December 10, 2013

Erika Mailman's Woman of Ill Fame--Guest post and {Giveaway}

 WINNER: Terry


Do you think you have what it takes to have been a Gold Rusher?

First of all, you need a lot of greed. You’ve got to want to race out there and fill your pockets with gold.

Secondly, you need a certain amount of arrogance/fearlessness. Think for a moment about whether you’d be willing to undertake a seven-months journey to a land very few people you know personally (or maybe none) have actually visited. On the way:

Overland: You face being attacked and possibly killed by Native Americans protecting their land. You may get lost or delayed and perish, like the Donners. You may fall prey to the diseases that stalked the wagon trains: diptheria, smallpox and the like. You may die of starvation or thirst as your supplies run out and you can’t replenish them. You may die of heatstroke. Or pure exhaustion, since many emigrants, to spare the cattle already pulling a very heavy load, walked rather than rode.

By ship: You face the perils of being vulnerable to the sea: shipwrecks, mutinies, rogue waves. Wooden ships, paired with open flame lighting, introduce the very real danger of a ship fire. Plus there’s scurvy, rats, nausea… Oh, and the Panama Canal hasn’t been built yet, so when you arrive in Panama, you’re going to have to debark and keep watch of your trunk and belongings as you are canoed across the isthmus and then ride a mule to reach open sea on the other side.

And once you get there, you’re not sure what it’s going to be like. Will it be safe? Is everyone so gold-blind that they’ll kill you as soon as look at you? Will there be things to eat? Will you regret coming? (And if you do, can you face doing that same horrible long voyage in reverse?) Will you think of all the folks you left behind in the East and weep?

Based on all of this, I admire the Gold Rushers for their fortitude and brassiness, even while I admit probably a fair number of them were depraved and unprincipled.

And then, when you think of unescorted women making their way to the West Coast… well, the admiration becomes a little stronger, because this was an era when women (at least upper class women) were not supposed to even step outside by themselves without a chaperone. This was the Victorian age, with all its rules for “protecting” females. Certainly, many of the women who came to California during that time did not arrive under their own steam (my novel Woman of Ill Fame mentions the deplorable plight of Chinese prostitutes brought over in cages), but those who did make the journey willingly and under their own power earn my respect.

Photo credit: San Francisco Public Library History Center/Creative

Prostitution in the 1800s was a different undertaking, at least psychologically, than today. Women had so few options for employment, and so many real possibilities for starving to death, that embarking on prostitution was more of a put-food-in-mouth situation than today. Supermarkets did not exist. Many people grew their own food, or bought it directly from those who did. Same with meat: the same guy who owned the animals was the one who butchered them and sold the meat, at least in the very early days of San Francisco. In many cases, reform had not yet hit charity houses, so women shied away from the prison-like institutions that might be able to help them.

In 1869, the transcontinental railroad was completed, allowing faster and safer travel across the country. By 1900, 50 years after the Gold Rush, the Bay Area had significantly grown up. The landscape looked very different, with buildings galore and streetcars connecting the various neighborhoods. And while women were now permitted to gain employment in ways previously unheard of, they were still not making the wages that their male counterparts made (still the case today). In 1913, a prostitute told the Oakland Welfare Commission, “If working girls were paid living wages, there would be fewer prostitutes.”

Do you think you would’ve have had the courage (or foolishness) to set out for California during the Gold Rush? I’d love to hear….

Erika Mailman’s novel Woman of Ill Fame, set in Gold Rush San Francisco, was traditionally published by Heyday Books in 2007, where it is still available in trade paperback, and released in e-book form this year at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. The book was a Pushcart Press Editor’s Book Award nominee. Erika is also the author of The Witch’s Trinity, set in medieval Germany, about a woman accused of witchcraft by her own daughter-in-law. Visit her at

About Woman of Ill Fame
eBook Publication Date: November 11, 2013

Looking for a better life, Nora Simms sails from the East Coast to gold rush San Francisco with a plan for success: to strike it rich by trading on her good looks. But when a string of murders claims several of her fellow “women of ill fame,” Nora grows uneasy with how closely linked all of the victims are to her. Even her rise to the top of her profession and a move to the fashionable part of town don’t shelter her from the danger, and she must distinguish friend from foe in a race to discover the identity of the killer.

