Friday, December 30, 2011

Was It As Good For You As It Was For Me?

A year in review? Not much to review in 2011, as far as my life goes. Two major happenings: After living in North Carolina for ten years I moved back to Ohio, AND I signed a contract with a publisher for my novel, Televenge.
I feel as though I lived with a paintbrush in my hand the first five months of this year. We partially renovated the old farmhouse we’re now in (and still loving every minute of it.) The last seven months were spent on the final drafts of my book. It’s a big book, so there has been a tremendous amount of editing to do. I was hopeful for my novel, The Sanctum, but it was just not the right time for it. It's a story whose time is yet to come. And it will, I have no doubt.
But it's interesting to see how things unfold. I secured a well-known literary agent in 2010, and that in itself gave me a whole boatload of validity. Although he could not work his magic for The Sanctum, it did not stop the right publisher to come knocking on my door for Televenge.
Looking back at previous January posts, they're almost depressing. I suppose because--they were. The last three years were tough years to wade through. This year feels different.
In between all the moving and working on my book, we celebrated birthdays (my granddaughter’s first) and holidays with family, hot summer months, a gorgeous autumn, and finally here we are—about to enter the coldest months of winter. 2011 came and went by quickly.
Unfortunately, it looks as though 2012 will sail by even quicker.
Michael is looking at eye surgery soon (cataracts) and I’m up to my nose hairs in preparation for a sizable publicity blitz. I need to exercise more, eat better, and stop sitting at my computer sixteen hours a day. God, how do I break that habit? I’m thinking about getting a little dog this year. Nothing big or hard to handle, just a little non-shedding, housebroken dog that will force me out of the house every day. To walk! I think I need the distraction.
I’m still trying to figure out the social media onslaught of information that I feel so inept about. I need a faster computer. The list of needs still outweigh the wants. But Michael is working every day and that’s positive. I have to say, 2011 was much better than the three years before it. I’m looking for the new year to jump leaps and bounds over them all. My optimistic self still believes in the good of mankind, the healing of the economy, and in a God who has our best interest at heart. Well, let’s hope so, anyway.
Happy 2012 to you and yours, and may you see the fruits of your labors unfold into many, many good blessings this new year!
Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

One Writer's Publishing Dream Has Come True, Baby!

If you’ve been wondering where I’ve been, I can tell you I’ve been slaving at my computer, going over and over and over again the final edits of my novel, Televenge. After seven years, the story has been through its final rewrite. I’ve polished the last of it.

Ninety days ago, I felt an urging in my spirit to finish this book. What I thought was done, simply was not. It was as if the sky opened up and showed me every trespass, every omission, every place I overwrote, every misplaced comma, and every undotted i and uncrossed t. I’ve worked, literally non-stop for weeks and weeks, and now I know why.

Satya House Publications came calling with an offer I could not refuse. I have signed on the dotted line. Televenge will be released in October of 2012. My first novel. I cannot express my overwhelming sense of peace and pride in this endeavor. So many good folk have come together to make this possible. Since 2004, I have worked on this story nearly every day, even when I was working on The Sanctum, I spent a little time each week on Televenge.

It started way back in the late 80s. That's when I formed the outline in my mind. But I never put pen to paper until the late 90s, writing only bits and pieces. Finally, in 2004, I wrote the first draft. Since then, I’m not really sure how many drafts it’s been through. Over a dozen I can assure you. I’ve blogged about it many, many times throughout the years, thinking I was close to publication when I wasn't. And I've talked about Televenge at nearly every speaking engagement where I’ve been booked, having had more than one member of the audience ask to purchase even the manuscript.

When Southern Fried Women was published back in 2006, three of the stories were off-shoots of Televenge. Stories created from minor characters or chapters taken out of earlier drafts. SFW was put together to create a platform for Televenge. A launching pad, if you will, and it’s done marvelously well. I suppose I'm simply amazed at how far we've all come. All of us who have worked to see this dream come true.

Between now and next October, there are ten months to prepare once it has passed through the editors hands at Satya House. My publisher is pulling out all the stops. She's gone "whole hog," as my daddy used to say. But anyway you say it, our plans are taking shape. We have to play with the big boys on this one, but I’m looking forward to it. Despite the odds and the condition of the publishing industry, I anticipate good things. Very good things.

What was once just a dream, Televenge, one woman’s journey through the dark side of televangelism, is now a reality.

Blessings to you and yours this holiday season.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

The Magic Of This Writer's Christmas

It's the holiday season, but my mind is elsewhere. I'm hoping I can get away with the minimum amount of holiday hoopla this year. At least my tree is up, and my manger scene is sitting on my dining room table. Maybe I'll find time to bake a batch of cookies, wrap a few gifts, send a few cards. Maybe.

If you're a writer, quite possibly you know what I'm talking about when I say that I have a looming deadline. A deadline extended one full week. With great intensity I'm working around the clock to not only finish the story, but to put every ounce of magic I can into it. A story I've been working on for over a decade. Believe me, if I had a bag of pixie dust, I'd be shaking it into my computer right about now.

My hope is that this time next year, the book will lay in your lap as your hands turn each page, forgetting the time and the place where you sit. That your heart and mind will be completely taken over by characters who will live with you the rest of your life. Quite a tall order, I know. A magical one.

So forgive me for sparse blogging. Deadlines eat up great chunks of a writer's time and force us to put life on hold. But know this, wonderful things lay at the end of it.

Blessings to you and yours.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A FREE STORY from Southern Fried Women

How about starting your holiday off with a free short story!

Below is the link to No Time For Laura where you can purchase it for free at this moment in time. The story is available in all ebook formats with embedded links. The links to buy the whole ebook or paperback are at the end of the story.

No Time for Laura will be up on Amazon Kindle within the next 24 hours for 99 cents.

I originally wrote No Time For Laura in 1985. Based, in part, on a true story. Laura was my best childhood friend. Sweet memories of her are now immortalized in words and a few old snapshots. After a couple of rewrites, the story won an award at the Burlington Writers Club Awards in April 2004. The judge's comment on the manuscript stated, ". . . you have a way of touching the hearts of your readers." As a writer, I want to inform and transport my reader's mind — what I wish for even more is to jolt the reader's heart. In this story, my desire to find the true meaning of friendship begged the question, "How far will a person go for the love of a best friend?"

As I edited this story for Southern Fried Women, the character of Laura remained steadfast in her appearance and personality. She refused to let me change her. I gave in. The real Laura will always have a special place in my heart. This story is dedicated to her.

Enjoy the story!

Blessings to you and yours.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Broadway Tunes for Thanksgiving?

Show tunes for Thanksgiving this year! Oh yes, make no mistake. We rocked the house! My sister-in-law, who knows how to have a good time, suggested this year (after we eat our fill of turkey and all the trimmings) that instead of sitting around and moaning about our overstuffed guts--we get right to the festivities.

First, Uncle Tom, (now in his late 70s) played a beautiful arrangement on the piano. And everyone cried.

Next, my three nieces, Ashlie, Melissa, and Lindy, sang. Sisters close in age, they're as beautiful as they are sweet. But boy-howdy, can they sing! Having had the opportunity to perform in church all their lives, belting out a few tunes comes pretty natural to these girls. Their first song was "Sisters" from the musical, White Christmas. Then they performed a gospel number, He Leadeth Me, which of course sent tears streaming down a few faces. Their husbands sang and played the piano, while the the rest of us sat wondering -- um, this is a tough act to follow! How are we going to measure up?

But, by golly, I think we did! The rest of us donned straw cowboy hats and marched right up to the baby grand piano and crooned our hearts out to the musical, Oklahoma! I doubt nary a one of us were in tune, but we laughed until our sides about split open. I think it may be on You Tube in the near future, I'll let you know. All I can say is we would've made Rodgers & Hammerstein proud! And of course, we won the prize! I'm not sure what the prize was, but my sister-in-law accepted the award on all of our behalf. Our first Tony Award. (Kinda-sorta.)

Singing around the piano in that big old farm house is about the most fun any family can have on Thanksgiving. A family where nobody fusses at anybody, hurts and sorrows are left at the door, and love is dished out like candy from our pockets. There's nothing like it.

That is Thanksgiving to me. I'm more than thankful for this family, my children, my grandchildren, and my loving husband. I'm beyond grateful for the goodness we can still see in the world, despite the atrocities that plague us every day on the news. Love reigns supreme within this unbroken circle. Who can ask for more than that?

Blessings to you and yours during the crazy holiday season this year.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Breaking Dawn of the Twilight Series Holds No Candle to The Real Paranormal

I'm amazed at the vampire and werewolf craze going on in movies and books. The walking dead, the zombies, and the updated 'Twilight Zone' shows. Horror and science fiction combined with romance, it's pretty hot stuff these days.

