Thursday, April 28, 2016

SOPHIA HAWTHORNE, NATHANIEL'S WIFE AND MUCH MORE

I finally chose the subject of my next bio novel, and she lived almost in my backyard--Nathaniel Hawthorne's wife Sophia. Aside from being the wife of one of the most famous writers of his time, she was a gifted artist and a strong woman who overcame a physical handicap (migraines, from ingesting mercury as a child). She and Nathaniel also have connections to several people involved with the 1692 Salem witch hysteria and trials, which I'm happy to include in the story. I've read a stack of books on Sophia and Nathaniel, and re-read his books and stories that I read in school, a delight to relive them.
If you'd like to meet Sophia, one of the best biographies is
Sophia Peabody Hawthorne, a Life by Patricia Valenti


Friday, April 22, 2016

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Doors/Jim Morrison Fans and Music Lovers: Meet Linda Sienkiewicz and Read About Her Visit to Jim's Grave and her Beautiful Homage to Jim


My author friend Linda Sienkiewicz (and the true Polish way to say it is shin-KEH-vich). is a poet, artist and fiction writer. Her debut novel is titled In the Context of Love. One of the main characters, Joe Vadas, who comes of age in the 70s, is obsessed with Jim Morrison and the Doors.
In the Context of Love can be purchased in paperback or e-reader on 
 


For diehard Jim Morrison and Doors fans, Linda has a beautiful story about visiting Jim's grave in Paris on her blog. What a story, I loved it, as a kindred soul, a history buff who has been known to sneak around historic sites after closing (Carisbrooke Castle) and touch every historical artifact I see...and I've gotten into a bit of trouble doing that (touching Chopin's piano keys, for instance).
Read about her experience and her homage to Jim.

A WRITER PAYS HOMAGE TO JIM MORRISON
 










I stared at his monument in awe, flushed and a little woozy, thinking about how much this long-haired, leather-clad icon has meant to me over the years. The makeshift gate at Père Lachaise Cemetery wouldn’t let me get any nearer than 20 or so feet. At last I was here and yet this was the closest I’d ever get to him. It was a bittersweet moment that brought me near tears.

When I was young, Morrison’s voice was like a conduit of love, passion and intensity, and his sudden death only deepened my fixation with him. His poetry and lyricism spoke to me on many levels — I understood and felt his confusion and disillusionment with life, and found solace in poetry, too.
 
 
I had brought a copy of my poetry chapbook, Dear Jim, with me to the cemetery. The title poem is my tongue-in-cheek apology to Morrison for no longer having a major crush on him, but it also speaks to how our obsessions can guide us through the dark times in our lives. Written on Jim’s gravestone is KATA TON DAIMONA EAYTOY, which means “Faithful to his own spirit.” In ancient times, deities who distributed the fate and believed to be life changers were called daimones (daimons). The protector deity that lived inside a person from their birth till death, and took care of their personal evolution and prosperity was called “daimon eaytoy.”
 
 
In my poem, I call on Jim to be a guardian angel. I really, really wanted to leave my book at his grave.
I walked all around the fence, looking for an opening to squeeze between or slip under. I even considered climbing over — it wasn’t that high. We weren’t alone in the cemetery, however, and breaking French law made me nervous. Recently, a woman was hauled into jail for pouring whiskey on his grave. I feared leaving my book might be considered littering.
Later that day, my husband and I took a guided tour of Père Lachaise. It was then I noticed many visitors had paid homage to the dead throughout the cemetery by leaving candles, flowers, stones, love notes, and lipstick kisses. People even set potatoes atop the tomb of Antoine-Augustin Parmentier, promoter of the potato as a food source for humans in France. I could only assume the flowers and candles littering Jim’s grave had been snuck in at night, when no one else was there.
Avi, our tour guide, was a friendly, personable artist from the States who’d been living in Paris for ten years. Feeling a kinship with him, I excitedly showed him the chapbook, hoping he might grant me permission to leave it.
His face lit up. “You should definitely do it.”
“It wouldn’t be littering?” I asked. Avi shook his head and assured me it would be fine. Together, we walked up to the fence.
“Just toss it,” he said. “I’ll be waiting over here.” He smiled as he backed away, as if to say I was on my own.
My heart was pounding. I was surrounded by other people. I felt conspicuous, like a rabid fan, still the awkward teenage girl whose kohl-lined, bloodshot eyes saw Jim’s face in every Rorschach blot, who believed she alone could light his fire.
I told myself I had to do this. It was my way of paying homage, and I’d never forgive myself if I didn’t try. At that moment, I didn’t care what anyone else thought.
Hoping for the best, I flung it. Voila! The book landed in the shade of a large monument, face up, close enough to Morrison’s grave for onlookers to know its intentions. Avi smiled hugely when he saw it, and said, “That’s perfect. People can see the cover!”
And there it will stay. Maybe another fan who climbs the fence at night to leave flowers for Jim will move it closer. If not, that’s fine, too. The book will turn to dust, as everything and everyone we love eventually does. We will be remembered for our gestures, the things we leave behind, the love and dreams we share.
Au revoir, Jim. Till next time…

DEAR JIM

Written when I was harboring a crush on Russell Crowe after he won an Academy Award for Gladiator 

Thirty years is a long time, Morrison—
my mantra, my shaman, my sweet
erotic nihilist. It’s too weird to think
you’d show up panting
at my back door, and I’m no longer
the lone, braless freak in a high
school full of fresh-faced cornhuskers,
no more the sweet sixteen leather-whip
whose kohl-lined, bloodshot eyes saw your face
in every Rorschach blot, who believed
she alone could light your fire. 

Admit it, Jimbo, the closest I’d get
to you now is a zipless fuck with some
look-alike on your grave in Père Lachaise.
I’ve found a new bad boy—
dingo-barking-mad with your apocalyptic
intensity— ten thousand watts of it burning
night and day in my brain.  

You think he likes older women? Okay,
so maybe he doesn’t, but look, Mojo, I’m sick
of microwaving Lean Cuisine, washing
my pantyhose in the bathroom sink
every night, waking up in the same bed.
He’ll be the gladiator to defend my dreams,
someone to squeeze when my day stumbles
down the stairs into the basement.  

Yes, you’re beautiful, you’ll always
be beautiful — isn’t that the tragedy
of The End? And maybe asking the Antichrist
to be an angel is a lot, but, I could use your help.
What I’m saying is: please look after him.
Don’t let him die in a bathtub in Paris or
anything. I got a big load of laundry to do.  
 

Contact Linda

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Friday, April 15, 2016

President Lincoln Died 151 Years Ago Today


You may know this morning at 7:22 is the anniversary of Lincoln's death even if you're not a Lincoln buff. I've been a huge Lincoln buff since about third grade. And a paranormal buff.
 


Ghost stories are great around Halloween, but they're a lot of fun any time of year, even summer...there's something about a midsummer twilight and slowly gathering dusk that always spooked me. But I took this photo last October at the old schoolhouse across from Old Parish Cemetery in York Village, Maine. I was amazed at all the orbs that appeared.

In 2006, I decided to combine my love of Lincoln and the paranormal. I began researching A NECESSARY END, my paranormal twist on John Wilkes Booth's insane plot to assassinate President Lincoln. It contains no fictional characters.



Abraham Lincoln has fascinated me since I was eight years old. I don’t know what got me started, but it might’ve been a book which I still have titled The Life of Abraham Lincoln, Volume 1, written in 1895. When I was in 3rd grade, in the mid-60s (which shows how long I’ve been a Lincoln nut), my teacher asked us to bring a book to school from home, for a show & tell. My mother suggested I bring this Lincoln book, which even in 1966 was in bad shape—yellowed, stiffened strips of Scotch tape barely held the covers to the spine. With the wisdom of an 8-year-old that sadly, all of us outgrow, I demurred, saying, “This old book? She’ll think we’re poor!” My mother corrected me: “No, she’ll think we’re rich. Books like this are rare.” Then she proceeded to tape it up some more. Those 47-year-old Scotch tape fragments adhere to the book’s spine and pages to this day. My teacher, Miss Cohen, was duly impressed. I treasure that book to this day, and it’s one of many on my “Lincoln shelf” which holds books about our murdered president, his wife Mary, his assassin John Wilkes Booth and his family, the “Mad Booths of Maryland” and the conspirators who faced the gallows or years of hard labor because Booth, their charismatic leader, sucked these poor impressionable souls into his insane plot.

