Writing Process Blog Tour 2014

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I was tagged by Candace Habte, a lovely. talented fellow blogger who happens to have “Many Heads”–as you will find out by visiting her eclectic blog here–to participate in the Writing Process Blog Tour 2014. To be honest with you folks, writing about writing, or anything that happens to be nonfiction, is not my forte; so please bear with me, and ahead of time let me just say “bless your little hearts” for doing so.

I can tag only three writers, though like Candace, there are more I’d like to include, but rules are rules, (And I’m trying to leave my rebellious past behind me–for the most part.) so here are my three: Mandy–Healing Beyond Survival, Stephen Thom Writing, and Julia Lund–Creating Worlds Where Anything Can Happen. 

1. What are you currently working on?

This post for starters. I’m a procrastinator extraordinaire; it’s taken me over two months to respond to Candace’s tag. I’m also working on a dream-inspired short story in the horror genre that I think I’m going to send out to various publications–when finished–instead of posting it here. It’s been too long since I’ve invested the time to do this. The third project I’m laboring on is a novel, one of two I’ve started but haven’t finished. One is a young adult dystopian story. I’ve been trying for a few weeks to work up some enthusiasm for it, but it just ain’t happening. I suppose my mind just isn’t ready to go there again yet. Sooooo…I turned to a little story titled Sundog that’s been languishing in the bottom drawer of my desk for a couple of years. My main character is a six-year-old girl named Shelly Lollis, who happens to be saddled with a dysfunctional–leaning towards crazy–family. Bad things happen to Shelly, and Shelly does bad things, most of them in collusion with her older half-sister who has Asperger’s syndrome. Things will go from bad to worse to downright creepy. I love it!

2. How does your work differ from others in its genre?

Most of my stories have a rural, Southern setting. I’m sure you’ve heard that old aphorism, “write what you know”, and when it comes to the South and country, I know it, I’ve lived it, I’ve breathed it. Ninety percent of the time, when the voices in my head are clamoring about, whining–and sometimes yelling at the top of their lungs–to get my attention, you can bet your sweet ass those voices will have a long, Southern drawl. Remember the old television series The Beverly Hillbillies?  The Clampetts? Well, that’s close to how the voices in my head speak. And for the most part, so do I.

Though the setting is an alternate Earth, my Kingdom stories (mentioned in an earlier post) leave no doubt that this is a place where rural lives are the norm. Most speculative fiction I’ve read either takes place in a modern, citified surrounding, or way out there on the far side of the galaxy.

I think Sundog differs on two levels from most novels huddled under the umbrella term of “speculative fiction”. One is the age of the protagonist, Shelly, and two is that the setting is Southern rural. I know I’m not the first to write from this angle; but personally, I’ve seen very little speculative fiction containing these two elements.

3. Why do you write what you do?

This one will be short and sweet. I’m just following orders dished out from the plethora of people rattling around in my brain.

4. How does your writing process work?

Oh, sort of hit and miss. I have periods of time when I write like the Tasmanian Devil, then stretches when I can’t write a single word–and that is depressing, my friends. Maybe I get depressed and can’t write, or I can’t write and get depressed. Who knows? But when the words do flow, they are inspired by a passel (Re: The Beverly Hillbillies here) of things: An overheard conversation, a newspaper article, a dream, a song, a “what if?” moment. Then one of the voices will pick up the idea and run with it. Usually, that particular voice whispers the opening line, drawing me in. And then the ball is in my court. But the voice returns from time to time, guiding me along the road I need to take–which sometimes is the wrong road, and we have to backtrack and take a different route. The voice usually tells me what our destination will be long before we arrive there, but sometimes the outcome surprises us both.

As to the nuts and bolts of my writing day, I do my best work in the afternoon. I am not a morning person. All I want when I first get out of bed is coffee, my recliner, and the television tuned to the news, volume barely audible. Oh…also, no lights on, and if my husband is up, no talking. This period lasts for about two hours. Then a small breakfast, and with a mug of coffee in hand, I retire to my bedroom, set down at my desk, and fire up the computer. I read my email, browse Facebook a little, then it’s time to get down to business. To get me immersed in whatever I’m working on at the time, I read what I’ve written the day before, doing a little editing as I do so. Then if I’m lucky, my mind returns to the road, and I put on my walking shoes and off I go.

I have no rules, not set amount of words or length of time I feel I must put in before I stop for the day. Sometime all I manage is a sentence, sometimes it’s pages. I wish I were more disciplined, but I’m not. But when I write because I have to and not because I want to, it takes all the joy out of the process. And though I would love to amass a fortune from my writing, money is not the reason I do it. I write to be complete.

