Welcome to Karen’s Killer Book Bench where, every Wednesday, readers can discover talented new authors and take a peek inside their wonderful books. This is not an age-filtered site so all book peeks are PG-13 or better. Come back and visit often. Happy reading!
THE SONGBIRD WITH SAPPHIRE EYES by ANNA BRENTWOOD
In 1918, Kansas City is Sin City.
Forced to leave home at age fourteen, beautiful Hannah Glidden struggles to survive, but with help from her childhood friend, Meg, mistress to a wealthy married man and her roommate, the irrepressible, flapper extraordinaire, Rosie, she thrives as a cabaret singer.
The early 20’s roared. Fortunes were made or lost in a single night, and criminals mingled with kings. Neither the government nor Prohibition could stop the flow of alcohol or the lure of the “good life.” Handsome rum runner Johnny Gallo is part of New York’s large, growing criminal empire where the sky is the limit. The ruthless Gallo has a knack for knowing the right people, and a single-minded devotion to getting what he wants. And, he wants Hannah.
Hannah goes with Johnny to Al Capone’s Chicago and eventually to Brooklyn, New York where she basks in the glamorous shadow world of gangsters and their gals. Johnny becomes a force to be reckoned with, but in time the free-spirited Hannah clashes with her controlling lover.
She faces the dark side of her dreams but dares to defy Johnny despite the dangers and unwittingly discovers that for her, dying just might be the only true path to freedom after all.
THE SONGBIRD WITH SAPPHIRE EYES by ANNA BRENTWOOD
Surely life should consist of more than work and endless acres of dust and dirt? What’s wrong with wantin’ to know things, to experience more then getting up every morning with a long list of chores to do and only farm animals for company?
I was an unruly child, lonely, energetic and fanciful beyond measure. Emalith, my Mama seemed to care more about farming than anything else. She covered her wiry body in shapeless garments of washed out gingham, while I yearned to have pretty things, which she believed to be vain and sinful. If vanity was a sin, it was just the beginning of the many sins I would commit.
Labor defined our lives. Depending on the season, Mondays were washday, Tuesdays ironin’, Wednesdays mendin’and we did odd chores on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. If hired help was scarce, we tended to the horses, cattle, sheep and pigs too. On Sundays we went to church.
Mama truly believed hard work was the path to heaven. I wondered whether her Heaven was worth aspiring to. I envied the birds bein’ able to fly, the colorful flowers; daisies, asters and primrose for their beauty, wishin’ and wantin’ things I was told I wasn’t meant to have or be. According to my Mama, a body had to accept things the way they were and to stop askin’questions. Problem was, I couldn’t stop.
Often, by summer’s end, when the flowers were dying and the bees flying erratically, living fast and furious to make up for their lack of time, I felt like they were the only ones understood exactly how I was feelin’, like time was runnin’ out and we had to hurry up and live before it might all be over.
I worried somethin’ awful I’d be sucked dry, brittle and hollow like the wheat stems lying in the field after harvest. I didn’t want to be left with nothin’ but regrets and tough work hardened hands like my mother, whose once remarkably smooth skin was dry and parched as an old wagon road. I wanted things, things I suspected existed yet I didn’t know where. And, I burned for freedoms I had yet to feel, for something different, for change, for pleasures yet to be. I learned too late perhaps that wantin’ lots of nice things is its’ own kind of trap and true freedom comes from letting go, not from holdin’ on and from acceptance and forgiveness but that’s gettin’ ahead of myself here.
Folks say I was pretty as an angel. I was no angel, but was it so bad to listen to my heart, to want, need and dream? In the telling of my story some might judge me harshly, think I got my due. Times I was greedy, impulsive and a willing partner in my own corruption, yet even now I don’t regret my choices, for they were mine and felt right at that time. Still do considerin’. So why talk now? Because I need you to know that every life whether lived well, foolishly, or barely has a clear-cut purpose to it. That it’s better to live life true to oneself than to just exist to be safe or comfortable.
Tragedies befall us. We don’t always grasp the need for hardship, pain, or suffering while we’re livin’, but it’s okay, all part of the BIG plan. And, I have learned from life and death that there is a plan. That there are unlimited beginnings, infinite, sad or happy endings. But, most importantly, never endings. My name is Hannah and this is my story.
