Saturday, February 21, 2015

Once Again from Multi-published Deborah Heal!

Back Cover Blurb:
Once Again
An inspirational novel of history, mystery & romance
(The Rewinding Time Series: book 1)

Field Research Location:
Columbia and Waterloo, Monroe County, Illinois.

Discover where Fort Piggot was located on the Kaskaskia Trail, while staying clear of attractive, single colleagues (ie. Brett!) so as not to commit career suicide, while also keeping the "rewinding time" program secret, so Uncle Sam doesn't turn into Big Brother.

Merrideth Randall’s day job is teaching history at McKendree College. But after hours she turns to her first love, historical research. And she has a tool other historians can only dream of—a computer program that rewinds time!

Merrideth makes a virtual visit to the 1780s, hoping to be the first to locate Fort Piggot. Along the way, she gets a first-hand look at the lives of the courageous pioneers of the Illinois Country, who withstood Indian attacks, hardship, and loneliness to settle the rich land.

One of the settlers is James Garretson, who risks his life to take the Gospel to the very tribe that wreaked havoc on his family. Merrideth is amazed that he could forgive a crime so huge. Hero or fool, James Garretson is the ancestor of her colleague Brett, a physics professor at McKendree College.

With her findings, Merrideth is able to help Brett with his genealogy, but she can’t tell him everything she learned—like that he inherited his black hair and green eyes from James Garretson, or that his aunt’s poetry is eerily similar to the verse Garretson’s wife Isabelle used to compose at her spinning wheel.

Brett has rock-star status on campus, but amazingly enough, he seems to be pursuing Merrideth—in spite of her firm policy against dating co-workers. She would love to tell him about her amazing program, but discretion is not his strong suit. She has secrets about herself that she’d just as soon he didn’t find out either. One virtue Brett does have is patience, and he’s quite willing to wait for Merrideth to figure things out.

Read an Excerpt:

Once Again
Chapter 1

“We have to remember that in 1811, the Illinois Territory was the wild, wild West.” Merrideth Randall realized she was leaning on her podium and straightened her spine. At five-foot-two it was difficult enough to look like a mature professional without slouching. At twenty-six, she was the youngest professor at McKendree College and only a few years older than her students, which was why she always dressed in suits and high heels. At times, she had a feeling it only made her look like a child playing dress-up.

She had started the day feeling confident in her new black gabardine suit. The label had bragged about the comfortableness of the three-season fabric. But even though it was a cool October afternoon, she was already sweating like a pig.

Furthermore, the fabric was a magnet for her hair. She picked two long blond strands from her sleeve and turned her eyes back to her students.

“And as amusing as it seems today, the governor’s job description then included riding into battle, leading the soldiers at his command.”

Apparently, they didn’t find that historical tidbit as amusing as she did. The class continued to look apathetic. She mentally sighed. At least they were awake, to a degree. And most were even taking notes, in a desultory fashion. But the gleam of curiosity she had hoped to see in their eyes was absent. As usual.

McKendree College was small, the current enrollment only about 2,000. But it didn’t aspire to be a large institution. Class sizes were intentionally kept small and intimate, and the professors and instructors were encouraged to get to know their students, to interact with them outside of class. All that had weighed heavily when Merrideth was deciding which of the three job offers she would accept. But sometimes she wondered if she should have chosen the large school in Chicago where she could remain anonymous and not be expected to remember the students’ names, at which she was an epic failure. In the end she decided that a big school would be too intimidating. No, it was much better to be in a small pond where there was a better chance of becoming a big fish one day.

She had thought, naively it turned out, that after a couple of weeks at McKendree she would be nicely settled in, and her history classes would be well on the way to becoming campus favorites. Instead, after over a month, her students remained aloof and only mildly interested in what she had to say. She found their nonverbal feedback incredibly dampening, to say the least. It was a vicious cycle, of course. The more she worried about being boring, the more difficult it was not to be.

Marla White, a seasoned pro from the French Department had advised her to act confident even if she didn’t feel so. “And whatever you do, don’t ever let ’em see you bleed, or they’ll be on you like wolves.”

But that was easier said than done, wasn’t it? Taking a deep breath, she shuffled her notes and soldiered on.

