When Silence Sings – Preorder

mountainsI don’t often flat out promote my books on this blog. I always have some links and refer to my stories with some regularity, but I’m rarely so blunt as to remind you that, well, you can buy my books.

Yesterday was the start of the six-month countdown to the release of my next story–When Silence Sings. So, I’m taking this opportunity to point out that you could place a pre-order if you were so inclined. Barnes & Noble, Christianbook.com, Amazon, your local independent bookseller–they can all guarantee you a book come November 5.

Here’s the 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.

So there you have it. Your commercial for this quarter. I’ll not do it again until closer to the release date 😉

Close the Laptop and Enjoy Some Family Time

My older brother and his family came to the mountains from their home on the coast of South Carolina for spring break. Of course, dogwood winter showed up to greet them with a blast of cold air that pretty well froze their thin, southern blood! Nevertheless, we got out to enjoy a hike with some spectacular views.

Then, having earned our lunch, we went to Wild Thyme Gourmet Restaurant in Highlands followed by a trip to Kilwin’s, because fudge and ice cream are delicious no matter how cold it is outside!

Some days you just need to put the laptop down, put the “out of office” sign on the door, and enjoy some family time!

 

WV Writers Conference

Cedar LakesI’m SO excited to be presenting at this year’s WV Writers Summer Conference! I so enjoy talking writing and sharing what I’ve learned thus far, but to do it back home in West Virginia . . . well, you can’t beat that with a stick!

PLUS, I’m hoping I can sit in on sessions being led by some of the other presenters. Kari Gunter-Seymour (nominated for multiple Pushcart Prizes) is offering a session titled, “Food for Thought, a Taste-Based Workshop.” If you’ve read my stories, you know food plays a significant role in everything I write!

And then Rob Merritt, a professor at Bluefield College, is offering a session about Irish poets–Yeats, Heaney . . . I wonder if we can sneak in Dylan Thomas? Of course, Patricia Hopper Patterson is FROM Ireland, so maybe she can weigh in. Regardless, she’ll be talking about novel development–something I’m keenly interested in!

And then there are Michael and Carrie Kline–collectors of songs, stories, and folklore–who will talk about “Gathering Local Memory and Wisdom.” Which sounds to me like talking to the old folks–one of my favorite research techniques!

So I get to talk about writing. I get to listen to really smart people talk about writing. And I’ll be doing it at Cedar Lakes Conference Center in Ripley, WV. Shoot. I went to Conservation Camp there when I was in grade school.

I wonder if I can hike that trail we built in . . . what . . . the early 1980s?? Regardless, I’m so happy to be invited back home.

Finding Inspiration – Smith, Rash & Cash

App writersThe Appalachian Studies Association held their annual conference in Asheville this past weekend. Can you believe it? An entire association dedicated to the study of Appalachia.

While I didn’t have a chance to go to the full conference, I was able to attend the keynote event. It featured Appalachian author Wiley Cash interviewing fellow authors Lee Smith and Ron Rash. I mean, how could I NOT attend? If you aren’t familiar with these storytellers, check out Cash’s A Land More Kind Than Home, Rash’s Serena, and Smith’s Fair and Tender Ladies. Or anything else any of them have written.

The event was a delight and there was much worth repeating, but here’s my top takeaway–if you want to write well, hang out with the old folks.

A common theme among these wonderful authors talking about how they became writers and where they find their inspiration was spending time with their elders. I think this is common among those of us who have grown (are growing) up in Appalachia.

When I was a kid there wasn’t a youth group. There weren’t any community activities or programs for the youth. Oh, sure, when we had community events (the bean supper at Lucille’s, swimming at Aunt Bess’, or Toad’s wiener roast) the kids would run off and get into trouble together, but we always ended up back in the company of adults.

One of my most precious memories is curling up in Dad’s lap where he sat cross-legged in a room full of men talking, smoking, and playing music. The sweat would dry on my skin as the rumble of voices and laughter lulled me to sleep. I don’t remember what they talked about (oh, how I wish I did), but I think I absorbed those stories, those tall tales through my very pores.

On Sundays we went visiting. We’d sit in family members’ living rooms wearied by the drone of adults talking about weather and people and politics and even religion. And while there was many a Sunday when I would have given the last slice of chocolate cake to be set free, now I recognize how precious that time was.

When I write these days, it’s almost as if my fingers on the keyboard are tracing out voices imprinted deep in my memory. I don’t write stories so much as I find them again. As if I were sitting, once more, among the old folks.

Only this time I’m listening . . . and writing it all down.

Show Don’t Tell (a new take)

DeskIt’s a common refrain among writers. Don’t tell readers what’s happening–show them. Imagine the difference between watching a movie and having someone tell you about it. The telling can get tedious fast, but watching it . . .

And so, when writing a story, the trick is to pull readers into the action so that they’re seeing it unfold in their imaginations.

I try to keep that in mind as I’m writing my stories. But what about when I’m living my life?

Last week I read I Peter 2:11-12 – Dear friends, I urge you . . . to abstain from sinful desires . . . Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

And it occurred to me that this is the biblical version of “show, don’t tell.” Sure, it’s important to share the gospel. To tell people the good news. But it’s even more important to live it in such a way that people SEE the gospel.

I can tell people all day long what God says about love, but how much more will they understand it if I, in fact, reflect his love through my treatment of them?

We live in a world where people are eager to tell each other how to live. Everyone has an opinion and altogether too many platforms for sharing it. Wouldn’t it be nice if we stopped telling it each other what to do and simply lived out our beliefs?

Showing instead of telling.

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!)

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.