TALES FROM THE BAYOU: Find Me A Crawdad Hole…

crawfish

 

As a child growing up near the swamps of southern Louisiana, there were a couple of things I was sure of….

Alligators could come to visit us whenever they wanted.

Crawfish were fun to play with.

Growing up poor on the bayou didn’t give me many opportunities to play with the fancier toys other children in my small hometown would, so I would make up my own unique forms of play…like hunting for crawfish.

There was a tiny ditch zig-zagging its way through our back yard at one of many houses I lived at during my childhood. Whenever it rained my siblings and I would get ready for what we knew was going to happen. That little ditch would fill up with water and before you know it, crawfish would be drawn to that mini-bayou in our back yard. 

I never knew how they actually got there, but as soon as mother told us we could, we would run barefoot through the squishy backyard to that ditch. My brother David, who was six years older than myself and far braver than I would ever be while living in that house, would calmly tread his way in that water from one side of the yard to the other. He was using his toes as bait for the crawfish we knew were hiding just under the surface. Of course it would hurt like the dickens when one of those mudbugs caught a toe with those front pinchers, but my brother would just scramble out of the water to toss his prize into a nearby bucket we brought for just such an occasion.

You would have to ask my sister, Janet, if she ever followed our brother into the ditch. My memories feel like she did, but I just might be putting her on a bravery pedestal like I did my brother. Scaredy-cat me, I did the next best thing. Stretching out a long piece of string, I dipped one end into the mudholes I would find nearby. Even at six years old I knew crawfish liked to burrow themselves into the mud after a rain and I’d never met a crawfish that didn’t like to grab onto anything that got in its way. Patience eventually paid off and I could pull that string up with one or sometimes two angry crawdads clinging on for dear life.

We never caught more than a handful, but it was just enough to have some crawfish races on the sidewalk. All Cajuns knew crawfish ran backwards when they’re trying to get away from something so the “finish-line” was always placed behind them.

When you’re a kid and dirt poor, there are always ways to have a little fun on the bayou…

 

crawfish

 

 

 

TALES FROM THE BAYOU: Here A Ghost, There A Ghost…

 

 

ghost

 

 

I know there are people out in the world who do not believe in ghosts. 

I’m not one of them.

While I don’t claim to have been visited by E.T. or little green men from outer space, I HAVE seen evidence of spirits in the house both my parents died in. This week I’ll share the story that happened to me when I was about ten years old.

The house we lived in at the time was actually the oldest house built in Gueydan. At almost 100 years old, the house had a front parlor converted into an extra bedroom. It shared a pass through closet which connected to my bedroom just on the other side of the closet door.

One winter, I woke up in the middle of the night, chilled because I had forgotten to throw another blanket on my bed. Our house had no heating or air conditioning. One space heater sat in the living room and one window unit hung in the dining room window. Throwing back the covers, I sat up and prepared to make a mad dash to my closet for a blanket when I saw the closet slowly open and my winter coat slowly float towards me. It was hovering near the ceiling almost over me when I let out a loud “NO”, and I watched it fly backwards into my closet and the door slam shut.

Chilliness forgotten, I buried myself back under my covers and didn’t come back out until the sun came out and the shadows left my room.

I’ve told this story to my sister before as we shared weird stories of us living in that house. I’ve always hesitated sharing some of these stories with others though. I know I will be looked at differently after the telling of my brush with a ghost.

That wasn’t my only encounter with the supernatural while living in that house, and I began to think someone…or something…was watching over us. Why else would there be a coat floating through the air in an attempt to cover a shivering child?

 

sleeping

 

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Donna's Books

Books always make a great gift! There’s everything from inspirational essay journals to picture books…young adult fantasy novels to historical fiction chapter books. Something for everyone on sale now through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, and other retailers. HISTORY’S MYSTERIES: Ship of Dreams can also be found at the Titanic Museums in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee and Branson, Missouri.

 

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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: Home Baked Goodness

homemade

 

 

Every morning when I reach for my store bought loaf of bread, I remember how it was when I was a kid. My mother raised four kids on an offshore cook’s paycheck and in the early 70’s that wasn’t much.  Try as she might, my poor mother simply couldn’t stretch her pennies to pay for store bought bread, even when the price was less than fifty cents a loaf.

So she baked.

Three or four times a week I would wake up knowing my mother would be in the kitchen kneading the dough, flinging the flour, and filling the house with the heavenly smell of fresh baked bread.

If it was a school day,  I knew there would be several loaves sitting on the counter to greet me when I returned home. If it was the weekend, I would sit at the kitchen table to watch my mother’s hands make quick work of mixing the ingredients and filling the greased pans with the shaped dough. Then it was the countdown and eager anticipation to eating a fresh slice of hot, homemade bread smothered with butter. Even the butter was homemade by my diligently shaking a mason jar filled with fresh cream for what seemed like hours.

