I love split-time books. I think I was first introduced to that writing mechanism by Fannie Flagg, who is one of my favorite authors. But writing split-time means a historical timeline in addition to the contemporary, which, in my opinion, means more research.
In writing Songs for a Sunday, I relied heavily on two resources: the Winston-Salem Time Traveler website, owned by Molly Rawls, and the North Carolina Collection of the Forsyth County Central Library. There is an amazing wealth of information in both places. I had articles and photographs right at my fingertips to help in constructing a 1960s story.
Ms. Rawls is the author of five books about Winston-Salem, including Winston-Salem: From the Collection of Frank B. Jones, Jr. Mr. Jones was a photographer for the Winston-Salem Journal and Twin City Sentinel newspapers. He captured the city in photos from the 1930s to the early 1970s.
While doing research for the book, I discovered that Winston-Salem celebrated its bicentennial in one of the years in which the story is set. Though Winston and Salem actually merged in 1913, the oldest of the two cities is Salem, which was founded in 1766. In 1966, the city had a year-long celebration to celebrate its 200th birthday, which included hosting Billy Graham at the Festival of Thanksgiving in November of that year. In December, The Nutcracker was first performed by students from North Carolina School of the Arts, which is mentioned in the book.
Somewhere along the way, my research landed me on eBay, where I discovered the juice glasses pictured below. These glasses were made to commemorate the birthday, and they are in great condition. Of course, I had to buy them for inspiration. Having these in my home, something Annie might have owned and passed down to Missy, helped me feel closer to the characters I was writing about.
I hope readers learn a few things about Winston-Salem and enjoy the history sprinkled throughout Songs for a Sunday.
The book releases 2/7/23 and is available for pre-order now:
Want to know how I have a story set in the future that isn't a "futuristic" story?
Songs for a Sunday is my first split-time novel. A story set in the 1960s is told alongside a story set in the present day and the two merge to tell a bigger story. In that way, the book is both historical and contemporary, which makes it only my second historical work.
After writing Where I Was Planted, for a time, I doubted I would do another historical. All books take research, but in my experience, there is much more research time involved for historical (and I only had to go as far back as the 1960s.) While I find it all interesting, it definitely adds another level of complexity to novel-writing.
Another layer of complexity for split-time is aligning the story timelines and keeping them straight. When I wrote Songs for a Sunday, primarily back in 2020, I ran into what seemed like a problem. One of my characters needed to be born around the time the North Carolina School of the Arts was being planned. But in the present-day story, that same character needed to celebrate a milestone birthday because his party is important to the plot. For my character to have been celebrating his 60th birthday, it meant my "present day" storyline would begin in Fall of 2023, since I didn't want to alter the dates of real historical events. But was it okay to tell a story that far in the future and have the heading on the page be "Present Day?"
When I first started pitching the story, an editor told me not to stress over the dates too much because there was no way to know when the story would get published. And she was right. The publication date landed in the same year as the "present day" timeline, even though the book will be published a little over eight months before the story actually begins.
As stressful as nailing down the timeline was, it's the kind of thing I enjoy about writing books. The planning and the telling are like putting together a puzzle, except you don't know exactly what the picture will look like until you're finished. Songs for a Sunday releases February 7, 2023, and I hope you enjoy the final product.
My obsession with audiobooks probably started last year when I listened to the three books in "The Broken Road" series by Richard Paul Evans. I listen to audiobooks primarily through the subscription service Sribd, and I almost always have a book playing while I'm driving. I even bought a Bluetooth speaker so I can connect my phone and listen to audiobooks in the shower. I listened to some fantastic stories this year, and I'm excited to share the list with you.
The following are in no particular order, and there's a chance that I actually listened to some of them late last year. (I didn't track the dates and time is running together.) I'm also quite sure I'm forgetting some. But all of the books listed below are wonderful.
Now that I've shared some great books with you, I feel it's time to share my shameful secret. I've been dreading this for a while.
I wasn't a reader of Christian Fiction before I started writing Christian Fiction. To be fair, I didn't set out to write a book, either. When a story struck me one day back in 2017, and I felt compelled (obsessed) to write it, I was excited that I could create a piece of fiction and tell people about Jesus at the same time, It was only after I dove headfirst into writing and publishing Grace & Lavender that I realized there are thousands of brilliant people with the same goal.