 

 

 

 

 

The Commission for the Reinstatement of the Formerly Deceased aka Morphia’s Flock

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W. K. Tucker:

My friend and fellow blogger, Manja, created this collage inspired by “Birds of a Feather”. Y’all should pay her a visit and see more of her awesome creations.

Originally posted on fall of the fishman:

MORPHIA'S FLOCK Y

I’ve never liked Stephen King, you know. In my universe Haruki Murakami is king. But I like W.K. Tucker!

She’s written a tale about some poor black-eyed kid, Morphia, who has a bitch of a mother with PTSD and a truckload of abandonment issues. Didn’t like her kid sprouting wings, so got out the old pedagogical cow dehorners to set her brood straight.

W.K. Tucker is part Cherokee and used to be a hillbilly. You can give her any old carcass and she’ll skin it, debone it, and set you down for tea. Hm. Almost like finding some bare-arsed girl under the floorboards. In fact, here’s to finding bare-arsed girls under the floorboards! (And the Commission for the Reinstatement of the Formerly Deceased, too!)

P.O.F.A.!!!

(Or maybe not. Today has been the coldest 19th of August since 1924. Also saved a near-paralysed blue heron from drowning. As thanks it…

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Space and Time–Old and New

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I’m very happy to announce that my short story, “The Keeper”, will make its debut in the upcoming winter issue of Space and Time magazine, website: http://spaceandtimemagazine.com/.  “The Keeper” is set on an alternate Earth–my third foray into this strange, harsh land–and deals with a young woman’s struggle in a male-dominated society to escape her fate–which happens to lurk behind a locked door spanning the mouth of a cave.

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In the spring of 2013, Space and Time bought and published “The Preacher Man”, (pictured above) my second story that takes place in my own little world,  which in my head I think of as “The Kingdom”. Lord, I have page after page of notes–plus a map–dealing with The Kingdom, a good indication that I’ll be making a few more visits to my fantasy world in the future.

And it all started with my first Kingdom Story, “Birds of a Feather”, published in 2009 in the online e-zine, Mindflights, (which is now defunct). It was my first sale; I made a whopping $10.00. This is my favorite of all the short stories I have written, and for those of you who never had a chance to read it, I thought I’d share it here. And I hope you love it as much as I do.

“Birds of a Feather”

My little sister was born with wings, or at least the beginnings of such. Little nubs on her sharp shoulder blades. When they reached any size, when from time to time little tufts of white feathers dared blossomed out, Ma cut them off. I held Morphia down while she clipped them off with the cow dehorners. Morphia cried and carried on, but Ma said it didn’t hurt none, no more than snipping off a fingernail did, and if she didn’t cut them off, Morphia would fly away like Pa had.

Fact was, Ma had lost Pa to the winds, and she was bound and determined not to lose Morphia too. “Should’ve never let that bird-man in my bed, Henry,” she’d told me more times than I could count.

Folks in town said the bird-people had died out more than a hundred years ago–if there ever had been such beings, and they weren’t just made-up things like vampires and werewolves and such. And Preacher Conroy said they were unholy creatures, and if one ever did show up they’d burn it like they had that strange cow-fish that’d flopped out of the river last year. But they’d never seen Pa sail down out of the sky, his big, white angel-wings flapping against the wind, like Ma and I had–and I prayed they never did.

No one’d ever seen Morphia’s bumps either. Ma kept her hidden away in the cellar and only let her out in the pitch-black night. Ma told people, any who cared enough to ask, that Morphia was an albino and couldn’t tolerate sunshine. She looked it, with her milky skin and white, corn-silk hair. But her eyes were a dark wonder–no whites; they were as black as the soot coating the inside of the chimney.

It’d been years since Pa had come to see us, way back when Morphia was still in Ma’s swollen belly. I had just turned seven the night he lifted up off the back porch and flew north toward the Red Dirt Mountains. Ma and me had watched him wing out over the flatlands and sail over the Celeste River, growing smaller and smaller till he was no more than a speck against the rust-colored slopes of the mountains. Then nothing.

I had looked up at Ma. “Why can’t we go with him?”

Ma put her arm around my shoulder and hugged me to her side. “We can’t live up in them mountains, Henry. Why, they’re so steep, they’re like walls. Only birds can live in a place like that.”

“I wanta be like Pa. I wanta be a bird.”

“Well, you’re not, and I’m not. We have to stay on the ground where God put us.”

Pa flew away that morning and we ain’t seen him since.

That’d been amost six years ago. Seventy-one months. Seventy-three full moons–adding in the blue ones–every one of them counted off in X’s painted in Ma’s blood on the white-washed wall of the kitchen, each reddish-brown smear a mark of her madness.

And now, while I stirred the pot of plopping cornmeal mush I’d fixed for supper, I watched Ma rummaging in the cabinet, muttering to herself. And when she came up with the butcher knife, I knew that tonight the moon would ride fat and yellow across the sky.

