Meet Ella Blythe of A Midnight Dance by Joanna Davidson Politano

A Midnight Dance by Joanna Davidson Politano

We at the London Illustrated have a rare interview today with the elusive Ella Blythe, rising ballet star of the Craven Street Theater who seems to have appeared from nowhere this season, and with a most astonishing style. Let’s see if we can figure out where on earth this mysterious little sylph came from—and why she keeps her secrets so close to the chest.  

LI: Miss Blythe, all of London is curious—won’t you tell us the secret to your most unique, breathtaking style of dance? Who is behind your training?

Ella: The style is my own, discovered when I manage to forget myself and my audience. As for my background, I’ve always danced, always trained and prepared. More than I walked, I’m afraid. There’s something about the pure symmetry and order, the perfect elegance of ballet that resonates with my beauty-loving heart. Officially, I was trained by Monsieur Coulon for two years in France, although he would cringe to see the way I dance now—the man is a staunch classicist. I credit him for very little of the style I now use.

LI: The Coulon, of the Paris Opera House? One might wonder how an unknown young woman of no means managed such an appointment. Might I ask where you trained before that, or perhaps who sponsored you?

Ella: From the time I could walk, I was trained by one of the most magnificent dancers ever to grace a European stage. One couldn’t help but fall in love with ballet simply watching her. Crossing the street, for her, could convey more than the finest speech, and with even more eloquence.

LI: Are we to assume she’s an unknown dancer, then, since you’ve not mentioned her name? Perhaps one injured before her prime?

Ella: No, the very problem is that you surely would know her name, and I mustn’t speak it aloud. Not ever. 

LI: You sound as if you’re speaking of Craven’s very own ghost dancer—the one who wears the scarlet shoes. It’s been said you once auditioned with those very same shoes. Perhaps there is some connection there?

Ella: Perhaps this interview should end here. I’m rather tired.

LI: I beg your pardon, Miss Blythe. Please, sit back down, and I shall promise to take a new direction. Very well then—there is one other matter burning in the minds of our readers. Have you an understanding with one of the gentleman in the theater? We’ve heard such romantic tales from every direction this season.

Ella: An understanding—horsefeathers! Jack Dorian has been hanging about merely because of a bet—one he’ll never win. He’s the known charmer of the theater, what with that golden hair and almost divine appearance the other dancers find so hard to resist. Unfortunately, he seems to share their opinion, and I cannot abide an arrogant man.

LI: What of the principal? Philippe Rousseau is your equal in many ways, and people are claiming they see something thick and weighty between you—even off the stage.

Ella: (silence.) Philippe is a dark horse. Carries as much mystery as the unnamed dancer who trained me, and very few manage to get close to him, either. He often escorts me home when it’s late, but there’s much he won’t share, and he walks about with the weight of ten thousand unwritten poems behind his eyes. All I can tell you is he’s the truest gentleman I’ve ever met this side of the theater curtain.

LI: This hedging has me quite intrigued. Perhaps I should speak to some of your fellow dancers for their take on the matter…

Ella: You’re bound to get a fairytale. Well then… If you promise to keep the specifics out of your article, I shall tell you one secret concerning Philippe. He doesn’t remember it, but years ago, when I was quite scrawny and innocent, he happened upon me in a forgotten part of the theater and swept me up in the most unexpected dance. He put these enchanted shoes on my feet and we danced—it was my first pas de deux with a real partner, and I believe I fell in love that night—with ballet, that is. That encounter is what brought me back to Craven, too. You see, he promised me that one day we’d dance together on this very stage—he was that certain I’d make something of myself. I suppose his confidence convinced me too, and it became my driving ambition—to prove him right. To dance opposite him once again at Craven. And one day… to thank him for taking the time to pas de deux with a little nobody.

LI: And has it happened? Have you danced with Philippe Rousseau?

Ella: (pause.) Not yet. But the hope of it still fuels my dance. Come back for another season, and perhaps you shall witness it. You may sit in the audience and appreciate what is occurring, even though no one—not even Philippe himself—realizes the significance. Just one more reason to purchase a box for the season and see for yourself what comes of his vow.


Joanna Davidson Politano is the award-winning author of Lady Jayne Disappears,
A Rumored Fortune, Finding Lady Enderly, and The Love Note. She loves tales that
capture the colorful, exquisite details in ordinary lives and is eager to hear anyone’s
story. She lives with her husband and their children in a house in the woods near
Lake Michigan. You can find her at www.jdpstories.com.

A Chat With Natalie from Jane Kirkpatrick’s The Healing of Natalie Curtis

Tell us something about where you live. That’s not an easy question to answer. I grew up in New York but I’ve spent the last years of my life traveling all over the Southwest and West. I lived in Old Orabi, a Hopi village in Arizona. And I stayed in Yuma, Arizona for a time. Then my work – well my passion really – took my brother and me and our horse drawn wagon all across the country with my Edison machine making recordings of Indian music I feared would be lost due to a law that forbid Indian people to sing or perform or speak their language. The West is my home. But I guess you could say now that my heart is in New Mexico. Santa Fe to be exact.

