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“No one’s insights about the craft and journey of being an artist have guided me in the day-to-day struggle of this profession more than Steven Pressfield. Wherever you are, whatever you’ve been called to make, you need to read this book…and everything else he has written.”
— Ryan Holiday, Bestselling Author of Ego Is the Enemy and The Obstacle Is the Way
YOU ARE AN ARTIST … AND YOU HAVE AN ARTIST’S JOURNEY
I have a theory about the Hero’s Journey. We all have one. We have many, in fact. But our primary hero’s journey is the passage we live out, in real life, before we find our calling.
The hero’s journey ends when, like Odysseus, we return home to Ithaca, to the place from which we started.
The passage that comes next is The Artist’s Journey.
On our artist’s journey, we move past Resistance and past self-sabotage. We discover our true selves and our authentic calling, and we produce the works we were born to create.
You are an artist too—whether you realize it or not, whether you like it or not—and you have an artist’s journey. Will you live it out? Will you follow your Muse and do the work you were born to do?
Ready or not, you are called.
Gina Romano is a highly successful trial lawyer with Bergman/Deketomis, a firm dedicated to protecting the public by exposing and penalizing corporate crooks and their allies in government. Well into her thirties, Gina hasn’t overcome the anger and defensiveness resulting from a bizarre and traumatic childhood. As she contemplates whether to marry solid, attractive and loyal veterinarian Bryan Penn or to send him packing, the murder of a friend and mentor, Angus Moore, turns her life into a quest for vengeance. In consort with partner Nick Deketomis, Gina runs headlong into a life and death struggle against weapons manufacturers, a gun rights lobbyist, psychopathic Chicago police, a hi-tech genius assassin, and the U.S. Department of Justice. Still, the most formidable and dangerous enemy she faces is herself.
The Bergman-Deketomis Law Firm undergoes a severe blow when one of their own is murdered while investigating a large U.S. Weapons manufacturer. The enemy never plays by the rules. What happens when the enemy strikes close to home? Lawyers in the firm are tested by the law of vengeance when their morals begin to blur.
I loved the introduction, background, development, and point of view of lawyer Gina Romano. Exceptional. Her character made all the difference and really spiced things up a bit. The legalese and hairy cases are always fascinating but having great characters can’t be beat. Loved it.
Mike Papantonio is a senior partner of Levin Papantonio, one of the largest plaintiffs’ law firms in America, that has handled thousands of cases throughout the nation involving pharmaceutical drug litigation, Florida tobacco litigation, litigation for asbestos-related health damage, securities fraud actions, and other mass tort cases. “Pap” has received dozens of multimillion dollar verdicts on behalf of victims of corporate corruption.
Papantonio is one of the youngest attorneys to have been inducted into the Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame. In 2012 Papantonio became President of the National Trial Lawyers Association, one of the largest trial lawyer organizations in America. For his trial work on behalf of consumers, Papantonio has received some of the most prestigious awards reserved by the Public Justice Foundation, The American Association for Justice, and the National Trial Lawyers Association.
Papantonio is an author of four motivational books for lawyers. He is also co-author of Air America: The Playbook, a New York Times Political Best Seller.
Papantonio is the host of the nationally syndicated radio show “Ring of Fire” along with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., and Sam Seder. Papantonio has conducted hundreds of recorded interviews with guests, including Dan Rather, Helen Thomas, Howard Zinn, Arianna Huffington, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Bernie Sanders, David Crosby, Merle Haggard, Morgan Spurlock, John Edwards, Bill Moyers, Rickie Lee Jones, Alanis Morissette, Pete Seeger, Jackson Browne, Chuck D from Public Enemy, Henry Rollins, Ted Sorensen, and Elizabeth Kucinich. His role on “Ring of Fire” is featured in the movie, “Jesus Camp,” which was nominated for the 2007 Academy Award for Documentary Feature.
Papantonio is also a political commentator who frequently appears on MSNBC, Free Speech TV, RT America Network, and Fox News.
Papantonio is married and has one daughter. He is an avid scuba diver and often dives on the Emerald Coast.
This post is dedicated to all the book lovers out there. You may or may not be a book hoarder because there’s a big difference between the two. I currently have 1,725 books on my “to be read” list and it’s still increasing at an alarming rate. Yikes!
If this is you don’t despair! We need a change in our mindset, our strategy. For this I’d like to present to you a challenge. The #BookHoarders challenge. I have some ideas so tell me what you think.
Jon Land is the USA Today bestselling author of the 38 novels, including seven titles in the critically acclaimed Caitlin Strong series: Strong Enough to Die, Strong Justice, Strong at the Break, Strong Vengeance, Strong Rain Falling (winner of the 2014 International Book Award and 2013 USA Best Book Award for Mystery-Suspense) and Strong Darkness (winner of the 2014 USA Books Best Book Award and the 2015 International Book Award for Thriller). Caitlin Strong returns this October in Strong Light of Day, to be followed by Darkness Rising, his sci-fi collaboration with Heather Graham coming from Forge in June of 2016. Jon is a 1979 graduate of Brown University, lives in Providence, Rhode Island and can be found on the Web at jonlandbooks.com or on Twitter @jondland.
