Friday, January 30, 2015

INTERVIEW: Gravely MaCabre of CASTLE BLOOD HAUNTED ATTRACTION


I am pleased to have Gravely MaCabre return. For those who haven't seen my other interviews with him, he is the owner of the popular haunted attraction, Castle Blood. Read on ahead as he discusses the events that the castle has going on all year round, including a Valentines Day event. So read on and check out their website. You will not be disappointed.
TA: So while we've discussed this many times before, how would you describe Castle Blood to those just stumbling upon this interview?



GM: Castle Blood has been delivering classic american Halloween to the weatern PA area since 1993. 

Remember all those old monster movies you loved. Remember classic characters in them. Witches, Vampires Werewolves and Ghouls ? Maybe with a little Addams Family or The Monsters thrown in?
Well for over 22 years now Castle Blood has combined all that into a fully immersive theatrical game type scenario to give people tours like nowhere else.




TA: You guys have recently moved to a new location. How has it been working out compared to the previous homes?

GM: 2014 meant a move into our new permenent facility just down the street from our 2012-13 location in Monessen PA. Big Deal? Well yes it is, its's a 100- year old funeral parlour with plenty of stories to be told about it before we even started adding our own.
The tour is now longer and will get longer each year for a while as we work to fully develope all the space we have but nothing lends itself to our style of haunting than this beautiful  new old building.

 TA: Now one of the many things that sets you guys apart from other haunts is the fact that you are open all year round. Your next event is a Valentine's Day tour. Can you tell us a little about it? What can visitors expect?

GM: Every show we do is a new story and a new script. For our returning friends there are always things you've seen in the past that might help you on the trip. But our new customers will never feel left out, they will be too busy enjoying themselves in movie quality sets and surroundings as they try to find the very special 3 talismans of this tour.
TA: I take it this won't be a "hearts and flowers" type of tour?

GM: Um, no. No it's not. For centuries now we have heard mortals say things like, I will love you for ever, true love is eternal, etc...silly. only a true immortal can know the real meanings of such things, and on the tour we will try to show you what we mean.
TA: What else do you guys have planned for the new year?

GM: Well, the big news is a halfway to Halloween weekend on May 1st and Second, with some very special events planned for during the day on saturday the 3nd, so stay tuned here for all that news in March. Then we will do our 3rd Midsummers nightmare tour in July, and then of course we open Oct 2nd for our 23rd Halloween season.
TA: I know it's a little early, but any teasers for Halloween you'd like to share?

GM: The biggest plan is the return of Crow Haven and our Cemetery this year. Both of which have been huge favorites for us in the past.
We do plan other events in october in town even if not actually AT the Castle, and we will announce those as soon as we get everything firmed up
TA: What else do you have going on and where can we find you?

GM: You can find us at castleblood .com, though we are working on a rebuild of that so please be patient, 
twitter and intsagram @thecastleblood and of course a castleblood page on facebook.
In between events and tours we, as always, are available for custom costuming work and prop building. You can often find us all over the Pittsburgh area, as well as farther away fan conventions. The best geeks are haunted geeks. LOL




Wednesday, January 28, 2015

COVER REVEAL: MADE IN HEAVEN: A BIRTHRITE SERIES SHORT

Hey everyone!

In a recent post, I mentioned a free Birthrite Series-verse short story being released on Valentines Day titled Made in Heaven. The story is a sort of 'missing scene' from Descent (The Birthrite Series, #1) and involves the characters, Reginald and Gail.

Now, for those who have not read Descent yet, there may be a couple spoilers in Made in Heaven as it takes place between the last chapter and the Epilogue in Descent. There are no MAJOR spoilers (I tried maintaining some ambiguity), but there are a couple teeny tiny ones. So if you haven't read Descent yet, I'm just giving you a heads up. :)

BUT, here is the Made in Heaven cover and a blurb. The story takes place on Valentines Day in the year 1932:







It has only been two and a half months since Reginald and Gail returned from that fateful night, a strange set of circumstances, and world they never thought could exist.
Plains also seems different. Darker. While the Fleming Orphanage is quiet, evil still seems to be lying in wait. Reginald is also worried about Gail; she has been strangely quiet, a far cry from the outspoken young woman he's always known her to be. She seems to have lost part of herself.
For months, Reginald has been planning a marriage proposal, already having received the blessing of Gail's father and even bought a ring with money saved from his job at the five and dime. On Valentine's Day, he takes her to The Florentine, and while Gail is appreciative, she remains distant. An encounter with Father Louis of St. Gregory the Great Church also leaves a slight chill in the air.
In spite of everything, Reginald hopes for a future with the girl he loves.
 
