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Posts from the ‘Marketing Your Books’ Category

Falling in Love all Over Again

One taste and Sassy will be your favorite pickle.

The best we can figure, the Scots-Irish Dickey clan moved to Orange, Texas in 1917. The lot of them loaded up and moved to the area from Thorndale, in Milam County. The women and children took the train while the men loaded their belongings on wagons and trekked across the state. Dickey’s have lived here ever since.

A couple years after high school, I climbed in my own “covered wagon,” a two-toned black and white Chevy, and headed to Fort Worth, Texas, off on my own adventure.

Since then, I’ve lived in a number of towns across Texas and halfway back, with a six year stint on the island of Trinidad, West Indies.

When I contemplated a setting for my Sidra Smart mystery series, I considered all of these locations and more, but none of them fit. Frustrated, I played with the idea of setting the series in Orange, but promptly dismissed it. After all, I argued, Orange was just home. An ordinary town set smack in the middle of mosquito-infested swampland, a town full of ordinary people doing ordinary things.

But once spurred by the idea, I felt like our old plodding horse “Molly.” Once you turned her towards home, it was Katy-bar-the-door. For the more I researched, the more I discovered the mystical and mysterious elements resident in this area.

Combine the colorful Cajun/Creole culture and superstitions with the proud, stubborn, hard-working Scots-Irish, the solid, dependable farmers and ranchers with the late-coming northern executives, here to establish and maintain the oil industry.

Add the area’s ghosts, like that of a police chief gunned down by, of all people, the pastor of First Baptist Church, the victims of vigilante lynching strung up on the gibbet limb of “The Hanging Tree,” the innocent slaves who didn’t survive storage in shacks out at Deweyville, and even earlier still, the spirits left behind by the cannibalistic Atakapa Indians.

For texture, listen to the down-home southeast Texas accent, where verb tense is simple and seldom conjugated, where whole sentences get reduced to one or two words. (Y’ont-to? instead of Do you want to? or Would you like to…?)

For spice, add a crawfish boil and fresh seafood gumbo or some of the best southern cooking this side of paradise.

For flavor, add the mysterious Adams Bayou meandering through town past the Survivor Tree, a Pond Cypress dated at 1,200 years old—older than Christopher Columbus, Shakespeare, and even Galileo. Then add the exotic Blue Elbow Swamp flowing between Texas and Louisiana. The result?

A perfect setting for a mystery series.

Mix all this together and you have a town with a friendliness and a concern for others, the sense of belonging to a place with a unique history not found in other small towns, the determination to keep on keeping on, despite depressions, wars, hurricanes and industrial flux. In every book of the Sidra Smart series, there are examples of people who take their neighboring seriously and are concerned for others’ welfare. No wonder I fell in love with my hometown all over again.

Once called, “pretty as a fairy tale” river port city, today, a new opportunity awaits the greater Orange area. The tight, controlled grip of the past has lessened its hold. Orange stands on the edge of a bright new future.

Fall in love with Orange all over again. Seek out its fascinating history and you will learn its mystery. It awaits your discovery. So do my Sidra Smart mystery books available under my name on

Rosie the Riveter — Unapologetic

I love it when the muse whispers so loudly in my ear I must sit and write. Often it comes when I least expect it. I read a sentence or see a photograph or a painting, or read a poem, and I snatch the nearest pen and paper. This piece of flash fiction, below, was written under just such a circumstance. I looked at the woman sitting up on a pole and knew I must find the words to capture the attitude on her face. I had been browsing war posters of Rosie the Riveter as inspiration for my historical novel, “A War Of Her Own.”


Rosie pushed her goggles up on her forehead when the supervisor called her name. She walked forward and accepted her latest award with aplomb, pinning it on her chest alongside the other medals.

Receiving awards for meeting and exceeding her quota of good tight rivets—in place, and ready to go—were now commonplace, everyday occurrences. However, she wore every award with great pride, knowing her work performance outdid that of any man in the shipyard.

And here folks had said women couldn’t do this type of work that their place was in the kitchen, the USO, or wrapping bandages. Well, she’d shown them all!

She sauntered down the gangplank amidst catcalls, and “Way to go, Red!” shouted at her, but she didn’t care. She knew they were just jealous of her work performance, which was much better than theirs.

Rosie grabbed her lunch pail, pulled out a ham and cheese sandwich and climbed atop a thick, wooden post, rivet gun and all.

Head held high, she looked down her nose at the men below. They could make fun of her all they wanted to, but she wasn’t backing down, not for any of them. She’d found her place, and she was dang well staying in it – like it or not!

How about you? In what ways do you think “Rosie the Riveter” has impacted the role of women in our world today? What effect has that had on men? Do men handle women in the workplace better today than they did back then? Does the type of job make a difference?


Unexpected Surprises

Yesterday I received a nice surprise notice. The following article was published in the Orange County News!

“Writing Strong Women” offers sense of empowerment

May 22, 2013 “Orange County News” by Penny Leleux_MG_8948Retro

When Sylvia Dickey Smith started writing, she not only wanted to be a story teller, she wanted to make a difference. As a feminist writer, she creates strong female characters that have overcome adversity, be it controlling men, sexual or mental abuse or just coming to terms with their own insecurities and conquering them.

She uses her background as a counselor to weave tales with plausible storylines and tackles sensitive subjects contemporary to today’s world.

Four of her books take the form of mysteries based in her hometown of Orange, Texas. “Dance on His Grave” introduces you to Sidra Smart, a 50 something woman breaking free of a 30 something year marriage that was suffocating her spirit. Through the process of learning the ropes of private investigation she finds her voice as she breaks through years of suppression from a controlling husband and lifestyle. In freeing her own spirit, she helps others free their own.

Sid’s back story is not unlike Smith’s own. Both were married at 17 and were in controlling marriages with religious backgrounds.

Smith started college in her 40s and discovered a whole new world she didn’t know existed. She broke free of her marriage and became a counselor.

She started her writing career in her 60s. Smith kept talking about writing and one day a friend told her, “Sylvia, you’re always talking about writing a book, just shut-up, sit your butt in the chair and write it.” That was her call to action. It was time to put up or shut up.

“Writing Strong Women” has become her motto.

“Dance on His Grave” is based on a client she had as a counselor. The client always wanted Smith to tell their story to help others. After much time, “Dance on His Grave” is the result of that encounter.

“Dance” was followed by “Deadly Sins Deadly Secrets” and “Dead Wreckoning.”

She then penned a historical novel, “A War of Her Own” that takes place in Orange during the shipbuilding boom of World War II. Some of that story was based on her mom.

Most recently published was another in the Sidra Smart series featuring the cantankerous “Boo” Murphy in “The Swamp Whisperer.”

Currently a standalone novel, “Original Cyn” is being shopped to publishers by a new agent Smith recently signed with.

Smith spends much time promoting her books through book signings and speaking engagements, networking with other writers and working on the next great novel.

Though she visits her hometown of Orange frequently, she lives in Georgetown, Texas and will soon be relocating to Hot Springs, Ark. with current husband, Ret. Army Col. William Smith.

About Penny LeLeux

Penny has worked at The Record Newspapers since 2006. A member of the editorial staff, she has “done everything but print it.” Most frequently she writes entertainment reviews and human interest stories, with a little paranormal thrown in from time to time.She has been a lifelong member of the Orangefield community.

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