Vinegar & Char

vinegarThis seems to be my year for collections. While I don’t have a full-length novel coming out in 2018, I do get to be part of two collections releasing on October 1st and 2nd.

I’ve already written about The Christmas Heirloom novella collection releasing 10.2.18, but Vinegar and Char is something else altogether.

When it comes to writing, my first love has always been poetry. I’ve published a few poems here and there–in magazines like Appalachian Heritage and Now & Then, but my very first poetry publication was in a 2004 book titled Cornbread Nation 2: The Best of Southern Food Writing compiled by the Southern Foodways Alliance. It was a proud moment.

That first poem about fried catfish, bourbon, and cotton gins in Mississippi still reads well to my ear. Cornbread Nation 5 (2010) included my all-time favorite poem about funeral food.

So I was absolutely delighted when I was contacted by Sandra Beasley about submitting a poem for the Southern Foodways Alliance’s new poetry anthology. While I don’t write poetry as regularly as I used to, I still enjoy stringing words together in that succinct way that makes a poem. So I submitted a piece called, “The Sacred and the Bread,” that was accepted for publication.

I’d love to share it with you now . . . but no. You’ll just have to wait for October.

Appalachian Thursday – Which Winter is This?

redbud

A sure sign of redbud winter.

We’ve been complaining lately about the weather.

I know, I know, everyone does that ALL the time. But spring this year has really been a roller coaster ride. Windows open. Windows closed. Coats off. Coats, hats, and gloves back on.

I was thinking the weather really is getting crazier. Then, this past weekend, I noticed that the redbud trees had bloomed almost overnight. Suddenly there were all these gorgeous sprays of deep pink in the edges of fields and neighbors’ yards.

Which reminded me. This warm, cold, hot joy ride is nothing new. As a matter of fact, it’s so not new, there are several old-time names for the various bouts of cold that crop up after that first taste of spring.

Like redbud winter. Which is what we had last weekend.

Now, let’s see. There’s also dogwood winter, locust winter, blackberry winter, britches winter, and whippoorwill winter.

Some of these are pretty self-explanatory, but here’s a primer:

  • Redbud winter – When the redbud trees bloom
  • Dogwood winter – When the dogwood trees bloom
  • Locust winter – When the locust trees bloom (see a pattern?)
  • Blackberry winter – When the blackberry brambles bloom
  • Britches winter – Wait. What? This one is more fun. The full name is linsey-woolsey britches winter which means it’s the last time it’ll be cold enough to wear your long underwear
  • Whipporwill winter – (I smell a book title) This one is barely cold enough to call winter, but it’s when the whippoorwills migrate north from Mexico

So, turns out the now-warm-now-cold craziness we call spring in Appalachia really isn’t anything new. It’s been around at least as long as long underwear.

Dreaming Big – Once Upon a Prince

upon a princeWhen Rachel Hauck released Once Upon a Prince, I hesitated to read the story. I was afraid it was going to be just another reinterpretation of Cinderella. And while I LOVE Cinderella, did we really need another, modern version?

Boy, was I wrong!

Oh, there are echoes of Cinderella, but somehow Rachel has managed to craft a surprisingly believable commoner falls for royal story with a wonderful faith theme woven through.

And now, it’s being released as a Hallmark movie.

The thing is, shortly after an author’s book is released, friends and readers start saying things like, “This would make a great movie.”

And your job, as the humble author, is to thank them and say things like, “Oh, well, it’s tough to get a movie deal.” Or, “There are so many great stories out there–who’s going to notice mine?”

But secretly you’re thinking, “Yes! It would make a great movie. When’s that going to happen?”

Well, for Rachel, it’s happening this coming Saturday at 9 p.m. Eastern on the Hallmark Channel. Which could easily lead to things like comparison and jealousy.

But here’s what I know about Rachel. She’s written 30 or so books. Lots of them have won awards. Some haven’t. She’s incredibly active in the world of Christian and romance writing. She teaches. She mentors. She endorses books by new authors. She sits across the table at lunch and listens with her heart.

And now, for Rachel, her dream of a movie is coming true. I, for one, can hardly wait! Check it out this Saturday at 9 p.m. on the Hallmark Channel.

Stories All Around Us

SummerMy husband and I went to dinner Sunday. We enjoyed a lovely meal and headed out into the mild evening to make our way back to our car.

I think I’ve mentioned that I can’t resist a dog.

Well, there was a girl sitting on the sidewalk with a puppy dancing around her. I handed the takeout box to my husband and crouched down to say hello.

Oh my. Four months old and all feet. His name was Bemis.

I petted and played with the puppy and chatted with his person. She looked like she was late teens or maybe twenty. Neat and tidy if a little offbeat. She had some small sketches set out beside her with a sign that said, “Buy My Art.”

She said she travels from city to city, hopping trains and hitchhiking. I told her to be careful and she assured me she’s very careful. I bought a piece of art (a pencil sketch of a dragon–quite good!) and told her I’d be praying for her.

I don’t know her story. I don’t know her history or her dreams. But she touched my heart. Her and that adorable puppy.

