Saturday, August 13, 2011

Stories From Flowers On The Fence Country: Rattlesnake Saturday Afternoon

I told y’all that special people wouldn’t be the only thing my fence collected, remember? Places have a magic all their own. My little hometown is Small Town America epitomized. More properly, it’s best described in the words of a Tim McGraw song as a “stop sign on a map dot.” Jeffersonville, Twiggs County, Georgia, doesn’t even have a traffic light. I kid you not. We have two four way stops. The town, the whole county, is a place country music comes from.

Everybody knows everybody else. They know your mother’s maiden name. They know you’re from one particular family or the other by the shape of your nose. They don’t even have to know your family name to know that, though of course they do. They know who makes the best pound cakes, who makes the best potato salad, who grows the biggest tomatoes, the greenest ferns. Since we’ve been here, I’ve come to believe that country music has grown in popularity because folks who aren’t country folks don’t really believe such places exist but they wish they did. And folks who are country folks know such places exist.

We came to Jeffersonville in the early 90’s from a pretty big middle Georgia city, lured by that very smallness. And we built a house in the middle of fifty acres that we purchased for a song, a feat that could not be replicated today even with the current economic conditions. It might not be the only place in the world where it’s possible to own fifty acres of land within the city limits but off-hand, I don’t know of any others.

My driveway’s about three-quarters of a mile long, lined with the beauty of the Southern woods. In the spring, wisteria blossoms tumble from the trees and hang in glorious veils of purple. Warning! If you’re coming down my driveway, keep watch for crossing rabbits and squirrels, for slow-moving turtles, for coveys of turkey, for deer. Frequently groups of two or three will leap one right after the other directly in front of the car. At dark fall, whippoorwills and hoot owls call back and forth in conversations you swear you could understand if you could just listen deep enough. At dusk, the deer often feed in the edges of the yard proper, where the yard begins to slide into the woods. In the winter, it’s not uncommon for as many as ten or twelve of them to graze at night in the part of our yard we call “the bottom.”

Such beauty, however, does not come without a price. Even the Garden of Eden had snakes. And let me tell you – the South has snakes. We have plenty of the non-poisonous varieties, of course. The problem is, we have damn near every variety of poisonous snake that exists. Okay, that’s an exaggeration. We don’t have Egyptian asps. What we do have, in plenty, are moccasins and rattlesnakes.

And so it came to pass one Saturday afternoon two summers past, I was busily engaged in house-cleaning. My house is a full house. My kids are grown, but both my sons, Patrick and Lee, are still single and still live at home. My daughter Rebecca and her husband Jason have a lovely house not three miles away from us. They have wonderful jobs but their hours? Not so wonderful sometimes. Consequently, my grandson Austin considers both their house and our house equally home and is perfectly content in either and with either set of grown-ups he might have custody of. We have three dogs, all wonderful flowers acquired from here and there, including the side of the road and parking lots – Max, mid-sized mix; Maya, huge-sized, mostly Dobie; and Murphy, small-sized mix who sounds like he’s possessed by a demon when he gears up and makes you wonder if it’s time to call the Exorcist.

On this Saturday afternoon, my husband Randy, oldest son Patrick, and Austin (who had spent Friday night with us) departed for the big-little city of Dublin about twenty miles south of us for haircuts and general errand running. Maya indicated she would not be ungrateful were she allowed outside for a bit. Neither of the other dogs seemed interested in a yard break. I let Maya out and went back in a few minutes to let her in, summer being in full swing and it being viciously hot.

As I opened the door, I heard Maya growl. Then she charged forward, heading for the trees on the far side of my bedroom. There’s a particular growl that raises the hackles on the back of the human neck. This was such a growl. I rushed down the steps and saw – two monster rattlesnakes mating. They were entwined, weaving like Cobras rising from baskets to the snake charmer’s flute, standing fully two feet in the air, thicker than a man’s arm, at least six to eight feet in length! Both of them!

Maya stood a respectable distance away from them, barking insanely. I screamed at her to come back, stupid on my part, I know, but she listened. I got her inside while thanking God that she’d been the only one out. Max would have charged them, I knew it, and Murphy was only about four months old at the time and weighed maybe eight pounds. I tried to stop the scenes playing in my head which insisted on showing me the consequences of a puppy that small charging what he would have considered big play toys.

Safely inside, I considered my options. My husband had been raised hunting, most Southern boys are, but he didn’t care for it. His idea of a good time involved camping and hiking, not shooting. Consequently, our sons had not been raised knowing how to handle guns. Randy’s prized Browning Sweet 16 shotgun was in the closet, always maintained in perfect condition even though he didn’t hunt. (I understand that’s considered a pretty special gun, not that I knew anything about how to use it.) So. I had a gun, and I had a male body in the house, but Lee had never handled a gun other than BBs and pellet guns. Neither had I. Actually, I’d been a crack shot with a BB gun as a kid, but I didn’t think BBs were going to make much impact here. My son-in-law was a hunter and a trained deputy sheriff, K-9 officer to boot, but we had Austin in the first place because both Becca and Jason had worked late the night before and had to go into Macon that morning for some reason that now escapes me.

