Cover me…

April 7, 2014 by

CGCover2-500

I’ve been playing around with the cover for Charming Gardeners, mostly because I don’t want to end up in the same boat when we get ready to do the print version as I did when we did the print of Whistling Woman and Moonfixer (text running into the edges of the cover). I admit, I’m a little slow sometimes but when I repeat the same mistake twice, I usually learn not to do it again. I’m pretty sure I’m okay with that part of the cover this time. Now if CreateSpace will only cooperate and give me the right options for the color on the spine and back cover. I can’t know that until I get on there and see what they offer but…fingers crossed!

Also, when I first posted the cover here on the blog, I realized it needed…somthing. More of a contrast between the picture/text and the background. The white background, while it looked clean and pretty, needed to be changed so it stood out a little more and so, thanks to the wonders of technology (I’m blanking on the name of the program I used right now), I came up with the cover you see to the left.

It’s still only a work in progress, but I think I’m getting closer. Still, I’m not completely satisfied with it and can’t figure out how to make it better so…

HELP! Please!

If you saw this in a bookstore or online would it catch your eye? Would you pick it up or click on it to check it out and see if the book interested you. And if not, what would you change? Maybe a brighter color for the background? Or a bolder, bigger font for the title and author name (keeping in mind that it has to fit within the edges of the print version, of course)? Or maybe I should just trash it and start all over?

Okay, go ahead, tear it to pieces and while you’re doing that, I’m going to go hide in a hole and try to get some writing done. Which reminds me, I had a long phone conversation with Daddy over the weekend and he told me at least two stories I hadn’t heard before and reminded me of another one we’ll be sure to include in Charming Gardeners. Yay!

 

Pardon our mess…

March 3, 2014 by

Moonfixer CoverWe are trying to get the blog updated to include Moonfixer (Book 2) and the upcoming Charming Gardeners (Book 3). I hate to say type it, but it may take some time given my tendency to procrastinate. I’ve been meaning to do this ever since Moonfixer was released (way back in December of last year) but kept putting it off and putting it off and putting it off and…well, you get the picture. WordPress is usually very easy to work with but there are days when it makes me want to throw my computer against the wall. On those days, I’ve found the safest response from me is to get off the site and try another day.

Okay, first things first, the blog name has changed to Appalachian Journey (the series title) but the URL hasn’t. It’s still http://whistlingwoman.wordpress.com/. But there’s no guarantee it will stay that way…not if I can figure out how to change it to Appalachian Journey.

Second, Christy and I both want to thank our readers for the amazing response we’ve received for Moonfixer. We love hearing what you think whether it’s by email (cctillery@yahoo.com), here on the blog (http://whistlingwoman.wordpress.com/) , through the wonderful reviews some of you have left on Amazon, or on our Author Central page (amazon.com/author/whistlingwoman). However you decide to get in touch with us, we love hearing from every one of you and we’re very thankful we have such wonderful readers.

Third, we are thrilled that we’ve heard from, well, I won’t say long lost family members because we’ve never actually met most of you but family members who’ve found our books and either called or e-mailed and introduced themselves to us. Maybe newly discovered family members? Whatever, it’s been such fun to talk or exchange emails (and in some cases, family pictures!) with every single one of you. We’ve now heard from a member of every branch of the Daniels family–Roy, Loney, and Thee–and also from our cousin from the Henderson side of the family, Jackie Burgin Painter, whose books played such a critical part in our research. It’s sort of a new-age family reunion and we’ve loved every minute of it!

Finally, we are working on the third book in the series, Charming Gardeners. The title comes from a Marcel Proust quote: Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our and also because the quote seemed to fit her so perfectly.

Charming Gardeners, Appalachian Journey Book 3

Charming Gardeners, Appalachian Journey Book 3

And now I’ve procrastinated working on the blog enough. If I keep this up it’s never going to get done so time to get back to it but first I’ll leave you with the tentative cover of Charming Gardeners. The picture we decided to use is of Aunt Bessie and our dad gathering herbs and wildflowers (Daddy thinks the dog standing almost hidden over to the right was named Fritz).

