Thursday, January 19, 2017

A Wet, Dreary, Winter Day

Today is a beautiful day for feeling cozy and laughing with any of your loved ones who come your way. Yesterday I was thinking about what a good Christmas we had last year. We had love and light and a good time with our families. We placed our usual decorations in the closet and pulled out the Christmas ornaments.

Now in January, I've pulled from my closet and hung the beautiful wreath my daughter made for me years ago. It needed a little cheer. The : : Homestarry Outdoor String Lights,Dimmable LED Starry String lights Perfect for Bedroom,Garden,Party,Indoor and Outdoor Decorations (100LEDs 33ft,Cooper Wire,WarmWhite ,Remote Control) (Tools & Home Improvement) wrapped aound the grapevine and strung through the silk flowers made it an object I cannot stop looking at.

It doesn't have to be Christmas to have a little light and cheer. I placed it in a dark spot in the bedroom where I have my desk. It provides as much light as a lamp, and it has a remote control. (Some of these notes are from a review at Amazon.)

On this dreary day, a hot lunch of meatballs, spaghetti sauce, pasta, and mixed vegetables sat on the stove. My husband’s son—my stepson—surprised us with a visit. What fun to have him share our simple meal. He served our plates. We laughed and talked. Then he stirred up a chocolate-cherry cake. Yum.

And I’m writing a novel about a house where people want to go to have a cozy life, but problems keep getting in the way. The name of the new book, which is number six in the series known as the Covington Chronicles is House of Seven.

We’re still working on book number five, which Sarah Walker Gorrell and I published. It is Travelers in Painted Wagons on Cohay Creek. Jodi and Craig Hockinson are busy recording a narration of this one. In it Gypsies, who should be called Romanies, teach their friends by example how to enjoy family life in homes that are tiny wagons always on the move. Here's the cover designed by my husband John for the audible book which will be available soon.

As my life advances through the golden years, I’m learning about the joy of loving those dear to me. I’m enjoying laughing and bantering with my wonderful family. Through writing I hope to show others how much fun life can be.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Travelers in Painted Wagons on Cohay Creek Featured in Awesome Gang dot com

Sarah Walker Gorrell and I are excited to be featured inAwesome Gang

Please go and look at this beautiful listing. If you haven't purchased our novel, here's your chance. If you've read it, please go to Amazon and publish a review or vote for the positive ones there. We'd love your help.

A Prayer of Nehemiah, the Birth of Leadership Is the Number One Free Business Leadership How-To Manual on Amazon

Back in 2010, the book of Nehemiah caught my attention. It’s a story of how an humble man wanted to help his people. He was living in a luxurious palace, where all his needs were met. One of his duties was to smile to keep the king happy, but he couldn’t.

The king asked, “Nehemiah, why do you frown all the time? I know you’re not sick.”

Nehemiah said, “Why should my face not look sat when Jerusalem, the city where my ancestors are buried, has been destroyed by fire and lies in ruins?” (paraphrase of Nehemiah 2:3)

Reading that little book, I noticed what a powerful leader Nehemiah became and the way he always prayed before he did anything. He wanted to lead his people to return to Jerusalem and build a wall around it.

No one endorsed this book. My late cousin Janice, whose opinions I always respected, read it and said it was valid and inspirational. No one has ever reviewed the book. It is a little thirty-four-page Kindle book written as an instructional manual on how to be a leader.

Rarely has it sold or been downloaded over the last seven years.For a few days I’m offering it as a free download. Now, it has reached number one, not just in the Christian literature category but in business leadership.


Saturday, January 14, 2017


To polish off my writing, I have other authors critique my work. As payment, I critique theirs. Sometimes I find people who lack motivation about using acceptable punctuation, especially commas. They find it unnecessary to waste creative energy on such trivia.

