TALES FROM THE BAYOU: Staying True To My Roots

 

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For many years when I was growing up, the whole family would pile into the old family car every summer and make the trip over the mountains to visit my Aunt Betty and Uncle Elmo. They lived in Oklahoma, not far from the Cherokee Indian Reservation, and ran a small gift shop and general store just outside the reservation lands. We would even sometimes visit some the buffalo farms scattered among the rolling hills not far from where my aunt and uncle lived.

I grew up knowing I was part Cherokee. It comes from my mother’s side of the family and I can only imagine what my mother’s ancestors must have been like. My mother was many things, good and bad, but the thing I remember most about her is what a strong spirited woman she was.

At least one branch of the Ownby family tree was made up of full-blooded Cherokee and my grandparents even traveled from North Carolina by covered wagon…from an area where the Eastern Band of Cherokees remain today… to eventually settle in the mountains of Arkansas where my mother, eight siblings and her parents lived in a log cabin barely big enough for all of them. Mother was one of the oldest and worked hard on the farm to help put food on the table.

During the summers when we would make the trek to Oklahoma, I would get a chance to visit with some of mother’s relatives from the Cunningham side of the family and I knew right away they were descendants of the Western band of Cherokees. Those Cherokee were the people who survived the Trail of Tears and settled on the reservation set up for them in Oklahoma. Today I wonder if my Oklahoma cousins actually lived on the reservation back then…maybe my sister knows…but I always felt like I had stepped into another world when I would visit.

I can remember helping out in the general store and shyly hiding behind the counter to watch the people from the reservation as they would come in to do business with my aunt and uncle. Black hair and deeply tanned skin wouldn’t match my auburn hair and very fair skin but still our spirits called to one another and I knew in my heart my roots would always be with the Cherokee people.

For many years one of my favorite souvenirs was a small indian doll dressed in buckskin dress that was given to me on one of my visits. I’m not sure where that doll is now, but I still have the cherry colored doll house dining room set my Aunt Betty gave me for my birthday one year. It had belonged to her mother and is now more than 80 years old but I still have it…a reminder of my annual trips back to the reservation and a step back in time to the world of the Cherokee…

 

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donna

International 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, LUNADAR: Homeward Bound (a YA fantasy), is now available in eBook and print form from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, and other online retailers.

 

TALES FROM THE BAYOU: Summer Time Reading

 

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Summer is almost here and for me that means BOOKS! It’s not like I don’t read books the rest of the year, but during the summer I read to my Adventure Camp kids at my TaeKwonDo school every day for the ten weeks of summer. I read 3-4 books every day so by the time the new school year comes around, we have gone through at least 200 books…and this is sometimes the ONLY time some of my kids get to enjoy a book!

Reading to me has been the foundation of my childhood. It let me escape from the drama surrounding me. It allowed me to visit new places…meet new people…all from the comfort of my bedroom or front porch. I lived in a very small town and this was the library I visited as often as my mother would allow.

I still remember the day I was finally old enough to check out my own books. I was about 5 or 6 and there was a special row of books located behind the librarian’s desk where first timers could go and pick out ANY book from that shelf. It’s not like today where there are literally millions of books a kid could get their hands on, so those 20 or 30 books I was allowed to browse as a first timer was like giving me a golden ticket to OZ and I just had to figure out which train to catch!

 

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It might find it hard to believe, but the very first book I selected to take home was a DICTIONARY! I was fascinated with the illustrations and wanted to learn more about the words hidden inside. The librarian gave me a funny look because why would a little kid want to read a dictionary, but today I wonder…why did she put it on the first-timer shelf for me to select it? ;~)

I ran home with my treasure and it took me a week to read through the entire book. Granted, it was a small beginner dictionary but when I told my mother the next weekend I was ready to go back to the library for another book, she didn’t believe I had read it. She sat me down and literally gave me an oral test on random words from that book. I don’t know who was more surprised..my mother because I answered every question correctly…or myself because I remembered what those words meant. In any case, she let me go back to the library that day and from then on I made it my summer time goal to always read a minimum of 100 books before going back to school in the fall.

 

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The summer I turned 9 or 10 my library ran a writing contest. The theme was something about being proud to be an American and I entered the contest. I was big into horses back then…even thought I would either be a vet when I grew up or would one day own my own horse ranch…so when I found out first prize for my age group was a copy of MISTY OF CHINCOTEAGUE, I just had to enter! I don’t remember what I wrote about but it must have been impressive because I ended up winning first place and have read my copy of Misty many times since that day. It holds a special place on my bookshelf…a reminder of how books have been a life long friend to me.

The Gueydan library is still open for business, still tempting children with tantalizing dreams of adventure to faraway lands. And I’m sure they probably still have an old dictionary or two just waiting for another little girl to come in and discover the magic hiding within those well worn pages…

 

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donna

 

International 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, LUNADAR: Homeward Bound (a YA fantasy), is now available in eBook and print form from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, and other online retailers.

