Wednesday, August 5, 2020

AUTHOR TALK: An Interview with Ramona K. Cecil


My guest for Author Talk is Ramona K. Cecil. It's an honor to interview my good friend about her writing and to introduce her latest book to you readers. Ramona and I are part of a small, eclectic group of southern Indiana writers called The Writerly Sisters. Throughout the writing of this newest venture, our group have had opportunity to watch the adventure of this book unfold. Knowing a lot of the story does not diminish my eagerness to read novel. I am working really hard to keep from revealing any of the story. It's her baby, I I'll let her tell you about it.


SKC: Ramona, thank you so much for granting me this interview. Before we launch into a discussion of the book, tell a little bit about your writer’s journey.

Ramona: I’ve written creatively virtually all my life. I began composing poetry at about age four. As a school child, I entered some of my poetry in contests with marginal success. In the mid 1980s, I began selling Christian verses to Dickson, Inc., a leading publisher of Christian gift items. Over the next ten years they published about ninety of my verses on an array of items. 

It was about that same time that I began work on my first novel, Larkspur. I finished the story, but life and raising two daughters put the project on the back burner. In 1999 when my husband and I became empty nesters, I turned by attention back to my neglected novel. I joined a national Christian Writers’ group, American Christian Fiction Writers. There I joined a critique group and took online writing workshops by published authors. I also attended their annual writers conference, where I networked with other writers, learned the publishing ropes, and pitched my book to editors. The first year I attended, 2003, I pitched Larkspur to Barbour Publishing and they requested a submission. They ultimately rejected it, but told me what was wrong with it, and I went about fixing the problem—not enough conflict. 

I shelved Larkspur and wrote two more novels, Sweet Forever and Everlasting Promise, careful to build in plenty of conflictThrough the ACFW online email loop, I learned about a contest for inspirational novels sponsored by a small publishing house. I entered the reworked Larkspur hoping to get more feedback from judges. It ultimately won first place and, with that, publication in 2006. Two years later Barbour Publishing accepted Sweet ForeverEverlasting Promise, and another story, Charity’s Heart. Since then, I’ve sold them three more novels and five novellas. I remain a freelance writer and The Time for Healing was accepted by another publisher, Pelican Book Group, for their Christian romance imprint, White Rose Publishing.

SKC: You persevered! Congratulations on those successes. I've read all of those books mentioned, and, Ramona, I love your writing.  Describe your niche in the realm of Christian fiction?

Ramona: I write historical romance, often set in Indiana.

SKC: I love historical romance. What about that genre appeals to you?

Ramona: I’ve always loved history, especially Indiana history. Some of my favorite novels growing up were by the Hoosier author Gene Stratton Porter. Her book Laddie was my favorite. 

I’ve always loved how historical novels brought history alive for me. I now strive to do that for my readers. Connor Prairie, the living history museum near Fishers, Indiana, inspired my first book, Larkspur and, with a couple exceptions, my subsequent stories have had Indiana settings.

The Time for HealingSKC: We have a lot in common, my friend. I also love Gene Stratton Porter's books, especially those set around the Limberlost area of northern Indiana. I used to live near her Rome City home, on the shore of Sylvan Lake. 

Now, Ramona, please tell us about your newest novel.

Ramona: The Time for Healing is a full length historical romance, due to be released August 7, 2020. It's available for pre-order on Amazon and Barnes & Noble [links below].

SKC: What inspired the idea for The Time for Healing.
Ramona: The Time for Healing was inspired by the Pigeon Roost Massacre, a tragic event that happened in 1812 in southern Indiana. There, on a serene September afternoon, the unsuspecting frontier settlement of Pigeon Roost was set upon by a contingent of hostile Shawnee warriors. Twenty-three settlers were killed and it was said that two children were taken captive. 

The story was told, though also refuted, that many years later one of these children—a little girl—was found by her missionary uncle, living among the Shawnee along the Kankakee River. Whether or not the account is true, when I first heard this compelling story, my writer’s brain immediately went to, I wonder what might have happened if. . .

had to write this story!

