Monday, July 25, 2022

GIVEAWAY & Crazy4Fiction Book Bash Stop #1!


Hello and
Welcome to Nashville, Tennessee!
 

During this week’s Crazy4Fiction Summer Book Bash, I’m taking visitors on a virtual visit to Nashville where Priscilla Nichols and Audrey Whitfield live in my new time-slip novel Count the Nights by Stars. Both Priscilla and Audrey want to host a summer book club in Nashville’s beautiful Centennial Park, and if you could meet these women in real life and join them for an afternoon, I know you’d love a chance to talk books with them. But since Audrey and Priscilla can’t join us in person, I’ve come up with a few ways you can have a little book bash of your own, inspired by our two heroines in Count the Night by Stars.

First, here’s a quick peek around Centennial Park, one of the fascinating settings in Count the Nights by Stars: 

The Parthenon, a full-scale replica of the original Greek structure, was built for the 
Tennessee Centennial Exposition in 1897 and is the only building that still remains in the park. 
Makes me wish I could've seen them all!


Centennial Park is a lush, historic park that has a storied history dating back to the Tennessee Centennial and International Exposition of 1897 which Priscilla visits in Count the Nights by Stars 
and plays a key role in her story. 


There are several informative signs along the paths circling
Lake Watauga that tell the history of the exposition.





I was SO excited to see a vendor selling Italian ice, 
just like the yummy dessert Priscilla enjoys with 
a handsome man in the book!


Even though summers may be hot and humid here in Tennessee, Priscilla and Audrey would love to sit under one of the park’s tall trees on a breezy afternoon with a good book and some sweet iced tea, and maybe even a bowl of peaches and cream--a favorite dessert of someone in the book!

How can you enjoy your own book bash inspired by Audrey and Priscilla? Invite your book group or just some book-loving friends over and have a fun afternoon of books and goodies! Or treat yourself to a quiet day of summer reading and relaxation on your own! 

Audrey’s and Priscilla’s Summer Book Bash Ideas:

The food/drinks: Ice cold lemonade, spicy BBQ sliders, 
and birthday cupcakes to celebrate Tennessee's birthday!

The music:  A band is set up in the gazebo. Music from the 60s fills the park!
 
The theme: Happy Birthday, Tennessee!

The setting: Centennial Park or your own backyard complete with lots of big trees!
(You could even print out a picture of the Parthenon for decoration!)

THANK YOU for stopping by the Crazy4Fiction Summer Book Bash! 

Happy Reading!
~Michelle
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

BEFORE YOU GO!! 

Click HERE FOR A CHANCE TO WIN a signed copy of 
Count the Nights by Stars, a scrapbook album, 
and a cool Nashville themed coffee mug! 
Contest closes July 31, 2022



The Next Crazy4Fiction Summer Book Bash stop is 
Jenn's Book Bash begins Tuesday, July 26!

P.S. You'll want to check out each Book Bash post this week because...
there's a GRAND FINALE GIVEAWAY which includes a signed copy of each 
participating author’s book along with a Kindle e-Reader and a tote bag!! 
It opens July 29th on the Crazy4Fiction site
Details & links will be available on the last Book Bash stop!




Sunday, March 27, 2022

Exclusive Giveaway Just for YOU!

Happy Spring, everyone!

I'm popping into your day to let you know that because you're a regular subscriber to my blog, I'm entering your name into a drawing for a signed copy of my new release COUNT THE NIGHTS BY STARS plus a $10 Amazon gift card and a few other goodies!



The book released into the world March 22, so I'm celebrating! And YOU, subscribers to my blog/newsletter, are the only folks eligible for this exclusive offer. I can't begin to tell you how much I appreciate each and every one of you! If I could give all of you a book, I would!

I'll announce the winner (and contact them via email) Saturday, April 2. 

If you haven't had a chance to snag a copy of COUNT THE NIGHTS BY STARS yet, here's a blurb and a link for purchase options. 

Again, THANK YOU for going on this journey called Life with me!

Blessings,

~Michelle

PS. If you're NOT a regular subscriber to this blog/newsletter and are reading this online, you too can become a Subscriber simply by entering your email at the top-right of this page where it says "Subscribe." I promise not to fill up your inbox with posts! You'll only hear from me a few times a year, either with bookish news or an inspirational post. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

ABOUT COUNT THE NIGHTS BY STARS

Count your nights by stars, not shadows. Count your life with smiles, not tears.

