Appalachian Wednesday–Festival Time!

We love our festivals in West Virginia and we have ’em all year long. There’s the Strawberry Festival in the spring, the WV State Fair in summer, and Helvetia’s Fasnacht each winter, but fall is prime time for some great celebrations of our state’s heritage. Here are a few you should check out this year or next: Sept.8-Oct. 6 – Mountain State Forest Festival – Elkins, WV – One of the largest and oldest festivals in the state of West Virginia this event is rich in tradition–including the best royal court ever! When I was little, this is the pageant I wanted to win so I could wear a gorgeous, velvet gown and be crowned Queen Silvia. As an adult, I can see that the gowns are maybe a tad gaudy, but I still love the pageantry. Oct. 10-13 – Black Walnut Festival – Spencer, WV – Beauty queens, baked goods, a carnival, a car show, parades, crafts, and everything else that makes a festival a festival. Next year will the 60th anniversary! Oct. 19 – New River Gorge Bridge Day – Fayetteville, WV – Afraid of heights? Here’s your chance to face that fear head on! The New River Gorge is one of the world’s oldest places and one side of the bridge spanning it is open to pedestrians once a year. Above the famous white water rafting on the New River, jumpers, rappelers, and thousands and thousands of onlookers […]

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Book #2 — Feedback, Please

I’m going through round one of self-editing for what I hope will be my second novel. Which means I’ll soon be writing the proposal for Miracle Enough for Two. That includes a short synopsis or back-cover blurb. Here’s what I have thus far. Tell me what you think. Does it sound interesting? Is any of it confusing? What do you like? What’s less than stellar? Feedback, please! Miracle Enough for Two When New Year’s Day 1976 turns out to be the worst day of Henry Phillips’ life, he quits college and begins a downward spiral complete with moonshine, fast cars, and faster women. Practical Margaret Hoffman isn’t even on Henry’s radar until her shy little sister Mayfair seems to miraculously speed his healing after a hunting accident. Wanting to join Margaret in protecting Mayfair from a world that overwhelms her, Henry begins to imagine a different sort of future. He dreams of a peaceful life on the farm free from the complication of loving anyone–which, it seems, is what Margaret wants as well. Can they find a measure of peace together? Or will love turn out to be the biggest miracle of all?

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Appalachian Wednesday–Squirrel Season

As the days get crisp and the nights downright chilly; as the leaves begin to turn and the sky seems bluer each day; as I begin to crave “fall” foods my thoughts turn to–fried squirrel. With gravy. It’s been a looong time since I fried a squirrel. Not since high school. But man it was good. Dad or one of my brothers would get a couple of squirrels and skin them out. Typically, we figured one squirrel would feed two people (these are big, West Virginia squirrels). You cut them up much like a chicken, except with four legs and no breast. Okay, not that much like a chicken. Then I’d parboil the meat to tenderize it. Once it was tender, I’d roll it in flour, salt, and pepper and fry it in oil. Bacon fat would be even better. Once the meat was fried I’d mix some flour into the drippings, whisk in some milk, season it, and serve the whole mess with mashed potatoes. And maybe some green beans. Oh, and biscuits. Of course, it helped if you’d spent the summer working in the hay-field and planned to spend the winter chopping firewood and hauling hay to cattle through deep snow. One of Appalachia’s stereotypes is that we eat a lot of opossum. I just want you to know I only ever knew one person who ate opossum and he quit after he discovered his hound dogs wouldn’t […]

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Appalachian Wednesday–Cleaning Ditches

A state crew came out not long ago and re-ditched our road. It was badly needed in several places, but I have to say I wasn’t impressed with the finesse of large equipment. It worked great along the steep hill and in several other areas, but more than one stretch needed a more, shall we say delicate, approach. My dad has long been a ditch maintenance artist. It’s an important job along country dirt and gravel roads where water washing across the roadbed can cause major problems. He often went out while it was raining because that’s the best time to see how the water will run. I also have a sneaking suspicion he liked being out in a bit of rain when he had could have the world all to himself. I’ve run this poem before, but it’s been a couple of years and seeing the ragged, machine-made ditches reminded me of it. Hope you enjoy! RAIN DAY When it rained and the fields could not be worked, my father would take a shovel and walk the muddy byways. He watched the ditches for clumps of leaves—little dams forcing the flood across the rutted road and one by one released pent-up eddies of dirt and debris. Maybe it was the need to be doing, to be busy even as nature went about the business of watering the farm. Or maybe it was the peace of walking through a world narrowed […]

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What Do You Want to Hear About?

When Miracle in a Dry Season launches–August 2014–part of the promotion process will include me speaking. It’s not enough to do a book signing anymore, authors need to give readers something of value. Now, how valuable me talking is has yet to be determined, but it’s a common offering among authors so here we go. This raises a question. What will I talk about? I’ve been doing a bit of brainstorming and I want to hear what you think–which of these topics piques your interest? Is there something else you’d like to hear? Feedback, please! WV Tales – Stories I’ve been hearing all my life, mostly funny and sometimes with a moral. Might even weave in a tall tale or two. The stories that often start with a request from someone to, “tell the one about . . .” Road to Publication – I don’t know if non-writers want to hear this, but folks often seem curious about how writers get published. It’s definitely a God story from my point of view. Appalachian Food – Food is a major part of the story–feeding the hungry, cooking traditional Appalachian dishes like beans and cornbread–maybe I’d talk about food as love and tie it into feeding the soul as well as the stomach. Miracles – All of my books are about miracles and how they happen all the time, every day, all we have to do is have eyes to see. I […]

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