Be a Success: Apply Yourself

The Truth Behind Fiction

Though the Abi Wunder stories are fiction, like most fiction, the books are based on fact. Facts that needed to be researched for accuracy. Here are some examples of subjects I researched:

· Pine Hill: This fictional town is based on Round Hill, Virginia, near Purcellville, Virginia, where the first two Abi books are based. Round Hill is a lovely country town in northwestern Virginia near the West Virginia state line. As of 2019 only 656 people lived there. The Appalachian Trail, a popular hiking spot, is nearby. I live in Albuquerque, New Mexico now and love it, but have missed the quiet beauty of the country roads and horse country in the Round Hill area. I lived down the road from Round Hill for five years and loved it so much that I based my books on the area. While writing the books, I have gone back and spent more time there. The settings in Secret in the Stars and Secret in the Mist, book two, publication planned sometime this year, take place there.

· The marsh and old farmhouse: Across the road from my house, I enjoyed the beauty, sounds, and wild life that frequented the marsh, which was about the size of your classroom. An old, deserted farmhouse was just yards away from the marsh. At the time I left the area, the town was working on registering the farmhouse as a historic landmark. That means that the property must have been historically significant for at least fifty years, and the building look the same as it did in the past. The ghost in Mist rises out of the marsh. The farmhouse has a significant role in the story.

· Honey bees: Bees play a significant role in Secret in the Stars. Though I knew a beek, as beekeepers like to be called, when I was a child, I brushed up on the subject for the book. I attended beek meetings in my town. Also, I spent an afternoon with a beek, who graciously showed how he keeps bees.

· Herbert, the ghost: Fictional characters are based on people authors have known or met, or a mix of people. Even animal characters are based on animals or people the author has known. The rabbit in the story of Peter Rabbit was based on a pet rabbit Beatrix Potter had as a child. Herbert is a “composite” character. “Composite” means “made up of various parts or elements.” I fashioned Herbert after two men I love and admire: a good friend who is a singer and musician and is eighty-seven years old now, and my father-in-law who was an Air Force veteran and a terrific gardener.

· The Hilltop Inn: The inn is based on a Bed & Breakfast that was a mile from my house, down a road called a Virginia Scenic Byway, so named because of its beauty. Along this road were horses in pastures, a llama and alpaca farm, and a peacock farm. The B & B was built in the 1700s and had many of the features in the inn in Secret in the Stars except one: the secret door. That door is based on a door hidden by a bookshelf in our house at the time.

Now it’s Your Turn

Whatever assignment you’re given in school, whether it be to write a story or a report, do your research. It’s a recipe for a sure A.

· Make an effort: Decide right from the start that you’re going to make an effort to learn something, and as a byproduct of that, get a good grade. As a teacher myself, students who try get many points toward a good grade no matter the outcome of their assignment.

· Get the job done right: Once you’ve decided on your topic, give yourself time to get the job done right.

· Make a plan: Decide what you need to do, how much time it will take, what materials you will need, and then get started.

· Work alone or with a friend or two: Decide which way would be best. If you work with friends, make sure the friends you choose will each pull their own weight.

· Make a list: Jot down a subject, place, or person you plan to write about. Take advantage of Google to find out basic facts. Then dig deeper by going to the library and finding out more, or if you need help, ask the research librarian to help you.

· Follow the teacher’s instructions: Has the teacher given you specific instructions about your presentation? Follow them. This is important because no matter what you decide to do in life, following directions is one of the most important ways to be successful. For writers, this means keeping an article or a story to the exact word count, getting the work in before the deadline, abiding by whether to submit the work in an email or in the mail, and more.

· Have fun: If you’re given the freedom to present your assignment however you want, have fun with it. Present it in a way that will make you shine. Having fun with what you do is a surefire way to succeed.

You will be amazed at how good you feel if you put effort into everything you do. Not just in school assignments, but in life: friendships, activities, home life, in everything. You will know deep down that you’ve done a good job all because you’ve done one thing: you’ve made an effort.


In the photo, a beek I visited in La Luz, New Mexico, was about to open this bee hive to show me the bees.

A beek I visited was about to open this hive to show me the bees, in La Luz, New Mexico

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