Saturday, December 31, 2016

Want a guide to help you write a better novel?

Isn't this cover design stunning?
I wanted to let readers know of a wonderful book on the craft of writing, Jordan Rosenfeld's
Writing the Intimate Character: Creating Unique, Compelling Characters Through Mastery 
of Point of View. Out in October from Writer's Digest Books, the book includes incredible 
advice for writers, and I've been enjoying reading it because of its wit and incisiveness. 
It's inspiring, it spurs motion for writers, and delivers analysis of a tricky issue (point of 
view) that breaks it down into understandable components.
Jordan and I did a quick interview over email and I'm happy to share it with 
you here.
Q: You've had great success with your Writer's Digest books. What's the
best piece of feedback you got in response to one of them? Did anyone have
a breakthrough or reach new understanding because of reading your words?
Jordan: The two biggest compliments I've received are for Make a Scene and A
Writer's Guide to Persistence. Several people have called Make a Scene
their "writing bible" and many have said it has changed their understanding
of scenes. However, I've been most moved by the comments on Persistence,
like a 70 year old woman who heard me talk at a Writer's Digest conference
and came to me, crying after, to say she had all but given up on her
writing and now she knew it wasn't too late, that she could still write for
herself, no matter the outcome.
Q: What's the best piece of advice in your latest book?
Jordan: In Writing the Intimate Character, the best piece of advice is most likely
to remember that the best way to demonstrate all character experience, as
well as their point of view, is through sensory experiences: that is, how
do emotions and experiences feel in the body? Can you use all the senses,
plus images, to show the reader fear, for example, as something writhing in
a person's chest, rather than saying "he was mad." 
Q: Who do you think is the best audience for your latest book?
Jordan: Absolutely anyone who wants a better understanding of point of view and how
to develop strong characters. 
That's pretty much any writer, at any stage of development and experience. I found much 
to learn from with this book and highly recommend it! Jordan's had a fantastic career of 
teaching writing and writing craft books that distill her knowledge into fun and likeable 
books. Her voice is friendly and instructive, and draws you in.
Jordan Rosenfeld is the author of seven books, most recently the novel Women in Red and 
the writing guide Writing the Intimate Character. Her freelance work has appeared in 
such places as The Atlantic, New York Times, Salon, Scientific American, The Washington 
Post and more.

Order Writing the Intimate Character by clicking on the image below. And: Happy New Year!

Friday, December 30, 2016

A diptych is worth 2,000 words

Here are the actors in the upcoming Lizzie Borden movie, paired with their historical counterparts.

Lizzie and Chloë Sevigny

Bridget Sullivan (the Borden maid) and Kristen Stewart

Abby Borden and Fiona Shaw

Andrew Borden and Jamey Sheridan

Kim Dickens and Emma Borden. Emma was Lizzie's sister. Absent the day of the murders, she was sent a telegram that her father was very ill because it was thought the real news was too shocking to be delivered in that manner. Subsequently, she delayed returning to town until the evening, only to learn he had actually been hatcheted to death, and her stepmother too.

Welcome home.

Kim Dickens in L.A. Times

Jay Huguley and William Moody (junior prosecuting attorney trying to get Lizzie convicted, with Attorney Knowlton)

And Jody Matzer plays Officer Fleet of the Fall River Police Department:

Another character I'm very keen on learning the actor for: Alice Russell. She was the friend Lizzie called for after the murders (rather than, oh say, the police).

. . . .

Don't forget to follow this blog (scroll down or see column on right-hand side) and/or follow me on Twitter (@ErikaMailman) to keep up with news on this movie as I hear about it and read posts about the historical Lizzie Borden. My book The Murderer's Maid is now out in the world. As of this update (Jan. 2018) the book is on the front "new fiction" tables at selected Barnes & Nobles nationally. Or see the links below the book jacket to order.

Other historical novels I've written. To learn more, visit my official website.

. . . .

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

More about the Lizzie Borden movie

I understand filming wrapped before the holidays in Savannah, Georgia, and that the film is to be released "sometime in 2017." I for one cannot wait. Just the idea of sitting in a movie theater watching the trailer gets me all excited!

A few fun things to add: looking at a map of Fall River, Massachusetts (where the Borden murders took place), I saw that one of the streets leading to the cemetery where Lizzie and her family are buried is called Sevigny Street. Coincidence?? I've heard Chloe Sevigny--who plays Lizzie--has an interest/fascination in the story. Is it because relatives of hers lived in Fall River?

This photograph of Chloe sitting on the sofa (not the original, but very close to it visually) where Andrew Borden died can be found on the wall of the gift shop at the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast. Whaaa....t? You didn't know the murder house is actually a themed B&B? It is. I stayed there last summer in the attic bedroom of Bridget Sullivan--the character whose point of view I chose for my novel The Murderer's Maid, coming out in October 2017--and will blog about that in detail later.

