Category Archives: Writing

A Tale of Two Cats

I am not a cat person. Never really have been. Never really will be.

But, there have been two cats in my life that wiggled their way into my dog-loving heart. Is there is a common factor between these two felines that has raised them above a “leave me alone and go catch mice” relationship?

Why yes there is. They’re badasses.

BAD ASSES.

Big Bad Bud was one of a kind. He didn’t really like people and he was a killing machine. Birds. Mice. Rats. Squirrels. If it moved and/or pissed him off, it was dead. I can’t find the video or the photographic evidence, but Triple B once killed an adult squirrel and laid its lifeless body in front of the back door. I know, many cats do this. But do they also eat the squirrel starting at the head and leaving only a fluffy tail on the doormat? I don’t think so.

And the really incredible thing about Big Bad Bud was he only had one working eye. The other one was blind when we adopted him. Much to my dismay, we had to give him away when he got old, got cranky, and started to become nasty toward our other cat and some of the kids who hung out around the house.

We gave Bud away to some friends who live in the country and needed a mouser for their outbuildings. It was a match made in heaven. Bud fulfilled his duties wonderfully for a period of time until, one day, he disappeared.

Common sense states the elderly cat was caught by a coyote or wandered off to die in the woods. But for me, I believe in the Legend of Big Bad Bud. I believe he is still out there wandering Washington Co. hunting and surviving on his own.

The other cat is our current senior feline, Willie. The family we adopted Willie from years ago was moving and could no longer keep him at their new residence. They asked if we were interested, we said yes. They thought Willie was around eight-years-old when we took him in. That was twelve years ago, making his age now around 20. He adjusted to Hays House life pretty quickly. Until his first Christmas at the house and he peed on the Christmas tree skirt and was permanently banned to the life of an outdoor cat. He went out. He rarely complained. He, like Bud, was also not a fan of people.

The past 12 months, Willie has been slowing down. He is truly showing his age. He’s fought off several bouts of unknown illnesses, worked through the introduction of a new cat, Nala, and worked through the death of his respected friend and housemate, our chocolate lab, Sophie. I’ve known for the past few years that his days were numbered and getting close.

A few weeks ago, he got backed over by our Yukon. He hadn’t been feeling well for a few days. He’d been down and sleeping most of the time for about 3-4 days. I thought he was a goner, but he rebounded. He was still kicking but kicking it slowly. Willie never sleeps under the vehicles. Never. When we turned on the SUV to back out of the driveway on a Friday evening, for some reason he was under the Yukon. He must have not woke up and the rear tire ran over him.

I thought he was a goner. He crawled to his spot behind the garage and wouldn’t budge except for his labored breathing. I sat with him and tried to make him comfortable. I almost called the vet to get him put down. I convinced myself to give Willie until the morning and see if nature took its course during the night.

When I woke early Saturday morning and went to check on him, he was gone! I couldn’t find him anywhere around the garage. I wondered if a dog or coyote or something took him off during the night. But when I trudged through the house and out the front door to get the newspaper, there he was lying in his third favorite spot by the front porch. Alive but not kicking very well. Again, I thought about a trip to the vet. Again, I thought if Willie got his three-quarters dead-self moved all the way across the yard, he deserved the gift of time. I gave him until Monday.

I raked and mowed leaves that afternoon. In the middle of the process, I catch movement out of the corner of my eye. Wille! He was standing on all four legs. Moving 10 feet or so, and lying down for a rest. Incredible.

Every day I gave him another day before getting him put down. Every day he survived and improved. Limping and moving slow, but eating and drinking again. This past week, less than two weeks after the accident, he showed up to greet me one evening when I came home from work as he’d always done. Walking normally with a slight limp. I hate to get sentimental, but I just about cried. Willie is one incredibly tough cat. He doesn’t know any better than to survive. He has to be on Life #8.99999.

BADASS.

So, we will see what the future brings for Willie. Today I even shared with him a piece of my t-bone steak. He deserves. In the meantime, the next badass cat at the Hays House will have big shoes to fill to follow Big Bad Bud and Willie.

My kind of cats. Badass SOBs.

Advertisements

A Words Look: “Southern Accents” by Tom Petty

Tom Petty’s death was one of those deaths that sneak up on you and knocks you off the rails. He was one of those artists who were so damn good you hardly knew he was there. His constancy was so ingrained into the musical world since the mid-1970’s it was almost like the reliability of the ground under our feet or the sky above our heads. Tom Petty was that good.