Here is my response:
You are building a story. Think of it as though you were building a house. Nails may seem small and unimportant, but they hold the house together. You must apply them at the right places. Otherwise the house will collapse but it will have many nails in it in the wrong parts of the boards.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Manuela Blayne

Preview of Manuela Blayne

Manuela Blayne Undaunted Optimism in the Face of Unfairness

Manuela Blayne, a novella, is the fourth book in the Covington Chronicles. It is a complete story that stands alone. To understand some of the characters fully, however, it would be beneficial to read The Dream Bucket first. Manuela Blayne is the story of one suffering for another.

A new day dawns for Trudy Cameron. She develops a heightened sensitivity to others around her who endure the hurts brought on by circumstances she tries to influence. Trudy starts to realize she cannot change everything, she cannot fix all the bad in her world. At the same time she develops a streak of mischief. Sometimes she is shocked by her own behavior. As she grows up fast, she finds emotions within herself she didn't expect.

In the summer of 1910, Trudy Cameron witnesses the aftershock of an event that will disturb her the rest of her life.

It is more than the consequences of the crime that concern her. Cruelty dominates the evolving social system of the South, the only home she knows.

Never will she comprehend all the hurt suffered by her friend Manuela Blayne, but Trudy wants to understand.

She witnesses firsthand what forgiveness can be. She observes hardships she has never imagined. In a world that denies mercy to her friend, will Trudy’s faith shrink or blossom? She is always honest with herself about her emotions. Trudy tells her story in first person.

Come spend some time with the Bentons and Camerons. Delight in the parenting skills of Samuel Benton, as he tries to distract Trudy from her anguish over Manuela Blayne.

Have a dish of ice cream in the Covington and float on a watermelon in the swim hole at Hot Coffee. Witness the mischief Trudy dares not confess to her parents.

The Courtship of Miss Loretta Larson

Preview: The Courtship of Miss Loretta Larson

Loretta Larson, a southern lady in the early 1900’s, has everything she needs except a man. Ensnared by memories of lost romance, limited by codes of etiquette, and unimpressed by the eligible suitors in her town, she pursues an escape from her solitary life. 

Where can she find a man who will accept her quirks?  He also must appreciate the refinements of culture. Not only must her man love her. He must nurture her efforts to fix what she sees wrong in her world—inadequate education, denied voting rights, and animosity toward impoverished Italian immigrants.

One more requirement—he must be excited about giving her his time and affection. In return she will give him her heart. In a time and place when men dominate society, how can any man possibly court Miss Loretta Larson?

Loretta Larson is taking a look at her life . . . her long-cherished values are, frankly, becoming a burden . . . her prospects of meeting an eligible man chilled by her self-imposed confinement . . . yes, confinement. . . . What can she do?

She has everything she ought to need, but she wants more of what life has to give.

Secret Promise

Secret Promise Preview

The year is 1907. A mammoth tornado passing through Princeton, Mississippi, takes away Jake MacGregor’s parents and their home, his beloved uncle, and his sister’s home. He inherits a Mercantile store in Taylorsburg, Mississippi, and an underdeveloped farm nearby. With his hopes of attending the new school of pharmacy scheduled to open at Ole Miss dashed, how can Jake overcome his frustration?

Three years prior, a new railroad, which bypassed old Taylorsburg, caused the town to dry up and move five miles to the southwest, where the railroad crossed the Hastabucha River. Caroline Clemons, a teacher in the lower elementary grades, has her dream fulfilled – a new school constructed in the new town.

But in the year 1907 Caroline receives a wound that refuses to heal. Will she have enough resilience to embrace life? Caroline suffers hideous attacks on her physical and emotional integrity. At the expense of losing all that can bring her happiness, she guards her family’s secrets.

Social issues of racial discord, abuse, inadequate education, and prohibition dominate the scene of Mississippi in the early 1900’s. Come shop at the Mercantile and share supper at the Covington Hotel dining room. Become acquainted with extraordinary people living in a troubled time. Experience their fear, courage, pain, and simple joys.

Discover how it feels when prayer and laughter are the only effective coping mechanisms. 

