Jeanne Gassman

Blood of a Stone

Synopsis

Faced with the brutality of slavery, Demetrios confronts his master and flees by the blood of a stone. Determined to escape his past, he struggles to create a new life and a new identity with his friend and fellow escaped slave, Elazar.

 

However, freedom has its price. Secrets cannot remain secret forever. A chance for love is lost. Elazar betrays Demetrios to a so-called prophet named Jesus of Nazareth. Fearing the Roman authorities and Jesus, Demetrios risks everything to silence those who would enslave him again. His quest leads him to startling discoveries and dire choices. Demetrios must answer the question we all ask: Can we ever be free of our past?

Author Bio

JEANNE LYET GASSMAN lives in Arizona where the desert landscape inspires much of her fiction. She holds an MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts and has received fellowships from Ragdale and the Arizona Commission on the Arts. In addition to writing, Jeanne teaches creative writing workshops in the Phoenix, Arizona, metropolitan area. Her work has appeared in Hermeneutic Chaos Literary Journal, Red Savina Review, The Museum of Americana, Assisi: An Online Journal of Arts & Letters, Switchback, Literary Mama, and Barrelhouse, among many others. Blood of a Stone is her debut novel.

Interview

Can you tell us a little more of what your book is about?

Sure. Set in first century Palestine, Blood of a Stone is the story of a slave who kills his Roman master in self-defense and flees to Palestine with his Jewish friend to create a new life and new identity. When the truth about his past is revealed, he sets out to silence those who would bring him to justice. But it's also a story that carries a strong theme of forgiveness and love.

What are you hoping the reader takes from your book?

My first desire is to tell a good story, one that makes the reader stay up at night to read just one more chapter. Since this is a work of historical fiction, I would hope the reader would find the details of the time and place interesting. Finally, I hope my characters touch the reader's heart.

When did the idea for the book come to you?

The idea for this book originated from a dream my husband had about Kirk Douglas directing a movie set in first century Palestine. In my husband's dream, a slave committed a terrible crime and spent the rest of his life trying to hide the truth. I grabbed the idea and ran with it, taking the story in directions neither one of us ever expected, but it was so much fun.

 Have you always wanted to be a writer?

Writing has always been a part of my life. When I was very young, I used to make up plays, casting my stuffed animals in the various parts. In junior high, I wrote a lot of bad poetry. I think I've always been a writer, but I haven't always viewed myself as a "working writer." There is a difference. A lot of people write for the pleasure of the experience, and that's wonderful. However, a "working writer" needs to see the process as a job, recognizing the importance of  deadlines, editorial needs, revision, persistence, and patience.

What were your career plans as a child?

I wanted to be President of the United States when I was about ten, and my father encouraged that goal because he believed women should have the same opportunities as men. I changed career goals when I was about fourteen and planned to become a veterinarian.  In college, I knew I was destined to become an English professor and write books on the side--until I dropped out of grad school to get married. My husband told me I should be a writer, and he's supported that desire ever since.

Where do you write? Is this your ideal location or is there some other place you would love to be while you write?

I'm lucky in that I have a home office where I can shut the world out and work. And since you asked, I've included a photo of me at my desk. (Note the house slippers!) But there are still plenty of interruptions--phone calls, family needs, neighbors dropping by, etc. It's difficult to make others understand you are working when you work at home. A few years ago, I received a fellowship to Ragdale, an artist's residency outside of Chicago. For the first time in my life, I had no responsibilities and no interruptions. To know that perfect strangers believed in my art was also tremendously validating. I plan on applying to other artist residencies in the future.

What gives you inspiration for your writing?

Life. I believe good writers are nosy people. They observe human nature, eavesdrop on conversations, pay attention to the news and social issues. I find inspiration from the things I observe, from stories in the news, and from my own reading. And sometimes I find interesting stories from my husband's dreams!

If you could have dinner with any author who would it be and why?

This is such a tough question because there are so many authors I admire and would like to meet. Do I have to pick just one? I think if I could choose a living author to dine with it would be Russell Banks because his books blow me away every time. But I wouldn't mind having dinner with Stephen King either, as I suspect he would be a lot of fun. Can you tell I have eclectic tastes?

Give us one pet hate or guilty pleasure...Or both!

Yay, I get to vent a bit. My biggest pet peeve is lousy customer service. So many times, a complaint could be resolved with a simple five-minute phone call, but instead, companies shuttle you off to useless virtual assistants or automated phone menus that never solve the problem. My guilty pleasure is crime TV shows. I don't watch much TV, but when I do, it's often something like "Dexter," "CSI," "Bones," or "Castle." I love figuring out who the villain is before the cops or investigators know.

