Family stories from the Southern Missouri Ozarks, Part 2
I love early fall colors, do you?
How it all got started...
In Part 1, I shared the premise behind The Homeplace Series of stories and continued to talk about the Family Saga genre of writing and story telling, hopefully making useful and meaningful comparisons. I must add that I received some awesome feedback from readers of this first of my Hubs! Thank you, each, so much! ;-)
Here in Part 2 we want to dig a little deeper into the first novel in the series, how it came about, and the impact it has had in the development of the much larger family saga series - than was ever imaged when that first novel was conceived, or even at the time of publication.
I [William Leverne Smith, Dr. Bill (William L.) Smith, Dr. Bill, Bill] was attending the Tucson Author's Resource Center (TARC) in 1987 taking classes and attending seminars are writing, both fiction and non-fiction - trying to decide between romance novels and mystery novels as a focus (more on this, below). My wife and I operated a small business providing accounting and bookkeeping services to other small businesses - including artists, writers, small shop owners and others. Many of them had turned their 'hobby' into a business, and I had become somewhat of a specialist in this area. I even spoke to the Romance Writers of America conference being held in Tucson that year on how to response to the IRS changes that were taking place regarding writers and other 'independent contractors,' at the time. I was reading mostly mystery novels, at the time.
My wife and I were also beginning to realize that we had an interest in our family history, although at the time, it was mostly just talk… not a lot research, like would follow later. We talked about family relationships, her family, my family, families of mutual friends - we had grown up together in a small Iowa farming community, so, between us we were related by blood or marriage to about 75% or more of the 1,200 or so people there. It wasn't long before I realized this was what I really wanted to write about. But I wanted to write fiction, based on the people we knew, but well-disguised. Sound familiar?
So among other projects on which I was working, when I wasn't working, I began to create this basic family unit: parents with four children, two girls, two boys, and set them in a rural, farm setting. I did background character sketches, as I had been taught in the TARC seminars I had attended. I worked on brief 'back stories' to establish motivation for each person. My mother was still struggling to manage our family farm in Iowa, after my father had been lost to cancer, dealing with a bank management company, lawyers, and other such stuff. Miles away, I had kept getting farm magazines, trying to keep a finger in the business - at arm's length - to be supportive. One of the articles was about a 'video will' a farm widow had used. Video camera, VHS video tape, video rental stores (I had several as accounting clients) were all the rage, at the time.
Do you have fall colors this year?
"Back to the Homeplace" was born...
Thus, the basic premise of "Back to the Homeplace" was born. The widow, Mildred (McDonald) Bevins, owner of several hundreds of acres of farm land that dated back to the original white settlement in 1833, in her family, would create, with the help of her lawyer, a 'video will' that would assist her in keeping all of the land in the family, after she was gone, even though her four children were 'scattered to the wind' across the country. In order to qualify for 'an inheritance' each of them would have to commit to coming back and living on the farm property, under certain circumstances, for two full years. Do you see possible conflict here? I did, and I loved working on building this world.
Where to set the story? Although I knew Iowa farm land well, I just could not use it as a setting for fear of 'being too personal' - I suppose is the best way to state the case. We had been vacationing annually in the Southern Missouri Ozarks, especially the Branson area, since 1970, both from homes in central Iowa and from Arizona. I somehow selected a nebulous fictional fertile valley along a tributary creek west of the famous Current River in the "Southern Missouri Ozarks." This land qualified as being initially settled in 1833. I had not physically been anywhere near this region, east of Branson, so it was pure fantasy. How it has become so real, and so specific, and so 'feasible' in the years since, is another story entirely.
About the time I was beginning to pull this all together, preparing a detailed outline, filling in a lot of details, laying out some story lines and scenes for the various family members… my whole world changed. Due to changing family conditions (sound familiar?) and a chance encounter or two, my wife and I made the dramatic decision that I would re-enroll in the doctoral program at the University of Arizona - as a full-time student. We created a "five-year plan" related to running the business and earning the degree to become a college professor… and I had already had my 50th birthday. [Should be a book in there, one day, I'm sure!]
Four "five-year plans" later, approaching retirement as a very successful college professor in 2009, one of my retirement vows was to "publish that book" as a first retirement goal. "That book" had originally be written on one of the first "word-processing" computer programs ever available. Over the years, I had saved those files, over and over and over, across possibly 12-18 different programs, crossing from Mac to PC and back to Mac-related word processors.
In March of 2010, with the aid of my creative daughter, her Vision to Action Publishing company, and Amazon's new CreateSpace process, "Back to the Homeplace," was published and available on Amazon and in Kindle edition.
Having retired to live in a little cabin outside Branson in June 2009, I had also acquired a good selection of local history books and had been able to do additional research that has led me to "creating the family history" back to the original settlement in 1833. Thus, we now have an expansive Family Saga series of stories underway. Two novels, a novella, a third novel due out later this month, "Christmas at the Homeplace" and the fifth 'works' - an extensive short story collection related to the 1833-1876 period at "The Homplace," due for release in 2014. "The Homeplace Saga" is now in the process of being re-branded as a whole - rather than just several individual pieces. Thanks for your participation, and continuing support.
Book Trailer for "Back to the Homeplace"
"The Homeplace Saga" begins...
To that end, the primary blog has now been re-titled “The Homeplace Saga” blog. The supporting (developmental) wiki was already called: “The Homeplace Saga: Beyond the Books” which now fits in perfectly. HubPages will now become a central part of the story telling, both is background stories, like this one, and in individual short stories that a part of the overall Saga but not likely to appear in a book.
Available today in print or kindle editions
"The Homeplace Saga" now qualifies
Do you agree that "The Homeplace Saga" now qualifies for this title?
A new beginning...
Feedback is appreciated. Thank you!
Feedback and comments are appreciated. Additional involvement in this whole process is also encouraged. If you are in the movie, television or gaming production businesses, I’d love to hear from you regarding the growth of “The Homeplace Saga” stories and venues.