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Category: General

Easter Saturday 2019: The Beatitudes

³“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
⁴Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
⁵Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.
⁶Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.
⁷Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
⁸Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.
⁹Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God.
¹⁰Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5: 3-10

Lenten Beauty: 4/13/19

In my last Lenten Beauty posting of 2019 (Holy Week, which we have now begun, is no longer Lent), I created the beautiful thing of making it to Charlotte, NC to visit my mother, despite a medical emergency on the plane and an aborted landing, represented by this comforting light in her apartment:

They Won

Every article begins with the story of How They Lost. The defeat, the humiliation, the unprecedented collapse. But, last night, one year later, the story was of How They Won.

In another time and long ago, I went to the University of Virginia. I was young when I arrived, only seventeen years old. I wanted to go to a BIG, GOOD school, and the grounds of the University of Virginia were beautiful. I applied nowhere else and got into UVa early acceptance. My first year, Virginia won the ACC Tournament. Wally Walker was a first round draft pick. For a girl who grew up in the ACC in a UNC family, my expectations for Virginia were high. When I graduated, I believed the next year Ralph Sampson would carry the Wahoos to a national championship.

He didn’t. He won every collegiate player award there was to win for 3 years running and took Virginia to the Final Four twice, his final time in 1984. They haven’t been back since. Until this weekend.

We watched much of the semi-finals and the finals with the boys. I had to explain the meaning of “cliffhanger.” When Virginia beat Purdue at the buzzer, I full-throated screamed. When they beat Auburn with .6 seconds left, I could not believe what I was seeing. When they went into overtime with Texas Tech, I left the room (I learned that trick from my dad, a Tar Heel fan who frequently could not stand to watch the games.)

Then they won.

My UVa socks from 1976

Once, when we all still read newspapers, I asked my husband why guys read the sports page the day after a win when they had seen the game themselves the night before. He said something about wanting to read the analysis. This isn’t true. You read the stories of the game the next day to savor. You read to make that moment of winning go forever. You read to assure yourself it was real.

Last year, the University of Virginia was the first No. 1 seed in the history of the NCAA Tournament to lose in the opening round to a No. 16 seed. With a loud, embarrassing thud, the mighty ACC team lost to the equivalent of a community college.

This year, the University of Virginia won the NCAA Tournament.

I sang the Good Ol’ Song at the top of my lungs, head out of the window, belting into an enclosed parking lot that had the acoustics of a cathedral. I think they heard it in Metarie. For a moment, I was once again that too-young girl who went off to college and fell in love with what she found there. The lawn, the Rotunda. The hallowed halls, the friends. The joy of being alive. And kick-ass basketball.

Hats on Parade

So, in searching for photos for a recent blog posts, I was taken with how many of my photos have me in hats.

This doesn’t look like it, but it was an Easter hat (with Evangeline)

I’m talking about the hats that were NOT costume hats.

One of my many grocery store hats, which are my favorite.

Even to me, some of these hats are odd.

Does it look like I stole this hat from a Leprechaun?

Not to mention this beauty, which I was wearing just this last Christmas.

This hat looks like I’m wearing a mushroom on my head. A sophisticated mushroom, but still.

When my husband and I first met, he wasn’t a fan of hats. He has, however, always been a very tolerant man.

That time this winter when I felt like dressing Secret Agent style, avec hat.

And, wearing my hats, I’ve worn him down. He now loves my hats. Good thing.

I wore this hat ALL last summer.

So, as we roll toward the end of Lent, you can absolutely count on my wearing an Easter hat.

My Easter hat from last year.

You can also count on my sharing it with you!

