Jenny Knipfer–Author

Best-selling Christian historical fiction author, Jenny Knipfer, shares her books, inspiration, thoughts on life and writing, and book reviews. Purchase Jenny's books, read her blog, or listen to encouraging podcasts, highlighting the life of a writer.

I have had some rather crazy health troubles of late, along with my usual MS saga, but with what energy and drive I have, I am gearing up for the release of my next novel, Under the Weeping Willow. Release day is set for Thursday, October 21st.

Today, I thought I’d give you a larger taste of the novel. This is chapter five, where Enid, along with her son’s help, works on packing up her mother’s belongings in the family home where Enid grew up. It’s a bittersweet task and one laden with a good helping of guilt…

CHAPTER FIVE:

Enid
Late August 1983


“What are we going to do with all this?” Kelly gestures to the stockpile of dishes we’ve taken out of the china hutch and the kitchen cabinets in the farmhouse.

Mom liked pretty dishes. She called them “usable art.” I’d often hear her say, “A painting just hangs on a wall, but a dish…a dish is practical too.” Mom liked practical. She was practical. Is. I have to stop talking about her in the past tense, as if she’s gone.

My gaze roves over the Homer Laughlin dinnerware set in the American Heritage pattern Mom received as a wedding gift from Dad’s parents. Eating off those dishes served up a history lesson along with each meal. In the 40s and 50s, Mom started collecting Redwing pottery. She has several Redwing dinnerware sets. My eyes rest on a painted rose. I have good memories of eating off the Lexington Rose plates. The pattern boasts bold, thick-brushed roses in shades of rose and mauve. A distant memory rests in my mind of eating my favorite breakfast of cantaloupe, cottage cheese, and wheat toast with orange marmalade off those plates. And then there’s the Fenton glassware. She’s got tons of hobnailed glass in white and green. I run my hands over the bumpy texture of a compote dish.

“Mom? Hello?”

I look up. Kelly holds out his arms; his greenish-hazel eyes widen behind his metal-framed, aviator-style glasses, waiting for me to respond. His mustache twitches above his thin lips.

Every time I’m here I get stuck in memories.

“Ah. I’m not quite sure yet.” My fingers scratch an itch on my head that isn’t there. “I thought I’d let you and Doris pick what you like. Maybe the girls would like to have something.” I shrug my shoulders. “Whatever you don’t take, I’ll probably give to the St. Vincent De Paul thrift store in Eau Claire. I’ve already set a few items aside that I know Cassie or her daughters might like.”

“Gosh, I’m not sure what Doris would want. The girls aren’t much interested in dishes. Boys, on the other hand…”

Kelly leaves his statement hanging with a sigh. There’s no need for him to explain. Pam and Phoebe are teenage girls and thinking about teenage boys.

He continues, “But I suppose we could pack something away for them to keep. Why don’t you pick a set for each of them, Mom?”

He smiles at me. His top teeth sit in a straight row. Years ago, Clive and I paid good money for those chompers to look so even.

“Okay.” I smile back. “Well, Pammie likes flowers. How about the rose pattern for her?” I point to the cluster of dishes at the far end of the dining table. “Hmm, maybe the bobolink set for Phoebe, seeing as it’s named for a bird and so is she.”

Kelly looks around at the menagerie of goods, slight exasperation in his tone. “Where’s that one?”


It really does look like an antique store in here. We should have tapered down Mom’s collections years ago, but I didn’t have the heart to do it.

“The kitchen, I think. Over by the stove.” I point in that direction.

“I’ll get cracking and wrap those up.” Kelly catches up a couple of empty boxes off the floor. He picks up a stack of newspapers from a dining chair and tucks them under his arm. “Doris might like that white stuff.”

He tilts his head toward the middle of the table where the white hobnail glassware clusters together. He’s dressed casually today in a green-and-white-striped polo shirt and jeans, with tennis shoes. Kelly’s insurance job usually has him wearing a suit on a daily basis—the opposite of his father.

“Classic. Yes, I think you’re right. Seems like her taste.”

I respect my daughter-in-law. She’s hard-working but manages to pull off a classy look. Every time I see Doris, she’s put together perfectly. Not that I go about in rags, but my clothes and accessories don’t always paint as cohesive a picture as her outfits. Plus, she’s a good mom. Doris gives the girls freedom, but not too much.

Kelly nods and walks away to start wrapping in the kitchen.

I grip some newspaper. Yuck. I hate the feel of newsprint and the way it clings to my fingers. I pick up a pedestal piece of hobnail and wonder at its true purpose. It could be a candy dish or compode. I roll it in a sheet of paper and try not to dwell on the fact that I’m getting rid of Mom’s things. She’d be furious. Or would she? She did like collecting stuff, but I never felt like she placed the importance of those things over me.

That thought pours guilt out on me again. It feels like salt on a wound. Maybe she should have moved in with Clive and me. No. I can’t watch her 24-7. She’s where she needs to be.

A loud sigh escapes my mouth, sounding like leaking air from a car tire. Kelly notices it over the crinkling of newspaper.

He peeks around the corner. “You all right in there?”

I tell him a partial truth. “Ya. Just thinking. Remembering.”

“It’s got to be hard for you to pack up Gram’s stuff.” Kelly turns back and keeps talking while he works. I do the same. We can’t quite see each other, but I can hear his efforts.

“Ya.” I roll another white piece of hobnail in paper. This one is a fluted bowl with a ruffled edge. I don’t know how to tell him about my guilty conscience.

“It’s not your fault, you know.” His crinkling pauses. “This is what’s best for Gram.”

“That’s what I tell myself,” I admit and keep rolling.

But it’s not what you feel.”

I hear more wrapping. Why is it easier to talk to my son when he’s in another room?

“You got that right.”

The crinkling stops again. He walks toward me and wraps his arms around me. My head fits under his chin.
“I’m sorry, Mom.”

He holds me tight for a few seconds. I try not to cry.

Changing the subject helps. “Did you know Gram kept diaries?”

We release each other. I pick out a white vase and tuck it snuggly in a nest of newsprint.

He fingers another pedestal dish. “Really? About what?”

“Oh, about life. Little everyday things. Her thoughts. I just started reading them.”

“Could I take a look when you’re done?” He collects another box and heads back to the kitchen.

“Sure,” I tell him, but I’m not so sure I want him to read them, at least not yet.

We work for the next hour and talk about the classes the girls will have this fall in their freshman year of high school and Doris’s new job as a checkout lady in the Ben Franklin store. All of the dishes I had laid out are now packed up.

“You leave these boxes,” Kelly says. “I’ll take what we wrapped for Doris and the girls. Tomorrow I’ll haul the rest to where they need to be. You don’t need to do any more.”

He eyes me with a “no-nonsense” expression. He’s gotten my one-eyed stare down pretty good over the years. I must look as tired as I feel.

“Whatever you say,” I concede.

I walk to the door and hold it open for him as he carries three boxes to his gray Oldsmobile sedan.

