October Ancestry Challenge – Joel B Culpepper

oct ancestry challenge-001The October Ancestry Challenge 2013 is 23 posts in 23 days (Monday through Friday) about 23 ancestors.

We’re in week two!

Ancestor #6 – Joel Bluett Culpepper

culpepper Joel B CulpepperMy great great grandfather Joel Bluett Culpepper was born in 1845 in Clark County, MS and died 11 Nov 1911 at Beauvoir Confederate Soldiers home in Biloxi, MS.

If you’re not familiar with Beauvoir, it was the home of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, and following the Civil War, it was turned into a home for Confederate veterans. It is now a historical site and I have sat on that porch many, many times. The first photo is pre-hurricane Katrina. The second is me on the rebuilt front steps in December 2012.

Beauvoirdec 2012 231

Joel was born to Rev. Joseph M Culpepper and Nancy Yarbrough along with 3 brothers and 2 sisters. His paternal grandparents were Simeon Culpepper and Elizabeth Bluett. That’s where his middle name came from. It’s an old southern tradition to give maiden names of mothers and grandmothers to son and grandsons.

Page 1 joel Joel signed up for the 63rd Alabama Infantry Co K, stating that his residence was in Choctaw Co, Alabama. His brother Benjamin signed up for the 40th Alabama Infantry Co C. I have no idea why the boys signed up in Alabama or if they were actually living there at the time. The answer may lie in their father.

Their father, the Rev Joseph M, signed up for the 37th Mississippi Infantry on April 11, 1862 and died on August 15th of the same year in a battle at Columbus, Mississippi. Joel was only 17 at the time and Benjamin was 18. They may have been sent to Alabama to live with relatives following their father’s death and signed up for the cause to honor him. The enrollment date on Benjamin’s war documents is October 1863 in Sumter County, Alabama, but the date is not visible on Joel’s document, but it was definitely before Benjamin signed up. Page 4 joseph

fort massachusetts on ship islandPrior to Benjamin signing up, on April 9, 1863, Joel was captured by Federal Forces and held prisoner at Fort Massachusetts on Ship Island until the end of the war. He was an 18-yr-old boy.

In 1870, Joel married Mary E “Mollie” McFarland and they had six children, one of them being my great grandfather William Samuel “Sam” Culpepper who married Annie Josephine Blanks. I wrote about her in my Ancestor #1 blog.

Mollie died in 1908, and Joel moved in with his daughter for a time until it was decided he would enter Beauvoir under his rights as a Confederate soldier. He lived there for 10 months preceding his death. The records on file name him as James B Culpepper. He and Mollie are laid to rest at Zion Cemetery in Kemper County, Mississippi. culpepper, mary e molly mcfarlandculpepper, joel bluitt

October Ancestry Challenge – George Washington Spencer

oct ancestry challenge-001

The October Ancestry Challenge 2013 is 23 posts in 23 days (Monday through Friday) about 23 ancestors.

We’re in week two!


Ancestor #5 – My 3rd great grandfather George Washington Spencer



50643187_136536244812My 3rd great grandfather was George Washington Spencer. He was born June 1829 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and died at the age of 72 in July 1901 in Newton Co, Mississippi. He was the son of Rev. William Saladin Spencer and Martha Didama Gross. He had ten siblings and was the second from youngest, so I imagine he got away with just about anything he wanted to. You can just imagine by the tenth child, you’d just throw up your hands and say, “Whatever!”





Behind this church is the cemetery where his parents are buried. It is possible George attended this church and his father may have preached there. (the photo is from my cousin mebauc)50643187_137826751612


George married Nancy Virginia “Jenny” Holdcroft in 1858 at the age of 29. She was ten years is junior. Hubba hubba. They lived in Newton County, Mississippi, and he was listed on the 1860 Federal Census as a school teacher.






