Friday, March 2, 2018

poem in gravel


I’m pleased with the photo Gravel Magazine published with my poem “Mutating Distance.” It appears in their current online issue. My thanks to them for a great presentation. Click on Gravel and take a look at the photo and the poem.

Monday, February 26, 2018

presentation, speaker @ the center


My presentation at the Speaker @ the Center Thursday was well received, if by a small audience. Nonetheless, the faces that looked at me were animated, interested, and at times amused by what I said. Thank you, to those of you who made me feel special by being there.
Me and Andersen Cook (rt.)
I benefited from this event no doubt more than my audience. Preparing for it, I had to look into my motives, inspirations, and writing habits. I discovered personal connections to the story of What Missing Means that I had been unaware of. And this public forum gave me the opportunity to touch on debates among historical fiction writers.

Thank-you to Andersen Cook and Speaker @ the Center for the invitation to speak, and to the SC State Library for hosting the event. 

Me, my sister Nila, and Judy

Monday, February 19, 2018

Author Appearance

Coming Thursday

Writing What Missing Means
SC State Library
Thursday, Feb. 22
12:00 noon – 1:00
1500 Senate St., Columbia, SC

I’ll talk about my novel
and life in 1945 on a farm in SC.
I hope to see you there!

Me at Sumter poetry reading.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

my day with a cold


As I write this, I pause occasionally to wipe my nose. I hack up phlegm (yuk!). My eyes feel like they’re squeezed into keyholes. Days of this, and you’d think I’d be used to it.

Am I happy about this? Well, maybe. It’s not the flu...which sent my brother to the hospital for several days. He was totally wiped out, took him hours to get to a phone to call for help. And when he got to the emergency room at Lexington Medical Center, he had to wait 24 hours to be admitted to a room. The hospital was packed with patients. Because of the flu, said the staff.

I haven’t been out of the house. First of all, because I don’t feel like it but secondly because I don’t want to spread my virus. However, I expect to be going full throttle in a couple of days, if the old adage that a virus takes 10 days is true.

Even with headache and sore throat, I’ve worked on a presentation for the SC State Library. I’ll be there Thursday, Feb. 22 at noon to talk about my novel What Missing Means. The Library is located at 1500 Senate Street in Columbia, SC. My appearance is hosted by Speaker @ the Center.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

A Presentation on My Writing


I’m gathering thoughts for a presentation in February on the subject of my novel What Missing Means. Several ideas I’m working on:

1) Background for writing it.
This novel began as part of its prequel, Dust On the Bible. As such, the characters were already there. To figure out where they came from, I’ll go back to the origin of Dust On the Bible, which began as short stories.

2) Is it autobiography? 
Not consciously, but some critics hold that most good literature is autobiography. I can’t buy-off on that entirely, but writers who share the emotional history of their characters can better bring them to life. But to the point, I’ve come to recognize influences from my childhood that bear on the story.

3) The lure of research.
I've been asked to discuss my writing of the novel. Personally, I prefer to talk about what I’ve learned from my research. The novel takes place in 1945. To get the time period realistically portrayed I dug into biographies, history books, and documents (thank-you Wikipedia) to discover things such as: 1) who was drafted and how; 2) electricity’s arrival in rural homes; 3) ration cards for gas & groceries; 4) when/how bodies of KIA soldiers were sent home; 5) time sequence of cotton crops, when chopped, when hoed.

One reason I like to write historical fiction is the pleasure of digging into history for answers to questions I’d never ask if I weren’t writing. Sometimes the most mundane information is the hardest to find. When I was writing the Westfall antebellum series, I spent days trying to find out if it was common for people to smoke cigarettes in 1857 (No, it wasn't.).
Sketch of Fairview School, where I attended grades 1-4.
It could have been the inspiration for Lily's school.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

speaker @ the center


I’m going to discuss my novel “What Missing Means” on Thursday, February 22 at the SC State Library, scheduled at 12:00 noon.

This novel tells of the young girl Lily, who lives with many relatives and wishes some of them would move out. The shadow over the story is the fate of her uncle who is in Europe in the midst of WWII.

My presentation is hosted by Speaker @ the Center, which asks that you register online to ensure a seat (

The SC State Library is located at 1500 Senate Street, Columbia, SC. For more information: 803.545-4432.

