Saturday Snippet – Stuckey’s Gold

stuckey Gold Cover smallIn case you missed the release of Stuckey’s Gold a few weeks ago, here’s a snippet to get you movin’.  If you’ve read Stuckey’s Bridge, you’ll recognize this sheriff, although it’s been ten years since he retired. If you’ve read Stuckey’s Legacy, you’ll know exactly who they are talking about at the end. :)

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She knocked on the wooden frame of the screen door and the rattle reverberated across the screened porch. The kind face of a white-haired man with gray eyes greeted her warily.

“Yes, miss? May I help you?”

“Yes, sir. I’m looking for Sheriff Temple.” Penny gave him her biggest and brightest smile.

He narrowed his eyes at her. “Well, that would be me, young lady, and who might you be?”

“Sheriff, my name is Penelope Juzan. I wonder if I might ask you a few questions.”

“Questions about what?”

“I’m interested in a man who worked for my father in 1901. He sent my father a message that he was staying at an inn in town, and we never heard from him again. His name was Carter Stuckey.”

The sheriff froze. He stared at her for a long time and didn’t respond.

“Sheriff? Please, sir. I came all the way from Vicksburg to speak with you.”

He sighed, turned away from the door, and walked into the house. “Oh, all right. Come on in.” He didn’t open the door for her and he didn’t sound very enthusiastic.

She opened the creaking screen door and followed him into the cool darkness of the modest home. The place smelled musty. A worn and dirty flowered sofa sat in the living room to her left, along with a big chair that had seen better days long, long ago. She stood in the middle of the room and watched him light the wood-burning stove and place a black teakettle on top. He finally turned to her and gestured toward the small dining table to her right, then turned back to the stove. “Have a seat, Miss Juzan.”

Penny pulled out a wooden chair that was covered with dust. She scanned the room to see if there were any feminine touches, as the house appeared to be owned by a bachelor. She saw nothing that would suggest a woman lived there. As the former sheriff stood at the wood-burning stove, she glanced at the back of his wrinkled shirt, hoping he wouldn’t turn and see her wiping off the chair before she sat down. She held her handbag in her lap, as she wasn’t sure if he would offer her some tea or kick her out in the next few minutes.

She was concerned when he began to cough violently. He pulled a cigarette off the shelf above the stove and lit it with a match. Penny remained silent and watched him exhale smoke between coughs. As his coughing spell subsided, the teakettle whistled. The sheriff used a pot holder to grab the hot kettle, and he poured two mugs of tea. He brought them to the table and placed one in front of Penny.

“Thank you,” she said softly.

He turned back to the stove, snubbed out his cigarette on a plate, and then sat down at the table.

“Carter Stuckey, eh?”

Penny nodded and took a sip of her tea. It was extremely hot and just as weak.

Once the sheriff began telling her the story, he spoke for quite some time. She listened wordlessly, mesmerized by the tale. He told her the whole saga of the inn up on Chunky River and the innkeeper’s victims. She sat with her mouth agape at the heinous story, and was even more stunned at the way it ended.

“The innkeeper’s name was Stuckey—Thomas Stuckey.”

“Stuckey?”

“Yes, it appears he took the name of one of his victims.

“So, Carter Stuckey was one of the victims?”

“Yes, ma’am. Carter Stuckey had something in his pocket with his name on it when we uncovered his body, so we know for sure he was murdered at the inn. No one ever came looking for him, and we didn’t know who to contact about his death, so we moved his remains to Concord Cemetery and buried him in an unmarked grave.”

“Well, no one knew he was here except my father. My father died about the same time and I just recently found his journals, which led me here.”

The two sat in silence for a few minutes while Penny absorbed the gravity of the tale.

“Miss Juzan, why are you looking for Carter Stuckey now, a decade later?”

“Oh, um, well, he had something of my father’s, something of great importance. I’m afraid I didn’t know about it until a few weeks ago when I found my father’s journals.”

“And what was this item of great importance?” He wrinkled his brow at her.

“It was a trunk, sir.”

