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Saturday, December 20, 2014


Yesterday I googled my name. I do that once in awhile just to see what all pops up. Sometimes you find surprising results like the link HERE. I wonder what sort of life that Pamila Daniel led back in Wales in the early 1800s. Was she well off, or living through hard times? Was she blonde? A redhead? Or a brunette like me? (TBH, I was each of those at some point in my life:)

I wish I could find out more about her. Maybe she's my husband's ancestor. Wouldn't that be strange? Our first names are unusual. I started spelling my name with an "i" when I was 12, to differentiate myself from several other Pamelas in junior high. But she was given that name at birth.

Maybe I'll try to research her life a bit more thoroughly when I'm able. I love reading about history and who knows, maybe there's an interesting story in there somewhere.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Updating Book Covers

Changing some of my covers to simpler designs. I really am tired of the slick stock photo covers I'm seeing.

Honestly everything is too slick these days. I much prefer something raw and imperfect - after all, that describes nature - and human beings, too.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Excerpt From A Casting of Stones

The plot:

Small towns always have secrets… 
Wileyville, Tennessee, circa 1970, seems to have more than its share. 
Secrets that must come to light before two gruesome murders can be solved. 
Big beautiful redhead Saucy McGill who runs the town diner has a personal reason for sticking her freckled nose in – the victims were her cook, and her dishwasher – but more importantly, they were her friends. 
Will Saucy and her ex-boyfriend, handsome sheriff Jeb Granger, find the killer before he (or she) strikes again? Hopefully yes, since it looks like Saucy is their next target!

The excerpt:






This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination, or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

A Casting of Stones

Copyright 2012 Studio Daniel

All Rights Reserved.

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For all the big saucy Southern girls.




