Friday, July 28, 2017

About Singing Trees...and Gilead

This is from June of 2010. My fourth book was getting set to come out and I was so excited. Ten or so later, I still get that excited with every release. Home to Singing Trees was and is still special to me. I think my writing's grown up some, but I still love that every inch of this book was placed in or around Gilead, where I grew up. (Five whole miles from where I live now!) While I played fast and loose with names and businesses, I used ones I found in research or see in church every Sunday or heard when the roll was called in elementary school. Sarah Williamson McKissick was my great-grandmother, but it wasn't her story I told.

The book is still a favorite. It's still available--how was that for a commercial?--and finding this brought back some memories. It was the first time I was ever invited to do a post on a guest blog and, once again, I was so excited. The blog, Prairie Chicks, is no longer active, although many of its founders are still writing. It seems to be what we do.

Despite an alarming tendency toward prudishness and an inability to drop the f-bomb unless I’m truly, truly ticked off, I am a fairly modern woman. Back in the 60s, I’d have been first in line to burn my bra if anyone had asked me. When Helen Reddy sang, “I am woman, hear me roar,” it was me she was singing to.

Although I liked reading about the 1800s, I never wanted to live then. Those long dress and multi-petticoats wrapping around a woman’s legs no matter what she was doing, not to mention that she did virtually everything only to be told every time she turned around where “her place” was—well, I just wasn’t having any of that, thank you very much.

When, after reading hundreds of romances (sound familiar?) I made the blithe decision that, hey, I could probably do that (sound even more familiar?) it was to contemporary I turned. Three published—and more unpublished ones than I care to talk about—books later, I still love contemporary. Even more than that I love Women’s Fiction. So much I capitalize it when I write the words.

But one day I was at the family farm where my brother and sister-in-law live and I looked at the concrete steps that led down to a flattened area in the hilly lawn. The flat space was where the interurban train that ran between the small towns in the community used to go right through the yard.

And I thought...hmmm….

It would be fun, maybe, to write a story about the building of the interurban. So I went to the library. Many sunlight-deprived hours later, I had a story. I found the germ of it in The 1877 History of Miami County and went on from there. It had nothing to do with the interurban, but I didn’t care. It captured my imagination and my heart and the tips of my typing fingers and before I knew it, Home to Singing Trees was born.

Liam and Sarah’s story is about second chances for two people who richly deserve them. It’s about families and working together and overcoming things you think just can’t be overcome. It will be released by Wild Rose Press on October 15 (it will be in both electronic and print formats, but the date on print is tentative) and I am so excited. Here is a teaser of an excerpt—there should be a graceful way to segue to that, but I haven’t found it yet!

He felt the warmth of her skin through the thin fabric of her shirtwaist, and the scent of roses was even stronger when she was in his arms. Her curly hair tickled his nose, and he brushed it away, allowing his hand to linger on the silky tresses.

She is so soft, and it’s been so long since I’ve felt this kind of softness, or even wanted to.
When she finally drew away, he was reluctant to let her go, sorry for the space she placed between them on the wooden step.

“Is it all right,” he asked, “that I call you Sarah?”

With that question, he felt her withdrawal become not only physical but mental and emotional as well.

“Of course,” she said, her voice colorless. “You are my employer, after all.”

Liam was struck with the abrupt and unsettling realization that being Sarah Mary Williamson’s employer wasn’t enough. He didn’t know what else he could be; even in the wilds of Indiana, employers and servants didn’t marry, and the liaisons they did enjoy were hardly the kind he would ask of Sarah.

Maybe, he speculated, they could be friends. He had other female friends, like Amy Waite, the daughter of Gilead’s most prosperous merchant and the teacher of the lower grades at the school. And there was Sue Anne Klein, who had come to visit her aunt and uncle, the Shoemakers. Only Sue Anne wanted to be more than friends.

He looked at Sarah’s hazy profile in the darkness, at the set of her firm chin and broad shoulders and remembered that she hadn’t felt firm or broad at all in his arms.


It would do.

For starters.

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