Tell us about the decision to write a thriller with a female lead.
Well, confession time here, starting this series was as much a marketing decision as a creative one. I owe the whole concept to the head of mass market sales for Tor/Forge Publishing going back about a decade. At a meeting where we were discussing trends in publishing, he raised the point that thrillers were the most popular genre and 70% of books were bought by women. Yet nobody at the table could name a single female thriller hero. Mystery, yes. But a female Jack Reacher? Uh-uh. So then and there I piped in with “What about a female Texas Ranger?” And in that moment Caitlin was born.
What do you appreciate about the Texas Rangers?
So many things! First and foremost, they are the most famous and legendary lawmen in American history. The only frontier body out of the Old West to still be around today—and not just around, they’re still operating pretty much as they always have. They’re still gunfighters by reputation, even if they never have draw their weapon. They still command the same respect they always have and have built wondrously on the folklore of their forebears. All those great stories of the likes of Bill McDonald, Jack Hayes, Frank Hamer, Manuel “Lone Wolf” Gonzaulles, and so many more. You see so many male thriller heroes who are ex Special Forces, Navy SEALs, or something like that. Since women can’t service in active duty for special ops, making Caitlin Strong a Texas Ranger was the next best thing.
Did you do any travel related research?
You can never do enough. I get to Texas twice a year and base scenes on where I visit. So you’ll see a lot of Midland in STRONG LIGHT OF DAY, a lot of Houston in STRONG COLD DEAD, and a ton of Austin in STRONG TO THE BONE which comes out December 5. I’m a whiz when it comes to Google searches and, another confession, I write about a ton of places in Texas that I’ve never been to.
What’s your process with research? Is there a method to the madness?
That’s a great question because it comes down to process. The method to my madness is not really having a method. I don’t outline and am very spontaneous in my writing, figuring if I don’t know what’s going to happen next, the reader can’t possibly know. So I don’t necessarily know what research I need to do before I start a book. I’ll actually do the bulk of it in the midst of the writing. If I need to know something as specific as the kind of tree you might find a body under in Laramie. Or what that tree smells like. Or what diner Caitlin might in when she visits this town or that. Attention to detail is crucial but the real trick is knowing how much not to say so the reader is left with the impression that I’ve been there, mostly because I don’t give them enough to figure out that I haven’t.
How do you view Caitlin Strong among all the characters you’ve created over the years?
Easily the best and most fun I’ve ever written. I have so much faith in all of them, meaning I let them do the heavy lifting when it comes to figuring out the plot—or, better stated, my characters are also my collaborators. The reason I can take the risk of being so spontaneous, of literally not knowing exactly where I’m going or how I’m going to get there, is because I trust my character can sketch out the roadmap for me. They write their own dialogue, they make their own decisions, they make their own mistakes. Some of the best scenes I’ve written in this series, I can’t even tell you where they came from.
What are the stakes and do they affect Caitlin personally?
As far as STRONG TO THE BONE goes, it’s the most personal of any book in the series because we learn for the first time that Caitlin was raped 18 years before when she was in college. The man was never caught. He just disappeared. And now he’s back, his DNA showing up in another victim of sexual assault. So Caitlin, all grown up and a Texas Ranger now, has a chance to slay her greatest dragon. Which brings us to the question of whether she really wants to, because she’s afraid catching him will strip her of the edge that defines who she is. As you can see, there are often aren’t easy answers in this series!
Is it difficult writing a female lead?
Not really, because she’s so real to me, as are all of my characters. I’ve written serial killers and terrorists, when I’m not either of those. I’ve written Israelis, Palestinians, teenagers, along with blind, deaf and people suffering from other disabilities. And I’m none of those things either. Well, breaking news, you can add to that list the fat that I’m not a woman. Storytelling springs not from the conscious mind but from the imagination, where anything is possible. The key to being a great storyteller is to able to recapture the magic of role playing that children do. I think that’s why so many love books as a adults: because it makes them feel like kids again, the way I feel when I’m writing.
How have readers responded to her thus far?
Beyond anything I ever could have imagined. She doesn’t have the sales of the Jack Reacher books, but I honestly believe she compares very favorably to Lee Child’s iconic hero. The thing about those books, and the ones featuring Caitlin, is they’re both essentially modern day Westerns. The storytelling, at its heart, is very basic: Somebody good willing to do anything it takes to stop somebody bad from doing something really wrong. That’s the crucial element of this series and any great thriller, as well as why readers have responded to Caitlin as positively as they have: she isn’t just about solving crimes, she’s about preventing something much worse from happening. That’s what makes a true hero.
