Guest Post: A Memory Behind ‘The Gospel’ by H.L. Hix

Today’s guest is H.L. Hix, author of The Gospel according to H.L. Hix. The book itself is likely to receive some skepticism at the very least given the subject matter, but readers should consider how this book came into being before judging it. “Hix has gone back to the original source materials, both the canonical and noncanonical gospels and histories and stories of the life of Jesus,” according to the synopsis.

Book Synopsis:

First we have to talk about the elephant in the room–though that might not be the most polite term for Jesus! For many millions of people around the world, Jesus is the Son of God, the divine source of their salvation, his story told in the familiar four gospels of the Bible, and any tampering with that story understandably will be met with suspicion, distrust, even hostility.

So let’s begin with what this book isn’t. H. L. Hix covers this in detail in his Introduction to “The Gospel,” but for now it’s enough to say that this isn’t Jesus Christ, Superstar, or The Last Temptation of Christ. Nothing in this Gospel secularizes or desacralizes Jesus Christ. You don’t get less of the divine Jesus here, you get more.

That’s because Hix has gone back to the original source materials, both the canonical and noncanonical gospels and histories and stories of the life of Jesus, and created out of them a single, more comprehensive and nuanced narrative. A good analogy is to film editing. Most movie directors shoot more film than ever makes it into the version we see on the screen, film that ends up on the editing room floor, the result of commercial decisions often far removed from the director’s vision of the film. Occasionally the director gets the chance to re-edit the film to restore that lost material, producing a “Director’s Cut” that may be very different from the commercial film release. So we can think of “The Gospel” as an ultimate “Director’s Cut” of the story of Jesus, with all of those bits that didn’t make the official version (edited by early church leaders to serve a specific agenda) at last restored.

Something for those enthusiasts who want to dig deeper, to know more. But that’s not all he’s done. Among other virtues of his “Gospel,” Hix has restored the meanings of essential words as they would have been understood by contemporary audiences when the source materials were first written, overcoming what he calls “translation inertia”, the tendency to retain a translation over time even after the sense of the word has changed for current readers. Thus “Lord” becomes “Boss”, and the apostles “apprentices”, changes that allow for a novel understanding of the role of Jesus and of believers’ relationship to him.

Also of crucial importance, Hix has eliminated gendered language wherever possible, in the process inventing new terms that decouple our understanding of Jesus and divinity from the limitations of gendered human bodies and relationships. Thus “Son” becomes “Xon”, for example, a form of literary transubstantiation that renders the divine even more transcendent, in the process opening the Gospel and its promise of salvation to greater inclusivity. Gospel, of course, means “good news.” And the very good news of THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO H. L. HIX  for believers and for non-believers alike, is that what has been called “the greatest story ever told,” the life of Jesus, just got greater.

Please give H.L. Hix a warm welcome.

One of my most vivid memories from childhood in a devout evangelical Christian home has to do with holiday visits to the even more devout home of my paternal grandparents. Celebrations of Christmas there always included plenty of presents, the accumulated results of Grandmama Hix’s year-long labor. She began in January scouring Saturday morning garage sales for unopened six- packs of tube socks, or broken toys Granddad Hix could repair. Someone else’s grandchild may have outgrown this pair of pjs, but they’d fit one grandchild or another of hers. This shirt might not be in fashion any longer, but it was still in good shape. Not one present was opened, though, and not one grandchild threw one wad of wrapping paper into the fireplace to watch the flame change color, until after the reading of what was simply referred to as “The Christmas Story.”

Everyone (aunts and uncles, all those rambunctious cousins I was always afraid of) gathered in one room and listened to Granddad Hix intone, from a script he himself had compiled and typed out at some point long ago, the King James version of the passages leading up to and recounting Jesus’ birth, from the three synoptic gospels, arranged into a single composite narrative. (It was the unmodernized King James version: I remember the archaic phrase “on this wise” from the beginning, “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise,” and the word “holpen” somewhere in the middle.) To a little boy of, say, seven, it seemed to go on forever, but surely my grandfather would have said that’s the point.

My paternal grandfather would not have approved of The Gospel, my edition and translation of the gospel, just published by Broadstone Books. He would have objected at least to its merging canonical with noncanonical sources, and its referring to God and Jesus without assigning them masculine gender. Probably also to much else.

In at least one way, though, it draws on his example.

His compilation of the various accounts of the nativity in the synoptic gospels into a single narrative was a hands-on approach to the gospel. My premises don’t line up with his: just as one example, his compilation of the nativity stories fulfilled his belief that the canonical gospels, as the inspired and infallible Word of God, possessed an inherent harmony that he had only to discover in his compilation; my redaction of various gospels, canonical and noncanonical, acts out my suspicion that a “conversation” among evocative texts will be itself evocative. Such discrepancies in our premises notwithstanding, our active engagement with the gospel is not without kinship.

My reasons for paying attention to the gospel differ radically from his, as does my understanding of what I’m paying attention to when I pay attention to the gospel, but for my sense that in paying attention to the gospel I can, and should, pay attention actively, he was an important model.

The Gospel does result from the hands-on approach I inherited from my paternal grandfather, but it’s not the first “hands-on” gospel I’ve composed. This is actually the third gospel I’ve published, and each of the three has its own “drift,” its own direction and intent.

In my 2008 poetry collection Legible Heavens, one of the sections, “Synopsis,” consists of poems based on selected incidents and teachings from the gospels, canonical and noncanonical. By “based on,” I mean that the poems attend with great care to the source (e.g. I went in each case to the original language), but does not attempt simply or straightforwardly to translate it.

For example, “One Sparrow” casts in the form of a villanelle an incident from the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, in which the child Jesus, reprimanded by an elder for molding sparrows from clay on the Sabbath, claps his hands, upon which the molded sparrows fly away. The original is told by a human observer, in the third person, in prose, but in my poem the first-person speaker is one of the sparrows.

Or again, the poem that addresses the beatitudes makes of them a sonnet, and gives for the repeated Greek word μακάριοι not the usual English translation “blessed” but the slightly more aslant word “replete.” Later, in my 2017 poetry collection Rain Inscription, one of the poems, “Near Fire,” creates, by redaction, translation, and modification a “sayings gospel.” It tries, that is, to reverse the historical progression of the gospels, from earlier collections of sayings attributed to Jesus to later detailings of life and travels and deeds. In my poem (my sayings gospel), the isolation of the sayings from the stories of works and wanderings is emphasized by referring to their source not as Jesus but as Sayer.

As for The Gospel itself, my research focused on gathering as many extant gospels, and fragments of gospels, as possible. Once the gathering was more or less complete, I began to translate portions, and to arrange them: this translation/arrangement process was reciprocal and ongoing.

I kept a chart of sections to be translated, but kept “shuffling” translated sections so that the order of sections changed and developed continuously. Similarly, I began with the most literal translation I could manage for each individual section, but modified translations to incline sections toward one another as they became part of the larger, growing whole. My translations got “looser” as their acclimatization to the whole advanced: that is, the integrity of the whole trumped “sticking to the text” of any one portion. After all the individual units had been translated and had entered the whole, the revisions took ever greater liberties, in the sense that they sought beholdenness not to the Jesus of any one passage or any one source gospel, but to the Jesus who lived and spoke in this gospel.

I don’t mean anything to which my paternal grandfather would have granted validity, but I do mean it seriously, when I say I tried in the process of composing this gospel to listen to Jesus. My Granddad Hix would not have approved of The Gospel, but it still proves I was listening to him, too, all those years ago.

Thank you for sharing your research and inspiration for The Gospel.

Guest Post: My Half-Century as a Writer by Verne R. Albright

Today’s guest is Verne R. Albright to talk about his writing and his latest book, Horseback Across Three Americas, and Playing Chess with God and the sequel, The Wrath of God.

Before we hear from Verne, I wanted to share a brief synopsis of his books.

Synopsis of Horseback Across Three Americas:

Travel with Verne Albright on his famous Peru-to-California ride. Cringe as he encounters vampire bats. Feel apprehension as he’s chased by bandits, and when he rides into Nicaragua days after a violent revolution. Be there when a road grader driver tries to run him and his horses down. Experience the tension of facing malaria, typhoid, cholera, and bubonic plague. Come with him across the Peak of Death, where travelers have frozen to death standing. Feel his anxiety when he becomes a fugitive from the law in Mexico. And meet countless fascinating people including a witch doctor, bandits, a smuggler, a bullying sheriff, and a beautiful American girl named Emily.