Ma went to her wall of marks and rolled up the left sleeve of the baggy calico dress she’d worn night and day for over a week. She drew the blade across her forearm next to last month’s just-healed slash. Blood plop-plopped onto the floor. She dipped her finger into the fresh blood and made her X, then stepped over to the window and stared out into the dusk.

I put the pot of mush on the table next to the flickering candle, then got a handful of rags out of the cabinet drawer. And as I had seventy-three times before, I took the knife out of Ma’s hand and wrapped up her arm, then wiped up the tacky red splotches dotting the wood-plank floor. What would come up, that is; the old, dry wood sucked up the blood like a hungry leech.

“Come on, Ma, it’s time to eat.” I put my arm around her bony shoulders and eased her gently over to the table and down into a chair. Then I went after my sister.

I took down the lantern that hung on a nail by the back door, lit the wick, then crossed the room and removed the board that braced the cellar door. It swung open with a squeaky breath. A song without words, the notes high and clear and as sweet as thick molasses, rolled up the stairs and spilled out into the kitchen.

“Henry!” Ma’s voice. “Henry!”

I turned around.

Ma rocked side to side in her chair, her eyes big and anxious and wild. “You be careful. Don’t let her get away.”

I didn’t know why she fretted so; Morphia had never so much as stepped foot out of the yard. Didn’t seem to have any interest in it. “I won’t, Ma.”

Holding the lantern high, I went down the steps. Lit only by a small window set high on the wall, it was darker in the small cellar than it was outside in the twilight. Ma wouldn’t let Morphia have a lantern or candle neither ’cause she was feared Morphia might accidentally burn down the house. Fact was, if it had anything to do with Morphia, Ma feared it. But I knew she couldn’t help what she felt; she had too much craziness rattling around in her head.

Morphia sat on the side of her narrow bed, hands folded in her lap, head cocked to one side, eyes closed. Singing…just singing like a bird. That’s about all she did anymore, day and night. Fact was, I couldn’t remember the last time I’d heard her speak real words. Been more than a year, I reckoned. She just sang.

I spoke softly, not wanting to startle her: “Suppertime, Sis.”

Morphia opened up those black wells. She smiled, a little happy trill escaping her lips, and came up off the bed and danced across the dirt floor to where I stood at the foot of the stairs. She was always anxious to get out of the cellar.

I gripped her arm as we climbed the steps so she wouldn’t run ahead and upset Ma. “Easy now.” I didn’t want her to fall, either. She’d taken a tumble down the stairs a year or so ago and had broken her arm. It’d been a bad break, a jagged, hollow bone sticking out of her pale skin, and I’d had to set it ’cause Ma wouldn’t take her to the doctor. She didn’t want anyone to get a good look at Morphia. “They’ll burn her, Henry,” she’d said. And I’d known she spoke true.

Morphia made an impatient clucking noise, and moved a step ahead of me. Then two, stretching out my arm. Fact was, though she was only six-years-old, her legs were longer than mine. Thin, scaly things. But she moved on them as gracefully as the night ptoons that high-stepped through the silty shallows of the Celeste River after dark, stalking the glowing mud worms.

Morphia pulled me through the doorway and into the kitchen. I felt the excitement drain out of her, wither and die and shrivel up like a sun-blistered tomato when she saw Ma sitting at the table. Ma had that effect on Morphia: took the life right out of her.

I gave her a little push toward the table. “Go on, sit down.”

As Morphia was baby-stepping toward the table, I held up the lantern to blow out the flame, and that’s when I saw them poking out against the gray dress covering her back: the start of wings. My stomach turned over.

I sat down at the table, but couldn’t eat. Morphia bent her head and dug right in. She was always hungry.

Ma looked up from her untouched bowl. Her eyes fell on Morphia, and the jitteriness stilled. Her cracked lips turned up in a little smile. Love beamed big and bright on her face, making her look almost normal, almost not crazy.

Morphia slurped her mush.

Ma watched Morphia and I watched Ma, praying that she wouldn’t see, wouldn’t notice…

Ma’s eyes narrowed. She stood up, her chair scraping over the boards. Finally, Morphia looked up, and she must’ve seen what was in Ma’s eyes, ’cause she squeaked and jerked backwards. Her chair toppled over and she spilled onto the floor.

“Get her, Henry,” Ma said.

And though I felt sick to my soul at what was to come, I did as I was told, reached down and grabbed Morphia by the foot as she crawled by.

She kicked and squawked, but I held tight, went down on my knees and pulled her to me. I gathered her thrashing body in my arms. “I’m sorry, Sis, but it’s for your own good.” Empty words to someone who’d never heard the Sunday sermons warning of darkness and evil and demons with wings, who’d never seen the fires eating anything and everything the preacher said was unnatural.

