Monday, July 31, 2006

Stick A Fork In Me ... I'm Done

Every once in a while, we need to REST.

I took a few days off after the successful "Women Authors and Wine" night at the open house for Jewel Day Spa last Friday night. Wow, and what an evening it was! Around 200 guests showed up, listed to Dena, Nicole, and myself read pieces from our books. I was so busy selling and signing SOUTHERN FRIED WOMEN, there was no time to sample any of the food or wine!

But all in all, I was able to share 20% of the proceeds that evening with the Women's Resource Center in Greensboro ... and that's a very good thing.

I've been experiencing a couple days of not feeling up to my old self, however. Feeling rather worn out from going full steam ahead since Spring. Summer is more than half over and I can't even remember when it began! So Mike and I took off to the mountains, our favorite place on earth, and kicked back for the weekend.

"Stick a fork in me, I'm done!" My mom always said it ... now I say it.

Funny how those old sayings we considered so silly as kids, we find ingrained on our tongues as adults. But I thought about that old saying a lot the past couple days. It's the best way to say ... I'm taking some time to rest and I mean it!

Blessings to you and yours.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

A Good Day

Don't you love days when the sun shines down on you and the stars have lined up in your favor? I could just break out in a 5th Dimension song ... "When the moon is in the seventh house, and Jupiter aligns with Mars, then peace will guide the planets...”

You get the picture.

I met John Hart last night, author of THE KING OF LIES, at a cool- hip new bookstore in Kernersville, NC called Shakespeare & Co.

John's work is hot. Very hot. He's on the NY TIMES bestseller list, and about ten other bestseller lists. Every good thing (other than Oprah) has happened to him. He's sold the foreign rights to 8 or 9 countries. It's being made into a movie and this is just his first book!

It took him 11 months and 2 weeks to write this book, working at it every day. He quit his job as an attorney and just dug in. Talk about talent and luck working together! Wow. After many rejections, John landed a contract with St. Martins Press for this book and two more. He talked for over an hour about all the great things happening to him as a result of his hard work. I'm anxious to dig into his book myself. (Here's a tidbit ... the book's original title was Ezra's Wake, but of course as Publishers tend to do, they changed it.)

When I first walked into the bookstore, it seemed half the room knew me! They've seen my book, obviously. Two women had my book in their hands. One lady bought four of my books. Isn't that the coolest? I was humbled and amazed at the same time!

So, I sat and listened intently to his presentation. Then the line formed for John to sign books. I held back on purpose. I wanted to be the last book he signed. I wanted to talk to him and not feel I had to rush through getting my book signed because someone was waiting behind me. The room was full. Unbeknownst to me, John Hart had already read the back of my book while he waited to be introduced. By the time I got up to him, he knew who I was. And we talk. Wow. There's nothing like networking ... It was a great conversation.

Then I arrived home to this blurb in my email:

"Reading Southern Fried Women makes me think of Tolstoy. What you and he have in common is an absolutely genuine feel for the history and region that you come from." --Hannelore Hahn, Executive Director, International Women's Writing Guild, New York City

"Aquarius ... Aquarius...”

Blessings to you and yours.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Life Comes At You Hard

Changing careers in mid life has not been easy. I certainly see why so many just float along the same career path even though they'd rather not. It's easier. But to change the direction of your life is sometimes out of your control. As it has been with me.

My life, had I been able to look through a crystal ball back in the early 80s, is NOTHING as I imagined it would be. Nothing. There are but few shreds of that period of time that prove its existence to me. Other than two children, it's for the most part, all but a memory.

But because of those memories, and the events that transpired afterward, I have evolved into what I am today. A writer with a past to draw from. Life came at me hard, but I persevered. It still comes at me hard. Decisions about this new career path still have to be made and I can only hope that the wisdom that comes with age is helping me to make better ones.

It seems, though I am a writer that speaks and NOT a speaker who writes ... that I'm destined to deliver my voice to the masses ... speaking about my stories, my work, and my life. I have a plethora of appearances scheduled from now until next April. And the requests to speak continue to come in. I will blog more about this in the days to come, but I think I'll just begin by saying ... Church Shouldn't Hurt. It's a spin-off of my speeches that is starting to cause a stir among many who share the same view.

