Interview with Author Donna Everhart

DONNA EVERHART‘s  whose much anticipated novel, The Education of Dixie Dupree, will arrive on October 25th. I just finished pre-reading the book and it is powerful, moving and beautifully written. To pre-order the book:


Interview with Author Donna Everhart
1. Can you tell us a little bit about your new book? What is the book about?

Here’s where I get to practice my pitch line. *clears throat* The Education of Dixie Dupree is a coming of age story set in rural Alabama, in 1969, about a young girl who lies as a way to cope with her dysfunctional family, but it’s only when she needs help the most that she realizes how much damage her past lies have done.

How’d I do?

2. How did you come up with the title?

There’s a bit of a backstory with how that came about. The original title was as bad as the very first draft of the story – which had a fatal flaw. If you know what a fatal flaw is (just the term in of itself sounds dire) you know the story had some serious issues overall. The title then was GRITS AND SUGAR, truly cringe worthy when I think back on it now. That was supposed to be my take on the Southern/Northern family dynamic. The first editor who read the manuscript said, “it has a fatal flaw, and you really, really need to change the title.” Something more or less like that. She may have said “really” like ten times. So, I began to think about what was happening to my little heroine, Dixie Dupree, and I sort of came to the conclusion, she’s learning. Then I thought, no, she’s getting an education – one no child should get, mind you – and then? It was a bit of a lightning strike of a thought, The Education of Dixie Dupree. I have a thing about titles anyway, and certain ones just resonate.

3. What inspired you to begin writing?

Mostly reading, and wanting to be able to do what those writers did – which was to bring out feelings and emotions simply by sitting down with a good book. As well, and maybe like many, it was also the job I was in. It was high stress (ha, not that writing is a walk in the park) but in a lot of ways, at my corporate job, I really felt like that proverbial square peg in a round hole. I enjoyed the work, really liked the people, but when you get to the point of dreading it, that’s when you know you need a change. I worked in IT for thirty five years – and in actuality, the choice to move on was made for me when the company I’d been with for twenty-five of those thirty five years declared Chp 11 bankruptcy. That’s when I knew the opportunity had come to work on something I’d thought of off and on for the better part of all those years.

4. What character did you enjoy writing about the most

Well. Dixie LuAnn Dupree – of course! I loved developing her personality, making her brave, gritty and persistent. Mostly that brave part – she needed that.

5. Who are some of your favorite authors right now?

This question is always one I love, but hard because I could provide quite the list. Dorothy Allison will always be a fave b/c of writing BASTARD OUT OF CAROLINA. Another author who hasn’t written in a while whose writing I love is Kaye Gibbons (ELLEN FOSTER, A VRTUOUS WOMAN, etc) I love Rick Bragg, Wiley Cash, Ron Rash, Larry Brown, Kathryn Stockett, Charles Frazier, Robert Morgan, and Lee Smith to name a few. These are a few of the southern writers, and then there are the non-southern, like Lucy Grealy, (sadly gone) Ann Patchett, Jo Ann Beard, and David Wroblewski – again, only a few. Truth is I have hundreds of books, and in many cases, a single book by an author, and I loved their book – and it’s a favorite which means they are too – so I’d have to list all of them, but I won’t. 
6. What’s your next project?

Recently submitted was THE ROAD TO BITTERSWEET (working title), which is a coming of age story set in the NC Appalachian mountains in 1940, about a young girl and her family who are displaced by a flood, and their struggle for survival. I’ve only recently turned to a brand new project, a story set in 1955 in eastern NC about a young girl and her family who are compelled by a personal tragedy to leave their family land in search of work and a life of their own.

Excerpt from SWEET SOUTHERN HEARTS by Susan Schild




Linny’s heartbeat galloped from under her life jacket as they shot down the rapids of the Ocasoula River. Eyes wide, she watched as their orange raft careened toward a jagged boulder, bumped it hard and spun them toward a patch of choppy water. As the water rushed around the three of them – Linny, her new husband Jack, and their beautiful, Ms. Outward Bound type goddess of a river guide – they dug deep and paddled hard, straining to pull through the eddy. With a whoosh, they were pulled backwards down the roaring, foaming river. Linny shot Jack a panicky glance, but he was grinning exultantly and looking like he was having the time of his life. With the flick of a braid and a pirate’s smile, the guide thrust her paddle into the rapids, turned the raft around and steered them downstream toward calmer water. Too soon to relax, though. Linny saw more rough waters ahead and tensed.

