment.

In the end the book is almost like a dream of England come to life, as Helene remarks on the plane, "suddenly it was as if everything had vanished: Bloomsbury and Regent's Park and Russell Square and Rutland Gate. None of it had happened, none of it was real. Even the people weren't real. It was all imagined, they were all phantoms." But even if Helene could not believe her good fortune, you will enjoy reading her exploits, even if they seemed improbable to the author they are a wonderful dream you hope you won't wake from. The book ends appropriately with a quote from Shakespeare's The Tempest:

Our revels now are ended. These our actors
....were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air...
The Cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples...dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on...

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Philippa Gregory Talk

This past Saturday I ventured forth out of my book lined cavern to see the author Philippa Gregory at the Tivoli Theatre in Downers Grove, Illinois. The event was hosted by Anderson's Bookshop and was a very well organized and interesting day. There was a presentation, a question and answer session, book signing and film, also an old guy playing an organ just like they did back in the theatre's Vaudeville days. Philippa Gregory rarely does many signings to promote her books, being one of those rare authors so well known they no longer really need to do publicity tours, so this was a real treat.

The event was very well structured, starting right on time (always a plus) with a little video intro of Philippa strolling through historic houses talking about her books, intercut with her books and how well they've sold. Perhaps a little bite pretentious, but then again, she does have something to boast about with her track record. Her talk was also interspersed with video readings filmed at the annual recreation of the Battle of Bosworth Field. The battle being where the Tudors beat Richard III and became rulers of England and thus helped make Philippa Gregory a lot of money. As she said, it is her belief that they will recreate this every year until Richard III wins. She started off her talk with a little history about her current book, The White Queen, the first in her new Cousins' Series. As she said, it's called the Cousins' Series because even though we view this time period as "The War of the Roses" it is actually a misnomer that has been perpetuated through the generations and originates with Sir Walter Scott. During the time that it was occurring it was referred to as the Cousins War, logically because these were all dueling relatives. The heroine, as it were, is Elizabeth Woodville, the commoner wife of Edward IV, who was the mother of the two princes lost in the tower. Philippa said it is her job to fictionally recreate this scene in not a golden haze of nostalgia but in a realistic manner, as you can imagine, she is not a fan of romantically inclined historical fiction. While Elizabeth and her King might be the impetus for Malory's Camelot, this was not a time of fairy tales but of treason and danger and court politics.

The thing I found most interesting is how she takes her research and with all this history she tells a story. Whether the story is true or not in reality, she has made decisions based on what she sees as the evidence of her research and forms her narrative. It is not possible to have a story with all the possibilities, that is not good storytelling. The example she used and which she believes the facts bear out is that Richard III was not a bad man. The facts are this, Richard was already King when the two princes he "murdered" disappeared, the princes mother entrusted her daughters to him after the princes were gone, and would she have really done this if she suspected him and I think the nail in the coffin, the Tudors were geniuses at self promotion and spin. The only painting we have of Richard III is from the Tudors and is comically exaggerated. The only reports we have of Richard III were written by Shakespeare, the Tudors court appointed playwright who wrote them the best PR possible. All knowledge we have of Richard has been filtered though the Tudors who were trying to justify their position because they never wanted the restoration of the "true line" that is the princes. In fact a far more guilty suspect in the princes disappearances is Henry VI, the victor at The Battle of Bosworth Field, who had far more reasons to want them dead. Philippa in fact believes that Henry didn't fully succeed, because why would Henry have freaked about Perkin Warbeck and his whole uprising surrounding one of the princes if he didn't know definitely that at least one prince survived.

After her prepared presentation she took questions from the audience, which she answered with wit and intelligence, even while getting a question that was not so complimentary. She was asked if she used research assistants, to which she said that 80% of the work and almost all the fun is in the research and is also where the stories emerge from and she's never handing that off to an intern, no matter how capable. Next she was asked if she had a favorite era. She said she is loving the Plantagenets, after being inundated with Tudors she said she's had enough, her and Henry are done, they have their own show after all! Of course her publishers needed to be convinced, to which she said: "They are madder, badder, sexier, more dangerous and people will love them." The next question the lady seemed to be trying to insult her in a very round about manner in how she has changed her writing style, and not for the better. To which Philippa gamely replied: "My fabled charm is about to run out." Which I think was an awesome putdown while still being wonderfully British and polite. She went on to say that she suspected her writing style has changed over time, as people themselves change, but you will never catch her writing florid prose as she hates romantic novels, unless the romance is factually supported, like with Edward and Elizabeth Woodville. She doesn't even read other historical authors because she "doesn't like how anyone does historical fiction but me." I think this is mainly due to her hatred of the romanticizing of the past but she said it is also due to the fact that if she decides to write about that time period she doesn't want to be tainted. Also everyone writes from their time, so those who wrote in the 50s are tainted just as she is by the present.

