Everybody loves a well-told tale. Emphasis on well-told.
As we travel through the second half of October, and grotesque stories assail us on television, in theaters, and in bookstores, I will be the curmudgeon who says, “Most of what is thrown at us is garbage.” Hollywood goes for the gross-out and the gore, rarely setting up the audience for the whys and the hows of the horror to come. The best horror doesn’t need a drop of blood and leaves the listener pondering the mystery after the story has come to a close.
Washington Irving’s Legend of Sleepy Hollow is one such story. Don’t you dare run out for the Disney video! If there’s a film that can a hold flickering candle to the literary triumph, I’m not aware of it. Irving, known as the Father of the American Short Story, wrote this ghostly tale early in his career and published it as part of an anthology entitled, The Sketch Book.
Imagine his audience. The story was made to be read aloud in front of the hearth. No televisions, radios, or video games provided entertainment. The family hungered for words as the reader spun a tale allowing them to sense every detail in their minds. They could hear the footstep that caused a dry leaf to crackle. They could smell ash from the campfire in the deep woods. They could see the rosy blush on the maiden’s cheek and taste a just-picked apple.
Our generation could learn from the folks of two hundred years ago. I invite you to read The Legend of Sleepy Hollow on a family night—it might take three or four family nights—but there are great cliffhangers where you can stop each evening. Keep a dictionary handy. I have an extensive vocabulary, but the early nineteenth century Dutch farmers in the Hudson River Valley outclass me. And be prepared for discussions on race. Irving writes with a matter-of-fact view of the culture of his time. African Americans were slaves or servants, rarely landowners, and even in the northern states, anyone of color was not considered equal to the white man. Please don’t judge the writer for authentically reflecting the times he lived in.
Once I read the story out loud, how I wished I had grown up in a snug farm house with no electricity! Irving provides beautiful descriptions of that part of New York in autumn, and his ironic asides brought chuckles and some outright laughter.
Several pages prepare you for the action of the Headless Horseman: Ichabod Crane’s personality and eccentricities, his thoughts and habits, the setting of farms and forests, and the rural culture. The author hints at the macabre, the ghost stories that originated and grew from Sleepy Hollow. If you like to dwell on the subtleties of horror, Irving gets you good and scared about the possibilities. Then, he arrives at the crux of the story: a woman. One always needs conflict in a good plot, right? And even centuries ago, unrequited love was not a new literary device.
Irving’s ghost story ends in perfection. Who really was the headless horseman? Brom Bones? After all, he married the woman in question. Or did the specter really exist? Not even Ichabod Crane could be sure. Only the headless horseman himself knows the answer.
Dawn Crandall recently released her fourth novel, the fourth installment in The Everstone Chronicles. It’s one of my favorite historical romance series for several reasons. They can be read in any order, but I recommend reading them in order because you’ll enjoy the cameo appearances by the other characters and enjoy the updates of their stories.
- It’s about a wealthy family during the Gilded Age, one of my favorite historical eras.
- Much of the series is set in Maine, which is an unusual setting. It’s remote northern climate superimposed over the other scenes set in Boston mansions, it gives the story a western vibe, this is especially true in The Cautious Maiden where there’s a brothel and a fair amount of gambling.
- They’re in the first person point-of-view of the heroine rather than alternating hero-heroine point-of-view, this makes them fresh and less formulaic.
- And of course, they’re well-written with complex characters, suspenseful plots, and rich details in the settings.
Synopsis from Goodreads
Violet Hawthorne is beyond mortified when her brother Ezra turns their deceased parents’ New England country inn into a brothel to accommodate the nearby lumberjacks; but when Violet’s own reputation is compromised, the inn becomes the least of her worries. In an effort to salvage her good name, Violet is forced into an engagement with a taciturn acquaintance; Vance Everstone. As she prepares for a society wedding, Violet learns that her brother had staked her hand in marriage in a heated poker game with the unsavory Rowen Steele, and Ezra had lost. Now Rowen is determined to cash in on his IOU. With danger stalking her and a new fiance who hides both his emotion and his past, Violet must decide who to trust and who to leave behind.
