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How about a sneak preview of A Balm in Gilead? The first chapter is below to whet your appetite and find out what the Greybeal House family is doing in the late summer and early fall of 1864.
I’m excited to get the “bugs” (interpretation: the spelling and grammatical errors, and other weird stuff) out of the manuscript so I can get it published and share it with everyone.
My beta readers gave A Balm in Gilead A+ grades, which makes me confident that folks out there will enjoy the story.
Even though Maggie lives in the USA during the 1860s, I feel that she has something to say to those of us living in the early 21st century. After all, the 1860s were contentious times in the USA, and so are the 2020s. Perhaps there is something we can learn from those days.
There also is a story to enjoy with characters with whom you are familiar if you have followed the series. The small town of Blaineton is a fractious place – people are frustrated, feel that other people are threatening their well-being, and so much more. And that means those folks are not terribly different from us. We can identify with them, even when we’re cringing!
So, feel welcome to read the first chapter. You’ll find hints as to where the story is going character-wise and story line-wise.
Hope you enjoy it.
Also – Please remember to be kind!
Janet R. Stafford
An "almost cover reveal." We're getting there. Just need to work on making one of the ladies' dress sleeves less puffy (less 1890s and more 1860s) and fix the company name (I'm Squeaking Pips Books now). Otherwise, we're getting there!
A Balm in Gilead is set to be published on December 15.
Order a copy. Order one for friends and family. Oder some for total strangers. Okay. I'm going waaay overboard. But I'm excited that this latest installment of the Saint Maggie series will soon be out!
(The image for the cover of Walk by Faith)
In the novels that follow Saint Maggie, Maggie Beatty Blaine Smith finds herself in situations over which she has even less control than she did in Blaineton.
Walk by Faith opens in early 1863 with Maggie’s boarding house and Eli’s print shop burning to the ground. The event is the work of arsonists out to teach a lesson to Maggie and her family.
Confused and frightened, the boarding house family takes refuge in Madame Louisa’s dry goods shop. Shortly thereafter, the homeless group moves into Maggie’s brother Samuel now that the break between them has healed.
Despite her brother and sister-in-law’s kindness, Maggie feels abandoned by Eli, who is working as a war correspondent for his little penny weekly, The Gazette. He also took his friend, Chester Carson, with him. Also missing are the men in her daughters’ lives: Frankie’s beau, Patrick McCoy, and Lydia’s husband, Edgar Lape. Thus, the layers of protection afforded by having six men around her has been reduced to three: Nate Johnson and James “Grandpa” O’Reilly from the boarding house and her brother-in-law.
Maggie’s life spins further out of control when Eli returns to New Jersey with the news that he will be moving everyone to his family’s old home in Gettysburg and will help with the Underground Railroad.
Since Maggie has never been further away from Blaineton than Trenton, moving to an unknown place as refugees is unsettling and contains many unknowns. To make matters worse, once they move in, Eli takes off for the war again and the rift between them deepens on Maggie’s side.
A few months later, in July of 1863, war comes to Gettysburg in the form of one of the more traumatic battles. Now Maggie, Emily, Frankie, and Lydia face caring for wounded soldiers and the arrival of an adversary from Blaineton, who is out for revenge.
After the hellish battle ends, it is safe for Eli, Carson, and Patrick to travel into the town. But, instead of welcoming her husband, a devastated Maggie lashes out at him and ends by giving him the surprising news that she is pregnant.
While my central character clearly has suffered tremendous trauma, her time in Gettysburg contributes to her growing strength and resolve, as well as gives her a clear-eyed understanding of the world beyond Blaineton.
But right now, at the conclusion of Walk by Faith, Maggie needs to recover and rest, something which Eli aims to give her in the following book, A Time to Heal.
Janet R. Stafford
How I see a very tired, rather young Maggie at a time when she is gossip fodder for Blaineton. Image purchased from iStockphoto (https://www.istockphoto.com/vector/young-women-seated-at-desk-1862-journal-gm471427101-20625385)
Although my next book in the Saint Maggie series involves an epidemic, I don’t want to neglect another important aspect of the book. It is odd that I did not notice this right off the bat, but I suddenly realized that the character of Maggie Beatty Blaine Smith has a trajectory. One would think that as the author and her creator, I would realize that something significant was happening. But I didn’t, although it now is clear to me that my subconscious obviously had a plan for my central character. So, let’s start the journey!
In A Balm in Gilead, Maggie explains that she once was the widow “who owned a boarding house filled with men with strange jobs who scarcely paid me rent.” Whispers circulated throughout Blaineton because Maggie dared to have Emily Johnson, a Black woman, as her best friend. More pearl-clutching yet, Emily and her husband Nate lived in the same house with them – and right on Blaineton’s town square! Oh, the scandal of it all!
Rumors also circulated about Maggie’s alleged involvement in the Underground Railroad, something which was a reality. However, Nate and Emily, who were the "station masters” in Blaineton, invited the kind-hearted Maggie into the movement. The three of them, with the knowledge of the men who lived in the boarding house, helped freedom seekers make the journey north to New York state and beyond (often to Canada). Eli Smith, who later marries Maggie (see Saint Maggie), joins the operation shortly after he takes up residence and starts a penny weekly newspaper in the old caretaker’s house on Maggie’s property (see, The Newcomer).
But Maggie becomes even more of a pariah when she shows compassion on a man who has committed murder and, with Eli’s help, seeks to uncover the whole story (see Saint Maggie).
So, how does the lowly Maggie in a mere four years develop enough power and self-confidence to bring the squabbling population of Blaineton into a newly born unity and at the same time consider running for the office of Town Council?
More next week!
Remember: be kind like Maggie.
Janet R. Stafford
Janet Stafford, Squeaking Pips Founder