Do you have an occupation? What do you like or dislike about your work? Oddly, I guess you could say I formed a new occupation called “ethnomusicologist,” someone who studies the origin of music especially that of another culture. I love this work! Recording and writing down the notes of complex music of Indigenous people has consumed my life. I guess you could also say that I’m a writer since I worked on the book, which was published even though it was 575 pages long! It’s called The Indians’ Book. I don’t really feel like I “wrote” it. I was “but a pencil in the Indians’ hands.” The only thing I disliked was having to edit out anything!

Who are the special people in your life?  First of all, my brother George. I have five siblings but George is the one who helped save me. I had a breakdown when I was in my early twenties and it was George who lured me west to find healing. He thought my healing would come from the sunshine and desert air, but it came through the music of the Indian people I met like Mina, a Hopi child who stole my heart. There were others, my parents, of course, who encouraged my passion for preserving Indian music and Charlotte Mason, one of my benefactors. (I needed money to travel throughout the west).  And then there’s President Theodore Roosevelt who I enlisted in my efforts. He might not think he was special in my life but I sure think he is!

What is your heart’s deepest desire? To see Native Americans free to celebrate their music without fear of repercussions as they experienced in the late 1800s.

What are you most afraid of? Living a life without purpose and for me that means falling back into letting my parents take care of me in our lovely New York home. The West, with its beauty and its demands, gave me courage to try new things even as I walked into uncertainty. Also, I don’t like snakes.

Do you have a cherished possession? I do! It’s an Acoma Pueblo pot, beautifully crafted and painted with an aloe stem. It was a gift and part of what I love about it is the story the Acoma people tell about their pottery. Once the pots were shaped and fired, they were so fragile that they often broke. The shards would be taken to the desert and discarded but also offered as a gift back to the earth that had first given up the clay. One day, an old woman pounded the fired shards back into powder that was added to new clay. When those pots with the broken pieces and the new pieces were fired, the pots were not only beautiful but strong. I always liked that image of who we are: broken by tragedy and trial, fired by the challenges of life. But when we allow newness to come into our life, we become not only beautiful but strong. I’ve kept that metaphor all along my journey toward my personal healing.

What have you learned about yourself in the course of your story? Many things. I used to be very disciplined with my music, practicing for hours. I thought it would be my future. But when I had my breakdown, music no longer held its sway with me and I languished until my brother invited me West. Part of what I learned is that a passion can burn a person up. Guilt can take a person down but both purpose and regret can also fire new desires. I learned that I was stronger than I thought and that when I took on another’s cause, I had even more energy than when I was only thinking of myself. Giving myself to others, that’s what really brought on the healing.

Is there anything else you’d like people to know about you? As I’ve gotten older, I’ve kept learning and exploring. I have traveled by horseback to outlying Indian villages, where I recorded Morning Songs and lullabies. But, I’ve also been exploring how people treat each other. The Code of Offenses was a law passed in 1883 to force Indian people to give up their music, language and customs. I spent my life finding ways to break this code and learned that one small woman, when motivated by love, can make a difference in the lives of others. It’s a good lesson!

Thanks for allowing us to get know you a little better!


Jane Kirkpatrick is the New York Times and CBA bestselling and award-winning author of forty books, including Something Worth Doing, One More River to Cross, Everything She Didn’t Say, All Together in One Place, A Light in the Wilderness, The Memory Weaver, This Road We Traveled, and A Sweetness to the Soul, which won the prestigious Wrangler Award from the Western Heritage Center. Her works have won the WILLA Literary Award, the Carol Award for Historical Fiction, and
the 2016 Will Rogers Gold Medallion Award. Jane divides her time between Central Oregon and California with her husband, Jerry, and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Caesar.

Learn more at www.jkbooks.com.

Introducing Elantia from Carole Towriss’s Sold Into Freedom

Elantia–that’s a beautiful name. 

Thank you. It’s from my language, Britonnic. It means “doe.” But you can call me Tia.

Britonnic. I’ve never heard of it. Where do they speak that?

In Britannia. That’s where I lived before, in a village on the coast. It’s a beautiful place, with clean sea air, lots of green grass, and of course lots of family. 

Tell me about your family.

I have⸺ sorry, I had⸺ quite a large family. I had cousins, aunts and uncles, and my parents, of course. My tata was the chief of our village and everyone loved and trusted him. He looked out for everyone. I had a younger brother … but he’s gone now. 

I’m so sorry. Can I ask how that happened?

It was early one morning, just before dawn, and I was awakened by screaming. I peeked outside and Romans were swarming our village. They were dressed like soldiers but I found later they weren’t. I will never forget the sound their cloaks made as they whipped in the wind.  They dragged us, all of us, to the center of the village, and then they set fire to anything they could burn. They separated us ⸺ one group to be taken as slaves, and the others were … Anyway, they shoved my brother and me into a ship and brought us here, to Philippi. They sold us as slaves, and a few weeks later my brother was killed by our master.

That must have affected you deeply.

It colored every thought I had for a very long time. All I wanted before that was to escape and get back home. But after that … I wanted to punish the master. 

But everything is different now.

What do you miss the most about Britannia? Besides your family, I mean.

I miss the sea most of all. Pounding waves, the smell of salt, the crisp wind coming off the water. I miss the open space, with rabbits hopping, birds chirping in the trees, flowers everywhere. Everything here is made of stone–stone buildings, stone floors, statues.  The grass, the flowers, the trees, the animals … you have to go way outside the city walls to find them. When I first arrived, the place seemed so  … joyless. So cold. 

