Saturday, August 31, 2019


Not me. 

Not yet, anyway.

But a friend of mine, a fellow writer, was treated to a 24-hour suspension from Facebook for posting 'hate speech' --a link to an article from a legitimate news source about the administration's plan to deport sick immigrants.

Apparently sharing newspaper pieces critical of the administration and 45 counts as hate speech. And it only takes one disgruntled person to flag a posting and trigger a suspension.

Sometimes the suspensions are truly puzzling. Another FB poster was warned that her post about getting more rain was objectionable.

Facebook is free to use--you get what you pay for. And it's not surprising that FB relies on robot responses to complaints about content and isn't quick to respond to the suspendee's explanation. 

My friend is back--and purging her 'friend' list in hopes of getting rid of the person who fingered her post as objectionable.

So far I've had no warnings, though I post and share MANY things on FB that are critical of our current administration. And my posts are public.

But most of the rabid 45 supporters have long since removed themselves from my friends list--a few, whose postings I found truly objectionable, I simply de-friended and blocked. Others, with whom I violently disagree, I stopped following so I wouldn't find myself in a pointless argument--though I may check their pages now and then to see if they still love the madman at the helm.

For better or for worse, Facebook is for many of us the public square where we expect to be able to voice our opinions. And, where we may expect, depending on our friends, to hear opposing points of view. 

I want to hear what the other side believes--even when it creeps me out and makes me wonder what's wrong with them--where is their humanity?

And I intend to keep posting my objections to what I believe to be the most immoral, corrupt, self-serving, inhumane, egomaniacal, and deeply ignorant individual ever to sit in the Oval Office. 

And he's tacky, too. (That's an Ultimate Southern Lady put-down, meaning he has poor taste, i.e. gold furniture, not to mention his taste for dictators.)

Still, the fact that one person can cause Facebook to suspend another's account seems like a disproportionate use of power.  

Like, say, Mitch McConnell. 

Or the Electoral College.

Friday, August 30, 2019

The House of the Spirits

I'm not sure why it took me so long to get around to reading this remarkable book. It was published in 1985--during which time I was very busy with kids and farm stuff and probably reading only light stuff.

But I bought a copy at a library book sale, maybe ten years ago, and still it sat, unread.

After being gently nudged by Carolyn to read One Hundred Years of Solitude, I ordered a copy. And then, to prepare for a plunge into Latin American literature, I dusted off House and made it my breakfast time reading. 

It worked! A few pages a day gave me so much to appreciate, to digest, and to ruminate on (ruminate--like a cow chewing its cud--is particularly appropriate here.) The prose is rich and satisfying and the characters are fascinating.

Three generations of very peculiar (clairvoyant, levitating, etc.) women in an unnamed South American country grow up as members of an eccentric (to put it mildly--I mean, who keeps their mother's head in a hatbox for years) family and part of the privileged class that shamelessly exploits the peons on their land

When eventually a Socialist/leftwing coalition is elected,  a right-wing junta overthrows the government and people begin to disappear.  While the patriarch of the family is a member of the right wing, his daughter and much beloved granddaughter have allied themselves with lovers on the left--a recipe for family chaos.

These are strong echoes here of Chile and and Salvador Allende, (a cousin of the author) whose Socialist government was overthrown (with help from the CIA.) 

Read this for the gorgeous writing--as well as a history lesson told slant.

Now, on to A Hundred Years of Solitude.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

And the New Title Is . . .

And the Crows Took Their Eyes

Raw and powerful, like the book, says the editor.

Well, the book is no cozy--though it has lots of warm, human moments--but the massacre is the central event that informs the story and the lives of those who tell the it.

I'm tweaking my blurb for the back of the book. You are welcome to tell me what you think. It's tricky--trying to hit the high points without giving away too much.


During the Civil War in bitterly divided western North Carolina, Confederate troops execute thirteen men and boys from a rural community opposed to secession. The Shelton Laurel Massacre, as it came to be known, is a microcosm of the deep horrors of civil war – neighbor against neighbor and violence at one’s own front door. 

