My Antagonist by Shelley Thrasher

The Stormby Shelley Thrasher
The Storm
by Shelley Thrasher

Oh my goodness, check out who stopped by! The one and only Shelley Thrasher! A little history for those of you who don’t know Shelley. She is an editor with Bold Strokes Books, specifically, she is MY editor! Shelley is delightful, yes I say DELIGHTFUL to work with, so I am thrilled to see the release of her first novel, The Storm. So, because Shelley is a giant ball of wonderfulness, y’all should check out her website HERE. Or, if you’re opposed to websites for some reason, visit her on facebook HERE. Or go to her BSB author page HERE and buy the book!

To further confirm her awesomeness, Shelley is giving away a copy of The Storm during the Holiday Hootenanny! Details HERE.

For now, though, here’s a nice little blog and an excerpt to tide you over!

My Antagonist

by Shelley Thrasher

I wrote The Storm, which will be available this month, partly to memorialize the author of this 1873 letter, excerpted below.

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Dear Husband,

I have been quite lonely all day. I haven’t had one letter since you left for Texas three weeks ago. I expected to hear you was sick or dead. I do wish you was at home.

I have sold out very near everything except the place. I think I have sold everything tolerably well except the stove. I let it go at twenty five dollars. The shotes are doing finely. I got some corn for them yesterday.

Mother wrote to us to go back to Georgia. She said we could do as well there as anywhere.

Well, I will close as it is 8 o’clock and I feel sorter sleepy. I would be so glad if you was here tonight.

As ever,

Jo

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At this point, Jo was living in northern Louisiana, where she and her husband had invested in a cotton textile mill, but it was unsuccessful. So her husband had left her with their four young children—all less than six years old—and traveled to East Texas to ready a place for his family on the 190 acres his father deeded him. His parents and fourteen other families had migrated there from Georgia not long after the Civil War ended.

Jo and the four kids finally made it to East Texas, where she gave birth to three more. Then her husband died unexpectedly in 1879. By 1918, when The Storm begins, Jo is seventy and has outlived all but two of her children. Her farm now consists of about a thousand acres, so obviously she’s managed her property and finances as well as she did when she sold their belongings back in Louisiana.

Here’s a passage from The Storm to illustrate how I envision Jo Russell at seventy. James is her only remaining son and Calvin was her husband.

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The preacher had polished off most of the chicken and dressing, and Mrs. Russell was resting on the front porch with the men. She hoped he wouldn’t stay more than an hour or so because she needed to put on her old shoes and walk the place, like she did every Sunday. She had to decide what James needed to plow and plant this spring. If she didn’t write out the weekly schedule, he’d fool around and forget to do something important. He never had got the hang of planning.

She spit off the side of the porch, then wiped her mouth with a blue bandanna. Snuff calmed her down and gave her a lift at the same time.

Her front yard looked mighty fine. She swept it every day with a brush broom and pulled any sprig of grass or weeds that dared stick their head up. She’d built her prized flowerbed full of daffodils and jonquils out of an old wagon wheel. Had to keep the place looking good so the neighbors wouldn’t talk. Her kids and grandkids used to climb the fence and splinter the railings, so she’d whittled the sharp pickets herself. She could see for miles, but her fence kept stray dogs and strangers out. Everybody admired her big house up on this hill.

She pulled a tin canister from her pocket, pinched out another dip of snuff, and spread it under her lower lip with an elm twig. Then she chewed the stick to keep it nice and soft.

Staring up at the big lazy clouds, she sighed. It was sure was good to be here, safe in her white wooden house that James built from the ground up eighteen years ago. When he finished, he hung his carpenter’s apron on a nail in the attic and wouldn’t even hammer together a chicken coop now. Musta been a heap of work.

Compared to the log cabin she and Calvin built when they got here from Georgia, this was a mansion. To think she’d lived in that cabin for nigh on thirty years. Yes, sir, she couldn’t imagine wanting a better place than this.

If only Calvin was here, rocking beside her. She could barely remember what his hand felt like on her cheek. Come to think of it, she’d trade her fine house for their log cabin quick as a wink if she could have him back.

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Mrs. Russell, a minor character in The Storm, is important because she’s the antagonist who considers herself a cut above everyone else. She has an opinion about everyone and everything, and she isn’t afraid to express herself. In fact, she reminds me of the evil queen in the current TV series Once Upon a Time in that she’s powerful and keeps the action going. She’s jealous, spiteful, and conniving, yet very human. She antagonizes everyone, including herself.

As I created The Storm some of her dialect surprised me, such as when she expresses satisfaction with a cup of coffee by saying, “That’s the ticket.” I never remember hearing that phrase, but somehow I could hear her saying it as I scribbled down her words. I’d never come across it before and have only recently learned that it was a common expression during the 1800s. Though I never knew her, I seemed to channel much of her speech as I wrote, which was an exhilarating experience.

You see, Mrs. Russell was my great-grandmother, and the most satisfying comment I’ve had about The Storm to date was when my mother recently remarked, “You’ve created Grandma exactly as I remember her.”

As I said earlier, I wanted to preserve her memory, so I hope you enjoy getting to know her and my other characters.

4 comments

    • Hey, Jove. This grandmother character is far from perfect and would have been something else to live with. I’ve heard stories about her all my life. She was admired but feared.

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