Song of Springhill, a love story & labor of love

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00026]

* * *

I feel like I’ve been living in the 1950s for the past little while, so enjoying looking up details about cars, Christmas decorations, clothes, popular music and dances, and other styles of the time period. That’s one of the many joys of being a writer…being able to dive into another world, setting, time period. (I’ve been listening to this great 1950s music mix!) I was even tempted to buy a poodle skirt and a hula hoop. What an era that must have been to grow up in.

It feels like I’ve been working on this project for a long time because…well, I have. My dad had told me for years (in the 90s) that I should try to find a story to tell centering on the Springhill coal mining disasters, including the big one my grandfather survived. It took me a while to listen to him. (Sorry, Dad!)

The first screenplay I was inspired to write was in the late 1990s. It was called Hope in a Mining Town. It was a father-son story, where the son wanted to follow in the footsteps of his coal miner father. Well, around the time I hit the third act of that script (pg. 90 of 120), I saw a preview to the movie, October Sky. I was devastated. It had 9 things in common with my story just from the previews alone, including the 1950s time period, mining arena, father-son story etc. So, I hastily finished the script (because I have to finish what I start) then scrapped that project and never looked at it again. Seriously, never.

A few years later, I felt that nudge again, to find a good story to tell using Springhill and its true-life mine disasters  and miracle rescues as its backdrop. It was 2001.  Dad and I went around Nova Scotia, Canada, interviewing a lot of the family members, coal miners, and rescuers so I could get some great, authentic research for my story. I was so impressed with the wonderful Springhillers who gave of their time and their stories.

Then the idea for Song of Springhill was born. This time, I looked at it from the love story angle instead of making it a father-son story. If you liked the movie Titanic where it was–at its heart–a fictional love story set in a true life disaster story, then you’ll hopefully enjoy this novel too. I wrote it as a screenplay first, then did the novel adaptation.

While I had to take some creative liberties with the town and the circumstances of the story itself, I tried my best to honor the real time period, the real setting, and the heart of the people in it. But naturally, in a novel, there will be fictionalized segments related to the love story. A lot of the disaster circumstances are authentic and gathered from years and years of research and newspaper articles and from my interviews with the real people. I’m so grateful to everyone who gave of their time and their hearts to share their lives with me for this story.

I’m excited to honor my grandfather, Charles McKay, in this way, who was a survivor of one of the biggest disasters in coal mining history.

Incidentally, October Sky went on to become my favorite film. I didn’t hold it against them for telling ‘my’ story before I could. Hopefully, one day, the screenplay for Song of Springhill will be a movie as well.

You’ll find Song of Springhill on Amazon in either kindle or paperback formats. Its companion book of true life interviews, Spirit of Springhill, is also available in both formats.

I pray the story is a blessing to you. I will say one thing that really hit me while writing the novel version of the story–that was a departure from my screenplay–was adding the thematic about how God shows up in the midst of difficult circumstances beyond just the miraculous or in obvious ways. We may not always understand why He chooses to intervene in one place and not another–to allow one person to live, yet not another. However, it’s so important to look for God and His hand in “the little things,” those little graces He gives us to keep us going when we are experiencing hard times.

May the story of Song of Springhill be a blessing to you as much as getting to know this little town and its people has been to me.

Below are the links where you can find it in US and Canada. (Other countries, check your Amazon sites.) I’ve also put a synopsis below if you’d like to know more about the story before you buy.

***

In the United States:

PAPERBACK:
Song of Springhill – a love story: an inspirational romance based on historical events (on Paperback)

KINDLE:

Song of Springhill – a love story: an inspirational romance based on historical events (on Kindle)

In Canada:

KINDLE

Song of Springhill: a love story (On Kindle Amazon.ca)

For paperback orders, you can order through Createspace, a division of Amazon.com that will send the book to Canada. You will need to create an account with them separate from your Amazon.ca account.

For those Springhillers who want the book in Canada, I strongly suggest you get a group together and try to order in bulk to save on the shipping costs per book. I’m supplying the following coupon code for anyone ordering through Createspace so it will knock $3 off the cost of each book to help defray the cost of shipping. (Regular book price 14.99, sale price will be 11.99 each plus shipping / tax / duties.)

Upon check out, use promo code: 9LAMJJC6. This code will take $3 off every book on your order. Here’s the link to the book page on Createspace:

Song of Springhill: a love story (On Paperback –order through Createspace)

* * *

The Companion Book: Spirit of Springhill

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000448_00018]

The Ebook version is available on Amazon.ca in Canada:

Click Here to Buy Spirit of Springhill in Ebook Format from Amazon.ca

If you want to order the paperback in bulk through Createspace, you can use the same discount code: 9LAMJJC6, to get $3 off the retail price of Spirit of Springhill as well. (Regular price $11.00, with discount $8 per book plus shipping, tax, duties.)

