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.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Widow's Walk: Is it Possible to Love Again?

After Mike passed away, I thought surely that was it. I had my great love story, and it was awesome. And as months and years passed, I began to feel that I might be one of those women destined to remain alone.

But it was hard after being part of a couple. I had been in disastrous relationships earlier in my life. Before I met Mike, I had taken a year off from men — no dates, no distractions. And I discovered much like Maggie in the movie, The Runaway Bride, I was always the girl I thought the man I was with wanted me to be. It took some time to discover myself again. Was I lonely? Of course, but I focused on other parts of my life and in my time alone I would look at past relationships deconstructing them. The one thing I always returned to was to be true to myself.

It has been three years since Mike's passing. And for much of that time, I was content being alone. It was difficult though, it always seemed that everyone was in pairs but me, but I accepted it.

After several weeks of seeing advertisements for dating web sites, I dipped my toe into the water. I put up a profile and I waited. Some responses were scary and some the men were only looking for a physical relationship. And then there was the man who had lots of cats, so I guess the archetypal single woman with many cats also has a male counter part.

As I do with most things, I did some research about dating profiles and came across a man wanting a woman's profile explaining why she would be a good girlfriend. I loved that idea and immediately changed mine. Less than 24 hours later, I had a response from a guy who seemed really nice. Could magic happen more than once?

We're three months in and I think he is such a wonderful man. My new beau accepts and respects my past. He encourages me to follow my passion — writing. He even went to a writing conference with me where he did not know anyone and the only writing he is interested in is mine. He does like nonfiction, mostly historical, but he is not the avid reader that I am.

He scored a lot of points with my tribe and with me.

I believe it is possible to love again.

Don't rush it.

If it does not feel right, wait. It may not be the right time.

When the right time comes, you'll know it.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sunday Dinner: Childhood Favorite

I am away at a writer's conference this weekend so I will not be cooking. After all the family moans and groans, my son graciously agreed to step up and cook dinner for everyone.

Ryan's culinary skills are limited so he is making a childhood favorite of his.

So to all my Sunday dinner regulars, Ryan will be serving SpaghettiOs. Please call him in advance and let him know if you're coming - he needs to know how many cans to buy.

And to my Dad, Ryan said he would add cut up hot dogs to yours if you come.

Next week Sunday dinner will return and I'll be featuring my Mom's Boo Pudding that she always made for Halloween.

See y'all next week!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Write Now: My 10 Essentials

While watching Survivor the other night, I got to thinking about the things I would miss if I ever have the chance to go on Survivor. Then I got an email from a friend telling me what his 10 essentials were and asking me to share mine.

1. Sunday Dinners - I love having the whole family get together under one roof. I have fond memories of my grandmother's house and I hope that is my legacy too.

2. Bible - it always has the answers and guidance you seek.

3. Family and friends.

4. iPhone - I left home without it the other day and I had to go back and get it. It is more than just a phone - it holds my music, pictures, and of course it is my connection to Words with Friends (I think I am addicted).

5. iPad - great to have my library of books and magazines there at my fingertips.

6. Saturday afternoon matinees - I love going to the movies. And for me this is a process. I like to get there early to be sure to score my perfect seat. If I don't, I'm disappointed, but there are plenty of other seats. My new beau assures me that he finds this little quirk fascinating.

7. Fall in the South - it is my favorite time of year and right now the leaves are just beginning their transformation. There is a tree on Mills Avenue - my most favorite tree of all - it is spectacular in the fall, but only for a day or two at most. It is as if the leaves turn golden over night and the next night they are on the ground.

8. Diet Coke - I try to keep it down to one a day.

9. My grandson - he really should be at the top of the list, but I'm not following an exact order. He is only 9 months and he's just discovering the world. He babbles trying to talk. When he smiles, he squinches up his nose and looks just like his mother. He is very inquisitive and determined. My daughter is going to have her hands full.

10. Writer's notebook - to jot down scenes, notes, etc. Sometimes I like to totally unplug and just write by hand rather than type.

Check back Tuesday for my review of The Shortest Way Home the latest novel by Juliette Fay.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Widow's Walk: Happy Birthday Mike

The year Mike turned 50, he called it the 21st anniversary of his 29th birthday.