Told by those who lived it– the colonel’s wife, helpless witness to the outrage that precipitates the massacre; the jealous second-in-command whose ambition and rage fuel the fatal order; the canny mountain woman who endures torture to protect her people and her land; the mute girl, whose gift of second-sight and spell-working brings an unexpected revenge; and the young conscript, haunted by his part in the massacre and seeking redemption—these voices offer an intimate glimpse into the lives of five people tangled in history’s web, caught up together in love and hate. All five will bear the mark of the massacre long after the event as they struggle to come to terms with the bleak consequences of civil war.
Based on an actual event and historical characters, And the Crows Took Their Eyes is a richly imagined portrait of a dark and bitter time—illuminated by sudden gleams of warm humanity and undying strength.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019


I was puzzled by mention of a metadata survey I must have ready for the publisher by the end of September. the online definition-- "a set of data that gives information about other data"-- didn't clear it up much but a look at the actual survey told the story. 

They want information about my past publishing history, my plans to travel promoting the coming book, my bio, successful books from the past five years that I think have similarities to my book, a one sentence pitch, a couple of paragraphs of back cover copy, (these last two are fiendishly difficult stuff that I often assign to folks in my writing classes. I feel their pain . . .)  

I took advantage of a quiet yesterday to make major inroads on this survey. Yes, it's a month away that it's due, but my classes begin mid September-- just at the time I'll be getting the first round of edits on the novel which I will have to deal with, along with editing sixty pages a week for the folks in my class.  And taking care of Josie two or three days a week. Do-able but right now is the time to get this metadata thing out of the way.

My eyes are crossing . . .

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Monday, August 26, 2019

Country Living


My plantings above this rock wall have gotten weedier and weedier ever since I discovered a copperhead amidst them.  It had been weeks since we last saw it and I'd begun to hope that it had died of gunshot wounds after disappearing into a crevice.

Encouraged by this hope and invigorated by the cooler weather, I took my hoe and went to attack the weeds. My procedure was to poke around with the hoe in the area I planned to weed, keeping an eye out for any slithery movement and then, after seeing none, to plunge in and pull weeds.

After about a half an hour of cautious weeding, I was nearing the area where the copperhead was last seen. Poke, poke--SONOFAGUN!!!-- there it was, heading for the same place it disappeared last time.

Reader, I took my hoe and hacked the poor critter to death, kinda like that woman in the BC comics. I really felt bad about it--but that's just too close to the house for comfort.

Of course, there may be more. Cautious weeding will continue.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Thankful for Petrichor

After a few of the hottest days of the summer, I am immensely happy for some blessed rain . . . and for the wonderful smell (petrichor) it makes as it hits the dry earth.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Oh, Deer!

"At least 40 deer have been reported dead, primarily in the Little Pine and Big Pine Communities, according to Justin McVey of the NC Wildlife Resources Commission.

"Test results . . . pointed to epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) as the likely cause.

"'It's a very common disease in the Southeast that usually shows up every five years or so,' McVey said. 'It's a natural cycle and will probably die off with first frost.'"

(The full article is HERE)

We are located right between Big and Little Pine which may make us the epicenter of this plague. John and Justin have hauled off three dead deer from our property -- that's three that they've seen. And there was an obviously sick one spotted. Who knows what's up in the woods? The vultures do.

The disease is spread by no-see-ums and can affect cattle. We've had two cows apparently with the disease. John gave them antibiotics and they seem to have recovered.

Much as I've complained about the deer and what they've done to my garden, I hate seeing this happen. But thinning the herd is a natural response to overpopulation. Perhaps there will be enough natural browse for the survivors that they won't have to forage in our yard. 

And speaking of thinning the herd--why is there so little mention of the fact that most of humanity's current problems are caused by overpopulation?

Friday, August 23, 2019

Queen(s) of the Night

Yesterday was the day! The two buds on the night-blooming cereus were ready to open and I wanted to capture the once-a-year event.

They don't open till dark--around 8:30 here.

And it's a very gradual process . . . 

Accompanied by a heavenly fragrance to lure pollinators. 