Praise for Woman of Ill Fame

“I LOVED Woman of Ill Fame! Nora Simms is hilarious, heartbreaking, tough, perceptive…and one of the most engaging characters I’ve ever met between the pages of a book. Wonderful story, great setting and really good writing made this one of the best books I’ve read in a long time!” -Diana Gabaldon, internationally-bestselling author of the Outlander series

“The whodunit aspect makes Woman of Ill Fame a page-turner, and Mailman manages to keep the reader guessing. Yet it’s the depiction of early San Francisco that propels this thriller above its genre, in the manner of historical fiction such as Caleb Carr’s The Alienist.” -Kemble Scott, San Francisco Bay Guardian

“Mailman serves up vivid description, sparkling prose and a Gold Rush prostitute as scrappy as Scarlett O’Hara.” -Kathleen Grant Gelb, Oakland Tribune

About the Author

Erika Mailman is the author of The Witch’s Trinity, a Bram Stoker finalist and a San Francisco Chronicle Notable Book, and Woman of Ill Fame, a Pushcart Press Editor’s Book Award nominee. While writing The Witch’s Trinity, she learned she was the descendant of a woman accused twice of witchcraft in the decades predating Salem.
For more information please visit Erika Mailman’s website and blog.

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Comment below with your answer to Erika's question...Do you think you would’ve have had the courage (or foolishness) to set out for California during the Gold Rush?...for a chance to win a Kindle eBook of Woman of Ill Fame by Erika Mailman (U.S. only). Be sure to include an email address so we can contact the winner. Good luck!

December 06, 2013

Anna Belfrage's A Newfound Land {Giveaway}

About the book
Publication: November 1, 2013
Matador Publishing
Paperback; 402p
ISBN: 978-1781321355

It’s 1672, and Matthew Graham and his family have left Scotland. Having taken the drastic decision to leave their homeland due to religious conflicts, Alexandra and Matthew hope for a simpler, if harsher, life in the wilds of the Colony of Maryland.

Unfortunately, things don’t always turn out as you want them to, and the past has a nasty tendency to resurface at the most inappropriate moments. Both Matthew and Alex are forced to cope with the unexpected reappearance of people they had never thought to meet again, and the screw is turned that much tighter when the four rogue Burley brothers enter their lives.

Matters are further complicated by the strained relations between colonists and the Susquehannock Indians. When Matthew intercedes to stop the Burleys from abducting Indian women into slavery he makes lifelong – and deadly – enemies of them all.

Once again Alex is plunged into an existence where death seems to threaten her man wherever he goes.

Will Matthew see himself – and his family – safe in these new circumstances? And will the past finally be laid to rest?

A Newfound Land is the fourth book in Anna Belfrage’s time slip series featuring time traveller Alexandra Lind and her seventeenth century husband, Matthew Graham.

About the author

I was raised abroad, on a pungent mix of Latin American culture, English history and Swedish traditions. As a result I’m multilingual and most of my reading is historical – both non-fiction and fiction.

I was always going to be a writer – or a historian, preferably both. Instead I ended up with a degree in Business and Finance, with very little time to spare for my most favourite pursuit. Still, one does as one must, and in between juggling a challenging career I raised my four children on a potent combination of invented stories, historical debates and masses of good food and homemade cakes. They seem to thrive … Nowadays I spend most of my spare time at my writing desk. The children are half grown, the house is at times eerily silent and I slip away into my imaginary world, with my imaginary characters. Every now and then the one and only man in my life pops his head in to ensure I’m still there. I like that – just as I like how he makes me laugh so often I’ll probably live to well over a hundred.

I was always going to be a writer. Now I am – I have achieved my dream.

For more information, please visit Anna Belfrage’s website. You can also find her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.

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