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.

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

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

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Meet Cora from Ane Mulligan’s On Sugar Hill

I’m a little confused. You seem to have two names. Which is right?

My name is Cora Fitzgerald, but my stage name is Dixie Lynn.

You’re in vaudeville, then?

Yea, and I’ve worked hard to establish myself, and I finally made the best circuit in vaudeville. I’m a ventriloquist and voice thrower. Voice throwers are rare. I’m even rarer, being a woman. And I’m one of the best.

Tell us about your childhood. 

It was lonely. My father, the senator, never liked me. I wasn’t beautiful like Mama. I was plain. He had no time for me and made sure Mama’s time was tied up in Atlanta’s high society. I later learned about their arranged marriage, which benefitted him. Mama got the short end of that stick.

How did you learn to be a ventriloquist?

Nobody knows for sure where my strange “talent” came from, but by the time I was four years old, I could make my dolls talk. By six, I could throw my voice across the room. That’s how I entertained myself and the servants. But the senator beat me because it embarrassed him.

You said your childhood was lonely. Didn’t you have school friends?

 Oh, yes. When I started school, I met Martha Anne, Glenice Jo, Trudie and Millie. Our mamas were friends, and they were delighted when we became best friends too. They heled protect me when the senator’s temper raged against me. Mama would make a telephone call and Millie’s or Martha Anne’s mama would come pick me up for an overnight.

A lot of women suffer with low self-esteem. Do you?

I do. Mama told me stories about the plain garden faerie named Sugar Pie who lived in our yard. She told me, “When the Michaelmas Daisies bloomed, the Sugar Pie became beautiful, just as you will. You aren’t plain, Cora. You simply haven’t bloomed yet.” After she told me that story, she began to call me Sugar-pie, to reinforce her words. Unfortunately, the senator’s harsh criticism obliterated Mama’s. 

Did that affect your relationship with men?

Well, that and my parents’ marriage. I don’t trust men. They’ll break your heart sure as sunrise. They always want something. My father wanted my mother’s good name. He used her to rise in state politics. I always say a dating is fine, just don’t let it bloom into romance.

Hear Cora’s Story:

On Sugar Hill

She traded Sugar Hill for Vaudeville. Now she’s back.

The day Cora Fitzgerald turned sixteen, she fled Sugar Hill for the bright lights of Vaudeville, leaving behind her senator-father’s verbal abuse. But just as her career takes off, she’s summoned back home. And everything changes. 

The stock market crashes. The senator is dead. Her mother is delusional, and her mute Aunt Clara pens novels that have people talking. Then there’s Boone Robertson, who never knew she was alive back in high school, but now manages to be around whenever she needs help. 

Will the people of her past keep her from a brilliant future?            


Ane Mulligan has been a voracious reader ever since her mom instilled within her a love of reading at age three, escaping into worlds otherwise unknown. But when Ane saw PETER PAN on stage, she was struck with a fever from which she never recovered—stage fever. She submerged herself in drama through high school and college. One day, her two loves collided, and a bestselling, award-winning novelist emerged. She lives in Sugar Hill, GA, with her artist husband and a rascally Rottweiler. Find Ane on her websiteAmazon Author pageFacebookBookBubGoodreadsPinterest,Twitter, and The Write Conversation

Introducing Archie Jackson, an Indianapolis resident who lives within the pages of Valerie Banfield’s Making Up Time

I realize we’re still settling into the past, dear readers, but after traveling one hundred years in the space of three hundred-some pages, it’s time for our appointment. I suppose the ginger-haired dandy standing near the finish line is the fella I want to interview. Why don’t you all take a front-row seat in the stands?

Good morning. Are you Archie Jackson?

Yes, I am. I’m pleased to meet you, but confess I didn’t expect you to bring a crowd.

Don’t mind them. Like me, they’re curious time travelers. Can I start off by asking why you wanted to meet at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway?

