Sunday, September 30, 2007

Please, God, Blow The Other Way

I need the wind to change direction. For God to blow against my back.

I remember growing up, I walked to school, uphill. It was a short walk, just up the road a piece. But nevertheless, on cold and windy days walking into the wind or rain, I hated it. My legs froze (as a girl, we couldn't wear pants back then) and my naturally curly hair was usually a frizzed up mess by the time the bell rang.

I feel like I've been walking uphill all my life. I'm not a runner, but I can imagine when you run against the wind, it's a whole lot tougher on your body and spirit than when the wind is pushing against your back.

I'm ready to be propelled into sweeter, higher, better things. I've been plowing, tilling, planting, weeding, watching things grow ... for years. I need a harvest time. I need to reap the nourishment of my labors. I spent most of my life in winter. Barren, dreary, cold and the wind in my face. Then I moved to North Carolina and spring came. I began to turn the soil over and plant a new crop. Summer arrived and I worked my butt off, watering, weeding, and keeping the bugs off. It's been a long summer. I'm ready for my favorite time of the year. I need the wind to change direction.

Cooler temperatures, bright sunny skies ... harvest. And the wind at my back.

Blessings to you and yours.

Saturday, September 29, 2007


Other than my family, writing, and speaking …

I Love …
~the feel, smell, and weight of a new book in my hands
~peach pie, cobbler, and my mama’s pie crust
~expensive, great food
~The Food Channel
~clothes for plus sized women that don’t make us look like a frumpy 70s fundamentalist church lady attending a Full Gospel Businessmen’s banquet
~great summer tomatoes
~Andy Griffith Show, I Love Lucy, and The Dick Van Dyke Show
~jewelry any kind any price
~humble people
~porcelain flowers, china, glassware, and teacups
~antiques, log cabins, the History Channel
~ice cream sandwiches
~genuinely kind people
~Our State Magazine, Southern Living Magazine, Country Living, and my new favorites, Triad Living and North Carolina Design
~open houses on Sundays
~Ohio State Buckeyes and Carolina Panthers
~laying on a blanket on a beach under a beach umbrella
~cooking in fantastic kitchens
~gardening in cool weather
~a good soaking rain
~fantastic sex with one partner your whole life long
~a great pair of boots
~island vacations
~a clean house
~The Marine Corps
~laying on a blanket under a shade tree
~real roses, any color, any kind
~open windows and the sound of birds and the feel of fresh air in the morning
~the sound of the ocean
~garage sales, flea markets, antique stores
~the Blue Ridge Parkway - scatter my ashes
~big dogs
~to bend the rules
~to travel (by car)
~old John Candy movies
~old Alfred Hitchcock movies
~Reese Witherspoon, Kate Hudson, Sandra Bullock, Julia Roberts, Halle Berry, Holly Hunter, Kate Winslet, Goldie Hawn, Whoopie Goldberg, Susan Sarandon, Jennifer Lopez, and Meryl Streep,
~Tom Hanks, Matthew McConaughey, Taye Diggs, Kurt Russell, Kevin James, Jack Black, Robin Williams, Robert DeNiro, Morgan Freeman, Tommy Lee Jones, Will Smith, and Jude Law
~the great poet performer, Minton Sparks
~good news of any kind
~Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, Marshall Chapman, Wynona Judd, Vince Gill, and Sara Evans
~Bluegrass, Country Music, 80s music, great classic rock, and new age music
~an unexpected heartfelt kiss
~one night stands with my husband
~to dance, but I’m no good at it
~drama over humor, but I love to laugh until I’m sick
~to break the rules
~family reunions
~Gray’s Anatomy
~my best friend, Tina
~red wine
~watching movies at home, avoiding theaters where rude people talk, eat, answer their cell phones, let their kids cry, kick the back of my seat
~bright, sunny days
~old bathtubs
~vintage homes
~shelves of old books
~fine dining, restaurants that serve family style, local diners, cool bars that serve great food
~black and white checked floors
~cut-glass windows and doors
~cherry Cokes
~memories of my children
~Southern accents, New York accents
~tolerant people
~people who work jobs nobody else wants
~my son's sense of humor, my daughter's face
~cheap makeup
~Starbucks dark roast coffee, cream
~wide-plank hardwood floors
~my step-son's work ethic
~my grandson, every bit of him
~rice pudding
~Pizza Hut pepperoni pan pizza
~new thick towels hot out of the dryer and expensive sheets sun-dried on the line
~my husband’s legs
~wrap around porches
~old barns
~wild flowers, pastures, horses, mountains in the backdrop
~vanilla anything
~men who love their kids
~vintage jewelry
~large, beautiful trees
~The Color Purple
~Outlander, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Beach Music
~The Biltmore Estate from top to bottom
~West Jefferson, Julian, and Greensboro, North Carolina
~Charleston, South Carolina
~Savannah, Georgia