“A trunk?” The sheriff ran his fingers down his stubble and shook his head. “I don’t remember finding any trunk at the inn, but I’ll tell you who might know. The only survivor of the whole incident was a young boy. He was maybe twelve or thirteen years old at the time. He was a blond, blue-eyed boy named Levi Stuckey. The moment his father—the murderer—was hung, the boy disappeared. I searched for him for years but he’d simply vanished. If he’s still alive somewhere, he’d be about twenty-two now. Maybe he knows something about your missing trunk. Maybe he has it himself.”

She nodded. “Maybe he does.”

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stuckey Trilogy_ smalAll three books are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iTunes. Just in time for Halloween, I’ve made the entire collection available as The Complete Stuckey’s Bridge Trilogy exclusively on Kindle at Amazon.

 

 

It’s Monday! What are you reading? The Kiss of the Concubine

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I just finished…

The Kiss of the Concubine

by Judith Arnopp

 

 

 

917aga--6ZL._SL1500_Blurb from Amazon

28th January 1547.
It is almost midnight and the cream of the English nobility hold their breath as King Henry VIII prepares to face his God. As the royal physicians wring their hands and Archbishop Cranmer gallops through the frigid night, two dispossessed princesses pray for their father’s soul and a boy, soon to be king, snivels into his velvet sleeve.
Time slows, and dread settles around the royal bed, the candles dip and something stirs in the darkness … something, or someone, who has come to tell the king it is time to pay his dues.
The Kiss of the Concubine is the story of Anne Boleyn, second of Henry VIII’s queens.

 

This is the same tale of Ann Boleyn and King Henry VIII we already know, but it’s told from Anne’s point of view, which puts a unique spin on her, personally.  Looking at the story from a different angle was enjoyable, and I couldn’t put the book down. I don’t know what it is about these characters that intrigues us so, but Judith Arnopp fulfilled our desire to know more. Thoughts, yearnings, and motivations are brought to a new light as Ms. Arnopp reveals Anne’s side of the story. Bravo!

Books – 3 to be exact

Just in time for my favorite holiday – Halloween

I put together my three creepy books into one trilogy.

Stuckey’s Bridge, Stuckey’s Legacy, and Stuckey’s Gold are now available as

The Complete Stuckey’s Bridge Trilogy

Release date is October 1, 2014, but you can pre-order at Amazon if you CLICK HERE!!

Available exclusively on Kindle at Amazon

stuckey Trilogy_ smal “The Legend of Stuckey’s Bridge”
Legend has it, he was so evil, he was even thrown out of the notorious Dalton Gang. Years later, he opened an inn near the river, and on foggy nights, boatmen witnessed him pacing back and forth across the bridge, waving his lantern, offering travelers a hot meal and a soft bed. Those unfortunate enough to take him up on the hospitality were often never seen again. In 1901, the Virginia Bridge and Iron Company began rebuilding a fifty-year-old Mississippi Bridge. In the middle of the project, they began discovering bodies buried on the banks of the river. Would Old Man Stuckey get away with murder?

“Stuckey’s Legacy: The Legend Continues”
The end of Stuckey’s story left only a legacy – one of murder, treachery, and an intense game of cat and mouse. Young Levi left Mississippi with a wealth of gold, but he found his time in the world of the social elite ending quite differently than it had begun. Was she only after his money? Occasionally, it seemed to him Penny Juzan only wanted him dead. Or maybe it was the other way around.

“Stuckey’s Gold: The Curse of Lake Juzan”
With the gold finally in the hands of the Juzan family, will Penelope Juzan break the seventy-year-old curse, or will she suffer the same tragic fate as her forefathers? In the final installment of the trilogy, we may find the victims in the original tales were merely bit players in a story that is far darker and more sinister than one could imagine.

I want to publish my book, too!

As with most of my author friends, I regularly get emails and messages saying, “I want to publish my book, too. Help me.”

The first question I ask is, “Have you finished writing the book?”

The answer I always hear is, “No.”

Well, if you don’t have a finished book, then you’re wasting everyone’s time asking how to publish something that doesn’t exist.

howtopublishabookNevertheless, here’s a rundown for beginners on how to publish a book.

1. Be a writer. You will never make a dollar publishing one book. If you can whip out ten, twenty, or thirty, then you have a slim chance to actually make money. Being a writer is a full-time job. It’s a calling. It’s a passion. Is that you? If so, continue reading.

