Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Holiday Stories: THE GIFT




I want to share a beautiful story with you. Like Christmas Joy, it's a favorite. This one was written by a dear friend, Rand Phares. It's setting is in England during King John's reign and I love it because it's thought provoking and I can relate to the last monk. 


I hope you enjoy his story.




Abbot Timothy and Brother Samuel stood just inside the main doors of the monastery, swirling snow filling the dark night around them.
Samuel adjusted his hood and leaned closer to the abbot. "Are you sure you don't want me to wait for you?"
The abbot shook his head. "No, Samuel. I have one last chore before I can leave. I'll be along shortly, before the town road becomes impassable. You go on ahead before they've run out of room at the inn."
Samuel frowned and peered across the courtyard at the monastery's church, its windows lit with a wavering glow. "A pity it's come to this, after all our years of service."
The abbot laid a hand on Samuel's chest. "Though the abbeys are being dissolved and we're being evicted, you can always hold to your faith and continue that service here, in your heart." He turned to the doors, slid aside a wooden bar, and—with Samuel's help—tugged the doors open.
Samuel adjusted his robe. "You're sure you won't come with me?”
The abbot nodded. "Go."
Samuel went through the doorway, hesitated for a moment, and then continued on, his dark form melting into the storm. A moment later, drifting snow covered his footprints and it was as if he'd never been there.
The abbot shook his head. The king's decree had arrived a week ago: The Order was dissolved, its members to renounce their ways and leave the monastery no later than Christmas Eve. Tonight. The monastery, its grounds, and its treasures would revert to the people. Even now, two of the king's men were in the counting room, reviewing the monastery's records.
One by one, the monasteries of the land were being dissolved, taken over by local governments, monies and lands distributed to those in power. Monks had been expelled, left to fend for themselves, which meant hardship and death more often than not. Friendship toward fellow man seemed to have dissolved in the face of hard times and the king's decree.
As abbot, he would be the last to leave. How had the others fared? Emanuel, the infirmarian? Ethan, the sacrist? What of the troubled brothers, especially James, gifted with a lyre, but unable to form a single sentence?
Where would he himself go? He had no family, no friends outside the monastery. Would he simply starve, sharing the same fate as the others? After all this time surrounded by these walls, he did not look forward to leaving. The king's decree guaranteed a lonely, destitute, and painful end beyond the monastery.
He shut and barred the doors, then turned and looked at the church, at the rise of its steeple. Was its symbolic gesture toward heaven still meaningful in these times? Across the length of the roof sat the silent bell tower, oddly enough even taller than the steeple. He knew it spoke of a long-ago time when the monastery—sitting atop a 200-ft cliff overlooking a great road—had served as a lookout against enemy hordes sweeping in from the north.
He stared at the bell tower until his eyes stung.
So lonely . . .
So high . . .
So . . .
Painful? Perhaps not.
The tower stared down at him.
Will you follow the path the king has set down for you?
Or is there another?
He blinked, rubbed his eyes with icy fingers, and looked back at the barred doors.
The king's path lay beyond.
He stared at the doors for a long moment. Then, his mind made up, he crossed himself, turned away, and trudged off through the snow toward the church.
Snow had piled against the great door leading into the church, and the door complained as the abbot struggled to open it. He stepped into the front nave, escaping the storm, but not the bone-wearying cold.
With the door shut behind him, he made his way toward the choir at the back of the church, eyes adjusting to the thin light of candles burning in side chapels. A statue of the Saviour seemed to shift slightly in the flickering light as he neared. He crossed himself and started off toward the dark door near the east transept; the door that led to the bell tower.
