Author Jane Carlile Baker introduces you to Nellie from her book Toughnut Angel

Jane:  What was it like for you, Mum, and Fannie to flee Ireland in a coffin ship bound for Boston in 1850?

Nellie: And our Irish cottage in Midleton was full of love, the land every shade of green, even with the sick potatoes. But my Papa died. The English landlord tore our cottage apart, forced us out into the lane. Made up my mind that day never to owe a rich person, and if I ever got rich, to help others. Mum accepted the landlord’s tickets and we walked the miles to Cobh to sail for America. 

Fleeing people packed the coffin ship, its wood old, its sails dirty, its hold stinking. The English only allowed us to climb out of the hold when we emptied slop buckets, so I volunteered, often, for a breath of fresh air. Even as a small girl, I knew when one-by-one the passengers got sick, that we might not live to see America. But we did, thank the good Lord, we did. Mum, Fannie, and me. 

Jane:  What drew you to mining?

Nellie: A man on my elevator in Boston, did I say I ran an elevator during the Civil War when all the men were gone? And this passenger, who some say looked a lot like General Grant, listened to my dreams and said, “Young lady, you should go west. The land is ripe for settling and you won’t find as many restrictions on your activities, as a woman, there.” So we went, Mum, Fannie and I. 

Making boots in my brother-in-law’s boot factory in San Francisco, I heard a miner from Virginia City, Nevada talking about the wealth they dug out of the ground there. Fannie was married, Mum was living with her and her husband, Thomas Cunningham, so I was free to go. While I worked as a waitress, I learned everything I could about mining in Virginia City. First realized miners were just overgrown boys there, and developed a heart for them. Called them my “boys” for the rest of my life.

Jane: How did you get the title Queen of the Camps?

Nellie: About five hundred of the boys and I mined gold up at Dease Lake, in British Columbia. Ran a little boarding tent where they could get a hot meal. In the fall of 1875, we began to get low on supplies. I headed down to Vancouver Island to resupply us, my plan being to visit the Sisters of St. Ann and return with supplies in the spring. 

In the midst of the worst winter in years, the man who carried the mail for the camps came to tell me the boys at Dease Lake had scurvy. ‘Tis a beast of a disease caused by Vitamin C deficiency that makes gums blister, teeth fall out, and eventually death. That news changed my plan. Hired six men to go with me. We loaded all the lime juice we could haul on six dog sleds and headed for Ft. Wrangell where we would head in from the coast. Commander there told us not to go, but we went. They would have come for us. 

And the dang blizzards never ended. The dogs could not get through the snow, and we necked the sleds. That means we cut leather bands, tied them to the leads on the dog sleds and pulled them ourselves. Took us three months, including digging myself out of a wee avalanche. When we got to the lake, only seventy-five miners still lived. Drained that lime juice into their bleeding mouths and saved every one of them. Do not know that I was ever an angel, but the boys thought so. Had a rough time keeping them seated whenever I entered a mining camp building after that. But made it easy to collect funds to build hospitals and churches. They always opened their pockets to me.

Jane: Tell us about your time in Tombstone, Arizona.

Nellie: Came to Tombstone about the same time Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday and their clan showed up. Knew the fellow who got the town named Tombstone, Ed Schieffelin; as well as John Clum, the mayor and publisher of the Tombstone Epitaph. Knew the other element of Tombstone, too. The girls who worked down at the other end of Allen Street and the cowboys donated to building the church and the hospital, same as everyone else. 

Bought several mines and worked them, owned a general store, boarding house and a restaurant. Thomas got consumption and passed while I mined there. Mum stayed in San Francisco, but Fannie and their five children came to Tombstone and helped me run my businesses. Those kids kept us busier than a one-armed miner. We all saw the results of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Then Fannie got the consumption and died. And I raised all her children to become good citizens. Her son, Mike, lived around that area his whole life. Just before the silver played out, I moved on, as was my custom. 

Jane: You mined at Dawson in the Klondike. Can you recreate that experience for us?

Nellie: A lot of ice and snow in the winter and mud the rest of the time. Two-stepped up and down that Golden Staircase cut from the ice on the Chilkoot Pass at fifty-three years old, if I do say so myself. Got a kick out of blarneying the Mounties into letting me come in with half the supplies they required of the boys, since I was half their size. Shot the Whitehorse rapids in a canoe me and a couple of the boys threw together and got to Dawson ahead of quite a few others. Never rode in an airplane, but that was close enough for me.

 Met more mighty fine people in Dawson, Father Judge and Belinda Mulrooney, to name a couple. Lost Mum while the Yukon was froze up, and could not get to San Francisco for her funeral. She made it to a hundred years old, though.

Jane: You finished the last twenty-five years of your life above the Arctic Circle. Tell us about Wiseman, Alaska.

Nellie: Some would call it a desolate land up there. But my Alaska has wild beauty. You just gotta’ know when to look. The thunder of a caribou herd coming up a rise or the Northern Lights dancing in the dark kept me there. The boys and I mined for gold a little different where the ground was frozen most the time. They named me champion female musher of Alaska when I was seventy-seven. Mike and his kids would beg me to come back to Arizona and get warm, but Alaska was my home. Only left when I could not shake a dang cold I caught on a visit to Arizona. Went back to my Sisters of St. Ann in Seattle, to their hospital I helped build. Walked in on my own steam and walked out on Jesus’ arm.


