Less is More in Christmas Preparation

 

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My nativity display

Over the years I’ve cut back on all the preparation I make for Christmas. Partly because my children are grown, and my grandchildren have different interests. The other reason is my life is too full to spend the extra time doing as much as I use to.

 

This year I limited my decorating to my tree, my fireplace mantle and my nativity. Previously I had to clear off tabletops, end tables and bookcases to add more decorations. So much less work, a lovely reminder of the season and definitely less clutter.

 

coconut balls finished

Our almost 60 years old candy recipe still remains as part of my Christmas preparation.

 

I’ve reduced my baking list as well. I used to make peanut brittle, fudge, coconut balls, several kinds of cookies, special cakes and pies. Now it will consist of coconut balls, a fifty-year-old family candy and a few kinds of cookies. Oh yes, I’ll be helping the granddaughters bake pumpkin bread to give as gifts.

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Now that my children are grown they do a lot of Christmas baking themselves.  I will decorate sugar cookies to connect with my grandchildren and make a memory. But we will make less. Back when my five children and I did them, half the neighborhood kids would join us, and we’d make a ton of cookies, have great fun and send each child home with the cookies they decorated. But now it feels like so much more work with fewer kids who tend to get tired or bored before they are all done.

 

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When my children were young the neeighbor children came over and decorated cookies with us every Christmas for years.

 

I used to send out many Christmas cards with a newsletter to all my family and a few friends. I haven’t sent them out in a few years. Don’t really miss doing it. Social Media keeps me in contact with friends, and if I do a newsletter, it appears online. Most cards I sent were to aunts and uncles who are now passed away.

 

We will still go see the Christmas displays around town.  Driving around with a few grandkids will make it special. We’ve never decorated the outside of the house. I love to see others’ yard displays. I take the attitude of an old Crankshaft cartoon. He took his lights and decorated the neighbors’ house, so he could enjoy looking at them. When we have added lights to the windows they have been on the inside. Illinois winter weather after the Christmas season is often brutal. So, the thought of taking down lights before the mandatory February deadline the city imposes is unappealing.

 

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One of the Christmas yard displays  that covers a few blocks that tells the Nativity story. A long standing yearly tradition in Aurora, Illinois since the 60s.

 

Simplifying the preparation for the Holidays gives us more time to just relax and enjoy family, friends and Christmas movies. And for a writer, less stress is always priceless.

What Christmas preparation have you eliminated this year? Exchanged for a better plan or kept because your family loves it? 

 

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Marilyn Peveto Shares Her Writing Journey

IMG_6733z(1)Today I welcome Marilyn Peveto. Her debut novel When Your Heart Comes Home released recently. Welcome Marilyn, it’s always fun to share my blog with fellow-authors. Let’s dive right in.  How did your writing adventure begin?

Thinking about my writing journey now, I believe it began many, many years ago when our mother took the time to read to us when we were very young. Our small town didn’t have a public library but she made sure we always had books available to read. This began an interest and a love for reading, and then a love for writing.

I always liked to write in some way. In early elementary school I would pen little stories about the events of the day. Later I wrote some poetry and personal essays. But it was only after my children graduated from high school and left for college that I decided I wanted to write a novel.

Of course, wanting to write a novel and doing it are two different things. I knew I had the desire but I didn’t know where to begin. I read about an upcoming writer’s conference in a city near my home and decided to attend. There I learned that I had much to learn, but I also met other writers in my area and joined a local guild.

It took years to complete my first novel. I truly can’t say how many years because I didn’t write continuously during that time. My husband and I had the opportunity to care for all four of our sweet parents during those years so my writing projects were put on hold for awhile.

I’m excited to say my first novel was released on November 14th, 2017. And I’m currently working on the second book in the series.

Tell us a bit about the novel you completed.

When Your Heart Comes Home is my first novel and is set in East Texas in the area

where I live. Texas’s first industrial revolution began in the virgin pine forests of my region around 1880. Up until the beginning of World War II the timber companies drew thousands of families into the sawmill towns and lumber camps.

I chose the time period of 1906 because my grandparents and great-aunts and uncles were young children during this time and they loved to tell of their experiences growing up in the towns that were built around a particular sawmill location in the pine forests.