He reached for the door's latch, but a coughing sound stopped him. He turned and found a robed figure sitting in the choir pews. Why had he not noticed? Wasn't everyone supposed to be gone by now? This was certainly not one of the king's tallymen, with their fine purple tunics.
"Can I help you?" the abbot asked.
The figure stood and tossed back his hood. A thin young man, dark hair, bearded, but not someone the abbot recognized.
"Are you Abbot Timothy?" the man asked.
"Yes. And you are . . . ?"
"Forgive me, abbot. I'm Sebastian. Innkeeper Thomas sent me with a sack of food for your journey." He held up a dark bag. "Some mutton, cheese, a small flask of wine."
The abbot looked at the bag. "That's quite kind of Thomas. And kind of you, of course, for bringing it here in this storm. Tell me, how did you get in? We keep the main gate locked."
"I slipped in when one of the brothers was leaving."
"I see." The abbot gestured toward the bag. "Well, thank Thomas for me." He put a hand on the latch beside him. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to extinguish the chapel candles before I leave. You'd better let yourself out and return to the inn before you become stranded."
"The snow is blowing very hard. You've no fear of being stranded yourself?"
The abbot glanced at the latch in his hand, then back at Sebastion. "I won't be long. You'd best not wait."
"That door leads to the bell tower?"
"Yes.”
"Are there many candles in the tower?"
The abbot frowned. He opened his mouth to reply, but Sebastian waved a hand. "Forgive my impertinence, abbot." He looked around at the statuary and tapestries. "It's a pity the church is being stripped of its treasures. But isn't it a greater travesty that the countryside is being stripped of its faith?"
The abbot sighed. Would this young man not leave? "Yes, it's true, what you say about the country. But when I step outside these walls, the king says I'm no longer a man of God. So my days of worrying about the country's faith are over."
"That may be, but what about your vow of service to Our Lord? True faith is difficult to drive from a man's heart, even in the face of kingly decrees." Sebastian nodded at the tower door. "Are you like the countryside, abbot? Have you been stripped of your faith?"
The abbot blinked. Had he?
Sebastian laid a hand above his heart. "In spite of what the king says, you can always hold to your faith and continue that service in your heart."
The abbot stared at Sebastian. How did he . . . ?
Sebastian set the bag on a pew and looked up at the window. "It seems the snow has finally stopped. That should make your journey easier." He looked back at the abbot. "One last word of advice, though." He smiled and nodded at the tower door. "Be careful putting the candles out up in the belfry. It's sure to be slippery up there, and I hear it's a long drop to the road below."
With that, Sebastian turned and walked up the nave, pausing only to cross himself at the statue of the Saviour. A moment later the shadows of the front nave swallowed him. In the snow-encased quiet of the church, the great door was particularly loud when it closed.
The abbot's gaze returned to the statue.
A thin bearded face, arms outstretched, a crown of thorns. From this angle, the candlelight made it look as if the statue stared back at him.
#
Abbot Timothy pushed open the great church door and took in the courtyard and the far shadow of the main gate. The young man had left the church after the storm died, but a silent mantle of white lay unbroken in all directions. And the air was still; wind no longer blowing snow across any newly laid footprints.
What was the hour? Was it Christmas yet?
He lifted the bag. Mutton, cheese, wine. A Christmas gift, perhaps?
He stared out at the night, and thought of the young man's words.
All of them.
And decided those had been the real gift this night.
Then, with a last glance back across the nave at the distant bell tower door, he shouldered the bag and walked out of the church. Heading toward the gate, the abbot was secure in the feeling that wherever the young man had gone, he was following.

