The Best of All Gifts: Expert help with research

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Guest Post by Sheila M. Cronin

When I began writing the ninth chapter of Best of All Gifts, the sequel to my first novel, I needed expert advice on a particular topic: Little League baseball. This was because a book club had informed me of an error in my first novel. Chagrined, I had quickly made the correction before more books were printed but I’d also learned my lesson.

First, I sent an inquiry to, a website that in the past had given me excellent help on assorted subjects. It turned out, however, that their Little League experts were unavailable.

Then, I got an inspiration. My character, 10-year-old Billy Bloom, played on the Santa Monica Little League (SMLL) team. Why not contact the actual team for help?

I studied the colorful SMLL website’s photos, game updates, historical facts, and calls to action. Up in the right-hand corner, I spotted the Contact link. I clicked it and carefully composed a note to whomever would receive my unusual request. Roughly, here’s what I wrote:

“Hello, I’m a Chicago author. A copy of my novel The Gift Counselor is in the Santa Monica Public Library. I am writing to ask for help with my second novel. My character plays left field on your team. He broke his arm last year and wants to “get back in the game.” I know a lot about writing but not too much about Little League. The Notre Dame book club discovered an error in my first book and so, to avoid another mistake, I wonder if anyone in your organization would be willing to help me with the rules and regs?”

I deliberately mentioned the Fighting Irish book club figuring it would at least net a response.

An hour later, I received a wonderful, enthusiastic, warm reply. The respondent claimed to love baseball and books. The answer went on to say “we can’t have the Notre Dame book club upset” which indicated a sense of humor and honor. Fortunately, the person at the other end then agreed to help me. He turned out to be none other than David Harris, President of the Santa Monica Little League organization!

Our correspondence lasted over two years. No matter how busy he was, David answered my questions promptly and added a lot of rich color to my story. He even borrowed my first novel from the library to get a sense of my character. I had once lived in Los Angeles and knew the field where the team played though I had never witnessed a game there. David filled in details about everything from team registration and tryouts to coaching strategies and weather. He even gave me a reason to hold a rare post-season game so that one of my romance subplots could advance.

I will always be grateful for David Harris’s love of books and of baseball! His input made Best of All Gifts a fun book to write and hopefully to read.


Here’s a peek at Sheila’s novel.


Jonquil Bloom, a skilled gift counselor at a local department store, is raising her ten-year-old alone. The new man in her life wants them to become a family but past losses have made her wary. Then, her long lost father, a veteran of the Korean War, turns up unexpectedly to make his amends. But faced with fresh heartbreak, her spirit darkens, and she must undergo trial and transformation before she discovers the best of all gifts.

Suitable for young adults, book club recommended, Best of All Gifts is a sequel that reads as a stand-alone book and begins where The Gift Counselor ended. Available in paperback and digitally at most online bookstores.

Book Buy Link: Amazon

About the author

I am a Chicago author. My novel, The Gift Counselor, won the Beverly Hills Book Award and was a finalist in the UK Wishing Shelf Book Awards. The sequel, Best of All Gifts, is now available. Suitable for young adult readers and book club recommended. My stories have appeared in Woman’s World Magazine, Good Old Days Magazine and the University of Notre Dame’s online alum magazine. Sun-Maid raisins hired me to write “saying” for the front flaps of their lunch-size boxes which continue to be published worldwide. I enjoy writing guest blogs and helping other writers who are intent on getting published with proofing and editing. I also am the composer of “The MS WALK Song,” written for the Chicago chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. In addition, I like to draw, paint, and play piano.

Author Links

Twitter  |  Book Trailer/YouTube  |  Goodreads  |  Website


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6 thoughts on “The Best of All Gifts: Expert help with research

  1. Thoughtful post & it’s so true. I suspect we’re all guilty @ some point, an egregious error in verisimilitude can absolutely pull our readers out of our stories. Great reminder to all of us. We can never know too much about the world of our characters, so long as we don’t turn our expertise into a brain dump.

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. It’s amazing the help out there if a person is just willing to ask. This also illustrates your desire to be correct in what you write, a commendable trait. We’re human and we sometimes make mistakes. Not all are willing to admit it and take the extra steps to correct an error. Enjoyed reading your post.

  3. I am a friend of Sheila Cronin and have enjoyed reading both of her books: Best Of All Gifts, and The Gift Counselor, both were exceptional and had me crying at various turns in the stories. I am not an avid reader but did enjoy the posts and look forward to more reading. How did you both get started in doing what you are invested in now?

    1. We’re glad you enjoyed the posts, Nicholas. If your question is directed to us, we started out the way we think most writers do–with a deep love of reading and a desire to tell stories of our own. Thanks for stopping by and for your comment and question.

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