Damn the Torpedoes was a game changer for a 15-year-old kid in 1979. Almost every song resonated with me. The power of a song and a lyric and the stories he told in his music, especially the stories he told in underdog songs like, “Even the Losers”. Everyman stories, for every man, by an everyman.

Over the years, this song “Southern Accents” has become a favorite. It is a powerful song about knowing where you come from, overcoming where you come from, and living a life that shines with the best of where you came from. Basically, it comes down to a song which I can closely relate too. 

From an interview with Billboard

“The radio has so many rules, and songs don’t. You don’t necessarily write to a rule book, unless you’re like just doing it professionally, which has never been my thing. I just like a lot of songs. ‘Southern Accents,’ I think that’s one of my best, really. That would have been 1984 and I wrote that on the piano in the studio at home, I had a studio and I just happened to be down there in the middle of the night, it was quite late, probably early morning, and I just started to play and a song just started to appear.

I’d work on the first verse, and I’d get it, and then I’d just go bit by bit. But the breakthrough of that song was the middle eight, the bridge. When I got to the bridge I realized, ‘Now we’re talking, I’ve got something happening here.’ And when I was done with it I was extremely excited. There’s nothing like that feeling of having just written a song that you know is ‘the song’ and you know it’s really great and you can’t wait to share it with people, you can’t wait to record it.”

I first heard “Southern Accents” on the groundbreaking Johnny Cash Unchained, American II album (which is a GREAT record if you’ve never heard it.). It is one of those songs Johnny Cash covers and absolutely makes it his. Cash owns this song like he did so many of the songs he covered late in his life. Tom Petty’s original is absolutely fabulous but The Man in Black takes it to another level.

“Southern Accents”

By Tom Petty

There’s a southern accent, where I come from
The young ‘uns call it country, the Yankees call it dumb
I got my own way of talking, but everything gets done
With a southern accent, where I come from

Now that drunk tank in Atlanta is just a motel room to me
Think I might go work Orlando if them orange groves don’t freeze
Got my own way of working, but everything is run
With a southern accent, where I come from

For just a minute there I was dreaming
For just a minute it was all so real
For just a minute she was standing there, with me

There’s a dream I keep having, where my momma comes to me
And kneels down over by the window, and says a prayer for me
Got my own way of praying, but everyone’s begun
With a southern accent, where I come from

Got my own way of living, but everything gets done
With a southern accent, where I come from

Here’s a live Tom Petty version that is very good:

Here’s Johnny Cash’s version of “Southern Accents”:

A Words Look: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

I read The Legend of Sleepy Hollow at least once a year, preferably in the month of October when the winds turn chill and the leaves fall and swirl in our path. There have been cartoons, movies and shortened version of this story that are very entertaining in their own right, but none compare to the original bestowed upon us by Washington Irving. In a day of age where we rush and run and squeeze activity after activity into our lives, it’s a fine thing to be able to turn to Irving and disappear into his stories and settings. His descriptions, which may be considered verbose by today’s standards, transport the reader back into another space and time. In The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, he does this masterfully. I always feel like I’m walking down a Hudson Valley path listening to the narrator tell this tale while he points out the Van Tassel home, the schoolhouse, the churchyard, and the wooden bridge.

Here is the opening of the story in all its glory. I hope it entices you to have a read or reread of the whole tale this week in the spirit of the roaming spirits of the season. You can find the eBook file here to download. 

Have a safe and happy Halloween!

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving

In the bosom of one of those spacious coves which indent the eastern
shore of the Hudson, at that broad expansion of the river denominated by
the ancient Dutch navigators the Tappan Zee, and where they always
prudently shortened sail and implored the protection of St. Nicholas when they crossed, there lies a small market town or rural port, which by
some is called Greensburgh, but which is more generally and properly
known by the name of Tarry Town. This name was given, we are told, in
former days, by the good housewives of the adjacent country, from the
inveterate propensity of their husbands to linger about the village tavern
on market days. Be that as it may, I do not vouch for the fact, but merely
advert to it, for the sake of being precise and authentic. Not far from this
village, perhaps about two miles, there is a little valley or rather lap of
land among high hills, which is one of the quietest places in the whole
world. A small brook glides through it, with just murmur enough to lull
one to repose; and the occasional whistle of a quail or tapping of a
woodpecker is almost the only sound that ever breaks in upon the
uniform tranquillity.

