Saturday, December 8, 2012

Blog tour

I have been tagged by Tracy Kauffman at http://tracykauffman.blogspot.com/ on the Next Big Thing Blog Tour. As a part of the tour, I have been asked to answer a few questions below:

1) What is the working title of your book(s)? Going over Home (out now) & Going over Jordan (coming next year)

2) Where did the idea come from for your book? I have always been interested in genealogy, and enjoyed writing stories based on my ancestors' lives. The book is an extension of this interest.

3) What genre does your book fall under? historical fantasy

4) Which actors would you choose to play in a movie rendition of your book? Man, that is difficult as I'm not really up on actors these days. For Maddie, it would have to be someone with brown hair and freckles, and Henry would have to have a boyish look with a mop of light brown hair.

5) What is the one sentence synopsis of your book? When Maddox Fox discovers the secret behind her family, she is forced to make a move back in time.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? Going over Home is self-published

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? about 2 years, 1 more to edit

8) What other books would you compare this story to? Running out of Time

9) Who or what inspired you to write the book? my interest in genealogy and Indiana history

10) What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? One reviewer describes the book: "Sisterly friendship, adventure, mystery, a leap in time, a villian, and even a little romance all tied together with a solid narrative voice"

You can find Going over Home on Amazon or, if you're in the Indianapolis area, at the Conner Prairie gift shop in Fishers or the shop at the Johnson County Museum of History in Franklin. If you've read Going over Home, scroll down for an excerpt of Going over Jordan!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Excerpt from Ripples Crossed

This is an excerpt from a story I started back in 2005, called Ripples Crossed. Its about a guy named Rory who has fallen in love with and is pursuing a young woman named Darby. They live on my made-up planet of Osiris. This is one of my favorite scenes. Hope you enjoy.



Leaves crunched underneath my horse’s hooves. The trees closed in on my path and reached out their arms to grab me. I could tell I was getting closer by the time this happened. The river was fast moving and I could hear its waters through the rustling of the trees. But before I could see it, there was one obstacle in particular that I had to force my horse through. A huge rhododendron bush stood right in the middle of the grassy path, and bramble grew on all sides of it. My horse hated this and so did I but we had to squeeze through. As we approached the pink-flowered bush I leaned against my horse’s neck, patting him and encouraging him. He grunted unhappily but I urged him forward. I bent with his head as he made his way around the bush and under the stinging thorns. He had no trouble getting through but apparently my hair did this time. As he lifted his head on the other side and made to move, my head jerked back with the thorns. “Whoa!” I cried, bringing him to a stand-still. Keeping one hand on the reins, I carefully lifted the other to the back of my head. The thorns were tangled right in with my brown hair. I knew I’d gone too long without a haircut and made plans right there to get one as soon as I got myself out of this little dilemma. I let out an annoyed groan as I started to unfasten the stubborn thorns from my scalp. My fingers throbbed as the prickles bit them and I had to take quite a few breaks while doing this. My horse whinnied, growing impatient with my abysmal fine-motor skills. Frustrated howls began to accompany this chore until the birds grew still around me. My fingers were working ferociously and this silence didn’t bother me until it was suddenly broken by a crash to my left. I froze, my ears pricked. My eyes moved to my horse; he was alert as well. The forest was motionless for a minute, then I heard it again. Something was stomping through the trees, and it wasn’t very far off. I couldn’t move my head to look, but I pushed my eyes as far left as they could go. All green to that way – wait. There were two pairs of eyes staring at me - attended by frizzy orange hair. Darby was standing there, watching me.

My heart swelled. I’d finally caught her! I smirked at her, letting her know of my achievement and her loss. She grinned back and suddenly the reality of my situation hit me. Here I was with my hair stuck in a thorn bush, sitting atop a horse that was about ready to bolt from beneath me, and the object of my affections was staring right at me. My frozen fingers thawed and my other hand moved unconsciously to aid it. My horse felt the clutch on his bridle release and did what I had feared – bolted out from beneath me. My feet slid from the stirrups as my legs soared backwards, leaving me swinging from the tree. I heard a snicker to my left and knew Darby was laughing at me. Before I knew it, the branch had broken from my weight and I was on the ground, half a branch sticking out of my head. An advancing rustle told me that Darby was actually moving towards me. A second later she emerged from the trees, her dress torn and mangled from the thorns. I looked pitifully up into her laughing face. It made me completely forget my predicament for the moment. Amusement was etched all over it - in her eyes, her mouth, her cheeks… it lit up her entire body. Her movements were usually dull and slow, but I now watched with amazement as her arms moved jovially to remove the thorns from my hair. They were gone in an instant and she gracefully disposed them onto the ground and stood up. I rose at her speed and gaped down into her face. Her eyes thinned and her face reddened, her freckles flaming. I caught myself and glanced to my right. My horse was standing shamefully on the other side of the bush. I strode over to him, grabbed his reins, and moved back to Darby’s side where I was snapped back into my senses.

“Thank you,” I murmured, looking into her face. She smiled back at me, the amusement still dancing in her green eyes. I wanted so bad to put my arm around her but I knew that would frighten her. So I just gently took hold of her elbow and turned her around. We walked back to town together. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

Teaser from the sequel!


Here is a teaser from the sequel, now entitled Going over Jordan. In Wayfaring Stranger, "Jordan" symbolizes the Ohio River, the dividing line between southern and northern states, and an important milestone on the Underground Railroad. This book follows the second Fox sister, Ellie, as she transitions into life in the past and becomes an agent on the Liberty Line, and...as she falls in love. Enjoy and let me know what you think!

Chapter 3

The next day I received a message from Philip Caylor, the stationmaster just south of us. There was to be a large load of cargo moving through the next night. Four large packages and three small. I knew there was no way the Burns family in town could accommodate such a large load—they’d have to spend the day in the Collins’ barn. Wes had a small cellar in a corner of his barn, and while not exactly comfortable, it was the best place to hide in the area. And since the night Maddie had thwarted slave hunters there had been no visits at their house, and I prayed it’d continue to be that way.

I lit the lantern and placed it in the window that night. I sat by the fire and busied myself knitting a pair of mittens, grateful Mama had taught me all things domestic. At least I wouldn’t stick out like a sore thumb in that regard, like I did in many other ways. I didn’t always sit or talk like a lady—and my slang slipped out too often (“freaking ridiculous”). I didn’t know how to properly interact with others, and apparently, according to Grandma, I told awkward jokes too much. I didn’t know how to speak out in Meeting, didn’t even know what to say. I didn’t know—

A knock at the door.

I jumped up and set my knitting down on the table. I opened the door a crack and peeked out.

“Good evening. Who sent you?”

“A friend of a friend.”

            I counted: four adults and three children. This was my delivery.

            “Just a moment.” I closed the door gingerly, lit a candle, then blew out the lantern. I stepped outside and motioned for the runaways to follow me. One of the children was whimpering, and I feared it’d turn into a louder cry. I hurried my pace but the passengers lagged behind. I knew they must be tired, but they had to hurry.

            “Pick up the pace,” I hissed.

            “Yes’m,” came the wearied reply.

            Suddenly I heard a terrifying sound—horse hooves.

            Hurry!” I hung back and let them pass me. “Hurry!”

            Wes’ and Amelia’s cabin came into sight at last and I didn’t even bother to knock on their door. I ran into the barn and went straight to the northeast corner. I felt around for the door handle. Where was it? I tore through the hay and then finally my fingers hit something hard. I threw open the door and ushered my fugitives inside.

            “Blow out your candles,” I whispered. At last, they all descended inside. I closed the door and kicked hay over it, then ducked behind a tree outside. I had no idea what I’d say if I was found, and I hoped against all hope it wouldn’t come to that.

            I heard the horses come closer and then saw them round the bend into the clearing. One man swung down off his horse and rapped on the cabin door.  

            “Open up!”

            The door opened slowly with a squeak moments later.

            “Can I help you?” came Wes’ tired voice.

            “We have reason to believe you have some of our stolen property,” the man said, then spit on the ground at Wes’ feet.

            Now I was glad Wes didn’t know about the refugees hidden in his barn. He wouldn’t have to lie.

            “I’m sorry, you have the wrong house.”

            “Come on, negro. They’re here. Open up.”

            “You’re welcome to search the house, but you won’t find nobody here. Please don’t wake my wife.”

            I hunched down on my knees and held my breath. Please don’t search the barn, please don’t search the barn….

