The Price — Looking for Reviewers!

After a lot of soul-searching (not really but it sounds good) I’m self-publishing The Price,  final novel in the Schneebelungelied. Why? I dunno. I had so much fun designing it, and I like how it turned out. By now I’ve had so much experience building my own books that I like doing it. It might be my favorite part after the initial inspiration. 🙂

I will be releasing The Price on December 5, about three weeks before Christmas. It will be available in Kindle and as a paperback. The Kindle version is available for pre-order for $5.00.

The novel is 70,000 words, roughly 200 pages — definitely not War and Peace.

I was thinking it would be cool to get some advanced reviews. If you would like to do that for me, I will email you an ePub version you can read on your Kindle or phone or? I will also have one paperback I can share next week sometime. All I ask is that you post a short review on Goodreads and Amazon and on your blog if you want. If enough people volunteer, I’ll set up a blog tour to drive readers to your site. I’ve also built The Price a “webpage.” https://marthakennedytheprice.com

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/11/10/rdp-saturday-seethe/

Progress… and Audiences

I’ve finished (finished? ha ha ha ha) the edits on The Schneebelis Go to America aka The Price. It’s been a long haul but I don’t think I can bitch with any justification because no one is making me do this and it’s a purely elective and rather minor activity in the grand scheme. In the scheme of my life, though, it’s pretty important, I guess.

I don’t think the book is very good, but I’ve done what I often do, I’ve gone to a self-publishing platform and I’m “publishing” one copy so I can see it as a book and do a read through in a different format than this screen or 8 1/2 x 11 pages.

I’m still not sure if I’ll go to the trouble of trying to sell it. The books I’ve already written didn’t (and don’t) sell so why would I?

Am I discouraged? No, not in the least. Since 1998 when I began writing Martin of Gfenn (that’s 20 years ago) I’ve gone through a very wide range of experiences as a writer. I suppose it’s a kind of maturation. Martin of Gfenn is my best book, but it still has typos. The other two novels benefited from professional editing. And I consider My Everest to be another thing completely.

I can’t answer for why other people write. I write because I like to, that’s the biggest thing. If it works it’s just a lot of fun. When I was teaching, writing was a thing apart from hours and hours in the classroom, and it was something at which I could succeed on some level. Teaching remained a career where I never got tenure and constantly taught part-time — not my fault, it didn’t mean I was a bad teacher, it just made more sense economically for schools to hire part-time vs. tenured faculty. That frustration and relentless impotence about my future was good training for submitting novels to agents.

But there are other audiences and different successes. A few years ago I decided I wanted my one remaining (in her right mind) aunt, the youngest of my mother’s sisters, to know who I am. I had a very intense feeling she needed to know that I was OK, that I have a good life and a little something about what I do. I sent her Martin of Gfenn which she loved. I followed it with Savior and The Brothers Path and explained that those two novels were fiction based on what I knew about my grandma’s family — my Aunt Dickie’s mother’s family. — our family. She loved The Brothers Path and had her church book club read it.

Her last letter to me was March 2017, and in it, she told me how the book club had liked the book and what was going on in her life. And she asked me to keep writing the story of my grandma’s family. Whether this book is any good or not, my Aunt Dickie would have liked it. She died just before Thanksgiving last year.

 

Inspiration

My high school art teacher was mostly (where I was concerned) nasty and inept, but once in a while he said something worth hearing. One of these things was “Don’t depend on inspiration. Art is 98% work and 2% inspiration.”

I now know he probably didn’t invent that saying, but he’s right, though for myself, I’d give inspiration a few more percentage points. I find there are two moments of inspiration; there’s a moment when you get an inspiring idea and there might be a moment in the midst of working out the idea that you are inspired again, inspired within the work you’re doing. This happens to me all the time. I think a lot of writers/artists can be inspired BY their work. I hope so, anyway, because it’s the best.

