Posts Tagged With: writing

Opening Day

IMG_2463To celebrate Opening Day, Hattie’s War is available free on Kindle until tomorrow. Click here to access:

bit.ly/HattiesWarKindle

And to keep up the excitement of the baseball season, check out the new blog, The Storied Past, that we are writing with Sandy Brehl and Stephanie Golightly Lowden, who are also historical novelists. A number of baseball books are featured this month.

 

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Dancing the Highland Fling

For the last two weekends, my daughter has danced in Highland Dance competitions. Both times, she medaled in the Highland Fling.

The Fling is a victory dance. Traditionally, Scottish warriors danced the Fling on the shields of their vanquished foes. Even today, dancers stay in the same place as they dance the Fling.

Actually, it is Hilda and I who should be dancing–perhaps atop old manuscripts. We have conquered! Our most recent manuscript of Plank Road Winter has been accepted by our editor.

The hard work at our recent retreat has paid off, and we should see our sequel in print this fall.

I hope we are not the only ones dancing for joy at this news. We have faithful readers who have been awaiting the sequel, and we are glad that your long wait is almost over.

Categories: Plank Road Winter | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

A Writers’ Retreat over Winter Break

After celebrating Christmas and the New Year with our families, Hilda and I snuck away for a much-needed writers’ retreat. We escaped to Wisconsin, where we holed up for two nights at the Lawson House Bed & Breakfast in Hales Corners.

Though we had already completed several drafts of “Plank Road Winter,” we worked through another rewrite, changing the point of view from first person to third person, shifting a main character in the book, and strengthening the sequel’s connections to “Plank Road Summer.”

The Lawson House could not have been a more perfect place to write. We learned that the house is located along what had once been the old Janesville Plank Road, which runs into Milwaukee. We enjoyed fabulous breakfasts and wonderful hospitality. The large front room with a fireplace and comfortable furniture allowed us to settle in for hours of reading our manuscript aloud, editing old chapters, drafting new ones, and laughing and crying together as sisters do.

During breaks from our writing tasks, I leafed through various historical books scattered about the room. In one, I read about the Hales Corners Stock Fair that had taken place once a month from 1871-1958. This bit of local history actually wound up in our novel. We left the Lawson House inspired and refreshed with a manuscript ready for our editor to see.

Categories: History of Plank Roads, On Writing, Plank Road Summer book, Plank Road Winter, Wisconsin | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Another Summer

The lilacs in my yard, some of which have been brought to Illinois from the McEachron homestead, have bloomed and faded. The cold, wet spring has turned overnight into a blazing hot Memorial Day. Though I have another week of school, I am looking forward to summer days when I can dedicate more of my time to writing. (Good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise.) Another revision of Plank Road Winter is underway, and other stories linger in my mind, waiting to make their way onto a printed page.

I also have a quilt to make, though not as intricate as those in Plank Road Summer. I’ll be cutting up old t-shirts to make a quilt for my son to take to college. Pieces of his grade school, middle school, and high school years will travel with him on his new adventure.  A piece of my grade school days just came back to me. Mr. Schmidt, my first principal, just commented on our “About the Authors” page. Please click to the Comments on that page to find a brief memory of my early years at Yorkville School.

As another summer arrives, I hope you all find time to enjoy whatever changes the season brings to your life.

Categories: Childhood Memories, On Writing, Plank Road Summer book, Plank Road Winter, Yorkville, Wisconsin | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

“Plank Road Winter” finished during Blizzard 2011

What better way to finish writing Plank Road Winter, set in Chicago and Wisconsin in 1871-72, than by candlelight, with the power knocked out by the second largest blizzard in Chicago history? Though some people might have complained about the storm, for Hilda and me, it was a perfect gift.    In our own homes, we settled down to hot chocolate or coffee and, sheltered from the howling winds and blowing snow,  hammered out the last couple of chapter revisions.

