January 22, 2013

Welcoming David Leroy, Author of The Siren of Paris

The Siren of Paris
by David Leroy

Synopsis of the Novel: Born in Paris and raised in the United States, 21-year-old Marc Tolbert enjoys the advantages of being born to a wealthy, well-connected family.. Reaching a turning point in his life, he decides to abandon his plans of going to medical school and study art in Paris. In 1939, he boards a ship and heads to France, blissfully unaware that Europe -- along with the rest of the world -- is on the brink of an especially devastating war.

When he arrives at l'École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux Arts, more ominous signs surface. There are windows covered with tape, sandbags shielding the fronts of important buildings, whispers of Parisian children leaving the city, and gas masks being distributed. Distracted by a blossoming love affair, Marc isn't too worried about his future, and he certainly doesn't expect a Nazi invasion of France.

Marc has a long journey ahead of him. He witnesses, first-hand, the fall of Paris and the departure of the French government. Employed by an ambassador, he visits heads of state, including the horribly obese gray-haired Mussolini and the charismatic Hitler. He witnesses the effects of the tightening vise of occupation, first-hand, as he tries to escape the country. He also participates in the French resistance, spends time in prison camps, and sees the liberation of the concentration camps. During his struggles, he is reunited with the woman he loves, Marie, who speaks passionately of working with the resistance. Is she working for freedom, or is she not to be trusted?

The Ghost Named Why

“Why did I have to go back?” Marc Tolbert, page 338.

Only half of the source of Marc Tolbert’s spiritual anguish is revealed in The Siren of Paris. Most readers would assume that his regret is limited to the betrayal he suffered from Marie, his fiancée. However, just as there is an entire backstory to his life, that provides his motivation to return to Paris, there is a story that follows Marc’s experiences during World War II. Since The Siren of Paris is allegorical, this story is left untold as I shift back to resolving Marc’s spiritual fate at the end of the book.

From the moment the French Resistance took form, the day approached when the fate of collaborators would be decided. During the war, estimates vary, between 9,673 to 6,675 French were executed for treason, by the resistance, for collaborating with the Nazis. It became a practice of the French resistance to hold de facto trials of those accused of collaboration. The underground papers published blacklists of traitors. Small coffins appeared, in the night, at the doors of the condemned.

After the war, the official trials began on March 15th, 1945 with Jean-Pierre Esteva, who received life imprisonment, and ended on July 1st, 1949, with the trial of Andre Parmentier, who received 5 years national degradation, later suspended. During that time, a second wave of terror raged across the 27 judicial districts of France called The Purge. Scholars are not in agreement on the number of people who were executed for treason. A low estimate is placed at 3,724 with 423 additional suspected murders motivated by war revenge. The high estimate is between 30,000 and 40,000. Men and women were caught up in the hysteria to “cleanse” the population of guilt associated with the war and the Holocaust.

My own impression, after sifting through the records, papers, and photographs, is that the number is far higher than the conservative version but not likely to be as high as 30,000. Any number is meaningless when it lacks a personal context.

Marc Tolbert chooses to remain in France to pursue his medical education after the war. As a French citizen, a survivor of the parlor torture parties at 180 Rue de la Pompe Ave and of the horrors of Buchenwald, he makes a choice that will place him in those very courtrooms. This is the second part of Marc’s shadow of regrets, which remains hidden behind his blind anguish.

This is my first novel, and I struggled emotionally with writing this story, as well as with how to bring it to life for the reader. I know that I am not prepared to attempt to bring to life the trials, lynching, and executions of thousands of traitors, many known personally to the characters appearing in the book. Perhaps with time, I will evolve into a better writer and then I will be able to reveal the second part of Marc’s story? This is a journey, which brings him to a courtroom where he will be forced by both the prosecution and the defense to testify against the woman he once loved enough to marry. Until then, the Red War of The Siren of Paris will stand alone as Marc’s emotional burden of survivor’s guilt. The Black War of The Purge that holds the second part of Marc’s anguish, full of the human rage for justice and revenge, will have to wait until I can find the ability to guide the reader through its darkness.