I actually was not a big reader when I started writing, which I felt guilty about. I had read everything written by Fannie Flagg (except the most famous one made into a movie) and I had been enamored for years with Gone with the Wind and To Kill a Mockingbird. I really enjoyed Robert Beatty's Serafina series, too. But how could I love writing so much and not be passionate about reading? It made me feel like an imposter.
I quickly learned that, along with studying writing through conferences, craft books, blogs, and podcasts, I needed to study other writer's works, too. For a long time, that made reading even harder because I analyzed everything I read, rather than simply enjoying it. That, combined with my lack of time to sit down and read, is one of the reasons I love audiobooks so much. Having someone read to me takes away some of the inclination to analyze sentence structure and verb choices. Plus, I can listen while I do so many other things. Some of the books I listed above have sparked a renewed passion for reading. Now I can't seem to get enough. Maybe audiobooks would be a good choice for you, too.
I truly hope Songs for a Sunday will be released as an audiobook, but I won't know that for a while. Three of my books are available on audio now, though. (Where I Was Planted is my favorite.)
Happy reading and listening in 2023!
The Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword. (Hebrews 4:12) So, when someone says that a movie, book, or sermon "brings the Bible to life," it doesn't mean the Bible needs reviving. At least, it shouldn't. But as fans of the wildly popular television series "The Chosen" attest, retellings of Bible stories can help us understand and relate to those historical events in a new and powerful way.
In Bible story books for children, the thoughts and feelings of Biblical characters are often imagined, and details extraneous to the Biblical account are included to help the reader visualize what the scene might have looked like. Biblical Fiction for adults does the same thing, but often with plotlines and character arcs that go much further into the "what might have happened" realm while staying true to Biblical information and the overall theme of Scripture. My dad, Bobby W. Norman's, first published book, In the Days When Judges Ruled, is a bit of a mix between the two. While you won't find the story of Jael driving a tent peg through Sisera's head in most Bible story books, it is included in his anthology about the judges of Israel, though in a standalone story about Deborah and not a novelized account of the Biblical period.
As a devoted pastor for over forty-five years, my father has spent countless hours studying the Bible. His studies, combined with his love of story and his creative imagination, resulted in TWO books released this year, both Biblical Fiction with some very unique elements, and I was honored to assist him with editing and publication.
Before the time of the judges, the nation of Israel had strayed from her godly heritage and into idolatry, and God had allowed them to be sold into the hands of their enemies as punishment. When the people repented, God sent judges to rescue them from bondage and restore their land. In the Days When Judges Ruled, which released in April 2022, is a retelling of the stories of those sixteen men and one woman, based on the record of Scripture. The unique part of the anthology is the Biblical commentary weaved into the creative writing. The stories of the judges reveal life-changing lessons for us today.
My dad's second book, The Generations of Adam, released in October 2022, and the imagination involved in the telling of the creation account is spectacular. The book takes us from the beginning of the world and Adam's fall, all the way to Adam's being redeemed from sin by the resurrected Messiah, with many thought-provoking scenes along the way. Have you ever wondered if Adam might have had a special pet in the Garden of Eden? What if it was a pet dinosaur? How perplexing it must have been when Adam and Eve realized their child had a belly button and they did not. What if Adam kept a diary of the first human experience? Told in a narrative style, this Biblical Fiction work also has a good bit of sound Biblical commentary interspersed. The first and last chapters of the book are my favorite, and the powerful message of the Gospel is brought full circle.
My dad has always been the most enthusiastic supporter of my writing career, and I am so proud he's now realized his dream of being a published author. There is much more on the way from him. Follow Bobby W. Norman on Amazon to learn more.
As the name suggests, music is an important theme in my upcoming novel, Songs for a Sunday (available for pre-order now.)
THREE SONGS, in particular, play very important roles in the story.
1.) Amazing Grace, by John Newton
Written in 1772, this beloved anthem of the church is very important to the plot of the story. After not singing in public for many years, a character in the book is encouraged to perform at a party. But the song she’s asked to sing isn’t a “party song”. It’s Amazing Grace. How can she possibly sing about a grace she gave up on a long time ago?