After writing 8 historicals set in England and New York City, I wanted to indulge my passion for Lincoln-lore. I began researching in depth about Lincoln’s life, his presidency, his role in the Civil War, and Booth’s plans to first kidnap him, and then to assassinate him. A NECESSARY END combined two genres I’m passionate about—history and paranormal.
 
I joined The Surratt Society, based in Maryland, and attended their conferences and tours. Through the Surratt Society I met several Lincoln/Booth/Civil War experts. One lady I’ll never forget meeting is Marjorie “Peg” Page, who by all accounts except definitive DNA testing, is John Wilkes Booth’s great granddaughter. My trips to Lincoln's home and tomb in Springfield, Illinois, Gettysburg, Ford’s Theater, and the house he died in, Petersen House, brought me close to Mr. Lincoln’s spirit. My travels also acquainted me with Booth’s brother Edwin, the most famous actor of his time, and his unconventional family.  A recording of Edwin’s voice reciting Shakespeare on one of Edison’s wax cylinders still exists at  http://www.britannica.com/shakespeare/browse?browseId=248018 My paranormal experience includes investigations at several haunted homes, restaurants and graveyards. I investigate with a group from Merrimack, NH, led by CC Carole, www.ccthehuntress.com. I’ve never seen a ghost, but I’ve received responses to my questions with my dowsing rods. Wishing I had my recorder with me, I made a ghost laugh at the Jumel Mansion in Harlem, New York City, (see the story and photos on my blog, www.dianarubinoauthor.blogspot.com)

Tragically, we’ll never hear Abraham Lincoln’s voice. But his spirit lives on. In my book, which is fiction--but we all know that novels are fictionalized truths--I gave Booth what was coming to him. He got his justice in real life, but in A NECESSARY END, he also got the paranormal twist he deserves.

And I enjoyed sticking it to him!

I paralleled the Shakespeare play Julius Caesar in this story because in the play, Caesar was known as a tyrant to the Senators, who feared losing their power, as Booth feared losing the Confederacy. Booth always considered Lincoln the tyrant, hence his proclamation ‘sic simper tyrannis’ (be it ever to tyrants) when he jumped to the stage after shooting Lincoln. 

Caesar’s Senators, Brutus and Cassius among them, conspired to stab Caesar to death on an appointed day. Booth recruited a group of like-minded disciples to aid him in his insane plot, at first to kidnap Lincoln, then to kill him. 

By day, Booth was a Confederate spy and courier, taking dangerous missions so that his beloved South could fight the North in the war that tore the nation in two. But in this story, an even darker secret plagues him–he believes he’s the reincarnation of Brutus, the man who slew the tyrant Caesar, and Booth’s destiny in this life is to murder the tyrant who’s ravaged the South—Abraham Lincoln. In obeying the spirit of Brutus, Booth devises a plot to assassinate the tyrant.  

I wrote it as a paranormal instead of a straight historical novel  because spirituality was extremely popular in 1865 and all throughout Victorian times. Mary Lincoln was a staunch spiritualist. So stricken with grief after the deaths of her boys Willie and Eddie, she hired mediums such as Nettie Maynard to visit the White House and hold séances in attempts to contact her boys from beyond the grave.  

The extent of séances, table-tapping, Ouija boards, Tarot cards, and otherworldly activities in this era fit perfectly with the story I wanted to tell. We could never enter Booth’s head, but his insane behavior begs the question: was he truly haunted by a spirit who drove him to his heinous act that changed history forever?