I made him a t-shirt with the number 20 across the chest.

That night we went to see Steven Curtis Chapman and Chris Tomlin in concert. Afterwards we celebrated with carrot cake from the Fresh Market.

It was terrible to know that Mike's life was coming to an end, but in some ways it made those last days sweeter.

Mike embraced every moment. He lived each one to the fullest. He appreciated the little things - a cup of coffee, an autumn breeze, the pink blossoms of the bougainvillea...

Everything was intensified. He didn't have a huge bucket list of exotic places. He wanted to be with his family and friends.

I was a little surprised by the Dodge Charger he bought just a few days before he passed, but the expression on his face when he caught a glimpse of that car. He had his favorite chair strategically positioned - he could see the television to his right and the car to his left through the back door.

There was one morning as he adjusted his reading glasses to read the paper spread before him. He took a sip of coffee followed by a contented sigh. When I think of Mike, this is the moment I usually picture.

Tomorrow will mark the 26th anniversary of Mike's 29th birthday.

Happy Birthday Mike!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Sunday Dinner: Cubed Steak

It has long been a family tradition to offer up the favorites that Sunday for the person celebrating a birthday. My beau, Chuck's birthday is this Wednesday. I knew chocolate cake was a given. He also requested cubed steak (here in the South) or chicken fried steak to the rest of the country. It is a long standing family favorite, especially for my son Ryan.

For the breading you need flour, poultry seasoning, salt, and pepper. There is no exact amount. I just sprinkle the spices into the flour. Dredge the cube steak in the mixture, coating both sides. Cook in a skillet with the bottom covered in oil. I like to cover mine, it makes it more tender. I usually turn it a couple of times, checking to be sure that it is cooked evenly.

We also had rice, gravy, green beans, macaroni and cheese, corn, and biscuits.

My grandson, Daniel fell asleep during dinner. He was clutching a green bean and a piece of macaroni. When he awoke, he smiled and then continued eating. Aren't kids wonderful?

And yes we often use paper plates. When you have more than a dozen people for dinner, paper is more practical.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Write Now: Guest Interview with Eddie Jones, author of Dead Man's Hand

Eddie Jones is the author of eleven books and over 100 articles. He also serves as Acquisition Editor for Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. He is a three-time winner of the Delaware Christian Writers' Conference, and his YA novel, The Curse of Captain LaFoote, won the 2012 Moonbeam Children's Book Award and 2011 Selah Award in Young Adult Fiction. He is also a writing instructor and cofounder of Christian Devotions Ministries. His He Said, She Said devotional column appears on ChristianDevotions.US. His humorous romantic suspense, Bahama Breeze remains a "blessed seller." When he's not writing or teaching at writers' conferences, Eddie can be found surfing in Costa Rica or some other tropical locale.

Tell us about your upcoming release, Dead Man's Hand, with Zondervan.
First, it’s a fun, fast read aimed for middle school boys, but we’re also getting nice reviews on Goodreads from teachers and mothers. But my aim is to give boys a book they can enjoy, one taps into today’s fascination with the occult. This is the first book in the Caden Chronicles series and each story involves one element of the supernatural. Book one explores the concept of ghosts, spirits and what happens to our souls when we die.

Zonderkids is a Christian publisher, so the paranormal aspect is surprising.
I added the paranormal aspect because I want parents and youth to struggle with eternal questions. We’ve created such a culture of blood-letting through books and movies involving vampires, zombies and survival contests, that the reality of death doesn’t carry the sting it once did. In high school my youngest son lost several friends to driving accidents. When another friend recently died, we asked how he felt and he replied, “I’m numb to it.” I fear that’s what we’re doing with our youth: desensitizing them to the horrors of death. In Dead Man’s Hand, Nick and his family discuss spirits and ghosts and the afterlife because I think it’s important for teens to wrestle with these questions before they’re tossed from a car and found dead on a slab of wet pavement.

