Wednesday, March 21, 2018

In the Spotlight: Mistress Suffragette by Diana Forbes @dianaforbes18

MISTRESS SUFFRAGETTE by Diana Forbes, Historical Fiction, 392 pp., $6.50 (Kindle edition) $20.48 (paperback)

Author: Diana Forbes
Publisher: Penmore Press
Pages: 392
Genre: Romance/Historical Fiction/Victorian/Political/NY Gilded Age Fiction

A young woman without prospects at a ball in Gilded Age Newport, Rhode nIsland is a target for a certain kind of “suitor.” At the Memorial Day Ball during the Panic of 1893, impoverished but feisty Penelope Stanton quickly draws the unwanted advances of a villainous millionaire banker who preys on distressed women—the incorrigible Mr. Daggers. Better known as the philandering husband of the stunning socialite, Evelyn Daggers, Edgar stalks Penelope.

Skilled in the art of flirtation, Edgar is not without his charms, and Penelope is attracted to him against her better judgment. Meanwhile a special talent of Penelope’s makes her the ideal candidate for a paying job in the Suffrage Movement.

In a Movement whose leaders are supposed to lead spotless lives, Penelope’s torrid affair with Mr. Daggers is a distraction and early suffragist Amy Adams Buchanan Van Buren, herself the victim of a faithless spouse, urges Penelope to put an end to it. But can she?

Searching for sanctuary in three cities, Penelope will need to discover her hidden reserves of courage and tenacity. During a glittering age where a woman’s reputation is her most valuable possession, Penelope must decide whether to compromise her principles for love.

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Tuesday, June 6, 1893, Boston, Massachusetts

