Saturday, December 31, 2005

Pet Peeves

We've all got 'em. And I have a lot of peeves. Gum smackers, candy wrapper crinklers, people who hack and cough and sneeze and make nasty noises in restaurants (God, do us all a favor and stay home! I don't want to hear the phlegm in your throat!)

Let's see ... I'm sure there's more. Kids that chew with their mouths open and the parent thinks it's funny. Driving in cars with cell phones. No thought whatsoever of using a turn signal. People who drive in left lanes ... for no damn good reason. Tailgaters. Speeders. Loud cars. Loud music in cars that invades my space. TV on all day.

People who can't clean the crumbs off their kitchen counters ... or keep their dishes in the sink for more than a day ... or don't wipe the grease off their appliances. Dirty bathrooms. Neighbors that slam their car doors or honk in the driveway late at night. Or a neighbor kid that bounces his basketball late at night. Or a neighbor that can't shut his dog up. Or a constant barking dog kept on a chain ... cruel to the animal ... just plain evil. People who smoke and drop their ashes everywhere.

People who talk in movies. People who kick the back of my seat in movies or in church. People who stop in the middle of a grocery store aisle. People who talk loud in public (like everybody's interested in what they have to say.) Truck drivers that cut me off. Old people that think they can drive. People who can't close doors, or drawers. Fingerprints on the walls. Junk drawers. Moody people. (I could go on, but I think I'll stop here.)

Oh, wait ... Howard Stern and Jerry Springer and Judge Judy ... and a few others. Jerry Falwell and Binny Hinn and John Hagee ... and a few others.

Talk about extremes.

Sorry, can't forget about this one. Babies crying in restaurants. For the past few years, I've sat in the smoking section (not that I care for cigarette smoke, either) but I'll take it over a crying baby any day. Listen, I had two kids. I know you need to get out once in a while ... but hire a sitter when they're in high chairs or too young to listen when you say, "Hush! You’re too noisy!"

I've asked waitresses to seat me anywhere but around a baby, and don't you dare sit one next to me after I'm seated. I'll move or get up and leave. And I mean it. I've done it. I've had many ruined meals because some parent can't stand the thought of leaving their child home. It's not the baby's fault. Not at all. Poor little thing. But parents ... get a clue ... us older folks ... we done raised our kids! We don't want to hear yours scream and ruin our meals. It drives me nuts. I pay for a nice dinner out with my husband and friends ... I don't pay to hear somebody’s kid scream, cry, and throw a hissy fit.

That includes taking kids to movies, church, grocery stores, and any other public place. Does that mean you have to stay home all the time?

Pretty much. Yeah. You had them. Find a sitter. Or stay home.

I'm sure I can think of a few more.

But my biggest pet peeve? Fat people like me that think they know everything.

Blessings to you and yours.

Friday, December 30, 2005

...Okay, So I Like Roosters

I don't do Hummels or Precious Moments (yuk,) I've even graduated from Teddy Bears. I wouldn't know the first thing about collecting stamps or coins. And the only doll you'll see in my house is a tiny porcelain-faced doll my son brought back to me from Portugal on his Mediterranean tour as a Marine. I don't put apples in my kitchen or fish or seashells on the walls in my bathroom. Even my kids' bedrooms never had a theme ... no Snoopy, Holly Hobbie, or Superman bedspreads.

But I have a weakness, a soft spot, and a fascination with roosters. And chickens. I know ... gross. I'm a country girl, what can I say? I believe it all started when I was little, my mother let me buy those blue, green, and pink chicks at Easter. But it was my grandma King that encouraged my fondness for these birds. She kept a chicken coop. The rooster perched himself on the fence line every morning and woke us as the sun peeked over the mountain. My grandpa swore every day he was ... "gonna shoot that dadgum varmint." But grandma loved her banny rooster. He'd strut around the yard like he owned the place. I have a picture of the old bird ... it's just a childhood memory now.

So I collect them. They're not in my kitchen. They stare down at me from shelves above my desk. Whimsical and unique, I've collected these birds from cities all over the country. I have a Canton, Ohio fat rooster, a Myrtle Beach rooster (dressed for the beach, complete with beach umbrella and swimsuit) ... a Williamsburg, VA rooster, a Gatlinburg, TN rooster, a New York City rooster, and a special rooster from Gettysburg, PA ... and one from Louisville, KY. My daughter gave me a rooster in a ballerina tutu I just love, and then there's 40% off rooster--ask Michael about that one. I have a signed Bob Timberlake rooster, and roosters made from rocks straight from the state of Idaho, and of course ... what Southern girl would be without her confederate flag rooster. I gasped when I saw it. My friend Tina even bought me this tiny dead tree with six hand carved roosters perched in it. I know ... it's out of hand.

But, for what its worth, they make me laugh. They're tacky as hell and I love every one of them. Okay, it's my one decorating flaw ... but they live in my office--I don't show them to company. Unless somebody says ... "I know this is crazy, but I collect roosters."

"You do? Would you like to see mine?"

Blessings to you and yours.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Life Is All About Change

...but growth is optional." A quote by Karen Kaiser Clark. I'm changing ... I feel it. I'm growing another year older, but that's not all of the change I'm talking about.

I'm finding that after years of writing, researching, reading volumes of books, plotting stories, discovering the quirks and psychology of my characters ... I've grown, as a person. I'd like to think it's made me better, but I doubt some members of my family would agree. However, part of having an open mind, I believe, is to change and grow. And for one to write, one must keep the doors to the mind wide open.

I don't look at politics, social issues, or religion the same way I did even ten years ago. I don't shut down when somebody disagrees with me. I've learned to listen. I give it a chance. I think everyone should have a voice. I regret stifling the voices of my children when they were little. "Seen and not heard," that whole stupid thing ... who made that up anyway?

I don't have all the answers, and my opinions only matter to me ... not the world. So changing and growing is a daily thing with me. I can be preachy ... I have ideas I want to put out there for the world to ponder too, but it won't piss me off anymore if you disagree with me.

All that being said, there are certain people I don't like and never will ... but if I happen to overhear Howard Stern say something that interests me ... I'll listen. I might even agree with big nasty guy. It doesn't mean I have to like him. Or watch his show. Because I don't. But who knows, some day Howard Stern may say something magical and contribute to society ... whereas Dr. Phil, who I adore, may say something totally off the wall, and I'll find him offensive and hurtful instead of helpful.

You see what I'm saying here? People change, but whether they grow from it or stop dead in their track ... that’s optional.

Blessings to you and yours.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

29 Years Ago Today

She arrived at 2:02 p.m., ten pounds of pink baby girl. Her brother waited at home, her grandmothers were in the waiting room, her daddy wasn't around. He missed her birth, devoted more to his "job" than his family ... but that's another story for another time ... anyway, it was just me and her. That was the 70s. They didn't have the capability at that time to tell the sex before the birth. I had a little boy at home, loved him dearly, but really hoped for a girl this time.

Half way out, the doctor said, "I think this one's a linebacker. Look at the shoulders on this baby." She flipped over and ta! da! She certainly fooled them! Jillian Leigh came into the world.

They laid her on a table next to me. She blinked and started to suck her fist. She was beautiful.

She still is. All these years later. She was a cheerleader, a perfect student, a bright and funny girl with lots of smiles for everyone. She has her moments (don't most girls?) but she has given me 29 years of bliss and blessings as her mama. A Masters Degree and a great job at The Ohio State University, a new love interest who is quite charming, and lots of friends. A great eye for decorating, knows how to dress, dance, loves to read, can cook more than a few great dishes, and treats her friends and family with love and kindness.

It's not easy being born three days after Christmas. Most of your gifts are all wrapped in leftover Christmas paper. People slight you because they have to buy your Christmas and birthday all at once. It doesn't seem to carry the same punch as her brother's April birthday. But this is an important birthday. You always remember, or should remember, your 29th birthday. You refer to it often the rest of your life.

I'm not with her today. So I have to rely on my memory. They brought her to me in a red Christmas stocking, after they cleaned her up and put her first diaper on her. I kept my little girl in bonnets, dresses, lacey socks and panties for the next four years ... but she remained a girlie girl. Athletic, but never a tomboy. She was the meaning of pink.

Today, she's celebrating with her boyfriend in New York City. I hope she's having a marvelous day. I hope she has 29 more wonderful birthdays. And 29 more after that.

Knowing her has been one of the three major highlights of my life. I am privileged and blessed that God picked me to be her mama.

Happy Birthday, Jillian. I love you.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Dreamin' It

Did you ever have a desire so big you had to get close to it once in a while? Did you try to experience a little of the dream, or spend time planning for it?

We spent the day in the mountains, or near the mountains, yesterday. Michael and I have this dream log home we plan to build on as many acres as we can afford. A place with water, views, and trees ... and rolling pastures. A place where our nearst neighbor is acres away. A little corner of heaven.

Yesterday, we walked on it. Got away from all the holiday nonsense and took a stroll on a piece of land for sale with all of the above qualities. Dodging the horse dropppings (most of it is being used for pasture right now) we walked down to a flowing creek, a up to a ridge and could see all the way to the Blue Ridge.

We were loving every second of being outdoors, feeling the sun's warmth ... just having a very nice day ... dreamin' the dream.

Blessings to you and yours.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

It's Christmas Eve

The sun is bright overhead, the air will warm this afternoon. No snow. Jillian is on her way to Philly to meet Rob, Aaron is in Ohio with Annie, Christopher and Nicole are at home in Arizona.

Ho Ho Ho ... Hum.

But Beth is here, Michael's cousin, and Aunt Betty Smith from South Carolina. Mama's here ... of course ... and we're sure to have a house full this evening and tomorrow. The pies and cookies are baked, the rest is waiting in the refrigerator. The outside of the house is decorated to the max ... our usual. Wreaths, the house is covered in blue lights outside (one big Kmart blue light special,) deer in the yard, bows on the windows, and of course Santa riding a cow next to the driveway. Inside our tree is lit and beautiful, we have a Dickens village covering the top of the TV cabinet, dogs, frogs, pigs, cactus and cows that sing Christmas carols (don't ask) the house is filled with ornaments, manger scenes, centerpieces of poinsettia and greenery, and sweets galore.

So why doesn't it feel like Christmas?