Anyone who knows anything about this city would want an interview at either the track or the Soldiers and Sailors Monument. They’re our most notable landmarks. Since I’m more madcap than solemn, I picked the speedway.

For a moment, I thought you might be a race car driver.

No, not me, although I wouldn’t mind taking a lap or two in one of the local Marmon cars, or maybe a Stutz. The country’s most prestigious racing event happens on these bricks. Can you imagine what it’s like for those crackerjacks? Last year Howdy Wilcox set the record at eighty-eight miles per hour. It’s unfathomable.

I’m sure. Is everyone who lives here a fan?

Everyone except Emmett Sterling. He’s one of my two best friends, but he’s a peculiar duck.

You have two best friends?

For now.

Do you plan to add more or lose one?

Neither. I’m working up the nerve to ask the female part of our threesome to transition from friend to mate.

As in wife?

Absotively.

Pardon?

As in absolutely and positively. I am absotively stuck on Sally.

I see. Does she know how you feel?

When the three of us go out, she doesn’t show favoritism between Emmett and me, but recently she and I have enjoyed some private time that suggests we might have a future together. 

Good for you.

True, but not so good for Emmett. He’s got the same notion as I have. I keep trying to dissuade him, but he insists that Sally is the doll for him. 

What does she think about having two suitors?

She doesn’t know about the second one. You need to understand that Emmett is practical, dependable, and bent on living a well-ordered life, and while those are admirable traits, he’s about as exciting as a chewing gum wrapper. Regardless, he figures that he has the means to fill her every need. 

You don’t sound like you believe that.

I’m here to tell you, the man is all wet. Frugality and routine are overrated. Every woman needs adventure and romance, dancing and—heavens to hooch—a sip of moonshine now and again.

What about Prohibition?

I’m not saying I imbibe, and I’m not confessing to being acquainted with any local hoodlums. I’m just trying to make a point. I’m the spontaneous one of the group, the one who makes the others laugh, the one who instigates memories.

I can see you have that potential.

I take that as a compliment.

Do you worry you’ll lose your friendship with Emmett?

Well, since we’re standing on the speedway bricks, maybe I can respond accordingly. Seated next to every race car driver is his riding mechanic, the man who pumps oil into the engine as they tear around the track, and who warns the driver of the goings on beside and behind him. My friendship with Emmett is like that, both of us working together to bring out the best outcome. The way things stand, we might have to sacrifice that camaraderie if either of us has a chance to take the trophy.

Trophy? As in Sally?

That’s the crux of it.

Oh dear.

I think I have the winning entry, but I’m biding my time until Emmett sees he needs to withdraw from the race. That way, we can remain a threesome. Why don’t you climb on up in the stands with the friends you brought along, and I’ll expound a bit. Wander through the Making Up Time prologue, turn the next page, and see what happens when Indianapolis and Archie Jackson roar.


Valerie Banfield is a talespinner to the lost, the loved, and the found. She is the author of thirteen novels, co-author of three West Virginia‑themed tales, and recipient of the Cascade Award for Historical Fiction. When she’s not writing or reading, she’s probably weaving a basket, counting the stars, or chasing fireflies. Visit her online at valeriebanfield.com.

Social Media Links:

WEBSITE | FB AUTHOR PAGE | AMAZON | GOODREADS

A Conversation with Meg Pherson from Jo-Anne Berthelsen’s Novel Down by the Water

Welcome! Now you grew up in a place many may never have heard of. Can you tell us about it?

Yes, my name was Margaret Porter back then, but I’ve been Meg McPherson for many years now. Before marrying Richard in 1910, I lived in the small, country town of Helidon in the Lockyer Valley area of south-east Queensland, Australia. I loved painting down by the creek, where the trees overhung the water and where I could hear and see lots of native birds. We lived in an old, wooden house high off the ground, with a wide veranda all round. I had a happy childhood there, although my mother always wanted me to help out more with household jobs. Thankfully, Isobel came to work for us and saved me so many times from getting into trouble. 

