Thursday, June 23, 2011

Introducing C. Richard Peggy Webb

I am often asked to mentor someone who is writing a first book.  My schedule of writing, traveling, promoting leaves me very little breathing room, so I usually say no. If I didn’t, my children and grandchildren would probably stop speaking to me. They live in far-flung places – Florida and New Hampshire – and I do enjoy loading my Jeep for a jaunt across Mississippi, Alabama and into the Panhandle, or hopping a plane bound northward.  

But when my friend, C. Richard Cotton, told me he was going to write a book and needed some guidance, I was elated and jumped at the chance to mentor. He’s a very fine free lance journalist, and I knew he had the talent and the discipline to succeed.

We chatted about where to start his story and the novel writing process in general, and he set to work. When he sent the first two chapters, I knew that Richard needed nothing from me but encouragement.  “Keep going,” I told him. “And don’t stop until you finish.”

The result is an incredible non-fiction novella - Then Came Cancer: A Love Story.   I can’t find enough accolades to do this book justice. I read it in one sitting. I cried and laughed, then cried some more. And when it was over, I not only applauded Terri Cotton’s courage and humor as she fought a five-year losing battle with a rare form of cancer, but I was awestruck by Richard, who turned his deep love for his wife into an amazing memorial.

This is the quote I wrote for him:
"Then Came Cancer: A Love Story is the chronicle of battling cancer, of a marriage, of love. But most of all, it's unforgettable! Writing with a raw honesty that is his hallmark and a journalist's eye for detail, C. Richard Cotton also brings a loving husband's heart to the page. He tempers heartbreak with humor, horror with hope, loss with love. The result is a beautiful, powerful story, a Must Read!"
                          Anna Michaels, author of The Tender Mercy of Roses

Richard’s book will soon be available (probably by the first or second week in July) as an e-book… and eventually, a print on demand. I don’t have a specific date, but do keep an eye out. You don’t want to miss this book!

On a personal note, I’m happy to announce that I’m bringing my romance classics back as e-books!  Originally published under the Loveswept imprint at Bantam, these are timeless love stories with some great retro moments.  “He’s a hunk like Tom Selleck.”  Remember the days of Magnum P.I., Back to the Future, “Endless Love” by Lionel Richie and Diana Ross?

Five titles are available now – Duplicity, The Edge of Paradise, Touched by Angels, A Prince for Jenny, and Dark Fire. Three are coming out next month and many more are on the way!   Check out the great new covers!

Peggy Webb lives in Mississippi where her gardens are wilting in the heat and she stays holed up in her air-conditioned office with her muse. (You thought she was going to say a handsome hero, didn’t you?) She writes literary fiction as Anna Michaels and everything else, including the Southern Cousins Mystery Series, as Peggy. Currently, she’s having fun editing her romance classics and falling in love with her Loveswept heroes all over again. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Father's Day (Or How My Father Was Like Stephen King)

By Andy Straka

I’ve loved reading all the posts this month about “Living with a Creative Lunatic.”  From the poignant to the hilarious.   There must be something cathartic about coming clean regarding our selfish eccentricities and at times downright strange behavior as writers.

This past Sunday was Father’s Day.  My wife and kids spoiled me with a pile of handmade cards, a new basketball hoop, and a new coffee mug (pictured). I didn’t get any writing done, but I had a fantastic day, and it got me to thinking.  

To me every day is Father’s Day. No, really.  What more can a father ask for than to be surrounded by his family each day and still be able to pursue the work that he enjoys?

It takes a superhero wife and special children to put up with a husband and father who manages to mysteriously disappear for long stretches of time to pound away on his computer.  It takes mountains of paper, gallons of hot liquids, bottled water, and diet soda, and mega-quadruple miga-gigabytes of computer power.  It takes being awakened in the middle of the night by someone clumping down the stairs or dropping exhausted into bed only to fall instantly asleep.  It takes putting up with forgotten phone messages, yard work left undone, books and papers and other paraphernalia left piled around the house.  It also takes the patience of Job to listen to someone constantly scheming about new characters, titles, and story ideas while pursuing a craft that leads to uncertain financial rewards.  

Despite all of the above and more, my wife somehow continues to love me. She has even cobbled together an inventive yet stable family, where storytellers like her husband aren’t seen as alien creatures sprouting mutant heads and toes.  Will any of our six children eventually become creative lunatics like their old man?

The folks over at AbeBooks have compiled a fascinating list of father/son writers that may shed a little light.  Pretty amazing when you read about the likes of Alexandre Dumas, H.G. Wells, and even Stephen King and his son Joe Hill (a/k/a Joseph Hillstrom King).

Andrew H. Straka
My father may not have been a writer or achieved as much as Stephen King, but I’m sure, like Joe Hill, I caught the creative lunatic bug, at least in part, from my Dad.  Andrew H. Straka was an engineering genius who built his own company from the ground up.  One of the first manufacturers to get into plastics (Remember that quote from the movie The Graduate about plastics?), he often seemed to have this impish grin on his face because he, too, loved the creative process.  He also loved flight and once purchased a single seat, mini-helicopter kit including detailed plans for building his own personal airship, before my mother talked him out of the idea.  My father’s untimely death left our family with a gaping emotional hole and not much in the way of material wealth, but his creative spirit was his everlasting gift to me. So here's a heavenly salute to you, Dad.

Maybe this creative lunatic thing is genetic after all.  Or maybe it’s contagious. Maybe there’s a little creative lunatic in us all.

I don’t know what each of my children will wind up doing, but I can almost hear two of the older ones talking now.

“Where’s Dad?”

“Off writing again.”

Just as it should be—at least until it’s time to come read stories and be Big Daddy.

Happy Father’s Day.  Again.

Publisher's Weekly has featured Andy Straka as one of a new crop of "rising stars in crime fiction." His books include A WITNESS ABOVE (Anthony, Agatha, and Shamus Award finalist), A KILLING SKY (Anthony Award Finalist), COLD QUARRY (Shamus Award Winner), KITTY HITTER (called a "great read" by Library Journal), RECORD OF WRONGS (hailed by Mystery Scene magazine as "a first-rate thriller"), FLIGHTFALL (a soon-to-be-released novella), and a new thriller, THE BLUE HALLELUJAH, coming later this summer.

Andy has worked as a book editor, movie production accommodation agent, commercial building owner and consulting vice president for a large specialty physician’s practice, surgical implant and pharmaceutical sales representative, college textbook sales and manuscript acquisition representative, web offset press paper jogger, laborer on a city road crew, summer recreation youth director, camp counselor, youth basketball coach, assistant parts manager at an auto dealership, assistant manager at a McDonalds restaurant, and even been registered as a private investigator. (Not to mention a longstanding stint as a stay-at-home Dad to six, which makes neurosurgery look like tiddlywinks.)  
Also a licensed falconer and co-founder of the popular Crime Wave at the annual Virginia Festival of the Book, Andy is a native of upstate New York and a graduate of Williams College where, as co-captain of the basketball team, he "double-majored" in English and the crossover dribble.  He lives with his family in Virginia. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Living With a Writer’s Brokenness

by Susan Cushman

I recently read The Paris Wife  by Paula McLain. It’s a novel about Ernest Hemingway’s first marriage, to Hadley Richardson, written through her voice. I thought I’d share some of it as part of my post here on what it’s like to be married to a writer. (NOTE: I wrote this before I read Karen Harrington's post, but at least we're giving a bit of a different take on the book.)

