The Cover is Ready!

Hi everyone!

The book is expected back from the proofreader this coming Friday, so I thought I’d share this image of the cover of The Girls of Haviland. After Friday, the book should be ready to upload to Amazon. I’m hoping to have the book ready for sale by Labor Day. So excited!


We’re getting there. A bit more of the book…

I’ve received quite the education this summer. I heard once that the more you learn, the more realize just how little you know. I embarked on this journey with little to no knowledge of self-publication. The “self” part reflects the actual story writing, but it takes quite a few professionals to bring the published book to fruition.

“The Girls of Haviland” is in the hands of a professional proofreader and editor until August 25. The cover should be ready on August 17. I am hopeful that the book will be published in the final days of August before I go back to my position as an elementary school teacher.  I’m going to use the time between now and August 25 to try and finish the sequel. I want to savor the luxury of having these fleeting summer days to write on my front porch with my dogs.

Here’s a bit more of the opening pages of the book…

Christie took off toward the north end of our property, where the airplane was attempting to land. Da hobbled behind us, swearing as he held his sore back.

The Salmons were already climbing over the stone wall that separated our farms. Mrs. Harkins was pulling her son Ambrose by the arm, followed by Doc Birdsall, carrying his cracked leather bag. Miss Addison from the newspaper was running up Brewster Hill. The drone of the biplane’s engine became piercingly loud. Poor Ambrose covered his ears and started rocking back and forth.

“It’s the noise!” Mrs. Harkins yelled. “He won’t stop for me! Calm him, Jay, please!”

I tried covering Ambrose’s ears, but he let out a terrible yell and started banging his head with the heel of his hand.

Against the deafening crush of sound, I whispered, “It’s okay, Ambrose, the noise will stop once the airplane lands.”

He slowed down the rocking.

“We’re all going to die!” screamed Mrs. Salmon. “It must be a spy plane! He’ll shoot us all!” She tried to calm the screeching toddler in her arms. “Oh hush, Nell, please!”

“Give her to me!” Mr. Salmon grabbed his daughter, who was struggling to escape from Mrs. Salmon’s tight embrace. “You’re scaring her!”

Sullivan, along with the Salmon’s dogs, barked at the plane that was rapidly descending. Ambrose started rocking again.

“Keep those damn dogs quiet!” Da kicked Sullivan in his ribs.

“Leave him alone!” I grabbed my whimpering dog.

“Move back, everybody!” warned Doc Birdsall. “He’s trying to land!”

A sudden assault of noxious engine fumes made my eyes water. I tucked Sullivan’s head under my arm to protect his lungs.

“Mama!” Nell wriggled out of her father’s arms and ran toward Mrs. Salmon, but tripped over the dogs. The little girl lay sprawled on the ground, screaming as the plane came closer.

“My baby!” Mrs. Salmon rushed to scoop Nell up. She stood fixated on the plane.

“Move! It’s going to crush you!” I pulled Mrs. Salmon and Nell toward me with my free hand. I held onto Sullivan as I felt myself falling backward into the crowd. Someone pushed me back up on my feet.

“Here it comes!” Christie yelled. The silver underbelly of the plane forced us all to spread out in a haphazard circle.

“Oh my God, I am heartily sorry, for having offended Thee,” Mam and I prayed in unison.

The earsplitting noise started Ambrose wailing and hitting himself again.

When the sputtering engine finally ceased, a young pilot emerged from the cockpit, bathed in sweat and grease. “She was right behind me, I swear! I, I don’t know what happened!”

Da charged him. “What in God’s name is going on?”

“I don’t know, I don’t know!” The pilot unstrapped his aviator helmet and goggles, then bent over and clutched both hands on his thighs.

I took a closer look at the biplane, noticing that it was a two seater, with no gun mounted. This was no fighter plane.

“You’d better start talking soon!” roared Da. “Somebody just fell out of your airplane! Did you push her?” He scanned our frightened faces gathering around the airplane. “Who’s got a rope? Let’s tie him up until the sheriff gets here.”

I approached the shaken pilot. “Do you know what the girl would be doing up on the wing? I mean, was she -”

“Sheriff Stevens is on his way.” Margaret Addison pushed her way through the crowd. She took a pencil that was resting behind her ear. “Sir, I’m with The Courier. Can you tell me exactly what happened?”

Da grunted and pushed Miss Addison out of his way. “Get out of here, you fool woman! What went on up there? Start explaining!”

“Da, you knocked her over!” I helped Miss Addison up.

“She doesn’t belong here!”

He continued with his rampage. “You shouldn’t have been a flying a plane if you can’t keep your passengers safe!”

