A Jack London-Harry Houdini Love Triangle: Rebecca Rosenberg

If you’ve read The Count of the Sahara, you know my fascination with real-life characters who behave in ways so crazy you’d think someone was making it up. So when I found Rebecca Rosenberg’s book, “The Secret Life of Mrs. London” I was intrigued. I mean, the wife of the world’s best-selling novelist (Jack London) having an affair with Harry Freakin’ Houdini? And it really happened? I had to learn more.

BTW the title of this post was originally “A Harry Houdini/Jack London Love Triangle With Rebecca Rosenburg,” but I realized that probably read wrong and would probably upset Mr. Rosenberg. Punctuation and grammar matter, people.

So Rebecca, what’s your deal?

I live on our lavender farm in Sonoma, California, which Jack London named Valley of the Moon, and wrote his books. My first book was Lavender Fields of America, a non-fiction coffee table book. Recently, our farm was destroyed in the Sonoma/Santa Rosa fires, but we are rebuilding and replanting as we speak! I am fascinated with remarkable people who lived before us and their improbably, fantastical stories. That’s why I write biographic historical fiction.

Oh my gosh. I have nothing clever to say to that except I’m so sorry. Tell us about your book…

Jack and Charmian London

The novel starts in San Francisco, 1915, just as America teeters on the brink of world war. Charmian and her husband, famed novelist Jack London, struggle under the strains of marital discord, brought on by infidelity, a lost baby, their dream home destroyed by fire. (There’s a creepy coincidence don’t you think?)  Charmian longs to be viewed as an equal partner who put her own career on hold to support her husband. But Jack doesn’t see it that way. Until, Charmian is pulled from the audience at a magic show of the beguiling escape artist, Harry Houdini, a man enmeshed in his own troubled marriage. And suddenly, charmed by the attention Houdini pays her, entranced by his sexual magnetism, and drawn into his mysterious undercover world, Charmian’s eyes open to a world of possibilities that could be her escape

I share your fascination with this period of time. What makes it so intriguing?

The Houdinis and the Londons…. probably an awkward evening.

I wanted to write about Jack London, the most popular, highest paid author of the early 1900’s, who wrote 50 novels in 20 years with the help of his muse, editor and typist, Charmian London. The couple was as unconventional, free-loving, and bohemian as they were adventurous, building a ketch and sailing around the world in 1907, encountering the Lepers of Molokai, cannibals and headhunters. They created a utopic 1400 acre Beauty Ranch in Glen Ellen, California, complete with pig palace, one-hundred thousand tree eucalyptus grove, prize winning Shire horses. All the while entertaining guests as diverse as Socialist cronies, Mother Jones, Upton Sinclair, Clarence Darrow, to famed botanist, Luther Burbank, to Ed Morell, the prisoner who inspired The Star Gazer.

But, when I discovered the little known fact that Charmian had an affair with Houdini, I knew the story had to begin there. Houdini was the most famous magician of his era, but his mystery only starts there. Houdini traveled Europe performing for the Tzar of Russia and the German Chancellor, and reportedly spied for our government.

Nothing could hold Houdini- no safe, no jail cell, no chains or locks… yet he wrote Charmian:

“I now understand how kings give up their kingdom for a woman. I love you.” Houdini wrote her passionate letters until the end of his life.

What was your favorite scene to write?

It was fascinating to depict Houdini’s iconic illusions and escapes, and include the Londons in them. But perhaps, I love how the novel starts with Jack and Charmian boxing! They loved to box, and it is symbolic of their relationship and how it binds them, yet tears them apart.

Where can people learn more?

I would really appreciate readers to review the novel on Goodreads!

http://www.rebecca-rosenberg.com/

https://www.amazon.com/author/rebeccarosenberg

https://www.facebook.com/rebeccarosenbergnovels/

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35655162-the-secret-life-of-mrs-london

Subscribe to my monthly newsletter and get a chance to win a signed paperback copy of Acre’s Bastard.  Each month you’ll receive links to interviews with great authors, news about upcoming events and previews of my work in progress, Acre’s Orphans. Look in the bottom left of the page for the sign-up sheet. No spam, just once a month updates and a chance to learn about great new Historical Fiction from around the world. Everyone who signs up before January 1 enters to win!

