Appalachian Thursday – Multiflora Rose

multifloraIt’s the bane of farmers.

Those twining, vining banks of simple roses can take over a fence line and encroach upon pasture. It’s pervasive, even invasive. Dad hated it and I did, too, for his sake.

But we aren’t farmers anymore and I have to confess, multiflora rose is growing on me.

It’s a non-native, invasive plant. Originally native to eastern Asia, it was introduced to the U.S. in the mid-1800s as an ornamental rose. Then, it was promoted for erosion control and as a “living fence” for livestock. Which was all well and good until it began taking over and choking out native species.

It’s now designated as a “noxious weed” in multiple states including Iowa, Ohio, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and . . . West Virginia. Hum.

The National Park Service has some plain advice–“Do not plant multiflora rose.” But that’s alright. No one needs to. It simply crops up pretty much everywhere.

I used to work for Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC, and Frederick Law Olmsted’s original plan for the Ramble leading down to the Walled Garden included a large planting of multiflora rose along the main staircase guiding guests down from the house. Mr. Olmsted saw the beauty, too.

And while I certainly acknowledge the negative aspects of this all too rapidly spreading shrub, I can’t help myself this time of year. Because when I step outside on a cool, spring morning, I see the flowers cascading along the roadside. And I breathe the sweet perfume sweetening the air.

And I think it must be how heaven smells.

The Joy of Naming Characters

Loudin FamilyI’ve never had children, but I have spent a fair amount of time considering what I might name a child if I did have one.

Thankfully, I now have LOTS of characters, all in need of a good name. And naming them is one my favorite things to do. It even holds me up at times, because I can’t write the book until I have the names just right. Delilah, in my novella Appalachian Serenade, got her name from Delilah Jane Brady pictured in the center of the photo above. I don’t know a thing about the real Delilah (my great, great grandmother), but what a fantastic name for my character!

So for a little inside scoop, here are the names for several of my main characters and the inspiration behind them.

-Casewell Phillips – I wanted to use the last name Phillips because it’s the line of family members who settled in our corner of WV–for seven generations. I found the name Casewell on a grave marker near my father-in-law’s and thought it was wonderful.
-Perla – I toyed with naming my first heroine after either my Aunt Bess or Grandma Burla, but wasn’t sure family members would appreciate that the character was an unwed mother–so I tweaked Grandma’s name and came up with Perla.

-Margaret & Henry – This time, I wanted my hero and heroine to have good, solid, “regular” names.
-Mayfair – On the other hand, Margaret’s little sister with a touch of the miraculous needed a special name. Mayfair is something of a play on Fairlight from Christy by Catherine Marshall.

-Ella – This is Perla’s granddaughter–her name is a variation on my Grandma Nellie’s name. Plus, she’s something of a Cinderella to her Grandma Perla’s fairy godmother.
-Mark/Richard/Seth – I wanted solid, masculine names for the three possible love interests. And none of them could be the name of anyone I ever dated! If you’re getting into the groove of how I pick names, you’ll probably be able to guess which character Ella ends up with 😉

THE SOUND OF RAIN (Releasing November 2017)
-Judd Markley – This may be my favorite character thus far. He’s flat out named for my great Uncle Judd (who never married) with my paternal grandmother’s maiden name added on.
-Larkin Heyward – I wanted a southern name for my heroine from coastal South Carolina. We have family in Greenville, SC, where there’s a restaurant named Larkin’s. My mother-in-law lives on Haywood Road, but everyone pronounces it Heyward–so there you go!

Typically, I don’t use the names of people in my everyday life for my chain characters. I can’t ever foresee writing a character based on someone I know, lest I offend! My mom used to try to guess who my characters really were until finally I convinced her they’re all a blend of friends, family, strangers, and my imagination.

And oh how I love giving them meaningful names!

Q4U – How about you? If you were writing a novel, what would you name your main character(s)?

Appalachian Thursday – Early Spring Flowers

Bloodroot in bloomAt last. It’s the time of year when the woods begin greening and the first flowers come pushing through last year’s leaf litter.

Trout lilies, toothwort, and bloodroot. I love how bloodroot practically sparkles with its perfect white petals against the grey of waning winter.

All of these plants are more than just pretty, being used for medicine or food (I am NOT recommending consuming ANY of these plants–this is just some interesting information.)

BLOODROOT – The plant has been used for medicinal purposes since the American Indians used it to treat skin conditions and as a blood purifier. When you cut or break the stem of bloodroot, the sap looks like blood.

Of course, it’s also poisonous.

Today it’s touted as a treatment for skin cancer and for plaque and gum disease. It can also induce vomiting.

CUT-LEAF TOOTHWORT – A member of the mustard family, the leaves, flowers, and root are all edible with a peppery taste that would be nice in salads. The roots were also once chewed as a cold remedy or made into a tea to treat hoarseness.

TROUT LILY – The lovely, little trout lilies are actually edible. You can use the leaves and blossoms in salads or, if you collect enough of them, roast the corms. Eat enough of them and they will cause vomiting, though, so moderation is key!

Again, I’m not suggesting you go out and start sampling spring flowers in the forests of Appalachia. But I do find it interesting to consider the types of “medicine” my great-grandmother might have used.

Appalachian Thursday–Going to Ireland

Ireland UMC
Photo from the Irish Spring Festival Facebook page. Click on image to learn more.

When I drive from NC to the farm, I get to pass through Ireland. Of course, like Paris, KY, or Rome, GA, it’s really a sweet little town stateside. Still, I get a kick out of it.

