Category Archives: writing

Wednesday Weirdness: Coon Dog Cemetery

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My husband and I are not dog people. This is kind of an accident of genetics and environment, because Southerners in general, and my family more specifically, are generally dog lovers. As I have been writing my Southern-fried Romances, I’ve had to include dogs – what kind of fish bait store doesn’t have a redbone or bluetick lying on the porch? So I’ve been researching and getting to know a little bit about the breeds (and mutts) popular down here.

In poking around the Internet, I ran across a weird yet cool site that is now on my list of places I just have to visit – The Coon Hound Cemetery in Colbert County, Alabama.

Coon hunting is a big tradition in the South, although not one that I’ve ever personally felt the need to participate in personally. But down here, you will find a number of gentlemen — and some ladies, too — who think of their coon dog as a member of the family. Back in 1937, Mr. Key Underwood certainly felt that way about his dog, Troop. They’d been hunting partners and best friends for over 15 years, and when Troop died, Key just couldn’t let him be forgotten.

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He took Troop back up to a hunting camp near Tuscumbia, Alabama, where they had shared some of their happiest times. Key buried his coon dog right there in the wilderness, and marked his grave with Troop’s name and dates. Key had no plans to establish any kind of cemetery; he just wanted to pay his respects to a special friend. But over time, more hunters honored their canine companions by laying them to rest near Troop, and the Key Underwood Memorial Coon Dog Cemetery began.

Nowadays, over 185 markers memorialize coon dogs such as Preacher, Smoky, and Famous Amos, and the cemetery has become something of a tourist attraction. But you Yankees and city folk needn’t think about asking to lay your poodles or bichon frises in the sacred ground of the Coon Dog Cemetery. As a former caretaker put it, “We have stipulations on this thing. A dog can’t run no deer, possum — nothing like that. He’s got to be a straight coon dog, and he’s got to be full hound. Couldn’t be a mixed up breed dog, a house dog.”

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If you think your pet has the right coon dog stuff, you can apply for a plot via information found on the official website: http://www.coondogcemetery.com. And if you don’t have any plans this Labor Day, you might want to attend the annual Coon Dog Cemetery Celebration, which includes music, story-telling, and booths selling Official Coon Dog Cemetery Merchandise.

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A Dream Deferred

One on my favorite poems, by the great Langston Hughes:

A DREAM DEFERRED

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

Skipping Midnight with Laura Kenyon

Good morning, all! I’m chatting with Laura Kenyon over on her Skipping Midnight blog today. Why don’t you pop over and see what we’re up to!
(And you might win a free book!!!)

http://laurakenyon.com/2014/02/19/arabella-stokes-lawyer-by-day-romance-writer-by-night/#more-1592

Thursday Thought: Charles Bukowski

…it’s not the large things that send a man to the madhouse. death he’s ready for, or murder, incest, robbery, fire, flood… no, it’s the continuing series of small tragedies that send a man to the madhouse… not the death of his love but a shoelace that snaps with no time left …

From the Shoelace
by Charles Bukowski

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Just Keep Swimming!

I had a rough day yesterday – I got exactly what I asked for, and I whined like a two-year-old when I actually got it.

I’ve finished a book. Well, finished in the sense that I made it all the way from “Chapter One” to “The End”. The writers amongst you will understand that now the real work begins.

I sent my little ms out to my crit partner, aka The Book Midwife. She is one of the most insightful readers I have ever met, and she pointed out exactly what was wrong with my story. Indeed, a lot of her comments were things I knew, but was refusing to acknowledge, hoping that readers wouldn’t notice. (Yeah, right.)

So when my darling DeAnn gave me her thoughts, I thanked her and buckled right down to work, right? Oh, kids, y’all know me better than that!

I pouted. I cried. I stomped around the house swearing that I was done writing. (As if the people in my head would allow that.). I misbehaved badly.

And then a friend – one who knew nothing of my tantrum – posted the quote below. I think it was a sign from God, the universe, the Force, or whatever you conceive the higher power to be.

I’ve apologized to DeAnn, and I’m doing so again now. I’m sorry that you gave me exactly what I asked for and needed and I was too childish and self absorbed to take it graciously. I wish I could promise it will never happen again, but my capacity for childish behavior exceeds all bounds. I can say that I deeply appreciate all the work she did, I value and agree with her comments, and I will TRY to be better in the future.

And as far as my writing, as Dory told Nemo: just keep swimming!

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Thursday Thought: First Drafts

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Thursday Thought: Anais Nin

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You must not fear, hold back, count or be a miser with your thoughts and feelings. It is also true that creation comes from an overflow, so you have to learn to intake, to imbibe, to nourish yourself and not be afraid of fullness. The fullness is like a tidal wave which then carries you, sweeps you into experience and into writing.

Cover Story: The Girl on the Golden Coin

GIRL ON THE GOLDEN COIN: A NOVEL OF FRANCES STUART

Once again, I’m here to introduce you to one of my incredible crit group ladies. Today it’s Marci McGuire Jefferson, who has written an absolutely lovely book about one Frances Stuart, who served as the model for “Britannia” on years and years worth of British coins.

