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Is love good for you?

Tragedy befalls the most famous lovers in romantic literature. Romeo drinks poison and Juliet plunges Romeo’s dagger into her chest. In a similar vein, Antony, receiving false news that Cleopatra has died, falls on his sword; but he is only wounded. Carried to Cleopatra, he dies in her arms. Shortly thereafter, Cleopatra inflicts herself with bites from a venomous snake and joins him in death.

Love can lead to tragedy. But most evidence suggests that love is good for you!

Like Romeo and Juliet, the characters in my story, Martak and Marianna, fall in love at first sight. It is the love that binds them that gives them the strength to conquer evil.

Studies show that people in loving marriages or supportive relationships have fewer doctors’ visits, less depression and substance abuse, live longer and experience more joy (Sherry Rauh, WebMD Health News). Feeling loved and connected wards off the detrimental effects of loneliness and isolation.

On this Valentine’s Day and year-round, make someone happy by showing your love and affection. You’ll be enhancing your own health as well because kissing lowers stress, relieves pain and boosts immunity (Lisa Bushak, medicaldaily.com).

Hugs are good, too!

A Holiday Message of Hope

The holiday season is special. Colorful lights, joyous music, delicious food, being with family and friends are traditions we all cherish. We enjoy the holidays and often recall our pleasure in celebrating them as children.

My goal in writing Ten Fingers Touching was to transport adults to an imaginary world with the same pleasure they experienced in reading magical stories as youths. Stories where the power of good conquers the forces of evil.

Our world is filled with harsh realities and there is no shortage of disturbing news, e.g., war, terrorism, cyber terrorism ― all communicated in real time via technology and social media. We crave respite from the evils we perceive and the uncertainties they create.

The power of fairy tales is that they allow us to escape from the problems of the present and dream about worlds where anything is possible. Their happy endings give us hope that what can be imagined can be achieved.

Hope is vital to the human spirit. In the words of Elie Wiesel, “Just as man cannot live without dreams, he cannot live without hope. If dreams reflect the past, hope summons the future.”

For every hardback copy of Ten Fingers Touching sold between Dec. 8 and Dec. 31, 2016, I will donate copies to the Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh for domestic violence. Please send proof of purchase to ellen@ellenrothauthor.com.

New Talk

3 images2-1While working on the screenplay adaptation of Ten Fingers Touching, I’ve also developed a talk on: Finding your Happily Ever After:  Lessons Learned from Fairy Tales.

Fairy tales endure because they are engaging, magical stories. They impart messages that resonate and linger beyond the narrative. My presentation discusses how fairy tales permeate our culture and their deeper meanings.

Fairy tales are represented everywhere. We see them larger than life in movies e.g., Cinderella, Into the Woods, Maleficent, Frozen and on television, e.g., Once Upon a Time.

Fairy tales have galvanized the fashion industry. Vogue’s spread on haute couture features fashions associated with Briar Rose, aka Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel and others from storybook classics. Fairy tales are popular in contemporary humor as in  Smartphone, Smartphone, on a stick, who has the fairest profile pic? They inspire travel and influence our lives in countless ways.

Fairy tales also provide messages about simple truths that linger beyond the story. One such truth is ― share your feelings and show your love and affection. In Beauty and the Beast, when the Beast is dying, Beauty tells him that she loves him. Declaring her true feelings not only brings him back to life but turns him into a Prince! We also learn from this story not to judge people by their looks but by their good deeds.

Finding your Happily Ever After: Lessons Learned from Fairy Tales sweeps you into a timeless world of fantasy that inspires hope and happy endings.

To schedule a speaking engagement for your organization visit my contact page.

Announcement of Award

3 jonSo proud to announce that the electronic version of Ten Fingers Touching just won the Benjamin Franklin Silver Digital Award for exceptional content, design and use of technology. The book received high ratings not only for the story but also for aesthetics, user engagement, graphics and downloading speed!

This award makes me happy because I wanted to write an engaging story and also create a work of art. The aesthetics of the book were very important. John Blumen, the illustrator, ensured that the beautiful images would easily adapt to all electronic and print platforms.

When searching for an illustrator, I was immediately attracted to Blumen’s exquisite portfolio. His illustrations, in the style of magical realism, were perfect for a fairy tale. Each image created for Ten Fingers Touching adds depth to the story and further draws the reader into a timeless world of fantasy and imagination.

As one blogger wrote, “Come for the illustrations, stay for the story, and leave with another couple of which to remark upon the next time you think of ‘great loves.’”

