Kindle 99-cent sale today on four books

On Sale January 20th from Thomas-Jacob Publishing


Few of the eccentric inhabitants of her father’s Main Line, Philadelphia estate have much time for Fleur Robins, an awkward child with a devotion to her ailing grandfather, a penchant for flapping and whirling, and a preoccupation with God and the void. While her mother spends much of her time with her hand curled around a wine glass and her abusive father congratulates himself for rescuing babies from “the devil abortionists,” Fleur mourns the fallen petals of a rose and savors the patterns of light rippling across the pool. When she fails to save a baby bird abandoned in her garden, a series of events unfold that change everything.


Billy May Platte is a half Irish, half Cherokee Appalachian woman who learned the hard way that 1940s West Virginia was no place to be different. As Billy May explains, “We was sheltered in them hills. We didn’t know much of nothin’ about life outside of them mountains. I did not know the word lesbian; to us, gay meant havin’ fun and queer meant somethin’ strange.”



Lena, a shamanistic cat, and her conjure woman Eulalie live in a small town near the Apalachicola River in Florida’s lightly populated Liberty County, where longleaf pines own the world. In Eulalie’s time, women of color look after white children in the homes of white families and are respected, even loved, but distrusted and kept separated as a group. A palpable gloss, sweeter than the state’s prized tupelo honey, holds their worlds firmly apart. When that gloss fails, the Klan restores its own brand of order.




In 1955, at the height of alarm over the Emmett Till murder in Mississippi and after the Supreme Court ruling against school segregation, Associated Press reporter Rachel Feigen travels from Baltimore to Tennessee to report on a missing person case. Guy Saillot’s last contact with his family was a postcard from the Tennessee Bend Motel, a seedy establishment situated on beautiful Cherokee Lake. But they have no record he was ever a guest.



Book Review: ‘Shadow Days’ by Melinda Clayton

Shadow DaysShadow Days by Melinda Clayton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars



“Shadow Days” is a delightful addition to Melinda Clayton’s popular “Cedar Hollow” series, featuring in this novel protagonist Emily Holt who suddenly leaves her home in Florida and runs away on the anniversary of her husband’s death.

She ends up by chance and destiny in Cedar Hollow. The sheriff wonders if she’s crazy when he finds her and her broken-down car a few miles from town.

After she finds a place to stay, she begins to learn about the town and its people. Readers who’ve been with the series since it began with “Appalachian Justice,” will recognize just about everybody. Those who read “Shadow Days” first will, like Emily Holt, learn who’s who as the plot unfolds.

Emily has to come to terms with her husband’s death, the remnants of her life in Florida, her two sons who are off at college and don’t know where she is, and just who she is now in this off-the-beaten track town in West Virginia.

This is a well-told story with a cast of characters that increases in depth and scope as each new novel in the series is released. There are nice touches in the memories of characters such as collecting calendar towels and saving S&H Green Stamps. Very satisfying and hopefully not the end of the story.


View all my reviews

Author Melinda Clayton returns to Appalachia for her new novel

I’m pleased to welcome author Melinda Clayton (Appalachian Justice and Return to Crutcher Mountain) to the Round Table today to talk about her new novel Entangled Thorns. Once again, Clayton heads back to Appalachia for a compelling story about hard times and hard memories. Entangled Thorns, which tells the story of Beth Sloan and the “infamous Pritchett family of Cedar Hollow, West Virginia,” was released by Vanilla Heart Publishing June 27, 2012.

Malcolm: Like Appalachian Justice and Return to Crutcher Mountain, your new novel Entangled Thorns has an Appalachian setting. What draws a Florida author away from the orange groves and sunny beaches into the hills of West Virginia for her storytelling?

Melinda:  My mother’s family is from West Virginia, around the Charleston area.  My grandfather was retired from the mines.  Both of my maternal grandparents passed away when I was a teen, but up until that time we visited every summer.  I loved everything about it:  the people, the mountains, the wildlife.  My mother was born in a tiny place called Big Ugly Holler, which served as the inspiration for Cedar Hollow.  It doesn’t exist now, but we once hiked into the mountains to see what was left of it.  There was no road; by that time, there wasn’t even a trail.  When we finally reached our destination all that remained of Big Ugly Holler were a few foundations and chimneys covered in vines.

Malcolm: In Entangled Thorns, your protagonist Beth Sloan has been running from and/or repressing her troubled childhood until circumstances force her to confront it. Your protagonists in Appalachian Justice and Return to Crutcher Mountain were also wounded as children. Does this overarching theme of your work come out of your experience as a psychotherapist or the kinds of stories you’re drawn to on the nightly news?

Melinda:  I love this question, and the answer is, “both.”  I read a book when I was very young – I’d give anything to remember the title of it – but it was about a social worker who worked with troubled kids.  Ever since then I knew I wanted to work with troubled children and families in some capacity.  I’ve also always been drawn to true crime stories, as morbid as that might seem.  There is something about the workings of the human mind that absolutely fascinates me, particularly when it goes off-kilter in some way.

Malcolm: You recently completed a Ed.D. in Special Education Administration program which required a dissertation. How did you manage to jump back and forth between academic writing with its reliance on sources and a formal style to fiction with its emphasis on people, adventure and an accessible style?