Synopsis of Playing Chess with God:

VOTED ONLINE BOOK CLUB’S 2019 BOOK OF THE YEAR! Henning Dietzel, at the urging of a Chilean prostitute named Encinas, investigates rumors of gold in California prior to the 1849 rush. Intrigued he heads to the Gold Country to stake his claim. When others flee a brutal winter, Henning perseveres, and by the time the Forty-Niners arrive, he’s already a wealthy young man. His saga is a sweeping tale of fortune and misfortune, discovery and tragedy, love and loss. From the backwaters and boardrooms of early San Francisco to malaria infested jungles and a guano island off the coast of Peru, Henning’s search for meaning and purpose eventually brings him to realize that all that glitters is not necessarily gold.

Synopsis of The Wrath of God:

Henning Dietzel’s attempt to rebuild his businesses—destroyed by a massive tidal wave—is complicated by a desire to also enjoy a satisfying personal life. Quick to recognize opportunity, he amasses an agricultural empire the size of a small country. But his fortunes rise and fall during three disastrous wars followed by struggles with an unscrupulous competitor, a crooked judge, and a slave trader.All the while he doggedly courts Martine Prado, a feisty, beautiful, seemingly unattainable Peruvian aristocrat whose liberation is a century ahead of its time. Henning accepts her proposal of a mutually advantageous marriage, which combines their haciendas. Rocky at first, the relationship improves until an astonishing, out-of-nowhere answer to Henning’s prayers threatens to destroy it.

Please give Verne a warm welcome:

When my third grade teacher announced a compulsory writing contest for fictional stories, a boy spoke for everyone but me when he protested, “How will we ever write two whole pages?”

I wrote twenty pages and won. It was the first such success of my young life, and from that day on I loved writing.

My advice to anyone thinking of becoming a writer is to plan on working long and hard while creating your first draft and then to edit, polish, and rewrite—no matter how long it takes—until you’re happy with it. That will take months if not years, and it’s just the beginning.

Unless you are an exception to the general rule, numerous publishers and agents will reject your early submissions. But you must not tell yourself they don’t know what they’re talking about. Instead polish and improve your manuscript until it’s the best it can be.

You will need the input of a first class editor. There are many who correct your grammar and spelling while trying to write your book for you. But the really good ones reach inside you and bring out your best.

“I feel like a failure if I see myself in your finished story,” my editor told me. “What I’m supposed to see is you.”

My talent for writing served me well when I began publicizing the little-known Peruvian Paso horse breed worldwide. I also promoted these horses by riding two from Peru to California and writing a book about my adventures during that unusual tour of Latin America and the Andes Mountains.

During my sixty-five trips to Peru, that country’s culture, history, and colorful characters have provided much material for my books.

My latest effort, Horseback Across Three Americas, is the true story of my 1960’s ride from Peru to the United States. I’ve had twelve books published, three of which were Best Sellers. I consider this the most thoughtful of all.

The following is an excerpt from Horseback Across Three Americas. Enjoy:

As I rode Hamaca and led Ima through a hamlet, a man on a mule reversed course to follow us. This often happened with people on foot and usually meant the person wanted to talk. But this was different. Five men joined him, all riding small scrawny mules, wearing dirty suits, and inebriated. Instead of simply tagging along, they crowded close behind us.

In vain I looked for an army post or police station. Uneasy with riders pushing them, Hamaca and Ima sped up. At the edge of town the group’s leader put his mule in a fast trot and came alongside me.

“I’m the Law,” he declared, staring at my Bowie knife. “I have to see your passport and inspect your bags.”

“Do you have anything to show your authority?” I asked without slowing.

“I’m not making a request,” he replied sternly. “I’m giving an order.”

“How do I know you have that right?”

“Señor, you must stop immediately.”

“As soon as I see proof you’re the Law.”

We’d reached a stalemate. Obviously he couldn’t prove his authority, and I wasn’t about to be talked down off Hamaca.

Besides, I had a feeling the other five would soon give up and go away. The one beside me, however, was another matter. His determination made me wonder if he might indeed be the Law.

But in nearly eight hundred miles, only border guards had asked to see my papers and even they hadn’t inspected my duffel bags. Furthermore I’d slept in police stations without one such request. I was certain I’d regret letting these men go through my belongings.

Incessantly the Law droned on about international law and American imperialism.

When he referred to me as an Americano, I pointed out that most South Americans insisted I was a Norteamericano. He ignored my feeble attempt to sidetrack him.

“Stop and dismount,” he ordered.

I kept Hamaca a few steps ahead, hoping he’d give up. Abruptly he spurred his mule, and it jumped between my mares. He grabbed Ima’s lead rope and started to dismount, intent on searching my bags. By then his companions were surrounding me. I turned Hamaca to face him and untied Ima from my saddle.

“Show me proof of your authority now,” I demanded, hoping he’d produce a convincing badge.

He didn’t.

“Be careful,” I shouted, jumping Hamaca toward him.

He recoiled, still holding the rope. I put slack in it by riding closer, then spun Hamaca and charged in the other direction.

Rather than be jerked off his mule, he let go.

“Halt or be shot,” he ordered.

Thank you, Verne, for sharing your love of writing with us and the excerpt to your latest book.

Guest Post: Annette Libeskind Berkovits Shares a Poem from her Collection, Erythra Thalassa

Erythra Thalassa by Annette Libeskind Berkovits is an autobiographical poetry collection that unites around the powerful image of the Red Sea as a dual symbol for both fear and larger-than-life hope.

Learn more about the book below and stay to see a sample poem and a bit of inspiration from the poet.

Book Synopsis:

Libeskind Berkovits’ words are accessible and raw in their honesty, etched from the sorrow of a bereft mother who, despite her decades-long science background, was helpless when her 46-year old son, a devoted and engaged father of two young daughters, suffered a devastating hemorrhagic stroke on an otherwise ordinary day. With her poems, she immerses the reader in the Red Sea—her Red Sea—a pulsing, emotional voyage from the very first uncomprehending ride to the emergency room, through ICU’s, tests, procedures and pain, recounting hopes raised, then dashed, then restored, later becoming an elderly caretaker for her son.

Throughout the collection, readers will be heartened by the promise of survival, the faith in science, the mystery of the human body and, most of all, the courage that remains after tragedy.
Matthew Lippman has praised the collection as “not afraid to confront the break in the body and to head straight into the red.”
And Story Circle wrote in their review, Some of the poems are meditative; others, cries of anguish–but all capture a mother’s inner struggle with the realities of the imperfections of life…. a wonderful book for anyone, whether serving as a family caregiver in overwhelming circumstances, or merely needing to be reminded of the temporal nature of what it means to be alive on this earth.”

Please welcome Annette Libeskind Berkovits:

1-800-Please- Help

There weren’t any virgins.
Not 72, not even one, but
I clearly saw them:
angelic telephone operators
at an old-fashioned switchboard,
sitting in neat rows
far enough from one another
so their wings didn’t tangle.
Through the buzz and celestial
interference they strained to hear
the earthly pleas, but maybe,
maybe, I thought, they’d hear mine.
‘Just let him open his eyes’
At first I whispered shyly,
didn’t want to overwhelm
them with my greed.
Didn’t want to say plain and
simple: I want him back
whole, the way he was,
seeing as they already granted
him life. Then I got bolder,
more urgent.
I shouted, then screamed
but they still refused to hear.
Just kept fussing with all those
cords, keys and jacks,
as if they really meant
to be helpful.

When my heretofore perfectly healthy and robust 46-year old son suffered a massive brain bleed—a hemorrhagic stroke—I could not sleep. The few hours I had to rest, after spending days and nights in the hospital, I lay awake, dreading that should I fall asleep, I’d miss a call from the hospital that the unimaginable had happened. If I did fall asleep, I’d wake up in a sweat and run to make a phone call to see how my son was doing. For weeks on end, the answer was “He is still in a coma.” Well, he’s still alive, there’s hope,” I’d console myself and return to bed to rest, sleepless, for a couple of hours. The sleep I wished for rarely came, until one day.

I awoke with a start, my eyes still closed, trying to tether the dream I had had to my conscious memory. Even before my son’s traumatic brain injury, dreams came to me rarely, if ever, and the ones that did, evaporated on waking, like dew on a sunny day, no matter how hard I tried to remember them and analyze in the light of day. But the dream that stuck with me vividly for six years is the one I memorialized in the poem 1-800-Please-Help.

I saw it as if it were a movie, so real I could swear I was physically there, with all the sensations, the light breeze on my skin, the cloudless sky and the expressionless Stepford wives faces on the angelic telephone operators. I struggled to make sense of it.