Wileyville, Tennessee, Summer, 1970

The fat lady banged through the twin glass doors of Saucy’s Diner like a Tennessee whirlwind, which is what anyone who knew her would tell you she was.
“Howdy, Miss Saucy!” a fella shouted as he rose to take her hand. He was a rough-looking farmer dressed in overalls and a red cap, Jaymar Talley, Miss Saucy’s best regular customer. “Is that a new dress you’re wearing?”
“That it is, Jaymar! How do you like it? Be honest, now.”
“I love it, I just plain love it!” he grinned, revealing a gap where his front teeth should have been. “It sets quite nicely with your pretty red hair.”
“Well, thank you kindly, Jaymar. I appreciate a man’s opinion on these matters.”
She winked at him and sashayed into the kitchen. Her cook, Adelaide, or Addie for short, a sleek black girl with long, straight hair and pensive hazel eyes, was cooking up a heap of greens to go with a fresh-baked ham resting on the counter.
“Oh my Lord, Miss Saucy! You bought it! I truly didn’t believe you would!” Addie gasped as she admired the bright polyester shift that was covered in luscious red roses with dark green stems.
“I couldn’t resist it, Addie. And judging by the looks I got on the way over here, I’d say I made the right choice!” She tied an apron around her thick waist. “I see you have everything in order, as usual. Did the meat delivery come in?”
“No, not yet. That Reggie is the laziest young man. I can’t think why old Mr. Petrie keeps him on.”
“Well, I expect he’s easy on him because the boy just came back from ‘Nam. I hear he had a rough time over there.”
“So did my cousin Tyrone but he straightened up quick and got a sweet job as the bank president’s driver.”
“Orville Langley has a new driver? I’m out of the loop.”
“He’s been working for him almost a month now.”
“Well, you could have told me, Addie.”
“Yes, Ma’am, I guess I could’ve, but I just did, so that makes it okay.”
“Ha! If you say so! I haven’t visited old Orville in ages. Guess I ought to head that way one of these days. He’s a handsome son of a gun, even with that crop of white hair, like one of them old time movie stars.”
“Yeah, and with him being a widower and all, he’d probably appreciate your company.”
Saucy began to trim the ham. “He did, at one time. But now who’s out of the loop? Didn’t you hear that Orville is engaged to that sweet young thing that’s been tending his laundry?”
“Grey Wilder? No, I sure didn’t hear about that!” Addie’s demeanor changed; she seemed angry.
Saucy observed Addie, puzzling. “Anything wrong, Addie?”
“No, not a thing. The ribs are through marinating. I should start grilling them.”
She grabbed a huge platter from a double-door fridge and scurried outside.
Saucy searched her mind for a reason to explain Addie’s sudden distress. She was the curious type, odd occurrences that passed unnoticed by most people picked at her brain until she had to have the answer or bust. She knew that Addie lived in the same trailer park as Grey Wilder, a neat little place called Mimosa Acres that sat down by Wiley Creek. The two girls hung out together, had since they were babies. And Tyrone, Addie’s cousin, lived there with Addie and her mother Maylene. Facts, boring, useless facts; nothing added up to give her mind any satisfaction.
Dinnertime came; the little silver diner filled up with a boisterous, happy bunch of hungry patrons. Saucy McGill, as ever, was the main attraction, telling raunchy jokes and dancing to the jukebox’s country heartache melodies between serving up burgers, pork barbeque and pineapple-glazed ham.
Addie kept to herself in the kitchen all evening, which was not her normal behavior. Usually, she came out and joined in on the fun as much as a colored girl was allowed to in a small Southern town.
Finally, the last customer was gently pointed out the door. Saucy locked up for the night.
“I guess I’ll start these dishes now, Miss Saucy.”
“I’m sorry I haven’t found a washer yet, Addie. Damn that Liselle for running off with Johnny Rains! She’ll regret it, mark my words! That boy is one step short of Folsom as we speak!”
“Oh, I don’t know. He seemed like a nice boy.” Her voice trailed off, she became quiet; tears swelled in her eyes. Saucy pondered what was in her mind.
“I’ve been trying to find a replacement for Liselle, but nobody’s too willing. You’d think there’d be a mob of teenagers looking for a summer job, but most of them seem to be going to Bible Camp this season!”
“Well, I can’t fault them on that. Children these days need the Lord a lot more than a job.”
“You look beat, girl. Put off the dishes for now, and I’ll help you with them in the morning.”
Addie shook her head, began to pile the dishes in the sink. “No, no, I’d rather do them now, if you don’t mind.”
“I’ll stay, and help you with them, then.”
“Please, Miss Saucy, you run on along. I know Angel Lee is waiting on you. I can manage. Truly, I think I need the solitude.”
Saucy caught Addie’s chin in her hand, stared directly into her soft hazel eyes.
“Something is needling you girl. It has since I told you about Grey Wilder and Orville Langley. I’m a good listener, you know. One of the best.”