Ernest and Hadley were married during the time he lived in Paris and wrote The Sun Also Rises, which fictionalizes quite a bit of their hard-drinking fast-living life with a colorful circle of friends in Paris. It was Hadley’s lot to be his wife during his early years of struggling to find his voice as a writer, as she struggled to hold onto herself as a woman while being his wife and muse. This sentence shows some of Hadley’s struggle:

“I close my eyes and lean into Ernest, smelling bourbon and soap, tobacco and damp cotton—and everything about this moment is so sharp and lovely, I do something completely out of character and just let myself have it.”

Why was it out of character for Hadley to let herself have that lovely and intimate moment with him? I think she took her role as muse and supporter to a brilliant artist more seriously than her role as his lover and wife, so she devalued herself as a person. McLain creates lots of dialogue that shows this aspect of their relationship:

“I’m not sure I get it completely, but I can tell you’re a writer. Whatever that thing is, you have it.” (Hadley)

“God that’s good to hear. Sometimes I think all I really need is one person telling me that I’m not knocking my fool head against the bricks. That I have a shot at it.” (Ernest)

And then she shows the complexity of their relationship through interior monologue: (Hadley thinking)

… it struck me how comfortable I felt with him, as if we were old friends or had already done this many times over, him handing me pages with his heart on his sleeve—he couldn’t pretend this work didn’t mean everything to him—me reading his words, quietly amazed by what he could do. . . .

And the limitations that Ernest’s work put on the marriage: (again through Hadley’s thoughts)

Hadn’t I just felt us collapsing into one another, until there was no difference between us? It would be the hardest lesson of my marriage, discovering the flaw in this thinking. I couldn’t reach into every part of Ernest and he didn’t want me to. He needed me to make him feel safe and backed up, yes, the same way I needed him. But he also liked that he could disappear into his work, away from me. And return when he wanted to.

I have to get away from my home, and from my husband (whom I love) in order to get serious amounts of writing done, which is why I spent the month of November writing at the beach. And sometimes I just need hours of quiet to think, before ever putting words on the page. I found it interesting that Hemingway also felt that way, and Hadley wished he wouldn’t leave:

“It’s been so long since you’ve even tried to write here at home. Maybe it would work now and I could see you. I wouldn’t have to talk or disturb you.” (Hadley)

“You know I need to go away to make anything happen…. I have to be alone to get it started….” (Ernest)

A couple of weeks ago I went to the Yoknapatawpha Summer Writers Workshop in Oxford, Mississippi. One night the workshop leader, Scott Morris, gave his annual craft talk, this time on “Voice.” (Read more about the workshop and Scott’s talk here.) One thing that stuck with me long after his talk was what he said about the writer’s cross—that we will always be reaching for something just beyond our grasp, using words to make sense of the world and to make peace with our suffering:

“The novel will just sit down in that place of suffering and spend time there…. The great novel trades in regret…. This type of writing is up against the dominant culture of the day…. Great writing is about going to those wounds and staying there.”

This reminded me of something Hadley thought about Ernest lately in the novel:

It gave me a sharp kind of sadness to think that no matter how much I loved him and tried to put him back together again, he might stay broken forever…. He wanted everything there was to have and more than that.

We are all broken creatures, but I think that artists and writers carry our brokenness in a more intense manner. It’s hard on our families. Although my husband is also a writer, he’s a physician and his writing is scientific. He has no problem writing an article for the New England Journal of Medicine while I’m in the room with him (and a football game is on television and he’s checking email on his Blackberry). But I need physical and emotional space in order to create words on the page, and he gets that. Our kids have been out of the house for ten years now, and we celebrated our 41st wedding anniversary on June 13, so he’s been living with my brokenness for quite some time.  But unlike Hadley and Ernest, we’re not "collapsing into one another." We’re two fully realized persons who don’t need the other person to complete us. Instead, we are learning to be supportive of each other’s careers, which we are both passionate about.  Hopefully we’ve dodged the bullet that destroyed Ernest and Hadley’s marriage, which McLain describes in the Epilogue of the book, thirty-five years after their divorce, when they are both married to other people:

“Tell me, do you think we wanted too much from each other? . . . . Maybe that’s it. We were too hooked into each other. We loved each other too much.” (Ernest)

“Can you love someone too much?” (Hadley)

He was quite for a moment. “No,” he finally said, his voice very soft and sober. “That’s not it at all. I ruined it.”

Susan Cushman has nine published essays, one novel and two memoirs tucked safely away in a drawer, and a novel-in-progress that she hopes to publish one day. Later this year, her essay, “Chiaroscuro: Shimmer and Shadow,” will appear in the second volume of the anthology, All Out of Faith: Southern Women on Spirituality, from the University of Alabama Press. She is a guest blogger on Jane Friedman's Writers' Digest blog, "There Are No Rules," and her personal blog is "Pen and Palette." Susan is director of the 2011 Memphis Creative Nonfiction Workshop coming up in September. (Registration is open and spaces are filling quickly!)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Dedicated To The One I Love

by Karen Harrington

I just finished reading The Paris Wife by Paula McLane. This is must-read material for writers and their spouses. The story follows a fictionalized account of Ernest Hemingway’s courtship and first marriage to Hadley Richardson in the early 1920s. The novel, which was drawn largely from letters exchanged between Hadley and Hemingway before he gained fame,­ is told through Hadley’s eyes with a few chapters dedicated to Hemingway’s point of view. The reader gets an up close look at her role as supportive friend and spouse to an aspiring writer. I was riveted by the ups and downs Hadley experienced. So often, she felt like an outsider, excluded from her husband’s writing life. (He even rented a tiny office and left each day to write.) Other times, Hadley felt certain she was playing a supportive role in birthing Hemingway’s career. We’ll never know if his early career would have flourished without her, but she was certainly remarkable in her support. Not every spouse would have been as long-suffering and encouraging as Hadley.

