Sunday, December 30, 2012

Sunday Dinner: Remembering Christmas Past

Today we celebrate another birthday, this time my sister-in-law, Danielle. She requested a Chocolate Coca Cola cake. I made one earlier this month for my daughter-in-law and it was a hit and I added it to the family favorite recipes.

On Christmas, my nephew woke up at 11:57, but this year Santa was smart - he wrapped all the presents. His parents sent him back to bed, where he had to wait until morning.

When we were little, my parents would put Dad's alarm clock in the bedroom I shared with my sister Dawn. We had strict orders not to get up until 6. I remember waking around 4 am and painfully watching each passing minute, until that magic moment when we could all run downstairs to see what Santa brought.

Light Bright - one of my favorite toys (Dawn, Connie, Randall)

Cowboys on bicycles (Dennis and Randall)
One year we all four got bicycles and we were outside Christmas morning in our pajamas riding up and down the street in front of our house.
Grandmother and Papa Rodgers
This picture was taken at Christmas at my Grandmother's house, the floor would be covered with torn wrapping paper. Grandmother would squeal and ooh and aah as she opened her gifts. Papa would grunt and occasionally smile.

Christmas was a magical time. We got wonderful presents. Christmas dinner was similar to Sunday Dinner, but bigger with more variety. I don't really remember the gifts, but the time we spent with family, going from house to house - seeing grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Christmas is about the birth of our Savior, he gave us life and he gave us family - the greatest gifts of all.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Sunday Dinner: Happy Birthday Dennis

My little brother, Dennis was born the day after Christmas. He often had a Christmas themed birthday cake. This year he requested a banana pudding.
Several family members do not like bananas so we have cookie pudding too.

Banana Pudding
1 Box of Nilla Wafers
1 Box Jello Vanilla Pudding (mix as directed)
Cool Whip
2 to 3 Bananas

Make vanilla pudding, but do not put in refrigerator to set.
Add 1/2 tub of Cool Whip and mix thoroughly.
Line the bottom of a casserole dish with Nilla wafers.
Slice banana add place over wafers. Cover with pudding.
You will have at least three layers.

For Cookie pudding, you do the same minus the bananas.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Preparing for Sunday Dinner

As I walked into the grocery store yesterday, I had a mental picture of my Mom and Grandmother. My Grandmother never learned to drive so it was my Mom's duty to take her grocery shopping every week. And here I was years later doing the exact same thing, except I was alone and missing both of them terribly.

I planned to visit my aunt Doris (Grandmother's daughter and Mom's sister) later that day and I knew that she would really appreciate Grandmother's applesauce cake. Sometimes it is just nice to have a little taste of something your Mama used to make. And she squealed with delight when she saw what I brought her. I'm not sure if she was more excited about the cake or that I had brought Daniel with me.

For me it isn't Christmas without  Grandmother's applesauce cake so I'll make one for my family to enjoy Christmas Day.

When I was a kid, we always had to go to Community Cash on Saturday mornings. Grandmother and Mom had their preferred stores and rarely deviated from them. Groceries always came from Community Cash.

In the 70s, there were bagboys for every register. They would load your groceries up and carry them to your car. Most of the young men were extremely courteous and talkative, but that may have been my Mom, she talked to everyone. It used to embarrass me terribly, but of course I find myself doing the same thing.

This Sunday I am taking it easy before all of the Christmas crazy. We're having baked ziti, a salad, and my sister-in-law is bringing dessert.

This is the only Sunday this month we won't be celebrating a birthday. Next week will be my little brother Dennis and the following week his wife, Danielle.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Sunday Dinner: Happy Birthday Ryan

My due date was November 26, 1986. Every week in November I would make the trip to the doctor's office for my checkup and the nurse would say, "This is probably the last time we'll see you before you deliver." She said this to me four times before it was true. My son was in no hurry. He arrived on December 12th - my little brother, Murph's birthday. Murph was only two years old and at times they were more like brothers than uncle and nephew. They went to high school together and Murph loved being called Uncle Murph in front of his classmates.

Birthdays were always huge to my Mama. She loved to make birthday cakes and of course there was always the requisite birthday picture with the cake. But this year, Ryan requested something different and of course as his Mama, I'm happy to do it for him. He wants peanut butter pie. Of course he always wants cubed steak, rice, gravy, and biscuits - and he'll have all of that because that's what Mamas do.