Do you still think that?

Well, everything is still covered in stone. Ha! But Philippi is where I learned about Yeshua, and where I met so many lovely people who risked so much to help me⸺ Lydia, Paulos, Epaphroditus, and of course, Quintus.

He’s your tribune?

Ha ha! He’s not exactly mine, but yes.

Last question. What’s your favorite thing about Macedonia? 

I love the peaches! I could eat one every day. They don’t grow in Britannia.

About the Author:

Carole is an award-winning author of biblical fiction. An unapologetic Californian, she lives just north of Washington, DC. She loves her husband, her four children, the beach, and tacos, though not always in that order. In addition to writing, she binge watches British crime dramas and does the dishes four times in one day.Sold into Freedom is Carole’s seventh independent book, and she has also written three books for Guideposts Fiction’s “Ordinary Women of the Bible” series.

 About the book:

Elantia, a seer, is kidnapped from her home on the coast of Britannia and sold as a slave in Ephesus. Her new owners take her to Philippi, where they put her to work each day in the marketplace telling fortunes. When they take from her the only good thing left in her life, she vows she will take her revenge and find her way home, even if she has to kill to do it. 

After a devastating injury and vicious rumors, Tribune Quintus Valerius is forced from the army he loves. Given land in lieu of a cash pension, he settles in Philippi, but a betrayal forces him to become the city’s Keeper of the Prison. At least until the truth comes out.

Everything changes when a simple Jewish preacher visits Philippi. Tia and Quin are both intrigued by Paulos’s message of peace, but it seems too good to be true. Are they willing to leave behind everything they know to experience a freedom like no other?Sold Into Freedom is book 1 of “The Planting Faith Series.” This series will follow the Apostle Paul though his second missionary journey. Each book will focus on two or more little-known biblical characters who came to faith through his ministry.
Website  ||  Facebook  ||  Instagram  ||  AmazonSold into Freedom is available in paperback, Kindle, and audiobook

Meet Raphe Broussard from Valerie Fraser Luesse’s Under the Bayou Moon

Welcome to Novel PASTimes! We are pleased you stopped by today.

Bonjour. 

You’re French?

Cajun. My ancestors were French Canadians.

Tell us something about where you live.

It’s a small cabin on Bayou Teche—not the main channel but a little tributary. Our town is called Bernadette, after St. Bernadette’s Catholic Church, which was here before I was. My family has lived in Louisiana for generations. Mamou—my grandmother—used to say the cypress trees were watching over the Teche during Bible times. I don’t know if that’s true. I just know they’re beautiful, especially early in the morning or late in the afternoon, when the sunlight is softer. That, mon ami, is a sight that will shake your soul.

Is there anything special about your name? Why do you think you were given that name?

My name is Raphael Broussard. I’m named after my great-grandfather, but only Mamou called me Raphael. To everybody else, I’ve always been Raphe—probably suits me better. I never thought too much about it until she—Juliet—asked me. There are many things I never thought about before Juliet came here.

Do you have an occupation? What do you like or dislike about your work?

I am a fisherman. But it’s hard now to make a living on the water, especially since I took in my nephew. He’s just a child, and children need so many things. I would never want him to do without because I couldn’t provide. My father taught me his skills as a mechanic before—well—before he was taken from us. So I travel to Morgan City to repair the big shrimpers. The money’s good. But it’s lonely work. The docks are loud, and the boats are hot. Can’t smell anything but fuel and fish. Makes me long for the peace and quiet of the bayou.

Who are the special people in your life?

There’s my nephew, Remy. He’s a good boy, but his parents put their selfish desires ahead of their own flesh and blood—the worst kind of betrayal. I worry that Remy will carry those scars with him all through his life. It’s up to me to see that he heals, but sometimes I don’t know if I can. What do I know of fatherhood? My sister Kitty gives me all the help she can, but she’s got a family of her own now, so I try not to call on her unless I’ve got no choice. Kitty and me, we grew up with a houseful of brothers and sisters. Now there’s just the two of us. I have friends here, most of them from the bayou but one who isn’t. His name is Heywood Thornberry and he works the oil rigs. He turned up in Bernadette a while back, looking for somebody to show him the ways of the Teche and the Atchafalaya so he could fish and take his pictures. Heywood loves that camera of his. We’re more like brothers than friends. And then there’s Juliet. But I can’t talk about her.

What is your heart’s deepest desire?

To find my missing piece. To feel whole again. To make a life with—well—I’ve said enough.

What are you most afraid of?

Finding what I’m missing and losing it again.

Do you believe the legend of the white alligator? Is it real?

That’s for you to decide. And it’s for me decide. You either see the alligator or you don’t. But this much I can tell you: Destroy it and you’ll destroy yourself.

Thanks for joining us today!


Valerie Fraser Luesse is the bestselling author of Missing Isaac, Almost Home, and
The Key to Everything, as well as an award-winning magazine writer best known for
her feature stories and essays in Southern Living, where she is currently senior travel
editor. Specializing in stories about unique pockets of Southern culture, Luesse
received the 2009 Writer of the Year award from the Southeast Tourism Society for
her editorial section on Hurricane Katrina recovery in Mississippi and Louisiana. A
graduate of Auburn University and Baylor University, she lives in Birmingham, Alabama, with her husband Dave.

