Cover Reveal of the award-winning historical From the Drop of Heaven. Lawrence Knorr, award-winning cover designer and owner of Sunbury Press used many historical elements in it’s design.

The inspiration to use the font came from numerous texts at the Ephrata Cloister. The font resembles those used in the Gutenberg Bible and many other books and texts of that time period. Craftsmen originally hand-carved the letters on blocks of wood for the first movable type printing presses. It was used on just about every publication from 1454 to the 1900s in northern Europe.

The vintage engraving by Chevaillier is based on Roi Modus, a 15th century manuscript. It depicts a scene of “beggars and peasants” fighting over wine. Science and Literature in The Middle Ages by Paul Lacroix, published this engraving in London 1878.

The engraving represents a peasant battle over a keg of wine. However, in this use, the peasants are fighting both the devil and their neighbors.

The devil is from another antique engraving, showing the notorious dream that Giuseppe Tartini had that lead him to compose his violin masterpiece, titled “Devil’s Trill”.

Cover From the Drop of Heaven
cover of From the Drop of Heaven

Cover Reveal, the Legends

The novel describes many trips to a magical lake in the Western Vosges, the Lac de la Maix. Two of the legends referenced in the book occur at the lake.

Firstly, The Baptism of Angels, describes a solution to unbaptized babies languishing forever in Limbo.

The second legend mentioned, the Legend of the Devil Fiddler describes the formation of the glacial lake on the mountainside. In the novel, Martin plays his violin in the peaceful valley of the lake in honor of his deceased loved ones. Despite the respectful memorial, upon hearing of a celebration honoring two women accused of witchcraft, the evil priest invented the story of the Devil Fiddler to scare people away. Today, they say, you can sometimes still hear the sound of the fiddle at the lake.

The story

In the minds of the people in 1585, the devil is forever present. Everyone is a heretic to one side or the other. Accusations of witchcraft abound. Though estimates vary widely, as many as 50,000 to 80,000 people were executed as witches between 1500-1600 in Europe, especially in the Holy Roman Empire and Lorraine.

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Sweet William

Soapwort (Wild Sweet William)
Soapwort (Wild Sweet William) growing in my backyard in 2020

Also known as Soapwort.

This plant grew for years along the edge of the woods behind my house, and though I always loved the burst of color and sweet smell, I never knew its practical value.

While Marie did not know how phosphates suspend oil and dirt in water to be rinsed away, she knew that boiling soapwort created foam that would accomplish the same task.

Soapwort or Wild Sweet William

… grows in early summer in the rich, well-drained soil along the edge of the meadow where it is shaded from the strong afternoon sun. The leaves are slightly hairy with flowers forming atop the smooth stem. Little fingers appear to reach out from the stem and grab weeds near it to reach its full height of three feet. Left undisturbed, it can be invasive. The prolific pink, sometimes white, flowers burst forth from June to October attracting butterflies and honeybees with their sweet, spicy aroma.

This natural soap is gentle enough for use on wool sweaters or silk blouses without stripping their natural oils. The cleanser made from soapwort makes a nice alternative for sensitive skin or an herbal bath. Leftovers keep better in the refrigerator. If you cannot use it within the week, freeze it to avoid bacterial growth.

To verify wild sweet william, pick a handful of leaves and flowers, dunk them in a bucket of water, and rub them vigorously between your palms. A cool green lather will form with a fresh outdoorsy scent.

The entire plant is useful in making soap.

In the spring, harvest the shallow woody rhizomes, scrub them, and cut them into small chunks. Place two handfuls into a quart of boiling water. Return to a boil, and then lower the heat and let simmer for about twenty minutes. Once the mixture cools, run it through the blender, a little at a time. This will create a lot of foam, so allow it to dissolve overnight. Strain the mixture through a sieve to remove the bits of roots. Dry and store these bits to toss in the pot the next time.

In the summer, harvest leaves and flowers. Gather about a handful of sweet william leaves and flowers and simply pour a cup of boiling water over them. Let steep for about fifteen minutes, strain, and whisk the liquid until foamy.

To use all year long, dry the leaves, flowers, and roots, making sure to turn frequently to avoid mold growth.

As with any soap, do not eat soapwort.

Source: Hitchcock, Susan Tyler. Gather Ye Wild Things: A Forager’s Year. New York: Harper & Row, 1980. Print

Wild Spinach

Wild Spinach or Lambsquarters

Prolific, abundant, and delicious, the top edible “weed” is lambsquarters. It grows with little effort in almost any disturbed soil and is one of the most nutrient-dense plants ever analyzed. It is rich in potassium and magnesium and has more vitamins A and C, riboflavin, and calcium than domesticated spinach.

Wild Spinach Wild Vitamin C

Identification: The leaves of the Lambsquarters are arranged in a starburst pattern, and vary in shape from narrow and pointed, to rounded and triangular. They may grow up to four feet tall, though they lose flavor as they age. The waxy coating on the leaves makes water bead and deters insects.

Poisonous look alike: The Hairy Nightshade. The leaves on these two plants are similar, but the nightshade is hairy, while the Wild Spinach are not. They are also easily discernable by their flowers. Hairy nightshade flowers are white, while lambsquarters flowers are green and inconspicuous. Another way to identify lambsquarters is to spray the leaves with water and look for droplets.

Harvesting: Thin the patch by pinching shoots close to the ground and placing the baby shoots in a bowl of water to keep them from drying out. Harvest larger plants by pinching the upper stem. If the stem pinches off easily, it is tender enough to eat. If the stem is old and woody, pluck only the leaves, though pruning the woody stem will stimulate new growth. If the leaves are too old, they may become bitter but are still usable cooked with onion, garlic, or in a stew.

Source: Kallas, John. Edible Wild Plants, Wild Foods from Dirt to Plate. Gibbs Smith Publishing (2010) Print

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