When Silence Sings Cover Reveal 2.12.19

teaser wssMy next novel, When Silence Sings, releases November 5. I know, I know, that’s SO FAR away. It’s like my birthday, Christmas morning, and vacation all rolled into one big, long WAIT.

Of course, I also know my grandmother was right when she told me that time picks up speed as you get older. And my mother was right when she told me not to wish my life away. So, I don’t really mind the wait.

Plus, there will be fun mile markers along this last leg of the journey to publication. The book will go up for pre-order. I’ll get the final pages for one last edit. The cover will begin appearing in catalogs. And there might even be some early reviews!

Ah yes, the cover. I’ve seen it. And it’s taken all of my discipline not to show it to everyone I know along with several strangers. Not only is it lovely, but it’s the milestone that tells me this is really happening!

And on February 12, I get to show it off! I’ll release it to my newsletter subscribers first and then will share it here on my blog. If you want to get the newsletter, sign up HERE.

I’m still working on edits for the novel, tightening up some loose threads, weaving in a new character (a rough and tumble police chief), and getting rid of about 58 uses of the word “just” that aren’t needed.

I’ll try not to bore you with details, but I may mention the book now and again. I’m pretty excited about it!

 

Appalachian Thursday – You’uns or Y’all?

bean supper

You’uns come get some beans and cornbread!

A reviewer recently commented that she really enjoyed one of my books but took issue with my use of you’uns instead of y’all. Now, in both of our defenses, I’d like to point out that she thought the story was set in Wise, Virginia. Now, that’s a real place where locals probably do say “y’all.” My story, however, is set in the fictional Wise, West Virginia, where locals definitely say you’uns.

So, what’s the difference between the two colloquialisms?

Growing up I knew lots of folks in central WV who said you’uns. As in, “You’uns come on in for supper.” Or, “Are you’uns going to the swimmin’ hole today?”

Then I moved to South Carolina and fell in love with y’all. And, honestly, I’m much more likely to say y’all than you’uns. It just trips off the tongue.

It’s true that you can use the terms interchangeably. They mean, essentially, the same thing. And yet, there are nuances to each.

Here’s a definition of you’uns from urbandictionary.com – “A term used in southern and central Appalachia and adjacent areas to address a group of people.” Or, to be more specific, “An expression used to describe a group of people that can fit into the cab of a 1964 Dodge Stepside truck.” 

I do enjoy specificity.

The definition for y’all, on the other hand, is simply, “a contraction for you all.” The urban dictionary does go on to make the point that the term is NOT singular and using it to refer to one person will point you out as a non-southerner faster than a chicken on a junebug.

I think the main difference is, well, regional. Both terms are a way to refer to a group of people without having to expend the breath and energy required to utter two words–you ones or you all. The main difference is that y’all has achieved a higher acceptance level in general usage. It might even be kind of cool.

So I suggest it’s time to lift you’uns up to the same mainstream status. My challenge to you (no, you’uns–assuming there’s someone other than my mom reading this) is to work it into conversation at least once in the coming week. Do it. Then come back here and tell me how it went.

Redeeming My Characters

BooksLike children, I’m not supposed to have a favorite character. But Frank Post (along with the Talbot sisters) stole my heart. Frank is a blend of so many men I knew growing up. Men who were tough, flawed, opinionated, and most of all tender-hearted beneath those gruff exteriors. There were a few times I even thought about stopping by for a visit on trips home. (Oh right, my characters aren’t REAL!)

This week, I’m sharing Frank’s thoughts about doubting faith.

FRANK POST — THE DOUBTING ONE
Miracle in a Dry Season & Until the Harvest

I think I would’ve liked going fishing with the disciples. Especially if that Thomas feller was along. I’m a lot like Thomas—don’t hardly believe a thing until I can get my fingers wrapped around it and see it with my own eyes.

And there’s been a time or two in my life when I felt left out—like Thomas must have when all the rest of his friends were talking about seeing Jesus back from the dead—alive and kicking. There it is, written in John, chapter twenty. “But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said unto him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said unto them, ‘Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.’”

It’s hard, when everyone else sees a rainbow while you’ve got our head down, chopping firewood and digging ditches. For a lot of years, I just kept my head down. I figured if I wasn’t meant to see what other folks did, I’d just stop looking for it. Jesus probably didn’t want the likes of me anyway.

Thing is though, when enough people tell you how pretty the rainbow is, you get a hankering to see it for yourself. Except I didn’t want to admit the truth of that, so I put conditions on my belief. Like Thomas, who wouldn’t believe until he put his hand in the wound in Jesus’ side.

That’s when I heard about a woman in town—she had a child and no husband, so I knew she’d made mistakes, too. And even though the gossips talked about her behind her back, she stepped up and fed anyone who was hungry that summer the drought was so bad.

I ate her food—best I ever had. And for just a minute there, I caught a glimpse of that rainbow. Eating a plain bowl of beans, I could see how love was supposed to look. I could smell it and taste it and it hit me like it must have when Thomas finally saw Jesus and knew he really was God.

