Because the world around me when I was growing up included this kind of warped nonsense:
Because the world around me when I was growing up included this kind of warped nonsense:
I’ve added the Thomas-Jacob Publishing logo to my cover photograph because this wonderful traditional publisher has published some of my Kindle books, audiobooks and paperbacks.
What this means is that you can walk into your local bookstore for my books rather than buying on line. If they’re not already on the shelf, the folks there can order my paperbacks from their Ingram catalogue under the same standard bookstore terms and conditions that brought all the other books into their store. Some stores, including one in the town where I live have bookshelves reserved for local authors. We appreciate that.
Personally, I prefer ordering books from local stores, especially the locally own, independents because that puts money back into the community through salaries, property taxes and business license feels. Beats sending those dollars off to the major online booksellers. And when you buy locally, you don’t have order more books that you really want to get free shipping.
Writers never know when a fact’s going to be needed. So, we jot things down in notebooks and/or keep links in a DOC file.
I like looking at the wild sheet music covers on American Memory, the Library of Congress site filled with recordings, photographs and articles from long ago. There’s a lot of good stuff out there even though the search engine can use some work; by that I mean, stuff shows up in the list of hits that has nothing to do with the search terms.
Old sheet music had covers that don’t match today’s political correctness, music lovers’ styles and fads, or even the kind of music we like. That’s why they’re fun to look at.
Needless to say, when I saw the cover for “Why Adam Sinned,” a song written in 1904 by Alex Rogers and performed by Aida Overton Walker, I wanted to know why.
Due to copyright restrictions, I can’t reproduce the lyrics here, though you can find them elsewhere if you keep looking. But the why of it is this: He sinned because he didn’t have a mother to teach him right from wrong.
Now, since Eulalie–my African American conjure woman in “Conjure Woman’s Cat” and “Eulalie and Washerwoman”–is also a singer and makes a lot of references to music, this “why” about Adam is perfect for her to say in a conversation about the good Lord. Who knows when and where I’ll use it, but sooner or later she just might tell the deacon something like this:
“‘It’s just like the song testified about: He didn’t have no Mammy to teach him right from wrong,’ said Eulalie.”
OR IF I WANT TO ADD A BIT OF HISTORY:
“‘It’s just like Aida Walker sang: He didn’t have no Mammy to teach him right from wrong,’ said Eulalie.”
The deacon probably won’t like hearing that, but she won’t care because she likes stirring things up.
Writers collect bits and pieces of stuff like some people save baseball cards or have rooms filled with old car parts or stuff from along the side of the road that might come in handy some day.
You just never know. . .
It’s the early twentieth century, and the tragic deaths of her mother and two younger siblings have left Grace Harmon responsible for raising her sister Miriam and protecting her from their abusive father Luther, a zealot preacher with a penchant for speaking in Biblical verse who is on a downward spiral toward insanity.
In the midst of his delusions, Luther believes God has abandoned him and devises a plan to get back into His good graces—a plan that puts both his daughters’ lives in danger and unleashes a frenzy of events that threaten to destroy the entire family.
Will Luther succeed in carrying out his crazed plot against his daughters, or will an unlikely hero step in to rescue them all?
The author in question is the famed Patience Worth, the spirit who wrote books and spoke to St. Louis over a century ago through a Ouija board via medium Pearl Curran until Curran died in 1937. Patience’s voice and her pen have been silent for a long time, waiting for someone who will listen.
This certificate came in the mail the day before Christmas. What a nice present. Might put this one in a frame. If you click on the graphic, you can see the write-up that went with it.
Thomas-Jacob Publisher, Melinda Clayton, and I were very happy with Wanda J. Dixon’s exciting narration for the Conjure Woman’s Cat audiobook.
In 1952, African American Ruby McCollum of Live Oak, Florida was tried and convicted of murdering a local white doctor whom she claimed had been forcing her to have sex with him for years. The Florida Supreme Court overturned the conviction due to a technicality, but McCollum was judged insane before a new trial could be convened and was placed in a state mental institution. Those who covered the trial think it was prejudicial in multiple ways, including the fact that McCollum was allowed to say little or nothing in her own defense.
I mention this because during this case, we heard the term “paramour rights,” the notion–stemming from the days of slavery–that white men could have non-consensual sex with any Black woman they wanted with little if any consequences.
Danielle L. McGuire writes in her 2004 “The Journal of American History” article, “It Was like All of Us Had Been Raped: Sexual Violence, Community Mobilization, and the African American Freedom Struggle,” Despite a growing body of literature that focuses on the roles of black and white women and the operation of gender in the movement, sexualized violence-both as a tool of oppression and as a political spur for the movement-has yet to find its place in the story of the African American freedom struggle. Rape, like lynching and murder, served as a tool of psychological and physical intimidation that expressed white male domination and buttressed white supremacy.”