In my case, I might have the closest thing to the kind of support Hadley offered – only in male form. Sure, my husband wouldn’t be keen on my going and renting another room to write or moving to Paris just so I could soak up the atmosphere. But here’s what he has done for this writer’s life:

-         Arranged our lives so I could be a stay-at-home mom/writer – which is my dream job!
-         He frequently takes the kids out all day so I can have the house to myself to write.
-         Each November when I take on the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) challenge, he slides coffee and cinnamon rolls into my office.
-         He tolerates notebooks all over the house
-         He lets me chatter on about plot twists and problems and character names
-         Encourages the purchase of turtle-necks which he calls “writer wear”
-         Tells all his friends about my book, often bringing me a few copies to sign for his colleagues

If he’s had an influence in my writing, it’s when he challenges my subject matter. He’s often said, “Why are you writing THAT?” My first attempt at a novel was about a Viet Nam vet returning home. “What do you know about that? Why Viet Nam?” Because it interests me, I replied.

Around the time I had my first child, I began writing sketches for what would become JANEOLOGY. The genesis of this story was my curiosity about mothers who kill like Andrea Yates and Susan Smith. I wanted to know everything about their backgrounds; how they were raised; and, did anyone suspect or see anything in their behavior that might predict their infamy? One day, a package was delivered that included the books Mothers Who Kill Their Children: Understanding the Acts of Moms from Susan Smith to the "Prom Mom"  and Where Is Baby’s Belly Button?

My husband jokingly remarked, “Just so you know, whoever packed your order at Amazon is wondering if they should have someone check on you.”

He will tell you that at first he thought I was weird to choose infanticide as a subject while I was new to motherhood. Later, he realized that it was my protective instincts as a new mother that drove me to the story. I don’t know that I could have written it so forcefully without that fuel.

Lately, I’ve written about a fanatical cult in Texas and one family at the center of it. (You should see the books from Amazon now!)

He shakes his head as if to say, There she goes again.

Thanks, Hubby. You make a huge difference in this writer’s life! This post is dedicated to you.


Karen Harrington is the author of Janeology. You can visit her at 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

By the Light of the Moon

 By Augusta Scattergood

Last week when the full moon lit up my patio, the ancient moon goddess Luna came to mind. This morning I’m pondering whether or not I fall into the category of lunatic writer. 

I think not. 

But each of us has a bit of madness swirling through our writing habits. There’s no escaping it.

Before I became a writer, I was a reader. My tastes ranged from mysteries to histories, from picture books to coffee table art books. But did ever I stop to think how those books came to be created? And if I did, did I think—that writer is engaged in extreme foolishness.

That changed a while ago, when I fell in love with the books of a Baltimore writer
She rarely spoke about her process publicly, but she lived right up the street. We shared a mailman. His name was Ollie.  We occasionally shared a bench in the Quaker Meeting we both attended. She didn’t know me, and I didn’t dare speak to her.

I read everything she wrote yet never questioned how she created those amazing novels depicting my Baltimore neighborhood so precisely.  Then Ollie our mailman appeared in her new novel, and I began to think about how fiction springs from reality. She described Ollie exactly as I saw him each day walking the two blocks from her house to mine. He had suffered a death in his family and was sadder and sadder each time I greeted him at my front door.

 In another novel, she described a member of our Meeting who could no longer speak but scribbled notes and handed them to the person next to him to read. I knew that person! There he was, along with Ollie the mailman, in her books.

And it hit me. That’s what writers do. They remember mailmen. They know the cashier at Walmart and imagine how spent her morning before reporting to work. Writers scribble notes. They see real people and create backstories. With a little--or a lot of-- tinkering, they turn real people into book characters.

And that's what I wanted to do. Remember funny things and turn them into stories. 
Maybe that makes writers crazy people, lunatics, even without a full moon.

Yes, I love the Notes feature on my phone and I have a ton of notebooks small enough to fit into a pocket, but the number of character sketches I write on boarding passes and sales receipts and napkins is sheer madness.

Just a quick look through my file folder of scribbles found these from long ago, or maybe from yesterday. No clue what most of them mean, but if a non-writer found them, lunacy might be deduced.

She got a Pink Princess telephone. Birthday gift.

Old man at South of the Border: "That dog's got some age on him." (About my sweet old lab Barley. I've already used this one.)

I got ahold of some bad ice. (Guy stretched out on a couch.)

Daddy took a candelabra to the Outback Steakhouse.

One of my favorite back-of-a-boarding-pass descriptions is of a young woman in the Atlanta airport. She was (I’m convinced) meeting her boyfriend after a long flight. She had time to spare. She had dipped her head under the ladies' room sink’s water and was now sitting on the floor drying her hair under the hot air of the hand dryer. Soon she began to cry. Tears of happiness or misery?

Now you know you want to hear the rest of her story, don’t you?

So the full moon was up there again last week, and I wondered about madness and folly. I wondered how many moms in labor were lined up outside the delivery room. I wondered how many crazies were out there howling. And how many writers were awake scribbling notes, inventing characters, and just plain making up crazy stuff by the light of a big bright moon smiling on the night.

Augusta Scattergood mostly writes during daylight hours, on a computer. But her files are full of old grocery lists, receipts, bookmarks, tiny notebooks. Her weirdest notes usually, eventually, make complete sense to her. Click on over to her own blog sometime:

Just curious now- Anybody out there taking notes on something other than your iPhones these days? Writing something that makes sense to you and you alone?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Living with Me by Niles Reddick