The first two books in The Birthrite Series are currently available at Smashwords , Amazon , and other retailers. :)







Monday, January 26, 2015

New Edition of The Birthrite Series Released and Valentines Day Freebies

Hey all,

I've just unleashed the newest edition in The Birthrite Series, the novelette titled Sacred Atonement (The Birthrite Series, #1.5).

It is currently available at Smashwords and should be available on Amazon within the next 24 hours. More retailers will follow soon after. :)





The year 1932 is one Linda never dreamed of ever having. As a single mother raising her and Jimmy's infant daughter in a world she would never have thought existed, she tries forgetting the boy she once planned to spend her life with while plagued by the occasional dream of him tortured inside the fiery pit she lost him in. She takes comfort in knowing that Carl and Dorothy are right down the hall, but her newly married friends are occupied with trials of their own.

As Linda tries making the best life she can for her daughter, a disfigured young man from watches her from the shadows. A man who has also uncovered truths about his own self, and wishes for a second chance.

Sacred Atonement is a novelette, taking place between the events of Descent, #1 and Kindred, #2. It is a story of redemption and uncovering of truths. A story of second chances.  


Currently available at Smashwords and soon other retailers.



In other news, I'll be picking back up with the Vixen chapter recaps this week. I just had to put it to the side in order to get Sacred Atonement released on time.

I will also be having a couple Valentines Day freebies for you all. Throughout the month of February, I'll be giving away Descent (The Birthrite Series, #1) free with a coupon code! I'll also have a new free Birthrite Series-verse short story for you all involving the characters Gail and Reginald. The short will be called Made In Heaven and released on Valentines Day.

More info on Made in Heaven will be announced (cover art, synopsis).

Thanks everyone, and check out the first two books in the series. :)


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Little Personal Project of Mine (DIY)

So I had this really cool Twilight Zone Calendar from the year 2013 and decided to make a framed collage out of it. I'll be buying a couple needed supplies this weekend, but here is what I've done so far:

Step 1:  Here is the calendar before I cut any of the pictures out.






Step 2: I cut out the photos from each month and much of the nifty designs. This actually didn't take me too long (maybe 10-15 minutes).





I do need to decide how I'm going to arrange everything and buy a couple more needed supplies to complete. I'll be posting the next steps and results in the coming week. :)


Monday, January 19, 2015

As We Remember Dr. Martin Luther King...

On this day when we remember Dr. Martin Luther King and his famous speech, instead of getting on a high horse of how great we are and how horrible those who came before us were, let's be positive. Let's remember not only those whose names we know, but more importantly, those many who have been forgotten and whose names have been erased from history:

- the many who fought a gruesome civil war that ended in the abolishing of slavery in America.

-meanwhile over in Europe, many courageous students in Bucharest were protesting the Romanian powers that be. Protesting enslavement of the Romany (aka the "gypsies") and demanding that they be freed.

(As a side note: it's really interesting to see the parallels between Romany slavery in parts of Europe and slavery in America, and both were abolished at around the same time)

- those who in the 1870s, 1910s, and in the 1940s voted DOWN proposed laws for a nationwide ban of interracial marriage and won every time.

- Zane Grey, who in 1922 wrote a book that I'm on a mission to get everyone to read titled The Vanishing American. It is a love story between a Native American man and a Caucasian woman. It also shows a sympathetic portrayal of Native Americans in the early 20th century. It was first published as a serial in the 1922 editions of The Ladies Home Journal. Due to it's popularity and the positive impact it had on the public (from what I understand, it was quite popular throughout the 1920s an 1930s), it was published as a novel and then adapted to film. For whatever reason, this book never gets any recognition today and I think it's time that changed. In fact, reading reviews of those who HAVE read it, many seem to be of the opinion that this book should be read in schools, as Native American history often gets brushed aside.

- Yul Brynner and Charlie Chaplin. Sure, we remember them for their acting and filmwork, but who remembers the fact that both had Romany blood and were very passionate about speaking out of their heritage, the plights of the Romany and becoming spokespersons for many causes and activism? Google Yul Brynner Romany Music. You'll be amazed.

- the many Africans, Irish, Native Americans, and Romany who worked side by side as slaves on plantations (yes, Romany were also brought over to America as slaves, courtesy of Oliver Cromwell).