About the Author: A native of California, David received a BA in Philosophy and Religion at Point Loma Nazarene College in San Diego. After returning from a European arts study program, he became interested in the history behind the French Resistance during World War Two. Writing fiction has become his latest way to explore philosophical, moral and emotional issues of life. The Siren of Paris is his first novel. You can visit him at http://www.thesirenofparis.com/.

Additional Info:  You can purchase The Siren of Paris from Amazon -- http://www.amazon.com/The-Siren-Paris-David-LeRoy/dp/0983966710/ref=tmm_pap_title_0 -- for more information about this virtual book tour, please visit -- http://bookpromotionservices.com/2012/05/22/siren-of-paris-tour/

January 17, 2013

(Giveaway) Vedette: or Conversations with the Flamenco Shadows by Stephen Siciliano

Introducing Stephen Siciliano, author of Vedette: or Conversations with the Flamenco Shadows:
(Giveaway instructions at the end of the post!)

Born to a Gothic social order, branded a haunter of men's dreams, Vedette is traumatized when her small town in the magical wetlands of southern Spain's Guadalquivir River is overrun by hashish-smoking anarchists promising free love and a life without sadness to those who would follow them.
Entranced by their flamenco music, their philosophy of revenge, and the concrete ability to deliver political results, the young woman joins a movement destined to annihilation and becomes its sole survivor, burdened with the task of keeping its memory and project for a better world alive through conversations with their flamenco shadows.

Transcending political viewpoints, Mr. Siciliano opens a new chapter in the understanding of the Spanish Civil War, opting for a literary interpretation that looks beyond right and wrong to more universal lessons only the passage of decades and the healing effects of time can reveal.

Please welcome the author Stephen Siciliano with the following piece:

The Persistence of Memory
Today, Spain is a vanguard country in matters of Western culture.
Catalonia's famed chefs are trailblazers in the culinary arts. Iberian architects have shaped a next generation of infrastructure the world over. The national soccer team has reinvented the sport internationally with an artistic rethinking of tired and defensive stratagems.

But it was not always thus.

Beneath the ideological banners brandished during the Spanish Civil War was a cultural conflict between a kind of gothic Catholicism and a hyper-modernism represented by the likes of painter Salvador Dalí , filmmaker Luis Buñ uel, and poet Federico Garcia Lorca.

Augustí n de Foxha's novel "Madrid: From King's Court to Communist Cheka" details the Fascist experience under revolutionary reign in Spain's capital and describes the schism:

"Everything conspired against the old culture. Picasso broke the intangible lines of painting with an anarchy of volumes and colors. Negroes in smoking jackets crowded theater stages as intellectuals went for Josephine Baker's skirt of bananas and her war upon the sweetness of the Viennese waltz. All exotic art, be it Negro, Indian or Malaysian gained admittance with a promise to break the clean and Catholic lines of the old museum."

Clearly, beyond the battle lines, other "lines" were being contested in 1930s Spain.

As history would have it, de Foxha's side, the Fascist side, triumphed along with the "clean and Catholic lines of the old museum."

Picasso stayed away, Garcia Lorca was murdered, Buñ uel fled to avoid a similar fate and modern culture was swept under the rug for 37 years with Spain pinned beneath the thumb of dictator Francisco Franco.

When the Generalissimo finally died in 1975, Spain was a land locked in time, a fly in amber, and those who rushed to breathe the post-dictatorial atmosphere found a country of pious and agrarian ways peppered with subversive workers groups, a 19th Century backwater.

Many of the issues sorted through in the West during and following World War II, remained unresolved in Spain so that its intellectual landscape resembled that of its countryside, characterized by the burro, the woman veiled in black, the broken-backed farm laborer.
To visit Spain for many years after was to witness walls exploding with the blood paint of revolutionary communists, the foreboding red and black flag of the anarchists, the predatory eagle of the Fascist Falange.
The writing of "Vedette or Conversations with the Flamenco Shadows," a novel of the Spanish Civil War, benefited from this overlapping of the past upon the present.
Historical works are often beholden to book research coupled, perhaps, with a visit or stay in the location where the story unfolds.

