It is time to catch up with Linda Bethea and her extended family…and this week her well-meaning Grandma and her sometimes unwelcome gifts.
Grandma and the Coat from Hell by Linda Bethea.
Since there were five kids in our family, Grandma did her best to help out when she could.
Sometimes I still hate her for it. Once she went to the Goodwill Store and bought me the ugliest coat in the world. I didn’t have a problem with Goodwill. It was ugly that bothered me. It was a knee-length brown hounds-tooth wool dress coat of the style not seen since movies from the 1940’s, trimmed with brown velvet cuffs and collar and huge brown buttons with big rhinestones in the middle. I had hoped for a parka with fake-fur collar like the high society girls in my class. I turned to Mother, hoping for salvation. Mother was ecstatic, probably…
“The most beautiful thing in Life is that our souls remain hovering over the place where we once enjoyed ourselves. I am one of those who remembers such places regardless of distance or time. Let not your worrying about the future interfere with your tranquility.”
— RICK SIKES
You write songs, poetry, short stories, screenplays, and novels. How do you choose a form?
I started out with a screenwriting class when I decided I had to tell the story, as I was thinking movie. (I still am, by the way.) I quickly concluded that the story was way too big to tell in one short movie. So, I branched out and took novel-writing classes not realizing at the time it would take four books for me to tell the story from beginning to end. I was originally thinking trilogy, but the last book got way too lengthy and I had to find a way to divide it. When writing fiction, I tend to gravitate toward short stories. However, I am on the second book in a series of full-length fiction novels now. I suppose the answer to the question would be, whatever direction the story pulls me. Sometimes it’s no more than a short poem and other times a 90,000 word novel.
How did you realize you have a story to tell, what drives you to continue?
In all honesty, Rob, I thought someone else would come along and write our story. So many people passed through our doors over the years, and they would say, “Someone needs to write y’all’s story.” I agreed, but never in a million years thought it would have to be me. I thought my NY Times and USA Today Bestselling author sister would tell it, but she put it back in my lap giving me lots of support to tackle it. It was about two years after Rick died that I woke up one morning to the realization that my sister was right. I had to be the one to tell the story as I was the only one there. And, that I had to get busy and learn how to do this. So, I started taking creative writing classes and learning the craft. When I started trying to put the story together, I was telling it in first person. But, I found that it was way too personal to continue it that way. I was stumped and didn’t exactly know what to do. So, I was sitting around one day talking to two of my girlfriends and one of them suggested I create characters to tell the story through. That was the lightbulb moment. It was exactly what I needed to move forward. I created Darlina Flowers and Luke Stone to tell the story through. That allowed me to back away and let the characters tell it. Rick died in 2009, and I published the first segment of the story in 2013 with “Flowers and Stone.”
What drives me to continue with this story is the message that each segment carries. If my story can touch one life, I am happy, and I’ve done my job.
In your synopsis of, Flowers and Stone, you write, “Darlina embraces the lifestyle, traveling with him and his band up and down the many roads of Texas playing their music. Luke decides to make her a part of his show bringing go-go girls to country music crowds. She is ecstatic to be included.” Is Darlina you or did she change as a character as you wrote her?
Based on my answer above, I think you already know I am Darlina and she is me. Honestly, I think I wrote Darlina as a much stronger woman than I was at the time. I truly didn’t know anything about life and was so unprepared to jump into it with both feet. Like Darlina, I wanted to try everything that had been forbidden by the strict religion I was raised in and didn’t give much thought to consequences. Darlina trusted Luke completely, with her body, her mind and her heart, as did I.
How does music affect your writing. Does it affect the way you pace the line?
The way music affects my writing is that it permeates almost every single thing I write whether it be a short story or novel. In the true story of mine and Rick’s lives, music was such a huge part of it that there was no way not to include it. And, that included releasing a music CD of original music with each segment of the story.
I can’t say that music affects the way I pace a line. However, that being said, I do believe that a story needs its own rhythm. For me, finding that rhythm usually comes through the dialogue.
What is Outlaw Music?
That is such a great question. Contrary to what most folks believe, the Outlaw Music movement wasn’t a bunch of law-breaking musicians. It was writers and musicians that dared to break away from the strict “Nashville” way of making music and become true Indie artists blazing new trails. They dared to do things the way that felt right to them rather than following the status-quo.
Would you describe yourself as an Outlaw writer?
Based on the definition I just gave above for Outlaw music, I suppose I am an Outlaw writer. I’m an Indie author, so far in my writing career. That means I’ve self-published all my books. That being said, I am trying hard to get a publisher for the new fiction series I’m working on.
Would you describe yourself as spiritual? (I ask because I have a sense of the spiritual when I read about your relationship with Rick)
I tell people that I am probably the most anti-religious person you will ever meet. I see so much horror that has been inflicted on humans throughout history in the name of the ‘church.’ But, that being said, I am very ‘spiritual.’ As my journey took me from the holy-roller church to following a Guru, I have quite a varied spiritual spectrum. At this point in life, I’m tuned into the Angels, my spiritual guides and teachers. I do meditation and have a deep indescribable love for the Creator that is the essence of everything. I also love working with gemstones, and have taken psychic development classes. I suppose I am a mixture of a lot of different aspects of spirituality. Rick practiced the American Indian spiritual beliefs. One time a Baptist preacher came to our house to invite us to church. In conversation, he asked Rick if he gave thanks for food before he ate. Rick’s answer left the man speechless. He said, “Why would I give thanks for the food I eat without taking time to give thanks for each breath that I breathe? For without the breath, I need no food.” That said it all!
