Episodes, Having Fun

23. Super Sappy Letters of Love

 

The Book Owl is a little belated, but this episode is all about the lovey-dovey, super-gushy story of love letters. From that very first Valentine (which may not actually exist) to the oldest (and sappiest) love letter in English, it’s time to use words to bare our souls!

Mentioned in This Episode….

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The (Rough) Transcript

Hey everyone, this is Tammie Painter and you’re listening to the Book Owl Podcast, the podcast where I entertain your inner book nerd with tales of quirky books and literary lore. 

Intro

Now, I know I’m running a little late with this, but when I was trying to come up with an idea for this 23rd episode of the podcast, it was right around Valentine’s Day and love was in the air. Of course I am head over heels for books and could have maybe come up with a lengthy poem about that lifelong adoration, but since I’m not at all poetic, I thought I’d step away from books this time, and instead turn to another form of writing: the love letter. 

But before we jump into this lovey dovey, super gushy episode, give me just a few moments to share a special announcement. 

The Big Announcement

As you know, I usually save my updates for the end of the show, but I’m a bit too ecstatic over this week’s update to wait that long. So, the big news is, shoot, I should have found a drum roll soundbite, anyway the big news is…

My latest novel The Undead Mr. Tenpenny launched its way into the world on Tuesday. The book is available at all major ebook retailers including Amazon, Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Tolino, and on my very own Payhip BookStore, for slightly less than you’ll pay at the other stores. It’s not a huge discount, but you know. The book also available as a paperback. I know Amazon has it, and if it isn’t already, it should be showing up on other retailers soon.

I don’t want to gobble up too much time here, so I’ll wait until the end of to read you the book description and share some reviews from a few people who have already read the book and who truly gave me the confidence to go ahead with the publication of this novel. So, more on that later. And of course, whenever you’re ready to go do some book shopping, the links and details you need are going to be in the show notes.

A Quick Thank You

And one quick bit of thanks goes out to Jonathon, aka “Jonny”, Pongratz who has been enthusiastically commenting on and sharing the show on his own Jaunts & Haunts blog. 

He’s also been tossing stars around like a Hollywood sidewalk designer with all the reviews he’s been doing on my stories lately. And if you want to see those reviews, the link to his website will be in the show notes. And just as a free bit of “thank you” advertising, Jonny has also just released his own new novel. It’s called Reaper: Aftermath, and you’ll find out all about it if you head to his website at JonathonPongratz.com

Okay, so we have a show to get to.

St. Valentine – Who Are You??

As you might know, Valentine’s Day — besides celebrating all things chocolate — is celebrated in honor of St. Valentine. But who in the world is this guy and what does he have to do with the 14th of February, or with sending gooey sweet cards to your loved ones?

Well, no one really knows. Okay, that’s not exactly true, but in the book that records all things saintly there are three people, and in some accounts seven people, who all fit the bill for being St. Valentine. So what we end up with is kind of a hodge podge of various stories blending into one person over the years. And there really are a lot of bits and bobs to all the Valentine histories, but like a cheap bottle of red wine, I’m going with the blend because it’s far less confusing. 

So our mash up guy had the family name of Valens, which means worthy, and his name got Romanized into Valentinius, or Valentinus, whichever you prefer. I like Valentinius, and it’s my podcast, so that’s what you’re going to get. 

Valentine Proves His Stuff

Valentinius was a Christian priest or possibly a bishop in the third century common era. And this was before Emperor Constantine went and converted all the Romans to Christianity, so being a Christian was still something that was looked down upon by the Roman powers that be. And by looked down upon, I mean you were likely to get sent to the lions if you got a bit too mouthy about your faith.

Since this new religion wasn’t very well tolerated, Valentinius was arrested for trying to spread the word, or for marrying couples in the Christian tradition, again, whichever story you prefer. It’s kind of a choose your own adventure of religious history, right?

Valentinius was put under house arrest in the home of Judge Asterius (who may or may not have had a chubby friend named Obelixius, and if you don’t get that joke, go look up some Belgian comics). Anyway, one day Valentinius and the judge get chatting about religion, as you do. The judge said, “If your god is really so great, and if you believe in him so damn much, then make my blind daughter see again and I’ll do whatever your Christ-loving heart desires.” That’s not an exact quote, by the way.

