Friday, April 13, 2012

Tom Blubaugh: The Accidental Road To Publishing A Novel

Everyone's Story is pleased to have as its guest this week author Tom Blubaugh. If I had to choose one word to describe Tom I'd select gracious, which in the dictionary is defined as one who is courteous, kind, and pleasant. Okay. That's 3 more words. But how true it is. Tom has been all that in my dealings with him... let's throw in one more word: patient. And just maybe all these traits of his came to use in publishing his first novel at age 69! Congratulations, Tom.

Tom is offering us lots of fun things. First, one copy of his Middle Grade/YA novel (enjoyed by many adults too) NIGHT OF THE COSSACK will be won by one randomly chosen viewer who leaves a comment with their email address within comment.

And second, below is an excerpt of Tom's first chapter from his novel for your reading pleasure. Trust me, it's full of intrigue.

By Tom Blubaugh
Chapter 1

Nathan’s eyes flew open. Sounds, screams and gunshots penetrated the cold air of his upstairs bedroom. The pungent smell of smoke invaded his nose. He coughed. Am I having a nightmare? Shadows danced wildly across the ceiling and down the walls. 
Heart pounding, he threw off his covers, jumped out of bed, and rushed to the window. His little brother, Israel, followed.
Its real!
“What is it, Nathan?” Israel whispered.
Nathan pulled his brother against the wall behind him.
“Hey! I want to see!”
“Shush, Israel.” Nathan looked through the window at the valley below, his heart racing. Men in long coats and fur hats were running through the village brandishing swords and raising rifles. Cossacks!
The Bukolovs’ and the Gorbenkos’ houses were burning. Bodies lay on the ground. He couldn’t tell who they were, but he knew they were friends.
Momma rushed into the room. “Get away from that window, Nathan!”
“Those are Cossack soldiers, Momma!”
“Cossacks,” echoed Israel.
“Get dressed, Nathan. Hurry.”
Nathan hesitated at the window.
“Now!” she shouted, grabbing him with such force he lost his balance. “Get dressed. Bring your coat.”
Nathan turned from the window.
Momma pulled Israel’s clothes from the hook behind the door, hurried him into them, and down the stairs.
Nathan shoved his trembling hands into his shirt, the horrible scenes replaying in his mind—houses ablaze, soldiers on horseback, dead bodies, his friends in terror. Why are the Cossacks here? What do they want?
He pushed his feet into his boots, jumped up, and hurried to the chest at the foot of the bed. Lifting the lid, he pulled out a knife in its sheath and shoved it into his right boot. He reached back for a leather bag containing lead balls and patches, and a powder horn. He fastened the pouch and powder horn to his belt. The firelight danced across his father’s pistol. He picked up the gun and balanced it in his right hand. Momma said I can’t use it until I’m older. She doesn’t know I’ve taken it out when I’ve gone hunting and practiced shooting it. I’m sixteen. I’m a man. Why should I have to wait? The thought calmed him.
Nathan shoved the unloaded gun into his belt, went back to the window, and stared at the nightmare below. He turned away and tried to close his mind against the violence. His rifle, loaded and ready to fire leaned against the wall in the corner. He slipped his arm through the sling, hefted the rifle on his shoulder, and grabbed his coat. He ran down the stairs.
The back door banged in the cold January wind. Nathan pushed his right shoulder against the door and forced his way through. A bitter gust whipped down from the Caucasus Mountains and hit him full in the face, pushing him off balance.
Nathan gasped as acrid fumes attacked his nose and stung his eyes. He blinked away the tears and peered through the smoke. Momma moved like a ghost across the yard, her robe billowing behind her. Her long, black hair blew wildly in the wind. She was only halfway across the yard pulling Israel by the hand. Why isn’t she already in the root cellar? Then he knew the answer—she had waited until he was out of the house.
Nathan lowered his head and fought his way after her. A few meters from the cellar, he froze when he heard the piercing squeal of his terrified horse. He turned toward the barn. “Aza, I’m here. I’m coming,” he yelled.
Before he reached the barn a woman’s scream ran a chill up his spine. The sound was cut short, followed by an ominous silence. Nathan felt sick. Momma?
He glanced toward the cellar. He couldn’t see Momma or Israel. Fearing the worst, he turned and stumbled toward the underground room. His eyes still stinging, he stumbled to the entrance, using his rifle as a crutch to keep him upright.
“Momma?” he whispered.
Silence. His heart stopped.
“I hear you, Nathan. We’re all right.”
Nathan staggered down the steps with relief. His mind swirled with images and terrible sounds. His thoughts returned to Aza. He turned back to the steps.
“Nathan, stay here!”
“I must go to Aza, Momma. I heard him scream. He’s panicked, he could hurt himself.”
“What can you do for him, Nathan?”
“I can calm him down and turn him loose into the woods. If they set the barn on fire, he’ll die. He’ll be safe in the woods. I must go!”
“You’re more important than your horse. I, we need you here with us. Stay, Nathan. I couldn't bear to lose you.”
Nathan was torn. Breathing a heavy sigh in resignation as he pulled the cellar door shut, he let his eyes adjust to the dark. He leaned his rifle against the wall.
