Nearly 18 months ago, God introduced me to a fellow writer and sister in Christ who continues to bless me through her friendship. I’m honored to introduce you to my writing pal, Mrs. Gail Kittleson, this week. An acclaimed writer of historical women’s fiction, her work features a unique blend of actual history with an intriguing storyline that even dusty old farmers like me enjoy. Please join me in welcoming Ms. Gail to the Cross-Dubya this week. Now let’s get to the good stuff!
Words have always intrigued me. They serve as touchstones, quintessential parts of our lives. In childhood, we learn to emphasize certain ones—for each of us, the list may differ. Most of us include “No,” among the utterances most prevalent during that time. “Come here,” might be another, or “Stop!” Many basic words find their origins in fear, since most parents do their best to keep their young from danger.
But “fear words” may live in us long after their usefulness. When this happens, we allow them to keep us from living, hold us back from moving forward. We give this type of fear more than its due, but can create new touchstones. A touchstone is a siliceous black stone related to flint and used to test the purity of gold. Gold reveals its authenticity by leaving a white streak on this stone. In this sense, touchstone can describe something that tests a thing’s quality or purity.
Recently I’ve learned a lot about the native stone in the great state of Texas. So much of this state’s history, such as the Battle of San Jacinto, produced far-reaching effects on the rest of what would become the United States of America. In Austin, builders used unique pink granite called “the Pink,” to build the statehouse. In 1938, workers also used this stone for the base of the flagpole in Fort Sam Houston’s national cemetery.
This information surfaced in researching a Hill Country house built by German settlers in the mid-1800’s. The immigrant hero of my story passed through Austin and San Antonio en route to his new home. A former teacher, he was all about teaching his little boy everything about their new homeland.
The limestone home he purchased still bore scars from workmen’s ingenious ploy to remove heavy stone from quarries. They drilled or carved holes the size of wooden poles into the limestone and implanted the poles in the holes. When they wet the wood, it expanded, breaking massive pieces into manageable size for transport to building sites. The stone walls of my hero’s limestone house still displayed some of these scars from decades ago. But instead of detracting from the structure’s beauty, they added interest and charm.
Could this be true of all he had gone through back in England? Could the trauma that eventually led him to leave his native land lend uniqueness and character to his life?
There’s nothing new about this premise: we’ve heard that troubles produce endurance. What is meant for evil can be turned into good. These concepts fill Old Testament stories like Joseph’s, and the gospels and epistles remind us of this touchstone. So does the Cross, where our Lord felt utterly forsaken.
Our own personal stories integrate these touchstones, as do the experiences of others we meet throughout our journeys. Hallmarks . . . markers . . . guideposts.What are some touchstones of your faith? Click To Tweet
Making connections between historical information and how it affects our characters’ lives—that’s the joy of research. Fiction also intertwines our own personal experience, or that of our acquaintances, into the lives of our characters. In the novel I’m writing, a British expatriate sees World War II unfold from his new home in Texas Hill Country.
His loyalty to both this new land and the place of his birth provides a distinctive perspective on events from 1939 through the end of a massive world war. Meanwhile, using skills his grandfather taught him, he cares for an orchard.
Most of all, he refuses to allow past fears to keep him from providing the very best nurture for his son. And though he uncovers an unsavory side of wartime politics, he never succumbs to bitterness. Through this story, I’m learning about German-American citizens wrongfully accused of spying. They incarcerated some of them at camps, like the one in Crystal City.
This injustice troubles my hero, as do injustices in his own past. Though he succumbs to introspection at times, as we all do, he allows the joys and beauty of the present moment to encourage him. He opens his heart to the people around him and to nature’s wonders.
We can do the same—despite wars, politics, plagues and pandemics, we can still plant gardens in the spring, watch them grow over the summer, and reap the harvest.
Bogged down by fears and dangers at times, we plod on with our lives, and find that small everyday joys have altered not at all. We focus on our faith, the sure hope we embrace, the kindness of others, and a wealth of beauty all around us. Martin Luther declared that if he were to die tomorrow, he would still plant a tree today.
So we view our scars as distinguishing marks. We embrace this moment, letting go of past hurts and present terrors. And we engage in what this wonderful life provides for us to do—plant flowers and vegetables, tend our cattle, or write a novel.
About the Author
Gail and her retired Army chaplain husband enjoy grandchildren, gardening, and learning about history. She writes World War II women’s fiction from their northern Iowa home and recently, a Civil War era story.
Her next novel (releasing in early September) takes the reader back to World War II through the perspective of a British immigrant to Texas Hill Country. No matter how dire the circumstances, her make-do heroines and heroes discover new strength and move forward in faith.
Mentoring and editing for other authors brings Gail unique satisfaction. A former college writing instructor, she also loves cheerleading others by facilitating workshops and retreats.
Please join Ms. Gail this Thursday evening at 9:30 Eastern as host Coach Mark Prasek and she take a trip Around the Cross-Dubya on PJNET TV. They’ll discuss this week’s blog post, offer insight about the lessons learned, and enjoy the fellowship of friends in the live chat room.