(If you’ve enjoyed the hat parade, you might enjoy MODEL FOR DECEPTION, my novel featuring Vangie Street, fashion model detective. )

Vangie Street is older—thirty-two to be exact—when she takes up modeling in the “big city” of Memphis. She loves showing the fabulous clothes almost as much as she loves her pound-puppy Retro, her cute if slightly decrepit Midtown cottage, and her hunky new boyfriend Nash. Life is perfect—until an expensive earring shown by Vangie’s modeling partner Heather Jackson disappears at the Memphis spring fashion season kickoff. When Heather herself disappears, Vangie must use her “clothes whisperer” intuition to puzzle out the truth of what’s going on….and keep her own self out of trouble. 

Model for Deception is a cozy mystery featuring fashion model Vangie Street who reads people by their clothing choices. Vangie’s sleuthing insights leave us wondering: what exactly do our fashion choices reveal about ourselves?

The Inappropriate Dress Gene

There I was, stepping into the gala for the graduating seminarians. The seminarians wore black shirts with white clerical collars. I wore a minidress from Billy Bob’s Chinese Laundry in New Orleans. It was leopard-printed. And flocked. 

I can’t help it.

I have an Inappropriate Dress Gene. 

My mistakes are not fashion faux pas. I know exactly how one ought to dress. I was raised by a grandmother who traced her lineage to the banks of Deer Creek in the town of Leland in the heart of the Mississippi Delta. My Bigmama taught me the black dress you wore to a cocktail party Friday night is not the same black dress you don for the funeral Saturday morning. I fully understand the seriousness of dressing appropriately. I just tend to miscalculate. 

I made up this dress by pairing the outer layer of my wedding dress over a black slip dress, and I was asked, “What are you wearing?”

My years practicing law in Jackson, Mississippi were, for the most part, benign—the social pressure squeezing a female lawyer into dressing compliance in the 1980s was fierce. So when I married and moved to Memphis, my dressing kind of spurted free like a spasming tube of toothpaste. At the same time, the sartorial stakes skyrocketed. My then-new husband owns a shopping center wherein is located the swankiest women’s clothing store east of the Mississippi River. One evening we attended a dinner party hosted by the store owners. Determined to put my best fashion foot forward, I arrived at her dinner party wearing a black lace see-through shirt and black bra with a fringed scarf strategically draped across the front. I thought I was so sophisticated. The woman cocked her head at me. “Look at you,” she said, smiling. “Memphis doesn’t dress like that.” 

I took it as a compliment. 

Not so the Cotton Carnival partygoers. When I attended their Mardi Gras party wearing a tiger-printed catsuit, no one would make eye contact. Or maybe it was the wig with its multi-colored, clacking beads. I was Cleopatra—Memphis, capitol of ancient Egypt, get it? No one else got it, either, not one of those sedately-dressed women in long black dresses who considered a feathered mask on a slender stick a costume. Only Preston Shannon, the famous Beale Street singer, appreciated the look.

My beloved black petticoat

I am perfectly familiar with the Backwards Compliment (“Only you could get away with those Python pants”). The Veiled Suggestion (“Now, I would’ve worn that red dress to a Christmas party.”) Not to mention my favorite: the Exaggeration. A friend once reported I’d been seen wearing black leather hot pants to a party. Sure, I had on black leather skirt with a fringed vest. But black leather hot pants? Who even knows what hot pants are these days?

Southerners as a group are not tolerant of those who dress inappropriately. If you think they are,  you’ve never worn a floor-length silky beige dress to the Orpheum Theatre only to have a woman standing outside ask, “Is that your nightgown?” In fact, Southerners go to extraordinary lengths to ensure every person at a party is wearing the exact same thing. If you go off-script, women will glance at their pink-flowered Lilly Pulitzer dresses then deliberately rake their gaze across your silky pink halter top and thread-bare jeans. “Rock-star chic” is not a Southern term. 

My boro-sewn britches

Of course, I could forestall such comments by aiming for the median. Instead, I stand in my closet, hands lifted, and feel the call. If it’s the orange curve-enhancing dress that makes me look like a shrunken version of Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks, so be it. Only when I find myself in a roomful of knee-brushing Sunday school dresses, do I think, hmmmm. 

