HISTORICALS: STAYING TRUE TO THE TIME

I’m glad to welcome Cynthia Roemer as she celebrates the publication of her first historical novel. Cynthia, please tell us about your experience researching this story.

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I’m as old-fashioned as they come, so historical novels are a perfect fit for me—both reading and writing. As a reader, I love the nostalgia and all the life lessons one can learn from those who’ve gone before us. But as a writer, I enjoy delving into the past and researching the time period, more specifically the nineteenth century. When writing a historical/historical romance novel, research is a must to ensure the book is true to the time period.

My debut novel, Under This Same Sky, which released in late April, took place in 1854. I’ve been thrilled at some of the comments thus far by reviewers stating the novel “makes you feel exactly like you lived back in those days”. How gratifying such comments are to an author who’s spent countless hours trying to be certain every detail is true and accurate.

The well-known facts are easy to achieve. Under This Same Sky took place on the Illinois prairie in the mid-1800s. Most everyone knows settlers lived in log cabins, but do they know how the cabins were erected and what materials were used to chink the log walls? It’s widely known that covered wagons were often used when traveling across the prairie, but not many will know that a bucket of tallow was kept handy so that when the wheels began to squeak and squeal they had to be greased much like a car engine needs oil to run smoothly.

There were so many questions I had to ask as I wrote the novel: What type of clothing was worn in 1854? What farming equipment was available? Had screen doors been invented? How would my characters cross the Mississippi? What would the city of St. Louis have looked like back then? What type of lighting was used? It’s these fine details that make a novel either believable or, if left out, leave readers with a less than satisfied reaction.

Though research is a vital part of writing a historical novel, that’s not to say a writer can’t have a little fun creating fictional people and places along with the true ones. Under This Same Sky is a blend of fictional and real. My main character, Becky Hollister grows up a few miles outside of the fictional town of Miller Creek, IL, but later travels to the very real town of St. Louis, Missouri. Only one of my characters is based on a real person. The others are products of my imagination.

What’s wonderful about historical fiction is that we can have the best of both worlds—the reality of the past blended with the creativity of fiction. A match that—in this author’s opinion, can’t be beat!

            ~ She thought she’d lost everything ~ Instead she found what she needed most. ~

Illinois ~ 1854

Becky Hollister wants nothing more than to live out her days on the prairie, building a life for herself alongside her future husband. But when a tornado rips through her parents’ farm, killing her mother and sister, she must leave the only home she’s ever known and the man she’s begun to love to accompany her injured father to St. Louis.

Catapulted into a world of unknowns, Becky finds solace in corresponding with Matthew Brody, the handsome pastor back home. But when word comes that he is all but engaged to someone else, she must call upon her faith to decipher her future.

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Cynthia Roemer is an award-winning inspirational writer with a heart for scattering seeds of hope into the lives of readers. Raised in the cornfields of rural Illinois, Cynthia enjoys spinning tales set in the backdrop of the 1800s prairie. She writes from her family farm in central Illinois where she resides with her husband and their two college-aged sons.

 Contact Info:

Website: http://cynthiaroemer.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorCynthiaRoemer/

Twitter: https://twitter.com@cynthiaroemer

 

Purchase Info:

Available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Under-This-Same-Cynthia-Roemer/dp/194509415X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1494271640&sr=8-1&keywords=under+this+same+sky

 

Pursuing Gold – Striving for Excellence

Cynthia Simmons not only writes about characters who face huge odds, she’s faced them herself. Please tell us about your experience, Cynthia.

Have you ever faced a task so daunting and intimidating you wanted to run the opposite direction? I did. We homeschooled all of our children, but then the Lord presented me with a special gift: my fifth child with severe disabilities. I was already a busy mother, but had found my sweet spot, my comfortable zone in teaching.

When God landed sweet little Caleb in my lap, I was quite frustrated because I felt I couldn’t do more. That feeling only grew as he turned out to have grand mal seizures and multiple disabilities. The psychologist who tested my son commented on the myriad of weaknesses without corresponding strengths to help him overcome.

