Tag Archives: novel

Carolina Woman!

Carolina Woman

Local contests are a great way to share your work….and win prizes! My writing group member Linda Johnson and I both earned Honorable Mentions in the 2015 Carolina Woman Writing Contest. Matching pajama-size T-shirts!

Linda won for her short story “Birthday Cake” (penned in a fiction class led by Ruth Moose) and I won for my poem “Ode to My Ironing Board” (written in a class led by Ralph Earle). Both classes were held through the Creative Writing Program at Central Carolina Community College’s Pittsboro campus. We also learned that a CCCC workshop leader, Tara Lynne Groth, won for her story “Money Changes Everything.” All pieces will published by CW in an upcoming issue. Pittsboro represented very well at Carolina Woman this year!

On a related note, and since April is National Poetry Month, I had to point out that today would have been the 115th birthday of another writer, novelist, short story writer, and poet Vladimir Nabokov. I didn’t know he also wrote poetry until my friend Mary located “The Poem” — a piece written by him for one of  just two collections penned in his prolific career. As with his other work, “The Poem” is poignant, evocative and lush with language and imagery that would make any writer envious. I couldn’t find an online link so unfortunately (or fortunately!), you’ll have to do like me and order a copy of his collections.

More coming soon!


Happy (Late) Nude Day!

In addition to Bastille Day in France, I just learned that yesterday  (July 14) was National Nude Day in the U.S.! Why is this important?

It’s very important for Jessica Beane, the activist who re-appears in Born Again, Dead Again, my sequel to Naked and Hungry, because nudists come to her rescue during her protests of environmental injustice. While Jessica does not go au naturelle in her adventures, her commitment to the environment is as truthful as nudity in its expression. And the Free to Be Me nudists prove to be valuable allies in her quest to keep the natural world “pristine and serene.” Below is an excerpt from Jessica’s blog, which was written after an investigation in Corolla, N.C.:

The bad news is that on this very same trip I actually caught a construction company destroying the homes of countless sea turtles. Yes, before my very eyes I spied a bulldozer operator mowing over a protected nesting area. Needless to say, I made quite a spectacle as I literally threw myself in front of the bulldozer’s path. Lucky for me, some concerned nudists happened to be near by and joined the protest. Amidst the hullabaloo, the nefarious bulldozer operator fled the scene but you can be sure that I immediately filed a complaint with the Division of Coastal Management and will be reporting back on the resolution. Lesson learned? There’s like nothing like nudity to bring attention to an issue. 

This summer and fall, I’ll be continuing to promote Naked and Hungry at events in places such as Kernersville and Knoxville. For more, check out the latest event schedule. I’ll also be working with my editor and publisher to plan the launch of Born Again, Dead Again. So stay tuned to this blog for the latest news, contests and publication of more excerpts!

In the meantime, stay cool any way you can. 😉


Let Your Fingers Do the Walking

Whenever I hold readings of Naked and Hungry, it never fails. Someone always asks me just where I found the name “Bermadean,” which is the name of an African pygmy goat in my book. Believe it or not, I always say, I let my fingers do the walking.

Desperate for a name for the goat, I happened upon on old phone book. As soon as I saw the name “Bermadean” my search was over. I can’t speak for the inadvertent donor, but for me the name conjured up the perfect touch of  Southern quirkiness. Done!

It goes without saying that the fiction writer shouldn’t lift both first and last names from a single person but you can cobble together some rather memorable combinations. Try pairing a first name such as Maxine with a last name such as Brown or Thomas. Need something more exotic? Change the spelling to Maxzine and add a last name such as Thorvelder or Fortenberry and you suddenly have a completely different character on your hands.

The phone book is also a great source of inspiration for story ideas in general. What do you imagine a woman who spells her first name Maxzine is like? I see an officious receptionist who insists that everyone signs in before being helped. What do you think? And what does a man with a last name of Bobo endure? How many schoolyard bullies did he encounter? And what is a family like who lives on Running Cedar Drive? I see them going in separate directions from the moment they wake up.

Drawing upon the tradition of Flannery O’Connor and Charles Dickens, you can also use last names to plant clues. What would the last name of Brickhouse imply? Someone who is solid and perhaps a bit staid. How about Fairweather? Friendly but changeable. For me, the name Scattergood conjures up the image of a disorganized do-gooder, perhaps known for random acts of compassion.

It can also be fun to use irony. Imagine that someone named Maryann Bakewell is a terrible cook. What if she can’t even make a sandwich? What if a family who is forced to sell their farm and move to the city ends up in a neighborhood called Meadowcroft? And what if a love-starved spinster has lived all her life on Amoretto Way?

Not only does the phone book offer a handy resource for a writer, I find it to be very entertaining. My own is dog-eared with notes and flags, just waiting to breathe life into my latest work. Let your fingers do the walking and you’ll see that the phone book is an instant cure for writer’s block. And the best part? It’s perfectly free.

Fans of Bermadean will be glad to know she reappears in my sequel, Born Again, Dead Again, which is coming to a bookstore near you in September 2013.

A Walk on the Wilder Side

Today as I wade through my co-worker’s copy of Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, I keep thinking about just what makes the book superior to any electronic form. You see, I’ve resisted buying a Kindle, Nook, or I-Pad longer than most folks. My most recent literary love affair has been with a paper copy of The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure.

