Saturday, November 1, 2014

FAMILY SECRETS - The day of the Release Party

November 1st is the day I set aside for the release celebration for my novel, Family Secrets. I have been leaving tidbits of information about this story at several online sources recently. But, for today, I decided to tell a little of what prompted me to write Family Secrets.

I love family history research. The problem I encounter when researching my own family or Buck's (my blog name for my husband) is that I easily get engrossed in the history of the time for the locality where our ancestors lived. Then, when I turned from the technical/legal writing of being a union steward to writing fiction, I decided to write about what I know. Why not take that love of history about everyday families and turn it into a book series?

When coming up with an outline for a series of books, I wanted the same young woman and her family to continue from one book to the next, even though the featured ancestors would change. Since I am somewhat familiar with the Sacramento area, I placed Jennie Graves Howell and her family in the hypothetical city of Golden Oaks located in that region north of Elk Grove, east of Florin and south of Sacramento. Thus, the Golden Oaks series was born. 

One of the basic principles of starting family history research is to first gather all the information available from living family members. That includes documents, pictures, artifacts and family stories. For this starting novel, Jennie finds herself pulled into, and then captivated by, researching her own family, starting with her own parents. But, when Jennie starts asking basic questions about full names and relationships, dates and places of births, marriages and deaths, she soon realizes that there is a lot about her family that has been kept secret. Her mother, her maternal grandmother and her great aunt know things about the past that they choose to not talk about. Over time, Jennie realizes that it is her Grandpa Mike who is keeping a secure lock on these secrets.

In an effort to be the key to convincing her grandfather to unlock that strong box of secrecy, Jennie agrees to go with her neighbor, a professional genealogist, to a local group of family enthusiasts. The November topic is conducting oral history interviews. Jennie attends, hoping to learn enough to get Grandpa Mike talking at Thanksgiving Day dinner.

The Golden Oaks Family Ties club, whose members are sometimes called the GOFT or the goofy ladies, will continue to make their presence known throughout the Golden Oaks series of books. To make this group more appealing to a younger reading audience, I deliberately did not set this up as a genealogy club. Although a few genealogists belong, other members, including another young mother like Jennie, share their desire to strengthen family ties through photography, creating scrapbooks, needlework, quilting, story writing and cultural research and sharing.

Although Jennie's mom, Christy, and her maternal grandmother, Jan, play big roles in this story, the real star is Grandpa Mike Carpenter. To develop his character, I drew upon the experiences of two people. Like many former members of the military, Mike went to work for the Post Office as a city carrier once he was released from active duty.  Although I worked as a rural carrier after the Post Office was changed to the United States Postal Service, I was able to draw on what I knew about the organization's history, jargon and operating procedures for his character.

But, it was Buck's experiences in the Vietnam War that make up the lion's share of Mike's story.

The nation did not have an all-volunteer Army in the 1960s. Being a husband and father did not keep Buck from being drafted. He chose to enlist for three years instead of going in as a draftee for two years because he wanted to serve in a specialty of his choice. Like Mike Carpenter in Family Secrets, he chose to be a heavy equipment operator. The pins and badges depicted on the bottom of of the novel cover are Buck's. In Vietnam, like Mike, Buck served in the 84th Construction Engineers battalion stationed near Qui Nhon. He was there at the time of the Tet Offensive. Unlike Mike, Buck continued his career in the engineering construction field both as a laborer and heavy equipment operator, retiring as a crane operator.

Buck took pictures while he was in Vietnam in 1967 to 1968. He had them developed into slides, a  popular photo format during that era. By the time he and I met when we were in our forties, those slides had been stored in hot garages for decades. They were faded or degraded past the point of being viewable. So, although I have a nice of collection of Vietnam War photos on my Pinterest FAMILY SECRETS board, none of them came from Buck.

But, what Buck did still have besides his DD-214, pins and patches was his stories. He shared them with me several times. Unlike Mike in Family Secrets, Buck learned early on that talking about what happened over there helped him get past the nightmares, flashbacks and warped attitudes about life that followed him home from Vietnam. Although fictionalized, with the exception of one incident (although Buck assures me that incident is very realistic), the portions of this novel about the Vietnam War and the return to the United States at the SEATAC airport are Buck's stories. They are based on what he actually experienced.

I sincerely hope you will enjoy reading Family Secrets. Although it is not a traditional Thanksgiving Day story, it tells of Mike's Thanksgiving while in Vietnam. It tells of Jennie's efforts at her family's Thanksgiving dinner to persuade her Grandpa Mike to share his history. When you finish reading this book, you may think of a few more things for which you can be grateful this Thanksgiving season.

If you are on Facebook, please join me on my FAMILY SECRETS page by searching for it by name in the search window or by clicking HERE. Please stop by between 10:00a.m. and 12 noon PDT to participate in the discussion and get in on the drawing for a free digital copy of the book. If you don't make it until later, stop by anyway. I plan to post lots of images and teasers related to Family Secrets, including some recipes, a tote bag tutorial and a link to a great 3 minute You-Tube video about the Vietnam War.

If you don't have a Facebook account, you can still get in on a drawing for two prizes by leaving a comment at the bottom of this blog post. This portion of the release party will run on November 1st from 1:00a.m. to 11:59p.m. PDT. I will take all the names of those who comment on Facebook and add them to everyone who comments on this blog post. One prize will be a free copy of Family Secrets in either digital format from a vendor of your choice (Kindle, Nook or Smashwords) or in print trade paperback. The second prize will be an "any way you read" book bag created by yours truly using a gilded oak leaves design on rusty red in keeping with the Golden Oaks series theme. One large pocket that is quilted on the outside will hold most large e-readers or tablets. The smaller quilted pockets on the other side will hold a small e-reader and/or smartphone. The center will hold one or more good-size print books. And, just so there are no misunderstandings, the book bag prize does not include the e-readers or smartphone shown in the pictures to the right.

Please visit my FAMILY SECRETS board on Pinterest. Click on the Pinterest button in the right sidebar of this blog to reach it. Many of the images towards the top include bits of information about the novel in the description section. And, if you just can't wait to see if you are the winner of the free copy of the book, the buy links are in the sidebar to the left of this blog post.

Thank you for stopping by. I look forward to reading your comments. Please check back Monday, November 3rd in the late afternoon to see if you are one of the winners.

Have a great day!





5 comments:

  1. What a shame all those slides were damaged, but still wonderful that Buck could share his stories of Vietnam.
    I really enjoyed reading the history of the Sacramento area.
    I don't know about you, but I'm addicted to Pinterest.
    Lovely blog, Robyn. I wish you great success with Family Secrets.

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    1. Thank you, Sarah. I appreciate you stopping by. Yes, it is a shame those pictures are lost. And, although those stories about the Vietnam War are not necessarily pretty, they give a sense of what our warriors who go into combat face. It has been very satisfying to me to include many of his stories in this book.

      Robyn Echols writing as Zina Abbott

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    2. Sarah -- Sorry I'm later getting back to you than I originally said. You are the winner of a copy of FAMILY SECRETS. You can have it in digital format from either Amazon, Nook or Smashwords. Or, if you are willing to wait a few weeks, I can send you an autographed bound copy in trade paperback. Please let me know. Thanks again for reading my blog post and responding.

      Robyn Echols aka Zina Abbott

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  3. Thank you so much, Robyn. I would love to have a paperback copy signed by you. My email address is starcriter at yahoo dot com. If you email me privately, I will give you my snail mail addy.
    Thank you again for this wonderful prize.

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