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)...to 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 Amazon.com: 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: http://zacklamothe.blogspot.com/

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.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Blue Apron - What's for Dinner?

I love Blue Apron!
  • Complete meals with 500-700 calories per serving
  • 35 minutes to prepare on average
  • Pre-portioned ingredients to save time and reduce waste
  • Easy to follow beautifully printed recipe cards
I have tried recipes I never would have otherwise. Everything arrives pre-portioned in cold packs and very fresh. And you can use the recipes they give you to make again or modify to suit your meal.

Change up your profile to suit you: Ominvore, Vegetarian or Pescetarian. I actually change mine up from week-to-week to suit not only what I want, but for others or dishes to bring to gatherings.

I find that many times, their recipes feed more than 2 and up to four. I might make half the recipe and freeze chicken, fish or beef for my own recipe later on. 

Go check out their website. I think what Blue Apron does is very unique. You can also find them on Facebook. 
Blue Apron on Facebook

Friday, September 5, 2014

Ghostline - Interview with Actor Zack Gold

An interview with lead actor Zack Gold, from the movie Ghostline by Dean Whitney:

How old were you when you started acting? And where and how did you start?
Zack: I was young, doing community theater outside of San Francisco. My mom was a wonderful actress and was playing the witch in Snow White and I got cast in a small ensemble role. 

How is your role in Ghostline different from others that you have previously played?
Zack: I think Tyler is closer to my real-me than most characters I play. He's an actor (haha), he's making sacrifices for being an artist, he's a young man settling down in a home with woman he loves. All of which are easy things to connect to in my immediate life :) 

What is your process for acting? Are you a method actor like Daniel Day-Lewis and Meryl Streep, assume a role from the moment you step onto the set the first time, and never leave the role until the film wraps? Or do you prepare or research your roles or characters?
Zack: I'm pretty free with my work. Depending on the role and situations I take different approaches. Generally, I am pretty happy to step into my character during camera rehearsal and stay focused throughout the takes of the scene, but once we have shot a scene out, I allow myself to fall back into regular Zack. I have the most fun on shoots when I can allow myself to do that. I think that Method is great for some people, but it's almost become deemed as "better" or "more professional" in a lot of circles and I totally disagree. I think as long as an actor can connect to the emotions and intentions driving their character in the scene...who cares how they get there?!

Who are your favorite actors, who inspires you, and why?
Zack: Look, acting is such a difficult profession to succeed in that I'm inspired by almost anyone working consistently. I love Ethan Hawke for his honesty. If you watch any of the Linklater films he's in...the dude can just tell a story with the movement of his eye. On the other hand, I'm really into comedy and appreciate any actor who can do great character work or has spot on comedic timing like Paul Rudd or Owen Wilson. I'd even go as far as saying Katy Perry is a great character actress and that I appreciate Steven Colbert and Jon Stewart for their timing ability. 

What would be your dream role or what would you like to accomplish as an actor?
Zack: My dream is wake up at like 85 years old and realize that I've made a career as a professional actor in film and TV (or whatever tv becomes...) and marvel at all the talented people I have worked with. I'm a huge football fan too, so maybe getting the opportunity to play someone like Joe Namath in a drama bio-pic would be pretty awesome.  

Any advice for aspiring actors?
Zack: Follow new trends. If you buy any book on how to make it in LA or NY that's published before 2008 you are probably doing yourself a disservice. So much is changing in the digital world that actors have more opportunities now than ever to showcase their work. They just have to be smart, creative and driven to find the right paths. 

A fun fact about you that you’d be willing to share?
Zack: I was recently named Godfather to my best friends baby son, Elliott! Looking forward to teaching him about good film as he grows up! Oh... and I'm getting married in November.. it's a good year!

