The Tree

Here’s another one from Chuck Wendig’s Terribleminds challenge of the week: write about a tree. I had a hard time with this, because I’m writing about a tree in my current novel. I wanted to share some of that novel, but I’m intent on having it published some day. At first, I thought I’d bypass this challenge, but this idea came to me. I hope you enjoy.

The Tree — 924 words. 


Running. Feet pounding the ground. Ashton ended up where she always did, in front of the great big oak tree. The branches spread out like giants’ arms against the clear blue backdrop of the Southern sky. She placed her hand on the trunk and felt the warmth of the tree.

When she had been just a girl, her dad had strung a tire swing to the big horizontal branch. She had swung, laughing, and pushing her head back against the wind. She looked up at the green leaves as they danced in the sky. The tree held life. Her life, a memory of her fleeting childhood existence.

When she and Deke married, they took over the land. Then her dad got sick—lung cancer from too many cigs smoked as he herded cows into the dust. He held on for two weeks after the doctor diagnosed him. Ashton’s mom moved to the back room. She let Ashton, Deke, and their clan of little children take over the house. Ashton liked to listen to their bare feet on the wood floors. It reminded her of her childhood where there was always too much noise and clatter in the small farmhouse.

Ashton held her hands up to the tree. She rubbed the silkiness of the green leaves.

“You know, Ashton, this could all be yours one day,” her father had said, one day when he pushed her on the swing.

Ashton had laughed her high-pitched little girl laugh, tossing her blonde curls into the wind, feeling like she could fly away.

Her father stopped the swing. He kneeled down in front of her and took her small, soft hands into his rough, calloused ones. His blue eyes twinkled in the fading light of day. He smelled of Old Spice and cow manure, the smell of Ashton’s childhood.

“I mean it. You’re the one. This is the place.”

A rustle of wind blew through the tree, and it seemed to wave at Ashton. She looked up at the tree and could almost feel it wrapping its life-giving warmth around her. Her dad squeezed her hands, then hugged her. He started pushing the swing again.

“I want to put a tire swing up for the girls,” Ashton said.

“There?” Deke asked, pointing to the tree as they walked toward the wind.

The girls had stayed home with Ashton’s mom. The memorial service had been two weeks ago already. Ashton’s mom had taken to wearing only black and making pies: peach, apple, pecan. There were more pies than they could ever eat. The sting of Ashton’s father’s death still took her breath away. The tree gave her the air she needed to breathe again, to feel again.

“I was thinking about selling off this acreage to the Boyers’,” Deke said.

“Oh,” Ashton said. She looked at the tree, and it seemed to bow its head in sadness.

“We could make some money. Put it in a college fund for the girls. This farm just don’t produce as much as it used to.”

“You can’t.”

“Why can’t I?”

“Because that tree is important,” Ashton said, pointing to it. The tree seemed to stand up a little taller, the leaves danced against the bright light of the midday sun.

“Don’t be silly, Ashton.”

After dinner and the girls’ baths, Ashton sat in the living room with her mother while Deke read to the bouncing girls who had wired themselves up, slap-happy before bedtime. Ashton knitted while her mother ate a piece of peach pie a la mode. They conferred and agreed. Ashton kissed the urn on the mantle before heading off to bed.

The next morning, Ashton ran to the tree. Running made her feel so alive. She hugged it and swore it hugged her back.

“I met someone,” she said.

“Who?” her father asked.

She sat on the tire swing, holding the worn ropes, her keds firmly planted in the dip her bare childhood feet had made on the ground.

“His name is Deke Malloy.”

“Irish, is he?” her father had joked.

Ashton, in the full throes of adolescence, rolled her eyes.

“I think I’m in love, Dad.”

Her father smiled, held her hands, and gave her a kiss on the forehead.

“I think it’s about time we took down the tire swing,” he said.

“Oh Daddy, I love this old thing.”

They both looked up into the branches of the old oak tree. It had seen so much on this land for the last hundred years, so many people coming and going. Ashton could feel its spirit. The next day, Ashton’s father removed the tire swing. Five years later, Ashton and Deke married.

In the afternoon, they all dressed up. Ashton and her mother wore blue, the color of the sky, and her father’s favorite.

“I guess I didn’t realize how important the tree was to you,” Deke said.

Ashton’s mom held her hand. The little girls followed along, picking daisies they would later make daisy chains with. Ashton could almost see the outline of the tire swing. She looked at the tree, and she thought she saw her dad there waving at her. She smiled, and held up her hand. The tree waved back.

Under the tree’s shade, she and her mom struggled to open the urn.