Maybe it's the weather, maybe because we miss our kids, maybe it's just me. I don't know. I think I've been a fairly good girl this year. I love having Beth and Betty here ... it's really been fun ... watching movies, eating, watching football, eating, talking to Beth about her trip around the world, eating ... and on and on.

But I think Michael and I just feel like we want this holiday nonsense overwith. We're ready to get on with the new year. We're ready to hop on into 2006.

I suppose we should just kick back and enjoy the day.

After all, it's Christmas Eve.

Blessings to you and yours this holiday season.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Secret Squirrel

My best friend, Tina, and I have a secret code.

“Secret Squirrel!” It means “just between us.”

A long time ago, years and years ago (in case you’re reading this Tim) we went shopping and spent lots and lots of money we shouldn’t have spent.

“He’s gonna kill me!”

“No way, the man worships you.”

“I tell you, he’s going to kill me!”

“You needed that new dress! And those shoes … to die for. And you sure couldn’t buy those shoes and not by the bag!”

“But they weren’t on sale!”

“Since when do you buy things on sale?”

“He is going to kill me!”

Finally … after reconfirming our right to shop, we pulled into the garage. Tina looked at me and yelled “Secret Squirrel!” the second before we hopped out of the car.

I died laughing … you had to be there.

We kept our mall bags in the trunk of the car … brought them into the house on the sly, one day at a time. It worked. Husbands were oblivious … mission impossible? I hardly think so. Mission accomplished. Our secret code avoided confict!

From then on … every time we want to keep something on the sly, or between just us girls … “Secret Squirrel!” is yelled back and forth just as we’re getting out of the car or going into the house. And we laugh for the next five minutes.

It’s a girl thing.

Blessings to all you squirrels out there!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

A Very Good Day

It's recorded in a picture that hangs on the bulletin board beside my desk. Not a great picture, just a snapshot. Of my two rugrats. Not really rugrats in the picture, though. Nope, all grown up.

I remember it was a good day. Everything about the picture reminds me of what a very good day it was. A warm August day in 2000. Aaron, Jillian, and I went to our favorite restaurant in the country in an old converted barn. Called ... The Barn (obviously) in Smithville, Ohio. Great place, great food, wonderful salad bar. Twice the size of regular salad bars, all homemade stuff ... different hand grated cheeses, not the processed grated cheese ... cornbread with applebutter ... homemade soups ... mmm.

Anyway ... I snapped their picture in front of Aaron's relatively new Toyota pickup truck, all black and shiny. In the background is the old farmhouse that was converted into the gift shop that smells of cinnamon and apple when you walk in.

The sun was shining ... they were smiling.

I just remember ... it was a very good day. I miss having dinner with my children.

Blessings to you and yours.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005


How does one get a handle on goal-setting for the new year? How do you make resolutions that will last? I've never had much luck getting past the second week in January before pushing my "start date" to Valentines Day ... then March 1st ... and by God, I'll start by Easter!

I don't have much faith in the first day of January, that's for sure. I mean look around you on January 1st. Christmas is over and more than likely, your tree looks tired and ready to be put to sleep for another year. The presents are all gone, the bills start coming in, you've got leftovers to serve for weeks, and even football season is coming down the home stretch.

It's cold outside, winter is such a dreary time of year, all you want to do is crawl back into bed and pull the electric blanket over your head.

Who wants to start a list of new goals?

My husband.

I woke up yesterday morning to a list of goals he'd been up working on since five that morning. A list of eight things he's bound and determined to do this year! In fact, he's already started ... no such thing as waiting until January 1st in his mind ... he's pumped ... he's ready to kick some butt.

That's nice, dear. I support you 100%! You go! You do this! You show me this same list this time next year with every last one of them crossed off!

I've made too many resolution lists in my lifetime. They're the same thing every year anyway. By this age, you ought to know your strengths and weaknesses and set goals around them. I know my goals by heart. I know I can make every one of them.

I just have to keep the "start date" a little closer to January 1st.

Blessings to you and yours.

Monday, December 19, 2005

A Pain In The Neck

I woke up with one.

You know, that aching muscle cramp from sleeping in some twisted fashion your body's not used to. How does that happen, I wonder. A hot shower, Ben Gay (whew, stinky), and Advil ... but it still didn't kick it. I walk around like Frankenstein, holding my head in a fused position with my neck.

I'm supposed to wrap presents today. Lots of them. Something I do every year with my friend, Dena. A volunteer thing for our writers group. I'll be two hours at the Barnes & Noble in Greensboro ... wrapping ... I can't imagine how I'll do it ... not easily, I'm sure. All while putting on my best smile.

I need a heating pad and a good stiff drink. Enough of this typing position here at the desk.

Today ... everything is a pain in the neck ... maybe tomorrow will be different.

I'm thinking positive.

Blessings to you and yours.

Saturday, December 17, 2005


I set out to write in this "blog thing" every day. Today, I've run out of topics. I'll think of something tomorrow. But it's past noon, and my writers block has kicked in. I think I'll head on into the kitchen, make a sandwich, read the newspaper, wrap a present or two. Maybe later, I'll finish some edits on a story I've been working on ... cruise the net ... read my latest copy of Writer's Digest.

How long does writers block last? It's like a bad cold. For some of us, we can nip it in a day with hot tea and rest. Others ... it hangs on for weeks until we can't take it another minute. I've read tons of articles on the dreaded writers disease, but when you come down to it ... we have to find our own holistic cure.

Then, one day, the sun breaks through the clouds and warms the room, our fingers start to twitch and our butt itches to sit in our desk chair ... an idea begins to take shape, we meet a character, or get the first line to an article ... or hear the title in our heads.

And before we know it ... wham! Writers block is gone and we've written our latest masterpiece.

Well, maybe not quite. But at least my blog is done for today.

Blessings to you and yours.

Friday, December 16, 2005

The Commercialism Of Christmas

When the kids were little, oh my Lord ... I'd spend the entire month of December in stores. We'd scan the newspapers and find the best deals on the latest Fisher Price toy or Cabbage Patch Doll ... and my son always wanted the newest "Transformer" ... those monster robots that turned into big bad fighting machines to save the world from evil. We'd spend hours in the grocery store buying everything needed to make tons of cookies and pies ... and then sing carols all the way to the corner lot and pick out our tree, hoping it wouldn't be as lobsided as last year's tree.

We overspent, overate, watched endless Christmas movies and cartoons ... our lives stopped between Thanksgiving and January 2nd. It was all about the holidays and the kids.

We never had enough money ... but the kids never knew it. There was more than enough to open from Santa. I just spent the next six months paying for Christmas. Then we started all over again.

I miss those days.

Not the struggling for money part, but how much fun we had. Now? I spent a half hour in line at Target and some fancy store in the mall today. The traffic's like wading up the Amazon amidst piranhas and crocodiles and the endless advertising is nauseating.

It's not as much fun as cruising the toy stores at midnight when the sales hit. No ... I just go on-line to avoid people lines. I buy from web sites and it's delivered to my door. There are no children to buy for ... no grandchildren, yet. My adult children are busy and live out of state, I don't even get to see them on the holidays. We're all busy with our lives. If I bake one pie and a dozen cookies ... I'm lucky. Scaling down our gift giving ... toning down the commercialism ... we say to ourselves, "Jesus is the reason for the season."

Don't misunderstand ... I still feel we're the most blessed and spoiled nation on the face of the earth, and we've overblown our budgets and our need for material possessions way too long ... we all need to cut back and remember we don't have to buy gifts to make the holidays special and it should be a sacred time.

But the commercialism was much more fun.

Blessings to you and yours.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Christmas Cards Are Sent By Women

Go on over to your Christmas card collection and take a good look. How many, without a doubt, were signed and sent by a man? Virtually none, I’ll bet.

There’s always an exception to every discovery, of course. But let’s think about it a minute.

I asked my husband, “Honey, did you ever send cards when you were single?”

“To a few business associates, that’s about it. I don’t do Christmas cards, Pookie. That’s your job.”

Hmmm. Sexist statement from a liberal man … unusual.

It got me thinking … why do we even address them to men in the first place? I mean instead of sending to Joe and Mary Jones and family … why not send just to Mary and kids? For cryin’ out loud, when’s Joe going to notice you sent him a card? You think he’s apt to stop by the string of cards Mary’s hung around the doorway and read them all? Maybe one or two that’s fallen on the floor and he grumbles about having to pick up … but that’s probably the extent of his Christmas card viewing.

I’m sure Hallmark employs male artists and poets creating these things, but most cards (unless there’s a big busted woman on the front) are geared to the female consumer.

Okay, okay … my gay friend, Tony … loves to card shop and use his gold ink pen to address his Christmas cards. God love him. I love him … he’s one of my best friends … but I’m not talking about gay men, I’m talking about heterosexual married men.

Why have they all left the drudgery of sending dozens of Christmas cards to women?

One of the mysteries of life, I guess.

So this year … we shared the experience. I sat in my hotel room in Florida, paging through my address book, and completed over 25 cards basically all the same way … Hope your holiday’s a happy one … Merry Christmas … Love, Pam and Michael Cable. Then I sealed them, addressed them, slapped on a return label and two days later when we returned home I shoved them at Michael and said, “Here, take these to the post office, put a stamp on all 50, and mail them.”

“Okay, I guess it’s the least I can do …”

Yep. I agree.

Blessings to you and yours.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

I See Dumb People

That's right, I said dumb, not dead. It's a bumper sticker that struck me as funny riding up Interstate 95 this past weekend. But how true it is. How many dumb people can you count in a day on the road? Where do some people get off thinking they can drive? And Lord knows, I don't want to take away the independence of the elderly, but I swear to God, if I'm 87 and still driving ... I hope my children have enough sense to take my keys away before I kill myself and someone else because I either a) can't see over the top of the steering wheel b) refuse to drive faster than 10 mph under the speed limit or c) ride my brakes.

Dumb people are everywhere. In the grocery stores they're oblivious to the other shoppers, blocking isles and paying no attention to their screaming two year old. They're in the post office. The line is out the door and they chit chat with the front desk clerk as if no one were around. They serve me coffee at Starbucks and expect a tip! (I agree with you, Dena!)

They work in restaurants by the boatload. Either stopping at my table every two minutes to ask if I need anything, or completely ignoring me and I have to go find a manager to get my check. Then they get pissed off when I leave less than 20% for my meal ... which was cold when they brought it. And I'm not against leaving a big tip ... (my daughter supported herself through college as a waitress) ... I'll even tip a dumb person if they do their job, leave me alone, let me eat, or keep my water glass filled and bring me a check within a reasonable amount of time.