Winter, with its shortened days and cold weather, can be a season of darkness and despair.  My few hours of candlelight, while the blizzard raged outside, were enough to make me thankful for central heating and electricity.  The next morning, when the sun was bright, I sent my teenagers out to shovel.  When a neighbor came by with a snowblower, I felt obliged to leave my manuscript and lend a hand.  Once outside, my children and I found that the snow that had cut us off from the wider world also reconnected us to the neighborhood, as we ventured through the drifts to see how others were faring.  We helped dig out an SUV that tried, unsuccessfully, to make it down an unplowed road.  We invited a neighbor boy to jump off our porch railing into the snow below.  There was time for simple pleasures we don’t make time for in the rush of our everyday lives.

Plank Road Winter captures despair and dark days, but the story also celebrates the neighborliness that gets us through our difficult times.  We look forward to sharing the story with our readers.  In the meantime, we hope that you have come through the Blizzard of 2011, and we would like to hear snow stories from your neighborhood.

Categories: On Writing, Plank Road Winter | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Plain Old Summer

Last year, with our book fresh off the press, Hilda and I enjoyed our own Plank Road Summer. We traveled about from one book event to another, eager to share our story with others.  We felt like real authors, which seems a bit more glamorous than our everyday lives.

This summer, for me, has been exceptionally less glamorous. I had very good intentions, when the school year ended, about getting back to writing (We’re working on the sequel!). But on June 23rd, when I was home alone–no husband, no children–it started to rain.  And hail. And pour. Yard flooded.  Basement leaked.  Tornado sirens wailed.  Power failed.  Sump pump quit.  Basement flooded.  

Went outside to get a neighbor to help start the generator.  Fell and broke my right (writing) arm!  Neighbor arrived. Got generator going.

BUT couldn’t get to hospital because the streets were flooded.  My house was an island with water lapping against it on all sides. Called 911. A firefighter came to my rescue.  Waded a long block through knee deep water to the ambulance.  When I sat down on the gurney and lifted up my feet, my wellies flooded the inside of the ambulance….

Some of you can imagine the rest of my summer–a hot, itchy cast well past my elbow, sorting through sodden masses of possessions, drying out and reconstructing.  And family visiting from Japan and Baltimore in the midst of it. A month later came a second flood, and another family member took an ambulance ride through the flooded streets.

Life is what happens when you’re not writing. It’s the challenges, heartaches, celebrations that form who we are and make up our own story. It’s Plain Old Summer, which isn’t really plain at all.  It’s memories, adventures, emotions, family, neighbors.  It’s the kind of thing you could write a book about. Maybe I will.

Categories: On Writing, Plank Road Summer book | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Of Inns and Castles

Whenever Emily and I are in a housecleaning frenzy, we say that we are “Vin Mathering.”  Often I would like to summon Mrs. Mather to set all the rooms to rights and take over the kitchen and make my home ready for guests.  At such times I wish I had as much energy and passion for housekeeping as did Lavinia Mather of the Mather Inn.

This weekend I am Vin Mathering in preparation for a gathering to celebrate the launch of my historical novel Kingdom of the Birds.  This new book also features a good housekeeper.  Hermina lives in a mountaintop castle in the Thuringian Forest instead of a Wisconsin inn along a plank road, and she welcomes visiting knights and minstrels instead of farmers and teamsters.

My own home is no castle, and I have spent considerably more time creating characters who keep house than keeping house myself.  However, since neither Vin Mather nor Hermina is likely to show up to help, I must end this entry and go off in search of a broom.

Categories: On Writing, Plank Road Summer book | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Graue Mill Changed our Story

When Hilda and I first began working on Plank Road Summer, we didn’t exactly know how to go about writing historical fiction. One weekend when Hilda was visiting me in Elmhurst, I suggested that we go to nearby Graue Mill to “soak up some atmosphere.” I had been to Graue Mill before and knew that it was built in 1852–the exact year our story was set–so I thought the place would be a good source of inspiration.