Be a shame to lose a third husband, she thought crazily, and paddled harder.

The nimble-footed photographer from the outdoor center jogged along a path on the riverbank, snapping away as their raft rocketed toward the Turbinator, the Class III rapid that roiled ahead in the home stretch of the river trip. The photographer’s pony tail bounced as he raced ahead of them, taking shots as their raft bucked, dove and finally glided through the rain-swollen Ocasoula.

A few moments later, a shivering Linny stood at the take out, hugging herself and rubbing her arms. She’d been splashed thoroughly, and didn’t want to think about how cold the water would have been if they’d flipped over. Though it was late June, the guide told them that water temperature was only in the mid-fifties. Linny found herself grinning like a fool as she waited for Jack to come back from the truck with his wallet to pay for their pictures. She’d been terrified, but she’d had a blast.

A whitewater rafting trip might not be high on most women’s idea of a must do on a honeymoon, but when Linny saw how Jack’s eyes sparkled as he reminisced about a rafting trip he’d taken when he was in his twenties, she’d said, ‘Let’s do it!’ in an enthusiastic, practically perky voice she hardly recognized. In this new and complicated marriage, being a good sport and flexible as Gumby were going to ease the way. Though rafting wasn’t her thing, Jack had cheerfully gone on the vineyard tour with her yesterday, and on the drive up to the mountains, had tagged along, not looking bored as she poked through vintage aprons and yellow Nancy Drew books at an antique store.

“Here you go, ma’am.” The young man held out his camera and scratched one mesh- sandaled foot with the other as he watched her view the shots he’d taken.

In perfect clarity, the fellow had caught them at the moment she and Jack got sling-shot skyward in their raft after diving down into the roiling water of that last rapid. Linny peered more closely at the picture. The photographer had captured the Carolina blue sky day, the Day-Glo orange of the raft, the lithe young goddess at the helm, and her and Jack – the glowing, sun-drenched newlyweds. Twice coming down that river, they’d almost flipped and been swept into the churning waters. Linny’s teeth had chattered and she’d buzzed with adrenaline and fear, but she looked alive and exhilarated as she beamed at Jack, pure joy in her eyes. With powerful arms, he was digging away with his paddle, helping power them through. But two details caught Linny’s eye and made her eyes well up – Jack’s new gold band glinted in the sunlight, and the look he’d given her just as the photographer took the shot was one of wonder and delight. He looked like he was thinking, ‘How did I get this lucky?’

“You did a great job.” Linny smiled at the young photographer.

“Thanks.” The young man blushed and pulled the brim of his cap. He pointed

to the visitor’s center. “Just give me a minute to load the pictures, and you can pick the ones you want.”

“Thanks. We’ll be over as soon as my husband gets his wallet from the truck,” she said.

He raised a hand and loped off.

Linny loved saying my husband. She’d probably said it too many times over the three days of this honeymoon. My husband and I are from Willow Hill. My husband is a veterinarian. My husband likes unsweet tea. Linny smiled at herself. Yup, she was being obnoxious, but she didn’t care. She was so dang happy that she couldn’t stop. Well, at least for a while.

At age thirty-nine and with her streak of bad luck with husbands, the odds of her and Jack finding each other and falling in love were not great. Linny sent up a quick prayer of pure gratefulness. After her beloved first husband, Andy, died of a brown recluse spider bite while cleaning out a shed for Linny – an item on the too long Honey-Do lists she always kept for him – she’d been lost for so many years, and thought she’d never be happy again. Then, Buck the charmer came along. She should have known a Golden Boy driving a vintage Caddy would not be good husband material, but she married him anyway. He turned out to be trouble, but just as she was considering divorcing him, he up and died on her. When his aneurism blew while he was in bed with a woman named Kandi, he’d left her broke.

