Susan’s novels––Waiting in Place and Blue Impala––are scheduled for publication in 2024. Read previews of her novels below:
Waiting in Place
Mary and Josie sat atop the hill, waiting for the sun to fade behind the mountains. Unlike games their schoolmates noisily played in the bright light of day, Red Rover or Hopscotch, theirs relied on darkness and silence. Mary’s and Josie’s game did not have a name; it was not bound by rules, teams or scores. It required only two commonplace items—a spool of twine and an old purse. Mary raided Debbie Mom’s kitchen junk drawer for the twine, and Josie snuck the purse out of her aunt’s closet.
They looped the twine five times around the stiff straps of the black leather purse and placed it in the center of two-lane Jericho Road at a sharp bend locals referred to as Dead Man’s Curve. Anyone rounding the curve would naturally let up on the gas pedal, unless they were drunk, and might see the purse reflected in their headlights.
Back in their positions at the top of the hill, Mary and Josie crouched and waited, taking turns holding the spool end of the twine, the soft light of the pink and blue Belt of Venus their backdrop on the horizon. As twilight melted into night, they heard a car backfire.
“Someone’s coming,” Mary whispered. “Get ready.”
Read excerpts from Waiting in Place.
Along for the ride of her life with her eccentric and larger-than-life mother, Velvet, and sisters Mel and Sam, Janie Summers is seeking a safe harbor—in place, time, and spirit. A wise-for-her-age and odd child from the heart of Appalachia (she counts things and is fascinated with death), Janie’s coming-of-age journey to find this illusive place is fueled by the 1965 Blue Impala, in both mundane and magical ways, including Voodoo and a TV variety show called Hillbilly Heaven.
Against the backdrop of the mid-60s to mid-70s cultural revolution, the novel spans a 15-year period in which Janie and her sisters live a precarious and unpredictable life based on the whims of Velvet, as she seeks her own dream to become famous. From their hometown of Coal Creek, West Virginia, Velvet moves the family first to Hollywood and then to Miami, where they become involved in a series of increasingly compromising events, prompting Voodoo spells aimed at Velvet’s “rotten men.” Things get out of hand, and they return to Coal Creek, bringing along Mambo Mama Matabay, high priestess of Haitian Voodoo.
Their hope of resuming a normal life in Coal Creek is thwarted by accusations of devil worship, a return of Velvet’s stalkers, and the collapse of the Coal Creek Bridge, which kills many. These events cause Janie to re-examine her place and purpose in the world, including her fraught relationship with Velvet. Finally, Janie does find her safe harbor, with serendipitous help from the Blue Impala.
Read excerpts from Blue Impala.
Read a chapter from Blue Impala in Appalachia Bare.
Blue Impala: The Short Story
Finalist in Glimmer Train Stories “Short Story Award for New Writers” in 2004.
— Linda Swanson-Davies, Co-editor, Glimmer Train Stories
A non-fiction short story published in Voices of Lung Cancer (LaChance Publishing, 2007).
Voices of Lung Cancer also has contributions from Law and Order’s S. Epatha Merkerson and Deborah Morosini, sister of Dana Reeve. Profits from the sale of the book were donated to The Healing Project, a not-for-profit organization founded in 2005 dedicated to creating a community of support for those challenged with chronic and life-threatening illnesses.
Select Short Stories
Many of these short stories will be included in Dreams of Appalachia–Take Me Home: Stories and Essays. The distinct culture and milieu of West Virginia—its people, religions, folktales and stereotypes—is a common thread throughout the stories. In my opinion, they serve as a counterpoint to J.D. Vance’s portrayal of some of the people he calls hillbillies in Hillbilly Elegy.
- Bookmobile ––
Excerpt: I dozed off as the new Mrs. DeWinter was being introduced to Mrs. Danvers. A slight but persistent rumbling beneath the small wooden bench where I sat in the back corner of the bookmobile reading Rebecca, woke me. Coming out of what seemed at the time a very deep sleep, my eyes at first focused on a large colorful poster affixed to a wire frame in front of me, touting Reading is Fun! And it is fun, although Rebecca demanded a certain attention and concentration that required my brain to work extra hard, as if I were translating from a foreign language, not that I spoke one. Then the realization that the bookmobile was moving, with me inside.
- Becoming Doris Day
- Blue Impala
- Life Line
- Next To God’s House
- Discover’s Day
- John John
- Pink Palace
- Daddy’s Lunch Pail
- Yellow-House Witch
- Cemetery Hill
- Polynesian Polly
Other Published Essays and Stories
“My Word” column, Orlando Sentinel
- “Las Vegas—I’ll Do It My Way” (AAA Going Places)
- “Canine Discovers a Taste of the Good Life on a Weekend Getaway” (written from a dog’s point of view) (AAA Motorist)
- “Margaret Mitchell House and Museum” (AAA Going Places)