Guest Post: Being Intentional About the Objects in Your Story by Thushanthi Ponweera

Today, I have a guest post from Thushanthi Ponweera about her story I am Kavi, a novel-in-verse. Please check out what this book is about and stay for the guest post about being intentional.

Synopsis of the book:

In 1998’s Colombo, the Sri Lankan Civil War is raging, but everyday life must go on. At Kavi’s school, her friends talk about the Backstreet Boys, Shahrukh Khan, Leo & Kate… and who died—or didn’t—in the latest bombing. But Kavi is afraid of something even scarier than war. She fears that if her friends discover her secret—that she is not who she is pretending to be—they’ll stop talking to her. In an effort to fit in with her wealthy, glittering, and self-assured new classmates, Kavi begins telling lies, trading her old life—where she’s a poor girl whose mother has chosen a new husband over her daughter—for a new one, where she’s rich, loved, and wanted. But how long can you pretend to be someone else?

Doesn’t this sound fantastic? Please welcome Thushanthi Ponweera:

I first learned about being intentional about the objects and elements you write about in your story from Linda Sue Park at an online webinar. It was a new concept to me. I had already heard about not using too many secondary characters and about evaluating how much of a “main” character a main character is, but had I thought about all the background stuff? No. But after learning this nugget of wisdom, I started to think about it.

The basic idea is that everything you introduce to the reader has to have a purpose. I started combing through my draft of I Am Kavi with this in mind. The very first lines are about Jasmine flowers.

The Jasmine flowers glow incandescent
as they always do
eagerly looking for my outstretched hands.

So now I knew I had to weave in Jasmine flowers throughout the story. I started looking for places I could insert them in a meaningful way. At the beginning of the book Kavi is at home in the village of Anuradhapura. Plucking Jasmine flowers is the first thing she does each morning so that she can place them at the little altar of Lord Buddha in her house whom she worships daily. About one third into the story, she moves to Colombo and is obviously homesick. Yes!

Here was another place I could mention Jasmine, which had now become an important part of her life back home.

My nose is lonely.
It misses the sweet scent of Jasmine.

Of course, as she gets drawn into city life and is distracted by all the changes, her life back home – and with it the Jasmine flowers — is forgotten. It’s not till she’s back there in the last quarter of the book that I’m able to mention Jasmine again. This hopefully works as a signal to the reader and brings to life Kavi’s home and village setting. That was my intention!

The Jasmine blooms dot the darkness,
bright white on inky black,
their scent stronger than ever.

I’ve used other elements this way in the book too: the statue of Lord Buddha, a Kohomba tree, a bus, the temple, the full moon. When you are reading my book –and I really hope you do — keep an eye out for these and see if the repeated appearances help create stronger images and emotions. If it does, then I’ve been successful. And perhaps it will convince you to try it out in your next draft!

Thank you, Thushanthi Ponweera, for sharing these writing tips with us.

About the Author:

Thushanthi Ponweera is an author and poet from Sri Lanka. Before daring to follow her dream of being published, she was a marketing specialist and entrepreneur. Her writing reflects the frustration she feels at the inequality and injustice she sees around her and the deep love she has for her island home. Thushanthi recently moved to Qatar with her husband and two children. I Am Kavi is her first novel.

Guest Post: Heal Your Spirit with Poetry (and a Cup of Coffee) in 30 Seconds by Xueyan

Welcome to today’s guest post from Xueyan, author of the poetry collection Time Peels All to Original White.

Book Synopsis:

Xueyan, the young poet who explores the infinite will in her own free soul, forcefully expresses her original and powerful vision in ways that reinvent traditional concepts of spirituality and common culture.

With modern settings and contemporary language, topics include the sacred and eternal, the nature of God, the existence of evil, the brutality of capitalism, the loneliness of existence, the ecstasy of intimacy, and the ubiquitous reach of love.

The collection’s 139 concise and deeply spiritual poems lay bare humanity’s most jarring mysteries and contradictions, exposing their raw essence with startling simplicity in ways that transcend borders, cultures, races, and beliefs.

Please welcome Xueyan today as she shares with us the healing power of poetry:

A good poem is like a nice cup of coffee: the liquid may stay on your taste buds for a short time, but it can refresh your spirit for a long time. As a poet who enjoys writing sharp lines, I think reading poetry and drinking coffee together is a perfect combination of spiritual and physical pleasures.

There is a classic question that is asked throughout the ages and still there is no single answer to which everyone agrees: Is life beautiful?

Is life beautiful? Looking around the world, there is chaos, there is cruelty, there is crying. However, I still believe life is beautiful because I believe in the cleansing power of the heart. Even if you inhale hate and gloom, if you have a clean heart, you will exhale love and light.

In my own way, I’d love to offer 3 hacks for experiencing life’s healing beauty.

Let your imagination release hidden possibilities and care for overlooked things

As a poet, I enjoy depicting the elements of the universe in my own way, instead of searching for scientific explanations through those complex formulas filling science books as thick as bricks.

How to depict fog? Scientists probably would cite a list of data about water and temperature and the chemistry between them, but I would depict fog in a mysterious way.


Woods longing for water

Dewy dreams twine slumberland

How to depict the night sky? I am not fully aware of the theories of Galileo and Bruno and their illustrious successors. When I was a kid, for my breakfast, my mother would drop a yummy poached egg over hot tomato noodles. I enjoyed that dish so much, I decided to compare the night sky to a yummy egg.

Night Sky Is a Dark Egg

Yolk is shining

Whites are floating

Moon and cloud

The navel is probably the most overlooked part of our bodies; we care about our hair and our nails, we dye them with different colors. Nobody cares about the poor navel, regardless of the global truth that the umbilical cord nourished us when we were in our mother’s womb. As a poet, I want to sing an ode to the navel.

Soul and Star

Stars shoot into our bodies and become souls

Navels are meteorite craters

Embrace dark memories and transcend them into poetry

How can we know light without experiencing darkness? Do I have dark memories? If the phrase “dark memories” refers to suffering from war or famine, then I should feel lucky and say I don’t have dark memories. But if the phrase “dark memories” refers to sorrows which evoke tears, then I can share a little story of mine.

When I was a kid, I walked to primary school every day and, on the way, there was a small garbage station. One day after school, as I was walking past the garbage station as usual, I heard plaintive-like yelping emanating from a paper box lying just outside the station. I was attracted by the cream-in-milk doggie sounds and I wanted to take a look. I approached the box and discovered a little yellow puppy huddling inside. Feeling pity for this poor thing, I decided to carry it home and take care of it. With my mother’s permission, I put a blanket on the balcony to settle the puppy and fed it some bread and milk. I still vividly recall how its furry little head brushed against my palm and how happy it was when it rolled on the blanket.

I named this puppy 金子 (JinZi), meaning Little Gold; even though I picked it from a trash station, to me it was as precious as gold. The next morning, I fed it more food, then went to school as usual. While in class, I thought about JinZi and I planned to take her to the park on the weekend to stroll. After school, I went to supermarket to buy some bacon for the puppy; the money I spent on bacon was the money I had saved to buy books.

I hurried home only to discover that JinZi, my little puppy, was gone. My mother told me that my father sent JinZi away because he was worried that the puppy would bite and bark. I cried, begging my father to tell me where he had sent JinZi, but my father refused to answer me. From then on, every time I passed by the garbage station, I would stop for a while, hoping the little yellow puppy, my JinZi, would be there waiting for me…

Even though, since then, so much time has flashed by, whenever I think about this poor little lovely creature… my heart still sinks, I grow a little sad. Here is a poem of mine which I think expresses the “bitter beauty” of dark memories… I embrace my dark memories and transcend them into poetry…

My Eyes Are Big Yet Small

Though my eyes can hold infinity

They cannot hold your tears

Awaken your inner poet by breathing with a clean heart

Is it easy to write poetry? If the only poems that can qualify as poetry are those as long as Shakespeare’s or Goethe’s, then I think such a judgment would limit the vitality of poetry.

I once wrote that “Poetry is the breath of the heart”; if your heart is as clear as crystal, then the words that your heart exhales are poetry…

For example, when I wrote my poem Angel, I imagined the dim reflection of the profile of an angel shining on a moonlight crystal…Rose blossoms with tearful yearning for pure love as starlight feathers fall from heaven…


Your sigh

Makes the moon rises

My poem is short, but if the hearts of readers are touched by it, then I think it is good poetry. In my opinion, good poetry should be like a lightning sword of the highest purity diamond.

To experience life’s healing beauty and to express it in the form of poetry is like breathing with a crystal-clear heart and letting words of love and light exhale from your heart as simply as watching wine overflowing from the holy cup when it is full…

Thank you, Xueyan, for sharing your poems and your insight.

About the Poet:

Xueyan lives in China. Her poems have been published in Ginosko Literary Journal and the Bangalore Review.

Guest Post, Giveaway & Excerpt: Spells & Shadows by Victoria Kincaid

Welcome to today’s guest post and excerpt from Victoria Kincaid, author of the new Pride & Prejudice fantasy Spells & Shadows. I love when our romantic pair are thrust into completely new situations.

Let’s check out this novel.

About the Book:

As a secret agent for the Mages’ Council, Mr. Darcy investigates a necromancer who is leading his followers down a dark path. When they discover him, a fight and a chase drive Darcy—injured and close to death—into the river. He is rescued and healed by Elizabeth, a talented mage at the Longbourn estate. Darcy cannot help developing feelings for her, but he dares not reveal his true identity while the necromancer’s creatures search for him.

Elizabeth Bennet is intrigued by the family’s new guest as he recovers at Longbourn. But mystery surrounds the man, and strange happenings plague the neighborhood while he visits. Elizabeth herself harbors a secret that she cannot share with the handsome stranger.

