Guest Post: Poet Megan Denese Mealor, author of Blatherskite

Today’s guest is poet Megan Denese Mealor, whose new book Blatherskite will be published by Clare Songbirds Publishing House and available for pre-order.

About the Book:

Blatherskite refers to “a person who talks at great length without making much sense.” Each of the 50 poems in this loose-lipped, violently verbose collection are filled with impossibly impossible imagery, juxtapositions, chaos, romance, frenzies, tornados, villains, frilly maidens, ravenous flowers, silk birds, and decaying schoolboy cars. In other words, it is an odyssey through the faceted hallways of language that you must read for yourself to absorb, deduce, and receive.

Please give Megan a warm welcome:

My passion for the written word was born shortly after I was; by age three, I was scribbling stories with crayons on colored paper.

As the years went by, my love affair with writing became more passionate. One of the greatest stepping stones I was offered was the chance to attend the prestigious Douglas Anderson School of the Arts, where I majored in–what else?–Creative Writing. While a student there, I learned to self-critique, edit my own emotions, to create unique but universal images and characters.

I graduated with the National Penwomen’s Association Literature Award under my belt, as well as a growing hunger to carve out a place for myself in today’s world of words. By twenty, I was well on my way to accomplishing that goal in college, earning a first-place award for a school-wide short story competition.

But then the bottom dropped out of everything: first, the fleeting twinges of bipolar disorder I had experienced since middle school became raging tunnels of wild, withering darkness, a psychotic torture device from which I could not escape. And then my father, my kind, supportive, endlessly loving father, suffered a blood clot to the brain and passed away overnight; I am still haunted by the good-byes and the gratitude I never got to show him.

For years, I pushed my writing, my family and friends, and even my own safety aside in order to hurt myself as deeply as I could. I wanted to bask in the wounds I felt I deserved; nothing could break my twisted spell–until I learned that I was pregnant with the child I never thought I wanted.

A fire began to work its way into my veins as my love and humanity returned to me, and for the first time in years the words came and came in waves of repressed sadness, rage, and love. I developed my own unique poetic style, which I like to describe as eclectic, wounded, intangible, abstract, heartbroken, even avante garde. I don’t try to make my ultimate messages clear for the reader; perhaps I don’t even know them myself, and that’s fine with me. I want my readers to find their own reflections in my words.

As more and more of my poems and short stories began to appear in amazing publications and magazines worldwide, I began to do something I hadn’t done in a very, very long time: believe in myself, and in my work. My first full-length poetry book, Bipolar Lexicon, was published by Unsolicited Press in 2018, and my second book, Blatherskite, followed in 2019, published by Clare Songbirds Publishing House. Two of my poems were even nominated for the prestigious Pushcart Prize by two separate publications in 2018, which still amazes and heartens me.

I have been asked by many editors and even readers why I don’t feature my work on social media, and I have no answer to give them other than the fact that I despise social media–no more, no less. I always have; social media, to me, is toxic and insidious. I personally felt like it would cheapen or dilute my work, and besides, I have always been the most private person I know.

My writing process is unusual in that I don’t have a designated time to sit down and let the words spill out; that only happens on its own–in Aisle 3 of Walmart while shopping for dinner, driving past a smashed-up cemetery, talking to the cashier at the pizza place. When this occurs, I must always rush home to unleash whatever whispers are screaming the loudest. Sometimes, you know, the poetry has to claw its way out.

Thank you, Megan, for sharing your writing with us today. She was also kind enough to share a sample poem with us:

Before the Beginning

God without Eve:
watercolor wanderlust
a blizzard stoked with stones

She smoothed in
vicious strokes of sea
lit reclusive hillsides
with bellflowers and begonias
etched herself at awestruck angles
tangled Adam's warring bones
slept forgotten in the mosses
climbed and climbed forbidden skies
slept forgotten in the mosses

Serpents sweetened and riddled
deafening star-stunned sparrows
left unfeathered, undefined

About the Poet:

Megan Denese Mealor is the author of three full-length poetry collections: Blatherskite (Clare Songbirds House Publishing, 2019), Bipolar Lexicon (Unsolicited Press, 2018), and A Mourning Dove’s Wishbone (still in the works). She was nominated twice for the 2018 Pushcart Prize by both Neologism Poetry Journal and Liquid Imagination, and was selected as the November 2018 Featured Poet for Neologism Poetry Journal. Her poetry and short stories have been featured in numerous publications since 2012, most notably Literally Stories, A Long Story Short, Digital Americana, Gone Lawn, The Furious Gazelle, Maudlin House, The Ministry of Poetic Affairs, and The Ekphrastic Review.

A quintessential Pisces daydream believer, Megan works as a full-time writer and mother in her hometown of Jacksonville, Florida. She employs writing, language, spirituality, yoga, photography, painting, and meditation to battle lifelong bipolar disorder and depression. Her son Jesse was diagnosed with autism at age three, and Megan has dedicated her life to enriching and understanding his locked, elusive world. She recently married Jesse’s father and her longtime love Tony, and together they populate a cavernous townhouse along with their sovereign cats Trigger and LuLu.

Guest Post: Words and Music By… by Brett Marie

Today’s guest is Brett Marie, author of The Upsetter Blog, which will debut on Sept. 15. You can find the book on Amazon, through Owl Canyon Press, and elsewhere.

Check out the synopsis:

To write the Upsetter Blog, washed‐up author Henry Barclay will have to leave behind his adult son Patrick, who has Down syndrome, and follow the Flak Jackets, a rock band of no renown, on a grueling, months‐long nightclub tour for the obscure magazine startup, Upsetter. He’s reluctant to take on the assignment, but when Patrick catches the band’s act and immediately declares himself their “Number One Fan”; Henry sees a chance to redeem himself for decades of clumsy parenting. Setting out from Los Angeles, blasting through the deserts of Southern California and up the West Coast, Henry quickly learns how tough this job will be. He did not expect he would become obsessed with the mystery behind lead singer Jack Hackett’s tortured wailing and violent onstage antics. He did not expect he would fall in love with Jack’s new girlfriend, Wendy, who’s along for the ride. Faced with Jack’s hostile stonewalling, struggling to hold back his own feelings for Jack’s girl, Henry can only hang on tight and keep writing, filling in the blanks Jack leaves with musings about his own troubled past—and watching in horror as life on the road takes its toll, and Jack’s fragile world begins to fall apart.

