Williamsburg Hill

Williamsburg Hill

Monday, November 12, 2018

In Flanders Fields

Fields of poppies
November 11, 2018 marked the 100th anniversary of the end of War World I.  At the “11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month” in 1918, an armistice was signed between the Allied Forces and Germany ending what many referred to as The Great War, one of the most catastrophic wars the world has ever seen.  The conflict lasted four years, and those who fought in it endured some of the most brutal forms of warfare ever known. 
In 1915, Canadian John McCrae was inspired to write a poem after presiding over the funeral of a friend and soldier who had been killed in the Second Battle of Ypres (in the Flanders region of Belgium).  McCrae observed how poppies grew over the graves of the fallen soldiers, and wrote one of the most well-known poems of the war.  Its publication resulted in the poppy becoming the most recognized memorial symbol for soldiers who died in conflict.
In honor of Veterans Day (formerly Armistice Day in the US) recognized November 11, and Armistice and Remembrance Day observances around the world, the beautiful poem is worth sharing.

         In Flanders Fields
        By John McCrae (1915)
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.



Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Williamsburg Hill - Published

It has been a while since my last book was published, so I've forgotten everything that has to happen post-publishing...a lot! At some point, it's worthy of a blog post. So is the writing, proofreading, editing, rewriting, submitting, publishing process, which will include the nitty gritty of submitting to literary agents (and it's not pretty). But this post is about the finished product.

My book, Williamsburg Hill, is now published and available for purchase in paperback and Kindle on Amazon (Williamsburg Hill). A little back cover blurb is included below. It's mainly historical fiction, but crosses a few genres. If you're interested in the backstory of how this book came to be, a recent blog post explains it (backstory). The beautiful Ridge Cemetery plays prominently. Thank you to all who have purchased it so far. It's appreciated. Also, it's part of the Kindle Unlimited promotion on Amazon, so for those of you participating in that, it's a free read. That might apply to Prime members, as well. At any rate, thank you, and please, please, please...reviews are so very appreciated.
And that Halloween post isn't going to happen. Apologies, but I've been a little busy.

About the story...

When history touches the present through an old ghost town, its cemetery, and an ancestral piece of furniture passed down through the ages, a story connecting two generations and eras unfolds.  

Chicago, 2015.  One year after her divorce, Chicago antique dealer Rose Beecham suddenly acquires a beautiful 19th century dressing table at auction. Intending to resell it, something about the piece of furniture makes her hesitate. Tagged with the maker’s mark Dunaway Carpentry, Established 1840, Williamsburg Hill, Illinois underneath it, Rose finds a hidden compartment in one of the drawers revealing a garnet ring and an old daguerreotype of a young couple.  One other item remains hidden within the drawer, just out of reach. Instincts tell her that is the answer to the item’s provenance, and she must find a way to retrieve it. But someone else is looking for the heirloom and is determined to acquire it at any cost. With the help of Robert Moray, the Scottish man who has reentered Rose’s life, they piece together the mystery, leading her to discover ancestors that she never knew existed, and allowing a reconnection with her adoptive family.

Williamsburg Hill, Illinois, 1880.  Evelyn Williams travels to Williamsburg Hill from St. Louis to visit her aunt, and to escape a ghost from her past. She meets Frederic Dunaway, a man descended from Potawatomi heritage whose family built much of Williamsburg. Can he protect Evelyn from the person who is in search of her because of the valuable land she will inherit?  As outlaws close in, and the new railroad threatens the future of the town and stagecoach line, things aren’t as they appear to be. With danger looming, including murder, will Evelyn heed the ramblings of a grizzled old loner named Erastus who says the dead speak to him?

