t. elizabeth renich

author of historical fiction

Richmond Times-Dispatch

Richmond Times-Dispatch / Sunday, January 14, 2007 / Flair G1, G5

Devoted to football and fiction

Skins support-staffer Renich has found time in busy life to publish historical books

BY PAUL WOODY
TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER

In a business where people have little time to read books, Tammy Renich has written four.

In a profession where toughness is valued and playing with pain is admired, Tammy Renich has battled cancer and won.

In a job where overwrought coaches make demands on players and staff members alike and where the days can be endless, Tammy Renich is indefatigable in her joy and happiness.

At the Washington Redskins practice facility, where Renich is administrative assistant to Gregg Williams, assistant head coach/defense, the players, coaches and staff know her as an upbeat, hardworking, single 42-year-old who cherishes each day.

In bookstores and on the internet, readers know T. Elizabeth Renich as the author of the “Shadowcreek Chronicles,” four works of historical fiction that follow the travails and successes of Salina Rose Hastings during the Civil War.

The books, “Word of Honor,” “Matter of Trust,” “Not Without Courage” and “Strength and Glory,” were published by Emerald Books in Seattle and sell for $9.99. They can be found at ywampublishing.com, amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and christianbook.com.

Salina is 16 and lives with her family at Shadowcreek in Chantilly, when the Civil War begins.

When the last page is turned in book four, the date is May 29, 1907, and Salina – wife, mother, and grandmother – is strolling through downtown Richmond with her husband and one of their daughters. She shows her daughter where she lived through some of the Civil War, in a house at Franklin and First streets.

In between the start and finish of the books, Salina travels as far west as San Francisco and as far north as Gettysburg, Pa., and faces danger and death as she helps the living and comforts the dying.

The books are meticulously researched. Renich spent weekends, parts of weeks and entire weeks in Richmond between 1992 and 1997. She took copious notes and talked to countless historians and Civil War experts.

SEE RENICH, PAGE G5

Tammy Renich’s historical fiction “Shadowcreek Chronicles” follow Salina Rose Hastings from the Civil War to the early 20th century. (Photo by Gary Fitzgerald)
Tammy Renich’s historical fiction “Shadowcreek Chronicles” follow Salina Rose Hastings from the Civil War to the early 20th century. (Photo by Gary Fitzgerald)

Renich
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Her diligence shows. You could use “Strength and Glory,” which is book four in the series, to take a Civil War walking tour of Richmond.

Renich’s books illustrate the terrible effect the Civil War had on families on both sides of the battle during and after one conflict.

“I wrote the books because it was a dare,” Renich said one afternoon at Redskins Park in Ashburn in Loudoun County.

She had written a manuscript in 1985 that never got published. One of her uncles who happened to be in the publishing business saw potential in the writing, though.

“He called me two or three years later and said he had a project to ask me about,” Renich said.

The project was to write a work of historical fiction. Renich could pick the time period and do the research. At the time, she was living in Southern California, a continent away from the Civil War locales she would pick as her topic.

Now, she works in a building just a few miles from the initial settings of her books. She literally could give “Salina” tours full time from Culpeper to Washington and beyond.

At first, she was inclined to say no to her uncle’s offer.

“I thought it sounded like a lot of studying,” Renich said. “I had been out of school several years and hadn’t done anything big since my last term paper.”

Then, a friend both encouraged her and dared her to do it.

“How could I pass that up?” Renich said.

And the offer to write one book became a contract to write two books. Midway through book two, the contract became a four-book deal.

Ten years of her life passed between the time she began research on “Word of Honor” until “Strength and Glory” was published in 2000.

In the midst of her research and writing, life got in the way. She lost one job, and the books were put aside while she found another.

“Writing did not pay my bills,” she said.

Nor does it pay them now.

“Royalty checks are rare,” she said. “You know how people say, ‘Don’t quit your day job’? Well, don’t quit your day job.”

Renich’s boss, Williams, is hard on his players and demands that everyone around him work to a high standard.

“The versatility she displays and the passion she has for the job in unbelievable,” Williams said. “She takes a lot of heat off me.

“She makes us so much more efficient and enables us to concentrate on what we do best: coach. No job is too big for her and no job is too small. She does them all with extreme thoroughness.”

“She is always very, very happy. But she understands no to be too happy around a bunch of cranky coaches after a loss.”

Cranky coaches were the norm this season at Redskins Park. The team finished the season 5-11.

No one can say for sure, but Renich’s upbeat attitude might have something to do with her comeback from a life-threatening illness.

In the spring of 2005, Renich was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

The prognosis was not good.

Surgery and chemotherapy, though, were successful. Redskins owner Dan Snyder, head coach Joe Gibbs and Williams told her to get well and not to worry about anything at the office. The Redskins paid for her mother to come from California to Northern Virginia for the surgery and chemotherapy treatments.

“A total blessing,” Renich said of the support from the Redskins owner, coaches, players, coaches’ wives and Redskins support staff. “Having cancer puts a different perspective on your life in general. I’m very thankful for how things turned out.

“And it’s so amazing because there has been so much good that has come out of a bad situation. I’ve been able to help people I never thought I could help.”

Renich confers with and consoles others who have cancer. She helps people deal with the difficulties of chemotherapy. She wonders if there is another book in there somewhere.

If there is, it will come after she finishes another historical novel, this one an update on Ethan Hastings, Salina’s older brother and a young man whose life was shattered by the Civil War.

Renich hopes that one day her Ethan Hastings book will be published. Even if it isn’t, she can make one claim all aspiring writers covet.

She smiled as she said, “I’ll never be unpublished again.”

Contact staff writer Paul Woody at pwoody@timesdispatch.com or (804) 649-6444.

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