Monday, November 19, 2012

Flamingo Funeral & Tales from the Land of Tea Cakes and Whiskey now available on Amazon

Hey Y'all,
Just a quick post to let you all know that Flamingo Funeral & Tales From the Land of Tea Cakes and Whiskey is now available @ Amazon. com in the Kindle edition. The paperback is due by the end of November.
I am so excited to have the book finally completed!
Here's the back cover with a little information about the book.
And here's the cover and a link to my Amazon Author's page.
Look for changes in the near future. I am in the process of setting up a new website and blog.  Don't worry, I'll be taking you all with me.
Until then .....

Friday, October 12, 2012

Melinda McGuire: Guest Blogger on Tea Cakes and Whiskey

Melinda McGuire Guest Blogs on Tea Cakes and Whiskey

Fairhope, AL held its annual Grand Festival of Arts and Books last weekend. My fellow Southern writer and blogger, Melinda McGuire, who is a devoted believer in the promotion of Southern writers made the trip to Fairhope from Texas. Here is her impressions of her trip and the Festival.

 Melinda, welcome to Tea Cakes and Whiskey!

Road Trip
This past weekend I traveled from northeast Texas to Fairhope, Alabama, for the Book Festival sponsored by Page and Palette.

To be honest, I had planned on this post being a list of things that were wrong with the festival, but I will say just two things about that:
1) Communication is the key to success. An email letting people know that they are registered and what they can expect when they arrive (where to go, who to speak to) would have been greatly appreciated. And, a packet with information and details when the exhibitors for the book side of the festival arrived would have been excellent.

2) Note to self – when the literature for something says “Over 150 authors and exhibitors join together to bring thousands of art and book lovers to downtown Fairhope,” this might actually mean 7 authors with booths, 10 authors hosted by Page and Palette, and the rest were art and crafts exhibitors.
Okay, one last thing about that – if you are a writer and you are thinking about setting up a booth for this next year, please feel free to send me an email – melindamcguirewrites at yahoo dot com – and I will be glad to share more about my experience there.

Now, enough of that. On with the good stuff!

Leaving the Pine Curtain (northeast Texas)

Pine trees heading from home to Shreveport

It was beautiful weather for a road trip.
I left out early Thursday morning. First “big” city on the trip is Shreveport.

Getting close to the river

The next “leg” of the drive is from Shreveport to Natchitoches then on to Alexandria. Once you pass through Alexandria, things get a little muddier

Whiskey Bay exit, before Lafayette

I’ve never stopped in Whiskey Bay, Louisiana, but I am going to next time. I want a picture of that bay.
I stopped in Lafayette on my way down to meet Erin Z. Bass (Deep South Magazine) and had some Gelato at Carpe Diem. The downtown area of Lafayette is wonderful and vibrant. Carpe Diem was a cute shop, and the gelato, well, I had the salted carmel. They had free samples, but really, when you see salted carmel gelato, is there really any reason to try anything else? No. Not for me.

After leaving Lafayette, I hung a left and headed towards Baton Rouge.
A little side note: when I was younger, I had these “improve your memory” books that were full of devices to help you with your study skills and memorization tricks. There was a cartoon of a giant red stick stuck in the mud in a map of Louisiana because Baton Rouge is the capitol of Louisiana and the name means “red stick” – so there you go, the memory books worked!! 1 cartoon out of a set of 10 books…

Leaving Baton Rouge, we drove through Slidell, and then on into Mississippi. It was dark so I don’t have any pictures of that part of the drive (unfortunately).

The next morning, it was time to go to work!

Before the festival

Downtown Fairhope, Alabama is beautiful, artistic, shops on every corner. It really is a great place.

Flannery made the trip from Lafayette to Fairhope. Deep South Magazine is sponsoring a conference in November. Wish I could go!

Setting up the booth …

Rich Fabric anthology and my grandmother’s handstitched quilt

I think someone forgot to mention to Fairhope that October is actually Fall, not summer. They really didn’t get the memo on that.