The doors are opening for me to speak about it. I feel as if I'm stepping into an abyss that must be stepped into with caution and love. There's so much hurt, and so many who are wary. My message is a very simple one. But I'm not a preacher. Not at all. Just a simple speaker with her own story. But that story in itself is a powerful one. I've known it for a long time.

When life comes at you hard, you have to recognize it for what it is. A learning experience. You either make the changes and grow from it or you dissolve into the universe ... leaving nothing behind to prove you were here. I often wonder where my strength comes from. Then I laugh and shake myself as I'm gently reminded.

I work a seven-day week, most weeks. From 9 a.m. to midnight ... usually. Life has always come at me hard ... it's not let up, not one bit. But this time ... I see a beacon light in the mist. I know what it means. In the meantime, there are books to sell, people to meet, places to go and speak, and more stories and books to be written.

That hardness in my life has broken me down many times, molding me into the woman I am. For better or worse. It's pushed me around and thrown me up against a wall a few times, bruised my ego, and blackened my eye to the future. Slapped my mouth and told me to shut it before my foot gets stuck in it again. But it's also held me by the nape of my neck and kicked me in the ass a couple times too. I've felt the soreness it's left in it's wake. I also know the muscles of determination that have strengthened and hardened because of it.

It's what makes women into tough old broads. And softhearted grandmas.

I see glimpses of my life's purpose. It keeps me moving forward. Despite the hard road. Today, there's editing to do and obligations to writing groups and other writers that has to be squeezed into time I'd rather be spending on my own work or even in the garden that has suffered from neglect this summer. But in the end I know ... this is my path. All writers follow their own paths their own callings every day. We're all so different.

But there's one thing that all writers have in common due to the nature of the business itself. Life comes at all writers—hard ... because it's a profession we've not only chosen ... it's our calling.

Blessings to you and yours.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Perks of the Trade

One of the benefits of working from home is the ability to take off at 9 a.m. on a Tuesday and be at Kohl's when they open the door. Few or no people to get in your way, no lines at the check out, and it's been cleaned up. (No size 2 dresses in the Woman's section.)

The perks for working at home are the simple kind. And as long as you've set realistic goals toward getting a certain amount of writing done every day ... you feel free to take advantage those few perks.

1. Hair, Doctor, Dentist, Cable repair ... all appointments that can be made during the day.

2. You can start dinner at a 2 or 3 ... sit down to eat at 5.

3. You can shower ... any time. Or go water the flowers on the porch when needed.

4. Makeup and shoes - optional.

5. Clothes - optional.

6. No daily staff meetings, no fighting traffic at lunch, no having to sneak in a phone call to family and friends.

7. When you really don't feel well ... ahh, you can go lay down.

8. You don't HAVE to answer the phone.

9. You don't HAVE to be in a good mood every day.

10. You don't HAVE a boss.

... get my point?

The list is endless ... The downside? There's no steady paycheck.

That's about it. That's the biggest downside ... in my humble opinion.

That and finding a quitting time. Seems I work 'round the clock at home. I can be up till dawn and working on weekends is the norm. But to go back to an office across town and fight the bullshit everyday? I'd rather be tarred and feathered and rolled in grits than to be a part of that maddness again.

No paycheck is worth that to me anymore.

Blessings to you and yours.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

The Devil Doesn't Just Wear Prada!

You're joking, right? My reaction this morning reading an email from a close friend. She indicated it shook her up so bad as she sipped her morning cup of java that she, "spit coffee through her nose ... "

Here's the link:

I can't say I blame her ... 'cause I nearly swallowed my tongue. At the risk of sounding weird, I don't think there's anything prettier than a young girl's figure in a decent bikini (not the thong thing) but a nice looking bikini.

Okay, agreed. Not everyone has my taste, and if a woman CHOOSES to wear this - then fine. She has a right to wear whatever makes her feel good about herself. But don't force her to wear it! Don't say she's going to hell if she doesn't! And you and I both know ... there's plenty of fundamentalists out there and that's exactly what they're saying!

