XIV ~ August 2008

Susan B., another writer, recently asked “ How do you keep all the characters straight? Do you just keep notes, index cards, etc? I've been told that for your main characters at least, you should have a general biography. That way, even if you don't use the information, you have a better idea of who your character is.

Boy, this writing thing is a lot more work than people realize

For an answer, I sent her a partial copy of some of the records I made in order to keep straight the ever-growing cast of characters from Marshall County . (I have gone through and removed this and that -- things that might be spoilers.) There are lots of folks listed too – Julio's family, for instance -- who haven't made it into the books yet. But they're waiting in the wings for me to call! And animals are there as well. Plus my musings about potential future complications.

Some of you all might find this interesting – if not – just scroll through!


ADAMS, DOC the only dentist in Ransom, great-grandson of the one from 1901


Lulie - one of the Bakers who grew up on what is now FCF (Let's assume Little Sylvie's daddy married again and left a son) only mentioned in OW but maybe useful later? Heirs w/ a grudge?


Mackenzie Blaine high sheriff of Marshall County ('98- ) shrewd brown eyes


Aunt Omie-way up in her eighties, bent with age, bright blue eyes, little. She is Phillip's mother's older sister and her name is Naomie Caldwell nee Norton. Long widowed. (Carter Caldwell d. 74)

Phillip's mother's name was Waneeta Norton (dec.82). Waneeta and Omie had a Cherokee grandmother.


Dorothy b.1932 stout, competent woman, nee Shelton, sister of Magdalene Shelton Ridder


Marshall County High Sheriff before Blaine , after Holcombe (91-97)


Homero- brother of Julio's wife, dark, 5'7”


Miss Birdie m. ‘39 Luther (dec.) mother of Cletus b.'63 (dec.2004) Pup black and white mongrel, b. 02


Elizabeth : b. 3/02/52 (52 in Signs , 53 on AB and OW) long dark hair, graying, 5'10” long legs, blue eyes, tanned face, reading glasses. Father left long ago, sent money but didn't see his daughters, died sometime back?? Or did he? Mother died only recently

Rosemary: b.1/11/76 dark hair, shoulder length, 5'10”, reading glasses, conservative dress

Laurel : 12/1/80 -- almost 6', curly red hair, deep blue eyes, lanky, flamboyant dress

Sam b. '49 d. 12/21/99 (dec). in Art's Blood flashback he is 6'2”, red hair, brown eyes, joined Navy 67, m.E'8/72

Wade –b. '54 flashback Sam's brother, red hair 6'1” where is he today? And Sam's parents, what about them?


Grace (OW f/b) Elizabeth 's mother. Enhanced blonde, blue eyes, The girls call her Grammer due to her attempts to have them call her Grand-mere. Born Elizabeth Grace Howell(1931), m.(1951) Stephen Randall Grey who left her in 1959 (He left her well provided w. alimony and he moved away. EG had no contact with him thereafter, does not know if he's still alive. (Possible plot involvement for future book – a half brother or sister turns up, or dear old Dad himself.

Gloria (OW f/b) Elizabeth 's sister, b.1955 enhanced blonde grey eyes which she calls green, sometimes wears colored contacts


Ben b. 1980 tall, tanned, sun bleached red-blond hair, ponytail, long-muscled swimmer's body


Phillip Lee 6', balding, dark rim of hair, olive complexion, teaching at AB Tech, 10 am class on Mondays, does PH have living father? His mother Waneeta d. in '82 (see Caldwell )

Janie- his daughter, a third semester junior at UNCA, in 05, studying massage therapy at night

Seth- his son, grad student at ECU, has a girlfriend named Caitlin

Sandy, his ex-wife. She and her husband Don play bridge and collect antiques.


Jim owner of gas station (not unlike Bob Frisby)


Sallie Kate – b. '54 useful realtor messy curly blonde hair, southern accent, calls people honey a lot.


Dessie (b.1918) and Odus (b. 1915) m.'33 (dec., '04 and '90) in flashback they are mentors for Sam and Elizabeth, their daughters are Kylie Sue b.'34 Marva b. ‘35 Odessa b. ‘37 Louvanda


Julio b. '76 from Chiapas m. '97 Dark (duh), stocky, 5'4”, big hands

Noemi Garza Ortiz b. '74 his wife, sister of Homero and mother of

Sarena b. '98 , Mariposa b. '99, and Vincente b. 2002.