I’m melting… The Powerade bottle in the background adds to the quality of the pic

I remembered to bring the copies of Josephine – Red Dirt and Whiskey that had the “Adult Content” stickers on the front cover. I don’t want anyone to be “surprised” by that!

Josephine Red Dirt and Whiskey

Nelson and Cora got to hang out in the shade for the morning.

Nelson and Cora
I met some GREAT people there --
Sarah Watson, illustrator

Jessica Jones, editor, writer, special publications news director with Gulf Coast Newspapers

Rosemary Palmer, writer from Nottingham, UK. (That’s a long way to travel!)

Isabelle Parker from Wonga Studios. Our conversation kickstarted all kinds of brainstorming

Nita McGlawn, a previous guest of mine on Southern Creatives and author of Bama Primer.

 After the festival ended, I stopped at Cousin Vinny’s in Daphne, Alabama, for the best muffaletta sandwich, period.

Dinner at Cousin Vinny’s in Daphne, Alabama. It was ridiculously good.

Heading Home

On my way home, I thought it was a little too early for Boudin …

Stayed overnight in Lafayette. Headed out the next morning –

But then when we made it to Scott, Louisiana, I decided that no, it actually wasn’t too early for Boudin
Drove the scenic route from Scott to Natchitoches (meaning I got off the interstate!)

Cora’s Antiques in Natchitoches, La. My Cora would approve! 

Home again, home again…

Hello again my lovelies!
Thanks, Melinda. Hope to see you at next year's Festival!

Contact Melinda McGuire

Author's page on Amazon: Melinda_McGuire
Twitter: @melindamcguire

Saturday, September 15, 2012


How could I do such a thing? How had I been so careless? But the evidence was there. Or not there. After a weekend trip to attend my granddaughter's first birthday party and my brother's wedding, I had left behind the charger to my laptop.
This was the week I was going to complete the last edit of the book.
This was the week I was going to finalize the book cover.
This was the week I was going to clean out my inbox.
This was the week I was going to .....

So there I was on Monday morning unplugged.
Of course, I had my trusty iPhone. I began to call around. Out-of-stock. It cost what!?!? The number you have reached is no longer in service. You left your charger behind? (Ouch.)

Finally, after a quick web search, I found a place that would mail the charger, for a reasonable price, the very same day. Great it should be here by Wednesday! The week was not a total loss. A Wednesday delivery leaves Thursday and Friday to catch-up.

Now what to do with my two and a half days of down time. The prospects were glorious. I could clean my closet and hold off Hoarders for another year. There's that flower bed that needs attention.
Oh and my office - I'm always saying I should organize my office. Where to begin?

I began by pouring myself a cup of coffee and starting a list of all the things I wanted to accomplish. And just for the company, I turned on the TV. . . .

The charger finally arrived on Thursday afternoon. I answered the door, squinting into the bright afternoon sun. As I eagerly opened the yellow envelope, my eyes fell on the partially completed list of things to do. The TV blared - Here Comes Honey Boo Boo! Don't judge me. Y'all know you love a train wreck, too.

How could I do such a thing? How had I been so careless? In just two and one half days, I had solved thirty crimes, watched twenty interventions, seen I don't know how many people buried alive, and watched a Georgia mother melt butter and ketchup together to make "sketti" sauce for her family's dinner. And most of those shows were on networks with names like Bravo and Arts & Entertainment.

Those are days I can never get back. But I have learned one thing. I will never again feel guilty for spending time writing or reading. Or watching the Independent Film Channel. With my computer charging away and my mind returning to the world of art and literature, I repent and vow to never spend another wasted minute on the junk that passes as entertainment today.

Wait . . . did they just say Sugar Bear is taking Honey Boo Boo and the family out to something called The Redneck Games where Pumpkin will bob for pig's feet? Well, my computer isn't fully charged yet. Maybe just one more episode.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Carl Purdon Interviews . . . Me

Last month, Carl Purdon interviewed me about my writing process and my plans for Flamingo Funeral. Carl is an excellent interviewer. I appreciate the fact that he takes time to do his research and seems to always ask the right questions. As I am in the throes of getting the book ready for publication and all the work that goes along with self publishing a book, I asked Carl if he would mind if I posted the interview here on my blog. Being the generous writer he is, he agreed to let me post it.