The Long-Distance Leader is completely, utterly, finally complete and available for pre-sale.

Readers of this blog probably don’t think about my non-fiction work very much, but let’s face it–Lucca, Byron and their colleagues don’t pay the bills. My newest book, co-written with my boss, friend and colleague Kevin Eikenberry is now available for pre-orders.

The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership will be released June 5, from Berrett-Koehler.

Looks good, doesn’t it? It is. If you lead remote project teams, or have people working from home and you’re struggling to be the leader you want to be, this book is for you.

If you’re unfamiliar with my non-fiction work, check out my Amazon Author Page for more details.

Renaissance Music and Romance with Karen Bedore

I first became aware of Karen Bedore’s work earlier this year, when her novel “The Bard” beat “Acre’s Bastard” to make the short list of the Illinois Library Association’s annual “Soon to be Famous Author” competition. When we finally met at a library author event, I swallowed my petty spite and hateful envy enough to chat with her, and learn she has a new book out. That would be, “Another Lifetime.”

Turns out that when she’s not writing, she teaches middle-school music. You’ll see she has her denial firmly in hand…

So let’s learn about Karen Bedore…

On a typical day, one could find Karen in the throngs of adolescent wonderment, trying to create harmonious music-making to these next-generation superstars. From the first squeaks of “Hot Cross Buns” to the lavish lyrical sounds of “Danny Boy,” there is much magic that occurs within the four walls of the band room.

After being fueled by many cups of coffee to sustain the never-ending insanity of middle school energy, she arrives home to the role of wife (to a wonderful husband) and mother (of an amazing little boy), cherishing every moment (okay, perhaps not the whining…).

However…

Secretly (well, not so secret any more), she is an undercover author, who laces up her trainers for a run to build endurance–not just for running–but to escape from this world to an alternate one, where history and romance meet, fueled by suspense–and of course–wonderful music.

Well, if the whole “secret identify” thing works for you and helps you deal with the most evil of Nature’s creations- tweens- God love ya. What’s your latest book about?

Twenty-two-year-old Aria Carucci was getting nowhere with her research of the obscure fifteenth-century artist Enzo Benenati.  A recent discovery of one of his works was a monumental breakthrough, but the accompanying sketch of a woman who could be her twin left her completely stunned. She vows to discover who this woman was, but nothing can prepare her for the path her research takes—back in time to 1459 Florence.  Frightened but thrilled, she must adapt to a time not her own.   Thrown together by chance, Aria and Enzo fall in love, only to be at the mercy of the hands of fate.      

You’re the second author in a row here who’s tackled the Renaissance as their theme. What is it about that time period that’s so interesting to you? 

I have always been fascinated by the early Renaissance period, ever since I can remember. The humanism movement—especially in Italy—has transformed the visual and musical art world, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without that ingenuity. I have family roots in Italy as well, and am in love with the language and culture.  If I were a character, I would be Aria. Many people who have read the book have noticed that I pretty much inserted myself into the book.

The arrogance of some authors (completely disregards his own work where he is Byron, Willie, Lucca, and probably the snarky old guy in most of the short stories). Without giving away spoilers, what’s your favorite scene in the book?

Ooh, this is hard! I would have to say the first kiss. –dreamy sigh-

I think those middle-schoolers are rubbing off on you, but what the heck. Where can we learn more about your work (including the one that beat mine out… not that I’m bitter or anything)?

My website: http://karenbedore.wordpress.com

Twitter: @Lady_Alcinia

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thebardtrilogy/

Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/ybmhdld6

Subscribe to my monthly newsletter and get a chance to win a signed paperback copy of Acre’s Bastard.  Each month you’ll receive links to interviews with great authors, news about upcoming events and previews of my work in progress, Acre’s Orphans. Look in the bottom left of the page for the sign-up sheet. No spam, just once a month updates and a chance to learn about great new Historical Fiction from around the world. Everyone who signs up before January 1 enters to win!

Join me Nov 25th at Centuries and Sleuths in Forest Park to Support Small Businesses

i will be one of over a dozen authors signing and (and if there’s any justice in the universe) selling books at Centuries and Sleuths, on Saturday, November 25 from 1-3 PM.

As part of “Small Business Saturday,” Augie Alesky (blessings upon him for supporting local authors) will throw the doors open to some of Chicago’s best independent authors. Pop on by and say hello.  If you’re looking for great personalized gifts for the readers in your life, there’s no better way to pick up something unique and appreciated.

Centuries and Sleuths is located at 7419 Madison St, Forest Park, Illinois. Lots of parking downtown.

Just a heads up, the Elgin Literary Festival is coming, too.  See you January 27.

Subscribe to my monthly newsletter and get a chance to win a signed paperback copy of Acre’s Bastard.  Each month you’ll receive links to interviews with great authors, news about upcoming events and previews of my work in progress, Acre’s Orphans. Look in the bottom left of the page for the sign-up sheet. No spam, just once a month updates and a chance to learn about great new Historical Fiction from around the world. Everyone who signs up before January 1 enters to win!

The Lucknow Mutiny with Jocelyn Cullity

Read to the bottom of the page for a special offer!

I have always been fascinated by India… maybe because it is literally as different a culture from ours as possible yet there’s always been cultural cross-over. The British Raj has given us some of the most famous historical fiction ever (you’re a good man, Gunga Din) and yet we in the West have seldom heard the story from the Indians’ perspective. That’s where Jocelyn Cullity and “Amah and the Silk-Winged Pigeons” come in.

Jocelyn Cullity’s Amah & the Silk-Winged Pigeons is based on ten years of research. She was awarded The New England Writer’s Fellowship from A Room of Her Own Foundation in the United States, and a Writers’ Reserve Grant from the Ontario Arts Council in Canada. Her short stories and essays have been published in American, Canadian, and Indian journals and anthologies; her award-winning documentary film about women and social change in China, Going to the Sea, aired on television and in festivals in Canada, the United States, and in Europe.

Jocelyn has a Ph.D. in Creative Writing from Florida State University and is currently the Director of Creative Writing in the BFA Program at Truman State University. She lives in Columbia, Missouri with her husband, the film scholar Prakash Younger, and their two daughters.

What’s the story of Amah about?

Amah and the Silk-Winged Pigeons is about the women (who do not find sufficient space or voice in many of our history textbooks) who valiantly resisted English rule in 1857 India — in a famous event that some English called “the Great Mutiny” and what some Indians call “India’s First War of Independence.”

As a Canadian living in the US, I find one of the great ironies is that one person’s “freedom fighter” is another person’s “godless rebel.” What is it about this particular story you found so fascinating?

19th century Lucknow was gorgeous, opulent, and cosmopolitan — European travelers to the city regularly would say they were in “luck. now.” when they reached the city. The English had already taken over other parts of India and in 1856, they deposed Lucknow’s King and began to take over the city. What followed was a famous uprising in which the Indians in the city — led by women — attempted to oust the English.

My mother’s English family lived in India for five generations and my great-great-great aunt was in the city of Lucknow during the resistance to English rule there. When I was a teenager, I transcribed her diary and the event stuck with me! I went on to look at Indian women’s perspectives on the tragedy that happened there. That’s when I found out that it was Indian women who planned and led the resistance — women we know too little about — and I knew then that the story I wanted to tell was theirs.

What’s your favorite scene in the book?

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My favorite scene in the book is when Amah, who tells the story, must fight off an English soldier over a very hot and difficult afternoon.
Where can we learn more about your book?
Subscribe to my monthly newsletter and get a chance to win a signed paperback copy of Acre’s Bastard.  Each month you’ll receive links to interviews with great authors, news about upcoming events and previews of my work in progress, Acre’s Orphans. Look in the bottom left of the page for the sign-up sheet. No spam, just once a month updates and a chance to learn about great new Historical Fiction from around the world. Everyone who signs up before January 1 enters to win!