- the many of all races, ethnicities, and genders who fought for civil rights throughout the centuries. Not just the decades, but the centuries.

This is only a few examples as there are many who have done great things only to have their names erased. What can you do to change that? How about some self-reflection today: is there any underlying prejudice you might have? It doesn't even have to be racial. It can even be a subculture, religious group, age group, etc. Take some time to educate yourself. We all have something about ourselves that we can change for the better.

Friday, January 16, 2015

VIXEN (THE FLAPPERS, #1) Recap: Chapter 3 (Lorraine) or "Tropes, tropes, and more tropes"

Greetings, my lovely readers.

It's the end of the week and time for another recap. With my new schedule, I will be posting recaps by the end of the week. I'm not really going to designate a specific day, because you know how that works (especially since recaps are on the more time consuming side). But at the end of most weeks, a new recap will be here.
As for other posts, those will likely come Monday or Tuesday.

Now, onto the recap of Chapter 3 which is titled Lorraine:
 
Last time, in Chapter 2's recap, we met Clara, Gloria's eighteen-year-old cousin from Pennsylvania. We learned that she has a rather sordid past and is so far the most interesting and least annoying person in this story. Hopefully Lorraine will also be less annoying than Gloria and Marcus.

If you're just joining us, here are Chapters 1 and 2 so that you may catch up and understand what the hell is going on:

Prologue and Chapter 1 (Gloria) Recap

Chapter 2 (Clara) Recap

Anyway, as I was saying, Chapter 3 is where we meet Lorraine, who is described as being Gloria's best friend. When the chapter opens, the girls are standing outside a barber shop and Gloria is pacing nervously. Why? Because Lorraine made an appointment for Gloria to have her hair bobbed. Lorraine also has an affinity for speaking French:

Lorraine had watched her best friend, Gloria, pace frenetically beneath the red and white barbershop pole for the past ten minutes. Frankly, she'd had enough.
"Glo, calmez-vous!" Lorraine caught her friend's petite shoulders, bringing her to a jolting halt. "You're acting as if you're going in for surgery!"
"At least they'd put me under if I was," Gloria whined.
"A true flapper shows more guts than that!" Lorraine said, steering Gloria to the door. "If we hang around out here any longer, they'll start to think we're a couple of streetwalkers."
"They'd only think that about you, Raine."
"Because I'm the only one who's dressed like an adult," Lorraine said. "Now let's go!" 

So far, Lorraine seems promising. Obviously these girls want to be flappers or at least look and act like them, which is cool. Maybe in this story, the best friend is the more sophisticated one instead of the "dumpy" sidekick who idolizes the main character, which is typically the running theme in most contemporary entertainment. Or maybe Gloria and Lorraine are equals, therefore making the social climbing Lorraine reportedly does in the synopsis even more interesting and intriguing. We could only hope, right?

After their exchange outside, they enter the barbershop and again, the author does a great job with setting the scene and describing the interior of a 1920s barbershop. We also learn that Gloria is to have her hair bobbed. And of course, Gloria is shaken up over the fact that she has just entered a place where men get haircuts and shaved. Now, why are they going into a male barbershop instead of a beauty salon for women, you ask? Well...

Before Lorraine had cajoled her father's secretary into book the appointment, she had done her best investigative work to find out that a certain Marcus Eastman was scheduled for a haircut on October fifth at 2:30 p.m. She had then booked Gloria's appointment for October fifth at 2:45 p.m. sharp.

Then there is a paragraph describing the many desperate attempts Lorraine has taken (with Gloria in tow) to stalk Marcus. Damn. It looks like the hope I held for Lorraine is slowly starting to slip. I really hope she doesn't start falling into the traditional soap opera backstabbing best friend trope...

Of course, our ladies man himself, Marcus, is discovered as being one of the men getting shaved.


I've decided this ZZ Top song will be Marcus's theme song throughout these recaps. Every damn time he's in the room.

 So when Marcus makes his presence known, Lorraine starts speaking French to him. Which is already starting to get annoying. SOME phrases are fine, but this is starting to overdo it:

"Quelle coincidence!" Lorraine continued, trilling in mock surprise.
"'Quelle coincidence'?" Gloria repeated. "Really, Raine?"