“It was nothing like that, I swear, Mister!” the pilot panted. “I’ll, tell, you, everything, if, you’ll just, let me catch, my breath!”

“Well, go on then!”

“Please stop bullying the man and give him a minute to collect his thoughts, Da!” I said.

“Jay, run up to the house and bring the pilot some water,” said Mam.

Mr. Salmon produced a silver flask. “The poor fellow’s had the stuffing knocked out of him. I’ll reckon he needs something stronger.”

“At this hour of the morning!” Mrs. Harkins said. “Is there any decency left in this village?”

The pilot took a long swig from the flask before beginning.

“Let me try to think. We were flying over Brewster at about 2,000 feet. I thought a bird hit the top wing. I look back to see that the seat behind me is empty and, and, oh I don’t know what happened –“

“Did she say anything before climbing up onto the wing?” I asked. “Was anything on the plane broken?”

“I just remember leaning out and seeing her up there on the wing and, Oh, God, I can’t believe it!” He held his head, and his voice broke. “I’m hollering and trying to grab her back in, and the next thing you know, she’s gone! Honestly, miss, no fooling, that’s how it happened! You’ve got to believe me!” Two tears were dripping clean lines down his dust streaked face.

“Do you know where she could be? Maybe she’s still alive!”

“Nobody could survive that fall. We were flying over trees and rocks, for gosh sakes. Why in the world would anybody…”

Miss Addison elbowed her way back up to the front of the crowd. “Did she tell you why she wanted you to take her up in the plane?”

“Not much, just asked me to tell her when we were flying over Haviland Seminary.”

Haviland. I couldn’t believe my ears.


The cover is coming along, and some real life figures in the book…

I’m very excited to share with you a section of the cover of The Girls of Haviland. I met the talented illustrator, Lisa Fields, at a SCBWI Conference in Manhattan in 2015. We had lunch together and discovered we both hailed from the Northern Westchester/Putnam area of New York.

Fast forward to earlier this month when I cancelled an order for a pre-made book cover from an overseas company that did not get back to me in the time frame they promised. I found Lisa’s work sample cards in the briefcase that I had brought to the conference, and I contacted her straight away. I’ve loved the process of working with a local artist. I hope Lisa can say the same, as I’ve had a clear image of what Jay and Florence look like in my mind for years, and I’ve suggested several tweaks to make these images match what I’ve had in mind. I can’t wait to see the finished cover on 8/17, which I know will contain an image of the school as well as the biplane that Violet falls, or jumps from, in the beginning scene of the book.

I wanted to share with you two real people who appear in The Girls of Haviland. The first is Edith Diehl, a bookbinder who started the Brewster Public Library in 1905. Her father, Philip Diehl, owned Diehl’s Confectionary on Main Street in Brewster.

When World War One broke out, Edith closed her bookbinding shop and got involved with the Red Cross. Edith was commissioned to operate a Woman’s Land Army Training Camp at Wellesley College in Massachusetts. The Women’s Land Army trained women to perform farm work while male farm workers were fighting overseas. Jay mentions Edith Diehl during her conversation with Ruth Lefkowitz following the Women’s Party meeting in Lake Mahopac.

Marjorie Addis attended Edith Diehl’s Women’s Land Army Camp at Wellesley. Marjorie was editor of The Brewster Standard, a village newspaper. My character, Margaret Addison, is based on Marjorie Addis.

There is currently a display at The Southeast Museum on The Women’s Suffrage Movement and World War I. There you can find an exhibit on Edith Diehl’s accomplishments. The original sign for The Brewster Standard is hanging in the museum.



A Taste of the Book

Hello, readers! I had a full day of final edits today in my summer writing studio, better known as my front porch. It’s my favorite place to write, as it affords full shade for most of the day, and I can look out at the baskets of petunias hanging from the porch roof. Occasionally, if I stay very still, I’m treated to a visit from a hummingbird. Visits have been few and far between this summer, as my writing critics, Georgie and Cookie, like to accompany me as I write. They are not fond of staying still. Georgie is my Boston Terrier, and Cookie is my youngest daughter’s rescue dog. She’s a Jack Russell /Beagle mix, fondly referred to as a Jack-a-bea.

As I registered “The Girls of Haviland” with the U.S. Copyright Department yesterday,  I can now print the first page for you to preview.  Please let me know what you think.

Chapter One

Brewster, New York

Monday, September 2, 1918

“Mother of St. Jude!” Mam shrieked. “We’re being attacked!”

The slam of the porch door rattled the windowpanes. I kicked off my covers and jumped out of bed. My sister Eileen’s side hadn’t been slept in. I ran outside after Mam. Sullivan, my Boston terrier, raced ahead of me, barking. My bare feet were soaked in dew and grass clippings as I ran past the clothesline, where the shirts I was supposed to take down were still hanging. When we reached the barn, I saw Da and my brother Christie looking up into the sky, shielding their eyes against the orange sliver of sun rising above the mountains.

“Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!” Da pointed a thick, calloused finger toward an airplane soaring over our farm. “It’s a German fighter plane! I think I see a gun!”

“Saints preserve us.” Mam made the sign of the cross.

“No, it’s American.” I noticed the bright blue paint on the wing. “It’s VE-7 Bluebird.”

Mam looked back toward the house. “Where’s Eileen?”

“She probably stayed out all – Ow!” Christie yelped when I slapped the back of his head.

“You had a mosquito on your neck.” I glared at him.

“Where is your sister?” Mam asked, louder this time.

“She uh, she’s still sleeping,” I was so sick of covering for my lame brained sister, but I didn’t feel like catching hell from Eileen.

The silver plane dipped low enough for us to see a tiny figure

crawling toward the edge of the top wing.

“Oh, God, there’s someone up there!”

“Where?” yelled Mam. “I don’t see anything!”

“There!” I grabbed Mam’s arm and jabbed my finger frantically

toward the plane. Suddenly, the small form was in the air. I opened my

mouth to scream, but no sound would come out.

In slow motion, as if from a newsreel, the figure spun around and around, arms spread, floating in mid- air. The folds of a skirt rippled against the wind as the body spiraled downward.

“It’s a girl!”


A Little About the Book…

I’m in a bit of a literary limbo as I await the completion of my cover, expected on August 17. Once I upload the cover to CreateSpace on Amazon, my book will be ready for publication. Until that time, I am updating my facebook page, Deborah Rafferty Oswald, YA Historical Fiction Writer, as well as creating tweets about The Girls of Haviland through @droswald214. I want to do a final read through of the manuscript before I upload it to CreateSpace, and then it should be good to go.

So, a little about the book. I love reading the archival news section of my local newspaper, where copies of articles printed one hundred years ago are shared with readers. I save these articles for story inspiration, and three figure prominently in “The Girls of Haviland.”

I was drawn to a girl in a picture of students at a private girls’ school in Carmel, New York, taken around the turn of the twentieth century. One girl looked significantly younger than the others. I knew I wanted to create a story around her. She evolved as Josephine, “Jay” McKenna, fourteen year old protagonist of “The Girls of Haviland.”  The second article was about a Drew Seminary graduate who became the first person to commit suicide by jumping out of an airplane in the 1920s. This article inspired my character, Violet. The third article reported on a car accident involving some people taking a stolen car for a joyride. The car ended up in a lake. This was the inspiration for the accident that happens on the night of the Valentine’s Day Dance at Haviland Seminary.

Visit me tomorrow for a sneak preview at the first few pages of the book.



Counting down to book launch on Amazon!

It’s been way too long since my first post. My summer vacation has been packed with hours upon hours of final edits before I publish “The Girls of Haviland” on Amazon late this month. I have to admit that I started this self publishing process with little to no prior knowledge, and I’ve been navigating editing, cover design, and book promoting by the seat of my pants.

I joined several online writing groups, and their guidance has been invaluable. Still, I was under the illusion that I would self-publish one day and proceed with finishing my sequel. Wrong! I hastily chose a cover from the images available on the publishing website, and I ended up with a pink and purple cover that reflected nothing about my historical fiction book. Good fortune smiled upon me when I discovered some art samples left in a briefcase I brought to a SCBWI conference in 2015. I had lunch with a local illustrator at the conference, and I admired her work. I’ve contacted her, and she has agreed to design my cover. She will send me a sketch within the week, and the final cover will be delivered on August 18. I’m so excited to see how she represents my ideas!

I’m using the time before 8/18 to make sure my manuscript is perfect before I upload it to the publishing website. I’ve uploaded what I’ve thought is the final draft easily ten times so far. I keep finding a period followed by two spaces instead of one, and the same word used twice within the same paragraph. I’ve been googling coal shortages, World War 1 battles, and food rationing during my time period of 1918-1919. Writing historical fiction gives one a sense of vulnerability, as there will always be someone who will point out that you used an appliance in your story that hasn’t yet been invented,  an address that didn’t exist, or a building that burned down prior to your story.  I’m triple checking my facts, but I’m sure I’ll miss something.

I’m going to blog every day this month to let you know about my journey toward publication. I’ll share bits of my story to interest you, and provide insights into my trial and error approach to publishing.

I’m promoting my book on Facebook and Twitter. Please check out my facebook page, Deborah Rafferty Oswald, Writer of Young Adult Historical, and follow me on Twitter, @ droswald214.