But can you imagine lying out in 90-degree heat at the beach in one of these things? How pretty do you think her face will be then? And what great tan lines, huh? I wonder what conservative old fart dreamed up this bondage? While we're at it, let's just take away her right to vote!

Gag me. I wouldn't put one of those 70s-looking gym suites on anybody! And how dare they drag God into their sick ideas of style? "Emphasis on the face instead of the body?" Yeah, right. Can you imagine the stares, the gawking, the laughs these poor girls will endure wearing this? Talk about drawing attention!

Why is it, here we are in 2006 and continue to put up with men and a few women, (mostly from the holier-than-thou religious sects) desperate to squash the human rights of women?

Why do some zealots continue to oppress women because we have breasts and love our sexuality? We're not all hookers or call girls ... LISTEN UP, Bible thumpers! The vast majority of women in America are beautiful and hold dear the freedom to buy pretty clothes and make herself attractive. Every woman needs to feel admiration from those who love her, at least once in her life.

Otherwise, why not just walk around with black and blue sheets on our heads like the women bound by demonic men in the Middle East ... men who claim women are like children or worse ... cattle. Men who believe women were created for breeding purposes and their own pleasures.

Ever read the atrocities of these people? Can you imagine living like that? Not being able to read, speak your mind, go anywhere; look a man in the eye?

Thank you God, you allowed me to be born in the good 'ole U.S.A. AND during a time I don't have to fear the hand of any man. Politically or spiritually!

Still, women continue to battle backward ideas and notions. From the board rooms to the bed rooms. And from groups who'd rather see women look like some Mormons or Mennonites ... styles and ideas and lifestyles ... in my humble opinion ... that are but a thin line away from those in Afghanistan and other third world countries forcing women to obey sadistic laws and bear burdens animals shouldn't bear.

As for me, I like this old barn of mine PAINTED.


Blessings to you and yours.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Coffee and Bacon

What is it about waking up to the smell of coffee and bacon that makes you feel ... safe, cozy, makes you know you're home. The sense of smell, for me, is one of the most powerful forces to sway a mood or a thought, convey a memory ... or create one.

If an author forces me to smell something he/she is writing about, I love the book even better. As my eyes read the words, I don't have to actually "smell" the beach or the saltwater, but reading the words will often trip the sensory mechanism into high gear and I begin to be in the place described, because of the sense of smell.

The pleasing smells of a special meal, or cooking ... or baking (yum) cookies, breads, pies ... or the way you feel when you enter your favorite Italian restaurant ... the garlic smell and that of tomatos and breads ... mmm ... those great smells greet you as you smile through the door. It's all part of the experience, and the memory it creates.

I can be out someplace, and get just a hint of a smell and be transported back in time in an instant. To a record store I used to love as a teenager, or to the hallways in grade school, the cafeteria, or to a hay loft where I ... won't say ... Time and smell walk hand-in-hand for me.

Or how about the smell of exhaust as you get stuck behind a slow moving beater truck on a back two-lane road with double yellow lines. An old truck you can't pass and whose owner has no concern in the world for the fellow behind him, or better yet our O Zone being stripped away. Do you like the smell of gasoline at the pump, or would you rather someone else do it ... (me too.)

I'm a country girl ... and I can tell the difference between cow, horse, pig, and chicken manure at 100 yards. And I'm proud of that fact. Riding down a country road during planting season, I can usually stick my head out the window; take a big sniff ... "cow," I say all proud like. I raised my youngun's to know the difference too. It makes a country mama proud when her college educated girl comes in the door and says, "whoo-wee ... smelled pig on the way here!"

How about the smell of your mother's perfume? Or Dad's Old Spice? The unique smell of your parent's home as you walk inside? Do the memories flood your head? Or even the smell of a certain town, like a coal town, or a steel town. You associate those smells with parts of your life, your dreams ... or your nightmares.

I think the sense of hearing, and seeing ... are for the most part, senses for the here and now. But the sense of smell ... ah, can stir a memory like none other. The holidays are full of smell memories, aren't they? Or a freshly mowed lawn, or your grandma's flowerbeds.

I wonder what scientist's are doing with smell to stimulate alzheimer patients. Seems logical to me.