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“The joy of the Lord is my strength”

MEET JANE LINDER FROM SUSAN ANNE MASON’S “TO FIND HER PLACE”

Tell us a little about yourself, Jane.

I’m Canadian, born and bred in Toronto, Ontario. Right now, I’m living with my widowed mother while my brother is away fighting in the war. I work at the Toronto Children’s Aid Society, where I’ve been a social worker for several years. Currently I’m the acting directress, filling in for my boss and mentor who is planning to retire after suffering a heart attack.

That’s quite an important job for a woman. Do you feel pressured to perform as well as a man?

Absolutely. Especially since I hope to impress the board of management and be awarded the position permanently. I’ve devoted my life to helping orphaned children find loving parents, and in this position, I hope to make policy changes that will allow more children, especially those who are deemed ‘unadoptable’, to find permanent homes.

That’s an admirable goal. What obstacles do you foresee in achieving this?

Other than proving my skills to the board, I have to contend with Garrett Wilder, an outsider they’ve brought in to study the agency’s procedures and overhaul the system. Apparently, there is a discrepancy with the finances, and I’m worried the board thinks I might have something to do with it. Also, I’m fairly certain Garrett is hoping to be awarded the director’s position himself.

Have you always wanted to be a career woman? What made you so focused on social work?

I’ve always loved children and longed for a family of my own. But after two miscarriages and the breakdown of my marriage, it seemed that particular path was not meant for me. Instead, I threw myself into my career in the hopes that ministering to less fortunate children might bring me the fulfilment denied me through motherhood. There’s one little boy in particular who has captured my heart, and if I could adopt him myself, I’d do it in a heartbeat. I won’t rest until Martin has found his forever family.

Has the war had an effect on the Children’s Aid Society?

Very much so. There are more children in need of our services than ever before. With the pressure on women raising children alone while their husbands are overseas, more cases of neglect and abuse have been reported. At the same time, we have fewer and fewer foster families willing to take in children since they are struggling to manage their own families. And fewer families thinking about adoption in this time of uncertainty.

That does sound difficult. What will happen if Garrett Wilder is awarded the director’s position?

I don’t know. I’m not sure I could continue working there, now that I’ve started to develop feelings for Garrett. But he seems determined to keep me at arm’s length for some reason. Perhaps it’s due to the war injuries he’s hinted at. And then there’s my former husband, Donald, who has returned from the war with a tempting proposition of his own. I will have to pray very hard to determine where my true place lies. 

Well, thank you Jane for talking with us and giving us a glimpse into the Toronto Children’s Aid Society during WWII.

Thank you for having me. I’m certain that God will direct my steps toward my ultimate happiness, no matter which path I choose.


Susan Anne Mason’s debut historical novel, Irish Meadows,won the Fiction from the Heartland contest from the Mid-American Romance Authors Chapter of RWA. She is the author of the Courage to Dream Series and the Canadian Crossings series. A member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Susan lives outside of Toronto, Ontario, with her husband and two adult children. She loves wine and chocolate and isn’t partial to snow even though she’s Canadian.Learn more about Susan and her books at www.susanannemason.net.

A Harrowing Interview with Priscilla Middleton from The Captain’s Quest by Lorri Dudley

Priscilla, tell us a bit about how you ended up sailing to the Leeward Islands?

It was an unfortunate misunderstanding, or fortunate, depending on how you look at it. My dearest friend Lottie Etheridge had married and moved to the island of St. Kitts. We were supposed to have our London season together. Lottie was my anchor, and without her, I was adrift. Desperate for another close confidant, I attached myself to Nellie Archard, who wasn’t the best influence. She persuaded me to attend the Lemoore Masquerade party because she was enamored with Lord Fortin, who would profess his sentiments of love any moment. I accepted to keep Nellie out of trouble, but matters got out of hand, and I had to sneak aboard my brother’s ship to save my reputation. 

But your brother was no longer captain?

Quite right, he’d been escorted off the ship while I awaited him in his cabin.

How did the new captain react to your presence?

Not well. He was not particularly fond of stow-a-ways, especially of the female variety. To make matters worse, I’d grown up the daughter and sister of British Naval Officers, and I had a different perspective of how a ship should run. Tobias is a routine and precise man who borders on controlling. We’ve come to a better understanding, but aboard the Trade Wind, the pair of us had many heated exchanges. 

Why didn’t the captain turn the ship around?

British soldiers’ lives were at stake. Tobias’s mission was to make haste to Brimstone Hill in St. Kitts, gather more ships, and lead them to battle in New Orleans. Intelligence had reached the King that the American General, Andrew Jackson, had assembled a rag-tag band of militia fighters, consisting of frontiersmen, Indians, slaves, and even Jean Lafitte’s pirates. Tobias and his men were to provide naval support to General Sir Edward Pakenham as they battled the “dirty shirts,” which is how the general referred to the Americans. I only recently discovered that a treaty had been signed between the two countries before the battle of New Orleans had even begun, but word didn’t reach either general in time. Many British lives were lost. So tragic.   

