Caleb’s Story

Written and illustrated by my twelve-year-old grandson with a little help from me. This is a learning experience for both of us. He’s learning what it takes to write a book, and I’m learning how to point him in the right direction without stifling his imagination. We plan to post it in episodes as the story progresses. Let us know what you think. We’d love to hear from you.

Chapter 1 – The Journey Begins

     Calebth smothered a yawn as he lugged the wooden bucket full of scraps left over from the midday meal out to the pen full of pigs behind the tavern. Since his Granny took over Meats and Grains customers had been coming from far and wide. Word had spread that the new owner of the tavern in Raintown could cook up a mighty tasty meal.  

     He couldn’t complain. Business had been brisk. There hadn’t been a dull moment in the day. If he wasn’t clearing the tables or washing dishes or scrubbing pots and pans, he was hauling bath water emptying slop jars or changing sheets in the rooms to rent upstairs.

     The busier it was, the more coins filled the bag Granny behind the loose bricks of the hearth in the kitchen. Granny counted them by candlelight late at night after locking up. The less they had to pinch pennies. Or worry about paying the bills

     Granny could afford to pay for other things they needed. Like the clothes and shoes he had the pesky habit of outgrowing. The visit to the dentist when he developed a persistent toothache. Or the herbs from the apothecary to ease her painful joints. She even gave him spending money on fun things like an occasional visit to the fair for spun sugar candy or a front seat ticket to see the juggling act.

     Still, he sighed. Not that he didn’t appreciate their good fortune. He remembered how it was when they had to scrape by. But lately, life had been less and less fun and more and more work.

     He’d complain to Granny, only it wouldn’t do any good. She worked harder than he did. Got up earlier and went to bed later. But he didn’t understand. What good did it do to be making so much money if they couldn’t enjoy any of it? Even just a little.

     Lately, the boy had spent a lot of time daydreaming. While he slaved away, working from sun up to sun down, doing chores that never seemed to end, he had an inspiration.

     If things kept going like they were, he’d be making more than just spending money. He’d started his own stash. So far he didn’t have enough coins to rub together, but he had plans When he’d saved enough, he’d leave the tavern behind and do what he’d always wanted to do. Go on an adventure.  

      By the time he finished feeding the animals and got back inside, the tavern was deserted. Lunch hour and come and gone, leaving a short lull before customers started trickling back in for supper. He’d done everything Granny asked. For the moment his time was his own.

      Calebth hurried over to the nook beside the hearth, in the hopes of catching a little shuteye. It was warm and cozy. The one place Granny couldn’t see when she poked her head into the room looking for him so she could give him another task.

      He crossed his arms, leaned back into the corner and closed his eyes, letting visions of his future filled his head. He wanted to be a ranger just like his grandfather had been. He even had his sword. He kept it under his mattress, wrapped in a soft cloth. It was a beautiful thing. Never mind that he had no idea how to use it. He had that all worked out.

     Why not learn from the best? He’d heard stories all his life about Owen, a ranger with the reputation of being the best fighter ever. A brilliant swordsman. Afraid of nothing.

     If there was only some way to track the ranger down and pledge himself to him. He could teach him how to use the sword. Never mind that he had no idea how to find Owen much less convince the man that his services as a squire would be invaluable. He’d cross that bridge when he came to it.

     Just as Calebth dropped off to sleep a loud noise made him jump. His eyes snapped open. Three figures stood in the open doorway silhouetted in the winter sunlight.

Dinner And A Movie Monday – Open Range

It’s no secret I’m a Kevin Costner fan. Not for his looks (even though he has dreamy eyes) or his voice (a raspy midwestern twang) or any physical trait. I like the way he brings his characters to the screen. He usually plays a loner, someone who lives life his own way, hesitant to speak his mind yet firm in his beliefs.