What advice do you have for people who think they may have a story to tell?
Oh, my goodness! If you think you have a story to tell, don’t ignore it. I think we are channels and if an idea comes to you, there is a reason. So what if you don’t know how to craft a story? Get busy and learn! I want to read your story.
That’s great advice Jan!
Will you share a few paragraphs from one of your novels? (perhaps Flowers and Stone)
Excerpt 1 from “Flowers and Stone”
Darlina stood where she could watch this group. It appeared that Luke Stone was the man in charge and everyone around him either seemed to respect and love him or fear him. She couldn’t tell which, and maybe it was a little of both.
The attractive dark-haired lady to the left of him must be his wife, she concluded. Many of the customers approached his table, and he seemed to know them all personally.
Sherry joined her. “Whatcha’ lookin’ at, sweetie?”
She quickly looked away. “Just watchin’ the show.”
“Let me give you a little advice. Luke Stone is bad news. And besides that, he’s way too old for you.”
“I have no intention of getting any closer to him than to take his order and serve his food.”
She knew in her heart the words that came out of her mouth weren’t true. He fascinated her.
Excerpt 2 from “Flowers and Stone”
Luke Stone couldn’t remember the last time he’d bought a piece of jewelry for a lady, although lots of ladies had bought jewelry for him. He wondered how in the hell this sweet young girl with sparkling blue eyes had gotten under his skin so quickly. He imagined what it would feel like to run his fingers through her long auburn hair and speculated that it must smell like sweet blooming flowers.
As he stood at the counter in one of the finest jewelry stores in Abilene, he asked the clerk, “What would you suggest for a very sweet young lady that I just met?”
The clerk immediately brought out a tray of necklaces. “These are all very nice, Mr. Stone.”
He looked them over and spotted a small gold heart on a delicate chain with a tiny diamond set in the middle of the heart. “This one oughta’ do.”
The clerk placed it in a black velvet box, and Luke paid for it. He blinked and reached for his sunglasses when he walked outside into the bright sunshine. He wasn’t accustomed to being out of bed at ten a.m., much less cleaned up and purchasing jewelry.
Excerpt 3 “Flowers and Stone”
Before long, Luke was back. He escorted the girls to the area behind the stage where they would wait for their cue to go on. Darlina’s heart began to race, and her breath came in short gasps. She reached out for the drink in Sherry’s hand and took a big swig, as she made a conscious effort to calm the nerves. She wanted tonight to be perfect.
Luke squeezed her hand reassuringly. “Okay baby, I’ve gotta go back, so you girls just hang tight, and we’ll get you up soon.”
It sounded as if the place was full, and Darlina peeked out to find a standing room only crowd.
Sherry moved close beside her. “Look at all those men in uniforms!”
Darlina nodded. “I see them. There must be 500 or more, and now I’m more nervous than ever.”
The girls shared the rest of the drink and soon Luke announced them to the audience. “Ladies and gentlemen, the Rebel Rousers have a real treat for you tonight. All the way from Abilene, Texas; we bring to you the Rebel Rouser Go-Go Girls!”
As they burst onto the stage, cheers, whistles, and hollers echoed from all around.
The band played Mustang Sally, and the noise from the crowd rose to a crescendo. The excitement was like electricity in the air, and the girls danced exactly as Marketa had taught them, bringing round after round of applause and cheers from the soldiers.
Darlina glanced at Luke and saw him beaming. He winked and blew her a kiss.
The four-hour show ended, and Luke and Darlina went back to their dressing room to change into street clothes. A knock on the door startled them both. Luke opened it to find a uniformed officer standing there.
“Luke, that was the best show you’ve ever brought us. I can assure you that you’ll be booked back here again soon. The soldiers need entertainment, and that’s what you gave ‘em tonight. I just wanted to let you know how pleased we are.”
“Thank you, Commander. We enjoyed entertaining y’all. I’ll be in touch about another booking.”
The man handed Luke a large amount of cash and left after shaking his hand.
Imagine a shift to the way you see the world that arises through poetic narration.
Imagine the world, at its base level, is a collection of selves. These selves collide, disperse, intermingle, and share themselves in lines of free verse. Such is the premise of Versions of the Self, poetry that assumes multiple types of selves exist and relate in ways that alter them. Each of the eight chapters looks at a different type of self, including the singular “I” and romantic interactions. These unique 80 poems definitely color themselves outside of the lines.
Versions of the self is quite an extraordinary book of poetry. The poet, Christy Birmingham, has a very unique style of writing which I found very intriguing. I also thought this style worked exceptionally well for the content of this book which is all about different versions of self. It imitates…
Thank you very much Joy for inviting me over for an interview… it is a great pleasure.
Where you born and what was your first memory?
I was born in Wickham, a village in Hampshire, not far from Portsmouth. My parents lived in a house that my mother grew up in from about the age of 8 years old. Her step-father was the village butcher, with a shop in the main square. We went to Ceylon, as it was called in those days, when I was 18 months old for two years, and my first memories were of noisy monkeys. Small macaques lived all around us in the forest, and they would come into the house at any opportunity to thieve food, my father’s cigarettes and my mother’s jewellry. I also have vivid memories of the scents and sunshine, and I remember swimming at a very early age in my…