Thursday, March 26, 2015

Digging around the Cape

Almost everyone likes to dig in the garden. It feels good to get your hands dirty, to smell the sweet spring soil, and then relish in your efforts of growing tasty vegetables or beautiful fragrant flowers. But sometimes your shovel can uncover some unexpected surprises and not always in the garden.

I found this toy gun buried in the dirt alongside our driveway. I'd worked in this little garden for many years and never saw it. After one summer of heavy storms, I noticed its handle peaking out among the ground cover.
At the time, the discovery frightened me but then I realized it was only a toy. It also prompted me to make use of the incident in my historical fiction, The Old Cape House.

When my first novel, The Old Cape House, was in the process of being edited, the planting of the seed for my second historical novel, The Old Cape Teapot, began to grow. Researching the story of Sam Bellamy, Maria Hallett, and the pirate ship Whydah piqued my imagination further to ponder the fate of the two survivors of the Whydah. Were they actual pirates? Not according to the courts of Boston, who found them innocent by reason of coercion. So what happened to them? I began to craft my second novel.

Several other things pushed me along in the writing process of The Old Cape Teapot.

I joined a group of Cape Codders trying to find the original cornerstone markers of the Cape Cod towns. Sometimes we would sidestep our original hunt and follow other Cape historical mysteries.
One spring afternoon we ventured into the woods of Orleans. We were told to spread out and look for anything that looked odd in the ground, specifically large stones or something that might look like a marker.
I was lucky. I spotted an aberration or mound on the forest floor that had a small, seven inch in diameter, gray circle that was visible at its top.  I began to pull the grassy moss aside.

By the time I was finished pulling, a whale of a rock was exposed. They called it Barbara's Rock! Oftentimes the early Pilgrims would use natural markers when marking off property lines. This rock almost lined up with the Magnetic North. Interesting....
Another day we returned to the same area and discovered the possible site of an old Windmill.
Here's a link to a video posted about the discovery.

Old Windmill – Orleans

While exploring with The Cornerstone Group, my imagination took flight once more and I used the discovery of the Old Windmill as a major plot point in my historical fiction, thriller and mystery, The Old Cape Teapot.
 The circle foundation of the windmill is not perfect but the step stones are clearly visible.

It was fun and exciting. Can you almost make out a large arrow that seems to be carved into the bigger stone?

Treasure can be found in all forms and places, be it diamonds, archeological evidence, or just meeting a new and interesting person. The thrill of the hunt for 'treasure' never gets old, at least not for me. I'll always be ready for the challenge. I hope you are.

The Old Cape Teapot – a historical mystery, thriller, and adventure.
Available on:
Struna Galleries

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Stone Circles – My Way

What is a stone circle? It's a monument of standing stones arranged in a circle. Like this...

Courtesy of: "Swinside (p4160146)". Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons -

 It's beautiful but there's no way I could ever build such a large circle. But I would be able to manage this...

Even though my stones are not standing, nor are they very large, I would call it a stone circle. 

Many years ago I started making these circles on the bay side of the Cape when the tide was out.
I came up with several logical reasons for my behavior.
# 1. I wanted to get my little ones involved in a nature project while playing on the beach.
# 2. I wanted to see if the circle would still be there the next day. 
I'd HAVE to return every day, no matter what, to observe the stones and, of course, replenish the concentric design. It took me to the beach almost every day.
# 3. It was fun.

One summer we were very busy in the gallery and a bit stressed. My fascination with the stone circle became an obsession with me.  I had to go see my creation, even if I was exhausted or it was raining. It forced me to take the time to get in the car, drive to the beach, and check on the progress of the stones. I always encouraged the family to come with me. I'd even drag our summer guests to the beach to assist me in rebuilding the tiny circle. A few times I went alone. By the time August rolled around, the kids had lost interest but Tim and I kept returning. Sometimes to our surprise we'd arrive only to see that another beachcomber had either filled in the circle or built their own right next to mine!

I'm still fascinated with building a stone circle every chance I get. One year I fashioned the stones into a heart. 

This past winter, we visited our son in Juneau, Alaska where we welcomed their new baby and new home. Their house is located on a small inlet from the Pacific Ocean. So what did I do? I built a stone circle with the help of Tim and my granddaughter Casey.

These dark, large rocks are covered with barnacles, very different from our smooth, sandy colored stones in the Atlantic. Tim found one of the largest heart shaped rocks I've ever seen.

We incorporated it into the rock circle. Hopefully Casey, Madison, and little Zack will look out their windows and see Grandma Barbara's circle of love.

Below you'll see the back cover of my second historical novel, The Old Cape Teapot.

