Guest Blog by Kathleen Marple Kalb

NOT YOUR GRANDMA’S DIVA

(Well, depends on your grandma!)

Your mental picture of an opera singer probably isn’t a slim woman in breeches fencing a bad guy…and that’s just the first expectation Ella Shane shatters on any given day.

            Ella, the main character in my Gilded Age mystery series, is used to being different. She grew up poor on the Lower East Side as Ellen O’Shaughnessy, the daughter of an Irish father and Jewish mother at a time when interfaith marriages were a ticket to the social abyss. She sings “trouser roles,” male parts like Romeo played by women because of the vocal range. And she insists – sometimes at the point of her sword — upon being treated as a respectable lady in a time when singers were still often considered women of questionable virtue.

            All pretty different from a standard diva.

            Not to mention an absolutely unique character.

            She’s a lot of fun to write, because I grew up watching those old movies with the swashbuckling heroes and wondering why the women always had to just stand there. Years later, I read a book on young singers at the Met, and a mezzo-soprano who sings “witches and britches.” Trouser roles. 

            It all clicked.

A woman whose job requires her to dress like a man and fence will be able to credibly do all kinds of exciting things. It’s a great plot device. But Ella is far more than a plot device. She’s a woman who takes male prerogatives, pushing boundaries in a very sexist time. Plus, because she challenges limits onstage, she behaves with iron propriety offstage, which sets up a lot of interesting dynamics. 

            Equally interesting, Ella is a woman in her thirties who’s slowly deciding that she might want to have a child. But that child would come at price of her freedom; a woman legally becomes a man’s property when they marry. As the owner of her own opera company, and an independent woman, she isn’t willing or able to make that sacrifice. Which sounds a lot like a modern woman’s work-life balance battle…from a whole different angle.

Ella’s not my only unusual character. At her side is her cousin Tommy Hurley, former boxing champ and co-owner and manager of the opera company. Described obliquely as “not the marrying kind,” he’s as out and proud as it’s possible to be in 1899, and has a happy and fulfilling life with his friends and family. It works because nobody suspects it from The Champ, and nobody asks too many questions of a good standup guy…with a hefty right cross.

            They’re surrounded by a fun and interesting cast, including several more trailblazing women: a doctor, a reporter and a fellow opera singer who’s curtailed her career just enough to fit in a family. More, we see all of them, male and female, doing their jobs. This is not one of those series where characters have fabulous careers on paper but nobody ever seems to work.

            Of course, I can’t leave out the love interest. If very respectable Ella’s thinking of having a child, she must be thinking of marrying…and until now, there’s been no remotely suitable contender. That all changes when Gilbert Saint Aubyn, Duke of Leith, walks into her rehearsal studio. He assumes “theatre people” aren’t respectable, and our veryrespectable Ella schools him on that — over crossed swords. He’s hooked. She’s interested, but it’s going to take him a long time to earn her trust.

Their first adventure, A FATAL FINALE, features our cast looking into the death of Ella’s most recent Juliet, who drank real poison and died onstage. Turns out she’s the Duke’s cousin, and he’s come to New York to find out what happened to her. The mystery builds slowly, with Ella helping at first only because of her ethical obligation to her late employee, and her kind hope to ease the Duke’s grief. But as we get to know our cast, and they dig deeper into the girl’s life, it becomes clear that this was no accident…and focus their efforts on tracking a killer. 

            It all culminates in a classic Errol Flynn-style catwalk duel, with Ella handling the swordplay and the Duke waiting in the wings. After it’s all sorted out, it’s clear that Ella will be seeing more of the Duke…and we’ll be seeing more of Ella and the crew.

            Speaking of which, book two comes next April. A FATAL FIRST NIGHT features the same loveable characters, backstage drama and slow-burn romance, with a fast-paced interlocking mystery plot – starting with a dressing-room death. More duels – and murders – ahead!