When I read the topic this month, I thought it would be an easy one to write about. Certainly, I thought, living with me has been a cakewalk for my wife Michelle, especially after having been married to me for almost twenty years, but then I had to back pedal. I wondered. Was it? What did she really think about living with a writer?  I also wondered what my two children Audrey (age 8) and Nicholas (age 5) thought, if they even really understood.  So, I asked them, and I was surprised by their responses.
When I asked my daughter Audrey what it was like to have a dad who is a writer, she said, “It’s boring. You stay on the computer all the time and type, but you are kind of fun to play with. It’s always good when you help me with my writing for school.” My son Nicholas, on the other hand, didn’t have a lot to say, shrugged and said “Uh…uh,” or something like that, which translated means, “I don’t know.” Nicholas and I have had conversations about his responses before he starts kindergarten this year, but so far, his changing those responses hasn’t stuck.
Michelle, though, had a great deal to add. She asked if I wanted the negative or positive first. I was surprised there would be any negative. She started, “I feel like a single mom sometimes. Between your job and then coming home and writing on the computer, you’re not as involved as you could be. When’s the last time you started baths for the kids?” I didn’t remember, but it hadn’t been that long and besides, they are old enough to be able to run their own baths. I imagine them dysfunctional adults unable to run a bath.  She also told me she hated me eating at the computer, getting crumbs stuck in the keyboard and smashed onto the floor. I know that I sometimes snack at the computer, but I do try to clean up after myself. She also hates being grammatically corrected, but she admits that I don’t do that as much anymore. Of course, what she doesn’t know is that I think her whole family has some sort of undiagnosed word disorder and the correcting doesn’t do any good anyway.  One time her dad was riding with us through a neighborhood where he lives. We were looking at homes and he told me to turn around in the “cow-de-sac.” I honestly didn’t know what he meant, but it finally dawned on me he meant cul-de-sac.  I didn’t bother to correct him either.
Then, she changed her tune to the positive. She told me she has enjoyed the hundreds of good books on the shelves and laying all over the house to read (not mine, mind you), and she enjoys hearing stories, “multiple times,” she adds (hinting at my reading them aloud as I edit over and over and over).  She also tells me she enjoys going to the festivals and conferences, so she can meet other writers.  Recently, we were in the foothills of North Georgia in Canton, where Terry Kay (author of To Dance with the White Dog, among many other books) did a presentation after the panel discussion on which I had participated. I’ll admit that I got a bit of a rush from meeting him, seeing him in the audience, listening and even laughing a time or two. I have all of Terry’s books, and now Michelle is reading them and loving them (more than mine even though she won’t admit it. If I wanted to ask her to compare, she’d just say, “They are just different from yours.”).  Incidentally, both of my children absolutely hated going to the festival. They were hot, tired, and hungry, and they hated being dragged over to the outlet mall in Dawsonville after the festival to hunt deals.
When folks come up to Michelle (she’s the extrovert in the relationship) and mention my writing, she thinks it’s “cool” and enjoys talking with others about my books.  If she could change something, though, Michelle wishes I could devote more time to writing. I must admit that some days I would agree with her, but I do think if I had to write full time, it might be extremely difficult for me to do so.  Writing also wouldn’t pay the electric bill, let alone the house payment, cable bill, cell phone bill, water and sewer bill, buy groceries, make the car payment, and let’s not forget the buying all the books I need to read. 
Niles, Michelle, Audrey and Nicholas on the Right. The Inman Majors family on the Left. Inman is author of three novels: The Millionaires, Wonderdog, and Swimming in Sky. This photo was taken at the Majors' home in Virginia on last year's summer vacation. This year, we are off to the mountains of North Carolina and a trip to the beach.
 Niles Reddick is author of a collection of Road Kill Art and Other Oddities, which was a finalist for an Eppie award, and a novel Lead Me Home, which is a finalist for a ForeWord Award and was a finalist for first novel in the Georgia Author of the Year Awards.  He is author of numerous short stories in journals and anthologies. The Reddick's live in Tifton, Georgia, where Niles works for Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College. His website is

Friday, June 17, 2011

Ten Hazards For Spouses Married To Writers

I could write a book about the hazards of living with me due to my writing habit, but I decided to keep it simple. This is for my wonderful husband and all he has to tolerate.

1. Everything interesting and sometimes not so interesting will be used in future work no matter how much your writer promises not to commit this offense. She can’t help herself.

2. Writers tend to do strange things when they encounter disappointment. Be prepared for anything.

(Early in the process of shopping “Ghost On Black Mountain” a book deal with a very small publisher fell through. I smiled, nodded, and kept my act together. All were amazed at how well I took the news. I came home and painted one of the walls in my writing room purple. The wall is still purple to remind me had that disappointment not come along, I wouldn’t be with a major publisher now.)

3. Do not trust your writer’s listening skills. She will look as if she is totally engaged in the dinner conversation with guests when really she is working out a problem in her new book.

4. Never be surprised to find your spouse crying her eyes out over a character that has died in one of her books. Whatever you do, please refrain from pointing out she has complete control of her story. She will throw something at you. If you do rile her buy a gift card to a bookstore. That always works.

5. Do all the cooking when she is in the middle of a big project. If this isn’t possible, be prepared for scorched pans, sandwiches, and the same menu five nights in a row.

(I once left cooking oil to heat to just the right temperature. One paragraph. The next thing I knew the smoke detector screeched. My kitchen and part of my dining room was full of dark smoke. Lucky enough a fire did not start, but I ruined a very good pan and had to explain why all the doors and windows were open in twenty degree weather. Two weeks later—same project—I put macaroni on to cook and eased away to work a few extra minutes. Now one would think I could do this. It was safe enough. The next thing I knew another pan went in the garbage. I won’t tell the other incidences.)

6. Be prepared to listen. Your writer will talk about her characters as if they were her children. You may not under any circumstances insult or question their behavior. Nod, smile, and laugh when appropriate.

7. Vacations are worked around research for her newest novel.

8. Your writer will carry a notebook and pen with her at all times. She will think nothing of stopping in the middle of the mall to write down a conversation she overheard.

9. Writers are a nosey lot. She wants all the details of an argument, accident, or car crash. You never know when she might have a scene that calls for such.

10. And finally just love your writer. She can’t help her passion for language and story. Give her the time and tools she needs to satisfy the voices rattling in her head. Your writer has the best of intentions even when she forgets whether your child is taking the bus home from school or needs a ride.  

(I won’t tell that story.)

ANN HITE has written short stories, personal essays, and book reviews for numerous publications and anthologies. Ghost on Black Mountain, her first novel, is inspired by stories handed down through her family and will be released by Gallery Books (an imprint of Simon & Schuster) on September 13, 2011. She lives in Atlanta with her husband, daughter, and her laptop.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Same as it ever was

Me, on the steps of my old house
By Nicole Seitz

I can see how living with a writer may pose certain "challenges." A writer is either someone who IS writing, who HAS written, or who WILL write. Sometimes all those tenses happen at once. A writer who is writing is in her own blissful, maddening world and writing at all hours. A writer who has written is one who has to go out promoting, talking to clubs, talking the talk. A writer who will write is one who has yet to begin that next project, yet feels it looming. This is the creature I have become lately. A writer not yet writing is someone who is not sure what to do with herself, how to feel about herself or others. She is someone who is in the Twilight Zone of In Between.

A word of wisdom to writer spouses: Beware this kind of writer. Tread lightly. Your spouse may not feel/speak/act exactly like his/herself.

This week, I'm supposed to turn in my final line edits for my sixth novel. It's a great feeling. However, there's still that in between feeling--what should I write next, or rather, what will write ME next?

Oh, the In-between. My middle name is Transition lately. We're going through LOTS of changes around here. Anybody out there love change? Anyone? Anyone? I thought not.

As many of you know I started teaching art last year to 165 kids per week. But now that summer is here, it's just my two kids at home. It seems so quiet. I'm not sure what to do with all my time. Normally, I go a hundred miles an hour with no time to eat, sit, or use the facilities.

And more transition. Last week, we moved to a new house. Anyone know what moving is like? Being the daughter of a builder, I had only lived in houses that I'd built and knew intimately (spoiled, I know, but honest). I knew where all my furniture would go, the colors of the countertops and walls, I would envision it for months...but this time, we've moved into a house about 22 years old with about 30 days' notice. As far as I know, we're the third owners of the home, and I can see the touches of the owners who were here before me--the colors of the walls, the wear on the deck, the purple passion vines climbing the railing.

The transition is not exactly seamless.