2. Once your book is written, DO NOT hire a vanity publisher. Here’s how vanity publishers work. The ad says they will publish your book, including cover design, editing, layout, and distribution for the low, low price of $495.00. In return, you get to say you’re published. Such a deal! Here’s the truth. These vanity publishers prey on authors who don’t want the hassle of doing anything but writing. The price is fine until the upsell kicks in. They charge the author for a ‘premium’ cover, ‘extra’ editing, typesetting, etc., running into the thousands of dollars. There will be tons of add ons and extras and will cost you a lot of money. They will send you the cover (you paid for) with a watermark on it so you can’t use it to promote your book. They will send you the formatted PDF version of your book (you paid for) with watermarks on every page so you can’t use it for anything except to look at on your own computer. You cannot use these items to market your book, and they are certainly not going to market your book. They will not care about your ideas for the cover design; you get stuck with what they give you. They will upsell you on international distribution. That’s ridiculous. You can do this yourself for free. They will charge your customers a ridiculous price to purchase your book, setting it so high no one will buy it. You have as much say-so in pricing as you did in the cover design. They will charge YOU a ridiculous amount of money to buy copies of YOUR OWN BOOK. They will make all the profit; you will make pennies, maybe. Keep in mind, they make all their money from you, not from the reading public, so they don’t care if you sell one book.

3. There is no harm in hiring someone to do the things you don’t know how to do, as a matter of fact, a professional is often the best choice. But if you’re going to release more than one book, you should learn to do these things yourself.

You need to know how to design two covers – one for print, one for ebook. To do this, you must understand the cover design characteristics in your genre. The first place to look is the Top 100 of your genre on Amazon or Barnes & Noble. What do they have in common? Do that. And keep your font large and simple. The postage-stamp-sized thumbnail on the web should be readable. A pretty font is not your friend. Don’t use Comic Sans, a graphic designer somewhere will hunt you down and kill you. If you would rather have a professional design your cover, call on Elite Book Design. They also create video book trailers.

You also need to know how to use Microsoft Word to format your book. Different book sellers use different formats. Check their websites at the links below for their specifications, and learn how to operate Word like you were born to do it. Start by downloading the Smashwords Style Guide. It’s a tutorial that will walk you through formatting an ebook. Set aside 4-6 hours, pack your patience and a pot of coffee, and go!

The ongoing job you need to know is how to market your book. Build a platform for your topic by creating a blog, a Twitter account, a Facebook page, a Website, LinkedIn, Goodreads, Pinterest, forums about your topic, etc. Understand that marketing is another full-time job, so narrow your platform down to a few specific sites that you can maintain regularly. Create a marketing schedule and follow it like it’s the law. No one will repeatedly visit a page that does not update and change, and no one will buy your book if they don’t know it exists.

Finally, the most important thing you need is help with your story. When it’s finished, send it to an editor for a substantive edit. Then rewrite. Then send it to some beta readers. Then rewrite again. Then send it to a copy editor. No, your cousin cannot edit your book, unless she is a professional editor, but she may be a good beta reader. Find a professional copy editor and be ready to pay them a good amount of money. If someone will edit your book for $0.10 per page, double spaced, 12 font, they are probably not a professional editor. Once your book is edited, get it proofread. Nothing drives readers away faster than errors in a book, and your reviews will reflect each and every error. Don’t ask people to spend their hard-earned money on your book and give them a shoddy product in return. One of the best editors in the business is the Edit Ninja. Be warned: the editing process is more painful than the scathing one-star review.

4. Once you’ve done all these things and released your first book, congratulation! Now, start working on your next book. It’s a never-ending process.

 

Where can I sell my book? Here is a short list of distributors.

Amazon ebooks –  www.KDP.com - This site is for Kindles on Amazon and releases around the world on all Amazon sites.

Barnes & Noble ebooks –  www.nookpress.com – This site is for Nook on Barnes & Noble.

iTunes ebooks – www.apple.com/itunes/working-itunes/sell-content/books – This site is for iBooks on iTunes.

Smashwords ebooks - www.smashwords.com – This site distributes ebooks to nearly every online retailer, but you can opt out of individual retailers, for example, if you’ve already published on KDP, Nook, or iTunes. In my opinion, Smashwords has a few glitches that are not in its control. The Sony and Kobo sites take months to update product information. Smashwords only pays quarterly and their sales/payment spreadsheet is a bit confusing. But if you have already uploaded your book to Amazon, you might as well make it available to other retailers.