Or was he simply insane?

Excerpt:

And I am Brutus, Marcus Brutus, I; Brutus, my country's friend; know me for Brutus!" Booth declared to the proud reflections in his three facing mirrors.

          The center mirror clouded over. Puzzled, he leaned into it to peer closer. His  reflection faded as if the mirror were clear glass, and another human form took shape, becoming sharper as the mist faded. He was astonished to be looking into the face of a man whose eyes bored into his, pinning him with an unnerving stare. Booth took a step back, glancing to the left, then to the right, but his own reflections were moving right along with him. He focused once more on the stranger in the center, the Roman nose giving the weathered features distinction. He’d seen this face before, but where?

          The head nodded and the hint of a pleased smile curled the thin lips. Without so much as a word, the figure faded into the mirror’s eternal depths, and Booth was once again looking at his own astonished face.

          “Damn you! Who are you?” He pounded the mirror and it wavered, his image jerking back and forth with the moving glass.

          Exasperated, he turned away.

          “I’ll find out who you are if I die doing it.” He twirled around to face the mirror, seeing only his three perplexed reflections.


Purchase the Kindle Version


 

 

 

 



Saturday, April 9, 2016

Meet My Guest From Dracula's Country, Renaissance Man Dumitru "Mit" Sandru, Now an Author of an Adult Coloring Book

Mit's life story fascinates me. I read about him on a writer's forum and knew I had to get to know him better. He's guested here before, but when he told me he just published an adult coloring book, I had to invite him back. I just bought my first adult coloring book, SECRET NEW YORK, and colored in it for the first time the other night. I use Crayola crayons, and inhaling that wax fragrance sends me right back to childhood.



Mit, full name Dumitru Sandru, is a true Renaissance man. He was born in the greater area of Transylvania in the last millennium; make that last century since he's not a vampire. Yet. When he was six years old, a soldier shot him at point blank range with a Kalashnikov. He survived. He outsmarted his German teacher, and survived a tornado in the middle of a wheat field. Not concurrently. When he was 18 years old, he escaped from a country resembling a concentration camp, luckily without being killed. He outran mean border patrol dogs in a foreign country, in the darkness of night, while jumping over six-foot tall stonewalls. Superman he's not. He came to the USA in search of freedom, glory, wealth, and fame. He's still searching for three of those. Lightning grazed him, and he caught a shark by the tail. Once. A monkey attacked him in Japan, but his daughter saved him. He avoided many rattlesnake bites, and built a house. No relation between the snakes and the house. Life eventually tamed him and he became a responsible citizen, with a wife, two daughters, dog and cat. And lately two grandsons. The taming part is questionable. He acquired an engineering and management degree and attempted to acquire other degrees in music, marketing, and IT. A certified student. He obtained many professional licenses, which he hardly used, but looked good on his wall. At 59-¾ years old he quit the corporate life and a six-figure salary. Rumor has it that he was given the golden handshake. He was finally free to pursue his dreams of writing, painting and music.
During his professional life he painted hundreds of canvases, and composed dozens of tunes, while since his golden handshake he wrote 11 books in YA Fantasy, Sci-fi, Paranormal, Thrillers and Vampire genre. He is an artist, composer, painted hundreds of canvases, and composed dozens of tunes.  And that was in just the first half of his life.
Disclaimer: Everything written here is true, and the bullets were blanks.
I am Dumitru Sandru and I approve this unabashed bio.
Want to see and read more about the second half of his life?


 Visit Mit at sandru.com

See Mit's Author Page and Books on Amazon

Visit Mit on Facebook

e-mail Mit at mit@sandru.com

Read about "Abstract Dreams Coloring Book 1" by Mit

My first Coloring Book

 
 
 
Recently I published a coloring book. It is for all ages, but because it contains abstract drawings it is better suited for grown ups. Why a coloring book? The simple answer is: Because they’re popular. The real reason is more complicated than that. Although I’m an artist, besides an author, I wouldn’t sit down and draw new contents for a coloring book. There are far better artists out there who can do that, and the subjects can range from flowers, birds and butterflies, mandala and geometric shapes, animals and scenery, bugs and even obscene language. Everything you can imagine is available.

