Silken Strands is set at the historic Oneida Community in 1877.
One man’s utopia is a young woman’s worst nightmare.
Millie Langston, a seventeen-year-old member of the Oneida Community of upstate New York in 1877, doesn’t seem to fit in. She longs for the Community to recognize her writing talents. But when she becomes the protege of Tirzah Miller, the esteemed editor of the Circular, the Community’s newspaper, Millie becomes an unwilling propagandist for Father Noyes, the founder of Oneida Community. With an inside view of Father Noyes’s disturbing leadership style, and faced with becoming a communal wife when what she really wants is true romance with just one man, she transfers to The Villa, a smaller branch of the commune. There she falls into an impossible romance with Noah, the son of Reverend Martinson, Oneida Community’s biggest critic.
Although most people have heard of Oneida silverware, few people know the story of the Christian socialist experiment that launched the silverware company. The ideas of the Oneida Bible Communists were a hundred years ahead of their time: They implemented birth control, communal childrearing, eugenics, and socialism while they sanctioned multiple sexual partners for men and women. To protect its reputation, Oneida Ltd., the silverware company, systematically burned many of the records documenting the quirky practices of the Old Community—including the fact that girls usually became communal wives at age thirteen. Two detailed diaries reveal how members chafed under the controlling hand of John Humphrey Noyes, longing for monogamous marriage and traditional family relationships.
After reading those diaries, I wondered what would have happened if a girl had been passed over for marriage until she was old enough to know what it meant. Silken Strands weaves the real-life experiences of two community members, Tirzah Miller and Victor Hawley, into the fictional tale of Millie Langston.
With its enlightened view of women’s work, Oneida Community is one of the only places in the country where a woman can work full-time as a writer, and Millie has just landed her dream job of working for the community newspaper. How mortifying when her mentor, the editress of the newspaper, delivers the invitation to go to bed with Theodore Noyes, the portly middle-aged leader of the commune to whom Millie has never even spoken. Her initiation as a communal wife is long overdue. Millie must choose which is more important to her: acceptance by her community or freedom over her body and her affections.
The historic Oneida Community provides a fascinating lens through which to consider relevant issues like feminism, sexuality, spirituality, and family relationships. Millie’s personal and spiritual journey leads her to a place of freedom and to an understanding of a God who has been her unseen Protector along the way.
Awards for Silken Strands
- Third Place, 2017 41st Annual Cisco Writer’s Club Contest, Books
- Grand Prize, 2016 Unpublished Novel Contest, A Woman’s Write
[I’m currently seeking a publisher for Silken Strands.]
Destination Harmony is set in Robert Owen’s ill-fated socialist experiment of New Harmony, Indiana, in 1825.
Female scientists are all but unheard of in 1825, but Sallie Turner won’t let that stop her. As an educator on the Boatload of Knowledge to the experimental community of New Harmony, she’ll interact with the some of the most brilliant scientists of her day. On the journey down the Ohio River, the keelboat gets stuck in the ice, reminding Sallie of her role in her brother’s drowning and dredging up her guilt. After several accidents, one of which injures her mentor, Phiquepal, changing his personality, the boatloaders arrive at New Harmony. Without Phiquepal’s support, Sallie finds herself torn by warring factions as the New Social System descends into chaos. Jacob Winston, the woodworker who assists Sallie with her puppet shows for the schoolchildren, becomes her anchor. When the famous feminist Fanny Wright arrives, Sallie must choose sides. She can align herself with the Literati, which Jacob warns is nothing but a New World aristocracy, or she can side with the working men and women. The atheistic and anti-marriage views of the Literati offer an escape from the guilt and shame of her father’s religion. Can she be a true scientist and a true Christian at the same time?
[Destination Harmony is currently in progress.]
The Graveyard Whistler is a contemporary novella that expands my short story, “Coyotes from Kazakhstan.”
When Faith’s ten-year-old daughter Isme has an eerie vision that comes true, Faith is more concerned about her daughter’s well-being than about what the vision might signify. Ignoring the hints she receives about her relationship with Lance, she prefers to whistle past the graveyard. But when she finds physical evidence that her husband is having an affair, she springs into action. A successful author of suspense thrillers, Faith must put her fictional sleuthing skills to work in real life. She has a weekend to gather clues before Lance returns from his annual convention and she must confront him with what she knows. Along the way, Faith gains support from the women in her life who challenge her to confront the grief over her stillborn son that has been poisoning her marriage and her relationship with God. Can she trust the God who broke her heart to fashion something good from the horror every married woman dreads?
[The Graveyard Whistler is currently in progress.]