Wednesday, May 12, 2010

books of the heart

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 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 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!


  1. Dana, thanks for sharing your writing journey. I loved the Bobbsey Twins books and spending time with Nan and Bert, Flossie and Freddie.

    Like you and Laura, I write historicals. To me research is one of the best parts. I live in the heart of California's Gold Country. Our local newspaper is the oldest continuously published one in the state. I've had a blast at the local library viewing the issues from the 1870s on microfilm and finding real life events to work into my stories set in that period here in the area where I live.

    I wish you well on finding a publisher for your stories.

  2. What an encouragement! I loved reading about how you started writing, Dana. I look forward to reading your books.

  3. Hi Keli...

    It's so nice to meet you. I agree, the researching is the best part when it comes to writing historicals. Not only do you learn something about the area, but some times you find a little nugget (or even mystery) that piques your curiosity and has you yearning for more. So.. out comes the next book, newspaper, or document to "know a little more". It can be SO much fun!!

  4. I forgot to pass it along to Laura, but my blogspot address is: On it are the books if anyone is interested in ordering a set once the contest is over.

  5. It was nice to learn about you you, Dana! What a fascinating family history. I love reading and writing historicals as well and am also a genealogy enthusiast. Your novels sound very interesting!


  6. I so admire those of you who write historicals! I love READING them, but love to write contemporary romance. Go figure, huh? LOL

    Thanks so much for sharing your story. It makes me want to start researching my roots right here in KY.

    I look forward to reading your books, and wish you blessings as you search for a publisher!


  7. They look like delightful books and I would love to have the chance to read them. But you already know I don't need another copy of CML. ;)

    Have a great day Laura!!

    Email in profile.

  8. It was very interesting to read about your road to publication, Dana. Both of the books sound wonderful.

    Nicholas and Alexandra is one of all time favorite books. First read it when I was in 8th grade. The public library had two copies of it, one in the history section and the other in the biography section. I alternated checking the two out until I bought a copy of it several years later. I'm now on my second copy, purchased about 10 years ago. I just had to have it when I saw there was a new introduction.

    I think you are so right about research being important. I've caught historical errors in two books. One error I could almost talk myself into believing, the other one was so bad I couldn't believe it. A very simple google search would have solved it.

    Wonderful to "meet" you Dana, I will certainly be checking out your blog.

  9. Hi Dana and Laura,
    Thanks for offering up these books to some lucky reader!

    Interesting little bit on doing the research for historical stories.

    thanks again.

  10. Goodness, Dana it’s so nice to meet you! Your books sound wonderful and your journey was inspiring! I love historicals and everything about history really :) I would love to find out about my ancestors too! I think it’s amazing that you can trace yours so far back AND you found historical figures there?!! Gosh I’m so jealous! And even more beautiful is that your family loved the Lord and spread His message, a message that’s still shining its light today! That must be such a blessing to trace back your roots like that! My great grandparents came over from Italy, so I don’t think I’ll find my ancestors anywhere in America’s history ;) Although there is some English on my dad’s side, so maybe I could? I’m sure if we go back far enough we could all find some important figure in our lineage- if not, at least we can all claim Adam and Eve, right? ;)

    Anyway, thank you Dana for sharing with us! And a special thank you for all you put into your books. As a reader, I often forget all the precious time, long hours of research, endless sacrifices, fervent prayers and all the other vital things that go on behind the words on the pages that bless and inspire me. May the Lord strengthen your spirit and encourage your heart as you use your gifts for His glory! And I for one can’t wait to read the fruit of those gifts :)

    And Laura, SIGNED COPIES OF MORROW?!?! Praise the Lord!! Get ready girl, because I’m sure comments are gonna rain down on your blog like manna from heaven ;)

    Amanda Stanley

  11. Bobbsey twins were my favorites growing up, too. Thanks Laura and Dana for a great interview.

  12. Hi Stacey... thank you for the kinds words. I hope you enjoy them... I've had a blast writing them and anticipate the next one's "birth" soon. Whenever you finish reading them, let me know what you think. I always love to hear the opinions of others on my writing.

  13. Hey there Carla...

    I've had such fun interweaving the various stories and such into a fictional storyline. In some cases I take a single event and incorporate it in.. and in other cases I've taken a "lifetime" event or long term event and used it. I jokingly respond to my families surprise of storytelling with, "You DON'T want a glimpse inside this brain. It's too scary a trip... just read the books. They aren't scary."

    Blessings to you too, Carla!!

  14. Hi Regina...

    And I have an admiration for romance writers. It takes everything I've got to suppress the desire to put a couple together immediately. Hehehehee... if you only knew how I "itch" to get the couple in one day's time to the point it normally would take a couple of months. I'm afraid one day it will be my undoing. So, I pray for His restraining Hand and direction when it comes to writing any type of romance. Some times I can be such a nut!

    On researching your KY roots, check out the KYGenWeb... they have an EXCELLENT page that connects you to the various projects as well as the county pages which have genealogy information. Some counties have more information to share than others.. and it's all free to search through. Hopefully you'll find your "home" county where many have submitted documents. Otherwise it would mean you'd have to purchase books or pay for copies of the same info.

    Have a great one!