Please welcome Brett Marie:

After a childhood spent dreaming of being a novelist, I hung a sharp left into rock ‘n’ roll at age thirteen. Perhaps it was the influx of hormones into my system, but the driving drums and trashy guitars of AC/DC and George Thorogood hit me with the intensity of a first crush. These sounds consumed me, and throughout a lovelorn adolescence, music sustained me in ways that literature failed to do. If I felt humiliated or alone in the way only teenagers can, I always had that good-time rock ‘n’ roll rhythm waiting in my cassette deck back home. All I had to do was hit Play, and it would do the beating for my weary heart, giving me the momentum I needed to carry me into the next morning.

That beat ended up carrying me a lot farther – first, into a guitar shop, for a Samick electric on which I began bashing out my first original songs; and later, on my nineteenth birthday, to a spare bedroom in my uncle’s New York office-apartment, from which I attended dozens of auditions, wrote more songs, and scored a day-job at Manny’s Musical Instruments.

I got married and moved to Los Angeles three years later. I was living there, working an office day-job and fronting my own group, when my childhood itch to write a novel returned. Inevitably, the first story that came to me was of a rock band on tour. But I wanted more. I wanted my book to act as a love letter to the songs that meant so much to me. And I wanted to take the feelings I’d drawn from those songs – excitement, comfort, catharsis – and pass them on to my readers.

The way to do this came in an early epiphany: I would lace key passages of my manuscript with lyrics to these classic tunes. The themes I was exploring – life, death, love, loss – were the bread and butter of the songwriters populating my record collection. Their words might echo mine, amplifying my subtext. Furthermore, perhaps the breaks they made between my paragraphs would give the text a unique rhythm, more akin to songwriting than story structure, with my words always giving way to those familiar choruses.

To my delight, my trick worked. Reading the completed manuscript, with every lyric I came across, I felt the very shivers I’d sought to evoke in the surrounding prose. The effect was like watching a big scene in a movie and hearing a favorite song swell up in the soundtrack.

But my self-satisfaction lasted only as long as it took for one of my readers to bring up the issue of copyrights. Their advice – essentially, “You’re gonna get sued,” – shook me out of my delusions, bringing me face-to-face with the sad reality that I would have to kill these lyrical darlings.

Months passed before I worked up the gumption to start culling. When I finally broke out my red pen, I continued to dither, plucking lines here and there, scribbling question marks alongside others, before finally building up the nerve and crossing them all out.

I nearly abandoned my manuscript after that, convinced I’d disfigured it beyond repair. But when I finally reread it, I discovered something fascinating. Where I expected gaping holes in place of the pilfered lyrics, my words simply flowed over the line breaks, from one paragraph into the next.

In fact these passages, which I’d crafted to match the pitch and urgency of their borrowed accompaniment, had taken on more of that urgency than I’d ever felt capable of capturing. Without Elvis Presley’s words blaring from the car stereo between tour dates, my band’s dialogue still crackled with Elvis’s electricity. The quiet melancholy that the story’s female lead exudes still permeated every scene she graced, even after I’d scrubbed every line of Françoise Hardy from between paragraphs. And when my lead singer, inconsolable following a heart-crushing loss, takes the microphone and grieves in song, the scene which originally had him crushing the Rolling Stones’ ‘I Got the Blues’ retained every ounce of its bereft yearning even after I’d swapped in a self-penned verse and chorus.

In my early days as a musician, making my first forays into the studio, I heard more than one tall tale about the excesses of various recording greats. One story involved an unnamed producer dubbing a full orchestra onto some rock track, only to wipe the results away, saying, “I just want the feel of an orchestra on there.” Reading my work after excising a double album’s worth of lyrics, I was reminded of that urban legend, and had to smile.

It’s funny: I would have saved myself hours of work if I’d thought about the hassles of copyrights. But considering the novel I have now, I can’t argue with the path I took. The music I started with acted as a mold for my prose. Now, with the mold tossed aside, my words stand on their own, but they retain much of the shape that the music provided.

No, it’s more than that. In emotional times, the right song has always been able to pry my heart that smidgen further open, to shake it that little bit harder, to squeeze out those few more drops of cathartic feeling. Writing a poignant scene alongside Françoise Hardy’s ‘Voilà’, or trying to match Elvis Presley’s euphoria throughout the exhilarating ‘Guitar Man’, re-energized those songs in my heart, and stepped up my writing as I scrambled to bottle this newfound energy into language.

And so, though I couldn’t redirect the lyric lightning bolts of Chuck Berry, Leiber and Stoller, or Jagger and Richards into my own work, their influence turned out to be as great – no, greater than – that of the novelists I’d thought I was aping: Steinbeck, McCullers, Robert Penn Warren. And for that influence, my novel sings where otherwise it might only have spoken. Take a bow, hubristic producer of myth. You knew exactly what you were doing.

Thank you, Brett, for sharing your writing process and musical inspiration with us.

About the Author:

The literary alter ego of American rock ‘n’ roll musician Mat Treiber, Brett Marie is a contributing editor for the online journal Bookanista, and a sometime staff writer for the website PopMatters. His short fiction has appeared in various magazines, including New Plains Review, Words + Images Press, and The Impressment Gang. His story, “If It Had Happened to You,” was shortlisted for LoveReading UK’s first Very Short Story Award in 2019. He currently lives in England with his wife and daughter. Visit Brett at his website, on Goodreads, or on Twitter.

Guest Post: Nancy Kilgore, author of Bitter Magic: The Otherworld in a Historical Novel

Today, I’d like to welcome Nancy Kilgore, author of Bitter Magic, to the blog to talk about writing historical fiction.

First, let’s check out the book:

Bitter Magic is told from Isobel’s perspective and also by Margaret Hay, a fictionalized seventeen-year-old noble woman who becomes interested in Isobel’s magic. Margaret only knows Isobel’s healing charms, and when Isobel confesses to dark magic, Margaret is shocked, all the more so when she hears Isobel name her as a witch during the trial. In this gripping and beautifully written tale, Kilgore’s characters debate whether Gowdie is fantasizing or a real witch, and whether young Margaret and the others are complicit. But their debate soon expands to consider the effects of Isobel’s poverty, being powerless, and ultimately the very nature of faith and forgiveness.