To all our readers, thank you for being our personal charming gardeners and making our souls blossom!

Merry Christmas!

December 24, 2013 by

IMG_5169-Mf1-500

To all our readers who have been waiting so patiently for the next book in our Appalachian Journey series…

Moonfixer just went live on Kindle! Yay! For the time being, it will only be available on Kindle but the print edition is in the works as is the audio edition. It will also be available on Nook, Kobo, Sony, Apple, etc., in a couple of months–or sooner depending on when we get the formatting worked out. We’ll post here when each version goes live so stay tuned!

We want to thank each and everyone of you for your patience and for making 2013 such a joyful and memorable year for us! We wish all of you a very merry Christmas and a safe and healthy 2014!

WALKING IN BESSIE’S FOOTSTEPS

October 28, 2013 by

Moonfixer, book 2 in the Appalachian Journey series, begins with Bess moving with her new husband Fletcher Elliott to Old Fort, NC, where they lived with Fletch’s parents until they bought 400 acres of the Zachariah Solomon Plantation on Black Mountain.

Cyndi and I recently paid a visit to Old Fort and Black Mountain to try to get a feel for what Bess first saw in this beautiful area of the Appalachians. Since Bess and Fletch arrived by rail, our first visit was to the Old Fort Train Station and Railroad Museum, home of the original train depot. This museum is easy to find as the main locus point is a tall arrowhead sculpture standing beside it.  We toured this building which looks much as it did in the early 1900s with original walls showing graffiti dating to 1886 and period railroad artifacts. Of particular interest is a large table model old fort train depotshowing the route the train traveled, winding its way through and over mountains. To arrive in Old Fort, Bessie’s and Fletch’s train ride would have taken them though seven hand-dug tunnels and nine miles of track across the Gap (the Eastern Continental Divide is at the top of the Gap) and the Swannanoa Tunnel, 1800 feet long and the longest tunnel on the route at that time. Greeting them would be a manmade geyser, signaling the start of the long climb to Asheville. A disappointment for us was that we weren’t able to visit the geyser since it was closed for repair.

(A winter picture of the museum with the arrowhead statue is shown above.)

We chatted with the docent who knew some of Bessie’s and Fletch’s kin who still live in the area and toured the railroad car which, compared to today’s standards, seemed so bare and uncomfortable. As we walked through the museum and along the wooden platform leading to the car, I could imagine Bessie stepping off the train and looking about, wondering what her life would be like in these mountains.

From there, we went to the Mountain Gateway Museum and Heritage Center where we watched a short video about the construction of the railroad tracks over the mountains, after which we toured the museum, which has an interesting wall depicting pictures with descriptions of herbs used as medicines for different ailments. Since Bessie was a healer and used herbs, an art she learned from her Cherokee grandmother, we found this fascinating. We fell into a conversation with its docent Peggy Silvers who gave us some interesting background about the Copperheads and other secret societies of Western North Carolina and MountainGatewayMuseumafterward emailed us her research about these, including the Red Shirts, which we write about in Moonfixer. Upon leaving, we noticed two log cabins on the property and enjoyed visiting those.

(This is the museum and here are the two log cabins.)mountain gateway cabins

Then it was onto and up winding Black Mountain to Stone Mountain Baptist Church, to visit the graveyard where Bessie and Fletcher are buried, along with Fletcher’s parents, siblings and a host of relatives. This is the church Bess and Fletch attended, and standing there, looking up at the stately white steeple against the beautiful cobalt sky, time slipped away and I wondered if Bessie knew we were there. I suspect she did.

