Sunday, December 20, 2009

It Takes Two to Tango: Ties That Bind Us

Compact Disc Review
It Takes Two to Tango
Ties That Bind Us

Available from Leeny Del Seamonds, Two to Tango Productions, P.O. Box 1268, Westford, MA 01886-1433, Phone: 978-692-3961. Email: $17.00 (includes shipping & handling)

Reviewed By Linda Goodman

     Master Story Performer ™ Leeny Del Seamonds values the sage advice and wisdom of family members whose love, guidance, and patience have helped her develop solid relationships. Such blessings, she says, are the ties that bind us. Such blessings are the theme is this unique recording.

     Leeny’s father, known as Del, shared his wisdom with her through wise advice that she refers to as “Del-isms”. “It takes two to tango,” he warns her, “and it takes two to tangle.” The difference, while subtle, makes a world of difference.

     Leeny illustrates the wisdom he bestowed upon her through the stories on this CD. In Purgy-Tory, Leeny shares the terror that caused her to stop speaking when five neighbor boys told her that even unintentional fibs would scar her heart with black marks that would send her to purgatory, a holding cell for hell. The pain there, they said, would feel like 11,000 toaster burns.

     Who Rules the Roost, follows 2 friends who try to answer the age old question of who is head of the family: the husband or the wife. Chuckles abound as the listener accompanies them on their journey.

     Party Girl, which starts out to be a celebration of the party life, takes a serious turn when a routine surgery results in an out of body experience that requires a decision be made between the “big party up in heaven” and rejoining the human race.

     In Tres Perros en Miami, a Labrador retriever, a bulldog, and a Chihuahua vie for the love of a poodle. Which one will meet her test and win her heart?

     La Cucarachita Rosa Maria is the story of a cockroach who tries every modern means available to find love (My Space, Twitter, Speed Dating), only to find that the good old-fashioned way is still the best. It also serves as a “pourquoi story”: why are there so many cockroaches on this planet?

     My personal favorite on this CD is The Stinking Dragon, a delightful story set at a renaissance fair. Leeny, a theater major who spent time acting in New York, came to storytelling, “through a stage door.” This story reveals that a future generation stands ready to amaze us.

     The CD appropriately ends with We Sing as One, a jaunty song that is an ode to a better world.

     Leeny Del Seamonds’ recordings never fail to engage the listener with their passionate wit and simple truths. It Takes Two to Tango, however, goes one step further and tugs at the heart. It will be a cherished addition to any story lover’s collection.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Tales Through Time: Women of the South

Tales Through Time:
Women of the South

By Joan Leotta and Edith Edwards

Reviewed By Linda Goodman

As a celebration of southern women from the Colonial Era through the present day, Tales Through Time: Women of the South gives the reader an intimate peek at the romance, mystery, friendships, and betrayals that ultimately claim us all. Excellently researched and skillfully written, reading these stories, one after the other, is like traveling in a time machine from period to period. “Historical fact was simply our springboard,” the authors state. “After all, only a few facts are needed to kindle the fire of a good tale.”

The authors complement one another well. Joan Leotta’s polished narration and Edith Edwards’ daring choice of subject matter satisfy the reader’s appetite like a well-prepared meal. The stories in this collection pay tribute to various genres, including horror (Reflections of Evil), humor (Preacher Parker Learns a Lesson, The Wayward Mop), romance (Fan Coral, Love in Time of War), suspense (Recipe for Murder), and historical fiction (every story in this book).

All fourteen stories in this collection are well worth the read, but two are especially engaging. A Recipe for Murder involves Leah, a Latin expert and a specialist on the life of Julius Caesar, who makes two significant discoveries: a personal note to Caesar hidden inside an ancient fasces, and a personal betrayal that will change her life. The title tells you that a murder will be committed; the victim of that murder, however, is a surprise twist that will shock the reader.

In Preacher Parker Learns a Lesson, a crooked preacher is exposed by a clever boy who does not fear the consequences of his scheme. Indeed, he operates from righteous indignation, delighting the reader, who will surely have a good laugh at Preacher Parker’s expense.

Leotta is also a skilled professional storyteller who brings her stories to life with spoken as well as written words. She presently tells Fan Coral, included in this book’s Colonial Era, and is developing a show based on The Hurricane of Independence, also included in this book.

