Family Saga Friday

What is a family saga? I found this definition on Goodreads:

The family saga chronicles the lives and doings of a family or a number of related or interconnected families. The typical novel follows the generations of a family through a period of time to portray particular historical events, changes of social circumstances, or the ebb and flow of fortunes from a multiple of perspectives.

For some reason after nearly 15 years of writing about two fictional families you would think I would have realized what I wrote was called family saga fiction (case of not seeing the forest for the trees). Thank God I finally know what my novels are since usually when people ask I turn into a complete idiot.

Anyway, I thought I’d share a little on this genre & family history each week (also, if anyone would like to share a piece of their own family saga, memoir or just plain old family memories let me know and we can work on posting it here).

And remember weekends are the perfect time to read family saga fiction!

Happy Friday,








Fiction: Pretend We’re Cousins

William agrees to take Thankful to Fort Grant

“Call me Bill at the post,” William coached. “Lieutenant Bourke is the only one to hold to my childhood name, and it gives too much a laugh to the others.”

“Maybe it’s not your name they’re laughing at,” Thankful said, poking his side with her thin, gloved finger.

“What are you saying?”

“I just mean that maybe they have their own concerns and aren’t as against you as you think.”

“I know well enough if I’m being played the fool,” William said, but his stomach pained him. He wasn’t sure of anyone’s motives.

At the stables, Thankful laughed at William’s pony. “The Friesians at home could swallow that little thing. Are you sure he’ll hold me too and with the carbine?”

William pat the horse’s rump. “You shouldn’t go making fun of Sophie. She’s a good girl.”

“Sophie? What a name for a horse.”

“I like it. Maybe I had a dog or something named Sophie. You’ll have to ride Indian style. I had to sell her saddle.”

“No one will see that I care about,” Thankful said with a blush as she straddled the horse exposing her striped pink stockings.

William steadied her and pretended not to notice her shapely legs. Thankful was tall like her mother and father and solidly built. The sunlight streaming through the stable window played up her deep blue eyes.

“Thankful, I have to drive her. You’ll have to hang off back if you don’t mind.”

“I can ride quite well, Mr. Bill Weldon!” Thankful said, but slid off to let William on first.

“Maybe so, but you’re your mother’s daughter.” William swung his leg over the horse with a shy smile.

Thankful followed and wrapped her arms around William’s middle. He felt flustered again. But this was crazy. She’d be gone tomorrow.

Although his parents tried to keep him from horses after his accident, William always found a way to ride. He enjoyed this one good thing about himself and liked showing off to Thankful.

They cantered out on the desert path and rode for hours.

“William, have you missed me?” Thankful asked in his ear.

“I . . . I guess I miss the folks at home sometimes—you being one of them—so yes . . . I guess so,” William said.

Thankful stayed quiet until the fort came into view at twilight. “I’m so excited!” she said.

The guard’s ears pricked at the sound of Thankful’s voice.

“Bill Weldon, who do you have there?” the guard asked.

Thankful slid from the horse. “I’m Bill’s cousin from home with no place to sleep tonight—will the army put me up? I’ll pay.” She held out her hand, confident in the effect her looks had on men.

The man sported a big yellow grin. “Bill, you’ve got cousins? How many?” he asked, looking Thankful over. “I don’t know for certain, young lady, but I think the officers could find you something. Your cousin’s got special privileges.” He smacked William’s back. “Nice to see you, young fellow. We’ve missed you.”

The guard led them to the sergeant of the guard who gawked with pleasure at the girl with high cheekbones.

“Miss Crenshaw, Bill will show you in—he knows the way,” the sergeant said and whispered to William, “I guess we owe you now—bringing in such a beaut—she’s not spoken for is she? Has she got sisters?”

“A twin,” William let slip.

The man’s eyes lit. “The officers get this one, I guess, but send for the other and give us non-commissioned men a chance at happiness.”


Excerpted from WEARY OF RUNNING. Read more about Buck Crenshaw and his misadventures when you buy the book today!

