Works in Progress

Bringing the Past to Life

All That Glitters
Book One of The Whitcomb Discoveries 

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My current work in progress unfolds the tale of an orphaned teen and his younger sister who must choose between survival or justice, forgiveness or revenge, when they travel West with the man who leads California settlers into Yosemite to rout out marauding Indians. As a middle grade historical fiction novel, it will relate to the 4th grade social studies curriculum when students study California history, especially the gold rush era, and feature STEAM activities at the end of each chapter.

Synopsis: In this middle grade historical fiction novel, thirteen-year-old Daniel Whitcomb and his ten-year-old stepsister, Hannah, orphaned by their parents’ deaths in a myseterious fire, must travel West with their guardian, James Savage, in search of a new life. Daniel learns that prejudiced neighbors killed his parents because his parents helped needy Indians and hid black slaves who were on their way through Illinois to Canada. Daniel, believing life should be fair, resolves to earn enough money in California to someday return to Illinois and seek revenge on those who killed his parents.

 Traveling West with their guardian, Daniel and his stepsister’s experiences deepen Daniel’s resolve to someday avenge his parents’ deaths. His developing relationship with Virginia Reed, however (Donner Party survivor), begins to thaw his cold heart. 

Daniel fights alongside his guardian, Jim Savage, during the Mexican War, and then joins him in the gold fields in 1849, hoping to strike it rich. Daniel struggles to make sense of the various ways Jim and other gold miners treat the Native Americans, and tries to come to grips with the Indians’ hostilities.  He begins to question the fairness of life, and his desire for revenge regarding his parents’ death. When Daniel joins Jim Savage’s battalion of settlers to rout out the marauding Indians living in Yosemite, he discovers the need to view conflict from more than just one point of view.

Daniel sees that his guardian, Jim, seems to take advantage of his Indian workers, but then Daniel witnesses Jim’s death by whites when Jim defends the Native Americans’ rights. Daniel wrestles to make sense of what seems to be the unfairness of life and must come to grips with his own struggles regarding fairness, revenge and forgiveness.

Video and Pictures from some of my research:
I recently visited the Roberto Adobe in San Jose, CA (Willow Glen). This structure existed here when my fictional character, Daniel, would have passed through San Jose to see the historical person of Virginia Reed, whom Daniel met as a 13-year-old on the wagon train out West.  Virginia’s family settled in San Jose and several streets are named after them, including Virginia, Martha, Margaret, Keyes, and Reed. I hope to visit the Heritage Park Museum in Sunnyvale soon. Virginia Reed married into the Murphy family here in San Jose. THey came out West on a wagon train two years before the Reed family and the Donner party. 

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Virginia Reed’s gravesite, Oak Hill Cemetery, San Jose, CA

Other Works in Progress


Door of Hope
Book Two of the Warsaw Rising Trilogy


Book two of the Warsaw Rising Trilogy,  Door of Hope, will follow the  fictional characters of Tadzio and his father as they work as spies during the Cold War and help form NIE, a resistance effort against the newly installed Communist government in Poland. Nie means “no” in Polish. This name was used as the abbreviation for the resistance group’s full name, Niepodległość, which means resistance. 

After the war ended, Soviet Russia installed a communist government in Poland that sought to eliminate all remaining Scouts that fought in the Rising. In addition to Tadzio and his father, Magdalena, Benyameen, Yacob and Lucyna play a role in book two alongside historical characters from this time period such as Fr. Waclaw Karlowicz, Tadeusz Bor-Komorowski, codename Bor, Leopold Okulicki, codename Bear, and Witold Pilecki, codename Roman. The images shown here for books two and three are spaceholders until covers are designed for these books.

Banner of Hope
Book Three of the Warsaw Rising Trilogy

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Book Three, Banner of Hope, will follow Tadzio and others after the fall of Communism from 1989 to the present as they interact with historical figures such as Lech Wałęsa and Karol Józef Wojtyła, also known as Pope John Paul II.

You can view a trailer about the Warsaw Rising series at:


Fictional Characters Whose Lives
Are Intertwined with Historical Figures in the
Warsaw Rising Series

In Book One, the fictional characters meet up with actual historical persons such as:

 AndrzejRomocki, codename Morro, leader of the Rudy Platoon and eventually of the Zoshka Battalion. (The Polish spelling is Zośka).

a Zawadzka, a leader of the Girl Guides in Warsaw.