Open Range is a fine example of this. He wrote, co-produced and starred in the 2003 film. It’s the story of open range cattlemen driving their herd cross country. Along the way, they encounter a vicious land baron who hates open rangers. He kills one of their hands and leaves the other for dead. The trail boss, Robert Duvall, pursues justice. But Costner’s character, Charley Waite is trying to overcome his violent past and wants no part of the fight.

One of my favorite parts of the movie is one of the scenes between Charley and the doctor’s sister (Annette Bening). They recognize the good in each other and during the course of the movie, they fall in love. But he tells her he isn’t good enough because of the things he’s done. That’s when she says “People get funny ideas, about what they are or did. They can’t see what they can be.”

I wish I had a dollar for every time I cooked a pot of beans and baked a skillet or cornbread. Serve them with jalapeno pepper or sliced onion and drown the cornbread in butter. Comfort food.

Open Range is a classic western with beautiful scenery and a touching love story.

Beans and Cornbread

  2. 4 cups Dry Pinto Beans.
  3. 4 slices Thick Bacon (can Also Use Salt Pork, Or Ham Hock, Or Diced Ham)
  4. 1 teaspoon Salt.
  5. 2 teaspoons Ground Black Pepper.
  7. 1/4 cup Plus 2 Tablespoons Shortening.
  8. 1 cup Yellow Corn Meal.

L. A. Kelley

L. A. Kelley

Welcome! Come on in. Make yourselves at home. Today, I’m visiting with fellow author, L.A. Kelley. I recently finished reading her young adult book, The Rules for Lying and loved it. She sounded like a lot of fun, so I got in touch with her and was delighted when she agreed to let me feature her on my blog.

Some interesting things she has to say about herself: Although born in the North (don’t hold it against me), I went to college in New Orleans and developed a love of beignets, po’boys, and fais do-do. I’ve lived in the South ever since. I’ve been writing since old enough to gnaw on a #2 pencil, but only jumped into publishing a few years ago. I have eight self-published novels and five with an indy press. All have adventure, humor, and a little romance because life is dull without them. No graphic sex or gore so your mama would approve, but a touch of cheeky sass so maybe she wouldn’t. In my spare time, I call in fifolet sightings to the Louisiana Department of Fish and Wildlife. They are heartily sick of hearing from me.

Describe what you consider your ideal writing conditions.

I write every day, but not at a desk. I’ve never found one comfortable. Instead, I prefer to hunker down in an overstuffed armchair. This is my chair. Mine only. Nobody sits there. Get your butt off the cushion or I’ll smack you.

Are you a plotter, a pantser or some combination of both?

I wish I were a plotter, but I’m a pantser. Plotter sounds much more intelligent. I envision a writer (dressed in tweeds with a spaniel at her feet), examining a neat, organized database of characters and interconnecting plot points. She sips a sherry and pats the dog on the head. “What say, Winston, shall we give this a go?” A week later she finishes a full-length novel and takes Winston for a hike through the heather. Then there’s me. I only have a book title and that spurs an idea and then another and another and I’m off and running. Many of the characters even take off on their own tangent, refusing to do what I want. I try to slap them back into a paragraph and behave, but they spit in my eye and escape. All I can do is follow.

I completely understand. And if I don’t listen to my characters, they’ve been known to stage sit-ins.

What is the thing you like best about being a published author?

I can work in my schlubby clothes. If anyone complains, I say, “These are my lucky writing clothes. Now, scram.”

I spend some days in pajamas…why take the time to dress when you’re on a roll?

What is the one thing you like the least about being a published author?

People expect I to be better at grammar than I is. That’s why me has a editor.

I hate it when people assume I’m raking in royalties.

What is the best compliment you ever received as a writer?

One reader complained one of my books made her late for a luncheon (and she was never late for meals.) She had to finish it before she left the house. That’s what every writer wants to hear.

What is something we’ll never catch you doing?

The splits.

And her Bonus Questions (which I love): What inspired you to set this book in an alternate 1930s New Orleans?

