Chasing Tall Tales

A week ago my mom bought a booklet of local ghost stories a thrift store for a quarter. Just twenty-two pages long, bound with staples and orange card stock, it really doesn’t look like much. However, the first story in this book has been driving me to distraction. Short enough to be considered flash fiction, the story is only two paragraphs long and is a reprint of something that appeared in a local paper nearly 20 years ago.

Roughly it states that, while working on widening a rural road, a road crew dug up a body of an adult woman. She was buried in the middle of the road with a wooded stake through her heart. Both the stake and the body had been petrified.

The lack of information immediately intrigued my curiosity. I am well aware that this a toothless gifwork of fiction. Sort of a local legend. It’s the kind of thing my older cousins used to make up to scare me when we took walks in the woods near my grandparents house. However, whatever it is inside that makes me a writer started whispering, “What if?”

It is plausible that a woman could have been killed and buried in an unmarked grave. Depending on when she was buried, maybe there wasn’t a road there at the time. Or maybe it was the only convenient spot. The story wouldn’t leave me alone. It claimed to have happened less than thirty minutes away, so I began digging. (Figuratively. I am pretty sure I would be writing this on the walls of the local jail if I actually tried digging up the road.)

Armed with just the name of the road I searched and found out that they did widen the road back in 1917. I also discover there has been precedence set for the petrification of human remains, if under the right conditions. The part of the road were the story claims the woman was buried runs close to the Hiwassee river. This is important because not only would the soil need the right minerals but it would also need the right amount of moisture.

In 1867 there was a great flood that decimated the area. It took out bridges and caused a train wreck where many died. There are even claims that the streets of Chattanooga were so flooded, that a man living on Lookout Mountain watched bodies float down them.

background-313572_1280So if the mythical woman had been killed and buried before the flood, then it is even plausible that she could have been petrified. If she existed. But if so, what happened to the body? Why was she buried in the road? Did whomever it was that killed her think they were slaying a vampire or a witch?

These are questions I don’t have answers to yet. I did find a similar story in a book called The Granny Curse and Other legends from East Tennessee by Randy Russell and Janet Barnett. It is about a chair haunted by the ghost of a vampire. (I didn’t know vampires could have ghosts but stranger things have become local legends.)

I am still investigating. Some people will probably laugh at me for chasing ghost stories and say I am on a snipe hunt or a wild goose chase. Just because it may not turn out to be true, doesn’t mean it isn’t teaching me a lot about the past. I had no knowledge of the flood of 1867 or of body petrification until now. I am sure it will end up being useful at some point, even if it is only in fiction.

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Tell the story. Then let someone else read it.

boring_bookRecently I was reading a book of short fiction by an author with more experience and success than I. The stories had interesting ideas driving them but then they fell flat. This author has been published traditionally and has marched the independent path. This particular work was indie published.

I am a big supporter of indie publishing. It gets more of what I like to read in my hands and provides writers with another way to get there stuff out there. It is a tool for the tool box. However, I am not sure I can finish reading this book.

It isn’t bad. Not really. I see some of my own mistakes made by this author and it irritates me. Also I doubt the author uses beta readers. That is a mistake I try not to make. (Not saying I’ve never made it, but I try not to get impatient and toss out stuff that isn’t ready.)

Beta readers are one of the most important tools a writer can have. You really do need thatYou_Keep_Using_That_Word_Meme_FP_Wide second pair of eyes. I know I have written about this before but it is still true. Fresh eyes and a fresh brain see things you will miss. If you spell the wrong word correctly, spell check isn’t going to catch it.

Often writers will read what is supposed to be there rather than what actually is. So get a beta reader. Two or three if you can. Bribe them. Beg them. Whatever it takes. I find coffee, the occasional lunch, or a free book work well for mine. Some will even do it just because they love to read. Make use of your bookish or grammar Nazi friends.

Those personality quirks that may annoy you in everyday life will 6a00d8341c630a53ef013488af5745970c-800wibe indispensable for your writing world.

A State of the Author Address

Writer-once-upon-a-time-1024x576I am a bit grumpy this morning. I thought about just rolling over and going back to sleep but I have way too much to do today. Hopefully, coffee will fix it.

It is still dark here so there isn’t much of a view from my window at the moment. So, I am also trying pinterest for a mood booster. Which could be dangerous. There are pretty pictures to look at but pinterest is kind of a Pandora’s Box. You can start by looking at landscapes and fairies, then the next thing you know you are looking at steampunk crocodiles and being attacked by a mountain of plot bunnies.

For once, I need not fear the plot bunny. The short story I was working on has been completed and will probably be available on Amazon by tomorrow. (Blood Relations by Tammi A. Miller) I have started a sequel to it already, though I hadn’t planned to.

