Special Guest – Sondra Kraak

Some places sow themselves into your memory. They must be cherished. Revisited, even if only in the imagination. And if those places have been sown into the fertile loam of a writer’s imagination, they must be written about. Plain, Washington, is such a place for me.

Originally known as Beaver Valley to the pioneers who settled it, Plain packs a fierce visual punch with its medley of grassy meadows and pine forests. Rocky peaks play sentinel over the winding Wenatchee River, formerly a favorite site of native tribes for salmon fishing. Anything but plain, as its name might suggest, this pastoral valley has the power to send you back to frontier time with the soundtrack from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers rolling through your head.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looks like the perfect setting for a historical romance, right? Which is why I based my first two novels on beautiful, Plain, Washington, renamed Pine Creek in my stories. And though I’d promised myself I wouldn’t write about a school teacher—it’s been done and overdone—my debut, One Plus One Equals Trouble, turned out to feature not one teacher, but two. Hence, the math equation and the trouble that ensues when two teachers are accidentally hired for the same position.

The red one room schoolhouse I pictured as I wrote about Barrett and Claire battling for the teaching position, was this historic gem below.

 

The old Winton schoolhouse used to sit several miles from Plain before being moved into Plain to be preserved. As a child, I visited it numerous times during camping trips to nearby Lake Wenatchee. The bright red building sat by the tracks, a delight for my dad, an avid railroad photographer. While he waited to photograph a freight train, my sister and I would wonder what it would be like to attend a one room schoolhouse. We thought of Christy and Anne of Green Gables. Ideas spun my thoughts as robustly as the steel wheels clickety-clacking over our pennies on the tracks. I suppose it was inevitable that when I began to write, a red schoolhouse with a pair of teachers pushed its way into my novel.

What is it about schoolhouses, horse-drawn wagons, and rugged valleys with refreshing streams that so intoxicates our senses and paints a whimsical idealism over our impression of frontier times? Because really, it was hard living without plumbing, electricity, or Nutella. I think it’s the simplicity that lures us into a love of the past. When I think of Plain—Pine Creek—I feel that quirky, old-fashioned charm that acts like a balm against today’s busyness and our media-crazed society. And I hope readers feel it, too. I hope they can hunker down in that Cascade Mountain valley beside San Franciscan native Claire as she adjusts to frontier life in a landlocked town. Or keep in stride with easygoing Barrett as he sets out to woo his unexpected and stubborn competition.

To show my gratitude for being able to visit the Petticoats and Pistols blog today, I’d love to giveaway print copies of the first two books in my “Love that Counts” series: One Plus One Equals Trouble and Two Ways Home.

Would you leave a comment telling me about a special setting in your life that carries you back to the past? Maybe a small mountain town like Plain, or a rustic desert valley? And after you comment, I’d be delighted if you’d hop over and visit my One Plus One Equals Trouble page on my website. You’ll get a little taste (four excerpts) of Barrett’s and Claire’s struggle to win the position without losing their hearts.

 

This is how the story starts: Killing Edward Stevens was beyond her proper ways. So instead, Claire Montgomery made tea. Even if she wanted to kill him, which she didn’t—not entirely—he was two states away, and she was here, stuck in a sparsely furnished cabin with a drafty window and a roof that moaned with the slightest wind.

And for those of you who like to read the last page first, who can’t stand a little mystery, I’ll share the last line—and only the last line—with you: “Ever.”

Bio:

A native of Washington State, Sondra Kraak grew up playing in the rain, hammering out Chopin at the piano, and running up and down the basketball court. Now settled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, she enjoys spending time with her husband and children, blogging about spiritual truths, and writing historical romance set in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. She delights in sharing stories that not only entertain, but nourish the soul.

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35 Comments

  1. The little quaint town I love to visit is Saledo, Texas where forty-two years ago this year, my husband and I spent part of our honeymoon. Lovely town, lovely memories and, oh yes, our son’s name is Barrett. What a great name!

    1. I’ve not heard of Saledo but how special for you two. And yes, I love the name Barrett, too! Thanks for reading today!

  2. We’ve camped in Olympic National Park twice and both times we enjoyed visiting Port Angeles, Washington. We loved eating at a Dungeness crab restaurant which overlooked the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The meal came with bibs. You could walk along the bluff too and visit a marina. Very picturesque!

    1. Olympic National Park is beautiful! From Seattle, you can look across to the Olympics. It’s an awesome view! Thanks for stopping by!

  3. What carries me back is a small town in the Scottish Highlands where I lived and where life was much simpler, with kind and generous people still very community minded, with small local shops, weekend community dances, and various local celebrations. Ancient history was all around too with pre-historic cairns (burial mounds), an uncovered prehistoric town, and small fossils for the taking if you knew where to look. The red-“heided” Scots, of course, a reminder of early Vikings, along with Norse words still in use, were all around. And there were far fewer cars so people walked everywhere making it more likely to see one another to maybe have a wee chat.

    1. Eliza, that sounds like an amazing place. I love the idea of being community minded, and I love places rich in history. Being from the west coast of the United States where history doesn’t go as far back, I appreciate places with deep veins of history.

  4. I live in a small town. But I love to walk out in the pasture with our cattle and look at view from the top of the hill

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Cheryl. Hilltop views are some of the best, aren’t they?

  5. When I was growing up we would go down to the Paluxy River near Glen Rose, Texas. I always loved it down there. Close by is Dinasaur Park, and the settling is so serene and peaceful. I love to imagine what the area looked like back when Indians and Outlaws roamed the area. There was plenty of places to hide out. That would be a great setting for a historical book.
    Thanks for visiting here, your books sound great.