Linny had sworn she’d steer clear of men or die trying, and then she met Jack. Technically, she’d accidentally hit him in the head with a bourbon bottle while recycling at the dump. She smiled and shook her head, remembering. Most women would pretty up that how-we-met-story, but Linny told people the unvarnished version. Maybe she just wanted to spread the word that second chances, fresh starts and true love were all still possible – even at their ages. The happily ever after you yearn for just might not look the way you thought it would look.

So, a few days ago in a backyard ceremony, Linny married Jack. A small town vet with a twelve-year-old son and an exquisite ex-wife who was just a little too chummy with him for Linny’s taste, Jack came with complications. But, so had she. But today, she was buoyant and happy.

Jack strode toward her in his Levis and the dark green t-shirt she’d picked out for him – the extra-long one that that fit his tall, rangy frame and was also the exact color of his pine green eyes. Her shivering lessening, she grinned at him.

“Let’s warm you up, shug.” He wrapped her in one of his large and slightly doggy smelling fleece he’d gotten from the truck and began to rub her shoulders.

She leaned into him, enjoying the warmth and solid heft of him, and rested her head against his broad shoulder. “Okay.” Hugging him always made her feel safe, like finally arriving home after a long, arduous trip.

On the way back to the cabin, Jack cast her a sideways glance from the driver’s seat of

the truck. “Did you have a good time?”

“I did,” Linny sighed. “This has been the best honeymoon ever.” As soon as the words left her mouth, she felt her face flame. Why had she said that? She wasn’t ranking her three

honeymoons, holding up cards like the skating judges with numbers one through ten printed on them. Linny shot him a glance to see how hurt he looked, but he just patted her knee and whistled between his teeth as he adjusted the rear view mirror.

Linny shook her head. She’d drive herself crazy yet.

The tires of Jack’s red truck crunched on the gravel as they pulled up beside their hideaway. Linny took Jack’s hand as they walked up the front path, admiring the square-cut logs and clean lines of the two-room rustic log cabin. She’d rented it after obsessively comparing reviews on travel websites. Perched on a high ridge, their cabin was skirted by lush pink rhododendron, and gave long range views of the green and blue patchwork quilt of the valley laid out before it. She’d chosen the perfect, cozy honeymoon spot.

Linny took a quick shower, dried her hair, and slipped on a cool floral sundress. Jack was on the front porch playing his guitar, and she smiled as she heard him strumming.  Padding barefoot to the tiny kitchen, she opened a beer for Jack and poured herself a glass of crisp Pinot Grigio they’d bought at the vineyard yesterday.

Pushing open the screen door with her hip, she handed Jack his beer. He sat in a rocker, cradling the guitar. Self-taught, Jack was still self-conscious about his mistakes, but he was coming along fast. He took a draw of beer, put the bottle on the floor and eased into the opening chords of James Taylor’s Carolina in My Mind. Giving her a sorry-if-I-mess up smile, he began to sing quietly in his warm tenor.

Leaning against the railing, arms crossed, she watched him and felt a wave of contentment. She held out her hand and examined her glittering ring made from the emeralds. Jack and Neal had dug the stones out of a gem mine especially for her. Unbeknownst to her, the father-son adventure weekend they’d taken last summer was for the express purpose of finding stones for her ring. To have Neal involved in the gem hunt was a majorly smart move on Jack’s part, especially since her stepson still watched her warily, worried that she’d try to replace his mother. The stones weren’t particularly high quality, but Linny didn’t care. She loved the ring.

Jack missed a chord, and winced. Noticing her ring studying, a smile played at his lips.

Linny smiled back. Ruthie, the office manager in Jack’s veterinary practice, said that after Vera divorced Jack, some women clients feigned reasons to bring their pets in for appointments just to spend time with him. ‘A woman with a poodle named Precious claimed the dog had ADHD, and another time, a tummy ache-toothache-itching issue,’ she’d said, rolling her eyes, and patting Linny’s arm. ‘So glad he fell for you.’

Thank goodness he was the type of man who was oblivious to his own charms, unlike her late hound-dog of a second husband. But banish the thought. She wasn’t going to allow regrets to tarnish the present. Linny slid into the rocking chair beside his and sipped her wine. After a moment, she began to softly sing along with him. No volume from her. She was prone to sudden scale changes and croaks.

