Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Win A Free ebook Edition of The Confession of Piers Gaveston


"Confess it, My Lord; I rattle you like the glass in a casement when it thunders!" The history books tell us that Piers Gaveston was many things: arrogant, ambitious, avaricious, flamboyant, extravagant, reckless, brave, and daring, indiscreet, handsome, witty, vivacious, vain, and peacock-proud, a soldier and champion jouster, the son of a condemned witch, who used witchcraft, his own wicked wiles, and forbidden sex to entice and enslave King Edward II, alienate him from his nobles and advisors, and keep him from the bed of his beautiful bride Isabelle. Edward's infatuation with Gaveston, and the deluge of riches he showered on him, nearly plunged England into civil war. Now the object of that scandalous and legendary obsession tells his side of the story in THE CONFESSION OF PIERS GAVESTON: "Mayhap even now, when I have only just begun, it is already too late to set the story straight. My infamy, I fear, is too well entrenched. Whenever they tell the story of Edward's reign I will always be the villain and Edward, the poor, weak-willed, pliant king who fell under my spell, the golden victim of a dark enchantment. There are two sides to every coin; but when the bards and chroniclers, the men who write the histories, tell this story, will anyone remember that?" Now you can win a free ebook edition of my first novel The Confession of Piers Gaveston. This edition is published by Smashwords. Click here to view. To enter leave a comment and your email address. The winner will receive an email with a link and coupon code to use to download a free copy of the ebook. Please note that the coupon will ahve an expiration date so you will need to download your ebook before it expires. Contest ends September 14th. A trade paperback version and other ebook editions including Kindle and Barnes and Noble's Nook are also available for purchase at Amazon.com and bn.com

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Doomed Queen Anne by Carolyn Meyer

This young adult novel tells the story of Anne Boleyn, portraying Anne as an ambitious girl who grew up always in the shadow of her beautiful older sister Mary. As she endures the teasing of the typical Tudor popular pretty girls, with their blonde hair, buxom curves, and blue eyes, who mock her black hair, the mole she covers with a jewel attached to a ribbon choker, and the nub of a sixth finger, she vows that someday they will all bow to her. And when her sister wins the coveted prize of becoming mistress to King Henry VIII, Anne vows that she will best her by marrying him and becoming Queen of England. And so she does.

The familiar story of the rise and fall of Anne Boleyn is told in the form of a journal written on the eve of her execution in which she looks back upon her life, notes her mistakes, and acknowledges that pride was her greatest sin of all.
I think this would be a wonderful book to introduce a young girl to the personalities, pageantry, and drama of the Tudor court. And while the book does not gloss over things like romance, adultery, and childbirth, and some of the less flattering aspects and episodes in the lives of famous people as many of the biographies of famous people written for children used to do, it is not at all explicit, and I think any parent could safely allow their child to read this book.