“Infinite passion and pain, of finite hearts that yearn.”
Browning and Bryan
Blinking back tears, fourteen year old Hanna Glidden raced onto the train. She swallowed past the lump that had become a part of her throat every time she relived the horror of the past twenty-four hours. The last rail car was empty and she sat. Hair hidden under a scarf, she tried to be as invisible as possible, avoiding eye contact with the other passengers. She patted her bulging pockets which held fifty dollars that she’d “borrowed” from her Mama’s moneybox, ten of it silver, plus some crisp, starchy bills that even now scratched beneath her corset. She’d left a hastily scrawled note. ‘Sorry, gone off to seek my fortune. Will pay back what I took later. Pray for me. Hanna.’
Sighing, she shifted restlessly and winced. Her body felt bruised and sore. She’d bled. Ray had been everything to her for so very long, but he’d hurt her badly. She never wanted to love another human being like that again. Ever.
She was tired but couldn’t sleep wondering if Ray would come after her. Common sense said he wouldn’t. She’d been careful to cover her tracks and he’d been very drunk.
Fortuitously, she’d caught a ride with a peddler heading to Independence. There she waited for hours, taking the first train to Topeka, then another and finally was headed to Kansas City. Even if Ray traced her to Topeka, he’d be hard put to figure out where she’d gone after that with all the trains running there. She could only hope so and promised herself that somehow she’d survive all the while speeding off towards a future that was in doubt.
She wouldn’t—couldn’t let melancholy consume her. Last night’s events had surely shattered any hope that things at home would ever get better. Her ideals about love and what went on between men and women were pure bull! Tears threatened to fall, but she held them back. She forced herself to believe that she was no longer a silly girl, but a woman newly made for better or worse. And, she’d escaped. No one could tell her what she could or couldn’t do, think, want or wish anymore. She was free to make her own choices, finally. And, come Hell or high water, she’d make ‘em!
Meet Anna Brentwood, Author….
Anna (which is her real first name) was a bookworm almost since birth and was recognized as a writing PRO by Romance Writers of America in 2002. An active professional member of Willamette Writers, RWA, the Rose City Romance Writers and NIWA, Anna grew up in Philadelphia and graduated from Philadelphia’s, University of the Arts where she majored in Illustration. She pursued a successful and versatile career in children’s book illustration, graphic arts, publications and public relations in Southern California before being lured to the Oregon wilderness by her desire to write professionally and raise her family in wholesome and healthy surroundings.
Anna’s debut novel, ‘The Songbird with the Sapphire Eyes’ first began as a series of dreams that so haunted her they became a personal quest to explore possible past life memories. The journey was both eerie and exciting and the manuscript finaled and won second place in the Women’s Fiction category of the 2006 Tara Awards.
Anna is inspired to write about interesting characters whose lives take them on journeys we can all enjoy and perhaps learn something meaningful from. She is busy working on a sequel to ‘The Songbird With Sapphire Eyes’ which will take readers on a journey through the 1940’s with Johnny and Hannah’s son, wartime hero, playboy and New York mobster, Anthony Gallo.
A wife, mother and doting new grandmother of two, Anna lives in a log home on 45 wooded acres on Oregon’s coast range with her former Navy-Seal husband and a menagerie of animals that include one pug, one cat, one horse, two wolf-hybrids, a red-tailed hawk named Lucky and a feisty but lovable African grey parrot named Warlock
Links to Anna Brentwood’s website, blog, books, etc.
You may contact Anna at: firstname.lastname@example.org or through her website at www.annabrentwood.com. “Like” at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Anna-Brentwood/447346295303805?ref=hl
Or add on Twitter @annabrentwood and Facebook.com/annabrentwood.
**SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: Anna will give away a copy of her book, some flapper beads, and a chocolate cigar to one lucky reader!! Comment on either her Monday Interview and/or Wednesday’s Karen’s Killer Book Bench blogs for a chance to win. Winner will be randomly selected and announced Monday, February 18, 2013. Thanks, Anna, for sharing your stories with us!