Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Guest Post: ELEPHANT DREAMS by Martha Deeringer

  Genre: Young Adult / Historical Fiction / Sweet Romance
Publisher: Melange Books
Date of Publication: September 2, 2017
Number of Pages: 224

Scroll down for the giveaway!

Desperate to escape her squalid life on the streets of New York City, sixteen-year-old Fiona Finn seeks help at the magnificent Church of the Ascension where Charles Loring Brace, a social reformer horrified by the plight of New York City’s street children, arranges for her to go west aboard an Orphan Train.

Fiona’s homeless, alcoholic father has other plans, however. He wants Fiona to “work” the streets to support his drinking and pursues her across the midwest until she is forced to abandon the train in Houston to avoid a sheriff bent on returning her to her father.

Alone in the dark on the Texas prairie, Fiona’s terrifying experience with a circus elephant, Bolivar, sets the stage for a future she could never have imagined.
Elephant Dreams will be featured in the January, 2018 issue of the Historical Novel Society magazine.

“What a story! With scenes to be likened to any Charles Dickens novel, the author, Martha Deeringer, carries the reader on a breathtaking journey through despair and hope that changes as often as the wind changes direction. Great characters, a believable story, an insight into another world, and an empathy for a character that a reader would have to have a heart of stone not to sympathise with. Although billed as a young adult story, this will readily appeal to an adult reader. Very visual writing and the makings of a classic.” -- Jane Finch for Readers’ Favorite

“I absolutely adored this novel; I couldn't find a single thing to dislike about it, other than of course the characters we are meant to dislike. The secondary characters were just as well rounded as the primary characters, leaving the reader with a feeling of contentment at the end of the novel. Each character brought his or her own three-dimensional personality to the novel, giving me a reason to either love or hate them passionately.” -- Acwoolet for Online Book Club

“I thoroughly enjoyed Elephant Dreams. It is a captivating story with a spunky heroine who is determined to turn her life around. I loved the unique settings that covered New York City slums, an orphan train and a Texas Circus. I would recommend it for teens through adults.” – 5 Stars, Kindle Edition | Verified Purchase

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The Mollie Bailey Circus
Article and image, by Aletha St. Romain, reprinted with permission
During the last half of the 19th century, the arrival of the Mollie A. Bailey Show brought rare excitement to small towns.

Aunt Mollie” Bailey stood at the entrance of the circus tent before each performance to welcome her guests to the Mollie A. Bailey Show. Diamonds sparkled on each of her fingers. A round little woman with a poufy hairstyle, small waist and magnificent clothes, Mollie possessed enough talent to fill a big top. She sang, she danced, she played the piano, and she managed every aspect of her circus down to the smallest detail. Mollie’s soft heart tempered her strong, independent personality. All Civil War veterans got in free. So did children whose families could not afford the price of a ticket. Born in 1844, according to most sources, on a large southern plantation in Alabama, Mollie Arline Kirkland defied her wealthy parents when she married Gus Bailey, a bandleader  and talented musician, whose father owned a circus. Gus Bailey captured Mollie’s heart when she was just 14. The lure of his red hair and romantic lifestyle were too much for Mollie to resist. When she married Gus, her enraged father disowned her and never spoke to her again.

Circus life suited Mollie, and the couple soon set out on their own as the Bailey Family Troupe, putting on plays and musicals. But the Civil War intervened, and Gus enlisted in the Confederate Army in 1861. In 1862, he was assigned to  a regiment in Hood’s Texas Brigade. There, he directed the band and performed with a group called Hood’s Minstrels between battles.

Unwilling to be left behind, Mollie went along to serve as a nurse in the field hospital. She entertained the troops, cooked hot meals and tended wounds. Much to the amazement of Gen. John Bell Hood, Mollie once dressed as an old woman, painted lines on her face with makeup, and, summoning all her acting skills, hobbled through the enemy camp leaning on a cane and selling cookies. The soldiers hardly noticed her as she picked up bits of vital information to pass along to the Confederates.

News that her husband’s regiment was desperately in need of medicine prompted Mollie to take on still another role to aid the South. She asked army surgeons to pack medicine into small packets that she hid in her intricate, curled pompadour hairstyle. Successfully passing through the Union lines, she made her way alone to deliver the medicine to suffering Confederate soldiers.

Like nearly everyone in the South, the Baileys were destitute at the end of the Civil War. In 1867, they rented a boat and performed up and down the Mississippi River, but Mollie lived in constant fear that one of her three children would fall overboard and drown. Trading the boat to a farmer for a wagon and a team of mules, the Bailey Family Troupe hit the road again. Business blossomed, and more Bailey children arrived, eventually reaching a total of nine. As they grew older, the children took their own roles in the show. In 1879, the Baileys billed their circus as “A Texas Show for Texas People” and made the Lone Star State their home.

During the last half of the 19th century, the arrival of what had become known as the Mollie A. Bailey Show brought rare excitement to small towns. As the years passed, the circus grew to include 31 wagons and about 200 animals. Nearly all the performers were members of Mollie’s family, and each played many roles in the performances. Many of the circus animals walked from one town to the next following the wagons. When an elephant broke through the rickety bridge over the San Jacinto River near Willis, the whole town turned out to offer advice on how to get him back on his feet.

Mollie managed all circus details after Gus’ death in 1896, but when she fell and broke her hip in 1918, none of her children had developed the organizational skills needed to keep the circus going. The broken hip refused to heal, and Mollie Bailey died in Houston a few months later. Within two years, the circus folded.

The popularity of the Mollie A. Bailey Show in small towns throughout the South is reflected in these lines from a poem by Frank W. Ford:

“It was cotton-picking time down in Texas
And the leaves of all the trees a golden brown.
The children and the old folk all were happy
For The Mollie Bailey Show had come to town.”

Martha Deeringer lives with her husband and their large, extended family on a central Texas cattle ranch. She writes magazine articles, often about history, for children and adults and is a frequent contributor to regional and national magazines. 

Martha also writes Young Adult fiction, occasionally inspired by her teaching experiences or the antics of her children and grandchildren. She loves ranch life and sometimes abandons her writing to cope with assorted issues involving kids, dogs, cats, horses, orphan calves, and occasionally armadillos, coyotes and rattlesnakes. 

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