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Guest Post & Giveaway: Kara Pleasants’ The Unread Letter

Welcome to another Jane Austen World Excerpt and guest post for a newly published book, The Unread Letter by Kara Pleasants.

Please check out the synopsis:

After rejecting Mr Darcy’s proposal at Hunsford, Elizabeth Bennet is surprised when he finds her walking the next day and hands her a letter. Without any expectation of pleasure—but with the strongest curiosity—she begins to open the letter, fully intending to read it.

It really was an accident—at first. Her shaking hands broke the seal and somehow tore the pages in two. Oh, what pleasure she then felt in tearing the pages again and again! A glorious release of anger and indignation directed towards the man who had insulted her and courted her in the same breath. She did feel remorse, but what could she do? The letter was destroyed, and Elizabeth expected that she would never see Mr Darcy again.

Home at Longbourn, she discovers that her youngest sisters are consumed by a scheme to go to Brighton—and Elizabeth finds herself drawn to the idea of a visit to the sea. But the surprises of Brighton are many, beginning with a chance meeting on the beach and ending in unexpected romance all around.

Doesn’t this synopsis just say there will be some very, very awkward moments? I can’t wait to read it.

Please give Kara a warm welcome:

Thank you, Serena!

Thank you so much for having me share a bit of my novella The Unread Letter with you! This excerpt takes place when the Bennet family has just arrived in Brighton. The premise of the story explores the question of what might happen if Elizabeth had never read Darcy’s letter—and didn’t know that she shouldn’t go anywhere close to Wickham!

So, the Bennets have all gone to Brighton together, but of course they could not afford to stay at an inn or rent a house for an extended holiday. Instead, they planned their trip by agreeing to help care for an aged and distant relative—the widow Mrs. Bartell. I conceived of Mrs. Bartell as a woman who speaks her mind because she can—she is now independent of a husband, has a place of her own, and only herself to please.

I hope you will enjoy meeting her in this excerpt:

With exceedingly great raptures the Gardiners’ note was received accepting the change in plan from the Lake tour to the Brighton seaside. The Gardiners were delighted by the idea of a visit that included the entire family and noted that Brighton was close to the Seven Sisters chalk cliffs, which they longed to see. The only difficulty was that they must postpone their journey by two weeks because of Mr Gardiner’s business. This threw Kitty and Lydia into a flutter of nerves over the thought of even the briefest separation from the officers, until it was decided that the Bennets would travel ahead to Brighton and, within a short amount of time, be joined by the rest of their party.

Elizabeth briefly doubted her impulse to travel with her family during the chaos of packing trunks and gowns and hats and trims with two younger sisters who fought over every item of clothing. At last, once the coach was loaded, the journey was spent in the highest of spirits and Elizabeth felt her doubts give way to eager anticipation. Even Mary, who never before expressed approval of the scheme and mostly observed her youngest sisters’ antics with a frown, now turned to her oldest sisters with a smile. “I have been reading about the benefits of sea bathing,” she pronounced, “and the sea itself seems to be a great testament to the power of a great God. I do not care for the parties or the dresses, but I do look forward to seeing this wonder.”

“So you are to go sea bathing?” Mr Bennet asked with a wry grin. “Do wonders never cease? I surmise that these new environs will provide opportunities for laughter at other people’s expense in every corner.”

After a stop in London, where the Bennets spent a merry evening with the Gardiners in high anticipation of them all being together again as soon as Mr Gardiner’s business was concluded, the second leg of their journey was more subdued, with nearly all of the party sleeping along the road.

It was evening when the Bennets arrived at the home of their relation. The young ladies were all abuzz when the coach stopped on St James’s Street, and Mr Bennet led them through a narrow alley and back to a quiet lane, known as St James’s Place, where a row of town houses and gardens stood. The four-story red brick town house where they would spend their holiday had a small garden full of roses enclosed by an iron railing.

“How charming! And you cannot hear the noise of the street!” Elizabeth said.

“But my dear you did not tell me that Mrs Bartell lived so close to the shops! So close to everything! Why, what a thing for our girls! I am sure they shall always be thrown in the path of many eligible men. I can hardly speak for happiness.” Mrs Bennet’s mouth was agape at the sight of the stately home.

“You need not speak at all,” Mr Bennet replied. “I would not put much hope in Mrs Bartell’s potential as a matchmaker.”

“Why ever not?” Mrs Bennet said, but Mr Bennet had already opened the gate and walked up the steps to rap on the door. Behind him, the coachmen were huffing as they carried the many trunks.

The door was opened by a woman much advanced in years who led them through a narrow hall into a sitting room where another woman even more advanced in years sat dozing in a blue velvet chair.

The attendant, a Mrs Smith, shook the shoulder of her employer with some vigour. She managed to knock the lady’s cap askew but did not wake her.

With all of them crowding the hall, and the trunks piling up along the wall, there was a moment of tension as they were not entirely sure what to do next. It was relieved by Mrs Bennet, who marched up to their relation and shouted into her ear, “It is so very kind of you to allow us to stay!”

Mrs Bartell opened one eye and shifted slightly. “You are looking old, Mrs B,” she croaked.

Mrs Bennet was so offended that she moved off immediately, whispering to Elizabeth, “She is farther gone than I imagined. Pay no mind to her ramblings. Indeed, I have half a mind not to speak with her much at all—I daresay she cannot understand a word.”

Elizabeth did not rebuke her mother, but moved over to Mrs Bartell. “And you, madam,” she laughed, “do not look a day over twenty!”