I hope to see you there!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Triggerfish Acceptance


Last November, Triggerfish Critical Review accepted three of my poems for publication in their July issue. I am especially grateful to Editor Dave Mehler for his comments about my poems:
I have to tell you, I'm excited about your poems... The whimsicality, the delicacy and subtlety of humor, and the evidence of Christian faith, all of which is rare.  Your poems will be a joy to publish.
The poems are: 1) “Common Story Among Strangers;” 2) “I Pray;” and 3) “On the Verge of Holy.” Triggerfish is an online journal that explores the “why” of poetry—why we read poems and why we want to share them. 
  1. “Common Story Among Strangers” is a meditation on the influence of religion in our lives. Given the barrage of information and ideas today, there are constant challenges to any belief system. 
  2. “I Pray” is something of a complaint about a relationship. No friendship or affair can survive without emotional commitment from both partners.
  3. “On the Verge of Holy” speaks to our inclination to try too hard to be good. It’s a question of how good do we have to be before we become a hardship to ourselves and others. 
I have learned that I shouldn’t write when I’m in a bad mood. In responding to Editor Dave Mehler, I bemoaned what I consider the esoteric nature of much of contemporary poetry. The easy part of appreciating poetry is to read traditional favorites, such as T.S. Eliot and Robert Frost. It’s more demanding and time consuming to support contemporary poets and publishers who are searching for the poems that captivate the imagination of a new generation. I should write a poem about “sometimes I’m a whiner.”

My thanks to Editor Dave Mehler and the Triggerfish Advisory Board, Greg Grummer, Lynn Otto, and Steve Parker for making the publication of my poems possible.

Friday, January 5, 2018

New Year 2018

My New Year's Resolutions

1. Publish a second illustrated witch book for children.

2. Seclude myself one week a month until I finish a first draft of my 1672 story.

3. Learn to ice skate.

4. Go to church Sundays.

Two of my resolutions are about writing, which I’ve neglected for two months. I thought my witch story was practically ready to publish when I realized that it will in some respects be a sequel to my first children's book, in which the witch discovers she’s allergic to cats. What’s a witch without cats? The follow-up book has to deal with her allergy. So I’ll either add to what I’ve written already or I’ll write a different book to interface between book one and book three. 

I’m good at finding distractions to take me away from writing, and primary among them is shopping. I’m afraid I’m becoming a shopaholic; I spend too much time searching for exactly the right item (almost right isn’t for me), especially since Amazon makes so many choices available. I’m planning to disconnect from Wi-Fi for a week every month in the hope that I become more productive.

Ice Skating
In December I discovered an ice skating rink in Irmo, SC, not far from my house. I hope I can do this without breaking any bones.

Been listening to C.S. Lewis’ book “Mere Christianity.” It has inspired me to be more methodical about supporting my beliefs.

I don't have this scene outside my window, but if you do, stay warm! 


Saturday, December 30, 2017

A Pause in the Entertainment

For the last month, I’ve been doing a lot of not writing. Instead, traveling and visiting...
Me at the Manekin Pis in Brussels, Belgium.
With my husband Doug:
Doug at Waterloo battlefield, Belgium.
Me at Sherlock Holmes museum, London.
And celebrating and visiting with family. 

Visit with son Matt and grandson Ivan.
Had Thanksgiving with son Davis and his family. Here I'm with his wife Cindy and daughter Ava. 

But today I’m getting back to my historical fiction manuscript.

For intermittent periods I’ve been working on this manuscript for over a year. It’s about time I buckled down and completed a first draft. 

There are a number of characters in the story, about six, not counting the ones that come and go. ­It will take a week of re-reading for me to get back into the story, that is to say, to figure out which characters own a horse, which ones have blue eyes, and which ones drink too get the idea. 

Back to work. Oh, wait, I mean after New Year's Eve and New Year's Day...

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Batesburg Garden Club

TRIP TO 1857

Members of the Camellia Garden Club of Batesburg were a great audience for my presentation on November 2. I led us on a trip back to 1857 and St. Helena Island, SC. Much of my presentation was based on research I did to write the Westfall series of historical fiction novels.
Barbara Shealy (L) and Susan Shealy (R) hosted the club meeting.
A visit with our ancestors, at least for myself, makes us aware of the many advances that have been made. In just 160 years we have moved from horses and carriages to commuter jets, from letters to Facetime, from wood fires to central heat; from plagues to heart transplants; from wagon trails to interstate expressways. 
Me at the podium. Photos thanks to Amanda Ballenger
Try thinking of a kitchen without electricity, without lights or refrigerator, freezer, range or running water. Our ancestors had no boxed cereals or protein bars in their cabinets; nor frozen dinners and ice cream in a freezer. What storage they had for food was the occasional pantry and more often, a smoke house. Preparing a meal required hours of work in a kitchen and months in a garden or field. Such was life in 1857.

