Monday, January 30, 2006

The Original Storyteller

At least in my family … my dad, Darrel James King, is the King of Storytelling. He was born in a coal camp in West Virginia in 1932. The grandson of Andrew Jackson King and second child and first son of Troy and Gussie King, Dad’s first memory, or so he tells it, is at two years of age. It was 1934 and his dad bought a new Ford V8 sedan at the Braxton Motor Company in Sutton, WV and Ernest Tubb was singing, “Walking The Floor Over You” on a radio in the car dealership. He says he remembers it as plain as day.

My coalmining grandpa worked five-days a week during the Depression earning a hundred dollars a month. Coal mining was a lucrative job back then, and for most men with big families, the risk of life and limb was worth it. It kept them all in one place, which is important when it comes to putting down roots, connection with extended family members, and the entire storytelling process.

I imagine my dad running barefoot all over Widen and the hills and mountains that surrounded the town. This picture, taken in 1937, is of Daddy at five-years old, his sister, Emogene, was six, and his little brother, Delmer, was three-years old. They all entertained themselves with huge imaginations, and I believe Daddy just had a knack for telling his own stories. One of my favorites is the time he was picking blackberries in the woods with his grandma. “I was just a little feller,” he says. “All of a sudden, I’m movin’ backward, but my dern feet are standin’ still. I look down and I’m standin’ on two black snakes tryin’ to get away!”

I know … he’s a hoot. Daddy has an imaginative memory stacked with stories and often-different versions of the same story. One time he had the horse running like the wind and another time the wind couldn't keep up with the horse . When he tells his stories, my mother rolls her eyes with the “here we go again” look. She’s heard them all … over and over … she's not a fan of history, especially her own. But unlike my mother, I could listen to them ... over and over.

He tells his memories of living in a coal-mining town with such drama and wanting you to believe every word he says, because to him—it’s all true. “Me and Delmer (his brother) used to run to the middle of town each time the whistle blew. We knew somebody got hurt or kilt in the mines …”

It was a different world, a time forgotten. Unless you’re fortunate enough to have a dad like mine with stories like these, your own family history is at stake. I’d suggest, if you have any interest at all in your heritage, start writing it down. Visit older aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents if you’ve got them … write it down to be passed down.

My son, Aaron, who loves his grandpa fiercely, can relay his stories almost verbatim. It makes me feel good inside … because I want those tall tales to live on for a long time.

Eventually, my dad went to college, married my mother, spent time in the Army, and moved his family to Ohio … like so many of the young men of the 50s from coal towns in WV. The rubber companies were hiring—it was a way out. As a result, his three brothers followed suit.

If you’ve read my blogs in the past you know as a young girl I remember spending every weekend driving back to West Virginia. It was home to him. It still is.

Dad insisted that winter in Ohio was nothing compared to the winters he had endured as a boy, interminable winters when the snow reached to the eaves of the roof; and when the wind from Ohio blew away the snow, the icicles remained, “icicles as thick as your arm.”

He tells about the night on December 11, 1944 like it was yesterday. “A very deep snow came. We lived in a house my dad built on a farm at Mill Creek. It had three bedrooms and an outhouse. A living room and a kitchen … that was it. No electric. We did have a water pump in the kitchen that needed primed each time we used it. Oh yeah … about the night of the deep snow … that night our new home burned to the ground while we were all at the picture show in Gassaway. Dad moved us back to Widen in a little house on Nicholas Street with very little furniture and Mom cooked in the fireplace …”

His tales are wrapped in sorrow and in humor. We never know where the truth stops and his imagination takes over. It doesn’t matter. They’re his stories. They’re true to me. He's not trying to write a memoir and get on Oprah. He's just being my dad and doing what he loves to do. Talk about his childhood. I just hope he’s around another twenty years or more … so we can hear them all again … and again.

Bless you, Daddy.

Blessings to you and yours.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Gail Godwin, A Lifetime of Achievements

I attended a book signing at Quail Ridge, (one of my favorite book stores) and listened to Gail Godwin speak about her new novel, QUEEN OF THE UNDERWORLD. She also discussed her new book, THE MAKING OF A WRITER: The Journals of Gail Godwin, 1961-1963. She shared with us her passion for Henry James, Marcel Proust, Lawrence Durrell, and ThomasWolfe.