As luck would have it, the speaker at Tremont House that afternoon was a woman. I use the term loosely. Her name was Verdana Jones, and her topic, “The Dangers of Irrational Dress.” I had never considered the complex maze of corsets, petticoats, and bustles “Irrational,” but apparently others of my gender did and the sentiment had blossomed into a full-fledged Movement. Some of these undergarments were encumbrances, but they were all perfectly logical. Moreover, every woman in the world wore them.
            Like me, Verdana had red hair, but she wore it cropped in a mannish fashion that was most unbecoming to her otherwise fine features. She had a square chin and large, childlike eyes, and in a Boston fog I’d be willing to bet that she was often confused with a young boy. Her outfit contributed to this confusion. It was outlandish by modern standards and excessively unladylike. She sported a loose white tunic worn over ankle-length trousers, known as “bloomers,” and big, chunky boots instead of shoes.
            A small rectangular wooden platform rimmed the front of the spare lecture hall. Twenty hard-bitten women and three scraggly men dotted the aisles. The women, many sporting bonnets, looked dour and preoccupied as if they were gearing up for a contest of who could show the least expression on their faces. Verdana clomped up to a wooden lectern to deliver her tirade. I couldn’t help feeling that, by her dress anyway, she was a poor advertisement for her cause.
            “Those who would keep women down argue that ‘ladylike dress’ symbolizes discipline, thrift, respectability, and beauty,” Verdana bellowed in her giant bloomers. Her voice sounded throaty from too many cigarettes. “But any dress that requires corsets and tight-lacing is degrading and dangerous to a woman’s health,” she boomed. “Corsets and tight-lacing are designed to make our waists look tiny and our bosoms look large. Our undergarments are crafted to make us resemble ornaments. We women, outfitted like hourglasses, are ornaments in our own homes. And we spend all day inside our homes trying to struggle into our corsets, laced petticoats, complicated boned lining, and bustles, all so that we may decorate them on the outside with frills, ribbons, and lace. We are so pampered—or are we?”
            Her voice, thick with meaning, rose a horsey octave. “Instead of fretting over whether we have twenty-inch waists, we would be better served worrying about why we must depend on men to dress us up in these outrageous, unhealthy outfits. Why can’t we earn our own keep and decide for ourselves what we should wear?”
            One or two women applauded. Others silently knitted: some knitted clothing; others knitted their brows. All in all it was a sullen group. Mother was right about this Movement. It was filled with hardened, bitter women. I didn’t want any part of it.
            After Verdana’s harangue I rose to leave, in dire need of fresh air. I had never heard so much drivel about the evils of ladylike dress and the positive attributes of horrible bloomers. But Lucinda looked up at me like a sorrowful, brown-haired puppy dog that could not be wrested from her spot anytime soon. Her dark face wrinkled into an accordion fan of disappointment. I hesitated, not wanting to let down my friend.
            “Hallo there. The lady in the bustle!” Verdana cheerily called toward my buttressed behind. Recognizing that I was one of the few women in the hall outfitted in the very clothes she’d just lambasted, I intuited that she must be talking to me.
            “Excuse me?” I asked, turning around to face her. I felt twenty pairs of women’s eyes and three pairs of men’s riveted upon my rear.
            “Yes, you,” she called out from where she still stood on the stage. “Tell us. What do you think about Rational Dress?”
            “I-I-I’m not certain you want to hear.” Where oh where was the exit?
            “Obviously she prefers Irrational dress,” Lucinda playfully called out from her seat. She cupped her hands to her mouth like a speaking trumpet. “Just look at what she’s wearing.”
            I heard laughter from the crowd directed at me, even though Lucinda’s dress was not markedly different than my own.
            “This isn’t supposed to be a lecture,” Verdana announced. “It’s supposed to be a conversation. So, instead of leaving the fold before we’ve been properly introduced, why don’t you join me up here on the dais and defend what you’re wearing to the group.”
            Everyone in the room laughed.
            “Because I hate speaking in public,” I said, to even more laughter.
            What was it that my little sister had once said in the heat of an argument? You’re quite good at boring your class to death.
            “Then, don’t think of it as public speaking,” Verdana shouted. “Just come up here, and tell me how you feel.”
            I sighed. How did I feel? I felt betrayed. I felt that my parents should not have asked me to support them. They should have protected me instead of trying to send me to New York. I missed my home and my horse. I even missed Lydia a tiny bit. I was nowhere near old enough to be living on my own in a strange city. Verdana wanted my opinion? Then very well, she would get it. I liked corsets and petticoats and bustles. They offered some support in a world that was mostly unsupportive.
            I stared at Verdana. Did I want to dress like her? Not in a lifetime of Sundays. How would I feel if corsets were forbidden? As if the last domain over which I exerted any control had been taken away from me. They could take away my home. They could take away my fiancĂ©. But I’d be damned if I’d let them take away my corsets.
            I silently prayed to God that I wouldn’t make a fool of myself. Then I took a deep breath and strode up to the small wooden platform. I opened my mouth to speak. But if I had a thought, it flew out of my head.
            My mouth hung open. No words came out. I was speechless.
            “Just speak from the heart,” Verdana urged quietly. “It’s always best. You’ll see. So, I take it you like corsets?” she asked me in a normal speaking voice.
            “Uh—yes,” I said to her.
            Verdana nodded. Under her breath she said, “Good. Now, just explain why. Pretend there’s no audience and that you’re just talking to me.”
            “Fine,” I answered, frustrated at how small my voice sounded.
            She smiled. “Believe me, it’s a knack that develops with time. Just breathe.” She continued to slowly nod her head, silently willing the reluctant words from my mouth.
            I took another deep breath and felt my lungs expand. “Hello, my name is Penelope.” I exhaled. Phew. That was hard.
            “Your last name?” she asked.
            “What is your last name, dear?” she coaxed.
            “Uh—Stanton.” I felt my face get hot. Little wisps of hair stuck to my face.
            “Any relation to Elizabeth Cady Stanton?”
            “No.” I felt like I had to think about each word, almost like a foreigner struggling to speak English.
            “Good,” she said, continuing to nod her head. “You see? It’s not so very difficult. Keep going.”
            I pushed the wet hair up off my face and turned to the crowd. “I enjoy the prevailing fashions, as you can see.” Thank God. A whole sentence.
            “I can,” she said, with a broad wink at the audience. “Tell us more.”
            I pointed to my light pink gown. I twirled around to model it for the group. Some tepid applause followed, which surprised me. Two women set aside their knitting.
            Emboldened, I continued. “But I came to Boston to escape from the advances of a particular man, not all men, and do hope that what I’m wearing today won’t prevent me from socializing with the men, or more importantly, the women of Boston.”
            A few women clapped. I thrust back my shoulders, lifted my chin, and met Lucinda’s eyes. “To me, it matters not if a woman’s waist is twenty inches, twenty-one inches, or even twenty-six inches—as long as it doesn’t prevent her from keeping her mind open.”
            A burst of light applause followed, and I only wished that my sister had been there to witness it.
            “Corsets and petticoats offer some structure,” I pressed, “in a world that unravels as I speak.” My voice was strong, and the words were coming readily. “Every day, another bank fails. Our institutions falter. As women, we can fall to pieces or we can stay strong.” I pointed to my torso and looked about the audience, meeting one woman’s eyes and then another. “Structure, shape, support. I will wear my corset proudly, as I face another day.”
            Verdana bowed her boyish head at me and stretched out her arms diagonally, one below her hip, the other high above her head. “And that, ladies and gents, is the other side of the argument,” Verdana boomed to heartfelt applause.
            “Sorry I didn’t let you finish,” she whispered, as the audience applauded. “For a novice, you were brilliant.” Verdana clapped her arm around my shoulder. “But speaking in public is also a matter of knowing when to stop. You always want to leave your audience wanting more.”
            “And do you think the audience did?”
            She squeezed my shoulder. “Of course they did. They clapped, didn’t they? Boston audiences are difficult to rouse, believe me. But you did, and now they want more.”
            I nodded. Perhaps that had been the problem with my French classes. No student had ever wanted more.
            “And how does it feel?” she pressed. “To leave them wanting more.”
            Here on stage I’d felt almost like a different person. Brave, gutsy, and confident. I wouldn’t mind feeling that way every day. What was it about this stage that had caused me to throw caution aside and just express my feelings?
            Her eyes widened as we both waited for me to put words to my emotions.
            “Liberating,” I said.
(C) 2017 Excerpt from copyrighted Mistress Suffragette by Diana Forbes (Penmore Press, 2017)

