The book, A Southern Girl Re-Belles, began with one character, Abigail Anne Winchester. When I began writing, I had no idea of the plot, or who the other characters would be. It started with only Abbie. I knew she was going to be running from her past, and I had an idea of the person she would run to. But I didn’t have a clue how this would all come together.
The story takes place in two different settings: a small East Texas town, and Gonzales, Texas.
I never name the town in East Texas, because it’s a combination of a lot of places. The people and descriptions will be familiar to anyone who has lived in a small town.
You may be asking, “Why Gonzales, Texas?”
My grandparents lived in Gonzales and during all my growing up years we visited them two to three times a year. As a youngster, I never realized or appreciated the charm and history of this place. A little over a year ago, I went back to Gonzales to attend a celebration for my uncle, where my aunts and uncles and cousins were also all in attendance. It was a wonderful weekend, and I fell in love with Gonzales as I saw it through new eyes.
For years, I used to dread the long the trip to visit Nana and Papa. It was a six hour drive, and my brother and I weren’t the greatest travelers. When we arrived, Papa would load us into his white Chevy pickup, and he would take us around to all the historical sites. When my cousins were also there, it was a lot more fun. My brother was the oldest grandchild, and the only boy. Because of his status, he was ordained as the “Head Reader.” He was the one our grandfather always “called on” to read the historical markers. “Greggor,” he would say, “Will you please read the marker?” And Greg obediently recited all the information to the females.
I remember attending church with my grandparents, and in the book, a couple of the things that happen while Abbie is in church actually occurred in real life. For now, I won’t elaborate, but after the book comes out I will give my version of these occurrences.
It is my hope and prayer that if any of the residents of Gonzales read my book, they will be pleased with their town being the main setting. I have a former student who now resides there, and it has been fun sharing my past memories with him.
I would like to now introduce you to the main characters of the book, and tell you a little bit about them. As I was looking for ideas for the cover of the book, I envisioned a “cow-girl/southern belle” roping the title with a strand of pearls. One of the wisest suggestions came from my cousin, Noelle, who noted that I shouldn’t have a picture of “Abbie” on the cover. I should let my readers imagine how she looks. WHAT GREAT ADVICE! I know as a reader, I always picture characters in my mind and when the book becomes a movie, I’m sometimes disappointed when the person playing the part isn’t at all who I had envisioned. So I’m doing this for your own good—you know, in case the book becomes a movie! HA! Dare to dream!!!!
MEET THE MEMBERS OF THE RE-BELLE-ION:
ABIGAIL ANNE WINCHESTER (ABBIE):
Abbie’s once normal life came to an abrupt halt during her junior year in high school. The tragic event that happened when she was only sixteen years old, changed her and shaped her future. Abbie doesn’t actually deal with, or come to terms with the tremendous loss she experienced, and because of her denial and refusal to seek help and move forward, she winds up in trouble again and again—in college, as well as her adult life.
Abbie’s view of the world is tainted. She’s cynical, and basically lives life one day at a time. In theory, that’s a great plan for most everyone, except she has no goals, no plans, and she just waits for life to happen. She is reactive rather than proactive. Abbie cusses like a sailor. In some ways, this is a coping mechanism that has turned into a habit. Abbie is strong-willed, but apathetic. She absolutely doesn’t care about anything. She feels unworthy, and because of her tragic past, she doesn’t let people into her world. She has built well-fortified walls around her heart, and has lived most of her life alone. She doesn’t let people in, because she doesn’t want to get hurt. Her only friend is Mary Grace Baker, and even though they’ve known each other for almost ten years, MG doesn’t know anything about Abbie’s past…
One night, when she’s feeling especially low, Abbie makes a bad decision. And this decision will end up changing her life. Due to her irresponsible actions, Abbie is at risk of losing not only her job, but her best friend. She knows that her life has to change, but doesn’t know where she will go or what she will do. UNTIL she receives a call from an Assisted Living Facility in Gonzales. That phone call will change her life, and force the long overdue reunion between Abbie and her grandmother, the one and only Jessica Winchester.