A phone trilled from the kitchen, and Jack gave her a smile as he put down the guitar and went to take the call.

His son, Neal – her new stepson, she reminded herself – called to talk with his dad every evening of the three nights they’d been on their honeymoon. Was this normal for a twelve-year old? A lot of the other stepmothers in the Bodacious Bonus Moms – the online support and advice blog that she’d been reading voraciously for the last few months – complained about their stepchildren who were teens not sharing a word with them or their husbands because they were too busy texting and snapchatting friends.

Linny took a sip of wine and thought about it. How much did Neal’s clinginess have to do with his mother, Vera, and her new husband bickering? Petite Vera with her little girl voice and perfect white blonde loveliness reminded Linny of an airy, sweet pink confection but with her sense of entitlement and demands, she was no cream puff. Her husband, Chaz, was a trial lawyer, and no pushover either. She could see why they butted heads. And with Vera’s moneyed background and silver spoon tastes, her wealthy new husband getting into hot water and losing a lot of his – no, their – money probably didn’t sit well with her. Linny felt a flash of mean-spirited pleasure that perfect Vera was having problems, but chided herself. Tension in that household hurt Neal, and she didn’t want that.

Jack came back to the porch, rubbing a spot between his brows and talking on the phone in that soothing voice he used with scared animals at his veterinary clinic. “So they’re fighting non-stop. Can you just go to your room and turn on the white noise app on your phone?” He paused and scowled. “That loud, huh?”

Jack looked at her. “Can you hold on, buddy?” He put the phone to his chest, his expression serious. “He’s crying and he never cries. I’d send him to the grandparents but the’re all out of town.”

Linny inhaled sharply and racked her brain. “My sister loves Neal to pieces but she is so overwhelmed with her new baby. I could call her though…” she said.

Jack shook his head slowly, his face tight. “We need to go home, Lin. Neal needs us.”

Linny nodded mutely, feeling bereft. There went her week-long honeymoon, right out

the window. She gazed off for one last long look at the rolling land of the valley and slumped in her chair.

Jack spoke to Neal calmly. “We’ll be back this evening, and you’re going to come stay with us for a while until things simmer down.” He paused, listening, and his voice grew firm. “I don’t care if your Mama doesn’t like it. I’ll deal with her. Right now, everybody needs to just settle down.” He ended the call and sent her an apologetic look. “Lin…” he began.

She held up a hand and tried to smile. “I understand, Jack. I really do.” Rising, she trudged in to begin packing, trying to fight the disappointment crashing down on her like a great wave. She and Jack had the rest of their lives to spend together she reasoned, but it didn’t help.

Vera and Chaz were selfish, Linny thought as she thunked the milk, yogurt and luncheon meat into the cooler she was packing with unnecessary vigor.

Gathering their toiletries and clothes to put in the suitcase, her heart squeezed for Neal. The last thing a sensitive boy like Neal needed was a ringside seat to the fight of the century. Going home was the right thing to do.

Jack stepped inside, and gave her a wry grin. “I just texted Vera and told her that the fighting was upsetting Neal, and that we were coming home early to take him for a few days. I didn’t ask her, I told her. That should set off a firestorm.” He grimaced, and held up his phone. “The furious calls should start in four, three, two, one…”

Linny stood with a hand on her hip, sent him a crooked smile and waited. A second later, the phone rang, its tone sounding more shrill and urgent than it usually did.

Jack rolled his eyes, turned it off and slipped it in his pocket.

Despite knowing that going home was the best thing to do, as they wound down the mountain in the truck, Linny fantasized about what it would be like to deal less with Vera – if just for a little while. Maybe she and Chaz would get a sudden burning desire to live off the grid for a year to fix their marriage. They’d move to a cabin with no plumbing in Talkeetna, Alaska. Normal-looking couples did it all the time on all those Alaska shows Jack and Neal watched. Vera and Chaz could re-bond while chopping firewood and fixing their broken snowmobile that they urgently needed to go into town to get much needed supplies because a blizzard was fast approaching. For one long moment, Linny imagined how serene life would be with Vera in Talkeetna. She and Jack would walk together through a field of wildflowers, each holding one of Neal’s hands – something the boy would never allow them to do. Bluebirds and hummingbirds would fly around them.

