Monday, August 25, 2008


After moving to North Carolina years ago, I began to notice the ever-present abandoned shacks that dot our counties. Travel down any country road and you'll see them. Old, dilapidated buildings constructed some fifty to one-hundred fifty years ago. I used to wonder why there were so many here in the South, but few in the northern states.

Duh. It didn't take long and I realized the milder southern climate does not wear on these relics as does the snow, salt, and consistent rain of the North. Either that, or our southern ancestors just loved to build more outbuildings than those who settled in northern states.

Of course, these buildings weren't always old, decaying shacks. What were they?

Good question. I'm guessing some of them were chicken coops, outhouses, smoke houses, sawmills, tobacco barns, potting sheds, moonshine stills, any number of reasons why these smallish buildings were constructed. I see them hugging the roads, covered in weeds, kudzo, and ivy ... abandoned for decades. I wonder who owned the land? Who built them and why were they left to rot? They squat like hundred-year old men, just waiting to die. But they don't. They're made of rock foundations and tin roofs. The wood walls, though worn, are so old they're almost petrified.

Home to the ground hog, a fox or two, spiders, and mice ... these old buildings serve only one purpose for today's generations. To remind us that once upon a time, a family lived on that piece of land. A family now gone. Dust to dust. The old shack won't die though. Not until some land developer decides to rape the land to throw up a hundred houses so close together you can hear your neighbor's toilet flush. Progress, they call it.

There's a cluster of old shacks across the street from me. I love them. Aged and care worn, their patina is a luster of all things mysterious. They scream out their story and I strain to listen to them. They're not eye-sores. They blend in with the trees and the red dirt. I hope they stay there always. I hope they will continue to be my only neighbors at least until I'm carried out of my house toes up. I hope they'll warm up to me and finish telling me who they are. I'll visit them often in my walks in the woods. Shacks can be scary, ominous, and uninviting to most folk. But to me, they're just a bit of history ... just waiting to tell their story.

Blessings to you and yours.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

First Lines

I believe the first line to any story is crucial to the success of the book. That initial sentence will hook most readers. Sometimes a whole story comes to me after I've written the first line. The following are first sentences from my own stories, some published, some not. (But I thought I'd share.)

Howard was the last man to lay up on my bed under the blue patchwork quilt. (The Evidence of Things Unseen - unpublished)

Had I known my mother was going to leave me the day after I was born, I would’ve fought to stay inside her a while longer. (Cry: Southern Fried Women)

Peggy picked at the dirt between her toes and glimpsed up from time to time to watch a string of drool slide down Earl’s chin and land on his bright red satin tie. (Old Time Religion: Southern Fried Women)

I gaze up at the sky and wonder if it’s rain or pee from Victoria’s diaper that’s dripped on my leg. (Vernell Paskins-Mobile Home Queen: Southern Fried Women)

When I was ten, Mom gave up and spread us out among family members. (Macel and Annel - unpublished)

"You're ugly as sin, Stella. You stink like a dead cow, too." (Atlanta's Stories - unpublished)

"If I had heard you sing like that when we were little girls, I wouldn’t have wasted all those years thinking you were dumb as dirt." (Half Slip - unpublished)

In all of Andie’s youth, never had there been a time when she was more ripe and ready for love than the summer of her fourteenth birthday. (Televenge- unpublished)

Your mind can take over from here ... or you can read the story. My point is, I love first lines ... they, along with the last line, are the jewelry of the book. The earrings on the story. The cherry and the last slurp of chocolate of a sundae. They reel us in, then soften our landing. I never know when a first line will hit me. But when it does, I'm lost in time until the characters appear in my head. Then my morning is gone, the hours fly by, my day is shot.

Often, a first line will change once the story is in progress. I read other books and wonder how they came up with that first sentence. Or, why did they write that as their first sentence? Some authors pay little attention to it, while others (you can tell) have labored over it.

Open your favorite books, read the first lines again. Enjoy!

Blessings to you and yours.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Time In A Bottle of NyQuil

It's all a blur. The past few days I've been fighting what seems to be the worst cold/flu I can remember in quite a long time. And it started on my birthday. Happy birthday to me. My husband brought home what I thought to be just a head cold. He suffered a few days, while ingesting a ton of meds and herbal remedies. I prayed that I wouldn't catch it. But, as always, we share everything.

I'm on the upswing. It hit me harder, unfortunately. I've lost my voice. But I refuse to let this week copy last week. Aches, fever, congestion, and basically ... oh God, just let me die.

If I could save time in a bottle ... isn't that an old song? I can't even begin to think about time. I've taken the summer off from just about everything I'm committed to. A whirlwind of weddings, traveling, moving to this house ... it's overwhelming. My friend, Dena, says I'm just filling up the funnel for good things to write about. I hope she's right. At this moment, however, I just want to breathe through my nose again. All my time has been sucked up into a bottle of NyQuil.