No Bake Peanut Butter Pie
• 1 (8 oz) package cream cheese
• 1 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
• 1 cup Jif peanut butter (only choosy moms choose Jif)
• 1 cup milk
• 1 (16 oz) whipped topping
• 2 (9 in) chocolate prepared pie shells

Beat together cream cheese and confectioner's sugar.
Mix in peanut butter and milk. Beat until smooth.
Fold in whipped topping.
Spoon in pie shells. Cover. Freeze until firm.

* I also like to drizzle chocolate syrup over the pie before serving.

Happy Birthday Ryan and Murph.

Murph, I'm sorry you're too far away to come and enjoy, but I'm sure Ellen will be doing something special for you.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Write Now: My Own Novel Writing Months

I failed at NaNoWrimo in Novemeber. I had all these great intentions, but I fell miserably short of my goal. I can make excuses. I was busy - school, work, family, and of course the list can go on and on.

With my fall classes complete, I am starting my own novel writing months. School does not begin again for me until February so I am going to focus on writing my novel in December and January. I will be checking back on Fridays with my word count for the week. Today is the first day and I will end it on February 1. My goal is to have my first draft completed and I may just do a little sharing along the way.

I also plan to read some great books this month: In the Garden of Stone by Susan Tekulve, Life After Life by Jill McCorkle, and A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. I know there will be others, but these are the three I am really looking forward to over Christmas break.

Please check back on Sunday as the month of birthdays continues - up next (December 12) my son, Ryan and my little brother, Murph.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Sunday Dinner: Happy Birthday Casey

December is a big birthday month for my family. My daughter-in-law, Casey is on the 3rd. My son, Ryan and my brother, Murph share the 12th. My brother Dennis's is the day after Christmas on the 26th. His wife and my sister-in-law is New Year's Eve on the 31st. And of course we have Christmas in there too. I also have some great friends with December birthdays too. It is a busy month.

Casey loves chocolate. She is perfectly happy with just a simple boxed cake from the grocery store, but I wanted to do something special for her. When this post popped up on my Facebook page, I knew it was the one for her - a good ol' Southern Chocolate Coca Cola Cake.

If  you want the recipe I used pop on over to Sweet Tea and Cornbread's blog where you will find it. I have also posted it on my Pinterest board titled Sunday Dinner.

Birthdays were always a big deal to my Mama. She had a birthday banner she would put up on Sunday and she would make their favorite cake. She always insisted that we take a picture of everyone surrounding the cake and the person celebrating their birthday.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Sunday Dinner: After Thanksgiving

Elizabeth and her Daddy (Dennis)
Thanksgiving has always been about being thankful for family. I am one of the lucky ones because I do have a wonderful family. Although my parents divorced when I was ten, I always knew that they loved us. My Mom would always tell us to act like we loved one another, which meant we needed to quit fighting and bickering. I have three wonderful brothers and I am thankful for each of them. And now our family has grown with relationships, marriages, and children. It is so strange to see characteristics of my parents, brothers, and sister in the next generation.
Ethan with his Mom (Danielle)
Thanksgiving day was beautiful and warm enough that nobody needed big jackets. We spent quite a bit of time outside, the trees still clinging to a few colorful leaves before winter arrives.

Ryan, Casey, James, Daniel, Amanda, Murph, Ellen
The family is so large that there is no way we could all fit at one table. We have two kids tables, one for the older kids and the younger kids.

Ellen, Murph, Randall
It wouldn't be Thanksgiving without a little target practice afterwards. We're not really that redneck, but   it is fun to fill aluminum cans with water and watch them explode when a pellet hits them.

Typically Sunday dinner features leftovers from Thanksgiving, but since we went to my Dad's house, there weren't enough leftovers to serve today. I thought everybody might enjoy a nice change, so today is a Mexican fiesta. I'll serve seasoned ground beef and chicken, tortilla chips, tomatoes, lettuce, cheese, and cilantro where the family can make their own version of nachos or taco salad. And dessert will be a store bought cake that had four different kinds: raspberry, orange, chocolate, and apple.

Friday, November 23, 2012

The River Witch - Interview with Kimberly Brock and a Black Friday Special

Kimberly Brock's novel, The River Witch is a beautifully written story about a young woman, Roslyn Byrne who is faced with the realization that the life she imagined and lived as a renowned ballerina will never be the same again. She seeks seclusion on a Georgia island by the Damascus River. The only thing Roslyn truly wants is solitude.

She rents a house that the locals know once belonged to the island conjure woman. She also meets a motherless child, Damascus (named after the river) and her handsome father, Urey who is haunted by his past.

She listens to Sacred Harp music, which is sentimental to her because of the grandmother she recently lost. Roslyn soon becomes fully involved in the lives of the characters of the island and this also includes an albino alligator.

