t. elizabeth renich

author of historical fiction

I'm NOT Margaret Mitchell, and I'm NOT re-writing Gone With The Wind!

I grew up in southern California, but knew little of what transpired there in 1860-1865. Research turned into treasure hunts for accurate details gleaned from California to Virginia to Alaska and lots of places in between. I wove invented characters into actual events, mingling them with real people of that era in a believable manner; to illustrate that history isn't boring, and to inspire another generation to take an interest in our country's heritage.

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Do-Overs & the Sunset from Sky Road

Posted By on February 25, 2011

Saturday, 29-Jan-2011

 The new memory stick, which I purchased at the camera store on Shop Street, seemed to be working fine when we exited the store.  I took pictures all the way to the market and the jpeg numbers increased with each shot I took – as they should.  The new problem I was having was that the camera would allow nothing but the basic auto settings, so I took what I was given and adjusted the best I could.  Something was better than nothing.

We walked to the outdoor Saturday Market near St. Nicholas Church.  It was an Irish version of a farmer’s market with offerings of fresh fruits for sale, vegetables, flowers, cheesemongers, wines, breads, pastries, spices, and a few booths with local arts and crafts.  Lunch at the Skeffington Arms (of tomato soup reminiscent of Magnolia’s) happened amid our backtracking through Eyre Square, past the bus station, Garvey’s/Sammon’s Pub, and Murty Rabbitt’s bar.  We didn’t go back to the Spanish Arch or the museum, as I already had pictures of those places from my 2008 visit. 

Leaving Galway behind, we headed west on N59 toward Clifden.  Along the way, we passed familiar places I remembered from the Connemara trail ride back in 2003:  Moycullen, Oughterard, Maam Cross, the location of the Quiet Man Bridge, and the turnoff for Ballynahinch Castle.  Travelling through Connemara country and seeing the Twelve Bens again starting tickling my imagination.

Upon our arrival in Clifden, which we seemed to reach even sooner than we did last time given the growth and development and construction leading into town, we checked into the Station House Hotel.  From 1895 to 1935, a rail line ran from Galway to Clifden.  The hotel is in the old station house and there are several shops and galleries, a pub, a theatre, a spa, and a museum – which though closed at present, was scheduled to re-open in May for tourist season – now occupying the renovated brick railroad buildings.

Some parts of Clifden had changed noticeably – the Esso petrol station has been replaced by Topaz, with its vivid red and green digital display for prices per litre – and there is a traffic signal across from the Catholic church!  (Very sad, but there’s not much to be done in slowing down urban sprawl anymore… anywhere.)  “Downtown,” however, is very much the same with its brightly-hued buildings and one-way up Market Street and the opposite way down Main Street.  SuperValu is still there and doing brisk business.

First stop was to the leabharlann (library), where I was able to get some online information and ask a few questions of the librarian, who had grown up and lived in Clifden all of her life.  She gave me an e-mail address and told me I could contact her if I had any additional questions…  I do intended to follow up on that.  Then we went to the Clifden Bookshop to browse through the books, postcards, and stationery.

We drove past the grounds where the Connemara Pony shows and sales are held, and following the librarian’s directions, we made our way out Sky Road, beyond the Abbey Glen Hotel, to find the remains of Clifden Castle, originally constructed by John D’Arcy.  We did not take the “twenty-minute” walk from the castle gate down to the ruins, as it was blustery cold and the sun was starting to go down.  Besides, a twenty-minute walk in also requires twenty-minutes back, and from our vantage point on the hill above, it really looked like more of an hour’s walk to me and my feet.  Bernadette found a driveway to pull into so I could snap some photos and we agreed to come back again the next morning to see what difference the lighting might make earlier in the day.

E.J. King’s pub has been operating in the same location for over 150 years, and that is where I treated Bernadette to her birthday dinner.  We were celebrating early since my flight home was booked for February 1st and her birthday wasn’t until the 4th.  After dinner, we took advantage of the free wi-fi and internet service in the lobby of the Station House, checking our respective e-mail accounts, and then watched Into the West on the DVD player.  It didn’t take me long to fall asleep and dream of what Clifden might have looked like almost fifty years ago…  while some things have changed, others haven’t at all…

Microfilm & Memories at the Galway Library

Posted By on February 21, 2011

Friday, 28-Jan-2011

Before I left for Ireland, I e-mailed the Galway Library and made contact with them, explaining what information I was hunting for and when I would be there.  Maureen, the lady I’d traded e-mails with wasn’t working that day, but she’d left word and Mary, Peter, and a few others were on hand to help me out with the materials I needed.  Bernadette, bless her, handled making copies of handouts and selected book pages…

At the microfilm machine, I could make my own copies.  Just line of the image within the margins and presto – the equivalent to our 11×17 ledger-sized paper.  We started with June 1963 editions of the Connaught Tribune, a couple of weeks before President John F. Kennedy was scheduled to make his appearance in Galway, and read through to the edition published the week after he’d been there.  The pages offered some pertinent and fun details – like when the residents had to have their cars off the streets prior to the presidential motorcade and how many pounds it cost to purchase a new black and white television set.