“Ashes to ashes and dust to dust,” Ashton said.

She poured her father’s ashes into the dip her childhood feet had made. The leaves of the tree waved in the wind, and the ashes swirled a little then settled into dust. Ashton smiled, imagining her daddy standing there, her hand securely in his. She put her arms around her mother’s waist and around Deke’s squeezing them close to her and looking at the wonder of an old oak tree.

“Now about that tire swing…”

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Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

I’m a procrastinator and as such, I waited until today to download all of my files for The Devil Within from Booktrope. I have been okay with Booktrope closing. There’s no other way to be. I haven’t let it hold me back, but I haven’t exactly let it drive me forward either.

Today I’m feeling a little sad about the whole thing. I put a lot of time, effort, and pain into writing the book. I spent hours editing and proofreading it (and yes, there were still mistakes–there always are). I spent hours thinking about William, his family, their lives. This book meant a lot to me. It took me in a different direction from my previous book, and I felt like I’d found my niche in dark Southern literature, if there is even such a genre.

The Devil Within Cover

I learned from The Devil Within how to give my characters depth and voice. And I’ve taken that into my other writing, finding the spirit of the characters to make them come alive in my books. The truth is, I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it at this point. I debated self-publishing. I debated putting it on Wattpad. What I really want to do is find a traditional publisher for my other works and then beef up The Devil Within. Maybe take it a step further. I’ve already started writing about Lily (Tommy’s girlfriend), a minor character in The Devil Within, because I felt like I still had a connection to the book. This is strange for me as I’ve consistently said I would not write sequels. It doesn’t seem so much like a sequel, more like a continuation of the timeline that I started in the book, sort of like Faulkner’s characters from Yoknapatawpha County.

At any rate, I’m stewing and trying to figure out what to do.

The Devil Within is still on Amazon for the next few days; however it could be removed before the 31st, or so we’ve been told.

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PS: The Devil Within is only available until May 31, 2016. Don’t forget to get your copy while you still can at Amazon.

Inspiration and Godliness

This past week, I attended a book club to discuss my book The Devil Within and do a little book signing. I’m always a little nervous attending these functions, but it’s nothing a big glass of wine won’t cure. 😉 Luckily, the book clubs I go to usually have wine. Don’t get me wrong, I’m fairly outgoing but I’m always nervous and a little shy in a group of people I don’t know at first. It takes me a few minutes to come out of my shell.

Book clubs are always interesting, because sometimes readers have insight on your book that you didn’t necessarily have. Or their opinions about the characters and the events differ from the author’s own thoughts. I find this intriguing, and it’s one of the things I love most about writing: the reader’s reaction.

At this book club, one of the attendees questioned by inspiration. I’ve never had this happen before, but it made me think about inspiration. Because really, inspiration is a funny thing. Slimy, slippery, there one minute and gone the next. A single fleck of an idea that spins into a larger story like a blanket being spun from yarn.


What about this sign inspired me to write about Will and his family? I’d driven past this sign a million times, and then one day as I drove past it I thought about a little boy, growing up on that beautiful rolling hill, in a family that used religion to justify abuse.

Religion and the South go together like peanut butter and jelly. But religion and big churches can always be used to further hateful agendas. They can be full of hypocrisy. They can provide so much good too: comfort, devotion, and social outlets. And looking at this sign, spawned the idea in my head of Will being stuck in the middle of the two: devotion to religion as a comfort and devotion to religion as a way to further hate.

What inspired me to write this book? My own background of growing up in the South. My own thoughts on how religion and Christianity ought to promote love and peace instead of hatred and judgement, a thought I’ve struggled with my whole life in respect to the promotion of the Christian agenda. Spirituality and godliness plus church don’t always necessarily go together. One can lead a Christian life without ever attending church. Or one can lead a life promoting kindness and faith without even believing in God.

Driving to Knoxville with my oldest son two weeks ago, we passed this sign and here was our discussion (He’s 11):

M: What do you think about the message on that sign?

C: I think it’s true. Church is good. God is good.

M: So do you think if you have a person who is always doing the wrong thing, and he’s hateful, and hurtful that if he goes to church the devil won’t get him?

C: Backtracks, Well, um, maybe not.

M: What if you have a person who doesn’t go to church, maybe doesn’t even believe in God, and mostly does the right thing (there is no always–no one always does the right thing)? Is that person doomed to an eternity in hell, because he didn’t go to church even though he was true and good?

C: You’re right. The devil wouldn’t get that good person.

It’s all about perspective. I’m interested in knowing what road my next flake of inspiration will take me down.

