A Parliament of Crows – Part 3

IFD Publishing is reissuing Alan M. Clark’s historical novel A Parliament of Crows as part of its new boutique imprint Horror that Happened – Based on a True Story. This is a continuation of my experience re-reading the book.

You can find Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

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As the three Wardlaw sisters (renamed Mortlow for the purposes of this work of historical fiction) continue their reign of criminality, they alternate from being sneaky co-conspirators to being suspicious and intolerant of one another. Clark handles these back-and-forth changes in demeanor very well, as the women seem to delight in tormenting Carolee’s daughter and Mary’s remaining living son. They present a united front when investigated for their nefarious doings, but behind the scenes, they don’t seem to appreciate one another.

Tensions ratchet up as they take sides with one another, alliances always shifting, as they commit more and more murders, as they perpetuate more and more crimes of insurance fraud.

The horrific climax of the book melds the wretched turning point of the sisters’ starvation at the end of the Civil War and the turning point of the trial, and Vertiline’s illness in jail.

No one does well in the wake of these sisters, and this true tale is chilling in its cold-bloodness, stepped in historic culture.

An excellent work of historical fiction.

HTH-BasedonTrueStory

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A Parliament of Crows – Part 2

IFD Publishing is reissuing Alan M. Clark’s historical novel A Parliament of Crows as part of its new boutique imprint, Horror that Happened – Based on a True Story.  This is a continuation of my experience re-reading the book. You can find Part 1 here.

ParliamentCover

When the Civil War ended and their father died, the three sisters were left with nothing but worthless Confederate notes. They were destitute, and needed to find a way to begin to rebuild their lives, and pay their own way.

Clark deftly moves from the days of the trial and their time in jail back to the days that formed the women’s personalities, including hiding from freed, starving slaves and Union soldiers during the Civil War and beyond.

Carolee’s convenient marriage to a Civil War soldier set them up for a time, but Carolee wasn’t cut out to be a wife and mother. The three women all wore black, all the time, and looking much alike, were continually misidentified as one another. They made their way in the world, discovering that despicable crimes of insurance fraud and murder could pay that way.

The courtroom drama plays out with increasing tension as the prosecutors, looking into Orphelia’s death, make accusations that ignite indignation and therefore inappropriate outbursts from Vertiline. Is she her own worst enemy in every way?

 

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Next week: Part 3

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A Parliament of Crows (Part 1 of 3)

IFD Publishing is reissuing Alan M. Clark’s historical novel A Parliament of Crows as part of its new boutique imprint, Horror that Happened – Based on a True Story.

ParliamentCover

I’m re-reading this fascinating bit of history that took place in Georgia just after the Civil War, and will review the work here in three parts.For creative license, the author has changed the names from Wardlaw to Mortlow.

The story opens with three Wardlaw sisters, Vertiline, Carolee, and Mary, on trial for the murder of Carolee’s daughter, Orphelia.  Between court sessions, they are housed in a particularly disgusting jail, kept in cells far from one another. Vertiline, the eldest, tries to keep control of the situation, or at least control of her younger siblings. Carolee and Mary. But of course she was not in control of anything. Not anymore.

Carolee and Mary, twins, have an almost supernatural connection of communication, but as the trial goes on, Mary appears to lose the will to live, and pressure mounts on Vertiline.

Clark draws on his vast experience and knowledge of Civil War society in this book, interspersing a lot of the women’s history in the war-torn south. There’s a reason the three were charged with this crime, and he paints a very disturbing picture of their upbringing with a father who was a harsh disciplinarian.

In the Author’s Note, Clark discusses the fact that very little information is available about these women and their personalities, or their inner lives. This is the fictional part. The horror of their lives and deeds is pure fact.

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I’ll continue my assessment of this book as I continue reading.

 

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Lizzie Borden on Tour

My publisher, IFD Publishing, is launching a new line of books, Horror That Happened. My Lizzie Borden book was re-released under this new imprint, in the Based on a True Story category.

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We decided to do a blog tour with Silver Dagger Book Tours to promote this new release of a much-published book.

The first step was to decide when to do the tour, and how long the tour should last. We chose the entire month of July. Now I say a month is too long. I can blog, and post on social media, but my universe is small, and I can only annoy my readers/followers so much. A month of such posts turned out to be too much for me. Two weeks would have been perfect.

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Maia, of Silver Dagger, did a stellar job. She asked me for all kinds of materials, from answers to interview questions, to history behind the writing of the novel, to personal information. This, she parceled out to her bloggers, who quite faithfully posted the appropriate information on the day they said they would. Maia also posted it all on her Silver Dagger website, which got quite a bit of attention. Could be the $25 gift card we offered to participants. Could be she just has a nice following.