Buy A FATAL FINALEhttps://www.kensingtonbooks.com/9781496727237/

Kathleen Marple Kalb grew up in front of a microphone, and a keyboard. She’s now a weekend morning anchor at 1010 WINS New York, capping a career begun as a teenage DJ in Brookville, Pennsylvania. She worked her way up through newsrooms in Pittsburgh, Vermont and Connecticut, developing her skills and a deep and abiding distaste for snowstorms. While she wrote her first (thankfully unpublished) historical novel at age sixteen, fiction was firmly in the past until her son started school. She, her husband and son live in a Connecticut house owned by their cat.

SOCIAL LINKS: 

Website: https://kathleenmarplekalb.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Kathleen-Marple-Kalb-1082949845220373/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/KalbMarple

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kathleenmarplekalb/


Note from Anna Bushi:

I am an author of medieval fiction “Heir to Malla”, a story of a princess fighting her battles without wielding a sword or a wand.

I am currently writing my second book “War of the Three Kings“.

I feature authors in my blog regularly. You can view all the authors I have featured here. If you are an author and you would like to be featured in my blog, please contact me.

Guest Blog by Penmancy

Penmancy is a coven of creative characters who are fascinated with the magic of the pen to weave new worlds with words. One of our main goals is to create a virtual space where writers and readers support each other and build a wholesome community that cherishes literature.After the massive success of our first anniversary collection of short stories, ‘a fallen leaf’, we give you our second anniversary collection as ‘SHATTERED’. We hope that you have enjoyed the stories as much as we have enjoyed putting them together for your reading pleasure.

Introduction to ‘Shattered’

Life is beautiful yet filled with pain and suffering. Many people in the world, young or old, regardless of their gender, endure excruciating experiences throughout their life. The smiles that people wear on their faces are not proof of happiness. Deep inside, they may be hurting; their hearts broken; their hopes and dreams shattered; and probably, even the life that they so treasure hangs in the balance. It is in this very premise that this anthology, titled Shattered, was born. 

Believe it or not, we do love to read stories that are sad or make us angry and shed tears; tales where vengeance is sought and justice served. And the reason for this is simple- they make us realize the fragility of our own lives and see our own shortcomings; they remind us of the flawed society that we live in and wish we could do something about it. Most often, it is a realization that wakes us up from our deep slumber, urging us to be appreciative of our advantageous situation and forcing us to evaluate how fortunate we are to have not gone through the pain and suffering that others have experienced.

As the title of this collection suggests, this anthology offers a wide range of interpretations of the word ‘shattered’–stories of broken lives, unfulfilled promises, cracked beliefs, fractured egos, crushed hopes that are weaved tugging our heartstrings. While some of these are not shattered pieces beyond repair, others are smashed to smithereens, and the only way to handle the misery is to confront it and try to heal and rise above it or face death.

Shattered contains nineteen incredible stories in varied genres from eighteen talented writers. It is a product of Penmancy’s second-year anniversary celebration and its attempt to showcase the brilliant minds behind these stories to the world.

Stories and their authors

  1. Collateral Fractures – Sanjukta Ghoshal
  2. Sundarpur Chronicles – Nilutpal Gohain
  3. Him – Pai
  4. Splintered Souls – Supriya Bansal
  5. The Road to Hell – Aradhna Shukla
  6. Scarlet Skies – Chandra Sundeep
  7. The Best Man – Fabienne Meyers
  8. Beneath the Golden Seams – Sanjukta Ghoshal
  9. 1947- an Imprecation – Sonal Singh
  10. My Journey Beyond Life – Shweta Mathur Lall
  11. Dialogues Across the Realm – Sreemati Sen
  12. The Shattered Souls – Kokila Gupta
  13. The Unheard – Rasya Krishnan
  14. The Street Without Cherries – Trixiah Ann Gumba
  15. Wings – Archie Iyer
  16. Hrishikesha – Ravi Valluri
  17. Her Place on Earth – Preethi Warrier
  18. Anastasis – Alpna Das Sharma
  19. Pietra Angolare Dell’Universo – Olinda Braganza

Note from Anna Bushi:

I am an author of medieval fiction “Heir to Malla” that is available on Kindle Unlimited.

I feature authors in my blog regularly. You can view all the authors I have featured here. If you are an author and you would like to be featured in my blog, please contact me.