When Darcy’s enemies come calling, the Bennet family is caught in the crossfire. Worse, Elizabeth’s magic draws the necromancer’s particular interest. Darcy is falling in love with her and believes she returns his feelings, but the secret of his true identity could destroy their budding relationship—if they survive the upcoming danger.

Can Elizabeth and Darcy protect themselves and their families from the necromancer’s plots? What will happen when learn each other’s secrets? Can Elizabeth and Darcy’s love survive when it is entangled in a web of secrets, spells, and shadows?

Let’s check out the excerpt:

Hello Serena! Thank you for having me as a guest at your blog. It’s a pleasure to be back. In Spells and Shadows, a fantasy Pride and Prejudice variation, an injured Darcy has been rescued from the river and Elizabeth has been using her magic to heal him. Because he is a secret agent, Darcy conceals his identity from her. After her first conversation with Longbourn’s new guest, Elizabeth tells her family what she learned from him.

Elizabeth shut the door to Mr. Dee’s room and descended the stairs to the blue sitting room which was full of Bennet family members. Everyone glanced up when she entered.

“I heard your voice. Is our mysterious guest awake?” her father inquired.

“He was awake enough to answer some questions,” Elizabeth responded. “And he drank some water, but he is sleeping again.”

“Is he civil?” Jane asked.

“Is he married?” Lydia asked.

“Is he wealthy?” her mother asked.

Elizabeth laughed. “Yes he is civil. He did not mention a wife. And I did not think to inquire about the exact amount of his family’s fortune, but they are wool merchants with a house in town.”

“In trade?” Elizabeth’s sister Mary wrinkled her nose.

“Pssh! Who cares where the money comes from?” her mother said. “Wool….” She sighed. “Everyone needs wool. A wool merchant would do very well for one of you.”

“Mama, men who have been rescued from the river are not necessarily in want of a wife,” Elizabeth noted.

Her mother only jabbed her embroidery more energetically. “We must not waste such an
opportunity! He might take a liking to one of you girls.”

“He has requested that we tell no-one of his whereabouts,” Elizabeth told her father.

“Ooo! Perhaps he is an escaped prisoner!” Kitty said, sounding quite excited at the prospect. She read a lot of novels.

“I do not believe prisoners customarily wear such fine clothing,” Elizabeth said.

“A French soldier in hiding?” Kitty guessed.

“He has no accent,” Elizabeth said.

“A viscount who is secretly also a highwayman!”

“They are not as plentiful as you have been led to believe,” Elizabeth said with a smile.

“Perhaps he is—” Kitty started.

“Perhaps he is a wool merchant, and we should not let our imaginations run wild,” Elizabeth said firmly.

“His desire for secrecy is quite interesting,” her father remarked. “I was in Clark’s book shop today when a stranger inquired if anyone had reported a body washing up along the river. He said his brother had fallen in the river near Luton.”

“Surely it cannot be the same man,” Jane exclaimed. “Mr. Dee could not have floated all the way from Luton.” Elizabeth said nothing.

Her father shrugged. “I agree it is improbable. But it is almost equally improbable to fish a stranger from the river at the same moment someone is seeking another fellow.”

“You did not say anything about Mr. Dee?” Elizabeth asked anxiously.

Her father snorted. “I would not share any news with Clark that I would not care to have spread about the entire county. A strange man staying in my house with my five unmarried daughters is not such a thing.”

“Perhaps Mr. Dee’s family is searching for him,” Jane said, her forehead creased with

Elizabeth shook her head. “Mr. Dee knows how to contact his family. We should not reveal anything without consulting him.”

“I agree. Mr. Dee should decide who knows his whereabouts. He may have reason to be careful. Perhaps they are waging a vicious war with the cotton merchants.” Her father laughed at his own joke.

“Perhaps he is a viscount disguised as a wool merchant!” Kitty suggested.

“Whatever else he is, we know he is an injured man who needs to recover his strength,” Elizabeth said. “We must leave him in peace to do so.”

“Can’t I at least tell Maria Lucas?” Lydia inquired. “’Tis the most interesting thing that has happened in months! I will swear her to secrecy.”

Her father fixed her with a stern gaze. “No, you may not.”

Lydia huffed and rolled her eyes. “Very well. I will add it to the list of subjects I may not speak about.”

“I don’t know why you bother befriending anyone in Meryton,” Mary said with a sniff.

“They are quite unpleasant.”

“I don’t know why I bother either,” Lydia whined. “Nobody likes us.” She stood and flounced out of the room.

Of the five sisters, Lydia suffered the most from Longbourn’s relative isolation from the rest of Hertfordshire. Mary spent her time with religious books, and Kitty was absorbed in novels. Jane and Elizabeth spent much time honing their magical skills. But Lydia longed to be just like all the other girls in the neighborhood, and their mother indulged those desires. The Lucases at least would allow their daughters to socialize with the Bennet girls; Lydia took full advantage of those privileges.

Kitty shrugged. “They are pleased with us when they have need of our assistance.” She
returned to her novel.

Sadly, this was true. How many times had Jane helped farmers with flooded fields or prevented someone’s house from being swept away? The people of Meryton never hesitated to call upon Kitty when a wildfire threatened houses or crops. And Elizabeth had healed many people in the neighborhood.

Yet their talents set them apart. Mancy was rare outside London, but it was rampant in the Bennet family. When they walked into Meryton, people stared and spoke behind their hands. They even made signs to avert the evil eye.

Papa compounded the problem. He never particularly cared about the neighbors’ opinions and at times relished his reputation for eccentricity. At public occasions, he would tell odd jokes without any concern about how it might affect the family name. Her mother frequently lamented that no man in the neighborhood would ever consider courting a Bennet girl.

Mary often said the townspeople did not deserve their help if they ostracized the family. Elizabeth understood her sister’s frustration, but she would never refuse someone in need. Mary closed her book of sermons and turned to their father. “If we always help them in their time of need, we should at least collect money for our services.”

Her father sighed. “We have no need to rehearse that argument. We are not in trade.” He stood and ambled toward the door. “Lizzy, I will be in my study should our guest wish to speak with me.”

Now, doesn’t that sound like a great premise for a story. I think so. I hope you’ll check out the novel.

About the Author:

The author of more than sixteen best-selling Regency and modern Pride and Prejudice variations, Victoria Kincaid has a Ph.D. in English literature and runs a small business, er, household with two children, a hyperactive dog, an overly affectionate cat, and a husband who is not threatened by Mr. Darcy. They live near Washington, D.C., where the inhabitants occasionally stop talking about politics long enough to complain about the traffic.

On weekdays Victoria is a writer who specializes in IT marketing (it’s more interesting than it sounds). She is a member of the Magical Austen authors group and is the host of the annual Jane Austen Fan Fiction Reader/Writer Get Together.

ENTER to WIN 1 E-book, Spells & Shadows, below with your email and comment. Open until Aug. 4, 2023.

Excerpt & Giveaway: Doubt Not, Cousin by Barry S. Richman

I love Jane Austen stories that involve the cousins — Colonel Fitzwilliam and Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy. They have such different backgrounds, and it always seems as though the Colonel is lively and happy. I am eager to see what Richman tackles in this novel.

Before we get to the excerpt, let’s check out the synopsis and an excerpt. Stay for the giveaway.

Book Synopsis:

Darkness, in many forms, must be conquered to emerge into the light and embrace one’s happily ever after.

Fitzwilliam Darcy. Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam. Two cousins, closer than brothers. One finds love despite his inner demons; the other resists love because of them.

Elizabeth Bennet. Kitty Bennet. Two sisters, strengthened by adversity. One willingly yields to love; the other pridefully misinterprets it.

An epic saga steeped in intrigue and gift-wrapped in romance, Doubt Not, Cousin chronicles the trials and tribulations of three extraordinary families during England’s Regency era.

… But who is the girl with the violet eyes?

Today’s excerpt:

Thank you, Serena, for hosting me today. The overwhelming interest in Doubt Not,
is incredible. I knew as I was writing that the characters and themes would be different and hopefully interesting. The following is an example of such. DNC has influences from several authors I have read throughout the years. The characterization of Col Fitzwilliam’s health issues stems from Stieg Larsson’s Millenium series. He presented a character, Randall Neiderman, who could feel no pain.

Congenital analgesia or congenital insensitivity to pain (CIP) is an extraordinarily rare condition in which a person cannot feel or has never felt physical pain. Because feeling physical pain is vital for survival, CIP is extremely dangerous. Without going into the physiological reasons, the pertinent subject is the two types of non-responses to pain: insensitivity and indifference. Master Richard Fitzwilliam is of the latter, as our readers shall see …


“Mr. Burton.”

A wiry man walked with purpose across the parlor, his posture ramrod straight. His arms hung at his sides—his right hand empty, his left carrying a black leather medical satchel. His light hair was short, and gold-framed spectacles were perched upon his patrician nose. He had been raised a gentleman and was comfortable in the current setting. He paused and waited for the aristocratic couple to take notice of him. Once the niceties had been completed, a young redheaded nurse entered the room and delivered her charge to the surgeon. He appeared quite comfortable as he briefly communicated with the child. She seemed reluctant to leave. The medico regarded her with kindness.

“He will be well, I assure you.”

Nurse curtsied and departed. The earl and the countess stood.

“If possible, I would like for you to remain. It reduces speculation.”

The earl and the countess returned to their chairs, unsure of what to say. The surgeon began his examination. He sat Richard upon a coffee table and opened his bag.

At first, the evaluation mirrored those made by the other London physicians. Seeing that, the earl and countess prepared themselves to accept another wasted afternoon. Yet, after measuring, weighing, and handling the child, this surgeon deviated from evaluations conducted in the past. He spent a considerable amount of time looking at and touching the boy’s tongue. He compared it to his upper and lower teeth repeatedly.