I recollect that, when a stripling, my first exploit in squirrel-shooting was
in a grove of tall walnut-trees that shades one side of the valley. I had
wandered into it at noontime, when all nature is peculiarly quiet, and
was startled by the roar of my own gun, as it broke the Sabbath stillness
around and was prolonged and reverberated by the angry echoes. If ever
I should wish for a retreat whither I might steal from the world and its
distractions, and dream quietly away the remnant of a troubled life, I
know of none more promising than this little valley.

From the listless repose of the place, and the peculiar character of its
inhabitants, who are descendants from the original Dutch settlers, this
sequestered glen has long been known by the name of Sleepy Hollow,
and its rustic lads are called the Sleepy Hollow Boys throughout all the
neighboring country. A drowsy, dreamy influence seems to hang over the
land, and to pervade the very atmosphere. Some say that the place was
bewitched by a High German doctor, during the early days of the
settlement; others, that an old Indian chief, the prophet or wizard of his
tribe, held his powwows there before the country was discovered by
Master Hendrick Hudson. Certain it is, the place still continues under the
sway of some witching power, that holds a spell over the minds of the
good people, causing them to walk in a continual reverie. They are given
to all kinds of marvellous beliefs, are subject to trances and visions, and
frequently see strange sights, and hear music and voices in the air. The
whole neighborhood abounds with local tales, haunted spots, and
twilight superstitions; stars shoot and meteors glare oftener across the
valley than in any other part of the country, and the nightmare, with her
whole ninefold, seems to make it the favorite scene of her gambols.

The dominant spirit, however, that haunts this enchanted region, and
seems to be commander-in-chief of all the powers of the air, is the
apparition of a figure on horseback, without a head. It is said by some to
be the ghost of a Hessian trooper, whose head had been carried away by
a cannon-ball, in some nameless battle during the Revolutionary War,
and who is ever and anon seen by the country folk hurrying along in the
gloom of night, as if on the wings of the wind. His haunts are not
confined to the valley, but extend at times to the adjacent roads, and
especially to the vicinity of a church at no great distance. Indeed, certain
of the most authentic historians of those parts, who have been careful in
collecting and collating the floating facts concerning this spectre, allege
that the body of the trooper having been buried in the churchyard, the
ghost rides forth to the scene of battle in nightly quest of his head, and
that the rushing speed with which he sometimes passes along the
Hollow, like a midnight blast, is owing to his being belated, and in a
hurry to get back to the churchyard before daybreak.

Such is the general purport of this legendary superstition, which has
furnished materials for many a wild story in that region of shadows; and
the spectre is known at all the country firesides, by the name of the
Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow.

By w:Emanuel Leutze – http://archive.org/details/legendofsleepyho05irvi, Public Domain

 

 

 

A Words Look: John Henry by Bruce Springsteen

I’ve always been drawn to the legend of John Henry. Man vs. machine. Hammer and steel. Muscle and determination. JH is like a magnet to quiet, big guys like myself. One of the first books I remember was the Ezra Keats version of the legend. I think it was the cover that caught me. John Henry is such an inspiration in my life, I’m working on a new middle grade story built around him and other American legends.

I also remember the Ballad of John Henry song. Magical. This version from Bruce Springsteen & The Seeger Sessions Band is one of the best out there. In fact, The Seeger Sessions is a great piece of work by a great artist. Here are the lyrics and a live performance video from The Boss.

John Henry

Well John Henry was a little baby
Sittin’ on his daddy’s knee
He picked up a hammer and
a little piece of steel
And cried, “Hammer’s gonna
be death of me, Lord, Lord
Hammer’s gonna be the death of me”

Now the captain he
said to John Henry
“I’m gonna bring that
steam drill around
I’m gonna bring that
steam drill out on these tracks
I’m gonna knock that
steel on down, God, God
I’m gonna knock that
steel on down”

John Henry told his captain
“Lord a man ain’t noth‘ but a man
But before I let that steam drill
beat me down
I’m gonna die with a hammer
in my hand, Lord, Lord
I’ll die with a hammer in my hand”

John Henry driving
on the right side
That steam drill driving
on the left
Says, “Fore I let your
steam drill beat me down
I’m gonna hammer
myself to death, Lord, Lord,
I’ll hammer my fool self to death”

