TALES FROM THE BAYOU: Don’t Rain On My Parade

Fall cocoa.jpg

 

Fall is probably my favorite time of the year. I’m far enough north to enjoy the beautiful fall colors. Far enough north to have to wear a jacket to ward off the crisp autumn breeze once the season changes. And Fall always reminds me of growing up in the swamps where my mother performed the same ritual every school year when the weather changed from muggy, humid summer to cooler, wetter Fall.

I love rainy weather. The steady drum of raindrops on tin roofs. The drip, drip of droplets off leaves and gutters. And the sidewalk puddles to dance around or stomp through. But the further into Fall, the greater the chance my mother would have to prepare for her “babies” to slosh into the house after battling wind and rain on the way home from school.

There were three things I could always depend on after a long, rain drenched walk home on a chilly Fall afternoon…

 

HOT TOWELS

 

Our houses always had space heaters. Those clunky…take up a lot of space…heaters that could burn a layer of skin off your backside if you got too close, but offered little other warmth outside it’s immediate vicinity. But the one thing those heaters COULD provide was super toasty warm towels Mother would wrap us in once we shed our wet clothes, steam rising from shivering bodies as we dried off.

 

HOT COCOA

 

Cooler weather always meant the arrival of Mother’s homemade hot cocoa. Using a large gumbo pot, she would always have a vat of that chocolate deliciousness ready for us once we were in dry clothes again. 

 

A WHOLE HEAP OF LOVE

 

My mother wasn’t a person to shower her children with words of love. She was a no nonsense woman who fiercely protected her children and did everything in her power to provide for their health and well being. To me, those towels and mugs of hot cocoa wrapped me in more love than words ever could. Even now, decades later, all I have to do is close my eyes during a November rain to bring back the warmth and love of my childhood homecomings…

 

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***WINNERSS***WINNERS***WINNERS***

 

The winners of the Ship of Dreams Amazon reviewers contest have been selected. Congratulations to all the winners! I only have “handles” for many of you. Please private message me with your names and addresses so I can send you your prizes! 

@thewytchinghourblog

@drdeacondog

@bryanlunsford3425

@aliciafreeman40

@shayleenem

@roseharrydawson

@deerwood

Carrie Belaire

Holly McCoy

 

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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 chapter book series is called HISTORY’S MYSTERIES. Book One, Ship of Dreams, is available in eBook and print form from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, and other online retailers. Also, coming to the Titanic Museums in Branson, Missouri, and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Book Two, A Chocolate Train Wreck, was released in November.

 

TALES FROM THE BAYOU: Wash Your Troubles Away

 

washboard.jpg

 

If you look in most homes today, you will probably find a modern washer/dryer combination tucked away in some corner of the house. For those, like myself, who either don’t have adequate room for those modern conveniences, or don’t have the financial ability to pay for a set, there is always the local laundrymat. But go further back in time…to my childhood…and you wouldn’t find even those luxuries at my house. 

My earliest memories of laundry day is my mother pulling out a large metal tub and wash board like this one. She would scrub until her knuckles were red and raw, before ringing out each piece by hand and then taking each load outside to hang on the clothesline. Backbreaking work for my mother but necessary when you have a husband and four active children to look after.

Next came  the wringer washing machine…a contraption with two huge rollers ran by a crank positioned over a tub. Mother still had to use the washboard but at least it saved her hands from the  wringing. She still used the clothesline but by then, I was old enough and tall enough to do the clothesline work for her.

Finally came the day when my mother had saved enough money to buy an actual washing machine. Wedged between our old bathtub and the linen closet in our narrow bathroom, Mother worshiped at its rattling, clanging alter for most of my teenage years. She never did save up enough for a dryer, but at least she was able to retire from rapping her knuckles on that metal washboard.