Asked about her books and any adaptations looming on the horizon, she said that The Queen's Fool is going to be a miniseries, The Boleyn Inheritance is in pre-production (lots of people having expensive lunches) for a big budget adaptation and that The Other Queen is going to be a tv movie. Can I just point out how much in royalties that's going to be!?! Asked who her favorite character was she said Hannah, from The Queen's Fool, to which I totally have to agree, I love that bookish girl who doesn't know how to be who others want her to be. For her final question she was asked about how she was able to characterize Elizabeth Woodville seeing as she has always been viewed by historians as cold and aloof. To which she replied, you mean the male historians and their misogynistic views, who I won't name (David Starky). Men have been the recorders of our history and with British history a lot of it was prudish Victorian men, women not becoming anything to be reckoned with in the field till the 1950s. So everything we have is filtered. That's why the six wives of Henry VIII are such stereotypes, the old maid (infertile Catherine), the educated Protestant (Anne, ignore the fact she was beheaded because she gave us Elizabeth who can be viewed as a man), the perfect wife (Jane, who dies in childbirth leaving a male heir and room for the next wife), the fat German (Anne of Cleaves), the slut (Catherine Howard) and the nurse (Catherine Parr). On this note the talk ended, with a very succinct reason for why she tells the stories of women, because they are not stereotypes.

The signing followed in the lobby, with the movie, The Other Boleyn Girl showing in the theatre to amuse those who were waiting for their books to be signed, and to complement the event. My ticket number was so low (35) that I got called before the credits were done rolling. I was in and out of that line in under a minute. I'd say the signing was terse, not so much a nod or an acknowledgment on her behalf, even when I made a comment about how my name was appropriate to a book staring an Elizabeth, but then again, I was done in a minute, so you have to weigh the positive and the negative. Also I got to have my other book signed without having to wait in line a second time, which was very nice. I have a feeling that before 30 minutes were up Philippa was back on her way to her hotel in Chicago. Also seeing as I wasn't invested in the movie and I could watch the movie anytime I also decided to be on my way. There are so many things to do in Illinois that can only be done in Illinois, and watching The Other Boleyn Girl wasn't one of them.

All in all a fun event and now I have some cool White Queen/Red Queen button swag to add to my Philippa Gregory The Other Boleyn Girl Contest! Which is still going on right now! You have a week left to enter! And perhaps Elizabeth Woodville will now be in with a chance of your nod for favorite British ruler?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Guild Season 3, Episode 4: Get It Back!

<br/><a href="" target="_new" title="Season 3 - Episode 4: Get it back!">Video: Season 3 - Episode 4: Get it back!</a>

Also, after you've watched the show, make sure to check out Bladezz on Axis of Anarchy's Finn Smulders website, too too funny.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Tuesday Tomorrow

Odd and the Frost Gaints by Neil Gaiman
Published by: Scholastic Press
Publication Date: September 22nd, 2009
Format: Hardcover, 128 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"In this inventive, short, yet perfectly formed novel inspired by traditional Norse mythology, Neil Gaiman takes readers on a wild and magical trip to the land of giants and gods and back.

In a village in ancient Norway lives a boy named Odd, and he's had some very bad luck: His father perished in a Viking expedition; a tree fell on and shattered his leg; the endless freezing winter is making villagers dangerously grumpy.

Out in the forest Odd encounters a bear, a fox, and an eagle—three creatures with a strange story to tell.

Now Odd is forced on a stranger journey than he had imagined—a journey to save Asgard, city of the gods, from the Frost Giants who have invaded it.

It's going to take a very special kind of twelve-year-old boy to outwit the Frost Giants, restore peace to the city of gods, and end the long winter.

Someone cheerful and infuriating and clever . . .

Someone just like Odd ."

This week I have two radically different books to present, by two very different authors who are both Britons living in America and have both have had the word "American" in a title of their respective books. First up Neil Gaiman has written abother kids book and I say yeah! For me he's a far better writer when he's writing for children that for adults, just read The Graveyard Book and then American Gods, yes they are radically different, but The Graveyard Book is hands down the winner in my mind. Sure it's been out in England since last year, but that's a big ocean illustrations by Brett Helquist, most known for The Series of Unfortunate Events books, or the only reason I started reading the books in the first place. The book is also out on CD the same day read by the author himself.

