Mars Hill Heritage Festival–What a day!

October 4, 2016 by

20161001_140154We had a blast at the Mars Hill Heritage Festival last Saturday. It was a picture-perfect fall day in the mountains with a huge crowd, wonderful music and lots of local artists and craftspeople. Added to that, Christy brought along her granddaughter and my grand-niece, Gabi who is always loads of fun. In between designing a quilt square and playing a few games, she helped us sell books and passed out candy to the buyers. That’s her in the picture to the left, working on her quilt square.

20161001_153024We met new readers and greeted those who had read the series and came by to share their thoughts. We were grateful we were able to get some extra books the day before the festival or we would have sold out. The best thing that happened was Darryl Norton of the Mars Hill University Book Store came by and bought several full sets to sell in the campus book store. So, now, along with a teacher at A. L. Lotts Middle School in Knoxville using our books in her class, the Appalachian Journey books are in a university book store. Needless to say, we’re thrilled.

20161001_135355The first time we attended this festival a couple of years ago, it was rainy, windy, and cold enough that we had to wear winter coats. But this year, the weather was perfect with a gorgeous setting at the Mars Hill University campus. We enjoyed the festival so much that we hope to go back next year –with our fingers crossed that the weather will cooperate once again.

mhhf11 music

That’s one of the many beautiful trees on the Mars Hill University campus howing a touch of fall foliage on the left. On the right is the music pavilion.

Next up for us, a chili cook-off at the Woodson Branch Nature School in Marshall on the 29th of October. More on that later.

Mars Hill Heritage Festival

September 30, 2016 by

heritage-festival-8We’re be selling and signing our books at the Mars Hill Heritage Festival tomorrow, Saturday, October 1. We’ve been to this festival one other time, in 2014, and while we enjoyed it, it was a cold, rainy, windy day. Tomorrow promises to be a lot nicer, with temps in the low 70s and sunshine. Ah, fall in the mountains. You have to love it! We will be at Booth 87 on South Main Street (right in front of the book store) from 10 until 4. If you’re in the area, come on by. We’d love to see you!


We’re on a roll!

September 27, 2016 by

wwsoldout2We had a wonderful time at Art on the Island in Marshall, NC  on Saturday–despite the heat! We met a lot of new readers and as you can see by the picture of our table at the end of the day, Whistling Woman was a sell-out again! The other books did well, too, with only a few copies left. So now we’re in a panic to get more copies before the Mars Hill Heritage Festival in Mars Hill this Saturday. We’ll put up a post about that with more information later this week.


ccmelmaWe also got to see our cousins, Mary Paris Merriken and Melinda Paris. Mary and Melinda brought along a special surprise: their other sister, Libby Paris. So wonderful to meet you, Libby! Thanks to all of you for stopping by, ladies. We really enjoyed seeing you and spending some time with you. Oh, and Mary, we hope you have a safe trip home.


before2Here’s a picture of our table before the crowds arrived and before we sold out of what has become the star of our Appalachian Journey series, Whistling Woman. That makes two events in a row where it sold out out completely and though it keeps us scrambling to get copies, we’re not complaining. The French and German printings of Whistling  Woman made their debut appearance at this year’s Art on the Island and we even sold a few copies which was an unexpected thrill for us!

If you click on the above picture you can just make out our husbands, Steve and Mike in the background. Thanks, guys, for getting us set up, manning the booth while we took bathroom breaks, getting our lunch, and breaking it all down again at the end of the day. We couldn’t do it without you!

musicAlmost directly across from our table is the stage where the musicians played. We’ve heard some really great music at this event over the years and this year was no different. I wish I had gotten a picture when the band was performing but we were just too busy by the time they got there. Anyway, this is the music pavilion before they arrived.

crane-1One of the reasons we love this festival is our table is always right on the banks of the river and we get to see some beautiful birds and ducks. This is my favorite picture from this year. I think it’s a crane but I’m probably wrong. Anyway, he stuck around for a while, fishing and just looking pretty.

ducks-1Joining the crane, there were a slew of ducks swimming around. Don’t have any idea what kind they are but we enjoyed seeing them.

Have a fabulous week, everybody, and we hope to see you next week in Mars Hill!


Come join us at Art on the Island!

September 22, 2016 by


We’ll be at Art on the Island on Blannahassett Island in Marshall, NC, this Saturday, September 24th. This is our fourth time attending and we love it every time. Beautiful setting, local arts and crafts, great music, delicious food, and our favorite, meeting and/or seeing our awesome readers! Not sure what the booth number is yet but since the forecast is for partly sunny and very warm we’re hoping for one near where we’ve been for the last 3 years–on the banks of the river and under the trees! If you’re going to be in the area, we’d love to see you!

