Appalachian Thursday – Deer Season

Going Hunting
My father and brother–off to hunt on a snowy morning.

It’s almost holiday time in West Virginia. Oh, sure, there’s Thanksgiving and Christmas, but the REAL festivities begin on Monday. The first day of deer season.

Many schools are out all week because, well, no one would come if they were open. Teachers, students, staff–they’re all out “celebrating” deer season.

So how does one celebrate? If you’re a hunter, it’s obvious. You go hunting. But what about non-hunters? That was always me. I know plenty of women who enjoy hunting, but I don’t happen to be one.

Even so, the week was a fun time for me growing up. First, we were out of school. Second, there was plenty of company. Friends and family would come to the farm to hunt, eat, nap, and tell tall tales. Which meant we got to indulge in junk food, questionable conversation, and interesting schedules. And when everyone else was out hunting, I got to curl up in a cozy chair and READ!

One friend of Dad’s worked for Lays and would bring us an entire case of potato chips. We NEVER got potato chips. Hunters eat packaged cookies, processed lunch meats, soda–it’s kid heaven. There’d be a fire in the fireplace, funny stories we didn’t always understand, early mornings, and as soon as someone got a deer–venison tenderloin seared in butter.

Here’s one of my favorite deer season recipes. My dad is the master of this one. Mmmm, I could eat a plate full right now!

VENISON GRAVY
butter
1 smallish venison roast
flour
milk
water
salt and pepper to taste

Partially freeze the venison roast (or, if it’s already frozen, partially thaw it).  Melt a knob of butter in a skillet. Shave off pieces of venison into the butter until you have enough for however many are hungry. As soon as the meat begins to brown add as much flour as you did butter and cook for a few minutes to get rid of the flour taste. Splash in some milk and stir, stir, stir until that begins to thicken. Alternately add water and milk until your gravy is bubbling and the thickness you like. Salt and pepper to taste (lots of pepper really is in order here). Serve spooned generously over hot biscuits (not from a can!).

The Reviews Are Coming In

reviewsWell, at least some reviews. And they’re pretty alright. When I write a book, I tend to think it’s really good once I’ve finished the edits and turned it over to the publisher for the last time.

Then, about a month before the book releases, I start wondering if it’s actually terrible. Or at least not up to par. I keep reminding myself Bethany House wouldn’t publish it if it weren’t at least adequate.

And then, the reviews roll in and in a world where there isn’t much feedback, they can be reassuring. So in the interest of boosting my confidence while doing a little self-promoting, here are some snippets:

  • Thomas is a master storyteller, and her latest novel does not disappoint. Readers are quickly invested in the lives of the characters as their stories unfold. Beautifully written and rich with atmosphere, The Sound of Rain is a novel readers won’t want to miss. – RT Book Reviews
  • Thomas’s easy prose, flavored with Appalachian dialect, light tone, and steady pace as the relationship between ­Larkin and Judd slowly blooms, make this an enjoyable historical romance. – Library Journal
  • Thomas delivers an enjoyable and earnest inspirational romance that examines legacy and longing.The characters are incredibly relatable as they grapple with the fear of failure and the struggle to find and hold on to love. – Booklist
  • Sarah, you outdid yourself! – My friend Joan who finished the book last week

Honestly, that last one is my favorite.

I guess maybe the book IS pretty good after all. I sure hope you think so, too.

Appalachian Thursday – Pepperoni Rolls

pepperoni rollsI’m having a launch party for The Sound of Rain this evening. Because the book is set in WV and SC, refreshments will include a table of WV treats and one of SC goodies. Which means I absolutely HAD to include some WV pepperoni rolls!

These rolls are so common in my home state, that I was surprised to find folks outside the borders don’t much know what they are. So, in case you fall into that category, here you go:

Pepperoni rolls were invented in the 1920s by Giuseppe “Joseph” Argiro, an Italian miner who saw his fellow miners carrying bread and chunks of cured pepperoni into the mines for a lunch that wouldn’t spoil. He thought to bake the pepperoni inside the roll–which infuses the bread with all that fatty goodness–and his rolls were so popular he gave up mining and opened the Country Club Bakery in Fairmont, WV, in 1927.

And yes, you can still go there and get your pepperoni rolls today. As a matter of fact, you should!

As with many beloved regional foods, there is, of course, some controversy. Should the pepperoni be in sticks or slices? Or, in rare instances, ground? Is it okay to add cheese? When do you cross the line from pepperoni roll to pizza roll? I leave these deep questions for you to ponder. (The best way to decide, of course, is through an exhaustive tasting process.)

My pepperoni rolls came from Rogers & Mazza’s in Mt. Clare, WV. If you want, they’ll send you some, too! I recommend warming them, but they’re delicious just as they are.

And if you’re in the Asheville area, come on by my launch party at 62 Lake Eden Road, Black Mountain, NC, and you can taste one!

