A Historical Trilogy

I've never considered writing historical fiction. There was just too much to research. But I'm warming to my Walraven Trilogy.

I've written three scenes for the early part of Oliver's Journal. I have to Google with almost every sentence I write, but it's coming along..... Oliver, btw, is seventeen, the oldest child of the family.

Oliver's Journal
by Connie Chastain


March 20, 1709
Reeds Ferry, North Carolina

My name is Oliver Walraven. I have of recent days appointed myself the scribe of my family. This appointment was occasioned by a momentous change in our lives and, it is hoped, our fortunes.

To-day is the eve of our departure from our familiar and comfortable home in Reeds Ferry. Our destination is New France -- not the settled and civilized portions of Quebec, but the wilds bordering the upper coast of the Gulf of Mexico, along the shores of Mobile Bay, where a parcel of land measuring above 1,000 acres, and virtually nothing else, awaits us.

The distance between us and our new home is above 600 miles and will take many weeks to traverse. Our party comprises my father, Jesper Walraven, and my mother, Olivia, for whom I am named; my two younger brothers, Caleb and Daniel, and little sister Abigail. I must not leave out Caesar, our faithful hound, who is as much a part of the family as any of us human pups.

Our transportation comprises two wagons canopied with canvas, and three others, smaller but with tall sides and covered with tarpaulins. Each wagon is pulled by two oxen, some of which we plan to retain in our new home, and some we hope to trade or sell. All of the wagons are tightly packed with our possessions, including my mother's prized porcelain dinnerware and pewter, her a spinning wheel and a few pieces of small furniture. Unfortunately, the wagons were not of sufficient size or quantity to contain everything, and we had to sell or give away many items.

In the last wagon are wooden crates for what livestock we can bring -- two goats, two sheep, a small heifer, a recently farrowed sow and her still-nursing brood. Our single cow, Ruby, two mules and a Pa's fine mare, Nollie, will be tethered to the last wagon and walk the distance.

When the idea first came to me to become the chronicler of my family's events and adventures, I had intended to keep my personal opinions and expressions out of the narrative, but I realize that is impossible. I am a part of this family and what happens will bear upon me as much as anyone else.

We are all, myself included, of two minds regarding this fateful upheaval, this new beginning for our future. We are eager for untrodden land and a new life; but it is sobering to leave behind home, neighbors, and church. However, Pa is the son of a full-blooded Dutchman, and he claims to have inherited his independent spirit from grandfather. I don't know if such can be passed as a hereditary trait, or a learned one, because all of us children also prize independence.

That is what gives this event such appeal. Here in Reeds Ferry, a few hours ride from Albemarle, life is becoming regulated. Like other towns and hamlets in the eastern colonies, it is gradually filling with people, and when that happens, everyone must practice to accommodate others. The population of La Mobile, which is reported to be twenty or so miles across the delta to the west of our land numbers a few hundred.. The Indians are far more numerous, but we have been assured by the governor's land agent that they stay in their places and do not come around La Mobile except on trade days.

The land agent, a Mr. Bondurant, has written to us that the area is unspoiled and beautiful. Some 30 miles south of our acreage, the seashore comprises a beach of sand so brilliantly white it is said to cause temporary blindness. The vegetation ranges from densely shaded forests to grasslands suitable for grazing animals, marsh grasses, wild flowers and beautiful flowering trees and shrubs.

Our parcel -- ours by a grant from His Excellency, Governor Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville to my father -- is located in the delta where several rivers and tributaries stream into Mobile Bay. We are told that it is bordered on the South by a sizable inlet in the upper shore called Oklanoka Bay, on the west by the narrow Arnon River, a tributary of the Tensaw River, which it joins just before flowing into the bay, on the east by an old Indian trail with no name, and on the north by a slight ridge.

I must admit that I am eager to see it and to take possession. Everyone in the family has worked hard to leave behind a rental home and hireling status, and become independent land owners ready to civilize a wilderness.