Momma wrapped her arms around her older son. Nathan felt her shiver. He knew she was more afraid than cold. Had she heard the scream?
She sank to her knees, pulling Nathan down. “I know you’re afraid,” she whispered.
Nathan tensed. “I’m not afraid. I’m a man—the man of the house. You’ve said this yourself.” He pulled away from her. “You say I’m brave and strong. You tell me I’m like Papa, but you treat me like a little boy.”
“Nathan, you’re both. You’re my little boy, but at the same time you’re a man. Can you understand?”
Ignoring her question he said, “Papa should be here to protect us. I didn’t even get to tell him good-bye.” 
“Don’t be angry, Nathan. He loved you very much. He loved all of us.” She slipped her arms around him again saying, “It was an accident. There was no chance for anyone to say good-bye. Dying wasn’t his choice. You’re a man, Nathan. You look just like him—tall and strong, yet gentle. You have his black, wavy hair, hazel eyes, even his strong chin. What would I do without you?”
Nathan didn’t say anything. He couldn’t stay mad at her. Her soft voice melted his heart. Even when she’s afraid, she comforts me. Momma’s right. About all of it. It isn’t her fault Papa died.
His anger, no longer directed at her, receded.
 “Momma, are we going to be all right?” asked Israel.
“I pray we will, son. Who can know with certainty?”
“I’m scared, Momma,” Israel said.
“I know, son, I know.”
Nathan felt her arms leave him. In a few seconds, he felt her rocking against him. He knew she was holding Israel.
The woman’s scream crept into Nathan’s mind again. He put his hands over his ears as if he could silence it. Was it Vasile’s mother?
Vasile was his best friend. It didn’t matter to Vasile that Nathan was a Jew. The two of them hunted elk, roe deer, wild boar, rabbit, and birds almost every day and rode their horses all over the surrounding countryside. They raced. Aza was faster and Nathan always won. Where is Vasile? Is he alive? Is he hiding in his cellar? Does he have his rifle?
Nathan was the better shot even though he was two years younger. The men in the village used to wager on which boy would bring in the most game.
The wind howling through the spaces in the cellar door pulled Nathan from his thoughts. He realized he couldn’t dwell on Vasile and his family. It was too painful.
His thoughts turned toward the village. Gagra sat at the base of the Caucasus Mountains in northern Georgia, on the eastern shore of the Black Sea. Tonight was one of the rare times the mountains let the Arctic winds assault the village. The Cossacks seem to have blown in like a whirlwind. Why have they attacked us? What is here that they want? Women? Food? Weapons? Many of the houses are already damaged and there are few families.
Nathan stroked the handle of Papa’s pistol. His father found it after the Turks raided the village. He told Nathan a Turkish soldier must have dropped the gun. The rifle and ammunition bag were gifts to Papa from a woman who lost her husband during the raid. That was when Papa became the village hunter. I’m the hunter now.
A strong gust rattled the cellar door, startling Nathan. When it died down, he could hear the terror of the night—constant gunfire, men cursing, women wailing. The sight of the burning house flooded his mind again. Please God, don’t let them burn our house.
Time crept past. The gunfire died down and the yells ceased. Suddenly, there was the sound of hoofbeats on the road—many horses at a gallop. The sound faded into the night.
“Momma, I think the Cossacks have gone. I’ll see if it’s safe now.”
“No, son.” She pulled Nathan to her and held him tight. “Wait a few minutes more. Maybe the fires will die down.”
“The wind’s too strong, Momma,” he protested. “The fires will burn all night. I need to see.” He tried to pull away from her.
She tightened her hold on him. “What can you do if it isn’t safe, Nathan?”
What can I do? I must do what Papa would do. I must be a man like Papa. “I’ll be careful,” he said pulling free of her.
He reached for his rifle, crept up the steps, and pushed the door open just enough to see into the yard. The fires from the burning village houses cast an eerie glow on the thick smoke swirling in the wind. He breathed a sigh of relief as he realized their home was still standing.
“The house and barn look to be all right,” he whispered to his mother. “Aza is safe. I won’t be gone long.”
Before she could protest, he pushed open the door and stepped into the yard. He let the door go just as Momma cried, “No, Nathan!”
He crossed the yard in a crouch, the rifle gripped tightly in his hands. The wind pushed at him with angry fingers. The back door was shut. This is good. Perhaps no one has gone inside.
He slipped into the house, pulled the door closed, and stood still listening for any sounds. There were none except from the outside. The smell of smoke was strong. The blaze of fires lit the room with an odd glow. Through a window, he could see the village. A strange peace filled the house in contrast to the nightmare outside.
Nathan checked each room. Clear. He ran up the stairs. Satisfied everything was in place he returned to the kitchen. He took one last look around and stepped out the door.
As he turned to shut the door, his rifle was jerked from his hand. He froze, his heart pounding, his breath suspended. He felt a pistol jab into his back.
“Well, well. Who do we have here?” asked a deep, raspy voice. “Put your hands behind your head and turn around slowly.”
Nathan obeyed. As he turned, he gazed into the piercing eyes of a Cossack soldier.