In a way, Gloria's right to call out her friend for trying too hard to appear sophisticated. I will agree that it does make Lorraine's desperation to get Marcus's attention painfully obvious, and it has been established that Gloria has been subjected to Lorraine's many desperate attempts at winning Marcus over. And maybe that's what the author was trying to accomplish. But there probably could have been a more subtle way of approaching it, you know, since they're supposed to be best friends and all. Lorraine isn't really hurting anyone by speaking French, so maybe Gloria should just let her have that. Sometimes, you really can't stop a trainwreck from happening, and if this is Lorraine, Gloria should know her and what makes her friend tick fairly well. Or if it's really bad, like I said, there are more subtle methods that don't involve making your best friend look like even more of an ass by calling her out in front of everyone. So far, I'm getting the feeling that although these two girls are supposed to be best friends, it's not going to be all that believable.
Lastly, Gloria's wording, "really, Raine?" seems a bit on the modern side.
Now getting back to what I said earlier about my hope for Lorraine being the attractive, confident best friend who is equal to Gloria without any "dumpy best friend sidekick" tropes or "insane jealousy over the perfectly perfecter than perfect main character" goes? Looks like I spoke too soon.




Because after this, we are treated to rather flirtatious banter between Marcus and Gloria, followed by one jealous, spiteful thought after another from Lorraine. Because NO story would ever be complete without best friend rivalry. ABSOLUTELY NONE.

So we get some conflict from Gloria as she demonstrates last minute butterflies over getting her hair bobbed, which is understandable. In the high society she grew up in, it was, for the most part, looked down upon. She also knows that her fiance, Sebastian, definitely would not approve. But then she decides she's tired of being seen as a good girl and decides to go for it.

Marcus's man whoredom is also confirmed and we also find out that Francois, the barber, is every bit the stereotype of a flamboyant French hairstylist. Therefore, giving us stereotype #3.

Stereotypes So Far Found in this Story:
1.) People from bygone times were "unenlightened" and ignorant to EVERYTHING.
2.) People who live in rural communities and work on farms are as dumb as the soil they work on.
3.) Male hair stylists are loud and flamboyant (especially if they are French).

And while Francois is cutting Gloria's hair, Lorraine is making more desperate attempts to get Marcus to notice her. To the point where it's almost embarrassing.

 Well, I guess there's still hope for Gloria. Maybe she will redeem herself and not be a total perfecter than perfect Mary Sue...

 Francois was busy snipping the finishing touches into Gloria's hair when Lorraine approached. He swiveled Gloria around so that they had a full view of her. "Voila! C'est magnifique, non?"
Glora's hair swept across her forehead like a crinkled autumn leaf, billowing over one sea-green eyes before delicately ending in a soft edge along the line of her jaw. She blinked at them with wide, apprehensive eyes. "Oh no, do I look like a boy?"
"More like a movie star!" Marcus whistled.
Lorraine glimpsed her own bob in the mirror and nearly cried. How was it that she suddenly looked like a dowdy Joan of Arc and Gloria looked like a doe-eyed starlet?
She pushed away her jealousy. It wasn't Gloria's fault her hair turned out smashing, right?

Yes, that is everyone fawning all over Gloria and talking about how positively beautiful Gloria is.







I'm starting to think that all hope is lost for this plot. But, I committed to doing these recaps and besides, we do still have Clara.


So yes, Gloria looks stunning, with everyone oohhing and aahhing over her while Lorraine demonstrates much inner hatred.
You know, wouldn't it have been more interesting to have Gloria be the one to not look right with her hair bobbed? Oh, but then that would take away from the dowdy, jealous sidekick Lorraine is supposed to be. Everyone just has to love Gloria. We're all supposed to. And you WILL...


You will love Gloria...you will love Gloria...you will despise Lorraine because the author said so...


On top of that, Gloria and Marcus are still the only two who know of their speakeasy escapade, which of course makes Lorraine even more jealous. I could display the dialogue, but it really only is more demonstration of Lorraine's jealousy over Gloria's closeness with Marcus and everything else about Gloria. Seriously, why are these two girls even friends?
Then we are treated to Gloria moaning over her "goody-goody cousin and total reuben" Clara is coming to town to help with planning Gloria and Sebastian's wedding. Of course, the three conspire a plan to "ruin her". Seriously, am I watching "Mean Girls"?
And we see more asswipeness from Marcus:

"So I was thinking," Marcus continued, working the promade into his hair, "that I, say, make Country Clara fall in love with me--"
"And then you break her like a twig!" Lorraine offered. "I mean, in a nice way."
"It seems Miss Dyer and I are in agreement," Marcus said, winking at her. Lorraine could have swooned.
"I don't know," Gloria said, tilting her head and watching her hair move in the mirror. "Doesn't that seem excessively cruel? Even for you, Marcus?"
"What is cruel, my little red morning glory, is that your cousin is here to ruin your life before--"
"Before Bastian does!" Lorraine chimed in.
"I was going to say before your wedding. And besides, the girls around here are such a bore. Some fresh blood will really spice up my game. I know you think I'm horrid, but it's true. Dating is like a sport, and as with every sport...practice makes perfect."
 