A Chat with Colonel Theodore Roosevelt as Depicted in Justin Teerlinck’s Squabble of the Titans

We decided to interview Mr. Roosevelt about his recent expedition to the Olympic Peninsula in search of the mythic “Saysquack” a.k.a. “Sasquatch.”

Can you explain the etymology of  “Saysquack” for our readers?

It comes from the Quilliniklat word literally meaning “He who says quack.” It’s the sound the creature is believed to make.

What do you hope to gain by hunting the Saysquack?

I want to be the first to find out just what he is, how he lives, and what his flavor profile may be. My aim is also to preserve some strapping specimens for the museums back east in order to aid conservation efforts. 

What if the Saysquack ends up being an ancestor of human beings, or an intelligent creature?

Well, I’ll do my best to sort all that out in the field. If the Saysquack can be reasoned with, then I will of course offer it the choice to recognize my authority and come with me willingly. Any Saysquack wishing to improve itself by learning our ways and becoming an American will have my full support, but let me give you my honest opinion: I don’t really think that’s likely or possible.

How did you come to realize that the Saysquack is really out there, is worth your time and energy hunting, and is not just a legend? Do you worry about lending your name and reputation to such a venture?

A prominent anthropologist, Professor Alfred Kroeber, has provided tantalizing evidence of its existence. However, we still need the definitive proof that only specimens and field study can provide. Many prominent members of society are willing to back my expedition, so it is not only my reputation on the line. This reduces the risk of embarrassment for all of us. 

There is believed to be another gentleman—a British doctor—also searching for the Saysquack in the Olympic Peninsula. He is reputed to be trying to find the Saysquack in order to civilize and educate them. What do you think of that?

I’d say that reminds me of people who dress up their dogs and mollycoddle them like children. In other words, it sounds like utter codswallop. Showing kindness is one thing, but you cannot turn one species into another. If this gentleman succeeds at his endeavor, I will gladly eat my hat.

What do you think the future holds for the Saysquack, assuming you find it?

With the help of my friend Gifford Pinchot, we will petition Congress to set aside the Olympic Peninsula to create Theodore Roosevelt—Saysquack National Park as a permanent home for our hirsute, temperate rainforest dwelling friends. There they may be skillfully managed by the Department of the Interior and frolic for many future generations to come. It is my hope that safari trips may be carefully arranged and regulated, so that even after the closing of this last frontier, future Americans may yet be able to obtain a taste of what real wilderness was like in its primordial state.


The year is 1911. The local people know him as Orca, an insatiably hungry monster who needs to kill and eat everything that moves. He is also known by another name: Theodore Roosevelt. He has come to the wild rainforest of the Olympic Peninsula desperately seeking the mythic Saysquack—or “Sasquatch”—so he can be the first to claim the glory of discovering its existence…and its flavor profile. But something stands in the old Bull Moose’s way. A mad utopian British doctor has already arrived a year earlier with plans to find and reform the creature—along with the rest of society—by badgering everyone into singing hymns and learning to ride bicycles. It’s anyone’s guess whose values will come to dominate the cultural landscape in this…squabble of the titans.


Justin Teerlinck pens odd and beguiling books that combine humor, imagination and sometimes strange critters. He has a keen eye for the surreal and magical in ordinary situations. A lifelong anglophile, he loves 19th century Brit lit, doomed polar expeditions, last stands, and incompetence in the face of chaos. If you don’t find him hiking out of the desert after his truck broke down you may find him studying mushrooms in the fern-bedecked wilds of the Pacific Northwest. He is also a mental health occupational therapist who founded therapy departments at two psychiatric hospitals in Washington State. He is currently in private practice.

Author website + blog: https://www.dashfirediaries.net/

Squabble of the Titans: https://www.amazon.com/Squabble-Titans-Recollections-Roosevelt-Rainforest/dp/B097X4R4LN/ref=sr_1_2?crid=29R1LS6XBQTLK&dchild=1&keywords=squabble+of+the+titans

Introducing Mary Perkins Olmsted from Gail Ward Olmsted’s Landscape of a Marriage

I’m talking today with Mary Perkins Olmsted, wife of renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted.

Hello Mary. Thank you for taking the time to talk to me. Please tell us how you met your husband? Was it love at first sight?

Oh hardly. I was only eighteen when I met Fred at a neighborhood gathering. He was quite the ladies’ man back then. He barely gave me a second glance, which was all well and good as I promptly fell in love with his younger brother John.

Was that your first husband, Dr. John Olmsted? Oh, I’m sorry- I did not mean to upset you.

I still get a bit emotional talking of dear John. Yes, he and I married and honeymooned in Italy. We had three children together but he died at the age of thirty-two. Complications from tuberculosis. So sad.

How did you end up marrying your brother-in-law?

John begged Fred on his death bed to not let me suffer. So, Fred did the right thing and asked me to marry him and he adopted our three oldest children. He married me out of a sense of duty, but very soon, we found ourselves deeply in love. 

Can you tell us a little about your family?

Of course. John Charles is our firstborn. He joined his father as soon as he graduated from Yale University. He has a very good eye and a keen mind. Our daughter Charlotte is married to a wonderful man, a doctor and they live just outside of Boston with their sons. Owen is still in school and plans to join his father and brother in the family business. Our Marion is a lovely girl, her nose is always in a book and last, but not least, our son Rick. He keeps us in stiches with his antics. I am blessed to have such a wonderful family.