The writer hopes to be moved by the atmosphere, to internalize the lighting and shadows,
the scent of the air, read the ancient visage of the populace for clues and thereby infuse an academic exercise with human breath.

The development of "Vedette" entailed an almost organic connection to the time and happenings it recalls. Current-day events and personal experiences in that whirlwind, post-dictatorial environment inform the work so much more than the books contained in its bibliography.

Add to this the fact "Vedette" unfolds in Seville, a city that revels in its past and repels the future, and what you have are events recounted as they went down in much later days, fitting naturally into a world sixty years removed, yet hardly disappeared.
The novel began to take shape when the world of old Andalusia was opened up to this author by a scion of the Counts of Peñ aflor. They were ancient landlords in the region and to experience southern Spain through their customs was necessarily an exercise in Old World culture.

The family matriarch, a lovely and beautiful woman formed in the chrysalis of Spanish aristocracy was always a personality that impressed.

Tall, lithe, blonde-haired and blue-eyed, soft-spoken, yet iron-willed, she became template for the novel's Countess of the Rivers, a major character representing all that was traditional in Spain.
The behavior of a barbarian bohemian from Southern California was often the subject of her gentle remonstrance and disapproval, if not bemusement. It depended.

For example, after having patiently engaged in a drunken phone conversation over ten thousand miles of telephone wire she politely commented, "Well, yes Stephen, that's fine, but it's three o'clock in the morning."

In "Vedette," the blasphemous anarchist Santi Ordoñ ez explains the Countess's summary detention with a long rant about the injustices visited by aristocrats on the laborers. Her tempered response is, "Well, yes Santi Santi Ordoñ ez , that's fine, but it's three o'clock in the morning."

It's an exchange that resolves a moment of high tension, of class-based confrontation, in a way that would be unique to Seville, an authentic expression of Andalusian temperament and irony.

Once, sitting around a fountain in Plaza Doñ a Elvira during siesta hour, a young anarchist questioned a man in uniform passing through the square. "You, in the uniform! What are you from?" The man in uniform announced that he was a sailor.

"Well then, I curse the Navy and say the Navy is ---." And so forth, joined by his fellows in verbally haranguing the sailor from the plaza. Moments later, the police stormed into the square, giving chase to the fleeing black clad rebels.

Escaping with a failed bullfighter named "Vinagre" (Vinegar), yielded a tour a Seville's lush park gardens as the impromptu guide pointed out all that was free in the regal city, all that was "his," yet everyone else's.

Reaching for an orange from a tree, he noted that they were bitter to some, but not to the blessed, before taking a satisfying bite.

It's hard to make such stuff up, it's the poetry of the people, and healthy amounts ended up in the novel, experienced not by the author, but by his anti-heroine, the flamenco singer and radical, Vedette.

At the time of its writing, Seville was cultivating a long-running crush on an aging bullfighter named Curro Romero who was known for being rarely, yet unforgettably brilliant, but more often terrible, even cowardly.

"Vedette" appropriates his legend for the character Espla de Paula, the protagonist's ill-fated lover. Press notices of Curro Romero's triumphs and tragedies are translated and lifted whole from the day's newspapers, dropped into the 1930s ferment, yet ringing with authentic Spanish bullfight prosody, conveying the popular passion for "los toros."

Political demonstrations, strikes, squatter actions, soccer matches, flamenco vigils were all woven into the fabric of a country passing through a unique stage of development, sorting out issues of the past in preparation for a giant leap forward, fueled by years of repressed sensuality, political thought, and cultural innovation.

Entire swathes of that fabric were sewn into "Vedette."

And clearly, there are advantages to writing recent history. The accent of the events over the years can still be strong, especially when some from the epoch are still alive giving voice to its politics, music, and attitudes.

By the end, the mission had shaped the book itself and "Vedette" became a novel that meditated much upon the purpose and point of memory.

In the annals of revolutionary Andalusia, the peasant commune at Lora del Rio stands as a moment fleeting triumph followed by benighted martyrdom. The rebels of the Andalusian village were eventually defeated by the superior Fascist force of a butcher by the name of General Queipo de Llano.