I have read SOUTHERN FAMILY, which I loved, and have yet to read more of Ms. Godwin, so I wanted to meet her, get her to sign my copy of Southern Family, and purchase her new books. (She looks thrilled to have her picture taken, doesn't she?)

I believe Ms. Godwin is a treasure. A graduate of Peace College, many of the young women from Peace were in attendance. I’m sure she inspired them, as her real life reads like a novel … a struggling writer through the 50s and 60s who comes to the realization that she is a novelist, not a journalist. And after traveling the world, keeping a writer’s journal, and having some connection with Thomas Wolfe through her mother, she finds success in her writing. Sounds all dreamy and movie-like, doesn’t it? Like something out of a Virginal Woolf novel.

In her memoir, she also writes about her terror of facing twenty-six with nothing to show but a rejected novel and a stack of debts. "I do not feel like a failure," Godwin insisted as she sat down to an empty page. "I will keep writing, harder than ever." Simply inspiring.

But, I believe we can look back on these writers … Gail Godwin, Elizabeth Spencer, the late great Eudora Welty, among others, and see a world that has come and gone. During the question and answer session, many of the questions were rather fluffy to me … “What was your greatest experience at Peace College?” “Will we see the character of Margaret again?”

I wanted to ask, “Ms. Godwin, what do you think about the publishing industry today versus when your first book was published?” My question just didn’t seem to fit in with the fluffy questions. I should’ve asked anyway … it might have added a little spark to the conversation.

Ms. Godwin is a well respected and a genuinely loved author and teacher, but the talk lagged on. Personally, I was ready for her to stop at the end. Meaning no disrespect, because I think she is a wonderful writer, but it’s a good thing she’s already established. The new writers and novelists of today cannot sell their books out in the trenches if they drone on for an hour. I DO HOPE my readers understand my comments have absolutely nothing to do with the quality of her writing. But I also hope young writers, unpublished or newly published writers understand … we’ve got to be better speakers, sharper, clearer, louder, and shine a bit more at our presentations than the established authors of yesterday (even if they are continually published.)

It’s only one part of getting your work sold. I love the networking I’m able to do while at these signings. I always meet people who are interested in my work, as a writer. They asked for my card and web site and it helped to make the trip to Raleigh feel like I haven’t entirely wasted my time.

I sincerely wish Ms. Godwin all the best with her new books, and I’m sure I will enjoy them as much as I enjoyed Southern Family … maybe even a little more.

Blessings to you and yours.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Meeting Authors

As you probably know, if you follow my blog or web site, I get around to many of the author signings, in my area and otherwise. I learn a great deal from these events. What to do, what not to do ... which high-priced books have authors that can speak, as well as write. (Believe me, most of them cannot speak well.) Unfortunately, that really doesn't matter for some well-known authors with a dozen books in print. People show up to hear them, because they love their work, and they love the person that writes the book, not because they're known for their entertainment value on stage. Those authors are few and far between.

For some authors, they may shine in their writing ... but when it comes to performing it, talking about it in front of an audience ... they suck at it. I think we have to be honest, if you're going to go out there and talk to people ... know how to captivate them, seduce them, entertain them. You'll sell more books, but you also come off looking like the professional you feel you are.

But like I said, some need a speaking coach, a few acting lessons, and you need to watch every other author speak that you can ... watch the audience's reaction. You learn a lot that way.

So after many years of watching ... I'm investing in a coach. Someone who will take what I feel is already a kick-ass presentation and make it dynamic, inspirational, and leaving the listener with something to think about. I don't want anyone to feel they've wasted their time by coming out to hear me speak.

No longer can you get away with putting on a little humility act, reading for five minutes, being hokey, and answering a few questions. It's about being honest and putting everything you have into your writing and that includes your speaking about your writing.

That's how I see it anyway.

Blessings to you and yours.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Mama's Fishbowl

A fish swimming around in a fishbowl knows nothing at all about water. Water is the fish’s life. It’s enclosed and implanted in water. In that sense, the fish doesn’t really know water. If you want the fish to really understand water, you have to take the fish out of the fishbowl and say, “Look, that’s water.” Now … if you put the fish back in … the water never looks the same again to the fish.

Well, possibly, that reminds you of your mama; she’s never been out of her fishbowl.

