A Rainy Day Playlist

We’ve been living in drought conditions for years down here. Rain is cause for celebration and today we’re getting a nice, cold soaking rain. The kind that replenishes the eleven huge trees on our property  and refreshes my spirit, too. Days like this are so rare that I find it hard to do anything except curl up beside the window with a cup of hot tea, put on some music and relish every drop of rain.  Here’s what’s on my rainy day playlist today. Do you have a favorite rainy day song? Leave a comment and let me know!

Who’ll Stop the Rain  Credence Clearwater Revival

Kentucky Rain  Elvis Presley

Fire and Rain  James Taylor

Have you Ever Seen the Rain  another great rain song by CCR

Rainy Days and Mondays  the Carpenters

I Wish it Would Rain   the Temptations. An oldie, but wow, what a goodie. David Ruffin’s voice is amazing

And my favorite of all time  Rainy Night in Georgia  Brook Benton. Conway Twitty has a nice version of it, too.

Happy rainy days!


Mary Lee and Selina Gray Are the Subjects of My New Novel!

Normally I post here on Thursdays but I am too excited to wait that long to share my news. I have just finalized a deal with Thomas Nelson/ HarperCollins to publish a biographical novel about the extraordinary friendship between Mrs. Robert E Lee and Selina Gray, a slave at Arlington House.

Mary Anna Randolph Custis Lee

Mary Anna Randolph Custis Lee

Selina was just eight years old in 1831  when Mary Anna Randolph Custis married the dashing Lt. Robert E Lee, widely regarded as the handsomest man in the army. During Mary’s long stays at Arlington House, her childhood home, while her husband was posted elsewhere, Mary and Selina formed a strong bond. Selina has been variously described as the head housekeeper at Arlington House, and as Mrs. Lee’s personal maid. But the two forged an unusually intimate friendship. According to family lore, when Selina told Mrs. Lee she wanted to marry Thornton Gray, Mrs. Lee arranged for the wedding to take place in the same parlor at Arlington where she and the future General Lee were married, and by the same clergyman, the Reverend Dr. Keith.

Selina Gray (r) with two of her children. Photo NPS

Selina Gray (r) with two of her children. Photo NPS

Mrs. Lee and her daughters, Mary ( Called “Daughter” to distinguish her from her mother) Annie, Agnes, and Mildred taught Selina and numerous other Arlington slaves to read and write. They did a wonderful job in Selina’s case–the few examples of her writing that survive are nearly perfect in spelling, grammar and sentence structure.

Mary, by virtue of her marriage to General Lee, the most beloved figure of the Old South earned her place in history. Selina earned hers in a more dramatic way. When Mary and her children were forced to flee Arlington at the start of the Civil War, Mary handed the house keys to Selina and with them, the responsibility for the home Mary loved. When Union soldiers began pillaging the mansion, Selina intervened with the general in charge, and  saved many of the treasures of Arlington House, treasures that had once belonged to President Washington. Even though Selina would not be free until the end of 1861, her affection for the Lee family and her extraordinary loyalty to Arlington House led her to stare down the interlopers with a warning, “Don’t you touch Miss Mary’s things.”

I can’t wait to write this story, due out early next year. I hope you will enjoy it.


Birthday of a Legend


January 8, 2015

I was in first grade in a small rural school just an hour and half’s drive from Graceland  when Elvis burst onto the music scene. Of course my daddy was horrified at the way Elvis shook his leg while he sang, and I was way too young to see his movies which revolved around girls, guitars, and cars. But my older cousins played his records endlessly, and his music inundated the airwaves. It was hard not to hear the latest Elvis song wherever you went. “Teddy Bear”  “Heartbreak Hotel”  “Don’t Be Cruel” spilled from every car radio and jukebox in the county.

imagesMuch later I did see most of his movies. Mindless entertainment. And I was sad to read an interview with Elvis in which he said he hated them.He wanted to be taken seriously as an actor, and you just can’t be, when you are dressed in nothing but a pair of tight white swim trunks and singing, “Slicin’ Sand.”

Maybe his discontent with his career fueled his desire for the prescription drugs that would later kill him. Or maybe it was the relentless insistence of his manager, Tom Parker, that Elvis continue to perform when he was clearly in trouble and needed help. Elvis lived the life of a recluse, surrounding himself with only a small cadre of trusted friends nicknamed the Memphis Mafia, and after his divorce, with a series of girlfriends, some of whom were young enough to be his daughter. In his final performances he looked bloated and pasty, and he occasionally forgot the words to songs he had sung thousands of times. But even then,his unmistakable voice, and his gentle, self-deprecating humor never left him.

I was a young married woman living in Dallas when I learned of his death in August of 1977. I hadn’t been back to Tennessee since leaving there as a teenager, But the day he died, I felt a piece of my own history slipping behind the veil of time, and a sadness that a young man with so much talent and promise died alone at age 42, in his gated fortress in Memphis.

In a newly published autobiography, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis’s greatest rival for the title of king of rock and roll explained the difference between the two: “There was a beauty in Elvis that men didn’t understand.”

Today Elvis would have turned 80 years old. I imagine him, still beautiful and vigorous at 80, playing with his great grandchildren  on the broad, grassy lawn at Graceland. But it was not to be.

As Elton John wrote about another American icon gone too soon, the candle burned out long before the legend ever did.