Friday, September 9, 2011

A Tribute to Mary Nell

In my writing career, I've met some beautiful people between the rivers, but none more beautiful, inside and out, than Mary Nell Russ English. She loved my books and told me so! She even named her Red Hat chapter after my first book, Between the Rivers. She didn't just suggest to the members that they call it the "Between the Rivers Chapter", she called to ask my permission as if I had some prior claim to that place she belonged to more than me! One of the most fun things I've done in my life was to ride with her and the "Red Hats" on their float in the Kelly Spring Parade. What a blast! What an honor!

I'm not a very active participant on Facebook, but when Mary Nell "friended" me last year, I was devastated to learn that my beautiful friend had a rare cancer. I followed her on Facebook as she went for various treatements, admiring her positive attitude, her FORTITUDE, and her faith. Recently, when I sent out an announcement that Between the Rivers was now an e-book, she e-mailed me to say that she had a Kindle and was going to download and read it again. This was only a few weeks ago, so I know she must have been very sick at the time; yet, she here she was supporting my efforts to keep my book alive when she was fighting every day to live! Thank you, Mary Nell, for bringing your special love into my life.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

What's a little ice cream?

Last weekend, I dreaded opening the door to our little log cabin at Lake Gaston. What was I expecting? Surely not total destruction, but with no electricity for four days, there would be signs of SOMETHING amiss. The news had been dire up and down the east coast. Hurricane Irene had sashayed through our state and the entire northeast and what the wind didn't destroy, flood waters had wiped out. Driving in, I found the gravel driveway off our culdesaque covered in leaves and downed limbs, as was the wooden deck that surrounds the cabin. Pushing all of that aside, I unlocked the door and made my way into the house, turning on the light switch, expecting to see the refrigerator door standing open--forced open, that is by huge globs of rapidly growing black mold that had fed itself on the cheese, bacon and jars of condiments I'd left in the refrigerator the last time we were there. Yes, I'd fully expected to find the beautiful heart pine floors drenched in brackish water from the ice maker, and the black mold climbing up the walls. Instead, all I found was a sticky puddle of melted ice cream that somehow had found it's way out along the refrigerator door hinge. Standing aside, I opened the refrigerator door and felt the cold air that now filled the space once again, and not nary a sign of mold. What a relief! The sticky mess that once had been homemade banana ice cream left over from our July 4th picnic was a welcome sight. I'm sure that another week without electricity might have produced the mold that I dreaded, but we were lucky. What's a little sticky ice cream on the floor compared to the horrendous loss of entire homes? Once again, I count my blessings and pray for those who were victims of nature's cruel storm. Another lesson learned: don't store ice cream in your vacation cabin refrigerator!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Hand of God

When it comes down to religious fervor, I'm not not exactly a zealot, but I do recognize the hand of God in my own life and often in the lives of those around me. Take something that happened this past weekend. We were at the wedding of our neighbor's son who was being married in the Basilica of St. Lawrence in Asheville, NC. Our grandson, who is a goldsmith, had refurbished a ring for the groom out of the wedding ring of his deceased grandfather. The ring had been given to the groom by his own mother who tenderly wanted her father to be present in some way at his grandson's wedding. The priest, a family friend of the groom's family, who performed the ceremony, incorrectly called the groom "Jim", not once but twice. At a brief interlude in the ceremony, the groom stepped over to the priest and whispered in his ear his correct name. The family, watching all of this from the church pews, were somewhat stunned that this priest who new the groom very well had made such a mistake. The embarrassed priest, apologized and begged forgiveness for his responsibility in causing "one of the little things that can go wrong at a wedding." Even he did not recognize the hand of God until later at the reception when the story circulated that the groom's deceased grandfather, whose ring the groom now wore on his left hand, was named "Jim."

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Between the Rivers is now an e-book!

Wow! It feels good to be published again! No, I don't have a new book out, but I do have Between the Rivers, my first book, digitized and waiting for you to download onto your Kindle, Nook, or whatever apparatus you have available to read an electronic book! It is ever so easy to publish an e-book if you've had it in mind from the beginning, but when your book was published the old way, and that publisher is no longer in business, it is NOT so easy. First, you have to have the book scanned, digitized and converted to e-pub, or some other acceptable software. McNaughton and Gunn, my first printer was extremely helpful. I approached them when I ran out of books and wanted a short run of Between the Rivers. After they satisfied my POD (print on demand) order, they agreed to convert the file to e-pub software, a requirement to meet the e-publisher needs. takes it a step further, but generally speaking, you just need to have someone do a conversion. Over the years, many of you have asked for a large print copy, and more recently, some of you have wanted to know when my books will be available as e-books. So there you have it!