            “Nobody’s here. Take me to the barn.”

            Wes walked out of the cabin with the hunters on his tail. I figured he must know we were around once he saw the door was open, but….

            “You don’t lock up your barn for the night, negro?”

            “Musta blown open,” Wes said serenely.

            Just then I brought out of my pocket one of the gadgets Mama had sent me from the future. I knew if they stepped over the cellar door they’d hear it was hollow, or heaven forbid, one of the children cried out. I pressed firmly on the high frequency whistle and suddenly all three of Wes’ dogs started barking in the barn. I held my breath and minutes later the hunters walked out shaking their heads. Without an apology to Wes, the men mounted their horses and were off.

            As soon as I could no longer hear the horses, I stole out of my hiding place and knocked lightly on the door. A very haggard-looking Wes answered.

            “Ellie!” he hissed. “Have you been here all along?”

            “Yes, and there are seven packages in your barn,” I said breathlessly.

            “Oh, law. They in da cellar? Thank the Lord they didn’t find them.” Wes nearly collapsed against the door in his relief. Amelia came up next to him.

            “Yes, thank the good Lord,” she whispered. “I trust they are hungry?”

            “I’m sure they are. There are three small packages, that didn’t stop long at our house.”

            “Alright. Well, Ellie, you gwon home and I’ll see they’re fed. Bless you.” Amelia smiled at me, and patted my arm.

            “I’ll be back in the morning to check on them,” I whispered, then headed back up the trail. I collapsed into bed and went straight to sleep.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Thriller Thursday: What they didn't expect from the family Bible

Maddie and Ellie, two characters in my book, find something unexpected when their sisters go searching for their hidden Christmas gifts one day. The family Bible. And it's stashed away in the depths of the crawlspace. They manage to get it up to their room, and they crack it open. Dust flies. Thin, leathery pages sift through to the floor. But then they reach the page where their births are recorded. Maddie had always been told she was born in 1990, and Ellie in 1991. But here, in this tiny, slanted handwriting, are their births recorded as 1820 and 1821.

Find out what happens next! http://amzn.to/OPmvSu

This record found in my family's Bible is what inspired this scene in my book:


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Finally published

Well, I fail at keeping this blog up to date. To be honest, I've had a very difficult past month. Found out I was pregnant a month ago today, got sick, and then found out that I had a miscarriage. Very difficult  past month. My husband and I both want a baby so bad, and it was especially hard trying to explain to my almost 4 year old that the baby won't be coming anymore. She actually understands it better than I expected because she said, "I wish I could go in the sky and get your baby and she will be in your belly again."  Bless her little heart. 

But enough of the bad news. Finally FINALLY my book is published! Only ebook for now - sending away for the proof tomorrow for paperback. But here, if you have been waiting ever so patiently for my book to go up for sale, here tis!

http://amzn.to/OPmvSu

Hooray!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Interview with author Tracy Kauffman

Welcome, Tracy!

1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
  I am a new author from North Alabama and love writing for young adults and children.  I am a Christian who is trying to make a difference in the world today.  I hope to inspire others, educate, and edify others in a positive way.
2. Tell us about your upcoming book(s).
My book, Gwendolyn's Wish is a children's fiction fantasy book about a young girl named Gwen.  She has no friends until she meets her neighbor, Zahara.  Zahara has a magical parrot.  She tells Gwen about how she can acquire her own special companion.  Soon, she receives her parrot who can grant wishes.  He tells her that he can grant one wish a year, so she must think hard, about what she wants her wish to be. She tells the parrot her wish and she receives more than she bargains for.
3. What else are you working on?
 I have another book, My Boyfriend the Squire that I am currently taking orders for.  I am writing a new story for teens that has a special twist.  I hope you will stay tuned.
4. What book(s) have inspired your writing?
The classics like Pride and Prejudice, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Little Women are great books that will inspire people for years to come.  My favorite book that I had read lately is African Ice by Jeff Buick.  It is an adventure and romance book about a strong woman that goes into Africa to find diamonds.
5. What do you do when you experience writer's block?
The only time I have experience writers block is when I am writing on something that I don't know a lot about, such as with this book that I have been working on that is a historical fiction.  I don't want to make the story too different than the way it was, therefore I try to be careful and watch what I say.  When I get writers block as far as that goes, I do research on the internet that relates to the storyline.
6. What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
I am a new author and therefore haven't really had a lot of criticism and compliments yet, but my family have read what I've written and tried to compliment me regarding how I wrote.  It is hard for me to accept that, because they are afterall my family.
7. What advice do you have to aspiring writers?
Don't give up.  Watch what you write about, for people of all ages might read your books.  I do not want to write anything that might bring a negative influence to someone else.

My website:  http://tracykauffman.yolasite.com
To order Gwendolyn's Wish:    http://www.publishamerica.net/product48538.html
To order My Boyfriend the Squire:     http://sbpra.com/TracyKauffman/
My blog: http://tracykauffman.blogspot.com

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

My favorite moments on The Andy Griffith Show

Growing up, whenever I was home for lunch, my mother, brother, sister, and I would park ourselves in front of our little living room TV and watch an episode of a black-and-white Andy Griffith show. By the time we were in our teens, we had nearly every episode memorized, and still they never grew old. I still watch them today whenever I get the chance (love that they're on netflix). And of course we make the trek out to Danville to visit the Mayberry Cafe, a little restaurant dedicated to the TV show, and it even shows episodes while you eat. Here are some of my favorite moments on the show. May Andy rest in peace in his final home with his beloved Savior.

Rafe Hollister Sings - hauntingly beautiful http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=egEHhvcrSGg&feature=related

Andy Discovers America - Andy tells the tale of Paul Revere http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xVHt9sLGt4o

Darlings singin' - There is a Time http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iQtXEb7C30o&feature=results_main&playnext=1&list=PL01DA4C36794FF441

And this has got to be my favorite scene from the entire series. Just plain old hilarious. Definitely worth the watch.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7KvsNOrRrLA

Monday, July 2, 2012

10 things you probably didn't know about Going over Home

While I'm gearing up for the release of Going over Home (which has been delayed several times for different reasons), I thought I'd post a few little known things about the novel. Hope you enjoy.

1. The idea for the book came to me in January 2009 while my husband and I were visiting the graves of some of his ancestors in the Rogers Cemetery in Yellowwood State Forest in Brown County, Indiana. Maddox Cemetery in the book looks just how Rogers Cemetery looks.

2. The grandmother in the book is based loosely off of my great-great-great grandmother, Almira King Holsclaw.

3. I imagine the Fox house in the neighborhood off of River Road north of Main Street in Carmel, and the Ames house just up the road across from Prairie Trace Elementary School. The house I imagined the Ameses living in burned down in November 2010.

4. When I first started writing the book, the family looked nothing like they do now. Instead of being "different" in their lifestyle, they were "flat" and were just like everyone else, as I said because the parents were trying to hide how they were different. It didn't take me long to decide I didn't want them to be just like everyone else. It didn't fit who Mama's character was begging to be.

5. I listened to the different versions of the song Wayfaring Stranger hundreds, if not thousands, of times while writing and editing the book. I even got the word wayfaring tattooed on my foot.

6. At the time I was writing the book, I had a job that took me driving over 60-100 miles a day. The majority of the book was conceived on those drives.

7. The character of Olive is based loosely on my sister - her looks and her bubbly nature, especially.

8. My sister and I have dreamed of collaborating on a project like this since we were kids - I would write the story and she would illustrate it. (She's doing the cover.)

9. Papa's name was Wendell the entire time while I was writing the book, but when I went back to editing it, I couldn't take him seriously because Wendell is one of my dog's names. I had to change his name then!

10. Maddie's (Maddox) name came from a name on a gravestone I saw in a cemetery. Ellie's name came from my daughter's name (Eliana, or Ellie). Carrie's name came from Carrie Ingalls in the Little House books. Jackie's name came from my grandmother Jackie Mulry Lutz, and Lottie's name came from my great-great grandmother Lottie Ann Ash Oder.

Friday, June 29, 2012

an excerpt from The Mulry Family History

The following is an excerpt from my work in progress, the Mulry Family History, which chronicles the descendants of the Irish immigrants to Indianapolis, John and Mary Ellen Raridan Mulry. This excerpt is the section on their son, my great-great grandfather, Lawrence Mulry (1882-1950). I love this section in particular, because it includes some wonderful memories of Lawrence and his wife, Nellie. (Shared memories are the best part of any family history!)




