Introducing Author Alethea Williams

Today, I’m going to take a break from plugging my own book and talk about someone else’s. In turn, this author has already posted about me and my book on her blog. This is what’s called a blog tour, and it’s a great way for authors to promote their work without leaving their offices.

According to her profile page, (Christine) Alethea Williams grew up in southwest Wyoming. She was an avid reader while living among railroad workers and miners. She took a variety of writing classes where she learned a lot about writing and publishing. She has written monthly newspaper columns, published short stories, and won awards for her writing. Willow Vale is her first novel. She was a past president of Wyoming Writers and now lives in the Northwest with her husband, a rescued senior dog, and an Amazon parrot named Bob.

According to her blog, Willow Vale is a great book for anyone who likes romance and historical fiction. Set in the Wyoming frontier after World War I, it is the story of Francesca Sittoni, an immigrant who is brought to this country against her will by a husband she never loved. She ends up widowed, pregnant, and with a small daughter. Because she’s afraid of being deported to her impoverished country, she answers an ad from Wyoming rancher and former doughboy Kent Reed for a housekeeper and cook. She agrees to spend a year with him but wonders if she is actually a secretly sought mail order bride.

This is the story of two strangers who manage to conquer their demons and create a life together. I haven’t read it yet, but I definitely plan to buy it. It’s available from Baker & Taylor, Ingram, Amazon, and the publisher Jargon Media.

Questions for Alethea Williams

Q. In what town in southwest Wyoming did you grow up? Were your parents railroad workers or miners? What else can you tell me about your childhood?

A. I grew up in Rawlins. My dad held many jobs on the Union Pacific Railroad, so we just kept moving west to towns along the tracks as he got another new position. I may have been the only person in history who had a nun tell her parents to make the child stop reading so much!

Q. What kinds of books have you enjoyed reading?

A. All books. I write historicals, so of course I read novels of any historic period. I read a lot of mysteries and detective fiction, mainstream and literary, Westerns; just about anything, really, whose cover catches my eye.

Q. Did a particular teacher inspire you to make creative writing a career?

A. Not really. The only suggestion I remember was journalism.

Q. Why did you decide to write a historical romance novel that takes place on a ranch in Wyoming after World War I as opposed to one that takes place on a plantation in Louisiana during the Civil War?

A. The advice goes: write what you know.Q. Do you have any plans for future books?

A. I have the first book of what I hope will be a trilogy already written.

Q. In what part of the northwest do you, your husband, dog, and parrot live?

A. We live in the Willamette Valley, (Oregon) about 60 miles from the coast. Although it is always green here, I miss Wyoming vistas.

Q. Is there anything about your writing that hasn’t been revealed before?

A. I do not outline. I compose directly to the computer. It took a while to learn to do that, but now I wouldn’t want to go back.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome and How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

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Socks

Kids do the strangest things, and I was no exception. When I was about eleven, I loved to pull loose threads from my socks. The folloing poem from How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver describes this hobby and its consequences.

Socks

At the age of eleven,

I sit on the floor in front of the wastebasket in my room,

pull loose threads from my socks, one by one.

“What are these sock strings doing on the floor?” Mother asks.

“The cat did it,” I say.

Despite continual chastisement and threats of spanking,

my favorite pastime is removing threads from my socks, one by one.

When you were a kid, did you do anything that might have been considered out of the ordinary? Please tell me about it by leaving a comment below or e-mailing me.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome and How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

Who’s Coming Next?

One problem at the nursing home was high staff turnover. People left because they were burned out or found better jobs. Some didn’t even bother giving two-week notices. Others just didn’t show up and couldn’t be reached. After working there for fifteen years, I gave my own two-week notice because I was getting married and decided to quit working and write full time. When I told residents I was leaving, they said, “You’re the only one around here with the lovely voice. Who’s going to do singer-cize?” This inspired the following poem from How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver.

Who’s Coming Next?

Who will bathe, dress, feed me,
give me all my medications,
make sure I’m healthy?

Who will prepare and serve my meals,
pay attention to my requests for certain foods?

Who will play the guitar and sing,
encourage me to sing and exercise,
show me how to make Easter baskets,
call bingo, read to me?

Who will clean my room,
do my laundry, change my light bulbs?

Who will listen to my concerns,
help me work out my problems?

If you must leave,
who will take your place?

By the way, if you use Bookshare, How to Build a Better Mousetrap can now be downloaded at the following link. http://www.bookshare.org/browse/book/432068

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of
We Shall Overcome
and
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver
http://www.abbiejohnsontaylor.com

On Bars and Drinking

Before you navigate to a previous post or a different blog because you think this is going to be a lecture on temperance, read on. In 1971 when I was ten years old, Dad and I drove from our home in Tucson, Arizona, to Sheridan, Wyoming, to visit Grandma. The decision to take the trip was made on the spur of the moment while we were sitting at the dinner table with my mother and younger brother who was only three at the time. Grandpa Johnson had recently passed away, and Grandma was struggling with the family business and wanted Dad to come and help for a while. It was summer, and I was out of school, and although Mother worried about me being away from her for the first time ever, she reluctantly agreed that it would be okay for me to go with Dad.