You know, I'm thinking of changing his theme song from ZZTop's "Sharp-Dressed Man" to the Bart Baker parody of Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines." Because that describes him so much more.




So this chapter ends with Gloria, Marcus, and Lorraine agreeing to conspire against Clara and run her out of town. And Lorraine has an inner monologue in which she vows to make everything work in her favor "for once."

So, what has been established so far?
- Gloria is supposed to be scholarly, though certain passages suggest a different scenario.
- Gloria has shitty friends.
- I can't decide whether Marcus is an asswipe or just plain stupid. Or both. We shall see.
- One negative stereotype already: people prior to the 21st century were dimwitted and ignorant to everything.
- The author does have a talent for setting a scene and introducing characters. Hopefully this will end up being a decent read.
- Another negative stereotype: people who work on farms are also apparently dimwitted.
-Lots and lots of semi-colons.
- Clara is more interesting than Gloria (at least so far).
- Marcus IS an asswipe
- Lorraine seems to be the stereotypical backstabbing "best friend" trope
- Gloria is the perfectly perfecter than perfect lead character adored by everyone, even the best friend who really seems to dislike her.
- Frenemies are better than real friends

I also have this foreboding feeling that this isn't the last of the whole "frenemies" or male love interest being a complete douchebag but we love him anyway tropes. We will be discussing this further, as I do find these trends rather troubling.
Til then, stay tuned for the Chapter 4 when we are taken back into Gloria's head. Great...

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Progress on My Office/Creative Space

Hey all,

I'm working on getting up the Chapter 3 recap of Vixen either tonight or early tomorrow.

In the meantime, here is some progress I'm making in the area where I "create."

As I stated in an earlier post, I've been rearranging my office/creative space. It's over halfway done and I'm happy with how it's turning out. Here is what I have (and actually want to show) so far. More will come as it is finished. Too bad I didn't think to take a 'before' photo!


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Awesome Facebook Status (Not Mine) and What My Sister Sent Me on Pinterest

Awesome facebook status courtesy of fb friend, Todd Staruch. So true, too:

"Too many people don't understand the art of disagreement or debate.
If I say vanilla is my favorite ice cream flavor, and someone else says "Mine is chocolate", that's cool. However, too many people seem to feel the need to say, "Vanilla is disgusting. I don't understand how anyone could like it and anyone who does is an idiot." Meanwhile, who the fuck cares?"

And today, I received this pin on Pinterest from my sister, complete with the following message:

"This really creeped me out and made me think you you."  :P


I'm sure many who read this blog know this, but this is the garb worn by physicians treating those stricken with the Black Plague back in the day.

I'm working on new posts and will be bringing them with the new blogging/social media/website updating schedule I'm trying. :)

Monday, January 12, 2015

New Posts Coming Soon

Hey all,

Hope 2015 has been treating you all well so far. I'm working with a new schedule now covering my blogging, social networks, and website updating.

This Thursday, I'll have the Chapter 3 recap of Vixen (I'm working on it now) and I will also be doing my first reviews for the year within the following couple weeks:

Zane Gray's The Vanishing American (Book Review)
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Review of the 1939 film)
Love's Young Nightmare (Music Review)

I'm also working toward having the Birthrite Series novelette Sacred Atonement completed for the end of the month (preferably January 25) and the hard copies of Descent soon after.

Thanks everyone and hope you all have a fabulous week. :)

Tiffany

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

2015

Hey all!

I know I haven't posted a lot on here recently, but that is a sign of productivity on my end. I'm rearranging my office/creative space and I'm also getting the format for Descent The Birthrite Series, #1) set for the hard copy version (right now it's available only as an ebook through Smashwords, Amazon, Barnes & Noble NOOK and iTunes) as I do have a lot of people asking for the hard copy. I'm finishing two short stories and an intro for an anthology which will be out soon and, as another facebook friend stated on her own status, vowing to finish the projects and things this year that I've been putting off. I have my new websites up (my official one and the one for my book series), I'm redoing my mailing list as well, and I'll be coming up with a set schedule for social media and blogging.