According to the account, the girl—a grown woman when discovered by her kin—was married to an Indian chief and had children of her own. It was said she came back to Indiana to visit her blood relatives, but returned to her husband and children along the Kankakee River.
I wondered what might have happened if the girl was eighteen years old and single when found by her uncle. Now my romance writer’s imagination had reached a full gallop. Maybe the uncle was traveling with a young apprentice minister. The budding story began to blossom. I sat down at my computer and let the story come to me, unfolding like the petals of a flower. I imagined the emotions of the Pigeon Roost survivors, still raw after twelve years. I imagined the girl with suppressed memories of the horrific event clinging to her adoptive Shawnee culture like a security blanket as she shies away from painful memories. I could imagine that all affected needed healing. Healing. What if the girl was practicing to become a healer—a Shawnee medicine woman? Another petal of the flower opened up. Little by little the flower finally reached full bloom. The result became The Time for Healing. I hope my readers enjoy Ginny Red Fawn’s and Jeremiah’s story as much as I enjoyed writing it.

SKC: How would you describe The Time for Healing? Scintillate us! [a wink and a smile]

Ramona: Ginny Red Fawn McLain, a Shawnee medicine woman, is thrust back into the world of her birth family twelve years after her abduction. While she eschews the Christianity preached by her birth uncle who found her, Ginny's heart refuses to shun his friend and fellow Christian minister, Jeremiah Dunbar. Jeremiah is immediately smitten with his friend's long-lost niece. But unless Ginny Red Fawn joins Christ's fold—something she adamantly resists—any future with the woman he loves is impossible.

SKC: Alright, Ramona. You've already hooked me. One thing I love about well-written historical fiction is that I learn a lot. By well-written historical fiction, I mean that the writer writes well and that he or she does the homework--spends time researching the time period, events, customs, location, and anything else that influences the story. Not only are you an excellent writer, able to develop fascinating, realistic characters, a strong sense of place, and an engaging story arc, but you do the research, which often finds you walking the sites of the story so you can accurately describe it. I respect that.

Ramona: Thanks! Yes, when possible I do visit the sites of my stories. When I wrote Sweet Forever, set in Madison, Indiana in 1845, I remember saying I wanted to put my characters so completely in Madison of 1845 that my readers would want to search the cemeteries there for my characters’ grave stones. For The Time for Healing, I visited the site of the Pigeon Roost Massacre and Underwood, Indiana, less than a mile down the road from the site. I could imagine the painted Shawnee warriors erupting from the pine copse whooping and brandishing their tomahawks. Then I immersed myself in the historical accounts of the event. I decided to set my story in 1824, twelve years after the massacre, have my fictional Ginny McLain taken at the age of six and found at the age of eighteen by her missionary uncle and apprentice minister, Jeremiah Dunbar. I had to discover where the Shawnee had moved to in 1824. With the help of the Missouri State Library’s history department, I found them in southern Missouri along that state’s White River. For info on the Shawnee culture I used several resources including a web site on that culture maintained by the Shawnee tribe and the book Kohkumthena’s Grandchildren:The Shawnee by Dark Rain Thom, Shawnee medicine woman and wife of author James Alexander Thom. Much of my research about Shawnee medicine came from the book American Indian Medicine by Virgil J. Vogel.

SKC: Closely related to setting of time and place are the actors, and you’re a master at character development. How do you create such real people with whom the reader can relate and care about, love, or love to hate—each with his or her own set of foibles, idiosyncrasies, and eccentricities?

Ramona: I suppose you have to be something of a psychoanalyst. I like to try to get inside the minds of my characters. You have to make your characters real by giving them back stories. Ginny Red Fawn’s back story is, of course, the massacre. How would she have dealt with the violent deaths of her parents and baby brother? I decided she would probably have repressed those memories and feelings—what is now known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. She might also suffer from “survivor guilt.” I decided that to flee the frightening memories she would have likely embraced her adopted Shawnee culture to the full. 

Jeremiah Dunbar also has a back story. Jeremiah was a twelve-year-old minor character from my earlier book Hearts Heritage set in 1812 in a fictional frontier settlement called Deux Fleuves inspired by Vallonia, Indiana. Jeremiah’s back story from that book included being besieged in a settler fort by hostile Shawnee. I imagined he might well, as an adult, still harbor hard feelings toward the Shawnee. As you write you have to continually ask yourself “Would he have actually thought that? Or “Is that something she would realistically say or do?”