You'll laugh and you'll cry. Just wait until you read the part about the Damascus feast. If you've ever been to a Southern dinner, it will resonate with you. And even if you haven't, you'll enjoy it. Dinner is not about the food as much as it is about the company.

As Roslyn begins to help the islanders, she also begins to find herself again.

And on Black Friday the novel will be at a special Kindle price on Amazon.

The The River Witch was the June selection for the online book club at She Reads.

Here is an interview with Kimberly Brock:

What exactly is a River Witch? 

Throughout history there have been tales of women who turned into mermaids or serpents or sirens. But I was far into the writing of The River Witch before I realized I’d incorporated such long-standing mythology into my contemporary work. In particular, after the book was finished, I discovered shocking similarities between The River Witch and the enduring myth of Melusine, a cursed maiden living on a lost island who took the shape of a serpent when bathing. This dual feminine nature – the idea of a beautiful woman with a terrible secret, an unfortunate lover, a woman with a wailing song, one who bridges the gap between known and unknown realms, who has lost her children and wanders in exile because her darker nature has been revealed - applies not only to the main character, Roslyn, but to all the women in the novel in various ways. Inadvertently, I crafted the same old myth, incorporating my own culture and environment of the Appalachian foothills and the Georgia coast. I love that! I think it stands as proof that our stories are timeless. But I leave it up to the reader to decide who they think the River Witch might be in this story, and what they think that means.

Do you consider yourself a superstitious person?

I am a deeply spiritual person, an intuitive person. I believe in a higher power and I wonder at the universe. I think all people and cultures are superstitious simply because our understanding of the world and our own nature are so limited. Superstition is a reflection of those limits and of our yearning for the divine.

How did the story of The River Witch first present itself to you?

I read this article about a couple of women who decided to open a pumpkin farm. They were holding a weekend celebration for the harvest. The pictures were gorgeous, with this long table laden with food. And everywhere, there was this beautiful, round, sumptuous fruit; these gourds and pumpkins, round and full and smooth. All these warm colors. I couldn’t stop looking at the pictures. I pulled the article out of the magazine and kept it, going back to it often. I couldn’t stop thinking how much I wanted to be there with those women. I could hear the music from the fiddle and the open-throat sound of the singers in the photographs. I could taste the fried chicken and grilled corn on the table. And it was all wrapped up in the shapes of their harvest, such a compelling illustration of the feminine divine, of sensuality and fertility and sustenance. I knew that I was going to tell a story about it somehow. In my mind, it was set in a very isolated place, a mountain or an island. I knew there was a river. I started looking into all of that and researching, learning what it takes to grow those monster pumpkins, and sketching scenes with a woman longing for her childhood home and sacred traditions wrapped up in music and stories and a bountiful table. This was Roslyn. But I couldn’t bring the ideas together cohesively.

Then one day, about a year later, I saw another report. This time they were showing people floating down a river inside giant pumpkins that had been rigged up as boats. I got excited. I saw the element of water, the continuity of cycles and the ecology of a Sea Island with its rivers and marshes and the hold-outs from a disappearing culture. What would it be like to crawl inside one of those giant pumpkins on the river? Would I feel free or like I was losing everything? And then I thought, if I felt the way I felt when I looked at the women in the magazine with all their pumpkins, what would I see if I was a little girl without a mother - or a mother without a child? And then, Damascus started talking to me.  

You tackle the grievous matter of a miscarriage in River Witch. What do you think are some of the most egregious misconceptions about miscarriages?

That they ever end, that the grief isn’t as potent or that the child isn’t known. That grief for a baby you didn’t raise is any less than that of losing a live child. We understand grief for a loved one who has lived a life and we can find ways to come to terms with that cycle, life followed by death. But when that cycle is broken, people don’t know how to approach that kind of disappointment. We don’t know how to comfort the bereaved. We belittle or discount a life that ended before or shortly after birth to try and make the scales balance with the way we expect life to operate. In The River Witch, this incongruity is also evident in the aftermath of the young death of Damascus’ mother, and the devastation of the Trezevant family. But in specific regard to miscarriage, I tried to examine the idea that life is cyclical in ways we may not even perceive, that the soul’s journey moves beyond our understanding.

Roslyn has a complicated relationship with her mother but an endearing one with Granny Byrne. Was there someone in your life that you modeled Granny after?

