Wednesday, February 18, 2015

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Amazon UK Review
Stephanie Carroll has given us a truly amazing gift and I can't wait to see this one as a movie. A brilliant debut novel and I look forward to reading more of her writing. Thank you for a beautifully crafted tale.

A White Room Made No. 1!!!

Amazon US Review
I totally loved this book. It's been described as being similar to Charlotte Perkins Gilman's The Yellow Wallpaper, ... Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden, and Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights. Though I concur that all that is true, I go further by being reminded of why the gothic writing work and home remind me of Nathaniel Hawthorne's House of the Seven Gables ... and some of the works of V.C. Andrews, such as Flowers in the Attic. She gives us a gothic feel reminiscent of Daphne de Maurier's works.

 Goodreads Review
In the end, I just really loved this story. I enjoyed watching Emeline's transformation, and seeing her challenged. I really liked the progression of her and her husband John's relationship. Supporting characters like Lottie and Ethel were well-developed, and the characters who conspire against Emeline are creepy and self-serving, yet possibly redeemable.
Guys, if you want some realistic historical fiction that deals with difficult issues, that doesn't allow a love story to overcome the plot, and that has you really feeling for the characters involved, go and read this right now.

A White Room Won!

Shelf Unbound Magazine Notable Page Turners & Favorite Cover! Pg 36 & 40

“The best historical fiction makes you forget it’s fiction and forget it’s historical. Reminiscent of The Yellow Wallpaper, this book shows with alarming clarity what life was like for women before the modern age freed us of so many restraints … absolutely mesmerizing.”

—Eileen Walsh, Ph.D. U.S. Women’s History, University of San Diego

USA Book News 2013 Best Book Award Cross Genre Category

A novel of grit, independence, and determination ... Despite the consequences, Emeline defies society’s expectations in her endeavor to help others, risking not only her marriage, but her reputation—and ultimately, her freedom. An intelligent story, well told.”

—Renée Thompson, author of The Plume Hunter and The Bridge at Valentine

Q&A and Reading on Central Valley Talk

Barnes and Noble Review
Fans of The Yellow Wallpaper will love this debut from Stephanie Carroll because it's about a woman feeling her house is alive and that other people are living in it. I, for one, couldn't put the book down but was also reading with the covers up to my chin and all of the lights on. It's not because the book is scary but because I could absolutely understand why Emeline was losing it. I could have sworn that my own walls were watching me ...

Watch My Very First Book Reading!

Don't Forget to Check out the Fire Section!
Photo by Randy Enriquez

The Yellow Wallpaper Reading and Explanation

My novel A White Room was inspired by "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. In these two videos I read the entire short story and give some backstory and history too.

For more on "The Yellow Wallpaper" check out how the short story inspired my novel and my article on how the story reflects women's situation a the time in Gothic Horror or Women's Reality on author Essie Fox's blog The Virtual Victorian.

Reading of "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.

Some History and Backstory about "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.

If you've enjoyed these videos about The Yellow Wallpaper, consider checking out my novel A White Room.

Books Inspiring My Novella

So as I worked on the new Gothic novella (explained in the article to the right), I have had a couple of books and movies that served as inspiration. Of course, The Secret Garden and Wuthering Heights once again made an appearance through the house and landscape of the novella.

The novella is set in a crumbling mansion amid endless green fields. I have fields because I couldn't find an American location that compared to the moors of England. Who knows. It might still be out there, so please hit me up if you know of some American moors!

Why not base my book in England? I've considered that and as tempting as it is, I fear I don't know enough about being British. I'm hoping my someday trip to England to see the moors will change that. Oh yeah, I'm ganna see the moors! 

 I also wanted to read a couple of classic Gothic tales to get into the feel of the Gothic tradition. Amazon happily supplied an array of free classics. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekylle and Mr. Hyde was the piece that finally kept my attention and guess what? 

It's a novella! I also tried to read The Turn of the Screw and a few others, but like many twentieth century readers, I struggle with classics. And that's coming from a Victorian history fiction author!

More recently though, I read my first Neil Gaiman, Coraline and I was hooked by the Gothic and creepy magic that took place in that story.

It sort of gave me a boost in confidence because I couldn't, for the life of me, think of any popular and successful modern Gothics other than the works of Tim Burton, which aren't novels!
Then I read The Ocean at the End of the Lane, also by Neil Gaiman, and oh that book was amazing, a superb mixture of magical realism, childhood fantasy, and a little bit of Gothic, even with the not-so Gothic setting of an English country neighbourhood. Loved it!

Stay Tuned to Read My Short Story in Legacy

The Legacy Anthology

I am so very excited to announce my participation in a month-long writing challenge, beginning Friday January 9th, that will become the very first #30Authors anthology!


The Legacy project is being coordinated by the founders of the The Book Wheel and Velvet Morning Press.

They are gathering authors to write pieces on the theme of legacy in the month of January. Authors will then share their experiences of writing from beginning to end via Twitter and other social media networks.

You can keep track of these Tweets as authors will be using the #30Authors hashtag. Authors will also have an assigned day when they will be interviewed via Twitter about the challenge. My day for that is Tuesday, January 13th, so mark your calendars!

At the end of January, the authors will turn in their work, and Velvet Morning Press will compile them into an anthology to be released this spring.

The best part is all online proceeds from print and ebook sales will benefit the charity Paws for Reading! Cute & educational.

So if you aren't following me on Twitter, hint, hint.
Digital Winky Face.

Also check out The Book Wheel and Velvet Morning Press' Twitter pages so you can keep up with all the Legacy authors, updates, and news. It's going to be quite a month!

Sign up for my for my newsletter to keep informed about the project and when it releases!

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Research for my Next Novel: An Article Featuring Thomas Edison

A News Article Featuring Thomas Edison

So I've been working on The Binding of Saint Barbara, my next book set in 1890 and revolving around the first death by electrocution and the warden's family who lived in the prison at the time.

My plan (keep in mind plans can change) is to incorporate real newspaper articles reporting on the events this book follows. I've been retyping them because including them as images just won't work so here is a section of a clipping that will probably make its way into the story, one way or another.

Note: the facial expressions in the parenthesis were actually in the newspaper article. That's how they wrote it, which is kind of nice for me as an author trying to recreate these scenes. When I put an ellipses (. . .) it means I cut something out of the article. I did that for your benefit because it's long and some parts aren't very interesting. So here it is:

The Evening Post: New York, Tuesday, July 23, 1889.
The Great Inventor at the Hearing in Behalf of Kemmler—The Results of His Experiments Leave No Doubt in His Mind.
W. Bourke Cockran expressed the other day an ardent desire to get Thomas A. Edison in the witness’s chair in the hearing before the referee, Tracy C. Becker, ordered for the purpose of finding out whether Kemmler, the condemned murderer, would perish by cruel and unusual, and therefore unconstitutional, means, if his life were taken by an electric current. Some, if not all, things come to those who wait, and this morning “the greatest electrician of the age,” as Mr. Gerry called him the other day, came to Mr. Cockran, whose anticipatory joy is reported to have been shared by the Westinghouse Company, to the extent of declaring that it would give $100,000 to get the wizard on the cross-examining rack.

Mr. Edison, as he was introduced to Mr. Cockran and shook hands with him, wore a wonderfully smiling and peaceful countenance for a prospective victim. When Mr. Edison had taken his seat to testify, Mr. Becker rose, went across the room, and stood over Mr. Edison while administering the oath—a procedure which revealed the slight deafness of the electrician to those who were not already acquainted with the fact. Then Assistant Attorney General Poste, who has a sonorous voice, raised it to stump-speech pitch in examining Mr. Edison.

Mr. Poste—In your opinion, could an electric current be generated by artificial means and so applied to the body of a human being as to cause instant death?
Mr. Edison nodded his head as if affirmation to such a self-evident truth was not worth giving in words.
Mr. Poste—In every case?
Mr. Edison again nodded his head.
Mr. Poste—Without pain?
Another nod of the head from Mr. Edison.

Continuing Mr. Edison said that the contact he would advise in executions by electricity would be the placing of the hands in battery jars filled with water containing a solution of caustic potash. He would advise the use of either an alternating current or a continuous current very much broken up—as it could be done by mechanical means.

. . .
Mr. Poste asked Mr. Edison what he thought of Franklin Pope’s testimony that among the possibilities for Kemmler was carbonization at the hands—or rather wires—of the Westinghouse dynamo. “I don’t understand that—I don’t see how it could be,” answered Mr. Edison mildly, shaking his head.
. . . 
Mr. Poste (with considerable confidence of tone)—You are familiar with the Westinghouse dynamo?
Mr. Edison (in a low voice)—No. I know it only generally.
Mr. Poste—You have seen it?
Mr. Edison (on before)—No, I haven’t seen it.
Mr. Poste—Has Harold P. Brown any connection with you or the Edison Company?
Mr. Edison—Not that I know.

. . . 

Mr. Cockran began his cross-examination in his usual somewhat low tone of voice. “I’ll have to come over there,” said Mr. Edison, picking up his chair and dragging it across the room. “Yes,” said Mr. Cockran, without stirring, to the great electrician, “Come right over here, Mr. Edison.” The inventor turned his best ear to Mr. Cockran, and Mr. Cockran put his mouth pretty close to it, and then, at close quarters, the cross-examination proceeded. Mr. Cockran—You didn’t make those experiments in regard to resistances until the day before yesterday. You were preparing yourself for to-day, I suppose?
Mr. Edison (with a smile)—Yes, in order to be able to answer questions from personal knowledge.
Mr. Cockran—Do you know anything about pathology?
Mr. Edison (promptly)—No, sir.
Mr. Cockran—About anatomy?
Mr. Edison—No, sir.
Mr. Cockran—You didn’t consider that a part of your electrical education? I ask the question because Mr. Gerry testified that it was.
Mr. Edison (demurely)—Yes, sir.
Mr. Cockran—Do you know what blood is?
Mr. Edison—I think I know pretty nearly. It is composed of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen.
Mr. Cockran—Well, you’ve named about all the elements of the human body.
Mr. Edison (quietly)—I can’t help that.
Mr. Cockran—In what proportion are these elements in the blood?
Mr. Edison (testily)—Assume that I don’t know anything about it. Now, go ahead.

