Southern belle with a story to tell. Refreshing iced tea served after literary punches thrown.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Island Driving & the Funky Ferry From Red Hook!

One of da car ferries outta Red Hook, mon, complete with
palm trees, a bar, & great reggae tunes to sway to as you roll with the waves. 
When we arrived in St. Thomas last week, we rented a jeep, since we planned to visit many different spots on St. Thomas and St. John.  In case you haven’t visited either of these two lush islands with a decidedly volcanic ancient history, life seems to move at a totally different pace than here in the continental United States.  Everybody we met was easy-going and relaxed.  Unlike Jamaica, they don’t say “No problem mon”, they live the motto without having to utter the words.  HOWEVER...the one ‘ting that is frustrating and stressy is getting behind the wheel in the Virgin Islands.  And here’s why:
A)     Despite the fact the U.S. Virgin Islands are a U.S. Commonwealth, you drive on the left side.  Yep.  Just like our friends across the Big Pond do in Britain. 
B)      Everyone uses their horn.  Often.  Very very often.  In a span of say, five minutes, you may experience on St. Thomas several honks. Which brings me to...
C)      You must learn why you are on the receiving end of “the honk”. 
It took us several days to decipher certain meanings associated with the excessive horn-honking, and a honk could simply be a friendly way to say hi to a buddy driving past you, or “the honk” could be because they want to pass you quickly while you’re trying to turn and they think you’re taking too long, and with many of the roads being but only two lanes on narrow, hilly terrain, that’s not something you rush (turning).  Honestly, some people there drove like maniacs, and my hubs (we own a jeep by the way) is very adept at driving through mountainous terrain and maneuvering hair-pin curves and still was honked at frequently.
Over a few days, we came to ignore “the honk”, and towards the end of our vacation, we even honked a bit ourselves.  Why not?  When in Rome. 
Midweek, we decided to take the car ferry over to St. John to experience the beautiful beaches and isolated peace.  We were also curious if the honking was rampant on the island but blissfully it was not!  St. John was our little respite from “the honk”, and we found ourselves spending at least two honk-free days sunning on the secluded beaches and meandering the roads of the Juraissic Park-like island. 
To get from St. Thomas (home of “the honk”) to St. John (our island of ahhh) requires the use of a car ferry, and the whole element of “the honk” stops when you enter the marina at Red Hook.  You purchase either a one-way or a round-trip ticket on the car ferry, and as soon as you back your car over the ramp and onto the large boat, this is what you might be greeted with:

My video!  Many more fun 'tings to upload and show you soon!
Btw, you can't hear either my voice or the reggae music
 until I turn and video facing the bar area.

Palm trees, reggae music, and a bar!  All on a car ferry!  The mental strain courtesy of “the honk” melted away after listening to a musical reminder by Mr. Marley on how “every ‘ting is gonna be alright”. Who wouldn't love a boat like this?  The only things missing were Julie, Captain Stubing, Isaac, and a stateroom to crash in.  The views were gorgeous, and the feel of the salty air hitting your face was every bit as intoxicating as the beer and rum drinks savored by many of the passengers on board. 
But somewhere deep-down despite all the island fun, we decided we wouldn’t partake in the perpetual happy-hour on board, and opted to while away the twenty minute ride to St. John drinking bottled water rather than rum since we would be driving on even more mountainous terrain.
Feel free to enjoy a few moments from the honk-free, festive and fabulous car ferry, and remember, if someone honks at you, it ain’t nothing but a ‘ting.  Everything’s gonna be alright.
More island and literary musings to come!  

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

You Create the Caption!

Let's See What You'd Put Riiiiight Here!
 (original article and photo:

Some photos beg for a caption, and while we could get all factual, adding in the name of the freaked-out dad and where the incident happened, the news agencies already did the non-fun stuff for us, but we can of course, do more! 

I say this photo requires a new caption, and who better to write a snappy caption than the super-creative readers and writers who follow Soul and Sweet Tea!

You know I'm right.  You know you can do this. 

This idea to have a little fun came to me last night as I watched the nightly news and saw this picture, which to me is worth about a million words.

This is yet another fun way for us to flex our writing muscles, so show me the captions, and feel free to comment on which ones you think are the best.  This isn't a contest, but getting a thumb's up from a fellow writer does feel good doesn't it? 

By the way, being a former biology major in college, and knowing the kayaker and paddleboarder are sharing the water with a nearby large seal population, I'd say they were rather lucky chaps.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Rolling With the Flow-Thoughts on Dialogue

Let’s talk…about dialogue!

Good dialogue makes  a book read as smooth as silk, allowing the reader to turn each page with ease and anticipation.  When there's stilted or awkward dialogue, it forces the reader to stop,  re-reading paragraphs over and over trying to get the feel of the scene and it drags them down.  If the dialogue catches them too much, then most likely the book will never be finished.

I’ve had many people ask me about how I am able to write smooth dialogue and my answer is relatively simple…read your manuscript aloud.  If the characters aren’t engaged in natural conversation then
it’s off.  Borrow your kids or husband, or best friend and enlist them in helping you with sticky dialogue areas so that you can immediately troubleshoot the problems.

And yet other folks ask me how to create dialogue that has the right feel for the manuscript.  I tend to think the concept of writer’s “voice” comes in to play when taking this into consideration, for you must be able to breathe life into your characters, not just giving them mere words to say, but making them jump off of the page and seem completely real.   That’s what I believe is capturing the right “voice”.   If you can achieve this, then the reader can effortlessly fall head- over- heels in love with the book, and creates what I call a "soul connection" connection between author and reader.

Now here’s something I wasn’t sure how to approach, but I can’t skirt this issue and it's time I got it off of my chest.  Do me a favor, please take the time to create characters who converse with true authenticity.  Now here comes a confession where I am brutally honest about something that's bothered me for years.

Warning:  Rant Ahead!!!

 As a southern writer,  I feel great disdain for authors obviously not from the
south who create stereotypical dialogue for their faux-southern characters, forever clutching
on to outdated cliches.
Take this hint...

Here's a big hint...if you want avoid infuriating or insulting readers, and want your dialogue to feel true and organic, then go to the actual place you’re writing about and listen to people talk, all the while being careful to avoid falling into the pit of stereotype.  Example:  I may be a southern woman who actually drinks iced tea each day, but it doesn’t meanthat I’m constantly peppering my speech with “y’all” or “bless your heart”.  Nope, life here doesn’t work that way, and if you want your writing to actually work for you instead of against you, then get out of your comfort zone, and go do some feet-on-the-ground recon and actually visit the places you’re writing about, and get to meet the real-life characters who call that place home.

About ten years ago, I read a book I found so insanely mesmerizing, that I found myself hopping in the car and driving all the way from Atlanta to Savannah, Georgia all because of “The Book” (as it’s
affectionately known in Savannah).  Do yourself a favor and learn from John Berendt, who truly captured the southern heart and soul of Savannah in MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL.
Heck, it was such a wild success that it threw Savannah into the national spotlight as a top tourist destination.  Isn’t it fabulous to imagine a little book having so much power?  But it did happen and it
still draws in hundreds of thousands of tourists each year, and "the book" was so intoxicating to read, such a joy, that it made me gas up the car and go for a long ride down to where the Spanish moss hangs
from the trees.

So what’s stopping you?  Get in the car, buy a plane ticket and go! There’s nothing more fun than exciting new life experiences, except for maybe writing about these new life experiences.  Give your readers an
experience they’ll never forget, and take the time to do the research, get friends and family to read aloud, and create such meaningful dialogue that it becomes a beautiful memory that will stay with your readers forever.

Happy Fourth of July friends!