Thursday, October 16, 2008

My .1 Second of fame...

Well, in the category of the several random jobs I shuffle while writing books, background work is one of them.

Gossip Girl is one of the many shows that film here in New York.
(I was a member of the press on Law and Order recently too. The original one. The Mothership, they call it.)

At the beginning of this clip, right after Blair and Serena walk through the door, look behind them; and whee, there I go! It was a fun day on the set!

Thanks to my dear friend Marianne Mancusi for first posting this on the Rebels of Romance blog!

Leanna on Gossip Girl! from Marianne Mancusi on Vimeo.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day: Poverty - Victorian London

It's Blog Action Day!

Today Bloggers all over the world have signed up to talk about the issue of Poverty.

Now as this is my book blog, most of what I know has something to do with what I put in my books. In regards to blogging about poverty, I recalled some of my research into Victorian England in preparing my debut gothic fantasy novel THE STRANGELY BEAUTIFUL TALE OF MISS PERCY PARKER. I also talk about poverty and class disparity in my Magic Most Foul saga, set in 1880 New York City, beginning with DARKER STILL: A Novel of Magic Most Foul.

THE STRANGELY BEAUTIFUL TALE OF MISS PERCY PARKER and much of the Strangely Beautiful saga takes place in 1888, during Jack the Ripper's "Autumn of Terror". My book deals with haunted individuals, documented London ghosts, the actual sites and particulars of Jack's murders, set against my own fantastical inventions. But it's important to know where Jack struck. Whitechapel. The 'wrong side of the tracks', as it may have been.

Just after Jack the Ripper's murderous frenzy, the following year Charles Booth published an incredible work. A map of London Poverty in 1889.

Here's just one of the many plates, and this is the area where most of my 'action' takes place, right around Bloomsbury (following the above link to the interactive map allows you to zoom in, this is just an example of one plate and the legend):
Red is Middle-Class/Well-to-do.

During initial research, I found a newspaper article that came out just after one of Jack's murders in August of 1888, lamenting that if there had just been more Gas-lit or those new Electrically lit streets, none of it would have happened... Just more light... Some of the murders did take place outside, one in Mitre Square, in what couldn't exactly be called a courtyard, under cover of complete darkness. The author of the article lamented that there was no light to banish the demons terrorizing the unfortunate.