REM sleep, the sleep cycle in which one dreams, occupies only 15-20% of your sleeping time and since I had been sleeping so little, that vivid dream might have only taken a few minutes, maybe less. And yet, it was there, planted as firmly in my memory as an old oak tree. I knew that research has shown that dreams help you deal with stress and I surely had plenty of it, so I took having a dream as a good sign, if not the actual contents of this particular dream. Though it wasn’t of a nightmare quality exactly, it promised neither hope, nor help. It didn’t frighten me, but it increased my anxiety. I had to decipher its meaning.

It turns out that according to dream researchers, it was an epic dream in which I eventually came to a realization that unless I myself do things to help, no one is going to help deal with the tragic situation. It convinced me to act, to find ways of helping my son and his struggling, inconsolable wife.

I found the symbolism of the dream particularly interesting. Angels in dreams imply a deep spirituality. This surprised me because I am not a religious person. Could there be an inner me I know little about? Telephones, too, have particular meaning in dreams. They deal with communication. The fact the angelic operators simply fiddled with the wires without placing the call could have been suggesting I am unable to express or convey a message to someone. I don’t know.

After a while, I did not want to analyze the dream any more. To pick it apart logically seemed as if I were destroying a work of art. I just wanted to preserve the image, neither fully understood, nor diagnosed to maintain its poetic quality.

Thanks, Annette, for sharing this poem and your emotional journey.

About the Author:

Scientist, educator, conservationist, and author, Annette Libeskind Berkovits, was born in Kyrgyzstan and grew up in postwar Poland and the fledgling state of Israel before coming to America at age sixteen.

Culminating her three-decade career with the Wildlife Conservation Society in New York as Senior Vice President and recognized by the National Science Foundation for her outstanding leadership in the field, Annette spearheaded the institution’s science education programs throughout the nation and the world.

Despite being uprooted from country to country, Berkovits has channeled her passions into language study and writing. She has published two memoirs, short stories, selected poems, and completed To Swallow the World – a debut historical novel.

Erythra Thalassa: Brain Disrupted is her first poetry chapbook/ memoir about her emotional response to her son’s stroke. It is available on Amazon, or can be requested through your local bookstore.

Her stories and poems have appeared in Silk Road Review: a Literary Crossroads; Persimmon Tree; American Gothic: a New Chamber Opera; Blood & Thunder: Musings on the Art of Medicine; and The Healing Muse.

Her first memoir, In the Unlikeliest of Places, a story of her remarkable father’s survival, was published by Wilfrid Laurier University Press in September 2014 and reissued in paperback in 2016. Her second memoir, Confessions of an Accidental Zoo Curator, was published in April 2017. For more about Annette and her other books visit her website.

Guest Post & Giveaway: Sue Barr Talks About Fitzwilliam Darcy Undone’s Cover

Please welcome Sue Barr, as she shares with us how this cover came to be:

What would Pride & Prejudice be like if Darcy and Elizabeth had a touch of magic in their lives?

First, thank you for hosting me today. Without support from you and your readers, we authors would limp along seeking an audience from all sorts of unsavoury sources… *snicker* As Lydia would say, ‘La! What a laugh.’

I thought I’d share how the cover of Fitzwilliam Darcy ~ Undone came about.

I have a wonderful cover artist, Teresa of The Midnight Muse, who excels in Regency cover art. Sometime, in 2018, I saw the image which is now the cover of my book and knew I’d found a future Mr. Darcy. At that time, I did not know when or how I’d use this image, but it called to me on a visceral level and I had to have it and also knew the story would contain a lot of heat. At the same time, I also found an image which makes me think of Wickham but haven’t reconciled a story to that wicked man – yet.

BTW: this is usually how my mind works.

I’m very visual and stories grow from the smallest kernel of thought. My first entry into the world of writing JAFF began with me finding a pre-made cover with the head shot of an absolutely beautiful red-haired woman. Without question, this was Caroline Bingley, but what to do with her? Then the question popped into my head, ‘Whatever happened to Caroline Bingley after her brother and Mr. Darcy got engaged to a Bennet sister?’, followed by this one line, which found its way into the book, ‘When did all the men in her life become so addlepated over two country misses?’

Fitzwilliam Darcy ~ Undone began from a magic themed Playground piece on the fan fiction site, A Happy Assembly. The minute I decided to turn the whole thing into a full-blown novel I knew my cover art had found a home. We all know that Darcy is handsome, and tall, and well muscled… Wait, did Jane Austen write he was well muscled??? She may have said well formed… Oh well, in my dreams he is sculpted and yummy. I also think our deep, dark Darcy is very passionate and once again, the cover reveals that.

Don’t we all secretly wish a passionate Mr. Darcy would turn his attention our way? It’s okay. You can dream a little in this safe place with other like-minded readers. I’ll wait over here in the corner with a cup of tea…

I’m well pleased with my cover and satisfied with how the story came about. I’d toyed with the idea of making this book more explicit, however, toned it down to sensual (one explicit section only, thank you) because it seemed right and the cover hinted at it being a little spicy. I hope you take a chance and delve into my magical world with Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth.

Thank you, Sue, for sharing the origin of your cover and a little bit of how your mind works (**wink**)

Book Synopsis:

She’s the outcast in her family…

Elizabeth knows she’s different from the rest of her family. She has visions and strange dreams and sees things others do not. With the advent of the odious Mr. Darcy and his friends from Netherfield Park, as well as the amiable Mr. Wickham of the _____shire Militia, her powers seem to increase and her greatest fear is that she won’t be able to contain them and will be discovered.

He has eight hundred years of tradition to uphold…

No Darcy has married a non-magical woman since arriving on the shores of England with William the Conqueror in 1066. However, his kind – Miatharans – are dwindling in numbers. Miatharan magic only flows through aristocratic blood lines, so his strange obsession with Miss Elizabeth Bennet is puzzling as she is not of noble blood. Just a country squire’s beautiful daughter who has him slowly becoming undone.

About the Author:

‘The prairie dust is in my blood but no longer on my shoes.’

Although it’s been over forty-two years since Sue called Saskatchewan home, her roots to that straight-lined province and childhood friends run deep. The only thing strong enough to entice her to pack up and leave was love. When a handsome Air Force pilot met this small-town girl, he swept her off her feet and they embarked on a fantastic adventure which found them settled in beautiful Southwestern Ontario when hubby retired from the military and began his second career as an airline pilot.

Sue started writing in 2009 and sold her first manuscript in 2010. Always a reader of Regency romance, she discovered Jane Austen Fan Fiction in 2014 and almost immediately wanted to know – Whatever happened to Caroline Bingley after her brother and Mr. Darcy became engaged to a Bennet sister? From that question, her first JAFF book was launched.

In her spare time, Sue cans and preserves her own food, cooks almost everything from scratch and grows herbs to dehydrate. Her latest venture is to create her own spice seasonings, experiment with artisan breads and make her own homemade vanilla. Hubby has no complaints other than his jeans keep shrinking. At least that’s what he claims…. Her sons, their wives and all seven grandchildren don’t mind this slight obsession either. Visit her website, Facebook, and Twitter.


Sue Barr will giveaway an ebook of this latest novel to 3 random winners for entire blog tour.

Follow the tour and join in the comments to be entered to win. Sue will choose the random winners and announce the winners on social media on December 5.

Guest Post: Ben Teeter Shares His Poetic Inspiration for Falling Into All

Please welcome today’s guest, poet Ben Teeter.

He’ll be sharing a couple of poems and the inspiration behind those poems from Falling Into All, which will be published February 2021.

But first, I wanted to share a little bit about the collection, which could provide some of you with solace in these turbulent times.

Book Synopsis:

Falling into All details the essence of knowing, and the seeking out of truth, inspired by the author’s study of spiritual teachings across cultures and the ages.

Falling into All was written in the morning quiet, meditated on, and is sprung from words always stirring within the heart of the poet, and now ready for the world. The words within are meant to be shared, to encourage others to look inside themselves, and to open a way to understanding beauty and truth, so it may spread to all who seek it.

Do you have a spiritual artist in your heart?

Are you seeking to be closer to a higher sense of Self?

Open the pages, awaken your mind, and fall into the waiting divine.

Please welcome, Ben:

What inspired me to write this assembly of poetry?

Over the years of reading the literature of the spiritual-minded among us, I have often felt the frustration of the words’ failure to capture and express what is meant, or to actually convey an experience, for it to be truly shared.

Often, there was a broad vagueness, or an over- complexity, or perhaps a most important idea locked away in an antiquated word that does not crack open.

Yet I feel that these spiritual things are truly the most important things to be expressed, and realized, about this, our Life.

