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Today’s my birthday and I’ve spent the day doing only things I enjoy doing.  I started the day reading, and with the exception of a few phone calls from family and friends, managed to while away the entire morning lost in a book.  After a completely non-nutritious lunch, I decided the next thing I wanted to do was work on the most important thing in my life right now: Whistling Woman.

First a little backstory; Whistling Woman is a book my sister, Christy Tillery French, and I co-wrote about the life of our great aunt.  It’s part fact, part fiction, and includes a lot of the stories we grew up hearing from our dad and our great aunt Bessie when she was alive.  Christy calls it faction–love that word!–and it works but I’m not really sure what recognized genre it would fall under.  Historical fiction?  Southern literature?  Whatever, it takes place in Hot Springs, North Carolina, in the late 1800’s and there’s quite a bit of history and folklore pertaining to the mountains of western NC, as well as the family stories.

We finished the book a couple of weeks ago and since then have been trying to decide which way to go now that the manuscript is complete.  We first thought, try for an agent and hope they can sell it to one of the big publishers in NY.  But then we started thinking about the time factor.  While you could say the book was inspired by our great aunt’s life, the real inspiration is our dad.  He told us most of the stories that play such an important part of the book, and he continues to tell us the stories today–thank God!  But you see, Daddy will turn 83 years old next month, and while he’s healthy and he comes from a family that is long-lived, you just never know.  One of his oil paintings will grace the cover and it’s very important to us to be able to give him the book so…we started looking at smaller publishers and POD publishers.  Still a wait in most cases so then we started thinking of self-publishing, something both of us swore we’d never do.

Oh, how the not-so-mighty have fallen.  Yep, we’ve decided the thing to do is self-publish.  Not only does it give us more control over the book and how it’s presented, it’s a lot quicker.  As an added bonus, we wouldn’t be under contract with a publisher and any money the book makes comes back to us without anyone else taking a cut.

Can we all say Scrooge-alicious?  I can and I do because while I have been making money with my writing and I know Christy has too, this is a book from our hearts, a true labor of love, so why share the money from our hard work with someone else?

So, that’s how we came to the decision to self-publish.  And today, on my birthday, I decided to get down to business.  I sent an email off to a local printer, BP Solutions in Asheville, to a woman who comes highly recommended by a member of one of the writing groups I belong to–thanks Celia!–and less than 5 minutes after I pressed “send” I get a phone call from her.  Hmm…as Aunt Bessie would probably say, it’s a sign.  I have to say I agree with her.

I also have to say, if being a self-published author is half as fun as being a traditionally published author, it’s going to be a heck of a fun ride!  Oh, I know, it’s a big change and one that will involve a lot of hard work, but it’s a change that has me excited and looking forward to what comes next.  Not a bad 56th birthday present, if I do say so myself!

At times I love this blog…and at other times I hate it.  I love it because it gives me a place to promote my books, a place to talk about what’s happening in my real life, a place to talk about what’s going on with my writing, and a place to rant and rave if I want to.  But there are times when I hate it because I really don’t feel like writing about anything at all and during those times I always feel guilty because I’m not posting anything new.

Which is why when I stumbled across this post by Carolina on The Lady Bloggers Society  blog, I felt like standing up and cheering for the author!  What she said!  She expressed my feelings so exactly that I felt almost as if she were in my head and knew every thought I’d ever had about blogging.

Are you, like me, a guilty blogger?  If you are, read Carolina’s post and take heart, you’re not alone.  And I have to say, if you are like me and struggling to keep your blog going, check out the rest of The Lady Bloggers Society’s blog.  I bookmarked it because it looks like there are lots of tips and ideas for even the most reluctant blogger and I’m sure I’ll go back to it time and time again.  Heck, I may even join the society–that is, if I ever get over this funk I’m in!

In other happier news, my sister and I just topped seventy thousand words on the book we’re writing about our great aunt’s life growing up in Hot Springs, NC.  We’re to the point where Aunt Bessie and Uncle Fletch are “courting” which means there’s not much more to tell in this book.  Yippee!  Maybe we’ll meet our self-imposed deadline after all!

And in the strange news category, on Saturday, I was talking to John Waterman who is a co-member of one of the writing groups I belong to, the Western North Carolina Writers’ Guild.  It turns out John’s a member of the Rumbough family who lived in Hot Springs while Aunt Bessie and her family were there.  The Rumboughs were an important family in Hot Springs and at one time, or actually two times, owned the town’s famous resort.  From all my research, I’m pretty sure one of John’s uncles–or cousins, I’m horrible at keeping up with how people are related in families–a Mr. John Rumbough owned the Annex salooon and was a good friend of my great grandfather, John Daniels, the constable of the town at that time.

