Sunday, January 31, 2016

Fabulous February Sale from Books We Love

Find a great read for only 99 cents in February from 

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Click the covers to purchase from Amazon and remember, if you enjoy a story please go back and leave a review.




     
             
             
             
             
     
             











Hidden Civilizations by Eleanor Stem



I believe much is hidden by stone and dirt on this planet we call earth. Ha! You say. Isn’t that normal? Well, yes, but I mean down deep, under normal archaeological levels not yet searched. I’ve discussed this before, in various forms, but my theory still remains. What will we find once the ice sheets melt? What will we find if we dig below seemingly impenetrable rock? What if  several intelligent civilizations existed before this current one, which I say dates back 100,000 years when various forms of homo-sapiens walked the earth?
Atlantis before it sank into the sea

People keep trying to find Atlantis. Some spiritualists think it was real. Scientists feel it was a small community that a volcano plunged into the Mediterranean Sea, and several documentaries try to explain this. I’ve seen pictures of supposed paving stones off an island in the south Atlantic. Off the coast of Japan, the Yonaguni Pyramid has been found that some feel were man made when earth was cooler, before the seas rose after the Ice Ages. Even if Atlantis existed on this planet, it was part of our time frame, early in our present civilization that include what many call ‘ancient civilizations’. 

Pangaea was a single landmass scientists believe existed during the Paleozoic and Mesozoic periods of earth (300 million years ago) until an event split it into sections. We are still undergoing continental drifts. The Atlantic is getting larger, the Pacific smaller. Our planet is continually on the move. Earthquakes, violent storms, climate changes all cause our lands to change. 

What was once is no longer. 

Scientists tend to classify, tag and identify all sorts of events, time, our brains, species that roam the earth’s surface. We’re looking for signs if sentient beings lived on Mars, if there is evidence of water. The lists are countless. 

It is human nature to categorize for understanding. Indeed, fossil remains have been found from these early eras that explain why there are animal similarities across the continents. But to date, no human remains from early earth have been located. 

What if there were civilizations prior to the Paleozoic and Mesozoic eras? Their remains may be under mounds of dirt and rock that have yet to be excavated. What if their bodies etc weren’t as ours, that their bones, muscle and sinew dissolved into the earth upon death, leaving no indication they were here? Just because archaeologists and paleontologists haven’t found them doesn’t mean they did not exit. 

Pangaea
The continent of Pangaea stood alone in a vast ocean. Did it contain salt? Pangaea may have been an idyllic place to live where the people used this fresh water ocean for food, drink, and exploration. The peoples then could have created a multi-layered civilization. 

Then the continent broke into pieces. 

What would have caused this catastrophic change on the planet? You say, no, that cannot be. Per scientific evaluation, the planet always moves. Pangaea drifted a part. Once the continent split, did the new lands with the peoples float away to form their own societies? Not according to the records. Only simple creatures walked the land(s). 
 
I say if we peel away earth’s rock and dirt like an onion, we may find evidence of far earlier civilizations than the mind can comprehend. This world that whirls around in a galaxy among millions of galaxies, in a giant universe or universes, is more complicated than we ever imagined. Earth has been around for a long time. One day, we’ll discover what took place here hundreds of millions, maybe billions of eras ago.

Many thanks to Wikicommons, Public Domain for the pictures. 



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Saturday, January 30, 2016

A Very Short History of Spies and Spying during the American Revolution

by Kathy Fischer-Brown


As one of the world’s oldest occupations, espionage in one form or another has been around for as long as men have contended for territory and resources, waged wars, vied for crowns, and pressed for industrial and scientific advantage and superiority. While in no way possessing the skills, training, and technological tchotchkes of modern-day spies—or their counterparts in some of cinema’s great blockbusters—covert agents played a vital role in the American Revolution.

Anyone who’s watched the AMC hit mini-series, “TURN” (although I will not vouch for its total accuracy), knows that George Washington, as well as his British adversaries, relied heavily on gathering information about enemy strengths and weaknesses, their movements and supply lines when planning their campaigns. He also expended time and energy in disseminating misleading information through the same channels. But for the first few years of the war, American intelligence efforts were no match for the superior training and methods of His Majesteys agents.
This was soon to change. Under the auspices of The Committee of Secret Correspondence, created during the Second Continental Congress in November of 1775, General Washington was provided with an assortment of alpha-numeric codes, several kinds of secret ink and an equal number of ways to employ them, as well as novel means of transporting and exchanging these communiqués. In addition to hiding messages in canteens and false shoe heels, among others, one clever method involved tearing the message into narrow strips, rolling them up tight, and stuffing the slivers into the hollow stem of a goose quill pen. 