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Manic Monday

First and foremost, the important news:

The Devil Within ebook is available to purchase for free from November 9 – November 13th! Get it while it’s hot!

The Devil Within Cover

Who doesn’t like to curl up with a good book and read on a cold, rainy day. It’s cold and rainy here today. Yesterday was cold and rainy too. Instead of reading I binge-watched New Girl on Netflix and laughed my ass off. I got absolutely no writing done, because my hand was hurting. (Thanks rain) Also, because I attended an adult pajama party until 1 AM on Friday night and then my son had a spend-the-night party on Saturday night. Six eleven year old boys can be awfully loud, especially when their game of choice is Black Ops. Maybe by the time they’re 12 they’ll settle down and talk about girls? Or is that something that only girls do at spend-the-night parties–talk about boys?

Today, I have marketing to do and then I need to catch up by about 6,000 on NaNoWriMo. I’m figuring when I get my splint off my hand I’ll be able to make up for those words I missed, unless I have a productive Veteran’s Day. I’m not sure we have other plans this week besides the normal crazy shuffling around of three kids to various activities.

How was your weekend?

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Working Toward Better

I meant to blog yesterday, but instead I worked on my Woodley Road story. I wrote 1,000 words, and I feel like it helped to drag me out of my funk. The story is Southern Fiction set in the 1920’s and takes a ton of research, but wow, I’ve found out loads of information about cotton farming and life in rural Alabama in 1920s. Research can be fun. I like becoming a mini-expert on these topics. My goal over the next few weeks is to get out to Ramer to see the area I’m writing about. I’ve been there before, but it’s be awhile. I’d like to walk in Anna Kate’s shoes and feel the soil underneath her feet.

I sat down to write this blog several times over the weekend, and it unintentionally became a Monday Blog. Hubby and I were busy going on dates galore. Then we had people over yesterday. We were social butterflies, and it’s fun but I’m exhausted.

Plus, my five year old daughter is still out of sorts. She’s adjusting to starting her new school. I’m adjusting to her temper tantrums. I’m bad at dealing with tantrums. I need to bring my yoga into it, practice my breathing and just let her go through the ebbs and flows of her feelings. I’m good at writing emotions, but not great at dealing with them in real life. I need to practice, just like my writing, to make sure she knows anger is a feeling and it’s okay to feel it. Unfortunately, both hubby and I were (maybe still are) tantrum-throwers, so our natural inclination is to yell. And that’s the wrong thing to do.

As I lay in bed last night, I thought about how I’m ruining my child’s life forever, by not responding to her tantrums in an adult-like manner. I had that big overwhelming emotion of, “Oh God, because I lost it while she lost it she’s going to be depressed and emo and a mess as an adult.”  I’d like to give her the tools now to deal with her emotions so maybe it won’t take her as long as it took me to get it. I want her to be able to feel her emotions, recognize them, work through them, and then let them go instead of bottling them up.

As I deal with these things with my daughter, I’m reminded of the influences they may have on my work.  I should be able to write a Mommy Meltdown pretty dang good by now. And if Everett (Anna Kate’s little brother) throws a temper tantrum, I’ll be able to write it realistically too. It’s hard being a parent.

What have you been up to lately in life and/or writing? What are you trying to cope with/get better at dealing with? 


Don’t miss out! There’s still time to win a free copy of The Devil Within. Click below to enter to win!


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The Devil Within by Lauren Greene

The Devil Within

by Lauren Greene

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Thoughts Before Reading Go Set A Watchman

Perhaps one of the greatest books of all times in Southern Literature is To Kill A Mockingbird. Thus, I’ve been hesitant to read Go Set A Watchman, especially after having read this New York Time’s review. Growing up in the South, Atticus Finch was one of my childhood heroes. Although, I didn’t grow up in the same time as Scout, Jem and Atticus Finch, racism still ran rampant in Montgomery, Alabama in the 1980’s. Racism is still prevalent today in much of the country–not just the South. Although we have come a long way as a country.

When I attended the Midwest Writer’s Workshop last week, Ashley Ford an amazingly put-together 28 year old woman said, “There are no heroes and villains,” and she’s right. It’s all about perception. As a child, I perceived my parents as super human. They were my heroes. I remember as a teenager having the startling realization of my parents as people in a relationship, and it made me see them differently.

If we are to believe Go Set A Watchman is the first draft to To Kill A Mockingbird, then in the mind of Harper Lee, Atticus Finch started out as a racist and then evolved into something else. As a child, Scout sees her father as an amazing man, ahead of his time, defending a black man at trial. As a grown up, her perception has changed and she sees he is a racist like most of the other white men in Alabama at that time. “That doesn’t make him bad,” my friend Julie said last night at dinner. Atticus Finch is simply a product of his time.