Even though I heard the stories many years ago, they made an impact on me and stayed with me through the years. There’s just something special about an oral history. The language and feelings that come forth in the storytelling are unique and not easily forgotten.

When Your Heart Comes Home tells the story of Sarah Andersson, a young wife and mother, who is a prominent member of such a tiny sawmill town in East Texas. The struggles she faces and the successes she gains are chronicled in this tale.

Was there a lot of research involved in creating this novel and how did you go about it?

As with most historical fiction novels there was a lot of research involved. There are a couple of museums about two hours from my home that I visited and learned much from the exhibits. The Texas Forestry Museum in Lufkin, Texas has several permanent exhibits that were helpful. The Forest History Wing contained an exhibit entitled “Plain and Simple: Sawmill Folks at Home”. It represented life in a sawmill town in the early 1900’s. Another interesting display was the Sawmill Doctor’s office, an important part of any town during that time period.

The History Center in Diboll, Texas is another museum I visited and it has an extensive collection of photos of early sawmill towns.  They are displayed on panels in the exhibit area. The History Center also houses a library and research room with comfortable seating for reading and documenting information.

And probably the main source of research was the books that chronicle the events of the sawmill industry in East Texas. Many of those I already had in my library at home since I have always had an interest in the history of my region.

 

What inspired you to write your book?

I grew up surrounded by grandparents, great-aunts and uncles who loved to tell stories about their childhood in the early twentieth century. When I was a child we gathered on the front porch in the evening or after Sunday dinners and visited. Tales of life during the early 1900’s always intrigued me, probably because of the memories of those very special times with family.

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A bit about When Your Heart Comes Home

Sarah Andersson’s immigrant husband becomes homesick for his native Sweden and insists on returning. A prominent member of tiny Pineville, Texas, Sarah decides to stay behind with their two young children. After her husband is killed before leaving American shores, she grieves his death but is asked to rescue the town’s main business, the sawmill.
When her first love, Thomas Carson, returns to Pineville after a five-year absence, Sarah must put aside the past and ask Thomas to do the same. They can only save their town by working together.
While Sarah grieves, cares for her children, and runs the sawmill, she discovers she has feelings for Thomas. But she worries he hides a dark secret.
Will she allow herself to love again?

Now we’re going to redirect the questions to help my readers learn a little about you.

Do you have a favorite verse that resonates with you?

I’m always impressed with those who can say they have a favorite verse. I find that it’s taxing to try to narrow it to one. I think that at this time in my life and observing the world as it is today, I would have to say Ephesians 4:32:

“And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ

forgave you.” NKJV

What is your favorite genre to read for fun?

I’m fond of historical fiction. Sometimes I think it is because I found such joy in the books by Laura Ingalls Wilder when I was a child. I love to be transported to a different time in our country’s history.

Where is your favorite place to write?

I find I do my best writing at home. Sometimes it’s on the back porch soaking up the sunshine. In the winter it may be in a chair beside the fireplace. When I feel the need to be more structured I sit at the desk in my little office space. But it’s always at home with the beagles nearby.

More about Marilyn

Marilyn Peveto is a lifelong East Texan from a family that has lived in the Piney Woods for generations. Growing up hearing tales of sawmills at the turn of the twentieth century made the region’s history a natural setting for her stories.

Her hobbies include reading, browsing in antique stores for her next treasure, and cooking her family’s favorite southern foods.

Marilyn enjoys life with her two adult children, a son-in-law, an adorable granddaughter, her husband of forty-one years and two geriatric beagles who snooze at her feet as she writes.

Thank you for visiting here on Jubilee Writer. Sounds like an interesting read. My reads can purchase When Your Heart Comes Home on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, ibooks and Kobo.

Marilyn will be giving a copy of her book away to one lucky winner. All you need to do is comment below to be placed in a drawing.  The winner will be notified on Friday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh, Christmas Tree, Oh, Christmas Tree were you in my setting

20171125_165252I love a good Christmas novella or two this time of year. Historical ones are my favorites. One thing you might not know unless you are a historical writer is that the Christmas tree was not always a part of American Christmas celebrations. So, finding one in a novella set before 1900s gives me pause.

