Updated: Sep 19
The September Issue
Hi, Friends and Voracious Readers!
If this is your first time receiving my newsletter, which is cleverly (I think) titled Haint Bluesletter, then welcome to my monthly updates and musings! If you are among those who opted-in to read The Scars We Choose, Book One, as part of the Voracious Readers Only program, THANK YOU! I am delighted to know you are interested in this special book. You can find everything you need to know about that opt-in here.
Every month, I like to catch-up readers and friends alike on stories that are unfolding in my life, including where I'm going and where I've been. This month's newsletter is a jam-packed "September Issue," for sure, as September is one of the busiest months in the Hughes household.
Here's the tea inside this month's newsletter:
Project Updates - I'm over the moon-excited to share more about my nonfiction book for which I signed a publishing contract, along with a SUPER exciting accompanying project. I'm also writing again! Find out more about my new fiction series...
Mandy's Musings - September is "Birthday Month" around these parts. In this section I share two special stories about my two boys, along with a photo album of our Birthday Beach Trip.
In case you missed it - Need an affordable editor? I'm opening my shutters for a short period of time to take on some editing work.
Restacked goodies from Substack - where everything I post is free AND A FREE BOOK for every Substack subscriber!
New Things and Stuff - I created a journal, y'all! Check out my 78 Days of Intuitive Journaling: A Guided Tarot Journal for the Creative Storyteller
I will never stop saying it: Thank YOU for helping make my author dreams come true.
In friendship and support,
When Social Media (Actually) Works
Back in April, I shared a post on Instagram announcing the completion of my 14th book. My very first nonfiction book, the concept started as a "pandemic project," as I began researching and making notes as far back as spring 2020. Writing began in fall of that year, and I finally finished it in April of this year.
The book went to my incredibly insightful editor (who is also a career advancement coach... check out her website here...) where it stayed until the end of July. During that time, I posted an oracle card draw from my very favorite Southern Gothic Oracle deck. The southern themes and folklore in this deck was inspirational while writing Only the Rocks That Float, and I made that comment in my post and tagged the deck creator and owner of La Panthère Studio, Stacey Williams-Ng.
Ever the seeker of signs and synchronicities, that card was The Horseshoe, which symbolizes luck and chance. Well, as luck and chance would have it, Stacey saw the post, ordered my book, read it (and loved it), and on the luckiest day of the year, 7-7-7 (July 7, 2023), she made me feel like the luckiest girl alive. She called me and asked me to work with her and La Panthère Studio!
In August, I signed a contract with La Panthère Studio to publish my book... drumroll... along with an accompanying tarot deck! What are the book and deck about? They help storytellers learn how to use the cards for inspiring their creative writing endeavors, just as they inspired me to write The Scars We Choose Series, Only the Rocks That Float, and this new nonfiction work.
Other than SHOUTING MY GLEEFUL YAWP from the hillside, the only other detail I can share right now is that the book and deck are slated to release in spring 2024. STAY TUNED!!! We're only months away!!! WOOOOOO!!!
Magical Thinking + Magical Writing = A Six-Book Series
If you are a fan of any of the aforementioned titles, Southern Gothic fiction, literary fiction, historical fiction, and/or magical realism, then you might want to also stay tuned for my next fiction project...
A couple of years ago, I started making notes and conducting a ridiculous amount of research on the history of magic in the South, specifically the Plains and Coastal regions of Georgia and Florida. Well, all of this research has produced just that: a wellspring of ideas, characters, and magical systems spanning four centuries and three continents. The theme that anoints and propels what has turned out to be a six-book series?
As I release new details about this special endeavor, be sure you continue reading my Haint Bluesletters, as my subscribers will be the first to know. Also be sure you are subscribed to my Substack posts and/or following me on Instagram! Those are my two favorite hangout spots.
"If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water." - Loren Eiseley, Anthropologist
September marks a month of many birthdays in our family, including Jalan on the 3rd and Devan on the tenth. This year was a landmark birthday for Devan, as he turned 21!
If you missed my stories about Jalan and Devan - their "origin" stories, as they like to call them - then I am happy to share them here...
September 3, 2023
This blue-eyed baby turns 23 today, and I want to share what I think is a rather incredible, perhaps even unbelievable, story about the first time I met him... which was over 30 years ago.
If you believe in heaven or an afterlife, then you've heard of and likely believe people who witness to having near-death experiences and/or folks who have even come into contact with a heavenly being in their dreams. Well, the latter happened to me.
I was around 16, still in high school, still living with my parents, when I woke from a dream abruptly, my heart pounding, and a cold sweat washing over me. In my dream, I was standing at the side of my bed watching a toddler - a little boy - bouncing around and laughing, clapping his hands as his feet pressed down into the mattress. When he saw me watching him, the little boy's eyes widened - large blue eyes - and he lunged his tiny body toward me, throwing his fat little arms around my neck. I remember breathing in his sweet scent and knowing he was mine - my baby.