Now, I haven’t read Go Set A Watchman yet. (I’m on page 20). I’m interested to see how my assessment will change as I read through it. I’ll report back afterward!

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Set The Tone

As you might know, this Southern Literature writer (I’m talking about me!) attended #MWW15 (Midwest Writer’s Workshop) this week. I’m currently sitting in the Atlanta airport with a three hour layover before I can wrap my arms around my kiddos and squeeze. My brain is processing all the information crammed into my head this weekend. Valuable information. Life-altering information.

First of all, if you’re a writer, and you’re thinking about going to a conference then you should absolutely go. Those who have been following my blog for a long time know I’ve been writing since I was a little girl. What you may not know is I have no technical training in writing. Sure, I sat through English classes in high school and college and loved them, but I don’t have a Creative Writing degree. I don’t have a MFA. What I do have is the love of writing. I love the craft. I love how I feel like myself when I writeI feel happy and content, and I’m nice to others around me when I’m doing what I love.

So how amazing to go to a conference with TONS of other people who feel the same way. Not only authors, but editors, agents, teachers of the craft: people who want to succeed and want to write just like I do. And if you’re starting out as a writer but are unsure of what to do, then attend a conference so you can meet other people who can help guide you on your writing journey. You will not be sorry. I promise.

The first day at #MWW15, I took an intensive class with Martha Brockenbrough (rhymes with “toe”). Her intensive was aptly named the “Writer’s Survival Kit.” And boy, doesn’t every writer need this? A way to get through. A way to finish. A way to revise. She spoke about her YA book, The Game of Love and Death (I had her sign it! I might be a groupie now since she’s a wonderfully fantastic human being.) and how the idea came from one question: Can love survive death? Simple, right? Every good book starts with ONE question. That’s all it takes. Sometimes plucked from nowhere, and the author’s job is take it, shape it, revise it and turn it into something that transcends time. Something to leave behind. Probably the biggest idea I zoned in on when Martha spoke was the concept of tone. Tone is the protagonist’s voice. Each protagonist’s voice is unique. Having a unique voice builds trust with the reader, because it shows the writer knows how to reflect a tone that meshes with the characteristics of the character (age, race, location, gender, etc.).

I thought about “tone” through the whole weekend. The word echoing in my head like a silent whisper. In my current work-in-progress-not-yet-named, my character is a thirteen year old girl from rural Alabama in the 1920s. She is a tenant farmer’s daughter. Her tone and voice would be vastly different from a businessman, say in Atlanta from the year 2015. Tone can make or break your work. It’s important to make sure the proper voice is representing each protagonist in each novel.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to share my key takeaways from the Midwest Writer’s Workshop. 

Are you a writer? Do you plan on attending a conference in the near future?

Where Have I Been?


Excuse the cellphone quality photo. I haven’t quite downloaded the camera photos yet. When you come back from Paradise, where you lived for six days without children, it’s hard to get back into the swing of things. We stayed at Paradisus Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic and my hubby and I had some much needed alone time. Rekindling, if you will? We also met some great people who seemed more like characters in a book, but as we all know “Characters are only works of fiction, any resemblance to someone in real life is purely coincidental.”

Originally, when we planned this trip I thought The Devil Within would already be out. I anticipated having it published in April or May, but we all know how seldom things go as planned. That’s the fun of life. I was pleasantly surprised to know the paperback came out the day before we left, and guess what? Now the kindle edition is out. For some reason they’re two different links and the Kindle link is hard to find. I’m hoping Amazon gets that sorted out. I’m sure they will.

Click the book below for the link to the Kindle edition:

The Devil Within Cover

So let me tell you, the absolute best way to make a book a raging success is to fly to the Dominican Republic for a week the day it comes out. No, I’m kidding. I really wanted to bomb the market with this book. I wanted it to have a fantastic first day out, because I feel like this book is special. And I don’t know if thousands of authors say that. Oh, look at me, I wrote a book. But I didn’t think I would ever publish this book. I wrote it more for myself, the inspiration plucked from the sky somewhere. Writing it took me on an emotional journey through the doorways of youth, religion, hate and love. In this book, William experiences suffering that no small child should feel, but the truth is every day in the “real world” children are coping with the harsh realities of what William’s fictional life: being hurt by the person who is supposed to care for them the most.