My Thoughts on The Cautious Maiden
In real life, the bad boy never held much appeal for me. In books, I’m kind of a fan of the rogue especially when we get a taste of his good qualities. Vance’s story is the best of both. He’s the fast-living rake and family black sheep through the first three Everstone books, but by the time we meet him in The Cautious Maiden, he’s a redeemed man of faith.
There’s so much I loved about this story. Violet is a bright and beautiful woman who’s in a horrible situation. After her parents died, she was left under the control of her brother, who is in classic western fashion, a low-down scoundrel. He runs a brothel and is an unscrupulous gambler. The story starts off with him putting Violet in a compromising and degraded position. After the ensuing scandal, Vance Everstone proposes to Violet to save her reputation. I absolutely love both of these characters. Violet wants to be a writer, so that endeared me to her right away, and Vance, he’s so ridiculously handsome and charming, you can’t help but fall in love with him.
Dawn’s stories are historical suspense, and this installment is the most suspenseful of the series. A fun and engaging read.
Connect with Dawn
Book Review Blog: APassionforPages.blogspot.com
Buy Her Books
When I meet another mature author like myself with a debut YA novel, I want to break out the tiara and present her with a bouquet of roses. Or whatever a male author would like, I want to do that.
Today I interview Angela Moody, author of No Safe Haven. I remember when her manuscript was up for critique on the main Scribes loop of ACFW a few years ago, and I am tickled that she remembered me. I hope you enjoy getting to know her as much as I have.
Angela, welcome to The Scriblerians blog!
Thank you, Cynthia. It’s a pleasure to be here.
We don’t often interview authors of historical YA fiction. When and how did you decide to write it?
I’ve always loved historical fiction. Even as a young reader if it had to do with history, I was reading it. There are always those who say that writers like Laura Ingalls Wilder, Louisa May Alcott, Nathaniel Hawthorne, etc., were not historical writers because they wrote in their contemporary time, but they were historical to me, and I loved all of those writers. As I got older, I read John Jakes, Anya Seton and countless other historical writers, including historical romance writers.
Did you always want to write about the Civil War?
This may sound geeky, but yes. I remember in eighth grade writing a story for our social studies class and setting it in the Civil War period. The assignment was that we had two pieces of historical items that we had to research and find out what they were, and then write something about them. Everyone else did you standard essay, but I wrote a story. I remember my two items were a butter mold and a spittoon (which I originally thought was a chamber pot!) My story was about a young woman whose husband was off fighting for the Union Army and how much she missed him. She would often clean the spittoon that his father had given him as a wedding gift. Something like that. I do remember getting a good grade for the assignment because my teacher loved the story and its strong emotional content.
As I got older, I wanted to write a story about the Civil War set in the North, specifically Vermont, because I’m a Vermonter and all the stories I read seemed to center on the war as it affected the South. Unfortunately (or should I say fortunately), only one incident of the war reached Vermont, and that was the great St. Albans Raid. No battle was fought here though, so I never could think of a story compelling enough to set here in my native State.
How did you come to write a story based on a real girl in her teens during the Civil War?
My daughter went to Gettysburg College for her undergrad years. After her first year was over, my husband and I decided to travel to Gettysburg a week early, while she was taking her exams. We would be tourists for a week and then bring her home. As we were coming back from the battlefield one afternoon, I happened to see a museum that had a line waiting at the door. On impulse, we decided to stop and actually found a parking spot right in front of the building! If you’ve ever been to Gettysburg, you’ll know that’s next to impossible. We got in the back of the line, thinking we could just wander through, but the man at the head of the line told us it was a paid tour and if we wanted to pay at the end, we were welcome to join the tour. We agreed and went through the Shriver House Museum. The Shriver House is located two doors down from Tillie’s home. The owners restored it back to its 1863 appearance to tell the story of the plight of the townsfolk. That was a revelation for me. Throughout the tour, I bombarded the man with questions, which he patiently answered. My brain was whirling with ideas about how to turn this into a story, and my husband leaned forward and whispered in my ear, “I smell a novel.” At the end of the tour, as I was paying him, he led me to a bookshelf and started pulling books off the shelf, saying I might be interested in reading them. As an afterthought, he tossed one more book on the pile, a slim little thing that turned out to be Tillie Pierce’s memoir of her experiences. When I read the book, she just jumped off the pages at me and I knew I had to write it.
