December 2, 2012

Holiday Cheer - From These Ashes We Will Rise

By Debby Lee

            It was late November, early December when I heard about a call for submissions from Barbour Publishing. They were specifically looking for four novellas that would tie together in one anthology. I had the perfect idea, a story that was exactly what they were looking for.
            I grew up in the cozy little logging community of Toledo, Washington. A few years after graduating High School, I heard a story about four of my classmates who all worked in the logging industry. One guy worked cutting down trees, what we call “a cutter.” One guy owned a fleet of logging trucks and another worked “green chain” in a local saw mill. The fourth guy was a construction worker. So, the story went, in reference to trees, one guy cut them down, one guy hauled them, one guy sawed them up and the last guy nailed them back together.
            Since I had grown up in a logging town, I already knew quite a bit about how things went “up in the woods.” I knew loggers had a lingo all their own. There was even a historical logging museum right in the heart of down town Toledo, where I planned on doing most of my research.   
            There was one small hitch in the get-a-long, I wasn’t contracted with Barbour. To get my foot in the door with them, I had to find three other Barbour authors who would be willing to collaborate with me on the proposal. I began contacting other Barbour authors immediately. As I began to spread the word about my anthology idea, the unthinkable happened.
            In the wee hours of Christmas Day 2010, down town Toledo caught on fire. Flames engulfed an antique store, a used book store, and to my horror, the logging museum. The blaze swept towards several other businesses as well. The drug store, the hardware store, and the bank on the corner of main street. My hometown nearly burned to the ground that day. Firemen were summoned from as far as thirty miles away. Water supply ran low and people were asked to conserve what water they could. As a last resort a fire truck with a special pump was called in to pump water from the nearby river. Finally, in the late afternoon, the fire was out. God bless all you firemen who came to help put out the fire.
            A few days later, I drove down to Toledo to survey the damage. I stood in the middle of the street. It’s as close I could get, with all the yellow “caution” tape that surrounded the area. I cried. I more than cried, I wept, tears streamed down my cheeks. Not only was my book proposal in jeopardy with the loss of the loggers museum, but my home town was on the verge of financial ruin with so many businesses either damaged or destroyed all together.
I ached for the loss of the buildings I knew so well. I remember walking down that same street with my mother when I was all of four years old, standing on the corner, selling Cheese Day buttons to become Cheese Day Queen, and later hanging out with my classmates in our early twenties.
With the stench of smoke still in the air and the rain pouring down, I had what I jokingly refer to as a “Scarlett O’Hara moment.” I swore I wasn’t about to let this fire deter my hopes of getting the story published. I’d get that proposal completed and submitted, no matter. I was willing to stand on my head and spit nickels if that’s what it took to get the story published.
I found three wonderful authors to work with. I was honored that three established Barbour authors were willing to take a chance on an unknown like me, but I guess they loved the idea. We began working on the proposal in February 2011 and submitted it to Barbour Publishing the first week of June. We did our best to incorporate authentic logging details and honor those in the logging industry, but after the proposal was submitted, all we could do, was wait.
The rest of June, all of July and August came and went. A grass roots organization, Vision Toledo, was created, local citizens and Toledo Alumni got together to discuss ways to save the town. I became part of the organization but kept quiet about the book proposal. What if Barbour rejected it? I didn’t want to look like a fool, bragging about it only to have it not sell.

September blew in, and the people in Toledo tried to get on with life and make it as normal as possible. At the end of month I got an email from the agent who had agreed to represent me on this project. I called her immediately and she told me the news every writer dreams of hearing.
Barbour agreed to publish the story, and she offered me full representation. Not only did I have my first sale, but I now had an agent. I was thrilled, to say the least.
The other authors and I began working on book. We decided to set it in Tumwater, Washington and all the stories would be historical. In novella one, Jeremiah Tucker works up in the woods and a tomboy named Anna takes him by surprise. In novella two, the one I wrote, Frederick Coorigan drives logs to the mill on the steam train he nicknamed Inferno. E.V. Renier works at a saw mill in novella three and courts Larkin Whitworth. Carpenter Willum Tate graces the pages of novella four and falls in love with Natalie Bollen.
After months of hoping, working and praying, A Cascades Christmas hit store shelves on September 1, 2012. I held my first book signing at The Daily Grind coffee shop in down town Toledo, where else. J  
A Cascades Christmas is available now. For more information on Vision Toledo and how to help this struggling community, visit  