Please give Nancy a warm welcome:

The Other World in a Historical Novel

When I started writing Bitter Magic, an historical novel set in 1660 Scotland, I found myself stepping into a new world, a world where religious beliefs were a matter of life or death, with English fighting Scots, Catholics fighting Protestants, and leaders and kings changing sides unpredictably.

This was also a time when almost everyone, including the religious and educated gentry, believed in the existence of an Otherworld, a world between heaven and earth that was populated by supernatural beings – elves, fauns, and fairies – and that only those with second sight, what we’d call psychic, could see.

Isobel Gowdie, whose true story inspired Bitter Magic, was a peasant eking out a subsistence living on the estate of her laird. She was also a “cunning woman,” a psychic and powerful community leader, and she regularly visited this Otherworld.

In Bitter Magic, as in her documented confession, Isobel’s Otherworld is a place of singing and dancing, of bountiful feasts and beautiful clothing, and never being cold. She communes with the fairies and brings back their secrets to use in her healing and magic practice.

But in Isobel’s lifetime, the western world was undergoing upheavals and big change. The Catholic church had tolerated traditional earth-based spirituality, even allowing Christian prayers and invocations to be integrated into the charms and rituals of the common folk, the wise women, and healers. But the Protestant Reformation aspired to a new era of rationality and enlightenment. The church would no longer be mired in the mud of Catholic corruption or “pagan” superstition. All that had to go. Women, who were connected to the earth through menstruation and childbirth, could not be “enlightened” and therefore could not be leaders in the new era. The “wise women” had to go.

And so began the witch craze of the 17 th century. Fueled by King James I, who had converted from Catholicism to Protestantism, and his treatise, Daemonolgie, the churches decided that not only were cunning women “witches,” but witches were demons in human form, who had to be destroyed.

I used to hold a stereotypical image of that era that is echoed in many witch novels: the good wise woman is suspected of witchcraft because she heals with herbs and rituals; she is hunted, tortured, forced to confess evil deeds she is innocent of, and burned at the stake by the bad Christians.

But in my research, I found a more complex picture. Yes, the church and the government did decree that witchcraft was punishable by death. But not all Christians believed this absolute, and not all accused “witches” were innocent. The moral and ethical standards that our contemporary world ascribes to the “wise women” are not necessarily factual.

The wise women like Isobel who practiced magic and visited the fairies were not thinking in terms of “good” or “bad”. Magic was not about ethics. Isobel’s magic existed in a dimension without morality. It could heal or harm and often did not distinguish between the two.

On the other hand, the Christian reformers were highly ethical as well as idealistic. They believed they were working to bring a new era of love into the world, the Kingdom of God. But with these high standards, that most people couldn’t meet, there was also a reaction against it, whether internal or external. These “others,” the “witches” were evil and to be feared as much if not more than one’s own internal sinful nature. But there were also many who did not cave into this culture of fear, and I was as intrigued by them as by the strange life of Isobel Gowdie.

In Bitter Magic, I have sought to bring alive the world of Isobel, a world of mystics, shamans, and magic, with all of its nuanced characters and complex belief systems, in an extraordinary time in history.

Photo Credit: Kathy Tarantola Photography

About the Author:

Nancy Hayes Kilgore, winner of the Vermont Writers Prize, is the author of two other novels, Wild Mountain (Green Writers Press, 2017,) and Sea Level (RCWMS, 2011,) a ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year. She has published in a She Writes Press anthology, in Bloodroot Literary MagazineVermont Magazine, The Bottle Imp, and on Vermont Public Radio. Nancy is a graduate of the Radcliffe Writing Seminars and holds a Master of Divinity degree and a Doctorate in Pastoral Counseling. She is a former parish pastor, a psychotherapist, a writing coach, and leads workshops on creative writing and spirituality.

Excerpt & Giveaway: A Learned Romance by Elizabeth Rasche

Welcome to another great Jane-Austen inspired novel guest post, excerpt, and giveaway.

Elizabeth Rasche’s latest novel, A Learned Romance, focuses on Mary Bennet, the most practical and religious sister. Read about the book:

“She had been forced into prudence in her youth, she learned romance as she grew older: the natural sequel of an unnatural beginning”–Jane Austen, Persuasion, chapter 4

MARY BENNET HAD NEVER WISHED for anything more than to be known as the meek and pious Bennet sister, the one who sweetly brought peace to her family.

BEING THE LAST UNMARRIED BENNET SISTER, the pressure to partake of a London Season with the nouveau riche Wickhams was considerable, no matter how little she desired it; but, her young sister Lydia would not hear a refusal. Mary hoped she could pass her days as quietly as a mouse and maybe encourage her still-wild sister to become a more demure wife and stop quarrelling so much with her husband.

BUT WHEN LYDIA’S FLIRTATION with scientist begins stirring gossip, Mary discovers it is not enough to stay meek and quiet. She must protect Lydia’s reputation by drawing the man’s attentions her way, and convincing the world it is Mary, not Lydia, who attracts Mr Cole. If she fails, Lydia’s disgrace will taint every family member connected with her—Bennet, Bingley, and Darcy alike—and Mary will have no hope for her own future. But alluring a gentleman is hardly the sort of practice Mary has a knack for. Though it goes against every fibre of her being, Mary must turn aside from the peace she craves and uncover the belle within—all while finding her heart awakening in the illusion of romance she has created.

Don’t you just want to know what happens? I love to see wallflowers come into their own.

Now, for today’s excerpt! Enjoy and give Elizabeth a warm welcome:

Hi Serena!

I am so honored to be share this excerpt of A Learned Romance with you and your readers and to connect with readers who also love Jane Austen’s characters. I hope you’ll enjoy A Learned Romance, especially if you’ve been speculating what Mary Bennet’s life might have been like once Jane, Lizzy, and Lydia were married.

Mary accepted her sister’s invitation, sensing Lizzy wanted more than a discussion of what books to purchase. Sure enough, as the Darcy carriage launched into the flood of coaches and carts swelling the road, Lizzy’s brow furrowed with worry.

“I want to talk with you about Lydia. She is as heedless as usual with this Mr Cole. If she goes any further, her respectability as a married woman will be at serious risk.”

