Monday, December 17, 2012

South Carolina Book Tour and 12/12/12 Wedding

I guess one might say I have just completed my very first book tour. And it was fun! The inspiration was the wedding of one of my dearest friend's daughter who wanted a destination wedding. The bride and groom chose Charleston as the destination and 12/12/12 as the date. Magnolia Plantation set scene for a lovely wedding and Catherine Buck Corell was a beautiful bride.

It was logical to set up a few book events. After spending one night with my husband's brother Bill and his wife, Joyce, we set off on our adventure. Spartanburg was first on our stop. The venue was the Hub City Bookshop (which has the unique feature of being both publisher and book seller. The shop serves many purposes: Writers Project, Publisher and Book Shop encouraging writers and artists, publishing and promoting their work.

The interesting thing about this book tour thing is that you do not know who your audience will be until they appear. That night an English teacher offered extra credit to those who would go and "hear the author." The old English teacher came out in me and I thoroughly enjoyed my audience. A father who decided to come in rather than just wait in the car paid me an enormous compliment by saying he found my talk on the book extremely interesting and he bought his daughter the book. I got lots of questions about writing which pleased me no end. I asked them to let me know whether they thought the book appropriate for a young adult audience. My publisher had once considered marketing Swimming with Serpents as young adult because of the age of the hero and heroine.

Tuesday took us to Greenville and a luncheon event at Twigs hosted by Fiction Addiction and Jill Hendrix. Jill's father Jim McPherson is an author who has written a novel based on his ancestor Penelope who came to America as one of the early settlers of New Amsterdam. That novel has proved interesting to me because of the genealogical connections to my own ancestors (Newkirks and Slechts) who settled in New Amsterdam. Sitting at my table was an old Dothan connection, Cathy Roberts, who once lived in Dothan and served at one time as President of the Dothan Service League. Though she still has family in Dothan, Cathy and her husband have moved to Greenville where she has become a book blogger! is where you will find her.

Wednesday was wedding day so we took the day off from book events and just enjoyed Charleston. Charleston is understandably renowned for food. We started off at Toast ( where I had the Eggs Meeting Street, fried green tomatoes topped with a crabcake, poached egg and covered with remoulade sauce. Fantastic!

For lunch we had the very best she crab soup ever at 82 across the street from the Mills House where we stayed.

Friday was Blue Bicycle night (http://blue where we not only got to see Catherine Ford Fancher's daughter Crystal (only a year and a half away from completing medical school in Charleston) but we got to see old friends Bob and Frank Hardie and meet, for the first time,  Bob's wife, Gail. Bob spotted the note Crystal left about her cousin's (on the other side of the family) restaurant, Carter's Kitchen. Article in the Post and Courier:  ( The note caught Bob's eye because he lives in Mount Pleasant only blocks from the restaurant. So, we followed Bob and Gail to Carter's Kitchen and then followed Frank back downtown where he lives with his wife (unfortunately busy that night) in a condo on the water. Retirement is looking good on these guys.

The book events have many benefits beyond the actual book sales. I enjoy people. We met lots of new people and rekindled old friendships. Couldn't have had a more successful week! 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Looking a lot like Christmas

Well, It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Today my daughter remembered the story I wrote about the Christmas Elf named Alliwishus. She asked if I had sent it off lately because she thinks it is a super story that others, outside our family, would enjoy as well. It is the story my mother told me about an elf she met on the battle field of France during WWII. She was a nurse on a hospital train on the way to the Battle of the Bulge. I told her I had sent it off to an agent and would continue sending it. It meant a lot to me that she remembered that story.

Alliwishus looks a lot like this elf sitting in our tree. That's where he listens to the prayers of those whom the Master has entrusted to his charge -- in the tree outside their bedroom windows.  That's what my mama told me.

We're having lots of fun with the grandchildren. George, our oldest grandson, thought he needed a tree.

I've been traveling a lot with a great schedule of events. Kathie Bennett of Magic Time Literary Agency has been my greatest asset -- my publicist.  While you always hope for a good crowd at your event, Kathie makes the point that getting your name and your book before the public is always a major reason for participating wherever you might go. At SIBA I was told of one author who attended an event where only 2 people showed up. He took them out for supper.

This is the lineup. If you're nearby, please come!

SIBA Panel by Invitation

Book Launch for Swimming with Serpents Speaker

Ladies Auxilliary St. Andrews Bay Yacht Club Speaker

Books Alive Local Authors Keynote

Public Radio Guest

PC Writers Guild Keynote

Supply Store U of A Auburn/Alabama Book Signing

Beach Library Bag Lunch Author event Keynote

Hub city Books Book Signing

Fiction Addiction Keynote

Blue Bicycle Book Signing

Something's Cookin' Book Signing

Bay Point Woman's Club Keynote

Wilcox County Historical Society Keynote

Panama City Genealogical society Keynote

Chatauqua Faculty Speaker

Litchfield Books Keynote

Alabama Historical Society Member

Southern Kentucky Festival Panel by Invitation

Daughters of the American Revolution Speaker

South Carolina Book Festival Panel by Invitation

Florida Historical society Member

Georgia historical Society Member

Historical Novel Society Panel by Invitation

NEST OF VIPERS IS RELEASED Events to be announced 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

An Old Man's Prayer

Mattie Lee Martin taught me many things. She was my dearest friend for many years. She was my mentor and my teacher. I did not see the color of her skin. To me she was love.

So, when I became a teacher, I saw no difference between my black children and my white children. What I saw was many children who could not read. That motivated me to get into politics and run for the school board.

Because I did so, I was privileged to view the power of simple faith.

My husband and I both come from privileged homes. When I ventured into politics driven by what I had seen in my classes, we were told that white politicians were encouraged to go into the Black community to attend the prayer breakfast that rotated from church to church. We did so and were warmly welcomed.