The information the first Mulry history has on Lawrence reads:

                   Born 1882. Switchman, Conductor, Yardmaster Big 4 Rwy. Married Nellie May Hitchcock 1902. They had six children. Died 1950 Dec. 28, buried Washington Park Cemetery East at the age of 68

          Of all of John and Mary’s children, Lawrence has by far the most descendants. In 1966 it was known that he and Nellie had 32 great-grandchildren. Who knows how many exist today? 

Lawrence and Nellie’s children were:
                   Lawrence A. Mulry, Jr. 1903-1993 (who wrote the history)
                   Raymond Charles Mulry 1904-1905 (pneumonia)
                   Louise M. Mulry 1906-1907 (malnutrition)
                   Mary Elizabeth Mulry 1913-1985
                   John Edward Francis Mulry 1914-1992
                   James William Mulry 1915-1975





           Many fond memories still exist of Lawrence and Nellie. Great-granddaughter Patty Mulry Shaffer has vivid memories, one of her favorites being the story Nellie told when asked how she met her husband. Apparently, she had been looking out her window when she saw him and said to herself, “I’m gonna get that man!” She succeeded!
          Other memories of Patty include her living with them for a time when she was young. She would always play Solitaire and cheat (a memory shared by great-grandson George Hayes as well) and shoo them away when they called her on it.
 Patty Mulry Higginbotham remembers “Mom Mulry” playing cards and Spoons with them, and also making “the best fudge.” Kathy Mulry Schmidt recalls: “[Grandpa] died when I was only 5 so I hardly knew him, but I was pretty close to Grandma. We used to play 500 Rum for hours and watch The Lone Ranger together on her 12 inch black and white TV.  She lived with us for awhile when I was about 11 and 12 and she would take my side when my mom yelled about something I had done.  Imagine that! What's a grandma for?”
The following memories are written by Patricia L. Mulry-Shaffer, who was cared for in many ways, by Nellie May (Hitchcock) Mulry and did spend a great deal of time with her while she was growing up until around 1957 then from the early part of 1960 or 1961 until she returned to Uncle John’s to live. “This is how the narrative of how Nellie May saw & won the affections of Lawrence A. Mulry, Sr. Nellie May was a card player, she played piano for ‘The Lodge’ women’s league (I think the Moose Lodge) and was saucy gal! While I was growing up she mostly lived with Great Uncle John & Aunt Elsie. She did live with me and daddy in the early sixties when my father bought a house in Southport and had custody of me. He needed the help of someone to care for me while he worked at night. By that time she was in her 80’s but still spunky and full of it. She finally went back to Uncle John & Aunt Elsie’s and remained there (I believe) until her longevity ended.
“Some of her antics and ways are well known to some of us older Mulry children and cousins. She could pound a piano’s keys with determination, mash potatoes with vigor & a cigarette hanging from her mouth (“don’t mind the ashes…. They look like pepper and won‘t hurt you!”….. Ha ha ha) and cheat at solitaire till “who tied it” as she would say.
“She had a sense of humor and a no nonsense way of doing things. She had been a very heavy woman at one time and had wattles under her arms…… when she talked she would use her hands and those wattles would swing back and forth. Look at the pictures of her and pop and you will see what I mean. She was short to Pop’s height but I don’t think she took any crap from anyone!
“Fat Grandma would tell me about when she had food on the table………… Pop would always say “more meat Ma” even when there was no more to give. Even working on the railroad for all those years, the depression did not let people afford much for their tables. Aside from that, I do not recall much more about my Great-Grandmother, Nellie May.”
               Mary Ann Fox, James’ future wife, wrote in her diary while she was dating him in 1935:  Went over to Jim’s home for supper and had a sweet time. Met a lot of his folks, all lovely. Mr. and Mrs. Mulry are grand. Played cards and made lemonade.

               Lawrence died in December of 1950. According to granddaughter Emma Mulry Prange, he and Nellie were living with their daughter and son-in-law, Mary and Ralph Bland, in Beech Grove at the time of his passing. Nellie passed several years later in 1966. They are both buried at Washington Park East Cemetery in Indianapolis.
            In conclusion, the first Mulry history tells of Lawrence: “The best story of all that I ever heard of all of them was the one about Grandma wanting to make a priest out of my father Lawrence. As you can plainly see, it is a good thing that she did not succeed because none of us would be here now as he was the only one to have any children to carry on the name.”


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

my passion for family history

Below is the foreword to my other work in progress - the Mulry family history book. This book will be published some time in the near future, with hopes that it will be a treasured keepsake for those in the Mulry family. The foreword includes my reasons for pursuing family history.


When I began my journey into family history nearly ten years ago, I must have thought it would be a rather quick one; either that, or impossible. Little did I know that my family had been sitting on a gold mine of rich stories of people whose beliefs and experiences shaped what our family has become today. My grandparents’ house held family photo albums, Bibles and letters over one hundred years old – something I never knew. But as I took the time to sit down with them and listen to their stories, my respect for them grew, into something akin to awe. Perhaps what I found so fascinating was just how much we were alike. I’d always liked history, but seeing it come to life through the eyes of my ancestors was something entirely different. Family history makes you feel like you really are apart of this world, a thread in the fabric of humanity. Each of my lines means something special to me, but the Mulry line, for some reason, has remained a focus of my study. Perhaps it’s my interest in Ireland. Perhaps it’s because they were the first to come to Indianapolis, and here we remain. But whatever the reason, I think it is because I relate to them the most. And even through the years, our Mulry line has remained a tight knit family group. If you find a Mulry anywhere in the Indianapolis area, chances are they are a part of our family. This line has born politicians, teachers, railroad men, soldiers, projectionists and farmers. But no matter the profession, it has produced families, and it all started with a humble Irish blacksmith who set up shop in downtown Indianapolis and raised his family in the Fountain Square neighborhood. As I’ve never been able to trace his family any further back, I decided to compile a history of his descendants. After all, he did come to America looking for a better life, hoping for one for his children. Here I offer a humble analysis of how his descendants have fulfilled his hopes.

                                                                        
          I dedicate this history to the memory of my grandmother, Jacqueline Mulry Lutz, who was taken from us in a car accident when I was only seven. Everyone has always told me that she was the “family historian.” This history is also an attempt to pick up where she left off, if such a thing is possible, and to honor her and her family in doing so.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

a story of falling in love


I've been going back and forth on whether or not I should post this on my blog, but I've finally decided I want to share it because it's one of my favorite things that I've written (wrote it about 4 years ago). It's the story of how my husband and I fell in love.

          We came to a fork in the trail – “two roads diverged in a yellow wood” – and Ben and I took to the one less traveled by.

          Down the mountain from that glorious view we walked, and I should’ve known it then. I should’ve known what I came to realize while washing dishes months later that on his broad chest and in his strong arms and deep eyes was where I belonged. When we stomped down that trail and huddled together in the rain is when it should’ve hit me. Or in the back of the van, or in that McDonald’s or the Opryland Hotel, or even in the Projects, when I felt a gravitational pull to the hollow between his shoulders, a place where my body would fit perfectly. Or maybe when I saw him hold the children and all I wanted to do was climb over the back seat and underneath the blanket be held too.

          I should’ve known it when we walked the streets of Atlanta, or even sword fought in that restaurant, or when we talked about music and then sat together in understanding silence. I should’ve known it all along, and I think somewhere, I did. I think I knew it when he wrote me to say it was great to see me again, and when he said he’d be a little off after three days without speaking to me. Because I think I knew I would be just a little off too. I think I knew when he took a picture of that broken leaf, and when we sat in that Taco Bell and it was like we’d never been apart. I’m pretty sure I knew it when we watched that silly movie and all I could think about was how our shoulders lightly brushed and how I wished we’d touch some more.

          But I know I knew it when I sat in his lap and he told me we were made of the same things, and the same things that move him move me. And I’m sure I knew it when I wasn’t afraid to be the first one to say it: “I love you.”

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Interview with Laura Besley

 A big welcome to Laura Besley, writer and blogger!

