Friday, July 17, 2015

SHENANDOAH NIGHTS, Winds of Change series, by Lisa Belcastro

Historical Fiction with a time travel twist

The last thing sixth-grade teacher Rebecca O'Neill wants to do during the final week of her summer vacation is chaperone twenty-five students on a six-night, seven-day trip aboard the schooner Shenandoah. But after a desperate phone call from her school principal, she doesn't have a choice. Worse, the ship is rumoured to be "haunted." Five years ago, during the Holmes Hole student cruise, teacher Melissa Smith complained about hearing voices and seeing visions, then disappeared without a trace--from the very same cabin where Rebecca will be staying.

Everything seems normal on Sunday afternoon as Rebecca boards the impressive Shenandoah. But as she sits in Cabin 8, she hears hushed voices whispering about a cannon. Mike, a crew member, insists he believes the crazy Island story that Melissa time-traveled to Colonial Boston. His eerie interest and constant tracking Rebecca's whereabouts rattles her nerves.

Her first night on board, Rebecca drifts off to sleep...and wakes the following morning with memories of a dream about secretive conversation concerning a battle with Britain. Monday night Rebecca crawls into her bunk after an adventurous day of sailing, swimming, and overseeing students. She's startled awake when a man grabs her and yells, "Stowaway!" Dragged in front of Captain Benjamin Reed, she looks up into the most gorgeous brown eyes she's ever seen....


TIP:  Tell us something topical, interesting, funny, or something we would not expect about the writing of this novel.

Lisa:  The idea for SHENANDOAH NIGHTS came to me while I was chaperoning my daughter Kayla's fifth grade class during their week-long sail aboard the Shenandoah. After a fabulous week aboard the ship, I went home with dozens of ideas bouncing around in my head. I was busy with life, and didn't do anything with those ideas for a couple of months. Then I signed up for a writing class with mystery author Cynthia Riggs. As Cynthia gave us our weekly assignments, I began writing pieces that would eventually become chapters in SHENANDOAH NIGHTS. The following summer, I once again volunteered to chaperone the Tisbury School summer sail. I brought my rough draft of SHENANDOAH NIGHTS with me, printed and secured in a three-ring binder. When I wasn't having a great time with the students, I walked around with my binder, making notes, checking equipment, asking the crew a gazillion questions, observing procedures, documenting the incredible food we ate, the names of knots, masts, and sails, and the location and blueprint of where everything was on the ship. The students and crew started getting into my research, and they soon began pointing out things that they all thought I should include in the story. I can't imagine a better way to work through and edit a rough draft.
Students making sailor bracelets while Shennandoah sails
 TIP: If this novel is part of a series, tell us about the series.

LISA:  SHENANDOAH NIGHTS is the first book in the Winds of Change series. All of the books are set on or around the schooner Shenandoah. There are now four books in the series with a fifth book, A SHENANDOAH FAMILY CHRISTMAS, due out in November. Although all the books are connected, they can stand alone. Each novel tells the story of a hero and heroine. Nights focuses on Rebecca O'Neill and her journey back in time to 1775. In SHENANDOAH CROSSINGS, Tess Roberts intentionally travels back in time to find her best friend Rebecca. Tess doesn't find Rebecca, but she gets into a heap of trouble and Hawk comes to save her, which Tess is none to happy about. SHENANDOAH DREAMS takes the reader back in time to when Melissa Smith disappeared off of the Shenandoah. Melissa is talked about in the first two books, but in Dreams we discover what happened to her, where she went, and what has become of her life. A SHENANDOAH CHRISTMAS, which recently won the SELAH Award for Best Novella of 2014, visits the lives of Andrews Roberts and Allyson Flanders. We saw the beginning of Andy and Allyson's relationship in SHENANDOAH CROSSINGS. The Christmas novella is a poignant glimpse into their lives, and reveals why Allyson cannot marry Andy. I love spending time with the Roberts family, and any chance to be aboard the Shenandoah, whether in person or in my mind, is a wonderful opportunity I won't turn down.

TIP: When did you start writing for publication? And why? What drives you to write?