What did you want to be when you left school?

At first, I had no idea. My parents wanted me to be a nurse or a teacher, but in the end, they let me stay home and I continued painting and learning the piano, as well as helping my mother with my baby brother, Jimbo. They also tried to get me to learn more about things like cooking and sewing—my father was certain some local boy would soon want to marry me. However, I wanted to keep painting and having fun—and eventually, my parents let me go to Brisbane to study art. It was all so exciting, but everything changed when Jimbo died.

It’s so hard when tragedy strikes in a family. How did you cope with this?

I was home on holidays when it happened. I loved Jimbo and would never, ever have let him get hurt, but my mother blamed me for it—and I guess I blamed myself too for being so selfish and wanting to go off and paint. I gave up my art course and vowed I would never paint again. Then when Richard proposed a second time, I decided to accept him. I admired him a lot and saw this as an opportunity to leave home and start afresh somewhere.

I understand you’ve had good friends who helped you in your faith journey. Can you tell us about them?

Isobel was such a loyal friend and was always patient and gentle with me, even when I was so angry with God. And when she came to stay with us after my miscarriage, she was such a help. Reverend Fisher, our local minister in Brisbane, was wonderful too and managed to get me to start painting again. Then once we moved to Harrisville, God provided me with Hettie, a lovely friend who was like a mother to me. Later, Emma came along—and I loved spending time with her too.

How has pursuing your interest in art helped you on your journey?

It’s been so life-giving and fulfilling to be able to paint whenever I get a spare moment. I love being by myself painting, particularly down near a river or creek somewhere—that’s where I feel God’s presence the most. And I love blessing others with my paintings too.

Tell us a little about your family.

My husband Richard still works long hours and does so much in the community as well, including at our church. We have five children—Alice, Robert, Elizabeth, Jane and, last but by no means least, our youngest, Stephen. I’m so proud of them all.

What sort of future do you envisage for yourself and your family?

I would love it if Richard were not so busy with everything, but he likes it that way. For the children, above all, I want them to love God wholeheartedly and to be happy and fulfilled in life, whether they marry or remain single. As for me, I hope to continue spending time with God as I paint and ministering to my family and others for a long while yet. 

Thanks so much, Meg, for allowing us to get know you a little more.


Jo-Anne Berthelsen is an Australian author of seven published novels and two non-fiction works, Soul Friend and Becoming Me. She holds degrees in Arts and Theology and has worked in teaching, editing and local church ministry. Jo-Anne loves encouraging others through both the written and spoken word and is a keen blogger. To read more about Jo-Anne or to purchase her books, please visit www.jo-anneberthelsen.com. Jo-Anne’s latest novel is also available in print and e-book format on Amazon (US) and Amazon Australia.

Book Review: A Dance in Donegal by Jennifer Deibel

A Dance in Donegal by Jennifer Deibel

Feb. 2, 2021, Revell, Paperback, 352 pages.

First of all, can we just agree that this is a gorgeous cover! This historical romance takes place in 1921 when Moira Doherty moves from Boston to her deceased mother’s hometown in County Donegal to take the job of village teacher. There is a secret about her mother that Moira doesn’t figure out until the end. The story explores the theme of trusting God in the face of adversity even when you’d rather run the other way. A strong concept worth exploring.

I liked this book. What I loved most was the depiction of Ireland. The author lived there for several years and described the dialect, the people, the landscape so much more accurately and vividly than many other books set in Ireland I’ve read.

I thought the romance between Moira and Sean was sweet and genuine and the ending satisfying. Midway through the story slowed down a bit for me and there were some plot aspects that either didn’t make sense to me or seemed somewhat forced. That being said, read A Dance in Donegal if you’re eager for a pleasant trip to Ireland, a sweet romance, and an inspiring and satisfying ending.