Guest Blog by Wendy Waters

Wendy Waters is an author, composer, lyricist and librettist. Born in Australia, she grew up in Sydney, lived in the USA for six years and now divides her time between London, Sydney and Paris. In 2011 Waters volunteered to work with OASIS Salvation Army Crisis Centre in Sydney, helping musically gifted young people. Waters has written three musicals: FRED, ALEXANDER and THE LAST TALE (with composer Shanon Whitelock) and two books, Catch the Moon, Mary and Fields of Grace. Music is a constant theme in Waters’ work.

Set against a backdrop of war in 30s Europe, Grace Fieldergill, a starry-eyed young actress from Devon moves to London to pursue her dream of becoming a star. The lovable boarders of Wyncote House, a ladies-only establishment, take her under their collective wing and share her triumph when she is accepted into the brilliant young John Gielgud’s Company as Peggy Ashcroft’s understudy. When Peggy misses a show one night Grace gets her chance. Watching her performance that evening are two people who will change her life forever, London’s most famous actress, Mrs. Patrick Campbell, and a man whose love she never thought she could win. 

Fields of Grace is a searingly beautiful love letter to the performing arts, based loosely on my grandmother’s life as a virtuoso violinist whose stellar career in London was cut short by the burgeoning war in 1936. Even though I have made my leading lady a theatrical ingenue her rise and fall echo my grandmother’s experiences, which she told to me in the last few months of her life. She loved passionately – her music, her family, my grandfather and the mysterious man who rocked her world in Europe in the 30s. 

Excerpt from review by Sarah Sansom @theBookWhiskers: Fields of Grace is a story about every kind of love silhouetted against the evils of persecution and envy.  The narrative carries the reader from the flirtatious bright lights of 1930s London, to the grand romance of Paris, before mercilessly setting down in the hostile streets of Hitler’s Berlin where life takes an ugly twist. Grace is the story’s leading lady, and its main narrator.  We first meet her in Sydney in the autumn of 2009, the winter of her life.  An ethereal tawny fog has settled over the city, and its portentous arrival lets Grace know that this will be her last earthbound day; the day when she can finally set herself free from the secrets of her past, and heal old wounds. “Time has a way of sorting out most things, but I have no more time, so today I will unlock the trunk pass John’s legacy on to Sam [Grace’s granddaughter], and tell my son the truth about his father.  Then the amberglow may claim my soul.” Standing in the corner of Grace’s bedroom is an old trunk that has remained locked for over seventy-four years. It holds little of monetary value, but its contents are the precious mementoes of an unparalleled life.  A faded program from a production of Hamlet staged in Berlin in 1936 still holds the bloom of a lilac rose frozen in time between the pages.  A scroll of handwritten notes remains tied with a lilac ribbon. The intoxicating scent of fresh roses. With the tenderest of prompts the scenery changes, and Grace is recounting her breathtaking story of theatre, friends, love and war…Overall, this is a breathtaking story about every kind of love:  the uplifting love of friends, the anchoring love of family, the romantic love of partners.  It’s about true love, passionate love, unrequited love, forbidden love, illicit love, failed love, infatuation and forgiveness. By Sarah Sansom @theBookWhiskers 

When I was fifteen, I moved in with my grandmother, ostensibly to help her during the period of her mourning after my grandfather passed away. During that time, she told me stories about her early life that even my father had never heard. She spoke of her music and the years of training that turned her into a virtuoso performer. I was studying drama at the time and my love for the theatre chimed with her passion for music and that acceptance of the yoke we all bow to when we aspire to artistic excellence. She recounted an extraordinary life playing for the famous and infamous in London and Europe. Such was her reception that she fully expected a stellar career culminating in an appearance at Covent Garden and one day, Carnegie Hall. Her talent merited such an arrival. But alas, her family summoned her home in 1936, fearing she would get caught up in the war that was looming. She returned and as the war dragged on and there seemed to be no end in sight, she accepted a marriage proposal from my grandfather who had loved her for over a decade. He had fallen in love with her when he was fourteen and she was twenty-two. They were neighbours. My grandmother was the love of his life and she adored him but during the revelations I was privy to in her final months I realised there had been another great unfulfilled love for her – the career she had left behind in Europe and London. Australia was far from welcoming in 1936 – the most she was offered was second fiddle in the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, hugely insulting for a consummate musician who had studied with Ysayë, a master violinist in Belgium and played in some of the most salubrious salons in London and Paris. 

