Appalachian Thursday–Until the Harvest

My publisher sent me the cover art for Until the Harvest, book #2 in the Appalachian Blessings series, some weeks ago. And all I could do was gaze upon it, longing to show it to everyone I know. The rule of thumb is–don’t share the cover art until readers can order the book. Or, to put it another way, don’t create a demand you can’t fulfill.

Well, as of yesterday evening, Until the Harvest is available for pre-order through several major retailers. So here it is. Book #2.

Until the HarvestIsn’t it GORGEOUS?!? When I saw the cover of Miracle in a Dry Season I really liked it, but kept thinking that it would be more appropriate if that apron were full of apples or speckled brown eggs. Peaches always seemed so very Southern and I write Appalachian (which is a whole other thing–ask anyone from West Virginia or Eastern Kentucky). So here are my eggs and they are PERFECT. Plus that shade of blue. Sigh.

Of course, the real test is what’s beyond the cover. Here’s the summary:

When a family tragedy derails Henry Phillips’s college studies, he’s left unmoored and feeling abandoned. Although Henry tries to find escape in bad company, the only things that can tamp down his anger and grief are the family farm, his fiddle, and sweet but unusual pre-teen Mayfair Hoffman.

Unfortunately, Mayfair’s older sister, Margaret, with the freckles and cute, turned-up nose, has the opposite effect. Worse, she’s his grandmother’s housekeeper and helper, so she’s always around and ready to push his buttons. At first he thinks she doesn’t care about his loss, before beginning to understand she’s facing her own struggles. Mayfair’s health and unique gift sit at the heart of those worries, and Henry and Margaret soon find themselves relying on each other as both Henry’s future and Mayfair’s life are put at risk.

Until the Harvest releases May 5, 2015. Can’t wait to hear what you think!

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Vacation–A Writer’s Definition

fawn at pondWhen I was a kid, vacation meant time away from school. It meant a trip to the West Virginia State Fair or Sea World or the beach. It meant fun and freedom!

When I was first married vacation meant time away with my man. It meant time to travel back home to see my family. It meant time away from work.

Today, vacation often means time to write. Time to do my other job while putting the demands of my work at the children’s home on the back burner for a while. It means time to escape to a world of my own creation.

That’s what this week is all about. I’ve had a few little vacations here and there this year to go to conferences, visit family, and just loll around in my pajamas. But this week is all about finishing book #3.

The funny thing is, book #3–The Memory of Drowning–was written, oh, seven or so years ago. It was my first manuscript and as such has been “done” more times than I can count. But now it’s time to truly whip it into shape as the third installment of the Appalachian Blessings series.

And guess what? Turns out it’s easier to write a book from scratch than to go back and “fix” a manuscript I wrote when I had more enthusiasm than good sense. Oy. I mean, stuff has happened! Book #3 is set in 2008 and I now have 60+ years of back story to keep in mind as I edit the living daylights out of this manuscript.

Nonetheless, I’m excited to tell this story. I’m eager for you to meet Perla and Casewell’s granddaughter, Ella. I’m thrilled to walk with her as she travels a journey of faith that’s none too easy. You know, just like the rest of us.

Wish me well. Pray for me. I have a story to tell and I want to do it WELL.

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Appalachian Thursday–Autumn LOVE

Fall TrailIn Western North Carolina we’re deep in my favorite season of the year. And so, I can’t resist taking a moment to enumerate some of what I love about fall in Appalachia.

  • Fall color! Red and gold, rust, sunshine yellow, orange so vivid it makes you feel warm . . . I can’t get enough. When I go on hikes I’m prone to coming home with a multicolored bouquet of leaves.
  • Crunching through leaves on forest trails. I used to love jumping in piles of leaves and I’m still willing to take a leap or two, but it tends to make me itchy. So scuffling through the windfall is good enough for me!
  • Crisp fall air and that cerulean blue sky. It just makes me feel alive.
  • Beef stew, lasagna, chili, and all those other cool weather dishes I haven’t wanted since temps climbed over the summer. A glass of red wine won’t go amiss, either.
  • Sweaters and turtlenecks and scarves. Cozy clothing that makes me feel snug (and hides the effects of beef stew and lasagna).
  • Halloween–a great excuse to play dress up and eat candy. It’s the one day of the year I can wear a tiara or angel wings without drawing undue attention.
  • Thanksgiving–turkey and dressing and mashed potatoes and cranberry salad and sweet potato pie. Oh, and spending time with family while being thankful. That’s good, too.

So how about you? What’s your favorite part of fall?

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Home Again, Home Again – a WV Events Roundup

Well, it wasn’t exactly a book tour, but it’s about as close as I’ll get until my books are a bit more, well, known. I did two events back home in WV last week–a reading at a dinner at Fish Hawk Acres and a signing at Mainline Books.

And it was wonderful!


Twilight setting in at the Fish Hawk Acres dinner. That’s Mom at the end of the table with Jean and Aunt Pat.

