Category Archives: Uncategorized

I’m Back Online!

We made some changes to the website and, due to some of the changes, lost some posts. If there is something you remember being on here but don't see it now (and would like to again) please let me know and we'll look for that specifically.

In the meantime, I'll be posting new things while my writing continues. As some of you know, I have been having shoulder issues for a couple of years due to the amount of time I was putting in at the computer. I finally got those issues resolved in April after a great deal of massage therapy (Thanks Joleen!) and a couple of months of physical therapy (Thanks Mary Margaret and Marquita!).

Unfortunately, I then went on one of our normal beach vacations and tripped over a step and fractured the same shoulder in two places. This means that my writing was again restricted to almost zero because the fractures caused intense pain when my hand was held in the typing position. I tried using voice recognition software and dictating what I would normally type but as many writers know, dictation can result in an awkward document which doesn't sound natural so I decided to wait until I could type again.

This will be a gradual process because I am having to gradually build up my typing time and retrain those muscles so I hope my readers will bear with me.

I'll post more on the projects over the next few weeks but, as usual, I have a number of them going. I have several fiction novels I am working on as well as another ghost writing gig on a non-fiction "how to" book.

More to come on the projects but if anyone has anything they'd like to send me or they've heard me mention a project in the past and they'd like to know what stage it is at, just drop me a line, I always love to hear from my readers!

Slavery, Civil Rights, and Self Discovery While Being a Writer

I'm very proud of the fact that, unlike many people I know, knew, like and dislike, I am a liberal/progressive at heart, I think we can and should do better than what we have done in almost all areas of our lives and our history, and that we must know our history so we can learn from it.

Born in Louisiana and raised there and in Texas, I consider myself a Louisianaian and a Southerner, and a Texan to a lesser extent. However, I do not like the direction my states have taken. Rather than the genteel (yes, genteel not gentle) outlooks on life and others I think the states and many of the more vocal residents have taken a turn for the worse, choosing rhetoric over action and choosing a viewpoint that dooms our region to take steps backward instead of forward.

I don't get into political discussions on my author website simply because this isn't the place for them. Sometimes the positions I take in my writings aren't my personal positions, the outlooks or sentiments are those necessary to advance the story. Certainly, you can often read between the lines and could likely discern my attitude on certain political points or, if you want to know, just ask me and I'll give you a personal response, but the author blog is where I share stuff about my books.

Over the years I've had to examine myself and my viewpoints on several occasions. When working on the first Noah Chance book, I was forced to consider the word of those born with Down's Syndrome and the people who love them and I quickly found that not only were my views outdated but they were also wrong in many ways because the information which caused me to form those views was incorrect. 

When writing The Bottle Tree I examined racism, the black and white divide, and why it seemed to be getting worse rather than getting better. My books are, so far, fiction and so it's incumbent upon me not to get too preachy in my novels and to try and keep them interesting while at the same time addressing issues that appear as the book develops. Johnny Robinson allowed me to do that in The Bottle Tree since I knew Johnny back when we were children and since he had appeared in my memories throughout my life. I only wish I had taken the opportunity to contact him again before he passed away and renewed the friendship which I hope would have rekindled. 

For the last year or so I've been working on a historical novel about Louisiana and, as a part of my research, spent a lot of time doing genealogical work tracking how my family came to be in Louisiana and why that is where I identify as "home" no matter where I travel or actually live. 

A number of my ancestors fought in the Civil War on the side of the Conferacy and, until recently, I could say they must have been fighting for the idea of the South since the census records didn't indicate any of them had owned slaves. I'm not ashamed of them fighting for the Rebels and anyone who says people should be ashamed of that fact simply don't understand the concepts which governed life back then or at least life the way they wrote about it in their diaries and journals.

However, in the research I did find that one of my ancestors did own slaves. Not one who was involved in the Civil War but rather one who has a more prominent place in history. Louis Juscheareau de St. Denis, the explorer who founded Natchitoches, the oldest settlement in the Louisiana Purchase, owned a number of slaves.

What is particularly interesting is that the daugther of the slaves he owned was Marie Therese Coincoin (Metoyer), whose freedom was later purchased by Claude Thomas Pierre Métoyer, with whom she had ten children. She and her descendants established the Creole community along the Cane River in Natchitoches Parish, including what is said to be the first church founded by free people of color for their own use, St. Augustine Parish (Isle Brevelle) Church, in Natchez, Louisiana.

So while slavery itself was wrong, the fact that St. Denis brought slaves to Natchitoches with him when he founded the settlement allowed for the creation of what is a phenomenal piece of history, the Creoles of Cane River. The direct descendants of Metoyer and Marie Coincoin still live along Cane River today and their culture and heritage is a vital part of Natchitoches.

As a side note, many people know my hometown of Natchitoches due to its most famous food Natchitoches Meat Pies which were once sold by cart vendors in town and which are still available throughout the area. The best I have ever eaten are made by the ladies at the very church mentioned earlier. St. Augustine Parish (Isle Brevelle) Church who sell them at booths at the Christmas Festival in December. Some even credit the creation of the meat pie to the Creole community although I haven't looked into the history of that yet.

All that to say that our history shouldn't necessarily make us ashamed, even when it is something that by modern standards isn't aceptable. Instead, it should be embraced and learned from, building on the good and avoiding the repetition of the bad.

Now, since many of you have mentioned that you like the recipes I post, a meat pie recipe that's sure to beat those frozen ones. This recipe is from www.Natchitoches.net.

