Saturday, April 11, 2015

Meet Jade Guggio from Polite Paws

What is Polite Paws, and how did you come up with the idea for it? Polite Paws is a dog training company located in East Haven, CT. I offer my services throughout the CT shoreline and surrounding towns. Polite Paws offers private lessons as well as group classes. Currently I am a one-woman show, but often my husband will assist me if I need another set of hands. I grew up with dogs and have always wanted to work with them. I actually went to school for criminal justice and my goal was to become a K9 handler. After some medical issues changed my plans, I was lost on what to do. Thankfully with the support of my husband I was able to change paths and work to become a dog trainer.

How did you wind up becoming a dog-trainer? I was working in sales at the time when we rescued a 10 year old Siberian Husky named Tazzy. My husband and I saw an add online of a family giving away(looking to rehome) their Siberian Husky. We decided to check her out because we thought getting a second dog might be a good idea. It was never our intention to take on such a project dog. We had no idea until we got there that she was an outside dog that was used for breeding in their backyard. It broke our heart. I wasn’t sure we were the right home for her given we lived in a small apartment, but we couldn’t leave her there. She was shivering and the family no longer lived on the property. She was in a 10’x10’ fenced area with frozen water and some food. Our plan was to take her in and find her a good home. We contacted Siberian Husky rescues and after some time with no interest we realized most people don’t adopt older dogs. We put in the work to acclimate her to our lives and we never looked back. Tazzy had a lot to learn and we went through a lot of trial and error to make the relationship work. She initially would go after Hunter, my other dog, who was only 6 months old at the time over things like water and space. She occasionally would snap at me if I tried to move her. She destroyed crates and doors. She was reactive on leash. Although how could I blame her, she was never walked, socialized or used to living indoors. We put A LOT of work into her. It was actually other dog owners who saw us regularly that would comment on how well she was doing. I developed a very strong bond with her. Tazzy made me work hard for her trust and love. Once I saw how much I was able to change not only her lives but our own, a passion ignited in me. I realized if I didn’t help her, possibly no one ever would have. I wanted to help other people struggling with their dogs. I quit my sales job, started dog walking and working at a kennel while studying to become a dog trainer. Eventually I was able to make my dream a reality.

What skills do you need to do your job? Technically, the dog training field is not regulated. Anybody can call himself or herself a dog trainer unfortunately. However, to be a good dog trainer, it takes a lot of knowledge of animal husbandry and the skill. You have to be very adaptable in this field. Dogs are living creatures and don’t all learn and react to things in the same manner. Even a skill as simple as sit can be a difficult task for certain dogs and you have to be able to come up with several different plans. Working with other people’s dogs is very different than training your own. A great eye for body language is extremely important since that is the primary way that dogs communicate and patience. There are training schools out there to assist in teaching one to become a dog trainer, and many are self taught as well.

What do you love about what you do? It’s simple…the dogs. OK, there are actually a lot of things I love when it comes to my “job”. I use job loosely because it doesn’t feel like a job. The joy that comes from helping someone bond and learn with his or her dog is amazing. But the moments that make all the hard work and sacrifice worth it, is when I am working with a shy or nervous dog. When you see a dog who was so scared it would prefer to stay in their crate covered in waste then come out, it’s painful. It breaks your heart. But then to work with the dog and build their trust and see them break out of that shell. It’s amazing. Seeing that same dog walk proudly dog the street is the best reward.

Do You Use Discipline or Positive Reinforcement to Train? I pride myself in using primarily positive reinforcement to train animals. But it isn’t a cut and dry answer for me. This question could get heated if you asked this on a dog training page. There are four quadrants of training, Positive Reinforcement, Positive Punishment, Negative Reinforcement and Negative Punishment. I won’t get into all the details about them but it’s not a simple answer. I believe in training with love and respect, it’s even my business motto. To me, that means I want to build my dog up and show him what he is capable of. I use treats, praise, toys and other positive rewards to show dogs what I am looking for them to do. However, the word discipline can be taken in many ways. I train with the goal of using the least intrusive way, however I am not against certain things like “time-out” or telling a dog “no” if other options aren’t working. Some people don’t consider that discipline, some do. I don’t believe in shocking or hurting a dog to get what I want.