Page 1When the Civil War broke out, he joined the 35th Mississippi Infantry, Company B on March 1, 1862 and some of the muster rolls show him as being hospitalized in Jackson, Marion, and Lauderdale Springs. Reports state he had an infection in his leg. In 1864, he was granted a medical discharge. My cousin told me George’s wife went by wagon to pick him up and bring him home. Though it’s nearly impossible to read, the following is his medical discharge.Page 13





The leg infection did not stop him from making whoopee, however! He had seven children between 1859 and 1878, the eldest being my 2nd great grandmother Nancy Didama “Grandma Damie” Spencer Burke.


He is laid to rest next to his wife (who died in 1928 at the age of 89) in unmarked graves at Hickory Cemetery, Newton County, Mississippi.



Saturday Snippet – Complete with Music and Indians

Saturdays are the days I usually post snippets of one of my books, but today is slightly different. As many of you know, when I’m not writing historical fiction books, I’m playing music – the whole “professional musician by night, indie author by day” thing. That being said, I tend to get caught up in the music of the time of whatever book I’m writing. My latest work takes place in 1812, the setting is the Mississippi Territory, known today as Clarke County, Alabama, and a few of the characters are Mvskoke (Muskogee Creek Indian.) Because of this, I’ve been listening to traditional Creek music for the last few months, and this particular song has stuck in my head. It feels more like an ancient chant than a song, and I can’t stop playing it. It is “Heleluyvn.”

elly cover_webHere’s an excerpt from “Elly Hays” coming Nov 4 to all online retailers. Elly is my 5th great grandmother, and the book is the third in the Okatibbee Creek series.


The laborers had erected a small makeshift platform in the middle of the meadow. It rose two feet off the ground so Tecumseh could be seen above the massive gathering of people. Rumors had circulated for months that he would come, as it had been foretold by a bright comet in the nighttime sky in March of 1811, and the gathering crowd numbered into the hundreds, perhaps closer to a thousand, representing over a dozen of the twenty Mvskoke clans.

As the people waited for him to take the platform, they grew increasingly impatient. They had been assembling for days to hear him speak, so not only were they weary from their travels, but the scorching sun was not improving their disposition. The air was as stagnant as the wait, with not even the slightest of breezes to offer relief from the stifling heat. The afternoon sun melting into evening had made them agitated, and they grumbled and occasionally began chanting for the great warrior to appear and address them. When he did not take the platform after a few minutes, the chanting quieted to a dull objection, only to start up again within a short amount of time.

Over the last few months, reports had surfaced that the Americans would once again declare war against the British. Before and since the revolution, the British had befriended the Indians, asking for their help in warding off the Americans’ expansion. Since the Indians considered the land theirs in the first place, they were pleased to oblige. The Indians had never asked for a favor in return, but the waves of white settlers were growing, continually trespassing upon their tribal land. They needed help, they needed answers, they needed to stop the encroachment. They eagerly awaited Tecumseh’s speech and they were anxious to hear a plan. They wanted to know what he wanted of them. If the reports of an impending war were true, perhaps this was the time to join forces with the British and defeat the white man once and for all.

Finally, a group of elders dressed in vibrant tribal robes with headdresses embellished with porcupine fur and hawk feathers stepped up onto the platform. The cheer began small and grew to a fevered pitch as it spread across the field of warriors like a breeze washing over wheat. The elders greeted the crowd and led them in singing their tribal anthem, “Heleluyvn,” following which the crowd erupted again in anticipation of the great warrior’s arrival.

Elly Hays is available at Amazon

October Ancestry Challenge 2013 – Annie Blanks Culpepper

oct ancestry challenge-001The October Ancestry Challenge 2013 is 23 posts in 23 days (Monday through Friday) about 23 ancestors. Hop on the ancestry train and join us.

Ancestor # 1 – whew, 23 is a long way to go!

I was going to post in chronological order, but I’ve decided to be completely random. With that being said, here is…

…my great grandmother.

Josephine Annie Blanks Culpepper was born 10 Nov 1877 in Kemper Co, MS and died 15 Nov 1961 in Mobile, AL.

