Swiss in the San Luis Valley

This coming summer — on June 20, the Saturday closest to my grandmother Beall’s birthday — I’ll be reading from the trilogy. The trilogy’s official title is very long and cumbersome, but the titles I wanted were taken, so I titled it, Across the World on the Wings of the Wind. Long though it is, it’s very expressive of the three books together. They are Savior, The Brothers Path and The Price. You can learn about them on their website.

I expect to read from The Brothers Path and The Price. Savior is pretty far away from the experiences relevant to the people to whom I’ll be reading. The project is turning out to be part of a presentation and exhibit on Swiss immigrants in the San Luis Valley.

Switzerland might be a small, land-locked country, but Madame Helvetica’s people really got around. In the 17th and 18th century many left — as my ancestors did — for religious reasons. Life in Switzerland was hard for many centuries, and in the 19th century, many, many left for better opportunities. The emigration from Switzerland continued well into the twentieth century. Most of the Swiss in the San Luis Valley arrived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Swiss ancestry is one of the most common in the United States.

Members of my family left illegally, with no passport or permission. There is a letter to them from the Canton of Zürich telling them they will be arrested if they return. I’ve enjoyed free coming and going for more than twenty years, so it seems the hatchet was buried some time back. I love Switzerland and wish, sometimes, that I was a boomerang, but…

I’m looking forward to the project and working with the Rio Grande County Museum and people in the valley I don’t know yet. One family — the Knoblauchs — are doing the Swiss thing; they have a dairy farm — the Lazy Ewe 2 Bar Goat Dairy — goats, cattle, yaks — and they make cheese.

Wheels of Cheese at the Knoblauch’s Lazy Ewe 2 Bar Ranch

I’ve visited their farm and really enjoyed it. My favorite animal was the yak.

Because of my best friend, Polar Bear Yeti T. Dog, the Akbash, the livestock guardian dog, I’m very interested in how people protect their livestock from predation. The Knoblauchs use llamas to guard the stock in the day and Great Pyrenees guard the stock at night. They also have the sweetest pit bull on the planet.

Right now the project is at the GIANT amorphous size of a project, but soon, I hope, it will start to center on itself and we’ll know what it is.

As for me, I’m only 10% Swiss but that ancestry has had a disproportionate influence on me as a writer and maybe as a person. My Grandmother Beall (family names include Stober and Schneebeli) was an important person in my life even though she died when I was ten. I can’t explain it and have stopped trying. If I’ve been channeling her family all this time, it’s fine with me. I love them and their stories just as I love my aunts and am proud of my family’s adventures.

When my Aussie neighbor Elizabeth brings me jelly she has made, she brings it in a “boomerang” jar.

The Brothers Path — For Free!

Last year I busted my ass trying to promote my novel, The Brothers PathIt’s a fast-moving novel about the Protestant Reformation as it happened in Switzerland. OK, we think of Switzerland today as a little land-locked neutral country with a lot of money, cheese, and chocolate, but back in the day, cities in Switzerland were major world powers. Switzerland was also the first democratic Confederation in Europe (post-Greece, etc.) Yeah. It was also part of the Holy Roman Empire. The map of Europe was different. Sure, the outlines were the same, but otherwise? Europe was a bunch of Liechtensteins, Monacos, etc.

Some of the most influential people during this time were Swiss. We don’t hear much about them, but that doesn’t change the facts. Out of Switzerland came some of the major Christian religions.

My novel focuses on the experiences of six brothers in one family during this time of religious upheaval, war, and change.


I bought 10 copies of this novel to sell in the Tattered Cover Bookstore in Denver. They sold none of them. I’m not surprised, but it was a shot I had to take and, because of my hip and other problems, I wasn’t able to back up the sales with a book-signing.

And, I’ll admit it, writing about obscure moments of history that occur in obscure places pretty much ensures that people are not going to read my books. I know that, I get it, but I write what I write. Why? No idea, but there it is. It really doesn’t matter that they’re written well.

SO…cleaning out my “studio” or whatever that room is I found 10 copies of this novel. I don’t want to store them. I went to Goodreads to see about setting up a giveaway but now that costs more than $100. Right? So I’m here, peddling my papers.