The paranormal enters my writing to one degree or another, but not from the imagined. From the real. Always from real life. Many of the stories in Southern Fried Women were inspired from real life instances that made the hair stand up on the back of my neck. I think there's a marked difference between the unexplained in true life experiences and the Hollywood glam of vampires. And personally, the unexplained is more exciting.

The spiritual side of life includes the miracles of God, which when you think about it, is some pretty hot stuff. I believe that due to her childlike faith, my mother has seen and heard and even felt things that many, if not most, would not believe. But I know my mother. She doesn't lie just for the drama of it all. Her hair-raising experiences date back to when she was just a girl, and some as late as a few years ago.

It seems to me, that if you're really interested in the paranormal (which I am) then investigate and read the real.

Of course, fiction they say, is imagined. But there's often a fine line. My mother, now in her late 70s, would tell you the following actually took place in her living room. I used her experience to write the following scene. A piece from my short story, Coal Dust on My Feet - a story from my collection, Southern Fried Women. Enjoy.

The social hour passed. DeDe intended to devote the next hour to the scriptures, reading and praying. She scarcely found her voice as she preached. “I’m going to read the scripture Pastor Jessie read last week in service from Ephesians the sixth chapter, verses ten through seventeen. I believe it’s appropriate for this evening.”

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

The darkness from the outside permeated the room, even with DeDe’s single lamp that sat on her bookcase. The night sounds of frogs and crickets, and an occasional dog’s bark were the only noise. Then, as if on cue from God, these sounds also ceased.

There was no breeze to speak of. The air around them felt heavy and dead. The screen door to the porch was open and DeDe’s white chiffon curtains at the windows suddenly blew gently inward, billowing like angel’s wings, as if some supernatural being had glided into the room. Lottie put a hand to her mouth. The breeze stopped, the women froze, and their fanning ceased. Nothing moved, not even the wind.

The singing came from outside. As if a choir were floating up Nicholas Street. A soft carol of voices. The song escalated in strength, grew stronger, louder, and became recognizable—a chorus. A mass of voices singing in a heavenly language. The sound grew as if someone had turned up the volume on a radio. It floated through the doorway and as it did, a light came with it, filling the room. It expanded and appeared to seep into every mind and heart. And then, just as it came, it descended out the west window, as if someone opened a vacuum and the singing was sucked out.

No one could speak for a period of unknown time, as every watch on every wrist had stopped. Even the mantel clock on DeDe’s bookcase ceased to chime the hour. Sounds of murmured praise came first from their lips. Hephzibah whispered to Opal that she saw tongues of fire over each woman in the room. Opal reached for her hand and smiled. “I see ‘em too.”

Questions oozed from every mouth … “Did you hear it?” “Yes, what did you hear?” “What was it? A choir?” “Angels, yes it was angels singing.”

Sylvia and Tessa believed it was the radio next door and an electric surge. Lottie and Goose cried. Ossie, Opal, Tootsie, Imogene, Fleeta and Edith sang, “Praise Him, Praise Him, Praise Him in the mornin’, Praise Him in the noontime, Praise Him when the sun goes down …”

One by one, the ladies bid their teary good-byes. Pearle pulled DeDe aside after most had gone and a few waited for their rides. “Was it a sign? A good sign or a bad sign? What’d it mean?”

Hattie Mae couldn’t hold back any longer. “It was a sign of the second comin’.”

“Oh, hush, Hattie Mae! You don’t know that.” Pearle shook her head at her elderly aunt.

“I know somebody’s comin’,” she said.

Hephzibah looked at Mama Ola. “What you think, Mama?”

The old black woman stared at DeDe and grinned. “She know. She know what it was.”

Pearle’s hand, still on DeDe’s arm, trembled. She asked her again. “What do you know, DeDe?”

“I know it’s late. Thank you all for coming.”

Blessings to you and yours.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Planning For Thanksgiving

The Aunts in the family have become the matriarchs. For years we have been gathering on the farm for our traditional Thanksgiving feast. Everyone spends the night and we eat from sundown on Thursday until sunup on Friday. Food, Football, and non-stop fun. It's quite a musical and talented family, and the festivities at the piano can roll on until bedtime. The week before, Auntie Elaine sends her traditional email. This year's email went as follows:

Hello, Family!

It's Thanksgiving Time!

So, I'm hearing all the girls will be here with husbands--WOW! Great! We're also looking forward to Aunt Teresa joining us this year. All in all, prepare for 19 or 20 people!!!! And just think, Lindy, with some stores opening at 10 pm, you may not even have to go to sleep before Black Friday begins! We're glad you're staying with us either way.

Here's the assignment list. I don't think there's any surprises--we've been doing this awhile!

Auntie Elaine and Uncle Gordon--turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, cornAuntie

LaVonne--orange fluff jello, luscious salad

Melissa and Derek--pumpkin pie

Ashlie and Jeremy--rolls and butter

Lindy--cupcakes (!)

Aaron & Annie & Lily--green bean casserole

Jillian--sweet potato casserole

Auntie Pam and Mike--peach cobbler, peanut butter pie

Can't wait, can't wait, can't wait!

Meanwhile, we were trying to come up with a theme for this year's frivolities.

Two words: Show Tunes! That may mean something different to each of us, but I'm just warning you to be prepared! Personally, I'm an "Oklahoma" and "King and I" kind of gal. Then, there's "South Pacific", "Cats", "Annie Get Your Gun". . . uh-oh, better stop. See you all soon. Did I mention that I can't wait?


Auntie Elaine and Uncle Gordon

Blessings to you and yours as you plan your holidays this year.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Little Dirty Feet

My Aunt Emogene died today. She was 81 years old. My father's oldest sister. There were five children in his immediate family. All boys, except Emogene.

Can you imagine being the older sister to four brothers? I'm sure my dad and his brothers tormented the living daylights out of her. I remember she always wore her blue jeans rolled up at the bottom, and when Emogene married her husband, Uncle Cab, she moved five doors down from grandma. That's where she had her four kids and lived until she died. In that same coal town she grew up in. I doubt she traveled anywhere other than to Ohio and back a few times.

Emogene was a West Virginia mountain woman. Wary and suspicious of outsiders. Not many visitors meander to that part of the country. The coal camp all but shriveled up when the miners left town. But her family and a few others stayed. My, how she loved her family.

Like so many descendants of coal miners who moved north to Ohio, we took to the roads every weekend to go "down home." Down home was Widen, West Virginia. I remember staying with Aunt Emogene when I was bitty girl. The thing was, my mother liked to keep me pristine. Cleanliness was godliness in my mother's book. But I loved to play with my cousins in the dirt roads, in the creeks, and on my grandmother's front porch. And my aunt loved to see me get nice and dirty. It's hard to keep a little girl clean in a coal camp, she used to say.

My mother threatened me with a whipping if I took off my shoes to play at Aunt Emogene's house. But inevitably, the bottoms of my feet were as black as soot at the end of the day. Along with every other part of me. I recall my aunt just hollering laughing when Mama finally got a hold of me.

I suppose it's her laugh I'm remembering today. She was a quiet woman most of the time. But every time she got a hold of me, she stripped off my frilly dress and threw me into a pair of overalls. Watching me get dirty tickled her silly, especially when my fussy deep-south mama had a fit over it.

It's sad to know your elder family members are passing away. I didn't see her much through the years, but I'd like to think she thought of me from time to time, as I did her. And of my little dirty feet.

Blessings to the Woods family today. Blessings to you and yours.

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Controlled Fire

The farm next door was recently sold. The new owners decided they didn't like the house that came with the land, so the local fire department, in all its glory, arrived yesterday afternoon to torch the place. It went up in one big swoosh. Flames shot into the sky and smoke billowed across the landscape for a few hours while firemen used the opportunity to teach and practice their firefighting skills.

Quite a production, really.

Wouldn't it be nice if we could control the sorrows of life that way? Light a torch, watch them burn to the ground? Get rid of the mess in one big swoosh. Watching the flames shoot into the air, I thought about the destruction of fire, but also, how very cleansing it is. Controlled fires have many uses. I just wish we could manipulate the fires of life that way.

Start them when needed. Put them out when and how we want.

It's a nice thought, anyway.

Blessings to you and yours.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veteran's Day Cake

I understand that my very great grandfather fought with General Washington. I've been told my great grandfather was a WWI veteran, and that my grandfather was a veteran of WWII. Daddy is Korean War veteran. My husband is a Vietnam vet. My son is a veteran, having honorably served his country in the Marine Corp. I have great uncles who stormed the beach at Normandy. Cousins who lost their lives in Vietnam. My family is a family of patriots. Veterans. So every V-Day I bake a cake in their honor. I call it my Veteran's Day Cake.