One of my favorite smells is a tiny baby, just after a bath, all powered up and lotioned with Baby Magic. They way a baby feels and smells as you cuddle it close to your face, and kiss it. Nothing can stir a woman's hormones like that. But then, we all know nothing can be as foul smelling as a full diaper. Oh well ... with babies ... you take the good with the bad, right?

The smell of a wet dog is annoying, but everyone who owns a beloved animal knows its smell. And don't you wonder what you smell like to your pet? And as much as I love the sense of smell, an animal's sense of smell is so much greater than ours ... I've heard that dogs can even smell cancer in their owners. Trained dogs, that is. It's an amazing tribute to this gift God has given us and the creatures He created.

So, without further adieu, my Southern mother-in-law just stuck her head in my office and said, "I needed bacon grease, there's a bunch of bacon for breakfast if ya want it. And fresh coffee."

Need I say more?

Blessings to you and yours.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

These Dreams

... I think it's an old 80s song by Heart. One that brings backs memories. Good and bad. Just like my dreams. Did you ever wake up and think, where the hell did that come from?

A dream. A story played inside your head as your body searches for rest and rejuvenation. I'm a vivid dreamer. Awake and asleep. When I sleep and dream, I often wake feeling as if I've worked all night long. The brain is a wondrous thing, isn't it? It keeps vast files on your life and weaves in a few of its own. I have many dreams about my children ... they can be at any age, and usually there's turmoil and I'm trying desperately to protect them.

Or there are the dreams of the house I grew up in. I swear this house was haunted. The dreams that stem from living in that house are never dreams I want to remember the next day. I have many dreams about tornados. And because of my fear of heights, any dreams where I'm falling ... I'll wake myself up. Usually.

Not all of my dreams are bad ... some are quite comical and I wish I could remember them. But usually, I forget all my dreams within the first hour after I wake up. That's a good thing, because I do have nightmares. The kind I scream in and my poor husband nearly has a heart attack.

I'd be a good case for a sleep analogy. Here's the thing ... unless it's a very good movie, I rarely watch horror movies. I don't read Sci Fi much. And I try to avoid news on TV that creeps me out. But I continue to dream wild and fantastic dreams ... every night. I'm sure some expert would have an answer as to why. But when it's half way through the day and I'm still trying to shake off the dream from the night before, do I wonder ... what did it mean?

I've always been like this. A dreamer. Many of my dreams, the few I remembered, have become parts of my stories. A few of my characters have actually introduced themselves to me in my dreams. I know -- crazy. There are those rare dreams, however, that have caused me to make decisions in my life based on the plot played in my head the night before. Other dreams just fade into the smoky abyss of morning and when I wake up, they're gone from memory.

I've seen the way people can react to a bad dream, or a dream that concerns them. Some folks believe they're seeing the future or are living in the midst of a dream. All I know is that this thing we do when we're asleep, this movie that plays in our heads ... is often too real as we sleep. What is it they tell us, that the brain only uses a small percentage of it's ability in your lifetime? So why did God put the whole thing in there, I wonder. Do you think possibly it's His way to communicate with us while we're sleeping?

Who knows? Right now, all I know is I worked too hard in the dreams I had last night ... I can't seem to wake up properly. Like I've been sawing logs ... literally.

These dreams I have need to transport me to someplace quiet tonight ... so I can sleep.

Blessings to you and yours.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Pie Pans of the Carolinas

This past Friday, Michael and I went to see the movie, Pirates of the Caribbean. A strong left turn, a deviation--if you will--from my normal enjoyment of stories about moonshine and/or magnolias. But a Southern gal's got to branch out every now and then. True, I've always found solace and comfort in the stories that are set in the South. Gone With The Wind, Steel Magnolias, Fried Green Tomatoes, and Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood ... are but a few. Coal Miner's Daughter, Cat On a Hot Tin Roof, and Cold Mountain are stories I have in book form and in my DVD collection. I could compile a list, but that's not what this blog entry is about.

My point is that although my favorite stories are set in the South, I also love to get out of Dixie and stretch my imagination to places and times I've never been. It's really a healthy thing to do.

