#1 NYT bestselling author Linda Lael Miller
I Didn’t Come Here to Snivel…

But I do owe you, my loyal blog buddies, an explanation for my long absence.  

2017 has been, in so many ways, the most difficult year of my life–no small statement, since I’m 68.  

On November 5, my beloved cousin, my heart-twin and trail boss, Mary Ann Bleecker Readman, passed away after a long and difficult illness.  Since I was only six months old when she came into the world, I don’t remember a time when she wasn’t a big, big part of my life.  Without her, I feel like a table with a leg missing.  I’m pretty much lost.

Of course grief touches everyone’s life, at time or another; none of us are exempt.

She was the strongest person I’ve ever known, except for my dad, and she could be really bull-headed.  (Also like my dad.)  From the time she was quite small, she could buck bales with the best of them, out in the hayfield, and she could drive anything–logging truck, tractor–you name it.  We were so different, and yet so very close.

My brother, Jerry, tells a great story about our cousin, and I’d love to share it here.  He was in elementary school, and it was Halloween day; in a place as small as Northport was and is, kids dressed up and went out trick-or-treating as soon as the sun set, hitting every house in town, a much-anticipated event.  Sometime in the afternoon, one of the local bullies cornered him and said, “I’m going to get you tonight.”

Jerry considered the threat, then replied, “May you will, but you’ll have Mary Ann to deal with tomorrow.”

Need I say more?  Nothing happened that night; my brother trick-or-treated in peace.

That was Mary Ann.  She was kind and generous to a fault, but she was also ranch-tough.  If there was one thing she couldn’t stand, it was bullying–especially when the victim was her kin.  :)

I only wish I were half as strong as she was, but I’m not.  I miss her every moment of every day, and for a long time, I couldn’t write or do anything constructive.

Now, I’m doing all I can to keep it together, get back on track, etc.  My cousin made it clear before she left us that she wanted me to get my act together and carry on, write my books, live my life.

Guess I’d better do it.  

After all, one of these days, I’ll have Mary Ann to deal with.

  

 

Return of the Blogger

I have missed you all!  

A lot has happened since my last blog–I traveled to Gettysburg in late June, to spend time with friends (Sandy and Janet, hello!) and check an item off my bucket list: watching part of the re-enactment of the famous battle of Gettysburg, which actually took place on July 1, 2nd and 3rd of 1863.  I saw the staging of Pickett’s Charge, which turned out to be a real disaster for the Confederacy.  And, certainly, for the actual troops involved. 

There were, of course, far fewer men on the field the day I visited than in 1863, but it didn’t take much effort to imagine the scene as it would have been on that long-ago day–soldiers in blue coats as far as the tree-line and well beyond, Confederates in their rag-tag uniforms–most of them butternut in color, rather than gray–facing all those men and horses and cannon.  It was altogether heartbreaking and it felt so real–I wanted to cry, and nearly did, and I had to suppress an urge to shout to the Rebels, “Go back!”  or “Run!”

I stood next to a re-enactor, and he told me those who will fall in battle are chosen ahead of time, which makes sense.  It’s not the greatest duty, given the heat, the humidity, and the bugs.  Often, I learned, the pretend-wounded/dead must remain on the ground for a very long time.

When I returned from Gettysburg, I was just plain exhausted.  Still a little fatigue left over from that round of c-diff I suffered earlier, I guess, and I had been to a conference in Portland, OR. shortly before, so I spread myself a little thin.  I’m trying to learn to pace myself, when it comes to travel, but old habits are hard to break.  I chuckle (ruefully) when I remember days gone by, when I did things like flying to Bangkok, spending the night in an airport hotel, boarding another plane in the morning, bound for Chang Mai, and riding an elephant.  I spent one night there, then returned to Bangkok and joined a tour group, traveling on to Singapore, Bali, and Hong Kong!

Sigh.  Those were the days.   Now, I would need long stopovers in each location, if I went at all.  For one thing, I can’t be away from my kitty and my dogs for that long.

There are still a lot of faraway places I want to see–the Great Wall in China, for instance, the statues on Easter Island, the Greek Islands–but I may have to settle for watching documentaries on Netflix :).   I’ve traveled far and wide, and I’m grateful I did all that globe-trotting when I was younger.

I’ve  been ‘pre-writing’ all this time, which means I was binging on YouTube art videos and trying the techniques that interested me, which are acrylic flow painting and working with alcohol inks.  Zounds!  There are so many talented people in this world–I especially love to watch Rick Cheadle, Caren Goodrich, Danny Clark and Anne Marie Ridderhoff pouring their glorious abstract paintings–it’s all glorious color and sweet suspense, because you never know what’s going to happen after the paints are mixed and poured onto a canvas.  If you’ve never seen this art form before–I hadn’t–check out these talented people, or any of the many other talented folks brave enough to film their projects and put them up for all the world to see.  The alcohol inks are equally fascinating–the colors are so bright, and the results are amazing, even when calamity strikes.

My own pieces are less than fabulous, but each experiment brings me joy and teaches me something.  As Danny Clark often reminds his hordes of viewers, and as I myself have assured many an aspiring writer, if you want to be good at something, you have to be willing to suck at it first, and maybe for a long time.  I’ve had some spectacular failures, as well as some small successes, and I promise to post pictures as soon as I have anything decent to show.

So why did I refer to all this as ‘pre-writing’?  Because painting uses a different part of the brain, and allows the storytelling part to do its magic, bubbling away beneath the surface until it’s ready to go onto my computer screen.

Happily, I have reached that stage, and begun my next western romance, THE WAGER.  I’ll be telling you more about that as time goes on, and about the art, too.  And I’ll be blogging.

P.S. There’s a new contest underway (finally), and the rules are the same as always: if you comment, you’re entered.  Two winners will be chosen at random, notified by Super Jen, and sent signed copies of one of my books. 

Texas was the most active gunfighting state, with some 160 shoot-outs from the 1850’s through the 1890’s.

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