By Josette Keelor
EDINBURG -- Tommy Howell, the main character in William Shifflett's novel "The Christmas Truce," can't wait for Christmas to come. But that all might change when his sister emails and invites him home to spend a final holiday with their dying estranged father.
It's the story of a young man reuniting with his father one last time, but even though it takes place in December, Shifflett said it's not strictly a Christmas story.
"Christmas is just kind of the backdrop for this story," he said.
On Oct. 29, he published the book through Tate Publishing in Mustang, Okla., and so far he said word about his first novel has been making its way through the valley.
After a few book signings, he said, those who had his book started gifting it to others -- like author Jason Wright of Woodstock. Shifflett said Wright's younger daughter brought the book home and after reading it told her father to read it too.
Wright, author of "The Christmas Jars," agreed he saw promise in the book's future, and he met with Shifflett to help him with marketing.
Shifflett's book currently is available for sale online at Amazon.com and locally at Snow and Ice in Harrisonburg and The Book of Merit at the Dayton Farmers Market in Dayton, Ben's Diner in Woodstock, People's Drug Store in Strasburg and the Edinburg Mill. Saturday, starting with a book signing from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Winchester Book Gallery, 185 N. Loudoun St., Winchester, his books will be there too.
Shifflett, an Edinburg resident, said he chose to set his story in Charleston, S.C., because he's always loved the area, and his characters travel to the mountains of North Carolina because it was the closest place he knew to Charleston that might get snow for Christmas.
Snow is pretty important to the storyline, because Tommy is happily intent on staying home until his sister's suggestion of a snowy Christmas gets his family riled up.
"His sister and his children trap him into going home for Christmas," Shifflett said.
Shifflett, who also wrote the Christian life books "Friendly Fire: Embracing the Power of Trial" and "Generational Lies: The Utter Falsehood of Ancestral Curses," normally writes non-fiction and said most of his novel is based on experiences from his own life or those he's witnessed in the lives of others.
Hesitant whether or not he should mention he's the pastor at The Reasoning Tree Church in Edinburg, he stressed that despite its setting and faith-based message, his novel is a book anyone can enjoy.
"This is just a fictional story," he said. So far, the feedback he's received has been encouraging, and he said he hopes word will spread since writing has been a life-long goal of his.
"It's just a nice, feel good Christmas story, happy ending, and it's a story that [people] can relate to," he said. "It's a book that can speak to a lot of people."
For more information about "The Christmas Truce," by William Shifflett, visit his website swordpoints.org or at www.tatepublishing.com. His upcoming book signings will be from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at the Winchester Book Gallery and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Dec. 14 at the Shenandoah Heritage Market, south of Harrisonburg.
Contact Community Engagement Editor Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or firstname.lastname@example.org