First Presbyterian Church of Morristown’s Women’s Fall Dinner and 2016-17 Bible Study Kick-Off

September 21, 2016 by

firstpresbyterianChristy and I were guest speakers at the kick-off of the Women’s Bible Study group of First Presbyterian Church in Morristown, Tennessee last Sunday evening. I hope they will forgive me for stealing this picture from their website since I didn’t remember to get one of the church itself.

20160918_175626We had a great time meeting all the members, enjoyed a delicious meal (really wish I’d gotten the recipe for the chicken), heard some beautiful music by young Chloe Atkins, a really interesting Bible lesson from DruAnna Overbay,  and when it came our turn, I stumbled my way through the speech (I hate public speaking!).  I was able to get a few pictures, too. The one to your left is of the place settings for all the members. That’s the program resting on the plates along with some gorgeous note cards one of the members made.

20160918_174414And here we have a picture of some of the members chatting before dinner. It was raining for the first time in weeks and we were afraid no one would come, but they really surprised us – almost every seat was taken! If you look closely, you can see Christy walking toward the camera carrying some books for our table. You can also see (just barely!) the beautiful centerpieces which included one of my favorite flowers, zinnias–and thank you, Phyllis for telling me they used to be called “Old Maids.” I never knew that!

20160918_174501And this is our table with our books. At the end of the night we were sold out of Whistling Woman and almost sold out of the other 3 books. And that was with some of the ladies bringing in their copies from home so we could sign them. I thought I had a picture of that but it, along with several other pictures I took, seems to have disappeared somewhere during the transfer from my tablet to my computer.

As I said, we had a wonderful time and would like to extend our deepest gratitude to all the members of the Women’s Bible Study group of the First Presbyterian Church in Morristown. We really appreciate you inviting us!

East Tennessee Historical Society History Fair

September 17, 2016 by

I’ve been trying for almost two weeks now to get this post up and just kept getting sidetracked–I’m happy to say writing got in the way. We’re about 2/3’s of the way through the first book in our Brown Mountain Lights Series. Yay! And yes, you know superstitious me, my fingers are tightly crossed against the jinx–and I’m knocking furiously on wood!

Our table Christy, me, DruAnnaAnyway, we had a lovely time at the East Tennessee Historical Society History Fair in downtown Knoxville. That’s our table to the left. We shared it with DruAnna Overbay who was there for Vardy Community Historical Society.


amanda campbellWe enjoyed meeting new readers along with a few who’d already read our books (that’s always a pleasure for us!). The young lady in the picture is Amber or Amanda (Sorry. there were so many people around us we’re not sure we got her name right) Campbell, who came to the fair specifically to see us. She goes to A. L. Lotts Elementary School in Knoxville and one of her teachers has been using Beloved Woman in her class. The teacher (I wish we’d gotten her name, too!) had a question about Beloved Woman on a test and told her students if they came to the fair and met us they would get extra credit in her class. Hands down, that was the most exciting thing that happened all day! Imagine, our books being used to teach a class. Amanda made our day when she told us that!

music music,periodWe also heard some beautiful music, both from the bands who performed on the stage (picture on left) and the quartet in period dress that strolled around playing (picture on right). Don’t know how they survived in those uniforms!



reader in period dressAnd, of course, we loved selling and signing our books and are grateful to everyone who came by–whether they bought a book or not!

Again, we owe a huge debt of gratitude to DruAnna Williams Overbay and the Vardy Community Historical Society for inviting us to share their table. We had a great time and loved spending the day with you!


ETHistFair booths

Here are a few long views of the festival–it was huge. Don’t know why we didn’t take more pictures–we always mean to but never do.

Okay, time to get back to writing!


East Tennessee History Fair

August 18, 2016 by

2016-HF-PostersmallChristy and I will be at the East Tennessee Historical Society’s History Fair on the Market Square Mall in downtown Knoxville this Saturday, August 20, from 10 to 5. Come on down if you’re in the area!

I’m looking forward to seeing what they’ve done to the Market Square Mall. haven’t been there since I was a kid!

One of our favorite things about festivals like this is meeting and talking to our wonderful readers so please, join us if you can!

And, before I forget, happy, happy 88th birthday to our dad, John Tillery, the man behind our Appalachian Journey series. Here’s to many, many more years with him. We love you very much, Daddy!

Through the years with Bessie …

August 14, 2016 by

After Christy found the picture of Aunt Bessie as a young girl with her family, we started thinking about all the pictures our dad has given us of her at different points in her life. Some of them are already posted here on the blog on the “Meet the Characters” page but there are so many more, especially of her in her later years. And yes, I know, I really do need to get back to adding the other pictures to that page, but with working on the first book in our Brown Mountain Lights series, I just can’t seem to find the time.