My mother-in-law gave me this recipe many years ago. I was just a girl of sixteen, dating her youngest son at the time. I call it a Veteran's Day Cake because the day she gave me this recipe, we received a long-awaited phone call from her daughter's husband, a medic in Vietnam. The family had not heard from him for some time. It was a good day, and we baked this cake to celebrate. As I sit typing, this wonderful cake fills my whole house with a scrumptious aroma and warm of memories of the past.


Combine the following wet ingredients and beat:
2 cups sugar
1 cup veg. oil
4 beaten eggs

Combine the following dry ingredients:
3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt, baking soda, and baking powder
1 cup walnuts
1 cup coconut

Mix WET and DRY ingredients together, AND then add 1 cup buttermilk and 2 tsp. coconut extract

Pour into well-greased Bundt pan and bake 325 for one hour (maybe longer depending on your oven.)

Take a fork and carefully poke holes in top of hot cake.
WHILE cake is still hot, pour the following syrup-melt over cake allowing to absorb

3/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon coconut extract
boil for ONE minute

Let cake set for 4 hours before serving.

Blessings to every Veteran today!

For The Love Of Snow

It's 11/11/11. I woke to snow on the ground for the first time this year. Some would sigh about that I suppose, but having lived in the South for many, many years, waking to snow is a delight. Right about February 1st I may be ready to slit my wrists because of it, but today I'm enjoying it.

The snow blankets the pastures leaving just enough green for the horses. White clumps cling to the trees and fence line like great dollops of frosting. And now that the leaves are all but gone, I'm noticing things about the barn I've never seen. Like the arched wooden windows. They look like "Ten Commandment" tablets stretching across the top. I wonder who took the time to design and build that beautiful old barn. Old shacks in the South spoke to me years ago, and now I find that the barns and rolling hills in the North have a voice all their own.

I was a wild child. Born a coal miner's granddaughter, I spent most if not all my time letting my imagination run free. I loved the snow covering the Appalachian mountains in West Virginia. It reached far and wide--from the north to the south and it carried me in both directions.

The barns, outbuildings, clapboard churches, and towns dotting the landscape were the same. In both directions. I found the people were the same. With families and jobs and hopes and dreams, it didn't matter where they originated. They loved and had been loved. They lived good and hard and when they died, they were mourned by honest hearts whose lives they touched.

People are the same when you get right down to it. Just like the snow that covers the ground. It falls on old dilapidated buildings in the country like it falls on the city's glass skyscrapers. It looks the same when it covers the BMW as it does on my brother-in-law's John Deere. It's no respecter of persons. I guess my point is that there is a fine line dividing the north and south. Does is really stop at the Mason Dixon line or is it broken in places? I realize men defined it in 1865 for the purpose of war, but in my mind, today on 11/11/11, that line is a little less apparent. The landscape doesn't seem to care where you're from. It loves you right where you are. Just like a family. Just like snow.

Blessings to you and yours.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Check It Out!

There is a signed free copy of Southern Fried Women available!

Click here:

And while you're there, check out her blog!

Blessings to you and yours!

Monday, November 07, 2011

Unconditionally Loved

Last night, watching him sleep, I saw his hair has changed to more salt, less pepper. I detected a few more lines around his eyes and forehead and I don't remember his neck sagging quite so much. Today, he discovered he has to have cataract surgery. "It's an age thing," his doctor said. He once stood six feet two inches. I think he lost an inch somewhere between 55 and 58.

But his gray-green eyes sparkle when he talks to me. He still holds my hand and calls me sweetheart. God knows, his sense of humor has not diminished one iota.

His cousin once called him, "flaky." Consider the source, I said. What few folks understand, is that not much rattles the man. Nothing shakes his tree. A few unfortunate blows before I met him changed the course of his life, knocked him to his knees, and turned him into the man he is today. Fiercely loyal, wonderfully courageous, and the most hard-working son-of-a-gun I've ever known.

He doesn't know I'm blogging about him today. He would tell me to stop. But God knows, men like Michael Cable are few and far between. He's not perfect, sometimes he drives me nuts, and I know I run the risk of sounding sappy and stupid, blogging about my husband. Who cares? Is love so unpopular these days? Is it considered bad taste to say you love your spouse. Do I need a reason to talk so fondly of him?

I can proclaim without hesitance, if nothing significant happens to me the rest of my days, I've been blessed enough, I've been blessed because I knew him.

In a world where more than 50% of us are getting divorced, domestic violence runs rampant, and the other 50% barely tolerate each other, there's nothing more valuable knowing the one mistake you haven't made is marrying the love of your life.

To be unconditionally loved. How can you put a price on that?

Blessings to you and your special someone today.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Betty Crocker Comfort

So I'm watching the Food Channel yesterday and not only do I realize it's November, time for planning the Thanksgiving menu, but I'm feeling guilty for not trying new recipes. All the cool-looking dishes whipped up by Paula, Ina, Giada, and Rachel. It seems they're all using fresh herbs in everything these days. A little basil here, some parsley there, dill, rosemary, thyme, and even something called cilantro.

Okay. Now I'm no gourmet cook. I admit that. But what's wrong with the tried and true? Those recipes handed down from our mothers and grandmothers that didn't have one bit of fresh herbs mixed into the olive oil and butter? Hmm? (Or the Crisco, whatever the case may be.)

Well, fine. Grow your herbs, slice and dice all you want. I pulled my Betty Crocker cook book, circa 1961, off my shelf. Published by McGraw Hill it includes this paragraph at the beginning of the book, directed I'm sure, at women:

Hints for the Homemaker: Every morning before breakfast, comb hair, apply makeup and a dash of cologne. Does wonders for your morale and your family's, too! Think pleasant thoughts while working and a chore will become a 'labor of love.' Have a hobby. Garden, paint pictures, look through magazines for home planning ideas, read a good book or attend club meetings. Be interested--and you'll always be interesting! If you have a spare moment, sit down, close your eyes and just relax. Wear comfortable shoes and easy-fitting clothes while working. Stand erect. Good posture prevents fatigue. Have sink, worktable, counter tops at height that is comfortable to eliminate strain. If dishpan is too low, set it on a box. Use a dust mop and long-handled dust pan. Use self-wringing mop to prevent stooping."

Seems like Betty Crocker was not only concerned about our cooking, but our homemaking spirit, as well!

I love this old retro cook book. There's not an herb mentioned in the whole darn 450 pages that I can see. Here's a recipe you can try, straight out of 1961!

"My guests like this," says Helen Ayres Davis, who combines homemaking with an advertising career."
1 1/2 lb. lean ground beef
1 can (8 oz.) tomato sauce
6 to 10 large stuffed olives, sliced
1 medium onion, chopped fine (1/2 cup)
1/3 cup rolled oats
1 egg
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix beef, 1/3 cup of the tomato sauce, olives, onion, oats, egg and seasonings. Spread in heavy 10 inch skillet. Cover with remaining 2/3 cup tomato sauce. Bake 1 hour. Remove excess fat from skillet before serving. Cut in wedges to serve. 6 servings.

Well, shoot. Add some mashed potatoes and creamed corn and you've got yourself one fine meal. What can I say?

Blessings to you and yours.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Blessing Of A Distraction

Now I know why people have babies when they're young. Whoo-wee. I took a day off from writing to watch my 15-month old granddaughter, Lily. But what a grand day we had, reading storybooks, dancing, and playing with every kind of blinking, talking, singing toy you can imagine. Where do they come up with these toys? What happened to Jack-in-the-box and rag dolls and plain old blocks? These days we have baby cell phones, and personal computers, and even baby remote controls for those toddlers who would rather play with daddy's remote than the hundreds of bright, shiny toys in the corner.

I loved spending the day with Lily. She's a pretty perfect little girl with cobalt blue eyes the size of nickels, chocolate curls that fall down her neck, and a tiny rosebud mouth that grandma can't stop kissing! Oh my goodness, I could eat her up! Biteable legs, I swear! She's just starting to walk, but isn't quite sure after two steps. She's faster on all fours and boy-howdy is she. She can get away faster than her dog, Rocky ... who really ... could take her or leave her.

I suppose most every grandmother's heart bursts at the seams when they talk about their grandchildren. Lily is my third, after Andrew and Lauren. But Andrew and LaLa (a nickname that has stuck) live in Phoenix and we're lucky to see them once a year. Michael and I dream of the day we all live in the same state. We not only dream about it, we pray for it. Grandchildren are a wondrous thing when you think about it. It's like God wasn't finished blessing you after your last baby was born; He had to figure out another way to keep adding on to that blessing.