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Diana Forbes is a 9th generation American, with ancestors on both sides of the Civil War. Diana Forbes lives and writes in Manhattan. When she is not cribbing chapters, Diana Forbes loves to explore the buildings where her 19th Century American ancestors lived, loved, survived and thrived. Prior to publication, Diana Forbes’s debut won 1st place in the Missouri Romance Writers of America (RWA) Gateway to the Best Contest for Women’s Fiction. A selection from the novel was a finalist in the Wisconsin RWA “Fab Five” Contest for Women’s Fiction. Mistress Suffragette won 1st place in the Chanticleer Chatelaine Award’s Romance and Sensual category, and was shortlisted for the Somerset Award in Literary Fiction. Mistress Suffragette won Silver in the North American Book Awards and was a Winner of the Book Excellence Awards for Romance. Mistress Suffragette was also a Kirkus Best Indies Book of 2017. The author is passionate about vintage clothing, antique furniture, ancestry, and vows to master the quadrille in her lifetime. Diana Forbes is the author of New York Gilded Age historical fiction.



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Tuesday, March 20, 2018

How to Ensure You Always Have Time to Read for Fun

When you were a kid, not only did teachers and parents ensure that you had time to read, they probably made sure that you actually did it. Some people naturally develop a love for reading at an early age while others don’t know that they actually enjoy reading until they stumble across a genre that appeals to their senses. The biggest reason that more people watch television as opposed to reading is because they feel that they don’t have the time. With the Candle of the Month Club, readers will remember to make time to read every time they receive a new book inspired candle. The best way to make time to read is to make literature a priority. Here’s how to make reading a staple in your life.

You Have to Make Time

If you don’t make time to do the laundry you won’t have any clean clothes. Similarly, those who fail to go grocery shopping regularly come home to empty refrigerators and kitchen cabinets. Once reading becomes a regular event in your life, you become so involved in the stories that you can’t resist picking up where you left off. Choose books in genres that you enjoy as well as books written by authors who you have read before. Read at night in your bed just before you go to sleep instead of turning on the television. Read in the morning if you take a train or bus to work. After dinner, you can easily settle in with a good book instead of browsing the internet.

