Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Wishing everyone a joyous holiday season!

The Purple Pros will be on hiatus until Jan. 2, 2014.  You can still read past postings, but no new ones will be added until after the new year.  In addition, SWA members may submit news, stories, essays, poetry and more throughtout the week to purple@southeasternwriters.org.

Happy Holidays!

~~Amy Munnell

Monday, December 23, 2013

Let There Be Light!

Last year, Babe got it into his head to buy a pre-lighted artificial Christmas tree.

“They’re much better than live trees, he said, “and they don’t leave needles all over the floor."

“There’s no substitute for fresh greens,” I pouted. He rolled his eyes.

I know Babe loves me, but he loves a good buy even more. Bargain driven, he can sniff one out from fifty miles away. Babe went whole hog into bird dog mode so that he and Mr. Google could go hunting. I shook my head and disappeared into the kitchen. 

My hands were buried in a bowl of fruitcake batter when he shouted, “Great Jumping Jingle Bells! I’ve found it!”

Costco had the best price but we would need to drive down to Jacksonville on Black Friday when no sane person can be found anywhere near a big box store. He didn’t care. 

He insisted we go together, the island causeway gridlock notwithstanding. A Category 5 hurricane evacuation would have gone more smoothly. “The traffic’s terrible. Let’s just buy a live tree like we’ve done every other year,” I whined.
He rolled his eyes again. “Not big enough.”

“Babe, we’re not the couple living in the White House.”

He said our 18 feet tall vaulted ceiling required an extra tall tree. “Last year,” he reminded me with a snide, know-it-all expression on his face, “you bought a piddly little six-foot live tree that looked like it had been in a war zone.”

He was right. The tree looked so pitiful and forlorn that we left it up until after Valentine’s Day so it wouldn’t go to the shredder with an inferiority complex. 

As soon as we got inside Cosco, Babe spied his prey. “There it is,” he said breathlessly. “Our tree. Is it magnificent or what?”

I looked up and up and up. “It’s too tall, Babe. How will we ever get an angel up there?”
He stared at me like I had been sampling bourbon-laced eggnog. “While it is true that it is tall, I am sure it will fit perfectly in the middle of our living room. Besides, if we buy it today, we’ll save eighty bucks on shipping.”

I turbo sigh. “Woohoo. Just buy the thing and let’s get out of here.” I glanced behind him. “Babe, do you remember when we were outside in the parking lot and you snuck the car into that parking space you said had your name on it?” 

He nodded his head, obviously more interested in gazing at Paul Bunyan’s answer to Fa-La-La than any discussion about parking lots.

“Well,” I whispered, “the woman who was patiently waiting on the space you stole is standing right behind you now, and she is not ho-ho-ho-ing.”  

He spun around and came nose to nose with a woman shaped like a Humvee who was toting a pocketbook the size of a BarkaLounger. If she had pulled out an AK-47 and started shooting, I would have been the only one in the store to see it coming.

Babe turned to me and whispered, “I’ll pay for the tree. You drive the getaway car.”  

Five hours later we arrived home with our direct from China Christmas tree in two boxes, each one equal to the size and weight of a Volkswagen. We somehow managed to get them unboxed and assembled into one 16-foot tall tree, complete with 2,500 pre-strung lights. Our chiropractor is our new BFF.

When finally the tree was up and plugged in, the living room lit up enough to cause corneal damage. Rockefeller Center’s Christmas tree has never been so bright. If the Rockettes had popped in for some liquid holiday cheer, I wouldn’t have been surprised.

We had a few chilly nights during the holidays so we doused all the lamps and got up close and personal with those 2,500 Chinese Christmas tree lights. Andy Williams crooned sappy songs while we pretended we were in Rockefeller Center sipping hot buttered rum and watching the skaters. I snuggled close to Babe in a genuine Kumbaya moment and before long felt the spirit of Christmas down to my toes.

“Admit it,” Babe touted. “Artificial trees are better than live ones.” He was about to add, Didn’t I tell you? 

Before he could form the words, I said, “We’ll talk about it in January after the electric bill for those 2,500 lights arrives. Meanwhile, I should make another batch of bourbon eggnog. When the Rockettes show up, they’ll be plenty thirsty.”