Marie Silk has enjoyed writing stories and plays since childhood. She lives with her family in the United States and travels the globe as often as life permits. She is an admirer of history, antiques, and architecture. She enjoys traveling the world, sampling new cuisines, and learning about history. She has written stories and plays in many genres since childhood. Marie is the author of the Amazon Best Selling series Davenport House family saga.
*Where are you from originally?
I was born in sunny Southern California and now live in the rustic northwest USA.
I used to live in sunny Southern California, but I’ve only been to the northwest once. Can’t wait to go back!
*What sort of books did you read growing up?
I enjoyed reading books about angels, adventure, and history. I also liked the pioneer-type books about survival in early America.
I’m always up for a good adventure. Then history, admittedly my worst subject, has grown on me the entire year!
*Who were your favorite characters and what did you appreciate about them?
My favorite characters were probably Jay and Lila from Frank Peretti’s YA adventure series. I thought it was neat that they got to travel to amazing destinations.
Hmm…I haven’t heard of them before. I’ll have to look them up now!
*What sort of plays have you written?
The plays I have written are mostly comedy and parody.
Oh wow, I love comedy. I was practically raised by comedians. Guess that’s where I get my funny bones. I’d love to read your plays sometime.
*What are your favorite antiques?
My favorite antiques include centuries-old furniture like dressing tables, room dividers, and canopy beds.
Cool! I like antiques too. Pottery in particular. There’s something artistic about it that gives you a rich appreciation of history.
*What are your favorite historical architectures?
My favorite architecture is Gothic…not so much the skulls and gargoyles, but the intricate carved detail and stained glass windows!
I don’t know much about Gothic architecture, but I agree with you that it’s beautiful!!
*Can you describe any significant ones in your stories?
In my first book, the ladies go shopping at Wanamaker’s, which is a real store now known as the Macy’s that hosts the Thanksgiving parades. The building is exquisite!
*How did you come to love history?
I realized I loved history when I began to travel and visit ancient and historical sites. I wanted to know everything about the sites and the events surrounding them!
That normally does the trick. It probably draws a connection to past cultures, peoples and lands separated by the sea of time.
*What are your favorite 3 time periods?
My three favorite time periods to study are Ancient Greece, Tudor England, and the Progressive Era.
Ancient Greece is endlessly fascinating. Tudor England and the progressive Era also strikes a fancy.
*Tell us about Mary Davenport.
Mary Davenport is twenty-two years old and has lived a sheltered life in the family’s mansion. Her father is her ally, but her mother often degrades Mary and everyone else in the house. When Mary’s father dies, she seeks help and friendship from the servants of the house, the only people she feels she can trust.
I love the historical family saga that you’ve created. It makes you want to know more about them and their culture. Well done.
*Why have you chosen this particular time period as a setting?
I chose the Progressive Era because there was so much happening in America due to the advancement in technology. I explore the reactions to experiencing cars, telephones, and electricity for the first time.
I’d like to see the look on someone’s face when riding a car for the first time!
*What kind of mansion do the Davenports live in?
It is a colonial mansion with many rooms. The family lives in the upstairs bedroom while the servants reside in the level below the main house.
The mansion must be a place of many adventures.
*Tell us about your newest book release.
My newest book is titled Davenport House 6: House Secrets and is a continuation of the family saga as they enter the Roaring 20’s. There are more secrets in the house to be explored that have only been hinted at in the previous book.
Love secrets! Your book covers are fabulous too.
According to Goodreads:
The family saga continues in this sixth book to Davenport House. It is 1919 when America begins to heal from the Great War and take her first steps into a roaring new Era.
The residents of Davenport House are changing with the times as new fashions and new laws are introduced. Clara turns a blind eye to her troubles at home and plans a grand masquerade ball for the county. Bridget uncovers a distressing truth and returns to the house to warn the others, but soon finds that she is no longer welcome there.
When a suspicious death occurs on the estate, the abundance of motives and sudden hushed lips cause tensions to rise throughout the house. Only the painful truth can set everyone free, but it will come at a price to reveal the house secrets once and for all.
*Does Mary have any sidekicks or companions?
Yes, Mary relies on friendships with her maid and the stable boy, but realizes she wants to have a lady’s companion for deeper friendship.
This makes me more curious to see who it is!
*Is it difficult writing and conveying historical fiction ?
I do not find it difficult to write. I take real historical events and create stories for characters to then experience those things.
Wow. Hats off to you for pulling off a bestselling historical mystery series.
*Does Mary have a favorite dress or outfit?
Mary is in mourning for her father for much of the series, so she wears a black mourning dress. Other than that, she does not care about clothes very much.
Interesting. Losing family is always the hardest.
If you answered yes to either of these questions you may be suffering from CBH, compusive book hoardom. That’s when your ‘to be read’ list far exceeds the books you’ve actually read. Go ahead and admit it. Let’s say it together, ready? I’m a compulsive book hoarder. Good, again. I’m a compulsive book hoarder. Maybe you’re not a book hoarder and perhaps you just enjoy a challenge. Or you’d like to reduce the amount of books in your TBR pile. Well, we’ve got a challenge for you!