My motto for 2015 is get it ALL done.

And expect the Chapter 3 recap of Vixen this weekend. :)

Friday, January 2, 2015

VIXEN (THE FLAPPERS, #1) RECAP: Chapter 2 (Clara)

Hey all,

First of all:





Hope it was safe and fun for all.


Now that the holidays are over, it's back to the grind. That means, the Chapter 2 recap of the Jillian Larkin book, Vixen (The Flappers, #1).

In the last chapter, we left off with Gloria and Marcus leaving the Green Mill, a speakeasy they managed to sneak into.

Here is the Chapter 1 recap if you're just coming into this. Best to read it first.

So now onto Chapter 2, this one titled Clara. Like the first chapter (Gloria), this one is told from the point of view of the title character but in an omniscient third person voice.

We start off this chapter by meeting Clara as she stares covetously at a rather revealing dress in an issue of Vogue magazine by French designer, Jeanne Lanvin. Yes, French designer. Meaning people back then knew there was life outside of the US (despite what is eluded to in the first chapter about the "foreign exchange student from Arkansas"). Anywho, moving on.
After that, it is learned that Clara is on a train to Chicago with a one-way ticket as she tries devising a plan to sneaking on a train bound for New York.

Then we get some pretty good background on Clara to start her off:

Legal had never stopped her before. In fact, legality had always been the last thing on her mind--until she ended up in jail back in Manhattan. But she'd been bailed out, so really, what was one more time?
No. She had to look on the bright side: At least she had gotten out of staying in Pennsylvania with her parents (which was a different sort of jail). They were the reason she'd run away to New York City in the first place, during her senior year of high school--to leave behind everything she'd known: her family, her worthless high school diploma, her "good Christian" values. She couldn't bear living in a place where the girls got excited about the prospect of a church mixer, after pledging their chastity and swapping pie recipes.

Aside from a couple grammar errors, that is actually a good passage and introduction to Clara's character. As of this moment, she is definitely more interesting than Gloria. At this point, Gloria just annoys me and I still think Marcus is a dumbass.
Anyway, we get more description on the month Clara had spent back in Pennsylvania and the toll being ridiculed and ostracized for her stint in New York had taken on her. This is also why she accepted her aunt Beatrice's (Gloria's mother) proposal to come to Chicago and help her plan Gloria's wedding. Anything to get out of her situation, I guess.

Now so far, Jillian Larkin has me into Clara's story. Then this happens:

Now Clara gazed out the window at a nauseating stretch of cornfields whizzing by. The only noteworthy site for miles had been one sweaty, muscular farm boy, his tanned arms bulging as he thrust his hoe into the field. He'd been pretty, but probably as dumb as the soil he worked.

Um, remember how you mentioned being so torn up over people judging and ridiculing you that you couldn't get out of bed, Clara?  Just because someone works on a farm or lives in a rural area doesn't mean their intelligence is lacking (as someone who grew up in a fairly rural area in Pennsylvania, I can attest to knowing quite a number of intelligent people from there). For all you know he could be working to save money for college, or he could be helping his father run a farming business. Or, he could be this guy:






But you'll never know, Clara. Because apparently, it's okay for her to judge others but not okay for them to judge her. I guess that makes two negative stereotypes in this book so far:

1. People from bygone times are ignorant to everything and not very bright (Chapter 1)
2. "Farm boys" and people who work on farms are as dumb as the soil they work on.

Got it. Negative stereotyping is starting to add up in this book.


After her holier than thou observation toward the farm boy, she reminisces over her time in New York and wonders what her former roommates and partners in crime, Leelee and Coco, were doing that very moment. She is also driven crazy over the fact that the exciting city life would continue on without her and that the girls with whom she had had friendships with are carrying on with their wild parties and date nights. Though it is for the best, we are told, as that year in New York nearly ruined her.
Clara then thinks about how she would kill for a smoke. She pulls out her case to find that she only has one cigarette left with two more hours to go on "the train ride from hell":

At least she had her flask of gin, securely tucked into her favorite red garter. She'd have to drink it in the bathroom; unchaperoned young ladies getting tanked on trains was frowned upon. Mostly because it was illegal.