Lisa:  I went to school to be a journalist. I always wanted to write. I was blessed to get a job right out of college working as a reporter for the Chronicle of the Horse, a weekly sport horse news magazine. I traveled the world, covering horse competitions and interviewing people. It was a fantastic job! After I became a mom, I didn't want to travel anymore. For years I wrote short stories or dabbled with the occasional local news story, occasionally for publication. As the years went by, I got the itch to write more seriously. I went back to school, studied creative writing, and leaped into the world of fiction. Now, I have so many characters and stories in my head that I don't have the time to get them all out and onto paper. I wish I had more time, because the ideas never stop developing. Everywhere I look, there is a story to tell. I need a computer hooked up to my brain so my mind can type while I sleep!

TIP:  Do you have a presence on social media? If so, where do you interact with readers the most? 

Lisa:  I'm learning to love social media. I post on my author Facebook page daily, and on Fridays I always run a giveaway. I've "met" lots of readers on Facebook, and I enjoy the chance to connect and get to know people, hearing about their families, their pets, their vacations, and what books they enjoy reading. If you want to stop by my Facebook page, you can drop in and say hi. You can also stop by my website.


Chapter 4 –

Men’s voices awakened her. Rebecca didn’t want to know what the guys had to do this early. Too little sleep left her wishing for hours of nighttime. She patted the bed wanting to pull the sheet up over her head for a few minutes. When her hands came up empty, she opened her eyes to see if she’d kicked the sheet and blanket onto the bunk below. Panic spread throughout her body as she stared at the floor, not the bunk that should have been beneath her. She sat up and realized she wasn’t in her room. She remained motionless, trying to figure out where she was without alerting anyone to her presence.
“I suspect we shall need to make another run shortly after we unload. They are extremely low on ammunition.”
Rebecca held her breath trying to figure out who was talking and where they were. She slid off the palate she was on and crouched behind a large barrel, almost like the huge pickle barrels the penny candy store had years ago before they went out of business.
            “Where will we find more gunpowder?”
“I am not worried about finding powder. My concern is maneuvering in and out of the Harbor. The King’s Men have control of the Harbor and the city.”
            “I do not believe what happened. I wish we had arrived sooner. If we had been there we could have fired on the Lively.”
            “We would have given it our best shot, Jonah. I pray Father and Magnus are safe. Mother fretted enough over our sailing south.”
Rebecca slinked left and knelt behind a crate, hoping to get a glimpse of who was speaking. She had no idea how she’d walked into the storage room during the night, but she knew these two men were meeting in secret. She didn’t recognize either one of their voices? And what did they mean by firing on the Lively?
She taught her social studies students about the British ship, HMS Lively, and its significance in the Battle of Bunker Hill, but these men could not be talking about that Lively. She pulled the back of her t-shirt down to keep the cold wood off her back and listened for any movement from above, but there was only the sound of the waves as they rolled against the ship.
            “How many were wounded? I heard the lads on the dock say we lost hundreds of men. Do you think it is true, Ben?”
            Rebecca tensed. She tried to peer around the edge of the crate to see if she recognized either of the men. She could only see the backs of their heads.
“I do not know. It is hard to imagine the bloodshed. It does sound like the Bloody Backs suffered great casualties, even though they declared victory.”
“Lexington pales in comparison. How are we going to survive long enough for a petition to reach the king?”
A shiver ran down Rebecca’s spine. What are they talking about? What king? What petition? She needed to find Hawk and let him know about these two. If onl
y she could get a good look at them. The light of their lamp was all she had to see by in the dark room.
“I think the time for petitions has passed. I heard tell John Adams was in Philadelphia weeks ago to elect a general to lead the Continental Army. I believe war is inevitable.”
“A battle with Britain? David had a better chance with Goliath.”
“Jonah! You know better. Father would tell you right quick the Good Lord is with us just as He was with David. Our fight for freedom will not—cannot—be in vain.”
            Rebecca sucked in her breath, a burst of panic permeating her mind quicker than the oxygen filled her lungs. A battle with Britain? There is no way Britain attacked the United States. These men must be terrorists.
            Rebecca tried to see around the stack of crates without any luck. If only she could catch a glimpse of one of them, then she could point him out to Hawk. Just as she was about to stand up, a loud boom sounded followed by a clanging sound. Rebecca jumped up and smashed her right knee into another crate.
            “Who’s there?”
            “Present yourself at once!”
            Heart pounding, Rebecca looked for an escape. She noticed the door behind her. If she made it out the door, she’d get to Hawk before they got to her. She jumped to her feet, got a quick look at the two men and dashed for the door screaming Hawk’s name.

Lisa Belcastro

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