Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Inspiration 70

I've been hesitant to share my inspiration of my characters in Head Count, but I think my readers deserve to get into my mind as the author. This is just the way I visualize my people. It helps me as I write. If anything, I see this as a compliment to anyone who inspires me. I challenge you to share your thoughts on the characters. Who would you pick?

Laura Beth Copeland, Bruce Copeland, Tanner McGill, Penny Ulmer, Diego Marin, Ed Pickering, Marge Dixon, Luis Montoya, Madeleine Becker, Doug Blanchard.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Inspiration 69

Take a census of the whole Israelite community by their clans and families, listing every man by name, one by one.

I suppose I should offer some form of acknowledgement to the U.S. Census Bureau for the experience of working the 2010 census and having a woman slam her door in my face. When I went back to try to interview her again, she would not open the door, but I saw her feet through the mini-blinds and wondered what she had to hide. Thus, my imagination began to run wild, so my census enumerator saw a decapitated head rather than feet. Thereupon, Laura Beth Copeland was born.

Cover by Christopher Chamber. juroddesigns.com

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Happy 103rd


I released Wilted Magnolias October 2016 in honor of what would have been my mother's 100th birthday. You can still get your copy!

Thursday, September 19, 2019

5 star review for Homegrown Healer

rated it it was amazing
This is the second time I am consumed by this beautiful story of persistence and love for the place where you came from. Author Janet Taylor-Perry manages to create characters that will stay with you for years. What a wonderful ride!

And more to come!

Inspiration 68

The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness.

One of the most influential characters in my Hillbilly Hijinks series is Grandma Newton. She is based in large part on my own grandmother, Mary Oseola Sanders Ishee (Ola)--a feisty, outspoken, firebrand. She said just what she thought, and if it hurt your feelings, well, too bad. How I wish I had listened to her about so much. 

Mac introduced her. "Grandma Newton, this is my wife, Felicia. Felicia, my actual great-great-grandmother, Miriam Newton. Listen to whatever she tells you, honey. She will never give you bad advice."
The old woman hugged Felicia who stiffly returned the hug.
"Relax, dear. I'm harmless," said the old woman.
"I'm just a little overwhelmed," admitted Felicia.
"Of course, you are. You a city girl. But you got a good man."
"It would seem so."

"Git yo wife to sing it with you."
"No," said Felicia firmly. "I probably don't know it anyway, and I'm not much of a singer."
"Humph! All you gotta do is make a joyful noise," scoffed Grandma Newton.
"No, Grandma. I don't feel comfortable with that."
"Suit yoself. Mac, I bet little Sunny knows it. Ask her. This might be the last time I ever git to hear it."
He shook his head and grinned at the guilt trip the old matriarch tried to pull. "Yes, ma'am."

Grandma Newton wants me to sing it, but my partner left these hills. Felicia doesn't know it and wouldn't sing if she did. Will you sing the high part with me? You know Grandma gets what she wants."

 "The Richters." Sunny nodded. "They're a breed apart, but, no, Mac isn't inbred. Leo told me Mac's mother's family came here from another town to start up the slaughterhouse. They were the Newtons from Lilo. They came six generations ago. Grandma Newton was a little girl. She's ancient, but very progressive. She never changed her name when she got married." Sunny lowered her voice. "Rumor is she never married, but had common-law relationships, all of whom died. That's why her offspring had the last name of Newton. She swears her longevity is due in part to 'a glass o' moonshine ever'day and satisfyin' six husbands.'"  Sunny affected a hillbilly accent to sound like Grandma Newton.

"Good morning, Felicia," greeted Grandma Newton.
"Good morning, Grandma Newton."
"Whatcha doin'?"
"Learning to make souse."
"Nothin' to it."
"It appears easy."
"Well, you won't have to do much of it. Folks'll make sure Mac's family gits fed."
"That's nice."
Grandma Newton scrutinized Felicia. "You don't think much o' us mountain folk, do ya, little miss high-falootin', Felicia?"
"Why would you say that?"
"You don't think we as good as you."
"Not so. It's just I grew up in the big city. This takes a lot of adjustment."
"I imagine it do, at that. Mac's a good man. He'll treat you right if you let 'im. Jest because he wants a simple life don't mean he don't love ya. Just remember that when ya git ready to pack yo bags and run off."
Grandma Newton moved on. Felicia looked at Sunny. "Sunny, she's just downright mean and nasty."
Sunny whispered, "You could've won her over if you had sung a chorus or two yesterday with Mac."
"I can't carry a tune in a bucket."
"It doesn't matter. Just do it. Then, when she tells you that you can't sing, agree and say, 'No, but I can make a joyful noise.' That'll get her goat, and she'll leave you alone." 