How did you write the story to appeal to both northerners and southerners even though the girl and her family were Yankees?
Research, research, research. I read everything I could get my hands on about the Civil War, mostly first person experiences. They aren’t hard to find. A great many soldiers kept diaries, as did a number of civilians. They seemed to have a sense that they were living a period of important historical impact and wanted to record everything they could. What stood out to me the most was that they were all just people who had the same dreams and desires we do. They wanted to go home, back to their wives and children, to live their lives as best they could, but knew they needed to do this terrible work first.
Interestingly, I found myself very disappointed with the abolitionists. We all think they wanted to end slavery and elevate the blacks from their social position. I do believe that we northerners have elevated the abolitionist almost to sainthood, so I was disappointed to realize that while they wanted abolition, they never thought past the end of slavery and what that meant, for the former slaves, or themselves. Really, in their minds, they felt that blacks should still be servants, but they should be paid servants. Even William Lloyd Garrison wanted to free them and send them back to Africa. As far as race relations goes, I wondered how much progress we’ve made, which helped bring those people down to the human level for me.
How did you feel about writing your first novel at a mature age?
I feel great about it. I don’t regret the time spent not writing. During that time, I married and raised a family. I did what was on my plate to do. I did write a novel back in the early 1990s that, Lord willing, will never see the light of day! That novel, however, taught me that I could write one. But, I’m a firm believer in the Lord working things out in His own timing to glorify Himself, not us. He needed me to go through things and to come to faith before He would open the door to writing my first published novel. I’m just humbled and honored He found me worthy.
What advice can you give authors who did not start writing straight out of school but may have been homemakers or had a completely different career for decades?
I would say if you want to write, if it’s your passion, then do it. Don’t let your age stop you. You’re never too old until you’re dead, as my father likes to say. I have always wanted to write, even as a kid. I knew that was what I wanted to be when I grew up. Now that my kids are grown and out of the house, I can follow my passion. If that’s where you are, then I say, “Go for it.”
Angela Moody lives in Vermont with her husband, Jim, her daughter, Alison and their two cats. Their son, Stephen and his wife, Amanda live nearby.
Angela has been writing short stories and novels from an early age, always in the historic fiction genre where she feels she shines.
One of her passions is crochet. From the time she learned the craft, she was “hooked”. She loves reading, writing stories and spending time with her family. One of the items on her bucket list is to visit every civil war battlefield site at the time of year each battle took place.
No Safe Haven is her first Christian novel and she has plans for two other historical fiction novels as part of a three book set entitled “Young American Heroines.”
Angela is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. You can find her at:
Crossing the Mojave Desert
When I was really young, I’m guessing eight or nine, my family set out on a road trip to Twenynine Palms, California, to visit with my Uncle Chuck who was stationed at the Marine training facility there. We crossed all of New Mexico and Arizona along the way, including a really long stretch through the Mojave Desert. During the daytime. During the summer. Whew! It was hot.
We made a caravan with my mom’s parents to travel across the western half of the United States to do it. They drove a Chevrolet Caprice, I think, and we drove our recently-purchased, used, blue Chevrolet Impala with the 4-85 A/C. That’s four windows, 85 mph, for you new folks.