1961. After a longtime resident at Nashville’s historic Maxwell House Hotel suffers a debilitating stroke, Audrey Whitfield is tasked with cleaning out the reclusive woman’s room. There, she discovers an elaborate scrapbook filled with memorabilia from the Tennessee Centennial Exposition. Love notes on the backs of unmailed postcards inside capture Audrey’s imagination with hints of a forbidden romance . . . and troubling revelations about the disappearance of young women at the exposition. Audrey enlists the help of a handsome hotel guest as she tracks down clues and information about the mysterious “Peaches” and her regrets over one fateful day, nearly sixty-five years earlier.

https://www.tyndale.com/p/count-the-nights-by-stars/9781496459930

Saturday, January 1, 2022

A New Year, a New Book, and a New(ish) Job

Happy 2022, everyone!


My prayer for each of you is that this new year will be full of God's blessings, grace, and peace. And honestly, I'm praying the same thing for myself and my family. 

Our year ended on a sad note. Our sweet employer whom we've worked for since October 2017 passed away. She'd been declining the past month so it didn't come as a shock, but we will deeply miss her. Gratefully, her son has decided to keep her farm and asked us to continue working for him. We're excited to move back to Franklin in a few weeks to the cute little house we lived in when we first moved to Tennessee. I'll miss the 100-year old farm house we've lived in on her brother's property since June 2019 and my nearly perfect office, but there are lots of positives to moving too. 


Once the dust settles from all the above, I'll start gearing up for the 
March 8th release of my newest novel, 
COUNT THE NIGHTS BY STARS! 
Only 67 days until this dual-time novel set in Nashville goes out into the world, and I can hardly wait to share it with you! 
Here's the back-of-the-book blurb:

Count your nights by stars, not shadows. 
Count your life with smiles, not tears.

1961
. After a longtime resident at Nashville’s historic Maxwell House Hotel suffers a debilitating stroke, Audrey Whitfield is tasked with cleaning out the reclusive woman’s room. There, she discovers an elaborate scrapbook filled with memorabilia from the Tennessee Centennial Exposition. Love notes on the backs of unmailed postcards inside capture Audrey’s imagination with hints of a forbidden romance . . . and troubling revelations about the disappearance of young women at the exposition. Audrey enlists the help of a handsome hotel guest as she tracks down clues and information about the mysterious “Peaches” and her regrets over one fateful day, nearly sixty-five years earlier.

1897. Outspoken and forward-thinking Priscilla Nichols isn’t willing to settle for just any man. She’s still holding out hope for love when she meets Luca Moretti on the eve of the Tennessee Centennial Exposition. Charmed by the Italian immigrant’s boldness, Priscilla spends time exploring the wonderous sights of the expo with Luca―until a darkness overshadows the monthslong event. Haunted by a terrible truth, Priscilla and Luca are sent down separate paths as the night’s stars fade into dawn.

Here's a link for more information and to PREODER the book: 



Peace is the word I've chosen for 2022. My hope is to do a deep dive into scripture throughout the year and discover what true peace looks like and feels like. So I'll leave you with Jesus's own words about Peace and wish you and yours a very Happy and Peace-filled New Year!

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. 
I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." 
John 14:27

Every blessing,

~Michelle

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Christian Fiction Scavenger Hunt Stop #22






Welcome to the Christian Fiction Scavenger Hunt! If you’ve just discovered the hunt, be sure to start at Stop #1, and collect the clues through all the stops, in order, so you can enter to win one of our top 5 grand prizes!

  • The hunt BEGINS on 10/21 at noon MST with Stop #1 at LisaTawnBergren.com.

  • Hunt through our loop using Chrome or Firefox as your browser (not Explorer).

  • There is NO RUSH to complete the hunt—you have all weekend (until Sunday, 10/24 at midnight MST)! So take your time, reading the unique posts along the way; our hope is that you discover new authors/new books and learn new things about them.

  • Submit your entry for the grand prizes by collecting the CLUE on each author’s scavenger hunt post and submitting your answer in the Rafflecopter form at the final stop, back on Lisa’s site. Many authors are offering additional prizes along the way!


************************************

Hello, beautiful Scavenger Hunt folks!