“The second installment in The Tenafly Road Series definitely did not disappoint. With the introduction of new characters and the return of familiar ones, Weary of Running made for an exciting read. The protagonist, Thankful, is the real highlight of the novel. She consistently makes very poor decisions but in the end, you can understand why she has made every last one of them. The story ranges from love and romance to questions of faith and morality. It does all this without being preachy and explores many angles of different aspects of life. This is one of the best books I have read in a long time.” Amazon Review

“Buck Crenshaw is my favorite dysfunctional lovable character.”





“The old time blacks,” wrote James Thomas, “never used to take much stock in the ‘Yaller’ Nigger. They called him ‘No Nation,’ ‘a Mule,’ ‘yaller hammer.’” *

Mulattoes under slavery were in a tight spot. Often times a master’s half-white children were brought in as house slaves. Some were educated and some were eventually given their freedom.  ANDREW WARD suggests in his book DARK MIDNIGHT WHEN I RISE that some women slaves submitted to their masters for the very reason that their children might be seen differently and treated better—but by whom? Their skin betrayed to all that tribal lines had been crossed.

Darker slaves saw themselves as superior blacks with pure blood.

They even admired their masters for keeping the races pure. We can only imagine what white mistresses thought about their husbands’ liaisons (or what fathers thought when their daughters eloped with black slaves).  Yet even light blacks expressed certain stereotypes. “Some folks say that when a ‘Nigger’ is so black he just naturally mean.”*

Ward tells of a Jubilee Singer’s lineage, one so full of halves and fulls, of slaves and whites, we are met with again the notion that race, color and stereotypes are never simple things.

We do judge books by their covers. We all do. I do.

This summer my (soon to be adopted) “low-functioning” daughter and I sat waiting at the station with my two “normal” teenagers who were taking a bus south (to New Jersey). A young man about twenty interrupted our good-natured bickering about money for snacks for the bus.

You know that feeling of slight annoyance when someone asks for change and they seem to be pouring on the gratitude a bit thick?

In truth we were looking for change for the vending machine and the young man in wrinkled clothes was looking for a dollar bill. We did an even exchange and after profusely thanking us he walked off.

The bus was late.

Saratoga Springs Station is a quiet place. I like eavesdropping and people watching. I’d made up my mind that the rough-around-the-edges young man now grubbing a cigarette from the obviously university educated man about the same age was the type to find trouble. I cringed at the way the university guy gave over a cigarette with faint disgust.

Yet something about the young smoker cursing up a storm now and pacing as he spoke on an old phone to a family member in Pittsburgh mesmerized me.

From what I could catch the young man was dead broke. He had a 24 hour layover somewhere west, and he looked rake thin. Maybe because I felt a tad guilty for judging him, after we saw my teenagers off, I slipped the smoker some money (I say this not to brag of my generosity for I’d just spent a good thirty minutes eavesdropping and judging). Now when this sort of thing happens my tendency is to never make eye contact. I’m shy and don’t like intimate encounters, but for some reason our eyes met and the young man cried.

I mumbled something about God loving him or something (I NEVER do this) but felt even though I was in a hurry to move on that he needed some basic inspiration and this is what popped into my head.

My girl and I walked to the car. We sat in the car mulling things over. The good thing about “low functioning” people is sometimes they just cut to the chase. My girl said, “You feel it too, don’t you? We should go back.”

I turned the key in the ignition. “No. What would we say? No, we did what we could.” We drove around the parking lot three times. I kept hoping the kid would be gone but there he sat, now with his head in his hands, shoulders shaking.

“God wants us to go back!” my kid kept saying with urgency.

I will admit that by now after having met the young man’s eyes my entire perception of him changed. As we lingered at the exit before a stop sign I was compelled to turn around, park and with pounding heart and red face walk up to the man who I now noted had a bruised face.

My girl looked up to me for words. I stumbled around a bit but finally said, “Okay, so you may think we’re freaks but something . . .” I looked at my girl. “Well, you see, we think God wants us to sit with you for a while.”

I waited for him to tell us to back off. He didn’t. He told us his life story. He told us his mother abandoned him to foster care where he spent days locked up in a room without food. My kid told him she’d experienced the very same thing.

Imagine a little girl and a full grown man crying over past hurts.

