Wednesday, January 25, 2012


Vernell Paskins, Mobile Home Queen!

Below is the link 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.

Enjoy the story!

VERNELL PASKINS, MOBILE HOME QUEEN, spoke to me in ways I never dreamed a character could. While studying a map of North Carolina one day, I saw a tiny town (a crossroads, really) named Needmore. Not living far from there, my husband and I decided to drive to the area. A beautiful little spot in the country, but there wasn’t much to see. The place did ‘need more’ to be called a town. Still, the name of the locale intrigued me.

What type of person lives in Needmore and do they really … need more?

Over the next several days, a character popped into my head and I placed her in Needmore, with a dose of humor, hopes and dreams, and huge disappointments in her life. A woman with little education most people look at and call “low life” or “white trash.” Although Vernell struggles to make a way where there seems to be no way … living from paycheck to paycheck (like so many women I know) the deck is stacked against her. I asked myself, what if ... she lived in a doublewide and worked at the interstate flea market ... what if ...

Blessings to you and yours.

Friday, January 20, 2012

What Not To Wear? Who Cares?

I'm stylin', baby.

It's 3:50 p.m. and I've just had my shower for the day. (The times at the bottom of these blog posts are screwy, but I'm on track for a new blog in the near future.) Anyway, please allow me to tell you what I'm wearing. And no, it's not khakis. A pink-knit flowered nightgown to my knees, brown fuzzy socks, light blue slippers over my cold feet, and of course, since it's only 3 degrees here in the snow-belt, I've thrown on my black zip-up hoodie sweatshirt. No makeup, wet slicked-back hair, and a ton of Victoria-Secret Vanilla body cream to fight the winter dry skin.

Hot, huh?

I'm working on a one-hundred word description for my novel, with a looming deadline set by my publisher. And I doubt she gives a rat's patutie what I look like doing it.

Lucky for me, I'm not expecting anybody to come to the door. My husband is working, and I put a pot of spaghetti sauce to simmer on the stove. The house smells like an Italian bistro, I'm clean, and I'm in my element. I don't have to fight the traffic, worry about icy roads, or compete with the pretty 30-something girls in the workplace. I love my job. I love where I work.

I think I'd slit my wrists if I had to wake up at 6 and apply makeup to puffy eyes, go out in the cold only to get stuck in a traffic jam and be late, again, for work. I'm way past watching the clock, clocking in at 8 and out at 5, hoping I can make it home by 6, only to start the madness all over again the next day.

Thank you very much, I'll stick to my pink nightgown, brown fuzzy socks, and clocking out in time to watch American Idol.

What not to wear? Ha! Who cares?

Obviously, not me.

Blessings to you and yours.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Adoration For A Daughter

She is the only one who remembers my January wedding anniversary. But then, she remembers every person in the family, their anniversary and birthday, always sends a card, hand writes her thank-you notes, and wraps gifts with a style all her own. With real ribbon and pretty paper not from the Walmart. She's a little bit country. A little bit rock and roll. And a little bit of a girl. Thank goodness, she didn't take after me in the body department. But she's not a girl anymore, and I have to keep reminding myself of that. Her voice is higher-pitched than mine, and she has very little curl to her thin, baby-fine hair, but other than that, the similarities are many.

We adore many of the same movies, books, political views, and convictions. We could watch Sense & Sensibility from morning to night, read Outlander again and again, and we know every great line in Steel Magnolias. Neither of us likes to run. Or jog. Our hands are the same, down to the tips of our short-round fingernails.

She's anal to a fault, just like her mother. Would rather do it herself, than trust anyone else to help. We hate balancing a checkbook, and would rather have our finances handled by someone else. (Sorry, Suzie Orman.) She far surpassed me in education, but our work ethics cannot be tampered with. We work like mules with our eyes to the ground, and give it all we got and then some. We can work around the clock.

We love to play just as hard. Picnics with family, barbeques, holidays, we'll find an excuse to visit friends and family. Well, she does more than me. But we have best friends, and we keep them for life. We love all things spiritual, but believe in one God. We both dream a lot, have nightmares about religion and wrath-of-God type stuff. She will not watch movies about war, apocalypse, or end-of-the-world drama. Refuses to watch it.

But we do share a love for a good chick-flick, snow, and a great pizza.

Of course, we also share a deep and abiding love for Lily, and every child. But she has opened her arms and heart to those most challenged, the physically and mentally handicapped. Her life's calling is to provide the opportunity for them to read great books. Both of our lives revolve around great books, it seems.

She's loyal, considerate, and would rather talk to you about you than about herself. She loves a good, cold beer. Ice cream. Great restaurants and fine wine. We share these loves, and some hurts, too. We hurt over "stuff" that happens in our families. She loves her father and adores her step-father, and long ago stepped in to fill a void in his life. The loss of his own daughter. A pain neither of can imagine.