A note if you don’t normally read Christian fiction: This story has a lot of scripture, characters reading the Bible, and inter dialogue about trusting God. I’m fine with that, but if you’re sensitive to it you should understand that it’s meant for readers of Christian fiction.

Novel PASTimes received an Advanced Copy from the publisher for the purpose of an honest, unbiased review with no obligation.

Meet Moira and her Friends from A Dance in Donegal by Jennifer Deibel

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

Moira, you recently moved to Ireland after your mother passed away. Why did you move there?

Thanks for having me! I had always dreamed of seeing my mother’s home country of Ireland. She used to tell me all about the céilí dances they would have in the town hall. I loved to hear about all the crazy people from her village, and the antics they would get into. But, I never expected to go live there.

However, when Mother died, I started to sense God leading me there. Mother, in fact, had implored me to go just before she passed. I didn’t want to go so far away all by myself, but the more I fought it, the clearer it became that I was meant to go there. 

There seems to be a theme of dance running through your story. Why is that?

I’ve always loved to dance. My favorites were the old style céilí dances our community used to do a few times a year back home in Boston. I used to imagine I was back in the halla of Mother’s village in Ireland as I swirled around the dance floor, and dream of one day visiting there. I had no idea just how much of her hometown I would end up getting to experience.

But, also, I find that a life of faith is much like a dance—with a rhythm and flow all its own. And we can fight the music so we can lead our own way…or we can listen to the One who created the dance—steps, music, and all—and let Him lead us in something more beautiful and joy-filled than we could ever do on our own.

Your mother put your name forward to replace the old school teacher. Why did you decide to go into teaching?

Oh, I just adore children. And I’m highly curious by nature, so education was a natural fit for me. Now that I think of it, Mother used to speak so highly of her childhood teacher in Ireland, Mrs. McGinley, I’m sure that influenced me as well.

You see, there’s truly nothing like that moment when everything falls into place for a student who has been struggling with a certain concept. When they’ve worked so hard, and fought for understanding, to see it all finally make sense is the most wonderful feeling in the world. There’s nothing like it!

So, you moved almost halfway around the world to a new country, a new job, a new culture. How did you combat the loneliness of being so far from home?

Oh goodness, that was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done! In truth, it was so painfully lonely at times that it almost brought physical pain! But, God, in His kindness, brought me good friends.

Bríd, who runs the Guest House where I stayed my first days in town, became one of my closest friends. Her companionship, cultural insight, and—let’s be honest, her tea—was a balm to my grieving, homesick heart. She understood the loss of my mother, and seemed to understand my cultural struggles before I did.

Then, you look at Colm and Peg, and…well…of course, Sean. With a group of friends around you like that, anyone would be hard-pressed to fail.

Yes, it seems Colm and Peg, you played a big role in the adventures Moira ends up taking. How did you meet Moira, and what possessed you to take her in the way you did?

Ah now, ‘tis easy to see Moira’s a lovely lass, so ‘twasn’t difficult to “take her in,” as ye say.

We met through Sean here, my apprentice. Our wee village was hit by a rather nasty gale, and poor Moira’s chalet took some damage. Sean brought me over to help him with the repairs. Moira had a spread o’ tea and cakes set when we arrived, and that was it. I was smitten.

To be fair, though, once the missus and me got to know Moira, we could see she was special. The Laird gave her some mighty tricky tasks, and we wanted to be there to help and support her in any way we could.

Well, she seems very lucky to have friends like you. Sean, you introduced the Colm and Peg to Moira. How did the two of you meet?

Me and Moira? Ah, well…we, ah, bumped into each other a few times afore we were properly introduced. But, I used to help auld Mrs. McGinley at the school, so I wanted to make sure the new teacher was up to the task.

The moment I clapped eyes on Moira in that schoolroom, I could tell she was where she was meant to be. She looked at that space as if ‘twas her own sanctuary. I was drawn to her respect for the profession, and her compassion for the wee ones. But that doesna mean I wasn’t goin’ to give her a bit o’ jest along the way.