So of course, voila! Valentinius makes the blind girl see, the judge converts to Christianity and sets all his Christian inmates free, including Valentinius. Not seeing what a lucky break he’s gotten, Valentinius goes back to his rebellious ways and starts trying to convert people again. 

Valentine Doesn’t Learn

The emperor is having nothing to do with this and arrests Valentinius again. But as with the judge, the two get to talking. These people seem to have a lot of conversations with their prisoners. Anyway, the emperor finds out he kind of likes this Valentinius guy. It’s nearly a bromance in the making when Valentinius commits a huge Roman ruler faux pas and tries to convert the emperor. The emperor is like, “Nope, not gonna do it” and sentences Valentinius to be beaten and beheaded. 

And, as the legend goes, while Valentinius is waiting for his execution, he makes friends, or possibly more than friends, with the jailor’s daughter. On the night before hs death, he writes her a note thanking her for her kindness and signs it: Your Valentine. But you know, in Latin. 

The Valentine Scandal

Or so the story goes.

See, none of the records have Valentinius writing that infamous note, and it’s likely it was just an embellishment added to his tale in the 18th century. Which I would just bet is when the greeting card industry was looking for a new marketing scheme.

Anyway, so Valentinius was executed on the 14th of February 269 common era. He was made a saint, I think in 496, if I’m reading things right, but his saint’s day, that would be Valentine’s Day, really wasn’t seen as much more than any other holy day for at least another 500 years. Because it’s not until some time around the years 1100 to 1200 that the day becomes a time to celebrate love and to give your sweetheart a token of our affection…including love letters…because, you know, there were no Hallmark stores yet.

And just as a little side note, in Eastern Orthodox Christianity, Valentine’s Day is celebrated on the 6th of July, so if you forgot to get your sweetie something special this Valentine’s Day, you can try to point out that you’re really not late, but do so at your own risk because that excuse might earn you a smack upside the head.

Famous Love Letters

This whole Valentine and his letters thing got me wondering about famous historical love letters, and this did end up being a fun bit of research. I know this isn’t exactly book-related, but as I said, it is a form of writing and so it does fit with the theme of the podcast.

And there were a ton of examples of famous love letters, but I’ll just run through a handful, then we’ll get to the gushiest, the most dramatic one, which is also the oldest love letter written in English.

One of the oldest love letters is actually in the Bible. I know, this is turning into a very religious epidote, but I promise it stops soon. So this is the Song of Solomon and that book of the Bible is basically just one long, and at times pretty sexy, love poem. And it is pretty gushy.

“Behold, you are beautiful, my love; behold, you are beautiful; your eyes are doves.”

Which is far better than thinking about all those stinky animals on Noah’s Ark.

Alright, so of course, amongst the famous couples of the world we have Napoleon and Josephine. Napoleon was gobsmacked by Jo the moment he saw her, and as a young lieutenant he wrote to her obsessively. For her part, she barely replied. Quite the coquette our Josephine!

In one letter he writes,

“A few days ago I thought I loved you; but since I last saw you I feel I love you a thousand times more… I beg you, let me see some of your faults: be less beautiful, less graceful, less kind, less good…”

Yeah Jo, if you could just suck a little bit, I wouldn’t be tormented by loving you. Nah, he’d probably love her all the more.

A very famous love letter, made even more famous by a movie starring Gary Oldman is Beethoven’s Immortal Beloved letter. We still don’t know who he wrote it to, but man, this guy had it bad…He writes,

“I can only live, either altogether with you or not at all. What longing in tears for you — You — my Life — my All — farewell. Oh, go on loving me — never doubt the faithfullest heart

Of your beloved, L

Ever thine. Ever mine. Ever ours.”

Sorry, is it getting warm in here?

The Oldest Love Letter in English

So the oldest love letter written in English was in fact a Valentines’ Day letter, written in 1477. It comes from a collection of correspondences of the Paston family, and the whole collection gives a really good glimpse into life at that time. And in the show notes, I’ll include a link so you can see the actual letter itself.

It’s written by Margery Brews to John Paston, who is her fiancé. And this letter, so gushy, I wonder if Margery might not be embarrassed that we’re reading it to this day. In the letter it seems like something has come up that maybe her dad isn’t cool with the engagement, but Margery will never give up on her John. 

She’s actually a little scary. 

She writes, and I’m pretty sure this is how she would have said all this..