I do still have a several actual books I need to be working on. However, I am home schooling my son this year. My writing time has become whenever I can make marks on paper. Short stories seem to be the format my writing is taking to adapt to the current situation.  Modern technology and google documents are a tremendous help with this. I once wrote on my phone while waiting for a public restroom stall to become free.

*Yawn*  I need more coffee. Good luck today my friends. My your writing be creative and you coffee/tea cup be full.

Splintered Thoughts

There are days when I wake up refreshed and sit down at the computer with a smile on my face. Then there are days where I wake up from dreams of being ridiculed for daring to call myself an author. Days where the cat has knocked my glasses off of the night stand and I have an unexplained splinter in my palm. Days where I trudge out of my room on sore feet and step in cat vomit.

Hello Monday. Where is my coffee?

The sun hasn’t been awake long. It is just now kicking off the last of its night blanket. I feel like I have a long list of important things that has to be done today but right now I can’t name a one. I know it is trash day. I will have to roll the cans out to the curb. I haven’t let the dog out yet…I guess the rest will come after I’ve had coffee. Or after the kids wake up.

That is the thing with kids. You can have a whole plan free day and then your kid gets sick or wants to go to a friends house, or needs something and then suddenly the whole day is full.

I also had a post planned for today. It was something informative about writing. I didn’t write it down as I plotted it though, so now it is gone. Replaced with: “How did I get a splinter in my hand? Was it there yesterday and I didn’t notice? Or did I somehow manage to acquire it while I slept? How?”

Questions like that aren’t of interest to anyone else but I know it is going to bug me for the rest of the day.

Awkward Introductions

Remember how I said you will probably be hearing from me a lot this week? You had a two day gap. I hope you enjoyed it, because now that the paying the bills job is over for the week, I can concentrate on that writing thing I do. Part of that is to tell you all about the awesome from LibertyCon 28, possibly the best convention I have ever been too.

So on with my Con Tales.

You meet a lot of interesting and talented people at conventions in a variety of ways. Sometimes other people introduce you. Sometimes you just fall into conversation at a panel or you ask the right question at the right time.

However, I do not recommend having your phone tumble from your pocket into the next occupied stall over, while you are in a public restroom. True story. To make matters worse the camera turned on when it hit the floor.

Fortunately, for all parties involved, it wasn’t set for selfies and instead the screen showed a blurry black view of  the tile. After apologizing and retrieving my phone, I made a hasty retreat before the other person came out of their stall. Yes, I am a coward but I thought it best to avoid any more awkwardness. The fates disagreed.

Later in the day my friend Ernest Dempsey was signing autographs in the dealers room. I stopped by to say hi and to thank him for listening to me whine earlier. (You didn’t think I would tell my stories in order did you? Yeah, I should have, but this is the one on my mind so it is getting told first. Ranting about schools and talking to random Australian tourists will come later.) He was just finishing up and told me about the man who had, moments before, been seated to his left.

Jacob Holo is an author of science fiction and also has a young adult book that looks really interesting. According to Ernest, the man was just as interesting as his fiction. He is one of those rare individuals who seem to be happy in all their lives: personal, professional, and even day job. He suggested I talk to him because I like to meet interesting people. (By the way, you can check out some of Ernest Dempsey’s books for free if you follow the link to his website.)

I caught up with Jacob outside of the women’s restroom where he was waiting for his wife. (Yes, the same one.) I asked him for an interview for my blog to which he graciously agreed. Once his wife returned ,we all three moved outside in order to be able to hear each other better.

I introduced myself again and took a look at the people I was about to interview. Jacob was a well dressed young man in a bow tie. His wife was a bouncy woman with sort of a pixie hair cut and a happy smile. I also noticed she had good taste in shoes. In fact I had already seen that exact pair of shoes once already.

As many of you know, sometimes my brain is connected directly to my mouth with no stops in between. So of course I blurted out, “I know you!” And then proceeded to introduce myself as the person of the awkward phone fall. I could have let the whole thing remain unspoken and only something floating around in my head, but no. My brain doesn’t work that way. Instead I outed myself as the odd phone woman and we all had a laugh.

(She really does have good taste in shoes. I was wearing the same ones, only mine weren’t as clean and were trimmed in blue instead of pink. But back to Jacob. )

I found Jacob Holo to be accommodating and well spoke. (He also recovers quickly from odd conversations.)  He writes Science Fiction, Fantasy, and YA. The book covers are absolutely stunning and I greatly regret not picking one up for him to sign. I did purchase one of them in ebook on Amazon and so far it is fantastic. I think I may have found another favorite author. If you are looking for something new to read, I suggest you check out: The Dragons Of Jupiter, Time Reavers, and Bane Of The Dead.

