Today I’m happy to welcome author Sharon Wilharm as she shares some writing tips for authors. Read through to the end to find out how to enter her giveaway.
As a filmmaker who teaches at writing conferences, I’m often asked how writers can give their novels a cinematic touch. I teach them visual storytelling and the concept of Mise-en-scene.
Mise-en-scene is a film term that refers to everything you see in the shot. Nothing shows up randomly. It’s all planned ahead of time so that each detail contributes to the story. It can include cast, costumes, location, set design, blocking, and props. So how does mise-en-scene relate to novelists? Everything in your scene needs to be there for a reason, and it needs to help tell your story.
Cast – Casting directors know the importance of selecting the the right actors for each role. Not only do they need to look the part, but they need to work well with the cast as a whole. When casting your novel, give much thought to who you choose for each role. Don’t limit yourself to cliches. Stretch yourself to include diversity so that each character is distinctive. Include short and tall, dark and fair, beautiful and homely. Most importantly, make them interesting and unique.
Costumes – People wear clothes. Characters wear costumes. Everything your character wears reveals something about their personality. So don’t just clothe him in jeans and a t shirt. Put her in a bohemian dress, a canary yellow raincoat, or a pair of worn sneakers with a hole at the toe. Use costumes to define personality and to show character change.
Location – Location sets the tone for a scene. Your readers need to know where a scene takes place and what it looks like. They love to be transported to exotic locations, bu this doesn’t have to be a foreign country or another time period. It can be as simple as a a small town drugstore, a frozen lake in the midst of a forest, or a dilapidated shack on the wrong side of town. The importance is including details that allow the reader to feel they’re there.
Set Design – Furnish your sets with furniture and decor that enrich the story. Instead of just a couch, have an overstuffed leather sofa, a floral couch from the Truman era, or a burgandy velvet settee. Insert wallpaper, artwork, appliances, and flooring.
Blocking – Avoid talking heads. Talking heads refers to scenes where people sit and talk without doing anything. Most often talking heads scenes take place in restaurants where they eat their meal and talk, but nothing else happens. Get your characters moving. Stand up. Sit down. Walk around the room. Keep it active rather than stagnant.
Props – Give your characters items that reveal character traits. If they’re going to write a letter, pick out a writing utensil that tells us something about them – a pen that never writes, a pencil with a perfect point, an engraved gold fountain pen.
Filmmakers have a limited time to tell their stories. Novelists have more freedom. However, each word you choose should be there on purpose, not to fill up space. Make the most of your mise-en-scene.
Readers, leave a comment below to enter her giveaway for a copy of “Summer of ’67”.
About the Author:
Sharon Wilharm is a filmmaker, blogger, and speaker who teaches screenwriting, visual storytelling, and marketing at film and writing events. . Her films have screened in theaters around the country, amassed dozens of festival accolades, aired on multiple television networks, and sold in bookstores throughout the U.S., Australia, and Canada. Her awards include the “Shibboleth Award” for Visionary Leadership in the Field of Christian Film Making”. Her latest film Summer of ’67 is available at Amazon Prime, Christian Cinema, Google Play, and other online outlets.
Connect with Sharon:
Sharon’s website – www.sharonwilharm.com
Sharon’s blog – www.faithflix.com
Summer of ’67 website – www.summerof67.com
Today I’m happy to welcome author Janet Grunst as she shares insights into life as an author. Read through to the end to find out how to enter her giveaway.
Ideas for stories can come from a variety of sources; historical or current events, people, a news story, personal-spiritual-social-political issues, something we’ve seen or read about—and even dreams. Even as our stories take form, rabbit trails we meander down offer new ideas.
While the stories I write are historical, they also deal with human issues, emotions, and hopes that are timeless. I live in Virginia and have always been fascinated with the people and events that led to the founding of our nation. What determination and faith it took for people to travel across the ocean to an unknown land to make new lives for themselves. And, what courage and tenacity it took for colonists, with only local militias, to seek independence and fight the most powerful Army and Navy of that era.
In A Heart Set Free set in 1770, Heather Douglas is an indentured servant who emigrated from Scotland. Indentured servitude was a very common way for 17th and 18th century people to settle in the colonies. After their period of indenture ended, they practiced trades and lived lives like most colonists. But Heather’s path is a bit more complicated The theme of the story is forgiveness.
In A Heart For Freedom set in 1775, Matthew Stewart is a planter who wants to farm his land and manage their family’s ordinary (inn). But as strife intensifies between the colonies and England, he is torn about where his responsibilities lie. Some colonists had valid reasons to maintain ties with Britain, some wanted to avoid conflict, and some believed seeking independence was essential. The Revolutionary War was America’s first civil war. The theme is faithfulness.
Readers, leave a comment below to enter her giveaway for a print or e-copy of either book or an audible of “A Heart Set Free.” (Print copy must have a USA address).
About the Author:
Janet lives in the historic triangle of Virginia (Williamsburg, Jamestown, Yorktown) with her husband. Her love of writing fiction grew out of a desire to share stories that can communicate the truths of the Christian faith, and entertain, as well as bring inspiration, healing, and hope to the reader.
Amazon links to books:
Today I’m happy to welcome author Marilyn Pemberton as she shares some great tips for writers.
My recommendation for getting some quality writing done? Go on a long-distance walk. Here are just a few things to consider before putting on your boots and shouldering that rucksack:
1. Accept that it may take a day or two to clear your mind of your non-writing life. Only then can you lose yourself in what you are currently writing. Even if the weather is foul your head can be in sunnier climes – the imagination is a powerful, and warming, thing.