We watched the miller grind corn and examined all the household items and farm tools on the upper floors. As we were looking at the display in the basement, Hilda said to me, “You know, we should put the Underground Railroad in our book.” Graue Mill, of course, is a documented stop on the Underground Railroad in Illinois–a place where fugitive slaves were hidden on their way to freedom in Canada.

“We can’t just ‘put it in,'” I said. I’m the historical stickler. I told Hilda we would have to prove that fugitive slaves traveled through the Wisconsin neighborhood in which Plank Road Summer takes place before we could put that information in our story. But then Hilda reminded me of childhood stories of a neighbor’s house with a tunnel to the swamp in which slaves had supposedly hidden. And we remembered that a building in Rochester was supposed to have been used in helping slaves.

When we started to research the subject, we did indeed find the solid evidence we needed to prove that slaves could have made their way past the properties in our book. (Saying any more than that would be a spoiler) But yes, Hilda, we could (and did) put the Underground Railroad into our book. In fact, it became a large part of our story–and all because of a visit to Graue Mill.

On Sunday, Sept. 6, I’ll be at Graue Mill from 12:00-4:00. Come buy a book, make a wool butterfly, add a plank to my road. And soak up the atmosphere of Graue Mill and the Civil War encampment on the grounds. It’ll be a great day for inspiration!

Categories: Childhood Memories, On Writing, Plank Road Summer book, Rochester Wisconsin, Underground Railroad, Why this story | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Return to the Wade House

I was a tween (though the term wasn’t used in the 1970s) when I first visited the Wade House in Greenbush, Wisconsin.  The restored historic inn caught my imagination, especially because back in Racine County, a neighbor’s house had also been an inn along a plank road.  At the Wade House I admired the tea leaf dishes in the dining room, the woodstove in the kitchen, and the third floor ballroom.

Back at home I spent hours poring over the photographs in the Wade House souvenir booklet,  imagining stories that might have taken place within the inn if the historically dressed mannequins had suddenly come to life.  Pretty soon I began to wonder what might have happened to a girl sitting on the front porch of my own house as she  watched the passing wagons stop next door at the Mather Inn.  Though the Mather Inn was a much smaller and humbler version of the Wade House, I thought the stories could be just as interesting.

Twentysome years later Hilda and I visited the Wade House again while we were researching Plank Road Summer.  Though the mannequins were gone, the docents who led us through the house gave us a detailed sense of what life at an inn was like.  We learned that innkeepers used to count out floorboards in the ballroom to mark sleeping arrangemements, a fact that made it into our book.

Soon Hilda and I will head to the Wade House once more, this time for a book-signing.   Back when I was making up stories about little girls in the ladies’ parlor I did not imagine that someday I would return with my own published novel about an inn along a plank road in Wisconsin.

Stop by to see us at the Wade House during the Arts and Crafts Fair–Sunday, August 23, from 9:00-3:00.  We’ll have our own craft projects going–you can make a wool-tassel book mark or wool butterfly and add a plank to our road.   Copies of Plank Road Summer will be available for purchase and signing.  We hope to see you there.

Categories: Childhood Memories, History of Plank Roads, On Writing, Wade House | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Escape with a Good Book

How many of us have curled up under an afghan on a cold winter day and escaped into the pages of a good book?   A book could take me from a farmhouse in Wisconsin to a tropical island, a medieval castle, or west on the Oregon Trail. I could escape place or time while reading.

These days I have similar adventures while writing books.  “I’m sorry, my mind is in 1871,” I’ve said to my family.  I see a car driving past on the street, but in my mind I’m hearing a horse’s hooves clopping along the road.  I find myself trying to readjust to the present after I’ve been dwelling in another century.

Isn’t this what good literature does? It takes us out of one world and into another.  And when a book speaks truths that transcend time, we have a treasure indeed. Take time this winter to curl up with a good book.  And when the warm weather comes, save a little time for Plank Road Summer.  We hope you will enjoy an escape to the past–and perhaps even be touched in the present.

Categories: On Writing | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

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