I pray that the Deity will bless our efforts, watch over us during our journey and keep us safe. There are many perils facing overland travelers, even on roads that are becoming established, such as those we will travel -- Indians, bandits, wild animals, inclement weather, sickness. But our grandfather made his journey across a vast ocean to a new land, to independence, utterly alone and his blood flows in our veins.

April 3, 1709
Deer Head Tavern and Trading Post

It has been a fortnight since we left on our journey to a new life. I had hoped, indeed, had planned, to write in my journal much more frequently, but there has been no time. At the end of each day, the beasts traveling with us have to be fed and watered, a fire made, supper prepared, consumed, and cleaned up after, and the wagons secured for the night.

After Mama, Abigail and Daniel climb into the lead wagon with Caesar and fall into exhausted sleep, Pa, Caleb and I begin our night watches. Our watches are about two and a half hours long. While one is on watch, the other two sleep. There might be time during this interlude to write, but there is little light. The camp fire and pine-knot torches are barely adequate for sight. And then there is the matter of my reluctance to set my precious ink on the uneven ground and risk losing it in a spill.

But tonight, we are indoors. I am seated at a table with a fine lamp next to me. My journal with its beautifully bound pages lies open before me. When I will find these conditions again I do not know.

The proprietor, a Mr. Comstock, and his Cherokee wife, gave us a hearty welcome. They rarely see travelers and confessed that they may have chosen an inadvantageous location for their enterprise.

I nevertheless am grateful the tavern is here, and that we found it. The journey thus far has been grueling but successful, except for the loss of a piglet we found dead three days ago. We could not ascertain why it died and were worried for the rest of the brood, although they all seem healthy.

Every few days, when we come across a stream, we stop just long enough to fill the water barrels and to fish and hunt. We have had fresh meat -- rabbit and squirrel -- and fish for about half the journey thus far. It appears that our other food stores -- a mountain of potatoes and sweet potatoes, sacks of dried beans and more that we brought with us -- will get us through the journey, as long as we continue to have good hunting and fishing.

The only thing I really miss is bread -- biscuits, butter and honey, and cornbread with beans. We have everything necessary to make them, except time.

We've had a few scares. A mountain lion investigated our encampment a week ago while we were eating supper. Pa and I grabbed our muskets while Daniel held onto Caesar and clamped a hand around his muzzle, but the beast apparently lost interest and wandered off. Caleb almost stepped on a timber rattlesnake several days ago. He froze. He later said he was willing himself to move and grab a hatchet from the wagon, but the rattler slithered away before he could act. He was shaken and it took a while for him to collect himself and tell us about the encounter.

We are following a rough map drawn for us by a traveler, a self-described explorer, who stopped in Reeds Ferry on his way back to Virginia, after a journey through the wilderness and several years sojurn along the Mississippi River. He was the source of tales and information that held our rapt attention for days when we first decided to migrate.

The roads we are traveling widely skirt the eastern edge of the Appalachian Mountains. This is the Piedmont, where we encounter many obstructions and rough terrain. It is hard on the wagons. We inspect the wheels, axles, suspension and such at every stop, but as long as we traverse this rough land, it is just a matter of time before one of them breaks down. Thus, although it will add days to our journey, Pa has decided to eschew the map and angle southeastward, toward the Atlantic coast, where he hopes we will find smoother terrain.

The roads through this wilderness follow Indian trails, which themselves follow animal trails that have been millennia in the making. They lead to hunting grounds, grazing places, streams and watering holes. I do not know what sort of roads we will find on the coastal plain.

We have encountered very few savages, although I suspect they are often hidden just out of sight and are watching us. We packed a small supply of objects for trade, should we have need of them but thus far, have not had a face-to-face encounter. Those we have seen in the distance did not attempt to molest us. They inspected our wagons and muskets from their position several yards away. Presumably, finding us no threat, they did not attempt to hinder out travel. Pa hopes that we will encounter a village or group of Indians farther South who can advise us when to turn back to the west, toward the Gulf of Mexico.

