Posts Tagged ‘young adult’

Did it Really…?

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George IIDid somebody really try to kill George II when he was still Prince of Wales?

George II gets overlooked a lot as a do-nothing king, but when he was a prince, he and Princess Caroline were both very popular.  With most people.  Most of the time.  There was this once though…


“Towards the end of September 1716 he made a progress from Hampton Court to Portsmouth, distributing largess copiously all the way, held a review of the troops and inspected the ships at Portsmouth, and was everywhere received with the utmost enthusiasm. He increased his popularity by his energy in superintending the suppression of a fire at Spring Gardens on 3 December, to which he walked from St. James’s Palace in the early morning. He displayed great coolness a few days later at Drury Lane Theatre, when an assassin attempted to enter his box with a loaded pistol, and was only secured after taking the life of the guard in attendance.”

— Dr. Marjorie Bloy, “A Web of English History” quoting James McMullen Rugg, 1889 —


Cover Preview!

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We are delighted to announce we have an exclusive preview of the cover for Assassin’s Masque, being the latest volume in the wholly true and entirely remarkable adventures of Margaret Preston Fitzroy, maid of honor, card-sharp, house-breaker, forger, thief of private correspondence, sometime conspiariator and confidential agent in the Court of His Majesty George I of England!

Assassin's Masque Cover


Who’s Real?

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Mary BellendenYes, “Careless” Mary Bellenden’s is real too.  As annoying as it is to have a Molly and a Mary to keep straight, there wasn’t a lot I could do about it.  Mary apparently regularly stole the show with her appearance, and her behavior.  She certainly had the eye of the gentlemen poets of the day


Now to my heart the glance of Howard flies ;

Now Harvey, fair of face, I mark full well.

With thee, youth’s youngest daughter, Sweet Lepell,

I see two lovely sisters hand in hand,

The fair-haired Martha, and Teresa brown Madge Bellenden, the tallest of the land ;

And smiling Mary, soft and fair as down.

Epistle to- Mr. Pope by Gay.

Who’s Real?

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UntitledWho was real resident in the Palace of Spies?  Sophy Howe was.  I wasn’t able to find art on her, but here’s what historian Lucy Worsely, Chief Curator at Historic Royal Palaces has to say about Sophy in her book Courtiers (a book I highly recommend if you want to know more about what was really going on at Court).

Sarah Zettel and the Big Book — Part Four

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Okay?  Okay.

So, I took a break from reading The Big Book and read a smaller book also on the 6ft tall TBR Pile of Doom — Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly.  Overall, very good.  Emotionally gripping.  Wasn’t sure about it at first, the emo at the opening felt a bit…obvious.  But it all settled down.

And then I found out that Revolution and The Big Book both pull a similar trick.  Both jump from modern times to the past.  Both have a modern person looking back at the life of a doomed historical person.  Both portray the past very, very well, and weave the tension between past and present very, very well.

Then both insert a person from the present into the past — in the case of The Big Book via a play written by one of the modern protagonists, and in Revolution by an actual (or was it all a dream?) act of time travel, via the time honored means of the blow to the head.

In both cases, all that emotional tension drops out of the narrative like air out of a balloon.  Both authors have done such a terrific job of creating the separate worlds, the separate problems and the separate POVs the change just feels cheap.  Gimmicky.  It’s a narrative layer I not only don’t need, I actively don’t want, because what I’ve got has been so lovely.

It’s a lesson about the importance of simplicity, even within complexity.  Note to Self:  Sometimes it’s worth it not to take that extra step, and flow, familiarity and follow through can be more important and more effective than that final twist.

And no more time travel than strictly necessary.