Mainly, Granny Byrne is based on an idea rather than a person, but she does bare resemblance to a mix of my own mother and grandmother. Even a little of my father is in there. I think Roslyn’s relationship to her grandmother is more of an idea than a reality, even for Roslyn. Had she been allowed to grow up in the cove with Granny Byrne, I wonder if her memories would be the same? A family is a complicated mess at best, and I think the way Roslyn and her mother struggle is much more true to life. But we all have our mentors and we idolize them, that’s what gives their influence strength in our lives.

Do you have a writing mentor? How did that relationship develop?

I’ve been lucky beyond imagination to have so many accomplished and gracious authors coming alongside me at different stages on this journey. I’ve met other authors at writing conferences and through social media and been amazed that they’re almost always willing to lend their advice and a moment of encouragement to a fledgling. I am very aware of the precious value of their time and I think that is part of the beauty of the writing community, that we value one another and each other’s stories in a way that is noncompetitive and supportive.

Not only writers, but many others in the publishing industry including agents, editors and independent booksellers, have played the role of mentor and friend. The fact that they accepted a writer before publication and showed enthusiasm and continued interest in the work simply because they respected the process was an act of faith that carried me a long way. I try to find ways to pass that along every day.

Now I’m sticking my neck out to start visiting bookstores for signings and readings, I’m overwhelmed by the welcome attitude of booksellers and the generous wisdom and helping hand of veteran authors. This book would have never seen the light of day without them.  

Your single best writing advice?

Trusting the process. That’s kind of like trying to convince a woman she doesn’t really want an epidural because the natural process of labor is beautiful and rewarding, but seriously, it’s true. I keep trying to read something or watch some presentation that will give me the secret, but that’s just stupid. No one writer’s process is the same just like no two books are the same. There’s no use rushing it. I’m a global thinker and I have this broad idea, a kind of amorphous vision of a work and I want to get to the finished piece in this neat, controlled way that never happens. I have to force myself to relax in the bog of my imagination until something floats to the top that I can latch on to. And all that time, I’m convincing myself I’m not crazy. I have to know that I’m going to come full circle, and that I am an idiot kind of writer who is going to do it all the hard way. And then I have to hope I’m eventually going to be smart enough to write the book of my dreams, because when I’m writing I always know I’m not smart enough. I have to let the book teach me something first. 

What are you working on now?

Another southern mystical piece involving an authentic but forgotten and discredited piece of American history about a woman whose voice has been lost for centuries and the man whose love made her story immortal. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Sunday Dinner: Sweet Potato Soufflé

Sweet Potato Soufflé
                6 large sweet potatoes, baked, peeled, and mashed
                3 eggs
                1 1/4 cup milk
                1 1/2 cups sugar
                1/2 teaspoon salt
                1 teaspoon cinnamon
                1/2 teaspoon allspice
                2 teaspoons vanilla

Mix all ingredients well; beat well, until light and fluffy. If needed add a little more milk. Spoon sweet potato mixture into a buttered casserole dish; bake at 350° until set, about 20 to 30 minutes. Garnish with marshmallows and bake until marshmallows melt and just begin to brown.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Sunday Dinner: Southern Cornbread Dressing

In preparation for Thanksgiving, I thought I would give you my grandmother's recipe for cornbread dressing. In the South, this is a staple on every Thanksgiving table.

Of course with my grandmother, it was difficult to get the recipe exactly right since she rarely used actual recipes, but after years of adjusting, I think I finally have it just right.

Be extremely careful with the sage, too much and it will throw the taste off. If you're only making half this recipe, you might want to reduce the sage just a little. You would think half is half, but for some reason it isn't. And of course some people forego the sage all together.

Instead of one big pan of dressing, my grandmother always made two smaller pans. One day as my mother took one of the pans from the oven, she was going to place it on the counter, but the potholder was a little worn and the heat hit her fingers. The dressing slipped from her hands and right into the sink, which she had just filled for washing dishes. (My Mom always had this thing of clean as you go, and of course I do too. I wish my daughter did, but she'll learn one day).

And anyway half of the dressing was ruined that day and of course everyone was there for dinner. My grandmother being the practical woman she was, cut the dressing into small squares rather than having everyone spoon it out - this insured that everyone got a little taste.

Cornbread Dressing
                2/3 cup chopped onion
                2 cups chopped celery
                2 quarts of day old, grated cornbread
                1 quart of day old, grated biscuits
                1/4 cup dried parsley flakes
                2 tsp poultry seasoning
                2 tsp ground sage
                1 tsp coarse ground pepper
                4 ounces margarine
                1 quart (32 ounces) plus 1 (14 ounce) can chicken broth
1 quart = 4 cups
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. 
Mix onion, celery, grated cornbread, and biscuits, parsley, poultry seasoning, sage, and pepper in a large mixing bowl. Add melted margarine to mixture. Stir until well blended.