 Carl Purdon's 10 Questions with Kat Kennedy

#1: Your novella, Flamingo Funeral, is set for release this year (2012). Tell us about that and how it's progressing.
The novella is finished. It was so much fun to write. It’s the story of a con man’s bizarre funeral, but more than that it’s the story of how family loyalty will lead us to do the craziest things in the name of that loyalty and how, in Faulkner’s words, “the pull of blood” is stronger than common sense. That’s one of my favorite themes. The call of blood can transcend our morality, our sense of justice, even compromise our own well-being. The book, Flamingo Funeral, will include the novella as well as five short stories. Flamingo Funeral just placed as a short list finalist in the William Faulkner Wisdom Competition, so I’m pretty hyped about that.

#2: You have been an English teacher in middle school, high school, and at the college level. Which did you prefer, and why?
There were certainly things I loved about each group, but with my personality, I’d have to say the college level. I have a sarcastic sense of humor, and you can’t really do that in the lower grades. My college students could appreciate the quick comeback to their own remarks which made for some lively discussion. Plus I taught world literature in college and loved discussing Virgil, Chaucer, and Dante -- all the greats and connecting the themes of the Classics to their lives. It was always a blast to see them get it.
#3: What is the South Georgia Writing Project?
South Georgia Writing Project was an extension of the National Writing Project. It was one of the best things I’ve ever done. NWP gave assistance to universities to create writing seminars for local teachers in grades K-college level for six-weeks each summer. During the six-week seminar each instructor would produce an intensive presentation concerning some aspect of writing instruction. After my first summer as a participant, I was asked to co-direct the project at Valdosta State University. I did this for two more summers as I completed my Masters. I would have loved to continue, but I got married and moved back to Alabama. In fact, as soon as I was back from the honeymoon, I went back to Valdosta for six weeks to finish my final stint in the project. I served leftover wedding cake for our first meeting. I guess you could say I was dedicated to the project.
Let me share one lesson. One lovely first-grade teacher gave us a test. It was one picture – a frying pan. We were to write the name of the object. We all wrote frying pan. She came around and marked a HUGE F on our paper. I hated the look of that big red F. She then went to the board and wrote the correct answer – Spider. Now, I had heard a frying pan called a spider before, but had never even thought that a student would call it something other than a frying pan. It was a valuable lesson in cultural perspective. I never taught the same after that.
#4: You are currently the editor/moderator of Five Rivers Writers’ Critique Group. Tell us something about the group.
We are an online editing group dedicated to helping writers improve their skills and have a forum for discussing the writing process. We have been in existence for only four months and have been growing each month. We meet face-to-face once a month for socializing and to actually “see” our new members. Also, it’s important to meet because when editing online there is a potential for misunderstanding, so we encourage our writers to bring questions. We also allot time at our monthly meetings for readings if anyone wants to share. I’ve found reading material in groups or at open mics to be valuable in helping to work out areas that might need some tweaking. As editor/moderator, I keep up with what’s happening around the area with workshops, members who have been published, awards, etc.
The group has just started an online magazine, Southern Delta Literary Magazine. I’ll be asking you soon for a submission, Carl.