SKC: How many stories do you typically have playing around in the back forty of your mind at a time?

Ramona: It depends, but at the moment I have three stories—two novels and a novella that I’m itching to write.

SKC: Thinking about The Time for Healing, what do you hope your readers take away from the novel?

Ramona: My hope is that my readers will come away with renewed faith that God has a plan for each of us, and if we continue to seek His will, we’ll find it. I’d like for my readers to tell others that The Time for Healing is both a compelling romance story and a powerful testimonial of God’s healing love.

SKC: One can't ask for a better, life-changing take-away than that. 

You said you have three more stories right now playing around in your imagination, begging to be told. How do you decide which one to develop next?

Ramona:  When I join a novella collection, that story becomes the focused project. With novels, it’s whichever story grabs me and won’t let go. When a story idea comes to me I generally write a synopsis and let that sit on my computer for a bit. At the moment I have several synopses on my computer.

SKC: Any hints as to what’s next?

Ramona: I’m working on a full-length historical romance novel titled The Bridge at Bramble Ford. The story is inspired by the history of my town—Seymour, Indiana. It’s fun because since it’s fiction and Bramble Ford is a fictional place, I can mix things up with historical and modern Seymour. For example, the street names and locations are the same in Bramble Ford as in Seymour. Local residents would recognize the modern location of the newspaper office in Seymour. The fictional outlaw gang mentioned in my story resembles the infamous Reno Gang from Seymour’s history. They story is two-thirds written and I hope to have it finished and find it a publishing home by next year.

SKC: Ah, yes! That one's been playing around in the back forty of your mind for some time, as I recall. And I can hardly wait for it! You amaze me, Ramona. 

What have I failed to ask that you want address now?

Ramona: The only thing I can think to add is a writing idiosyncrasy. I feel a need to give every story idea a title before I can begin writing. The title might change later, but I have to come up with a title before I can begin writing a story. Nuts, I know, but there it is. LOL!

SKC: I don't think that's nuts at all. Perhaps because I'm the same way. For me, it tends to give focus to the story, much as a thesis statement does for an essay.

Ramona: Once in an interview, the interviewer asked the quirkiest question I was ever asked: “If you were an inanimate object, what would you be?”

SKC: And you answered...?

Ramona: A 1951 Chevy sedan. We’re both 1951 models, short and squat with rounded fenders. We’re not very fast or flashy, but we’re both dependable and will eventually get there.

SKC: Good answer! And again I thank you so much for answering my questions. God bless you, as you continue to reflect Him in your writing. May He grant you continued success.

_______________________________________


Ramona K. Cecil's A Time for Healing is available for pre-order through Amazon at: Amazon.com

Also at:  Barnes & Noble




Sunday, September 29, 2019

'Tis the Season for Cozy Cottage Concerts!


How many people can you fit comfortably into your living or family room? Seven? Twenty? That's a perfect number for a comfy Cozy Cottage Concert! If you plan it around Christmas, it becomes a comfy Cozy Cottage Christmas Concert. Invite your favorite folks over for snacks and a storytelling performance by Sharon Kirk Clifton. Some restrictions apply. The stories must be a part of Sharon's regular repertoire, all of which are family-friendly, and the "cottage" must be smoke-free. Contact Sharon

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Introducing The Innkeeper's Wife



The Lord has nudged me for a couple of years to develop a Biblical character as a vehicle to tell His story. I've not been reluctant at all. Quite to the contrary, I've been eager, but I needed His direction. As He so often does, He let me ponder the matter, ruminate on it for a long time, before giving it to me as a fully-developed idea, and He presented it as He had other ideas--as I was coming awake one morning. The innkeeper's wife! There! I had it! The character and the program's title in one fell swoop. Thank You, Lord!

THE INNKEEPER'S WIFE is a one-woman storytelling drama in which I portray the wife of the innkeeper who nearly turned Joseph away when Miriam (Mary) was about to give birth to Yeshua Ha-Mashiach (Jesus) in Bethlehem. As the fictional Tabitha (pronounced ta BEE tha), I will have assisted in the birth. I also will have witnessed the amazing events surrounding this Baby's birth. He's no ordinary baby. I befriend Miriam and keep in touch with the family throughout Jesus' ministry, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension to His Father.