    1. Tonya, I’ve only been to Texas several times but stayed mostly by cities. Texas has some beautiful countryside, definitely an apt setting for historicals. Thanks for visiting today!

  6. Mine is the Outer Banks. We have been there as a family and with other friends and now as we are older. IT bring back amazing memories of fun and laughter.

    1. I really need to get to the Outer Banks, especially since I’ve lived in Western, NC over ten years now. I have been to a beach in South Carolina. I’ve heard such great things about the Outer Banks, though. Thanks for stopping by today!

  7. I live in a small town—20 miles from the Pacific Ocean. The beach takes me back to older times,when pirates roamed the seas.

    1. Estella, I miss living so close to the ocean. I’m landlocked now, but growing up in Seattle, I loved marine life and the smell of saltwater. Of course, Puget Sound is not the same as the ocean, and when we’d venture down to the ocean, I was always amazed by its vastness. And I love a good pirate story. 🙂

  8. Many years ago when I was married to my ex, we used to go to Hawaii every summer. That is the place that I escape to in my head most days. I have a lot of wonderful memories from our trips.

    1. Hawaii is the only state I haven’t been to. I really must get there someday. Trip memories are some of the best kinds of memories. Thanks for visiting today!

  9. I often think of my childhood days in Marion, Kentucky. My brother that was 4 years older than I and many of our friends used to spend a lot of time playing at a creek close to our neighborhood. We would play in the water, explore and swing on vines in the summer. In the winter we would use the vines to hang on to and slide or skate around on the ice. A very pleasant place from my childhood made more special by the fact that a year after moving back to Texas that brother was killed in a dirt bike accident at the age of 14.

    1. Stephanie, so sorry for your loss. I’m glad you have fond memories of your brother and your childhood days. Kentucky is a beautiful state.

  10. I adore the simpler life they had! It seems so calming and refreshing. In our little town is an old one room school house still standing. My grandpa went to that one so every time I pass it (which is often) I get nostalgic and think of him in there!

    1. How special to live where your grandpa grew up. I got to visit my grandma’s childhood school in Lawrence, KS once, and it was a special experience imagining her as a young child learning in a small brick building.

  11. Alas, I lived in the suburbs and live in a different suburb now so I have no real small town experiences – maybe that’s why I like to read about them 🙂

    1. I grew up in the suburbs, so maybe that’s why all the rural traveling we did made such an impression on me. My nine-year-old daughter loves the city and will tease about us being related because I love the open space so much more. It’s great to have books to take us wherever we love to be!

  12. Welcome to Wildflower Junction, Sondra! I could relate to you post and your main characters feeling of being “landlocked” because the same thing happened to me when I moved from the southern California coast to the Midwest. The feeling of being hemmed in surprised me, and when I tried to describe it to my new acquaintances that had lived inland all their lives, they could not understand me.

    Your story of the two teachers sounds delightful and I love the gentle humor that starts it right off.

    1. Thanks, Kathryn. I always go to the beach when I return to Washington and the blueness of the water always surprises me. I try to memorize the smell to take back with me to the mountains, which I also love. When I visit the Midwest, what strikes me is the relative flatness. It feels so open, which is refreshing, but I do feel a little exposed without mountains around me. 🙂

  13. I live in a rural area in northwest Minnesota and one town in the area has a store called Young’s General Store that brings you back to another time when a store had everything under one roof that you could ever need to buy!

    1. Minnesota is a wonderful place. I’d like to return sometime and visit the north. General stores are great pockets of small town life and community. You can tell a lot about a place by visiting those one-stop shopping places. Thanks for visiting today!

  14. I always loved visiting my grandparents… their town always felt different from where I grew up… things were at a slower pace, the people were friendlier… I miss it since my grandparents passed away.

  15. Colleen, I hope you have a chance to return there someday. Seems like a very special place for you. Thanks for stopping by and saying hi today.

  16. Sebago Lake Maine back in the 60’s and 70’s when it was a very secret place to spent the summer. Now its just so crowded.

    1. Kim, I was enthralled with Maine when I visited. I loved the woods and the seaside and the national park. I hope to go back sometime. Sorry to hear your spot is getting crowded!

  17. Hi Sondra…..Welcome to P&P! I see you’re making yourself right at home. That’s great. I love your blog subject. Settings are so important to me in my stories and others.

    Wishing you much success! You have some wonderful books out.

    1. Thanks for having me, Linda! I’ve felt welcomed. It’s great to meet new people.

  18. It sounds like you had a wonderful childhood, Sondra.
    We were a homebody family. My father often said if he had a piece of land, he didn’t need to travel. I had a special rock that I called my thinking rock. It was in our horse pasture on a small rise overlooking a stream. Such a peaceful place in my memory.

    1. I love the idea of a thinking rock. That should be in a story. 🙂 Thankfully with books we can go anywhere even while staying on one piece of land.

  19. Sondra- Thanks for visiting P&P…your books sounds awesome. Thanks for a chance to win a few. I always enjoyed visiting my grandparents also. I have many memories of their farm
    & all the animals. We used to feed the chickens & collect eggs. Follow the cows to the woods (Wow! that was a mistake!) the bull didn’t like us out there. My Grandpa told me to always eat my dessert first….in case you were to full to eat it after the main meal..I still do this. Grandma was a wonderful cook, she taught my Mother & I. I miss them everyday.

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