How did you end up on an island near Anegada?

A terrible storm blew in. We changed course and sought shelter in a cove off Tortola, but… I kind of… well, there was another embarrassing mishap. I’d prefer not to discuss it.  

What survival tips do you have for someone who, heaven forbid, lands in a similar stranded situation?

Locating fresh water is crucial. We can only survive a few days before dying of dehydration. A fresh spring or fast-moving stream are best, but coconuts will work in a pinch. They contain water and a food source. Just be careful of the brown coconuts lower in the branches. They wield more oil, which can… hmm… let’s merely say that partaking can leave one indisposed. 

Second, find food. Snails, clams, oysters, and conch in tide pools can be easy prey if you can stomach the slimy creatures. We didn’t initially have a fire, and I can still feel them wiggle as they slid down my throat. Yuck. 

Third, you’ll need to build a shelter. Higher elevations have fewer mosquitoes, and the more inland you go, the fewer sand flies. A simple Y-frame lean-to covered in palm branches will suffice. 

Lastly, trust God. He is with you. He won’t leave you, nor will He forsake you. It is truly by His power that I’m here today.


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Lorri Dudley has been a finalist in numerous writing contests and has a master’s degree in Psychology. She lives in Ashland, Massachusetts with her husband and three teenage sons, where writing romance allows her an escape from her testosterone filled household.  

www.lorridudley.com

Buy The Captain’s Quest hereAmazon | Barnes and Noble | Kobo | Apple Store

Meet Cora from Ane Mulligan’s On Sugar Hill

I’m a little confused. You seem to have two names. Which is right?

My name is Cora Fitzgerald, but my stage name is Dixie Lynn.

You’re in vaudeville, then?

Yea, and I’ve worked hard to establish myself, and I finally made the best circuit in vaudeville. I’m a ventriloquist and voice thrower. Voice throwers are rare. I’m even rarer, being a woman. And I’m one of the best.

Tell us about your childhood. 

It was lonely. My father, the senator, never liked me. I wasn’t beautiful like Mama. I was plain. He had no time for me and made sure Mama’s time was tied up in Atlanta’s high society. I later learned about their arranged marriage, which benefitted him. Mama got the short end of that stick.

How did you learn to be a ventriloquist?

Nobody knows for sure where my strange “talent” came from, but by the time I was four years old, I could make my dolls talk. By six, I could throw my voice across the room. That’s how I entertained myself and the servants. But the senator beat me because it embarrassed him.

You said your childhood was lonely. Didn’t you have school friends?

 Oh, yes. When I started school, I met Martha Anne, Glenice Jo, Trudie and Millie. Our mamas were friends, and they were delighted when we became best friends too. They heled protect me when the senator’s temper raged against me. Mama would make a telephone call and Millie’s or Martha Anne’s mama would come pick me up for an overnight.

A lot of women suffer with low self-esteem. Do you?

I do. Mama told me stories about the plain garden faerie named Sugar Pie who lived in our yard. She told me, “When the Michaelmas Daisies bloomed, the Sugar Pie became beautiful, just as you will. You aren’t plain, Cora. You simply haven’t bloomed yet.” After she told me that story, she began to call me Sugar-pie, to reinforce her words. Unfortunately, the senator’s harsh criticism obliterated Mama’s. 

Did that affect your relationship with men?

Well, that and my parents’ marriage. I don’t trust men. They’ll break your heart sure as sunrise. They always want something. My father wanted my mother’s good name. He used her to rise in state politics. I always say a dating is fine, just don’t let it bloom into romance.

Hear Cora’s Story:

On Sugar Hill

She traded Sugar Hill for Vaudeville. Now she’s back.

The day Cora Fitzgerald turned sixteen, she fled Sugar Hill for the bright lights of Vaudeville, leaving behind her senator-father’s verbal abuse. But just as her career takes off, she’s summoned back home. And everything changes. 

The stock market crashes. The senator is dead. Her mother is delusional, and her mute Aunt Clara pens novels that have people talking. Then there’s Boone Robertson, who never knew she was alive back in high school, but now manages to be around whenever she needs help. 

Will the people of her past keep her from a brilliant future?            


Ane Mulligan has been a voracious reader ever since her mom instilled within her a love of reading at age three, escaping into worlds otherwise unknown. But when Ane saw PETER PAN on stage, she was struck with a fever from which she never recovered—stage fever. She submerged herself in drama through high school and college. One day, her two loves collided, and a bestselling, award-winning novelist emerged. She lives in Sugar Hill, GA, with her artist husband and a rascally Rottweiler. Find Ane on her websiteAmazon Author pageFacebookBookBubGoodreadsPinterest,Twitter, and The Write Conversation

Introducing Archie Jackson, an Indianapolis resident who lives within the pages of Valerie Banfield’s Making Up Time

I realize we’re still settling into the past, dear readers, but after traveling one hundred years in the space of three hundred-some pages, it’s time for our appointment. I suppose the ginger-haired dandy standing near the finish line is the fella I want to interview. Why don’t you all take a front-row seat in the stands?

Good morning. Are you Archie Jackson?

Yes, I am. I’m pleased to meet you, but confess I didn’t expect you to bring a crowd.