“Get her up here,” Ma said.

I struggled to my feet, bringing Morphia with me. She fought me every inch of the way, little high-pitched peeps sprinkled in with her ragged breaths, as I turned her, exposing her back. A strong smell of sweat and wet feather clogged my throat. And when Ma ripped away Morphia’s dress, I saw why: a fine white down covered her back.

Ma sucked in a hissing breath of air. “Oh, dear Lord, it’s spreading.” She peeled the gray material down over Morphia’s shoulders, then her arms. More white down.

And I remembered…

Pa’s arms reaching down for me, arms sprouting the same pale fuzz.

“Hold tight, Henry.” Ma’s voice pulled me back to the stuffy kitchen, back to the big pliers-looking thing in her hands, back to my sister wriggling in my arms.

I hugged Morphia tighter, her scrawny arms that were trapped between us digging into my ribs. Ma pulled apart the handles of the dehorners. The steel blades separated.

I closed my eyes.

Morphia writhed against me, her shrill chirps ringing in my ears. Then every muscle in her body right down to her toes went board-straight. She shrieked. And there was another voice, this one no more human than hers was, joining in, howling like a snake-bit dog.

“Hush up, Henry,” Ma said.

And it was me. I was the thing crying out its pain.

Morphia’s screech lifted higher. She jerked and twitched. Then her body relaxed, loosened into a bag of sharp elbows and bony ribs.

“It’s over,” I whispered against her hair. But she didn’t hear me; she’d passed out.

I felt a warm wetness spreading over my arms, opened my eyes and looked down at Morphia’s back. Gouts of blood pumped from the two places where the start of wings had been. Before, when Ma had clipped them off, there’d been only trickles; this was a flood.

“Oh my God, oh my God!” Ma wailed. She dropped the dehorners, tore at her hair. “Oh my God, I’ve killed her!”

Blood ran in a thick river down Morphia’s back. I was scared. I didn’t know what to do. And Ma, she fell down on her knees and started banging her forehead against the boards.

Blood was beginning to form a pool at my feet. “Ma.” And it kept on coming, spreading outward. “Ma!”

She didn’t look up. She’d gone away.

I swooped up Morphia and carried her over to Ma’s bed. I eased her down upon the mattress and turned her onto her side. Blood continued to flow. So much of it. The thin sheet beneath her shoulders turned sloppy red. I had to stop it. But how? How did you–

Cobwebs. I remembered now. Ma’d used cobwebs on my foot that time I’d sliced it open on a piece of glass.

I grabbed the broom propped in the corner beside the wood-box and raced around the room, sweeping the ceiling, twirling the gauzy webs around the cornhusks. Then I stripped off the sticky gray stuff and packed it against the bony knobs on Morphia’s shoulder blades. And I noticed…the bumps were different. Fact was, they weren’t soft like ear-bones no more; they were hard like regular bones. And a brownish-red circle of marrow dotted the center of each. Morphia’s wings had set.

The cobwebs did the trick, stopped the bleeding. But Morphia had lost so much blood that she was as weak as a newborn kitten. She slept for most of a week, only rousing now and then to eat a little. I stayed close by, even slept on the floor beside her bed, afraid if I turned my back she might slip away–and not like Pa had to the sky, but to the land where the dead walked.

And while I watched after Morphia, Ma wandered the flatlands, crying and wailing and cursing Pa.

***

“You can’t cut them off no more, Ma,” I said to her back. “She’ll most likely die if you do.”

Ma gazed out the window at the face of the rising moon. If she’d heard me, she gave no sign.

I removed the brace from the cellar door. “I’m gonna bring her up now, and take her outside. I just wanted you to know…I didn’t want you to be…she’s got wings now, Ma. Big wings.”

It’d been six months since Morphia had been out of the cellar, six months since Ma had seen her, and six months since Ma had spoken a single word. Fact was, the only voice I’d heard in all that time had been my own. And Morphia’s now and again. When she’d sing.

Morphia didn’t sing much no more, but when she did, she sounded as sorrowful as a mourning dove. She stared, day in and day out, at the little patch of sky visible outside the cellar window, and sometimes, soft tweets and trills trembled off her tongue and dropped into the darkness at her feet. The sadness of it pret’near broke my heart.

And her wings, lord how they’d grown and grown till the silvered tips brushed the ground. Beautiful, they were, as white and shimmery as the feathers of a camray. At times, she’d whip them back and forth like a baby bird practicing flying, raising up a cloud of dust inside the tiny cellar. Once, her feet had even lifted off the floor a tad. But there was nowhere to go, no room to stretch out her wings. So she’d settled back down, dusty tear-tracks smudging the down on her cheeks.

