Historical Treasures Found in the Limberlost

Once upon a time I lived in small town Indiana, but I’ve been a suburbanite for decades. I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed a leisurely drive on a two-lane highway through the flat lands of the state, but this week I “wandered Indiana.”.

Home of Gene Stratton-Porter

Home of Gene Stratton-Porter

One destination was the state historic site of Gene Stratton-Porter’s home in Geneva, Indiana, an easy day trip. Having rediscovered this famous author and her books, I wanted to visit the town where she began her writing career. More fun for me – fellow Scriblerian Beth Steury met me there.

As I approached Geneva, the land subtly shifted from an abundance of corn fields to uncultivated wetlands. Each pond and marsh possessed its own water fowl, herons, swans, egrets.

Pisgah Marsh. Photo by David Cornwell, www.flickr.com

Pisgah Marsh. Photo by David Cornwell, http://www.flickr.com

Both docents at the museum center welcomed all questions and volunteered tidbits I would have never thought to ask. Here’s a quick rundown of what I learned:

  1. Geneva Stratton was born in Lagro (stress the second syllable), not Geneva. And here I’d thought she was named after her hometown.
  2. Youngest of twelve children and left to entertain herself much of the time, she spent her days watching birds and helping in the garden, activities that contributed to her skills as a naturalist and conservationist.
  3. As I suspected, Gene is the Bird Woman character in A Girl of the Limberlost and Freckles.
  4. She started her career by writing magazine articles on nature, which led to short stories, which led to novels, which led to movies.
  5. She moved from Geneva to Rome City, Indiana, to avoid autograph hounds.
  6. Having been one of the fortunate few to survive the Spanish flu, she then moved to California in 1918 to regain her health.
  7. Her husband’s attitude was way ahead of his time. Who else circa 1900 allowed their wives to dress in pants and spend their days lying in a swamp holding a camera and waiting for the perfect shot of a baby vulture?

The Porters built their home in 1895, a large house made of logs.I was surprised they didn’t build out in the country, but it sits in the middle of town. While I’m not an antiques enthusiast, I do enjoy visiting history via the furnishings of its time. The best part of the Porter home? I could touch the furniture. Nothing was roped off.

Gene Stratton-Porter's dining room

Gene Stratton-Porter’s dining room

If I’d stretched out on the antique bed, I’m sure I would have received a reprimand, but I was welcome to brush my fingers against the fabric of the coverlet.

Why have I shared my sightseeing tour on a Scriblerian post? Remember, I told you in my last post (Lost Virtues Found in the Limberlost) how Porter’s books are great for homeschoolers. Visiting the Limberlost region and Gene Stratton-Porter’s home makes for a great field trip as well. In fact, the staff at the museum center plans a calendar of events which includes student activities.


If you’re traveling through Indiana on vacation, make time for a visit. I’ve included a list of related websites below.

You’re welcome, Indiana.

http://www.indianamuseum.org/limberlost; http://www.bernein.com; http://www.swissheritage.org; http://www.BerneClockTowerInn.com; http://www.visiteasternindiana.org; http://www.fwhistorycenter.com; http://www.kidszoo.org; http://www.botanicalconservatory.org

Christa Kinde’s Alter Ego Tells All . . . and a chance to win an autographed, beautifully-illustrated book and an e-book as well!

Today, we have a very special guest, Christa Kinde (KIN-dee), prolific author of fairy tales, epic adventures, comic misadventures, light and sweet romance, clever allegories, whimsical fantasies, far-flung journeys, knotty mysteries, and more.

Christa, thanks for posting in The Scriblerians ‘visiting author’ slam book:

Nicknames: Marmee, CJ, codename “Sugar Daddy” (my husband is “Nacho Mama”)
Genre: Fantasy & Christian Speculative Fiction
Personal Philosophy: “Be brave and do your best.”
Fave Scripture: “Do justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly.” –Micah 6:8
Fave Quote: “Children are not a distraction from more important work. They are the most important work.” –C. S. Lewis
In high school, I was a… voracious bookworm with lamentable social skills and a formidable vocabulary.

Christa we’re delighted you joined us today to talk about the Galleries of Stone series. After publishing so many successful books, why did you write this trilogy under the nom deplume C. J. Milbrandt?

The books I’ve written as Christa Kinde—both fiction and nonfiction—belong solidly in the Christian market. When I approached my publisher about doing a fantasy series, they advised me to abandon the plan. It didn’t fit my author brand. So I shelved a short stack of magic-laced manuscripts and focused on the angels and demons in my Threshold Series.