“You going back home? You should quit for the day and get some rest.” He looks at his wristwatch. “If I didn’t have to pick up the girls from piano lessons, I’d stay and help you finish the kitchen off. I assume you want to give it a good scrub before the realtor sees it.”

“Yes. Gram wasn’t as tidy these last few years.” I swipe a chunk of my bobbed hair behind my ear. “You go. I’ll sit for a while before I head home. Your dad won’t be home yet anyway.”

“Okay then. We’ll see you Sunday for dinner.”
He gets in his car, starts it up, and heads out with a wave.

I wave back and go back into the house. The space looks neater. I can’t believe we got so much done in a couple of hours. My legs feel heavy; I need to sit down for a while. I head to the sitting room. Almost as if by reflex, I pluck the diary I’ve been reading off the desk and open to the page I’ve marked with a ribbon. Seating myself in Mom’s gold rocker again, I begin to read.

May 12th, 1977
Today a general fog clings to my thinking. I feel sluggish. I tried to read for a while, but the words kept floating away. The volume was a book of my favorite poems by Shakespeare. A few of the old English words gave me trouble. I should have known what they meant, but for some reason—I didn’t. No point of reference appeared in my mind when my eyes roved over them. I ended up looking them up in the dictionary but couldn’t remember how to spell the darn things, so I had to keep checking in the poem book. Whilst and hitherto were two of the culprits.
After reading their meanings, they made sense again. But what worries me is why I forgot in the first place. This forgetting seems more than mere old age. Things that I’ve known for years sometimes disappear and leave a gaping hole where a memory should be.

Do I talk to Enie about this, or do I wait until she notices and talks to me? I’m afraid, by that time, I may forget something truly important. What if I forget who I am? Will I even be me then? Maybe I won’t care.

I remember that dark time after Enid’s birth. I forgot who I was, or I became someone else. Either way the end result was the same: I was not myself. Thank God I have never been that person again. I think His presence in my life has something to do with not retreating down such a rabbit hole. I wager some aspect of my physiology wasn’t balanced, but whatever initiated it, He helped me through it.

As I tended my assigned section of the flower garden at the asylum, so he tended to my damaged mind.

Will he tend me again?

God, I am holding to the promise that You never leave or forsake us. Whatever unknown path is ahead, I pray that You will walk it with me.

I lower the diary to my lap. What did my mother go through all those years ago? I finger the corner of the diary, wanting to know more, but at the same time, I don’t. Her thoughts are fairly clear here. This is ’77. Six years ago. What has she written this year? I wonder if her dementia affected her ability to write down her thoughts. I get up and sort through the diaries in her desk—’78, ’79…’83. I choose ’83 and go sit in the recliner again.

The first pages are filled with phrases. They’re not well- written. Her handwriting is sloppy, her words simple, and her sentences fragments. I leaf to the middle. I spy one page of the alphabet. Mom copied it out like a school lesson. I read over the letters. She forgot “m” and “f.”

I turn more pages. Eventually I get to a spot which only has scribbles. Once in a while a legible letter peeks out of the messy penned lines. To me it appears a physical picture of her decline into Alzheimer’s. A tear drops onto the page.

Mom was always so articulate and such a lovely writer. She had a number of pen pals around the world with whom she corresponded. There are boxes of postcards she collected underneath the TV stand. Maybe I should take a couple of them to her. One of them may jog her memory.

But is it my goal to get her to remember? If so, I’m fooling myself. That’s a losing battle, at least from what Mom’s doctor told me. On our last visit, Doctor Chang told me Mom’s memory would slowly decline until practically nothing remained, if she lived that long.

Why does she have to slowly lose herself until there’s nothing left? What cruel twist of fate handed Mom this? I imagine a large emery file in her brain, slowly grating away at her memories.

The words of Mom’s written prayer in ’77 come back to me,

“Whatever unknown path is ahead, I pray that you will walk it with me.” I wouldn’t call Mom an overly religious person, but she brought me up to revere God. She grew up Catholic, but changed when she married Dad, who grew up Methodist. Seeing as there wasn’t a Methodist church nearby the farm, we attended services where Hal and Marge went—St. Katherine’s Lutheran, the local country church down the road. I recall plenty of the Sunday school lessons taught by Mom, who made the Old Testament stories of such characters as Moses, Daniel, and Elijah come alive. These last few years, she quit going to church. I think she got too confused and felt bad when she couldn’t remember people’s names.

The house is so quiet; I hear the electric clock next to Mom’s chair flip over to 4:00PM. I need to get home.

After I raise myself from the chair and put the diaries back, I shut all the lights off, grab my purse, and lock the door. I stand on the cement stoop for a while and look over the yard. Dried blooms, which were once white, dot the large lilac by the clothesline. The aqua-machine shed sits off to the left, skirted in tall grass. The neighbor boy—whom I’ve hired to mow— must not be trimming close to the buildings. The barn looks mournful to me. The wooden doors show more space between the boards, and the red paint barely shows. It’s been years since it had a fresh coat. The fieldstone foundation appears to crumble more than I remember. The whole farm has gotten old, not just Mom.

A melancholy mood leaves with me, as I hop in the Dodge and head for home.

What am I going to do with the old place? It needs some TLC, but Clive and I don’t have the money to spend on renovating the buildings. I know we should put the farm up for sale and I’ve a scheduled meeting with a realtor next week, but if we sell, I’ll feel like I’m losing my mother and my home at the same time. It’s too much.

“Not yet,” I tell myself.

I grip the Dodge’s steering wheel tighter and press harder on the gas. I have a sudden need to see Clive. I need one of his larger-than-life hugs to help me squeeze this sadness back into submission.

THANKS FOR READING!

Thank you for taking the time to read chapter five! Are you wondering what happens next? You can find out soon.

Book Title: Beneath the Veil of Smoke and Ash * Author: Tammy Pasterick * Publication Date: 21st September 2021 * Publisher: She Writes Press * Page Length: 371 Pages * Genre: Historical Fiction

Today, as a part of the coffee pot Book Club, I’m happy to feature Beneath a Veil of Smoke and Ash.

Blurb:

It’s Pittsburgh, 1910—the golden age of steel in the land of opportunity. Eastern European immigrants Janos and Karina Kovac should be prospering, but their American dream is fading faster than the colors on the sun-drenched flag of their adopted country. Janos is exhausted from a decade of twelve-hour shifts, seven days per week, at the local mill. Karina, meanwhile, thinks she has found an escape from their run-down ethnic neighborhood in the modern home of a mill manager—until she discovers she is expected to perform the duties of both housekeeper and mistress. Though she resents her employer’s advances, they are more tolerable than being groped by drunks at the town’s boarding house.

When Janos witnesses a gruesome accident at his furnace on the same day Karina learns she will lose her job, the Kovac family begins to unravel. Janos learns there are people at the mill who pose a greater risk to his life than the work itself, while Karina—panicked by the thought of returning to work at the boarding house—becomes unhinged and wreaks a path of destruction so wide that her children are swept up in the storm. In the aftermath, Janos must rebuild his shattered family—with the help of an unlikely ally.