Mrs Bartell deigned to open both eyes. “Tom Bennet, this one will do nicely,” she declared, reaching to take Elizabeth’s hand. “You will have to oblige me. My granddaughter has left this morning for the North, and I need looking after. It is part of the arrangement.”

“Lizzy is always very obliging.” Mrs Bennet felt that she must speak again. “We are so very grateful for the most warm welcome into your home.”

“And will you oblige me now by removing all of your relations from my sitting room.”

Mrs Bartell addressed Elizabeth, “Your rooms are on the third floor.” Kitty and Lydia scampered from the room and up the stairs, with the older sisters following closely.

While the others settled their trunks into their rooms, Elizabeth moved through the entire house, curious to see each room and the views they afforded. Upon returning to the blue room that she and Jane had settled on with Mary, Elizabeth flung open the tall windows to breathe in the salty air of the sea. The lights of the city twinkled before her, but in spite of the pleadings of Lydia, who wanted to go and tour the public gardens (where she was certain the officers were waiting), it was decided that the party would go to bed and explore in the morning.

Thank you, Kara, for sharing this excerpt with us. I can’t wait to read the book.

About the Author:

Kara Pleasants lives in a lovely hamlet called Darlington in Maryland, where she and her husband are restoring an 18 th century farm in Susquehanna State Park. They have two beautiful and vivacious daughters, Nora and Lina. A Maryland native, Kara spent a great deal of her childhood travelling with her family, including six years living in Siberia, as well as five years in Montana, before finally making her way back home to attend the University of Maryland.

Kara is an English teacher and Department Chair at West Nottingham Academy. She has taught at the secondary and collegiate level at several different schools in Maryland. Her hobbies include: making scones for the farmer’s market, writing poetry, watching fantasy shows, making quilts, directing choir, and dreaming about writing an epic three-party fantasy series for her daughters.

GIVEAWAY:

Follow the blog tour and leave a comment to be entered in the tour-wide giveaway for an ebook of The Unread Letter.

Guest Post: Jimy Dawn Shares a Poem from Sun and the Son

Jimy Dawn’s debut collection of poetry, Sun and the Son, is raw and honest, but it also is filled with difficult truths and romantic hope.

Please welcome Jimy Dawn, who shares with us a poem from the collection and an audio reading of “cloud spotting.”

cloud spotting

The other day a boy found a man playing in his backyard.
He didn’t know what to do, so he asked the man to leave.
The man wanted to play more but he thought it would be
better if he left so as to not cause difficulties. He loved
the boy but he didn’t know how to say it. The boy said he
understood but there was nothing he could do.

When he left his home for the last time the clouds looked
anxious but he didn’t care because he knew what he was
doing. There are some who stay, others who stay but leave
and a few who leave. For a time he knew what to do and
then, suddenly, he didn’t. That’s when he dreamt the clouds
forming.

He shot a man in Reno just to watch him die and as he left
the scene a silent breeze slept through the leaves and left
the trees with a life that passes through us and keeps us
here for now because that’s who we are and all our names
rhyme with wind anyways. The crime was not having done
something, it was being someone.

I have my father’s name. I think that was important to him,
though he never told me.

Listen here:

Guest Post & Giveaway: Interrupted Plans: A Pride & Prejudice Variation by Brigid Huey

Today Brigid Huey is here to talk about her writing process as it relates to her new book, Interrupted Plans.

Before we hear about her process, check out the book:

Suppose Elizabeth Bennet never visited Pemberley…

It is October of 1812. Elizabeth Bennet and her family have seen dramatic changes in the past few months—none of them welcome. Her sister Jane needs a fresh start, and Elizabeth is no less eager to leave behind the pain and confusion of not accepting Mr. Darcy’s proposal.

Fitzwilliam Darcy has not seen Elizabeth since he offered for her—and she adamantly refused him. When she appears in London, he is determined to gain her friendship and make amends. When a carriage mishap throws them together, Darcy does all he can to demonstrate his changed behavior.

Though their renewed acquaintance seems to be growing into a genuine friendship, a family secret constrains Elizabeth. As she falls deeper in love with the man she rejected, does she dare tell him the truth?

Doesn’t this sound intriguing? I just love the “what if” stories that spur novels in the Jane Austen universe. Please welcome, Brigid:

Thank you so much for hosting me today! I am so pleased to be here at Savvy Verse and Wit.

As a writer, I am always fascinated to hear about other authors’ writing processes and what influences their work. I thought I might share a little bit about my own process today.

The idea for Interrupted Plans came to me in pieces. There were certain elements I knew I wanted to include. I could see Darcy and Elizabeth in a ballroom, and there was definitely an emotional exchange in the snow. As is often the way with me, these scenes came to me on their own and the rest of the story grew up around them.

I write at a local coffee shop every Thursday. It’s my “day off” from my regular life of homeschooling two kids. When working on a story, I usually write out scenes that are playing out in my head. Then I spend several weeks dreaming about the storyline and writing notes as I go so I can remember good ideas!

Once I have a rough outline of the story, I get back to the serious business of writing. I often have to tweak the timeline or add new characters. It’s a very organic process!

The last, and hardest, part of the writing process for me is deciding on a title. I have never been apt at choosing titles, but for whatever reason Interrupted Plans came rather quickly to me. I wish it was always that way!

Thank you for listening to my rambles! I hope you enjoy Interrupted Plans!

Thank you, Brigid, for sharing your process with us. Now for the giveaway

Meryton Press is giving away 8 eBooks of Brigid Huey’s Interrupted Plans, and the giveaway is international.

ENTER HERE.

