Thursday, August 28, 2014

Mayo Clinic, Historic Fort Snelling, and My Son

As a mother of four, it's a rare treat to spend an entire day alone with just one child--but that's exactly what I did yesterday. Sadly, it was at the cost of a doctor's appointment, but we made the most of it.

Our three other children went to Grandma's house, and I took our youngest son to a follow-up appointment at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Thankfully he's a healthy, happy little boy. I blogged about his surgery at Mayo two years ago here. When we received the letter from Mayo telling us it was time for his two year appointment, I could hardly believe it!

This picture was taken two years ago
on the day of surgery.
Here was his thumb before surgery.
Our son was born with a "double thumb," or bifid thumb, which means he had two fingers growing out of the middle joint on his thumb. He had surgery to remove one of those bones, and besides a scar, it's almost impossible to see that anything was done to his thumb.

The two of us left our house at five in the morning to make it in time for his appointment. It was a long drive, but he slept some of the way and when he wasn't sleeping, he asked about a hundred questions. The questions were about life in general, which I answered as best as I could. His favorite question lately is: "How do you know?" To which I answer: "Because I'm much older than you."

He was fascinated by the whole process.

Part of his appointment required taking pictures
of the thumb to watch its progress as he grows.

As we waited in the children's waiting room to be seen by the doctor, I was reminded of all the children who suffer in this world, and their parents who suffer along with them. It breaks my heart every time. There were children curled up in wheelchairs, children with no hair, children with oxygen tanks, and so many more. There were moms and dads holding thick file folders, and ones who were called back by a doctor to hear a prognosis, and others just sitting there holding their babies tight against their chests. When we go to Mayo, it reminds me to be so thankful for my healthy children and to pray for those who are battling for their lives.

He loved looking down on the "little" people
from the 16th Floor of the Mayo building.

After my son's appointment, we met with a fellow Minnesota author, and friend, Erica Vetsch! Talk about a treat. :) Erica's stories will be included in the two novellas with mine next year, so we had a lot to talk about. My son did an amazing job being patient while we chatted--probably because he was allowed to play with my phone. :)

Here we are at Newt's in Rochester.
After our visit with Erica, we left Rochester behind. But I didn't want our day to end there, so my son and I stopped at Historic Fort Snelling in St. Paul. We had fun working at the fort, and watching the cannon and muskets fire. We also had fun climbing stairs and looking out peepholes. The fort is amazing, and every time I go there, I discover something new.

Fort Snelling in St. Paul. The round tower is the oldest
building still standing in Minnesota, built in 1820.

Musket drill

Showing my son how they would have made his favorite
food in the 1820's: waffles.

And where they would have cooked them.
Playing checkers in the Sutler's Store.
The Soldier's Barracks. The men would have slept two men
on top, head to foot, and two men on the bottom, head to foot!

Married Soldier's Barracks. Two families would have shared
this room.

Officer's Barracks

Married Officer's Barracks

His biggest smile of the day came when he was allowed
to beat the drum.

Preparing for the cannon drill.

He was determined to wear the yoke. :)

Beautiful day at one of Minnesota's favorite
historic sites.

Showing off his Minnesota Historical Society
Membership Sticker! It says: "I'm a Member!"
We left Fort Snelling and visited Dairy Queen before we headed home for open house at his new preschool.

It was a fun, looooooong day, but I was so happy to get this one on one time with him.

Your Turn: Have you seen a cannon or musket fire? Ever been to a historic site? What's your favorite thing to do when you have one-on-one time with someone you love?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

First Novella

Two weeks ago I shared some big news here on my blog. I will have two novellas release with Barbour Publishers in 2015. The first, tentatively titled Four Brides and a Bachelor, will release in May.
I thought it would be fun to give you a sneak peek into the story. 