Impeccably researched and deeply human, Beneath the Veil of Smoke and Ash delivers a timeless message about mental illness while paying tribute to the sacrifices America’s immigrant ancestors made.

EXCERPT:

“Kovac! Stop starin’ at that crowbar!” the crane operator yelled. “Tap the goddamned furnace already.”

Janos flinched. He’d almost forgotten where he was. He quickly raised his bar and knocked the hole out in the furnace door. He watched as glowing red fluid gushed from the door into the ladle waiting in the eight-foot-deep pit below the furnace. The heat was so intense that his already damp work shirt was soon drenched and clinging to his body. Sparks flew, singeing the hair on his arms. Janos imagined this was probably what hell looked like, glowing red flames all around. He half expected to see the devil crawl out of that raging pit.

Once the ladle was brimming with molten steel, Janos backed far away from the path it would take to the molds. “Ready, Pat?” he shouted.

The crane operator nodded his head and waved his arm. He began to lift the massive ladle out of the pit. Janos continually surveyed the ladle’s progress and scanned the area to make sure everyone was at a safe distance.

And then the unthinkable happened.

Just as the crane was about to swing toward the molds, Janos heard a loud crack. It was sharp and quick and reminded him of a firecracker his neighbor had set off the last 4th of July. He watched in terror as the ladle carrying a hundred tons of molten metal crashed to the ground. It exploded on impact, sending splatters of fiery liquid twenty-five feet in every direction. Janos’s blood ran cold as he witnessed a worker being struck by the blast.

Horrified, he ran to the far side of the furnace where Tomas Tomicek was lying on the ground, much of the left side of his body burnt beyond recognition. Janos fought the urge to retch.

The scent of the man’s burning flesh was pungent, like meat frying in a pan.

Trembling and blinded by tears, Janos knelt beside his co-worker and grabbed his right hand, which had been untouched by the molten metal. Poor Tomas now looked like half a man. The skin on the left side of his face had been melted by the scorching steel, revealing his cheekbone and jawbone. The other side of his face remained completely intact, looking just as young and healthy as it had moments before. Tomas’s left arm, shoulder, and upper chest had also melted. The brown work shirt he’d been wearing had disintegrated, revealing a grisly mixture of flesh and blood. Janos had never seen a more gruesome accident at the mill. He knew there was no hope.

He leaned closer, positioning his face inches from Tomas’s. Praying to the Holy Spirit for guidance, Janos struggled to find the words that might comfort a dying man. Through quivering lips, he whispered in Slovak, “Lie still, Tomas. Stay calm.” He squeezed the man’s hand. “Your brother will be here soon.” Janos glanced up at the chaos surrounding him. Men ran frantically in every direction, desperate to find Tomas’s twin brother.

At the sound of a guttural moan, Janos turned his attention back to the young man. He was trembling now, coughing up blood. Tears streaming down his face, Janos tried to reassure him. “God is with you, Tomas. His healing hands are upon you. He is cradling you in his arms.”

Janos could no longer maintain his composure. He began to weep.

Suddenly, Pavol Tomicek appeared, panic-stricken, hands outstretched. “Tomas! Tomas!” he screamed. “No!”

Pavol reached his brother’s side and, seeing what was left of his charred and blistered body, dropped to his knees in violent sobs. He reached for his brother’s hand, but it was too late.

Janos had felt the dying man’s hand go limp in his own just seconds earlier. Tomas Tomicek was already gone.

Purchase Links:

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Beneath-Veil-Smoke-Ash-Novel-ebook/dp/B08QZ1QBCV

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Beneath-Veil-Smoke-Ash-Novel/dp/1647421918

Amazon CA: https://www.amazon.ca/Beneath-Veil-Smoke-Ash-Novel-ebook/dp/B08QZ1QBCV

Amazon AU: https://www.amazon.com.au/Beneath-Veil-Smoke-Ash-Novel-ebook/dp/B08QZ1QBCV

Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/beneath-the-veil-of-smoke-and-ash-tammy-pasterick/1138488946?ean=9781647421915

iBooks: https://books.apple.com/us/book/beneath-the-veil-of-smoke-and-ash/id1547390720

Bookshop.org: https://bookshop.org/books/beneath-the-veil-of-smoke-and-ash/9781647421915

Books-A-Million: https://www.booksamillion.com/p/Beneath-Veil-Smoke-Ash/Tammy-Pasterick/9781647421915?id=8256847579781

IndieBound.org: https://www.indiebound.org/search/book?keys=beneath+the+veil+of+smoke+and+ash

Author Bio:

A native of Western Pennsylvania, Tammy Pasterick grew up in a family of steelworkers, coal miners, and Eastern European immigrants. She began her career as an investigator with the National Labor Relations Board and later worked as a paralegal and German teacher. She holds degrees in labor and industrial relations from Penn State University and German language and literature from the University of Delaware. She currently lives on Maryland’s Eastern Shore with her husband, two children, and chocolate Labrador retriever.

Social Media Links:

Website: www.tammypasterick.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/TammyPasterick

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authortammypasterick

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/authortammypasterick/

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/search?authors=Tammy+Pasterick&search=Tammy+Pasterick

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Tammy-Pasterick/e/B08RSJN7D4

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/21335619.Tammy_Pasterick

THANK YOU:

Thank you for reading. I wish Tammy good luck with her novel. Have you read any novels about immigrants during this time period?

Today, I’m happy to introduce one of my author friends, Candace West, to you. Candace and I connected on social media, and I’ve enjoyed getting to know her. She has a sweet spirit, and I am grateful to be able to call her a friend. Candace writes beautiful stories of hope through her historical fiction characters. I was happy to have read and reviewed her first book, Lane Steen, in the Valley Creek Redemption series.

My Review for Lane Steen:

In the early 1900’s and deep in Ozark country, young Lane Steen dreams of a life away from her abusive father. In a way school becomes Lane’s escape, but the longing building in Lane’s heart to be a teacher seems an impossibility. 

Lane’s new teacher, Edith Wallace, and Lane’s dear friend, Guy, help when the brunt of her father’s fists leave Lane nearly incapacitated. Lane marvels at Miss Wallace’s offer to speak with Lane’s father. With some mysterious power, Miss Wallace gets Lane’s father to back off.

But will that be enough for Lane to gain her freedom from her under father’s heavy thumb? If so, will Lane be able to step forward into the faith that’s calling to her and be able to forgive her father? Is there a future for Guy and Lane deeper than friendship, or will they continue to be separated by too many obstacles?

Readers of Christian historical fiction and Christian historical romance will become drawn into Lane’s story of suffering, faith, grace, and forgiveness. 

Reminiscent of Catherine Marshall’s Christy, West brings to life the Ozark region with satisfying descriptions and rich characters, rife with emotion and struggling for more in life. Through West’s character, Lane, readers will experience pain, heartbreak, and the joy that comes with true freedom. Lane Steen skillfully tolls out a meaningful Christian message of salvation and redemption that centers this deeply moving novel. West portrays Lane’s struggles to release the past and embrace the future as relatable, driving the reader to be moved with compassion, holding onto hope for a better life for Lane. 