That year in 2006, while I was rebuilding my rock circle on the bayside of Brewster, I found a pottery shard. It was beautiful.

I took it home. That fall I visited several antique shops trying to trace its pattern but ended my search with no information. It wasn't disappointing for me because as I traveled the roads of Cape Cod, I began to craft the plot for my second novel with the pottery shard as my inspiration. 

Nancy Caldwell uncovers a pirate mystery that had the Old Salts of Cape Cod wondering for close to 300 years in the historical fiction, The Old Cape House. Was she lucky or a good detective?  Nancy returns in The Old Cape Teapot, the second in a series of historical fiction, to uncover the trails of two survivors from the wreck of the 1717 pirate ship Whydah. Armed with the knowledge that in pirate culture the looted riches were equally shared, she takes us to the tropical island of Antigua and back to Cape Cod searching for clues to more treasure. Using alternating chapters from the 18th to the 21st century, danger and conspiracy follow her at every turn. What will help her this time?

 Click to purchase on Amazon, B&N, iTunes, and Struna Galleries to the right of my blog.
Available as an ebook and paperback.

I eagerly await the disappearance of ice and snow,  so I can begin a new stone circle.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Historical Blog Tour

So pleased to be a part of this Historical Blog Tour brought to you by the ever-talented author and blogger  Tiffani Burnett-Velez.  

Who are you?   

For those of you who are new to my blog, I write about the history and legends of Cape Cod. I’ve lived on Cape Cod with my family for 27 years.                                                           
Author Barbara Eppich Struna and her husband Tim.
In 1988 my husband and I moved in our forties from Ohio to the Cape with three teenagers. After our arrival to an 1880 house, we proceeded to renovate and rebuild the old beauty, establish my husband’s art career into the arts community, and bring two more children into the world…all within the first two years.  As the three older teens slowly headed off to college, we searched for numerous free things to do and explored almost every inch of Cape Cod. The history of the Cape and its magical, pristine light kept my husband, as an artist, and myself, as a storyteller and lover of history, always looking and happily finding inspiration.  I have written and published two historical fiction novels: The Old Cape House and The Old Cape Teapot. These novels are written using alternating chapters between centuries.
The Old Cape House was a recent recipient of the 2014 Royal Dragonfly Awards - First Place in Historical Fiction. It's a story about contemporary Nancy Caldwell who moves into an old Cape Cod house and in her backyard at the bottom of a root cellar finds evidence that links her land to 18th century Maria Hallett and the pirate Sam Bellamy.

What is your latest historical fiction piece?

In my second historical novel, The Old Cape Teapot, my contemporary character, Nancy Caldwell, finds an old map of Cape Cod on the tropical island of Antigua. After returning home to the Cape and armed with clues from the map, she follows the trails of two pirate survivors from the 1717 wreck Whydah that sunk off the coast of Marconi Beach. Nancy knows from her previous adventure in The Old Cape House that in pirate culture...everything is equally shared and there must be more treasure.

Why did you choose to write it?

I wanted to develop my contemporary character, Nancy Caldwell, into a series exploring history and present day. I also wanted to give my reader an awareness of their present day surroundings on the Cape and how it connects to local history.

Evidence of wagon wheels and horses retrieving peat or salt hay on Nauset Beach at low tide.

 What about that era appeals to you?

Across Cape Cod, there are many locations that have remained untouched or have been thankfully kept historic over the centuries. I can walk down old fire roads and paths that date back to the 1700s.  I find it fascinating that the land, known as Cape Cod, played such a significant role in the development of present day North America. 

On a path looking for the remains of Fresh Brook Village in Wellfleet.

Are your characters real or fictional?  If they’re real, how did you fictionalize them?

My contemporary character, Nancy Caldwell, will experience similar adventures and a few life events that I've gone through, that's the nature of writing novels. In fact, I think every writer sprinkles a little of themselves throughout their stories. Small occurrences that I encounter in everyday life will sometimes blossom and develop into full–blown story-lines of mystery and danger.
For example: I did find, under ten inches of dirt, a pattern of red bricks behind our barn. I did not find a complete root cellar like Nancy did in The Old Cape House.
I also found a blue–flowered pottery shard on the tidal flats and tried to locate its pattern in an old antique shop. Unlike Nancy in The Old Cape Teapot who found a shard, my search led me to a dead end, where as Nancy made a connection that placed her into a life–threatening situation.

Blue–flowered shard found on Brewster flats.

When crafting my stories, I use the documented and known facts of historical characters and then fictionalize, through research, what surrounded them based on my findings.

What kind of research is involved in writing your novel?