Click to order a Kindle eBook version Just $7.99

Click to order a NOOK eBook version Just $7.99

Order a copy and have it downloaded immediately to enjoy all the joys of electronic publishing. Thank you!

More later!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Burned Out

Since I'm a writer, you may think this is going to be about writer's block, or a long unproductive spell. Not so. In my first novel, Between the Rivers, I wrote about being "burned out." As the author, I stood beside my protagonist and imagined the horror she and her family felt as they stood huddled in the shelter of the trees, their eyes wide and unbelieving as they watched the house sputter and cough up great clouds of black smoke...ashes raining down on the canopy of ancient trees, covering their moss-bearded limbs with a peppery dust. Last week, when I heard the news that our good friends in Hendersonville had lost their home in the middle of the afternoon when lightning struck their garage, once again, I could only imagine the horror. Fire had raced through the attic and soon destroyed the whole house. In the early part of the last century, especially in rural areas, it was not that unusual to be "burned out," but today we are so careful--for one thing, we don't use kerosene to start our fires. Many of us don't even use real wood logs. But what can stop that act or freak of nature that directs a bolt of lightening into a mountain home, or sends a tornado skipping across south Raleigh today anymore than it could a hundred years ago. It is hard to accept a freak act of nature, we want to put the blame on something or someone, but only a writer can do that with surety. But such sad news should give us pause. It has me. I look around at my carelessness, things I value scattered about with abandon. If I suddenly lost it all, would I wake up in the night and remember the little things--that little doll from my childhood that always sat on the shelf above my computer? Or my dad's Brownie camera, or my pictures. How would I ever replace all of those pictures! We take so much for granted--that our things will always be here. That we will always be here to care for and about them.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Motoring Through Wharton Country

I'd almost forgotten the joy of "motoring", an old-fashioned word suggesting a carefree drive--in this case, across Edith Wharton country. My husband and I were driving his Mercedes-Benz, but it might as well have been Henry Montgomery's 1925 yellow Buick touring car. You'll remember Henry's car from my novel Bandeaux Creek. We had not completely avoided the interstates and turnpikes driving up from North Carolina, but once we arrived at the Berkshires, we took the swervy-curvy roads and motored first to Blantyre in Lennox, Massachusettes. Blantyre is a beautiful country house hotel, one of the Berkshire "cottages" built in 1902 during the Gilded Age by a wealthy entrepreneur to resemble his wife's ancestral home in Scotland. But what really made the trip for this writer was visiting Edith Wharton's home The Mount nearby and seeing first-hand where one of the twentieth century's greatest women writers lived and worked. Interestingly, one of my characters in Bandeaux Creek was based on Wharton. Unless you are familiar with Wharton's biography, you may not recognize her. Wharton was a divorcee at a time when divorce was still frowned upon. In my novel, Henry Montgomery, Maggie Lorena's editor, asks his friend Evelyn Armstrong (Wharton's counterpart) to review Maggie's manuscript for her work in progress. Armstrong's (Wharton's) critique is not favorable. You see, I had gone to great lengths to research women writers of the era, and discovered this possible link; i.e. that Maggie might identify with Wharton and think of divorce as an option by which she could stay in Boston permanently. If you've read Bandeaux Creek, you know that does not happen.

It was exhilerating to be in Wharton's home for other reasons. She was an architect, giving great attention to the design of her garden, her home and its furnishings. I don't think she was formally trained, but she spent much of her life studying architecture, traveling in Italy and France, and hobnobbing with the best architects of the time. In her home, every room was as much a part of the outside as the inside. Her views while working on her masterpieces were simply incredible. As a homemaker, gardener and writer, to a certain extent, I could identify. My bedtime reading on this leg of our trip was Wharton's The Age of Innocence.

From Lennox, we "motored" over to the Hudson River Valley to tour Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt's homes in Hyde Park, New York. In researching my third novel, A Chosen Few, I read several Roosevelt biographies. I was intrigued because Penderlea was a the first New Deal Homestead resettlement community, and Eleanor Roosevelt had visited there on June 11, 1937. We were in her cottage, "Val-kill" on the Roosevelt estate exactly 74 years later. It was a thrill for me because I admire her as a First Lady, humanitarian, and as a writer. If you'd like to read an interesting perspective on Franklin and Eleanor during the war years, I highly recommend Doris Kearns Goodwin's No Ordinary Time. The book is available in audio and made for enjoyable listening on our journey.

More later!