Thank you Zack! Looking forward to the release of Ghostline! See the entire cast and crew here on IMDb!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Second Empress - A Novel of Napolean's Court from Author Michelle Moran

The Second Empress by Michelle Moran

Q&A about the novel The Second Empress:

The Second Empress by Michelle Moran

Q: What inspired you to write THE SECOND EMPRESS?
I knew I wanted to write something that would chronologically follow my fourth book, MADAME TUSSAUD. Toward the end of TUSSAUD, the narrator is imprisoned with a woman named Rose Beauharnais. Those who are familiar with French history will recognize this name, because she later becomes Napoleon’s wife, the empress Joséphine. Originally, I was interested in writing on her. Then I discovered that after Napoleon divorced Joséphine, he married a nineteen year-old Austrian archduchess who was equally fascinating. I wanted to know what it must have been like for this young girl to arrive in France with the expectation that she fill Joséphine’s shoes and command a small army of servants and courtiers. At the time, the French court was a wild place, and Marie-Louise—Napoleon’s second wife—was young, shy, and politically inexperienced. Her arrival shocked many, but no one was a shocked as she was herself. 

Q: Why did you tell the novel from three different points of view?
A: I wanted readers to come away with a clear sense of just how powerful Napoleon really was. He was the sun around which all people orbited, whether those people were family members or servants. For this reason, I chose to tell the story from the points of view of his sister, his wife, and a young Haitian chamberlain. With all three people providing commentary, I felt the reader would be better able to judge Napoleon for his/herself, since the three narrators each have slightly different views of this man.

Q: Are the characters true to life? In other words, did Pauline really want to marry her brother?
A: I tried to remain as close as possible to the historical record, especially where personalities were concerned. This means that, yes, Pauline Bonaparte was really as wild and unpredictable as she is in this book. There is very good evidence that she wanted her brother to conqueror Egypt and reign as Pharaoh—with her as his queen. There are a variety of explanations for this, and I try to cover them all in the novel.

Q: Many letters exist in which Marie-Louise praises Napoleon. So why is she portrayed in the novel as being vehemently against her marriage to him?
A: For the purposes of the book, I took the position that Marie-Louise was simply writing what Napoleon’s spies wanted to hear. There is very little chance she would have criticized Napoleon in her letters to her father, knowing that each one would be read as soon as it left her hand. Napoleon conquered her nation, then took her hand in marriage without telling either her or her father. Unless Marie Louise was uncommonly naïve or dense, I don’t believe that any woman in her situation would be happy about it. Especially given Napoleon’s reputation with women.

Q: What is the one thing you hope your readers will take away from this book? A: An understanding of Napoleon’s court, and an appreciation for how difficult it was to be in his sphere of influence and not succumb to his magnetism. Ambition and drive in a leader is intoxicating. People want to believe that bigger and greater things are just ahead. Napoleon was highly skilled at rallying his troops, and this magnetism extended into his personal life as well. Here was a man who regularly insulted women and behaved abominably toward his political equals. Yet people still gravitated toward him, and not just because of his power or influence. They were attracted by his vision of the future in which the entire world belonged to him. It was radical and insane and somehow appealing, especially for those who imagined themselves as being part of his quest.

Q: What kind of research did you do for this book? Did you visit France? A: France is like a second home to me! For more than ten years, I spent every summer in Paris, and I was fortunate enough to be able to visit each of the locations written about in the novel. Napoleon’s life—and the lives of those around him—was very well documented, and I drew mainly from the letters and memoirs of the people who feature most heavily in this book. The letters between Joséphine and Napoleon were especially useful, since they showed a side of Napoleon which he rarely displayed in public. For me, research is the best part of writing a book. There’s nothing like visiting Napoleon’s library in person, or seeing the heavily embroidered gowns that Marie-Louise, or her predecessor, Joséphine, once wore. As an historical fiction author, those are the things you try to capture in a book—a sense of place and style. A well-researched novel can have the power to transport someone through time, and I hope that’s what THE SECOND EMPRESS does for my readers.

Available for pre-order is Michelle's newest book:

Rebel Queen

Visit Michelle Moran on Facebook

Saturday, August 30, 2014

How I Spent My Summer

Have to say that I am an Autumn girl, but this past Summer has been one of the best. Spent time with sisters, hosted a fundraiser, interviews on our blog, the weather has been fantastic, and just had such a great time!