Bread bought from a store may be convenient in today’s world, but it will never replace the love you could taste in every slice of my mother’s homemade bread…

 

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Donna's Books

Looking for a way to spend that Christmas cash? Gift cards burning a hole in your pocket? Books always make a great gift! There’s everything from inspirational essay journals to picture books…young adult fantasy novels to historical fiction chapter books. Something for everyone on sale now through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, and other retailers. HISTORY’S MYSTERIES: Ship of Dreams can also be found at the Titanic Museums in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee and Branson, Missouri.

 

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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: Man’s Best Friend

 

TROPHY

The way I love cats as an adult, you would think I was around them all my life.

You would be wrong.

Growing up in the swamps of Louisiana, I guess it just made more sense to have dogs around….to alert us to strangers coming around the house as well as helping to fight off any strange animals that might come out of the bayous surrounding my little hometown.

 

JACKIE

 

The first dog I can remember was a beagle named Jackie. I don’t remember much about her other than I know she was a part of the family. I was around 2-3 years old, but I can still remember playing with her. She was my first companion because my siblings were much older than myself and it would be a couple more years before I was old enough to run around with them.

 

CHI CHI

 

Next came Chi Chi. She was a full blooded chihuahua and there are only two things I remember about her. One, she had a sharp, yippy-yappy kind of bark and used it when she didn’t want me to play with her. Two, she loved eating acorns she would find in our front yard. I never met another dog who ate acorns like Chi Chi did

 

PENNY

 

At the same time I had Chi Chi, we had a mixed chihuahua-mutt named Penny. Oh, how I loved that dog.  For most of her life, my mother kept her tied up outside. It broke my heart to see her captive like that, but there was nothing I could do to change things. Penny would patiently let me dress her up or try to teach her tricks, but you know what they say about old dogs…

Animals have always been a large part of my childhood. I was always bringing in some stray critters home or my sister would have a few strange ones of her own. They brought comfort, companionship, warm snuggles, and could soak tears from a heavy heart quicker than a sponge. At one time I even thought I would grow up to be an animal doctor, but instead, now I just write about critters…

 

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Donna's Books

 

Looking for a way to spend that Christmas cash? Gift cards burning a hole in your pocket? Books always make a great gift! There’s everything from inspirational essay journals to picture books…young adult fantasy novels to historical fiction chapter books. Something for everyone on sale now through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, and other retailers. HISTORY’S MYSTERIES: Ship of Dreams can also be found at the Titanic Museums in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee and Branson, Missouri.

 

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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: Making Christmas Traditions

Christmas Tree, Ornaments, Christmas
With Christmas just two days away, it’s time for me to reflect on other Christmas memories.  I realize those memories provide an insight into the kind of writer I want to be in the future…

Circa 1971…The Ghosts of Christmas Past

When I was small, Christmas was probably the happiest time of my life.  We were extremely poor, but my mother always managed to make Christmas magical to me.  We had some family traditions back then that laid the foundation of how I celebrate the season today.  There was always the trip out in the country to hand pick our real Christmas tree.  Then came the stringing of popcorn and red berries, along with handmade ornaments to decorate it.  Huge globes of colored lights twinkled in the darkness as we sat looking at our work of art on cold December nights.  Homemade hot cocoa and decorated treats made by my mother are so real to me that I can almost taste it today.  My brother even got good at learning how to unwrap and then rewrap our gifts on Christmas eve without our parents ever finding out. And I can’t forget the antique musical church that had a wind up key in the back.  How I used to beg to wind up that church. I would sit for hours as Away In The Manger played and the doors of the church swung open to display the lighted nativity inside.  One Christmas I had strep throat and my mother forbade me to speak but when she left the room I would whisper sing that song because even at that age I was starting my own holiday traditions. That church still holds a place of honor by every Christmas tree I display today.

Circa 1991…The Ghosts of Christmas Present

My son is about 4 years old and wants a baby doll for Christmas.  He is old enough to get caught up in the excitement of the holidays and I am a single mom on a very tight budget.  We have no money for a Christmas tree so he and I take green poster board and draw a tree.  We tape it up on our wall and color homemade ornaments to tape to it (thanks, Mom, for the memories of homemade ornaments from Christmases past).  I drape the only store bought item I have, gold tinsel, all over the tree and I set a small table under it for our meager presents.  On Christmas Eve we drive around to look at the pretty Christmas lights on other people’s houses, and my son is worried Santa will come before we get back.  We arrive back at our small apartment to see the lights of an airplane overhead and my son is SURE this is Santa.  He becomes upset because we are not asleep in bed yet.  I reassure him that Santa has many stops to make before he gets to our place.  We race up the stairs to put out cookies and milk for Santa, carrots and peanut butter/raisin treats for the reindeer and tumble into bed so we can fall asleep before the big guy arrives.  I even promise my son Santa will be able to get into our apartment even though we have no fireplace because we leave the front door unlocked for him this night.  I will never forget the surprise on my son’s face when the next morning he discovers grass clippings on the floor leading to the door and all the treats half eaten.  But I will carry with me the wonder of the holidays always as my son unwraps his present from Santa to find the baby doll he names Fred…paid for from many pennies saved over the previous year.