The earlier a setting the less likely a tree in American History.

The Pilgrims didn’t celebrate Christmas. They considered the revelry of Christmas traditions sacrilegious, as did the Puritans in Massachusetts. So, if you set your story in 1600s America, there would be no tree.

Legend says Germany adopted the tradition of a Christmas tree when Martin Luther used the evergreen to explain the setting of the nativity to his children—just as Paul had used the statue to the unknown God to share Christ with the Greeks. (There are lots of articles on the internet explaining the origin of the Christmas tree in Europe.)

This strange custom brought to America by German immigrants took hundreds of years to become part of our Christmas celebrations.

There’s a variety of legends regarding the first Christmas tree in America. One being: Hessian soldiers (German mercenaries hired by King George to fight the colonists) brought the tradition with them. It is said a German immigrant in the 1830s decorated the first tree out west.gallery-1510848808-gettyimages-599911197

The media helped spread the tradition

Queen Victoria’s German husband Prince Albert is credited with introducing the tradition to English society about 1840. The tree was decorated with gifts for their children. An artist rendering of the tree appeared in the newspaper. Because of the popularity of Queen Victoria, the custom spread among the wealthy. They strove to have the most elaborately decorated trees.

B H Tree

Eventually the tradition crossed the pond. The first president of the United States to have a tree was Benjamin Harrison. (1889-1893). It was placed in his children’s play room. Allowing reporters to view the tree set the tradition in the forefront of American society.

By 1900 one in five households had a Christmas tree. Edison’s invention of Christmas tree lights made it safer for families to have a tree in their home. Before then, trees were illuminated with candles.

Strive for accuracy

When you write a historical that has any scenes focused around Christmas be sure to get the details right. Before the 1880—unless they were German immigrants—there probably wasn’t a tree. A little research should help you determine if a tree is essential for your setting. Most of the time there may be stockings hung or special dishes served. Some immigrants consider Christmas only a religious holiday while others added some version of Santa Clause.

A few additional historical tidbits

My Ukrainian friend celebrates Christmas in early January.

Three Kings’ Day is popular in many cultures. Gifts were given on January 6th rather than Christmas Day.

 

Check your facts regarding ethnicity of your characters when creating a Christmas scene.

 

 

Have you written a Christmas novel? Tell us about the traditions you added to your story.

 

New Zealand Author Carol Roberts Talks about her Writing Journey and Debut Fantasy Novel

 Carol RobertsToday I welcome Carol Roberts who makes her home in New Zealand. Her debut fantasy Atlantis is available now. Carol, I love to ask fellow-authors to share their writing journey. Please tell my readers about yours.

When I left school, I was interested in psychology, and I would have studied that, had I not decided to travel first. As was, I left my birth place of Vienna at the age of 18 and travelled through South America and Asia, indulging my interest in culture and tradition.

I met my husband-to-be in India, a photographer from New Zealand, and we ventured into places that were so distant and remote, that I can still remember the feeling of eternal timelessness that took ahold of me in such locations. I was completely fascinated; what were those people’s stories, what did they preserve in terms of their mythology? I took a lot of notes about places and people, and by the time I settled in New Zealand, I had a firm plan of compiling a non-fiction book about stories and myths from all around the world.

While working through the material that we had collected, I realized that I was more interested in understanding the meaning of those stories, rather than compiling them into a non-fiction book. I was especially interested in stories of creation, and if our collective psyche can possibly reach back to a point of evolution through these stories.

Extensive travel is something we all dream about. How wonderful for you. Now tell us about your debut novel and the inspiration behind it.

It’s a fiction book, called ‘Atlantis’; genre is mythical fantasy/mystery.

After I had spent endless hours interpreting mythical symbolism, I felt that a lot of stories try to portray the origins of our human condition. And that’s what I wanted to write about; a challenge that passes on from one generation to the next, the meaning of individual and collective destiny, and the consequence of choices made.

I started writing ‘Atlantis’ with a poem. The poem held th

Atlantis Carol Roberts

e clues of a mystery, and became the map. It’s too long to quote, but it held the essence of what I was about to write, and I kept on interpreting it as I went.