I bought that orange curve-enhancing dress for a public reading

And don’t get me started on parties with a theme. The invitation arrives in the mail. I rip it open. “La Moulin Rouge,” it proclaims, a gay Paris scene splashed across the front. Excitement wells, common sense jumps out the window. Surely I should foresee the slim cocktail dresses with pink boas draped around the neck as garnishment. Instead, I deck myself out as a Toulaouse Lautrec painting—chunky boots, ripped petticoat, peek-a-boo bra. The women at the party flip their boas at me. At home, I kneel in my flouncy skirt and pray: “Lead us not into costumed temptation, deliver us from social evils.” 

Imagine this pink skirt with a red petticoat under it, and you’ve got Moulin Rouge

I don’t want to leave the impression everyone judges my dressing a sin. I have those who encourage me in my choices…. you could call them accessories after the dressing fact. From them I get free clothes. I’ve been given a pair of black and white snakeskin boots, a 1920s antique silk blouse, a great-aunt’s mink-collared sweater, and a $25 mermaid-tailed chartreuse gown. Of course, these treasures came to me because the owners won’t wear them.

Dressed for the track in the gifted mink-collared sweater

Now that I’ve worn out my sartorial welcome in Memphis, I’ve taken on New Orleans. For the most part, New Orleans is extremely tolerant of odd dress. But we’ve rented an apartment in the Bywater. It’s a chic apartment. Everyone going to and from wears black. The apartment’s tag line is: ”You Are Beautiful.” I fear the lease has a clause (written in invisible ink) allowing the management to kick you out of your loft if you don’t comply. When management signs off emails with, “Stay Beautiful,” I read it as a threat. 

Oh, and the seminarian’s fundraiser with me in the leopard dress? I listened when I asked my husband what type of party it was, and he said, “I don’t know. Just some type of fundraiser.” I now request copies of every invitation we receive. If I’m going to misstep, it’s gonna be all on my own.

If you enjoyed this essay, take a look at MODEL FOR DECEPTION: A VANGIE STREET MYSTERY. This fun Southern mystery features a fashion model as an amateur sleuth. You’ll love the clothing talk!

Your Mama is Always Right

When I was young, I was hoping for something, I don’t remember what. But it involved a letter arriving in the mail. I was slumping around, despondent, certain the news would be bad. My mother said, “Look at you, you haven’t even read the letter yet!” Then she added something that has stuck with me ever since: “You aren’t even leaving room for the news to be good.”

I thought of this today when I went down by the Mississippi River to gather driftwood for a workshop I’ll be doing in a couple of weeks. My church in Bay St. Louis is hosting a cross-making workshop based on my book Making Crosses: A Creative Connection to God. Folks can bring their own cross-making material, but I said I’d bring stuff too. Driftwood is my FAVORITE cross-making material, and one thing I learned during the years I was making crosses: rivers have tons more driftwood than beaches.

When I arrived at the river, I realized it was high. I thought, oh, no! There won’t be any driftwood—the entire shoreline was gone.

The Mississippi River at Mud Island in Memphis. This line of trees is not ordinarily in the water.

As I neared, however, I saw how wrong I’d been. The river had actually been higher. It had crested and retreated. As the water ebbed, waves of driftwood had been left behind. And the city hadn’t arrived yet to scoop up the “debris” into piles. It was the perfect time to collect wood.

I made a real haul.

So that was the universe being forgiving. It had readied an awesome gift for me. I had assumed disappointment. Yet, the gift wasn’t withdrawn. I didn’t follow my mother’s advice and leave room for it to be good, but the universe slid in there anyway.

It’s gonna take all I have not to keep this perfect crucifix wood for myself.

Dogs in the Bed

I have a history of unhealthy, deranged harassment of the dogs in my bed (we’re talking canine dogs, not human ones).

