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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Beyond the Book #SullivanBallou

Welcome to Beyond the Book. There are two houses that are important in my book. One is Fortuna itself, and the other is Bad Creek. Bad Creek was built in the Civil War era, and that made Aimee curious about the war. Cade, who lives in Bad Creek found a letter written by a Civil War soldier named Sullivan Ballou. Here's a copy of the letter. Don't mind the wordy language. Keep reading. Just FYI, Aimee cried for a long time. Do any of you know what happened to Mr. Ballou? I'll post a bio at the end of the letter. If you'd rather hear the letter read, you can do so at

July the 14th, 1861
Washington DC

My very dear Sarah:

The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days - perhaps tomorrow. Lest I should not be able to write you again, I feel impelled to write lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more.

Our movement may be one of a few days duration and full of pleasure - and it may be one of severe conflict and death to me. Not my will, but thine 0 God, be done. If it is necessary that I should fall on the battlefield for my country, I am ready. I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in, the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how strongly American Civilization now leans upon the triumph of the Government, and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the Revolution. And I am willing - perfectly willing - to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this Government, and to pay that debt.

But, my dear wife, when I know that with my own joys I lay down nearly all of yours, and replace them in this life with cares and sorrows - when, after having eaten for long years the bitter fruit of orphanage myself, I must offer it as their only sustenance to my dear little children - is it weak or dishonorable, while the banner of my purpose floats calmly and proudly in the breeze, that my unbounded love for you, my darling wife and children, should struggle in fierce, though useless, contest with my love of country?

I cannot describe to you my feelings on this calm summer night, when two thousand men are sleeping around me, many of them enjoying the last, perhaps, before that of death -- and I, suspicious that Death is creeping behind me with his fatal dart, am communing with God, my country, and thee.

I have sought most closely and diligently, and often in my breast, for a wrong motive in thus hazarding the happiness of those I loved and I could not find one. A pure love of my country and of the principles have often advocated before the people and "the name of honor that I love more than I fear death" have called upon me, and I have obeyed.

Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me to you with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly on with all these chains to the battlefield.

The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them so long. And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when God willing, we might still have lived and loved together and seen our sons grow up to honorable manhood around us. I have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me - perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar -- that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield, it will whisper your name.

Forgive my many faults, and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless and foolish I have oftentimes been! How gladly would I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness, and struggle with all the misfortune of this world, to shield you and my children from harm. But I cannot. I must watch you from the spirit land and hover near you, while you buffet the storms with your precious little freight, and wait with sad patience till we meet to part no more.

But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the garish day and in the darkest night -- amidst your happiest scenes and gloomiest hours - always, always; and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath; or the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by.

Sarah, do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for thee, for we shall meet again.

As for my little boys, they will grow as I have done, and never know a father's love and care. Little Willie is too young to remember me long, and my blue eyed Edgar will keep my frolics with him among the dimmest memories of his childhood. Sarah, I have unlimited confidence in your maternal care and your development of their characters. Tell my two mothers his and hers I call God's blessing upon them. O Sarah, I wait for you there! Come to me, and lead thither my children.


Sullivan Ballou (March 28, 1829 – July 29, 1861) was a lawyer and politician from Rhode Island, and an officer in the Union Army during the American Civil War. He is best remembered for the eloquent letter he wrote to his wife one week before he fought in the First Battle of Bull Run, where he was mortally wounded.

Song of the Oceanids

Song of the Oceanides
by J.G. Zymbalist


GENRE:  YA Fantasy



Song of the Oceanides is a highly-experimental triple narrative transgenre fantasy that combines elements of historical fiction, YA, myth and fairy tale, science fiction, paranormal romance, and more.  For ages 10-110.



Blue Hill, Maine.
3 August, 1903.

From the moment Emmylou heard the song of the Oceanides, she recognized something godly in the tune.  As it resounded all across the desolate shoreline of Blue Hill Bay, she recalled the terrible chorus mysticus ringing all throughout that extinct Martian volcano the day her father went missing down in the magma chamber.
Aunt Belphœbe followed along, guiding Maygene through the sands.  “Why don’t you go play in that shipwreck over there?”  Aunt Belphœbe pointed toward a fishing schooner run aground some fifty yards to the south.

When Maygene raced off, Emmylou refused to follow.  By now the chorus of song tormented her so much that an ache had awoken all throughout her clubfoot.  Before long she dropped her walking stick and fell to the earth.  Closing her eyes, she dug both her hands into the sands and lost herself in memories of the volcano.  How could Father be gone?  Though he had often alluded to the perils of Martian vulcanology, she never imagined that someone so good and so wise could go missing.