Mary twisted the strings of her reticule on her lap. It was nice to feel her sister deemed her worthy as an ally, and Mary felt a small satisfaction that her predictions of grave results might yet prove true, but in her heart of hearts she dreaded interfering. She liked the idea of being the patient consoler in the aftermath of a great scandal, but she had no desire to be an active participant, not even in preventing it. “I fear the same, although I do not see what I can do about it. Lydia does not listen to me.”

Lizzy’s tone was sympathetic, but firm. “You are living in their household. Should Lydia be deemed less than respectable, you will share in that judgment more than the rest of us. That is a great disadvantage—but being in their household also means that you are uniquely placed to help avert a catastrophe.”

Mary slouched a little in her seat. “I cannot do anything. Lydia always goes her own way. She will not do anything just because I tell her.”

Lizzy took her hand. “I have thought of that. You cannot disassemble this flirtation of Lydia’s from her side. Anything we do to try to persuade her will only spur her on more recklessly.”

“Then what?”

“You must work on Mr Cole instead.”

Mary blinked in surprise. “But I do not know him. Why would he listen to me?”

Lizzy leaned back a little. Her increased ease made Mary wary; it meant Lizzy thought she could bring Mary round to her way of thinking. And Lizzy is usually right. Mary squared her shoulders and tried to look imperturbable as Lizzy said, “He may be a sensible man; perhaps all you will need to do is drop him a hint, or tell him outright it would be better for him to stop flirting with Lydia.”

“And if he is not so sensible?” Experience had taught Mary that Lydia’s friends usually were not sensible people.

“Then you must draw his attention away—split it between you and Lydia. There will still be gossip, but it will mean less if the world is not sure who Mr Cole favours. Indeed, if they think she was only paying him attention for your sake, it will be very respectable indeed.”

Mary’s dry laugh hurt her chest, as though it scraped against an old wound. “Attract a gentleman myself? And worse, one who likes Lydia first? Lizzy, this is a poor joke.”

“You can do it. We are a handsome family, every one of us. You think you are not pretty because you wear old clothes and compare yourself to Jane. None of us are anything compared to Jane.” Lizzy’s eyes crinkled in a rueful expression, showing she had had similar feelings.

“You think that because you have made a brilliant match, we are all capable of it. I assure you, I am not.”

“You are pretty and intelligent, and you have a good heart. You can turn this Mr Cole about your finger if you so choose,” Lizzy insisted.

“Nonsense! I could not, and I would not if I could.” Mary’s chin jerked down. “It is wrong to engage in idle flirtation.”

“Is it idle when it saves Lydia’s reputation?”

“The ends do not justify the means.” Mary knew she sounded sententious, but she clung to her idea of virtue to avoid being swept away by Lizzy’s intensity—and a secret gleam of interest of her own. Was it true? Could Mary be the sort of person Lizzy imagined, a wily, charming belle who snatched men from the grasp of her sister? It seemed a ridiculous dream, but one with a glamour that intrigued her despite herself.

“Are there not examples in the Bible of women laying out to attract men for the greater good?” Lizzy said.

Mary could not resist the opportunity to display her scriptural knowledge. “I am no Esther, nor am I Ruth.”

“I am only saying that your morals need not cavil at such a project.” When Mary hesitated, Lizzy made the most of it, bearing down with an entreaty Mary found hard to resist. “Please, Mary. It is for the good of the whole family, and Lydia’s as well. Surely you do not wish to see her scorned and shunned?”

A sliver of guilt slid into Mary’s gut. She had entertained thoughts of some disaster befalling the Wickhams, and readied herself to deal with it—was that not wishing ill on them? Of course I do not really wish to see Lydia hurt. But the thought meant little when she compared it to her self-righteous imaginings of the last few weeks, and she felt she had no real evidence of sisterly kindness to prove her heart pure. Doing what Lizzy asked of her would be proof, though.

“I will speak to Mr Cole, then. I cannot promise more.”

“Thank you, Mary. You have relieved Mr Darcy and me of a weighty burden of worry.”

Thank you, Elizabeth, for sharing this excerpt.

About the Author:

After acquiring a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Arkansas, Elizabeth taught philosophy in the U.S. and co-taught English in Japan. Now she and her husband live in northwest Arkansas, which is over 4,000 miles from Derbyshire. (Doesn’t everyone measure distance from the center of the world, Pemberley?)

She dreams of visiting Surrey (if only to look for Mrs. Elton’s Maple Grove), London, Bath, and of course, Derbyshire. When she has a Jane Austen novel in one hand, a cup of tea in the other, and a cat on her lap, her day is pretty much perfect.

Elizabeth Rasche is the author of Flirtation and Folly, as well as The Birthday Parties of Dragons. Her poetry has appeared in Scifaikuest.


The giveaway is international and for an ebook copy of A Learned Romance. One winner per blog stop, and winners will be announced a week after the blog tour ends on the Quills & Quartos Facebook page. Good Luck!

Guest Post from Brittany Benko, author of Poetic Poetry

Today’s guest article is with Brittany Benko, a poet, freelance writer, and blogger. She’ll be talking about her new book, Poetic Poetry.

First, a little bit about the book:

Poetic Poetry is a poetry collection that speaks to the soul about everyday life. In this collection, you’ll find rhyming and contemporary pieces. Painting a picture with words, readers will enter the world of beaches in the Carolinas, the Blue Ridge Mountains, seasons, love, faith, flowers, the pandemic, the passion of motherhood, experiences with an autistic child, and much more.

Please welcome, Brittany:

When I was thirteen years old, my mom and I moved from a big city to a small beach town in South Carolina. My mother at the time was going through a divorce and wanted to live near her sisters so she could start a new life. The year we moved was 2000, and to this day I still reside in the Palmetto State.

As a poet, I tend to write with passion and life experience. I’ve spent many years enjoying the beach and soaking in its beauty. As a beach local, I’ve become accustomed to the environment. Sights and smells can be easily recognized, and the water has always called out to my soul. This makes it extremely simple to write about a beach environment.

In my book I have a few poems written about the area I live in. My goal was to explain what living in a beach town is like including both pros and cons. It’s effortless to close my eyes and picture the colors in the sky over the ocean, smell the saltwater, and feel the waves hitting my feet in the shallow end of the ocean. I think readers yearn to capture a connection when they read any type of book, and writing about an area they live in can do just that. Plus, it makes it effortless for me to capture imagery and emotions on paper.