As Thanksgiving approaches, I’m ever more thankful for the nameless Americans who worked without recognition to build our cities and farms and provide the comforts of our everyday life. The quality of our American lifestyle is a credit to the creativity and work ethic of our forefathers.

The comforts we are afforded count for little without the bonds of love and trust. I appreciate that I had parents who loved and encouraged me. My mother, in particular, made sacrifices so that I might have a better life than she did. Because my parents are the past, the past is dear to me. My parents felt the same way once their parents were gone. And though I didn't live in 1857, I had ancestors who held that time to be dear because of parents who had lived then. I'm alive because of them, and I'm loved because they were loved. Exploring their world has been a fascinating project for me.
Mildred Shumpert Rawls, my mother

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Lexington County Museum


Last night concluded two candlelit nights in the yard of the Hazelius House at the Lexington Museum where I manned a table with copies of my books. My table was located near the tent where visitors checked-in for the Hunted History Tours (conducted by museum director J.R. Fennell).

My table with historical fiction novels
As groups arrived for the Hunted Tours, they passed by my table (many stopped to shop), picked up cookies and hot apple cider, and gathered at the bond fire. My sweater wasn't warm enough Thursday night, but a cup of cider helped keep off the chill. Last night wasn't as cold.

The heat from the bond fire was much appreciated
I was happy to discover that the volunteer working the ticket stand was Laura McMahan, another former Pelion School student. I hadn't seen Laura in years, and we did a bit of catching up on what we've been doing.
Laura (lt.) is a retired principal with Lexington One Schools
My sister Nila accompanied me and, as most writers know, every event is easier and more fun when you have somebody to share it. Nila was a great assistant.

I depend on my sister Nila often to help me out

A view of my table with the Fox House in the background.

My table with the Hazelius House in the background.

A crowd of visitors surged before each tour and then it was quiet with just the staff and myself. It was refreshing to be outdoors with the moon shining above the trees. Our voices seemed more calm in the candlelight... which added an aura of history. My thanks to Director Fennell for the opportunity to participate in the museum's Haunted Tours.

Monday, October 23, 2017

aiken, SC Indie Authors

Indie Authors Photos

Aiken, SC Library

October 14, 2017

On Arrival I met fellow author Gail Reed, who writes children's books. 
I met Gail at the 2015 Red Piano Too Art Show on St. Helena Island, SC.

Unpacking my displays and books. 

My display area was adjacent to that 
of Mike Lythgoe, who made a presentation on poetry.

Vicki Collins discussed how place enters into character and plot. 
a book that investigates the Appalachians in the media.

Will Jones talked about writing songs.

What did writer Linda Shaffer see? mmmm...

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

October 14 Indie Author


To celebrate Indie Author Day, the Aiken Public Library is spotlighting local authors Saturday, October 14. I’ll be one of the indie authors signing books starting at 3:30 PM.

schedule of presentations

10:30 Poetry by Michael Lythgoe
11:00 Screenwriting by Justin Wheelon
11:30 The Path of an Indie Author by Bob Clark
1:00 Deeds Publishing by Bob Babcock
2:00 Writing About Place by Vicki Collins
2:30 Songwriting by Will Jones
3:30 Book Signings by local authors

The library is located at 314 Chesterfield Street SW in Aiken, SC (phone 803. 642-2020). If you’re in the Aiken area on October 14, come by and say “hello.” Better yet, come by and buy a book!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Augusta University, GA