For nearly two years (I think?) I’ve been writing what I’ve called “The Schneebelis Come to America.” It’s been pure drudgery most of the time. The protagonist I found unlikeable. I didn’t want to write a female heroine for many reasons but mostly because, right now, a female heroine almost MUST be a certain type of female. Since the Schneebelis (and their adventures) are based on my own family and its history, and I would have stayed in Switzerland, and would like to be there now, I kept getting a little angry them for emigrating. And, the damned thing was (is) a love story. I didn’t want to write a love story.

But I had to write it. I felt not only compelled but IMPELLED (impaled?). It was the strangest inspiration I’ve experienced. Once in a while, I’d get to it and the story would go somewhere and then it would just kind of die in a pool of my resentment over any one of those problems.

And then…

Before my hip surgery, I contacted a woman — Beth Bruno —  whom I’d hired to edit Savior and The Brothers PathI wanted someone to read it and tell me what they thought was missing. I think in my heart of hearts I KNEW what was missing, but I just didn’t want to write the damned thing any more and was hoping for absolution OR “Gawd, woman, this is awful. Put it away FOREVER.”

What I got was:

I must say, this is a touching story about family with its focus on marriage and how two people in love can still find it impossible to move ahead because their life goals are so different. Love doesn’t conquer all after all. They explore difficult issues of love, loyalty, compromise and taking risks at various choice points in their lives.
The reason I think it deserves a longer ending that allows the story to develop further is that I don’t think enough happens after the family reaches America to give the reader some sense of whether the trip was worth it or not. The fact that their passage wound up being on a death ship only makes letting the survivors cope for a few weeks that much more important. Otherwise, the loss of Verena and Elisabethli is for naught and teaches Hans Kaspar nothing at all. The part about the ending that I do like is seeing Conrad come into his own and go forth into the future with a sense of purpose and readiness to create a family that honors Verena’s memory.
Again, I found myself caring deeply about these people because what they are going through is so real — not only from the standpoint of your wonderful writing but also from the historical truths they portray.

 

OH well. We then had a phone conversation. After that, I was inspired.

So I went at it. Most important, I went at it with a not completely clear brain (it takes a while for anesthesia to fully leave an older person’s system) and not caring at all about the outcome. I really had nothing else to do. My main jobs have been regaining my physical ability and integrating a new dog into the “pack.”

As I worked, the work started to inspire me and the time I had spent writing blog posts went into the story.

Inspiration is a drug. It’s very intoxicating and no one who’s in the throes of it thinks clearly or has an objective mind. Inspiration just feels SO GOOD. One of these days I felt the whole day had been a dream — it had been a day of successful writing, fifteen minutes on the Elliptical trainer at physical therapy, two dog walks (with three dogs, there are those days) — not a special day, but when it ended I really felt I’d dreamed the whole thing. It seemed to have had no hours or minutes in it.

Yesterday I finished it and I was in love with the ending. That’s the thing about inspiration; it feels a lot like infatuation. You wonder, “Will it last?”

I wrote my editor and said, “I did it. I have an ending, but I’m not telling.” I wasn’t sure. I wanted to sleep on it. When I got up today and read it, I was LESS in love than I was yesterday, but I was happy with it.

I thought about Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet which is a very wise piece of advice for anyone? Writers? Young people? and I read it first in a bookstore in Denver in Larimer Square in the early 1970s. I thought it wrote it for ME it was that apt — it’s (I now know) that apt for a lot of people. It’s a collection of letters he wrote to a young poet (duh). He warns against “Living and writing in heat.” Inspiration is “heat” — and a wise person will give the products of that ecstasy time to cool

The thing about writing — and unless I’m doing it I don’t think about it — is it is a solitary thing. When I first moved here and was finishing The Brothers Path and I didn’t know anyone, it was easy. Now I know a few people and I like them, but in the midst of inspiration, I don’t have anything in common with anyone. I’m living in a world peopled by beings that are from my imagination (and some dogs). It’s hard to have a conversation when there’s already a bunch of them going on in your head — some with yourself (“Is this where the story really goes next or am I forcing it?”) some between the people in your imagination…

So I’ve spent the last 3 months pretty much alone and, if not alone, somewhat alienated.

