Attention all former Southern Creatives …

If you previously participated in the Southern Creatives project, I would love to get an update from you:

What are you currently working on?

How did your projects go that you were working on when we last visited with you?

Where have you been that would be of interest to fans of the Southern Creatives project?

If you’d like to do an update on your original feature through Southern Creatives, send me an email and we will make it happen!

melindamcguirewrites @ y a h o o . c o m

I look forward to hearing from you!

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An Ode to Poison Ivy

An Ode to Poison Ivy

photo credit: Martin LaBar via photopin cc

Potent poison plant
Oils that attack
Make a swift motion to grab your bottle of lotion
Poison Ivy climbs my porch trellis like a silent spider, scurrying and hurrying
My itchy albatross,
Scratch, scratch, scratch
Poison Ivy will be the death of me
When will the itching end, all caused by this plant to which I must attend?


** Been missing y’all 🙂 Hope everyone’s soon-to-be summer is going to be a good one! **

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A year of YES …

Thanks to Traveling with T for having me as a guest and inviting me to mull over the business of resolutions.

I needed the push to make my ideas more concrete about what I wanted from 2014.

Go check it out, please, and let Tamara know you were there 🙂

The Power of Yes

And, if you made resolutions, what were they?

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I couldn’t be more surprised if I woke up tomorrow with my head sewn to the carpet…

If your holidays look more like National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation or The Family Stone than White Christmas or any one of the Hallmark channel or Lifetime network Christmas movies, welcome to my world.

My entire house looks like Christmas has vomited all over it.

We have a nine foot Christmas tree and a base that is too small, so our tree fell over twice after we had completely decorated it, lights, ornaments, tinsel and all. New base? Not yet, tree is leaning against the wall. Feeling the awesomeness yet?

We are still in the process of remodeling our house, so I’ve just hung the stockings next to the fireplace that is missing a mantle.

The Christmas parade was rescheduled due to rain and pushed back to the same day we were hosting the youth Christmas “Santa Attacks” and pizza party. Decorate a float, ride in the parade, shuttle a van full of teenagers to the local nursing homes and the homes of the people in our church who can’t get out and about and deliver packages, back to the church for pizza and a movie all in one day? Absolutely.

Ornaments full of paint and covered in glue spread all over our dining room table? Yes.

But, I have a house full of kids who are happy, content and healthy.

I have an incredible husband who puts up with me hauling Christmas lights all over the front yard and adding “just one more” snow man to the collection.

I am one of those people who listens to Christmas music throughout December because it only comes once a year. I also make my family load up in our car and ride around the same neighborhoods repeatedly so we (and here I mean “I”) can look at the Christmas lights and decorations.

So, from my house to yours, I hope all of you are happy and healthy.

If you are reading this, I count you as one of my blessings.

Now, off to untangle the next string of lights I am soon to staple to the front porch.

Merry Christmas!

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My Dad, Elvis and Christmas

Our brains are weird, aren’t they? Or is that just me

My parents divorced when I was 9. My dad was pretty good about keeping up the visitation schedule until he moved 4 hours away, and then it was less and less (and I was harder and harder to deal with!), until eventually I didn’t see him at all for three years. We later had a great relationship, and I am thankful for that, but that’s not the point of this story.

What is the point? Good question.

My dad was a fan of Elvis’s music. I like it too. Particularly when it is Christmas time. My brain makes strange connections between memories all the time. Some of these memories and connections involve my dad, Elvis, Christmas and getting sick right outside my dad’s car, and yet, I still love Elvis Christmas songs and recall happy memories of my dad and that Christmas.

During one of the early Christmases after my parents divorced (I was probably 10), my dad picked me up from school when we let out for Christmas break. This was maybe the only time that happened because my dad was a coach at a different school, so he couldn’t be at my school at 3:30 while he was at work – time travel expert, my father was not.

Anyway, I used to have a horribly temperamental nervous stomach, and time with my dad was stressful. So I didn’t think it was unusual for my stomach to be upset when he came to pick me up from school.

Dad put on the Elvis Christmas tape (yep – tape, as in cassette. It was white with black writing, if you are wondering. The cassette case had a colorful picture of a very tan Elvis in a white shirt with a black scarf around his neck against a dark red background, again, just in case you wanted to know (: ). Dad started humming along to the music, singing along a little bit to the “woo ooo” parts. I started tapping my fingers on my pants leg along with the song.

However, I didn’t start feeling better.

I pressed my face against the car window. It was so cold outside, which was also unusual, since it very well could have been 85 degrees. I grew up in Texas after all. Thankfully though, it was freezing outside, and the window was nice and cold.

My stomach still didn’t feel better. About the time I figured out that something was really wrong, it was almost too late for Dad to pull over onto the shoulder of the road. But he was a good driver (he also taught Driver’s Ed ;-p) and I made it out of the car and into the grass in time to get sick.

I could hear the sound of Elvis singing “Blue Christmas” in Dad’s car and Dad asking if I was “okay,” which meant was I alright enough to make it back to the car to make it the rest of the way to his apartment without throwing up again. The grass crunched under my shoes, and I could smell the exhaust fumes from Dad’s car.

Once I was “okay” enough to get back in the car, I pressed my face back to the window pane and Dad started humming again. For some reason, I felt so much better, I knew everything would be “okay” – maybe not great, maybe not Norman Rockwell, but everything would be okay.

It is strange the comfort I get when I hear Elvis sing “Blue Christmas” or any of his other Christmas songs. I think of my dad, who passed away in 2008, and I miss him. And I hum along to the songs and think about how good the icy window felt against my check, and how I knew in my heart that everything would be “okay” one way or the other.

Christmas memories of my dad and Elvis

Christmas memories of my dad and Elvis

photo credit: kevin dooley via photopin cc

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The Common Threads, Bob Phillips, Waxahachie, and Rich Fabric


Common Threads Quilting – Waxahachie

This Saturday I will be at The Common Threads quilt store in Waxahachie, Texas, on the square. I am looking forward to seeing their reproduction fabrics from the Great Depression and the Civil War.

common threads waxahachie

It also is Bob Phillips weekend, so it should be a lot of fun.

I’ll be at Common Threads from 1-3 pm on Saturday. We will have a book signing ($10 cash or check), a raffle, and cookies 🙂

As always, profits from Rich Fabric are donated to the Twilight Wish Foundation.

If you are in the area, I’d love to have you stop by and visit.

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I signed up to do what?! — my upcoming adventures in the Race for the Cure

I blame my daughter

I am crawling walking/running a 5K this weekend.

I haven’t seen “physically fit” in about 10 years.

My oldest offspring said “let’s do this together.”

That is a lie.

But, it’s an acceptable lie because she will be about a mile ahead of me on the course.

And, that’s okay.

She is racing competitively. I am looking to complete the course.

It is for a wonderful cause. We are building memories together.

Our family has had three people die of cancer. I know I will be thinking of them as I go through the course. I love them. I miss them. I hope some day soon we will be able to think of cancer as a thing of the past. What a blessing that will be when that day comes!

Wish us luck!

Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure

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Happiness is Quilting – McKinney, TX Press Release

Southern Fiction Writer Visits “Happiness is Quilting” on the Square in McKinney to Support Twilight Wish Foundation

Melinda McGuire to sign quilting anthology, Rich Fabric

McKinney, TX, September 2, 2013:  Happiness is Quilting and owner Laura Kay Houser will host a book signing and raffle with native Texan, southern fiction writer Melinda McGuire. Happiness is Quilting is located at 217 N. Kentucky on the square in downtown McKinney. The signing is from 2 to 4 pm on Monday, September 2.

Rich Fabric focuses on the symbolism, culture and tradition of quilting. The anthology includes short stories, black and white photographs, historical essays and memoirs.

All profits from the sale of Rich Fabric are donated to the Twilight Wish Foundation – a non-profit organization that grants wishes to Senior Citizens who live below the poverty level.

Come by Happiness is Quilting if you are in the area. I’d love to meet you 🙂


I’m looking for guest bloggers for my Southern Creatives project.

I have some open spots at the end of October, first of November.

So, if you are an artist, photographer, writer, poet, playwright, musician who lives in the South or makes art about the South, drop me a line: melindamcguirewrites @ yahoo . com

2 options:


Guest post

To see past Southern Creatives guests, click here.

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Squints and Slants


Squints …

When you are describing,
A shape, or sound, or tint;
Don’t state the matter plainly,
But put it in a hint;
And learn to look at all things,
With a sort of mental squint.
~Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (Lewis Carroll)

I think most of us have read Alice in Wonderland by Carroll. One that I am putting on my TBR list is his Hunting of the Snark. I’d also like to read the annotated Alice in Wonderland.

Does it surprise anyone else that the person who wrote Jabberwocky was a professor of mathematics?

…look at things with a sort of mental squint …

Why is that so important to the creative process?

How do you train yourself to do that and how do you put it into practice?

Going through this gutting complete revision thorough editing process of Josephine, I realize that I need to develop a stronger “mental squint”!

Slanting …

Tell all the truth but tell it slant,
Success in circuit lies,
Too bright for our infirm delight
The truth’s superb surprise;

from Tell All the Truth, Dickinson

I need less “hitting people over the hit” and more whispering in their ears.

I need to exercise my “slant” and “squint” muscles!

There are times in my writing when I am shouting, which isn’t always bad – think O’Connor when she says

“When you can assume that your audience holds the same beliefs you do, you can relax a little and use more normal means of talking to it; when you have to assume that it does not, then you have to make your vision apparent by shock; to the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost-blind you draw large and startling figures.”

— Flannery O’Connor

But I don’t always have to shout.

How do I squint and slant and keep my voice in writing? That is of paramount importance – keeping what makes my voice unique but crafting my ability as a storyteller.

What about you? How are your squinting and slanting skills?

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Retooling? I’ll retool you…

Big bonus kudos to you if you picked up on the National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation reference. 🙂

Time for some retooling

Time for some retooling

photo credit: UGArdener via photopin cc  

September 1 – farewell Josephine

Yep. September 1, 2013, Josephine: Red Dirt and Whiskey will take a hiatus.

Thanks to Pecan Tree Publishing, Josephine is getting a makeover.

I like to think of her getting all dolled up for a trip to town.

She’ll be back, even better than before. New cover, a thorough editing job by Ann Marie Abelard, some additions, some subtractions, a new slew of short stories to accompany the novel.

So, from now until September 1, you can still grab a copy of Josephine: Red Dirt and Whiskey.

But, after that, she’ll be missing in action for a while.

And, you can ALWAYS get a copy of the short story “When I Met Crazy in the Morning – Mae’s Tale” for free on Amazon and Smashwords.

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Southern Movie Marathon

It’s August in northeast Texas.


100+ degrees outside

Burn bans

Giant blood sucking mosquitos who are currently plotting to swarm me

What to do?

Watch all my favorite movies, of course.

1. Gone With the Wind

Oh, Clark Gable you are perfection in this. Absolutely perfect. Is there anyone else who could have played Rhett as well as Clark Gable? Not in my opinion.

“No, I don’t think I will kiss you, although you need kissing, badly. That’s what’s wrong with you. You should be kissed and often, and by someone who knows how.”

Gone with the Wind (Two-Disc 70th Anniversary Edition) – Amazon

2. Steel Magnolias

But I really have to be in the mood to cry.

I used to cry because my hair has a tendency to look like M’Lynn’s brown football helmet.

“Oh my God Shelby was right, my hair *does* look like a brown football helmet!” – M’Lynn

Now, I cry because it is a beautiful story of mothers and daughters and friends and family.

And, I laugh because I love the relationship between Ouiser (who makes me think of what I will be like when I hit that age) and Clairee (which is the nickname for one of my kiddos).

“I do not see plays, because I can nap at home for free. And I don’t see movies ’cause they’re trash, and they got nothin’ but naked people in ’em! And I don’t read books, ’cause if they’re any good, they’re gonna make ’em into a miniseries.” – Ouiser

Steel Magnolias – Amazon

3. To Kill a Mockingbird

Gregory Peck is brilliant as Atticus Finch. Do you see anyone else in your mind’s eye as Atticus when you read the novel? I don’t. I only see Gregory Peck with his perfect glasses and his dark hair fighting for humanity in that courtroom. Yes!!!

I wanted to be a lawyer for the longest time because of Atticus Finch. Truth be told, I kind of wanted to “be” Atticus Finch. Yes, I know the problems with the logistics – he was a widowed father living in a fictional book during a time period before I was even a thought in my parents’ heads. Nonetheless, I loved Atticus.

“If you just learn a single trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” – Atticus Finch

To Kill a Mockingbird 50th Anniversary Edition – Amazon

4. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

I went through a period of time (around two years) where I was just obsessed with this movie – just absolutely obsessed with it. One of the factors for that obsession is my monumental small crush on John Cusack. Okay, so take him as a reporter traveling to Savannah as factor one. Then, I love Kevin Spacey in pretty much every movie he is in – add that as factor two. Factor three – perfect setting. Factor four- twisted, strange story. Factor five – delicious dialogue. Really, I can just keep going about this movie. Love it!

“Yes, I am “nouveau riche,” but then, it’s the “riche” that counts, now isn’t it?” – Jim Williams (Kevin Spacey)

Midnight in Garden of Good & Evil – Amazon

5. Streetcar Named Desire

Marlon Brando in this movie – whoa nelly. I have taught this play a hundred times over the years, so yes, I can discuss the symbolism, the repression, the treatment of women, the behavior of men, the culture that is reflected in this production. And, those things are all wonderful and excellent, and Tennessee Williams could absolutely tell a great story (The Glass Menagerie manages to elicit almost every human emotion from me each time I read it or see it). But, this movie – Marlon Brando as Stanley – yes!!! I love him in this. I love Vivian Leigh in that weird, I’m cringing because I’m uncomfortable way.

“I never met a dame yet that didn’t know if she was good-looking or not without being told, and there’s some of them that give themselves credit for more than they’ve got.” – Stanley Kowalski (Marlon Brando)

A Streetcar Named Desire (Two-Disc Special Edition) – Amazon

6. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Beautiful people (Paul Newman and Liz Taylor) and fabulous dialogue. Plus, I love Burl Ives as Big Daddy. Anytime I ever hear anyone say “mendacity” I have flashbacks of Big Daddy and Maggie the cat. And, you’d be surprised how often I hear that word… weird now that I think about it.

Back to beautiful people – Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor – gorgeous, both of them.

And, Tennessee Williams again. Perfect dialogue. Perfect timing for the plot.

Brick Pollitt: I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to! Now, you keep forgetting the conditions on which I agreed to stay on living with you.

Margaret “Maggie” Pollitt: I’m not living with you! We occupy the same cage, that’s all.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (Deluxe Edition) – Amazon


These are some of my favorites that help me make through this ridiculous heat. What are some of your favorite southern movies?

The Amazon links are affiliate links, which means if you purchase one of these items from one of these links, I will get a few pennies from it — just wanted everyone to know!
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Southern Creatives Guest Post – What Happens at Eudora’s Stays at Eudora’s – @rockstar1023 #STHRN

I’m thrilled to have a guest post by T from “Traveling With T” for this edition of Southern Creatives!

What Happens at Eudora’s…

Last summer, I had the great fortune of meeting some great ladies at Booktopia Oxford. We formed a fast friendship and have since kept in touch through email and social media. One of the ladies lives in Jackson, MS- and graciously offered to coordinate an Unofficial Booktopia weekend for us in January.

Well, we came to Jackson- a couple of Texas women, 1 Washington woman, and the rest of us Mississippi girls.


The ladies at Eudora's

The ladies at Eudora’s


The weekend was fun and filled with literary things- Lemuria Bookstore was kind and let us have a room to hang out and talk in (we rewarded their kindness by buying books!), The Help self-guided tour, and a stop at Eudora Welty’s house. The original plan had been to take a tour of Eudora’s; but her house is only open on certain days. So, we decided to ride by and take pictures from the outside. Except- one of the ladies got a view of the flowers and the peacefulness of Eudora’s place and decided she could not be this close without getting  a better peek.

She (who will remain nameless to protect the guilty) darted to the backyard- and when no alarms or anything happened- the rest of us walked around.

The backyard was splendid. There is a bench that is beautiful- and a person could almost see Eudora sitting there and welcoming people to her place. The camellias were in full bloom, the air was cool- but pleasant.

Shangri-la for Welty fans

Shangri-la for Welty fans

For fans of Eudora Welty- this probably could be described as their Shangri-la.

After about 15-20 minutes, we left- and our Texas women and Washington woman was happy to have taken part in some literary hijinks. One day, we plan to make it back to Eudora’s and actually do a tour of the house- it would make these Eudora-loving folks very happy to visit Mississippi again- and actually see the inside of her house.

 … Stays at Eudora’s

me tiara


When T. is not participating in literary hijinks, she’s reading. A lot. When not reading- a crown and boa may be found on her- it’s just her thing. If not reading or wearing a crown- she’s usually found blogging or being crafty. Or organizing her books (because stacks of books take time to organize).

You can find T and read more about her literary adventures on her Facebook page and on her blog – Traveling With T.


If you are interested in being a part of Southern Creatives, drop me a line melindamcguirewrites @ yahoo . com


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Time for another Road Trip … lookout!

It's that time again ...

It’s that time again …

From time to time, I venture out from behind the Pine Curtain.

This weekend I will be making a mini-book signing tour around the Humble, Texas, area.

Many, profuse thanks to Andi Klemm (who is fabulous) for putting everything together. She is amazing.

Where and When:

Friday, 7/26, at 6 pm – Good Books in the Woods

I’ll be giving a brief presentation about quilting and anthologies, but mainly just visiting and meeting new people 🙂 (my favorite!).

Also – very cool – during my visit there, the bookstore will be hosting a Twitter contest for original artwork created by AoristosMother and Child. You can find out more about the Twitter Party here.

Saturday, 7/27 1:00 PM – Half Price Books, Humble, TX. I love it here. If I lived closer, this would be MY bookstore. Signing copies of Rich Fabric and giving away a basket of quilting goodies along with a signed copy of the anthology. And, I’ll have some copies of Nelson and Cora available too.

Saturday, 7/27 5:00 PM – Half Price Books, North Oaks, TX. This will be my first time here. I love Half Price Books, so I am thoroughly looking forward to it! Again, I’ll be signing copies of Rich Fabric and giving away a basket of quilting goodies and a signed copy of the anthology.

If you are around Houston this weekend, I would love to meet you/see you! Please come by and introduce yourself. And, I did mention that Andi Klemm is AWESOME – right?!

If you like road trips, please check out my “news from the road” post about my trip to Fairhope, Alabama, last year for the book festival.

photo credit: Paolo Margari via photopin cc

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Southern Creatives – author, Brandon Luffman @BrandonRLuffman

Brandon Luffman, author

Southern Creatives welcomes Brandon Luffman

1) Tell us about your current novel, Frostwalker.

Frostwalker is a survival horror novel set in a small rural town in northwestern North Carolina. Jake Marsden, the protagonist, is a geeky sort of guy who would prefer to spend his time playing video games with his friend Eric and running his small computer programming business. However, Jake has been plagued by a recurring dream – a dream that has been growing more and more vivid and which has begun to have serious effects on his life. In the dream, a mysterious light in the forest has been calling to him, and he finds himself walking the fields behind his home nightly. When strange things begin happening to him, he turns to Eric for help and the two set out to determine just what’s in those woods. Meanwhile, trouble is coming to Jake’s hometown. An ancient evil has awakened and the weather is beginning to turn for the worse. When a freak blizzard strikes, and the dead begin to walk, Jake and his friends will get a chance to answer the eternal geek question: When the zombie apocalypse comes, will I be a survivor – or a victim?


Frostwalker Cover Art

Frostwalker Cover Art


2) Do you consider yourself to be a Southern writer or would you classify yourself as someone who is a writer who lives in the South?

I suppose I think of myself as a writer who lives in the South. However, when we write, our stories are built from our own experiences. So, even if it’s not a central part of the story, my life in the South has always impacted my work. For example, in January I released a short story entitled The Card. That story isn’t explicitly set in the South, but in my mind, that’s where it takes place, even if the location isn’t really integral to the story.

3) Favorite writer/novel?

It’s really hard for me to pin down a single favorite. I tend to think of Stephen King as my favorite author, although Dean Koontz is a really close second – and King has been slipping lately! But there are a lot of different writers who I enjoy a great deal. As for a favorite novel, I don’t think I could pick just one. There are just too many great books out there!

4) Favorite Southern food/restaurant?

My favorite Southern food is probably hamburger steaks. Not sure if that really counts, but for those who don’t know, “hamburger steaks” are basically just fried hamburger patties. But, instead of eating them on a bun, you eat them like a steak, with brown gravy and mashed potatoes. Man, that’s good eatin’!

5) Favorite Southern vacation spot?

There’s so many great places to vacation in the South, it’s hard to pick just one. A couple I’ve really loved are Topsail Island on the North Carolina coast and Tweetsie Railroad, which is a western-styled theme park in Blowing Rock, North Carolina. But, I think my current favorite vacation is where we go as a family every Labor Day weekend: Dragon*Con! We’ve gone to D*C (in Atlanta, Georgia) almost every year for the past four or five years and it’s always a blast!

6) In honor of summertime, do you have any favorite childhood memories that are set in the south?

When I was a kid, summer was always my favorite time of year – it still is! As a child, the woods and fields around my parents’ home were my playground. I spent endless hours exploring, catching crawdads in the creek, playing soldier with dirt clod grenades, and slaying dragons with whatever convenient stick-sword I picked up. But, sometimes the best memories are just the times spent lying on the carpet in a sunny spot, daydreaming.


Thanks to Brandon for being a guest on Southern Creatives! Here is his contact information and the details for buying his book. 

Brandon Luffman:

(Email available through blog contact page.)



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Wonder Woman Underoos and stifled dreams

I loved Wonder Woman when I was younger.

Once I outgrew Strawberry Shortcake and Barbie, I was fascinated with She-Ra and Wonder Woman. I wanted to be them, and between the two, Wonder Woman was my favorite. Not only did she kick rear and have an awesome outfit, she also had the invisible airplane and the lasso of truth, not to mention the indestructible bracelets.

I somehow managed to finagle a pair of Wonder Woman underoos from my favorite aunt and uncle (they were my favorite for many reasons, but Wonder Woman underoos would be high on that list), and I wore these constantly – the tiny little blue shorts with white stars and the red tank top with the double W’s in gold. Fantastic!

