TALES FROM THE BAYOU: Smells Like Fall

 

perfume.jpg

 

This hot, Tennessee September does nothing to remind me of growing up in the swamps of Louisiana, except for the humidity.

Septembers in the swamps were usually wet. If you weren’t running away from hurricanes, then you are wearing galoshes and raincoats as you are dodging downpours walking the mile or more to school every day. We didn’t have the pretty fall leaves like you do around here most years. Our trees went from green to brown and there was nothing fun about having to rake up a bunch of dead brown leaves from the yard…especially when you never knew what critters might be buried under that pile of wet, rotting leaves.

But despite all of that, it was my favorite time of year back then and now. The weather starts to get a little cooler. Mornings get a little chilly…sometimes even with a bit of frost on the windows or leaves and it won’t be too soon before you can see your breath fogging up things on your way to school. 

It also meant it was almost time for the annual Fall Festival at the Catholic Church in town. My father was Catholic, although not a practicing one until very near his death and my mother was Methodist. Mother raised her children in the Methodist faith, but to her, church was church and the summertime meant Vacation Bible School at both Methodist and Baptist churches, and carnivals at the Catholic Church come the Fall.

There always seemed something mysterious about the Catholic church in my hometown. It was built in an almost Spanish mission style and whenever I walked inside those gates, I always wondered if a tribunal sat somewhere on the other side, just waiting to hear my confessions. Despite my nervousness, the Fall Festival was a time for music, dancing, carnival games, good Cajun food, and my favorite…bingo!

I never played more than a card at a time, but watched in fascination other people who scattered six or more cards in front of them at one time…brooding over them like a mother hen as they covered each number with a colored tile until the excitement of being able to shout “BINGO!” propelled them from their chairs in search of the prizes they had won. I only remember winning one year and it was a beauty. A robin egg blue porcelain lady’s cologne bottle in the shape of a high laced boot, with a dark round blue velvet pincushion on top. To this day, I still don’t know what sewing had to do with the perfume in that bottle but back then, my 9 year old mind thought I had won the French lottery!

Writing was a bit like playing  bingo. Putting all your cards out on the table and playing the best way you can. Investing your blood, sweat, and tears in the possibility you might have a winning story. And when you finally hear those sweet words “SOLD”, it’s like winning the bingo jackpot and you float to the stage to accept your prize of a publishing contract and go home happy you were brave enough to even be in the game at all!

Ahhh, don’t you just love Fall?

 

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HM-SHIP-OF-DREAMS (cover)

Amelia Earmouse travels back through time to uncover little known secrets. You may THINK you know your history, but wait until you see what Amelia uncovers in this latest volume of HISTORY’S MYSTERIES!

In Book One, Ship of Dreams, ten-year-old Margaret can hardly wait to see the largest ship ever built visit Southampton! Life is already hard for her family in the spring of 1912, but the coal workers’ strike could turn a bad situation into a deadly one. Margaret hopes to see the great Titanic leave on its maiden voyage, but will the strike prevent it from happening?

 

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donna - Copy

 

Best selling, award-winning author, Donna L Martin, has been writing since she was eight years old. She is a 4th Degree Black Belt in TaeKwonDo by day and a ‘ninja’ writer of children’s picture books, chapter books, young adult novels and inspirational essays by night. Donna is a BOOK NOOK REVIEWS host providing the latest book reviews on all genres of children’s books, and the host of WRITERLY WISDOM, a resource series for writers. Donna is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators and Children’s Book Insider. She is a lover of dark chocolate, going to the beach and adding to her growing book collection. Donna’s latest book, HISTORY’S MYSTERIES: Ship of Dreams, is available in eBook and print form from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, and other online retailers. Also, coming soon to the Titanic Museums in Branson, Missouri, and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee!

 

TALES FROM THE BAYOU: Shucking Time

 

corn.jpg

 

It’s days like today…hot, sultry, last days of summer days…that reminds me of summer time in the swamps of Louisiana. When you come from a poor family and grow up in a small Cajun town, you have to be creative to keep food on the table.

And my mother was as creative as they come..