Set in the days of primitive ocean voyages, Pirates of the Caribbean ventures into the sea ... taking with it the imaginations of those writers that no doubt descended from sailors who told the ghostly and ghastly tales of their voyages upon their return home. Possibly these tales were also passed down ... generation-to-generation.

The action is so packed with nail biting peril; it's often exhausting as you watch it. The story line takes a back seat to the one-liners of its characters and the special effects and magic of Hollywood.

This week, I was passing by a roadside stand and decided to stop in to buy a tote bag of peaches. The old codger behind the warped and wooden desk appeared as if he'd been picking in the sun way past his prime. He smiled a toothless grin that made me giggle and nod back politely.

"Got us a sale on ... tomatoes and cukes up front ... melons in the box out back. And they's some real purty pie pans the Missus is sellin' on them crates out front. She says they'll bake a cobbler better 'n any old glass pan ya got. She makes them pans hersef."

"Oh, really?" I asked.

"Yep," he said. "I let ya have two of 'em for the price of one."

I smiled and gathered my bag of peaches, after squeezing a few. "Well, okay ... peach cobbler sounds good. I'll take two of those pans. The blue one and red one."

He winked and bagged up my purchases. As I pulled my pie pans out of the bag after I got home, I turned them over. Made in China glared up at me. I thought of the old codger at the produce stand who reminded me of one of the pirates in the movie.

I'm thinking Disney might like my story ... Pie Pans of the Carolinas ...

Naw. I can't imagine a swashbuckling Johnny Depp saving any woman from buying an old man's pie pans at a roadside stand.

Blessings to you and yours.

Thursday, July 13, 2006


I can't take credit for the writing of today's keen insight. And I've not posted anything like this before, but this piece of prose ... I really liked. Kudos to whoever made it up. A little exagerated, but good, nonetheless.


Between 18 and 22, a woman is like Africa, half discovered, half wild, naturally beautiful with fertile soil.

Between 23 and 30, a woman is like Europe, well developed and open to trade, especially for someone with cash.

Between 31 and 35, a woman is like India, very hot, relaxed and convinced of her own beauty.

Between 36 and 40, a woman is like France, gently aging but still warm and a desirable place to visit.

Between 41 and 50, a woman is like Great Britain, with a glorious and all conquering past.

Between 51 and 60, a woman is like Yugoslavia, lost the war and haunted by past mistakes.

Between 61 and 70, a woman is like Russia, very wide with borders now unpatrolled.

After 70, she becomes Tibet. Wildly beautiful, with a mysterious past and the wisdom of the ages....only those with an adventurous spirit and a thirst for spiritual knowledge visit there.


Between 1 and 70, a man is like the USA. Ruled by a dick.

Blessings to you and yours.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Literal or Figurative?

I would hate to live in a world where I was constantly wondering if I were going to hell. A life that I constantly monitored as being perfect.

How miserable. As miserable to me as if you knew you were a serial killer or some sick lowest of the low person. I don't believe either world is healthy or happy.

But the Bible says, "Be ye perfect ..." Do you think God really meant for us to be PERFECT? It also tells women to not cut their hair. There's that old thing about interpretation again.

I think what I hate most is when one person or a group of people force their "interpretations" of the scriptures down the backs of our throats with no concern as to whether they've really thought this thing through. Just, "Yepper, by golly, that's what it says!"

Live, find happiness, and be the best person you can be. Keep it all in prospective and to hell with what everybody else has to say.

Find your own relationship with your creator. Don't get it off the TV or from any man or woman that stands in the pulpit or preaches to you in the comfort of your own livingroom.

If He really wanted us to be perfect, then He wouldn't renew his mercies every morning ... now would He?

I'm tired of perfect people. And I mean that ... LITERALLY.

Blessings to you and yours.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Women Over 40

Yes, I do belong to this exciting group! And proud of it! It's also a group of businesswomen who network here in Greensboro. The group, formally called WOMAN, meets once a month for dinner at a quite nice restaurant here in town.

