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It was the “damned gate” that caught my attention. (Surprising words from a Mississippi debutante trainer)

It took a year to create and write The Plan–and get it into publication. I came up with the idea many years ago, when living in Mississippi, but didn’t have the needed time to really think about and develop the plot or complete the project until I retired and moved to Cuenca, Ecuador. 

This morning I was thinking about how this book came about. 
It’s a good story, in itself!
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The “damned” gate
I was a passenger in her car and we were on the way to Parchman Penitentiary. This infamous Mississippi Delta prison was where my psychologist husband worked, and we lived on the grounds. I’d met “Ella” in the small town of Drew. And she seemed like a nice lady. 
Actually, I’d found myself feeling sorry for her, since she confided she was on a third marriage. She was not particularly attractive, and as I would learn she probably went through a lot of his money. Not on frivolous things, but doctor visits—lots of those, for various ailments—but also on her hobby. She liked to help prepare young girls for their debuts.
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The Plan is available at Smashwords in various formats including Kindle and ibooks
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THE YEAR WAS 2004. There weren’t many formal coming out parties taking place anymore, she confessed, but it was still important for her house to be pretty, “just in case.” Drapes are expensive no matter where you live, and she’d recently had to replace not only the living room window furnishings but her carpets. The girls would be coming to her house, if she was able to pick up a parent or two as clients this spring. Plus, she was in charge of her town’s Culture Club. Another reason to spend money on her home and yard. The flowers had to look good, of course, because the club held monthly meetings in her home.
We’d just left the small town of Drew, and I noticed something to the left, just off the highway. A white metal fence, halfway open, with kudzu vines growing on it. A couple of tall pilings were behind the gate.
“What’s that?” I asked Ella. I was always curious about anything new or different that I’d spot in this unfamiliar region. Living in Mississippi was a new experience. We’d moved there from Nevada with no preconceptions and it turned out a fascinating place to be. A part of the country we’d never visited. In fact, when I first heard about our possible move, I thought the “Delta” would be down on the coast, but found it to be a stretch of land along the Mississippi River, from Memphis to Vicksburg.
“The damned gate? It was going to be a home,” Ella began.
Her cursing hit me by surprised. But I didn’t react. I wanted to hear what else she had to say. I settled back in my car seat, ready for her story. But it was far shorter than I’d expected.
Brief, in fact.
“He was a bad man. A lawyer. He was murdered.
Damn, if I didn’t want to hear more. I always like a good story. But Ella said she didn’t want to talk anymore about it. I had to learn why. 
Ella dropped me off at our home, an old red brick house that wasn’t very far away from the gas chamber. Thank God it was not being used in those days. She didn’t want to stop for coffee. Had to get back because her cleaning lady was due to arriv, she explained.
I started that afternoon trying to learn who’d been murdered and why. It only took one call, to a Drew minister I’d recently met, to get the basics.
“That would be Cleve McDowell, the first black law student to enter Ole Miss. He got kicked out!”
The Reverend was a friend. He told me some of the Cleve McDowell story that day, but it took a few months to drag it all out. I had a feeling that I was the first person to learn the whole story, that is, as much of the story that is known. Of course I had to dig through old records, lie a little bit to some courthouse clerks, and track down other several older people to learn as much as I could
Cleve McDowell would be the main character Clinton Moore in The Plan. I changed dates and location but not much else, at least in the beginning of the book. I wanted to be as close as possible to the history. (Next, I’ll write about his friend who was also murdered (“Joe Means”) who is also based on a real person.)
Here’s a link if you want to read the nonfiction book, WhereRebels Roost; Mississippi Civil Rights Revisited. You can read it free online! It’s huge, and tells quite a bit about the civil rights history of the Mississippi Delta. Cleve McDowell’s story is included.
AT LEFT, Cleve McDowell and Rev. Jesse Jackson (covered with cotton dust while campaigning in the Delta)

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Have you ever lived in a place that was entirely different from where you were raised? The climate? The people? The food? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear them in a comment. Thanks. Susan
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The Plan is now available at Smashwords in various formats including Kindle and ibooks
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