About the Author:

Brigid Huey has been in love with Jane Austen since first seeing the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice as a young girl. She lives in Ohio with her husband and two kids and spends her free time reading and writing. She also has an assortment of birds, including five chickens and too many parakeets. She dreams of living on a farm where she can raise as many chickens, ducks, and goats as she likes and write romance novels in an airy study overlooking the wildflowers. Check out her website; her Facebook Author Page, and follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

Guest Post: Thoughts on ‘The Other Side of the Wire’ by HW Coyle

Today’s guest is author Harold Coyle, who will share some thoughts about survival at any cost in relation to his new novel The Other Side of the Wire. Set during WWII, this is a book that tells a harrowing tale but also delves into what identity means. But first, check out a little bit about the book.

About the Book:

The story of an orphaned Jewish child in 1935 who disguises their identity to escape religious persecution and eventually is adopted by a high-ranking Nazi family. The main character struggles with internal and external acceptance, but ultimately and incredibly acts for herself and for the betterment of the world around her. The author describes the main themes of the book as: “the struggle of a child to belong, the seduction of youth by a corrupt system, and an effort to atone for willful ignorance and the sins of the father.”

Please welcome Harold Coyle:

What would you do in order to survive? It is a question that cannot be answered unless you understand the circumstances you find yourself in and, just as important, what your choices are.

For Solomon Perel, a German Jew born in 1925, the choices he had to make were grim. His story recounted in his book I Was Hitler Youth and depicted in the movie Europa, Europa is a testament to the truism fact is stranger than fiction. It was also the inspiration for The Other Side of the Wire.

A reader will find the story itself well within the boundaries of historical fiction. Events and historical figures touched upon are all drawn from the history of the period. An appendix at the end of the novel expands upon the importance of events and people crucial to the story. It is the manner in which the protagonist seeks to avoid a future without promise and, in doing so, became part of Germany’s resurgence that has proven to be a point of contention with some who were afforded the opportunity to review the book in advance of publication.

Although the story is not about the subject, the issue of sexual reassignment surgery is one of those hot button topics that divide us. Some readers will dismiss The Other Side of the Wire on this basis alone. That is unfortunate, for there were several underlying themes that are touched on that are as relevant today as they were in the 1930s and 1940s.

The first is the ease with which the Nazi leadership seduced the German youth. To me, it is perhaps the most important, one that cannot be ignored, for it is happening again in various guises today.

The second is the influence the state seeks to exert on children, making them useful instruments of the state. All schools, be they public or private, have the task of molding their charges into productive members of the school’s society. Hitler made this point in a speech on November 6, 1933 when he told of a man who informed him he would never support the Nazis; ‘I will not come over to your side,’ I calmly say, ‘Your child belongs to us already. What are you? You will pass on. Your descendants, however, now stand in the new camp. In a short time they will know nothing else but this new community.’

The final theme, one I came to realize as I was finishing the piece, was the story I was writing was a modern-day journey into a very different Heart of Darkness. Like the fictional journey Joseph Conrad’s protagonist took, Hannah found herself journeying ever close to the evil she, as a child, had thought had not existed. In that story, Marlow is able to regain his sense of humanity by lying to Kurtz’s wife when she asks what her husband’s last words were. Hannah regains her humanity by atoning for the sins of her adopted father and her own failings.

In writing The Other Side of the Wire, I wish to depict things as they were as best I can.

History is what history is. To ignore the lessons of our past is to condemn future generations to the horrors and suffering our forebears endured. To me, that would be a crime that makes what the Nazis did all the more terrible.

Thank you, Harold, for sharing this with us. History needs to be learned so we don’t repeat those atrocities.

Excerpt, Interview, Giveaway: Came a Flight Gently by Leigh Dreyer, part of the Pride in Flight Series

Leigh Dreyer has published the third book in her Pride in Flight series, inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, Came a Flight Gently.

I’ve waited for her to complete this series because I want to read my series back-to-back and not have to wait. I usually wait for at least three books to be published before I start a new series. That’s my quirk.

I’ve been eager to read these because I love war fiction and non-fiction, even if War Through the Generations has gone dormant. Unlike other readers, I do like technical details, etc., but I’m also up for a mostly romance novel with military themes.

I had the pleasure of meeting Leigh in person at the JAFF Writer-Reader Get Together in 2019. Today, I’m happy to welcome her and her three books to the blog today, with an excerpt from Came a Flight Gently. In the new book, Leigh’s father, Paul Trockner, becomes a first time author himself. I was able to ask them what it was like to work on a book together.

About The Best Laid Plans:

In this modern Pride and Prejudice variation, Captain William “Fitz” Darcy has just received a new assignment as an instructor pilot at Meryton Air Force Base. Soon he meets the intrepid 2nd Lieutenant Elizabeth Bennet, a new student at the base that he cannot keep out of his head. Elizabeth, on the other hand, finds Captain Darcy to be arrogant and prideful and attempts to avoid him at every turn. Despite Darcy’s insulting manners, Elizabeth soars her way through pilot training, but can she soar her way into love as well?

About The Flight Path Less Traveled (a title that reminds me of Robert Frost):

In this modern Pride and Prejudice continuation and sequel to The Best Laid Flight Plans, 2nd Lieutenant Elizabeth Bennet and Captain William Darcy are facing trials after the events of Elizabeth’s last flight.

Darcy’s proposal lingers between them as Elizabeth becomes almost single sighted to her rehabilitation and her return to pilot training. A secret is revealed to Elizabeth about Mr. and Mrs. Bennet’s past that throws all she has known to be true into a tail spin. The romance between our hero and heroine begins to blossom through military separations, sisterly pranks, and miscommunications. Can Darcy and Elizabeth come together or will flying in the Air Force keep them apart?

