I'm so happy to have my Kentucky friend, Dana Brown, visiting today. She's an avid reader and writer of history and has two books to give away. I love the folk art type covers and the wonderful stories within. Without further ado, I'll let Dana tell you about her interesting life and ancestry.
How long have you been writing? What are you working on currently?I've been writing off and no since I was a teen. When sorting through things for a recent move, I found a couple of soap operas I penned at age 15. These five to ten page editions had characters based on my friends that I hung out with and the recent "love interest" we had, coupled with a mystery of some type. I've got to admit a Daytime Emmy would NOT have been in the cards for either of these soaps!
Currently, I'm working on The Heart Mended. It's the 3rd book in a series I began over a year ago. The first book, The Heart's Desire, introduces you to the Baker family making a journey from Virginia to the frontier lands in the new state of Kentucky. Tragedy strikes the family, leaving those remaining wondering how they will survive. The book then jumps 30 years into the future to find Ella Baker has married James Gray and they have a family of their own. While life appears good, nothing it ever quite as it seems. The Heart's Desire delves into the budding romance of Ella's teenage daughter and her beau and tells of the hardships farm families in Breckinridge County endured. I also tell the true story of the tornado that nearly wiped the town of Big Spring off the map in 1849.
Favorite books you've read? Written?
As a child, my favorite books were The Bobbsey Twins. My grandparents began buying the books when I was 10 and 35 years later I still have them. Currently, I just finished reading, House of Abraham, about President Lincoln and am now into Nicholas and Alexandra by Robert Massie. I love reading historical biographies and fiction. Of the books I've written, The Heart's Desire is my favorite.
Tell us about publishing the way you've done it and what you've learned:
A good friend of mine, Sara Reinke, listened to my ramblings one day when I told her of my love of family and genealogy. I had all these family stories born of ten years of researching that I didn't want to lose upon my death (those who told me the stories had passed on). She suggested I start with NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), to get me motivated. I had a blast! In no time I had around 90,000 words and a viable story. I didn't want to publish it for everyone to read. I just wanted the stories compiled in timeline fashion for family members. Then Sara suggested I go through Lulu.com. It's a print on demand publisher. The ease of assembling, designing, and printing a book once it is finished was perfect through Lulu. The books were "as is," meaning you proof it yourself and set up the parameters of the book on your own. The hard part is being your own marketing rep and getting it out there for readers. Presently I am thinking of submitting The Heart's Desire to the Writer's Edge. While I know it is a work that needs polishing and fine tuning, I believe I have a good chance of finding a home for it and the subsequent books in the series.
What would you like readers to take away from your books?
A strong sense of family and its importance in life. I want them to see that with God's help, ALL things are possible if you just trust and believe...no matter what you face in life alone or with others by your side.
Do you have advice for writers regarding research?
Make sure you write what you know and have a passion for. Nothing worse than reading a book and finding it riddled with errors and inaccuracies, not to mention it being plain boring because the writer wrote just to be writing. I was writing a scene set in the mid 1860's for my very first book. It was set within the confines of this particular family's home, involving a conversation and a meal. I had one character stoking the fire in the potbellied stove before placing a cast iron frying pan on top. I knew I'd need to describe the handle, the door, and a few other things and discovered pot bellied stoves were not in homes till the mid 1870's. And then I found that engagement rings became a custom after the turn of the 19th-century. Make sure you research well. Someone, somewhere, will find it and call you on it.
Tell us about your genealogical interests:
I began researching my family history in 1999 when my grandfather's health was declining. I learned that my mother's family lines are firmly planted in Breckinridge County, Kentucky since the late 1770's and tie into some very important historical figures and events. For instance, my 5th great-grandmother is sister to President Lincoln's grandmother. Homer VanMeter (right hand man to Baby Face Nelson and other nefarious criminals) is a distant cousin. My family has a deep faith and we had several preachers in the family who established churches. One is over 200 years old and still going strong - Severn's Valley Baptist Church in Elizabethtown, Kentucky. My family not only believed and trusted in God's promises on a personal level, they helped spread the Gospel in many ways.
With constant, repetitive researching in Breckinridge County, Kentucky, I've learned a great deal, not only about my family but about the area and its history over the past 210 years. From that love and passion, I was off erred different volunteer jobs with the USGenWeb's Archives project and am also the county coordinator for the KYGenWeb's Breckinridge County site. My love and passion for Breckinridge County and her people has allowed me to turn my family stories into fiction.
To check out the 2 sites, go to:
Thanks so much, Dana, for sharing your writing journey with us. Dana has graciously offered not one book but two in a giveway this week. If you leave a comment you'll be entered in the drawing. The winner will be announced this coming Sunday. Also, anyone who comments from this post forward will be entered for signed copies of Courting Morrow Little coming up in July. Bless you!