JESSICA WINCHESTER: (NANA)
Jessica Winchester is a force to be reckoned with, and don’t you ever think otherwise! She’s not your typical doting, enabling, sugary-sweet grandmother. She is proud, and completely soaked in history and tradition and the proper way to behave in every social situation–from using the correct eating utensils, to fashion, to all of her clubs and organizations. Nana’s husband, Tucker (Tuck) Winchester, died years ago. He was a wealthy cattle rancher, and after his death, Nana kept the ranch going. And what a great surprise it was when oil was discovered on her land! Nana had the “old kind of money.” She isn’t flashy, and gaudy, throwing her wealth around in everyone’s face. She believes that proper manners and decorum are a must, and is vehemently opposed to anything tacky!
At 85 years of age, Nana is still very spry and healthy. Except she has a fall, and hurts her shoulder and has to stay at an assisted living facility for rehabilitation. Due to her actions during her stay at Autumn Court, her next of kin (Abbie) is contacted to come at once to sign the paperwork to discharge Jessica from the premises. Jessica and Abigail haven’t seen each other for over 22 years…
MARY GRACE BAKER (MG):
Mary Grace Baker has the job of being Abbie’s best friend. MG is married to Jack, who can’t stand Abbie.
Mary Grace comes from a staunch Catholic background. A graduate of Notre Dame, where she met Jack, MG was a teacher at the same school where Abbie worked, and that’s when they became friends. After MG had her first child, she stopped teaching and became a stay-at-home mom. As the book begins, MG is pregnant with her fourth child.
MG is what the teens would call Abbie’s “ride or die” friend. No matter what mess Abbie finds herself in, she knows she can ALWAYS count on MG to be there for her. UNTIL that night in December. UNTIL Abbie’s bad decision drags Mary Grace into the middle of her latest nightmare.
BO LEBLANC (a.k.a Superman):
Bo Leblanc is the owner of Leblanc and Roberts Construction. He and his partner have projects all over south central Texas. They specialize in big buildings, like schools, stores, banks, shopping centers, etc…
Bo Leblanc is the most eligible bachelor in Gonzales County. He has known Jessica Winchester his entire life, and during his college years, he worked on the Winchester ranch to help pay for his tuition. He remembers seeing Abbie at the ranch when they were both young children. And he also remembers her from a night in college, when Abbie made a royal mess of her life. As a child, Abbie never even noticed Bo. And on the night in college that destroyed her relationship with her grandmother, Abbie never knew Bo was around.
Their paths would cross again.
And that’s all I have to say about that…
Some other characters in the Re-Belle-ion:
Bubba Brightwell– a lawyer
Tooter Dugan– a probation officer
Thomas Christian– pastor of the Friendly Baptist Church
Charles Taylor– director of Autumn Court Assisted Living Facility
Miles Jenkins– longtime family friend of the Winchesters
Twyla Faye Guthrie– director of Primrose Hills Camp for Girls
Mrs. Rayburn– Abbie’s elementary school principal
Rosita– Jessica Winchester’s housekeeper
Darla– hair stylist at the Curl up and Dye Salon
Christine Westfield– licensed professional counselor
Jo– Director of the Boys and Girls Club
Katie Barret– six-year-old who attends activities at the Boys and Girls Club
Boo Radley– a stray cat Abbie befriends
Blanche– Nana’s best friend
Will St. Clair– high school student who helps Nana with all her technology
In the months after writing A Southern Girl Re-Belles, it’s been crazy how some of the things I included in the book have happened in real life! My life in some ways was imitating art (the book). One thing that happened was that I began running (again). I began using the running, not only for exercise and health, but also for growing mentally and spiritually. It wasn’t until I re-read A Southern Girl Re-Belles during editing, that I realized this very similar journey that I was taking was possibly, somewhere in the back of my mind, inspired by Abbie.
And a side-note…Erin, the coach on my Runkeeper App, mentioned that I should be looking for a 5K to sign up for. I brushed this off, ignored her suggestion, and continued huffing and puffing each morning in my effort to run farther than a couple of laps. And you know what? A couple of weeks ago, the Educational Foundation at the school where I work began advertising for people to sign up for a 5K run in March…Uh, oh. Am I going to put my money where my mouth is? I’ll keep you posted on this. I know my running stories keep you on the edge of your seat (not really…)
There are many other things that have happened since I finished writing the book, but I don’t want to give anything else away!
