Monday, September 21, 2015

Caroline's Secret Promise

Chad, Caroline's father, holds an important position in the government. Also he is the governor's best friend, confidante, and adviser.
Jxn, Ms Capitol iStock 05-21-15 © jerryhopman

While he spends his time in Jackson at the capitol, she lives in a tiny and dingy room, scarcely bigger than a pantry.

Caroline must live this way because she has made a secret promise. Night after night she sits by her bed and writes letters to her father and the other people she cares about.

Solve the mysteries in Caroline's life by reading Secret Promise
 iStock 11-06-14 © Jarin13

What made Caroline in Secret Promise act in odd ways?


Who would want the man she loved to court her stepsister? 
iStock06-25-15 © Elisanth



More Questions:

Why? What happened? Did Caroline run away?
iStock06-25-15 © Elisanth



Memories Leading to Secret Promise

In Secret Promise, the long way around to Rachel and George's house was secluded and romantic. There was a bridge where lovers liked to stop and sit.  Who went with Jacob MacGregor in his surrey to sit on that bridge?   I can't spoil the story for you.
iStock 08-23-15 © levers2007

I remember a bridge on The Old Road to Taylorsville. When I was a child, our school bus driver used to take  that road. The beavers would build a dam and cause water to flood the bridge.

We would be forced to take a detour until the county broke the dam and repaired the bridge.

Also, I have a funny memory of finding a certain relative sitting on that bridge with her boyfriend in his pea-green Chevrolet.

I wonder whether any of my friends from Taylorsville ever sat on the bridge on The Old Road with their dates just to study the beavers in the creek.

In a few weeks the Audible version of Secret Promise will be available. Jodi Miller Hockinson is recording it She is portraying the voices of the different characters in an amazing fashion--very convincing.

Loretta Larson's Adventures

Loretta Larson had some frightening times.   In my mind's eye, I can see all the horrendous circumstances she endured in one day. As you listen to Jodi Hockinson's recording, I hope you will step into Loretta's life and see how it all turned out.

Here's a short excerpt from The Courtship of Miss Loretta Larson

iStock000013881210 08-09-10 © saw1990
Then came the hail, hurled rocks of ice showing no mercy. Esther curled tight again, and I curled up too, tucking her underneath my arm. The sound of the child screaming above the roar of the storm made me feel faint.

As quickly as it had approached, the storm passed on. Clouds, leaving bright sunshine, rolled away.

Esther wiggled. “Can we stand up now?”

“Yes.”Slipping in the red clay mud, we climbed out of the ditch.

iStock000016029754 (c) 2-8-2011de-kay
Esther backed toward me. “Look at that.”

A discarded snakeskin, sloughed and left empty, lay stretched at least four feet in the side of the bank. The residual moisture gave it the appearance of etched crystal.

Loretta and her young friend Esther found themselves in the presence of Trudy and Zoe from The Dream Bucket. Loretta's story precedes The Dream Bucket, but each story is complete and stands alone.

Click on the picture below to hear a sample of Jodi Hockinson's authentic Southern reading.

 Cover by Rosie Buhrer

Rachel Always Smiled.

Secret Promise

It was the South of the early 1900’s—the time when people from one side of town were not supposed to sit at the table with people from another part of town called “The Quarters” . . . unless no one was looking.

Meet Rachel, the cook for Hortense Clemons, Caroline’s stepmother. Rachel, Caroline’s true mother and best friend, passed through life with her dreams for her grandchildren deferred. 
 iStock 12-31-13 © Nicolas McComber

Rachel learned not to let people know she could read. Smiling, she said all the right things most of the time, but occasionally she spoke her mind. She chose her battles.

 In this excerpt Caroline introduces Jacob to Rachel:

“Rachel, this is Jake MacGregor.”

“Pleased to meet you, Miss Rachel.”

“Same here. Young man, pull up a stool. I’ll pour you some coffee.”

“Madear, could we have cinnamon rolls, please?”

“Sure, baby.”

Soon three warm plates, each with a mountain-high roll appeared. Rachel placed two on the table and one on the farthest cabinet counter. She propped her massive arm on the counter to brace herself as she leaned over.

“Thank you, Miss Rachel,” Jacob said. 
 iStock 12-18-13 © Nicolas McComber

“Oh, come on. Bring your plate and sit here at the table with us,” Caroline insisted.

When Rachel took her food to the table, Jake felt one of his eyebrows raise. He cleared his throat. In his twenty-three years he had never experienced such social awkwardness.

“Go ahead. Sit down,” Caroline whispered. 

(Thanks to the anonymous model. Pictures are from iStock as indicated.)

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Thanks for downloading The Dream Bucket.