This picture of the movie set came from Twitter (#Lizziethemovie), and you can see how very closely the set conforms to the actual room. Or actually, maybe you can't because the photos are taken from two different angles. EPIPHANY: Okay, actually as I'm blogging, I'm realizing this MUST be a picture from the actual home, because in the distance you see faucets on the sink. That wouldn't be the case with a period set, but is indeed the case with the true house, because after the murders a series of real people lived in it and ate in it and required modern appliances.

Okay, this one I know for SURE is the movie set, because it bears no resemblance to the actual house in Fall River.

Here's the actual house in Fall River. What's interesting to me is that the movie house is far more grand, because the family's money (wealthy) and Lizzie's access to it (restricted) forms quite a bit of a murder motive. Lizzie desperately wanted to be successful in society, hold grand parties, entertain...but her father wouldn't let her, and the house was in a part of town looked down upon (literally) by fancier hills residents.

Next door even lived Irish people (shudder!), who were considered low-class at the time. After Andrew Borden's body was discovered, the Irish maid Bridget was sent to fetch Dr. Bowen across the street....because every clearly-mutilated corpse deserves to have its absent pulse noted....when he wasn't there, instead of getting Dr. Kelly who was right next door, Lizzie instead sent Bridget to get her friend. Why not Dr. Kelly? He was Irish. And why no police? Because she was guilty. ;)

Speaking of Bridget, she's played in the movie by Kristen Stewart. She's a fantastic choice, and I can't wait to hear if her Irish accent is an authentic brogue. Stewart is 26 years old, as was Bridget at the time of the murders. Kismet? Interestingly, I just reread a section of the trial transcripts where Bridget reveals she doesn't know when her birthday is. How strange that much of our identity is wrapped up in our births and celebrating that day. Maybe I'll invent a birthday for Bridget and start celebrating it in some weird way.

Kristen Stewart on set as Bridget Sullivan, Lizzie's maid

Lizzie was 32 at the time of the murders, and Chloe is 42, but of course Lizzie didn't have access to wonderful aesthetician creams, so looks far older than lovely Chloe.

Let's see...I also saw a photograph of a seaside home on the Twitter page, which excited me because it looks like this movie is trying to cover the historically-accurate bases.

This could be a photo of the seaside cottage at Marion, a trip Lizzie was supposed to take with her girlfriends--and instead was at home on a hot August day when her father and stepmother were murdered. More likely, however, it's a picture of the Swansea home, where she and her family vacationed. It was a meaningful house sentimentally, but there is evidence that her father was about to sell it, putting it in her stepmother's name, just days before the murders. A previous example of Mr. Borden putting a home in his wife's name led to incredible angst within the household--so angsty that Lizzie stopped calling her stepmother "Mother," as she had done for nearly three decades, and instead called her Mrs. Borden until the time of her death. So: motive motive motive.  Kudos to the filmmakers for getting this right. I can't wait to read the script sometime.

And of the movie.

I'll continue to blog about Lizzie Borden and anything I hear about the movie in progress. Please follow my blog if you want more updates; see the sign-up in the right hand column when you scroll down. 

. . . .

Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Harry Potter-Lizzie Borden connection

Fiona Shaw

It's not the Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans, although we know Lizzie did enjoy the many candies sent to her in jail as she awaited trial.

The real Abby Borden

No, the connection is that while the Lizzie Borden movie is filming in Savannah, Georgia, Daniel Radcliffe is in town filming something else AND I just learned that Fiona Shaw, who played Harry Potter's cruel Aunt Petunia, will portray Abby Borden.

Yes, she is Lizzie's stepmother, who will be brutally murdered.

Abby Borden was said to be very stout, at 180 pounds, so lovely slim Fiona will have to eat more of those beans. She was also 64 at the time of her murder. Ah well, Hollywood is fun in that it "adjusts" things for us. Maybe Shaw's Abby will fight back and grab the hatchet and chase the killer down Second Street.

The family maid, Bridget Sullivan, said a few weeks after the murders that Abby "was treated badly by Lizzie and [her sister] Emma...and particularly by Lizzie." She said that Abby "was too good for them and they did not like her."

Abby had been stepmother to the two girls since Emma was 14 and Lizzie a mere five. In fact, up until just a few years before the murders, the middle-aged Lizzie called Abby "Mother." A money-based dispute led to her suddenly calling her Mrs. Borden instead.

Bridget reported that the sisters never ate meals with the elder Bordens; it was a household divided. And on a hot August morning, someone was pushed too far, and blood was spilled.

. . . .