What are your thoughts? Does life imitate art, or is it the other way around????
Now, getting back to my main character…
Abbie had so much potential. She was destined to do great things. But when her life was shattered, she gave up. She began spending each day just going through the motions. To others, she has a hard exterior, is foul-mouthed, apathetic, and a drunk. That is how she appears to the naked eye. Even though these assumptions aren’t true, it’s how Abbie is perceived, and because of that, when she messes up, she never catches a break. She is always guilty before being proven innocent.
As the author and creator of Abbie, I am very protective of her. But I also know that she is completely flawed. She has allowed her anger and grief to consume her. She uses vulgar language, and has in many ways let herself go. I understand that many people may not want to read this book because there is “some language in it.” I understand. But that is also a main theme of the story…how we sometimes don’t love the people who need it the most. We judge them based on their exterior, with no knowledge of what made them that way. A key theme in the book is “redemption.” The idea that we ALL can change. We all can find a way back. We can all get on track and move forward and live the life we were meant to live. I use the “language” so that I can show the change and growth in Abbie. I wanted her salty mouth to be a vice that the reader could recognize, and also something that the reader can see change. She struggles, but she is cognizant that she needs to clean up her act.
So, if you choose not to read the book for the language, I accept that and I understand. What we expose ourselves to, can become a part of us. My intent is to use the language as a literary device, again to show growth and change. I know this is a risk, and I know that I will also be judged for this. BUT, I hope you give me and the book a chance. It’s easy for us to look at what’s wrong in others, and sometimes overlook the things that we need to change in ourselves. This is also a MAJOR theme. While Nana hopes to “change” Abigail, she also has room for growth. Even at the age of 85, she could do better.
In the end, God knows our hearts. And for that I am eternally grateful.
Y’all—It’s getting close and real, and I am pleading with you to share this blog and share about my book. I hope to also come up with a little “package deal” where people have the option to not only buy the book, but also a t-shirt, some earrings, and I may even throw in a “swear jar.” More about that in the weeks to come.
I want to close this post with a song. I first heard the song when I was three years old while watching “The Wizard of Oz” with my family. It was a big deal because it came on TV. “The Wizard of Oz” has always been a special part of my life. I remember when I was in the fourth grade, when the recital theme for The Judy Ann School of Dance was “The Wizard of Oz.” I was a munchkin (quelle surprise!) and I still remember the tap routine that we performed…Shuffle step, pull step, step. Shuffle step, shuffle-hop step.
I’ve always loved the song, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” and in 2001 I heard the song again. On the radio. I was listening to Sunny 106.5 as I was sitting in the parking lot at UT Tyler the summer I first began working on my counseling degree. I had arrived early, and didn’t feel like hanging out in the student center. So I sat in my car, and did some reading for class, while listening to the radio. A song came on that literally stopped me in my tracks. It was “Over the Rainbow,” by someone named Eva Cassidy. And it was the most hauntingly beautiful song I’d ever heard. I remember going home after class and trying to find out more information about that version of the song. And then life happened, and I forgot all about it…
Until I began writing A Southern Girl Re-Belles. And the song popped into my head, and before I knew it, the song had become a MAJOR part of the book. It fit right into the story, and it became a necessary part of it. And then I panicked. I realized that for the story to be accurate and real, the song had to have come out in 1992 or before. I heard it in 2001, and I knew it probably wouldn’t fit in that time frame. I was honestly heartbroken and a little nauseated. Because that song, that beautiful, haunting song, had become a character in the book. It had become something that linked the story together.
I nervously did a Google search to find out when the song was recorded. When I saw the date, I wept. Because just like the idea, and so many things that happened when I was writing the book, it worked. The song was recorded in 1992. How crazy is that? It could have been any time before that date, and worked, but it was recorded in the very year that a major part of the book takes place. And the fact that the song came out in that very year, made it work even better.
I’m also including a photo that is on the back cover of the book. It’s a picture of a double rainbow. I don’t want to give anything away, but this double rainbow debuted on the morning after I finished the book. Again, it was simply amazing.
So please enjoy this song. I hope that it will make you want to know more about the story, and more about the role that rainbows play in A Southern Girl Re-Belles.
Thanks for reading and sharing.
Until next time, my friends, always remember to Re-Belle like a lady…