The dinner was a little damp and chilly, which reduced our numbers, but those who came were delightful. We chatted over soup shooters–butternut squash and roasted red pepper–before settling under the pavilion for dinner. Chef Dale Hawkins told us a bit about the food, most of which comes from local growers (the couple who grew the gorgeous parsnips and multicolored carrots dined with us). Then we ate ’til we couldn’t eat any more. Pot roast with caramelized onions, pork loin with shiitake gravy, red cabbage with bacon, salad greens with beets and ginger vinaigrette, apple dumplings with caramel sauce. Oh my!

Anyone who thinks West Virginia food isn’t sophisticated and amazing needs to go see Dale. He’ll set you straight.

Then I got up to talk a bit and read about the first meal Perla cooked for Casewell. At least I wasn’t making people hungry! To close out the evening, I signed books for my new friends. Lovely.


At Mainline Books with Phil Ward–a cousin on the Phillips side of the family.

On Saturday, I went to charming Mainline Books in Elkins, WV, for a signing. It was another damp, grey day, but the bookstore was bright and cheery. There really should have been a cat curled up on the big chair in back. I had a table with fall decorations near the door and set my banner up outside.

We had a good turnout in spite of the fact that the WVU football game was at noon, halfway through the signing! You’re pretty much not allowed to live in WV unless you’re willing to care about WVU football. (They beat #4 Baylor–go Mountaineers!) My mom came and sat with me while my cousin and her husband drove down from Pennsylvania–what a great surprise!

While it was great to get Miracle in a Dry Season into the hands of some new readers, the best part was being at home, with my family, celebrating the wonders of being a published author. Pure joy!

Posted in Appalachian, Family, Food, Friends, Love, Reading, Writing | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Appalachian Thursday–Traveling

I’m headed home today to see family and do a couple of book-related events. Next week I’ll share all the details about my first experience as a published author in my home state. In the meantime, here’s a taste of fall in Western NC along with a shot from my childhood. Prayers for safe travels, please!

Fall 2010 012 Fall 2010 015 Fall 2010 011playing in leaves

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A Note for a Friend–Through the Valley

ValleyHard times–valleys–come in so many forms. They can be obvious–job loss, death in the family, sickness, natural disaster. Or they can be harder to spot–a child gone astray, a marriage in tatters, a difficult work environment. And all too often, we try really hard to keep others from seeing our valleys.

I have a dear friend going through a challenging time right now–the kind no one would know about if she didn’t talk about it. And thank goodness she’s not only talking about it, but asking friends to pray about it. She’s walking through a valley and what she wants more than anything is OUT.

I’ve been through a valley or two of my own and I wish I could swoop in with a helicopter and airlift my friend to a lodge on the top of the mountain where we’d have hot chocolate and enjoy the view. Except . . . I don’t really wish I could do that. Because here’s what I’ve learned about valleys:

  • God let’s us walk through them for a reason. Sometimes it’s really, really hard to see the reason. Sometimes you never see the reason. But there is one and it’s really, really good.
  • There are no shortcuts. No airlift, no SUVs rolling through to offer a ride, no teleportation to the mountaintop. But there is a path and you might as well start walking it, one foot in front of the other, until the hard work is done and you’re no longer in the valley.
  • While your friends can’t rescue you from the valley, they can encourage you from wherever they are on their paths. And that friend you’re sure has never set foot in a valley? You’d be surprised how dark and deep it was.
  • When you look back at the valley from higher up the mountain, you kind of wonder what was so awful about it. Oh, you remember it wasn’t fun, but from this perspective you can even see some beauty in it.
  • The valley leads to the foothills, which lead to the mountain trail, which leads to the mountaintop, and oh-my-goodness when you get there the view is SO worth it.

I hate that my friend is suffering. I’ll pray for her every day until she’s through this valley. And I trust that one day we’ll talk about it, remember it, and thank God for how He worked through it.

by Wendell Berry

To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,
and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,
and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.

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Appalachian Thursday–Side Dogs

ThistleThere are generally two types of folks I run into hiking in the national forest near our house. 1) Transplants with an appreciation for nature who carry water bottles, graphite hiking sticks, and often have a proliferation of bumper stickers on their cars. 2) Locals with an appreciation for the place they know who carry guns, sticks found along the trail, and often have an opinion about where the hunting is best.

Both kinds have dogs with them and Thistle and I like to visit with them all. A few weeks back, I ran into two young men who fell into the locals category. They had a hound and a second, mixed breed dog. They were, indeed, scouting spots to hunt and we chatted a minute about the dogs.

One young man allowed as how the hound was a hunting dog, while the mutt was just a good “side dog.” This was a new term for me, but a little more conversation led me to understand that a side dog is one that stays by your side, generally keeping you company. I LOVE this!

Turns out all my dogs have been side dogs. They aren’t for hunting or protection. They don’t herd other animals or track anything. They aren’t particularly well-trained. They’re just really good companions.

First there was Joe who licked the other side of my popsicle in the summer. Then there was Fred, a massive Airedale who technically had a job–to go wherever my brothers and I did on the farm. Then a series of rescues I wasn’t particularly attached to. After college there was Sammy–my first true, dog-love. And now Thistle who is the ultimate side dog. Even to the point that when I lay down, she curls into my side and grunts in contentment. Not quite an extra appendage, but almost.

Yes. Side dogs. Maybe they have the most important canine job of all. Embodying love.

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