It’s a blast to weave fact and fiction. The Depression was a tough time in American history with drama of its own. Social safety nets didn’t exist. People had to rely on each other, and it was easy for unscrupulous individuals to take advantage of the weak and powerless. It was an era of rapid political change, too. The problems of the rest of the world seemed so far removed from America, but evil spread quickly with a rising Nazi threat. New Orleans is a great place in any decade and throwing magic in the mix with history heightens the fun.

Tell us more about Peter Whistler. What makes him tick?

He’s a tough kid who made it his business not to get involved with others. He has one goal in life—leave New Jersey, use his uncanny ability to lie his way to fame and fortune, and never be responsible for anyone. He has a hidden soft side, though, courtesy of the only person who ever cared for him, Elsie Hart, the owner of Little Angels. When a conjuror threatens Elsie and a little blind girl, he’s spurred to action. My, my, will Peter discover he needs people to care for after all? Stay tuned.

“Like all well-bred southern girls, Amelie Marchand is trained in deadly martial arts.” Why did you create her this way?

The great part of writing an alternate history is you get to change facts from true to “Gee, I wish that was true.” Unlike the real 1930s, my New Orleans’ upper crust expects young ladies to follow rules of correct social deportment along with protecting themselves and their families from danger. This is also an equal opportunity era when it comes to magic. Women can be shamans (the good guys) and conjurors (very, very bad guys).

Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?

I can tell the difference between caffeinated and decaffeinated tea just by peering into a cup and my atonal singing is known to bring grown men to their knees. I’m often slipped a few bucks at parties not to sing Happy Birthday. I don’t mind. Cash is always welcome.

This book is part of a series. Can it be read as a standalone? How does the next book in the series tie in with this one?

This can easily be read as a standalone. I hate cliffhangers, but hope I’ve piqued enough interest for a reader to go on to Book 2, The Book of the Practically Undead. Peter’s adventures continue in New Orleans. He learns more about shaman life and runs into trouble with a demonic book, not to mention the growing rise of Nazism in Europe causes unpleasant ripples in the Big Easy.

The Rules for Lying is on sale at Amazon for 99 cents until February 14.

Buy Link

Excerpt: The Grimaldis knew the truth about Pike. He drove their car, so they must be involved in his scheme. A little snooping to discover the truth, and then Mrs. Hart could get on the horn to the Feds. I imagined a squad of G-men storming Grimaldi’s Market and then Nico and Carlotta’s faces peering morosely out the back of a paddy wagon as it drove through town. Maybe I could even convince the coppers to stop for Chauncey.

The unlit streets were deserted as I made my way to the Grimaldi’s house. The black roadster was parked outside the garage. A light shone in a downstairs window, so I snuck across the lawn and peeked in.

Pike sat at the kitchen table; fingers clasped placidly in front, not a glowing eyeball in sight. I gave myself a mental kick in the pants for being such a dope.

The Grimaldis huddled over a piece of paper. Mr. Grimaldi looked up and cleared his throat. “Everything is in order. The carriage house suited you?”

Pike slid an envelope stuffed with cash across the tabletop. “Yes. It was private and exactly as described. We have a deal.”

Mrs. Grimaldi snatched at the bills with undisguised greed. “We wouldn’t do this, you understand, but the Feds raided all the local speakeasies. Our best clients shut down. Times are tough.”

Mr. Grimaldi scrawled a signature on the paper and handed the pen to his wife. She added hers, and then Pike tucked the paper in his pocket. “You needn’t be concerned about the girl.”

My ears pricked up. Girl? What girl? If Pike meant Mrs. Hart, the doctor needed to get his own eyes checked.

Mr. Grimaldi shifted in his seat, a flush tinting his fat cheeks. “People might get the wrong impression if the arrangement is discovered. You understand—they don’t realize our actions are for her own good.”

I sucked in my breath. Mr. Grimaldi lied big time.

“Don’t worry. No one will ever find out.” Pike’s voice was as cold as midwinter ice.