The Priest's Madonna by Amy Hassinger

I have been fascinated by the mysteries of Rennes-le-Chateau ever since I first heard of it, years ago, when I saw a documentary about it, so when I found this book, I had to read it. For those unfamiliar with the story, in the late 19th century, Berenger Sauniere, the priest of a poor French village, presiding over a leaky-roofed, ramshackle church, suddenly came into immense wealth, the source of which remains a mystery today, and began renovating and decorating his church in a rather esoteric manner that still raises eyebrows today. Some believe Sauniere discovered a secret that would have turned religion as the world knew it upside down and blackmailed the Catholic Church to keep it a secret, but went on to encrypt clues about it in the decoration of his church. Mary Magdalene (whose image graces the altar, see picture above) plays a prominent role in all these theories.
But this is a more pesonal novel, it is told from the viewpoint of Sauniere's housekeeper and mistress Marie Denarnaud. It is the story of personal conflict and warring desires, the pull between passion and chastity in a loving relationship, and Marie's own struggle to keep her faith when confronted with the Church's violent past when she learns about the massacres of the Cathars and Knights Templars. It is also the story of Sauniere's struggles with his priestly vows, chastity and his need and greed for wealth, which he splurges on grandiose building projects and luxuries for himself and Marie, causing the poor provincial villagers to dub her "The Priest's Madonna," because he gives Marie the adoration he should have, as a priest, given to the Virgin Mary.
Marie, like the others, is perplexed by the source of Sauniere's wealth, never quite satisfied with the explanations he gives, and troubled by his secretive ways and forays into grave-robbing, which she joins in, though her reasons are different from his. She is intrigued by the mystery, and her curiosity is fueled by some mysterious discoveries, and an Austrian Archduke who takes an unusual interest in the church at Rennes-le-Chatueau and donates money to pay for renovations with the provision that Sauniere inform him of any interesting finds, and by the tales and legends the Mayor's wife, herself an intriguing figure, tells about the Merovingian Kings and a family that may have been descended from Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene, and a lost or concealed book of visions kept by a madwoman.
For much of the book, their relationship remains chaste, and Marie tries to persuade herself she is happy with this, while Sauniere battles the temptation, but after they give in and consummate their relationship it is like a dam burst ans Sauniere loses all restraint and Rennes-le-Chateau grows more and more fantastic, he even builds a tower the Tour Magdala to house Marie's library and a fine villa, the Villa Bethania, with a well-stocked wine cellar, and there are jewels and Paris gowns for Marie. In the end, his decadence will be the ruin of him.
The story of Marie and Sauniere is interwoven with that of Mary Magdalene and Jesus Christ, here called Miryam of Magdala and Yeshua of Natzaret. This relationship is portrayed in a manner that is somewhat vague, perhaps intentionally so, that leaves lingering questions, for example-- Skip to next paragraph if you don't like spoilers! --after the Crucifixion Miryam realizes she is pregnant, but it is not made clear if this was the result of a physical sexual act or Immaculate Conception.
Ms. Hassinger does a fine job depicting the frustrations and complexities of the relationship between the priest and his mistress/housekeeper. Although, in my opinion, the Biblical chapters are the weaker part of the book, it is nonetheless an interesting and thought-provoking read, and if you are not already intrigued by the mysteries of Rennes-le-Chateau this novel just might inspire you to delve deeper and even read the more complex non-fiction book that inspired Ms. Hassinger to write it, Holy Blood, Holy Grail by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Presenting Tabby as Cleopatra

Tabby enacts her greatest role yet--the last moments of Cleopatra!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Release Date for Mary and Elizabeth Rivals For The Tudor Throne by Brandy Purdy

I've just heard from my editor at Kensington Books that the American edition of Mary and Elizabeth Rivals For The Tudor Throne by Brandy Purdy will be released in July 2011. Amazon.com has not added it to its catalog yet, but I will post a link as soon as they do, and cover art when I have it, in the meantime, here is a picture of Tabby helping edit the manuscript.

The British edition Elizabeth & Mary published under my British pen name, Emily Purdy, by Harper/Avon will be released in the UK a month earlier, in June 2011. Amazon UK is already taking pre-orders for this edition; I've posted the link below.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Dark Lover: The Life and Death of Rudolph Valentino by Emily W. Leider

"Dark Lover" is a wonderful biography of legendary silent screen star Rudolph Valentino, still best remembered today for his role as "The Sheik," his untimely death in 1926 at age 31, and the mysterious "Lady in Black" who still visits his tomb. He was the first and most famous of the movies' "Latin Lovers;" previously all the romantic leading men had been clean-cut American types like Wallace Reid and Italians and other ethnic or Latin types cast as villains, that is until Valentino danced the tango in "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse."  Then, as the old saying goes, a star was born. Valentino made the women in the audience swoon and their male escorts' blood boil.

Valentino had a fascinating life even before he sought fame and fortune in 1920s Hollywood--he was rumored to be a gigolo and was a popular "Taxi Dancer," a man rich society women paid to dance with them, and was famous for his graceful and sensual tango. His whole life was fraught with controversy, including persistent rumors of homosexuality. To this day the truth about his sexuality and marriages and relationships with strong and eccentric women of questionable sexuality (Jean Acker, Natacha Rambova, Pola Negri--all reputed or known lesbians) remain the subject of much heated debate. Rumors even surround his sudden and unexpected death, including the suspicion of murder. And the public displays of grief that followed his demise, including riots outside the funeral parlor where crowds actually broke the plate glass windows in a rush to get in to view his corpse as their idol lay in state, and suicides by grieving female fans, are still the stuff of legends.