It was obvious from the man’s story that he’d made some mistakes in life with so little guidance and so little love. He’d moved from his grandfather’s house a while back for a good job in construction. After a falling out with his boss and a night spend drinking his unemployment news away, someone mugged him. Only moments ago he’d called his sister begging for her to meet him  somewhere only to be told his grandfather had just died but they’d had no way of contacting  him. The phone he had called her from had been borrowed.

Okay so some of you reading this may be thinking the guy was just a storyteller. But to me it was this incredible God moment. We prayed together (again, I’m pretty private about my prayer life but there was this compulsion—something beyond myself, beyond my girl, too). The man mentioned he read the Bible hardly ever (I mean, who really does?).

My girl, only a year from the mental ward where we were told she had no hope and that she’d spend her life a zombie, ran back to the car.

I had told her to bring a book to read in the car because sometimes she just talks and talks and talks. I get peevish when this happens. She ran up to us breathlessly and handed the man named William her raggedly little Children’s Bible someone had given her long before I knew her.

This man William  (I hope he’s doing well) was tanned from outdoor work. My girl was pale white from the hospital and group home and I was freckled. But for a brief moment we were all the same.






Fiction: Where Are The Gallant Men?

William Weldon is not the man Thankful once knew.

Thankful scooped up the map pieces on the floor. “Such a gift you have and you throw it away on depraved women.”

“Jesus hung around with them.”

Thankful looked up at him with a severe stare. “So now you compare yourself to our Lord? You have changed.” She adjusted her hat with one hand while clutching the map in the other.

The faint odor of perspiration under Thankful’s perfume flustered William.

Thankful stood. “I shall have to go back to the army on my own for assistance. I don’t trust anyone here and you won’t keep me the night.”

“Of course I won’t. The hotel is terrible rough though.” William tapped his fingers against his temple. “I guess it won’t be safe to go now. It’ll be almost candle lighting by the time you get there.”

He tried to ignore the small vermin creeping from under things.

“If you take me right now to the barracks, I’ll make my way home in the morning, and I won’t say a word about your state of affairs,” Thankful said bravely, but William detected a quiver in her voice. “This was a mistake.”

“It does seem ridiculous that you’ve come,” William said. “And I don’t care what folks at home think.”

“It seems MORE ridiculous that you’re corned and living in nothing better than an outhouse!” Thankful replied.

“I’m not drunk!”

“The William I know would do what’s right and bring me to the army where men have manners and are gallant and . . .”

“Enough! I’ll bring you. I hope you don’t mind horseback and it’s a dangerous thing out here.”

“I wasn’t born in the woods to be scared by an owl—when will we leave?”

William grinned. “Thankful Crenshaw, you’re a caution. The doctor must be in a conniption fit over you leaving home. I wish you hadn’t done it to him. Send the doctor a telegram to be fair.”

“I’d like to go soon if you don’t mind. Please stop talking about my father,” Thankful said, the guilt that plagued her on the train returning.

William found an old cap and sniffed it before smoothing his hair with a pungent tonic and tossing it on.

“Are you done with your toilet, Willy? I didn’t know  boys prepared themselves so much for a visit to the post.”

William ignored Thankful and sifted through piles of sketchbooks, clothing and bottles, finding his gun.

“Oh, my, that old thing is yours?” Thankful asked with an amused giggle. “It looks mighty heavy. How do you lug it? Do you know how to use it even? I hope you have no intention of bringing it along. My father told lots of stories about cavalrymen shooting their feet and other things off.”

“Well, those people must have been fools. I’m not so weak that I can’t carry an old carbine!” William said.

“Now I’ll be a nervous Nelly all the way out, worrying I’ll be shot up.”

“It wouldn’t be an accident if I shot you, Thankful,” William joked.


Excerpted from WEARY OF RUNNING. Read more about Buck Crenshaw and his misadventures when you buy the book today!

“The second installment in The Tenafly Road Series definitely did not disappoint. With the introduction of new characters and the return of familiar ones, Weary of Running made for an exciting read. The protagonist, Thankful, is the real highlight of the novel. She consistently makes very poor decisions but in the end, you can understand why she has made every last one of them. The story ranges from love and romance to questions of faith and morality. It does all this without being preachy and explores many angles of different aspects of life. This is one of the best books I have read in a long time.” Amazon Review

“Buck Crenshaw is my favorite dysfunctional lovable character.”