In your opinion, what are the best ways to bond with your dog? My two favorite ways to bond with your dog is through training and exercise. Yes it is a lot of fun to sit on the couch and pet my dogs but I see the best bond between my dogs and I when we are doing something fun together. Training your dog to do simple commands or tricks can build an amazing trust and bond. Have fun with it. Don’t take everything so seriously. Learn to love journey.

What are the 3 most important things dog owners should NEVER do with and/or to their dogs? Never hurt your dog either emotionally or physically. Never leave your dogs unsupervised with children. Too many things can happen that will put both the child and dog at risk. Never take your dog for granted and learn from your dog. Unfortunately they have much shorter lives and that chewed shoe will annoy you, but you will wish for it all back when they are gone.

Thank you for doing this interview for us Jade! 

You can visit Jade (just click on these links) on her website Polite Paws LLC and on FaceBook.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Meet Author Kat Lehmann - Moon Full of Moons (Poetry of Transformation)

Kat Lehmann is a writer, a poet, and a Ph.D. research scientist. Her work has been published in both poetry and science journals. Kat's poetry book Moon Full of Moons (Peaceful Daily, 2015) and her meditative writings are inspired by a deep contemplation of nature, the process of personal transformation, and a celebration of the silent beauty that is everywhere. 

In Moon Full of Moons, Kat Lehmann skillfully paints a journey from happiness lost to happiness found. This beautifully organized collection of poems is sequenced with the Moon's phases, which provide a touchstone for personal transformation. Musical, honest, and accessible, these poems create an inspirational and powerful body of work. The delicate, rich imagery transports the reader from enchanting and whimsical songs of childhood innocence through a struggle in the darkness to the powerful decision to shift the balance toward a new happiness. In these pages, she carries the reader through the wonder of beauty and language, an imaginative sailing on the Crescent Moon, and the subtle internal changes that lead to overcoming obstacles and emotional survival.

Follow Kat on twitter, Facebook, or visit her blog Songs of Kat 

You can find Kat's book Moon Full of Moons available for purchase on Barnes & Noble and on Amazon 

Two autographed copies of Moon Full of Moons will be sent to winners via random drawing on April 4th. One to a U.S. resident, and one to a non-U.S. resident. To enter, post here or follow Kat on Twitter, Facebook or her blog and let Kat know you want to be entered in the drawing, or email me at

Friday, March 6, 2015

Sofia Strong - 2 year old battles Cancer - Her Story

Sofia Isabella is a fierce and spunky 2 year old. Her personality and her eyes are what make her unique and special. She is an angel of God and loved by all, including her 5 year old brother, Aiden ("Bubba" to her).

On Monday, January 26th, 2015 she was diagnosed with stage 4 Neuroblastoma Cancer. Her family has already gone through heartbreak and they are determined to fight this battle to the bitter end.

 The Anderson Family is beyond grateful for all the love and support they have received during this difficult time. Thank you to everyone that has contributed and donated towards Sofia's battle with cancer.

Please help support Team Sofia by donating here:

Monday, February 9, 2015

ABERRANT (short film) IndieGoGo Crowdfunding Campaign

ABERRANT (short film) IndieGoGo Crowdfunding Campaign

These campaigns give everyone an opportunity to get involved with an independent film production. Perks include VIP passes to the private cast & crew screening, DVDs, IMDb credits, and an opportunity to play an IMDb-credited zombie.
Campaign runs until March 12, 2015

from Director Dean Whitney

Click on the link below to see the Aberrant Teaser:

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Interview with Actress Rachel Alig - Kill Me Once

An Interview with Actress Rachel Alig


Rachel, You were exceptional in Ghostline as Chelsea Watkins! Tell us about your character Ginger Hutson in Kill Me Once
Rachel: Thank you for the kind words regarding my work in GHOSTLINE. Ginger Hutson, who I will be playing in KILL ME ONCE, is drastically different from Chelsea who I played in GHOSTLINE. Chelsea was extremely loving and nurturing to her love interest. Ginger, however, is struggling with her husband, Donald and is no longer happy in the relationship. While Chelsea was considerate and thoughtful, Ginger is quite selfish. Ginger puts herself first along with her own needs and doesn't always take into account how her actions may impact others. I would say that Ginger is battling with an internal conflict and has lost her grounding. Her most redeeming quality is the fact that she is a loving mother. 