This is how a biography should be written. I love this author's style, this biography is not written to be sensational like many celebrity biographies, or to make shocking, scandalous, or unverifiable statements and revelations, which is sadly often the case with books about deceased celebrities no longer able to defend themselves. If something is unknown about the subject, Ms. Leider comes right out and says so, if there is speculation or differing viewpoints about an issue, she makes that clear and gives the evidence both for and against. As a classic movie fan, I hope she will write more biographies like this one.

See Valentino in his most famous film "The Sheik" and its sequel "Son of The Sheik"

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Beast by Peter Benchley

Beast is another tale of a monstrous creature from the deep wreaking havoc on an oceanside community from the creator of Jaws. Substitute giant squid for shark and you get the idea.
Whip Darling is a fisherman struggling to make ends meet in the fished-out waters of Bermuda. When he finds an abandoned raft emitting a distress signal and covered with a mysterious ammonia-scented slime and a curious claw inside these are the first clues to the danger lurking beneath the sea. The claw is subsequently identified by Dr. Herbert Talley, one of the world's leading experts in cephalopods, as being from one of the tentacles of Architeuthis dux, the Giant Squid. And when two young divers are killed while exploring a shipwreck panic Bermuda suffers yet another economic blow as squid scare drives tourists away. Now the quest to kill the squid is on, fuelled by the deceased divers' millionaire father's wrath and money, and Whip is compelled to to play a leading role despite his personal beliefs that the squid should just be left alone.
Although this book is the literary equivalent of sitting back and watching a monster movie on tv (the movie based on the book is frequently shown on the Sci-Fi Network) I like the way the author portrays the squid, writing some chapters from its viewpoint. Though it does feel anger, and is sometimes moved to kill by this emotion, it is in reality just an animal, a hungry scavenger forced to become a hunter, a predator, more aggressive than passive, now that its once plentiful food supply has been depleted. I have always been fascinated by cephalopods (squids, octopus, and cuttlefish) and when I was a little girl I wanted to be a marine biologist and specialize in studying these fascinating creatures when I grew up. Though that was yet another dream that never came true for me, my interest in is still alive and well, and, as well as being a fan of horror movies and creature features, it was fun to spend a summer afternoon and evening with the book and watch the movie afterwards.
An extended version of the movie, with scenes cut out from the original broadcast now restored, is available on dvd. Though the movie takes numerous liberties with the book, for example Whip is made a widower, though in the pages of the book his wife is alive and well, and a navy officer is given a sex change of the nonsurgical variety courtesy of the screenwriter to add a touch of romance, and Whip's daughter Dana who is just a name mentioned occasionally in the book is given a starring role in the movie, and the ending is also changed as well, it is still essentially a longer version of Jaws with a squid instead.

Unholy Business A True Tale of Faith, Greed, And Forgery In The Holy Land by Nina Burleigh

This book takes readers into the world of the biblical antiquities trade in which rich collectors vie, often illicitly, for artifacts and relics, often out of a desire to prove The Bible. It is a world in which forgery is rampant. Ms. Burleigh's superbly researched book chronicles one of the most spectacular and daring forgeries in history, the James Ossuary, a limestone bonebox purported to once have held the remains of the brother of Jesus Christ.

When the ossuary's existence was revealed in 2002 it made headlines around the world and ignited heated debate that sometimes degenerated into personal attacks in both the archaeological and religious communities. From the start the box acquired fierce champions, including Hershel Shanks of the popular magazine The Biblical Archaeology Review, and equally adamant detractors who pointed out irregularities in the inscriptions, all of which is detailed in the pages of this book. Two other prominent finds, a sandstone tablet flecked with gold with an inscription regarding repairs for Solomon's Temple and an ivory pomegranate long believed to be the only known relic from Solomon's Temple, are also examined and their now doubtful authenticity discussed.

Ms. Burleigh's book takes readers into the world of biblical archaeology where evangelists and scientists, each with their own agendas, compete in a never-ending battle between science and faith. We also learn about evangelists who raise money to finance expeditions, taking thousands of dollars in donations from the faithful and gullible, in hope of finding Noah's Ark or some other artifact that proves the Bible, when the money should have gone to help people in their communities in genuine need instead. The book is peopled by a colorful cast of scholars, scientists, collectors, antiquities dealers, evangelists, forgers, and detectives, and makes fascinating reading.

At the time it was written the trials resulting from the forgeries were still underway and expected to be of lengthy duration, possibly even several years, so there is no verdict in the legal sense, though the artifacts described are all most likely authentic items from the biblical era that were altered by modern forgers to enhance them and make them more attractive to collectors and more profitable to the dealers and forgers behind them.

I found this book fascinating, it gave me a glimpse into the side of archaeology one doesn't usually see, the black market and back alley trades and how artifacts find their way into private collections, and the battle between men of science and men of faith over the archaeological sites and treasures beneath the soil of the Holy Land. It is a far cry from seeing pictures of these ancient treasures in glossy-paged books and magazines or in the glass display cases in the museums of the world. I do wish the book had included some photographs though, it would have been nice to see these hotly disputed artifacts as I read about them.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Tabby in The Cat Wagon

The Fan-Maker's Inquisition by Rikki Ducornet

During the bloodthirsty and paranoid days of the French Revolution, a fan-maker stands trial for her association with the notorious libertine the Marquis de Sade.

Their association began when de Sade visited her shop to order beautifully crafted fans painted with pornographic scenes. In time, the customer became a friend, though never a lover; "my curiosity overcame my disgust," is how the fan-maker, educated far beyond her sex and station, explains this unlikely friendship. And during de Sade's imprisonment in the Bastille the fan-maker visited him bearing little gifts and also exchanged letters with him which are quoted to give readers a window into the "corrupt castles" of de Sade's mind. Later she even partnered with him to write a novel about the barbarities inflicted on the Mayan Indians during the Spanish Conquest of the New World. But the fan-maker's own sexuality also counts against her as her lesbian affair with a free-spirited and unconventional female playwright is exposed.

I really wanted to like this book, the plot and characters sounded so intriguing, but in My Personal Opinion the format, the Q&A style of a courtroom interrogation interspersed with letters and literary excerpts, works against it. If the author had fully fleshed out the story and characters, letting readers experience events as they unfolded, not just recited after the fact in a courtroom, it would have been so much better. This is a book that should have been a banquet not a fast food value meal.

The African Queen by C.S. Forester

This novel by C.S. Forester, famed creator of the Hornblower saga, is the basis for one of my favorite films, "The African Queen" starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn, an unlikely tale of adventure and romance between opposites in German occupied Central Africa after the outbreak of World War I.

In both the pages of the novel, and the movie it inspired, Miss Rose Sayer, a prim, willful, and determined missionary spinster and Charlie Allnutt, a crude but kind Cockney engineer who pilots a rickety old steam launch bearing the grandiose name of "The African Queen" find love as they plot to blow up a German battleship with homemade torpedoes fashioned from blasting gelatin and oxygen cylinders. This audacious act is dreamed up by Miss Rose to avenge her brother's death, and also as a patriotic gesture, to strike a blow for England.

Along the way down the winding and perilous Ulanga River they brave sweltering heat, insects, leeches, malaria, bullets, mechanical problems that test their ingenuity, and rapids that threaten to dash them to death and to pieces as they aim for their target, the ship known as the "Konigin Luise," or "The Louisa."

Honesty compels me to admit that I prefer the movie to the book, but that is not intended as a slight against the book, perhaps it is just that the visual medium as well as the talented actors cast in these roles better and more vividly convey this story than the printed page can, at least for me. The movie does adhere very closely to the book except for the ending.
The book will also, I think, appeal to those who like their romance depicted more discreetly rather than explicitly. Sex is implied, but not shown.