Saturday I had a brief spotlight at the Berry Fleming Book Festival at Augusta University in Georgia. The Festival provided a podium and microphone for about a dozen of us writers to read from our books. I was scheduled at 12:36 p.m., but the program started late. I read “Cat’s Fur,” which was well received.
Diane Chamberlain
Throughout the day from 9:00 a.m. until 3:45 p.m. numerous programs and panel discussions took place in the University’s Jaguar Student Activity Center. DianeChamberlain, the keynote speaker, began the morning with a discussion of her writing life. Her presentation was a study case in how a personal appearance can attract devotees. How does one appear approachable but retain the air of celebrity? Appear amiable while being detached? Arouse enthusiasm while remaining calm and composed? Wish I had a film of her presentation.
William Rawlings, Jim Garvey, and William Okie
“Georgians Making History” was a panel including authors William Rawlings, Jim Garvey, and William Okie. It was interesting to see these writers but the take-away was minimal. Sometimes a panel works better if a moderator provides guidance with topics to discuss.
Moderator, Man Martin, Karen Zacharias, and James McCallister
“It’s A Southern Thang” featured authors Man Martin, Karen Spears Zacharias, and James McCallister. Seemingly “Southern” literature is something we recognize but have trouble defining. It’s the language, some say. It’s the location. It’s the story. Or, more simply, it’s the author’s home.
Stephen Corey
At 1:00 p.m. Stephen Corey, editor of The Georgia Review, read from his book of essays and talked about the Review. 
I (far left) pose with other authors for a group shot.
It was a day of literary events covering a spectrum of genres ranging from historical fiction to poetry to romance to mysteries to young adult and children. Each hour, there were four or five different programs taking place in numerous rooms of the Activity Center. It was an ambitious undertaking, and I hope Augusta University will make the Festival an annual event. 

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Steadman dove shoot


Cleaning doves after the shoot
This past weekend was the opening of dove season in South Carolina. My family has a long history in the outdoors as hunters and fishermen. Somebody always planted a field of grains to attract the birds, and many times it was Uncle Nelson.

More recently my husband Doug and his hunter friends have taken over this tradition. They began in the spring by planting a field of sunflowers and corn. Come harvest time, they bush-hog the plants disseminating the seeds, which attracts the doves. Unfortunately for the birds, by September, the hunters are waiting in the field for them to arrive and feed. 
Matt and the quarry
After an afternoon of shooting (and a visit from the game warden), many doves—didn’t count them—were brought in. The hunters plucked the feathers and took only the breast meat, which was divvied up. My husband makes a casserole of dove cooked with rice and mushroom soup and his friends like it.
Tony and Josh repair shotgun after the shoot

Sunday, August 27, 2017

The Other Einstein


I’m surprised at the positive reception the novel The Other Einstein has received from reviewers. A number of them on Amazon have responded as if author Marie Benedict has discovered and revealed an historical truth. The novel purports that Einstein's wife Mileva was largely responsible for the theory that made Einstein famous. There is no evidence to support this. Benedict’s imagination soared on rumor and supposition. Yet, some readers have taken it for fact. This is one reason why many writers debate the issue of ethics in historical fiction.

Another troubling aspect of this novel is the political pandering to feminists in a most unpleasant way. Yes, women have been suppressed for ages, but our heroes are not those who wallow in being victims. What is there to admire in that? Where is the creative woman? The fighter? The strong character? The intellectual? Benedict attempts to make Mileva a genius equal to Albert, mostly with coffee shop conversations, but the tone of the life as it’s presented is not that of a person inspired by intellectual pursuits.

Given Benedict’s assumption that Mileva had strong family ties and a father who made sacrifices to see that she was given a superior education, it’s not admirable that she essentially dumped on him to have a fling with Albert. Being four years older than Albert, Mileva must have realized the possible consequences of an illicit love affair.

This book is an appeal to our baser emotions. The outcome is not that we like and admire Mileva as a strong woman. Instead, it arouses our anger and spite against Albert. Benedict manipulates the reader into wanting to take revenge on him. Strip him of his good reputation. Throw the bum out of the hall of fame.

Unfortunately, this book gives feminists nothing to cheer about. Instead of celebrating a woman of genius and vision, it turns into a whiny treatise on how badly Albert Einstein treated his first wife. 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Photos-B&L Library

PHOTOS – Batesburg-Leesville Library

I was pleased with the audience at the Batesburg-Leesville Library for my presentation of “Death & Burial” Monday night. As was true at Pelion, the faces that looked at me were attentive and respectful, rather like the subject we were discussing.
Lindy introduced my presentation.

This is where patients were often lanced for bloodletting treatment.

It's gratifying to meet others interested in our history.
My thanks to Lindy and the library staff for their friendly welcome. Also, thanks to Rachel Oglesby for inviting me. Photo credits with appreciation to my friend Carole Rothstein.


Sunday, July 23, 2017

Death & Burial at Batesburg-Leesville


My next Presentation:

Death and Burial Customs in the Antebellum South
Monday, July 24, 2017
Time: 6 - 7:00 PM 

Location: Batesburg-Leesville Library
203 Armory Street, Batesburg, SC 29006
Ph: 803.532-9223
Admission: Free

I hope to see you there!