2. You will have to change your approach to writing. I am a Planner and am the sort that types straight into the laptop and likes to get a sentence right before proceeding, so I take my time and only move on when I think it is perfect. When I am walking my writing approach just has to change, which takes some getting used to. I spend the better part of the day just imagining myself inside my book and thinking about the next few scenes I want to write. I work on phrases, refine my descriptions and get bits of conversation to my liking. I don’t think too far ahead (my memory is not that good) and I don’t dictate into a machine (most people think I am mad walking alone in the first place, never mind talking to myself all day). Nor do I make notes as I walk – it’s hard enough just keeping going in an upright position without stopping to make notes. At the end of the day, I find somewhere to sit (preferably where I can get a cup of tea and a slice of cake) and I just write everything down in a sort of literary diarrhoea. You also have to learn to write again – when was the last time you actually hand-wrote more than a few sentences??
3. One major lesson for me – don’t dither, just move on. With a laptop you can play around with words, cut and paste, use the on-line Thesaurus, Google something. You just can’t do that with pen and paper. I learned, eventually, just to write and if I wasn’t sure of something just put an * and make a note – but move on. I didn’t re-read what I had written, I just wrote what was swilling around in my mind. This is how some people write anyway, but I am a Planner!
4. Switch your ‘phone off and take a break from e-mails and social media. Just use it each evening to assure your family you have not fallen off a cliff.
5. Take your watch off. Not only will you not get a white band if you are lucky enough to get sunshine, but really, what does it matter what time it is?
6. My personal recommendation is to walk alone. How can you imagine yourself to be a character in your book whilst someone is wittering in your ear about the size of their blisters? Note – buy decent walking boots, then you won’t get blisters.
7. Last, but not least, don’t forget to say a cheery “Hullo” to everyone you meet. After all, they may be writers too.
I only started writing fiction six years ago. Before that it had all been academic essays on centuries-old literature, a thesis on Victorian fairy tales and a biography of a Victorian writer, Mary De Morgan. My debut novel, The Jewel Garden, was loosely based on the life of De Morgan, so it obviously had to be historical. My second novel was inspired by a Radio 3 programme, in which the presenter mentioned that in seventeenth and eighteenth-century Italy, young boys used to be bought from their poor families, castrated and trained to sing. So, once again, the topic meant I had to write a historic novel. The basis of my third novel is my love of fairy tales and the re-telling of the same stories through the generations. It will end in the modern day, but the main action will take place in the past, starting in the early 1800s.
I have just finished my second novel, Song of the Nightingale, which is set in eighteenth-century Italy and is told in the first person by Philippe, the secretary to Count De Lorenzo. The Count tasks Philippe with buying some young boys from the villagers, taking them to be castrated and then onto a conservatoire in Florence, where they will remain for many years, learning to become castrati. Although the boys and their lives are a key part of the story, there is also passion, deceit, murderous revenge, love and reconciliation. I have just sent it out to some literary agents and am waiting for the rejections to start rolling in! So I don’t know when or even if it will get published.
Before The Jewel Garden was published I had managed to avoid social media completely. Once published, however, rather than just hand over the manuscript and let someone else worry about it so that I could get on with writing my next novel, I was told that I had to be on Facebook and Twitter (what on earth was that?), I had to have a web page and write a blog regularly. I had to send out press releases, leave cards in bookshops and give talks at libraries. Basically I had to sell myself and my book, something I was not at all comfortable with, but have had to learn to do. Writing this for Donna is all part of the process!
About the Author:
I am in my sixties (not sure when that happened!) and am still a full-time IT Project Manager. I obtained my BA, MA and PhD as a mature student and during my research became obsessed with Mary De Morgan, a Victorian writer of fairy tales. My debut novel The Jewel Garden is loosely based on her life. I have just finished my second novel, Song of the Nightingale and the third is bubbling away in my brain.
You can buy The Jewel Garden on Amazon:
I write an infrequent blog on things to do with writing and am currently sharing the process of trying to get Song of the Nightingale published: writingtokeepsane.wordpress.com
Today I’m happy to welcome author Cindy Huff for an author spotlight.
— What do you enjoy most about writing?
The creative process is my favorite part of writing. Having the characters talk to me and learning more about them as the story comes together. Researching the time period and finding out interesting factoids to sprinkle throughout the story is so fun.
— How did you start writing?
When I was in eight grade I wrote a short story for my English assignment. My teacher entered it into a contest. I didn’t win but I was hooked. I didn’t write for publication until after I was married. I wrote children’s stories and radio scripts when my children were young, and my writing changed with my life. I wrote for newspapers and now as a grandmother I write novels.
— What can readers expect from your next book?
My next book is part of a historical romance collection, The Cowboys, Smitten imprint of LPC releases in August 2019. Zebulon (Lonnie) and Jedidiah (Jed) Collins are identical twins. At least they were before the Civil War changed them. Lonnie and Jed are pacifist. Jed chose to serve in the Union Army as a chaplain, while Lonnie chose to stay on their Texas ranch and not join the war effort. After the war Jed is very thin, weak and recovering from an illness after being held in a Confederate POW camp. While Lonnie has a brand on his cheek. C for coward and a heart burdened with guilt over his brother’s condition. They head to a ranch they inherited from their bachelor uncle. There they are surprised to find a woman living there who has her own burdens to overcome. This is where the story Healing Hearts begins. There are three other novellas in the collection by well-established authors and I feel privileged to be a part of it.
I’m currently working on the first book in a historical romance series set in a town ran by women. Angelina DuBois always wanted to put her architectural degree to use. No one takes her seriously. When her father’s will bequeath the architectural business to her male cousin she is crushed. Together with her two best friend’s help and encouragement she embarks on a quest to build a town in Kansas where women are treated as men’s equals. She brings along women with various skills and a few men to help make her dream a reality. Edward Pritchard interviews for the contractor position in hopes the DuBois name will win him future building contracts from the rich and famous. He wonders as they work together if he may have ruined his reputation before he has a chance to make one.