For little Providence—sweet, gentle, patient Yorkie Providence—it was the Middle of the Night Companion Call.

Everyone in the bed would be sleeping. Snore, snore, snore. Except me. My eyeballs shone in the dark. Tick, tock, tick, tock. Bored and alone, I watched Providence’s tummy rise and fall for a minute. Then, “Providence, Providence,” I whispered. “Are you asleep?” If she didn’t respond, I gently shook her. “Are you asleep?” She opened her lids and rolled one eye towards me, staring and asking, are you really waking me up to ask me if I’m asleep?

Providence, escaping to the sofa where she can get some shuteye

For Evangeline, it’s the Butt Push, the Bed Patting, and the Knee Curl.

I no longer lie awake at night trying to determine if the dark behind my eyelids is darker than the room dark when I open my eyelids (blink, open, blink). So my life has improved. But I still harass the dog.

Evangeline needs harassing. Evangeline is a very selfish bed sleeper. Sometimes she sleeps between us. As soon as you get used to that, she escapes and tunnels under the bed to sleep. If it’s thundering or the train’s passing or some microscopic noise even an ant can’t hear is infiltrating the universe, she sleeps on my head.

I don’t feel as badly about harassing Evangeline as I did Providence.

So if she isn’t sleeping exactly where I want, I scoot her around by a (gentle) shove to the butt. If she is at the foot of the bed, and I want her to come sleep by me, I pat the bed incessantly. “Evangeline.” Pat, pat, pat. “Evangeline.” Pat, pat, pat. “Evangeline.” If she is EXACTLY where I want her to be, I curl my knee around her so she can’t escape.

Don’t report me to the ASPCA.

Evangeline, also escaping to the sofa for a nap

Bone Folding

This is what it looks like before it’s a book.

That’s a bone folder. You use it to sharpen your creases.

These are pages of the novel THE HART WOMEN being folded into signatures with a bone folder. If you squint, you can tell the pages aren’t consecutive. That’s because they will be sewn together. At that point, the pages will become consecutive.

Who’s doing this sewing? Marisa Whitsett Baker. She’s the amazing artist who is producing these one-of-a-kind special edition novels.

I wrote the story of an old house, a decision to be made, and the women in a wealthy but tangled family.

Together, Marisa and I are making a book. The book is presented as the journal an elderly woman wrote as she wandered from room to room in her former home trying to understand how the once-beautiful house came to ruin.

The intro page

Here’s the summary:

The house at 1011 St. Lawrence Street once rang with joy. Now, the porch sags, the window panes run with cracks. In one generation, the home that nurtured the wealthy Mississippi Hart family sits abandoned. Did tragedy undo the family, or did the family create its own misfortune? The story begins in 1968 Fairview, Mississippi, when Poppa Sam Hart dies…. 
Told through the eyes of favorite grandchild Emily Hart Fielding, The Hart Women explores the corrupting influences that entangle the human heart. Emily’s discovery of the  forgiveness she seeks will stay with the reader long after the book is finished. 

Each novel will be different. Here’s a glimpse of my personal copy that Marisa made from old (typo-ridden) drafts of the story.

THE HART WOMEN

We will be offering the novels for sale, one by one. You may want one to hold the beautiful journal in your hand. You may want one to lovingly follow Emily Hart Fielding’s story. You may want a collector’s item. But you’re going to want one, I just know it.

Books and Beyond

I loved being at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library this morning for the library’s Books and Beyond Book Club. I was pleased they had me, and they were warm and gracious. I had a prepared a talk, but they had questions right out of the gate. We wound up talking for an hour and a half. It was wide-ranging. The ostensible topic was my debut novel,TRACKING HAPPINESS: A SOUTHERN CHICKEN ADVENTURE. But we talked about everything.

How the grief over the tragedy of 9/11 led me to making crosses and eventually to write Making Crosses: A Creative Connection to God.