We're having a hard time making our furniture fit some of the rooms, and although I am counting my blessings, selling and buying in this economy, I still find myself wrestling the grout in the bathroom, trying to make it sparkle again. I am covered in bruises from misjudging doorways and unpacking boxes. In this strange new place I find myself, I heard a song today by Talking Heads that summed up my existence--in between books, in between teaching, and in a different house. Who am I exactly? A writer in between books? A teacher in between teaching? A woman looking out into a strange yet lovely back yard? How did I get here?
You may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
You may find yourself in another part of the world
You may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
You may find yourself in a beautiful house with a beautiful wife
You may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?

Letting the days go by, let the water hold me down
Letting the days go by, water flowing underground
Into the blue again after the money's gone
Once in a lifetime, water flowing underground

You may ask yourself, how do I work this?
You may ask yourself, what is that large automobile?
You may tell yourself, this is not my beautiful house
You may tell yourself, this is not my beautiful wife

Letting the days go by, let the water hold me down
Letting the days go by, water flowing underground

Into the blue again after the money's gone
Once in a lifetime, water flowing underground
Same as it ever was, same as it ever was, same as it ever was, same as it ever was
Same as it ever was, same as it ever was, same as it ever was, same as it ever was

Hearing this song made me realize I'm not the only one who feels this way. We all go through changes. Transition. About a month ago I read a book I got from an old company I worked for back in the 90s when it was about to go public, Who Moved My Cheese? Someone has definitely moved my cheese, but how I respond to it, my attitude, is going to make all the difference in the world. Even good stress is S-T-R-E-S-S. I thought I was better at handling change, but somewhere along the way (actually, the older I get), it seems change has started "handling" me.

So I'm fighting back.

In the midst of all this change, there is a big book in a box on our POD that says that God is the same as he was yesterday, today and tomorrow. So I firm my shoulders. Yes, I will make it here. In fact, I will love it here, but I have to make this place my own. I have to DO something.

Today I painted my daughter's room South Pacific blue. I also tackled her bathroom vanity, even replacing the old hinges and hardware with new chrome. I'm almost on a first-name basis with the people at Lowe's. I drilled new holes where they needed to be. I replaced dingy switch plates with crisp new white ones. I changed out pendant glass and light bulbs. I rearranged my bedroom furniture to take advantage of the morning light. And in all this DOing, I'm starting to feel more like myself.

Seeing as this is a writing blog, you should know what all this contemplation about change means to my writing. It's simple. After six novels, I do not know what I'll write next. I have know idea what God might choose to write through me next. I say that because honestly, I couldn't write a word without him. I never planned on being in this new home. I never planned on teaching art to kids, either. Come to think of it, I never planned on being a writer, but if I turn back to my compass, back to the one who has plans for me and knows the number of my days, nothing surprises Him. To Him, my life, my path, my plans are just the "same as it ever was", same as it ever was. In all this transition, that gives me great comfort. When things settle down and my furniture starts to fit the walls and the tile is so clean I can eat on it, I shall sit down at this computer and write again. I will make my fingers move. I will write again. A new novel. Real words on real paper. No more in between. Just thinking about it makes me excited.

I can't wait to see what's in store for me --and my readers--next.

So how about you? What change are you going though? A move? A new job? A new child? A new empty nest? When you find yourself in transition, instead of being paralyzed and looking deer-eyed, you must DO something to move out of transition and into...well, whatever is coming next. Don't just freeze up, DO something to make the in-between more bearable. You might just realize that God has you exactly where you're supposed to be at this precise moment in time. It's the same as it ever was.
Nicole Seitz is the author and cover illustrator of The Inheritance of Beauty, Saving Cicadas, A Hundred Years of Happiness, Trouble the Water, and The Spirit of Sweetgrass. The Inheritance of Beauty was a Books-a-Million Faithpoint Book Club Selection for May 2011. Nicole teaches art at a local private school in the Charleston, SC area, where she lives with her husband and two children. She is currently editing her sixth novel and contemplating a seventh.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Lovely Mates Being Dragged Through the Land of Story!

 After giving a little thought to what Writer Spouses might per chance go through on any given day, I thought I’d weigh in here on some fifteen years plus of this particular junket of my writing career. Somehow, beyond my wildest dreams, God blessed me with a manly, man husband who has championed every word I ever put to the page. And Championed is the right word. Capitol “C” makes it better. From my first novel written after hanging out/around/loving the theatre and seeing words come to life on the stage, I ventured to the solitary page.  I had someone seriously providing the wind  beneath my wings in the way of supporting the family and even taking the photo he crawled through a swamp to get for the perfect book cover (when the publisher was stumped on the artwork). Then he sent me to and fro to writer’s conferences when we didn’t have money for more than spaghetti eight days a week so that I might grow, make connections, meet an agent, further this thing we call getting the story to the written page. Years upon years of me writing around the clock, finally getting agented, and published. Then husband hearing that lament go from pre-published whining to post-published lamenting. Edits. Redlines. Proofing. Promotion? Who said anything about promotion? Why isn’t the book on the NY Times Bestseller list?  Why?Why?Why? Do we do this crazy, insane dance we do?

With piled up laundry, grocery lists partially written, mail unopened, cars not tuned - writers are staring into the distance and cooking up another story for the page. Potentially, with no contract or hope of one.  All the ups and downs, sideways turns, and crashing moments we have ridden out with our significant others! Aren't they countless at this point? Yes, my husband plays a huge part in my Acknowledgement pages, and the first novel was rightfully dedicated to him. But it's never enough to express how far, and wide that support has run. (And if you doubt me, check his Facebook page for Owen Hicks. :)  )

Here's the grand thing. Over the years my husband has been able to travel with me to writer's conferences and festivals far and wide. He has a few that have become his favorites. Great little town squares, awesome restaurants where I do believe we know owners by name. And in all of those great venues we have met other writer's mates along the trail. We've made friends like Raymond Atkins and his quick-witted, supportive, and incredibly beautiful funny wife, Marsha. And there's Eric Wilson and his wife with the angelic voice, Carolyn Rose.  JT Ellison and husband Randy. Ad Hudler and his wife,  Carol. The list goes on and on. 

So many great writers have these incredible people cheering them on. They're a tribe unto their own. Think Kathy Patrick and Jay Patrick, Shellie Rushing Tomlinson who made sure she talked to "her man" down on the farm everyday that we were on book tour together. (I feel like I know him so well and have never met him.) Patti Callahan Henry's husband Pat Henry who has welcomed me graciously. The list goes on and on. I can't pull them all to mind. Ronlyn Domingue's sweetie. Jamie Ford's incredible wife I met in Jefferson.  Janis Owen's great husband on the farm. Joshilyn Jackson's wild, and wonderful husband that she blogs about all the time. 

