Posts Tagged ‘historical fiction’

A scrap of fabric and an 1881 photo

Written by lindahubalek on . Posted in Blog, Butter in the Well book series, quilts and quilting

Butter in the Well by Linda K. HubalekI remember the thrill of seeing the final cover design of my first book, Butter in the Well back in 1992. Back then it was sketched out by hand, and it was a long process of ideas and time, because it was being mailed back and forth between me and the publisher.

(Recently the cover designer found me on Facebook and told me the background design for this cover was actually her kitchen wall paper.)

My publisher, Butterfield Books Inc. decided to update the covers of all my books this year for the 20th anniversary of my first book.

Boy, has time and the internet changed on how you do book covers and work with a designer.

I emailed jpegs of possible pictures to use in the first cover. Ideas flew back and forth in seconds by email. The feel wasn’t right so the designer would send something else.

Finally she went to her mom’s house and looked through the stash of quilting fabric her mother used to make quilts.

What she found worked perfect for the background of the Butter in the Well book cover, along with the 1881 photo I had of the original house.

The old and new- from different centuries- made the perfect cover…

New Book Covers

Written by lindahubalek on . Posted in Blog, Butter in the Well book series, Uncategorized

Butter in the Well by Linda K. Hubalek

Butter in the Well by Linda K. Hubalek

I’m back!

I’ve spent the summer working on the house my husband and I are building by ourselves. I taped and mudded the sheet rock, painted the entire interior of the house, planted grass, trees, shrubs, garden, etc- with a little help from a great teenage boy- oh, and packed and moved us from our old house- mostly all by myself while my husband was in Europe for his job. (He designs grain drills for a equipment manufacturer in Kansas and has been in Europe to test his new drill in their soils with their type of seed crops.)

Then I’ve spent this last month recuperating from surgery on both my right knee and trigger fingers on both hands (see why from the paragraph above).

I’ve also been updating my author website and getting geared up for the 20th anniversary of my first book Butter in the Well.

I thought the anniversary called for new cover designs so here’s the first sneak peak of the first one. I just changed them on my Amazon kindle ebooks (if you want to see them all), but haven’t made the changes yet with the book printer. Please look them over and let me know what you think of the new covers.

It was a fun process to design the covers and there’s story behind each one. I’ll tell you about them in future posts.

Meantime I’m glad to be back in touch with all of my readers again. I missed you!

Yellow Iris guarding the Cemetery

Written by lindahubalek on . Posted in Blog, Butter in the Well book series

Yellow iris blooming in Linda Hubalek's gardenOur early and mild spring weather has given us beautiful flowers this year. My back patio is a fragrant experience with roses and iris blooming right now.

When my yellow iris shows it first bloom, I think of the old cemetery that is on the top hill of one of our family’s pasture. There hasn’t been anyone buried there for decades, but years ago someone planted a yellow iris root by a grave, and now the old cemetery is covered with them, blending in with last year’s tall dead grass.

Today, my yellow iris started from a root from this pasture cemetery, reminds me of the silent statues guarding the graves of loved ones, and the burst of color surrounding them right now.

Grave stone in country cemetery. Photo by Linda HubalekThe grieving parent or spouse may have only been thinking of decorating one grave at the time, but their single act of planting that iris root has given a burst of color and a remembrance to all for almost a century. It also gave the grave a reminder of home since the iris was probably a start from the ones growing at the family’s homestead.

Another country grave that has yellow iris blooming now is Carl Swensson’s, the first husband of Kajsa, who started the “Butter in the Well” homestead. What a comforting thought that the flowers planted over a century ago are still remembering the loved one today.

Pleats and Photos in Prӓrieblomman

Written by lindahubalek on . Posted in Blog, Butter in the Well book series

Alma Swenson, 1880s photo featured in book Prӓrieblomman © by Linda K. HubalekLooking through old photos I used in the book Prӓrieblomman (which means prairie flowers in Swedish) I came across one of Alma Swenson, posing for a portrait to commemorate her 8th grade graduation.