Profile Picture
1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I'm half English and half-Dutch and my younger sister and I spent our childhoods in England and Holland. I feel that I greatly benefited from living in two different countries as it gave me a different perspective on life. I also speak both languages and that has helped me learn more languages in the future. 
I have continued to travel in my adult life. I graduated from university in 2001 (with a BA Joint Honours in English Literature and Film Studies) and initially worked in business. I soon realised that I wanted to travel more and retrained as an EFL (English as a Foreign Language) teacher and have been teaching ever since. I started in England teaching students from all over the world. I then taught Business English to Adults in Germany for 2 years and am now teaching (mainly) kids in Hong Kong. I love teaching as I can learn so much from my students. 
Living in Hong Kong is fantastic! Hong Kong is such an amazing city and offers a great combination of East & West. I think the more you travel, the more you realise that places can be different, but also the same and that's wonderful.
2. Tell us about what are you working on currently?
Currently I'm doing a flash fiction project. Flash Fiction is very short fiction (max. 500 words) and my aim is to write a piece of Flash Fiction every day for a year. I started on 4th May and so far I've managed to keep it up. On Fridays I post 'the best of the week' onto my blog. I'm hoping to put together a collection of some of the others in 2013.

3. Tell us about your blog, and your favorite kinds of books.
I set up my blog, Living Loving and Writing, in January 2012 and love it! I'm totally addicted! I usually post entries three times per week. 
Monday - general musings on life, living abroad. 
Wednesday - mid-week book review
Friday - Friday Flash Fiction. 
I love reading books written recently as I like things to be fast-paced. I get impatient with older novels that were written for an audience living in slower times. I like reading about different cultures and peoples as well. 
4. What book(s) have inspired your writing?
That's quite a difficult question to answer as I've read so many books.

5. What do you do when you experience writer's block?
Leave my desk! Don't keep persevering when it's just not going to happen. Sometimes I read, or watch a film, or go out for a walk. There's nothing worse than staring at a blank page.

6. What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
I think I found the first few pieces reviewed the most difficult. It's never easy showing someone else your work, but to improve you have to. And the advice you're given from others is invaluable. Any compliment is wonderful - comments I get on my blog, or if people read something I've written and say kind things I'm always really pleased. 
7. What advice do you have to aspiring writers?
Practise, practise, practise! And develop a thick skin!

Check out her blog:  http://laurabesley.blogspot.com/

Thanks for joining me, Laura!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Going over Home: video trailer

Now don't go gettin' too excited, because the book isn't available for purchase YET, but here's the video trailer. I couldn't resist sharing. :)

dang thing won't embed. here's the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mFouK-r9tP8

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Lovable Grandmas

Me with my grandma Jackie Mulry Lutz  - she made me both of the white blankets we're holding onto. Lost her in a car accident when I was only seven, but she sure loved her Katie :) I do miss her

My grandma Mary Holsclaw Andrews with her two grandmothers - Zella Wagner Holsclaw and Lottie Ash Oder c. 1920


My grandma Mary with her great-grandmother, Almira King Holsclaw with her chickens!


William and Kenny Potter with their great-grandmother, Margaret Ploughe Cross. Love her grin!
 
 
Check out my story, Going over Home, where my character, Maddie, meets her long-lost grandma, Eleanor Maddox, who is based loosely on my own great-great-great grandmother Almira King Holsclaw.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Magic in the New Year's Tree

Today fellow writer, Larisa Walk, joins me for a guest post.

Officially speaking, Christmas was not celebrated in the Soviet Union.  It didn't disappear altogether, just became converted into the New Year's celebration.  The decorated tree, the presents, and the holiday table, set with the rather utilitarian dishes of Soviet cuisine, became the new tradition while Christmas went underground.  Still, the holiday retained some of its magic, although in the tiny apartment where I grew up in the midst of the Siberian tundra the magic was mostly of the tacky kind. 

Because our artificial New Year's tree looked more like a used bottle brush, we over-decorated it to cover up the scruffy branches.  We hung shiny glass ornaments and tinsel; tossed little white puffs of cotton that pretended to be snow on the branches; and strung colored lights that reflected in the tinsel and the ornaments.  We also hung tinsel from the ceiling.  It made the living room, which doubled as my parents' bedroom, look like a place where silver rain fell continuously, never touching the scuffed floor.

If you switched off the ceiling light and left only the tree lights on, and if you squinted, the living room-bedroom with its pink wallpaper, worn red carpet, and a gurgling radiator under the iced window, disappeared.  What you saw were twinkling fairy lights, which did make the place appear magical.

After the traditional meal of potato salad, fried chicken, pickles, and beet salad that didn't taste all that different from the potato salad, my parents would go out to celebrate with their friends.  Alone in the apartment, I would sit quietly with the ceiling light off.  The room would be illuminated only by the New Year's tree lights and the glow that seeped through the window ice.

I would squint and stare at the decorated tree and wait for something magical to happen.  Perhaps a beautiful spirit would step out of the glow and take me with it, away from the dilapidated apartment where the radiators gurgled and the air faintly smelled like potato salad.  I would wind up someplace with trees and flowers, someplace where true magic lived.

Of course it never happened and I never told anyone about my New Year's Eve vigils, because both my parents and my classmates would've made fun of me.  Fantasies and deep feelings were acceptable in fairytales but not in real life in the Soviet Union.  You could hardly even find any fantasy books in book stores, though science fiction was more common.  Perhaps Soviet citizens were supposed to live firmly in the socialist present and dream of the future when communist paradise would become reality.

I didn't know it then, but my love for writing fantasy was born during my New Year's Eve vigils.  I think Yaroslava, the heroine of my novel, A HANDFUL OF EARTH, had her beginnings there, too, because she knows about forbidden magic and loneliness and how to hide her feelings from people that wouldn't understand.

Check out Larisa's blog and her novel, A Handful of Earth, here: www.larisawalk.com


"More than a singular piece of historical fiction, it’s a saga of what it means to be female, a leader, and how deals with the devil are contemplated in the course of a struggle for freedom."
"It’s a saga replete with psychological tension and struggle, and is a top recommendation."

Thanks for joining me, Larisa! Best wishes :)

Monday, May 28, 2012

the new beginning (finally)

After agonizing over the beginning of my story for ages, I think I finally found something that works. This is thanks to a brilliant idea of Katie Goad's, with whom I had a fabulous lunch today. Please read the new introduction and comment with your thoughts!


             Mama and Papa waited until it was a new moon, pitch black outside, before they decided to leave. Dr. Wolf was there, he said he would take them where they needed to go. It was a cold night, and Mama had bundled all her little girls up. Papa carried the twins and Mama took Maddie and Ellie’s hands. That left no hands free to carry their belongings, so Dr. Wolf carried those – just an old trunk full of  dolls and the family Bible. Mama said she wouldn’t part with them, especially the Bible.

            They walked along the road until they came to the creek. Papa went first with the twins, and then Mama pushed Maddie and Ellie through. She went before Dr. Wolf, but once she was through, she realized she had dropped her locket. Her locket with baby James’ hair. She screamed and cried and tried to go back, but Papa and Dr. Wolf held her, and pulled her away. Mama cried all night, cried for the locket, cried for her family, cried for her home that she would never see again. She was hugely pregnant at the time, and baby Lottie wouldn’t stop kicking the whole night. It was like she knew something wasn’t right.

            It took weeks before Mama went a full day without crying. For the longest time her eyes were continuously watering, silent tears always falling down her cheeks. She knew she was making a change to save her daughters, and to give them a future, but she cried for her old life, and cried that her daughters would never know the rest of their family. She cried that something would always be missing, and nothing would ever be the same.







Sunday, May 27, 2012

Sentimental Sunday: Almira

The following is an excerpt from my great-great-great grandmother's memoir. She was born in 1842 in Jennings County, Indiana. She lived there all her life, and died in 1931. Much of the description of early Indiana in my book has been taken from her memoir.

I am an old woman now, so old that some of my grandchildren have grandchildren of their own, and my daughter is writing this for me just as I tell it to her. If it seems rambling at times, remember that I am telling things just as they come back to me.

There has been much of sorrow and hardship but also much of joy in my life and as I look back over the past eighty years, I can see my life like a pattern woven in with the lives of so many others. It seems, as I look at it from here, now that it is so nearly finished, that there is plenty of brightness to offset the dark, gloomy part of my weaving.