I welcome your prayers as I launch this project. May the finished drama glorify our Lord Jesus Christ, and may He direct each step along the way to the inn.

Because of Christ,
Sharon

Monday, January 16, 2017

OVER THERE AND BACK AGAIN Premiere


Who doesn’t love a good mystery? Some call it research, but I prefer to think of it as a cold-case investigation, at least on my part. I’m talking about all that goes into crafting a new historical program.
A year ago, Ellen Munds, executive director of Storytelling Arts of Indiana, contacted me about going to war. She wondered if I’d be interested in developing a program set in World War 1, about some Hoosiers who participated in some capacity in the Great War, the war to end all wars. SAI and the Indiana Historical Society would co-sponsor the commission.
I told her I would love to do it.
She gave me five names from which to choose, or I could include all of them. I know of storytellers who can tell five or six stories in a half hour. I can’t tell five or six jokes that quickly, so I knew I’d have to cut the list.
One stipulation was that a portion of the research was to be conducted at the Indiana History Center’s William H. Smith Memorial Library. Not a problem. For all of my historical programs, that was always the starting point.
The prospective list included three soldiers, one nurse, and one pro-active mother. After looking through the folders of the five candidates, I finally shortened it to three, settling on Col. Robert H. Tyndall, a well-seasoned warrior who later was elected mayor of Indianapolis; Ruth Wright Coppedge, a licensed RN and Red Cross volunteer who joined a cadre of medical professionals to staff a base hospital; and Alice Moore French, the mother who wanted to make sure those serving in the armed forces were well-fed.
The Smith library offers patrons the opportunity to hold in their clean, lotion-free hands primary sources—letters, diaries, journals, and notes—for close examination. When I was working on my Civil War program, I held a letter written by Gov. Oliver Morton to President Abraham Lincoln. Seeing that there was writing on the back, I flipped it over. President Lincoln had responded with a note! That was a thrilling moment.
Sometimes there’s a problem with original documents, however. Take Col. Tyndall’s correspondence, for example. His folders are full of letters, primarily to his wife, Dean. Unfortunately, his script was small, he had a habit of dividing longer words, and the ink had faded as the paper had yellowed over the century. Most of the letters were illegible. Those to his children, however, were fairly clear, the writing slightly larger. Using them to see how he formed certain letters, I was able to decipher a few more passages in the letters to Dean.
Ruth Wright didn’t keep a war diary. When she was in her 80s, she granted an interview to the Rochester Sentinel, her hometown newspaper. It was brief and sketchy, but it gave some insight into her life as a war nurse. Among her materials at Smith library was a book, A History of Base Hospital #32. I found the text for the book online, also. She is listed in it throughout, so I was able to track her assignments and transfers. How I wished I had some more personal insights of her, though. Writers and storytellers love salient details. That’s what makes a story pop alive.
Serendipity is a wonderful thing! Once I’d selected and photocopied documents I needed from the Smith library, I went searching online. What was the life of a WW1 Red Cross nurse like at a base hospital?
Bingo!
I stumbled across the diary of Maude Essig, director of nurses at Elkhart General Hospital. Essig and Wright had grown up within 60 miles of one another. Further, her experience matched Wright’s. They were billeted in the same places, had the same duties, and knew the same people. Essig went into much more detail, however. They would have known one another well. Ruth began to breathe, to have a pulse. She came alive to me!
Alice Moore French was easy. She wrote lots of letters, ones I could actually read, and she wrote a complete history of the Indiana War Mothers, the organization she founded at the request of Herbert Hoover. And someone had transcribed it!
A storyteller always gathers much more material than she’ll use. In preparing Over There and Back Again, I certainly did that. I studied the constructing of the trenches. (Did you know there were three different ways to go about it?) I learned more than I ever wanted to know about the gases used in the shells. I watched old newsreels. And, with the help of Google Street View, I toured Contrexeville, where Base Hospital #32 was located, and I hiked the Vosges Mountains. The cutting is painful, though. I had to amputate one episode from French’s story that I really wanted to include. Ouch!
The United States entered the war 100 years ago, but this is not a program about the war. Rather, Over There and Back Again shows the effect of the war on three patriotic Hoosiers.