While scrolling through the microfilm reel, a gentleman approached me and introduced himself as Peter Rabbitt (No, not the Beatrix Potter character).  Peter was actually there the day that President Kennedy passed through, his father’s establishment, Rabbitt’s Bar, was along the route the motorcade followed through town.  Peter, who was six years old at the time, and his brothers looked on from a 2nd story window while President Kennedy passed by on the way to Eyre Square, where he received Freedom of the City and gave a short speech before heading on to the Seapoint Resort at Salthill.  I was honored that Peter would share his stories and recollections with me.

We had lunch before heading to the Galway City Museum, near the Spanish Arch, where we were able to watch a video of complied footage – both newsreel and home-movie style – of JFK’s visit.  Bernadette and I walked back to Eyre Square and matched up some of the photocopy pictures with what is there now to put into visual perspective where the stage would have been, where the Browne Doorway stands – almost directly across from what used to be known as the Great Southern Hotel – and determine which buildings standing now would have been in existence in 1963 (most of them,  just some have different names now).

Kenny’s is a book store and art gallery that has been in business since the 1940’s.  It is no longer in its original location, having outgrown the space, but it’s someplace that I want to include in my story.  Just for fun, we went to see the place and I ended up getting a book about Galway there.  I’d already ordered “JFK in Ireland” by Ryan Tubridy online – and had them ship it home to me.  That way, I didn’t have to try to pack it in  my carry-on.  It weighs 2.5 pounds all by itself!

A box that I had shipped to Bernadette two weeks before I left for Ireland still had not arrived (in fact, it didn’t arrive until a week after I’d come back home).  Therefore, we were missing the graham crackers needed to make s’mores.  Colm is mastering the art of roasting marshmallows…  Bernadette and I stopped to do some shopping at the Tesco in Oranmore, but the closest we could come to graham crackers was something called “Digestives” – which didn’t sound appealing, but were an almost suitable substitute.  Close, but not quite.  Leonard, Colm, Bernadette and I did the best we could with what we had to work with.  You pretty much can’t go wrong with Cadbury chocolate, so it was all good – with the white marshmallows, NOT the pink ones.

Colm put on a video of a championship hurling match that he played in, to show me what his sport looked like in action.  It reminded me of lacrosse, hockey, and soccer – combined, sort of.  Never a dull moment.

Later that night, I had a sinking feeling that something was going wrong with my camera – or at least my memory stick – because there were numbers missing in the jpeg sequence.  A lot of numbers missing…  I somehow lost in the neighborhood of 200+ pictures.  All of Bunratty Castle was gone, all of the Galway sites we’d seen the day before, including the sports grounds – and the photos I snapped of our s’mores…  Bernadette comforted me by telling me she knew of a camera store in Galway where we could stop and get another memory stick – and we’d probably have enough time to re-take some of the pictures on our way to Clifden, which was better than nothing.  Thankfully, I would at least have my postcards to remember Bunratty Castle by…  disappointing, certainly, but not devastating.

Sample of Soup

Posted By on February 15, 2011

Thursday, 27-Jan-2011

Leonard had the day off and he was good enough to do the driving.  (The MapQuest directions were sort of pointing us in the right direction — Bernadette and I might have been lost before we found where we were going…)  First we went to the Cliffs of Moher, which are breathtaking.  The weather, by way of an answer to prayers, was clear and sunny if cold and breezy.  The point was, we could actually see the cliffs in all their stark and rugged beauty.  The lady at the visitors center asked me if I’d brought the sunshine with me, as the day before they’d had nothing but clingy fog and misty drizzle until mid-afternoon.  We took a hike up to O’Brien’s Tower and got an incredible view from the top.  That is definitely a long ways down to where the ocean crashes against the base of the cliffs. 

