Stefani Allison gets over the hump to enter our contest

(I have a hunch you will like this prologue) Literati! We want our manuscripts to be perfect specimens, ten toes and fingers, all the parts in order. Quasi-modo, roughly translated, means partially formed. We cannot edit the children-to-be in-uterus (but we’re working on it) but we can edit our other little darlings, our novels, during gestation. …

(I have a hunch you will like this prologue)

Literati!

We want our manuscripts to be perfect specimens, ten toes and fingers, all the parts in order. Quasi-modo, roughly translated, means partially formed. We cannot edit the children-to-be in-uterus (but we’re working on it) but we can edit our other little darlings, our novels, during gestation. That is what this website is all about. This is a de-facto writer’s workshop, and the feedback a writer gets from other authors can shape the outcome, the form, of our newborns.  There is no such thing as a mistake in a manuscript until it goes to print, as my mentor and former editor from the San Diego Union Tribune, Arthur Salm, advised me.

The plan is simple; the feedback an author gets from submitting their prologue and first chapters for peer commentary can help each author shape the outcome of their final manuscript.  Ten fingers. Ten toes. Mary Poppins perfect in every way.

Stefani Allison is one of the most passionate writers I know. We have all seen her ability soar like Sally Fields since A Word with You Press has provided a niche in cyber-space.

After you read her entry, scroll back up for these contest rules, and enter the contest yourself for feedback, which is priceless, or do it for the $250 first place prize money! (that’s what motivated Jack London: read Wolf: the Lives of Jack London)

http://www.awordwithyoupress.com/2014/03/20/once-upon-a-time-our-new-contest/

But first, the prologue to

​​​My Gallant Love

by Stefani Allison

“This is punishment for your sins,” the mother superior yelled over the baby’s cries.
The last thing Sister Anne could see clearly in the moonlight before her eyesight began to blur was the sight of the other sisters, tending to the newborn.

“The manuscript,” Sister Anne croaked.

“Will be burned right after you are–when we find it!” snarled Mother Superior. “No soul will read your lies or of that old knight.” She smashed Sister Anne’s inkwell to the ground, eliciting a terrified cry from the infant.

“SHUT that abomination up, or it will follow after her manuscript!”

“He.”

“What?”

“He. He is not an it.”

“With that lump on his shoulder, it might as well be.”

“Let me see my son.”

“You will, from your perch in hell.”

The sound of her son crying was all she could hold as the withered hag loomed over the cot, thwarting her failed attempt to stand. Sister Anne cringed, feeling her blood soaking into the straw mattress.

She only needed to say a few words to him.

“Who was he?”

“If you could look into my child’s face, maybe you could tell.”

“I will question each monk personally,” she retorted, as she knocked Sister Anne’s outstretched hand. “The gall you have, setting a holy man aflame with lust.”

“How do you know lust is hot? Have you the burns to prove it?”

The slap across her face was dull compared to what labor had been.

“Shut your mouth, you unholy adulteress!”

A novitiate quietly entered the room. “Mother Superior, Father Caughley has finished ushering all the monks to the chapel.” Sister Anne’s heart beat in time with the horse hoofs outside her cell, and she allowed herself a secret smile.

“Good man, Father Caughley,” the old nun said, blushing at his name. Sister Anne grabbed the blanket, wishing the cloaked demon’s neck in her grip.

“Call all of the sisters to the chapel! You three, out of here; don’t you dare bless this evil tree or her bad fruit! To the chapel. Now!”

The dungeon door closed with such a thunderous roar that the child began to wail again.

Sister Anne could see the gates of heaven as the distant sound of chanting filled her ears. None of it sounded like the Latin she had recited mindlessly throughout her service to God. Too weak to stand, Sister Anne rolled off of her cot and hit the floor, straw sticking to the bloody mess on her robe. Every movement struck a chord of pain, as if she had begun labor again. She pressed her lips over a lose tile on the cold floor, comforted that her manuscript would remain secret until the right time.

When the right time would be, she didn’t know.

I fear it will be too far in the future, she thought. One generation is already too far as it is.

She needed to tell her son. But she knew her own selfish reasons. One moment, with my child in my arms. It is the last I will ask of this world.

She shielded the baby from the cold, grey Scottish air for what she knew would be the first and last time.
“Your grandfather thought it was too late,” she said. “But he was wrong. I bear the memory of my mother, though I never knew her. You too, must bear my memory. Your head will not remember this; only your heart and soul will.”
With her eyesight going black, she traced the baby’s soft hands and feet, counting each of his ten fingers and toes. She then stroked the tender lump on the child’s right shoulder.

“Your pain will one day be your greatest pride, Stefanzo,” she prophesied. “Be brave, my son, my gallant love.”

The demurring novitiate slipped back into the dungeon at the break of dawn to bless the corpse of the dead woman, clinging to her hunchback baby.

*********************************************************************************************

GET THEE TO A NUNNERY!

11 comments

  1. Parisianne Modert says:

    There was an inner war going on within me as I read Stefani Allison’s prologue to her novel entitled, “My Gallant Love”. The brutality and the source of the, you deserved it punishment didn’t sit well with me having been a Reverend Mother between the years of 1995-2002. Within these words are a total lack of compassion other than the rebellion of Sister Anne towards her newborn hunchback son, Stefanzo.

    With that disclosure admitted for fairness sake, let me applaud the mystery we are given as enticement to continue reading chapter one. The scene is reasonably set, the characters are divided in purpose and morals and the plot can be followed; although I am confused as to whether Sister Anne bleeds to death from the child birth or by whipping. I also was confused by the words cell and dungeon being interchanged.

