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The Feudal System/Labor Day

Les_Très_Riches_Heures_du_duc_de_Berry_octobre_detail

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.”

Thoughts about Forests

Loki__s_Forest_by_lucias_tearsAlmost every fairy tale has a forest which plays a key role in the story. Typically located at the edge of towns, forests are depicted as hiding places, scary environments, sanctuaries, or enchanted lands filled with mystery and adventure.

In Ten Fingers Touching, Martak gains survival skills in the woods as well as the ability to speak to animals and to soar like an eagle. He is nurtured and groomed to become the Master of the Forest and to fulfill his destiny. In the two instances where an assassin attacks him, he is outside the protection of his forest home and refuge.

Forests cover one-third of all the land on Earth and we could not live without them. They absorb the carbon dioxide we exhale and produce the oxygen we breathe. They are habitats for animals and nearly half of all known species. They provide natural medicines and remove air pollutants. They serve as watersheds catching rainfall and funneling it into streams and rivers.

Forests are beautiful and inspiring. Their magic is real and with us every day as they promote a healthy ecosystem and biodiversity. Yet “some 46-58 million square miles of forest are lost each year―equivalent to 48 football fields every minute,” according to the World Wildlife Fund.

Forests are among the natural world’s greatest miracles and essential for life on our planet.  Thank you, Mother Nature!

Cecil & The Lion King

aaron-blaise-cecil-the-lion-kingAs a tribute to Cecil, the magnificent lion who was senselessly killed in Zimbabwe by a hunter who lured him out of a wildlife preserve, I wanted to say a few words about The Lion King.  Both a magical animated film and my favorite musical,  The Lion King was released by Walt Disney Pictures in 1994 and the musical debuted in 1997.  As reported by Playbill, “it is the top-earning title in box-office history for both stage productions and films, according to the Associated Press.”

The Lion King is the story of Simba, a young lion who is tricked by his wicked uncle into believing he is responsible for his father’s death.  In shame, Simba flees the Pride Lands but later returns to defeat his uncle and become king.

As children, we are all taught that the lion is the king of the jungle, a fierce, majestic creature to be revered and respected.  There is a lion in Ten Fingers Touching and at the end of the story he proudly carries Marianna on his back to the harbor.

The extensive outrage over the brutal death of Cecil is understandable.  Pictured is a tribute portrait of him by Aaron Blaise, one of the animators of The Lion King.

Castles

Neuschwanstein Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle

Castles feature prominently in fairy tales. Just think of the residences of Beauty’s beast, Cinderella’s Prince, the jealous queen in Snow White and Sleeping Beauty’s resting place. The Castle Neuschwanstein in Germany (left) was the inspiration for Disney’s Magic Kingdom.

There are two contrasting castles in Ten Fingers Touching. One belongs to the royal family and the other to an evil knight.

Medieval castles were typically built on high ground. They were designed for protection, military operations and served as symbols of power for the nobility. Castles eventually became obsolete as defensive structures in time of war (16th c.), when gunpowder allowed cannons to blow through stone walls.

Magic Kingdom

Magic Kingdom

While castles in the Middle Ages were damp, dark and drafty, today they are popular places to visit. Castle tours and romantic castle hotels are available throughout Europe.

Speaking of traveling, I am thrilled that the Fairytale Traveler just published a glowing review of Ten Fingers Touching and declared it her “good read” pick of the month. Click here to read.

Inspiration

Princess Rosy

Where does inspiration come from?

One of the main characters in Ten Fingers Touching is Princess Rosy.  She is a charming but headstrong child.

The Princess is described as having a round face and a head full of curly, chestnut-brown hair with long locks that cascade down her back.  She doesn’t enjoy her school lessons but rather prefers music, theatrics and exploring the world on her own terms.  While lovable, the Princess’ independent spirit and impetuous nature often get her into trouble.

Charlotte, who passed away 7 years ago at the age of 81

Charlotte, who passed away 7 years ago at the age of 81

Illustrator, John Blumen, created the image of the Princess that appears on the top left.  When I first saw the picture, I was shocked at how much the illustration of Rosy, age 7,  resembled the portrait of my mother, Charlotte, at age 11!  It also struck me that Rosy embodied not only my mother’s beauty but her forceful personality as well!

