Karen’s Killer Book Bench #Interview: THERE IS YET A TREASURE FOR ME, The Actual Civil War Journal of Cyrus Wilkinson Elliott, by Sheila R. Munoz



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THERE IS YET A TREASURE FOR ME
The Actual Civil War Journal of Cyrus Wilkinson Elliott
BY SHEILA RAE MUNOZ

Blurb

This is the actual Civil War Journal of Cyrus Wilkinson Elliott, who enlisted the 8th of December, 1863, as Sergeant C.W. Elliott, Co. K, 27th Michigan. It was edited, laid out for publication, and the cover designed by Author/Editor Sheila R. Munoz, EdD. The journal includes entries of Elliott’s capture and detainment as a Confederate POW at the infamous Danville Prison in Danville, VA, where he dropped to a mere 80 lbs. His journal is annotated with historical facts and explanations to afford the reader a better understanding and feeling for daily life as a Union soldier and a POW during the Civil War. Notice the mental battle Cyrus fights as a POW, trying to stay positive that one day he would be liberated. The title of the book comes from one of his journal entries, illustrating his battle to stay in a positive mindset. The original journal is located in the Hillsdale Historical Museum, Hillsdale, Michigan.

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 SHEILA RAE MUNOZ

Author Interview

Thank you, Karen.

I was born in Michigan, but grew up in the Indianapolis area. In the second grade, my teacher would stand before the class every morning and read a chapter or two from a book. Charlotte’s Weband The Boxcar Childrenwere two that I can still remember her reading. I couldn’t wait to get to school to hear “what happened next.” I was in love with books! So many new worlds to explore!

Growing up, especially during the summer months, I went to the library almost daily, bringing home armloads of books – I could never quite get enough. I remember one of my favorites was a children’s book on the Bible story of Joseph, who was sold by his brothers and imprisoned because of their jealousy. Yet, God watched over him, protected him, and blessed him mightily. It amazed me and made me feel loved.

At one point, I wrote a short story about a squirrel. I didn’t let anyone know I was writing it, I simply just “had” to write. The story burned within me. When I finished it, my brother happened to snatch it from me. Oh, brother! (Pun intended.) He teased me and wouldn’t give it back to me. So, I gave up and figured I would never see that story again. However, a while later, he came out of his room with the story in hand and gave it to my mom. He said, “Mom, you HAVE to read this story. Sheila wrote it. It is about a squirrel, and it is REALLY good!”

I thought, “Really?” My mom enjoyed the story, as well. I’m not sure whatever happened to that story, but it made me realize I could write. I really enjoyed writing even in school, such as research papers, reports, book reports, etc.

Fast forward to adulthood: My children were at an age that they no longer needed my meeting their every need. The desire to write returned. We didn’t have computers at the time, so I again would bring armloads of books home from the library to do research. I had never been to Nova Scotia nor to Savannah, Georgia, but the two places intrigued me. In my research, I discovered the two places were very connected during the 1700s, my favorite time in history. (I always said I was born in the wrong century!) And voila I had a setting for a story!

I was finally able to get four or five chapters out, and asked my 17-year-old nephew, who was also an avid reader, if he would give me his opinion of them. After reading them, he looked at me wide-eyed and said, “You just HAVE to finish this! I can’t stand not knowing what happens next!”

Well, what happened next to me, was life happened. I went through some things, including a divorce, that literally took the wind out of my sails. I hid the chapters away (all neatly type-written), and put them out of my mind. Thirty years later, I was sharing with my husband about my love for writing. I had never shared that with him. He encouraged me to get back to it if my love for it was that strong.

I pulled out the chapters and read them to my husband. His reaction was much the same as my nephew’s had been some thirty years earlier. Now, we had computers! So, I went back to work and finished the first book with two more to follow, making up the Nova Scotia Series: Nova Scotia Runner, Beautiful Broken, and Rachel’s Song.  In addition, I wrote the biography for a famous Florida artist and ghostwrote a book that has been published in two languages for a local pastor. I have been hired to write curricula for Christian schools and for homeschoolers and Sunday School materials for a well-known Sunday School literature publisher.

Because I have a degree in education with a major in English and Creative Writing, I was approached by other authors in need of an editor and/or cover designer. I had a strong background in typesetting and graphics, as well, so I found a way through that to help other aspiring authors realize their dreams by professionally editing their works, as well as laying their books out for publication, designing the covers, and uploading the manuscripts to Amazon for them.

I homeschooled my children, partly because I wanted writing to be an integral part of their education. Today, two of my three children are published authors, as well.

I accepted the Lord as my Savior at a young age. As I grew my own book collection, one worry I had was that at times I would read a book that had some unacceptable language in it or a situation in it that would cause me pause, “What if one of my kids picked up this book and started reading it?” My children were all voracious readers. So, if a book went on my shelf, it had to pass the test that it was a book that anyone of any age could pick up and read, and I would not be embarrassed.

So, in my writing, I tried to keep to that same standard. I wanted to create an exciting, unforgettable story, that no matter whose hands the books fell into, they would not be assaulted by foul language or unsuitable situations. I tried to “show” character attributes and Biblical principles through the story without preachy prose.

I am often asked how I come up with a story idea. To be honest, the characters began to appear on the pages, and as my son once said, “You simply follow the characters and write what they are trying to show everyone.” I have never used an outline. I have never used a character list, along with their characteristics. The story simply flowed. Sometimes, the story actually surprised me

I am currently doing research for my next book. It will be a continuation of the Nova Scotia Series, but since the story takes place a generation later, I may consider starting a new series with it, even though it is the same family line. I hope to have it finished by the end of the year at the latest.

