A Ghost at Grandma’s House

ImageIt feels good to be working on my newest book again, but it needs an additional 2,400 words. I had to re-read it to refresh myself on the details and search for where a scene or two could be added.

Once again, I found myself smiling. I obviously write to entertain myself, but I hope my books will entertain others as well. Sometimes, I think to myself, “Did I really write this? Where did this come from?”

But I know where a lot of it comes from. It’s the old “write what you know” mantra, and it sure is helpful to have your own life experiences to scatter throughout your writing.

My first book has so many of my own experiences, I should have used this for a disclaimer: “Oh, who am I kidding? A ton of it really happened, and the names have been changed to protect the innocent.” At one point in the story, Susan is deep-sea fishing on a boat which has a broken radio and one of the engines is out. This happened to me in real life. The conversation in the book is almost identical to the one I had when chatting with the first mate. I don’t want to give away what happens next, but some of it involves a big fish, and the music from Jaws rolls around in Susan’s head – as it did for me in real life.

Part of this fourth book takes place in New Orleans, and once again I wondered how much of my own life I could put into the book. I’ve been to New Orleans, but my experience there was pretty tame.

I started chapter five on a day when I was in a funk. It translated to my writing when Susan was suddenly childish and whining from the back seat of the car, “Are we almost there?” I knew I was writing something which wasn’t in her character, but I kept writing anyway. She was on her way with two of her friends to visit one of the friend’s elderly relatives. They were headed to a plantation home, and had a shock when they pulled up in front of a run-down, weathered house:


Our mouths hung open in astonishment.  Nate pulled up in front of the house and turned off the engine.  It was so quiet in the car, you could have heard a snail crawl.

I threw myself back against the seat as uncontrollable laughter once again gushed forth.

“Shhh! Shhh!” Darby was shushing me with his finger to his lips. “Susan! They’re going to hear you!”

His words brought another peal of laughter, and I flopped over onto the seat, putting my hand over my mouth in an effort to quell the laughter.


That’s not edited, and I’m uncertain as to the changes to be made, but you get the drift. The fun thing about all of this was I had no intention of sending these three off to visit relatives instead of going directly to their hotel. And I wrote the house to be exactly as my grandparent’s house was in real life.

I have such wonderful childhood memories of being there. You had to drive at least a mile-long lane to reach the house. There were woods, fields, and a pond. The upstairs of the house scared the snot out of me, and Grandma always said of the door which was always closed, “Don’t ever open that door.” The bathroom was huge, but only had a few fixtures – (from the book) “The rest of the room was wide open, and you could easily hold a party here with twenty of your closest friends.”

I tossed in a ghost, who is in my postscript as being real, and the entire chapter was a mess of silly nonsense. I fully intended to throw the chapter out of the book – until I read it again a few days later, and it tickled my funny bone so much, I had to keep every bit of it.

I suppose I wanted to write about this today because the “refresher reading” reminded me again of several things:

~ Writing about what you know really does work.

~ Sometimes writing something you know isn’t right for your book just might surprise you.

~ Putting things from your own life into your writing can bring unexpected joy.

I can’t put into words the emotions I feel when I read about our dog, Joe (especially when he’s so great in the book!), and having Susan and her friends visit my grandparent’s home was really special.

Even though I’ve had some challenging and miserable ups and downs with formatting and editing, this entire writing experience has been amazing and, dare I say, joyful.

If you are so inclined, I’d love to know how much of your life experiences you put into your writing and/or any comments relating to unexpected joy from your writing.

Grandma Would Have Been a Blogger

My grandmother was always smiling, and she was fun. My mother said that she and Grandma acted silly quite often, and her older sister thought they should act more mature. I remember she laughed a lot. She was born in 1897, and lived to be 88 years old. After her death, pages of some of her childhood memories were found. Some of them were typed; some were handwritten. She seemed to write something down when she remembered it. I thought I’d share some of her memories today.

~ I can recall so clearly it seems like only yesterday that I was a little girl wearing braids, pinafores, and in my bare feet with mud slushing up through my toes, making “mud pies.”

~ We lived up on a hill and when I’d bring the cows to the bottom of the hill, I’d grab on to one of the cow’s tails and away we would go … her pulling me up the hill. Oh, I had fun, but in a funny sort of way.

~ We had a big grape arbor just back of our house; it was like a fairy land. You could hardly see out, the vines were so thick. We would go in the house and beg for biscuits. Then we would split them open and put currants from the bushes on them and call them pies.

