Wednesday, May 2, 2018

On the Trail of Treasures and Secrets from the Past


The first day of May in Montgomery, Alabama was such a beautiful day for me and my personal chauffeur, Susan Hoke Cleveland! We visited the Alabama State Archives for a day of research and a bit of sight-seeing. The Archives building and the research library are wonderful places to visit. 

The Alabama Department of Archives and History was established on February 27, 1901. According to the enabling legislation, one of the purposes of the department was " The collection of materials bearing upon the history of the state and of the territory therein from the earliest times." 




Here I am with a bust of one of my heroes, George Washington Carver. George Washington Carver was an American botanist and inventor,  one of the most prominent scientists and inventors of his time, as well as a teacher at the Tuskegee Institute.


And here I am with Booker T. Washington. Booker Taliaferro Washington was an American educator, author, orator, and advisor to presidents of the United States between 1890 and 1915.


In one of the meeting rooms, Susan and I discovered a beautiful quilt collection. 
This quilt is called "Feathers and Flowers." 

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My purpose for visiting the archives was to do research for the book I'm currently working on, historical fiction based on events taking place in Birmingham in the early years of the 20th century. The beautiful, indomitable, and intrepid protagonist of this novel is my always kind, always fun-loving, adventurous grandmother, born in 1890, who was instrumental in shaping my views on justice, fairness, good times, and good literature! 





My grandmother, Dovie Mullins Satterfield.

Check back for news and updates as the plot thickens.



Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Quotes from Quotable Folks

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             “Some might say we lose ourselves in a good book. In truth, we find ourselves."         — Cassandra King


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Emmet Fox

“There is no difficulty that enough love will not conquer: no disease that love will not heal: no door that enough love will not open...It makes no difference how deep set the trouble: how hopeless the outlook: how muddled the tangle: how great the mistake. A sufficient realization of love will dissolve it all. If only you could love enough you would be the happiest and most powerful being in the world...” 
— Dr. Emmet Fox


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“We all start out knowing magic. We are born with whirlwinds, forest fires, and comets inside us. We are born able to sing to birds and read the clouds and see our destiny in grains of sand. But then we get the magic educated right out of our souls.” - Robert McCammon


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“If you'd ever had a grown-up daughter you'd know that by comparison a bucking steer is easy to manage. And as to knowing what goes on inside her - well, it's much better to pretend you're the simple, innocent old fool she almost certainly takes you for.”                        - W. Somerset Maugham

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— Nora Ephron


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Bob Dylan

"You can never be wise and be in love at the same time." — Bob Dylan


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Ivan Doig

"Childhood is the one story that stands by itself in every soul."   Ivan Doig


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"Mystery is not the absence of meaning, but the presence of more meaning than we can comprehend."   Dennis Covington 

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To share your favorite quotable quote, leave a comment below.



Monday, January 29, 2018

Evergreen: The Beautiful Witch of Moonlight Ridge





Evy steered Willie T. and me over to the fireplace and we sat on the ancient looking cane bottom chairs, gazing into the dancing fire. The fire sure felt good after being nearly froze to death, tromping around out on the mountain all day. I could have gone sound asleep sitting up, right there in the chair. Willie T. kicked his legs back and forth, tapping the chair rungs with his feet. “We need to get out of here and head home, you know it?” he whispered nervously.“We need to take Erskine with us and skedaddle. Thangs is gettin’ weird.” 

Evy looked at me, then at Willie T. “Wait a bit,” she said in a soft, quiet voice. “I tell you a story.” 

Erskine made a noise behind us, and I turned around and saw that he had his clothes on and was sittin’ on the side of the bed, pulling on his brown leather work boots. When he saw me looking at him, he smiled and said, “I feel a little light headed, yet.” He stood up and ran his hands through his hair, causing it to fall into its normal uncombed arrangement. He stretched his arms over his head, then laughed and said, “Now people’ll be sayin’, ‘Erskine, you act like a tree fell on you!’ ” 


Willie T. twisted around and glared. “Everybody’s been sayin’ that already!” he chuckled. 


Erskine joined us in front of the fireplace and stood behind the chair where Evy was sitting, and you could have knocked me out of my chair with a feather when he leaned over and kissed her on the cheek!


 “So, then! Tell us that story,” he said.


 Evy drew a slow deep breath, and spread her hands like she was showing us the scene where her story took place. “It snowed early, that year. Cold moon, high in d’ sky, Harvest done come, and de witchin’ season about. An’ de man come ridin’ up in the moonlight, jus’ like always. Horse hooves clatterin’ on the hard road. Horse named Beauty, and de girl he love named Bessie. Daughter of ol’ Solomon Penny, landlord of th’ stage coach stop. Man on de horse a white man, highway robber name’ Tom Weaver, come ev’ry night to give his sweetheart a kiss . . . and sometime silver coins and jewels he stole off de stage coach.” Evy paused and touched one of the ruby earrings she was wearing. “Snowflakes be fallin’ soft on the mountain, early. This time, when Tom Weaver ride up to de place, militia be waitin’ for him for the bounty on his head. Bessie, standin’ at the window, see him shot dead on de groun’. Ol’ Solomon run out de house, hold up his hands to stop ‘em from shootin’. Dey shoot him dead right beside Tom Weaver.