Bane Of The Dead is the first book in his new Seraphim Revival series. It is also the book I am currently reading. If you like mechs done right this is the book for you.

Also keep your eyes open in the future for Heather. She writes under the name H.P. Holo. Her first book should be out by late 2015/early 2016. It is a steampunk fantasy novel filled with murder, wizards and a talking pug butler. (Yes, you read that right. The butler is a pug, as in the dog breed.) I am really looking forward to it.

A Monday For Facing Fears

Hello. It is Monday again. The sky is overcast and the grass is still damp with dew. I have been up for a bit but I am just now sitting down to write this. I have been stalling.

You see, if I sit down and write a blog post that means it is really Monday. This Monday. The Monday where I once again have to do something that I don’t really want to do because it scares me a little.

Now before any of you get ideas of doctor appointments or tightrope walking into your heads, it really isn’t that big of a deal to the rest of the world. Once I go and get things over with it won’t seem like a big deal to me either. It is the time before I actually step out of my door that is the worst.

I have to go out into the world and adult today. Yes adult can be used as a verb. If you don’t think so, just wait. One day you will do a thing and it will be something that is necessary but not really something you want to do. In fact you would probably like to avoid that thing all together. However, you will take a deep breath and do it anyway. That is adulting. (In some cases “adulting” can be not doing a thing you do really want to do.)

I have to put on my adult costume and go pretend to be something I’m not. I am an adult. I have bills, pets, kids, laundry and everything. It all gets paid, fed, or washed. But to the rest of the world I get the feeling that I am just not quite adult enough. I have to go confront the local school board over my son today. I may even be home schooling before the day is out.

(Summary of the issue is that they want my social anxiety afflicted son to move schools during his last year of primary because he is not zoned for the school he has attended since kindergarten. Makes sense except for the fact he has never been zoned for that school but it hasn’t been a problem until now.)

Sometimes I feel I have to over adult because once someone in power find out I am a single mom, for some reason my adult meter drops. I watch it happen. There is this little smirk that comes up in the corner of their mouths and their eyes say “Oh, that’s what we are dealing with.”

If they find out I am pursuing the dream of being a writer the meter drops even more. It is like I am a little kid dressed up in her mom’s shoes and no longer have to be taken seriously. I hate, hate, hate being humored or patronized. If you are going to look down on me at least do it in a way that gives me a chance to fight back.

I am not on welfare. I am paying my own mortgage. I work 72 hours in one week, then come home and do all the other stuff people have to do and be mom.  (Okay my incredibly wonderful mother helps me out with some of that.) Then I write because I am a writer. I can and I will pursue that dream. Just because I happen to not have a mate does not mean I have to give up on everything and go wallow in how hard life is.

I even have a freaking vegetable garden in the back yard! If anything I feel like they should be taking me more serious or at least trying help me out a little. But that is not the way it goes. Instead I am silently put into a stereotype box and anything I say from that point on will be viewed wearing shades colored by that box.

It is incredibly frustrating and I don’t like confrontation to begin with. Writing it all out here has helped. I don’t feel so uneasy now. I am going to go forth into battle before my courage fades. Wish me luck.

Cutting Back On Distractions

pocket watchThis is the beginning of a brand new week. It is roughly two weeks until Libertycon, I have my new short story out, several more in the works, and a lot of work ahead for all the hats I wear.

As a mom I will be venturing into the waters of homeschooling my rising 5th grader. As a writer I need to focus on getting more of my stuff finished, polished, and out there. As an employee I need to find away to balance all the work we have to do at night and my sanity. As a gardener I need to learn the difference between a garden and a jungle.

(That last one is for real. I just planted a simple, small square of ground. I didn’t even expect it to grow. I kind of just tossed seeds in the ground, covered them up, watered them, and left it alone. On occasion I water the plants some more. Then I leave for one weekend and when I come back pumpkin vines with leaves the size of elephant ears have started creep over the back yard.)

The point is since I have the same 24 hours as everyone else, and no one seems to be stickfigureselling extra sand for the hour glass. I need to cut back on some things so I can concentrate more on others. Finding these “things” is easy enough. I am a known procrastinator. Facebook and “checking email” are probably the main two ways I waste time on the computer, so I will start cutting back there. I will still visit facebook, twitter, and my inbox but I will be cutting down the amount of time I spend snared in the web.

I only post here once a week usually, so there won’t be any changes here. Maybe I will even be more on time with those Monday posts. Wish me luck. 🙂