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Wednesday, May 22, 2019

A Collection of Historical Fiction.

Here’s another book series you might enjoy going back to. The Grenville Saga follows a fictional family through three generations of change. The characters may exist only on the printed page, but the events surrounding them really happened.

To finish out the Civil War series,  Henrietta’s story comes in two volumes:
Henrietta's  Journal ( covers the 1830s
Henrietta's Legacy ( takes place during the early years of the Civil War—1859 to 1863.

Will there be a third "Henrietta" book to follow the fates of her daughters? The last sentence of Legacy seems to suggest that there will, but the question is still open to debate. Look for an upcoming post about my future plans for the latest updates.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Books about the Civil War

Do you enjoy historical fiction but wish you could learn more about real people who lived during your favorite period? Try one of these creative biographies and meet some real people living in South Carolina during the Civil War. Choose from:  
  • Union and Confederate soldiers--A Scratch with the Rebels at: (, 
  • Union army nurses and doctors--Beyond All Price at (, 
  • or the missionaries helping abandoned slaves--The Road to Frogmore at (

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

There's a Child in Every One of Us

Last fall, at the annual conference of the Military Writers Society of America, I served on a panel discussing the writing of children’s books. We identified several characteristics that made a book popular with children. Among them were these:
1.     Children want to feel that little people are as important as big people, and sometimes they are smarter, too.
2.     Parents and other adults are often faceless, and sometimes they disappear altogether. Children’s stories use a child’s point of view, both figuratively and literally.
3.     Children value fairness. They want to see the good guys win and the bad guys suffer.
4.     Children can handle terrible, frightening events, so long as everything comes out all right in the end.
5.     Animals have the same feelings as people do, and of course, they can talk to each other. They understand English, too, even if they don't speak it.
6.     If someone doesn’t know a word, it’s OK to make one up.
7.     Children are language connoisseurs. They love rhythm and rhymes, and repeated phrases and refrains help them remember the story.
8.     Body noises are always hilarious.

I remembered those points yesterday when I finally got to re-read my childhood’s favorite book, What about Willie? So how did this 79-year-old book stack up to today’s standards? There were obvious details that marked the book as somewhat outdated. It measured 8 ½ by 11—pretty awkward for small hands to hold. It contained fewer illustrations than I remembered, and the print was surprisingly small. But the story itself? It was spot-on-target. The only things missing were the body noises, which might have been too much for the proper manners of 1939.

The little boy in the story has no visible parents, and when other adults appear, the reader sees only their shoes. Willie, the lost kitten, suffers terribly. He even comes close to drowning when he gets tangled in a fishing line and a catfish tries to pull him under. But by the end of the story, Willie has a warm home, a soft bed, and a full tummy. The mean old catfish gets eaten for breakfast! Willie had no trouble understanding English when an old lady yelled, “Scat!” and he easily turned the word into action as he “scatted.” The refrain of “Willie was cold, Willie was wet, Willie was hungry, Willie was lost” repeats until the end of the story, when it becomes (Willie was warm, Willie was dry, Willie was full, Willie had found a home.” The only missing element was a loud satisfied burp at the end of that catfish meal.

The verdict? “What About Willie” is still a winner. And children have not changed as much as we old-timers would like to think.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

My December

As we make our way through the first days of the Christmas season, I’ve been thinking a lot about how our ideas change as we get older. Now that I’m officially “old,” I’m happy with a small (4-foot) artificial tree, decorated with just a few bells, some beads, and several bows. I asked a friend to get my big cookie jar off a top shelf, but when I think of what it would take to fill it, I’m happy to open a package of Voortman gingerbread men. My decorations have shrunk to a single poinsettia and some candles, interspersed with sprigs of pine and several pine cones. No dinner plans, no family to visit, no parties. I can’t hear music anymore, and I can’t think of a single gift I would want or need.

What am I most enjoying? A couple of strands of tiny white lights that are not really bulbs but simply a wide spot on their wire. Holiday-wrapped chocolates as a special treat. A good book. A small chunk of fruitcake, frozen from last year and resuscitated to add its rum and brandy charm to a few more cups of coffee. Cold nights, clear skies full of winter stars, and a cozy fire in the fireplace. Notes of love and remembrance from friends in faraway places. And memories—of my high school choir performing the entire “Messiah” from memory after practicing for three years to get it perfect, of a little boy’s fascination with the train that ran around the base of his Christmas tree, of twin kittens greeting my mother’s Christmas visit with bright red bows around their necks, and one magical year when we spent Christmas in London, attended Christmas Eve services at Westminster Abbey, and came out at midnight to discover a soft snowfall burying the city.

I’ve been incredibly lucky for most of my life, and I would be embarrassed to feel anything less than total contentment in my later years. But there are a couple of things I’m determined to do to make this season even better. So here are my Christmas resolutions. I will NOT spend any time this month in trying to sell you my books. Readers know the books are out there and available. I assume you are all as sick of sales pitches as I am, and I refuse to offer you another “deal you can’t pass up.” Books make great Christmas presents, but only you can choose the ones your friends will like. Nor will I dedicate this holiday to my favorite charity. I assume you give whatever you are able to whichever charitable cause touches your heart. I will NOT demand—or even suggest--that you support my choice. And I will NOT parade my grief over the things that make me sad. We’ve all experienced both losses and blessings. I will count the blessings and tuck the losses away in my heart.

What remains? The switch that turns off the news. The unexpected hug. Coins in the Salvation Army’s kettle. Lions pecans. Smiles for those shop clerks who appear tired and stressed by multiple responsibilities. An extra scratch or two for a purring cat willing to sleep on my lap. An open door and an open heart.

And if you are looking for me? That’ll be me—the one in the little red car with the reindeer antlers on it!