I Loathe
~to exercise
~the Holidays
~people who claim to live free from sin
~video games
~people who don't eventually return my emails
~the smell of Pine-sol, Murphy's Oil soap, and Comet
~board games
~not all, but most of today’s TV shows
~arrogant people
~to travel by air
~chain restaurants, fast-food
~loud cars and motorcycles
~hearing the music in the car next to me or the beat from the inside of my house
~my next door holier-than-thou neighbors
~people who honk their car horns after 10:00 p.m.
~bodily noises, especially in restaurants or in church
~jealous people
~cheap toilet paper
~people who are never happy
~the war in Iraq
~greasy food
~narrow minds
~people who are always right
~people who can’t be sorry for anything
~judge shows, Jerry Springer, and crap TV
~people who drive in the turning lane
~people who drive in the passing lane
~people who never use their turn signal
~people who never pay attention to the driver behind them
~people who tailgate
~false prophets
~racists and bigots
~dirty, filthy houses
~nasty bathrooms
~crumbs on the kitchen counter
~ants in the kitchen
~dirty sheets
~messy closets
~unruly children
~junk cars
~people who don’t make their unruly children behave
~crying babies in nicer restaurants and in movies
~people who are always out to get somebody
~people who get upset if you ask why
~neglected bad skin
~undependable people
~gloomy skies, weeks of snow, typical northern weather
~world disaster documentaries, i.e.-global warming, earthquakes, tidal waves
~bad music (take your pick)
~loud mouths
~anybody disrespectful
~cruelty to animals
~expensive makeup, skin care, and shoes
~wasting money
~the mall, anywhere
~Akron and Canton, Ohio
~people who don't give a hoot about their house's curb appeal
~the smell of a city
~stuck in traffic
~bad memories
~assholes I have worked for
~folks who get shook over a dirty word
~closed-minded people
~bad news
~to ask for help
~the evening news
~rats, roaches, snakes
~people who can’t forgive

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Monday ...

Monday I was the keynote speaker at the Ashe County Elder Abuse Team Conference, Ashe Services for Aging Senior Center in West Jefferson, NC.

What a great group of folks who have taken on the responsibility of training us in what to look for regarding elder abuse. It's out there. I never realized just how badly and how unreported the problem of elder abuse has become. Very little state and government funding is alloted for this nationwide problem. And what's worse, the cases are seldom reported. It was an eye opener for us. I guess because Michael and I have always honored our parents. That's just not the case for some folk.

I kept my speech light and humorous. This large crowd of social workers needed to laugh after the horrible realities they're faced with every day.

Remember to hug your mama and grandma today, or send them a card, or call them, or tell grandpa you love him, even if he doesn't remember who you are. Just tell him.

Blessings to you and yours.


Tuesday I sat (or rather reclined) all morning in the dentist chair. Fillings, one extraction, and two root canals, later, I slept the rest of the day away. Yow. I look like a squirrel gathering nuts for winter. My cheeks are puffier than usual. But I think the pain meds are worse than the procedure. I'm feeling quite drunk this morning. Drunk and sore. Woozy.

This is what I get for growing up on well water with no fluoride. And truthfully, until now, I've been too damn poor to invest in the price of a small car when it came to fixing my teeth. I just limped along, nursing them, year after year.

Now, before you go and think I've got a mouthful of rotten teeth, think again. The front teeth are fine. In fact, the dentist said I have excellent oral hygiene. It's them damn back teeth that nobody can see. But, with any luck, I'm going to have a mouthful of pretty new crowns and bridges within the year. How about that? I can stop chewing with my front teeth! Yay!