So I have spent some years in a practice of trying to capture for myself the Subtle and to wrap it in words, going for clarity, and the distinct sharing of what is felt.

That has been my inspiration and that is what I have tried to do here with the book, Falling Into All.

Here are two pieces from Falling Into All which exemplify how one of the themes may occur and then recur, in the flow of ideas and words.


Work and move
Surrounded in a mind
Aflow with daily care
And often seem to miss the
Big Where.
But, notice
Where we are!
I stop and

(pg. 47)

When you shift your focus to
Infinity all around you,
Like a snow of jewels,
Without surcease,
Instead of a form or two:
A job, a meal, some words,
Then Heart’s eye flutters open,
Pouring Gratitude,
Impaled in Peace.

(pg. 73)

Falling Into All will be available in February, 2021.

If someone would like to see more of this work, in the meantime, there is a small book called Forever Free, currently available for free download as an Ebook at WiseWordWind.com.

Thank you, Ben, for sharing these poems and your work with us.

About the Poet:

Ben R. Teeter was born in Washington, D.C., and raised in Maryland, amidst the blended cultures of his dad’s old Appalachian ways, of tough work and nature’s beauty, and his mom’s more jolly family life of prosperous, rural Americana. At John Hopkins University, in the midst of the late 1960s cultural shifts, his focus moved to the spiritual, metaphysical, and transcendental. From there he began his life-long pursuit of searching for deep wisdom and understanding, and has practiced internal yoga and Akido, the latter of which he has taught to others for over 30 years. He is a creative designer of houses and an experienced mason and master carpenter. He lives in San Diego, CA. Visit his website.

Guest Post: Do Writing Habits Change When Switching Genres? by Eric D. Goodman, author of The Color of Jadeite

As you can see from the book trailer, The Color of Jadeite by Eric D. Goodman would likely be considered a thriller. Today, Mr. Goodman is going to talk about what it was like to write in a different genre after writing short stories, a literary novel, and a children’s book. But first, read a little bit about The Color of Jadeite.

Book Synopsis:

Clive Allan, a suave private eye, ventures throughout China in search of an ancient jadeite tablet from the Ming dynasty. Along the way, he delves into the mysteries of China’s art, history, and culture.

Every bit as captivating as the treasure Clive seeks is the mysterious Wei Wei, an expert on Chinese artifacts who helps the droll detective navigate the most perilous pockets of Beijing, Shanghai, Xi’an, Hangzhou, Suzhou, and beyond.

With sidekicks Salvador and Mackenzie, Clive sets out to find the priceless artifact, outwitting their rivals at almost every turn. But between the fistfights and rickshaw chases, gunfights and betrayals, Clive’s deep connection with the treasure he seeks and his romance with Wei Wei force him to confront truths about his past and himself.

Doesn’t this sound intriguing? My mom loves a good PI novel and so do I. This sounds like a thrilling ride.

Please give Eric Goodman a warm welcome:

Aside from one published storybook for children, most of my published fiction, both long-form and short stories, falls rather firmly into the “literary fiction” genre—perhaps spilling over into “contemporary fiction” or “mainstream fiction” the way a pop song might break into country or a country ballad may sway into rock and roll.

So I’ve been asked more than a few times: what made me decide to cross the tracks into genre fiction? Why write a thriller?

The truth is, I think a good story is a good story, regardless of what genre label gets slapped onto the cover. I’ve been interested in adventures and thrillers for as long as I’ve been writing—since childhood. I’ve also always been fascinated with characters, interaction between them, and perspective. It turns out most of the work I’ve had published in my career has been focused on people and their relationships and everyday life. But even as a child and teen, I was writing adventure stories. So it was inevitable that I eventually write an adventure thriller.

The “how” of this particular book relates to the setting. I love to travel, and I make it a habit to visit multiple countries each year—when we’re not in pandemic lockdown.

Sometimes I travel with the purpose of writing a travel story or scouting out potential settings for novels and stories. Sometimes, just for the unique experience.

All of the locations featured in The Color of Jadeite are real paces that I visited during my recent trip to China. I found the places to be exotic and knew that I would want to use them as settings in a novel or series of stories. From the twisting side streets of Shanghai to the Imperial architecture of Beijing, even when I was there I could see that
these would be interesting places to set scenes. Knowing that I also wanted to try my hand at a thriller, I realized that these colorful and exotic locales would be the perfect settings.

Another thing I’ve been asked is whether my writing habits changed when switching genres. I really don’t think so—writing a story with good characters in interesting places and situations is more or less the same whether you’re writing historic fiction or science fiction.

My writing habits for Jadeite were much the same as with past novels. I tend to write in long spurts, and when I’m writing I submerge myself in the process and subject matter.

So when I began working on The Color of Jadeite, I read a lot about Chinese culture and Emperor Xuande and the Forbidden City and such. I also read thrillers and old gumshoe detective novels. And I watched a good number of documentaries and classic films, from noir detective to glob-trotting adventure.

After writing a first draft, I put it aside for a few months before revisiting it: reviewing and rewriting the novel. Again and again.

The one difference for this novel is that I needed to spend more time plotting it out. With literary fiction, I usually know where I’m headed and some pivotal scenes from point A to B, but I don’t tend to outline beyond having several pages of notes and scenes.

For The Color of Jadeite, it was important to outline in detail, not only because of the action that needed to take place and the locations I needed them to visit, but also because of the larger cast of intertwining characters—some of whom don’t make it to the end of the novel.

Before I began writing Jadeite, I already had both a full outline and a “beat sheet” that described every scene I knew needed to be included.

I’ve done this in the past, but for most of my recent writing I have not used outlines or beat sheets. So this made it a very different process in that way.

The other way the writing process changed was that in addition to fitting in plot points, I needed to fit in all of the interesting places I wanted to take the characters. In some ways, I think of Jadeite as a “novel in settings.” The list of interesting places I wanted to take my characters came early in the process, and part of the plot was driven by how to
take them there.

In the end, the most important part of the writing process is character development—trying to make the characters real, honest, and relatable. And offering them an opportunity to change.

Whether driven by dynamic action scenes or engaging dialogue, my goal is to make the reader have feelings for the characters—whether it’s country, rock and roll, or K-pop.

Thanks, Eric. I always find the writing process intriguing.

Pick up a copy of The Color of Jadeite at your local independent bookstore or Amazon.

You can find other interviews, reviews and guest posts by Eric D. Goodman, here.

About the Author:

Eric D. Goodman is a full-time writer who lives in Baltimore, Maryland with his wife, son, daughter, and Weimaraner. His most recent novel is the literary thriller, The Color of Jadeite (Apprentice House Press, October 2020). He is author of Setting the Family Free (Apprentice House Press, 2019), Womb: a novel in utero, (Merge Publishing, 2017), Tracks: A Novel in Stories, (Atticus Books, 2011) and Flightless Goose, a storybook for children (Writer’s Lair Books, 2008). More than a hundred of his works of short fiction, travel stories, and articles about writing have been published in literary journals and periodicals. When he’s not writing, Eric loves traveling, and most of the settings in The Color of Jadeite are places he has visited. Founder and curator of Baltimore’s popular Lit and Art Reading Series, Eric can be found at Facebook, Twitter, and his website.

Guest Post & Giveaway: Linda Kass’s Writing Space

Linda Kass is visiting the blog to share her writing space with us today. She has a new novel, A Ritchie Boy, out in the world today from She Writes Press. If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you’ll already know that I have an affinity for WWII era stories, and Kass’s novel fits into that desire to read about that historical period. Also, enter the giveaway below.


In this moving and memorable novel-in-stories—inspired by her father’s life—Linda Kass shares the little-known account of the Ritchie Boys. Often Jewish German-speaking immigrants, the Ritchie Boys worked in US Army Intelligence and helped the Allies win World War II.

A RITCHIE BOY follows the life of Eli Stoff. From facing down the anti-Semitism of Austrian classmates in 1938 to his family’s lucky escape; from arriving and assimilating in America to joining the Allied war effort; from the heartbreak of leaving family behind in Austria to setting down his roots in the Midwest, this is the story of a boy becoming a man, and of Eli’s journey from one homeland to another. In A RITCHIE BOY, Kass crafts an achingly powerful, beautifully wrought novel about war, survival, immigration, and hope.

“I devoured A Ritchie Boy over a single weekend. What a rich, beautiful book Linda Kass has written. I found such poignancy and delight in every facet of these characters’ lives. This is first-rate historical fiction.” —Alex George, national and international bestselling author of A Good American and The Paris Hours.

Please give Linda Kass a warm welcome.