“It’s nothing, really. I’m just tired is all. I got to cook and do dishes here, then when I get home I have to clean up after my mama … you know she has a drinking problem …”
Saucy nodded.
“And now I’m expected to do Tyrone’s laundry and cooking, too. It’s all too much sometimes.”
Saucy hugged her. “I will be certain to find a dishwasher tomorrow, Addie, even if I have to kidnap somebody! And you tell Tyrone if he has such a sweet job, he can afford his own house! If he grumbles, send his butt my way. I’ll tell him a few things myself!”
Addie smiled slightly. “I’ll do that, Miss Saucy. I think he’s afraid of you.”
Saucy laughed at that, nodded her goodbye. Addie started to run the faucet, stopped to stare after Saucy with a sad look in her eyes.
The diner’s phone rang, startling her out of her thoughts. She picked it up.
“Saucy’s Diner. We’re closed right now. Oh, it’s you. I don’t want to. Why should I? No, don’t do that. I guess I can. I’ll be waiting at the usual place.”
She hung up, began to sob as she removed her apron and picked up her purse.
She passed a window; saw her mascara-stained cheeks and puffy eyelids.
“I look like a damn clown,” she said with a disgusted growl. She dabbed at her cheeks with a damp cloth then powdered her face and drew a black shiny line around her eyelids. Lastly, she applied some cherry red lipstick that enhanced the curve of her full lips and the color of her sienna skin. “That’s better,” she noted as she checked her image in the window.
Once the back door was locked up tight, Addie made her way carefully through the back alleys of Wileyville. No one saw her, most people were home and inside by ten o’clock, hugging the window air conditioners or watching the nightly news.
She reached the edge of town, walked carefully through the brush to a side road. She didn’t wait long. A long, slinky car pulled up, the passenger door opened. Addie stepped in without a word. The car took off, disappeared.
Saucy arrived at her little cedar-shingled house in her little yellow Opel GT – for a big lady, she seemed to have a lot of little things in her life. The littlest of all was her sweet but loud Chihuahua, Angel Lee.
She unlocked the bright red front door, was greeted by the tiny brown critter with yaps and licks.
“Now, now, calm down. You’d think I’d been gone a year!” She picked her up, set her on a flowery stool in the blue living room. “Wait here, munchkin, I’ll get your food ready.”
Saucy switched on the TV, left it on the local news. Then she flipped the kitchen light, gathered the dog food, the can opener and a bowl, and returned to give the eager Angel Lee her dinner. Afterwards, Saucy plopped down on the sofa and put up her feet, kicking off a pair of uncomfortable but stylish red heels.
Sleep hit her like a brick; she passed out with the TV still blaring. Around the time Johnny Carson was through with his monologue, the phone rang, shaking Saucy out of dreamland. She held her heart for a second as Angel Lee bellowed.
“My God, girl, calm yourself!”
She reached over, picked up the receiver.
“Hello. Oh, Maylene. No, I left Addie at the diner. She insisted on doing the dishes tonight though I offered to help her with them tomorrow. She’s probably still there. Well, did you call the diner? Oh, I see. Maybe she got through with them, and is headed home. It takes her a good twenty minutes to walk there. I know she told me that before. I’ve offered to teach her to drive, but you know Addie. No, no, I’m sure she’s okay, though she did seem a bit upset tonight. I couldn’t say. I asked her, but she just chalked it up to being tired. I am worried about her. She’s a good friend, and I hate to see my friends upset. I will. You call me when she gets in, otherwise I’ll worry all night, too. Fine. Goodnight then.”
She set the receiver down, walked past Angel Lee who was engrossed in finishing off her leftovers, and opened the front door. The night sounds were deafening, chirping crickets, croaking frogs, the sputtering AC in the window, a shrieking catfight out in the woods.
A long dark sedan eased by, driven by lawyer Seth Carroll. He nodded his hello; she did the same, wondering what had brought him out so late at night. Seeing him reminded her of Jeb Granger, the town sheriff; they’d all spent many a night like that, back when she was Carroll’s secretary, following him around in the dark, searching for clues to prove a client’s innocence. Jeb would always show up and go over the same area, finding, more often than not, evidence to prove that same client’s guilt. She was glad she was out of that nasty business. The only part she missed was seeing Jeb so much – and she still could if only – ah, well, that ship had sailed. She couldn’t call it back now.
Saucy peered into the darkness of the woods that lined the horizon of the opposite hill, a fear enveloping her heart like the fog that had settled on the ground below it. Something wasn’t right. She could always feel it when some misery was about to come upon her. And she was feeling it hard and mean, right then.