Today, The Dream Bucket is #94 in the top 100 most popular Amazon Kindle eBooks (free) list.
The Dream Bucket
by Mary Lou Cheatham
4.4 out of 5 stars (49)
Kindle Edition

It is #2 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Historical Fiction > Religious
The Dream Bucket
by Mary Lou Cheatham
4.4 out of 5 stars (49)
Kindle Edition

Thanks to the thousands who continue to download it. I'd be grateful for a few more reviews.

This is the last day of the special free download offer.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Planning an Audible Version of Secret Promise

iStock 02-21-14 © malyugin

Caroline Clemons is talking.

Actually, Jodi Hockinson is talking in Caroline's place. This weekend Jodi is working on her project of narrating Secret Promise.

Since this book has another publisher, I do not have the right to place the cover on the Audible version. Therefore John Cooke has designed another cover. 

I've been asking the Taylorsville and Smith County Friends, a group on Facebook, about what should be on the new cover. First, John and I wanted a feist dog, but the group (and Jodi) felt the dog wasn't quite right for the cover, because Bruiser, the feist dog, is not the central character.

Then I decided to use a picture of a house similar to the one Caroline lived in. The problem is that someone remodeled the house, and the roof was an anachronism.
House: iStock 01-06-13 © akaplummer
Cover: John Cooke
I asked John to change the picture to black and white. He also edited it so the roof is less obvious. The result of the cover for the future audio book has a mysterious appearance. In the backstory of Secret Promise, Chad Clemons, Caroline's father, built the house in 1905. I wanted it to look new, but I wanted the picture to look old.

Someone suggested we remove the Spanish moss and put a magnolia tree in front. Although the house had a magnolia tree in the front yard to the right of the picture, Secret Promise also has Spanish moss in the story. The horses eat it. Mississippi does have quite a bit of Spanish moss hanging from trees throughout the state.

Secret Promise, which is the first of the Covington Chronicles, has already been published in paper and Kindle versions..

Click on the picture below to read more about the story.

Friday, September 18, 2015

My Dad Sold Milk for Cheese.

 iStock 11-07-14 © Marbury

More inspiration for The Dream Bucket

My dad had a grade B dairy.  Milk produced in a grade B dairy is not for direct consumption. Instead, it is made into cheese.

We all helped milk the cows. We separated the cream from the milk and saved the cream in big milk cans, which we kept cool in tubs of water.

Before school, we milked the cows. Before supper, we milked again. It was a chore I enjoyed.

When I was quite young and during the time when my siblings were growing up (I'm the youngest) we saved the cream and took it to Collins, Mississippi, to load it on the train and ship it to the cheese factory.

Dad's farm was on the Smith County-Covington County line, south of Taylorsville and north of Hot Coffee. Going to Collins, which was south of Hot Coffee, was always a big adventure. Each trip I received a few coins to buy whatever I wanted at the dime store in Collins.

Eventually, my dad made an arrangement with the Kraft plant in Newton, Mississippi. We continued to store our milk in cans, which we kept in tubs of water, but we no longer separated the cream from the milk. A truck hauled the milk from our farm to Newton every morning.

Kraft was picky about the way we washed the cows' utters and maintained the cleanliness of our entire operation. Another neat policy of Kraft was allowing us to buy cheese. We always had Velveeta.  I loved grilled cheese sandwiches. We had a pimiento pepper patch. Mother canned pimento in fruit jars. What a treat!

When I was sixteen, my father fainted in the woods  from the excruciating pain of passing a kidney stone. All the family but me rushed him off to a Jackson hospital. When I came home from school, I milked all the cows by myself. I know this tale sounds like the kid who walked to school four miles up hill both directions in the snow, but I really did milk all the cows. I believe we had about fifteen at the time. Our cows, part Jerseys,  didn't give huge amounts of milk, but their milk was rich.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Miss Loretta Larson has been busy.

Miss Loretta Larson leads a busy life. She first appeared in Secret Promise, the initial novel in The Covington Chronicles. Then she told her story in her own words in the Kindle version of The Courtship of Miss Loretta Larson.  Some of my critics tell me this is their favorite of all my books.

Not long ago, Jodi Hockinson, an accomplished narrator, produced her story in Audible form, available on Amazon, Audible, and I-Tunes. Audible gave me some codes, which allow listeners to download the book for free. Right now, September 17, 2015, I have a few codes I'd love to give to anyone who'd like to listen and post a review. Just message me on Facebook in a private message First come, first serve.

Go here to listen to a sample:The Courtship of Miss Loretta Larson, Audible

Loretta makes a cameo appearance in The Dream Bucket too.