Release Day is Tomorrow!

Dad at churchReleasing a new book just doesn’t get old. It’s kind of like my birthday. There ought to be cake and maybe some champagne. Certainly streamers and cheering.

And there’s NOTHING wrong with celebrating all week long! So today, to kick off the party, here’s a link to the first chapter of The Sound of Rain.

It still makes me cry to read it.

I think that’s a good sign.

Enjoy!

Appalachian Thursday – WV to SC to KY

are Organics(1)I love my latest book’s release date. Why? Well, just look at it–all ones and sevens. Maybe it’s because Dad’s a math teacher, but for whatever reason, it pleases my eye.

At any rate, my fourth full-length novel, The Sound of Rain, will release next Tuesday. A handful of folks already have their copies and there are a couple of good reviews out (RT Book Reviews and Library Journal). The first one-star review is still out there in the future somewhere.

It’s weirdly wonderful to release a novel. A combination of pride and fear. I know the book is pretty good–it must be or Bethany House wouldn’t have put it out there. Still . . . doubts creep in and I want everyone to love the book as much as I do.

Which is, of course, impossible. Everyone didn’t write it, didn’t conjure up Judd from real-life family heroes or Larkin from favorite southern ideals. But maybe, just maybe, some folks will like it. And maybe, just maybe, it will touch a heart here and there and remind someone that change–although hard–is often God’s way of shaping us into what he had in mind in the first place.

The book starts in the WV hills and quickly moves to the coast of SC, then sends Judd and Larkin to eastern KY where coal is king and life is hard. I hope you’ll journey with them. And I hope you’ll enjoy the trip as much as I have.

Halloween in the Hills

Halloween

I LOVED Halloween when I was a kid. I’m still pretty fond of it even today. But when I was little it was all about playing dress up and eating candy.

I was one of those little girls who wanted to be something pretty. An angel, a princess–something pink and sparkly. And Mom was a whiz at making gorgeous costumes. Although I’m still a little annoyed about having to wear a turtleneck under my princess dress (see photo–that’s just not right!). Never mind that it was 40 degrees. I could have toughed it out.

But trick-or-treating was different when you lived in the hills of West Virginia. There was no running around subdivisions or shopping malls collecting candy. We piled into the car (angel wings rated the front seat) and drove from house to house. And we knew everyone we visited. Shoot, we were related to most of them.

Aunt Dorothy had homemade caramel apples and popcorn balls, Aunt Bess had full-sized candy bars, Grandma had little piles of candy arranged on a TV tray near the door, Floyd had Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (hands off, Dad!). And at each stop–especially when we had masks on–there was a great to-do about guessing who we were.

When my dad was a kid growing up in the mountains of WV, that was a BIG part of Halloween. You actually tried to disguise yourself so that friends and neighbors couldn’t recognize you. And there were more pranks. Apparently involving outhouses more often than not. Halloween was about visiting and laughing and connecting with community.

In the 17+ years we’ve lived here, we’ve had a total of five trick-or-treaters at our house. Although we live outside the city limits, we can see several houses from the front porch and still no one dresses up or sends the kids around. Oh, there are a few decorations out, but that’s it. Everyone takes their kids to where the houses are closer or to a church trunk or treat.

I say they’re missing out BIG TIME. I miss when Halloween was family time. When we got as many hugs as we did candy bars. When we could eat anything we got–even the homemade stuff–because everyone who dropped something in our bags loved us.

Appalachian Thursday – A Fickle State Capital

capitalToday I’m headed to Charleston, WV, the capital of my home state, to participate in the WV Book Festival. I’m not only excited to be going as an author, but also because Charleston is a great city with an exceptionally beautiful capital building. And turns out it has an interesting history . . .

The current capital is actually the sixth structure to house state government. The first was in Wheeling, WV, from 1863-70. Then it was moved to Charleston (capital #2). In 1876, they switched back to Wheeling where they built structure #3 even though the old one was still around (and is even today).

In 1877 the legislature let the people choose between Charleston, Clarksburg, and Martinsburg (what happened to poor Wheeling??). Charleston won and the governor said the capital would be moved there in eight years. That capital–built around the old one (#4)–was fully occupied by 1887. THEN . . . it burned down in 1921.

So a temporary wood-frame structure was erected and dubbed the “pasteboard capital.” It (#5) burned down in 1927. Luckily, they had already begun construction of the capital that houses state government to this day (#6). The west wing had been finished in 1925, the east wing was completed in 1927, and the main domed section in 1932. It cost just under $10 million, which was actually LESS than the legislative appropriation.

The gold dome is the capital’s most recognizable feature. At 292 feet tall and 75 feet in diameter it’s gilded with real gold leaf (over copper and lead).

I’ve visited before, but I’m thinking it might be time to stop by again . . .