How would you describe your husband’s design aesthetic?

Well, you’ll rarely see a straight line in any of his plans. He like to take direction from the land itself. The hills and valleys. Always vast expanses of green pastures. Everything is very natural and lush. I heard him describe his style as a sort of organized chaos. I think that describes it perfectly. 

Does your husband consult with you on any of his design projects?

Oh yes, we frequently talk about the plans, the types of trees, the smallest of details. As the children are growing up and leaving home, I enjoy spending part of my day in the office. I set up appointments,  meet with clients and make a few adjustments to his designs every now and again. Fred always seems to like my suggestions.

Which one of your husband’s projects is your favorite?

Oh my! I would have to say his first project, Central Park right here in Manhattan is my favorite. We  are constant visitors- we walk, ice skate, go boating, ride horses. It is delightful. You should have seen it before my husband got his hands on it. 800 acres of smelly swamp land it was. 

You sound like you are quite proud of your husband.

Oh, I am indeed. He has worked so hard to create lovely green spaces for all to enjoy. I can’t wait to see what he does next!

Thank you for speaking with me today, Mrs. Olmsted.

It has been my pleasure.

The real Fred & Mary 

About the Author

Gail Ward Olmsted was a marketing executive and a college professor before she began writing fiction on a fulltime basis. A trip to Sedona, AZ inspired her first novel Jeep Tour. Three more novels followed before she began Landscape of a Marriage, a biographical work of fiction featuring landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, a distant cousin of her husband’s, and his wife Mary.

For more information, please visit her on Facebook and at GailOlmsted.com or email her at gwolmsted@gmail.com

www.facebook.com/gailolmstedauthor

www.amazon.com/author/gailolmsted    Twitter: @gwolmstedInstagram: @gwolmsted 

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8158738.Gail_Ward_Olmsted

About the Book

A marriage of convenience leads to a life of passion and purpose. A shared vision transforms the American landscape forever.

New York, 1858: Mary, a young widow with three children, agrees to marry her brother-in-law Frederick Law Olmsted, who is acting on his late brother’s deathbed plea to “not let Mary suffer”. But she craves more than a marriage of convenience and sets out to win her husband’s love. Beginning with Central Park in New York City, Mary joins Fred on his quest to create a ‘beating green heart’ in the center of every urban space. 

Over the next 40 years, Fred is inspired to create dozens of city parks, private estates and public spaces with Mary at his side. Based upon real people and true events, this is the story of Mary’s journey and personal growth and the challenges inherent in loving a brilliant and ambitious man. 

Pre-order Buylinks 

Black Rose Writing: https://www.blackrosewriting.com/lit…/landscapeofamarriage
save with code PREORDER2021
Amazon:
https://www.amazon.com/Landsc…/dp/1684337216/ref=sr_1_1…
Barnes & Noble:
https://www.barnesandnoble.com/…/landscap…/1139037070…

A Chat with Kathryn from Jennifer L. Wright’s If It Rains

Welcome to Novel PASTimes. Today we’re joined by Miss Kathryn Marie Baile—

Kathryn: It’s just Kathryn. You ain’t gotta be all fancy.

Alright. Kathryn it is. Well . . . welcome, Kathryn. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Kathryn: Like what?

How about we start with the basics? Your age? Where you’re from?

Kathryn: I’m fourteen and a half. Don’t forget the half. It’s very important. And I’m from the greatest state in the Union—Oklahoma. People call me an Okie like it’s a bad thing, but what they don’t understand is that folks from Oklahoma are some of the best folks in the world. Like in Boise City—where I’m from—us Okies created a whole doggone town outta nothing. It wasn’t even forty years ago that a couple of swindlers sold off a bunch of property in No Man’s Land—that’s what they call the little strip of Oklahoma sandwiched in between Texas, Kansas, and Colorado—promising settlers a fancy, tree-lined city with homes and stores and a railroad, only for those poor suckers to show up and find out they’d been duped. There wasn’t no town. There wasn’t no anything. But instead of heading back east with their tails between their legs, most of those folks decided to stay and build a town anyway. And that’s exactly what they did (after throwing those crooks in prison first, of course). And my pa was one of ’em.

That’s very interesting and certainly not an easy feat, especially not in that part of the country. Your pa must be an extraordinary man.

Kathryn: Oh, he’s the best man in the world. He works from sunrise to sunset, plowing and planting and tending his crops. Even these past few years, since the rains stopped and dusters started rolling in, he still goes out every day, doing what he can to coax wheat from soil that’s bound and determined to float away on the wind. He ain’t never giving up. Not like all those other quitters headin’ off to California and the like. We’re staying put.

So it’s just you and your pa then?

Kathryn: Nah, there’s me and Pa and my sister, Melissa. She’s older than me, prettier than me, nicer than me—

Aw, don’t sell yourself short, Kathryn.

Kathryn: No, it’s true. And it’s not just me. Everybody thinks so. I don’t remember my mother. She died giving birth to me. But everyone says Melissa is the spittin’ image of her in both looks and spirit. She practically raised me. Looked after me while Pa was out working, taught me to read, sew, cook, all that. And she never treated me any different because of . . . well, you know.