I remember telling the Lord I’d had enough, and that someone would write on my tombstone, “She Homeschooled.” Certainly I would be teaching him forever since getting him to learn even the simplest task took Herculean strength.

Just imagine teaching a child to count. I always handed my kids blocks, and we’d pick up a block as we said the numbers, “one, two, three, four.” That worked with my other children, but failed horribly with Caleb. You see, he expended so much effort to pick up a block that he couldn’t say the numbers. Getting the numbers in the correct order was almost impossible too. (We call that sequencing, which was one of his disabilities.)

Of course, I didn’t know the list of problems he harbored when I started. His bloodcurdling screams rattled me. Imagine your son screaming, “I’m stupid. I’m stupid, I’m stupid.” Oh how that hurt!

Looking back, I see the Lord’s guidance at his birth. We’d named him Caleb after the Caleb in the Old Testament who trusted God could defeat the Canaanites. After wandering in the wilderness with the other Jewish people, he was seventy-eight when he entered the Promised Land and eighty-five when he climbed the mountain to defeat the giants the Israelites had feared. We told Caleb that story so many times. His namesake persevered, and he and I had to do the same thing.

“…we exult in our tribulations knowing that tribulation brings perseverance…” Romans 5

I didn’t want to give up, though I often felt as if I were pushing a bus up a mountain. When I stopped to measure, I’d gone an inch. Caleb reversed letters and numbers, making it hard for him to read or write. I had to use special techniques to help him discern the shape and direction of anything on paper. We wrote letters in whipped cream, sand, cookie dough, and play dough.

It still took him months to connect the shape of the letter with the name and sound. After that gut wrenching battle, he learned to read and write. Caleb has boundless compassion for anyone unhappy or suffering. Just like a bee rushes to nectar, he finds that one discouraged person and tries to make him or her feel better.

I’ve given you a brief summary of Caleb’s intense battles. Now I understand staying with the job, and striving for excellence was what God wanted for my husband and I. Both of us grew during those grueling years. We worked hard, and God blessed our efforts. Let me encourage you to do the same in whatever difficulty you face.

 

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With his father dead and his business partner incapacitated, Peter Chandler inherits the leadership of a bank in economic crisis. With only a newly-minted college degree and little experience, Peter joins his partner’s daughter, Mary Beth Roper, in a struggle to keep C&R Bank afloat while the Civil War rages around Chattanooga. Political pressure for unsecured loans of gold to the government stirs up trouble as tempers and prices rise. Their problems multiply when Mary Beth discovers counterfeit money with Peter’s forged signature. Can they find the forger before the bank fails? The two friends must pursue gold on behalf of their business, as they learn to pursue their heavenly Father to find hope and peace. Cynthia is giving away a print copy of this novel to one commenter on this blog. 

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A Chattanooga native, Cynthia L Simmons and her husband have five children and reside in Atlanta. A Bible teacher and former homeschool mother, she writes a column for Leading Hearts Magazine. She conducts writing workshops, served as past president of Christian Authors Guild and directs Atlanta Christian Writing Conference. “Cyndi” is fond of history and offers younger ladies the elegance of God’s wisdom. She hosts Heart of the Matter Radio and co-founded Homeschool Answers. Her author website is www.clsimmons.com.

A Holiday Toast to “Old” Writers…

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We woke up to the season’s first snow this morning, transforming our grey, early-December Iowa into a wonderland. Today I’m sharing author Jane Kirkpatrick’s November post, because it holds encouragement for “old” writers. Like a fresh snow covering, we have a great deal to offer the world. May her words bless your Christmas stockings off!

Francis Bacon wrote: “Age appears to be best in four things; old wood best to burn, old wine to drink, old friends to trust, and old authors to read.” I present this wisdom as four “old” authors this past month have spoken to me about getting published. They have terrific story ideas, the time and energy to pursue their craft and demonstrated perseverance. What they’ve shared about finding a publisher is astonishing. At one conference, an editor said publishing older authors for the first time is just not cost effective because they “don’t know how to do social media or even what a platform is.”