One of the hardest parts of writing the book was imagining that someone could sing Amazing Grace without being moved by the words. But certainly, many of us have different hurts and circumstances that, at one time or another, have hardened our hearts to truth. The beautiful thing is that grace is still alive and available, no matter what we’ve been through.
I love singing and leading others in singing Amazing Grace. After the last verse in the hymnal, at my church we often sing "Praise God" over and over to the melody.
2.) O Holy Night, by Adolphe Adam
Although not a "Christmas book," a large part of the present-day timeline in Songs for a Sunday takes place at Christmastime, and "O Holy Night" plays a MAJOR role. Don't you love this song? It has to be one of my favorites. I think my favorite line is:
"The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friend.
3.) Peace in the Valley, by Thomas A. Dorsey, performed by Elvis Presley
I absolutely love the video of Elvis Presley singing Peace in the Valley on the Ed Sullivan Show. Something about it moves me to tears. It's been said that Ed Sullivan was hesitant to let Elvis sing a gospel song on his show and that Elvis responded, “But Mr. Sullivan, I promised my Mama.”
I'm not going to spoil how this song is used in my upcoming novel, Songs for a Sunday, but it's very important to one character in the 1960s timeline!
So far, in looking at real locations in Songs for a Sunday, we've talked about University of North Carolina School of the Arts and Reynolds Auditorium. This next location is somewhere very special and is the setting of the entire second chapter of the book.
Hanging Rock State Park is located about 30 miles north of Winston-Salem in Stokes County and was started as a project of the Civilian Conservation Corps. It was completed in 1942. The father of the two fictional sisters in my 1960s timeline was a member of the CCC and helped build the park.
The 9,011-acre park gets its name from the rock formation pictured and is a fantastic place for hiking, swimming, biking, climbing, and just enjoying nature.
My children and I spent a wonderful day at Hanging Rock State Park in May of 2019 that doubled as book research. I didn't get to visit the specific waterfall used in the story on that day, so I had to rely on pictures, but my family did hike to it on a return trip in 2021.
Songs for a Sunday releases 2/7/23, but you can pre-order now: https://www.amazon.com/Songs-Sunday-Heather.../dp/1563096137
(Image: Brett van Beynum/Google)
"This auditorium is to be devoted to the cultivation of the arts and sciences, and to the education of people, in affectionate recognition of the life and services of him in whose honor and memory it is dedicated." That's the inscription on the bronze memorial tablet in the lobby of Richard J. Reynolds Memorial Auditorium in Winston-Salem, which was dedicated May 8, 1924.
Last week, I shared a little about University of North Carolina School of the Arts, a place that's history plays a very important role in my upcoming novel Songs for a Sunday. This week, I want to share another location that's featured in my book. (Can you see me in the picture, standing in the middle of those six giant columns?)
Reynolds Auditorium is the setting of TWO pivotal scenes--one in the 1960s timeline and one in the present-day timeline. Both of these scenes are some of the most emotional I've ever written.
The building is so majestic, it begged to be included in a story. And its history is so intriguing, it deserves to be remembered. There's much to tell, and I encourage you to read about it at the link below. (The site includes a digital copy of the 33-page program for the five-day celebration that marked the dedication and opening of the auditorium.) https://www.wsfcs.k12.nc.us/domain/12029
Here are a few highlights about the magnificent building:
In Songs for a Sunday, two of my characters get to perform here, in very different situations. I hope you enjoy how this special location is used in the story. The book is available for pre-order now.
North Carolina School of the Arts plays a major role in my next novel, Songs for a Sunday (releasing 2/7/23.) I thoroughly enjoyed my research of the school's amazing history.
The idea of North Carolina becoming the home of the first public arts conservatory in the United States was conceived in 1962, and a state committee was established that would eventually make North Carolina School of the Arts a reality. The school opened in Winston-Salem in September of 1965.
From the school's website: "The school’s location was determined when the citizens of Winston-Salem, known as the “City of Arts and Innovation” and home of the first municipal arts council in the nation, raised nearly a million dollars in a two-day telephone campaign to win the school for the city."
