For those of you who don't know (and, if you don't, why the hell not? It's the only book I've ever had published by an actual publishing company, so throw me a bone and buy it, won't you?), "Pray" was the story of my grandfather, a three war veteran and retired Major, although much of the book was about his wife, my grandmother, and even more of the book was about the relationship between my then-girlfriend-now-wife Nicole and I as I wrote the thing.
Given how "Pray" ended, there was really only one thread available for me to follow-up -- that of our new marriage. And, honestly, if that's all I had, I doubt that I would really try writing it. After all, people get married all the time, and a large number of those people are writers, and I'd be willing to bet a decent number of them are better writers than me.
Four months before "Pray" was released, Nicole's father died. Her mother had died two and a half years earlier.
Nicole's dad knew about "Pray." He knew about it when I was writing it, when I finished it, and when Hellgate Press decided to publish it. I had shared an awful lot about my family history with him while I was writing the book.
According to two different people (one being the woman who cleaned his house every other week or so, the other being one of his cousins), Nicole's dad had taken my book to heart, so much so that he was in the process of collecting information about his family for the purpose of asking me to write a book about them.
That's a pretty big deal. Nicole's dad was all about family and the fact that he wanted me to write a book about them said a lot.
I don't know how far I would have taken this idea if it had stopped there. I am nothing if not bursting with book ideas, so getting me to write about something that wasn't my idea would be difficult.
But at this very moment I am sitting in my home office in the house that Nicole grew up in, the house that we inherited from her parents. We bought out Nicole's brother, meaning that this house cost us half price. It's in a great neighborhood in a great school district and it is going to be great for the children we will have one day. Its' a big house with a pool and our cats have a lot of space to run around.
It's a life changing gift.
And, again, I could write an entire book about this, but that doesn't make any of it particularly unique.
The bound, transcribed copy of "An Authentic Wagon Train Journal of 1853" sitting on my desk changed that.
Nicole's great great grandfather led an expedition from Indiana to California in 1853. He kept a journal about it. Nicole's great aunt transcribed it and made copies for the family. It's about a man from the Midwest taking a roundabout journey across country to his eventual home in California. And when he got here, he ended up starting a family that would grow and grow and would remember him 150 years later.
This story got a whole lot more interesting.
The journal is, as you'd imagine, pretty amazing. Historical documentation from a personal perspective usually is. There's a great deal of material in the journal, not to mention a great deal of research that will be necessary in fully explaining it. But I like that part of it; I like doing research for all the things I write, be they non-fiction or not.
I had a title for "I Pray Hardest When I'm Being Shot At" before I ever wrote a single word of it. It's a direct quote from my grandfather that was just too perfect not to use. Strangely enough, Nicole's great great grandfather, William Richard Brown, did much the same thing. There are very few instances in his journal where he emphasizes one statement above any others. But on May 4, 1853, he underlined three words: whiskey nearly out.
It's like he knew I'd end up reading his journal.
I have found myself with several threads that will, I'm fairly certain, at some point work together. But right now I'm still feeling it out. I'm still trying to cover all the things that have happened to Nicole and I since we were married. I'm still trying to make sense of this house, such an amazing gift, yet so loaded with expectations. And I'm trying to retrace the steps that William Richard Brown took from Indiana to California.
It's going to be interesting to see where it ends up. I have a sneaky suspicion that it will end up involving children.