I am extremely excited to be hosting author Jackie Lee Miles and her wonderful book Cold Rock River on Stiletto Storytime today. Some books give you that warm and fuzzy feeling throughout, never a worry or a bother about what might happen to your beloved character friends as they find their way through the story and ultimately to their happily ever after. However the real stories are those that reflect the truth of life and life often is not warm and fuzzy. I am most intrigued by stories that show how we don’t always get what we want in life and tragedy so often befalls those that deserve it the least. Cold Rock River is a tale such as that. It’s a tale of life.
Description from Publisher:
“In 1963 rural Georgia, with the Vietnam War cranking up, pregnant seventeen-year-old Adie Jenkins discovers the diary of pregnant seventeen-year-old Tempe Jordan, a slave girl, begun as the Civil War was winding down. Adie is haunted by the memory of her dead sister; Tempe is overcome with grief over the sale of her three children sired by her master. Adie–married to Buck, her baby’s skirt-chasing father–is unprepared for marriage and motherhood. She spends her days with new baby Grace. Buck spends his with the conniving vamp Imelda Jane.
Adie welcomes the friendship of midwife Willa Mae Satterfield. Having grown close to her after Grace’s birth, she confides that her baby sister, Annie, survived choking on a jelly bean only to drown in Cold Rock River a few months later. Willa Mae says, “My two little chillins George and Calvin drowns in that river too.” What she won’t say is who and why.
Adie takes refuge in Tempe’s journal. It tells an amazing tale: When “the freedom” comes, Tempe sets out to find her children but never finds them, and she settles in Macon, Georgia, where she meets Tom Barber, a former slave from a Savannah plantation. They marry and have a daughter nicknamed Heart, and though she’s “a bit slow in the head,” they adore her. Tom is good to Tempe, and she remains by his side, ever faithful, until she discovers something she can’t live with–a truth so devastating she vows never to speak of it again.
Adie continues to pore over Tempe’s diary, which seems to raise more questions than it answers. After Tom is killed in a drunken brawl, Tempe takes Heart to north Georgia, settling on a small patch of land and taking up midwifery to support them both. Eventually she marries an elderly neighbor and gives birth to two more children, Georgia and Calvin. Adie is filled with questions. Could Willa Mae be Heart? Could the children in the diary have been hers? How–and why–did they drown? And is it possible that the man who owns the house in which she lives is Willa Mae’s grandson?”
As Cold Rock River comes to its surprising, shocking ending, questions of family, race, love, loss, and longing are loosed from the mysterious secrets that have been kept for too long–and the depth of the mysterious connection between two women united by place and separated by race and a hundred years is revealed.”
Cold Rock River is the story of two girls traveling the path to adulthood in tough times. One woman living in modern day, and another a slave during the years before and after the Civil War, this book follows them through tragedy, determination and sometimes blessedly salvation as well. It is a book rich in Southern charm but true to the harsh realities of life. As a reader I found Cold Rock River to be an enjoyable book that I did not want to end. As a writer I found it to be a brave book in that it always stays true to the story, even at the risk of plunging it’s readers into some of life’s most horrific events. As I have begun writing I have started to look at writing with a different eye and to greater appreciate the art of the written word. Jackie Lee Miles as a writer is not without her struggles and I am honored she has written about that today. So without further ado please welcome Jackie to Stiletto Storytime:
Writing Struggles are something every author deals with. That really hits home with me when I finish one novel and have to start another.
I just finished two novels. The first one will be released January 2011 by Sourcebooks: ALL THAT’S TRUE. It follows Andrea St. James (Andi for short), during the first Desert Storm war, who discovers her father is having an affair with her best friend’s step-mother. Sourcebooks calls it “an authentic coming-of-age tale with a terrific takeaway.”
The second novel, HEART, has yet to be sold. It was inspired by an actual CBS news program where a man received his daughter’s heart. The tagline of the book is: After a fatal accident sixteen-year-old Lorelei Goodroe follows the lives of five people who receive her organs, including that of her father who receives her heart.
Okay, two books down, a new one to go. But what to write? After several days of contemplating, I get an idea when a character comes to me, a twelve-year-old girl who has a problem. (I tend to write in young voices—I can’t seem to help myself.) The protagonist’s voice is very strong. I hear her words in my head:
“When I was very little my mother told me stories about why my father wasn’t with us. First she said he was away in the war going on in Asia, Vietnam. Then she said he was healing from the wounds in his head that made him forget us. Later she said he was on assignment for the secret service.”
I used those lines for my opening of SUMMER RIDGE and wrote a tagline: Twelve-year-old Mary Alice Munford struggles with the knowledge that her mother plans to marry her father, a man who abandoned them before she was born.
On to the novel and that’s where the real struggle begins. What to write? What will this girl’s problems be? What will stand in her way? What can you say that will keep your reader riveted for three hundred pages? That’s a tall order, but that’s what books ask of us. And your reader expects some good answers.
Early on, Mary Alice states that her household is not a happy one:
There’s me, my mother, Granny Ruth and Aunt Josie, whose husband, my Uncle Earnest, fell under a combine when I was five so I never got to know him good. The day he died, I climbed on Aunt Josie’s lap and wouldn’t leave even when it was time to go to bed. Mama tried to pick me up.
“You been sitting there all day, sweet thing.”
“Leave me lone, Mama,” I said. “I’m helping Aunt Josie cry.”
I loved this protagonist immediately and started to write, regardless of the struggle.
I’m now two hundred pages into the manuscript. Mary Alice is at a fair with her father, who she still calls Hank, seeing as she can’t think of him as a real Daddy. He has picked up a gal from the local café, Wanda Lou, and the two of them are off having a very good time on their own. Mary Alice is busy pitching pennies and is not doing too well when a man comes up next to her and says, “What are you shootin’ for little miss?”
Mary Alice says he is acting like he really cares. She shows him the two little dogs she has won and points to the large one hanging down from the rafters with a big red bow around its neck.
“If I get one more, I can trade it for that big one,” she explains.
“That’ll be right nice,” he says and hands her another quarter. “Give her another try.”
She takes the three pennies the attendant hands her and tries again, but one by one the pennies bounce off the plates. The man who gave her the quarter takes hold of her elbow and says, “They got a booth across the way. They use bowls instead of plates. It’s easy to win. Come on, I’ll show you.”
Mary Alice eagerly follows the man who says she can win. He takes her behind all of the tents that are set up in back of the booths. Eventually, he spins around and says, “Sorry girlie, I can’t quite remember where that booth is.”
That’s when he grabs her. Mary Alice heart sinks. She realizes now it was not a good idea to follow him, but it’s too late. He already has his arm around her neck.
That’s as far as I’ve gotten. I’m still struggling and still writing. Always we authors hope it will be worth the effort. Stay tuned!
-Jackie Lee Miles
Thanks Jackie! And as a special treat Sourcebooks has allowed me to giveaway copies of Cold Rock River to two readers of Stiletto Storytime. To enter please leave a comment below telling what your favorite “Southern Lit” book is or if you’ve never read one…why are interested in Cold Rock River? Please also leave your email address so I can get in touch with the winner. US and Canada addresses only please. Winner will be chosen by random generator and you need not be a follower of Stiletto Storytime to win. However you can tweet about the giveaway for an extra entry -simply leave the link for verification. Giveaway ends midnight July 30, 2010. Good luck to all! This is a fantastic read not to be missed!