About Came a Flight Gently:

In the exciting conclusion of the Pride in Flight Series (The Best Laid Flight Plans and The Flight Path Less Traveled), our dear couple Elizabeth and Darcy have moved to Pemberley to begin their lives together.

An outsider to New York society and the affluent world of Darcy, our heroine uses her characteristic drive and wit to begin her marriage and all that comes with him. Helped along by Mrs. Reynolds and a curmudgeonly airplane mechanic, Elizabeth discovers a new path to the civilian flight world. Darcy, ever the hero, supports her and learns to trust her instincts. Fast-paced and dramatic, Came a Flight Gently soars through love, adventure, and intrigue as it races through Reno to the finish.

Please welcome Leigh Dreyer and Paul Trockner:

How was working together on Came a Flight Gently?

Paul: Working to together for this book started when we went to Reno for research. Leigh had the first two written. At Reno, I helped break the ice with the race pilots, explain what was going on and translated between pilot speak and author speak. So, working came naturally as I enjoy introducing people to flying and talking with other pilots. Working together was not as father/daughter. It was really semi-experienced author, Leigh, teaching or showing me what to do. It was fun collaborating. Just like any joint venture we agreed, disagreed and worked things out. This is Leigh’s story so she got the last word. As a parent it is wonderful to relate to your kids as adults not just the 18 year old that moved out of your house.

Leigh: I really enjoyed working together. Paul had helped me make sure the first two books had realistic flight scenes, radio calls, and helped me connect with some Air Force specific resources. With this book, his 40+ years of flight experience was valuable while looking at types of planes, how planes are modified, and generally helping explain what is going on in various races. I follow pretty well, but he could really get into the nitty gritty and make sure I didn’t make any boneheaded mistakes. Story-wise, it was so nice
to be able to talk to someone about the plot, characters, etc. with someone just as invested as I was.

Why co-author?

Leigh: Well, when I started writing The Best Laid Flight Plans, I had a toddler and a newborn. Then during The Flight Path Less Traveled, I still had the two kids, but I was working from home (I’m a speech pathologist) and during breaks, I took advantage of my daycare situation and got it finished. Then, I had a baby with a really difficult pregnancy, then I moved, then COVID-19 hit so all of my writing time was sacrificed to more important things. I was really working to get Came a Flight Gently out when dad offered to write a scene because he had a good idea. The scene turned out great and we started collaborating more and more. Eventually, I told him I felt like he needed to either have a big acknowledgement or a co-authorship and our writing relationship became more official. It’s been great, honestly.

Paul: For the first two books Leigh wrote I just cleaned up the flying scenes and radio calls. I didn’t have nor wanted story input it was her thing. I was just technical assistant. Along the way at Reno we started talking about where she wanted this story to go. The first book follows Pride and Prejudice, the second resolves Elizabeth’s situation, this book finishes the story and is a completely original story with the characters. It also added characters that I thought I could relate to. So I pitched a couple ideas. Well Leigh, in the mean time, had to move, wrangle two kids while waiting for a third. So I asked if I could write a scene? Leigh said sure, so I did. She liked it so I wrote more. Well as we got going I’d helped with approaching half the book and had input on her scenes as she did mine as well as the direction of the book. As we wrapped up, Leigh asked if I wanted to be coauthor. So after discussion and some soul searching. After all it’s her brain child, I said okay. And that’s how I helped and became a co-author.

About the Authors of Came a Flight Gently:

Leigh Dreyer is a huge fan of Jane Austen variations and the JAFF community. She is blessed to have multi-generational military connections through herself and her husband, who she met in pilot training. She often describes her formative years in this way: “You know the ‘Great Balls of Fire’ scene in Top Gun (Goose, you big stud!) when Goose and Meg Ryan have their kid on the piano? I was that kid.” Leigh lives with her pilot husband, a plane-obsessed son, a daughter who was a pink pilot for Halloween, and a one-year-old son who is so used to F-16 noise, he does not even startle to sonic booms.

Paul Trockner was an Air Force fighter pilot for twenty-eight years. He flew the F-111, T-37, A-10, and T-
38. He currently teaches fighter pilots using simulator instruction. He has been happily married for thirty-six years to his lovely wife Elizabeth. Leigh is the oldest of his five children.

GIVEAWAY:

Leave a comment about why you want to read Leigh Dreyer’s modernized Pride & Prejudice novels by March 9.

Also leave an email where I can reach you, if you win the trio!

Guest Post: Yiddish on the Bayou by Jennifer Anne Moses, Author of The Man Who Loved His Wife

Today, author Jennifer Anne Moses will share with us a guest post about her latest short story collection, The Man Who Loved His Wife.

Book Synopsis:

Jews being Jewish: that’s the subject of Jennifer Anne Moses’s new collection of short stories. Whether in Tel Aviv, suburban New Jersey, or the Deep South, the characters who populate the pages of The Man Who Loved His Wife grapple with God, their loved ones, fate, death, hope, Hitler, transcendence, and the 4000 year old history of Judaism. With a Yiddish sensibility born of passion, an eye for detail, and a deadpan sense of humor reminiscent of Singer, Salinger, and Tillie Olsen, Moses captures singularly Jewish and wholly human characters as they live and breathe through their stories. A secular Israeli loses his son twice, first to ultra-Orthodoxy and then to war. An elderly survivor of Nazism living in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, believes his dog to be the reincarnation of his long-dead sister. Meanwhile, in Queens, an adolescent boy mistakes love for magic and brings his family to the brink of catastrophe. Lovely, tender, and hard to put down, these are short stories that leave you yearning for more.