Where the heck were reinforcements? Was the crew on the road, coming home from Dublin? Yes, they were. Over Patrick’s sync, nicknamed by the family Lola, Randy shot out instructions on how to load the Sweet 16, ignoring my protests that there was no way I was going to hit ‘em even if I did get it loaded.

“Don’t let those things get into the woods! No tellin’ where they’ll lay the eggs, they lay in the edge of the woods, we’ll have a swarm of damn baby rattlesnakes hatching in the yard come spring!”

“Mama, y’all leave that gun alone!” Patrick hollered. “Y’all miss, they might charge you! Rattlesnakes’ll charge, you know! And they move freakin’ fast! Austin, hush!!” This last to Austin, cheerfully calling in the background, “Ganmama? I get haircut, Ganmama! And new Thomas Train!”

“Austin! I’m tryin’ to talk to Grandmama! Mama, don’t you try it, do you hear me?”

“Where the Hell's Jason?!” Randy exclaimed in disgust, and hung up. I knew his speed dial was in operation, hunting Jason. Within seconds, Becca called.

“Mama, we’re on the way home. Jason’s on his phone, calling the other deputies to see who's close. He says don’t you or Lee dare try to shoot ‘em, he says they’ll be real aggressive, if you miss, they really might charge you. And for sure, they’d get away! And besides, Jay says they ought to stay where they are for a while, I mean, look what they’re doin’, after all! If he can’t get anybody, he’s comin’ just as soon as we get home, we’re closer than Daddy! And don’t go out there!”

No worries on that count. Because oh, yeah, Lee and I were standing at my side bedroom window watching the intertwined, writhing, mound of snake flesh, which didn’t give any indication they were ready to disengage activity. At this point, they'd twined themselves down to about 4 feet from that window. We had a good enough view for me to assure myself that no, I hadn’t exaggerated on the size of the things. These snakes had been around for a while.

Within minutes, Becca called back. “Mama, Josh was in the office doing paperwork, he’ll be right there!” I could, in fact, already hear the sound of an engine coming down. Jason’s wonderful partner Josh! I will spare y’all any graphic descriptions, except to say that muscle spasms last for quite a few minutes after a snake is dead (can you say “iiiccccccckkkkkkkk”?) and I will further assure all of you that no, down here in middle Georgia, rattlesnakes are not a protected species.

Yes, there are snakes even in Eden. But down here in Flowers on the Fence Country, we take the good with the bad. And do y’all realize that in this small little town, I didn’t get such personalized service because I was a deputy’s mother-in-law? Any citizen in such a situation would have gotten just such a response from the deputies. Because down here, calls to the Sheriff’s office aren’t from faceless people, they’re from Becca’s Mama, Miss Gail; Sam’s cousin, Mr. Brown; Miss Sally, John’s Aunt. That’s the way it is in small towns where everybody knows what time everybody else eats supper. And what they ate.

Glance around today’s blog for some pictures of my woods! Don’t forget to go all the way down to the bottom! And don’t worry, I didn’t take any pictures of the snakes. And they really don’t come out that often. Maybe next time I’ll tell y’all the story of the night of the drunk naked man in his underwear. Yeah, I know he wasn’t really naked if he was in his underwear but the night of the drunk man in his underwear just doesn’t have the same ring to it. So y’all come back now, hear?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Muse Will Celebrate Its One Year Birthday One Month From Today

Do anniversaries,

and birthdays make you

teary eyed? That was not a fair

question, actually since it suggests I ALWAYS get teary eyed over such days

marked on my calendar. The fact is very few days bring such a powerful reaction to my beleaguered tear ducts.

My children's birthdays rank way up on that list of extremely special days, but not the anniversary of the day the

dentist pulled my first tooth...which by the way, was a wisdom tooth when I was

16. I only remember it because I'd never been put under general anesthesia until then...THAT was an experience.

I remember the anniversary of my divorce, or what I call my personal



5th. Best birthday present I ever got. (I'm a December 12th baby.)Such a day deserves a

banner flying high from my "I Wanna Boast" pillar.

There are other banners that belong on that pillar.

My first book contract. Which I will explain further in this posting. My first release date, another thing I will discuss in more detail further along...BUT the one I want to brag, boast, yell from the rooftops about is the

anniversary rapidly approaching.



Muse It Up Publishing, Inc.

opened wide it's Temple e-pub doors and has been taking

the world by storm ever since.

Lea Schizas, the head honcho, AKA publisher, spent a decade learning and preparing for her entry into being an e-publisher. She began by establishing her multi-award winning FREE,

Muse Online Writers Conference. Here, Lea brings the best in the publishing world for two weeks allowing those unable for whatever reason, to attend the "regular" conferences held around the world.

Year after year Lea's Conference takes the top honors for its excellence in making brainstorming, learning, and camaraderie available to one and all...and all for free! The Conference gives those of us who would not be able to connect with agents, educators, and yes, other publishers, a place right at our fingertips. The generosity of such actions speaks highly of the character of Lea Schizas and her determination to always support the authors, the cover artists and the editors first and foremost.