Caught up in the pain of divorce, most women naturally want to share it with their mama. It may take a day. Maybe a week. But sooner or later, there’s going to be that moment when it can’t wait any longer. You might be pumping gas, or dropping the kids off at school. It could hit you at work, or at the dentist. Maybe not until the next time you step on your mama’s front porch. But sooner or later there’s going to be a second when you can’t exist another moment without sharing your pain; the latest crap he’s pulled, and how you can’t sleep without the TV on to numb your mind. You may be a bit daring and reveal the time he hit you and you’ve finally got the nerve to tell her; or how you cried for three days straight when he walked out. Ignoring all hints of caution, you might even tell her about your recent message from the Lord.

You’re a woman, you need to talk to her. But she says, “I’m sorry, Sugah. Don’t fret, it’ll be fine.” Somehow that’s not good enough. You respond, “But Mama, I was standing in line at the Food Lion when Jesus spoke to me ...” and your mama interupts, “Uh huh. Sorry honey, what d’you say?”

You watch her eyes glaze over as she smiles, nods, and glances over your shoulder out the window at your dad, worried he doesn’t mow over her newly planted hosta. So you try a new approach. “You know, Mama, I found a psychiatrist,” and before you even finish—the dryer buzzes, she pats your hand, then heads to the laundry room. “That’s nice,” she says like a good Stepford wife.

But suddenly, she’s giddy when your sister calls to tell her about their new car and invite her and your dad to dinner. Your mama hangs up from your sister and replays all the great things you’ve missed because you married too young. After all, your little sister is on her third new house … and you’ve yet to own a first one. Her comments pull down on the corners of your mouth as you try hard to smile while she lists all the wonderful things your sister can do because she married the right man. A man with money. Like throw that big party she gives every year for your dad’s birthday … where everyone asks about you, and inevitably about your ex.

Then she jumps to last night’s episode of “Unsolved Mysteries.” She insists on telling you about the abused and missing women. Her voice raises as she shakes her head and clucks her tongue. She just can’t believe women put themselves in such predicaments. And you want to crawl out of your skin.

She folds towels at the kitchen table, avoiding your eyes, but you say it anyhow. “Mama, I have a bankruptcy hearing next week.”
You hear yourself sounding pathetic. You know, in your world, if you start a sentence like, “I received a final shut off notice…,” that doesn’t sound odd. But can’t you just see your mama rolling her eyes? You’re going to have to choose between sounding pathetic … and being silent. You long to go home … where you can be normal.

And maybe your life seems over back home. Empty. One that was once really comfortable and promising … only now the rug’s been pulled out from under you. Oh boy. All those times you tried to get her to understand your world. Some of it feeling a little forced as you could tell she didn’t want to hear it. Your heart had been ripped out of your chest wall, but she just didn’t want to hear about it.

Your relationship with your mama might not feel like it used to. Like an old pair of jeans that’s comfortable … but no longer your style. And you think, “I just can’t do this any more.”

You have become independent and genuinely concerned about the world outside. About other people. Stronger. Braver. Better than you were before divorce opened your eyes to the way the world looks at you. The life you had planned for yourself might not seem big enough all of a sudden. You’re thinking about changing directions. A new career. Maybe even a new home. Move out of state. How will she ever understand?

Does it matter?

Time to move on.

There are a thousand little ways in which the world doesn’t fit from this point forward. Television commercials look really stupid. Material possessions have no meaning. Your mama’s house is now disgustingly sanitary. Salespeople look at you like you’re an idiot when you try to bargain, but they’ve got money in their pockets, you don’t. And everybody has too much … stuff.

Even words don’t seem the same. You hear, “Family Court.” Family Court is a place … it’s not just words any more. How could you possibly have imagined spending the rest of your life getting chills whenever you thought of the words, “shared custody” and “court-ordered child support,” with the steady haunting cry of your children in the background. Who else will ever understand that? The world is never going to be the same again.

So what do you do? First, forgive your mama. When she listens to you it reminds her of the hell she never wanted for herself. Her idea of trash comes from a long line of pretentious women. Face it, she’ll never, not in a million years, understand you. It’s not the same as having been there. You know that. Your dad worships the ground she walks on. Always has. She quit high school to marry him and never worked in the public a day in her life. Sure, her life wasn’t a bed of roses, but her husband loved her to pieces … she got past the thorns.

You look hard at other people’s marriages now, fully aware nobody knows what goes on inside one. Be assured, they’re going to be looking at you too, and listening to see how you survive this. After all, you’ve lived it. It’s changed you … it hasn’t changed them. So you have to be a little patient with them … you have to be a little forgiving if they don’t quite get it. But I think you can only do that if they are willing to let you be the person you have become.