I also just found the awesome book trailer:

American on Purpose: The Improbable Adventures of an Unlikely Patriot by Craig Ferguson
Published by: Harper
Publication Date: September 22nd, 2009
Format: Hardcover, 288 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
In American on Purpose, Craig Ferguson delivers a moving and achingly funny memoir of living the American dream as he journeys from the mean streets of Glasgow, Scotland, to the comedic promised land of Hollywood. Along the way he stumbles through several attempts to make his mark—as a punk rock musician, a construction worker, a bouncer, and, tragically, a modern dancer.

To numb the pain of failure, Ferguson found comfort in drugs and alcohol, addictions that eventually led to an aborted suicide attempt. (He forgot to do it when someone offered him a glass of sherry.) But his story has a happy ending: in 1993, the washed-up Ferguson washed up in the United States. Finally sober, Ferguson landed a breakthrough part on the hit sitcom The Drew Carey Show, a success that eventually led to his role as the host of CBS's The Late Late Show. By far Ferguson's greatest triumph was his decision to become a U.S. citizen, a milestone he achieved in early 2008, just before his command performance for the president at the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner. In American on Purpose, Craig Ferguson talks a red, white, and blue streak about everything our Founding Fathers feared."

This recommendation is specifically for Michele (and all other devotes of Craig Ferguson). Craig Ferguson might most be known for his late show or his performance as Mr. Wick on The Drew Carey Show (his atrocious English accent being punishment for Scotty on Star Trek, or so he says) but that is one side of this greatly talented man. Last year her got a lot of press due to the fact that he became a US citizen, hence the name of the book. He has also written and co-starred in three movies, Saving Grave later being spun off into the popular British Drama Doc Martin. He also still does the occasional stand-up, I got to see a performance a few years back and he was awesome. I'm planning on picking up this book because if it's even half as funny as he was live this will be a great read.

He'll also be doing a few signings so if you have the chance go check him out, I'm sure Michele will!

Wednesday, September 23rd @ 7:00PM
Borders Michigan Avenue
Chicago, Illinois

Friday, September 25th @ 12:00PM
Palace of Fine Arts
San Francisco, California

Saturday, Septmeber 26th @ 12:00PM
Book Passage
Corte Madera, California

Friday, October 2nd @ 12:00PM
Town Hall
Seattle Washington

Sunday, October 4th @ 6:00PM
Pasadena, California

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Philippa Gregory's The Other Boleyn Girl Contest! THIS COMPETITION NOW CLOSED

So I hope you guys remember, there's still a competition going on right here on my site for a lovely edition of Philippa Gregory's The Other Boleyn Girl! That's right! I know you want some Tudor drama, and she's the queen of Tudor historical fiction. I'm also going to a talk she's giving today at the Tivoli Theater in Illinois, so I should have some interesting stories to post when the winner is announced. So get on it and enter, you don't enter you can't win, simple as that! If I hit 100 followers, I'll add a little something special! (Currently that's like two more people, I know you guys have at least two friends, people you know, random strangers on the street who you can entice to follow my blog! So get on that will you!?!)


A Paperback Edition of The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory

Who is your favorite British Monarch? Are you a Henry VIII girl? A Richard III guy? Or maybe you favor a little Queen Victoria with a side of Prince Albert? I'd be interested to hear what you think.

The Rules:
1. Open to EVERYONE (worldwide), and just because you haven't been following me all along doesn't mean you don't matter.
2. Please make sure I have a way to contact you if your name is drawn, either your blogger profile or a link to your website/blog or you could even include your email address with your comment(s).
3. Contest ends Wednesday, September 30th at 11:59AM CST
4. How to enter: Just post below
5. And for those addicted to getting extra entries:

* +1 for answering the question above
* +2 for becoming a follower
* +5 if you are already a follower
* +10 for each time you advertise this contest - blog post, sidebar, twitter (please @MzLizard), etc. (but you only get credit for the first post at each site, so tweet all you like, and I thank you for it, but you'll only get the +10 once). Also please leave a link!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Michelle Moran Q & A Part 2

As a final grace note to Michelle's big week (you remembered to go out and get her book right?), Michelle is back answering your questions, so lets see what Michelle has to say...

Question: What sparked your interest in archeology and ancient civilizations?