There was no Tennessee mule as stubbornly immovable as Grey Wilder in the morning. She lived for the night, felt a desperate entitlement to feed her vices while the moon held dominion over the Southern sky.
Daylight brought too many realities, too little satisfaction. Until recently, that is. She’d grown weary of her trailer park existence, become bored with the humiliation of doing other people’s laundry. So, clever girl as she was, she formulated a plan and saw it through to the last detail. And now, at the ripe young age of twenty-three, blonde-haired, brown-eyed Grey was the fiancĂ©e of Wileyville’s top banker, Orville Winfield Langley. He was rich, an attractive widower with no children, and he’d been an easy target for her overwrought femininity, giving in to her woeful sighs and worries with a kindness and attention that she almost felt guilty over – yeah, almost.
She stretched her long arms and legs, yawning widely. Then she slipped out of her bed and entered the tiny bathroom of her mother’s two bedroom singlewide. The whole trailer was decked out in avocado and orange. Even the toilet was avocado; made her ill to look at it. She thought of Langley’s luxurious townhouse on the edge of Wileyville; a Victorian beauty dressed up in the finest fabrics and wallpapers his late wife Amelia could find. It was furnished with rare antiques and its walls wore a dizzying array of expensive artwork collected in Amelia’s yearly trips to Europe. Soon, Grey would be enjoying the fruits of Amelia’s labors. She laughed, thinking how the old biddy must be turning in her grave, seeing poor Langley caught in the spider web of her housekeeper’s clinging, curvaceous young daughter. The woman hated her at first sight, never missed a chance to put her down in front of Langley or any other man. Revenge made her conquest all the sweeter.
“Morning, Baby,” her mother, Alma, yelled from the living room. “I was about to come fetch you up. It’s late, you know.”
Grey sauntered down the hall, fell onto the orange Naugahyde sofa, began munching on a plate of bacon her plump, brassy blonde mother held in her lap.
“So it’s late. I don’t have to work no more. See?”
She held out her left hand, wiggling her ring finger under Alma’s nose. A bright, diamond encrusted engagement ring threw tiny beams of white light into their eyes.
“Oh my God! You did it? You finally got the old man to pony up a ring? Well, I never would have believed it. I guess I don’t know him at all.”
“You sound like you’re sorry for him.”
“I know you, Grey. He won’t be happy with you. Not a gentleman like Mr. Langley.”
“Well, whoever said I wanted to make him happy, Mama? I just want his money.”
She hopped up, grabbed a Sundrop from the fridge.
“I never put that idea in your head. I thought I raised you better than that.”
“Maybe. But I’ve been a big girl for awhile now. I got ideas of my own.”
“But what about Johnny? I thought you worshipped the ground he walked on!”
“Johnny’s gone off with Liselle, Mama. You know that. I don’t know why you’re bringing it up, except to hurt me.”
“Well, I’m glad he’s gone! Boys like that are a dime a dozen!”
“He’s not like Daddy. Now guys like him are cheap!”
“I thought I taught you to respect the dead.”
“How could I respect a sadistic bastard like him? And why would you want me to? All he ever did was beat your brains out!”
“Only when I didn’t obey him. The Bible says I should, and I didn’t…”
“So you deserved to be hit? Geez, Mama, you’ve got some messed up thinking in your head! I’ve got to get dressed.”
Alma shook her head sadly as Grey returned to her room. She examined her own ring finger, which was bare. Then she caught sight of her frowzy reflection in the gold-veined mirror tiles above the stereo. A sigh escaped her plump lips. She lit a cigarette, puffed slowly, resting her head against the curve of the sofa. Her mind trailed backwards towards the days when Dan Wilder was alive. They were never really married, though no one knew but them. He worked as the gardener at the Langley estate back then; she was the housekeeper. Struck her as strange and a bit ironic when Grey fell for the most recent gardener, Johnny Rains. He swooped in, broke the heart of every girl who gazed into those baby blues. Alma had been tempted herself but her days of attraction had longed passed. She was glad the boy was out of the picture. Still, it would have kept Grey from flinging her charms towards Mr. Langley if Johnny had stayed. She had a rare affection for the old man, did not want her daughter, or anybody else, to wound him.