But I began quietly investigating my indie options. Maybe it’s because I’m a “from scratch” kind of gal, but I love managing the creative process from start to finish. So my family-friendly fantasy is published under my maiden name—C. J. Milbrandt.

And all of us are very glad you made the decision to follow your dream! I recently read Rakefang, the riveting third book of the Galleries of Stone, and I found it very hard to put down each night. What is your inspiration for such diverse stories?

Story ideas aren’t hard to come by. It’s near impossible to avoid the pesky things. Their ambushes throw my imagination into a tizzy and make me wish I could type faster.

However, Galleries of Stone trilogy is a special case. The story began as a personal challenge. For one year, I used an online dictionary’s “word of the day” as inspiration for my daily installment. On January 1, all I knew for sure was that the Keeper of the Gray Mountain was a banished Pred—a sheep in wolf’s clothing. And that Tupper Meadowsweet, his new Flox servant, was either brave, dense, or brilliant.

With each day’s addition, new complexities unfolded. I built the world to suit the story’s needs, making new discoveries right along with Tupper. By December 31, I had 366 chapters (2012 was a leap year) and more than 300,000 words. After some minor edits and a few additions, I released Galleries of Stone as a trilogy: Book One: Meadowsweet (2013), Book Two: Harrow (2014) and Book Three: Rakefang (2015).

Your target audience is tweens/teens, yet I’m also drawn to the delicately entwined layers of allegory and symbolism. What do you hope readers—of all ages—will take away from your books? 

I’ve often wished that books could be rated “E for Everyone.” I write what I enjoy reading—adventures with action, a surprising turn of events, a hint of mystery, and a smidgen of romance. If only “heart-warming” was a genre.

Takeaways? Hmm. The three highest compliments my stories have received are laughter, tears, and a warmly-expressed intention to re-read. I want folks to come away from a book feeling that they know the characters. Let’s add joy over the journey they’ve just taken. Satisfaction in its resolution. Anticipation for what’s to come. And with each successive title, a deepening trust in the storyteller.

Well, I for one am hooked because I’ve already started re-reading them. One of the things I like is that Galleries of Stone and your other series immerse readers into the heart of a rich story world, where customs, culture, and relationships unfold in a natural way (and I’d be remiss to not mention that the covers and chapter headings are like works of art). Can you tell us more about how you develop such detailed, fantasy worlds?

Over the course of the trilogy, I invented multiple cultures. Pred are vicious conquerors with an elitist mindset. Grif add a showman’s flourish to all they do. Drom are cantankerous plodders with a passion for spice and melons. Clow honor their tribal ancestry. Fwan are gentle lovers of beauty, but brutally superstitious. It’s a vast and varied world.

By contrast, Tupper’s whole life is bound up in one small village. He didn’t know there were other races of men. He’d never heard of magic. He had no concept of an ocean, let alone distant continents. But when confronted with a wider world, Tupper rolls up his sleeves and chips away at racial barriers. He adapts and adopts new ways of thinking, seeing, and doing. Frey’s “lambkin” makes a big difference in small ways.

Yes, he does. Tupper is one of my favorite characters.  In the Galleries of Stone series, which character is most like you and why? 

There’s a little bit of me sprinkled throughout the trilogy—attitudes, insights, bits of advice, turns of phrase. The strongest resemblances would likely be Carden’s love of family, Freydolf’s restlessness to create, and Aurelius’s formidable vocabulary. 

If you could meet one of your characters in real life, which one would it be and what would you do together?

I wish I had the courage to say Aurelius, but he scares me. So Freydolf. And since the Keeper can’t stray far from his mountain, I’d ask for a tour of the Statuary.

I, too, would like a tour of the statuary and the magical figures the Keeper carefully reveals within the stone! The mountain is a place that came alive for me through your writing!

Christa, thank you for coming on The Scriblerians to talk to our readers! I’ve listed her contact info below. Her websites and blogs are a wonderful world of sample chapters, beautiful artwork, and behind the scenes info on your favorite stories. Check it out!

Continue reading below for a sample chapter from the first book of the Galleries of Stone Trilogy and a chance to win an autographed, beautifully-illustrated book and an e-book as well!