Six degrees of separation, you say?  Yep, I agree and ever since my sister and I started writing and researching this book, I’m constantly amazed at what a small world it really is!

First up, Betty Dravis just put up a fascinating interview on the Dames of Dialogue blog with Dr. Linda Salvin who is a psychic with a radio show that just went national.  You don’t want to miss the her interesting story about her life and how she got to where she is today.  It had me saying “Wow!” in several places.

Second, I’ve put up with the “Are you sure you want to navigate away from this page?” messages every time I try to post a link or insert and image into a post for the last few weeks.  That seems to be fixed now but what’s up with the non-response when you click on “My Dashboards?”  That’s extremely irritating!  I haven’t had many issues with WordPress since I set this blog up years ago but this one’s getting under my skin.  Hope it’s fixed soon!

ETA:  And of course as soon as I posted this, the problem seems to have been fixed.  Grrr…and thanks WordPress!

Third, did you notice the new book cover over in my sidebar?  Storm Shadows has arrived!  Well, in e-book anyway.  It’s up on Fictionwise and to my surprise, it’s one of the books on their home page today.  I just checked and the Kindle version is up too.  Woo-hoo!  Time to do some Snoopy dances…

Except it’s very hard to be happy right now.  My father-in-law had another stroke last week, just when he was doing so well after the one he had on the day before Thanksgiving, and this time the doctors are saying they can’t do anything for him.  My sister-in-law, Jennifer, put up a moving post on the Caring Bridge site yesterday about saying good-bye to him.  I almost couldn’t read the whole thing because I was crying so hard but she wrote a loving and eloquent tribute to her dad.  Needless to say, family and friends are all praying hard for him.

Judging from this article, chivalry is still alive, although I wouldn’t exactly say it’s thriving.  I remember a time when men opened doors for women, pulled out their chairs for them, and yes, even stood when a woman entered a room.  My dad did that and still does and he tried to instill that chivalrous attitude in my brothers–although he was more successful with my older brother, Mike, than with my younger brother, Charlie.  I also remember him telling both of them that a man never hit a woman–or in this case boys didn’t hit girls.  One sure thing that would always get them in trouble was if they hit one of their sisters…

Well, except for the time Mike beat up my oldest sister, Cathy.  But she deserved it and my other sister, Christy, and I were more than happy to keep our mouths shut about it.  You see, Cathy was nothing short of a bully, picking on all of us and reigning supreme in a household with four kids younger and smaller than her.

That is, until the day when she picked on Mike, the third child, who’d finally had enough of her and had grown just enough to take her down.  It was a battle of epic proportions in our neighborhood, all the kids gathered around in a circle in our backyard, most of them cheering Mike on.  And when all was said and done, the Queen was on the ground and we had a new King.

After that day, Cathy was a lot easier to live with and she never challenged Mike again.  That’s not to say she didn’t still pick on the other three kids in the family, Christy, Charlie, and myself, we were, after all, smaller and younger than her, but she’d been knocked off her throne and we pretty much ignored her bids for supremacy after that.

As I think back on that day, I wonder where our mom was while all this was going on.  She had to have heard us shouting and cheering for Mike, but she never came outside to see what was going on.  Of course, our backyard was the place where all the kids in the neighborhood gathered to play and she probably thought we were just engaged in one of our games and went on with whatever she was doing inside.  Or maybe she knew what was going on and decided the time was right for Cathy to get a little come-uppance.

I don’t know but I do know that Mike was a much kinder “King” than Cathy ever was a “Queen.”

And that’s it for my little walk down memory lane except to add that I’d love to see some of the old ways come back.  Not just men acting chivalrous toward women, but women treating men with a little more respect too.  And while I’m at it, children need to respect their parents.  We could all do with a little more chivalry in our lives.

Feeling kind of down today because my husband is in Knoxville with his parents.  My father-in-law had a massive stroke the day before Thanksgiving and he’s been in the hospital or in a therapy/rehab center ever since then.  At first, we thought he might actually bounce right back after he got out of ICU and for a while it looked like he would…until he went to the first rehab/therapy place where he ended up with bedsores and an infection.  When his blood pressure dropped so low it barely registered on the monitor, the doctors there finally wised up and sent him back to the hospital.  He was re-admitted to ICU and we were told he probably wouldn’t make it but thankfully, he pulled through and is now in a different rehab center.  They’ve done wonders with him there and he’s getting better every day.