How a recommendation from a fellow student in a Memphis School of Servant Leadership class led me to start a writing group at the Door of Hope and edit the group’s memoir, Writing Our Way Home: A Group Journey Out of Homelessness.

How Cain’t Do Nothing with Love has been downloaded over 55,000 times worldwide (are those folks in Iran and Poland going around saying ‘y’all’?).

How my fashion model experience led me to write and release my second novel, Model for Deception, a Vangie Street mystery featuring a Memphis fashion model as an amateur sleuth.

And, of course, TRACKING HAPPINESS, the reason I’d been invited.

They seemed to have a good time. I had a good time. We had a lot of back and forth. Talking writing is fun. 🙂

“Never, Never, Never” Goes Live

We interrupt the (ceaseless) sharing of Lenten Beauty to offer an announcement: “Never, Never, Never” is now live at Connotation Press.

Years ago, “Never, Never, Never” was judged by Ron Rash to be the winner of the Tennessee Writers Association Fiction contest. The win did not come with publication. I was lucky enough to meet Mr. Rash at the Southern Festival of the Book in Nashville where the win was announced. In commenting on what he admired about the story, he said, “The river is a character.” It is, the river being the Mississippi (that’s like having to say, “New York City in New York”—is there any other?).

“Never, Never, Never” is a sort-of excerpt from THE BONE TRENCH. The characters weave in and out of the novel until you understand who they are. This is the 2nd excerpt from the novel I’ve had published. (This is the novel with the “had an agent, lost an agent, looking for a new agent” saga.) I would be happy if a new agent would take notice.

Aside from and independent of that, I’m really grateful to Jonathan Cardew for publishing the story in his fiction section of Connotation Press. It’s a Memphis story, through and through. Take a read. You’ll feel like you’ve been down by the river yourself.

The Beauty of Lent 2019

Lent creeps up on us with ashy feet, banishing the revelry and sunshine in favor of introspection and smoky religion. We kneel and stare at the floor, contemplating.

What to do with ourselves? How to spend the 40 days stair-stepping up to Easter and resurrection? Take on, give up. Piety and sacred resolutions. What direction to point in? What brave thing shall I do?

Beauty is the bravest, is it not? The most heartbreaking. To embrace it, call it out, name it as beauty—stopping and squatting, hands on thighs, to observe it—isn’t that the most courageous thing? To admit this is beautiful, and this.

They say that to experience beauty, you must live in the present. But they don’t tell you what to do when that present is gone, and gone again. When the beauty—the sun haloed on the windshield, the tree’s reaching fingers—stabs and moves on. When the brake lights become hanging red lanterns, and yet they still expect you to get to church on time.

Beauty. I have 40 days to practice admiring it, and surviving.

My Lenten practice 2019: to offer one thing of beauty each day to the universe.

The Plates (or chainsaws)

I am a plate juggler. (Or, as my former senior law partner called it, a chainsaw juggler. ) I have a lot of projects going at once. Right now, I’m running as hard as I can after my goal of “getting my work out there.” This gives me five projects in various stages of completion. Here they are. (I don’t expect you to remember this, but some folks are like, wait, what? For them, I give you the big picture.)

Model for Deception: a Vangie Street Mystery
STATUS: published last week; for sale on Amazon in paperback and ebook
BLURB: Vangie Street is older—thirty-two to be exact—when she takes up modeling in the “big city” of Memphis. She loves showing the fabulous clothes almost as much as she loves her pound-puppy Retro, her cute if slightly decrepit Midtown cottage, and her hunky new boyfriend Nash. Life is perfect—until an expensive earring shown by Vangie’s modeling partner Heather Jackson disappears at the Memphis spring fashion season kickoff. When Heather herself disappears, Vangie must use her “clothes whisperer” intuition to puzzle out the truth of what’s going on….and keep her own self out of trouble.
“Vangie…is a smart, sarcastic, fashion-obsessed 30-something who has a large metal cutout of Elvis Presley gracing her front lawn. It is just fun spending time with her…A well-paced, offbeat mystery with a healthy dose of snark; fashion statements abound.”— Kirkus Reviews