Poverty and pride do not work well together, so my mother had no problem haggling with the local farmers who would come through town, driving up and down our little streets, calling out what they had for sale. If you were interested, you would simply flag them down. The farmer would stop , pull out an old-timey scale and the bargaining would begin.

Mother usually had one or two farmers who would come by our house at the end of their routes. The two of them would haggle and before you know it, money exchanged hands and Mother would basically scoop up the “rejects” of the day for pennies on the dollar. This might be where I inherited my “treasure-hunting” spirit.

There would be bruised tomatoes where my mother would cut away the bad and can what was left. I remember one time in late summer, one of the farmers stopped by the house with what amounted to a truckload of corn. He was tired and wanted to go home while my mother knew how much that corn would help stretch our food budget in the coming winter months. A few minutes of haggling and our closed in front porch was literally overrun with fresh corn waiting to be shucked.

If you’ve never shucked corn, here’s a little bit of advice…

WEAR GLOVES!

Those leaves surrounding the ears of corn have razor sharp edges and can slice up your fingers real quick. But the thought of munching down on a fresh from the garden that morning ear of corn topped with my mother’s hand churned butter was a great incentive. All I have to do is close my eyes and that mountain of corn comes back to me.

I tackle my writing like I did that corn and tomatoes. I shuck away the unnecessary parts of each story and trim away the dead weight. All that’s left, hopefully, will be a tasty story to share with my readers…

 

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HM-SHIP-OF-DREAMS (cover)

 

Amelia Earmouse travels back through time to uncover little known secrets. You may THINK you know your history, but wait until you see what Amelia uncovers in this latest volume of HISTORY’S MYSTERIES!

In Book One, Ship of Dreams, ten-year-old Margaret can hardly wait to see the largest ship ever built visit Southampton! Life is already hard for her family in the spring of 1912, but the coal workers’ strike could turn a bad situation into a deadly one. Margaret hopes to see the great Titanic leave on its maiden voyage, but will the strike prevent it from happening?

 

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donna - Copy

 

Best selling, award-winning author, Donna L Martin, has been writing since she was eight years old. She is a 4th Degree Black Belt in TaeKwonDo by day and a ‘ninja’ writer of children’s picture books, chapter books, young adult novels and inspirational essays by night. Donna is a BOOK NOOK REVIEWS host providing the latest book reviews on all genres of children’s books, and the host of WRITERLY WISDOM, a resource series for writers. Donna is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators and Children’s Book Insider. She is a lover of dark chocolate, going to the beach and adding to her growing book collection. Donna’s latest book, HISTORY’S MYSTERIES: Ship of Dreams, available now in eBook and print form from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, and other online retailers. Also coming to the Titanic museums in Branson & Pigeon Forge soon!

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TALES FROM THE BAYOU: Dodging Mother Nature

hurricane

 

I’ve always had a connection with hurricane season. Growing up in the swamps of Louisiana, it always surprised me that our school year began when it did. The first day of school almost always matched up with the arrival of the latest hurricane or tropical storm that chose to stop by. 

I would miss the first days of school…like everyone else in my hometown…as we battened down the hatches and weathered Mother Nature’s fury. I always knew when the old kerosene lanterns came out and my mother started filling up the bathtub  with fresh water, a major storm was about to hit our little abode.

Mother had a knack for keeping four young children calm during the howling winds and torrential rains by making the fact the electricity went out more of a game than something to be nervous about. As I got a little bit older, there were even times when she would take us outside when the eye of the storm was overhead so we could see the beauty and power of the elements. Then it was a mad dash to get back inside before the howling started up again when the backside of the hurricane passed over.

I feel for the people in the Caribbean. There were many years we were trapped in our house with no way out because Mother didn’t drive and my father was stuck in the middle of the Gulf on an oil rig. And there were other times when my entire family stood huddled in the high school gymnasium as my father lifted me up to look out the windows just in time to see rooftops and trashcans go sailing across the street from us. Later, he would drive us back home, taking a very long detour because of the aftermath of flooding, and even to my young eyes, I recognized the devastation Mother Nature could bring to one tiny town on the bayou…

 

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HM-SHIP-OF-DREAMS (cover)

 

Amelia Earmouse travels back through time to uncover little known secrets. You may THINK you know your history, but wait until you see what Amelia uncovers in this latest volume of HISTORY’S MYSTERIES!