~ I don’t ever recall my father whipping me, but my mother made up for it, God rest her soul.

~ We had a big log barn … one of my sisters, older than I, got her finger cut off on one of those old logs when she was five years of age. My brother started to cut with the ax, as boys will do. She laid her hand on the log as he brought the ax down, so off went her finger. He went and hid. When they found him, he said, “I wouldn’t have done it for a ‘minion’ dollars.”

~ My brothers tormented me a lot, since I was the baby of the family. I took it very serious, and I didn’t think it was a bit nice.

~ We lived in the south, and those days we ate only corn bread and biscuits, and sometimes homemade bread. It was a task to get the corn to the grist mill to get it ground for corn meal. My brother and I would each have to tote a sack of corn slung over our shoulders. We had to climb a hill and go down the other side to get to the mill. But I liked the job mostly.

~ I liked coffee so well and drank it when I was a child at home. Now it seems odd that my mother let me drink it. My brother used to tell me that I drank so much coffee one could see the grounds in my forehead. Oh! That would make me furious!

~ My mother had twelve children. Three died in infancy. One died when she was five years old.

~ My great uncle used to come and spend the night with us. The adults would sit and tell ghost stories until bedtime. Then I’d be afraid to go upstairs to bed. My uncle told about someone having dogs that “treed” something in a brush pile and this man jumped up and down on the brush to chase it out. Supposedly a small coffin ran out of the brush pile and disappeared into the night. The dogs gave chase, but to no avail. I could never forget that ghost tale.

~ They used to carry mail by horseback, only ours (postman) rode a mule. He had to be different! I used to feel sorry for him when I’d see him at the post office, because he was so homely. In my childish mind, I thought he looked just like a small dried and wrinkled apple. He was little and short, and he had no teeth.

~ Our family was fairly lucky, just a few bad things happened. My other sister fell and broke her leg, my youngest brother shot his toe off while hunting with a shot gun, my other brother broke his arm and cut his leg real bad once while cutting timber. I had Typhoid fever. Mother had her hands full looking after us.

~ We kids very seldom got new shoes and when we did, we were crazy with joy. And if they squeaked when we walked that pleased us very much, because people would know they were new.

~ My mother fed all the tramps that came along if she had a thing to give them. She never let them leave hungry, and plenty of them came to our door.

~ When we would get company, my father would make me come and play the organ and sing, “Gentle Annie.” I would be as proud as punch. I can’t recall the words now. Father thought I was good and that made me think that I could perform real well, too.

~ Mother did her washings on a scrub board. We had no water in the house. No electric. She made her own soap, and we always butchered beef and hogs, dried lots of apples and green beans, peaches, etc.

~ My mother did all the sewing for us. I can remember she made outing flannel union suits for my younger brother, and they were pink. She knitted our stockings and socks for us. Oh, how they would itch! When I got old enough to wear black cotton stockings, I was tickled to death and so proud of them.

~ My grandfather would come to visit us (I adored him). He had a pear tree in his back yard, and we didn’t have any. He would bring us kids each a pear. Oh, how pleased we would be. He had a well, which had a bucket to let down with a rope to get the water. I sure liked to do that job.

~ My mother always used home remedies as much as possible. When the terrible flu epidemic came in 1918, mother treated everyone with peach tree bark and leaves made into a tea. We had no casualties in our family, but others were dying like flies. Four and five died in one family in different places.

~ My mother wore big long aprons tied around the waist. She carried things in her apron. In the spring, she would go to the woods and fields and gather wild greens and bring in her apron as full as it could be. How good those greens tasted to us!

~ All of us had a good sense of humor. We would laugh at everything and anything that was funny at all. I still am that way. They say laughter is one good medicine.

~ I wonder if people are as happy as we were then nowadays. They seem to be searching for something and can’t find it. I wouldn’t trade my childhood to anyone for anything. Even as poor as we were.

~ My father and mother died just two weeks apart. As I see it, this world is full of sadness and sorrow, yet there is plenty to enjoy. Like the blessed sunshine, beautiful flowers, nice trees, lovely birds to sing, little babies to play with and enjoy, beautiful scenery everywhere you look … that God put here for us to enjoy. My life has not been what you would call the happiest, but I’m looking forward to a happier life beyond these earthly scenes. My childhood memories pass through my mind most every day. They are gone beyond recall, but not forgotten.