Good Teeth

I used to bite my fingernails, much to my mother’s regret. She went through this with all three of her children so, by the time I came along, she knew none of the famous recommendations for helping a child stop this habit worked.

My brother was the eldest child. When she tried painting his fingernails with hot polish that was invented to burn a nail biter’s tongue, she said her would stop biting his nails just long enough to say, “Hot!” before going right back at it.

Fortunately, I stopped biting my nails. I don’t recall when or why, but I’m glad I stopped. That is why a line from Prayers the Devil Answers, by Sharyn McCrumb caught my eye. To say Ms. McCrumb has a way with words would be a gross understatement.

In Prayers the Devil Answers, Lonnie Varden is in jail in Knoxville, Tennessee. He pushed his wife, Celia, off Hawk’s Wing – a rock that jutted out of a mountain. His cell mate, Ulysses, gives the following observation about the young Lonnie Varden:

“His nails were bitten down to the quick, which told the old man that this kid had two things he didn’t: more trouble than he was accustomed to and good teeth.” ~ from Prayers the Devil Answers, by Sharyn McCrumb

Prayers the Devil Answers, A novel by Sharyn McCrumb

As I read the book, I jotted down a number of sentences and paragraphs I liked. I have used two of them in my April 19, 2017 blog post,  P is for a Paragraph I Liked and my June 13, 2017 blog post, “Not a rope . . . if drowning”.

I want to be a writer who comes up with expressions and turns of a phrase like Sharyn McCrumb. It will take practice. Practice. Practice.

Since my last blog post

I had something to happen in the health category that led me to do some soul searching. It had a good outcome, and served as a bit of a wake-up call. I’ve reevaluated some things and how I spend my time. Life is short.

I’ve been reading and decluttering. I tend to keep things. My parents were young adults during The Great Depression, so it was ingrained in me from birth that you didn’t throw something away that you thought you might be able to use later. (Examples include rubber bands, scraps of paper, paper bags, scraps of yarn, string, bits of thread, and anything that looks like something that might eventually be useful.)

Hence, things that come into my house tend to never leave. Last week I recycled old magazines, cardboard boxes and loose papers. I shredded papers bearing personal information. (After all, someone stole our garbage once. You just never know!)

I sorted fabric I’ll never sew and clothes I’ll never be small enough to wear again and took them to Goodwill. I can see the improvement, but someone who’s never been in my house before would probably think I still have a problem. They’d be right. I am a work in progress. More decluttering is on my agenda for this week.

My new approach to “things” is to ask myself, “Do I want my nieces and nephew to have to deal with this someday, or should I go ahead and get rid of it?”

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading The Hellfire Club, by Jake Tapper.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have quality writing time.

Thank you for reading my blog. You could have spent the last few minutes doing something else, but you chose to read my blog. I appreciate it! Tell your friends.


“Not a rope . . . if drowning”

Prayers the Devil Answers, A novel by Sharyn McCrumb

My blog post today takes a look at a line I like from a novel, Prayers the Devil Answers, by Sharyn McCrumb. Ms. McCrumb has mastered the art of capturing the independent spirit of the people of the southern Appalachian Mountains in the following sentence:

“Not a one of the folks from up there would ask for anything – not food if they were hungry, not a rope if they were drowning.”  From Prayers the Devil Answers, by Sharyn McCrumb.

How succinctly Ms. McCrumb gets to the core character of the people who live in those mountains and whose ancestors have lived there for up to 250 years! As a writer, I think anyone would be hard-pressed to state it any better.

What do you think?

Have a go at it. Try to write one sentence that sums up that southern Appalachian independent spirit.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I just finished reading The Things We Keep, by Sally Hepworth and Fredrik Backman’s novella, And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time.


P is for a Paragraph I Liked

This is the 16th day of the A to Z Blog Challenge, so today’s letter is “P.” I chose to write about a paragraph I liked in a novel I read, Prayers the Devil Answers, by Sharyn McCrumb. The following is in narrative form, as opposed to dialogue, and is from the point of view of Albert’s wife:

“Back when Albert was still awake, when I had no inkling of what was to come, I did not try to talk to him about anything other than how he felt and whether he wanted to eat or sleep. Later on I wished I had thought to ask him bigger questions, but that would have meant admitting to myself and to him that he was not coming back. As bad as I needed to know things, I could not have done that. Taken away his hope of surviving – I could not have done that.”

Prayers the Devil Answers, A novel by Sharyn McCrumb

Albert in Prayers the Devil Answers was dying, but his wife could not bring herself to say anything to Albert that would make him know that he was dying.

That was the way I felt as my father was dying when I was 24 years old. No one that close to me had ever died. It was new territory for me. When I was a little older and wiser, I realized that he surely knew that death was near.

So many questions I never asked. So many things I left unsaid.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. (I finished reading In Order to Live:  A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom, by Yeonmi Park, last night. I highly recommend it!)

If you are a writer, I hope you have productive writing time.


What I read in September

My first blog post each month is about the books I read during the previous month. Maybe my comments about those books will prompt you to read (or not read) one of my choices.

The Woman in Cabin 10

The first book I finished reading in September was the psychological crime thriller, The Woman in Cabin 10, by Ruth Ware. This novel took me out of my reading comfort zone. Early on lots of characters were introduced and it was a little daunting to keep them straight; however, each one’s personality soon came through and prevented confusion. The author is British, so occasionally there was a word that prompted me to use the definition feature on my e-reader. Reading The Woman in Cabin 10 makes me want to read Ruth Ware’s first novel, In a Dark, Dark Wood, even though its review are all over the place.

Prayers the Devil Answers

The second book I read in September was Prayers the Devil Answers, by Sharyn McCrumb. Inspired by on event that took place in Kentucky in 1936, this novel is the story of a woman who became a county sheriff in Tennessee after her husband’s death. Albert, her husband, had only been the county sheriff for a short time when it became ill and died in a few days. His widow, Ellie, quickly figured out that she needed to find a way to support herself and their two children.

As only Sharyn McCrumb can do, she spins a story about a strong female protagonist and backs up the tale with numerous threads that made up the fiber of the fearlessly independent residents of the southern Appalachian Mountains in the days of the Great Depression. The story includes murder and betrayal and, all the while, Ellie faces a task that will test her mettle. To tell you more would spoil the book for you.

Child 44

The other book I read in September was Child 44, by Tom Rob Smith. It is a murder mystery/historical thriller set in the former Soviet Union in the 1950s. I discovered Child 44 in a roundabout way. I started reading The Secret Speech, by Tom Rob Smith only to find out I had started reading the second book of the Child 44 Trilogy. I stopped reading The Secret Speech and checked out Child 44. Mr. Smith paints a picture of what Stalin’s Russia must have been like. No one trusted anyone and members of the secret police were everywhere.

The main plot is the story of Leo Demidov taking it upon himself to track down a serial killer. The State denied that any of the murders could be connected and, in fact, denied that most of them had occurred. Although some details were unpleasant to read, I found this novel to be a page-turner.

Child 44 was Tom Rob Smith’s debut novel. All quotes are in italics, which sometimes pulled me out of the story; however, from a writer’s point of view, I recognize that eliminated the necessity for quotation marks. That format distracted me. It also made it difficult at times to remember who was speaking.

Until my next blog post in a few days, I hope you have a good book to read and, if you are a writer, I hope you have quality writing time.