Of course we know what a platform is. It’s a pair of shoes. No, really, it’s a mission statement, what one is willing to stand behind and for. We older authors have had platforms for years as young people going to war or taking stands against them; about the environment; as parents advocating for kids; as business owners and/or employees working long hours with integrity because we believe in what we’re doing and in the communities we’re doing it in. We know how to create a writing platform, one we can stand on and for, just as we know how to write a story.

More importantly, we bring life experiences to the stories we tell. We know how to create empathy for a character because we’ve shown empathy for others in order to live in community. We know how to give voice to those seldom heard because we’ve been listening for years. And we know how to memorialize, how to write about what matters not only to ourselves but as ways to reach others, most of whom are much younger than we are. Perhaps we can prevent in real life the mistakes that our characters make by telling stories constructed on our platforms.

As for social media…one of my “wise” author friends noted, “We have networks from years of working, contacts made while researching, people excited for us in retirement as we pursue another occupation, that of becoming an author.” We can get thousands of friends and “likes” and Twitter followers. She noted too that while many of us aren’t savvy about social media, we have resources to hire people to help us with the technology required of this writing world. At the very least we have 15-year-old grandkids or nieces and nephews to offer guidance. And because we read and are a part of this fascinating world, we also undertake new challenges with vigor knowing that even old rats, when given new mazes, grow new brain cells. If an old rat can learn new tricks, I can!

With my latest book This Road We Traveled about (in part) a 66-year-old woman who didn’t accept her adult children’s plan for her life and struck out on the Oregon Trail with her own wagon, I’ve become especially sensitive to the passions of age. It was what Tabitha Moffat Brown accomplished after she was 66 years old in 1846 in her adopted state of Oregon that moved the 1987 legislature to name her “The Mother of Oregon.” Many of the historical women I write about came “of age” in what we might call their “old age.”

The Psalmist wrote “The Lord knows my lot. He makes my boundaries fall on pleasant places.” Personally, I think publishers are missing the passion of a great story when they let a border like age define an otherwise very pleasant place. Bring on that old wood, aged wine and trusted friends! And yes, old authors.

Thanks so much, Jane. If you’ve yet to read any of her wonderful historical fiction, now would be a great time for a taste! 

Seasonal Changes

Back in the forties, autumn saw my heroines harvesting the last produce from their victory gardens, hauling burlap bags of potatoes and carrots to the hideaway under the windmill, drying walnuts to pick through on winter nights, and stripping dry bean and pea pods to save for next year’s seed.

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With more time ahead for indoor work, perhaps some women looked forward to sewing and mending. Addie didn’t, that’s for sure. But she did enjoy knitting sweaters for the soldiers, and even tried her hand at fine stitching.

Recently, I found an amazing cache of someone’s hankies from that bygone era at a garage sale. The more I consider them, the more they overwhelm me with a sense of all the time someone spent  stitching their decorative touches.

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Can you imagine the hours this required? And how about these?

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So many colors … so much creativity. Picture some weary woman crafting these in her “leisure hours” after a full day of hard physical labor.

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Those of us with limited stitching skills (I sew on buttons and  do hemming. Period), stand in awe. Besides fashioning these gems, the Greatest Generation women and their forebears carefully laundered and ironed these useful items, these tear catchers.

How things have changed, eh? Paper tissues catch our tears during life’s ups and downs. I’ve been going through some changes too. Yep. Because of an eye challenge, my computer time is now greatly limited – yes, I’m looking into one of those new-fangled speak-into-your-computer programs.

The past few weeks may have found me remiss with online duties, and that may continue. But stories still bounce around in my head, and the sequel to In Times LIke These will release with Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas in February 2017.

Several readers have encouraged me lately with their reviews of Addie’s story – one woman commended me for not giving Addie an easy way out. I try to hard to avoid pat answers, which really don’t help struggling people much. In her words:

            I appreciated that you didn’t have easy answers for Addie’s troubles.  I tend to shy-away from Christian fiction for fear of the platitudes. I have recommended this read to a couple of my friends.

So satisfying – words from readers mean so much! For those who’d like to communicate with me, I check my e-mail address gkittleson@myomnitel.com, most often. Thank you.

