Starting Over – Again

Today, February 20, 2019, I’m starting this blog over again. My last post was eight months ago, on May 25, 2018. I think I owe an explanation to any readers who are still with me.

You may notice differences in the look and feel of this blog. It’s powered by WordPress and grafted onto my website, but the WordPress developers in their infinite wisdom, to keep themselves employed, decided to make significant changes in the way writers write our posts. I’m still learning how the heck this thing works. Nine months ago, when I wrote the last post, I knew how to use it. Now I’m back to square one.

Two major events caused this long hiatus. First, on May 30, I attended the Northwest Christian Writers Association “Renew” conference in Bellevue, Washington. My objective was to learn about the Christian market, because I felt a call to write in that vein.

At the conference I achieved that objective and much more.

I had an “information interview” with an agent who told me Christian Fiction, even historical fiction, was a “hard sell,” but, oh by the way, why not turn my project into a memoir?

I had never read a memoir on purpose. As an introverted stoic, I have a constitutional aversion to self-revelation. Still, I decided to explore the genre and see if what I had in mind would fit. I read everything I could get my paws on about how to write memoir, and, of course, memoirs themselves. (More about that in another post.)

The research used up June and half of July.

On July 17, a beautiful summer morning, I walked to work. About 3 blocks from the office I share with my husband, Sir Richard, I trucked through the leafy summer morning, happy to be alive. Next thing I knew, I peeled my face off the concrete. I had tripped on a piece of broken sidewalk hidden by dappled shade.

To spare you the tedious and gory details, I knocked out three front teeth and had a concussion. After 3 months consumed by oral surgery and different types of therapy to re-educate the brain and regain some balance, I could drive again. Then I began the lengthy process of regaining my independence. I walk about 2 miles now, on a treadmill because of Montana winter’s snow and ice, and do weight training to protect my aging bones.

What about the memoir research? I continued it, but I’m not really interested in writing about myself.

The new book went on shape-shifting in my mind through 40 false starts.

Now, on number 41, I can see the final shape of the new book. I’m calling it Tribulation Way:

A young widow escapes the slums of St. Louis in 1900 to forge a new life for her two young sons and her feeble younger brother by homesteading in Eastern Montana, near the town of Malta, Montana. Her name was Frances Marion French, but her family called her Lou.

She was my grandmother.

Women’s Strength, Women’s Courage

We need our fathers and grandfathers, our brothers, our sons — in short, we need our men because they are not like us women. They have admirable qualities we don’t, and yes, they have less admirable ones, too. But so do we.

We are all in this human condition thing together.

Most of the time, that is.

Sometimes women are forced to do without the men they depended on.

I’ve heard hair-raising stories of Montana women’s courage from their descendants, their grandsons and granddaughters, about the astonishing courage of their grandmothers.

Elizabeth Ledford Williams, for example, married James Williams, the Executive Officer of the Montana Vigilantes. They had seven children. Driven to despair, probably by his inability to save the cattle starving by the thousands during the dreadful winter of 1886-1887, Williams committed suicide. We’ll never know how much he may have suffered from what we now call PTSD, brought on by the actions he and the other Vigilantes took during the winter of 1863-1864. But they made the region safe for the law-abiding.

His widow carried on, running the ranch with the help of her children. She also taught school to help pay the bills.

One of her great-granddaughters told me that her grandfather, Elizabeth’s youngest child, said, “It was a good thing there was fish in the river, or we would have starved.”

Another descendant, a great-great grandson, wrote, “The courage of Elizabeth is unimaginable.”