Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Linda Bennett Pennell's Historical Fiction with a Modern Twist, # Giveaway

Posted by Susan B James on 3:00:00 AM with 1 comment

My guest, Linda Bennett Pennell writes historical fiction, some of it based on real-life characters.  Her latest book, Miami Days, Havana Nights comes out tomorrow, July 18.
In celebration of the release Linda's first book Al Capone at the Blanche Hotel is free today and tomorrow. (July 17 and 18) I read it when it came out and loved it. Do grab yourself a copy. https://www.amazon.com/Al-Capone-at-Blanche-Hotel-ebook/dp/B00DULERAK
Linda, please tell us a little about yourself. 

As for my venture in writing, it has allowed me to reinvent myself. We humans are truly multifaceted creatures, but unfortunately, we tend to sort and categorize each other into neat, easily understood packages that rarely reveal the whole person. Perhaps you, too, want to step out of the box in which you find yourself. I encourage you to look at the possibilities and imagine. Be filled with childlike wonder in your mental wanderings. Envision what might be, not simply what is. Let us never forget, all good fiction begins when someone says to her or himself, "Let's pretend." 

I reside in the Houston area with one sweet husband and one adorable German Shorthaired Pointer who is quite certain she’s a little girl.

"History is filled with the sound of silken slippers going downstairs and wooden shoes coming up." Voltaire  What a wonderful quote. Thank you.

I love firsts, so tell me about the moment when a publisher told you they wanted to publish your book.
I was thrilled, of course! As are most things these days, the good news came via email with “contract attached” in the subject line. Having someone other than family like one’s work is very validating! (Yes!)

I was fortunate enough to meet my publisher, Debby Gilbert of Soul Mate Publishing, at the 2012 Lone Star Conference hosted by my local RWA chapter. We had an opportunity to chat during the informal kickoff dinner and just clicked. We have a great deal in common. I will always be grateful to Debby for her support and belief in my work! I think Debby is amazing. And I am equally grateful to her.

Other than your own, who are your favorite (heroes/heroines/writers) in your genre?
There are so many, but I will force myself to limit my list. I write historical fiction and love reading it, as well. If not being able to put a book down is an indicator of a great story and wonderful characters, then Aibillene, Celia, Minny, and Skeeter, from Kathryn Stockett’s The Help top my list. I love to read, but finding a book that grabs me like The Help did is fairly rare. Having grown up in the heavily segregated Jim Crow South, I can tell you from experience that what those characters accomplished would have been a miracle in real life. Stockett’s characters were courageous but real. They were true heroines, but also women of their time and place. 
Agree. I lived in Jackson, Mississippi and in Mobile, Alabama in on and off in 1970 -1972. Barry and I were working at small Equity theatres in both towns. I also lived in Atlanta, 1958-1960 during the beginning of integration there. The Help was so true to life.

What is your favorite pastime, other than writing?
I love to sing. In fact, I sing in two choirs: the Texas Master Chorale and my church chancel choir. I am a first soprano, which is a good thing because sight-reading is not my greatest quality. Sopranos get more than our fair share of the melody. It’s so much easier to read melody from the top of the staff rather than trying to figure out which note is yours lower down the chord! I am terrible at sight reading - always have been. But like you, I love to  sing.

 How do you motivate yourself when inspiration takes a vacation?
My paternal grandmother, while not having a great deal of formal education, was an intelligent and wise woman. As the wife of a country doctor, she bore 11 children, including three sets of twins, and lived to be 92. Doctors of that period were not compensated the way they are today. My grandfather’s journal/accounts book shows entries where patients paid him in what they had, mainly farm produce and livestock. It was not unusual for him to enter “Mrs. X – childbirth - peck of corn.”

If there had been money to spend on clothes for 11 children, getting to the store would have been a challenge because they lived they far back in the mountains. My grandmother made most of the clothes her children wore and was an excellent seamstress, by all accounts. She had a definite philosophy regarding creative pursuits. When frustration or lack of motivation sets in, put your project down and do something else for a little while. When you come back to it, whatever was troubling you will have worked itself out in your mind without your even knowing it. Her wisdom has guided me in my creative pursuits and it works. By walking away for a little while, I can usually clear my mind of writing woes. Thank you for sharing this story. I agree with your grandmother's philosophy. 
What’s your favorite thing about research?
I love the past so much that I have a B.A. in American and British history. 
Research, especially in primary sources, allows me to actually get inside the heads of historical figures. In addition, unearthing footnotes of history is exciting and they form the basis for my most of my plots. Confederado do Norte tells the story of a child whose father chose to remove his family from the defeated South rather than live with Reconstruction.
The fact that some Southerners immigrated is one of those
footnotes of history.  For example, with Confederado do 
Norte I was able to find diaries written by the real Confederados as they traveled to and began their new lives in Brazil.
Reading their firsthand accounts gave me insights that I could not have gotten 
any other way.
With Al Capone at the Blanche Hotel and Miami Days, Havana Nights, I focused on the lesser known bits of the history of crime in early 20th Century Florida.

The premise of Casablanca: Appointment at Dawn hinges on playing “what if” with a historical footnote regarding WWII’s First Allied Conference that took place in Casablanca.
A love for digging into the past and unearthing the obscure is, in my opinion, why most authors of historical fiction choose the genre. In addition, unlike writing for academia, one can be creative with the footnotes that one uncovers!

Any advice for new writers just starting out?
Learn all you can. Read in your genre. Read books on craft. Attend workshops. Talk to other writers. Join a critique group. All of this is important. Most important, however, is be kind to yourself. Nothing kills creativity like negative self-talk.

Tell us about  Miami Days, Havana Nights (love the cover!)
Sometimes our biggest debts have nothing to do with money.

1926. When seventeen-year-old Sam Ackerman witnesses a mob hit, he is hustled out of New York under the protection of Moshe Toblinsky, A.K.A., the mob’s bookkeeper. Arriving in Miami with no money, no friends, and no place to hide, Sam’s only choice is to do as the gangster demands. Forced into bootlegging, Sam’s misery is compounded when he falls in love. Amazingly, the beautiful, devout Rebecca wants only him, but he cannot give her the life she deserves. When Prohibition ends, Sam begs the mobster to set him free. The price? A debt, as Toblinsky puts it, of friendship. A debt that will one day come due.

Present Day. History of American Crime professor Liz Reams has it all - early success, a tantalizing lead on new info about Moshe Toblinsky, and a wonderful man to love. Life is perfect. So what’s keeping her from accepting her guy’s marriage proposals? Confronting a long-standing personal debt sets her on a journey of self-discovery. While she delves ever deeper into Sam’s and Toblinsky’s relationship, her understanding of her own relationships increases as well, but the revelations come at a price. The emotional and physical dangers of her dual journeys may prove too big to handle.

Past and Present Excerpts
Chapter 1
May 18, 1926
105 South Street
New York City

Knocking - sharp, loud, rapid - echoed through the empty speakeasy. Sam froze, the notes of a tune stuck in the roof of his mouth. He glanced at the entrance and leaned the handle of his push broom against his shoulder. Puffs of dust settled on the floorboards around his feet while he remained motionless.
It was late, too late, to be admitting customers, even for the city's illegal watering holes and gambling joints. Although a thick crossbar and several stout locks protected the heavy iron door, an uneasy feeling crawled down Sam's spine. Growing tension over control of the Fulton Fish Market, in fact the entire South Street area, was making a lot of people jumpy, including him.
Several seconds passed without noise from the other side of the door. Sam let out his breath and laughed at himself. Working at the fish market in the afternoon then staying up half the night at the speakeasy didn't leave much time for sleep. It kept him on edge. All the rumors and threats floating around these days weren't helping either. Inclining his ear and hearing nothing, he relaxed and gave his broom a shove.
Bam, bam, bam.
Sam's heart jumped into his throat.
"Open up, Monza. I know you're in there." The shout, colored by an Irish lilt, came from the second floor landing accompanied by renewed pounding. "I come to talk with ya. We need to settle this business. I got a proposition for ya."
Sam's breathing kicked up a notch as he looked over his shoulder toward the office. The boss didn't like to be disturbed when he was meeting with his guys. The pounding from outside in the hall returned in earnest, but the office door remained fixed.
"You gonna open this damned door or do I break it down?" The doorknob rattled and jerked.
 Behind Sam, the office door clicked open an inch. He watched in the mirror over the bar as the muzzle of a .38 Special emerged from the opening, its nickel-plated barrel glittering in the overhead lights. One of the gangsters stepped into the room, met Sam's eye in the mirror, and jerked his head, then the room went dark. Sam dropped his broom and backed into an alcove next to the bar. The office door opened wider. Several shadows scurried across the floor. Metal locks and bolts snapped and clanked, then the entrance door swung inward.