Don’t mind them. Like me, they’re curious time travelers. Can I start off by asking why you wanted to meet at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway?

Anyone who knows anything about this city would want an interview at either the track or the Soldiers and Sailors Monument. They’re our most notable landmarks. Since I’m more madcap than solemn, I picked the speedway.

For a moment, I thought you might be a race car driver.

No, not me, although I wouldn’t mind taking a lap or two in one of the local Marmon cars, or maybe a Stutz. The country’s most prestigious racing event happens on these bricks. Can you imagine what it’s like for those crackerjacks? Last year Howdy Wilcox set the record at eighty-eight miles per hour. It’s unfathomable.

I’m sure. Is everyone who lives here a fan?

Everyone except Emmett Sterling. He’s one of my two best friends, but he’s a peculiar duck.

You have two best friends?

For now.

Do you plan to add more or lose one?

Neither. I’m working up the nerve to ask the female part of our threesome to transition from friend to mate.

As in wife?

Absotively.

Pardon?

As in absolutely and positively. I am absotively stuck on Sally.

I see. Does she know how you feel?

When the three of us go out, she doesn’t show favoritism between Emmett and me, but recently she and I have enjoyed some private time that suggests we might have a future together. 

Good for you.

True, but not so good for Emmett. He’s got the same notion as I have. I keep trying to dissuade him, but he insists that Sally is the doll for him. 

What does she think about having two suitors?

She doesn’t know about the second one. You need to understand that Emmett is practical, dependable, and bent on living a well-ordered life, and while those are admirable traits, he’s about as exciting as a chewing gum wrapper. Regardless, he figures that he has the means to fill her every need. 

You don’t sound like you believe that.

I’m here to tell you, the man is all wet. Frugality and routine are overrated. Every woman needs adventure and romance, dancing and—heavens to hooch—a sip of moonshine now and again.

What about Prohibition?

I’m not saying I imbibe, and I’m not confessing to being acquainted with any local hoodlums. I’m just trying to make a point. I’m the spontaneous one of the group, the one who makes the others laugh, the one who instigates memories.

I can see you have that potential.

I take that as a compliment.

Do you worry you’ll lose your friendship with Emmett?

Well, since we’re standing on the speedway bricks, maybe I can respond accordingly. Seated next to every race car driver is his riding mechanic, the man who pumps oil into the engine as they tear around the track, and who warns the driver of the goings on beside and behind him. My friendship with Emmett is like that, both of us working together to bring out the best outcome. The way things stand, we might have to sacrifice that camaraderie if either of us has a chance to take the trophy.

Trophy? As in Sally?

That’s the crux of it.

Oh dear.

I think I have the winning entry, but I’m biding my time until Emmett sees he needs to withdraw from the race. That way, we can remain a threesome. Why don’t you climb on up in the stands with the friends you brought along, and I’ll expound a bit. Wander through the Making Up Time prologue, turn the next page, and see what happens when Indianapolis and Archie Jackson roar.


Valerie Banfield is a talespinner to the lost, the loved, and the found. She is the author of thirteen novels, co-author of three West Virginia‑themed tales, and recipient of the Cascade Award for Historical Fiction. When she’s not writing or reading, she’s probably weaving a basket, counting the stars, or chasing fireflies. Visit her online at valeriebanfield.com.

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A Conversation with Meg Pherson from Jo-Anne Berthelsen’s Novel Down by the Water

Welcome! Now you grew up in a place many may never have heard of. Can you tell us about it?

Yes, my name was Margaret Porter back then, but I’ve been Meg McPherson for many years now. Before marrying Richard in 1910, I lived in the small, country town of Helidon in the Lockyer Valley area of south-east Queensland, Australia. I loved painting down by the creek, where the trees overhung the water and where I could hear and see lots of native birds. We lived in an old, wooden house high off the ground, with a wide veranda all round. I had a happy childhood there, although my mother always wanted me to help out more with household jobs. Thankfully, Isobel came to work for us and saved me so many times from getting into trouble. 

What did you want to be when you left school?

At first, I had no idea. My parents wanted me to be a nurse or a teacher, but in the end, they let me stay home and I continued painting and learning the piano, as well as helping my mother with my baby brother, Jimbo. They also tried to get me to learn more about things like cooking and sewing—my father was certain some local boy would soon want to marry me. However, I wanted to keep painting and having fun—and eventually, my parents let me go to Brisbane to study art. It was all so exciting, but everything changed when Jimbo died.

It’s so hard when tragedy strikes in a family. How did you cope with this?

I was home on holidays when it happened. I loved Jimbo and would never, ever have let him get hurt, but my mother blamed me for it—and I guess I blamed myself too for being so selfish and wanting to go off and paint. I gave up my art course and vowed I would never paint again. Then when Richard proposed a second time, I decided to accept him. I admired him a lot and saw this as an opportunity to leave home and start afresh somewhere.

I understand you’ve had good friends who helped you in your faith journey. Can you tell us about them?

Isobel was such a loyal friend and was always patient and gentle with me, even when I was so angry with God. And when she came to stay with us after my miscarriage, she was such a help. Reverend Fisher, our local minister in Brisbane, was wonderful too and managed to get me to start painting again. Then once we moved to Harrisville, God provided me with Hettie, a lovely friend who was like a mother to me. Later, Emma came along—and I loved spending time with her too.