Pa prays each night at the campfire, holding his well-worn Holy Bible in his hands even though it is too dark to read scripture. We hear their comforting message, anyway, as Pa has many passages committed to memory. I am certain his entreaties to the Lord God of Hosts for protection is the reason we have suffered no calamities.

May 15, 1709
Somewhere in British Territory

Some days ago, we altered direction from the southeast to the southwest. We remain in the mid-region of the coastal plain, which is hilly and covered with thick vegetation. The Indian trails we are following are sometimes barely wide enough for our wagons to traverse, small though they be.

A few times, however, we have come across open land with few or no trees, which seem to be the result of great fires. Some apparently occurred long ago, others more recently, judging by the stages of returning life, the thickness of grassy areas, shrubs and scrub, and saplings. We pause at these places and let the livestock graze for a while.

It is wondrous to see the tenacity of life that the Creator bestowed upon the earth.

We are all fatigued beyond expression, and that has slowed our progress, a circumstance that troubles us. But Papa says we must continue slow and steady, and not try to hurry and wear ourselves out, for there will be prodigious amounts of work to do from the moment we arrive -- land to clear, fences and shelter to build for the stock and a domicile for ourselves, a garden to plant, even though it will be mid-summer when we arrive, and rain catchers for drinking water, until a proper cistern can be constructed. It is possible we can dig a well this purpose, but both Papa and I suspect brackish water intrusion if the well is located too close to the shore; but it can't be so far away that fetching water will be laborious and time consuming.

As soon as these initial endeavors permit, we will construct a raft for sculling to LaMobile for trading, and for fishing in the nearby rivers.

So many nights on the journey, Papa and I have talked of these things, of the life that awaits us.

The mention of rivers reminds me to note that this land of everlasting forests is also the land where rivers abound. We have been most fortunate in locating shallows that we can fjord, as the land hereabouts is uninhabited and ferries are unneeded.

Mama is looking forward to finding out what wild things grow on the Gulf Coast useful for food or medicine. She was an enthusiastic and near expert forager back home, and has even done a smattering on the journey, flavoring rabbit stew with pungent and tasty wild onions. She also harvested a small amount of gensing for her medicine box.

I'm glad she found it, in case it is needed, though I hope it won't be. Abigail has us all a touch worried. She's tired, as we all are, but peaked, too, almost like she's fevered, though her skin feels normal to the touch. She's been listless for several days. We have insisted that she ride in the wagon, although she says the ride is too bumpy, and she wants to walk with the rest of us. Daily, we bring her to the attention of Our Heavenly Father.

Tentative prologue...

...for the middle book in a historical trilogy I'm writing....


 After the Stars Fell

Valhalla Farm
Near Mobile, Alabama
November 13, 1833

At the back of the farmhouse, in a room he pretentiously called the library, Morgan Walraven waited for the notes in his journal to dry. He wasn't going to write any more tonight, so he gently swished his quill pen in a small bowl of water and laid it aside to dry.

Several feet away, stretched out on a braided rug near the fireplace, a yellow feist named Jupiter -- Morgan's faithful friend since his teenage years -- was deep in sleep.

It was so still and quiet, he almost jumped when the clock on the mantle chimed the first of twelve strikes, marking a cold November midnight, like so many others. Nevertheless, tonight there was a ripple of anticipation in the air.

It was always that way on the day -- or night -- that babies came.

None of the babies that had come to Valhalla in the past were his -- they were siblings or nieces or nephews -- but that little surge of anticipation accompanied them all.

This time, though, it was his baby and the ripple was supercharged.

He grew still, straining to hear any sound coming from upstairs. Tedious silence settled over him. He slid his chair back from the desk -- plain but sturdy items, built by his grandfather -- took the base of the lamp in hand and stepped to the settee next to the fireplace, where low flames crackled softly.

His current book sat on a nearby table. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe. He had read it before, once as a boy, and once as a young adult. He put the lamp on the table, sat down and got comfortable, and reached for the book.

