The image from the cover of "The Newcomer," purchased from istock.com
I published the first Saint Maggie novel in 2011, but it wasn't until 2019 that I decided to tell the story of how Eli and Maggie met - and that was after at least three full-length novels. I knew the basics of their backstory, but I wanted to flesh it out.
And so I wrote a little tale set in 1855 about a semi-sketchy guy named Eli, who, while his way to New York City, decides to sojourn in Blaineton in order to raise enough money to continue his journey.
As he checks out the little New Jersey town, he meets a kind-hearted widow named Maggie who runs a boarding house. She hesitantly agrees to rent him the old caretaker's house. But as nice and welcoming as she is, Eli senses that Maggie is hiding something. And it has to do with what is behind the door to the cellar in the old caretaker's house.
Download the fee PDF file below to read the first part of the story. It will be followed by other installments, which also will befree. They are my gift to you.
Janet R. Stafford
I’ve always said that I never intended to write a series, but when I look back on the way I wrote as a teen and young adult, I must admit that I already was writing and telling stories that way. Most likely I was influenced by the structure of television, which produced long-running shows at that time. So, I’m now the author of my own series, the Saint Maggie series. There are at least three ways to look at the stories within it.
1) We may read them by type: novels, novellas, and short stories.
2) We may read them in the order I published them, starting with Saint Maggie (2011).
3) Or, we may read them in chronological order according to the historical setting in which the characters live. This is what I will be doing for the next few weeks.
This blog is dedicated to “The Dundee Cake,” which deals with Maggie’s life before 1860.
I am by no means a best-selling author, but in my world as an unknown author, “The Dundee Cake” is my biggest selling book. I have a couple of ideas as to why that might be.
First, it is an old-fashioned Christmas story with echoes of O. Henry’s “The Gift of the Magi” and Louisa May Alcott’s Christmas scenes in Little Women.
Second, it has a recipe for a Dundee cake at the end of the book.
Third, there’s that gorgeous picture of a Dundee cake on the cover. Seriously, I’d buy the book just to drool over that image. However, since I have actually made the cake, I am of the opinion that if you’re going to drool over something, make the cake and drool over that. It’s delicious!
Anyway, “The Dundee Cake” takes us back to 1852. Maggie Beatty Blaine is a widow and a grieving mother. John Blaine, her husband of ten years, and their two-year-old son Gideon both died of rheumatic fever in February 1850. To add to Maggie’s pain, Aunt Letty Blaine, who had given the young couple a place to live after their elopement in 1840, died earlier in the year.
Fortunately, Letty was a wise and compassionate elder and was determined to help Maggie support herself and her two daughters (Lydia and Frankie). Letty turned her home on the Blaineton town square into a boarding house and, under her tutelage, Maggie became a landlady.
Maggie is not a terribly successful landlady, though. She has a big heart and takes in men who barely can afford to pay their rent. In Letty’s absence, Maggie also struggles with the cooking, cleaning, and other duties. Desperate, she manages to scrape together just enough money to hire a cook and assistant housekeeper. The cook’s name is Emily Johnson, and although the two women are of different colors (Maggie is white, and Emily is black), they become friends as they work and talk together about their lives.
Now it is Christmas. Although Maggie still struggles with her own grief, she seeks to make Christmas Day special for her daughters, as well as for her four boarders. Her problem is obvious: she has a chronic shortage of cash, and there is no way that this Christmas will be the celebration that it had been in the past.
It is only when Emily Johnson and her husband Nate experience a tragedy that Maggie puts her own troubles on the back burner. With the assistance of her daughters and boarders, she sets out to help her new friends.
You may find “The Dundee Cake” at:
Barnes & Noble ($7.00)
Kindle ($0.00 Kindle Unlimited; $0.99 to buy)
Amazon paperback ($7.00)
Until next week, stay strong and be kind!
Janet R. Stafford
Yes, that’s me up there in the photo. I’m looking pretty chipper, although at the time I was annoyed that my computer was taking more time than usual to boot up. Also, I was jealous of my dog, Vida, seen to my left, who was taking a nap. Anyway, I needed an image and this had to do the job.
Now on to the real point of this blog.
About a month ago, I went to my orthopedist because I thought I had arthritis in my hip. I’ve been having gel shots in my knees for years and I thought, “Here we go again with the arthritis issues.”
But that wasn’t the problem.
After taking some x-rays, we learned that I have degenerative disc disease in my upper back. Simply put, the little discs that serve as cushions between the vertebrae had broken down or degenerated (due to age, in my case), thus putting pressure on the nerves in my spinal column. This was causing pain in my hip that radiated down my leg to my ankle. I also was beginning to experience numbness.
Anyway, my doctor told me that nerve-related stuff was out of his wheelhouse and, super guy that he is, wrote out a list of things that I could do next. Among them were medicine, surgery, and physical therapy.
I chose physical therapy. The next thing I knew I was walking across the hall to the pain management center and clutching a prescription for 12 PT sessions.
For the last month, I have been going three times a week. I have learned what exercises to do at home, how to work out on some of the equipment, and have received massages. At the last two visits, a technician did manual manipulation on my spine, which is an effort to put some space between my vertebrae. The good news is it works!
But all this has thrown my normally well-regulated life into a bit of chaos. I was juggling PT sessions, my job as assistant pastor/director of education/communications director at a United Methodist church, visits to my partner Dan, walking, feeding, and enjoying my hound dog, writing a novel, and blogging.
So I chose to put blogging on the back burner. Although I have been told to post blogs on a regular basis, it was annoying and enervating to take 2-3 hours to write something, find an image, and post the blog on my website and other social media when I could be doing something I really enjoyed, like finishing that dang novel.
But now I’m back, despite a degenerate back… I mean, degenerating discs.
Over the coming weeks, I’ll give each story in the world of Saint Maggie its own little blog that will offer a look into the plot and provide links to where you may find the book.
Until then, be like Maggie: be kind, practice love, have hope.
Janet R. Stafford
Janet Stafford, Squeaking Pips Founder