Merry Christmas Y’all!

~~Cappy Hall Rearick

Cappy is a columnist, humorist and is the author a dozen books, including the novel, The Road to Hell is Seldom Seen.  She has stories in several editions of the Not Your Mother's Book series and she writes regularly for Writer Beat, After Fifty Living, and others.  Check out her website: www.simplysoutherncappy.com

Thursday, December 19, 2013

ReBlogs: Where’s the Chicken?

Note from Emily Sue: "Happy holidays to you! I know Thanksgiving's past but this story [relates to] the yuletide season as well!"

Thanksgiving Day loomed ominously close. Ominously because the clock kept ticking and the hacking, debilitating cough I’d had for five weeks refused to turn loose. Late afternoons found me stretched out on the sofa, exhausted and limp as a noodle.

“It will just have to run its course,” droned Dr. Brunson.

“But—I have to cook for Thanksgiving. My family is all coming in,” I sputtered, they being my three offspring, their spouses, and eight grandchildren, a total of sixteen.

And son-in-law, Bubba, whose prowess in the kitchen challenged mine.

“Why don’t you let them take care of you this year?” my physician suggested so calmly that, had I had the strength, I’d have taken his office apart, board by board.  He, like my husband, Lee, remained clueless to the fact that my “great cook” reputation wobbled on the line here.

Finally, Thanksgiving Day dawned. I loaded up on decongestants and antibiotics, got an early start and by noon, completed part of my desserts, tea, and endless tedious things which comprise cooking.

“Slow down, honey. You’re making enough for an army,” Lee murmured in passing, snatching goody samples and dodging my swats. Yeh, I thought, feeling particularly nasty, but you have no compunctions about dipping in.

Men just don’t get it with the cooking thing.

Every female alive knows that cooking and feeding folks is affection in its most noble form. Not cook?

“No way Jose’,” I snapped at Lee, who’d again suggested KFC or something equally blasphemous. “Our kids and grandkids want to eat Mimi’s buttermilk biscuits and strawberry jam. What about Chicken Bog? No restaurant around here offers anything that even remotely resembles it.”

Chicken Bog is a tradition at our house..  Each holiday, the low-country Chicken-rice-smoked sausage dish dazzles alongside potato salad, cranberry sauce, dressing/gravy, sweet potato pie, and a dozen other entrees.

Anyway, my Chicken Bog and homemade buttermilk biscuits are the only foods on earth that are not Bubba-specialties. Master chef Bubba juggles grilling tools, spices, and roasting meat with one hand and stirs up incredible gourmet veggie dishes with the other as effortlessly as suppressing a yawn.

Anything short of splendid on my part today would be catastrophic.

“Why don’t you cut down this time since you’re not feeling well?”

“You’re talking to a perfectionist over-doer, remember?” I joked listlessly.

Lee swiped a chunk of smoked sausage and when I didn’t react, murmured, “you really are sick, aren’t you?”

“Yeh. And Pam, Bubba, and the girls will be here soon.” The room began it’s afternoon spin but I groped the counter, took deep breaths, then managed to get the chicken for the bog stewing in pots.

“I’ll watch these,” Lee said as I tumbled onto the sofa and spiraled downward into a short comatose snooze.

“This chicken seems done,” Lee’s voice tugged me from fuzzy Netherlands and onto unsteady feet.  I fork-tested for tenderness. Perfect. He tong-lifted the meat to bowls.

“I’ll put these here in the freezer section to cool before I debone and dice the meat.” I did so and whisked cooled potato cubes from the fridge to transform into potato salad.

An hour to go. Measure broth into large pot and season to taste. Add sautéed onions, smoked sausage, then bring to boil. Add rice, cover, steam twenty minutes. Done. More creamy and moist than usual. That’s good. Pot doesn’t look quite as full but there’s plenty.

Buzzer. Pie is golden done. Lee measures coffee into coffeemaker.

Shower. Dress. Cars pulling in driveway. Hugs. Kisses. Laughter.