            Debby Lee belongs to Romance Writers of America, the Christian Writers Guild and the American Christian Fiction Writers. She has been published in numerous newsletters, college journals and on-line magazines.  
            She is happily married, has five children and lives in Centralia Washington with her family. Reading is one of her favorite hobbies. Her other interests include traveling, being active in her local church and cheering for the Seattle Seahawks.    

Chocolate Covered Cherry Cake



1 (18.25 oz) plain devil's food cake mix
or devil's food cake mix with pudding
1 (21-oz) can cherry pie filling
2 large eggs
1 tsp. pure almond extract

1 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup whole milk
1 cup (6-oz pkg) semisweet chocolate chips


Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat 350 degrees. Lightly mist a 9x13-in baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.

Place the cake mix, cherry pie filling, eggs and almond extract in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 1 minute. Stop mixer and scrape down the sides of bowl with a rubber spatula. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes more, scraping the sides down as needed. The batter should look thick and well blended.

Pour batter into the prepared pan, smoothing top with rubber spatula. Place pan in oven. Bake until the cake springs back when lightly pressed with your fingers and just starts to pull away from pan (30-35 minutes).

For the glaze, place the sugar, butter and milk in small saucepan over medium-low heat and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil, about 10 minutes. Boil, stirring constantly for 1 minute.

Remove the pan from heat and stir in chocolate chips. When the chips have melted and the glaze is smooth, pour it over the warm cake so that it covers the entire surface. The glaze will be thin, but will firm up as it cools. Cool cake 20 minutes before cutting into squares and serving.

Serves 20.

Debby Lee
Romance to Bless You
Available Now! A Cascade Christmas 
by Barbour Publishing


Cheryl Pierson said...

Debby, that must have been terrible. I grew up in a small town here in Oklahoma, and I can only imagine how awful it would be to see it burned to the ground. I probably would have had a Scarlett O'Hara moment, too. So glad to know your story will be available, and I am going to get my copy of it, for sure. This is a very inspiring blog! I wish I had had this recipe of yours when my dad was still living--his favorite thing in the world was chocolate covered cherries!

Anna Kathryn Lanier said...

Debby, I'm chiming in late, so sorry not to be by earlier, but I was out Christmas shopping....making merchants happy, but not my husband. LOL. Thanks for sharing with us, I know that this was traumatic for you. I'm so glad a phoenix rose from the ashes and I hope the town is recovering well, too.

Lavada Dee said...

I grew up in Tumwater and love it's history. Congratulations on the book. Wishing you mega sales for it.

Lacey Falcone said...

Hi Debby - What a neat and inspirational story! I grew up in a rural, ranching, old gold-mining, logging area in California - my Dad drove a logging truck for a while. What a great setting for a romance! So sorry about Toledo - that can be so devastating for a small community. Congratulations on your success with your publisher and the agent. I hope you have lots of sales!

Paty Jager said...

That's a great tribute to your town and to your perseverance, Debby! Congratulations!

Laurie Ryan said...

That was a bad fire. I remember hearing about it. But Toledo is a tough town, eh? No little fire is going to stop them.
A Cascade Christmas is in my TBR pile and I'm looking forward to a nice holiday read this month.

Debby Lee said...

Thank you so much to all of you who stopped by and left a post. I've told the story many times, and glossed over it in other blogs, but this was the first time I sat down and wrote about it in detail. It was harder than I thought it would be. I'm glad you all enjoyed reading the story. Thanks again, and have a wonderful holiday,

Janette Harjo said...

God Bless you, Debby, for having to see your dear to the heart hometown almost destroyed by fire. You were most deffinitely blessd by having an excdellent story right there, just waiting for you to write it!

Karen Michelle Nutt said...

Oh how awful. I'm glad things are looking better now.

Here's wishing you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

kmnbooks at yahoo dot com