My grandparents on both sides were pioneers in the Ohio Valley state where I was born. They belonged to that old race who kept pushing farther and ever farther west. My people settled in the poorest part of the state, not far from the Ohio River, but it seemed a goodly land to them, with springs and little creeks of pure water and good pasture for their cattle, an abundance of sugar maples to furnish sweetening, and wild berries everywhere. The woods were full of great luscious blackberries and raspberries and there were wild strawberries along the creeks. Plenty of acorns too, to fatten hogs, which were allowed to roam the woods at will, and beechnuts to give the fine flavor to the Thanksgiving turkey, to say nothing of the abundance of walnuts, butternuts, and hickory nuts for the children, no store candy for them. Then there were the wild grapes, large rich fox grapes for jelly in the summer and after frost came the fall grapes, small but delicious in flavor.

                                                                 Almira King Holsclaw
 
                                                           

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

the song that wrote my story

There is one song that I have literally listened to several times a day for nigh on three years. Different versions, but the same song. This song has been instrumental in the writing of my novel, and a couple of my characters even sing it (no worries, it's public domain). I even have a tattoo on my foot that says wayfaring. If you are a fan of folk music or music of Appalachia, then you will no doubt recognize this song (it's suspected that it was an old slave spiritual). Here I have three of my favorite versions:

                                                      Wayfaring Stranger

#1. Jack White from the Cold Mountain soundtrack. I remember listening to it over and over again while driving an entire half of I-465 on my way to student teaching one morning, and this was the first time the song really hit me. It made me cry (great for my students to see my red, puffy face that morning). Love this version to no end.

Okay, boo, I can't get it to embed. So, here's the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=70_3ho_j0yk

#2. 16 Horsepower. They have more than one version that I can also listen to over and over again, too. Here's one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HY3sj5ICHmo

#3. And here's the last version by the Christian group Selah. It's definitely different in style, but I love it just the same. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0edb9O9wPOY


Other amazing versions include: Andy Griffith, Johnny Cash, Emmylou Harris, and a little band from Damascus, Virginia - Fire in the Kitchen.


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

editing and my temper tantrum

Editing is hard. Not grammar and punctuation editing - that's easy. Fun, even. Content editing. Story slashing gut-wrenching tear-jerking mind-blowing face-twisting horrible terrible no good very bad day kind of editing.

So, I've been told my story has a slow start. It takes a while to get into the meat of the story, the real gripping part. Okay, I says, I'll cut out a bunch of the not-so-necessary stuff. So I did. I took my pencil on the hard copy and I slashed and dashed it all to pieces. Some of my favorite parts were gone, just like that.

Thought I was good for a while. Then I hafta go and read some stupid blog by a lady who knows what she's talking about that says "NO BACKSTORY, ESPECIALLY IN THE FIRST THIRTY PAGES." Well, guess what is freaking in my first thirty pages! That's right, you guessed it: back story!

And here I thought I was about done editing. My last full manuscript edit was focused solely on hyphens and dashes - that was fun. But I tell ya, I'd do it all over again if I could avoid trying to figure out what to do with my back story. If I should move it, cut it even more, cut it out entirely, I really have no idea what to do. I like the way my story is. I wanted it to read like a memoir, like a genealogy, with my character reminiscing about her childhood and growing up. Now I wanna stomp my feet and cry like a baby is what I wanna do, lemme tell ya. (This very blog is an avoidance technique.)

Okay, okay... Ima goin' Ima goin'.

>:( (that's my final word)

Monday, May 21, 2012

Interview: Author Kate Roth

I got to chat with friend and fellow author, Kate Roth. She has just released her first novel entitled The Low Notes with Rebel Ink Press. Check it out!

                                                           


1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m a 26 year-old newly published author and full time hairstylist. I’m married and have a sweet little dog named Sampson. My first novel was published May of 2012 and now I’m on the road to writing more and hopefully nurturing my career as an author.

2. Tell us about your upcoming book.
The Low Notes is a story about a forbidden love between a high school student and her teacher. It’s all about choosing whether to follow the rules or follow your heart. I think a lot of people connect with the idea of star-crossed lovers and forbidden romance.
3. Was there a "moment" where you got your idea, or was it more gradual?
In high school I had a pretty major crush on a teacher, so the idea has always been lingering. I took a novel writing course back in 2008 and I was working on something completely different at that time. When the class was over I told myself the teacher/student relationship idea was a good one and that I needed to run with it finally. The rest is history.

4. What book(s) have inspired your writing?
I’ve read tons of books with the teacher/student thread and a few are some of my favorite books. For some of my other works in progress I’m a little all over the place. I have ideas for paranormal and young adult so really all books inspire me. Along with music and films too!
5. What do you do when you experience writer's block?
Remain as calm as possible. When I start to wig out about having writer’s block it only gets worse. I try to do things I know will inspire me like listen to music or outline some vague ideas. Anything to get the creative juices flowing again. I had a rough few years of nearly constant writer’s block and for me it has a lot to do with the rest of my life. If I’m happy with everything else in life I can write but if something is off it blocks me up until I figure it out.

6. What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?

Fortunately (or maybe unfortunately), I haven’t been given a lot of criticism that I found tough or unnecessary. My editor of course gave me notes and changes to make but none of that was a blow. I guess I’m still waiting for the big heartbreaking comment. (Critics, please ignore that as a potential challenge!) Best compliment so far came from a friend who got my book and told me she was getting lost in the story and forgetting that I, her friend, had written the words. To me that was huge. It is one thing to support a friend by reading their work but another to end up falling into the story, escaping into the book like we normally do, forgetting it was someone’s creation. That was when I realized I’d written something worthwhile.

7. What advice do you have to aspiring writers?
Make the time to do what you love. Being published was always a dream of mine but that isn’t why I wrote and now that I’m published my reasons remain unchanged. I write because I love it. It’s no different than the person who loves golf so they make the time in their schedule to play because it makes them feel better. If you write with the intention of someday making money or selling movie rights or hitting it big, then you’re doing it for the wrong reasons. Whatever your passion, make the time, find the energy, make the commitment to doing it.
Find Kate @KateRothWrites on Twitter, http://www.facebook.com/authorkateroth on Facebook, & her blog: http://www.katerothwrites.blogspot.com/

Thanks for taking the time to chat, Kate! Best of luck with your book.



Sunday, May 20, 2012

a woven pattern

I love this quote by my great-great-great grandmother, Almira King Holsclaw:

“I can see my life like a pattern woven in with the lives of so many others. It seems, as I look at it from here, now that it is so nearly finished, that there is plenty of brightness to offset the dark, gloomy part of my weaving.”

Almira (left) with her grandson Hubert and family (baby is my grandma Mary)


Aren't we all so inextricably connected? Just think about it, one small decision by some obscure ancestor of yours could have dramatically altered your own life, or caused it to not exist at all. Two of my great-great grandfathers were pestered by their mothers to become priests, but they decided to marry and have families instead. If one of them had given in, my whole family wouldn't be here. Or if a single ancestor hadn't made the decision to remove to America, hundreds and hundreds of their descendents wouldn't be here. The temperment of our ancestors mattered, too. A kind mother or father sowed important roots and molded our families  into what they are today. Then think about the chance encounters you have every day with people. How many of those meetings have eternal significance?

My character Maddie does something that changes lives forever. In the present, she reads about an ambush on a runaway slave family and decides she isn't going to let it happen. So she crosses the time portal and changes the past - hiding the slaves in the future until the hunters have gone away. In the future, one of their descendents finds her and thanks her - for without her, she and her family would have never been born.

Read the synopsis for my story on the Going over Home tab!

Friday, May 18, 2012

hope

I know I ought to be strong and chipper when I promote my book, but the truth is, I'm kinda scared to death. I'm afraid my book won't find readers, I'm afraid if it does the readers won't like it. What author isn't? I have two magazines reviewing my book and several historical societies and libraries and even Conner Prairie reviewing it. The name will get out there. But worry continues to creep in. So what do I do?

I have to give it over to God. He is ultimately in control. Every time I start to worry I have to make myself stop and give it all back to God. Every time I try to take it all back in my hands, he gently reminds me, "I'm in control. Let me handle it."

It's not a copout, it's not a weakness. I think it takes more strength to give it up than to keep it and worry over it. I just keep reminding myself that he gave me this gift and this passion for a reason.

"We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." 2 Corinthians 10:5

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A tribute to the ones who went before us

Do you ever think about what will be said of you after you're gone? I love a quote from the show Lost: "Don't knock the obits," one character says. "It's the nicest part of the paper." To me, there's nothing like the writings of our ancestors in the history books - they could bestow a more eloquent compliment like nothing seen in today's obituaries and tributes. Below find some of the more sincere tributes given to my ancestors.  