In Book One, Ship of Dreams, ten-year-old Margaret can hardly wait to see the largest ship ever built visit Southampton! Life is already hard for her family in the spring of 1912, but the coal workers’ strike could turn a bad situation into a deadly one. Margaret hopes to see the great Titanic leave on its maiden voyage, but will the strike prevent it from happening?

 

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donna - Copy

 

Best selling, award-winning author, Donna L Martin, has been writing since she was eight years old. She is a 4th Degree Black Belt in TaeKwonDo by day and a ‘ninja’ writer of children’s picture books, chapter books, young adult novels and inspirational essays by night. Donna is a BOOK NOOK REVIEWS host providing the latest book reviews on all genres of children’s books, and the host of WRITERLY WISDOM, a resource series for writers. Donna is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators and Children’s Book Insider. She is a lover of dark chocolate, going to the beach and adding to her growing book collection. Donna’s latest book, HISTORY’S MYSTERIES: Ship of Dreams, will be available in eBook and print form from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, and other online retailers on October 14th, 2019.

TALES FROM THE BAYOU: Riding The Ferry To Nowhere

ferry

 

My hometown was surrounded by rice fields and swamps. Canals ran everywhere and sometimes there was literally no other way to get from one place to the other than by boat.

Once a month, my siblings and I would pile into our old car and my father would drive north to the ferry. The only way we would get to the next biggest town was to float across the boggy swamps on an ancient boat pulled across the murky waters along steel cables laid across the bayou. I would watch my mother with her feet peeking out the passenger window as she patiently waited for the sluggish ferry to reach the other shore.

I, on the other hand, was terrified to be on that ferry. I always imagined some freakish accident happening; the cables breaking, and being swept down the canal to some mysterious place where the “gris gris” or Cajun swamp monster lurked. My mother used to tell me the “gris gris” would come to visit if I didn’t go to sleep right away each night. What a scary thought!

 

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Writers sometimes find themselves bogged down by writer’s block, self-doubts, and insecurities when it comes to their writing. They impatiently wait for muses who sometimes never show up while deadlines rush to meet them. They need that ferry to pull them along a river of creativity, carrying them to the other shore and setting them on the path to publication…

 

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HM-SHIP-OF-DREAMS (cover)

 

Amelia Earmouse travels back through time to uncover little known secrets. You may THINK you know your history, but wait until you see what Amelia uncovers in this latest volume of HISTORY’S MYSTERIES!

In Book One, Ship of Dreams, ten-year-old Margaret can hardly wait to see the largest ship ever built visit Southampton! Life is already hard for her family in the spring of 1912, but the coal workers’ strike could turn a bad situation into a deadly one. Margaret hopes to see the great Titanic leave on its maiden voyage, but will the strike prevent it from happening?

Available in ebook, paperback, and hardback beginning October, 2019.

 

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donna - Copy

 

Best selling, award-winning author, Donna L Martin, has been writing since she was eight years old. She is a 4th Degree Black Belt in TaeKwonDo by day and a ‘ninja’ writer of children’s picture books, chapter books, young adult novels and inspirational essays by night. Donna is a BOOK NOOK REVIEWS host providing the latest book reviews on all genres of children’s books, and the host of WRITERLY WISDOM, a resource series for writers. Donna is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators and Children’s Book Insider. She is a lover of dark chocolate, going to the beach and adding to her growing book collection. Donna’s latest book, HISTORY’S MYSTERIES: Ship of Dreams, will be available in eBook and print form from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, and other online retailers on October 14th, 2019.

TALES FROM THE BAYOU: Killing Those Little Darlings

 

armadillo.jpg

 

Some people think the stories I tell about my childhood HAS to be made up. I swear they are all true and just goes to show how strong-willed my mother was to raise four children on a poor man’s salary. Mother supplemented all our meals with produce from a homegrown garden, and even an occasional roadkill offering.

One Sunday after church, my siblings and I were making our way home when we had the fortunate opportunity (or misfortune as the case may be) to see a car hit and kill an armadillo in front of us. This was before armadillos started carrying diseases that could kill you, so the only thing we saw was our next meal being hand delivered to us.