Tales of the sea and faraway places appealed to him. It seemed that he had inherited the sometimes bewildering conflict other Walraven men had experienced -- a devotion to the land, to what grew and lived there, but also a fascination with the sea, an allure that drew them as the moon draws the tides, whether they could indulge it or not.

It didn't help that he lived no more than a stone's throw from the upper edge of the brackish estuary of Mobile Bay, which emptied into the Gulf of Mexico, which itself opened onto the Atlantic Ocean ... and the entire world. In daylight, from the house, he had a distant but clear view of a strip of sawgrass marsh and sparkling blue water beyond.

But his world had already been decided. His destiny was the land, the forests, the fertile fields of Valhalla Farm.

He had not read half a page before the text blurred and disappeared and his breathing grew deep and regular -- until something, some noise awakened him. He was surprised to see that an hour had passed. His grogginess left him in an instant when he remembered why he was not in bed and he sat up, listening intently for the sound of Olivia, the midwife, calling to him.

Instead, he heard urgent knocking at the door to the back veranda. Jupiter raised his head and his ears pricked as the soft but frantic voice of Isaac, the farm's foreman, quavered, "Mast' Morgan! Please, come quick! The end of the world comin'!

Morgan strode to the door and opened it to see the terrified faces of Isaac and young Wiley as they motioned him outside.

"The sky falling!" Wiley shrieked, clutching the porch rail and pointing upward. "The stars, they comin' down like rain!"

"It's the tribilation!" Isaac said.

"Y'all quiet down," Morgan said sotto voce. "You'll wake everybody."

He stifled a smile at the silly thought of leaving his family in the arms of Morpheus through the Second Coming. Glancing to the side, he saw Jupiter lay his head back down and fall into instant slumber. How bad could it be if Jupe was sleeping through it?

But as he stepped through the doorway, levity deserted him. The frosty air that wrapped around him didn't register because his attention was caught by something else -- the eerie, almost other-worldly glow that illuminated the countryside, giving him a brief chill unrelated to the temperature.

He walked across the veranda, steadied himself against the bannister rail, and leaned forward to look up beyond the edge of the roof. Evergreen live oaks blocked out the sky but through gaps in the foliage, he could see pinpricks of light. Moving.

"See Mast'?" Wiley had lowered his voice but his tone was as urgent as before.

"Come with me," Morgan murmured. "Let's go out front. We can see better there."

He led the two frightened servants inside, calling softly, "Wiley, shut the door." They hurried down the hallway to the front door, which Morgan swung wide. The trio scurried down the steps to the yard.

The trees here grew along the sides of the lawn, leaving the sky open above it. What Morgan saw when he looked up took his breath away.

Meteors, hundreds of them -- no, thousands of them -- lighting up the countryside far more brightly than a full moon, and falling to earth just as Wiley had said, constantly, like rain. But not like rain, either, since few actually reach the earth. And they were completely silent.

Morgan stared upward, transfixed by sheer awe and a fragment of delight -- both tempered with a sizeable measure of the same fear that rattled Isaac and Wiley.

"Mast', please, you gotta do something!" Wiley pleaded. "Maybe you pray and the Lawd, he hear you and stop this!"

"Y'all think, now. It's not the tribulation -- no earthquakes, the moon hasn't turned to blood, none of the other signs are happening. Of course I'll pray, but it will stop on its own, anyway. The Leonid meteors occur this time every year."

"Nawsuh!" Isaac said adamantly. "I ain't never seen nothing like this."

"Yes, it isn't usually this grand -- not usually this many of them. Well ... never this many of them, so something uncommon is going on. But not the end of the world. Regardless of how many we see, there's no need to worry. They burn up before they reach earth. That's why they're so bright. They're on fire."

"Oh, Lawd!" Wiley wailed. "They ain't stars! They fire! Please, Mast' Morgan, please pray for the Lawd to save us!"

"All right, but calm down. How is everybody in the reserve?"

"Skeered," Wiley said.

"And Milly," Isaac added, "she in ... she in the travail. She skeered the child will die." Distress threaded Isaac's tone; Milly was his wife.

