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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!

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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

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