Many of my blog readers enjoy excerpts from my books, so here’s the start of Prӓrieblomman.

(Note: I still have the doorknob—from the original “Butter in the Well” house—mentioned in this excerpt, and held it many times when writing this book to feel connected to Alma and the house we both grew up in.)

Prologue
January 27, 1889
To Alma,
For your sixteenth birthday, I am giving you a blank book of pages. This may seem odd to you, but I want you to write down the normal and unusual events that happen in your life. You don’t have to write every day. Just scattered tidbits of thought, misgivings and joy will record the growth in yourself and the happenings in the world around you.

Years later this book will bring back smiles and tears to help you recall favorite places you never meant to forget, cherish lives lost, and to see how yesterday’s events become tomorrow’s history. Someday you may want to show your children the changes you saw while growing up on this farm in Kansas.

Keep this book with you always. Your written memories will sustain you when you have moved on to a prairie of your own someday.
                                                                             With love, Mamma

The Setting
 Snow blankets the homestead on this quiet Sunday afternoon in 1889. Silent white-iced furrows in the fields of the 159 acres wait for spring planting. The height of bare-branched trees shows the farm to be about twenty years old. You can tell that the farmer is prospering because there are several outbuildings, and the wooden two-story house has been added onto a time or two.

The dirt road running by the farm was just a trail not too many years back. Life and growth have progressed for the family, but there are still patches of native grass beside the homestead to remind them of their start on the prairie.

Peering into the parlor window facing south, you get a glimpse of petite Alma Swenson, an optimistic young woman with typical Swedish blonde features, innocently pondering her life as she turns sixteen.

Chapter One – The Birthday Present

 January 27, 1889
Sunday dinner dishes are done, little sisters are napping, and I have a few moments to myself. As I turned the white porcelain doorknob and slipped into the cool, closed-off parlor, I pondered about the book of blank pages Mamma gave me today for my birthday. On the first page, she wrote a note, encouraging me to write. Mamma has kept a diary ever since she moved to Kansas in 1868. I’ve never read it myself, since it is personal, but sometimes Mamma reads bits to us. A diary entry may make her smile or bring tears to her eyes.

Her journal tells the trials and errors as she and Papa built their homestead on the virgin prairie twenty years ago. When they arrived as Swedish immigrants to this land by the creek, the blue stem grass was as high as a man’s head on horseback. With their bare hands and a few primitive tools, they cleared the land, dug a well, and fashioned a sod dugout home. Clashes with Mother Nature, Indians and animals as they struggled to coax crops out of the broken sod almost took their toll on Mamma’s spirit, but she had a family to feed and protect. Favorite entries tell when her children were born and the joy of uniting with families when my grandparents left Sweden and moved to America.

The dugout was replaced by a sandstone one-room house in 1870. The house has been built on to three times with wooden additions when we could afford to buy lumber. The barn and granary were originally makeshift buildings for temporary storage of the crops and animals. As of yet they have not been replaced. A sod and straw-roofed open shed shelters the animals when they are out in the elements and the chicken house guards the fowl flock at night. Most of the acres of prairie have been tamed into fields for crops except for the hay meadows along the creek.

Us older children are almost grown now. Christina is twenty-two and getting married next month. Willie turned nineteen the fourth of this month and Alfred is fifteen. Carrie, who was born after Papa was killed, is twelve. When we needed help on the farm, Peter Runeberg came into our lives as a hired hand, and five years later, he and Mamma were married. Our half-sisters, Julia, born four years ago and Mabel, last March, have livened up and further crowded our household.

Peering out the window at the drab sleeping field to the south, I ponder over Mamma’s note. Maybe someday I will cherish my thoughts and reflections, the everyday events that have taken place on our farm. I wonder, since I finished my country schooling last year . . . what will my future bring? Will I marry soon and start a family or spend my life here on my Mother’s farm, tending to the everyday tasks that must be done to sustain life?