"I forgot about y'all's baby coming." Morgan's forehead buckled with mild chagrin. "I've had another baby on my mind tonight. Here, let's kneel and pray."

He dropped to one knee, his hands on the shoulders of the trembling servants, who knelt with him.

"Heavenly Father, please protect us from this spectacular display of the power and beauty of nature thou hast created. Remove from us the spirit of fear, and keep us in thy holy protection, that we may serve thee all our days. We especially pray thy blessings on the little bairns who are on their way to us, and for their mothers and fathers. In the name of thy son Jesus, amen."

"Amen," echoed the two servants, who were calmer now but still unwilling to look upward.

The prayer had calmed Morgan, too. He stood and said, "You go on back and tell everyone its not the end of the world, and tomorrow will arrive like always. Tell them I told you this happens every year -- it's just never been this intense -- and tell them we prayed and the Lord will watch over us all, especially Milly and her little one."

"Yessuh," Isaac said dubiously. He and Wiley loped across the lawn and around the corner of the house, disappearing in the shadows.

Morgan resumed his riveting contemplation of the heavens. At that moment he heard the faint sound of a baby's cry coming through the open door.  The wondrous phenomenon unfolding above him was instantly forgotten as he streaked up the steps and inside the foyer, and fairly flew up the staircase.

The baby's lusty cries grew louder.

Morgan paused at the door to the bedroom he and Julia shared, met by an object that was surely unmovable.

"You can see them in a little while," Olivia said. "Not right now."

"Is she all right? Is the baby all right?" He tried to look past her but could see only his sister-in-law, Eliza, smoothing the bed covers.

"They fine." Olivia side-stepped to block his view. "We'll get 'em both fixed up for you to see but it'll take a few minutes. You wait."

"Livvy, since you're here, who's with Milly?"

"Betsy taking care of Milly."

"Betsy? She's just a kid."

"She know what she doing. Now you g'wan outta here."

Too keyed up to sit, he ignored the deacon's bench in the upstairs hallway and paced the floor, wondering how long Olivia's little while would last, until he heard her say, "You can come now, Mast' Morgan."

Entering the room lit with a golden glow from a single lamp, he met Eliza headed for the door, carrying a basket full of clothing and rags. He caught a glimpse of bloodstains, which jolted him, but it dissipated with Eliza's happy visage beaming at him. "Congratulations, Morgan. You have a son!"

"A son...."

Julia was reclining on a mound of pillows, looking wan but serene, staring down at the face of the baby in her arms.

At Morgan's approach, she looked up and her peaked face was transformed by a radiant smile. "Oh, look at him, Morgan! Isn't he beautiful?"

Morgan bent to gently stroke the baby's cheek with a forefinger. Dressed in a white batiste gown with delicate tatting around the sleeves, bald, red-faced and scowling, the baby nevertheless was indeed beautiful.

"Yes, he is. And so are you." He kissed her forehead, straightened to look at his son and basked in this moment of joy. "Born as the stars are falling. His life will be charmed."

Julia gave him a quizzical look.

He stroked her hair back from her forehead and said, "I'll tell you later. You get some sleep now."

She nodded before resting her head against the pillows and closing her eyes. Olivia tiptoed to the bed to take the baby from his mother's arms and lay him in his cradle.

As Morgan walked back toward the doorway, he heard other doors opening and urgent whispers in the hallway. Judging by the occasional word that reached him, the spectacular display in the heavens had become so bright, it had awakened his sister and brothers. He stepped into the hall and said, "Y'all go outside and look. You don't get the full effect looking through the windows."

They stared at him, Rachel in mild alarm, Carson and Noah disheveled and bleary-eyed with sleep.

"The full effect of what?" said Rachel. "What's that strange light outside?"

"Falling stars, thousands of them." He shook his head and held up a hand. "No, it's not the tribulation, just a meteors raining down out of the sky. A magnificent sight and maybe a charm, a good omen --" he gave a little laugh "-- on the night of my son's birth!"

"Son? The little one has come?" Rachel cried. "Oh, Morgan, how wonderful!" She wheeled around and reached toward him. He returned her quick embrace.