Which scenes in Kill Me Once were you most excited to see translated from page to screen?
Rachel: KILL ME ONCE is full of twists and turns that truly make it a great screenplay. It's these unexpected events that I am looking forward to creating and seeing on the big screen. Many of these moments are between my character, Ginger, and her husband, Donald, who is being played by the talented Andrew Bongiorno. The dynamic between these two characters is very tense and that will need to be created. Ginger, who I believe to be a strong woman by nature, is going to be tested to her limits.

How do you prepare so that you'll bring the right amount of realism and emotion to a scene?
Rachel: As an actor, I really believe in doing your homework. For me, that includes writing a back story for my character so that I know her history. Although this is true, we don't live in the past; I use it as a tool to give characters life and their own experiences to pull from. I then dive into the script. I break down each scene to understand the true language and what is being said. I notate at the top of each scene what has happened thus far, so I know where my character is at emotionally and what she has already gone through. It's really about understanding the entire script and then each individual scene.

How do you stay in the moment?
Rachel: Focus. Commitment. And then, let go. In order to stay in a moment, you must believe what you are saying. As actors, writers, directors, artists in general, we are seeking to find the truth in our work. When I can focus my attention and thoughts to the space I'm in, the words I'm saying, and the words I'm hearing, I feel as if there is truth in that. As much training and preparation I do, once I'm in a scene, I insist that I let go. This allows for natural responses and real feelings to spark. At that point I feel like I'm emoting the correct feelings and that's when things feel alive.

What determines your interest in a role?

Rachel: For me to be interested in a role, she must be complex. We, as human beings, are very complex creatures. We have needs and wants at all levels; physical desires, mental needs, want of fulfillment. That is what I need as an actor to want to play a character. I need to see that there are multiple layers to this person. I always hope to see vulnerability as well. Even if the character is a strong, intelligent woman, we all have our own vulnerabilities.

What do you look for in a director?

Rachel: When working with a director, it's most important that he/she has superb, communication skills. If a director can clearly communicate what he/she needs from me, I can execute that. If a director can't clearly explain what it is they are looking for from my performance, I won't know how to adjust and deliver. By no means, do I need to have a director hold my hands, because I already go into my scenes with strong choices, but I am always grateful when the director and I can speak back and forth about what it is we are trying to achieve. A safe, and comfortable environment is also greatly appreciated on my end. When a director can make you feel comfortable, all fear is eliminated.

What are your greatest achievements – both personally and professionally?

Rachel: My greatest professional achievement, is being able to sustain myself as a working actor. I feel so blessed to say that I am a working actor living on the income I make through my acting work. The fulfillment and joy that I receive everyday on an acting job is beyond anything I could ask for. To feel alive and stimulated by my work is the ultimate gift.
My greatest personal achievement is knowing and understanding the quality of people I value and wish to share my life with. When I came to the realization of what type of person I respected and cherished, more and more of them came into my life. I feel like that is quite an accomplishment to say I am proud of the people I surround myself with.

Thank you Rachel for taking time out of your busy schedule for an interview! You rock!!

Visit Ghostline and Kill Me Once on Facebook, Ghostline and Kill Me Once on IMDb and see the trailer for Ghostline on the Ghostline website

Meet Rachel on Facebook


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Author Michelle Moran - Rebel Queen

Q&A with Author Michelle Moran about her upcoming release of The Rebel Queen.