He used a set of calipers to measure the length and depth of each furrow. He opened a journal and made precise, miniature drawings of the scars. He showed them to his patient as he completed each one and asked for his opinion. The two exchanged whispers. At one point, the surgeon inclined his head; the boy nodded several times. They recommenced whispering, their heads nearly touching. The earl and the countess looked on in wonder, exchanging glances between themselves.

The surgeon next sat the child on a settee. From his bag, he removed a small jar containing clear fluid and thin needles. He set this on the side table next to the boy who watched the surgeon dispassionately.

“The best Damascene steel sewing needles in neutral spirits,” offered the surgeon to the couple. The earl’s eyebrows neared the top of his forehead.

Mr. Burton knelt until he was at eye level with his patient. The boy’s parents watched him whisper to their son and receive the same in return. The surgeon removed
a large black cloth, reassured the child all would be well, and blindfolded him. Opening the jar, the surgeon removed a needle and scratched it down each bare leg without breaking the skin. A pink trail remained. The patient displayed no reaction.

The surgeon next removed the child’s shoe and stocking. He grasped a bare foot in his hand. He leaned over and whispered again into his patient’s ear. Richard nodded back in return. He removed another needle, then looked at the countess briefly. She blinked. He pushed the needle deep into the child’s heel. The boy moved his head down as if looking at his foot through the mask but made no sound. The surgeon carefully eased the needle out and checked the heel for blood. He found none. He removed the blindfold, replaced the boy’s stocking and shoe, and congratulated young Richard on his bravery. The child looked up at Burton and smiled.

The earl was doubly stunned, both by the ordeal he had assumed his son had undergone and equally so by Richard’s reaction. He looked at the countess, who had her right hand over her mouth; her left gripped the sofa’s arm. Her expression showed her agony, and her eyes were filled with tears. She reached out to her husband for comfort. The earl encompassed her trembling hand.

Mr. Burton bowed to the earl. His examination was complete, but he remained silent.

Matlock called the butler into the room. “See that Richard is served his favorite treat.

He has done very well—very well, indeed.”

“Yes, my lord.” Smythe closed the door. A few moments later, Richard’s young nurse entered and swept up her charge, humming a melodic Irish ballad. Richard’s little arms wound around her neck. The door closed, and silence again settled in the room.

The earl put the question to Burton, not arrogantly but in a quiet, hopeful manner. “Well?”

“I shall require time to conduct some rather specific research. For now, I can extend a hypothesis.”

“Please do.”

“Your son does not feel physical sensations like others. This is clear in his minute reaction to painful stimuli.”

The surgeon nodded to the couple to ensure their understanding. They both replied in kind.

“There is more evidence as seen by the scarring on his tongue. The teeth marks match his inner mouth shape. I conjecture he chewed his tongue while teething. I speculate his weight loss, coupled with his failure to demand to feed, also stems from this high, or in my opinion, indifferent pain threshold. His diminished response to pain concerns me.” Burton gestured with his forefinger in the air. “He must be taught that blunt trauma is a danger to him. Pain is our body’s warning mechanism. Your son, as he grows, will not acknowledge the everyday bumps and bruises children encounter while playing.”

“Pray continue,” directed the countess, her focus on the surgeon.

“I should like to spend more time with the young master in his familiar environment. Together, we shall develop a protocol for him to self-assess throughout the day. We desire to prevent smaller incidents from growing into larger injuries. The French have a name for this protocol.”

The earl curled his lip curl in disgust. “Odious lot. You have my permission to speak the words, sir, as this is your area of expertise. What is this practice you are describing?”

“The French use the word ‘triage.’ We shall instruct the young lord to continuously self-triage throughout the day. It will become second nature to him.”

The earl nodded.

The surgeon continued. “I would also recommend that family and staff begin the courtesy of requesting physical contact rather than initiating it.”

“Even his mother?” the countess blurted, then covered her mouth with her hand.

“I believe individual family members will find a happy balance.” The surgeon returned the countess’s smile.

She continued. “Is this indifference to pain related to his slow development to speak?”

“I believe not, your ladyship.”

“What prompts this opinion?” she inquired.

“Your son Richard, if I may, is not reticent to express an opinion or an observation in the short time we have spent together. He chooses when to speak and how much. As time passes, he will become more comfortable and, therefore, will speak more. He is aware that the scarring on his tongue delays, but does not prohibit, speaking normally.

What that manner is, only time will tell. He is alert, bright, and strong—quite strong. He will adapt.”

The countess relaxed, a slight smile playing around her mouth.

The earl stood. “Burton, see my man of business today. We welcome you as a Matlock retainer.”

“Yes, Mr. Burton. You have lightened my heart. Please join the earldom,” invited the

Burton nodded his assent. “Thank you, your lordship, your ladyship. I shall.”

“Smythe.” Again, the Matlock butler entered the study. “See to Mr. Burton’s comfort and requests.” Burton bowed and exited the study. Lord Matlock resumed his place.

The earl looked at his wife and opened his arms. She nestled in, laid her head on his shoulder, and succumbed to his embrace. Together, like their youngest son, they sat in silence.

About the Author:

Barry S. Richman is a military veteran and corporate logistics professional. While he was recuperating at home after having his wisdom teeth extracted in 2003, he picked up a copy of Pride and Prejudice and has yet to put it down.

In the past twenty years, he has read thousands of Pride and Prejudice variations. Watching him complete a book every other day, his wife of thirty years suggested he write one. Doubt Not, Cousin is his first book.

Barry and his “Jane Bennet” live in Los Angeles and Alaçatı, a small seaside town in southwestern Turkey. Follow him on Facebook, Instagram, GoodReads, Amazon, and YouTube.


Meryton Press will give away one eBook of Doubt Not, Cousin per blog stop.

The giveaway is international.

To enter, leave a comment with viable email to be entered by July 28 at 11:59 p.m.

Follow the rest of the blog tour:

Guest Post: The Value of Social Emotional Learning (SEL) in the Wake of the Pandemic by Laura Shovan

Today, we have a guest post from Laura Shovan regarding social emotional learning in the wake of the pandemic. Shovan is the author of Welcome to Monsterville. Before we get to her guest post, let’s learn more about her new poetry book to help young readers with their emotions.

Please welcome Laura Shovan:

I don’t remember when I began transcribing quotes about writing and creativity onto index cards. Long enough ago that I now have my own, customized version of a Page-a-Day desk calendar, hold the cat trivia. (If you’re curious, I often post the cards on my Instagram account.)

Some of the quotes are from colleagues: “A poem returns us to curiosity,” according to Steven
Leyva, who became editor of the journal Little Patuxent Review when I stepped down. Some are reminders that, as poets, our greatest tool is observation: “Let us come alive to the splendor that is all around us and see the beauty in ordinary things,” said theologian and poet Thomas Merton.

Today, the card on the top of my deck is from writer Bonnie Friedman. “You might begin by trusting what your own psyche is telling you, the shapes and images and emblems that flash up.

They may point to a larger truth,” she writes in her essay “What Happens When I Don’t Understand My Own Novel? Bonnie Friedman on Taking Clues From Your Own Manuscript.”

Trusting your own psyche. That’s the stuff of social emotional learning.

The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) defines SEL as “the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes” to do such things as develop a healthy sense of self, demonstrate empathy toward others, and manage emotions. Poetry has always been part of my SEL toolbox. Writing was how I processed experiences as a child. I recorded events, observations, and emotions in order to understand and manage them. That is still part of my writing practice today.

But what happens when that processing gets weird? When, as Friedman says, unexpected shapes flash up? Over time, I’ve learned to trust “Where did that come from?” moments, to follow them into the forest and see where they lead.

A few years ago, poet and avid bicyclist Michael Ratcliffe pulled ten words from an article about Maryland’s Bicycle Master Plan. The challenge: incorporate the words into a poem. The words were: around, bicycle, conceive, detail, exercise, four, grants, huge, interest, and juggling. While my initial draft was focused on squeezing in the vocabulary Mike had selected, a compelling emblem flashed across the opening lines:

I was conceived on a bicycle—
two people riding naked
around midnight, four limbs
juggling for balance.

If I followed that strange image, what might I learn? After many drafts, here is the published
poem, as it appears on Unfortunately Lit Mag’s website.

Alternative Facts

I was conceived on a bicycle,
two unclothed human forms
riding at midnight,
four limbs juggling for balance.
The heat was huge that summer.
Tomato plants reached green fingers
out of their cages, ready to sprout arms
and drag themselves away.

There was a crash: my parents,
the bike, a row of unripe tomatoes.
Seeds and spokes broke
across the roadside. Imagine
These two young people stand up,
brush leaves from their knees,
restart that naked bike ride,
pedals pumping. Watch them
sink into the dark
while I slip away with the truth.

Underneath the nudity, awkward sex, and squashed tomatoes, this poem is about truth and lies. For me, it speaks to growing up with parents who mythologized our family life. The couple in the poem work together, spinning a fable where they create a happy family that doesn’t actually exist. The narrator who escapes at the poem’s conclusion is me—the child who views the facts of this family’s origins with a sense of clarity.

My latest collection of poems, Welcome to Monsterville, would not have been written without trusting not only my own psyche, but my collaborator’s as well.

My dear friend, the late poet and activist Michael Rothenberg, was unable to write. It was 2020 and he was in a state of deep grief after the death of his only child. The only creative outlet where he found solace was art therapy. Michael’s abstract illustrations were all “shapes and images and emblems.” That changed the day he sent me a drawing of a blue-jean colored, bulbous, bubble-blowing creature. To brighten Michael’s day, I wrote a poem about the monster, made a voice recording, and sent it back.