The Brothers Path has won the IndieBRAG Medallion and it has gotten some good reviews by people who understand the nature of the novel. You can read reviews here, here, and here. Also, considering the fact that many of our so-called German ancestors were actually Swiss and the events portrayed in the novel led directly to the immigration of our ancestors, it might be kind of interesting to anyone who is interested in the history of their “German” family.

I am offering the ten copies of The Brothers Path for free. You only need to pay shipping and you can do that through PayPal (ask me how). Media mail, depending how far the book is going, is usually under $3 in the US, around $12 to Canada, around $25 international shipping to Europe, and even more to Australia. (Frankly, if you’re not in the US or Canada, it’s closer to “Free” on Amazon. 🙂 )

Ars Longa, Vita Brevis

Last evening, looking for distraction from the election, I found myself watching a British art history documentary about Hans Holbein. The “guide” was Waldemar Januszczak, not my favorite art historian (he’s ugly, I’m superficial) and I ended up having one of those strange experiences of seeing a painting on television that I saw in real life in a city I visited but barely remember. The show is “Holbein; the Eye of the Tudors” and this is the painting:


Christ in the Tomb, Hans Holbein, Basel Art Museum

I was on a search that day for anything medieval and related to St. Gall. One of the doorways of the Basel cathedral is called the “Gallus Portal” because it is medieval and the carvings all around it tell the life of St. Gall, Switzerland’s patron saint who also happens to have been an Irishman.


Gallus Portal, Basel Cathedral

I was barely tuned into the fact that Nietzsche had lived in that city for quite a while and a person I had studied at some point in my education, Erasmus of Rotterdam, had also lived there. I didn’t know then that I would come to admire Erasmus very much; I didn’t know then his connection to Thomas More who is, allegedly, someone in the dim recesses of my family tree.

So there I was last night watching this strange chubby loud Waldemar Januszczak make (to me) gratuitous pop culture allusions to tie his viewers to the not-so-arcane history of the Reformation. As the show unfolded, I discovered that Waldemar Januszczak and I had some biases in common. Waldemar hated the Reformers for one of the same reasons I do; they sacked the churches, destroyed the art, and left them barren. What Waldemar had failed to research is that it was not Luther who reformed Basel; it became part of the Swiss Reformed Church — a reform movement begun in Zürich by Huldrych Zwingli and instituted in Basel by Zwingli’s friend, Johannes Oecolampadius These guys were not sympathetic with Martin Luther at all… They were distinct reformations with distinct doctrinal differences. Luther and Zwingli passionately disliked each other.

I wondered if it were so hard to do that research and get that right? The most common reader review of The Brothers Path is that the readers know nothing about this part of the Reformation. Some are interested by it; most are bORed. Many reviewers admit to skipping over the “God” bits. This would be most of the book since it’s about a religious revolution and one of the main characters is a priest turned reformed pastor, another is a religious fanatic and another a simple man of faith. For that matter, we have the Zürich reformation to thank for John Calvin, from whose religious philosophy many of the Protestant religions were born — Presbyterians, for one. I pretty much hate that stuff, but I’ve written about it, sympathetically, I hope. It seemed — seems — important to know where it came from, what world and why. ANY-hoo…

Waldemar made some important points, such as for a guy like Hans Holbein whose bread-and-butter was religious art, the Reformation wasn’t the best historical moment.

And swirling all around the beginning of “Hans Holbein; the Eye of the Tudors” was Basel. The cathedral. The day I visited it in 1997 it was January, a snowy day, and we entered the front doors and a silent man with sparkly eyes swept the snow from our clothing and handed us felt slippers to put over our shoes. We walked around the dim, red stone church. I felt its ancient solemnity; I did not notice (and wish I had) the defaced sculptures on the walls. Thanks to Waldemar Januszczak, I saw them last night. That wintry day I also noticed the tomb of Erasmus. A tiny bell far in the distance of my mind rang softly and when I got home, I checked out In Praise of Folly and read it, this time really, not just for a test in some obscure class. The book was in Latin and English.