God as Tyrant

Seamstresses by Frank Holl

“While I regarded God as a tyrant I thought my sin a trifle; But when I knew Him to be my Father, then I mourned that I could ever have kicked against Him. When I thought God was hard, I found it easy to sin; but when I found God so kind, so good, so overflowing with compassion, I smote upon my breast to think that I could ever have rebelled against One who loved me so, and sought my good.” C. H. Spurgeon


What Makes a Hero?

screen-shot-2013-06-20-at-10-51-07-amOur jaded historical minds race over the word abolitionist.

George Leonard White could have stayed at his consumptive father’s blacksmith shop in New York State but left for Ohio to become a school teacher. Nothing particularly heroic in that.

 Yes, yes. George was against slavery. Ho hum. Aren’t we all equally against slavery these days? Human trafficking as a phrase hardly captures the same depth of feeling we let rise up in us when the word slavery is mentioned but it’s the very same thing.

Part of training to become a foster parent is to recognize when children (in New York, in America!!) have been victims of sex slavery. Yes, we all say, of course we’re adamantly opposed to sex slavery.So much so that we’d rather not address the subject at all.I suppose most people living in the 1860’s sort of felt the same way.

George Leonard White saw a need. At 6′ 5″ with dark hair and intense eyes George kept an orderly classroom. He noted that black children needed schooling too, so deep in the woods he taught them as well.

The Bible and music were George’s two loves. He taught himself the fiddle and sang. I wonder did he ever share this love with the children he taught. I hope so. But let’s stay a moment with George and his pupils in the school room. Nobody held a carrot on a stick, there was no Teach for America  back then. No one held George’s hand when he decided to enrich the minds of black children. This was one person acting alone in a dark wood.

The war came and George, Bible in knapsack, eagerly joined Ohio in the fight. George was certain of his reason for fighting: to help end slavery. He didn’t put himself in harm’s way because his buddies were doing the same. He had a heroic sense of conviction and a sense that his one life mattered–though he did not need a professor or coach to convince him of it. Every word of his worn Bible told him so.

When a person slogs through cold mud on stale crackers,  maggot-infested meat and coffee for three years; faces bullets and sickness and human depravity for just as long; marches up mountains and falls apart by the roadside unable to move for hours and almost no longer caring we say this is war. People tell war stories that fit neatly into boxes. Join up, go fight, come home.

A friend spots George, his 6’5″ frame wasted to a skeletal 140lbs lying in the mud. The friend helps him into a wagon. George goes home.

Heroism becomes habit. Maybe that’s all it is–a very noble habit. A way of thinking about oneself. Can one’s life be a mission without the idea of God? For, really, what’s the point of a mission that dies with you? Knowing someone may read about you in a history book seems like a sad reward for bothering. Humanitarianism, social uplift, basic manners make no real sense without mission.

I’m already in love with George’s heart and I hardly know a thing about him yet. George never fully recovers his health after the war, but he refuses to shirk his mission. Soon we will find out how he leads a group of black singers to stardom and leads white America to a new understanding of black humanity. No degrees, no permission needed or asked for, just a heart for mission.

The practical weakness of the vast mass of modern pity for the poor and the oppressed is precisely that it is merely pity; the pity is pitiful but not respectful. Men feel that the cruelty to the poor is a kind of cruelty to animals. They never feel that it is injustice to equals; nay, it is treachery to comrades.
–G. K. Chesterton.

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Fiction:Taking Chances on Lost Men (2)

William Weldon sobers at the prospect of Thankful Crenshaw spending the night after her SURPRISE VISIT

“I’ll just wash my face at least,” Thankful said, moving toward the wash basin in William’s filthy room above the saloon.

“Let me go fetch fresh water.” William grabbed the basin before she could see the contents. He took a while to scrub it clean in the yard near the water barrel. The saloon keeper had pity on him so William brought back a lemonade drink, on credit, for Thankful and found her sifting through the drawings and maps he had hidden.

“Thankful, those are nothing. Please, take this drink.”

She glanced up at William with her big eyes but wasn’t listening. “Willy, when did you get so good at people?”

“Thankful, you’ve come all this way to snoop? Let me have those back. The colors are off. My paints aren’t very good.”

“They’re wonderful. Will you sell them?”