Q: Rebel Queen is full of references to canonical works of literature. Like Sita, are you most inspired by William Shakespeare? Who would you name as your top five favorite authors?
A: Without a doubt I am inspired by Shakespeare, and he is definitely among my top five favorite authors, along with Janet Fitch, J. R. R. Tolkien, Douglas Preston, and Erik Larson. I was extremely fortunate to be able to study Shakespeare with a brilliant professor, Martha Andresen, who is now retired. She was phenomenal, and the way she brought Shakespeare’s plays to life made you realize that Shakespeare truly wasn’t of an age but for all time (as his contemporary, Ben Jonson, said). There’s a wonderful book by Harold Bloom called Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human, and he sums up better than I ever could what makes the Bard so unique among authors. Perhaps this is why Shakespeare is read in every part of the globe, including India.

Q: This novel, much like your international bestseller Nefertiti, recounts a story based on the real life of long-dead queen from antiquity. What draws you to characters like Rani Lakshmi and Nefertiti?
A: The characters from history who jump out at me are often women who managed to carve powerful roles for themselves in societies where women weren’t typically allowed positions of power or authority. They are also the ones who have lived through some sort of revolution and managed to weather it. Revolution is fascinating to me, whether it’s cultural, religious, or political. In Rebel Queen, the people of India are growing tired of England’s physical and political encroachment on their land. As they begin to voice their displeasure, however, England responds by tightening its grip, and once the people of India take up arms, England sees it as a revolution and acts accordingly, sending in an army to suppress what they see as a “rebellion”. Whenever a rebellion or revolution occurs in a society, new leaders emerge who are often tremendously charismatic or in some other way very interesting. In this case, one of those leaders was Rani Lakshmi.

Q: Why did you decide to tell this story from Sita’s point of view? Is she your favorite character? If not, who is your favorite?
A: I was drawn to Sita because her position in society was so unique. Here was a woman raised in purdah (where women are veiled and confined to their house) who became a part of the queen’s Durga Dal, an elite fighting force made entirely of women. What must that have been like? Women at that time were raised to believe that their place in society was at home–that to step outside the home was dangerous not only to their physical wellbeing, but to their moral and spiritual wellbeing, too. How would a woman like that feel to suddenly shed her veil and step outside? Would she adapt, or would she flee back to what was familiar to her? I wanted to explore all of these emotions, and I couldn’t have done that with any other character but Sita, who is definitely my favorite, yes.

Q: In your Author’s Note, you mention that you had to make a few changes to the story “in order to make nineteenth-century India more accessible.” How do you decide what should be changed and what must be preserved in historical fiction? Is it a fine line for you?
A: There is a fine line, but as an historical author you are always going to get mail questioning your judgment call on such things. For me, though, it’s not a terribly difficult choice. If names have changed over time, I go with what people are most familiar with today. If something in a character’s past is uncertain, I have no problem filling in the gaps, as long as the guesswork is plausible. If readers want a biography on Rani Lakshmi, plenty exist. But writing historical fiction means making history accessible to a wide audience.

Q: Along similar lines, what was the research process like for Rebel Queen?
A: With each of my novels, the research always begins in the country where the novel takes place. In this case, it was India. Because I married an Indian man, the research for this novel was considerably easier than it would have been without someone to translate Hindi documents for me or take me on a tour of various sites within India. As with each novel, the research involved a lot of traveling and reading, which for me is one of the best parts about writing historical fiction.

Q: Do you agree that loss is a major theme in Rebel Queen—both personal and shared loss? When you write, do you consciously choose themes or do they arise organically from the writing?
A: Loss is definitely a major theme in the book–the experience of it, why it happens, and finally, coming to terms with it. I don’t consciously choose the themes. I think each character I write about has events in her life which are so often repeated that they create a theme. Unfortunately for Sita, those events involved loss–of her kingdom, of her family, and of life as she knew it in Jhansi. But I also think Rebel Queen is a story of hope. That even in the most trying times, people survive; love survives.