Rilke also writes against literary criticism (amen), saying, “Works of art are of an infinite solitude, and no means of approach is so useless as criticism. Only love can touch and hold them and be fair to them,” after which he describes what it means to be an artist:

Allow your judgments their own silent, undisturbed development, which, like all progress, must come from deep within and cannot be forced or hastened. Everything is gestation and then birthing. To let each impression and each embryo of a feeling come to completion, entirely in itself, in the dark, in the unsayable, the unconscious, beyond the reach of one’s own understanding, and with deep humility and patience to wait for the hour when a new clarity is born: this alone is what it means to live as an artist: in understanding as in creating.

In this there is no measuring with time, a year doesn’t matter, and ten years are nothing. Being an artist means: not numbering and counting, but ripening like a tree, which doesn’t force its sap, and stands confidently in the storms of spring, not afraid that afterward summer may not come. It does come. But it comes only to those who are patient, who are there as if eternity lay before them, so unconcernedly silent and vast. I learn it every day of my life, learn it with pain I am grateful for: patience is everything!

I’m happy I didn’t force this and that I didn’t give up. I’m happy for the clear eyes of my editor who saw the love story as it is — a love that just wasn’t going to make the people involved happy. I know a lot about that kind of love, which is why I resisted “happily ever after.” The project still needs a lot of work and there are things — research related — that I want to do before it will be finished, but I’m very happy that, finally, the story engaged me and even happier that it engaged my editor in the first place. She saw what I hoped I had written.

***

The photo is of the Hans Herr house in Lancaster PA. He was an early Swiss immigrant — Mennonite — to Pennsylvania from Zürich.

Slogging Along

Since my hip replacement roughly two months ago, I’ve made a lot of progress. I’m at the point with my Blessed Airdyne that I’m riding 10 miles in about 30 minutes, and I do intervals which is challenging and keeps it from being completely boring. Since the biggest problem I’m contending with now is a knee as bad as was my hip — and the non-surgical solution to that is weight loss (and I’m absolutely willing) — I did some research to find out what I have to do to make the Airdyne a weightloss tool. You know, besides, basically, ride it. 🙂 I have arthritic knees which makes a bike (stationary or otherwise) a perfect tool for rehab and fitness especially as I HATE the other good exercise, swimming. I even found a video of some buff guy working out (doing intervals) on a machine exactly like mine:

But when I researched how FAR I need to ride to lose weight, I got useless information. “Ride 60 to 90 minutes five days a week for weight loss.” This means NOTHING. A person can go 1 mph and that’s not going to work. The question is HOW FAR? (Or, alternatively, how fast for how long).

A long long time ago when I was a kid I had like a baby science book. In that book was an illustration of two chairs, both nailed to the floor, each with a feather on the seat. In picture one, a guy (in a toga, no one knows why) struggled to lift the chair off the floor. Sweat sprayed from his face and body (ah, that explains the toga; it helped show how hard he was endeavoring to lift the chair). The other toga-clad lad had lifted the feather from the seat of the chair. THAT was the physics definition of work. He had succeeded in lifting the feather and transporting it somewhere. That stuck in my mind.  The first guy struggled; the second guy worked, so when I googled “How far should I ride my bike for weightloss” in other words how many miles (real or virtual) do I need to move this feather if I hope to lose weight. I got,

As you get comfortable spending more time in the saddle, schedule longer rides during the week. If you do three cycling workouts each week, complete one short ride (30 minutes), make one ride a moderate duration (45 minutes), and set a goal to ride one longtour (60 to 120 minutes) each week

I kept googling questions involving “how far” for both stationary and actual bicycles and kept getting the same answers. No mention of “distance.”

Therefore, to lose body fat, you want to burn as many calories as possible during your stationary bike workouts. Increasing your workouts from 30 to 60 minutes is ideal. According to Harvard Health, a 155 pound person will burn about 520 calories per hour of bicycling at a moderate pace. The stationary bike is not the most effective cardio activity to burn calories, so longer workouts are more ideal.

Added to that absurdity is the phrase “more ideal.” Ideal is the, uh, ideal. There’s nothing above it.