A fellow blogger, book enthusiast, Sally Allen and I were discussing reducing our TBR piles and actually reading the books that we own. We came up with a great solution. A strategy. Challenge. Fun competition.
I have so many books lined up I could literally read for an entire year without buying or adding another title. To make it worse I keep adding MORE books to the insurmountable mountain that I’ve built. Yikes!!
Are you like this? Am I the only one? We need to systematically target all of the juicy books on our digital and actual bookshelves! We need to go in guns blazing and take out those books mocking you on the shelf. That’s right, no more Mr. nice guy. I’d like you to meet our new mascot.
Person A reads 16 books/month
Person B reads 8 books/month
Persons A & B cannot add more than 10% of books determined to be read. So Person A can only add 2 books to read to his TBR pile a month. That’s the threshold multiplied by the total of determined books to be read. Or 10% x (Books to read) = Allowable amount to add to TBR/month. Person A’s allowable amount would turn out to be 1.6/books to add per month. 0.1 x 16= 1.6 rounded up to 2. If the number is only below a .05% then you cannot round up.
Person B cannot add more than 10% of books determined to be read. So person B can only add 1 book per month to his TBR pile. The math would be 10% x 8= .80 or 1 book per month. We get 0.80 as the answer but you can’t add 0.8 of a book, so we round it up to 1. Make sense?
If you read 25 books/month = add 2.5 or 3 book/month
If you read 35 books/month = add 3.5 or 4 books/month
*It is recommended that you keep the threshold percentage low in order to reduce your ‘to be read’ pile and unread books.*
JB Richards is an historian and international award-winning Amazon, Goodreads, and Xlibris author. Her debut novel, “Miriamne the Magdala – The First Chapter in the Yeshua and Miri Novel Series”, was recently voted a Top 10 Best Historical Fiction Novel, Top 20 Best New Adult Novel, and Top 50 Best Young Adult Novel, and received a nomination for Best Romance Novel in the 2016 Summer Indie Book Awards (SIBA’s). “Miriamne the Magdala” has also been awarded a Readers’ Favorite 5-Star Seal and has continued to be nominated in multiple book award venues. Richards is currently a nominee for Author of the Year in the upcoming 2016 Indie Author Books Readers’ Choice Awards, while “Miriamne the Magdala” has been nominated in the Goodreads Self-Pub or Indie Books Worth Reading Awards. Her upcoming second chapter in the Yeshua and Miri Novel Series, “Yeshua the Christ: The Silk Road”, is due for publication in 2017.
Recipient of 5-Star Seal
2016 Summer Indie Book Awards
“Miriamne the Magdala” voted
Top 10 Best Historical Fiction
Top 20 Best New Adult Novel
Top 50 Best Young Adult Novel
Best Romance Nominee
What began your love of history?
My great uncle, Antes Boudreau, was an avid book collector. He kept stacks and stacks of books, novels, almanacs, newspapers, magazines—you name it, he had it—lined up along the walls, floor to ceiling, of his tiny, single-occupancy, one-bedroom apartment. At the age of 21, he had lost his wife in a tragic fire. He never remarried, and had no children, but he considered my dad as his son. Uncle was sort of a curmudgeon. He always led a solitary life, preferring to mingle with the pigeons in the local park rather than share breakfast and a cup of coffee with a friend. But because of his special relationship with my dad, he was always present at family gatherings where he felt most comfortable sitting on the sidelines wistfully observing everyone else having fun. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that my uncle was anti-social. Certainly, a few stiff shots of Canadian Club loosened his tie to the point that he’d enjoy playing the odd card game after dinner, or even regaling present company with all the precious knowledge he gained from his beloved books. As a young, impressionable 9-year-old feminist, whom Uncle thought would either be a future candidate for president or the first female astronaut, I absolutely adored him.
So, why am I telling you all about my uncle? Uncle taught me about the Classical Era, the “Hellenistic” period, Homer and Cato, the founding of Rome, Cleopatra and Marc Antony … and I was a sponge, absorbing everything and anything he cared to share with me. As I grew older and began college, I visited him frequently, avidly engaging in raucous debates about religion, theology, and philosophy. He was a self-proclaimed atheist, and we often focused on the historical lives and the times of the great prophets and sages, rather than writings which tended to glorify them. We often honed in on the life of the Buddha and the man called Jesus, the “Christ”. Because of my uncle, I developed a passion for this era, earning degrees in both History and Psychology. Decades later, when I could no longer work a 9-5 job due to chronic health issues, I happened upon some old books of his pertaining to the missing years of Jesus. Once I reread these books, did a huge amount of research on my own, and gathered all my notes, I finally found a place to start. That’s when I began writing the Yeshua and Miri Novel Series!
Wow. It’s amazing how those close to us can leave such an impression. Thanks for sharing!
Did you read historical fiction growing up?
