REVIEW: “Masterfully written, The Secrets of Mary Bowser shines a new light onto our country’s darkest history.”
—Brunonia Barry, bestselling author of The Lace Reader
SPECIAL KINDLE PRICE TODAY! $1.99
Genre: Historical Fiction
Based on the remarkable true story of a freed African American slave who returned to Virginia at the onset of the Civil War to spy on the Confederates, The Secrets of Mary Bowser is a masterful debut by an exciting new novelist. Author Lois Leveen combines fascinating facts and ingenious speculation to craft a historical novel that will enthrall readers of women’s fiction, historical fiction, and acclaimed works like Cane River and Cold Mountain that offer intimate looks at the twin nightmares of slavery and Civil War. A powerful and unforgettable story of a woman who risked her own freedom to bring freedom to millions of others, The Secrets of Mary Bowser celebrates the courageous achievements of a little known but truly inspirational American heroine.
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In a world where so many put themselves forward by shoving someone else out of the way, we’re heartened by stories of unselfish giving. It’s an inspiring theme that always emerges in the glow and remembrance of Christmas.
But any time of year, stories both true and fictional help us balance our ambitions, become less selfish, and strive to be better people. Not stories featuring superheroes, obviously. Much as we enjoy characters whose special powers enable them to topple the bad guys and avert catastrophic events, superhero characters don’t inspire or give hope.
The most inspiring stories feature people we all could be—those with no special gifts, ordinary people, poor people, compassionate people. I appreciate realistic fiction that expands my view of the world and gives hope for problems that seem to go on without relief.
One of my favorites is Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance
. Set in India in the 1970s, the story gives us characters who endure poverty, frustration, corruption and prejudice with moral courage. Beautifully written, it ends in an unforgettable way, not happily-ever-after, but with the power of love.
I’m inspired by stories of faithfulness, even silly ones like Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hatches the Egg
. Horton the elephant is an unlikely egg-sitter, but when the lazy bird Mayzie leaves him in the lurch, he sits and he sits, because “an elephant’s faithful, one hundred percent.”
Maybe the bird in this children’s story was not simply lazy. Maybe she did not know about love and faithfulness, qualities learned by example. I thought about the importance of a loving environment as I watched Anderson Cooper interview Shin Dong-hyuk, a young man born and raised in a cruel North Korean concentration camp. Until he was about 23, starvation and brutality kept Shin from experiencing any human kindness. He told Cooper he didn’t cry much when his mother and brother were executed for trying to escape the camp, because he thought they’d gotten what they deserved. Later Shin revealed he was the one who informed on them. At the time, he thought it was the right thing to do, because they’d broken the rules.
Now 30 and free, Shin said he still doesn’t know what love is, but he feels bad about what he did, and cries more than he ever did in camp. He’s becoming learning to be human. Writer Blaine Hardin tells Shin’s story in his book, Escape from Camp 14
In 2005, 100 writers (“leading lights of British letters”) were asked to name their favorite fictional characters. As you might imagine, literary characters were cited for being unique or entertaining, stoic, independent, despicable (but so well drawn), or compassionate. Author Maeve Binchey chose one of my favorites, Joe Gargery of Dickens’ Great Expectations
. Joe, a father figure to young Pip, is the humble character whose love and compassion make him a contrast to the haughty and vindictive Miss Havisham. Though Pip is awed by Miss Havisham and made rich by the bequest of a convict, Joe’s influence is most important to his life.
Compassion makes us human, and compassion helps us endure. Compassionate characters, like people in real life, show how an ordinary person can make a small corner of his world better.
Here’s where you can find the books mentioned above: Great Expectations
(free) http://amzn.to/Y7Hy9s Horton Hatches the Egg http://amzn.to/TUACq3 Escape from Camp 14 http://amzn.to/Rxg0Zq A Fine Balance http://amzn.to/R0EVmG
And my historical novel, also a story with characters who care: The Girl on the Mountain
. The Kindle book is FREE for Christmas (Dec. 25 and 26). http://amzn.to/Qty8Tm
Every small act of kindness spreads hope. Keep Christmas with you.