"We are about to knock Grandma Newton's socks off," laughed Sunny as she held up a violin. "Come on, Mrs. Reardon."
Sunny and Felicia jumped onto the little makeshift platform. Mac tried to speak, but no words found him. He was dumbstruck with shock.
"Time for a quartet," announced Sunny. She played a few bars of "Amazing Grace."
Mac nodded. "You got it." He gave a count in, and they played a stanza of the song with Mac on guitar, Tipper on banjo, Sunny on violin, and Felicia on flute. Then, Mac and Tipper harmonized perfectly as they sang the first stanza รก cappella, with Tipper singing tenor and Mac baritone. When they started the second, Sunny and Felicia played softly through it and the third. They cranked up the volume for the fourth, and the men added instrument to voice. The mesmerized crowd exploded with applause.

Mac looked around. "It seems the party's over. Let's go home, too. Chambry!" Mac called his son.
Lauren informed him, "He went home with Papaw and Rush. They were all about to fall asleep."
"Me, too," admitted Mac. "Sunny, good night."
Mac took Felicia's hand. As they started away, Grandma Newton came up on her way home, too. "Good night, Grandma," said Mac, kissing her on the cheek.
"Good night, my boy. Good night, Felicia. Stick to tootin' that horn. It was real purty. Leave the singin' to Mac."

As they ate dinner again, Felicia thought when Grandma Newton came up to her: If this old bat doesn't say something totally positive to me, I'm going to hit her with my flute.
Grandma Newton asked, "Whatcha call that little whistle you blow?"
"A flute," answered Felicia.
"Well, you blow it real good. I bet it sounds real sweet if you play slow."
"Yes, it does."
"Well, next Sunday is my ninety-seventh birthday. Sunny plays her fiddle haunting like when she plays slow. I want you two girls to play me somethin' real purty, a duet, for my birthday."
"We'll do that, Grandma."
The old lady wandered on to speak to others.
"I heard," Sunny said as she cut a piece of apple pie. "What do you want to do?"
"Something very mellow and haunting. Something to make her cry."

First, a pic of my grandmother and then another of someone that could be Grandma Newton:

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Inspiration 67

...one who will lead them out and bring them in, so that the Lord’s people will not be like sheep without a shepherd...Numbers 27:17

I have one pivotal character who holds all four stories together in my Hillbilly Hijinks series, the pastor, Leo Tomlin. He came to Possum Holler at age 27 and is in his late 50s by the end of the series. I've always seen two people to portray his age progression: Hugh Jackman and Clint Eastwood. Do you agree? Vote Yes or No in your comments. If no, who can you envision?

Shepherd the Flock
The five hundred twenty-seven residents within Possum Holler, West Virginia, did not refer to Leo Tomlin as "Reverend," "Brother," or "Pastor." Although he had a Doctor of Theology, nobody called him "Doctor" Tomlin. He was "Preacher" Tomlin. He was pastor, counselor, preacher; he performed weddings, funerals, baptisms; he played banjo and guitar, square danced, took occasional swigs of moonshine with members of his congregation. He did not shepherd his flock for money. His paltry salary from the mission board barely fed and clothed him, but he never went hungry. Most residents invited him to dine with them often. His housing was free. He was the religious shepherd in Possum Holler because he loved the people.
Leo lost himself in thought. I'm glad to be hidden from the mainstream of religion. The ruling ministers of the mission board would never condescend to visit here. I know the way I conduct myself would fall under serious criticism of most evangelicals. Still, this is my congregation, and if the church authorities cut me off, I'll always have a home with these people. He uttered a prayer of thanksgiving that his church remained non-denominational and accepted all who attended.
When Leo heeded God's call, he realized serving the Lord meant remaining a bachelor—leaving someone he loved dearly. "Being a missionary means going to remote places. I can't take you there, Lauren," he had said and waited for her reaction, breath held.
It did not go well. She screamed; she threw books, shoes, and knickknacks at him. "Get out, you coward! How dare you think so little of me?"
It was I thought so highly of you. Still do. He heaved a weighty sigh at the memory.
Nonetheless, after eulogizing five members of the same family in three years, he had taken on the additional shepherding responsibility of a child.
Once he arrived at age twenty-seven, Leo's wide-eyed ideal of saving souls and bodies changed almost overnight. By Possum Holler standards, he was middle-aged, though he saw himself as young, with an undergraduate degree in psychology, a Master of Christian Education and a Doctor of Theology.
Well, Lord, You called me here, instead of to an inner-city church or a third-world country. And I've been here for eighteen years. Leo meditated on those years as he read Scripture. "Bring up a child in the way he is to go, and when he is old he will not depart from it."
He flipped pages of his journal:

Population here is 589; middle income is $11,000; average household size—seven; median education level is eighth grade. Most popular jobs: coal mining, farming, and bootlegging. Life expectancy: 44—men, 40—women. Only homes within the corporate limits have running water and electricity. Outlying areas might have wells or pumps, but no indoor plumbing; some have outhouses; others don't.
Medical care is almost non-existent. Grandma Newton, midwife and herbalist, still delivers babies. The woman could be an ancient Druid. Some of her practices seem like witchcraft, but many of the herbal remedies work. Infant mortality rate is still sky-high, as are childbirth deaths.