Add chicken broth to dry ingredients and mix well. The dressing should have a wet but not soupy consistency like a quick bread batter (banana bread or cornbread).

Divide mixture evenly into 10 x 13 pan sprayed with non-stick spray. Bake uncovered for 1 hour until lightly brown on the top.

Check back tomorrow for how to make sweet potato souffle.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Write Now: Review of Juliette Fay's The Shortest Way Home

In Juliette Fay's latest novel, The Shortest Way Home, Sean Doran has spent his adult life working as a nurse in third world countries. He has a 50% chance of having Huntington's Disease, a terminal illness that deteriorates the body and mind often striking a person during the prime of their life.

Knowing of this possibility, he chose a profession where he thought he could do the most good and this has been his life. But at 43 suffering only from the usual middle age ailments, he begins to realize that maybe he might not have the disease after all.

He returns home to find his Aunt Vivian suffering with early stages of dementia. His sister, Deidre has been caring for her as well as their nephew, Kevin, who is their deceased brother's only son.

Sean is at a crossroads in his life. Where does he go from here. At 43, he has no symptoms of the disease. Could he be one of the lucky ones? Does he want to return to nursing in foreign countries?

He reconnects with old friends, including some of the characters seen in Fay's earlier novel, Shelter Me. He reestablishes relationships with his family. And then the father who abandoned him returns hoping to be part of his life again.

The Shortest Way Home is a family drama dealing with the affects a debilitating disease has on a family. Fay gives her characters wonderful voices, especially Kevin, who at 11 is no longer a child, not yet a teenager, and has his own issues that he has managed to mask quite well.

My best friend, Lisa lost her mother to Huntington's, which meant she was at risk. I thought Fay's portrayal of what a person facing this possible death sentence goes through was right on target. I can't wait to hear what she has to say about the novel.

Sean is at a crossroads in his life, and so is every other character in the novel including the dog.

The Shortest Way Home will make you laugh and cry, but most of all it will warm your heart.

On Wednesday I was fortunate to get to meet Juliette in person at a luncheon hosted by Fiction Addiction. We've been on Facebook and Twitter, but it was really nice to get to meet her in real life.
Me with Juliette Fay

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Sunday Dinner: Thankful

Grandmother, Me, and Mom
Thanksgiving will be here soon and it is a time when most families get together and enjoy a big meal. Thanks to my Grandmother and Mom's legacy, my family does this just about every Sunday. It isn't so much about the food, although they do enjoy that. It is about being together.

Everyone is so busy during the week and Sunday is the time to take a break and spend a couple of hours together.

This weekend, there will not be an elaborate meal, at least for me to prepare. I'm doing something today that I know would make Grandmother howl will laughter and probably tease me about being lazy. I'll still prepare the usual vegetables and macaroni pie (macaroni and cheese), but I'm resorting to buying a couple of roasted chickens from the grocery store.

On Thanksgiving, I will be cooking most of the morning so I plan to take it easy today.

Today's menu: Roast chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, corn, macaroni and cheese, Brown and Serve rolls, and orange cake. I'm expecting my kids and their families, my brothers and their families, and my Dad.

I am so thankful for the legacy my Grandmother and Mom have left to our family.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Write Now: Out of my Element

I am taking two journalism classes in school right now and after this semester, I am a mere 4 credit hours away from graduating with a BFA in Professional and Creative Writing. WooHoo is an understatement.

I love writing classes. They are my absolute favorite, but I am out of my element. One of my professors is Lyn Riddle, an award winning journalist, adjunct professor at Converse and Furman. She is also an editor but I'm not sure if I'm allowed to say where. She has written numerous books and articles. I am in awe every time I walk into that class.

But I am struggling. I love to write fiction and that is difficult when you're telling the truth. You have to stick with the facts and keep digging for that story. And quite frankly after being raised in the South, it is hard to ask the questions that pry too much in the lives of others. I'm keenly observant, but I find it difficult to ask the tough questions.

But I am learning so much too. Professor Riddle said to take the knowledge we have from fiction writing and apply it to our stories. And when I began to do that, it became a little more comfortable for me.

And there is also the problem that out of the 9 students, I am the only one over twenty-one. And most if not all have been involved with school papers and other venues where they have gathered some experience.

But the beauty of being out of my comfort zone is that it expands my horizons. I think about things a little more differently. Now when I read a news story, I think about the questions I wished they had answered.