Prӓrieblomman, pioneer historical fiction book by Kansas author Linda K. Hubalek.(Excerpts from the book Prӓrieblomman: the Prairie Blossoms for an Immigrant’s Daughter © by Linda K. Hubalek)

Alma became the neighborhood seamstress, making clothing for a living until she married her stepfather’s brother at age twenty-seven and moved to Iowa. (Yes, you read right…Her husband Nels was forty years old when they were married.)

Look at the details in this dress. I imagine today’s teenagers probably spend as much time in a mall shopping for an outfit as Alma spent on the tucks in this skirt…or texting, when Alma would have been hand sewing little pleats.

Clothing styles change each generation and many times in a decade, but a photo from the 1880’s gives us a good glimpse of the past.

Will any of today’s photos taken by teenagers on their cell phone be available to view in 100 plus years? I hope so somehow, so future generations can see what they were wearing in the 2010’s…

 

Julia's Potato Rolls

Written by lindahubalek on . Posted in Blog, Butter in the Well book series

Peter Olson homestead near Bridgeport, Kansas. Photo featured in book "Egg Gravy" by Linda K. Hubalek.Last week I mentioned Aunt Julia who grew up in the same house as I did, and married Joe Olson, the boy “next door”.

Joe’s parents, Peter and Hannah, lived in a dugout before building this house featured with this blog. (A larger home was built on their farm before I was born, so I was never in the original home.)

We were frequent visitors to Joe and Aunt Julia Olson’s house when I was growing up, and she always offered “lunch” to us. Forenoon lunch or afternoon lunch was on either side of “dinner”, the noon meal. “Supper” was the evening meal.

I remember where she kept her store bought coconut bar cookies in the cupboard on the north wall of her kitchen. Although she was well known for her baking, I don’t know if she thought these cookies were a better treat, or it was her reserve stash to use as backup if her own cookie jar was empty.

My favorite treat made by Aunt Julia was actually her potato rolls. If my memory serves me right, she saved mashed potatoes from the Sunday meal and used them to make the rolls on Monday. It’s been a long time since I made them, but I can still smell and taste them right out of the oven.

Maybe it’s time I make a batch myself. Here’s the recipe if you’d like to try them. This is out of my book Egg Gravy: Authentic Recipes from the Butter in the Well Series.

 Egg Gravy- Authentic Recipes from the Butter in the Well Series. Pioneer cooking book by Linda K. Hubalek.Julia’s Potato Rolls

1 cup flour
½ cup sugar (scant)
1 cup mashed potatoes
salt to taste
¾ cup lard
½ cup lukewarm water
1 cup sweet milk
1 yeast cake
2 eggs, well beaten

Mix all ingredients, adding flour and yeast (mixed with water) last. Set to rise for two hours in a warm place, add 5 to 6 cups flour. Let rise again, mold into rolls, rise again, and bake in moderate oven. (Note there is no oven temperature or baking time in the recipe as women knew their wood oven.)

If you try the recipe, please let me know what you thought of Julia’s rolls. You’ll be eating a bit of pioneer cooking…

Details in Pioneer Photos

Written by lindahubalek on . Posted in Blog

Mead family dugout, Ford Co., Kansas

Mead family dugout, Ford Co., Kansas

I post pioneer photos on my Facebook page once a week, and it’s fun for people to look at the photos in detail and comment on what they see.

Last week I posted the outside and inside of a dugout home in Ford Co., Kansas that I found in www.KansasMemory.com, part of our Kansas State Historical Society website. I printed off the photos and went over them in detail with a magnifying glass too.

Interior of the Mead family dugout, Ford Co., Kansas

Interior of the Mead family dugout, Ford Co., Kansas

Readers saw that the man had a bandaged finger, commented on how tight all the furniture was inside the dugout…and wondering how long they lived in the dugout before building a home, or going back to where they came from.