  15. Hi there Casey...

    I hope you get a chance to read them and enjoy them, too. Hopefully book 3 will be out by the fall and continue the saga of the Gray family... one that is sure to go on at least a few books more!

  16. Hi Michelle...

    I've been an avid reader for as long as I can remember. My late mother was an avid reader and "passed" it on to me. My earliest memory is of her reading a book about a mother bunny and her baby (and her pointing out the illustrations) when she was pregnant with my baby sister (who at the moment she was sharing the picture, my sister decided to kick and I got to feel it). I was five at the time.

    While mom loved biographies, she adored Emily Loring and her romance novels. She had the whole set of Ms. Loring's books.. and upon mom's death two years ago, I passed those treasured books on to another avid reader/friend who I knew would cherish and take care of them. Our last set of books we shared a passion for (and talked a great deal on) was the "Left Behind" series about 8 years or so ago.

    It has been nice meeting you, too! Have a great one!!

  17. Hi Laura and Dana,

    Thanks for the fun and informative interview. Dana, I will be looking forward to reading your books as well as Laura's. I appreciate accuracy almost as much as a good story.

  18. Dana,
    Your books sound very interesting. I always love trying new authors.

  19. How fun and inspiring! As you know, I've been delving into family history recently and its always so exciting to find the threads of the stories of those who came before you. They are suddenly alive and full of character.

    Oh--- And I love the Nicholas and Alexandra book, and especially his other novel "The Romanovs." That one I read as a teenager and it led to a bit of an obsession about the last Russian family for me--- I've got quite the book collection now!

    Thanks for the great interview~!

  20. So Dana is another Kentucky wonder! ;-)

    Dana, thanks for sharing your passion for history with us. Isn't it thrilling to find such good material within your own family and homeland? Your books sound so interesting. Love the covers, too. Thanks for the chance to win!

  21. Lisa and Julia... blessings to you both. I'm glad you enjoyed the interview!

    Amanda... thank you SO much for the encouraging words. It has been SUCH a blessing to see how God not only is working in my life, but has throughout the history of my family. Totally amazing!!

    Terri, runner10, and Heather... good luck in the drawing (as with everyone else). I look forward to the feedback on how much you all like the books.

    Mary.. thank you so much for the kind words, especially on the book covers. Two different cousins designed each cover, using ideas I had in my head of how things looked in a certain scene read about in the book. It was truly amazing when I saw for the first time each picture. It was as if each cousin had jumped into my thoughts and knew exactly what I had seen.

  22. That's funny, Dana! My husband is always say that my mind is a scary place to be. LOL! It's great to have such a wonderful creative outlet as writing and a place where hopefully it all comes together.

  23. Thanks so much to everyone for making Dana feel so welcome here. I was gone all day and then in the evening for school and church events and missed the party:) Your comments are always so interesting and encouraging. A true blessing! Looking forward to drawing the name for her books Sunday - and also putting names in the hat for the upcoming CML drawing. I haven't forgotten my previous winners - Stacey and Casey:) Bless you all!

  24. Terri,
    Is that really YOU - faithful steward/provider of my brother's newsletters for so many years? Thanks so much for your comments here and I hope you come again. I have a surprise/gift for you. If you can email me at or, I'd love to talk to you:) Bless you!

  25. YAY! Runner10 is from Kentucky. That is sure a blessing to me this cold Washington morning:) Bless you.

  26. Thank you for sharing this interview, and thank you, Dana, for the advice to writers! :)

    I would love a chance to win your two books, Dana, and I'm very excited for your new book, Laura! (I absolutely loved The Frontiersman's Daughter!)

    Thanks to you both!


  27. Amber, So glad to meet you here! Consider yourself entered in both drawings:) I'm thrilled you liked Lael's story so much. Morrow is right around the corner. Bless you and looking forward to visiting your blog!

  28. Good to meet another writer friend of Laura's! I particularly like the message you want to leave readers with, Dana. Doesn't get more powerful than that!

  29. Laura,

    Thanks so much for having these drawings! And I would love to have you visit my blog! Maybe when Courting Morrow Little comes out I could interview you for my blog... I'm sure you'll be really busy, but I would be honored if you find that you have time! :) Hope you don't mind me asking!

    Thanks again!


  30. Dear Dana,
    How fascinating to know your family's history - and what a history it is!
    Your books sound wonderful. I love the covers and look forward to reading the story of the Baker family.
    May God bless you in all that you do.

    Laura - a signed copy of Courting Morrow Little - WOW that would be wonderful. I am so very anxious to read about Miss Little.

    Have a very blessed day.

    NJ Sheryl

  31. Thanks so much, Amber. I'd love to be a guest on your blog in future:) It's always a privilege and downright treat to meet you and your friends and readers.

    Cheryl, it's so good to hear from you! I haven't forgotten my NJ reader:) Hoping you are well and enjoying the start of summer there. Consider yourself entered in the drawings. I should see my copies of Courting Morrow Little by early June and might even begin the giveaways before July. Bless you!

    Lori, thanks for your comments and coming by to meet Dana!

  32. Laura,

    Thank you so much! :D I can't wait to read your next book and host you on my blog in the future!

    Thanks again!