Rand Phares's first foray into writing was at an early age, on a neighborhood "newspaper" he published with his brother. After a successful career in software engineering, he now focuses on psychological thrillers, and is within nanoseconds of completing his first novel, The Feast. Rand lives in NC with his family.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Holiday Stories: CASSIE'S CHRISTMAS WISH

I've had so many lovely stories contributed this holiday season. I hope you've enjoyed them all. At the end of this story I will give you the links to each story again. In the hustle and bustle of getting prepared for the holidays and family, not many had time to really do much but extra reading.



This Holiday Short story is written by Anna Small. Anna writes historical romance and shares a story about two of her characters, Cassie and Jed Hazard.


If you enjoy the story, do share it on the networks.




            Cassie Hazard looked out her bedroom window and blinked rapidly to clear her vision. Surely, she was dreaming, for there could not be snowflakes on the ground. Wrapping a quilt around her shoulders, she hastily left the bedroom and rushed outdoors. She gasped in delight. Speckled on the ground like shimmering dust was the first snowfall she had ever seen since arriving in the New Mexico Territory.
            “I’ll bet you never expected to see snow in the desert, city gal.”
            She turned around and smiled at her husband. Jed looked like a snowman himself, bundled up in a heavy coat and a muffler wound around his neck. She was grateful when he stood behind her, wrapped his arms securely around her waist, and hugged the quilt to help keep her warm.
            “I didn’t know it would snow. How beautiful everything looks.” Tiny flurries of snow whipped around the horse paddock. The ground sparkled, reflecting the sunlight so she had to squint from the glare.
            “It always snowed at Christmas back home. Ty and I would have snowball fights until our pa caught us avoiding our chores.” He laughed at the memory, and she turned around in his arms to face him.
            “Boston will be beautiful this time of year. They have sleigh rides on the Common, and Uncle Abe always took me to the Parker House for dinner on Christmas Eve.”
            “Sounds like a nice time. I hope you don’t mind cornbread for this Christmas Eve.” His head lowered and he was just about to kiss her, when someone called to them from the road. Jed glanced up. “Looks like old Busybody Ames is bringing someone out here. Maybe it’s that cattle buyer I met at the House of Diamonds a few weeks back.”
            “I’ll go inside and dress,” she said, reluctantly pulling away and walking toward the door. She watched from the step for a few moments as Jed walked to the gate to let the driver in. Jed was right. The driver was Mr. Ames, the schoolteacher, and his sole passenger looked familiar. He was out of place in his black stovepipe hat and fur trimmed coat. His full white beard made her almost think of Santa Claus, except she only knew one man who wore a red silk scarf over his top coat.
            Her breath caught in her throat as she tried to call Jed, to warn him, but it was too late. He’d already reached the gate, and the wagon was pulling up. Jed was talking to the two men, and he glanced a few times back at her, as did the others. She gulped, then held her head high. She had nothing to fear from anyone, and certainly not this man. She was a married woman now, for goodness’ sake, and could make her own decisions.
            Jed swung the gate open and the wagon came through. She stood on the porch, her shoulders back and her chin stuck out, waiting.
            The wagon stopped at the house, and Ames gave her a smug smile. He touched the brim of his hat with a slender finger. “Good morning, Mrs. Hazard.”
            “Mrs. Hazard?” The old gentleman beside Ames scowled so deeply she thought his thick, bushy eyebrows would knit themselves together. He climbed off the wagon with some difficulty, and walked slowly to where she stood on the porch. “Well?” he demanded, and she felt her knees wobble, “are you not going to say hello to your own uncle, missy?”
            “Hello, Uncle Abe,” she said, cursing herself inwardly for sounding like a little girl. Suddenly, she was no longer the capable rancher-woman Jed always called her, but the naughty little girl who’d painted all over her uncle’s desk and had gotten caught. “What are you doing here?”
            He puffed out his chest, and cast a sardonic glance around the ranch. “I wanted to make sure you were still alive. Mr. Ames has been good enough to inform me of what shenanigans you’ve been about, young lady.”
            “That’s my wife, sir. I’ll expect you to be polite in my presence,” Jed said, his voice firm but pleasant. He climbed the stairs to the porch and grasped her shoulder. “Sweetheart, let’s all go inside and have some coffee. I’m sure your uncle doesn’t want to stand outside in the cold all day.”
            Grateful for Jed’s steady, practical nature, Cassie led the way into the small house, instinctively wishing she’d cleaned better the night before. But they’d had an early supper, and Jed had smiled at her in that special way that she’d foregone housekeeping in favor of their big, soft bed.
            “Is this all there is?” Uncle Abe said gruffly, surveying the small house and cramped kitchen.
            Jed pulled out their best chair and smiled pleasantly. “Won’t you sit, sir?”
            Uncle Abe hesitated a moment, then sat down carefully, as if he were afraid the chair would break. He glowered at Cassie, but she kept up her air of strength, even though she was afraid she would settle back into the role of obedient child again.
            “I came to make sure you were still alive, Cassandra,” he said, removing his hat and placing it on his knee.
            “As you can see, Uncle, I am.”
            Jed brought three mugs of coffee to the table and set one before Uncle Abe, then took the chair opposite him. “How was your journey, sir?”