Jake Marcum’s busy ranch leaves him no time for courting, and his wounded heart has no place for love. When battlefield nightmares disturb his peace and his tomboy niece, Juliet, needs taming, somehow a mail-order bride seems like a logical solution.
Dr. Evangeline Olson has no idea her niece is writing to a rancher on her behalf, and she sure isn’t interested in abandoning her medical practice for a stranger. But when an inheritance threatens to reveal a long-buried secret, she travels west to become Jake’s wife.
Jake soon realizes Evangeline is more than he bargained for, especially when her arrival causes a stir in the community. As the two try to find their way in a marriage of convenience, their fragile relationship is further tested by cattle rustling and kidnapping. Can their hearts overcome past hurts to create a real marriage?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Cindy Huff
Cindy Huff is a multi-published freelance writer who loves to bring her imaginary characters to life. She a mentor for Word Weavers International and founding member of the Aurora Illinois chapter. Her award-winning Historical Romance, Secrets and Charades debut in 2017 and her contemporary romance New Duet in 2018. Her passion is to encourage other writers in their journey and believers as they grow in faith. Check out her blog Jubileewriter at http://www.jubileewriter. wordpress. com
Amazon URL https://www.amazon.com/author/cindyervinhuff
Twitter: https:// twitter.com/CindyErvinHuff
Buy link for Secrets & Charades: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1946016144/
Available in e-book, paperback and audio
Today I’m happy to welcome author Johnnie Alexander for an author spotlight. Read through to the end to find out how to enter her giveaway.
— What genre(s) do you write in and why?
Several years ago, God gave me a phrase found in Psalm 31:8 during my quiet time at a writers conference: I have set your feet in a spacious place.
At that time, I dreamed of getting “the call” from an agent and of someday seeing one of my novels in a bookstore. I prayed for my spacious place, and as the years passed, those dreams came true.
After my debut historical novel was published, I encountered rocky paths in my spacious place. My next three novels were contemporary romances. A historical short story and novella appeared between those releases and then I switched to cozy mysteries. I’ve recently written my first Amish novel.
The conventional advice is to stick to one genre, but that wasn’t God’s plan for me. I said yes to the opportunities He gave me and now my spacious place includes multiple genres.
— What do you think about when you’re alone in your car?
I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I once ran a red light because I was deep in thought about . . . Lay’s Classic potato chips! (What can I say? I was on the way to Publix for a jerk turkey sub with chipotle gouda cheese and Pepperhouse Gourmaise.)
But my thoughts aren’t usually that frivolous. I like to listen to PBS/NPR radio stations because of the variety of topics discussed on their various programs. Driving is also a great time for plotting and problem-solving, praying and pondering. My mind can wander as long as my tires don’t.
And I remember to stop when the light is red.
— What is your favorite part of writing?
I’m still amazed by the creative process—and I hope I always am! It’s humbling and exciting and frustrating and gut-wrenching fulfilling for an idea to become a story blurb and for the blurb to become a rough draft. And eventually that rough draft becomes a polished manuscript which becomes a novel in a reader’s hands.
I’m thrilled when characters surprise me and when ideas and themes I didn’t plan become an integral part of the story. Wow, that’s fun!
Readers, Johnnie has a question for you…. “What’s your favorite kind of sub?”
Leave a comment below to enter the giveaway for a copy of her debut novel, Where Treasure Hides. A US winner will receive a print copy; an international winner will receive an ebook.
Artist Alison Schuyler spends her time working in her family’s renowned art gallery, determined to avoid the curse that has followed the Schuyler clan from the Netherlands to America and back again. She’s certain that true love will only lead to tragedy—that is, until a chance meeting at Waterloo station brings Ian Devlin into her life.
Drawn to the bold and compassionate British Army captain, Alison begins to question her fear of love as World War II breaks out, separating the two and drawing each into their own battles. While Ian fights for freedom on the battlefield, Alison works with the Dutch Underground to find a safe haven for Jewish children and priceless pieces of art alike. But safety is a luxury war does not allow.
As time, war, and human will struggle to keep them apart, will Alison and Ian have the faith to fight for their love, or is it their fate to be separated forever?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Johnnie Alexander
Johnnie Alexander creates characters you want to meet and imagines stories you won’t forget in a variety of genres. An award-winning, best-selling novelist, she serves on the executive boards of Serious Writer, Inc. and the Mid-South Christian Writers Conference, co-hosts Writers Chat, and interviews other inspirational authors for Novelists Unwind. Johnnie lives in Oklahoma with Griff, her happy-go-lucky collie, and Rugby, her raccoon-treeing papillon. Connect with her at www.johnnie-alexander.com and other social media sites via https://linktr.ee/johnniealexndr.
Sign up for Johnnie’s newsletter on her website for updates and special giveaways.
Where Treasure Hides
The stringed notes of “Rule, Britannia!” grew louder as the crowd quieted, eyes and ears straining in their search for the violin soloist. The patriotic anthem echoed through Waterloo Station’s concourse, and as the second chorus began, sporadic voices sang the lyrics. Travel- weary Brits stood a little straighter, chins lifted, as the violinist completed the impromptu performance, the last note sounding long after the strings were silenced.
Alison Schuyler gripped her leather bag and threaded her way through the crowd toward the source of the music. As the final note faded inside the hushed terminal, she squeezed between a sailor and his girl, murmuring an apology at forcing them to part, and stepped onto a bench to see over the crowd. A dark-haired boy, no more than seven or eight, held the violin close to his anemic frame. His jacket, made of a finely woven cloth, hung loosely on his thin shoulders. The matching trousers would have slipped down his hips if not for his hand-tooled leather belt.
Either the boy had lost weight or his parents had purposely provided him clothes to grow into. Alison hoped for the latter, though from the rumors she’d heard, her first assumption was all too likely. She stared at the cardboard square, secured by a thick length of twine, that the boy wore as a cheap necklace. The penciled writing on the square numbered the boy as 127.