When I moved into our condo, I was determined that my writing space would allow me to be creative and comfortable. I wanted an entire wall to be a library for my prodigious book collection. Since I write historical fiction and do a great deal of research, it was important to me to have so many resources right at my fingertips. I even have a section of books on writing that includes everything from Robert Caro’s Working, about his experiences researching and writing The Power Broker and The Years of Lyndon Johnson to Aristotle’s Poetics and The Art of Time in Fiction (Joan Silber).

Speaking of time, given how much of it I spend sitting in front of my laptop, I wanted a stand-up desk that raises up at the push of a button. That desk surface faces a window so I can look outside and imagine. I can also look to the right of my laptop and see a framed photograph of my father in his ROTC uniform before he left his university to join the US Army. His life inspired my new novel, A Ritchie Boy, about one young immigrant’s journey to American in 1938 and his role as one of the Ritchie Boys, often Jewish German-speaking immigrants who worked in Intelligence and helped the Allies win World War II.

I can also pivot in my chair to a much larger and prettier desk where I can spread out all my papers and books. Under this desk, rests my mini labradoodle, Wally, who keeps me company every moment I am writing. When I hear him moving about, I know it is time to take a break from my writing space and take a walk around the neighborhood!

Photo Credit: Lorn Spolter

About the Author:

LINDA KASS, who began her career as a journalist, is the author of the historical novel TASA’S SONG, which Booklist praised, saying “Kass depicts a heartbreaking time with great sensitivity and detail in this beautifully rendered historical drama." Publishers Weekly called it “. . . a memorable tale of unflinching courage in the face of war—and the power of love and beauty to flourish amid its horrors.” Kass is the founder and owner of Gramercy Books, an independent bookstore in central Ohio. Visit her website.

You can also read an excerpt of A Richie Boy.

I previously reviewed Tasa’s Song.

Enter below with a comment about why you want to read A Ritchie Boy by Sept. 7  Sept. 23 at 11:59 pm EST. Must be 18 years or older and a U.S. resident with a U.S. mailing address.

Groundhound Day Guest Post & Giveaway for Madness in Meryton by Jayne Bamber

Welcome to another guest post from Jayne Bamber on today’s blog about her new book, Madness in Meryton, which has a Goundhog Day theme. Before we get to her guest post today, let’s check out a little bit about the book:

When Jane and Elizabeth Bennet return home from Netherfield, two days of heavy rain confine them indoors with their unruly younger sisters, a mother in perpetual need of smelling salts, and the tedious Mr. Collins. When the rain clears, the ladies from Longbourn and the gentlemen from Netherfield are drawn to Meryton by the excitement of Market Day, setting in motion a series of significant events.

That night, Mrs. Phillips hosts a card party for officers of the local militia, where the charming Mr. Wickham tells Elizabeth his shocking history with Mr. Darcy, a man who has only given Elizabeth offense since coming to stay with his friend Mr. Bingley at Netherfield.

The next day, the same thing happens again.

And again, the day after that – and so on, for what begins to feel like an eternity. Elizabeth takes increasingly drastic measures to further the budding romance between her beloved sister Jane and their handsome neighbor Mr. Bingley. Along the way, she arranges improvements in the lives of all of her family, in a effort to end the relentless redundancy that only she seems aware of.

As Elizabeth’s frustration turns to madness, she soon realizes that her inexplicable dilemma is somehow connected to a certain officer and a certain gentleman of her acquaintance….

Elizabeth must forge unlikely alliances and devote her considerable wit to the task of achieving a perfect day for those she holds dear, while facing familiar Fitzwilliam friends and foes, as well as all the mortification and delight of falling in love.

Please give Jayne Bamber a warm welcome.

Hello, Janeites! It is a delight to be here at Savvy Verse & Wit to share a little about my new release, Madness in Meryton. This is my sixth Austen variation, and for those of you not following the tale on Happy Assembly, it is a Groundhog Day vagary – with a twist. If you have read any of my other novels, you will know I share Elizabeth Bennet’s fondness for human folly, and there is plenty of it to be had when dear Lizzy begins to repeat the dame day over again.

The day in question is the day that Elizabeth meets George Wickham and hears his tale of woe, and I have reimagined it as Meryton’s monthly Market Day to heighten the chaos of Elizabeth’s predicament.

The tension between Darcy and Elizabeth is unique in this story, as their predicament blurs the lines between frustration and friendship. To accompany the excerpt I am sharing today, I am also sharing one of my favorite writing playlists that has helped me set the mood for the romantic tension between our favorite couple… enjoy!


Darcy smiled as Elizabeth approached him at last. She was smirking at him, her eyes wide and bright. “You must indulge me, sir,” she said. “I have told poor Charlotte that I intend to tease you mercilessly.”

He suppressed his mirth, but leaned closer, dearly wishing she would tease him. “You are still of a mind for mischief?”

“I am, and I expected that you, of all people, would understand – and after all, I am sure your cousin is a man of odd humors and japes – you cannot be so unaccustomed to such larks.”

Darcy only nodded, silently cursing Richard’s charm and verbosity.

“Charlotte observed you staring at me,” Elizabeth said.

“You know why I stare,” Darcy replied.

Elizabeth arched an eyebrow. “I do now – before, I was never quite sure. I always supposed you disapproved of me. And that is what you must do now, Mr. Darcy. Do scowl as though I have just affronted you, and see how Charlotte shall cross her arms and shake her head.”

Darcy did so, affecting a posture of disapprobation. “How is this?”

She grinned. “Very imposing! You look truly vexed. And if I come a little closer, and point my finger just so, she may think I am really giving you the business.” Elizabeth moved near, her slender, gloved finger nearly jabbing his chest, and she twisted her face into a cheeky grimace.

Keeping his countenance stony, Darcy said, “If mischief were an accomplishment, Miss Bennet, you would have no rival.”

She rolled her eyes. “You cannot flatter me while I pretend to be so very rude.”

“Please advise me what you would most like to hear. After all, you did come to speak with me.” A smile began to spread across Darcy’s face, until a waggle of Elizabeth’s finger reminded him to look stern.

He repressed the urge to grab her finger between his teeth, rip off the glove, and kiss her from her wrist to her lips. He cast a nervous glance around the room, thinking it odd that only last night it had been so different with her; he had held her hand, even drew her closer in unguarded moments. They had been lost together on a wave of chaos, and tonight was so drastically different. It was calmer, more sedate, and it made Darcy uncomfortable. He reflexively took a step back.

Elizabeth withdrew her hand and folded her arms. “Tell me about your day – have you had any success?”

Darcy considered before he answered, and here he was sure his face looked naturally grave. “I spoke with him, yes. He made similar allusions to some future scheme, as he did with you. But he left town very willingly. It has made me wonder.”


“Well, I wonder if he is as significant in all this madness as I had originally thought. Could it be so simple, to merely send him on his way? Is it necessary that I discover what he is up to?”

Elizabeth knit her brow as she mulled this over. “I have always supposed I had some purpose, something to alter and improve, in the course of the day, and I had believed you must, as well.”

“And so I had thought,” Darcy agreed. “But I begin to wonder if it is Wickham, or perhaps something else.”

“Such as?”

Darcy involuntarily glanced over at Bingley, who was still sitting with Jane Bennet, conversing with animation as she smiled placidly at him. His heart raced. It could be that – but how could he tell her?

Elizabeth had followed his gaze, and something flashed in her eyes – hurt and anger and betrayal. And something very wild. Darcy shifted awkwardly, and caught himself reaching for her hand as if it were the most natural response. He stilled himself, watching her face as so many emotions played out there.

“I am not sure about anything, anymore,” he breathed. His fingertips twitched, brushing hers.

Elizabeth flinched, peering up at him curiously, almost fearfully. “Do not be too hasty, think it over,” she whispered. Her hand brushed his again, and she drew in a sharp breath.

It was torture for Darcy. All evening it had nagged at him, that Bingley could not be allowed to seriously consider Jane Bennet, and yet Darcy himself was in way too deep with Elizabeth. The woman who would despise him forever if she knew what he was thinking, what he was growing quite convinced he must do.

Again his eyes drifted to Bingley. The man was falling for a woman who thought of him as merely an amiable acquaintance, nothing more, no little difference from Darcy’s own situation. He would save Bingley to save himself, and if Elizabeth hated him tomorrow, at least there would be a tomorrow.

Several things happened in quick succession. Elizabeth’s countenance went cold, and he knew she was not pretending anymore. He also knew she could see what he was thinking. She looked away suddenly; Miss Lucas had apparently perceived the tension between Darcy and Elizabeth, and was moving that way as if to intervene. The music had stopped, and Mr. Collins abandoned Mary Bennet once he had Darcy in his sights.