#5: Why should writers join critique groups?
It will make their writing better. Having input on your work is so important. I don’t always agree with every bit of advice I get from critique groups, but if several people are telling me the same thing, there’s probably a problem in my work. People can also give insight that can lead to some wonderful places. Flamingo Funeral started out as a short story. After it went through editing with the group, I had one comment that stuck with me – there’s more to this story. Then my friend and one of my fellow co-founders of Five Rivers Writers' Group, Charles McInnis, sent a text – Have you ever thought of having his relatives bury him in the backyard? What was an eight page short story became a novella.
I also think reading other people’s work is important because it opens you up to what’s happening out there. Writers tend to be alone much of the time. We really have to, don’t we? The connections one can make in critique groups and the help in feedback is essential.
#6: Do you think being a poet helps you write better fiction?
That’s an interesting question. I started writing fiction because we had too many poetry entries in one of my college lit magazines and they asked me to try a prose piece. I ended up with a short story and essay in the issue. Then, during my time in South Georgia Writing Project, I wrote a few more things. It was only recently that I started getting serious about writing fiction. I think poetry helps because when I get stuck, I can take a break and work on editing or writing poems and have the feeling of accomplishment - a finished piece. It also gives me ideas sometimes for storylines. My poetic voice, however, is very different from my fiction voice. I even sound different when I read, so I guess the answer is maybe?
#7: There seems to be a mystique about southern writers. I've never heard the term "Northern Writers," or other like labels applied. Why is that, or do I only notice "Southern" because I, like you, am from the South?
It’s funny, as a teenager, all I wanted was to get out of the South as fast as possible. When I lived in the West, I found people had trouble understanding me. (I grew up in southeast Alabama on a peanut farm and have a very Southern drawl.) For the most part, people were interested in the music. Lynyrd Skynyrd and Southern Rock was huge in the ’70s. Now, the South is my muse. There’s a certain mystique about the South, the dialect, the food, the way of life. It’s more than this though. Anywhere in the world that two Southerners happen to run into each other is a family reunion. It goes back to the blood and transcends race. We’re bound together in a way other areas are not. We’ve lived through a tragic history that I believe has left us, a more humane and enlightened culture. We can’t rewrite that history, and we can’t ignore it either, it wraps around us like kudzu. We can only learn from it and teach our children and grandchildren its lessons.
We also have a great oral tradition in the South. I would bet growing up in the South, you have spent many a night listening to stories on the front porch told by uncles and grandfathers or heard old Scottish and English ballads sung by grandmothers and aunts. I’ve never met a Southerner who didn’t have a good story to tell about something, and most love to embellish.
#8: One of your hobbies is researching old blues music. Mississippi has a solid history of blues music and is currently celebrating it with markers along the "Mississippi Blues Trail" program. Have you visited any of these sites?
No, but I have researched them. Flamingo Funeral has a scene which takes place in a black juke joint in Alabama, and the guest musician is the Bentonia blues musician Jimmy “Duck” Holmes. I hope to see him perform one day. I love his way of playing.
I also love to listen to old bluegrass and country music when I write. Most of my stories are set in the late 60’s and early 70’s, so listening to the music I grew up with helps put me back in that time period.
And, I have to have my daily shot of Bob Dylan. He has probably influenced me more than any other writer because I first heard him when I was fourteen and beginning to question some of the ideas of my elders and their views on social issues. His early lyrics made me look at life a different way.
#9: Speaking of blues music, the actor, Morgan Freeman, owns a club in Clarksdale, MS called Ground Zero. Have you ever been there? (If not, you should go).
I just saw the documentary about this. It’s definitely on my bucket list – Ground Zero and the Blues Trail. I think I feel a road trip coming on!
#10: Let's do something different. There has to be a question you were hoping I would or wouldn't ask. Ask yourself that question (please let us see the question), then answer it.
Okay, here goes, but remember you asked.

Why do you think it is Carl can only come up with 9 questions for his 10 Questions Blog?
Answer: I don’t know. Maybe it’s the humidity.
* * *
Thanks, Kat. When winter arrives we'll test your theory on question #10. I'll also be waiting for that submission request.
You can find Carl Purdon at his links below. Be sure to check out Carl's novel, The Night Train, available through and Carl below. It's a ride you don't want to miss.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Faulkner Wisdom Short-list Finalist Excerpt