"Y'all go on outside," he repeated. "The babe's asleep. You can see him when he wakes. But we don't know if we will ever again see such a spectacular display in the heavens. Not until the end of time."

The mention of thousands of meteors had knocked the drowsiness off his brothers' faces. They trooped downstairs with Rachel to see this wonder in the sky.

Nobody saw Olivia lurking in the bedroom doorway, or heard her low-voiced, "Charm? Or curse?"

She clasped her hands before her breast and raised her face, eyes closed, and silently beseeched the Deity to protect the little one from whatever evil the stars might portend. "All his days, amen and amen," she ended in whisper.

Copyright © 2018 by Connie Chastain. All rights reserved.

Another Wonderful Review of Southern Man

Many thanks to J. Steven Svoboda of the National Coalition for Men for this fantastic review of Southern Man. I can't tell you how pleased I am with his comments and insights. I'm not sure when and where the review will be posted, whether the organization's  main website or Transitions, which is a print publication for NCFM members only. However, when a link appears, will post it here and on social media.

Meantime, read the review here:

Southern Man: Legacy of Fortitude, A Southern Heroes Novel. By Connie Chastain.  Pensacola, Florida: Great Southern Publishing, 2009.   334 pages. No price given on book but amazon lists for $12.95. www.conniechastain.com, www.brasstownbooks.com. Review by J. Steven Svoboda.
Author, self-proclaimed devotee of the South and preacher’s daughter Connie Chastain has written a novel that greatly broadened my horizons and for which I owe her a substantial debt.  Her novel tells the compelling saga of hardworking family man Troy Stevenson and his adoring, supportive wife Patty.

Chastain throws in passing references to misandry, trusting the reader who may be unaware of the meaning of that word to look it up, wisely avoiding a political digression to explain it. 

The author describes a world relatively unfamiliar to me. I have only spent a few weeks in the South in my life though I have been very favorably impressed by the welcoming people there and the down-to-earth, unpretentious feeling I have gotten when I have visited.  While my mother was a housewife for a while until she took a job when I was about twelve years old, I frankly do not know many women who have chosen to build their lives around nurturing a family and around supporting their wage-earner husbands rather than around their own careers.

The book grew on me tremendously as I continued to read the extremely engaging story.  Chastain has a knack for convincingly, non-judgmentally immersing us in the lives of a very diverse set of characters.  Complications ensue when a young woman, Brooke Emerson, becomes obsessed with Troy and, determined to take him to her bed, begins stalking him.

Brooke’s plot to ensnare Troy goes so far as to encompass a wrongful sexual harassment accusation when he rejects her advances.  Due to some very provident actions, Troy is eventually able to clear his name.  Southern Man brought me face to face with some philosophies quite different from those familiar to me—characters who use Christian scripture as a guide in their daily lives, in some cases going so far as not to engage in premarital sex.

It is refreshing to read an author who unapologetically, unostentatiously yet convincingly paints a world in which men are accepted as different from women (as indeed they are), and the differences are celebrated. Troy and his wife Patty are full equals yet have different roles. And they love each other fiercely and with a commitment and devotion that many married people might well envy.

The family reunion that occurs on pages 226-228 is downright moving and sweet. What a wonderful book. And a true page-turner as well. I couldn’t put it down. Don’t miss it!

J. Steven Svoboda is the senior board member of and Public Relations Director for the National Coalition For Men, the world’s oldest and largest non-profit devoted to educating the world about the harm done to men and boys by gender discrimination. Steven is NCFM’s book reviewer and his articles are available through the group's bi-monthly newsletter Transitions.

Read his entire bio here.

Great Review of Southern Man

I'm absolutely blown away by Hope Denney's review of Southern Man, published at her review site, Orchard Rest Writer's Loft.

Ms. Denney is a Southern writer as well as a great reviewer of Southern fiction, having published her first novel, Surrender at Orchard Rest, in February. Her affinity, both writing and reviewing, is for 19th century Southern Gothic novels, so I am especially pleased that she chose to review my late 20th Century historical.