 

Here is the back- cover blurb

Here is the blurb:  When Alanthea, high-priestess of Atlantis, connects to a woman in her dreams, she becomes haunted by a mystery. Compelled to trace the other woman’s life she finds coded poems that hold clues to the predicament of her people. Now she has to venture ever farther into forbidden territory to link past and present, and understand the real danger threatening Atlantis.

Arakon always thought of himself as an orphan, a loner without any real belonging. But after a strange encounter his life changes, and he is drawn into events beyond his control.

They move parallel in their search for answers until their destinies converge, and the weave unravels. Yet what they finally uncover lies deep at the heart of collective evolution, and what has been set in motion cannot be undone.

Now I’d like to take my questions in a different direction.

Who is your best support system to keep you focused on your writing?

My husband in all matters writing and helping me to ‘man up’ and stand by my work. My publisher, Stephanie, for picking up ‘Atlantis’ and giving me confidence.

What is your favorite genre to read for fun?

Romance, hands down. There is nothing like a good romance.

How interesting, I write romance yet enjoy a lot of fantasy on TV, movies and novels.

So, tell us your favorite place to write?

Where-ever I find that piece of paper and pen when I have an urgency to write. This could be virtually anywhere, lol.

We can all relate to that. Thanks so much for visiting with us today.

Here’s a little about Carol Roberts.

Carol Roberts is a free lance writer with particular interest in cultural myth. Originally from Vienna, she has spent all of her adult life in the Far North of New Zealand. Her work took her to several different countries, where she indulged her fascination with stories, particularly those dealing with the creation of man.  ‘Atlantis’ is her first full length novel.

Blog/Newsletter: https://www.smore.com/app/pages/preview/jb2ug,

Twitter: @authorRobertsC

Buy link: https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B0777J2MC8/

Check out Carol’s creative Christmas giveaway. Everyone is a winner

For all those who purchase Atlantis before December 31st, I will say THANK YOU by sending you a free copy of my second novel Tower of Babel. Go to this link after you purchase Atlantis and sign up to receive Tower of Babelhttps://www.smore.com/app/pages/preview/fpnxr

 

15 Christmas Gift Ideas for the Writer in your Family

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Christmas shopping season is upon us. As a writer, I’ve received over the years gifts that touched my writers heart. Fun t-shirts, mugs and magnets. However, There’s more creative options for the clueless non-writers’ gift-giver. Let me inform them with my gift idea list for the writer in the family. Writers, post this blog in a prominent place for your friends and family to see.

  1. Gift card for favorite place to buy office supplies.

Running out of ink in the middle of a project is maddening. You can never have enough flash drives, batteries and copy paper.

  1. Small notebook

When inspiration strikes, it’s nice to have a notebook in your pocket or purse.

  1. Software programs for writers

Some examples: Scrivener or Dragon. Scrivener is a word program for writers and Dragon is a voice-activated program to dictate your words. (Great when a writer’s hands, arms and back are out of commission.) There are more writerly programs out there, listen, when your writer raves over their fave.

  1. Amazon Gift Cards

Books, books and more books!

  1. Gift card to favorite writing spot

Some suggestions: Starbucks, Panera’s or another Wi-Fi available coffee shop.

  1. Magazine subscriptions

These are must haves for writers. Try Writers Digest, Christian Communicator or other Writing Craft periodicals. There are online e-zines subscriptions as well.

  1. Trade books

Here are some must haves:

  • Chicago Book of Style
  • Writer’s Guide, Christian Writer’s Guide

There are many, many writing craft books and among them are a few your writer wants. Listen and learn.

  1. A day or week end away to write.

A gift of hotel or a cabin in the woods—heavenly.

How about offering your home when you’re at work? A time away from the interruptions of family is golden for productivity.

You might volunteer to babysit or be responsible for picking up kids from school. Maybe take grandma to the store so your author can have a full-day of uninterrupted time to write. This is a special blessing if they are on deadline.

  1. Pay a conference fee for them.

Even a one-day seminar is a wonderful gift.

  1. A new laptop

I don’t know how many writers are still trying to use computers that are limping along.

If it’s new enough pay for repairs and buy the latest software upgrades.

We know a new one is often cheaper than the repairs. And if you can do all the software installs and have it up and running in advance that’s even better.