Travelers in Painted Wagons on Cohay Creek

Travelers in Painted Wagons on Cohay Creek Preview

Travelers is the story of Trudy’s friend Jeremy Smitherlin as he finds himself functioning as the adult in his home because his parents have emotional and physical illnesses. Jeremy first appeared in The Dream Bucket as the slimy boy who dipped Trudy Cameron’s braids into his ink well. 

He struggles to be perfect so he can win approval. The more he tries to do the right things, the more he irritates Caleb, his papa. Jeremy wants his mother to live, but she moves closer to death. Travelers settle on Cohay Creek, which runs through Caleb’s farm. The captain of the Travelers becomes a friend. 

Although Jeremy would like to live an innocent, carefree life, evil adults slam him into a grown-up world. He learns about gunfights, adultery, drunkenness, physical abuse, and sarcasm. 

Sometimes, despite all his problems, Jeremy has adventures that are fun, such as snacking on a candy bar and soda at a store in Soso or wading in the ice-cold near the Spillway at Gitano, Mississippi.

The Dream Bucket

The Dream Bucket

About the Author
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.

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.

When I was seventeen, Mother took my brother and me to Jackson after Christmas to visit and shop. I bought fabric 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 car.

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.  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.

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. My home economics teacher tutored me so I could sew at school.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017


A few ingredients, some chopping, and some simple preparations will make a quick, delicious, one-dish dinner.

Start it cooking first.
Place one cup of long-grain rice in a 2-liter Pyrex dish.
Add two cups water.
Cover the dish with clear plastic wrap.
Punch three holes in the top.
Place in the microwave and cook on the “rice” setting. (If you don’t have such a setting, cook it for ten minutes and check it.)
Be careful not to burn yourself when you remove the cover. The steam can become hot. This method produces perfect rice.

Slice 1 package (12 or 16 ounces) Andouille sausage.
Pull the leaves off a handful of cilantro.
Chop 1 large onion, 1 medium green bell pepper, and 2 or 3 tender ribs of celery, and 1 bunch of collard greens.

Remove the stalk with a sharp knife.
Roll 3 or 4 leaves in a tight roll.
Cut across these to form chiffonades. (If you prefer even smaller pieces, chop them some more.)

Place 1 to 1 ½ tablespoons olive oil or half olive oil and canola oil in a heavy duty deep skillet.
Sauté the mixture about fifteen minutes.
Stir occasionally.
Do not add water.
Collard will be chewy and delicious.

4 servings

Friday, January 06, 2017

Our Kind of Hygge

 My friend Louise likes rainy weather. On days when the weather is dreary, she opens all her curtains, turns on her lamps and candles, and watches the rain. She also likes pie, and she loves to have friends over for coffee and pie or cake. Now that I’ve moved away, I miss her open door to her comfortable, tastefully decorated home.

At home tonight in cold January, we are celebrating coziness and fellowship. We have a blazing fire in the fireplace. Supper was soup with biscuits and a little glass of red wine. We lit the candles and muted the television.

We have our own way of enjoying conversation and companionship. We live a simple life. Today we went to the gym, we talked to our family members on our cell phones, communicated with loved ones on Facebook, and as soon as the fire slows down we’ll go sleep under the quilt.

There’s a word fairly new to English speakers to describe this joyful, comfortable, happy life. It’s the Danish word hygge, pronounced “HUE gah”. Several new books describe this lifestyle in more detail. Here’s an explanatory article  

The novel I’m writing House of Seven is about a group of people who try to establish a home of contentment. Seven needy souls want to find the kind of love and comfort that most of us seek. What will they have to do to make a comfortable home? Will all of them achieve their goal?

Since this novel is set in Mississippi over a century ago, these people know nothing of hygge, but they have a desire for contentment.

House of Seven: Bird Call

My new novel, House of Seven, received its name from my friends on Facebook. One person suggested I name it something that puts less emphasis on the house and more on the occupants. One suggestion I like is House for Seven. Other friends like the title I’ve been using House of Contentment.

After the discussion of the title, I moved on to some word studies. The results were impressive, and they’re posted on Facebook on my timeline (Mary Cooke).

