Sunday, January 10, 2021



Now, that’s an intriguing title – isn’t it? And one that probably has you wondering.

Well, let me explain.

From the time I could walk, my parents said I bulldozed through life. I charged full force into situations, tromping where my guardian angel feared to tread.

Living in the country, we raised livestock. When I was barely walking, I’d slip out of the yard and wander among the cattle. My parents would go looking for me, calling for me, and I was too short to see as I meandered midst the bulls and cows – oblivious to any danger. At those times, they’d call me Dosha. “Get back here, little Dosha!” they’d call. For a long time, I thought Dosha was one of my given names. As I grew, I learned Dosha was one of my ancestors, a too-many-greats-to-count grandmother. She was a brave Cherokee lady who married a weak man who drank too much and didn’t take adequate care of his family – and yes, of course – I’m related as much to him as I am to her. Remember that.

My favorite story about Dosha is the one that best reveals the shortcomings of her husband. John – that was his first name – was prone to spend most of his evenings passed out from indulging in too much home brew. During those times, Dosha did the best she could, making do with the little he provided and what she could scrape together herself. For better or worse, their union was blessed by the birth of a little boy. Dosha was so proud of him. She named him William.

Winter came to South East Texas early that year, bringing much cooler temperatures to the usually temperate region. If you look at a map of the lone star state, their cabin was located in the swampy, piney woods that is known as The Big Thicket region today.

In this deep, dense forest, wildlife was plentiful – and so were predators. Bear. Wolf. And panthers. (As an aside, I recognize that most authorities deny the existence of black panthers in this area today. However, my family has seen three in my lifetime. They roamed the wilderness in the post-civil war days and they still roam it now.)


One night, when John was lying drunk in bed and Dosha was attempting to pacify a hungry William, the night grew colder as she burned the last of the firewood. Huddling up with the baby to keep him warm, she became aware of a distant scream. The sound was bloodcurdling, the cry of a banshee. Dosha knew it was a panther. Sitting there in the dark, the silence was only broken by the snoring of her worthless husband and the ever-nearing roar of the huge, deadly predator. In horror, the mother realized the big cat was approaching the cabin.

The black panther was hungry, and he could smell the baby inside.

You might think she had nothing to worry about. After all, they were inside the log cabin.

But no. Unfortunately – and thanks to John’s shoddy workmanship – there were gaps in between the logs. Not only did this poor construction leave a clear path for the cold winds whipping through the evergreen branches of the pine trees to seep inside – the exterior walls of the cabin could serve as a make-shift ladder for a determined predator. 

In abject terror, Dosha heard the big cat snarling just outside. Her eyes widened as she realized he was scratching on the wood. And then – she screamed as she saw big, sharp claws poking through the cracks between the logs. With her heart pounding in her chest, she placed the baby next to her husband as she attempted to rouse him by shaking his shoulders and beating on his chest. She begged him to awaken – but he was too soused to realize what was going on.

Standing, she gasped in fear as she saw the claws of the panther as he climbed the outside wall – higher and higher. The monster intended on coming down the chimney after them!

In near hysteria, she found the hatchet and tried to chop up a chair to serve as firewood – but there wasn’t time! She’d never be able to start a fire before the maneater descended into their midst.

As her baby cried, sensing his mother’s panic, she did the only thing she could think to do.

Dosha took the hatchet and ran to the wall and began to chop at the exposed toes of the black panther.

Chop! Chop! Chop!

She struck the blows and was rewarded by a wailing scream of pain.

In the next moment, she heard a heavy thud outside as the panther retreated to fight another day.


You’ll never know how many times I sat at the feet of my grandmother and my dad as they regaled me with this tale – and others. Dosha’s bravery and John’s failures.

Her ability to survive was ingrained within her – and his lack of decency was…apparently ingrained within him. For she didn’t falter, and he didn’t improve. He died early, most probably from cirrhosis of the liver. Dosha lived a long life and continued to prove herself to be brave and resourceful.

I used to imagine that I was Dosha. I’d like to think I inherited some of her moxie.

Now…for the rest of the story.

Sometimes my research leads me down unexpected paths. Let me explain. In my plotting, there are times I need to come up with some fantastical fix that will tie my unlikely story line together. For example, in Lily’s Mirage, I was writing about a woman who was suffering with a brain tumor – a glioblastoma, the type that is usually fatal. I wanted the character to survive, but I wanted it to be realistic. Surely in this day and age, there was ongoing medical advances that I could draw from. So, I started searching and I found an unlikely answer. There have been clinical trials using the polio germ to battle this type of cancer. The polio virus is injected into the tumor and causes the patient’s immune system to attack the tumor and destroy it – a targeted assault. It’s still in the early stages, but survival rates have tripled as a result.