But I know God loves her just like he loves me. And he loves you. He has a plan for her–and I hope she learns what it is.

So today, I’m asking you to join me in praying for Summer and Bemis. Pray for a girl with a backpack, a puppy, and a knack for drawing pictures. Pray that she’s safe and that she finds whatever it is she’s looking for.

She has a story and I pray that she lets God direct each chapter.

 

Appalachian Thursday – Signs of Spring

crocusEvery year a few hardy daffodils jump the gun and bloom in February.

Every year we act surprised.

Somehow it seems too soon, but I’ve looked back at notes from five years ago and this is nothing new. Every February the daffodils unfurl seemingly fragile yellow petals. Crocuses appear like someone scattered them in the night while we were sleeping. Sometimes there’s even a buttercup or dandelion smiling up at me from the dead lawn. And this year, the temperatures have veered wildly into the 70s trying to make us think spring is well and truly here.

But I try not to get TOO excited. I can’t help but remember how we often have at least one snow in April and I want to warn my flowers to take a steadying breath and wait.

At the same time, I love seeing signs of spring. I love getting hints that soft, warm days are right around the corner. The ultimate Appalachian harbingers of spring is, of course,  peepers. For a week now I’ve been hearing them each morning and evening in the swampy spot down by the creek. A chorus cheering spring on even if it IS too soon.

Because we’re still going to have some icy, wintry, northern days before it’s time to complain about the heat again. More than once I’ve seen apple blossom bitten back by a late frost. The old timers look at the daffodils and shake their heads. “We’ll have winter, yet,” they say.

I have a terrible habit of looking for “signs” in every area of my life. The catch is, I spend too much time looking for signs and not nearly enough living in the moment. I’m too busy trying to guess what comes next. Planning and anticipating can be good things, but they can also become debilitating. Spring and the future will both come when they’re ready.

In God’s own good time.

Ashes to Ashes – A Lenten Reflection

Church

There were fewer than twenty of us gathered in the little white church on the hill for the Ash Wednesday service last week. The evening was mild and the service was brief with some music, scripture and words from the pastor, and then the ashes.

Lent is my favorite season and Easter is my favorite holiday. I like it better even than Christmas. I look forward to getting up early on Easter morning for the sunrise service and when we come to the place where the pastor says, “He is risen!” and we all answer, “He is risen, indeed!” my heart never fails to soar.

But before the resurrection, there’s this deep, lovely time of reflection. And it starts with ashes.

My pastor dipped his finger in the bowl of oil mixed with ashes from last year’s palm branches. He placed a gentle finger on my forehead, making a cross and saying, “Sarah, from ashes you have come and from ashes you shall return.”

And my heart soared with something like Resurrection Sunday joy. Because this is good news indeed.

In Genesis 3:19 after the fall, God said to Adam, “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”

Dust. Ashes. I suppose that might sound sad to some folks, but what I hear is that the pain, sorrows, difficulties, and challenges of this world are temporary. And this frail, human body of mine is just a temporary vessel molded from dust and ashes. It’s not meant to last forever.

So when I see all the ways my body is failing, declining, heeding the call of the dust from which it came, I can find peace in knowing that’s what’s supposed to happen. When my dreams, goals, and ambitions don’t quite work out the way I hoped, I can find peace in knowing this toil–this sometimes futile sweat of my brow–is only temporary.

Because I know there’s more to the story. We begin Lent with ashes–a reminder that we will die. But we end it by celebrating Christ’s resurrection–a reminder that in him, our earthly deaths are just the beginning of a new, perfect life eternal.

John 3:35-36 – The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.

Appalachian Thursday – The Heirloom

On October 2 of this year, my latest work will release–as part of a collection titled The Christmas Heirloom (available for pre-order). As a follow-up to The Sound of Rain, I’ve written Hank’s story. You remember Hank–he was George Heyward’s right-hand man until Judd came along. And now he’s wondering where his future lies.

Earlier this week, we got to release the cover!

This collection has been SUCH fun. I was at a writing conference in 2016 when I sat down next to Karen Witemeyer and she looked at me and said, “You’re books are set in the 1950s, right?”

Right!

Karen, Kristi Ann Hunter, and Becky Wade (all favorite authors of mine!!) were hatching an idea to write a multi-generational series of novellas that would trace the women of one family from Regency England to modern day America. Their only gap was the 1950s.

Oh, I was IN!

And so, after lots of e-mails and a pretty hilarious Skype meeting, we set to work. The thread tying the stories together is a brooch that’s supposed to bring true love when it’s gifted from mother to daughter. Fun!

Plus, I get to insert Appalachia into a series that includes Regency, western, and contemporary stories. Talk about variety! And my character is such fun–a mountain girl who’s much better at shooting than socializing.

Here’s the brief summary for A Shot at Love: Fleeta Brady’s rough-and-tumble childhood means she prefers hunting to more feminine activities. She never expected her family’s brooch might be how southerner Hank Chapin turns her attention from competition to romance.

Fleeta also puts in an appearance in Becky Wade’s contemporary story (the last in the bunch). So excited for this series of interconnected stories to be released this fall.