Works in Progress

Bringing the Past to Life

Yosemite Discovered

city of ruins hd slideshowvideo 960x720

When miners and Indians clash in the gold fields, more is discovered than just Yosemite Valley

My current work in progress unfolds the tale of an orphaned thirteen-year-old, Daniel, and his younger stepsister, Hannah, as they travel West with the man responsible for leading California settlers into Yosemite to rout out marauding Indians. Their wagon train adventures and subsequent gold rush exploits force Daniel and Hannah to choose between survival or justice, forgiveness or revenge, as they struggle to see life from more than just one point of view.                                                                             

The first book in the proposed series relates Daniel and Hannah’s 1846  wagontrain adventures from Illinois to California as they travel with the likes of the Donner Party, Daniel Boone’s granddaughter, and Jim Savage, the man responsible for leading a charge against the Ahwahneechees, resulting in the whites’ discovery of  Yosemite. As an MG historical fiction novel, this book corresponds to elementary social studies curriculum which requires the study of American history, including the gold rush era. The book will also feature STEAM activities at the end of each chapter. 

Book two of the Yosemite Discovered series will be a YA novel with the protagonist, Daniel Whitcomb, now sixteen during the heady days of the California Gold Rush. Forced to consider his own survival first while living in California’s gold fields, Daniel questions his father’s values - a father who lost his life protecting blacks and Indians in Illinois. Daniel tries to earn enough money to marry the love of his life while also seeking to uncover the mystery behind his parents’ death. But first he must survive. 

Video and Pictures from some of my research:
I recently visited the Roberto Adobe in San Jose, CA (Willow Glen). This structure existed in California when my fictional character, Daniel,  passed through San Jose to visit Virginia Reed (a historical person), whom Daniel met as a 13-year-old on the wagon train to California.  Virginia’s family settled in San Jose, and several streets are named after family members. These streets include Virginia, Martha, Margaret, Keyes, and Reed streets. 

I also had the chance to visit the Heritage Park Museum in Sunnyvale. Virginia Reed married into the Murphy family. The Murphy home replicated at Heritage Park belonged to Virginia’s brother-in-law, Martin Murphy. 

bernal Roberto Adobe

Reed names map

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

Heritage Park Museum

Murphy house close me

Murphy House far me

Replica of Martin Murphy’s home (Virginia Reed Murphy was Martin’s sister-in-law) in Sunnyvale - the first frame house in Santa Clara Valley

Murphy anniv party painting

Painting of the Martin Murphy’s 50th wedding anniversary party in 1881 

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

kotwica banner

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).

Anna 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)
The text read here by the author was from the first draft of the book and differs slightly from the final draft of the book.

A Polish narration video, including images and background music for chapter 1 is available at:


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