I research through libraries, old journals, oral histories, old newspapers, and of course the Internet.  Sometimes I’ll search for hours to find information that will become only one sentence in the book.

How do you organize the fictional aspects of your writing vs. the historical facts?

I take tons of notes and organize them into historical fact categories, for example: travel, housing, clothing, food, events, names, and many more depending on what the story is about. The fictional aspects may be noted to the side of the category if I want to remember something important.

How does the historical timeline move your plot along or influence the actions of your characters?

It’s very important to me that I get my facts correct. My historical characters cannot stay at an inn, if there were no documented inns in an area. Nor could they travel quickly if on a long journey, estimating travel time is always difficult.

How do you feel about writers taking creative license with historical events? Or, does it bother you when facts are changed to fit the story in a movie or a book?

I’m a firm believer of keeping to the facts as much as possible. In my first novel, The Old Cape House, I knew that the story of the pirate, Sam Bellamy, and his ship, Whydah, was real. The remains of the wrecked ship were discovered in 1986 off the coast of Cape Cod. But where the story becomes muddy is the part about his lover, young Maria Hallett. I researched for several years trying to find evidence of her connection to Bellamy but found nothing.  She seemed to exist only in people’s imaginations and on a few street signs, but that was all. So I took that uncertainty and ran with it, creating a whole new story for her and her lover Sam Bellamy using the known facts. In fact, I gave her a better ending.
The bell of the pirate ship Whydah. Image courtesy of Historic Shipwrecks.

What’s next for you after this present work?

Currently I’m researching another adventure for Nancy Caldwell. This time I alternate chapters between 1947 and present day in Hollywood and on Cape Cod to solve another mystery. 

Next stop on the historical blog tour, for your enjoyment, I would like to introduce Eleanor Parker Sapia, a Puerto Rican-born novelist, who was raised in the US, Europe, and the colonial city of Ponce, Puerto Rico and where she got the idea for her debut novel, A Decent Woman. She has lived in France, Greece, Austria, Brussels, and Belgium, where she spent 13 years. Ellie has degrees from Marymount University in Virginia and Philippi Trust Counseling and Training Center, Blackpool, UK. She makes her home in West Virginia.

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Magic of Christmas Once More!

If you're new to my blog, here's a re-post of a Christmas story from 2013. If you've already read it, give it another's nice.

The Magic of Christmas


Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Mysterious Cape Cod Cranberry Trail

The Cape's wind decreased this morning and the sun was out, Tim and I decided to take our daily walk on the beach instead of in the woods through Nickerson state Park.  We chose Linnell Landing Beach. With gloves and hats on, we ventured out of the car. As soon as we turned to head west, I discovered a single cranberry along the wrack line on the beach.

I didn't mention it as we kept a nice pace across the sand. After covering about 10 feet more, I saw another berry. This time I spoke up. "Look at the cranberry."

We both stopped. Tim said with a laugh, "That's interesting. Maybe they fell off a boat."
Then we walked ahead another 10 feet.

These beautiful crimson berries kept appearing on the sand as if they were placed there on purpose.

Now we were curious. We kept going, even though we had to get back to the gallery and open for the day.

We got as far as Ocean Edge before we turned around, all the while following the red berries.
When we finally reached our car, I wanted to go further east, so we did...only to find more berries strategically placed in a line along the wrack line. We walked another 100 feet, then returned to our car. All the way home, we thought of several reasons why the berries were on the beach.
Maybe... someone made a scavenger hunt and at the end would be a jar of cranberry sauce.

Or...someone placed the berries so they would remember how to get back to where they started.
       (We both laughed at that one.)

Or...someone laid the berries for a challenge to the unsuspecting traveler along the beach to guess why the berries were there in the first place.

Does anyone out there know why the cranberries were there? And who did it?

Of course, it is Thanksgiving and the cranberry is one of the stars of the feast. I know I love cranberry sauce. We decided to go back tomorrow and if the tide didn't take them away, we'll follow the trail to Crosby Lane and beyond.

Some great news!!!   My second historical novel, The Old Cape Teapot is now available. see sidebar for options to purchase.

The Old Cape Teapot
AND...The Old Cape House has been awarded First Place in Historical Fiction by the Royal Dragonfly Book Awards for excellence in literature!

The Old Cape House

On a final note. Happy Thanksgiving!

Even though I posted this blog last Thanksgiving I thought it was still interesting. So here is its link.

History of Thanksgiving

My motto: "Never stop searching and enjoy the adventure!"

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


A few weekends ago my daughter, Annie, and the love of her life, Eric, were joined in marriage on a beautiful, sunny Autumn day. I was also privileged to be the officiant at this lovely ceremony. It made my heart sing knowing they are so much in love.

