“Loral County Times: Return to Echo Woods” written by Lucky Maxwill, also known as Linda Ferris, of Columbia, is a fiction book set in Missouri written on a middle school grade level. The book with an elf named Sam and a Missouri mule named Stella teaches life lessons about overcoming life’s challenges.

A magical book by a Columbia woman is the first in a set featuring fictional Echo Woods, Missouri, which will take middle school children on a journey laced with adventure and life lessons.

Author Lucky Maxwill, also known as Linda Ferris, said by phone in Columbia Thursday that “Loral County Times: Return to Echo Woods” is the first of two books she plans to write.

Ferris was born in Missouri but spent much of her adult life in California and Nevada. She previously worked as a technical writer in corporate communications. After moving back to Columbia in 2008 to take care of family, she was inspired to write a work of fiction.

“Most of this book is really a whole lot about where I came from, the people I’ve known and places I’ve lived in Missouri,” Ferris said. “Missouri has many writers in it … I was just inspired and was thinking it was time for me to share my story.”

Ferris said she chose the fantasy genre because she wanted to “make it a tale that kids would read but also make it educational and incorporate values in it.”

“The good stories through the years, it’s been my experience, have values incorporated in the tale,” she noted. “Sam (the elf) is very clever. He manipulates the human population to carry out his mission of rescuing, sheltering and finding forever homes for animals.

“So, that is one of the values that comes through in the book,” she continued. “That’s the main thrust of the book. Sam is very committed to helping our animal population.”

The book also addresses combating bullies and illustrates the value of having a community where all types of people and animals can get along.

“It’s where everybody can call home,” Ferris said. “There is a segment in the book that addresses some kids that live in a group home and they help take care of the animals.

“So, it’s a very inclusive book,” she added. “One of the minor characters is a young Native American man and he works at the foster home. The whole focus is … Missouri is a place to call home.”

The cover of the book features a photo of a mule walking along a dusty road. Ferris took the photo in Monroe County near an Amish community and it represents the character Stella in the book.

“I think mules are wonderful animals,” she noted. “I developed a love for mules from a young age because my grandfather was a mule tender and mule tamer in southwest Missouri.”

Ferris added the 11 illustrations inside the book were drawn by two Missouri artists, David Diekamp, of Macon, and Barbara Peck, Ph.D.

Ferris said the book is an “excellent supplemental educational source” for middle school teachers and students as well.

“I purposely wrote it to include a lot of Missouri history, geography and culture,” she said. “In the eBook version, there are a number of hyperlinks to sources that teachers can use to actually discuss in greater depth.

“I have woven many things in the tale that they can use,” she continued. “In the actual book itself, I have a resource page in the back of the book that gives a listing of all those links and what it discusses.”

Sections of the book mention the Civil War in Missouri, Red-Tailed Hawks, the Mississippi River, the Ozarks and the World’s Fair.

“We even have a link to the Underground Railroad, because that’s mentioned in here,” Ferris added. “There are 25 links in the book teachers can use to discuss history, culture (and) geographical locations. You can teach curriculum, but if it’s woven around a story sometimes it will connect better with kids.”

Ferris said her second book will also be about the elf, Sam. Although in the next tale Sam will travel out of state. The book should be completed by the end of the year.

“It will be educational, and I’m anxious to get it done,” she said.

Ferris’ first book has had good reviews online with Amazon and Goodreads and in Missouri Life Magazine.

“I hope that educators will pick it up and read it and see the value of it,” Ferris said.

“Loral County Times: Return to Echo Woods” is available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other bookstores. For more information, contact Ferris at luckymaxwill@gmail.com.

The first chapter of “Loral County Times” can be read for free at www.LoralCountyTimes.com.

Arts & Entertainment Reporter

Faith Bemiss is a reporter for the Sedalia Democrat, covering general assignment, arts, food and entertainment stories. She can be reached at 660-530-0289.

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