Well captain said to John Henry
“What is that storm I hear?”
John Henry said, “That
ain’t no storm captain
That’s just my hammer
in the air, Lord, Lord
That’s just my hammer in the air”

John Henry said to his shaker
“Shaker, why don’t you sing?
Cause I’m swingin’ thirty pounds
from my hips on down
Yeah, listen to my cold steel
ring, Lord Lord

Listen to my cold steel ring”

John Henry he hammered
in the mountains
His hammer was striking fire
But he worked so hard;
it broke his heart
John Henry laid down his hammer
and died, Lord, Lord

John Henry laid down his hammer and died

Well, now John Henry
he had him a woman
By the name of Polly Ann
She walked out to those tracks
Picked up John Henry’s hammer
Polly drove steel like a man, Lord, Lord
Polly drove that steel like a man

Well every, every Monday morning
When a blue bird he began to sing
You could hear John Henry
from a mile or more
You could hear John Henry’s hammer
ring, Lord, Lord
You can hear John Henry’s hammer ring
I say, You can John Henry’s
hammer ring, Lord, Lord
You can John Henry’s
hammer ring

Live on, John Henry!

Michelle Hauck’s STEADFAST Cover Reveal!

It all starts, of course, with getting hit with the writing bug. You have an idea for a story. You bravely sit down and write it. You learn that you don’t know how to write quite yet and you begin to gather experience plucked from other writers farther down the road. 

A manuscript or four later your craft has improved enough to land an agent. Your brilliant story goes out to the scary land of editors and may or may not sell. But you persist. You write other stories if the first one fails. And eventually, you make your first sale for, say, three books.

Now you are faced with the scary fact that you need to write your first sequel and carry on a story line. You get the wonderful news that the characters you adore will live on. At the same time, you are full of anxiety that a sequel is a daunting thing and you’ve never tried one before. Bravely you forge forward and write a sequel that meets your editor’s approval. 

A new first appears now that you conquered the other challenge. You now have to write the ending book of a series. You have to take all the characters and all the obstacles you created and bring them to, not just an end, but a highly exciting end. Once again you doubt your talent and ability. You plunge forward nonetheless. And you succeed.

Cover reveals. Release days. Publishers Marketplace announcements. All those days are great days, but they are blips on the actual journey. The true test is the challenge you meet every day to go out and do what scares you because you might fail– and see yourself instead succeed. 

So a cover reveal is not so much a celebration of art as it is a celebration of spirit. Another test passed. Another doubt proved groundless. A forging forward on the journey of you, whether you are a writer or something else. 

Proof I climb this mountain in the form of a third cover for my Birth of Saints series. Thank you for being a witness and may you climb your mountains. 

 Do what scares you my friends and face those challenges.  

Against an angry god whose only desire is to wipe out all life, what hope is there to survive?The army from the north has left a trail of burned and captured cities. In trying to stop them, Claire and Ramiro unleashed the northern god, Dal, but now they face two monstrosities and no amount of honor or hope can stop the killing as Dal grows in power.

Searching for a miracle, Claire finds the elders of the Women of the Song, who might teach her a thing or two about using her voice magic to fight back—if they can put aside their own problems first—while Ramiro searches for truth in his dreams, leading him to the northern priestess Santabe, the only one who could share her knowledge of Dal and the mysterious magical Diviners. 

Claire must unite the Women of the Song in the face of utter destruction, and Ramiro must decide how far he will go to get the answers he needs to defeat the rampaging god.


It will take nothing less than a saint to rise and face the leviathan before they all become martyrs. (unofficial blurb)

Steadfast releases December 5, 2017


Enter Giveaways to Win Signed Copies of Grudging and Faithful:


A world of chivalry and witchcraft…and the invaders who would destroy everything.

The North has invaded, bringing a cruel religion and no mercy. The ciudades-estados who have stood in their way have been razed to nothing, and now the horde is before the gates of Colina Hermosa…demanding blood.

On a mission of desperation, a small group escapes the besieged city in search of the one thing that might stem the tide of Northerners: the witches of the southern swamps.

The Women of the Song.

But when tragedy strikes their negotiations, all that is left is a single untried knight and a witch who has never given voice to her power. And time is running out.

A lyrical tale of honor and magic, Grudging is the opening salvo in the Book of Saints trilogy.