The Hart Women
STATUS: a handbound novel that will Launch April 27 at Central Bistro in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi
BLURB: The house at 1011 St. Lawrence Street once rang with joy. Now, the porch sags, the window panes run with cracks. In one generation, the home that nurtured the wealthy Mississippi Hart family sits abandoned. Did tragedy undo the family, or did the family create its own misfortune? The story begins in 1968 Fairview, Mississippi, when Poppa Sam Hart dies…. 
Told through the eyes of favorite grandchild Emily Hart Fielding, The Hart Women explores the corrupting influences that entangle the human heart. Emily’s discovery of the  forgiveness she seeks will stay with the reader long after the book is finished.

Marisa, working on the pagination of THE HART WOMEN

We R Righting Group: A Pocket Guide to Writing in Groups…and Righting the World
STATUS: Finishing up reader feedback; tweaking cover; release early summer 2019
BLURB:
“We R RIGHT*ING GROUP” 
/wee ar ritiNG groop
/noun
1. A one-hour period when people gather to receive a topic, quietly write for 20-30 minutes, and, if they want, share with the group what they’ve written.
2. A force to change the world.
A vital new way to make connections, We R Righting Group: A Pocket Guide to Writing in Groups…and Righting the World  is the perfect “how to” for those seeking community in today’s difficult world. With humor, directness, and a passionate belief in the sideways magic of writing in groups, the editor of Writing Our Way Home: A Group Journey Out of Homelessness offers a simple guide for anyone who wants to better understand themselves and others.

Harboring Evil, a Coot Long Mystery
STATUS: Got a GREAT editorial review via Black Lawrence Press; final tweaking to follow; I’ll be looking for an agent on this
BLURB: Coot Long would rather throw himself in the river than get tangled up in a murder investigation. Lord knows, twenty years of living on the Memphis streets have taught him that much. But here he is, midnight on the Wolf River Harbor, examining a bag of the murdered man’s clothes. Coot can’t stand to think about how the man died: naked in his car, hands barb-wired to the steering wheel, the Jeep slowly rolling down the ramp into the black water. Coot would never get involved in such mess, but he’s hoping to clear the name of kind Mrs. Manuez whose faith in him led him to get off the streets, get housed, get stable. He’s risking all his hard work to prove she didn’t kill her husband, but what if she’s not as innocent as he believes?
HARBORING EVIL is a 76, 000 word dark mystery featuring a formerly homeless man as an amateur sleuth.

The Bone Trench
STATUS: had an agent; lost an agent; submitting to small presses; being read by a possible new agent
BLURB: THE BONE TRENCH is a literary dark fantasy of 103,000 words that uses religion and humor to explore mass incarceration and the private prison industry. THE BONE TRENCH was a Short-List Finalist in the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Novel-in-Progress contest. 
You’ll never find this 2nd Coming in anyone’s Bible. For one thing, Jesus can’t remember why he returned to earth, much less why he came to poor-as-hell Memphis, Tennessee. For another, Mother Mary is crashing the party—frantic to protect her son, she hot-foots it after Jesus without authorization. Much to the consternation of her snarky guardian angel, Mary decides bones rattling up during construction of a devilish new private prison hold the key to protecting Jesus, and she inserts herself into the prison uproar. Meanwhile Jesus, lacking divine insight, gets entangled with the beautiful leader of the anti-prison campaign. Is she part of his plan, or does the boy badly need the advice of his mother?