“Tecumseh was off trying to organize a coordinated Indian resistance that November day in 1811. If he had been successful…”

A student in the third row—Allison? Alyssa?—raised her hand. She was a beautiful girl and always looked cool and collected, as if she weren’t familiar with the human phenomenon of perspiration. And as far as Merrideth could tell her blond highlights had not come out of a bottle. She was one of the few students who ever asked a question or offered a comment. Unfortunately, they were usually so tinged with sarcasm that Merrideth had begun to dread calling on her. But now as always, hope rose that at last she was about to experience a lively interaction with a student.

Merrideth pointed to the raised hand. “Yes?”

“The proper term is Native American. Besides, they aren’t really Indian anyway.”

Merrideth was sure the smile she had drummed up looked fake, but it was the best she could do when her teaching competence was under direct attack. “I’m glad you brought that up. I recently learned that most Native Americans actually prefer to be called Indians.”

The girl looked decidedly skeptical.

“I was surprised myself.” Merrideth glanced down and shuffled her notes again. “Anyway, if Tecumseh had been successful, who knows what the map of America would look like today? While he was gone, Harrison and a force of 1,000 soldiers defeated the Shawnee at Prophetstown.

“At the time it was considered a huge victory for Harrison. He picked up the nickname Tippecanoe from the river of that name near the battlefield. Twenty-nine years later in 1840, a Whig campaign song called Tippecanoe and Tyler Too helped Harrison win the presidency.”

The girl raised her hand again.

“Yes?” Merrideth said as pleasantly as she could.

“Will that be on the final exam? The nicknames and songs, things like that?”

“Maybe. Probably.”

A disdainful expression flittered over the student’s face, and then she lowered her eyes and resumed writing. Just as Merrideth looked back at her own notes, the girl muttered, “I registered for Illinois History, not Trivial Pursuit.” It was said loudly enough that it was clearly intended for Merrideth to hear.

She stifled the urge to smack her. To reward herself for her restraint, she decided to wrap up class three minutes early. “But historians know,” she said tersely, “that the victory at Prophetstown only ratcheted up the violence between the whites and Indians. Six months later when the War of 1812 began, the Indians naturally sided with the British. We’ll talk more about that next time. Be sure to keep up with your readings.”

The students began gathering their things with an eagerness that was a further insult to Merrideth’s confidence. Then she remembered her announcement and called out, “Don’t forget, if you want to be a volunteer at the Fort Piggot archaeological dig Saturday, there’s still time, but you’ll have to be a member of History Club. Just let me know if you need a sign-up form.”

No one responded. No one even looked interested, much less stayed behind to get the details. She felt her face heating and turned away to gather her own things. Her embarrassment grew ten-fold when she realized Dr. Garrison was watching her from the door. With a mind of its own, her hand started to rise, intent on checking her hair. But she forced it back down to her side. She would not allow Brett Garrison to trigger any fluttery female instincts she might have.

The thought that the most popular professor on campus had witnessed her debacle just added icing to the cake. She had heard that gushing groupies congregated outside his classroom like he was Indiana Jones, and they were there to catch him before he cast off the trappings of academia and went off on an action-packed adventure.

But Brett dressed more stylishly than Indy had—never in tweed jackets with leather patches on the elbows, for sure. And he was much better looking than Harrison Ford. His black hair was thick, and his eyes were so green that Merrideth once asked Marla White if she thought he wore colored contacts. Marla had smiled knowingly and said, “No, ma’am! They’re the real deal. It’s the Irish in him.”

The moment she was introduced to him at the faculty icebreaker at President Peterson’s residence, he had set her nerves on edge. Sure, he was pretty to look at, but his vanity ruined it. Twice she had caught him admiring himself in Peterson’s hall mirror. She had avoided him ever since.

But now she smiled and said, “Hi. Don’t you math types do your thing in Voigt Hall?” It hadn’t come out in the friendly manner she’d intended, and she mentally kicked herself for letting her rattled nerves show. He sure didn’t need anything more to stoke his ego.

But he didn’t seem to take offense, just grinned. It did not help her nerves one little bit.

“I was just taking a short cut to 1828.”

“It was a very good year, from all I’ve heard.”

The witticism was a mistake. He laughed, and her pulse skipped. It was confirmation that Brett Garrison was a man she should continue to steer clear of.

A therapist had once chided her for being a reverse snob when it came to good-looking men. She had reminded Merrideth that they couldn’t help the way they looked any more than anyone else could. If she were here now she would tell her to give Brett Garrison a chance, for crying out loud.