The entire review made my day, but here are a few snippets that I especially appreciate.
Ms. Chastain excels at penning a smoothly flowing, polished prose that is years ahead of first novel status.

 Despite this novel having a large cast of characters once you add in the cast of Troy’s workplace, I got to know each character well. They were powerfully and beautifully sketched.

Ms. Chastain sketches a Christian but passionate marriage with all the prowess of an armchair psychologist

Working Cover
Troy Stevenson is a well-crafted Southern hero that I believe encompasses the contemporary Southern man ... much better than any that I have read of late.
In addition to giving my novel a fantastic review, Ms.  Denney has inspired me to take the closest WIP I have to Southern Gothic -- Walraven Manor -- off the back burner, and get cracking on it again. To help reacquaint me with the genre, I have her debut novel in my Kindle for PC and some other titles she has reviewed.

You can read her reviews here: Orchard Rest Writer's Loft. Her novel is available at Amazon.com, here: Surrender at Orchard Rest.

Many thanks, Ms. Denney.

Online Romance Festival

Looks like fun!

It Was Twenty Years Ago Today

I had a very enjoyable time yesterday at Joe Scarborough's 20-Year Reunion for his campaign volunteers. Although after the campaign, several of us maintained contact the years he was in Congress -- especially we who worked in his district office -- there were folks there I had not seen since his first campaign, when he was a 30-year-old unknown with no political experience taking on Earl Hutto, a 16-year incumbent.

Had to look at name tags to recognize a few people...heck, ain't none of  us getting any younger. Had some laughs. Chatted with Joe's mom, shared  memories of her husband, George, who passed away several years ago. There were others no longer with us that brought home the passage of time. 

I got a big hug, three pecks on the cheeks and some nice words of welcome and remembrance from the former member of Congress and talk-TV host. I gave him an autographed copy of Southern Man. Noted the slight graying  at Joe's temples. Very distinguished looking, though in many ways, he still looks so much like that thirty-year-old who was inspired -- goaded? -- to run for Congress by the election of Bill Clinton, and the leftward lurch of the country afterward.

I left the Congressional office in 1998; worked for Joe at The Florida Sun for a while after that, and helped prepare the Congressional office for the incoming member, Jeff Miller, after Joe resigned. But basically, my interest in national politics ended with the Clinton impeachment hearings. If memory serves, I didn't vote in any presidential elections after that, until my vote for Mitt Romney in 2012, which wasn't so much a vote for the Republican candidate as it was a vote against the Democrat incumbent. My main reason for voting for Romney was my belief that he would be immensely better for the economy than Barack Obama.

Me and Joe, Back in the Day
Joe reminisced about the accomplishments of the 104th Gingrich-led Republicans in DC, and how the GOP has changed since then, giving rise to the Tea Party. But he says the country is strong and it will survive eight years of Barack Obama. I'm not so sure.  It would be interesting to know  his perspective, and why he thinks that. From where I sit, the USA is not only weak and growing weaker all the time -- it's culture, politics, religion and nearly every other aspect of its existence are practically unrecognizable.

Still, it was nice to see folks, and remember when we were younger, had boundless energy and  genuine hope for the country.

And  now, back to defending Dixie and writing books.

Video Trailer for Love in Smallfoot Alley

It's getting there.  I've added some slow, Ken Burns-style pans and zooms. The models for Leslie, the PI, and the older brother have changed. They were chosen long ago, but the PI was depicted with papers but no computer, and as he relies heavily on the computer, I wanted one in the trailer.

Thanks to Tin Eye, I found him on a microstock site in a number of poses, including the one in this mockup. I found the older brother on my hard drive -- I had purchased the pic some time ago, never used it, and forgot about it. And Leslie -- this is the original Leslie model I chose when I started writing the story.

I originally found her on iStockphoto and downloaded a comp with the idea of using her in a video trailer if I ever finished the book (which was in doubt when I started writing, as the story was basically a lark, and I wasn't real serious about writing it).