As a writer, I like to create stories from a mixture of emotion, experience, knowledge, and passion. I think it’s important to write about what you’re passionate about and what you enjoy. Poetry is something I relish. I like the creative freedom poetry gives the writer, and also the challenge of explaining a topic through rhyming poetry. My goal is to bring back rhyming poetry to the world of poets and poetry readers with as much heart felt moments as I can muster.

Thank you, Brittany, for stopping by the blog today.

Learn more about Brittany in her interview at Laura’s Books & Blogs.

About the Author:

Brittany Benko is a special needs mother, law enforcement wife, self-published author, poetry blogger, and freelance writer. She has been featured as a poet in the Autism Parenting Magazine and the Open Door Poetry Magazine. Brittany is currently working on a children’s picture book about autism spectrum disorder and a poetry collection about law enforcement lifestyle. When Brittany is not writing she enjoys spending time with her family, walks on the beach, reading, and listening to instrumental music. You can connect with Brittany by visiting her two websites: author website and poetry. She’s also on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Guest Post: Rha Arayal on Poetic Inspiration and Sample Poem from Encapsulated Emotions

Welcome to today’s guest post from U.K. poet Rha Arayal, who’s collection Encapsulated Emotions was published this month.

I love sharing new poets with everyone, and Rha will explore her inspirations and share a sample poem with us. First, let’s learn a little more about the book.

Book Synopsis:

Rha Arayal’s debut poetry collection weaves a compelling story composed of layers of truth and emotion. Encapsulated Emotions gathers a plethora of questions, thoughts, feelings and bottles them up in a powerful three-part collection. Each dynamic line is corded with powerful imagery and descriptive phrases poised to uncover the reader’s deepest thoughts and memories.

Several pieces are coupled with illustrations throughout, offering a visual rendering of Arayal’s words. Sifting through the collection, you will surely catch on the author’s practice of drawing on the natural elements such as the sea, air, sun, and stars to bridge the thread between us and the world around us.

Readers will experience the three umbrella themes of collection, preservation, and decay. In this collection, readers will find pieces threaded with feminism, love, and contemplation. With each page, readers will find themselves consumed by the stirrings of Arayal’s words, breathless for more.

Please welcome, Rha:

Hello! Firstly, thank you for giving me the opportunity to feature on your blog. My name is Rha Arayal and I am a 17 year old poet from the United Kingdom.

I draw much of my inspiration from my surroundings, which are student and city life. This is evident in my poetry, which has the central themes of mental health, feminism, nature and social injustice.

I think that teenagers notice and study the world around us more than adults would like to think; social media use has become an integral part of my daily routine and it is a source of new friends and connections.

However, like many other people my age, I have become sensitive to the darker side of social media use and this is a theme which is also significant in my work.

My debut poetry collection, Encapsulated Emotions, includes all of these mentioned topics and was released on the 7th of July. It is now available to purchase both as an ebook and paperback on Amazon!

The journey to publication was a long one, but one that would be impossible without actual content and poetry!

In a nutshell, I would describe my writing process as unique. The best term to describe it is that I have the tendency to “binge write” (write sporadically, for example, going without writing for up to two weeks and then writing several poems in one day). Although I recognise that this wouldn’t work for every writer, I’ve grown accustomed to the routine and I find it quite relaxing – the feeling after writing lots of poems at once and releasing so many emotions out of your mind is quite therapeutic. As for the specific details of my writing process (when and where I write and what resources I use), I will go on to discuss that shortly.

I enjoy writing at my desk, which is my primary workspace for schoolwork and revision. I really like recognising that there is something sweetly poetic about having a homework document open in one tab and furiously typing a poem in another, ignoring the world and its demands for a blissful interval. As you may have guessed, I use my laptop and an overflowing Google Docs to write my poems. Whilst I appreciate the beauty of messy handwritten poetry in well worn notebooks, my mind is so frantic when writing that the poetry would be both illegible and diseased with multiple spelling mistakes!

I usually write in the evenings – I’m a night owl, as they would say. You’ll most probably find me crouched over my laptop and typing away between 9pm and 11pm… I would definitely write later than that if my mum didn’t come into my room and forcibly tell me to switch my laptop off!

My experience of being a published teen writer has been very positive; I’ve been given a platform to use my newfound (sometimes musically rhyming) voice, which is more than what some adults are presented with during their whole lifetime. Of course, I am proud of this but in no way does that mean that I will stop – if fate thought that handing me a single publishing contact would subside the burning passion, sometimes even anger inside of me, fate was utterly wrong.

There are so many stories that I haven’t told yet, so many images that I’ve failed to conjure, so many injustices that I haven’t touched upon. I can only hope that these will form with time, practise and research. Moreover, I hope with all of my heart that my first book is exactly that – the first. I know that I have enough ambition to publish many more books, to be featured in many more magazines and to gently affect the lives of many more people.

Here’s a sample poem from my book titled “Magician’s Assistant”:

you saw us in half
yet we receive applause second.

you make us disappear
but we’re more here
than you reckoned.

you banish us from stage,
you lock us in a cage,

yet we escape
yet we remain

magic is not an illusion
it is the perfumed fusion
of a magician’s assistant;

her steady high heeled stride
and the fact that you want her to die.

she flashes her white teeth;
like clean piano keys
and the audience swoon.

she waves her dazzling hands
and lies alone
in her coffin of doom.

Thank you, Rha, for sharing your writing routines and inspirations. The poem is wonderful, and we look forward to more.

About the Poet:

Rha Arayal is a fresh, unique emerging poet. She is of British Nepalese ethnicity and lives in South Wales. She started by establishing a growing Instagram poetry page, @encapsulated_emotions and never looked back. Now, she’s fallen in love with prose and always has a fountain pen and notebook by her side. Her Instagram address is @encapsulated_emotions.

Exclusive Excerpt: John Eyre by Mimi Matthews

I have an exclusive treat for you today.

An excerpt from Mimi Matthews’ John Eyre, which combines three things I love — mystery, romance, and a Gothic atmosphere.

I think you’ll gather from the book synopsis why this is probably one of the most anticipated books of the year.