You've spent the last few years dedicating yourself to helping others get published. Tell us a little about your publishing company and what motivated you to take on such a huge endeavor.
We started the publishing arm to publish devotional compilations for Christian Devotions Ministries. We wanted to give some of our devotional writers their own byline in print. Part of mission is to launch new careers for first time authors. We wanted to create a publishing house where writers who were happy selling from 2,000, to 5,000 copies of their devotional book. There is a big jump from unpublished author to “three-book contract” author and we wanted to serve as a stepping-stone for those writers.
My problem is I hate telling people no, especially when they have a solid project. When it comes time to reject a manuscript, it pains me because I’ve been and continue to be on the other end of rejection. I will delay saying no as long as I can in order to rework the e-mail. I try to give authors good advice for how they can improve their writing. The problem is, if I’m too nice, then they keep coming back and asking to resubmit the same project. My advice to those authors is, improve your writing and send me something new.
We currently have forty authors under contract, have published over thirty books and distribute around four thousand dollars a month in royalty checks. We pay our authors monthly, not quarterly, because we want them to feel like writing is a real job. In fact, I teach a class on how, if an author will write five books a year, they can make over twenty-five thousand dollars. And these are large books. Most are under thirty thousand words. The goal is to have five books that sell 125 copies, (print and ebook combined). a month.

I get jazzed when one of our books launches or sells well. I know what it would feels like to see your book growing legs and garnering positive reviews so I get excited for our authors. Sometimes I think that’s how God feels when we’re doing the thing He’s called us to do. When we’re in our zone, doing the thing we love, we feel His joy. That’s what is great about working for God: sometimes you get paid for playing. J 
But the only reason I’m able to publish books and write full time is because four years ago I told God I’d work for Him full time. I figure if I was working for God I’d never be out of work. I may not make a lot of money, but he says there’s plenty of work and not enough labors so to me, that meant job security. I took a blank sheet of paper and signed it one day during my devotions and said, ‘Okay, God, I’ll do whatever it is you ask me to do, because I’m tired of working for other people. I want to work for You.’ Making up stories for boys, writing devotions, creating humorous romantic novels for adults, I get to do all this plus make dreams come true for other authors all because I agreed to work for God full time.     

You're passionate about getting boys interested in books. Why do you feel it's so important to get boys reading fiction at an early age?
I fear we’re on the verge of losing the male reader. I don’t mean men and boys won’t learn to read: they will. But the percentage male who read for leisure continues to shrink and this could be devastating for our country. We can’t lose half our population and expect America to compete on a global level. Reading forces the mind to create. With video the scene and characters are received passively by the brain. There is very little interaction; it’s all virtual stimulation, which is different from creation. When you read, you add your furniture to the scene, dress the characters, add elements not mentioned by the author. This is why readers so often complain, “the movie was nothing like the book.” It’s not, because the book is your book. The author crafted the outline of the set but each reader brings their emotions and expectations to that book, changing it forever.
In general, boys would rather get their information and entertainment visually. This is one reason books have such a tough time competing for male readers. It can take weeks to read a book, even one as short as Dead Man’s Hand. Meantime, that same story can be shown as a movie in under two hours. So in one sense the allure of visual gratification is robbing future generations of our ability to solve problems. I believe Americans only posses one true gift, creativity, and it’s a gift from God. Other nations build things cheaper and with fewer flaws. They work longer hours for less pay. But the thing that has always set America apart is our Yankee ingenuity. We have always been able to solve our way out of problems. That comes directly from our ability to create solutions to problems we didn’t anticipate. If we lose male readers and fail to develop that creative connections necessary for the brain to conceive of alternatives, then we will lose our position as the world’s leader. 

What advice would you offer to parents to get their children interested in reading at a young age?
Watch for clues. If your child shows any interest in reading, reward the activity with trips to book fairs. I remember in grade school how excited I got when we were allowed to order books. All we had to do was check a box, (or so I thought), and wham! A few weeks later boxes of books showed up and the teacher began dealing them to the students. I didn’t learn until later my parents had mailed the school money for those books. I still have most of them.
But not all children like reading and you can create an anti-reading environment if you push too hard. An alternative for boys are comic books, graphic novels, or simply cartoon books. I read a lot of Charlie Brown cartoon books and still remember the plot: Lucy has the football. Charlie wants to kick the ball. Lucy promises she will hold the ball in place but at the last moment… We know this story because it’s repeated, not in a novel, but in a cartoon.