Outside the church is a fountain offering fresh, clear spring water which tastes sweet but is very cold. The graveyard is large and rambling and (I found) somewhat comforting. Graves are marked with monuments elegant and elaborate to simple headstones and even odd-shaped stones. As we walked along, we were thrilled to find graves of people we’ve written about who we feel are old friends. It pleased us to see someone had put fresh flowers on Bess’s and Fletch’s graves. One thing we have learned is that stone mountain baptist churchthey were a well-loved couple.

(Although this picture of the church is dark, it shows the steeple quite well.)

We plan to return for another tour to visit the geyser and Black Mountain Museum. But walking along these paths, going up and down Black Mountain, I wondered if we actually do live in a dimensional world, as some scientists claim, where we might possibly at one particular moment have been walking beside Bessie as she made her way to the Crooked Creek Schoolhouse or Stone Mountain Church. Or perhaps she was with us in spirit, as we often feel she is. I like to think so. Aunt Bessie has been an important part of this journey Cyndi and I are on and we really hope to do her justice by writing the best books we can about her very interesting life and kindly deeds.

Enter to Win a Free Book!

July 7, 2013 by

To celebrate >25,000 ebooks sold and >300 reviews on Amazon, we’re giving away copies of Whistling Woman in the following formats:  whistling woman

5 ebooks

5 paperbacks

5 audiobooks

For a chance to win, please like our Whistling Woman Facebook page and send us a message as to your preferred format. If you have already liked us, just send us a Fb message saying so and the format you would like. The first five names drawn in each format will receive their free copy.

For those who haven’t read the book, here’s a short blurb:

A whistling woman and a crowing hen never come to a very good end. In the waning years of the 19th century, Bessie Daniels grows up in the small town of Hot Springs in western North Carolina. Secure in the love of her father, resistant to her mother’s desire that she be a proper Southern belle, Bessie’s determined to forge her own way in life. Or, as her Cherokee great-grandmother, Elisi, puts it, a whistling woman. Life, however, has a few surprises for her. First, there’s Papa carrying home a dead man, which seems to invite Death for an extended visit in their home. And shortly before she graduates from Dorland Institute, there’s another death, this one closer to her heart. But Death isn’t through with her yet. Proving another of Elisi’s sayings, death comes in threes, It strikes yet again, taking someone Bessie has recently learned to appreciate and cherish, leaving her to struggle with a family that’s threatening to come apart at the seams. Even her beloved Papa seems to be turning into another person, someone Bessie disagrees with more often than not, and someone she isn’t even sure she can continue to love, much less idolize as she had during her childhood. And when Papa makes a decision that costs the life of a new friend, the course of Bessie’s heart is changed forever.

CC Tillery

(Cyndi Tillery Hodges

Christy Tillery French)

Friday Fact or Fiction…or maybe not!

June 21, 2013 by

Fletcher and Bessie ElliottIt’s Friday again and that means it’s time to find out what really happened or only happened in mine and Christy’s imagination. This week we’re up to Chapter Five: She looks like she was inside the outhouse when the lightning struck.

This chapter deals with the first time Bessie meets Fletch at her Uncle Robert’s farm while she helps with the molasses making and I can tell you there’s not much about it that is true except the fact that Bessie did indeed have an uncle named Robert. Was he a farmer and did he have a farm in Walnut (the next town over from Hot Springs)? Honestly, we don’t have any idea. We found the names of Mama’s family in the Census report for 1880 and when the time came to introduce Fletcher into the story, we decided to have him working on Uncle Robert’s farm. The rest of Uncle Robert’s family (his daughter Caroline, wife Nell, and two more children) is entirely fictional–at least as far as we know!

As for the most important part of the chapter, Bessie meeting Fletcher and her instant attraction to him, that’s about 50/50. From everything she and Daddy told us over the years, the instant attraction was true, as well as Fletcher’s quiet, unassuming manner. In fact, the story we heard most often about the two of them meeting was Bessie saw him at the sawmill when she was walking home from school one day and liked his looks. She told us he was very shy and she was determined to make him talk to her. Obviously, she was successful. Oh, and she really liked the fact that she was his first girlfriend!