I’ve also created a delightful PowerPoint presentation on fairy tales that is both substantive and entertaining. To schedule a speaking engagement on Finding your Happily Ever After:  Lessons Learned from Fairy Tales, visit my contact page.

Thoughts about Valentine’s Day

Red dress 3Why do we celebrate Valentine’s Day? There are many legends but my favorite goes back to the 3rd century A.D.

The Roman Emperor, Claudius II, decreed that young men were forbidden to marry because he felt that unmarried soldiers were better warriors. He wanted to grow his army with men who would not be distracted by families. Valentine, a priest in Rome, performed marriages in secret and was imprisoned for defying the edict. While a prisoner, he cured his jailor’s daughter of blindness. Before being executed on February 14 in 270 A.D., he sent the girl a farewell note signing it “Your Valentine.”

St. Valentine’s Day became associated with romantic love in the 14th century based on a poem by Chaucer.

The 18th century popularized gift giving and exchanging elaborate handmade cards known as valentines. In the 1840’s, Esther Howland set up an assembly line of card makers in her home, becoming the first person to mass produce valentines in the U.S.

If you’re looking for a non-traditional Valentine’s Day gift, please consider surprising someone you care about with my book! It will last longer than flowers, and it’s as sweet as chocolate but without the calories!

In anticipation of Valentine’s Day, I’m doing a book signing at Barnes & Noble at The Waterfront on Thursday, February 11, 2016, starting at 6 p.m. I would be delighted to personalize a copy of Ten Fingers Touching for your lover, mother or friend!

Happy Valentine’s Day and a toast to the romantic in all of us!

Photo contest winners!

Many thanks to everyone who participated in the 10 Fingers Photo Contest. We received  a wide-range of outstanding entries and they were judged anonymously. There were so many good choices that the judges awarded three winners instead of two! Interestingly and totally coincidentally, the three images that were selected represent love at different stages of life!

Please join me in congratulating Lida Larsen, Sheree Lynn Ross and Lisa Fraley for their heartwarming photos!  Each will receive an autographed copy of Ten Fingers Touching!

Click on a gallery image to view the photo full size!

I hope you enjoy viewing these photos which speak volumes about loving relationships ― lifetime love, young love and childhood love!

Following are comments that accompanied the first two photos and provide meaningful context:

Lida Larsen wrote, “My parents always held hands. This is right before my father died.”

Sheree Lynn Ross took this picture noting: “My great niece Paige and her fiancé, Matt. They became engaged Dec. 10.”

Together, these three images are poignant examples of the power of non-verbal communication and show how trust, reassurance and comfort flow from a simple gesture.

My book begins and ends with two original short poems about ten fingers touching because holding hands with someone you care about creates a sense of well-being and an emotional bond. In the case of lovers, Martak and Marianna, ten fingers touching leads to greater intimacy that completes an emotional circle giving Markak the power to conquer evil.

The Art of Portraiture

Ellen Roth Cover (4)In Ten Fingers Touching, after the Princess disappears, the Kingdom is in chaos. Everyone, including Evil, searches for the missing child. Marianna, her governess, runs into a group of village children and asks them if they have seen the Princess. They all reply negatively. Then she shows them a miniature portrait of Princess Rosy. The children are shocked at seeing the face of a girl who comes to the village and plays with them.

Miniature portraiture evolved from the art of illuminated manuscripts and was popularized in 16th century France and England. The earliest portraits were painted in watercolor on stretched vellum, a form of parchment. The subjects centered on the court. Portraits served as personal mementoes bestowed on court favorites, such as the one given to Marianna by the King and Queen, but they were also used to provide introductions between a young man and lady of noble birth destined to be betrothed for political or economic reasons. The first Queen Elizabeth’s wealthier subjects wore her image as a sign of loyalty to the crown.

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Miniature portrait of Princess Rosy

Portrait painting on ivory was adopted around 1700. Over the years, miniature portraits appeared in jewelry (e.g., lockets, brooches) and on snuff box covers that were available to the affluent middle class. Miniature portraits were cherished as intimate tokens of affection because they could be kissed or held close to a lover’s heart.

The art of miniature portraiture began to decline with the birth of photography in 1839. The new technology produced portraits that were quick, accessible to the general public, affordable and ensured an accurate likeness.

The portraits in Ten Fingers Touching were created through digital art combining the beauty of painterly images with the latest in computer technology.

Best wishes for a joyous holiday season!