Q: Do you think that Sita comes to terms with her losses in the end of the novel?
A: I think she comes to accept them, yes. There is something cathartic in the retelling of a traumatic story, and I believe this is what she is doing by sending her memoirs to England, particularly since England was the source of so many of her life’s troubles. There is an oft-quoted saying that while a person might never get over trauma they can certainly move past it. I think this is what she does.

Q: Would you characterize this novel as pre-colonial? What larger conversation about the nature of colonization do you hope to join? Is it important to you to show alterative points of view regarding this topic?
A: Yes, I would definitely consider it a pre-colonial novel, since England didn’t actually take over India until after Rani Lakshmi’s death. I think many people, myself included, hear the word colonization and immediately think of Africa. It wasn’t until I was married in India and began touring some of India’s historic sites that I began to think about England’s presence there and what life must have been like under British rule.

Q: Is Rebel Queen a book that suggests gender roles might be fluid rather than static? What characters do you think push the gender envelope furthest in this story?
A: There is no doubt in my mind that gender roles are fluid. Historically, it seems very clear that Raja Gangadhar was more attracted to men than women. English soldiers who were in Jhansi at the time and Vishnubhat Godse, a Marathi writer who witnessed Jhansi’s fall, remarked on this, even talking about Gangadhar’s desire to play women’s roles on the stage and his liking for women’s dress.

Q: The Boston Globe has said that your “artful storytelling skills bring(s) vivid life...ancient history.” Do you feel called to certain time periods or characters from history? How do you choose the setting for your novels?
A: Actually, I don’t feel called to certain periods in history. But I do feel called by certain stories, whether they’re set in Egypt, or Rome, or India. So far in my career, each of the books I’ve written have been inspired by various trips I’ve taken. In the case of Nefertiti, it was an archaeological dig in Israel, followed by a trip to Egypt. In the case of Cleopatra’s Daughter, it was a trip to Rome. And in the case of Rebel Queen, it was my marriage and subsequent tour of India. 

Michelle's book is available for pre-order on Rebel Queen


Sunday, December 7, 2014

Send a Christmas Card to Little Addie

6-year-old girl asks for holiday cards for her last Christmas


Sending out holiday cards this week? You’ll want to add another name to your list.
Addie Fausett, 6, of Fountain Green, Utah, is likely celebrating her last Christmas this year due to an atrophy of her brain that has left doctors puzzled. And in the face of devastating news, her family has come up with a beautiful idea: They are asking people to send Addie a “lifetime of Christmas cards.”

Follow the links below, and send her a Christmas card - she likes handmade ones the best!


Little Addie on Facebook

Children and the Earth

Please SHARE this post with the world !!!!!! Let’s send ADDIE a LIFETIME of Christmas Cards. Enough to cover every wall in her house. Let your children draw pictures. Ask their class and church. Fire Men, Police, Every one! Please mail cards to: ADDIE LYNN AND SISTERS
BOX 162
Fountain Green , UTAH

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Author Suzanne Palmieri Interview

An interview with Suzanne Palmieri, author of The Witch of Little Italy, The Witch of Belladonna Bay, co-author of I'll Be Seeing You and Empire Girls (writing as Suzanne Hayes) and the soon to be released The Witch of Bourbon Street.  

Suzanne Palmieri is engaging, empowering, and inspiring, and her books have us all believe in the power of our own personal magic. 

Q: When did you write your first book and how old were you?
It's so funny, really. I have a folder from when I was in high school called "novels". None of them were ever finished, and I didn't even remember I'd started any until I was unpacking some things a few years ago. My life got very real when I was very young, so I think I pushed a lot of the writing aside for more pragmatic things. So the actual answer is: I wrote my first novel in 2008. I was 38 years old. That novel is actually being published (with a heavy revision!) in 2016! I wrote three novels before I was contracted by Saint Martin's Press and Mira Books. I just love writing, I would be writing no matter what… publication or no publication. It is such a joy. 