In my case I already had all the material I needed. Over the years I sketched hundreds of abstract drawings. I painted very few of them, because of time constraints, although I love what I drew. So when the light bulb came on in my head about a coloring book, why not publish one with samples of my abstract sketches? And that’s what I used in “Abstract Dreams- Coloring Book 1, from Sandru’s art collection.” This book contains only 30 sketches from the 100 of similar sketches I drew in sketchbook 1. And I have five more sketchbooks like this one.

You may wonder about the “abstract” part of my drawings. Usually “abstract” is associated with modern art, represented by splashes and splatters and mixtures of colors and other mediums, having very little resemblance to anything you and I may recognize. But then abstract paintings are not intended to be recognizable. They intend to provoke feelings, which sometimes are pleasing and sometimes not so much. Well, my abstract art is pleasing, composed of line drawings that may evoke certain feelings when viewed. Coloring them will produce different outcomes than the original sketches might have shown.

And that’s the story behind my first coloring book for adults. Will it be a second one? It depends on how popular the first one will be. So far I’m giving away two copies of Abstract Dreams on Goodreads and there was a phenomenal response from the readers/coloring artists, almost one thousand requests.



 

Friday, April 1, 2016

Meet My Guest, John Endicott, Co-Author of AARON BURR IN EXILE, A Pariah in Paris 1810-1811

We all have vivid stories of how we became fascinated with our favorite historical figures. As a Ricardian, of course I have my story of how I 'met' Richard III (in a book that was mislaid on a shelf in the Cambridge Library stacks), and in 2009, Aaron Burr displaced Abe Lincoln as my favorite American (sorry, Abe!). While researching my novel about Alexander Hamilton, I began reading about Aaron, who sparked a deeper interest in me than Hamilton ever did. I had to write my next bio novel about him and his last wife Eliza, and during my research journey, I discovered the Aaron Burr Association. I must say I'm enjoying my membership in the ABA as much as I've enjoyed my 24-year membership in the Richard III Society. I've met the most amazing people, and have made some terrific friends.

I met John last October during the ABA's conference in Connecticut, and he graciously agreed to be my guest here.

Jane Merrill, John's co-author, is the author of many books and magazine articles. She lives in Saint George, Maine.

John has practiced law in New York, Texas and Connecticut. He lives in Litchfield, CT, the town in which Aaron Burr first studied for the bar.

Meet John, read about his research and writing journey, and his famous ancestors.



About AARON BURR IN EXILE

Aaron Burr--Revolutionary War hero, third vice president of the United States and a controversial figure of the early republic--was tried and acquitted of treason charges in 1807, and thereafter departed for self-imposed exile in Europe, his political career in ruins. Adrift in Paris for 15 months, he led a marginal existence on the run from creditors and the courts, getting by on handouts. While other Americans in Paris enjoyed official status that insulated them from life in the capital, Burr dreamed up fruitless schemes and pawned his possessions, yet remained in high spirits, enjoying Parisian theater and cafes. He shopped, flirted, paid for sex and associated with friends old and new while gathering the resolve to return to America.

Burr's Paris journal is a rare item, with only 250 unexpurgated copies printed in 1903. In it he relates his fascinating stories and describes Parisian life at the height of Napoleon's power. Drawing on Burr's journal and other sources, this book provides a self-portrait of the down-and-out Founding Father abroad. 

 
Excerpt
 

Persona non grata.

