Those of you who know me or follow this blog, may know that I have talked about starting a sequel to The Pecan Man for years. The character of Grace has haunted me…I loved her so much and hated what happened to her throughout her life. The character was partially inspired by my sister’s battle with addiction, and I knew the devastating effects of drugs on the family unit. Ours was torn apart by the destruction. People would always ask me if Grace would be all right, and I never knew what to answer. I’ve always hoped so, but I also know that there are no guarantees, and there are rarely bright, rosy, happy endings in life no matter how much we want them.
My sister died of a drug overdose on October 17, 2015. She was caring for her three very young grandchildren because their mother, my niece, was in jail on drug related charges. The children were left unattended for hours after my sister had a drug-induced stroke and died. My mother, who had done all the wrong things for all the right reasons for years and years and years, was devastated by the loss of her firstborn child, and by the circumstances of her death. She never recovered from that heartbreak and her health began to fail rapidly. I lost my mom in February of 2016 and I, too, am battling a heartbreak that is debilitating at best. In early September, about a week before I graduated from college, my niece also died of a drug overdose, just hours after she had been arrested yet again on outstanding charges. It has been a rough year.
Despite the trauma, I managed to finish my undergraduate program at Goddard College and graduated in September with a BFA in Creative Writing. My senior thesis focused on Southern Women Writers and our tendency to feel compelled to tell our mothers’ stories. While much of my critical context paper had been written prior to Mom falling ill, the revisions were made from her hospital room where I stayed as much as I could with her in her final days. In many ways, I was living my thesis, and it was the most difficult thing I had ever done, before losing her.
As part of the program, I also finished my second novel, What Matters in Mayhew, and published it this month on Amazon.com. So, I have been left trying to decide what to do next. The book I just published is intended to be the first in what I call The Beanie Bradsher Series, so it would make sense to start the second novel right away. But this morning, I woke up with Gracie on my mind, so I got up and just started in on it. Though only a few pages are written so far, I thought I would let y’all know that I may have had a breakthrough that will allow this story to continue. I hope so. Y’all pray for me, okay?
Chapter One – Beatrice Bradsher
Will Thaxton followed Beanie down the grassy aisles of polished granite headstones as she silently stopped at first one, then another. The morning was quiet, if you didn’t count the occasional logging truck roaring down the highway or the soft swish of Beatrice Bradsher’s crinoline petticoat.
“This one’s kinda pretty,” Beanie said as she pointed to a low rectangular stone with two small entwined hearts engraved at the top.
“I think that one’s meant for two people, Bean,” Will said.
“Oh, that’s why there’s two hearts,” Beanie sighed. “But there’s only one of me.”
“Are you sure you want to do this now?” Will asked.
“I done made up my mind on this one. It ain’t every day a body wins twenty-thousand dollars on the lotto. I aim to do something smart with it.”
Will wanted to tell her to do something fun with it instead. He wanted to tell her to take a cruise to the Bahamas or buy herself a car or, hell, at least a new bicycle, but he didn’t waste his breath. She rode her red Schwinn bike everywhere she went. If she needed an occasional trip to Walmart in the neighboring county, she’d tag along with Will on Fridays, like she’d done today – except this time they stopped by the Suwannee Monument Company to pick out a headstone. Otherwise, everything she needed was within a two mile radius of downtown Mayhew Junction. She did not need to drive a car even if she wanted to, which she did not.
“Why don’t you put it in the bank and think about it a while? There’s no reason to be in a hurry about this, is there?”
“I should hope not,” Beanie snorted. “But you never know about these things. I ‘bout got creamed by a chicken truck the other day. Them truckers are plain crazy, barreling through town like they ain’t got good sense. I don’t know why Charlie don’t do somethin’ about it. Somebody’s bound to be killed, though Lord knows I hope it ain’t me. Leastways not anytime soon… What was we talkin’ about?”
Will laughed. Beanie was a breath of fresh air. Honest to a fault, pure in the truest sense of the word, with very little reason to filter anything that came through her lips. She marched to her own beat; that was for certain. Some people – LouWanda Crump, for one – would say Beanie was a spectacle, riding through town on a bike that had seen better days, a wire basket on the handlebars filled with groceries or fabric from the quilt shop or a stack of Avon catalogs to deliver. That she rode a bike wasn’t so bad. It was how she dressed that gave everyone pause. Beanie Bradsher made her own clothes. Western wear was the only way Will knew to describe it. Skirts with layers of crinoline, as if she were headed for a square dance somewhere, though he’d never seen her dance a step. Button down shirts, yokes decorated with hand-beaded trim, ruffles, or Beanie’s personal favorite – rhinestones. And always, without fail, a matching cowboy hat covered her pale reddish hair which hung in gentle curls down her back.
Her face was pale, though her hands and legs sported a healthy tan. She wore enough makeup to compliment her lightly freckled features and army green eyes, but not so much as to outdo her daily attire. And, though no palette went untouched in her repertoire of outfits, her lips were always painted the same shade of Avon lip color: Rose Gold #3, which was a slightly muted shade of red.
Cowboy boots completed her ensemble. There were two rows of them in her closet. Will knew this only because she rented a room from him at the Château and he occasionally went in to make repairs, change the light bulbs, or deal with the temperamental old plumbing.
“We were talking about how you should spend the money you won,” Will reminded her.
“Well, I’ve already decided how to spend it. I’m gettin’ my affairs in order. Ain’t no one to do it when I’m gone, unless you count my cousin, and quite frankly, I don’t. There is no tellin’ what she would do if she took care of buryin’ me. Prolly just stick me in a pine box with one o’ them tacky roadside crosses for a marker and call it done. Or, Lord help me…” Beanie gasped and clutched the mother of pearl buttons at the base of her neck. “What do you call that when they put your ashes in one o’ them urinal things?”