Jazzy and the Pirates
STATUS: 40 pages from finishing a major overhaul; omniscient narrator changed to 1st person; telling pegged more firmly to the kids’ story; agent search to follow
BLURB: Jazzy Chandler’s ancestors were pirates, Jazzy just knows it. She and her dad spent every Saturday morning combing the French Quarter or paddling the Barataria swamps for clues her great-great-forever-great grandfather fought alongside Jean Laffite the pirate king to win the Battle of New Orleans. But her dad died—drowned in the midnight waters of Bayou St. John—and now the scaredy-cats at City Hall have told them they have to leave the city before Hurricane Katrina hits. Jazzy’s not afraid of hurricanes—she’s survived two already this summer—but she and her mama evacuate to her dad’s Mississippi home where Chandlers have lived since God was a toddler. There, on the banks of the Pearl River where her dad played pirates as a kid, she learns the New Orleans levees might breach, the pumps fail, and her city flood. Bound and determined to do something, she ropes in her new friend Chukwa Humes, and together they magically call forth Jean Laffite from an old ship-in-a-bottle.

Moses in the Gulf
STATUS: haven’t started writing the sucker yet, but that’s the next thing!

I’m not EVEN going to talk about this weird doll project 🙂

Model for Deception

So, it’s a good news/bad news type of deal.

The good news: I requested a Kirkus Reviews of Model for Deception: A Vangie Street Mystery. This is what I call my “fashion model detective novel.” Here’s the book jacket on the novel:

Vangie Street is older—thirty-two to be exact—when she takes up modeling in the “big city” of Memphis. She loves showing the fabulous clothes almost as much as she loves her pound-puppy Retro, her cute if slightly decrepit Midtown cottage, and her hunky new boyfriend Nash. Life is perfect—until an expensive earring shown by Vangie’s modeling partner Heather Jackson disappears at the Memphis spring fashion season kickoff. When Heather herself disappears, Vangie must use her “clothes whisperer” intuition to puzzle out the truth of what’s going on….and keep her own self out of trouble. 
Model for Deception is a Southern mystery featuring fashion model Vangie Street who reads people by their clothing choices. Vangie’s sleuthing insights leave us wondering: what exactly do our fashion choices reveal about us?

Kirkus reviewed the mystery. They liked it. Because Kirkus is known for being persnickety, I was glad about that. Here’s my favorite part of the review:

“What raises the novel a cut above the standard mystery is Vangie, the story’s narrator. She is a smart, sarcastic, fashion-obsessed 30-something who has a large metal cutout of Elvis Presley gracing her front lawn. It is just fun spending time with her. Dialogue is fast and edgy…A well-paced, offbeat mystery with a healthy dose of snark; fashion statements abound.”—Kirkus Reviews

I thought to myself, when I’m ready to release the book, I’ll certainly use this review. (You can read the full review here.)

Fast forward to yesterday: I got an email from Kirkus telling my the review of Model for Deception had been selected to be featured in the Kirkus Reviews’ monthly magazine. Less than 10% of indie novels get selected. (Because I’ve gotten more than one faux award— “Congratulations, we’ve selected you for the grand opportunity to pay us money!”—I was glad when research revealed no hidden charges and a grand group of authors who have been featured in the past.)

So what’s the bad news? I wasn’t quite ready to release the novel (y’all know how much I’ve got going on). But to get the punch from the exposure, I need to do it.

I ADORE this cover designed and drawn by my friend Roy DeLeon and rendered into a cover by Novagiant Media

Sooooooooo—here’s the cover reveal!!!!

Model for Deception is available for purchase in print on Amazon and coming soon in ebook.

When the feature appears in Kirkus Reviews in March, I’ll share that with y’all as well.

Onward and Upward!!

The Big Head, Part II

Here we are at Part II of making my 2019 Mardi Gras costume. If you’ve joined us now, you can go back to this blog post to catch up with Part I.http://ellenmorrisprewitt.com/the-big-head/

After a period of letting the Paper Mache dry (tick, tock), I added two more layers of Paper Mache, with the final one being copy paper because supposedly that would absorb less paint. I deflated the beach ball (slowly, the instructional video warned, but I’m here to tell you, it won’t deflate any other way), and removed the beach ball.