Over the next several months, the monster drawings kept coming. Through the poems I wrote in response, Michael felt I was doing something he could not—at least not in that moment. I was translating what his psyche, what those monsters, were trying to express.

With Michael’s whimsical, strange creatures as prompts, I had no choice but to let go and trust the images (and sometimes, even the nonsense words) that emerged as I was writing. As a result, the creatures in Welcome to Monsterville speak to outsized emotions. A monster called “Bubblegum Head” has an epic tantrum. A trio of rooster-like monsters terrorize a chicken coop until their true nature is recognized. The poems explore self-love, empathy, and grief.

Perhaps it was this monster’s third eye that led me down the path to a poem. The mountains there show up in the first line. And there was something about the compression in this image—most of Michael’s other monsters have arms, legs, tails—that spoke to solitude.

This was one of those rare poems that arrived on the page in its finished form.

The Monster of Costavablink

High on a mountain
called Costavablink,
there lives a shy monster
who knows how to shrink.

Disguising herself
as a round, speckled pebble,
she holds in her breath
and tries not to tremble
when humans pass by
on their bikes, in their cars,
hiking and shouting,
ignoring the stars.
She waits till they’re gone,
then with a soft sigh
she grows herself huge
and opens one eye.

High on a mountain
called Costavablink
a monster needs quiet
and starlight to think.

Michael passed away in November. I am still processing the larger truths of that loss.
Collaborating with him taught me, as Bonnie Friedman also says in her essay, “there is
something beyond your own conceptualization of reality. There are other resources, some of
them already inside you.”

Thank you, Laura, for sharing this with us. We all face these kinds of losses, and we wish you well.

About the Author:

Laura Shovan is a novelist, educator, and Pushcart Prize-nominated poet. Her work appears in journals and anthologies for children and adults. Laura’s award-winning middle grade novels include “The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary,” “Takedown,” and the Sydney Taylor Notable A “Place at the Table,” written with Saadia Faruqi. An honors graduate of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts (BFA Dramatic Writing) and Montclair State University (Master of Arts, Teaching), Laura is a longtime Maryland State Arts Council Artist-in-Education, conducting school poetry residencies. She teaches for Vermont College of Fine Arts’ MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults. To learn more about her life and work, visit: www.laurashovan.com

Guest Post and Giveaway: Handsome, Clever, & Rich by Jayne Bamber

Today, Jayne Bamber is back with a guest post and excerpt from her new novel, Handsome, Clever & Rich.

Let’s check out a little bit about this tale:

What if Elizabeth is not a Bennet by birth, but by marriage?

When Netherfield Park is let at last, the village of Meryton is inveigled in romance, intrigue, and a few less-than-happy reunions. The Bingley siblings return to the home of their youth, an estate purchased just before the death of their father. The neighborhood, especially the Bennet family, is ready to welcome them back with open arms, but Mr. Bingley’s attempt to make a good impression on his community backfires so badly that it is his awkward friend Mr. Darcy who is obliged to salvage the situation in the aftermath of Mr. Bingley insulting Jane Bennet at the Assembly.

Young widow Elizabeth Bennet begins her acquaintance with Mr. Darcy on amiable terms, but the reckless folly of his friend and the regrets from her own past create a bumpy path to Happily Ever After for them.

Not long after an injury obliges Elizabeth to recover at Netherfield Park, her estranged sister finally discovers Elizabeth’s whereabouts, and journeys from Highbury to Meryton in all haste, suitors in tow.

When one unexpected betrothal arises out of necessity, Jane Austen’s most notorious matchmaker is inspired to work her magic at Longbourn, Netherfield, and Lucas Lodge – but she, too, will have met her match in matters of meddling & mischief.

Please give Jayne Bamber a warm welcome:

It’s great to be back at Savvy Verse and Wit! Today I am here to share another excerpt of my new release, Handsome, Clever & Rich, which is now available on Kindle Unlimited.

As you may guess from the title, this Pride & Prejudice variation features appearances from several characters from Emma, including the titular heroine herself! That’s not the only big change you’ll see in Meryton in this variation. The Assembly at the beginning of the novel takes a very different turn when that notorious insult, “She is tolerable, I suppose…” is spoken not by Mr. Darcy, but by Mr. Bingley – in reference to Jane Bennet! This moment of bad judgement plagues Mr. Bingley for much of the book, and sets Mr. Darcy on an unlikely course of being better liked than his friend in Meryton.

Darcy first rescues Jane from the mortification on Mr. Bingley’s insult, and later he rescues Elizabeth in a much more significant way. Today I am sharing an excerpt from the novel; this scene takes place at the Meryton Assembly, just after Mr. Bingley insults Jane. While Darcy stands up with Jane, he witnesses Elizabeth “accidentally” spill her wine on Mr. Bingley. Now, he has asked Elizabeth to dance as well.


A rosy blush spread across Elizabeth’s cheeks as she realized he had seen her little act of revenge.

“It was childish of me – I ought not to have done it.”

“I have done worse in defense of my own sister, and would do so again without hesitation,” Darcy replied.

“What age is your sister, sir?”

“Just lately sixteen.”

A trace of something deeply sorrowful flashed in her eyes, before Elizabeth looked away. “It is a difficult age for any young lady.”

Darcy quietly considered her words. Elizabeth looked to be about twenty years of age; she would have been about sixteen at the time of Benjamin Bennet’s death, which their mother indicated had been four years ago. A difficult age indeed for the beautiful creature before him. He knew better than to speak of it, for Miss Bennet had gone silent and sullen at his attempt to relate to her through a loss of such magnitude.

Before Darcy could manage to say something profound enough to convey that he understood her sentiments, Elizabeth turned the conversation with a pert smile and a twinkle in her eye. “Am I to understand, sir, that you do not begrudge me my lapse in civility toward your friend?”

“The first offense was all his – even Bingley would surely admit as much,” Darcy replied.

“How magnanimous of him,” she drawled.

Again Darcy paused to consider how best to word his response. Unwilling to give voice to the other sentiments Bingley had expressed, which must constitute a betrayal of his friend, Darcy could only wish the words of affection had been spoken as loud as those of censure. And yet, he knew that there was no amount of praise or affection that could justify the comments Bingley had made so publicly, for the lady herself as well as her entire community to hear. Darcy was still pondering the best way to assuage his friend’s dilemma, when an arch look from Elizabeth captured his attention.

“You say you would do far worse in defense of your own sister, Mr. Darcy – what would you have done if you had heard your nearest neighbor speak of Miss Darcy in such a way?”

Darcy did her the justice of genuinely considering the question, and replied with a wry smile, “You can hardly duel him at dawn.”

Elizabeth arched an eyebrow at him, as she had done from across the room when she had caught him staring. “I am sure Benjamin left a pair of pistols somewhere in the house. Jane might even make a fine second, unless she was obliged to face a man who had been so kind to her.”

There was a tone of challenge in her voice, which only strengthened Darcy’s rapidly increasing admiration of the headstrong enchantress. “I would not second any man so unequivocally in the wrong, even if I understood the deeper reasons behind his grievous blunder.”

He could see at once that he had made a misstep in his address, and a moment later, in the movement of the dance. Elizabeth clenched her jaw in righteous indignation. “I am sure I understand the reason behind his blunder perfectly, sir. Nothing could be plainer.”

“I beg you would not base your estimation of his character solely upon his behavior this evening,” Darcy said with a sigh. “I fear the endeavor would reflect no credit on either of you.”

“If I do not take his likeness now, sir, I may never have another opportunity. He ought not expect a warm welcome at Longbourn, any more than I should presume my own family to be received at Netherfield, such as things are.”

“I shudder to think what your estimation must be of myself,” Darcy said, testing his luck from another angle.

Elizabeth was momentarily taken aback by such a direct statement, and she bubbled with startled laughter. “I had always supposed it a woman’s prerogative to fish for compliments in such a way –  though I can hardly do such slander to my own sex at such a time, given the prevailing weaknesses of the men this evening. But you need not fear for yourself, Mr. Darcy, so long as you do not take to the field, should it really come to pistols at dawn with your friend. The key to securing a place in my esteem is and always shall be Jane, and all my family at Longbourn – therefore, you are quite safe at present.”

“At present,” Darcy replied, suppressing a surge of admiration for the diminutive but ferocious woman before him. He could hardly account for how either of them managed to move in time to the music, amidst such a conversation as this – it was nearly too intense to bear, yet he wished to press on still. “I suppose by this you mean that your opinion, however favorable, might be altered by some future offense?”

“Have you any particular assault on my regard planned, sir?”

“No indeed – I merely mean to make out your character in turn.”

Elizabeth grinned at him. “Very well – but of course my good opinion, so newly formed, might rise or fall, depending on subsequent revelations. I am sure anybody might say the same. That is generally how first impressions work, Mr. Darcy.”

“I am quite in agreement. But does it not follow that the reverse must also be true – that an unfavorable impression might also rise or fall? Or is your resentment, once created, unappeasable? Is such implacable animosity not a shade in character?”

Laughing heartily, Elizabeth missed a step of the dance as she wagged her finger playfully at him. “You tease me into praising you, only to repay me by finding fault in my reasoning? Pistols at dawn, Mr. Darcy.”

“If your good opinion, once lost, is lost forever, I should call that a failing indeed. But in cases where one is blinded by a strength of affection that is, by itself, a charming virtue, this faulty reasoning may be forgiven. Your attachment to your sister does you great credit.”

Elizabeth smiled at him still, but now there was steel in her voice. “And yours to Mr. Bingley does not.” “Has Miss Bennet not ever accidentally given offense to anyone?”