Annie Blanks Culpepper

Annie was the daughter of William Henry Blanks III and Martha Lettie “Mattie” Carpenter. She was the fourth of seven children. There was only one boy in the bunch and sadly, he died at the age of five, when Annie was only three, so she never knew him. She grew up with five sisters.

I often wonder about the emotional health of Annie’s family of origin. Her mother, Mattie, lost her own father in the Civil War when she was fourteen, and the family not only lost a half dozen men to the war but another dozen family members to typhoid which was running through the county the winter of 1862/63. I imagine Mattie’s mother was probably emotionally shut down for a long period of time following all those deaths, so Mattie probably did not get the emotional support an adolescent girl needs, therefore it is possible she did not pass that maternal nurturing down to Annie and her sisters, because she never got it herself. I could be completely mistaken, though.


culpepper Sam CulpepperAnnie married William Samuel “Sam” Culpepper at the age of 21 in 1899. She said about Sam that he was “handsome with rosy cheeks and teeth as white as pearls.” Sam worked as a sawyer and followed the sawmill business, so Annie was left alone on the farm with the children for great lengths of time. They had nine children between 1900 and 1921, with five being boys and four being girls. All but one of their children lived to a ripe old age.

There are a few things that strike me about Annie. First, I never met her as she died the year before I was born. Next, she lived through a fairly good time in history. The Civil War was long finished before she was born, and I imagine living in the back country of Mississippi, she wasn’t too affected by WWI or WWII. She grew up in a time before televisions and cars, and witnessed a technological growth of astounding proportions. I imagine the first television or automobile caused great excitement in the family.


culpepper Sam and Annie Culpepper

Following Sam’s death in 1939 at the age of 66, Annie moved to Mobile, Alabama, and spent her golden years with two of her sons who had previously moved there. She died in Mobile at the age of 84 and her remains were returned to Mississippi to be buried next to her husband at Mt. Nebo Cemetery in Newton County, Mississippi.



Obituary November 16, 1961

Mrs. Annie Culpepper

Funeral arrangements were being completed today for Mrs. Annie Blanks Culpepper, 84 of Mobile, a former resident of the Martin community who died yesterday at Mobile.

Mrs. Culpepper was a member of the Duffee Baptist Church and had been active in its various organizations until she suffered a broken hip three years ago.

Her two daughters are Mrs. Mae Howington of Meridian and Mrs. Aaron Spears of Enterprise. She is also survived by five sons, Joe Culpepper of Susqualena, Earl and Clinton Culpepper, Meridian; Fred and Frank Culpepper, Mobile; and two sisters, Mrs. Woodie Logan and Miss Velma Blanks of Laurel.

The body was to arrive in Meridian this afternoon and will be at Stephen’s.

The services will be held at 2 o’clock tomorrow at the Mt. Nebo Baptist church with Rev. Herman Pilgrim in charge, assisted by the Rev. Vernon Blackburn.

Interment will be in the Mt. Nebo cemetery.

Wednesday Writer’s Corner – Aug 7, 2013

In honor of my coming October book release of “Elly Hays,” today’s Writer’s Corner will be about the book’s heroine, Elizabeth Hays Rodgers, and how she came to be the center of a novel.

She was the only daughter of Samuel Hays and Elizabeth Priscilla Crawford, born in North Carolina in 1774. She spent her young childhood in the unrest of the Revolutionary War. She married when she was sixteen, and after twenty-one years of marriage and eleven children, her husband decided to uproot the family from Tennessee and start a new life in the Mississippi Territory. Considering what they were walking into, I had to write her story. A portion of it is below. It will help you understand that area of the country at that time in history.

The (unedited) Prologue

In 1811, America was on the verge of war. The victory in the Revolutionary War gave Americans their independence, but the newly formed country had many unresolved issues. Americans had a vast frontier to settle and they considered the land now known as Canada to be part of their land. They wanted to expand northward and westward, but the British joined forces with the Native Indians in an attempt to prevent the Americans from expanding in either direction.