Chapter 2
Fall Semester
Gainesville, Florida

Crap. Not one blessed thing gained.
Liz bookmarked and closed the archival records web page she had paid a small fortune to access. Frustration knotted the muscles at the base of her skull. She stretched her back against the living room sofa and rolled her head and neck. Months of research and all she had to show for it was a regurgitation of everything everybody already knew. Maybe she was what she most feared – a one hit wonder destined to fade from her fifteen minutes of glory into ignominious mediocrity.
Jeez. How was that for a pretentious mouthful? Liz's lips thinned into a smirk accompanied by a quiet snort. Well, at least she could still laugh at herself. Unfortunately, some people might not find her so amusing.
She glanced across the room at Hugh. Liz drummed her fingers against the edge of her computer. He would probably understand if she didn't meet the deadline. Hugh was a good boss and a good... What? She never knew what to call the man she lived and worked with. Boyfriend sounded so lame, childish even. Boss tended to raise eyebrows. Fiancé would work if she had said yes to his most recent proposal.
Liz sucked the corner of her lower lip between her teeth. Of all the things she had ever thought herself to be, a commitment-phobe was not one of them. And now she was on the verge of disappointing him twice in one week. The new course she was designing could still be taught in the spring, but it would be incomplete as it stood now. She had incorporated a plethora of original details about Al Capone, et al., but new, riveting details on Moshe Toblinsky and the Jewish gangsters were proving elusive. As a consequence, Florida's Underbelly, 1920-Present: the Mob in the Sunshine State would probably fail to accomplish what the dean expected despite its titillating title. What a depressing thought.
Buzzing against Liz's thigh made her jump. She dug the phone out of her jeans pocket and looked at the caller ID. Her heart rate kicked up a notch. She slid her finger over the screen to take the call and listened to the monologue coming through the ether.
            Liz tapped the end call icon, slumped a little lower into the sofa cushions, and sucked her lower lip between her teeth. Apparently, nothing was going to go right today. 
Next to the living room window, Hugh lounged in an armchair with the latest historical monograph spread open on his lap, pretending he hadn't listened to her side of the phone conversation. When she didn't speak, he looked up from the book and raised his brows. 
"Well?" His voice was kind but direct.
"Well what?"
"What was in that call to make you look so stormy?"
Liz sighed and crammed her phone into her jeans pocket. "Aunt Mildred says Daddy is going downhill faster than anyone thought possible, something Mom decided to keep from me. Yesterday, he wandered away from the house and was gone for hours. Mom was on the verge of calling the police when a neighbor brought him home. The neighbor stopped Daddy trying to board the ferry to Whidbey Island. He said he had to report for duty at the naval air station." Liz hunched her shoulders and shook her head. "He retired from the Navy in 1995."

 I love the premise. Your writing is so intriguing. Thank you for being here, Linda.

Dear ones,  in case you read this post after July 17 and 18, Linda is giving away a copy of Al Capone at the Blanche Hotel.  
You can find Linda in the following places:
 Twitter:  @LindaPennell

Buy link for Al Capone at the Blanche Hotel:  http://amzn.to/16qq3k5
Buy link for Confederado do Norte:  http://amzn.com/B00LMN5OMI
Buy ink for When War Came Homehttp://amzn.com/B010RXNZRO
Buy link for Casablanca: Appointment at Dawnhttp://amzn.com/B0121Q6S88  
Buy link for Miami Days, Havana Nights: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07F7NFD8K
Happy Reading.

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