Book Synopsis:

Yorkshire, 1843. When disgraced former schoolmaster John Eyre arrives at Thornfield Hall to take up a position as tutor to two peculiar young boys, he enters a world unlike any he’s ever known. Darkness abounds, punctuated by odd bumps in the night, strange creatures on the moor, and a sinister silver mist that never seems to dissipate. And at the center of it all, John’s new employer—a widow as alluring as she is mysterious.

Sixteen months earlier, heiress Bertha Mason embarked on the journey of a lifetime. Marriage wasn’t on her itinerary, but on meeting the enigmatic Edward Rochester, she’s powerless to resist his preternatural charm. In letters and journal entries, she records the story of their rapidly disintegrating life together, and of her gradual realization that Mr. Rochester isn’t quite the man he appears to be. In fact, he may not be a man at all.

From a cliff-top fortress on the Black Sea coast to an isolated estate in rural England, John and Bertha contend with secrets, danger, and the eternal struggle between light and darkness. Can they help each other vanquish the demons of the past? Or are some evils simply too powerful to conquer?

I cannot wait for you to read this excerpt and hear what you think. Please give Mimi a warm welcome:

John Eyre by Mimi Matthews, an EXCERPT (Chapter 11, pages 134-137)

“Enough talk of death,” Mrs. Rochester said. “It isn’t why I sought out your company. I wished to speak to you of faith.”

“It’s not a subject I’m in any position to remark upon, not when my own faith is at its lowest ebb. Of course, if you’ve changed your mind about my taking Stephen and Peter to church—”

“I told you, the boys aren’t to be paraded in front of strangers.”

“No, of course not.”

“Besides,” she added, “I would have thought you reluctant to attend church on any account. Mr. Fairfax informs me that you’ve had several invitations to tea from the vicar in Hay, and that you’ve each time sent your regrets.”

“True enough.” The vicar, Mr. Taylor, seemed a civil sort of gentleman, eager to make John’s acquaintance, and thereby lure him to Sunday services. John had politely declined his invitations, claiming to be too busy for social calls at present.

“You have no wish to meet our estimable vicar?”

“Not at the moment.” John paused. “I notice that you don’t attend church yourself.”

“What has that to do with anything?”

“It makes me wonder if your faith is as feeble as mine.”

“I daresay you think faith is measured by how often one attends Sunday services. How loud one sings from a hymnbook.” Her eyes found his. Something inexplicable flickered behind her gaze. “Do you believe in good and evil, Mr. Eyre?”

The question sent a strange chill through John’s veins. She asked it with such gravity. Such solemn intent. He wished he could answer with the same conviction.

Instead, his answer was tepid at best. “As much as any Christian.”

“Which is to say, not very much at all.” Her skirts brushed against his leg. Somehow, during the course of their walk, they’d drawn closer to each other. As close as a pair of lovers sharing whispered confidences. “I know how it is. We all of us are raised on stories of God and the devil. Abstract ideas of good and bad. But what about in the real world? Do you believe in the forces of evil? And that godly people can ultimately triumph over them?”

“I would like to believe. But in our world, you must admit that evil often triumphs. Bad people prevail, while good, honest people are ground into dust. For evidence, you need look no further than the inhabitants of any workhouse.”

“And yet my faith is stronger than it’s ever been.” She gave him a look, as challenging as her tone. “Do you doubt it?”

He opened his mouth to reply, but she forestalled him.

“I don’t attend church because the essence of my belief has nothing to do with an inanimate building or with the people who populate it. My faith is solely concerned with matters of good and evil. And you must believe, sir, that I stand firmly and relentlessly on the side of good. The side of God. You would do well to determine where it is that you stand.”

Her speech was so passionate, so unflinchingly earnest, that he felt the impulse to answer in kind—albeit with a trifle less heat. “At the moment,” he said. “I stand next to you. It seems a worthy place to be.”

A spasm of emotion crossed over her face, as fleeting as it was unreadable. “Would that I could be certain—” She broke off.

“Certain of what?”

Her reply, when it came, was equally quiet. “That you would remain at my side, irrespective of what comes.”

“I have no plans to leave Thornfield.” He cleared his throat. “So long as you’re pleased with my service, and the boys—”

“Ah, yes. The boys. You wish them to continue improving. To speak, eventually.”

“Don’t you?”

“As to that… It’s complicated.” Her shoulders stiffened. “I don’t expect you to understand.”

“I do understand.”

She gave him an uncertain glance.

“You’re protective of them,” he said.

Her bosom rose and fell on a deep breath. “I have tried to be.”

“And yet…” He warned himself not to say it. The words tumbled out nonetheless.

“You left them for months on end while you resumed your travels.”

“Not because I didn’t care for them. Indeed, I cared too much. If you only knew…”

She stopped on the path, turning back to face the house. Its silhouette was barely discernable in the mist, only the battlements standing out strong and clear against the winter sky. “This wretched place. How often I have abhorred the very thought of it. No sooner do I arrive here than I want to leave again.”

“Understandably so. It can be dreary at times, especially with the Millcote mists.”

“Is that the name they’ve given to this effluvium?”

“It’s how it’s been described to me. As a phenomenon particular to this part of the country.” He paused, adding, “You said it contributed to your parents’ death.”

“After a fashion. The dampness of it, and the chill. There’s always been fog in the valley, as long as I can remember. But this…the Millcote mists, as you call them…” A frown worked its way between her brows. “This is something new.”

I hope that this excerpt has piqued your interest. I am certainly intrigued.

About the Author:

USA Today bestselling author Mimi Matthews writes both historical nonfiction and award-winning proper Regency and Victorian romances. Her novels have received starred reviews in Library Journal and Publishers Weekly, and her articles have been featured on the Victorian Web, the Journal of Victorian Culture, and in syndication at BUST Magazine. In her other life, Mimi is an attorney. She resides in California with her family, which includes a Sheltie, and two Siamese cats. Visit her website, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Bookbub, and on GoodReads.

Guest Post: Forgotten Betrothal by L.M. Romano

Today’s guest is L.M. Romano, author of Forgotten Betrothal. The novel takes up after the disastrous proposal of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth’s rejection of that proposal. I personally love when there are secrets that threaten to break this couple up, and there will be some of that here.

But read the synopsis for yourself:

Enlightenment dawned, sharp and painful in its glaring exactitude. He knew. From the moment she had uttered her true name, he had known that she was not free. So why was he here? Why did he still look at her in that way? Why could she see the adoration in his eyes and the torment in his features? Had he come to say goodbye? To leave her to this fate?