Create Space print –  www.createspace.com - This is a print-on-demand book printing company (owned by Amazon) that will put your book in print and distribute to Amazon and Barnes & Noble. You may also buy copies of your book at a reduced cost.

Lulu print – www.lulu.com – This is a print-on-demand-book printing company that will distribute your book to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iBook. You may also buy copies of your book at a reduced cost.

Audible audiobooks – www.acx.com – This is an audiobook company (owned by Amazon) that creates (for a fee) and distributes audiobooks to Amazon and Audible.

(Personally, I use KDP for Kindle, CreateSpace for print, ACX for audiobooks, and Smashwords for the rest. Pay attention to KDP’s rules. They are very picky about your book being priced lower anywhere else online, and will unpublish your book in a heartbeat if they see that. KDP also encourages you to enroll in KDP Select. I don’t really understand KDP Select. This program demands your book be exclusive to Amazon, and in return, you can GIVE YOUR BOOK AWAY FOR FREE for 5 days per quarter. Why the hell would anyone want to do that?)

How much should I charge for my book? 

Obviously, paperbacks are more expensive than ebooks because of the material, production, and shipping involved. Personally, I think your ebook should sell for 70-80% less than your paperback. An average indie paperback sells for under $15, most under $10. Most ebooks sell between $0.99 and $9.99, with the average indie ebook selling for under $5. It depends on the length of the book and the popularity of the author. Do your homework. See what other indie authors are selling for. Do that.

Welcome to the publishing world of the indie author. If all this information hasn’t scared you off and you still want to publish that book, go back to step one and finish writing the darn thing.

It’s Monday! What are you reading? A Difference of Purpose

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I’m currently reading…

A Difference of Purpose: A Novel of the American Civil War

by Terry Soileau

 

 

 

 

 

 

816r0GNpUaL._SL1500_Anything to do with the Civil War pulls at my heartstrings, and I got this book for free from the author’s Kindle giveaway. I’m about halfway through and find it a quick read. The book opens with a list of the cast of characters, which puts me off just a bit, because I know at that point the character development will be lacking. As I read, I began to see the story is not told in a novel style or an historical fiction style, but more as an historian delivering just the facts. The tale is interesting, but I wish the book was told as a true drama. There is a bit of dialog, but the writer seldom indicates who said the line, leaving the reader to figure it out on his own. That being said, it is a very good story, and would have been a lot better with a substantive edit.

Blurb from Amazon

A DIFFERENCE OF PURPOSE is a civil war novel that tells the story of 12 year old Jonathan Berkeley, a Confederate drummer boy serving with the famous Orphan Brigade, and his uncle and Godfather, Alexander Wythe, an abolitionist lawyer and captain serving in the Union army. They wrestle with God and their own inner demons as they confront devastating personal tragedies and search desperately for faith, love, and meaning in a torn and tragic world of civil war. Captain Wythe is forced to question his faith when confronted with the loss of loved ones, including his wife, Amanda Wythe, and with the human suffering, inhumanity, cruelty and chaos of the American Civil War. This story of loss, sorrow, faith and redeeming love takes the reader on a fast paced journey to the bloody battlefields of Fredericksburg, Stones River, and Chickamauga, and through a tragic world of division and heartbreak. Also, featured in this novel of love and war are Abraham Lincoln, Clara Barton, the abolition of slavery, the mistreatment of American Indians, and the largest mass execution in American history

Saturday Snippet – Culpepper Chronicles Preview

I usually post blogs about books that are already finished, but I’m having such a good time with my work in progress, I’d like to share a piece of the rough draft. Please keep in mind it is filled with errors and will undoubtedly change immensely before it’s released next year. The Culpepper Chronicles will be four books about one of my ancestors named John Culpepper.

