Just wanted to let you know this will be my last post until June (apart from the odd book review). As you read this, I’m in Sicily doing research for a forthcoming novel. Can’t tell you much about it (except that it is set in Sicily), because I haven’t written a word of it yet. I’ve been learning Italian for the past several months so that I can converse with the people there and hear their stories. Will post photos on Facebook & Flickr when I return.
Have a wonderful May!
Image: A snow-capped Mt. Etna, taken from the Saracen Castle above Taormina, Sicily, April 2012
I want to thank you all for your support during my recent giveaway. Over FIVE HUNDRED of you requested ROSE OF RABY. And one hundred and thirty of you have put it onto your to-read list. Thank you for your support!
The winner of this giveaway is Kirsten of Indiana, who will get a SIGNED COPY of ROSE.
Maria Bordihn’s THE FALCON OF PALERMO is an ambitious biography of an ambitious character. Emperor Frederick II (1194-1250), was known to his contemporaries as Stupor Mundi (the wonder of the world), because he could speak six languages – including Arabic – and had an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. Bucking the mores of 1200s Europe, Frederick was not above making sarcastic comments about religion. His reputation was such that Dante consigned him to the sixth circle of hell, in the tombs of the heretics. The only reason why he wasn’t burned at stake is because he was the most powerful monarch of the time, ruling a territory that included Sicily, Southern Italy, and Germany. He was both Holy Roman Emperor and King of Sicily.
So it was with a sense of anticipation that I opened the pages of this novel, because a larger-than-life character would naturally inspire larger-than-life drama in the pages of this novel. No? Unfortunately, not exactly.
What is wonderful about this novel is the delineation of character, especially those of Frederick and his wives, especially his morganatic fourth wife Bianca.
What doesn’t work so well is the method of telling this story. The novel opens in 1194, when Frederick is born, and trundles on through 56 years until he dies in 1250. It is not possible for a novelist to cover this amount of time without resorting to narrative summary. However, the whole novel is cast in this way. What I mean by that is not that there are no scenes (there are plenty of them), but that the scenes are not dramatic enough. There is not enough raw emotion on the page. There is not enough conflict. So Frederick’s larger-than-life character is curiously muted. Which is a pity, because his story lends itself to some memorable screaming matches (which I would have enjoyed)! Three stars.
I want to thank you all for your support during my recent giveaway. Nearly SEVEN HUNDRED of you requested THE GILDED CAGE. And one hundred and twenty of you have put it onto your to-read list. Thank you for your support!
The winner of this giveaway is Lenny of Maryland, who will get a SIGNED COPY of CAGE.
This month, I feel that I am last getting some traction. I’ve done more giveaways on Goodreads, and I’m very pleased with the result. To date, 2,658 people have participated in my giveaways, and 369 people have listed my books on their “to-read” shelves.
I’ve also been busy in the blogosphere. I’ve done two guest interviews with Morgen Bailey and with Stephanie Moore. Stephanie not only came to me to ask for an interview, but she’s hosting a giveaway of THWARTED QUEEN, which ends April 11. If interested, please go to: http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/847094-interview-with-author-cynthia-haggard-giveaway.
Have a great week!
I want to thank you all for your support during my recent giveaway. Over EIGHT HUNDRED of you requested TWO MURDERS REAPED. And two hundred and twenty-three of you have put it onto your to-read list. Thank you for your support!
The winner of this giveaway is Kelley of Michigan, who will get a SIGNED COPY of MURDERS.
Barbara Ehrenreich’s BLOOD RITES is an investigation into the origins of war. Drawing parallels between ancient religions with their blood-soaked rituals, and the fact that for thousands of years a small band of humans had to ward off predators in the shape of tigers, lions and wolves, all without the arsenal of weapons that we have today, Ms. Ehrenreich tries to fill in a picture of the psychology of war. She makes the radical proposal that those ancient deities that demanded their blood-soaked sacrifices could be equated with predatory mammals looking to snack on human flesh.
The only effective weapon that ancient men and women had to fight with was fire. We know that the use of fire is very ancient because hearths dating back 750,000 years have been found in Israel. But the use of fire may have had less to do with keeping warm, than with keeping predators at bay. Images of rings of fire that abound in stories and operas (I’m thinking here of the ring of fire that Wotan uses to protect his sleeping daughter Brunnhilde), may have originated in the use of fire as a kind of fence around an encampment to protect the humans within.
Eventually, humans acquired better equipment in the shape of horses and arrows that meant that they could protect themselves far more efficiently from the big cats. Ms. Ehrenreich’s basic argument is that when humans made the gigantic leap from prey to predator, the “underemployed” males of the tribe, whose job it had been to fight off the predators, needed something new to do in order to channel their energies. That new something turned out to be war.
I do not know if Ms. Ehrenreich is right about this. But I think she is right to point out that there is much more to war than killing people, even though that is its salient feature. Now that I think about it, there is a religious quality about war, that is unexpected. After all, you do not expect sanctioned murder to be religious in nature. But it is striking that down through the ages, masses, sacrifices, libations and other religious acts have been performed before a battle has started.
If you are interested in a provocative discussion about war, read this book. Four stars.
Here are a couple of things that might interest you:
I just came upon this recently. Nic Oliver is a writing coach who originally helped non-native speakers of english write better. But his site is attracting anyone who needs help. As writers and publishers we often come across people whose writing needs a great deal of TLC. Nic will perform a writing analysis of a 5,000-word sample for an undisclosed amount of money! I don’t know him personally, and I haven’t tried his services. But the writing advice he gives on his website http://greatwritingtips.com/articles/ sounds sensible. So it might be worth giving him a try. Provided of course that his services don’t break the bank! (On that note, it’s worth mentioning that many people are open to payment plans if you can’t afford to pay the whole amount up front. It’s always worth asking if they’ll do that).
While I can only give a guarded recommendation for Nic Oliver’s site, I can give a wholehearted endorsement of Jane Friedman’s site. I got to know Jane last year when she was giving webinars for Writer’s Digest on the subject of building a platform to market self-published books. Jane’s advice is sensible, and she is a friendly and engaging person who enjoys interacting with her readers. If you want to know what is currently going on in the publishing world, and pick up some tips for marketing your novel, head over to Jane’s site janefriedman.com. Enjoy! And have a great week.
I want to thank you all for your support during my recent giveaway. Nearly FIVE HUNDRED of you requested ROSE OF RABY. And one hundred and four of you have put it onto your to-read list. Thank you for your support!
The winner of this giveaway is Emilia of Minnesota, who will get a SIGNED COPY of ROSE.
Enjoy & have a great weekend!