I said to Ma: “Morphia needs to get out of the cellar for a while. She’s pining away down there.” Nothing from Ma. “I just didn’t want you getting upset when you see them…her wings.” I turned away and pushed open the cellar door.

Behind me, I heard a rustling, rattling, clattering.

“Henry.” I looked back. Ma lurched toward me, dragging the chain she used to fetter the milk cow so it wouldn’t wander out into the flatlands and become supper for a pack of ornery, one-eyed cyclotes. “Put this on her or she’ll fly away. Loop it around her middle and hook it in the back where she can’t reach it.”

I hadn’t thought about that–Morphia flying away; all that’d been on my mind was how shocked Ma was gonna be when she saw Morphia’s full-growed wings. I took the chain from her gnarled hands. “Okay, Ma.”

The cloud of madness lifted from her eyes. She smiled at me, and for just a second, I saw her as she’d once been: all shiny blonde curls and white teeth and dancing eyes. She patted my cheek. “You’re a good son, Henry.” And as her hand slowly dropped, I saw the black jitteriness seep back into her eyes, dulling the green with its dirty fog.

I wanted her back. I wanted my ma back. I wanted her to put her arms around me like she had when I was little and had scraped my knee or some such, and tell me everything was gonna be all right.

She turned away and shuffled back over to the night-dark window.

“Ma…” squeezed out of my tight chest on a ragged gasp of air. “Ma…” Not so much as a twitch to show that she’d heard me.

I swiped the back of my hand across my wet face and turned to the black mouth of the cellar door. I couldn’t cry, wouldn’t cry. I had to be strong. I had to be the one to take care of things ’cause Ma couldn’t. Down in that hole was my sister and she needed me.

I clomped down the stairs into a darkness lit only by the light spilling through the doorway from the kitchen. “Wanta go outside?” I said to the shadow that was Morphia.

Her answer was a melancholy croak.

“I’m gonna take you outside, but Ma says I gotta put this on you first.”

Morphia stood quietly as I slipped the thin chain around her chest, under her arms, then over the base of her wings where I snugged it tight and fastened it together. I took her arm and led her up the stairs. She had to duck her head as we passed through the doorway into the kitchen. Fact was, as her wings had grown, so had her body. Now, she was somewhere nigh around six feet tall, and as slender and willowy as the marsh grass that swayed along the banks of the Celeste River.

As we stepped inside the kitchen, my eyes cut over to the window where Ma had been. Now only the black, blank eye of glass looked back at me. Mind and body, Ma was gone.

I opened the door leading out onto the back porch. Night-thick summer air puffed through the opening, its breath sweet with the odor of honeysuckle and whisit vine. It ruffled the fine white down on Morphia’s face. She closed her eyes. Cooed.

“Come on, Sis.” I urged her through the doorway out onto the porch.

Cicadas buzzed. Tree frogs croaked. Somewhere out in the flatlands, a cyclote howled. Morphia raised her eyes to the stars and drank in the night, her wings quivering.

I held tight to the end of the chain.

After a time, she glided down the steps into the moonlit yard. Making little clucking noises, she meandered here and there, stopping occasionally to scratch in the dirt with pointy toenails.

I fed out the long chain, looped my end around the porch rail, then sat down on the steps. And I watched Morphia. She clucked and scratched, clucked and scratched.

The breeze picked up, soughed through the wind-squashed tops of the two old oaks that squatted in twisted lumps on either side of the house. Gimnets whirred and whip-poor-wills warbled. Morphia clucked and scratched, clucked and scratched.

My eyes drifted closed.

And my mind slipped back in time…

“Be careful, Kaz, don’t you dare drop him.” Ma’s face below me, worry drawing her features.

A low rumble against my back. “He’ll be fine, Millie.” Arms wrapped around my belly, strong arms covered with white down. Then Ma’s face getting smaller and smaller, the land spreading out below me, our house, the scrubby flatlands, the Celeste River, the Red Dirt–

Clank-clank-clank-clank!

My eyes flew open as the last of the chain snapped into the air. Heart in my throat, I stumbled to my feet, my eyes following the taunt chain up into the night sky to Morphia’s flapping shadow. The chain pulled tighter, held for a few seconds, then came raining down in spirals. Morphia slammed onto the ground.

I bounded off the steps and ran toward her. She clambered back to her feet, beat her wings and rose up into the air. I jumped and grasped at her scaly foot, but it slipped through my fingers and I fell to the dirt on my back, knocking the wind out of my lungs. In seconds, the chain hauled Morphia back down again. She flopped down beside me. I reached out my hand as she thrashed in the dust, and finally, I was able to draw in a breath of air and say her name: “Morphia…”

She ignored me, pushed back up on her feet, and lifted off again. And again, the chain pulled her back to earth.