Her partner, Marketing Director Litsa Kamateros is a pit bull when it comes to getting the Muse It Up Publishing word out there...but she is so much more. This is our very first year, and yet both Lea and Litsa, co-authors of

Autism Epidemic: Shaking the System
spend quality free time at Autism fairs, renting a table and arm themeselves with information for family, teachers, neighbors, friends because Autism is NOT a family issue, it's a village issue and the village is

Planet Earth.

With these two women helming Muse It Up Publishing, Inc., is it any wonder we, their authors, cover artists, editors, work twice as hard to never give them less than OUR best so they can always release to the reading world Muse Publishing, Inc.'s best?

Muse It Up Publishing, Inc. is celebrating it's first anniversary on


10th and I have been with them almost from the first day they opened for


Some have asked me

why I would trust my words to a publisher not even out there releasing books yet?

Here's my story...

My daughter, Best Selling author Kat Holmes, was with another publisher. The experience was

bitter and not one I wanted to involve my own writing in, however, her editor there, told me about

Muse It Up and Lea. I may not trust anything to do with my daughter's publisher, but this editor, I trusted. Why? She was about to be fired because she'd chosen to support her authors and bat heads with the publisher, but also because she'd become more than an editor...she'd become a friend.

She asked me to let her sub my manuscript to this new, not yet open for business publishing house.

I trusted HER, so agreed.

Keep in mind this was

very early...this kind of thing cannot happen today because

Muse It Up Publishing, Inc. has grown so much.

The manuscript went to Lea Schizas on


28th. Five hours later, in the wee shank of March 29th, the contract came. Beside myself with excitement, I signed and began dancing on the roof.

Alas, the Fates are a capricious band of taskmistresses.

April 1st, I found myself sitting on the floor of my doctor's office waiting room, rocking in agony.

An emergency CT scan showed I was in trouble...

big trouble and it was not going to be solved quickly.

In tears I wrote Lea and told her the months ahead, when she would need me to be promoting her, Muse Publishing, and myself, I would be having

surgeries and might not even make it. I suggested she rescind my contract. She refused. What she said is, whatever I couldn't do for myself, they, the wonderful people she was putting together to create Muse It Up Publishing, Inc. would take on.

Santa Is a Lady was released on

December 1st which originally was to have been our debut. SO how come it wasn't?

Lea and our

FAMILY, and that IS what we are at Muse, worked really hard to have some books done early so we could surprise the world ahead of time with our early release...and we did it!

Mine came out on it's original date. I was sort of busy during the spring, summer, and early mine is a

holiday themed story.

I have

no clue HOW it got nominated or by whom for the 2010 Preditors and Editors Readers Poll, but at the end of January, a mere eight weeks after it debuted Santa is a Lady took

FIFTH place in its category in the P&E poll...voted for by READERS!

Muse It Up Publishing INC., itself took a total of

TWENTY-TWO P&E 2010 awards...despite having only opened our doors on September 10, 2010.

Obviously I am here, so I survived that medical crisis.

Also here now is my daughter. After much effort she was able to extricate herself from her former publisher and follow me and her editor here to Muse It Up Publishing, INC.

Her first Muse It Hot book, THE LIGHTHOUSE even before it was released to the public, was nominated by her reviewer for the 2011

P.E.A.R.L. award.

In this past year, our people have won other awards too. Delilah K. Stephans, the head of our ever growing Cover Art Department won a


The Oak King's Daughter. This award means a great deal to Delilah because it is voted for by other cover artists. Not one to sit on her laurels, though Delilah returned to college so she can do nothing but improve on the skills that already won her that stellar award.

The next Online Muse Writers Conference is coming. Last years so impressed its attendance our submissions folder was inundated with new authors eager to be a part of the quality that is

Muse It Up Publishing, Inc.

We have lost this year as well and their loss aches.

Kevin Hopson, one of our authors lost his child at birth...Aydin Kendall. He is remembered in the genré of youth books Lea and Litsa created to honor him and his parents, our brother and sister.

Recently, very recently we lost one of our editors and a dear friend Karen McGrath to a long cancer battle. A

hole in our hearts will always ache because she is not with us. For her, all of us will work that much harder to give the place she gave so much of her spirit to, better and better of who we are.


here to stay. Ten years from now, I plan to be here proudly touting our first decade. We've

just begun, but know this, Muse It Up Publishing, Inc. IS the

home of the

Modern Greek Gods, Goddesses, all

NINE of the Muses and all

THREE of the Fates.

Muse It Up Publishing began almost a decade ago. evolving into the award winning Publisher it is today.

WE ARE, and will continue improving and dedicating ourselves to the ultimate element of our Marketing Director's motto

 ~BUILDING THE TEAM TO ACHIEVE THE DREAM~ ...the READER. Without the readers there IS no dream.

So Happy Anniversary Muse It Up Publishing, Inc, and

Happy Anniversary to our readers. Long may we excel!