I hope you will enjoy what she has to say. Please give her a warm welcome:

Yiddish on the Bayou

I’m about to publish my seventh book, in this case a collection of short stories about Jews being Jewish, meaning that the book is informed, soaked in, and shot through with Yiddish and Yiddishkeit. The former, Yiddish, is a language that appeared in late Medieval Europe, when Jews from France and Italy moved into what is now Germany, creating a new language comprised of elements from German, French, Hebrew, Aramaic, and the Slavic languages. The word, “Yiddish,” is in fact Yiddish for Jewish.” Thus Yiddish became the everyday vernacular of European Jews living across both linguistic and political borders. The latter—Yiddishkeit—roughly means “Yiddish culture” but expands to include an entire messily discordant and endlessly eclectic Jewish worldview, sensibility, and vibrancy. Nu?

I’m a Jew, so some of the world I write about came to me, along with my brown hair and eyes, at birth. But my family had been in America so long—since around the Civil War on both sides–that by my grandparents’ generation Yiddish was all but forgotten. Also, I grew up fancy, in Virginia, where I knew much more about horses and tennis than anything even vaguely related to Judaism or the Yiddish world that had been wiped out by the Nazi genocide. But then I went to college, where I fell headlong into what became a deep dive into Jewish literature and Hebrew, and there you have it: my muse began to speak to me with a Yiddish accent. The result being my new book, The Man Who Loved His Wife (Mayapple Press, March 1, 2021).

According to my blurbs (thank you givers of blurbs!) I’m a Yiddish writer who just happens to write in English and have even hit the high-water marks of Yiddish literature: humor, grittiness, pathos, passion.

I’m not knocking it—God forbid—but most of my work, until now, has been outside of Jews, Jewishness, and Judaism. In fact, my last book, which was published just a year ago (and in time for the pandemic to shut everything down, including readings) is about the struggles of two orphaned brothers living on the margins of decent society in a small, redneck town in South Louisiana. Twice my short stories have landed in the anthology New Stories from the South: the Year’s Best, and in both cases the stories featured impoverished Black characters in Baton Rouge, and their (largely impoverished) world. And what part of my Yiddisherkop (Jewish head) did this come from? The part that lived in Baton Rouge for thirteen years, where my husband and I raised our (now grown) children, and I volunteered among very poor, very sick full-Gospel African Americans.

According to Google I am a “multi genre” writer–but it’s more than a matter of genre. I’ve internalized many different worlds, and then those worlds show up in my work.

The fact of the matter is that I was raised in Virginia among ur-wasps and spent my entire life on the East Coast until, decades ago, I landed in Louisiana. Now I live in New Jersey—and with relatives living in Jerusalem, I go there, too. And it all seeps in–and eventually finds its way into my work.

I think at a certain point most writers of fiction would agree that you write what you have to write, because why bother doing it if it isn’t pressing so persistently against your soul that you have to give voice to it? My own soul, it appears, is indeed Jewish, which is perhaps why I love Yiddish literature more than any other world literature: because it speaks to me, way down in my kishkes.

When my paternal grandmother died, in her mid-nineties, she left behind not only three children (including my father) and eleven grandchildren (including me), but formal portraits of my grandfather’s grandparents, painted in dark oil paint and framed in ornate gilded frames. They were the founding couple of my father’s side of the family, arriving in Baltimore in the mid-19th century from Manchester, England, where there is every reason to think that they spoke to one another in Yiddish. (He was originally from western Germany; her family was from Prussia). All eleven of us grandchildren wanted the portraits, but perhaps because I’d long since put Jewishness and Judaism in the middle of my life, my father got there first and nabbed them for me.

The portraits now hang in my dining room, gazing down on us much like they’d gazed down on my grandparents and before that, my great-grandparents.

I like to think that my great-great grandparents wouldn’t just be moved by the world of The Man Who Loved His Wife, but that the stories themselves would resonate in their souls, and from there, light up their eyes.

Thank you, Jennifer, for sharing with my readers your writing process and so much more. I think your grandparents would be proud.

About the Author:

Jennifer Anne Moses is a multi-genre author whose books include Food and Whine, The Book of Joshua, Bagels and Grits, Visiting Hours, Tales from My Closet, and The Art of Dumpster Diving. The Man Who Loved His Wife is her first collection of short stories. Her essays and short stories have been widely published and anthologized. She’s also a painter. She is the mother of three grown children, and lives in Montclair, N.J., with her husband of more than three decades and their two bad dogs. Visit her website.

Guest Post & Giveaway: Love at First Sight by Kelly Miller, author of A Consuming Love

Love at first sight is a highly debated topic, but when we read Pride & Prejudice some of us assume that love at first sight happened between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet. Today, Kelly Miller will share with us her novella, A Consuming Love, and her thoughts on love at first sight.

Stay tuned for a giveaway later in this post.

But first, let’s learn a little more about the book, A Consuming Love.

Book Synopsis:

The methodical world of rich, proud Fitzwilliam Darcy is in chaos: a country lady of modest origins has utterly captivated him.

The knowledge that Elizabeth Bennet is an unsuitable match fails to diminish Darcy’s fascination for her, nor does his self-imposed distance from the lady hinder her ability to intrude upon his thoughts at all hours of the day. What can solve his dilemma?

When circumstances compel Darcy’s return to Hertfordshire in assistance of his friend Mr. Bingley, he must confront his unfathomable attraction to Miss Elizabeth.