Hans Holbein loved In Praise of Folly and drew whimsical illustrations in the margin. I got a bit annoyed with Waldemar  when he didn’t seem to realize that was pretty conventional behavior; perhaps Waldemar had never seen a medieval illustrated manuscript? That was — to my eyes — what Holbein had done, simply finished the book. After all, printing was new in the early 16th century.

So what’s the point?

At the end of the show, Waldemar spent time on one important and amazing painting, The Ambassadors.


Holbein died of the plague when he was in his mid-forties bringing home, again, the point that “art is long, life is fleeting.” The things which concern us today, frighten us today, will soon be forgotten completely and someday, a few hundred years from now, someone will comment on the events that have concerned Americans so much this past year. It will be a passing footnote in a longer story.

And he will get the facts wrong and most people will not even notice.




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…

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To Everyone to Whom I Sent a Copy of The Brothers Path

Book Two of The Brothers Path was, in at least one copy, inserted upsidedown and backwards.

I know I sent a few copies of The Brothers Path to friends here who offered to read and review. I don’t know if everyone has gotten to the book yet, and I’d be very happy if you haven’t if you could look at the end of Book One and see if your book is flawed in this way.


If it is, please let me know and I’ll send you a copy without this (large) glitch and I’ll also be able to make a more cogent claim to Createspace. 😦

Non-Fiction in Fiction

IndieBRAG has invited me to write several posts on their blog. Here is the second:

“Non-Fiction and the Brothers Path”

My consuming interest as a writer of historical fiction is to get as close as I can to the daily life of my characters who are, usually, just ordinary people. I’m most interested in how these sweeping events that are sketched for us in “history” were in their lives. With The Brothers Path I had some very intriguing facts on which to hang the story.

Here is the first post, Inspiration’s Mysterious Power.


The Autumn of Adam and Eve

In this strange experience of publishing The Brothers Path, I thought I had one great boon from the wreckage that was Bygone Era Books — a beautifully formatted, ready-to-self-publish manuscript. Yep.


I reformatted it to 6 x 9. No biggee. I changed the font on the chapter headings. Great. I uploaded it. Yay. I published the book. Waaa-HOOOO!

Then I looked at it on the Kindle reader.

Shit. A mistake in the first chapter. I was responsible now. I’d seen it (the superstitious morality of the self-published author). I had to fix it. Fixed it. All good.

And then…


I KNEW Daniel Willis had edited the book, but I never




imagined anything as surreal as this. Thank God it’s laughable. Two priests are having a serious conversation about the nature of sin. Speaker 1 (Leo Jud) is a reformed priest, a pastor. The other speaker is a Cistercian monk, Brother Hannes.

Original passage:

“It is our nature. The Bible tells us to go into the Earth and be fruitful and multiply.”

“After the Fall, Brother Leo.”

“Can we ever find that Divine Garden again? I don’t think so. If it were God’s will that we could regain that lost innocence, we would have. Can we force ourselves back inside now? We’ve all eaten of the fruit. Haven’t you, Brother?”

The Bygone Era Books new and “improved” passage:

“It is our nature. The Bible tells us to go into the Earth and be fruitful and multiply.”

“After the Autumn, Brother Leo.”

“Can we ever find that Divine Garden again? I don’t think so. If it were God’s will that we could regain that lost innocence, we would have. Can we force ourselves back inside now? We’ve all eaten of the fruit. Haven’t you, Brother?”


All I could think was, “Damn. I’m going to have to go through this line-by-line now” which I immediately did. As I worked, and found a few more (but none as surreal) “edits” I just thought,  “Thank goodness Bygone Era Books went out of business before they published my book.”

“More tears are shed over answered prayers than unanswered ones.” Truman Capote


The Brothers Path is now available for $3.00 both for Kindle on Amazon and on iTunes as an iBook.

The Brothers Path, iBook from iTunes

The Brothers Path for Kindle from Amazon

Those of you who have volunteered to read (free book in exchange for a review) would you rather have a print book or an ebook? Let me know!