Flamingo Funeral    Placed as short-list finalist in the 2012 Faulkner Wisdon Creative Writing Competition . Excerpt
I began the long drive to Clayville . . . Meandering through the two-lane black top roads that mark the old Emancipation routes along the Chattahoochee River, I easily fell into the habit of throwing up my hand in greeting to each car I met. Old, unpainted shot gun houses sank into overgrown foliage beside unkempt single-wide trailers alongside the three bedroom Farmer’s Home Loan houses that had sprung up in the area during the sixties and seventies. Memories of my brother, Jim, made me laugh out loud when I recognized the old black juke joints he and I would haunt when we were in high school. I had never felt afraid in those places because everyone knew Daddy and wouldn’t dare lay a hand on me or my brother. We were accepted for what we were -- poor white kids who liked to drink, listen to good blues music and had a gun-carrying crazy-ass father.
I could hardly believe some of these places were still standing, especially J.B.’s, but there it was rusty roof and broken down porch overgrown with kudzu just as it had been in the mid-seventies. Two black men in beat up, dusty overalls lounged at one end of the porch drinking a clear liquid from mason jars and smoking cigarettes. J. B. was known for his signature moonshine which he called Peachy Pearl as it had a distinct flavor of peach and went down “smooth as a pearl.”
The last time I had been at J.B.’s Juke Joint had been just after high school graduation. It was a hot May evening and Jimmy Duck Holmes was going to play at J. B.’s because Duck and J. B, were old friends and Duck was particularly fond of Peachy Pearl. I had been looking forward to the night all week and had even passed on a graduation trip to Panama City, Florida. He was known for playing in the Bentonia style of blues created by Skip James and Jack Owens both Mississippi blues players. It was a style of blues that had a haunting, country sound, and I loved to listen to songs like Devil Got My Woman and Hard Time Killin’ Floor Blues by Skip James. Daddy had a bunch of Delta blues records and there was nothing I liked better than listening to them when I was growing up. I had never heard Jimmy Duck Holmes, but I knew if he was anything like Skip James, it would be one fine night.
Jimmy Duck was as good as I had hoped and had already begun his second set when Gus burst through the front door with his usual assortment of strong-arm misfits. Gus owned the mortgage on J. B.’s and had decided to call in the note that night. He staggered over to the bar and put his pocket pistol on the counter while his crew positioned themselves by the front door. I slunk down as far as I could into the booth praying that Gus wouldn’t see me. My brother, Jim, pulled his old ratty Universtiy of Alabama cap down low and whispered, “Get ready to run like hell, Sis.”
J. B. Grimsley was not one to be bullied by a crooked businessman like Gus. He had known Gus since they were children when J. B.’s father had worked as a sharecropper on the family farm. J. B. must have seen this day coming from the time he signed the loan papers on the bar and had been waiting for the first opportunity to beat Gus at his own game.
J. B. pulled his shotgun from behind the bar, “Gus, just settle on down, now. Come on over here and let ole J. B. po you a drank. I gots somethin you needs to see ‘fore you shoots up da place.”
Gus drank down the shot of whiskey J. B. had poured for him, “Alright. What is it?”
J. B. reached under the bar and put some papers in front of Gus. “What the hell is this?” Gus growled, pushing the papers back toward J. B. without even looking at them.
“You knows what it is. You knows you signed this place over to me in that poker game las week. Now don’t be sayin you don’t remember. I’s been knowin you a long time, Gus. A long time. You knows and I knows what’s right.”
J. B. poured Gus another shot. Gus looked around at the bar full of people staring at him and let
out a, “Humph.”
Everyone in the place was frozen as if in a photograph. Most of the people there owed money to Gus or had kin that did. No one would dream of intervening.
J. B. nodded toward Jimmy Duck and he began to play Hard Time Killin’ Floor Blues, a superb choice, I thought. Gus picked up the shot glass and tipped it at J. B. before drinking it and slamming it back down on the deed papers. He picked up his gun and put it back in his front pants pocket, got up from the bar stool and stumbled back out the front door.
“Son of a bitch!” Jim shook his head laughing. “J. B. that’s the coolest damn thang I ever did see.”
Jim stood up and took off his cap and gave a gentlemanly bow toward J. B.
J. B. scrowled, “Sit yer white ass down fer I tell yo Daddy you been in here ever night this week.” He picked up the deed papers from the bar and started folding them up. He indulged a momentary smile before putting them back under the counter and retaining his usual stern no nonsense stance.
That remains the only example I know of Gus ever coming out on the shallow end of a deal.
Copyright ©2012 by Kat Kennedy
All rights reserved.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Mean Woman Blues

  One of the family traditions in my house was singing old songs while Daddy played the guitar. One of my favorites was Mean Woman Blues. My favorite part was the line about the black cat dying of fright when the mean woman crossed his path. So, I decided to write a story about a mean woman.

