Monday, July 28, 2014

Revelation: Now Available!

Revelation: Book Three of The Unchained Trilogy is now complete and available at Amazon.com! Here's what's in store:

Light-skinned Selina Standish lives a life of emotional pain and torment. In 1906, at the tender age of eight, she is convinced by her mother, actress Lavinia Standish, the daughter of a slave, to pass as white.  Although Selina yields to her mother’s insistence to pass, she refuses to cut ties completely with her “Negro” relatives, including her twin brother, a child her mother deems too dark to pass.

However, at age seventeen, in the year 1915, Selina meets wealthy southerner Jack Cosgrove, the man of her dreams. Keeping her ancestry a secret, Selina is conflicted by Jack’s “negrophobia” and negative attitude toward her race. She must determine if happiness with him could ever be a possibility, especially if she were to reveal her bloodline.

Later, a chance encounter with Pastor Tony Manning opens Selina’s eyes to real love. Although he is a progressive thinker regarding race relations, Tony appears to draw the line at interracial marriage. In order to live as his wife, Selina decides she must completely disassociate herself from all her “colored” relatives. 

While bound to a chain of secrecy, Selina struggles to live in honesty. How true can she be to her husband, if she can never reveal the truth about herself? In 1933, Selina’s brother reappears in her life. Can she successfully hide his existence? How will her decision touch the lives of future generations to come? 

Read on for a brief sample:

Prologue
New York City
Summer, 1912

Dearest Gabe,

I hope you, Father, Aunt Olivia, and our adorable little brothers, Jason, Gregory, and Jonathan, and Grandmother and Grandfather are doing well.  I could not wait to write to you, because I can hardly contain my excitement about what I am planning to do today!  Do not think me daffy, but I cannot tell you, at least not yet, although I wish I could.

You see, if I do tell you, you might tell Father, and he might disapprove.  It is scandalous enough that I am going behind Mother’s back!  I am not doing anything particularly bad, yet it is daring, to say the least!  I will explain everything to you once I have executed the deed, and then told Mother, at which time, I will face the music!

I am fourteen now, or rather, we are fourteen, and Grandmother has often told me of the difficult times she endured while raising Mother.  I have been good, Gabriel, and I know you are aware of that!  I do, however, want to spread my wings, as they say, and see what the world has to offer! 

I will write soon to tell you all about what happened.  I send my love to you and the family!

Yours affectionately,
Selina
A gentle breeze swept through the enormous windows, filling Salina’s sizable bedroom with the scent of gasoline and soot from the automobiles and elevated trains that roared outside.  The soft wind tousled the fringe of bangs that covered her forehead.  Sitting at her Queen Anne desk, Selina folded the letter she’d written to her twin brother.  She’d lived with her mother for six years now, still in the elegant brownstone at Central Park West and Eighty-Sixth Street that had originally belonged to her father.

Selina missed Gabe, as well as the rest of her relatives in California.  Sometimes, she even wished she could live there with them.  She had such happy memories of the four years she’d lived out West, and that was before all the new siblings had arrived.  Now there were so much family—and so much love.  But Selina had to think practically, that’s what Mother always said. 

Life in New York wasn’t bad.  Selina had Brigid, her nurse since birth, and even her mother for most of the year.  Stuffing the letter into an envelope, Selina reflected that the life she’d lived here was better than the alternative Mother had explained all those years ago...

“...Don’t go back to California with your father, darling... If you do, he’ll send you off to a boarding school in France—where no one speaks English...”

That was one of three reasons Mother had used to convince Selina to stay in New York.  Another was the practical one...

“You being here, living in New York—that’s the best possible thing for you.   You may not completely understand why, but you will one day.   I promise you, Selina, your life here is better than it ever could be in California... It’s not so much the living in New York that matters.  It’s you being with me...being white... 

Hope you'll check it out, along with parts one and two!

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Famous Pseudonyms and Stage Names

Eleanor Hibbert aka Jean Plaidy,
Victoria Holt, Philippa Carr, etc.
"What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." William Shakespeare

Are you thinking about choosing a pen name? Perhaps you want something a little more sultry or adventurous sounding. If you already have something in mind, Google it to make sure no one else is using it. One writer I know of had picked a perfect name, but after doing a search found out it belonged to a porn star! Back to the drawing board.

For years, authors have been using pseudonyms for various reasons. Mary Ann Evans, aka George Eliot, used a male pen name to make sure her works were taken seriously. Eleanor Hibbert's complex literary novels produced little interest among publishers. She was told the easiest way to break in to publishing would be with romantic fiction. She chose to write contemporary romances under her maiden name Eleanor Burford, and found success. Talented and prolific, she went on to write historicals as Jean Plaidy, and Gothic romance as Victoria Holt.

Kim Novak aka Marilyn Novak... Only room
for one Marilyn in the 1950's
Nora Roberts, the most popular and prolific author of contemporary romance, shortened her real name from Eleanor Robertson, because she thought all writers used pseudonyms. Ms. Roberts writes her romantic suspense series, "In Death," under the pen name J.D. Robb.

Jayne Castle (birth name) writes futuristic paranormals. Under her married name, Jayne Ann Krentz, she writes contemporary romantic suspense, and as Amanda Quick, pens historicals.

As writers choose pen names, so actors choose stage names. Sometimes these names are used to evoke a certain image, or perhaps disassociate a sibling connection. Years ago, names deemed too ethnic were changed to more all American sounding monikers. And of course, names must be changed if already in use by someone famous. Read on for a fun list of stage names vs. real names.

  • So So to Star: Norma Jean Baker aka Marilyn Monroe, Frances Gumm aka Judy Garland, Tula Finklea aka Cyd Charisse, Archibald Leach aka Cary Grant
  • Sibling Disassociation: Peter Graves (Aurness, Mission Impossible)) and James A(u)rness (Gunsmoke), Warren Beatty and Shirley MacLaine (Beatty), Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine (de Havilland), Donna DeVerona and Joanna (DeVarona) Kerns
  • Ethnic to White Bread: Rita Cansino aka Rita Hayworth, David Kaminski aka Danny Kaye, Issur Danielovitch aka Kirk Douglas, Bernard Schwartz aka Tony Curtis, Dino Crocetti aka Dean Martin
  • Already Taken: Marilyn Novak aka Kim Novak (not enough room for two Marilyns during the '50s, thanks to Marilyn Monroe), Mike Douglas talk show host, Mike Douglas actor aka Michael Douglas, Michael Douglas actor aka Michael Keaton
Do you have a pen name? If not, do you plan to use one?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Republished from 7/21/10.

Monday, July 14, 2014

African Chicken Stew

"He who pursues a chicken often falls, but the chicken has to run." African proverb, Amaka

This recipe is a delicious chicken stew that can be served alone, over couscous, or over rice.  It's hot and hearty featuring a fall favorite--sweet potatoes! 

Growing up, I always ate sweet potatoes as a pudding or souffle. But as an adult, I've discovered lots of recipes that use them in savory dishes, which my husband prefers over the sweet ones.

This stew is easy to prepare, but unfortunately involves a little cutting and chopping (so just pretend it's therapeutic).  I've adapted my version from one I originally found in Woman's Day Magazine. Hope you enjoy!

African Chicken Stew

3 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1/2 t salt
1/2 t pepper
2 t onion powder
3 sweet potatoes
3 t garlic powder
1 1/2 t chili powder
20 ounces canned diced tomatoes
12 ounces frozen peas
1 1/2 T lemon juice
1/2 cup peanut butter

Season chicken with salt pepper and onion powder. Coat a large pot with cooking spray. place over medium high heat. Add chicken and cook about three minutes until browned.

Peel potatoes and cut in bite sized pieces; set aside. Sprinkle chicken with garlic powder and chili powder. Cook about 30 seconds or until fragrant.

Add potatoes and tomatoes. Bring chicken to the top. Bring pot to a boil, reduce heat. Cover and simmer about thirty minutes, or until potatoes are soft and chicken is cooked through. Sprinkle with peas, cover and cook 10 minutes longer. Add peanut butter and lemon juice. Stir until blended and hot. Makes 4 servings.

How do you like your sweet potatoes, sweet or savory?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Reprinted from November 5, 2010.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Belle

Belle is one of the most beautiful movies I've seen in a long time! In it, you will see superb acting, breathtaking costumes, authentic scenery, and historically accurate settings (including manure in the streets).

Based on the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle, the film offers enlightening facts about the British slave trade, racism in Great Britain, the status of women and social mores, and even interracial love.

Belle's great uncle, Lord Mansfield, his wife and spinster sister, come to adore Belle (called Dido) and want what's best for her.  However, upon Belle's original arrival as a little girl to their home, they are rather annoyed by their nephew's failure to mention her color.

Belle, the daughter of a slave, possesses physical beauty, and she is raised by her paternal family of white, cultured aristocrats. She inherits a dowry upon her father's death, so by having this, as well as her father's name, Belle's color and illegitimacy can be somewhat overlooked, yet tongues would continuously wag of scandal.

Belle's cousin Elizabeth, also raised by her father's family (Belle's father, Admiral Sir John Lindsay, would have been Elizabeth's uncle) is left penniless by her father. So even though Elizabeth is a beautiful, legitimate, cultured white aristocrat, her chances of marrying into the landed gentry appear slim to none. By marrying a woman with a substantial dowry, a man of aristocratic standing could achieve even more political power. Love, however, seldom fit into this equation. It's interesting to see how Belle handles this particular dilemma.

An idealistic young vicar's son challenges Belle's uncle, the Lord Chief Justice, on an insurance case involving the slave trade, and ends up using Belle as his greatest ally in fighting this legal battle.  This young man is not considered a gentleman, but nonetheless he stirs Belle's heart!

I loved this movie, my only regret was that I had no tissue with me!  There is a happy ending, but lots of sadness along the way.

Have you sen Belle? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Julia Sand: Encouragement in a Time of Crisis

So just who was Julia Sand? I'd never heard of her until I read Candice Millard's Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President, an amazing account of James A. Garfield's life and the assassination attempt on him while serving as president.

Garfield, an extraordinary man, was actually nominated for president against his will.  However, four months after his inauguration, he was shot in the back by the deranged Charles Guiteau, who'd sought a political office in Garfield's administration.

It wasn't the would-be assassin's bullet that killed the president, but rather the medical treatment Garfield received.  As Garfield suffered for nearly two months, the nation was thrown into turmoil, and during this time, Vice President Chester A. Arthur ( a not so extraordinary man) stayed in seclusion. When Guiteau was apprehended he announced his wish for Arthur to become president.  Because of this, there was a brief investigation into whether Guiteau had been hired by Garfield’s enemies.

Although no proof was found to support this, there were threats made on Arthur’s life and he feared making public appearances. Arthur’s past was linked to some scandals involving the New York Customhouse and many thought Arthur as president would mean disaster for the country.

Here's where Julia Sand fits into the equation.  She corresponded with Arthur beginning in late August of 1881, before Garfield's death.  Her last surviving letter is dated September 15, 1883. Sand referred to herself as the President’s “little dwarf”, alluding to the idea that in a royal court, the dwarf is the only one with courage enough to tell the truth.

Sand was an educated woman who lived in New York, yet when she began writing Arthur at age 31, she was bedridden due to spinal trouble, lameness and deafness.  What I'm posting below is a portion of Sand's first letter to the would-be president:

The day [Garfield] was shot, the thought rose in a thousand minds that you might be the instigator of the foul act. Is not that a humiliation which cuts deeper then any bullet can pierce?

Your kindest opponents say "Arthur will try to do right"– adding gloomily –"He won’t succeed though making a man President cannot change him."

…But making a man President can change him! Great emergencies awaken generous traits which have lain dormant half a life. If there is a spark of true nobility in you, now is the occasion to let it shine. Faith in your better nature forces me to write to you – but not to beg you to resign. Do what is more difficult & brave. Reform!
It is not proof of highest goodness never to have done wrong, but it is proof of it, sometimes in ones career, to pause & ponder, to recognize the evil, to
recognize the evil, to turn resolutely against it…. Once in awhile there comes a
crisis which renders miracles feasible. The great tidal wave of sorrow which has
rolled over the country has swept you loose from your old moorings & set you on
a mountaintop, alone.

Disappoint our fears. Force the nation to have faith in you. Show from the first
that you have none but the purest of aims.

You cannot slink back into obscurity, if you would. A hundred years hence,
school boys will recite you name in the list of Presidents & tell of your
administration. And what shall posterity say? It is for you to choose….

Apparently, her words of encouragement inspired and changed him. At the end of his presidency, Arthur earned praise from his contemporaries for his solid performance in office. In 1886, the New York World wrote: "No duty was  neglected in his administration, and no adventurous project alarmed the nation." And according to Mark Twain, "[I]t would be hard indeed to better President Arthur's administration."

Had you ever heard of Julia Sand? Also, can you think of anyone you can encourage today? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Reprinted from October 1, 2012.