            “Long. What are your prospects with my niece? She’s my only family, and I want to make certain you are not toying with her.”
            Cassie’s cheeks burned with the heat of her blush, but she bit her tongue to keep from speaking her mind. Jed’s jaw tightened, but he was polite.
            “As I said before, she’s my wife. It was all done up nice and legal. Charles Ames married us a few months ago.”
            One white eyebrow rose up into his forehead. “I have not heard a word about love, Mr. Hazard. Did you marry her for love, or was it a business proposition? Mr. Ames seems convinced of the latter.”
            “He’s both a liar and a fool,” Jed said, pushing out of his chair and rising abruptly. He stood beside Cassie and wrapped his arm around her shoulders. “I love this woman with all my heart. Yes, I wouldn’t have the ranch if she hadn’t married me, but that’s not why I did it.” He faced her now, and it was as if they were alone. She stared up into his sky blue eyes, so earnest and filled with all the hopes and dreams they both shared. “I’ve loved you from that first day, Cassie, when you walked down that dusty road and demanded I leave your ranch.” His eyes twinkled with amusement at the memory. “I wanted you then as much as I want you now. The o-nly reason I suggested we marry was that I couldn’t imagine a life without you. You’re my partner and my friend. My best and truest love.”
            Her eyes filled with tears, and she placed her hand on his chest, over his beating heart. “I love you, too, Jed. I always have.”
            Uncle Abe cleared his throat, then reached into his coat pocket. Cassie almost feared he was going to take out a pistol and challenge Jed to a duel, but he withdrew a fat leather pouch, which he handed to her. “In that case, you may have this.”
            She hastily brushed the tears from her cheek. “What is that?”
            He heaved a sigh. “My dear sister was not destitute when she ran away from home with your reprobate father. She had some money put away, and I wish you now to have it.”
            “If you think you can pay me to change my mind, you’re wrong,” she said fiercely. “I don’t care if it’s a million dollars. I’m staying here. My home is with my husband.” Her limbs trembled as if she were feverish, but she kept her gaze focused on him, so he would know she spoke the truth.
            “My dear child, this is not a bribe to take you out of this place, although,” and he glanced meaningfully around the room, “it could use some sprucing up. It is your inheritance. You may give it to your husband, keep it for yourself, or throw it to the wind – I don’t care what you do with it.” He rose from the table and put his hat on. “Now, if Mr. Hazard will be so kind, I require a ride back into town.”
            “What for?” Jed asked.
            Uncle Abe frowned slightly. “I am not welcome here, that is evident. Cassandra and I have rarely seen eye to eye. She is happy and well; that is all I wanted to see. I’m going back to Boston at week’s end.”
            He started for the door, but Cassie was quicker. She gripped his arm. “Wait.”
            “Yes, my dear?” His eyes swam with tears, and she had to fight to keep her own emotions in check.
            “That is why you came all the way out to New Mexico Territory? Not to persuade me to come back to Boston with you or to take the ranch from Jed or…or any of those things?”
            He shook his head. “Is it so impossible that I would want your happiness, Cassandra? I am the only family you have left.”
            “That’s not true,” she said softly. “I have Jed, and I have a brother, Tyler. I have Laughing Crow and Two Rivers, and Marianna and Miss Lavinia.”
            He covered her hand that remained on his arm. “You are the only family I have left, Cassandra. Please, forgive an old man’s foolishness. I have always wanted your happiness. If this is what it takes, then….” He sighed, and smiled through his thick beard. “I can ask for nothing more.” He kissed her forehead, then looked at Jed. “And now, sir, if you please….”
            “You’re not going anywhere,” Cassie said suddenly. “You’ll spend Christmas with us, Uncle Abe.”
            “We insist,” Jed said, standing beside her.
Uncle Abe shook his hand, then embraced Cassie warmly, the long beard tickling her cheek as it always used to on the rare occasions he did show affection. She realized now that he had been too worried about keeping her safe all those years that he’d forgotten to enjoy the time they’d had.
“Well,” he said gruffly, pulling away and straightening out his coat, “if I’m to stay here, we must have a proper Christmas dinner.”
            “We’re having beans, cornbread, and rabbit,” Cassie said.
Jed grinned. “And maybe some venison. Our friends, Laughing Crow and his family, will bring a deer, and our sheriff, Wade, makes the best apple pie you’ve ever tasted.”
“As I said,” Uncle Abe replied, “a proper Christmas dinner.” He removed his coat and hat and rolled up his shirtsleeves. “Get me an apron, missy. I’m going to tidy up around here so you may get ready for your friends.”
She tied her apron around his waist, her throat full of unshed, joyful tears. When she was done, he cupped her cheek in his warm hand and gave it a little pinch.
“How I’ve missed these freckles. You must come out and visit me in Boston.” He nodded at Jed. “Both of you.”
“We will.” Jed winked at Cassie as he headed for the door. “I’m going to chop some more wood and see to the livestock. I’ll come in when Laughing Crow arrives.” He paused and looked at Uncle Abe. “Merry Christmas, sir.”
“I find sir a little stuffy. Call me Uncle Abe.”
“Merry Christmas, Uncle Abe.” Jed grinned at both of them and went outside.
Cassie embraced her uncle. “Merry Christmas, dear Uncle Abe.” She kissed him on the cheek.
“Merry Christmas, Cassandra.” He indicated the table. “Are you not going to open that pouch and see how much is in there?”
She shook her head. “It doesn’t matter. I have everything I want right here.”