I'll bet, if the truth was told, so many of us baby boomers are in this shape with our teeth. My husband just had a root canal. My sisters have both had extractions and root canals. Were we not brushing enough as kids? Probably not. And again, no fluoride. But the biggest problem, I feel, has been those harrowing experiences at the dentist! As a result, I've got to have sedation for any dentist appointment. Am I a wus? Probably. But they yanked our teeth out instead of filling them back in the 60s. Nightmares. Even as late as the 90s, I've had horrible experences with dentists!

So ... now we pay the price for pretty teeth. And thank God we can buy them these days. I choose not to have dentures, but to fix the teeth I have, keep them white and shiny, and because I don't smoke ... hopefully I can keep them this way for years to come. My thirty-year old daughter, thank God, has perfect teeth. Not a cavity in her head. Maybe bad teeth will be a thing of the past for our grandchildren. Like polio and small pox.

But right now, I'm heading back to the comfort of my bed and an ice pack. And Advil.

Blessings to you and yours.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Growing Old Gracefully

I spoke this week to a large group of students, mostly Seniors, at Wake Forest University. Talk about feeling my age. I spoke about writing, of course. I did my "thing" and it went well. But as I looked out over the sea of baby-faces, I began to think about aging. That someday, all those smooth and unlined faces, straight backs, perky boobs, and bodies filled with boundless energy ... are going to be middle-aged. Like me. It made me sad. But ONLY for a moment.

Growing old gracefully is a gift. I am now, probably for the first time in my life, the person I have always wanted to be. (Not in body, but in mind.) Sometimes I see my mother when I look in the mirror, but there's nothing I can do about that.

I've always been, uh, a bit of an oddball. A drama queen. A pain in the ass to some. Maybe it's the artistic part of me that was always screaming to get out! Come out of the closet, if you will. But now ... as I've aged like (I was going to use the old cliche and say like a fine wine) but it's more like stinky cheese. Anyway, I have to say ... I like me. I like the way my life is turning out.

Point is, I have found out over the years who my friends really are. I wouldn't trade them for anything. Not even a flatter belly or a firmer butt. Although I'm anal as hell, I've learned to forgive myself quicker. And others. I've learned patience. (Oh, yes, 'tis true.) And though I still hate stupid drivers, I get over it quicker. I've become my own friend.

I stopped beating myself up for eating ice cream after 7:00, and I love 80s music. I'm not ashamed of that anymore. And bluegrass. I love bluegrass. I choose who I want to be with, talk to, and have in my life. I don't want to be around people I don't like. I don't have to anymore. If somebody doesn't like me, I don't lament about that anymore, either. I shrug and go on.

There's a freedom that comes with aging. Whose business is it if I choose to read or write until 3 in the morning. Whose business is it if I sleep until 10 am? I also love Mozart and Frankie Valli. So what? I've never owned my own home. I can admit that. Sure, it's a goal. To own my own beautiful home. Entertain. Fix things the way I want. Have what I want for dinner and when I want it. Walk around the house naked with my husband. Who cares? (I hope my kids aren't reading this.) But then again, get over it. Mom still has sex, guys! It still happens after 50, maybe not as much, but it happens! And it's better than ever!

And if I choose to weep over lost dreams in the middle of the day ... I will. And if I walk the beach in long cotton cover-up instead of a bikini, who cares? Even despite the pitying glances from the size twos, so what? They, too, will get old. My husband still loves me.

I know someday I may become forgetful. But there again, some of life is just as well forgotten. Sure, over the years my heart has been broken. Some folks have a tough time believing what I've been through. And some things, may never be told. They're too painful. But broken hearts are what give us strength and understanding and compassion. A heart never broken is pristine and sterile and will never know the joy of being imperfect.

I'm glad I'm not perfect. I'm glad, oh, so glad I don't have to work at that "perfect" game my old church used to force down my throat. I am so blessed to have lived long enough to know better.

My hair is turning gray under the beautiful color my hairdresser so skillfully applies. The laugh lines are carved into my face from decades of smiles. But I have a dear friend who never laughed after the age of 13. She never got to see her laugh lines.