When my mother would manage to peel them off of me when I had to take a bath and she would throw them in the washer, I would be on the look out for when I would be able to rescue them from the dryer and put them on again.

My mother’s rule was that I could wear the Wonder Woman underoos UNDER my clothes when we went out in public, after all they were UNDERoos. And, modesty meant that I should not wear my underoos as an outfit when we went to the store.

But, my desire for the world to see my Wonder Woman persona became stronger as the summer went on, and one day, I rebelled.

We pulled up to the Hardware Store and my mother was preoccupied grabbing her shopping list and her purse as she got out of the car.

I knew this was my chance for the world to see me as Wonder Woman!

I slipped out of my shorts before I exited the car. Halfway there, world, hold on because here comes Wonder Woman!!! My little blue and white drawers shining in the summer sun.

My mother was busy waving at people as she walked in the doors of the store, and I slipped off my t-shirt and threw it in the backseat of the car. I carefully and quietly closed the car door – no slamming to draw attention to me as I now appeared as WONDER WOMAN in public! My red tank top emblazoned with the gold W’s. Here I was world – me as Wonder Woman!

I scurried in the door to the Hardware Store behind her, congratulating myself on my brilliance.

We walked down three aisles before we ran into anyone. Here was my moment, my shining glory – they were going to see me as Wonder Woman, my glorious underoos showing who I really was! All would be revealed as we stood next to the industrial plungers and Drain-o.

“Good morning. Help you find something?” the man asked.

That was it. That was all I got for my Wonder Woman escapade.


my mother looked back at me to make sure I was still there behind her.

She discovered my treachery – pajamas in public! Panties and a tank top, in public, IN THE HARDWARE STORE… Panties in the hardware store. Had I lost my mind? What made me think it was okay to show everybody my drawers while we were shopping for a new hammer? Had my brain fell out of my head somewhere between the car and the front door of the store? When we left the house that morning, my mother was sure I had a brain in my head, so did I lose it when we pulled into the parking lot?

The invisible airplane was parked my friends. The lasso of truth put away. My underoos were boxed for two weeks as I learned my lesson about not wearing pajamas in public. Our panties go on the inside of our clothes, never on the outside.

And, I never did wear my pajamas to the Hardware Store again, but for that one brief moment between the car and aisle three of the local hardware store, I was soaring high as Wonder Woman.

For a few brief moments, I was WONDER WOMAN

For a few brief moments, I was WONDER WOMAN

photo credit: JD Hancock via photopin cc
Posted in Growing Up Southern | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Southern Creatives – Brian Howell, Musical Heresy

Playing Flamenco guitar at Salon Verve in Tyler, Texas

Playing Flamenco guitar at Salon Verve in Tyler, Texas

I am excited to have Brian Howell of Musical Heresy as my guest on Southern Creatives!

1) Tell us how you developed your sound as a musician. How did being from Texas influence your sound (if it did)?

As a musician, I’m always looking and listening for new sounds. I try to weave a rich tapestry of sounds that speak to my soul and my current project reflects this sentiment. I’m unsure if hailing from Texas has shaped my sound, although I’m sure that Austin has influenced my weird sound quite a bit with the collaborations I’ve done with fellow musicians there.

Playing Bozuki at a Starbuck's coffee house in Longview

Playing Bozuki at a Starbuck’s coffee house in Longview

2) Do you consider yourself to be a Southern musician or would you classify yourself as someone who is a musician who lives in the South?

This is a tough question to answer, honestly. I’m probably somewhere in-between, as I was born and raised in North East Texas and this is definitely my home; but my sound is not typical of other musicians in the area nor is it what most people would consider ‘southern’ music. Still, I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else than the Piney Woods.

Playing the dilruba at the Four Winds Ren Faire in Tyler, Texas

3) Favorite musician/song?

Definitely Leonard Cohen and his entire catalog of work. The music is always intriguing with his melange of instrumentation and his lyrics always have a way of touching a memory or feeling to which I can relate.

4) Favorite Southern food/restaurant?

Likely El Sombrero Mexican restaurant of Longview, Texas and I’m a big fan of Tex-Mex and other international cuisine.

5) Favorite Southern vacation spot?

Hands-down this would have to be Austin, Texas. No matter what my mood, there is something new and wonderful to experience every time I visit!

6) In honor of summertime, do you have any favorite childhood memories that are set in the south?

This would have to be when I was a young child and having to visit Galveston every summer with my parents. I was diagnosed a type-I diabetic in the late eighties and they took me to the teaching hospital there to have my check-ups and medications adjusted. Even though it was unpleasant being poked and prodded, when the tests were over I got to see the gulf, eat seafood, and spend relaxing time with my parents, who are now both deceased. Those are some of the fondest memories I have.

You can find my music at:
Connect with Brian on Facebook:
And, visit his website:

Quick reminder: If you are interested in being a part of Rich Fabric II, the submission deadline is July 1!!

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What’s with this inner Hallmark Channel voice in my writing?!

What happened to Faulkner??

What happened to Faulkner??

photo credit: zen via photopin cc

I’ve lost Faulkner and gained a Lifetime movie…

Ugh. I don’t know what has happened to me, but I’m not pleased.

Has my muse changed shape? If so, no offense, but I’d like to go back to the one I had before.

Lately (like for the past year) when I set down to write, one of two things happens:

1) I get so far in the story, and then I decide it isn’t worth pursuing – I lose interest in it.


2) The inner voice in my head that narrates the stories (sounds crazy, I know. Don’t judge!) sounds like some sappy, weird combination of a Hallmark Channel special and a Lifetime movie. Now, to add to the weirdness – I don’t watch either one of those. I don’t read books that have a “lifetime/hallmark” feel to them. Nothing wrong with those – but they’re just not my cup of tea.

So, here I sit, arguing with my muse — not productive, by the way, in case you were wondering.

Not “winning” at JuNoWriMo. Not making progress on any sort of new draft.

Just sitting here … wishing the Hallmark/Lifetime special would end and Faulkner and Flannery would return with a soundtrack of Waylon Jennings. Seriously – Faulkner, where are you?

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How #Junowrimo reminds me that I am NOT writing

Mired down

It’s June – JuNoWriMo once again.
Last June I wrote the draft of my first organized crime novel – Lotierie: Legend.

This June – I could write a sequel. I could write the second novel in the Nelson and Cora trilogy. I could write Ethan’s story from Josephine.

Nope. Nothing.

So, if you want to know how to avoid writing, here are some things that I have learned that ARE NOT writing:

– reading blogs
– looking at Pinterest
– thinking about writing
– reading books
– watching movies
– listening to music

All great writing-related tasks (at least possibly) but NOT WRITING.

Here’s to putting rears in seats and fingers to keyboard or pen to paper and writing. Here’s to kicking fear of failure, fear of the junk that rises to the surface during the first, second, fiftieth drafts and getting it out. Here’s to doing the work. Here’s to writing.

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Everyone is a busy bee, but me!

It seems like everyone I know in the writing, editing, blogging, crafting, creating sphere goes into overdrive during the spring and summer months (except for me!).

"Busy bees" this summer!

“Busy bees” this summer!

  photo credit: Cheng I via photopin cc


Here are some of the people that I am connected with and what they are doing right now. Maybe it will provide you with some inspiration. It just makes me want to take a nap for them — I know they must be tired!

Let’s start with this busy lady – Tamara – and her blog Traveling with T. Goodness – she is off and running – a book club, book reviews, travel updates, book tours. Let’s just say she is rather bookish these days 🙂

Next up is a woman who I know cannot possibly sleep. She just cannot do it. Andi Kay Klemm and her blog Anakalian Whims – in addition to working on her debut novella (which is a good read, if I do say so myself), she also coordinates all of the events at Half Price Books in Humble, just attended Comicpalooza, reviews books (including children’s books), blogs, home schools, you know … just everything. If she wasn’t so amazingly wonderful, I would probably be envious (but she is fabulous, so instead of envy, I am thankful to know her!)

Juli Hoffman has managed to light the fire within me to learn something new. She’s blogging about writing (Williamson Vampires) but also about gardening (permaculture, anyone?), and her photos are beautiful.

Bill Chance has the blog (This is Not Going to Turn Out Well) I would like to have if I rode a bicycle and could take amazing pictures! Seriously, he finds the most amazing places in the most out of the way areas of Dallas. His photos are gorgeous.

When I need inspiration (which is always) and encouragement (again, always), I visit I Woke Up Yesterday, and soak up all the wisdom and grace and compassion I can from Tammy, Jenny and Michelle.

When I want to knock the dust off the old brain cells, I head to The New Southern Gentleman by Jim Booth, and I am never disappointed!

When I lose some brain cells and think that I am uber creative, I go to PaperMatrix. Their creations are works of art, and I like to read the directions and pretend I can do the same thing (Danish woven hearts and ornaments – beautiful, beautiful, beautiful). 

And, when I need to laugh – with someone, always with, never at – I go to Roger’s site at Three Hoodies Save the World. He has a wonderfully crazy sense of humor.


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Tofu is breaking this southern girl’s heart

Chicken fried chicken, it isn't.

Chicken fried chicken, it isn’t.

photo credit: arimoore via photopin cc


I don’t really understand how all this happened.

I mentioned to a few people that I really needed to have more energy. When I hit the afternoon, I bottomed out – big time. Not cat nap time, this was more like a bear’s hibernation. And, the coffee wasn’t working anymore.

“Oh, you’ve got three kids, you home school, you work from home, remodeling, own your own business… yada yada yada… You’re just going to be tired.”

But then, someone said “Have you tried cutting out the gluten in your diet?”

Ummm… my diet that consists of homemade biscuits and gravy? My diet that includes chips and salsa? My diet of chicken fried chicken and mashed potatoes?

Gluten free? Heresy!

“Try it. You just have to buy a few different groceries, no supplements or anything. See if you feel any better,” the heretic said.

So, Ezekiel bread (much better than I anticipated), feta cheese, walnuts, lean beef, chicken, salads, almonds, pinto beans, asparagus and I have gotten much better acquainted.

It’s been one week.

I’m surviving.

I even tried tofu – not a fan. But, I tried it.

I’m learning a lot about my food addictions and cravings.

Most importantly – more energy, LOTS more energy, no slumps in the afternoons, and no tummy aches after eating meals.

Foods coated in flour and deep fried make up a lot of my memories, but I think it is time to make some new ones 🙂



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Does changing gears = a name change?

What happens when you want to change directions with your creative endeavors?

Do you use a pen name?

What if you are a photographer? A recording artist? A painter, a sculpter?

Do you try to take your current audience with you, even if the new endeavors are nothing like your old ones?

Do you start over? Start fresh?


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Anthology – CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS – Rich Fabric II

Put it on the calendar and don your thinking caps!

Call for submissions for anthology – Rich Fabric II – deadline July 1, 2013.

Looking for:

  • Short stories
  • Memoirs
  • Historical essays
  • Poems
  • Black and white photos
  • Original Drawings/Sketches

The profits from the Rich Fabric anthologies are donated to the Twilight Wish Foundation (similar to Make a Wish, but benefits Senior Citizens).

Deadline for submissions: July 1, 2013

Payment – one paperback copy of Rich Fabric, Volume II. You maintain all rights to your original work.

Questions? melindamcguirewrites @ yahoo . com

Send submissions to the same address.