She heard a gentle knock on the door, rose to open it. Maylene Polk greeted Alma nervously, her dark features wrinkled in a troubled frown. She was a tall, gaunt woman with close-cropped copper hair and restless black eyes.
“Hey, Alma.”
“Hidee, Maylene. What can I do for you this morning? You look like you could use a beer.”
“Oh, bless you, Alma, I surely could.”
“Come on in and sit a spell. We haven’t talked in ages.”
“I can’t talk long. I got to see the sheriff about my Addie.”
“What’s wrong with Addie?” Grey asked as she walked in, wearing a lemon-colored sundress and matching high heels, her hair swept up in a French twist.
“She’s missing. You ain’t seen her, have you, Grey?”
“Not since Wednesday, when I was at Orville Langley’s house. She was visiting Tyrone over there, I suppose. Don’t know what else she’d be there for. Anyway, when she saw me with Orville, she took off, kind of quick like. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with her.”
“Orville? You’re kind of free with the mister’s name, aren’t you?”
“And why not? He’s my fiancĂ©!”
Maylene’s face froze. Then she nodded. “Oh, girl, you’re fooling me. But I ain’t in no mood for jokes.”
“She ain’t joking, Maylene. She’s got her hooks in him real tight. I’m ashamed some days to call her my child.”
Maylene hung her head; there was a strange sorrow in her eyes.
“You’ll feel different once we’re living high style in old Orville’s mansion!”
“Dream on, Baby! Tell me, Maylene, did Addie stay at the diner last night? I seem to remember her doing that before, so she could be up early to make the biscuit dough.”
“She ain’t there. I checked. She’s been feeling poorly these days. Sick to her stomach, and being really tired. I was afraid she was coming down with something.”
“Well, if you ask me,” Alma whispered, “I think that old Saucy McGill works her too hard! I cannot stand that woman.”
“Me, neither.” Grey added. She headed for the front door, “If you find Addie, let me know. I hope she’s okay.”
“So do I,” Maylene sighed. “I can’t do without my baby girl. Alma, did you forget about that beer?”
“No, no, I’ll get it.” Alma and Grey passed knowing looks. Then Grey slipped out the door.
When Saucy arrived at the diner, her fears became tangible. The doors were still locked, the dishes sat in a sink full of murky water and the oven was stone cold.
“Addie? Are you here?” she called as she entered the kitchen, knowing full well no one would answer. She picked up the phone then set it back down. “I’ll give her more time. She was tired last night. Maybe she just slept late.”
“Talking to yourself, Saucy?” a deep voice boomed from the front. “That’s the first sign of senility, so they say.” A tall, straight-walking man entered with a smile. Saucy returned it.
“If that’s true I’ve been on my way to senility since I was five years old! What brings you into my diner so early, Jeb?”
“I’m looking for a few answers, to calm the worries of an over-anxious mama. Have you seen Adelaide Polk this morning?”
“No, and I’m worried about her, too. Did she not come home last night?”
“I see.”
“Well, I don’t. She’s a grown young woman. Hasn’t she ever stayed out all night before?”
“That I wouldn’t know, but I doubt it. Addie’s a religious girl, Jeb. She’s always avoided sinning.”
“Glad you don’t feel that way.” He winked at her; she grinned a bit.
“Long days past, Jeb. Don’t get any notions.”
“Oh, I always got notions, Miss Saucy. But right now, I’ve an office to run. If Addie shows up, tell me. And have her call her mama. That woman’s so riled up she can’t see straight.”
“I will.”
He nodded his goodbye, made a direct path to the front doors and disappeared down the sidewalk. Saucy expelled a good bit of breath, just thinking about that man and the times well-had. But being the town sheriff’s go-to girl wore a little thin after awhile. She was no modern day Miss Kitty, waiting on old Matt Dillon to settle down.
She wrapped her memories back into the neat little corner of her brain where they co-mingled, and began to prepare the diner for the breakfast crowd. She worked up a mountain of dough for the biscuits, laid the bacon and sausages out on the enormous griddle and started the percolator. She could hear voices in the front, stepped out to meet and greet the day’s first customers; of course Jaymar Talley was number one in line. Saucy wondered how the man made a living on that tobacco farm when he was always in her diner.
“Morning, Miss Saucy!”
“Morning, Jaymar. What’ll you have? Three eggs, sunny side up, five link sausages, some fresh-cooked grits and red eye gravy, orange juice, a cup of coffee, strawberry jam, and four dry pieces of toast! Is that it?”
“Lordy, yes, Miss Saucy. I’m honored that you took the time to remember.”