Blessings to you and yours.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Little Bits of Nothing

After a dozen conversations with Time Warner and Earthlink, I believe we've finally solved the problem. But I find I'm not the only woman who loses her temper with computer glitches. My good friends, Dena and Blair, came for dinner Saturday night. Dena, it seems, has about as much patience with incompetent "help" as I do. Anyway, it was good for a few laughs ... comparing our all-too-patient husbands and our own what's-wrong-with-these-people! personalities.

Life here in Oak Ridge is quiet. Unless, of course, you include the loose horses running at break-neck speed down the street. One of our neighbors left her gate open and two young mares took the opportunity to make a run for it. Right toward downtown. I heard, what seemed to be a stampede, and then saw these two horses kicking up their heels and having a ball. Naturally, I was concerned for their safety and I called the fire and rescue. Eventually, "Thunder" and "Lightning" (my made up names for these horses) were captured and walked back to their corral.

I'm finally moved in completely. I feel like I've been here for years. The birds have returned to the feeders, evidently they've decided the new owners are friendly. Not much else happens in my neck of the woods. Little bits of nothing.

I like it that way.

But I believe it's way past time to get back to work. I'll keep you posted.

Blessings to you and yours.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Troubleshooting or Shooting the Trouble

Troubleshooting? A message from an angry customer.

Don't use Earthlink. Don't use Time Warner Cable. Don't. Save yourself time, grief, and effort. I really believe they hire anybody with warm blood.

After several attempts to explain we have moved to a new location, they are still screwing with our Internet and email. And cable phone? Don't bother. You can't hear well, there's static on the line, and frankly ... it's not worth the money.

Troubleshooting? Right now, I'd like to shoot the total idiots who've caused all the trouble.

Time Warner Cable - Earthlink. Don't bother. They're not worth it.

This was a message from our sponsor ... Southern Fried Woman. A woman who'd love to fry the folks at Time Warner and Earthlink who can't get simple English through their first grade brains.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

I've Come Undone

I don't know why, maybe it's the summer breezes, but I'm finding it difficult to sit my butt in the chair and write. It's certainly not writer's block. I've got plenty going on inside my head, but the thought of plugging away on a story right now ... it just doesn't appeal to me.

I think maybe it's the house. Well, duh, in fact I know it is. I'm still in a new home owner zone, and I don't know how to shake it. Not sure I want to. The writing world is passing me by, and somehow - I don't care ... I know I'll catch up. But at this moment, I'm immersed in reading. All my books are now on shelves. Beautiful ones my dad built for me. Books that have not seen the light of day for years are now staring me in the face.

I'm reading Wally Lamb's classic, She's Come Undone. I'm also reading The Shack written by William Young. I'm finding myself absorbed in story, but not wanting to put my own into action. Not quite yet.

Discouraged that Televenge has not yet sold, I try to tell myself the process of selling to a major publisher takes time. That often, it's years before a bestseller is born after completion. But the long wait, the silence, doesn't make it any easier. My next book is in process, I just can't find the energy to finish it.

All I want to do is rest, read, and make great meals in my new kitchen. I've "come undone," and I don't care.

Blessings to you and yours.

Monday, August 04, 2008

I'm Back!

I've got Internet! And TV. And telephone. For the past two weeks I've been moving into a new house and waiting for Time Warner to get their butt in gear and hook me up. Finally.

In the meantime, however, I feel as though I've lived in some kind of time warp. My house, built in 1888, has not only kept me busy 24/7 organizing, cleaning, and finding a place for every little thing, it's held me captive. By not having all the technology at my fingertips, I've found my love of gazing at the morning sun again. Watching finches, hummingbirds, and cardinals eat, peck, and swirl around a feeder. Listening to a distant neighbor's peacock and roosters in the morning duel it out. I found the stars are brighter than ever. Felt the wet grass under my feet and picked corn from another farmer's field. (His welcome to the neighborhood present.)

I scoped out the best tree for a tire swing for my grandson. Found the perfect spot for a sandbox. Fell asleep to the sound of tree frogs and crickets from my open bedroom windows. Filled my kitchen with great smells from dinners I cooked myself. Enjoyed washing clothes from a new washer/dryer. Peeled peaches for a cobbler. Ate blackberries at midnight. Enjoyed a spider weaving her web. I've lost weight (a very good thing) from all the moving, streching, sweating, and cleaning. I've slept like a rock.

Did I miss the Internet? No. TV? No. Telephone? Not a bit.

But now, since I'm all hooked up and tuned in to the 21st century, I've no excuse but to get back to work. The list of things to do is still a long one, but they are little things that can be done over time. Everything is still new to me. This house. Waking up and having coffee with my husband on our covered back porch. Watching the wisteria and the rose bushes grow. It's a dream I never want to wake up from. Never. The views all around the house have thrown me into a different place in my life. I don't feel the rush, the hurry to get it done, the OMG I'm not hearing a thing from my publisher! Somehow, it just doesn't seem so important anymore.

I've taken a deep breath and blown out real contentment for the first time in my life.

That's worth it all.

Blessings to you and yours.