The British had also begun restricting America’s trade with France and the mighty Royal Navy ruled the seas. The Royal Navy had more than tripled in size due to their war with France, and they needed sailors. They captured American merchant ships off the coast of America and forced the men with British accents to join the ranks of the Royal Navy, proclaiming they were not American, but indeed British. Kidnappings and power struggles in shipping ports like New Orleans loomed over the newly formed United States.

The British not only invaded the southern coastal cities of the United States, but also the eastern seaboard, attacking Baltimore and New York, and burning Washington D.C. to the ground. The War of 1812 is historically referred to as the second war for independence. It was the battle for boundaries and identity for the Americans.

Sadly, the Native American Indians had the most to lose in the power struggle. Shawnee warrior Tecumseh was but a child when he witnessed his father brutally murdered by a white frontiersman. His family moved from village to village and witnessed each destroyed at the hands of the white men during and after the American Revolution. As a young teen, following the Revolution, he formed a band of warriors who attempted to block the expansion of the white man into their territory, but the effort saw no lasting result. Conflict with the white man was a battle he had fought all his life, and as a warrior now in his early forties, he knew the stakes were high for the Indians in the coming battle. He traveled the southeast, coaxing the numerous Indian nations to unite against the white man, promising help from the British in the form of weapons and ammunition, and offering reinstatement of the Indian’s lost lands upon victory. Tecumseh’s prophet, who traveled with him into Creek territory, forecasted a victory, foreseeing no Creeks being wounded or killed in the battle.

In the Eastern Mississippi Territory, which later became the state of Alabama, the Creek Indians were divided. Many Creek villages had been trading with the white man for years and participated in civilization programs offered by the United States government. These Creeks had been taught the ways of the white man. They spoke English, could read and write, and even incorporated white man’s tools into their daily lives. They traded or were given gifts of plows, looms, and spinning wheels, and had no qualms with the white man. Many had married whites, and they did not want to join in the fight.

In opposition, many villages joined with Tecumseh, for they wanted to maintain their way of life, claiming the white man’s ways would destroy their culture. They had witnessed the white man encroaching on their lands, destroying their forests and villages, and polluting their streams. And probably, some suspected the white man’s intent was not co-existence but domination, for they had seen this come to fruition in the treatment of the black slaves.

In 1811 and 1812, tribal tensions were growing due to these differences in beliefs, and this caused a great war in the Creek nation called The Red Stick War. It was a civil war fought between the Creek people, but by 1813, it expanded to include the American frontiersmen and the U.S. government. At the height of the War of 1812, the Creeks were at war with nearly everyone, including their own people.

It was in this turmoil that a white farming family moved from their home in Tennessee to the fertile farmlands of the eastern Mississippi Territory, a place known today as Clarke County, Alabama. James Rodgers, his wife Elly, and their eleven children unknowingly entered a hornet’s nest.

If you have read the first book in the Okatibbee Creek series, “Okatibbee Creek,” you will be familiar with its heroine, Mary Ann Rodgers. “Elly Hays” is about Mary Ann’s paternal grandmother, Elizabeth Hays Rodgers, better known as Elly. If you have not read any of the Okatibbee Creek series, they are a collection of stories about one family and the strong women of our past. These are the real-life stories of my grandmothers, aunts, and cousins, but if you live in the U. S., they could also be the stories of your female ancestors – the women who fought for us, for our safety, our lives, and our freedom, and who sacrificed everything with the depth of their love and their astounding bravery.

Elly Hays will be release October 2013 in paperback, Kindle, and Nook.

elly cover_web

A to Z Challenge – J is for James C Howington

Blogging from A to Z April 2013 Challenge

J is for James C Howington 

James was my 3rd great grandfather. He was born in Wake County, NC on 15 Jan 1823 to Nimrod Howington and Milbury Bradley.  He was the second born of thirteen children. He was 5′ 11″ and had auburn hair and gray/blue eyes.