I crawled the few feet to her, and grabbed her arm as she was pushing herself up onto her knees. “Stop it, Sis, you’re gonna kill yourself.”

Her head turned in my direction, and lord, the sadness in her eyes was a terrible thing, as black and bottomless as the strip pits of Cheyanna. Her lips worked, spilling out soft chips and chirps, then: “P–pl–please, Hen–ry.”

And I knew what she wanted.

I had only two choices: set her free and probably never see her again, or keep her in the basement and watch her die.

Fact was, there really wasn’t no choice at all.

I nodded my head. “Okay.”

I got to my feet and pulled Morphia up to stand beside me. She turned her back and I unhooked the chain. It slithered to the ground. Morphia’s wings whooshed, whooshed, whooshed, and she lifted up into the sky. I cocked back my head and watched as she darted one way then another. And she was singing, the lilting notes lighting up the night with shiny-bright stars of happiness.

“Henry! What in God’s name have you done?”

I heard Ma, but I didn’t pay her no mind. I just watched Morphia fly. God may have intended for me and Ma to stay put on the ground, but He intended for Morphia to fly. That’s why He’d given her wings.

“Henry!”

Morphia swooped down over me and Ma, passing so close overhead that I felt the wind off her wings. Then she whipped back up into the night sky, turned north and soared out over the flatlands. And I think I saw–I squinted my eyes–maybe saw, other winged shapes hovering over the river. I think I saw Morphia join them.

“Henry!” Ma tugged on my arm.

And I think I saw them disappear into the mountains.

Maybe someday when I’m a full-growed man, I’ll cross the flatlands and swim the Celeste River and climb the Red Dirt Mountains.

“Henry!”

Maybe someday I’ll see Morphia and Pa again.

“Henry!”

Someday.

Just How Good Were The “Good Old Days”?

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Linda Workman Smith

The following article, written by my sister, Linda Workman Smith, will appear next week in the local paper of our hometown. (So proud of her!) I keep urging her to submit her writing to subject-appropriate magazines, but she’s just too darn busy gardening–both vegetables and flowers–that she only comes inside to sleep, eat and nap this time of year; and in the cooler months, she’s building walkways, landscaping and pouring over seed catalogs. I think she only writes when the moon is new, there’s a foot of snow on the ground and the temperature is below zero–all the preceding occurring on a Friday the 13th.  :)

 Just how good were the “Good Old Days”?

Few things are more satisfying than to open my pantry door and see the jars of colorful produce lined up like a regiment of soldiers across the shelves; or to know that on cold snowy days, rather than going to the grocery store I can just open my pantry door or one of my upright freezers, peruse the various shelves and bins to come up with a nourishing meal–with many of the ingredients grown, harvested and prepared for storage—right here on my two acre paradise. Other fixings may have been garnered from the overabundance of gardens, orchards or groves of friends and family.

In summer, growing up I watched my mother scour the meadows and hills on and around our farm picking wild blackberries, grapes, plums, anything edible; she also raised a huge garden, chickens, and always had at least one milk cow. Much of the time it was just Mama and her seven children as for many years Daddy was a lumberjack in California, only coming home when snowfall made it impossible to log.

Picture this: An L shaped four room clapboard house completely devoid of paint, weathered to a dull gray color. Kitchen, bedroom, living room all in a straight row; then, at a 90 degree angle off one side of the living room, a dog trot/breezeway leading to another bedroom. Adjoining the front of the living room and this second bedroom was a wide covered porch. Across the L shaped back of the house, another covered porch. You’ll notice I didn’t mention a bathroom. That structure was quite some distance from the house, along a well-traveled path on a hillside that sloped away from the garden. On the other side of the house and a short hike across the road was our well. We were fortunate that we had a well pump to deliver water to a faucet just outside the kitchen door. I have often wondered why the water pipe wasn’t brought through the wall into the kitchen.

In this kitchen stood a large wooden table—covered with oilcloth–surrounded by chairs and two benches; keeping this ensemble company was an ancient refrigerator, a wood burning cook stove with a box nearby to hold wood, a standalone cabinet with a pull-out granite top; below the granite top were two doors opening to a large storage area. Above, between two upper storage areas was a large bin for holding flour. It had a crank handle at the bottom to sift the flour out into a bowl or other container. Beside this cabinet was an old table; perched on this table was what appeared to be the upper part of an old china cabinet. This kitchen was the heart of our home. This is where Mama fed the most important people in her life: her children…as well as the occasional neighbor hiking to their favorite fishing hole or walking to the mailboxes which were situated on the main road. Sometimes various well-known wanderers walking past on the way to my paternal grandparents’ house—further up the road—would stop in to eat as well.