And thanks for your patience, and oh! I’ve shared the title of the sequel numerous times, but it’s been changed to With Each New Dawn

As fall transforms into winter, may you keep discovering new reading delights!

Sonia Solomonson on Loving Ourselves

On this patriotic weekend, I’m excited to welcome Sonia Solomonson, Life Coach, author and former editor, on the topic of loving ourselves. If you’ve read IN TIMES LIKE THESE, my latest women’s fiction, you’ll realize how her advice applies to Addie, the heroine. Love of country comes easily for her, but loving herself presents such a difficult challenge.

Sonia gives us step-by-step guidelines. And she is offering FIVE free forty-five minute life-coaching phone sessions to the first five commenters here. Wow! When you comment, please leave your e-mail address so she can contact you.

5 Tips for Loving Yourself

Even when we see ourselves as extremely independent and self-sufficient, if we’re really honest with ourselves, we desire to be loved.

To have friends, you have to be a friend, we’ve been told.  The same is true for love: To be loved, you have to love. And it all begins with moi! Start by loving yourself.

Some people think self-love is selfish and wrong. Dominican priest and 13th century theologian Thomas Aquinas believed that self-love was akin to pride—or “the beginning of all sin.” However, the Bible does tell us to love God with all our heart and soul and “love your neighbor as yourself.” That little word “as” says that I start by loving myself. Then I have the conditions inside me to love my neighbor in that same way. It all stems from God’s love for us.

Psychologist and social philosopher Erich Fromm said in 1956 that loving yourself is different from being arrogant or egocentric. He said rather that it means respecting yourself, knowing yourself, caring about yourself and taking responsibility for yourself. I’m with him!

I’ve heard it said that you are the one person who will be with you longer than anyone else will be—and, therefore, it’s crucial that you learn to be your own best friend.

What does it mean to love yourself?

Here are five tips:

  • Accept yourself. If you beat up on yourself a lot, stop it right now. You wouldn’t do that to your best friend, would you? So why would you think it’s OK to beat up or ridicule yourself? You are unique and precious, a true one-of-a-kind. Accept who and what you are. Love and accept all of yourself, what you see as your special gifts and also what you call your flaws. Often, these are two sides of the same coin.

For example, I’m a sensitive person, tuned in to what others are feeling. That’s a good thing—particularly in my vocation as a life coach but also in my relationships. The flip side, however, is something about which I used to be impatient with myself: I am (overly) sensitive about things others say to and about me. I’ve worked hard to tweak that. I also accept that, to some degree, one goes with the other.

  • Take good care of yourself. It means seeing your body, mind and spirit as precious gifts that need and deserve nurture and attention. It’s all too easy to take our bodies for granted and not give them sufficient rest, good food or plenty of exercise. Sometimes we take better care of our cars than we do our bodies, doing regular maintenance checks and taking care of whatever needs attention!

Let yourself feel whatever emotions arise. Are you sad?  Feel it. Perhaps there’s some loss, whether minor or major, that you simply have to stop and grieve. Are you anxious? Stop and deal with it; don’t ignore it. Do deep breathing, yoga, meditation, prayer or whatever helps you. Afraid? Look your fears in the eye and see whether you can bring them down to size by injecting some realism into them. Are things really as bad as they seem? Can you do anything about it? If not, can you let go? If you can do something, can you find a first step and start moving?

Are you happy? Celebrate that. Savor the good moments. Be grateful for them. Remember it’s OK to celebrate your achievements—both small and large. You can have your own little party. Or you can invite someone special to celebrate with you. Share your joy.

Some of us learned at a young age to stuff down emotions—sad and fearful ones or even joyful ones. If so, you may want to do some work around that so you can experience the full range of emotions.