Can I offer a great big thank you to all of you. All those weary, wonderful souls who listen to us whine, complain, moan, lament and sometimes offer us a "There, there." and warm milk? Who celebrate with us till the cows come home over a new book deal! Who walk through this wonderful, weary thing we do with us hand in hand? Yes, it's a little all Bogey and Bacall but ain't life grand? Don't you want to light a few candles for that special person and say, "Hang on baby, the best is yet to come?" 

So the next time your soul mate darling drags a toe at attending a writerly event or joining you here and there on the road, show them this post, and all the ones previous and yet to come. I think a few writer spouses could benefit from knowing they are not alone on this journey living with big-hearted storytellers.

We are a richer, saner, wiser, healthier tribe because you are there. Thank you for watching the bank accounts, and having the backs of so many of these beautiful writers so that the world (me included) can read the words you've helped them find the space to create. 

God bless you!

River Jordan

River Jordan is the author of four published novels, a collection of Essay's, and a new work of non-fiction. All of which have been greatly influenced, inspired, and created with her husbands kind assurance. You may visit the author and her books at The most excellent photograph for the cover of island mystery, The Gin Girl was taken by her husband who crawled through swamps and plucked orchidy flowers to capture the essence of the story. 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Carolyn Haines: The Reason I am a Lunatic

I’ve opted not to write about “living with a creative lunatic.” It wasn’t that I didn’t want to write about this topic, but I couldn’t get the dogs or cats or horses to dish any dirt on their feelings. Most of them have known only me - therefore they don’t know what it might be like to live with an accountant or a postal worker. And I am not about to tell them! What they would miss, of course, is the fact that I am home 24/7 to open cans of food, cook chicken and dumplings, rush out in the 90+ heat to hose them off, and open the door for endless dips in the pool while I sweat bullets at the keyboard.

They might laugh at me as I wander around the house looking for my right shoe that I took off somewhere and can’t find, or because I talk to my characters while I’m cooking for the dogs, or that I get out of bed in the wee hours to write a scene that wouldn’t come during the daylight.

I’m sure the cats find delight in the fact that I curse a blue streak when I write myself into a corner and have to delete a week of hard work. Cats find most human distress to be a source of great amusement. They know they will NEVER make a mistake. They eat, they sleep, they stretch—they are endlessly resourceful in getting their way. Mistakes are not part of a cat’s DNA.

The cats find it particularly amusing to do something when I am just at the point of genius. They sense that I am about to make a breakthrough in a particularly trying scene, when I’ve managed to unsnarl a plot point. That is the moment they rush in through the doggie door with a live bird in their mouth. Or better yet, a snake.

Oh joy! Whatever train of thought I had chugging painfully uphill is derailed and I can only think—SNAKE! So far, this has only occurred with nonpoisonous snakes and believe me, they are as traumatized as I am. I have discovered that if I can find a real paper sack and a broom, I can sweep them into the sack and then rush down to the woods and let them go. We both pant and sigh and go our separate ways. I return to the house to discover one or two of the cats—asleep in my chair. 

On the computer screen there are at least 1000 z’s where the cats have typed their disdain at my writing.

Once when I was on deadline, Poe, my lovely black cat at the time, brought in a field rat. It was almost as big as the cat and really, really pissed off. I had gotten up at 5 a.m. to write—I was on deadline!

By the time I got the rat into a plastic tub and put it in the truck and drove it to the woods, I was a quivering mass of gelatin. The writing day was shot.

Poe sashayed through the house, the tiniest little kitty smile on his face, as if to say, “Write? You think you’ll get to write today? Sure.” How can I top that?

And if the cats and dogs aren’t enough, the horses get into the act. Before the road was paved and before the suburbanites moved out to my neck of the woods, I lived on a dead-end dirt road. My horses are mostly happy to hang around the farm. I mean they’re waited on hand and foot, they’re fed twice a day with supplements and groomed and hosed and pampered and ridden minimally. But because I had writing that had to be done (again, on deadline) they decided to open the gate and take off down the driveway.

Trust me, there is nothing like the sound of hooves pounding to get my heart-rate up. Those horses don’t get in a hurry to do anything unless it’s naughty. I looked out my window and saw the whole herd flying down the driveway toward the road.
I jumped out of my chair, found shoes, and took off in hot pursuit. (Yes, it is true that Mississippi authors often write barefooted. But give me creds, I wasn’t pregnant.)

I got down to the end of the driveway just in time to see—to my horror—that a road crew was putting a large pipe through the middle of the road. They’d dug a huge trench and there were at least six men, neck deep, in the trench working in the middle of the road.

They saw the herd of horses racing toward them. I saw their faces. Their expressions were uniform. It was an “oh, s—t moment.” The horses got to the ditch in a dead heat. They leaped into the air, clearing the worker’s heads, the ditch, and the mound of dirt on the other side. They raced down to the end of the road, turned around and came back. The workers were horrified. I was paralyzed by fear.

The horses cleared ditch, dirt, and workers a second time and barreled toward the driveway. They passed me, turned down the drive and smoked it back to the barn. By the time I got home, they were grazing peacefully in the pasture.

I have no sympathy for animals that live with a “creative lunatic.” Rather than pity the animals who put up with my antics and insomnia, I believe your pity should be reserved for me. They have made me a lunatic. I rest my case.

A native of Mississippi, Carolyn Haines lives in Alabama on a farm with her dogs, horses, & cats. Bones of a Feather, the 11th book in her Sarah Booth Delaney series, releases on June 21.  Sign up for Carolyn Haines' Newsletter & feel free to visit her Website, along with her Facebook, Twitter, & Fan Page.

Monday, June 6, 2011

How Lucky She is to Have Me

By Man Martin

I often think of the brightness we writers shed upon the world. On our readers, of course, and on literature in general, but in particular, what a ray of sunshine we must be to our families, what a constant source of joy and delight! We little notice the light we bring into the world, of course, the sun can hardly be aware of its own glory, but day by day we share some small part of our luster with our nearest and dearest. How my wife must wake up every day grateful that I am hers!

Not that she doesn’t contribute in her own small way to our life together: true, she earns a living, monitors our investments, mentors our daughters, makes sure the dog’s heartworm medicine is up to date, the oil is changed in the cars, that we’ve paid our ad valorum taxes, the pantry is stocked, the bills are paid, the house is clean, the plants are watered, and dinner is ready.

But these light duties, plus maybe a dozen or so others that slip my mind, must float by as in a pleasant dream in the knowledge that Genius is at work in the very next room – or at least browsing the internet and getting ready to work at any second – and that when I sit down to eat the tasty meal she has prepared, the man dribbling gravy onto his new shirt and getting rice grains all stuck down in the couch cushions and the carpet, is no ordinary man, but a WRITER, and that he will be with her all the rest of her life. You wonder how she can contain her glee at the prospect of all those decades of shared meals before her.