Okay, we're going to be really nosey now, you've been married a long time. Tells us a little about your family, how you and your wife met and your family.
I met my wife at a stoplight in West Palm Beach, Florida. She was in the backseat of the car behind us. The driver honked and I crawled out the passenger window, a brown Pinto. The door didn’t work so it looked like I was a NASCAR driver getting out on pit road. The car behind us was full of girls from Meredith College. They asked where I went to college and I told them I went to Meredith, too. "It's a girl's school, you dork," one of them said. I told them I was taking Old Testament that semester, can’t remember the professor’s name, now, and one of the girls yelled, "Hey! You're in my class!” I explained when been surfing all day and didn’t have a place to stay and needed to hose off and asked if we could borrow their showers. They led us back to their hotel, my buddy and I washed off and left. Driving home a week later we came upon the same car in the slow lane of I-95. The girls were afraid we’d fall asleep driving home, my buddy couldn’t drive at night, so they agreed to put one girl in the car to keep us company. She’d get in, tell her life story and at the end of the hour, another would get in the car. Our last passenger was this cute girl wearing a funny Gilligan hat. She never said a word, not for the whole hour. We put her out, the girls drove off and I finally got home, exhausted. The next week I invited that shy girl to a Warren Zevon concert. Four years later, I married her.

You've freelanced writing newspaper columns for the last few decades on boating. Do you have an interesting boating story you can share?
All my boating stories are interesting. I collected the columns into two books, Hard Aground and Hard Aground… Again. The column began in the late eighties when an editor read a couple of essays I'd written about trying sail a boat with my wife. He seemed genuinely amused someone of my limited boating experience would think a woman of my wife's refined nature would enjoy peeing in a bucket in the cockpit of small sailboat. He informed me that I had correctly spelled the minimum number of words to meet his editorial standards and since someone on the staff had mistakenly sold one ad too many for the next issue, the publication was in need of some copy to balance out that page. I didn't know this at the time. I thought he was genuinely impressed with my writing abilities. I've been told I still suffer from this delusion."
The editor told me the column needed a catchy name. I purchased a few sailing publications and knew all boating columnist were subject matter experts. The only thing I was an expert on was running off the boat ramp, running aground on clearly marked shoals and running into the dock. I decided I would become an expert on making the best of tough times. When you run aground in a boat – in life - you have two choices. You can cuss and complain or you can grab a good book, kick back and wait for the tide to float you off. It's all a matter of perspective and pennies and I'm cheap so I usually wait for the tide.

Tell us about your ministry, Christian Devotions. How it got started, what you all are up to these days and what your plans are for the future.
Cindy Sproles and I started the ministry years ago to help authors publish their devotions. We’d go to writers’ conferences and on the last day find all these writers in tears because no one wanted their work. I had a web business and knew how to build web sites so I put up a home page and invited contributing writers. We figured we could at least give new writers a byline, even if it was only on the web. Cindy had been writing devotions every day for two years, partly because of something Alton Gansky said at a Blue Ridge Conference and partly as a commitment to God. The odd thing was, Cindy I didn’t know each other at that first conference but we both wrote down Al’s words. It was like God spoke to each of us separately to work together. Weeks after that conference I was under my willow tree doing my devotion when I heard God whisper: I meant to register the domain but by the time I got to my upstairs office, I forgot. A few weeks later God spoke again. Once more, I forgot. Few more weeks past and this time I wrote it down in my journal and marched upstairs only to find that was taken. I registered ChristianDevotions.US, instead. The dot com domain is worth over ten thousand dollars, now. Procrastination has a price.
For months Cindy and I were the only writers on the site, then slowly God grew the readership. Now we have thousands of readers, a ton of subscribers who get the devotions daily in their email and Kindle subscribers who receive the daily devotion on their Kindle eReader (99 cents a month). We have a teen’s ministry,, kid’s web site, and last year we purchased That’s our mission-oriented web site. We have a radio ministry, prayer team, finances ministry and of course the book publishing. We didn’t set out with a marketing plan to do what we’re doing. We simply responded to a need in the marketplace, walked the mountain with God and asked how we could help. Find a need and fill it.

