Category Archives: Educational

Discovering Michael Shirley’s Land

When I began writing Defiance on Indian Creek, in 2008, all I found on Michael Shirley’s land came from a Google Book copy of Oren Morton’s book, A History of Monroe County West Virginia. Listed on page 82 under Surveys under Botetourt County in 1774, in the following format: Shirley, Michael–527–Indian—L—Mar 24.

However, I didn’t know how to find the deed online for the correct location. I printed a map of Indian Creek and learned the creek’s course into the New River. After locating the predominant frontier forts, I decided on a location for the fictional story.

Eight years later, I submitted my manuscript to White Bird Publications. While waiting for the book’s completion, I wondered about the accuracy of my character’s trek toward Cooks Fort.

I emailed the West Virginia Historical Society and contacted the Cook’s Old Mill historian Fred Ziegler. His reply to my inquiry shocked, thrilled, and caused panic at the same time. “…Mary could have walked to the fort in five minutes.”

I called my publisher. “Should I totally rewrite the story plot to fix my blunder?”

My publisher said, “No. It’s a great story, and it’s fictional.”

I’m happy to say book four, Palisades of the Heart, (Work in Progress) places the Shirley family in the correct location for the important romance between William McGuire and Mary Shirley.

I’m not making life easy on them, however. There are major issues to resolve.

Check out Fred Ziegler’s excellent non-fiction book: The Settlement of the Greater Greenbrier Valley, West Virginia. The People, Their Homeplaces, and Their Lives on the Frontier. Buy on Amazon

A Whole New Side of the American Revolution

frontier_cabin

frontier_cabinI’m pleased book one in the Dangerous Loyalties series, Defiance on Indian Creek, is being used by educators for use in Literary Arts and Social Studies curriculums.

As I researched Daughters of the American Revolution Patriots, Mary Shirley McGuire and her papa Michael Shirley, a whole new side of the American Revolution unfolded and begged to be shared—not as the usual fact, fact, fact but shown through tenacious thirteen-year-old Mary, who wants what all young adults want: friends, acceptance, and a peaceful future.

Research revealed that western land grants were at stake if Britain lost the war. Therefore, as early as 1775, Tories made covert attempts to retain control of the western frontier. British-encouraged Indian raids kept western frontier men defending their families and out of the Continental Army in the east. Allegheny settlers also dealt with shortages of supplies and falling tobacco prices due to boycotts of English goods. Most of the Tories fled the pro-independence Alleghenies—those who remained worked covertly to ally the various Indian tribes.

Mary’s fictional story draws readers into common emotional family issues, such as sibling rivalry, trust, faith, forgiveness, and loyalty. Mary is the eldest of eight children living in a small log cabin. She is bossy, prone to daydream, and makes rash judgments. Tension is balanced with humor as Mary interacts with her family through daily frontier life while they prepare for the move to Kentucky territory.

Defiance on Indian Creek is a clean Young Adult historical novel set along Indian Creek, in frontier Western Virginia. In 1775, Mary Shirley is a tenacious thirteen-year-old girl who desires friends her age and a peaceful future. Her papa wants to remain loyal to King George III and remove the family to Kentucky territory if war breaks out. Mary is worried. Papa’s covert activities are endangering the family, and Mary has grown ashamed of him. She wants to change his mind somehow. When he falls ill, he pleads with her to deliver lifesaving dispatches. Mary must decide if loyalty to Papa is more important than loyalty to the cause of freedom.

The multilayered story line allows educators to introduce students to a variety of discussion and research topics, some of which include the following:

  • Stereotyping
  • Slavery
  • Survival Skills
  • Frontier Education
  • Early Surveyor Equipment and Skills
  • Importance of the Borderlands
  • The French and Indian War
  • The Controversy of Lord Dunmore’s Role in the Battle of Point Pleasant
  • Compare Indian Leader Cornstalk’s Crossing of the Ohio River with George Washington’s Crossing of the Delaware River
  • The Role of Scouts in the American Revolution

Painstaking historical research, a study of story structure, as well as years of rewrites, have produced a quality product I’m proud to share with educators for inclusion in Literary Arts and Social Studies curriculums.

C. S. Lakin, award-winning author and book editor, says this about Defiance on Indian Creek: “This novel, so rich in historical description and accuracy, brings the era and locale to life through the eyes of young Mary Shirley. Young readers will be transported back to the American Revolution, riveted by the fears and dangers the characters face, while seeing how a life of honor and integrity is at the heart of patriotism, family, and hope for the future. I can think of few novels from my own years in elementary schools that could compare in quality of writing and storytelling. Phyllis A. Still’s novel is right up there with the books penned by Laura Ingalls Wilder and is just as memorable and enduring.”

My goal for this series is for young adults to be inspired by Mary’s story. Teens have always played a significant role in the events taking place around them and shared common desires for friends, acceptance, and a happy and prosperous future. History wouldn’t be boring if taught through the stories of the real men, women, and children—whose lives were changed forever.

This novel has been published by White Bird Publications and is distributed by Ingram. It sells as print on demand through all bookstores.

Thank you for sharing my book with your students.

Be Strong!