That's when I woke up, and after a moment of catching my breath and looking around the room to be sure there weren't any ghostly toddlers running around, I got up and splashed water in my face. I couldn't go back to sleep, the image of that little boy's huge smile, those bright blue eyes, and his infectious giggles lingering in my memory.
I never forgot about that dream, and although it seemed too weird for even me to share with anyone, I kept it close to my mind and heart.
Years later, I fell in love with a young man, a beautiful Black boy with legs like a superhero and a sarcastic wit. When we moved in together and began seriously talking about marriage and a family, I thought about my dream. How in the world would I have a blue-eyed baby? Finally, after several years, I resigned to the thought that the memory of my dream was just that: a dream.
But then Jalan came along, and after checking that he had all his fingers and toes, marveling at his thick hair and beautiful olive complexion, I asked aloud, "I wonder what color his eyes are?" My aunt was in the room at the time, and she and I both cooed when Jalan's eyes popped open and he looked around. "They're blue!" I gasped.
"Oh, all babies are born with blue eyes," my aunt said. "They'll darken. You'll see."
I saw, alright. As Jalan grew, his eyes brightened, eventually settling into a color that can only be described as ocean water. And then one day, when he was a toddler, my dream came back to me, only it played out right in front of me. I was sitting on the floor in front of my bedroom mirror, cross-legged and blow-drying my hair. Jalan toddled into the room - he was about 16 months at the time - and when he saw me sitting on the floor, his smile widened, and he laughed. With his arms raised, he lunged himself toward me and wrapped them around my neck. I breathed him in, my eyes closed and my dream as vivid as the night it had awakened me. "He's mine," I said. "It's him. He really is mine."
Had Jalan's spirit come to me when he was still in heaven? I don't know, but what I do know is that whatever it was, the experience felt real. Also, where did he get his incredible blue eyes? From Shederal's great aunt who passed away while Shederal's mother was pregnant with him. "Those are Shirley Ann's eyes," Shederal's Grandma Mary declared the first time she met Jalan. "She put her mark on this baby."
Happy 23rd birthday, Jalan. I still can't believe you're mine and that someone so fascinating could have possibly chosen me to be your Mama. I love you with all my heart.
September 10, 2023
It's this baby's 21st birthday today, and I want to share with you a story about why this day is especially precious to our family.
Everyone who knows Devan also knows that he does things at his own time and angle. Even from the start, for example, he was born breech at almost two weeks past his due date, and he didn't cry until several minutes after his arrival. Devan just takes his time.
But then the jokes about him being late for everything faded, and what he was doing - or what he wasn't doing - became alarming.
He didn't hold his head up when babies are supposed to, he didn't use his left hand for anything but to suck his thumb, he just kept his arm tucked into his neck, his joints made loud popping and cracking sounds when he moved, and it seemed like he could never catch his breath. He was always choking, coughing, and his little face would get so red from the heaving.
At eight weeks old, we rushed him to the hospital where they surrounded him in plastic, gave him an IV and breathing treatments, and ran several tests, including an MRI.
When reading the results, his pediatrician consulted with an neurologist. Both men wore somber expressions and spoke slowly and deliberately when they entered Devan's room to share the results with me. Shederal had gone home to shower, as we were rotating shifts, so I was alone with my baby. "You should probably sit down, Mrs. Hughes," the doctor said. "We have some troubling news."
The neurologist pointed to Devan's brain scan, lit up in a special frame on the wall. He tapped at several white spots on both sides of the baby's brain. "There is significant atrophy..." he explained, and when I interrupted to ask what that meant, the doctor clarified, "Brain damage."
The rest of what they said, the rest of that day, everything about that time and space slowed to nearly a stop. Their words swirling in my head, after the doctors left me alone in the room with my beautiful baby boy, I dropped to my knees and prayed.
"He will never walk."
"He won't talk."
"He won't go to school."
"He will be chair-bound, and you and Mr. Hughes will have to provide care for him for the rest of his life, which might only extend into early adulthood."
Upon discharge, we were sent home with appointments for establishing SSI, a physical therapist, a neurologist, a pediatric orthopedic physician, and a brochure about his diagnosis: cerebral palsy.
It would take more than 10 slides to tell you the entire story, but the most important part is that two weeks after Devan's diagnosis of cerebral palsy, something happened. You can call it a miracle or you can call it magic, but what I witnessed two weeks later was divine and unexplainable. In the span of about 20 minutes, Devan changed. Right before my eyes, he bloomed. He thrived. He defied all the odds. And when I rushed him back to his pediatrician, the man sat down, a look of shock on his face. "But the scans..." his voice lingered as he looked wide-eyed from Devan to me. "This isn't the same baby!"
From that miraculous moment 21 years ago until today, Devan has not only walked and talked and gone to traditional schools, but he has exceeded weight goals, height goals, and he even went to college on a football scholarship. He's brilliant, quick-witted, and one of the funniest people I've ever met.