I'm Michelle Shocklee, author of several historical novels, including UNDER THE TULIP TREE, a 2021 Christy Award finalist! (I'm still pinching myself!) You can learn more about me and my books here on my blog, my website, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram

One of the best things about being an author of historical fiction is the research. I positively adore visiting historical sites--Civil War battlefields, old homes, graveyards, etc--and imagining the people who walked those hallowed places long before I was born. When we moved to Tennessee in 2017, I felt like a sponge soaking up the fascinating history of the area. A very cool event I kept reading about was the 1897 Tennessee Centennial Exposition. And the more I learned about this World's-Fair-type event, the more the novelist in me knew I'd have to write about it someday! 

Ta-da! My next release, COUNT THE NIGHTS BY STARS, a time-slip novel, takes readers to 1897 Nashville, where forbidden love, star-filled nights, and dark secrets come to light when unmailed postcards from the expo are discovered in an elaborate scrapbook 65 years later. The book releases March 8, 2022, but I'd love to give you a sneak peek of that magical place and time now. 
 


Promotional map of the 1897 Tennessee Centennial Exposition
(If you look closely at the cover of my new book, you'll see some
familiar buildings hiding on Priscilla's blouse!)


The History:
Tennessee became the 16th state on June 1, 1796. To celebrate its 100th birthday, officials decided to hold an exposition. Planning and finances delayed Tennessee's party, making it one year late for the actual centennial when the expo opened May 1, 1897.

The Buildings:
Me at Centennial Park in front of the
Parthenon and Lake Watauga
Over 100 temporary buildings were constructed on the 200-acre fairgrounds, with the most famous being the city of Nashville's contribution, the Parthenon. Built as an exact replica of the Parthenon located in Greece, it honored Nashville's nickname "the Athens of the South." Because the Parthenon became the symbol of the expo, it was left standing after the fair closed and was rebuilt with permanent materials in the 1920s. All other buildings were torn down or sold and moved. 

Vanity Fair:
Vanity Fair offered a Giant See-Saw, Chinese village, Streets of Cairo, animal shows, historical exhibits, and all manner of exotic foods to over 1.7 million visitors. You could even take a gondola ride on Lake Watauga in an authentic Venetian gondola, steered by a true Italian gondolier. (My characters do this in my new book. So romantic!)

While researching COUNT THE NIGHTS BY STARS, I visited Centennial Park many times, imagining Priscilla and Audrey there in 1897 and in 1961. I hope you'll "visit" the exposition again when my book releases next year!

 *******************************************************

Here’s the Stop #22 Basics:


If you’re interested, you can preorder COUNT THE NIGHTS BY STARS on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Tyndale, or at your local bookstore!


Clue to Write Down: blanket


Link to Stop #
23, the Next Stop on the Loop: Pepper Basham’s site!

Before you head out to the next stop, be sure to sign up for my e-newsletter (top right corner of this page) and be entered in my giveaway! THREE WINNERS from my newsletter list will choose between a signed paperback copy of UNDER THE TULIP TREE now OR wait until March for a signed paperback copy of COUNT THE NIGHTS BY STARS! (USA only, please.) Giveaway closes 10/25 at 12:01 AM MST. I'll draw the winners and post names here and on my social media outlets by Wednesday Oct. 27.

For an EXTRA ENTRY, leave a comment and tell me what your favorite state fair/county fair food is! Make my mouth water, y'all! 😋 


Sunday, September 5, 2021

Count the Nights by Stars is Available for Preorder!

Happy September, all!

The year is flying by and March 2022 will be here before we know it! What's happening in March 2022?!

This!


Here's a blurb about the story:

Count your nights by stars, not shadows. Count your life with smiles, not tears.


1961. After a longtime resident at Nashville’s historic Maxwell House Hotel suffers a debilitating stroke, Audrey Whitfield is tasked with cleaning out the reclusive woman’s room. There, she discovers an elaborate scrapbook filled with memorabilia from the Tennessee Centennial Exposition. Love notes on the backs of unmailed postcards inside capture Audrey’s imagination with hints of a forbidden romance . . . and troubling revelations about the disappearance of young women at the exposition. Audrey enlists the help of a handsome hotel guest as she tracks down clues and information about the mysterious “Peaches” and her regrets over one fateful day, nearly sixty-five years earlier.

1897. Outspoken and forward-thinking Priscilla Nichols isn’t willing to settle for just any man. She’s still holding out hope for love when she meets Luca Moretti on the eve of the Tennessee Centennial Exposition. Charmed by the Italian immigrant’s boldness, Priscilla spends time exploring the wonderous sights of the expo with Luca—until a darkness overshadows the monthslong event. Haunted by a terrible truth, Priscilla and Luca are sent down separate paths as the night’s stars fade into dawn.