The inspiration for Nefertiti: A Novel began with the PBS television program Reading Rainbow. I was eight years old when the program featured a children’s book about dinosaurs. On the screen, a group of school children were huddled around a dinosaur bone, dressed in khakis and safari hats. They were squatting over a gigantic femur and tenderly cleaning off the dirt with their brushes. “That’s what I want to do,” I announced, and when my mother signed me up for a children’s course in paleontology at the Natural History Museum, I knew I wanted to join a dig someday.

Twelve years later 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 practically trampled the other students in my haste. Visions of artifacts danced in my head. After all, it was Israel, and who knew what we might find? For the three weeks before the orientation meeting, I agonized over exactly what I should bring. Shorts, of course, and heavy boots. But what about brushes? Were there special brushes that archaeologists used, or would the ones from Home Depot be okay? I finally settled on brushes from Home Depot, and when it came time for packing, I lovingly placed them in protective wrap and imagined all the priceless artifacts they’d soon be dusting.

When I landed in Israel, I unpacked my brushes and laced up my boots. I didn’t own a fedora, but I already felt like Josh Bernstein and I was ready to Dig Up Some Truth. As we arrived at the dig site, our team leader walked to the back of his van. I watched enthusiastically as he unloaded twenty pickaxes. When he began passing them out to the volunteers, however, I became concerned. They’ve mistaken me for someone else, I panicked, someone who’s signed up to dig ditches instead of brushing delicate femurs. “What is this?” I asked when it was my turn for a pickax. “One of your tools,” our team leader replied. “There’s a shovel as well. You’ll be digging six feet by ten.” When he saw the shock on my face, he frowned. “You knew that, didn’t you?”

For weeks we dug ditches, shoveling dirt into wheelbarrows and hauling the barrels of dirt down a hill. Over that summer I think I lost ten pounds, and I know that I gained some serious muscle. Plus, I never did get to use my brushes. Only seasoned archaeologists were allowed to do the delicate work. But by then I had already decided that I would rather dig through history with a pen than with a pickaxe!

Question: How awesome was it being on the History Channel?

Answer: We filmed the interview in Israel with Simka, The Naked Archaeologist- who remains fully-clothed, I hasten to add! It was wonderful, but scorching even in February. We shot the scenes at the tiled remains of an ancient synagogue, in the Jordan Valley by the Dead Sea. From Jerusalem, the "shining city on a hill", you descend to well below sea level in minutes, crossing the waist of the West Bank as you go. Looking across at the mountains of Moab, and up at Herod’s fortress at Masada is an experience I’ll never forget. Simka is a great interviewer and a fascinating guy, so I can't wait for the finished product to air sometime this fall.

Question: Are you influenced by writers in similar genres, like Elizabeth Peters and Margaret George or by writers in entirely different genres?

Answer: I did begin writing as a teenager in the science fiction/fantasy realm, but my love of history made a switch away something of an inevitability. Reading novels by writers like Margaret inspired me to move to historical fiction, and being able to get to know her personally since then has been pleasantly surreal. She's unbelievably charming and kind, and supportive of younger writers, too.

Question: With your first two books being about Egypt during the time period of Nefertiti and Akhenaten, otherwise known as the Amarna period, what do you make of the Amarna Art movement where for the first time in Egypt people were being painted realistically?

Answer: In some ways, the artists working there are the true intellectual ancestors of the classical tradition, and thence the modern world. You could argue they began it all: observation, the beginnings of empiricism, and the developed skill needed to represent reality in a way that still makes us gasp. The artwork was a fantastic resource for me as an historical author, given the blend of realistic and stylistic presentation. The impressions from one painting in particular formed the embryo of the entire novel:a family portrait found at Amarna. 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.

Question: I’ve been asking people this week whether they would choose Egyptian or Roman times to live and, so far Rome is winning 2 to 1, where would you choose to live?

Answer: It's a hard call because some aspects of Egyptian life were more humane and enlightened than Rome. But perhaps the Roman indoor plumbing would lure me in, too! Rome had an unrivalled intellectual climate, which has to play a role in the decision. Also, the social pyramid was even steeper in Egypt than in ancient Rome, so unless I felt lucky, I think a Roman reincarnation would be a safer bet!

Question: Egypt being a feline-centric society, are you more of a cat or a dog person?

Answer: Cats! I have a psychic bond with them that causes them to find me wherever I go, like heat-seeking furry missiles.