Elizabeth gave Miss Lucas a little shake of her head, and her eyes flicked over to Mr. Collins, whose lips were moving slightly, as if rehearsing the lavish praise of Lady Catherine that he would soon bestow on Darcy. Miss Lucas quickly changed her course and intercepted the parson.

Bingley came from the opposite direction, Jane Bennet on his arm. He clapped Darcy on the shoulder. “Darcy, how are you enjoying the card party? Not quarreling with Miss Elizabeth again, I hope?” He laughed nervously, and the Bennet sisters exchanged a silent, knowing look.

“We were speaking of you,” Elizabeth replied, arching an eyebrow. She met Darcy’s eye just long enough to land her point. “I was wondering why you were not dancing. You enjoy the amusement so much more than your friend, Mr. Bingley.”

Bingley just smiled his affable, idiotic smile, nodded, and laughed. “Well,” he cried after a moment, “we have been lost to all the world in conversation!”

Miss Bennet smiled as well, and said nothing. Quite the conversationalist indeed. Poor Bingley had probably been pouring his heart and soul out to her, in exchange for diffident smiles and wide eyes hooded with long, dark lashes.

Across the room, Miss Lydia appealed to her sister, Miss Mary, to take up the instrument where Maria Lucas had left off. Darcy tried not to flinch at the girl’s grating voice, and he looked back to Elizabeth. “I fear Miss Elizabeth has not had as pleasant a partner in conversation as her sister,” Darcy replied. “Though I am not fond of dancing, I am rather better at it than speaking, when words often fail me.”

Again Elizabeth arched an eyebrow at him, her look so intent she could scarcely be aware of Bingley and her sister. There really was nothing he could say now, he knew. But he offered her his hand as the music resumed.

Bingley laughed. “Well, we shall not be outdone by Darcy here,” he told Miss Bennet before turning to Darcy. “Well done, you know, turning the table on me – it is always me, urging you to dance.” He guffawed again, “I shall not disappoint you, Jane.” He grabbed Miss Bennet’s hand and she gave a gentle laugh as he whisked her away to dance.

Darcy and Elizabeth had frozen at Bingley’s use of Miss Bennet’s christian name. Her hand hovered over his for a moment before she accepted it, and she kept her head downcast as he led her to join her sisters in the dance.

They began the movements in a heady silence before she finally looked up at him. He tried to smile, tried to convey some message of reassurance in his face, but something felt different now.

Elizabeth glanced over at her sister, and then back at him. They turned in time to the music. “Will he?” They spun again. “Disappoint her?”

Darcy placed his hand against hers as they went down the dance. He observed Bingley as they moved past him. Elizabeth stared probingly at him. Miss Mary fumbled the keys of her instrument for a moment, and Miss Lydia laughed. The dancers all attempted to recover the rhythm; they spun again. Elizabeth’s jaw tightened as he placed his hand on her back for the next movement of the dance. He knew he had not answered her, and she expected him to.

Darcy sighed. “I do not know yet.” Elizabeth averted her eyes, and did not speak for the rest of the dance.

Doesn’t this sound like a fun P&P variation? I think so. Thanks, Jayne, for stopping by. Readers please enter the giveaway below.


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.


Guest Post & Giveaway: Writing in Times of COVID-19 and Social Protest by Valerie Fox and Lynn Levin

It seems like I’ve know Valerie Fox and Lynn Levin forever, and maybe I have, but I love their passion for teaching, especially for teaching students how to write creatively, especially when it may be hard to do so because of isolation and pandemics. Their second edition of Poems for the Writing: Prompts for Poets was published this month, and they’re kind enough to stop by with a guest post about the book, writing during the pandemic, and more. One lucky U.S. resident could receive their very own copy of the book, which includes workshop-tested prompts and poems from students, local writers, and more.

Please give Valerie and Lynn a warm welcome, and stay tuned for the giveaway:

Valerie Fox and Lynn Levin: Thanks, Savvy Verse & Wit, for inviting us to talk about Poems for the Writing: Prompts for Poets (2nd Edition) and to talk about our writing and teaching.

Lynn Levin: The new coronavirus has us living in strange and fraught times that will surely go down in the history books. And it’s the same for the Black Lives Matter movement that continues to gain power after the murder of George Floyd. As writers, many of us feel that it is vital to wrestle with these cataclysmic events, to engage them in our writing. We have some ideas for addressing these issues in your creative writing: some of them are based on our teaching and our own writing practice, some of them are adapted from our new book Poems for the Writing: Prompts for Poets, Second Edition.

Valerie Fox: Yes, the COVID-19 times have surely had an impact on so many aspects of our lives, in so many ways. Teaching-wise, I noticed in March and following, how it was really important for writers in my college classes to document their lives, in as you say, “fraught” times. In one class, we were reading and writing about flash fiction, and when given the choice between creative and critical writing, most students chose to write their own flash fiction, poetry, or creative non-fiction. And many were very eager to document their lives in isolation, their worries for friends and family most at risk, and so on. Importantly, as the Black Lives Matter protests intensified, many were taking part in demonstrations and documenting that, too.

The reflection, learning, and writing on race, as well as the reflection, learning, and writing on the pandemic—both deeply influenced these writers. One strategy that was helpful involved asking writers to create in a letter format (addressing their future self, for instance, or directed to a real person being affected by the virus, and so on).

Here’s one example. Some clever writers (as a collaboration) exchanged photographs representing their work spaces and feelings of isolation, and then they wrote poems about each other’s photographs. This got the writers thinking about perspectives, and their creative collaboration was a great way to connect.

Lynn, do you have some specific tips?

LL: Yes. There is a lot to be angry about these days, and the I-hate poem, a prompt from our book, may provide you with a stance by which you can address people who refuse to wear masks, who pack into virus-spreading events, who are responsible for taking innocent black lives, and who generally espouse all types of hate and bigotry. You could write an I-hate poem directed at the virus itself or prejudice itself. You might write your I-hate poem in list form or in stanzas with rhyme.

Turning specifically to the COVID-19 pandemic, we find ourselves having to social distance and stay at home as much as possible. This can be frustrating, and we have a prompt in the book called the paraclausithyron that is well suited to expressing how it feels to be separated. In the classic literary tradition, the paraclausithyron is a lover’s lament before the beloved’s closed door. In this case it may be your lament before your beloved hair dresser’s locked salon door, or the closed door of your school, or the closed door of your child’s school. To write a paraclausithyron for COVID-10 times, you might address the door or the person behind the door as you reveal your longing and imagine how you would like things to be. You could even use the paraclausithyron to express your frustration at needing to stay home behind your own closed front door.

Here’s a look at Serena’s junk drawer

VF: Yes, “Home” as an idea, sense of place, setting, or motivation for writing. For one online class, with Writers Room, we asked students to think about previous homes they had lived in and use memories and descriptions as the basis for poems. Another exercise was to write about the contents of junk drawer or medicine cabinet in their present home. The junk drawer writing inspired many writers to look closely at some part of their homes (or their lives) that they don’t usually inspect so thoroughly. Then, they could use the items/images/tools/mementos to jog their memories or help them come up with a story. Some poignant work came out of this.

Personally, I have a lot of unfinished writing, so in these recent days I’ve been spending a lot of time editing and striving to finish works. Earlier this summer, I felt paralyzed when it came to starting new pieces. So I am using our prompts, Lynn. Our “change a moment in time” chapter has been helpful, specifically. And I also created a poem based on our “Song-title” chapter, to develop a character in a series of linked flash fiction pieces I am currently working on.

One of the unexpected outcomes of not seeing people as much in person has been doing more online workshops. I enjoy that, a lot, including with my usual longstanding workshop I have belonged to for ten plus years. (Though I miss the snacks and wine and being in the same physical space.) I have tried a few other online workshops, as well. The deadlines are useful.

LL: If you are in an online poetry writing class at a school or through a literary organization, you are lucky because you are already in a community of writers. But COVID-19 makes building a community of writers more important than ever and more challenging, especially because you cannot congregate at a coffee shop or library or other physical space. That said, a blog like Savvy Verse & Wit gives writers and readers a special gift. It creates a dynamic gathering, and
it’s not bound by geography.

Serena, thank you so much for creating this beautiful community and for giving us a chance to share.

Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your insight.

About the Poets:

Levin and Fox co-authored Poems for the Writing: Prompts for Poets, Second Edition, which was published in 2019 by Texture Press. It was selected as a 2020 finalist by the Next Generation Indie Book Awards. It’s organized around twenty specific writing prompts, and includes numerous examples accompanying all of the prompts. The examples are from both established writers, up-and-coming writers, and even those from the tradition. Both Levin and Fox have been teaching writing at Drexel University for over twenty years and enjoy collaborating and teaching together.