Jolene has gotten under my skin, and I have a couple of storylines I'm letting simmer a while. In the meantime, here is a glimpse of her.

Damned if she aint downright pretty when she smiles, Lidge thought. 

Jolene had had a hard life. She was forty-three years old and looked every day of it plus some.  She was what people meant when they said, It aint the years, it’s the miles. She had been a lot of miles.  Hard living and drinking had done its duty on her face, but anyone could see the ghost of her beauty haunting her high cheek bones and long neck. She had not gotten fat like many of the women she had gone to school with, and had retained her slim frame, though there was not one ounce of muscle to be found on it. Still, she looked good in jeans, her usual attire. Jeans and a tank top because the heat in southern Alabama was unmerciful most of the year. In cool weather, she wore the same uniform with a sweater thrown over it for the cold, adding a jacket when the weather reached its coldest.

Jolene had not worked in years. She once had a job at Clayville’s sewing factory, which she hated. One day she couldn’t take it any longer and walked out. She got the idea from one of her cousins who had been to Vietnam. She could get help from the government if they thought she was crazy. When her cousin had come back, he really was crazy. The government paid for his housing, food, and nearly everything else he needed. Jolene called him up and asked where he went to get his “crazy check.” He gave her all the details. 

Jolene worked out a plan. . . .

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

South Meets South at Cafe Wha? in NYC
What has brought me here is the belief that there are stories out there that need to be told. Rich stories, of the South especially, that beg to be shared and recorded so we may not forget that we have a legacy rich in language and peculiarities - a dialect that is unique. Stories that are sometimes funny, sometimes disturbing, and sometimes soothing as a summer rain, but always comforting and familiar to those of us who grew up here.
I was reminded of this a few weeks ago while on a trip to New York City. On my last night there, I was at the Cafe Wha? in Greenwich Village, the one place I had been looking forward to going above all others. It was the first place Bob Dylan performed on the cold January night he first set foot in New York in 1961. I knew the Cafe Wha? Band would be superb. I had already listened to them on-line and made reservations for the first show. They delivered. Each member had a particular style and they covered everything from Blues to Reggae -- Soul to Rock.
During the first break, the wild-eyed, charismatic leader of the band happened to be sitting alone at a back table when I walked by, and I couldn't help but voice my enthusiasm.
He immediately asked, "Where's that accent from?"
"Mobile, Alabama!" I replied.
"I'm a Georgia boy!" he laughed. "Man, I love to hear somebody from home!"
And there it is. I hope my readers from the South will love to hear home in my work. I hope my readers that aren't from the South will appreciate a taste of what it is like to have grown up here. After all, don't we all read as part of the human desire to understand each other?
The first time I read Jack Kerouac's, On the Road, I had never even left the state of Alabama except to go to the Gulf Coast of Florida, but his work made me want to travel across the country. So at seventeen, I did. Who knows, maybe without his influence, I would have never seen the western states or had the experiences I have.
Maybe had I never read Allen Ginsberg or fell in love with Bob Dylan's music and poetry when I was fourteen, I would have never yearned to travel to New York one day and listened to the house band at the Cafe Wha? where a great musician and good ole Georgia boy got to hear a voice from home.
That is my goal -- to be a voice from home. It may be a quirky voice as some have said, but I hope you will listen and have a few laughs (or shed a few tears) along the way.
If there is one thing we Southerners have learned to do, it is to laugh and cry at the same time. Is there any other way to make it through?

Kat Kennedy
June 20, 2012