From Candace:

Writing in 2020 and 2021 has been a whirlwind experience. You would think staying home would’ve been just what I needed. Think again. The days filled with one task after another, and my stories often took a backseat to everyday tasks.

I’m not complaining. Many of us experienced this, I think. Life seemed to accelerate at times. Is that a good thing or a bad one?

Working on two books in 2020-2021 has been grueling, enjoyable, discouraging, rewarding, tiring, and invigorating—especially when my characters behaved themselves and showed me their journey.   

Their challenges inspired me. In Dogwood Winter, Ella Steen contracts polio, and the renowned surgeon, George Curtis, makes a fatal mistake during a surgery. Both events alter the course of their lives and force them to confront their fears—and each other.

Aynsley O’Brien, in my upcoming novel, Through the Lettered Veil, is dyslexic, but her condition was not understood in 1865. Three letters hold the key to her past and future, but she can’t read them. Nolan Scottsdale, the Union calvary officer who wrote them, doesn’t know she is unable to read. How can they breach the misunderstanding between them?

I hope these characters uplift and inspire the readers who follow their journeys.

Author Bio:

Candace West was born in the Mississippi delta to a young minister and his wife. She grew up in small-town Arkansas and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello. At twelve years old, she wrote her first story, “Following Prairie River.” In 2018, she published her debut novel Lane Steen. By weaving entertaining, hope-filled stories, Candace shares the Gospel and encourages her readers. She currently lives in Arkansas with her husband and their son along with two dogs and three bossy cats.

Links:

Valley Creek Redemption series (available in KU): https://www.amzn.com/B09C6KKJV4

Newsletter: www.candaceweststoryteller.com

Author page: www.facebook.com/inspirationalnovel

Instagram: www.instagram.com/candace.west.posey.10

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/candace-west

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17901230.Candace_West

THANK YOU!

Thanks so much, Candace for being here as a guest today! It is a pleasure to share your books with my followers. 🙂

And dear followers, thank you so much for reading. Have you read any of Candace’s books?

GIVEAWAY!!!!

To be entered into a giveaway to receive a Kindle copy of Candace’s latest novel, Dogwood Winter, please leave a comment on this post and a contact email address. If you are uncomfortable leaving your address in the comments, send me an email through my contact tab with the required info.

RULES: Giveaway open to US residents only. Must be 18 or older to enter. One entry per person. Please consider following Candace on social media to enter. Giveaway ends on October 6th, 2021.

a mockup of how I envision the cover

I have taken a break from writing for the past few months, but I am beginning to get the itch. I have two more books to write in my Botanical Seasons Novella series, but for some reason, I’m not that excited about writing them. I crave a change of pace and genre. I have always wanted to retell some fairytales.

Not too long ago, I read a Grimms’ tale I had never hear of, and it sparked an idea in me of how I could retell the original story, entitled The Pink. A few years ago, I wrote the opening prologue. I opened up the file on my iPad last night at 2:00am, when I couldn’t sleep, and I really, really want to write some more of the story! However, a while back, I gave myself a rule of only writing one book at a time, but I may have to cheat a little and indulge my craving and write The Pink before I finish the novella series. Here’s a sneak peak at what I have so far…

THE PINK

In the 20th reigning year of the King.

She tried to kill me in my dreams. The vision of it rests as real in my mind as the clock on the mantle, which I now hear striking midnight. As the clock chimes for the last time, I envision the image of Dianna hovering over my chest with a raised knife, her eyes wide and wild and her cheeks flushing as pink as the flower she came from. The dream caused me such terror, my heart still pounds thinking about it. 

I suck in a breath and shiver on my pallet by the fire, which has now gone cold. I stretch the rough wool blanket up to my chin. My eyes search around the small room of my home, expecting to see her jump out at me, but no one appears. Hopefully, she rests better than I do. Her bed is behind the muslin curtains, sectioning off a corner of the room. The curtains hover like a ghost in the moonlight, shining in through the window. The fabric flutters, brought to life by the draft under the door.

Dwelling on my dream, the idea of dying doesn’t frighten me. No, it is the fact that my companion, whom I have come to love, held the knife. What premonition is this that caused me such alarm? How could my mind fabricate Dianna taking up a weapon against me? Surely not! My uncle I can see, for we argue every time he comes. He does not love me. He only keeps me because I am useful to him.

I tire of working his wishes. I dream of leaving this hovel he has kept us in, but I would not know where to go. I don’t comprehend why he has not wished for a life away from this place. He must have some nefarious purpose in dwelling here. My Uncle told me years ago when I was just a small boy how my family died in a fire. He said he rescued me—for which I will always be grateful—but I have no memory of a fire or its smoky fury. Instead, I remember a garden full of pink dianthus, which were my mother’s favorite flower and…blood. Lots of blood staining the white pebbled path. That was my last memory of my life before I came to live with Uncle Aldrich. 

After that, my wishes started to come true. Diana came to me on a wish. When my uncle spirited me away from the fire, I had clutched a pink dianthus in my hand. After that night, I had begged my uncle to stay with me when he left for work everyday at the palace cooking for royalty, but he could not. 

“Wish for a companion,” he told me. And I did. As I held the pink flower—the last link to my home and family—I closed my eyes and spoke these words, “I wish for a maiden to keep me company. Let her be dressed in pink as bright as this flower.” 

As soon as I spoke, the spicy scent of clove and cinnamon infused the room. I opened my eyes and a girl about my age stood before me. Her hair shone like spun gold, her eyes twinkled like sparkling blue water, and her pink skirts fluffed out around her like the petals of the flower I had held. The flower had disappeared with Diana’s appearance. 

“What is your name,” I asked. 

“Diana.” She spoke, her voice light and fair like her face. 

“I am Dauphin,” I told her. From then on we were inseparable, and being only seven I never questioned her appearance nor what magic had called her forth. Now I do. And another thing—Why has my tongue been gifted with granting people their wishes? What force has caused this to be, and for what purpose? 

That was ten years ago. Diana has now grown up into a young woman, as I have a man. All these years she has been my friend and companion, she has not shown any tendency toward violence. How I could imagine her in such a way disturbs me greatly. Maybe it is a warning of sorts. A caution. But from what I do not know. 

If only I could wish and find out, but my wishes don’t work that way. I can only wish for others. Only once did my wishing result in what I desired—when I wished for Dianna. 

I want to wish us away from here, but I cannot. We are trapped by my Uncle Aldrich and his greed, but somehow I know a change is coming and with it freedom from the wishing. It has not led to happiness for Uncle Aldrich nor for me. The only happiness I have in this dismal life comes from Dianna, my pink dianthus. 

The Original Tale:

You can read what the original tale is about on Wikipedia. Like many of the original Grimms’ tales, it’s bloody and not something I would read to a small child. When I do write this novel, it will be firmly in the retold fairytales and YA fantasy genres. I have ideas of how to adapt the storyline and tuck in a few good surprises.

Have you ever read a retold Grimms’ tale? If so, which one/ones?