“I meant the 1828 Cafe, not the year,” he said. “I heard the last part of your lecture.”


“It was very interesting.”

“What?” she said.

“Your lecture on William Henry Harrison.”

“Oh. Well, tell that to my students.”

“They looked interested to me.”

“Not Allison…Alyssa…what’s-her-name.”

“Ah, yes, Alyssa Holderman. I have her in Calculus. She has an attitude problem. You know Holderman Library is named for her great-grandfather?”

“That explains a lot.”

“Don’t let her get to you. The other kids are cool.”

“I’ll try not to. Thanks.”

“Would you like to join me at the cafe? They have good coffee.”

The offer put her hackles up. “No thanks. I need to get home.” She started down the hall, hoping to put distance between them, but he fell in beside her.

“So, Dr. Randall, what do you do when you’re not lecturing about the past?”

“Prepare more lectures. It takes a while to get them polished into the scintillating gems that they are.”

“Don’t be hard on yourself. You’ll hit your stride soon enough.” He held the door for her and she went out ahead of him onto the quad. Brilliant orange maple leaves, carrying the scent of autumn, fluttered by against a deep blue sky. Nearby, Alyssa Holderman and four other girls, busily texting on their phones, paused and looked up with interest.

Brett doled out one of his smiles. “Hello, ladies. Nice day, isn’t it?”

The girls preened and twittered like pretty birds in designer jeans. “Yes, Dr. Garrison,” one said. “It sure is.” The girls’ heads swiveled in unison as they watched their idol pass by. Merrideth was pretty sure she heard a sigh. Surprisingly, Brett Garrison didn’t seem to notice their worshipful adoration.

“So what about family?” he said.

“Oh, I’m all in favor of them,” Merrideth said. “How about you?”

He chuckled. “I’ll go first so you’ll know how to answer that question. I have a brother in Texas and a sister in North Carolina. My parents are deceased, but I do have an Aunt Nelda.”

She smiled. “You do not have an Aunt Nelda.”

“I do, in fact, have an Aunt Nelda. A very nice Aunt Nelda.”

“Oh, sorry. I didn’t mean to be rude.”

“And you being a history expert would like Aunt Nelda, for her old house if nothing else.”

“Really? How old?”

“Aunt Nelda or her house?”

“The house,” she said, smiling in spite of herself.

“I’m not sure of the exact date. The family has owned the property for generations.”

“I love old houses.”

“Then you should take the Haunted Lebanon tour in town. I know someone who could get you a ticket, if you’re interested.”

“No, I’m good. I did the Haunted Alton tour a couple of years ago, and once was quite enough for me. Life is scary enough as it is. Besides, I’m tied up with the dig.”

“See, you do other things besides preparing lectures. Where is it?”

“We’re looking for a fort that was once down in the American Bottom.”

He laughed uproariously. “I know I’m reverting to my junior high self, but a fort in the bottom? Really?”

Merrideth rolled her eyes. “The American Bottom is the southern Illinois floodplain of the Mississippi River. After the Revolutionary War it was the western frontier of the brand new United States, hence the name American. The French who had lived there for more than a century, migrated across the river to the French city of St. Louis, and the Americans began to arrive. The early settlers built several blockhouse forts there.”

“And you think you know where one was.”

“We hope so. Fort Piggot was the largest of them, but ironically, historians didn’t even know of its existence until relatively recently when the so-called Piggot Papers were discovered. Just by coincidence, someone found them concealed inside a framed river pilot’s license that had been hanging on a wall in the Green County Museum since forever. It’s really fascinating and…I’m boring you to death. Sorry. I get carried away talking about this stuff.”

“I’m not bored at all.”

“Really?” And she realized that he wasn’t. Either that, or he was a good actor.

“Sure. I don’t even particularly enjoy history, but you’ve made me curious to know where this fort was.”

“Near Columbia. About thirty minutes from here. James Piggot built it in—.”

He laughed. “You’re kidding, right?”

“I never kid about history.”

“My Aunt Nelda’s farm is not far from Columbia, above the famous American Bottom, although I had no idea that historians had given the area such a charming name. Come have coffee and tell me more.”