So… long long ago I remember learning an equation that 1 mile walking is roughly equal to two miles riding a bike AT ANY SPEED. Because what matters is how far you take the damned feather.

Soon I’ll be taking the real bike out of the garage and riding it. It’s pretty boring to ride a stationary bike all the time. My dog walks aren’t going to be very far for a while, and I really really really want to put off knee surgery as long as I can.

The other slog is the Schneebelis. I spent part of the morning describing their log cabins and gardens. I have to say this about my upbringing. I grew up out here in the last frontier (other than space)  and log cabins are still common sights everywhere I’ve lived (except downtown Denver and San Diego). All I have to do if I want to see a log cabin is saddle up Bear or Dusty and head across the golf course, so there is a dirth of excitement in this writing about log cabins and pioneer kitchen gardens, but I’m doing it. It must be done and after it’s done it will be edited (yay!) so perhaps readers will not have to slog as I am through the historical remnants of Schneebelian life.

Oh, the cabin in the photo up top was built by one of my ancestors, a guy named Jacob Leber. He was from the mountain area near Lucerne. It was built in York County, PA but moved in the 1980s. He built it over a stream which was apparently a common thing to do. All I can say is the streams back east must be a lot more predictable than the streams out here.

Slogging is OK. I just requires patience and faith. Also the understanding that maybe it won’t work, but at least you don’t have to live without having given it a shot. I’ve gotten pretty skillful at slogging by now.

As for the word of the day? Forgive me but I have no clue what to do with clew in any of its meanings. At least now I know it for if someday I need it.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/07/08/rdp-38-clew/

All of a Piece

I have a bunch of books here on my table that I’m not reading and a few more in the background of my laptop I’m also not reading. They are all related to the work in progress, “The Schneebelis Come to America” even though that’s not the real title and I’m still not sure whether, in the book, they will actually arrive.

Writing historical fiction requires a lot of studying, and when you study you learn stuff. When you learn stuff you aren’t the same person anymore. Everything you learn sets you apart from people who haven’t learned the same thing. I kind of think that’s why we send all the kids to schools where they learn a relatively standardized curriculum.

Right now we’re having the hullabaloo about the president calling certain impoverished nations “Shitholes” and wondering why we couldn’t get some immigrants from Norway. I don’t know why, but that flipped a switch in my mind. I became completely disgusted. My disgust stemmed not only from the remark, but from the reactions to the remark, noise from people about how that’s “not the way we treat immigrants in America.” Excuse me, but it IS the way we treat immigrants in America. The immigrants who first settled this continent were ALWAYS afraid that they would be asked to support poor dirty people coming in on boats from some nasty place such as the Alsace or Karlsruhe or Limerick or Trento or Seville…

I know this very well now because the last few years of my life have been spent studying early migration to America. It’s awful, uninspiring and shameful. I’ve read Philadelphia newspapers (thanks Ben Franklin) with published complaints about the “poor dirty people from German-speaking countries who are ruining our colony.” Yep. “Pretty soon the colony will be speaking German!”

Who were those “poor dirty people”? My ancestors. My ancestors were complaining about my ancestors.

But this treatment of immigrants isn’t limited to the New World. People forced to move from one place to another in the “Old Country” faced the same problems, and not just in the dim past. Read Jerzy Kosinski’s Painted Bird.

And, when it comes to geographic “shitholes” it’s hard to beat the beautiful place where I live. Most of the people in the San Luis Valley live at or below the poverty line. As an example, just yesterday a mobile home from the 1970s was posted for sale on Facebook. The asking price was $5500. The place had been remodeled and had many upgrades, but it was still a mobile home from the 70s. The line of interested responses was long, even though the thing had to be moved.

“Does it have wheels?” asked one responder.

“Yes,” said the current owner.

“Will you be home tomorrow?”

You see, the “shitholes” are not defined specifically by the race of the people who live in them — though that’s been the general and mediazed  reaction — but by whether the people there are losers or not. And poor people are losers.