Reformation, Faith and Heresy with C.L.R Peterson

By now, it’s abundantly clear from Acre’s Bastard that I have a complicated relationship with organized religion. Still, any student of history knows that little else has moved the levers of power in every corner of the world like faith and people’s reactions to it. Case in point:  CLR Peterson’s new novel about the Renaissance, the Reformation and the line between conscience and heresy. “Lucia’s Renaissance” comes from the author’s own academic interest in the topic. Here’s what she has to say:

What’s your deal?

CLR Peterson is the author of Lucia’s Renaissance

Renaissance history came to life for me during a semester of study in Italy. Then Martin Luther’s bold stand against the Roman Church and its pleasure-loving Pope Leo, a classic David-versus-Goliath battle, hooked me on the Reformation. I’ve pursued my passion for the Renaissance/Reformation era ever since, earning a PhD in Early Modern European History at Stanford University. Research for my debut novel, Lucia’s Renaissance, included reading heresy trial transcripts in Venice’s State Archives.

 

 

Geeky but cool. What’s Lucia’s Renaissance about?

Heresy is fatal in late sixteenth-century Italy, so only a suicidal zealot would so much as whisper the name of Martin Luther. But after Luther’s ideas ignite a young girl’s faith, she can’t set them aside, even when faced by plague, death, and the Inquisition.

What is it about that time period that is so fascinating to you?

For years, I’ve been intrigued by the relationship between the Italian Renaissance, with its vitality, creativity, and focus on humanity, and the religious Reformation sparked by Luther.

While reading heresy trial records from this era, I found a microcosm of this Renaissance/Reformation tension. A bare-bones portrait emerged of a Renaissance-educated Italian physician so devoted to Martin Luther’s ideas that for years he smuggled the reformer’s writings into Italian lands, leading to three trials before the Roman Church’s Inquisition. My novel fills out his family’s story (using literary license when necessary) from the viewpoint of the physician’s daughter, Lucia.

What’s your favorite scene or event  in the book?

When Lucia unlocks a hidden drawer in her father’s desk, she makes a shocking discovery: a book by Martin Luther, the arch-heretic her priest railed against. Questions flood her mind. Why was the book placed in the drawer? Does her father, a strict follower of the Church’s rules, know about the book? Could he be a heretic?

Lucia must decide whether to report her find to the priest, lock the book away and pretend she never saw it, confront her father, or read the book and make her own judgment.

Where can people learn more about you and Lucia’s Renaissance?

My website: clrpeterson.com

My book’s Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/ B076GKJY2V

My book’s Goodreads link: https://www.goodreads.com/ book/show/36339179-lucia-s- renaissance?from_search=true

What if Guy Fawkes Won? Spec Fiction From Tony Morgan

One of the most vivid travel memories I have is flying into London on a November night and as we came low over England, small towns were blasting fireworks, so there were little starbursts all over the ground. Those demonstrations, of course, were in memory of Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot. As this plaque shows, it failed and the consequences weren’t great for Guy. But the story lives on. One author has asked the question: what if the plot to blow up Parliament had succeeded? The answer is a pair of novels: “Remember, Remember,The Sixth of November,” and “1617.”

Tony Morgan has taken the famous story of November 5th and created  his own world, playing my favorite writing game; “what if?” What if D-Day had failed? What if Columbus hadn’t made it back to Spain? What if my mother had married any of the three (THREE!) guys who proposed to her before she accepted my father? Actually, I try not to dwell on that one for all kinds of reasons. The point is, it’s a fascinating game.

What’s the Tony Morgan story?

Tony Morgan lives in Yorkshire in the UK, close to the birthplace of Guy Fawkes. His books have been described as a perfect read for lovers of the works of C.J. Sansom and S. J. Parris and anyone interested in how historic events have shaped our own times. Profits from both his books in 2017 are being donated to York Teaching Hospital Charity’s dementia appeal.

In a nutshell,what are the stories about?

In my first novel “Remember, Remember the 6th of November” I retell the story of Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot. It’s a pivotal moment in British history, celebrated annually on November 5th with bonfires and fireworks. Given few people know the details behind this, I’ve focused on the real-life events but couldn’t stop myself from including a few twists along the way.