As you get older, it is easier to be positive. You care less about what other people think. I don't question myself as much anymore. (Only to my husband, poor thing.) But I've even earned the right to be wrong. I guess, after looking at all those young people, I've decided I like being older. It has set me free. I like who I've become. I am not going to live forever, but while I am still here, I will not waste time lamenting what could have been, or worrying about what will be. I will eat ice cream every single day. (If I feel like it.) So there.

What do those kids at Wake Forest really have to write about at this point in their lives? Not much when you think about it. I used to wish I were 21 again. Not anymore. It feels too good to be free from all that. Too good. I don't want to spend my life jaded, waiting, to wake up one day and find, that I let all these years go by ... wasted. Love that Carrie Underwood song.

Blessings to you and yours.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Waiting Game

Boy, when it rains it pours. Four churches called in one day to book me for either their women's ministry workshop, or to speak after or during a Sunday Service. In the midst of setting up engagements, I'm working on the outline for Behold the Lamb, the next book on my horizon. (More to come on that later.) Televenge is done! (For now. Until a publisher's editor gets involved.) But my queries are out to my selected agents. Michael and I worked long and hard for three solid weeks getting those queries out. And after my last "freak out" at the Fed-X, I'm triple checking everything!

But my platform continues to build. Some days I wonder what the hell I think I'm doing. The process is so slow. But looking back, I can see real progress. Bit by bit, we've trudged along and put some solid miles behind us. I do have a story to tell. It's moving and it's potent. Shocking, even. Seldom does a heart not get touched. But over time, I've come to realize, my message is strongest to those who sit in church pews. And I'm finding Christians (on the whole) have more of an open mind than we give them credit for.

Of course, there are the John Hagees of the world ... who thump their Bibles and wail loud and long that God means this and that and you better not think otherwise or Hell is your destiny! I mean, wow, he should know. Right? Ugh. Like God has no capability to talk to any of us. I'm so tired of these guys.

But I'm finding that folks everywhere don't want to be screamed at. Or even preached at. God isn't the red-eyed, long-white-haired, ball of fire the televangelists of the world want us to believe that He is. Who is He? What is He? I think the truth is ... we seek Him out for ourselves, and we put away all our precognitions, as much as possible, and let that still, small voice tell us who He is.

That's powerful. He's powerful. He doesn't need the John Hagees of the world to prove it.

Please say a prayer. Televenge is a powerful book. It's going to create controversy, but it's also going to sit well with oh, so many folk. It's a book of faith, of love, encouragement, and of strength. Based loosely on a true story, the journey my characters embark on will shock, delight, and brand this story into the reader's memory. I'm pretty confident, aren't I?

My friend, Attorney Jackie Stanley, said something to me last week that thrilled me. She said, "Since reading Televenge, I look at the religious world differently. I compare and when I see and hear televangelists on TV, I wonder ... " That is the exact response I wish to evoke in my readers.

The journey's been a long one. That's for sure. But it's not over. Not by a long shot.

Speaking, writing, e-mailing, traveling, speaking, writing, it's been non-stop for years now. The summer is gone and I barely recall when it arrived. Lately, I've been searching for time just to get to the Wal-Mart. And on top of everything, I'm nursing a bad tooth. Woe is me.

But any way you look at it, Televenge is now a waiting game. Well, I guess if there's one thing I've learned over the past few decades of my life. It's how to wait. What a hard lesson. But it sure comes in handy now.

Blessings to you and yours,

Saturday, September 15, 2007


I have a confession about how anal I am. And just how it drives me (and my poor husband) insane. So if you can imagine, I'm already freaked about sending out my first query for Televenge. I've spent hours going over this query letter.

Checking every word, making sure the entire submission is pristine and perfect. I personally take it to the Fed-X station. (Normally, I'll snail mail, but this was a requested submission, so I sent it Fed-X.)

Anyway ... I carefully fill out the paperwork, checking and double-checking each and every thing I do. I slid the submission into the envelope. It fits nicely. I write the words "requested submission" on the front and the agent's name. I say a quick prayer, pay the bill, and walk out.

Then an hour later ... I'm sitting at my computer and something doesn't feel right. I look over to my files and begin to review (once again) everything I just did. I re-read the query letter. The last line says, "Thank you for your time. I would be delighted to send you the completed manuscript. A SASE is enclosed." Then it hits me.