Question: Did you watch the TV show Rome? If so, what did you think of the portrayal of Cleopatra and Marc Antony as almost an early version of Sid and Nancy?

Answer: I think James Purefoy was perfectly cast, but the drug aspects were likely overblown. As charter members of the “Society of Inimitable Livers”, however, Cleopatra and Marc Antony did know how to have a good time!

Question: Have you ever visited Pompeii?

Answer: Three times! Each time has been better than the last. There's a section on my website gallery page detailing just a few of the stunning treasures preserved there.

Question:From Ancient civilizations to revolutionary France, bit of a jump, what inspired that?

Answer: Yes, I’m halfway through my fourth novel, entitled Madame Tussaud. When you add together my love of France, as well as her incredible story, it’s proving to be a joy to write! I suppose there were three reasons. As a Francophile, I would put Jefferson to shame. The politics of the time seem instructive. And finally, after three novels set in the ancient world, I felt that my readers might enjoy a brief sojourn into the more familiar!

Question: What do you make of Madame Tussaud’s legacy, not as a great artist or revolutionary but as the wax museum lady?

Answer: It’s amazing how powerful the hold of wax figures still is in the 21st century, given the essentially low-tech nature of the craft. You would think that we would be jaded by all the multimedia, high-definition, plasma screen what-have-you. But people still throng to celebrity, from a totemic sense deep inside us that we can touch and own a piece of it. That impulse is millennia-old, and won’t disappear in a two-hundred year blink of an eye. As for the formidable Madame herself….. What would she have thought of people posing next to wax George Clooneys and Shakiras, or making indecent poses next to half-naked Kylie Minogues? As the consummate survivor, marketer and self-promoter, I think she would have nodded appreciatively at the long lines by the ticket booth!

Question: There has always been something creepy about wax works and the fact that Madame Tussaud started out making death masks seems somewhat fitting. Do you find waxworks kind of macabre?

Answer: Visiting the “halls of heads” in some factories’ darkened vaults has been a little eerie. But that’s nothing compared though to Tussaud’s experiences- having to fetch the bloody, decapitated heads of friends she had known in her jail cell just hours before, and model them by hand.

Question: On your website you have a great gallery of your favorite paintings, do you have a favorite museum or artist?

Answer: Monet! For historical artifacts, though, Athens’ Archaeological Museum is superb, and a must-visit for any antiquities fan. The Capitoline in Rome, Cairo of course, and for more oils, you can’t go wrong with Paris’ D’Orsay.

Question: What do you feel of the phenomenon of book trailers?

Answer: I had tremendous fun watching the Cleopatra’s Daughter trailer take shape: director Brady Hall is a genius. It is pricy, but in our visual culture, a chance to cross into different media is always a worthwhile way to build awareness. And who knows, perhaps a Hollywood big name might find their imagination sparked by the idea of a movie version!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Man Booker Prize 2009 Shortlist Announced

The Man Booker Prize Shortlist was finally announced. I always find this prize interesting, another of those awards I'm not sure what it means but when I see the little sticker on a book I get excited. Well, actually I know a bit about the prize thanks to is a literary prize awarded each year for the best original full-length novel, written in the English language, by a citizen of either the Commonwealth of Nations, Ireland, or Zimbabwe. All I knew (prior to my little foray at Wikipedia) is it usually means good British writing! IF J. M. Coetzee, who is among the nominees, wins this year he will be the first author to ever win the award three times. A. S. Byatt has also previously won for Possession, while Sarah Waters has been shortlisted twice before but has never won yet, so maybe it's her year... The Man Booker Prize 2009 winner will be televised live from the Guildhall awards ceremony on the BBC Ten O'Clock News on Tuesday, October 6th, 2009, so for us stateside, just watch for the post on the internet. In the meantime, get reading these great nominees!

A S Byatt's The Children's Book
To Preorder American Edition
To Order British Edition

J M Coetzee's Summertime
To Preorder American Edition
To Order British Edition

Adam Foulds' The Quickening Maze
To Buy British Edition

Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall
To Preorder American Edition
To Order British Edition

Simon Mawer's The Glass Room
To Buy British Edition

Sarah Waters' The Little Stranger
To Buy American Edition
To Buy British Edition

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Guild Season 3, Episode 3: Player Down

<br/><a href="" target="_new" title="Season 3 - Episode 3: Player Down">Video: Season 3 - Episode 3: Player Down</a>

Monday, September 14, 2009

Tuesday Tomorrow

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown
Published by: Doubleday Books
Publication Date: September 1st, 2009
Format: Hardcover, 528 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Dan Brown’s new novel, the eagerly awaited follow-up to his #1 international phenomenon, The Da Vinci Code, which was the bestselling hardcover adult novel of all time with 81 million copies in print worldwide, will be published in the U.S. and Canada by Doubleday on September 15, 2009.