It is not the crap you’ve been through …and it’s not the good things that you’ve done since that have to be shared. It is who you have become that has to be shared. You don’t have to find people who’ve been divorced to understand you, but you have to find people to understand you. Can accept you and your mistakes, love you unconditionally. And if your old friends won’t let you be the person you’ve become, make new friends. There are a lot of good people out there. You know that single mom down the street? The one that mows her own yard, and has a garage sale every year to make ends meet? Go talk to her.

You’ll find friends who can confirm who you are … and who you are becoming. Even if that is not clear to you now. In many ways, the person you will be six months from now is still developing right outside of consciousness. You don’t know yet how much you’ve changed. And you won’t know for another six months or a year. It isn’t a good idea to make any major life decisions before then. You might want to … but give yourself some time.

Find a cause … something that you believe in … and work for it. If the world doesn’t fit any more, then you have to create a world for yourself that does fit. A place where you can feel at home.

Some of us have been taken out of our fishbowls and put back in again. Your mama’s from another time, another place. It’s her life. It’s the way it is. Love her, but go on. After all, she’s never been out of her fishbowl.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Every Life Is Worth The Telling

Some of you know, I'm a supporter of the International Women's Writing Guild. This March 4th (Saturday) Hannelore Hahn, the Executive Director and Founder, is coming to Lincolnton (near Charlotte) to lead a workshop with women writers from both North and South Carolina. This will be a casual meeting of women who have an interest in writing and/or a connection to the written word. I have traveled to hear her speak in New York City on numerous occasions, each time coming away encouraged with lots of fresh ideas. She is a unique woman, but the conference will center around each and every one of us. It's a one-day event, not a far drive (if you live in the Carolinas,) and I would like to encourage you to go.

The International Women’s Writing Guild
In honor of National Women’s History Month

Is calling on all women of the Carolinas …

1) To meet each other

2) Participate in “Each Life is Worth the Telling” workshop
led by IWWG founder, Hannelore Hahn
(no previous writing experience necessary)

3) Read a brief excerpt from your work
and/or listen to the work of others

4) Have lunch together

Saturday, March 4, 2006 from 9 am – 5 pm
Lincoln Cultural Center
403 East Main St.
Lincolnton, NC 28092
Entrance on North Cedar Street

$30 includes the program and your lunch

Please makes checks payable to – The International Women’s Writing Guild
Mail by February 28th to:
The International Women’s Writing Guild
P. O. Box 810, Gracie Station
New York, New York 10028

(212) 737-7536

RSVP to Pamela Cable, IWWG North Carolina Regional Representative at

Monday, January 23, 2006

The South And Its Signs

They crack me up! The signage in the town I live in is sometimes cute and sweet, as well as silly and full of bad grammar. Of course, if you live in the Bible belt, every corner church tries to outdo the next one with their “front porch” signs … in an attempt to make you think about the condition of your soul.

But the signs that never fail to catch my eye … the signs that make me laugh, are those that mix advertising their good food with religion. A couple months ago, a local eatery in my town said, “Praise the Lord, Brunswick Stew is back!”

Made me want to march right in there and order
myself a big ole’ bowl of Brunswick stew!

A local barbeque place uses a pig as it’s mascot and on much of its signage (which makes sense … pigs and barbeque, right?) But it also sells T-shirts with that cute, fat, pig on the front. And what do you think it says on the T-shirt?

Come eat the best barbeque in the state! Nope – guess again. Barbeque-R-Us? Not even close.

The T-shirt with the smiling pig reads … Jesus is Lord.

I’m not kidding. I haven’t decided if its sacrilegious or just the owner of a barbeque that flat out loves Jesus and isn’t afraid to tell the world how he feels.

Here are two local signs you’ll find interesting. The places are within a few miles of my house … I swear.


Blessings to you and yours.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Sometimes Blogging Takes A Back Seat

It's been a busy week and a week of fighting the flu. For the past three days, blogging has taken a back seat on my list of priorities.

So, in case you're one who reads me and is wondering if I've given up blogging ... the answer is 'No' ... I'm just "takin' a rest" ... like my grandma used to say.

Tune in next week ... there's lots more coming. I'm working against deadlines for my book, SOUTHERN FRIED WOMEN, and it grates on my worn out self to be behind ...