Valerie Fox has published writing (prose and/or poetry) in Juked, Philadelphia Stories, Reflex, The Cafe Irreal, A3 Review, Across the Margin, Cleaver, New Flash Fiction Review, Sentence, Hanging Loose, and other journals. Valerie’s books include The Rorschach Factory, The Glass Book, and Insomniatic. A story she wrote is included in The Group of Seven Reimagined: Contemporary Stories Inspired by Historic Canadian Paintings. Her work has been selected for both the Best Small Fictions and Best Microfiction series. You can learn more about her work here.

Lynn Levin’s most recent poetry collection, The Minor Virtues, is listed as one of Spring 2020’s best books by The Philadelphia Inquirer. Her previous collections include Miss Plastique, Fair Creatures of an Hour, and Imaginarium. She is the translator, from the Spanish, of Birds on the Kiswar Tree by Odi Gonzales and co-author of Poems for the Writing: Prompts for Poets. Her poems have appeared in Boulevard, Artful Dodge, on Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac, and other places. She teaches at Drexel University. Visit her website.

ENTER the Giveaway: Comment about why you’d like to win the book, Poems for the Writing: Prompts for Poets, Second Edition by Aug. 7 at 11:59 p.m. EST

Guest Post & Giveaway: Victoria Kincaid Shares Her New Audiobook Release, When Mary Met the Colonel

Please welcome back Victoria Kincaid to the blog today. She’s going to let us into the world of Mary Bennet and Colonel Fitzwilliam from When Mary Met the Colonel, a new audiobook with the fabulous narrator Stevie Zimmerman.

But first a bit about the book:

Without the beauty and wit of the older Bennet sisters or the liveliness of the younger, Mary is the Bennet sister most often overlooked.

She has resigned herself to a life of loneliness, alleviated only by music and the occasional book of military history. Colonel Fitzwilliam finds himself envying his friends who are marrying wonderful women while he only attracts empty-headed flirts.

He longs for a caring, well-informed woman who will see the man beneath the uniform. During the wedding breakfast for Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet, a chance meeting in Longbourn’s garden kindles an attraction between Mary and the Colonel.

However, the Colonel cannot marry for love since he must wed an heiress. He returns to war, although Mary finds she cannot easily forget him. Is happily ever after possible after Mary meets the Colonel?

Please give Victoria a warm welcome and stay tuned for the giveaway:

Hello Serena and thank you for having me back to visit! I am very pleased to announce the release of my audiobook of When Mary Met the Colonel – a love story between Mary Bennet and Colonel Fitzwilliam. I’ve wanted to make an audio version of it for quite a while and was thrilled that the wonderful Stevie Zimmerman became available to narrate it. She does a lovely job! At the beginning of the book, the Colonel meets Mary in the Longbourn garden during Elizabeth and Darcy’s wedding breakfast. The scene below takes place the next morning when the Colonel is having breakfast at Netherfield. I hope you enjoy it!

Here’s the excerpt:

All the things I could tell her about Ciudad Rodrigo….

“Colonel, are you feeling well?”

“Hmm?” Fitz looked up from his breakfast plate at Bingley. “Perfectly well, thank you.”

Why was Bingley inquiring?

“That was the third time I asked.” Bingley chuckled.

Fitz rubbed his forehead with one hand. “I apologize. I am not the best of guests. Perhaps I am overly tired.”

“Yesterday was a long day,” Mrs. Bingley said graciously as she poured him more tea. “I am certain Elizabeth and William were quite fatigued by the time they reached London, but they did not wish to delay their departure.”

Bingley smiled at his wife over the rim of his tea cup. “I believe most newly married couples prefer to be alone.”

Mrs. Bingley blushed but said nothing. Fitz had the sense of being outside in the cold, watching a family enjoying a warm Christmas dinner. Do not be bitter. You have a rewarding career, food, a roof over your head, and good friends and family. It is more than many have.
Somehow, such admonishments did not improve his spirits.

“I apologize that I could not secure a place in the post carriage for a departure today,” Fitz told his hosts. “It is very good of you to have me another day.”

“Think nothing of it!” Bingley responded. “We are quite pleased to have you visit. Darcy has mentioned you often, and I am happy to make your acquaintance at last.”

“And I you,” Fitz said. Bingley was quite an amiable fellow and seemed well-suited to his wife. Mrs. Bingley cut into her sausage. “Will you be going abroad again soon, Colonel?”

Fitz nodded. “I expect so.”

Bingley’s eyes lit with interest, but he said nothing. Fitz guessed that he preferred not to discuss the war in his wife’s presence.

She nodded. “My sister Lydia’s husband is in a Northern regiment. She expects he will be ordered abroad soon.”

Fitz said nothing. The Bingleys obviously did not know that he had helped secure Wickham’s commission, and Fitz had no desire to enlighten them. He sought a less fraught subject for the conversation. “How will your parents fare with only two daughters at home?”

Mrs. Bingley smiled gently. “It will be quite an alteration for them. Until recently, we were all five at home, and now three are gone within a short span of time. At least I am close here at Netherfield.”

“Have any of your other sisters formed attachments?” He cleared his throat, unsure why his voice cracked when he asked such an innocuous question.

“None that I am yet aware of,” she responded. “But Kitty is always out and meeting new people. Mary is more retiring.”

Fitz frowned. Why did nobody give Mary the credit she deserved? “I had a very pleasant conversation with Miss Bennet yesterday.”

Bingley’s eyebrows shot up. “Miss Mary Bennet? Are you sure?”

“Indeed, I have no difficulty differentiating the two ladies,” Fitz said dryly. Mrs. Bingley hid a smile behind her napkin.

“Are you much interested in theology?” she inquired.

“No, we discussed—” Abruptly, Fitz remembered that Mary’s interest in military history was a secret. “Uh…history…and the events of the day. It seems she reads the papers a great deal.”

Mrs. Bingley’s eyes widened. “Indeed? I thought she only read Fordyce’s Sermons.”

How was it that even Miss Bennet’s own sister did not know of her true cleverness? The poor woman was even more sadly misunderstood than he had first thought.

He found himself wishing to speak with her again. Soon he would return to London where the women of the ton only discussed gossip and gloves or sought to please his vanity—when they deigned to notice a second son at all. How lovely it would be to have one more conversation
with a woman of intelligence before returning to such dreariness! But how could it be contrived?

He was scarcely acquainted with the Bennet family; calling upon them would surely bring him unwanted attention from Miss Kitty.

“Do you plan to visit Longbourn today, Mrs. Bingley?” he asked, hoping he sounded casual.

She set down her fork. “I should. Mama’s nerves will be in a state after the excitement yesterday.”

He vowed to discover some means to manage Kitty. “I would be happy to accompany you and thank your parents for their hospitality yesterday.”

“That would be very pleasant,” she responded. “Charles, shall you join us?”

“I believe I will.”

Fitz could not account for the sudden rapid beating of his heart.

Sounds intriguing, doesn’t it? I can’t wait to have a listen to this one.

Please leave a comment about your latest favorite read in the Jane Austen variation world? I’m looking for recommendations.

Entries for 1 audiobook will be accepted through July 31, 2020, at 11:59 p.m.

Guest Post: A Publishing Journey by Poet Aries, Author of Aches and Epiphanies

Today’s guest is a poet with a lot of drive, who queried publishers on her own about sending a manuscript to them for publication. Aries was rewarded for her persistence when Olympia Publishers gave her the green light for her collection, Aches and Epiphanies.

Before we welcome her to the blog, let’s learn a little bit more about the collection:

A collection of poetry, prose and thoughts from poet and songwriter, Aries.
From love lost to happiness found; from pain to joy and vice versa. The words of the unspoken and raw human emotions come to the fore.

For those who have stood face to face with love and it has been terrifying or have hidden secrets behind closed doors. For those who find comfort in the hands of another, you will learn, page by page.

As the universe takes its last breath, it looks at you with glittering eyes and smiles. You were worth the destruction.

Please give Aries a warm welcome:

My name is Aries and I’m a 21-year-old poet and just three months ago, I released my debut poetry book, Aches and Epiphanies.