My husband and I are still moved by the prayer that morning. An old white-haired gentleman, wearing a well-worn, shiny black suit, cane hanging on the back of his chair, folded his calloused hands and closed his cloudy eyes. "Lord," he said. "Thank you that I opened my eyes this morning. Thank you that I could see this beautiful world. Thank you that I could sit up. Thank you that I could put my feets to the floor. Thank you that I had shoes to put on my feets. Thank you that I could stand. Thank you that I have warm clothes to wear here to your house. Thank you that I have food to eat. And friends to eat it with. Thank you for Jesus. Amen."

Sometimes it is a good thing to be called to recall what is really important. That prayer puts everything into perspective.

By the way, I lost. But I still benefit from having run, because I will never forget the lesson taught me in that church.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

John Wesley on Elections

It was All Saints Sunday at the Methodist church today. In the bulletin, Pastor Jim Sanders reminded us: "John Wesley wrote in his journal on Thursday, Oct. 6, 1774: I met those of our society who had votes in the ensuing election, and advised them, 1. To vote, without fee or reward, for the person they judged most worthy 2. To speak no evil of the person they voted against 3. And, to take care that their spirits were not sharpened against those that voted on the other side."

I am afraid that as the result of some actions and words these days our Lord would say, "I never knew you," as the result of the venom and vituperation spewed by folks who call themselves by His name. I know the first thing I learned in my Presbyterian catechism was "God is Love." Sadly, that is something that seems sorely missing in politics today. Unfortunately, our political face is often the only witness some folks have of religion.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

William Augustus Bowles

William Augustus Bowles
If I were to cast my novel, Swimming with Serpents, Alec Baldwin would play William Augustus Bowles. Bowles is a very good example of how we just do not know when we begin life how or where our lives will wind up. Bowles began his life in a home of privilege in Maryland. One of his descendants, Dale Cox, writes about him on his website:

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Books Alive! Panama City

Sharman Burson Ramsey
  I was privileged to be asked to speak to this group of writers on the process of getting published focusing on publication by a university press. It was a fun event. Great bunch of folks. I will be speaking at their monthly meeting next month focusing on technology and social networking.

 Undercurrents: Connect with authors at Books Alive!

Contributed Photo
Published: Wednesday, October 10, 2012 at 16:33 PM.
PANAMACITY— Sharman Burson Ramsey will be a keynote speaker at the Books Alive! Local Authors event Saturday at the Bay County Public Library.
I have a friend in common with Sharman (her publicist, Kathie Bennett, daughter of Gerry and the late Barbara Clemons), but I was intrigued by her work because she also writes about the area my wife’s people are from — and actually knows something of the area’s genealogy.
“I’m always glad to find new connections and how they all fit together,” she said during a phone conversation this week.
“Connection” is a recurring theme. Her talk on Saturday, “Pit to Pinnacle: The Path to Publication,” will focus on the importance of networking for success in publishing.
“There’s a lot of pitfalls you can go through in the publishing process,” she said. “How you make connections and how you network are so critical to getting out there.”
Sharman credits some of her success to advice she got — including the name of an editor who was looking for her kind of book — by meeting Karen Spears Zacharias and other Books Alive authors.
“We all have our bucket list, and you want to get published so badly,” she said. “But then you get there and there’s another pinnacle you have to climb. … There is so much politics that goes on, even just marketing a book.”
Ramsey is a former radio host, freelance writer and adjunct professor who divides her time between Dothan, Ala., and Panama City. She writes about Southern culture, manners, etiquette and genealogy on her websites, and
Newly released from Mercer University Press, “Swimming with Serpents” is the tale of star-crossed lovers of mixed Creek and Anglo heritage caught up in the massacre at Fort Mims, Ala., in 1813 and the Red-Stick wars. The sequel, “Nest of Vipers,” set during the First Seminole War, will be out next year.
Author Janis Owens, originally from Marianna and no stranger to these shores, called the new novel “a lush plunge into a forgotten corner of American history … a vivid, detailed story that reflects the passion and brutality of the day and gives insight to the nation we have become.”
Other local authors participating in Saturday’s event will include Anne Ake, Sherry Anderson, David Angier, Carole Bailey, François-Marie Bénard, Mark Boss, Bert-May Brady, Michael Brim, Jay Furr, Bruce Gamble, Michael Lister, Judy McCarthy, Nick May, Janet   Nicolet, Pamela Peterson, Christopher Scharping, Todd Vandermolen, Linda Williamson, Greg Wilson, Marlene Womack, the Gulf Coast Woman’s Club “Heritage of Bay County, Florida” and myself.
Come out and see us, and make some connections.

Books Alive! Local:
  • What: Morning presentations and afternoon book signings by 24 local authors; free admission, open to the public
  • Where: Bay County Public Library Meeting Room, 898 W. 11th St. in Panama City
  • When: 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday
  • Schedule: 10 a.m. presentation by Sharman Burson Ramsey; 11 a.m. presentation by François-Marie Bénard; noon to 1 p.m. lunch on your own; 1-3 p.m. book sales and signings
  • Details: 522-2120 or

St. Andrew Bay Yacht Club Ladies Auxilliary

October 11, 2012

The St. Andrew Bay Yacht Club Ladies Auxilliary invited me to talk on the history leading up to Swimming with Serpents. My dear friend Kathy Swigler, an old friend from our DHS cheerleader days, came as my guest. We enjoyed visiting with June Sapp and Charmian Cretney while we waited for the food to be served and the time to arrive for the program to begin.

JoAn Gramling and June Brackin were early arrivals. James and I were scrambling to make sure the projector for the Power Point presentation worked. We had to exchange the blue cable from the projector to the computer and finally it all came together. I always arrive early to get the feel of a place and to make sure I know how to operate the equipment. I was VERY glad I did this morning.

Marty Gerde watched as I inscribed Kathy's book.

It's been a long time since our DHS cheerleader days. Lots of bucket wishes fullfilled in the meantime.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Totally unbiased review by my Dothan High School English teacher

Tommy Adkins Butterfly on Flower
I want to share with you the totally unbiased review of my novel by my Dothan High School English teacher, Julie Wauthena Nall Knowles.