At another time Mr. Edison told Mr. Cockran point-blank that his questions were “non-sense.” Mr. Cockran continued to press such questions, and in the end appeared well pleased with the result. Mr. Edison, however, did not modify any of his previous expressions of opinion.

A Few Victorian Jokes

Victorian Jokes from
History Today

Doesn't it make you dizzy to waltz? Yes, but one must get used to it, you know. It's the way of the whirled.

Why is a dog like a tree? Because they both lose their bark once they're dead.

"I have the best wife in the world," said the long-suffering husband. "She always strikes me with the soft end of the broom."

Who is the greatest chicken-killer in Shakespeare? Macbeth, because he did murder most foul.

Mr. Dolley (bitterly): 'You refuse me but you never refused my presents!'
Miss Gilgal: 'Well they were of some value.'

The Story Behind Emeline's Father in ''A White Room''

Monday, February 2, 2015

Trivia Question: 
What was Emeline's father's name? 

Answer at the bottom.

(Warning: Article May Contain A White Room Spoilers)
“My father died with the taste of blood on his lips.”

Believe it or not, that first line wasn’t in the original manuscript of A White Room.
  In fact, Emeline’s father had almost no role in the book I started writing in 2008. Originally, her family and family home life had almost no significance whatsoever. I had wrote her to be an only child with a monstrous mother and an aloof father who shipped her off without hesitation. The importance of her family and her father in particular grew over time.

Photo: 19th Century Illustration - 

As this was my very first novel, I have to admit that the original manuscript was pretty, uh-hmm, well it needed some work. I started developing the father figure after writing a tiresome amount of opening scenes that everyone found to be pretty lackluster. The original beginning involved her mother running in to tell her she was getting married. Then Emeline tried to tell her father she didn’t want this but ended up keeping quiet so he would be proud of her.

No one who read these early drafts found the characters believable, nor did they care about Emeline or the fact that she didn’t "feel like" getting married. I realized—after reading many books and articles on the subject—that I needed stakes. My characters needed stronger reasons for doing what they were doing, and I needed to give the audience a reason to give a hoot.

I figured it out after an agent finally gave me the time of day in early 2011. I had been querying agents for over a year and had started to feel frustrated. I was so excited and relieved when someone finally requested my full manuscript, but when she didn't take me on as a client, I had had it and started making drastic alterations.

I thought about which elements I had been refusing to change and whether or not a change might be good. I asked myself if it would matter if her parents weren't there, and I believe that's when I thought of death as an option. I decided early on that I wanted her poor father to suffer from some kind of gruesome illness. For some reason I really wanted it to involve coughing up blood, but using consumption felt too easy and even cliché. I went in search of another type of disease and stumbled onto stomach cancer, which can not only involve vomiting up blood from the stomach, but also black bile. I found the idea of this just haunting and shortly afterward wrote what became the second scene in the first chapter.

At this point there was no significance of her father's death beyond the fact that he died. I developed the family's destitution and Emeline's secret regarding her father's death only after another agent generously gave me some notes on the beginning chapters. Ultimately though, he also decided not to take me on as a client.

A couple of months later I was reading an article in Writer’s Digest about how the beginning of a book should always reflect the ending, and I had also been reading a lot about the importance of the first line. I was thinking on this when the line came to me, “My father died with the taste of blood on his lips.” How deliciously dramatic! The rest of the prologue just flowed out after I wrote down that line and that's what became the first page of the book. A few months later, that opening won "Best First Line" at the 2011 San Francisco Writer's Conference.

Still, even at this point, I hadn't any other scenes with her father in it. I later wrote the scene where her father says his goodbyes to really show how much he meant to his family, but I still felt like there needed to be more characterization. I didn't just want him to be important to his family. I wanted him to be important to the audience. I wanted the readers to feel like they knew him.

That is what led to the scene with the rabid dog. It was partially inspired by my own experience. I was attacked by a dog when I was a child and had to have thirteen stitches in my cheek. The actual dog attack in the story is nothing like what happened to me, but after my attack, when I was still a child, I read how to kill an attacking dog by jamming an arm into its mouth and then spinning around and jerking back in order to snap its neck. I burned that idea into my mind in case I was ever attacked again. That was where that little bit came from. (Don't worry, I've got nothing against dogs. Proud Mommy of to two adorable Chihuahuas!)

In the beginning, Emeline’s father was an aloof man who married off his only daughter in spite of her desperation for freedom. Five years later, he grew into a loving father who put down a wild dog to save his children. Although he had little significance at first, he ultimately became one of the most important characters in A White Room.

Trivia Question: 
What was Emeline's father's name? 

Answer: Charles

Because Emeline always called him Father and the book is from her perspective, we only hear his actual name spoken in two scenes, when he says goodbye to his family before his death and at the end of the dog attack scene. Both times, his wife was the one who said it.