Appalachian Thursday – Cover Reveal

Earlier this week I sent out an e-mail with the cover of my next novel. It’s a sweet sort of torture to see the cover and then not be able to share it until the book is available for pre-order. But as of Tuesday this week, readers can add When Silence Sings to their shopping carts. Yippee!

And I can show the cover, which I pretty much ADORE!

silence sings final

Evocative is the word that sprang to mind when I first saw it. I know I’m biased, but I think it’s pretty terrific!

Here’s the back cover copy:

Colman Harpe works for the C&O in the Appalachian rail town of Thurmond, West Virginia, but he’d rather be a preacher and lead his own congregation. When a member of the rival McLean clan guns down his cousin and the clan matriarch, Serepta McLean, taunts the Harpes by coming to a tent revival in their territory, Colman chooses peace over seeking revenge with the rest of his family.

Colman, known for an unnaturally keen sense of hearing, is shocked when he hears God tell him to preach to the McLeans. A failed attempt to run away leaves Colman sick and suffering in the last place he wanted to be–McLean territory. Nursed by herbalist Ivy Gordon–a woman whose unusual appearance has made her an outcast–he’s hindered in his calling by Serepta’s iron grip on the region and his uncle’s desire to break that grip. But appearances can be deceiving, and he soon learns that the face of evil doesn’t look like he expected.

Coming soon to a bookstore near you! (And by soon, I mean November 5, which isn’t that soon at all, but it’ll get here!)

Spreading the Love!

valentines _day_clip_art_heart_love (1)Just in case you didn’t know . . . Valentine’s Day is this Thursday. I’m generally opposed to the holiday as an adult. It feels to me like a marketing ploy to sell cards, flowers, and candy. That said, I have fond memories of the day when I was a kid.

At Adrian Elementary School, every child would make a “mailbox” out of cardboard box and bring it to school on Valentine’s Day so all the other kids could deliver cards. I vaguely remember the actual Valentines–slips of shiny paper with cartoon characters and silly sayings. But what I really remember is that marvelous box covered in paper with a slit cut in the top.

For some reason, I thought the Valentine’s delivery box was one of the world’s greatest inventions. And I remember the year I had a perfectly square box (I’d gotten a stuffed cat in it for Christmas). Mom covered it in paper–pink I seem to remember–and cut that slit in the top. It was exquisite.

We’d place our boxes on our desktops and everyone would deliver their Valentines. I guess it could seem like a popularity contest, but I don’t remember ever feeling left out or being jealous because someone got more cards than I did. I just remember crackly thin envelopes and conversation hearts.

It was WAY better than that goofy bud vase with a single rose or carnation that we hoped for in high school. Better than going out to dinner in an over-crowded restaurant with mediocre food as an adult. Better than a box of chocolates . . . well, I DO like chocolate. Okay, better than a goofy stuffed animal holding a heart.

Anyway, I was thinking it’s kind of a shame we let this tradition fade as we become “adults.” What if, this week, you delivered a Valentine to everyone in your office? Maybe gave one to every member of your Sunday School class or book club or civic organization?

What if you paused to say “I love you” to the people you encounter every day? Seems like I read something about that once . . .

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

Yes. Happy Valentine’s Day.

Appalachian Thursday – Weeeeeelllll

Grandmas and me

Grandmothers are masters of taking a single word and imbuing it with a world of meaning.

A friend and I were talking recently about our families–mostly the senior ladies in our Appalachian families–and how they can take a single word and communicate a wide range of meanings. The perfect example is the word, “well.”

Depending on the accompanying tone and expression, “well” can express a variety of messages. Here are a few:

  • Well. (Short, clipped, with lips pinched.) An expression of disdain suggesting that you can think that if you like but you’re completely wrong.
  • Weeellll. (Smiling, drawn out, sly sideways look.) I know what you’re getting at you devil, you!
  • Well. (Blank expression, flat tone.) I never would have thought it of you, but there you have it.
  • Well-ell-ell. (Laughing with a jolly expression.) Aren’t you the cutest thing I’ve ever seen?
  • Well. (Downcast eyes, soft voice, a little breathy.) I guess that’s all there is to say about that.

I don’t suppose this is exclusive to natives of our mountain region, but it’s surely been perfected here. And it’s one of my frustrations in writing. It’s so hard to share the full range of meanings on the printed page. I often end up editing out a slew of “wells” that really don’t convey what I’m after without the finer nuances of body language.

Which is frustrating.

But oh well.

Groundhog Day (and an even lesser known holiday)

Freddie

Thank you Katrina for the shot of Freddie!

You probably know that last Saturday was Groundhog Day. Not exactly one of the big ten holidays, but still, there was a bit of hoorah around Punxsutawney Phil who did NOT see his shadow which means an early spring! Of course, French Creek Freddie, a resident of the West Virginia Wildlife Center located not far from our family farm DID see his shadow. So I guess that means six more weeks of winter back at the family farm. Sigh!

Saturday was also Candlemas, a Christian holiday celebrating the day Jesus was presented at the Temple after Mary’s 40-day time of purification. Simeon held Jesus in his arms and called him, “The Light of the World.” Hence, Candlemas. It was tradition to take candles to the church to be blessed for use throughout the year.

Of course, we can’t take a Christian holiday and not fiddle with it. So some pagan traditions slipped in, including a superstition that if the sun came out on Candlemas, thought of as winter’s halfway mark, it meant another six weeks of winter. Conversely, an overcast day predicted an early spring.

An Old English saying goes like this:
If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Winter has another flight.
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Winter will not come again.