So, there you have it; Chapter Five, a few tidbits of fact mixed with quite a lot of fiction.

Hot Springs Resort, the Bluff Mountain Festival is held annually in the field to the left.

Hot Springs Resort, the Bluff Mountain Festival is held annually in the field to the left.

Christy and I were at the Bluff Mountain Festival in Hot Springs over the weekend and we had a wonderful time. We met quite a few people who had read the book and they had a lot of really nice things to say about it. Needless to say, we enjoyed that a lot! While we were there we started talking about Fact or Fiction Friday and realized that as we go through the chapters, we’re going to be running into spoiler territory pretty soon. We definitely don’t want to give anything away! We haven’t yet decided how we’re going to handle that but hopefully we’ll come up with a solution before we get that far. Any ideas and/or suggestions are welcome!

Fact or Fiction Friday –

June 14, 2013 by

Chapter 4:  “Be like the old lady who fell out of the wagon.”

Although this is a short chapter, it’s important in that it introduces Bessie’s brother Thee’s namesake and shows a bit of Bessie’s spirit. It involves the fight between Papa’s deputy, Theodore Norton, and a Yankee visiting Hot Springs over Mr. Norton flirting with the Yankee’s wife.

Fact: Theodore Norton was an actual person and Papa’s deputy as well as good friend.  Bessie’s brother Thee was named for Mr. Norton. As children, Cyndi and I came to know Thee as Pap Daniels.

Gentry HardwareFact: One of the characters, Mr. Gentry, is the actual name of the man who owned Gentry Hardware. Today, his descendent Keith Gentry owns and runs the same store. When we visited, Keith pointed out his hardwood floor is the actual floor from the Dorland Institute Bessie attended over 100 years earlier. If you ever visit Hot Springs, be sure to drop by. It’s a charming place to browse and filled with charming crafts.

Fact: Mr. Norton liked the ladies and was a flirt, which eventually led to his death.

Fiction: The fight. We’re sure Mr. Norton dealt with his share of jealous husbands although we don’t know if it ever came to fisticuffs.

Fiction(?): Bessie liked to watch fights. We’re not sure if she did or not but Bessie was a spirited girl so it wouldn’t be a surprise if she did.

Fact: Bessie loved it when Papa would say, “Damn, Bess,” his way of addressing her behavior at times.

Fact: Bessie was close to her Papa and loved him deeply.

Fiction(?): Bessie keeps Papa on a pedestal for most of the book and we’re not sure if this is true or not but something we’ve gleaned from the stories Daddy tells us about Bessie and Papa.

Fact or Fiction Friday — Chapter Three

June 7, 2013 by

Chugged full – an old southern saying that means full and/or overflowing with happiness.

Chapter three starts with Bessie and Papa getting ready to leave on a business trip to Paint Rock. Papa needs to see a man about a horse…wait, no that’s wrong, he needs to see a man about doing some repair work on a house. There are several places in this chapter when fiction crosses fact but for the most part, it’s all 100% true and it’s based on my favorite story when I was a kid: Bessie dancing in her red dress in a saloon in Paint Rock. I always wished I had the courage and confidence to do something like that!

Shelton Laurel Massacre Historic Marker

Shelton Laurel Massacre Historic Marker

Okay, so the story is true, but Christy and I did take a few liberties with the facts. For instance, the story Papa tells Bessie about the Shelton-Laurel Massacre which is well-documented and well-known here in western North Carolina. All of that happened, there really was a Colonel J. A. Keith who lined those men and boys up and had his soldiers shoot them, and they really did leave them on the bank of the creek, some of them buried but most of them just lying on top of the ground. And the families really did come the next day and buried them.