Forever Off to See the Wizard

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Oz CoverI am an Oz geek.  I am not ashamed to admit it.  I quite literally grew up on the Oz books.  I learned to read out of The Wizard of Oz.  I had a babysitter, the teenage daughter of family friends, who had a bunch of the Baum sequels and whenever she came over to sit, or we went to their house to visit, those books were open.  When she went away to college, she gave them to me, and I still have them.  I’m now reading them to my son.
And let me tell you, these are some truly weird books.  You get past THE WIZARD OF OZ and you find out Piers Anthony’s Xanth has got nothing on Oz.  There’s a magnificently strange scene in THE TINWOODMAN OF OZ where Nick Chopper, the Tin Woodsman, discovers his old head, in a cupboard, and has an argument with it.  Or there’s the magician who makes a glass cat, but doesn’t want it to have the to repeat Tin Woodsman’s problem with not having a heart.  So, he puts in a ruby heart.  The problem is, because the heart is made of stone, the cat is hard-hearted.
But it’s the story in the first book that everybody knows.  The tale of Dorothy and her three companions that we all love and that gets re-told and re-worked and is so firmly a part of the cultural landscape.
I’ve tried to work this out every so often, but I’ve got to say I’ve never quite managed it to my own satisfaction.  I mean, I love the stories because I love them.  Because they’re neat.  Because they’re weird.  Because Dorothy is unflappable without being cloying (all props to Judy Garland, but she didn’t get across the sheer nerve of the Dorothy in the books).  But clearly I’m not the only one who remains captivated by the story.
I mean there’s the obvious reason that they’re out of copyright and so anybody can do anything with them, but that wasn’t true for the 20th century when most of the great adaptations were made.  So it’s got to be more than just found material.
The movie’s got a lot to do with it, of course.  Although, it didn’t at first.  It never made back its $3 million budget and was considered a flop (!!) until it was rescued by TV (ain’t that just the tail wagging the dog?), and we all came to know it with Judy Garland’s breathless, dreamy Dorothy, Margaret Hamilton’s amazing Wicked Witch of the West, not to mention Burt Lahr’s Brooklyn-accented Cowardly Lion and those wonderful songs by E.Y. Harburg.
SIDE NOTE: I think it’s because of that movie that the sequels never seem to quite work.  The road trip finished and the books shuffle the chacacters around, but no one has ever managed to approach the emotional connection the movie creates.
But it’s the story itself that does it.  In a lot of ways, Oz is the first iteration of the road trip.  Seriously.  The Yellow Brick road is the most famous thoroughfare in American letters.  And on it we have a group of buddies each of whom is searching for something (all together now:  “A heart, a home, a brain, da noive!”) to make them complete.  They are not princes and princesses, they are working folk who have all had hard luck somehow; a poor farm girl, an unsuccessful scarecrow, a cursed lumberjack (if you’ve read the book you know he’s made of tin because the Wicked Witch of the East put a spell on his axe and he cut himself to pieces), and a cowardly lion.  They are all looking to a Wonderful Wizard to save them from their troubles, but in the end, they all save themselves.
Which is what is really remarkable about the story, because it is reconstructing and deconstructing the traditional fairy tale at the same time.  The tales the Brothers Grimm collected there are endless variations on the clever peasant boy or girl heading out to find something they need (you can actually measure the age of a fair tale this way.  In the oldest stories, they get food, in the newest they get royalty), and finding help on the way.  But in the traditional stories, what is needed is genuine, as is the king or wizard who can ultimately bestow it.  In Oz, the characters have what they need inside them, and the wizard is a con man.  In fact, in the book anyway, the Emerald City itself is a fake.  All the people have to wear green glasses, supposedly so they’re not blinded by the brilliance of it, but actually so that it will look green.
It’s a story of independence as well as friendship, personal triumph as well as a successful quest.
There’s also the fact that what they’re after is not riches, or royalty or even a decent lunch.  One wants to be smarter than he is, one wants to be able to love, one wants to be brave and one just wants to go home.  Except for Dorothy, the quests are internal.  The three companions all want to be better people, but not like Pinnochio who had to change his whole nature and then get a fairy to decide to make him real.  Lion, Scarecrow and Tinman are happy enough in their own skins.  None of them considers himself unreal in any way.  They just have parts of themselves they wish were better.  The belief in the possibility of self-improvement and getting along on the your own strengths is what makes this story uniquely American.  There’s no miricle of birth, no fairy godmother, no divine intervention.  It’s just people doing their best.
What’s amazing about Oz is that it really is an incredibly gentle work, and Baum did that deliberately.  He was reacting to the horrible Victorian-era moral fables like Shock-Headed Peter (in which boys who suck their thumbs have them cut off) and The New Mother (in which disobedient girls are abandoned by their mother to the care of a monster), but it is notably lacking in moralizing or attempts to be Improving or punishments for evil.  Even the death of the witches is accomplished pretty quickly.  Nobody is rolled downhill in a barrel stuck full of nails (as in the Brother’s Grimm), nobody dies and goes to Heaven to get their happy ending (as in Hans Christian Anderson). That whole speech Dorothy gives at the end of the movie about how she’s learned to never look for paradise beyond her own back yard?  That’s Hollywood adding an air of hard-nosed Protestanism that never shows up in the book.   Baum just has Dorothy hold out bravely until the end, when she really makes it home from the real journey she has been on.  Oh, she’s a good kid, but no one lectures, no one moralizes, and God does not enter into the question at all.  The story was written for fun to entertain children and as such it holds up beautifully.
And that’s the other reason it’s lasted.  Because Baum declined to give it a specific moral, it can be read and re-read by each generation with fresh eyes.  Like Shakespere (yes, I said like Shakespere and I meant it), the story is simple enough that everyone can see a new way to tell it, a new setting to place in it.  Oz is a big country and leaves plenty of room for the imagnination.

Vote for Palace of Spies!

Posted on: No Comments and the Children’s Book Council are accepting nominations for the Teen Choice Book of the Year award.  Thanks to all my great readers and bloggers, Palace of Spies has earned a slot on the ballot.

If you’re a teen who has enjoyed the Wholly True and Remarkable Adventures of Margaret Fitzroy, and would like to help spread the word, you can VOTE FOR PALACE OF SPIES FOR BOOK OF THE YEAR.

News and Reviews for Palace of Spies

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Palace of Spies has picked up some terrific new reviews for its Happy Book Day:

Dandelion Dreams says:  “Sarah Zettel is an amazing storyteller. Her writing is so eloquent, the words flowing easily across the pages making for a quick yet intriguing read. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Peggy and her adventures at court. Peggy’s voice is easy to love and every moment she was being her witty, clever self I found myself liking her more and more. She’s incredibly smart, and rarely ever misses a beat when talking among the royals. The mysteries surrounding Francesca kept me turning the pages and Peggy’s determination to discover just what happened to the girl who was clearly much more than the outward exterior she portrayed for those of her who new her best at court was fascinating.”

Eileen Dandashi says:  “Sarah Zettel wrote a believable mystery and was highly entertaining.  The ratcheting up of intrigue kept me on the edge of my chair! And there were several points it got a chuckle out of me, too. As a reader, I was swept up into the story on the first page.”

And then there’s a bit of an interview with Book Whales.

My Own Reviews

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The good ones anyway…

The latest is from Publisher’s Weekly and I’m delighted.  The first book in my new YA historical series Palace of Spies comes out Nov. 5, and so far, there’s been a lot of love across the internet, including this one.

“Peggy’s voice is light and accessible, and the plot moves quickly. A solid opening volley in a promising series.”