And their effect on the war.

For ticket information, details, and direction, CLICK HERE.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Roses and Skunk Cabbages at the IFWC

Last Friday, I packed my suitcase full of hope and enthusiasm and headed out for the Indiana Faith and Writing Conference, hosted for the first time by Anderson University, Anderson, Indiana. This event  replaced the Indianapolis Christian Writers Conference, which was hosted by Wesleyan Church World Headquarters. Thankful that the AU English department had agreed to adopt the orphan conference, I thought this year's event would be similar to the Wesleyan event which I had so thoroughly enjoyed. It wasn't.
       To compare the two point for point would be tedious, so I will hit the highlights (the roses) and the lowlights (the skunk cabbages).

The Roses 
I rode to the conference with good friend and fellow writer Ramona K. Cecil. I always love traveling with her. We're both talkers, so the car is seldom quiet.
       Once there, my first stop was the restroom. As I came out, walking toward me down the hall was my critique partner of about six months. How sweet it was to be able to finally meet and talk with her after having communicated only through email.
       We arrived with time to spare, so we chatted with other conferees, including Gayle Cobb, a gifted illustrator who will graduate in 2015 from Indiana Wesleyan University with a degree in art; a high-schooler, who is enthusiastic about writing and whose aunt just happens to be Ramona's neighbor; and woman who is passionate about sharing Christ with the deaf through sign language and the written word.
       As with most conferences, deciding which workshops to attend is a challenge. I've learned to sit up front only when I especially want to hear a particular speaker or when I know without a doubt the topic will apply to me and my writing. Otherwise, I sit toward the back so I can quietly slip out to another workshop.
       Linda Glaz presented on writing dialogue. She discussed how conventions in writing have changed through the years and what current trends are. She showed conferees how to eliminate intrusive dialogue tags (he said, she whined, he growled, she purred--you get the idea), replacing them with action beats that enliven the scene and supply readers with more information about the characters.
       Lawrence Wilson conducted my other favorite workshop, "The Ministry of Christian Writing." He is a writer, a pastor, and a teacher of theology. He spoke of the apostle John as a gifted writer, pointing out the poetry in his prose. He also emphasized the importance of disciplining oneself to write everyday. Something. Anything. "One learns writing by writing," he said. And if we consider our writing to be ministry, we should write with the same passion and purpose of John: to make Christ known, whether we're writing prose or poetry, fiction or non-fiction.
       Other conference roses included some wonderful worship music, an informative panel discussion by an assortment of publishing experts, and a delicious Saturday lunch. The conference sponsored a writing contest, and the winners from among nearly 70 entrants received their awards. Though I was not in the least surprised, I was thrilled when Ramona's name was called as winner of the fiction writing award. Congratulations, Ramona!
 