Circa 2019…The Ghosts of Christmas Future

My son is grown up now, married, and works as a traveling nurse.  I have tried to teach him about the magic of Christmas and the strength of tradition but he is young and is more tied to the techno world of today than the traditions of the past.  For myself, this past year has been a year of surprises and growth for me as a writer.  I have made new friends, learned new lessons, and set new goals for the upcoming year.  But I have not forgotten what my mother taught me so many years ago.  Traditions create a foundation families can cling to if the future turns dark.  And I can hold my own holiday traditions close to me, my Christmas Memories, to help flavor all the writing I do in the future.  And who knows?  Maybe one of my stories will help create someone else’s Christmas Memories in their future!
Merry Christmas to all my online friends and may the new year be one of fabulous wishes coming true for us all…
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Donna's Books
If you’re looking for that last minute gift, check out my books on Amazon and on other online retailers. From picture books to chapter books, young adult fantasy to inspirational journal essays, there’s something for everyone on your Christmas list!
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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: Gifts To Remember

 

gifts.jpg

 

As we move closer to Christmas Day and edging toward the end of the year, I’m thinking back to my childhood and some of the Christmas gifts that made a lasting  impression on my young mind.

 

frog.jpg

 

The earliest Christmas gift I remember was when I was about three or four years old. Santa brought me a large plastic frog attached to a long yellow tube with a bulb at the end of it. If you squeezed the bulb, air was forced through the tube and the frog jumped. I loved that frog, thought it was the coolest toy ever, and spent many hours playing with it.

 

billy bby doll.jpg

 

 

When I was about 5 or 6 years old, I received a baby doll I named Billy. With movable arms and legs,  I loved on him for many years. I remember the time a dog got ahold of Billy and he ended up with one less leg than he arrived with. Not to be undone, I simply tore off his other leg and let him move around by bouncing on his butt. Long after I grew up and moved, Billy was stored away, just waiting for me to return. When my parents died and I became the executor of the estate, I uncovered my old friend tucked away in a box upstairs in the attic and took him back with me to Dallas. Unfortunately, Billy wasn’t able to travel with me when I later moved to Tennessee and I hope he found a new forever home where a child would love him as much as I did.

 

bike

 

But my favorite Christmas present from my childhood was the year my sister and I received matching blue bicycles. I was about 9 years old and all we wanted to do was be able to sail down the road on those things. We ended up crashing them and bending the frames on our very first solo rides, but THAT is the topic of another story. Simple to say that bike allowed me a greater sense of freedom than walking ever would, and my favorite destination, of course, was our local library.

I’m not a child any more and I’ve seen a lot of Christmases, but I still get excited with unwrapping each gift which comes my way. It never matters what is inside each package. The monetary value means nothing to me. It’s the thought the giver put into each gift that touches my heart more than words can say. It’s probably why I put my heart and soul into each story I write…to share a little magic I found during this time of the year, whenever I can…

 

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If you’re short on time, just remember books make great #stockingstuffers! My books are available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other online retailers. #StoryCatcherPublishing #books #christmas

 

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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: Keeping the Awe

tree

 

When I was growing up in the swamps of Louisiana, this was about the time my father would load my mother and the four kids into the car to go in search of THE CHRISTMAS TREE!

My father owned a small tract of marsh land outside of town and there were some trees on it. Every year we would make that trip to select a sturdy tree, chop it down, and bring it back home. There, mother would hammer the red and green tree stand to the bottom of it, toss a couple of aspirin into the water to help prevent the needles from shedding and then she would let us loose with the decorating.

Children today would not be impressed with our cut out decorations wrapped in shiny foil and tied to the branches with bits of yarn. They wouldn’t spend hours threading popcorn and holly berries on string before laying it on the branches. And they wouldn’t have created color garlands from strips of construction paper stuck together from vats of homemade glue paste. 

Finally came the strands of tinsel that would clump together if you didn’t throw them around the tree just right. I was in awe of how a simple tree cut down from the swamp could be turned into a magical stopping point for Santa Claus every year.

I hope as I grow older, I continue to remain in awe during this time of the year. To drink in all the magic of the season and hang on to the simple memories of what is important during Christmas…sharing the magic and making memories…

 

MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY HOLIDAYS EVERYONE!

 

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Amelia is traveling the world to let everyone know HISTORY’S MYSTERIES: Ship of Dreams and HISTORY’S MYSTERIES: The Chocolate Train Wreck is on sale right now…just in time for Christmas! But hurry, only 16 more days until Christmas!

 

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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.