Click Here to Buy Spirit of Springhill in Paperback from Cheryl’s Createspace Store

For U.S. orders, use the following links:

Spirit of Springhill (PAPERBACK VERSION)

Spirit of Springhill (KINDLE VERSION)

If you’d like to read the blog I posted about the inspiration behind working on this project, check out:

The Ripple Effect of Life

* * *

SYNOPSIS OF SONG OF SPRINGHILL: a love story

 

Could you fall in love despite the great risk of losing the one you cherish most?

Hoping for a fresh start, Hannah Wright moves to Springhill, the hometown of the father she never knew because he died in their volatile coal mines before she was born. She tracks down her aunt, Abigail Percy, and is immediately welcomed to move in with the whole Percy clan. This includes her Uncle Ray, a coal miner, and their four lively children. Suddenly, she’s surrounded by more family than she’s ever had in her life.

The day after she arrives, the mine explodes, trapping many underground, including Uncle Ray. Little did Hannah know when she set off on this new adventure how much her family was going to need her. When the Percys face a sudden lack of provision, Hannah knows she must get a job to help them. But the only industry in town that pays enough is coal mining—and the mine company doesn’t hire women.

Hannah secretly masquerades as a man and gets hired as Mel, a distant cousin of her father’s. Keeping up her charade is challenging in this tight-knit, 1950s town, where everybody knows one another.

Hannah is placed on the team of Josh Winslow, a handsome bachelor who noticed her the moment she stepped into town. It doesn’t take long for Josh to see through Hannah’s disguise as Mel, but she convinces him there’s no other way for her to help take care of her family. Understanding the pressure she’s under, he agrees to not blow Hannah’s cover—for now.

Though Hannah seems to keep Josh at arm’s length, he’s determined to chip away at her defenses and win her heart. She resists, afraid to love someone who could die at any moment in an accident underground.

Long-time miners start to sense that “the big one” is coming. Calling it a “Bump” does little to calm Hannah’s fear of the impending underground earthquake, a disaster that could come any day.

Will Josh and Hannah be among the next miners caught in a catastrophic disaster? Does Hannah stand to lose everything she’s worked so hard to rebuild?

Song of Springhill is a love story set against the backdrop of true-life disasters that plagued the town of Springhill, Nova Scotia in the 1950s. It was a town torn by tragedy that also experienced some of the most astounding, miraculous rescues the world ever watched unfold.

 

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00026]

Advertisements

Ripple Effect of Life

Finally Fearless Book Trailer Pix-1078

I don’t even know how to begin this blog, this delicate story on my heart. There’s a story I’ve wanted to tell for years. It’s inspired by actual events from my own family. (And for once, no, it has nothing to do with how long it took God to write my love story, as shared through my books Never the Bride: a novel and Finally the Bride: Finding Hope While Waiting.) It’s more in line with the themes of my feature film, The Ultimate Gift: legacies and what we do with the time we have, and the gift one day of life brings to us.

This story is about my history, its roots, and how the ripple effect of events are why I am here today, why I was able to be born.

But this story also meant the death of someone else. That is sobering.

In fact, without death and the multiple tragedies reflected in this story, I wouldn’t be here today. I wouldn’t have been able to be born into the family I was born into.

Have you ever pondered the events that brought you to this earth? Have you ever asked yourself the question, “How was I born into my particular family? Why am I here? What was I meant to do?”

Many years ago, my father told me we should try to do a film about my grandfather’s life as a miner in Springhill, Nova Scotia.  It took me a while to listen to him. Eventually, I woke up to this amazing town and the balance between tragedies and extraordinary miracles this place experienced! It’s one of those tiny towns that, in the 1950s, when tragedy struck multiple times, the entire world stopped and watched. Waited. Waited for good news, hoping for miracles, hoping for news of lives saved.

This place, its stories, and my grandfather’s life there, were all the inspiration for my screenplay, Song of Springhill, which I am currently adapting into a novel. (To be released in Spring 2014.)

My grandfather, Charles Hugh McKay—also known as “Dado” to his grandchildren—died when I was fifteen years old. I wish, when I was younger, I had been more interested in asking him questions about his life as a miner, and the miracles that spared his life. It wasn’t something he voluntarily talked about when not asked. I embarked on a quest to get to know more about what his life was like after he was gone. I wish I had taken better advantage of the time I had with him.

