Saturday, July 26, 2008

Superstitions, Folk Lore, and Wives Tales

I am dying.

I have to be because two of my cousins dreamed that I had a baby. Where I come from (Central West Virginia), that means death. Everyone knows it because we grew up hearing it. Dream of a birth, sign of a death. Dream of a death, sign of a birth. As we joked about my dying because of their dreams, it made me remember other superstitions that abound. So I thought I'd do a post highlighting those superstitions that I grew up with, because those old wives tales were very colorful.

The Grim Reaper

A bird in the house means a loved one is going to die. Oh, and you better hope no one dies, because death comes in threes. Actually, I am a believer of that one-if you accept that several months can pass between them. Dog howling all night long? Nope, it isn't a critter in your yard, it's the sign someone is dying. Hmm, lots of people are dying around here because Otis the Faint of Heart howls all night long if the porch light isn't on! (That's Otis in the picture)

Who's the Boss?

According to my grandmother, it's the one whose toe beside of the big toe sticks out past their big toe. Hmm, neither my husband or I have that trait. I guess that's a good thing. Oh, and I can remember twisting the stem off of an apple while reciting the alphabet. Supposedly, whatever letter the stem comes off on is the first letter of your future husband's name. Don't let anyone sweep around you or you'll never get married.

Show Me the Money!

Palm of your hand itching? Well, aren't you lucky-that means you have money coming your way! And if you find a coin on the ground-don't pick it up unless it's showing heads. Tails is bad luck.

Baby, Baby

A pregnant woman has to be extremely careful, it's possible to hurt the baby in so many different ways. Don't raise your arms over your head-it'll wrap the cord around the baby's neck and strangle it. Don't look at a snake, it'll mark the baby. I'm not exactly sure what 'mark the baby' means, but if I look at a snake I'll probably have a heart attack! And get rid of that pet cat for heaven's sake-it'll suck the breath right out of your baby. Oh, and to relieve the pain of labor, stick a knife under the bed. Yeah, that'll help.

Somebody's Knocking

If your nose is itching, company's coming. Accidentally set the table with one too many forks? No problem, company that is hungry can be expected. But hey, if you drop that fork, expect a man to arrive. Got an itch or burning sensation in your ear? Someone's talking about you. Does your feet/foot itch? Then pack your bags, you're about to walk somewhere you've never been before.

I Can't- It's My Time of the Month

These I have memorized and whipped out when I was a teenager, whether I was on my time or not. They were a surefire way of getting out of work! A woman on her monthly can't help can anything because everything she touches will spoil. Shuck the corn? Chop up lettuce. Darn, I forgot to mention that I started today, didn't I? A woman on her monthly shouldn't be near water because she can take quick TB and die. My turn to wash dishes? Oops, can't. . . it's my time. (I used that ALOT! Until they caught on that I was averaging five periods a month ;0))

Odds and Ends

If you spill salt, throw a pinch over your left shoulder to ward off the devil. If you aren't the one to open a knife, then don't close it or bad luck occurs. When you speak of something good happening, knock on wood to keep the evil spirits from coming to take it away. Who needs the Weather channel? Red sky at morning, sailors take warning. Right sky at night, sailors delight. Don't break a mirror or it's seven years bad luck. Don't walk under a ladder or open an umbrella indoors-both are tempting fate. Have a bad dream? Keep it to yourself until you've eaten or it will come true.

Wow, that was alot of superstitions, I'm surprised I remembered that many. How about you, readers? Any superstitions that came in handy to get out of work? Any that make you sweat just a bit with worry?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Camp Sumter aka Andersonville Prison

My new story began bugging me before I had finished my previous one.

I could hear a woman worrying over a man, a drunkard that used to be one of her best friends. The situation was deteriorating to the point that she feared for his life. And she was mad. Mad at him and mad at the woman she assumed had brought him to this level of his life. Only, the problem wasn't a woman. The man is haunted by his memories of his time in Hell. Andersonville Prison.

Andersonville was officially known as Camp Sumter. Sounds innocent enough, doesn't it? Who could have known it was to become synonymous with shame and terror?

