New Friends and Kindred Spirits

Yesterday I had the privilege of presenting Volunteer for Glory to a wonderful group of people at Tanner Springs Assisted Living. Admittedly, I was nervous as I’d only given readings, and being without a script was a challenge. Once there, however, I felt an amazing warmth and kinship with these remarkable individuals.

How do you describe such an atmosphere without resorting to clichés? You can mention the smiles and gentle responses from each person you greeted. You can refer to their polite attention. And you can report their participation, especially when I asked them to share thoughts, opinions, or memories.

One lady had spent time in the South where the Civil War still lives in a collective memory of carpetbaggers and hard times. That brought on a discussion of the bitter aftermath of Reconstruction following Lincoln’s assassination. The South had lost their greatest friend, for Lincoln’s desire had been to “bind up the nation’s wounds.” Then she told us that only about 5 percent of Confederate soldiers were slave owners. The majority of Rebel soldiers were poor farmers without an economic stake in the fortunes of the big plantations. Another resident remarked that some wives followed their men to wash, sew, and cook.

When I mentioned how different life was in the days before computers, cell phones and iPods, a woman seated in the back row shared a childhood memory from the Depression.  “My father farmed using horses,” she said,  “as we couldn’t afford a tractor. But when he’d come in after a day of plowing, I’d run to meet him.  We had two mares, and he would pick me up and set me on the back of the gentlest, the one named Ruth. I was so proud to ride into the barn on that big horse.” I could see her in my mind’s eye; a sweet mite of a girl running to greet her daddy at day’s end. I could also imagine the man in his cotton shirt and overalls, setting his little girl on the massive draft horse to ride like a queen across the barnyard.

A dress and sunbonnet, part of the Civil War era fashions kindly lent by Roxie Matthews, sparked another story. A wonderful lady told of wearing a sunbonnet to work in the fields, day after day, enduring hot sun and backbreaking labor. Scratching out a living in the ’30s required that everyone pull his or her weight.

Several hands rose when I asked if any had seen husbands or brothers go off to World War II. They nodded, knowing what it was like to be left behind while loved ones marched into danger with no assurance of return.

As a bonus, I’ve been invited back to present Wrenn, Egypt House, and the soon-to-be published, Scattered Pieces. One lady has already spoken for a copy of Scattered Pieces as she can relate to the 1940s. But the sweetness of this afternoon was not in the selling and signing of books. It was in meeting extraordinary people and discovering the riches of friendship and wisdom they offer.  I can’t wait to go back!

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One To Get Ready, and Two To Go

The “one to get ready” announcement is a reminder of the NW Publishers Book Fair in Portland’s Pioneer Square on July 30th.  Puddletown Publishing Group will have a table, and I’m very excited to be one of their authors.  Pat Lichen, Roxie Matthews, Susan Landis-Steward and I will be there to schmooze and autograph copies of our books; Volunteer for Glory, Kidnapping the Lorax, Sanna, Sorceress Apprentice, and The Blind Leading the Blind.  Other tables will feature other publishers and authors.  Don’t miss Jean Sheldon, publisher and mystery writer (Flowers for Her Grave and Woman in the Wing) and Veronica Esagui, host of the local TV show, Authors Forum, and author of Veronica’s Diaries.  Come out to peruse, visit, and buy. The Fair runs from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.  Tents are provided for the booksellers in case the fickle Oregon weather decides to drizzle.

My “two to go” is announcing that, Scattered Pieces, my third novel, has come to the final round of checking for typos.

Scattered Pieces is scheduled for a late August release through Lisa Nowak’s Webfoot Publishing. Between now and then is the final run through of the manuscript and approval of a completed cover.  Lisa has just published her own YA novel, Running Wide Open, the first of a five book series set in the world of stock car racing.  Her second book, Getting Sideways, is set for publication in September.

I am still completely hyped with the positive reception that Volunteer for Glory is receiving and will continue to work hard at marketing, but I’m also looking forward to releasing Scattered Pieces first in e-pub formats and then in POD.

For those of you who don’t know anything about the story, Scattered Pieces is set from 1946 to 1961, a more recent era than the Civil War or turn-of-the-century. (Wrenn, Egypt House.) When Katie Harris’s little brother, Jimmy, disappears at a Cleveland train station, her life, and the life of her family, will never be the same. Determined to be the best she can be, and to make up for her brother’s loss, Katie excels in school, eventually majoring in psychology.  In the course of a graduate counseling internship, she is assigned an unsettling client who may be the link to what happened to Jimmy.