Notice how in the above map, the widest streets are the most "Red" and well-to-do. Those would also have been the streets that were Gas, and not too far forward in the future, Electrically lit. Maybe the author had a point. So how does any of this relate to our modern day poverty situations? I always think having a knowledge of history lends context to the present. Desperate situations often get to a point that a horrific event like Jack the Ripper or an influential piece of reporting can begin to turn a tide of public awareness of social problems. For New York's Lower East Side, HOW THE OTHER HALF LIVES - published by Jacob Riis in 1890 was a key in turn-of-the-twentieth-century legistlation for housing laws, where a populous was confronted with the visual ravages of poverty in Riis' incredible photos and illustrations, just as Victorian London was confronted with the gruesome deaths of many "unfortunates" just two years prior.
I'm no politician, I'm an author. So I, in a distant echo to Jacob Riis, can only perhaps offer a brief window into poverty, as I do in THE STRANGELY BEAUTIFUL TALE OF MISS PERCY PARKER.
Here's how my hero, Professor Alexi Rychman, has to confront Whitechapel, in pursuit of "Jack":
From Chapter 11:
"Into the dark and dirty underbelly of London Alexi plunged on horseback, spurring his stallion Prospero into the depths, seething with anger and hungry for knowledge.
Areas of London passed before his eyes that he liked to forget. Urchins, beggars and streetwalkers beckoned him, undeterred by the terror singularly targeting their neighborhood. He hissed at their advances, stricken by their plight.
One particular young woman, barely more than a child, called up to him asking if he wanted company for the evening. Alexi grit his teeth.
“Find shelter, for God’s sake! Don’t you know something terrible is on the loose?!” Alexi cried, flinging coins onto the street as he passed.
“I know, Sir,” the consumptive waif in a torn gown called after him, darting to a cobblestone to pick up his offering. “But I’m starving, I’ve got no choice. Bless you for the shilling, sir.”
Alexi reared his horse suddenly and turned back to the form silhouetted in the dim sulfur light of a distant lamp. She, thinking perhaps she had procured a client after all, looked up at him with a practiced, inviting look that was far more desperate than attractive. He shook his head and emptied the entirety of his pockets into her hands. “Find as many of your lot as you can and spend the night in safe shelter.”
The hollowed young woman gazed up at him in awe, past locks of hair piled haphazardly beneath a moth-eaten bonnet. “Are you trackin’ ‘im, then, good Sir, are you the detective?” she said, her small voice strengthened by hope.
“Of sorts, dear girl,” Alexi replied, taking the reins in his hand to dart off again. Her besmirched hand reached to stroke the black horse’s warm neck.
“Then you’re our guardian angel tonight, Sir,” she breathed. Alexi could neither acknowledge the sentiment nor look her in the eye, knowing he could never guard all such poor wretches society cast onto the streets.
“Don’t take long, and don’t part company,” he said gruffly, and started off.
“I won’t sir!” She cried. “Bless you, Sir. I was a friend of Annie Chapman, may she rest in peace, by God she’s lookin’ out for me by sendin’ you this night!”
The name of the ‘Ripper’s’ second victim rang in his ears as he plunged towards a peculiar light down near a train yard. Instinct told him that the beast that nearly killed Elijah earlier in the evening was the sole source of Whitechapel’s sorrow. Instinct also warned it may be ready for another atrocity.
Street lamps ended at Commercial Street and Whitechapel Road. Alexi had forgotten the fact, because when summoned to these depths of darkness in the course of his Great Work, there had always been ethereal light to guide his way. Spectres always cast their own illumination. But tonight, the sector was black. Even the ghosts had been frightened off…
These wards were the poorest, the most hopeless, the dregs of those who had come to a city seeking better than their countryside could offer and finding no love nor shelter within the bosom of the Empire. The heavens must have felt a bit of pity for the clouds thinned to allow a dim grey moonlight to filter over the city. It was just enough light for navigation, but only at a slow plod. Prospero stamped impatiently, his hooves pounding against the cobblestones or messily splashing in muddy puddles.
Turning a wide corner, just inside the dim, sooty haze of Duffield’s Yard, just off a set of train tracks, Prospero halted his heavy tread.
Alexi caught the sight of something amorphous rustling in a space between miserable brick buildings. He could only make out sounds, because there was a black hole ahead of him, a pitch black deeper than night itself, snuffing out all existence; the terror of Whitechapel…"
(end of MISS PERCY PARKER excerpt)
I hope you'll take a moment today to remember the Annie Chapmans of the world, and other victims, then, and now.

Monday, October 13, 2008

This blog needs more fluffy animals... And so I bring you Willis!

Hi friends!

As my blog's title suggests, fluffy animals are to be found here, and I've been slacking on the fluffy animals department of late (save for the ghost dogs photo below).


I recently met the coolest, spunkiest and fun creature! Willis, the Dog with the Blog, courtesty of the Humane Society of New York:

What a character!

In my quest for random employment, I do some part-time work at a TV studio, where I meet cool people and things (Like the Muppets- see Best. Day. Ever. post).

Dr. Marty Becker, famous Vet extraordinaire and really nice guy, was in the studio promoting his Ultimate Cat and Dog Lover Books, which are great, with Willis dancing about (well-behaved, mind you, but dancing) on his lap.

Be sure to check out Willis' blog for adorable photos, great animal welfare tips, and heartwarming stories. He's a therapy dog, a tool for educational outreach, and a superstar. And considering he was found wandering about Staten Island all alone, he's a trooper too. Make pet adoption your first option.

Persebunny agrees:

Hi, I'm a fluffy-cute rescued lab bunny, and I approve this message.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

It's Halloween Awareness Month

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I don't know if you have realized this, but it is now October.
You know what that means?

Halloween Awareness Month. That's right! H.A.M.!
(no pigs were harmed in the making of this Public Service Announcement)

October 31 always creeps up on me and I just never get enough of this, my most favorite month! Savor it! Make it last the whole year long!

Remember, this month, as my hero Severus Snape says: (Thanks Marianne and Chris for bringing me this tidbit of yum)

(whether it's a typo or lol-speak here is immaterial - the message is clear, and my love is abundant.)

Now Get out there and enjoy HALLOWEEN AWARENESS MONTH!
Thank you.
This message has been brought to you by Concerned Citizens for Halloween Sanctity, PAC