“After eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, ‘Peace be unto you.’ Then saith he to Thomas, ‘Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.’ And Thomas answered and said unto him, ‘My Lord and my God.’”

I’m glad at least one of the disciples was as hard-headed as me. And although I might not have seen Jesus in the flesh, I surely have seen Him—still see Him—in the way poor, sinful folks reach out to give one another a hand. So if you’ve got your head down like I did for so long, you might try looking up and around. Jesus, he’ll sneak up on you, if you let him.

Five Years an Author

the bookThis year will be the fifth anniversary of the release of my first novel–Miracle in a Dry Season. Which is kind of hard for me to believe! Half a decade as a published author. And while I fall in love with each and every character I write, Casewell and Perla will always hold a special place in my heart.

A few years ago I wrote a series of devotions from the points of view of some of the characters in that initial Appalachian Blessings series. So over the next few weeks I thought I’d share those with you. Starting with Casewell.

CASEWELL PHILLIPS – THE CARPENTER

Isaiah 44:13 – The carpenter stretcheth out his rule; he marketh it out with a line; he fitteth it with planes, and he marketh it out with the compass, and maketh it after the figure of a man, according to the beauty of a man; that it may remain in the house.

I remember the first time those words in Isaiah caught my attention. I guess I’d had a way with shaping wood all my life. Even when I was a boy, Dad would show me how to knock a few boards together to make a sled or a crate for potatoes. I even carved a few things that might’ve looked like what I wanted—a dog, a bird, a person.

So when I saw God was talking about a carpenter, I sat up and listened. I was a little bit proud of what I could do with a few pieces of wood in those days. I might’ve misread that verse the first few times. It sounded like a good thing, using my God-given talent to make something that looked like a man.

But there’s the danger of reading just a verse or two. Turns out, God was after Isaiah about the futility of making idols whether cast in metal or carved in wood. That’s when I read more than just the few lines that first caught my eye.

A little further on, verse 18 says, “They have not known nor understood: for he hath shut their eyes, that they cannot see; and their hearts, that they cannot understand.”

That was me for the longest time—blind and hard-hearted. Then I met Perla. I judged her pretty hard there at first. Everyone knew she had a child and no husband, but God opened my eyes. And then he opened my heart and I realized I’d been putting my faith in what I could do on my own. Looks like I was my own man-shaped idol.

So I read that chapter in Isaiah a few more times and turns out there’s a part on down there that says, “I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins: return unto me; for I have redeemed thee.”

Turns out an idol can be made out of anything—money, things, people . . . pride. I guess a lot of folks thought Perla was the one in need of redemption. Me, I think we all are. And the best thing any of us can do—carpenter, teacher, doctor, or farmer—is figure out what our idols are and hand them over to God for blotting out. I thank him every day for making me a carpenter, a husband, and a father who finally had the good sense to let God be my redeemer.

Appalachian Thursday – John Henry’s Big Bend Tunnel

dave

The Big Bend Tunnel is that way just the other side of Hinton . . .

I love researching my stories. Especially when I turn up something fun that I just flat out didn’t know. Like that John Henry, the mythical “steel driving man” of folk ballads, took on a steam drill in southern West Virginia.

My next novel, When Silence Sings, is set primarily in Thurmond, WV, which was a booming rail town in 1930. My editors suggested that my characters were having to travel too far by train to get to other towns and wondered if I could tighten up the geography. Ah, the challenges of writing about REAL places!

Well, I needed a train tunnel. And quickly discovered that the Big Bend Tunnel is conveniently located for my story. Yay! So I read up on the tunnel to make sure it fit the timeline. Absolutely! It’s over a mile long and was completed in 1872. It shortens rail trips by about seven miles by boring straight under Big Bend Mountain.

AND . . . it’s where John Henry beat a steam drill during construction! When blasting rock to build a tunnel men drive steel bits into the rock then insert explosives in the holes. John Henry was the striker who swung the hammer to hit the bit. His shaker would have turned the bit between strikes (now that’s a brave man!).

The story is that the contractor for the tunnel planned to bring in a faster steam drill to replace men. Well, John Henry couldn’t let that pass so he took on the machine and according to the song won but exerted himself to the point that it killed him. Today, there’s a statue of John Henry at the Big Bend Tunnel. I still haven’t figured out how to work a John Henry mention into the story so I thought I’d share the details with you.

There are lots of versions of the lyrics but Pete Seeger’s may be the best known.

John Henry was about three days old
Sittin’ on his papa’s knee
He picked up a hammer and a little piece of steel;
Said, ‘Hammer’s gonna be the death of me, Lord, Lord
Hammer’s gonna be the death of me.’

The captain said to John Henry
‘Gonna bring that steam drill ’round
Gonna bring that steam drill out on the job
Gonna whop that steel on down. Down, Down
Whop that steel on down.’