Christa Kinde
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ChristaKinde
Twitter – @ChristaKinde
GoodReads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/642522.Christa_Kinde

C.J. Milbrandt
Galleries of Stone on Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/pages/Galleries-of-Stone/1480104452254159
Byways on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pages/Byways/840562655975459
Twitter – @Elymnifoquent

Christa’s books are available here:
Christa Kinde on Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/Christa-Kinde/e/B007O45N7A C. J. Milbrandt on Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/C.-J.-Milbrandt/e/B00H1D6PLW

Galleries of Stone Trilogy

Galleries of Stone Trilogy



Excerpt from Galleries of Stone, Book 1: Meadowsweet

With a flurry of silk and sulk, Aurelius burst into the workshop and demanded, “Have you seen the sprat?”

Freydolf glanced over the top of the golden stone he was marking and inquired, “Recently?”

“Since breakfast,” his brother-in-law clarified.

“I’ve been a little distracted.”

“And I’m being driven to distraction! Do you know how much work is waiting?”

“Yes and no,” Freydolf replied vaguely. “I usually leave such things to you.”

Aurelius rolled his eyes. “Very trusting of you, but I thought we’d agreed that you’d be entrusting your pet to me for the duration.”


“So you haven’t seen him?” Aurelius prodded.

“Maybe he’s hiding from you.” Giving the other man a stern look, he added, “You could have been more polite at breakfast.”

“I was!” he insisted. “For me.”

Freydolf snorted and said, “If you don’t bridle your tongue, you’ll never win the lad over.”

“I’ll bridle my tongue when you collar your pet,” Aurelius muttered. “He’d be easier to find if you kept him on a leash.”

“Have you tried behind the rimbles in the upper loggia?”

The other Pred blinked. “The what in the where?”

“In the upper loggia,” Freydolf patiently repeated. After offering a convoluted set of directions to the tucked-away spot, he remarked, “It’s pleasant there, especially in summertime.”

Aurelius stared dubiously at his brother-in-law. “Do you really expect me to believe that I’ll find him way up there?”

“Not really,” Freydolf admitted, turning his attention back to the stone and making a sweeping chalk line along its side. With a growl, Aurelius exited the workshop, and Freydolf looked down at the boy sitting on the floor between his feet and winked broadly.

Tupper’s eyes shone with gratitude, admiration, and the rare delight of a shared secret. He was quite sure that his Pred was bigger and better than any other.

–End of excerpt–

Dear readers, we would love to hear from you. Tell us which book of the Galleries of Stone you’d like to win, or ask Christa a burning question you’ve always wanted to know about the fantastic realms she creates, or simply leave your thoughts on today’s post!  

One lucky commenter will win The Blue Door from Christa’s Threshold series and another lucky commenter will win an e-book of choice from the Galleries of Stone trilogy.

(if you have technical problems leaving a comment, scroll up and click on the blog title; the comment form will then appear at the bottom!)


Why I Didn’t Really Lose an Earring

What if a whole world of miniature people lived right under our noses? Don’t children of every generation allow their imaginations to dive into the idea? From Gulliver’s Travels with the Lilliputians to The Indian in the Cupboard, stories have been written for centuries to indulge this favorite fantasy.

My first place pick for the very specific genre of Dollhouse-sized Speculative Fiction?


The Borrowers by Mary Norton. The first of five in a series, I love Norton’s narrative of life under the clock in early twentieth century England. The other books in the series are just as good, but her word pictures that introduce readers to the world of “borrowing” leave me as intrigued today as they did when I was ten.

The Clock family: mother Homily, father Pod, and daughter Arietty are the main characters who live between the floors of a large country house. Pod regularly ventures into the human beans’ living area for groceries from the pantry and various household items as needed from other rooms. By necessity, they live a quiet life. However, Arietty longs for freedom. She has never left her home, never explored the house, never stepped outside. I hope you can see where the story might go from there.

Knowing human nature, a Borrower can never let himself be seen, must never talk to a bean. The results would be disastrous. At a minimum, he would be asked to vacate the premises, at worst, the humans would obtain a cat to get rid of the vermin of Borrowers. Oh, but I take that back. The Clocks face something worse than a cat.

courtesy of currentissues-language-dialectdiversity.wikispaces.com

courtesy of currentissues-language-dialectdiversity.wikispaces.com

The story makes for a great read-aloud. Norton builds tension with each chapter, and every time an object is described, we automatically compare our use of the object to why a Borrower needs it. I am 99% sure that Mary Norton spent her entire childhood making up the possibilities and finally wrote it down for us to enjoy. All those details make for great discussions as we read the book as a family.

Wait a minute, you say. Aren’t the Borrowers really stealing? Do I want my child to admire them? One more topic for discussion. Let your kids muddle through the trickier aspects of morality and guide them through that maze.