I wasn’t going to bring it up, but since you did . . . would you like to talk about your foot?

Kathryn: Not really, but I know you were staring.

I wasn’t.

Kathryn: It’s alright. Everyone does. I was born with a clubfoot. Don’t know why it’s called that. I don’t think my foot looks like a club at all, but that’s what the docs say it is. My foot turns, see? It ain’t straight like yours. So I have to wear this brace and special shoe to help me walk better, though it still ain’t normal like other people’s. Melissa, though? She never let me use it as an excuse. “Get up and do your chores, Kathryn!” she used to say. “Those cows don’t care about your clubfoot.” I wasn’t crippled, she said. I was special. I didn’t believe it, of course, but it was still nice to hear her say it. Golly, I’m going to miss her.

Miss her? Is she going somewhere?

Kathryn: She’s getting married. To Henry Mayfield of all people.

Is there something wrong with Henry Mayfield?

Kathryn: You ain’t from round here, are you? Everything is wrong with Henry Mayfield. The whole Mayfield family, actually. They own practically all of Cimarron County. Pretty much the only ones in town with indoor plumbing and a house that isn’t made of sod. They may live in Oklahoma, but they ain’t Okies, that’s for sure. And now Melissa is joining them.

That must be very hard for you, losing your sister like that. Not to mention the extra strain of having only two people now to work the farm.

Kathryn: It isn’t just the two of us.

Oh? Is there someone else in your family?

Kathryn: Helen.

You say that like it tastes bad. Who is Helen?

Kathryn: She married my pa. A few years ago.

So she’s your stepmother?

Kathryn: You could call her that. But I wouldn’t. And neither would she.

Can you tell me a little—?

Kathryn: I don’t want to talk about Helen.

Er, um. Okay. Well . . . uh, what would you like to talk about?

Kathryn: Do you like books?

Yes, I do.

Kathryn: What’s your favorite book?

Well, this interview isn’t really about—

Kathryn: Wanna know mine? It’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. You ever read it?

I—

Kathryn: It’s about this girl, Dorothy. She gets sucked up into this twister and lands in a magical world called Oz. She meets a Scarecrow and a Tin Woodman and a Cowardly Lion, and they follow this road of yellow bricks to get to the City of Emeralds, which is where the Wizard lives. He’s supposed to be able to help Dorothy get home. But along the way, there’s all these troubles, like field mice and Winged Monkeys and a Wicked Witch. Melissa used to read it to me all the time. It was my mother’s book—my real mother’s—but she left it for me. Maybe that’s why I like it so much. Or maybe it’s just because it’s a great story.

It is a great story. One of my favorites, too.

Kathryn: I’d like to visit Oz, if I could. But I think, if I ever did, I’d be a lot like Dorothy—I’d still be fighting to get home. Because no matter how great the rest of the world is, there isn’t anywhere else I’d rather be than Oklahoma. Dust or no dust.

I agree. There truly is no place like home.

Kathryn: And if you don’t mind, I’d like to be getting back to mine. I got a broken fence to repair and a hayloft to clean out. Pa heard there was a chance of rain tonight. Ain’t likely, but we’ll keep living our lives as if it might. That’s all we can do.

Of course. Well, thank you for your time, Kathryn. Good luck with your chores. And I really do hope it rains soon.

Kathryn: It will. One of these days, it will.

About the Author

Jennifer L. Wright has been writing since middle school, eventually earning a master’s degree in journalism at Indiana University. However, it took only a few short months of covering the local news for her to realize that writing fiction is much better for the soul and definitely way more fun. A born and bred Hoosier, she was plucked from the Heartland after being swept off her feet by an Air Force pilot and has spent the past decade traveling the world and, every few years, attempting to make old curtains fit in the windows of a new home. She currently resides in New Mexico with her husband, two children, and one rambunctious dachshund.

Jenn’s website

Jenn’s Facebook

Jenn’s Twitter

Author Jane Carlile Baker introduces you to Nellie from her book Toughnut Angel

Jane:  What was it like for you, Mum, and Fannie to flee Ireland in a coffin ship bound for Boston in 1850?

Nellie: And our Irish cottage in Midleton was full of love, the land every shade of green, even with the sick potatoes. But my Papa died. The English landlord tore our cottage apart, forced us out into the lane. Made up my mind that day never to owe a rich person, and if I ever got rich, to help others. Mum accepted the landlord’s tickets and we walked the miles to Cobh to sail for America. 

Fleeing people packed the coffin ship, its wood old, its sails dirty, its hold stinking. The English only allowed us to climb out of the hold when we emptied slop buckets, so I volunteered, often, for a breath of fresh air. Even as a small girl, I knew when one-by-one the passengers got sick, that we might not live to see America. But we did, thank the good Lord, we did. Mum, Fannie, and me. 

Jane:  What drew you to mining?

Nellie: A man on my elevator in Boston, did I say I ran an elevator during the Civil War when all the men were gone? And this passenger, who some say looked a lot like General Grant, listened to my dreams and said, “Young lady, you should go west. The land is ripe for settling and you won’t find as many restrictions on your activities, as a woman, there.” So we went, Mum, Fannie and I. 