She rises from her seat and among the middle-aged businessmen, she sees a very striking young man in seat D20. As he reads the paper (the sports section), she sends a smoldering stare in his direction and slows her pace. When he does not look up, she takes a more drastic measure by pretending to trip and dropping her cigarette directly under his seat. Then she bends down to pick it up and squeezes her arms together to amp up her cleavage. This move works on the man in seat D20:

"I don't mind retrieving that for you," he said, bending down so that his face hovered mere inches from hers. "But I do mind you putting something that filthy in your mouth."
"It was my last one, so I have no other choice."
"You must want it badly, then."
"Unless, of course, you have something better to offer me?"
He pulled her up from the floor. "I hope you like it unfiltered."

I'm kind of torn on that passage: while I enjoyed the flirtatious banter, I'm also half expecting a 1970s' porno soundtrack to start up. Or at least Marvin Gaye.




So keeping the 70s porno in mind, imagine Clara heading to the back of the car with "D20" who is convinced he's going to get some. But as they are about to, well, "get it on", the clef in his chin reminds her of "someone else".



It causes her to push him away and we are told that the clef in the man's chin reminds her of "him":

The boy she'd left back in New York. The one she had so surely (and tragically) fallen for. The one who was responsible for--

In the midst of this inner soliloquy, the man simply assumes that her pushing him away means that she likes to play rough. He comes back at her, still thinking he's going to get lucky.




But then...



A wave of disgust shot through Clara's body. Back in Manhattan, she would never have shied away from being naughty with a handsome stranger. But that was then. Now she needed a break from her old life. From boys, those disgusting, horrid little creatures who had the ability to toss her heart in the air and then smash it into the ground. Now D20 seemed repulsive. She didn't even know him. Or was it herself she didn't know?
"I guess I'm not the type of girl you thought I was," she said. Then she slid out of his grasp and walked away.

Now this inner turmoil Clara obviously has is pretty well demonstrated by the author. I'm actually interested in finding out what exactly happened to her.


After this passage, we have a section break.

After the section break, we find Clara inside the mansion of her cousin Gloria's family, the Carmody family. We learn that she has not been there since her childhood, and she marvels at how large the house is:

She could fit her entire Greenwich Village block inside this mansion and there would still be room left over.

She waits for her aunt Beatrice and catches a glimpse of herself in the mirror, barely recognizing herself:

Her face was a bare canvas: no kohl around her eyes, no scarlet lips, no fake fringe of lashes. Her blue eyes were puffy from lack of sleep, with a smudge of bruised purple beneath each of them.

Okay, this was actually good up until the part about the "smudge of bruised purple beneath each of her eyes."  I actually had to read that line twice because the way it reads, it kind of sounds like she's wearing purple eyeshadow UNDER her eyes. Plus, the bruised part makes it seem like someone beat her up before her arrival (which I guess is possible, but there is no real suggestion of that in the text thus far). Here's the thing: readers often do take things literally so in most cases, it is best to just say what you mean. Like if the author wanted to suggest that Clara had dark circles under her eyes from stress and lack of sleep, something like her eyes were puffy from lack of sleep with dark circles underneath them would have sufficed (I'm sure everyone, or at least most people, knows what dark circles around or under the eyes from lack of sleep looks like). Save the colorful play on words for parts in the story when you can make it count and create atmosphere for more intense scenes.

She continues lamenting over how plain she looks now compared to her style while living in New York. She realizes again how much this past month has hit her and is angry at her ex-boyfriend all over again. She is angered over how he's probably living life without her and decides it all needs to stop. Then Aunt Beatrice appears at the top of the stairs.

"Clara, dear, is that you?" Her aunt was at the top landing of the grand staircase. What was she wearing? She looked as if she'd been swallowed by a beast made entirely of dark ruffled crinoline.

That was actually kind of witty and yes, I will cut Clara a break for being so judgmental of people since at this point, it seems to be a defense tactic. I just hope her chapters don't actually end up being long, drawn out parades of misanthropy.
Clara greets her aunt and the two give one another a "chaste tap of a hug." Then Aunt Beatrice looks her over and makes a snide remark over what a woman she's become. As I read their exchange, I'm thinking "what is this, the 1920s version of Dynasty?" Apparently. We also learn that Clara really is only a year older than Gloria, making her eighteen.
Okay, I have seen reviews of this book in which the reviewer points out that at eighteen, most young women in the 1920s were either married or living on their own, therefore making this whole thing with Clara's parents dragging her back to their farm unlikely. Based on my own research, films I've watched and books I've read from that era, it is correct that many young women were leaving home and either getting jobs, going to college, or getting married at Clara's age back then. Some were even starting their lives at 16 or 17. The age of sexual consent in most states had also been raised to between 16 and 18 by the year 1920. However, despite all that, I have read in several sources that the age of official adulthood was 21 and supposedly changed during WW2. I'll have to look into that more, but if the 21 year adulthood is correct, Clara's parents would still have some responsibility over her. Even if she was able to get a job, go away to college, drive a car, have sex, get married, etc, her parents still would have legal right to drag her back to their home after bailing her out of jail, unless she emancipated herself (which is an entirely different issue in itself) or got married. So in the author's defense, I don't think she's too far off here.