Happy middle of the week. 🙂 I have a few fun things to share pertaining to Under the Weeping Willow, my upcoming novel.

First, did you know my book, In a Grove of Maples, has it’s own candle? Well, it does, and it smells sooooo fallishly delicious!!

From the Page candles works with authors to craft a candle reminiscent of their book. My candle has notes of amber, smoke, leaves, and maple. Every time I burnt it I want to make pancakes, topped with maple syrup.

The next bit of exciting news: I have an updated cover for Under the Weeping Willow with a five-star review from Readers’ Favorite on the front, and I have a book trailer to share with you. Click the book image below to learn more about my novel.

The below excerpt comes from a few chapters into the novel, when Enid is starting to discover some thing about her mother from her mother’s diary entries and old letters from her mother’s sister, Mabel.

EXCERPT:

After I hear Clive’s waffling snore, I roll out of bed. I can’t sleep and a cup of tea calls to me. I pad out to the kitchen in my bare feet and make myself a cup of chamomile. 

Last summer I grew chamomile in a clump in the garden near the veggie patch. Even though I appreciate harvesting and using my own herbs for tea, putting the plants too near the veggies was a mistake. I’ve been pulling out chamomile every time I go to weed the beds. It has come up in most every available patch of dirt at that end of the garden. 

CLICK TO LEARN MORE OR PREORDER

Regrets aside, I collect my tea in a stoneware mug, turn on a lamp, and sit in my comfy chair. My gaze rests on the stack of letters I’ve tossed on the end table, and I reach for them. I select the envelope with the June 1918 postmark from the asylum and pull the letter out. It reads: 

Dear Mabel,
You are my only confidante. I cannot put into words what I’m feeling, or what I’ve done for fear it will be too dark for you. I want you to remember me happy and content, but in reality, I am neither. 

Everything has changed since I gave birth to Enid. I’ve changed. My once carefree outlook on life has been dampened by a heavy curtain of sorrow, but I don’t know why. My thinking has been turned upside down and every aspect of my life is acquainted well with an element of grief. 

I grieve for my separation from Willis and my daughter, my actions, and their consequences. Sorrow has overtaken me, and I don’t know how to be rid of it. I have lost control of my life and my decisions. Maybe that’s why I’ve chosen not to speak. My spoken words are something that I can control, and it gives me some bit of power when all else has been washed away with my dunk in the pond. 

Do not hate me for this, for I could not bear it. Love me as you can and write soon. 

Your sister, Robin 

Tears roll from my eyes as I imagine how Mom must have suffered during this time. I wipe my face with the edge of my nightgown. Why am I finding out all of this now when I can’t talk to her about it? It’s ironic and stupid and unfair. I pound my fist on the arm of my chair in frustration. 

Why, God? Why? I inwardly scream. But there is no answer. 

Gradually my tears fade, my hands unclench, and I think of a verse in Ecclesiastes, referencing time and how there is a time for everything under heaven. Maybe I am reading these at the time I am supposed to. With that thought, a great layer of peace rests on me like a soft blanket, and I fold the letter and put it back in the aged envelope, which smells faintly of roses. 

I let my head fall back against the cushion of the chair and try to trust God with what I can’t understand. 

Thank you!

Thanks so much for reading the excerpt. Have you ever discovered something you didn’t know about a family member from old diaries or letters?

WATCH THE BOOK TRAILER FOR UNDER THE WEEPING WILLOW

Today, I started the day crying—tired of the same old pain. After wiping my eyes, I felt a poem bursting to come out. I have found that writing poems are healing and a constructive way to express feelings and unburden my soul. Here’s what came out. Perhaps you can relate. We all have experienced pain of one sort or another…

It’s a Pain: a poem

I hate that I am well-acquainted with you, 

You biter, leveler of the strongest soul.

I count all the ways you have invaded my life,

So rudely and cruelly, twisting and turning your knife,

Until I use my last shred of endurance. 

Then you demand more. 

You are a necessary part of life, I know,

Otherwise we would damage this physical tent we wear beyond repair,

And foolishly lay our hearts at everyone’s feet to be trod upon,

But there are days I imagine I could do better,

without your constant grinding, wearing, and zapping of my strength,

Ironically, it’s because of you that I build my strength,

And can face the next challenge.

Because you left me no choice but to exercise my spirit muscle,

The part of me that keeps me moving forward,

Encouraged by the past victories and hopeful for the future ones. 

You are a necessary evil, but I pray for a break, a lapse, 

And a chance to catch my breath,

So I can face tomorrow.

Please.

************************

How do you express your pain? I urge to give writing a poem a try. 🙂

Blessings, J

Title: Preacher on the Run (A Novel of the Regulator Uprising) Series: For Liberty & Conscience #1 Genre: Christian historical fiction Length (physical copy): 326 pages Publication date: April 12, 2020

I have not read Preacher on the Run, a Christian colonial-themed novel, but was approached by the author to be apart of her blog tour, and I accepted. Enjoy the excerpt, and be sure to click on the Rafflecopter link below to signup for Jayna’s giveaway.

Book Description:

STANDING FOR TRUTH COULD COST HIM HIS FREEDOM.

It’s 1771, and Robert Boothe has spent the last four years leading the tyrant-hating Regulators against North Carolina’s corrupt British government. All he wants is a safe place for his little Baptist church to live and worship God. But the established church wants him to shut up. The governor wants him dead. 

FIGHTING FOR FREEDOM COULD COST HIM HIS LIFE.

Being an unlicensed dissenter preacher has already made Robert a target. Then Colonel Charles Drake comes to town with one ambition: winning the governor’s favor, no matter what it takes. And Robert Boothe just might be his last chance.

YOU CAN RUN, BUT YOU CAN’T HIDE.

About the Series:

Preacher on the Run is the first book of the For Liberty & Conscience trilogy, which combines North Carolina Revolution-era history with Christ-centered fiction.

Author Bio:

Jayna Baas (pronounced as in “baa, baa, black sheep”) lives in northern Michigan with a great family of real people and the family of pretend people who live in her head. (Yes, she does know her characters are not real. No, she does not want you to tell them she said so.) Notorious for work­ing on several projects at once and writing her series in the wrong order, she believes German writer Thomas Mann was cor­rect in saying, “A writer is some­­one for whom writing is more difficult than for other people.” She enjoys writing and reading in a wide range of genres, but her favorite story is this: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

Giveaway Info:

Time: 12:00 AM September 13 – 12:00 AM September 25

Prize: One signed paperback copy of Preacher on the Run, one bookmark with a Bible verse and cover artwork, and eight assorted photography notecards. All entrants will receive a promo code for Jayna Baas’s online bookstore.

Notes: Open to US residents 18 and up or with parental consent. No purchase necessary.

Rafflecopter link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/25c877fd4/?

