#1 NYT bestselling author Linda Lael Miller
A Dream Comes True!

On May 7, one of my biggest dreams will come true: my Civil War novel, THE YANKEE WIDOW, will be released in hardcover by Mira Books.

This is a big, sprawling rough-and-tumble brawl of a story, with strong characters and lots of research behind it.

In early July of 1863, as many of you will know, two massive armies collided in and around the small but bustling market town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  The resulting 3-day battle was, of course, horrendous, with terrible casualties on both sides of the struggle.

Caroline Hammond is a farm-wife, with a young daughter and a husband away fighting for the Union side.  She’s a competent, hard-working woman, determined to preserve the farm (and that year’s crops), with the help of a free black man named Enoch.  The land has been in her husband’s family for several generations, and Caroline wants to keep the place running until Corporal Jacob Hammond comes marching home again.  If he comes marching home again.  Both Union and Confederate soldiers are killed, maimed or struck down by disease every day of the week, in huge numbers, and civilians are subject to raids by renegades, deserters and other outlaws.

Gettysburg is such a peaceful place that it’s hard to imagine it as a battlefield, this little gem of a city nestled in a lushly verdant, sun-washed countryside, but on July 1, 2 and 3, 1863, the fields ran crimson with blood; there were shrieks of pain, from men and from horses and mules, too.  The cannon-fire was so deafeningly loud that it was heard as far away as Philadelphia.  Just imagine what it would have been like for people like Caroline, just a few miles outside of town–soon, there will be hospital tents in her side yard.  She will work tirelessly, as so many of Gettysburg’s women did, tending the wounded, both friend and foe.  She will look into the true face of war, up close and personal, and she will stand her ground.

This book is not a glorification of war, full of gallant generals and battle strategies, but a study of the way ordinary people, primarily women, coped with such enormous challenges–and with the often nightmarish aftermath: nursing the fallen and dying with few, if any, medical supplies, burying the dead, human and animal, looking after homes and children and protecting property.  THE YANKEE WIDOW, to me, is a celebration of the human spirit and the power of common courage, faith, determination and compassion.

I hope you’ll join me on this journey into our nation’s turbulent past, with all its joy and sorrows, saints and sinners, valor and cowardice.  Come along, and meet a diverse group of characters–young Jacob Hammond, Caroline’s husband, far from home and grievously wounded, strong, wise Enoch, who is both friend and hired hand to the Hammonds, Jubie, the runaway slave, Captains Rogan McBride (Union), and Bridger Winslow (Confederate)–best friends since boyhood, and fighting on opposite sides.

I’ll have more to say about the book, and the Civil War in general, in coming days.  You’ll hear about my research, my motivation for tackling such an unwieldy subject, the sequel I am writing now, and the disturbing parallels I see between the political climate of then and the division and polarity we’re seeing now.

My message is the same as it would have been back then: We are ALL Americans.  We are all entitled to our opinions; good people have died to preserve that right.  We need to stop shouting each other down, cool it with the petty squabbling, roll up our sleeves, and get to work.  Remember: Together we stand, divided we fall.

‘Nough said.

 

 

 

Everything I Know (About Art), I Learned on YouTube :)

I’ve missed all of you, and I know some of you have been worried about me.  So here’s the truth–I’ve been grieving for my cousin and dearest friend, Mary Ann, who left us last November 5.  Add this sorrow to years of constant work, the process of downsizing and very little ‘me’ time, and you have a case of burnout worthy of the record books.  Sometimes, we have to cross these long, dark valleys of the soul, all of us, though I was fortunate, I think, to enter my sixth decade before encountering a trail as dark as this one has been.  There were times when I could not see my figurative hand in front of my face, times when even My Very Best Friend seemed far away, or just plain disinterested.

In short, this time has been painful to the inth degree.

And yet….

I have been blessed.  Friends and family have been there for me in so many ways.  It’s true what they say about hard times; you DO find out who your real friends are.  In my experience, it turned out to be every last person I know.

I’ve learned some tremendous lessons, and while I wouldn’t want to repeat the course, I am better and stronger for it, and thankful, too.

My pups, Tule and Mowgli, along with my sweet kitty, Wiki, have been loving companions throughout.  They taught me that the simplest things are the most important.

I’ve found some wonderful books and new (to me) philosophies, such as Access Consciousness, a life-changing way of thinking that has already worked miracles for me,  and promises many more.  More on that in later blogs.

And, oh, the discoveries I’ve made.

YouTube, for example.  Yes, YouTube.

Of course I’d seen the cute-kitty videos, like everyone else, but until the roof fell in, YT was pretty much a non-factor, as far as I was concerned.

One day, I tuned in, looking for a way to clean my Keurig machine, which had clogged for the umpteenth time, (and has since been jettisoned, replaced by a much less troublesome Mr. Coffee), and I did some browsing.  I’ve always been interested in art, so I hopped around a little, impressed by staggering creativity of ordinary people in all parts of the world, and I came across a thumbnail for Acrylic Pouring.

Huh?  Acrylic what?  It sounded messy (trust me, it its), and more time passed before I decided to explore the topic fully.

At some point, for whatever reason, my curiousity was peaked by the work of a guy named Rick Cheadle.  Here he was, a regular fellow, working out of his garage in Detroit, layering different colors of paint in paper cups, then tipping it onto canvas.  

The effect, for me, was beyond magical.  It was like that moment in the movie, “The Wizard of Oz”, when color suddenly floods the screen, washing away the blacks and the grays.  It took my breath away, watching that, and I couldn’t (still can’t) get enough of the spectacle.  I still watch Rick, along with a number of other favorites: Rio Saress, AnnMarie Ridderhoff, Ann Osborne, Myriam of Myriam’s Nature, and many, many more.

Each of these artists have been, and continues to be, my teacher, and not just in the use of color, etc.  One casually asked a question that spilled light into my mind–“What else is possible?”  Eventually, she mentioned Access Consiousness–I had never heard of it, but I was intrigued, since I loved the simple question she’d presented.  I explored the topic and was astounded by what I found.

But this blog is about re-discovering the joy of art, this time, in a whole new way.  Fortunately, I already had tons of art supplies, and I began–very tentatively–to experiment.

I was fascinated, though I certainly had my share, if not more than that, of–shall we say?–non-masterpieces.  :)  Today, I’m darned good, if I do say so myself, and I’ve even sold a couple of pieces, but in art, as in writing or any other creative endeavor, one must be willing to be very, very bad, usually for a very, very long time, in order to become proficient.  Yes, the videos of my favorite YT artists are springboards, contantly inspiring me with new methods and products, but it’s the sloppy, day-to-day effort of practice that develops an interest into an actual skill.  I still have so much to learn, especially where color and composition are concerned, and that’s okay.  In fact, that’s life in general.  Slogging along.  Showing up.  Taking risks.  Delighting in simple joys, like happy dogs playing in the backyard.  A friend’s hug.

Like color, spilling onto a canvas.  My friends, there’s a reason for the term ‘art therapy’.  Art fills the gray places with dazzling magentas, dizzying turquoises, glimmering golds.

Art heals.

I’m still a little fragile, still feeling my way forward a lot of the time, but I’m here, with all of you, and more grateful for your concern and support than you will ever know.

Thank you.

 

 

The Pony Express was in operation for only nineteen months from April 1860 through October 1861.

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