TALES FROM THE BAYOU: An Easter Tradition

 

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My sister will probably laugh when she sees this picture. She will probably THINK she knows the tale I will tell today. Maybe she will be correct. And maybe she will learn a thing or two.

Card-giving is a billion dollar business. Today there are cards for every conceivable situation so finding one that says just what the sender wants it to say is kinda like shooting fish in a barrel…odds are in your favor.

But when I was about 8 years old the card selection wasn’t that great. I didn’t have the money to buy something other than this card to give to my big sister for Easter. I didn’t even take the time to sign it and truth be told, Janet kept the card…only to return the SAME card back to me the following year. She says she did it simply because she really didn’t like the card in the first place and was just trying to get rid of it.

Maybe that’s true. Then again, maybe she was just starting an Easter tradition that has stood the test of time. Year after year, decade after decade, this card has traveled back and forth from my hands to hers. In between traveling between our homes, it’s tucked somewhere safe until it is time to take it out again and send it on it’s special journey back into another sister’s hands.

I can’t even tell you what it says on the inside but I CAN tell you what it whispers to me before I tuck it away for another year.

I am still here.

The sisterly bond has not been broken.

Love has endured despite births, deaths, marriage, divorce, illness, and all the other possibilities of the human condition to tax our minds and spirits. That little card has reminded me of this fact for FIFTY YEARS of passing from my hands to my sister’s. It is a symbol of the most cherished part of my childhood and I pray we will be allowed to carry on our Easter tradition for many more years to come…

 

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donna

International 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, LUNADAR: Homeward Bound (a YA fantasy), is now available in eBook and print form from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, and other online retailers.

 

TALES FROM THE BAYOU: More Than Just A Cardboard Box

 

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Poor is a state of being. A label placed on those pitiful souls carving out a life on the edges of humanity and hoping one day to discover the secret others seem to keep hidden from them.

Poor is a way of life. A threadbare cloth wrapped around bony shoulders in an attempt to keep the chill away. Scraping together a meager existence, paycheck to paycheck while fighting the wolves at the door.

But being poor can mean something more.

Poor is the key to creativity. When a tablecloth can become a hidden cave full of treasure and a plain cardboard box is the gateway to adventure.

When I was growing up cardboard boxes could morph into many things…cars for dolls to ride in, holes cut for legs so a pretend Cinderella could go to the ball, and super slides before such a thing existed.

One of the houses I lived in had a steep ditch in the front yard that served many purposes when you had only your imagination to work with. Sometimes after a thunderstorm rolled through the area, I would pretend to go fishing in that ditch. But it was the summertime and the call of the outdoors when I enjoyed that ditch the most.

We lived not far from an appliance store that would throw away large refrigerator cardboard boxes once a week. As soon as they dumped those boxes at the back of their store, my siblings and I would sneak a couple home. Ripping them open and laying them flat on the incline of the ditch, we took turns running across the front yard and leaping onto that cardboard to slide down into the ditch. Over and over we would slip and slide until we had quite literally destroyed our slide. No matter…it was back to the store for another box and the fun to begin again.

Funny thing about those boxes. No money exchanged hands for the sake of a little laughter on a warm summer day. No batteries required. No vegging out in front of the television to kill a few brain cells watching endless commercials.

Just fresh air, a little laughter, and some cardboard.

Poor is a state of being. To make of it what you will. To let it help mold the person you are to become but to never define you.

Oh no, never that…

 

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donna

International 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, LUNADAR: Homeward Bound (a YA fantasy), is now available in eBook and print form from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, and other online retailers.

TALES FROM THE BAYOU: What Is That Smell?

 

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Any teenager will tell you there is a heady feeling that first time you find yourself home alone without someone looking over your shoulder. It’s a chance to spread your wings and prove to the world you’re all grown up.

Well, maybe not…

One summer during my early teen years, Janet and my mother took a week long trip and left me at the house to fend for myself. My mother made plans for me to stay with some neighbors but I was determined to stay by myself. The first few days went by without a hitch. By the end of the week, I decided one night to celebrate my independence by baking some cookies.

 

Mistake number one.

 

The last house I lived in before graduating high school sat next to the mayor’s house. Right across the little alley running behind our two houses was the town’s only police station and fire station housed in one building. And right outside it was a massive emergency siren that would blare over the town every Monday evening at six. It always made me jump because the sound was an ear piercing screech. You need to remember this because that night I didn’t.

I knew the basics of how to cook so when I didn’t have actual cookie dough, I just substituted cake mix instead.

 

Mistake number two.