Making boots in my brother-in-law’s boot factory in San Francisco, I heard a miner from Virginia City, Nevada talking about the wealth they dug out of the ground there. Fannie was married, Mum was living with her and her husband, Thomas Cunningham, so I was free to go. While I worked as a waitress, I learned everything I could about mining in Virginia City. First realized miners were just overgrown boys there, and developed a heart for them. Called them my “boys” for the rest of my life.

Jane: How did you get the title Queen of the Camps?

Nellie: About five hundred of the boys and I mined gold up at Dease Lake, in British Columbia. Ran a little boarding tent where they could get a hot meal. In the fall of 1875, we began to get low on supplies. I headed down to Vancouver Island to resupply us, my plan being to visit the Sisters of St. Ann and return with supplies in the spring. 

In the midst of the worst winter in years, the man who carried the mail for the camps came to tell me the boys at Dease Lake had scurvy. ‘Tis a beast of a disease caused by Vitamin C deficiency that makes gums blister, teeth fall out, and eventually death. That news changed my plan. Hired six men to go with me. We loaded all the lime juice we could haul on six dog sleds and headed for Ft. Wrangell where we would head in from the coast. Commander there told us not to go, but we went. They would have come for us. 

And the dang blizzards never ended. The dogs could not get through the snow, and we necked the sleds. That means we cut leather bands, tied them to the leads on the dog sleds and pulled them ourselves. Took us three months, including digging myself out of a wee avalanche. When we got to the lake, only seventy-five miners still lived. Drained that lime juice into their bleeding mouths and saved every one of them. Do not know that I was ever an angel, but the boys thought so. Had a rough time keeping them seated whenever I entered a mining camp building after that. But made it easy to collect funds to build hospitals and churches. They always opened their pockets to me.

Jane: Tell us about your time in Tombstone, Arizona.

Nellie: Came to Tombstone about the same time Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday and their clan showed up. Knew the fellow who got the town named Tombstone, Ed Schieffelin; as well as John Clum, the mayor and publisher of the Tombstone Epitaph. Knew the other element of Tombstone, too. The girls who worked down at the other end of Allen Street and the cowboys donated to building the church and the hospital, same as everyone else. 

Bought several mines and worked them, owned a general store, boarding house and a restaurant. Thomas got consumption and passed while I mined there. Mum stayed in San Francisco, but Fannie and their five children came to Tombstone and helped me run my businesses. Those kids kept us busier than a one-armed miner. We all saw the results of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Then Fannie got the consumption and died. And I raised all her children to become good citizens. Her son, Mike, lived around that area his whole life. Just before the silver played out, I moved on, as was my custom. 

Jane: You mined at Dawson in the Klondike. Can you recreate that experience for us?

Nellie: A lot of ice and snow in the winter and mud the rest of the time. Two-stepped up and down that Golden Staircase cut from the ice on the Chilkoot Pass at fifty-three years old, if I do say so myself. Got a kick out of blarneying the Mounties into letting me come in with half the supplies they required of the boys, since I was half their size. Shot the Whitehorse rapids in a canoe me and a couple of the boys threw together and got to Dawson ahead of quite a few others. Never rode in an airplane, but that was close enough for me.

 Met more mighty fine people in Dawson, Father Judge and Belinda Mulrooney, to name a couple. Lost Mum while the Yukon was froze up, and could not get to San Francisco for her funeral. She made it to a hundred years old, though.

Jane: You finished the last twenty-five years of your life above the Arctic Circle. Tell us about Wiseman, Alaska.

Nellie: Some would call it a desolate land up there. But my Alaska has wild beauty. You just gotta’ know when to look. The thunder of a caribou herd coming up a rise or the Northern Lights dancing in the dark kept me there. The boys and I mined for gold a little different where the ground was frozen most the time. They named me champion female musher of Alaska when I was seventy-seven. Mike and his kids would beg me to come back to Arizona and get warm, but Alaska was my home. Only left when I could not shake a dang cold I caught on a visit to Arizona. Went back to my Sisters of St. Ann in Seattle, to their hospital I helped build. Walked in on my own steam and walked out on Jesus’ arm.


janecarlilebaker.com

facebook.com/JaneCarlileBaker/
“The joy of the Lord is my strength”

MEET JANE LINDER FROM SUSAN ANNE MASON’S “TO FIND HER PLACE”

Tell us a little about yourself, Jane.

I’m Canadian, born and bred in Toronto, Ontario. Right now, I’m living with my widowed mother while my brother is away fighting in the war. I work at the Toronto Children’s Aid Society, where I’ve been a social worker for several years. Currently I’m the acting directress, filling in for my boss and mentor who is planning to retire after suffering a heart attack.

That’s quite an important job for a woman. Do you feel pressured to perform as well as a man?

Absolutely. Especially since I hope to impress the board of management and be awarded the position permanently. I’ve devoted my life to helping orphaned children find loving parents, and in this position, I hope to make policy changes that will allow more children, especially those who are deemed ‘unadoptable’, to find permanent homes.

That’s an admirable goal. What obstacles do you foresee in achieving this?

Other than proving my skills to the board, I have to contend with Garrett Wilder, an outsider they’ve brought in to study the agency’s procedures and overhaul the system. Apparently, there is a discrepancy with the finances, and I’m worried the board thinks I might have something to do with it. Also, I’m fairly certain Garrett is hoping to be awarded the director’s position himself.

Have you always wanted to be a career woman? What made you so focused on social work?

I’ve always loved children and longed for a family of my own. But after two miscarriages and the breakdown of my marriage, it seemed that particular path was not meant for me. Instead, I threw myself into my career in the hopes that ministering to less fortunate children might bring me the fulfilment denied me through motherhood. There’s one little boy in particular who has captured my heart, and if I could adopt him myself, I’d do it in a heartbeat. I won’t rest until Martin has found his forever family.

Has the war had an effect on the Children’s Aid Society?

Very much so. There are more children in need of our services than ever before. With the pressure on women raising children alone while their husbands are overseas, more cases of neglect and abuse have been reported. At the same time, we have fewer and fewer foster families willing to take in children since they are struggling to manage their own families. And fewer families thinking about adoption in this time of uncertainty.

That does sound difficult. What will happen if Garrett Wilder is awarded the director’s position?

I don’t know. I’m not sure I could continue working there, now that I’ve started to develop feelings for Garrett. But he seems determined to keep me at arm’s length for some reason. Perhaps it’s due to the war injuries he’s hinted at. And then there’s my former husband, Donald, who has returned from the war with a tempting proposition of his own. I will have to pray very hard to determine where my true place lies. 

Well, thank you Jane for talking with us and giving us a glimpse into the Toronto Children’s Aid Society during WWII.

Thank you for having me. I’m certain that God will direct my steps toward my ultimate happiness, no matter which path I choose.


Susan Anne Mason’s debut historical novel, Irish Meadows,won the Fiction from the Heartland contest from the Mid-American Romance Authors Chapter of RWA. She is the author of the Courage to Dream Series and the Canadian Crossings series. A member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Susan lives outside of Toronto, Ontario, with her husband and two adult children. She loves wine and chocolate and isn’t partial to snow even though she’s Canadian.Learn more about Susan and her books at www.susanannemason.net.

A Harrowing Interview with Priscilla Middleton from The Captain’s Quest by Lorri Dudley

Priscilla, tell us a bit about how you ended up sailing to the Leeward Islands?

It was an unfortunate misunderstanding, or fortunate, depending on how you look at it. My dearest friend Lottie Etheridge had married and moved to the island of St. Kitts. We were supposed to have our London season together. Lottie was my anchor, and without her, I was adrift. Desperate for another close confidant, I attached myself to Nellie Archard, who wasn’t the best influence. She persuaded me to attend the Lemoore Masquerade party because she was enamored with Lord Fortin, who would profess his sentiments of love any moment. I accepted to keep Nellie out of trouble, but matters got out of hand, and I had to sneak aboard my brother’s ship to save my reputation. 

But your brother was no longer captain?

Quite right, he’d been escorted off the ship while I awaited him in his cabin.

How did the new captain react to your presence?

Not well. He was not particularly fond of stow-a-ways, especially of the female variety. To make matters worse, I’d grown up the daughter and sister of British Naval Officers, and I had a different perspective of how a ship should run. Tobias is a routine and precise man who borders on controlling. We’ve come to a better understanding, but aboard the Trade Wind, the pair of us had many heated exchanges. 

Why didn’t the captain turn the ship around?

British soldiers’ lives were at stake. Tobias’s mission was to make haste to Brimstone Hill in St. Kitts, gather more ships, and lead them to battle in New Orleans. Intelligence had reached the King that the American General, Andrew Jackson, had assembled a rag-tag band of militia fighters, consisting of frontiersmen, Indians, slaves, and even Jean Lafitte’s pirates. Tobias and his men were to provide naval support to General Sir Edward Pakenham as they battled the “dirty shirts,” which is how the general referred to the Americans. I only recently discovered that a treaty had been signed between the two countries before the battle of New Orleans had even begun, but word didn’t reach either general in time. Many British lives were lost. So tragic.   

How did you end up on an island near Anegada?

A terrible storm blew in. We changed course and sought shelter in a cove off Tortola, but… I kind of… well, there was another embarrassing mishap. I’d prefer not to discuss it.  

What survival tips do you have for someone who, heaven forbid, lands in a similar stranded situation?

Locating fresh water is crucial. We can only survive a few days before dying of dehydration. A fresh spring or fast-moving stream are best, but coconuts will work in a pinch. They contain water and a food source. Just be careful of the brown coconuts lower in the branches. They wield more oil, which can… hmm… let’s merely say that partaking can leave one indisposed. 

Second, find food. Snails, clams, oysters, and conch in tide pools can be easy prey if you can stomach the slimy creatures. We didn’t initially have a fire, and I can still feel them wiggle as they slid down my throat. Yuck. 

Third, you’ll need to build a shelter. Higher elevations have fewer mosquitoes, and the more inland you go, the fewer sand flies. A simple Y-frame lean-to covered in palm branches will suffice. 

Lastly, trust God. He is with you. He won’t leave you, nor will He forsake you. It is truly by His power that I’m here today.


A person smiling for the camera

Description automatically generated with medium confidence 
Lorri Dudley has been a finalist in numerous writing contests and has a master’s degree in Psychology. She lives in Ashland, Massachusetts with her husband and three teenage sons, where writing romance allows her an escape from her testosterone filled household.  

www.lorridudley.com

Buy The Captain’s Quest hereAmazon | Barnes and Noble | Kobo | Apple Store