“Not once, in the whole course of her life, I am sure,” Elizabeth said cheerfully. “As the Bingleys have
known her for much of it, you might apply to them for confirmation of the fact.”

She was dancing circles around him in more ways than one; it was frustrating, and tantalizing in a way Darcy had never before experienced. The movement of the dance required them to move closer and spin in time together, and for a moment his desire to defend Bingley’s character was lost to other impulses. Darcy was attracted to Elizabeth Bennet, despite their brief acquaintance, the vast difference in their situations in life, and a thousand other obstacles – but for a brief, blissful minute he managed to push past his pragmatism and simply bask in her mesmerizing company.

Finally, Darcy recovered what little of his equanimity he could – he was here for Bingley’s sake, and not his own. He furrowed his brow as he tried to pick up the thread of conversation and salvage the situation before he was utterly lost. “Do you credit their opinion so well? You would still suppose the Bingleys might be honest about that aspect of Miss Bennet’s character, despite what you have heard them say tonight – despite your own unshakable certainty that they are pretentious, ill-mannered, standoffish, inconsiderate snobs?”

“And you would find fault in their estimation of my sister, yet it is my own logic you assault so assiduously – I might as well inquire as to why a man of your intelligence and position, who has lived in the world, might keep such company. But if you mean to tell me that your friends will not give me an honest answer, we might ask anybody in the room to name a circumstance where Jane has been unkind, or anything short of perfection. Nobody could do it.”

Elizabeth let out a peal of confident, self-indulgent laughter and nodded her head vigorously as she spun to the music with the other dancers – Darcy nearly collided with Richard as he froze in place, watching Elizabeth’s sheer glee in utterly devastating his every argument. He forgot how to move until his cousin gave him a gentle shove and a look of curiosity that promised to plague him later.

“Then she is a lucky young woman – but this I already knew, for she has you as a sister,” Darcy replied in a desperate bid to regain the upper hand. “The material point is that everybody makes mistakes – we are none of us perfect, yet all deserving of forgiveness.”

“That can have nothing to do with you or I, sir,” Elizabeth chided him, shifting her gaze pointedly to Mr. Bingley, who still lingered at the edge of the room with his sisters.

“You are absolutely right, and I am sure he feels it most keenly.”

She smiled wolfishly at him as the music faded away. “Be sure, Mr. Darcy – be very sure that he does.”

The excitement of the other dancers ebbed around them as they all applauded the musicians and began to disperse in search of new partners, but Darcy and Elizabeth stood rooted in place, staring at one another in perfect understanding. “I can assure you I shall,” he said softly, so swept up in the moment that he caught her hand in his and began to raise it to his lips – the approach of his cousin George forestalled him from completing the gesture.

Elizabeth flinched and withdrew her hand at once. “Thank you for the dance, Mr. Darcy; it was most invigorating.”


Darcy and Lizzy are certainly off to a better start this time around! But poor Bingley has not made a good first impression on his neighbors, despite having some history in the area. Will Bingley recover his reputation in the neighborhood? Will Jane forgive him? And will Mr. Darcy continue to be more amiable than his friend? Follow my blog tour for more glimpses into the twists and turns of Handsome, Clever, & Rich – and don’t miss your chance to win a free digital copy of the book!

Thank you, Jayne, for sharing your new book with us.


About the Author:

Jayne Bamber is a life-long Austen fan, and a total sucker for costume dramas. Jayne read her first Austen variation as a teenager and has spent more than a decade devouring as many of them as she can. This of course has led her to the ultimate conclusion of her addiction, writing one herself.

Jayne’s favorite Austen work is Sense and Sensibility, though Sanditon is a strong second. Despite her love for Pride and Prejudice, Jayne realizes that she is no Lizzy Bennet, and is in fact growing up to be Mrs. Bennet more and more each day. Follow Jayne on Facebook.

Guest Post, Excerpt, and Giveaway: The Sailor’s Rest by Don Jacobson

Please welcome Don Jacobson to the blog today as part of his blog tour for The Sailor’s Rest. I love both Pride & Prejudice and Persuasion because they both have strong characters and couples.

About the Book:

The Sailor’s Rest is inspired by Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion and is set on the stage of Napoleon’s 100 Days. Discover how the two betrothed couples—Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy, along with Frederick Wentworth and Anne Elliot—find their love tried by separation, battle, and deception.

The novel immerses readers first in a mystery, then a sea chase, and, finally, a satisfying comeuppance. From the tattered rooms of a waterfront inn to three frigates engaged in a deadly game of naval chess, readers will experience the yearning as four hearts come closer to one another. Before the tale ends, the audience will step into the gilded confines of London’s preeminent card room.

Check out today’s Don Jacobson’s Guest Post, Taking Austen to Sea:

Many Pride and Prejudice variations find their scenic—if not plot—context in the hills surrounding Longbourn and Pemberley, the rooms of Austen’s notable estates or adjacent gardens, or town drawing rooms and parks. This works perfectly in most instances when the focus solely rests on the complex ballet between the undeclared lovers as they seek to overcome social barriers and their notions. Little reference to the outside world is needed beyond the requisite nods to snobbery and money.

On the other hand, I see Jane Austen as a writer of historical fiction who did not feel any need to explore the framework in which her stories existed because her readers knew the 4-1-1 about Regency society and world history. The horizons were nearer, and the crowds through which one moved were smaller. Austen’s power as a commentator about the human condition in the first decades of the Eighteenth Century comes from writing for an audience who knew the context.

After completing the final book in the Bennet Wardrobe series, I cast about for a story idea upon which I could focus my experimental impulse. As readers have seen, I am a fan of solid plotlines that allow the characters to reveal more about themselves than a conversation over a cup of tea during a morning call.

That led me to a logical pairing of Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion: Austen’s novels that feature the strongest four protagonists. As I began The Sailor’s Rest, I considered the effect of these two pairings in the same book without falling into the trap of making Frederick and Anne the Bingley and Jane of the work: present and important to Elizabeth and Darcy in a literary sense, but not crucial to the outcome. I am of the school that Darcy’s making of amends in the Bingley/Jane scenario seeded the ground for Elizabeth’s final understanding of his character after he resolves the Lydia/Wickham imbroglio.

This worry led me to consider Persuasion before P&P. Persuasion’s setting is Somersetshire, the coastal county hovering above the Bristol Channel. Hertfordshire and Derbyshire are distant from the English Channel and North Sea and would have been unnatural for Frederick Wentworth’s tale. Thus, it seemed easier to move Darcy, Elizabeth, and Anne into Wentworth’s and Croft’s worlds.

The captain’s realm is one of water and war. Austen asserts that Wentworth returns a successful and wealthy frigate captain after the seven-year separation. What she does not explore is how he arrived at that station. That led me to conclude that a naval story, where Wentworth’s life provides the context and thus is thoroughly unfamiliar with the other main characters, would best serve my goals.

In The Sailor’s Rest, the book’s second act plays out on the Mediterranean stage. We see Darcy and Wentworth in their guises of Will Smith and Fred Tomkins seeking to survive captivity aboard the British frigate Persephone. Anne and Elizabeth, protected by Admiral Alfred Croft and Mrs. Sophie Croft, are pursuing the other ship aboard the frigate Naiad.

Setting The Sailor’s Rest in small spaces, be they a private dining parlor, a coach and four, or a frigate, would allow the characters to rub tightly together until they step away to find that space their hearts and souls require to breathe. This is my literary application of the architectural philosophy of compression and expansion. The ocean’s limitlessness allows the already betrothed couples—yes, I decided that another dance about how ODC or F & A came together would not illuminate—to reflect on their respective loves and voice their deepest fears. Darcy can no more jump on his stallion’s back and ride across the fields than Elizabeth can “scamper” to Oakham Mount. Both must deny physical outlets and face what besets them.

Before closing, I wish to emphasize that the battle sequence in the middle of the book is essential for readers to fully comprehend how different, yet how similar, Wentworth and Darcy are to each. They are decisive men, needing to determine a course of action and not quail from it, although with different potential outcomes. As Wentworth smiled to Darcy, “One difference I would be happy to point out is that your success is not contingent upon blasting holes in a neighboring estate.”


For 1 of 10 copies of The Sailor’s Rest, ENTER HERE.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Today’s Excerpt: Please enjoy this excerpt from The Sailor’s Rest. ©2023 by Donald P. Jacobson. Reproduction prohibited. Published in the United States of America.

From Chapter 18
Naiad, NW of Port Mahon, April 9, 1815

The evening beneath the snowy canvas sky was magical. Inky channels rippled between creamy billows, recalling the Abbey, albeit made from air, thread, and imagination. The restless tacking as the ship worked its way north through the Balearic Sea toward Toulon pushed the Milky Way’s starry belt one side and then the other of the bowsprit’s black finger scribing the moonless sky. The sirocco had diminished, although the wind blew warm and humid from the southwest. Clouds rose above the waters but fled before the ship, making Naiad’s passage smoother.

Anne and Elizabeth stepped past the marine guarding the great cabin and made their way forward. A shadow whisper walked behind them, never coming too close to violate their privacy but never too distant to be unable to rescue them.

The women strolled arm-in-arm along a deck slightly heeled over in concert with the starboard tack. The crew that kept Naiad working toward their goal was invisible in the night’s gloom. Seen from above, the ladies floated, their light gowns blending seamlessly with the deck boards. They appeared like bergs calved from the canvas peaks above and drifting along the moon-darkened surface. This image was only a figment for the waters through which Naiad drove had never seen ice in this age.

The two misses were not unseen, just unremarked upon, by the silent watchers.

Passengers they may have been, that was true: what would have been equally valid was that the Naiad’s crew owned as if theirs the voyage suc was the nobility of the mission. Through dim nights on the gundeck, before they crawled into the hammocks, they had heard stories told by those who had their letters of Camelot’s knights. In those tales, the damsels in distress were held in dark castles or deep caves and guarded by fell beasts and witch’s spells.