 

I noticed the “cookie dough” was a bit runny but figured once I got it in the oven and it started to cook everything would be all right. I headed to the other end of the house to lay on the floor and watch some TV while my cookies baked. Funny what the mind forgets. Like what was so fascinating on TV that I completely forgot what was happening in the kitchen.

 

Mistake number three.

 

Slowly I began to smell something peculiar. It was the smell of something scorched. I glanced toward the kitchen in time to see rolling black smoke heading in my direction just as the acidic stench of dough burnt far beyond any hope of recognition attempted to set the kitchen on fire.

You would think I was sprinting for the gold.

I hit that kitchen in mere seconds…just in time to yank what was left of the dough out of the oven before a coughing fit overtook me. I threw the back door open and frantically tried to dispel the smoke.

I stood on my back porch, adrenaline pumping, as I looked up in horror at the emergency siren and realized if anyone was looking out the back window of the fire station, they would presume my house was on fire and would blast that horn for the whole town to know what an idiot I was!

Luckily, I’ve spent the rest of my life secure in the knowledge that God, in His infinite wisdom, took mercy on one bumbling teenager that fateful night. No siren added to my panic. No mayor rushed over to pull me from a burning house. No questions to answer from my mother when she returned home.

There were many things she found out about over the years but THAT one…I’ll take it to my grave…

 
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LUNADAR: Homeward Bound

Ruler by day, a reluctant pirate by night, 18-year-old Princess Ariana fights for her subjects in the waterfall city of LUNADAR. In a kingdom surrounded by fairies and mermaids, and ravaged by deadly Drundles, only a chosen few are trusted to guard her daughter, Candra, as the secret heir to the throne. But it only takes one ill-fated meeting for Ariana to suddenly be plunged into an escalating web of secrets found in her father’s journal, a deadly kidnapping, and an ever-weakening resolve to turn her back on the call of the merman’s song. With Ariana’s world falling apart and the future of LUNADAR at stake, how will she bring her father’s murderer to justice and fulfill a deathbed promise to protect Lunadar’s legacy?

$16.99

 

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donna

International 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, LUNADAR: Homeward Bound (a YA fantasy), is now available in eBook and print form from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, and other online retailers.

 

TALES FROM THE BAYOU: Call of the Wild

 

 

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There could be many stories told about adventures with animals during my childhood but the one that will probably interest my readers the most is the tale about how Christy came into my life.

I was about nine or ten at the time and absolutely crazy about animals. I read every book I could get my hands on about various creatures and had an assortment of different pets over the years. I even KNEW I was going to become a veterinarian when I grew up so when I saw a lone pigeon land on the roof of my front porch one day I immediately set out to catch it.

But how does one trap a wild bird?

I ran into the house and told my mother there was a pigeon outside and I wanted to catch it. My mother didn’t think I could accomplish such a feat…she should have known me better than that…but still gave me permission to use some bread and her laundry basket. Gathering my supplies, I ran back outside and placed bits of bread on the sidewalk in plain sight and waited patiently for that pigeon to fly down so it could check out the banquet I had laid out for it.

Minutes passed and I was beginning to worry whether my plan was going to work when suddenly down swoops that pigeon to check out the bread. Slowly, cautiously I approached with my laundry basket ready. Someone else with less faith would have thought it impossible to catch a wild bird in this way but I just knew in my heart I could do this. Yet I was still surprised when I successfully placed the basket over the bird.

I already had a rabbit and some bobwhite quail as pets so finding an extra cage in our garage was not a problem. I named my pigeon Christy and proceeded to “tame” her. The first thing I noticed was the engraved band she had around one of her legs. My mother told me that was so someone could track her migration patterns. I decided I was going to train Christy to do tricks but the first thing I had to do was convince her to stay with me. It seems kinda cruel to me now, but back then I tied a ten foot long piece of string around one of her legs and the other end to her cage. For the first couple of hours she attempted to fly away but every time the string would remind her an invisible barrier kept her tethered to my house.

Christy soon came to love being with me and I enjoyed her company. I caught her during the summer and soon trained her to ride on my shoulder as I would ride my bicycle to the grocery store and back home. She would fly to the roof of the store and wait while I went inside, constantly checking the faces as people emerged until she saw me and would then fly down to land on my shoulder for the ride home.

She lived with me for about a year before the call of the wild enticed her away. I was devastated one day when I went to check on her and found her gone. I even decided to go in search of her and spent the next two days riding my bike around my hometown searching for her.

Fate is a funny thing and not one to be ignored. Late in the afternoon of the second day I was riding past a house on the other side of town and I noticed a group of pigeons feeding in the back yard. Could Christy have been lonely and gone in search of some friends? I got off my bike and stood in that front yard calling her name. Silly to think I had found Christy and that she would come to me. But I have always been a person of tremendous faith and so I tried it anyway. Suddenly one pigeon out of the group rose into the air and flew over to land on my shoulder.