"Things haven't improved much, since I first arrived." Leo sighed. "Girls are still married or pregnant by sixteen." He shook his head and read another entry: The horror stories about inbreeding are real. Grandma does a good job when there are no complications. "I can say most of the inbreeding has stopped."
He dog-eared the page. Alain, Alain, Alain. He bit his lip and tasted the bitterness of blood.
"Many of the people have simple, childlike faith," he said softly. "A few escape, but most never return. Others die, still believing, still loving, and still trying." Ander Reardon's face came to the front of his memory. "You were twenty-four when I met you, Ander, but looked forty, trying so hard to be a good father, husband, and friend." A tear rolled down his cheek. "I still miss him, Lord. I had to bury his wife, three of the children—and Ander." Pneumonia took you, my dear friend. "Nobody so young and healthy should die like that, Lord."
That night was frigid—single digits. Starless, pitch-black. Mac walked twelve miles from their cabin to this house. A seven-year-old. The preacher rubbed his face with both hands. "I'll never forget opening the door and hearing, 'Pa's not breathing.'" Leo wiped away another tear. "That day, Mac became the child of my heart, even if I never legally adopted him."
He sat pensively a few minutes longer. "My precious boy is now a doctor." He smiled. "Time to make a call."

Dr. MacKenzie Reardon snatched the receiver from the phone on the wall as he and his wife entered their apartment just after his graduation. "Hello?"
Felicia continued to their bedroom with a seductive lick to her lips and a wink that said, "Make it quick."
"Hello, Dr. Reardon!"
"Papa! I wish you were here." Mac closed the apartment door with his foot.
"Me, too. Congratulations. I won't keep you long. What's next?"
"We leave tomorrow for Chicago."
"That soon?"
"Yes, sir. Felicia has a job interview. Papa, I have news."
"What's that?"
Mac gusted a breath. "We're expecting a baby."
"Oh." The one word was weighted with shock. "I thought you were waiting."
"Me too."
"Well, it's a gift—just like you were. Congratulations a second time."
"I'm so proud of you. Ander would be just as proud."
Strained silence followed. "Mac?" Leo prompted.
"Papa, why don't you come to Chicago for a short visit?"
"I have my flock here."
"They'll survive a couple of weeks without you. This little lamb could use a visit."
"I'll try. Call me when you get settled. I love you, Mac."
"I love you, too, Papa." Mac hung up the receiver.

The pink lace teddy Felicia wore as she ran her hands up her husband's back did not dilute her acerbic question. "Why do you call him 'Papa'? It sounds so childish. Why not 'Dad'?"
Prejudice? Judgment? "Where I'm from 'Dad' is strange. Sometimes 'Daddy', but never 'Dad.' Usually it's 'Pa'."
"You're so silly."
"No, I'm serious."
"You make it sound like The Beverly Hillbillies. Were you surprised by the cement ponds?" Felicia laughed.
Does she realize how awful that sounds? Mac scowled and shot back, "Felicia, The Beverly Hillbillies is a joke. If you want closer to the truth, watch Deliverance."
"Are you mad at me?" She nibbled her index finger.
"No, darling." He placed his hands on her shoulders. "Forget the stereotypes—just like you're not a dumb blonde. I just want you to understand."
"I do."
Doubtful. "Oh, I hope so."
She put on a pouty face. "I thought we were celebrating. I'm dressed for the occasion."
"We are, and you're gorgeous, breathtaking. No more depressing talk. Come here." Mac kissed Felicia and then swept her into his arms and took her to bed.

"Lord, Mac's troubled. What do I do?" At his desk in Possum Holler, Leo prayed, one hand still on the receiver. "Yes, I must visit my lamb—he's not lost, but in need. The father will travel, but the preacher must make plans."
Leo stood, stretched his thin seventy-four-inch frame and headed outside to find Royce Dent, a deacon and owner of the general store. "He'll take care of the Sunday Sing and dinner on the grounds." He took a deep breath. "Yes, my flock won't flounder for only one weekend without me." Preacher Tomlin walked down the dirt road to the general store.