Flushing guiltily, she glanced at Jack as though he could read her mind, but he was flipping down the sun visor. Linny blew out a sigh. Glumly, she stared out the window. She didn’t really wish for that Alaskan adventure for Vera. Neal really needed his mother and he’d grown to love his stepfather, Chaz, too.

Linny and Jack were quiet for much of the long drive home from the mountains to Willow Hill. Even her Technicolor daydream of Vera battling icy winds as she trudged to the outhouse in fifty-below weather didn’t cheer her up. Linny was just too disappointed to make conversation. Jack looked pensive, and the muscles in his jaw worked.

Her phone rang and she glanced at the screen. It was Ruby, one of her mother Dottie’s two best friends. Had something happened to Mama? Her stomach tightened as she pictured her mother lying on the floor like that woman on the TV commercial who lived alone and did not have the emergency clicker necklace.

But Ruby sounded cheery. “Hi, sweetheart. Hope you’re just walking on air now that you’re freshly married. You tell that handsome hunk of husband of yours that I said hey.” Ruby had been a looker in her heyday and still had a flirty streak.

Linny breathed out. This wasn’t a meet-me-at-the-emergency-room call. She called to Jack, “Ruby says hey, you handsome hunk of husband.”

Jack shook his head, but his mouth crooked up.

“We’re at your Mama’s house and you need to talk to her,” Ruby said. “For weeks now, we girls have been planning to go to the RV show at the Civic Center to make a final decision about what kind of camper or RV we want to rent for our trip. We’re fixing to get in the car to go and now she’s making all kinds of excuses for staying home. This is the last day of the show,” Ruby said, sounding exasperated.

Since coming to terms with learning that her late husband had a long-time mistress, her mother had shaken off her dour, church lady demeanor, and blossomed. She’d given up the yard sale habit that bordered on hoarding, taken a two week Caribbean cruise with her girlfriends, and was now seeing a charming older man named Mack whom she’d met on the ship. Oh, and Dottie – a card carrying Baptist and member of the Sisters of Dorcas ladies prayer circle – had won $250,000.00 on the nickel slots on the ship. So, emboldened with her first big vacation, Mama and her two friends had cooked up this RV adventure they called their ‘trip to see the U.S. of A.’ It was all the three of them had talked about for months.

“Let me talk to her,” a woman’s voice said insistently. Linny heard a fumbling as the phone changed hands. “Dessie here,” said her mother’s other best friend, in her usual brisk tone. “This is the second time she’s backed out of the RV show. Yesterday, she said her feet were hurting her, and today she’s claiming her sugar’s high.”

Linny paused a beat, baffled. “She doesn’t have bad feet or sugar problems.”

“We know,” Dessie said drily.

“Can you put her on the phone?” Linny asked, rubbing the spot on her temple that had begun to throb. What was going on?

More fumbling sounds, and the phone clattered as it dropped to the floor. Dessie picked back up. “Your Mama doesn’t feel like talking right now. She and Curtis are going in to take a little lie down.”

Linny wondered again how her mother could get any sleep at all sharing her bed with Curtis, her one hundred-seventy pound Great Dane. But maybe Dottie really wasn’t well. “Dessie, does she seem sick? Should you run her by the urgent care?”

Dessie said, “We ate lunch at Captain Finn’s Seafood and she had the First Mate’s Special with an extra order of shrimp, and lemon chess pie for dessert.”  She chuckled. “So, her appetite’s fine and her color is good, too. You ask me, I think she’d just got a case of nerves.”

“Nerves about what?” Linny asked, coming up empty when she tried to think of any stressors in her mother’s peaceful life, and all the unexpected happiness that had been showered upon her over the last year.

Dessie’s voice was back at a normal decibel level and extra bright. “Well, we’re real glad you had a good visit to the mountains and we can’t wait to hear all about it.”

Her mother must have come back within earshot. Scanning the highway for signs she saw that they were almost to Greensboro. “Dessie, you and Ruby go on to the RV show yourselves and do reconnaissance for your trip. Jack and I are coming back early from our trip, and we’ll be home in two hours. Tell Mama I’ll stop by and see her this evening.”

“I will, honey, and you two drive safe.” Dessie ended the call.

“What’s wrong with your Mama?” Jack asked, his eyes lit with concern.

“The girls don’t think it’s anything serious, but I’ll run by and check on her. Dessie said it could be nerves.” She turned her hands palms up. “About what, I don’t know, but I’ll find out.”


10 Photos of Beautiful Old Southern Barns

Today, some exciting news. I’m changing the format of my blog to make it an all-pictures-all-the-time post. Since my Willow Hill novels take place in the South and in country settings, today I’m bringing you 10 Photos of Old Southern Barns taken by talented photographers.

I love old barns. Given the success of shows like Barnwood Builders and Barn Hunters, and the numbers of old barn pins on Pinterest, many share the same fondness and nostalgic pull for these pieces of American history. Barns are strong and quiet shelters that conjure thoughts of hard-working farm families, horses safe and dry, stealthy cats on mouser duty, the earthy smells of leather and manure, and dust motes drifting through honeyed rays of sunlight.

If you like the work of the photographers from 10 Photos of Beautiful Old Southern Barns, follow the links that I’ve provided in the photo captions and see more.

Want more photos of old Southern barns? Check out these two slide shows:

In upcoming blogs, I’ll bring you more delightful Southern scenes: photos of welcoming front porches, spring in Carolina, cheerful window boxes and black Lab mix dogs.

Let me know what you think of the new format, and enjoy!




Rt. 97 in NC by Jim Brickett is licensed under CC by 2.0


Black Barn by Gerry Dincher is licensed under CC by 2.0


Barn by Kolin Toney is licensed under CC by 2.0


Tobacco Barn by Mangrove Mike is licensed under CC by 2.0


Williams Farm Barn by Wendy is licensed under CC by 2.0


Red Barn by dhendrix73 is licensed under CC by 2.0


DSCN0056 by Jenn Deane in licensed under CC by 2.0

Clues About Character


I’m busy writing a sequel to Linny’s Sweet Dream List, and, in it, a woman watches the man she’s been dating pull the car over, hop out and move a box turtle from the middle of the road so he won’t get squashed. She’s seen yet another clue about the kind of man he is, and decides she wants to marry him.

Writers work to give you clues about characters’ personality, motivation and…well…their character. Good writers create mental pictures for readers by showing a character by their actions, instead of telling the reader about the characters.

Instead of describing a man as cheap, a writer gives you clues by showing him leave a miserly tip at a restaurant. You get clues about a woman when the writer shows her (able-bodied) park in the HANDICAP space at a store, and jump out of the car to go shop. You learn something important about the stand-up guy type deacon at the church when you see him land in the rough when he’s playing golf, and surreptitiously kick the ball to get a better lie.

Those of you who are addicted to watching Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood on Nexflix House of Cards know how addictive it is to watch for clues about the true character of charming but conniving characters.

House of Cards

In real life and closer to home, we need to pay attention to all the clues about the good out there, Your husband mows the lawn for an elderly neighbor. Your teenaged boy is unfailingly kind to his frail grandparent. Your daughter befriends the new girl at school.

Watch for clues in your friends and neighbors, too. A friend quietly orchestrates the adoption of yet another dog she finds abandoned at a rural dumpster. A good-hearted neighbor adopts the dog. A man two doors down picks up litter when he takes his daily walk. Another neighbor spends an hour with snippers gently freeing a black snake who’s become ensnared in landscape mesh.

Let’s keep looking for the good.

Happy fall!


Linny’s Sweet Dream List will be released in January and is available for pre-sale at Amazon. You can sign up for my quarterly newsletter to come to your e-mailbox, and get inside tips, book excerpts, and sign up for giveaways.

The Five Secrets of a Dollar Table Gardener

Tips and Fun from a Strictly Amateur Gardener

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Each spring and summer, I cruise by the garden center several times a week to check out the banged-up plants on the Dollar Table. This year, eighteen of the twenty plants that I’ve babied back from their near death experiences are thriving, and adding real zing to the flower beds.