There really could be Borrowers. Norton provides the perfect explanation as to why things disappear in our homes. Is an old sock missing its mate when you remove laundry from the dryer? A Borrower got to it first. Did you leave a safety pin on your dresser, and now it’s gone? A Borrower assumed you wouldn’t notice its disappearance. I’m convinced that several of my earrings, only one of each pair, mind you, are decorating some Borrower’s home, or maybe they now hang from the ceiling of a Borrower dance hall as a disco ball.


Now, there’s an idea. Teachers and homeschooling parents, I’ve just given you a story starter for a composition: “The Borrowers Took My _____________________.” What fine explanations might your children come up with?


Today is Pi Day so I decided to plot out the Scriblerians by pie charts. Not as yummy as my cherry pie, but it is kind of fun and I learned a few things along the way.

1. We’re all “oldly-weds” we’ve been married anywhere from 15 to 39 years.

2. We love kids. We all have children. Some are still at home while others are grown. Two Scriblerians are grandparents.

3. We like pets with both cats and dogs being popular in our homes. Several Scriblerians have one or more of both.




4. We live all over the place in the United States, and have two Canadian members.


5. We’ve been writing for a while. Our original group formed about 3.5 years ago, and we solidified just after the 2013 ACFW Conference. Many have been writing much longer, some with hiatuses of varying lengths.

6. We all write for “non-adults” of all ages but we’re  a Venn diagram of overlapping genres. While we all write somewhere along the Middle Grade (MG) to Young Adult (YA)/New Adult spectrum, we have branched out in multiple directions writing literary speculative, fantasy, historical, contemporary, fictionalized memoirs, and women’s fiction.


7. We all have publishing credits from articles and short stories to full length novels. You can click here to browse our titles. Loraine is also a published illustrator, and Beth has a successful abstinence-themed blog. Two of our writers are agented. Most of us have at least one contest placement/win including three 2013 Genesis finalists. Much of our success has come since within the past two years.


There you have it. A slice of Scriblerian statistics.

Happy Pie Day! 3.14.15 9:26



credit to neilcommonplacebook.wordpress.com

credit to neilcommonplacebook.wordpress.com


Derwood, Inc. by Jeri Massi. My all-time favorite novel to teach my fifth-graders. For eleven years straight Derwood, Inc. was one component of the literature curriculum in my Christian school.
Now, I am NOT a person who despises change. I thrive on change. If I had to stay with the same text for three years straight, I searched for ways to tweak lesson plans and make them better. Make them more applicable. More fun. NOT BORING. Because everyone knows the old adage,

Credit to zazabong.blogsopot.com

Credit to zazabong.blogsopot.com

Derwood never got boring. Jeri Massi’s story is both hilarious and serious, absurd and real. Every year the antics of the Peabody kids were a new thrill for my students and a much-anticipated reading class for me. More than once, as we read chapters out loud, we would literally ROFL. Well, not the teacher.
The book stars Penny and Jack Derwood, the two oldest of a blended family. Together they make a great kid-comedy team rivaling Abbott and Costello. Stir in three more siblings, a gang of bullies, and an international crime ring, and you have a recipe titled, “Don’t Stop. Read the Next Chapter.” By the end of the book, the characters have grown in their Christian faith while the reader never feels captive to a sermon.
You’ll delve into dangerous mysteries to be solved, yet even in the darkest moments a giggle may slip out of you. You’ll listen to Jack’s crazy stories knowing full well they are absolute figments of his imagination – but little brother Freddy doesn’t know that. There are bad guys who are really bad and bad guys who turn into good guys and good guys who maybe aren’t as good as you thought.

From a fifty-ton-mile-long octopus to a near-lethal can of peaches, Jeri Massi keeps you highly entertained and on the edge of your seat. Not only did she write a wonderful work of entertainment, she did it five more times. There are six books in the Peabody Kids series.
Unfortunately, Derwood, Inc. is no longer in print. After a search of several websites, I found editions may be purchased for as little as thirty-nine cents and as much as a thousand dollars! Four to nine dollars seemed the average for a used copy. My own library doesn’t carry the book (shame on them!), and I’d share mine, but it’s so tattered I have to keep taping in the pages!
In addition, BJUPress published a guide which teaches children how to write a good story. It sets up exercises to practice creating characters, using the five senses in descriptive writing, and planning a stair-step approach to build tension in the plot.


Q: You’ve been hunting for a new favorite in middle grade humor?

A: Derwood, Inc. Ready, set, read!