How has pursuing your interest in art helped you on your journey?

It’s been so life-giving and fulfilling to be able to paint whenever I get a spare moment. I love being by myself painting, particularly down near a river or creek somewhere—that’s where I feel God’s presence the most. And I love blessing others with my paintings too.

Tell us a little about your family.

My husband Richard still works long hours and does so much in the community as well, including at our church. We have five children—Alice, Robert, Elizabeth, Jane and, last but by no means least, our youngest, Stephen. I’m so proud of them all.

What sort of future do you envisage for yourself and your family?

I would love it if Richard were not so busy with everything, but he likes it that way. For the children, above all, I want them to love God wholeheartedly and to be happy and fulfilled in life, whether they marry or remain single. As for me, I hope to continue spending time with God as I paint and ministering to my family and others for a long while yet. 

Thanks so much, Meg, for allowing us to get know you a little more.


Jo-Anne Berthelsen is an Australian author of seven published novels and two non-fiction works, Soul Friend and Becoming Me. She holds degrees in Arts and Theology and has worked in teaching, editing and local church ministry. Jo-Anne loves encouraging others through both the written and spoken word and is a keen blogger. To read more about Jo-Anne or to purchase her books, please visit www.jo-anneberthelsen.com. Jo-Anne’s latest novel is also available in print and e-book format on Amazon (US) and Amazon Australia.

A Candid Talk with Lena de Vries, Ans de Vries, and Miriam Jacobs from Lynn Austin’s Chasing Shadows

Welcome, ladies. Tell us a little about yourself and your life before the war. 

Lena: I was forty years old when the war began, a wife and mother of three children. I worked with my husband, Pieter, on our farm in the Dutch countryside. I loved my life and my work—it was all I ever wanted or dreamed of doing.

Ans: I’m Ans de Vries, Lena’s older daughter, and unlike my mother, I was restless with the country life. I found it boring. When I turned nineteen, I moved to the city of Leiden and took a job as a companion and assistant to Eloise Huizenga, who suffers from depression. City life suited me, and I was very happy living there.

Miriam: I’m Jewish, and I lived in Cologne, Germany, with my parents before the war. I’m a violinist, and I had hoped to study at the music conservatory like my mother, but Jews were forbidden to attend. As the persecution became increasingly worse in my homeland, my father and I escaped to the Netherlands, where we lived in a refugee camp at first. 

How about romance? Is there someone special in your life?

Lena: My husband, Pieter, is the love of my life. We married young, and I love him more and more each year, if that’s possible. All that we’ve gone through has drawn us closer. I would be lost without him.

Ans: I never had a real date before moving to Leiden because the rural boys seemed boring to me. I wasn’t interested in marrying one of them and becoming a farmer’s wife. I met Erik Brouwer shortly after moving to the city and we hit it off right away. He’s a policeman—a very handsome one! The more time we spent together, the easier it was to fall in love.

Miriam: I met Avi Leopold in the refugee camp. He heard me practicing my violin and asked if he could sit nearby and listen. He said my music consoled him, and in return, he read verses to me from the Psalms. Avi is sweet and gentle and kind. It felt so natural and right to imagine we would spend the rest of our lives together. 

Tell us about your experiences on May 10, 1940, when the Nazis staged their surprise attack on the Netherlands.

Lena: My husband, Pieter, and I learned the news when the telephone awakened us in the night. Pieter was in the army reserves, and he had to leave immediately to help our Dutch army fight off the invaders—a seemingly impossible task. I was left home alone with our two youngest children, Wim and Maaike, and I had to keep the farm going by myself. Naturally, I was worried sick for Pieter’s safety, but I had to remain calm and in control for my children’s sake, in spite of all the unknowns in our future.

Ans: I was living in Leiden with Eloise Huizenga when the invasion began. The horrifying sound of droning airplanes and exploding bombs woke both of us up. We were alone because Professor Huizenga was away traveling at the time. We went up to the rooftop in the dead of night and could hear and see the distant warfare, along with Nazi paratroopers dropping from airplanes. I was never so scared in my life! I was terrified for my own safety and for my boyfriend, Erik, who was serving in the Dutch army. But most of all, I feared for Eloise, because I was responsible for her. She is very fragile, and her emotional state that night was very precarious. 

Miriam: When the Nazi bombs began to fall on the Netherlands that night, it felt like the end of the world to me. We had experienced Nazi persecution in Germany and knew what they would do to us if they occupied the Netherlands. We had narrowly escaped from them once before, finding refuge in Leiden, where Abba taught at the university. We were finally making a new life for ourselves after enduring so many losses, and the invasion meant we were about to lose everything for a second time. 

How did the Nazi occupation change your daily life?

Lena: I found it hard to escape the daily anxiety and fear for my family. My daughter Ans lived in the city, and my two younger children had to travel to school every day with soldiers everywhere. Then the Nazis came out to our farm and took an inventory of everything we had. The food we worked so hard to produce would no longer go to support our family, but to feed the enemy. That was a very bitter truth to accept.