Q: What does your writing process look like?
Sometimes I think I don't have a writing process, but the more novels I write, the clearer it gets. I go on extensive writing/editing jags where everyone knows I'm sort of "not around" for everyday things. I am completely consumed by the world and the characters in the stories. Because I'm lucky enough to be under a multiple book contract, the process is cyclical. I am writing and touring over the summer, editing in the fall, and promoting in the spring. It's been a wild, wild ride!

Q: Do you have any strange writing habits (like standing on your head or writing in the shower)?
When I'm in one of those "jags" I can't even remember to eat! So I suppose that's a strange writing habit. Other than that… pajamas. I really like writing in my pajamas. And though I edit at my desk, I don't like writing there… I prefer to take my laptop and curl up somewhere soft and quiet. 

Q: What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?
I think the biggest challenge, for me, is doing the story justice. I'm an avid reader, and so I'm my worst critic. Sometimes there is a storyline or a moment, or a conversation, or even a character that I can't seem to get exactly right. That is the hardest part, feeling like I left something undone or not complete. And I feel that way about each book I write. That somehow I could have made scenes fuller or switched a character around. I suppose that's part of the process too. I just realized that the answer to this question is TIME. I feel like I could always use more time. 

Q: What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
I was surprised at how many books are published each year, and how much marketing goes into getting our novels "seen" in a world where there are so many fine novels that go "unseen". I was and continue to be really lucky with the marketing, sales, and publicity teams that I have the privilege to work with… but I found out things inside the publishing industry that were very surprising. Like, for example, publishers pay for "space" at many bookstores. Space on the tables, and even whether your novel is facing cover out on the shelves. I'm grateful I found these things out AFTER I saw my books on tables… but still, it's daunting when you really think about it. 
In terms of the writing, I'm always surprised when I type "the end" because each day there is a part of me that is terrified I'll never finish. But I always do… and I'm always surprised!

Q: Just as your books inspire authors, what authors have inspired you to write?
Thank you so much for that incredible compliment! And thank you for asking this question. I am a #readerfirst and I have many authors who inspire me:  Lady Alice Hoffman (I put "Lady" there because that is how I feel about her… she is the first lady of storytelling as far as I'm concerned…), Stephen King (he is the KING of character creation… he can fully flesh out a character in a short paragraph, it's incredible.) L.M Montgomery (We all need a little Anne in our lives), Frances Hodgson Burnett, the author of The Secret Garden. I named my main character in The Witch of Bourbon Street (Summer 2015) Frances for exactly that reason. It was that book, when I was ten years old, that changed my life. Goodness, so many authors! Bradbury, Roy, Kingsolver, Lamb…. I just love to read. 

Q: If you could cast your characters in the Hollywood adaptation of your book, who would play your characters?
Oh, I don't know! I suppose I'd just like the whole cast of LOST or Once Upon a Time to be considered! Part of the fun, I think, of having your books considered for film is seeing how other people interpret the books. When a book is finished and on the shelves, I consider it a thing of "The World".. meaning, I don't own it exclusively anymore. So there's that!

Q: How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning?
As a reader, I have been known to put a book down if the names don't ring true in a book! So, I'm VERY careful with the names I use. I don't like "time-stamping" so I tend to use "timeless" names. A well chosen character name can do half the work of helping you establish that character for a reader. I mean, names like "Maria" or "Delphine" (these are two characters in the book I'm writing now…) can give the reader a good visual of that character, and that helps cut down on the long, descriptive paragraphs. I could write a book about how important names are. So I'll stop rambling. 

Q: What do you consider to be your best accomplishment to date?
My daughters! I mean that. I know it's an overstated cliche, but everything I have ever done or will ever do is for them. When I look at them… growing and blossoming into young women I am overwhelmed with peace. No matter what happens, they know they are cherished. They are safe. They have a home. That's the biggest thing for me. I'm lost. They don't have to be. 

Q: What are your current projects?
Right now I'm rewriting my first novel. That one will be published in 2016 and it's a haunted house family saga! I'm also writing a Suzanne Hayes book that is focused on family and history and is set in New England and Florida spanning the years 1918-1970. And of course, putting the final touches on The Witch of Bourbon Street which will hit shelves May 19th 2015!