My Writing Happening by Tom Blubaugh
The interesting thing about my novel is that I did not have any intent to publish it, at least not in the beginning. When my mother passed away in 2005, I panicked, sort of, because she was leaving me with one other source of information about my grandfather, Nathan Hertzfield. I had been asking her questions for several years only to hear her say, “my accounts are different than my sisters.” This was pretty much the end of the story. 
I grabbed a tape recorder and headed to my aunt’s home in Wichita, KS. I spent two hours asking her questions, but left with very little new information. Nevertheless, I started researching the information I had and found it fit in with Russian history. This excited me tremendously. At last, I thought, I’m learning about my grandfather. 
My writing was not in a book format. I was simply typing information that interested me, but as I continued, more questions developed than answers.  However, in the back of my mind I began thinking that this is something I could write for my children and grandchildren—perhaps a family legacy. 
At the same time, I began developing a family genealogy site pulling together information from every source I could find on both sides of my family. Every time I found something of interest, I would research and add links to sites that were of interest. When I finished I had hundreds of pages of information, pictures, and facts going back to France, Germany, Poland, and Russia. A wealth of information for anyone coming behind me who had the same desire for family history as I had. 
At this point, I began thinking I might have something worth publishing. I searched for an online Christian writer’s group and joined one on Yahoo. I stayed on the sidelines for a while to see what writers talked about. After a while, I saw a topic start that dealt with asking for critiques of some work. I sent a private message to Michelle Buckman—My Beautiful Disaster, Maggie Come Lately, A Piece of the Sky, Pretty Maids All in a Row and more recently, Death Panels and Rachel’s Contrition. I asked her if she would read the first chapter and give me her opinion. She did much more than that. She was very encouraging and I went searching for a critique group.
The group I joined was very kind and helpful. They told their goal was to get me published. I learned a great deal from this group and as the story developed, I could see it as a published work. I was not prepared for how it all came about. I read horror stories of numerous rejections, scrapped manuscripts and so on. I was not sure I wanted to put myself in the middle of this kind of process. 
It was while I was thinking this through that Dennis and Polly Vance approached me and asked if they could publish my book. It wasn’t so much me writing a book for children, but a spiritual happening. Even now, I know that readers from age 12 through 85 have read and enjoyed my novel.
Are you first venturing into the road to publication as a second career or in your post-retirement years? How have you been encouraged not to give up your writing endeavors? Tom would love to hear from you.
Author Bio:
Tom Blubaugh is a freelance writer living in Southwest Missouri with Barbara, his wife.  They have six children and fourteen grandchildren. Tom has written non-fiction most of his adult life, but has recently written a historical fiction titled Night of the Cossack, published by Bound by Faith Publishers. This is Tom’s first novel. He co-wrote a devotional journal in 2009 for Barbour Publishing titled The Great Adventure. His other writings include articles for a denominational magazine and an insurance publication. He also self-published a book, Behind the Scenes of the Bus Ministry in 1974.

Tom started writing poetry at the age of fourteen. His vision of turning them into lyrics for rock and roll songs for popular artists didn’t develop. He considers writing to be a God-given talent and feels led to develop it. His first novel was published at his age of 69. Tom says it’s never too late. He is now writing a sequel.

Tom spent twelve years as an insurance agent and eleven years as a financial planner. He is the past president of Jericho Commission, Inc., and still serves on the board of directors. 