My dear Sharman,
            Thank you.  I listened as you read--I was overwhelmed--had difficulty  trying not to cry!
            Good readers like you almost always do well in English and history classes. You have amassed a veritable ton of historical research for Swimming with Serpents.  I love the title and its alliteration; I've known quite a few "serpents."  This is a well-done work--of course you can write--I am incredibly proud of my student.
            I've read only a few chapters.  The "Prologue" is good writing. You effectively "catch the reader's attention" . . . sentences flow into a great hook with a "tease" to turn the page.   --You've chosen the right tone and point-of-view: third-person omniscient limited to Snow Bird; third person focused on Cade.  --How many revisions had these few pages?  Hemingway said he rewrote the last sentence of "F to A" thirty-odd times (I think)--why? "To get it right."  The snowy bird of the first paragraph connects to the death of Snowbird as the white bird watches.  And--that owl!  In literature, an owl's hoot (as you know) = trouble, + owl, Athena's bird, the goddess of war.  Yes!  You've a recognizable analogue, too: The creator of the "Dr. Quinn" TV series had to bump off her "Snow Bird," Cloud Dancing's wife, in dramatizing the plight of the Cheyenne and--to have Cloud Dancing available to fall in love with the white, lady-newspaper editor.  Surely that connection will be made by readers.
            Oh, I notice all sorts of "stuff"--even "Beauty" and "Beast"! --My "Starlight," named for one of Almanzo Wilder's horses, died on my birthday when Durwood and I were in Louisville.  --You've set a conflict between the twins: at first, Gabe is "killed"--will he become a "sacrificial" character?  Also, Gabri-el: -el = God.  Will he become a spiritual leader?  In a few pages, your narrator had me laughing!  --Any English paper making me laugh earned its "A" then-and-there. 
            Swimming with Serpents is simply superb.  (Allow me an alliteration!)  It should win some category of an award.  Congratulations!
your English teacher!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Query letter for Partyin' on the Plantation

  It is quite possible that this is the worst query letter ever written. I may well have broken every rule. I would love to hear from those who have written successful query letters and those who just might have an opinion on the book I am querying. I will try to develop a tough skin about this and learn from your critique. I Googled agents who like Southern Fiction and those that are accepting new authors for my list of potential agents. Suggestions?

Dear Ms. _____:
I would appreciate your considering representing me as my literary agent.
Partyin’ on the Plantation so intrigued my friend Cassandra King Conroy that she offered to take me to New York to go door to door to publishing houses until we found someone who was as taken with the novel as she was. Swimming with Serpents, just released, historical fiction based on the Creek Indian War, was taken by Mercer University Press about then and we set that trip aside.
Synopsis of Partyin’ on the Plantation
Picture two Southern sisters long estranged. Then the death of Dr. Sophia Palmer Ransom’s husband brings sister Dabney Palmer Rankin to their grandfather’s plantation, now owned by Sophia, a successful New Orleans cardiologist, and the two re-establish the bonds of their childhood. For the moment. Long enough to finagle their way onto the Dish It Network and become stars with their very own show, Partyin’ on the Plantation -- though they cannot cook!
Their show captures the imagination of the nation with their array of famous guest cooks, the interaction of the multicultural cast of Soul Sisters, Dabney’s quirky sense of humor, and their ingenious ideas for entertaining on the plantation. Eventually their grandmother’s garden gets replanted with a little help from the Master Gardeners in the area, inspiring individual Victory Gardens that the sisters visit and award prizes. Who knew that the Saks Fifth Avenue quality gentlemen attracted by the Mint Juleps served at the Five O-Clock Somewhere soiree presided over by the two sisters would make Dabney (now a geriatric sex symbol on the verge of having her very first novel published with Fabio on the cover!) the target of a homicidal maniac.
Plan for a series based on Partyin’ on the Plantation
Partyin’ on the Plantation is semi-Southern Gothic contemporary women’s fiction of 89,794 words humorously geared toward the post-menopausal demographic inspired by my grandfather’s plantation house in Wilcox County, Alabama. Like Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County there are many tales to be told about folks in Palmer County, Alabama. I plan a series of mysteries based on these characters to evolve from their visits to local gardens (similar to the British mysteries Rosemary and Thyme), culinary activities (Dabney pays well for Grandma’s recipes, helping those in need while meeting lots of interesting folks living and dead), Dabney’s son’s online sporting goods store, Adam Afield, and hunting business, and Dabney’s genealogy hobby.
Recommendations by well-known authors
"I was hooked from the first scene, one of the most intriguing, and funniest, I've ever read. With this rollicking novel, Sharman Ramsey shines as THE bright new star in Southern fiction.” Cassandra King, author of The Sunday Wife and Same Sweet Girls

“Sharman Ramsey writes with the full-frontal charm of a women so in love with her culture that she makes you love it more. Partyin' on the Plantation celebrates all that is wonderful in the South, past, present and future: food, friends, and family, with a spice of intrigue, a dash of history, and many pauses for laughter.” Janis Owens
I have already begun the sequel to this novel which has become a parallel plot using the situation developed in Partyin’ on the Plantation to interweave with a paranormal vision of a past life that leads to an adventure in the Mayan ruins of El Waka Peru, Guatemala, where a young man’s life lies in the balance.
I am the author of two historical novels, Swimming with Serpents, published by Mercer University Press (2012) with a contract on the sequel, Nest of Vipers, to be published by Mercer in 2013. I am a genealogist whose discovery of my Native American heritage inspired those novels. As the result of those novels, I have become a member of the faculty of the Chatauqua Assembly in DeFuniak Springs and was recently on a panel at the Southern Independent Booksellers Association.
I have degrees in Education and History from the University of Alabama and Troy University, have served as an adjunct professor and am a former radio talk show host. My website focuses on genealogy, Southern recipes, history, the Southern Monet Garden, culture, manners and etiquette and has 6000 to 8000 visitors a month.
My publicist is Kathie Bennett of Magic Time Literary Agency.
I appreciate your consideration.