Shouts of glee—Oooh, Mama’s Chicken Bog! Mmm…. You outdid yourself Mama…Mimi, did you bake biscuits? May I have one now? Hands clasped, blessing said…

Everything seemed swathed in a heavy mist.  I blinked away the darned haze. I did it, by George, despite being so danged sick.  Fulfillment, thick and sweet, stirred inside me. I settled down to pick at my food, eyes heavy-lidded and watery, waiting for the compliments to continue.

“Great Chicken Bog, Mimi,” said Bubba. A comet—with Pride emblazoning it–flashed across my horizon. Then his forehead creased into puzzlement. “May I ask you a question”

“Sure,” I said, honored that Chef Bubba queried me.

“Where’s the chicken?” 

Silence dropped like a thick fog.

All around the table, heads lowered and forks pushed rice around in search of meat. “Oh, no,” I croaked, arose and zigzagged to the upright freezer. Sure enough, there they perched–bowls of cooling chicken, now half frozen.

“Anybody for Rice-a-la-Chicken-Mode?” I slurred, weaving a bit.

Everybody cracked up. “Naw, Mimi,” roared Bubba, having the time of his life. . “Heck, this Bog’s good jus’ like it is!”

We had our first meatless Thanksgiving feast and by far the funniest one.

This, too, shall pass, with Mimi’s spotless reputation restored? Right?

 Not on your life.

That holiday is etched in infamy, spawning a special commemoration. Each Thanksgiving now, when we sit down, Bubba grins like possum road-kill and bellows, “Where’s the chicken?”

~~ Emily Sue Harvey

Emily Sue has published 6 books, including Cocoon and Unto These Hills.  She is a life member of SWA and a former president. Read other blogs by Emily Sue on The Story Plant.

Monday, December 16, 2013

More than Luck

It’s not happenstance that I get published a lot. I work on it.

I don’t head out the door for manicures, pedicures, hair dyeing, shoe shopping, or over –the-top lattes. I write. I don’t work out at the gym, hit tennis balls, or twist myself into a pretzel in daily yoga classes. I spend my discretionary time researching markets for the writing I do the rest of the day.

According to any practical soul, I should be de-cluttering, mopping or dusting; instead, I read books on the writing craft. Other women with adult children spend oodles of time texting, e-mailing, phoning or visiting their grown offspring. Rather than being in constant communication with the outside world, I spend that amount of time recording on my excel spread sheet what’s sold, what hasn’t, and what I’ve given away just to see it in print somewhere.

In other words, friends, luck has little to do with my getting published. Determination and grit are the attributes needed to succeed in seeing your writing in print somewhere other than on your own computer screen. What I want is to be read by someone who doesn’t know me and has never heard my name before.

I wish I felt the passion for lifting weights I do for writing. Then, I’d be thin and muscular. I wish I enjoyed a Martha Stewart persona. Then, my living room’s décor would be worth a cell phone picture. I wish I thought my advice and listening skills were more valuable to my adult kids. If I were sure I wasn’t wasting their time yammering to them on  a cell phone, maybe I’d  bother them more; ahem, I mean communicate with them more.

The truth is we only have so many minutes in our day, and we have to decide on how we’re going to use those minutes. We can’t be all things to all people. I admire folks with a green thumb and a myriad of house plants, but I’m not dedicating more than six minutes per week to my yellowing tropical fronds and my pitiful African violets.  You get what you pay for, and you reap what you sow

The reason I place pieces as often as I do is that I try to place them. I stay aware of markets. So, how do I pick up tips on where to submit my outpourings?  Dave Letterman has his, and here’s my "Top Ten List":

  1. Writersmarket.com
  2. C. Hope Clark’s Total Fund for Writers; Bobbie Christmas’s newsletter
  3. Craft Magazines (Poets & Writers; The Writer; Writers’ Digest) I subscribe to these.
  4. Membership letters (SEWC, NCWN, Carteret Writers, Sisters-in-Crime, TAF) I’m a member of all.
  5. Bios of fellow freelance writers which appear in anthologies
  6. Sally Stuart’s Christian Writers’ Market Guide (I own the book.)
  7. Writers’ Market (I own the tome.)
  8. Writers’ Conferences (Instructors mention places to submit.)
  9. Magazines I read: regional, travel, women’s.
  10. Writer friends

The Irish say: "Nodding your head doesn’t row the boat." So, talking about wanting to be a published writer is only that---talking. Less talk; more action! Be like the heroine in The Hunger Games. She speaks little but aims her bow a lot and aims it at the dome!  (Spoiler Alert!)