If you would like to check out the first Rich Fabric, you can find information about it and the contributors to that edition here: Rich Fabric – Multi-Media Anthology

If you would like to purchase Rich Fabric, the first edition, you can do so on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and on Createspace.


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Southern Creatives Interview – Poet, John Davis, Jr. @poetjohndavisjr

Poet, John Davis Jr.

Poet, John Davis Jr.

In honor of National Poetry Month (you are celebrating, aren’t you?), it is my pleasure to have John Davis, Jr. as my guest on Southern Creatives.

Would you classify yourself as a Southern poet? Why or why not?

I would classify myself as a Southern poet, largely because so much of my poetry comes from or is influenced by The South. Also, much of my work has been carried by publications in the southeast (Deep South magazine, Real South magazine, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, etc.). The images, idioms, and allusions in my poetry could also be considered Southern in many cases, though many are universal.

What is your process of writing a poem?

This depends on the inspiration. If I have a first line that strikes me, I start there and begin to explore it through a first draft. However, if a new comparison or analogy comes to mind, I might use a two-column chart (T-chart) to brainstorm ideas. Once in a while when I feel a topic needs intense exploration, I’ll try free-writing about it. When the words start to assemble themselves in my mind during prewriting, I begin a draft. Usually I have about three or four hand-written drafts on a white legal pad before I get to the computer. From there, the draft goes through at least one more major revision before I show it to someone for feedback. My first readers are people without any “literary” background, because I like for my work to be deep enough for scholars, but approachable enough for everyman.

Poet, educator, John Davis Jr.

Poet, educator, John Davis Jr.

You’ve started a new project on your website – Epiphanies. In Epiphanies Part 3, you say “The lesson for poets and writers everywhere? Look back to look forward.” How has that idea worked in your writings?

Reflective poetry has often been some of my best. The first poem I had published by a consumer magazine many years ago was entitled “Memory of Fast Eddie’s Pier, Summer 1989.” That piece, a remembrance of fishing with a friend who later died in an accident, taught me the value of artistic distance – having space (time or otherwise) from a subject to write about it effectively.

In another entry on your site, you mention that you will always be a “poet educator” – tell us more about that.

I currently teach at a private, college-preparatory boarding and day school for international students with mild to moderate learning differences. The five years I have spent at the Vanguard School have been some of the most rewarding for me as a teacher and writer. My students give me inspiration, and hopefully, I reciprocate. As I move toward full-time teaching at the postsecondary level, my hope is that my love of the written word carries over to my pupils, no matter what their level.

Who is your favorite poet/ what is your favorite poem written by someone else?

Wow, there are so many! Perhaps my favorite poem to teach is “Those Winter Sundays” by Robert Hayden. It allows students to see so many of the great literary devices in action, and it always fuels discussion. My favorite contemporary poet to read for enjoyment is Robert Wrigley. His poetry resonates with elegant simplicity.

Which of your poems is most significant to you and why?

Many of the poems in my first book, Growing Moon, Growing Soil, dealt with my late grandfather’s influence on my life. He was a World War II bomber pilot, a citrus farmer, and perhaps my biggest fan. “Shadow Work” is the piece that does the most justice to him, I feel.

How are you celebrating Poetry Month?

I am tweeting excerpts of my poems on Twitter every day in April. I would love some more followers! Look me up @poetjohndavisjr. At my school, we have also invited guest poets including Erica Dawson, G.M. Palmer, and others for readings and guest lectures.

Many thanks to John for being my guest on Southern Creatives and helping me celebrate National Poetry Month. And, because I am equal opportunity, I am also going to go wash my car and eat some cabbage ;-p

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National Poetry Month – How are you celebrating?

It seems like there are days and weeks and months celebrating everything.
Just FYI – National Poetry Month also shares its time with “Brussel Sprouts and Cabbage” Month and Car Care Month.

National Poetry Month? I much prefer to celebrate that instead of Brussel Sprouts and Cabbage.

A few of my favorites:

Mending Wall by Robert Frost

Wild nights – Wild nights! by Emily Dickinson

We Real Cool – by Gwendolyn Brooks

Theme for English B by Langston Hughes and Harlem by Hughes

Song of Myself by Walt Whitman

And, I am delighted to share that poet John Davis Jr. will be my guest next week on Southern Creatives.

Who is your favorite poet or what is your favorite poem?

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I can do “busy” like nobody’s business – or how procrastination is winning

Just stand there and look busy

Procrastination – you evil thing. You are winning the battle right now.

A confession: I can fill my days and nights with all sorts of busy-ness. And, it isn’t worthless stuff. Everything is necessary – laundry, housekeeping, cooking, grocery shopping, work (you know, for a paycheck), paying bills, cleaning out closets, and on and on and on.

And, I can always use that busy-ness as an excuse to keep me from my creative endeavors. The stronger the creative ideas that part of me wants to pursue, the stronger my drive becomes to do some time-consuming task that keeps me from creating (like bleaching out the garage floor, let’s say).

There seems to be a direct relationship between my guilt (yep, I said it) of taking time away from these tasks to create. That horrible, nagging voice in my head tells me that pursuing a creative life, creative endeavors is a waste of time when I could and “should” be taking care of all of these “adult” responsibilities that I need to do.

How dare I waste time on brainstorming or researching or writing when I have recipes to organize and laundry to fold?! Adults don’t do that sort of thing…

So, I’ve learned to be “busy” because if I’m not “busy,” then I’m wasting time.

I like to think that I don’t really believe this. But, actions speak louder than words. And, my actions say I do believe it, and whole-heartedly at that.

So, here I sit, thinking about outlining a book idea but seriously considering sweeping and mopping and putting away the laundry.

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Ushering in Spring with Peach Cobbler

Recipe for peach cobbler

Recipe for peach cobbler

Peach Cobbler to welcome Spring

I see the daffodils and jonquils showing their beautiful faces these days. And, if you are really a Southern Lit fan, I don’t think you can hear or see the word “jonquils” without thinking of Amanda Wingfield in Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie” … scarlet fever and jonquils …

Anyway, on with the cobbler!

1 cup flour

1 cup sugar

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1 stick butter

3/4 cup milk (I use whole)

1 large can sliced peaches (or 1 quart canned peaches) – DO NOT DRAIN

1 tsp cinnamon

3 T. sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Melt butter in 2 quart casserole dish in oven.

Combine flour, 1 cup sugar, and baking powder in mixing bowl. Add milk. Stir until blended.

Pour batter into melted butter.

Dribble juice from peaches into batter mixture. Add peaches on top.

Sprinkle top of peaches with cinnamon and 3 T. sugar.

Bake for 30-40 minutes at 375 degrees. Check at 25 minutes – don’t overcook!


Now, if you really want to do it right, add homemade vanilla ice cream and serve.

photo credit: jaimekop via photopin cc
Posted in Growing Up Southern | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Take one dog with an appetite for tree bark and one owner who loves plants and what do you get?

Tabasco Sauce and the Amazing, Astounding Zelda


My aunt and uncle had a beautiful, large Weimaraner named Zelda. Zelda had the run of the fenced in backyard.

Zelda had an amazing, adventurous life. Some days, Zelda was a horse, and my cousins would feed Zelda “hay” – grass from the yard. Other days, Zelda was a show pony, and would have to walk around and around the yard with a colorful piece of ribbon as the reins. Some days, Zelda was a ferocious lion that inspired terror in us as we ran back and forth across the yard, jumping from lawn chair to lawn chair to stay away from the “lion,” screaming at the top of our lungs. I’m quite sure the neighbors loved us immensely.

But, every day, no matter what adventure lay before her, Zelda wanted to eat the bark off of my uncle’s trees.

My uncle loved his trees very much. My uncle decided that a coat of Tabasco sauce on the tree trunks was just the solution that would deter Zelda.

Only, it turns out, Zelda loved the Tabasco tree trunks even more. She couldn’t get enough of it. She would follow him to each tree and eat the bark as fast as he could pour the Tabasco sauce on it.

So, my uncle stopped using the sauce, and Zelda, having had a taste of the spicy life, stopped eating the plain tree trunks.

She continued to be the best horse, show pony, and lion that I ever had the pleasure of knowing, and my uncle was a lot happier that his trees were no longer naked.

NOT Zelda, but could be related :)

NOT Zelda, but could be related 🙂

photo credit: Jackie Popp via photopin cc

Posted in Growing Up Southern | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Success scares my socks off. What about you?

Am I the only one?

Am I the only one?

photo credit: kevin dooley via photopin cc


Success is scary

Maybe not for everyone, but it certainly is for me.

There have been a few times when I really feel my pulse quicken over an idea, over something I KNOW I am meant to pursue, to create, to build, to produce, to share. It’s not just the temporary high of “woo, that’s a good idea.”

No. This feeling is deep within my soul. It resonates.

In the past, I’ve sabotaged it. I think on some level it was a conscious thing.

My thought process:

I can’t do this. It’s too big. Even the possible potential of it is too big.

Who am I to do this thing?

So, I morph into a weird, insecure, petty version of myself. Really, not pretty. It’s ugly, my friends.

I go through all of the bad things that happened in my childhood (really, let’s beat that dead horse a few hundred more times…)

Then, I go through all of the awful decisions that I have made and all of the terrible actions that I have taken in the PAST (as in, not the present).

And, finally, when it gets flat out awful (which also directly correlates to how powerful the original idea is), I’ll let old jealousy hop in the driver’s seat for a test drive around the block a time or two, or 50.

So, I’ve gone through all of the steps, started back on my road to recovering my not petty, not insecure self, and the thing is, the great idea, it’s still there. Waiting. Waiting on me to get my act together and get over myself.


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Someone take the tux off of the pizza

Straighten your tie, please

Once upon a time, quite a few years ago, there was a restaurant (which shall remain nameless) that spent big money to have their “creative marketing team” create new and improved menus. The latest, the greatest, the most colorful, the most attractive fonts, the most tempting photographs, and of course, new names for the “old favorites” on the menu.

It should have been an out of the park home run. It should have been like someone’s birthday – all nice and shiny and new – as my husband likes to say, they went for the Bigger, Better Deal – the BBD. The owners spared no expense for these new menus. This was going to set the tone for the growth and success of the restaurant.

Except, right below their most prominent menu item, the all time favorite, the foundation, the cornerstone their menu was built around was the description. And, the line of font that was the biggest in this item’s description read “The (new and improved pizza name) FORMALLY known as (old and not so great pizza name)”

Yep, “formally”

So, I ask you, who put the tux on the pizza?

photo credit: Tinker*Tailor loves Lalka via photopin cc
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Caleb Pirtle – Writer, Founder of Venture Galleries – Southern Creatives #STHRN @CalebPirtle

I am pleased to have an interview with Caleb Pirtle this week. He is a former newspaper writer, current novelist, and the founder of Venture Galleries.


Tell us about your journey from the newspaper writing you did to the travel writing you do now.

 I began my newspaper career writing for small town Texas newspapers in Gladewater, Mount Pleasant, and Plainview. I learned early from talking to readers that what happened wasn’t nearly as important as the people who made it happen – the good, the bad, and the ugly of it all. The news is never about events. It’s always about people. I took that same belief with me when I went to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

I was promptly placed on the police beat and spent a year chasing sirens, days and night, and writing about every suspect death in the city. Again, I discovered that readers wanted to know all about the victims and the perpetrators. You can cover the crime in one sentence. So all of my crime stories became personality sketches and human interest stories from school yards to death row in Huntsville.