My novel Conjure Woman’s Cat mentions the rape of a black woman by white males. In my fictional account, the police don’t even bother to investigate because this was, sad to say, par for the course. Black women in those days were portrayed, even in official court transcripts, as sexual Jezebels, “Nigger wenches,” and as women who liked being assaulted by white men.
A “classmate” of mine (I put the word in quotes because we didn’t know each other) was one of four men who raped an African American woman at gun and knife point. His sister was in my high school class. We knew each other, but moved in different circles, so we never discussed the crime or the impact it had upon her or the family. In the high school yearbook, X was a senior and–as such–appears wearing a black bow tie, a white jacket, and a white shirt. He was active in school activities. He didn’t look like a man who would spend the rest of his life on the sexual offender lists.
He and his sister are still alive, so I won’t mention their names or the name of the victim who has passed away. I never saw an interview with the victim or any account of long-term psychological damage after the verdict was announced. She showed great courage during the trial as she described the event and never flinched under defense attempts to paint the seven sexual encounters of the evening as what she wanted.
The first surprising fact in 1959 was that X and the three other thugs who committed the crime were arrested. The second surprising fact was that they were held in jail while awaiting trial. They had confessed, but claimed the sex was consensual, and made light of the whole thing like it was boys having fun. The biggest surprise of all is that they were convicted and sentenced to life in prison. How unusual this way for that day and time.
It was a victory, a wedge driven into the status quo, a precedent showing times might be changing, even though the rapists were out on parole within six or seven years. In Conjure Woman’s Cat, the men aren’t convicted because–in the “real life” of 1954 when the novel is set–they seldom were found guilty of anything. In those days, that was life as usual.
Usually, a glass of wine is called for while writing my this and that posts. It’s too early in the day for that, and with the Georgia drought and its mandatory water restrictions, water may soon cost more than booze.
Here’s the latest news:
According to Georgia’s mandatory water restrictions, odd people get to water plants outside on Sundays and Thursdays after 4 p.m. and throughout the night. That means that while you’re watching football, taking a nap or getting ready for supper, I’ll be dragging a hose around the yard. Yeah, I know you’re worried about me.
A 2014 USA Today article “Equality still elusive 50 years after Civil Rights Act” notes that “Blacks have made many economic and educational gains, but progress still falls short.”
After so much recent racial unrest, some people might say that article is an understatement. I frankly don’t know, partly because fake news sites are putting out erroneous stories from both sides of the political aisle that skew what we know. And, some major news outlets slant their coverage so that news that might balance out stories about nasty incidents isn’t covered.
I grew up in a segregated state that had a strong KKK. When any progress toward equality was made, or even suggested, the Klan showed up. My church split into two churches when the main downtown church welcomed Blacks. I wondered how many people in the group that split off were members of the Klan. The thing is, one seldom knew. This environment impacted my childhood due to the fear, unrest, discord and unfairness of the status quo.
Frankly, once the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed, I thought we’d begin to see progress. It never dawned on me then that 50 years later that so much racial inequality, distrust and outright hatred would still exist. I guess I was more naive than I knew.
I didn’t write Conjure Woman’s Cat and Eulalie and Washerwoman because I thought they would impact the current national dialogue about race. I wrote them primarily because I needed to speak to the fear and uncertainty I saw as a child in hopes of finding closure, and secondarily to remind people of a discouraging part of our history. It goes without saying, I suppose, that I also wanted to tell interesting and compelling stories.
I also grew up seeing that the Black church and the folk magic components of Black culture were being maligned. So I wanted to present fair and hopefully accurate stories that took those realities seriously–along with the blues music so closely associated with them–instead of as the targets of stereotype slurs I still hear too much of today. I hope readers will enjoy a look at these realities that’s both entertaining and a breath of fresh air.
I’m writing this post because racial issues are so much in the news today that I’m constantly forced back into memories of my childhood where–as I said somewhere in another post–I lost my innocence about our school lessons teaching us that everyone is treated equally socially, economically and legally. Writing these novels helped me sort out a lot of things, but I’m still waiting for closure.
Click on the graphic to see my website:
Meet the Critters in the Books
The audio book edition of Conjure Woman’s Cat, narrated by Wanda J. Dixon, is an Earphones Award Winner on AudioFile Magazine. The review says that “Wanda J. Dixon’s warmth and gorgeous singing voice are superb in this story about Conjure Woman Eulalie, which is told through the voice of her cat and spirit companion, Lena.” (Click on the link to see the rest of the review.)
My publisher and I were especially pleased with Wanda’s narration of the book and are happy to see her work’s recognition through this award.
Conjure Woman’s Cat is also available in e-book and paperback editions.
Meanwhile, my Florida Publisher (Thomas-Jacob) finally has the power turned back on after several days of no Internet, A/C, clean clothes, hot showers, or hot meals. After attending to a roof leak, yard damage, and fresh laundry, Melinda Clayton is now moving ahead rapidly with the upcoming release of the sequel, Eulalie and Washerwoman.
The e-book will be released on Friday, October 14th, with the paperback edition coming along about a week later. Here’s a look a the cover: