Cynthia Simmons — The Story behind “Pursuing Gold”
I am excited to welcome author Cynthia Simmons today as she shares the Story behind the Story. And read all the way through for a sneak peek into her novel.
I grew up in Chattanooga surrounded by the history of the Civil War. Our family often enjoyed picnics on the battlefields and I have memories of climbing on cannons. My father became an expert on weaponry used at the time. I loved to pelt him with questions as I tried to recreate the scene of battle and the people involved. At Chickamauga battlefield, which sits just south of Chattanooga, a small frame home sat close to the fighting. I often wondered about the horrible things the owner must have faced. Whenever we visited the military cemetery in downtown Chattanooga, I used ponder about the people buried there. In fact when I started dating my husband, we spent a lot of time reading tombstones in old graveyards and speculating about the lives of each person.
Right out of high school, I went to nursing school and became a registered nurse. My love of history led me to research medicine and nursing in the Civil War. Later I branched into herbal medicines, which Mary Beth Roper prepared in the story. Plus I read about development of anesthesia in both the United States and England.
In school, I always hated math, and I often joke that I married an accountant so I wouldn’t have to do math. After we married, my husband, Ray, taught me bookkeeping. Just like Mary Beth, I discovered I liked it—especially if the computer did the calculations. Ray’s interest in money and finance oozed over into my head over time. While attending social events with Ray, I quizzed a banker until I learned how he thought. That helped me develop Peter Chandler’s personality. I also got interested in ways the government printed money to prevent counterfeiting. That led to a study of counterfeit money and Confederate banking laws.
As my children grew older. I developed an interest in writing about historical people, and I started visiting Chattanooga often to research. Mom stayed with the children, and my dad visited the library with me as I poured over old records. The information I learned there formed the background for the novel. I unearthed information on Dr. Milo Smith and fell in love with the McCallie family. When I wrote about one of the McCallie’s daughters, I met a descendant and enjoyed exploring her archive.
Writing a complete novel challenged me. I took numerous classes and attended conferences, but I needed hands on help to complete Pursuing Gold. A huge thanks goes to Christina Miller and Sandra Byrd who helped me polish and perfect the story.
It’s such a thrill to see Pursuing Gold in print. I hope each of my readers enjoys the history, but most of all I hope she acquires a desire to pursue Christ, even in the darkest times.
Bio: Chattanooga native, Cynthia L Simmons has five children and resides in Atlanta. A Bible teacher and former homeschool mother, she writes for Leading Hearts Magazine. She served as past president of Christian Authors Guild and directs Atlanta Christian Writers Conference. Cynthia is fond of history and has a heart for younger ladies, offering them the elegance of God’s wisdom. She hosts and produces Heart of the Matter Radio. Click here to read a scene from her novel.
What is your least favorite part of writing? I’m not a detail person, and I have to make myself look at the minutia. I’d rather someone else catch a missed comma or period.
What is your go to routine to write? I love to visualize a scene even smelling the surroundings. I might not use all that I see in my head, but that exercise prepares me to get words on paper.
What is your next book? I have a sequel to Pursuing Gold in process, and I’m also working on a story about Susannah Spurgeon, the wife of C. H. Spurgeon.
Pursuing Gold Blurb: The moment Peter Chandler finished college, he’s faced with operating C&R Bank alone in the midst of the Civil War. His partner suffered a heart attack, and offers only minimal direction. Mary Beth, his partner’s daughter, discovers counterfeit bills bearing the bank’s name and Peter’s forged signature. The two of them must find the culprit before the bank goes under. As they unravel the mystery, they learn to pursue gold and seek their heavenly Father.
website is www.clsimmons.com
Facebook Radio: www.facebook.com/HrtMtr/
Scene from Pursuing Gold Ch 1
Mary Beth Roper arched her back to relieve muscles stiff from nursing and paced across the woolen rug. The sitting room, all the mahogany furniture gleaming with a new coat of wax, was ready for visitors. But none had arrived.
Maud entered holding folded papers. “You must be mightily important, miss. These here jus’ came for ya.”
“Thanks.” How she longed for companionship tonight. She broke the first seal and read silently:
Have you heard the rumor about spies approaching the city? My mother is beside herself and has decided to leave for my grandparent’s home. Since my father is gone to fight, I may not return until the war ends.
With a groan, Mary Beth opened the next one:
Dearest Mary Beth,
I hate to cause you distress right now, but I must beg your forgiveness tonight as I will not attend your tea party. My father was at the telegraph office when news of the stolen train reached the city. He believes the spies are coming here. Further, he convinced Ida’s father of the danger so she will be absent also.
I offer my deepest apology. You and your father remain in my prayers.
Maud turned to leave. “I be getting that tea.”
“There’s no need. I shall have no guests. Papa is so much improved I felt I could spend a few hours with friends, but this horrid war interfered.”
“There be no fightin’ here abouts, ma’am.”
Mary Beth held up the pages she’d just read to herself. “These came from my friends. Rumors of approaching spies frightened everyone No one wants to be on the streets for fear they’ll be in danger.”