The song of the Oceanides grew a little bit louder and increasingly dissonant.

Opening her eyes, Emmylou listened very closely.  The song sounded like the stuff of incantation, witchcraft.  And even though she could not comprehend every word, nevertheless she felt certain that the Oceanides meant to cast a spell upon some unfortunate soul.

AUTHOR Bio and Links:

J.G. Źymbalist began writing Song of the Oceanides as a child when his family summered in Castine, Maine where they rented out Robert Lowell’s house.

The author returned to the piece while working for the Martha’s Vineyard Historical Society, May-September, 2005.  He completed the full draft in Ellsworth, Maine later that year.

For more information, please see

 A Word From the Author 

Advice for writers

The best thing any writer can do is to work one on one with a published novelist (or content editor or line editor) who is willing to critique one of your early drafts line by line.  The most ideal situation would be to send off or to email the manuscript in chunks and then meet face to face perhaps once or twice a month in some comfortable coffee house midway between either places of residence. 

     Then you do very little.  Just sit there sipping your coffee or nibbling on your oatmeal cookie and listen as that published mentor produces the last chunk sent to him or her.  At this point, the novelist/content editor/line editor will review his or her edits in such a way that there will be no confusion as to the meaning.  In short order, you will get a sense of what the major problems are.

     Presently I am working with a content editor living on the other side of the country, and the only way to communicate is via email.  Of course I can ask for a clarification of this or that edit, but nothing beats a real face-to-face encounter.  The feeling is something like that of an apprentice learning from a master or at least someone far ahead on the learning curve.  It is good to feel like an apprentice by the way.  It is a humbling sensation.  In our time, writers and artists and musicians are becoming much more empowered due to the personal computer and the internet and so on.  That’s all well and good, but it shouldn’t mean that the writer or artist or musician should let his or her ego swell.  The humbling feeling that is created by master craftsman and apprentice remains a good strong fulcrum for learning.  Let’s not forget that pride is one of the seven deadly sins—and pride is deadly even if you’re not Catholic.

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Sunday, May 29, 2016

Snippet Sunday and Weekend Writing Warriors

Welcome to Snippet Sunday and Weekend Writing Warriors, your chance to sample the work of a talented group of authors. When you finish here, you can find more snippets at :

We know that Susan won her bet when Kurt asked her to go with him to a party. Today they have just arrived at the party where Kurt is joking around with their host and leads him to believe that he and Susan are involved.


Mendoza grinned at her. “Hmm, maybe I was wrong. Your woman likes your touch, Kurt.”

Susan’s face burned as Kurt shot a glance at her. “I try to please her in every way.”

Mendoza slapped Kurt on the back. “Good job, my friend. Both of you, dance, eat, drink. Enjoy yourselves.” With a shout of laughter, Mendoza rejoined the party while Susan took Kurt to task. 

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Saturday Sample

Susan English can’t stand Robin Lanford! She’s so full of herself she irritates everyone on the faculty of Fairfield High. When Robin bets Susan fifty dollars that she can’t get a date with Kurt Deveraux, the head football coach, Susan jumps at the chance to put the little heifer in her place. She had no idea that teaching Robin a lesson would irrevocably change her life, strain treasured friendships, and throw two families into chaos.

Susan won her bet with Robin when Kurt asked her to go to a party with him. Unfortunately, they drank too much and ended up sharing a bed. This scene is from next morning.

Susan wiped away her tears long enough to find her clothes, but the darkness made it hard to see much. She started crying again when she bumped her toe on a chair leg.

A gentle tap sounded on the door just as she zipped her jeans. “Kurt? Is everything okay?” came the whisper of their host.

Mr. Mendoza! She couldn’t face him! “Go and talk to him,” she hissed at Kurt who’d made no move toward the door. She gave him a shove, and he hurriedly buttoned his shirt and stepped outside. He didn’t close the door all the way, so she heard their conversation.

“Everything’s fine, Jose. Susan’s just embarrassed because she had too much to drink and ...and...had to stay the night. To tell you the truth, I’m a little embarrassed myself.”

Mendoza’s voice sounded kind. “Don’t be ashamed. It’s better to stay the night than to drive drunk. You had a good time, right? Take the lovely Susan home, and let her sleep it off. By tonight she’ll be her old self.” 

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