Sharing some pics. Thimble Islands, Author Suzanne Palmieri, Zac, Actress Rachel Alig, Judy Whitney, and a pic of my Sisters.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Ghostline - Interview with Actress Rachel Alig

An interview with lead actress Rachel Alig, from the movie Ghostline by Dean Whitney:

How old were you when you started acting? And where and how did you start?
Rachel - I was ten years old when I started acting. First, I put on shows for my entire family in our living room. Thankfully, my mother and father allowed me to take classes and audition at The Children's Theatre of Cincinnati and Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park. It was pure bliss for me! By the time I was twelve years old, I had representation at a Cincinnati talent agency, Wing's Model Management. I have been living and working in Los Angeles as a full-time actress for four years.

How is your role in Ghostline different from others that you have previously played?
Rachel - I fell in love with my character in Ghostline almost immediately. 'Chelsea Watkins' knows who she is and is fiercely outspoken and headstrong. She is different from other characters I have previously played in the fact that she is strongly committed to her relationship with her boyfriend, 'Tyler Jantsen', played by Zack Gold. I've never played a character who made their significant other their number one. Chelsea's top priority in life, was Tyler's well-being. With this in mind, it made many of my scenes as 'Chelsea', much more about her love for, 'Tyler'.

Do you identify with your character in any way?
Rachel - I definitely identified with Chelsea in many ways. My own self-awareness is something that I pride myself on and, 'Chelsea', also knew herself very well. Also, I believe Chelsea is selective in who she trust and loves. If she loves you, then she really loves you. When considering friendships and relationships in my own life, I value quality over quantity.

What is your process for acting? Are you a method actor like Daniel Day-Lewis and Meryl Streep, assume a role from the moment you step onto the set the first time, and never leave the role until the film wraps? Or do you prepare or research your roles or characters?
Rachel - I don't like to say I have a specific formula for acting. What I hope to achieve in every scene and every project, is a sense of realness and truthfulness. I do practice techniques of a method actor, but I am willing to step out of character at times. Much of my acting comes from the preparation I do in developing my character and committing to her belief system and maintaining her characteristics. When I am in a scene, I like to let go of everything and allow for real emotions to brew.

Who are your favorite actors, who inspires you, and why?
Rachel - I have a long list of actors who I absolutely admire and respect. Those who really stand out are Sean Penn, Charlize Theron, Naomi Watts, Joaquin Phoenix, Jessica Chastain, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Elizabeth Olsen, and of course, Meryl Streep. All of these artists take risks, their screen presence is captivating, and I never doubt them for a minute. They inspire me because they aren't afraid to bare their hearts and souls. Because they have all played a variety of such convincing characters, I feel as if I don't know how they would truly act as themselves. That's what I want to achieve; I want people guessing what 'Rachel Alig' is actually like as a person.

What would be your dream role or what would you like to accomplish as an actor?
Rachel - My dream role requires a total transformation in the physical sense and the emotional state of being. I want a character in which I have to gain 40 pounds, shave my head, and add a few tattoos. I don't want to look like me, resemble me, or have any familiar traits of me. That's the physical transformation I want. As far as the character's emotional state goes, I want it to be on the brink of madness. This person has moments of great clarity but finds themselves tormented by their own demons. I want a challenge! As an actor, I hope I continue to improve, grow, and develop so much that the projects I am on are on a higher tier. I want to be surrounded by professionals who respect the art of acting, film making, and storytelling. It is a craft that I am honored to be practicing as a professional. Eventually, I hope to be producing my own content.

Any advice for aspiring actors?
Rachel - Prepare for the highs and lows. I have found some success and believe I will continue to do so on my acting journey, but even now I'm dealing with a great letdown. It hurts. It sucks. It feels like a slap in the face. However, I know it's only temporary and the next time I get that phone call saying, 'We'd like to offer you the part', the pain will all be worth it. Also, you must be willing to work each and every day. It is rare that I have a day off. If I'm not filming, I'm auditioning. If I'm not auditioning, I'm in class. If I'm not in class, I'm updating my reel and website. It is never ending. You must love it so much, that you give a piece of yourself to your craft everyday.