When you write, you have to take chances. It is scary, but the results are amazing.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Widow's Walk: Thankful

This is the last post that I will be writing officially for the Widow's Walk.

Mike will always occupy a dear space in my heart and a wonderful time in my life. When we married, Mike once said that I would be the last chapter of his life while he would be a middle chapter in mine. We both hoped for more time, but we had to accept what we had. And we had some glorious times in those 336 days God gave us.

I will be forever grateful for the time we spent, the laughs we shared, the trips we took, and the beauty of the ordinary days. I learned to trust God more. I learned to accept the good and the bad. For the first time in my life, I had a mature romantic relationship.

Mike encouraged me to go back to school. He encouraged me to write – not for money, but because I love it so much.

Sometimes in life you run across those people that are truly wondrous and amazing people and Mike was definitely one of those. I've heard so many wonderful stories and comments over the years about him.

Widow is no longer a major defining factor in my life. It is hard to write about the pain because I have moved to that place where there is more appreciation and gratefulness rather than hurt. I can't say I'm healed. I still have the occasional bad day. I still miss him and I know I always will. I would love to hear his laugh or the way he said his pet name for me.

I know Mike would not want me to wallow in grief. He loved me and wanted the best for me. He did so much to help me through losing him and he always reminded me that he wasn't afraid for where he was going – he was just sorry to be leaving us behind.

And I am comforted knowing that he would not be upset that my life is moving forward, but I will always honor and cherish the memories of the love and life Mike and I shared.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

What My Grandmother Taught Me About Voting

My Grandparents with five of their children
My Grandmother took her right to vote seriously and perhaps that was because she was born in 1918 before women could legally vote in this country.

She and my grandfather ran a small restaurant. Grandmother never participated in the political jargon, but she listened. She formed her own opinion.

When I married, she cautioned me about politics and marriage. It seems one of the worst arguments she and my grandfather had was over politics. He told her how she should vote. They went to the polls. She cast her vote based on her own opinion rather than his. Later when he asked, she told him the truth and he was upset with her for days.

"From then on when Isham (my grandfather) and I voted, I listened to what he said and then most times I cancelled his vote with my own," she said laughing. Political discussions only strengthen marriages if you have the same opinion.

My Grandmother also lived two blocks from the church where ballots were cast. She lived on the corner and candidates often would put signs at the edge of her yard. If she didn't like them or agree with them. She would pull them up and leave them on the ground. One candidate watched her do this and told her of his first amendment right. She countered with the fact that she had the same right and it was her property. He put his sign up across the street.

When I turned 18, Grandmother encouraged me to register to vote. I did and I have voted in every Presidential election. Voting is just one of the many legacies she has left with me.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Review of Michael Morris' Man in the Blue Moon

"Michael Morris is a wonderful writer with a unique gift – he can break your heart and mend it, all in the same sentence."
 ---Patti Callahan Henry, author of Coming Up For Air
Ella Wallace is the heroine of Michael Morris' Man in the Blue Moon. At thirty-five, she is just beginning to show her age. Her life is not the life the young school girl Ella imagined. She used to feel sorry for Neva Clarkson, her friend turned rival for the affections of Harlan Wallace. Now Neva is the schoolteacher and Ella finds herself wishing that Neva had been the one to win Harlan's affection. His heart was certainly not available. 
Harlan has disappeared leaving Ella to raise their three sons. The only thing she has is the commissary, where she sells goods to the townspeople. Of course she also has to deal with their lack of respect. Everyone knows Harlan has run off and Ella must be at fault.
Ella must also deal with Clive Gillespie, who once wanted her affection but now he is only interested in the land her Daddy left her — the same land Harlan mortgaged heavily to Clive. Ella's father made her promise to hold onto that land, it is all she has left of her family.
Ella has only one friend, Narsissa, a Creek Indian who came to Dead Lakes, Florida looking to earn money for passage to Brazil, where she was to join her husband. After six years, she is still there helping Ella raise her sons.
Ella goes to pick up a package from the Blue Moon Clock Company. She hopes it is a clock that she will be able to sell and momentarily appease Clive Gillespie. But Ella is surprised to find Lanier Stillis, Harlan's cousin, who is running from his own past.
With Lanier's help, Ella, Narsissa, and the boys set about to cut the lumber from the land and sell it.
Lanier has a bigger secret than what he is running from. He has a gift and people begin to notice.
Man in the Blue Moon is a mesmerizing page turner with wonderfully complex characters. I read that Michael draws from stories he used to listen to his grandmother tell, and her storytelling legacy continues through her grandson, Michael.