Tadeusz Zawadzki, codename Zoshka, a Scout and second lieutenant in the Home Army (the Zoshka Battalion was named after him), killed during a sabotage action.

Jan Bytnar, codename Rudy, a Scout leader in Warsaw and second lieutenant in the Home Army who died from wounds received when tortured by the Gestapo.

Maciej Aleksy Dawidowski, codename Alek, a Scout leader in Warsaw who died while rescuing Jan Bytnar from the Gestapo.

Professor Marceli Handelsman, who taught modern history at Warsaw University before the war. He worked with the Bureau of Information and Propaganda of the Home Army. Discussions were held in his home regarding the formation of a special unit of armed youths to fight the German police with ther own methods.

Wilm Hosenfeld, the German officer who helped Wadyslaw Szpilman (The Pianist).

Fr. Waclaw Karlowicz, a Catholic priest and chaplain of the Gustav Battalion.

Tadeusz Bor-Komorowski, codename Bor, commander of the Home Army after March 1943.

Anna Zakrzewski, codename Hanka Biala, nurse assigned to the Felek Platoon in Company Rudy of the Zoshka Battalion. 

Leopold Okulicki, codename Bear, who served as a general in the Polish Army and was the last commander of the underground Home Army.

Witold Pilecki in color

             Witold Pilecki, codename Roman, who allowed himself to be picked up by the Germans in a Warsaw street roundup.  He provided the Polish resistance, and through them, the British government, invaluable information about the atrociities committed at Auschwitz. Later, he fought in the Rising. After the war he joined Poland's secret anti-communist organization, NIE


The following is a video Dr. Sontag created from an early draft of Rising Hope to help her develop the story’s fictional characters. It displays pictures of 1940's Polish citizens that she collected from the Internet while conducting research for the series. The video narrates an early draft selection from Rising Hope when the Scouts gather at the main character's (Tadzio) family's summer  home. Tadzio's father has just left. Tadzio doesn't know why or where his father has gone. Only the professor knows. Germany has just invaded Poland and the professor secretly challenges the Scouts to join the resistance movement. As you watch the video, listen for the significance of Chopin's Etude in E Major. You will hear it played in the background. The musical version used in this podcast is a recording from la corda doro primo passo © 2006 Sony Music Japan International Inc.  



YouTube Part 1 (10 min. clip)         YouTube Part 2  (7 min. clip)


Below are videos of Polish citizens who fought in Warsaw's Rising and were still living as of 2012. 


Richard & Rita Cosby on the Warsaw Uprising


Three Questions with Julian Kulski

Julian Kulski's books, Dying We Live (1979), and its republications under the titles of  Legacy of the White Eagle (2006) and The Color of Courage (2014), provided valuable background information for the development of  the fictional characters Dr. Sontag created for Rising Hope and the choice of historical figures she brought into the novel. Dr. Kulski, a Boy Scout in Warsaw when Germany invaded Poland, joined the underground resistance at the age of 12. Dr. Sontag says, “I had the honor of speaking with Dr. Kulski by phone after he read the manuscript of Rising Hope. I appreciated his encouragement and feedback, and his comment that he saw himself in some of the scenes!" 

Dr. Kulski, son of Warsaw’s mayor during the German occupation, wrote this review for book one of the series: "Rising Hope is an homage to all Polish teenages who fought the German evil so bravely during World War II. A must read.
Julian Kulski, Polish WWII insurgent, author of The Color of Courage.


Interview with The Pianist, Wladyslaw Szpilman

In this 1985 interview with Peter Jennings, Wladyslaw Szpilman talks about his encounter in Warsaw with the German officer, Wim Hosenfeld during WWII. Wild Hosenfeld appears as one of the characters in Rising Hope.


City of Ruins Slideshow Video for 66th Aniversary

This video simulation depicts the flight of a Liberator plane over the decimated city of  Warsaw in 1945. The images suggestively convey the horror and scale of destruction experienced by the capital city after the Second World War. City of Ruins was presented at the Warsaw Rising Museum in 2010 for the 66th anniversary of the 1944 Rising. Produced by Platige Image, it took over two years of production by a team of over 30 people. It was the world's first digital reconstruction of a city destroyed during WWII. The 45 second trailer can be seen at or go to to see the entire 6:48 video.

Warsaw Rising Movie for 70th Anniversary, August 2014