One thing I feel I should mention for readers regarding dialect is that Mr. Allnutt's cockney accent endures consistently throughout the book in a way that might prove annoying, difficult, or distracting for some readers. It is not a mild, occasional case of dropped aitches but phonetic spellings to replicate his speech, for example: fink (think), agine (again), yerss (yes), mike (make), awye (away), wot (what), abart (about). Since for most of the book there are only two characters speaking, and Mr. Allnutt is one of them, I felt I should make note of this as I know some readers dislike extensive use of dialect whilst others think it adds authenticity and colour and helps the reader "hear" the character's voice better.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Missing Without Trace In Ireland by Barry Cummins

This book tells the stories of seven people--five women and two children--whose mysterious disappearances remain unsolved to this day. Some may be connected, the work of a serial killer perhaps, others are most likely isolated cases, but all have one thing in common--all left behind grieving family and friends gnawed by the anguish and uncertainty of not knowing a loved one's fate.

Between March 1993 an July 1998 six women aged between 7 and 26 vanished in Ireland, all most likely abducted and murdered. Despite exhaustive investigation by the Gardai (Ireland's police force) and extensive media coverage, searches of land, water, buildings, and arrests and interrogations of possible suspects, all six disappearances remain unsolved.

Annie McCarrick was the only American among the missing women, of Irish-American heritage, she fell in love with Ireland, it's people and culture, and decided to make her home there and continue her studies to become a teacher. On the day she disappeared she set out to take a walk in the foothills of the Wicklow Mountains. If witnesses who later came forward are correct, Anne was last seen in Johnnie Fox's Pub listening to the Jolly Ploughmen in the company of an unidentified man in his mid-twenties. Annie was never seen again and her remains have never been found.

Jo Jo Dullard vanished on a cold November night while trying to hitch a ride home after spending the day in Dublin and missing her bus. She paused at a phone booth to call a friend and explain her predicament, she asked her friend to hold on when a car stopped, then came back on the line to say she had a ride, then Jo Jo was gone...forever.

Fiona Pender was a beautiful blonde model, seven months pregnant, and eagerly anticipating her baby's birth when she inexplicably vanished form her flat in Tullamore. There were no signs of violence or a struggle at her flat, no one reported seeing her leave, she was just gone and, to this day, remains among the missing.

Ciara Breen was a month shy of her eighteenth birthday when she snuck out her bedroom window one night to meet someone, most likely an older man her mother did not approve of. She was never seen again. To compound the tragedy, twelve hours after her disappearance, her mother received the results of medical tests confirming that she had cancer. Ciara would never know this or that her mother had arranged a surprise visit to Disney Land in Florida for Ciara's 18th birthday.

Fiona Sinnott was the only one of the missing women to leave behind a child, an 11 month old daughter named Emma, when she vanished. Though Fiona had been the victim of an abusive boyfriend in the past, and had to seek medical treatment for these injuries multiple times, it remains unknown if domestic violence played a role in her disappearance. At the time, she was complaining of not feeling well, of pains in her arm and chest, and had told her baby's father, from whom she was amicably separated and remained good friends with, that she planned to go into town to see the doctor that day, but, if she did indeed set out to see the doctor, she never arrived at his office.

The case of Mary Boyle remains Ireland's oldest unsolved missing persons case. The six, almost seven, year old girl vanished on a March afternoon in 1977 when she turned back, balking at the depth of the mud, while following her uncle across a muddy field. She has not been seen since.The two most likely theories are that Mary was either abducted or she might have stepped into what locals call a "swallyhole" deceptively firm ground which conceals a deadly bog that can swallow a person whole.Despite extensive searches no trace of Mary was ever found, not even the wrapper from the packet of sweets she had been eating at the time.

The second missing child story is that of Philip Cairns who vanished in 1986 while walking back to school after going home for lunch. Somewhere between his home in the suburbs of Dublin and his school, a fifteen minute walk, he vanished. A week later his schoolbag was found deposited in a lane a short distance from his home, intentionally placed there,though it is not known if this was done by whoever took Philip or someone who found it but did not want to get involved for whatever reason. This person has never come forward, though authorities still hope they will as this might provide a vital clue.