Well, thank you all very much for joining us today! Moira, is there anything else you’d like us to know?

Just that Donegal is truly an enchanting place, boasting some of the most rugged and beautiful terrain in all of Ireland—and home to the most boisterous, beautiful, artistic, warm and loving people on earth.

There truly is nothing and no place like Donegal.

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

Jennifer Deibel is a middle school teacher whose work has appeared on
(in)courage, on The Better Mom, in Missions Mosaic magazine, and others. With
firsthand immersive experience abroad, Jennifer writes stories that help redefine
home through the lens of culture, history, and family. After nearly a decade of
living in Ireland and Austria, she now lives in Arizona with her husband and their
three children. You can find her online at www.thisgalsjourney.com.

Book Review: The Nature of Fragile Things by Susan Meissner

Hardcover | $26.00
Published by Berkley
Feb 02, 2021 | 384 Pages | 6 x 9 | ISBN 9780451492180

Set in 1906 during the great San Fransisco earthquake, this new novel by Susan Meissner follows Irish immigrant Sophie Whalen who chose to leave poverty in New York City to become a mail order bride for widower Martin Hocking and his young daughter. But make no mistake. This is not your traditional mail order bride story. This is a mystery to be solved with characters to sort out. Nothing is as it first seems.

Before the earthquake Sophie learns about Martin’s secrets and is forced to make a decision to save the daughter Kat she’s become so fond of. The daughter doesn’t belong to her, however, and the events that unfold deliver twists and turns that made this book extremely hard to put down. The ending wasn’t predictable but like Meissner’s other stories, was satisfying and redemptive. Perhaps more so than in her previous stories, this main character pushes the fringes of good moral behavior, but her motivations gradually become clear, making Sophie a real, raw, character readers will root for.

The historical details are so vivid and detailed that readers will be swept into the story much like watching a film unfold on a big screen. When I read the ending all I could say was, “Wow!” Highly recommended.

I received an advance copy from the publisher for the purpose of review. The opinions in this review are mine alone.

Cindy Thomson, http://www.cindyswriting.com

Interview with Eugene Ely from Ely Air Lines by Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

January 18, 1911

San Francisco, California

Mike: Mr. Ely, it is a pleasure to speak with you. Congratulations—amid all this noise and celebration—on your significant contributions, not only to aviation, but to the world, as the first person to take off and land on a ship! How did events unfold to bring us to this point? 

Eugene Ely: I was traveling the air show circuit, performing what the promoters called “feats of great danger and thrill” when I met Captain Chambers of the U.S. Navy. That was last October. He was convinced it would be possible to take off and land an airplane on a ship, and he’d been appointed by Navy Secretary Meyer to look into how they could use aeroplanes for the military. So he approached me about doing it.

Linda: People have said that if there is one person in the world who would do it, you would be the one. Would you tell us what it’s like to achieve these accomplishments?

Eugene Ely: Of course. First, the takeoff. That was back in November. The 14th. I took off from the USS Birmingham, in a Curtiss Pusher. The Birmingham is a light cruiser, you see, and they built an eighty-three-foot sloping wooden platform for me. It went over the bow like a runway and was just long enough for the Pusher to get airborne (mostly). I flew off the ship and stayed barely above the waves. In fact, my wheels dipped into the water just a little bit, but I was able to pull it up. I wasn’t able to see too well though, because ocean spray splattered all over my goggles. So instead of circling the harbor and landing at the Norfolk Navy Yard as we had planned, I landed on the beach. But it all went well, and we proved what we set out to prove. 

Mike: It was amazing you kept the airplane flying!

Eugene Ely: Yes, well, thank you. Then, of course, we didn’t try to do the landing that same day. I mean, I didn’t land on a ship the same day I took off of one. You see, we wanted to really think this through, the landing part, because landing on a ship is a huge challenge. 