The day Devan was born, September 10, happened to be my Daddy's birthday. He couldn't be at the hospital, so I called him afterwards to tell him that he had a new grandson. "I'll never receive a birthday gift better than this," he cried.
Happy 21st Birthday, Big Dev. You are a miracle and everyone's favorite gift... and I fully expect you to be late to your party.
A few months ago, the boys (I still call them my "boys," even though I am painfully aware that they are grown men!) joined me on my daily walk to the park. During the walk, we chatted about their upcoming birthday month. "Since this is a special year, let's take a trip!" I told them. "Where would y'all like to go?"
After a few minutes of going back and forth with ideas, they settled on Gulf Shores, our favorite beach vacation destination when they were kids. We hadn't been back in over a decade, so they decided that they would like to celebrate their birthdays in our sandy ol' haunts. "And I can FINALLY order a bushwhacker," Devan added. If you've read The Scars We Choose, you will recognize the drink; it's one of my favorites, and I'm happily nostalgic to report that several bushwhackers were enjoyed at Flora-Blama, the bar that inspired Jolly Roger's Bar and Grill in the duology.
During our trip planning, we decided to invite the boys' closest friends to join us. In all, we had nearly a dozen folks sharing a gorgeous condo just across the street from the ocean. Our group included their gamer friends, a motley crew of character-worthy folks who flew-in from around the country to help us celebrate. Shederal, Jalan, and Devan have been playing video games with this group since 2011, and we met them for the first time when they flew in for Jalan's graduation in 2019. Just like then, our beach trip was such a hilarious and special time. The following photo gallery includes all the shenanigans we got up to during our celebration.
For a limited time, my shutters are open for a select number of editing projects.
My shutters will close again at midnight on October 1, 2023.
If your fiction novel is ready for developmental, copy, line editing, and/or proofreading, I am taking on work through the next couple of weeks or until the spots fill. At this time, I am offering my editing services for a handful of projects. Here are my rates, which are significantly lower than the going average rate for editing services.*
*All sales are final. No refunds. Prices are competitive with average editing services data provided by ReedsyBlog in June 2023. You agree to pay half the total cost of your project quota upfront and the balance upon receiving your edited and returned work. Please refer to your project quota for additional details.
My fellow storytellers! You can now find me writing on Substack! Although all of my offerings are free to every subscriber, I do have the option for you to pledge to support. And as a THANK YOU, I am offering every subscriber a copy of my book The Scars We Choose, Book One, absolutely FREE.
For those of you who are pledging to support my work, THANK YOU for helping make my creative dreams come true!
Here's what's new on the 'Stack:
Are you a writer who practices journaling as a means of self-care, self-discovery, writing practice, or simply for a creative outlet?
Do you also enjoy working with the tarot for creative inspiration?
Could you benefit from journaling with the tarot as a means of self-discovery, but you’re afraid you won’t know what to write each day?
Do you need a journal that is accessible everywhere you go?
The 78 Days of Intuitive Journaling is a guided tarot journal that invites you to explore each card from a creative storyteller’s point of view. This self-paced journal offers one or more questions for each of the 78 cards in the tarot that range from big picture ideas to everyday situations. Each question is designed to provoke thoughtful, holistic nourishment of the heart, body, mind, and spirit. This digital journal features tabbed pages and fillable spaces that can only be accessed on your computer. Mobile compatibility is not a feature at this time.
This interactive digital journal includes:
Creative insight into the Major and Minor Arcana.
78 guided journal prompts that include questions crafted to conjure memories and stories.
Daily Notes pages for pulling a card a day and tracking your own unique interpretations.
Digital format for saving to your computer. The pages are fillable, so please remember to save your work as you go!
Find 78 Days of Intuitive Journaling: A Guided Tarot Journal for the Creative Storyteller and more writing resources on The Intuitive Storyteller Hub, where creative writers can access tools to help hone their craft.
Here's what's inside:
Prices subject to change without notice. All sales are final. No refunds. For the best results, open and use this document on your computer. Please remember to save your work!
In her more than thirty years as a storyteller and visual designer, Amanda “Mandy” Hughes has written and designed over a dozen works of literary, Southern Gothic, and women’s fiction under pen names A. Lee Hughes and Mandy Lee.
Mandy is the founder of Haint Blue Creative®, a space for readers and storytellers to explore, learn, and create. She holds a Bachelor and Master of Science in Psychology, and she has worked as an instructional designer for nearly twenty years.
When she’s not writing, Mandy enjoys the movies, theater, music, traveling, nature walks, birdwatching, and binging The Office. She is a tarot enthusiast who uses the cards to enhance creativity and foster wellness. She lives in Georgia with her husband and four sons, two of whom are furrier than the others (but not by much). Visit her website at haintbluecreative.com and follow her on Instagram @haintbluecreative.