This was not the first time I’ve done a blog tour with Maia. When Benediction Denied came out through ShadowSpinners Press, the publisher set me up for a tour with her. This was in Maia’s earlier days and most of her bloggers turned out to be geared toward the romance market. Definitely not a good fit for my dark fantasy Labyrinth of Souls book. But Maia has grown her business and branched out into what appears to be all genres.

The results aren’t in, of course. Did I get book sales? I won’t know yet for a while, as Amazon reports their book sales in a weird way. But I can tell you that I also blogged about it several times on the Shadow Spinners blog and on my personal blog, and the publisher also did a fine job of blogging, all during the month of June. I think I picked up north of 30 new subscribers to my personal blog. So it’s all good.

Fortunately, this coincided nicely with a bump in Twitter subscribers because When Darkness Loves Us has had an astonishing resurgence with its new publication under the new Paperbacks from Hell imprint from Valancourt Books, curated by Grady Hendrix.

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There is more news, but I will keep that for another post at another time. Suffice to say, it’s good to have a whole new audience for my favorite books. Consider booking a blog tour and report back your successes.

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Lizzie Borden – Based on a True Story

Reprinted from the IFD Publishing site.

The outrageous is all the more extraordinary when we know it actually occurred.

My Wife, Melody, and I took turns reading the chapters of Elizabeth Engstrom’s Lizzie Borden aloud on a trip to the World Fantasy Convention in Minneapolis Minnesota over two decades ago. The drive from Nashville, Tennessee took fifteen hours. One of us drove, while the other read. Lost in Engstrom’s tale, a credible expedition into the hearts of characters from a different time, the drive flew by for both of us.

I had produced cover art for Engstrom’s collection from Tor Books, Nightmare Flower, and we met her at the convention for the first time.

Lizzie Borden
Lizzie Borden

In the novel Lizzie Borden, we have horror and history, two of my interests combined, and the perfect volume to launch IFD Publishing’s new imprint, Horror that Happened™. The mystery of a young “proper” Victorian-era woman being accused yet acquitted of the brutal mutilation and murder of her parents, had always captured my imagination, as it had the rest of the world.

Trial jury
Trial jury

In the 1890s, Lizzie Borden’s trial was a media circus, something we’re very familiar with today, but a singular event in Borden’s time. The circumstantial evidence of the case seemed to indicate that she’d done the deed. Though we cannot know the truth, I have always wondered about what might have moved Miss Borden emotionally to such a state that the act could seem reasonable. Of course, the murders look more like the product of frenzied lashing out than reason, but the efforts to avoid prosecution seem to indicate that there might have been planning involved.

Engstrom’s story took me back in time, and gave me a solid view of the world through the eyes of a very troubled Lizzie Borden. Her sensibilities were different from mine, but I could relate to her emotional state in each scene, a credit to Engstrom’s writing ability.

Andrew Borden, deceased


Abby Borden, deceased

I was so inspired by her approach with Lizzie Borden, I later began to write novels based on historical events. And, like Engstrom, I told dreadful tales. Many of my Horror that Happened novels will also be released under the new IFD Publishing imprint in the coming months. Following the release of Lizzie Borden on July 1, IFD Publishing will release on September 1 my novel, A Parliament of Crowsinspired by the crimes of the three Wardlaw sisters, Carolyn, Mary and Virginia, women who taught social graces while also committing insurance fraud and murder. Their trial, nearly two decades later, was the next media circus concerning the heinous acts of “proper” women.

—Alan M. Clark

Eugene Oregon

One of three imprint book badges
One of three imprint book badges

Horror that Happened, the new imprint from IFD Publishing, provides riveting stories in three categories: True Crime, Based on a True Story, and Lifted from the Past. We hope you will come back to IFD Publishing for your high-quality reading entertainment.

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Vegan Summerfest

I’ve wanted to go to Vegan Summerfest in Johnstown, PA ever since I found out about it three years ago.

But it’s expensive. Summerfest itself is not inexpensive, to stay in the dorms, to have your meals there, for the full five days. Plus, there is airfare. And I wanted to get in the door on the day it started (Wednesday) at 10am, which meant I had to go the day before and get a hotel room for a night.

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Man, was it worth it.

Vegan Summerfest is held on the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown campus every year. (Note to organizers: How about alternating coasts?)  It begins on the first Wednesday of July. You can come for the whole Wednesday-through-Sunday conference, or you can be a weekender, starting at 5pm on Friday. I highly recommend the whole shebang. Stay on campus, eat at the vegan cafeteria (more about that in a minute), walk through the afternoon thundershowers to various talks in various campus buildings. Be there. Be present. Soak it all in.