Share one random fact about yourself.

I have played violin for over 40 years.

What's next?

My novel-in-progress is something totally different, a book set during the Cold War. It's about a family whose lives are intertwined with the nuclear industry and the price they pay for their involvement. But for the next few months, most of my time will be committed to book events and promoting Blood of a Stone. I'm really looking forward to meeting some of my readers in person. It's so rewarding to know that total strangers enjoy your work.

J Gassman

 

Website: http://www.jeannelyetgassman.com

Facebook Author page: https://www.facebook.com/JeanneLyetGassman

Twitter page: https://twitter.com/JLyetGassman

Excerpt

Farmers, merchants, townspeople, and peasants crushed together on the narrow road into the city,
pushing toward the marketplace. Shepherds whistled at their herds of goats, struggling to keep them
away from the booths stacked with winter figs. Herod’s auxiliary troops circled through the mob on
horseback and foot, their shouts lost in the uproar.
“Move, move! In the name of Caesar and the King, get out of the way!”
The people dropped back to clear a path for more soldiers who marched in tight formation. Their
conical helmets bounced up and down in waves as they jogged along the road. One of the horsemen
accompanying them broke rank and rode into a group of spectators that had pressed closer for a
better look. He swung his sword and warned them to keep back. There were a few muttered epithets,
but no one spoke too loudly. A space opened around the soldier, and the crowd could see why they
had been forced off the path. The troops dragged behind them a captured slave: a dark-skinned man
with the letter F, for fugitivus, seared into his forehead. His hands and feet were bound, and if it were
not for the rope that jerked him upright and pulled him along, he would have fallen face down to the
ground.
Demetrios brushed his fingers across his own shoulder, feeling the raised, damaged flesh beneath
his cloak. If he had not killed Marcus and escaped, his fate could have easily been the same as this
poor runaway’s.
Someone pitched a stone at the auxiliaries, striking the horse. The animal reared up, and a farmer
in front of the soldiers lost control of his cart. The entire procession halted as his crates of doves
toppled to the ground.
The terrified birds flung themselves against the wooden slats; clouds of feathers spiraled into the
air. The farmer tugged at his donkey’s rope, but the creature dug in its heels and refused to move, its
hysterical brays adding to the general confusion.
The slave, sensing he had a receptive audience, raised his head. The wound on his brow had
festered. His skin glowed with fever and madness. He blinked, scanning the blur of faces in front of
him, seeking one he knew would understand. Then he paused and focused his gaze on Demetrios, a
faint smile playing around his mouth.
Demetrios shrank back behind a cluster of men.
Of all the Jews, the soldiers, and the travelers in this place, how did he know? How does one
slave recognize the other? Although the sun was warm upon Demetrios’s back, he shivered.
A man behind Demetrios said, “I heard they found him in the caves near the hot springs. He
belonged to Herod’s house. Not a good place to hide.” The woman with him asked, “Where are they
taking him?”
“With a group of other slaves to the mines. He’ll never see daylight again.”
Holding fast to the reins of his skittish horse, the furious soldier confronted the crowd. “Who
threw that stone?”
When no one answered, he hooked one of the crates with his sword and smashed it to the ground.
Several doves flew out, sweeping low over everyone’s heads. “Clear this trash from the road.”
Some of the men behind Demetrios laughed and jumped to catch the floundering birds; others
complained loudly about the delay. A couple of the women near him finally stepped forward to help
the beleaguered man drag his remaining crates to the side. The soldiers began to move again, their
captive stumbling behind them.
The slave cried out, “Please! Help me!” before he disappeared into the wall of armored bodies.
“Demetrios of Tiberias? Is that you?”
Over the bobbing heads, Demetrios strained to see who was calling him. He cut across the road
and scooted around the people still pursuing errant doves.
“Demetrios of Tiberias!” the voice called out to him with authority.
Demetrios wheeled around. They knew. The soldiers were coming for him. He was caught,
trapped like a beetle in the clinches of a scorpion’s pinchers. Someone had revealed his secret, knew
that he, too, was an escaped slave. Marcus’s slave. Marcus’s murderer.
“Demetrios! Demetrios!”
Demetrios tried to escape through the crowd, but the throng closed about him. He had to get
away. Escape. Again. As he ducked and darted through the multitude, Demetrios realized he would
be running for the rest of his life. He would forever be a slave.
“Demetrios!”
He pushed against the backs of a group of men. “Let me through.” But the crowd would not part
for him.
A hand clutched his arm. He froze. Doomed. He was doomed. And he would be sentenced to die
in the mines like his fellow slave. The hand that had seized him spun him around now to face his
fate.