…about things Mama taught me.

When I was growing up, my family was of modest means. In my hometown, most people fit into one of two categories: well-off or poor. The well-off owned businesses or were in upper management at the cotton mill or a spread house or carpet factory. Those who were poor were laborers in those establishments…the working poor.

And then there were others who didn’t even have one of those low-paying jobs. They were the very, very poor.

The knowledge of this wide social divide was impressed upon me when I was in elementary school. A group of well-to-do girls decided, for some reason, that I had suddenly become acceptable, and they would allow me to be part of their group. Even though my clothes were homemade. Even though I had none of the amazing possessions they sported.

One day at recess, when the group gathered on the playground, a girl, who was obviously, heart-breakingly poor, caught their attention. She was dirty, her hair uncombed, her clothes raggedy. And she played all alone.

The well-off girls pointed at her and made fun of her. What they were doing made me uncomfortable, so I backed away and stood at the fringe of the group, not sure what, if anything I could do.

That night, I told Mama about it. She stopped what she was doing and faced me, with fire dancing in her blue eyes. She said, “Don’t just play with those who have nice clothes and already have lots of friends. Tomorrow, you go and be nice to that girl. You play with her. When someone doesn’t have a friend, you be their friend.”

And so I did.

What Mama said sunk deep, set my attitudes and has guided a lot of my decision-making through the years. And, I’m beginning to realize, it has influenced my writing.

I don’t usually write about the rich, the powerful. And in several of my novels, the main character, like Ailean MacLachlainn of High on a Mountain, is poor and has a hard life. Most of my characters are ordinary folks who face tough situations.

But though downtrodden, they are not beaten. They face their circumstances with courage and determination.

Take, for instance, Fallon McKniere, of On Berryhill Road. Fallon endured heartbreak when she was six. Her father died, and it was thought that he committed suicide because he’d embezzled money from the Navy. When she couldn’t take the ridicule, couldn’t take being ostracized any longer, she dropped out of school.

She works in a convenience store and has little hope of ever doing better. She makes so little money that she often goes hungry. But she has courage, a strong moral ethic and does her best to take care of herself and her mentally-unbalanced mother. And though she has been treated unkindly, she responds to others with kindness.

Fallon is someone I admire, someone I’d be honored to have as a friend. Like the little girl Mama told me to befriend so many years ago.

Image © Talis via bigstockphoto.com

…about making books free.

Amazon.com recently started a new service (I call it a service, because that’s what it is proving to be for me). They’re offering a lending library for Amazon Prime Members who own Kindles.

I’m not a Prime Member (but I’m considering it now), so you might wonder how the lending library is of service to me.

Here’s how. If I opt to put a book into the lending library, Amazon provides the use of a special promotional tool: I can make a book free for a limited time. Making a book free is a fantastic way for an unknown author to become known…at least, to become known to those who download his/her free book.

I already knew, due to an experience with “free” in August, when I made Tugger’s Down free, that this was a powerful promotional tool. So, in the middle of December, I made the first book in my historical series, High on a Mountain, free on Kindle. And while the effect was not as dramatic as it had been for Tugger’s Down [because High on a Mountain is: 1) in a less popular genre; 2) it had a LOT of competition from other books being made free], it was a beneficial means of promotion.

And so, I made the decision to offer yet another book free…On Berryhill Road. It went free yesterday, the 25th, and I’m very pleased with the results thus far. If you own a Kindle or you have the Kindle for PC app, or a Kindle app on another device, you can download On Berryhill Road today through Thursday. It will be free for a limited time, so don’t miss out!

P.S. Don’t you think the snazzy new cover created for On Berryhill Road by Connie at Word Slinger Boutique is…well, snazzy?