Next year she may make be transformed into a paperback book.  She's been wanting to go to Italy or Texas.

The last time I saw her she was starring in a film on You Tube.Video of Miss Loretta Larson by Craig and Jodi Hockinson

 08-06-13 © Utopia_88

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

More Snakes I (An Article Revisited)


Since it's St. Patrick's Day, and I'm giving away The Dream Bucket, I'm reprinting a blog about snakes today.

A narrow sandy road curved around between one of our fields and a wooded area. All my childhood my brother Buddy and I observed the tracks of a very large snake that crossed the  road not always in the same place but close by.
iStock 03-20-14 © MarkNH

This picture is not in sand, but it's a snake similar to the one whose tracks we observed. We never saw the big rattlesnake who left the track, but we saw others. Buddy and our cousin Jerry Gregg collected rattlers.

According to, eastern diamondback rattlesnakes live about twenty years and grow to an average length of five feet, or may as long as eight feet. These snakes, which are very vicious and poisonous, may weigh as much as ten pounds.

Daddy, who never exaggerated,  said he'd studied that snake's tracks most of his life! When he was about seventy someone accidentally ran over the snake. A picture of my dad holding the dead snake appeared in the Taylorsville Signal. He held it as high as he could, and the snake's tail touched the ground.  

In The Dream Bucket, the Cameron family's loyal dog, King,wrestled with a rattlesnake. To tell  which one of them--the dog or the snake--survived would not be fair to those who haven't read it yet.
iStock 04-14-09 © azpworldwide

I'm sharing these emergency directions from a Wikipedia article: 

Emergency response[edit]

Data on the effectiveness of first aid techniques for rattlesnake bites are limited.[74] General recommendations for first aid in the field are:
  1. Remain calm and retreat from the snake at least 15 feet. Arrange to have the victim transported to a medical facility as soon as possible.[74]
  2. Remove restrictive clothing items (rings, bracelets, watches, buttoned shirts, etc.) from the victim.[74][75]
  3. Splint or otherwise immobilize any bitten limbs and keep them below heart level.[30][35][74][76] If (and only if) the victim is more than an hour away from a medical facility, place a lightly constricting band (that admits one finger beneath it) above the bitten area to prevent the systemic spread of the venom.[74]
  4. Keep victims calm; put them at rest; keep them warm and give them comfort and reassurance (which will lower their heart rate, slowing the spread of the venom). Keeping a victim's heart rate down, however, should never interfere with getting him or her to a medical facility.[74]
  5. If the snake is still present or nearby, try to get an accurate description by using a camera or remembering certain physical traits such as color, pattern, or length. This can help ensure the proper antivenom is administered. However, one should never put oneself at risk of being bitten to obtain this description.

In no case should tourniquets or incisions be used. Suction is likewise discouraged, as it is only potentially useful if the victim is at least an hour away from medical help and the procedure is started within 5 minutes of the bite, and it carries a risk of contaminating the wound (therefore the use of a commercial suction device is preferable.)


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Sample of Abi of Cyrene Audible

EXCITING: Abi of Cyrene is now an Audible book as of September 15, 2015

Audible Sample:

Sample of Abi of Cyrene audio book

Snakes I Wrote . . . The Story Behind the Story of The Dream Bucket

Snakes in The Dream Bucket

I don’t like snakes. No wonder my mother named me Mary Lou. My skin is crawling as I tell you about this. How does it make you feel to think about water moccasins?

iStock 04-15-09 © ConnieMaher
A photographer found the water moccasin shown here in Silver Springs, Florida. When I was in my twenties, my mother-in-law and I found one on her front porch in Madison, MS. It was a damp evening. She and I were preparing supper. We went out to the porch to get some things out of the chest freezer. When she placed her foot, which was clad in a sandal-style bedroom slipper outside the front door, she stepped next to a fat water moccasin. I was standing behind her. We held our breath. I stepped back and she backed away too. We closed the door.

The way Mary B. Cheatham, my mother-in-law, described the experience and the way both of us felt inspired Elvin's encounter. 

Also I used to go swimming at Madison in the small lake with my late husband Bobby and his deceased brother Jimmy until the water moccasins scared me away.

Elvin Trutledge, one of my favorite villains, found a snake like this in a tree on a sandbar in the Mississippi River.

iStock 07-13-08 © Dewitt

An excerpt from The Dream Bucket:
Elvin, an intruder in a territory not claimed by human beings, slithered deeper into the thick water until he met a serpent face-to-face. A fat green-gray snake on a limb turned to face Elvin. Quick as a blaze, the creature stuck out his needle-thin tongue, retreated it, and opened his white mouth. Fangs aimed for Elvin as the moccasin slapped his jaws shut. 
iStock 06-10-08 © the4js

How he dodged the snake he wasn’t sure. “Lord! I’m calling out to you . . .  like I never have before. Save me. Oh, please save me. Deliver me from this snake. I’ll be good to my wife and children. I’ll stop cussing and stealing.”
The moccasin didn’t move again.