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Now picture the above…and this: Mid-summer, early morning, already 90 degrees outside. Mama just finished with straining and refrigerating milk from the cow she milked after breakfast while the older girls washed, dried and put away dishes. Wood box being filled, pots of water boiling, vegetable and fruit skins being removed, produce being chopped, sliced, ground, strained, pickled; jars being washed, sterilized, then held in large bread pans containing hot water; clean muslin dish towels were draped over them. Canning lids submerged in hot water, dippers, funnels, and clean cloths for wiping the jar tops after filling, all at the ready. Okay. Mix, cook, stir, strain, whatever it takes. Now on to filling jars, wiping tops, putting lids and rings on then placing the jars into hot water bath canners or pressure canners. No food processors, no fancy-schmancy slicer/dicer, no fan—much less air conditioner—and no one, other than a bunch of rowdy kids, to help. Mama canned hundreds of jars of food every summer: tomatoes, tomato juice, green beans, shelled beans, corn, southern peas, apples, peaches, jellies, pickles, sour kraut, afore mentioned wild fruits, for days on end. All on a wood-burning cook stove.

In later years Mama got a freezer and a propane cook stove; then preserving food got a little easier.  But the many years before these “modern conveniences” were obtained are the times that stand out in my mind.

Sitting down to write this, remembering the “good old days”, I had to laugh at myself. I’d been thinking that this summer has been labor intensive for me. On my little two acre paradise I have small areas of a variety of edibles; most are ready for harvest at diverse times. For example: Perhaps I have southern peas ready. Pick peas, 30-45 minutes—shell peas, 30-90 minutes (in my recliner watching television. Time is dependent on what is playing on TV.)—wash peas, blanch, cool, drain and fill bags and vacuum seal for the freezer, 30-45 minutes.

Or I may spend a few hours a day—over several days’ time–making salsa: Picking tomatoes and peppers, 15-30 minutes–washing produce, 10-15 minutes—scalding tomatoes, de-seeding peppers, pealing onions and garlic, Hummmm, maybe an hour. Now comes the hard part: chopping all those vegetables. Oh wait, put away that chopping knife; open a cupboard door and take out the food processor. Wheh! I’m getting hot; better turn down the thermostat a couple of degrees; oh and get the tower fan to blow the jalapeno fumes away while I’m trimming them. Zap, zap and zap, veggies are chopped and ready to go in the pot to boil for 10 minutes. Jars and lids are ready. Fill jars, put on lids, pop into water bath canner, bring water to boil, adjust heat setting, set timer and go to recliner to cool off.  You get the picture?

Looking back on the “Good Old Days”, I’m infinitely grateful that I was lucky enough to experience them; I’m also grateful that I don’t have to repeat the process in my canning endeavors these days.

I am the daughter of the late—and greatly missed—Tom and Agnes Workman, lifelong residents of Crawford County.

 And as always, happy gardening,

 Linda Workman Smith

Multi-County Master Gardener Association

Shawnee, OK

Musical Mojo Forest

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W. K. Tucker:

A magical tale. It took me right into its heart.

Originally posted on Stephen Thom writing:

Musical Mojo Forest

music-guitar-autumn-leaves-forest-background-21536008

Hesitant clumps of trees spread gradually down the slope into a blanket of forest. Gnarled branches skewered out from thick trunks, weaving upwards into a leafy tapestry enveloping the fields beyond. Danny stood purposefully at the summit, watery-eyed in the glare of the midday sun. His forehead darkened as he picked out a sparse minor chord sequence on the guitar strapped over his right shoulder, and stepped towards the rolling fields of woodland. The sad notes hovered, fragmenting in the air.

‘Yes…I can feel it. I can feel my muse returning to me!’

The two remaining band members stood shuffling behind him, sweaty palms clutching their own instruments. With tentative steps they trailed after their lead singer as he cut a swift path straight to the heart of the woods, ducking under vast branches and kicking his way through the undergrowth. So here they were, then; all…

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The Leibster Award

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liebster_award1The Liebster Award exists only on the internet, and is given to bloggers by other bloggers. It pays tribute to new blogs, or blogs with a follower count of less than 1,000–including Twitter.

It follows similar principles as a chain letter in the sense that it should be passed forward to a certain number of deserving blogs. As Tom Benson (my fellow blogger who nominated me) wrote,  “It’s fun and does a marketing job for all who participate.” He further stated that it also exists to encourage new people to blog and join in the social blogging community, known as the “blogosphere”. Whew…a lot of blog words there.

The word “liebster” is German in origin and has several definitions, including but not limited to: dearest, sweetest, kindest, pleasant, endearing,  lovely, cute, nicest, valued and welcome. And I know what you’re thinking if you have read my blog: “Where does she fit in?” Well, I wonder that myself.