I'll be back in full swing soon ... promise.

Blessings to you and yours.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

How Small Is Your World?

Hearing Angela Davis speak last night, as I attended a Martin Luther King Jr. celebration at UNCG, made me realize that just because we think we're tapped into current events with the media blasting into our homes everyday, does NOT mean we're getting the truth. The media is often biased, it does not always accurately report world events.

Civil rights activist, Angela Davis, reported to the few thousand people who packed out the campus auditorium that our prison systems are a mess, that Katrina victims are still out there and just because the media has abandoned them does not mean the problem has gone away. Her speech focused on about a dozen other moral and social issues that all of us should but don't think about. Not giving us any solutions, her message was to the youth ... it's time you find solutions and tell us how to solve these problems.

I remember Ms. Davis from the 60s and 70s ... I remember hearing what a trouble-maker she was. A black militant and what was worse, she was a woman. Being but a young teenager at the time, my life was boys, clothes, and the Rolling Stones. The last thing I wanted to think about was what was this woman all about. (Shame on me.) Last night I sat and listened intently to her message, and though I didn't agree with 100% of it, I was stirred by the intent and the devotion to which she has dedicated her life around it.

Her message is that racism in our country has NOT improved. Racist laws may be off the books, but the racists still exist. There is still a struggle among all the races. She even addressed the conservative views of some African Americans, as well. I liked when she said ... that it's not about the color of your skin, it's your political beliefs in making this planet a better place in which to live.

She asked the question more than once, "What would Dr. King say about the Katrina victims?" "What would Dr. King say about political prisoners today?" I believe Dr. King would call the nation to prayer. I believe he would be ever present in Washington and keep human rights in the forefront of the nations problems to be addressed. Rights for all people of every nation.

Her delivery was riveting, and I personally found myself thinking about issues I'd not thought of in a long time. It made me realize just how small my world is (and how small minded many people have become- they close their eyes and refuse to believe these problems still exist) ... that none of us can change it all, but we can do our part by becoming involved in a program or a group or writing letters ... something to make our world a better place to live.

Blessings to you and yours.

Monday, January 16, 2006

He Makes Me Cry

When I was a little girl, my father told me I was related to the great Martin Luther. (Being the non-violent and loving man that he was, and is ... I had no reason to doubt him.) And because my last name was King, I believed him wholeheartedly.

I told everybody--I was related to MLK. Can you imagine it? A little white, barefooted, blonde-headed girl running around town in the 60s, and in places in the south where there was still such things as a "colored holler" ... telling everybody who asked my name, "My name is Pamela King ... I'm related to Martin Luther King." My mother had a hard time shutting me up.

I didn't know the impact of this man at the time. But the looks on faces as I said it back then, I've never forgotten it. I address issues of race in many of my stories. I have problems with any race exhaulting itself over another in any capacity. I believe Martin Luther was a man of great spiritual authority and I believe he was one of the greatest orators of our time. But many believe that. It's not a declaration you haven't heard before - right?

But I remember the first time I heard his "I have a dream" speech. It made me cry. Even reading it, it still makes me cry. It's the most powerful speech ever written, in my opinion. I don't tear up at the Declaration of Independence, or even the Gettysburg Address. I don't believe there's another speech could ever be written as moving and soul-gripping as that one. I remember that for a period of time after hearing this speech, I wished I was black and could feel the pride he instilled in the African American race. Because as a young white girl, I felt ashamed that this type of speech ever had to be written in the first place.

Now, years later, I've realized that Martin was talking to all of us. Anyone who believes in the equality of the races can take on that speech as their own. It belongs to all of us.

"And when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and hamlet, from every state and city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children--black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Catholics and Protestants--will be able to join hands and to sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, 'Free at last, free at last; thank God Almighty, we are free at last.'" - Martin Luther King

It belongs to all of us.

He still makes me cry.

Blessings to you and yours.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Getting It All Done

I read, and sighed, over my friend's blog from yesterday. Dena Harris, as you know, is one of my favorite writers.

I love my freedom and flexibility also. It is truly a gift few enjoy ... working from home. But I agree with her, there are those days when you think it'd be easier to go back to a 40/hour a week job, do what you're told, and come home. Problem is, I always found ways to bring it home with me. And when you're the boss, as I typically was, those 40/hour weeks turned into 60/hour weeks. Sixty hour weeks making somebody else rich.