What's one thing you wish I wouldn't ask you and pretend I asked you that question.
How I became a writer. I started my sophomore year of high school when he told my English teacher I wanted to write for Cat Talk, Millbrook High School’s newspaper. Mrs. Hough said, “Eddie, you can't spell and you’re a terrible grammarian.” But I wrote a couple of articles, and she seemed to like the way I could put words together, so I won a spot on staff. My senior year Mrs. Pollard begged not to major in English. In fact, she was shocked I would even consider going to college because I’d never be accepted. She was right. NC State rejected my application. A few days later I made an appointment with the admissions office. The day of my interview I wore a pair of red and white checkered polyester pants my mom made me, white shirt and a red tie. State admitted me into Industrial Arts, which I thought would be pretty cool since I though Industrial Arts meant I’d get to paint buildings. I flunked English 101 twice before passing with a D. I graduated from N.C. State four years later with a degree in English/Journalism and four years of writing experience for the Technician. I’m still a lousy proof-editor but I learned long ago storytelling trumps grammar.

You're writing for children right now with Zondervan. Besides the upcoming Cadence Chronicles Series, what are your dreams for your writing future?
Each day I walk around my yard reciting the Lord’s Prayer. This is my conversational time with God. Part of that prayer time is me putting on the armor of God. When I’m about halfway fitted out I say, “Lord place across my chest your breastplate of righteousness that my thought may be pure, honorable and good and my dreams secure: my dreams of sailing around the Caribbean, writing a best selling novel and surfing reef breaks.” Beyond that I don’t have any grand writing goals.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Write devotions, don’t focus on the praise, book sales and reviews. Forget about trying to find an agent and editor. Once you’re successful, they’ll find you. Explore the wounds in your life and minister to others through your writing. If God allowed you to be hurt, you can speak to that with authority. The rest of us, cannot. Ask yourself where your passions lie. I love surfing. If I could do anything, be anywhere, I’d be in a hut on a beach surfing a point break alone. I love playing and hate work. This is reflected in the types of books I write. I love pulling for the underdog, this comes out in the ministry God gave me. Only you can write the stories God dropped in your lap and if you do not, they will die.

Where can we find out more about you?
Please come find me on

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Widow's Walk: The Quiet Night

The other day I overheard a woman complaining about her husband's snoring. "He shakes the rafters," she said and all her friends laughed commiserating with her.

I want to tell her, enjoy this. You may miss it one day.

I did not realize how precious that last night was at the time. I did not know it was the last night. And even though it was not Mike's typical snore - it was light and raspy, I sat by his bed, our fingers barely touching, listening and watching him sleep. I would doze some, but then I would wake seeking comfort and finding it in the rhythm of his breathing.

For several days after, our house was full. It was noisy.

And then, everyone left. I was home alone, well except for Bob the cat, who did not like me before and really did not like me then. He thought I was to blame for Mike's absence.

I sat in my spot on the couch. Mike's chair was empty. I did not have to take a shower to cry (before it had been the only place I could let my emotions go when I needed to). I could let go right then, but I was afraid. What if I couldn't stop?

I could eat anything I wanted. Cook anything I wanted. The smell of food would not bother him now. Mike once called me a loud eater - croutons in a salad would send him into a frenzy. The cancer amplified his hearing.

Sleep finally came that night, but it was fitful. The quiet was too much, the only noise was the occasional meanderings of the cat. There was no snoring, the sound I listened for in the night, my assurance that everything was fine. It would never be the same, this was my new normal.

It took me a while to adjust. I did leave the television on quite a bit, the noise helped me. If you are recently widowed, nobody can tell you what will work for you — people can only make suggestions. Keep an open mind, but do what is right for you.