Q: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Thank you. Thank you so much for your support, your readership, and your ability to hear what I'm trying to say between the lines. I pour myself into these stories, and for you to read and enjoy them… well, it's an honor. I promise I'll keep writing them. Pinky Swear. 

Suzanne Palmieri 
Author of The Witch of Belladonna Bay (May 13th 2014), and The Witch of Little Italy, Co-author of Empire Girls (as Suzanne Hayes May 27th 2014), and I'll Be Seeing You
"I'm a Lost Witch. Are you a Lost Witch Too?"

Looking forward to Suzanne Palmieri's The Witch of Bourbon Street due to be released on May 19, 2015.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Halloween - Book Recommendation - Connecticut Lore Strange, Off-Kilter, & Full of Surprises Author Zachary Lamothe

Connecticut Lore: Strange, Off-Kilter, & Full of Surprises

From tales of its haunted history, curious encounters, and forgotten places, Connecticut is full of surprises and worth investigating whether you're a local or an out-of-towner. Visit abandoned Norwich State Hospital and Daniel's Village, hear stories of demonic possessions, and discover the mysteries of Plum Island and the lore of Pirate treasure and witchcraft.

From author  Zachary Lamothe

Available on Amazon.  

Follow his blog here:

Little known places, the bizarre and the historical, I found it fascinating. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Autumn in New England Favorites

I love this time of year. Autumn is my favorite season. I prefer the cooler, crisper days, the changing of the colors of the leaves on the trees, the amazing sunrises and sunsets over the water, hearty foods, movies, the return of favorite TV shows and Halloween.

So, a favorites list:

On TV: Once Upon A Time

Restaurant: Home Restaurant

Movie: John Carpenter's Halloween

Recipes: Parker's Beef Stew from Ina Garten (the Barefoot Contessa)

Roasted Citrus-Herb Game Hen from Giada

 Apple Crisp from Ina Garten (the Barefoot Contessa)

 And photos of Autumn in New England.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Author Michelle Moran - Madame Tussaud Q&A

The Second Empress by Michelle Moran

Optioned for a mini-series by Michael Hirst, who wrote the TUDORS for Showtime and the movie ELIZABETH will be adapting 
Author Michelle Moran's Novel Madame Tussaud

Q: What drew you to the story of Marie Tussaud?
A: My interest in Marie Tussaud began on my very first trip to London. Like thousands of tourists before me, I had decided that I wanted to visit the famous wax museum, Madame Tussauds. At the time, I knew almost nothing about the woman behind the name, but as I passed through the exhibition, I began to piece together what would ultimately prove to be a fascinating story. In the first wax tableau I came across, Marie Tussaud had modeled Queen Marie Antoinette with her husband and children. They looked young and happy, dressed in lavish court gowns and silk culottes. In another tableau, the mistress of King Louis XV lay sprawled on a couch, her blonde hair tumbling down her shoulders. Clearly, Marie Tussaud had been interested in modeling the celebrities of her day. Some she would have sculpted from memory, while many she would have met and modeled in person. Marie’s art had obviously gained her access to some of the highest circles in French society.

But in a third tableau, a different part of Marie Tussaud’s life emerged. Dressed in a black gown and dirtied apron, a young Marie could be seen holding up a lantern in the Madeleine Cemetery. The Revolution had begun, and she was searching through a pile of severed heads – all victims of Madame Guillotine. Immediately, I wanted to know what was she doing in that cemetery. Whose heads were they, and did she know those people? When I learned what Marie Tussaud went through during the French Revolution – who she’d met, where she’d gone, and what she’d seen – I knew I would someday tell her story.