We had a four-door sedan instead of the super-cool, two-door coupe shown above. But our Impala was that exact shade of blue. That V8 could fly, but we stayed at low altitude so as to not attract unwelcome attention. No, we didn’t wear seat belts. In fact, I’m not at all sure that the back seat came with any safety equipment. That was back in the day, but a woman has to keep a few secrets. We’ll leave the exact year out of this discussion.
My memories of the trip are vague. I remember it was HOT. My sister, Trish, and I played games, read books, asked are-we-there-yet, and generally had a great time bouncing around in the back of the car.
Roasting Peanuts in the Back Window
This was in the days of the occasional Dairy Queen before McDonalds became quite so ubiquitous. And besides, we were poor as church mice. Mom packed lots of food from home, and we ate bologna and cheese at rest stops. But we sure had fun.
Most of my memories from that trip are cloudy with age, but one that is still crystal clear is my sister and I spreading peanuts on the back shelf beneath the back window (you can kinda see it in the photo). Remember, it was HOT. Hotter than a kiln. Hotter than a dutch oven nestling in the coals of a fire. But, regardless, Trish and I wanted our peanuts to be freshly roasted for optimal eating pleasure. I’m here to report that I’ve never had any peanuts that tasted better!
Making the Best of Less
The trip across the desert was important because we spent it with family. We learned about our country by watching it pass by our open windows. We met strangers when we stopped to help the stranded lady with the broken-down car beside the highway. We made do with what we had. We grew together because we took on a quest together.
It sounds like I got lost in the past, but I also got to thinking how we miss out if we say we don’t have enough money or material things to make memories. If you take the time and make the best of less, you can create memories that will last. And you might learn a few lessons along the way.
So get out there and roast some peanuts in the back window!
Do you have memories of making the best of less?
Texas author, Kathrese McKee, writes epic adventures for young adults and anyone else who enjoys pirates and princesses combined with life’s difficult questions. She is committed to exciting stories, appropriate content, and quality craftsmanship.
Learn more at http://www.kathresemckee.com
When my daughter tested her DNA with an Ancestry.com, Christmas-gifted kit this past January, it was mostly to uncover her ethnicity and to hopefully add branches to the family tree she’s painstakingly built over the last five years. And for fun. A cool way to indulge her love of history in general and genealogy in particular.
When I spit into the test-tube like container of my own DNA test kit in August, it was to seek information about my unknown beginnings and maybe even uncover the identity of my birth parents. While I’d always been curious as to the details surrounding my birth and surrender for adoption, discovering I’d been left on a door step, having not been born in a hospital, had piqued my curiosity to a level bordering on obsession. The who, what, how and why questions raced through my brain.
With the help of an archived newspaper article containing the brief details concerning my “foundling” status and a quick Facebook search, I discovered a granddaughter of the couple who found me that mid-November morning in 1963. She’d been eight-year-old at the time and seemed to remember the incident as if it had happened yesterday. Her barely-contained excitement as we spoke on the phone was so genuine and refreshing as she shared details not included in the short, three paragraph write up. Two weeks later we met in person when my husband, daughter, grandson, myself, and my parents made the one-and-a-half hour trip to the city where I’d been found and presumedly had been born.
As we lunched at a local diner, she shared the details of that morning, recounted time and again over the years by her family. When her grandpa let their dog, Frisky, out sometime after five a.m., he was certain there was nothing on the step. But five to ten minutes later, when he opened the door to let Frisky back in, he noticed “something” on the step. Assuming it was Frisky having rolled his small body inside the rag rug on the step—as he was known to do—grandpa called out to the dog, expecting him to shoot from inside the rug cocoon, a trick he’d perfected. But when Frisky came from the yard and jumped over the step into the house, grandpa nudged the “something” on the step with his foot and was rewarded with the sounds of a baby. He scooped up the bundle of blanket and a man’s black wool shirt that encased a 5 lbs. 12 oz. baby girl. He and his wife raced the baby to the hospital, concerned for the child’s well-being.