After winning the Associated Press and Headliner’s Awards, I was given the job of traveling Texas and writing about fascinating people and places I found. In reality, I began writing travel stories before I knew they were travel stories.

When Governor John Connally established the Texas Tourist Development Agency, he hired me to write about the state, and after three years of filing national stories about every back road town in the state – from Bug Tussle and Wizard Wells to Luckenbach – I was asked to move to Birmingham, Alabama, and become travel editor for Southern Living Magazine. I still maintained the same focus in my writing. I had only expanded my territory. Now I was writing about every back roads town from Pineapple, Alabama, and Ninety-Six, South Carolina, to Plum Nelly, Georgia, so named, with a Southern drawl, because it was “plum out of Tennessee and nelly out of Georgia.”



How has your experience in newspaper writing and travel writing impacted your fiction writing?

Although I have written a lot of nonfiction historical books and novels, they all possess the same thought process I used when writing newspaper stories, travel articles, and travel books.

To me, the heart and soul of any book is Place and characters.

I was fortunate to have seen a lot of wonderful communities and cities and witnessed many trials and tribulations that have befallen people. I’ve seen the smoking guns up close, spent a lot of days in jail cells talking to prisoners, held family member who had just lost a loved one to tragedy. Those feelings and those experiences become a part of you, and most of them find their way to the printed pages.

I also believe that the location of a novel is as important as any character in the story. As a result, my novels have almost all had a Southern or Southwestern feel to them. I know the territory. I understand the people. And I have a profound respect for the culture and the traditions of those regions.

When I wrote Wicked Little Lies and set the novel in Vicksburg, Mississippi, all I had to do was close my eyes, and I recognized every character in the story as he or she walked down the street and into the church. I knew them all, and I knew them well. In another life, in another form, I had already written about them all, mostly in happier times.


Who was the most interesting character you met in your travels?

 There were hundreds, but I would have to pare them down to two.

In Mountain View, Arkansas, I spent a lot of time with Jimmy Driftwood. He had been a school teacher in Timbo, Arkansas, and realized that those mountain kids in his class could not remember places or dates in history. So Jimmy would go home at night, pick up his old homemade guitar – he had made it out of a fence post, an ox yoke, and the headboard of his grandmother’s bed – and write songs about his history lessons.

All of the students would bring their guitars, banjos, and mandolins to class – they had been playing mountain music all of their lives – and they would sing Jimmy’s songs. Whether they realized it or not, they were learning history. One of his songs, The Battle of New Orleans sold more than eight million records. Another one, The Ballad of Johnny Reb and Billy Yank, won a Grammy Award. And the classic he wrote for Eddy Arnold, Tennessee Stud, was, in reality a geography lesson because the horse crossed every river and every state from Tennessee to Texas.

The second character would have to be Hondo Crouch, an old Central Texas rancher who bought the little town of Luckenbach – which only had a general store, beer joint, and post office – so, he said, he could get a cold beer any time he wanted one. He turned Luckenbach into a major tourist attraction long before Willie and Waylon ever recorded the song. He had a “Hell Hath No Fury Like A Woman Scorned” Chili Cookoff and the Almost Annual World’s Fair, which featured the Intergalactic Chicken Flyoff.  Why did he hold a World’s Fair, I asked.

“It was manifest destiny,” Hondo said. “I took one of them school globes of the world, cut a piece of string the exact circumference of the globe, put one end of the string on Luckenbach, wrapped the string around the globe, and damn if the other end didn’t land on Luckenbach, too.” You can’t argue with those kinds of calculations.


What is Venture Galleries? How did it start? Where is it going?

Venture Galleries was launched a little more than a year ago by myself, my wife, Linda, who has just finished her first novel, a cozy mystery titled The Mah Jongg Murders, and my partner, Stephen Woodfin, an attorney in Kilgore who is also one of the finest writers of legal thrillers around. His Last One Chosen was a Top 5 Finalist for indie book of the year.

Our goal was to provide the country’s top independent authors with a high-quality, first-class visual forum where they could produce blogs and help build their names and their brands in this new digital world of publishing. We wanted to publish eBooks for authors, as well as serve as a marketing and promotional vehicle to showcase their work. A great number of indie writers produce books far better than those being turned out by traditional publishers in New York, and they need a break. We hope to give them one.

Within the next two weeks, our Website – – will launch a new design that, we believe, will be an even more effective venue to writers. We now have more than twenty bloggers, and we give them an open forum to write about anything they want to say. We don’t restrict them. Some of the blogs are inspirational. Some are controversial. Some are short stories. Some deal with the ins and outs of indie writing and publishing. Personally, Stephen and I try to blog about material on a regular basis that, we hope, will assist authors as they make their journey through the unpredictable maze of the publishing world. One of our bloggers, Robert B. Lowe, has won a Pulitzer Prize and another, Jory Sherman, was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.


One of the many interesting elements of Venture Galleries is the inclusion of serial. What made you decide to include those?

 Stephen, Linda, and I have long been concerned that the rush to produce blogs – long regarded as the foundation or any promotion and marketing efforts – did not allow an author to really highlight his or her talent as a writer of fine fiction. Blogs can provide invaluable information, but they tend to be very conversational in tone and seldom have any significant literary quality. Serials, however, show potential book buyers that an author really knows how to develop characters, twist a plot, and build suspense, tension, and conflict, even in romantic stories. And that makes a difference.

 In October we began developing serials. Those of us who remember have long regretted the demise of such great magazines like Colliers and Saturday Evening Post, which provided readers with brilliant short story and serialized fiction in every issue. Magazines just don’t focus on fiction any more. And there was a time when kids didn’t miss a movie on Saturday because they couldn’t wait to catch another episode of a serial, which always ended with a genuine, hold-your-breath cliffhanger. That was the kind of feeling and ambiance we wanted to bring to Venture Galleries. What we didn’t realize was that serials have become some of the greatest traffic grabbers I have ever seen. Venture Galleries presently has more than a dozen serials running each week, and the genre runs the gamut from mysteries and thrillers to romance and horror and historical fiction. Some authors produce one chapter a week, and others have new chapters every day. We have a goodly number of writers from Texas and throughout the South, but we are also featuring authors from coast to coast.

At present, Venture Galleries is averaging 55,000 unique visitors a month, and the analytics indicate that each visitor who enters the site because of a serial stays on our serial and blog pages an average of 15 to 25 minutes, which is amazing. That means they are reading almost everything we publish each day.

At Venture Galleries, we strongly believe in the importance of promotion and marketing, especially through blogs and regular serial chapters, but Stephen and I are presently working on the missing link, a plan that will allow authors a real opportunity to actually sell a lot of books. The testing is in place, and if all goes well, we should be able to roll out the program within the next two months.

That’s where we have been, and that’s where we’re headed.


Caleb Pirtle, Venture Galleries

Caleb Pirtle, Venture Galleries


Many thanks to Caleb for being my guest today on Southern Creatives!

If you would like to find out more about Venture Galleries, you can find that information here.

Connect with Caleb on Twitter


And, if you would like to see a serial in action, the first installment of Nelson and Cora – The Beginning is on Venture Galleries: She didn’t mention the son who died or the sons who lived 

Posted in Southern Creatives | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Create – Why do you do it?

Why do you create?

Why do you create?

photo credit: e-magic via photopin cc

Are you a writer? A poet? An artist? Photographer? Musician? Artist? Sculptor?

Why? Why do you create the art that you do?

Some people say they “have to” create. Why? What happens to you when you don’t? Do you dry up, like Langston Hughes’ Dream Deferred?

Some people say they can’t stop it, that they create no matter what. Why? What would happen if the switch was flipped to “off”?

Do you create art because you have something to say? Does it matter if no one wants to hear it? If no one is interested? We have so much static today, so much spam, so much irrelevance in the constant bombardment of “always on”, “always in touch” – why do you create if no one hears you, sees you?

Why do you create?

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Les Kerr – Southern Musician, Writer – Southern Creatives #STHRN @LesKerr

I am delighted to have Les Kerr as my guest today on Southern Creatives. He’s the first featured person of 2013, and I think he sets a wonderful tone for a year full of dynamic, creative people!

So, on with the feature …


Les Kerr, musician, writer

How would you describe your musical style.

It’s a mix of styles I refer to as “Hillbilly Blues Caribbean Rock & Roll.” I was influenced by a wide variety of music growing up in Mississippi, first in Jackson and then Pascagoula on the Gulf Coast. From radio, I heard rock music of the sixties and my grandfather was a huge country and bluegrass music fan and made sure I heard some of that, too. My mom loved big band music and she taught  me to have respect for classical music, as well. When we moved to Pascagoula, the radio stations from New Orleans introduced me to the great rhythm and blues played there and that really made an impression on me. I mix them all together and have a lot of fun writing, performing and recording.

How did you get started in music?

At age 13, I got interested in learning to play guitar. I had a cheap guitar and a book called, “A Tune A Day,” to get me started. A lot of other people in Pascagoula High School also played and we encouraged each other and swapped what we were learning. I was a huge Elvis Presley fan and started a little band called “Les Kerr and The Blue Suede Band.” We played high school pep rallies and parties. It was the 1970s and while our friends were playing songs by Cat Stevens, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and other contemporary groups, we stood out because our bread and butter was music of the 1950s by people like Chuck Berry and Elvis. It was great fun. At that time, there was a resurgence of interest in the 1950s and American Graffiti was a hit movie and Happy Days was a very successful new TV series. What we did fit right in to that nostalgia. And Elvis was still alive and creating hit records like Burning Love and Steamroller Blues so we played those, too.

In college, I joined a bluegrass band and it was during that time that I also began to write songs. Back then, Kris Kristofferson, Jim Croce, John Denver and others influenced me. Also, I’ve always admired the classic songs of Irving Berlin, Johnny Mercer, Hoagie Carmichael and others of the Tin Pan Alley era.

You were in radio for many years. How did that influence you as a musician?

I have a degree in journalism from the University of Mississippi and for seven years after graduation from Ole Miss, I was a full-time news director at radio stations in Mississippi and Alabama. As a newsman, I interviewed a lot of people about everything under the sun. Most of the songs I write involve descriptions of people and places. The years I spent covering news stories and interviewing people might be one of the reasons I use so many descriptions in my songs.

During the entire time I was in news, I also performed on weekends whenever I could.

Probably one of the most important things I learned from radio was how to keep an audio program going. All announcers fear “dead air” and to this day, as a stage performer, I do my best to keep my shows moving.

Tell us about your involvement with Nashville’s Bluebird Cafe.

When I moved to Nashville in 1987, the Bluebird had an open mic night on Mondays which still goes on today. I started playing the Monday open mic night and then began playing the more prestigious Sunday Night Songwriter series. Gradually, I started hosting early weekday shows and began doing the 9:00p.m. headline slots in 1991. In the mid-1990s, I began substitute hosting the Sunday night shows which I still do, on occasion.

In 1992, I approached the founder of the club, Amy Kurland, and asked her what she thought about my group doing a Mardi Gras show at the Bluebird. She liked the idea and we will be hosting our 22nd Mardi Gras Concert at the Bluebird Café on Fat Tuesday this year.

I play there periodically throughout the year and have hosted five annual “Original Blues” shows which feature songwriters who, like me, are influenced by the blues.