Stay tuned for more details in the coming months about Launch Parties, giveaways, and more! In the meantime, click the Tab for my website for Preorder options!

Blessings,

~Michelle

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Cover Reveal!

Hello Friends!

I'm SO excited to reveal the cover AND title of my new book! Here it is!!! 

Count the Nights by Stars is an historical time-slip novel set in 1961 & 1897 Nashville, Tennessee. The Tennessee Centennial Exposition took place in the summer of 1897, and I thoroughly enjoyed digging into the history of it. If you look closely, you'll see a map of the exposition overlayed on our heroine's blouse.  

I'll share more about the story in the coming weeks. Pre-order will be available soon ahead of the March 2022 release date. I can't wait to share Priscilla's and Audrey's stories with you!!

Thanks for celebrating with me! 

Blessings, 

~Michelle

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Selah Awards Finalist!

 


Hey everyone,

I want to share my exciting news with you! UNDER THE TULIP TREE is a Finalist in the 2021 Selah Awards Contest, sponsored by the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference! For a complete list of Finalists, go to the BRMCWC Facebook page. Winners will be announced at the conference later this year. 


If you haven't had a chance to check out UNDER THE TULIP TREE, now is a good time to do it! Here's a blurb about the story:
Sixteen-year-old Lorena Leland’s dreams of a rich and fulfilling life as a writer are dashed when the stock market crashes in 1929. Seven years into the Great Depression, Rena’s banker father has retreated into the bottle, her sister is married to a lazy charlatan and gambler, and Rena is an unemployed newspaper reporter. Eager for any writing job, Rena accepts a position interviewing former slaves for the Federal Writers’ Project. There, she meets Frankie Washington, a 101-year-old woman whose honest yet tragic past captivates Rena.

As Frankie recounts her life as a slave, Rena is horrified to learn of all the older woman has endured—especially because Rena’s ancestors owned slaves. While Frankie’s story challenges Rena’s preconceptions about slavery, it also connects the two women whose lives are otherwise separated by age, race, and circumstances. But will this bond of respect, admiration, and friendship be broken by a revelation neither woman sees coming?

Thank you, Readers and Judges, for choosing UNDER THE TULIP TREE! It's truly an honor. 

For purchase information, visit my website

Blessings,

~Michelle

Friday, January 29, 2021

Exciting News and a Giveaway!

UPDATE: The winners of my giveaway--Susie Q and dpruss--have been notified via email. THANK YOU to everyone who left a comment. And WELCOME to everyone who signed up as a NEW subscriber to the blog!! I appreciate you all very much! I'll have more giveaways in the coming months, so stay tuned! ~Michelle


Hello, Friends!

I want you to be the first to know my exciting news! 



I've just signed a contract with Tyndale House Publishers for my NEW historical time-slip novel, tentatively titled HOLD ON TO THIS MOMENT. Whoo-hoo! Release date to be determined, but look for it sometime in 2022! I'll share more details in the coming months, but for now I want to celebrate and you're invited to join the fun!!

I'm giving away TWO signed copies of UNDER THE TULIP TREE to TWO lucky subscribers of my blog (which is also my newsletter)! Here's all you need to do to be entered:

  1. Become a subscriber if you aren't already subscribed! It's easy to do. On the upper right hand corner of this page, you'll see a box that says "Sign up to receive my blog in your inbox." Type in your email address and submit. Done! If you're already a subscriber, you're already entered in the contest.
  2. Next, leave a comment on this post and tell me the name of your all-time favorite novel. (Nope, it doesn't have to be one of mine. Haha!) But remember, only subscribers who leave a comment will be entered in the contest. (If you're reading this in an email, click the link to the blog and pop over here to leave your comment.)
On Saturday, February 6, I'll draw ONE winner from the list of subscribers and ONE winner from everyone who leaves a comment. I'll notify the winners via email and post an update here. 

Thank you for your continued encouragement and support. I appreciate each one of you more than you'll ever know!

Okay! Let the fun begin!

Blessings,

~Michelle

Sunday, January 17, 2021

LISTEN: My word for 2021

 Happy New Year!

I hope 2021 has started well for each of you. Many are still feeling the effects of all that happened in 2020, and my prayer is that this new year will bring peace, joy, healing, and everything else this hurting world needs. 