Their quarry fled before them, trailing its coat upon the restless sea. ’Twas manned by those unknown. That unfamiliarity allowed the granting of malicious traits bordering on the ancient images of men who kicked the law to the side and raised piracy’s black banner. None were good; all were evil and examples of what men can become if not ruled by the Articles of War. They were a scourge, a cancer in civilization’s innards.

In such thoughts lay the courage sailors need when facing water-borne war. Boarding parties would crouch below railings waiting for the order to leap onto the opposing ship. Contrary to instinct, they would clamber over the boarding nets, running toward, not away, from mayhem. Mates fighting alongside on all compass points gave surcease. Officers would make for the quarterdeck and the flag. Cutlass-bearing, mallet-wielding sailors—peasants they were not instead standing on the field like King Harry’s men-at-arms—would clear the forecastle and venture below decks.

They doubted that the men of their target—even though British sailors—would fight with the same ardor as they. After all, was there a better fighting vessel than the Nimble Nymph: her figurehead soaring above the waves clad in gilt and calcedony? Perhaps they were deluded, but if it was fantasy, then it was one familiar the world over and held tightly by frightened men throughout history. Otherwise, they would quail at the thought of intentionally wading into a clutch of desperate sailors fighting for their lives.

There was one complication and not a minor one. While Naiad had bypassed Gibraltar, a messenger boat had raced from the harbor bearing the news that Napoleon had fled his gilded cage on Elba and was marching toward Paris. With the Emperor on the loose, the reconstituted French Royal Navy had raised the Tricoleur. Although the British had reduced that service across twenty-plus years, it could still float many a frigate to harry unsuspecting commerce and bring death and destruction to British warships doing their duty. That added an element of uncertainty to their pursuit of Persephone.

Somewhere, out of sight, their prey waited. Whether Naiad would be the hunter or the hunted was a story yet to be written. The coming confrontation would be neither civilized nor simple.

However, at this moment, suspended between darkling waters and the brilliant sphere punctured by crystalline points, contemplative peace was known by those who strolled on the deck.

About the Author:

Don Jacobson has written professionally for forty years, from news and features to advertising, television, and radio. His work has been nominated for Emmys and other awards. He has previously published five books, all nonfiction. In 2016, he published the first volume of The Bennet Wardrobe Series, The Keeper: Mary Bennet’s Extraordinary Journey. Since then, Meryton Press re-edited and republished Keeper and the subsequent six volumes in the series. In 2022, Meryton Press published the eighth and final book in the series—The Grail: The Saving of Elizabeth Darcy. Other Meryton Press books by Jacobson include Lessers and Betters, In Plain Sight, and The Longbourn Quarantine. All his works are also available as audiobooks (Audible).

Jacobson holds an advanced degree in history. As a college instructor, he taught United States history, world history, the history of western civilization, and research writing. He is in his third career as an author and is a JASNA and Regency Fiction Writers member. He is also a member of the Always Austen collective. Check out his newsletter.

Guest Post, Excerpt & Giveaway: The Bennets: Providence & Perception by K.C. Cowan

The Bennets: Providence & Perception by K.C. Cowan focuses on Mary, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet and one of the last children in the house. Stories about Mary often focus on her piety, but here Cowan takes that piety on a different journey.

Let’s read a little bit about the book, and then read the excerpt:

Poor Miss Bennet—with three sisters married, she will no doubt be left “on the shelf” unless she takes steps to secure her own happiness. So, with the arrival of Mr. Yarby, a handsome new rector for Longbourn chapel, Mary decides to use her Biblical knowledge to win his heart.

Meanwhile, her recently widowed fatherfinds himself falling for the older sister of his new reverend. But Mr. Bennet is officially in mourning for his late wife—what a scandalous situation! Unfortunately, Longbourn’s heir, Mr. Collins, has the antennae for a scandal and makes blackmail threats.

Will an overheard conversation between the Yarby siblings break Mary’s heart? Or will it impel her to a desperate act that threatens everyone’s hopes for lasting love?

Please check out this excerpt, which I hope will leave you wanting more:

Mary was walking towards the parsonage in hopes of another Bible study session with Mr. Yarby. It was an unusually sunny and warm day for February—a bit of a false spring—and Mary was in a happy mood as she walked along the lane. She had decided on this visit to ask Mr. Yarby whether they could discuss some of the women of the New Testament. Her plan was to then steer the topic from their love of the Lord to a discussion of love in general. She felt it was past time for him to declare himself, and she was quite certain he only needed the right prompt to feel able to speak his own heart’s feelings. After all, had he not comforted her tenderly when she was distraught after her father was shot? They had nearly kissed, after all—at least, Mary believed that was his intention. Would he have acted so if he did not care? Mary was certain he only needed the proper encouragement to declare himself.

As she approached the front door of the parsonage, she saw the rectory maid, Ellen, scrubbing the front steps. The girl looked up from her work.

“Beggin’ your pardon, Miss Bennet. This weather is so fine, I decided it was a good time to scrub the winter’s mud and muck off the stone steps. Have you come to pay a visit? Everyone is sittin’ outside in the back, enjoyin’ some cake and homemade wine in this lovely sunshine. Please go on through.” She gestured for Mary to step over her work.

“Oh, Ellen, I should hate to place my dirty boots right over your nice, clean steps and add to your work. I shall walk around; I know the way.”

“Thank you kindly, miss.” Ellen smiled and returned to her work.

As she walked around the side of the parsonage, Mary tried to think of a way she could get Mr. Yarby away from his sister and brother so they could have a private meeting.

I would much rather be with him alone than just have this turn into a social call.

Mary could hear laughter as she approached the back of the house, then familiar voices. She knew she should not eavesdrop, but an odd feeling made her slow her steps, and then hesitate a moment to listen to the conversation.

“It is quite pathetic, actually, feigning such an interest in the Bible just to get close to you, Robert,” Mary heard Amelia say. “Even if she has not done so of late.”

“Now, now—don’t be too hard on the poor girl, Amelia,” Phillip replied. “She is only seeking what all young women want — a husband. Although personally, I must question her choice. After all, I believe we can agree I am far more handsome than Robert.” There was loud laughter at this. “But at least he is respectable,” he concluded.

“She may see it as an advantageous match, I suppose,” Robert replied. “But I swear to you both I have given her no reason to think I see her as anything other than the daughter of my employer.”

“I absolutely agree,” said Amelia. “And I am proud that you have not been unguarded or careless in your behavior towards her at all. No one could call you out for toying with her affections; you have not compromised her one whit. Just take care you continue in such a manner. Otherwise, it could give rise to hopes and expectations that have no basis in reality and would just … complicate things. Well … perhaps she will give up this folly soon. You, of course, should pursue your choice of bride. When will you declare yourself to her, by the way? This constant mooning over her in private will not do!” she teased.

“I shall, but I must be certain of the lady’s own affections,” Mr. Yarby said seriously.

Amelia laughed. “Oh, there is little doubt of her feelings, I am confident.”

“Then there is her father to consider.”

“I can’t imagine there would be any objection on that score,” said Phillip. “Do not wait too long, little brother. That will clear the way for me, as well.”

Mary clasped both hands over her mouth to keep the moan that seemed to rise from deep within her from escaping. Her entire body began to tremble, and she was barely aware of her own steps as she carefully backed away. Hardly able to breathe, she turned and began to hurry away, stumbling out of the side garden, and only nodding in reply when Ellen called, “Oh, are you not staying then, miss?”

What do you think? I think Mary is on the road to self-discovery and learning how eavesdropping might not be the best idea.

BONUS Guest Post on Language by KC Cowan:

I enjoy reading all sorts of books. But I have a particular fondness for Regency-based stories and Jane Austen—both the original and the many, many variations and sequels of her classics. The reason these books appeal to me is because of the wonderful characters and plots, of course. But if I’m being entirely honest, it also nearly always comes down to this one thing: the lovely and genteel manners of the era. There were so many “rules” of etiquette and behavior back then and while it must have been difficult to navigate in some ways, what I like most is how polite people generally were to each other.

Being polite doesn’t mean there was never any criticism — indeed, Jane Austen herself was renowned for her wit and for poking fun at many  — from the snooty elites of the era as well as the lowly, but pompous parson. But were people crude? Rude? Almost never! It all comes down to the elegance of the language.

For example, in our current times, you might say, “What the heck are you talking about?” when confused about something. However, it is so much more elegant to say, “Forgive me—I do not have the pleasure of understanding you.”

How about “I abhor him in every way,” rather than “I can’t stand his guts?” Or “What an amiable gentleman” versus “He’s a pretty good guy.” Or my very favorite: “I am all astonishment!” So much classier than “I couldn’t believe my ears!”

The lovely language just immediately takes you back to a place and time when good manners and courtesy were valued and practiced with regularity. We all know what a tremendous insult it was when Lizzy accuses Darcy of his lack of gentlemanly behavior during his offer of marriage. A greater slight one cannot give to a man who considers himself a true gentleman.

There is a marvelous new book, Say it Like Miss Austen by Stefan Scheuremann. It is a Jane Austen Phrase Thesaurus. You can look up any topic to find the correct language of the time. For example, under Not Communicating you learn that the Austen way of saying “I was speechless” would be “I could not frame a sentence.” I only recently found this book, but I certainly could have used it when writing The Bennets!

Of course, the other challenge of writing a period story is that you must also be careful not to choose words that were not in common usage in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s. That is where a good dictionary is invaluable. Down at the very bottom of a definition of a word you will usually find when the word first came into practice and common use. I learned that while “excite” was used in Jane Austen’s time—as in “I should not wish to excite your anticipation,” the first person description “excited” was not used until 1855! So, instead of “we are so excited to have you come visit,” you’d have to write “We are filled with eager anticipation.” And once again, it’s so much prettier than modern speech.