Along with many of their families and elected representatives of the duly elected Republican government, the insurrectionists were summarily executed and dumped into a mass grave.

Some sixty years later at party in Carmona, about 30 minutes away from Lora del Rio, I ran into a fellow who hailed from there. I was incandescent and proudly dove into my trove of knowledge about the saints of the commune.

He seemed nonplussed, but was polite enough, in the Sevillan fashion, to let me finish.
Than he said, "Your heroes killed my grandparents."

Though painfully obvious after the awkward exchange, it had never occurred to me the revolutionary workers would have had to wreak a little havoc in gaining control of Lora del Rio. Only the flavor of their martyrdom interested me for the story.

But this proximity to the pain and real facts of the Spanish Civil War led to a balanced and ironic view that rubbed partisans of both sides the wrong way after publication. Someone, it seems, must be wholly right.

From The Gypsy Chronicles by Alison Mackie
Researching novelists often learn a more complex story and that is theirs to relay. Experiences like these turned the intended novel from a kind of retro-workerist tract of that time, to something more nuanced and, hopefully, insightful.
In giving the novel a Hoffer Award, the committee noted, "Vedette is part Lolita and mostly survivor, and much to the author's credit her story is told in shaded points of view that only increase the mystery."

It's easy to think of the Spain from which "Vedette" drew so much vitality as mostly gone. It modernized, the anarchists and communists were slowly cooled out, the political class moderated itself, and corporate influence was imposed over large parcels of Spanish life.

It's a matter of how strong history really is, for the events a historical novelist focuses on are not static. They are the source of repercussions and these we live. Deciphering their roots is useful work.

Do progress, freeways, and universal pop culture finally and irrevocably erase the old ways of being and thinking, or does their "persistence in memory" remain a novelist's treasure to be discovered by taking the leap, living the life, and scraping away at the surface of modernity?
Each book and each writer may come up with a unique response to this question.

Stephen Siciliano's blog, highwayscribery: Politics, Poetry and Prose, can be found at http://highwayscribery.blogspot.com
Vedette is available on Amazon, click here to purchase.

If you would like to read Vedette, enter to win your own paperback copy of Vedette by commenting below. Please leave your email address so that I may contact you.

January 09, 2013

Giveaway! The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen (Blog Tour)

 The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen
The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen
by Syrie James; AVAILABLE NOW!
I recently posted my review of Syrie James' newest book on Burton Book Review, and it was a fantastic page turner that is recommended for any Austen fan! I found that it was a clever blend of a contemporary story that centered around the charming Austen Regency world and I highly recommend it. Thanks to the publisher, we are offering a paperback copy of the book to a lucky follower of HF-Connection! (USA only).

Syrie James, author of The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen, discusses her favorite authors to read and her favorite things to do when she’s not writing.

Who are some of your favorite authors to read? (Besides Jane Austen, of course!)

I enjoy the work of so many authors, if I gave you all my favorites, it would be a very long list! As you know, my favorite author is Jane Austen, whose novels I’ve read many, many times; every time I read them, I see and learn something new. Just a few of the other classic authors I love are Charlotte Brontë (I have devoured Jane Eyre about 187 times; it's one of my all-time favorite books), J.R.R. Tolkien (need I say more?), Agatha Christie (she is so clever and her books are such fun), Hergé (the Belgian author of The Adventures of Tintin comics, which I grew up on and read time and again both in French and in English), and L.M. Montgomery (I have loved all the Anne of Green Gables books since childhood). A few of the many contemporary authors I enjoy are Diana Gabaldon (Outlander series), Ken Follett (especially Pillars of the Earth), and Patrick Rothfuss (The Name of the Wind).

What is your favorite thing to do when you’re not writing?

I love spending time with my husband and family, and hanging out with our friends. We are fortunate that our sons and their wives (and adorable dog) live in the same neighborhood within walking distance of us, which allows us to spend quality time together on a regular basis.