Artist's rendition of Ella's land in MAN IN THE BLUE MOON
Man in the Blue Moon is the November selection at She Reads. Pop over to their website to join the discussion. There are also some wonderful giveaways throughout the month.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Write Now: NaNoWriMo

Yesterday marked the first day of NaNoWriMo. What is that? November is National Novel Writing Month. The challenge is to write 50,000 words in one month. You just start and keep going. Your word count is your only goal.

I wrote 807 words yesterday and I was proud of myself.

But this morning in the shower, a new character appeared. She will not fit in my current novel in progress. I tried to make her, but she is just so unique and different and she has a story all her own. I'm not sure if there is enough there, but I'm going to move forward and see. I'll give her a few days and concentrate on her, which means my current novel in progress may go back in the box for a few days.

I just have this image and she keeps coming to my mind. I'll see if she makes it through the month or maybe she'll go in the box with other characters that are waiting to emerge in my work.

Each Friday, I will include my total word count for the previous week.

And for those of you participating, I would love to hear from you.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

The cool fall air, leaves and acorns crunching beneath your feet, children laughing and squealing, and smiling Jack O' Lanterns brightly lighting the porches of the salt box houses — as I got ready for work this morning, the Halloweens of my childhood came to me. The costumes I remember were a witch, a hobo, a gypsy, and a black cat.

One year we all got store bought costumes - the kind that were plastic coverings with the matching mask. My sister was Barbie and my little brother Dennis was Tweety Bird. He had a minor speech impediment and every time he said, "I tawt I taw a puttytat," we would all howl with laughter. I don't remember my costume that year. And my brother Randall was once again overlooked because of his cute, auburn haired little brother.

If it was cold, Mama always made us cover up our costumes with a coat. What was the point? There were several fights about that. Of course she always won, no coat, no trick or treating. It was so unfair. Of course later when I became a mother, I had a better  understanding. One year I bought long underwear for my kids so they wouldn't have to cover up their costumes.

Our neighborhood was a mill village, cotton was the industry, but in the 70s, most of those were closing. Halloween treats were usually Tootsie Rolls, Sweettarts, peanut butter kisses, bubble gum, and starlight mints. We would count and divvy up the chocolate, swapping with our neighbors to get our favorites. And then of course we would stash our goodies so that nobody, especially our parents could find them.

Apples were always cut up before we ate them, even though we knew everyone in the neighborhood. Unwrapped candy was discarded. And of course there was always some story about a kid in the emergency room because he or she had been tricked rather than treated.

This past Sunday my sister-in-law posted on Facebook:
We're getting ready for Halloween! Thriller is playing, Dennis and Elizabeth are caring 2 huge pumpkins and the kids' costumes are ready.

It is wonderful to see our Mom's legacy continuing through us.

This year will be my grandson's first Halloween. He is too little for candy, but not too little to dress up and go trick or treating. I can't wait to see him. I'll post his picture later.

Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sunday Dinner: Boo Pudding

Boo Pudding
My Mom loved all holidays, but she really enjoyed Halloween. Every October she would pull the cardboard witch out of the closet. This witch had a scary face, must like the wicked witch in Oz. Her limbs moved with the opening and closing of the door.

Mom noticed that one of the little boys who was always knocking on the door wanting us to come out to play had not been asking for a couple of weeks. She asked his mother if everything was all right. The  mother laughed telling her that Scott was afraid of the witch on the door. After Halloween when the witch disappeared back into the closet, Scott reappeared asking us to play.

Mom was often in charge of desserts at Grandmother's on Halloween. She had seen the recipe in a magazine and as my mother often did, she changed it up making it her own. Boo Pudding became a favorite holiday recipe.

1 Large Package of Jello Instant Pudding (Make as directed on box except do not place in refrigerator to set).
1 Regular tub of Cool Whip
Oreo Cookies
Chocolate Graham Crackers
Candy Corn
Candy Pumpkins

I found candy Peep Pumpkins, which would have tickled my Mom. She really loved the Peep Chicks that come out at Easter.

To make:

Crush Oreos and divide. Line the bottom of the dish with half the Oreos.

Make Jello Instant Pudding as directed on box except do not place in refrigerator to set. Add Cool Whip and mix together and place over crushed Oreos.

Top with the remaining Oreos.

Line the dish with candy corn. Place graham crackers to look like tombstones. Add pumpkins.