“Militia mens take the body of Tom Weaver away, to get they bounty money from the governor. Leave ol’ Solomon Penny there on the ground in th’ bloody snow. “ Evy sighed. “Bessie bury him herself, behin’ the stage coach stop, an’ she carryin’ Tom Weaver’s baby. Tore de ruby earrings from her ears, thowed ‘em on the bloody snow. Leff’ the stagecoach stop, move up here to de bluff where nobody dare to touch her, evermore. Talk go aroun', said Bessie a witch. Ev’rybody ‘fraid to bother her.”

 Evy sighed again and sat up straight in her chair, smoothing her skirt with her hands. I felt like a big empty hole had come up, all of a sudden, in my chest. “Man led the militia, Holbert Tucker. Clyde Tucker’s mean ol’ great-gran’daddy.” Willie T. and Erskine and I all looked at each other. “Huh!” Erskine huffed. Willie T. was busy wiping his cheeks on his coat sleeve. After a while, Evy continued. “Clyde Tucker ain’t no bad man. But Safina Weaver? No … she won’t forget.” Erskine looked like he was studying the situation. “Well, I’d say that was a long time ago,” he said. 


“Long time ago,” Evy agreed, nodding her head. “But de memory still in de blood.”



Excerpt from
The Witches of Moonlight Ridge

Photograph from the Hugh Mangum Collection Used with permission from David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library Duke University





Thursday, November 23, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving from Moonlight Ridge


Thanksgiving Day came, cold and bright. Our little kitchen was crowded and cozy, everything smelled right spicy, and everybody was in a holiday mood, talking and laughing over the delicious feast.



Recipes from
"The Witches of Moonlight Ridge"


Hoppin’ John

½ pound bacon, diced
1 medium onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp chopped parsley
Black-eyed peas, cooked and drained
Salt to taste (1 tsp salt for 2 cups dried black-eyed peas)
Cooked white rice

Sauté diced bacon, chopped onion, and chopped celery until onion and celery look translucent. Drain grease. Add garlic, parsley, and cooked black-eyed peas, simmer until peas are tender but not mushy.
In a large pot or bowl, gently combine peas and cooked rice, or serve peas separately over mounds of cooked rice.
Note: Before cooking dried black-eyed peas, sort through them thoroughly for tiny pebbles or other debris, then rinse and drain.
Note: Cooked ham, chopped, can be used in place of bacon. 



Raisin Biscuits

2 ½ cups unbleached self-rising flour
1 egg (optional)
Small pinch of salt
1/3 cup butter
¾ cup milk
1 tbsp unbleached sugar
1 ½ cups raisins

Preheat oven to 450°.
Sift together flour, pinch of salt, sugar. Cut butter into the flour mixture. Beat egg and add to the milk, stir into flour/sugar mixture. Add raisins. Turn onto well floured board, knead gently, using more flour if necessary for a smooth dough. Cut with small biscuit cutter and bake at 450° for approximately 15 minutes.



Persimmon Pudding

3 cups persimmons
2 cups buttermilk
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 ½ cups unbleached sugar
3 eggs
1 ½ cups unbleached all purpose flour
½ tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda 1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg ½ tsp ginger

Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease a 4 x 8 x 12 inch pan with 1 tbsp butter.
Puree 3 cups persimmons, which will yield 2 cups puree. Combine puree with buttermilk. Beat stick of butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time. In a large mixing bowl, stir the puree into the butter/sugar/eggs.
Sift all dry ingredients together and fold them into the persimmon mixture. Fill baking pan with mixture, place the pan into a larger pan and fill the larger pan halfway with warm water.
Bake uncovered for 1 ¼ hours or until the pudding is firm in the center and has pulled away from the sides of the pan, and a knife inserted into the center of the pudding comes out clean.
Serve hot with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

How to puree persimmons: Remove skins from ripe persimmons. Persimmons can be mashed through a colander, and seeds will be removed and left in colander. If using a food processor, remove seeds before processing.




Sunday, October 29, 2017

Moonlight and Witches at North Shelby Library



October 24th at the North Shelby Library


On Tuesday evening I was honored to present a Moonlight Ridge program at the beautiful North Shelby Library. We had a lively discussion about magic, mysteries, childhood adventures, and Halloween happenings. It's always such a pleasure to connect with readers who find delight in Lily Claire and WillieT.'s extraordinary escapades and recall unique childhood memories of their own. 

Thanks to Michelyn Reid for inviting me to North Shelby County, for the warm hospitality, and the enjoyable get-together.


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Evergreen, the Beautiful Witch of Moonlight Ridge





The first printing of The Witches of Moonlight Ridge is all sold out. Second printing is here, just in time for holiday gifting. An added feature: a beautiful photo of our mysterious Evergreen, AKA Bessie Penny, thanks to the Hugh Mangum Collection and the generosity of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Duke University.



Monday, June 12, 2017

Witches and School Teachers at Leeds Library



The whole town's talking about those "wayward sisters" up on Moonlight Ridge! But our favorite 4th grade school teacher, a young man named Erskine Batson, gets most of the attention and adulation here at Leeds Jane Culbreth Library!

What's Erskine's secret for capturing the hearts of readers, students, and one mysterious lady on Moonlight Ridge?

Erskine Batson . . . "with one year of college under his belt, the mystifying habit of walking around in the woods cussing and reciting poetry, and every day free to do as he pleased, except Saturdays when he drove the worse-for-wear Eden garbage truck" . . . is a true Renaissance Man.

And how did he survive when the huge tree fell down on top of him during the violent wind storm on the mountain?

You can learn all about our unconventional 4th grade teacher, and plenty of other mysteries on the mountain, in The Witches of Moonlight Ridge.