The liberties came with Bessie imagining she hears the Melungeon boogie-man. As Christy told you last week, parents were prone to threaten their children back then with an imaginary character of Melungeon descent but we have no idea if Bessie or Papa or even Mama knew of such a made up monster, much less if it played a part in their lives. We used it at this point to give Papa a reason to tell the Shelton Laurel Massacre story and of course, because that’s one of the major themes of the book; the persecution of people who are different in some way.

The part about Bessie dancing at the saloon while wearing a new red dress is true but we had to use our imagination to fill in the description of the saloon. We also made up the…shall we say, ladies-of-the-evening. We have no idea if there was a player piano in the saloon, Daddy always called it just a plain piano. We do know that the saloon was in an old house on the main street that ran through Paint Rock but when we tried to find it, we had some trouble. Not much to the town of Paint Rock any more and I have a feeling there never was much–but the drive from Hot Springs was absolutely gorgeous, if a little harrowing at times!

John Warren Daniels (Papa)

John Warren Daniels (Papa)

And finally, we come to Papa and Bessie and their relationship. Neither of us remember our Great-great Grandpapa John but we remember Aunt Bessie talking about him. It was obvious, even as young children, she absolutely adored her Papa. And then we have the many stories Daddy’s told us. Daddy, whose real name is Raymond Earl, goes by John because as a young boy, he was always with his Grandpapa John and people started calling him “Little John.”  And I just noticed, looking at that picture of him, there’s a birt of family resemblance there. So, we never really knew him, but I think we came very close with his personality from the many stories we heard. Daddy always says he was a good-natured soul, always smiling and joking, and with more than his fair share of charm–and of course, a natural born storyteller–which he passed on to Bessie and then to Daddy, thank goodness!

Whistling Woman: Fact or Fiction?

May 31, 2013 by

Chapter 2 begins with the dead body of Mr. Fore still on the kitchen table, waiting for Papa to take it to Marshall. (Side note: Does a dead body actually wait?)

Fact: Papa did shoot a man and bring his dead body home, placing it on the kitchen table.

Fiction: Mr. Fore’s name. We couldn’t find out who the man was that Papa actually shot at the train station, running down the tracks.

Fact: Papa took prisoners and dead bodies of prisoners to Marshall, the county seat, in a horse-drawn wagon.

Aunt BelleLater, Aunt Belle comes to visit and tries to convince Mama that Papa has cursed the house by bringing a dead man home and encourages her to have Miss Cordy cleanse the house.

Fact: Aunt Belle is an actual person, Lucinda’s sister Elizabeth, three years younger, who married a Candler. Candler, NC is named for this family.

Ficton(?): Aunt Belle’s personality. We had no one to talk to to ascertain the type of person Aunt Belle was. I think Cyndi did a great job developing her persona and describing the way she dressed.

(Cyndi here, we found this picture in the little photo album Aunt Bessie gave to Daddy before she died. There’s no indicaiton on the picture of who it is but Daddy says he’s pretty sure it’s Aunt Belle. She sure looks enough like the pictures we have of Aunt Bessie to be her sister.)

Fact: Green, Bessie’s little brother, was named for the blacksmith who took Papa in as a striker during the Civil War when Papa was a boy and his mother and sister were forced to go to a women’s home in Greenville, SC after losing the family farm.

Fact: The description of houses in this chapter built by Papa were taken from written descriptions by Bessie.

Daddy's painting of Miss Cordy

Daddy’s painting of Miss Cordy

Fact: Miss Cordy was an actual person.

Fiction(?): We gave Miss Cordy a mystical quality although we do not know if she actually had that ability. From the stories Daddy tells us, she was a sweet, gentle soul with a big heart. One of the saddest true stories is Miss Cordy and her pet hen.

Fiction: The Melungeon boogie-man.

Fact: Parents did try to instill fear in their children by threatening them with the Melungeon boogie-man if they didn’t behave. We wanted to introduce at this point the prejudice at that time against the Melungeons.

Friday: Fact or Fiction?