I do understand her thinking, however. Being a writer and juggling that which makes money and that which does not is difficult at best. Because those projects that really aren't generating you a cent, do add to your credits, your resume, your reputation, and your experience.

But you still have to eat and pay the bills. I know what she means. I still have to write the stories, the novel, that will eventually pay me.

And I still work 60 hours a week, but now I work for myself. I get started the minute my coffee's been poured ... three minutes out of bed. My hair looks like a bad impression of a Dolly Parton wig, and I don't shower somedays until noon, (or later depending on the intensity of my work.) I can take a long lunch or no lunch and not get the cold shoulder from any "boss" or co-worker. I don't have interruptions, and I don't have to take phone calls. And if I want a long week-end away with my husband, I don't have to call in sick or run it by the "boss." I can eat at my desk, and I can sleep at my desk. I can play music and arrange my work to fit me, not some department head that needs it done yesterday. And thank God, I don't have to waste time sitting through mind-numbing meetings because some yahoo department head likes to hear him/herself talk.

But I don't knock off at five, either. I'm at it until bedtime. Usually 11 pm or later. I spend a lot of time on projects for other writing groups, writing articles, working on publicity, and I do a considerable amount of time on research. None of which pays me a dime. I'm lucky, I have financial support from a supportive husband who believes in me. But all these things, including writing this blog everyday and wondering if anybody's reading it, distract me from my passion ... writing my stories.

In my case, I'm fifteen years Dena's senior ... I'm working against time. Though I don't like to admit it. It all happened the way it was supposed to. My life experiences lend a richness and a connection to the written word that may not have happened for me at 30 or 35.

The question remains, how do we set the right priorities, get it all done, stop wasting time on stuff that doesn't matter, and get paid for what does? It's easy to repeat the old cliche, "learn to say NO." But how do you know what to say No to that will bog your work and paycheck down, and what to accept that will benefit you as a writer in the long run. If anybody has the answer to that question, I'll pay the bucks to hear you speak at the nearest writer's conference. I love to know.

Blessings to you and yours.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Today's Woman

Yep ... it's me! On page 57 of the new magazine. It hit the newsstands in North Carolina this week! A editor contacted me a while back, and I'm one of the six women in "Women to Watch."

A great bi-monthly magazine with wonderful articles written for women. Articles on health, human interest articles, and even wedding information. I've been passing them out everywhere. Yesterday, I had a meeting in Charlotte and handed them to ladies from New York who came to plan a writer's conference for the women of the Carolinas ... today, I laid them on a media table during a local networking morning meeting in Greensboro.

It's amazing what you'll do when you're picture is in a magazine. My mother-in-law took them to the hair salon, I mailed them to family members, and friends in other states. Thing is, it's all part of the marketing plan ... get the word out about my books. Give them to strangers on the street. Send the subscriptions soaring!

I've been told I'm going to be on the cover in September. A cover girl. Well, it's about damn time. I wanted to be Cybil Sheppard and Cheryl Tiegs when I was 17 ... now all these years later, I'm going to get my chance. Maybe if they like me, they'll want to read my stories.

To subscribe, write to

Blessings to you and yours.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Haven Kimmel, A Girl Named Zippy

When I think of Haven, now that I've seen her and heard her speak, I think of one word. Smooth. Oh yes, and one more word. Precious.

Last night I was totally (leftover word from the 80s) blown away by her reading. It was as if she'd memorized her entire book, because she barely looked at her pages. Reading from her new book, SHE GOT UP OFF THE COUCH--a memoir about her mother, she kept the jam-packed room at The Regulator in Durham mowed over with her humor. I laughed, I cried. Her delivery and timing were perfect. I kept thinking ... how could she speak so clearly, so precisely, and be so damn funny at the same time?

If you've read A GIRL NAMED ZIPPY, you'll instantly fall in love with her. First of all, the picture on the cover is worth a million bucks. But her anecdotes and metaphors are beautifully written. And now that I've met her (which I could kick myself for forgetting my camera) I can see why the voice in her books is so original. Because Haven is her voice. She isn't one way on the page and another in person. And frankly, I loved every minute I sat there mesmerized by her.

Later, when she signed my copy of ZIPPY, I was again surprised by her concern about ME. Mentioning I was a writer, she immediately grabbed a pad of paper and said, "Here, write the name of your book and web site down ... I want to read it."