  • Set boundaries for what behavior you will and won’t accept from others. You have a right to expect to be treated well and spoken to respectfully. You do not have to accept put-downs and abusive treatment—and you certainly don’t want to treat yourself that way either. Remember, boundaries aren’t meant to be punitive or manipulative toward others. They’re simply borders you set for yourself to know what’s OK and what isn’t for you—and what you will do if someone crosses that line.
  • Choose life. Insofar as it’s possible given what’s happening in your life, choose happiness and joy. Choose to be positive. Sometimes you simply need to reframe what’s happening and see possibility rather than a problem. When I lost my job, reframing wasn’t easy. I was hurt, angry, and scared. Only when I could begin to see possibility, however, was I able to create a new dream. Mind you, that didn’t happen overnight. First I needed to grieve the lost dream.

I hope you get the idea. There are many other ways to show yourself love.  Whatever you do, let go of the idea that self-love is selfish or decadent. Self-love is really the start of a more joyful life and deeper, more fulfilling relationships. It’s also the way we teach others how to treat us.

scs.rose.smile.closeupBy Sonia C. Solomonson

A writer, editor and life coach, Solomonson writes daily blogs at www.way2growcoaching.com, where you can sign up for her monthly ezine.

 

 

Summer Joys

It’s July first, and in the fifties here in Northern Iowa. I’m signing in before the Fourth of July, when we’ll have twenty-plus folks here to celebrate my husband’s birthday. Yup, a lucky firecracker–he always gets a party.

Thought I’d share some photos and thoughts on the joys of summer. Most of the pics speak for themselves.

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Hearing that old bat C-R-A-A-A-C-K!!

 

 

 

 

Sunshine through tall maples …

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daylily glory, dewdrop peonies, and  summer moments – the best of summer is here.

For a writer, every color, every nuance, every shade and hue is novel fodder. Voila!

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World War II Interview

Yesterday I was privileged to meet an eighty-nine year-old Swiss American. Ruth clearly remembers World War II, when she was a teenager. Eyes bright with recollection, she smiles while relating Switzerland’s “don’t mess with me” attitude. Though completely surrounded by Axis powers, Switzerland bucked the oppressors.

Being a member of the Girl Scouts back then, with girls tramping through the woods, learning primitive cooking, first-aid, and getting actively involved in the war effort, led Ruth to some prime adventures. In the process, she developed her community’s self-sufficient attitude.

Here’s a photo I took yesterday of some self-sufficient Arizona mountain flowers, but back to Switzerland. 100_0778

Having the Alps as sentinels helped, but the Nazis drew up invasion plans. However, they  never occupied Ruth’s country. Resisting them was quite a feat, especially considering all the countries they did occupy.

The Swiss immediately shored up their defenses at the beginning of the war, and all Swiss men served as soldiers from twenty to forty years of age. Ruth’s father kept his rifle handy, like the Minute Men during the Revolutionary War.

Brings to mind something American speed skater Apolo Ohno quipped:

Don’t get mad. Don’t get even. Get stronger, faster and more powerful. Fill yourself with knowledge and empathy and an indomitable spirit, because no one else can do that for you. In the end, it’s your life, your choice and your world. Give 110%, always.”

 Boy, did the Swiss ever follow this mantra—their Press openly criticized the Third Reich, often infuriating its leadership. Berlin denounced Switzerland as medieval and called its citizens renegade Germans.

Attempts by the Nazi party to effect an Anschluss, or connection between Germany and Switzerland failed due to a strong sense of national identity. The country’s belief in democracy and civil liberties stood it in good stead.

Case in point: Ruth remembers a German bookstore that sold only Mein Kampf and boasted a huge poster of Adolph Hitler at the entrance. She and her girlfriend decided to investigate (spurred by curiosity and possibly their Girl Scout exploits). The owner pushed them out and slammed the door to his regret. The Swiss home guard instantly absconded him to the authorities and closed down his so-called bookstore.

We’ll never come to the end of all the stories, and writing about these strong survivors strengthens me. Ah . . . to have lived in that time, though I would be far less bold.

But seeing the light in her eyes as she tells the tale makes me feel I was there, a silent onlooker cheering her on.

 

Any writers out there, has meeting with actual participants in your historical plot events instructed you? And readers, how does an author make you feel as though you yourself witnessed what just happened—on the Swiss border or elsewhere?