 You can find Anna:
Story links:

Christmas Joy, Beth Hill, Secrets Of Christmas, Carol Kilgore,
Husband For Miss Trent, Anne Gallagher, On The Outside Looking In, Yvonne Lewis

UPCOMING GUESTS:
WEDNESDAY(4th): Mia Marlowe And Connie Mason
FRIDAY(6th): Tawny Weber


Saturday, December 24, 2011

ON THE OUTSIDE LOOKING IN

Where ever you are and however you celebrate, May this Holiday Season bring you, laughter, joy, and many good memories! Thank you all for all the support, encouragement, and friendship.




A lovely English rose, Yvonne Lewis, shared evocative holiday piece for today's viewing. I admit, I've spent some time her site reading various pieces she has posted. She's an amazing writer.


If you like her piece she shared with us, do bestow a gift to her by sharing it.




ON THE OUTSIDE LOOKING IN:



Outside of a shop window,
A boy, clothes all tattered and torn.
His hair a complete mess,
His shoes all dirty and worn.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

He peered into the toyshop window.
His sad eyes were transfixed.
He looked in awesome wonder.
Holding a bundle of sticks.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

It was just coming up for Christmas,
Would he get anything at all?
He nearly jumped out of his skin,
As he heard his mother call.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

"I'm only on the outside looking in" he said.
As he noticed her anxious look.
For they were as poor as church mice,
She couldn't even afford a book.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Christmas Day dawned like any other day.
Cupboard, hardly any food.
Realization showed on his face,
That today was not going to be good.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

During the day a knock on the door,
Santa stood there looking merry.
With food for the two and toys for the boy,
For the mother a bottle of sherry.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

"I was on the outside looking in" Santa said.
As astonishment showed on their faces.
With tears in their eyes, Santa said his goodbyes,
And was whisked off to faraway places.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Copyright . All rights reserved










You can find Yvonne: Welcome to My World of Poetry




On Christmas Day, there won't be a post but stories will resume next week, so be sure to look for them.



Friday, December 23, 2011

HOLIDAY STORIES: A HUSBAND FOR MISS TRENT




Here's a lovely historical piece by Anne Gallagher. I love the easy flow of her story and her ability to convey so much about Ophelia in such a short piece. I wanted to continue reading--what do you mean that was the end?


Do enjoy the Caymore's Holiday Ball with Miss Trent.


If you enjoy the story please share it on the networks which would be a lovely gift for the hardworking author.

            

            Miss Ophelia Trent stood breathless at the top of the stairs. She clutched her reticule, still unbelieving the Duke and Duchess of Caymore had invited her to their Holiday Ball. Ophelia gazed down at her mother’s old gown and wondered what people would think. There had been neither time, nor money for anything new, and now, standing here in the grand ballroom, Ophelia knew she should not have accepted. She would be a laughingstock. A penniless baronet’s daughter trying to pose as a member of the aristocracy? What balderdash!