Buy Links:

Paperback (direct from author): https://www.booksbyjayna.com/bookstore

Kindle eBook (on sale during tour): https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0872FQL8G

Other Links

Website: https://www.booksbyjayna.com/

YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC14TaaJzTh23lKyhcZ-f01w

Book trailer: https://www.youtu.be/mGbr9x2sCyU

Goodreads book page: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/54654303-preacher-on-the-run

Goodreads author page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/20530182.Jayna_Baas

Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B0872HCZ2V

Newsletter signup: https://www.subscribepage.com/booksbyjayna

EXCERPT: Preacher on the Run, Chapter Six

Charles Drake said, “Boothe, you’re under arrest in the name of the Crown.”

Sheriff Kendall kicked the rifle out of Robert’s reach and jerked Robert’s arms behind his back. The sharp clank of iron brought the bitter taste of fear for a brief instant. Then only an odd detachment, the sudden realization that this, what he had risked so long, was happening.

It had happened before. On his preaching circuit, years ago. Different towns, different officials. Same hatred of the gospel. But never in front of his flock on a Sunday morning.

The first manacle locked around his left wrist, a click echoed in the hush by the cock of a rifle hammer. Robert swiftly scanned the congregation. Saul McBraden was taking aim.

“Saul.” Robert spoke in the voice of command he used for tension-laced situations when lives and testimonies were at stake. Like now. “Put the gun down.”

The second cuff clattered shut. The look on Saul’s face said Robert might as well have slapped him. “But Pastor, they’re—”

“Put it down.”

Saul obeyed. Reluctantly, but he obeyed.

“I’m God’s man on God’s property and He’ll deal with it,” Robert said. “There’s a time to fight back. This isn’t it.”

Saul folded his arms, clenched his teeth, and gave one curt nod. He had heard. He would obey. But he would not be happy about it.

“I’d have come peaceably, Sheriff,” Robert said over his shoulder, “had you given me the chance.”

“I’m not one to trust a rebel and a dissenter,” Kendall said.

“Trusting me has nothing to do with it.” Robert had seen this often enough to know that Drake and Kendall were making an example of him, warning his congregation, Stand against us and you’ll be next. “You’re trying to make a point. To me and every other dissenter in Ayen Ford.”

Without warning the riding crop in Drake’s hand cut across the side of Robert’s face, leaving blood in its wake. “That’s our business, preacher. Stay out of it.”

Saul exploded, “Drake, you’re a coward to hit a man when he can’t hit back.”

Drake pointed the crop at Saul. “If you know what’s good for you, you’ll keep your mouth shut.”

Susanna whimpered, a soft, frightened sound that made Robert wish he could take back what he’d just told Saul about not fighting back. Hard as it was to force his church to stand by and watch, it was worse to have his daughter see it. He ducked his head to wipe away the blood and said, “Whatever you’re charging me with had better be good.”

“As long as you’ve been daring the law, I’d have thought you would know,” Drake said. “Preaching without a license and holding an unlawful assembly. Despite repeated warnings. If you can call Sheridan’s halfhearted cautions ‘warnings.’”

“The One who gave the gospel may give its authority to whom He will, Colonel.”

“I’ve told you once, preacher. I am the only authority here.”

“I’ve told you once, too—not to God.”

Those other times this had happened, it had been a mat­ter of a night in jail, orders to move on. He had a hunch it wouldn’t be like that, not this time. Drake was out for blood, and would be until Robert yielded and bowed to him. Which, as far as Robert was concerned, was not going to happen. Ever.

“Enough.” Drake’s voice was a blade. There was no smile today. “Kendall, take him away. The rest of you, dis­perse or you’ll go with him.”

Blog Tour Schedule:

September 13–24, 2021

Sept 13: Blog tour kickoff @ Books by Jayna (https://www.booksbyjayna.com/blog)

Book spotlight, behind-the-scenes post

Sept 14: Kristina Hall (https://kristinahallauthor.wordpress.com)

Book review, author interview

Sept 15: Jenny Knipfer—Author (https://jennyknipfer.com/blog/)

Book spotlight, excerpt

Sept 16: Vanessa Hall—Author of Christian Fiction (https://vanessahallauthor.wordpress.com/)

Book review, character interview

Sept 17: Captive Dreams Window (https://captivedreamswindow.wordpress.com/)

Book review

Sept 20: Southern Gal Loves to Read (http://southerngallovestoread.blogspot.com)

Book review

Sept 21: Amanda Tero—Blog (http://amandatero.com/blog)

Book spotlight, guest post

Sept 22: Connie’s History Classroom (https://connieshistoryclassroom.blogspot.com)

Book review

Of Blades and Thorns (https://www.graceajohnson.com/blog)

Author interview

Sept 23: Britt Reads Fiction (https://brittreadsfiction.wordpress.com)

Book review

Sept 24: Reading Excursions (https://readingexcursions.blogspot.com)

Book review, spotlight, excerpt

Tour Wrap-Up

Sept 25: Giveaway winner announced in Rafflecopter widget and on Books by Jayna (https://www.booksbyjayna.com/blog)

Thanks for reading!

Do you have a favorite colonial-themed novel?

In this fall season, I thought it would be fitting to post a scene that takes place in the autumn from my latest novel, In a Grove of Maples. In this display set up on my buffet, you’ll notice that I have a lit candle next to the book. It’s a specially made candle, by From the Page candles, to match my novel!! How cool is that? It contains hints of amber, leaves, smoke, and maple syrup, and it smells divine!!!

FROM CHAPTER SIX:

Early September 1897 About six months prior

…The first frost had come, and the corn was starting to dry. Beryl walked around the edge of the corn field. She ran her hand along the jagged edge of the flame-orange sumac clustered at the start of the woods. The bright color of the leaves contrasted with the robin’s-egg blue of the sky perfectly, as if they had ben flung directly off a color-wheel.

Edward had talked about how he wanted to build a small hunting shack in the woods, complete with a small, potbellied stove. Beryl did like the taste of venison but the thought of eating the quiet, shy animals turned her stomach.

A rustling made her stop and listen. It unnerved her.

Maybe I should have brought Buster with me. But he might’ve run off into the woods.

Beryl looked around. A crow cawed nearby, and the wind whistled through the birch and poplars skirting the thicker, dense tree growth in the middle of their wooded property. She looked back over her shoulder and saw a doe chewing on an exposed cob of drying corn. Suddenly, the deer froze. Beryl sensed the wind had changed. The doe’s ears flicked back, her white tail flagged up, and she bounded away into the underbrush of the woods with hardly a sound.

Beryl turned toward the sound of chopping; it rung like an echo in the crisp air. She’d come out to give Edward his lunch. He most likely had a mind to work clear through the midday meal, so she’d decided to bring it to him. He was stubborn that way. He had told her that he wanted to finish chopping up the dead trees around their property for firewood in preparation for winter. They would need the wood for heating fuel.

She left the cornfield and sumac behind, stepping into the woods. A glimpse of Edward’s red, plaid flannel shirt caught her attention. She walked toward the color. Nearing her husband, she entered a small clearing of felled trees in various stages of dismemberment. Benny waited patiently tethered to a tree while Edward stacked the split wood in the back of the wagon.

She stepped closer to her husband and held out the basket she carried. “Making progress I see.”

“Oh, Beryl.”