The rules–should you choose to accept the award:

1. Link back to the blog that nominated you. In my case http://www.tombensoncreative.com, and along with the link go my thanks to Tom.

2. Answer questions that your nominator has set their nominees.

3. Share 11 random facts about yourself.

4. Nominate 5-11 blogs that have less than 1,000 followers to receive this award. (Remember, this includes Twitter.)

5. Create 11 questions for your nominees to answer.

6. Contact your nominees and let them know you have nominated them.

***

My questions from Tom at http://tombensoncreative.com, along with my answers.

1. If you could change your first name, what would you have instead?

Chloe.

2. If you could speak a second language fluently, which one would you choose?

Italian.

3. If you could live in another country, where would you live?

Italy, of course.

4.If you could reincarnate as an animal, which would you return as?

A panther.

5. If you had to lose one of your senses, which one would you lose?

Hearing.

6. Do you say, “the glass is half-full”, or “the glass is half-empty”?

Half-full.

7. If given the choice to turn back time, which year would you choose to be born?

1050.

8.Would you publish a 100% truthful autobiography?

Not just no, but hell no!

9. Who is your hero or heroine, and why?

My sweet mama. In spite of an abusive upbringing,  she was a strong and kind and loving person, a wonderful  mother and wife who did her best by her children and husband.

10. Stranded alone on a tropical island, which object from the modern world would you choose to have with you?

A computer–if it is solar powered and has a good internet connection.  :)

11. Give three words that best describe how you’d like to be remembered.

She was kind.

***

Now onward we go, to 11 random facts about me:

1. I am part Cherokee though I have–did have until it turned white–red, curly hair and green eyes.

2. I have never hunted, but bring me an animal carcass and I can skin and gut it for you. Cut it up and cook it too.

3. I was struck by lightning when I was around ten years old.

4. I lived through being hit by a tornado while living in a mobile home.

5. I don’t have a high school diploma, though I did receive a GED at the age of forty.

6. I presently own five working computers–if one includes tablets and smart phones.

7. My favorite movie character of all time is Ellen Ripley–played by Sigourney Weaver–from the Alien, Aliens, etcetera movies.

8. My favorite book is The Stand, by Stephen King.

9. I have never flown, by plane or broom.

10. I grew up a hillbilly. (Not a redneck; there is a difference if you care to look it up.)

11. I was once  the proverbial “cat lady”, but was able to get it under control. I have only one cat now.

***

My nominations–in no particular order–are:

Mandy: http://healingbeyondsurvival.wordpress.com/

Julia: http://julialundauthor.wordpress.com/

Manja: http://fallofthefishman.wordpress.com/

David: http://just1more.wordpress.com/

Candace: http://candacehabte.com/

Charity: http://charitybradford.com/

Michelle: http://michelleisenhoff.com/

Ian: http://ianprobertbooks.wordpress.com/

It’s possible my nominees have been nominated before for this award,  or have more followers than required. Not all blogs list the number of followers, so if I nominated a blog erroneously, my apologies.

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Now, here are your questions:

1. What is your favorite way to spend a rainy day?

2. Are you a cat or dog person?

3. What is your most prized possession?

4. When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? (The very first thing you can remember.)

5. If you could become a fictional character, who would it be?

6. Do you believe in an afterlife–not necessarily heaven and hell?

7. Do you prefer coffee or tea–or something stronger?

8. If you had the time and/or money to go back to school/college, what would you study?

9. If for the remainder of your life, you could eat only one cut of meat, (Such as pork bacon or beef steak.) what would you pick?

10. Do you think time travel will ever be possible?

11. What prompted you to become a writer?

***

Well, people, I’ve done my part. Tom probably thinks, “Geeze, it took her long enough”. Now, my very talented nominees,  it’s your turn to pay it forward.

 

Remembering My Brother’s Birth. And Death . . .

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W. K. Tucker:

Very sad…and yet touching.

Originally posted on Healing Beyond Survival:

on stepsI woke in the middle of the night and remembered that my only natural sibling’s birthday is today; I was overcome with gratitude that I’d forgotten. We are two years apart, his birthday five days before mine. For the first time in 32 years I haven’t been consumed with memories as his birthday approached. When I realized I hadn’t been thinking about him at all lately, I felt even more grateful. That won’t make sense if you don’t know our story. The following is a blog post I wrote last December for my first blog Writing Through The Monsters of My Childhood (that got deleted):

December 19—The Day My Brother Died

They say he put the barrel-end of a 30.06 in his mouth and pulled the trigger. There would be no need for an open casket.  “But how can we know for sure it’s him?” I pleaded at the…

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