Today I’m thinking about birdcalls. In the opening scene, Truesdale and Eudora Miller, threatened by an attack from some evil people, use a birdcall to signal one another. Having written the scene and decided on the type of bird I wanted to use, I asked my Facebook friends what their favorite birds are. (The complete conversation is on my timeline.)

Here’s a summary of the first seven hours of the results. The question is simply “What is your favorite bird call?”

Bird Making Calls Listed (Reasons, specific calls, and contributors are on my timeline.)
Bob White
Blue Bird
Meadow Lark
Barred Owl
Pileated Woodpecker
Mourning Dove
Hoot Owl
White-Throated Sparrow
Red-Winged Blackbird

As always, my Facebook friends have helped me more than they can know. The Bob White and whippoorwill tied for first place. The little survey proved the bird being used in House of Seven is not only well known, it is popular.

A few years ago, when I wrote The Dream Bucket I asked my Facebook friends to help me write some of the scenes. The results were outstanding. Writing is fun and playing with words is delightful.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Life Is Fun and Writing Is a Blast

For the last two days, I’ve published some of the words I’m working on in the latest book in the Covington Chronicles, following Travelers in Painted Wagons on Cohay Creek.

First I published some ideas about the title here and on my Facebook timeline (Mary Cooke). Several friends offered suggestions about the title. The consensus so far is House of Seven or House of 7.

More details are given in earlier blog entries and in Facebook.

Then I switched to discussions of some word choices in the book. Any friends have offered a variety of opinions about these.

I’d like to offer sincere appreciation to all who participated. You helped me more than you know.

Selecting the Best Word

This page is not a test. Instead it is a plea for you to help me write a book you will find pleasing. Most of the questions below do not have a right answer. They are simply opinions, but if there is a right answer I’ve listed it.

One of the challenges writers face, as you know, is selecting the most suitable words to fill every sentence. As I work on novel number five of the Covington Chronicles, I’d love your help.

Nobody who reviewed Secret Promise, The Courtship of Miss Loretta Larson, The Dream Bucket, Manuela Blayne, or Travelers in Painted Wagons (by Sarah Walker Gorrell and me) ever said, “You could have used better words,” except the time I used the wrong homonym in Secret Promise.

“14 Tips by Stephen King on Writing” is a popular post traveling through Facebook. Tip #11 is, “Never use emolument when you mean tip.” I had to look up emolument, which means compensation for services. I suppose the point is not to use a five-dollar word when a ten-cent word will do the job.

YOUR HELP NEEDED: I’m trying to decide which word to use in a description. Should I say upstanding man, honorable man, honest man, or upright man? What is the context? The man is being described in a flowery fashion a little more than one hundred years ago.

ANOTHER QUESTION: Which do you prefer? A hurried kiss or a quick kiss?

WHICH IS BETTER? Ravenous eyes or hungry eyes (describing a roomful of lecherous men.)

HOW ABOUT TWO MORE WORDS? Grubby men or dirty men.

CONFUSED WORDS: Sometimes I use the wrong word and feel very embarrassed. Clinched or clenched? Which did a girl do to her teeth? Clinch means to fasten. Clench is to hold something tight. Tricky, isn’t it? Answer; The girl clenched her teeth.

POLITICALLY INCORRECT? Would you say elderly man or senior man? Since when did elderly become a bad word?

SELECT THE BEST WORD: Are the fumes of burning coal dirty, nasty, or acrid?

WHICH WORD IS MORE DESCRIPTIVE? Sharp breath or harsh breath.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Title of a New Book

 I’m working on the next book in the Covington Chronicles series. It is not a sequel to Travelers in Painted Wagons on Cohay Creek by Sarah Walker Gorrell and Mary Lou Cheatham (me). It’s simply the next book in order. I’m missing Sarah, but she’s busy with something else now. I’m halfway through this book. We plan to write two more books together soon.

My current project is about seven peculiar people, who populate an empty house. Considering the facts I wrote in the previous sentence, I’ve worked hard on a title. Suggestions are welcome.  If you are not already my friend, you can find me on Facebook as Mary Cooke (Mary Lou Gregg Cheatham) and friend me.