Ans: I hated the sight of Nazi soldiers and swastikas in the city I had come to love. And my concern for Eloise multiplied as she experienced the effects of war and enemy occupation for a second time in her life. She had been a young woman in Belgium during the Great War and had lost her entire family. I was on edge every day as Eloise slipped into depression and I searched for ways to help her.

Miriam: I felt trapped all over again and desperate for a way to escape. My father and I knew it was only a matter of time before the persecution we’d experienced in Germany would begin all over again. The Nazis had surrounded the Netherlands on all sides, making escape impossible.

What kept you going through such difficult times?

Lena: I relied a lot on prayer. And on taking each day one at a time. Just doing the task I was given for that day with God’s help.

Ans: I had turned away from my parents’ faith before leaving home, but God suddenly became very real to me during this crisis. I found the courage to resist the Nazi occupation in big and small ways, and fighting back kept Eloise—and me—from despair.

Miriam: I found hope in our faith and in our friends. We knew we didn’t have to suffer alone this time because our friends were standing beside us, helping and protecting us.


About Chasing Shadows

For fans of bestselling WWII fiction comes a powerful novel from Lynn Austin about three women whose lives are instantly changed when the Nazis invade the neutral Netherlands, forcing each into a complicated dance of choice and consequence.


Lena is a wife and mother who farms alongside her husband in the tranquil countryside. Her faith has always been her compass, but can she remain steadfast when the questions grow increasingly complex and the answers could mean the difference between life and death?

Lena’s daughter Ans has recently moved to the bustling city of Leiden, filled with romantic notions of a new job and a young Dutch police officer. But when she is drawn into Resistance work, her idealism collides with the dangerous reality that comes with fighting the enemy.

Miriam is a young Jewish violinist who immigrated for the safety she thought Holland would offer. She finds love in her new country, but as her family settles in Leiden, the events that follow will test them in ways she could never have imagined.

The Nazi invasion propels these women onto paths that cross in unexpected, sometimes-heartbreaking ways. Yet the story that unfolds illuminates the surprising endurance of the human spirit and the power of faith and love to carry us through.


Lynn Austin has sold more than one and a half million copies of her books worldwide. A former teacher who now writes and speaks full-time, she has won eight Christy Awards for her historical fiction and was one of the first inductees into the Christy Award Hall of Fame. One of her novels, Hidden Places, was made into a Hallmark Channel Original Movie. Lynn and her husband have three grown children and make their home in western Michigan. Visit her online at lynnaustin.org.

Introducing Marian Creighton from Jody Hedlund’s Come Back to Me

Welcome to Novel PASTimes! We are pleased you stopped by today.

Tell us something about where you live.

My name is Marian Creighton. I work in Connecticut, but since my dad unexpectedly fell into a coma, I’m visiting Canterbury England to be with him. He’s left me a mess of a mystery to solve. Not only that, but he seems to be in some kind of danger, and it’s putting me in danger now too. 

Do you have an occupation? What do you like or dislike about your work?

I’m a research scientist who works in the pharmacokinetics department of Mercer Pharmaceutical’s research. I’m completely devoted to finding a cure for the rare genetic disease VHL, Von Hippel-Lindau syndrome, which killed my mother and is now slowly killing my younger sister. My dad has also been searching for a cure. But he’s also been obsessed with his research into what he calls “the ultimate cure” which he believes is related to the original Tree of Life and is found in ancient holy water.

Who are the special people in your life?

As I arrive in Canterbury to be with my dad, I know I have the support and help from one of my dad’s colleagues, Harrison Burlington. I also have a good friend in Jasper Boyle, one of my co-workers in Connecticut. And finally, my sister Ellen is one of my closest friends.

Interestingly enough, since ingesting a slight amount of residue of ancient holy water, I’ve been seeing a fiercely handsome man who lives in the past. Our paths seem to overlap, and I have a real connection with him.

What is your heart’s deepest desire?

My heart’s deepest desire is to find a remedy that can help cure my sister Ellen. However, I’m skeptical of my dad’s methods. I feel his long-time fixation with ancient holy water and its healing properties are both crazy and a waste of time, especially when I learn that he believes the holy water can make people cross time.

After having visions of the man from the past, I can’t deny that my dad’s theories have some merit and my determination grows to test his theories further. However, I soon realize I’m not the only one interested in his research. A break-in and a kidnapping convince me that I must take the plunge and follow my dad back to the Middle Ages in order to save both him and my sister. 

What are you most afraid of?

As I prepare to leave for the past, I’m afraid I might not succeed in finding the holy water that might be able to heal my sister Ellen. I don’t want her to die, and need to take over my dad’s mission and locate more holy water for her in the past.

On the other hand, I’m interested in learning more about the man I’ve been seeing in my brief overlaps to the past. I’d like to learn more about him and the pain that haunts him.

Do you have a cherished possession?

My mother’s teardrop pearl necklace is very special to me. I put it on with me as I prepare to go into the past. 

What do you expect the future will hold for you?

My “future” is really what will happen to me as I travel into the year 1381. I pray that I’ll be able to complete my mission to save my dad and sister. But I know I’ll face many challenges as I awaken in a new era that is unfamiliar to me. I can only hope that as I experience the past, I’ll be safe and be able to complete my mission quickly.