Last night's speaker was from the American Heart Association ... of course relaying tons of valuable information we all needed to hear ... but as I sat and watched the women at the tables, women from all walks of life, professions, race and ethnic background--I began to see (in my mind anyway) a melting away of differences and opinions. That when the going gets tough and you throw love and respect into the mix of the female vat of hormones ... what comes out of the pot is solidarity. One mighty fortress belonging to women.

I overheard so many conversations, expressing concern for the other. Whether sincere or contrived, it was still said. Words spoken that placed a healing balm on another woman's wounds, on her heart. My heart leaped, because I realized at the moment - that's a unique ability few men possess. To express love like that--through words--woman to woman.

Now, I've seen the back slapping men do. And I've been in churches and have witnessed the hugging between men of faith. I've also seen men cry. But what is it about the nurturing heart of a woman that I've heard, is the closest thing on earth you'll find to the love of God.

Especially from older women. Women who've experienced their share of hard times and disappointments. This group called WOMAN has the unique ability to immediately kiss your wounds and make things feel just a bit better, adding just enough hope for you to walk away from their meetings stepping lighter than when you came in.

I realized, last night, again as I sat there watching all these women share, that we're all the same. We have one beating heart. That although we wish to make great connections and network our abilities, we also scoop up any encouragement we can get, process it, and return it over and over again. Whether at the same meeting or future meetings.

It's quite an amazing thing to watch. These women over 40 know how to party, laugh, have fun, and are way past caring about the stuff in life that just doesn't matter a hill of beans. Most of these women have seen tough times and have come out swinging to the tune of starting new businesses and reinventing themselves ... thriving and most of all--surviving.

It's not been easy, and many faces reflect that ... but there's still a sparkle in their eyes. They've learned priceless lessons that frankly, would never have them trading places with any 20-year old.

Hmmpf. Life is good ... for women over 40.

Blessings to you and yours.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Service With A Smile

When did this old cliche' originate? Late 50s, possibly? It used to hold truth, nowadays ... it's just an old cliche'.

We have a favorite restaurant in High Point where we eat quite often. They're building chains of this Italian restaurant all over the Triad, all franchised and operated by different owners.

Michael and I stopped at a book signing in Kernersville tonight to support Dixie Land who wrote SECOND CHANCES and Lynette Hall Hampton with DUO OF OPPOSITES, both Sisters in Crime members and great writing friends. Hungry, we left there and decided to have dinner in Greensboro. Hungry, yet not starved ... you know the feeling ... just wanting a simple dinner, not wanting to take a lot of time--grab a quick bite and then head home.

So we stop at this new franchise, this new Italian restaurant, and get a good booth by the window. We order ... we wait and wait and finally ... Mike's sandwich comes out without tomatoes (he loves tomatoes) and my order was wrong. My order goes back to the kitchen and Mike proceeds to eat his tomatoeless sandwich, which he admits tastes pretty good. I just watch--because I have no food. But hey, the water was tasty. :-)

Then he discovers his fries are soggy, but after waiting again for tomatoes, ketchup for fries, and a refill on drinks ... he proceeds to finish his meal without me anyway ...

And I wait some more.

Finally, a half hour later ... the waitress comes over to admit it was her fault and offers to get me "some bread." She says she'll check on our order and huffs off. Just as Mike is putting the last bite of his 12 inch steak sandwich in his mouth, my order comes out. The waitress says, "I'm giving you a $2 coupon toward your next visit." No smile. Nothing.

I don't say a word ... just smile, as my husband--I know--is not going to settle for a $2 coupon. I look at my food, it's burnt on top and impossible to cut into. It's overcooked. I wonder, how can something I've been waiting on for nearly an hour be overcooked? The waitress says, "Wow, that looks overcooked." No sorry, no apology, just a comment.

I put my fork and knife down and hand her my plate. "Just bring us our check and take my meal off the bill," I say.

Finally, the owner comes out ... and to make a very unecessary story short ... gives Mike a free meal. He's very apologetic, and we smile, and say thank you and leave. We'll go back and give them another chance ... maybe.

I thought about ordering a pizza on the way home, but when I called and the person on the other end at Pizza Hut sounded like the female equivalent to Forrest Gump, I decided ... you know what? Maybe I could miss a meal tonight. It won't kill me. So I cancelled my pizza order.