What I found surprised me. My heroine underwent the treatment and survived to have a ‘happily ever after’.

This is not the only time I have let my imagination lead me through research that has revealed answers to my plotting problems. My latest historical, Reno’s Journey, led me to learn more about time travel than I ever hoped to know – and the work that NASA is actually doing toward discovering the possibilities. For another novel, The Storm You Chase, I dug until I uncovered ongoing work toward harnessing the power of storms to power cities and how a treatment for chronic traumatic brain injury (CTE – think football concussions) may soon be a reality. Before I started digging – I knew none of this information. Didn’t even know any of it was possible.   

Anyway…like most authors, the research is as rewarding as the writing – I learn so much.

Recently, while working on my historical Wild West series, which travels between characters living in the past and their descendants in the future, I wanted to find some vital way to link the actions of an ancestor living in the past with the events in the life of their descendant in the present day. In other words, could the experiences of your great-great-whatever have any realistic impact on how you live your life today?

Could Dosha’s experiences determine how I react to obstacles I face? Could John’s propensity to give in to his weaknesses effect how I live my life?

Well…lo and behold – look what I found.

We are, indeed, a product of our past – perhaps, much more than you realize.

Our behavior can be influenced by prior generations. Of course, we already knew certain preferences, character traits, and biological characteristics are passed down, but we’re just now discovering how patterns, traumas, memories, and the very experiences of our predecessors can be passed down to us also. In ancient belief systems, this was called ancestral karma. Indigenous cultures have long taught how the experiences and actions of our ancestors can affect us. The Iroquois hold that our behavior, the way we process emotions – our very actions can be influenced by seven generations before us. This theory gives wings to that old scripture which says that the sins of the fathers are visited down to four generations of their children.

Despite this age-old belief, the science of genetic memory is quite new – in any scientifically serious way. This budding science actually has a name, it’s called epigenetics – the study of how genetic expression can be inherited in the same manner as DNA. The idea of genetic expression can be defined as how the instructions built into our DNA are converted into a function. In other words, life experiences can be passed down to children and their children… Just think about that – the holocaust, abuse, triumph, murder, education, slavery - - and on and on - - these things can be engrained, imbedded, and woven into the very fabric of our being.

We were taught that you could take a child out of an environment and give it new experiences and they would be untouched by the happenings of the past. Nurture – vs – nature. Maybe not – not entirely. What if survivors of traumatic events can pass down the effects of that trauma to subsequent generations? If true, this could go a long way in explaining why some people do the things they do. It also puts a heady burden on our own heads that what we do can have long reaching and everlasting consequences.

Another article I found argues that this genetic memory imprinting could explain the mysterious talents of a savant – how an individual with no formal training and sometimes with disabilities, can possess unexplainable abilities in music, language, math, or art. These people very well could be utilizing imprinted knowledge in a way that others of us can’t.

On the flip side, this could explain why some people are born abusers or are just plain evil.

In the animal kingdom, this same theory has been bandied about when mice can follow a path through a maze that was forged by their parents. They were born knowing the twists and turns they’d have to make - - - makes you think, for sure.

Maybe this is an answer to phobias and anxiety issues. Hell, this theory could answer a lot of questions. This molecular residue from days gone by could very well explain why we feel, believe, and react to things the way we do.

Truthfully, this big subject of familial imprints is sort of making my small brain hurt – ha!

There was one point that gave me hope, however. Epigenetics also offers the possibility that a person can choose to become a pivotal character, one who will create a path of change, a course correction, a line of healing for future generations. Maybe we aren’t necessarily doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past. Instead, we can consciously decide to man the helm of our own future.

Yes, we are a product of our past.

So, now I have a basis from which to expound on my plot in this new historical. How the actions of those who lived before impacted the actions of those who follow in their footsteps.

And on a more personal note – I would like to believe that the pioneering spirit I inherited from Dosha is stronger than the weakness I inherited from Grandpa John.

Thanks for listening to me ramble –

Love, Sable

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Julie Lence said...

Excellent blog, Sable! I was engrossed from beginning to end, and your research is not only interesting, it's mind-blowing. But you're right, it would explain why people are they way they are. Hugs!

Sable Hunter said...

Thank you, Julie. I appreciate your kind words.

GiniRifkin said...

Hi Sable. Quite an engaging post. Loved the story about the original Dosha, and about you. There is info there to keep you busy for a good many years and a good many books!

Sable Hunter said...

Gini - Thank you! I have a notebook full of ideas - I'm just not as high energy as I used to be. Hoping 2021 will be more productive for me than last year.