And sometimes you just have to let yourself cry. I had trouble doing this. I had two methods. I would watch a movie that I knew would make me cry, but also give me a little hope in the end. Or I would set the kitchen timer for 5 minutes, my allotted time to let it all out. I would tell myself that when 5 minutes was up, the tears must stop. I rarely ever made it to 5.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Sunday Dinner: Orange Supreme Cake

Is there a taste that just calls to you from childhood?
Randall's Favorite Orange Cake

For my brother that would be an orange cake with orange icing. At least a couple of times a year our Grandmother would make an orange cake with orange icing. It wasn't anything exceptional, just a box cake and commercial frosting, but it was my brother, Randall's favorite.

Sometime in the 80s, they discontinued the icing. You can still find the orange cake, now labeled as Duncan Hines Orange Supreme, but you could not find the icing. My brother Dennis worked for a grocery store for many years and even tried to see if maybe it was offered in other parts of the U.S., but nobody could find it.

Until this weekend in Publix, I spotted it, Orange Crème Frosting. It does not come in the traditional tub, you buy that separately. The Orange Crème is a powder that you add and stir. I just about did a happy dance in the store. We've been looking for this frosting for thirty years.

Last year I found an orange frosting, but it was just colored for Halloween, it was not the true orange taste and color.

I almost called my brother yesterday to tell him, but I thought I would let the surprise speak for itself.

"Is that an orange cake, the real orange cake?" he said.

"Yes, it is." I tried to make my own orange icing last year for his birthday. He appreciated the effort, but we both knew it just wasn't the same thing then.

He sat at the table, the cake was in front of him. He held on to that plastic cake keeper like someone was going to make a mad dash out the door with it.

For dessert, I cut small pieces for everyone so that he would have some cake to take home with him. And I'm sure tonight he'll have a tall class of milk and a large piece of orange cake.

I plan on going back to Publix and buying several to keep in reserve just in case they decide to discontinue them again.

Last week, people were amazed at how many we had for dinner. This week I had 13 people for Sunday dinner.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Write Now: Thomas Kennedy, A Girl And A Fish

A writer must draw the reader in, encouraging the reader to momentarily suspend reality and step into the story. A great way to do this is through the five senses: sight, taste, smell, touch, and sound. It is the small details that bring a reader in . . . coffee and bacon on his breath — two aromatic smells.

The Hub City Writers Project offers several writing workshops throughout the year and Thomas Kennedy was the first this fall. He taught about the five senses of fiction. He gave us some wonderful examples, some of his own as well as other authors. 

He gave us the opportunity to write. He gave us a prompt. Pens scrawled across paper, not a single laptop was there among the students, most of us well over 30. We shared our work, some was not bad, but some was pretty extraordinary for a ten minute writing session. He did not critique our work. He praised and encouraged each student pointing to a particular detail or passage he liked.

He shared with us the first writing prompt he was ever given, two words: girl, fish. He gave us five minutes to write. 

For me it invoked images of my granddaddy. He always took my brothers fishing, but he rarely allowed my sister and me to come along — mostly because then he would have to find a bathroom for us, and my sister always had to go. But this made me remember the feel of a fishing rod between my fingers, the line twinges, and the cork bobs beneath the surface. "Snap it, snap it," he said, but I was too late. The hook emerged from the water, worm less, glistening silver in the sun.

This just might turn into a short story or it may make an appearance in my novel. I'm not sure, but I know someday I will use it.

I have heard about Thomas Kennedy for the last several years. He is the mentor of my mentor, Susan Tekulve, who is a professor at Converse College and her novel, In the Garden of Stone won the South Carolina First Novel Prize this year and will be published in May of 2013.

The Hub City Writers Project offers workshops, conferences, and many other opportunities for writers.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Widow'sWalk: Mourning Dawn

As my husband Mike's life came to an end, I watched his parents. How do you say good-bye to your child? His parents are strong in their faith, they believe in God, they believe in Heaven. They know they will see their son again, but they miss him. No matter how old your child is, they will always be your baby. I had lost a husband, but my in-laws had lost a son.

My grandmother lost three children. They were all adults when they passed. "You're not supposed to bury your child," she said.

We lost my sister when she was 19. She was in an car accident. Her boyfriend had been drinking. He was goofing around racing against a friend on a narrow, winding road. And he had travelled this road many times, they were only about a mile away from home.