The interior holds a complicated arrangement of pistil and stamens, just waiting for those pollinators --bats and/or moths. (I doubt we have either in the greenhouse where this plant lives.)

I took my last photo at 10:30.

The flowers will continue to open but I needed to choose which pictures to post (I took around eighty) and go to bed. 

I'm happy I didn't miss it. Come daylight, the blooms will be wilted and that's it for another year.

My other cereus bloomed two or three days ago--and I didn't realize it had till I was met by this sad sight the next morning.
These flowers are so special to me--I remember back in Florida my grandparents had one growing up a pine tree in their back yard. It reached high, high up and my grandfather kept a close watch on it around this time of year. 

When he knew it would open, he'd alert friends and a magical event would occur as they gathered with flashlights to count the blooms--anywhere from ninety to a hundred.

I had only two--and no viewing party. But it's like my porch garden and that one-foot waterfall--they still give pleasure.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

The Game's Afoot!

My editor has sent me a production schedule for the Civil War book and I've been in touch with her and with the Editor-in-Chief about the title. As some of you may remember, my original idea was to call it THIS WAS THE WAY OF IT.  That was, at least, my working title. Eventually it got trimmed to THE WAY OF IT, which is what it was when I signed with Regal House. 

The editor didn't quite like it and it became WITHIN MY MEMORY YET.  Then I noticed that somewhere on line, Regal House had referred to my forthcoming book as MEMORY LINGERS--which I don't like at all. I said so and suggested, if they preferred a shorter title, IN MEMORY YET.

Nope, the head editor didn't like that, feeling that something more powerful was needed, a kind of visceral punch to reflect the horrors of the story.

Now I'd been giving some thought to the cover--part of the production schedule invites me to send them pictures of book covers I admire so that the cover designers have some idea of my aesthetic idiom. And in thinking about covers, I imagined a cover with crows against a winter background--a reference to what I think is one of the most viscerally powerful scenes of the book.

And I thought of a title. A strong, in-your-face title. Maybe too strong, I thought but I suggested it and they like it. They really liked it.

At the moment, I think it's The One. But, allowing for second thoughts, etc., I'm not going to say what it is. Not till I have a strong commitment and a go ahead from the editors.

But there are crows.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Between You and Me --Confessions of a Comma Queen

"Die heiresses! Die heiresses!" I repeated over and over as I moved around the living room, applying polish to the dusty, mildew-pocked furniture.

An odd mantra for house-cleaning? You bet. But I'd just come across a surefire way to remember how to pronounce diaeresis--those two dots that The New Yorker and other staid publication put over the second o in cooperate. (I never do, preferring to live dangerously and also because it's a pain to do on the laptop.)  

In the course of my teaching, occasionally someone will ask about this usage and I've been guilty of calling this mark "those two little dots" or "an umlaut" (incorrect unless you're writing German.) So I am delighted to add this bit of knowledge to my fund of trivia.

Yes, I've been reading another book about grammar and usage. Mary Norris's delightful Between You and Me is part grammar book and part memoir, including Norris's thirty some years at The New Yorker, as well as an early stint as a foot checker at a public pool and later as a milkmanwoman.

From tips on pencils, erasers, and pencil sharpeners to a discussion of hyphens, en dashes, and em dashes--including the hyphen in the title Moby-Dick, to a consideration of proposed gender-neutral pronouns (I hate the use of they for someone of indeterminate gender--they is plural, dammit! but rather like a proposal to use ey, em, or eir) to a hilarious chapter ("F**K THIS SH*T) on the proliferation of profanity in modern prose, the book is a gem. 

I loved it. Especially recommended for my fellow word nerds.

There's an excellent review HERE.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Once and Future Veg

The label disappeared -- maybe Nancy, who gave me the start of this dramatic tomato knows what it is. 

They aren't quite ripe yet but I'm looking forward to finding out what they taste like.

Jalapenos ripening . . .

Promise of another eggplant . . .

My cilantro, as is its wont, went to seed rapidly. And did some self-seeding.

I'm really enjoying my little porch garden. Next week, I think,Josie and I will harvest the purple potatoes.