How can an innocent stroll through Hyde Park change the course of so many lives?

Confused and chastened following her cruel rejection of Mr Darcy’s proposal, Elizabeth Bennet returns to her aunt’s home in Gracechurch Street. Unable to find solace while pondering her terrible misjudgment of his character, she is overwhelmed with guilt for how she treated the puzzling gentleman from Derbyshire.

Fitzwilliam Darcy has retreated to his London home after being spurned by the lady he loves, and after serious reflection has come to the realisation that he never deserved Elizabeth’s good opinion.

A chance encounter brings the opportunity to seek forgiveness, and possibly, a new start to their budding romance. But the introduction of a stranger into Elizabeth’s life threatens to reveal old family secrets that have the potential to truly unravel her world and all that she holds dear.

Please give L.M. Romano a warm welcome:

Thanks, Serena, for letting me share an excerpt today from Forgotten Betrothal! When writing this book, I wanted to place Darcy into a situation that he alone could not fix – something that would be beyond the reach of his money, connections, or knowledge.

The discovery of Elizabeth’s true parentage and the existence of a cradle betrothal sends Darcy into a panic, and in the following scene, Colonel Fitzwilliam is there to provide encouragement that all is not yet lost.

Excerpt from Chapter 21

Just as Darcy feared losing himself once again in bitter reflections, a firm grip on his forearm demanded his focus.

“Marriage settlement or not, nothing is yet written in stone, Darcy!”

Startled, he replied, “You believe I still have a chance?”

“Yes, and so would you if you could take a moment to pull your head out of the ground! I realise what a shock this must have been, for I myself can barely make sense of it! But you are facing down a twenty-year-old piece of paper, not the Minotaur! I love my brother, but I cannot see how this proposed marriage should go forward as you seem to be forgetting one essential component of this entire affair!”

“And that is?”

“Miss Elizabeth, you fool! I cannot believe the simple country miss who would not give way to our overbearing Aunt Catherine would somehow be cowed enough by her new circumstances to assent to an arranged marriage!”

For the first time since Darcy had learned the dreadful news, a spark of hope began to burn within his chest. Richard was right. His beautiful, stubborn, fierce Elizabeth would not simply follow society’s dictates with no thought to her own happiness.

“Have you not spent the last two weeks courting this woman? Resolving your earlier misunderstandings and gaining her favour? For she does truly welcome your calls, does she not?”

“Yes, I believe she does. In fact, I felt today that I could detect a significant change in her regard for me. At one point, before she relayed her news, she even mentioned how highly she esteemed me. I almost wished I could have renewed my addresses at that very moment.”

“Perhaps you should have done!” Richard huffed. “It could have saved us all this grief!”

“I doubt that. Not only would it have been completely unfeeling on my part to interrupt her disclosure of what had so lately troubled her, but I also would have found myself in the very same predicament I now face. I have unknowingly courted an earl’s daughter without permission, something Lord Tamworth is unlikely to overlook.”

“Surely the Gardiners knew your intent. I wonder they did not mention anything to you!”

“And what would they have said? ’Tis not as though they were at liberty to reveal anything to me, although I suppose it does explain the certain uneasiness I detected in Mr Gardiner when he first agreed to allow my calls.”’

“Well, in any case, I believe you have every reason to hope where the lady is concerned.”

“Do you truly?”

With a roll of his eyes, Richard exclaimed, “Darcy, are you daft? Miss Elizabeth trusted you enough to divulge all before even a formal announcement was made! This is going to be the biggest news society has seen in a decade, yet she went out of her way to assure you of her trust by telling you to your face. She was under no obligation to make any such disclosure, and I do not believe she would have done so if she wished to cry off from your courtship!”

“And look at how I repaid such trust!”

“What do you mean?” Richard asked, a nervous look etched upon his countenance. “What did you do, Darcy?”

Unable to face his cousin, Darcy stood and leaned against the mantle, dragging his hand down the length of his face. “I left. Right after she told me her real name. I believe I uttered some nonsense about being happy for her and that I hoped to see her again at some point, but at the end of it all, I simply abandoned Elizabeth. I was too overcome by my own emotions to provide the comfort she needed. I am a cowardly fool!”

“You really are your own worst enemy, but I doubt all is lost. ’Twas not the best response, I grant you, but the shock of the situation should allow some concessions to be made for your lapse.”

“But you do not understand. Only a week prior Miss Jane Bennet thanked me for my unswerving devotion to her sister, confessing Elizabeth would have need of my loyalty in time. I had thought her remark rather strange in the moment, but now it makes perfect sense! Elizabeth is being thrust into a new world with all new expectations, and instead of standing by her, at the first sign of trouble, I retreated. I do not deserve her.”

“Why do we not let Miss Elizabeth make that decision? I may not understand why she would choose to tie herself to your dour mug for all eternity, but I shall not gainsay her if that is her choice,” Richard quipped with a mocking grin.

In a decidedly dry tone, Darcy responded, “Your faith in me is inspired, Cousin. But the problem remains, what do I do now?”

Thank you, Ms. Romano for sharing this excerpt. Darcy does get himself in a pickle doesn’t he? I cannot wait to read this one.

About the Author:

L. M. Romano is, as Miss Bingley would say, ‘a great reader,’ though she still owns to taking delight in many things. As an inveterate bookworm and a longtime lover of historical fiction, she is delighted to present her début novel, Forgotten Betrothal, as a tribute to her love for the works and characters created by Jane Austen. As a history professor, she eagerly embraced the opportunity to delve into Regency England and the many facets of London’s high society, which provided endless evenings of entertainment for both herself and any unfortunate family members who happened to be nearby.

A Northern California native, L. M. Romano currently lives with her husband in Ontario, California. She plans to continue writing, teaching, and reading countless books to her heart’s content.


Guest Post: Sunflowers by Kirby Peterman

Today, I have a guest post from poet Kirby Peterman about her 2019 poetry collection, Sunflowers.

First, check out the synopsis of the collection:

Sunflowers follows the life of author, Kirby Peterman, through a collection of short stories and poems. As a young Texan, navigating friendships, intimacy, and femininity, she is thrown off course following an experience of sexual assault during her first week of college. The collection shifts as she works through her self-healing journey and crosses paths with those who help her grow. 