His first mining accident was in the 1940s, and contributed to him not having to go off to war because he suffered a broken pelvis. A rail car ran over him in the mines; it took him months to recover. There are stories surrounding two of Springhill’s biggest disasters, the 1956 Explosion and the 1958 Bump, that also affected my grandfather’s life.

My aunt, Joyce Harroun, told me of a story relating to the 1956 Explosion. The way she remembers it, her father (my grandfather) switched shifts that day with another man. The man wanted to go hunting during the day, and asked my grandfather if he’d work the day shift for him, and upon his return, the man would work my grandfather’s afternoon shift.

Because of this shift, “Dado” got off work just a couple hours before the mine blew up. His life was spared, but the man who switched shifts with him died. They had the same job working in the same spot by the rail cars.

It also meant that the team of men my grandfather was used to working with died that day too; he lost a lot of his friends. As my Aunt shares, it was the only time she ever saw my grandfather cry up until that point in his life.

When interviewing one of the survivors of the Explosion, this survivor supplied two names of those who had the same job as my grandfather. Both of them were killed in the Explosion. I found an article in the Halifax Chronicle that seemed to back up the story my Aunt told. It mentioned one of their names as one who was “working an extra shift for a friend” that day, implying he wouldn’t normally have been underground.

Despite the dangers, my grandfather continued to work underground. Then in 1958, he was trapped underground when one of the biggest disasters in coal mining history hit:  The Bump. October 23, 1958.

My father anxiously waited for news of whether or not his dad was still alive, from the Lamp Cabin, a place where miners turned in their lamps when they finished their shifts. His father’s check number, #712, remained on the board, showing he had not yet surfaced. Not yet picked up his check tag.

Once the earliest miners were rescued, my grandfather was the third person to walk through that Lamp Cabin door. The first face he saw was my dad’s fourteen-year-old face, waiting for him, hoping and praying he was still alive. Seventy-five men died in that disaster.

After the rescue, “Dado” vowed to never go underground again.  That meant he needed to find new work to support his family. This led him to take a new job and move his family to the Boston area. This move is how my father eventually met my mother, when she was an attractive 16 year old, a spunky Massachusetts girl that he was set up with on a blind date.

This blind date never would have happened if my grandfather had not been spared by the 1956 Explosion or survived the 1958 Bump, the tragedy that made him decide to leave his life of mining. My father has said, unequivocally, he would have had no reason to leave Canada had he not been moved to the United States with his father’s career change.

My parents have been married since 1966.  It’s ironic to me to think that this disaster (and the fact that “Dado’s” life was spared 10 years before that time) is the catalyst that brought me to this earth.

At the same time, it’s sobering. I ponder the family who lost their husband / father / son because of the innocent desire this man had to go hunting that day. November 1, 1956.  I ponder what he must have missed out on, dying so young. How those in his family must have questioned over the years “what if?”

This story helps me connect specific dots that allowed me to enter the scene. It makes me ponder why I am here and encourages me to want to make the most of the life I am given and do at least a little bit of good while I am here. It reminds me of how we are not promised any particular amount of days. I hope anyone reading this will be encouraged to make an impact with their lives, no matter how long they are blessed to be on this earth.

Any ideas for how you’d like to change the world?  Your family? Or even just the life of one person?  You never know when that may have a ripple effect on the lives of many others.

Springhill, Nova Scotia Pinterest Board

***

Some photos of the book author with Springhillers:

Caleb Rushton Miracle SurvivorCheryl with Caleb Rushton and his wife Pat (He was a miracle survivor of the 1958 Bump, after being trapped for 6 days)

Dr. Arnold Burden heroCheryl with Arnold Burden, a doctor/ rescuer for both the 1956 Explosion and the 1958 Bump

Herb Pepperdine Miracle SurvivorCheryl with Herb Pepperdine, miracle survivor of the 1958 Bump

Norma Ruddick Singing Miners WifeNorma Ruddick, wife of the “Singing Miner”, Maurice Ruddick, a miracle survivor who was rescued after 8 1/2 days underground.

***

NOW AVAILABLE:

Spirit of Springhill: Miners, Widows, Orphans, Rescuers and Children Tell True Stories of Springhill’s Coal Mining Disasters (A Book of Interviews with People of Springhill)

Spirit of Springhill (PAPERBACK VERSION)

Spirit of Springhill (KINDLE VERSION)

For Canadian Citizens:

Click Here to Buy Spirit of Springhill in Paperback from Cheryl’s Createspace Store

Click Here to Buy Spirit of Springhill in Ebook Format from Amazon.ca

COMING 2014:

 

SOS a love story graphic