As we sat in the surgery waiting room, hoping and praying for my sister to live, my mother changed. The doctors had offered little hope when they talked to us in the ER. Mama just sat there, staring off. My brothers and I sat together. I don't know how to explain it, but we knew. My brothers were only 17 and 15.

The rest of the time is blurry images. As my sister remained on life support, a SC requirement before officially pronouncing her brain dead, my father did not want to leave her side. My parents had been through a horrible divorce. They could not be in the same room together, mostly because my mother swore she would never forgive my dad. A chaplain asked if she could do something. I told her about my parents and how my mom needed some time alone with my sister. The chaplain went in and got my dad to come out — she needed him to answer questions or something. Mom went in.

I could not go in. I had already seen how much she loved us. I was overwhelmed and I thought of my own son, not even 2 yet. And I was so afraid of losing him. It was something I had never considered before.

My Mom was never the same again. She was sad for a long time. She cried so much. She looked at pictures often. I once caught her standing in the rain, alone. In a poetry workshop last year, I thought of that moment. This is what came from it.

Mourning Dawn
By Connie Thompson Kuhn

As rain falls
On this grey morning

My mother leans
Against the peeling paint,
Her body wedged

Between two blue hydrangeas,

The only landscaping
In our bleak yard.

Her face is wet with tears
And rain,

Mourning her daughter,

Mom eventually came back to us, but there was always that void. When she found out she was dying, she was upset about all she would miss. She was only 60. "If I can't be with the three of you, at least I can be with Dawn," Mom said.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Blackberry Winter by Sarah Jio is October's She Reads Selection

Blackberry Winter by Sarah Jio is the October selection for She Reads. You should pop over and join their online book club and join in the discussion. There are several giveaways slated for the month of October. The first is a box of blackberry bliss: blackberry tea, blackberry honey, a signed copy of Blackberry Winter, and note from the author and recipes for blackberry scones. Just comment on today's post, that is all you have to do to enter.
Give away at She Reads

Blackberry Winter is the story of two women. Vera Ray's story takes place in 1933 and Claire Aldridge's is in 2010. A May 2 snowstorm, 77 years apart links to the two stories together.

Claire is a newspaper reporter and her editor wants her to write a story about the two snowstorms, 77 years apart to the day. After all, snow in May? Even in Seattle, this is unusual.

Claire is still recovering from an accident the previous year. Although she and her husband, Ethan are still living together, they are like roommates, and maybe that is giving their relationship too much credit. They barely speak — each is hurting, grieving, and they don't know what to say to one another. Claire is also overwhelmed with guilt.

It doesn't help that Ethan's former girlfriend is often inviting him to lunch. She's the food reporter for the paper and often asks Ethan to accompany her to special events. Something he rarely if ever did before the accident.

And then there is Dominic, the sweet good-looking owner of Café Lavanto. He understands Claire's penchant for hot chocolate, which annoys Ethan. How can she not love coffee when they live in Seattle? Claire and Dominic begin to form a friendship, which is quickly leading to more.

The only close relationship Claire has inside of Ethan's family is with his beloved grandfather, Warren who is in a nursing home and his health is not well. Ethan's mother has asked Claire to curtail her weekly visits. She feels the visits acerbate his condition.

As Claire searches for a link to the two snowstorms, she uncovers the disappearance of 3 year old Daniel Ray. His mother, Vera returned home from work early that morning to find the boy missing. The police dismiss him as a runaway.

Thorough the alternate story line, the reader gets a chance to know Vera, a wonderful mother, who is caught in the clutches of poverty. She tried taking the boy with her to work, but was told she would be fired if she did. All of her friends must work too. There is no one to care for the boy. Surely, he will be fine, alone at home through night. It is her only option.

Intrigued, I know I was and I was not disappointed. The mysterious disappearance of a child, murder, hope, healing, and love fill the pages of Blackberry Winter, the perfect book to enjoy on a rainy fall day.

Don't forget to pop over to She Reads and join the discussion. Be sure to leave a comment today for the chance to win the blackberry bliss gift box.