Heart image from: http://clipart-library.com/clip-art/transparent-heart-clipart-15.htm (Transparent Heart Clipart #1581678; License: Personal Use)
As an author I often wonder if my fellow authors have favorite parts of their stories or books. It only makes sense. When we see a movie, listen to music, see a play, or read a book there invariably is a scene or even a line that becomes a favorite. If that is the case, then why shouldn’t authors have favorite parts of their own works?
Yes, I do have favorite parts of the things I’ve written. Usually, they involve a scene in which characters suddenly reveal something about themselves.
Today’s example comes from A Good Community: Saint Maggie Series Book 5.
Let me briefly set the scene: Greybeal House, home to Maggie and her extended family, narrowly escapes being set on fire by a gang of youth. But other disturbing news quickly greets the family: Water Street and Blaineton itself is on fire.
Maggie and family hurry to the square to do what they can to help. Eli and the other men and some of the women go off to fight the fire. Maggie stays in the square helps daughter Lydia and Dr. Lightner treat people injured in the fire.
If you know anything about the Saint Maggie series, you will know that Eli – who at heart is a man of peace – usually jumps into the middle of conflict to diffuse a potentially violent situation. And he almost always gets hurt. He has been shot, stabbed, and during a retreat by the Union Army nearly blown up by a shell.
The man’s just asking for it, especially since he has a bum leg and gets around only with the help of a cane. He’s vulnerable as all get out. But he goes for it nearly every time.
As I wrote A Good Community, I found myself thinking: “Wait a minute. Eli’s off fighting a fire and Maggie’s in the square trying to help the injured. Maggie does not know what Eli is up to. What must she be thinking and fearing?”
And I realized that Maggie would be worried sick.
So… finally, in Book 5, Maggie tells hubby that enough is enough.
Scene set up:
Exhausted from working in the square all night and worried about Eli, Maggie lies down on a donated blanket and falls asleep. But she is not asleep for long.
“So there you are! I’ve been looking all over for you.”
Maggie’s eyes flew open. “Eli?” She sat up.
“One and the same.” Her husband plopped clumsily down beside her. His face, hands, and clothing were smudged with soot.
“Oh, my dear, dear love…” She placed a palm on the side of his face. “Oh, you’re all right!” And then the emotions of the night – the fear, the sorrow, the worry – hit her and hit her hard. Maggie fell into tears. “Oh, Eli, I was so worried!”
Eli gathered her up in his arms.
“You’re all right.”
“Shh,” he whispered. “I am. And so are you. We’re both fine.”
She sobbed helplessly.
“No, no, no,” he murmured, disturbed by her tears. “Maggie, don’t. I’m fine. I’m fine.”
At that, she abruptly drew back and gave his shoulder an angry push.
“Ow,” Eli yelped, more confused than hurt. “What’d you do that for?”
“Because of you! Why’d you do this? Why’d you go off like you did? I heard nothing for hours! I was so worried!”
Eli caressed her hair. Some of it had escaped her braid. He pushed a strand back behind one of her ears. “But, sweetheart…”
“No! Don’t say, ‘sweetheart,’ as if that solves anything. You’re always trying to stop something bad from happening and then it happens to you!”
“That’s because I’m a Quaker?” he stammered.
“You’re not a Quaker, Eli.”
“Well, maybe not according to them, but in my heart I am.”
“And that was what made you try to take the gun away from Carrie? That was what made you go off chasing war stories and nearly got you blown up? That was what made you jump between Mr. Norton and that terrible man at the hospital?”
Eli winced. Her words stung. “You’re right,” he admitted after a pause. “And I’m sorry. I should have told you all I intended to do was throw water on houses and bushes. I would never run into a burning building.”
“That’s because you can’t run.”
“That’s right! I can’t. My leg won’t let me.” He took her hand. “Look, I know how much you worry. I really do. And I’m sorry.” He tenderly kissed her on the cheek. “Will you forgive me? Please?”