I was found to be in good health but remained in the hospital for three weeks, where the nurses named me “Susie Hope”. The woman whose husband discovered me on the step worked in the hospital cafeteria. In the weeks that followed, after her shifts, she often made her way to the nursery where she would hold and rock me. Hospital personnel heard of her frequent visits and instructed the nurses to “not let her do that anymore”, fearing she was forming an attachment to the baby … to me. The nurses, however, chose not to stop her from showering me with attention. I tracked down an employee who worked at the hospital in November of 1963. Although she worked in another department and never saw me, she remembered the door step baby story well. She shared that my frequent visitor, a friend of hers, also bought me an outfit. Ah … how sweet.
How I wish those kind folks were still alive so I could meet them, express my gratitude for their thoughtfulness, and share that the “door step baby” story did indeed have a happy ending.
My DNA results took only one month to return, less than the six to eight week timeline the website suggests. It contains lots of fascinating information that a caring and very knowledgeable genealogy geneticist is helping me to decipher. In addition to the way cool detailed analysis of my ethnicity, the report also indicates a whopping 234 (and counting!) 4th or closer cousins. “And counting” because as more people test with Ancestry.com every day, new connections are discovered. I’ve already gained eleven new cousin matches in the month since I received the results.
One first-second cousin match has provided us with enough information to zero in on the family of one of my birth parents. A member of that family has submitted a DNA test, whose results will hopefully narrow down, if not confirm, either my birth father or mother.
Friends have asked the same questions I pondered myself before even purchasing my DNA kit. Why do I want to do this? What am I hoping to gain? Other than to satisfy even a little of my raging curiosity, I immediately knew I wanted to ease the mind of those involved in what had to be a gut-wrenching decision. “You did what you felt you had to do and everything turned out fine. My story had a happy ending,” I’d say if I got the chance.
Then I’d be tempted to ask, “But what about yours? How have you been since then? Did you spend years worrying about me or regretting the decision?” I hope not. I really hope her life and his life turned out well.
What I really wish is that I’d discovered the “door step baby” detail earlier, when the chance of connecting with those involved would have been more likely. But I try to shoo that thought away each time it creeps in because GOD’s hand, HIS protection and timing have been so evident from the very moment I was laid on that door step, that I must continue to trust in HIS plan. I believe with my whole heart there’s a reason the pieces of this giant puzzle seem to be falling into place at this very moment in time.
Life is full of “whys”. We can drive ourselves crazy trying to unravel the mysteries, decipher the motives, and get a gasp on what the future holds. But isn’t it better to trust in HIS goodness and rest in HIS plan–even and especially when we can’t see the end game?
However this slice of my life concludes, I’ll be fine. Will I be disappointed if I don’t get all the answers I’m seeking? Probably, yes. But that’s okay. And if the reasons for now being the time this mystery unravels are never revealed, I admit I’ll always wonder. But that too will be okay. GOD’s got this. HE’s always had this situation firmly in the palm of HIS hand.
I’ll keep you posted! :)
Beth is passionate about seeing GOD at work in the “slices” of every day life AND about the saving of sex for marriage. She believes strongly in accountability and mentoring and considers herself a cheerleader for “renewed waiting” too. Because SEX is worth waiting for. She’d love to hear from you! Comment here OR email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Connect with her on Facebook at Beth Steury, Author.
Who remembers the movie, Homeward Bound, subtitled, The Incredible Journey? Yes, an entire auditorium of raised hands fills my vision.
Now. Who remembers the book titled, The Incredible Journey? Hmmm. A few uplifted hands spike from the audience like corn volunteers in a soybean field. (Can you tell I live in the Midwest?)
Yes, boys and girls, The Incredible Journey was a book long before Sally Field and Michael J. Fox lent their voices to a foolish dog and a sassy cat. Don’t think I’m criticizing Homeward Bound. The producers and director made sure the heart of the story remained true to the book, and I love that movie. It’s one of the few I’m willing to watch again and again and again.