Please give Kirby a warm welcome:

Continuing to live after trauma requires daily effort. Through writing with complete transparency, I have found solace in understanding where my own trauma now fits into my story. The outcome is a journey through my life and a deeper understanding of who I am because of, and in spite of, my experiences. I learned to recognize my growth in a way I had never let myself when I tried to forget my past.

I do not know where I am headed in life. I’ve learned that this is not a feeling unique to me and have gained comfort in the limitlessness provided by this ambiguity. Still, the understanding of myself is a gradual one, developing through and sometimes against time. We are born with our bodies, but we must discover our souls.

Unfortunately, in today’s society in which women strive to gain their own foundation, but are often stifled by expectations of their sexuality, of their bodies, of their emotions, it is increasingly difficult to discover one’s self. In this world of political facades, discrimination, materialism, and inequality, transparency can be dangerous. My vulnerability in this piece is given to you, the reader, with the intention to provoke your own associations and to promote conversation about our society.

Growing up, I was conditioned to internally deal with my feelings, to swallow my words, and mute my emotions. This was normal and became unquestionably easy. Getting older, and encountering experiences with greater weight, challenged this silent coping mechanism, so I learned to write. I believe as humans it is a worthwhile endeavor to share the very experiences you may try to forget in an effort to push beyond them and pull up others who may be wrestling their own stories. This is not our duty, however, and should be taken at a healthy pace.

My grandfather, Leonard Robbins, was a man who was essential in the racial integration in public schools of Houston, Texas and who was instrumental in allowing women to even wear pants to school. A story I have often heard of him was of a time he was interviewed about his school board work and my mother, his daughter, watched as he was slapped on live television. Of course, this did not stop him, instead he was provided with one of the first car telephones by police in case of emergencies and pushed forward.

Not only was he dedicated to the story of future generations, but he devoted most of his post-retirement life to creating books of our family’s genealogy. In the books, I am lucky to find the voice of my ancestors – their stories, their relations, the source of my middle names, the people whose lives led to my own.

After he passed, I was able to receive a printed compilation made up of years of his poetry in which he writes of his mental health, of his school board work, of his children. While I always had viewed him as a stoic, quiet grandfather, I see now that he had a mighty voice that comforts me beyond his time on Earth.

A few years before he passed, he pulled me aside and said, “I know it is a pain in the ass, but you should share your voice. I am the same as you, but it is worth it to speak.” I took it at my own pace, but I understand now.

Thank you, Kirby, for sharing your words and voice with us. It is important to be heard.

About the Poet:

Kirby Peterman is a designer, researcher and author residing in Denver, CO. After surviving sexual assault, she has dedicated her life to helping others speak up about and heal from their own experiences. She has organized and hosted events, fundraisers, and give aways that have helped raise money for local non-profit sexual assault centers. Backed with two degrees in neuroscience and psychology, she is currently pursuing her Master’s degree at Jefferson University in Health Communication Design.

Spotlight: Palm Lines by Jonathan Koven

Jonathan Koven’s incoming fiction novella Below Torrential Hill is the second place winner of the 2020 Electric Eclectic Novella Prize, expected winter 2021. Eagerly anticipating its release, it’s encouraged you familiarize yourself with Koven’s tender and lyrical voice. His debut, titled Palm Lines, is a spellbinding and intimate collection of poems, now available from Toho Publishing.

Here is a short trailer which was launched prior to Palm Lines‘ release, featuring a snippet of one of its poems. The excerpted poem is posted below, in full . . .


Walk to the edge of the beach. Lift your arms.
The spray, salt flying,
wind blowing, gasps
as if the moment itself nearly
never happened.

At night, they pass faster than the zip of dragonflies. A train station, you are. Operate, channel, historize, vanish.

Everything you do is the receiving and translating of different prayers. You don’t know who says them.

In this moment, skyscrapers rise like titans
in pale pre-dawn guise,
gale sibilant like closed windows whistling,
New York’s final sound. Ocean falls
from the sky, crashes sidewalks, rolls
and fills the slits between every crack in the street,
every alley, into every window, every
mouth and eye and ear and the lines of every palm—
the key which unlocks your chimera,
and you may finally awaken. Or
would you rather stay?

The rim of a silver circle in the sky, the center of her chest, the way a universe puckers its lips and softly coos itself to sleep.

Love crawls over your heart. Maybe you stumbled into a dream, and then, into this body.

These heartfelt poems speak to a transformative journey “to rediscover love as both a question and an answer.” Seeking hope, honoring family, finding love, accepting time’s passage, and understanding gratitude are all major themes explored in this dreamlike collection.
“Palm Lines invites one into a sensuous natural world . . . [Koven] is a writer of tremendous skill.” —Tracey Levine, author of You Are What You Are and Asst. Professor of English at Arcadia University
“Its poetry flows masterfully between the delicate balance of nature and humanity.” —Philip Dykhouse, author of Bury Me Here

“These are ecstatic poems which wrestle with surrender. Even as they reach outward, they are reflecting back, mapping the story of our own hands.” —David Keplinger, author of Another City, winner of 2019 UNT Rilke Prize

“Palm Lines is an epic, a journey . . . These poems read like the work of a storyteller, speaking innately human truths over the metaphysical fire.” —Shannon Frost Greenstein, author of More. and Pray for Us Sinners

“In Palm Lines, everything is humongous because of the gravity of the beauty and emotion observed—and language is the catharsis . . . This accessible collection offers the reader an opportunity to take a deep breath and reflect.” —Sean Lynch, editor of Serotonin

Order Palm Lines at one of the links below, or DM @jonathankoven on Twitter or Instagram for a signed copy with a complementary Palm Lines-themed bookmark. Order here: Toho Publishing and Amazon.
About the Poet:
Jonathan Koven grew up on Long Island, NY, embraced by tree-speak, tide’s rush, and the love and support of his family. He lives in Philadelphia with his fiancée Delana and cats Peanut Butter and Keebler. He holds a BA in literature from American University, and is head fiction editor of Toho Journal. Credits include Night Picnic Press, Iris Literary, Halcyone Literary, and much more. His debut poetry collection Palm Lines is now available, and his award-winning fiction novella Below Torrential Hill releases this winter from Electric Eclectic.

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.


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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

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: