On the Red Clay Hills

SAMSUNG

copyright Jesuino Souza via stock.xchng

I’m hard at work on the next MacLachlainn story … meaning, my fingers are typing sporadically, but in between the typing bouts my mind is lost in the writing daydream. Like each of the other MacLachlainn stories, I’m also spending an inordinate amount of time reading and researching the time and place where the story takes place.

When I write a contemporary story, there’s a minimal amount of research I have to do to make sure the story facts are accurately portrayed. After all, I’ve lived through this time period myself … I know what things are like. Except for specialized knowledge about places and products, I pretty much know enough to be accurate.

Not so when I write stories set in the past. I have to glean knowledge and understanding by reading materials written by those who either lived in those times or have studied them. And so my historical novels take much, much longer to research/write. (You should SEE the stack of books in my office!)

I’ve been studying the time period for this novel, which will be titled “On the Red Clay Hills,” for over two years now. There’s still a lot I need to know, so I’ll keep doing research even as I write.

So … it may take me a while to get to “The End” of this story, but … I’m on my way!

Ingenious (and Helpful) Inventions

My tablet, set up on the Bluetooth keyboard...and Scribbles II on the screen.

My tablet, set up on the Bluetooth keyboard…and Scribbles II on the screen.

When hubby surprised me with a cruise to Cozumel, Mexico last year to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary, the cover story he gave to get me to the Port of New Orleans, without my being any the wiser, was that we were going to spend our anniversary at a nice hotel in Nyawlins. So I took my laptop along, planning to join my chat group each evening while we were away from home.

But it turned out we were on a ship, not in a hotel, and I couldn’t get online via my laptop. So it was just so much dead weight. (I did write a blog post about our cruise, but still…)

Hubby had always said that he didn’t EVER want to set foot on a ship, after all the time he’d spent on Navy ships. But he had a blast, as I did. He had such a good time that he decided that the best way to check off the last item on his “States I’ve Visited”  bucket list…i.e., Alaska…was by taking a cruise to said state. And so he had our travel agent book us on a cruise at the end of August.

In the meantime, he bought me a Samsung Galaxy Tablet and a Belkin Bluetooth keyboard to go with it. They are small enough to fit in the back pocket of my pocketbook. So the tablet accompanies me everywhere I go, and, if it appears I might have an opportunity to write, the keyboard goes along for the ride.

While they aren’t as heavy as my laptop, they aren’t exactly light as a feather either (hubby says the weight of my pocketbook makes it a lethal weapon). But that’s beside the point. I can go anywhere equipped to write should the opportunity present itself.

On the 4 ½ hour flight from Atlanta to Seattle, I whipped out my tablet and keyboard and got some serious writing done on Scribbles II: Escape. (The flight from Pensacola to Atlanta is barely long enough attain altitude, drink the cup of water the flight attendants serve, then come in for the landing…not long enough to do any writing.)

Through much of the trip on board the ship, I was like so many other passengers, glued to the dining room windows or out on the fantail, mesmerized by the gorgeous scenery. (Don’t ask me why, but while the open decks were too, too cold and windy for me, the temps outside on the fantail were pretty comfortable.) But during the times the ship was in open waters, with no scenery to miss out on, hubby read and I wrote.

And I wrote on our return flight to Atlanta, and by the time I got home, I discovered I’d added 10K words to my manuscript! Too cool. So, I love my tablet/keyboard combination. Do you have anything that’s helped you with your writing?

Working on a “Bucket List”

Seattle, Washington - © Tommie Lyn

Seattle, Washington – © Tommie Lyn

Last year, we ticked off one of hubby’s bucket list items: visit North Dakota. That left one item on his list: visit Alaska. And we took care of that last week. We embarked on a cruise ship in Seattle that was headed “north to Alaska.”

Ketchican, Alaska - © Tommie Lyn

Ketchikan, Alaska – © Tommie Lyn

Our first port was Ketchikan. And, as you can see by the accompanying photographs, I took my camera with me and had fun snapping lots of shots of the picturesque town and its surroundings.

Ketchican, Alaska - © Tommie Lyn

Ketchikan, Alaska – © Tommie Lyn

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Tracy Arm glacier - © Tommie Lyn

Tracy Arm glacier – © Tommie Lyn

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Then we ventured into fjord territory. The scenery in the Tracy Arm was gorgeous, and we saw an actual glacier. Breathtaking!

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At first, I was a little concerned about the ice in the water (Titanic, anyone?) but the chunks were fairly small.

Tracy Arm fjord - © Tommie Lyn

Tracy Arm fjord – © Tommie Lyn

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Juneau, Alaska - © Tommie Lyn

Juneau, Alaska – © Tommie Lyn

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Juneau was next on the itinerary, and it presented me with plenty of opportunities for taking pictures.

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Skagway, Alaska - © Tommie Lyn

Skagway, Alaska – © Tommie Lyn

And then, our last stop before heading south again was Skagway. Hubby told me of all the people on a quest for gold who came through Skagway on their way to the Yukon (he knows about those things, you see. Gold prospecting is his beloved hobby, and he’s read everything he could get his hands on, from historical data to all the how-to books.)

Whales feeding, Victoria, British Columbia - © Tommie Lyn

Whales feeding, Victoria, British Columbia – © Tommie Lyn

Victoria, British Columbia was our last port before returning to Seattle, and one spectacular (to us) event that we saw while we were docked was only partially visible. Several killer whales had corralled some food, probably fish, and were having a meal, complete with surfacing, splashing, and a show of fins. I belatedly decided to try to photograph it, but all I got was a dark shape which you can see in the water beyond the mast on a nearby ship. Oh well. You can pretend you see the whale…

What about you? Do you have a bucket list you’re working on?

KEY: Knowledge Empowers You

Image copyright  Ivelin Radkov, via BigStockPhoto

Image copyright Ivelin Radkov, via BigStockPhoto

Are you old enough to remember Schoolhouse Rock?

I am. My kids watched it on Saturday mornings, and I watched it with them. Those animated segments taught math, English, (the “Conjunction Junction” song still gets stuck in my head sometimes, LOL), and other things, even the Preamble of the Constitution.

Recently, I asked people who’d watched Schoolhouse Rock back in the seventies if they learned anything from it, and everyone had (including me…I learned how a bill proceeds through Congress).

Which brings me to ask another question…if they were an effective teaching/learning tool, why were they discontinued? Especially in the light of dismal performance of our public schools today.

What about the schools in your area? Are the children learning? Or are they being indoctrinated and made to conform to standards set by people who don’t have their best interests at heart? Is it time parents insist that schools use curricula that give children a good foundation, that teach basic reading, writing, math, and history, rather than forcing a social or political agenda upon them?

Or are the children being dumbed down.

Writing…again

Georgia Guidestones

Image copyright SeanPavonePhoto, via BigStockPhoto

Some writers plot. Some don’t. I happen to belong to the latter category.

When I begin a novel, sometimes I have a vague impression of where I’d like it to go. At other times, not so much.

And another thing. Some writers can determine what they will write. Like, they may decide, “THIS time, I’m gonna write a romance.” Wish I could do that. When I started tappa-tapping the keys a couple of weeks ago, I DID decide I was gonna write a romance. Unfortunately for me, my fingers didn’t get the message.

Now, I’m several thousand words into what promises to be yet another thriller: Scribbles II, sequel to Scribbles.

Have you ever heard of the Georgia Guidestones? AKA, American Stonehenge? When I learned about them a couple of years ago, they crept into the novel I was writing at the time…but they didn’t fit. Red pencil time. I cut them because they didn’t fit that story. But I saved what I’d written about them, thinking one day, some day, maybe, they’d be part of another story.

So. When I started typing recently, expecting a romance to magically appear on my computer monitor, imagine my surprise when I saw the indicators that the Georgia Guidestones were on the horizon in the developing story.

Oh, well. I suppose I have to bow to the inevitable. This story is gonna write itself, and apparently, those granite blocks standing on end in Elbert County, Georgia, with their creepy engraved message, will be part of it.

Let the tappa-tapping continue.

Writing…

Image copyright BigStockPhoto

Image copyright BigStockPhoto

There’s writing, and then…there’s writing.

These days, I enjoy writing novels, but…I’m actually typing them into a computer, not writing them by hand.

Why? Because, increasingly, I can’t write…not by hand, anyway. Actually, I’ve never been able to write well.

When I was a first-grader, we practiced forming the letters of the alphabet, both upper and lower case. With pencils. On blue-lined sheets of pulp paper in our Montag Blue Horse writing tablets (anyone remember those?) I was never able to do a good job at this.

Mama would “tsk, tsk” over each paper I brought home. She gave me encouragement and instructions on how to make my writing…well, readable. But no matter how much I tried, my scribblings remained just scribbles.

One afternoon, I brought home a paper that made Mama ecstatic. “See?” she said. “I knew if you kept trying, you’d get it right.” She proceeded to point out the smoothness of the strokes, the regular, consistent size of the letters…until she came to the name in the upper right-hand corner of the page. It didn’t say (all crookedy and messy) “Tommie Lyn.” Another little girl’s name was on the paper. (I wonder how her mother reacted when she saw my paper and thought, for one horrible moment, that it was her daughter’s.)

I was careful after that to make sure my papers didn’t get mixed up with someone else’s. Poor Mama, I don’t think she could have taken another disappointment.

My handwriting got worse when I advanced to the next grade and started learning cursive, and it never got a whole lot better. It was never anything to write home about, but it was at least legible. Until lately. During the past several years, it has steadily deteriorated as I’ve aged, and now, no one can read it, not even me. These days, the only way my hen scratching can be deciphered at all is if I print the letters.

Like I learned to do in the first grade.

I’ve Been Tagged!

Cherokee Rose © SeanPavonePhoto

Cherokee Rose © SeanPavonePhoto

The writers’ blog hop simply asks ten questions about your current story, and then you tag five other writer-blogger friends to participate next week. Bethany Jean over at My Saviour My King tagged me. Thanks Bethany!

I’m posting about Across the Wide River, the third novel in my historical series.

1: What is the working title of your book?
Across the Wide River

2: Where did the idea come from for the book?
I’d written the rough draft of High on a Mountain, the first book in the MacLachlainn saga, and titles for three sequels came to me: Deep in the Valley, Across the Wide River, and On the Red Clay Hills. I didn’t know what the stories would be about, but all I need is a title and a keyboard in front of me, and a story will flow.

3: What genre does your book come under?
It’s historical fiction.

4: Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I rarely watch television or go to movies, so I’m totally unfamiliar with the current list of popular actors. However, since my most of the characters are Cherokee, I googled Native American actors and picked these (because of copyright constraints, I’m not posting photos of the actors, but links to photos if you’d care to check them out):

Yonvusdi MacLachlainn, the main character, would be played by Eric Schweig http://avalon-medieval.blogspot.com/2010/01/eric-schweig.html

Coinneach MacLachlainn, Yonvusdi’s uncle, would be played by Adam Beach http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adam_Beach

Wayaunega, Coinneach’s uncle, would be played by Wes Studi http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0836071/

Susanne Bertrand would be played by Michelle Trachtenberg http://wallpapersget.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/michelle-trachtenberg-girl-beautiful.jpg

5: What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
A young boy loses his home when his father dies, and throughout his life, he wants to go home.

6: Is your book self-published, published by an independent publisher, or represented by an agency?
It will soon be self-published (currently being edited).
7: How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I tried to write it during NaNo 2009, completed the 50,000 word challenge, but had not done the research necessary to make the historical part of the story accurate. When I began the research phase, I realized I had to throw out everything I’d written and start over again, which I did about a year ago. With all the interruptions I’ve experienced since I started over, it has taken me about a year to write the first draft (or second draft, if you count the discarded NaNo false start).

8: What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
That’s a difficult question to answer. There are some elements in Yonvusdi’s childhood with his grandparents in the first part of the book that might be compared to “The Education of Little Tree.” But for the rest of it, which includes the Trail of Tears, for instance, I’m at a loss as to a book to compare it to.

9: Who or what inspired you to write this book?
This is a continuation of the story of Ailean MacLachlainn’s family, and I was inspired to write Ailean’s story by the experience of the Scottish ancestor of a friend of mine.

10: What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
One event in the story is one some people have heard of but don’t know much about…the Trail of Tears. Although it’s a painful period in our nation’s history, we need to know what happened then. And I think there’s an inspiring lesson for those who study the history of those days…the Cherokee people suffered the loss of their ancestral lands and lost loved ones (it is estimated that at least 4,000 Cherokees died during The Removal to Oklahoma, and some put that figure as high as 6,000…..and that is out of a population of about 15,000 people). They experienced much hardship, but they didn’t give up. They overcame obstacles that might have destroyed a lesser people, and they survived and are thriving today, both in Oklahoma and North Carolina.

NOTE: The image at the beginning of this post is of the Cherokee Rose. The legend of the Cherokee Rose says that Cherokee mothers cried on the Trail of Tears, and the elders prayed for a sign that would lift the mothers’ spirits. The next day, a beautiful rose began to grow everywhere a mother’s tears fell. The petals were white, representing the mother’s tears, the center of the flower was gold, representing the gold taken from Cherokee lands, and there were seven leaves on each stem, representing the seven clans of the Cherokee. The Cherokee Rose grows wild along the route of the Trail of Tears.