Thanks for allowing us to get know you a little better!


Jody Hedlund is the bestselling author of over 30 historical novels for both
adults and teens and is the winner of numerous awards, including the
Christy, Carol, and Christian Book Awards. Jody lives in Michigan with her
husband, busy family, and five spoiled cats. She loves to imagine that she
really can visit the past, although she’s yet to accomplish the feat, except via
the many books she reads. Visit her at jodyhedlund.com.

Meet Tansy Calhoun from Ann Gabhart’s Along a Storied Trail

Welcome to Novel PASTimes! We are pleased you stopped by today.

I’m very glad to be here. Mrs. Weston, our head librarian, said you were interested in learning more about our packhorse library. So what would you like to know? 

We do want to know more about the packhorse library, but first tell us something about yourself so we can get to know you. 

All right. My name is Tansy Faith Calhoun. I live up in the hills in Owsley County, Kentucky. I’m one of six children. One sister is older than me and one sister, much younger. The others are boys, all younger than me. Sadly, one of my little brothers died of a fever a few years ago. 

I’m already twenty years old with no suitors knocking on my door. Most of the people around think I might end up a crotchety old spinster like Aunt Perdie who lives a couple of hills over from us. Girls get married young up here in the hills, but I figure I still have a few years to go before I have to admit to being an old maid. Meanwhile, I can enjoy being a book woman.     

Book woman? Is that what people call the packhorse librarians? 

They do, and I love it. I’ve loved books forever, but books are a luxury for most families like mine up here in the Eastern Kentucky Appalachian Mountains. Of course, we have the Bible, but books just for reading pleasure were few and far between before the packhorse library project. I did read every book I could get my hands on, sometimes three or four times. Pa says reading those stories turned my head and has me thinking above myself. He might have a different opinion about my love of books if he could see me now as one of the book women. 

Doesn’t your father know you’re a packhorse librarian?

No, I got the job after the mine where Pa worked closed down and he took off for the flatlands to find work. We haven’t heard from him since. Things got hard around our farm what with no money coming in and how last summer’s hot, dry months parched our cornfield and sass patch or garden. We didn’t have enough corn and beans to last through the winter. We thought we’d have to go on the dole but then I got hired on as a packhorse librarian. President Roosevelt–or some say it was Mrs. Roosevelt’s idea–came up with a way to put some of us women in the mountains to work and get books to folks up here that never had a way to have books before. I love my job of carrying books out to people on my book routes.

This program, the packhorse library, sounds fabulous. Tell us more about it.

I’m sure you already know about all President Roosevelt has been doing to put people back to work during this depression time in our country when so many can’t find jobs. The government came up with all sorts of programs. Men work at constructing schools, bridges, roads and more. Women do sewing projects. Young men joined up with the Civilian Conservation Corps. The government even started programs for out of work artists, writers and other creative people. 

But one of the best ideas for us around here is the packhorse libraries. We’d never had a library like some of the bigger towns and even if we did, most of the people wouldn’t have much way of getting to it. That’s why the program came up with a way to take the books to the people instead of making them come get them. A truck to deliver the books might sound better than packhorses, but here in Eastern Kentucky our roads are often creek beds running up the side of a mountain. Most people go by horse, mule or shankmare. That’s mountain talk for on foot. So we take the library to the people by loading our saddlebags of books on our horses or mules and riding miles along some rough trails up into the hills. The government pays the packhorse librarians, but doesn’t supply any books. We had to come up with a central location and the books to circulate.

You can’t have a library without books. So how did you fill your shelves? 

People in the community donated some books but most of our books come from a central location in London, Kentucky that oversees women’s work programs. Once the news got out that we needed books for our packhorse libraries, donations started coming in from all over the country. Those who head up the program divvy them up and send them out to the different packhorse libraries here in Eastern Kentucky. Some of the books and magazines we get are throwaways from city libraries. We don’t care if what they send is in bad shape. We work to piece them back together and tape up the binding. If the magazines are too tattered and torn to circulate, we cut out pictures from them to paste on thick paper. Then we print out something about the pictures or maybe poems to make books to loan out to our people. We even make book from recipes or quilt patterns our readers share with us. Those are popular loaners. 

You sound very creative. Have you written any stories yourself?

I don’t know if a mountain girl like me could know enough to write a book, but it is an idea that pokes at me sometimes. I did come up with some stories for kids that I made into books to share with our young readers. And I wrote down a Jack story that Aunt Perdie told us. A Jack story is a story passed down through families here in the mountains. As Aunt Perdie says, there’s no right or wrong way to tell a Jack story.    

That’s twice you’ve mentioned this Aunt Perdie. Is she your favorite aunt?

She’s not really my aunt, but she is a relative. My father’s second cousin. That’s still family and in the mountains we take care of family. So, when she needed help, we had to be the ones to give that help. But I can’t say she’s a favorite of any of us. Well, except Coralee, but that’s another whole story. Aunt Perdie is as contrary as sore-footed mule and seems especially prone to pointing out ways I could do better. Could be sometimes she’s right, but that doesn’t make her any easier to get along with.   

What do you expect the future will hold for you?