At some point, he ended up in Sumter Co, AL and married Amelia “Ann” Smith on 24 Sept 1843. His son also married a Smith (my great great grandparents), and I heard through family members that she was a Choctaw Indian. The Indians were all but run out of MS and AL in the 1830s following the signing of the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek. The ones who stayed changed their names to assimilate into the white European culture. They chose names like Smith, so there is a good chance Amelia was an Indian also.

By 1850, they had taken up residence in Newton Co, MS and had ten children before the start of the Civil War. James signed up with the 5th Mississippi Infantry, Co. A, on 7 July 1862. He was captured 15 Jun 1864 and held prisoner at Rock Island, Illinois. When the war ended, he returned home and they had two more children.

james c howington pow

His great grandparents (my 6th greats) were Robert and Mary Morris. I’ll let you look them up yourself, but it is proof we have been here in the U.S. for a very long time. Oh, all right, I know you won’t go look. He was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. You’ll go look now, won’t you? Yeah, that was my pappy. We seem to have a rebellious streak in our family.howington james c great grandparents robert and mary morris

James died around 1880 at the age of 57 and is buried in Pleasant Grove Missionary Baptist Church Cemetery, a few miles from his home.

howington James C Howington Headstone

A to Z Challenge – H is for Hays

Blogging from A to Z April 2013 Challenge

H is for Hays

I write a lot about my Rodgers ancestors, but playing just as an important role in the fact that I am sitting here are my Hays ancestors.

My fifth great grandma was Elizabeth “Elly” Hays. She was born just before the start of the Revolutionary War either in Tennessee or North Carolina to Samuel Hays and Elizabeth Pricilla Brawford. Records say North Carolina, but her father was born and died in Davison County, Tennessee, so NC seems strange. Her little brother, Charles, was also born in NC, so it is possible the family lived there for a while. And her paternal grandfather died in NC, so the family definitely had a connection there. I haven’t researched her thoroughly (yet), but it looks like she was the only girl with at least four brothers.

Elly was sixteen when she married James Rodgers in Tennessee on 20 Dec 1790. She birthed twelve children. In 1811, the family packed up and moved to the eastern Mississippi Territory – a place called Alabama, which wouldn’t become a state for a few more years. You know how difficult it is going on a road trip with little kids in the car? Imagine being on a wagon for days with a dozen of the little rug rats and not a McDonalds in sight.



This was a time in history when the U. S. was flexing its political muscle and tensions were escalating, leading up to the War of 1812. And little did the Rodgers family know, they were moving into Creek territory. Not only were the Creek Indians fighting the U.S. Government, they had also broken into two sanctions and were fighting amongst themselves. The Rodgers family moved into the middle of a rat’s nest. They were harassed for years by the marauding Indians, taunting them and stealing their livestock, and the final straw, burning down their home.

In 1815, her two eldest sons, Hays (named after momma’s family) and Absolom, joined the Mississippi Militia to help fight off the hostile Creek Indians, and following the boy’s discharges in 1818, the family moved west to Lauderdale County, Mississippi.

Her husband died in Mississippi eight years later, and she moved back to Clarke County, Alabama and probably lived with her daughter Elizabeth. She died in Alabama in 1839 at the age of 65.

Elizabeth Hays Rodgers is the heroine of my coming book “Elly Hays” which is the third book in the Okatibbee Creek Series. It will be released Winter 2013.

“An Orphan’s Heart” new video trailer

My new book, “An Orphan’s Heart,” is currently at the editor, who is going to perform a modern-day miracle and turn my rough edges into a diamond.

I ♥ My Editor!!!

When I get the manuscript back, I will proof, proof, proof, format, format, format, then I will proof some more and finally, format again. Then we’ll call it done. It will be available around May 1, 2013 in Kindle, Nook, Smashwords, and other eBook formats. The paperback will follow within a few weeks at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Create Space.

