Wineka column: Taul tales by Ruth
By Mark Wineka
GRANITE QUARRY — While Ruth Temple Taul sits at the kitchen table writing her pages in longhand, Jerrie Peeler types away at the computer in Taul’s bedroom.
“Ruth!” Peeler shouts now and then.
Taul runs to the bedroom to investigate.
“What’s this word?” Peeler will ask.
Or Peeler might implore, “Where did this come from?”
Taul clarifies her word or meaning, and the author and typist go back to their separate corners of the house.
They’ve been following this routine a couple times a week for five years. It was back then — when she was 80 — that Taul started her new life.
She became an author.
In hindsight, maybe Taul took to writing because she has so much experience in beginnings and endings.
She married at 16, had seven children by age 28, fled an abusive husband, worked as a waitress and single mother, left a second husband after 10 years, owned a restaurant, fashioned a career in interior design and operated a nursing home.
“What it has done is give me a new spark in life,” Taul, now 85, says of writing. “… There’s no end. There doesn’t have to be an end to this.”
Ruth Temple Taul loses herself in her characters, their lives and their surroundings.
As Peeler types the handwritten pages Taul gives her, she becomes lost in the stories, too. Sometimes Peeler will stay longer than her allotted four hours — Taul pays her by the hour — so she can keep typing and learn what happens next.
“I love them — all of them,” says Peeler, who is 77.
Taul uses up a lot of pens and notebook paper, while Peeler depends on Microsoft Word in putting together the manuscripts. Taul sends the completed drafts to her editing friend in Miami, Rose Koche, who is a semi-retired English professor.
Daughter Carolyn provided pictures and illustrations for the “Sandy Creek Junction” covers.
You could say Taul’s writing takes in a wide range of genres, including Western, romance, gothic, historical and issues of the day.
Lately, Taul has been completing the third book to what she considers her trilogy: three stories set in fictional Sandy Creek Junction, Colo. (it turns out, there really is a Sandy Creek, Colo., Taul discovered.)
She also has been writing a book about abused women with a working title of “The War on Women.”
A romance well under way will be titled, “Three Sheets to the Wind.”
“That’s not about an alcoholic,” Taul interjects. Rather, it deals with a harpist-composer. The “sheets” refer to sheet music.
“A Surprise for Angela” involves two brothers who inherit a mill in Memphis, Tenn. — though one of the brothers wants nothing to do with it and moves to Chicago.
“Old House on Baker Street” focuses on a mother of four.
And there are more. Taul keeps the different stories going in a stack of notebooks always at the ready. Taul has joked with Peeler that “if we ever make any money, you’ll get a bonus.”
The first two Sandy Creek Junction books have been printed in softcover by PublishAmerica, a Baltimore concern. The print-on-demand books sell for $20 each, and Taul markets them mostly by word of mouth.
She keeps a box of books in her car’s trunk — she never knows when someone might ask for one. She also has had two book signings at her house, and the Simply Good store has some copies for sale.
“I haven’t been pushing it,” Taul acknowledges.
Taul read Zane Grey Westerns as a kid, and if any author had an influence on her, it was him.
“He always would get your attention on the first page,” she remembers.
Here’s how Taul begins “Sandy Creek Junction II”:
Her husband had been brought home unconscious, unconscious and beyond recognition. He had been gone for a year and a half on a job that shouldn’t have taken two months.
Taul says she tends to add elements of romance to her stories.
“Mine get spicy every now and then,” she says. “But that’s life. Love is life.”
“Sandy Creek Junction” begins near the end of the Indian wars. Her heroine, Queen Victoria Merriweather, is a former slave whose father was the plantation owner. The story follows the challenges faced by “Tori” Merriweather and her husband, Jackson, as they try to survive in a young and lawless Colorado.
The easiest way to explain how Ruth Temple Taul became a writer is to say that one day — “walking around lost,” she says — she looked for a new project.
She sat down with some paper, listing many of the things on her mind, including subjects that had been troubling her for years.
“Being 85, you remember a lot of stuff,” she says.
The fact that she took the next step and began writing stories around her listed themes — such as the mistreatment of Indians and the abuse of women — surprised her. But she couldn’t stop.
A friend who was a neighbor of Peeler’s, connected the newborn writer to the accomplished secretary-typist, and a dynamic duo was formed.
“This part of my brain had opened up,” Taul says, trying to explain what happened. Stories kept pouring in.
Taul says she has retired three times and worked full-time until she was 78. Her last retirement brought her to be with family here, after having grown up in Alabama and working in Ohio and Florida. She has a world of experience to call on. Her four years of waitressing alone served as the equivalent of a four-year college degree, she says.
The great part about writing, Taul believes, is that she never has to retire again — and never wants to.
She can wake up in the morning, read her most recent half page of prose and be swept away again to places she has never been, with strangers who become her close friends with every flourish of the pen.
“At this point, I really feel like an author, whether I make any money or not,” Taul says. “It’s really been a great experience.”
Readers interested in purchasing a Ruth Temple Taul book may reach the author at 704-279-2039.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263, or mwineka@ salisburypost.com.