Belle Prairie, Minnesota
Four Brides and a Bachelor is set on Belle Prairie, about four miles north of my hometown in central Minnesota. The prairies around here are not like the prairies in southwestern Minnesota or the Dakotas. Our prairies are much smaller, with trees rimming the edges. The photo above is actually taken at Belle Prairie just a few weeks ago. It's now a county park, but in 1852 it was a Manual Labor Mission School operated by Frederick and Elizabeth Ayer.
Belle Prairie Cemetery
None of the buildings exist any longer, but there is a cemetery still at the park. We know the mission consisted of a large house (similar to the one below), a New England style barn, and a "commodious" school, which also served as a church on Sundays. About twenty students attended the school in 1852. Some were Indian children, and others were children of fur traders. About half of the students boarded at the mission, helping with farm chores, while the other half lived close enough to walk.
1850's House
Along with Mr. and Mrs. Ayer, and their teenage son Lyman, a few married couples lived at the mission. Some were only wintering there in 1852, or stopping over for a short visit on their way further north to other missions.
The Ayers employed a young female teacher from Cincinnati to help establish the school. But in early 1852, Mrs. Ayer went east to secure more funding, and to find more teachers willing to come to Minnesota Territory. Three young ladies returned with her.
These ladies were a rarity in Minnesota Territory! At a time when immigration into the territory (which didn't become a state until 1858) had just begun, there were very few single ladies to speak of.
Thus, the stage is set for a great story.
Four Brides and a Bachelor is inspired by a real event that took place on Belle Prairie in 1852. Miss Harriet Nichols, one of the teachers who had just arrived with Mrs. Ayer, wrote a letter to her brother soon after her arrival and said: "There was romance enough acted here to write as good a story as you will find in any novel."
The Mississippi near Belle Prairie, MN
She was referring to the week a missionary named Mr. Lafferty arrived at Belle Prairie. He had heard a single lady had come from Cincinnati the year before, so he traveled one hundred and fifty miles down the Mississippi River with the intent to propose to her. He was desirous to find a wife for his mission work at Red Lake. If she was willing, he would marry her and take her back to Red Lake within the week.
Little did he know that Mrs. Ayer had just arrived back at the mission with the three other teachers! When he stepped off the canoe, there were four single ladies--and all of them were desirous to go back with him as his wife!
I've taken this fun story and created four brides and a bachelor from my own imagination. Little is known about that eventful week, so I had fun filling in the gaps. Can you imagine the tension between these Mission Sisters as they tried to catch the bachelor's attention? And can you imagine the bachelor's delight?
Pins from my Pinterest Board Four Brides and a Bachelor
My story is a work of fiction, though I tried to stay true to the history of the mission, with a few minor exceptions where needed. 1852 in Minnesota Territory was an exciting, dangerous time. It was fun to recreate the location and place the players on the "stage" of my story.
As a historian, I love to share facts about real people, places, and events...but as a writer, I love to share a good fictional story, with all the drama and tension needed to turn the page.
My novella is finished and I've received wonderful feedback from some of my early readers. I have a few tweaks to make, but then it will be off to the publisher for the October 1st deadline. I'm excited for May when everyone will have a chance to read it.
Your Turn: Would you have been brave enough to travel 1,500 miles to teach at a mission school on the frontier? Could you have married a stranger, after only knowing him or her for a week?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

On the Banks of Plum Creek with My Girls & A Winner!

I was overwhelmed by your love and support last week when I made my big announcement! That post alone received over a thousand views this week. Thank you for being with me to celebrate. I'm thrilled to announce the winner of the Little Falls gift basket is Laura McClellan! Laura, I'll be contacting you soon.

Next week I will share a sneak peek of my novellas, but for now, I want to share pictures from the recent trip I took with my daughters and mom to see Laura Ingalls Wilder's home site on the banks of Plum Creek.

My daughters turned ten and eight this summer. A perfect age to read through the Little House on the Prairie series and make a pilgrimage to Walnut Grove, Minnesota.

Walnut Grove is three hours south of our house, Pepin, Wisconsin (where Little House in the Big Woods is set) is three hours southeast, and DeSmet, South Dakota (where On the Shores of Silver Lake, The Long Winter, Little Town on the Prairie, These Happy Golden Years, and The First Four Years are set) is four and a half hours southwest. We chose to go to Walnut Grove because of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Pageant, and because it was the 40th Anniversary of the television series, and many of the original cast members would be in Walnut Grove to celebrate.

I'm so happy we did.