All we had to do is get it home.

The four of us took turns dragging the beast down main streets and back alleys. Imagine my mother’s surprise when I walked into the house tugging on the tail of that roadkill like I was the founder of the feast!

Writers also have a warped sense of what needs killing. We spend countless hours, if not days, searching for just the right words to share the characters in our heads with the world…only to kill off those little darlings if they don’t serve the better purpose of our stories. And in the end, our words and our worlds are the stronger for it…

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HM-SHIP-OF-DREAMS (cover)

 

Amelia Earmouse travels back through time to uncover little known secrets. You may THINK you know your history, but wait until you see what Amelia uncovers in this latest volume of HISTORY’S MYSTERIES!

In Book One, Ship of Dreams, ten-year-old Margaret can hardly wait to see the largest ship ever built visit Southampton! Life is already hard for her family in the spring of 1912, but the coal workers’ strike could turn a bad situation into a deadly one. Margaret hopes to see the great Titanic leave on its maiden voyage, but will the strike prevent it from happening?

 

***********

 

donna - Copy

 

Best selling, award-winning author, Donna L Martin, has been writing since she was eight years old. She is a 4th Degree Black Belt in TaeKwonDo by day and a ‘ninja’ writer of children’s picture books, chapter books, young adult novels and inspirational essays by night. Donna is a BOOK NOOK REVIEWS host providing the latest book reviews on all genres of children’s books, and the host of WRITERLY WISDOM, a resource series for writers. Donna is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators and Children’s Book Insider. She is a lover of dark chocolate, going to the beach and adding to her growing book collection. Donna’s latest book, HISTORY’S MYSTERIES: Ship of Dreams, will be available in eBook and print form from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, and other online retailers on October 14th, 2019.

 

 

TALES FROM THE BAYOU: One Saturday Morning

 

Donald Duck

 

I was flipping through television channels this past weekend and caught a glimpse of what passes for children’s cartoons these days. A part of me kinda felt like that duck above. So many wonderful children’s programming and  fun cartoons aren’t being shown anymore unless you hunt them down somewhere on an old cable show. Then I happen to look through some of my sketches I’ve created over the past few years and realized all those amazing shows influenced my art without my even knowing it…

 

 

Foghorn

 

The Bugs Bunny show had many different characters besides just a funny, saucy rabbit. I like one particular rooster who was followed around by one classy chicken and a daredevil little chick. Who remembers his name?

 

 

Odie

 

 

I was also a sucker for Garfield and his slobbery pal, Odie. That puppy was so gullible but Garfield usually was the one getting in trouble.

 

Pigs

 

Then there the fun loving piggies who would rather spend the day wallowing around in the mud than go on any adventures. It made me envious that they got to lie around when I had to do so much outside work during my summers.

 

 

Snoopy

 

And who didn’t love watching the Peanuts Gang? Between the regular cartoons, comics, and holiday tv shows, I could get my Snoopy fix any time I wanted.

 

 

Space

 

 

Who remembers those two outer space alien types…the little Martian and the Gremlin? This guy reminds me of them.

 

 

Wile E Coyote

 

 

One of my favorite cartoons involved a road runner and a less than cunning coyote who ran all over the desert but never actually seemed to get anywhere. I never could decide if I felt sorry for that coyote for being so dumb, or if  I simply enjoyed seeing the different ways that road runner always seemed to get the better of him.

 

 

Jack

 

There were lots of good ol’ Saturday morning cartoons to keep me happy when I was a kid, but I loved it when the holidays came around and I got to watch some of my favorite holiday cartoons of all times. One is straight from my childhood and the other when I was a young adult but both created such fun loving memories that all I have to do is look at these pictures to feel like a kid again.

 
Grinch

 

I always felt so sorry for that puppy….so full of joy for the Christmas season and always stuck with that grumpy ol’ Grinch! But even he had redeeming qualities and I would watch with bated breath when I was a kid to see if I could catch the moment the Grinch discovered what Christmas was all about.

I don’t think it really matters whether I watch cartoons of my childhood or even try some of the ones on television today. I think what’s the most important, as a writer of children’s stories, is that I never let go of the sense of wonder I had as a child because isn’t it better to laugh at a Saturday morning cartoon than to cry over a Friday night news report?