Somewhere on page 154, you’ll undoubtedly find a typo. Somewhere around page 97, you’ll wonder if the timeline is going where the author meant for it to go. That’s the way of the writing world. No matter how careful you are, you will miss something. No matter how much you love it right now, you will look back in a few years and wonder how you had the bravery to release that piece of crap into the world and the audacity to call yourself a writer. But, that’s how you know you are improving. You can look back on everything you’ve ever done and know you would do it better if you had a second chance. Too bad. One chance is all you get.

That being said, here’s the new video trailer for my fabulous, tear-jerking new novel,

“An Orphan’s Heart.”

It is the second book in the Okatibbee Creek series. If you read the first story,

“Okatibbee Creek,”

and shed a few tears, I am warning you now, you’ll need a whole box of tissue for this one.

Dear Historical Fiction Writer: How Much Is True?

Dear Historical Fiction Writer: How Much Is True?

That is the question historical fiction writers are most often asked. It takes a huge amount of time researching the characters and documents for a historical fiction novel. The obvious items are names, dates, and places, but the not-so-obvious are social questions. What was going on in the world at the time? What about the town? The family? Fashion? Industrial? Politics? Agriculture? Relationships? Economic status? These specifics are very time consuming. There are too many questions to speak of generally, so let’s narrow it down a single person and see if we can make sense out of the documents of one person’s life.

In the historical fiction novel I am currently working on, “An Orphan’s Heart,” we know the following about Ellen Rodgers. She was born in 1853 in Mississippi. In 1860, the census shows her living with her parents and four siblings in Mississippi. Her parents died within a month of each other in 1862. Ellen was nine. The 1870 census shows her living with her aunt Elizabeth Rodgers Graham in Alabama. The 1880 census shows her back in Mississippi, living with her two sisters. There is no 1890 census because it was burned in a fire, but I did find a relative who sent me a copy of Ellen’s 1890 obituary. Ellen died at the age of 37 in Texas.

There are a few social ideas we can deduce about the above facts:

1)      Children at that time in history would usually be left in the custody of the eldest male family member. Ellen’s parents died in the middle of the Civil War. Since Ellen ended up with her aunt, we can assume any male who would have taken custody, if there was one, was probably off fighting in the war.

2)      Travel to Alabama and back to Mississippi would have probably been by wagon. Her locations were 110 miles apart. Ox-pulled wagons traveled 10-15 miles per day, making the trip 7-10 days. Horses moved faster, perhaps 6-8 days. Indians were not too apt to steal horses in the area like they were out West, and there was a river to travel along to have a fresh water supply, so it they had them, they probably used horses.

3)      The most logical way to get to Texas in the 1880s would have been by train. Travelling the route from Meridian, MS to Mobile, AL, to New Orleans, LA, to Houston, TX, and then up to Runnels County would have been probable through a combination of three lines; The Mobile and Ohio RR, the Louisiana Western RR, and the Houston and Texas Central RR, and would have taken about five days. It would have involved changing trains, staying over in towns, layovers for supper, and sleeper cars.

There are more than a few personal questions:

How did Ellen end up in Alabama in 1870? Why did she go back to Mississippi? Why and when did she go to Texas? Why did she die so young?

Those answers lie in other members of the family.

Probate documents show Ellen was indeed in the custody of her uncle Hays Rodgers. He returned home at the end of the war in 1865. About 1866/67, he moved his family to Alabama. His sister, Elizabeth, was already living there. That’s how Ellen ended up in Alabama. She arrived at about age 13 or 14 and was 17 in the 1870 census. But why did she go back to Mississippi?

That answer lies in Aunt Elizabeth’s records. Elizabeth died in 1875. There is it. Ellen has now lost another adult she probably considered a mother. Sometime before 1880, she went back to Mississippi. Perhaps her uncle escorted her, perhaps she traveled alone.

Also, back in 1866/67, her two brothers went on a wagon train to Runnels County, TX with their maternal uncles. That is Ellen’s connection to Texas. But, when did she go and why? And, how did she die there at the young age of 37?

The answer to that lies in Mr. Sam Meek and Pleasant Hill Cemetery in Bell County, TX.

Ellen’s brother was married to Sam’s sister. When Ellen went out there, either to visit or to live, she naturally met Sam. They were married in 1885 (making her arrival there about 1884ish). Ellen and Sam had twin boys who were stillborn in 1887. They had a daughter in 1888. And they had a second daughter on August 5, 1890. Ellen died eight days later on August 13, 1890. Since there were no medicines to fight off infection in those days, she more than likely died of complications or infection following childbirth. Sadly, the baby died a couple months later in October. They are all buried at Pleasant Hill Cemetery.

Now, we can weave together the life of this young woman. Here’s where the “fiction” part comes in. What kind of personality would you give Ellen? Would she be strong? Shy? Bold? Reserved? As the author, it would be your choice. How about her aunt Elizabeth? What kind of house did they live in? How about her relationship with Sam? You can examine his family and come to your own conclusion about what kind of man he was. You can look at the historical time, locations, house styles, economy, but the final call is yours. Who stood vigil at Ellen’s death bed? What happened to the surviving daughter? That question requires more research. Would you research further or would you end the story with Ellen’s death? Is there a moral to the story, something to be learned, a reason for her short life?

So, there you have it. How much is true? All of it…and none of it. Was she strong? Shy? Bold? No one will ever know. Does she have an interesting story? Yes. Is it worth giving her a personality to tell her story? Yes.


Available at Amazon

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The Next Big Thing

I’ve been tagged in The Next Big Thing.

The Next Big Thing is a blog interview for authors to give everyone a sneak-peak at a work-in-progress.

Authors writing more stuff…Yay! Okay, let’s get busy.

What is the working title of your next book?

“An Orphan’s Heart” — planned release date Spring 2013.

Working on the cover….


Where did the idea come from for the book?

I finished writing a historical fiction novel called “Okatibbee Creek,” where Mary Ann finds herself alone during the Civil War, raising her four children and her brother’s five orphans. One of the orphans was Ellen. While I was researching the orphans (yes, “An Orphan’s Heart” is also historical fiction), I found that Ellen moved around a lot by herself, and I was intrigued with a woman traveling alone at that time in history. I also found that she had only one child who lived until 1986 and died at the age of 98. Ellen and her daughter spanned U.S. history from the Civil War until relatively recently, which I can’t quite wrap my head around. I ended up speaking on the phone with the daughter’s grand-daughter, who is currently 73 years of age and living in Abilene, TX. After that, I was hooked on telling Ellen’s story.

What genre does your book fall under?

Historical fiction.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Zooey Deschanel for the lead and a bearded Matt Dillon as her husband.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Ellen, with the broken spirit of an orphan and the soul of a gypsy, travels alone across the late 1800s rugged and dangerous United States, searching to ease the loneliness that fate has burrowed into her heart and hoping to find the only thing that is truly important…love.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I self-publish under Lori Crane Entertainment, Inc.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

It took about five weeks. I worked on it every day. I tend to write just the story, then go back a second time and describe the people and environments. I go back a third time and add color, description, more conversations, and connect all the dots. Usually somewhere in the second pass, the story changes direction. I don’t know why that always happens, but I get more clarity of the plot and the characters after the initial rough draft is completed. The fourth time through is my author edit. I then send it to a real editor, and when I get it back, I can freshly see the holes and connect even more dots. Then the proofreader. Then I go through it about three more times in different formats. By the time it’s finished, I never want to see it again.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I don’t know a specific work, but I imagine any female character trying to make it on her own, especially with the flavor of the Old West.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?

I love genealogy and am completely in awe of my ancestors. I laugh, cheer, and cry as I give them life through their documents and records.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

This is the second book in the Rodgers family series. The first, “Okatibbee Creek,” will be released in paperback and Kindle December 2012. If you fall in love with those characters like I did, you will also want to read “An Orphan’s Heart,” to continue the love affair. (Shameless plug: There will also be a third book in the series, “Elly Hays,” coming Fall 2013.)

Now, I’m off to tag five more authors to write posts of their own about their Next Big Thing. Stay tuned for details once they have all agreed…