First, I thought I’d call it House of Assorted Souls, but the name sounded odd. I considered House of Joy, because it is a story of people looking for togetherness, love, joy, and contentment. Online I discovered that name is associated with some restaurants serving ethnic cusine, also with brothels. I scratched it from the list.

The folks in the story dream about the prospects of a happy life. I considered 7 Souls a-Dreaming. The name is so ancient it sounds medieval. Besides, I wasn’t sure whether to capitalize the a.
7 Peculiar Souls, House of Seven, 7 off the Wall, 7 Cracker Jacks—all these names have been scratched,  along with half a dozen more I willed to forget. The story is not comedy, but it is a light-hearted approach to some serious struggles. The characters are exceptional, unique, and extraordinary. Those three words, though, would not appeal as a title to many readers.

Now I’m considering House of Contentment, which is the place where all seven people would like to live if they can overcome multiple adversities.

As I said, suggestions are appreciated.

Fantastic Recording of Travelers in Painted Wagons Soon to Be Released

Sarah Walker Gorrell and I are excited that Travelers in Painted Wagon on Cohay Creek Travelers in Pained Wagons on Cohay Creek will soon become an Audible book. 

Jodi and Craig Hockinson are recording it. Craig reads as an adult version of Jeremy Smitherlin. His performance reminds me of the narrator on The Waltons, not that he sounds like the Waltons' narrator, but that he takes the position of an adult recalling what happened years ago. He has an articulate, sophisticated voice that is easily understood. Jodi reads the chapters told in women’s points of view. She makes the Romani and southern women come alive. To put it simply, Jodi “does voices.” She can act all sorts of parts.

So far Jodi and Craig have recorded the first thirteen chapters of Travelers in Painted Wagons on Cohay Creek. I can’t wait to share the recording with you.

A little background about Jodi and Craig:
Jodi Hockinson of  Southeast Media Productions

Her narrations of these two books are well performed. Jodi can speak in several voices. She can act any part she wishes. Both these books are recorded in deep southern voices. She brings these two novels to life. Listeners continue to download and enjoy these, which are available at Audible and Amazon.

As I worked with Jodi, I learned that her husband, Craig Hockinson, also records books. Southeast Media Productions is their own company. They have the equipment and technology needed to produce and record various types of spoken products, including commercials, book trailers, and books.

Jodi and Craig are generous, wonderful people. After producing two books for me, they produced a trailer for The Covington Chronicles before Sarah and I wrote Travelers, which is the fifth book in the series.
(The rights of the photos are purchased from I-Stock. Please contact for specifics.)

Monday, January 02, 2017

Organizing in 2017

Yesterday I made some lists on scraps of paper, but I’m resolving to go buy a new little notebook for the year and write my lists there. Two kinds of lists fill my scrap paper. One is the one-time chores, and the other contains daily chores.

I hope we’ll improve. Today we finished undecorating the house and yard. Now we must make room for all the tubs and boxes full of our decorations. I suspect everybody else is more organized than we have been in the past.

A newly wed, I have too many things, and I married a man who has even more things. Most of my stuff went into storerooms. One of my goals in 2016 was to stop having too much junk in too many storerooms. My daughter and son-in-law have encouraged me to get rid of the storerooms. They, as well as my husband, who has only one storeroom, have helped. At the beginning of the year I had three storerooms. Now I have only one, which I plan to empty out soon.

If I could find someone who needs an almost new bed, a good couch, and gozillions of books... .

Something big on my list is finding time to write. I have an entire new novel in my head and at least half of it on paper. It will be the sixth Covington Chronicle. Jacob MacGregor, who appeared on the first page of Secret Promise , the first book of the series, will be a minor character. He is always in every book about Taylorsburg. The local marshal, Cecil Canterbury, has been a good man in all the books, but he has never had a personal life. It’s time for him to find the love of his life.

By the way, Caroline, the heroine of Secret Promise, has always upset me because she is so neat. She's never disorganized. Please excuse me for talking behind her back. 
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