Mama Said Best Reads September 14th – 20th

Mama said there’d be days like this.

When those days turn into a week…I like to have some resources ready.

James Maxwell’s Everman series was a great trip to another place. The link is for Enchantress, Book 1, but I dove right into #’s 2 & 3, as well. The lead characters are an orphaned brother and sister who we grow up with through the series.  Both characters are learning and developing magical, or magic-aided abilities, while learning about their family’s past and growing more savvy to the challenges of their kingdom’s future.

For those who like a little more realistic dreaming, Arcadia Falls: A Novel, by Carol Goodman is full of modern topics and historical side trips to explore. The novel is set in a fictitious, small college town, surrounded by a beautiful, but threatening wilderness. The college founders are two tangled lovers, female partners, who also share an art patron and artisan relationship. They lay the tangled groundwork for a mystery for a new, modern-day professor to unravel. If you’re fascinated by the Arts & Crafts Movement, academia, or art history, you’ll a plethora of engaging material here.

BTW, if you’re a Kindle Unlimited Account holder, both of these titles are included.

The illustration above is from YUKO SHIMIZU. I’ve flipped it sideways for the purposes of sharing. SHIMIZU is one of Japan’s most renown artists. If you can’t get to a book this week, give yourself a few moments to look at her work. She’s a world-builder, too. She has prints for sale, here. Plus, an open, honest, and insightful blog, right here. Shares through Creative Commons, and all along the way, she includes advice, instruction, and examples for aspiring artists…because that builds this world.

Finally, lest we forget–The Shirelles are here for us, too, honey.


16th-street-Baptist-church (1)

The Ballad of Birmingham: a Mixed Media Recollection

Monday, September 15th, was the anniversary of the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963.

Four girls–Denise McNair and Cynthia Wesley, both 11 years old, and Carole Robertson and Addie Mae Collins, both 14–were killed in the blast. The long, American story of bringing their murderers to justice can be found here, from The Oxford Companion to African American Literature and the University of Illinois Department of English.


Poet, Dudley Randall, memorialized the girls’ passing with a ballad written from the perspective of a mother.  The poem’s conversation, between a daughter who wants to be out of the house, and we might infer–to fight, to be free, to live– and a mother who wants to keep her child safe, rings current, today.


My friend Bob Bradley, a Tennessee State University professor, shared this video with me. It was created by TSU students. Bob refers to this as a “tone poem,” and I like the sound of that.

Angela Davis mentioned, when interviewed about her own recollections of Birmingham, the whitewash history has painted over events in Birmingham.* Watch the video, below, and tell me–can digital artists write a new version?


*Further reading: Davey D's interview with Angela Davis for Hip Hop and Politics.
The Ballad of Birmingham.org. 
Trio of TSU Students Set Civil Rights Poem to Music, Nashville Scene. 
Nashville Public Radio Report.
The Stockholm Octavo

Best Reads of the Week from September 8th-13th

The clear winner last week was…

The Stockholm OctavoIt was a quick moving plot. A smart combo of math, spirituality, a great daub of Swedish and French history, as well as nicely integrated graphics (the Kindle edition, anyway). Highly recommend if you’re seeking a smart, fast read this week.

An honorable mention: Sara Foster’s Southern Kitchen. There’s a lovely introduction from the divine Lee Smith, and the reading just gets better from there.

SouthernKitchenA simple buttermilk biscuit recipe has me making my own, again. The digital version is well indexed! (I hate it when I can’t get in & out of a book with ease). I checked this out from The Nashville Public Library (@NOWatNPL), and having used 7 recipes, will be running out to Parnassus Books for a hard copy.  It’s that good.




Virtual Blog Tour

I was tagged in this  Virtual Blog Tour by my IRL, far away friend, Jeanette Clawson, at Lunanista. She was tagged by Sue Jones at It Goes On. I don’t know where all this insanity got started.