The rest of the exchange between Aunt Beatrice and Clara is basically more banter straight out of a 1980s/1990s soap opera. Beatrice lets Clara know that she is hosting a small dinner party for Sebastian and Gloria. The entire time, Clara is worrying over how much her aunt knows of her past. We find out that while Aunt Bea does know of Clara's stint in jail, Clara also has an even darker secret that only her two former roommates know of. We then also have Aunt Bea tell her niece that unless she changes her sinful ways and manages to help Gloria successfully marry Sebastian Grey, Clara's parents have given her permission to ship their daughter to a reform school, a boarding school for 'lost girls.'
Clara begins to respond but feels the contents in her stomach disagree with her. She excuses herself and runs upstairs, dashing into a room marked with a gold G on the door. She interprets that to mean "guest" and then starts to feel better. Until she opens the door and is horrified by the carnation pink decor:

The room reeked of rose water and French soap and looked like a life-size dollhouse. The quickest scan of the room confirmed that G stood for Gloria: An essay of Great Expectations, with an A+ marked in red on top of the desk; a silver hairbrush and a pair of pearl studs atop a crystal tray on the vanity; and on the nightstand, a gilt-framed photograph of cherub-cheeked Gloria gazing adoringly at a blandly handsome man, whom Clara could only assume was Sebastian Grey.

Again, this passage was excellent in giving us more insight into Gloria. But all those semi-colons are horribly distracting, especially in places where a period or comma would have sufficed. A great piece of writing advice I received in regards to semi-colons is as follows: if you are in doubt over whether or not they should be used, it's best not to use them. Here is my own rewrite of that paragraph:

The room looked like a life-size dollhouse, and reeked of rose water and French soap. The quickest scan of the room confirmed that G stood for Gloria. An essay of Great Expectations was on top of the desk, marked with a red A+. A silver hairbrush was laid out with a pair of pearl studs atop a crystal tray on the vanity, and on the nightstand sat a gilt-framed photograph of cherub-cheeked Gloria gazing adoringly at a blandly handsome man, whom Clara could only assume was Sebastian Grey.

I get the feeling though, friends, that Ms. Larkin is quite fond of semi-colons.

Clara sits down on the bed in defeat as she feels her Manhattan self slipping away. She also wonders if reinventing herself from Fearless Flapper into high society girl. She wonders if doing so would be the key to finally getting a man she refers to as 'the Cad' out of her head for good. She makes a decision to prove everyone wrong, prove she could change. She would approach it was one would approach a role in a play or movie:

If this were a play, how would her character be described?
Clara Knowles (18): Sweet-as-pie and innocent-as-a-lamb farm girl, with aspirations to be a humble schoolteacher, comes to the big city for the first time. Country mouse. Wide-eyed and naive.
Didn't all the movie magazines say that reinvention was a secret to a "new, improved you"? Perhaps that was the ticket: reinvention. She would leave behind her seedy New York ways, her lost love, her tarnished heart, and don the hat of a Chicago society girl like her cousin Gloria. Out with the old Clara and in with the new.
And God help anyone who got in her way.

Hmm. That last part leaves me wondering if Clara is our assassin in the prologue? We shall see.
So far, Clara is more interesting to me than Gloria, and it will (hopefully) be interesting to see how she flips the switch of "bad girl gone good."

So, what has been established so far in the first two chapters?
- Gloria is supposed to be scholarly, though certain passages suggest a different scenario.
- Gloria has shitty friends.
- I can't decide whether Marcus is an asswipe or just plain stupid. Or both. We shall see.
- One negative stereotype already: people prior to the 21st century were dimwitted and ignorant to everything.
- The author does have a talent for setting a scene and introducing characters. Hopefully this will end up being a decent read.
- Another negative stereotype: people who work on farms are also apparently dimwitted.
-Lots and lots of semi-colons.
- Clara is more interesting than Gloria (at least so far).

That is all for now. See you back here for chapter 3 where we will meet girl number 3, Lorraine.