Book signing set for Akron author’s first novel

By on February 7, 2018
Smith will sign copies of her book at Javateas on February 10.

Smith will sign copies of her book at Javateas on February 10.

Akron resident Donna L.H. Smith will sign her debut novel, Meghan’s Choice, Saturday, Feb. 10 from 10 a.m. to noon at Javateas Café, in part of the former Doneckers store, 333 S. Main St. Ephrata.

Ashley Scheirer of Javateas said this will be the first book signing at the Doneckers location, which opened in the fall of 2017. “We are especially excited to host Donna because she is local, and we love to support our local community and help get the word out about community members doing great things. Our new space offers some great opportunities to host future events like this as well as other community events,” she said.

Smith describes the novel as a Christian historical romance western. “Meghan’s Choice” tells the story of a young woman’s bold journey to a wild Kansas railroad town in 1871. After her father gives her an ultimatum to work for a year before marriage, Meghan Gallagher impulsively takes the first position offered ­ a tutor for eight children of Santa Fe Railroad executives.

Although Smith currently lives in Akron, she grew up in Newton, KS, a small town about 25 miles north of Wichita. Smith explained that Meghan’s Choice is based on an actual event that occurred in Newton in August 1871 ­ the gunfight at Hyde Park. Over a ten-day period, more people were killed and wounded than at the OK Corral. She said she adhered closely to facts about the gunfight between William Bailey and Mike McCloskey, which was started after a contentious election. During the fight, Bailey was killed. She said Louis L’Amour is the only other western author to write about this event; it’s loosely retold in the opening chapter of his novel “Flint”.

Smith explained that in Meghan’s Choice, some of the events were fictionalized and her hometown’s name was changed to New Boston. But even that fictionalized name has a connection to the real Newton, KS. Smith explained that Newton was established as a rail head for the Santa Fe Railway. It’s located along the historic Chisholm Trail, which was used in the post-Civil War era to drive cattle overland, from ranches in Texas to Kansas railheads. The town was named Newton after Newton, MA, since it was home to some of the railroad’s main stockholders. Smith said today Newton, MA is a suburb of Boston, hence her name of New Boston.

She holds a B.S. in Telecommunications from Oral Roberts University and an M.A. in Communications from Wichita State University. “My focus was broadcasting. I hadn’t given serious thought to being a writer. It briefly crossed my mind in 1979 when my grandmother was dying. She was born in 1885 and traveled from Ohio to Kansas in a covered wagon in the 1890s; I thought her story would be interesting to tell, but that was a fleeting thought,” she said.

The idea of being the author of a novel crossed her mind again about 13 years ago when she was 49 and going through what she described as a stressful time in her life. “That book would have been about how to get over rejection issues. When I told my friends about that idea, they made a bit of a joke of it,” she said even though she had experience in her career with various forms of writing through public relations, radio and print journalism, marketing and advertising.

The desire to write a novel crept in again in 2011. At that time she operated a business making homemade chocolates that she sold online; she closed the business in 2014. Smith recalls that she was watching the Hallmark Channel, and a “Murder She Wrote” movie was playing. She recognized one of the actors as Duncan Regehr, who had played “Zorro” in the Family Channel’s TV series. “I grew up watching Zorro (reruns of the 1950s version with Guy Williams as Zorro) and so the Family Channel’s series was something I also enjoyed. After that I followed Regehr’s work,” she explained.

The Hallmark movie sparked a desire in her to write Zorro stories on Fanfiction, a website where fans of a particular set of characters such as Harry Potter or Zorro create original stories based on the characters. Smith posted Zorro pieces on the site throughout 2012. “They were well received, so again I began considering writing a novel. I prayed about it for some time. The phrase gunfight at Hyde Park came into my mind, and I had my answer. I recalled hearing a bit about the incident as a child, so I began doing research,” Smith said.

She adds that she’s always loved the genre of romance, so she knew her story would be a romance set amid the historic event of the gunfight. With the goal of writing a novel that included the historic gunfight in mind, she set out to hone her writing skills.

She attended several Christian writers’ seminars and conferences, and graduated from the Christian Writer’s Guild Craftsman program under Jerry B. Jenkins. She also discovered a website for would-be writers called Almost An Author. She currently serves as assistant managing editor for the site, which trains and encourages writers and was recently listed as one of the top 100 best websites for writers, She also blogs on her own website: donnalhsmith.com and is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, Romance Writers of America, Advanced Novelist Network, established by her mentor DiAnn Mills, and Advanced Writers and Speakers Protégé program.

Meghan’s Choice was named a semi-finalist in the 2014 Operation First Novel by Jerry B. Jenkins and received an honorable mention for the Golden Leaf Award in 2015. The book is published in connection with Hartline Literary Agency, serving the Christian book community.

Smith said Meghan’s Choice is the first book in the Known By Heart trilogy. She’s currently working on the second book, Rose’s Redemption, and the final book will be Hannah’s Hope. In addition to the book signing at Javateas, Meghan’s Choice is also available from Amazon in both print and Kindle formats. Area readers who are not able to attend the Javateas book signing, but would like to obtain a signed copy of the book may contact Smith at dlhswriter@windstream.net.

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