  1. Office furniture.

Maybe a nice new comfy chair or a file cabinet. Shelves or cabinets. A friend’s husband built her an office to her specifications.

  1. A nice pen for autographing.

The right pen is so important. You don’t want it to bleed through the paper, neither do you want a cheap ink pen that fades or skips.

  1. Nice house slippers with a sole sturdy enough to walk outside or run to the store.

I don’t write in my PJs but I’m often in slippers or socks only. Writers are a casual breed and taking the time to look for suitable shoes to run an errand distracts our brains from more important things—do I hear plot twists.

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  1. A homemade coupon book

Create coupons for various chores. The more items taken off a writer’s plate the more productive their word count. Dishes and laundry call to us when we need to have our fingers on the keyboard.

  1. Accolades

A certificate, note or plague reminding them you support their writing career choice. A wonderful reminder of your love and support.

These ideas are in no particular order. Authors, journalists, free-lancers and novelists will appreciate finding any of these gifts under the tree this year.

What ideas would you add?

A Visit with Author Lindsey P. Brackett

BrackettLWEB(1)Today I welcome Lindsey Brackett to talk about her debut novel Still Waters. The setting is the same as a favorite mystery writer of mine. So, I had to have her as a guest. Love the story. Made me want to visit Edisto Beach. Welcome Lindsey. Tell us about your novel.

My debut is Still Waters, a Lowcountry story about the power of family and forgiveness. The novel released in September with LPC Books and is enjoying great reviews—including 4 Stars from the Romantic Times! It’s the story of Cora Anne Halloway who has just graduated from college. Cora Anne had a plan that didn’t involve her grandmother’s ramshackle beach cottage or Tennessee Watson, the local builder dedicated to the preservation of Edisto Island—and her heart. But as tends to happen, life has sent her back to the one place she doesn’t want to be, even though it’s the one place where she may find her peace

What inspired you to write your book?

This novel really started with a place—Edisto Beach, where my family spent most summers of my childhood. When I first decided maybe I could actually do this, write a book, all I knew was I wanted a story set on Edisto. From there I began to build characters and to discover what brings them back or makes them stay away. As I grew as a writer, and began to understand how little I knew about novel structure, the plot changed many times, but ultimately it has always been a story of homecoming, relying on the power of family that ties us to a place.

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There is a sprinkling of a faith message throughout Still Waters. Do you have a favorite verse that resonated with you as you began this project?

My prompt for Still Waters was 2 Corinthians 4:18. I just love that “focus on the unseen… for what is seen is temporary but what is unseen is eternal.” I really need to stick it on my laptop for all those times social media wears me down.

Love that verse. Now tell me who is your best support system to keep you focused on your writing?

My husband is my rock. He’s always encouraging about anything I’m doing. Specific to writing, I have a small group of friends who have banded together to push and uplift one another. I know I can send them chapters or scenes and they’ll read and offer me feedback. I also know they’ll answer if I call in tears on a random Tuesday because things just aren’t going my way.

Every writer is always told to read extensively in the genre they write in. What genre do you read for fun?

I LOVE to read. Southern literary fiction is my favorite and To Kill A Mockingbird is my favorite book. Right now I’m reading a lot of Joshilyn Jackson, Karen White, Charles Martin, Kristy Woodson Harvey, and Julie Cantrell. I’m a sucker for a good romance, too, and I like Susan May Warren, Rachel Hauck, or Pepper Basham for the best kissing scenes on paper.

Where is your favorite place to write?

On my back porch with a glass of sweet tea (or a cup of coffee right now). I also tend to get up before the rest of the house, and I tuck myself into an old wingback chair of my grandmother’s, put my feet on the ottoman and write before I do anything else. With four kids, my days can get hectic, so it’s a relief to know writing happens when I’m at my freshest—and most open.