Here are my strategies for Dollar Table gardening:

1. Look for plants with potential. Spindly-armed, dried-out and twiggy – these are not good-looking plants. These are the ones that got caught in a too sunny position on the display table or missed being watered. Look for signs of life, though – a bit of green here, a crumpled bloom there. Once you get them home, you can usually revive them. Cut them back, soak them with water and Epsom salts or Miracle-Gro, and plant them in the cool of the morning.

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2. Lean towards perennials. These days, I’m looking for ways to cut back on the spring gardening chores. I’ll grudgingly prune the Nellie Stevens and spread mulch, but investing sweat equity in annuals that will revive, bloom briefly and then swan off… No thanks. I’m looking for stick-to-it-tiveness. The steady eddie perennials are the faithful friend plants who return to delight you, year after year

3. Focus on the hardy plants. Have you chosen a robust – looking bloomer and had it swoon and droop at the first heat wave of late spring? The easily bedraggled plants are on the Dollar Table, too. Know their names and steer clear, going instead for the hardy stock. Look for Hostas, Day Lilies, the delicate looking but bulletproof Pink Muhly grass, and the reliable guy with the homely name – the Joe Pye Weed.

4. Select ones that thrive in your soil and climate.  Southern gardens can turn into broiling ovens during the dog days of summer. No need to waste money on plants that would rather live elsewhere. Choose beautiful workhorses like Speedwell, Coreopsis, Verbena, and Black Eyed Susan’s. Some plants you love just won’t work in your soil. Sadly, Hydrangeas and Lavender aren’t happy in our yard, even with transplanting and the ‘Be well and prosper’ pep talk. So I just sigh and leave them on the Dollar Table.

5. Pick some plants just for fun. Usually, I pick some plants – annuals and perennials –  just because I like their names. Summer Daze Prunella made me think of Cinderella’s sister. Starsisters Dahlia and Superbells Lemon Slice Pinwheels were just too whimsically named for me to walk on by. The Gayfeather plants turned out to be like the good dancers with the megawatt smiles. They didn’t stick around long, but they sure brought flair and style while they were here!

Here is pic of an originally sorry looking Coreopsis just a month after being given a second chance.20150709_082437[1]

Hope you’re having a happy summer!

Susan Schild’s Southern novel, Linny’s Sweet Dream List, will be released January 5, 2016 and is available for pre-order on Amazon.

Subscribe to Susan’s newsletter or follow her on FacebookInstagram or Twitter.

reblog of post, Mississippi, Part II, by my writer friend Donna Everhart

Enjoyed this post by Donna Everhart about Southern cooking.


Have we talked about all the food and the eating while I was in Mississippi?

There is no lack of either when visiting the folks.  Matter of fact, I have to be really careful about portions, etc., because my mother-in-law cooks up these “to die for” desserts that make you want to go back again and again.  So, when we got there, what had she fixed?  Lemon pound cake, chocolate pie, and, as if that wasn’t enough, she had blackberries to make a blackberry pie – a dessert from my childhood, loaded with memories of my brother and I picking them by the bucket full from a field beside our backyard.  She made that the next day.  Then she baked “Cowboy Cookies,” which is just a fancy name for these super duper chocolate chip cookies – these GIGANTIC, almost saucer sized versions that have oh, so much more than chocolate…

View original post 725 more words

Summer Reading

A Summer Treasure Trove of Books

If you’ve ever been beach combing early in the morning after a storm, you know the treasure trove you can discover washed up – a pearly pink shell, a delicate starfish or a piece of soft-edged aquamarine beach glass. You marvel at your lucky find, take another few steps, and find yet another perfect shell.

A treaure trove of lovely new books have been released this year for your summer reading. Along with new reads, let’s not forget the pleasure of re-reading a favorite, picking up that classic you always meant to read, or of reading out of your usual genre. Read a slightly trashy memoir or pick up a book on a whim. Go ahead! It’s summer.

Summer reading can help us travel to exotic locales on a staycation budget, put down the rucksack of day-to-day worries so many of us carry around, and maybe even bring back some of that carefree, summer vacation feeling you got when you were a kid and the last bell of the school year rang.

If you haven’t already made your summer reading picks, you might add these books to the straw tote you carry to the beach/pool/Adirondack chair-in-your-own-backyard. Remember your sunscreen, good sunglasses, an odd-looking hat, and a cold beverage – like a glass of freshly brewed iced tea with fresh mint, or an orange-ginger margarita to protect you from scurvy.