We did not return the same way we came on the way to Bunratty Castle, so we didn’t have to go down Corkscrew Hill – which is a winding road with repeated hairpin turns, hence the name of the place.  We’d stopped at the overlook to have our pictures made, and way off in the background is Galway Bay.

Before continuing on to Bunratty, we decided a bit of lunch was in order and went to eat at The Creamery – an establishment the Heath-Johnsons has visited last summer and recommended highly.  I wasn’t sure about the seafood chowder, and the nice waiter was kind to let me have a “sample.”  The chowder was so tasty, Leonard and Bernadette ordered bowls of their own in addition to my little sample.  I was intrigued by the green delivery truck out in front – it was a Traveler version of a 1960’s (not exactly sure which year) Morris Minor.

Bernadette brought me to Bunratty Castle on my 2008 visit for a traditional Irish ceile at the Corn Barn.  We arrived just as the Folk Park was closing, it was starting to get dark, and the Mideval Banquet was already in progress in the castle tower.  (She remembers well how she was the one to find the gold ring in her piece of brack…a tradition which claims that whoever finds it will marry…  She and Leonard started dating not long after that, so maybe there was some truth to the legend in her case…)  This time, we got to go through the entire Folk Park and three of the four turrets of the castle.  That is a lot of spiral staircases and we even put Leonard in the dungeon for a bit.  I’m guessing I took more than a hundred pictures – all around the Folk Park, inside the castle itself, and from the parapets at the top of the castle.  Great views of County Clare from that height.  At the gift shop, I purchased some postcards (like I did at the Cliffs of Moher), and for Bernadette’s birthday, a DVD of a movie called Into the West.

I’m really glad I found the online off-season special they were running – we got our admission to the Cliffs and the Castle for €12.00 per person, and were able to visit both places on the same day.  It was brilliant; quite a bargain.

After salmon for dinner, we all went to the Community Centre in Gort.  Frances was performing in a play called “All Shook Up” – featuring the music of Elvis Presley.  It was fun to watch for her amid the supporting cast.  She’s quite the character.

Horses and Houses

Posted By on February 11, 2011

Wednesday, 26-Jan-2011

Sunrise hadn’t yet put in an appearance by the time I arrived at SNN.  Bernadette was there to meet me at the airport in Shannon.  Of course, the first thing I did was try to get in on the “wrong” side of the car…  It’s just weird to sit on the “passenger” side (which is the driver’s side in America) with no steering wheel in front of you.  And, then there’s that driving on the “wrong” side of the road – takes some getting used to.  I won’t even go into the roundabouts…too scary…

After breakfast at the Whelan house and a trek in borrowed wellies to see the horses down by the sheds, Bernadette drove us from Ballindive to Liskevin, still in Ardrahan but maybe about 4 miles (6 minutes or so) away.  I got to meet Leonard in person, though it seemed like we sort of knew each other already, from Bernadette’s stories of him as well as seeing him on “Shkype.”  I got the grand tour of the new gravel driveway and the concrete foundation (including the conservatory and garage – which rhymes with carriage) of where the house they are building is going to be.  The wedding isn’t until February 4th of next year, so they are hoping everything will be done by the time they get to move in.  They showed me plans and features and it’s going to be a neat place when the building phase is complete.

Later on, we went into Gort, saw where the internet café is located and had lunch with Bernadette and Frances at the Lady Gregory.  This is the hotel where the wedding reception will be – it’s very nice and will make for nice pictures on their special day.

My 3rd Trip to Ireland

Posted By on February 11, 2011

A week ago, I was changing planes in Newark and arriving home from a “brilliant” trip to Ireland.  Of course, the time went so fast, but it was such fun to spend time with friends and have a learning experience.  But, instead of telling the last part of the story first, I’ll go back to the beginning and give the day-by-day:

Tuesday, 25-Jan-2011

In 2008 all I brought with me to Ireland was in a carry-on and a "rucksack." I did the same for Israel in 2010, and again this time to Ireland. I just have a problem paying baggage fees...plus, if I can't carry it, then I should't bring it.

Barb provided “taxi service” to IAD.  I had everything packed in my carry-on and backpack (aka “rucksack”) because I refuse to pay extra for checked baggage.  I got a great deal on airfare – definitely off-peak, not the height of tourist season – and had friends and family praying that the weather would be fine for me on my journey.  I left IAD on a small plane to EWR (Newark-Liberty Airport – where I had a 5.5 hour layover) and then had no one sitting in my row with me on the flight from EWR to Shannon.  That was nice because after being served dinner and watching some NCIS reruns on the in-flight entertainment system, I put up the armrests, stacked the pillows below the window and curled up to sleep for a bit.