Following Grudging–and with a mix of Terry Goodkind and Bernard Cornwall–religion, witchcraft, and chivalry war in Faithful, the exciting next chapter in Michelle Hauck’s Birth of Saints series!

A world of Fear and death…and those trying to save it.

Colina Hermosa has burned to the ground. The Northern invaders continue their assault on the ciudades-estados. Terror has taken hold, and those that should be allies betray each other in hopes of their own survival. As the realities of this devastating and unprovoked war settles in, what can they do to fight back?

On a mission of hope, an unlikely group sets out to find a teacher for Claire, and a new weapon to use against the Northerners and their swelling army.

What they find instead is an old woman.

But she’s not a random crone—she’s Claire’s grandmother. She’s also a Woman of the Song, and her music is both strong and horrible. And while Claire has already seen the power of her own Song, she is scared of her inability to control it, having seen how her magic has brought evil to the world, killing without reason or remorse. To preserve a life of honor and light, Ramiro and Claire will need to convince the old woman to teach them a way so that the power of the Song can be used for good. Otherwise, they’ll just be destroyers themselves, no better than the Northerners and their false god, Dal. With the annihilation their enemy has planned, though, they may not have a choice.

A tale of fear and tragedy, hope and redemption, Faithful is the harrowing second entry in the Birth of Saints trilogy.




About the Author:

Michelle Hauck lives in the bustling metropolis of northern Indiana with her hubby and two college-going kids. Besides working with special needs children by day, she writes all sorts of fantasy, giving her imagination free range. She is a co-host of the yearly contests Query Kombat, Nightmare on Query Street, Picture Book Party, and Sun versus Snow. Her Birth of Saints trilogy, starting with Grudging (November 17, 2015) and Faithful (November 15, 2016) and Steadfast (December 2017)  is published by Harper Voyager. Another epic fantasy, Kindar’s Cure, is published by Divertir Publishing.

Find her on twitter at @Michelle4Laughs or at her blog.

Early North American Culture Clash

One of the great powers of the 16th Century northeastern woodlands were the nations of the Wendat Confederacy. They were a highly successful, highly organized confederation populating the Lake Huron region.

The Wendat were a maternal society, meaning that women played a meaningful role in the politics and economics of the tribe. All property was held down the maternal lineage and marriages had to be outside the maternal clan. Women were even in charge of selecting the tribal chiefs.

This strong maternal influence on the tribe caused more than a few riffs with the French Jesuit missionaries who were the first whites to establish contact with the Wendats in the 1600’s. There is a story told of complaints by the Jesuits to the men of a village about several outspoken women. The Jesuits convinced the men they were being led away from the path of salvation by these outspoken women. To force them to change their ways, the Jesuits threatened to bind the ankles of the women and tether them to a stake in the ground.

Needless to say, this philosophy did not go well and soon the Jesuits found a way to look past the maternal leadership and influence.

Culture clash…early North American style.

…even the dead are not allowed to rest.

“Huron Cemetery is to be sold. The government has broken every treaty with the Indians and they have been driven place to place until even the dead are not allowed to rest in peace.”

Excerpt from a February 8, 1910 Letter of Protest by McIntyre Armstrong, Wyandot Nation (1852-1926). The letter was written after the Supreme Court of the United States decision to uphold the lower court’s dismissal of Lyda Conley’s case to prevent the government from selling the Wyandot burial ground located in downtown Kansas City, Kansas.  With the case, Lyda Conley became the first woman attorney of Native American heritage to argue before the Supreme Court.

By the way, Lyda and her sisters, Lena and Ida, occupied the cemetery grounds in an 8 x 6′ shack built next to their parent’s graves for several years in an attempt to prevent the sale of the Huron Place Cemetery.

Despite losing the Supreme Court case, many of Lyda’s legal arguments became the cornerstones for future laws enacted to protect the land and property of Native American Tribes. In addition, the legal case and the Sisters’ act of civil disobedience, raised enough support among the citizens of Kansas City for the Huron Cemetery to protect it from sale to economic developers. The cemetery, later renamed the Wyandot National Burial Ground, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971. In January of 2017, the United States National Parks Service announced the elevation of the cemetery to a designated National Historic Landmark, the Wyandotte National Burying Ground (Eliza Burton Conley Burial Site).

In my humble opinion, Lyda Conley should definitely be a member of the #BygoneBadassBroads list.