In my new release “1617” I’ve inserted the twists from the start. An alternate history develops, where the Gunpowder Plotters have succeeded in blowing up Parliament and killing King James I. The story centres on the early years of the reign of his daughter, Queen Elizabeth II, as she attempts to set the country on a different path towards religious tolerance. Of course, not everyone is supportive. Far from it, extremists and foreign agents wish to foil her plans. Closer to home, Elizabeth’s opponents plan to stop her ending the “plantation” of Ireland. With all this happening, can the young queen survive?

What is it about that time period or character that intrigued you and motivated you to write about it?

The first book is set in a world with fascinating, if alarming, parallels with modern times – terrorists on the streets of London, religious unrest, government surveillance and conflict with Europe. The history of the Gunpowder Plot is compelling, from the motivations of the Catholic conspirators, to the intrigue, betrayals, torture and so on.

In both books, it’s the people of the era which fascinate me most. Every Gunpowder Plotter was a man with a family, wives, children, mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters; as were those on the opposite side of the divide. In “1617”, how could Elizabeth face a world where her father and brothers had been murdered and she was likely next in line? How would the zealots on all sides react to talk of religious tolerance? What would be the impact in Ireland, in America and beyond be from these changes to history? Attempting to begin to answer these questions was motivation enough for me. I’m hoping readers will also develop their own thoughts and threads.

Without giving away the good bits, what are your favorite scenes?

In “Remember, Remember the 6th of November” it’s a secret discussion between spymaster general Robert Cecil and one of the plotters. There’s a significant reveal so I won’t spoil it but Cecil is my favourite character in the book. He’s a man with a ruthless controlling streak but he also has humour and understanding too.

In “1617” I enjoyed the interplay between the protagonist Sir Everard Digby and his Welsh friend and real-life navy captain and explorer Thomas Button. My favourite scene though is where the deadly French spy Linda Blanchet exploits the lecherous French ambassador in London in an attempt to cover her tracks.

Now let’s get shamelessly mercenary. Where can people find you and your books?

Remember, Remember the 6th of November is available in Paperback and Kindle ebook formats –

US – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01LICIBOK

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01LICIBOK

1617 is available as a Kindle ebook –

US – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B075C3WY9P

UK – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B075C3WY9P

 

A Very Different Wild West with Randi Samuelson-Brown

The expansion into the west was so much more than cattle drives and gunfights. City life as towns like Denver and Kansas City grew made for great stories that we haven’t necessarily heard a hundred times. That’s why I was so intrigued when Randi Samuelson-Brown told me about her book, The Beaten Territory.

Okay, so what’s the Randi Samuelson-Brown story?

I am a fifth-generation Colorado native – and because I was the geeky kid who kept pestering the “old people” with questions, from an early age I was filled with a wealth of strange and historical stories.  I’m from Golden originally, and now live in Denver. My undergrad degree is in History and I love the more unusual facets of history. In my free time, if I’m not writing, I’m off combing the mountains for old historical relics and enjoy traveling around the world. I am a member of Lighthouse Writers, Colorado Author’s League, Historical Novel Society and History Writers of America along with Women Writing the West.

The Beaten Territory isn’t a standard “cowboys on the prairie” Western. What’s the story in a nutshell?

The book is about Old West VICE – a 2nd rate Denver madam, her niece and a laudanum-addicted real estate woman and how their paths intersected in 1890’s Denver.

How does a (presumably) nice girl get interested in a story like that?

When I was about twenty I was driving with a friend, crossing a bridge near Market Street in Denver (long since gone) and she commented “Yeah – my Dad’s family has some bad blood. One was a Denver Madam and her niece was hooking for her and got killed.” I was FASCINATED and the story, or the notion of it, stuck with me ever since. I started doing the research and sure enough, there was a Denver madam named Annie Ryan and her operation was a family business. The laudanum-addicted real-estate woman had ties to my family, and I thought “I wonder what would have happened if these two women met” and I took it from there!

I love the “what if” game. What’s your favorite scene in the book?

My favorite scene in the book is when Annie is approaches an unsuspecting Saloon owner about the possibility of her running girls outside the back of his saloon. She flirts with him… and….Let’s just say alcohol was involved!

Where can people learn more about you and your book?