Sheila Burnford published The Incredible Journey, the novel, in 1960. Between the slightly foreign voice of a Canadian author and the acceptable writing style from over half a century ago, kids today will have a harder time appreciating the original story than they did back when I first read the book.
Wait a minute. I’m assuming you know the premise of the story. In case you don’t: because a family has a temporary living situation that doesn’t allow pets, two dogs and a cat have been boarded with a friend of theirs. Of course, the animals don’t know why they’ve been separated from their beloved owners, so they run away from the caregiver and head home.
The book and both movies pull at the same heartstrings. Yes, both movies. Before Homeward Bound, there was another film, appropriately titled The Incredible Journey. It was completely faithful to events in the novel and narrated in much the same way as the omniscient narrator tells the story in the print version.
You would think children would not enjoy the older movie. It’s black and white, narrated, and has no animal voices provided, but my six-year-old granddaughter sat in front of the television, enthralled. Similar to the 1986 comedy-drama, The Adventures of Milo and Otis, children of today still get wrapped up in a story of real animals against the elements.
If you haven’t read The Incredible Journey, go for it. Insist your kids read it, or make it a family read-aloud. Like I mentioned in my September 10th post, make sure your children eat their literary vegetables.
This is a bittersweet blog post. The bitter, A Time to Rise marks the end of Nadine Brandes’ Out of Time series. I will miss this series. The sweet is that the story Parvin Blackwater’s quest to find shalom is complete.
What did I think about the final installment of this trilogy? Pretty much perfect. It was both expected and unexpected. That is, I read the series and have followed Nadine’s blog for the past two years, so I had some ideas of where the story might go. Of course, Nadine being brilliant, made it anything but predictable.
The first part of A Time to Rise was phenomenal. The story picks up right where it left off. Minor spoiler alert. Parvin is alive. I won’t give anymore details than that. Let’s just say how she survived is pretty spectacular.
My concern with picking up right after Skelley Chase tried to kill Parvin was that I’d barely get to breathe before our favorite characters were off running for their lives. I’m the person who skims action scenes to get to the relationship part. My fears were allayed. The first part of the book is well-paced with Parvin, Solomon, and the other characters in Prime regrouping and strategizing. The story is anything but slow because, of course, it doesn’t take long for Skelley Chase and crew to figure out that Parvin is alive.
Our gang is off and running but the pace is steady and not all nail-biting action. There’s a mystery and a mission to find the writings of an inventor from the past. Along the way, there’s rich description of a foreign landscape and travel by boat, plane, train, and…. Yeah, I’m not spoiling that last bit. It’s way too cool.
When Parvin, Solomon, and crew arrive at the location with the inventor’s notes, they discover something quite surprising. Two somethings really, both of which help Parvin in her ultimate goal – shalom. It’s funny, but I think I knew all along how the series would end (at least to some degree), and at the same time, it wasn’t predictable. The ending is satisfying.
Normally, I’m not a fan of a story with a strong Christian theme. I prefer subtlety. A Time to Rise is not subtle. Parvin hears from God, and it works. The story may be overt in its message but it’s never preachy or self-righteous. It’s honest, gut-wrenching dialogue that just works. In each book, this aspect grows stronger. In A Time to Rise, I have to say it’s what makes the book and the entire series so absolutely fantastic!
Parvin isn’t your typical dystopian heroine. She’s more Moses than Katniss. It’s not an eighteen year-old-girl saving the world. It’s an eighteen year-old-girl taking up the mantle of the patriarchs and setting her people free. That may sound like the same thing, but it’s not. This is what makes the Out of Time series one that I want to read again.
The book doesn’t release until October 14, but if you pre-order, you can get some really cool swag.
Click this link to find out more.
Pre-order swag – http://nadinebrandes.com/2016/07/20/a-time-to-rise-pre-order-swag/
To Order A Time to Rise
If you want to hang out with Nadine as well as debut authors Sarah Ella and S.D. Grimm, there’s a Facebook party.
Facebook Party – https://www.facebook.com/events/183601465406699/
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