One Facebook fan from England then asked about the Benders, a famous Kansas family who in 1873 killed travelers at their inn, and then buried them in their orchard.

I knew of the family’s crime since I do history research, and put their name in a Google search. Oh my, for the links and information that popped up…

There were reports in the New York Times, photos taken at the scene of the crime, just all sensationalized as things are today. It was not instant news like the one we have now, but people were still interested in the story that happened in the middle of the Kansas prairie when they did hear about it.

If you’d like to join in the fun of looking back on pioneer times, please check out my author’s fan page on Facebook.

How Valuable is that Quilt?

Written by lindahubalek on . Posted in Blog, Butter in the Well book series, quilts and quilting

Isn’t it funny how we used “old bedding” when we were growing up, and now realize how valuable these antique quilts are due to the work and love put into each of them?

This fall I moved my parents from the farm they had called home for 65 years to a smaller home in town.

Because my parents didn’t have room for two trunks of quilts, I was lucky to inherit them. Inside these wooden chests were the handmade quilts, made by my great grandmother and grandmother, which we had used on our own beds when I was young.

My childhood years in the 1960s were spent in a wood frame house built back in 1870. This house was featured in my Butter in the Well book series. The only heat for my upstairs bedroom came from a floor vent, which let a little warmth drift up from the room below. Therefore, during the winter months, there were “blanket sheets” on my bed, plus three or four quilts on top.

Then I grew up, left home, and started using the light modern blankets on my bed.

Looking through the inherited quilts again brought back many memories. Not only of the quilts, but other flashes—like tucking my feet up inside the flowered flannel nightgown I wore to bed, pink sponge curlers, and having only my nose sticking out from under the pile of bedding.

Now I think of how I treated those quilts that we had used for everyday bedding, and am amazed that they survived.

Pink quilt used by author Linda Hubalek while growing up in the "Butter in the Well" house.(Pink quilt used by Linda Hubalek while growing up in the “Butter in the Well” house)

I marvel at the thousands of tiny handmade stitches and the variety and colors of the fabric—all scraps from past clothing of my ancestors.

How many hours did the quilters spend cutting out the block pieces, and then sewing them together?

Who sat around the quilting frame to quilt them?

What was the conversation those days back in the late 1800s and early 1900s?

Did these women ever consider their handwork would keep their decedents warm after they were gone? Or that I would treasure these quilts and the memories of the quilters a century later?

Just think, whether it was a hundred years ago—or present time—a quilt made by someone’s hand, is keeping another person warm.

How valuable is that? Priceless…

(This post is currently featured on The Quilting Gallery, so be sure to read it to see more photos and enter in the contest to win an ebook copy of Butter in the Well  for your Kindle.)

Orphaned Quilt Blocks find a new Home

Written by lindahubalek on . Posted in Blog, quilts and quilting

Orphaned quilt block made by Irene Akers

Orphaned quilt block made by Irene Akers

I found three quilt blocks, tucked in different drawers in different dressers, when sorting for my parent’s move from the farm into town recently. I wondered when these orphaned blocks were sewn, and why they were not incorporated into a quilt.

I handed the first one to Mom, which she promptly flipped over.

“It’s hand stitched, by my mother because I recognize many of her dresses in fabric pieces.”

“Any feed sack material,” I ask?

She rubs a couple of materials between her finger and thumb. “No, all the material is from dresses.”

Orphaned quilt blocks made by Ione Johnson

Orphaned quilt blocks made by Ione Johnson

The next two blocks match in pattern, but one is blue and white, the other peach and white. Mom didn’t bother flipping them over and laughed, “I made these blocks while in grade school and never finished it”.

Yes, she spent time around the quilting frame with her mother, grandmothers, and neighbors when visiting them, but she never made a whole quilt by herself.