 

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HM-SHIP-OF-DREAMS (cover)             HM The Chocolate Train Wreck front cover.jpg

       SHIP OF DREAMS COMING IN OCT!                                CHOCOLATE TRAIN WRECK COMING IN NOV!

 

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donna - Copy

 

Best selling, award-winning author, Donna L Martin, has been writing since she was eight years old. She is a 4th Degree Black Belt in TaeKwonDo by day and a ‘ninja’ writer of children’s picture books, chapter books, young adult novels and inspirational essays by night. Donna is a BOOK NOOK REVIEWS host providing the latest book reviews on all genres of children’s books, and the host of WRITERLY WISDOM, a resource series for writers. Donna is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators and Children’s Book Insider. She is a lover of dark chocolate, going to the beach and adding to her growing book collection. Donna’s latest book, HISTORY’S MYSTERIES: Ship of Dreams, will be available in eBook and print form from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, and other online retailers on October 14th, 2019.

TALES FROM THE BAYOU: Rainy Day Sunday

 

storm

 

My weekends are always so busy, it’s hard sometimes to simply slow down and catch my breath. I try to slow down on Sundays…taking a moment to calm my spirit and reconnect with the things that are important to me.

Like the rain.

Wait…what?

When I was growing up in the swamps of Louisiana, a summer time rain was something my sister and I eagerly watched out for. It was a three step process…

PREPARATION

 

Whenever Mother  told us it was going to rain on a particular day, we would scramble to find  just the right rainy day clothes to wear. Nothing too heavy to weigh us down, nothing too skimpy to give us a chill and cut into our play time.

 

ENGAGEMENT

 

If there was no lightning, we were allowed to dance out in the rain. We would race each other around the front yard and simply enjoy connecting with Mother Nature. Buckets would be set out to collect rainwater because everyone knows washing your hair in rainwater makes it so much softer! If we were lucky, we would get a few chances during the summer to  play in the rain so we took advantage of every chance we would get.

 

CHALLENGES

 

When you grow up poor, everything is a challenge. Putting food on the table, keeping the wolf from your door, and even something as simple as going for a swim. Summertime rains gave us a chance to do just that. If the rainfall lasted long enough, the very deep ditches dividing our front yard from the road would fill up, creating a little river inviting us to jump in. We would run to the local appliance store down the street and beg for their refrigerator boxes. Cutting them flat, they made the perfect slip ‘n slide into the ditches.

The things kids will do to have a little fun on a hot summer day. No electronics. No battery operated gadgets to do our thinking for us. Just some kids using their imagination to create a little summertime fun…

Writers use the same process to create their writerly worlds. Research and brainstorming helps them prepare to write their stories. The words they juggle with finesse and skill allow their characters to engage their readers and entice them to come with them on their journey. And if they come across challenges along the way, the confident writer doesn’t allow it to get in their way of crafting the ultimate ending to keep readers coming back for more…

 

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HM-SHIP-OF-DREAMS (cover)

Nine-year-old Abigail thinks nothing exciting ever happens in Hamilton. But things change one stormy night when an airborne train and twenty tons of chocolate shower down on the sleepy village. Even local police and the FBI are puzzled over what caused the train to derail. Abigail and Billy team up to find out who’s behind the CHOCOLATE TRAIN WRECK, but will all they find is more questions?

There’s a mystery hovering over Hamilton—and it smells like CHOCOLATE!

 

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donna - Copy

 

Best selling, award-winning author, Donna L Martin, has been writing since she was eight years old. She is a 4th Degree Black Belt in TaeKwonDo by day and a ‘ninja’ writer of children’s picture books, chapter books, young adult novels and inspirational essays by night. Donna is a BOOK NOOK REVIEWS host providing the latest book reviews on all genres of children’s books, and the host of WRITERLY WISDOM, a resource series for writers. Donna is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators and Children’s Book Insider. She is a lover of dark chocolate, going to the beach and adding to her growing book collection. Donna’s latest book, HISTORY’S MYSTERIES: Ship of Dreams, will be available in eBook and print form from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, and other online retailers on October 14th, 2019.