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Timberline's true name

For those of you coming to this blog because of the Book Bub promotion, I wanted to repost something about the woman depicted on the cover of Woman of Ill Fame.

Timberline's True Name

--This is a reposting; I know there is renewed interest in Woman of Ill Fame and so I'm going to put this blog post up again.

This blog is currently about witchcraft persecutions, ancient and modern, but now and then I will dip into material regarding my first novel Woman of Ill Fame. The novel is about a Gold Rush prostitute in a dangerous, brand-new San Francisco.

A few days ago, someone was in my archives and saw my post about the real-life prostitute whose image is featured on the cover. All I knew was that her name was Timberline, she was a Dodge City prostitute, and her image is in the collections of the Kansas State Historical Society.

Well, the anonymous commenter wrote that her name was Rose Vastine.

That for one thing totally threw me. Although I fashioned my character based on this photograph and named her Nora, for some reason I had “felt” that this real woman’s name was Kate.

Secondly, the commenter wrote that she earned the name Timberline for being 6’2” in height. Another big surprise. In my mind, the nickname had dirty connotations!

Armed with her real name, I consulted Professor Google.

The first link I accessed made me gasp out loud in the café I was working in, and literally grab my forehead. According to Linda Wommack’s Ladies of the Tenderloin, “Timberline climbed up into the hills above Creede and shot herself not once, but six times.”

When you have spent so much time staring at someone’s photograph and constructing an entire novel around them, you develop a strange and intense connection to them. It was almost as upsetting as hearing this news about someone I knew…but not only was Timberline a stranger to me, but she died 150 years ago. Whatever sorrows she endured, they are dust now.

I had dedicated the novel to two wonderful women the world lost at an early age, and on the second line dedicated it to “Timberline and the other girls of the line: I hope the world was kind to you.”

And here was evidence that the world had not been kind to her.

The link went on to say that Timberline did not die from that suicide attempt, but strangely enough, another link had her recovering from an “intended overdose.” Is it apocryphal that she tried to kill herself with such vastly different methods and survived both times? Whatever the truth is, she must have been an unhappy young woman.

Several sources have her living in Creede, Colorado, a silver mining camp 420 miles from the Dodge City that her photograph is labeled with. Sure enough, the website for Creede, Colorado mentions Timberline on its “About Creede” page. Bat Masterson too (whose biography the commenter mentions) lived in both cities, so maybe she hitched a ride with him.

If anyone has any more information on her, I’d most definitely love to know it.

. . . . .

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Woman of Ill Fame ebook sale

The Woman of Ill Fame ebook is on a Book Bub promotion Dec. 9-14 for only $1.99. If anything says "the holidays" more than a Gold Rush prostitute learning a serial killer's after her, I'd like to hear what it is! Check Amazon or B&N Nook to get your copy.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Lizzie: the movie

It's so exciting to know that the Lizzie movie is filming right now in Savannah, Georgia! Twitter is slowly seeping wonderful photographs from the set and I'll share some below. Apparently, Daniel Radcliffe is also in town filming something else; kind of fun to think of him, Kristen Stewart and Chloe Sevigny hanging out lifting a glass at the end of the day shooting.


Another exciting announcement comes from Publisher's Marketplace.
November 18, 2016 - THE MURDERER'S MAID by Erika Mailman
Fiction: General/Other
Bram Stoker finalist for THE WITCH'S TRINITY Erika Mailman's THE MURDERER'S MAID, in which a young woman tries to stay one step ahead of a mysterious stalker and learns she has a connection to the infamous Lizzie Borden, accused of murdering her father and stepmother with a hatchet in 1892, to Lisa McGuinness at Yellow Pear Press, in a nice deal.

I'm delighted that I'll get to see my main character*, Bridget Sullivan, the Borden family maid, depicted on the big screen by Kristen Stewart. Here's imdb's article about the as-yet-unnamed film.

*It's important to note that the movie filming now is NOT based on my novel or screenplay, but is coincidentally on the same beloved topic.

or maybe the film is titled: "Lizzie?"

My book will launch on Halloween 2017, and I'm hopeful it will coincide with the film's release. The Lizzie Borden narrative is worthy of scrutiny, as it has a lot to say about the lives of women in that era (for instance, the jury didn't believe it possible that a woman could be capable of such violence, and in fact no woman was allowed to sit on her jury). The frustrations of someone outside of society, unmarried, angry, un-air-conditioned (don't laugh, but Lizzie's town was undergoing a massive heat wave at the time of the murders)'s all a fascinating look at a bygone era.

A penetrating glance from Chloe to the real Lizzie, below

Meanwhile, enjoy these sneak peeks into the upcoming movie!

The Borden house for the movie

Texting her employer, "I still think you're innocent."

. . . .