            “Miss Trent,” Lady Penelope said, startling Ophelia.  “I’m so glad you could come. Your dress is quite lovely.”
            “Thank you for the invitation, your ladyship,” Ophelia said and bobbed a short curtsy for the second time that night. “I must confess I am very surprised you thought to include me, as our previous meeting was rather brief.” Ophelia remembered that day at the Bainbridge Hotel and winced with embarrassment.
            Lady Penelope took her arm and propelled her through the massive throng. “I have longed to further our acquaintance, and perhaps introduce you to some of my friends. As for a confession,” Lady Penelope leaned closer, “I understand how very hard it must be for you to meet people and I thought perhaps your mother would approve.  I’m so glad she allowed you to attend.”
            “Yes, Mother was quite in rapture,” Ophelia said. Her mother had nearly had an apoplexy when Ophelia showed her the invitation.
            Lady Penelope moved through the crowd like a double-masted schooner with full sail, smiling and waving as she went along, not stopping until she reached a small group of people standing near the terrace doors. Lady Penelope introduced her to all of her friends, and Ophelia blushed to her toes when introduced to Mr. Jonathon Garrick. Taller than she and exceedingly handsome, Ophelia was at a loss to remember when last her heart had hammered so.
            Upon hearing the musicians, the Duke of Caymore, Lady Penelope’s husband, said, “Come Pen, we must dance the first.”
            Ophelia watched enviously as all her new acquaintance moved to the dance floor. As she stood there feeling foolish, wishing she were home in bed, Mr. Garrick stood before her.
            “Miss Trent, do allow me the honor of your hand for this dance.”
            Ophelia flustered. “Mr. Garrick, that would be lovely, thank you.”
            Mr. Garrick proved to be a delightful dancer. He did not step on her toes, and moved with a grace that belied his imposing height.
            When he brought her back to the corner of the terrace, Ophelia thanked him again for the dance. As she stood there uncertain of what she should do, several gentlemen asked for introductions and as her dance card filled, Ophelia wanted to cry from happiness. She had never in her whole life met with such agreeable and amiable companionship. The affinity she felt meeting Lady Penelope’s friends gave her a new outlook, at least for the night. Her troubles melted away along with the concerns about her old-fashioned gown.  She had received numerous compliments on it from men as well as women.
            Mr. Garrick danced with Ophelia several times. Surely, it was not like a man to be so singular in his attentions, but Ophelia didn’t examine it too closely. This was a once in a lifetime prospect, for she knew she would never be given another invitation to a ball.  Her life revolved around her family, but just for tonight, she would heed her mother’s advice and take every opportunity to enjoy herself. 
            When Mr. Garrick asked her for the supper waltz, Ophelia could barely keep the smile from her face. Her first waltz, and in the arms of this handsome gentleman, was enough to make her swoon.
            As the music ended, and they stood on the edge of the parquet, Mr. Garrick leaned down and asked, “Have you an escort for supper?”
            “Why, no,” Ophelia said.  She hadn’t even thought of that.
            “Allow me.” He proffered his arm. “Although, shall we wait until this mass has thinned?” Mr. Garrick asked as they neared the overcrowded dining room. His warm hand rested over hers on his arm.
            “Oh, yes, let’s do,” Ophelia said. “Perhaps we could find a quiet corner for the nonce.”
            “As you wish.” Mr. Garrick led her to a small table and chairs on the opposite side of the great room.
            When Ophelia settled her skirts, she looked at Mr. Garrick expectantly. He merely stared at her with large grey eyes that crinkled in the corners. Perhaps she should be the one to speak first.
             “Mr. Garrick, I want to thank you so very much for your kindness this evening. It has been most welcome. I know not a soul here, and thought I would be sitting with the dowagers.”
            “I must confess, Miss Trent, and forgive me for being so forward, but, you have quite bewitched me.”
            “Mr. Garrick,” Ophelia whispered. “Surely, you jest.” The idea of bewitching him seemed impossible. Here she sat, a simple baronet’s daughter too long on the shelf, in a borrowed antique gown.  She had learned earlier in the evening he had resigned his commission in the Navy after Trafalgar. Perhaps he had suffered a head injury.
             “No,” he said. “I do not.” He looked deep into her eyes. “When Lady Penelope told me about you, she never shared with me your exquisite beauty, or your humble character.”
            Ophelia blanched. “Pray what else did she tell you?” She hoped not the scandalous tale of how she and Lady Penelope actually met.
            “Only that you are the sweetest, gentlest, creature I could ever hope to meet, and if I were a man with any sense, I would declare my affections immediately.”
            “Mr. Garrick, I know not what to say.”
            “Say, I may court you. Say I may call upon your family. I know this is rather sudden, but say you will be my wife.”
            “Mr. Garrick!” Ophelia could not be hearing him correctly. Surely, he did not just say he wanted her for his wife.
            “Miss Trent,” he said solemnly. “I know this seems a bit of a shock, to myself as well, but I have been searching for a woman of your caliber for a very long time, and have never found her. Until now.  I vowed when such a time came, I would not waste another moment vacillating between my head and my heart.” He got down on one knee and took up her hand. “Miss Trent, I am entirely in your hands.”
            Of all the things Ophelia had previously thought about this night, garnering a marriage proposal had never been one of them.
            “Mr. Garrick,” Ophelia said, gathering her wits. “Having only just met, I am a bit overwhelmed by your passion.  However, I will confess, I do like you, very much it seems, so I will say yes to a courtship.  As for marriage, I am hardly in a position to accept at this moment, so we shall see what the future brings. That being said, I believe I would like you to escort me into supper now.”
            Mr. Garrick kissed her hand and helped her up, his smile outshining the candles in the chandelier.  “Your wish is my command, my dear.”

            Ophelia thought she had never had a lovelier Christmas wish come true.


You can find Anne and more about her writing: 
             
             

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A FIRESIDE CHAT WITH THE TALENTED JESSICA BELL




Not every woman in this world lives without regret, knows exactly what they want, and has the courage to put every essence of their being into achieving their dreams...Does that mean a less strong-minded woman doesn't have an interesting story to tell? Jessica Bell


Tell me a bit about youyou have a furry baby don't you? Are you single or have a significant other?

