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A Quilt for Christmas to be Published October 14

Volume IX, Issue Three | September 2014

The idea to write a Christmas quilt book came from my agent, Danielle Egan-Miller.

The original title of my last book was Holladay Street. That novel is about the murder of a prostitute in Denver in 1885. Holladay Street was Denver’s red-light district, and I thought it made a pretty good title. When Danielle read it, she called and told me I had to come up with something else. Why? I asked. “Because your readers will think it’s a Christmas book,” she replied. The title then became Fallen Women.

A week or so later, Danielle called again. “Why don’t you write a Christmas book, a Christmas quilt book?” she asked.

Easy for you to say, I thought. You don’t have to come with a plot. For me, the plot is the hardest thing about writing a book.

Not long after that, I had lunch with a writer friend who is not only male but Jewish. I doubt that he’s ever threaded a needle. “Quick, come up with a plot for a Christmas quilt book,” I quipped.

He thought a moment and said, “How about if a woman makes a quilt for Christmas for her husband in Iraq?” He followed through with what turned out to be a great plot.

Wow! What an idea, I thought. But Iraq? I’d have to write about cell phones and computers and modern weaponry. I couldn’t do that. But I could write about the Civil War. So that’s how A Quilt for Christmas came about.

The first thing I do when I write a book is come up with plausible names for the main characters. If the names aren’t right, the characters don’t come alive. Mattie Spenser in The Diary of Mattie Spenser, for instance, came from a list I compiled of some 20 names from quilt and history books. I spotted the name Tom Earley (in that same book) written on a board in a Colorado ghost town. Beret in Fallen Women, is the name of a librarian I met just before starting the book. My main character in A Quilt for Christmas is Eliza, a name I saw on a tombstone in the Georgetown cemetery. —SD

St. Martin’s Press, my publisher, describes A Quilt for Christmas as follows:

It is 1864 and Eliza Spooner’s husband, Will, has joined the Kansas volunteers to fight for the Union, leaving her with their two children and in charge of their home and land. Eliza is confident that he will return home, and she helps pass the time making a special quilt to keep Will warm during his winter months in the army. When the unthinkable happens, she takes in a woman and child who have been left alone and made vulnerable by the war, and she finds solace and camaraderie amongst the women of her quilting group. And when she is asked to help hide an escaped slave, she must decide for herself what is right, and who she can count on to help her. With rich historical detail and vibrant characters, A Quilt for Christmas is the perfect novel about the bonds of family and the true meaning of sacrifice.

More Books!

Fall is a busy time for me. Sleeping Bear Press is publishing my second children’s book, Red Berries, White Clouds, Blue Sky, in September. The book, written for children eight to 12, is the story of a 12-year-old Japanese-American girl and her family sent to a internment center at the start of World War II. The book, which is set in Tallgrass, the camp I used in my novel Tallgrass, tells of a girl’s struggle to remain loyal to the United States despite its treatment of her. Tallgrass is really Amache, the Japanese relocation camp that was located in southeastern Colorado.

In addition to A Quilt for Christmas, St. Martin’s is bringing out the 20th anniversary edition of The Persian Pickle Club. I can’t believe so much time has passed since I wrote that book. Back then, I thought there might be a few quilters who would read it. I had no idea there are more than 25 million quilters in the U.S. and that next to quilting, reading is their favorite activity. Many have become not only loyal readers but friends. They are the reason I put quilting into subsequent novels. —SD

Sandra Will Receive Denver Public Library Award

Sandra is the 2014 winner of the Eleanor Gehres Award given by the Western History Dept. of the Denver Public Library (DPL.) The award will be presented by popular Colorado historian Thomas J. Noel at a ceremony on Sept. 17. The Eleanor Gehres Award recognizes Sandra’s contributions to the West and to the library’s western collection. She has donated her photographs, manuscripts and much of her western memorabilia to DPL and is a member of the library’s acquisitions committee. Sandra and Mrs. Gehres, who headed the Western History Dept. until shortly before her death in 2000, were long-time friends. They were two of four editors of The Colorado Book, an anthology of wr