Family and friends time generally involves my favorite activities, which include eating good food, going to the movies or the theater, playing cards and board games, hiking or taking walks, and/or relaxing over conversation in the hot tub. I also enjoy visiting museums, sewing, and (every now and then as a treat) shopping! And every night, I spend a good hour or two before I fall asleep doing my other favorite thing: reading.

Syrie James

© credit William James
Syrie James is the bestselling author of eight critically acclaimed novels, including The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen, The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë, Dracula My Love, Nocturne, Forbidden, and The Harrison Duet: Songbird and Propositions. Her books have been translated into eighteen foreign languages. In addition to her work as a novelist, she is a screenwriter, a member of the Writers Guild of America, and a life member of the Jane Austen Society of North America. She lives with her family in Los Angeles, California.
Connect with her on her website, Facebook, and Twitter

To enter for the giveaway, please comment with your email address. 
Answer this question: What is your favorite Austen novel, or favorite Austen sequel? Get an extra entry for each social media share if you leave the links! Good Luck!

January 06, 2013

Sinners and the Sea by Rebecca Kanner

Sinners and the Sea by Rebecca Kanner
Simon and Schuster/Howard Books
Release date: April 2, 2013
Find on Amazon
Classification: Historical
Old Testament times
Heat Rating: 0/3 - but there is violence (suitable to the time period)
NAME OF REVIEWER: Genevieve Graham
In the spirit of Anita Diamant, this ambitious and unforgettable novel about the story of Noah blends Biblical history, mythology, and the inimitable strength of women.

Cursed with a birthmark that many think is the brand of a demon, the young heroine in The Sinners and the Sea is deprived even of a name for fear that it would make it easier for people to spread lies about her. But this virtuous woman has the perfect voice to make one of the Old Testament’s stories live anew.

Desperate to keep her safe, the woman’s father gives her to the righteous Noah, who weds her and takes her to the town of Sorum, a land of outcasts. Noah, a 600-year-old paragon of virtue, rises to the role of preacher to a town full of sinners. Alone in her new life, Noah’s wife gives him three sons, but is faced with the hardship of living with an aloof husband who speaks more to God than with her. She tries to make friends with the violent and dissolute people of Sorum while raising a brood that, despite a pious upbringing, have developed some sinful tendencies of their own. But her trials are nothing compared to what awaits her after God tells her husband that a flood is coming—and that Noah and his family must build an ark so that they alone can repopulate the world.

Kanner weaves a masterful tale that breathes new life into one of the Bible’s voiceless characters. Through the eyes of Noah’s wife we see a complex world where the lines between righteousness and wickedness blur. And we are left wondering: Would I have been considered virtuous enough to save?


You know how everyone knows who Noah is, but we never hear about his wife? That’s because (according to this book, and who am I to argue?) she had no name. Her father never named her because she was born with a large facial birthmark that many called a demon mark. By keeping the girl nameless, he hoped to prevent people in her bloodlusting village from abusing her by name. This quiet, terrified girl, repulsed by so many, is one day given as a virtuous, submissive wife to a crazy, 500-year-old religious nut named Noah.

I love the way Ms Kanner walked us through the days and nights of the unassuming wife of one of civilization’s most renowned prophets. As unimportant as the woman believes she is, as disrespected as she is, despite her doubts and fears, she will nevertheless one day bear the future of the world. We are shown the violence and grime of the era through almost apathetic eyes, the viewpoint of a woman who has experienced nothing but that kind of life since the day she was born. When she sees something innocent or beautiful it is as if she is in awe. We watch her evolve as we watch the characters around her deal with the end of the world and the beginning of another.

A stirring, fascinating story written beautifully.

REVIEWER BIO Genevieve Graham didn’t start writing until she was in her forties, inspired by the work of the legendary Diana Gabaldon. Her first two novels, “Under the Same Sky” and “Sound of the Heart” were published by Berkley Sensation/Penguin US in 2012 and book #3 will be out in November 2013. Genevieve writes what she calls “Historical Fiction” rather than “Historical Romance,” meaning she concentrates on the stories and adventures, and she doesn’t turn away from the ugly truths of the times. Romance binds her stories together, but it is not the primary focus. Genevieve also runs her own Editing business and has helped dozens of authors with their novels.