Maybe some folks would contest the word 'blessing' when it comes to describing children, but for Michael and I, our children and grandchildren have been the biggest blessings of our lives. In between writing and getting all wrapped up about my work, I have the blessed distraction of grandchildren. And they're about the only thing that can distract me these days, take away my focus. But they're a welcome distraction. I hope you have a few little distractions around your house as well. They sure do keep us grounded, don't they? Remind us of why work so hard to leave the legacy of the written word. So those little distractions have something to remember us by.

I loved feeding, bathing, and playing with Lily yesterday. I think I even changed a poopy diaper or two. This morning I'm tired and my knees are a bit sore from playing on the floor, but it's a small price to pay for taking the day off. Sometimes a writer needs distraction. It's refreshing.

Blessings to you and yours.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Social Media Meltdown

I'm in the midst of social media meltdown. Thank God I have an expert working on all of it for me, as well as fantastic publishers who have made me realize I need to be "connected" to readers by way of Facebook and Twitter. I admit I've kept my nose to the grindstone the past two years, working my behind off on two novels and haven't kept up with it. But all that is about to change.

Very soon I'll have a new look to my blog, my website, and book page on Facebook and Twitter. I'll be able to tweet with the best of them. It's going to take a little time, but I see my updated self on the horizon, and I guess it's about damn time.

Oh, for the days when all we needed was a pen and paper. But those days are long gone. Hmm... that's even a little before my time. I should've said a ream of typing paper, a fresh ink cartridge, and a new bottle of white-out. Now. That dates me. But keeping in touch with readers is a must in this market, and so we old farts got to learn the ropes.

At least I know if I want to read a certain article in the New York Times, I can pull it up online. That I don't have to find a newsstand that sells the paper. I can find my way around the Internet and I'm a whiz at word processing. I think I type over 100 words per minute, or something like that. Not that anybody cares. But downloading software, changing domain names, installing feed burners -- um, not so much. I don't have a clue.

It's why I have an expert who is doing it for me. She's superfantastic. So there's more to being a writer these days than just putting words to paper. Unless you enjoy the business of writing, you better be prepared to hire some help. Otherwise, you'll find yourself two years behind the times and wondering ... am I supposed to tweet or twerp?

Blessings to you and yours.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Southern Billboards

Just got back from a whirlwind trip to Nashville. My publisher, Satya House, represented Southern Fried Women at The Southern Festival of Books this year, and as the author -- I signed books for six hours on Saturday. I must have sold and signed over a hundred books! Of course my husband and my publisher's husband had a lot to do with that. They took a handful of publicity cards with a description and picture of the book and walked up and down the length of the mall, distributing cards, talking with groups of women, and just pushing the book. Bless their hearts.

But, by God, it worked! I think I sold more books than even some of the featured authors. At least my line was longer. Folks stood in line to chat, buy a book, get it signed, eat free candy, and then move on. Of course, after all these years, I do know how to work a crowd. Above everything, I let them know I'm grateful. A few wanted their picture taken (with me) and although I'm not very photogenic ... as a humble writer, I do it. I do it because I love my readers. I love 'em to pieces. I'm grateful for every ounce of love sent my way, especially from readers.

And it was great sitting at the table with Julie Murkette, publisher extraordinaire, who has become quite accomplished in her own right. She's good at encouraging me and I'm looking forward to talking with her more in the near future.

Nashville is a vibrant Southern city. Full of country music, party people, and girls in cowboy boots. I understand I missed a nude karaoke contest outside our downtown hotel at 3 in the morning. Hmm. Sorry I missed it. But I think the thing that amazes me most about the South is not the sinners, but the saints.

Driving on Southern interstates you will find a plethora of religious billboards. Michael and I have driven on every interstate from New York to Florida to Mississippi and Louisiana, and inevitably there are always a series of billboards that capture my attention. This past weekend it was a group of three ginormous signs in a farmer's cornfield spread out over several acres.
The first one read, ARE YOU READY?
Next one: HELL IS REAL

It reminds me of my recent blog post from this past summer.

We attended a community sale at an old Moose Lodge in North Carolina, which has since been turned into a church. It wasn't long and I realized most of the money lenders, oh, excuse me --vendors--were church members who had set up their tables to not only sell their junk, but also to whip a little Jesus on us unsuspecting folks who only came to shop.

We walked past one vendor who had parked his shiny red pickup truck smack in the middle of the lot and set up two tables of pure clean-out-my-basement junk, consisting of moldy rugs, faded pictures of kittens in gold frames, and dusty macrame plant hangers from 1982. But that wasn't the best part.

He had opened both doors of his red pickup and turned the volume up on his CD player so that the good Lord Himself could hear it. I suppose Mr. Vendor wanted us to know what a good Christian he was and that we all should dare to be as good. I spent the next ten minutes walking around listening to a church choir belt out the last few lines of the Lords Prayer--"For thine is the kingdom ... and the power ... and the gloooooorrrrrreeeee ... foreeeevvvver ...." full tilt.

Man - o - man. I felt like I was in the middle of a Saturday Night Live skit.

Here's the thing. Doesn't the Bible tell us to just let our light shine? I'm not sure that means to build a bon-fire in the middle of community yard sale. Somehow, the red pickup just cheapened it. It did nothing but drive folks away. I think it's one thing to be proud of your faith, it's another to shove it down an unsuspecting person's throat.

It's no wonder the Bible Belt gets a bad rap.

So next time you drive past the PREPARE TO MEET THEY GOD sign on Interstate 71, just remember that yes, we all have to meet God someday, but that lightning bolt sign isn't anything but another reminder of the scare 'em-to-death sermons too many of us grew up with. Smile and drive on. And thank God for His mercy, grace, and His infinite patience with all of us.

Blessings to you and yours.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

If There Was Ever A Time ...

I went to lunch yesterday with my sister-in-law. A drive in the country to lunch and to Walmart to pick up a few things and although it was raining, the trees captured my attention. I'd forgotten just how breathtaking and beautiful autumn is in Ohio. Living over ten years in North Carolina, I found that autumn usually didn't arrive until sometime the end of October or the first of November. And unless you live in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the leaves in the south just don't have that vibrancy and sparkle that the leaves do in the north. They just don't. So I was pleased to spend the day driving around in the midst of all that color.

Of course Elaine and I chatted about one thing and another, and like all good sisters-in-law, she allowed me to ramble on about my work for a good hour. Bless her heart.

But I've been thinking about little else these days. My manuscript, my pursuit to get it published, my life's work. For days now, I've been bombarded with emails about books and articles and memoirs and interviews with authors regarding books on cults. Here are the three that are attracting the most attention:

Holy Ghost Girl by Donna Johnson
A Thousand Lives by Julia Scheeres
When She Woke by Hillary Jordan

This thrills me to no end. It's my thinking, that if there was ever a time for Televenge, a story about the dark side of televangelism, it's now.

Blessings to you and yours.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Poem About Marriage

After the rant I posted yesterday, I thought this morning I would soften it up a bit with a little poetry. I'm starting to read more and more poetry these days, finding I rather love it. This morning on (an excellent web site for readers) I read a poem that is worth repeating. Thank you, Mr. Mallouk, for this lovely look at marriage.


The Long Marriage

Tonight I close my book, turn off the light
and settle in beside you, finding in the just
right camber of my pillows and the space
between us the familiar comfort of our life.

I close my eyes, the stage goes dark and I
notice there are just the two of us
in the theatre and you are already asleep.
I listen to the rhythm of your shallow breath.

When we fell in love, I went first. Stepping
from the sidewalk, I darted between the cars
and got to the park on the other side
only to find you had never left the curb.

You are displeased. You have come a long way.
I am nowhere to be found. You are naked, standing
at the water's edge. The water is clear, the quarry
is bottomless. It's mid-May and too cold to swim.

Still, you dive in. When I find you, your goose
flesh and nipples blend seamlessly. We are breathless,
warm only where our bodies meet. You dive down,
your white soles recede into the darkness.

We are in your family's home, sitting at one end
of the dining room table, your parents at the other.
Your father leans on his elbows, listening.
Your mother weeps silently, her hands in her lap.

I am backed into the kitchen corner of our row
house, sprawled on the floor, my head in my hands.
You are lying awake in our bed, face to the wall.
But for the fading echo of slammed doors, there is silence.

Two dream images: a ship runs aground on
a small island (in a week your period is late);
the wrong building materials are delivered to
the house (in a day your bleeding begins).

I am bending over you, looking down.
You are giving birth, pushing. Your left knee
and arm interlocking at my elbows. Her head-
the purple flower of your bloody thighs.

We are camped in the Blue Ridge and the puppy
is lost. We search on either side of the ravine. You
have taken one frightened child and I the other.
We call back and forth as darkness falls.