The Skunk Cabbages
I didn't expect to encounter negatives at the conference. Ever since I heard the conference was a go for this year, I've looked forward to it, inviting and encouraging other writers to attend. This new incarnation lacked so many features that endeared the Wesleyan event to conferees, however.
       My first portent of things awry came when we arrived. After driving through pouring rain to get there and enduring strong, icy winds to make it from the car to the building, no welcoming fragrance of fresh-brewed coffee greeted us. I wasn't the only writer asking where the coffee was. After all, writers and coffee go together like Star and bucks. (Corny, I know, but I couldn't resist.)
       The wide-eyed student assistant tilted her head slightly and flashed a practiced smile that didn't quite reach the tip of her nose, let alone her eyes. "Coffee? Well, we do have a coffee shop on campus." On campus? This can't be good. "You just go out of this building and cross over to the next building. There's a coffee shop down in the basement." If we wanted a steaming cup of coffee, we had to go back out into the cold, wind-driven rain. No way.
       Water, then. Where could we get a bottle of water? You guessed it. To procure a bottle of water also required a trip through the hurricane, and even the speakers weren't allowed to take such contraband as water into the auditorium.
       I had time to enjoy the worship music before hurrying off to a consultation with an agent. That area was upstairs overlooking the lobby. Since my asthma was acting up, I took the elevator. The doors to the gallery where the sit-downs were to take place were locked. That was fine. No need to panic. I was a bit early, as I always try to be for such meetings. When the time for my appointment arrived, however, and the doors were still solidly bolted, I panicked. I trekked down to the registration desk.
       Great. The same non-coffee-drinking girl was still on duty. I told her the situation.
       "I know. We had them unlocked last night, but they locked them again." She knew they were locked? "Come with me, and I'll unlock them for you."
    I knew I keep apace with her fast clip. "By the time I'd get there, my 15 minutes would be over. I just want you to please inform the agent that I did not stand her up. I was there in good time."
       The Wesleyan Church World Headquarters was a compact site for the ICWC. The new site at Anderson U. is widespread, involving three buildings--not at all convenient, especially in inclement weather. Nor is the campus very accessible. Some conferees who had difficulty getting around in the time allowed between workshops were further challenged by the steps leading up to the dining area. If there was a ramp into that building, it must have been on the opposite side from where we entered.
       None of the above oversights, problems, or inconveniences would keep me from attending again, however. Most were likely the result of inexperience, since this was AU's first time to host. Hopefully, the coffee pot would be on the greet conferees and presenters next time. If I were to go again, I would plan ahead, taking along a brown-bag lunch, as a smart friend of mine did, bottled water, and a bag large enough to conceal both in the auditorium. If I were planning a consultation, I'd schedule it for later in the day. And I would make sure I wore comfortable shoes with good traction--the latter, if rain or snow were in the forecast.
       The most egregious affront, however, came from two of the plenary session speakers. One tried to convince us that we should accept life choices that are clearly condemned in both the Old and New Testaments of God's Word. The other, calling herself a social activist, stood far left of center as she recounted her version of the Michael Brown shooting--stories she said she'd collected from "eyewitnesses." Her background in theater equipped her to present a persuasive plea, but not to be a crime-scene investigative reporter. It was a political rant, one inappropriate for a Christian writers' conference. That's not why I save to be able to go to such a gathering. My goal is to hone my craft, to learn from the presenters about the business of writing and publishing, and to fellowship with other Christ-following writers, agents, and editors.
       The choice of speakers is not the result of inexperience or inadequate planning. A lot of thought and research goes in to choosing speakers. Those choices are deliberate. Therefore, it is with much sadness that I must say I will not attend another IFWC at AU.
      
       NOTE: I give the conference three stars out of five for the sake of the lovely roses, memories I will treasure.


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

An Audience of One

I do wish artists would sign their work legibly so proper credit could be given. If you know who painted this lovely, please let me know.
 
 

My first storytelling audience had only one member. Mama. Her vision weakened through the years, beginning when I was in elementary school. Cataracts dimmed her sight so that she couldn't read even with her tortoise-shell reading glasses.
 
(Though I certainly didn't want her to lose her vision, I didn't like the glasses. She looked so stern with them, especially if they slipped down her nose a bit. I made sure I behaved very well when she wore them. In truth, she probably was squinting to see even with them on.)
 
Once I learned to read--and that's another story for another day--I read voraciously, devouring books like Cookie Monster gobbles cookies, except that I let no morsels fall to the floor. "When you come to a street corner," Mama said almost daily, "stop, look, and listen before you cross." I usually remembered her warning, but as soon as I deemed it safe to cross, my nose would go back into the book I was reading.
 
Of course, I always signed up for the Bookworm Club at the local public library, smiling smugly when I noticed the "worm" had only 25 segments to it's body. Long before summer was over, I'd have 25 segment stickers carefully applied to the sheet that said Sharon Kay Kirk at the top. "May I fill two?" The librarian would give me her longsuffering look over her glasses and tell me she expected no less.
 
I read. Mama couldn't. I knew she missed reading, since she used to do it a lot. So I became a storyteller, reading a portion of the book, then telling it to her. I certainly didn't want her to get bored, so, like Jo in Little Women, I did the voices. At points of great excitement, I acted out the action. Mama was not an emotional woman. If the story was funny, she'd laugh. Perhaps at a poignant scene, she'd smile and nod. I don't recall that she ever shed a tear for a story. That was fine. I wept enough for both of us.
 
Getting through Black Beauty was a challenge, once I reached the scenes of his brutal mistreatment. I couldn't tell it without tears coursing down my cheeks.
 
"Oh, for Heaven's sake, Sharon," Mama said. "It's just a story."
 