People can find the book on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Gale/Cengage (Five Star Publishing imprint), and the Tattered Cover in Denver. I’m also on Good Reads and would welcome reviews and more friends! People can find me www.RandiSamuelsonBrown.com ,  on Twitter@rsamuelsonb1 and FaceBook “The Beaten Territory” as well.

 

The California Gold Rush with Richard Roux

Love it or hate it (and I do a little of both) there is no place like California.  The history of the state seems to be completely disconnected from most of the rest of the US. One of the most interesting periods–and a metaphor for everything that’s happened there since, from Hollywood to Silicon Valley–is the Gold Rush. That time period has given us writers like Brett Harte and Mark Twain.

Richard Roux has now added his novel, A Branch Too Weak, to the mix. I was happy to talk to him and learn more. He was born and raised in Bakersfield, California. By profession, he is a high school history teacher and adjunct professor in history at Bakersfield Community College. With an interest in a variety of topics and activities, Richard brings to his writing a mixture of history, anecdotes, and humor. 

When not spending time with his family, teaching, playing hockey, and enjoying the outdoors, he continues to research and write. A series of new releases are planned for the future.

What’s A Branch Too Weak about?

A Branch Too Weak is a work of historical fiction based on the California Gold Rush. The main character, Danny Vance, is an ambitious young man. Like thousands of other Americans, he was enticed west when word of gold in California reached the rest of the United States. It became his goal to reach California to “see the elephant.” Faced with struggle, sacrifice, violence, and himself on a daily basis, he pushed his limits to achieve his dreams. The journey west wasn’t what he expected; it rarely was. Will Danny Vance make it to California, or give up like so many others? Will he find his fortune? Will he find himself? Only he could provide the answers.

This is the first book in the Golden Empire Series. Additional books will explore events and characters in California, mixing actual history and individuals with a fictional story line.

California is a fascinating place… actually several different places all smooshed together. What is it about that time period that got you going?

History has always been an important part of my life. For me, it is an escape. I love exploring how local history is intertwined with national events. And I have always been drawn to history of the American West. So, throughout my life, I have contemplated how my little corner of the world developed over time. My family has some property in the Greenhorn Mountains of Kern County. The area witnessed its own gold rush in 1853 and 1854.

For years, I imagined what type of people moved to the region—where they came from, what they did for a living, and what life was like for them. Over the last year, I started to formulate a story in my head about the California Gold Rush, and about how an individual might venture out to California to chase their dreams, and how they might end up in the Greenhorn Mountains. This last summer, after teaching six weeks of summer school, I found myself with four weeks off. I figured there was no time like the present, so I wrote this book.

In a sense, this book is a reflection of several decades of reflecting on the history of the United States, California, and the Greenhorn Mountains. It is my attempt to craft a compelling story with a likable character, all while relaying some history.

I know it’s an unfair question, but what’s your favorite scene in the book?

One scene in the book has Danny Vance walking up a rock-strewn, rutted track known as the Greenhorn Trail that leads to the Kern River Gold fields. The trail winds its way up a ridge that has oak, pine, and fir trees, as well as clusters of dense brush. That trail seemingly climbs forever. I describe how Danny felt walking up that trail. The heat and sweat, the burning muscles straining to reach the plateau, and the quest for shade. This scene means a lot to me, because I have walked that trail and have experienced the same feelings and struggle. In a way, I am Danny at that moment in time.

Where can folks learn more about you and your work?

I and my book can be found several places:

Amazon Author’s Page:

Goodreads: 

Greenhorn Mountain Books Facebook Page: 

Check Out the Short Story: Through the Arbor Vitae

Each year, the Naperville Writers Group puts out an anthology of writing from our members. This is my contribution this year, my third straight, and it’s bittersweet. By the time Rivulets 30 comes out, I’ll probably be living in Las Vegas and no longer an active member.

I can’t think the members of NWG enough for their support, love and assistance with my writing–not to mention just getting me out of the house and out amongst humans once a week.

Take a gander at this short story… based on a real snippet of conversation that blew across a parking lot and carried to its (il)logical conclusion.

You can read some of my other short stories on this site as well, just follow your nose….