In the empty great room of the house we designed,
we review the punch list with the builder. My voice
dissipates in the cold drafts. We will move
again in ten years, never having unpacked.

You are poring over photographs: children
posing in oversized shoes and hats, mugging for
the camera; proud parents framing the graduates;
your parents' unlikely last trip to Ireland.

It is still night yet the room is lit
with moonlight streaming through
your grandmother's Irish lace curtains.
Shadows silhouette the far wall. I realize

I have grown old. My breathing is
shallow and you are sitting by the bed.
When you take my hand, I feel your
thin bones beneath my calloused fingers.

Blessings to you and yours.

Monday, October 10, 2011

I Want To Hire Drew Rosenhaus!

So I'm watching football yesterday, until my husband decides all of his teams righteously suck and he turns the channel to 60 minutes, the TV show. They're doing a segment on sports agent, Drew Rosenhaus, and for the next half-hour I sat glued to my flat screen ready to crawl out of my skin. If you don't know Drew Rosenhaus, he's the sports agent Tom Cruise imitated in the movie, Jerry Maguire.

People either love Drew Rosenhaus or hate him. He's a shark, there's no doubt. Lance Briggs with the Chicago Sun-Times says, "He's a guy that gets it done, guys go to him because he's a shark. He's going to go in there and take care of business. He's not going to leave anything on the table. He allows a player to see his value more so than most."

I'm like ... YEAH! Isn't that what an agent is supposed to do????

Okay, I get it. The world of professional sports is not quite the same as the publishing industry. I get it. But my God, c'mon! To have a literary agent muster even 2% of that guy's presence, it just might turn the big dogs on Mahogany Row up there in Fat City on their ears.

Strong words for a writer like me, I guess. But maybe if the rest of the world's writers would quit trying to suck up to every literary agent who attends a writing conference, quit bending over and taking whatever they get, quit believing everything they read on the Internet, quit pussyfooting around and try to change things in this industry, maybe then ... just maybe more of us would get published. Even make a living at it.

They tell us writers can't get published without agents. Seems to me, without writers--nobody in this industry has got a job. It takes all of us working together and finding answers to the problems plaguing us.

Technology has only made a dent in publishing--as far as writers are concerned. Things need to change. Writers need better access to agents who will fight for them. I realize we still need to separate the sheep from the goats when it comes to good and bad writing, but for the purpose of this blog, let's assume I'm talking about writers worth their salt. We all need to be on an equal playing field.

A writer's world today is definitely different than even a decade ago. It's evolving, but it's still way behind when it comes to Agents/Editors/Publishers and what's happening on the rest of the planet. I know these days most agents/editors are reading manuscripts on their I-phones or I-pads, but they're still sifting through thousands of slush piles. How do you change that? In the end, doesn't it all boil down to money?

You can bet Rosenhaus
gets a nice chunk of change for what he does. Do literary agents get paid enough for what they do? If they did more on behalf of the writer, couldn't they negotiate a bigger piece of the pie? Editors, I hear, change jobs like they change their underwear. About every day. The cost of printing, marketing, and publicity costs a few bucks. Publishers divide their publicity money according to the ever-present popularity contest going on between writers. So how do we change it for everybody, how do we make it better for writers, as well as the rest of book-reading world?

All I know is that until we start, until we get fed up with the way things are done, we writers are going to be sitting on manuscripts that should've been published years ago while the folks resting on their laurels are putting out book number 34. Those bestselling writers we all know so well, those big names everyone recognizes will continue to publish because their editors, their publishing houses know some housewife in Barnes & Nobles or Sam's Club is going to buy it. She's going to buy it because she only has so much money to spend on books and she'd rather risk her 30 bucks on a mediocre story than on some writer she's never read. And until she reads a great review on a debut novelist, or hears it from a trusted friend, she'll stick with the tried and true.

I know my best friend, Tina, who reads three new books a week and belongs to a large book club is just starting to understand my frustration. Traveling this road with me, hearing what I go through on a weekly basis, she refuses to read anything but debut novels, at least until the next Diana Gabaldon comes out. So I think there is one way to change things. Writers need to infiltrate book clubs. Let the readers know what's going on and what it really takes to get published. Create some empathy on behalf of the writers who give them the books they love to read. Encourage readers to read debut novels. In the end, some won't care a hoot. But some will. It's a start. It's something.

So there you have my rant for the week. I don't even pretend to have all the answers. Not even a little bit. And if I had money to put where my mouth is, you can bet I'd do more than just rant on my blog. But I do know that until a little bit of Drew Rosenhaus rubs off on this industry, writers are still going to bend over and take whatever they can get.

And that's just plain wrong.

Blessings to you writers out there, today. Blessings to you and yours.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Writing With A Cold

I've been fighting a cold for days, but it won. I feel like I'm living underwater. My head is full, my throat is killing me, and my ears feel like they did when I was a kid and spent too much time in the pool.

I know. Yuck.

I managed to shower today. And we've got bright blue skies for a change. A final kick of warmth before the cold, raw Ohio weather sets in. The trees out in the pasture have turned bright shades of russet, lemon, and gold. I'm most comfortable at my desk with a cup of hot tea. Pouring over my manuscript still occupies most of of my day. As I look back on the years it took to get me to this point, I feel all fuzzy-headed. Tired.

I figure it's either from the cold or another bout of discouragement.

I think it's time to get up and stretch, walk outside and catch an autumn breeze or two, and then refill my tea mug. Try to breathe.

What? I shouldn't admit to discouragement? Every writer battles it. Even the most accomplished. But when our bodies are down, it only enhances the feelings.

So we wait until our heads unclog before passing judgement on the last chapter we wrote. Otherwise, it might end up in the trash along with hundreds of used tissues.

Writing with a cold ... not a good thing to do. Maybe it's time to just curl up with a good book and read.

Blessings to you and yours.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Middle Of The Book

Back in the ‘sixties when geezers over fifty drove DeSotos and watched Lawrence Welk and kids under twenty drove Volkswagen vans and painted peace signs on their faces and me and my sisters were the only ones on our block who wore bobby socks and saddle shoes, this girl moved two doors down with poker-straight hair and Bob Dylan records and no mother.

Well. Talk about your run-on sentence. But this first sentence sets the tone of the new book I'm working on. I want it to speak volumes to any reader's first glance. To draw them into the life of the narrator without knowing it.

First sentences of any novel should do that. They should pin you to the wall and hold you like super-glue. A first sentence is filled with magic and pierces your heart or peaks your interest to the point that before you know it, you're five chapters in.

But what about the middle of the book? Doesn't it deserve the same?

Lately, I'm finding I've spent as much time on the arc of the story and the chapters following it as I have on that first sentence. Some novels I've read lately have left me flat in the middle. As if the writer had a great idea for the beginning and end, then just filled in the middle the best they could. Sometimes with paragraphs and chapters that have very little to do with the actual story. As a result, my eyes skim over a third of the middle just to find out what happens at the end.

I think the middle of any story should be every bit as thrilling as the beginning. It sometimes answers questions, agreed. Maybe even ties up a few loose ends. But a skilled writer knows how to up the ante, raise the stakes, and turn the tide in the middle pages in ways the reader never sees coming. A good writer can introduce a new character (another rule breaker) or change point of view all while keeping the tone and voice throughout. Keep me enthralled through page 200 and I'll be your biggest fan.

The middle should set up the ending without giving it away. But it's often the most overlooked. It is also where readers find giant pauses. A place they can stuff in their bookmark and put down the book. The question is, are they anxious to get back to it or do they hesitate to pick it back up again?

The middle of the story is where the heart is. Writers, by all means, pay attention to it. Give it as much love as the rest.

Blessings to you and yours.

Friday, September 09, 2011

A Good Writer

How does one know if they are truly a good writer?

One of the mandates to becoming a writer is reading and writing every day. Every day without fail. Even if it’s for five or ten minutes. A good writer reads. A good writer writes every day. Or so I’ve been told.

And there are many writers with much more impressive literary pedigrees than mine. It seems to me that many folks (especially those within the industry) measure a writer’s greatness by the number of previous publications.

Well. Thank the good Lord that Literary Agent Susan Ramer and Amy Einhorn Books loved The Help as much as I did, because Kathryn Stockett was rejected 60 times before they got a hold of it. My question is, why was it rejected 60 times? I’m sure Ms. Stockett didn’t send out her beloved manuscript willy-nilly to just anybody. And according to this article, ( the rejections took their toll on her. So what do some see in debut novels that others don’t?

Is there something in a writer’s DNA that makes us good? Is there such a thing as natural-born talent? Even if one follows all the rules, reads and writes every day, and possesses a natural storytelling ability, how do you know you’re a good writer?