I was never quite sure that was true. If a story was really good, if it stirred the reader at some deep level, didn't there, wouldn't there have to be, elements of truth? Wouldn't Anna Sewell have had to know of such cruelty--perhaps not to a horse named Black Beauty, but to another? It seemed to me that where there was no truth, there was no story.
 
Mama went with me through my various phases of reading. She heard the stories of every horse novel in the children's department of the library, every Bobbs-Merrill biography, every Bobbsey Twins adventure, and nearly every story in Andrew Lang's colored fairy books. Together we journeyed through childhood classics, including all of Louisa May Alcott's books, Heidi, Robin Hood, and favorite Bible stories. My storytelling was our main entertainments.
 
Gentle reader, you may ask, "Why didn't you just read the books to her. Why tell them?" The answer is simple. I had already read the books or book scenes. I didn't want to read them over. Storytelling was a more concise way to get through the books. And it was fun! Don't misunderstand. I love oral reading! My one daughter and her family are missionaries on the other side of the planet. When Skype is working well enough to allow it, I read to my grandtreasures for an hour or so. At such times, I have to call a stop when my voice begins to tire. We are a read-aloud family, even when it's long-distance. But it is great fun to hear a story well-told, also.
 
Thus, I am a writer and raconteur (storyteller).
 
Write on and read on!
Because of Christ,
Sharon
 

Your turn: (Please leave a comment.) How important was reading in your home growing up? Did you ever including storytelling? Feel free to comment on any other aspect of this post.

Thank you for stopping by my blog.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Just Released!

Be among the first to read and review The Second Cellar!

How could Leah’s dad dump his only daughter with an aunt she doesn’t even know—who lives in rural Indiana, of all places? Ugh! Aunt Becky has spent her life running all over Africa and Asia on some kind of a secretive mission. But what?
Things look up when Leah discovers a hidden ladder leading from a window seat in auntie’s old house to a second cellar. At the bottom it’s 1860. The people living in the house, the Newcombs, operate a station on the Underground Railroad. AWESOME! She thinks.
Leah finds a friend in Johannah Newcomb, but then stumbles on a story that will shatter Johannah’s world. Should Leah tell her friend and perhaps save the girl’s father from being killed by a gang of slave hunters? Would that alter history? Could history be altered? Should it be?
And what about God? Can He help? He sure didn’t do anything to save Leah’s mom when a drunken teenage driver killed her in a car crash.
After a neighbor boy, Trevor, reveals that he knows about the ladder and the Newcombs, he and Leah make a pact of secrecy and join in the risky business of helping runaway slaves.
Speaking of secrets, what is Aunt Becky hiding that could change Leah’s life forever? How does auntie’s mission connect with the Newcombs’ good work a century and a half ago?
 
* * *
 
The idea for The Second Cellar sprang from one of my historical first-person interpretive storytelling program, Abigail Gray: Living Under the Drinking Gourd, in which I tell the true accounts of the Underground Railroad in the Hoosier state and beyondThe stories of the freedom seekers and those who assisted them fascinate me. Both the program and the book are set in southeastern Indiana, specifically the Jefferson County area. The book is a tween (8-13 years of age) historical fantasy involving time travel.
 
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Like many authors, I use Pinterest to collect images related to my works in progress (WIPs). Naturally, I have a board dedicated to The Second Cellar. When I began thinking about a cover for the book, I initially planned to use the house that is the model for Aunt Becky's home, a c. 1840s Federal-style brick house where some friends live. But as I perused TSC's Pinterest board, I came across this wonderful photo of the primitive ladder. Perfect! Problem: I had no idea as to the source of the shot. The picture wasn't connected to a link. I couldn't use it with the photographer's permission, so I went searching. For days I combed through photo sites in a fruitless quest. It began to look like I wouldn't be able to use the picture that so captured my image of the ladder in the book. Then I thought to do what I should have done three days before: I prayed. Within three minutes, the Lord answered that plea! When I saw it among so many others, I stared at it for a moment to take it in. And it was connected to a link to the photographer's site--where he had a contact email posted! I wrote asking permission to use the image. Two days later, he responded favorably. Greg Nyquist, thank you so much for your gracious permission. Gaze in amazement at more of his work HERE.

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