This book is a well-rounded and enjoyable reading experience. It gives the reader a bird’s eye view of what southern women have faced throughout the history of our country. These steel magnolias are survivors. Their strength is our hope.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Earl Hamner's The Homecoming

     This past Friday night, I went to Afton, Virgina to see the Hamner Theater's production of Earl Hamner's The Homecoming.  I had high expectations, and I was not disappointed.

     My sister, my niece, and I arrived early and had dinner at D'Ambola's.  I am happy that we got there before then sun went down.  The blue mountains were gorgeous as the sunset.  We sat by the window and enjoyed the view.

     After dinner we mosied on down to the Hamner.  I am glad that I made reservations early.  The show runs every Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from November 19 through December 13, and every single performance is sold out.

     If you are not familiar with The Homecoming, it is the story of a family waiting for its father to come home on Christmas Eve.  The father lost his job locally (the play is set during the Great Depression) and is now working out of town in Waynesboro.  The snow is falling, and travel is questionable at best.

     The audience waits anxiously with the family, but the wait is a rewarding one because the various characters introduced are engaging. There is Clay-Boy Spencer, who shoulders his father's burden when he is away, and Olivia Spencer, a loving mother whose sterness masks her worry.  The nine children in the cast are delightful.

     Birdshot Sprouse, Clay-Boy's supportive friend, always appears when needed most.  Reverend Hawthorne Dooley is a soulful black preacher who aids Clay-Boy when he is sent to search for his father.  The Staples sisters, who provide their neighbors with holiday "recipe", provide comic relief, as well as comfort and joy.

     The Homecoming has two casts.  I saw cast A.  Mary Coy played Olivia Spencer with just the right mix of angst and strength.  I could not help but compare her to Patricia Neal, who protrayed Olivia in the television movie.  Mary was not found wanting.  She is excellent.

     Michael Dowell played the adult Clay-Boy who narrates throughout the play.  The wistful glimmer in his eye, his strong yet gentle voice, his honest portrayal of a man who knows he will always live some part of his life in the past - all these things worked together give the show integrity and authenticity.

     Director Boomie Pederson told me that between the two casts, there were 32 children.  I must admit to being amazed by the performances of the children in cast A.  Never once did I doubt that they were a family.  I actually forgot that they were acting.

     I must commend Boomie Pederson's direction.  She is innovative and always on top of her game.  Even when the actors are excellent, Boomie's touch can be seen tying everything into place so that each scene blends seamlessly into the next.

     Most folks know that The Homecoming was spun off into The Waltons, as series that ran on CBS for nine years.  I think I will look for the show on DVD.  I do not want to leave this family behind.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


by Linda Goodman

©Linda Goodman 1996

     When my family lived in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia, the food that we ate at our Thanksgiving Day meal was the same as what we ate on any other day: soup beans and cornbread. Occasionally, there would be meat, if Daddy had been out hunting.

     What made the meal different was a ritual that my Daddy insisted upon observing on Thanksgiving. Before eating, each of us sitting around the table would, one by one, give thanks for that for which he or she was most grateful. Not having much in the way of material possessions, our thanks usually were given for treasured relationships. One year, after I had recovered from a severe bout with pneumonia, I was surprised to hear my brothers give thanks for my survival. It changed the way I felt about them, and their constant teasing was easier to take after that. I gave thanks for my new baby sister. Mama was thankful for well-behaved children, and Daddy was thankful that he had been blessed with children who were thinkers. If you use your head, you will come out ahead, he always said.

     When we moved to the city, Thanksgiving remained the same. My parents refused to assimilate into the city culture, and so our meals and rituals never changed. We children eventually adopted city ways, but Momma and Daddy held to the old ways until their deaths.

     The Thanksgiving after they passed away, my sister and her family came to spend the holiday with me in Connecticut. I fixed a traditional meal of turkey, dressing, and various side dishes. Before eating, my sister and I decided to reinstate the old ritual that we had taken part in so often. One by one our children gave thanks. My daughter was thankful for the new dress she had gotten for the Christmas dance at school. My nephew was thankful for his Nintendo. My niece was glad that her allowance had been increased. No one mentioned family or friends.