I felt her heartache so keenly and her story stayed with me for years, long after she had gone. Every so often I would examine aspects of it and wonder if there was a turn she missed along the way.

In writing Fields of Grace, I am both reconciling myself to the loss of my grandmother and her dream and also hoping to inspire others to follow their dreams no matter how steep the climb, how inhospitable the terrain.


Note from Anna Bushi:

I am an author of medieval fiction “Heir to Malla” that is available on Kindle Unlimited.

I feature authors in my blog regularly. You can view all the authors I have featured here. If you are an author and you would like to be featured in my blog, please contact me.

Guest Blog by JL Rothstein

Hello everyone! Anna Bushi, author of Heir to Malla here. I am happy to introduce a fellow author JL Rothstein to my readers. She writes in the Fantasy genre with an affinity for the Supernatural. Her debut novel in the Heaven Sent series is available now on Amazon.

Atonement Heaven Sent Book One is a Fantasy novel that takes place on Earth. It’s about a family of nine siblings, members of an elite fighting force referred to as Heaven’s Guard. They fight back against Hell’s unfair influence on humanity. This is book one of a trilogy, each book will focus on one of the O’Mara sisters, three strong female leads. The first book is Genevieve O’Mara’s story. The story has themes of family, love/loss, and the power of forgiveness. Though this is a trilogy the first book is a complete stand alone story and does not leave off on a cliffhanger. There is a lot of action and suspense, sprinkled with a bit of humor. The below snippet is from the back cover. 

To Hell, this world is fractured and faithless, perfectly ripe for the picking. Sent by Heaven, Guardians defend against a malevolent onslaught of demonic intrusion. For hundreds of years the nine siblings of the O’Mara family have been engaged in this merciless battle, fighting to protect the souls of all humanity.

Heaven and Hell have been waging this infernal war bound only by the rules of a contentious accord. On the 40thanniversary of her husband Gabriel’s disappearance, Genevieve O’Mara’s lingering sorrow manifests into a murderous rage unfurled upon a demon. Vengeance is coming, not just for Genevieve, but for all those she loves.

What is your social media advice for 2020 Debut Authors like me?

Finding readers is the question that every writer wants the answer to, especially Indie authors. When Amazon broke the barriers to publication, I think most writers, myself included, assumed our material would now reach the intended audience. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Self-publication fundamentally changed the industry and I don’t think it’s yet settled nor recovered. Most people would tell you the industry is still in flux. Nearly overnight, writers were producing material and throwing it onto an unsuspecting public. 

A lot of what went into the market back then, was not consumer ready. People were publishing unedited and unreviewed material. As a result the early days of self-publication gained a negative reputation. If you were self-published, that became synonymous with low grade. If you self-published, it was because no one else would publish you. That negative first impression is something the Independent industry is still trying to overcome. Fortunately, it is getting better, but I bring this up because a new barrier has emerged in the marketplace. A gatekeeper born out of need, one aimed at protecting readers from purchasing sub-par material. The birth of the book blogger/reviewer is now what Indie writers need to navigate through. Reviews are key, if you want to reach your readers you’ll have to work at reviews before and after launch. Once you establish your social media presence, you’ll need to use it to help with requesting reviews.

Use social media to build a platform, a brand, before you launch. Start a website and begin accumulating subscribers, people who like your writing and will be reading your work. Create social media accounts as early as you can, at least six months. If you are able, keep consistent with the naming convention, I am JLRothstein1 on both Twitter and Instagram. That makes it easy to find me across platforms. Writing is hard, for a lot of new writer(s) self-promotion is harder, be prepared to put yourself out there. Take risks, make connections, and stay positive. In time the readers will find you, but it will take time.