Other children crowded near the young musician, each one dressed in their fine traveling clothes, each one labeled with cardboard and twine. Germany’s castaways, transported to England for their own safety while their desperate parents paced the floors at home and vainly wished for an end to these troublesome days.
“Now will you allow him to keep his violin?” A man’s voice, pleasant but firm, broke the spell cast over the station. The children fidgeted and a low murmur rumbled through the crowd. The speaker, dressed in the khaki uniform of a British Army officer, ignored them, his gaze intent on the railroad official overseeing the children.
“He better,” said a woman standing near Alison. “Never heard anything so lovely. And the lad not even one of the king’s subjects. I’d take him home myself—yes, I would—if I’d a bed to spare.”
Alison mentally sketched the tableau before her, pinning the details into her memory. The officer’s hand resting on the boy’s shoulder; the official, a whistle around his neck, restlessly tapping his clipboard with his pencil; the dread and hope in the boy’s eyes as he clutched his prized instrument. The jagged square that tagged his identity.
Today I’m happy to welcome author Janet Grunst as she shares an inspiring devotional.
When I first felt God’s call to write fiction there was a story germinating in my mind that wouldn’t let me go. I had regular columns in local papers, but I knew nothing about writing fiction. There was so much to learn before I even started.
And, with two active little boys, how would the time to write this story? I promised God if He would give me 2-3 hours a day, I would devote the rest of my time to my husband and sons. He was faithful and provided those hours and I obediently walked away from my work, even when it was hard.
The adage, “God does not call the equipped, but equips those whom He calls,” became much more meaningful to me.
I learned so much in the months spent writing the story that would later be A Heart Set Free, not only about the writing craft but about myself and God’s provision.
“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19
God prepares us for the work He calls us to do. The Lord doesn’t allow our insecurities to let us off the hook from doing the work He entrusts to us. But He supplies all we need, as we need it, to get the job done. Each day I let the characters tell their story on my word processor. I just tried to keep up with them. At the time, I had no clue about the difference in being a panster or a plotter.
I like structure, I make lists, and prefer to plan things out. By the time, decades later, when I was trying to complete my second novel, A Heart For Freedom, I was more aware about the process of writing fiction with both internal and external goals, motivation, and conflict. Plot points, inciting incidents and where all these were supposed to appear in a novel.
So, I set about trying to plot out the story. With my personality, I should be a plotter, but it didn’t work and I really struggled. The same thing happened with the novella written last summer and the third story I am in the midst of writing.
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Psalm 119:105
I believe God was telling me I’m not going to be a headlight for you, Janet. I want you to trust Me to provide everything you need for your stories each step of the way. This isn’t about your plans, but what I want to do through you. Depend more on Me to direct you as you write, in the same way I’m guiding you through the story of your own life.
Are you feeling God’s tug or whisper in your life to accomplish something new?
About the Author:
Janet lives in the historic triangle of Virginia (Williamsburg, Jamestown, Yorktown) with her husband. Her love of writing fiction grew out of a desire to share stories that can communicate the truths of the Christian faith, and entertain, as well as bring inspiration, healing, and hope to the reader.
Amazon links to books:
Today I’m happy to welcome author Tammy Trail as she shares insights into her publishing journey.
To tell you the truth, I thought I would be farther along in the process of becoming an author by now. I started with an idea but had no idea where to start. I decided to attend a writer’s conference in 2009. It was sponsored by a small writer’s group a couple of hours drive from my home. I also made the decision to write a bit of a story and pay for a critique by a published author.
After my very encouraging and thoughtful critique, I found I had a lot to learn. The author who gave me the critique had a list of books she suggested I read to learn the craft of writing. You see, I made EVERY mistake you can imagine with my sample writing piece. Looking back, I wonder why she just didn’t tell me to find a new hobby.
I found that my favorite part of the writing process is to brainstorm ideas and flesh out a story. I begin with the characters and wonder what kind of people should they be? Where do they live? How do they meet? I write historical fiction with a touch of romance. It’s a boy meets girl kind of thing. Too simple? Yes, that’s why I need to find a way to make them stretch and grow. Conflict is not something I encourage in real life. I tend to shy away from it. In fictional writing it’s a very important. I had to change my way of thinking.
So fast forward to May. I was offered an opportunity to be part of a collection of stories to be published independently on Amazon. It was a patriotic themed collection and my story takes place in 1776, just as the colonies are about to declare their independence from Great Britain. Most of the other stories in the collection are suspense driven. I do have a bit of that suspenseful elements in my story, and the author who put the collection together wanted different time periods represented. It was published on Amazon from July 2018 until December 15, 2018.
The collection did not do as well as expected. I am disappointed, but now I will put back some of the original story that I had taken out in order to have a novella instead of a full-length novel to publish in the collection. My plan now is to go back through the story, make my characters stronger, add to the word count for a full novel, and then republish in on Amazon with a physical book instead only an e-book format. I’ve decided it will be a series, and book number two has a first chapter so far. My goal to be traditionally published is still a desire. It’s just going to take more time, and I am okay with that because I am still learning.
About the Author:
Tammy Trail is a monthly contributor to “Inspired Prompts: Follow us down the Write Road” blog post. A lifelong reader, she is also a history geek who loves anything to do with the American Revolution or the American Frontier. Happily married to the same loveable guy for 31 years, she is Mom to two and a Mimi to two with one on the way.
Today I’m happy to welcome author Faye Roberts as she shares about her book, The Legacy of Claire Delany.
A lady rancher is a rare breed of woman with a spirit of survival branded into her soul—an enduring legacy passed from one generation to the next.
Imagine for a moment, being gifted journals written over the past one hundred years. Four generations of thoughts, heartaches, challenges and triumphs. What secrets did your ancestral mothers keep? What lessons could they teach you now?