I forgot to put in the SASE! (Self-addressed stamped envelope)

EEEKKKK! I freak. Sure, I know. The SASE is only for rejections. But if you say one is enclosed, then, by God, you should enclose it. I rush back to the Fed-X station, beg them to hunt for it, and a really, sweet Fed-X employee finds it for me. Thank God, it wasn't on the plane, yet.

I rip open the package. Pull out the submission. I redo the large envelope, slide in my SASE, and finally, finally ... finish the process.

I get back in the car. And I cry. A project of this magnitude is in itself daunting. But sending it out, perfect, the way the agents want it, and add to that my own 'bout with perfectionism, I'm either going to have a major melt-down every time I send out a query, or I'm going to have to somehow learn to relax and realize these folks aren't anymore perfect than I am.

God help me.

Blessings to you and yours.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Busy And Fuzzy-Headed

Oh! My Gosh! Has it really been a week since my last blog post? After speaking last Thursday in Concord, NC to Ewomen, I felt the final huge push to get the first query letter and pages out to the agent that not only came highly recommended, but my dear friend made the way for me to get not just 30 pages but 100 pages to her ... asap. I think I'm anal to a fault. A gigantic one. I had a hard, hard time just letting it go ... but, as of today, it's gone. Now, we wait and see.

The rules for sending query letters and submissions to agents are long and need constant scrutiny. Each agent's website calls for different items in submitting. The query, or pitch letter, is standard--but some want a synopsis, some want outlines, some want 50 pages, 100 pages, 30 pages, then some ask for nothing but the query letter. It was a long tedious process, weeding through hundreds of agents, finding those who are a good fit. Thank God, Michael did the majority of the work in compiling agent information, while I concentrated on the final 200th read of Televenge.

But now, we have our master list. I'll keep you posted.

Last Friday evening, I heard my friend, Jackie Stanley speak at the launch of her new book, Jackie Stanley's Dictionary of Encouragement. Fabulous work and I commend her on this beautiful book. On the back cover is one quote by Mother Teresa--I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending the world a love letter. That quote inspired Jackie so much that she started her own publishing company, Little Pencil Press, and wrote this lovely book of words and their oh-so-encouraging definitions. She is the author and co-author of ten other books geared toward personal empowerment. -- Check her out! She is serious about earning the right to call herself the Chief Encouragement Officer, as she has embarked on a a thirty-thousand notes of encouragement marathon! Truly, one awesome woman I can also call, my friend.

This past Tuesday, I was the Keynote Speaker at the Aging With Gusto Conference, North Carolina State University, Granville County Cooperative Education Center at the Oxford Baptist Church. Approximately 200 beautiful men and women, 55 and older, gathered for workshops, a luncheon, and to be entertained. I think I did that for them. The response was warm and welcoming and I loved interacting with these folks. Sold more books and then ....

I nursed a toothache on the way home.

Yes, a darned old toothache. Ugh ... talk about timing. I don't have time for this ... but I guess my old tooth doesn't give a damn. So ... on the day I'm to send out my first query letter (a day to celebrate and get all excited) I'm also heading to the dentist. Now, I'm on antibiotics and pain killers until I go in for a root canal and some other work at the end of the month. Lovely, lovely.

Last night was the open house for the new and improved, Hell on Heelz. I'm looking forward to the months ahead with this great networking group of femtastic ladies!

But, like I said, what timing! I have so much work to do and in between it all, I'm loopy with pain meds. I guess that's why blogging has taken a back seat this week, eh?

Once again.

Oh well, I love to blog, but often can't find the time. But it's time for another pill and bed ... and I can't think of one more clever thing to say at this point. My head is fuzzy.

Blessings to you and yours. (That works.)

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Let It Go

Blogging is one activity I enjoy, and yet find it's at the bottom of my list most days. I suppose if one intends to journal, then one must keep at it on a regular basis in order to secure a following. Or something like that. But I've forgiven myself the past few weeks from my absence on the web. I'm rather exhausted, and exhilarated at the same time.