It’s funny, but the great majority of the books I read—and there were many borrowed from the local library as well as my Uncle’s extensive personal collection—were textbooks, journals, and almanacs. My preference was always for fact, not fiction … even when I was a little kid. I was only 7-years-old when my dad’s employer offered the Golden Book Encyclopedia for Children to their employees at a discounted fee. Each Friday evening as my dad left work, he bought one letter from the collection (A-Z) and took it home. Night after night, I loved pouring over the pages of each volume before bedtime! I was barely able to contain my anticipation as I wondered what would be waiting for me between the pages of the very next issue. My love for history, science, and nature took hold when I began to read those wonderful encyclopedia volumes.
That’s awesome! Your love for history and science is infectious.
What’s your favorite time period and why?
I think you can pretty much tell by now which historical era was my favorite! The centuries preceding and subsequent to the 1st century CE represent one of the true apexes of intellectual and philosophical evolution in modern human beings. Five-hundred years before the Christian Era and 500 years afterward, mark an early renaissance in humankind’s development. Our view of God and the Universe shifted in a big way, and we began to question what our place was in relation to Creation. It was during this time that sages, magi, prophets, philosophers, teachers, gurus, and bodhisattvas—enlightened beings like Jesus and the Buddha—flourished. These “Great Teachers”, as they are known to History, revolutionized science, astrology (which included the study of the stars, predicting fortunes and fates, and the marking of the changing seasons along with other astronomical data), mathematics, philosophy, culture, the arts, and—most importantly—religion. Although the list of advances in various genres goes on and on, it was during these accumulated 1,000-years in the history of humankind that represented a key turning point—a great shift in attitude—that completely altered our belief system. There was a great shift in how humankind perceived the Divine—not as a bullying and judgmental God/gods who remained impassive and far removed from the world, but as an inner spiritual force with each individual manifesting as an extension of the Divine. The Buddha and Jesus taught that we each hold within us a Divine “spark” (some call it the “Soul”), and that part of our Selves exists both separated and in conjunction with the Divine Itself. As Jesus taught, we are all sons and daughters of the Divine.
I’m probably not your typical person. I believe human beings are inherently tripartite beings as created by God. Having three distinct parts. Body, soul and spirit. In the old and new testament there are several references, but 1 Thess. 5:23 sums it up in one verse.
What did you experience researching you first novel?
I discovered that the telling of a story is not so much a dictation of the facts as it is the interpretation of a life subjected to all the outside influences put upon it. That realization alone can make for a story that is insightful, compelling, and terribly funny! For example, in choosing to become incarnate, Jesus (Yeshua, in his native Aramaic tongue) not only gained the ability to walk among us and teach us about becoming better individuals, he learned a lot about what it was to be an actual human being—to be subjected to the laws of both Man and Nature. Think about that and put yourself in his sandals for a moment … What a revelation it must have been for Jesus when he gained a corporeal form—a body—with all its natural … functions! I can’t help but be amused sometimes when I think about the first time Yeshua suddenly realized the end result of catching a stomach-flu, or getting a cold, or simply eating a meal! I’m sure he found it all quite … fascinating.
We tend not to see Yeshua as a human being. And one thing I was sensitive to in developing the storyline for “Miriamne the Magdala” was that he, the Magdala, and certain individuals in the early Christian community are seen by the members of many faiths as sacred beings who are to remain unsullied by everyday life and an everyday existence. Many of the faithful see them as pastoral, benign peasants that had an unwavering belief in God and their religion. The truth about Jesus and his followers, however, couldn’t be further from the truth. The profile of Yeshua that I uncovered in my research is vastly different from the idealized “Good Shepherd” modern-day Christians derive from the Synoptic Gospels. I doubt many would recognize Jesus the actual man—the Galilean rabbi who wanted to change the status quo and reclaim his homeland from the Roman Empire and the Hasmonean dynasty that had been put in place to rule Galilee and Judea. In researching the “historical” Jesus, I found that Yeshua—for that was his true name—was most certainly not a Christian. He was a Jew. He was born a Jew, grew up a Jew, lived the life of a Jew, worshiped as a Jew, and died a Jew.
Today, far removed from his time, many have a tendency to view Jesus as a Christian. But Christianity never even existed until decades after his death. James, who was named as leader of the disciples by Yeshua himself should anything happen to him, strongly upheld the tenets of Judaism and Jewish culture because that was what his brother wanted. In fact, James, and the disciples who were with him, continued to worship in synagogues that were accepting of their particular manner of worship as long as it maintained its roots in Judaism. It was Paul who radically departed from Judaism to form his own idealized version of what Jesus had taught. Sure, his theology was still based on the teachings of Jesus, but geared toward the Gentiles who were flocking in droves to him and his own cadre of disciples. Shortly after he began preaching, Paul had sought to gain the approval of James to relax the rules, but James would not wander from the tenets of his Jewish faith and culture just to please a self-declared Apostle. Eventually, the disagreement between Paul and James escalated to a standoff, and caused a great schism between the two communities. This is what led to the formation of a more popular belief—Christianity—Paul’s version of Jesus’ teachings.