~~ Erika Hoffman

Erika Hoffman began her writing adventure eight years ago when she became confined taking care of her elderly dad with dementia in her own home.  The first piece she wrote was fortunately accepted by A Cup of Comfort for Families affected by Alzheimer’s and other Dementias. She learned about this market because she attended the Harriett Austin Writers Conference in Athens, GA. Since then, Erika has published many nonfiction narratives, but still has flights of fantasy where she dreams of publishing a whodunit!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

A Round of Applause: Member News

Carl Glickman’s book, The Trembling Field: Stories of Wonder, Possibilities, and Downright Craziness, is available on amazon.com in paperback and digital editions. Several of the stories and essays were entered in the 2012 SWA Summer Competition.  All proceeds will be donated to youth organizations serving children in poverty. 

Patrick Hempfing had his "moMENts" columns published in December issues of About Families, Memphis Parent, Suburban Parent and Irving Parent

The new magazine Screamin’ Mamas has accepted Erika Hoffman’s essay “Empty the Vacuum Cleaner” for its January issue and her story called “Valentine Resolution” for their February edition. Her pieces also appeared in the magazine’s November and December issue. In addition, Erika has a piece on the craft of writing humor - “What’s So Funny, Anyway?” - that is scheduled for publication in March’s edition of The Writer.  Finally, Erika received the good news that Page & Spine would like to publish her mystery entitled “Chew On That!”  She often finds homes for her personal essays so Erika is particularly excited to discover a paying venue for her fiction. 

We invite members to share news about their successes and activities so we can all join the celebration!

Monday, December 9, 2013

ReBlogs: My Own Little Literary Fiefdom

A good friend of mine who is also an author and publisher recently suggested that traditional thrillers, à la Plague, were my real forte, as opposed to the “tight” sub-genre of weather thrillers in which he viewed me as being “trapped.”

His comments came in the wake of a couple of successes by Plague: being nominated as a finalist in EPIC’s eBook Awards suspense/thriller category, and having a pretty good run up Amazon’s Kindle best-seller list to #37 after a Daily Deal appearance.

As much as I enjoy basking in my friend’s approbation of me as a traditional thriller writer, I don’t fully agree with his assessment.  If I’m literarily “trapped” in the weather-thriller sub-genre, it’s a self-imposed ensnarement.

I wasn’t happy when Plague languished in bookish backwaters for over a year.  There were multiple reasons that happened, but the most important one is precisely because I stepped out of my “tight” sub-genre.

With Plague, as I mentioned earlier, I ventured into the realm of traditional thrillers, a land ruled by Big Names with iron fists (and large promotional budgets).  Think the late, great Tom Clancy, Brad Taylor, Steve Berry, Daniel Silva.  It’s not just that they rule, but their minions are faithful to a fault and loathe to grant interlopers entrance to the kingdom.

In other words, thriller readers–I found out after Plague’s publication–are reluctant, more so than readers of other genres, to try novels by unfamiliar authors.  Romance readers, for example and by contrast, are much more willing to embrace books by new or “unknown” writers.

The bottom line here is that yours truly wandered into a genre minefield and stepped on a Bouncing Betty.

So, lesson learned.  I’m perfectly content, eager even, to homestead within my own little literary fiefdom–meteorologically-based drama–and solidify the specialized niche I’ve begun to stake out for myself.

Supercell follows in the tradition of Eyewall.  (And although I didn’t set out to produce a trilogy, it looks like I’ll end up with one.  I’m currently pecking away at a novel with the working title of Blizzard.)

My goal is to establish a lasting bond with a readership that loves weather thrillers, or at least thrillers based on our natural environment.

So, until Blizzard blows in, I hope you’ll enjoy the excitement and danger of a two-week tornado chase in Supercell.

