Appalachian Thursday – Cracking Nuts

The apples have fallen, the pumpkins are getting carved, and the leaves are turning orange and yellow and red. Must be time for the nut harvest! Of course, if we don’t hurry, the critters will beat us to it. Growing up on the farm, we had walnuts, chestnuts, and filberts (hazelnuts). With walnuts, it was best to let nature dry the husk and expose the shell, which would still turn our hands black. Chestnuts could be removed from their prickly casing by pinching them between the soles of our boots and pushing them out. Hazelnuts we just let dry a bit and then whacked ’em but good with a hammer. Mom probably made things using nuts, but mostly the pleasure was in just eating them straight from the shell. And eat them we did! Chestnuts in particular were an easy target and the crisp texture and flavor of that buttery, yellow nut was SO good. You can score them and roast them briefly to make them easy to peel, but we just bit ’em until the shell cracked. Even here, on our little ole plot of land in NC, we have walnut trees (can’t plant tomatoes under them) and several hazelnut shrubs. But it’s a lot of work and not always worth it if the weather hasn’t been right or worms have gotten there first. So mostly Thistle and I sit inside the French doors and watch the squirrels feast. […]

Read More →

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 . . .  

Read More →

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 […]

Read More →

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 […]

Read More →