 

Share with us the quirkiest thing you’ve done to promote your book?
This year I’ve been tapped (pun totally intended) to participate in my local community’s biggest fundraiser: Dancing with the Stars for Hope which benefits our domestic violence shelter and the Rotary Club. This event pairs well-known community figures with “professionals” and we have a dance competition. People vote for their favorite teams (only $1 a vote) and there are lots of opportunities to win great raffle prizes. I’m paired with my friend, Jeremy, the high school theater director. We’re both theater nerds, so we’ve done several shows together and while we haven’t made a concrete decision about our routine yet, no doubt it will be epically theatrical. Right now, through November 30, our fundraising promotion is a donation of the proceeds from my book sales. So, there’s no better time to buy, support a local author and a great cause! Voting and prizes are not limited to North Georgia—anyone can go online and support us or enter to win raffles over on my Facebook page, Lindsey P. Brackett.

Want to help support our team_For every copy of Lindsey's book sold November 15-November 30, a portion will be donated to our team's fundraising efforts forDancing with the Stars.(1)

I love it and know you’ve given my readers a new way to look at marketing.

What a great way to discover a new author and support a worthy cause. Purchase Still Waters and do both.

Thank you so much for stopping by, Lindsey. You are an inspiration.

Dancing with the Stars Link: http://www.dancingwiththestarsforhope.com/vote-for-teams.html

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LindseyPBrackett/

Bio:

Award-winning writer Lindsey P. Brackett once taught middle grades literature, but now she writes her own works in the midst of motherhood. A blogger since 2010, she has published articles and short stories in a variety of print and online publications. In both 2015 and 2017, she placed in the top ten for Southern Writers Magazine Best Short Fiction. Previously, Lindsey served as Editor of Web Content for the Splickety Publishing Group, and currently she is a general editor with Firefly Southern Fiction, an imprint of LPC Books. In addition, she writes a popular column for several North Georgia newspapers.

Still Waters, influenced by her family ties to the South Carolina Lowcountry, is her debut novel. A story about the power of family and forgiveness, it’s been called “a brilliant debut” with “exquisite writing.” A Georgia native, Lindsey makes her home—full of wet towels, lost library books, and strong coffee—at the foothills of Appalachia with her patient husband and their four rowdy children.

Connect with her at www.lindseypbrackett.com, where she Just Writes Life, on Facebook as Lindsey P. Brackett, on Instagram @lindseypbrackett, or on Twitter @lindsbrac.

 

 

 

 

 

Guest Post: L.A. Racines Shares the Research Behind “A Shield in the Shadows”

What Kind of Research Went into A Shield in the Shadows

By Cheryl Bristow, aka L. A. Racines 

Author of A Shield in the Shadows 

A Shield in the Shadows

Most people know very little about the Roman Empire of the Fifth Century. Fourteen years ago I knew nothing. All I knew was that I was going to write a historical novel about an era where people experienced massive dislocation and destruction coming at them in Tsunami waves.  

As a sensitive child first learning about the barbarian crossing of the Rhine River and the resulting devastation in Gaul and Iberia, I was horrified for those people. Writing the book was a little like scratching a scab or revisiting an unpleasant memory. I decided to “go there”. I also wanted to know what I would have in common with the people of that era. I am an Anglophone Protestant raised in Francophone Quebec with a degree in Anthropology. I taught school for two years in Nigeria during the civil war there, and I have visited many countries, but this was new territory. Almost everything we know was different then. 

All I remembered were a few Roman historical facts, the names of some famous Roman figures and the terms for the rooms of a home, and I had to build an entire world in my head. It was a lot of work! 

To begin with, who were the barbarians and why did they invade? What was the political state of Rome? Who was on the imperial throne? What famous people were alive at the time? What was the state of Christianity then? How were women treated by both groups of people? What were living conditions like on both sides of the northern frontier? What about slaves? Education and literacy for men and women? And so on … 

One factor I had to face early on was that Rome had a history of more than a thousand years. While things did not change then as fast as they do now, things did change. What I knew from the First Century of the Empire was not the same as what I learned about the earlier days of the Republic, nor the same as the much later era I was focusing on. This period is now known as Antiquities. It was pre- or early Medieval and although we used to call the centuries after the Dark Ages, and blame the barbarians for that, the clash and mixing of those two ‘civilizations’ was actually a chaotic cauldron of cultures that had to learn to find common ground. The barbarians, from the Greek word for ‘stranger’, learned a lot from Rome and in turn influenced Romans, and us, in profound ways. 