We invited my mom to come with and we enjoyed seeing many small towns in Minnesota we've only heard of. We arrived a bit later than planned, because I relied on my car's GPS and it routed the wrong way (adding an extra hour to our drive), but eventually we pulled into town--and it was packed! Record-breaking numbers we were told.

The first stop was the Family Festival in the park where my oldest participated in a Laura Ingalls Wilder look alike contest. She did a wonderful job, but with 51 other contestants, she didn't win.

Throughout the day, we had people ask if they could take her picture, because she looked so much like Laura. We also had many people ask if she had been in the contest, and if she won. They were shocked when she said no. :) This bolstered her spirits a little.

After the contest, we went to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum. Now, I'm a sucker for a good museum, and I wasn't disappointed. Very well done.

Our next stop was to the site of the dugout on the banks of Plum Creek, where Laura lived with her family. This was my favorite part of the whole day. There was something magical about standing where Laura stood, and playing in the creek with my girls.


After a quick bite to eat, it was time to go to the Cast Reunion and Pageant.

I was only able to take two pictures, because my batteries died.

The Cast Reunion was another highlight of the day. It was so  much fun listening to them reminisce about their days on the set of Little House on the Prairie. The people who played Almanzo, Nellie, Miss Beadle, Carrie (twins), Grace (twins), Eliza Jane, and John Jr. took the stage.

All too soon the Cast Reunion ended, and the pageant began under the star-studded sky. The weather was perfect, with a soft breeze. There were over 2,300 people at the pageant! It was amazing to see all the Little House on the Prairie fans--and to have two of the biggest fans sitting next to me.

Your Turn: Have you read any of the Little House on the Prairie books or watched the television series? Ever been to one of the towns Laura lived in?

Thursday, August 7, 2014

A Big, BIG Announcement!

The day I've been dreaming about for over twenty years has finally arrived. Today I signed my first book contract--and five seconds later I signed my second contract! I will have two novellas release with Barbour Publishing in 2015. I'm still in a bit of shock, and very, very excited!

The first story is called Four Brides and a Bachelor. It releases in May 2015 with the Most Eligible Bachelor Collection.

The second story is called A Groom for Josette. It releases in July 2015 in the Convenient Bride Collection.

In case you don't know, a novella is a short story. My novellas will be 20,000 words each (or about 75 pages). To give you a frame of reference, the full length novels I write are about 100,000 words (or about 360 pages).
Each collection will include nine stories (nine authors), in one book. If you're familiar with Barbour, you know their novella collections are very popular. Whenever I go to Wal Mart, I always check the bookshelves and I almost always see a new Barbour novella collection sitting there.
A recent novella collection from Barbour
I'm still in awe of God's hand in all of this. When I was a teenager, I asked Him to place desires in my heart that He wanted me to pursue with my life. He placed the desire in my heart to write stories, and He has lit the path on my journey to publication. The stories I write are an offering to Him, and I pray they bring Him glory.
I'm also in awe of His timing. I learned that I had sold these two novellas when my writing friends were in town for our second annual writers retreat! Talk about celebrating! I couldn't have asked for a better time to hear the news.

Right after I spoke with my agent, there were hugs and squeals, and lots of exclamation points in our conversation! That evening we went out onto the river and my husband took this picture. It was fun to revel in the moment with Melissa Tagg, Lindsay Harrel, and Alena Tauriainen.

The following evening, they took me out to celebrate at my favorite Italian restaurant. It was so much fun to share this time with them, because they know exactly what this milestone means.

I'll be sure to share more about the novellas in the near future, but for now I want to celebrate with all of you!
I put together a little gift package from places around my hometown where my novellas will be set. There are two glass mugs from our local historical society at the Charles A. Weyerhaeuser Museum, a ceramic mug and postcard from the Little Falls Convention and Visitors Bureau, a hand-stitched handkerchief from Linden Hill Conference and Retreat Center (two historic mansions), and a 2015 daily calendar that says: "O Happy Day!" from our Christian book store to celebrate my 2015 releases--and this happy day! The winner will be announced next Thursday.
Thank you for celebrating with me today! I'll be sharing more about the novellas soon.
Your Turn: What are you celebrating lately? What dream has God put on your heart?
a Rafflecopter giveaway