The beach ball cost me .99. Not bad!

When I tried the mask on, it rolled around uncontrollably on my head. I went back to the instructional video and found their Part II where, unlike the final shot of Part I where the chick was gleefully showing off her big head, they gave instructions for a helmet to stabilize the ball. Fortunately, I had my hard hat! I fixed it inside the ball.

The hardhat duct taped inside the ball.

That done, I painted on a base layer of silver paint and let that dry. (As I write this, it sounds like a lot of drying, but the entire process took 2-3 days). After studying photos for an embarrassing amount of time, I painted stripes of Modge Podge into the mask, and sprinkled the stripes with silver glitter, regular (not super fine—yes, there are 3 different grades of glitter, I’ve learned.)

The final ball girded by a folded duct tape band.

I next made some accessories (yep, accessories), and it is now finished.

I know I said I’d reveal the nature of the costume, but at this point I might want to take guesses as to what this is supposed to be. It seems a little unfair—you will never guess without the rest of the costume. I promise I will model the entire costume on Mardi Gras Day!

Happy Mardi Gras!

The Big Head

My Mardi Gras costume this year involves a big head mask. I knew I wanted to Paper Mache it (I did a LOT of Paper Mache when I was making crosses—I bought the sectioned frames artists use to stretch canvas, put them together for the correct size, then Paper Mached them either as a base to further decorate or with colored tissue, etc as the frame itself) but I didn’t know what to use as the Paper Mache form. The mask must be big enough to fit over my head. It has to be spherical. One of the miracles of nature is how many spheres naturally exist because creating a sphere is bloody hard.

I researched a lot. I had some failures.

Some sites recommended a hardhat as a base. Maybe, but not for spheres. (It took me 45 minutes to “assemble” the hat which I couldn’t use—you must expect failures in new ventures.)

Everyone kept saying use balloons, but, again, it needs to be round, not oblong or pear shaped. Finally, I found a site that recommended a beachball. Genius! I found one to buy locally in February (not a small feat), and I was in business.

The instructions said to put the beachball on a stand so it wouldn’t roll away from you. It still rolled away from me. I wound up holding it in place with one hand while paper maching it with the other.

I gathered my supplies.

If you put salt in the Paper Mache mix, it inhibits molding. I whisk the flour and water mix to take out the lumps.

It didn’t take long to get on the first coat. I’ll do two more then be back to describe the decorating and (Big Secret of the Big Head) what I’ll be when I wear it.

The first coat drying. The tricky part will come next.

Hey Daffodils—It’s January!

It’s January on the Gulf Coast. The 100 daffodil bulbs I planted are unable to contain their enthusiasm. They have burst from the ground (expected) and are blooming (unexpected).

The daffodil advance guard

The rabbits have been busy too. DO NOT READ ANY FURTHER IF YOU DONT’ WANT TO SEE A PHOTO OF A RABBIT POOP TOILET!

Yep, that’s rabbit poop on a stump in our backyard. Apparently, swamp rabbits do this. Who knew?

And we finish with Wilson, lodged behind the tire. He’s probably afraid of the rabbits.

I blame the unruly wind for this travesty.

Silly daffodils. Don’t they know it’s still winter?

Drawn by my friend Roy DeLeon

Inspire Community Cafe is Open!

Inspire Community Cafe which I wrote about earlier is now open! I’m gonna let these photos speak for themselves except to say it is the best combination of great food, great space, great mission, and full out cuteness I’ve ever seen.

Go visit soon! 510 Tillman St Suite 110, Memphis, TN 38112

The counter in sunlight
The latte was delicious!
Next month the Memphis School of Servant Leadership will be the featured nonprofit partner
Private meeting space for community groups
Isn’t this a great light fixture?
A bright and personable space
The shelves are full. of handmade products from nonprofit partners
This month Bridges was the featured nonprofit partner

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