"Words are the keys to the heart."—Chinese proverb
Work in Progress
THE UNDERGROUND GIFT, a historical young-adult novel set on the Kansas–Missouri border as the Civil War conflict is coming to a head, is out for consideration with publishers and agents.
Benjamin Michaelson, a sadistic slave owner, is determined to break the strong spirits of the two teenage protagonists, Josepha and Reeca, one a slave and the other the daughter of an abolitionist, who come under his control for two different, but equally dark, reasons. It’s a rollercoaster of fear, mystery and revenge, a book that has been a challenge and a joy to write.
"THE UNDERGROUND GIFT is phenomenal, a real page turner with heart and history too. Michelle Fayard really has a feel for the characters. The chemistry between Josepha and Reeca is immediate and real. (Benjamin Michaelson has) extreme psychological depth; setting him as Reeca's antagonist is a perfect stroke. (It's a) pretty brave (thing) to take on black characters—slaves at that—in this time and place. (From the moment Josepha and Reeca meet,) the novel rolls like a freight train. Terrific twists lie in store. And what a finish. This is one of the best novels I've read about those times (and has) the stature of BELOVED or COLD MOUNTAIN."—Stephen Barnett, author of THE ROAD TO MAKOKOTA
I've started the research phase for my second novel. The top story lines vying for my attention are a prequel about THE UNDERGROUND GIFT'S antagonist, Benjamin Michaelson, back when he was still in Alabama and a book about two teenagers who fear for their lives when their Bible-thumping accuser—a member of the newly formed Ku Klux Klan and one of the girls' father—dispenses punishment when he discovers the nature of their relationship; it would be a high-class concept book whose working title is DAY OF DISCOVERY.
However, there is a question that has long intrigued me. In the mid-1970s my parents and I moved from Chicago to the foothills of the Ozark Mountains. A few hundred yards from the edge of our land stood Palestine Church, an old wooden building no longer used for weekly services. Almost every day I would walk from our home to the all-but abandoned building to play the upright piano that had been left behind. And every time I went to play the piano, I stopped to look at the tombstone that had been placed just under the church in the corner to the left of the front steps.
To say I was intrigued was to put it mildly. Why was the tombstone there and not in the cemetery? What was the young woman's name? The only clues still legible were she had been a reverend's wife and she had died in her teens. What caused her to die so young? What had her life been like?
Regardless of her age at the time of her death, why didn't she merit her own name on her tombstone? Was is common in those times and in that area to be remembered in this way? Was it in honor of a beloved and revered reverend? Or was there a darker, more sinister reason? Let's see where the research takes us.