We left right after supper. Dad said we wouldn’t stay in any motels. We would sleep in the car instead. We drove most of the night and all the next day through Arizona and Colorado, stopping at such sites as the Navajo reservation, Four Corners, and Mesa Verde. In the evening, we reached Durango, Colorado. The following poem from How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver details our adventures there.

A Memorable Stop in Colorado

In the summer of 1971 at the age of ten,
I traveled with Dad from our home in Tucson, Arizona,
to Sheridan, Wyoming, to visit Grandma.
While bar hopping in Durango,
I had Coke—Dad drank something stronger.
One establishment served hot dogs.
I liked them plain with not even a bun.
I must have had at least three.
Intoxicated, we made our way to the car.
I slept on the back seat
while Dad slept on the ground nearby.
Who knows where we were when we woke up?

When we got to Wyoming, I was disappointed to learn that state law prohibited children from being allowed in bars. As an adult, I see the sense in that, but as a child, I found bars fascinating and couldn’t understand why I couldn’t accompany Dad into a bar in Wyoming when I could in Colorado.

I’ve never liked the taste of alcoholic beverages. As a kid, I was given sips of beer and wine but wasn’t impressed. I was told that I would appreciate these drinks when I was older. On my nineteenth birthday, we all went out to dinner to celebrate. I tried wine, beer, and even a wine cooler with 7-up, but nothing tasted good. I decided then and there that alcohol was not for me.

Did you ever go into a bar when you were a kid? Were you with your parents or did you sneak in with friends as a teen-ager? Did you ever try anything alcoholic before you reached the legal drinking age? Tell me about it. Leave me a comment below.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of
We Shall Overcome
and
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver
http://www.abbiejohnsontaylor.com

Dependent

After Bill suffered his first stroke, I felt helpless, as I watched him struggle to regain his strength. He was a changed man, and the change that shocked me the most was in his voice. Before the stroke, I often sat on his lap while he sang to me. He didn’t have perfect pitch, but he could carry a tune pretty well. After the stroke, when Bill told his speech therapist I was a singer, she encouraged me to sing with him to improve his speech. He could no longer carry a tune, and it was hard listening to him intone the words to his favorite songs in rhythm with no tune.

The following poem from How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver describes my feelings of helplessness after Bill came home and I started taking care of him. It also emphasizes the fact that although he’s a changed man, he’s still the one I love.

Dependent

I know what to do—
I don’t know what to do.
The wheelchair, vertical bars, gait belt
offer assistance but can’t bring him back.
He’s not the man I married—
he’s still the man I love.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of
We Shall Overcome
and
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver
http://www.abbiejohnsontaylor.com

Fred

Fred was a gentle soul. He had been a boxer and a farmer and lost a finger. When I met him at the nursing home, he was suffering from dementia but didn’t let that get him down. He always had a smile, a friendly greeting, and a handshake and managed to brighten my day every time I saw him. He is the subject of the following poem from How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver.

Fred

“How are you today?” I ask the old man in his wheelchair, as he smiles at me.

“Fit as a fiddle and ready for love,” he answers.

He asks me the same questions. “What’s your name? What’s my name? Why am I here? Where’s my wife? You’re a beautiful girl. Do you have a husband?”

I could stay with him all day, repeat the answers to his questions—but I have places to go, things to do, people to see. With reluctance, I say goodbye.

Fred loved music. Here’s one of the many songs I sang to him and other residents at the nursing home. This link will be available for at least a few days.

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/15213189/always.mp3

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of
We Shall Overcome
and
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver
http://www.abbiejohnsontaylor.com

A Visit to the Atlantic Coast

A few years ago at about this time, my father and I spent two weeks with my brother and his family in Florida. For the first couple of days, it rained, and because of the humidity, it felt colder than it was. I wished I’d stayed home. Fortunately, I brought my Victor Reader Stream with plenty of material on it, and I was only too happy to curl up in an armchair with a blanket and listen to a good book.

When the temperature finally climbed up into the 70’s and 80’s, the fun began. The following poem from How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver details what I did during those two weeks. I had a great time, and I hope to return for another visit.

Florida’s Song

When temperatures in Wyoming fall below zero,
and snow is on the ground, I go to Jupiter,
bask on a sunny beach,
feel the sand and water between my toes,

walk on the pier
while fishermen reel in large sharks and other sea creatures,
gaze at low flying birds,
view a poignant moment, as a man drops rose pedals into the ocean
to honor his dead wife,

do water exercises in my brother’s unheated outdoor pool
to the thumping rhythm of “Single Ladies,”
enjoy a good book on the screened-in patio overlooking the pool
while a gentle breeze makes wind chimes sing a haunting melody.

On a warm Saturday, I go to Fort Lauderdale,
sail on The Jungle Queen to a tropical island,
eat a hot dog while others watch alligator wrestling.

After two weeks,
I return to the reality of winter in Wyoming.

Have you ever visited or lived near the ocean? If so, what did you do on the beach? Have you ever tried surfing? Tell me about it. Leave a comment below.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of
We Shall Overcome
and
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver
http://www.abbiejohnsontaylor.com