In this Pride and Prejudice Regency novella, one afternoon spent in company with Miss Elizabeth Bennet is enough to make an indelible and life-altering impression upon Darcy, setting him on a rocky course towards the fulfillment of his desires. Will Darcy attain happiness, or will his ingrained pride be his downfall?

Please welcome, Kelly:

In A Consuming Love, my Pride and Prejudice Regency novella, Mr. Darcy falls for Elizabeth Bennet rather swiftly. He is disconcerted by an immediate, robust attraction to her. Does my Darcy experience love at first sight? In order to answer that question, I pondered what love at first sight actually means.

Darcy experiences an unshakable attraction for Miss Elizabeth Bennet in this novella after spending a mere two hours with her. What sort of sentiment can be formed in so short a period of time? Is it possible that Darcy felt anything more than infatuation or lust?

How long does it take for love to develop? In order to solicit opinions from a variety of people, I posted the following question and poll on Twitter:

Do you believe in love at first sight? If so, why? If not, what is the minimum amount of time necessary for someone to fall in love?

My results, with 445 votes cast in a 24-hour period:
1 hour: 19.3%
2 hours: 6.3%
24 hours: 9.4%
longer than 24 hours: 64.9%

I received many comments in which people expounded upon their replies. Many stated they do not believe in love at first sight. Others provided examples of their own experiences with the phenomenon. More than a few people felt themselves to be in love after a first date or within the first few dates. Some of these instances led to a lasting, happy relationship and others did not. I received several responses with tales of how a parent, sister, or friend met their future partner and felt an instant connection with them. Some people described the experience of love at first sight as knowing “this is it” or “this is the person I will marry,” while others described it as a tingling sensation or “electricity.”

One person brought up the “instant love” a parent feels for their new-born child. Although this sentiment differs from romantic love, most people do not question the immediate, abiding, and genuine nature of that emotion.

The responses and comments from my Twitter poll made me wonder if love at first sight needs to be experienced to be believed. In a similar vein, we tend to be skeptical about the existence of ghosts unless we have seen one. (I am still waiting to see my first ghost.)

I disagree with the majority (64.9%) of people who answered my poll saying it takes more than 24 hours for love to develop. Under the right circumstances, I believe it could happen in an hour or two, especially when sufficient relevant information about the person in question is obtained.

Consider, for example, two people who meet via a dating app. They each filled out questionnaires for their profiles that covered their goals, interests, and backgrounds and provided honest answers. After seeing each other’s profiles, the two people meet in person and have a one or two hour conversation.

Could one or both individuals come away in love with the other? I think so. The sentiment would be based, not just on a physical attraction, but also on the facts learned about the other person that assure compatibility and the rapport built over the time spent together.

People living in Regency England did not have the option of dating apps; instead, eligible ladies and gentlemen sought introductions at social gatherings. The chances of any given eligible gentleman being incompatible with an eligible lady in the Regency era were greatly reduced compared to today. People lacked the freedom then to choose lifestyles in opposition to accepted societal norms without paying a hefty price. The characters in Pride and Prejudice shared the Anglican faith, so Mr. Darcy did not need to speculate whether Elizabeth Bennet’s religious beliefs differed from his. Given the dearth of opportunities open to ladies in the Regency, Darcy could reasonably assume that Elizabeth would not pursue a career that would conflict with the duties of being Mistress of Pemberley or decide to quit England for a different country.

I consulted an article for Psychology Today by Theresa E. DiDonato, Ph.D on the subject of love at first sight. She indicated that many people claim to have experienced the phenomenon, including celebrities. Prince Harry claimed to know Megan Markle was the right one for him the first time they met. Portia de Rossi said the same of her wife, Ellen Degeneres, as did Matt Damon of his wife.

In 2017, researchers from the Netherlands (Zsok, Haucke, De Wit, & Barelds) attempted to prove or disprove the existence of love at first sight. They questioned approximately 400 men and women immediately after meeting potential romantic partners. Participants were queried if they experienced love at first sight, and asked to describe the level of attraction they felt for the person.
Their resulting data led the researchers to draw several conclusions:

1. Love at first sight is not simply biased memory.
2. You are more apt to experience love at first sight with people you find beautiful.
3. Men report love at first sight more than women.
4. Love at first sight is not usually mutual.
5. Love at first sight is a genuine occurrence.

It is an immediate, strong attraction that makes one particularly open to the possibility of a relationship. It may fizzle out, but the instances when this initial strong attraction launches a sustained relationship make for a memorable story.

Based upon the conclusions drawn by these researchers, I would say that my Mr. Darcy in A Consuming Love experiences love at first sight, which leaves him disposed to developing a stronger, more abiding sentiment for Elizabeth in a short amount of time. Unfortunately for him, the odds are against the feeling being mutual.

Thank you, Kelly, for sharing your thoughts and research on love at first sight.

About the Author:

Kelly Miller is a native Californian and Anglophile, who made her first visit to England in 2019. When not pondering a plot point or a turn of phrase, she can be found playing the piano (although like Elizabeth Bennet, she is errant when it comes to practicing), singing, and walking her dogs. Kelly Miller resides in Silicon Valley with her husband, daughter, and their many pets.

A Constant Love is her fourth book published by Meryton Press. The first three are novels: Death Takes a Holiday at Pemberley, a Pride and Prejudice Regency romantic sequel with a touch of fantasy; Mr. Darcy’s Perfect Match, a Pride and Prejudice Regency romantic variation; and Accusing Mr. Darcy, a Pride and Prejudice Regency romantic mystery.

Visit her blog, Twitter, Facebook, or GoodReads.

Giveaway Alert!