I’m very proud to be associated with the Bluebird Café in any way and the management through the years has been extremely good to me. It’s now owned by the Nashville Songwriters Association International and, as always, songwriters of all genres are encouraged to be creative and to get their songs “out there” to be heard.

 In addition to music, you also write. What are the similarities between the writing life and the musical life?

I like to say that I write, period. Sometimes, I write songs and sometimes, I write words not connected to music.  In both prose and songwriting, the story is the most important thing to me. In one instance, my music and a book project went hand-in-hand. With Jim Clark and Ken Beck, I co-authored The All-American Truck Stop Cookbook published by Thomas Nelson in 2002. We got recipes from truck stops all over the country and in between them, we included original features about truck stops, trucking and food that we wrote. During the time we wrote the book, I was traveling with my music a lot so I just made a point to eat at truck stops when I was on the road. I spent a day with a waitress who had been on the same job for over thirty years and she had some great stories to tell. Others I interviewed included truck drivers, overnight trucking radio announcers and the curator of the Route 66 Museum. And during that entire time, I was playing my music on schedule.

For me, the biggest similarity in the “writing life and the musical life,” as you put it would be that just like anyone else in business for themselves, you have to make sure the work keeps coming. Just as freelance writers scout opportunities with magazines, blogs or other publications, musicians and songwriters must constantly search the market for outlets. In my case, I have learned to search for opportunities to which I can really contribute both as a writer and performer.

I’m very fortunate to have two professions about which I am passionate and as long as I have that drive, I’ll keep doing both of them.

Many, many thanks to Les for being my guest on Southern Creatives today!
To find out more about Les or to connect with him online, you can find him here:

Main web site (w/links to Facebook & Twitter):

Blog: Les Kerr’s Liner Notes:




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Showing my appreciation for YOU!

We’re a week away from Valentine’s Day, and normally I am just thankful that I’m not Rosaline from Romeo and Juliet.

This year, though, I wanted to show my appreciation for those of you who read this blog and read my books! No contest, no sign ups, no opting in for anything – none.

If you would like me to mail you a chapbook with my short story “When I Met Crazy in the Morning” and Recipes from Hefner Falls (recipes from the Great Depression), just send me an email (I won’t spam you and I won’t share your email address) – melindamcguirewrites @ yahoo dot com with the subject line “chapbook”. Include your mailing address in the email, and I will mail you the chapbook and a bookmark.

Just wanted to say thank you to all of you who have been so supportive. I do truly appreciate you! So —> THANK YOU!

And, of course, you can always download the free ebook copy of “When I Met Crazy in the Morning” on Amazon, Sony, Diesel , Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.

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The Super Bowl, Farmers and a Clydesdale

What did the Super Bowl tell us about stories?

What did the Super Bowl tell us about stories?

photo credit: Mr G’s Travels via photopin cc

The Super Bowl, farmers and a Clydesdale

The night the lights went out in the Superdome. But, that wasn’t really the story.

Football itself is a story, isn’t it? An epic battle of one mighty foe facing off against the other, struggling for power, physical prowess playing out on a field with the “thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.”

But there are always mini-stories in the Super Bowl too – the personal stories behind the players (don’t get me started on Ray Lewis), and the stories we see in the commercials.

We laugh at the funny ones, and there are always funny ones, always.

The two that struck me as the most memorable – Dodge Ram’s “So God Made a Farmer” with the voice of Paul Harvey (it was from his speech in 1978 at the National Future Farmers of America Convention). We had several people together watching the game, of all ages, and lots of talking, lots of laughing. As soon as Paul Harvey’s voice said “And on the eighth day,” we all were silent. The images were stunning. Harvey’s voice, as always, was perfect.

The story – touching, memorable. Dodge told us a story. One that some of us identify with from our families, from our lives, from our childhoods. Pride, hope, loyalty – the story worked for some of us on many levels.

The other story that resonated with me – the Clydesdale from Budweiser, “Brotherhood.” Yep, tear-jerker.

Here’s a few things to consider:

I didn’t know I wanted to hear a story about farmers. I didn’t know I wanted to hear about a horse trainer and a horse.

Turns out, I did. I enjoyed those stories. Did they do what they were designed to do? I am talking about them, writing about them, passing along the images and the stories. Will I go out and buy a Dodge or a Budweiser? Probably not today. But, don’t fool yourself, when it comes time to buy another truck, that commercial and those images will come to mind.

Copywriting “experts” tell  us ALL the time – tell your audience a story. How big was this audience? 108 million people watched Super Bowl 2013 on television. 108 million people all got to see those stories about the farmer and the Clydesdale.

Our audiences may not be that big (maybe not anywhere near that amount will ever see your work), but we all want to hear a story. We all want to have our emotions engaged, feel something, be captivated.

If you watched the Super Bowl, what stories worked for you?

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Mustang Sally, Papa Hemingway, and a case of Key West karaoke gone wrong

These two drunk girls and one well-dressed guy come into this bar…

Karaoke ... always an adventure

Karaoke … always an adventure

photo credit: Stig Nygaard via photopin cc
Could have been a great joke, but it turned out to be one of the two most memorable karaoke events I’ve ever had the (mis)fortune of seeing.

I was in Key West for the Hemingway festival and I will admit I am smitten with the place and the festival and Hemingway, even though he is the polar opposite of my beloved Faulkner (see, I’m never too far away from Faulkner – it’s like six degrees of Kevin Bacon, only with a dead, Southern Gothic writer).

It was taking me a bit of time to adjust to seeing Hemingway on every corner, walking down the street, singing “Sweet Home Alabama” in the karaoke bar, but that was nothing compared to what happened next.

A return to the two drunk girls and the one well-dressed man …

So, these two girls stumble in from the side street, walk to the stage, and stand waiting for this guy to join them. He comes strolling to the stage, and honestly, the way they were carrying themselves, I thought “Wow! This is going to be absolutely amazing. They are totally fixing to shoot the lights out … here we go!”

And then the first few notes of Mustang Sally start, and man, I get even more fired up. I love this song.

The two girls are kind of gyrating around and the guy is tapping his foot on the stage, and they aren’t really in rhythm with the song, but I still think this is going to be good. I mean, you can still rock it out with no rhythm, right? No? Hmmm…

I look around, and all the Papa Hemingways are nodding their heads.

The girls throw their arms in the air and start snapping their fingers and the guy unbuttons the top button of his shirt, rolls up his sleeves, and grabs the microphone.

“Mustang Sally, guess you better slow your mustang down…”

The girls get a little more energy and start singing “oooooh”

“Guess I have to put your flat feet on the ground…”

The girls stomp their feet.

“All you want to do is ride around …”

The girls start yelling, “RIDE SALLY RIDE” fingers snapping, hands clapping, feet stomping.

The guy isn’t really singing. It’s more of a grunt, spoken word beat poetry version of the song. But the girls, they are belting it out with everything they’ve got – and, my friend, they have a lot.

Then, my favorite part – the girls start spinning around and around in circles, throwing their arms in and out (I think maybe channeling Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary”?) and the guy, in his final part of the performance, turns one, very slow, very methodical circle in between these two girls, stops, grabs each one by the hand, spins them around one more time and they walk off the stage, out of the bar and into the Key West night.

How could the Hemingways compete with that?

Posted in Growing Up Southern | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

Big fish? Little fish? Whale?

Big fish, little pond?

Big fish, little pond?

photo credit: trollhare via photopin cc

Little fish, big pond?

Little fish, big pond?

photo credit: Phil’s 1stPix via photopin cc


Or do you want to be a whale?

Or do you want to be a whale?

photo credit: Michael Dawes via photopin cc

How are your goals shaping up for 2013?

Are you aiming to be the big fish in the little pond?

Are you moving into a bigger pond?

Or, are you striving to be a whale in the ocean?

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Jealousy – Do you slay the green-eyed monster OR do you offer it a chair and break out the milk and cookies?



photo credit: ruminatrix via photopin cc

“Envy can be a positive motivator. Let it inspire you to work harder for what you want” – Robert Bringle

“Yet he was jealous, though he did not show it, For jealousy dislikes the world to know it.” Lord Byron

“Jealousy is all the fun you think they had.” Erica Jong

“Jealousy is no more than feeling alone against smiling enemies.” Elizabeth Bowen

“O! beware, my lord, of jealousy;
It is the green-eyed monster which doth
The meat it feeds on.”
~William Shakespeare, Othello



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Multi-media Ebook – Rich Fabric anthology


The ebook, Rich Fabric, is live!

It includes short stories, memoirs, historical essays, color photographs, quotes, and links to music with videos.

The anthology focuses on the culture, symbolism and tradition of quilting.

And, all profits are donated to the Twilight Wish Foundation (think “Make a Wish” but for Senior Citizens who live below the poverty level).

Thanks to everyone who contributed to the making of the anthology.

And, a Big, BIG, B-I-G thank you to everyone who has purchased a copy of the paperback anthology.

You can purchase the ebook here and the paperback here.

Also, go to the Twilight Wish Foundation and read through the list of “wishes” posted there to see what the profits from the anthology are going towards.

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Venture Galleries features Josephine: Red Dirt and Whiskey

Josephine is featured on Venture Galleries. The title of the feature is “Too Many Secrets,” and also features Breathe by Elena Dillon. Thanks to Caleb Pirtle III!

I hope you will click on over and read about both novels there, and also explore the Venture Galleries site. It is beautiful and showcases writers, novels, art, and sports.

And, it has serials, which is something I am interested in exploring.


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6 Easy Ways to Boost Your Creativity

photo credit: <a href="">DUCKofD3ATH</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

Kick Your Creativity into High Gear

photo credit: DUCKofD3ATH via photopin cc

6 Easy Ways to Boost Creativity

1. Reward Curiosity

Follow your curiosity. Use Google and Bing to find out about your interests. Follow the rabbit trail for a bit (use a timer to keep you from spending too much time – coming from someone who has been known to follow rabbit trails the length of Texas and back). Save the info you find on a jump drive, folder on your computer, in the “cloud” (see #2) or save your written notes in file folders or a binder. Keep up with what you find.

2. Capture Ideas

I am addicted to Evernote. There, I said it. It’s out. I use it incessantly. When I find something online that may possibly, even remotely, spark an idea or help me with research or inspires me, I save it to Evernote.

I also use my journal. I keep one by my bed so that A) when I can’t sleep, I can write down the ideas that are bouncing around in my mind, B) when I wake up with a thought, I can capture it before “life” sets in for the day.

If you are so inclined, you could record your ideas. I’ve even text messages myself when that was all I could do to keep up with my ideas.

3. Think in Images

Pinterest has private boards now, which is great! Create a board for your current project, for your ideas about a character, a song, a play, a movie, a sculpture. Here’s an example of the image board I created for one of my upcoming books. Don’t want to use Pinterest? Create an image board on a bulletin board, a poster, an open space on your wall. Make a collage.

4. “Tune” up

Pandora, Slacker, Reverbnation’s “Rabbit Hole.”

Find a song that sets the tone for your current project or a song that motivates you or calms you. Whatever direction you need to move in, there will be a song that fits it. Enter your song title or the artist into Pandora or Slacker, and these will build a ‘station’ for you. I set a station on Pandora for Louis Prima while I was working on my upcoming novel, Lotierie, and it kept me motivated and grounded in the setting.