I also found that my own view of Jesus changed as my research continued. Yeshua grew up in Roman-occupied Galilee, and like other young Galilean men who matured under these same conditions, he yearned for his people and homeland to be free. He was not, according to our traditional view, some passive, itinerant preacher wandering about the countryside performing miracles, encouraging people to be kind to one another, and patiently telling them to wait for the coming of the Kingdom of God. No … Yeshua was a rabble-rouser, a revolutionary, and an outspoken challenger of the status quo. He, like most of the other Jews in his homeland, wanted the Romans gone—expelled from Galilee and Judea. They wanted the right to practice their religion and maintain their traditions freely—without the scrutiny of Rome, or come to mention it, the Temple Priests, the Pharisees and the Sadducees who put–what Yeshua saw as—ridiculous restrictions on the Jewish people. Yeshua was so vocal in his preaching and forceful in his choice of words, he became an outlaw—a man on the run from the authorities—and for three long years he carefully planned out how he was going to avoid capture as he went about fulfilling his Mission. This purposeful, determined, and passionate young champion of a suppressed and beleaguered people is the Yeshua that I present in “Miriamne the Magdala” and the Yeshua and Miri Novel Series.
Wow. Sounds like you learned a lot!
Did you almost give up after 20 years?
No way! Never!
Tell us about the main characters.
Miriamne, aka Miri, is a 12-year-old entitled aristocrat—daughter of Commander Micah bar Abram, the former Hekatontarchus of the Hyperatai (the Holy Temple Guard) and his lovely wife, Salome—when she first meets her bedraggled and estranged Galilean cousin, Yeshua bar Joseph, at the Grand Marketplace in Sepphoris. At first sight, she thinks he is a simple peasant and wonders how he could possibly be related to her family. But as she comes to know the story behind their family’s estrangement, and begins to see Yeshua as a charming and sensitive boy with a keen intelligence and wit to match, she quickly falls in love.
Young Yeshua is the fifth son in line, youngest among his four brothers—James, Joses, Judas, and Simeon. His four older brothers come from the union of Joseph bar Jacob and his first wife, Miriam. He also has two younger sisters, Sali and Mara, who are both born of the union between Joseph and Mary. Yeshua’s own mother, Mary, does not consider Joseph to be Yeshua’s natural father, and this causes problems with the local villagers in Nazareth who label her son a “mamzer”—a bastard. The family has just returned to the region after a trip to Jerusalem, where Yeshua has only recently made his Bar Mitzvah. The ceremony awakens the inner soul of the 13-year-old, and Yeshua comes to recognize that His Mission is fast upon Him. Weeks later, Yeshua considers it a mitzvah—a token of good fortune—when his family is suddenly reunited with their estranged cousins from Bethany. He finds a pleasant distraction from his woes in his beautiful young cousin, Miriamne, and the two begin a friendship that binds them together in some surprising and unexpected ways. When a family tragedy suddenly strikes, Yeshua is sorely tested, and He is suddenly torn between using His miraculous powers and keeping His allegiance to His Divine Father intact.
This should be an interesting read. Especially from a historical standpoint!
Tell us about the setting of the 1st century in the common era.
“Miriamne the Magdala” takes place in Roman-occupied Galilee, only a decade after a Jewish uprising ended in the razing of Sepphoris—the main hub of commerce near Nazareth, Cana, and Nain. In retaliation, the Romans not only burned the city to the ground, they crucified 2,000 rebels along the main roads connecting the small towns to the bustling city on the hill. The remaining population of Sepphoris—men, women, and children—were all rounded up within days of the rebellion and were sold off as slaves.
Not a stone lay upon a stone when the Romans left the hilltop burning like a bonfire that terrifying night as the villagers of Nazareth hid their children and themselves away in the maze of secret tunnels burrowed beneath their little town. By the time Miriamne’s family returns to the region, and her father, the Commander, takes over his deceased father’s huge estate, Sepphoris is a newly rebuilt city perched on the top of the hill overlooking the Kaveelah—the Bar Abram paternal family home. It is in this city—recently populated with Jewish aristocrats sympathetic to Rome, and dubbed “The Jewel of the Galilee” because of the newly-built King’s Palace and Grand Marketplace—that Miriamne, her mother, Salome, her older sister, Martha, and her 6-year-old brother, Lazarus, meet Yeshua.
This will be a great history lesson. Admittedly my worst subject!
Can you tell us some factual elements of history that aren’t in your book?
Oh, my goodness, where should I begin? There was so much going on in Judea and Galilee during Yeshua and Miri’s childhood and early teenage years, and I tried to be as thorough as possible in explaining the Roman influence on Jewish culture during that time. One thing I might not have gone into detail about, which I will cover more extensively in the subsequent 4 novels in the Yeshua and Miri Novel Series, is the divisions that existed between the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Zealots—the three main groups who provided the Jews with an interpretation of the Law of Moses in that era. These three factions will have a more important role in the third chapter of the Yeshua and Miri Novel Series, “Thomas the Twin: The Sefer Revealed”.