Let’s play some Jamiroquai and not sweat it. Go on. Sliiide. Follow it with “Happy,” if you can take it. There. Even if you’re no Fred Astaire, that has to be at least a Tootsie-Roll’s worth of calories burned. Maybe two, if you wore a large goofy wool hat through both songs…now,

What am I working on? 

Digital Plow©

Funny you should ask. I’m in the last gasps before Digital Plow gets loose in the world. It’s a fiction novel about three high school classmates who return to their small Kentucky hometown for a wedding, only to uncover details of a twenty-year old drug crime and subvert the technology achievements of a small communist country. Though Digital Plow is fiction, I’ve done a lot of work to research characters like General Felix Zollicoffer, the history of the Cumberland River, and the construction of labor markets throughout history. It’s been a hell of a lot of fun, but it’s time to find a new agent and share. I’m trying not to be freaked out about that.

Mr. Donut. A Business Book for Big Kids.

Mr Donut

This is my weekend project, as I can’t ususally take over our dining room to paint during the week. I saw “the ELEMENTS of STYLE” exhibit at The Frist Center for the Visual Arts this summer. Maira Kalman’s charming watercolors in combination with Strunk & White’s clear advice inspired me to play more with paint and words. I’ve always loved the old Dunkin’ Donuts ads, and used “time to make the donuts” as a substitute for “(let’s) do the work.” Through the years, I’ve kept my writing and artwork distinct from the work I do with computers and technology–for no good damn reason that I can figure, now.  This summer, a bell rang for me. I like to call it “The DUH bell.” In my head, it’s more gong than tinkle, and tolls out–

Just tell the story!

I’ve got to do a better job of putting it out there, as my friend, Cyndi Williams so eloquently reminded me, “we (writers) need to practice!” So, I’m re-working an old story about lima beans for the telling, here:



Flip the Coin: Logical Engineering for Illogical Times. (Or some such, we’re in early stages, here.)

A tech prof friend asked if I’d consider visiting her engineering classes to talk about how we are trained to use logic, the scientific method, physics, and other scientific tradition and training to create, adapt, and change technology…and how that same thinking can make us terrible at identifying, listening, and addressing the needs of people. I was just looking forward to a good time learning with some young people, but then Laura Creekmore and I blew through all the colors on her office’s whiteboard walls, and LO! & Behold! …there was that DUH Bell, again. So, I’m outlining the series, and a book.

How does my work differ from others of my genre?

Multidisciplinary should probably be my middle name.

Why do I write/create what I do?

My favorite sort of work is to solve problems and learn new things. Now, probably because I’m a farmer’s kid, I don’t think of problems as, you know, bad things. They’re just part of life. I’ve had more than a few butt chewings in the wee hours of the morning about how the cows didn’t get out into the corn to piss me off–it’s simply part of their nature. I’ve grown fairly Zen about people getting loose in the technology, too. I create because I believe stories and art can bridge the gap between fear of change and hope for the future.

How does your writing/creating process work?


Show up:

same time, same place, samebat smiley channel.

Every. Day.

Swallow biggest, nastiest frog, first.

Take little breaks. Walk. Eat. Remember to take care of me.

Say “no” to most things.

Swallow next biggest, nastiest frog…

Take little breaks. Walk. Take care of me.

Say “no” to most things,

take little breaks. Walk. Remember to eat. Take care of me.

And so forth

& so on.


Lately, after taking a poetry class with Jeff Hardin, though I’m a terrible poet and an even worse blogger–I’ve been using between moments (the school pickup line, waiting for meetings to start, found time, et. al.) differently. One of his “spark plugs” was to keep a notebook of opening lines of poems, to grab and write from as prompts ANY time. ALL the time. It has been a wonderful technique for me. There’s no chance to put on my fat ego, over think, or grow paranoid about writing poorly. I just get over myself and go on.

I’m tagging Laura J. Snyder, because I adore her brilliant work from afar, and Nancy VanReece, because I talk with her often, but we don’t often get around to chatting about process.


Rabbit Holes. Tangents. And Other Trips Off the Beaten Path.