Reverbnation‘s “Rabbit Hole” is interesting. You play a song, and when it finishes, the site will choose another song that is connected in some way to the previous one and play it, then another connected in some way – you are falling down the rabbit hole!

5. Make Connections

Take the ideas you’ve captured, the images that have inspired you, the songs that are putting you in the moment and make a mind map or a flow chart. Write down your ideas, and make connections between them. Think in terms of ‘what if’ – ‘what if’ this character did this? ‘What if’ that character and the situation was set here or there? Map it all out, don’t erase. There’s plenty of time for editing and censoring later. Put all the ideas and connections down on paper. See what you come up with.

6. Take the Road Less Traveled

Put yourself in unfamiliar territory. Start a new project. Meet new people. Have a new experience. You’ll set yourself up for new ways of thinking, new ways of experiencing your surroundings and improve your awareness, which boosts your creativity!

Bonus: Smell. Yep, kick that next sense into action. Smells, fragrances, odors, they all can spark a memory, an idea. Think freshly sharpened pencils, homemade bread baking in the oven, fresh lavender sprigs in a vase, night blooming jasmine growing next to the porch swing on a summer night.

What are some ways you get your creativity flowing? Leave a comment and let me know!

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Blog Hop – The Next Big Thing

A blog hop? Yep, The Next Big Thing Blog Hop landed here 🙂

What is a blog hop? Basically, it’s a way readers can discover new authors. It gives us (writes and readers) another way to connect.

Here, you’ll have the chance to find new authors along with information about Elaine D Walsh and her novel Restoration.  See the links below to meet three other authors you might like to check out.

I’d like to thank fellow author Elaine D Walsh for tagging me to participate.

Click the links below to find out about Elaine D Walsh’s novel Atomic Summer or to visit her and learn more about her other work:

Atomic Summer

Website & Blog:

In this particular hop, I and 3 fellow authors, in their respective blogs, have answered 10 questions where you get to learn about our current work in progress as well as some insights into our process, from characters and inspirations to plotting and cover decisions. I hope you enjoy it!

Please feel free to comment and share your thoughts and questions.

1: What is the working title of your book? My latest book is Lotierie the Legend

2: Where did the idea come from for the book? Take The Usual Suspects, The Godfather, GoodFellas, Louis Prima music, an old school bar, and a female protagonist who looks like a young Sophia Loren, throw it all in a blender, and this is what my brain comes up with.

3: What genre does your book come under? Crime, murder mystery

4: Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? Sophia Loren as the matriarch, Paul Newman (visiting from the other side!) playing Julius Lotierie, traveling back in our time machine, a young Sophia Loren playing the protagonist – Victoria Lotierie, Janine Turner playing the older sister – Natalie Lotierie. Here’s my idea board for the novel on Pinterest: Legend – The Story of the Lotierie Family

5: What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? A powerful, corrupt man is murdered and it falls to his youngest daughter to solve the crime, avenge her father’s death and take over her father’s business while outwitting the police, keeping her family together, and protecting her father’s legend.

6: Is your book self-published, published by an independent publisher, or represented by an agency? I’ve self-published my first two novels and an anthology with good results. I will probably self-publish this novel as well.

7: How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? 1 month – Legend – The Story of the Lotierie family is a JuNoWriMo novel. 

8: What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? see my answer to question 2.

9: Who or what inspired you to write this book? see question 2 (again)!

10: What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? I hope that readers are interested to see a female protagonist in this situation and how she takes on the roles that are given to her by her father before his death and after his murder. While it is an unusual situation and unusual circumstances, it’s still family. 

Below you will find authors who will be joining me by blog, next Wednesday. Do be sure to bookmark and add them to your calendars for updates on WIPs and New Releases! Happy Writing and Reading! And, Happy New Year!

1. Laura Ritchie – Laura Ritchie’s Y/A Website

2. Lisamarie Lamb – The Moonlit Door

3. Robyn Leatherman – The One AM Pen


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Kicking Down the Door and Playing Air Guitar

Today is my birthday. Today is also the first day of a brand new year.

I love new beginnings. I love the possibility, the potential, the creative energy that abounds.

I’m tapping into it, singing The Beatles’ “Happy Birthday” … they say it’s your birthday/ it’s my birthday too … and playing some air guitar.

So, Happy New Year, Happy 2013! I am so glad you are all along for this ride. It’s going to be a great one!

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I will never be a musician

Ignore the facts that I cannot sing and have no musical talent whatsoever –

Besides those things (those pesky little things!), I will never be a musician because …

I couldn’t get back on the bus after the show.

After all that energy, all that emotion, collectively, all that shared experience, you put up your gear, don your coat, and climb back on the bus to drive through the night to the next show.

I don’t think I could do that …

What brought this about? I saw Trans Siberian Orchestra’s The Lost Christmas Eve.

TSO - The Lost Christmas Eve, 2012

TSO – The Lost Christmas Eve, 2012

And, after the Rock Opera, of course they played Christmas Eve Sarajevo. I am ashamed to say that my words can’t do it justice.

If it was me, after producing that, creating that, playing that, I couldn’t go get back on the bus, but I am so thankful they did, at least the night before!

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Winding Down and Looking Forward

A recap –

I published my second novel – Nelson and Cora: The Beginning and my first anthology – Rich Fabric.

What did I learn?
In the hopes that someone will take something of value from my experiences, I will be as transparent as I can be here –

I pulled my punches with Nelson and Cora- The Beginning. I did. I like the story. I like the characters, but where I would have gone in with a sledge hammer with Josephine, I shied away from it in Nelson and Cora. I spend so much time explaining to people that Josephine is not for the faint of heart, that it’s a dark, Southern Gothic tale, that there’s profanity and drinking and smoking and hypocrisy and sexual immorality and all sorts of things going on. I guess I just thought it might be easier to promote a book that wasn’t that bold. But, I think I’ve shortchanged Nelson and Cora by doing that.

I do like them. I do think the rest of their stories – parts 2 and 3 – will be engaging and challenging and more true to my voice as a storyteller. But, I treated part 1 with antiseptic spray.

Rich Fabric? I LOVE working with others, reading their writing, crafting the pieces to fit together as a whole. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I am thoroughly enjoying it with the eBook, just wishing I was better at the technical aspects so that would move along faster. But, it’s getting there. And, the non-profit part, all of the profit going to the Twilight Wish Foundation? I am enjoying that part too 🙂

But, working as the editor for Rich Fabric takes me away from writing.

I have another story still sitting in a drawer, waiting for me. I completed the first draft in June and haven’t looked at it yet. I hope that my memory isn’t fooling me because I think I like the story, like the protagonist, like the antagonist in the “ooh, you’re evil” sort of way. I  am picking it back up in January. We’ll see how it goes from there.

I started the Southern Creatives project on this blog. My goals? I really wanted to shine a spotlight on people who were creative types in the South or creating art about the South. I have had the privilege of meeting/connecting with many folks through Southern Creatives.   I don’t know if this is something I will continue in 2013 or not, honestly. I enjoyed it, but I’m not sure where I want it to go from here.

And, I’ve traveled to quite a few places to promote my novels and the anthology. Some of it has been great, some not so great, but it has all been learning experiences, and for that, I am truly grateful.

I have some projects that I want to get rolling in 2013 – some that will take me in new directions, some that will move me further down the same paths.

I hope you have an amazing holiday season and that I’ll see you in 2013.

Posted in Southern Creatives, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Southern Creatives – Janet Nodar – @Janet_Nodar

Have I been missing? Umm, yes. NaNo, Thanksgiving, still (yes, people, STILL) working on formatting the enhanced multimedia eBook of Rich Fabric.

But, I am so excited to end this first year of Southern Creatives with a wonderful interview with Janet Nodar, a southern writer and poet.

Yes, this is a photo of Janet flying through the air – brave woman!

Janet Nodar - Southern Creatives

Janet Nodar – Southern Writer and Poet

1. Do you consider yourself a “southern writer” or a writer from the south? Why? And, what do you see as the difference between the two?

 I guess I’m a southern writer; I’m fascinated by the region’s quirks and language, and have been since I moved to Mobile in the 80s with my husband, who is a southern boy. I grew up a military brat with roots in the southwest, so the deep south was an alien and fascinating land to me. I prepared for it by reading a lot of Faulkner. Maybe not the most practical approach.

I’ve been here long enough that I can say ‘fixin’ to’ without any self-consciousness. However, although I love the verb ‘tump,’ I can’t use it without feeling silly. I do think you have to be born here to be able to tump without thinking it through first.

2. Who is your favorite southern writer/work and why? 

Hard question. I have to revert to Flannery O’Connor. I love her sardonic humor, her skill with the telling detail, her ability to surprise.



3. Congratulations on the publication of your short story collection! How did you choose these pieces? 

They seemed the most finished and least embarrassing. Several of them have been published before, in magazines ranging from GSU Review to Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, and a few have been anthologized. Of course, once they were published they kind of disappeared into the ether. Putting them together in a collection seemed like a  nice way to bring them back to life.

I wrote a new story for a recurring character, Kristal Gibson Jaramillo, when local publisher Mod Mobilian decided to print a physical book.

4. What projects do you have coming up in the future? 

 Poetry — something I haven’t written in years — keeps floating to the surface. That may be a new direction for me, at least for now, and a way to meet my craving for a creative outlet. I have a demanding job editing and writing for a business publication, and it tends to eat up my capacity for long-form writing.

5.  Favorite southern tradition(s)? 

Well, I live on the Gulf Coast, where we have Mardi Gras, which is so much fun. My kids flat do not understand parades where people don’t throw. What a ridiculous waste of time that seems.

In particular, I love Mobile’s crazy Joe Cain Day bacchanalia, which happens the Sunday before Fat Tuesday. It’s got to be one of the most idiosyncratic hoedowns in the universe.



Connect with Janet here:

twitter: Janet_Nodar







Thanks to Janet for being my last Southern Creatives guest of 2012 – our inaugural year – go us, go!




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So yeah … about that NaNoWriMo thing


It’s not looking good for NaNo. I won’t say impossible (only because I never say that word), but things were off to a non-existent start for such as huge part of November that I thought I wouldn’t get anything going.

Instead, I’ve got something going, and it is really, really going in all sorts of new directions, good, authentic, exciting directions.

Will I hit the 50k mark by midnight on Nov. 30? Probably not, but the struggle has produced some beauty, and that is always a good thing!

And, not to forget, the eBook of Rich Fabric will be here the first part of December (barring any catastrophes)!

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Writer’s Block Moved In

If you’ve followed this blog or read some of my posts, you’ve probably gathered that I don’t usually have writer’s block.

That doesn’t mean that what I write is stellar, but it does mean that USUALLY I have something to write about.

But now, nothing.

My Creative MoJo right now…

8 days into NaNo and I have 750 words of a story that I am not going to use because none of it rings true for me, too contrived, too forced.

I know all the self-help/cheerleading talk – don’t edit while you write, get the words on the paper, the most important thing is to start…

But, if I’m cringing while I’m typing, that’s not going to cut it.

So, as I was saying, I’ve got nothing.

To put it into perspective, Day 8 of NaNo should mean my total word count at this point is right around 13,300. Did I mention I have 0 words for a story?

It’s not even the lack of words in my word count that bothers me. It’s that I have nothing to say…

Cue the crickets.