And on the same day, my second historical fiction, The Old Cape Teapot, arrived on our doorstep from my publisher. It was a perfect day with two great events and two exciting celebrations all coming together at the Struna household.

Besides my novel making headlines as a great mystery read, my daughter gave me a new son-in–law.

Within the hustle and bustle of planning a wedding at our house and finalizing all the details of my new novel there was a lot of work, and yet, an abundance of happiness. Both were a labor of love start to finish, of course, Annie's was most important.  It all came together, from Annie's handmade bouquets, special centerpieces, carrot cake with cream cheese frosting to the photo booth, corn toss games, and overall design of the wedding! And...all my children had traveled home again, to share in the celebration with the whole family.

The other evening before the wedding day, I was able to steal a few quiet moments to myself on the back porch. All the lights that were wrapped around the trees behind the barn and inside the tent reflected a warm yellow glow in the night. It was so romantic.

And the next day it was even prettier in daylight.

                                                     It was a perfect setting for love.

So on that joyous note, may I remind you that you can purchase my new historical fiction, The Old Cape Teapot through Struna Galleries, Amazon, Barnes - Noble, iTunes and all the fine bookstores and shops across Cape Cod. (see side panel for options and listing of coming events and bookstores)

If you enjoyed my first novel, The Old Cape House, you'll like this one. Nancy Caldwell returns to take us to the tropical island of Antigua and back to the Cape following an old map and the trails of two 18th century pirates, the only survivors of the 1717 pirate ship Whydah. Nancy's on the hunt for more treasure! The book is told, once again, using alternating chapters from the 18th – 21st centuries.
The Old Cape Teapot 

 I'm always on the lookout for interesting and unique facts about beautiful Cape Cod. I'll keep you posted!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Can you still find treasure?


Treasure can be found anywhere. You could discover it in an old pirate chest, at the bottom of an abandoned well, behind a wall, at a garage sale, or...

...find it upstairs in your attic.                            

My point is that it IS possible to find hidden treasure in the 21st Century.
With the ongoing success of selling The Old Cape House, I have opened myself up to a wide range of readers across the world. The reviews are coming in fast and furious, with many 5 star reviews and a high percentage of readers liking the story...but a few, not so much. One reviewer said she liked the plot and the characters but thought, (spoiler alert), finding treasure was silly and doesn't happen anymore. Her comment inspired me to write this blog. Now that's a treasure in itself. Here are some examples of finding treasure.

In February 2014, a California couple found old tin cans on their property filled with rare coins having a value of 10 million. The couple, who remain anonymous, had walked the old hiking path on their land for many years. One day the edge of a can appeared and they simply dug deeper!

In November 1992 a farmer, living in the village of Hoxne near Suffolk, England, lost a hammer in his fields. A friend used his metal detector to help him find it. They found under the dirt a wooden box and inside was a cache of gold, silver, gemstones, and artifacts from the Roman Empire. In the image above is a representation of how the box's contents were positioned. The British government declared it a treasure trove and legally claimed the riches for the country. But the farmer and his friend still met with financial success. The British government paid them about 2.8 million. Currently the treasure is on permanent display at the British Museum.

We've all heard of the man who bought a $4 painting at a garage sale and inside was a copy of the Declaration of Independence. He sold it for 2.4 million. Then another man bought some items at a thrift store in Nashville. His purchase included a salt and pepper shaker set, a candle holder, and a yellowed copy of the Declaration of Independence for $2.48. He received over $476,000 for an original copy of this famous document...his initial cost was $2.48  Considering there are 200 official copies of the Declaration and only 36 have been found since 1820, there's a good chance you could find one.

If you're still doubtful about finding treasure, spend an evening watching WGBH's Antiques Roadshow and see what ordinary people are discovering. 

So in response to my critical reviewer, "Yes, there is treasure to be found!" 
And...I hope that my readers will never give up hope that something exciting is always just around the corner or just over the next hill. I know I will never give up. 

Here's a sneak peak of the cover for my next novel ...coming to you in late October 2014.

The Old Cape Teapot  

Nancy Caldwell found pirate treasure behind her Cape Cod barn in the historical fiction, The Old Cape House. Was she lucky or was it because she's a good detective? In The Old Cape Teapot, the second in a series of adventures, our heroine returns to uncover the trails of two survivors from the wreck of the 1717 pirate ship Whydah.  Nancy, armed with the knowledge that in pirate culture the looted riches were equally shared, takes us to the tropical island of Antigua and back to Cape Cod searching for clues to more treasure. But danger and conspiracy follow Nancy's every turn. This time, she'll need more than luck and a few good guesses.