When I recently went to iStockphoto to see how much the price had increased (they've priced themselves out of my price range, mostly), the photo ID on my original comp download turned up a "not found". So, I did a Tin Eye reverse image search, which not only found her at iStock, but also at several other microstock sites -- including 123RF, where I have a bunch of credits. She was not only there -- she was there in several poses -- and affordable!

When I started the story, the male lead was named Julian Walraven (a surname in my genealogy) but I wanted to save that for another story, so I renamed him Chris Dupree (he has some Cajun forebears, and is named after a South Louisiana Cajun I used to work with). His appearance was inspired by the actor Ryan Carnes, as he appeared in SyFy's The Phantom. I haven't watched TV much since The X Files went off the air, but I saw a promo for The Phantom, and decided to watch it. During the mini-series, hubs filled me in on the Phantom backstory and said SyFy had really buggered it up (apparently fans of The Phantom were really pissed at the liberties taken in this production), but I enjoyed it and I thought Carnes was a cutie -- and a not-bad actor. I had never heard of him, so I Googled him and discovered he was a teen soap star; he's straight but portrays homosexuals in some of his movies. How unfortunate that he didn't choose to promote virtue and decency in his corner of the popular culture...

The inspiration for Chris Dupree's appearance

In any case, as cute as he is, I of course would not be able to use his likeness in a video trailer, so I was delighted to find this model. With a little help from my photo-editor, he makes a very credible Chris.

Left, stock photo model; right, Ryan Carnes in The Phantom.

Here are some of the video mockup frames, and images used to composite them:

 The storm clouds --

From Dreamstime Free

 The cryptids --

Images from Morguefile, Pixabay and/or the public domain

The crash --

Images from Morguefile, Pixabay and/or freebies

The Rescuer

These pics are all stock images except the duster and the truck. There are pics of men in dusters on the stock sites I use, but none are posed like I need them to be. If I can't find one by the time I'm ready to do the actual video, I'll contact the manufacturer of this duster and see if can use it (ditto the truck). I have emailed the company that makes the duster I used on the Catamount cover mockup, but have not heard back from them. Hope I have better luck with this one. With some commercial interests, you just never know. (I contacted Rawlings to seek permission to use an image of one of their catcher's helmets on the cover of Alex Austin, and they not only permitted it, but sent me a beautiful, print-resolution image to use.)

Creating Chris

I shortened and widened his face and mouth and added fullness to his hair above his ears. Also saturated his hair to be more yellow-blond rather than platinum blond, but it looks almost red, and needs to be desaturated a little. Chris is twenty-seven. (I've had critics tell me that he looks twelve....)

Chris, as Leslie sees him:
He entered the main room, opened up the armoire, which was filled with an impressive array of electronics, and trundled out a computer workstation. In silence, he pulled up a chair and sat down but as he powered up the computer he suggested, somewhat offhand, that she sit nearby.

She lowered herself onto straightback chair he  pulled up next to his and took the opportunity to study him.

He was not overly tall, probably an inch or two under six feet, but he was rangy, his muscles strong and hard but graceful and elongated. His neck, adorned with a gold chain that disappeared beneath his shirt, rose from wide, square shoulders.

His slender face was remarkably handsome. A bow-shaped upper lip was complemented by a barely prominent lower one, and he worked them slightly as he set about his task. Beneath thick, gullwing eyebrows, his gray-blue eyes took on a darker blue, depending on the lighting around him. A beautiful frame for his face, his his hair spiked outward from a symmetrical hairline with exquisite temporal points.

What happened to 'possible serial killer,' girl?

It was all she could do to pull her eyes away from him and focus on the computer screen.


These are a few of several shos of thsi model at 123RF
Unfortunately, there are none of this woman in profile, so I had to use a similar looking model, but I think she'll do:
A frame in  the video --
Let's wrap up with a couple of promos from The Phantom miniseries. My favorite part --  "I'm not wearing that." Dorkiest part (did Carnes feel like an idiot saying this line?) -- "They call me the Phantom."