Meat Pie Recipe

Meat Pie Filling

  • 1 teaspoon shortening
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound ground pork meat
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • 1 pod garlic, minced
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped          
  • Salt, black pepper and red pepper to taste               
  • 1 tablespoon flour

Meat Pie Crust

  • 1 quart plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup shortening + 1 T
  • 1 cup milk

Instructions

Melt shortening in heavy pot.  Add meat. Cook until pink is gone.

Add vegetables and season to taste.  (Season well, as meat will lose seasoning during frying.)  When meat is completely done and vegetables glazed, remove from heat and drain excess liquid. 

Stir in 1 tablespoon flour.

Sift dry ingredients together.  Cut in shortening.  Beat egg and add to milk.  Work gradually into dry ingredients until proper consistency to roll. 

Break into small pieces and roll very thin.  Cut into rounds using a saucer as a guide.

To assemble:

Place a large tablespoon of prepared meat along edge and halfway in the center of round dough. 

Fold the other half over, making edges meet and seal with water. 

Form edges with fork. 

Drop in deep fat and  cook until golden brown. 

Drain and serve hot. 

Makes approximately  18.

Meat Pie

Seawall Scene in Second Chance

Jordan Sander's Entry Form

I was digging around on my workspace and came across the paper shown in the picture. That's from a drawing that was done a few years ago at the NSU-Natchitoches Folk Festival.

My kids and their assorted friends, girlfriends and future son in law attended as well. One of these was a good friend of my sons', Jordan Sanders.

Jordan was a great kid who often hung out at our house even after our sons had moved away to college. It wasn't unusual for him to drop by when he needed a break from school and hang out here, watching TV, napping or visiting.

Unfortunately, the world lost Jordan way too young when his cancer popped up again.

I'd chosen Jordan's name out of the slips people had dropped into the box purely by luck and he didn't make it long enough to see the final result. The drawing was actually going to be for a character in the Junebug series but I wrote Second Chance when Junebug and the Monkey stalled out (I still need to get back to it) and Jordan has a small but prominent place in Second Chance.

Look for him skateboarding with the twins on the Seawall in the book. Jennifer and Spencer can't see him, but Noah can.

We miss you Jordan.

One of My Favorite Aerosmith Videos – Sweet Emotion

I remember riding home on the bus when I was in high school ('76 or so and pre iPod, earphones, even pre boom box). Someone had a transistor radio on and this song came over the radio. Even though the bus driver always yelled at us for playing music we did it anyway because we knew they wouldn't stop in the Houston traffic.

Toys in the Attic was a huge album and Aerosmith was on their way to cementing their Rock Gods reputation.

The song is great but the video is phenomenal.

 

Time for Another Food Article – SPAM! Canned Meat of the Gods!

SPAM

Every so often I add a post about something other than writing, usually food related. In this case I was looking at something online and ran across some reviews on canned hams and on SPAM.

To many of the younger generation SPAM is an obnoxious thing haing little to do with food, instead the word brings to mind massive amounts of unwanted emails.

However, to me the name still brings up the salty goodness of a canned meat greatly appreciated in Hawaii and the South but unjustly reviled in most of the rest of the United States. In Hawaii almost every convenience store with a deli sells Musubi, which is just a slice of fried SPAM atop sushi rice and held together with a piece of nori (seaweed wrapper). Even McDonalds has SPAM and eggs on their breakfast menu.

However, to me the best way to eat SPAM is sliced and then fried in an iron skillet until it has a slight crust. The slices are then placed on white bread and slathered with mayonnaise (NOT salad dressing masquerading an an alternative to mayonnaise)..

I'm happy to report my sons developed an early liking for SPAM although my daughter never really developed the love for it that I have.

SPAM is also used in a now off-the-menu version of Pad Thai available in a local Thai restaurant. We use it to make a great fried rice, cutting the meat into cubes the size of the carrots hunks mixed in with frozen peas and carrots. A quick stir fry and then add them back into the rice at the end gives it an additional texture and a burst of flavor anytime you get a SPAM chunk in your forkful.

I'm pretty sure SPAM is also the perfect prepper and post apocalyptic meat since it can be eaten straight out of the can with no discernible loss in flavor although frying it does give it that crunchy crust I love so much.

I admit, I do like the low sodium version even better than the original but Hormel has now introduced BarBQ, turkey, and even a bacon addition to the SPAM family of products that I have to try one day.

SPAM takes me back to the days at my grandmother's when she'd make me a quick sandwich for lunch but for my grandmother even quick sandwiches had some amount of cooking hence SPAM instead of just a ham sandwich.

It's probably the memories as much as the taste that I appreciate.

The Song “Brandy” by Looking Glass and the Smell of Coconut Oil

While I work I often have music playing through the computer and I've noticed how some songs trigger memories.

The song Brandy by the 70s group Looking Glass is one of those. The song came out in 1972 but it was still getting air play when I was in high school. For me it is one of those songs that instantly trigger memories of summer, blonde girls, and the smell of coconut oil suntan lotion.

Life back then wasn't anything like it is today for teenagers, in some good ways and some bad, but the summers of my teen years are the strongest memories I have, not so much specific times but more of a general, laid back attitude. Politics were polarizing then and bad things were happening all over the world, just like it happens now, but you didn't get 24/7 coverage of it and there were lots of times you could relax, listen to the good music, sneak a cold beer or some cheap wine, occasionally kiss a girl who tasted like cherry lip gloss and smelled the coconut oil on her skin and the strawberry scented shampoo she had used to wash her hair, and enjoy yourself.

Here's the video from Brandy.