Coming of Age: it always involves a good story
Cherry Winche Creek lies deep
in the Ten Mile country of western Louisiana.
Our new novel, As the Crow Flies, begins when the drifting
Cotton family’s wagon breaks down at the creek.
Sometimes you write a book.
And sometimes it writes itself.
Often, you start out as the author, and then a character takes the pen, pencil, or laptop and makes it his (or her) own story.
That’s what’s happened with my latest novel, As the Crow Flies. It was hijacked by a spunky drifting teen named Missouri Cotton.
One of her mentors, Joe Moore, says that Missouri has an overdose of what he calls “moxie.”
I’ll let you read Missouri’s story and define moxie as you see it.
Another friend, Unk Dyal, doubts if she can be tamed by any man.
But a dying woman named Eliza sees the good heart that lurks beneath Missouri’s rough exterior.
As the Crow Flies is now out of my hands, as well as Missouri’s.* We’ve both told our story, for better or worse.
Now, it’s in the hands of readers like you.
Many of you buy everything I read. I can depend on you to trust that I’ll write a good story that you’ll want to read. I’m humbled by this and thank you.
However, the real mark of a novel is if it has legs. If word of mouth from faithful readers spreads to new readers who then tell others, and those tell still others.
No one can predict whether that will happen with any book. Just ask the big publishers. They print many more duds than jewels.
We’ll see where “The Crow” (my shorthand name for the book) flies to. Your W.O.M. (Word of Mouth) can help it fly far and wide. I’m doing my dead level best to publicize it, speak about it, hand out bookmarks to every stranger I encounter, and look for any and every opportunity to share about this book.
But the real result of where it goes is up to you, the reader.
You can order your copy here.
*I’ll tell you from the start that Missouri Cotton is completely fictional. I chose her to tell the story of the Westport Fight from a neutral stance.
Coming of Age
I titled this blog post, “Coming of Age” because that is what Missouri’s story is about. She tells it from the day she crosses the Calcasieu River in late 1881 as a confused girl until the book ends with her as a woman, still slightly confused and shaky on her feet, at the Sabine River and Texas border.
Missouri’s journey between the rivers, which the book encompasses, covers about a year.
But the real journey, as the best journeys always are, is on the inside. Missouri is seeking to “rise above her raising.” It’s an age-old concept that fictional characters, books, and real people have grappled with for ages.
She’s seeking redemption.
Missouri is looking for reconstruction. Not the political kind that has gripped Louisiana in the post-Civil War years, but a reconstruction of the soul. An answer to the question: can a person really change?
Westport and Sugartown
The first half of the book occurs in a place that no longer exists: Westport, Louisiana. Some older maps will list it. Most don’t. Westport was the location of the Hatch and Moore Store on the Sugartown Road, also known as the Confederate Military Road.
The Westport Store, ran by Joe Moore, was the only establishment between where No Man’s Land began (at Hineston on the Calcasieu) and the frontier town of Sugartown. It was named after the hometown of my 3x grandfather, Joe Moore, who came from Westport/County Mayo, Ireland as a young stowaway. It was only in operation for a few years but was the location of a central part of As the Crow Flies, a bloody event called the Westport Fight.
The store was only in operation for a few years but it serves the location of a central part of As the Crow Flies, a bloody event called the Westport Fight.
After the fight, the “Outsiders” were driven out by the locals, known as “Redbones” or “Ten Milers.” The Westport Store and its outbuildings were burned.
For one of the few times in American history, a native population evicted the invaders. That’s one of my reasons to keep the Westport Fight alive. The underdogs won. Even though my family, the Moore’s, were driven out and their store torched, I want the story kept alive.
There are only two written accounts of the event. Both written from the Outsider’s perspective. You can read one account here as well as a newspaper article about the Westport Fight. Next week, I’ll share a recently discovered Westport Fight account from the McNeese Archives.
The second half of As the Crow Flies takes place in Sugartown, a once thriving village that featured schools, hotels, churches, a lodge, and a boarding school. Today, Sugartown is sadly a ghost town. No stores, commerce, or growth. It’s where most of my Iles and Moore kin are buried, although not one single member of my family lives there now. In fact, hardly anyone lives even near the once-bustling crossroads. Part of my writing “The Crow” was to recreate and remind folks of what Sugartown once was.
I really believe you’ll enjoy As the Crow Flies.
The historian tells what happened.
The novelist tells how it felt.