The purpose of this trip was to visit Bernadette, meet her fiancé, Leonard, and spend some time with her family (mom-Mary, dad-Pakie, sister-Frances, brother-Colm).  The last time I’d seen the Whelans was on my trip in 2008, so it wasn’t quite three years ago since I’d stayed with them.  This time, however, I’d contacted the library in Galway ahead of time to let them know I was coming and to see if someone there could help me with research that started in 2008 at the Galway City Museum near the Spanish Arch, continued up at the JFK Library in Boston, and was now extending back to Galway and Eyre Square again.  This would be a fact-finding, detail-digging sort of adventure, too…

Got your passport ready?

Posted By on January 17, 2011

Yes, I do have my passport ready!

In fact, I knew exactly which drawer of my desk to find it in since I had to use it last June in order to go on my trip to Israel — but that is another story that I will tell on another day.  I promise!  (Soon!)

This time, though, I’m headed to Ireland again!  I’m going to be doing some research in Galway and Clifden, taking in the sites with the goal of later translating them to paper.  I’m going to be staying with a dear friend of mine, Bernadette, and will get a chance to visit with her and her family.  And I will finally get to meet Leonard in person rather than just waving to him on Skype.

Clifden, County Galway, Ireland

If you think of me, please pray that I will be blessed with safe travels, good weather, and find the information I am seeking to help make my historical details as accurate as possible.  I’m working on a scenario for a story, and I would like to make sure I have it correct.  (Just like with my Shadowcreek Chronicles…  I write better about someplace after I’ve been able to see it.)  I was able to collect some information when I went to the JFK Library in Boston, but now I hope to get a glimpse of the Irish side of things during that time period.

I had a chance to talk with Melanie Jeschke after the Capital Christian Writers meeting last week.  Melanie is the author of The Oxford Chronicles, which are predominantly set in England but have a bit of Paris thrown in the mix as well, and she, too, has visited the places she wrote about.  I enjoy the details in her stories and hope (if this story ever makes it into print) that my readers will enjoy the authenticity of the descriptions and the accuracy of the history.  That’s what makes it fun.

T.Elizabeth with Melanie Jeschke

When I get back from my trip, I’ll be sure to post some photos so you can see where I’ve been.  Thanks for keeping me in your prayers!

Happy Thanksgiving Eve!

Posted By on November 24, 2010

This year seems to be going by extemely fast and, unfortunately, I have fallen way behind on keeping up with all the things that have been happening in the past few months.  I will have to do a little back tracking to include some of the really fun things I’ve been able to do this year.  Some of the details might even make their way into a manuscript someday…

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and I have SO many things to be thankful for…  including my family and friends, my health, the words that have been making their way to the pages lately, my “real” job, and many other blessings.  God is so good!

Two weekends ago, I “ran away” to Winchester and checked into the George Washington Hotel — just me and my laptop.  By the time I checked out, I had revised four pages and created six new pages of material.  Now, I don’t know where these pages fit into anything yet, but it felt good to just be writing again.  It has been awhile.  It is a prayer request that I frequently ask people to pray for — that if the LORD wants me to, would He please give me the words and feasible plot line for the “next” novel…  This might be the start of the answer, but I’m hoping for much more.  (Any and all prayers are most welcome!)

Last weekend, I was able to go horseback riding — something I haven’t done since 2008 (the last time I was in Ireland with Bernadette).  It was a treat, and I enjoyed it very much.  Penni took one look and didn’t think my McClellan cavalry saddle could possibly be comfortable, but it suits me just fine.  The quarterhorse she let me ride took good care of me.  We rode for about an hour, on a glorious afternoon with multi-colored leaves and cool temperatures.  A perfect fall day.  We didn’t go far, however, as we could hear the hunters in the woods and the sound of gun shots gave us pause.  Another time we’ll take the trails, she said.

Next Friday (December 3rd) I have another book signing in Leesburg.  The place is called Shoes, Cup and Cork Club (across the street from the Court House, near Lightfoot) and the event is a fund-raiser for a non-profit organization called AART (All Ages Read Together).  I’ll be there with two other Loudoun County authors from 6:00-8:00 pm.  (If you have anyone on your list who needs autographed books for Christmas, I’d be happy to help you out with that.)

In the meantime, have a blessed Thanksgiving.  I hope that you will get a chance to enjoy family, traditional fare, and of course, good football.