Dumb people appear everywhere. On TV, the radio, I see them in church, in schools, and working in hospitals! God help us all. Everywhere I turn, there's a dummy. Aik! I can't get away from people whose common sense took flight years ago! They're one taco short of a combo meal.

Then, I call for information on booking a room for my March book launch, and after three tries to get a response and no one cares to return my call ... I think ... maybe it's me. Maybe I'm the dumb one, thinking anybody works the last two weeks of December. Maybe I'm the bigger dummy, believing that people care enough about me to give me the time of day. Answer a friggen email. Thinking that maybe I could be a good reference for them if they'd just do their damn job! Okay, I expect way too much from anybody on December 14th.

Now who's the dumb person?

I guess, that'd be me.

Blessings to you and yours.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005


We can jot put them on paper, let them roll off our tongue, and scream them from microphones, soapboxes, and rooftops. But the words we publish, immortalize us.

"The power of life and death is in the tongue." It's an old scripture I've been handed over and over for years. It's yields power in the hands of a skilled orator. Great speakers know this. Ministers, politicians, salesmen, and teachers all know their words will follow them for decades. Either hailing them as great men and women of the twenty-first century or haunting them, ruining their careers and subsequently marking them as fools.

Writers know this, also. Much more so.

I've been told the one person in your family to be afraid of is not the gossipping grandma, the bully brother-in-law, or the bitchy old aunt ... it's the writer. We write about the people we know. We can make you look good or worse than you really are, taking bits and pieces of the familiar and weaving fictional stories into timeless pieces of literature for all the world to read until the end of time.

Unless written down, a speaker's words will eventually fade into memory and then altogether be forgotten, but a writer's words ... last forever.

Will this blog last forever? Who knows. As long as the Internet exists, I suppose. But, the manuscripts made into books, those indelible pages of ink on paper found in libraries, private collections, and flea markets five for a dollar ... live on through eternity. E books can't compete with that. Sorry.

I remember finding a copy of Uncle Tom's Cabin in the attic of an old house I rented once. An old man had lived there for years as a widower. When he died, his children sold his home and contents and my landlord told me if I cleaned the place up, he'd knock some money off the first month's rent. But what I discovered, was a goldmine.

The old man's long ago deceased wife worked as a librarian in the 1920s. She was obviously a book lover from that time period having collected a ton of books and storing them in boxes in the attic. The diamond of the collection were a few first editions. One being an Uncle Tom's Cabin ... yes, that's right.

Immortal words, stored for over fifty years in ancient boxes in an old man's attic. I blew off the dust and held this precious book in my hands like I'd found the Hope Diamond. Many of the books were from the 19th and early 20th century. Some were just old school books, one was a picture book-- a souvenir of Niagara Falls from 1900, some books were written in German, there were books of Shakespeare, and a book of poems by Longfellow. A copy of Moods, by Louisa May Alcott, hid itself on the bottom of the last box opened.

I've loved words all my life, and as I sat there in the midst of that smelly musty attic with the lone light bulb hanging down from the ceiling, I heard the ghosts of those long ago writers breathe a sigh of relief ... somebody found their words again. Somebody who'd read them, appreciate them, and pass them on to the next generation.

Words ... I like to imagine my words being spoken by readers in 2080 ... don't you? Yes? Then get busy, writers ... we've got work to do.

Blessings to you and yours.

Monday, December 12, 2005

A Little Closer To The Mark

West Palm Beach was a great success! I made great contacts, shook a lot of hands (I felt like a politician) and spoke to crowds of women! (and a few men!) Though the attendance for the entire week-end was not as high as they had hoped for, the Southern Women's Show in West Palm Beach (their first ever in the area) still rocked the town for three days!

I spent thirty minutes every day on stage delivering Southern Fried Women to the men and women who came to hear me or just happened to wander by and sit down to listen. The word is out and they want the book! Yikes! I have to meet the deadline! The preorders are hitting my web site!

Then we decided to mix in a little pleasure while in sunny Florida. Saturday evening, we took a drive to Hollywood and stopped at Hard Rock Cafe. Dinner at Bahama Breeze (one of my favorite restaurants) and then we cruised down to Miami. The weather was in the 80s and the balmy night air sucked the holidays right out of my head ... until I saw the harbor in Miami and every yacht was decorated to the max in Christmas lights! I just don't associate 80 degree weather and Christmas in the same venue. Stopped at Miami Hard Rock (I collect the pins) and strolled around the harbor wondering what it would be like to have the kind of money those boat owners obviously do. Whew! Decked out! Drove down Collins Avenue and then took our lives in our hands as we headed back to West Palm Beach. They drive 95 or faster on I95 around the Miami area!

If you ever visit Palm beach, cruise the beach area! Now that's a place of fantasy. Especially to a country girl like me. My goodness gracious. Every other car was a Porche, Rolls Royce, Mercedes ... or a Jag. I felt a little like the Beverly Hillbillies in our 95 Honda Accord.

But we did stop at the only Independent Bookseller in the area. The Palm Beach Book Store. I introduced myself and left information about the book. She indicated once the book was out, there's a good possibility she would have me back for a book signing. An enjoyable visit to a great little store.

That, plus the personal connections, networking, and the Southern Women's Show ... I did what I set out to do. I raised the platform higher. A little closer to the mark. A bit more of the dream realized.

Blessings to you and yours.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

On My Way To West Palm Beach

… and the Southern Women’s Show. I have the Spotlight Stage 2:30 on Friday, 1:30 on Saturday and Sunday to present SOUTHERN FRIED WOMEN.

Michael and I pinch our pennies, travel light, and cheap … but it’s all part of the business plan – it’s not a vacation. It’s work. We’re not there to take long romantic walks on the beach, or for the fine dining and sight seeing. We go for one reason only … to promote my book. We’re serious about making a dent in the publishing world.

Plain and simple.

With any luck, we’ll bulldoze through the dent and breakthrough to the other side … the side of successful book sales.

Blessings to you and yours.

I Was Born A Coal Miner’s Granddaughter

I’ve been thinking about my grandpa a lot lately. Writing the short story, COAL DUST ON MY FEET, I dug deep into the crevices of my memory and tunneled through pages of old picture albums Daddy and Mama kept all these years. The truth is -- my grandparents, the miners of West Virginia and their children, didn’t romanticize their lives. They lived them and survived the best they could. The outside world didn’t exist much past an occasional radio program or newspaper article. Time stood still in the hollers and mountains around Clay County … life for Troy Jennings King consisted of a wife, five children, and a job … mining coal for the Elk River Coal and Lumber Company.

COAL DUST ON MY FEET is a very real story … in some ways. The strike did happen. The violence in 1952 and for the next year is legendary and men who were killed and maimed live on in the memories of their families to this day. Families were torn apart, cousin against cousin, father against son—and the union, though it failed to break the back of the company by the time the strike ended, changed things. Eventually … the company closed its doors. The coal camp or town of Widen, West Virginia folded up except for the post office and a few that refused to leave.

This place is real to me. I felt it simmer in my bones when I walked the dirt roads that exist in the area today. My story burns in my heart and struggles to free itself on the page. Although the story is fiction … it’s alive to me. It’s a love story in the town my family lived in for many years. A story of the supernatural and the women who brought it about.

I remember my grandpa clearly in my mind. I can still hear his voice the day he helped Daddy build a room on the back of our house. He sat on a milk crate, drug hard on his cigarette, and then pointed at Daddy. “Now Darrel,” he’d say, “make sure you cut that board long enough and use a 2 by 4, hear me?” I miss him all these years later. He was permanently bent over at the waist, walked with his hands held together behind his back. But he loved us. Always had a hug ready for me. The coalmines warped him. And they killed him eventually. Lung cancer, black lung or otherwise took his life in 1979.

I was born a coal miner’s granddaughter, and that is the catalyst that inspired the story, COAL DUST ON MY FEET.

Blessings to you and yours.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Christmas In Boone Part II

No more cult-talk, I promise!

So we’re having a lovely dinner – homemade spaghetti sauces, Italian salads, fresh mushrooms sautéed in wine, the works. The evening is filled with laughter and friendship with our friends from Boone and Ohio … the atmosphere is warm and inviting … the gourmet kitchen is overflowing with the smell of fresh baked breads and apple pie … a breathtakingly beautiful home and the view outdoors is like living a fantasy … we’ve taken the tour of the custom built, three level structure … Christmas carols set the mood ... presents surround the …


Bill and Margie didn’t have a Christmas tree! What’s up with that? They live in the Christmas tree capital of the world! North Carolina fir trees are the best and most beautiful trees around! They ship these trees all over the country. On our way to Boone, every other car had a tree on top or in the trunk! But noooo, not our affluent friends … they had a fiber-optic Charlie Brown tree, crooked, and two feet tall. In a room with 21 foot beamed ceilings!

We’ll never let them live it down.

Take a look. And if you're wondering why there's a monkey in our Christmas pictures (instead of manger scene or a stuffed reindeer)--that’s Circus. Circus monkey is in pictures from the past ten years of vacations and holidays. No gathering would be complete without a picture of Circus. Quite Christmassy, don’t you think?

I mean, how do we know there wasn’t a monkey swinging from the rafters in the Inn? Maybe he ended up in the stall and was the first to see Jesus. I mean, they do have monkeys in that part of the world. Maybe a monkey rode with one of the three wise men, or quite possibly … Joseph and Mary had a pet monkey! I know the scriptures don’t mention it, but monkeys are God’s creatures, aren’t they? Maybe baby Jesus received a monkey from a fourth wise man or somebody like that? It could happen. Sure. Why not? I mean the scriptures don’t tell us every little thing that happened. I can see a monkey in there somewhere … absolutely.

In that case, Circus is very much a part of Christmas.

Merry Christmas, Circus!

Needless to say … we had a wonderful time in Boone!

Blessings to you and yours.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Christmas In Boone

We spent Saturday night at the home of Bill and Margie in Boone. Joining us were Tim and Tina (my best friends from Ohio.) All of us great friends since our early 20s. We all met at and attended the same church. And we all came out of the same church. (Except for my Michael, who just sits, listens, and shakes his head at our church horror stories. He's thankful he was raised Methodist.)