We support and pray for our President and we root, wholeheartedly, for the Ohio State Buckeyes. Although I'm not quite sure she understands my love for South, she certainly visits it often. But that's where her nanny lives.

Together we share a love for "Nanny & Pop" and my nieces and nephews, every last one of her cousins ... are also her friends. She never tires of visiting those she loves, and her aunts and uncles are extremely important to her. Her ability to love is boundless, and I've rarely seen her angry. Drawing attention to herself is not something she does well. Living in the limelight is not on her agenda. And as biased as I may be, her faults are few.

We both love to travel. But I've rarely gone anywhere with her. Although, we've certainly walked a very long spiritual road together. We share the same key to the door of our past. But our lives, as much as they are the same, are quite different. I once worried about those differences, but now I think the thing to do is to celebrate them, enjoy them, live vicariously through those differences, and try to see things through each others eyes.

Her loyalty to her brother and sister-in-law is repaid by their loyalty in return. Their mutual respect will see them through the years, and when they are old and sit around and talk about their parents, they will remember how alike we all were. I try, as I get older, to see nothing but the good in my children. To remember that although they are indeed human, they are the pieces of me that will go on long after I am gone. I want to know what motivates them, what moves them, what makes them the loving individual that they are.

What I have learned is that Jillian is a rare flower that busts up through hard-packed clay and spreads happiness on the faces around her. She'll not read this, I don't think she reads my blog much. And I won't call her to tell her to read it. She already knows how I feel about her. I just like to think that those who know her, are all the more blessed for it. A simple statement, but true.

Someday, I will talk about my sons. Oh, Lord. Where do I start?

If this is all too syrupy-sweet for you today, I make no apologies, but maybe you need to remember the few things about your children that motivate you. They are, after all, why we keep moving forward. Or they should be.

Blessings to you and yours.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Would You Drink The Kool-Aid?

Isn't is amazing that you know to what I am referring?

'Drinking the Kool-Aid' in urban slang, has nothing to do with that wonderful, fruity drink we guzzled by the gallon when we were kids. Oh, no. It smacks of the 1978 cult mass-suicide in Jonestown, Guyana. It is believed the televangelist, Jim Jones, took cyanide and some kind of sedative and mixed it with Kool-Aid to poison his following at Jonestown. It may have been Flavor Aid, but no matter what he used, we know what it means when somebody says, "Don't drink the Kool-Aid!"

I watch a great deal of religious TV, mostly because it's what I write about. Some of it moves me, most of it -- does not. Watching one particular evangelist this week, I was moved to tears. Not because of what he was saying, singing, or pushing. I was moved by the tears on the faces in the crowd. Every face was wet with tears. Those precious, precious people, reaching out for hope, for God. Their hands raised, these folks and their honest hearts had come to that great arena to worship, receive a blessing, and touch the hem of their creator.

It grieved me so, I eventually had to change the channel.

I sure hope that televangelist knows the massive responsibility on his shoulders. I wonder.

The fact remains, televangelists can lead sheep to the slaughter like nothing and no-one else. They can bring out the tears and sell God better than Tony the Tiger sells cornflakes. They can also whip up a batch of Kool-Aid, knowing there are millions of honest hearts who would drink it. And for some reason, we Christians are hesitant to hold our pastors accountable for what they say and do. They don't have to be perfect. In fact, I'd prefer if they were not perfect. But we tend to overlook their celebrity, and confuse the human with the divine.

People are human. Televangelists are human. We tend to forget that. Are there any good televangelists? I'm sure there are men and women out there, preaching, whose hearts are in the right place. Whose intentions are admirable. But it is my personal opinion there have been few who have retained those intentions, that good heart, the humility required. I won't name them because it's certainly not up to me to judge, or pick, or choose. That's God's department.

I run on experience. On personal testimony. I say, be careful. The wolves are out there. And so is the Kool-Aid.

Personally, I love a cold glass on a hot day. Even on a cold day. What a treat! Just keep out the poison!

That goes for televangelists, as well.

Blessings to you and yours.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A Visit From A Dead Grandpa

Me and Grandpa Oaks.

I told my publisher I'd been in the same nightgown for three days. Sorry to say, it's true. The list is long, the deadlines are looming, and thank God, I'm not out to win a beauty contest. For me, poor hygiene and writing deadlines go hand-in-hand. My poor husband, what that man puts up with. But after turning in my final draft, it was like poking a hole in a balloon. The pressure was gone, at least for the moment. Time for a shower, clean clothes, shave my legs, and a little make up. And some sleep.

Last night I had a dream about my grandfather. How many times in a week do you think about your grandfather? I'll bet not a whole lot. I suppose that depends on how well you knew him. I haven't seen my grandfather in, oh, I don't know, twenty years maybe. Maybe longer. I'm talking about my mother's father. I've talked a lot about my father's father. The coal miner. But my mom's father worked in the steel mills. He was hard of hearing and a bit mysterious. He divorced my grandmother when he was in his 60's. He should've divorced her years earlier. Anyway, that's another story.

