To write a book…

charlie-chaplin-392926_1280When I was in school I hated American History. I thought it was boring. I thought that since other countries had been around so much longer, they were obviously much more interesting.

Now that I am older, I am no longer so excluding. For the past few weeks I’ve been focused on the American Civil War. My attention was peaked last year when I did some family history research. It was more recently that I received a book of local ghost stories that pinged that interest again.

Then I spoke with another writer who I greatly admire. I told him that I had been thinking about writing a book that takes place during the civil war. I recounted what I had found out about my family, and he said: That sounds like a good place to start. Why don’t you?

That “Why don’t you?” Has been echoing around the empty cavern of my skull for weeks.

I tried to use the excuse, “Well, life has so many changes going on right now, with the new job and going back to school…”

My inner writer answered with, “You don’t work on the weekends and part of your degree is going to be in History anyway.”

Then the dragon of self doubt raised its head and said, “Do you really think you can find anime_dragon_1024x768-634320the time to write a book? Look how well that has worked in the past. You have three unfinished novels sitting on your computer right now. And remember that rejection letter. The one that hit the mark so well.”

The dragon almost got me. Then I remembered the rejection letter it was reminding me of was the catalyst I needed to pull up my boots and march back to school. The three unfinished novels reminded me that my current way of writing isn’t working very well and I need to try something new. (Not that those three will never be finished. Two are honestly in a rewrite stage but I changed things and got stuck in the muddle in the middle. Then proceeded to wallow in the muck.)

So now, with so many things already on my plate and with so many new challenges to face, I find myself stacking yet another task on top. I’m going to write a book. Sanderson Quote-800wi

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Late Night

Weep not for me and my lost sleep

Pity not my missed nightly dreams

For I have been traveling the word roads

I slipped between sentence spaces to journey

I danced among worlds hidden in print

I’ve drunk the tears of dragons and feasted on fears

Now I return to this world sated

I may yawn till my jaw cracks and my eyes may blur

But every traveler pays a cost to take a worthwhile journey

And I have willingly given away sleep and what nightly dreams may have come to mine.

A Historic Weekend

jonesboroghHistory seems to be a running theme with me lately. Mostly the mid to late 1800’s through the mid 1900’s. This Saturday I went to Jonesborough, Tennessee. It is the state’s oldest town and the storytelling capital of the world. Every year, during the first week in October, Jonesborough hosts the National Storytelling Festival.  I have never been but I have heard that it really is something special.

We took the walking tour of Historic Jonesborough and learned a lot. Jonesborough was the birthplace of one of Roosevelt’s rough riders, and at least three U.S. presidents stayed there for awhile. In the 1800’s it was the last post of civilization west.

The old Inn still stands, where men were packed as many to a room as would fit. That teameans in the bed and in the floor. You didn’t get a room to yourself or even a bed. We were able to look around upstairs at a few of the rooms that had been restored to the Victorian era. I knew about the Victorian fondness for wallpaper but it is different seeing it up close; with the bright blue patterns on the wall and the pink circle patterns on the ceiling.

Jonesborough is a place of interesting shops like Paul’s Pens Odds & Ends where I bought a new writing implement. I can’t call it just a pen because the cartridge is removable and has pencil lead which can take its place. Each item in the shop is crafted with awe inspiring talent. I loved the dragon pens and the ones made from 30,000 year old wood.

Jonesborough was a interesting trip through time. However, on Sunday I took another trip which was just as interesting. The kids and I drove over to Red Clay State Park which was the last seat of the Cherokee national government before the Trail of Tears. This weekend for the first time in 176 years, three of the recognized tribes met at the ancestral council grounds.

cherokee 2015My children got a chance to see a piece of the past. Like many in the area, we are descended from Cherokee. The Irish and the German in our bloodline hides the native blood behind blue eyes and light hair, but it is still there.

My son really enjoyed it. He got to hear how the water spider brought fire to the Cherokee basketspeople and how the Eagle carries prayers to the creator. He got to touch soap stone and see how it is carved. He got to see baskets being woven. We had a fun weekend and we all came away with a bit more knowledge.

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.

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.

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. 🙂