Though the stories chronicled in the pages of Missing are sad, it is a brisk and interesting read about these mysterious disappearances that still haunt many, whether they be family and friends of the missing, investigators, or simply those, like myself, who have an interest in these things, all of whom still hold out a candle of hope that these mysteries may be solved someday and the question marks about their fates will be erased.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Bad Queen Rules and Instructions for Marie Antoinette by Carolyn Meyer

This latest addition to Ms. Meyer's Young Royals Series of historical novels about the lives of famous royal women chronicles the life of Marie Antoinette. From her carefree days as an archduchess at the Austrian court, overseen by an overly indulgent governess who thinks being pretty and charming and able to dance and embroider exquisitely are all the skills Antoinette will ever need to get through life, to the grandeur of Versailles as the wife of The Dauphin later King Louis XVI, it is a life governed by rules and regulations, many of which the rebellious young woman recklessly flouts.

When her marriage remains unconsummated for many years, the finger of blame is levelled at Marie Antoinette, and she tries to console herself by spending vast sums of money on extravagant gowns, flamboyant towering hairstyles, diamonds, masked balls, and gambling. Even after she gives birth to four children the lavish spending continues, though by then it is channeled in various remodeling, redecorating, and building projects centered around the Petit Trianon and her idyllic farm Le Hameau where the cracks are painted onto the walls to give them a quaint, rustic touch. But when reality finally slaps her in the face and, with France teetering the brink of bankruptcy, she tries to economize, it is too little too late, and she is soon engulfed in the flames of the French Revolution.

In my opinion, this would be an excellent book to introduce young girls to the life of Marie Antoinette. It is filled to the brim with drama and romance when Count Axel von Fersen, the debonair Swede, comes onto the scene, although it is a chaste romance as in the pages of this novel Antoinette loyally honors her marriage vows.

The book does have a serious weakness though, in my opinion, when after the royal family are apprehended at Varennes while trying to flee, Marie Antoinette decides that she no longer has the heart to continue writing in her journal and turns the task over to her young daughter, Madame Royale. I think this would have been a much stronger book if Marie Antoinette had continued to tell her own story in her own words right up to her fatal rendezvous with the guillotine. Nonetheless, it is from start to finish an enjoyable and interesting read.

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Tudor Wife and Gaveston Now Available for Amazon UK Kindle

Now that Amazon UK has launched their own Kindle store, UK readers can purchase Kindle editions of my first novel The Confession of Piers Gaveston and The Tudor Wife for their Kindles.

To order The Confession of Piers Gaveston as a UK Kindle Book Click here.

To order The Tudor Wife as a UK Kindle Book Click here.

For those in the USA who have a Kindle, you can purchase The Tudor Wife under it's American title The Boleyn Wife by Brandy Purdy. Click here to order.

To order The Confession of Piers Gaveston as a US Kindle book please click here.

Both books are also available in paperback format at both Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Elizabeth & Mary Available For Pre-Order in the UK

My next novel which will be published in the UK by Harper/Avon Books as Elizabeth & Mary by Emily Purdy is now available for pre-order at Amazon's UK site, it is scheduled for release in June of 2011.

A US edition published by Kensington Books called Mary & Elizabeth Rivals For The Tudor Throne by Brandy Purdy will also be available, but Amazon US has not added it to their catalog yet. I will post more details, including cover art, as soon as I have them. The link below is for the UK edition.

The Lost Voice of Queen Victoria The Search For The First Royal Recording by Paul Tritton

Part history of the science of sound recording, part detective story, The Lost Voice of Queen Victoria lets readers follow along on author Paul Tritton's quest to track down the elusive wax-coated cardboard cylinder that may contain the only surviving recording of Queen Victoria's voice.
In the summer of 1888 Sydney Morse took a Graphophone (one of the earliest versions of the machines later to be generically called gramophones, which would eventually evolve into record players) to Balmoral Castle to demonstrate to Queen Victoria. Such was Her Majesty's admiration for this new invention, that she let herself be persuaded to speak a few words into the machine.
While researching acclaimed British engineer Henry Edmunds, who was present in the lab the historic day Thomas Edison made the first sound recording, and spoke the words "Mary had a little lamb" into a hand cranked tinfoil gramophone, Paul Tritton discovered this all but forgotten vignette of Victorian history and embarked upon a quest to locate the cylinder and hear the voice of Victoria combing through wills and letters and seeking out descendants of Sydney Morse and Henry Edmunds.
Although a little too technical at times for my own taste, I nonetheless enjoyed spending an afternoon accompanying the author on his quest to solve this historical mystery.