Sometimes inspiration is obvious, sometimes it’s not.  It seems clear to me in retrospect that the Princess was subconsciously based on my mother’s appearance and attributes even though at the time I was not aware of the connection!

John Blumen

blumen2I’ve been asked many times how I met John Blumen, who so beautifully illustrated Ten Fingers Touching and brought the characters to life. John is a master illustrator and I located him on the website of the Pittsburgh Society of Illustrators.  John’s magnificent digital art work combines realism, imagination and attention to details, along with the dramatic use of light and color.  The elegant illustration on the left has a fairy tale quality and it is the one that inspired me to contact him.

John and I worked closely on the illustrations in my book. He would initially draft an image and then we discussed it in great depth. After sharing ideas, he revised the image to incorporate my suggestions for changes. We went through this process multiple times for the cover and the pictures. But there were two instances when I loved his images so much that I tweaked the text to conform to the illustrations! It was a wonderful collaborative process and I am so grateful for his talent.

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.’”

Kindle Version Now Available!

Attachment-1Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” My recent presentation at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh focused on fairy tales and why they appeal to an adult’s imagination. There are many reasons but perhaps what makes fairy tales such powerful stories for adults is that they give us hope and inspire us to believe in happy endings!

I’m also pleased to announce that the Kindle version of Ten Fingers Touching is now available, along with the hardback and soft cover versions. See Amazon.com

Many thanks to all who joined me at The Carnegie Library. Congratulations to raffle winners Donna Perkins, who won the box of Godiva Chocolates donated by Godiva Chocolatier, and Rochel Tombosky, who won the heart necklace donated by Goldstock Jewelers.

Fairy Tale Trivia Questions!

fantasy oblects (3)Fairy tales have been transformed over the years.
Following are three trivia questions based on the original stories.

1) In Sleeping Beauty by Charles Perrault, after the Princess was awakened by the Prince and they married, why did the Prince keep his marriage a secret from his mother?
2) What is the original source material for Disney’s animated feature film, Frozen?
3) In Leprince de Beaumont’s Beauty and the Beast, what did Beauty’s father do that compelled her to live in the Beast’s castle?

Answers:
1) She was an ogress by birth, had a bad temper and hated surprises.  Her wickedness shows when the Prince becomes King and goes off to war leaving his family behind and in peril.
2) Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen.
3) With good intentions, he plucked a rose from the Beast’s garden to give to Beauty but the Beast claimed he had stolen the rose because it was taken without
permission.  To prevent her father from being killed by the Beast, Beauty offers to sacrifice her life and live with him.

For more thoughts about the origins of fairy tales and their appeal for adults, please join me at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh in Squirrel Hill on Thursday, May 7, 2015 from 6:00 pm – 7:45 pm.
Click here for more information.

Upcoming Talk in Pittsburgh

book photoI’ve been asked many times what was the inspiration for Ten Fingers Touching.

As a child, I loved fairy tales and spent countless hours reading and dreaming.  Fairy tales sweep you out of the present and transport you into magical worlds of fantasy and imagination.

As an adult, I wanted to write a multilayered romantic escape where grown-ups could lose themselves in an imaginary place with the same pleasure they derived from reading fairy tales in their youths.  I also wanted to take a woman back to that special time in her life when she encountered her first romantic relationship.

Answers to more questions can be found here at BookTrib.

My next talk focuses on the resurgence of interest in fairy tales and their appeal for adults. Please join me at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh in Squirrel Hill on Thursday, May 7, 2015 from 6:00 pm – 7:45 pm.
Click here for more information.

In anticipation of Mother’s Day, you might enjoy bringing your mother, daughter, aunt or a special friend!

Book Signing Event

Ellen Roth Cover (4)I’m having a book signing event at the Pitt Book Store on Wednesday, March 18, 2015, from  12:00 noon to 1 p.m.

My talk will be brief and lively focusing on what inspired Ten Fingers Touching and my collaboration with Steve Fine, editor, who is an instructor in the English Department at the University of Pittsburgh, and John Blumen, the master illustrator who hails from Brentwood.

The Pitt Book Store, now known as The University Store on Fifth, is located at 4000 Fifth Avenue in Oakland between University Place and Thackeray Ave.

Please join me for an hour that promises to be fun or just stop in for a few minutes!  It would be great to see you!