Bill, Margie, Tim, Tina and me ... came out of a fundamental church (some call it a cult) in Ohio. If you've followed my blog, you've read how I've "come out of the dark." All of us found our way out of the dark. All of us are scarred in one way or another, and all of us ... according to our former pastor ... should be dead by now, God having slayed us for leaving his church. None of us ever amounting to anything for God. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah ... you know the things people say when they can't control you anymore. The "reverend" in short, cursed us.

Well ... we all sit around and laugh a lot these days, and wonder ... how did we go through that? It really doesn't matter. Because here we are. Blessed beyond measure. The curse our "minister" put on us, went back to him seven times over ... and I doubt he's yet to feel the full affect of all his cursing. But I believe he will someday.

Tim and Tina are in the process of building their third new home. The floor plans are spectacular! Bill and Margie live in a million dollar home (I'm guessing, but it sure looks it.) It makes me smile to see how richly they've been blessed. But it's not just the material things that God has blessed them with, they're blissfully happy people ... married over thirty-some years now. What God joined together, my friends would not allow their "minister" to separate.

Bill was one of nine children. (I think ... it could have been more) but anyway, I remember there was a carload of them! He was raised below the poverty level and the stories he tell us are nothing less than awe-inspiring. It's like Margie said, "God's blessed us extra good because of what we went through!" They live in the most picturesque part of Boone, on the side of a mountain, in an unbelievably gorgeous home.

I agree. He's blessed us all extra good. I sound preachy today ... which is not my norm ... I suppose it's because I realized this weekend, if we believe in God, we need to give Him credit when we know He's made the way, caused the blessing, opened the door, and saved us from calamity. If we are able to do that, then the dark side never won.

We lived through nightmares and we survived. More than that --we're proof that God has not abandoned us.

Thing is, being with my long time friends and hearing about each other's plight out of "Egypt," tells me there needs to be some kind of self-help group for people who come out of those kinds of "ministries." There are stages of grief and anger and yes ... forgiveness that takes place.

What does all this have to do with Christmas in Boone?

EVERYTHING, my friend. Because Christmas to survivors, whether it be from surviving cancer, or the death of a loved one, or divorce, or a cult ... Christmas takes on a whole new look.

I sat around and watched the love and the fun and remarkable friendship we had and I thought to myself ... now this is celebrating the holidays!

Blessings to you and yours,

Saturday, December 03, 2005

A Beautician's World

I used to own a beauty shop. Back in the day. Back when everybody got perms and highlights and changed their hairstyle every week. Back in the 80s. Back in the days of big hair and bigger hair bands ... Bon Jovi, Queen, Pat Benetar, and Aerosmith. My daughter, Jillian, was just ten and loved every minute of getting her hair done at mom's shop. (She'll be 29 this December, and we still laugh about her hairdos back then.)

I didn't "do hair." I owned and managed the 12 chair stylist shop. An upscale place for white collar types to get nails and hair done. It was wedged between a pizza parlor and a florist. For two years I had a ball taking the "show on the road." We did free cuts at mall shows and bridal fairs. It's a touchy-feely ballsy business. But there's one thing I did learn about the hair business. These people are artists. And there are good ones, bad ones, and inconsistent ones.

All these years later, I find they're not much different than they were back then. I've yet to find a stylist in North Carolina that can give me a consistent hair cut and highlight. I've resigned myself to doing my own hair. At least if I have to scream about the way it looks, I've no one to blame but myself. I don't want a stylist to tell me how they think my hair should look. I don't give a crap what you think or what "big name" you studied with in New York and London. I don't care you're Vidal Sassoon's second cousin!

If I have to pay $100 for your time (believe me, color and perms don't cost much wholesale...) then I just want you to be consistent, do it the way I want it, and shut up. And if I'm paying that much for your time, then I don't want you rushing me through so you can do a wash and set on some old lady while I sit and wait on you to finish. I don't care about your schedule, I care about mine ... at $100 (the average price on cut, color, and style) I want your full attention.

Last time I went to the beauty shop, I came out looking no different then when I went in! All for the low price of $80.00. Never again. Not until I hear about a stylist that will listen to me, give me exactly what I want every damn time I sit in his/her chair. And not work on two other people at the same time.

Am I unreasonable?

I don't think so. I expect consistent care and service from my doctor, dentist, plumber, cable guy, banker, grocery store, and my minister! These "artists" or stylists as they're called these days, (beauticians for those of you who remembers the shops of the 60s) are licensed individuals. Besides doctors and dentists and your local massage therapist, they're they only people who will put their hands on you. Think about it. They're hopefully trained and paid to give you their best. I give everybody two chances. After that ... I'll find somebody else.

Or do my own hair.

What happened to my shop, you ask? A little thing like D-I-V-O-R-C-E. I couldn't go through a divorce and manage to put in my normal 60 hour week, with two kids to raise. So I went back to medicine, working for doctors ... getting regular paychecks. Life was rolling from one disaster to the next back then. But my employees, my stylists, though I expected a lot from them, were wonderful and warm. They were a consistent bunch and I will never forget the lessons they taught me. Especially about what to expect when I get my hair done.

Blessings to you and yours.

Friday, December 02, 2005

It's Dena Harris Week!

My friend and collegue, Dena Harris, wrote a cat humor book that is taking the area by storm! She's truly the Erma Bombeck of cat writers! Funny and sweet, her book is a great gift for Christmas, but even more than that ... if you love cats ... or if you know somebody who does, this is the perfect book because she brings to life the day to day events in living with one ... or two as the case may be.

This week, Dena was on the Fox8 morning TV news show, interviewed by Cindy Farmer the co-anchor seat for this highly watched program. Dena is a natural and her personality just lit up the screen! Such a great treat to see your good friend shine on television.

Last night her book launch rocked at The Green Bean Coffee House in Greensboro. The place was full with fans wanting her book. Sometime in the near future, I'll have pictures of this event on my web site and on this blog. There were two cats from Happy Hills Animal Shelter available for adoption - but unfortunately, nobody took them home ... beautiful and sweet animals. I'm only hoping they go to good homes, they were such docile creatures ... oblivious to the noise and all the fingers poking in their cage. Even though I'm not a cat lover to the degree of my pal, Dena, I would've taken "Smokey" home in a minute if I wasn't allergic to cat dander. Ahh, I'm still thinking about him this morning.

Dena's humor book is a wonderful read, but more importantly, I believe she's raising awareness to the need of finding good homes for cats instead of killing them. Getting them spayed and neutered, instead of letting them have litter after litter of unwanted kittens. She's letting people know they need to take responsibility for their pets, love them, care for them ... they're God's creatures.

Go to her web site at You can learn about her book and click to her blog, which is also a daily must read!

Congratulations to Dena! When I introduced her last night, I got all choked up at the end ... yikes! I just hope when she introduces me in March at my book launch, she'll remember not to drink a beer beforehand!

Blessings to you and yours.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Mill Workers And Coal Miners

I've been thinking lately about our families and the blue collar roots we came from. Michael, born in North Carolina, his mother, his aunts, and his grandfather ... all worked in the mills. Mill workers in the 50s and 60s in North Carolina worked long, tedious jobs. Some of it was piece work. Michael's mama told me she used to sew the toes in socks and the bibs on the front of men's overalls until her fingers bled. They worked for little pay and virtually no benefits. But they believed in the American dream and they all wanted a piece of it.

The coal miners in my family were virtually the same kind of worker. Black lung and being buried alive were among the number one health issues, I would imagine. Working below the earth had to be a scary and thankless job. And lets not forget, just plain damn depressing. Ever think about it? Talk about no windows! Shifts of men worked twenty-four hours a day. Add on top of the job hazzards, the union issues ... it was a tough time to raise a family.

I look at the "Happy Days" Hollywood tends to paint. The "Rock around the Clock" and "On Blueberry Hill" days. We can glamorize the 50s with James Dean and Natalie Wood, even try to bring it back with movies like American Graffiti and Grease ... but when I talk to the people that really lived and worked during those turbulent years ... I see an entirely different story.

Vietnam ... Civil Rights ... Women's Lib ... Cold War ... Transportation Expansion ... Kennedy and Johnson ... new tax laws ... and all the modernization of that time period, whew, think about it. The list goes on. My point is, the growth of America was painful on the laborers, the farmers ... the little people. Their sons were still dieing in a war somewhere in Korea and then Nam. It didn't necessarily get any easier for mom and pop. But it was on the backs of these people that our nation built its economy and politicians promised "better days ahead." It infuriates me to see some sonofabitch in D.C. want to farm out our jobs to Mexico or China. I'm sure the old mill workers and miners have rolled over in their graves a time or two.

I can't dramatize it all here. Not in this one little blog. But I want us to think about our families, where they came from and the work they did so that we could have opportunities they never did.

Mill workers and coal miners were only a small part of the work force in those days, but they were my family. And I'm very proud to be their descendant.

Blessings to you and yours.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Growing Up In The South

Unfortunately, I didn't grow up in the South. Although I spent several years with my bare feet running the hollers and coal dust roads in Widen, West Virginia, Daddy moved us to Ohio, where in the early 50s, the rubber companies were hiring in Akron.

But until I was seven or eight, Daddy would stuff us all in the family car every weekend and haul us "down home." That was home to them. West Virginia was where Grandma and Grandpa lived and where Grandpa worked for the Elk River Coal and Lumber Company for thirty-seven years. It's where Daddy and his brothers knew everybody and everybody knew Troy King's boys. I'd beg to stay, and usually, they'd let me stay during the summer months. My cousins and I would run to the Widen Grille every day and wait for Grandpa to get off work. We'd flag him down in his old Ford pickup, and he'd stop and holler for us to jump in the back. With our cokes and bags of chips in our laps, Connnie, Margie, and me ... we'd giggle all the way back to the house in the back of that truck. And talk about filthy. Kids that played in Widen were not only covered in dust and dirt, we had the sooty coal dust all over us, as well. My Aunt Emogene said it made us grow if we ate at least a cup of Widen dirt every year.

But we didn't care. It was life in the coal camp.

Ohio was not home to Mama and Daddy. Never was. From the late 50s until they left Ohio in 1995 and moved to Florida, Ohio was not their home. It's where they raised their kids, worked, and went to church ... but it was never their home. I can't tell you how many times I've heard them say it.