More rough trails to ride as a book woman. More books to read myself. More family to love. More mountain air to breathe, and maybe someday, love to grab hold of. 

That sounds good, Tansy. But before you have to go, tell us what you’ve learned while riding those rough trails as a packhorse librarian?

Oh, so many things. I’ve had the chance to have many more books in my hands and time to read more than a few of them. I’ve gotten to know my neighbors better and found out that even those who aren’t good at reading still like getting those magazines and books. Sometimes they simply enjoy the pictures in the magazines or they get their children or grandchildren to read to them. I do some reading aloud to people on my route when time permits. I never let weather stop me no matter how bad it is, because I know people are waiting to get those books to bring some light into their hard lives. But I’ve also learned books don’t hold all the answers. Some things you have to figure out on your own such as how the people nearest you can be the dearest. While books and stories are fine, the people you love are what make life blessed. 

Thanks for allowing us to get know you a little better and about the packhorse libraries!

Thank you for inviting me over. Now I’d better go pack up my saddlebags and get ready to head out on the trial to share some storiesThe people will be watching for their book woman to show up.


Ann H. Gabhart is the bestselling author of several Shaker novels—The Refuge,
The Outsider, The Believer, The Seeker, The Blessed, and The Gifted—as well as
other historical novels, including Angel Sister, These Healing Hills, River to
Redemption, and An Appalachian Summer. She and her husband live on a farm a
mile from where she was born in rural Kentucky. Ann enjoys discovering the
everyday wonders of nature while hiking in her farm’s fields and woods with her
grandchildren and her dogs, Frankie and Marley. Learn more at www.annhgabhart.com

Meet Hazel from Rachel Fordham’s A Lady in Attendance

Welcome to Novel PASTimes! We are pleased you stopped by today.

After spending the last five years in a New York state reformatory, Hazel is
desperate to begin life anew, but she knows that a tarnished name could ruin her
chances. She accepts a job as Doctor Gilbert Watts’ lady in attendance but does
so under an alias so she can hide her shameful past.
Dr. Watts has come to enjoy the pleasant chatter of his new dental assistant, but
he senses her sadness and wonders if there is more to her story than she’s shared with him. As their friendship deepens, Hazel must grapple with her desire to trust him.
Can Dr. Watts and Hazel’s friends help expunge her record? And can Hazel possibly find hope and love
along the way?

Thank you for having me. 

Tell us something about where you live.

Currently, I am living just outside of Buffalo, New York in the much smaller village of Amherst. I moved into a boarding house and have already made a friend here. Not so long ago, I lived in a reformatory (like a prison, but with the goal of rehabilitation). While living there I learned to make friends quickly due to its ever changing dynamic. 

I am getting off subject. You asked about where I live and now, I’m talking about my time behind iron gates. I don’t normally talk about those five years. When I do everyone judges me. My five-year sentence feels like a lifetime one. Even now I have taken to using a false name so that I can get a job without anyone knowing my past. I would love to leave all that’s happened before behind me but it follows me. I no longer dream of romance or family, but I do hope that here in Amherst I will be able to put bread on my own table. 

You say you’ve taken a job. Can you tell us about that?

I was only just hired by the quiet dentist, Dr. Watts three weeks ago. He does not know my real name and for that I feel immense guilt. I do work hard and he seems satisfied with my efforts. When I was first hired, I believed him a very shy man, and he is, but he is also kind and has wit that many would miss but I find it delightful. 

I do not find the teeth or saliva particularly appealing but I enjoy the patients. You never know who will come in each day. Some make me laugh and others are very afraid. It’s hard to explain but I find it all rewarding and Gilbert (he allows me to call him that when there are no patients there) is always kind. I fear he is my superior in piousness. He is good to a fault but that is far better than working for someone who does not believe in the virtues.

Despite my looming past, I enjoy my days and find them rewarding. It is also a blessing that I can afford my rent at the boarding house. I fear desperation would have pushed me to taking any job, but Providence has led me to a job I actually enjoy.  

It sounds like you’ve had a very rough life. What of your family? Can they help you with your troubles?

My family raised me well. I can not blame them for anything that has happened. If I had listened to my mother when I was younger, I would have been able to avoid many of the hardships that have befallen me. 

It’s difficult to talk of them. I ache for them so badly, but I can’t turn to them, not now and perhaps never. I have already brought enough shame to them. 

Can you tell us about your past? What is it that brought you from high society to a reformatory and now to separation from your family?

That is a very long story. But I will say that I am innocent of the burglary charges that were brought against me, but my past is far from innocent. 

I would rather not dwell on it. 

I understand. Thank you for spending time with us today. After listening to you talk, I find that I am now hoping you will find a future that is hopeful and happy. 

Thanks for allowing us to get know you a little better!


Rachel Fordham is the author of The Hope of Azure Springs, Yours Truly, Thomas,
and A Life Once Dreamed. Fans expect stories with heart, and she delivers, diving
deep into the human experience and tugging at reader emotions. She loves
connecting with people, traveling to new places, and daydreaming about future
projects that will have sigh-worthy endings and memorable characters. She is a busy
mom, raising both biological and foster children (a cause she feels passionate
about). She lives with her husband and children on an island in the state of
Washington.