Melinda:  That was a little challenging at times.  The act of writing fiction was a great stress reliever, but I had to work to keep the informal language (contractions, slang, etc.) from entering my academic writing.  It was tempting at times to put in something like, “This research will show that there ain’t no correlation…” for the pure fun of seeing my committees’ reaction.

Malcolm: How does the doctoral work fit into your professional goals?

Melinda:  My ultimate goal is to teach at a college level.  My doctorate sort of combined two fields of study, since my M.S. is in Community Agency Counseling, and my doctorate is in Special Education Administration.  I’d love to contribute to the field by demonstrating how the two fields often go hand-in-hand and should support each other and work together, instead of arguing over funding streams and services as so often happens.

Malcolm: For the general public, Appalachia conjures up such themes as isolated, subsistence living, hard-working and persevering people, coal mining and other environmental excesses, and pure, raw music unlike that from any other part of the country. How do your characters and plots mesh with or run counterpoint to these stereotypes? Does the lure of Appalachia for your storytelling ever translate into other areas, say, in tempting you to move there as a teacher or psychotherapist?

Melinda:  It’s a delicate line to walk.  I know from my own family that the manner in which Appalachia is often portrayed can be a sore point.  At the same time, I want the story to reflect what is, in some areas, true to life.  I relied heavily on not only my research, but also my own memories as well as my mother’s experiences.

I also know from my experiences that the poverty associated with Appalachia exists elsewhere.  There’s no need to travel to Appalachia to encounter it.  In the late 1980s, when I was fresh out of college with a B.A. in social work, my first job was as the coordinator of case management services for a rural mental health center in Tennessee.  My case workers and I were responsible for a three county area, working with the most impoverished of families. Many of our clients were without electricity or running water.  Many also lived in the most basic of housing structures, without floors or internal walls.  I think it’s difficult to believe there are still families living in such poverty in the U.S., but there are.

Malcolm: Thomas Wolfe brought the phrase “You Can’t Go Home Again” into general use. “Going home” can be awkward, embarrassing or frightening on so many levels even for those of us who had relatively normal childhoods. But your characters had strong reasons for avoiding home, yet all of them find that they must go home again. Does this theme grow out of the psychologist’s seemingly favorite “well me about your childhood” question or is it more that home is the only place where the issues of home can be fixed?

Melinda:  Again I have to smile, because it’s both.  My writing of home is a very transparent attempt to create the home I miss.  Until I was about twelve, we lived in my father’s hometown in TN surrounded by aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents.  We had fried chicken at Mawmaw’s house every Sunday after church, then spread blankets on the lawn under the pecan tree and visited well into the evening.  A rough couple of years ended all that.  One aunt died tragically in a car accident, another divorced, my grandparents lost their home to a fire, and my family moved away.  I’m sure it wasn’t as idyllic as I remember, but it’s pulled at me ever since.

But I also think it’s necessary to revisit the places that have scarred us, either symbolically (often for safety’s sake only symbolically) or physically.  We have to face our issues before we can resolve them.  Burying them doesn’t work; we have to excise them, examine them, and then choose to heal and move on.

Malcolm: Thank you, Melinda.

Where to Find Melinda on the Internet

Blogs on Xanga and WordPress



Amazon Author’s Page

My favorite books become Christmas gifts

As an author, I’m guiltily thankful for the readers who consume books the way movie-goers consume popcorn. From a sales and marketing perspective, authors and publishers like seeing giant sacks of books going out the door of the neighborhood bookstores.

My perspective is quite different at Christmastime when I am selecting gifts for family and friends. I want to give gifts that matter. Whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, my most pleasurable and meaningful reading experiences come from books that impact me in a profound way.

Such books are not like popcorn or even a shopping cart of the latest in glittering electronic gadgets and toys people lined up to buy on Black Friday. Most of those Black Friday gifts will be forgotten by year’s end. When I know a person well enough to give him or her a book I greatly treasured, then my hope is that they will treasure it and remember it many years into the future–just as one remembers the best dinners they ever had at their favorite five-star restaurant.

Some of the joy of giving books has been lost because the economics of the business has forced us into a world of paperbacks and e-books that are mere ghosts of what books used to be. Books once were more than the words they contained. They were visual and tactile experiences from the selection of the type fonts to the choice of paper to the binding.

That said, when I begin Christmas shopping, my favorite books of the past year are my inspiration for many of the gifts I give. A shared book is, in a sense, a very personal moment, somewhat like a deep conversation next to a warm fireplace fire on a cold winter’s night. We come to know and understand those we love, in part, through the discoveries of the books we have in common.

This year, I will think of Smoky Trudeau’s Observations of an Earth Mage and Vanilla Heart Publishing’s Nature’s Gifts anthology of stories, poems and essays for those who love the out of doors whether they be casual travelers of avid back country hikers.

For those who ponder spirituality and the psychological and transcendent experiences of life’s journey, I’ll be wrapping up copies of Patricia Damery’s Farming Soul: A Tale of Initiation.
(See my review.)

Those who enjoy good storytelling with a touch of backwoods wisdom and magical realism, might well find a copy of River Jordan’s The Miracle of Mercy Land. (See my review.) Others will unwrap Melinda Clayton’s powerful Appalachian Justice.

I want to share my favorite books of the year at Christmas because they are important to me, and I can think of no better gifts to give.