Buy Multiple Copies of Books

It can be really unfortunate to find that you have time to read a book only to discover that you have nothing with you to read. For instance, if you go to the doctor’s office and find that there’s going to be a lengthy wait but you left the book that you are reading at home, you’ll have to settle for the magazines that are present. Buy several copies of the same book to leave in the car, at the office, in your overnight bag and most importantly, at home.

Make Reading Much More Enjoyable

Some readers are able to finish up books within a few days by developing routines. For instance, if you have an hour lunch break at work five days a week, you can probably devote at least 2 to 3 hours to reading for fun while away from home. If you find that taking a hot bath is relaxing, try bringing a book with you into the bathroom. Learn to incorporate reading into activities that you already enjoy and reading will be a lot more fun.

The more that you read, the faster you will get at it. Instead of it taking several weeks to get through a trilogy, you will voraciously read and still want for more. If you follow these tips you will come to find reading to be one of your most favorite activities of all times, so it will only be natural for you to want to do it more.
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In the Spotlight: The Study of Silence by Malia Zaidi @maliazaidi

THE STUDY OF SILENCE by Malia Zaidi, Historical Mystery, 448 pp., $18.49 (Paperback) $8.99 (Kindle edition)

Author: Malia Zaidi
Publisher: Bookbaby
Pages: 448
Genre: Historical Mystery

Lady Evelyn Carlisle has returned home to England, where she is completing her degree at St. Hugh’s, a women’s college in Oxford. Her days are spent poring over ancient texts and rushing to tutorials. All is well until a fateful morning, when her peaceful student life is turned on its head. Stumbling upon the gruesome killing of someone she thought she knew, Evelyn is plunged into a murder investigation once more, much to the chagrin of her friends and family, as well as the intriguing Detective Lucas Stanton. The dreaming spires of Oxford begin to appear decidedly less romantic as she gathers clues, and learns far more than she ever wished to know about the darkness lurking beyond the polished veneer. Can she solve the crime before the killer strikes once more, this time to Evelyn’s own detriment?
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My hair is tangled, a loose knot at the nape of my neck, where my head rests against the cool stone wall. I close my eyes and see it all swimming like a dream beneath my lids. And him, always him. I open my eyes, still here. Still here. The thought echoes in my mind as if I have spoken it aloud, and it is bouncing from the uncaring walls of this chamber.
            Suddenly, from somewhere above and beyond comes the sound of clanging metal. A door opens and with a screech is shut again. Closed. Secured. Barred. Steps follow. Slow, reluctant steps. One, two, three . . . I want to lose myself in the monotony of the rhythm. I grow used to it, even enjoy it, when the steps suddenly cease once more. Silence. Then nearby, another metallic cry. A key is turned in a rusty lock. A door is opened. A door. My door. Steps again. Two this time. Only a small space to cross. I notice his shoes first. They gleam in the low light. Attached to the shoes, a man in a dour black suit. I look up at his face, but perceive only shadow, dark lines. Squinting, I make no effort to get to my feet. There is no pretending we are equals now. He has no choice, but to crouch to my level. I have brought him down with me. To me.
            "Do you have anything to say?"
            His face is close, and I am shocked by his youth. I had expected gray temples and furrowed brows. He is younger than I, not by much perhaps, but nonetheless. His eyes meet mine. Can I speak to him? Should I tell him the truth, my truth? A sudden bang from a place beyond these walls makes him flinch and he tears his gaze from mine, only for a moment, but it is decisive.
            His voice is quiet, calm . . . kind? "My child, speak."
            A warbled laugh escapes my dry throat. My child. I am no one's child any longer. The words are ludicrous coming from this man, this frightened boy in an adult's body. He wants to be here nearly as little as I, and fights with himself not to recoil at the sudden sound erupting from my mouth. I frighten him. I, a helpless creature sitting at his feet, frighten him. Another choked laugh.
            "Shall I get you some water."
            Water.  I shake my head.
            "Will you not let me hear you?" I am struck by his earnest expression, nothing like the permanent mask of stern reprimand, the looks of disgust I have received these past weeks. Could I tell him? Might he understand? It would not change my fate. But someone else would know the truth. Before I can think of reasons to stay silent, before I can begin to understand the consequences, my words pour out. The last words I will ever speak find compassionate ears. Once spoken, they cannot be unspoken, and when I complete my tale, my truth, I am empty. There is nothing more and I am nothing more.
            The light is so bad I cannot tell whether he has paled at my confession. Our eyes meet in the gloom, glowing embers. He watches me for another moment, then gets to his feet, brushes his trousers and walks the few steps back to the door. I hear him rap the thick wood twice. Then the lock is turned.
            He speaks once more, his words run through me like flour through a sieve. Nothing sticks. Nothing stays. I am water and he is oil. The door clatters shut and his steps fade away.
            I am alone.