culpepper book 1 cover ideaJohn was born in England in 1606. As a young lad he was trained as a lawyer, but he decided to be a merchant instead. He bought a ship and sailed back and forth between the colony of Virginia and England, delivering immigrants to the colonies and bringing back cotton and tobacco. His life wasn’t spectacular, but the cast of characters surrounding him were pretty intriguing, the political and religious climate of his homeland was so volatile, one could lose a head if one wasn’t careful, and the vast expansion of the new world set the stage for quite an amazing adventure. I haven’t decided on titles yet, but I know the first installment will be about his childhood, the second about the English Civil War where King Charles I was executed and the Loyalist Culpepper family scattered like rats, the third about his adventures in Virginia looking out for his niece during Bacon’s Rebellion (his niece was Lady Frances Culpepper Berkeley who was married to Sir William Berkeley, governor of Virginia), and the final story will be about his son causing the Culpepper Rebellion in North Carolina and being charged with treason (good thing daddy was a lawyer!).

culpepper book 2 cover ideaI’m considering the title “I, John Culpepper” for the first book. Let me know what you think.

All that being said, here’s a bit of the opening scene, the day John was born….

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“Master Culpepper! Master Culpepper!” the boy shouted over the bells clanging from the church steeple. He pushed his way through the throngs of people gathered on the banks of the Thames.

The crowd had been gathering for two days to witness the departure of the magnificent ships. The boy stopped for a moment to glance at one of them. It took his breath away. It was an enormous castle-like structure, at least eighty feet in length, its belly bulging at the side where cargo was being loaded in. The deck above was much narrower, and he imagined that’s where the passengers stayed. He stared for a moment in amazement as he had never seen anything like it before. A dog barked nearby and brought his attention back to the present. Suddenly, he remembered why he had come. “Mastah Culpeppah!” he yelled over the din of the crowd as he spun around and around looking for the man, weaving in and out of the people, between horses, carts, trunks, women in embroidered, velvet skirts and men in long cloaks adorned with colorful silk threads.

Since the formation of the London Company in April 1606, the plan to settle the new colony had been quickly set into motion. The aristocracy had funded the expedition, and the ship’s passengers would sail to the new colony of Virginia to settle the land, so they could send back the riches the new world surely held. The massive ships had been loading supplies for the last couple weeks, and this morning, they would set sail down the Thames, into the English Channel, and cross the great ocean. Not only would they bring proper religion and piousness to the land which was said to be inhabited by wild Indians, they would also bring riches beyond imagination back to the shareholders. One of those shareholders was none other than Johanes Culpepper, who had come down to the docks to witness the beginning of his new-found fortune.

“Master Culpepper!” the boy cried out again.

“Who are you searching for, lad?” a man in a ruffled collar asked.

“Master Culpepper,” the boy replied, removing his hat and folding it in his hands.

“Johanes or Thom?”

“Johanes Culpepper, sir.”

“They are both down by the front ship, the Discovery. They’re standing right on the dock.”

“Thank you, sir.”

The boy nodded, replaced his cap, and shoved through the multitude of people toward the front ship. As he passed them, he looked at the names written on their bows and sounded out the letters. He couldn’t make any sense of the Susan Constant but he could read the Goodspeed and he wondered if the Goodspeed was true to its name. He thought he would rather sail on the Goodspeed and get there quicker. From what he understood, it was a three month voyage if the weather was bonny, four months if they ran into rough seas. He had once been in a small fishing boat and instantly became green with sickness. He didn’t think he could survive the time it would take to sail to the Virginia Colony. It didn’t matter anyway. He would never be the class who did such amazing things. He was a servant, a gift from His Majesty James I to Master Johanes Culpepper. He would always be a servant, but perhaps someday he would serve the King. Even though Master Culpepper was very good to him, he would like someday to live at court and be somebody. At least he had the slim chance. His sister had been placed in the kitchen at some manor house in Wales. She would never be anything more than a scullery maid. Women did not have a place in high society. Women hadn’t been invited on this voyage either, only gentlemen and adventurers. He looked up at the front deck of the Goodspeed as he ran passed and witnessed a young lad about his age. The boy dripped with sweat, even in the chilly and foggy morning air, as he pulled at ropes and folded sails. What a great adventure it would be to sail to Virginia.

He hopped up and down, unsuccessfully trying to look over the crowd. “Master Culpepper!”

A man turned and pointed. “Culpepper is right over there, son.”

“Thank you.” He ran in the direction of the Discovery, and when he pushed through a couple gentlemen chatting on the dock, he saw him. “Master Culpepper!” He ran up behind him and patted the back of his arm. “Master Culpepper!”