~~ Buzz Bernard

A retired meteorologist, Buzz has published 3 novels, the latest, Supercell, came out this fall.  He is Vice-President of SWA and manages our workshop bookstore.  This article was reblogged with permission from his personal blog.  You can read his blog and learn more about Buzz on his website: buzzbernard.com

Thursday, December 5, 2013

September Ends: A Beautiful Little Story About a Novel Collaboration

Here is the beautiful backstory of our novel collaboration, which begin with an email sent from Peachtree Street, in the heart of Atlanta —

HE: You’ll need a creative project to get you through the next few months. Why don’t you write another novella?

ME: Why don’t you write one with me? What do you think about this? What if you write the poems and I write the prose?

With those emails a novel was born. September Ends is a contemporary romance with erotic and supernatural elements bound together by poetry. It reveals the intricate web of passion and desire entangling Liz Snow, Pete Hendrix and Jack O. Savage. The story is told through Liz Snow’s diary, Jack O. Savage’s poetry, and letters sent across the Atlantic. 

The novel is a collaboration between an anonymous English poet, a “Northerner” as the English call them, now living in London, and me, a native Tennessean, now happily entrenched in Atlanta on Peachtree Street. We met through an online writers’ group and found that, not only did we share an enthusiasm for the new wave of indie authors and publications; we also share a passion for English and American Literature. We both feel very strongly that words can be an art form. 

His email came the day I learned that my mother was terminally ill with cancer. My response led to two months of back and forth emails and negotiation. I guess you could call it negotiations. He says now that he didn’t want to collaborate. I thought ‘no’ was merely a delay tactic until he found out more about how the novel would develop.

He wanted to know who the main character would be. That was around 9:00pm Eastern Time. By the time he checked his email the next morning in London, I had a four-page character analysis of Elizabeth October Snow of Atlanta, Georgia, originally from LaFayette, Georgia. What about the other characters? I developed Peter William Hendrix III of Chattanooga, Tennessee. What if they meet through a famous poet? An Englishman? What if…how about…Jack O. Savage, he said? I didn’t even need to think about developing his character because by that point The Story had found us.

My collaborator had never visited the American Southeast. How could he understand the lushness of our countryside in the summer? The sound of the bugs and crickets at night? The lull of interstate traffic that is a constant background hum? I recorded them for him! At night I stood outside capturing the sound of crickets and tree frogs from the farm in Tennessee. After a rainstorm, I visited my family’s cave and recorded the rush of the waterfall capped off with the lone cry of a mourning dove, which the Cherokees called a Rain Crow. I recorded the birds singing in the rain and I took pictures of our trees, flowers…anything that would assist him in the experience of the Southeast. 

Three main personalities presented themselves to us and these characters began to tell us the story. We developed the synopsis. It’s funny how the original storyline is almost nothing like the novel we plotted! My collaborator wrote the poetry as the ‘spine’ of September Ends. From there, I started writing the words to weave the characters around the plot. I visited the Margaret Mitchell house in Atlanta and literally begged her spirit, if it was still there, to give me some type of guidance, something unique that would be as different and of ‘the now’ as the poetry/prose collaboration. The question was also the answer. To make the novel a bit of today’s world, the story is told in the different methods in which we communicate as well as having a message which is relevant to today’s world. Diary entries, blogs, and emails comprise a great part of September Ends, although most of the story is told in a traditional novel format. 

I wrote Part-1 with each chapter as a short story, in case my collaborator wished to remove one. That way we wouldn’t have to re-write an entire section. By Part-2, we were both sharing ideas. By the time we reached Part-3, we were writing practically the same thing. We writing, me adding, he’d write more. The Muse found us in a major way. Now I understand how musicians or actors feel when they receive a buzz of the creative. In our case, we received a story. 

The anonymous English poet? We have only spoken on the phone three times. The entire book was written via emails and MS-word docs. 

Are we personally involved? No, we just work together. 

Do we have plans to meet? No, not really. It might upset the balance we have achieved in our collaboration. 

Do we plan on writing future novels? Yes, we do.