William tried to pry them away from her. “I do sell some to magazines. Now let me have them.”

“So why were they crumpled behind a table? Aren’t you afraid of ruining them? And look at this lovely map—what’s it for?”

“Oh, that was just something Captain Bourke wanted from me, but it’s too late now.”

“You mean the officer who invited you here asked for something and you didn’t deliver it?” Thankful shook her head and clicked her tongue at him with deep concern. “What will that say about you?”

“Hey, I don’t give a damn what it says about me! And what business is it of yours? Are you sure my parents didn’t send you?”

“No one sends me anywhere, Mr. William Weldon. I’m surprised at you. Drinking in the morning and leaving promises undone. That’s not the Willy I know.”

“First off, it’s almost 12 o’clock and a man can drink when he wants to.”

“A man finishes his work first.”

“I have finished my work! It’s not a regular thing . . .”

“Maybe it would be if you gave in your assignments on time.”

William scratched his head again, trying to hold his temper. “You’re not my teacher! That stupid map took me weeks and it was never right—and I thought—I should check the place names again and well, it just didn’t get done. The army has its own cartographers, anyhow.”

“You’re all rough around the edges now, William, but I know you’re just afraid Mr. Bourke won’t like it much. I’ll take it to him.”

William pulled it from Thankful with force this time. “Bourke isn’t here at the moment, and he’s less than happy with me over some foolish things.”

“Oh, so you were thrown from the army like your poor father?”

“My father wasn’t thrown from the army—though he should have been. I was NEVER in the army, you remember. Only for a visit. No one wanted to know me so . . . say, what are you smiling about?”

“You paint yourself as a right and true martyr. It tickles me.”

William glared at her. “How long have you been here? It feels like years and I’ve got— “

“A headache, I know. I know you better than you think, Willy,” Thankful laughed in adorable smugness.

“It’s Bill, I told you,” William said admiring her.

Thankful shook her head and went back to perusing the drawings and came upon a landscape. It was the prairie after a storm in late summer.

“I did that on the way out—for my father.”

“Why didn’t you send it? I don’t know much about real art, but it’s lovely and melancholy all the same.”

“So you think of it as real art?” William asked.

“Why, of course! Not like those awful paintings of bowls of peaches Mama buys up. Sometimes I feel I’ve grown up in a rotten fruit market.”

William nodded with a grin, remembering how his father used to make fun of the still life paintings at the Crenshaw home, but then his father knew nothing of art.

“Willy, your father would love this, I bet.”

“No, it’s too sad, and he likes to be happy all the time now,” William said, mocking his father’s tone.

“Is that a bad thing?” Thankful continued to admire the drawings until she found the nude prostitutes in acrobatic positions.

“William Weldon, so this is why you move to town? To frolic with filthy whores? I am so ashamed of you! What would everyone at home say? You’ve turned so bad. And why would you let me see these horrible drawings?”

“I didn’t! You took them. You Crenshaws try to run other people’s lives. I thought I had escaped that. How did you find me anyway?”

“Your father, he told me when I asked.

“He knew you were coming?”

“No, of course not, you scalawag. I told him I’d write you now and again so you wouldn’t be lonely.”

“I’m not lonely. I have friends enough,” William replied rubbing his scruffy chin.

“You just told me that no one liked you—unless you consider low women with their legs spread . . .”

“Thankful, don’t talk like that!”

She laughed. “I’ve had brothers to educate me. I’ve seen a woman’s body—I have one, you know.”

William pulled the papers away from her and tore them apart. “I don’t want to hear this. This whole day has me on nerve’s end.”

Excerpted from WEARY OF RUNNING. Read more about Buck Crenshaw and his misadventures when you buy the book today!

“The second installment in The Tenafly Road Series definitely did not disappoint. With the introduction of new characters and the return of familiar ones, Weary of Running made for an exciting read. The protagonist, Thankful, is the real highlight of the novel. She consistently makes very poor decisions but in the end, you can understand why she has made every last one of them. The story ranges from love and romance to questions of faith and morality. It does all this without being preachy and explores many angles of different aspects of life. This is one of the best books I have read in a long time.” Amazon Review

“Buck Crenshaw is my favorite dysfunctional lovable character.”






















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