Andersonville was situated in southwest Georgia. In Feburary the Confederancy started shipping prisoners to the still unfinished compound. By the time it was completed in July, the 10,000 man camp had more than 32,000 prisoners inside it's 20 foot walls.

By 1865, when the men there were freed, the prison had a population of 45,000 men. 12,912 prisoners died there during it's brief duration. It is said that more than 100 men died everyday during the summer months.

Why did so many die? Dysentry, scruvy, malaria, exposure-take your pick as all of these were rampant in Andersonville. There wasn't enough rations to go around, the men didn't have enough shelter (remember, it was built as a 10,000 man prison-not to accomadate the 45,000 it held), and the creek that flowed through it was both their source of drinking water and the latrine.

I'm not saying that the Confederate camp was the only one of it's kind. The Union had prison camps that had almost as bad statics in New York and Chicago. But the Union had the means to provide for their prisoners of war-the Confederacy was starving, literally. The Confederate Army couldn't supply enough rations to feed their army, let alone prisoners of war. Regardless of where the blame lay, when the Northern people saw the state of the prisoners, they demanded vegenance. After being found guilty of war crimes, Captain Henry Wirz was hanged in November 1865.

But the images that came from Andersonville haunted me. The men looked like survivors of the German concentration camps. Those that were lucky enough to survive it must have been haunted by what they saw. And the fact that they survived. All of this sparked an idea, that turned into a nagging, that is slowly evolving into a new book.

Friday, July 11, 2008

My Favorite Outlaw

Being a western writer, I have researched a lot of outlaws. And being human, of course one of them quickly became my favorite. My favorite outlaw has all of the things we look for when wanting a great legend: a Robin Hood-esque reason for becoming an outlaw, a perceived injustice, and, the thing that makes everyone fascinated with outlaws, a mysterious disappearance. Who do you think of when you hear that list? Jesse James? Butch Cassidy? Billy the Kid? But none of those are my favorite. My favorite outlaw is Henry Barry Lowrie.

Henry Barry Lowrie was a Lumbee Indian from Robeson County, North Carolina.
Lowrie, like so many other outlaws, took to a life of crime during the Civil War. Being an Indian in North Carolina during the War meant that Lowrie was harassed by the Home Guard, who regularly came and pressed the Lumbee men to work on building Fort Fischer. If a man didn’t want to be dragged into building the fort, he hid in the swamps that surrounded the area. Lowrie tired of being harassed and decided to strike back, killing two members of the Home Guard that had a long standing feud with his family.

The Homeguard struck back, accusing Lowrie’s father, Allen, and his oldest brother, William, of stealing. On March 3, 1865 the Home Guard arrested both men, convened an illegal court, and executed Allen and William Lowrie. It is said that Henry watched the executions from behind some bushes and vowed to take his revenge.

For months, Henry hid in the swamps while being considered a wanted man. On December 7, 1865, during Henry’s wedding ceremony to Rhoda Strong, the Home Guard arrested him with no warrant. Legend has it that Henry filed his way out of the jail and, still shackled, made his way home to Rhoda.

Henry started a band, known as Lowrie’s band, of disgruntled Indians, two African Americans, and one Scotsman. They started robbing rich white residents of Robeson County, earning them the reputation of being the local ‘Robin Hoods’. When the state government declared them outlaws and posted rewards for them, the band retaliated with violence. This stretch of violence resulted in the deaths of 10 members of the Police Guard and the Lowrie Band.

In 1871, the chief of the Police Guard had the Lowrie women gathered up and held them hostage in prison. Lowrie and his gang sent the chief a letter demanding the immediate release of their women or an escalation of violence and like treatment to their women-folk. What was the chief to do but release the Lowrie women?

The last known crime of Lowrie and his band came on February 16, 1872 when they raided Lumberton and stole over a $1000 worth of goods and a safe containing $20,000. The safe was later discovered, open and empty, in the sheriff’s office. It is said by some that the reward money that the government had gathered had been in that safe at Pope and McLeod’s General Store, others say that the $12,000 reward went unclaimed. But all accounts say that Henry Barry Lowrie disappeared after that heist.

While rumors abounded that Henry had accidentally blown his own head off while cleaning his gun, several others hinted that he had escaped to the West. And to further stimulate these speculations, it is said that at least twice a year, Rhoda took trips out west. She never said where she was going or who she was visiting.