So how did the groundhog get tied into that? Well, there’s this entry from Berks County Pennsylvania storekeeper James Morris’ diary dated 2/4/1841:
“Last Tuesday, the 2nd, was Candlemas day, the day on which, according to the Germans, the Groundhog peeps out of his winter quarters and if he sees his shadow he pops back for another six weeks of nap, but if the day be cloudy he remains out, as the weather is to be moderate.”

Freddie has been checking for his shadow since 1978 (presumably several Freddies). And he’s not the only one. Here’s a list of other groundhogs around the nation:

  • Punxsutawney Phil: Pennsylvania
  • Buckeye Chuck: Ohio’s official groundhog
  • Staten Island Chuck: The Staten Island zoo
  • Smith Lake Jake: Birmingham, AL
  • General Beauregard Lee: Stone Mountain, Ga.
  • Octorara Orphie: Lancaster, Pa.’s
  • Dunkirk Dave: Dunkirk, NY
  • Woodstock Willie: Woodstock, IL
  • Malverne Mel: Malverne, NY
  • Jimmy The Groundhog: Sun Praire, WI
  • Stormy Marmot: Aurura, CO

I don’t know about all these predications, but I do know that our weather is supposed to be in the 60s the next few days and I’m glad of it!

Appalachian Thursday – A Tough Funeral to Preach

mamieIn researching my current novel I stumbled across a story about a 1932 murder in West Virginia (ah, rabbit trails, writers love ’em!).

A 31-year-old woman named Mamie Thurman was found dead on Trace Mountain in Logan County that June. A deaf-mute boy found her while picking blackberries (seriously, you can’t make this stuff up!). Her ghost allegedly haunts the road there.

A local banker and politician, Harry Robertson, was questioned along with his black handyman Clarence. Turned out Harry had been having an affair with Mamie (both of them were married to other people). Clarence had been key in helping to facilitate meetings.

There was ample evidence found in the Robertson home and car pointing to a murder and transfer of a body. There was also plenty of talk that Harry wasn’t the only prominent person having an affair with Mamie. Ultimately, Clarence was tried for the murder and found guilty with a recommendation of leniency. He died in prison about ten years later.

There’s a lot more to the story, but the bit that really caught my attention was the account of Mamie’s funeral. It was attended by 550 women and 30 men. Rev. B.C. Gamble delivered the “sermon” during the service. He read scripture from the book of John about the woman caught in the act of adultery.

John 8:3-7 – The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”

Once he finished the reading he said, “This is the text. Develop your own sermon on that basis.” Then someone read the obituary and they closed the service.

I may have to take up writing murder mysteries . . .

When Silence Sings Cover Reveal 2.12.19

teaser wssMy next novel, When Silence Sings, releases November 5. I know, I know, that’s SO FAR away. It’s like my birthday, Christmas morning, and vacation all rolled into one big, long WAIT.

Of course, I also know my grandmother was right when she told me that time picks up speed as you get older. And my mother was right when she told me not to wish my life away. So, I don’t really mind the wait.

Plus, there will be fun mile markers along this last leg of the journey to publication. The book will go up for pre-order. I’ll get the final pages for one last edit. The cover will begin appearing in catalogs. And there might even be some early reviews!

Ah yes, the cover. I’ve seen it. And it’s taken all of my discipline not to show it to everyone I know along with several strangers. Not only is it lovely, but it’s the milestone that tells me this is really happening!

And on February 12, I get to show it off! I’ll release it to my newsletter subscribers first and then will share it here on my blog. If you want to get the newsletter, sign up HERE.

I’m still working on edits for the novel, tightening up some loose threads, weaving in a new character (a rough and tumble police chief), and getting rid of about 58 uses of the word “just” that aren’t needed.

I’ll try not to bore you with details, but I may mention the book now and again. I’m pretty excited about it!

 

Appalachian Thursday – You’uns or Y’all?

bean supper

You’uns come get some beans and cornbread!

A reviewer recently commented that she really enjoyed one of my books but took issue with my use of you’uns instead of y’all. Now, in both of our defenses, I’d like to point out that she thought the story was set in Wise, Virginia. Now, that’s a real place where locals probably do say “y’all.” My story, however, is set in the fictional Wise, West Virginia, where locals definitely say you’uns.

So, what’s the difference between the two colloquialisms?

Growing up I knew lots of folks in central WV who said you’uns. As in, “You’uns come on in for supper.” Or, “Are you’uns going to the swimmin’ hole today?”

Then I moved to South Carolina and fell in love with y’all. And, honestly, I’m much more likely to say y’all than you’uns. It just trips off the tongue.

It’s true that you can use the terms interchangeably. They mean, essentially, the same thing. And yet, there are nuances to each.

Here’s a definition of you’uns from urbandictionary.com – “A term used in southern and central Appalachia and adjacent areas to address a group of people.” Or, to be more specific, “An expression used to describe a group of people that can fit into the cab of a 1964 Dodge Stepside truck.” 

I do enjoy specificity.

The definition for y’all, on the other hand, is simply, “a contraction for you all.” The urban dictionary does go on to make the point that the term is NOT singular and using it to refer to one person will point you out as a non-southerner faster than a chicken on a junebug.

I think the main difference is, well, regional. Both terms are a way to refer to a group of people without having to expend the breath and energy required to utter two words–you ones or you all. The main difference is that y’all has achieved a higher acceptance level in general usage. It might even be kind of cool.

So I suggest it’s time to lift you’uns up to the same mainstream status. My challenge to you (no, you’uns–assuming there’s someone other than my mom reading this) is to work it into conversation at least once in the coming week. Do it. Then come back here and tell me how it went.