Regarding family line, several years ago, a second cousin of mine in Michigan approached me. She had made a discovery cleaning out her mother’s attic after she had passed away. There was an old, Civil War diary of my great-great-grandfather’s. It was so fragile, she wanted no one to handle it. But her mother, unknown to her daughter, had transcribed the diary, painstakingly typing out the rough handwriting so that others would be able to read it. My cousin wanted to know if I wanted to do something with it.

At first, I simply laid it out in an easier format for reading and then made copies for family members. But this journal so describes the mental toughness that was required for my great-great-grandfather to survive his months in a Confederate POW prison, that I believed it was worth making it available to the world. He came home weighing only 80 lbs., and he was 5’9” tall! If it had not been for his mental toughness, he would never have made it. His journal depicts the mental battles he fought and the will to never give up. In one of his entries he said, “There is yet a treasure for me.” It summarized, to me, the whole of his journal. Therefore, I chose it as the title. This is my latest book, even though my contribution was the editing, layout, and cover design.

A Few More Questions!

1. What genre(s) do you write in and why?

I love historical fiction, so that’s what I write. The Nova Scotia Series does have a little romance in it, but it is more a picture of the life of a new country as it is emerging, while including romance, pirates, deception, betrayal, victory, and LOTS of adventure, while giving a glimpse of Nova Scotia and Savannah, Georgia, during that time.

2. What’s your favorite beverage?

Tea and MORE tea, iced or hot, plain with no sweeteners. I can put some real damage to a box of tea in very short time!

3. If you had to listen to one song over and over again for a whole day, what would it be?

I love many genres of music, so this is a hard one. However, I was a church pianist for over 20 years, and my favorite hymn was “Wonderful Peace.”

4. What is your least favorite part of writing?

Oh, that is a hard one, too, because I LOVE everything about writing! But if I was forced to choose one thing, I guess it would be the editing, even though I am a professional editor. That may sound almost like an oxymoron, but editing, if done right, is hard work. It is not glamorous! However, once the book is finished and edited, that editing is what puts the “shine” on it, so it makes it worth the work.

5. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

I believe I would choose right where I live now in central Florida. I love anything that has to do with the outdoors, especially camping, fishing, and hunting. I draw from these hobbies in my books. Living here affords me easy access to all of these year round.

6. Are you an avid reader? When you do read someone else’s writing, what is your favorite genre?

Yes, I’m an avid reader! I love reading a lot of different genres. Sometimes I’m reading two books at the same time, if they are different genres, such as fiction and a self-help book. I love mystery, clean romance, adventure, crime, and self-help books, especially on mental toughness or lifting others up.

7. Where do you get the ideas for your stories?

From life! When writing the Nova Scotia Series, I wanted to write about some very painful things that I had experienced. Several had encouraged me to write my life story. However, when I tried, it was just too painful. So, I took my FEELINGS and EMOTIONS that were created by what I went through and chose different situations that would elicit those same feelings and emotions. The main character in my books is based on myself without looking like it is, and I believe the writing really helped heal much pain that I had been carrying.

8. Tell me about your ideal reader.

My ideal reader is one who loves twists and turns in a story, but always wants to cheer for the main character. They love a fast-paced, deeply emotional story with a clean and wholesome environment. As one reader said, “Finally a book that I love that I can share with my friends without embarrassment.”

9. If you were to choose one superpower, what would it be?

Time travel! I would love to go back to other times and actually live in it for a while and try to make a difference in those living at that time.

10. Tell us about your next book and when is it being published?

As I said earlier, the next book in the series, only a generation later, will hopefully be out before the end of the year.

This has been fun, Karen! Thank you so much.

About Author Sheila R. Munoz…

Sheila R. Munoz is the great-great-grandaughter of Cyrus W. Elliott. She holds a doctoral degree in Education, majoring in English and Writing. She, herself, is an author, as well as a professional editor, helping others realize their dreams of having a polished, published book of their own. She lives in Lakeland, Florida, and is currently taking on new clients.

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Links to Sheila’s website, blog, books, etc.

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Thanks, Sheila, for sharing your book with us!

Don’t miss the chance to read this book!

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6 Responses to Karen’s Killer Book Bench #Interview: THERE IS YET A TREASURE FOR ME, The Actual Civil War Journal of Cyrus Wilkinson Elliott, by Sheila R. Munoz

  1. Kathleen Bylsma says:

    My goodness! This is a going to be a treat for non fiction history buffs! Wonderful interview and introduction!,
    Thanks, Karen and Sheila.

  2. Karen says:

    Good morning, Sheila, and welcome back to Karen’s Killer Book Bench. Thanks for the impressive interview! Fascinating information about you. It’s great that you’re sharing your ancestor’s journal in such a pivotal time in history. Thanks for sharing with us today!

  3. Mari Collier says:

    This sounds like a book, correction this is a book I would love to read. Her life is a lot like mine other than a divorce and the education part. My very best and may your sales be many!

  4. Sheila Munoz says:

    Hi, Mari! Thank you for commenting. I was hoping through the interview to strike a chord with other authors who may feel too much time has passed or too much water under the bridge to either start or continue to write. I also hoped to inspire teachers out there to read to their students. It is so important!

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