Is it because your friends and family gush over your work? Or because you’re published? Because you've won a contest or two? Or is it because something inside you pushes you forward. To not write would send you to the looney bin. Suck the air out of your lungs. Stop your heart. But does that really make you a good writer?

Every writer receives good and bad reviews. Some have thousands of followers who buy every one of their books, as well as folks who turn up their noses at the mention of their name. Is it all about personal preference?

Who decides? What qualifies them, for crying out loud? And yet what, pray tell, makes up the essence of a good writer? Is it the marketing and publicity machine behind the writer? (I hardly think so.)

Writers often question their worth. They have peaks and valleys in their careers and hold on to each and every positive comment, turn of phrase, and head nod. They possess the patience of a saint. After all, what kind of person does it take to persevere through 60 or even a hundred rejections? Years of waiting for an offer. Writers bend with the wind and roll with the god-awful punches. Even though the words come out of us like a rocket and keep us up all night we wonder--will we ever get a break?

Literary Agent Donald Maass says it takes ten years to develop a breakout writer. What if those ten years have come and gone?

Who or what determines a good writer?

Well. I really don’t know.

Helen Keller once said, “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.”

And yet it’s not success that defines us as a good writer. Our MFA degree, the hundreds of folks who turn up at our book signings, or our fifth New York Times bestseller. It's not that at all. Because at the end of the day, it's still just you and your computer.

So how do you know you're a good writer?

Do you ever?

Maybe that in itself is what keeps us moving forward.

Blessings to you and yours.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

The Brevity Of Life

I think the one thing that surprises me the most as I enter the youth of old age is the brevity of life. Time passes in a wisp of an eyelash. I look at my granddaughter (I'm even surprised I'm old enough to have one) and I think ... shouldn't that be my daughter? After all, it was only a day ago I was changing my own baby's diapers.

Evangelist Billy Graham says that a lifetime is fleeting, but that our soul is eternal. That once we are born, our soul will never die. It's a scary thing to contemplate. There is no end to us. Only an end to what we know as life. As a believer, and a writer, I have been meditating upon this lately. And whether or not you believe in the hereafter, you have probably felt the spiritual side of yourself at some point. Something tugging on your soul.

Yes, contemplating eternal life in Heaven can be an exhilarating and yet a scary thing. For me, the very thought of atheism or agnosticism frightens me to the core. My inner spirit confirms to me daily the presence of God. The love of my creator greets me each morning and to not believe in the Heaven He has prepared, well I simply don't have that in me. I cringe when I hear celebrities on TV say there is no God. It's like fingernails down a chalkboard to me.

As I grow older, I find I'm not all wrapped up in theology, or denominations, or whether or not one should tithe, attend church, or become a deacon. What I am is at peace with myself. Sunday mornings on my front porch watching the sunrise ... that's where I feel Him the most.

Life is short. An old and overused cliche that somehow passes right over our heads when it's said to us. But oh, my friends and ah, my foes ... a cliche that should never be taken lightly.

Blessings to you and yours.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Where I Write

I'm working on my third novel and for this mountain of work, I'm now writing in my new office. The farmhouse we remodeled, or fixed up, or whatever you want to call it is about done. It's beautiful, I really must say. But my office is the best part of the house. It's roomy; plenty of space for the antique table I use as my desk, a soft leather love seat, and six cherry wood bookcases. Bookcases filled with a collection of books I've read and books I intend to read in the next five years. Artwork I love fills each wall that's not covered by books. There's even new carpet on the floor. It's the office I've dreamed of, and now ... (giggle) ... here I sit.

I listen to music when I write which comes from Pandora Internet radio piped in from the living room. It's perfect. I can choose the music according to my mood. Typically, it's music without words. New age music is great writing music. But once in a while I get a notion for a little 60s rock and roll, and then I play it loud, often setting the scene for the next chapter I'm working on. Sometimes a little bluegrass fits nicely, or a Celtic number.

Finding inspiration is as easy as a glimpse outside. The farm is a beautiful place to work, clear my head, and breathe in the fresh air flooding through my window. My style is eclectic, and so is my work. I paint my stories in broad strokes, which is how I decorate. Fearlessly. Mixing the old with the new. Lace curtains with rustic round-bottom baskets dating back fifty years or more. An old pottery collection with hand-embroidered dresser scarves. I'm eclectic in about every avenue of my life, come to think about it. I won't be dictated to. And that includes what I write.

But where I write is important to me. And where I write now is pretty damn near perfect.

Blessings to you and yours.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Help

I saw the movie today. Based on the bestselling novel by Kathryn Stockett, the movie surprised me. I really loved it. I laughed, I cried, and I want to see it again.

The Help is a story of prejudice and the ignorance of our country during the "simpler times" of the 60s. Were they really all that simple? I believe it was an extremely complicated time; however, The Help digs far deeper than the story of abuse against African-American maids in Mississippi. This is a film about women who looked down their snooty noses at anyone black or white, who did not agree with them or follow their lead. It exposes not only the constant battle of the black maid to survive during that time period, but also shows the hate in those who inflicted their horrible working conditions.

I was just a bitty girl during the early sixties, a third-grader when Kennedy was shot, but I remember the race issues and the snide comments made by the members of my community, even though we lived in a sheltered Midwestern town. Nobody where I lived hired any "help." Except the big shots in the rubber industry. In fact, my white grandparents were hired help. My maternal grandmother was a maid and my grandfather was a groundskeeper. They worked for a man who owned one of the rubber companies in Akron, Ohio. But I can guarantee you, they never suffered like the black maids and groundskeepers in Jackson, Mississippi. Not in the least. They lived on the premises and used whatever toilet in the house they chose to pee in.

I highly recommend the movie. Go see it. It's a history lesson everybody needs to see. A real refresher on the south of the 60s.

Blessings to you and yours.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Thoughtless Comments

I heard a comment, if you can call it that, made about a certain struggling writer two days ago.

"Why don't they give up? Why don't they get off their fat ass and go get a ten-dollar an hour job and contribute?"

I know what you're thinking. What a jerk. But every writer struggles with these thoughts. When do we give up? When do we throw in the dirty towel and just cut our losses? Most writers have day jobs and write in the early and late hours of the day. I have been extremely blessed in that my husband believes in me (even more than I do at times) and refuses to let me ... give up. I have worked hard all my life for the opportunity to write full time, and now that it's here, I'm not giving that up. For nobody.

But the poor writer with the fat ass has to endure this arrogant comment rolling around in his/her head. How do they overcome the thoughtless words that were flung at them like rotten fruit? The answer is, they just keep writing. Maybe they find another way to earn a little extra money, but they keep on writing. And someday, when their book hits the bestseller lists, they can put the comment to bed.

Ask God to bless the idiot/psycho who said this. Ask God to bless 'em real good.

Blessings today, to struggling writers everywhere.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Southern Fried Women - A New Version

August 1st is the re-release date of Southern Fried Women! My publisher for Southern Fried Women, Satya House, is excited to announce the new version!


The stories are the same and the look of the book is only slightly different, but the excitement has not wavered a bit. Available for purchase from your local bookstore,,, or on my web site,, this cult classic continues to sell and gain momentum. Sometimes it amazes me. I receive mail each week from my readers and I'm thrilled. The characters, the stories, the themes of death, love, guilt, grief, and overcoming life's biggest obstacles resonate with each person who has ever picked it up and found themselves immersed in it.

Southern Fried Women is here to stay. I hope you'll pick up a copy soon!

Blessings to you and yours.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Boo Kitty And Scout

Every day there's a parade at my house. I live on a working horse farm. Each morning and evening when my brother-in-law leaves his house and heads toward the barn, he is followed by his big red dog (a Labrador Retriever) and a sleek black cat.

The dog, Scout, and the cat, Boo, are best friends. Boo occasionally gets side-tracked as he hunts for a mouse or a bird, while Scout sometimes takes a quick detour into the pond but they're never far from each other. Watching Boo kitty tumble with frogs in the yard is a hoot. But when the barn swallows know he's coming, they'll dive bomb him and taunt him like little fighter planes in an air raid. I love to imagine what Boo is thinking. Oh give it your best shot, you little pipsqueaks. Come any closer and you're toast! Before you can blink an eye, Boo has gone from hunched in the grass to a leap in the air.

The gift of bones and feathers ends up on my sister-in-law's front porch.

Scout and Boo were named after character's in Harper Lee's classic, To Kill a Mockingbird. My sister-in-law is a lover of books, which makes living next door to her nothing but pure pleasure. Drinking my morning coffee, watching the parade of Gordon, Scout, and Boo gives me my first smile of the day. They are nothing less than God's gift to me each morning.