Marina Townsend receives such a gift with a stipulation attached—put the diaries into books to create The Silver Cross Legacy. What starts as a simple narration of the lives of Rose, Birdie and Mavis, changes Marina in ways she could never imagine. The fourth and final book is the hardest of all for her to write—that of her mother, Claire Delany. Written during the final year of Claire’s battle with cancer, her mother reveals deep secrets, along with kernels of wisdom that lead Marina to make hard choices about the ranch, her marriage, and the way she’s leading her life.
Faye Roberts started her writing career after winning a contest through Guideposts Magazine. She wrote for various inspirational magazines and published a book of devotionals for working women. Faye branched into fiction with her first novel, Fragile Treaties, that was selected as a finalist for a Willa Award, telling the story of Lily Bodeen, the matriarch of the Silver Cross. Since then, Faye worked on a family saga, weaving actual historical events into the lives of the mothers and daughters who run the Silver Cross Ranch from 1897 to 2014. The series is available on Amazon both is print and e-book format.
The Silver Cross Legacy Series:
Book One – The Legacy of Rose Bodeen
Book Two – The Legacy of Birdie Bassett
Book Three – The Legacy of Mavis McCall
Book Four – The Legacy of Claire Delany
On The Trail Beyond – The Life of Louisa Cody, wife of Buffalo Bill
Hey Lord, Can Angels Type? Five-minute Devotionals for Working Women
As a writer, I bring the lessons of history to a modern world searching for heroes. It’s said the more things change, the more they remain the same. We have the same desires, hopes and dreams of those who came before us. We want a better life for ourselves and our children. We want to belong, to matter and to make a difference. No matter the era or the circumstances we are born to, we want strength, acceptance and peace. The intention of my words is to bring that kind of hope to my readers.
Blessings on your journey,
For more information , visit www.fayerobertswriter.com
or visit her on Facebook at Faye Roberts Author – The Lessons of History
Sneak Preview of The Legacy of Claire Delany
December 10, 2013
Silver Cross Ranch
Mom’s diary beckons from the kitchen table. Included inside the diary is a bookmark, an iridescent blue feather with note attached—Good words do not last long unless they amount to something. Chief Joseph.
A hot pot of tea now accompanies the book, along with a plate of lemon cookies baked this morning. It seems fitting to include them as a christening to her story as they were a common thread running through previous journals. After the shocking revelations in my three foremothers’ diaries, what secrets will I find in hers? As with Gramma Mavis, will Mom’s words reveal I never really knew her either?
And is it a coincidence that I begin her book on this date, December 10th, the day she changed her will and then died just hours later? The change that left me grieving her loss, while feeling completely betrayed and my life turned inside out?
Mom wrote her final letter to me on December 10th, 2010. A light snow was falling that morning. Weak and pale and oh so thin, in a faint whisper, she asked for paper and pen. How she had the strength to write all morning speaks to the deep-down fortitude I now know runs in the family. She then refused her pain meds, and instead asked for some tea and two of the lemon cookies her friend Ruby had baked the day before.
“Call Ben and ask him to come by for a visit. Tell him it’s important.”
Benjamin Lichovich, her crusty attorney, came out of her room minutes before sundown, carrying a leather briefcase as old and weathered as he was. He pulled the door closed as if it were made of lead, his eyes rimmed wet with sadness. Per Mom’s earlier instructions, I had a roast beef sandwich and strong coffee waiting for him in the kitchen.
After feeding Benjamin, I went to check on Mom and found her sleeping. The deep creases between her eyebrows had smoothed and her labored breathing had evened. She was at peace. Hank sat in the cozy chair next to the bed, holding her hand. Six hours later, she left us. Two long breaths and a final sigh, leaving her earthly home with quiet dignity and a faint smile.
It’s been three long and difficult years since I started this journey into the past. My girl Rachel was fourteen then and still in the bud. Now a senior in high school completing a semester as an exchange student in France, she’s blooming full and bright. Like our foremothers, as I now call the ancestral women before us, she has an independent spirit, wide-eyed enthusiasm and a good head on her shoulders.
And me? The homestretch is in sight. I’m relieved and even proud of the first three books—The Legacy of Rose Bodeen, The Legacy of Birdie Bassett and the Legacy of Mavis McCall, the previous caretakers of the Silver Cross, and my amazing ancestors. The joy of putting their journals into everlasting words for Rachel and future generations has been worth the struggle.
Still, there is one left to complete. Claire McCall Bernier McIntyre Delany. For ease of a book cover, I will simply call her book The Legacy of Claire Delany.
I was going to wait until after the holidays to move to the final, and possibly the most difficult one of all, but why? Jarred and I don’t leave for our holiday with Rachel and Papa in Paris for another week, giving me five days here at the ranch before driving to Denver.
This morning I retraced the steps I took five days after the reading of Mom’s will. I walked up the hill to The Community, Gram’s name for the Silver Cross Cemetery, sat on the same bench, and pulled the letter out of the pocket of the same red wool coat I wore that day. The letter that changed our world.
December 10, 2010
Silver Cross Ranch, Colorado
My dear daughter Marina,
As I write this final epistle in the book of my life, I’ve one foot above ground and one over the edge. And if you’re reading this letter, then I’ve indeed let go, fallen headfirst into freedom and left you behind.
Benjamin Lichovich, my long-time advisor and friend, has read you the will and explained your inheritance. You planned on a clear deed to the ranch. Instead, I put the home place into a trust. Three people now decide its fate— you, Benjamin, and Hank Delany. Nothing can be done with or to the ranch without all three votes in consent. Nothing can be bought or sold.
You are angry, confused. This is not a betrayal, sweet girl. Trust me.
Your husband is livid and wondering what possessed me to give such a vote to Hank. I may have married my ranch foreman merely two months ago, but I trust him, and I can count on one hand those worthy of such a responsibility.