I’m not going to waste your time babbling; I’m just going to turn today’s blog over to Marci and let her tell you all about her book!

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Marci Jefferson’s first novel is about Frances Stuart, who rejected three kings and graced England’s coins for generations as the model for Britannia. The book will release February 11, 2014 from Thomas Dunne Books / St. Martin’s Press. But pre-order this week and comment on Marci’s blog (link below) for a chance to win a pair of sterling-silver pearl-drop earrings like the ones Frances wears on this elegant cover (be prepared to present your receipt).

http://marcijefferson.com/category/blog/

MORE ABOUT THE BOOK

Impoverished and exiled to the French countryside after the overthrow of the English Crown, Frances Stuart survives merely by her blood-relation to the Stuart Royals. But in 1660, the Restoration of Stuart Monarchy in England returns her family to favor. Frances discards threadbare gowns and springs to gilded Fontainebleau Palace, where she soon catches King Louis XIV’s eye. But Frances is no ordinary court beauty, she has Stuart secrets to keep and people to protect. The king turns vengeful when she rejects his offer to become his Official Mistress. He banishes her to England with orders to seduce King Charles II and stop a war.

Armed in pearls and silk, Frances maneuvers through the political turbulence of Whitehall Palace, but still can’t afford to stir a scandal. Her tactic to inspire King Charles to greatness captivates him. He believes her love can make him an honest man and even chooses Frances to pose as Britannia for England’s coins. Frances survives the Great Fire, the Great Plague, and the debauchery of the Restoration Court, yet loses her heart to the very king she must control. Until she is forced to choose between love or war.

On the eve of England’s Glorious Revolution, James II forces Frances to decide whether to remain loyal to her Stuart heritage or, like England, make her stand for Liberty. Her portrait as Britannia is minted on every copper coin. There she remains for generations, an enduring symbol of Britain’s independent spirit and her own struggle for freedom.

ADVANCE PRAISE

“In her wonderfully evocative debut, Girl on the Golden Coin, Marci Jefferson recreates the fascinating story of Frances Stuart, whose influence over England’s Charles II became the talk of a nation. As vibrant and delightful as the woman it’s based on, Girl on the Golden Coin is a jewel of a novel!”
—Michelle Moran, New York Times bestselling author of The Second Empress and Madame Tussaud

“Beauty is not always a blessing, as young Frances Stuart finds out when her lovely face pits her between the desires and politics of rival kings Louis XIV and Charles II. Frances makes an appealing heroine, by turns wary and passionate, sophisticated and innocent, as she matures from destitute young pawn to the majestic duchess whose figure would grace Britain’s coins for centuries. Her struggles to support her loved ones, uncover her family secrets, and somehow find a life of her own amid the snake-pit courts of the Sun King and the Merry Monarch make for lively, entertaining reading in this lush Restoration novel by debut author Marci Jefferson.”
—Kate Quinn, New York Times bestselling author of Mistress of Rome

“Girl on the Golden Coin is a fantastic novel. I couldn’t put it down. The plot is fast-paced and compelling, with intriguing characters, lush settings and captivating narrative voice. Jefferson’s debut paints an intriguing portrait of Frances Stuart, a novel worthy of the determined, golden spirit of the woman whose face became the model for Britannia herself.”
—Susan Spann, author of Claws of the Cat

“Girl on the Golden Coin is a sexy, exciting tale featuring vivid characters, rich historical detail, scintillating court intrigue, and a complexly rendered heroine in Frances Stuart, Maid of Honor to the Queen of England, who will capture the reader’s heart — as will the man she loves, that rascal King Charles II.”
— Sherry Jones, author, FOUR SISTERS, ALL QUEENS

FIND IT HERE:

Barnes & Noble

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/girl-on-the-golden-coin-marci-jefferson/1115382442?ean=9781250037220
IndieBound

http://www.indiebound.org/book/9781250037220
Amazon

http://www.amazon.com/Girl-Golden-Coin-Frances-Stuart/dp/1250037220

Goodreads

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17261011-girl-on-the-golden-coin-a-novel-of-frances-stuart

Dorothy Parker, Hating to Write, and Arabella’s 100 Challenge

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When you are a bright yet less than drop-dead-gorgeous girl growing up in the South, you have to develop the talents you do have. I was good with words, and my father’s family was blessed with a multitude of natural-born comedians and storytellers, so I worked with what the Good Lord gave me and became a specialist in snarky humor.

But one must give credit where credit is due. Back in the dim dark ages when I was in high school and dinosaurs roamed the earth, I ran across a poem by the Undisputed Queen of Snark, Ms. Dorothy Parker herself. You know the one, because all tragically misunderstood and literary-minded teenage girls know it: Resume. And I quote:

Razors pain you;
Rivers are damp;
Acids stain you;
And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren’t lawful;
Nooses give;
Gas smells awful;
You might as well live.*

Whenever my heart got broken (a fairly frequent event), I would slope around the house, sighing like Ophelia on Valium, lamenting the fact that even suicide was too much trouble. Then I’d eat some potato chips and feel better.