This book brings back so many memories—my own love of the Little House books and how I could so easily escape into “Laura’s world.”  You see, like McClure, I, too, imagined myself making candy by boiling maple syrup and pouring it onto snow; I, too, had wanted to help Pa make those twists of hay that kindled the family’s fires;  and I, too, had wondered how on earth Ma could feed her starving family on nothing more than a bag of wheat during the Long Winter. Thanks to McClure, who does all these things herself and more, I think I now understand why Ma sometimes seemed to be in a bad mood!

As she retraces the steps of Laura’s life, McClure takes us on an enchanting journey behind the real story that leads her on some interesting adventures of her own, from sleeping in a covered wagon during a hailstorm to participating in a homesteading experience hosted by some “kooky survivalists.” If you are a Little House fan who’s ever suspected that the real story may not have been the saccharinely sweet version portrayed by Michael Landon, this book is for you. Ever wondered why the Ingalls family moved around so much? McClure does her own detective work and reveals that Charles Ingalls may have been skipping town for a reason. And did you know that the Ingalls family had once included a baby brother named Freddy who died tragically young? And have you ever wondered about the relationship between Laura and her only surviving child, Rose Wilder Lane? It’s a lot more complicated than I ever thought.

So the real story wasn’t as pure and simple as the books led us to believe, but that knowledge doesn’t diminish my appreciation of the Little House books one bit. It brings Laura’s story to life even more, told through the lens of an author who also admired Laura and longed to experience a fragment of Laura’s life herself. While McClure’s book is nonfiction, her story underscores the role of fiction in our lives. Her book reminds us of the beauty of novels and the importance of letting oneself enter the world of an author and feel something felt by someone besides ourselves.

As Carr so painstakingly reveals (with neurological evidence to boot), our brains are being reprogrammed to resist the urge to lose oneself in a book thanks to the “ecosystem of interruptions” surrounding us. Who would have thought that my mother’s torment (“Don’t think you can lose yourself in a book today, Missy; we’ve got chores to do!”) might one day be physically impossible? With a nod to Laura, this tragedy is a little bit like waking up one day and finding the wheat field of your mind destroyed by locusts.

Naked and Hungry Featured in the N.C. Collection at Wilson Library

If you follow the popular blog Read North Carolina Novels, which is maintained by the N.C. Collection at Wilson Library on Carolina’s campus, you might see that Naked and Hungry is today’s feature novel.

I thought it was pretty neat to have an ISBN number but I think it’s equally cool to have a call number in the state library system: C813 M533n.

Thanks to Google Alerts for letting me know and to the kind state archivist I met during a radio interview last fall who held true to his promise. And if you like novels set in our home state, check out How to Find More N.C. Novels.

Welcome to Blurb Boot Camp!

I had a serious wake-up call last May when my editor asked me if I had any promotional blurbs to print on the outside of Naked and Hungry. You’ve heard of blurbs, right? Those jazzy little snippets kindly provided by more successful writers. Oh, and we had about a month to get these. Gulp!

The good news is that I didn’t have time to panic. So I reached out to friends and other writers, some whom I knew and some who were referred to me by dear friends such as the inimitable John Graham, literary muse and more to hundreds. To be fair, some folks said no but most, surprisingly, said yes. This yielded three blurbs as well as three more proofreaders, all of whom generously pointed out errors in my manuscript that I had missed.

Next, I reached out to a publisher who declined to publish my book but hired me as a copyeditor for his own books. And since every “no” may hide a “yes,” I reached out to an editor who denied my short story (too long for his publication) but had offered to review my novel in his literary journal. And last, I reached out to the editor of my hometown newspaper and a local environmentalist  (another friend’s referral) since my book had an environmental theme. Fini!

Now that I passed basic training for writing publicity (albeit barely, whew!), I thought I’d share these hints as well as my blueprint for the next time. For my second book, I plan a bolder and slightly savvier approach First, I’m starting much, much earlier and reaching a little wider. I plan to reach out to the same kind of writers who inspired me. What do I have to lose? I also plan to reach out to more area journalists and local booksellers whom I’ve met as I’ve promoted my first book.

I also plan to submit more of my writing such as shorter pieces or publication and to contests. Hopefully, this will not only yield more exposure it will introduce me to more influence leaders who might be willing to lend their name to my second book. Worst case, I’ll make even more friends!

Because I’m still learning, I’d be remiss if I didn’t reach out to all of you and ask your thoughts. Referrals, ideas and thoughts are welcome!

Book Club + Crepes = Good Times!

Last Thursday I had the honor of speaking to about two dozen members of a book club (a day time group and a nighttime group) in the lovely neighborhood of Chapel Ridge in Pittsboro. I was invited by a dear lady named Beti Ann, with whom I share another good friend and hairstylist, Tonya. In fact, it was through Tonya that the invitation came about, for she has been plugging my book for almost a year to all of her patrons!

Not only did the group serve delicious appetizer crepes (cream cheese with sweet-hot jelly), it was a joy to learn that many of them had already read Naked and Hungry. This led to an insightful discussion about not just the book, but the writing process, which is a favorite topic among book clubs. My heartfelt thanks to Beti Ann, Mary, Sherry, Katherine, Cary, Julie and all the new friends I made.

This is the second book club I have spoken to, third if you count a long-distance relationship with a club in Florida that is dear to my heart. In fact it was the Happy Bookers of Lakeland, Fla., that inspired the creation of a special Naked and Hungry Q & A just for book clubs. And my first book club appearance was arranged through another childhood friend from my hometown of Asheboro.

Lesson learned? For all of my writer friends, as you seek connections with local book clubs, don’t rule out your childhood friends and especially your hairstylist! As for the latter, not only does she or he know all your secrets, they also know everyone else’s!