Blessings to you and yours.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Is The Grass Greener?

It's July.

Summer in Ohio. Cool, crisp nights, sun-filled days. Low 80s, usually. Some humidity. A shower passes from time-to-time. But Ohio summers are the best. Everything is green and the pastures are full of new life. Only occasional air conditioning is needed.

In North Carolina you can drink the air. You can't find a spot of cool shade to save your life. 95 is the norm. Parched earth dots the landscape. Wavy heat rises above blacktop roads. You can't live without air conditioning. Most hibernate until Autumn.

The grass isn't always greener on the other side.

Until winter.

But then ... there's always North Carolina ice. And road crews that don't know what to do with it.

Ahhh, but there's always a great restaurant to choose from in Ohio. You can brave the snow to get there because the road crews were prepared. I wouldn't travel ice-covered roads for any restaurant in North Carolina. Sorry. It's true. I don't miss all the fried food and BBQ.

But let's face it. There's good and bad everywhere you go. I just didn't realize how much I missed Ohio until I came back. My memories of the south are fond ones. I'm southern in my heart, but right now ... I'm enjoying the culture, the food, and the true hospitality of the north.

There's nothing wrong with that.

Blessings to you and yours.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Youth Of Old Age

The view out my windows and off my deep front porch is of a pond, horse pastures, and trees. It's Midwest farmland as far as the eye can see, and I'm loving every second of it. I've come back to a place I never thought I'd embrace again. But ... I am.

As I sit here writing this blog I'm thinking about my life and how many times I've moved. I'm tired of moving. Although I love to travel, I like the idea coming home to my things. My books, my old china, my junk. It's comforting. Every year that passes by, I become more inclined to dig in my heels and hole up in my house. Seems like every ten years in a woman's life, her life changes to where she can't recognize a damn thing. It's been that way with me. Except this time, I've come full circle. I recognize the landscape, but not the past. And that's a good thing.

The old house creaks like every old house I've fixed up. Every old house I've turned into a silk purse. A sow's ear is not an easy thing to contemplate as I enter the youth of old age. But here I am. There's a lot to do. I'm not in a hurry. The wind is cool as it blows through the screens. Summer storms rumble through in the afternoons and I feel myself drifting through old memories and another new adventure.

I've got a new book to write. And this is just the house and landscape to do it in.

Blessings to you and yours.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

You Can Take The Girl Out Of The South

... but you can't take the South out of the Girl.

And so it goes. The past weeks I've been involved in packing, moving, and unpacking. I've moved north. Oh yes, true. I know. Shocker. But when there's children and grandchildren to consider ... the choice becomes an easy one.

I moved to North Carolina in June of 2001. Ten years later, almost to the day, Michael and I loaded up a truck and moved to the Midwest. It's been a long, hot, and exhausting couple of weeks. As I sit here (thankful to be back online) and gaze over the mountain of boxes that are waiting to be unpacked, I'm realizing that no mater where I live, where I go, or what I do ... I'm still Southern. And I'm still Fried.

Always was. Always will be.

Blessings to you and yours.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Rapture Foolish

The Rapture Zealots, yet again, have made even the idea of one seem foolish. What's wrong with these people?

Here's the truth of it all, if you really want to know. Most Christians, fundamental or otherwise, believe in the rapture of the church. But it is NOT the focus of our lives. It is NOT what we fear or think about every minute of every hour of our day. Our "vision" of it, comes in many shapes and forms, depending on how we interpret the scripture. But it cannot be a way to get out of paying your thirty-year mortgage. It cannot be a finger-wagging, soap-box stomping slam at the rest of the world that says, watch me disappear while the rest of you heathens suffer.

God didn't give us a Rapture Flag to wave. He told us to love one another, to take care of the poor, and to live as if every day might be our last. He didn't tell us to make His word look foolish.

No man knows the hour. How simple is that? You can crunch the numbers all you want, but He could come back a hundred years from now. Or tomorrow. It's His gig. Get over it.

If you're a believer, go on with your life. Be kind to your fellow man, let your light shine, and quit trying to be little gods, running around shoving the rapture down everybody's throat. There's a lot of hurt in this world, people who need prayer, their hearts mended, and homes that need put back together. Be about your Father's work. To me, that is the testimony of the Christian. Not turning your car into one big bumper sticker, declaring the end of the world. It's not going to happen that way.

Grow up.

Blessings to you and yours.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Flipping Through The Fear

Flipping through the channels last evening, I happened upon a portly televangelist from Texas. His sermon title was something like, WHAT WILL HAPPEN NEXT? Being one who studies the world of televangelism, I stopped to listen.

The sermon, one in which I've heard hundreds of times, was about the end times. It begins with the rapture of the church and ends with The Great White Throne Judgment and an eternity of peace upon an earth that has been remade by God. In between these two events, you can expect seven years of tribulation (Hell on earth) and all sorts of cataclysmic events the world has never seen. Most of the world's population, according to this pastor's interpretation of the Bible, is doomed for Hell. Unless you're one of the lucky ones to make the rapture of the church, your chances of making Heaven are slim to none.

I have to tell you, the goosebumps invaded every part of my body. Old familiar goosebumps. Like I said, I've been exposed to this doctrine all my life. It may sound crazy, but I'm a believer in this end time message. My only problem was with the way in which it was delivered. Steeped in fear and intimidation, the message made me feel like I needed to move to Texas and join his church in order to make the rapture.

ding ding ding ding ding ding ding!

I wonder how many have actually done that? Scare 'em-to-death religion rakes in the members and their money. I'm not a believer when it comes to holding people over Hell. In fact, I'm rather sick of it. I lived in that mess most of my childhood and during my young adult life, and I wish I would've flipped the channel right past that pastor. But, I didn't. I wanted to hear if the message had changed much. It hasn't. It's pretty much the same.

I think what bothered me the most about his sermon, was that there was NOTHING about how to become one of the lucky ones and escape what was coming. How do you make the rapture? What qualifies you? Christianity, salvation, living a perfect life before God, is what this pastor would say. Sin will not enter in, I've been told. And then we can get into another long discussion about sin. Do people sin every day, whether they want to or not? If so, you better hope you're not sinning when the trumpet sounds, eh? And then there's the controversy that you have to speak in tongues to make the rapture. Oh yes, true. The list goes on and on, and I wonder - does anybody really know how much of a saint we have to be?

We can worry ourselves into such a tizzy about making Heaven we're no earthly good.

In my own humble opinion, I think it comes down to faith. It takes more than being a good person, I know that. One must believe in the sovereignty of God and that His word is true. I know that too. I believe in all the signs and prophecies, and I believe God's love covers it all. It will happen someday, and we may well be the generation to see it. But I'm not going to live in a religious world full of fear ever again. Nor will I subject myself to the fist of some pious pastor pounding on his pulpit, screaming at me. Never again.

I plan to make Heaven. But I don't need to be screamed at and threatened all the way to the pearly gates. And neither do you.

My answer for you is to become a seeker. Search the scriptures for yourself. Let the voice of God become real in your own life, and open your heart to hear Him. It is a scary future we're facing, I agree, but instead of fearing it - embrace it. Ask God to show you the way. I believe He'll do it with love, for you to accept it or not. He gives you the choice. He's like that. For now, at least. During this dispensation of grace that we live in. At least for now, you don't have to be screamed at.

Blessings to you and yours.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Only In The Bible Belt

Lord have mercy.

So yesterday, Mike and I are tooling around town hunting for garage sales. It's the season. And if anybody knows me, or has read even a few blog entries, you know I love garage sales. It's my major contribution toward being GREEN. I have no problem recycling somebody else's trash into my treasure.

Anyway ... we read on Craig's List there was supposed to be a community sale at the old Moose Lodge, which has since been turned into a church. You know, one of those recycled churches named House of Hallelujah, or Come Unto Me Church, or Shout and Sing To The Lord Church ... you know what I mean. One of those churches where you're not quite sure if the pastor has his divinity degree or whether you should demand to see it, like the Republicans did with Obama's birth certificate. "Well," I said. "Could be a good sale. Who knows? I've found a few treasures at church sales."

It wasn't long and I realized most of the money lenders, oh, excuse me --vendors--were church members who had set up their tables to not only sell their junk, but also to whip a little Jesus on unsuspecting folks. Patrons who stopped by only to find a set of used golf clubs, the perfect teacup to add to their collection, or an old bike to use for parts.

We walked past one vendor who had parked his shiny red pickup truck smack in the middle of the lot and set up two tables of pure clean-out-my-basement junk, complete with moldy rugs, faded pictures of kittens in gold frames, and dusty macrame plant hangers from 1982. But that wasn't the best part.