Dinah- '84- 97 black and tan hound




Pup b.02, black and white Birdie's dog

Daisy- Dessie's cow dog , Louvanda took care of her after Dessie's death, Daisy died in ‘06

old Rover - Cletus's dog before Pup, black and tan and white


( or ‘you uns,' as Miss Birdie would say)

Janet C. says : I loved your latest book, but talk about cruel.  The ending still has me going "WHAT?" Sorry L Who knows what may happen? I suspect that a power outage may delay Elizabeth 's getting that message for some while.

Nancy M. writes: My husband took my clothesline down 8 years ago because he said the poles "interfered with his mowing"!  Well, after my nagging for 8 years, I finally got my clothesline put back up 2 weeks ago and I love it as you do.  Nothing better than sleeping on sheets dried outside!!!

I just finished reading Janet Evanovich's newest, "Fearless Fourteen".  Even though I like the character, Stephanie Plum, my favorite one is the grandmother - just can't quite imagine Miss Birdie in spandex!  I'm now reading Catherine Coulter's, "TailSpin" and it's very good.

Susan B. suggests: you mentioned in your Goodweather Report that Susan T. left a copy of one of your books in Italy for someone to discover. Along those lines, I'd like to recommend BookCrossing

You can register books here, put a special number in them, leave them for someone else to find then go to the site and see where it has gone. Kind of a fun idea.


Thanks to Caroline C, who sent me this picture – a street sign somewhere on the edge of Brandywine , WVa. Caroline is one of the wonderful volunteers who help to put on Malice Domestic every year. She's been reading Robert Fate's Baby Shark ( a bit more violence in his books than most of the ones I read but I still love 'em, she says) , Laura Levine's Killing Bridezilla (really funny, C. says) and Tim Myers' Melissa Glazer's Clay and Crime book, The Cracked Pot.

Pat in TN wrote: . . . just had to tell you about our little fox family in the woods behind our house.  It was the other year, in the early spring, and as I was walking along the woods I heard this sorrowful cry, but only noticed a neighbors dog running around all over the place and then I noticed a male fox on one of the rocks making this cry.  I chased the dog off and 'Mr. Foxie' seemed very appreciative and would sit and watch me while I worked ... within a few days if I went near that area he would roam to a big hollowed out tree, and there, eventually, I saw 'Mrs. Foxie' and family ... 5 little ones.  From then on, towards evening, my husband and I would walk back to one area and the babies would romp and play and put on quite a show for us.  We would also see Mom and Dad go for food throughout the day.

Candace (my webmistress) says : At Library book sale last week, I found 3 Jesse Stuart books.  I read these in the 70's when I first moved here.  They still have the old cards in the back from then!  Come Gentle Spring - shortstories, Daughter of the Legend and Mr. Gallions School.  These books were magical to me at that time of my life.  There was alot about fox hunting in his books and I was renting from Jackie Ball who was a big fox hunter.  I fantasized all the time, while I was working in crops, about living in those times.  I even wrote to Jesse but did not receive a reply.  By then he was an old man.  Reading them now is different.  All the oldtimers that I hung out with then are dead.  They were my connection .

I should point out that the kind of fox hunting they do around here doesn't involve horses and fancy red coats. Our friend Clifford always referred to it as a “fox race,” rather than a hunt. It's usually a bunch of guys sitting around a campfire, maybe taking a sup or two of something strong, and listening to the dogs bay as they follow a fox through the woods and fields. The fox almost always gets away.

Candace adds: Chuck and I used to sit by the fire and drink white licker with Brant Johnson and Jackie and listen to the dogs run.  They could tell you at any time where the dogs were and which dog was in front.  It was pretty amazing. The book by JS was "Hie to the Hunters", course most of his books had parts about fox hunting .

Katie B. recommends a mystery series by Benjamin Black – “a sort of Irish noir , circa 1950.”

Recent Reads and Re-reads

Some books I've enjoyed

Positively 4 th Street: The Lives and Times of Joan Baez, Bob, Dylan, Mimi Baez Farina and Richard Farina by David Hajdu -- Another re-read. Joan Baez's first record was the background music for my freshman year of college (60-61) and her songs and Bob Dylan's music still play in my mind. This is a fascinating, kind of tabloidish look at folks who seemed so pure but, according to this, were ultimately driven by a will to succeed that wasn't always pretty.

Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein – What can I say? I've been reading Heinlein since my teens. The guy can tell a story – even if his writing is sometimes embarrassing. And the idea of full citizenship based on successful completion of some sort of national service has always seemed pretty good to me.

Salvation on Sand Mountain by Dennis Covington – This was part of my research for the bits dealing with the snake-handling church in Signs in the Blood , and I reread since Miss Birdie needed help from Aunt Belvy again in the WIP (work in progress), The Day of Small Things .

Dune by Frank Herbert – It was right there on the shelf when I put the Heinlein book back. It's still good on my umpteenth re-read.

Kettle Bottom by Diane Gilliam Fisher – a collection of poems that reads like a Lee Smith novel.

Seventeen and Penrod by Booth Tarkington -- I find both of these hilarious – even though they were written over a hundred years ago. Human nature hasn't changed that much.

Vicki's Schedule


Thursday, August 14

12:00 - Brown Bag Lunch at Eva Perry Library in Apex,NC  - Mystery panel with Mary Anna Evans, Cathy Pickens, Mark de Castrique, and Vicki Lane

7:30 at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, NC -Mystery panel with Mary Anna Evans, Cathy Pickens, Mark de Castrique, and Vicki Lane


Friday, August 15

2:00 at  McIntyre's Fine Books in Pittsboro , NC . Mystery panel with Mary Anna Evans, Mark de Castrique, and Vicki Lane

7:00 at The Regulator in Durham, NC - Mystery panel with Mary Anna Evans, Mark de Castrique, and Vicki Lane


Wednesday, September 17

I'll be teaching an advanced fiction class through UNCA's Great Smokies Writing Program.


 This ten session class is aimed at those writers with a novel in progress, almost completed, or completed but in need of a final polishing. Each student will submit the first forty pages (half at the beginning of the course, the rest during the sixth week) of his work in progress for discussion and critique by the class and close editing with written comments by the instructor. We will focus on the effective use of key techniques such as creating an intriguing opening line and a compelling first chapter, creating a likable and/or engaging protagonist, weaving in back story in small, manageable doses, setting up a dilemma that begs to be resolved  -- in general, producing a page-turner. We will attempt to weed out the mistakes that mark the amateur writer and turn each student into a discerning editor of his own work.  The goal will be to polish those first forty pages till they are ready to catch the attention of an agent, an editor, a publisher and make them ask for more.   The text will be the just-released Don't Sabotage Your Submission by career manuscript editor Chris Roerden (Bella Rosa books --ISBN 978-1-933523-31-6.)

10-week class – Starts September 17, Wednesday evenings 6:00-8:30 pm. Location: Randolph Learning Center , 90 Montford Road . For more information contact Dr. Elaine Fox


Saturday, September 13 - Carolina Mountains Literary Festival, Burnsville , NC . Vicki will be doing a workshop, a panel and a reading. More info to come.


October 9-12 ~Bouchercon ( The mystery convention), Baltimore, MD

More info to come.


November 14-16 North Carolina Writers Network Conference. Hilton RDU in Research Triangle Park (near airport). I'll be teaching a workshop on writing mysteries either Saturday, November 15, or Sunday morning, November 16. More info coming soon.


Sunday, March 1, 3 pm ~ Vicki is speaking at the Troy, NC Public Library. Sponsored by the Montgomery County Friends of the Library.

Contact: David Atkins, Manager

Montgomery County Public Libraries

215 West Main Street

Troy , NC 27371


Friday and Saturday, May 8-9 -- Blue Ridge Book and Author Showcase. Flat Rock, NC.

I'm excited about this. Sharyn McCrumb, Kay Byer, Sheila Kay Adams, and Joan Medlicott – all of whom have befriended me and helped me on my journey – will be presenting, as well as many other noted writers – including Robert Morgan.

Billed as "a festival and convocation in celebration of authorship, creative writing and the joy of reading," organizers of the Blue Ridge Book & Author Showcase have launched an ambitious inaugural project. The venue will be the soon-to-be-completed crown jewel of the Blue Ridge Community College campus in Flat Rock, NC--the Technical Education and Development Center . The event is scheduled for May 8-9, 2009. Free and open to the public, it is expected to draw attendance from throughout the state and region.

Vicki will be speaking at 10 AM on Saturday the 9 th and will have a table in the exhibit area where she will be available throughout the day. LINK coming soon.


Keep in touch!

Email   me.  

Visit my (almost) daily blog

Visit my website :

Visit my Amazon blog : more or less monthly postings

Back to Newsletter