For the past few years, I've chosen a word to meditate on in the new year. TRUST in 2017 when we lost our jobs and moved to Tennessee. REST in 2018 after surviving the craziness of 2017. HOPE in 2019 as I began writing a new book. COURAGE in 2020 as that book, Under the Tulip Tree, went out in to the world. 


The word I've chosen for 2021 is LISTEN. 

Listen is such an interesting word. To listen is different than simply hearing. We hear things--music, voices, birds, traffic, etc-- all day long, but we don't necessarily listen to them. The Pharisees heard Jesus speaking, but they didn't listen to what he was saying. The same is all too often true when GOD speaks to us today. Whether it's through His Word or through our spirits, listening to him--not just hearing--is vital! To listen also requires action. James 1:22 says, "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says!"

With the new year underway, I'm determined to listen more. I looked up a few verses to keep me on track: 

"Listen, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone." Deuteronomy 6:4 NLT

"This is my Son, my Chosen One. Listen to him." Luke 9:35 and Mark 9:7 NLT

"Listen to me and remember what I say." Luke 9:44 NLT

"Pay attention to how you hear." Luke 8:18 NLT

And my favorite, the verse I've chosen for 2021:

"My sheep listen to my voice. I know them, and they follow me." John 10:27 NLT

Listen. 

I think it's a great way to start a new year! This song by Chris McClarney, I'm Listening, is the perfect song to go with it. "Quiet my heart, I'm listening."




Blessings, 

~Michelle


Sunday, December 20, 2020

An Angel's Story: Part One


From my family to yours, 
MERRY CHRISTMAS! 

May you experience the True Joy of Christmas!
This year has been incredibly difficult for many people around the world. Yet despite it all, Christmas still comes. Jesus didn't enter a perfect world all those years ago. In fact, the people of those days could probably relate to much of what's happened in 2020 and 2021. 

A few years ago, I wondered what it might have been like to be an angel during those days. We read in the Bible about the angel Gabriel coming to tell Mary and then the shepherds about Jesus, but perhaps there was another angel--one who wasn't entirely certain what was happening. 

This is his story.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

AN ANGEL'S STORY
PART ONE 


Excitement tingled in the air. I and all the angels of heaven, as well as those serving on earth, had been summoned to present ourselves before the LORD. Something big was happening, but no one knew what. I hurried to take my place among the multitude, anticipation making it hard to stand still. When we'd all assembled--ten thousand times ten thousand and more!---Gabriel stepped forward and stood near God's throne. The Lamb sat on a throne on God's right. He looked peaceful, serene.

God rose from his seat and everyone grew quiet.

"Today the prophecy I gave my servant Isaiah will be fulfilled." His voice thundered through the heavens.

A hushed murmur rose from the crowd of angels. We knew God spoke of the covenant he'd made with a human named Isaiah, one of God's chosen race, the Hebrews. Isaiah was obedient and faithful, and God had placed upon him the responsibility to be His voice throughout the ages to the disobedient Jews. Through Isaiah, God promised to send a Messiah, One who would save the entire world from sin. God's patience with mankind continued to amaze me. They deserved the same fate as the people in Noah's day, but God promised never to destroy them again. Instead, He set in place a plan of salvation that even I didn't fully understand.

Seeing Gabriel standing beside God, I wondered if perhaps he was being sent to save the human race. Gabriel would be a good choice. He was strong and mighty, and God had sent him to earth on other occasions.

But just when I expected God to call Gabriel forward, the Lamb stood.

A collective gasp went through the crowd. Surely not the Lamb!

"I am sending the Lamb to be a sacrifice for all mankind," God said. "Whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life with us."

"No!" angels shouted all around me. "Not our Prince!"

God raised his hand for silence. "It must be so. There is no other way."

I looked and saw Michael and his army draw their swords. Relief swept through me. The Lamb would be protected. No harm would come to him.

But God instructed them to put their weapons away. "The Lamb will go alone. He will become human. He will be born of a virgin, and he will grow in wisdom and stature. After a time, however, the men of earth will reject him and kill him."

A terrible hurt rose inside me. I'd heard humans talk about something called sorrow, and I knew this must be what they meant. The pain grew deeper than anything I'd ever known as I watched my beloved Prince--heaven's treasure--depart God's presence. I didn't understand how God could allow this to happen, but I trusted Him to know what was best. He had never failed us before, and I knew He would not fail us now.

I felt a strange wetness on my face and was surprised to find tears dripping from my eyes. I looked and saw others around me wiping wetness from their faces too.

