‘It only took 32 years’: Persistence pays off as 82-year-old publishes first novel

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Delores (Dee) Dahl

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Author/actress/teacher Delores M. (Dee) Dahl will appear for her Northwest book-signing debut at Edmonds Bookshop Saturday, April 18 at noon. Rebel and The Promise, Ms. Dahl’s first novel, is an historical adventure, romance, coming-of-age story, set in the tumultuous Pre-Civil War of 1860.

Kansas,Territory—a cholera epidemic forces newly orphaned 17-year-old Sara Robbins and her 15-year-old brother, Aaron, to face the dangerous journey alone to San Francisco to save the family inheritance.

The teens must prove ownership of Aaron’s horse, Rebel, a river boat, The Promise, and a family hardware store by September 30, or lose all to an unscrupulous lawyer. Deciding to leave the slow-going wagon train, they travel two days to catch the Overland Stagecoach in Leavenworth, Kansas Territory.

Before leaving the wagon train, Sara and Aaron agree to stow away abused friend Peggy O’Neil, who must escape her brutal stepfather, Donald Colwell. Their good deed brings the pursuit of Peggy’s stepfather, who vows revenge. Unbeknownst to them, Colwell has murdered a young Indian, placing the teens’ lives in added danger.

A fourth teen, White Hawk, a Cheyenne Indian, joins the journey when he seeks to avenge his brother’s murder. The decision to help injured White Hawk brings new dangers and reveals the fears and prejudices of the period.

Accepting stagecoach passage from handsome Cass Bartlett, a young man on a secret military mission, adds romance and suspense.

Rebel 23 copy“I wrote Rebel and The Promise for my students, hoping to create a sense of the period, 1860,” Ms. Dahl said. “Those were dangerous time, and I wanted to show teens banding together, making hard choices, reaching for their dreams – and persevering with that hardy American ‘Can do’ spirit.”

Rebel and The Promise has two love stories, fast-paced action and historical ambiance, which will add to the study of American History.

“I really loved doing the research and getting to know the characters,” Ms. Dahl said. “It took a while to develop four main characters, each with a personal arch. Writing during summer breaks got me started, and once I retired from teaching, I devoted full time to rewriting. It’s all about persistence. I feel if I can do it, anyone can. Just join a good writers’ workshop to keep motivated, learn skills and gain confidence . A lot of credit goes to Frances Dayee’s writers’ workshop.”

Dee Dahl’s notes on writing:

“For a writer, I think the most important training can come from acting classes. It’s always about finding ways to put one’s self in ‘other folks’ shoes.”

An actor and a writer must understand their emotional instrument. One of my first acting teachers said, “Imagine you’re a piano. The 88 keys are your emotional range—from the darkest to the lightest notes of human nature. Be in touch with that, and you’ll understand human nature and motivation.” That idea still appeals to me, and I use it in my writing. I’m still a beginning novelist, but there are two or three other ideas that help me and shape my writing. The old adage of “Show, don’t tell,” is one, and knowing that for every action there is a reaction in the character or in the space(seen or not). And place—seeing where everything is. Those three concepts, I think, can help any writer. And oh, yes….just keep at it.”

Dee grew up in West Seattle, performed on Seattle radio in the late 1940’s. Graduated West Seattle High with a drama scholarship to the University of Washington where she had performed off campus in a number of shows. A talent scout from Paramount encouraged her to try Hollywood and so immediately after graduation from high school she ‘Went to Hollywood,’ as they say. There is more to that story. Perhaps another novel or two

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