Your Life & Mine: Books From Childhood

On a bookshelf in my office, I keep a group of ragged books By Laura Ingalls Wilder. You can see from the photo above that they’ve been used hard and read often. If I hired a decorator to help me add a touch of the artistic to my home, I imagine she or he would tell me to tuck those books into a less prominent place, but I wouldn’t. I have three good reasons for that choice. The first is that I love these books. I still read them often. The second is that each day they remind me of how much I owe to a multitude of people who encouraged me to pursue my dreams, and how much I owe to a multitude of books that opened my eyes to the magic of words.

My last reason is even more personal. These books were gifts from my paternal grandparents who gave me a book each Christmas from my tenth year through my seventeenth. Each was inscribed by my grandmother, and when I see her lovely old-fashioned handwriting, my eyes tear and my heart soars.

Did anyone give you books when you were child? Share your story with us.

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July 2017 BOOK WINNER!!

Congratulations to Brenda Lee Harrison who won our July 2017 Free Book! In answer to the question, “Do you think you could live the Amish lifestyle with few modern conveniences?” Brenda said, “No, thanks!” I’m smiling about that answer!

Brenda, message me with your address and I will mail the book to you ASAP!

Happy Reading,
Sue

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Free Book July 2017!

We are delighted to highlight Olivia Newport’s newest Amish book GLADDEN THE HEART as our July 2017 free book!!

From the back cover: “1847: The members of the Amish church in the Kishacoquillas Valley of central Pennsylvania don’t know quite what to make of the Methodist tent revival going on down the road. From the lively singing and impassioned preaching to the altar calls and prayers of salvation, it’s nothing like their solemn ways of worship and tradition…When the divided community faces a life-or-death situation, they must respond to a crisis that challenges them to look past their differences.”

I’ve found Olivia’s novel to have particular significance in this time of political division. Our July 2017 free book is a new trade paperback edition.

To have your name included in our Wednesday, July 19 drawing, please answer this question: Do you think you could live as the Amish do without most modern conveniences?

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Dirt & Bones: Pottery and Playdough

Last fall my husband dug up a bit of what he calls “gumbo” and what area potters call “Pickford clay.”

I ran a few Facebook posts about it as I tempered it with sand and molded it into a sort-of cup. My attempts are far from being good work, but the process helped me understand how the ancient potters of Neolithic (New Stone Age) times felt when they were learning to use clay for more than a casing to roast fish or red meat in earthen pits.


The leaf on the bottom of the pot is my own invention. It easily pealed away from the clay after the pot was completed. Other materials I tried didn’t!

I haven’t built up enough courage to fire my little cup, because I’m pretty sure it will crack apart under the stress, but I’m proud of my efforts.

My niece Frances has studied archaeology, and on one of her digs she found some wonderful pottery shards that she was allowed to keep. She was kind enough to send me a few samples.

Perhaps you can make out the marks from the cob of corn used to decorate the pottery shard in the center.

When I was writing the pottery scenes in HORSES OF THE WEST SUN (aka Bone Fire), I kept a few shards on my desk. Those shards became a time machine for me as I thought about the ancient hands that formed them, and they allowed me to delve more deeply into the lives of my characters as I wrote their stories.

Are you a potter? If not, do you think you’d enjoy learning? Or are your efforts, like mine, mostly limited to Playdough?

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Your Life & Mine: Rocks and Roses


When we moved to our loft apartment on a sandy lot in the woods, I left behind an almost-thriving perennial garden. An abundant crop of rocks and boulders in our current location was discouraging to say the least, but with my husband’s encouragement, I gradually began to develop a rock garden. I do only a bit more each summer and since this is only the third full summer we’ve lived here, my garden remains small, but I’m having fun. It’s centerpiece is a pin cherry tree which grew up wild. It handles our 40 below (F.) winters with barely a shiver.

I have quite a way to go before I’ve completely turned our stony ground into a haven for roses, but isn’t that what we all face with any new project? The greater the odds against success, the sweeter the victory.

This is only half of the remaining rocks and wild growth!

Do you have a garden. Any photos to share? What are your favorite flowers?