How To Find Tom:

Tom Blubaugh, Author of Night of the Cossack--Read the first chapter get a signed copy by ordering here. FREE shipping in USA. Published by Bound by Faith Publishers.
ebook for Kindle available at Be sure to like my page and do a review when you finish, if you like my book.
Amazon Author page.
Amazon reviews.
ebook for Nook available at Barnes & Noble
Night of the Cossack Facebook author page. Be sure to like my page while you're there please.
Personal Facebook page
Visit My Blog. Be sure to sign up as a follower.
Twitter @tomblubaugh
Author's Den. A great Author/Reader site.  You can join free.  Look me up and be sure to become a fan while you're there.
Check me out on Goodreads.
Co-author of The Great Adventure published by Barbour Publishing. (out of print).


  1. What a wonderful story, Tom! My mother-in-law has saved letters from family members like my husband's great aunts (great-great?). One year, I read through them. They talked about heading west, and his great (great-great?) grandfather coming to America from Ireland during the potato famine. It's such a blessing to be able to read about family members from the past. How wonderful that you preserved your family history in such an engaging way!

    1. Hi Jennifer. I agree. Tom is truly blessed you know his family heritage. I marvel at my husband's family who has documentation of family roots dating back to when Albany, NY was Fort Orange back in 1624. Unfortunately, although I know my roots are Russian, Polish, Austrian, and Brooklyn (smiling), my family wouldn't talk about "family."

    2. Thanks, Jennifer. You are very blessed to have those letters. I have some letters, but they are in Yiddish. I searched a long time to find an elderly lady from Israel to translate them, but she basically summarized them in a conversation with me. It's not the same as being able to read and reread and treasure each word. I hope you're preserving them in other formats.



  2. Tom, the first chapter captured my interest! I am writing a family history book about my father's family and learning and collecting tons of stories. I have published a book on my husband's mom and one on my mom. The one for my dad's family is much larger. I also write romances and mysteries but an taking a little hiatus to complete my dad's book.

    1. Great to hear this, Caroline. It's a very rewarding process to preserve family history.



  3. Elaine, thank you so much for having me as your guest. I'm humbled by your introduction.



    1. You're very welcome, Tom. Greetings from Brattleboro, Vermont.

  4. What a wonderful backstory for your novel--it makes Night of the Cossack all the more intriguing. It really sounds like a terrific read for all ages!

    1. Warm welcome to you, Sandra. Welcome to Everyone's Story!

    2. Thanks, Sandra. If you're not the winner you can obtain a signed copy at



  5. Hello Tom,

    I would like to say that I thoroughly enjoyed Night of the Cossack. For all who are interested, my review of it is posted on Amazon.

    Thank you for this enlightening blog on a family history that spawned a delightful novel. Also, thank you for having me as your guest a few weeks ago. Your site is so beautifully presented.

    Elaine, thank you again for the wonderful review of my book on Amazon, and also for having me as your guest back in February.


    KB Schaller, Author

    1. KB, you're the sweetest ♡

    2. Thank you kindly, KB. I appreciate your kind words and review.



    3. It was nice to get to know more of what went into the creation of your novel, Tom.

    4. Hi Anita! Welcome to Everyone's Story--so glad for your visit.

    5. Thanks for stopping by, Anita. There's always a story behind the story and probably another story behind that. :-)



  6. Tom, your "story" is both intriguing and inspiring.... and the book cover is beautiful!!

  7. Kathy, welcome to Everyone's Story. So glad Tom's story has inspired you.

  8. Thanks, Kathy. The cover was done by Jeremy Sands @ He was commissioned by my publisher Dennis & Polly Vance of Bound by Faith Publishers. The original is hanging in their home.



  9. What another fascinating week here at Everyone's Story with our guest, author Tom Blubaugh, who shared with us the story behind the making of his novel. Tom, you've been an awesome guest. I appreciate the time you've taken away from your own writing schedule and family to spend time with us. I pray that your novel, NIGHT OF THE COSSACK, will entertain many readers for years to come.

    And, speaking of your novel... drum roll, please...

    The winner of Tom's generous giveaway is: Sandra. Yea, Sandra! Tom & I will be in touch with you shortly.

    Blessings to all,


  10. Elaine, thanks again for having me. I'll be in touch with Sandra to make arrangements for her signed copy. I look forward to hosting you.


    Tom Blubaugh, Author
    Night of the Cossack

  11. To all my friends from Russia and Poland. Thanks for dropping by. I wish you would have left comments. I hope you will purchase my book, enjoy reading and give me feedback.


    Tom Blubaugh, Author
    Night of the Cossack


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