I hadn't known before.

Angels can cry.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Click here to continue reading An Angel's Story Part 2.

Click here to read An Angel's Story Part 3, the Conclusion.



Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Christian Fiction Scavenger Hunt STOP #20


UPDATE! 
THE HUNT IS OFFICIALLY CLOSED.  THE WINNER OF A SIGNED COPY OF UNDER THE TULIP TREE WILL BE NOTIFIED VIA EMAIL.  
THANK YOU TO ALL WHO PARTICIPATED!

Welcome to the Christian Fiction Scavenger Hunt! If you’ve just discovered the hunt, be sure to start at Stop #1, and collect the clues through all the stops, in order, so you can enter to win one of our top 5 grand prizes!
  • Hunt through our loop using Chrome or Firefox as your browser (not Explorer). 
  • There is NO RUSH to complete the hunt—you have all weekend (until Sunday, 10/18 at midnight MST)! So take your time, reading the unique posts along the way; our hope is that you discover new authors/new books and learn new things about them. 
  • Submit your entry for the grand prizes by collecting the CLUE on each author’s scavenger hunt post and submitting your answer in the Rafflecopter form at the final stop, back on Lisa’s site. Many authors are offering additional prizes along the way!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I'm so glad you're here! I'm Michelle Shocklee, a fellow reader, but also a writer of historical fiction. As an admitted history nerd, I dearly love digging into the past through research and by visiting musty old buildings, forts, and battlefields, always imagining what it would have been like to live in bygone days. You can find out more about me and my books here on my blog, on my website, Facebook page, Twitter, and Instagram. 

My newest release, UNDER THE TULIP TREE, is a time-slip novel based on the Federal Writers' Project Slave Narratives. It tells the story of two women, separated by age, race, and circumstance, who form an unlikely friendship in 1936. But will this bond of respect, admiration, and friendship be broken by a revelation neither woman sees coming?

"Shocklee elevates the redemptive power of remorse and 
the grace of forgiveness in this moving saga." 
~Publishers Weekly

"With its haunting message of forgiveness, this is a must-buy for 
any Christian or historical fiction collection."
~Library Journal

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

If you haven't had an opportunity to read the word-for-word narratives of 1936, I highly recommend searching them out online at the Library of Congress. Reading them was life-changing for me. In the meantime, let me introduce you to a few of the people whose stories inspired some of the most unforgettable characters I've ever written.

Anderson and Minerva Edwards, Ages 93 and 87, Marshall, Texas
Library of Congress, 1936-38

Anderson and Minerva Edwards, a Baptist preacher and his wife, were slaves on adjoining plantations in Texas. Anderson was born in 1844, and Minerva in 1850. They were married after emancipation and raised sixteen children. The first "church" Anderson attended was under a big mulberry tree on the plantation. His master told him that if he was good and obeyed his master, he'd go to heaven. But Anderson felt there was more to it than that, and kept praying until "I felt the change in my heart. I was by myself down by a spring when I found the Lord."

I find their love story and their faith in God incredibly inspiring. The relationship between Frankie and Sam in UNDER THE TULIP TREE is loosely based on them.

Sam Jones Washington, Age 88, Texas
Library of Congress, 1936-1938

His smile is infectious. I can almost hear him chuckling at something the photographer said before snapping his picture. A picture that would, 82 years later, inspire the character of Sam in my novel UNDER THE TULIP TREE.

Sam Jones Washington was born a slave in Wharton County, Texas. He was sixteen years old when the Civil War ended. Like many slaves in Texas, he wasn’t aware of the war or its end until his master told him he was free and would now earn a wage for his work. After the war, he farmed and worked in a factory before retiring. I hope he doesn't mind that I borrowed his name and his smile for my character, Sam.

                                                          Unnamed Mississippi cotton sharecropper
Library of Congress, 1937

I'll never know her name, but her photograph changed my novel.

Her right hand, resting in her lap, looks different. Large and possibly disfigured. As I studied it, I couldn't help but wonder, "What happened to her hand?" That question--and the answer I eventually imagined--changed Frankie's story in UNDER THE TULIP TREE. It changed me, too. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Here's the Stop #20 Basics: 
  • If you're interested, you can order UNDER THE TULIP TREE on Amazon, B&N, ChristianBook, or at your local bookstore!
  • Clue to Write Down: that
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Before you go, be sure to become a Subscriber to this Blog for a chance to win a print copy of UNDER THE TULIP TREE (US only) or an eBook copy of one of my plantation novels! To become a Subscriber and be entered in this exclusive giveaway, just type your email address in the box on the top-right of this page! Easy and done! I'll notify the winner Monday, October 19.