THE LOST SYMBOL will have a first printing of 5 million copies, and it will once again feature Dan Brown’s unforgettable protagonist, Robert Langdon. Brown’s longtime editor, Jason Kaufman, Vice President and Executive Editor at Doubleday said, "Nothing ever is as it first appears in a Dan Brown novel. This book’s narrative takes place in a twelve-hour period, and from the first page, Dan’s readers will feel the thrill of discovery as they follow Robert Langdon through a masterful and unexpected new landscape. THE LOST SYMBOL is full of surprises."
Dan Brown’s popularity continues to grow. The film of The Da Vinci Code was a #1 box office smash when it was released by Columbia Pictures in May 2006 with Ron Howard directing and Tom Hanks starring as Robert Langdon. Box office receipts were $758 million. The same team will release Angels and Demons theatrically worldwide on May 15, 2009."

Yeah, so this book just screams No. 1 New York Times Bestseller. Even if you won't admit it you've probably read The Da Vinci Code and will probably pick this one up. Though in good news, this book will probably save Doubleday from declaring bankruptcy.

Forest Born by Shannon Hale
Published by: Bloomsbury
Publication Date: September 15th, 2009
Format: Hardcover, 400 Pages
To Order

"Rin is sure that something is wrong with her…something really bad. Something that is keeping her from feeling at home in the Forest homestead where she’s lived all her life. Something that is keeping her from trusting herself with anyone at all. When her brother Razo returns from the city for a visit, she accompanies him to the palace, hoping that she can find peace away from home. But war has come to Bayern again, and Rin is compelled to join the queen and her closest allies—magical girls Rin thinks of as the Fire Sisters—as they venture into the Forest toward Kel, the land where someone seems to want them all dead. Many beloved Bayern characters reappear in this story, but it is Rin’s own journey of discovering how to balance the good and the bad in herself that drives this compelling adventure."

The newest Bayern book by Shannon Hale is also finally released. While not my favorite in the series (read my review), I'm happy to see my favorite characters return once more.

Shannon will also be making appearances for this book, so make sure to go a check her out if you have the chance, she's an awesome public speaker!

September 19, 2009
* forest born
release party!
The King's English
1500 South 1500 East
Salt Lake City, Utah

September 26th
National Book Festival
National Mall
Washington DC

September 27th
Northshire Books
4869 Main Street
Manchester Center, VT

September 28th
Flying Pig
5247 Shelburne Road
Shelburne Falls, VT

September 29th
Porter Square Books
25 White Street
Cambridge, MA

Brookline Children's Book Shop
237 Washington St
Brookline, MA

Barnes & Noble
99 Middlesex Pkwy
Burlington, MA

September 30th
Wellesley Booksmith
82 Central Street
Wellesley, MA

October 2nd
R. J. Julia
768 Boston Post Road
Madison, CT

November 16th
ChildrenÕs Bookshop
737 Deepdene Road
Baltimore, MD

November 17th
Politics & Prose
5015 Connecticut Avenue, N.W.
Washington DC

Barnes & Noble
7851 Tyson's Corner Center
McLean, VA

November 18th
ChildrenÕs Bookworld
17 Haverford Station Rd
Haverford, PA

November 19th
Barnes & Noble
210 Commerce Blvd
Fairless Hills, PA

Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran
Published by: Crown
Publication Date: September 15th, 2009
Format: Hardcover, 448 Pages
To Order

Also not to be forgotten, Michelle Moran's highly anticipated book, Cleopatra's Daughter, is released today as well! What a week for new books! Michelle was kind enough to stop by my blog last week and answer a few questions and hold a contest, the least we can do is go out today and buy her book! So go, go now...go buy...can't get out today? Amazon? There's a link right there for you, go buy!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Saturday Spotlight!

So today my friend Kristen, over at Bookworming in the 21st Century, is featuring me on her Saturday Spotlight. It is a great honor because she is really an amazing blogger, with over 300 followers, and she's only been at it about as long as me! Since August, every weekend she features two bloggers that are new to the world of book blogging. I'm really grateful for the opportunity to expose even more people to my little blog and hope that you'll stick around if you're a first time visiter! (Of course if you're a regular visiter I appreciate you all the more!) Also the fact that my moment in the spotlight falls right before Blogger Appreciation Week (9/14-9/18) makes me all warm and fuzzy inside. Yeah for the blogisphere!