About The Author
Carol Ervin has been a teacher, business owner, and writer and designer of marketing materials. Married to her childhood sweetheart, she has two grown children and lives on a hillside farm in West Virginia with a steep lane and a spectacular view of wooded mountains. She has great respect for the history and culture of the hardy settlers of the Appalachian Mountains, and never tires of gazing at West Virginia’s rugged mountain streams and woodland foliage. The Girl on the Mountain is her first novel. She is currently working on a sequel.
Reader Review: There are two types of fiction in my mind: fiction which simply entertains, and fiction which enlightens, stimulates thought, and moves the reader to be something more than they were before they read the work while it still entertains. I like to be entertained, but even more so I enjoy reading a work which can not only entertain, but leave me uplifted and a better human being for having read the work. The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap, is one of those wonderful pieces of literature which leaves the reader a better human being while still providing entertainment. I will not give away the story because I hope that you will read this work for yourself, but let me say that this book is about something all people struggle to find; the ability to be loved and accepted for who we are, without having to fear hurt and pain for having risked our hearts. This book is an excellent piece of literature, and one which I would highly recommend to anyone.
Rating: 4.8 stars
Price: ebook - $2.99
A women's Brokeback Mountain. The year 1895 was filled with memorable historical events: the Dreyfus Affair divided France; Booker T. Washington gave his Atlanta address; the United States expanded the effects of the Monroe Doctrine to cover South America; and Oscar Wilde was tried and convicted for gross indecency under Britain's recently passed law that made sex between males a criminal offense. When news of Wilde's conviction went out over telegraphs worldwide, it threw a small Nevada town into chaos. This is the story of what happened when the lives of its citizens were impacted by the news of Oscar Wilde's imprisonment. It is a chronicle of hatred and prejudice with all its unintended and devastating consequences, and how love and friendship bring strength and healing.
From the time I was ten year old, I've loved to write. While in college I wrote two award winning short stories. This encouraged me to continue to write, and write I did but never completed any of my novels due to other responsibilities: education, jobs, family, etc. After attending and receiving a Master's Degree in the Nurse Practitioner Program at UCLA, I went to work in the second busiest emergency room in Los Angeles county. I saw and learned about things that haunted me, until bit by a tick and diagnosed with Lyme Disease (which went to my heart valves, brain, and muscular skeletal system) knocked me down and afforded me time to write and release the memories onto pages before me. I wrote, and wrote, and released what was stored inside, which finally gave way to a story that was to change my life, The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap. When I began to feel better, I joined a writing class, in Ojai, CA, where I live. The teacher, Deb Norton (screenwrite/playwrite of The Whole Banana) had us do an exercise involving a photo. We were to write a 10 minute mystery. The photo I picked was of two women huddled close together in clothing that looked circa turn of the twentieth century. I made them a Lesbian couple trying to avoid being found out. In my research, I came across Oscar Wilde's imprisonment. Britain had recently changed it's laws to make homosexual activity, a man having sex with another man, a criminal offense resulting in a two year hard labor prison sentence. The combination of the photo from that writing class and Oscar Wilde's imprisonment were the seeds that started the story, six years in the making. For those six years, I studied Wilde, the history of Lesbians, western settlement in the United States, and I opened to what it must have been like to live in fear of being persecuted because of the nature of one's existence, that can no more be changed than the color of grass. As I wrote, I saw myself in the characters who I dialogued with, related with as if we were friends today, and in doing this I learned that external factors may change (the environment, technology, family relating, etc.) but the nature of the human condition and how we manifest remains the same. There will always be stories to tell, to write, to read, to appreciate, because we invest in literature from our humanness, our emotional composition, and we relate to the imagery created with narrative and dialogue that suit our preferences. We are drawn in, over and over and over again, to similar story lines, themes, sequels, because of this human experience--that in sitting down before a book or ebook, we are transcended out of our ordinary lives to magical places that written words create, no matter how similar or repetitive the story, because,after all, we are all living, breathing, stories.
Thank you for arriving at my page. I hope you read and enjoy my story. https://www.facebook.com/ThePersecutionOfMildredDunlap