Jarred didn’t think much of my ways so he really shouldn’t be surprised with the decision. What I called living independent and self-governing, he called stubborn and short-sighted. I don’t care what Jarred thinks but am sorry he’s kicking Silver Cross dirt in your face. I’m most certain he is.
My hands may have been shaky and my hair all but gone when I signed the will, but my mind was as clear as the Colorado sky. The decision that determined the future of the Silver Cross was made only after long talks with God, Benjamin and Hank. I did it to protect all that I love as a snarling badger protects its young.
Yet the land was only part of the legacy.
Next, Benjamin presented you with the old wooden strongbox that sat in the tack room for years. The top of the box was nailed shut, the way Hank found it. Benjamin handed you a hammer to pry off the top. Jarred most assuredly sat on the edge of his chair as the nails gave way, and then scowled at the contents. Nothing but some books that smelled of old age and old leather. He may have grabbed one of the books to see if I’d stashed bills inside, knowing my distrust of most bankers, but nothing fluttered out from between the yellowed pages.
Maybe he read an entry out loud:
“January 5th, 1928
Snowed over a foot last evening and is still coming down. The cold seeps into my bum knee like a thief.”
How disappointed he must have been when the book contained only a woman’s mindless wanderings. I imagine him storming into the cold morning and lighting up a Cuban Montecristo. He will never understand the true treasures inside the box. But you will, Marina, and learn that no price can be put on heritage.
Hank and I were cleaning out the old tack shed last year to find items to sell at an auction. We’d needed money to pay the property taxes. Like most ranchers, we are land rich and cash poor. The box was used as a sitting spot for oiling saddles and bridles. When I went to move the box, it was heavy, and I realized there must be something inside. I’d hoped for something like old horseshoes that could bring a few bucks.
Hank grabbed a hammer and pried off the lid. Inside were twenty-four journals wrapped up tight in a canvas tarp. All were bound in fine leather with the same inscription written on the first page of each book. Yet the authors and their handwriting changed with the times—Rose Bodeen Steele, Isabel Steele Bassett, and Mavis Bassett McCall. The pages had yellowed, but the ink was as legible as if the words were written yesterday. As I read, the intimate thoughts in the diaries became as precious to me as the land.
You come from a line of five women who have run this ranch, each uniquely different. Gran Lily was the matriarch. Fire destroyed her journals, the same fire that took the original ranch house, but you will read about Lily in her daughter Rose’s diaries. Next came Isabel, and then Mavis. And finally, me.
I’ve included my own journal in the box, written over this last and final year of my life. Sixty years of traveling feels like only sixty days when the end of the road is in sight, and one tries to cram all their life stories into one book. I wanted a longer journey, but the big C had guns more powerful than mine. One final bomb blew up my earthly future but could not destroy the road home. Like our foremothers, I wrote my own chronicle with brutal honesty, cutting away any proud flesh that covered over life’s wounds.
Set off on your journey at the beginning and read the books in order, starting with Rose, then Isabel, Mavis and finally mine. One hundred years of the history of the Silver Cross is detailed in the books. The women write of wars, industry, and new technology. But more than that, they reveal success and joy, grief and crushing sorrow. Hard work and hard times. Birth and death. Challenges endured and overcome, and those that left deep scars with wounds still oozing beneath the surface.
Our women were not without fault, nor were they without grit and determination. And not without blind faith that gave them the ability to dig deep for the strength to overcome whatever trials they faced. And face them they did, like wild mustangs racing headlong into a driving wind. A wind that tore outer layers away and left them naked and cold, struggling to survive. A wind that made them stronger and wilder and freer. A wind that made them each proud to be called Lady Rancher and Owner of the Silver Cross Ranch in southwest Colorado.
As I read my foremothers’ diaries, admiration and acceptance shoveled in hungry holes. The diaries answered questions as to why I lived like I did, and why I made my decisions, both the good and the ridiculous.
Through their courage, I found my own, and am now able to face not just my past, but also the future. After closing the last book, I am at peace with my life, and at peace with my death. I am that mustang and can feel my bloodline pulling me through the wind, giving me renewed strength. In finding acceptance of my earthly home, I look forward to running back to God without fear, knowing green pastures and still waters and forgiveness await my homecoming.
Soon I’ll race the wind one last time. I’ll run to meet Lily and Rose and Gran Isabel and my mother Mavis. Though my body is weak, my heart beats strong with excitement. I anticipate the final sprint toward home as I round this last bend.
I assure you that after you read the journals, you’ll understand what a fortune you have been given, the gift of your ancestry. With this gift I pray you derive a better understanding of my decision concerning the ranch. I pray the words written in the diaries will give you wisdom, faith, and the power to forgive, those same gifts our wise foremothers gave me. The added stipulation in the will concerning the diaries will assure they become a living legacy, not only to you, but to Rachel. That their wisdom will give you the courage to do what you know is right, not merely with the ranch, but also with your life. The courage to run your own race through the storms of life that blow your way.
The blank book is for you to write your own legacy to give to Rachel someday. The inscription in the front is the same as the first page of every journal in the box, one of the treasures you will unearth as you excavate and discover where you came from.
People search a lifetime for a place to belong, for a life that fits right. They search for answers to questions they can’t put into words. They wonder where they came from and where they’re going. They search for acceptance, a place to call home. I know I did, and I’d bet my best saddle that you are searching right now, yet not knowing what you are even looking for. Many of your questions will become clearer as you read, as will many of the answers.
Finally, Benjamin handed you this letter and stated you were to walk to the top of the south pasture, where we citizens of The Silver Cross Community reside (me being the newest member) and read it alone while sitting on the bench that faces my resting place, with the Shining Mountains beyond. I assume you are sitting there now, having trudged through a foot or two of snow to make the trek. Your cheeks are cold and tinged with pink, yet your blood is warm and your body tingles from the exertion. You feel very alive as you breathe crisp, clear air.