I had an initial editor who marked up my first draft with “WC” (word choice) by anything she wanted me to check. More than half the time, she was correct! Does it take more time? Yes! But if you are a true lover of the Regency Era language, it’s so important to get it right.

Isn’t the English language and its evolution so fascinating? I know I’m intrigued. I have an entomology reference guide, but I may need to pick up these books if I ever write a regency romance.

About the Author:

KC Cowan spent her professional life working in the media as a news reporter in Portland, Oregon for KGW-TV, KPAM-AM and KXL-AM radio, and as original host and story producer for a weekly arts program on Oregon Public Television. She is co-author of the fantasy series: Journey to Wizards’ Keep, The Hunt for Winter, and Everfire. The Hunt for Winter and Everfire were both awarded First Place OZMA citations from Chanticleer International Book Awards for fantasy writing.

KC is also the author of two other books: “The Riches of a City” – the story of Portland, Oregon, and “They Ain’t Called Saints for Nothing!” in collaboration with artist Chris Haberman, a tongue-in-cheek look at saints. She is married and lives in Tucson, Arizona.

Follow her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.


Meryton Press will be giving away 1 eBook. Enter below with a comment by April 3.

Please leave an email for me to contact you.

Guest Post: Daydreaming Is the Thing by Mary Salisbury, author of Side Effects of Wanting

Today’s guest is Mary Salisbury, who has a new book out from Main Street Rag. Let’s learn about Side Effects of Wanting:

Side Effects, Mary Salisbury’s impressive debut collection, introduces a writer whose voice compels and enchants, its quiet and subtle vibrancy pitch perfect, story after story, and intensified by the quietness that surrounds each. Stories of love, longing, and loss, and behind each the writer’s charitable heart, and an observing eye that misses nothing. ~Jack Driscoll, author of The Goat Fish and the Lover’s Knot

Compelling and remarkably honest, Side Effects of Wanting investigates the sharper edges of our unique emotional landscapes in a series of exciting, accessible stories that explore both the strengths and frailties of the human condition in its varied aspects—personal identity, grief, fractured relationships, the ghosts of the past, transformation, and slowly mending hearts. Weaving together small-town stories filled with secrets, hardships, and that ever-present ache of almost becoming the person you want to be, Mary Salisbury tenderly renders heartbreaking narratives in which characters reach out to be loved, to be understood, and to finally feel safe. ~John Sibley Williams, author of As One Fire Consumes Another

Mary Salisbury’s stories are infused with the precision of a poet and the wisdom of a deep thinker, amounting to some of the best stories I’ve read about milestone matters of the heart, everyday regrets with life-altering outcomes, and the painful nuances of long-haul love. Side Effects of Wanting not only invites us in, it lets us laugh and cry while we watch on the edge of our seats as lovers, siblings, parents, and co-workers face private, universally relatable conundrums head-on. ~Katey Schultz, author of Still Come Home

Thank you, Mary, for stopping by today to share your thoughts on the creative process.

Daydreaming is part of writing to me. When I was young I climbed trees on our elm-lined street in Flint, Michigan, and hid so I could daydream in peace. My secret dream was to be a songwriter or a back-up singer.

Music was what captivated me, the music of the mid-60’s—Motown was the thing. In my Catholic school it was all plaid skirts and white shirts and daydreaming was not considered a prerequisite to good writing or to singing. But I knew in my heart that it was.

I read the poetry of Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost. I found the poetry of William Carlos Williams, and more, as I grew into my teens. I began to write poetry of my own, and I continued to write poems and stories as I got older and raised children and worked as a registered nurse.

No, I did not become a back-up singer, but I’d still like to be one. My love of music and my love of reading allowed me to enter the world of other worlds and I kept writing so that I could be there, in those other worlds.

As an adult I worked and lived in a small town in Southern Oregon and absorbed the life and natural world around me. I witnessed the act of quiet heroes—people who got out of bed every day and did what was necessary, despite their troubles. These are the people who populate my stories.

I wrote in the car, waiting for my children’s soccer, baseball, or basketball practice to end. I wrote in the library, or early in the morning before the day began. That’s the thing about writing—you only need a notebook and a pen.

I had my first book of short stories published two days before I turned seventy. Writing has sustained me through loss and love. If you love writing, if you need to write, keep writing, and always keep reading. They go together like lyrics and melody.

About the Author:

Mary Salisbury’s short fiction has been published in Cutthroat’s Truth to Power, The Whitefish Review, Cutthroat: A Journal of the Arts, and Flash Fiction Magazine. Salisbury’s essay on writing was featured in Fiction Southeast. Two of Salisbury’s chapbooks, Come What May, and Scarlet Rain Boots, were published by Finishing Line Press, and her poetry has appeared in Calyx. Salisbury is an Oregon Literary Arts Fellowship recipient and a graduate of Pacific University’s MFA in writing program.

Excerpt: Because I Could Not Stop for Death by Amanda Flower

Poetry is my love, and I’ve loved Emily Dickinson’s poetry since I was in school. My copy of The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson is well worn. And one of her most famous poems (#479) begins “Because I could not stop for Death—”.

Today, I have a treat. Amanda Flower will share an excerpt from her new Emily Dickinson mystery, Because I Could Not Stop for Death.

About the Book:

Emily Dickinson and her housemaid, Willa Noble, realize there is nothing poetic about murder in this first book in an all-new series from USA Today bestselling and Agatha Award–winning author Amanda Flower.

January 1855 Willa Noble knew it was bad luck when it was pouring rain on the day of her ever-important job interview at the Dickinson home in Amherst, Massachusetts. When she arrived late, disheveled with her skirts sodden and filthy, she’d lost all hope of being hired for the position. As the housekeeper politely told her they’d be in touch, Willa started toward the door of the stately home only to be called back by the soft but strong voice of Emily Dickinson. What begins as tenuous employment turns to friendship as the reclusive poet takes Willa under her wing.

Tragedy soon strikes and Willa’s beloved brother, Henry, is killed in a tragic accident at the town stables. With no other family and nowhere else to turn, Willa tells Emily about her brother’s death and why she believes it was no accident. Willa is convinced it was murder. Henry had been very secretive of late, only hinting to Willa that he’d found a way to earn money to take care of them both. Viewing it first as a puzzle to piece together, Emily offers to help, only to realize that she and Willa are caught in a deadly game of cat and mouse that reveals corruption in Amherst that is generations deep. Some very high-powered people will stop at nothing to keep their profitable secrets even if that means forever silencing Willa and her new mistress….

Without further ado, please read the following excerpt from Amanda Flower’s Because I Could Not Stop for Death:

“The Dickinsons are moving?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said in a crisp voice. “It has been Mr. Dickinson’s goal to return to the homestead for many years. His father ran into a bit of financial trouble and lost it. He fled to Ohio in disgrace.” She looked
around with bright red cheeks. “Don’t repeat that.”

“I won’t,” I promised. My hands began to shake. I clasped them in front of me and pressed them into my skirts.

“Was the boardinghouse your first position?” Miss O’Brien asked, getting back to the task at hand.

“No, I’ve been in domestic work for the last eight years.” She frowned. “Eight years. You can’t be more than sixteen.”

“I am twenty, ma’am. I started work when I was twelve.”

“What made you work so young?” She eyed me. “Should you not have been in school? The Dickinsons put great value in education, even in the education of girls such as yourself.”

“My mother died, ma’am, and I had to provide for my younger brother and me. I had to go to work. Our mother taught us to work hard, so it was no trouble to take over that role.”

“Haven’t you got a father?” She narrowed her eyes.

“Not that I know of,” I said and pressed my clenched hands deeper into my skirts. My father was not a topic for conversation even if it cost me the position at the Dickinson household. I would not speak of him, ever.

“How much younger is your brother than you?”

“Two years, ma’am,” I said. “He’s an adult now, too, and works just as much as I do. He works even harder, I should say, because of the physical labor required for man’s work.”

Miss O’Brien stood up. “I’m interviewing several more girls for this post. I will let you know by mail by the end of the week if we choose you.” She looked at my wet, muddy skirts again.

My heart sank. If there were several young ladies applying for this position, what chance did I really have at winning the spot? I was the girl who came to the interview covered in mud and who was too young without the proper experience for the post. Why did I think I was the only one who would have been interested in the ad? As I told Miss O’Brien, the position was a chance to move up-this was true not just for me but for anyone in domestic work. There were many young women in my place that would want to do so.

“Thank you for your time,” I said. “Would you like me to let myself out?”

Before Miss O’Brien could answer, a breathy voice said, “There will be no more interviews. Margaret, you have found the right maid.”

I turned and a small woman stood in the doorway. She was petite and wore a brown dress that was cinched around her small waist. Her chestnut red hair was pinned back in a fashionable knot and her dark eyes shone with interest, but there was a faraway look about them too. She was a very pretty woman, but there was something birdlike in her movements as she stepped into the room. Her hands fluttered like the tips of wings.

Miss O’Brien jumped to her feet. “Miss Dickinson, can I help you with something?”

“You have helped. You have found our new maid. I’m very grateful to you for that. Mother wants us to keep a clean house, especially when she is in the middle of one of her episodes.”

Episodes? What does she mean by this?

Miss Dickinson studied me with an exacting gaze. “She looks like she has a strong back too. It’s something that we will need if Father insists on pulling us up and moving us back to the place of my birth.” She said this like she wasn’t very keen on the idea.

“Very well, Miss Dickinson.” Miss O’Brien dipped her chin.