Now ... for all the Yankees in Ohio ... (my son and daughter included) it's not the worst place to live. But to me, living in Ohio is like being in limbo. Most folks there have roots from the South, their fathers and grandfathers went there for the same reasons mine did ... work. But some of the folks around Wayne and Holmes Counties have deeper roots in the soil there ... tilled by German descendants. The rolling hills around Kidron, Mt. Eaton, and Wooster are still some of the most beautiful places in that state to visit. One of my favorite stops when I head up that way is the Kidron Cheese House on the corner of Rt. 30 and the Kidron Road, and a restaurant called The Barn, in Smithville. These idyllic communities are places of peace to me.

I know there are other beautiful farms in Ohio, but you can have the rest of the state and it's consistent nasty weather. I suppose the feelings of my parents rubbed off on me over the years, because I was always searching for "home." It was never there.

When I finally moved to the South ... my heart swallowed it whole. I never looked back. And except for the few remaining friends and family who live there, I don't miss it. If there is such a thing as reincarnation, my past lives were all spent in the South, I have no doubt. After thirty-five years of my soul adrift, I finally found my home.

But I still root for The Ohio State Buckeyes. (Some old habits die hard.)

Blessings to you and yours.

Monday, November 28, 2005

The Crazy Holiday Season

It's here. From now until New Year's Day ... America lives in a holiday mood. No one wants to work much. Every day feels like Friday. We take off as much time as we can, spend money we don't have, and vow not to worry about being broke or being behind in our work until January.

It's crazy.

We eat too much. We drink too much. We watch too many Holiday movies. And we shop too much.

This year, we're into cutting back on all of it. Is it possible to keep the holiday spirit, the spirit of Chrismas, and still not indulge in gluttony and overspending? Is it everybody's dream, or just mine, to get in a plane on December 20th head for a tropical island and not come back until January 2nd?

You would've never heard me say that years ago. Not when the kids were little and it was all about them. But these days, I just want to get away from it all. Take my husband and go lay on a beach somewhere.

Although I'm no Scrooge, and I do enjoy the lights, music, and festive spirit, I do hate mall traffic, shopping, and not seeing the people I really miss. There's never enough time or money. I want to do the candelight Christmas Eve this year, forget the gift giving nonsense.

This year, Michael and I have to go to West Palm Beach in early Dec. so I can present my work at the Southern Women's Show. It's going to cost a few bucks in gas, hotel and food to go down and back. It's our Christmas present to each other. Otherwise, I might have gotten a new coat. And Michael might have received the new camera he's been wanting. But we sacrifice for what we want. Yes, even at our age. And while I'm a poor starving artist, waiting for my big break in the Literary world, I'll give up a new coat any day to get the opportunity to talk about my book.

Maybe next year, who knows, I'll send Christmas cards from St. Lucia and come home to a full-length Anne Klein original while Michael takes pictures of me in it with his new Cannon.

Until then ... I just want to get this month overwith.

Happy Holidays everybody!

Blessings to you and yours.

Saturday, November 26, 2005


Cry is the title of the longest story in my collection of "short" stories, SOUTHERN FRIED WOMEN. And I finished it last night. Cry tells the story of a fifteen-year old girl, Estelline Aikens, or Essie as she's called, who accompanies her very pregnant cousin, Janey Gay Bertram, to Cherry Point, NC to visit her Marine husband. He's about to be shipped to Kuwait ... it's the beginning of the Gulf War. But on the way, they get lost and their car ends up in a deep pot hole along a deserted back dirt road they thought was a "shortcut." Janey goes into labor. But strange things happen when Essie must abandon Janey in their Ford Pinto and find help. Hours later in the dark, she flags down a van. They meet Evangelist Loretta Lynette who has abandoned her crusade in Atlanta and is on her own quest for peace in her life.

This is one of those stories that just wrote itself. These characters lived on my shoulder for days and guided my fingers on the keyboard. I had originally intended that Janey Gay be the main character ... but in the end, it was Essie and Loretta that had the biggest story to tell, Essie being my protagonist. And I love the way it came together.

It's also told in two different story lines running side by side, that come together three-fourths of the way through the story. Essie's story is told in first person past tense, and Loretta's story is told in third person past tense. I'm sure I've broken some writing craft rule, but I believe it works. In the end, when it all comes together... Essie finishes telling the story in first person.

The stakes are high, the story delivers ... I hope you'll enjoy it. I know you'll enjoy it. You'll love the book ... you'll see it on bookshelves come late February, early March.

Be on the lookout ... SOUTHERN FRIED WOMEN ... a collection from the heart.

Blessings to you and yours.

Friday, November 25, 2005


I rolled out of bed at 1 a.m. It's a sin to eat that much. It was Alka-Selzer time. Time to sit up yet a little longer and let the food digest.

Oh my God. The turkey had nothing on me.

I'm stuffed. I had enough to eat for a week.

Today, I'm relaxing ... and fasting. You won't see me at the mall today. No way.

I'm going to lay on the couch, watch an old movie, maybe even take a walk. But I'm avoiding the kitchen at all cost.

Mama just peeked her head in my office. "I'm making fresh gravy tonight for leftovers. Sound good?"

I think I'll be busy ... Christmas shopping at dinnertime.

Blessings to you and yours.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The Fifth International Greensboro Awards for Short Fiction

$500.00 ~ First Prize

Top ten finalists will be published in our anthology.
Two (2) free contributor copies for each finalist.

Plus, all non-published entries will be entered into a random drawing for one tuition-free seat in a future session of the on-line writing class, “Impact Of Style” (reg. tuition $499) offered by To Write Well (

Entries must be postmarked between January 1, 2006 and May 1, 2006

Winners Announced: September 1, 2006

~All work must be original and previously unpublished, including the Internet and your personal web site.

~Must include a COVER SHEET stating name, address, phone, email, title of story, a one-paragraph bio, and word count for the story.


~All published finalists must be prepared to provide an electronic copy of their story.

~Multiple submissions accepted. $20 for each submission.

~Manuscripts will not be returned. They will be recycled.

~Contest open to writers everywhere, except members of the Writer’s Group Of The Triad (WGOT), and employees and family members of sponsors.

~Final Judge for Short Fiction P.T. Deutermann, author of ten novels published by St. Martins’ Press (

~Send SASE for list of winners. Winners will also be listed on the WGOT website, as will information for purchase of the anthology.

~Entries that do not adhere to all guidelines will not be considered.

~For additional information, copies of guidelines, etc. go to: (,

Format: Typed, double-spaced. Font should be Courier or Times New Roman 12 point with one (1) inch margins. Maximum length is 4,000 words. Any theme or genre. (No fiction for children or young adults.) Send two (2) copies of each story.

Entry Fee: $20 for each short story. Entry fees for submissions sent from outside the US must be in US funds/money order/bank draft/ or cashier’s check. Make all checks payable to Writers’ Group of the Triad.

Send entry(s) to:
The Writers’ Group of the Triad
4118 Huff Rd.
Archdale, NC 27263
Sponsored by: NC Career Network Magazine & To Write Well, Inc

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Ack! Grocery Store Hell Week

Don't go! Don't do it! Unless you were smart enough to have bought your frozen turkey and all the trimmings weeks ago ... don't even think about doing your grocery shopping the week of Thanksgiving!

I bumped into ten people and nearly took somebody's shoe off with my cart. Then, two old ladies stood and chatted like they were talking in their backyard over the fence, hogging up the cereal aisle until I wanted to take somebody's head off next. Two babies were screaming their vocal chords out! (For God sake, do the rest of us a favor and find a babysitter. And if you can't -- stay home!) The last thing I need to hear is a two-year old throwing a hissy fit while I'm trying to find the last ten things on my grocery list!

People push their grocery carts like they drive their cars, with absolutely no care and concern about who's behind them. By the time I was through getting the last thing on my list, I was ready to take a life.

But that wasn't the worst part. I stood a half hour in the check out line while my friendly Southern cashier gabbed with every one of her customers about their purchases and how to make a good turkey. The three ladies in front of me had carts full to overflowing and every last damn one of them wrote a check. They're not smart enough to make out the check ahead of time; they wait until the clerk says, "That'll be $152.37." Then they start digging in their purse to find their checkbook. What's worse is if it's an old lady with a shaky hand that can't write but one letter every five seconds. Or maybe she writes it for the even dollar amount then picks nickels and pennies out of her change purse for the change amount. Then you wait another five minutes for the check to "clear." All while they record their check and subtract it from the balance. And lastly, the slow as molasses customer reviews the tape to make sure they got the 30 cents off their eggs and that the cashier only charged them $3.50 for coffee instead of $4.75.

For cryin' out loud, why don't people use their debit cards, or pay cash? By the time the cashier got to me, I said, "I'm having pizza for Thanksgiving, all this stuff is for somebody else, and I don't care how you bake your turkey." She didn't say another word. I smiled, paid her the exact amount in cash, and tipped the Salvation Army bell ringer on the way out.

I swore I would never do it again, wait until two days before Thanksgiving to go grocery shopping. And that was all last year.

Here I am this year, two days before turkey day, and I'm off to the store again! If you hear about a crazy woman that got arrested for running her grocery cart into every idiot that blocked her way in Walmart, that would be me.

Blessings to you and yours.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Poor Little Fat Rich Girl

I’m sure Michael has forgot about it, but I haven’t. I thought about her this morning. The poor girl, maybe five foot two at the most, her legs so fat she could hardly walk, wearing shorts and walking up the street in Hillsville. Her body was as wide as it was tall.

God, I thought, how awful for her. Handicapped by fat. Her long wavy dark brown hair down to her waist swayed around her wide hips. She was proud of her hair, I think. Maybe she thought it was all she had to be proud of.

I know, I know ... there's all the heavy people out there claiming they're perfectly happy being fat. To "leave them alone, don't make fun and hurtful comments, and don't discriminate against them!" I suppose if you're truly happy and truly healthy being 100 pounds overweight, then fine. Be that way. Otherwise, it's a load of crap. I don't believe you have to be pencil stick thin. I do think you need to be healthy. Fat is not a good thing, no matter how you size it up. I agree you do need to appreciate and love people for who they are on the inside ... that's important. And it's a cruel animal that says anything derogatory to another person, no matter their size, shape, or color. But risking one's health is not a beautiful thing.