I began with a thick academic history of the Romans and the barbarians. Then I read it again. And again. And then I bought many other books. Some equally thick, covering the same period. Gradually I began to understand together the geography and history and cultures of the Romans, the Huns, the Goths and other northern peoples of the time. I read Edward Gibbons book, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (an abridged version, fortunately), and found it fascinating. I bought and read books on sports, ancient fashion, women in ancient times, Roman warfare, mountaineering, and more. I even read some of the writings of St. Augustine of Hippo, Claudian the court poet, Orosius, the Christian historian of the time, and Jordanes, a Gothic historian who worked for Rome a hundred years later. 

In order to keep a mental focus on the people experiencing life as it happened to them, I chose for several years not to read beyond the year 415, the year when Princess Galla Placidia returned home to her brother, the Emperor Honorius from her years of wandering with the Goths in Gaul and Spain. 

This took eight years of reading. It was a lot of knowledge to absorb, but I loved doing it. What I began to reluctantly realize, though, was that the main story was not in Gaul with the Rhine crossing, it was in Rome. The barbarians who crossed the Rhine and cast a bloody trail through Gaul and Spain was important to Gaul and Spain, did so in a specific and fluid political context, and that story needed to be told, too.   

That meant that I needed to find a way to bring one of the barbarians right into the center of the story in Rome, because I intended to link her story with that of Princess Galla Placidia who lived there at the time. That need led to a closer examination of the invasion of Radagaisus, the virulently anti-Christian pagan Gothic chief who brought at least a hundred thousand people, mostly Goths, from northern Europe into Italy in 405 AD. My barbarian of choice, of course, had to be a girl. Theona, the female protagonist of A Shield in the Shadows is a young, literate, Christian woman who attracts the attention of both Radagaisus’ younger son Roderic, and Marius, my representative Roman soldier. The three of them are very real to me now, and very dear, and I hope they become real and dear to you, too. 

Once I began writing, the research continued. I used Google Earth Pro to explore the highways and byways of the alpine passes and the terrain of Montefiesole, the mountain behind the city of Florence where the final siege takes place. I used Wikipedia to check information from time to time, and I contacted a couple of the scholars who had written several of the massive books I had read on the subject. One got back to me and I will be forever grateful to him. 

Dr. Thomas Burns was a professor of Antiquities at Emory State University. He supplied me with several articles and ancient sources relevant to my story, and gave me tidbits that were not in any of the books. He read the entire manuscript before it was published, and now recommends the novel on one of his class reading lists as well as to his colleagues in Europe. 

The final bit of research was the trip to Europe to retrace Marius’s journey. We started in Trier where he lived, and ended in Rome on Palatine Hill, where Theona is sent after the siege of Montefiesole. I did not learn much that was new, but the trip does add coloration to the scenes I describe. And it was fun! 

Would I ever want to spend twelve years doing research for such a project again? No, but I won’t have to. The work I have done is a strong foundation for continuing to write about this relatively unknown period. I know now where to find what I need, and that is immensely satisfying. 

You can read more about A Shield in the Shadows on Amazon here. 

Meet L.A. Racines:

Cheryl(a.k.a. L.A. Racines) is a native of Quebec, Canada, and a graduate of Montreal’s McGill University with an Honour’s BA in Anthropology and Sociology. She worked as a teacher in rural Nigeria for two years during the Nigerian Civil War, and then worked for a number of NGOs and charities in Quebec and Ontario.  

Married to an Anglican clergyman, mother of two daughters and grandmother of four, Cheryl has, over the decades, written and published a number of freelance articles for various publications including Reader’s Digest (Canada), Decision Magazine, The Sower, Faith Today, Christian Week, and a variety of denominational and evangelical publications.  

Cheryl loves research and studied broadly and deeply for eight years before beginning to write this novel. She has found great satisfaction in achieving a lifelong dream of writing a novel, and has been encouraged by the accolades she has received from readers from both Christian and non-Christian backgrounds. Her novel is published under the pen name L. A. Racines, which can be translated “Wings and Roots,” because Cheryl agrees with the old saying that “the greatest gifts we can give to our children are roots and wings.” 

She is a member of The Word Guild, an association of Canadian writers who are Christian, and very active in the Healing Rooms ministry in her home town of Uxbridge, Ontario.