I started writing poetry when I was 16 and needed an outlet to express my feelings. I started off writing in the comments section of photos I used to post on an Instagram page I made, but only a few of my friends knew about it. I liked having a place where I could write down my thoughts and feelings privately, but as I grew more confident I realized these were more than just thoughts; they were poetry, and I wanted my work to be seen. From there I began writing everything down in notebooks, and when I turned 18 I decided I wanted to get a book published. I was completely new to the entire process and started out just emailing publishers to ask if I could send over a manuscript. I kept doing this until one replied, and one year later came my proudest piece of work: Aches and Epiphanies. So much hard work goes into the process of writing and editing but I wouldn’t change it for the world. It’s been incredible reading and re-reading my poems, and changing them up a little as well.

Aches and Epiphanies is divided into two chapters, the first chapter exploring pain in the form of misunderstandings, breakups and confusion. The second chapter talks about all the things I’ve learned and the good that has come from the bad. How the sun always rises even when the night seems endless.

I wrote all the poems in the span of about three years, taking notes of little experiences and then expanding them. I found it really therapeutic to put all my feelings down on a page because then, they can have a new life, and they’re no longer interfering with my happiness or growth. I write about the hurt because I know there are people out there who feel it too, and if it can make one person feel less alone or inspire them, then that poetry has the power to move mountains.

I don’t think I really have a writing process, and I definitely don’t write consistently. There are days when I’ll write pages and pages and then I won’t be able to think of anything for a week. I’ll also write down words or feelings and then go back to them in a month or so when I feel ready. I also love writing on the train, strangely. I think it’s because I have a lot of time to focus and I have a lot of time with my thoughts, but a lot of my first drafts of poems get done when I’m traveling.

Poetry has helped me with lots of other creative outlets such as songwriting; I’ve been a singer/songwriter for over ten years and since starting poetry I’ve found my lyrics have grown and changed in the best way possible. I use a lot of my poems as bases for songs I write as well, so many of my themes in music and writing are similar.

I still have much to learn as a writer and a person, but being able to document all of that and turn it into something beautiful is the reason why I keep writing. Being an author is one of my proudest achievements and I hope one day Aches and Epiphanies will be on someone’s shelf, next to Allison Malee or Rupi Kaur, inspiring them to write too. And one day, they can move mountains.

About the Poet:

Aries is a poet from Kuwait who currently lives in the UK. She is passionate about writing down feelings and turning the pain into something beautiful.

She has enjoyed writing from a young age, as well as composing songs, and is currently releasing music on several platforms.

Aries draws on personal experience as well as the experience of others for her work, and aims to express real feelings on paper to reach out to anyone who is willing to listen.

Guest Post: How I Researched Anna’s Dance: A Balkan Odyssey by Michele Levy

Today’s guest is Michele Levy, author of Anna’s Dance: A Balkan Odyssey, who will explore the research into Anna’s Dance, a journey of self-discovery. But first, as always, please check out the book’s synopsis.

Book Synopsis:

It’s 1968. The world is in turmoil. So is twenty-thee-year-old Anna Rossi, who questions everything about her life, from her mostly Jewish heritage to her fear of intimacy. Summer in Europe with a childhood friend offers a perfect way to escape her demons. When her friend abandons her in Italy, Anna makes the rash decision to travel on with strangers. Her journey takes a perilous turn, leading her into conflict in Eastern Europe and into the heart of the Balkans.

Love, Intrigue, Betrayal—Anna must find the strength to survive.

Without further ado, here’s Michele Levy’s guest post; give Michele a warm welcome:

It seems I have been doing ‘research’ for Anna’s Dance since I first encountered Balkan music and dance as a high school student. References to Balkan dance and songs learned at dance workshops, camps, and groups over many years permeate the novel. But eventually I wanted to explore the roots of that vibrant culture— its tangled ethnic past. Reading Balkan literature and history, I published two articles about the myths and images that history engendered, some of which made their way into Anna’s Dance.

Then in 2008, after co-teaching a Senior Honors Seminar on Genocide for English, history, and psychology majors, I shaped a component on the Bosnian War. That summer, during a week-long seminar on genocide at the US Memorial Holocaust Museum, I explored the museum’s huge library. The following summer, as a museum Fellow, I spent a month immersed in its holdings on both the Holocaust and Balkan violence. From those materials I shaped a conference paper that grew into an article since published in three separate venues: a journal and two books (the most recent listed among the sources).

I widened my research to include the survival of Serbian Jews during the Holocaust and the politics of memory in Croatia, Serbia, and Bosnia post-WWII and the Bosnian War. For this I studied survivor testimonies, newspapers, and relevant online and library materials. I also began to read ancient, but particularly 19 th century, Balkan history and the emergence of competing ethno-nationalisms, like those that engendered the Archduke Ferdinand’s assassination by a young Serb from the Bosnian Black Hand, which aimed to free Bosnia from Austria-Hungary. This desire for ethnic autonomy sparked World War I, helped fuel the outbreak of World War II, and ignited the Bosnian conflict of 1992-1995. Given Macedonia’s recent struggles to name itself, the story has not ended. I wove much of this history, both of Balkan Jews and the Macedonian question, as it is called, into Anna’s journey and Spiro’s character.

For the novel’s settings, I relied on the memory of my four trips to the Balkans, maps old and new, others’ recollections, and guidebooks, especially older ones, given how many routes and names have changed since 1968. Mihajlov, the tiny mountain village where Anna stays with her beloved Spiro, does not exist. But trolling a Macedonian chatroom in 2010, I encountered declarations of extreme nationalist sentiment, some including violence. This convinced me that small pockets of proud former Macedonians might have existed in 1968 Bulgaria, under Zhivkov’s oppressive regime. [A tour of YouTube shows that strong ethno-national feelings continue in 2020. Labeling a song Macedonian might anger a Greek who views it as Greek.]

Since minority communities within a majority culture often cling to their suppressed traditions, e.g. Irish, Scottish, Basque, and Catalonian nationalists, or European village Jews, it seemed possible that Pirin (part of Macedonia till Bulgaria took it in 1913, at the Treaty of Bucharest that ended the Second Balkan War) might harbor some former Macedonians squirming under Todor Zhivkov’s nationalist regime, which sought to create a homogeneous population loyal to Bulgaria. Having earlier labeled its Macedonians a ‘minority’ to please Stalin, by 1968 Bulgaria had reclassified them as ‘Bulgarian’ to suit a changed reality. For this part of the novel, besides consulting books, webpages, and chatrooms, I interviewed Macedonians from both within and outside Bulgaria. Fragments of those stories shaped Spiro’s history.

Belene, one of Bulgaria’s infamous labor camps, proves pivotal to Spiro’s backstory. Here I studied online histories and testimonies from survivors of those camps, some of which operated till communism fell in 1989. Their existence left a painful legacy not yet fully acknowledged. Tzvetan Todorov’s Voices from the Gulag: Life and Death in Communist Bulgaria. provided particularly poignant images, while Elizabeth Kostova’s novel The Shadow Land explores this issue and why some still wish to conceal it.

For Spiro’s past I also researched Bulgarian spy craft, since Bulgaria, the Soviet Union’s most faithful satellite, worked closely with the KGB. In 1978, its spy network became notorious for murdering dissident Georgi Markov with the poisoned tip of an umbrella on a bridge in London, to which he had fled in 1968. Here I used mostly online sources, including reports from MI5 and 6, US government documents, and so forth.

Regarding the American and Western European elements, I experienced what I mention and only made sure to validate those memories online.

Some Relevant Sources

Intense historical research underpinned Anna’s Dance. The articles and chapters include many useful sources that explore Eastern European nationalism and the violence it kindled:

  • Levy, Michele Frucht. “From Skull Tower to Mall: Competing Victim Narratives and the Politics of Memory in the Former Yugoslavia,” in Life Writing and Politics of Memory in Eastern Europe (Palgrave/MacMillan UK, 2015).
  • “The Last Bullet for the Last Serb: The Ustasha Genocide against Serbs, 1941-1945,” Nationality Papers, Vol. 37, no. 6, November 2009 (807-837).
  • Petersen, Roger D. “Understanding Ethnic Violence: Fear, Hatred, and Resentment in Twentieth-Century Eastern Europe,” Cambridge University Press, 2002.
  • Poulton, Hugh. “Who Are the Macedonians?” Indiana University Press, 2000.
  • Todorov, Tzvetan. “Voices from the Gulag: Life and Death in Communist Bulgaria.” Robert Zaretsky (trans.). University Park, PA: Penn State Press, 1999.

About the Author:

Like Anna, Michele Levy fell in love early with Balkan dance, which ignited her fascination with the Balkans. Having published on their history and culture, and traveled there several times, she sought to portray in fiction the special beauty, vibrancy, and complexities of the land and of its peoples. And she still delights in dancing to a sinuous rhythm and a strong drumbeat. Visit Black Rose Writing and the website.