The books and papers I leave scattered around the house – every room, even the bathroom, has its little pile – are constant reminders that while she has been negotiating to get the drywall repaired and balancing the checkbook, I’ve been hard at work making stuff up. Anyone can see that I am full of inspiration; just the other day Nancy remarked how full of it I was. She knows how I suffer for my art. Writing is Pain, she told me the other day, or at least I think it’s what she meant to say. It came out more like, “Writers are a pain.” I shared with her the gist of this blog, and asked her if being married to a writer wasn’t like sharing the house with a magnificent, beautifully plumaged bird. “Yes,” she agreed. “Exactly. Like living with a five-foot ten inch bird. A flightless one.” Odd, how unlovely my wife’s figures of speech sometimes are; I had in mind a gorgeous peacock, but she spoke as if describing some large, incontinent ostrich. I do not blame her, of course, she is not a Writer, as I am. I was on the brink of asking if she ever felt especially privileged to share a life with me, but I thought better of it. At the time she was busy scrubbing some gravy and rice I seemed to have trod into the carpet.

And the most wonderful and glorious thing of all, is we Writers never think to ask for thanks for all we do. All unknowing, we are beautiful wonderful things. We ask for one thing only: the opportunity to Work.

Which is exactly what I’m going to do after three more games of solitaire.

My new novel, Paradise Dogs, (Booklist calls it “simply brilliant” and Kirkus says it is “hilarious”) is available in bookstores and! Visit to enter the STOOPID Contest and win a free copy!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

ALMOST CRAZY by Jackie Lee Miles

I’m not sure if my husband has ever considered that I might be a lunatic. He’s a quiet, loving man who never criticizes (Am I blessed, or what?). Even so, he may have questioned my sanity while I was writing Cold Rock River. I’d discovered the slave narratives and stayed camped out at the library for eight months. You couldn’t take the material out. What else could I do but return there daily? When he got really hungry he’d come over and find me, telling me I must be exhausted and should come home. Such a sweet man—I’m not even a good cook, yet he searched me out. Months later I was done with my research and back to a normal daily existence, if you call writing until three a.m. in the morning normal.

Then we moved. Once all of the furniture was transported and the boxes I’d so carefully packed delivered, my husband decided to take the kids fishing so I could have some time to myself to sort everything out. Perfect! There’d be no laundry and no meals to cook while I unpacked at least one-hundred boxes and put our new home in order. Once they left, I drove over to the deli to pick up a sandwich for my lunch. I’d need nourishment before beginning the laborious job of unpacking.

That’s when the trouble started. I parked the car and proceeded to the front door, quickly questioning what kind of neighborhood we’d moved into. Someone had deposited a pile of black hoses on our front door step. It was a bright summer day. The sun beating down caused the air above the ground to waffle, making it hard for me to make out what I was seeing. I set my lunch sack down and reached for the hoses, thoroughly disgusted that with all I had to do—now I had trash to dispose of.

As I reached out for the mass, it instantly uncoiled itself and slithered down the stairs and around the side of the house! It was a black racer, totally harmless, but what did I care? It was a snake. And at least eight feet long, I was sure of it, and bigger around than a giant tomato. I unlocked the front door and ran into the house, leaving my lunch parked on the front step. It didn’t matter. I’d totally lost my appetite. I leaned against the now closed front door and realized I was shaking all over like I had some kind of palsy.

I eyed all of the boxes stacked up in the living room. The shaking would have to wait. There was work to do. Visions of the snake slithering around outside my house would have to wait, too. Thinking he might be tempted by my lunched sitting on the step outside the front door, I decided to retrieve it. I opened the door, peeked out, and not seeing anything, snatched my lunch bag back into the house where it sat for the rest of the day on the dining room table.

Unpacking was painstakingly slow. I kept thinking of the snake and how could I live in a place that might have many more of them scooting through the lush foliage that surrounded our house. That’s when it hit me. The reason the snake was on the porch in the first place was because he was waiting for his mate to re-appear. She’d found her way into our house sometime yesterday all the while the doors were open for the movers to bring things in. I was convinced of it! That slithering black monster’s mate was in my house, God only knew where. I stopped unpacking and climbed up on the back of the sofa, eyeing each corner of the room. Nothing moved. I leaned over and looked under the sofa. Nothing there either. That didn’t mean anything. A snake could hide anywhere.

I got on the phone and called Arrow. Once I explained I had a killer snake in my house, they connected me to their wildlife division. They said they’d be out in three days. I assured them I’d be dead by then. They agreed to send someone as quickly as possible. True to their word, within the hour, a technician showed up at my front door. I walked across the top of the furniture to make it there and let him in. Thankfully, he had a snake hook in his hand. He’d have the errant mate in no time and return her to her companion.

Three hours later he’d scoured every inch of my house including the lid to the washer, which made me realize I could never again wash clothes without peaking inside and recoiling lest a snake be curled up inside. But when the technician lifted the lid to toilet I lost it. How would I ever be able to sit on the john in peace again? I pictured a snake coiling up to bite my butt. I dissolved in hysterics.

The guy from Arrow eventually calmed me down and assured me there were no snakes in the house, which by now was a mess. He’d gone through every box in the room. He left, but not without leaving an invoice on the dining room table next to my lunch. It was for $500.00. Obviously, the wildlife division was expensive. I curled up on top of the back of the sofa and waited for my husband and children to return. There would be comfort in numbers, so maybe I’d get to sleep that night after all.

They never did understand my panic. According to them, snakes were part of the landscape and a black racer was one of the most harmless of all. My husband paid the bill without saying a word. But I was sure he was watching me a little more closely now. Maybe he did think I was a lunatic, but was just to kind to mention it. There was the time I called the police to report a prowler in the middle of the night, which turned out to be my laundry basket toppling off of the dryer where it had been too precariously placed. And then there was the time I was driving home from Cape Canaveral and ended up in Pensacola instead of Atlanta when I was daydreaming about my next book. And what about when I locked myself out of the house in my nightgown (Don’t ask.), and the entire fire department showed up. For sure, my husband probably did think I was a lunatic.

Right now I am once again camped out in front of my computer in my nightgown. But I never go outside while I’m wearing it, so I’m safe and totally sane. My husband will just have to trust that I am.

Jackie Lee Miles is the author of Roseflower Creek, Cold Rock River, Divorcing Dwayne and the recently released All That's True. Visit the website at Write the author at

Have you read a good Acknowledgment lately?

By Judy Pace Christie
The first time my name was mentioned in a published book was in 1975. 

I, college student Judy Pace, was included in the acknowledgments of a hefty biography called "Audie Murphy, American Soldier" by Harold B. Simpson.

The author thanked me for my assistance at the Texas Collection at Baylor University -- where I worked for minimum wage to help pay for college. My scholarly contribution mostly involved hauling materials up and down from the archives.

I was so touched that I paid an outrageous $12.50 for a copy of the book. In a normal week (i.e, one when I hadn't seen my name in a book), that money would have bought three-for-a-dollar tacos or  ten-cent Dr Peppers and convenience store hot dogs.