     I abandoned the ritual after that. It just was not the same with its new emphasis on material possessions. On Thanksgiving day, we have a bountiful meal and good companionship. Everyone seems happy. But I always make sure to take a few minutes alone to give thanks for the wonderful man who taught me that it is not who you are, but how you live, that matters most; and that anyone who has a loving family is rich indeed.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Book Review


By Becky Mushko

Illustrated by Bruce Rae

$7.00 per copy
Available January 2010 from Cedar Creek Publishing.
Phone: 800-431-1579.
Becky Mushko’s website:
Cedar Creek Author Page: Mushko.html

Reviewed By Linda Goodman

         Becky Mushko wrote Ferradiddledumday in 1997 to showcase her friend Susan Alkhadra’s spinning abilities and to teach youngsters about the flora and fauna of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The story was originally written to be told,
but demand for copies lead to its publication in Blue Ridge Traditions magazine in 1998 and, ultimately, to this book.

      Ferradiddledumday is an Appalachian Version of Rumpelstiltskin. A need for money prompts the heroine, Gillie, a master spinner, to make a deal that appears to be a blessing, but turns out to actually be a curse. In the end, bald-faced
luck saves the day, and all live happily ever after. Those who have read Rumpelstiltskin will recognize the familiar motifs.

        The charm of Mushko’s tale lies in its Appalachian authenticity. Her words paint pictures of mountains brimming
with ticks, chiggers, rattlesnakes, and copperheads. When Gillie walks the mountains, she is loved by the pipsissewa,
the maidenhair ferns, and the dogtooth violets, all of which beg her to pick them. Superstition plays a part, too, as bad
omens appear in threes: Gillie spills salt; a bird flies through the cabin; and her father sees the moon over his left shoulder.

       Hence, the appearance of a strange little man who hears the trees whispering among themselves. Gillie’s misfortune could very well be his gain. His magic could very well be her salvation. As every lover of fairy tales knows,
 however, magic comes at a price, in this case a dear one.

       Bruce Rae’s sketches enhance the story without overwhelming it. His attention to minute detail gives the reader a sense of both the Appalachian environment and the culture. He was a good choice to illustrate this book.
This book includes a study guide that highlights the literature, history, geography, and science particular to the Appalachians. A lively and informative discussion should ensue.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Tribute to Brother Blue

    I first began hearing about Brother Blue in 1990. Everytime I told stories to an audience with college students, they would ask me if I knew Blue.  College kids loved his color and his wisdom. They admired his journey from the mean streets to his life's dream of trying to save the world, story by story.
    I fnally heard Blue tell stories at a church in Hartford, Connecticut in 1991.  Standing on the stage, a gaunt man in a colorful costume that brought to mind a court jester, he was dazzling. I was not impressed with his storytelling at first. He rambled and fidgeted.  He was hard to follow. Midway through his performance, however, he began his butterfly story, and suddenly I was riveted.  The story was sweet, beautiful, and, yes, brilliant.  I became a fan.  I began to follow his peformances, hoping to witness that brilliance again.  It was always worth the wait, however long.
    For years, Blue and his wife Ruth hosted a weekly open mike storytelling series at the Book Cellar Cafe in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  They made the venue a safe place for beginners to share the stories that had been laid on their hearts.  At the end of each performance, he would share appreciations. Then he would wave his arms accross the room as the audience joined him in his trademark "aaaaaaah!"  Even the most fragile tellers were welcomed and accepted.  Everyone who came to Blue's open mike storytelling became part of his family.  There were no outcasts in Blue's presence.  He was the essence of love.
    This if for you, Blue......aaaaaaaaaaah!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Yankee Doodle Streudel

     Mimi Rockwell is so well-known as a producer and promotor of storytelling events that few realize what a fine writer and storyteller she is.  Her CD would make a great Christmas Gift for the story lovers in your life.  Read my review of her CD below and decide for yourself.

Compact Disc Review

Yankee Doodle Streudel
German-American Family Stories

Available from Mimi Rockwell, 15301 Castle Yonder Lane, Bristol, VA 24202. Phone: 276-669-8358. Email: $12.00, plus $3.00 shipping and handling.