Also in honor of my little bit of fame and the fact that I think you guys want another chance to win something, I'm announcing a new competition. The prize was chosen because I'm actually lucky enough to be going to see Philippa Gregory on the 19th and I thought, well...maybe my blog readers would like a little Tudor loving?


A Paperback Edition of The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory

Who is your favorite British Monarch? Are you a Henry VIII girl? A Richard III guy? Or maybe you favor a little Queen Victoria with a side of Prince Albert? I'd be interested to hear what you think.

The Rules:
1. Open to EVERYONE (worldwide), and just because you haven't been following me all along doesn't mean you don't matter.
2. Please make sure I have a way to contact you if your name is drawn, either your blogger profile or a link to your website/blog or you could even include your email address with your comment(s).
3. Contest ends Wednesday, September 30th at 11:59AM CST
4. How to enter: Just post below
5. And for those addicted to getting extra entries:

  • +1 for answering the question above
  • +2 for becoming a follower
  • +5 if you are already a follower
  • +10 for each time you advertise this contest - blog post, sidebar, twitter (please @MzLizard), etc. (but you only get credit for the first post at each site, so tweet all you like, and I thank you for it, but you'll only get the +10 once). Also please leave a link!
If I hit 100 followers, I'll add a little something special!


Friday, September 11, 2009

And the Winner is...

Thanks to everyone who entered for participating in Michelle Moran week here at Strange & Random Happenstance. Also sorry for not publishing this immediately, I hate getting sick. In a very apt reflection of history, Rome beat Egypt as the time when most of you would have chosen to live. Personally, I'm all for Egypt, an Empire who wrote with pictures and worshiped cats is all good in my book. Well, onto the randomly generated winner...Cindy Pon! Congratulations Cindy and take that Rome, Cindy also chose Egypt! I hope you do enjoy this lovely new book from Michelle and I hope that all of you will keep your eyes out for the book she's starting, Masks of the Revolution. Michelle is working hard on answering your questions, so be sure to check back in next Friday! Also there will be a new competition tomorrow to coincide with my blog being featured on Bookworming in the 21st Century!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Michelle Moran Q & A Part 1

Now Michelle Moran week continues with the first part of my Q & A (remember the contest is still ongoing). Part two will be posted on next Friday, while the winner of the competition will be posted on Friday, but I need your questions for Michelle so that we have a part two. Personally I always find it hard to think of a question for an author, especially if I'm not familiar with their work. So here's part one to familiarize yourselves with Michelle so you can think up some great questions for part two. Feel free to post your questions in the comments below or to email them to me and I'll try to make sure all your questions get answered! Also don't forget to enter the contest to win a signed copy of her new book, Cleopatra's Daughter, as well as a real Roman Coin!

Now to the Q & A:

Question: What prompted you to write a novel about Cleopatra’s daughter?

Answer: I do a great deal of traveling both for research and for fun, and most of my destinations are archaeological sites. On a trip to Alexandria in Egypt, I was afforded the amazing opportunity of participating in a dive to see the submerged remains of Cleopatra’s ancient city. More than ten thousand artifacts remain completely preserved underwater: sphinxes, amphorae, even the stones of the ancient palace. Although I'm not a fan of diving, it was an incredible experience, and it changed the way I looked at Cleopatra. I immediately wanted to know more about her life, and it was mere coincidence that my next trip took me to Italy, where her ten year-old children were brought to live after her suicide. While in Rome, I was able to retrace her daughter's steps, and upon seeing where her daughter had lived on the Palatine, I knew I had my next novel.

Question: What was it like to walk where Selene walked? In particular, what was it like to visit Octavian’s villa?

A: Unbelievable. For two thousand years, Octavian’s villa has sprawled across the top of the Palatine Hill, slowly deteriorating. At one time, its vibrantly painted dining room had hosted magnificent feasts, one of which would have been the celebration of the emperor’s triumph over Marc Antony and Cleopatra in Egypt. As the heir to Caesar, Octavian was determined to rule the western world without interference. He changed his name to Augustus, and with the help of his general Agrippa and his architect Vitruvius, he turned a city of clay into a city of marble.