    • Mother Superior’s brutality1962-1964 would not have sat well with you either. I myself, couldn’t sit for days. And I am sure this is not the time for Reverend Mother’s compassion about anything. GO, Go, Go, Stefanzo.

      • Parisianne Modert says:

        I have always believed that abuse is abuse no matter who dishes it out. Jesus once admonished us to love our enemies as ourselves. Early in my self-training as a Benedictine sister, a person within our parish was very rude and challenging towards me. One of the deacons handed me a ruler and suggested that I strike his knuckles. I laid down the ruler and kissed his knuckles asking God to heal those hurt by abuse and to forgive those who abuse others in His name.

        Michael, I served in a very alternative catholic church rather than the Roman Catholic Church, but after speaking to many sisters and nuns about my handling of an ugly situation, I am confident that most modern religious sisters are kindly servants of God rather than your earlier experience. I also taught Sunday school for an age range of young people with respect for them and their views which at times were different from my own.

        Much like you I am rooting for Stefanzo as I did for each and every student, parishioner and one other religious sister under my care. While the order I designed based on the Rule of St. Benedict would have treated this sister with compassion, because we had no vow of chastity, she would have been asked to leave most orders of St. Benedict without repentance and contrition for breaking her vow of chastity.

        The manuscript fascinates me, because convents are not prisons no matter what some may think. A convents are religious communities based on tightly bound cooperations which few people ever see or appreciate.

        I remain sad that between 2002 and 2013 I lost the faith I loved. Leaving one’s vows to serve are never easy. They say the hounds of hell haunt those who betray those vows or walk away from them. I honestly have my faith back, but know myself too well to ever wish minor orders again in any Catholic Church or convent, but I have a deep respect for many of the sisters and brothers who do serve nobly and selflessly.

        My heart goes out to Sister Anne as a mother and Stefanzo as the baby having lost his mother in childbirth or by punishment speaking as a loving and caring woman.

        As someone who writes critique, Michael, I believe that there is enough content in this prologue to read on, but as someone who knows her own self, I would never wish to read chapter one of “My Gallant Love”. As such I will pass on any further review of this story and leave it to others to recommend, because I simply can not.

        • Thank you, Parisianne, for your honesty. You are clearly of astounding depths. I have forgiven Mother Superior’s brutality long ago. It was early sixties, Queens, NY, she, and the Holy Catholic Church behind her, was fighting badly to survive the onslaught of change. I came within inches of shipping off to school to eventually recieve Marist Brother’s oders. The eleventh hour about face was due to certain inner doubt. But acceptance of the “hood”, the community of holy order, and the love of god’s grace as my life, even though it was only a brush in the night, has never left me. Thrilling back then and supporting now. Compassion is pretty much all we got as mortals with immortal thoughts. In the light of 2014 this is truer than ever.
          I imagine you still say morning prayers. Concerning “My Gallant Love”, I am sure they are enough.

          • Parisianne Modert says:

            I actually Michael can relate to what little I can sense of Sister Anne wishing that “My Gallant Love” had focused more on her reasoning to break her vows than the brutality surrounding her last moments on Earth. I still have my prayer books, but haven’t opened them for years. The reason I suppose is that my return to faith much as my finding of it in the early 90s came as a result of what I can best describe as the golden light of the Holy Spirit filling me. There is no ritual which approaches this intimacy even within prayer.

            Therefore I am a mystic prophet who defies the conventions of man and must confound my Creator on a consistent basis. My bishop use to tell me over and over again that it is easy to be holy from the top of a mountain knowing that my work as a sister was in the real world with real people whose struggles were profound. Our parish had a lovely combination of gay, lesbian and straight people, some divorced, many with children of various ages. We were a home for the disenfranchised clergy who had walked away from the Roman Church or had been asked to leave in this country and in others. The number of languages among less than a hundred people astounded me at times.

            Today, I am an admitted wild woman whose passionate lust would fit no habit. While I miss the sanctity of wearing a habit and living as selflessly as I could find the strength to; I know I can not be a hypocrite to the woman who came back to life in 2013. Gestalt therapy integrates the various aspects of us which I believe I have done finding a peace within myself of self-knowledge. Now I must work on being genuine with others more and more with each day.

            Sister Anne fascinates me, I will admit, because she is as torn apart spiritually at her death as her body is. When I die someday I pray that I am surrounded in love not brutality of spirit and those I love know I lived a both a beautiful and challenging life summed up in peace. We all have as St. John of the Cross pointed out our dark nights of the soul, but I would hate to think of dying in that state not knowing what fate awaits my baby that I barely got to hold.

  2. Chuck Chuckerson says:

    Very intense. I’m interested to know what this manuscript is all about. What a shame that often the women is punished for ensnaring the man with no regard to the possibility that it was mutual, of that the pressure came from the other direction. On small note, “corpse of the dead woman” is redundant, as all corpses are dead.

  3. Billy says:

    Hey Stefani! Well Done!

    Wasn’t It for a long time standard practice for the catholic church to remove the child from the mother if they deemed the mother incapable of raising an illegitimate child without funding?

    There’s a great BBC show “Call the Midwife” you might want to check out.

    I met the “sisters” that manage the Scripps Memorial Hospital. They were normal people, ‘cept for the penguin outfits 😉 We danced laughed and ate together during a fundraising Gala. Nuns are human too :O

    I don’t think Jesus “admonished,” I think that was a statement/observation regarding the projectionary psyche :O

  4. Stef! A great start… I think there is a bit of overgilding the lily going on, but that depends on who is telling the story, which I don’t believe is “you”. I’d have to read the rest to know for sure. You got me hooked. I’m already mourning someone and wanting to slap a nun! You give awesome story mamacita!

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