Fresh FIction Box Not To Miss
Bryan Litfin | Exclusive Excerpt: EVERY KNEE SHALL BOW
Author Guest / October 8, 2021

In this scene, Flavia, a senator’s daughter, has been enslaved in a Corinthian brothel. Her friend, Rex, a barbarian warrior who has joined the Roman army, has helped Flavia escape by pretending to take her into custody. A handcuff chain joins them at the wrist. Now the guards have discovered the ruse and are chasing the fugitives. Rex and Flavia flee through the streets of Upper Corinth upon a hilltop, looking for a way down to the safety of the surrounding countryside. *** United at the wrist, the two fugitives hurried through the streets, looking for a building in which to hide. But Upper Corinthus was still asleep, so its doors weren’t open yet. Footsteps and shouts in the distance told Rex that the guards had escaped the latrine. Glancing over his shoulder, he saw the pursuers—and they spotted him too. “This way!” he urged Flavia. “We can still lose them!” After switching directions three or four times in the tight alleys, they rounded a corner and found themselves staring at the Temple of Aphro- dite on the citadel’s summit. Unlike the other buildings, its entrance was wide open. Religious awe, not wooden doors, kept intruders out of this particular…

Regina Scott | Title Challenge: A VIEW MOST GLORIOUS
Author Guest / October 6, 2021

A VIEW MOST GLORIOUS, the third book in my American Wonders Collection, is set on my beloved Mt. Rainier, which I can see from my backyard on good days. The historical romance features a feisty heroine with a noble cause and a hero as solid as the mountain. A – Ability to climb, something Coraline Baxter, my heroine, doesn’t have. * V – Votes for women. That’s the reason she’s willing to try to reach the top of a mountain. I – Impossible. That’s her mother’s opinion of the plan. E – Everything. Because that’s what is at stake, not just votes but Cora’s future. W – Wedding to a wealthy man. Because that’s what her mother has planned if Cora fails. * M – Mt. Rainier, her goal O – Over hill and dale, her route S – Summit, her aspiration T – Trust, hard to come by, necessary to climb * G – Guide. The man she needs at her side to see her safely to the top, my hero, Nathan Hardee. L – Love. Something they didn’t expect to find along the way. O – Overachiever. Nathan sees that in Cora. R – Respect. What they gain…

Diana Biller | Exclusive Excerpt: THE BRIGHTEST STAR IN PARIS
Author Guest / September 30, 2021

The Palais Garnier sat fat and contented after its opening night. The final trickle of theatergoers making their way from the building had stopped, and women with scarves tied around their heads pushed brooms and mops across the front steps. The light from the theater, which had poured golden and fizzy like champagne at the beginning of the night, was slowly being extinguished, one window at a time. On a cold, iron bench, Benedict stared up at the single room at the very top of the building. It was still lit—a pale, watery light that spread mere feet across the domed roof beyond its windows. She wouldn’t be there. He doubted she could even climb the stairs after tonight’s performance, with her hip in that condition. She’d danced perfectly tonight. No one would have noticed the injury—even he had sensed rather than seen it. He didn’t know how she was dancing on it. The pain must be unimaginable. Perfect. A strangely unpleasant word. He shivered and pulled his coat closer. After the performance, he and Victor and Camille had gone to a late supper, and then to a bar. After the three had drunk several bottles of champagne (and two…

Debbie Wiley | Discovering New Women in History
Author Guest / September 13, 2021

History was one of my least favorite classes in school. Don’t get me wrong–I had some great teachers and I enjoyed a lot of the South Carolina history we were taught, but a lot of what we learned seemed far off and not relevant to my life. I knew that wasn’t true because one of my awesome teachers quoted us time and again about not forgetting the past or being doomed to repeat it, but I didn’t see it reflected through the history books we studied. Very little was taught about the various individual lives of people, in particular the women in history. Anne Frank’s story brought to life what the Jewish people suffered under Hitler, but I learned about her mainly through my literature classes. In fact, it was through literature classes that I learned about how women were treated as property or outcasted from society for exhibiting behaviors identical to the men of their times. Now here I sit, many, many years later, and I am still learning through literature. Whether it’s a graphic novel, such as PERSEPOLIS by Marjane Satrapi, or a novel such as BRIGID OF KILDARE by Heather Terrell, there is so much history to…

Jane Kirkpatrick | How Music Heals
Author Guest / September 8, 2021

The poet Maya Angelou once wrote that as a child “Music was my refuge. I climbed inside the space between the notes and curled my back to loneliness.” She was in tune with musician Natalie Curtis of The Healing of Natalie Curtis (Revell). Though not a child when she had a mental collapse before her New York Philharmonic debut in 1897, nevertheless she sought her healing in the discovery of the music of the Indigenous people of America’s Southwest. Her healing reflects what a century later psychologists at Baylor University discovered. They worked with children who had experienced trauma of various kinds: loss of home, death of a parent, abuse. What researchers found is that traditional counseling like I was trained to do as a Clinical Social Worker, was not as effective as movement (dance, woodworking), art (painting,  photography); story — reading and writing them;  and yes, music. These sensory experiences bypass the critical side and reach the amygdala oblongata, the part of the brain associated with emotion that does not shut down when the rest of a body might go into survival mode, which is where trauma sends us. I had my own experience with musical healing. When I…

Joanna Davidson Politano | Exclusive Excerpt: A MIDNIGHT DANCE
Author Guest / September 3, 2021