But Grandpa's past is sketchy. I know he served in the Navy, grew up in Alabama and Tennessee, and loved baseball. He said he saw Satchel Page play once. And it's a well known fact, that grandpa drank more than he should have. Probably because of my grandmother. I can still see his face. It came to me nice and clear last night in my dream. He had a sweet face. Big cheeks. A great laugh. And he loved my mother. My mother has his eyes. I think he loved all of his kids. I have a feeling he was a bit of a simpleton but nobody said as much.

In my dream he spoke to me, but I can't remember what he said. All I can remember is seeing his face light up as he walked into a room where I was writing behind a desk.

His name was Claude. I didn't go see him as much as I should have. I don't even remember when he died. There wasn't even a funeral. But I found myself missing him today.

He was a good grandpa to me and I loved him. I hope he knows that. Somehow, I think he does.

If you're a writer, get up from your computer and stretch, take a shower, change your clothes. You never know who is coming to visit. Even in your dreams.


I miss you Grandpa.

Blessings to you and yours.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Old Time Religion Made New Again

The Paper Journey Press in Wake Forest first published my short story, Old Time Religion, in 2004 in the anthology, Original Sin: The Seven Deadlies Come Home To Roost. Under the sin category of gluttony, this story won its special place in the book.

In truth, this story touches on many sins. I performed a reading at The Regulator Bookshop in Durham, NC early in 2005. The story has been described as funny, dark, and the most disturbing story in Southern Fried Women.

If you've not had the chance to read Old Time Religion, you can purchase the book or download the e-book, Southern Fried Women, from or go to Satya House for more information on where to get it.

But my point is this: Although the story takes place in the 'sixties, it is not far removed from the congregations of today. I'm not saying these atrocities take place in every church, but I am saying every church is run by human beings. From the Pastor to the Deacons to the Praise and Worship leader to the Sunday School teacher to the Janitor. They're all human, and we need to remember that. Chances are, if you attend church, you belong to a wonderful congregation of folks who are nothing short of an extension of your own family. But every member has a responsibility to hold their pastor accountable.

Cults come in all shapes and sizes. Just last week someone told me her thirty-something son could not miss church unless he called an elder of the church and got permission. The church is local. It has a following of members that blend into the community like any other. The very idea of giving someone that kind of control over me, makes me want to scream.

It's old time religion all over again. A form of godliness ...

Keep your eyes open, people. Those wolves are always at our doors.

Blessings to you and yours.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Dreams/Not For The Faint Of Heart

I had lunch with my sister-in-law today who told me she'd had some really weird dreams last night. We got on the subject of dreams, and I realized I'd had some off-the-wall dreams myself lately. Those early morning dreams, the ones you remember, seem to be the ones that haunt me the most.

I have a lot of dreams about a ginormous tornado, air plane crashes, and end-of-the-world type stuff. Dreams where I wake in a sweat, clutching my sheets. Once in a while I have a nightmare, waking my husband with a skin-prickling scream. And always, those dreams are about the rapture.

Growing up in a evangelical congregation where the rapture of the church is held over your head like the fire and brimstone of hell, has been torturous. Note to pastors: don't do that. Don't use it to force-feed the threat of hell. Shame on you if you do that. I can name numerous people I know, my children included, who have suffered because of it. If it is the joyous event the Bible claims it to be, then leave it at that.

I've learned how to handle all these dreams. The ones I remember, I write down. The ones I forget, I don't worry about. On some level I know dreams mean something. But as a writer, I have used them in my stories. I wish I could sleep and not dream, but for some reason, I've always been a dreamer.

"Here's hoping all your dreams come true," they say. They have no idea what they're talking about. For me, goals and ambitions are one thing, dreams are entirely another.

Sweet dreams, to you and yours.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

The Silver Lining Of Winter

From my warm house, looking out over the pastures to the east, I'm loving the snow. Working in warm jammies all day, never having to step foot in it, the bleak and frosted landscape gives off an almost surreal glow. I do, however, feel sorry for my husband who has to drive in the mess. People in their four-wheel drive vehicles ride on his back bumper, as if that's going to make him go any faster. Not going to happen. Lake effect snow is new to him. The bands of snow and ice, the contact attack of Lake Erie weather, it can be maddening. When the great lake is still warm, the snow seems worse. Somehow, the folks up here in the snow belt get through it.

Getting through the winters in our lives, I find the trick is discovering the beauty in winter. Not everyone would agree, I'm sure. Many become snow birds and head south until spring, and I may do that myself someday. But right now, I'm enjoying this cold, brown earth. The coziness of huddling up with a bowl of popcorn and a good movie. Or a fire and the latest bestselling novel.

And after talking to my publisher today, I have a plethora of stuff due before February 1st. So, I'm glad I'm not distracted by wanting to spend time outdoors. This is the winter preparation, so it will go fast.

The winter of our lives. Find the silver lining.

Blessings to you and yours.