During all that, my mother-in-law started having problems remembering things.  We thought it was just the stress–they’ve been married for 55 years and this is the first time she’s ever really been without him–but when we took her to the neurologist to be checked, he diagnosed her with dementia.

So, my husband and his brothers and sister have had to make some tough decisions about what to do next.  Thank goodness his parents had already put their house on the market before all this happened.  The house sold a couple of weeks ago and now the kids are trying to find the best-case living scenario for their parents.  Dad’s pretty much set for a while in the rehab/therapy center, but what to do with Mom?

Assisted living seems to be the answer so my husband is over there today looking for the right place for her–and for his dad when he’s finally able to come home.

As for me, I’m home alone–well, not exactly alone, I do have the dogs with me–because of the darned MS.  No energy, wacky balance, and blurry vision so I didn’t think I should chance going with him and making it worse.  He’s got enough to worry about!

Hopefully, when he calls tonight, he’ll have found the perfect place for his mom and he’ll be able to come back home tomorrow.  We’ve only been married 34 years–a mere pittance compared to his parents–and I miss him.  Sure, most of the time I’m fine on my own and in fact, I prefer being “home alone” but I think that’s because I know he’s somewhere close by, like at the office, the golf course, or shopping at one of his two favorite places, Lowe’s or Home Depot.

I can’t imagine going through what his mom’s going through right now.  It really has me rethinking all those times I wished I was single and feeling a little ashamed because of the envy I’ve felt for women who are on their own without a husband to bother them.  I love my husband–even though he can be a pain in the butt sometimes–and I don’t ever want to go through what my mother-in-law is going through right now.

So, that’s what has me down in the dumps today.  On the other hand, I have been able to get some research done and even a little bit of writing.  And tomorrow, we’re supposed to have sunshine after three days of snow, sleet, ice and rain.  Yay!

…and to think I used to love winter.  But that was when I lived in Maine.  Winter’s different up there.  You expect the snow and the ice but it’s like a slap in the face when we get it down here.  Still, I’m glad we moved back to the south–especially since all this happened.

Before I start, I have to tell you this post has me feeling a bit um, shall we say, creaky?  It’s a bit of a reality check when you find yourself watching one of the kids whose diapers you used to change standing in front of a minister pledging to love, honor, and cherish someone.   

Yep, that’s right, we went to a wedding this weekend.  Our oldest niece on my husband’s side of the family got married.  The bride, Rebecca, was jaw-droppingly beautiful, and the groom, Zach, was handsome and very, very excited.  As I watched them exchange vows, I couldn’t help thinking, “Wow, he’s either been hiding a bit of a flare for the dramatic or he’s extremely passionate and really, really, really eager to get married.”  And when it was Rebecca’s turn, she was the same way, though a bit less dramatic, but still…well, again, the word passionate come to mind.

So, when it came time to exchange the rings, the minister asked Zach’s mother to come up and take back the Purity Ring he’d worn since he was thirteen and took a vow to keep himself pure until he married.  Ah-ha, I thought, that explains it.  But then, when the minister at last got to the “You may kiss your bride” part of the ceremony, it became even more clear.  You see, Zach and Rebecca had not even exchanged a kiss on the cheek in all the time they’d been dating and engaged, never mind the lips.  That kiss, at the end of their wedding ceremony, was the first one for them as a couple.

I have to admit, I’m still a little dumbfounded.  I mean, I can understand if a couple wants to wait until they get married before they have sex, but waiting till you’re married before you kiss?  Hmm…I don’t get it, but as I’m clearly showing with this post, I’m old. middle-aged.  Plus, I’m a product of the baby boomer generation and well, you know us, we were all about free love–literally!

The thing is…I’d met Zach before and noticed he wore a ring on his left hand but I never thought anything about it.  I just assumed it was one of those new-fangled engagement rings for the grooms because my other niece who’s getting married in August bought one of those for her future husband.  So, I thought this was another hip–and yes, I know, showing my age again–young couple doing what young couples do today, exchanging not just wedding rings, but engagement rings too.  

But, I never expected that ring was a symbol of a vow he made to keep himself pure for his future wife.  And I do mean pure.  Not one kiss.  Man!  Unreal!  

Those crazy kids…what will they think of next?

Okay, in between talking baseball with my fellow Red Sox fans–of which there aren’t many down here in NC–and watching the World Series games–Go Sox!  Three down, only one more to go!–I’ve been spending my time immersed in Cherokee legends and myths while I research the second book in my Eternal Shadows series–the first book, Snow Shadows, is now under contract with L&L Dreamspell and is scheduled to come out in print and ebook next year!  Woo-hoo!

Sorry, it’s difficult to curb my enthusiasm over that one!

So anyway, amid all the sites on the Internet which deal with the history of the Cherokee, I’ve found one that originates from Indiana.  Indiana?  Yep, there’s a branch of Cherokee Indians in Indiana called the Lone Wolf Band, and they have an interesting history of their own.  Here’s the link if you want to check it out:

I clicked on the site originally because it came up when I searched for “Cherokee Religious Beliefs.”  That page on their site was interesting so I clicked over to their main page.  And well, wow!  There are a number of pages, dealing with everything from history to spiritual beliefs, and I took the time to read them all.  As a result, I’m even more enthralled with my ancestors than I was before. 

As I was reading my way through the many different pages, the one titled “Are you Cherokee?” kept catching my eye, but I resisted clicking on it.  Why?  Well, my great aunt always said, “one drop of Cherokee blood is enough to make you Cherokee,” but there are many who don’t feel that way.  A lot of tribe members today consider only those who can prove their heritage with documentation true members of the Cherokee tribe.  My family can’t do that, we have no legal documentation that my great-great-great grandmother was full-blooded Cherokee.  So I avoid pages like that.  I know I’m Cherokee and I don’t want–or need–anybody telling me I’m not.

But the rest of the site was so engrossing that I overcame my deep-seated resistance, braced myself and clicked on that dreaded page anyway.  And I hate to repeat myself, but well, wow!  The page begins with a prophecy from our ancestors that the new century  (my first thought was the 20th, but on another page this site says it’s the 21st) “would bring forth many people of Cherokee blood that want to rejoin the heritage that had been hidden from them.”  The prophecy is told in detail on the “Return of the Buffalo” page and it’s fascinating reading.  A little like the predicitons of Nostradamus, far-seeing and eerily accurate.

The thing is, it goes on to offer an explanation as to why my family doesn’t have the “legal documentation” so many say we need if we want to claim to be a part of the Cherokee tribe.  The page says:    

“During and after the removal of the people, times became very hard. So the government devised yet another way to assist in the extermination of the Indians. The government offered those Indian people their own plots of land and also gave them up to $5000.00 in cash so that they could live and farm their own lands. They even offered them slaves. But this was not without a catch. To do this the government required these families to denounce their Indian heritage and to never speak of it again. The government wanted these Indians to live as whites and because times were so hard for these people, many accepted.”

That little historical tidbit is something my great aunt never told me and I never found in all my research, and I’ll be honest, it feels incredible to know that Aunt Bessie was right; even with that one drop of Cherokee blood that flows through my veins, I am Cherokee.

That speaks to my soul and warms my heart.  Enough so that when I read the part about the so-called Cherokee “experts” who refer to people like me as a “Wannabe,” or even more derogatory,  a “Twinkie,” I laughed. 

Me, a Twinkie.  Who’d’ve thought?  I just might have a t-shirt printed up!

So thanks to the Lone Wolf Band of Cherokee Indians in Indiana.  You’ve confirmed–in my mind and heart!–my heritage, given me a few ideas to be included in my next book, and lifted my spirits all at the same time!

Wa-do!  (Thank you in Cherokee)

That’s a quote from Mark Twain.  I included it as the title of this post because not only is it appropriate to today’s post, it’s the world I’ve been living in lately.

I’ve spent the last couple of days with my head immersed in ancient Cherokee legends as I added some details to my book, Snow Shadows, which the publisher asked for before it goes into editing.  I’ve also been working–sporadically!–on the next book in the series and my sister and I are collaborating on a book based on the life of our great aunt and on the stories my dad tells about his childhood.  Yep, after the cancer scare, we both realized if we didn’t get some of his stories down, they’d be lost forever.  Neither of us are willing to let that happen.

So, we decided to quit talking about it and git ‘er done.  In preparation for the actual writing, we’ve been researching old Southern sayings and life in western North Carolina in the early to mid 1900’s.  And frankly, I’m amazed at all the sites we’ve come across for the sayings.  I do declare, I never knew Southern-speak was so popular, but it seems it is so, there you goAin’t that the berries?  The sayings, as you may have guessed by now, are many and varied, and a few of the sites include an explanation of what they mean–for all those who don’t speak “Southern.” 

Anyway, it’s fascinating stuff and a hoot for me as I grew up hearing quite a few of them.  It’s also turned into an enjoyable way to take a break from writing and I am chugged full and happy as a dead pig in the sunshine!