“Yeah, cremation. Lord, the very word makes my butt draw up. I don’t wanna be burnt to a crisp and stuck in a urinal for eternity.”
“Well, it’s not a urinal, Beanie; it’s an urn,” Will said, stifling the urge to laugh. “But I get your point.”
“Whatever,” Beanie said. “I don’t wanna die without layin’ eyes on my gravestone. Better to buy it now and have a few years to enjoy it myself. Besides, I don’t think I’m ever going to see this much money at one time again.”
“You talk like you’re on the cusp of infirmity, Bean. You’re forty-two and healthy as a horse. Why don’t you do something for yourself for a change?”
“This is for me. Ain’t no one goin’ in there with me, as you just pointed out. So, this is all for me. Besides – my mind’s made up. Reckon they can do me a pair of boots up there like they done them hearts? I can get this smaller stone for my name, but see where that one heart comes up outta the top there? They could draw me a pair of boots and stick ‘em up there in the heart. That’d be nice, wouldn’t it?”
“Real nice, Beanie. I think it would be lovely and it would always remind me of you.”
“Ha! Now there’s some positive thinkin’, Will Thaxton! You reckon you’re gonna be around when I’m gone? You got ten years on me if’n a day.”
Had anyone else said that, Will would have been offended, but he knew Beanie meant no harm. She was only stating the obvious.
“Point taken, Miss Bradsher. Except that it’s more like fifteen. And if you’re buying it today, I won’t have to wait until you’re gone, now will I? Let’s go talk to Mr. Henshaw and see if they can put a pair of boots in that heart before I put one of mine on your rear end for calling me old.”
Beanie’s laugh rang out across the field of polished granite.
“I didn’t mean it like that, Will, really I didn’t…” Beanie protested, choking back giggles.
Will feigned offense and led her by the arm toward the office at the back of the yard.
“You’re not old, really. I mean, just ‘cause you’re a widower don’t mean your bones is getting’ brittle or anything.” Beanie laughed at her own joke, stumbling a bit as Will tightened his grip on her elbow and pulled her along.
“Better stop now before you have to find your own way back home,” Will said, grinning in spite of himself.
“Wait, I gotta figure out what it’s gonna say,” Beanie said.
“You can work that out with Mr. Henshaw later. He has to order the stone before he can sandblast the inscription on it, so you have plenty of time.”
“Here’s hopin’,” Beanie chuckled. “Long as I steer clear of chicken trucks anyway.”
Find my blog on Goodreads.com for another chapter of What Matters in Mayhew!
Please take a look at Cheryl Holloway‘s blog for an interview we did about The Pecan Man. Cheryl gave me the opportunity to talk about some interesting aspects of my work, and I am incredibly grateful to her. Please visit her blog and share it with your friends!
Beanie Bradsher has never had a boyfriend, never driven a car, and never won the lottery, but some of that is about to change. When the Mayhew Café regulars suspect her of carrying on with a married man, speculation runs rampant. It reaches a fever pitch when said married man moves Beanie in to care for his ailing wife and five children. But all is not as it seems.
Every town has at least one beloved, if misunderstood, eccentric and Beanie Bradsher belongs to Mayhew Junction. Some – LouWanda Crump, for example – would call Beanie a spectacle, but Beanie just marches (and dresses) to the beat of a different drum. Not much has changed over the years in this town. On any given morning, you’ll find the same people at the same table at the same café, and none of them have changed one iota in the past twenty years. But now Beanie Bradsher has won the lottery, and might be dating Sweet Lee Atwater’s husband. And the hometown basketball star Vesuvius Jones just got a face full of Red Velvet cake at the Trunk-or-Treat. The gossip has never been juicier, which might just be a good thing. Lord knows this town could use a good shaking up.
BFA in Creative Writing
I finally did it, y’all! I started taking college classes when I was in my twenties when I was the single mother of two young daughters. I plugged away at my degree, one class at a time, skipping semesters and years as my personal life demanded. In 2014, that all changed when The Pecan Man became a self-publishing success and allowed me to quit my job and return to college full-time for the first time in my life. I graduated on September 18, 2016 from Goddard College in Vermont, with a BFA in Creative Writing. My three beautiful daughters were by my side celebrating with me, and I have never been more proud. Sweet husband couldn’t make it, but he was super proud, too, and has always been my biggest supporter and source of encouragement.
Here’s the thing…I published my first book, optioned movie rights and graduated from college, all in my fifth decade of life. It’s never too late as long as you are still putting one foot in front of the other. What are YOU waiting for? Your dreams are possible and you deserve to see them come true.
I’m excited to announce that The Pecan Man has been optioned by an independent film company out of New York and LA. More on the company to follow, but for now, I’m excited about the prospect of my novel being adapted to film.
Many readers have commented that they can see the story as a film, and this has never surprised me. I write using what I call a “mind movie”, where I actually see the scene unfolding and transcribe the visual. I have always thought of The Pecan Man as a movie in book form, so I cannot wait to see how my vision in interpreted.
For those of you who don’t know, I have been working on a BFA in Creative Writing for the past three years and will graduate in September of this year. This is a bittersweet thing for me, as I lost my beloved mother in February. She would have been 82 the weekend I will graduate. I am still stunned and grieving her loss. It was my greatest wish that she finally see me graduate from college. I know she will be with me in spirit, and she is always in my heart. I am looking forward to having more time to work on my novels once my schoolwork is done.