This week they’re holding the Irish Spring Festival, which is always planned around St. Patrick’s Day. There’s lots of green, shamrocks, good food, and road bowling (more about that in a moment).

The event was launched 36 years ago by the Shamrock Community Educational Outreach Services Club. A king and queen are selected and there’s typically a parade populated with pedestrians, farm equipment, animals, and a whole lot of kids. There are probably more people IN the parade than watching it.

The festivities actually kicked off last Sunday with a flag raising, the dedication of a free library, and a Pot ‘O Luck covered dish dinner. The day wrapped up with a Psalms of Ireland hymn sing at the United Methodist Church (see photo above).

And, of course, there’s road bowling. Ireland is famous (well, locally famous!) for being a hub for the sport. Basically, the idea is to roll a heavy, metal ball (it used to be cannon shot) as far as you can along the road without it rolling out of the road. Curvy, mountain roads are, of course, more challenging.

Back in 2012 some road bowlers ended up playing along the rural road where I live. Turned out they were from West Virginia! Click HERE to read more about that.

All in all, the Irish Spring Festival is exactly the sort of thing I miss about my West Virginia home. Local people getting together for some pretty uncomplicated fun and fellowship. If you’re ever in central West Virginia, check ’em out

Lenten Fasting–What to Give Up?

GE DIGITAL CAMERAEach year I look forward to Lent and embarking on some sort of spiritual discipline leading up to Easter. Usually, I have my fast well in mind at least a few weeks before Ash Wednesday (March 1). But this year I’ve been waffling.

I wanted to come up with something meaningful and . . . let’s face it . . . clever. The year I added the fruit of the Spirit to my diet was wonderful and blog followers seemed to appreciate coming along on the journey.

But in 2017 . . . nothing jumped out for me. Until Sunday.

I was speaking at a church about an hour from home and the pastor preached on the 23rd Psalm. “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want . . .” The pastor said the word for want was a sort of gut-churning worry. Oh yeah, I know about that.

So there you have it. I’m giving up worry for Lent.

Which is hard. If I were giving up, say, chocolate, I’d know how to do that. Don’t eat chocolate. But how not to worry? I’m not sure, but I plan to give it a shot with Matthew 6:25-34 as my guidebook.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Step 1 – Don’t worry about how to give up worry for Lent.

Embrace the Awkwardness

presentingI participated in the Asheville Christian Writers’ Conference over the weekend. One conferee asked me how to gracefully exit a 15-minute appointment.

If you aren’t familiar here’s how the 15-minute appointment to pitch or share about your writing often goes:

  1. You wait nervously for your appointment time, lurking near the editor, agent, author with whom you plan to meet.
  2. The person with an appointment ahead of you goes over the allotted time and you push closer, trying to make sure the editor, agent, author sees you.
  3. The person ahead of you finally leaves and you swoop into the empty seat ready to pitch your work.
  4. You blurt out something you meant to be coherent and shove a one-sheet, business card, or pages at the person across the table.
  5. You manage to share something about your book, although you’re not sure it makes sense. Hopefully the editor, agent, author says something helpful and/or asks some questions.
  6. You realize your 15 minutes are up, but NOW you remember what you meant to say in the first place.
  7. You try to squeeze it in even as the next appointee lurks behind you.
  8. You finally mumble something you meant to be coherent and walk away.

Here’s the amazing wisdom I offered that conferee–embrace the awkwardness. Nothing about this process feels natural, so don’t worry when–hello–it feels unnatural. It’s okay. Take a breath and know everyone else feels awkward, too. You are NOT alone and agents, editors, authors have seen and heard much worse.

I once spilled a bottle of water on an agent (not my agent) and he still said nice things about my writing and asked for a proposal.

So how do you exit? Say, “Thank you so much,” and then, as you trip over your laptop bag on the way out, give the next person in line an encouraging smile.

Appalachian Thursday–Ollie the Bobcat

bobcatI have an affinity for bobcats which are native to Appalachia. So when a news story ran this week about Ollie, a female bobcat, escaping from the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., I tuned in.

I might have been rooting for the bobcat.

Oh, I know, she’s been in captivity since she was orphaned as a kitten and probably wouldn’t do well on her own.


At any rate, she’s back at the zoo now. News reports simply said she was “found on zoo property.” Hmmm. I’m betting she was still in the enclosure and just didn’t feel like being seen. Bobcats don’t much care to be seen, which is part of what I like about them. They’re subtle.

Allegedly, my first bobcat encounter was at the French Creek Game Farm. Dad was talking with the wildlife officer in charge and I, just a tyke, toddled off into the garage where there were several abandoned bobcat kittens in a cage. I was playing with them through the bars even though the wildlife guy said he had to feed them with gloves. Allegedly.

Dad always has been a storyteller, but it’s a good story, so I’ll keep it.

I’ve seen several bobcats in the wild over the years and once found one in the road, struck and killed by a car, on my way to work. I stopped and moved her. She was utterly perfect–no wounds that I could see. What struck me most were her paws–delicate with soft, pink pads. I would have expected the pads to be calloused, but they weren’t. I carried her well back into the woods, found a declivity, and covered her with sticks and leaves. I would have dug a grave if I’d had tools to do it.

My last bobcat siting was at least five years ago when one camped out under our bird feeder for a half hour or so. My husband and I just sat and watched, took some pictures (photo above), and marveled.

I’m glad Ollie is safe. I have to think maybe she’d just as soon stay where she is. Otherwise, she would have taken advantage of that hole in the mesh netting around her enclosure to find another–quieter–life.

Maybe she just needed a break from all the hubbub. Like we all do now and again.