Of Fredericka Peterson Goldquist: "Her labors were a continuous element for good in the community in which she lived and her life was, indeed, a serviceable one for she was continually holding out a helping hand, or speaking a word of encouragement, or kindly advice."

Of Catherine Kerr Oder: "Deceased was a great sufferer but bore her affliction with patient fortitude and died firm in her faith in the Savior's promises."

Of Hannah Zimmerman Caylor: "Her affliction has been a constant source of suffering during the last twenty years of her life but she has been patient and silent, always fearing that her own suffering might bring others worry. Thus has she lived long and learned the beautiful, but hard lesson of patience and died as she had lived with fortitude resigned to the will of the God whom she had found and served."

Of Anna Walsh Garrity: "Despite her many trials and sorrows, she bravely cared for her little brood until the last. It has been said by loving friends, in eulogizing Mrs. Garrity, that no woman ever lived that was more void of faults, and that no woman ever bore her burden more resignedly than she."

I'm dumbstruck when I read some of these. What amazing people we come from! My ancestor Almira Holsclaw stands in awe of her parents' generation, her mother in particular: "It must have been the pioneer spirit that kept her going." Do we still have that spirit alive in us? Let's rekindle it. Let's learn the hard lesson of patience and live with fortitude, resigning our lives to the will of God, for we know that he works all things together for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28).

What stories do you have of your ancestors? Please, share away!

Monday, May 14, 2012

The mommy writer

Every writer has certain music that gets them in the mood to write. I am no different. I have my trusty mixes readily available in my car, complete with several versions of Wayfaring Stranger. Tonight I had to head over to CVS to pick up a prescription and I decided to pop in my CD. My daughter happened to be with me. Here is what happened when I tried to sing along:

"I know dark clouds will gather o'er me, I know my path is rough-"
"Mommy, is a lady is a girl or a boy?"
"A girl. but golden fields lie out before me-"
"Who is Sarah's brother? Daddy?"
"Yep. where weary eyes no more will weep"
"Who is your brother? Nicholas?"
"Yep. I'm goin' there to see my Savior-"
"Who is your mommy? Grandma?"
"Yep. I'm goin there no more to roam-"
"Mommy, do ducks talk? I mean, in the singalong?"
"Only in the singalong. I am just goin' over home. I am just goin' over home."

Lemme tell ya, juggling motherhood and a budding writing career is no easy work. My daughter comes first before writing ever does, but I won't tell a lie - it is a sweet moment to lay her little head down to bed and come and rest before the computer. Ah, peace and quiet.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Out of the ordinary stories from my past

I've been a writer since I could hold a pencil in my hands. Throughout my school years, I had a series about an eccentric family with triplets: Jenny, Nick, and Michael. As the years went on, these triplets were joined by no less than thirteen other just-as-crazy children. They went on several adventures and ran into a number of mishaps. Nick, who was not-so-loosely based on my own younger brother by the same name, was the worst. He preferred to levitate when bored and often provoked his other siblings. See below for an example of his antics:

Never fear, his little tirade was not without consequence.
He did get in trouble. Stay tuned for more off-the-wall stories from my past (and future)!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

My first review

There's no better gift to give an author than a review. I received my first today, and I couldn't be happier! If you've read my book, I would covet a review from you. :)


My first review

As a lover of historical fiction, I was delighted to find a new author in this genre. Katie Andrews Potter has crafted an engaging and gripping tale traversing 2 centuries that give the reader a glimpse into life in Indiana during the 1800's. The quality of the work is as good as that of Louis L'Amour and other highly respected writers of historical fiction. I look forward to the release of the rest of the books in this series by this talented author. - John Etchberger



I'm on Cloud 9 after this review. I'm also very busy contacting genealogical and historical societies for reviews, as I believe their members would have an interest in my book, it being a genealogy-themed historical fantasy. I'm workin' and prayin' hard to spread the word! Speaking of which... go "like" my author page on facebook! www.facebook.com/katieandrewspotter

Sunday, May 6, 2012

memory and scent

Tonight my husband, daughter, and I were taking our dogs for a walk in our neighborhood. All of a sudden we could smell one of my favorite scents: wood smoke. I love it because it reminds me of Conner Prairie, and of camping -- all good memories.  But my 3-year-old had a reaction too. She piped up, "I smelled this smell when we got chicken nuggets, fries, and chocolate milk, and I smelled this smell when we slept in a tent." She was referring to when we went camping in Brown County last October. Scent and memory are inextricably linked.

I was especially glad of her little discovery because of something in my book. My character, Maddie, has a memory of her past when she smells a wood smoke scent, too.  Her parents refuse to talk about it, but Maddie now has her first clue as to where they came from, and that is wood smoke.

            “Mama,” I began. “I-I know that wherever we come from is somewhere you don’t want us to know about….”
            Mama lifted her chin, a worried look surfacing. “Oh?”
           “I just don’t know why.”
            "You don’t know why?”
             I shook my head. “No. I don’t know where we came from, I don’t know why we left, and I don’t know why you and Papa won’t tell us. I was tired of asking you questions and getting these worried looks, but today I remembered something from back then… the memory came back at Conner Prairie --”
            “The memory?” she cut in. “Wh-what do you mean by ‘the memory?’” Her look was bewildered now, almost frightened.
          My hands went up in exasperation. “I-I don’t know. I couldn’t place it, but -- at Conner Prairie, I smelled a wood smoke smell. It seemed so familiar, and I realized that wherever we came from, it had that same smell. And there were so many things at Conner Prairie that you do at home too, so I thought that might be a clue….”
           “I see.” Her expression softened. “But you don’t know where we came from?”
            No, Mama. I told you I don’t. But I really would like to know.”
           My mother sat down at the table and brought her hand to her forehead, and I watched as the worried look surfaced once again. She rubbed her forehead, shook her head, then looked up at me, her face wrinkled with sadness, her brown eyes misty.
            “I can’t tell you, Maddie. It’s too dangerous. I’m sorry.”
            And with that she stood up and left the room, leaving my head spinning with more questions than I’d begun with, and not a single answer.

Monday, April 30, 2012

synopsis

Here's a potential synopsis (one I would put on the back of the book). Thoughts? Is it gripping? Does it make sense?


Maddox's life changed the day she read her real birthdate: May 17, 1820. Not 1990, like she’d been told all along. Sure, there had been clues: her mother's old-fashioned style, the fact that her parents refuse to talk about her grandparents, but she never could have guessed they were actually from the past. And if that wasn't enough, now she has to go back in time to live for good. She has descendants living now, and if she doesn't go back their lives will never be.

Once she figures out how to go back in time, she struggles with the impending change her life is about to take, and her relationship with shy, unassuming Henry Yancey: the man she is supposed to marry. But if the decision to go back isn't hard enough, she soon finds out there is someone who will stop at nothing to keep her from going back, and he's running out of time. Will Maddie fall for Henry, and will she be able to make it back in time before the portal closes?

Sunday, April 29, 2012

free flowing

I've been a writer since I could hold a pencil and form words. My first books were spiral bound notebooks with the text at the top and a picture on the bottom half. Course, one of my best works back then included a family cruise ship called the Toilet Bowl 2000 and in another work a hysterical narrative involving a runaway avalanche from a porter potty. Let me just say, I was mature.