Foreword for Guest Blog

Readers and Writers, I published my medieval fiction Heir to Malla in 2020. The story unfolds as Princess Meera learns her brother Crown Prince Jay is missing. She sends the man she is in love with, Rish Vindhya, to search for him. Prince Amar of Padi, known for his penchant for violence, harbors desires for Malla and Meera. Suddenly, Meera is catapulted into the battle for her kingdom. If Jay is not found, the price she needs to pay is steep, her love and happiness.

As a 2020 Debut author, I wanted to showcase a fellow author’s book in my blog this week.

Guest Blog by Elizabeth Holland

The Vintage Bookshop of Memories

The Vintage Bookshop of Memories follows Prue Clemonte as she returns home for her grandmother’s funeral. Settling back into village life isn’t easy, especially when Prue becomes the victim of village gossip. As she re-arranges her life Prue stumbles upon a web of secrets that is about to turn her life upside down. To complicate matters even further she’s beginning to fall for Elliot Harrington, however his father is intent on splitting them up.

Prue won’t let a village full of people who hate her stop her from living her life and being happy. With the help of Elliot, Prue is determined to win the village over and make herself a life back home in Ivy Hatch. However, she soon begins to realise that she’s lost herself in her quest for the truth. As Prue battles to find herself can she save the bookshop, whilst also stopping the village from ruining her life?

The story behind The Vintage Bookshop of Memories 

The Vintage Bookshop of Memories was created from my desire to write a book that felt comforting. I wanted it to encompass everything that I enjoy, from an idyllic village life to vintage fashion. This book is everything that I would want to read. Essentially the story is about a woman’s quest for happiness. 

Ivy Hatch is based on a quintessential English village and every village needs an old-fashioned bookshop. The description of the bookshop has an almost magical edge to it, drawing the reading in and making them fell as though they are standing in the middle of the shop. 

‘A gasp escaped Prue as she stepped inside the shop. The smell of mustiness hit her senses as she blinked to adjust to the dim lighting. It was beautiful, a hidden treasure trove of books. If Prue could have designed her dream shop, this would be it. She stepped into the shop, leaving the door open slightly to allow some light in. A switch was to the left of the door but as she flicked it nothing happened. She would have to make do with the little natural light that the door was letting in. Books lined the walls from the floor to the ceiling. On the back wall stood a balcony, overlooking the entire shop with an old-fashioned ladder leading to it. Prue tiptoed around the room, running her fingers along the spines of all the books, they were thick with dust but they’d be fine after a good clean. There had to be thousands of books in here. She had always known her mother was a keen reader but she hadn’t known the true extent of her mother’s love for books. To the right of the shop was a counter in the same dark wood as the bookshelves, perched on the top was an old fashioned till. It was beautiful. Prue had come across a few of these during her time working in auction houses but never had she found one in such pristine condition, at least it would be pristine if it wasn’t covered in a layer of dust.’ – Chapter 4, The Vintage Bookshop of Memories.

The Vintage Bookshop of Memories uses creative and imaginative language to make the reader feel as though they are within the pages of the book. 

The Character’s in The Vintage Bookshop of Memories 

When creating my characters I want them to be fierce and inspiring and yet I don’t want them to lose that human edge. Therefore I immediately knew that whilst Prue had to be strong and independent she still had to have flaws. She makes bad decisions, drinks too much gin and all too often allows her decisions to be swayed by her emotions. 

‘With a sickening realisation Prue saw a delivery driver stood on the driveway surrounded by boxes. She had forgotten that she had spent a small fortune (actually, there was nothing small about it) on clothes last night. With some reluctance she opened the door and signed on the dotted line…

With a growing sense of excitement Prue pulled out the first garment. A crop top. What had she been thinking? As Prue pulled more items out she noticed a few that she liked the look of and so she put them to one side, the rest she could return. She would have donated some of the items to a charity shop but she couldn’t see the women of Ivy Hatch wearing a spangly diamanté handkerchief top.’ – Chapter 29, The Vintage Bookshop of Memories

Prue is the kind of woman that I aspire to be. Strong, resilient, focused on her own happiness and occasionally ordering too many clothes. 

A final word…

The Vintage Bookshop of Memories will transport you to Ivy Hatch and you’ll find yourself not wanting to leave.