Sunday, August 31, 2008

A Sicilian Romance

A Sicilian Romance is a gothic novel written by Ann Radcliffe who lived in the 18th century. It was first published anonymously in 1790 and it was her second published work. I read it several months ago and fell in love with the story. The plot certainly does keep one turning pages. It is one of my favourite books of all time.

It is the story of a fallen aristocratic family named Mazzini. They owned and lived in a castle on the northern shore of Sicily. The story begins with a tourist who meets a monk in the ruins of their doomed castle. The monk offers to reveal the family's dark history. The characters journey through the cavernous landscapes and labyrinthic underground passages of Sicily's castles. It is a tale of love and darkness, one that will intrigue you to the very end.

If you'd like to read a free version, the best downloads for this book are found at the following sites:

Microsoft Reader:

Plain Text:


Saturday, August 30, 2008


Those of you who know me well, know that I've been researching the Ottonian Empire since 2002. The roots of the Ottonian Empire are in Germany - Quedlinburg, Magdeburg, Erfurt, and many others. I've collected numerous books, texts, and photos. The only thing missing is that I have never been there - yet.

Quedlinburg was the main residence of Heinrich and his wife Matilde, the characters in my novel Heinrich the Fowler. My current work in progress, A Scarlet Mantle, is strictly about Matilde in first person narrative.

I found this video on YouTube and although many of the structures that existed in the 10th century may not be there, much has been preserved. Quedlinburg is a Unesco World Site. This video helps give me a feel for the area and the times.

One day, I hope to visit and place a flower on the grave of my heroine.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Struggles with Historical Research

My current work in progress, A Scarlet Mantle, is causing me grief at every turn. I equate it to those sleepless nights when we toss and turn in bed unable to find a comfortable position.

First it was changing the manuscript back and forth between first person and third person narrative. Gladly I settled on first person and that seemed to help.

When I finally thought I had the first seven chapters polished, I discovered that I have to re-write them all. For years I've been searching for the birth and death dates for a particular character. It always eluded me. This didn't surprise me because she was a woman and not of any great significant importance except for giving birth to my hero.

Last night, while re-reading some research textbooks I collected, I accidentally stumbled upon it. I learned that she died 6 years before my story begins. The information was in a tiny footnote in the minutest print at the bottom of a page. Now I've got to go back and take her out of several scenes and write all those chapters.

Writing a true historical in 10th century Germany is very challenging. Every text book differs pertaining to names and dates. They even mix up characters names and occurrences. It's been hard sorting the pepper from the fly poop. And instead of giving up and moving on to another book, it only makes me want to dig in all the more and get it done!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Embezzled Love by Ginger Simpson

I recently had the pleasure of reviewing Ginger Simpson's latest novel, Embezzled Love. I must say, I finished the book in two days. I could not put it down. And even this moment, several days after I finished reading it, I still am affected by its strong impact.

Here is a brief book review:

Cassie Freemont is a 49 year old self-made woman who has worked herself to the glass ceiling of her insurance company. She owns her own home, has a growing savings account, and is surrounded by a loving family. Even with all that, her life seems empty. She’s trapped working for a boss who doesn’t like her and her life feels empty.

Cassie decides to enter the world of on-line dating. Almost immediately, she meets a man named Evan, a cowboy with a real charming personality. And he even owns and operates his own successful landscapting business. Before long, Evan moves in to her home and makes her CEO of his landscaping business. He has ripped out her entire backyard to make it a showpiece for clients. The bills begin to roll in.

Cassie’s siblings are worried and they conduct a small investigation of their own. They confront her with their findings that he is a charlatan, a con artist with warrants in other states. Cassie is dismayed and doubts begin to creep into heart about the man she has fallen in love with. Yet every time she confronts Evan, she is reassured by him. As a result, she has a falling out with two of her siblings.

Based on the true story of the author’s sister, this novel builds tension as it goes. It grips the reader and throws them into a whirlwind of emotion from anger to joy and everything in between. It is a powerful book of vulnerability and strength, family loyalty versus true love. A must read for every woman.

Genoa - A beautiful setting for a novel

I chose Genoa as one of the places in Bloodstone Castle because of it's rich history as a port city that rivalled Venice. This gave me an exciting backdrop and helped develop my hero as a wealthy duke due to his connections to travel.

Christopher Columbis is said to have come from Genoa.

Genoa citizens solicitously keep the memory of their great compatriot: still, you can find the house in which Columbus was born and where he spent his life and there are always fresh flowers by the foot of the monument.

Lagoon is the favourite place for the citizens where they can spend their free time, and if you come here in the evening, you will see an impressive sight: the full-length copy of the Columbus’s caravel is shining in the rays of searchlights. The lagoon was projected by talented architects: here’s one of the world’s biggest aquariums located, and ten steps further there is the skating rink that never melts, so you can see young men and women in beach outfits.

Use the noiseless lift to raise only several dozens of meters higher and what you’ll see will make you totally breathless: below there are soft curves of the Ligurian coast while there are Apennine tops above you against the background of the bright blue sky. Palaces, museums, great arches, living quarters built with a refined taste, wide squares and narrow streets are all crowded between the coast and the mountains.

Go along the Genoa streets and squares. In every corner there are historic signs and on every turn you will find the traces of glorious deeds accomplished by the previous generations. On one of the castles you will find the board that says that in XII century Genoa citizens were fighting against Frederick Barbarossa forces here. The high relief plots on the Garibaldi monument will tell you how 700 years later battalion that belonged to the great Italian walked along the Genoa streets…

Genoa is the city that will definitely enchant you and will make you fall in love with it.

The weather is mild here all year round. Even at Christmas time the city is filled up with light and the temperature is as high as 15 degrees centigrade. The Columbus’s homeland is safe from cold winds while the sea gives its tender warmth to it. But it is not only the caress of the sea that Genoa lived in. The sign on the marble arch reminds you of the terrifying Second World War times: “the native land for its children who were fighting on the land, on the sea and in the sky…”…

Local airport is also a unique thing as its runway goes close to the sea, so when the plane is rising into the sky you can imagine yourself on a hydroplane.

But lets turn back to the city’s streets, the square in front of the Museum of Art. Here, on the advertisement board, you can see colourful pictures of the frescos that were created by the masters of the past. A woman and a man dressed in ancient clothes, musicians… These people lived here five hundred years ago. They loved their city while the artists loved these people who were their models at the same time. The artists left us the images of faces, movements and even feelings that belonged to our ancestors.

And you can be totally sure that there’s more than enough of dynamics, fun and active intercourse on Genoa’s streets. Here’s an actor performs in front of children. They know the plot by heart but, anyway, they meet every remark with shouts of joy. Mothers and fathers are also in raptures over this. Genoa is truly a wonderful place which will never lose its fascination.

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