He turned, set his axe down, and out of his back pocket pulled his handkerchief, to wipe his red face. He looked tired to her.

She brushed off a stump nearby and spread out the canned meat and cheese sandwiches and apples that she’d brought for their lunch on a flour-sack towel. “Come, sit with me.”

She opened a jar of coffee, which she had wrapped in a towel to keep warm, and poured some into a tin cup. She passed it to Edward. He stuffed his hankie back in his pocket and nodded, thanks evident in his face. A smile lit his lips as he took the cup and tipped back a drink.

“That hits the spot,” he said when he’d downed the contents.

He handed it back to her. Beryl took it and picked up a sandwich.

She sat and patted a spot next to her on the trunk of a horizontal tree. “Sit down and rest your weary feet.”

He obeyed her and heaved a sigh as he stretched out his denim-clad legs in front of him. She passed him the sandwich. Edward took it and bit off a large portion.

Beryl picked up the other sandwich and took a dainty bite. “Will you work until dark?”

She missed his presence when his day was fully occupied with chores.

“I’ve a mind to.” He bit off another piece of bread, meat, butter, and cheese.

“Let me help. I can set the chunks of wood on the chopping block for you and stack them in the wagon. We might finish early that way.”

Beryl hoped he would say yes.

“Well . . .” His face twisted up in a half grimace, as he scratched the back of his head. His cap slouched down over his forehead with the effort. “Some help would make the workday shorter.” He looked her in the eye, his blue eyes questioning. “Are you sure?”

“Positive.” Beryl grinned and took a larger bite of her sandwich.

Edward flicked his eyes to her middle. “I don’t want you lifting anything too heavy.”

He polished his sandwich off in one more bite.
“Of course not,” Beryl said through a full mouthful.
“Well, all right then.” He picked up one of the yellowish-

green apples, which Nola had told her were Summer Rambos, an early yielding variety. He opened wide and bit in with a loud crunch. “Tart, but juicy.”

“Nola said they make good sauce.”

“We get them from her and Paul?” Edward took off another chunk of whitish flesh.

“No. Found them on one of the apple trees near the maples. I wonder if Mr. Johnson planted it.”

Edward used his shirt sleeve to wipe away some juice from his chin. “Ever hear from Miss Johnson?”

Beryl turned to him with excitement. “Yes. Don’t you remember I told you we are invited for afternoon tea on Sunday?”

She yearned to know more about her new acquaintance, Olivia Johnson. She had been thrilled to receive an invitation in the mail a few days ago.

“Tea?” A worried look puckered Edward’s brows. “Won’t that be a fancy lady’s gathering?”

Beryl tucked the last crumbs of her sandwich into her mouth. “I hardly think so. She mentioned her grandfather eagerly awaits our visit. I think he’s interested in hearing about the farm.”

“Oh, well. Guess we can go.” Edward chucked his apple core off to the side with a long pitch. It sailed out of sight. “We should stop and see Cedric while we’re in town too.”

“Good idea. I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting him yet.” Beryl hopped off the log. She decided to save her apple for

later. She downed the last portion of coffee before packing the jar, cup, and towels back in the basket.

Edward gave her an unconvinced look and chuckled. “Better wait and see till after you meet Cedric to call it a pleasure.” He winked, rose, and dusted off a few bits of wood and crumbs. “You ready to get started?”

His statement made Beryl wonder what Edward’s cousin was really like. She shook her head and put it out of her mind. “Ready!”

Beryl felt excitement. Her heart hammered in her chest with happiness to be working alongside her husband. Working together unified them, and they needed more of that. She feared a growing gap between them.

Why did everything feel so easy months ago? Recently, she wondered what she might do or say next to irritate him.

They worked well together for the next couple of hours. Beryl placed the chunks of wood on the chopping block, and Edward brought the axe down to split the chunks. He usually managed this in one swift move. Occasionally, a piece needed an extra strike to split. Sometimes, he used a steel spike wedged in the block to force a split with the blunt end of his axe.

Edward took a break now and then and helped her pick up the split wood to stack in the wagon. Soon, they had cleared up most of the dead trees that Edward had chopped down or which had already fallen.

He snapped a leather sheath over the axe head and set it in the wagon. “Time to head back.”

He untied Benny and hitched him back up. Beryl got in and sat in the seat.

Edward plopped down next to her. “I appreciated your help today.”

His blue eyes were saying something Beryl had been wanting to hear—Edward needed her.

She reached out and touched the growing hair on his jaw. He had decided to let his beard grow over the cold months. He placed his hand over hers, and turning it slowly over, he kissed her wrist.

The sensation of his lips on her skin made Beryl’s knees feel weak. Good thing I’m sitting.

Her eyes fluttered closed for a moment. Next, Edward’s lips touched hers, feather light at first. She kissed him back. It took only seconds for them to kiss each other with a hunger that spoke of more than nourishment. Beryl’s heart raced as Edward peeled back her collar and unbuttoned the first few buttons of her shirtwaist. She sat there with her eyes closed in a trance as his lips touched the hollow of her neck. All sound vanished except the beating of her heart in her ears…

Thanks so much for reading!

What kind of fall candle is your favorite?

Title: Mercy Undeserved * Series: The Moretti Trilogy, #2 * Author: Kristina Hall * Genre: Christian historical suspense Publication date: 8/29/2021

Today, I am putting the spotlight on Christian fiction novel, Mercy Undeserved. I have not read this novel yet but was approached by the author to do a feature, and I am happy to do so. It sounds like a great book and series!

Synopsis:

How much more will she lose?

Lillian Rossi had it all—a devoted husband, a new baby, and all the riches she’d dreamed of. But one January day changed everything. Now, the consequences of her late husband’s sins extend to her and her son, and Matteo, though only a baby, is the rightful heir to the Rossi empire, making him a target.

Alberto Moretti promised to protect Lillian and her son, but he well knows the cruelty and desperation of the Rossi family. He served them all too long—until God set him free.

As Lillian and Alberto are thrown together in a race to save her and Matteo’s lives, their own sins and Stefano Rossi’s plans threaten to destroy them. Will they fall prey to the danger so close behind, or will they find mercy they’ve done nothing to deserve?

Author bio:

Kristina Hall is a sinner saved by grace who seeks to glorify God with her words. She is a homeschool graduate and holds a degree in accounting. When she’s not writing, she enjoys reading, arm wrestling, lifting weights, and playing the violin.

Author links:

Website: https://kristinahallauthor.wordpress.com/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/21133401.Kristina_Hall

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/kristina-hall

Purchase link: https://books2read.com/mercy-undeserved

Excerpt:

            Lillian Rossi swept across the dance floor, skirt swishing at her knees.

            Sweat trailed down her temples, and the humid, smoky air pressed close. She pasted on a smile and spun in a circle, twirling away from the man who’d asked her to dance.

            Only in laughter, dance, and drink could she forget.

            Forget most of her family didn’t want a thing to do with her. Forget only a lonely hotel room and little Matteo waited for her when dawn cracked the sky.

