The February 2015 Edition

On the launching pad with ‘Tennesseans West’

February is Black History Month, and I am involved in a couple of historical projects that involve noted African Americans. The first one is a coincidence of timing and subject matter, the second a little more involved.

First is the current launch of the new Western fiction anthology “Tennesseans West” about historic figures who have strong ties to the Volunteer State, whether they were born or spent a good portion of their lives here. It was the only qualification, with the stipulation that — whether famous or infamous — these Tennesseans left their mark on the Western landscape.

David Crockett and Sam Houston were the first two Tennesseans that came to mind for the project. Texas wouldn’t be what it is today if not for the sacrifice and ambition of these Tennesseans.

TENNESSEANS COVER Live WireBut my first short story for the series — “A Live Wire in Deadwood” — focuses on black cowboy Deadwood Dick, a rootin’-tootin’, sharpshootin’ son of a gun. His real name was Nat Love, born a slave on a plantation in Davidson County. He left Nashville at age 15 and endured many hardships in his lifetime before spending his latter years as a railroad porter. This story is now available in ebook format at http://amzn.to/1vySZtj and https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/517670, then in print in the “Tennesseans West” anthology

Joining me in writing this Western Trail Blazer series are four other great Tennessee authors of Western fiction:

Troy D. Smith, who teaches history at Tennessee Tech, has been a member of Western Writers of America since 1998, and in that same year one of his short nonfiction pieces was a finalist for the Spur Award. His first novel, Bound for the Promise-Land, was a Spur Award winner in 2001, as well as a finalist for the Medicine Pipe Bearer’s Award. Troy is the publisher of our project. For more information go to http://www.troyduanesmith.com/

Vonn McKee has roots in Arizona and Louisiana, but now calls Tennessee home. She incorporates life experiences — and some of the interesting characters she’s met– into stories of the old West. Vonn has had three stories published by Western Trail Blazer — “Noah Rains,” “The Songbird of Seville” and “The Gunfighter’s Gift.” Check out http://www.vonnmckee.com/

John Neely Davis recently released his award-winning second novel, “Bear Shadow.” His first was published in March of 2012 and is titled The Sixth William. See my “Bear Shadow” review here. John has also had stories published by Western Trail Blazer, including a “Tennesseans West” story about a fifth-generation cousin Stephen Dennison who died at the Alamo with David Crockett and other Tennesseans in 1836. John’s website is http://johnneelydavisauthor.com/

Cameron Judd graduated from Tennessee Tech in 1979 and has lived in Greene County since 1982. Like myself, Cameron has a newspaper background. Unlike me, Cameron has more than 30 novels to his credit, with more than two million copies of his novels going into print. Whew! I’m so jealous. Several of his novels feature East Tennessee settings, including “The Overmountain Men,” “Boone,” “Passage to Natchez,” “The Shadow Warriors,” among others. Check out his website at http://cameronjudd.tripod.com/index.html

This is going to be a fun series and I hope you will enjoy it. I will keep you posted of developments.

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The other fun February project I’m participating in is the Feb. 23 stage reading of “Hannah Elias,” a play by Nathan Ross Freeman based on a true story. The reading — produced by Jaz Doersey and directed by Franchesa Kirkpatrick — begins at 7 p.m. at Centennial Black Box Theater.

I had never heard of Hannah Elias until this project. Here is part of a description of the story I found on Facebook from Jaz: “Hannah was born in Philly in 1865 to an African American mother and an American Indian father. She trained to be a servant but that didn’t appeal to her, so she took off for New York City and became an ‘enchantress’ — an elegant word for prostitute. Among the many wealthy men who were her patrons was Senator John Platt. Senator Platt did not fancy having to go to Hannah’s neighborhood to be with her, so he bought her a mansion on Central Park West. This led to murder and scandal in old New York at the turn of the 20th Century.”

It sounds like a fascinating story. This stage reading features a number of talented actors from across the Music City, and I am just excited to be affiliated with this project.

*****

Looking back: I participated in two great library events in January, first at Coffee County/Manchester Public Library and then at the grand opening of Bellevue Branch Library.

I want to thank the other nine Nashville authors who accepted my invitation to be part of the Bellevue opening: Steven Womack, Phylliss Gobbell, Andrew Maraniss, Jaden Terrell, Chester Campbell, Alana White, Lisa Wysocky, Tracy Barrett and Kristin O’Donnell Tubb. This was a once-in-a-lifetime event, bringing out Mayor Karl Dean and other elected officials and other artists like Brenda Stein.

It is a beautiful facility, state-of-the-art as they say. The new library hours are Mon. – Thurs. 10-8; Closed Fridays; Sat. 10-5; Sun. 2-5. Check it out.

 *****

Looking ahead: I have partnered with the Tennessee Literacy Coalition to combat illiteracy in the state. Here is their — and now my — Mission Statement: The Tennessee Literacy Coalition supports and promotes adult learning, transforming the lives of adults who seek to enhance their fundamental use of language – to read, write, communicate, and ultimately to succeed.

As an author, I feel compelled to do what I can to help people improve their reading skills. We tell stories and open doors to the imagination that might otherwise be closed.

If you donate $20 (or more) to the non-profit, you will receive a free copy of Vendetta Stone. In March, I will be speaking at their statewide conference. It’s an important issue that all too often gets overlooked and needs your support. Call 259-3700 for information.

*****

The ABC show ‘Nashville’ has returned to the airwaves for the second half of the third season. It has been a delicious, devilish season so far, the best yet. I’ve been an “extra” since the inception of the show and I worked on episodes 12 (airing Feb. 11) and 14 (Feb. 25). Doesn’t mean I’ll get on air, but you never know.

Look for me, but my advice is … Don’t Blink!

Thanks for reading.

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