I don’t’ have to remind you what day it is. In its honor, for those who want to learn more, a great deal more, about Jewish Magic, check out this blog post about a fantastic exhibit on the subject at the Biblelands Museum in Jerusalem a few years back. I was lucky enough to see it and it gave me quite a lot of background to weave into ENCHANTRESS.
Here’s just a taste of the excellent, and lengthy, article. “Magic permeates our daily (Jewish) lives to such a degree that life without magic is close to impossible. An interesting fact is that most individuals are unaware that many items in their daily life and many daily actions and beliefs are magical in nature. Examples of this are endless: knocking on wood, tfu tfu tfu, Evil Eye , not naming a child before birth, the amuletic power of the mezuzah, red ribbon bracelet, khamsas, jinxes… These and many more practices have ancient sources. Some have lost their meaning even though they are still used, for example, the magical formula ABRACADABRA, has its roots in the 3rd century CE, and is continuously used even today.”
Where I first started studying Talmud over 20 years ago, I became determined to discover if the daughters of the great medieval Talmudic scholar Rashi were as learned as legends said. Eventually I found that not only were the legends indeed true, but that their lives, and the lives of other Jewish women in 11th-century France, were far better than I would have imagined for the Dark Ages. I was so impressed by all this evidence, information no one seemed to know about, that I decided to write a trilogy of historical novels, Rashi’s Daughters.
Why novels? One answer is that I’m not a rabbi or professional scholar with the credentials necessary for a history text. But the truth is that I was always a voracious reader of fiction, so I wrote the book I wanted to read. A bigger truth is that if an author wants to delve into history from a woman’s perspective, she has to write fiction.
Let’s face it – for most of human history, nobody recorded anything. Then, up until only the last thirty years or so, history was men writing about men for men. As the saying goes, “They don’t call it ‘his-story’ for nothing.”
I, like most female readers, prefer a female protagonist, one unlikely to be found in war stories, political thrillers, and tales of adventure on the high seas. Give me a heroine who wields the power behind the throne or is caught up in historic events from within her household. Better yet, show me how women lived back in the old days – how they fit into society, how they struggled with or accepted their communities’ strictures, how they managed to cook, clean, sew, and raise children without our modern conveniences.
And of course, I want a romantic hero who is worthy of my heroine’s affection.... Who would have imagined that sorcery was once such an honored and prestigious profession for women? This is where the historical novelist can really shine – by not only writing a fascinating story from a woman’s perspective, but by also uncovering a piece of previously ignored women’s history.
Check out my entire guest post at History from a Woman's Perspective
You may be wondering I’m on vacation or, Heaven forbid, too ill or otherwise occupied to post anything. The good news is that I’m on a 3-week Midwest book tour, speaking about the research behind ENCHANTRESS at a variety of Jewish venues in 5 states: Illinois [Chicago], Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia [Morgantown], and Pennsylvania [Pittsburgh]. As you can imagine, I don’t have much free time, particularly in a place where I can set up my laptop and write. I’m also in the middle of a 3-week blog tour, with reviews and guest posts on all sorts of book blogs. Check it out at the HFVBT website
But now it’s almost Shabbat, and I’m happily the guest of my longtime friend and Talmud teacher, Rabbi Benay Lappe. I’m pleased to read a very nice review from Life With Angie . Here’s an excerpt: “… the extraordinary story of a 3rd century Jewish mystic in Babylon. I suppose it is technically fantasy (or religious, depending on your point of view) because magical things happen, but it reads very much like historical fiction, and based on the author's website, it's very much rooted in history. The author, Maggie Anton, has studied the history of Judaism in depth and actually based the novel on true characters from the Talmud. I'm not Jewish and I know nothing about Jewish history or the Talmud, but I really enjoyed this work of fiction.”
I consider this high praise indeed.
Had a great interview with Blog Radio host Cyrus Webb today. Here's how to listen:
Short and sweet review by Mari Reads:
"I have absolutely loved reading this book. It was totally unexpected considering my lack of knowledge of the time period and Jewish history. Rav Hisda's daughter is so interesting and such a strong character even in a very male dominated time period. The book is filled with magic, demons and a golem. There are also some tales thrown in, Mishnahs, pertaining to Jewish law. It is a great mix of fiction, Jewish history and mysticism.