So, because we’re sure our wonderful readers would love to see them, we decided to do a blog post with all the pictures we have. A sort of walk through Aunt Bessie’s life.

Mama, Papa, & BessieThis is the earliest picture we have of Bessie which shows her as a chubby-cheeked baby sitting on Mama’s lap with Papa beside them. Even looking at the picture through a magnifying glass, I can’t make out what’s on Papa’s lap but it appears to be material of some kind. You can see his boots below it but the rest just isn’t clear. This picture appears on the new front cover for Whistling Woman, the first book of our Appalachian Journey series, propped up against the painting of Miss Cordy by our dad.

bessie and familyNext, of course, is the picture Christy shared with you in the last post which shows Bessie as a young girl, probably between 6 to  8 years old. Of course, I’m only guessing at her age and the fact that we know the family moved to Hot Springs in 1886 when she was 4 years old.

BessieFletch300The next picture we have is of Aunt Bessie and Uncle Fletcher on their wedding day or shortly thereafter. The note on the back says “Uncle Fletch and Aunt Bessie when they first married”. We know from the Madison County Marriage records that she and Fletch were married in Madison County on February 20, 1902 at age 21 and 22, respectively.  This one appears on both the old and new front covers of Moonfixer, the second book of the series.

05-27-2013 05;53;11PMAfter that, we have the postcard she sent to Papa after he and the rest of the family moved from Hot Springs to Knoxville. There’s no date on what’s written on the back and the postmark is faded but it looks to be 1914 when she would have been 33 years old. This one appears (partially) on the front of Beloved Woman, the third book.

Then, there are several of her with some of her students and one with some womenBessieandfriends friends and relatives. Not sure of the date on any of them so we have no way of knowing how old she was but I’m guessing most of them were taken when she was in her 20s and 30s. Left to right on this one is Aunt Bessie (with her head cut off), Lee Davis, Clarse Davis, Cordie Davis and Aunt Minnie Elliot (sitting down). The pictures of her with her students are on the “Meet the Characters” page here on the blog.

Aunt Bessie and DaddyThe next one is my favorite of all the pictures we have, the one used on the front cover of the final book, Wise Woman. It’s a picture of Aunt Bessie and our dad standing in a field of wildflowers with the family dog, Fritz (you have to look really hard to see him!) off to the right. This one isn’t dated either but it had to be shortly after Daddy moved in with Aunt Bessie and Uncle Fletch in 1934 which would make Bessie around 43.

Bessie and Fletch outside their houseThen we have one of her and Uncle Fletch standing outside their house by the chimney. Not sure how old they are with this one either or when the pciture was taken but they’re bolth pretty old. I’m guessing it was taken shortly before Uncle Fletch’s death in 1958 which would make both of them in their 70s. You can see Aunt Bessie has a scarf around her neck which she took to wearing in her later years because she had a goiter.

Bessie,Daddy,MamaDaniels,JimmyDavisThis picture is of a much older Aunt Bessie with Daddy, Uncle Thee’s wife, Myrtle (who we called Mama Daniels), and Bessie’s second husband, Jimmy Davis. Not sure when this was taken either, but judging by Daddy, it was sometime in the early to mid-60s. I’m not sure but I think they’re sitting on the steps of our grandmother’s (Jack in the books) house on Stone Mountain. Notice Bessie’s scarf wrapped around her neck. I don’t remember a time when she didn’t wear one!

BessieSquareLast but not least, thanks to Kimberly Maxwell, our awesome cover designer, a close up of Aunt Bessie cropped from the same picture. Since she died in 1970, she had to be in her 80s in this one. She may not look too happy here but this is the Aunt Bessie of my memories and I know from Daddy’s many stories she had a long and happy life and she was, to me, the epitome of a Whistling Woman.

So there you have it, a picture journey through our Aunt Bessie’s life. I hope you enjoyed the trip!


Family Picture

August 2, 2016 by

In cleaning out my voluminous files from our Appalachian Journey series, I came across a picture our dad sent me years ago of Bessie as a child and wanted to share it with our fabulous readers. This is a very old picture, creased and torn and sepia-toned, and I hope you can see it clearly enough.bessie and family On the front porch are (from left to right) Mama, Roy with a hat in his hand, a big black dog (wonder what his name was?) Papa with Loney sitting on his lap, and Bessie standing to the far right.

In our book Whistling Woman, we describe one of the houses Bessie lived in as a child which was built by her father, taken from an article Bessie wrote many years later when she lived on Stone Mountain with her husband Fletch. This must be the house because it has what she described as jigsaw stars on the porch above them. I’m amazed at Papa’s skill in carpentry and wonder how he managed to do the jigsaw stars so well without the aid of power tools, not to mention a whole house. According to Bessie, the “cottage” stood just behind Dorland School and had a big apple tree in the front yard with a swing hanging from a sturdy branch.

