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.