Every blessing,

~Michelle 

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Why Forgiveness is Important, Even in Fiction

 


Forgiveness is a major theme in my latest novel, Under the Tulip Tree. I appreciate the way Publishers Weekly put it in their review of the book: the grace of forgiveness. 

Forgiveness isn't an easy subject to write about, mainly because the act of forgiving isn't always easy. It's especially hard when the person who needs forgiveness extended to them has done the unspeakable to you or to someone you love. 

Such is the case with the character of Frankie in Under the Tulip Tree. In the book, she is a 101-year old woman who was a slave before the Civil War. It's now 1936 and she's been asked to tell her story to a young white woman who works for the Federal Writers' Project, a real government program that sent out-of-work writers across 17 states to collect first-hand stories from former slaves. Those stories--more than 2,300 of them plus over 500 photographs--are now archived in the Library of Congress in Washington DC. 

In my research for the book, I read well over one hundred narratives (and listened to a handful of unforgettable recordings), captured by the raw honesty of the stories these former slaves told. It was that kind of honesty I hoped to portray through the character of Frankie. One of the things that struck me as I read through the first-hand accounts of life in bondage was the lack of wallowing in the pain. They simply told their life's story, with poignant details that left me brokenhearted. 

So, as I set out to write the book, one question demanded an answer.

Was it possible for a former slave to truly forgive the people who'd abused them?

I point you to Frederick Douglass, a former slave who escaped slavery and became one of the most famous authors and voices in the anti-slavery movement. His writings are fascinating and eye-opening, and they make me wish I could have heard him give one of his many passion-filled speeches. 

Yet despite Frederick Douglass' vehement words against slavery, he did an astonishing thing.

He forgave. 

"How can I claim to love Jesus Christ and still reserve for myself the right to continue to hate?" he told a crowd at the Metropolitan AME Zion Church in Washington DC. At the time, he was speaking of his hatred for Thomas Jefferson, whose words about freedom in the Declaration of Independence rang false to him. But his forgiveness didn't end with Jefferson. In his later years, Douglass sought out Thomas Auld, his former owner, and forgave him for the mistreatment he'd endured during his time of bondage. "I entertain no malice toward you personally,” Douglass wrote in a letter to Auld some years before their meeting. “There is no roof under which you would be more safe than mine, and there is nothing in my house which you might need for your comfort, which I would not readily grant…I am your fellow-man, but not your slave.” History.com has a good write-up about their meeting if you'd like to read more. 

As I studied Douglass' life and words, I wondered how many of the millions of unknown slaves came to the same place of forgiveness as he did. The person who'd endured slavery until the very moment it was abolished. Who'd had unspeakable things done to them by another human being, simply because their skin color was different. Were they ever able to forgive their former masters and those who'd abused them?

There is no possible way for me to fully appreciate or understand what it meant to live in bondage. To grasp how utterly helpless enslaved people were against the legal ownership of a human being. To watch their children and loved ones brutally abused, sold away, and used in the most heinous ways. In writing Frankie's story, I in no way cast any judgment on an individual who might have taken their hatred to the grave with them. The truth is, I wouldn't blame them one bit.

Yet forgiveness must play a role in the story, because forgiveness is part of the human story. The story between God and man. Forgiveness isn't something any of us deserve, yet it was granted to us freely when Jesus went to the cross, carrying every sin known to man. All my sins were forgiven before I was ever born. Yours too. Forgiveness isn't something we can ever earn. It has to be freely given by the one who's been wronged, no matter if the person who wronged you ever admits it or seeks forgiveness.

Frankie's journey to forgiveness is inspired by Frederick Douglass and others who chose not to let hatred consume them despite being completely justified in that hatred. If you'd like to read Frankie's story in Under the Tulip Tree, visit my website for buying options or click the cover on the right of this page.