I've been talking and blogging about my novel, the writing, editing, and daily work of it for ... I guess a couple years now. If you could see a play-by-play of my effort, you'd say I wrote this book like a mule: keeping my eyes on the ground straight ahead of me. The past three years I have put the novel before just about everything. It's been that important to me. Oh sure, I've taken time off to finish Southern Fried Women and to promote it, but what you didn't see were the hours I spent behind the scenes on Televenge. And then, of course, the past year has been full steam ahead to the finish line.

I think writers need breaks, need to stay mentally healthy and alert, they need time away from their work to go back to it with a fresh perspective. But I also think we can find every excuse in the book not to write, if we choose to. The creative process in a writer is, to me, a chemical balance that must be carefully monitored. One can only take so much time off, be away from one's work for so long before the muse begins to thin out and fade from view.

It's a hard call, then, to spread yourself out between family obligations, play time, exercise, vacation time, working on your house (or getting one, in my case.) The drive to succeed is a powerful force. Combine that with the drive to see your life's work completed, sold, and in print ... everything else takes a back seat. It's just that simple. Why do writers torture themselves with this drive, I wonder. Some say our priorities are all screwed up.

I suppose that might be true. And one might never understand how we can allow ourselves to become so innately obsessed with something so unpredictable as writing a novel. (Unpredictable in terms of success, that is.) Yet, when you're called ... ahhh, that's different.

Where I came from, the fires I've walked through, the life I've lived, has made me who I am. I could never have written this novel, otherwise.

I spoke today to a group of women in Concord, NC. A networking group called, Ewomen. Lovely ladies, and a couple handsome gentlemen, who came to hear me talk on the subject, Is there an author in you? So many are wondering about writing books these days. Self-help, how-to, business-related books that sell off the shelves like Tylenol. I covered the basics of writing, publishing, and promoting in about 20 minutes. Enough time to either whet their whistles or motivate them to move further into the process. A successful bunch, this Concord group was not only receptive, but warm and friendly.

It took me away from my desk for a few hours of needed relief from the final tweaking before sending this big, fat novel off to agents. I swear, this is almost as bad as sending your five-year-old off to school for the first time.


But, like the first days of kindergarten, I knew this day would come. You can only tweak it so much, edit it so much, read it only so many times before you finally have to say ... enough. And let it go.

And then I'll put my nose to the ground and begin plowing through the next book.

One day at a time.

Blessings to you and yours.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Another Busy Week

Another week has flown by. I took a few days to visit Mama and Daddy in Atlanta. Both in their 70s, neither one is feeling especially chipper these days. Mike and I took a wheelchair down so Daddy could push Mama around the mall or park or wherever they choose to go. Mama is going to be getting some surgery in the near future, so we thought ... hey ... sometimes you gotta take time to be with the folks.

And they have a new puppy. We walked in the front door and this little ball of white fluff and big black eyes greets us. Daddy named him "Duke." Now I can see a Labrador Retriever or a Boxer named Duke, but this little fella looks more like a "Snowball" than a "Duke." At least to me. But what fun. Their cat, Molly, only tolerates him. But the puppy takes a good romp after her every time she shows her face, scaring the jeepers out of the cat.

We took a side trip to a museum in downtown Atlanta to see the Annie Leibovitz photography exhibit. In a word ... magnificent. Her photographs make you think. They conjure up images of your own history as she lets you see hers ... up close and personal. I love her work. Michael, being the photographer he is, pointed out that most of her work is in black and white. Her pictures tell a story. They're quite amazing. If you ever get the chance to go see her work, do it.

Had dinner with my sister and her family Friday night. What a clan! My nephew, Sam, was in town. A junior in college, he flew in from Louisiana. We had a ball. A nice respite from my nose to the grindstone for weeks. A chance to kick back and drink margaritas and laugh. Dinner was out on their veranda; we watched the sun go down and talked until late. A few antique stores and some Mexican food later, Michael and I headed home. Being only four short hours from my folks makes it a nice visit.

So, as usual, I arrive home and realize there's just so much to do. I won't go on about it. It's no use whining and having a pity party. I mean, only the most important thing I've ever done in my life is going to be mailed out this week. No need to panic. Right?

It's going to be a busy week. I'm scheduled to speak in Charlotte this week, as well as get ready for the NSA conference this weekend. Who knows what the new season will bring. Hopefully, cooler weather. Autumn is my favorite season. It's always been good to me. Let's hope it continues.

Blessings to you and yours.