I stared at her in the side mirror as we passed. I thought maybe she's on steroids, maybe her thyroid didn’t work right—and maybe she just ate too many donuts. Who knows? A friend walked next to her, hopefully a good friend. She wasn't quite as heavy, but almost. And there I sat in my car riding up the hill, on my own fat butt, gawking at this humongous girl, … at least she was walking. God bless her.

I found out she wasn't so poor. I heard from a store proprietor she was from one of the wealthier familes in town. She had just walked past his store as I was there. It was then I realized that just 'cause you're rich, it doesn't mean you're bound to be thin.

Anyway, the point is, I thought about her this morning as I wondered what pie to bake this week for Thanksgiving.

I got back on the treadmill today. What a week to start dieting.

Blessings to you and yours.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Bless Her Heart

I seldom watch television ... but when I do, it's because there's a movie or something significant I really want to watch. So yesterday ... I'm sitting on my bed watching the very end of the movie Titanic. I love that movie, and though I didn't take the time to watch all of it, I wanted to watch the last fifteen minutes ... you know, where they all freeze in the ocean and Jack's lips turn blue and he floats down into the ocean after Rose promises to "never let go." Sure, you remember ... snif, snif.

Anyway, I'm sitting there -- totally into it -- and my mother-in-law (bless her heart) peaks her head in the door and says, "You watchin' Montel?" (doesn't wait for me to answer her but keeps on talking ...) "somebody on his show wants to know why men have nipples! Can you believe they asked that? Well, Sylvia Brown said it was 'cause all babies start out as females ... now that makes sense, don't it?"

Not to be rude, I had turned my head away from the TV to respectfully listen to her, and missed the best part (in my opinion) of the Titanic movie.

"No Mama, I guess I never thought about why men have nipples, but you're right ... it makes sense."


You gotta love her. (But next time she's into Cops or Judge Judy ... I'm going to interrupt with "Mama! Did you hear Montel today? Somebody said our ears don't get bigger when we get older, it's our head that shrinks! Damn! he was serious!"

She'll freak out, but we'll be even. (Bless my heart.)

Blessings to you and yours.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Who Said Writing Was Easy?

Another radio interview today ... with coffee in hand, I review every possible question my interviewer may ask. I hope I don't trip over my tongue. I seldom do, but you never know. It's a call-in interview, so I can stay in my pajamas if I want ... I mean who's gonna know, right? I love to talk to readers, I love to think that somebody out there wants to hear about my work, my rich, deep Southern stories ... it's why writers write ... to have someone read it. But to get them to read it, they have to know about it. And to to get them to know about you and your work, you've got to "advertise."

It's the part of the writing process that most writers avoid. The marketing end of things. But it's just as important as your writing. My passion about what I write is so embedded in me that I have no problem getting it from the page to the microphone. I enjoy talking about my characters, or my plots, and how I come up with the idea. That part is easy for me. Don't misunderstand, I think everyone gets a little nervous to speak in front of crowds, but that's a good thing for me ... it pushes me to do my best and I'd be concerned if I wasn't.

For me personally, promoting my work --- marketing what I write, it's the fun part. The hard part is the writing process itself. Getting it down first, ironing out the plot, taking out the exposition, trying to incorporate everything that matters correctly into the story. For example, if a gun shows up on the table at the beginning of the story ... it better have purpose and meaning somewhere in the plot. Readers don't like loose ends. If you mention a character has a scar over her left eye in Chapter two, you better tell your readers, eventually, how she got that scar.

So you read your chapter over and over and over again. You put it away for days, weeks, months ... pull it back out and then the answer flys up in your face and you rewrite. You rewrite the entire chapter again, or the entire book. You find the word the fits in a sentence then you realize you've used it twice in the next paragraph, so you haul out the thesaurus. Or change the paragraph. Or delete the sentence. A writer can literally pull their hair out laboring over their prologue or their first chapter. We can take days to write one sentence. And then, we can write entire chapters in a matter of hours. You must be careful not to over edit to the point you loose the meaning or sacrifice your voice.

Who said writing was easy?

It's not easy. But it's the most gratifying profession I could ever imagine there is. After you pour yourself onto the page ... it's the satisfaction of knowing who you are, your purpose in life, and what you were meant to do that makes it all worthwhile. I heard a great quote today - The greatest use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it. - William James

So when I speak to my listeners today on my radio interview, I know they have no idea the hours and the time I put into just one story. Some stories have been years in the making, others were absolute miracles and written within days. There's no rhyme or reason to it. But I hope what they hear, is my passion. I hope they hear my love of the art. I hope they think, damn! I need to write that woman's name down and buy her damn book!

Blessings to you and yours.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Are You Ready For TELEVENGE?

It’s going from a buzz to a roar, I can hear it in the distance … like the rolling thunder before the storm.

It’s an everyday occurrence now. When I'm out in public, it's inevitable ... "When will TELEVENGE be published?" Anyone who knows me, who has heard of the book, it’s the first question out of their mouth.

I met a new friend yesterday. We sat and talked about our past religious lives. And I was asked, “Where do you stand with God, now?” A question many are wondering as they get to know me.

Not an unusual question, once you’ve been exposed to my upcoming novel, TELEVENGE. When one hears it’s about the dark side of televangelism, the first thing I’m often asked, “Is there a light side to televangelism?” (Tongue in cheek…) Then some suspect it’s a book about “pastor bashing.” That possibly it’s about a conversion to atheism. Or some preachy piece of prose.

Not at all.

But I will say TELEVENGE forces you to think real hard about your own church, your pastor and his authority, your own religious convictions, your own beliefs, and just what is God all about. It’ll make you wonder who among us is the ultimate authority on God. Who really knows Him best, and what does God really want from us. And if you don't go to church, it's still a thrilling ride and a view into the world of those who do.

And yet, it’s not a book about religion, or a religious book. I doubt it will be found easily in Christian Bookstores, for instance. But, I could be wrong … they may want it, after all. Mess with people’s beliefs and you’ll sell books.

No matter how you hold it, look at it, review it … it’s still a work of fiction, characters of my imagination that have taken on a life of their own and through the magic of storytelling, tell their own story.

But writers write what they know, don't they?

Read Tuesday, October 11th in this blog. Out Of The Dark … it’s a good explanation … of where I am now in the religious stream.

A couple weeks ago, I was asked by the Director of Religious Studies at Warren Wilson College, “Where do you stand with God?” In other words, she wanted to make sure she wasn’t asking an atheist or agnostic to come speak to her students.

My answer was, “My faith has never wavered, Ma’am … I am still and always a woman of faith.”

Then what was my purpose to write a book like TELEVENGE?

I suppose you can answer that for yourself after you read it. If you still need to ask that question after you read it, I’ll be happy to answer you in person.

Blessings to you and yours.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Critiquing a Critique Group

I belong to a wonderful critique group, a Novel II group, part of the Writers’ Group of the Triad. These people have become my friends and best critics. They’re fair, tactful, and make valid suggestions, but never get offended if I disagree. Some are better than others at editing, and yet some can point out things I can’t see because I’m too close to the story at the time. And they always have at least one good thing to say, for encouragement sake. They know how to critique.

Now I’m not looking for a pat on the back or a fan club when I join a critique group, but over a year ago, I participated in a "critique" group that I had to question later, what was the goal of this group? My first impression was that these people needed to learn the art of critiquing. And my next thought was, I need to warn other writers … that all critique groups are not created equal.

Is belonging to a critique group always a good thing?

I do not foolishly anticipate that everyone is going to like what I write. I can only hope whoever reads my work will appreciate my writing and is able to give me constructive criticism. I want to know if there is a problem with scene structure, if a character needs some work, if something didn’t make sense, is there tension on every page, or if Star Trek began in 1966, not 1967, etc. But please, don’t rewrite my entire story for me.

Did they offend me? More than that. They pissed me off with their stupid comments that made no sense to me. Further, they were outright insulting. It was more than brutal, they raped my manuscript. How’s that for honesty?

I write Southern fiction. I have my own style and voice. This critique group (made up mostly of Science Fiction and Fantasy writers) ripped my story apart, making it no longer Southern, no longer mine. If I had changed everything they said do … it wouldn’t have been my story anymore. My voice would’ve been gone; an alien might as well have written it.

It’s not a critique group anymore when you strip away a writer's voice. When you literally rewrite every sentence in every paragraph. Or even when you tell me what point of view “it should” be written in. It’s not a helpful critique group, it’s a damn lynch mob!

At that time I had just come from a writing conference in Philadelphia where a well-known New York Agent for the past 20 years, who reads thousands of manuscripts each year, said that point of view doesn’t matter to him, even multiple points of view, as long as it’s well written, a damn good story, and there’s enough tension on every page to make him want to read the rest.

So as I weighed all this on the scales of literary justice, I thought … do I take the advice of seven people who have submitted virtually few stories of their own to be critiqued? Or do I listen to an agent like Donald Maass?

It might have been a dilemma for me after this class, except for the fact that the story they ripped to shreds had just won two contests, one being with a book doctor and the other with an editor for publication in an anthology. So how bad was my story, really? Not at all. Were their gripes and complaints legitimate? Very, few. Did I learn anything from these people? No, just that they were all a bunch of jerks.

Had I not already won two contests with this story, I may very well have gone straight home and ripped this great story to shreds and deleted it from my hard drive forever.

Okay - okay, again, a few of their suggestions were helpful and I did make the edits. But in my opinion, more than three quarters of their comments destroyed the piece. They were mean spirited (some of them) and in bad taste. It was a good lesson in believing in myself and letting it roll off my back. Now months later, I’ve decided to write about it this experience.

I need constructive criticism. And it wasn’t in that group.

There’s a ton of professionalism in the critique group I’m in now. The comments and suggestions are not about how great my writing is … I don’t want that. (Well, not always.) But they’re well thought out, and spoken with kindness. Therein lies the difference. I think the word is … caring. The critique group I belong to these days definitely cares about the manuscript they're reading and the author - meaning they want to see it improved.

I obviously didn't feel that in the other group. Some of the comments were so off the wall and completely the opposite of my theme and plot, I had to kept my mouth shut, smile and nod. But it made me wonder, how many other critique groups have destroyed a writer’s confidence? That's when I realized, I wasn’t going back.