            The first mournful notes of a waltz slipped through the laughter, conversation, and slap of shoes against wood.

            She eased from the crowd and pressed close to the velvet wall hangings, her throat too tight, her breaths too quick.

            Forget Vin lay dead beneath six feet of New York dirt. Forget the January day that had taken him from her. Forget he’d never again hold her close and lead her in time with that gentle, haunting melody.

            Oh, forgetting wasn’t easy tonight.

            She dabbed her temples to catch the perspiration before it could do more damage to her cosmetics and made her way to the bar.

            She braced her hands against the polished mahogany, and the bartender slid her a gin.

            Lights glistened in the clear liquor, and she curled her fingers around the glass. Cool seeped into her palm. She lifted the glass to her lips and let the fire claim her throat. She would forget. Somehow, she would forget.

            She lowered the glass to the wood and met her gaze in the long mirror hanging behind the bar. Hollowness claimed her eyes, accentuated by the black eyeliner and gray eye shadow she’d applied hours before.

            Save for her green dress, she well looked the part of a grieving widow. Yes, her mother had forced the traditional black garb on her for the time she’d stayed at the farm, but that sort of attire wouldn’t let her forget.

            Not that anything would let her forget.

            She slid the glass forward. In one smooth motion, the bartender refilled it and two more belonging to the revelers on either side of her.

            The final note of the waltz echoed through the room, carried by a lone saxophone.

            She finished her drink in a couple of swallows and slipped from the bar. Dancing would do her no good tonight. If she closed her eyes, Vin would be here, his arm warm around her shoulders, his smile for her alone.

            She pressed to the velvet wall covering once again and folded her arms over her chest. Despite the closeness of the air, a shiver worked up her spine.

            She blinked. As if a single motion could push away unfounded worries.

            Months had passed since she’d left New York, and Stefano hadn’t threatened her. Why would he? She held nothing over him. He was Vin’s younger brother. He could have the Rossi wealth and power. All of it. At least that’s what she’d convinced Mae and Davis of. Her younger sister and Mae’s fiancé wouldn’t have let her go otherwise.

            Fear wouldn’t rule her.

            She lowered her arms and smoothed her skirt. She would dance. She would drink. She would laugh.

            And she would forget.

            The door on the other side of the room opened, and a couple walked in, her hand resting on his arm. Unremarkable save for the man behind them.

            She fisted her hands, and her nails dug into her palms. The lights were low enough, the smoke thick enough he wouldn’t see her. Unless Stefano had sent him to find her.

            She pressed closer to the velvet.

            Alberto Moretti strode across the dance floor, parting the dancers with a single look. The months hadn’t changed him. If anything, they’d hardened him. The set of his shoulders carried warning, and the purpose of his steps promised nothing good to any man who got in his way.

            Whom was she lying to? He would see her. How could he not?

            And why was he here? Had he stooped to work for Stefano? Had he come to kill her?

            He stopped at the bar and leaned in to speak to the bartender.

            She took a slow step to the side, then another. She had to leave. Without him seeing. Without him knowing she’d been here. She could disappear to another city, lose herself in another speakeasy.

            He turned, one hand propped on the edge of the bar, and his gaze settled on her.

            She froze.

            The door swung open yet again, and six men traipsed in. Vin’s men. No, Stefano’s men.

            Her stomach knotted, and air stalled in her lungs.

            A hand encircled her wrist.

            She wrenched free and plastered herself against the wall.

            Alberto towered over her. “We’ve got no time for that. They’re right behind me.” His voice cut low over the rhythm of the band, and he tipped his head to the door to the right of the bar.

            Then he wasn’t with Stefano’s men. But why had he come?

            His hand found her wrist again, and he pulled her away from the wall.

            “No.” She had to get away from him, had to … Had to what? Stay and face Stefano’s men?

            He forced her along, now gripping her upper arm, his body positioned a hair behind her. Almost as if he wished to shield her.

            Shouts fractured the air. The band fell silent.

            He drove her toward the door to the side of the bar. Her shoes skittered across the wood, losing traction.

            He snaked his arm around her and opened the door, shoved her through.

            A guard stumbled to the side. A fist thudded against flesh, and weight hit the floor.

            Gunfire cracked behind her. Glass shattered. Screams split the air. Screams that echoed from the speakeasy and from her own throat.

            She’d die here, torn by bullets. She’d leave Matteo an orphan.

            Alberto gripped her arm. Drove her up a flight of stairs, through another door, into the empty warehouse that covered the speakeasy, and out into the humid night air.

            No, she could never forget.

Thanks for reading, and I wish you well with your novel and series, Kristina!

I’ve been talking about my books a lot, here on the blog, but I thought I’d give you a more personal taste of my daily routine as an author and someone living with a chronic disease—MS. My days unfold pretty much this way:

  • 3:30-4:30 am Wake up and babysit my aching back with various topical treatments and a heating pad. I often pray during this time and sometimes fall back to sleep. (I don’t sleep very long in one chunk of time because of pain. Gone are the days of eight hours of sleep.)
  • 6:30 am Eat breakfast, take a shower, and get ready
  • 9:30 am Check on social media and do my daily schedule of posting
  • 11:00 am Blog, if it’s Monday, Wednesday, or I have a feature with the Coffeepot Book Club and check emails
  • Noon LUNCH!
  • 12-1:30 Break time. I rest in the chair with Ruby and watch a movie or TV series. Right now we are watching old classic movies on Tubi.
  • 1:30 -2:00 GOLF CART RIDE WITH RUBY!, weather permitting.
  • 2-4:30 Writing, editing, research, or some other related author task
  • 5:00 – 7:30 supper and time with the hubby
  • 7:30-8:30 more time on social media
  • 8:30-10:30 getting ready for bed and reading

And there’s a glimpse into my life as an author. Not too glamorous, but it keeps me busy and my mind off of how cruddy I feel. I recently got some MRI’s done that show the progression of my disease. I have an area in my spinal cord, at the base of my neck, where it is sunken in. It looks like it has been squashed, but not by any bone misalignment. No, it’s an area the my white blood cells creeped into and waged an all-out war on. My bundle of nerves in that area has decreased by 75%. Most of them are dead. No wonder my body doesn’t work right!

I have come to grips with my increasing disability, but the pain I’m experienced due to muscle cramps and spasms in my back and legs is wearing me down. I’ve tried six different medications, none of which helped and most of which left me feeling horrible. I’m a firm believer in alternative medicine and have pretty much tried every treatment and therapy in that realm too. The result fo these failed attempts to control my pain has left me feeling rather despondent at times and wondering how I am going to face tomorrow and the day after that. And the day after that…

I pray lots of little prayers throughout the day, asking God for help to manage and cope. I have to keep believing that His eye his in this little sparrow. He keeps giving me the strength to do so, so bring on the tomorrows, come what may.

Miss Ruby, my companion and writing buddy

One of my favorite times of my day is my golf cart ramble time with Ruby. Here’s some pictures of wildflowers we saw on our rambles this summer.

Thank you,

Thanks for reading and catching a glimpse into my life. Blessings, J

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