Admit it. Nothing quite says "romance" like Lent Madness. I mean, doesn't everybody purchase a giant bracket poster from the Lentorium for their true love? This is why we're delighted that Amber Belldene, Episcopal priest and romance novelist, is returning for another year of everybody's favorite Lenten devotion.
The Rev. Amber Belldene is a romance writer and the alter ego of a vampire-loving Episcopal priest. She grew up on the Florida panhandle swimming with alligators, climbing oak trees, and diving for scallops…when she could pull herself away from a book. As a child, she hid her Nancy Drew novels inside the church bulletin and read mysteries during sermons — an irony that is not lost on her when she preaches these days. Amber believes stories are the best way to examine life’s truths, and she is passionate about the relationship between sexuality and spirituality — namely, that God made people with a desire for love, and that desire is the heart of every romance novel. Her paranormal romance series Blood Vine is now available from Omnific Publishing and her sexy contemporary novella One Sinful Night in São Paulo, about an Episcopal seminarian looking for love, is scheduled to release later this year. She loves wine, history, heirloom tomatoes and she lives with her husband and children in San Francisco. For more information about her books or to check out her blog go to www.amberbelldene.com. Follow her on Twitter @AmberBelldene or Facebook.
1. What is the single most inspirational place you have ever visited (besides your own church).
The most inspiring place I’ve even been is Newgrange, a Neolithic site outside of Dublin. It’s older than Stonehenge and the great pyramids of Egypt. It’s a passage grave built to be illuminated for fifteen minutes on the morning of the winter solstice every year.
I visited there as a twenty-year-old *cough, cough* a few years ago. At that point in my life, I was only just beginning to grasp the span of human history, how many cultures and beliefs have existed on our planet--so many of which we will never even know about, others which we can only glimpse the ruins of. I was humbled there in the Irish countryside and inspired to remember my own views of the great mysteries of the universe are just one among those many. Since then, I’ve been absolutely fascinated to learn about prehistoric religions.
2. Share one unusual fact about yourself with the Lent Madness public.
One unusual thing about me is I’m an avid shrub maker. Shrubs are a colonial method for preserving fruit in sugar and vinegar. You mix a shrub with alcohol to make all kinds of punches and cocktails.
This is Martha Washington’s shrub recipe:
1 bottle Cognac
1 bottle White Wine
3 cup spring Water
2 Lemons , sliced and crushed, with the rinds left on
1 ½ cup turbinado Sugar
Like my foremothers, I like to make shrubs to mix into cocktails. Currently in my fridge (to my husband’s chagrin) I have quite a collection: strawberry-red-pepper, apricot, watermelon-jalepeno, fig, grapefruit, and pomegranate shrubs. In the picture shown, I’m mixing up my current favorite cocktail--a pomegranate margarita called Queen of the Underworld (I can’t take credit for the genius, it’s from this fabulous book on shrubs.
3. Of the saints you've written about for Lent Madness 2017, what most inspires you? What most disturbs you?
This year, I had the pleasure of writing about Scholastica, sister of St. Benedict. I’m inspired by her prayerful intelligence and determination, particularly in the story of her summoning up a storm to keep her brother with her when he refused to break his own monastic rule by extending his visit with her into a longer stay.
I was disturbed by the accusation of heresy against Joan of Arc because she wore men’s clothing to protect herself from sexual assault around military camps. It’s heartbreaking to look back at history and consider how hardwon women’s freedoms are, not to mention how many women are still victims of sexual violence.
4. If you could get just one tattoo this Lent, what would it be? (besides the Lent Madness logo and "none" is not an option).
Well, I’ve seen a lot of inspiring ink on the Internet lately. “Nevertheless, she persisted,” is really appealing to me as a timeless slogan for women’s work for justice and peace, inspired by Elizabeth Warren speaking truth to power in the Senate.
But I already have a tattoo--the sacred heart of Jesus over my heart--and once you’ve got that one, you don’t really need anything else. “Love one another as I have loved you,” is pretty much the last word, in my opinion. So far, I haven’t craved any more ink.