I could write a sequel to Nelson and Cora (which I am supposed to do anyway – it is book one of a TRILOGY, for goodness sake). I could write a book from Ethan’s point of view after he leaves Hefner Falls (sorry for the spoiler if you haven’t made it that far in Josephine). But, I don’t feel inspired to write either of those right now.

And, that brings up another issue – inspiration?! I should be writing out of discipline, a habit. I show up, make the attempt, eventually the muse/inspiration/divine intervention comes and picks up my slack.

Jeez, what a downer of a post!

I’m struggling guys, big time.

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NaNoWriMo – Have I Lost my Mojo?

NaNo starts November 1.

I completed (I won!) NaNo last November. If you aren’t familiar with NaNo, “winning” means that I completed 50k words in the month of November of 2011. That manuscript later became Nelson and Cora: The Beginning.

Then, I completed JuNoWriMo – same concept, but in June.

And, then …


I haven’t even looked at the draft I wrote in June. That’s four months that 50k words have just been sitting there.

What have I been doing? Well, I have managed to edit and publish Rich Fabric, which is amazing and wonderful and has been such a great experience and the profits all go to the Twilight Wish Foundation. And, I’m proud to share that when the first royalty payment comes in, a donation will be made for over $100.

But, that’s not a new novel, and that’s not a completed manuscript, and that’s not a lot of other things.

NaNo starts the day after tomorrow.

I have NOTHING. No story brewing, no notes that can spark an idea.

I have a blank page.

But, I’m giving it a whirl and we’ll see what happens. Yep, that means I’m back to my pantster tendencies.

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Frankly, my dear … My favorite Rhett Butler quotes

I’ve been thinking about Ethan and Josephine, and how much I love a rogue of a man in literature, and of course, my thoughts turned to Rhett Butler, and how he set the bar.

So, in honor of my most loved Southern “rogue” gentleman in literature, here are a few of my favorite quotes from Mr. Rhett Butler

  • With enough courage, you can do without a reputation.
  • No, I don’t think I will kiss you, although you need kissing, badly. That’s what’s wrong with you. You should be kissed and often, and by someone who knows how.
  • You still think you’re the cutest trick in shoe leather.
  • Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.

I could quote the novel, since I think all of his dialogue is wonderful, but I’ll stop here.

Gone with the Wind, 75th Anniversary Edition

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Brandon Luffman – update #SouthernCreatives

Welcome back, Brandon. You were last here on Southern Creatives 4 years ago!

Tempus Fugit!

Thanks for being our first return guest!

1) How has your writing changed since you were last featured on Southern Creatives? 

 I’m hopeful that it’s improved! I feel like that’s the most important thing: always keep improving. Recently, I released the audiobook version of my last novel, Frostwalker – the same book I mentioned when I was originally featured on Southern Creatives. While the narrator, Jack Wallen (Jack’s Website:, was in the process of recording, I was constantly reviewing the audio files. In the process, I got a more in-depth experience of Frostwalker than I’d had since I first wrote the book. It was very strange. There wasn’t anything that made me outright cringe, but there were definitely things I would have written differently today!

2) What are your current projects?

 Right now, I’m focused on getting my second novel, A Man With A Gun, ready for release. The primary editing is done and it’s mostly ready to go – but I still need cover art! My original artist was unavailable, but I have another who is well along the way to finishing the artwork. I’m hopeful to have the book ready for release in the next few months. A Man With A Gun is a near-future sci-fi story with western and dystopian elements. Worth noting: This new book is set in the desert southwest rather than in North Carolina. A bit of a departure for me, but I think my research into the region was sufficient.

3) What advice would you offer to someone just starting out?

 The road ahead is long and winding, but keep going. Budget time for the work every day. Even if it’s not time spent actually writing (although writing every day is a really good idea), devote at least a little time every day to doing something that moves your career forward. Find others – there are lots of us out there – and join forces. That doesn’t mean that you have to cross-promote with them or anything else. Just being in a shared circle of friends with the same goals helps you stay attached to the writing process and keep it in the forefront. But choose these friends with care! Avoid those who always have a cloud of drama swirling around them. If they delve into politics, social media dramatics, etc., then it’s best to keep your distance from them. Always remember that you are the brand and the product is your writing.

4) What advice would you offer to someone who is struggling to continue in their creative pursuits?

 You have to troubleshoot. Find whatever it is that is the source of your struggles and address the problem. Sometimes it’s easy to find the problem and address it and sometimes it’s hard to pin down the source. Talking with other writers is often a good way to figure it out. Others have struggled before you – find out what they did to resolve the issues they faced. Whatever the problem, never give up. Change tactics. Work on a different project for a bit. Do something completely different from your usual work. Do something in a genre you don’t normally read or write in. Shake things up a little to break out of your rut. Find your ritual and stick to it. Keep trying.

No matter what, do not look at sales, reviews, website hits, or anything else as a measure of success. They’re nice things in their way, and maybe someday they will be relevant. But, until you’re one of the big fish, they don’t mean much. Keep swimming until you are a big fish. You do that by continuing to do the work. You write. Then you write more, and better. Keep  doing that.

5) What are you reading, watching, listening to?

 My most recent read was Ready Player One. I’d had that in my TBR list for quite a while and had forgotten about it. Seeing the trailers for the upcoming movie reminded me to give it a read, and it was a lot of fun! I always prefer to read the book first, but the movie looks like a must-see. My next read will likely be Vanguard by Jack Campbell. I’ve not watched a lot of visual media lately. However, I’ve really been enjoying playing The Long Dark, a wilderness survival game from Hinterland Studios.  

Where to find Brandon:





Click here to read Brandon’s original visit with us on Southern Creatives.

Thanks, Brandon!

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Drip, drip, drip

calm blog

Sometimes creativity and energy come in bursts. The muse, whatever that may be for you, shows up and you can’t keep up with the production. You struggle to try to get the goods out as fast as you can. Those are magical moments, aren’t they? Those moments are glorious – glorious and rare.

The discipline of it, though, that’s where the treasure is. Showing up each day, creating even when you don’t feel creative, that’s the realm where the real artists live.

Drip by drip … adding to your work, adding to your stories, your paintings, your poems, your songs. Drip … character notes; drip … ideas for a setting; drip … a melody; drip … sketching an outline; drip … writing down a snatch of conversation; drip … drip … drip

Don’t discard the tidal waves of creativity. Relish those! Know that if you live for the tidal waves, you are missing out on so much. The bucket is filled with a constant, steady drip.

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Wisdom from Julia Sugarbaker

[Pray that] people with power will get good sense, and that people with good sense will get power… and that the rest of us will be blessed with the patience and the strength to survive the people like you in the meantime!

Julia Sugarbaker (Dixie Carter), Designing Women. Season 3, Episode 2, “The Candidate”

                                                                                                  Photo from




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Your Nest – necessary or not?

Do you have a “nest”?

Is there a specific place you must be in order to tap into your creativity?

Or, are you a roving writer? Do you carry your laptop or journal with you and write as the mood strikes you?

I like to think of myself as having a wonderful, warm, cozy, quirky private space where I write – and that I write regularly, with discipline, like Hemingway.

However, I am in the “catch as catch can” phase of my life right now, and so I write in journals, on my laptop, on pieces of paper I pull from my overloaded purse.

Right now, it is foggy -trying to write again. Foggy and halting. I’m having faith in the process though, with or without the nest.


My traveling nest…

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A Hiatus, or did I just quit?


A break – that’s what I called it.

Things had gone on a different path than I anticipated. I was selling books, but I was focusing on the need for agents and publicists and book signings and talking with people about writing a screenplay for Josephine.

Then, we pulled Josephine – revisions, etc. Then, I started censoring – self-censoring. And that is the proverbial nail in the coffin. White-washing your words in a story might make it “nice” for polite society, but it makes for a lousy story.

And, then, I realized, maybe I don’t want to do this in this way. Maybe I don’t want to do it at all.

So, I took a break, only it wasn’t a break. I quit.

I quit writing. Completely.

No blog posts, no tweets about writing, no short story contests, no #Nanowrimo – not one bit of writing.

I missed it at first.

Then, I didn’t.

Then, I realized I do miss it. I miss the core of what it means to write – being a storyteller.

If you’ve stuck around all this time, thank you. Thanks for being on this journey with me. I hope that 2016 proves to be a productive year for all of us!

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Fragments, Run-ons, and the Death of a Plant

In memory of Ms. Dawn Casey Bradshaw who passed away in December of 2015. My constant reader, my favorite teacher, my dear friend – you will be missed.


I have had many teachers throughout my life. Some have been good teachers, and some have been not so good. Out of all the teachers I have ever had, I have only had ONE excellent teacher. What I learned from her about writing and grammar and punctuation has carried me through decades of writing, grading, revising, editing and reading.
However, when she first started teaching our class, it was ugly – a battle of wills. My class had been told over and over again throughout the years that we were smart. We weren’t. Instead, we had a pretty well-developed vocabulary. Our teacher decided that it was her duty to actually TEACH us, rather than just pass us on along. She started from ground zero with us and worked her way up.
In her class, we got to meet the Grammar Unit. I imagine that this is like an intellectual boot…

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Peace – not just for hippies :)

Missing all of you! Hope your summer is off to a wonderful start. — Melinda


Peace, contentment. The ability to be still and hear the quiet whisper in the middle of the storm. 

To feel the onslaught of the hurricane rising up against you and to know that God is in control. To know that without Him, there is nothing, but WITH HIM, there is nothing you cannot do. 

To know the sense of peace that comes from doing something to the best of your ability and then letting go of it. 

To know that you cannot control how people act or react. To know that as long as you keep your eyes focused on God, your paths will be straight. 

To know that peace doesn’t come from avoiding the struggles. Instead, peace is moving through the struggles and still having joy, still moving forward, still trusting God. 

Peace – not anxiety, not stress, not pressure, not fear, not insecurity, not jealousy, not anger. Peace. 

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Why Is Bildungsroman Haunting Me?

How long do you run away from a new creative endeavor before you decide to give in and try it?


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Bildungsroman Is Attacking Me

It seems that everywhere  I look, up pops Bildungsroman. I can’t seem to escape it.

For those of you who are wondering what Bildungsroman means, the easy, dictionary definition =

a type of novel concerned with the education, development, and maturing of a young protagonist.  (

There’s a literary definition (of course) that is much more drawn out, but a novel that deals with a young person’s formative years will suffice.

I don’t write YA. I don’t have anything against it, that’s just not my area.

And, yet, here is bildungsroman everywhere I look. Articles, blog posts, even in conversations with people (good grief!) there it is, rearing its head – BILDUNGSROMAN…

Do you ever feel attacked by ideas, concepts? If so, do you follow where they lead or just write it off as strange coincidence?

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Fountain or Drain – Which One Are You?

One of my most popular posts on this blog. Wiping away the cobwebs after my year long hiatus …



The Fountain or the Drain?


photo credit: M.Angel Herrero via photo pincc

Some people make you feel more creative, more productive, excited about your future. These people realize there’s no limit to ideas, so they are free to share them. There’s no quota to projects that will work. If they have a good idea that they think is a fit for you, they share it. When you tell them about a new idea or a new project, these people will offer helpful suggestions, cheer you on, and help you however they can.

These people are fountains. Surround yourself with them. Nurture them, tend to them because they make you better by being in your life.


photo credit: attila acs via photo pin cc

You may not know at first glance that someone is a drain, but it only takes a few times of interacting with that person for you to feel…

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