You can use the spray whipped cream to make ghosts by your tombstones.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Write Now: Things I Learned at the SCWW Writer’s Conference

Things I Learned at the SCWW Writer’s Conference

Please hold your questions or discussions until the QA part of the class.

I was in Ethan Gilsdorf’s Workshop titled “Nine Commandments of Highly Effective Authors” and I really wanted to hear what he had to say. 

When Ethan mentioned you should be writing because you want to write and not for the possible money, one of the attendees really took offense to this. The gentleman thinks he’s going to be the next John Grisham and maybe he will be, but he was invading our time with this highly talented author. He kept interrupting Ethan to return to the whole money thing. At one point I just wanted to jump and say we didn’t pay to hear you speak, but I am a Southern woman and we’re not supposed to do those things. I am so thankful Ethan gave us a handout and I will be making my writing goals for next year, which is Commandment 8. Some of the others I already do, but I plan on implementing them all.

Ethan is the author of Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks, his memoir about what one mad discovers through his journeys through one fantasy world after another.

They did give us a handout on Conference Etiquette, I think holding your questions or comments until the end of the workshop should definitely be added.

When talking with Ethan later that afternoon, I promised him I would put this first. He was wonderful getting back to his conference topic, but I believe the man interrupted him six times.

Patti Callahan Henry is as awesome in person as she is as an author.

I have long admired her books. I just finished Coming Up For Air, all I can say is read it.

I received one of the best compliments about my own writing, when it was being critiqued by George Singleton, and he asked me if I had ever read any of Patti Callahan Henry’s books because my work had a similar flair. I thought I could die right then. (I was a teenager in the 80s, at least I didn’t go all totally and awesome).

We had the opportunity for a Q & A session with Patti. I loved hearing about how star struck she was when she first met Anne Rivers Siddons, She said she couldn’t even speak legibly as Siddons smiled and signed King’s Oak for her.

Authors are just people too. They write. They tell their stories. They’re just like the rest of us, they just happen to be published.

Matthew Frederick’s Small Steps to Big Books

I went into this conference thinking that he would be breaking down how to write a novel. It is so intimidating to think of stringing 90,000 words together. But this was not his focus.
The focus was the things you can do as you write your novel. Publish a short story or a poem. Write an op-ed piece for your local newspaper, write a letter to the editor about something that bugs you, write something and see your name in print.

Blog, tweet, Facebook – but remember it is not all about you. If you are a blogger, be faithful with your schedule. Be careful with your content and make sure it is worthy of reading.

Matt is the author of a series titled 101 Things I Learned… This series grew from a lecture that he would give his architecture students. Everybody is an expert at something, you just have to find your niche.

Matt’s books are 101 Things I Learned in Architecture School, 101 Things I Learned in Film School, 101 Things I Learned in Culinary School, 101 Things I Learned in Fashion School, and 101 Things I Learned in Business School.

Matt wrote these books to generate income so that he can focus on his novel.

Of course this made me think about a book my brother and I have been talking about for years. After seeing Matt’s success, we will be shopping it around soon.

Agents want your book to the best it can be.

I had the opportunity to pitch my novel in progress to two agents. At first I was intimidated, but they were both wonderful. They gave me some wonderful suggestions for my novel and some valuable advice about the query and pitch once the novel is finished and ready for me to begin searching for an agent in earnest.

I went to the slush fest for Romance and Women’s Fiction. You could bring your query and first page or two pages of your novel in for the class and agents to see.

There were many talented writers, each with a great storyline. Most were engaging and they all needed a little work, but that is what we were there for. The agents on the panel were Mitchell Waters and Rachel Eckstrom. They showed us what was good about each query and made suggestions for improving them. They also told us if they would have continued reading after the first two pages or stopped before that.

Their advice:
You have to get an agent’s attention.
Be courteous, not obnoxious.
Know that when an agent suggests changes, it is to make your novel better.

General Things I Learned
Meet with other writers. They are your people, your tribe. They can help you. Writing is often a solitary endeavor and these people will understand how real your characters are to you.

Attend writer's conferences.

Seek the opinions of others, but also realize it is your work. Just because you listened, doesn't mean that those are things you need to change.

Published writers are people too. They started where you are. They understand.

I had a wonderful time meeting other writers. At dinner on Saturday I found myself sitting between Patti Callahan Henry and Lydia Netzer. I met Barabara Claypole White and I am looking forward to her novel, The Unfinished Garden. I could gush for days, but I'll save that for my personal journal. If you're looking for something wonderful to read - I suggest the books of the authors mentioned in this post.

On Sunday, I will be featuring my Mom's Boo Pudding for Halloween.