After the story was released in the anthology last year, I did a reading of that same story at one of the major independent bookstores in Durham, NC to a crowd that loved it. In fact, it was at that same reading a woman (who I had no idea who she was) asked me to sign her copy of the book, and as I did she bent over and said, “Honey, I think you’re better than Flannery O’Connor.”

It was all the validation I needed.

Blessings to you and yours.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Happy Anniversary, Oprah!

She'll never see this ... God knows she's receiving many more important e-mails, faxes, letters, and personal gifts of congratulations than mine. She's celebrating twenty-years of hosting her own television show every day. We know her. She's lived with us and shown us the good and bad in her--freely and openly--every day--for twenty years.

I've quoted her often. I've studied her life because I was born the same year as Oprah. She's far and above accomplished more than I ever have. But I'm sure I can speak for many of her fans ... that we feel such a kinship to her. (Especially, her battle with weight, and those funky 80's clothes, hairstyles, and earrings! Lordy.)

Whether you like her or not, Oprah Winfrey is part of American culture. She's an icon to be studied in American History. She's a beacon for women's issues and African-American issues. She's a humanitarian, a philanthropist, and a good ole' girl. I've never met her, I probably never will. But I love her for who she is, what she's done, and the voice I hear in my head many times as I write about the South. "Sofia Sofia Sofia, ain't that a purty name, Paw, Sofia?" I fell in love with her as Sofia in The Color Purple at the very moment she spoke these words ...

"YOU told Harpo to beat me! All my life I had to fight. I had to fight my daddy ... I had to fight my brothers, I had to fight my uncles ... girl chile' ain't safe in a family of mens! But I never thought I'd have to fight in my own house. I luvs Harpo. Gawd knows, I do ... BUT I'LL KILL HIM DEAD, BEFORE I LET HIM BEAT ME! Now if you want a dead son-in-law, Miss Celie, you keep on advisin' him like you doin'. "

(To which Celie says...) "This life soon be over. Heaven last always."

(And I love what Sofia says in return.) "Girl, you ought to bash Mr. head open ... think 'bout heaven later!"

It hit me like a brick in the head. Sofia was me. Her struggle resembled my own. When she spoke these words, it literally summed up the religious struggle in my life at that point.

That was the moment I knew, Oprah was my hero, my mentor, my friend.

Happy Anniversary, Oprah.

From a loyal viewer.

Blessings to you and yours.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Monday Morning Moaning

... I'm so far behind, I think I'm first.

Where do I start ... I've got so much to do here at my little writing desk, I don't know which end is up or how to find it. Overwhelming ... that's what it is.

And I've got to stop writing this blog and get to work. Put my priorities in order, make a list of things that have to be done today, stop procastinating! Close the door to my office and shut out Judge Judy from Mama's TV watching and get to work! A perfect day to start a new project or better yet, finish the story I started last week!

Arrruugh! I feel like Lucy complaining to Charlie Brown.

Time to stop moaning, get out of this nightgown, take a shower, make the bed, eat breakfast, work out ... maybe by noon, I'll be ready to write. (See how easy it is to put it off?)

That's why I'm usually in my nightgown until minutes before Michael comes home and sometimes I never get out of it. The bed goes unmade, the wash still stinks in the laundry room, and I stink from no shower ... (writers do suffer from personal hygiene neglect.)

So here I sit, my feet and my coffee are cold. I'm hungry, my hair's not been touched this morning, I'm still picking eye boogers out of my eyes, and the work is piling up.

Okay, I'll stop ... but first ... another cup of coffee and warm socks. Maybe a shower in an hour, and I'll make the bed after lunch. I have a restless character waiting to have her story finished.

Blessings to you and yours.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Who Did What To Whom

When I was a much younger girl, I loved to sit in the kitchen with my mama, my aunt, and my grandma and just listen. They'd be canning beans, making bread, or just relaxing with coffee and store-bought cookies. They didn't need an excuse to gather in our kitchen for endless hours of gossip about every man, woman, and child they had known in their lifetimes. The lastest news about my Uncle Jerry and his womanizing, or who did what to whom, was enough. Mama and her only sister would howl about the latest dumb thing their new sister-in-law said or did. And Grandma was an expert at collecting scandal and colorful pieces of gutsy gossip she and her daughters could chew on all afternoon. She made Hedda Hopper look like an innocent school-girl. Grandma was merciless, but she made us laugh until our sides ached.

Of course, as much as possible, I tried to blend into the wall so not to be put out of the room. But I think they enjoyed shocking me from time to time. It's how I learned about life. How I knew what was expected of me as I grew up. I acquired an education in labor and delivery, how to only share part of a secret recipe, how to tell a good story from a woman's point of view, and I learned all about men. I took bits and pieces of each conversation and patched together my own quilt of womanhood.

Those lazy afternoons of trashy talk was better than any soap opera or rag magazine on the market. Mama and her sister had an opinion about everybody and weren't afraid to spill it. Even about America's sweethearts, Doris Day and Annette Funicello, the women on Queen For A Day, or the Lennon Sisters. And I believed, hung on, and swallowed every word they said.

Finally, they'd pay me some attention ... "she's got your hair, Joyce," Grandma would say.

"Yeah, but she won't keep it out of her eyes, go get me a brush and some VO5. This child's hair is so fly-away."

My red-headed aunt would chime in ... "Need to use Dippity-Do and roll her hair in it every night. Use them pink sponge curlers."

By this time, Mama was yanking my head and brushing relentlessly at my tangled "rat's nest" she called it. But I loved my mama's hands on my head, feeling her arms around me as she brushed and smoothed my hair. Eventually, my scalp burned and I pulled out of her grip as she finished twisting my mousy brown hair into a pony tail.

Slowly, I was able to turn their attention from me back to gossiping about how horrible a cook our neighbor lady was ... and they were off again! Even saying goodbye took an hour as Mama walked them out to the driveway and leaned into the car window talking for another twenty minutes. Finally, Grandma started the car and rolled slowly out the drive with Mama getting a few last words in.

I think about those days, those memories --then I regret all my daughter and my six neices are missing. There's so many of us. My mama, my sisters and I are all spread out ... all over the country. I think it's been well over 10 years since we've all been together in one room. Before Mama's too much older, my wish would be that all of us spend a week in a house at the beach. Or somewhere ... just talking.

I'd love for all my neices and my daughter to experience just a tiny bit of the bliss I did as a girl. For the younger girls in the family to listen to my sisters and I ... put away any bad times ... and just laugh and remember the good times ... the tales of us growing up that some of them have never heard.

But times are different now I guess. With all our technology, we're all as far apart as ever. I've got great nephews, almost two, I've not even seen ... so ... maybe my wish will never come to pass and all I'll ever have are those distant memories in the 60s, when Grace, Judy, and Joyce filled our kitchen on Waterloo Road with love and laughter.

But here's the kicker ... Grace (my grandma) is dead now--she died several years ago, and Aunt Judy? We've no idea where or how she is. She and Mama fell out more than thirty years ago, and we've not heard from her since. For all their kitchen table talk, it didn't keep them close.

But maybe, just maybe ... there's still hope ... a remote possibility we'll turn that all around someday ... forget who did what to whom and just be a family again.

I can smell the bread baking already ...

Blessings to you and yours.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

I'm Singin' the Garage Sale Blues

Cold temperatures and sunny skies ... we opened the garage doors at 6:30 a.m. to a small group of garage sale junkies ... die-hards who planned their routes for Saturday morning treasure hunts.

A woman in pajama bottoms, flip flops, and a winter coat stopped on her way to pick up coffee filters at the grocery store. She about froze before she bought $15 worth of our junk.

We sold all the VCR tapes within the first two hours and lots of clothes ... from three sizes ago. (That's a subject for another day.) Place mats, radios, fans, lawn chairs, jewelry, knick-knacks, a lawnmower, ironing board (who uses ironing boards these days?) ... all junk to us that we normally would've given away.

But we're now $130 richer than we were last night. All for little effort. And if we sell the little refrigerator, the exercise bike, and the Body-by-Jake butt buster ... well, damn, we'll be up over $200!

It's redneck city this morning at my house! Pickups all over the yard, pulling in to see what we're sellin'. Men looking for old tools, women for anything cheap that strikes their fancy. Our coffee mugs in our hands to keep warm--we greet our customers with the customary ... "Hey ... Mornin'. Cold enough for ya?"

Mike's mama stays inside and fries up sausage and biscuits and keeps the coffee hot. I run in and out to keep warm and make change. Michael talks to everybody and bickers on the price of a wet/dry vacumn, an old suitcase, and some collector Kentucky Derby glasses ... it's fun and it's a lot of work. But at least you get your garage cleaned out plus all your closets and drawers.

I wonder if anyone's written a country song about garage sales ... they're a weekly event in most towns. If you're a garage sale junkie, you're never too proud to look through somebody's old blue jeans, rugs, and shoes. You scout out the better neighborhoods and hope to find the deal of the century. Why just a few weeks ago, I bought a Harry Potter book, a hardback, for 50 cents. What a deal! And it was the latest release! Garage sales have it all over e-bay when you think about it. Up close, you can see who's selling it to you and you can make sure it works before you haul it home.

Just remember ... never think you can return something you buy at a garage sale. It's your risk when you walk out with a radio that's supposed to work. Ask to plug it in before you take it home.

I need to get back out there ... I see three trucks that've pulled into the drive and they got their wives with them. That's a sure sign they're the pros come lookin' for a bargain!

Blessings to you and yours.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Late Night Memories

I remember watching the news as a young girl ... footage of American soldiers dying in rice patties and in the jungles of Vietnam. The networks brought the war into our living rooms. Except at my house, Mama refused to allow the TV on during dinner when Daddy worked second shift. As much as I was fascinated with the war, it scared Mama to death. Not but two or three years older than myself, boys I'd grown up with, went to school with, were coming home broken, busted up, or in body bags.

One night after his late shift, Daddy arrived home tired and moaned to Mama loud enough for me to hear. "I want to relax tonight, clear my head, and fall asleep to the TV." I heard him tip-toe into the livingroom, which was right next to my bedroom, then turn on the TV to find his usual late night Western movie. I slid out of bed in time to watch him toe off one shoe and then the other and groan with delight. He'd stood on his feet all day at the Plant 5 Chemical Division of the Akron based Goodyear Tire and Rubber company. A job that over time, broke him physically.

"What you doin' up, Sissy?" he whispered.

"Just wanna kiss you goodnight, Daddy."