When you are young, the world seems so big. Sometimes it seems magical. And other times it’s terrifying. As I wrote The Devil Within I felt horrified for William. My heart tugged for him, and I longed to help him escape. I longed to give him a chance. And so, this book is personal to me because it tells a tale of survival and that’s what we’re all trying to do in this amazing unrelenting world of ours.

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Things Don’t Always Go As Planned

Today is cover reveal day for The Devil Within! YIPPEE!!! I promise at the end of this blog post you’ll see the cover. But first you have to listen to my mad ramblings a little bit.

When I wrote The Devil Within, I had only written one full book before, No Turning BackAs I wrote about William and the suffering he went through at the hands’ of his father, I couldn’t help but wonder why this idea had come to me and why I had to write it. I have a charmed life. When I was little, my parents used to say, You’re so lucky you’re born in the U.S. It’s the greatest place on earth.” I genuinely believed it–still do, on most days. I wasn’t abused. I went to church, but never felt scared of the devil. (The devil is not someone often mentioned in Episcopal church–just the word temptation.)

When William’s story came to the brink of my mind and then the tips of my fingers I could barely stop typing to rest. I had to get his story out. I needed to write him down to end his suffering. And I thought, what I’ve always thought, that things rarely go as planned. I had intended to write another women’s fiction novel after No Turning Backbut as a writer you cave to the cravings of the mind. Even when that mind gives you an idea that you know will be painful to write down.

And speaking of things not going as planned. I planned to type this last night, and instead I relaxed and played the Sims 3. I mean of all the useless things you can do in the world, playing house when you have a house to run on your own. Alas, everyone needs down time.

And the release date for The Devil Within was pushed back. At least a week, but the week following I’m out of town. I will spread the word when the book is out, and so will my lovely marketing manager, Sheri Williams, but I wanted to let you know since I know you’re all waiting on baited breath to buy my book!

Now here it is! The lovely Greg Simanson designed my book cover:

The Devil Within Cover

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Faith and Religion in the South

When I started writing The Devil Within, I knew religion would be a huge part of the book. Religion, for anyone who is from the South or has lived in the South, is such a huge part of Southern culture. I’ve been toying with the idea of blogging about religion, but my views on religion are not standard—especially for a southerner. I’ve worried about alienating readers with this post, but I have to be true to myself and my beliefs.

The truth is, religion is a private matter between a person and their God (or their lack of God as may be the case), but in the South religion permeates all aspects of public life too.

I grew up in Montgomery, Alabama. I went to an Episcopal Church where I was baptized and confirmed. For fun, I’d go with my friends to their youth groups. My youth group called EYC was a second home to me and we did tons of fun things, which in the end should have kept me out of trouble but didn’t. But through it all I never felt a close kinship to God or Jesus. I have always been a questioner. I love to question things I can’t explain (how did we get here? Is God real? If God’s real then why are so many wars fought in her name?)

When I moved away for college, I stopped going to church. I had a boyfriend in college who was church-going and I went to the Methodist church with him a couple of times but eventually turned my back on organized religion. I had grown up thinking liberally in a conservative place and the hypocrisy of religion bothered me. Everyone is hypocritical—I get that, but I hate the idea of people being judged on their lifestyle because “God” said to do so. Isn’t God supposed to be loving?

And now I’m going to tell you the most hypocritical thing of all. I go to church. I work in the nursery there. When we moved back to the South, I wanted my children raised in the Episcopal Church. Why, you might ask, would I want that if I’m a questioner, an infidel, a heathen? Because in the South religion is a way of life. In the South, the first question out of someone’s mouth when they meet you is, “What church do you go to?” In the South, friendships are not made from cradle to the grave but from the baptismal font to heaven. Simply put, I wanted my children to fit into the society in which they were being raised.

I instill questions into my children’s head. I ask them if they believe in God. I ask them to prove it to me. I don’t want them blindly following. If they’re going to believe, then I want them to have a true belief, a belief I wish I had but never did. All my children believe in God, and I find comfort in that, because there is something comforting in believing in a higher power who can take all the pain away. There is something comforting in knowing you’re not alone in this world. There is something comforting in knowing that despite your sins, in the end you will be forgiven. I often think how much easier life would be if I had that kind of faith and believed in it wholeheartedly.

The Devil Within explores the intricacies of religion. William is wracked by guilt for sinning against his God. He blames himself for the deaths of his mother and siblings, because he believes he was being punished for his sins. He believes the devil has led him into temptation. But in the end, religion is such a huge part of his life, his world, and his culture that he still finds solace in it despite the fact that it almost destroyed him. How wonderful would it be to have that kind of faith?