Now how I get my ideas are a bit different. The first one I know is a little weird but it works.  I stand around and act out potential scenes. I stand and whisper: "You're not goin' home tonight, not in this snow." Then in a lighter voice, "Mr. Cookston... folks will talk, my sister will be worried."
Then I draw out my characters. I draw them happy, sad, bewildered, and confused. Then the perfectionist in me kicks in and I gotta look up exactly what my character's dress would look like, and draw that out. Before I know it, I've got entire scenes mapped out in front of  me. Once I even drew out a graph so I would know who was where when in a particular scene.
Sometimes I get stuck and I can't get past either of these methods... I'm stuck drawing surprised faces over and over again before they turn into sloppy lines thrown together to barely resemble a human. Then there are other times, like last night, where I was daughter-free and got to spend hours at McDonald's writing so fast my hand was cramping up. I love those times, when the story flows freely and I can't write fast enough to keep up with it. And then before I know it, I've got pages and pages gone and my story has been created.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Never too old for imagination

  A stream of consciousness : my imagination


  History is always on my mind. I set my imagination up nearly wherever I go. When I get real quiet-like, and stare off into space, especially on a long car ride, you can bet I'm on a high imagination kick. I drive past that parking garage downtown and I'm imagining my ancestor's old blacksmith shop that used to be on that very piece of land: the musty dark shadowy shop, the air filled with sparks and powder, light sifting in through the cracks in the roof. The Mulry blacksmith shop.
  Then there was the time we went for a canoe ride on the White River around Strawtown. Strawtown is barely a split second on SR 37, but back in the 1800s it was a bustling river town, a hot spot for trade with the Indians.  My own ancestor was killed there in the infamous "Strawtown Massacre." So of course I was imagining myself in a dugout canoe, rowing up the river with my beaverpelts piled high, ready to make a big sale with the settlers. I imagined the river bustling with boats, and old Shintapper diggin his paddle in the river hard tryin to get away. He was, after all, the old swindler who caused that massacre. http://www.cemeteries-madison-co-in.com/stonycreek_twp.htm
  My favorite, though, is imagining myself in a dense wood, its floor teeming with bramble and berry bushes, standing outside a rough log cabin. There's a large garden, overflowing with good things to eat, especially after I swapped some good seeds with the ladies in church. I imagine myself having a conversation with my ancestor Almira. She was a daughter of some of the first pioneers in Indiana, married "a farmer boy, son of a poor widow." She canned up gallon upon gallon of blackberry preserves right out of the forest. This log cabin has only one window, and its glass was hard to come by. Little fingers smudge its panes, and inside the fire crackles and pops, a hearty stew bubbling away above it. The spider sits in the coals, and cornpone waits to be made.  People are always stoppin' by, swappin' stories and tall tales, superstitions and songs.
  Then I snap back to reality. My daughter is calling my name, my dogs are barking, my canoe runs into a rock. But then I look back towards the trees, and my dream is back again.

Friday, April 20, 2012

the "hook"

I looked around hesitantly, just to make sure I was really alone.
There was no one in sight, just the small stones in the cemetery,
their solar lights twinkling serenely in the gray light of morning. I
stepped ahead, placing one bare foot in the swirling water, then the
other. The world spun around me, and then just as suddenly as it
started, everything stopped. All was quiet, just a hush over
the gently falling snow. I looked up. Behind me was the cemetery -
only two stones now behind a little worm fence. Just ahead was the
dirt road, cutting through a dense wood. As I peered down it, I
could barely make out my grandmother's log cabin, smoke rising lazily
from its stone chimney. I took a deep breath and climbed out of the
creek. I was back.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Chapters 11 & 12


Here ya go... chapters 11 & 12. These are going to be the last chapters I post on this blog, after this you'll just hafta get the book! I'm hoping to have it available on amazon.com within a couple of months. As always, comments and suggestions are welcome!



Chapter 11

School started soon and we were struck back into reality. Well, as much as we allowed reality to have us. Olive was on a mission, and so was I. Her mission was to locate her great-grandmother, and – well, you already know what my mission was.

I wondered why Olive didn’t speak of her father’s parents, or why she hadn’t communicated with this great-grandmother before, but I figured that as talkative as Olive was, if she wanted me to know she’d tell me. And it happened one lazy Saturday afternoon when she lugged a big phone book into our room.

She heaved it onto her desk, and said with her back turned to me, “My mom would be so mad if she knew what I was doin’ right now.” I wasn’t sure if she was talking to me or herself at that point, so I stayed quiet. She kept talking. “My dad’s folks didn’t take too kindly to him and her bein’ together. After all, she was only seventeen when she had me.”

“Really?”

She turned around and nodded at me. “That’s why I don’t want to call my grandparents, even though they live around here, too. It’s my great-grandmother that showed my dad some grace.” She turned back around to the phone book. “Yancey, Yancey… there she is. Clara Yancey.”

I hopped up and peered over her shoulder.

“She lives right here in Bloomington,” I said. Olive nodded, then sank into her chair.

“I can’t do this, Maddie,” she said. “What if –“

“Olive, please. There are no what if’s. She will be glad to hear from you. Hey – what if you just went to visit her? You have her address now.”

Olive nodded, not looking at me. “Will you go with me?”

So we rode the bus to the stadium and hopped into Olive’s car. Her grandmother lived on the edge of town in a tiny old house. Olive must’ve checked the address a hundred times before finally mustering the courage to go to the door. I volunteered to stay in the car, but she practically pulled me up the sidewalk with her. Upon knocking, we were greeted by a home nurse, who said that Ms. Yancey was resting, but should be up soon. She invited us in, and we graciously accepted.

The little house was dark, but I’m sure it would have been as bright as day if all the curtains were pulled back. It was musty, and looked a mix of the 1960s and 1920s in style. Pictures hung on every wall, with one wall in particular almost completely full of them. Olive and I were taken to the couch, but she hopped up as soon as the nurse left the room to inspect the photos.

“Here’s my dad. Here’s my dad,” she whispered excitedly. “And here’s another one. Oh my goodness, Maddie, he’s all over this wall.”

I grinned and went to join her. Roger Yancey was indeed smiling out at us from many different points on the wall. Olive then discovered another photo.

“That’s me,” she breathed. “I can’t believe it. That’s me.”

Suddenly, a noise came from opposite the room.

“Ms. Yancey is awake, ladies,” whispered the nurse. “She’ll be out in a moment.”

Olive and I scrambled back to the couch, and a minute or two later the tiny old woman emerged from the bedroom. She gasped when she saw Olive.

“I’d know a Yancey any time I see one,” she said weakly, but there was a twinkle in her eye. “You must be Olive.”

Olive’s jaw dropped. “Y-yes. How did you know?”

“Sweet pea, you have your father’s features. How I miss dear Roger.” She slowly sat down on the couch next to Olive. “It is so good to see you, dear.” 

Olive was speechless, but threw herself into a gentle hug with her grandmother. And I couldn’t help but once more ache for a grandmother of my own.

Olive and Clara – which she requested she be called – spent the next two hours reminiscing, but Olive did not forget our wonderings, and slipped questions about the Yancey family history into the conversation. We found out the family had been in the area since before she can remember, and the earliest name we received was George Yancey, born in 1867 in Hinkle County, the next county over, much to the delight of Olive, who wrote every detail down. But Clara could not remember anything about a connection to a Fox family. Another dead end, I thought. Everybody’s getting answers but me. Still, it was lovely to visit with Clara, who treated me with the same kindness and hospitality as she did her great-granddaughter. When we left, she and Olive made plans to visit again the next weekend, and despite my jealously, I was overwhelmed with happiness for my friend. 

Chapter 12

            Olive continued to visit with her grandmother every chance she got, and even began taking care of her too. The weeks dragged on, and I found myself growing more and more homesick. My parents had not bought me a car – it was almost as if they feared I’d get myself into some mischief (imagine) – so I couldn’t visit home on the weekends. But one weekend in mid-October, Ellie and Libby came down to visit in Libby’s car.

             It was wonderful catching up with the two of them. Ellie reported that not much had changed at home, except Lottie kept asking about me, and threw a major fit when she was told she could not come with them on their visit. She also said Mama had been more quiet than usual, but she supposed that it was just that she missed me.

            As we sat there on the floor catching up, Olive strolled in. She greeted our visitors and plopped herself right on the floor. (Like I said, she was a long lost sister.) Then I suddenly remembered I had not filled in Ellie or Libby about the Yancey mysteries. I recounted the events, and Libby, our trusty genealogist, said, “Well, you know there’s an Indiana room at the Bloomington library, right?”

            Well, Ellie and I had no familiarity with genealogy, and Olive was a newbie, so we stared at her dumbly. “A what?”

            “An Indiana room. It’s a room that has all sorts of resources on Indiana history, especially local history. If the Yanceys are from around here, there should be stuff in there about them. Even if it’s recent.”

            We all looked at each other and without a word, stood up and headed for the door. We were in the car heading towards the library within minutes.

            We walked in the library, Olive clutching her notes from her grandmother. Libby whispered to us all that it might be beneficial to look through the recent public records, and even the cemetery records. So we all pulled out different books and started flipping through them, looking for key words: Yancey, Fox, and Ames.

            I soon discovered how common a name like Fox is, and this grew pretty frustrating. There were no records of a James or Eleanor Fox. Discouraged, I closed the book I had in disgust. I really should just give up, I thought. We must be aliens. There was no other explanation. I was about to get up and walk out of the room when Olive whispered across the table, “I found George Yancey.”