A fun fact about you that you’d be willing to share?
Rachel - I'm addicted to cheesecake. No, seriously, I have to have a piece a day...... :)

Thank you Rachel! Looking forward to the release of Ghostline! See the entire cast and crew here on IMDb!

An Update: Rachel Alig will be performing the role of Kelly Hooker in The Final Table 

Saturday, August 16, 2014


Interviews and updates coming for the movie Ghostline! From Dean Whitney, Judy Whitney and featuring actress Rachel Alig.

Stay tuned!

And from Judy Whitney: Hi Friends..........here's an important information about Ghostline; we could really use the help!!! I realize that most of you have already seen our trailer, but very few have left comments. Positive (and recent) comments will go a long way toward helping us secure distribution. We ask that you re-visit the link and leave a comment. We will gather all the names of those who leave comments, put them in a hat, and draw one on 9/19. That person will receive an advance DVD copy of GHOSTLINE.



Saturday, June 14, 2014

Billie Z

We've been away for a while. We lost our dear friend and blog designer, and just haven't had the heart to post or continue. But, time helps to accept that which we cannot change and we know Billie wouldn't have wanted us to stop posting on our blog. So, we're back. It will never look as amazing as when Billie used her creativity to make it beautiful, but we'll try.

Miss you Billie!

November 14, 1951 - March 26, 2014

Billie Jo (Sweeden) Zoch, age 62, of Bayard, Iowa, formally of Arthur, Iowa passed away on Wednesday, March 26, 2014 at the Iowa Methodist Medical Center of Des Moines, Iowa.

A Memorial Service will be held at 2:00 PM, Wednesday, April 9, 2014 at the Christensen - Van Houten Funeral Home of Odebolt, Iowa. The Reverend Trish Underberg will officiate. Burial will follow in the Odebolt Cemetery of Odebolt, Iowa. Visitation will be held from 1:00 PM to 2:00 PM on Wednesday, April 9, 2014 at the Christensen - Van Houten Funeral Home of Odebolt, Iowa. The Christensen ~ Van Houten Funeral Home of Odebolt, Iowa is in charge of the funeral arrangements. Condolences may be sent online to www.christensenvanhouten.com

Billie was born at the Ida Grove Hospital to Billy Ross and Dorothy L. (Albrecht) Sweeden on November 14, 1951.  The family made their home in Odebolt until 1955, when they moved to Arthur.  Billie attended Odebolt-Arthur School, graduating in 1969.  She attended college and later got a job at Boesen the Florist in Des Moines.  In 1972, she returned to her hometown of Odebolt to work at her mom’s floral shop, Dorothy’s Flowers & Gifts. She married Tommy Allan Zoch on January 4, 1975, in Odebolt.  The couple later had two children: Carrie Jo Zoch and Luke Allan Zoch.  Billie spent several years as a stay-at-home mom and continued her love for creating by selling crafts out of the family’s home.

The years took Billie many miles away from home and in many directions.  Her most recent professions included being a graphic designer, a contracted transcriptionist, and owner of Pink Castle Design with her daughter and granddaughter.  Billie had issues with her heart over the years, but in February of 2014, she was diagnosed with cancer.  She passed away on March 26, 2014, from a massive heart attack.

Billie was a very creative person.  She loved all crafts: floral design, painting, woodworking, crocheting, and much more.  She also enjoyed reading, watching wildlife, fishing with her family, cooking, Latin dancing, the changing seasons, and spending time with her precious grandchildren.   

Left to cherish memories of Billie are her loving children, Carrie Zoch of Bayard and Luke (Jennifer) Zoch of Alta; brothers David Sweeden of Odebolt (special friend) Kit Svendsen of Ida Grove and Jeff (Naomi) Sweeden of Arthur; her mother, Dorothy L. (Albrecht) Sweeden of Arthur; grandchildren: Brexton and Dixen of Bayard, and Bryan, Landon and Cayden of Alta; as well as many other cherished family members and friends. 

Billie was preceded in death by her father, Billy Ross Sweeden; maternal grandparents Clifford and Etta Albrecht; and paternal grandparents Robert and Laura Sweeden.

Your song Billie: Ain't No Mountain High Enough