Then, not long after discovering Resume, I ran across a copy of The Portable Dorothy Parker at DuBey’s Bookstore — that’s it pictured above. I can still remember the day I bought it; it was a life-changer. Not only snarky poems and epigrams for fashionably-depressed teenagers, but really beautiful, lyrical writing about women’s lives. I read that paperback Portable til the cover was all ragged and fuzzy around the edges. I still have my original copy, and every year or so I take it down and reread it from cover to cover. If you have never read Dorothy, do not delay — go get a copy now, and read it immediately. You will thank me for this. (To make it easy, here’s a link to buy it. Alas, I can’t find it in e-format, but it’s a keeper, so buy the hardcopy. Go to http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/portable-dorothy-parker-dorothy-parker/1103267365?ean=9780143039532)

And after getting my babies through their childhood and establishing myself in a dayjob career, I finally got to do what I had always wanted — I became a real writer, just like Dorothy. Her stories and essays about the writing life took on a new meaning for me, and I fell in love with her all over again.

But there is one major point about writing that dearest Dorothy and I agree on. To quote her again, “I hate writing. I love having written.” I love making up my stories. I love playing with words, making them jump through hoops and do their little tricks. I love thinking up fresh hells to visit upon my characters on their way to a happy ever after. But sometimes, when it is actually time to sit my butt down in the chair and put my hands on the keyboard, I feel that old teenage depression again. Dear God in Heaven, I dread it sometimes!

But you know, once I start, I realize that I, like Dorothy, absolutely adore seeing my shiny little stories taking shape on the page/screen. And then I can keep going until my DH comes out to the den and tells me “It’s 3 am, don’t you know you have work in the morning?” It’s the starting, not the writing, that I really hate.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, brings us to the point of today’s post — Arabella’s 100 Challenge. I will give credit for the idea to the fabulous Vicky Dreiling, who is one of the finest Regency Romance writers working today. What Vicky came up with is the best cure I’ve found for a procrastinating writer like myself. Here’s the deal:

You must write 100 words a day. Every day. No less than 100. Even if the well has completely run dry and your muse has stopped speaking to you. I will admit to having one very bad day where my heroine actually listened to the radio, and I got my 100 words by quoting song lyrics. (That scene was, fortunately, cut from the final manuscript!) If you write to 100 and want to quit, you quit. In the middle of a paragraph, in the middle of a sentence. You did your 100, and you were a success. That’s all that’s required.

But if you are anything like me, you’ll find that the only problem was the starting. For every time that I’ve quoted 100 words of Elton John songs and stopped mid-sentence, there are dozens where I’ve looked up a couple of thousand words later and realized how much fun my characters and I are having. I credit Vicky’s 100 Word a Day process for my last two manuscripts.

So, dear readers, who else needs a kick in the pants to get started? I’m throwing down the gauntlet — Starting August 1, we go 100 days of 100 words. You can report your progress on my handy-dandy Yahoo group I set up for the purpose. Remember, you don’t report how many words — this is not a oneupmanship adventure. It is a binary question — Yes, I did my 100 (or more) or No, I didn’t.

At the end of 100 days, the member with the most 100-word days gets a $25.00 Barnes and Noble gift card. If there is a tie (because I’m sure everyone will have made it all 100 days), we will keep going until there is one member left standing.

You’re on your honor here, kids. I mean, it is so easy to type a recipe or a poem if that is all you can come up with, and there is no reason to cheat. If you don’t do it, climb back in the saddle and get going again. Because, at the end of the day, the real prize is that bright, shiny new manuscript you will be making. And like dearest Dorothy, you know you love having written.

If you’re in, go to http://uk.groups.yahoo.com/group/Arabella100/ to sign up. All standard exclusions apply, void where prohibited, wash, rinse, repeat, do not taunt Happy Fun Ball.

Let’s get writing!!!


*Dorothy Parker, “Resumé” from The Portable Dorothy Parker, edited by Brendan Gill. (1926)

Cover Story: BECOMING JOSEPHINE

I’ve got a real treat for you all today! Y’all know that I am a member of the absolute best crit group on the planet, the Amazing SFWG. Last week you may have seen my interview with my SFWG sister Susan Spann, whose debut novel, CLAWS OF THE CAT, has gotten major (and well-deserved) buzz on several book review and discussion websites. If you haven’t read CLAWS yet, you should — it is a fabulous mystery, set in Medieval Japan.

And now, I’m about to introduce you all to another member of my crit group, the Fearless Leader of the SFWG, whose debut novel hasn’t even been released yet, but has already gotten a shout-out in no less a publication than the Wall Street Journal! Heather Webb has written a fascinating novel about the woman behind one of history’s most powerful men, BECOMING JOSEPHINE, which will be released by Plume/Penguin on December 31, 2013.

I’ve read sections of BECOMING JOSEPHINE, and I can assure you that, if you love romance and history, you will want to buy this book! Until New Year’s Eve, you will just have to content yourself with a glimpse of the cover, which is gorgeous. Too often, covers don’t do justice to the book, but I have to say that I love this cover almost as much as I love Heather’s story.

Here it is — what do you think?

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