I now know the answer with my mother’s abandoned quilt blocks, but not my grandmother’s. But that’s okay because even if these patches of sewed together fabric never became part of a quilt, they still have a memory to pass on from one quilter to another.

Mom inherited several trunkful’s of quilts from her grandmother Kizzie Pieratt, so I guess she just didn’t need to make her own. Moreover, with WWII, family priorities and types of bedding changing, maybe young wives didn’t quilt as much in the 1940s.

Now these quilts and memories of Great Grandma Kizzie are mine to savor and share.

Is this a talent that is learned, or passed down? I guess it depends on the family. The love (and necessity) of quilts and quilting done by her mother, and especially her grandmother Kizzie did not pass on to my mother, but they did skip a generation down to me.

Because it’s the beginning of the New Year, I’m thinking about projects to start—and to finish—in 2012. Where can I put my talents to the best use, to get the most out of my time, and make something lasting that can be enjoyed by me, and others, now and in the future?

What talent and legacy are you passing on in 2012? Please let me know —and share it with your family so they know the story too!

Pick a Trail of Thread for your Christmas Gift

Written by lindahubalek on . Posted in about Trail of Thread book series, Blog

Need to finish your Christmas shopping? Or maybe start your shopping?

Trail of Thread (Trail of Thread Series)I heard from one reader that bought a Kindle as a gift, and was downloading books for the recipient to read right away. She had downloaded my TRAIL OF THREAD series and read them before she wrapped the Kindle in Christmas paper! Smart gal!

Remember you can “gift” an ebook to someone by just hitting the “give as a gift” button on the right side of the screen when ordering through Amazon.com. The receiver will get an email notifying them that they have a book to download onto their Kindle.

I like to read paperbacks, but ebooks are very popular so I give both as gifts.

Here’s my pioneer series that has a quilting theme to it for your quilting friends (or yourself if you get a Kindle or Nook for Christmas).

The TRAIL OF THREAD series, written in the form of letters the women have written back home to loved ones, show the thoughts, and process them went through to provide a better life not only their families, but also the state and nation during the troubling times of the Civil War.

In the first book, TRAIL OF THREAD, Deborah and John Pieratt left Kentucky in 1854 when the Territory of Kansas opened to homesteaders. They were part of the thousands of families that packed wagons and headed west for the promise of a new life. This progression leads them to own land for their family of six young children.

THIMBLE OF SOIL, the second book in the series, features Margaret Ralston Kennedy. She was a widow who moved with eight of her thirteen children from Ohio to the Territory Kansas in 1855. She was dedicated to the cause of the North, and helped with the Underground Railroad in both Ohio and Kansas. Margaret’s progression of moving fleeing slaves gave them a change for a safe free life.

Orphaned Maggie Kennedy (my great-great grandmother), portrayed in STITCH OF COURAGE, the last book in the series, traveled to Kansas looking for her brothers as the states fought out the history of the Civil War. While this might seem as a step backwards due to the times, it leads her to marriage and a family of her own.

Sound like a book series someone you know would like? Maybe this idea will finish your holiday shopping!

A Great Story is a Great Gift

Written by lindahubalek on . Posted in Blog

I got an email from another author with this headline today and I thought—this statement is so true.

The author was promoting his books for the Christmas season, and it was a good opening line.

I like the statement because the stories written in my books are gifts of insight to me—and the descendants of every pioneer that homesteaded out in the middle of nowhere.

But, the line can imply other things too.

A great story will share the history from one generation to the next. That’s a gift of heritage and pride in one’s family.

A great story may calm a child—or an adult— in a crisis. That’s a gift by preventing further trauma and frightful memories.

A great story can be seen and felt through a keepsake quilt, or through the lines of a poem, giving the gift of a visual memory.

A great story saved in one’s heart can be remembered forever—even if it was just baking Christmas cookies decades ago

This list can go on and on.

I hope today you get—or give—a great story to remember the day, or a special person by.

What’s your greatest story that was a gift to you?