I had known all of this on that day in March when the villa was opened for the first time in more than a century. What I hadn’t known, however, was just how unbelievable that trip back into the world of ancient Rome would be. After three million dollars in restoration, Italian archaeologists have been able to recreate not just the intimate library and studies Augustus used, but the mosaic floors he once walked on and the vividly painted ceilings he once walked beneath with Ovid, Seneca, Cicero, Horace, and even Julius Caesar himself. As we were quickly escorted through the frescoed rooms, we stopped in the triclinium – the dining room which had once seen so many famous faces smiling, laughing, even crying for mercy. With a little imagination, it was easy to see the tables and couches that had once adorned the chamber, and there was the undeniable feeling of standing in the presence of the ancients. It was the kind of feeling you only get in Grecian temples or Egyptian tombs.

Question: In all three of your novels, your narrators have been teenage girls. Is there are reason for this?

Answer: Actually, yes. I like to begin my novels during the time of greatest transition in a person’s life. And in the ancient world, the greatest transition in a woman’s life was often the time when she was married. Because women married at much younger ages two thousand years ago (twelve years old was not uncommon), my narrators have all been very young girls. In fact, Random House will be making a concerted effort to market Cleopatra's Daughter to young adults as well as adults. However, as my novels progress through time (my next book, for example, will be about Madame Tussaud), my narrators will be older.

Question: Is the Red Eagle based on an historical person?

Answer: Yes. The Red Eagle is actually based on several men who led slave rebellions (unsuccessfully, I might add) against Rome. Spartacus led the most famous revolt, but there were other men too, such as Salvius, who waged war with his army of slaves in ancient Sicily.

Question: You write in your acknowledgements page that the character of the Red Eagle is an homage to the works of several authors. What made you decide to do this?

Answer: Creative as well as personal reasons. First, I wanted to create a character that fans of swashbuckling adventures might love, and it wasn’t at all difficult to find historical personalities on which to base such a hero. Men like Spartacus and Salvius were heroes in the truest sense of the word. But I didn’t want there to be too much action, and certainly not so much that it would detract from the real story – that of Selene and her twin brother Alexander growing up in a foreign court. I could certainly have chosen not to include anything as obviously fictitious as the Red Eagle. But I wanted to illustrate just how threatening slave rebellions were at that time, and how ever-present the danger of becoming a slave would have been, even to captured royalty. And the creation of the Red Eagle wasn’t a huge stretch. Many rebels who came before – and after – the Red Eagle employed similar tactics: rousing the plebs, arming the slaves, and encouraging those in servitude to passive resistance.

On a more personal note, however, I wanted to include the Red Eagle because I knew it would be a character my father would have loved. He devoured anything having to do with ancient Rome, and I deeply regret not having written this while he was still alive.

Question: Was a third of Rome’s population really enslaved?

Answer: Sadly, yes. And you didn’t have to be born a slave to become one. You could be kidnapped and sold into slavery, your city could be overrun and you could be turned into a slave, or you might be sold into servitude by your own parents. Slavery meant an absolute loss of every human right we now take for granted, and as a slave, your body was no longer your own. Many slaves were physically and sexually abused, regardless of age or gender.

Question: Where did these slaves come from?

Answer: Many were Gallics and Greeks. The Gallics were from Gaul, a region which now encompasses France, Belgium, parts of Switzerland, and Germany.

Question: When did slavery end?

Answer: It hasn't. In the Western World, it was slowly - very slowly - phased out with the coming of Christianity (which was one of the reasons Christianity flourished… it appealed to the disenfranchised and enslaved, making everyone equal if not on earth than in the next life). But slavery certainly hasn't ended for everyone. There are women and children who are ensalved today, even in America and Europe. Of course, this isn't legal. Many of these victims of modern-day human trafficking have been brought over from places like Albania or Algeria and have no resources to escape. That's why organizations such as STOP International exist. You can visit them here.

Question: Is it still possible to visit the places Selene visited when she was in Rome?

Answer: Yes. In 2008, I went on a photographic safari in search of the places Selene would have gone during the brief years she was in Rome. Many of the photos are included here!

Question: What are you working on next? Will it also be marketed to both adults and YA?

Answer: Actually, my next book will be firmly adult fiction. MASKS OF THE REVOLUTION is about Madame Tussaud, who joined the gilded but troubled court of Marie Antoinette, and survived the French Revolution only by creating death masks of the beheaded aristocracy. I’m very excited about this novel, since Marie (the first name of Madame Tussaud) met absolutely everyone, from Jefferson to the Empress Josephine.

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