Sadly, my mother lost her battle with cancer and died before she could see the success for September Ends. She knew about the book because I wrote it on our farm in Tennessee while I took care of her as her disease progressed. She called September Ends my lifeboat during her turbulent seas. The poet and I dedicated the book to her and her courageous battle. She did live long enough to know that the book had been published. For that, I am very thankful.

~~ Hunter S. Jones

Hunter is an author from Atlanta.  September Ends is available in paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon.com, the week of November 24, 2013. Hunter plans book signings in Atlanta, Chattanooga and Nashville, including at Atlanta’s Spa Sydell Midtown location, Saturday December 14 at 1:00. See also: Twitter.com/huntersjones101; Facebook.com/huntersjones111; Pinterest.com/HunterSJones

Monday, December 2, 2013

EditorialLee Speaking

Recently one of my Facebook friends posted this interesting, if ridiculously theoretical, dilemma: if you could be eighteen again and know everything you know now, would you rather start out today or in 1957?

Although I did not post a response, I've found myself thinking about that question, knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt my reply would have been 1957. Maybe somehow I could have stopped the assassination of John F. Kennedy; the event, which I believe, started America on its downhill slide from greatness to mediocrity, a fall that seems to gain momentum daily rather than being arrested. Could I have somehow gotten the ear of the leaders to let them know some of the disastrous long-term consequences of trusting future generations of politicians to safeguard our nation? I imagined myself writing letters to leaders, demonstrating my knowledge of the future by predicting that Lou Burdette would be the star of the 1957 World Series, that the Dodgers and Giants would abandon New York after the 1958 season, that the impossible tickets in the 1960 Presidential elections would be Kennedy-Johnson vs. Nixon-Lodge. Maybe with Nostradamus-like skills, I could get someone's ear, and 2013 wouldn't be the great mess that it is. I mean, wouldn't that be the only reason God would choose to put me there?

Perhaps I could stop my family members from smoking. Three of my uncles and one of my cousins died from lung cancer. Another cousin recently had a lung removed. Would they listen? Would anyone even think about cigarettes being a health risk in an era when smoking was accepted anywhere and everywhere, when commercials told you, "Winston tastes good like a (clap-clap) cigarette should"?

If I could somehow find my seven-year-old self, would he listen to his own future? Would I be able to change my own destiny? I wonder, because I was a pretty darned hardheaded kid (I'm sure that comes as no surprise to anyone).

And, if I did that, would I suddenly disappear for having changed my own future a la "The Butterfly Effect"? I decided I could not risk fixing me until I'd fixed the more important stuff. And maybe even then I couldn't risk it. Maybe I had to follow the imperfect path of my life to get to go back and be the hero . . . or a young man confined in a loony bin.

And, yes, of course, I'd get a degree in computer science. I would buy Microsoft stock, bet on Cassius Clay to beat Sonny Liston and a hundred other sports bets, such as putting money down on the Joe Namath-led underdog Jets to win the Super Bowl, or betting on Bee Bee Bee to win the 1972 Preakness Stakes after Riva Ridge had run away with the Kentucky Derby. 

The thing that kept bugging me, though, was wondering just where the heck I would start. I would be a nobody. Where would I be geographically, for example? If I were here in Atlanta, I would know nobody; I'd just be some penniless vagrant kid without an identity, most likely begging for something to eat. If I were back in my childhood homeland, how would I explain my 18-year-old self to people who knew me as the seven-year-old I became on June 22 of that year? How would I get a social security card without a birth certificate? Begging for food or a place to sleep wouldn't be the way to start a new life. Or maybe it's an old life, I'm not sure of the phraseology.

I considered enlisting my grandmother, a trustworthy soul widowed in 1954 when a train rammed an automobile, which held my paternal grandfather. I could tell her things about the family only I could know, I could convince her who I was and how critical it would be not to let anyone else know about me. She would give me shelter and help me get work, perhaps help me research kids born in 1939 who died in infancy so I could get one of their birth certificates. Would that be successful?

If you have a few minutes to devote to the fantasy, I urge you to think about this one, not so you can be ready when it happens because we all know it won't. But because it's a great brain exercise.

Merry Christmas!

~~ Lee Clevenger

Lee is the current President of SWA, an author and co-founder of ThomasMax Publishing in Atlanta, GA.