“I wished I’m a never. I be hearing nothing today, not even a word of such.”
“I should be thinking of marriage and children at my age instead of all this worry. Once Papa gets well, I want to marry and have a houseful of children. But this war frightens me.”
“You be gettin’ upset. I can see that. I’d best be gettin’ that tea. Nothin’ like a warm drink ta calm ya nerves.” Maud darted out.
Mary Beth jumped as something brushed her leg. Mr. King! Her cat rubbed against her skirt with a loud purr.
Her heart pounded hard as she glared at him. “I prefer someone who talks, Mr. K.”
He tossed her a superior look and jumped onto the brocade sofa.
“I see you are more concerned about your comfort than the rumors. Maybe you are wise.” She edged onto the plush cushions beside her cat. “Perhaps we all must take comfort where we may.”
Mr. King closed his eyes as she caressed his soft fur. “You are so elegantly clothed. My dresses are threadbare—I cannot find even a small bolt of new fabric.”
“Miss Mary Beth?” Elsie, her former nanny, stepped into the room. Her plump form filled the doorway. “Mr. Peter is comin’ up the sidewalk. I thought you be wantin’ to know.”
“I appreciate the warning.” Peter. Like his father, an air of confidence surrounded him.
Elsie stepped out. Mary Beth’s pulse tapped a happier rhythm. She’d hoped her message would bring Peter right away. One could depend on him.
She stood and turned to the gilded mirror over the sofa and arranged her blonde curls. At least, she hadn’t pinned up her hair. Peter preferred the waves about her shoulders.
Elsie opened the door and gave her a covert nod. “Mr. Chandler is here.”
Peter came toward her offering a smile. “Good evening.”
She’d always thought him as handsome as his late father. Right now, she’d welcome a gentle hug like her father gave her when she was young. But she shouldn’t think such.“It’s so good to see you.”
“You look so tired. I’ve been concerned about you.”
“I despise this war, but father’s illness truly wears on my soul. Should something happen, I would be alone.”
“Not quite.” He took her hand and squeezed. “You have me. If the worst happens, we would be business partners. But I understand your father has improved.”
Did she see wistfulness in his eyes? She hoped so. What a mistake she’d made with Eddie.
She sighed deeply as she searched Peter’s face. “He is not out of danger, but much improved. I vowed to do anything and everything for him. Dr. Smith recommended several herbal preparations. I now grow the herbs and mix them myself.”
Peter’s face brightened. “I admire your persistence, and I know the strong ties you have with your father.”
She nodded, and then waved him to a chair before sitting on the sofa. “Have you heard the rumors today?”
He sat in the wing chair beside the sofa. “Mr. Riddle said something about spies.”
“A band of Union soldiers stole a train somewhere north of Atlanta, and everyone says they are coming—here.”
“Where did you hear of this?”
“Jane said her father believed the news and convinced Ida’s father.”
“Ah, Jane’s father is quite reliable. However, I should have heard from the local militia.” He leaned back as he drew down his brows. “Did you talk with either of them in person?”
She shook her head. “Each sent a written message. Jane said the news came from the telegraph office and set the city abuzz. Spies stole a train called The General.”
“The news sounds authentic.”
“Northern spies have been burning bridges nearby, but these men are supposed to be coming toward us. Do you think it safe to stay here?”
He rubbed his chin. “At this point, I cannot say for sure. This story could be another wild rumor like the ones we heard when Nashville fell. But maybe not. We need more information.”
“I long to feel safe—like the days when we played together as children. First, they draft all the young men in the city, and then we experience shortages. I’m so weary of baseless rumors about an attack.”
He gestured toward the window. “Sooner or later Union forces will target Chattanooga.”
She shut her eyes and moaned silently. They could not fight here. Must not fight here, ever. “But when the war began, the newspaper said the mountains around Chattanooga would protect us from advancing armies.”
“Whoever wrote that did not consider the steam engine. The railroad will bring the battle right to our doorstep. I feel sure the Union wants our city.”
She cringed as she pictured soldiers marching into Chattanooga. “How dreadful. Papa will not be able to travel for quite some time, and I cannot leave him alone.”
The muscles in his face tensed, but he offered no resolution.
She inhaled, trying to keep her dinner in place. Peter always told the truth, and sometimes he dumped it by the bucketful.
“I fear I alarmed you. That was not my intention, I assure you. In light of the war, we must keep praying for your father’s recovery.”
She turned away, trying to focus on her father’s improved health. Breathe. In and out, in and out.
“The war unsettles everything,”
“Sometimes, especially at night when I sit with my father, I wonder if we truly have a God who is good. Why wouldn’t he stop such suffering?
“I’m sorry you must suffer like this.”
She no longer had the energy to continue this topic. If only she had kept her uneasiness to herself, but her fears slipped out. “I believe you came to see my father.”
“Yes, I did.” He eased toward the door. With his hand on the doorknob, he turned. “But I should like to talk with you again before I leave.”
As he slipped out, she bowed her head, putting her hands to her face. What will become of me?