On my list:

All the Single Ladies by Dorothea Benton FrankThe Rumor by Elin HildebrandThe Color of Light by Emilie Richards, andThe Idea of Love by Patti Callahan Henry. In the car, the miles fly by when listening to Stuart Woods Hot Pursuit, a suspenseful cat and mouse chase that takes place via private jet. By Disc 3, you’ll be pretty sure you can pilot a Citation, and that you need one.

What friends and colleagues are reading:

Southern author Scarlett Dunn is reading An Autobiography of Theodore RooseveltLegends and Lies by Bill O’Reilly, Radiant Angel by Nelson DeMille and Pioneer Girl by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Author Kristi Rose is reading women’s fiction – mainly Wendy Wax – and doing beta reads for friends in contemporary romance. (Beta readers gives a writer feedback on a completed manuscript before it is submitted)

Author Peggy Payne is reading A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore, The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins and Bossypants by Tina Fey.

Writer friend Donna Everhart is reading Coming Of Age In Mississippi, by Anne Moody and All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.

What the industry pros suggest:

To round out the list of possibilities, the editors at Garden and Gun recently tweeted their suggestions for summer reading, Publishers Weekly offers their tips for best summer reads and Deep South Magazine adds their picks.

So, what are you reading this summer? Leave me a comment below.

Happy reading!


Susan Schild‘s Southern novel Linny’s Sweet Dream List will be released by Kensington Publishers in January of 2016. This contemporary story features small town life, slightly crazy families, women friends you can’t live without, irksome men, and laundry stealing dogs.

CC License Photo Attribute: Josué Goge, Lectura Playa

CC License Photo Attribute: Josué Goge, Lectura Playa,

Leave a comment below and let me know what you’re reading this summer!

Happy Father’s Day to the Stepfathers, Too!

Recently, I searched about one hundred eighty cards in two giant retail stores looking for the Happy Father’s Day, Stepfather! cards, and found only two. In May, I found the same slim pickings where the Happy Mother’s Day, Stepmother! cards should have been. Empty as a ghost town. Tumbleweeds rolled by.

With recent Pew Center research suggesting that four out of ten marriages these days are remarriages for one or both of the spouses and that many of the newly married couples are forming step-families, these retailers are missing a huge market segment.

At the big stores, we need two sets of cards.

1. One could be from the wives, and would say things like:

Thank you for:

  • stepping up to this role and putting your shoulder into it, even though it’s not easy
  • insisting my daughter learn how to change a tire
  • reminding me to stay calm and cordial with my ex
  • helping me hold the line when the boys are late for curfew

2.The other cards could be from the children. At their mother’s urging and probably with their mother’s money, the kids would buy the cards and hand them to their stepfather with a mumbled, “Thanks.”  But, there would be digital subtitles to the cards like in the foreign films that would interpret what the kids really meant, such as:

Thanks for:

  • treating Mom and us so well
  • not trying to replace my real Dad
  • not letting me push you away when it probably wasn’t you I was mad at
  • taking me to the Father-Daughter Valentines Dance

With or without the cards, this year let’s make a bigger deal out of the stepfathers.

Bake him a red velvet cake or a bacon-wrapped meatloaf. Fry him up some chicken like his Mama used to make. String a “Thank you for All You Do” banner across the kitchen.

Remember to say Happy Father’s Day to friends and colleagues who are stepfathers. Send them this link. Biological Dads, you might thank your kids’ stepfather. After all, raising good kids these days takes the efforts of every willing and able step, ex, and biological parent.

Next Mother’s Day, we’ll go bigger for the stepmothers, too. Maybe we can get the Blue Angels to fly over our houses…

Drop me a line, below, and brag on your stepfather. Tell us what you do celebrate him on Father’s Day. I’ll share your stories, and maybe we’ll do an even better job of thanking him now and in the future.

Happy Father’s Day, Stepfathers!


CC License Photo Attribute: Sudanshu Goyal

CC License Photo Attribute: Sudanshu Goyal, A kid’s Sunday morning at the beach!