Linda: Yes, a moving target! And now here we are just two months later, in the San Francisco Bay, and you’ve done it! Congratulations, again!

Eugene Ely: Right. Thank you. Well, eventually we will land on a moving target, but today, since we’re just here to prove we can, they anchored the USS Pennsylvania to the bay. And the Curtiss Pusher came through again – it’s a wonderful aeroplane built by Glenn Curtiss, a great designer and builder. 

Mike: And where did you take off from today?

Eugene Ely: I took off from the horse track down in San Bruno. Tanforan. Not far, about ten miles south of here. 

Mike: And this isn’t only the first successful shipboard landing for an aeroplane, is it? There’s something else special about it, too. Would you tell us what that is?

Eugene Ely: Oh yes, we just tested out a new system that Hugh Robinson built called “tailhook.” It caught the hooks on the bottom of my aeroplane to stop me from going into the bay. It was easy enough. I think the trick could be successfully turned nine times out of ten.

Linda: Mr. Ely, even with your reputation as a daring and natural flyer, we understand that most onlookers could not fathom a successful outcome to today’s landing attempt.

Eugene Ely: That’s true. I think many people gathered here expecting to never see me fly again.

Mike: But indeed you will, and thankfully so. So what’s next for you?

Eugene Ely: Well, I’d like to go to work for the Navy, but we’ll see. They need to get organized with an aviation department, and I think I’d be the best candidate to make that happen. So far, Captain Chambers says he’ll keep me in mind, but I think he’s a little uneasy about the kind of exhibition flying I do. But you know, I love this stuff. It’s what I’m made of. I guess I will be like the rest of them, keep at it until I am killed.

Linda: Well, we’d say you’ve had a successful day and a successful career so far. Sirens and whistles are going off on all the ships in the bay. We’re celebrating the birth of Naval Aviation—delivered by a civilian. And it has all begun with a great pilot named Eugene Ely. Thank you, Mr. Ely, it’s been an honor speaking with you.

Mike and Linda Ely’s “Ely Air Lines” (Paper Airplane Publishing, LLC, January 2020) is a collection of 100 short stories selected from the first ten years of the couple’s weekly newspaper column about aviation – but written specifically for the non-flying general public – YOU! The Elys aim to put a face to the flyer’s world.  


Mike Ely has logged thousands of hours over more than forty years as a professional pilot. He holds an airline transport pilot certificate with multiple type ratings and a flight instructor certificate. Mike has taught people to fly in small single engine airplanes, gliders, turboprops, and corporate jets. As a freight pilot and an international corporate pilot, he has flown through all kinds of weather, to many places, both exotic and boring. His love for writing was instilled by his father at an early age.

Linda Street-Ely is an award-winning, multi-genre author and playwright. She also holds an airline transport pilot certificate, a commercial seaplane certificate and a tailwheel endorsement. She has air raced all over the U.S., including four times in the historic all-women’s transcontinental Air Race Classic. Besides flying, Linda has a keen appreciation for great storytelling. She loves to travel the world, meet people, and learn about other cultures because she believes great stories are everywhere.

Together, Linda and Mike are “Team Ely,” five-time National Champions of the Sport Air Racing League, racing their Grumman Cheetah, named the “Elyminator,” and dubbed “The Fastest Cheetah in the Known Universe.” They live in Liberty, Texas.

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BOOK BLURB

Ely Air Lines: Select Stories from 10 Years of a Weekly Column

Volumes 1 and 2 (sold separately)

Delightful stories of flying adventures from around the globe. Adventurous and heartwarming. Written by pilots.

Ely Air Lines is a captivating 2-volume set of 100 short stories that inspire and educate, written by pilots Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely. Step aboard to enjoy a collection of stories that explore the vast realm of the flyer’s world.

Buckle up and fly with Mike and Linda to discover amazing people, interesting places, and the conquest of flight.