Thursday, October 25, 2018

The Cover - Williamsburg Hill

I had plans for a Halloween blog post this month, and it still might happen since there are a few days left before the ghosts and goblins raid our candy bins. But since it's just finalized, I thought I'd first share the official front cover of my book Williamsburg Hill, tweaked just a little from the previous proof.  If there are no hiccups (and when don't those pesky nuisances catch you unexpectedly?), by this time next week both the paperback and ebook will be published.  Thanks for reading.  Hopefully that seasonal dedication to things that go boo in the dark will be written...just don't hold me to it.


Thursday, September 20, 2018

The Backstory to Williamsburg Hill

My novel Williamsburg Hill will be published soon, and I thought I'd share the backstory of how it started.  The genre is historical fiction with a dual timeline (present day and 19th century).  The back cover blurb begins with the following:

When history touches the present through an old ghost town, its cemetery, and an ancestral piece of furniture passed down through generations…

The Backstory:

In early 2014, I began listing ideas for my next book.  Historical fiction was a genre that I wished to attempt, but it was important to me that the historical part of the book be something that wouldn’t present a lot of challenges with research.  I lived in the Chicago area at the time, so I assumed some localized history would be easy enough to research; if travel were required, it would be simple to do by car.  Easy and simple were far from reality, as I discovered, with legends and lore playing greater roles than historical documents in creating this book.
I read about a town in south central Illinois, once active due to its main street being part of the Old Anglin’ Road stage coach route, that became non-existent in the late 1800s.  The town of Williamsburg (or village as some referred to it) was founded in 1839, and the region was referred to as Cold Spring.  Established at the time with a mill, the stage line, a general store, a blacksmith and postmaster, a medical doctor, Masonic hall and Methodist church, it is difficult to imagine how progress ultimately crippled the area and made it a ghost town.  In 1881, the stage line was discontinued as train travel replaced it, and the railroad tracks bypassed Williamsburg.  Residents and businesses moved, most to nearby Lakewood, leaving their former town to waste away.   
Williamsburg was located on the south side of Williamsburg Hill which still stands as the highest point in the area at over 800 feet.  Some speculate the hill was formed due to glaciers; others seem to think it to be an Indian mound.  There is really no definitive answer to its existence.  But resting at the top of Williamsburg Hill is Ridge Cemetery, still accessible today.  And there was the basis of my story.
I traveled to Ridge Cemetery twice (in 2014 and 2016).  It isn’t a place that one simply discovers on an afternoon drive. It is a pre-planned destination; its isolation is assurance of this.  It also isn’t a place a person should travel to alone.  As there is much folklore but little history that I could find about the cemetery, I assume it originated around the time that the village of Williamsburg did.  The dates on many of the tombstones verify this, but there are recent burials there as well.  It is an old cemetery, yet a currently used one; it is serene and peaceful, while strange and a little unnerving; it’s beautiful, yet rugged; maintained but weathered.  And yes, it is somewhat creepy.
The cast of characters in this story are fictional, with the exception of J.P. Dunaway, J.W. Torbutt, Dr. Thomas Fritts, and Orville Robertson.  Their occupations in my book are true to their history.  What is a little sketchy about them might be the location of where they settled.  I was fully into writing when I discovered a first-person historical account by a Dunaway descendant indicating the family had lived in Findlay, Illinois, not Williamsburg.  Because I was too far into the story to change anything, I took liberties.  Documented history about the area wasn’t easy to find, but plenty of folklore existed, so much of what I wrote is based on this.  And most of the folklore indicates these four figures and their families were part of Williamsburg Hill, at least at some point during the town’s reign.  It was important, perhaps out of obligation, to briefly mention the town of Findlay at the end though, which I did.  I also interchanged Williamsburg and Williamsburg Hill within the story, because it seemed to me that people living there would’ve done this as a way of generally referring to their home.
Finally, there is nothing left of Williamsburg.  Ridge Cemetery is not private, but open to anyone who wishes to visit as long as it’s done during the daylight hours.  It is a place deserving of respect.  If visiting, observe its history, wonder about its past, and listen quietly.  Perhaps you, too, will then hear the voices and laughter dancing through the breeze just as my character, Erastus, did.