Although I’ve always self-identified as an artist, I find myself drawn more and more to words. Over the years I’ve attempted to discover that Holy Grail for children’s book illustrators—illustrating your own picture book manuscript—but alas for me, that 500 word manuscript is as aloof as that sacred cup. Seems like I have more to say than a PB would allow. I decided if I couldn’t do short, I’d do long and try my hand at novels. Now my fingers are doing a happy dance across the keyboard.
Here are a couple of my WIPs.
September, 1695, Worcester, MA — Twelve-year-old Puritan Samuel Leonard is captured by a Penacook Indian. After a series of cultural and linguistic misunderstandings, a grudging respect grows between Sam and his captor, Tahanto,before Sam is adopted into Tahanto’s family. Thoughts of escape long forgotten, Sam is conflicted when the tribe descends upon the sleepy frontier village of Haverhill, Massachusetts in the spring of 1697. He’s reminded of his captivity and the family he’s left behind, causing Tahanto to question Sam’s loyalties. Hannah Duston, captured in the attack, takes matters into her own hands, killing and scalping Tahanto and his family during the night. Distraught, Sam has no choice but to escape with Hannah to safety. But nightmares and fear of retaliation plague him. Can he overcome his grief and guilt? Can he forgive Hannah? Will he ever fit back into polite Puritan society? Does he want to?
This story is based on actual events, the seemingly 'unprovoked' attack of Haverhill, MA in 1697 by Indians. I wanted to understand how a woman, lauded as a hero for three centuries, came to kill her captors, and whether her actions were justified or not. By using Sam as the narrator I was able to examine the story from both perspectives—English and Native. What resulted is a tender and moving story of torn loyalties, of sorrow and regret, and coming to terms with the mores and customs of two opposing societies. This is Sam’s story in which Hannah plays an important part. Over 1,000 citations from hundreds of sources.
I've also written a non-fiction article in Historical New Hampshire entitled "Following in Hannah Duston’s Footsteps: Reexamining the Evidence" for their Summer 2015 issue. Included are many of my 'finds' that weren't possible to include in the novel, new information that put the events in context and questions old beliefs.
Doomed to repeat 7th grade, Rob, a 14 year-old boy who describes his life in newspaper headlines, must come up with a killer history project for summer school or stay back. Again! But his procrastination and lies cause his dad to threaten him with military school. Rob thinks learning history is pointless. It doesn’t help that his parents just bought a decaying ancestral mansion clear across the country, forcing Rob to leave his best friend behind. But when he discovers his ancestors who built the house were circus performers, he's found his topic for his project. With the help of his new friend Izzy, they stumble across a 100-year old mystery and family secrets hidden deep within the walls of the house. With only hours left to write a 10-page report, can Rob solve the mystery? Sledge hammer in hand, he realizes the house is his biggest clue.
This story was inspired by a house I used to live in—actually built by circus performers, made from their circus billboards, many still visible within the walls.