May 24, 2013 by

I’ve been considering doing a post like this for a long time but never seemed to get around to it. I’m still not sure I’m fully into it but since Christy and I are in the process of transferring the paperback version of Whistling Woman to our control (which is causing some major frustration, I am not a happy camper right now!) I decided what better to do than add to my frustration by writing a blog post. Why should writing a blog post frustrate me, you ask. Well, I’m one of those bloggers whose brains won’t stay on a set track when writing a post. My mind tends to go off on tangents and my fingers always seem to follow right along. I often end up with a couple of thousand words that jump around like a grasshopper, landing here and there, and never quite getting to the point…

See? I’m doing it again when I should be introducing this post and getting on with what I want to say. So, here goes:

Christy and I have had several readers ask us which of the stories in Whistling Woman are fact and which are fiction. That’s not as easy to answer as you might think because we took liberties on almost every page of the story, weaving fact with fiction, reality with imagination, truth with…um, shall we say, little white lies. The one thing we never fiddled with was the historical facts. We researched them endlessly, going back time and time again to make sure we had them right. Also, the Cherokee legends and medicine were, to us, sacrosanct but of course, where the legends are concerned, who knows exactly what is truth and what is ficiton.

So, in an effort to enlighten our readers (who we totally love and are eternally grateful to!) I’m going to take the book chapter by chapter and hopefully (by the time Moonfixer’s is out at least), I’ll make it all the way through the book. That’s 22 chapters–Yikes!

Okay, the first chapter deals with Bessie sticking her finger into the bullet hole in the man Papa shot. Fact or fiction?

John Warren Daniels (Papa)

John Warren Daniels (Papa)

A little of both, Bessie did in fact stick her finger into a bullet hole in a man’s forehead and Papa did in fact shoot him, bring him home and put the body on the kitchen table until he could take it to Marshall in the morning. We heard that story quite a few times as children and I think it’s one of the reasons why we grew up thinking Aunt Bessie was the coolest person in our family–aside from our dad–and quite possibly it started the whole fascination with her stories and the desire to write them down before they were lost.The fiction part comes with the background information. Bessie was only around 10 years old when it happened (in the book we have her at 14) and neither she nor Daddy ever mentioned what it felt like when she did it. For that part, we went to friend and fellow author, David Hunter, who after marveling at the questions he gets from his friends, told us what it would feel like. Having never stuck our fingers in a bullet hole in a person’s forehead before, we have no idea if that part’s fact or fiction, but having no desire to actually check it out and verify it, we were willing to take David’s word for it.

A bit of backstory in the chapter tells about Bessie hating her name and changing it when she was eight years old. That part’s all true. She was named Vashti Lee at birth and she did hate the name (though she never said why) and she did in fact decide to change it when she was only 8 years old. The fiction comes with the reason she did so, and how she came by the name “Bessie.” As far as we know our Great-aunt Loney didn’t start calling her that when she was a baby leading her to take that name as her own.

Then there’s Elisi who is probably 90% fiction and 10% fact. Bessie’s great grandmother was indeed full-blooded Cherokee (making Bessie 1/4 and Christy and me 1/16) but we have no idea if she gathered wild plants and herbs as a way of making a living. We do know Bessie was familiar with some of the Cherokee medicine but we don’t know where she learned it or who taught it to her. And the name Elisi? That’s Cherokee for grandmother which is why we decided to call her that. We weren’t able to find her real name in the records nor were we able to verify the heritage but family history via Aunt Bessie tells us she was indeed full-blooded Cherokee and that she and her familly hid in the mountains to escape the Trail of Tears.

I think that covers the first chapter. All the characters in this one were real people (witness Papa’s picture above) but the stories, while based on fact, are laced with our imagination.

Did I forget anything? If I did, please leave a comment and I’ll address it next Friday. For now, happy Memorial Day everybody and amid all the cookouts, picnics and parades, don’t forget to honor all those who are currently serving or have served our country!


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 194 other followers