Reviewed By Linda Goodman

     Rarely does an audio recording produce pleasure that equals the delights of a live performance. Mimi Rockwell’s Yankee Doodle Streudel, however, does just that. Mimi’s stories take the listener on a nostalgic journey through a simpler time when family interaction taught life lessons leavened with a huge dose of love. The stories’ themes, though set in a German-American context, are universal. Everyone will identify with some aspect of the child portrayed.

     Queen Diva takes the listener on a circular journey that will strike a chord with anyone who has been dissatisfied with his or her given name. Amanda begins with the discovery of a photo in a hymnal and evolves into the most beautiful ghost story that I have ever heard. The vivid images in this story take the listener through a range of emotions: joy, love, grief, and, inevitably, hope.

     Uncle Herman begins with the heartbreak of an opportunity forsaken for the sake of family obligation, but then proceeds to embark upon a delightful journey that leads to true love. Apple Streudel addresses an awkward moment at a children’s birthday party.
     The Movie Camera brings the Great Depression to life in a trip to the movies that yields a treasure of family memories and stories for years to come. Grandpa Santa Claus centers around a grandfather who is asked to play Santa at an annual Christmas party. The events that follow leave one wondering at the irony of how a time-honored tradition, so often taken for granted, could go so wrong.

     Greenthumb, a story of Mimi’s mother’s love of plants, brings this lovely collection of tales to its end, with the perfect combination of wonder and hope.

     Well-written and filled with haunting images and lovely details, these stories do not end when the CD is finished. Mimi’s stories elicit sweet memories that help us forget life’s disappointments and tragedies, if only for a little while. Her stories create pictures and scenes that will infuse the listeners’ minds and hearts with peace and beauty. Isn’t that what storytelling is all about?

All stories written and performed by Mimi Rockwell

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Shadows in the Woods

Compact Disc Review
Shadows in the Woods
Spine-Tingling Tales

Reviewed By Linda Goodman
     Master Story Performer ™ Leeny Del Seamonds introduces her new CD of scary stories by chronicling her passion (nurtured by costume parties celebrating her October birthday) for telling them. Her vivid imagination and fear of the dark guided her down the path of telling the very tales that frightened her. After all, the teller controls both the tale and the audience, much more so than the ghosts and demons that inhabit the stories.

     Friday the Thirteenth revolves around an auto breakdown on the highway to New Jersey and a harrowing struggle to escape a strange entity after answering nature’s call. Was it real? That depends on your perspective, but you may want to stay away from the woods if you are stranded on a highway on Friday the Thirteenth in October, during a harvest moon.

     Old Lady Lincoln tells of a woman who dies with her “eyes wide open, staring at everything and seeing nothing.” Enter two silver coins and a greedy gravedigger and you get real horror, accentuated by a howling wind and ghostly voices. Never “steal from the dead,” the tale warns.
     Jersey Devil, one of Leeny’s signature stories from her native New Jersey, begins with a grieving, pregnant widow cursing her unborn child, who later escapes her useless restraints and terrorizes South Jersey. One family’s tragic encounter with this creature will keep you awake long after you should have fallen asleep, wondering about those strange hisses and howls that haunt the night.

     The Date is a story of a young couple, deeply in love and foolish enough to go parking in a desolate part of town, only to run out of gas on a night when a serial killer is on the loose. In the end, love triumphs, though not in the way that you would expect.

     The Feast is a delightful poem that is a cornucopia of ghastly voices and cackling laughter that includes a recipe for witch’s brew.

     All stories, poems, and songs on this CD were written by the multi-talented Del Seamonds, who now has another excellent recording to include in her award-winning collection of tales. Flawlessly produced and masterfully told, the tales will lure you into listening to them again and again. Just don’t listen when you are alone….at night.

Available from Leeny Del Seamonds, Two to Tango Productions, P.O. Box 1268, Westford, MA 01886-1433, Phone: 978-692-3961. Email: $17.00 (includes shipping & handling

I Have Arrived!

     At long last, I have a blog.  Friends having been nagging me to get one for years.  I thought it would be too "technical" for me, but I actually managed to get it up and running in less than one-half hour.

     Now I can share my thoughts and feelings and what little wisdom I have gained in my years on this earth.  I can share my reviews of books and CDs with a wider audience.  I can get the word out on things I care about.  I may even be able to make a difference.

I have arrived!