Oh, that would be a good one to explore. The differences between the Jewish sects of the time.
Name 3-5 customs or traditions of 1st century CE.
One of my favorite Jewish customs is hanging a mezuzah. A mezuzah is a small piece of paper or parchment inscribed with a Hebrew prayer that is sealed inside a tiny decorative box affixed to the front doorpost of a home. In “Miriamne the Magdala”, everyone touches the mezuzah and recites a short prayer before entering their home.
One custom that bothers the girls—Martha, Miri, and Sali—in “Miriamne the Magdala” is the tradition of arranged marriages. It was common in those days for girls who had started their menses, as young as 9-years-old, to be lawfully betrothed, then wedded to a man who was in his 30’s or much older. Fathers were in complete control of the arrangements, and betrothals were sealed between the father of the bride and the bridegroom with a Ketubah—a marriage contract. Once the dowry was presented, the terms of the marriage were haggled over, and a Ketubah was drawn up by a scribe. It was reviewed and signed by the fathers of both families and the bridegroom. The Ketubah could not be broken without severe and irreparable damage to the withdrawing party’s family reputation.
Another Jewish tradition that Yeshua, and all Jewish men, were careful to observe was the Shaharit—the Morning Prayer. Each day when he arises, Yeshua follows a specific ritual, donning his tallit—prayer shawl—and his phylacteries in a step-by-step, prescribed manner. He then recites the prayer, “Hear, oh Israel, the Lord our God is one!” It’s a beautiful custom, and I sometimes find myself thinking of the words of the Shaharit each morning when I arise.
I love the mezuzah tradition! That sounds quite lovely. Pass on the arranged marriages part, the Shaharit is agreeable. Prayer is always good!
Tell us about the upcoming 2nd book.
In “Yeshua the Christ: The Silk Road”, Yeshua and Miriamne leave their home in Galilee to join their uncle, Joseph bar Abram, and his Caravaneers on the road to the Far East. The wonders of Syria, Persia, the Sind, and the Indus fascinate and delight the young couple who, as guests of their sponsor, Prince Ravanna of Orissa, are shown the grandeur of the Far East as they are treated to the luxuries of palace life.
As a sponsored scholar, Yeshua discovers a whole new system of beliefs among Persia’s Magi, and the Brahmana of the Indus. At the Temple at Jagganath, the priests are highly impressed with their young protégé and they entrust him with their most sacred and secret teachings usually granted only to a privileged few. Yeshua, however, believes no one, including the lower castes, should be excluded from this important teaching, and he challenges his teachers, insisting that—just like the Torah—these sacred writings were meant to be shared with all the people of the world.
When Yeshua decides to leave the Temple after a heated argument with his mentors and sets out on his own, the brash young preacher brings down the wrath of the Chief Lama who immediately censors him and orders him to cease his public teaching. But Yeshua has a will of His own. And when he continues to preach the doctrine to the Sudras of the lower caste, and refuses to bow down to the Lama—even upon penalty of death, an assassination plot is hatched by the Brahmana, placing his life, and the lives of his family and friends, in mortal danger!
Will Yeshua escape the Indus unscathed, and if he does, who will pay the price for his betrayal of the Brahmana? Find out in my upcoming novel, “Yeshua the Christ: The Silk Road”—due for publication in 2017!
Let us know when you’re up for publication and we’ll help promote it.
Name 3 things you really enjoyed about writing this book.
The humorous, and sometimes farcical, situations that Yeshua and Miriamne find themselves in, particularly when the Commander or the Brothers Bar Joseph get out of hand. Writing the love scenes between Yeshua and Miriamne—that always seemed to end up in some sort of embarrassment for both, or either one, of them—was a lot of fun, too!
Dreaming up the various dishes that Haggah, the Head Cook for the Bar Abram family, would prepare for the Commander, his family, and guests were also quite challenging. But it was fun to research all the ingredients that would have been available in the region of Galilee during that time and put them together in a dish that Haggah would have been proud to serve at the Bar Abram dinner table.
Last, but certainly not least, coming up with the personality clashes between siblings; the testing of brotherly bonds and sisterly love; and the strange and curious circumstances of everyday life at the homes of Yeshua and Miri, was sometimes difficult to conceive, but writing these types of scenes was always an eye-opener! It’s nice to know that there are good days and bad days for both the Bar Jacob and Bar Abram families, but in the end they always seem to pull together, take things in stride, and carry on!
Oh clashes between siblings is always a good one.
Name 3 of the most difficult aspects of writing this book.