Burr’s career as an American politician came to an abrupt end on the morning of July 11, 1804, when, as vice president of the United States, he mortally wounded his long-time political adversary Alexander Hamilton, in a duel on the shore of the Hudson River.  After the duel, Burr presciently wrote to his son-in-law,  “The event of which you have been advised has driven me into a sort of exile, and may terminate in an actual and permanent ostracism.”  Under indictment in New York for killing Hamilton, Burr could not return to his New York City law practice, and so he decided to embark on a Western adventure which led to his 1807 trial for treason.  Notwithstanding Burr’s subsequent acquittal, Jonathan Russell’s description of Burr in 1810 as a “fugitive from justice” in “voluntary exile” in Paris was entirely correct, in that Burr had left America for Europe to escape not only from his creditors but also from an Ohio misdemeanor indictment (which, like the New York murder charge, was never prosecuted).  And Burr was correct in predicting the “permanent ostracism”, which followed him to Europe, and which indeed lingered on for many years up to the day of his death in September 1836 at the age of eighty. 

Here is Burr, in July 1809 in Hamburg on his way to Paris, noting that his dubious reputation had preceded him to Europe: I find that, among the great number of Americans here and there, all are hostile to Aaron Burr—all.  What a lot of rascals they must be to make war on one whom they do not know; on one who never did harm or wished to do harm to a human being.  Yet they, perhaps ought not to be blamed, for they are influenced by what they hear.  I further learn that Aaron Burr is announced in the Paris papers in a manner no way auspicious.

Without any doubt, Burr was deluded to claim he never harmed a human being, given his killing of Alexander Hamilton just five years earlier.  On the other hand, the 1903 owner, editor, and publisher of Burr’s European journal, William Bixby, had this to say about the Burr-Hamilton duel:  “The duel was conducted with the utmost propriety, the participants took equal chances of life or death, and, according to the ethics of that age, though not of this, neither was in the slightest degree censurable.” So perhaps, in Burr’s thinking, Hamilton’s killing didn’t count; either that, or perhaps Burr was referring in the above passage only to his claim of innocent conduct in the Western adventures which had led to his treason trial. 
 
 
 
An Interview with John
 

John, can you tell us what gave you the idea to write about this part of Aaron’s life, rather than his earlier or later life?  How and when did you get interested in Aaron?
 

My neighbor and good friend Peter Tavino, Secretary of the Aaron Burr Association, put on a play at the Litchfield, CT library based on Aaron Burr’s treason trial and Peter cast me in the role of the prosecuting attorney. Thereafter, I read a biography of Burr which mentioned that Burr had kept a journal during his stay in Europe.  It turned out that the only Connecticut copy of the 1903 published edition of the journal was to be found at the Litchfield Historical Society.  When I read the journal there, I realized that it could be the subject of a very interesting book, which would be the first to consider in detail how Burr spent his time in Europe and particularly his very interesting and eventful 15 months in Paris in 1810 and 1811.
 

How long did your research take? Did you visit any historic sites for research?

 
No, I did not visit sites other than the law school in Litchfield where Aaron Burr studied law with his brother-in-law Judge Tapping Reeve.  Research proceed off and on over a period of about three years.
 

Do you have any other books out?

 
My co-author Jane Merrill has an Amazon page with many of her books listed.  Aaron Burr in Exile is the only book I have had published.
 

Do you have another book in the works, and can you give us a hint as to what it will be about?

 
I have no other books in the works.  Jane is working on a biography of Count Rumford, an American contemporary of Burr’s.
 

What are some of your favorite books about Aaron?
 

Nancy Isenberg’s FALLEN FOUNDER, and Milton Lomask’s two-volume biography.

 
What are some of your favorite books of all time?

 
Vera Brittain’s TESTAMENT OF YOUTH and Robert Grave’s GOODBYE TO ALL THAT, both World War I memoirs.  Another excellent book on WWI is Paul Fussellâ’s THE GREAT WAR AND MODERN MEMORY, illustrated edition.

 
Can you tell us a bit about your famous ancestor John Endecott?

 
He was one of the original overseers of Harvard College, my alma mater, and in 1642 approved the college seat, three books with the legend VE-RI-TAS  (truth).  I am actually more interested in my great-great-great-grandfather Robert Rantoul, Jr., a liberal U.S. Representative and Senator from Massachusetts in the early part of the nineteenth century, who had a lot to do with educational reform, anti-slavery and pro-trade-union activities.

 
Contact John