Yes, I have a four-year-old Dalmatian named Holly (Holly Bolly Wallywood, yep, that’s her full name!). I really don’t know what I’d do without her. And, yes, I do have a significant other, but he doesn't want to be exposed! J Almost seven years, now, we've been together.


You're the daughter of two rock musicians. That had to be an interesting childhood. Give me a great memory of that time.

Well, the upside of having musicians as parents is that I was encouraged to write songs at a very young age—when I was about eleven or twelve.

The greatest memory of that time is the day my mother decided to sell her twelve-string acoustic guitar to get a bit of extra cash. I saw it sitting by the front door. I think someone was coming over to take a look at it. I remember opening the case and thinking that it just looked so beautiful, magical and special, and I remember wondering why in the world Mum would want to get rid of it? I think she was in the music room at the time and I interrupted one of her recording sessions to ask about the guitar. When she told me she was selling it, I asked her whether I could have it instead. She said that I could if I learned to play. From that moment I had that guitar in my hands every single day until I moved to Greece in 2002. I taught myself how to play. The first song I ever wrote was played on one string and sung in a very awful high-pitched voice. I hope that cassette never gets dug up!

[laughing] I bet not! I've a few things I've created I feel the same about.

Did you get to accompany your parents on their tours? What would be a down side?

Downside? Well, there weren’t really that many. My parents were very good at spending quality time with me. The worst thing was being dragged along to rehearsals late into the night and falling asleep on stinky carpet that smelled of old melted gaffer tape and amplifier wheel grease. I never went with them on tours. I usually stayed at a babysitter’s. That was another downside. I hated sleeping in weird beds.

Home base was Australia. How did you end up in Greece? 

My stepfather is Greek so I spent a lot of my childhood here. It became my second home. I couldn’t live without one or the other. Thank goodness for planes!

You speak Greek. How hard was it to learn? (Speaking would be one thing, but writing quite another. Or did you learn as a child?

I learned bits and pieces as a child, but mainly picked it up naturally by living here, so I never ‘struggled’ as it had pretty much become a familiar sound to me over the years. I can’t write or read it very well though. Takes me about half an hour to read through one page, and it would probably take me two hours to write one page.

You work as a freelance writer and editor. You're a very creative personpoetry, songwriter/musician, and you have a beautiful voice. Sounds like a very full life. What made you decide to write women's fiction?

I don’t think I ever ‘chose’ to write women’s fiction, it’s just what came naturally. In fact, I didn’t decide what genre it was until I started seeking agents and publishers. If I could class my writing non-traditionally, I’d probably call it ‘Real Fiction.’ Oxymoron, you say? Definitely not. You’ll just have to read my book to find out why! Ha!

Which has the biggest pull in your life, music or writing?

Music doesn't define me as much as writing does, but it’s still a big part of my life.

What’s the hardest thing you've had to face as a writer? How did you overcome it?

The hardest thing I’ve ever had to face, and still face, is the self-doubt. I don’t think I’m ever going to overcome this. Sometimes it isn’t as strong, but it’s always haunting me. Some days I’m confident enough to tell it to shove off, other days, it sends me into an emotional downward spiral. I think this is just a given for us creative types. 

Perhaps because creative types are striving the perfect note, word, or image. We hear it perfectly in our minds. Get frustrated when we can't translate that perfection to the printed page or whatever medium we're using. I also think creative types are harder on themselves than any critic could be. 


So, tell me about Melody Hill. What do you like about her? What is it about her that readers can relate to even not being in music?

Melody is a very strong-minded woman, but also significantly vulnerable—she can sometimes be an over-emotional doormat. But what I love about her is that she recognizes her flaws and really tries to rectify them.

The inspiration for Melody came from thinking about a time in my life when music was all I ever wanted to breathe. Even though my priorities had changed then, I still wanted to write about the power music has over someone who is so passionate about it that it consumes their every day. But I think music could be replaced by any sort of passion in String Bridge, because basically the story is about needing something more than you need yourself.

You took an unusual approach to writing Melody Hill’s story. I can’t say I’ve ever seen a book with a ‘soundtrack.’ This might be a case of what came first, the chicken or the egg, but how was this story born? Did it start with the music? Or the story?

The process was pretty circular. The thing with this book is that I never really ‘focused’ on plot. It was more about the characters and their emotions and their interactions with each other. Music evokes this sort of deeper feeling, too, I think.