The man turned. “What is it, boy? And why are you making such a racket?”

The boy panted, out of breath from running. “Master Culpepper, m’lady is havin’ the baby, sir!”

He glanced around to see if anyone was listening and placed his hands on his hips. “Very good, William. You run along home. I’ll be there soon.”

The boy didn’t move. How could his master not be excited about this news?

“Go on. Run along.” He waved the boy off with a flip of his fingers.

“Yes, m’lord.” The lad backed up, keeping his eyes on his master. He finally turned and ran back in the direction which he had come.

Thom patted him on the back. “Congratulation, brother, hopefully another fine son.”

Johanes grunted. “I wouldn’t count on it.”

Thom laughed. “Oh, what’s bothering you? You should be happy.”

Johanes didn’t respond.

“Do you want to head home and see how Ursula is doing?”

“No.” He shook his head. “I want to stay here and guard my investment. These ships need to set sail and bring back the treasures of the colony. It doesn’t matter if I have a son if I don’t have anything to leave to him when I die.”

“But you already have young Thomas. He will inherit your lands and manors.”

“Yes, but I need a spare in case anything happens. That boy has been weak and sickly his whole childhood, and after Ursula gave me a daughter last time, I’m not getting my hopes up. I want to stay here until the ships have sailed.”

Thom nodded. “Very well, brother, we shall stay.”

Not another word was said about the coming child as the brothers watched the great ships cast off their lines, hoist their sails, and float down the Thames. The crowd watched in awe until they were out of sight.

On This Day in 1936

On This Day in 1936, my great uncle Howard Benjamin Pickett died following a car crash at the age of 19.

Eula Keene Pickett with Howard and AzaleaHoward was born November 19, 1917 to Benjamin Berry Pickett and Eula Ouida Keene in Lauderdale County, Mississippi. He was the eldest of three children. A sister Margaret Azalea (my grandmother) was born in 1919, and a sister Fleta Clarise was born in 1921. Fleta Clarise died of pneumonia in 1923. Howard was six. Here he is pictured with his mother and sister.

Meridian Star
Howard Benjamin Pickett, 19, son of Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Berry Pickett of 308 Fifth avenue, Meridian, who was injured in an automobile crash near Newton on Highway 80, died in a Newton hospital late Thursday. Miss Hazel Brasfield, 15, also of Meridian, remained in a critical condition Friday morning. Pickett, who was said to have been driving the automobile when it crashed at 5 a.m., received internal injuries. He never regained consciousness. Miss Brasfield is suffering from a crushed thigh. Other occupants of the machine were Jim Edwards, Billy White, Neva Ezell, Jack Ward, and Geneva Burt, all of Meridian. All were slightly injured but were able to return to Meridian soon after the accident. Pickett is said to have rented the automobile from a 630 taxi driver at 7 a.m. Wednesday, stating he intended to go to Jackson. The crash occured when a tire blew out, causing the machine to leave the highway, overturning several times before striking a stump. Funeral services will be held at 4 p.m. Friday from the Eight Avenue Baptist Church. Surviving are his parents: Mr and Mrs. Benjamin Berry Pickett and one sister, Azelea Pickett, all of Meridian. The Revs. Ed Grayson and Rev. Blanding Vaughan will officiate at the funeral. Interment will follow in Fisher Cemetery. Active pallbearers: Maurice Covington, Torris Brand, Billie White, Purvis Taylor, Jack Elkin, and Selbie Snellgrove. Honary pallbearers: A.L. Talbert, Mr. Keaten, Mr. Snider, Ermer Brown, J.B. Brown, Grady Brand, Mr. Lawerence, H.C. Webb, Edwin Cochran, Mr. Mitchell, Mr. Connell, Howard Meyers, Jamie Harden, Marion W. Reiley, G.L. Walker. James F. Webb Funeral Home in charge. 

pickett howard benjamin headstoneHoward and I share the birthday of November 19th, along with his maternal grandmother (my 2nd great), Sarah Elizabeth “Betty” Brown Keene. His dad’s mother was a Fisher, and he is laid to rest with his parents and siblings in the Fisher Family Cemetery in Meridian, Mississippi.

This blog brought to you by On This Day at Amazon.