Inexplicably, Merrideth found herself standing at the sidewalk that led up to the 1828 Cafe. Somehow while she was yammering on about the fort, she had forgotten to make the turn that would take her to Hunter Street where her apartment was. Somehow, she had just followed where Brett Garrison led like a mindless twit. Worse, students were staring at them from the cafe’s windows. Marla White had warned her that rumors spread faster than the speed of light in a small town, faster still in a small college. There was no way would she let false rumors about her and Brett Garrison prevent her from achieving her career goals.

“Sorry,” she said. “I have to get home. Enjoy your coffee.”

“Then I’ll say goodbye. And, Merrideth? You should get carried away in your classroom like you did just now. Enthusiasm is contagious. Your students will sit up and take notice.”

“Thanks for the advice. See you.”

He made it sound so simple. As if being enthusiastic was all it took to be a successful instructor. It went counter to her own personality, and besides, her friend Abby, who was an excellent elementary teacher, had told her that the old “Don’t Smile Until Christmas” guideline that worked for her fifth grade classes would work equally well for her college students, especially the freshmen. “If you’re too friendly,” she’d said, “they’ll think you’re soft and take advantage of you.”

Maybe she’d ask some of the faculty friendlies, like Marla White and Jillian Burch, their opinion of the subject. But for now, her first line of defense was to be prepared with the best lecture in the world, tomorrow and every day thereafter. Sure, that didn’t allow much time for a life, but what did that matter to an introvert anyway?

Today, as she did on most days, she had left her old Subaru parked behind her apartment and walked to work. The ghost of her obese pre-teen self still haunted her sometimes, even though mentally she recognized that she was now at a good weight for her height. But even if she didn’t need the exercise, it was a glorious walk on a bright fall day.

It was ironic that she had ended up living in another small southern Illinois town, when for years she had longed to leave her mother’s home in Miles Station and get back to Chicago where they had lived before her parents’ divorce. But Merrideth had come to appreciate small towns. And Lebanon was a pretty little town of just under 6,000 souls, with quiet streets and beautiful old homes. Everyone at McKendree had assured her it was virtually crime-free and safe enough for her to walk about alone. She had already explored quite a bit of the historic district.

Charles Dickens had put Lebanon on the map when he mentioned his stay at the Mermaid Inn in his 1842 travelogue American Notes. The inn still stood and was open to the public, although Merrideth had not yet taken the tour.

But McKendree College was Lebanon’s greatest achievement. It was the oldest college in Illinois, established in 1828 by pioneer Methodists. It was rich in tradition and proud of its history. Several of the oldest buildings on campus were rumored to be haunted. There had been much talk of it as Halloween approached.

Her friends Abby and John, who loved old buildings as much as she did, had come one weekend to tour the school and town. Abby had gone a little nuts shopping in the antique stores on St. Louis Street. Their own Victorian home was filled to the brim with beautiful old things, but Abby had an insatiable need for more antiques. When she wasn’t buying for herself, she was looking for little things to spruce up Merrideth’s apartment.

Hunter Street was quiet and lined with mature trees that were slowly releasing their leaves onto the sidewalk. She lived on the second floor of a huge old house that had been subdivided into four apartments. Her landlord Mr. O’Conner looked as old as the house and wasn’t able to keep up with repairs as well as she might like. But Merrideth didn’t mind. The house had character, the rent was cheap, and the other tenants were quiet. It would do until she had the money for a down payment on a house of her own.

She trotted up onto the porch and checked her mailbox. There wasn’t anything in it, nor had she expected there to be. The utilities weren’t due yet, and the credit card company hadn’t gotten her change of address yet. Her mother had never been a letter writer even back in the day when most people were. But when November rolled around she’d have at least one letter in her mailbox. The return address would read, Bradley Randall, #1254387, Route 53 Joliet, IL 60403. She wasn’t certain he’d ever be “rehabilitated,” but fifteen years of the state’s hospitality had turned her father into a faithful letter writer. She’d give him that much.

She reminded herself to tread quietly on the stairs. Mr. Haskell worked nights and slept during the day. That’s all she’d been able to discover about him since she’d been living above his apartment. He gave her suspicious looks whenever they met. She still hadn’t decided whether it was his natural temperament or only sleep-deprivation. In any case, the poor man had even less of a life outside work than she did.