I was hooked on acknowledgments.

While normal readers scan the first five pages of books, I look for the lists of friends, family members, pets, teachers, agents, publicists and editors it took to bring a book to life. 

You can tell a lot about writers' voices from acknowledgments, even if they're quite brief. It's a bit like a chat with authors, often telling you more about who they truly are than their bios.

As a novelist, I'm hungry to learn about what goes into great books -- and acknowledgments offer clues. Plus, they provide a potent reminder. No book, no matter how famous the author, is created in a vacuum.

When I embarked on the book-writing life a few years ago, I envisioned solitude with tons of time to stare out windows and debate passive verbs versus active.
Instead, I've encountered a life that revolves around community -- family, friends, spouses, children, grandchildren, readers, other writers. This is where ideas, energy, and the right words often come from.

While I savor quiet moments, quite a web of cheerleaders make it possible for me to write. 

Acknowledgments even contain themes: Great teachers. Mentors. Agents and editors who improve work and push for it to be published. Pals who listen to whining. Spouses who laugh at bad jokes. Children who are patient. Readers who spread the word and come back for more.

For fun on a hot summer day, pull a few books off your shelves and read their dedications and acknowledgments. Perhaps they'll remind you to run out and thank those who make it possible for you to put words on paper or those who helped make your favorite book come to life.

At-a-glance from my bookshelves:
  • "To My Mother." That's the simple dedication for "The Catcher in the Rye," by J.D. Salinger. Many books, including my first, the nonfiction "Hurry Less Worry Less," are dedicated to moms. Most of us know if we have the good fortune to have a book published, we owe a lot to Mama. Wherever you are on the writing journey, give her a call and say thanks.
  • Teachers of writing love to talk about the first line of "Moby Dick," by Herman Melville. This is the dedication for that classic: "In Token of My Admiration for His Genius, This Book Is Inscribed to Nathaniel Hawthorne." One of my great joys of becoming an author has been the help and friendship of other writers.
  • Acknowledgments are friendly and affectionate -- and often fun and inspiring. Steve Martin's acknowledgments in "Pure Drivel" are as funny as his essays. In "Goodbye, Little Rock and Roller," Marshall Chapman starts her acknowledgments with simple phrases that remind me of a chat with her.
  • Most writers owe much to teachers. Friend John Corey Whaley's debut novel, "Where Things Come Back," was just released. I loved the book (a great southern YA tale), and he dedicated it to a "teacher and friend." His acknowledgments make me want to have dinner with his parents and listen to musician Sufjan Stevens.
  • I can never thank my husband, an eighth-grade science teacher, enough. He cooks for me, doesn't roll his eyes when he finds Post-it notes in our bed and laughs and cries at the right places in my manuscripts. I've had nine books published, and I mention him in each. Plus, I immediately sign the first copy of each book to him -- one small thanks for helping those pages appear.
Who did you dedicate your first book to? Who is your favorite book dedicated to? Please comment! Happy Summer!

About Judy Christie: Wrote my first novel when I turned 50. Longtime newspaper journalist. Appreciator of porch swings and primitive antiques. My fourth novel, "Rally 'Round Green," part of the Green series, will be out this summer. (It's dedicated to my good friend and fellow journalist Kathie Rowell.)  My first YA novel, "Wreath," will be released in October (dedicated to my 13-year-old niece, Mel, an avid reader). For more info, see or say hey on Facebook. Thanks!

Friday, June 3, 2011

My Husband, Future Books and the Highway Patrol


  Being married to a writer, one such as myself, is like being wed to one who may or may not bring home the bacon.
   While my new novel is in edits, “Chimes From a Cracked Southern Belle,” my husband waits patiently but will throw in hints.
  “Why don’t you start another humor book while this novel takes years to publish?”
   This is translates as, “I’m tired of paying all the bills by myself and lately you’ve written little more than Facebook drivel. Who ARE those people you chat with anyway? I think it’s an addiction.”
   What it really is, is a diversion. I’m gearing myself up for the daunting task of a new book, hence finding another agent. I’ve run through two and trying to find one is harder than getting the book on the pages.
   I’m scared to put my material out there right now. Just like a teenage boy too chicken to ask out the prom queen.
   As for writing, it has to come to me when the mood and muse strikes.
   Fortunately, I have a part-time job writing columns for a few newspapers. That money trickles in and pays a few bills, but I realize I’m not pulling my weight. And that weight is creeping up since I had a hysterectomy and bladder repair, what I call my “Old Lady Surgery.” Seems I was jogging one day and something nearly fell out for the squirrels to eat.
   Since the surgery, I’ve been unmotivated to write that next humor book.
   I know it’s not easy for my mate, even though he’s a lawyer. He winces every time he hands me a check, making me feel like a domestic hooker.
    Writers can be moody, melodramatic, whimsical, and down-right crazy. It’s all part of the “artist’s” personality. Pair that with a lawyer’s calm and common sense and you can see how my marriage could really benefit from the sale of a new book.
   He refuses to buy me a car, even though mine is 10 years old and falling apart. It took seven attempts for me to get a legal inspection. I finally found a country boy who likes big boobs, gave him a lipsticked smile, and boom! I was legal even though a few key parts of the car have gone missing.
  The good news for Mr. Husband, is that due to our kids’ schools, we live in separate towns. He has a house about 45 minutes from mine. The bad news is we have to pay two mortgages because our kids refuse to budge on moving to one or the other’s town.
   If you were to sit down with my lawyer husband and ask him what it’s like to be married to me, you’d get some mixed reviews. I’ll be the first to admit I’m not the easiest chick to hole up with. I tend to dramatize events, such as when a few weeks ago, I got pulled by the Highway Patrol who terrorized me on Mother’s Day.
     The trooper got a mighty fine taste of a writer’s ilk.
   “Ma’am, I have reason to believe you’re drunk,” he said.
   “Drunk? It’s 3 o’clock and a real lady never drinks before 5.”
   “You are slurring your words, your tag’s expired and so is your inspection.”
    His face turned all mottled and he reached for his Breathalyzer.
    “I’m slurring because I’m from the South and this is how we talk.”
    “Ma’am you’re either drunk or on something else.”
     I remembered a Xanex prescription in my pocket book, something I need because writers tend to have anxiety troubles.
   “Blow into this as hard as you can.”
    I blew like the wolf from the “Three Little Pigs.”
    Zero alcohol. He looked pissed.
    He gave me two tickets for the expired stuff and drove off in a cloud of bad-ass dust.
   Writers generally don’t fool with things like getting cars legal. We’re too busy pondering our next great bestseller.
   I told my husband I thought it his duty to maintain my vehicle.
   “Nope. You have to do it.”
   At least he “fixed” my tickets and I don’t have to go to court.
    So maybe the real story should be, “What it’s like living with a no nonsense lawyer?”
   For more of my work go to