These days I use the convenience of a local laundrymat, but a part of me misses the days of hanging clothes out in the fresh air and later watching dragonflies flit from clothespin to clothespin in the summer sunshine. I did most of my daydreaming during that time…creating poetry I would chant to myself before dashing back inside to write them down. I enjoyed walking between the rows of drying wash, hiding from the world around me and letting my imagination carry me off to distant lands where knights and dragons awaited to save this damsel in distress.

Writers have a knack for creating stories, no matter their surroundings, and even a steamy, old-fashioned wash day can carry an aspiring future author away on a grand adventure…

 

clothesline.jpg

 

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STAR CATCHER CONTEST Prizes 10-13-19

STAR CATCHER YOUNG WRITER’S CONTEST PRIZES

 

*** I’m WAIVING THE ENTRY FEE!!***

It’s now FREE to send your short stories in for a chance to be published in an anthology. 25 winners and 25 prizes! Tell all your young, writerly friends from ages 10-18 to check out the contest rules by clicking on the STAR CATCHER YOUNG WRITER’S CONTEST tab above.

Hurry…entry deadline is Friday, November 15th!

 

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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 chapter book series is called HISTORY’S MYSTERIES. Book One, Ship of Dreams, is available in eBook and print form from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, and other online retailers. Also, coming to the Titanic Museums in Branson, Missouri, and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Book Two, A Chocolate Train Wreck, was released in November.

TALES FROM THE BAYOU: My Porch Sanctuary

porch.jpg

 

I had the long-awaited opportunity to sit on my backyard patio yesterday. For someone allergic to the sun and who becomes violently ill from the heat/humidity found in East Tennessee, I take solace in the fact Autumn is finally here, and with it the chance to seek out my patio sanctuary whenever I get the chance.

Growing up in a small, swamp town in southern Louisiana, every porch or patio on every rental house I lived in while growing up held a special place in my heart. Even the long, enclosed porch of the house my parents were finally able to buy on a poor cook’s salary, is forever etched in my heart for different reasons.

Back in the early 70’s when I was much younger, the porch of each rental house was a place where my sister and I could play with our dolls…not cooped up inside, but still under the watchful eye of our mother. I could drag out chairs and blankets to build a fort or clubhouse where I entertained my stuffed toys with grass tea and mud cookies. My sister and I even used those porches as our stage as we sang to an imaginary audience sitting patiently on our front lawn…cheering us on as we gave them everything we had in the way of fashion shows and singing talent.

But it was the last house I lived in before moving to the big city of Lafayette that stays with me the most. It was there I shucked a mountain of corn so that my family wouldn’t go hungry during winter time on the bayou. It was there I could swing on that rickety wooden contraption my mother called a porch swing…squeaking to the rhythm of my toes pushing my self back and forth while buried in the mesmerizing story of my latest library treasure.

So many memories from so many porches…they were all my sanctuaries where I could turn my back on the stark reality of my family’s poverty, or even the cruelty of being ostracized at my school. There, I was the queen of my front porch palace…the ruler of my young writing destiny…and I could imagine a world of MY choosing…all for the cost of a little push of a worn out swing on a well-loved porch…

 

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STAR CATCHER CONTEST Prizes 10-13-19

STAR CATCHER YOUNG WRITER’S CONTEST PRIZES

 

*** I’m WAIVING THE ENTRY FEE!!***

It’s now FREE to send your short stories in for a chance to be published in an anthology. 25 winners and 25 prizes! Tell all your young, writerly friends from ages 10-18 to check out the contest rules by clicking on the STAR CATCHER YOUNG WRITER’S CONTEST tab above.

Hurry…entry deadline is Friday, November 15th!

 

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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 chapter book series is called HISTORY’S MYSTERIES. Book One, Ship of Dreams, is available in eBook and print form from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, and other online retailers. Also, coming to the Titanic Museums in Branson, Missouri, and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Book Two, A Chocolate Train Wreck, will be released in November.

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?

 

fall.jpg

 

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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…

 

corn.png

 

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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, 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…

 

devastationn.jpg

 

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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!

 

swamp.jpg

 

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.