I do not sell many books and if I were a girl scout I would most certainly stick to peddling cookies. But I did not start out publishing books with the intent of making a gazillion dollars and seeing my name on movie credits. I began writing because I have always done it in one fashion or another, but never as an author of books. Retirement provided the time and mindset to give it a try.
What is interesting is that the one book that seems to have the most appeal is the one that I consider my “baby.” It was the first novel I ever wrote and I spent an inordinate amount of time and effort making sure everything in it that wasn’t fiction was spot-on accurate. It’s an historical novel that takes place in two time periods: one just after the end of the Civil War and the other just after the Vietnam War. The book’s title is THE POPE’S STONE. Since it was my first attempt at writing an adult book it was a learning experience for me as my skills were developing. Yet, this is the book that generates more interest than the other four I have written.
The story, in brief, is about two descendants of a Virginia family. They share an uncanny number of similarities in their life’s story, including the keeping of a journal. What is fascinating about their mirror-like experiences and relationships is that the two of them live 100 years apart. The more current character in the book winds up with his distant relative’s journals and upon reading them…well, this is when the drama begins.
The story is a good one, I think, and I have often thought I might attempt to rewrite the book and improve its structure and literary aspects. But then, perhaps it is best left alone since it seems to have some magical appeal and maybe I should not mess with it. I think it’s a good read for young adults and I second guess myself all the time whether or not I should have categorized it as such.
If I have stimulated your interest, you can learn more about the book at www.thepopesstone.com. It is also available via amazon.com. In any event, I thought I would present an excerpt here. It is from early in the book and it is a journal entry written by Nicholas, our contemporary young man, in September of 1982. He had just been to the library with two friends working on homework assignments…
“…something a little weird happened yesterday. Jack and Jennifer and I went to the library. We all have to do some research on a school project. Jack and I are studying the Civil War and I have to write a report on Robert E. Lee’s army. So I got this book about the Confederate Army and sat down next to Jennifer. There were lots of pictures in this book. Jennifer happened to look over when I was looking at a picture of some soldiers. She said the one soldier looked like me. He was in a picture sitting with two other soldiers, all sort of proud and showing off their uniforms. It looked like they were sitting in someone’s living room, or I guess they’d call it a parlor back then.
I looked at the guy she was pointing to and I have to admit his face looked a lot like mine. Then I read the description at the bottom of the picture and I almost fell out of my chair. The solider that looked like me was a Corporal in Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia and his name was Louis Henry Barrington! He just has to be a relative of mine, maybe some great, great cousin or something. It was too much of a coincidence that we both looked similar, but then to boot, his middle and last name are the same as mine.
Well, I couldn’t wait to take the book home and show the picture to Mom. That is when things really got spooky. She looked at the picture and agreed that the soldier looked like me, but as she studied the photograph some more, she suddenly sat down and looked very bewildered. It was even hard for her to speak. Then she pointed to this object in the background of the picture. It looked like a rock of some sort with letters on it. It was sitting on the floor.
‘It’s the stone,’ she said. ‘I can’t believe it’s the stone.’
I had no idea what she was talking about. But she was really freaked out. She told me to follow her upstairs to the storage space. There’s a small door in the one upstairs room and behind it is a small space that runs the length of the house. You can see the underside of the roof and lots of the wood beams. Part of the floor is covered with plywood sheets and my mother stores stuff up there.
She told me to crawl in and bring out this heavy lump that was all wrapped in burlap and tied together with twine. I had seen this before but I never paid much attention to it. I handed it to her and after she untied the twine and unwrapped the burlap, there it was—the same rock with the same letters that was in the picture with the soldiers! It was amazing and just unbelievable. I was so excited my heart was pumping like crazy.”
There are three more excerpts from the book on its website. THE POPE’S STONE comes in paperback or Kindle at amazon.com…or paperback at barnesandnoble.com.