Unto my right well-beloved Valentine John Paston, squire, I am not in good health of body nor of heart, nor shall I be till I hear from you. For there knows no creature what pain that I endure, And even on the pain of death I would reveal no more. 

And then she goes on saying her mom has been pleading their case, but she’s been getting nowhere for her efforts. But this won’t deter our Marge.

But if you love me, as I trust verily that you do, you will not leave me therefore. For even if you had not half the livelihood that you have… I would not forsake you. 

So basically, even if he’s poor, shed still want him. Then, even though she says her friends have tried to dissuade her from making this promise she swears…

And if you command me to keep me true wherever I go, indeed I will do all my might you to love and never anyone else. My heart me bids evermore to love you truly over all earthly things. 

Finally and quite dramatically, she concludes…

And if they be never so angry, I beseech you that this bill be not seen by any non-earthly creature save only yourself. And this letter was written at Topcroft with full heavy heart.

Yeah, I don’t know John, she sounds a bit clingy…just saying.

Anyway, that is it for love letters, one of the sappiest but also most endearing forms of writing that anyone can do…if they dare!

Reviews are Love Letters to Authors

Alright, as promised, it’s time for more about my book release. And speaking of love letters, I just have to give a big hunk of love to my early readers. As you know from earlier episodes, I had lost a lot of confidence in The Undead Mr. Tenpenny, but I pushed through and sent it out to some brave readers. 

And they didn’t hate it! In fact they’ve loved the humor, the characters, and the story line, and they really gave me the final push to actually release the book. Basically, those reviews were more meaningful than any love letter. So, if you ever think a review doesn’t matter, think again and leave that review!

The Undead Mr. Tenpenny Description

Okay, here’s the description for The Undead Mr Tenpenny, there’s also links in the show notes to some videos to celebrate the book launch – you know, just in case you want to see the face behind the voice, and of course there’s links to do a bit of book shopping.

Okay, so the tagline is

Work at a funeral home can be mundane. Until you accidentally start bringing the dead back to life.

And the description reads,

Cassie Black works at a funeral home. She’s used to all manner of dead bodies. What she’s not used to is them waking up. Which they seem to be doing on a disturbingly regular basis lately.

Just when Cassie believes she has the problem under control, the recently-deceased Busby Tenpenny insists he’s been murdered and claims Cassie might be responsible thanks to a wicked brand of magic she’s been exposed to. The only way for Cassie to get her life back to normal is to tame her magic and uncover Mr. Tenpenny’s true killer.

Simple right? Of course not. Because while Cassie works on getting her newly-acquired magic sorted, she’s blowing up kitchens, angering an entire magical community, and discovering her past is more closely tied to Busby Tenpenny than she could have ever imagined.

If you like contemporary fantasy with snarky humor, unforgettable characters, and paranormal mystery such as Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London series, you’ll find it hard to pry yourself away from this first book of the Cassie Black Trilogy.

A Little Praise from Early Readers

And I’ll just quote a few of those reviewer love letters before I let you go…

The Undead Mr. Tenpenny is a clever, hilarious romp through a new magical universe that can be accessed through the closet of a hole-in-the-wall apartment in Portland, Oregon.

—Sarah Angleton, author of Gentleman of Misfortune

When I saw the book title…my first thought was, “another zombie apocalypse”. A wonderful surprise greeted me with an entertaining story that was written with humor, a great story line and new twist on the undead.

—J. Tate, Eugene Reviewer

…suffused with dark humor and witty dialogue, of the sort that Painter excels at…a fun read for anyone who enjoys fast-paced, somewhat snarky, somewhat twisted, fantasy adventures.

—Berthold Gambrel, author of Vespasian Moon’s Fabulous Autumn Carnival

Wow and wow again! I absolutely loved this book! You get such a feel for the characters and the story is so fast paced you don’t want to put it down.

—Goodreads Reviewer

Outro

Okay my book loving friends, that’s it for this love-filled episode. If you enjoyed the show, I’d love it if you shared it with just one other person, and if you’d like to show your support, please go get a copy of The Undead Mr. Tenpenny from your favorite retailer! Have a great couple weeks, and I will hoot at you next time.

Credits

The Book Owl Podcast is a production of Daisy Dog Media, copyright 2021 all rights reserved. The theme music was composed by Kevin Macleod. Audio processing by Auphonic.com

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