Christy!

She started cooing as she always did before but this time I think she was trying to tell me she had found her family. I was sad to have to say goodbye but I knew Christy would be happier with her own kind so I petted her one last time and sent her back to her family. I rode home thinking that was the last time I would see her.

But like anyone who ever listened to Paul Harvey’s REST OF THE STORY, my own Christy tale did not end there.

About a week later I walked outside to discover a flock of pigeons waiting for me on my roof. Like a scene out of Alfred Hitchcock’s movie The Birds, Christy had convinced her entire family to come back for a visit. Amazed, I raced into the house to grab birdseed and for the next two months Christy would bring her family over to the house once a day for a meal before they all flew back to their other home on the other side of town. It was like Christy was trying to show a young girl that she was okay…that she was with others who loved her.

I know there are people in this world who think animals are just dumb creatures who can’t comprehend the world as we do. But I know from experience that when it comes to the things that matter in this world…love, compassion, friendship…all of God’s creatures big and small have the ability to not only feel it but to share it across the boundaries of space and species.

In my mind Christy turned out to be a wonderful grandmother, telling her offspring stories of the time she went on a grand adventure and met a little girl who became her friend. She will live forever in this girl’s memories where she soars freely above us all.

Fly on, Christy, fly on…

 

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LUNADAR: Homeward Bound

Ruler by day, a reluctant pirate by night, 18-year-old Princess Ariana fights for her subjects in the waterfall city of LUNADAR. In a kingdom surrounded by fairies and mermaids, and ravaged by deadly Drundles, only a chosen few are trusted to guard her daughter, Candra, as the secret heir to the throne. But it only takes one ill-fated meeting for Ariana to suddenly be plunged into an escalating web of secrets found in her father’s journal, a deadly kidnapping, and an ever-weakening resolve to turn her back on the call of the merman’s song. With Ariana’s world falling apart and the future of LUNADAR at stake, how will she bring her father’s murderer to justice and fulfill a deathbed promise to protect Lunadar’s legacy?

$16.99

 

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donna

 

International 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, LUNADAR: Homeward Bound (a YA fantasy), is now available in eBook and print form from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, and other online retailers.12

TALES FROM THE BAYOU: The Witching Hour

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It’s hard being the baby of the family sometimes. Especially when the only playmates you’re allowed to have is your own sibling and she’s four years older than you. When I was just learning to walk, Janet was getting ready to start school. When I was entering high school Janet was graduating and about to make her mark on the world. My whole childhood I had a path laid out before me by footsteps larger than my own. All I had to do was step into them.

So I did.

I don’t think my sister ever realized how much I looked up to her. How much I admired her fire, her drive, her spirit to follow her own dreams without regard to the consequences. She was outgoing and had friends and I could never understand how she did it. The mere fact she took pity on a terribly shy kid so much younger than she and played many a toddler game when she really would rather have been climbing trees with our older brother put her on a pedestal in my eyes.

There was a bond forged in those younger years that carries over to today and can never be broken. Too many amateur singing engagements, entertaining the pretend troops listening from the grass in our front yard as we strutted our stuff down the sidewalk. Too many tea parties on the front porch where Janet pretended to like playing with her younger sister when she could have been curled up somewhere with a good book.

But it was the game we played on our back steps which holds a special place in my memories. I’m sure Janet was the one who created the game but the Witching Hour was a way to be transported to a magical place outside the realm of our otherwise sad existence. As we laid on those steps and conjured up a world of witches and warlocks, we began our training in storytelling which I know is the foundation of all I am able to do as a writer today.

I can’t tell you how the game was played or even how long we would allow the magic to swirl around us but I DO remember how special it made me feel. For one solitary moment in my childhood I could be as brave as my big sister and slay the demons in front of me. No, I’m sure Janet never realized back then how much it meant to me to have her take the time to hang out with me during the Witching Hour.

But after reading my latest tale, hopefully she will…

 

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LUNADAR: Homeward Bound

Ruler by day, a reluctant pirate by night, 18-year-old Princess Ariana fights for her subjects in the waterfall city of LUNADAR. In a kingdom surrounded by fairies and mermaids, and ravaged by deadly Drundles, only a chosen few are trusted to guard her daughter, Candra, as the secret heir to the throne. But it only takes one ill-fated meeting for Ariana to suddenly be plunged into an escalating web of secrets found in her father’s journal, a deadly kidnapping, and an ever-weakening resolve to turn her back on the call of the merman’s song. With Ariana’s world falling apart and the future of LUNADAR at stake, how will she bring her father’s murderer to justice and fulfill a deathbed promise to protect Lunadar’s legacy?

$16.99

 

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donna

 

International 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, LUNADAR: Homeward Bound (a YA fantasy), is now available in eBook and print form from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, and other online retailers.