Service with a smile? ... I smiled real wide as I served myself some peach cobbler when I got home ... at least I didn't miss dessert.

Blessings to you and yours.

Friday, July 07, 2006


I've updated my APPEARANCES page on my web site. Check it out! I'm getting the invitations and the bookings to speak ... selling books is an amazing process, and grueling - all at the same time. When "people" in the industry tell you to build your platform ... they literally mean it ... one brick at a time. I feel as if I'm carrying this bag of cement on my back and as my publicist hands me a brick, I slap the cement on and firm up my foundation yet a little more.

I'm wondering, as I look at the career of other authors, (at least as far as I can see through the pages of the Internet), if they possess some of the same feelings and pressures I'm experiencing. Sometimes, they all sound so calm, cool, and collected when I read their interviews, opinions, and "hear" them eloquently speak to their interviewer. I wonder, do they really talk that way when they're not being "interviewed?"

Does the world of publishing ever overwhelm some of these MFAs? Do authors with several books under their belt feel less pressure than authors like me, with a first book trying to push its way to the front? Do they find time to really work on their next book, or are they consumed with marketing their work?

I've been invited to speak and sign at the Southern Festival of Books in Memphis. I wonder if the other authors that attend, feel as elated over their invitation as I do ... or are they getting used to being invited to book events of this magnitude?

In my truly humble opinion, I don't think I'll ever get used to it. I'm thrilled and I think I'll stay that way. At least for a long, long time.

Blessings to you and yours.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


All day we looked forward to enjoying our first fireworks in years! Mike's cousin, Beth, even stayed over one more night to enjoy an evening of celebration, fun sitting around in lawn chairs, and a brilliant display of snap, crackle, and POP!

We had endured heat and humidity all morning as Mike and Beth worked in the garden, I ran to the store later with Beth for beer, watermelon, peaches (a great combo or what?) And I discovered our first big, fat June bugs flying into the side of the house by noon.

Looking forward to the fireworks all week ... we had made plans with Mike's sister, Bette Lou, and her best friend, Judy, to all meet up here at the house. We'd gather our chairs, blankets, bug spray and head to Cook Out for milkshakes. Next, we would stake our claim (patch of grass) at the CVS on the corner ... that way it'd be easier to get out with our cars afterward.

Mike packed up his camera, tripod, and decided he'd take some great shots of these "blockbuster boomers."

Dinner came and went, Mike's mom's chili dogs were awesome as usual, and then we waited.
For dark.

Long about 9:15, the sky grew darker but not from the setting sun ... from thunderclouds. God decided to hold a show of his own. The wind came, and we thought we'd head on over anyway. "Maybe, this'll jus' blow over, what cha' think?"

And then came the rain.

By the time we had our milkshakes in our hands, the rain was spitting across town. We parked in the CVS parking lot and I sucked down my peanut butter fudge shake under the shelter of my Honda.

But finally, the fireworks started ... despite the weather.

Seeing them from a slight distance, in a lit up parking lot, standing under the perscription pickup awning ... wasn't the same thrill as seeing them in the dark, on a blanket, while they go off over your head.

But hey, the milkshakes were yummy.

Blessings to you and yours.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Gone But Never Forgotten

I think I can say that about many things in my life. But the past four days have been yet another collection for my memory books.

From all corners of the country, members of the Samples Family gathered at Mick and Donna Samples farm in Strange Creek ... lovingly called, McDonna farm. Second cousins to me, this beautiful couple know how to throw a party. In the middle of earth and sky, gospel and blue grass music floats through the trees and into every soul who steps out of their vehicle and onto this property that has been hewn out of forest and mountain.

As you know, I was mesmerized last year after having attended my first reunion. But this year, Michael and I traveled back and brought our son, Aaron. It was good to have my young'un there with us. A country boy, I knew he'd fall in love with the place. And he certainly did. Of course Daddy was there, sitting among the elders, swapping stories, remembering the old days, and sharing pictures from albums full of Samples relatives now passed on. Four wheelers roamed through the countryside and creeks and toured the places you can't get to by car or truck.