It’s been sad saying goodbye to Bessie and her family, and I find I just can’t put away all the materials we’ve collected over the years. And now it seems there will be more to add. I recently heard from one of our distant cousins (on Lucinda’s side), Mary Paris Merriken, researcher extraordinaire, who has been doing research on the family, most especially Bessie’s cousin the notorious Frank Henderson who was electrocuted for killing his wife, that she has located articles about Bessie and her teaching. We’ll be meeting with her in Hot Springs in September and I’m really looking forward to seeing what Mary has collected. So for now, I’m leaving everything as-is and will share more with you later.

What’s been going on…

June 27, 2016 by

Wow, it’s been a super long time since we’ve posted anything on here. Sorry! We’ve been busy researching and writing the first book in our new Brown Mountain Lights series. We don’t have a title yet and are hoping one will come to us as we’re writing. This one doesn’t have Southern sayings as the chapter headings. Instead, we’re using lines from 60’s songs–mostly Bob Dylan–but we’re only about 8 chapters in and who knows who we’ll throw in there.

But that’s not what we’re here to tell you about today. This requires a little bit of backstory–or I should say a lot of backstory so I hope you’ll bear with me.

First, remember the Melungeon character from Whistling Woman? Her name was Druanna. We got the name from a newspaper article in the September 2, 2007 Living Section of the Asheville Citizen-Times newspaper written by Rick McDaniel and titled “Melungeon Mystery”. I happened to see the article and found it so interesting that I cut it out of the newspaper and held on to it.

The next month (October 2007), Christy and I were in Florida on our annual visit to see our dad. One night we went to his house to have dinner and he told us some family stories while we were eating. After we got back to the house we had rented for the week, Christy and I were sitting out on the screened-in porch and that was when we decided to write Whistling Woman to honor our dad and to keep the many stories he’d shared with us throughout our lives from being lost forever.

We met in Hot Springs a few times, talked and plotted the book, and somewhere in there I happened to come across the article again and showed it to Christy. We decided we would try to put a Melungeon character in the book and the next time we talked to Daddy we asked him if he’d ever heard of them. That’s when he told us the story of how Bessie’s mama used to say, “You better behave or the Melungeon boogie-man will get you.” We took it as a sign that we had to include a Melungeon character in the book. DruAnna Williams Overbay is quoted in the article and since we both found the name unique and beautiful, we decided to use it for our character.

Fast forward to earlier this year. Christy heard about a fundraiser for a young girl who had terminal cancer and decided to put together a basket and contribute it to the auction. Among a bunch of other things, she put in the four Appalachian Journey books.

Steve WilliamsThat basket was bought by Steve Williams.

As it turned out, Steve is the sister of DruAnna Williams Overbay whose name we chose for our Melungeon character. When Steve unpacked the basket and opened the book, it fell open to page 151 and the first thing he noticed was his sister’s name. So he started reading and found out the Druanna in the book was Melungeon. He immediately called his sister and told her about it.Druanna and husband

In May 2007, DruAnna was invited to speak at the Henderson County Public Library and met Brenda, the woman who asked Christy and I to speak at the first author’s night at the library. While DruAnna was here, Brenda happened to mention our book and the Melungeon character named Druanna and later she sent us DruAnna’s contact information. That’s DruAnna and her husband Fred in the picture.

DruAnna, me, ChristyOkay, long story short (I know, I know, it’s much too late for that but I’m almost finished, I promise!) we met DruAnna for lunch a few weeks ago in Knoxville and she asked us to attend the Melungion Heritage Association’s 20th Union and give a presentation which we did last Friday.

We spent the afternoon meeting a lot of very nice and interesting people who are members of the association and learning more about the Melungeon people. The Union took place in the Vardy Community Historical Museum in Vardy, Tennessee, which is sort of a birthplace of the Melungeon people–not a  birthplace really but the place they all went to get away from the bias and unfair treatment back in the late 19th and early 20th century.

ChurchThe museum is housed in the Vardy Presbyterian Church and the cabin of legendary Melungeon moonshiner Mahala Mullins is across the street. The church is filled with intriguing artifacts and pictures of Melungeons throughout the years and the cabin in beautifully restored. Both are open with a guide to the public each Saturday, 11:00 to 3:00 P.M. from May to September and on the third Saturday from October to April.

Moonshiner's cabinFair warning: getting there can be harrowing if you follow Google Maps but if you stick to the major highways it’s beautiful mountain scenery all the way.

We had a wonderful time meeting all the people and signing books in Vardy and want to thank DruAnna for inviting us. There areAntique piano much better pictures on the Melungeon Heritage Association website if you’d like to take a look. Also, DruAnna has a great book about the history of the Melungeons in East Tennessee, Windows on the Past, available on Amazon.