For now, child, sit on the hillside overlooking the Silver Cross and drink in the sight like sparkling water. Taste it, feel the beauty filling you with joy and peace. Smell the air, cold and crisp with winter. Let it caress your cheeks, your lashes, your soul. Breathe deep and long. Let the land satiate your thirst for understanding and cool your anger toward me.
Finally, shut your eyes and feel the roots under your feet, grounding you from the chaotic winds of change that are coming. Feel the strength of the land, Marina. Let it fill you to overflowing before you walk back into your world. Let it fill you with trust and an open mind.
And may the Spirit of the Lord be entwined with your own as you continue your journey.
With love everlasting,
It’s amusing now that Jarred thought the books would be complete in mere months. I assumed the same, and never dreamed when hearing the stipulation in the will of writing the women’s diaries into book form, that it would take a year to complete each book. I would not inherit the land until the books were complete and approved by Hank and Benjamin.
In the meantime, the land would be in a trust with all three of us having to agree on decisions made concerning the ranch. Both Hank and Benjamin made it clear the ranch could not be put up for sale until I’d honored her wishes.
I had no idea what a hard road it would be, not just for me, but also for my family. Jarred and Rachel have struggled over boulders along with me, as have Hank and even Benjamin, who is never without a red bow tie that’s always tilted a bit to the right. He told me the other day when he came by for pie and coffee that the books were the only thing keeping him alive. “Get ‘em done, girl, so I can finally remove this tie and die in peace. I can’t face your mama in heaven until this is settled once and for all.”
So many tests. So many failures. So many moments I felt like giving up, not just on the books, but also on the ranch, and on my marriage. Yet just when I was ready to raise the white flag in surrender, those darned, beautiful foremothers would pick me up, dust me off and get me going again.
I hope to be finished with Mom’s story by Rachel’s graduation day in May, if she decides to have one. The last we spoke she was hoping to stay in France since she already has enough credits to graduate. We can discuss her future at Christmas, and maybe there will be answers for my own future as well. I’m tired of living two lives.
When Mom’s legacy is complete, and all four books approved by my two partners in this crazy venture, then I can go home and stay put. Therein states the final question. Where is home? Embarking on this final leg of the journey, where will I be led? Which fork will be taken? There’s no map and no guide. Only tea, cookies and a journal. With cup in hand, I take the first step into an unknown future.
Today I’m happy to welcome author Suzanne Norquist as she shares about her story and her grandmother’s influence on her research.
Christmas: a time to be surrounded by relatives—who tell the same stories over and over again. For a writer that can be better than people watching at the airport. So many fun details to squeeze into a novel.
I’ve been researching for a story set in the 1930’s, the time my grandmother was a young woman. She passed away several years ago, but so many of her wonderful stories come to mind.
She told me about flapper dresses. The girls all wanted to wear short skirts, but there were rules about how far from the floor a skirt could be. So, they shortened them from the top for the illusion of a shorter skirt while not breaking the rules. Social rules mattered back then.
When a fella wanted to impress a girl, he would offer to crank her car for her. You know—the hand crank on the front. Her car was persnickety. A would-be suitor would offer to crank her car. She would hop in the driver’s seat, and the gentlemen would crank . . . and crank . . . and crank. Finally, she would get out, and with a half turn of the handle, the car would start. She always demonstrated the quick motion with her arm.
Occasionally, she would have to drive her father’s old farm truck. She couldn’t drive it forward uphill because of the way the gas tank sat. All of the gas would shift to the bottom of the tank, and it couldn’t get to the engine. To go uphill, she had to drive in reverse.
As a young woman, she worked in the kitchen of a large farm. She helped the lady of the house prepare meals for the workers. A position that allowed her to know exactly how food was prepared. The main cook was known to use spoiled ingredients. The farm workers would pass the serving platter to my grandma. If she took a serving, they knew it was safe. If she passed on a dish, no one ate it. It took her some time to realize that is what they were doing.
During the depression, she lived on a farm. They ate oatmeal and not much else. When a beggar came to the door asking for a handout, she offered a bowl of oatmeal. Sometimes the vagabond would turn his nose up at the offering. Apparently, some beggars were choosy.
I have an idea about how to use a couple of these ideas in novels. They are the fun details I can’t find in any history book. The thing that brings a story to life.
So, after the turkey and board games, I’ll listen to the stories and take note.
If you would like to read a fun blog about the time I visited a museum with my grandmother, hop over to my blog, Ponderings of a BBQ PhD.
Receive a free five-day devotional, “Through the Eyes of A Child” if you sign up to receive my blog by e-mail.
Suzanne Norquist explores past and present through story. Everything fascinates her, so she never settled on a career. She has worked as a sales clerk, chemist, professor, financial analyst, and even earned a doctorate in economics. As an author, she experiences different worlds without starting a new career every time. Research feeds her curiosity and she shares the adventure with her readers.
She lives in New Mexico with her mining engineer husband and has two grown children. When not writing, she explores the mountains, hikes, and attends kickboxing class.
Her first novella, A Song for Rose in A Bouquet of Brides Collection released in January 2018. Her second novella, Mending Sarah’s Heart in the Thimbles and Threads Collection releases in July 2019.
She authors a blog entitled, Ponderings of a BBQ P.h.D.
A Song for Rose in the Bouquet of Brides Collection
(1882, Rockledge, Colorado)
Can Patrick O’Donnell, a tenor disillusioned by the performance industry, convince Rose Miller that that there is more to music than her dream of joining an opera company?
December 2018 New Releases
More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.