“Who could forget an order like that? If I ate like you do, I’d be twice as fat as I am now!”
“Oh you ain’t fat, Miss Saucy, you’re just ample. I like a woman to be ample. Makes them pretty, like them old paintings in the museum up Nashville way.”
“You surprise me, Jaymar. I didn’t know you took to culture.”
“Oh, I do. I do. I been looking at painted pictures since I was a child. Paint my own sometimes, just landscapes, you know. I ain’t good enough to paint people just yet, but when I am, maybe you can be my model.”
“I’d be pleased to do that, Jaymar. Sit down, and breakfast will be on the table as soon as I can make it!”
“But where’s Miss Addie?” Jolly Scope asked. He was Jaymar’s partner in the tobacco farm, and was as round as Jaymar was straight.
“She’s a bit under the weather, Jolly,” Saucy lied. “I’m doing the cooking today, if that’s all right?”
“Yes, Ma’am!” he laughed. “We’re in for a treat, Jaymar!”
“That we are, Jolly. You need any help, Miss Saucy, just call on us. We’ll be your servants.”
“No, you boys just jaw a bit and relax. I’ve got things well covered.”
She escaped into the kitchen before she had to tell any more lies. Where in blue blazes was Addie Polk? If she could get away long enough from the diner, she’d be sure to find out but there was no way. Maybe Jeb could come up with something. Or maybe the girl would turn up, safe and sound. Maybe she just needed a bit of space, some time for deep, uninterrupted thinking, to free her from whatever misery had been plaguing her the night before. And maybe pigs had wings.
Grey Wilder dusted off her heels with a quick hand then ran the hose pipe to get a sip of water. She’d been knocking at Orville’s front door for ten minutes with no answer. No one was out back, no car in the garage. She was peeved already from having to walk all the way there from Mimosa Acres in the unrelenting heat of a summer day. Her own car needed a new motor, and she hadn’t the money to fix it – yet. And now this; where was the old coot? He never went to the bank before one, and then his chauffer always drove him there. But she’d seen Tyrone Polk sitting down by the creek on her trek up the road.
Finally, Miss Susan, Orville’s cook, drove up in her creaking old Studebaker. She was a distant cousin of Tyrone’s, and the one who got him the job.
“Where’s Mr. Langley?”
Miss Susan looked her up and down like she was doggy dung on her shoe. “I haven’t seen him this morning. He must have left early, and decided to eat in town.”
“Well, wouldn’t he tell you whether he was going to or not? Wouldn’t he leave a note or something?”
“Mr. Langley does as he pleases, which should be quite obvious to you. I’m going in to start a stew for dinner. When is your mother coming? It’s sweeping day, you know.”
“She’ll be here later. Of course, once Orville and I are married, you’ll have to hire somebody else to do the laundry, and the cleaning. Mama will be moving into the left wing of the house.”
“The hell she will!” Miss Susan leaned in, glaring at Grey with hard black eyes. “You think you’ve got him trussed up like a turkey, ready for plucking, but let me tell you something, you little slut … I’ll see you dead before I allow you to ruin Mr. Langley’s life! He’s too weak to say no to you, but if he finds out what’s been going on between you and that gardener … that Johnny Rains … he’ll drop you back into the gutter where you belong!”
“Don’t you dare mention his name! He’s gone, has been for days. I’m not even sure he ever existed. I’ve tried to … well, never mind what I tried. I’m engaged to Orville now, and there’s nothing to be done about it. You think he’d listen to some old black harpy like you over me, his precious brown-eyed girl? Ha! Just tell him, and see!”
She twisted off towards the road, arrogant as a peacock, though her feathers were shaken a bit. What if Orville had heard something about her and Johnny? Johnny Rains, the one unexpected turn in her trip to wealth and security. A black-haired demon with blue eyes and the sweetest talk around. Sure, she loved him, who wouldn’t? But Grey wasn’t the type to let love get in the way when money was involved. And that fact had cost her Johnny. One big argument and he was gone. Though he had sworn he’d get revenge somehow. And he was the dangerous kind, had a record, of that she was certain. But he wouldn’t hurt old Orville. He liked him, felt bad that Grey was fleecing him. He couldn’t do anything. Could he?




I'm back!

I'll be posting things about my books here on occasion. Mostly this blog will be a pointer of sorts so readers can find my other works if they are interested.

Welcome to you! I hope you've enjoyed my stories.