            I managed to feign interest as she showed me his burial record. There were many Yanceys in this cemetery.

            “What cemetery is that?” asked Libby.

            “Umm, hold on,” said Olive, flipping back a couple pages. “It is…. Maddox Cemetery.”

            “What?” I nearly shouted.

            Shhhh,” hissed Ellie. “And what?”

            Maddox Cemetery….” said Olive, a little more slowly this time.

            Our eyes were huge.

            “What?” asked Olive, obviously confused.

            “That’s my name,” I said.

            “I thought your name was Madelyn.”

            “That’s what I wanted you to think. Who wants to have a name like Maddox Fox?”

            “I like it,” piped up Ellie. I gave her a look. “What?”

            “Guys, I’m sure it means nothing,” said Olive, glancing back down at the book.

            “I’m not ruling anything out at this point,” I said, shaking my head.

            Olive said nothing, but flipped back to the burial records. “Lots of Yanceys here,” she said again. “This cemetery is super old.” Then: “Can we go there?”

            “Um, I don’t know if I want to go there,” I said. “That’s just creepy.”

            “Maddie, it’ll bug you until you do,” said Libby. “And you don’t have too much to go on that you’re connected to this Yancey family anyway. What – a weird look from your parents and your mom looking at old pictures? I think you’re being a little oversensitive to these things anymore.”

            “Easy for you to say,” I snapped, then caught myself. “Fine. I’m sorry. Well, let’s go. Are there directions in there?” I looked back to Olive, but saw that her face had gone quite pale. She furrowed her eyebrows and nodded.

            “Yup. This cemetery is on Fox Hollow Road.”

            I hung my head, then had to laugh. Things were getting really crazy now.

            “Well, what are we waiting for?” I said, throwing my hands in the air. “Guess we’d better be going.”  

            Olive ran over to make a copy of the directions to the cemetery, and then we all trooped back to the car. I sat up front next to Libby, and Ellie and Olive were in the back.

            “Okay, Libby, you’re gonna wanna go out to State Road 46 and head east,” Olive called from the backseat. “You know where that is?”

            “Yup,” said Libby, and turned out of the parking lot. Once we were on 46 heading out of town, she asked what to look for next.

            “Well, keep goin’ until you’re in Hinkle County. Then look for Maddox Ridge Road.”

My head spun around. “Are ya serious?”

Olive almost looked ashamed. “Yeah, I’m serious.”

Trying hard to focus on the beautiful autumn hills that surrounded us, I remained quiet until we came upon the road. Libby turned her car cautiously onto it. It was severely steep, and went nearly straight up a hill.

“Fox Hollow Road should be on your left in a couple miles,” came the navigator’s voice. My stomach did a flip. This road made me feel like I was on a roller coaster, and it didn’t help that I was scared to death of finding this cemetery.

Fox Hollow Road came sooner than I expected, and it was steep in the opposite way. Libby took it extra slow, fearing she would bottom out once we got down the hill. The trees were thick and it seemed much darker down this road. I didn’t realize how tense I was until Ellie said my name and I jumped.

“I-I shouldn’t be here. Stop the car, Libby, stop the car.”

“I can’t.”

“Stop the car!”

She slowed to a halt. I had a terrible foreboding feeling come over me all of a sudden. Mama had said it was too dangerous for me to know where we had come from. Why didn’t I just believe her? After years of wondering, I was thinking now that I really didn’t want to know. 

“I shouldn’t be here,” I repeated. “Something’s not right.”

“Maddie, I don’t understand,” said Ellie.

 “Neither do I,” I said, my eyes staring straight forward. “I just know I-“ At that moment we all jumped at a terrible screeching sound. A car nearly rear-ended us as it came up behind us. Libby hit the gas and sped forward. I buried my face in my hands.

It was a few moments before I dared look out the window again, and as I did I saw the cemetery in the distance. Libby cruised smoothly down the next hill and then we were there. A rickety old sign that read Maddox Cemetery est. 1820 loomed just inside the entrance on a gravel road. Libby pulled off to the side and turned the car off. We slowly got out of the car, and I immediately clung to Ellie’s arm.

Olive pulled out the little note card on which she’d written the section and lot number of George’s grave, and headed off, declaring, “Well, George, let’s find you.”

This was enough to force a smile out of me, and I took a look around. This was a small cemetery, and very old. It must had been years since its last burial. A little stream bubbled nearby, giving just an inkling of lightheartedness to its visitors. It was at this moment I realized that I had never been in a cemetery in my entire life.

The first stone caught my eye. It looked just like an old tree stump and had a stone stack of books leaning against it. The one next to it looked just the same. I didn’t see the name Yancey, so I moved on.

            Olive flitted from stone to stone as if she was mulling about at a party, Libby right on her heels. This was certainly their element. I glanced sideways at Ellie to gage her thoughts, but her face was unreadable. Then she cocked her head slightly, squinted her eyes, and bent down at the stone in front of us.

            “What do you see?” I asked.

            “I think that stone says Maddox,” she said.

            “Well, I’m sure there are some people here with that last name,” I said, my voice a little shaky. “It’s probably named after them.”

            Ellie nodded and stood up. “Maddie, you ever wonder where Mama got your name?”

            I rolled my eyes. “Ellie, what don’t I wonder about? I actually know where she got my name. It was Papa’s mother’s last name. And your name was from her name, too. Eleanor Maddox.”

            “That was a mouthful,” Ellie laughed. Then she cocked her head funnily again and peered a little closer at the stone in front of her. “Maddie, you got any paper and crayons?”

            “Yeah, sure, let me pull them outta my pocket,” I laughed. “No, why would I have those? And better yet, why do you need them?”

            “To do a rubbing. I think this stone says Eleanor Maddox.”

            It was my turn to cock my head, squint my eyes, and crouch in front of this very weatherworn gravestone. Surely not. It must be a coincidence, it had to be.

            At that same moment, Olive called from across the cemetery. “Maddie, come here.” Her voice had an odd strain to it. I hesitated, but made my way over to her. She and Libby were standing stock still in front of a couple more very old stones. 

            “Ah, I see you found George. How dandy,” I said. “And it says his parents’ names. Louis Yancey –“ Then I realized that Olive was pointing to the stone next to George’s.

Louis Edward Yancey, son of Henry and Maddox Fox Yancey

            There was more, but that was all I needed to see. I staggered backwards, my head spinning. Was this what Mama had been keeping from me all along? I nearly fell over backwards, but Olive’s strong arms steadied me.

            “I’m standing over my own son’s grave.” I heard my voice say it, but I couldn’t believe it.

            Olive came around beside me, looking skeptical. “Maddie, I’m sure there are plenty of Maddox Foxes. We just happened upon one of them,” she said uneasily. I looked to Libby and Ellie. Ellie looked like she was in shock, and Libby looked like she had just made a grand discovery.

            “It makes sense,” she said pensively. “It really does.”

            “Um, Maddie. Look at that,” whispered Ellie. 

            I turned around and my stomach took another turn for the worse. Just behind us was a small stone that read Charlotte Fox. Aged 16 years. My sister? Little Lottie? No. No, surely not. Just beyond this was another little stone. My eyes widened and I motioned to Libby to look. She gasped.

            James Fox. Aged 3 mos 15 days. Gone so soon.

            “Your James?” she whispered.

            I closed my eyes tight but the hot tears welled up anyway. My sister, my brother. Mama’s agonized face. The light trickling of the stream suddenly felt like a roar in my ears. Mama had said it was too dangerous. Why didn’t I listen, why didn’t I listen?

            Libby took me and Ellie by the arm and escorted us to the car where we sat silently in the back seat, mulling over this discovery. It all made sense, but then again, it was absolute nonsense. How in the world could we be here?

            I turned and looked out the window. I saw my reflection looking bleakly back at me, my face all red and puffy, a striking and terrifying resemblance of Mama. Libby and Olive were out there looking at the rest of the few graves, but they soon joined us in the car. Olive let out a great heave when she sat down, and she hung her head. Libby glanced back at us.

            “Well?” she said.

            For once I had nothing to say.

            “Did you find anyone else?” Ellie asked quietly.

            “I don’t think so. But Olive and I thought of something.”

Olive took another huge sigh, and looked back at me. “If that really was you, Maddie, then – you’re my ancestor.”