The Amish Sweet Shop by Laura Bradford, Mary Ellis, and Emma Miller — It’s almost Valentine’s Day at Beechy’s Sweets, where the Amish gifts of love and faith are even sweeter than the home-made candy. In The Sweetest Courtship by Emma Miller, bachelor Jacob Beechy is a master candy maker whose mother longs for grandchildren, so she sets out to find him an assistant confectioner during the Valentine’s holiday—and a wife. In The Sweetest Truth by Laura Bradford, Sadie Fischer can’t see beyond her scars from a barn fire, but there’s a young man who sees only sweetness when he looks at her, and he’s sending her Beechy’s chocolate and mysterious gifts leading up to Valentine’s Day. In Nothing Tastes So Sweet by Mary Ellis, Pregnant widow Hannah wants to buy her English employer’s hardware store, but ends up following a clue from Beechy’s to clear a man’s name—and finds a partnership in work, faith, and love. (Amish Romance from Kensington)
Amish Christmas Memories by Vannetta Chapman — When a young Amish woman collapses in the snow shortly before Christmas, Caleb Wittmer rushes to her aid. Only, “Rachel” remembers nothing of who she is. Now his family has taken in the pretty stranger, disrupting Caleb’s ordered world. He’s determined to find out where she belongs…even if Rachel’s departure means saying goodbye to his old-fashioned heart forever. (Amish Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])
A Quilt for Jenna (Apple Creek Dreams #1) by Patrick E. Craig — On her way to win a quilting competition—and a ticket out of Amish life, Jerusha finds her God, her missing husband, and a lost little girl in the heart of the Storm of The Century. (Amish Romance from P & J Publishing)
The Road Home (Apple Creek Dreams #2) by Patrick E. Craig — Adopted into an Amish family as a child, local historian Jenny Springer is looking for the parents she never knew. When Jenny meets Jonathan Hershberger, a drifter from San Francisco who lands in Apple Creek fleeing a drug deal gone wrong, she is intrigued by this Englischer with an Amish name, and offers to help him discover his Amish roots. While Jonathan discovers his need for home, family, and a relationship with God, Jenny finds more than she hoped for—truth and love and the knowledge that you can go home again. (Amish Romance from P & J Publishing)
Jenny’s Choice (Apple Creek Dreams #3) by Patrick E. Craig — When Jenny’s husband disappears in a terrible boating accident, she returns home to Apple Creek, Ohio and her adoptive parents. Working through her grief, she pursues newfound writing dreams and is presented with a possible romance with a handsome young publisher, until the elders of her church confront her consideration of going outside her faith to pursue her dreams. At the same a faint hope that her husband might someday be found alive holds her heart in the past. (Amish Romance from P & J Publishing)
Minding the Amish Baby by Carrie Lighte — Amish store clerk Tessa Fisher isn’t ready for marriage or a family—until a baby girl is abandoned on her doorstep. Now Tessa and her gruffly handsome landlord, Turner King, must mind the baby together. And soon Turner and the sweet-cheeked kind are burrowing into Tessa’s heart. But with secrets between them, can the temporary family find a way to stay together forever? (Amish Romance from P & J Publishing)
Who I Am with You by Robin Lee Hatcher — Jessica was pregnant and facing divorce when her husband and daughter were killed in a car accident. Withdrawing from friends and family, she feels far away from God. Then months later she receives her great-grandfather’s Bible at her grandmother’s funeral. Ridley has suffered his own loss. Bitter over disgrace at his job, an ended career, and subsequent breakup with is girlfriend, he retreats to a vacation property owned by his parents to lick his wounds and hide from the press. Thumbing through the Bible later, Jessica journeys through the aged margin notes, back to faith and wholeness. And the broken roads they have followed bring Jessica and Ridley to each other as well. (Contemporary Romance from HarperCollins Christian Publishing)
The Making of Mrs. Hale by Carolyn Miller — Can a runaway marriage ever be redeemed? Julia Hale ran off to be married in Gretna Green, following romance instead of common sense. But her tale isn’t turning into a happily ever after. Her new husband is gone and she doesn’t know where—or if he’s ever coming back. Julia has no option but to head home to the family she betrayed by eloping and to hope they’ll forgive her.Along the way she will learn how relationship with God can bring restoration and hope, and find the answers she needs both for her husband and her future. (Historical, Kregel Publications)
Child of Light by Annette O’Hare — While praying for her own Christmas miracle after five years in a childless marriage, Margaret offers aide to a destitute and expectant young woman during the holidays. She is condemned for her decision to help a woman of ill repute and must face the consequences of doing what is right. Will Margaret’s prayers for a child of her own be answered this Christmas or does God have something else in store? (Historical from Harbourlight Books [Pelican])
The Plum Blooms in Winter by Linda Thompson — Inspired by a Gripping True Story from World War II’s Daring Doolittle Raid–Japan, 1948: A prostitute seeks her revenge; a war hero finds his true mission. (Historical from Mountain Brook Ink)
The MissAdventure Brides Collection by Mary Davis, Cynthia Hickey, Kathleen E. Kovach, Debby Lee, Donna Schlachter, Marjorie Vawter, and Kimberley Woodhouse — Seven daring damsels refuse to let the cultural norms of their eras hold them back! Follow along as they trek the wilderness as a fur trapper; teach in the backwoods; campaign for women’s rights; breed llamas; drive cross-country; become a hotel tour guide; and pursue art. Will they meet men who admire their bravery and determination? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)
Kiss Me Once Again by Gail Kittleson — When Glenora Carson’s first love perishes along with the crew of the U.S.S. Arizona on December 7, 1941, she locks away her heart and her dreams of attending college on scholarship, instead choosing to hold down the home front by helping out the family business – Carson’s Garage. The grease-stained overalls don’t do much to compliment her female figure, but they cover her female heart well enough. That is, until Hank Anderson, a wounded warrior back from battle, walks into the garage and into Glenora’s life. Is an old maid’s future Glenora’s fate, or will Cupid throw a wrench in her plans? (Historical Romance from WordCrafts Press)