Keeping his gaze on me, he unhooked a wooden bar hanging on long ropes and tossed it over. “Now, let’s start, shall we?” His look was challenging. I gripped the bar and tugged. “You don’t truly expect me to swing through the air on this contraption, do you? How will that help me dance?” “What you’ve done isn’t working, is it? I aim to give you new experiences, push you off a few of your precious safety ledges. Now hold on.” “But I’m afraid of—” “I said, hold on.” . . . heights. A gentle shove against my back and I was hurtling through open space, high over the straw-covered floors. I clutched that awful bar for dear life, digging my fingernails into the wood. I squeezed my eyes shut as I sailed through the air, then I forced one eyelid open. Another platform rose up to meet me, and I scrambled to get my feet onto it, but as my shoes touched wood, my weight pulled me back down. I trembled on the swing back, until I felt solid hands around my waist. Jack hauled me onto the loft and steadied me. “Now you know what it feels like to fly.” “I…

Amanda Cox | Exclusive Excerpt: THE SECRET KEEPERS OF OLD DEPOT GROCERY
Author Guest / September 1, 2021

March 1967 Glory Ann scooped her daughter from the back seat, relishing the sweet pudge still lingering on the fifteen-month-old’s lengthening legs. The curly-haired tot pushed back from her mother’s embrace and bore her blue-eyed gaze into Glory Ann’s. “Down! Me do it.” Glory Ann swiped a thumb across the child’s sticky cheek. “Okay, but stay close and no running. It’s Gramma Hawthorne’s birthday.” Her chest tightened. “And we must be on our very, very best behavior.” Glory Ann put her daughter down and straightened the crumpled flounces of the tiny pink dress. She then smoothed the front of her own orange shift. “Now, hold my hand.” It had been months since she’d been home to see her parents, and though her mother promised she’d come to Brighton, she had never made the one-hour drive. Not in the many months her little one grew in her middle. Not when she’d labored in the sterile hospital, longing for her mother’s hand to hold. Nor any other time during the fifteen months of her daughter’s life. She took a shaking breath and found an anchor in her child’s tight grip on her thumb. It had seemed a fun idea to surprise Mother…

Jennifer Vido | Jen’s Jewels Interview: THE SHOW GIRL BY NICOLA HARRISON
Author Guest / August 27, 2021

Jen: What inspired you to write THE SHOW GIRL? Nicola: Well, the truth is I had no idea I would be writing about a Ziegfeld show girl when I started thinking about my second novel. I had written article for a travel magazine about a hotel in the Adirondacks called The Point that was originally built by William Avery Rockefeller II to use as his family’s summer compound. Today it’s a five-star resort that promises guests a taste of times gone by while “roughing it” in extreme luxury. Through my research for this article, I learned about several of these “Great Camps” along the rugged lakeshores of upstate New York all built by Guided Age magnates and I knew that there was a story hiding out in those woods that was begging to be told, I just didn’t know what that story was yet. So, on a chilly Friday afternoon my husband, my son and our two chihuahuas loaded into the car and drove the five-and-a half hours from Manhattan to Saranac Lake in the Adirondacks where we stayed at one of these “Great Camps” called White Pines Camp. The next morning we were given a tour of the 13…

Georgie Blalock | Exclusive Excerpt: THE LAST DEBUTANTES
Author Guest / August 23, 2021

“Mr. Astor, a pleasure to see you this evening,” the dark-coated maître d’ greeted, flashing a wide smile beneath his thin mustache. “A pleasure to be here. Anyone we should be concerned about inside? We have the Premier’s niece, Miss Katherine Ormsby-Gore, Miss Dinah Brand, and Miss Christian Grant.” “Michael, don’t tell him who we are.” Katherine glanced around as if anyone who was mingling nearby might care or notice. “Don’t fret, Mr. Rossi won’t tell a soul you’ve been here.” “If I were so indiscreet we’d be closed in a month,” Mr. Rossi assured them. “Not to worry, ladies, no one of concern to any of you is here tonight. Should one arrive, I’ll notify you at once. We don’t like awkward scenes at the 400 Club.” “How does he know who we should and shouldn’t be worried about?” Valerie whispered to Jakie. “Mr. Rossi knows more about people’s lineage than Debrett’s. Don’t worry, you’re in capable hands.” “Table forty-eight, John.” He handed them off to a young waiter, who led them into the heart of the small and dimly lit club. Valerie and the girls gaped at the pillars holding up the low ceiling and the dark silk…

Roxanne Veletzos | Exclusive Excerpt: WHEN THE SUMMER WAS OURS
Author Guest / August 18, 2021

Three, four days in a row, Aleandro had been drawing the girl in the square. At times, it felt somehow wrong, as if he were stealing something from her, but what harm was there in it? It was the only hour in his long day when he felt unburdened, free. There were no demands of him here in the cool shade of the church, no brothers to feed, no fiddle to play, no one to answer to. It was only him and his charcoals and this face, this Botticelli face that inspired his hands to move as never before. When he first set his eyes on her all of five days ago, she stopped him in his tracks. She was beautiful, there was no denying it, but he’d seen plenty of beautiful women before. Unlike girls of her age, there was no flirtatiousness in her walk—she walked straight and powerfully, with purpose, a bit like a man—even though everything about her was feminine, the honey-blond tresses reaching down to her waist, the small feet inside the red sandals, the slender calves. At the café, she sat at a table under the geranium balcony and took off her sunglasses, and her…