The inspiration for the book came about when I was thinking about a time in my life when music was all I ever wanted to breathe. I wanted to write about the power music has over someone who is passionate about it.

And the music?

The songs that appear in the book started off as poems. Then it occurred to me that I could create and produce an album for Melody. That’s when the idea for my book trailer came about after listening to a few of my mother’s songs on YouTube. The poems then turned into lyrics. When I finished the final revisions I sat down and wrote music to the four songs that appear in the book. Once those were done, I wrote six more songs to create Melody’s album.


As you know, I absolutely love the book trailer music. Aside from it truly showcasing the story, it is a beautiful piece of work, both vocally and the lyrics.
Where can you buy the CD? And is there a way to get a sampling of the rest of the album?

If you go to www.stringbridge.com, you’ll find all the information you need for that. It will link you to iTunes, where you can sample 45 seconds of each song.

I’m curious, I know you’re promoting your work, but will you be also promoting your music? If so, how?

Actually, I have already been promoting my music. In fact, during my blog tour for String Bridge, I gave away many copies of the album to purchasers of the book on a specific day. It was a great incentive to buy and worked out really well, pushing String Bridge into the bestseller charts on both Amazon US and Amazon UK.

I’ve also done a live radio interview, here in Greece, and featured on Australian radio as well. I’ll continue to do all I can possibly do for both the book and the music.

What’s next for Jessica Bell? Are you working on a new story? Would you tell us a bit about it and when it will be released?

My next novel is called, Bitter Like Orange Peel. It’s complete and being considered by an Australian publisher, as I want to get more recognition in my home country.

It’s about a twenty-five year old Australian archaeology undergraduate named Kit, who doesn’t like to get her hands dirty. She feels misplaced and comes to the conclusion that meeting her father, Roger, will make some sense of her life, despite him being worth the rotting orange rind in her backyard. Well, at least that’s what she’s been conditioned to think of him by the three women in her life: Ailish, her mother—an English literature professor who communicates in quotes and clich├ęs, and who still hasn’t learned how to express emotion on her face; Ivy, her half-sister—a depressed professional archaeologist, with a slight case of nymphomania, who fled to America after a divorce to become a waitress; and Eleanor, Ivy’s mother—a pediatric surgeon who embellishes her feelings with medical jargon, and who named her daughter after intravenous. Against all three women’s wishes, Kit decides to find Roger, but in doing so, discovers he is not the only rotten fruit.

For my third, Muted, I’ve applied for a writing fellowship in order to fund all the research I want to do for it. So fingers crossed for that!

Muted is set in Arles, France, in a totalitarian society where it is illegal to wear clothes. In some streets, it's also illegal to sing without accompanying instruments. Concetta, a famous Italian a cappella singer from before “the change,” breaks these laws. As punishment, her vocal chords are brutally slashed and her eardrums surgically perforated. Unable to cope with living a life without song, she resolves to drown herself in the river, clothed in a dress stained with performance memories from her hometown, Milan. But Concetta's suicide attempt is cut short as someone grabs her by the throat and pulls her to the surface. Is it the busking harpist, who encouraged her to feel music through vibration, acting as saviour? Or a street warden on the prowl for another offender to detain? From this moment, the reader will discover how Concetta came to be in this position, and what will happen to her after the suicide attempt.

Muted will explore a variety of themes such as overcoming loss, coping with mental illness and disability, dealing with discrimination, loss of freedom, inhibited self-expression, motivation to succeed, escaping oppression, expression through art and music, self-sacrifice, channelling the thoughts of the deceased, and challenging moral views and values.

Whew! There is quite a bit to be looking for from you. Muted has a very interesting premise. A bit sci-fi/fantasy in tone. I'll be watching for that.

Jessica, I wish you much success with all this and thank you for taking the time from your busy schedule to chat with me.

Thank you for having me!





Greek cuisine, smog and domestic drudgery was not the life Australian musician, Melody, was expecting when she married a Greek music promoter and settled in Athens, Greece.
Keen to play in her new shoes, though, Melody trades her guitar for a ‘proper' career and her music for motherhood. That is, until she can bear it no longer and plots a return to the stage—and the person she used to be.
However, the obstacles she faces along the way are nothing compared to the tragedy that awaits ....EXCERPT 

BOOK TRAILER (very well done and Jessica is singing FAMOUS on the soundtrack) If you want to hear three of her songs in entirety visit Jessica's Facebook music page.

You can also find Jessica on her blog: The Alliterative Allomorph, Official String Bridge Website (Lyrics, music and the book), Twitter, Goodreads, and Website.