In the pictures shown here, you can see a simple but ingenious method employed by the British during their summer campaign of 1777, which ended in the defeat of General Burgoyne’s forces at Saratoga. The first picture (above right) depicts a seemingly innocuous letter from British general Sir Henry Clinton to John Burgoyne, comprised mostly of nonsense and false information. The Code Mask (shown left) was based on the Cardan System developed by Geronimo Cardano, an innovator in encrypted messages. A cut-out shape was placed over the letter, revealing the encrypted message inside the text (below right). It must have been fun composing a letter so that only the important words were shown through the mask. 
People from all walks of life served as eyes and ears for their respective causes. Among their numbers were women. Although but a few names have come down to us through history—Lydia Darragh, Anna Strong, Ann Bates, among them—no one knows exactly how many women worked behind the lines, selling food and other necessaries as sutlers in the camps and meeting places frequented by Rebels, British, and Tories. In many cases, such as that of Agent 355, a member of the famous Culper Ring out of Setauket, New York, we don’t even know their real names. It’s safe to assume that we never will.
Spying is central to the plot in the second and third books of my “Serpent’s Tooth” trilogy, set during the early years of the War for Independence. In Courting the Devil (book 2), we find our hero leading a band of scouts whose directive is to gather information vital to the American cause in advance of the British march on Albany. The heroine, Anne, is betrayed by a particularly unscrupulous American agent to Loyalists who have been misled to think she’s a spy. Her brutal “interrogation” is in no way far-fetched. In fact, I saved her from a far worse fate: that suffered by the real-life Canadian Tory spy, “Miss Jenny,” at the hands of French soldiers serving under Lafayette in 1778. Under the pretense of seeking her father in their camp, she aroused suspicions and was arrested. Not only did her captors try to beat the truth out of her, they raped her. If that wasn’t despicable enough, they cut off her hair—an act considered the height of humiliation at the time. Miss Jenny, however, did not relent and successfully completed her mission. After returning to the British camp with her intelligence, she vanished from history. It is interesting to note that women, in general, were considered too “simple” to understand the complexities of a military campaign, and for the most part, were not taken seriously. A rather short-sighted attitude on both sides of the conflict.
Captain Daniel Taylor, a character who appears briefly in Courting the Devil, was an actual Tory spy who plied his trade between New York City and the area around the upper Hudson River during the British push toward Albany from Canada. Although elusive, he was eventually apprehended by American soldiers, who went on to discover a coded message to General Burgoyne concealed in a hollow bullet in his hair. Taylor immediately swallowed the incriminating evidence, but was given a “strong emetic,” which did as it was intended. He was convicted of spying and hanged. Some say his execution was in retaliation for Nathan Hale’s death a year earlier.
In The Partisan’s Wife (book 3 of the trilogy), the reader is introduced to a number of shady characters, some real, some fictitious, as well as Washington, himself, and a few of his spy masters, as the stakes for our hero and heroine become deadly.

~*~ 

Kathy Fischer Brown is a BWL author of historical novels, and The Return of Tachlanad, her newly released epic fantasy adventure for young adult and adult readers. Check out her The Books We Love Author page or visit her website. All of her books are available in a variety of e-book formats and in paperback from Amazon and other online retailers.

Pictures courtesy of the Clements Library.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Earworm Mozart



I've fictionalized the creation of The Magic Flute in two novels, Mozart's Wife and My Mozart. Nanina Gottlieb, who sang the role of the heroine, Pamina, is the teen narrator of the latter Therefore, I thought I'd write about it, with all its "earworm" songs, and produced during the composer's hectic last year.


It has been said that The Magic Flute is a "pipe dream in which the ultimate secret is revealed, only to be forgotten again upon waking.” The opera is full of occult and masonic references, which would suit both the popular taste of the times (1791) for “magic,” and also the taste of Mozart and his friend Emmanuel Schikanader, fellow Masons.

Magical numbers--three Ladies, three Genii--and the multiple, nine--Sarastro’s Priests--appear repeatedly—and, because this is Mozart, in the music too. There are also a host of pairs and opposites among the symbolic characters: male/female, day/night, noble/common, perfect union/dischord. 




 

There are trials to be endured before the lovers may unite. Some believe that because Masonic "secrets” are revealed in the course of the action, the Brotherhood may have been responsible for the composer’s sudden demise. While I don’t subscribe to this notion, there certainly are lots of occult and masonic references scattered throughout the rather muddled story.

It is muddled, too, because Mozart had already begun to set music to a script (or "libretto") when he realized that The Theater am Weiden’s chief competitor, the Leopoldstadt Theater, had already launched a singspiel (those tuneful forerunners of Broadway) based on the exact same story. Their musical was called The Magic Zither.

Upon learning this, the writers and the composer simply changed The Queen of the Night from a good character into a bad one. Similarly, they changed her husband, Sarastro, from an evil tyrant into a benevolent “Philosopher King.”  This late tinkering with the story/music is obvious, for initially the emissaries of the Queen of the Night, the Three Ladies, give the  Prince not only helpful advice, but the magic flute of the title, to help him save the abducted princess.   Here, The Queen of the Night appears to be the injured party. Later, we learn that she and her ladies are now in league to thwart the Prince’s quest for enlightenment and the hand of her daughter.  

No one much cared, in the end, about logic. The music and the spectacle were (and are still) sufficient to create a luminous piece of theater.

Goethe’s mother wrote: “No man will admit he has not seen it. All craftsmen, gardeners…and even the “Sachsenhausers” (a rough rural suburb of Frankfort), whose children play the parts of apes and lions, are going to see it. There has never been such a spectacle before.”



This is high praise, even if the German word for spectacle carries a double meaning: “show” and “uproar.”

To quote Frederic Blume's essay “Mozart’s Style and Influence”: 

“To compose music for all; music which would suit both the prince and his valet…to compose music that had to be both highly refined and highly popular was a new and unprecedented task.”

Two-hundred and twenty-four years since this opera premiered, it's still going strong, a perfect way to introduce young people to this unique western art. Attending a first-rate production is easier and a lot less expensive than it used to be, for the Metropolitan Opera now broadcasts as many as ten operas every year directly into local movie theaters. Here's a cute clip (endure the undie commercial) :

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6s3Vsf9P0hE

 

In December I enjoyed a re-run of Julie (she of Lion King fame) Taymor's  inspired 2006 Met production. My only quibble being that I missed favorite arias, which were cut to make the show last only a tidy 90 minutes.

Happy Birthday, Wolfgang Amadeus!
 




 

~ Juliet Waldron





 

 

Thursday, January 28, 2016

What Hooks a Reader on a Story? By Connie Vines

Topic: What glues you to a story start to finish? What hooks do you use to capture your readers?

Engage the reader  



Purposely engage readers from the first words, first image, first emotion, and first bit of dialogue.
How to hook my readers?

Workshops, how-to-books, and instructors will say it’s the first two paragraphs, the first one hundred words, the blurb, the cover. . .etc. that will hook your readers.

As a rule, I agree these statements are true.

The key statement is “as a rule”.

I write what I like to read.  I like a strong opening hook, witty dialogue, or a detailed description of a setting, all have their place and all appeal to me.  If I have had a stressful day, I may prefer a book with more narrative.  A humdrum day, a fast-paced book with a strong action hook is perfect.  I assume my readers preferences are the same.

The story dictates the hook and the tone of my story.  Always.

Remember that story is primarily about characters and events. An opening without them isn’t much of an opening

When I select print books, I look at the cover, read the blurb, and scan the first three pages.  Ebooks, offer the additional benefit of reviews (though I am careful not to find spoilers) and speedy download. As a writer, I am very aware that I’m not the only entertainment venue.  I compete with movies, television, and in the case of my Teen/Tween and YA novels—video games,

I strive to forge an emotional connection between my readers and my characters.  I hope that my readers will remember my characters and think of them as friends. Friends that make an afternoon enjoyable, an evening filled with adventure, hope, love, or good old-fashioned or just plain sassy fun!

Looking for a hook?

Here are a few of mine:

Charlene hadn’t told Rachel that she’d fixed her up with a cowboy, much less Lynx Maddox, the “Wild Cat” of the rodeo circuit.  Rachel signed. She should have known.  After all, Charlene only dated men who wore boots and Stetson.  “Lynx” Rodeo Romance, Book 1.  BWL release.

Audralynn Maddox heard her own soft cry, but the pain exploding inside her head made everything else surreal, distanced somehow by the realization that some had made a mistake. A terrible mistake.  “Brede” Rodeo Romance, Book 2. BWL release.

“You and Elvis have done a great job on this house,” Meredith said as her older sister led the way downstairs toward the kitchen here the tour began. “Sorry I couldn’t get over, until now, but I’ve been sort of. . .well, busy.” Slipping her Juicy Couture tortoise-shell framed sunglasses into a bright pink case, Meredith crammed them into her black Coach handbag. She hoped her sister didn’t ask her to define busy. Becoming a zombie, and dealing with the entire raised from the dead issue over the past six months, was not a topic easily plunked into casual conversation.  “
Here Today, Zombie Tomorrow” BWL release.

Your first chapter, your opening scene, your very first words are an invitation to readers.
I ask myself, “Have you made your invitation inviting? That is, is it tempting or attractive or irresistible? Once a reader has glanced at your opening, will he or she find the story impossible to put down?”

That’s one aim of a story opening, to issue a hard-to-resist invitation to your fictional world. You don’t want to create barriers for readers. Instead, you want to make the entry into your story one of ease and inevitability. You want to make the story attractive and compelling.

I hope that I am successful.

Happy Reading,

Connie





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