I wonder what my readers think about love at first sight. Please leave a comment about your thoughts on love at first sight and an email, to be entered into the giveaway for 1 ebook of A Consuming Love.

Last day to enter is Feb. 23, 2021.

Follow the Tour for additional chances to win:

Feb. 18: From Pemberley to Milton
Feb. 20: Donadee’s Corner
Feb. 22: Austenesque Reviews

Guest Post, Giveaway, & Excerpt from Jack Caldwell, author of Rosings Park: A Story of Jane Austen’s Fighting Men

It has been awhile since I reviewed The Three Colonels in 2012.

It seems appropriate that I bring to you a guest post and excerpt from author Jack Caldwell for the final chapter, Rosings Park, in 2021. Stay tuned for the giveaway at the end.

About the Novel:

A decade ago, groundbreaking novel THE THREE COLONELS began the epic Jane Austen’s Fighting Men series and transformed Austenesque literature with its blend of Regency romance and historical fiction. ROSINGS PARK is its long-awaited conclusion!

The Napoleonic Wars are finally over, and Britain seeks to rebuild after a generation of war. Gone is the “green and pleasant land” of the early Regency. In its place, a natural disaster on the other side of the world exacerbates the country’s woes: economic depression, widespread hunger, industrialization, and civil unrest. Great Britain faces ruin and revolution.

Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy agree to take in the young and spirited daughter of Lydia Wickham, and all the while, their beloved Pemberley is being endangered by riotous Luddites. Colonel Sir Richard Fitzwilliam marries Anne de Bourgh but finds the management of Rosings Park no easy matter, especially with Lady Catherine de Bourgh ready and eager to offer advice. Haunted by despair and gravely wounded in body and spirit, a bitter Colonel Sir John Buford returns to England to be nursed by his wife, the former Caroline Bingley. Then, an evil out of the past returns to wreak vengeance on Rosings Park, and the Darcys, Fitzwilliams, Bufords, and their friends face a devastating truth: HAPPILY EVER AFTER MUST BE EARNED.

Doesn’t that sound delicious?! I have this on my TBR list, but for now, please welcome Jack Caldwell:

Greetings, everybody. Jack Caldwell here.

I’m happy to have the opportunity to talk about my latest novel, ROSINGS PARK: A Story of Jane Austen’s Fighting Men. This book is the closing chapter to the series I started with THE THREE COLONELS: Jane Austen’s Fighting Men. There are currently two other books in the series, THE LAST ADVENTURE OF THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL and PERSUADED TO SAIL.

The Jane Austen’s Fighting Men series is a unique one in Austen fiction. I take the immortal characters created by Miss Austen and insert them into the historical events of the Regency period, the most notable being the Hundred Days Crisis of 1815. I also assume that all of her characters knew and interacted with each other. This leads to some interesting stories, I can assure you!

The first three books were companion novels—separate stories that happened in and about the same time, but with some limited interaction. They can be read as stand-alones, but it is more fun to read them all and enjoy the small amount of interweaving between them all.

ROSINGS PARK is different. A sequel to THE THREE COLONELS (which was itself a sequel to PRIDE AND PREJUDICE and SENSE AND SENSIBILITY), ROSINGS PARK acts as the concluding chapter to the series. THE THREE COLONELS was about the Battle of Waterloo. ROSINGS PARK is what happened afterwards. And boy, did a lot happen! Economic depression, rapid industrialization, volcanic explosions, civil unrest, and crop failures. Regency Britain was in turmoil and our favorite characters are caught up in the midst of it.

Who are those characters? Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy, of course, are major players in my little drama. Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam has been knighted, married Anne de Bourgh, and lives at Rosings with the irksome Lady Catherine. Meanwhile, Sir Richard’s good friend, Sir John Buford, suffers grievous injuries received at Waterloo, and his wife, the former Caroline Bingley, struggles to nurse him back to health. Meanwhile, there are unknown forces out to destroy Rosing Park.

Excited yet? I hope so! Below is an excerpt.

To set the scene, it is the summer of 1817. Darcy, Elizabeth, and their children are at a house party at Rosings Park, now controlled by their cousins, Sir Richard and Anne Fitzwilliam. Also visiting are the Fitzwilliams’ friends, Sir John and Caroline Buford. The Darcys have taken in Chloe Wickham, eldest daughter of the late George Wickham and the former Lydia Wickham (now remarried), and Richard has problems with that.

Dinner that night was far less taxing than Darcy anticipated. Surprisingly, this was due to the attendance of Mr. and Mrs. Collins. Elizabeth, overjoyed with the prospect of renewing acquaintance with the lady who had once been her particular friend, largely spent her time in close and happy conversation with Mrs. Collins, Anne, and Mrs. Jenkinson. She had little discourse with Sir Richard; therefore, her coolness to his cousin was undetected.

The burden of entertaining Lady Catherine, therefore, fell to Darcy, and in this he was joined by Richard and Mr. Collins. That task would have been easier without the tiresome, simpering observations of the Hunsford rector, but it was a burden with which Darcy was well acquainted, and he carried out his duty with perfect composure.

Lady Catherine and the Collinses did not leave until it was nearly nightfall. The ladies excused themselves and retired above stairs. Darcy was not of a mind to play billiards, so he and his cousin had port in the library. Richard took his ease in a chair while Darcy, glass in hand, perused the bookshelves.

“I see you managed to procure a copy of Waverley. I am impressed,” said Darcy.

“It was a gift from Father—one of the last I received before his illness. He was not one for novels, but he loved the book. I suppose I should read it.” Richard gestured at the chair beside him. “I am tired of straining my neck to look up at you. You are far too tall. Come and sit—and tell me why your wife is annoyed with me.”