John Henry told his captain
‘A man ain’t nothin’ but a man
But before I let your steam drill beat me Down
I’d die with a hammer in my hand. Lord, Lord
I’d die with a hammer in my hand.’

John Henry said to his shaker
‘Shaker, why don’t you sing?
I’m throwin’ thirty pounds from my hips on Down
Just listen to that cold steel ring. Lord, Lord
Listen to that cold steel ring.’

The man that invented the stream drill
Thought he was mighty fine
But John Henry made fifteen feet;
The steam drill only made nine. Lord, Lord
The steam drill only made nine

John Henry hammered in the mountain
His hammer was striking fire
But he worked so hard, he broke his poor Heart
He laid down his hammer and he died. Lord, Lord
He laid down his hammer and he died.

 

New Year’s Evolutions – Hope for 2019

PlanningWhat is it about the turning of the year that makes us want to reassess our lives? To pledge to do better or to, at least, not make the same mistakes we did last year?

I’ve never been a fan of new year’s resolutions, but I do like the idea of making plans. This year I invested in Susie May Warren’s Brilliant Writing Planner and I’ve spent part of my holiday time off watching the accompanying videos and . . . well . . . making plans.

A big part of that is simply the stuff I know I need to do:

  • Finish this round of edits for When Silence Sings,
  • Tighten the synopsis for the book after that one,
  • Write my blog posts each week,
  • Teach at/attend a conference or two,
  • Do some marketing around my next release in November . . .

But the planner is challenging me to think bigger than all the “usual” stuff. I’m also pondering:

  • What are my writing-related dreams?
  • What goals do I want to focus on?
  • How does writing fit into the rest of my life?
  • What’s my daily inspiration?
  • What habits would I like to make more ingrained?

I love how the planner isn’t just about writing. It focuses on my goals, dreams, and ambitions across the board. I can include my day job, growing my faith, health-related habits, and so on.

Having spent just a little time hashing out where I want to go in 2019, I think I understand why this resolution/turning-over-a-new-leaf/taking stock thing is so appealing. It focuses on hope. This process assumes I can do better, accomplish more, grow and evolve.

And hope is the very best fuel for the spirit.

Romans 15:13 – May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

What are you hoping for in 2019?

 

Appalachian Thursday – Character Names

Yes, I know it’s Friday.

At least now I do.

I’ll blame it on the holidays throwing me off. All day yesterday I thought it was still Wednesday and so I neglected to get this post ready and up. But here it is, a day late and hopefully NOT a dollar short.

Readers have commented on how unusual the name of the heroine in my most recent story is (A Shot at Love in The Christmas Heirloom still $2.99 for the digital version). So where did I get the name Fleeta?

Meet Fleta Hickman.Fleta and Rex A real West Virginian.

No, my character isn’t based on this lovely lady posing next to my grandfather, Rex Loudin, but she is the inspiration for the name. Although I added an extra “e” so readers would know how to pronounce it.

I don’t know much about the real Fleta or how she got HER name. And my Fleeta didn’t know where her name came from, either. But then, she’s less sentimental than I am.

Here’s a snippet from the story so you get the feel for MY Fleeta’s personality. She may fall for Hank eventually, but the first thing she falls in love with is his . . . rifle.

Fleeta noticed a second man catching up to Judd. He was shorter and thicker—though not heavy by any means. His hair was sandy—almost blond, but not quite. More the color of honeycomb. Fleeta thought he looked pleasant enough and started to smile. Then she froze as she got a good look at the rifle slung over his shoulder. It was a Woodmaster—a Remington seven-forty, thirty-ought-six, and if she wasn’t mistaken it was brand new. Her breath caught in her throat and she forgot to blink. It was the finest rifle she’d ever seen. And a semi-automatic at that. She wanted to reach out and touch it so bad she could almost feel the silk of the wood and the ice of the steel.

Someone elbowed Fleeta in the ribs. “I said, this here’s Fleeta Brady. Fleeta, you know Judd dontcha?”

Fleeta choked on the spit she’d forgotten to swallow. “I do, but it’s been years since I last saw him.”

Judd looked at her with serious eyes that let her know he wished her to be at her ease. She gentled under his look and shifted her focus back to the second man. Apparently, she’d already been introduced, but she had no idea what his name was.

“It’s short for Henry,” he said with an easy smile. “Folks started calling me Hank before I could talk, so I didn’t get to have any say in the matter. Fleeta, though, that’s unusual. Is it a family name?”

Fleeta blinked. “I have no idea. My parents died when I was a baby. Is that a Remington seven-forty?”

Hank blinked back. Twice. “It sure is. Just acquired it over the summer and thought I’d bring it to West Virginia and see how good it is at getting me a deer.”

“The gun won’t have any trouble. Only thing that could get in its way is the one firing it.”

Judd made a sound that might have been laughter, but Fleeta ignored him, her eyes riveted to the most beautiful rifle she’d ever seen.