Q: Why does history tend to remember the French Revolution as being successful?
A: Probably because it did exactly what its leaders intended, which was to deal a devastating blow to the aristocracy. But very soon after the overthrow of the monarchy, France’s new government became obsessed with idea of rooting out Royalists. A fever like that of the Salem Witch Trials gripped France, and neighbor began turning on neighbor, accusing each other of being royalists. And it didn’t take much to be sentenced to the guillotine. By 1793, all a person had to do was whistle the wrong tune or disrespect a liberty tree (saplings planted in the name of “liberty”) to be accused of endangering the nation. By the end of the French Revolution, more than five hundred thousand French citizens had been killed, most of them commoners.

Q: How did you go about researching Madame Tussaud?
A: I began with a trip to France, where nearly all of the novel takes place. Once there, I tried to visit the locations Madame Tussaud herself would have seen. Some—such as the Bastille—no longer exist, but there are others—Versailles being the sublime example—where a great deal of 18th century life has been preserved. After my trip, I did as much research as I could in libraries. Finally, anything I couldn’t find in books I tried to discover through email conversations with some very generous French historians.

Q: What is the most interesting fact you learned while researching Madame Tussaud?
A: That in 18th century France, most people went to street dentists when they had a toothache. These dentists would sit at a table laid out with various tools, and their unfortunate patients would have their teeth extracted right there, in the dirty street. After the extraction, the patient could sell his tooth (or teeth, if he was unlucky) to the dentist, who would then sell it to people like Marie Tussaud for her wax models. I know… creepy and disturbing!    

Q: In your research about Marie Antoinette, did you come away feeling sorry for Queen Marie Antoinette?
A: Yes. I think the queen was as much a victim of circumstance as she was her own naiveté. While it’s true that she held lavish balls in Versailles and spent a fortune on gowns, this really wasn’t anything new for the monarchy. The difference was that it was Marie Antoinette, and not the king, who was doing the spending. The resentment and jealousy which built up around the queen having access to her husband’s money earned her some powerful enemies at court. Meanwhile, the commoners were growing resentful as well. Yet the entire royal family’s expenditures were actually a small fraction of the nation’s budget, and whenever Marie Antoinette tried to economize, the courtiers who counted on her favors would raise a hue and cry. Various nobles had grown accustomed to the extra money they could earn from selling the dresses she had already worn or the accessories which had been ordered for her (often far more than she actually needed or used). These privileges were jealously guarded in Versailles, and this meant that the queen was “damned if she did, and damned if she didn’t.”

Q: Why are we still interested in Madame Tussaud 250 years after her birth?
A: I think the fascination with Madame Tussaud comes from the fact that the life she created was as intricate and mystifying as her artistry itself. Here was a woman who was asked to tutor the king’s sister, yet she managed to keep her head during the Reign of Terror when women were being imprisoned for nothing more than wearing the wrong color. She navigated two very different worlds – the court of Versailles and the streets of Paris - and against all odds, lived to tell the tale. And through it all, it was her artistry that saved her. Today, with digital cameras available to capture everything around us, you would think it would be difficult to become enthusiastic about seeing a person’s likeness reproduced in wax. But there is something compelling about waxworks, particularly those done at the various Madame Tussauds around the world. Perhaps it’s the thrill of pretending to photograph yourself next to a celebrity, or getting to pose with Henry VIII “in the flesh,” that keep customers coming back. Or maybe it’s the eerie and arresting vision of a lifeless object that so closely mimics someone’s humanity that people relate to. Whatever it is, I think Madame Tussauds will be a major draw even in another two hundred and fifty years.  

Q: If Madame Tussaud were alive today, would she be happy to see that her wax museums have expanded not only throughout Europe, but now the world?
A: I think Marie Tussaud would be ecstatic. Having grown up on the Boulevard du Temple surrounded by actresses and showmen, Marie was taught from a very young age that publicity was the difference between staying in business and having to sell your teeth in order to buy bread. Today, the Madame Tussauds wax museums do a wonderful job of finding new subjects to model, and the public unveilings of their new wax figures would have absolutely delighted Marie. A part of me wants to say, “If only Marie could see her museum now,” but something tells me she wouldn’t be surprised at all by how popular her exhibition has become. 

Looking forward to Michelle Moran's Rebel Queen 
due to be released on March 3, 2015.