Ten Fingers Touching, a story about true love, makes a special gift when given as a token of affection during the holidays. It can be ordered through Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, as well as from local Pittsburgh bookstores and gift shops. Click here for more information.

Thanksgiving Thoughts

Ten Fingers Touching is a fairy tale for grownups. It tells the story of how two lovers, Martak, the Master of the Forest, and Marianna, a beautiful maiden, are drawn into the epic struggle between Good and Evil. Martak is the victim of two assassination attempts. Marianna is abducted by a rogue knight; the Princess is manipulated by a disguised destructive force. Evil appears in many unanticipated forms, but in fairy tales good ultimately triumphs over evil.

The First Thanksgiving

The First Thanksgiving

This is the week of Thanksgiving, an American tradition that began in 1621 when the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians shared the bounty of the Fall harvest. Thanksgiving was declared a national holiday in 1863 by President Lincoln, three months after the pivotal Battle of Gettysburg, when the war’s outcome became more certain and he sought to unite the nation.

Awaiting the arrival of family

Awaiting the arrival of family

Families travel far and wide to be together on Thanksgiving. As we gather for festive dinners with our families and celebrate the blessings in our lives, let’s also remember the world-wide victims of the evils of terrorism. Having a moment of silence for those who tragically lost their lives makes the gathering of loved ones all the more precious. In a world with uncertain outcomes, use the element of surprise to do something good for someone else. Give an unexpected hug or tell another that you admire him or her. Send gifts. Volunteer or make a donation. Share food or medical supplies. There are boundless ways to give thanks, to do good and to offer prayers for peace on our planet.

Best wishes to all for a Happy Thanksgiving!

Monarch Butterflies

macro monarch butterfly wallpaper62986

Monarch

In Ten Fingers Touching, Martak, the Master of the Forest has the ability to communicate with animals.

After rescuing his beloved, Marianna, Martak takes her to a secluded valley. He summons butterflies and swarms of the beautiful winged creatures magically appear. They nestle together forming a soft blanket as the lovers sleep beneath the stars. In the morning, the butterflies that had warmed and comforted Marianna during the night meld together into a magnificent shimmering gown. Upon awakening, she looks as radiant as a fiery opal.

Butterflies have always been important to me. They symbolize beauty, freedom and a touch of magic in the real world! Sadly, the monarch butterfly is at risk. The population has declined by an alarming rate of 90% over the past two decades.

The monarch’s annual migration goes from Canada to “wintering” in the mountain forests of Mexico. The long journey requires four generations of butterflies to complete one roundtrip.

During the breeding part of their migration, the only plant that the monarch caterpillar can eat is milkweed. In Mexico, tens of thousands of monarchs stay warm by clustering on trees.

Thousands of monarchs clustered on trees

Thousands of monarchs clustered on trees

Reasons for the monarch’s disappearance include: Loss of milkweed due to chemicals used in modern agriculture, climate change, land development, and deforestation from logging that destroys their natural habitat.

We can help save the monarch! To learn more about monarch conservation and butterfly gardens see monarchjointventure.org

The Feudal System/Labor Day

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From Les Très Riches Heures 15th c. French illuminated manuscript

Ten Fingers Touching takes place during the Middle Ages where life was hard under the feudal system. Nobles were granted land by the King in exchange for their loyalty and protection. Peasants worked for the lords, laboring in their fields. They were bound to the land, paid high rents and were beholden to the nobles who protected them. Peasants were also required to pay a tax in cash or in kind (e.g., seeds) to the church. They were poor, conditions were harsh and there were no laws to protect them.

Fast forward to the 19th century. Working conditions were dangerous, and the average laborer was underpaid and worked 10- 16 hours per day.  The eight-hour day was envisioned by Robert Owen, a Welsh-born social reformer who coined the  slogan: 8 hours labour, 8 hours recreation, 8 hours rest (1817).

One of the first companies to implement the 8-hour work day in the U.S. was the Ford Motor Company.  In 1914, Henry Ford cut the working day to 8 hours and also doubled the worker’s pay.  The auto company’s productivity, employee loyalty and profit margin soared.

We just celebrated Labor Day, a holiday that recognizes the social and economic achievements of American workers.  While proud of our unparalleled prosperity, let’s still be mindful of the inequalities in our workforce.

Women represent almost half the workers in the U.S., but they earn considerably less than men in almost every occupation. A woman makes 78 cents for every dollar earned by a man representing a 22 percent wage gap. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, “the poverty rate for working women would be cut in half if women were paid the same as comparable men.”