This is the second book in the series, but I never felt lost despite not having read the first book. Information is doled out in increments throughout the book to explain things that occurred in the previous book. It is a long book, but I never felt that is was too long. I also spent a lot of time looking up yiddish terms and names I was not familiar with. This may not be for some but I enjoyed it. I felt like I learned something. I always like that."
My answer to the question: Now that ENCHANTRESS is finished, have you started writing the next book?
As for "writing" novels, the terms "start" and "finish" are relative. After I 'finish' writing the first draft of a current novel, I move into editing mode, during which I also 'start' thinking about the next one, setting up the plot and imagining important scenes. Once I 'finish' the semi-final draft of the current novel, there's a gap of time while various others are editing it, during which I 'start' writing the next one.
This continues as I do several revisions until the first ms is truly 'finished' and ready to be printed. At that time I turn my complete writing attention to the next book, which will surely be interrupted by promoting the 'finished' novel.
Speaking of finished novels, the prestigious New York Jewish Week lists ENCHANTRESS among its roundup of 13 upcoming Fall fiction releases. Here's the link
CHAG SAMEACH. HAPPY SUKKOT [that's me 4th from the right, next to lady in blue]
Now that more and more people are wearing white for Yom Kippur, check out this article on Jewcy for Melissa Golman’s experience. I had the same problem last year [except for living in NYC] since I have nothing white in my wardrobe. So I was determined to find a cream or light beige outfit appropriate for my shul that didn't blow my budget.
I set up a search on Ebay [I prefer recycled clothes] and must have looked at, and rejected, hundreds of possibilities. It was just before Rosh Hashana, when I was about to give up, that two outfits caught my attention. One a minimally beaded cream skirt suit, very retro, perhaps worn once by a bride's mother, the other a light beige pants suit with subtle stripes. I checked the measurements and they matched mine [very important for Ebay], so I bid on both. To my amazement and delight, I won both and they fit perfectly once I shortened the sleeves & pant legs. I wore the fancy skirt suit to Kol Nidre and the comfortable pants suit on YK day. Mission finally accomplished [as long as I stay this size]. That's me on the left, my husband next to me.
I didn’t do a whole lot of publicity for APPRENTICE, the first Rav Hisda’s Daughter book, and later realized that most of my Rashi’s Daughters fans didn’t realize I had written a new series. I have learned my lesson for ENCHANTRESS, and not only took out big ads in Reform Judaism, Hadassah, Lilith, CJ Voices [Conservative Judaism] magazines, but also stepped up my social media. Almost nobody had blogs 10 years ago when my first novel was published, and now authors ignore these at their peril. As you have hopefully noticed, I’ve done a bunch of guest posts on various Jewish women’s blogs, as well as posted more often on my own blog.
I also signed up for something new: a blog tour of 20 historical fiction websites. Starting today – it’s Maggie Anton’s ENCHANTRESS Blog Tour via HFVBT [Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours], October 6-30. Reviews, interviews, guest posts, giveaways and more. Here is the HFVBT link.
Yom Kippur may be over, but it shouldn not be forgotten so quickly. With that in mind, I want to share a remarkable piece of writing from Elizabeth Gilbert’s SIGNATURE OF ALL THINGS – a historical novel I highly recommend.
“In all our lives, there are days that we wish we could see expunged from the record of our very existence. Perhaps we long for that erasure because a particular day brought us such splintering sorrow that we can scarcely bear to think of it ever again. Or we might wish to blot out an episode forever because we behaved so poorly on that day - we were mortifyingly selfish, or foolish to an extraordinary degree. Or perhaps we injured another person and wish to disremember the guilt. Tragically, there are some days in a lifetime when all three of those things happen at once - when we are heartbroken and foolish and unforgivably injurious to others, all at the same time.”
That, among other things, is what Yom Kippur is for.
To put you in a light-hearted mood for Yom Kippur, here's a shofar video that can't help but make you smile.
Gmar chatimah tova to all. Just in time for Yom Kippur, the Jewish Book Council has interviews with authors David Wolpe and Yael Unterman, as well as an article about Internal Dialogue: The Days of Awe. It also has, sound trumpets [or maybe shofarot], ENCHANTRESS at the top of its list of recommended reads. Here's the JBC link