In 1972, the school joined the University of North Carolina system, and in 2008, the name was officially changed to University of North Carolina School of the Arts.
The institution trains students at high school, undergraduate, graduate, and post-master's levels and consists of professional schools of Dance, Design & Production, Drama, Filmmaking, and Music.
The school is well-known for their annual production of The Nutcracker, which is referenced in Songs for a Sunday. The first performance, which two of my characters would have attended, was on December 10, 1966 at Reynolds Auditorium, a venue that's the setting of two major scenes in the book. The picture below of that performance is from the school's online digital archive: https://digitalcollections.uncsa.edu/islandora/object/uncsa%3A266
Another fun fact: The school's mascot is The Fighting Pickle.
Songs for a Sunday is available for pre-order now.
We're five months out from the release of my next novel, Songs for a Sunday, which is set in Winston-Salem, NC and takes place in the 1960s and present day. Over the next few weeks, I'll share about some of the "real" places mentioned in the book. For now, here's the list,
Two locations are used in both the 1960s and present-day storylines, and they both play an integral role in the plot:
One location has a scene in the 1960s storyline and is mentioned in the present-day storyline:
One location has a scene in only the present-day storyline:
The following are used in scenes in only the 1960s storyline. All but one of these locations are no longer around.
While not used as a setting, there are references to Old Salem, Dewey's Bakery, and Tanglewood Park (in Clemmons.) It was so fun to write about places that I know, and it was even more fun to research locations from Winston-Salem's history. I look forward to sharing more about these "real" places from the book soon.
After three weeks of stomach pain and nausea for my nine-year-old son, and a previous doctor visit that didn’t provide answers, I took him back to the pediatrician on a Saturday morning. The outcome of the visit was an immediate trip to a hospital’s emergency department to rule out appendicitis.
There were incredibly tense moments throughout the day as my son’s symptoms worsened. But after nine tiring hours of lab work and three different kinds of imaging, everything “scary” had been ruled out and a probable cause identified. It wasn’t until we left, overwhelmed with equal parts exhaustion and relief, that it hit me: I’d forgotten to worry about everything else that day except my son. All the things I normally spent energy on took a backseat. There had been no room in my thoughts for less urgent things.
That experience was more shocking than one might expect—a Twilight Zone moment where the world had gone on around me while time stood still inside the hospital. My husband had taken our youngest child to a birthday party. Did I care that I hadn’t picked out his clothes before I left that morning and that they might be mismatched? No, though normally, this would have seemed important. My fifteen-year-old worked a shift at a local restaurant that afternoon, and it was her sixth day on the job. During her first five days, I’d spent the entire time wondering how she was adjusting and if everyone was being nice to her. I still cared about those things while at the hospital, but I didn’t let myself worry about them. She was fine, and my other daughter at home was fine, too.
There were so many things I’d wanted to accomplish that day, but nothing on my “to do” list mattered in comparison to my son’s needs. When I realized all the things I neglected to worry about, it was proof that letting go of worry is possible, though it had come at a price. And that got me thinking. What if, instead of letting worries be pushed aside only by bigger, more pressing worries, I let the Word of God take their place?
Our Lord taught that worrying about day-to-day things is unnecessary. In the familiar passages of Matthew 6:25-34 and Luke 12:22-31, Jesus speaks of how the Father feeds the birds, and how He clothes the grass of the field. God knows what we need, and since we’re more valuable to Him than birds and grass, we can trust Him to take care of us, too.
Jesus also said, “Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?” (Matthew 6:27 NKJV). This rhetorical question begs us to stop and ponder the futility of worry. We can worry all we want, but it won’t change anything.
Obviously, there’s a difference between necessary concern and worry, between reasonable diligence and panic. I care about all the things related to my family’s well-being, but I don’t have to worry about any of them. In my flesh, that’s extremely difficult for me, especially as we face continued illness in my family.
May the Holy Spirit help us all to give our cares to Him daily.
Cast all your anxiety on Him, because he cares about you. 1 Peter 5:7 NASB
Originally published on AriseDaily.com.
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Thank you for visiting my blog. I share devotional articles and musings about life, parenting, and the writing journey, as well as important news about my books. I hope you find something of interest here!
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