A teensy doubt jabbed at my mind that all this had to do with gangsters, but I brushed it roughly away. Pike and the Grimaldis rose from the table. I darted from the window and ducked behind a tree right before the kitchen door opened.

Mrs. Grimaldi beamed at Pike. “If you need anything else, don’t hesitate to stop by.”

The dark man set the fedora on his head and snapped the brim over his eyes. “I’m quite satisfied. You won’t see me again.”


For some reason, the truth shook me more than a lie. Mr. Grimaldi closed the door, but Pike remained on the stoop. The kitchen went dark and then a light switched on in an upstairs bedroom window.

I peered from behind the tree. Why did Pike wait? To rob the joint after they fell asleep? If so, I had no plan to stop him. I had half a mind to help.

The bedroom light flicked off and the yard went pitch black. One second…two seconds…three seconds…

A yellow beam danced across the door, and my throat nearly closed in terror. That was no flashlight.

The ray from Pike’s eyes narrowed and focused pencil-thin. The smell of burning wood drifted across the lawn as he etched a smoldering hieroglyphic of a flame in the middle of the door. The outline of glowing embers flared and then snuffed out. Pike stepped back from the stoop. He paused for a moment as if to admire his handiwork and then sprinted down the alley.

Heart thumping, I darted to the door. My fingers stroked the spot where I last saw the little flame. The wood was still warm.

I snatched back my hand. The wood now blazed hot, more scorching by the second. The glowing outline flared to life again. A spark shot out, soared overhead, and landed near the chimney. Patches of shingles exploded in flames.

A long thin spark slithered from the symbol, a fiery snake writhing toward the keyhole. Without thinking, I reached to sweep it away only to jerk my fingers from the scalding heat. The spark slid into the opening. With a roar, a curtain of fire engulfed the downstairs windows.

In a panic, I banged on the door. “Wake up! The house is on fire!”

A thick choking cloud of smoke billowed under the doorframe, and I staggered back in a coughing fit. In a blink, the first floor was an inferno. How did the fire spread so fast? Mrs. Grimaldi’s terrified screams cut through the crackling fusillade of flames.

Blistering heat drove me across the yard. The panic-stricken face of Nico Grimaldi appeared at the bedroom window struggling to open the sash.


The wooden supports inside the house splintered and gave way. Mr. Grimaldi vanished in a thunderous crash as the second floor collapsed on the first. His wife’s screams cut off.

Multiple sirens wailed in the distance. I stumbled down the alley as hot cinders rained from above. Embers lit on my clothing, and I slapped them away. The Grimaldi house was now a nightmare of hellfire. I flinched as all the outside walls caved in with a deafening roar.

The first of the fire trucks screeched around the corner. Cops would surely follow asking questions I couldn’t answer. As I ran across the street, the glare of a headlight caught me for an instant.

Tires squealed, and a man yelled, “You there, stop!”

This has been so much fun. Thanks for coming. Let’s do it again sometime.

Check out my review. The Rules for Lying. It’s a great book.



Amazon Author Page


Ready, set, GO!

Like every year since I can remember, I’ve spent my January putting away decorations, doing inventory, cleaning and purging. My thoughts as well as my space. Getting back into a routine and catching up with things I’ve let fallen behind with other the holidays. Like my blog. I did some serious reworking on it and it’s almost where I want it to be.

Like all writers (at least all the ones I know) I have a “thing” for cute little notebooks. One is a weekly/monthly planner I bought at the Dollar Store. I don’t know how I survived without it. It’s just the right size to carry in my purse. I use it to keep track of my appointments, bills, blog appearances, you name it. It keeps me from making promises I cannot keep. The other is a spiral notebook for lists (grocery, supplies, birthdays, Christmas) phone numbers and directions. Reminders to myself. Potential character names. Random thoughts I don’t want to forget. Websites I need to check. I do my best not to leave the house without either of these. (and a pen or pencil)

Not that I’m organized or anything. It’s just that if I don’t write it down, I’ll forget it!!!