I’m really tired from all this. I woke up very early this morning thinking social media is evil. I wouldn’t know about the “shithole” comment or the mobile home or people’s reactions to every stupid thing that happens in DC if I were not on social media. At 4 am I woke up realizing that I don’t need to know. I’m supposed to be an artist, a writer, but I’m not creating anything. It’s too easy (and I think quite natural) to be sucked into the vortex and I’m no good to anyone there. I can’t wave a magic wand and give us a decent president. I can’t suddenly transform a 1970s mobile home into a new one. Some days I can barely walk.

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/study/

Do You Want to Know What Comes Before?

Yesterday you may have learned that I’m struggling with a story. It’s about the same family you may have met in Savior and The Brothers Path but 200+ after the events in The Brothers Path and 500+ years after the events in Savior. 

It would help me a lot to know if, reading this, you’d like to know more about these people. Also, who seems to be the main character (to you). Here’s how it ends:

To Weber’s good fortune, Brandstetter fastened the loaded cart to the wagon. Kasparli and Vrenli would ride in the wagon with Brandstetter’s children. Hans Kaspar and Weber would follow behind.

“Conrad, you get up on Little Red. Let’s see how you drive a team of Conestoga horses.” Brandstetter motioned to the immense red animal to his left, closest to the wagon.

Conrad leapt up onto the horse, and in reflex and instinct, patted its neck.

“Let’s move,” said Brandstetter, when everyone was settled, hitched up and organized. “First stop, Germantown church. Next stop, Lancaster. Then four hundred miles on the Old Indian Warpath. Get them going, son,” Brandstetter handed Conrad a whip. He flicked it lightly over the horses’ heads. The team shook its harness bells, and the small procession began its trek into the vast wild of America.

Journey to Zürich: The Brothers Path (Book Review)

Lovely review by Lisl Zlitni of The Brothers Path. It’s unique in that Lisl has also read and reviewed Savior and is sensitive to the relationship between the two stories. Thank you, Lisl!

before the second sleep

Today we set off on a new series and bit of a journey to sixteenth-century Zürich, by way of author Martha Kennedy and her magnificently-told tales. Her second novel, Savior, previously reviewed in these pages, brings us next to The Brothers Path and the six Schneebeli brothers, descendants of characters in its predecessor. Stay tuned for more from this wonderful author and what she has to say about it all.

The Brothers Path by Martha Kennedy

the-bros-path-cover-fb-headerIn The Brothers Path, set in 1520s Reformation Switzerland, author Martha Kennedy brings us to an era that often seems to get the short end of the stick in history classes. These are the days of Zwingli and Manz, when infant baptism was rejected, then, by Zwingli, supported. Barely concealing the selling out of his beliefs in exchange for the influential support of the Zürich council, Zwingli rose in prominence and power. Using corruption…

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INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR – MARTHA KENNEDY

Thank you, Marilyn, for the chance to answer questions people have asked about The Brothers Path. That’s how these interview questions came into being!

Serendipity Seeking Intelligent Life on Earth

Me in Obfelden Martha Kennedy

Why do you have a typo in the title of your novel? Shouldn’t there be an apostrophe?

There’s no typo. There is a path through the forest that is very important to the story, and its name is The Brothers. The novel takes its name from the path. The Brothers Path.

Switzerland is far away. Why don’t you write about your own country?

The events in The Brothers Path were the opening shots that led to many Swiss leaving Switzerland 200 years later. The Reformation was the beginning.

Several hundred thousand Swiss have emigrated to America over the centuries. Some of the earliest settlers were Amish and Mennonite Swiss who came here so they could freely practice their religion. That’s where The Brothers Path might touch home for many Americans and stimulate curiosity about their own ancestry.

The family that populates The Brothers Path is based on my…

View original post 1,167 more words

Montana Picnic

Emma carried the big, yellow Pyrex bowl filled with potato salad and covered with clean dish towel across the bit of pasture between her house and that of her daughter, Mary Ruth. Her ten year old granddaughter, Linda Louise, danced along beside her, proud to be going with grandma.

“Mother’s here,” called Helen who quickly put out her cigarette. It wouldn’t do for “Mom” to see her smoking.

Martha Ann looked up. Too small to be useful, but not too young to be interested, she saw her grandma hand the bowl to Uncle Hank and then lift the top wire and push down the middle wire of the barbed wire fence so she could come through.

“I’ll build you a gate, Mrs. Beall.”

“The day I can’t climb through a barbed wire fence, Hank,” she laughed.

But the next day, Hank cut the wire and put in a makeshift gate. A a year later, that section of the fence was wood with a gate that latched.

The late afternoon Montana light broke against the distant Beartooths. Martha Ann saw how the golden rays hit her grandmother’s white, white hair making a halo around the old woman’s face.

The potato salad was set on the table with everything else. Florence, Mrs. Beall’s oldest, arrived in her red Mercury with her youngest, Ed, and her teen-aged daughter, Harriet. Her oldest, John, had joined the service and was in Japan. He’d sent grandma gaudy silk pillow covers with Mt. Fuji embroidered on them.

“You still driving that old Merc, Sister?” asked Stocky, the husband of the youngest of the Beall girls. “How many miles on that thing?”

“It gets us there,” said Florence. Her husband had died the year before.

Mary Ruth was wearing Martha Ann’s favorite dress. It was chartreuse, with a beaded and embroidered pin that looked to Martha Ann like the Ford emblem on the front of the family car. She called it the “Tennessee Ernie Ford” dress and no one understood why, but it made sense in the logic of a five year old. Her little brother, Kirk, was trying on everybody’s hat.

“Hide your hats!” said his cousin Greg, learning Kirk was coming.

“Is the chicken ready? Why do you use that electric skillet?” asked Helen. “Frying that way adds a lot of fat.” Helen had recently been diagnosed with hypertension and high cholesterol. “I suppose you use lard?”

“Crisco,” Mary Ruth answered putting her lips together. 

“You should use corn oil. It’s low in cholesterol.”

“I suppose you use margarine, too?”

“Who made the pies?” asked Bill, Martha Ann’s dad. “Did you, Mrs. Beall?”

“No, Madylene made them.”

“Well, she’s done you proud. They look beautiful. You taught her well.”

Madylene’s youngest was still a baby, the next youngest, Lee, was almost three and fascinated with Martha Ann’s little brother, Kirk. Her two boys, Paul and Tom, were in Rapelje with their other grandparents.

Martha Ann was happy to get some red Jell-o with fruit cocktail in it and a chicken wing. The pie had been apple and raisin and everyone thought it was almost as good as grandma’s.

The meal was eaten, the sun sank lower, the paper plates went into the trash. Martha Ann stared a while at her cousin Harriet’s vivid, red and pointy fingernails and developed a life-long antipathy for the look (they scared her).

“I think I’d best go home,” said grandma to Mary Ruth, buttoning her pink sweater over her apron against the evening chill.

“David! Greg!” called Uncle Hank to his sons. “Go home with your grandma. See she gets home safe.”

“Can I go?” Linda asked Kelly, her mother.

“Sure. Maybe Martha Ann would like to go.”

Martha Ann was suddenly alert. These were BIG kids. Greg was 11 and so was Linda. “I’m only five,” she thought.

“Mom?” she looked at her mother who nodded.

They crossed the pasture through the tall grass. The grasshoppers leapt into the air with the crackling whir of summer.

“Goodnight, kids,” said grandma at the back door. “Thanks for seeing me home.” She held each grandchild against her ample bosom and kissed each on the head. “Now be good,” she said, sending them off.

The kids raced back across the pasture. Because she was too small to manage it herself, Greg held the wires of the fence, and Martha Ann went through. This had been the most grown-up adventure of her life so far and she couldn’t wait for more.

“You kids want Popsicles?” Mary Ruth called out the backdoor.

With grandma gone, everyone could smoke in peace. The grownups all sat in a circle in the backyard, their cigarettes glowing ends of day against the purple coming night. Stories, disputes, and laughter rose with the smoke and settled in the memories of all the children.