Well, of course, Maggie forgives him! Eli’s her husband. She loves him with all her heart. But I like the fact that she gets a little physical with him to make her point. Sometimes Eli can be thick as a brick.
We might wonder, after that little scene in A Good Community, whether Eli will be more thoughtful and less impulsive? I think there’s hope for him. However, there wasn’t much he could do in book 6, A Balm in Gilead, except expose himself to typhoid fever – which thankfully he didn’t do.
The question remains... has Eli really learned his lesson?
I guess we’ll all just have to wait and see. That includes me. Do you think I honestly have any idea what Eli is going to do? Most authors will tell you that characters, once created, often call their own shots. It’s true. Really.
Anyway, later, gators! See you in a week.
As Ringo Starr says, Peace and love,
Janet R. Stafford
Image from http://clipart-library.com/clipart/273171.htm (Prosecutor Cliparts #223970: License: Personal Use)
After more research, I discovered that the term "typhoid fever" was indeed in use by 1864. In fact, Dr. William Budd, who originally made the connection between polluted drinking water and "intestinal fever" used the term as the title of his 1861 book, The Propagation of Typhoid Fever.
So... yay! I saved myself some work.
Most of us will agree that 2021 was not the easiest of years. As someone who writes fiction, I found that the pandemic and the upheaval in the USA had an impact on my writing, not to mention my attitude.
For one, I gave up blogging. Let me be honest, though. I don’t like blogging. It takes time away that could be spent working on my next project. And yet blogging is a powerful way to keep in touch with people.
Additionally, blogging potentially puts my name and work out there to a wider audience than, say, my little group of rabid, hardcore Maggie fans (who I dearly love).
However, the stresses of the past year made it difficult for me to work up the energy to blog and to work on A Balm in Gilead or other projects. Part of it came about because my other job became so intense. I am assistant minister/Christian education director/ and director of communications (whew!) at a church. During 2020 and 2021, we redesigned how we did worship, faith formation, and many other things that we took for granted. It exhausted me and, if I am to be honest, put me into a funk that made it difficult to write.
The good news is that I’m pulling out of that funk and looking ahead to a more productive year.
First up, A Balm in Gilead finally is out there as both a paperback and on Kindle. Writing a novel about an epidemic while we were (and still are) experiencing a pandemic was a weird experience. But an important difference between the typhoid fever epidemic in the mid-1800s and COVID in the 2020s is that people in Maggie’s time did not know exactly what caused the fever nor did they know how to prevent and fight it.
I realize that I made a crucial mistake in Balm: my characters refer to the fever as “typhoid fever,” but the bacillus responsible for the fever was identified by Karl Joseph Eberth in 1880. And in 1884, pathologist Georg Gaffky finally gave it a name: Eberthella typhi. Today it is called Salmonella enterica. (https://www.news-medical.net/health/Typhoid-Fever-History.aspx) Oopsy! Major goof. Someone has a lousy editor. Oh, wait, that editor is me!
In the Civil War era, typhoid fever was rampant in both Union and Confederate encampments, where it was called “camp fever,” “continued fever,” or “break bone fever,” among other things. (https://www.wvtf.org/civil-war-series/2019-12-21/typhoid-fever).
Long story short, I will be changing any “typhoid fever” references made by characters to another name. And I will be doing it this coming week!
Next, I’m doing an edit on Saint Maggie, which is the first book in the series. Last year was the 10th anniversary of the novel’s publication, so I thought I’d clean it up a little and reformat the manuscript, so it looks more like the books that followed.
Another goal for 2022 is the release of Frankie and Patrick’s wedding story and perhaps the story of their journey to their new home in Colorado. These will serve to launch a spin-off series featuring Frankie and her new hubby.
What else? Well, who knows? This whole publishing thing is a big adventure. And I’m happy and grateful to have old and new friends join me on it.
Meanwhile, dear readers, may the new year bring you more blessings than troubles!
Until then, remember to be kind and to love others (the world needs it so),
Janet R. Stafford
Janet Stafford, Squeaking Pips Founder