Malia Zaidi is a writer and painter, who grew up in Germany and lives in the US. An avid reader and traveler, she decided to combine these passions, and turn her long-time ambition of writing into a reality. The Study of Silence is the third book of The Lady Evelyn Mysteries.




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Thursday, March 15, 2018

A Bookish Conversation with Kraig Dafoe

Kraig Dafoe was born in Potsdam, New York and grew up in Canton. He played high school football and joined the Army Reserves at the age of seventeen. 

Kraig has earned his BA in English writing and graduated cum laude from Washburn University in 2017.

Kraig has published two novels and published poetry. He is currently working on another writing project.

His current novel is A Collection of Twisted Tales.
You can visit his website at

Most of these stories have one thing in common, death. Although death is the common thread, there is nothing common in the way that it comes about.
This collection is chock full of interesting characters scattered among various settings that inspire the imagination, such as a Lavish English mansion or the dark interior of a rundown home.
This book is inspired by and written in the style of, Edgar Allan Poe.


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"A Collection of Twisted Tales is an ambitious project that testifies to the author's appreciation of Edgar Allan Poe's fiction in particular. In this collection, Kraig Dafoe offers a creative homage with many original ideas and unexpected twists."
Professor Vanessa Steinroetter, PHD

Thank you for this interview!  I’d like to know more about you as a person first.  What do you do when you’re not writing?

When I’m not writing, I’m typically working, doing one of three things. I work part-time as a delivery driver, delivering for the Fed Ex Brand, I work as the Editor in Chief for the Kaw Yearbook at Washburn University and I am currently working on my master’s degree in Leadership and Communication, having just graduated with my BA in English writing.

When did you start writing?

I started writing many years ago, but I think it became serious about ten years ago.

As a published author, what would you say was the most pivotal point of your writing life?

I’m not sure I’ve reached it yet. If I had to choose a point now, I would say the first time I had a poem of mine picked up for publication. I don’t fancy myself a poet, so it’s a good feeling when others do.

If you could go anywhere in the world to start writing your next book, where would that be and why?

This is tough. I’ve been to Canada, Ireland, England, France and India for extended stays and always thought I would like to get inspiration to write when I visit these places, but find I am always distracted by the beauty and culture. I would like to find myself back in the English countryside with nothing else to do for about a year. Then I would write.

If you had 4 hours of extra time today, what would you do?

It’s sad, but I’d probably sleep. It’s difficult to write when you’re tired and though I have found time to carve out a few books, my time as of late is filled with obligations.

Where would you like to set a story that you haven’t done yet?

I would like to set a story someplace original, though I’m not sure that’s possible at this point. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. I have another novel I’m trying to find an agent for, set in New York City and I have a middle grade mystery I’m working on, set in the Hudson Valley, so I guess those are out.

Back to your present book, A Collection of Twisted Tales, how did you publish it?

I published this book through createspace. This project, though still time consuming, is a little smaller and consists of some short stories and poetry, which makes it difficult to pitch traditionally.

In writing your book, did you travel anywhere for research?

I did not travel for research, though I did study quite a bit. This book is inspired by the writings of Edgar Allan Poe and it is written in Poe’s style.

Why was writing A Collection of Twisted Tales so important to you?

I had to get the demons out of my head.

Where do you get your best ideas and why do you think that is?

I am inspired by the decades of work produced before me. I get ideas when I’m watching television. I get ideas driving down the street. I get ideas looking at my feet. When I close my eyes or when I stare into the sun, ideas abound, ideas run…rampant through my mind. As for my best ideas, I do not know for I have yet to have them.

Any final words?

I will leave you with an original quote: “Happiness is the absence of what makes you miserable.”
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