There were over 60 presenters, including some of the heavy hitters in the medical community like Dr. T. Colin Campbell, author of The China Study, and Dr. Michael Greger, author of How Not to Die, and moving force behind www.nutritionfacts.org and the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, as well as Dr. Ted Barnett, of Rochester Lifestyle Medicine. Doctors, nutritionists, chefs (check out Chef G.W. Chew’s YouTube videos! He gave fantastic, hilarious food demos!), lots of people who run vegan associations and giant VegFests to give tips on how to get started and how to keep the momentum up.

 

How Not to Die

 

There were talks about the Biblical imperative of veganism, the Philosophy of Food (one of my favorite talks by Dr. Mylan Engel), talks about diet and cancer, diet and diabetes, diet and ethics, vegan athletes, even a naturalist who talked about how bats are integral to the food system.

There were products to buy, of course, t-shirts and hats, magazines, and a huge bookstore.

The days began with nature walks around campus, and/or yoga. Then breakfast (more on the food in a minute). Then 45-minute classes with 15-minute breaks to get to the next one, likely in a different building, all the way to lunch. After lunch, more classes, until dinner. After dinner, there were plenary sessions, entertainment, and then parties and sky watching with telescopes for those who were up late and still eager for more. The last night, after the plenary session where Dr. Greger debuted his new talk on How Not to Diet (also the title of his forthcoming book), and he was inducted into the Vegan Hall of Fame (his name to reside alongside Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. Esselstyn, Dr. Klaper and other vegan lifestyle luminaries), there was dancing until the wee hours with a great DJ.

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T. Colin Campbell, PhD, author of The China Study. Still going strong at 85 years old

But let me tell you about the food.

When you walk into the cafeteria, you’ll see a giant semi-circle serving bar. For breakfast, for example, there might be roasted potatoes, roasted sweet potatoes, vegan sausages, a tofu scramble, muesli, and oatmeal. All of this would be at three different stations, and in between would be condiments: nutritional yeast, raisins, flax seed, etc. Beyond that semi-circular station is a fruit bar, with all kinds of fruit. Beyond that is the SOS (salt, oil, sugar free) bar, with exactly the same breakfast food, only SOS free. Next to that is the gluten-free bar, with exactly the same breakfast food, only gluten free. On the other side is a gigantic soup and salad bar, three times a day. At lunch and dinner there is a pizza oven, with nonstop pizzas coming out that were thin-crusted and delicious. And in the adjacent room, there is the raw bar, with amazing frozen desserts. Wonderful desserts every day. And all of this is prepared by university staff under the direction of celebrity vegan chef Mark Reinfeld. This was gourmet food. Outrageously good. Al is currently enjoying all the new culinary tricks I discovered.

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Me fan-girling on Chef GW Chew. Photo by Chuck Phillips

The lodging was in dorm rooms. Two twin beds, two desks, two dressers. I stayed in a room by myself, but two rooms shared a bathroom. My through-the-bathroom roommate was Diane, with whom, I was delighted to discover, I had a lot more in common than just our vegan lifestyle.  That was another thing, it was kind of like summer camp. Diane and I hung out together, and the first day we met Chuck, and then it was the three of us, sharing notes and handouts at meals after our various sessions. We made fast friends for life.

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Me, with Chuck and Diane, after dancing on Saturday night

Yes, campus-wide wifi. And free shuttle to the Johnstown airport.

The programming was remarkable, with something for everyone. It was hard to choose which sessions to attend, as few were repeated, and there were at least five going on simultaneously. But we did our best.

All of this was made possible for me by the generosity of my good friend Dianna Rodgers. Dianna was a passionate vegetarian, and she died last year, leaving me some money in her will. What a sweet and unexpected gesture. That money, and another surprise windfall came at just the right time and it was just exactly the right amount for tuition, lodging, and airfare. I know Dianna would be pleased at how I used her generous gift.

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Dianna Rodgers. I so miss you, my friend. 

The whole experience was inspirational to say the least, and I am already scheming on the budget to find my way back to Summerfest next year.

Here’s to your health!

eattherainbow

Eat the Rainbow

 

 

 

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What Really Happened?

One of the interesting things about the Lizzie Borden  story is that the whole family always kept the interior doors locked. In order for Lizzie to get to her own bedroom, she had to unlock her sister Emma’s bedroom door, walk in, lock it behind her, and then unlock her own door, go in, and lock it behind her.

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Lizzie Borden

What kind of family dynamic would result in this type of behavior?

It appeared to me, which informed the way I constructed the narrative, that each member of the Borden family lived in their own little world, not communicating on any meaningful level with anyone else.

Truthfully, very little is known about the personalities of the Borden family members. What is known has been written up in psychological journals, legal assessments, and endless (annual) speculation.

Before embarking on the journey of writing this book, I read everything that I could find, everything available, in law libraries, in university libraries, and in all manner of fiction and speculation.

My theories about what happened that day are influenced by fact, but are unquestionably fiction.

lizzie cover

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