Every blessing,

~Michelle

  


 

Friday, September 18, 2020

Frankie: The woman who inspired my all-time favorite character


When I began writing Under the Tulip Tree in the summer of 2018, I thought I knew where the story was headed. I'd discovered the slave narratives several years earlier while researching slavery in Texas for my plantation novels, so I was very familiar with the word-for-word first-person stories told to employees of the Federal Writers' Project by former slaves in 1936. My goal in writing Under the Tulip Tree was to capture the raw realness of the narratives by creating a character that would bring them to life for readers in the same way they'd come to life for me. The problem was, as I began writing Frankie's story, something was wrong. She was flat. A cardboard cutout of a woman who'd endured one of the most shameful practices known to man. I could have kept writing and hoped for the best, but ultimately I knew something major needed to change. I just didn't know what. 

Getting the character of Frankie right was vital. Not just for the sake of the story, but for the sake of the history behind the story. For the real people whom my characters would represent. The former slaves who shared their stories with strangers back in 1936 deserved my very best in 2018. To accomplish that, I needed to dig deeper. Deeper into Frankie, and deeper into myself.  


I returned to the narratives. While I prefer to read them in their unedited state, with the storytellers' own pronunciation and wording, the little research book I'd purchased about slavery in Tennessee is edited for clarity.  I picked it up, as I'd done dozens of times, and thumbed through the pages, wondering what I was missing in Frankie's story. Because it would be impossible for me to understand what life was like for a person kept in bondage, I relied heavily on the narratives themselves to guide me. 

After searching the pages without success,  I closed it, frustrated. I couldn't keep working on my book until I figured this out.

That's when my eyes fell on the woman gracing the cover of the research book. Of course I'd seen her picture many times before, but this was the first time I truly looked at it. What I saw was an elderly black woman sitting on the porch of a simple dwelling, deep in thought. There are other details to notice--her braids, her ring, the hole in her blouse--but it was her hand in her lap that captured my attention. 

In the photo, it appears it doesn't seem quite right. The knuckles look too big and there may be two fingers missing.

"What happened to her hand?" I gasped.

That question---and the answer I eventually imagined---completely changed Under the Tulip Tree and Frankie's story. I won't give any spoilers, but for those of you who have read the book, you know what I mean. Frankie's story poured out from that picture. I did some investigating and discovered that the woman pictured was a sharecropper in Mississippi.  Her name, however, was unfortunately not recorded. (Note: I eventually found a second photograph of her from a different angle, and although her hand is hidden, it does appear that all her fingers are intact.) 


Cotton sharecropper; http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2017770271/

Cotton sharecropper. Library of Congress.

For me, she has become Frankie. I hope one day I get to hug her and tell her about Frankie and how her picture and her life changed me. 

I hope you'll choose to read Under the Tulip Tree and get to know Frankie and Rena. Order links are on the top right of the blog home page or at my website, www.MichelleShocklee.com.  

If you're interested in learning more about the slave narratives and the Federal Writers' Project,  visit my website. I've posted links to some of the sites and books I used in my research. 

Every blessing,
Michelle 

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

It's Release Day!


HAPPY BIRTHDAY, 

UNDER THE TULIP TREE!! 


"...for He already had in mind what He was going to do." John 6:6


Today is Under the Tulip Tree's birthday! Whoohoo!! I'm so excited to share this story of unlikely friendship, reconciliation, and forgiveness with readers. I began writing it in the summer of 2018, signed the contract in August 2019, and here we are in September 2020. It's not exactly like the birth of a child, but close. We authors have hopes and dreams for our "book babies." Not just that they will succeed out in the big world, but that they'll serve a purpose that goes beyond sales numbers and reviews. The verse I've quoted above from John 6:6 is the verse I've chosen for this book. Jesus was getting ready to feed the 5,000, but all he had to work with was five small barley loaves and two small fish. Under the Tulip Tree is my loaves and fish. A small offering in the hands of Jesus can do amazing things! 

I'd love for you to celebrate with me. I'll give away a FREE signed copy of Under the Tulip Tree to one of you! Just leave a comment on this post and I'll put your name in a special drawing I'm holding exclusively for readers of my blog. For an extra chance at winning a copy of the book and some other Nashville-themed goodies, all you need to do is become a subscriber to the blog (which currently acts as my newsletter). I promise you won't be inundated with emails--only a few here and there. I'll be giving away several copies of the book over the next months, but only folks signed up to receive the blog via email will be entered as a way of saying THANK YOU for your continued support and encouragement. To subscribe, enter your email in the top right-hand corner of the blog home page. It's easy to unsubscribe at any time...but I hope we'll stay connected here.

Under the Tulip Tree is available online and in bookstores. Visit my website for store options or you can visit my Amazon page

Thanks for celebrating with me!

Every blessing,

~Michelle