Writer’s block is a plague for most authors, but when you’re trying to come up with situations to put “the Boy who would be Christ” in, while trying to remain sensitive to the fact that—for some people, much of this material might be considered heretical—it can be downright agonizing. I spend a lot of time getting into my character’s heads, but Yeshua always seems to speak louder than any of the other characters—including Miriamne. While I wrote Miriamne, he always pointed me in the right direction, and I in the editing process, I found that he was seldom wrong. He even sent me signs! Many times, I wanted to remove certain scenes from the final manuscript because I was worried how the scene would affect my readers. Inevitably, some chance encounter with an old friend or a certain song on the radio would tell me that I was on the right track. Truthfully, Yeshua was pretty hard to ignore. Eventually, I just gave in and wrote what he gave me.
I was also very worried about the size of the novel. Let’s face it, at 850 pages, Miriamne is big enough to use as a booster seat for a toddler! I consulted with editors and several other authors, but no one could figure out where to cut the book in half, or what to take out. Believe it or not, there are whole chapters that were cut from the end product, still wasting away in a huge bin up in my attic! All those pages in “Miriamne the Magdala” explain the history, cultures, and traditions that support this story, and each is as necessary to explaining the rich and detailed tapestry that is Yeshua and Miri’s lives as they are essential to understanding their purpose and Mission. And “Miriamne the Magdala” is just the beginning of our Journey! She is the introductory chapter that will lead us through to the conclusion of Christ’s life and the centuries beyond. In essence, she’s really two books in one, and neither part can be presented without the other.
Now, here’s a True Confession … I found it a tremendous and oftentimes overwhelming challenge to understand, interpret, and explain Jewish culture and traditions to my readers. You see, I’m not Jewish. I was raised as a Roman Catholic, attending parochial schools that had little to no exposure to Judaism. I didn’t even know there were Jews in my hometown until I attended college! My second confession is that I don’t speak Hebrew or Aramaic—the native language of Yeshua and Miriamne. Although I can, now and then, adeptly turn a phrase or two thanks to a wonderful and generous young man in—of all places—Hobart, Tasmania who volunteered to translate dozens of phrases from English to Hebrew for me via online communications.
I was lucky in that I had the pleasure of connecting with some amazing people on social media who helped guide me through any cultural traditions I found confusing or difficult to understand. These individuals are mentioned in the Acknowledgements section of my novel, and I am indeed fortunate that they are still standing in the wings, ready to assist me with “Yeshua the Christ: The Silk Road”! It is to them that I owe my deepest gratitude and thanks because Miriamne would not have a single shred of authenticity without their cooperation and hard work.
Well, I highly commend you on such an achievement. Really, I find that utterly amazing.
What 3 things from history would you bring into our society today?
First and foremost, I would bring forward the strong sense of family exhibited in “Miriamne the Magdala”. Too many families today are split-up and living great distances apart. I had a huge family when I was younger, and I remember family get-togethers, picnics, and beach parties that would last from morning to late at night. Those sorts of regular family reunions just don’t happen anymore, with family members so busy with personal and professional lives and homes scattered all over the country.
Next, I would bring back some form of proper etiquette. I’m not talking about the stuffy, highbrow manners authors like Emily Bronte exemplify, but a small taste of plain old chivalry and civility. There was a time when a man wouldn’t hesitate to dash out of his house in his slippers to help the elderly woman across the street drag her trash out to the curb. There was a time when a teen would cheerfully hold the door open for a pregnant woman loaded down with grocery packages so she could easily pass through. There was a time when kids went door to door offering to shovel neighbors out after a big snowstorm. Nowadays, people are too afraid to glance at one another, let alone speak to anyone. Today, suspicion and rudeness prevail. No one sees a fellow human being standing at their front door, but an enemy with a hostile intent to pillage whatever meager assets one might hold dear. We need more enmity in our world today.
I often wonder what society would look like if we had maintained, from days gone by, a strong belief in the Divine. How different our lives would be if we still believed that there was some Thing or some One greater than ourselves running our Universe (or as science seems to dictate … Universes). Considering all the scientific advances mankind has made–the discovery of the Higgs-Boson particle, the development of the Big Bang and the Big Crunch theories, and cracking the code for the human genome, just to name a few—we still have no explanation for what Life represents. We don’t know what the true essence of Life is, or where it comes from, or where it goes once a creature ceases to breathe. In the past, things were much simpler … Humanity seemed guided by Fate, steering mankind toward a Destiny. Today, many people shun their belief in a Higher Power. And those who do believe are often much too embarrassed to admit it. All in all, there seems to be no guidance, no dream, no ultimate goal for humanity nowadays, and it causes me to wonder whether we really have advanced as much as we think we have, or if we have lost our Selves in the process.
All great thoughts here. Thanks for sharing.
Would you like to be a time traveler?
Only if I could return to my own time whenever I wished … I’d enjoy taking a peek or two at life in the past or in the future, but the present is Home, and Home is where I belong.
There’s no place like home!
Wow, this is a toughie! There are so many great and awesome quotes that have come down to us through history, and it’s hard to single any one of them out! But, if I have to choose, I suppose I’d have to go with Anais Nin – “There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” This one quote exemplifies my entire life in a nutshell.
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