He'd hug me, then point to the kitchen counter. "There's a candy bar in my lunchbucket, don't let yer Mama see."

"Thanks, Daddy ... goodnight."

"'Night, Darlin'."

I knew Daddy always brought something home for me or my sister; whoever was up got first dibs. Mama would pack his lunch and throw in a candy bar which he never ate, just so he could bring it home to one of us.

Finally, I heard him flop back down on our L-shaped couch after finding an old movie, something with Jimmy Stewart. (No such thing as a remote control in those days.) Though the sound was turned low, the music and words of the film soothed me and the glow from the TV served as my nightlight.

This particular evening, the news broke in to report the latest casualties from a place called Khe Sanh. A Marine base had been hit. A shattering barrage of shells, mortars and rockets slammed into the base. Eighteen Marines were killed instantly, forty were wounded. I heard Daddy's heavy sigh and my mama's bleak response, "When will it end?"

The news had interrupted all programs. There were only a handful of channels back in 1968. In a tone I'd not heard before, Daddy declared to my mama he was thankful his oldest children were girls, and that hopefully by the time my little brother was eighteen, the war would be over--which it was. My daddy was a Korean war veteran, he'd seen enough and turned off the TV.

Now and again, I like to lay in bed and think of those nights ... laying awake and waiting for the sound of that front door opening. My mama's heavy footsteps from somewhere in the house padding down the hall to greet him. The sounds of their voices, the dull gray light from the old RCA TV set, and the smell of leftovers being reheated for his dinner ... all remind me of security. And even in the midst of war, I felt secure.

It would be 35 years later before I felt that secure again. Laying in bed now, watching Michael sleep, the TV turned down as I'm flipping through over a hundred channels, a war overseas still goes on. But the peace I felt as a young girl, has now come back to me ... and I'm thankful for that ... even in the late hours of the night and early mornings.

I think tonight, I'll flip to the channel that plays old Westerns ... maybe I'll find an old favorite of Daddy's, The Man From Laramie. Jimmy Stewart just puts me to sleep.

Blessings to you and yours.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Tell The Truth and Shame the Devil!

I can't tell you how many times in my life I've heard it ... "Tell the truth and shame the devil!"

So here's the truth ... I'm about ready to rip somebody's head off today. There. I said it! It sure felt good to say it. I suppose it could be that nasty time of the month when all women want to take somebody's head off, but for me personally ... after a truly wonderful and exhilarating weekend, I came home to problems that you know what? ... I just don't want to deal with.

I've got better things to do with my time than take up precious minutes and hours worrying about what one or two or a group of people think about decisions that have already been made.

At 51, I no longer want to deal with crap. I want things to run smoothly ... people to be reasonable ... see how hard I work ... how hard others work ... contribute and make our dreams come true, not tear down weeks of effort and drive on the part of those put into the position to do the job.

I know, I'm living in a fantasy world.

I'm still learning at 51 ... that even working at home I still have to put up with crap.

I want to feel justified in my anger ... but I'm hurt.

I want to feel like all my work has counted for something ... instead of being scorned at.

I want to believe people appreciate hard work, improvements, changes for the good of the many and not just a few ... but all I hear is discord.

I want people to see our courage, our dilligence, our dedication to make it better ... but all they see is "if it's not broke, don't fix it."

So today, I'll tell the truth and shame the devil ... I'd like to find a place where all I have to do is never answer a phone or an e-mail but once or twice a week. Find a room where I can write my stories ... dig in and hole up for a few months and shut the world away.

A dream for many, I'm sure.

I want to be Virginia Woolf.

But when the human element is involved, the devil is always around the corner. And even after we've shamed him, we must endeavor to finish we we've started and keep him at bay.

So tomorrow, I start again. Overlook it all and finish my course.

Thanks for letting me scream a little.

Blessings to you and yours.

Monday, November 07, 2005

NC Writers' Network Fall Conference

A last minute decision ... and so glad I attended. Always fantastic, the annual event was held this year in the North Carolina Mountains. Asheville exploded with color! The leaves were breathtaking! Michael wandered over footpaths and wound his way through the Blue Ridge Parkway taking pictures of majestic waterfalls and scenery, while I spent the day attending classes.

A quick trip downtown to visit Malaprop's. An independent bookstore in the heart of the city. I introduced myself and left a book cover of SOUTHERN FRIED WOMEN with an employee to give to the store's owner. I'd love to do a reading at Malaprop's every time I publish a book. An established part of the literary community, this bookstore has the heart of its people in mind.

The Crowne Plaza overflowed with writers, editors, agents, and poets! My classes included a class on Screenwriting with Laura McKinny, Reimagining the Real with Joseph Bathanti, Telling the Truth in Fiction with Selah Saterstrom, Publishing with Stephen Kirk, and a Publishing Panel with Tommy Hays and three other published poets and writers. I'm finding even though I enjoy the classes, I didn't get as much from them this year as in years past. The speakers are excellent and knew their stuff ... but ... I've heard it all before.

These classes were great for emerging writers and I encourage participation. And I'm not so seasoned that it won't hurt me to sit through them. But I just found myself, like I said, hearing it all before. Now, don't get me wrong ... I'll be learning something new about writing when I'm in my 90s. One never stops learning ... but I think we get to a point, (or we should) tend to outgrow conference classes. (Unless you take Master Classes, which I was too late to sign up for.) I would suggest if you've been to as many conferences as I have, look for more advanced teaching. However, this conference offers so much more than classes and I plan to return year after year.

The keynote speaker, Susan Orlean was nothing short of spell binding in her delivery. Great orator and author. The lunch on Saturday moved me as Mark Bixler spoke. His book, THE LOST BOYS OF THE SUDAN, brought tears to the writer's eyes at my table. Next, a group of young men, a poetry group, from the Swannonoa Adjudicated Youth Center, delivered soul-moving pieces from their hearts that made us think. A standing ovation brought down the house!

Networking at these conferences is priceless to me. The cost of the entry fee is worth getting to sit by two New York City Literary Agents at dinner and discussing your work for over an hour. Don't you think? My friend, Literary Agent for Nonfiction, Rita Rosenkranz, I've seen at several writing conferences. We cross paths a few times a year. A special and kind woman who clearly loves her work and spending time with writers. I appreciate her ... seeing her face at a conference is comforting, somehow, to me. I've heard some horror stories lately about nasty agents and editors that snub writers at other conferences.

A writer friend told me his personal experience today that happened at a recent Maryland Writer's Conference. It upset the living daylights out of me. I can't imagine an editor being so cruel to a writer who wants only a minute of your time. If you can't handle being bombarded to some degree at a writer's conference, then stay home. Your reputation will eventually follow you, bubba. I don't think these nasty editors come to North Carolina. Not if they know what's good for them. That kind of attitude won't get far in the South ... we don't want you if you're not coming to be helpful to hopeful writers. Listen, I know damn well editors are overworked and often under appreciated. What do you, as an agent or an editor, expect to get at a conference? Why go if you're not expecting to find that diamond in a haystack. We need each other, be professionals ... that's not too much to ask. Aww, enough. Get off this soapbox, Pam. Some folks just enjoy being nasty.

Anyway ... the Literary Agents at the NCWN conferences have always been stellar, to my knowledge. I met Emily Forland, originally from Texas; she now makes her home in New York City. She discovered the manuscript by Melinda Haynes, MOTHER OF PEARL, which became an Oprah pick. An extremely warm and friendly agent. We had a great evening, Rita, Emily, and the rest of our table ... talking, laughing, gossiping, and sharing stories of our writing experiences. Emily invited me to submit my manuscript to her, and of course, I will ... as soon as it's perfect.

I met a very special lady, who I believe is the Director of Religious Studies at Warren Wilson College, Jeanne Sommer. She asked if I would like to speak at the college about my upcoming novel, TELEVENGE. Oh man, you bet ... my standard answer every time someone wants to talk about the book I was destined to write. What other answer could there possibly be. The many old friends you see year after year, the new ones you meet, the networking and exposure is again, priceless.

My article, A WRITER'S VIEW OF THE BURNSIDE SUPPER, appeared on page seven of the November/December newsletter for the NCWN. Several people complimented me on this piece, and I really appreciate that too. It's nice to get ... even a little recognition for what you do.

I met Nicki Leone, the President of the Network, from Wilmington. A tall, beautiful, woman who exuded kindness. Fred Chappell and his wife read poetry at dinner and the hair on my arms stood up. A duet of music not sung but spoken melted my insides. I love this couple ... they just look like a poem to me. If you live in the South, you've read a poem by Fred Chappell. Poet Laureate of North Carolina, Kathryn Stripling Byer presented several of her poems that again, made me shiver. I didn't realize how much I liked poetry until I heard Fred Chappell and Kathryn Stripling Byer read. An amazing after-dinner dessert of poetry pie.

But the Open Mic on Saturday Night ROCKED! A full audience and over 20 writers and poets who had five minutes to deliver their goods. Dan Albergotti, the Randall Jarrell Prize winner went first. Next, Cynthia Barnett, our Executive Director read a short piece by Carole McGrotty, CAHEC second prizewinner.

Then guess who was next on the list? Me. Damn, what fun! I read five minutes of VERNELL PASKINS, MOBILE HOME QUEEN. A short story from my collection that will be published after the first of the year. I have to say, the response was tremendous. Michael said the place was in stitches. Even though this piece is not a comedy, it is funny as hell in places. I mean, good ole' Vernell, she's living in misery and don't mind telling you how bad it is. After you get over the shock of how she talks, you begin to feel sympathy for her and her lot in life. It's a moving and uplifting story and I love it. I can't wait until people are reading it all over the country.

Michael and I stayed until the end. All the writers and poets read their hearts out. I was so proud; I think my maternal instinct kicked in that night. These people had such drive and spirit and wanted to be heard by their peers. I loved every one of them. Some were a bundle of nerves and others were old pros. I recommend attending and participating in Open Mic next year!

The next morning, I told Michael at least six or seven people stopped and said how much they enjoyed my reading. Again, more than worth the cost of the ticket. Exposure, experience, and networking ... can you put a price on it?

The North Carolina Writers' Network has been good to me and I don't think I could ever miss their events. They've so much to offer writers all over the place. From January through December. Their staff is great. If you're looking for a worthwhile conference ... this is certainly one of them. I'm ready for the next one.

Blessings to you and yours.