Richard’s comment caught Darcy off guard while he was in the act of sitting. He paused, and then slowly made himself comfortable. Apparently, Elizabeth’s feelings were detectable after all. Darcy needed a sip to settle his thoughts.

“Well?”

Darcy set down his glass and glared at his cousin. “She took offense at your dismissal of Chloe.”

Richard stared at him as though he thought Darcy had lost his mind. “You cannot be serious.”

“I am.”

Richard sat forward, his face working. “You expect me to welcome Wickham’s brat into my home?”

“Richard. You are speaking of my niece and ward. I shall thank you to keep a civil tongue in your head.”

Richard flushed in anger but nodded. “I mean no offense to you or Lizzy, but I cannot set eyes on that child and not see Wickham’s lying face.”

Darcy beat down his first impulse—to pack his family and leave Rosings at first light—and attempted to speak rationally. “You are a reasonable man, Fitz. Surely, you know Chloe is innocent of Wickham’s sins.”

“I know that!” Richard snorted. “It is just that…” He waved his hands, seemingly unable to say more.

A horrible thought occurred to Darcy. “Pray tell me you do not subscribe to Aunt Catherine’s appalling notion about bad blood.”

Richard shook his head. “Of course not.” He dropped his elbows to his knees and held his face in his hands. Darcy could see his cousin was struggling, but he offered no solace.

The man deserved no such relief.

“It is her eyes,” Richard mumbled.

Darcy did not respond. He simply waited for the rest. It was not long in coming.

“She has Wickham’s eyes, Darce. I hate those eyes.” He looked up at his cousin. “I look at your ward, and I see all the pain that man caused our family.

“I saw it when we were young. I saw he was nothing but a jealous, devious bully and scoundrel. He used everyone and cared for no one. You were blind to it at first. You were so young, so lonely. You wanted a friend badly. I did what I could to protect you, but I was either at Matlock, or school, or the army. You had no one but Wickham. When your blinders finally fell, my uncle would not listen to you. He would do nothing!”

Darcy took a deep breath. “You know how charming, how persuasive Wickham could be, even in his youth. Father felt sorry for him, given the woman who was his mother. He thought I could be a good influence on his godson.

“Later, after Mother’s death, Father lost his way. She was his joy, and joy left him when she was gone. Wickham was agreeable, he was amusing, and I…I was serious and reserved. I was the heir. I was the responsible one. I was the one he depended on to care for Georgiana and Pemberley. He told me this in his last days—”

“Bah!” Richard cut him off. “Uncle George refused to accept what Wickham was!

Sending him to school, paying off his debts. He should have cast him off! He should have been more concerned for you!” He clenched a fist in his other hand. “You cannot know how much I hated Wickham. I wanted to kill him, you know. After Ramsgate, I could have cut him down in the street at the slightest provocation.”

“I am happy you did not,” Darcy said, reaching out and tapping his cousin on the knee. “I have grown used to your annoying presence, as has Georgiana.”

Richard returned his gaze to him.

“I have made my peace with my childhood. I have forgiven Father. No man, no matter how good, is perfect. I certainly am not. I have learned that hate and resentment are a poison to one’s soul.

“Wickham is dead, Fitz. But even he did something good. He left the world three lovely little girls. The Bingleys have Phoebe, and the Tuckers Rosanna. Elizabeth and I are honored we have been given the charge to raise Chloe, and we shall do so to the best of our ability.”

“Yes, you are very generous—”

Darcy cut him off. “This is not generosity, not in the least. You may as well call us selfish at once, because in our hearts, Chloe is ours—Elizabeth’s and mine. We shall raise her as our daughter. And once she is old enough to make the choice, we shall adopt her if that is her wish.”

Richard was shocked. “You…you would adopt Wickham’s—”

“We stand ready to adopt my ward—my sister Lydia’s child,” Darcy stated firmly. “A sweet and loving little girl, virtually abandoned by her mother. We care not who fathered her. I shall be her father now.” He paused. “And we require our relations and acquaintances to respect our decision and accept my family. My entire family.” He offered a smile and softened his tone. “She would like another cousin.”

“I…I do not know if I can do that.” He bit his lip. “I am well rebuked for my treatment of—of your ward. I shall do better. I shall offer her every courtesy. But pray do not ask more of me.”

“You have much to think on.”

“I do.” He looked up bleakly. “I owe you and Lizzy an apology.”

Darcy shrugged. “For myself, I require nothing. Elizabeth is generous, as I have reason to know.”

“And…the child?”

“Treat her well and we shall have no complaints.”

Richard nodded and changed the subject. “Care for another port?”

Darcy eyed his nearly empty glass. “I believe this was your father’s favorite vintage.”

“Yes, the last of the case from his cellar.” At Darcy’s astonishment, he laughed ruefully.

“Port is made to be drunk, Darce. Besides, I think Father would approve. Nothing was more important to him than family.”

“True.” After Richard refilled their glasses, Darcy raised his, looking up at the ceiling.

“To Hugh Fitzwilliam and George Darcy—the two men who taught me what it means to be a father.”

Richard smiled, staring straight at his cousin. “To fathers.”

Thank you, Jack, for sharing this excerpt and for the giveaway!

GIVEAWAY:

To celebrate, I am giving away two (2) ebook copies of ROSINGS PARK – a Story of Jane Austen’s Fighting Men in your choice of MOBI (Kindle) or EPUB format!

Ends Feb. 9, 2021

 

WINNERS ARE Anna (Diary of an Eccentric) and Alexandra!

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.

GIVEAWAY:

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.