Once inside, she laid her keys on the mantel. The fireplace was no longer operational, and the mantel was only faux marble, but she displayed some of her most valued possessions there. In the center was a framed family photo, taken during a brief moment of calm before her parents split. It was a terribly unflattering picture for all three of them, especially her. She was overweight and under-groomed, her dishwater blond hair hanging in her brown eyes. But everyone was smiling in the photo, so she kept it on display because it gave the appearance of a happy family.

To each side of the photo were the silver candlesticks she’d bought for herself to celebrate finishing her doctoral thesis. And then there were the treasures from Abby and John’s girls Lauren and Natalie for whom she was an honorary aunt: a homemade birthday card, a “fairy house” made from a tissue box, and a garland of construction paper fall leaves. All were heavily glittered, as were nearly all the crafts she and the girls made together whenever she babysat them.

Merrideth smiled and went to see what was in the fridge for dinner.

Buy her book here:

About Deborah:
Deborah Heal, the author of the Time and Again, History Mystery Trilogy and the Rewinding Time Series, which have been described as "Back to the Future meets virtual reality with a dash of Seventh Heaven thrown in," was born not far from the Old Slave House featured in her novel Every Hill and Mountain and grew up just down the road from the settings of Time and Again and Unclaimed Legacy. Today she lives with her husband in Monroe County, Illinois, not far from where the pioneers of her novel Once Again struggled to survive amidst Indian attacks.

She enjoys reading, gardening, and learning about regional history. She has three grown children, five grandchildren, and two canine buddies Digger and Scout. She has a special connection to her latest novel Only One Way Home. Unlike the characters in it who were forced to walk the Trail of Tears, her great, great grandmother’s Cherokee family remained safely in North Carolina.

Deborah loves to interact with her readers, who may learn more about the history behind the books at her website and her Facebook author page

Connect with Deborah here:

DEBORAH is giving away a copy of ONCE AGAIN. The giveaway is only available to U.S. addresses. To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment along with your email address. You can enter the book giveaway twice--once on each spotlight post.

Happy Reading!
Caroline Brown


Rick Estep said...

This looks interesting and like it would make a great addition to our church library. Librarybooks at religious dot com

Deborah Heal said...

I like the way you think, Rick! I happen to think all my books would be great on church library shelves--especially since they have such a wide audience age range.

And BTW, you don't have to worry about them getting theologically weird. The time travel in my books is only virtual. No way would I write a book in which the characters go back in time and change the course of history, because our God is sovereign over time! And seeing time "rewind" on their computer screens gives Merrideth and her friends a chance to see that in a whole new way.

Deborah Heal said...

Thank you, Barn Door Book Loft, for spotlighting my book Once Again!

Readers can learn more about the real people and events fictionalized in the story on my website:

Connie said...

I love the premise of Once Again! and I love that I don't have to worry about language or graphic sex or violence. Thank you for the chance to win a copy.
cps1950 At gmail Dot com

Okie said...

I have donated the 1st two of her books to my church library and would donate this one as well if I win.

Patricia Bradley said...

The excerpt was delightful! I look forward to reading the rest.

Deanna Stevens said...

Enjoyed the excerpt I would like to read this .
dkstevensneAToutlookD OtCo M

Robin Bunting said...

Would love to add this book to my collection. ty for the chance to do so.

Anonymous said...

looks great!

KayM said...

I love the excerpt! I'm very interested in reading this book. Thank you for offering a copy.

Linda C. said...

Your book sounds great. And considering I live only miles from the Kaskaskia River and about 45 minutes from McKendree College, it will be fun looking for all the local color in the book. I can hardly wait to read it.

Deborah Heal said...

It's a small world, Linda. Please remember that the McKendree College (University) characters are all completely fictional, not based on anyone living or dead, because I'm sure none of the actual faculty members would ever say anything sarcastic about the administration of the college. And I doubt the real president dresses "like a caricature of a college professor. I'm just saying.

Sharon A Lavy said...

Thank you for sharing with us Deborah. I like time travel stories and have never read one that changes history, even though that may be the characters intent.

I would not be able to suspend belief and enjoy the story if they did. Most likely throw it against the wall and then the circular file.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for visiting at the BDBL Deborah. Interesting interview. I love learning new things about my author friends. Sounds like you have a nice setting where you live. And, a Walmart nearby. Doesn't get better than that. LOL Your book sounds like a good one and I would love to read it.
Maxie > mac262(at)me(dot)com <

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