At this point different agents request pages from the novel. 

Tommy Adkins art and more education on the book business

I simply must share with you the beautiful photography of Tommy Adkins. He captures the wonderful beauty of this glorious world we all share.

Next week will take me to the St. Andrews Bay Yacht Club where I will do the same program that I did for the Book Launch for the Ladies Auxilliary. Then Saturday, I will be the Keynote Speaker for the Local Writers group associated with Books Alive in Panama City. That talk will be directed toward writers.

Joe and I had an eye opening experience at Books by the Sea in downtown PC. I have mentioned before the problem of a small press getting their books into the big box stores -- Barnes and Noble and Books-A- Million. The problem is with the small press not taking returns because they lack the resources to absorb losses like the larger publishing houses who make deals with the box stores regarding placement of their books, etc. to promote sales. And then after about 90 days, those books that haven't sold are returned. The deal Books by the Sea offered just to have the books available in their store was the exact same deal that I, the author, get when I purchase books to take to festivals, book signings, etc. I thanked the man for his time and took my book away with me.

Amazon is the big gorilla now. They get a fantastic discount plus make the e version of the book available. All of this is changing the landscape of the book business. It is truly affecting the Independent Booksellers. Navigating all of the changing economics of the book business is something new and challenging.

I am now in the market for an agent to try and get a series other than the historical fiction published. I think I will post my query letter and let you all critique it, should you be so led. 


Friday, October 5, 2012

Official Book Launch

It was a book signing!
Entry Hall of the Dothan Cultural Arts Center

Ann Cotton, Director of the Dothan Cultural Arts Center
October 4, 2012

I want to thank Ann Cotton and the Board of Directors for the Dothan Cultural Arts Center for hosting the official book launch for my newly released first novel, Swimming with Serpents, historical fiction published by Mercer University Press. With a full house in the elegantly chandeliered and draped room with classy black and white tiles in fine beaux arts style, those in attendance settled in with wine and hors d’oeuvres to hear me share my passion for the people, time and place of the Creek Indian War presented in the historical novel. Sound, staging and lighting were skillfully handled giving us the best environment possible for a wonderful literary evening.
Sharman and daughter-in-law Brittany Ballard Ramsey
Friends came from all over for the evening: Lee and Carol Hanson (Oneonta), Judy and Robert Grimes (Anniston), Sheree Williams Smith (Aiken, South Carolina), Ken Sizemore, Larry and Amy Fletcher (Panama City), cousin Gene Stabler (Montgomery), Ernie and Lydia Padget (Marianna), and high school friend, Sidney Clark, (California,though not just for the Book Launch). Unfortunately, I did not get pictures of everyone!

It was a perfect.

I can hardly wait until next year when the sequel, Nest of Vipers, is released!
Amy and Larry Fletcher, and Ken Sizemore of Panama City with Sharman and Joe
Dr. Sylvia Burson Rushing, Sharman's sister with Sharman and Joel Ramsey

To all of our friends and family who attended, I humbly say you’re the best!
Robert and Judy Grimes drove to Dothan from Anniston for the event.

Around 100 friends and family filled the auditorium. Gene Stabler, cousin from Montgomery, Kay Roney, Drew Ramsey, Brittany Ramsey, Pat Renfro, and Mary Andrews.

Kenneth and Pam Bryan, Larry and Amy Fletcher
 Above: Kenneth Bryan came with wife Pam, but Sharman got a hug!
Sharman did a Power Point presentation of the people and
times leading up to the Creek Indian War.

Ellen Parks, Terri Turner and Mary Andrews
Malinda Williams Bauman  and Sharman Ramse
Pat Branch, Sharman Ramsey and Joel Ramsey
Ken Sizemore from Panama City and Gene Stabler from Montgomery
Gene Stabler, Mike and Brooke Evans, Susan Brown and Patti Andrews.

Sharee Williams Smith wins the prize for coming the farthest to attend the Book Launch -- Aiken, South Carolina!

Lydia and Ernie Padgett of Marianna, with Judy and Robert Grimes of Anniston visiting with Sylvia Burson Rushing.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Janis Owens' American Ghost

With American Ghost, Janis Owens joins the exalted ranks of Eudora Welty, Harper Lee, and Carson McCullers as a leading voice of Southern Gothic literature. With her story teller's mastery of southern dialect she creates characters as true as the North star and a plot as potent as a fine Mint Julep. Owens probes our southern soul, picks at the scabs of our collective guilt, and leaves you reeling long after the final page.

Sharman Burson Ramsey, author of Swimming with Serpents

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

B and N and Books-A-Million

The marketing of novels is big business. I have discovered that it doesn't matter if your novel is the best since To Kill a Mockingbird. What does matter is whether your publisher will accept a return on the books not sold. Now, that gets to be a big problem for university presses that operate on a shoestring budget. While they produce a quality hard back book, they cannot afford the budget of the big publishers. 

Today I visited Barnes and Noble and Books-A-Million just to introduce the managers of both big box stores to my novel. Swimming with Serpents is Alabama history in fiction form published by a university press with an excellent reputation. One would think it would be included in the local section of a book store of Dothan, Alabama, the home of the author, even if it were not carried elsewhere. Unfortunately, that is not the case. At Barnes and Noble, I encountered a very nice young woman manager who informed me that they could order the book through the store but only one copy at a time. They could not keep any on the shelf even though it should be included in the local history section. Yet the the book can be ordered through the Barnes and Noble website already at a great discount. She was not very encouraging.

However, at the Books-A-Million store I met with an enthusiastic new manager and a store clerk who wanted to know more about the book. The manager took my name and number so that he could call me back after discussing how to handle books by local authors who are published by smaller presses. Whether they carry the book or not, I left with a fondness for that store simply because the people were so nice and encouraging! They acted like they really WANTED to carry the book even if their corporate policy prohibited it. 

I now understand why the Southern Independent Booksellers Association is such an important meeting for publishers and authors. It is a lot like getting your song on the radio. Unless someone believes in you enough to carry your book and tell folks who like that type of book about it, your novel will die a lonely death, unless it catches on with Amazon and you have an internet sensation.

There is only one independent book store in Dothan that I am aware of. Theressa  Nynan at the Little Red House Book Store on Oates Street acted excited for me about the book. She has been hearing about it for years as I have been a regular at her store (before I had to hibernate to write the book). She has ordered the books through Ingram the distributor who Mercer has associated to distribute their books throughout the nation and wants to host a book signing. 

Self-published books have an even harder time.

There's a learning curve about the writing business. I am still on the first rung.

Monday, September 17, 2012

But, will they like it?

It has been my habit to censor every word when I write. But, after fifteen years of reading about the era and the people of the Creek Indian War, I let the images in my mind dictate the words on the page. I told it as I saw it. This was a tumultuous time, wild and angry. There was little sweet and gentle about it. In order to create the appropriate sense of danger, those images were necessary. And though Swimming with Serpents is set against the backdrop of the Creek Indian War. It is told not from a warriors' perspective but from the perspective of the people who endured that time. I wanted their story to be real and their tale to be told as honestly as I could conceive of the lives of these individuals who lived in my mind. 

Perhaps there is a bit too much history in the beginning. But building a foundation for a series of books takes time. I hope you, the readers of Swimming with Serpents, will settle in with your introduction to the people who were the major players of these events, absorb (or become acquainted with in order to refer back to) the genealogy of those who fought this war, and let Cade and Lyssa tell you their story. On my website,, you will find these genealogies listed along with pictures and brief histories of the major characters. Many of them play a part in the sequels to this novel. In addition, you will find a Readers Guide to the novel to provoke thought on the causes of the Creek Indian War which might actually be causes of war in today's world: culture clash, religion, economics. 

Is the book appropriate for Young Adult readers? A friend who was a former high school librarian did not have alarm bells go off when she read the book. Are the topics appropriate? Courage, love, war, commitment, family and redemption? This is a history of our country that hasn't been told and yet, if our DNA is any clue, it is a story many of us harbor in our past that has been kept secret. This was indeed a secret of my own family. Exposing young readers to these ideas must be a decision between parents and teachers. 

"To the victor belongs spoils," said New York senator William Marcy of Andrew Jackson's presidential victory of 1828. But not just the spoils, the victor owns the story that will be told. I hope to redeem the story for the Native Americans who lost  25,000,000 acres of land to Andrew Jackson in the treaty of Fort Jackson.  That is a large part of Alabama, the state of my birth, a state in which my roots are generations deep.  This story is mine  -- and  yours.  I am constantly reminded that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

Swimming with Serpents sets the scene for the sequel which is to be released next year, Nest of Vipers, which follows survivors of the Creek Indian War into Spanish Florida and the First Seminole War. 

Why did I write these books? How could I not? The history in these books is real. I wanted to put flesh and blood on the facts and make this era come alive for my readers. These people deserved to have their tale told. I hope they come alive for you as they have for me.

Sharman Burson Ramsey
September 17, 2012 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Chatauqua and the mystery of the Squirrell King's daughter

I have been invited to join the faculty for the Florida Chatauqua Assembly. This is quite an honor and I look forward to making a presentation on
Saturday, January 26, 2013 at 1:45 p.m. at the charming DeFuniak Springs Library. But, I will be there from Wednesday until Sunday selling my books. Joe and I are on an adventure -- into the world of books, assemblies, festivals, and speaking engagements. We will meet lots of new people and learn much along the way, I am sure. Perhaps they will be North Florida cousins!

Though Benjamin and Vashti Vann Jernigan first settled in the Burnt Corn Springs area and then near Fort Crawford, they eventually moved down to the Milton, Florida area where Benjamin started a saw mill. Vashti died of yellow fever in 1820 and is buried in Florida Town, Florida. I want to share with you a letter that a cousin of mine received because I think the grave he stumbled upon was that of my 5th great grandmother, the mother of Vashti Vann, Mary King, daughter of the Squirrel King of the Chickasaw of whom Edward Cashin writes in Guardians of the Valley. My relatives in North Florida may need to know this. I was told of this grave by another relative who lives in North Carolina. I did not remember this note until just recently, so it is obviously important.
Dear ___________:
I am sharing this with you because I believe you can understand the experiences I am about to describe. I must admit, the names could be biased but I don't think so.
I have always been drawn to the country and lands in this section of Southern Alabama. Many times I have traveled through the towns and backwoods roads while experiencing a kind of unexplained spiritual awe and connection to everything I encountered in the countryside and landscape. I would wonder myself at times why I was drawn to these places, these woodlands. I began by traveling through the Blackwater Forest up the Blackwater, Conecuh and Yellow rivers to the lands around Florala, Andalusia, Opp, Elba, and Troy. My uncle and I traveled these roads many, many years ago buying chickens from country farmers for his chicken business. My journeys moved ever westward and northward through Brewton, Flomaton, Atmore, McCullouch, Uria, Frisco City and Monroville. I traveled up the Alabama River through Bay Manette, Stockton, Tensaw, Little River, Chrysler, Manistee, and Perdue Hill, always experiencing a reverence and awe for the country I was exploring. From Perdue Hill I crossed to the west bank of the Alabama through Claiborne to the Old Line Road. I went up the Old Line Road through Vashti, Lower Peach Tree, Sunny South, and on through Miller's Ferry Lock and Dam to Camden. On the Old Line Road I met a stranger, who really wasn't a stranger after all, as we squatted together and drew maps on the ground of old places long forgotten, as we stood and experienced a spiritual bonding, a spiritual blessing. We became the brothers all men should strive so hard to become in a profound silence that words were never used to explain. Up the Little Escambia and Burnt Corn Creeks I traveled, intersecting the Old Stage Coach Road Five through Burnt Corn, Pine Orchard and Beatrice. I lived in Montgomery at one time, and traveled up through Wetumpka, Talladega, Sylacauga, and Lake Martin, through Birmingham, Gardendale, Culman and Welty. I could go on and on, but the story is now clear to me after searching through my ancestry on the Jernigan line. I was revisiting the lands of my ancestors, and experiencing the profound spiritual connection they had to their world in their time. I knew nothing of my connection to the Tombigbee, Alabama, Conecuh, and Coosa rivers, but I was drawn there to view and feel the awe of the land. My family related no indication of this connection, though our Indian heritage was often discussed. My Grandmother Jernigan shared with us only the Cherokee connection to our family through the Vann family of the Carolinas and Georgia. John Guidy visited our home when I was a child, asking about Creek Indian connections. We sat at the old oak table, which now sits in my home, and she explained what she knew about our Indian connections, always asserting that our Indian lineage was Cherokee through Vashti Vann. She related to us Indian stories of long ago. Stories about the Red Headed Vashti Vann and her connections to Chiefs of the Cherokee Nation.
Now I come to the reason I have written you this somewhat emotional account. I had surmised before I knew from you, or knew at all, that Benjamin Jernigan had been at Florida Town. I had thought about this possibility. When you related to me all of the activities of Benjamin Jernigan, I was taken aback and amazed that I had been all around his pursuits all of my life and never knew it. After visiting, and being moved by Joseph Jefferson's grave site off Martin Road, I began trying to recollect a similar grave site I had seen and reported to my family when I was a child. The effort to recollect its' location was persistent in my consciousness. I had seen it somewhere off the beaten path in a wooded area. I could not remember the incident clear enough to remember the significance or the details. I just knew I had seen a burial site like this and tried to remember where it was, but I could not. The other night, however, as I lay in bed in light sleep, a moving vision came to me. I saw a headstone and on the headstone were names. The name in scripted at the top moved off the marker into a cloud and I could vaguely make it out. This experience triggered some of my memory and the next morning, I was able to recollect some of the vague memories.
When I went to Florida Town that day I mentioned to you, I had no thought about a particular cemetery. I just thought I would look in the nearest one. When I asked the older resident, they directed me to the site. I thought I had never seen it before. It was just a plot of bushes and trees sandwiched between two home sites. I asked the gentleman if anyone had any knowledge about the people who were buried there. He said some people that had first come there might, but he did not. I asked him if there were markers and headstones. He said yes, when he first came there. I asked him if he had read, or had any knowledge of what they said. He said no, he did not recollect anything that might have been written on them. I asked about steel fencing or steel posts and raised brick graves. He confirmed pieces of steel fence and steel markers or posts in the ground.
At first I was dumbfounded by this dream, where I had seen this headstone, and wondered how it could possibly be me that had seen it, but then as I began my morning activities that morning, ever dwelling on the things I had seen, it came to me. When I was a child of about ten years of age, my Presbyterian Bible School took us to Florida Town to swim in the pool which was there. As we played around the old hotel and dance hall, we were directed by some adults, I believe, to and old grave site that lay obscured in the woods. We walked up the road we came in on for a short distance, and then spread out over a wooded ridge looking for the site. The group I was with never found the site and decided to return back to the old hotel, but I persisted and continued to search the wooded ridge. I came upon a steel fenced enclosure. The steel fence is vague in my memory, but it seemed to rise eight feet or more in height, surrounding a small space that contained grave sites. As I remember, it seemed difficult to enter but I did gain access. In the grave site was a raised burial marker with a headstone honoring a person of Indian ancestry. I read the marker. Isn't this remarkable?! I wondered that day if anyone had possibly read a marker in the site when I talked to the gentleman I mentioned before, not knowing at the time that it was I myself! What a startling, emotional realization that was, striking me with deep feeling. As I try hard to recollect, I know it did not mention Jernigan, Vashti, Vanns or Cherokees. I reported this to my family when I returned and they indicated it was not of our ancestry because it was not Cherokee. My sister confirms this report to my family. She vaguely remembers the incident. She is six years my senior. But guess what fragments I have been able to draw from such a dim view of so long ago. It is this for sure: The name of a person without an obvious Indian name, recognized as the daughter of an Indian Chief of a tribe of Indians, not Cherokee. As for the names, they are not certain since I have been biased by reading some names recently in my searches. I must admit to that, but in my own mind, I am sure. What comes to my mind is, believe it or not, Mary King, Daughter of Chief Squirrel King. Squirrel King is not clear but seems to be this. Succobee is also vaguely recalled. I remember being amused by the name. A tribe is given which seems to be Chickasaw. When I read the tribe name, my memory recalls a vague reference in my mind to Mobile and the town of Chickasaw. A thought as to how this was the wrong direction for our Indian ancestry arose. This may be biased, but I don't think so. The person's name was triggered in the dream. I saw it there also. That is why I was perplexed. I recognized it. I really don't know. I don't know very much anyway. I do know of stories, old stories, some vague stories possibly meant to be forgotten, told by my grandmother of individuals caught in the cultural and political turmoil existing between the tribes of Indians in the area and the white man ever encroaching on their land; Of struggles between British, French, Colonists and Indians, Of Upper Creek and Lower Creek, Of Chickasaw and Choctaw, Of Shawnee and Cherokee, Of divided loyalties, Of breed and mixed breed, Of love and hate, Of power politics, greed and destroyed lives. Of promises and broken promises, Of consequence and loyalty. Stories of people being responsible for the knowledge Andrew Jackson and other white men had of Indian strongholds, and their banishment from the lands of their people. Banishment to lie, even in death, removed from the people of their heartbeat. "This is no Indian Cemetery", a man told a researcher. "Indians don't bury their people like this." "There are no Indians buried here." "Well then," the researcher said, "I don't need to look here." This Indian lying in this cemetery was buried honorably by a white man with no mention of Vann. I can, if no one else can, guess why. But it is just a guess. She could have been with her own daughter, but where is her daughter? And like I said, I don't know much, but I can attest to this though. My experiences over the years have been extraordinary, always feeling a spiritual connection but unable to distinctly describe it. It does not come from without, from the towns and villages, forests and fields though initiated by them. It comes from within because it has been written into our genome, if we could somehow understand that, written into the essence of our being, into the literal material of our physical selves, by the experiences of our ancestors who came before us.
Remember Mr. Mitchell, I have a B.S. Degree in Medical Technology, an M. ED. Degree in Educational Administration. I taught science thirty five good and successful years in the public school, and worked over forty eight years in hospital laboratories. I have tried to give back what I was given by these great families, our ancestors. I consider myself a person of science, but I know from experience that life is more than science can describe.
This cemetery needs to be preserved. I will do what I can.
Reverently Yours,
Duane Broxson
 The discovery of my own Native American heritage has given me a new perspective on history. I hope others who have ancestors who kept their heritage secret will now come forth and share their story with me. I hope to add those stories to my website so that others who wondered and could not find confirmation will do so there. There is an incomplete history of our country. The rest of the story is yet to be written. I hope to contribute to collecting those stories.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Southern Independent Booksellers Convention

This is the first time I saw my book in print!

It was amazing. I was like a pig in slop. Imagine! Books and booksellers, authors and publishers, publicists, book bloggers and Festival organizers, in addition to products sold in bookstores, all gathered in most exquisite hotel, the Waldorf Astoria in Naples, Florida. Every meal came with books. Free books. Placed directly into my eager arms by the publishers of those books. Then the authors who had written those books spoke at the event sponsored by those publishers.

I was already in hog heaven. Then they put my book into my hands. Hardback. With its own fantastic cover that is a real work of art. With that validation I could at last say, "I am a writer. An author."

I felt like Alice in Wonderland.

The Southern Independent Booksellers Convention was more than I could imagine. The adventure began auspiciously when I turned around at the check-in desk and spotted Janis Owens and Kathie Bennett (my publicist with Magic Time Literary Agency) sitting behind me. We had a few minutes to visit. Janis' book American Ghost is being published by Scribner and is a Book of the Month Club selection. She is now respected as one of the top tier of Southern writers. She and Michael Morris, another dear friend and fellow Alabaman, were to kick off the event as two of the three keynote speakers for the Friday Luncheon sponsored by Hachette Book Group. The other, Stephanie McAfee, author of Happily Ever Madder (New American Library) turned out to be as funny in person as her books are. Her first was the New York Times best seller, Diary of a Mad Fat Girl.

Janis, Kathie and I had a little time to catch up before a bus was to take us to visit the two Sunshine Booksellers stores on nearby Marco Island. The store is owned by a lovely couple with delightful British accents, Stuart and Theresa Unsworth, who hosted a wine and cheese party. While milling around waiting for the bus, my husband and I had the pleasure of making several new friends, Sami Lien, Lisa Pell and Susan May. Sami is the representative of JKL, the publicity firm that sponsored the delicious supper at a restaurant across the street from the Unsworth's bookstore! Lisa is the author of Who's Your Daddy, Baby? from Fairfax, Virginia, who reminded me so much of my Tri Delta sorority sister and roommate at the University of Alabama -Rondi Bates Turner- that we became instant friends. Rondi and Lisa are both in public relations and event planning in Washington. Lisa suggested that we do a tandem event somewhere in Fairfax, Virginia. I hope we can work that out!

Susan May is the new manager of Reed's Gum Tree Bookstore in Tupelo, Mississippi. She is one of us, girlfriends. All cotton and a yard wide as my mama used to say. Strange how you can make instant deep friendships when you meet some people. That girl has gorgeous blue eyes and a million dollar smile. But her favorite author is Jody Piccoult. She hasn't read my book yet.

We all returned quite happy on the bus and slept extremely well.

The next morning we spotted Michael Morris and his wife Melanie as soon as we got off he elevator. Michael's first book, A Place Called Wiregrass, brought him to Dothan to a Friends of the Library event several years ago. We are now planning his return to Dothan with the new book, Man in the Blue Moon. Michael continues to garner acclaim in literary circles for his rare talent as a story teller with an authentic southern voice.

Carla Cobia Conrad, a high school friend from Dothan who now lives near Naples, came and joined us for the author lunch where Michael and Janis spoke. Her visit made my day, needless to say. The books that came with lunch were a happy surprise and she went home with Janis' American Ghost, Michael's Man in the Blue Moon, and Stephanie's Happily Ever Madder

That afternoon I participated in a panel moderated by AGS Johnson, author of the award winning The Sausage Maker's Daughters. She was one of the most generous people I have ever met, giving the authors on the panel their best opportunity to shine. The others on the panel were Erika Marks (The Mermaid Collector, New American Library) and Adam English (The Saint Who Would Be Santa Claus: The True Life and Trials of Nicholas of Myra, Baylor University Press). I think the attendees enjoyed the panel. I know I did! Being invited to participate on the panel was quite an honor. And I enjoyed making a new friend in AJS Johnson when we lingered to visit after supper that evening. That Southern California girl claims to be a southerner and I will allow that she might truly have the makings. I think she will also join the Historical Novel Society and I will get to see her there at the convention next year.

We met booksellers from all over. My kind of folks. I was particularly glad to meet the folks from Bienville Books in Mobile because that is so near the site of the action in my novel, Swimming with Serpents. I know many in that area will find the genealogy in Swimming with Serpents interesting. Page and Pallette, a third generation family owned bookstore in Fairhope, Alabama, had three representatives at the convention. That's a place I am looking forward to visiting some time in the near future. I've got lots of Jernigan family and many friends living in the Mobile.

Kathie introduced me to the girls from Carrollton, Georgia, Dorothy Pitman who owns Hortons Books & Gifts, and Anita Buice who now has the most wonderful avocation as one of the premier book bloggers at She is also the founder of the Carrollton Pulpwood Queens Chapter which now has 52 members who wear tiaras for fun and meet monthly at each other’s homes to discuss  the selected book.  Kathy Patrick, the original Pulpwood Queen, holds court at her annual Girlfriend Weekend in Jefferson, Texas. An author invited to participate in that event feels like he/she is making a pilgrimage to the Court of True Readers where Kathy reigns as queen. Check it out: Now don't tell me that writers and readers don't know how to have a good time!

Judith Lafitte and her husband Tom Lowenburg are two of my favorite booksellers that I met at the convention. They renovated a 100 year old grocery store located in uptown New Orleans and turned it into an authors' favorite place to visit on a tour.  The hospitality at Octavia Books is renowned. Judith is a true descendant of Pierre Lafitte and she and I would LOVE to get a grant to do some research on those ancestors of hers. Pierre plays a role in the sequel to Swimming with Serpents, Nest of Vipers, so I was thrilled to talk with her. She is a friend I look forward to spending more time with. Google those two and see what fun they have at that bookstore!

Christina Verderosa of DeWitt, Arkansas won an author (Beth Webb Hart) at Game Night and shared her with Susan May, Lisa Pell, my husband and me. We all went for supper at Sea Salt Restaurant in Old Naples and enjoyed getting Beth to tell us about how she became a writer. Beth was one of those who actually studied writing. She entered the
Literature and Creative Writing program at Hollins College because she "yearned to study with the very professors who had taught some of my favorite authors such as Lee Smith, Jill McCorkle and Annie Dillard." She then went on to receive her MFA at Sarah Lawrence College. That is an impressive resume for an impressive writer. 

I was intrigued with Christina's journey to DeWitt, Arkansas. Christina retired from the Navy and her husband decided he wanted to buy a newspaper. Since he had followed her for so many years, Christina decided it was his turn. The newspaper in DeWitt was for sale and they decided a bit of quiet would be a good thing. She had been a very successful manager at a chain bookstore and when she moved to DeWitt she decided to open her own store. Enterprise Books on Court Square in DeWitt was the result. 

The Luncheon on Saturday was the launch of a new publishing house, Jericho. Wendy Grisham, John Grisham's sister, editor of Jericho, served as emcee. The authors of the first three imprints of that new publishing house had the opportunity to speak. I was truly moved by all the authors, Justin Lee, author of Torn, Brian McLaren, Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road? and Becca Stevens, author of Snake OilI was particularly touched by Becca Stevens commitment to making a difference to abused women. Her voice and articulation makes the problem of abuse immediate and understandable. She touches the heart when she speaks. But she doesn't just talk. She has an answer for giving purpose to those who have unfortunately been considered unemployable that is creative and positive. Communities throughout the country are coming to her for direction in emulating her program. God bless her and her mission!

It was a pleasant surprise to find someone who actually had been to Dothan, Alabama! Dr. Susan Wegmann is one of the organizers of the University of Central Florida (UCF) Book Festival. This festival is only four years old and it is already a GREAT event for authors. Susan knows the Dothan area because her children live close by in Graceville, Florida. Perhaps we can meet for lunch someday when she comes to visit!

In addition to book store owners, authors and bloggers, I also met the charming radio host and author, Shelley Rushing Tomlinson of Lake Providence, Louisiana. Her radio show All Things Southern sounds like a great place for the webmaster for Southern-style to visit!

Thank you Board Members of SIBA Jamie Fiocco (Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC), Jill Hendrix (Fiction Addiction, Greenville, South Carolina), Jeff McCord (Bound to Be Read Books, Atlanta, Georgia), Kelly Justice (Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, Virginia), Tom Lowenburg (Octavia Books, New Orleans) for throwing a fantastic convention. Accolades go to
Wanda Jewell and Nicki Leone for being the hands and brains behind the event. It looked like there was not a single hitch.

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Angst of Marketing and the Pleasure of Manners

Marketing a novel is much harder than writing it. You cannot hide behind the characters any more and must suck it up and step out front making yourself extremely vulnerable. Most writers that I know love people, have real affection and understanding for people, because one of the first attributes of a writer is creating characters readers like well enough to stick with to the end of the book. Great writers create characters we remember after we have read the last line and closed the book to go to sleep: Santiago in Earnest Hemingway's Old Man and the Sea, Jay Gatsby in F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, and the unforgettable Scarlet O'Hara, Rhett Butler and Mammy in Gone with the Wind, for example. But, creating characters on the page and interacting with them in person are two different things.

 And what if they don't like your book! Your baby! Your love child! You must now send it out into a world filled with critics. 

The Book Launch is an event filled with excitement, anticipation, and emotion. You have to have passion for the subject about which you write or you wouldn't spend the months alone with it that it takes to write it. You might compare the Book Launch to the trip to the hospital to give birth to that baby. Just like responses to a baby shower, folks have sent notes in response to the invitation

"CAN'T WAIT!!!!!" wrote friends from Anniston who are bringing friends with them.
"This is so exciting. I can hardly wait! Congrats." writes a TSUD professor friend who is bringing her husband as well.
"I definitely want an autographed copy," writes my cousin from Montgomery who plans to come. 

These folks certainly know how to make someone's day.
Another Facebook friend regretted by writing:  "Thank you for invite. Disability prevents many engagements. Will definitely get the book. Love north Florida history." What a gentlemanly regret. 
A friend from Australia wrote:  "As I live in Australia and have too many family responsibilities at the moment so am unable to travel to the USA for a book launch... But I wish
you all the best and will check it out further online as sounds like a fascinating title.

Hope your book launch is a great success."
What a sweetheart!

And then there are those that the Punchbowl people tell me have asked never to be contacted again. I have removed their email addresses from my Contact list and feel badly about cluttering their mailbox. 

I have learned something about net etiquette through this that I will write about on my Manners and Etiquette page on my website Southern-style.  Making the world a kinder, gentler, more uplifting place is such a simple thing. There's a ripple effect to good manners that spreads out into the whole wide world when someone makes us feel good about ourselves. It takes so little effort (sometimes the simple press of a button) to be kind. And that is what good manners is really all about, isn't it?