When I retired, I had a vague goal of writing a book. Here I am, nearly four years later, with a title now being marketed through Amazon. As I draw nearer and nearer to the fourth anniversary of when I closed my metaphorical classroom door for the final time, I find myself a bona fide Indie author/small business woman. For that is what I’m becoming, and it’s a joy.
I hesitate to call this “my journey.” Too trite. This is an adventure – a sometimes tumultuous, intimidating, uplifting, demanding, frightening, stimulating, fulfilling, and, yes, joyful adventure.
When I began, I didn’t know the direction my project would take. I just wrote, found writer colleagues with whom to share, observed, and wrote. I wrote my inspirational blog, which is currently off-line, and experimented. I needed to find my passion, and that’s the key to anything we strive to do in retirement. There are no bosses, no restrictions, no common core of regulations that must be followed.
The realization of where my passion actually lied should have been self-evident. Since I was a kid I did three things: loved to make up fictional stories in my head (and on paper), wanted to know every story people could tell me about our family history, and loved American history. When I was ten years old, I asked my Aunt Rose for a book on the American Revolution for my birthday. Her response was, “Are you sure that’s what you want?” And then, “If that’s what you want, that’s what you’ll get.” I read it from cover to cover, The American Heritage Illustrated History of the American Revolution.
Enter genealogy. Since before my husband died, he and I had begun seriously researching our respective families, with the intention of continuing in retirement. I have forged on alone, attempting to work on his family tree (whom I affectionately refer to as my “in-law cousins”) as well as my blood family.
During this research, I have found seven men who served in the Civil War. There may be more. I have a photograph of an in-law in uniform whom I still have not identified. Upon contemplating these uncles, grandfathers, and cousins from generations back I thought, Good golly, girl, what a story. Why not write historical fiction and flesh out the lives of ordinary, run-of-the-mill soldiers?
Doubt set in. How could a woman write about a man’s world from over 150 years ago? Answer: research, and the fact that male authors have written about women for eternity. Doubt. How could I write about war? Answer: research, and the fact that I have experienced similar emotions – utter fear, leaving home, uncertainty, self-doubt, loathing, bravado, adventure seeking, risk taking, conformity, submission, sense of duty, righteousness, and intense friendship and bonding.
But the ultimate justification for my decision to dedicate what will be years of my life to Toe the Mark occurred at a writing conference. I attended a session called “Psychic Development for Writers.” We were instructed by the presenter to meditate and open our minds to higher sense perceptions. You can discontinue reading here if you like, but I saw as clear as day, my great-grandfather Jesse J. Cook, who will be featured in the second book of this series. Jesse was standing near a wagon at the riverfront in Covington, Kentucky, the Roebling suspension bridge towering above him. The wagon was loaded with the barrels he made as a cooper. Jesse looked straight at me and said, “Tell my story.” And, so I will.