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June 2017 Free Book Winner!!!

Congratulations to our June 2017 book winner, Silva Freeman. In answer to our question about what position she would take in Mr. Rochester’s household, Silva said, “Maid.” Silva, message me your address, and I’ll send MR. ROCHESTER (the book not the man…) ASAP!!!

Happy Reading!
Sue

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June 2017 FREE BOOK!

My friend, Sarah Shoemaker, wrote this exquisite book, which is set in England late in the reign of George III (1760-1820). Our June 2017 Free Book edition is a new hardcover.

Author Mary Sharratt praises MR. ROCHESTER: “Prepare to be swept off your feet by Sarah Shoemaker’s stunning MR. ROCHESTER. As one of countless readers who adored Charlotte Bronte’s JANE EYRE, but never quite understood what Jane saw in Mr. Rochester, I was spellbound. Beautifully written, exquisitely crafted, and deeply engaging, MR. ROCHESTER is pure book club gold.”

Edward Rochester, the protagonist of this novel, grew up in a privileged family in England. His world included a variety servants. To have your name included in our Wednesday, June 14 drawing, tell us what job would best fit you in Mr. Rochester’s household: nanny, governess, cook, maid, butler, farrier, music instructor, language instructor, gardener, groundskeeper, or porter?

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Dirt & Bones: Living Quarters

In my current novel (Working title: HORSES OF THE WEST SUN, previously BONE FIRE), I based the houses of the River People on the rectangular, semi-subterranean dwellings used by the Dudeşti people who settled in what is now Romania during the sixth millennium B.C. These houses are built to endure rain and cold weather. By sinking them into the ground, the earth itself acts as an insulator against heat and cold. In our research trip to Eastern Europe we were able to visit a reconstruction of a similar home. I thought you might like to see a few photos.

In the novel, the River People’s houses were constructed as simple rectangles so are not as elaborate as the one in this photo. They are, however, similarly set into the earth and roofed with thatch.

This photo is a close up of the roof thatching, trimmed at the ends. In this part of the world, river/swale reeds are the most convenient thatching material, abundant along the Danube.

The walls of the River People’s semi-subterranean homes were constructed of daub-and-wattle, which have an inner structure of withes woven over vertical posts as in this picture. Once the walls were in place they were covered with a mud mixture to make them more resistant to rain, snow, and wind.

Although I’m thoroughly spoiled having lived in warm modern homes all my life, these structures were a fine innovation developed within the Neolithic era. (In my novel that means about 5600 B.C.)

Do you live in a house or an apartment? What kind of roof do you have? Our is metal. Does anyone out there have a thatched roof?

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Your Life & Mine: Ironing Day

My brother Bob and I loved ironing day. On ironing day, our mother filled the laundry basket with dampened clothes. She wrestled her old wooden ironing board from its place in the closet and plugged in her iron. Then as she pressed out the wrinkles in our clothes, she told us stories.

Knights and kings, giants and witches, fairies and unicorns shimmered in the space between her board and our chairs, drawn up close. Magic grew like beanstalks above the homey scent of cotton, hot and steaming under my mother’s iron.

My mother was a tiny woman, more than a foot short of my father’s six-foot-one- inch height. Little Patty Sawyer was dark of hair and eyes, her skin was as golden as a warm day. Exceedingly bright, exceedingly shy, in love with her husband, her children, music, books, language, her piano students, her faith, her God. I’m quite sure I’m a novelist because of the words my mother spun as she smoothed away life’s small problems with the joy of her stories.

Is your family blessed with storytellers? Tell us about them.

My mother is the little girl with the book (of course) at the back of the picture. The photo was taken in 1939 when she was in fifth grade.

Blessings!
Sue

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Our May 2017 Free Book Winner!

Congratulations to Rashawn, who won our drawing for THE INVENTION OF WINGS by Sue Monk Kidd!

In answer to our question about birthday presents, Rashawn said that her favorite gifts were books, and she knew she wanted to be a writer when she was still very young. Congratulations, Rashawn, please email me at sue@sueharrison.com with your address and I will send the book ASAP!

Happy Reading,
Sue

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