He had opened both doors of his pickup and turned up the volume on his CD player. I suppose he wanted us to know what a good Christian he was and that we all should dare to be as good. I spent the next ten minutes walking around listening to a church choir belt out the last few lines of the Lords Prayer--"For thine is the kingdom ... and the power ... and the gloooooorrrrrreeeee ... foreeeevvvver ...." full tilt.

Man - o - man. I felt like I was in the middle of a Saturday Night Live skit.

Here's the thing. Doesn't the Bible tell us to just let our light shine? I'm not sure that means to build a bon-fire in the middle of community yard sale. Somehow, the red pickup just cheapened it. It did nothing but drive a few folks away. I think it's one thing to be proud of your faith, it's another to shove it down an unsuspecting person's throat.

It's no wonder the Bible Belt gets a bad rap.

Blessings to you and yours this Mother's Day.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Milk Toast Blogging

I struggle between two kinds of blogging. Milk toast blogging and Let-it-all-out blogging. I don't want to be labeled as a bitch. Or a nag. Or somebody who stands on a soapbox and wails on and on. But I also don't want to be a bore. Or a wimp. Or somebody who only talks about rainbows and lollipops and never the seedy side of life.

Who wants to read a milk toast blog every day? Not me.

So it has become a struggle, often a tough one, as to what to blog about. Do I tell my readers all is good in my writing world, when really I'm dieing inside? Do I let it all out, tell the truth about how I really feel and run the chance of somebody thinking I'm hard to work with?

How does a writer juggle it all? How does anyone? Is the internet the place to let it all out? What kind of an example do I want to set, after all?

I'm not sure how I want to proceed with this blog, because I'm anything but milk toast. And yet, I don't want to give folks the wrong idea. Do I care? Is a blog or Facebook or any other type of social media the place to vent without being prepared to accept the consequences?

Lots of questions are ringing inside my head. And until this writer finds the courage to say what I'm really feeling this morning, I'm going to go eat my breakfast of milk and toast.

Blessings to you and yours.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

The Green Thing

My sister, Kathy, sent me this. The author is unknown. But it's a great read, especially for anyone under the age of 30.


A store cashier told an older woman that plastic bags weren't good for the environment. The woman apologized to her and explained, "We didn't have the green thing back in my day."

That's right, they didn't have the green thing in her day. Back then, they returned their milk bottles, Coke bottles, and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, using the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled. But they didn't have the green thing back in her day

In her day, they walked up stairs, because they didn't have an escalator in every store and office building. They walked to the grocery store and didn't climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time they had to go two blocks. But she's right. They didn't have the green thing in her day.

Back then, they washed the baby's diapers because they didn't have the throw-away kind. They dried clothes on a line, not in an energy gobbling machine burning up 220 volts - wind and solar power really did dry the clothes. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not brand-new clothing. But that old lady is right, they didn't have the green thing back in her day.

Back then, they had one TV, or radio, in the house - not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a pizza dish, not a screen the size of the state of Montana. In the kitchen, they blended and stirred by hand because they didn't have electric machines to do everything for you. When they packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, they used wadded up newspaper to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap.

Back then, they didn't fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. They used a push mower that ran on human power. They exercised by working so they didn't need to go to a health club torun on treadmills that operate on electricity. But she's right, they didn't have the green thing back then.

They drank from a fountain when they were thirsty, instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time they had a drink of water. They refilled pens with ink, instead of buying a new pen, and they replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull. But they didn't have the green thing back then.

Back then, people took the streetcar and kids rode their bikes to school or rode the school bus, instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service. They had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And they didn't need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 2,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest pizza joint.

But that old lady is right. They didn't have the green thing back in her day.

Blessings to you and yours.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Writing Talent

I got to thinking this morning, sometimes we writers need to take a good long look at ourselves. Pretend we're onions and peel back the layers. Will today's writers be looked upon the same we look back at writers of the past? With respect and awe? Will the age of technology hinder that somewhat?

Nobody knows. So I think it's important we understand the kind of writer we are. What is our writing talent, exactly.

Every writer is different. No two are the same. Nor should they be. I can't imagine writing like Barbara Kingsolver or Joyce Carol Oates. I read their books and wish I had a brain like that. To have those kinds of words flow off the ends of my fingers would be like an anointed gift. A divine touch from above. Hemingway and Steinbeck and Fitzgerald, the way they used their words, few writers today can even be compared to them. Pat Conroy just blows me away. His novel, Beach Music, breaks all the rules. I lived in the pages of it for weeks.

Though I've been writing all my life, and have received wonderful reviews, I'm humbled as I read the classics. I may not ever be as prolific, as artistic, as wealthy and well-known.

But I can tell a hell of a story.

I don't think that will ever go out of style.

Blessings to you and yours.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Shame On You, Pastor

My heart goes out to the people of Japan. I'm grateful there are so many who are willing to give time and money to assist these folks in their recovery efforts. If you can, please give to a reputable organization to help the relief over there. The Red Cross is accepting donations at their dot com web site, and I'm sure there are many other organizations being set up for this purpose. I doubt, however, the nation of Japan will ever be the same. The destruction was massive and I can't imagine the horror they're living through. My prayers are with the Japanese people.

But I heard something yesterday that although it didn't surprise me, it disgusted me. A well-loved pastor of a fundamental non-denominational church said, "They're finally getting a piece of what they deserve for the destruction they did at Pearl Harbor."

My first thought: Are you out of your mind?

My second thought: I thought we already won that war when we dropped "the bomb."

My third thought: That's like blaming American children born in the twenty-first century for slavery.

My final thought: Who died and made you God? It would certainly not surprise me that many of our conservative churches are parroting this same ignorant comment. I've sat in church services and have heard crap like this before.

I'm hoping for your sake, PASTOR, that God turned away for a second and didn't hear your comment. Shame on you.

I am a woman of faith. I believe in a compassionate and loving God. And although we do not understand why bad things happen to good people, I believe He aches for us all.

Blessings to you and yours, and the people of Japan this day.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Too Busy To Blog

It's the last day of February? Wow. How did we get here so quickly? Months fly by when I'm writing. So when it's a short month, like this one, I'm astounded when it's over and I've not blogged much.

I love to blog, but I don't do much blogging when my head is wrapped around a project, and lately, that's where it's been for months. And months. There's been some tremendous highs and lows in my career these past weeks rendering me insane! As time goes by, I'll fill you in.

But for now, please check back now and again. I'm in the process of getting a book published (hopefully) and I'm rewriting another book. (I've put my next manuscript on hold to go back to a "completed" book and tear through it. A story I love as much as The Sanctum.)

So. I seldom see the world outside of my office these days.

I'll blog more in March.

Blessings to you and yours.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Survival Mode

Well damn, folks. It's February. January, thank God, is over. It's the worst month of the year, the one month you want to come and go quickly. As much as I thought it would be the best month of my life, this year--it was just another January. I didn't blog much because as usual, I was busy, busy, busy. With writing and a few other things. Many of my readers are asking the same question right about now, "What's going on with the new book?" Here's my answer: It's now in the hands of my agent. All I have to do is sit on pins and needles for the next few days, weeks, months, or however long it takes.

In the meantime, I'm deep into plotting the next one. I'm digging in and staying focused. I'm surviving. Survival mode is painful. Two days ago I burnt the top of my finger on the fireplace grate. It's seeping and ugly and it hurts like the dickens. But I soldier on like most of us, trying to get through this awful winter. Survival mode is right where I am. Hanging on to every hope that somewhere in the dark I just might see my dreams come true.

Until then, I'll bury my head in the next book and nurse my burnt finger. The middle one, to be exact.

Blessings to you and yours.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Calling All Prayers

You ever prayed hard about something near and dear to your heart you feel like you might explode from the waiting?

Well, folks. That's how I feel. Right 'bout now. And I'm asking. Asking for your prayers.

Seems as though we're supposed to imagine it. Expect it. Believe and ye shall receive. I read in the newspaper about a woman who imagined herself right into the most wonderful blessing of her life. I'm wondering how much reality there is in that.

But prayers are what I need now. Your prayers. I'm not whining about it, nor seeking any self-serving pity, God no. It's just, well, when you've fought so hard for so long, found yourself running into one wall after another, and then like a miracle, the end result of your life's work is within arms reach -- it's nigh unto impossible to sit and wait yet again. But all it takes is one person. One person to read and believe.

There's more than just light at the end of the tunnel, folks. I've come out of the other side here, and the sky is achingly bright blue.

I do believe every once in a while a prayer slips in, a sweet sound that reaches the ear of God. It makes Him smile and say, "Why not? Let's make it happen. Let's see what she does with it."

So I would appreciate your prayers.

Blessings to you and yours.