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Appalachian Thursday – Fairy Diddles

Fairy Diddles are alternately real woodland creatures or mythical rodents depending on who you ask. In West Virginia, they probably refer to small red squirrels but in North Carolina they’re more likely a Carolina northern flying squirrel. Regardless, they’re fast, smaller than average, and make a lot of noise. One myth suggests that they raid the nests of other squirrels and castrate their young. (Yikes!) This may have something to do with the fact that they’re omnivorous and in addition to eating acorns and other nuts will also eat smaller rodents. Although perhaps not JUST, ahem, select parts. I sense a mountaineer with a colorful sense of humor came up with that one. Mountaineers tell stories of “steer” squirrels created by this legendary castration. And some say fairy diddles themselves are of the “steer” variety. I’m pretty sure no naturalist or biologist has ever backed either assertion. When we first moved to WNC we had a pair of fairy diddles living in the woods across the creek. They were adorably small and almost pink in color. After a few years we saw them no more. I can see how they would give rise to tall tales and myths. Perhaps I need to work a mythical fairy diddle into a story of my own . . .  

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Naming My Characters

One of my great joys in writing is naming my characters. I don’t have children and my brothers didn’t let me name any of my nieces or nephews so I’m left with naming my characters. Which is fine. There are more of them! I particularly enjoyed naming the characters in When Silence Sings. First, I needed the names of my two rival clans. I’ll confess I went a little obvious here since one of the most famous feuds was between the Hatfields and McCoys. So, I went with the Harpes and the McLeans. Some good Scots-Irish names that echo the originals. Now, on to my main characters. Since my hero is a Jonah figure I did a little research and discovered that Jonah means “Dove.” Guess what Colman means in Irish? “Dove.” And in English it refers to someone who works with coal. Double winner! Serepta is a name I stumbled across doing genealogical research for my family in French Creek, West Virginia. And I really liked it! Ironically, the name means, “peaceful,” which Serepta is NOT. But I like that contrast. Maybe she will be one day. Jonah’s love interest is Ivy Gordon. Now, if you’re familiar with the story of Jonah you’ll know that once Jonah <reluctantly> finished his preaching in Ninevah he went outside the city and sulked under a vine. The Hebrew translation suggests that it was a gourd vine. So there you go–Ivy Gordon. Seemed […]

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When Silence Sings – First Review

You would think that after reading a book 16 times, having it edited by a raft of talented folks at a publishing house, and knowing readers are already pre-ordering it would give an author a smidge of confidence. But something happens between the time I sign off on the final read-through the time a book actually hits shelves. Doubts creep […]

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Appalachian Thursday – Bread on the Table

We had friends over for supper on Sunday and I didn’t serve bread. It took nerve, I know. Whether you serve biscuits, cornbread, or light bread, there should ALWAYS be bread on an Appalachian table. Maybe because it helped simple ingredients go a long way. Maybe because it’s GOOD. Especially if you churn your own butter! Even when my grandmother stopped making her own bread, she would still put a stack of store-bought loaf bread on a plate and sit it on the edge of the table. Unlike that basket of biscuits or homemade rolls, it didn’t go in the middle of the table, but it was there. “Push bread” the men called it because it was handy to push the last bites of food onto their forks. I make biscuits for weekend breakfasts now and again. I like them split and buttered with maple syrup (I use a fork). Or apple butter! And I make my cornbread with creamed corn so it’s extra moist. (I also add a dab of sugar–blasphemy in the South, but common in Appalachia.) I never have been good at making light bread (yeast bread), but maybe that’s because I had too many ladies in my life who were masters at it. If you’d like to attempt biscuits, I highly recommend it. They’re pretty easy to make and they’re SO much better than what comes in those supermarket tubes. BISCUITS 1/2 cup self-rising flour per […]

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The Christy Award Nomination

The Christy Award has been around since 1999. And while I try not to put too much stock in winning awards, I’ll confess to really, really hoping for a Christy. And last week A Shot at Love from The Christmas Heirloom novella collection was nominated. The award, intended to honor Christian novels of excellence, imagination, and creativity, is named for […]

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