“I’ll head back home right now, dear God. Just send this snake somewheres else.” 

Elvin Trutledge found more water moccasins that day as he ran away from home and shirked his responsibilities. Read more about Elvin's adventures in The Dream Bucket.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Inspiration for The Dream Bucket: When I Was Seventeen . . .

The Dream Bucket is fiction. Memories bring pain and joy. The truth may be more or less than the fiction. Stories also come from nothing that ever happened.  (NOTE: The Dream Bucket is now available at Amazon in paperback, Audible, and Kindle editions.)
iStock 08-15-07 © Pyast
Here's the truth that inspired the novel. No one is left who can verify my tale. It is my story, and I've lived long enough to tell it.
iStock08-05-15 © davelogan

When I was seventeen, Mother took my brother Buddy and me to Jackson after Christmas to visit my John, Sue, and their children (John was my oldest brother.)  We also wanted to shop. I bought fabric at Kilgore's with my Christmas money.

Dad didn't go. He seldom left the farm. The stated reason was that he had to milk the cows. The larger reason was that he was tied to the land.

When we returned home, a pile of smoking ashes stood between the chimneys. We didn't know whether Dad was alive. I dissolved into a screaming heap in the back seat of the Pontiac.
iStock 10-01-14 © krzysztofdedek

Dad appeared finally and said he heard an explosion while he was milking.  He went into the fire and removed a thin mattress, a dresser, and a blanket. These items he risked his life for. 

The mattress was to sleep on in our sharecroppers' cabin, which was vacant and exactly like the one in The Dream Bucket, even though the novel is set fifty years earlier than the reality. In front of that old dresser, my mother, sister, and I had applied our makeup for years.  The blanket represented his mother, who practiced the Native American customs of our heritage. She farmed her own sheep, carded the wool, spun the thread, dyed it using black walnut shells, and wove the striped cloth.

 (He thought it was caused by the Christmas tree lights. At any rate, he never allowed another Christmas tree in our house, although he'd loved having a Christmas tree all my life until then.  Eventually he decided the explosion of the butane tank caused it, but I think the fire caused the tank to explode.)
 iStock 07-01-13 © MartinaVaculikova
For months after the fire, he lived in the cabin. I lived in an apartment Mother rented in town two blocks from school. Mother alternated between the two locations.

I withdrew from everyone, even though it was the last semester of high school.   Staying in the apartment, which had twelve windows in the long bedroom, frightened me. My sister purchased a large box of remnants from a garment factory. I sewed and sewed and sewed. I stayed awake the nights I was alone because the bushes beat against the windows. Miss Grimes, the home economics teacher, tutored me so I could sew at school instead of going to the study hall.
iStock 01-09-15 © Jag_cz

Friday, September 04, 2015

Sarah Zimmerman, Acclaimed Actress and Narrator, Producing Abi of Cyrene

Abi of Cyrene is headed for retail by ACX. What that means is that Sarah Zimmerman has completed her incredible interpretation of this historical novel set in New Testament times, and it will soon be released as an Audible book at Amazon, Audible, and I-Tunes.

It is an honor to have Sarah record Abi of Cyrene, and it’s been fun getting to know her. Here’s her professional biography:

Sarah Zimmerman's favorite theatre credits include: THE FULL MONTY and THE RIVALS (Broadway); RADIANCE (Geffen Playhouse), THE MATCHMAKER, for which she received a Helen Hayes Award nomination, and THE RIVALRY (Ford's Theatre, D.C.); THE SEAGULL, LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST, and THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR (Old Globe Theatre); AS YOU LIKE IT (Weston Playhouse); THE VOICE OF THE TURTLE (Westport Country Playhouse); THE GLASS MENAGERIE, SUSAN AND GOD, COLD COMFORT FARM, TILL WE HAVE FACES, and THE GREAT DIVORCE (Lamb's Players Theatre).

Sarah’s voice can be heard on numerous recordings including: THREE SISTERS, THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST, SUMMER AND SMOKE, MAJOR BARBARA, TARTUFFE, LA BETE, and DESIGN FOR LIVING (for L.A. Theatre Works) and over 30 audiobooks.

TV includes: "The Office", "The Good Wife", "Big Love", "Desperate Housewives", "Without a Trace", "The Closer" and "The Nine".

She received her BFA from The Boston Conservatory and her MFA from Old Globe/USD.