While I gathered all of this information, I little cared about which version was true. We all know that rumors surround outlaws and that the truth is probably a little of all of them. But Henry Barry Lowrie stirred the ‘What if’ component of my brain like none of the other outlaw legends had.

So how about it readers, is there an outlaw, famous or infamous, that strikes a chord with you and has quickly become a favorite?

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Happy, Happy, Happy

It's the time of the month when I update this blog. And for those that still check in regularly I have great news-I've finished revising my wip and have finally gotten to the query stage of my writing career. The Schoolmarm's Seduction is now sitting in several agent's inboxes. Yay! Time to saddle up and move on to the next story.

What I've Been Reading

Reading was slow this month as I put myself on a deadline and meant to keep it come Hell or high water. I've only managed to read three new books. The husband and I each went and picked out a new book by our favorite authors, but I ran across a new hardback by another fave and hubby let me slip it in. The hardback I picked up was Odd Hours by Dean Koontz. This was another great installment to the Odd Thomas saga, which I am a rabid fan of. For those that read it, I like the new addition of Ole Blue Eyes in this book and his turn as a poltergeist. Great scene. I can't wait to see what Odd and Frank are up against next.

I also picked up Suzanne Enoch's After the Kiss. (Sigh), I just love Suzanne Enoch's books. She always packs so much into each book, I find that I can't put them down until I've read every word, and I usually end up re-reading them to death. I really liked Sullivan Waring and the angst he goes through to embarrass his father and half-brother. And Lady Isabel may be my favorite Enoch heroine to date. She starts out blackmailing Sullivan, simply because she can. That is so realistic. First she gets curious, and then she gets infatuated. And finally she falls in love with the most unlikely man-the thief who broke into her home! It's a great book and I highly recommend it.

The last book is my hubby's pick. It is so funny to see my big macho hubby so excited over a romance book that he tracks down an employee of the book store and demands to know why the book wasn't on the shelf! He informs her that he receives the authors newsletter and he knows that today is the release date. The girl, she was a young teenage girl, keeps looking at him like he is pulling a joke on her and looking around for the camera crew. Finally, I tell her the name of the book, Into the Shadow by Christina Dodd, and she goes and looks for it. She comes back with the book and my dearest practically tackles the girl to snatch it out of her hand! I swiped the book from him one evening and read it. I could have waited but it takes him a while to read a book and I enjoy the taunting factor too much to pass up the opportunity. Yeah, we're like that. It's another good read. I'm not too much into the paranormals, but I really enjoyed it.

I tackled my synopsis and am happy to report that it didn't kill me like I feared it would. I couldn't manage to get it any lower than four pages and still make it interesting and informative. I hope the agents understand. I need to give shout outs to Gillian and Erin for all of their help with the synopsis and query letter. I tell you guys, my critique partners are the best! They're always willing to help and hold my hand when nerves attack. I don't know what I'd do without them.

Congratulations must be sent to my other critique partner, Louisa Cornell, who has also finished her revisions and started on the great agent search. I know she'll have an agent soon.

Hubby bought a new car. It's a really bright red Impala SS and it came with a curse. That's right. Curse. Everytime I drive that thing I get stuck in a storm. EVERYTIME! I have managed to dodge tree limbs, saved it's hydroplaning rearend from crashing, and had to sit through a hailstorm while my teenage son practically cried over the damage that he was sure I was inflicting on it. Those were all on different days, by the way. This has been the wettest summer that I can remember.

I've been hearing the plaintive cries that every mother or caregiver dreads during summer vacation. 'I'm Bored!' My youngest is the worse. It is so hard to keep a hyperactive seven year old occupied. He discovered his older brother's X-Box and I've had a time keeping him from spending all day in front of it. I told him today to go outside and play in the sun a while. After a five second trip to the front porch, he came back in complaining that it was HOT outside. Imagine that. A trip to the craft store is necessary, it seems.

Well, faithful readers, how goes your summer so far? Anyone else hearing the dreaded howl of bored children? Anyone else wrap up revisions and launch their baby out into the cold cruel world?

I am off to start a new story.