Who knew that a girl who used to be called, Zippy ... could be so cool and collected when she grew up? But I'll bet Haven would argue that she's still a little girl at times ... inside ... and when she sits down to write, she's still and always--Zippy.

Blessings to you and yours.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

2006 Whirlwind

It's started ... but then, I knew it would. I've spent the past two days up to my armpits in e-mails, meetings, and a business plan for 2006. Yes writers, you too can write a business plan.

It's a carry-over from years of working in the corporate world ... and now, I'll be damned - it's a little handy-dandy thing to know. Sitting with a publicist yesterday over a three-hour lunch meeting woke me up to the fact that even with a background in marketing and having poured myself over endless Internet articles on promotion, I still need professional guidance to get my book where it needs to be. There's more that can be done than Michael or I have time for ... my days need to be geared in other directions, mainly to my writing. A publicist can pull all the loose strings together. If you get the right one.

I'm hoping I've found her. She's a professional in my area with all the contacts and current know-how to put it all together for me. I'll keep you posted on how this is going. We're meeting with her again soon. She's an amazing woman that impressed the hell out of me -- so stay tuned.

Keeping the blog short today ... I'm going to stay on schedule if it kills me.

Blessings to you and yours - as always.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Another Tip

I don't remember who said this, but it's posted on my monitor. I read it daily, every time I sit down to write. "The best 'author tip' on handling conflict I know; Find the main character's Achilles' heel (the root source of his/her internal conflict) and stomp on it (external conflict.)"

Donald Maass says, "Write down what would make your protagonist suffer. Then, make it worse. Raise the stakes." Actually, his teaching is much better than my little take on it, but conflict is truly --- what sells books.

I know, I know ... plot, larger-than-life characters, kick-ass scenes, and good clean, clear, streamlined writing will help you get an agent ... but it's the conflict, the page-turning prose that causes one reader to tell another, who will tell another, and that reader will recommend it to their sister, and the sister will tell her best friend who will then buy it for her mother ... and so on and so on.

That's what sells books. Pure and simple.

I've been reading, studying actually ... pages and pages of opinions from million-dollar-deal authors and high priced publicists to the little old lady on the street ... one opinion after another of what it takes to get the word out and reach readers. I think I've bought every book written on publicity. The opinions are as varied as the people offering their 2 cents.

There is no magic formula, when it comes right down to it. It's hard work. Writing, publishing, and promoting. It's competitive.

But if you can lay your head down at night and know for certain you've done your best that day ... then it's all you can do.

And here's one last free tip for today ... to create conflict on the page you have to keep peace in your home. Think about it.

Blessings to you and yours.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Murder We Write

(I just read my blog from yesterday, whew. Talk about a mood swing. It must be these mid-life female hormones ... think? Good grief! I haven't been feeling tippy top lately, and I guess it showed yesterday in my blog!)

But last night! What fun! Spoke to a very responsive and eager bunch of wonderful women (and two men) all part of Sisters in Crime. Our chapter is called Murder We Write. My talk, WRITING CONFERENCES/CLASSES - WHAT THEY CAN AND CAN'T DO FOR YOU ... rocked!

After spending the past two and half years touring around the country to dozens of conferences and writing classes ... some big, some expensive, some free and in the next county ... I can get excited talking about them. To me, it's all about the networking! It's worked miracles for me!

My desire is to encourage other writers, the more timid writers, to get out there and do some handshaking. Take advantage of the opportunities at conferenes to meet your colleagues, editors and agents. Obviously, I've got lots to talk about when it comes to writers' conferences. Check out my web site ... it's all on there.

If you write mystery ... or if your stories only have elements of mystery (like mine) ... visit your local Sisters in Crime chapter. They are a fabulous group of mostly women that support each other, talk about their writing, and bring in guest speakers/authors every month to help you in your research, or encourage you to keep going.

My local Murder We Write ladies are the coolest. Southern women poised with pens in one hand and a gun in the other. giggle

Blessings to you and yours.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Why Do I Care?

I've felt like a pile of poop the last few days ... don't ask. Heating pad, and lots of Tylenol. Great way to bring in the new year. And I'm on a deadline. The train ain't slowin' down any.