“Thank you, Margaret.” The small woman looked me in the eye. “I like someone who would sacrifice herself for her family and duty. That’s just the kind of person I want on our staff. I think there have been enough questions. Margaret, please show the young maid to her room and cancel the rest of your interviews for the position.”

Miss O’Brien pressed her lips together as if she were unsure. “If you are certain, Miss . . .”

“Very certain. I like her, Margaret. If I like her, Father will agree.”

Miss O’Brien nodded. “Please follow me, Miss Noble. I will show you to your room.”

I blinked; it was all happening so fast. I glanced back at Miss Dickinson, but she was no longer there. She was gone.

— Excerpted from Because I Could Not Stop for Death by Amanda Flower Copyright © 2022 by Amanda Flower. Excerpted by permission of Berkley. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Thank you, Amanda, for sharing this excerpt.

About the Author:

Amanda Flower is the USA Today bestselling and Agatha Award-winning mystery author of over forty novels, including the nationally bestselling Amish Candy Shop Mystery Series, Magical Bookshop Mysteries, and, written under the name Isabella Alan, the Amish Quilt Shop Mysteries. Flower is a former librarian, and she and her husband, a recording engineer, own a habitat farm and recording studio in Northeast Ohio.

Listen to an excerpt here.

Guest Post: Lari O’Dell, author of Mr. Darcy’s Phoenix

First, please let me apologize that this post was meant to be posted on Aug. 30, but due to some family emergencies and other issues, it didn’t get posted during the blog tour. I humbly apologize to Ms. O’Dell.

I want to welcome Ms. O’Dell to the blog today with her guest post about Mr. Darcy’s Phoenix. Please check out the book synopsis below.

Book Synopsis:

A phoenix brings them together. Will a curse keep them apart?

When the hauntingly beautiful song of a phoenix lures Elizabeth Bennet to the Netherfield gardens, she has a vision of an unknown gentleman. He whispers her name with such tenderness that she wonders if this man is her match. Unfortunately, her gift of prophecy has never been exactly reliable.

Mr. Darcy is a celebrated fire mage, the master of Pemberley, and the man from her vision. But he is not tender; he is haughty, proud, and high-handed. His insult of her during the Summer Solstice celebration makes her determined to dislike him in spite of her love for Dante, his phoenix familiar.

After Mr. Darcy is called away by his duties, Elizabeth’s magic runs wild, and it is only their reunion at Rosings that offers her any hope of controlling it. They are drawn together by their love of magical creatures and their affinity for fire. But Elizabeth soon has another vision about Mr. Darcy, one that may portend a grave danger to his life.

Can Darcy and Elizabeth overcome misunderstandings, curses, and even fate itself?

Please welcome Lari Ann O’Dell:

I’m excited to be back at Savvy Verse & Wit to talk about my new fantasy Pride & Prejudice variation, Mr. Darcy’s Phoenix.

The world of Mr. Darcy’s Phoenix is filled with a plethora of fay folk and magical creatures.

There are several magical creatures and fay folk that play an important part of the story. Of course there is Dante the phoenix, the titular character. But there is also a unicorn named Aurelia, several household elves, wood nymphs and water nymphs, a griffin, and many others.

In this variation, Pemberley is not only a grand estate in the north, but it also serves as the largest conservatory for magical creatures in England. Darcy was raised with magical creatures and fay folk, and has a deep appreciation for them that is not always shared by his peers. Part of what draws him to Elizabeth is her appreciation for magical creatures and her obvious bond with his companion Dante.

The phoenix is a symbol or rebirth, renewal, immortality, healing, and eternal fire. Darcy is a fire mage and so having a phoenix as a companion made perfect sense. Not all Darcy men have been fire mages, but Dante has been with the Darcy family since the time of William the Conqueror. Dante is reborn with the birth of each new master of Pemberley.

Dante serves as an extension of Darcy himself. He forges an early bond with Elizabeth, despite Darcy’s poor first impression and insult. Even Elizabeth acknowledges that a person bonded with such a magnificent creature cannot be all bad. Dante helps Elizabeth to see Darcy’s better attributes sooner than she normally does in Pride and Prejudice. He also serves as a healer, both physically and metaphorically, and a messenger. I have always loved Fawkes the phoenix from Harry Potter, but now Dante is my favorite fictional phoenix.

When selecting the other magical creatures I wanted to feature, there was some research involved. There are some creatures I mention just to flesh out the world and because I like them. But the others that served a greater function to the story, I wanted to use them in a way that is supported by lore.

For example, unicorns represent goodness and purity. In mythology, it was said that only people who were pure of heart can approach a unicorn. There is a scene in the book where Darcy helps deliver a unicorn foal, and Elizabeth names the baby. The unicorn later helps Elizabeth in a significant way. Darcy and Elizabeth are able to interact so closely with unicorns because despite their flaws, they are truly good people at heart.

As in the original novel, Elizabeth seeing Darcy at Pemberley gives her a new appreciation of his character. The griffin, which makes a small appearance in the second half of the book, is a symbol of strength and valor. It was also seen as a guardian and protector of secretly buried wealth or treasures. It was said to help ward off evil influences. It certainly plays an important role in the story.

The nymphs were fun to write because they were very much like human characters with a magical twist. There are four nymphs in the story, Nyxie, Nyla, Whitley, and Serafina. Fay folk famously do not lie. I liked having characters who were not afraid to tell Darcy and Elizabeth when they were being foolish. Darcy and Elizabeth did not always appreciate it, but the nymphs certainly helped them along their journey to finding their happy ending.

I hope you all enjoy reading about all of these magical creatures and more in Mr. Darcy’s Phoenix.

Thank you, Lari Ann, for stopping by the blog.

About the Author:

Lari Ann O’Dell first discovered her love of Pride & Prejudice when she was eighteen. After reading a Pride & Prejudice variation she found in a closing sale at a bookstore, she said, “This is what I want to do.” She published her first novel, Mr. Darcy’s Kiss, two years later.

Born and raised in Colorado, she attended the University of Colorado in Boulder and earned a bachelor’s degree in History and Creative Writing. After graduating college, she wrote and published her second novel, Mr. Darcy’s Ship. Her third novel, Mr. Darcy’s Clan, is her first supernatural variation, and she is working on two more fantasy variations. She is now back at school and pursuing a degree in Nursing. She adores her three beautiful nephews, Hudson, Dean, and Calvin. She enjoys reading, singing, and writes whenever she can.

Guest Post: Book Signing Horror Story by Khanh Ha

Thank you for joining us today’s guest post from Khanh Ha. I’ll have a review of his newest short story collection next week. Also stay tuned for how to enter the giveaway.

About the collection:

From Vietnam to America, this story collection, jewel-like, evocative and layered, brings to the readers a unique sense of love, passions and the tragedy of rape, all together contrasting a darker theme of perils. The titular story captures a simple love story that transcends cultural barriers. The opening story “A Woman-Child” brings the shy eroticism of adolescence set against a backdrop of the seaside with its ever present ecological beauty. A youthful love affair between an older American man and a much younger Vietnamese girl has its poignant brevity in “All the Pretty Little Horses.” In “The Yin-Yang Market” magical realism and the beauty of innocence abounds in deep dark places, teeming with life and danger. “A Mute Girl’s Yarn” tells a magical coming-of-age story like sketches in a child’s fairy book.

Bringing together the damned, the unfit, the brave who succumb by their own doing to the call of fate, their desire to survive never dying, it is a great journey to inhabit this world where redemption of human goodness arises out of violence and beauty to become part of its essential mercy.

As readers, we understand how much we love authors and want to get our books signed at events when we can, but today, Khanh Ha, author of All the Rivers Flow into the Sea & Other Stories, is going to share with us what it is like to be on the other side of that equation. What’s it like for an author at a book signing?

Please give Khanh Ha a warm welcome for his guest post in the form of a poem:

The Late Night People

I met a woman
during one of my book signings
She came to the table where I sat with
two stacks of hardcover copies
She picked up one copy and said,
What is it about?
I’m never good at summarizing my work
in a nutshell
for something that had taken me
two, three years to write
Well, I said, it’s on the jacket flap
where she could read what the copywriter
had done
as part of the cosmetic surgery
so the work looks more like a movie actress
than a whore
The woman nodded, but
didn’t read a word of it
where I hoped she might have caught
the advance praises
full of superlatives
that sometimes you thought they must’ve been
copied and pasted in
from another work
But she just wanted to talk
A soft-spoken woman
straw-yellow hair
no makeup
like she’d just got out of bed and
wandered into this place
full of books
like Alice in Wonderland
We talked about pets
and, in the name of God,
she owed at least a dozen cats
some of them neutered
for overpopulation purpose
and pet fish
whose names I forgot
expensive though
She said one of them cost a hundred dollars
And I learned that she worked part time
somewhere in a graphics shop
It was a quiet evening
with no more than three interested readers
who dropped by at my table
but none bought any copy
only she did
without any idea of what the book
was about
When I left she had gone to an in-store coffee shop
sitting on a high stool with a cup of coffee
reading a day-old newspaper
I had to run an errand that evening after
the book signing and when I was done
it was half past midnight
I was driving down a cross-street
two blocks from the bookstore where
earlier I had my book signing
Stopping at the intersection on a red light
I looked over at a donut shop
on a corner
well lit, near empty
I saw the woman who had bought a copy
of my book
sitting by herself
close to the glass
a Styrofoam cup of coffee
in front of her
She wasn’t reading anything
just sitting and staring ahead
I wondered
where my book was
For certain it wouldn’t have fit in her purse
unless she had returned it after I left
for a full refund.

Thank you, Khanh Ha, for sharing this horror story with us.

To Enter the Giveaway, Click Here.

a Rafflecopter giveaway