CW BookMart at Historic Blenheim (27-Feb-2010)

Posted By on February 28, 2010

Andrea Loewenwarter (Historic Resources Specialist) and T. Elizabeth Renich at 2010 CW BookMart Fund-Raiser for Historic Blenheim in Fairfax, Virginia

Andrea Loewenwarter (Historic Resources Specialist) and T. Elizabeth Renich at 2010 CW BookMart Fund-Raiser for Historic Blenheim in Fairfax, Virginia

With a little more than a week’s notice, I received an invitation from Andrea Loewenwarter at Historic Blenheim to come Fairfax for a book signing.  I googled Historic Blenheim, as I wasn’t familiar with the site, and after doing a bit of reading, determined that I wanted to be a part of the preservation fund-raiser.

I contacted Josh in the Shipping & Receiving Department of YWAM Publishing (they do the distribution for Emerald Books) and he once again came through for me in getting a shipment of books here in time to take to the event on February 27th.

As it turns out, I knew one of the other fiction writers, knew of a couple of the non-fiction authors, and inevitably met some others who I hadn’t known before.  The numbers of “shoppers” increased slightly as the afternoon wore on, though I’m told that numbers were unfortunately down from last year.  I sold a handful of books and was glad to make the donation to the historic site.

Blenheim, as the Willcoxon Farm was known in 1857, was added to the National Registry of Historic Places in 2001.  Andrea was kind to march a group of us along the muddy path up the snowy hill for a tour of house.  The significance of this place is an amazing collection of graffiti left on the walls primarily by some Union soldiers who were here in 1862 and others later on in 1863.  The restoration is still in progress, and Andrea along with her team, are researching the names of these soldiers who “left their mark” in traditional Kilroy was here fashion.  There are signatures, large and small, cartoons, quotations in German and English, portraits, and poems.  It was my understanding that one of the participating authors had included an actual soldier who had been at and inscribed his name on Blenheim’s walls in her book, based on an ancestor of hers who had been there during the Civil War. 

IMG_3617IMG_3598IMG_3602Andrea’s husband purchased a copy of Word of Honor for their daughter.  I had had a chance to talk with her a little, about loving to read and enjoying history.  When she read the back covers of the Shadowcreek Chronicles, she became interested in Salina’s story.  I hope she will enjoy it.

Book Signing in Leesburg

Posted By on November 29, 2009

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FRIDAY, DECEMBER 4TH

6:30-8:30 PM

Come and meet T. Elizabeth Renich at the Very Virginia Shop, where she will be available to sign copies of her Shadowcreek Chronicles during Leesburg’s “First Friday” celebration.

Very Virginia is located at 109 South King Street in Historic Downtown Leesburg… (703-669-1800)

The Shadowcreek Chronicles are a great gift idea for the history buff on your Christmas List!

Hope to see you there!

Daniel Silva – NY Times Best-Selling Author

Posted By on November 29, 2009

Daniel Silva and me before kickoff of the Redskins-Buccaneers Game on October 4, 2009

Daniel Silva and me before kickoff of the Redskins-Buccaneers Game on October 4, 2009

I get to do some very interesting things and meet some very interesting people in my line of work.  On home game Sundays, I am available “on-call” in case I am needed.  Occasionally, I assist with escorting family and friends of our head coach’s wife from her suite to the sidelines prior to games, and I’ve also been a “tour guide” for our assistant coaches’ wives and families on the way to the field-level reception room where the post-game meetings are held.  Mostly, I’m there as moral support.

Silva-The Defector Book CvrOn the Sunday that we played the Buccaneers, one of the guests in Mrs. Zorn’s suite was New York Times Best-Selling Author Daniel Silva.  I recognized Daniel’s name from seeing his books in Coach’s office, and from hearing rave reviews of his work from our assistant coaches who have read many, if not all, of his titles.  Sarah and Dani also had good things to say about his stories.  To have a chance to meet Daniel and chat with him for a few minutes prior to kickoff was an honor.  I had to confess that I’ve not (yet) read anything he has written (he is considered a master of intrigue and espionage) and I explained to him how I had written four historical novels set during the Civil War — knowing he hasn’t (yet) read any of my work — which contain a thread of a spy story woven through Salina’s tale.  Daniel was very kind and offered some encouraging words — both about writing and about football.  (After our second meeting, he took a set of my Shadowcreek Chronicles home with him as a gift for his daughter, who I understand loves to read, so I hope she will enjoy them.)  I have added him to my reading list for the off-season.