I read the blogs of other writers that seem to have these wonderful spurts of energy and are so witty as they meet every deadline, teach classes, and schedule book tours. Their words just leap off the page, they're all having a great day, and the universe of publishing kisses them on the forehead and awards them with a new book. The only problems in their wonderful world of writing is managing to spend quality time with their toddler and dealing with snail mail. God, I hate it when they paint such damn rosy pictures.

Can we have some honesty?

Every once in a while, I need to take more time thinking about what's going on inside of me and how I feel. And today it's, why do I care so much that everybody like me. Today, I wonder if anybody even reads this damn blog. Today I'm thinking ... why do I care ... nobody else does.

Self-pity takes a lot of energy. I'm just having one of those days.

Blessings ... I suppose I should count mine.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Tragedy In Tallmansville

I woke up this morning to find that 12 of the 13 miners trapped in the Sago Coal Mine were dead. It made me sick.

Thirteen miners had been trapped 260 feet below the surface of the Sago Mine since an explosion early Monday. The mine is located about 100 miles northeast of Charleston, West Virginia. As rescue workers tried to get to the men, families waited at the Sago Baptist Church during an emotional two-day vigil. I can't imagine the grief inside those family members.

What were the miners dying thoughts? Did they pray? Were they at peace? I shudder thinking about them, huddled down there together. I had read how they tried to shield themselves from the deadly gas they knew would probably kill them.

And it did. All but one.

Coal Group Chief Executive Officer Ben Hatfield said during a news conference, "It's sorrow beyond belief." His name is Hatfield ... ring any bells?

My heart goes out to these families and to the area. The violence erupted, it seems, after somebody made a tragic error and announced they had all survived, then later ... retracted their statement ... the miners had perished. I'm not sure how I would've responded to that horrible mistake. Probably the same way the people of Tallmansville did.

As you know, my family is from a town not far from this place. My grandpa was a miner for 37 years. The history of my father's family is mining people and living in Appalachia. The mountains in this region are dear to my heart ... and these people, and the towns they live in.

Coal mining is still better than strip mining, but the dangers--even in the 21st century--are still as horrendous as ever. To the coal companies I say ... "Time to pay the piper boys ... take real good care of those families!"

Will it ever get safer, easier? Who knows? Nobody's been able to guarantee a miners safety since they started sending men into the bowels of hell over 100 years ago to dig for coal. And I doubt they ever will.

Blessings and comfort to the families in Tallmansville today.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

I'm Exploding

It's January 3rd ... the holidays are finally over! I'm looking forward to Spring! Ahh ... but not so fast. If this year is going to be "explosive" then I'm the one that's got to get the work done.

Before I start expolding, I've got to tell you about a great blog. (Especially for women writers.) The blog belongs to author, Karin Gillespie. You can get to her blog easily through her web site at The best blog I've ever seen for links and a totally gracious heart to teach what she knows about the business of writing. I've never met her, but I've joined her Girlfriend Cyber Circuit. Her writing is funny, her books are fun reads, and she seems to be a warm individual with a giving spirit. I like that. I highly recommend you check out her blog.

My list of things to do grows ever longer, and only weeks left to get my stories completely edited and ready for my deadline. Over the next few days, I'll work out my plan of attack on the new year. If I'm going to "explode" this year, I've got to get started. Exploding, that is.

Let's hope by this time next year, I've exploded all over the place.

Blessings to you and yours.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Explosive 2006

The only thing explosive today has been me running to the bathroom!

After a night of New Years Eve fun (and it really was a great time, thanks Ed and Terry) I'm paying the piper today. Maybe I had a bit too much to eat and drink ... not doing that again anytime soon.

A New York City psychic (a well known psychic) told me in 2004 that 2005 was going to be my year of opportunities ... and she was right. It truly was that and more. Then she said 2006 was going to be explosive. Hmmm, what's that mean exactly. Explosive good or explosive bad?

I suppose if you're a psychic ... the word explosive just covers your butt for whatever way it turns out. Think?

My husband believes it's a good thing. He quotes it often. At times, his confidence level in me soars far above my own. But I depend on his cheerleading abilities to keep me going on those days when self-doubt rages.

I suppose today ... I'll not worry about it. There's so much to consider and take on in this world of writing. The business end of it is mind-boggling. Today is January 1st and my deadline for Southern Fried Woman is closing in fast. I've just spent the morning reading tons of information on the Internet about publishing. I'm on overload.

Time to drink a tall glass of water, pop another Tylenol, and take a nap.

All while I contemplate the word ... explosive.

Blessings to you and yours.