I am also grinning like a mule eating briars (I used to hear this all the time, and though I haven’t found it verbatim on any of the sites, I have found variations of it) because today, October 25, 2007, my rights for my book officially revert to me.  It’s been a long, frustrating battle with a publisher who at times could make a preacher cuss or hell, [they] could even depress the devil, but now that it’s over, I feel a huge sense of relief and a lovely sense of accomplishment–hence, my mile-wide grin.

The thing is, this publisher isn’t showing any evidence of mending fences with its authors.   I suspect the only reason I finally got a professional rights reversion letter from them is because I threatened to go public with their very unprofessional behavior to various author watchdog sites.  When I did that, I also gave them a 24 hour deadline to respond to me, and lo and behold, I received the reversion letter yesterday.  As of today I am free and clear

…but they’re still stonewalling other authors.  I can’t figure out if that’s good or bad.  Oh sure, it’s bad for the authors they’re not responding to, but could it also be a good sign?  Does it mean they’re willing to fight to keep their business going–which could be very good for the authors who get their rights back because those rights won’t be yanked away from us again by a bankruptcy court if they do go under–or does it mean they’re just being spiteful?

I don’t really know, but I do know they need to step up and address all of their issues instead of popping out of hiding every other week or so to toss another round of excuses in our faces.  I’m sick of that and I just want them to know:

Excuses are like back sides, everybody’s got one and they all stink.  Now, maybe I’m letting my mouth overload my tail but fish or cut bait!  If you don’t, I’m gonna knock you in the head and tell God you died!

You think that’ll get their attention?  Probably not, but giving them down the country sure did make me feel better!

It’s been a while since I posted anything because I’m in Florida with my sister this week–something we both would normally enjoy–but right now, Tampa is a very scary place for both of us.  Too many maybe/maybe nots, hurry up and waits, and what ifs as our dad goes through tests to see if his cancer has returned.  Neither one of us wants to be here for that.  We’d much rather be lounging on the beach or just sitting around listening to him tell us stories about his life.

He grew up on a mountain in North Carolina–very close to where I live now–in a house without electricity or indoor plumbing.  He was born during the Depression, grew up during World War II, served in the Navy during Korea then settled down in Tennesse with my mom, and went to work for the local newspaper as a commercial artist.  Oh, and fathered five kids.  He’s an awesome painter who works mostly in oils, but to me his greatest talent lies in story-telling.

His stories of growing up on an isolated mountain are often funny, usually poignant, and most of them include a clue about what made him the man he is today.  There are numerous characters; most relatives, some friends or acquaintances, and some people who showed up for a brief moment in his life then walked out, leaving behind a lasting memory that inspired a story in later years.

Most of the relatives that are featured in his stories are buried in a small graveyard at Stone Mountain Baptist Church–the only building farther up the mountain than the house where my dad grew up.  When I was a child, we spent a lot of time on that mountain and it was a fascinating place filled with extraordinary people.  Today, whenever I go back  and drive that twisting road that leads up to the church, it’s like taking a walk back in time, not only through my childhood, but through the childhood of my dad.  I recognize the names on the tombstones and each name recalls at least one story, usually two or three or even more.

The thing is…as I listened to my dad talk over dinner last night, it hit me that one day he would no longer be there to entertain me with his stories.  I also realized I’ve been very lucky in my life never to have lost anyone in my immediate family.  My grandparents are all gone, as are quite a few of my aunts and uncles and a few cousins, but no one I am really close to.  Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins were a part of my life, always there in my peripheral vision, but they weren’t as important as my parents or my brothers and sisters.

And I have to wonder, how am I going to handle it when I do lose one of the “important people” in my life?  I can’t fathom a world where my dad isn’t there to lift my spirits with a funny story, or my mom isn’t there to take charge and handle all the little mundane things when my MS flares up and I’m unable to handle them myself, or my sister isn’t there to encourage me and spur me on despite my tendency to hide away in a corner and avoid contact with the outside world.  And my husband…well, I won’t even go there.

One or any of them, it’s a devastating thought. 

They’ll live on in my memory, of course, but a light will have gone out in my world.  I don’t want that to happen and have decided one way I can keep my dad’s light burning is to write down the stories he tells and try to compile a book from them.  Since he is an artist, I would love to incorporate some of his work in the book.

If I can do that, maybe, just maybe, the light will flicker, but it won’t go out altogether.        

Whistling Woman by CC Tillery

Winds of Fate

Storm Shadows

Snow Shadows

PMS Anthology

Romance of My Dreams