Sandy (who Daddy calls "Smiley") and her husband James Samples, greet family and friends with hugs and the sign-in book. Sandy records family members who show up every year, and that's a good thing. For a family reunion this size to go on every year, as this one has existed since the 1940's, records must be kept. It concerns me that the younger children I see roaming about, understand that this is not just a picnic they attend to make their grandparents happy. This is about family. Knowing who you are and where you came from.

So next year, the plan is to take more pictures, and have large family tree charts hanging where you can see how you fall into the tree. Possibly a quick history lesson about the Samples Family that goes back to the Revolutionary War. It may give you a sense of place and pride and knowing that the fellow you just met isn't a stranger anymore. He's your grandma's sister's second son. You see, it's all "relative." And if you have the least bit interest in your family, or even your state and the history of this country ... you have a clearer picture of where you fit in.

Well, this year I went back ... to Widen. If you've read the last story in my book, SOUTHERN FRIED WOMEN, you'll read about Widen and the violent coal strike in 1952 and '53. Though my story in the book is truly a love story woven amidst the violence, it rings of truth and peril for some who were there. I talked to many this weekend who vividly remember being there. Hearing the gunshots, witnessing the devastation that resulted.

One family member implied there are still folks seeking a healing, as that coal strike continues to separate some families in the area. Maybe my story will help. That and a little prayer may be the balm needed on those old wounds.

Widen is not the town I recall leaving as a child. Most of the buildings are gone now. Just a handful of families exist in the holler that was once a thriving coal camp. Daddy pointed out where the tipple used to be, the railroad, the Grille, and the bank. Just the cement steps of the YMCA are left. The rest is tall grass and weeds. There is no smell of coal and the gob piles are gone. I made Michael stop the truck and I got out and stood at the top of Widen hill. My eyes filled with tears as I imagined the strikers and their sons cutting off the only road in and out of the town.

When I stepped out in front of my grandma's old house, the houses around it are gone now. The wooden gate is gone, the road in front is paved, and the street is quiet. I closed my eyes and I stepped back in time. The pavement turned to dirt, the smell of burning coal penetrated my nostrils, and the sounds of old trucks and children playing in the streets made my heart leap. I heard the gate spring shut and slam its post. I imagined the time when the Casto's lived next door and we played in the coal dust roads catching fireflies until after dark. I remember when I could stand in front of Grandma's house and look all the way down the road to my Aunt Emogene's house.

But many roads in Widen are virtually gone now. Grown over with plant life native to the area. The sights and sounds of a town that once boomed and supported over 3,000 people is not only gone ... it's as if it never existed. I cried. How do we allow these towns to die? Who's going to tell our children what happened here?

Widen is a town gone ... but not forgotten.

Back at the reunion, I relayed my thoughts to some of the family. All of them have stories quite similar to mine, I found out. And though they may not have lived in Widen, they had their own hometown stories. Some still live in the towns they grew up in, others have moved north to Ohio, or south to Virginia. Or to other parts of the country and started over.

But every year, these people, this group of kin called the Samples Family, gathers yet one more time to remember. This year, Scott Lewis, son of Ocie Samples Lewis passed away during the festivities. It caused the reunion to understandably close early. Scott's homegoing was devastating to his precious wife, Velvie, and immediate family. Our hearts went out to them.

Scott and his wife stood in line in front of Michael and I earlier in the day as we gathered to fill our plates. His sweet wife mentioned that she remembered coming to my house at Christmas when I was a little girl. Then Scott put his arms around his wife and smiled and said, "this is my better half." He was with his family, his friends, and went from one reunion on earth to the next reunion in glory. I'm sure his mama all the Samples that had gone on before -- greeted him ... Michael, Aaron and I extend our deepest sympathy to the Lewis family.

Scott Lewis may be gone, but he will never be forgotten.

This reunion has given me a sense of belonging like nothing else I've ever experienced. These people of the mountains of West Virginia, men and women who worked the land, the coal mines, and the lumber mills ... have a place in my heart and will remain forever family. I'll be back again next year, to that patch of earth and sky and music in Strange Creek ... a place where time stands still and the members of the Samples Family come together once more to remember ...

Blessings to you and yours.