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!
Christy 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.
We 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.
And 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!
And 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!
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!
Anyway, 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.
We 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!
We 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!
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!
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!
Christy 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!
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.
This 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.
Next, 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.
The 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.
After 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 women 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.
The 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.
Then 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.
This 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!
Last 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!
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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
Okay, 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.
The 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.
We had a wonderful time meeting all the people and signing books in Vardy and want to thank DruAnna for inviting us. There are 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.
We had a wonderful day at the Old Fort Pioneer Day last Saturday. Beautiful weather although it was a bit cool to start and at times the wind was a little gusty, but overall, a gorgeous day to be outside. We met lots of new readers and a few who were already familiar with our books. Plus, we met two family members, Mary Paris Merriken and Melinda Paris, distant cousins through Aunt Bessie’s mother, Lucinda Henderson. Christy put up a picture of us all on the CC Tillery Facebook page.
We also had the pleasure of meeting Patti Holda, Genealogy Assistant at the McDowell County Public Library who told us she’d had several people come in and request our books so she ordered them for the library. McDowell County Public Library also participates in an Interlibrary Loans program which makes the books available not only in McDowell County but in 65 other libraries in North Carolina.
Added to that, we had people stop by our booth and ask us if we would be interested in attending two other festivals. We were also invited to meet with two production companies about our series in the near future, which is exciting! We’ll keep you posted on events as they unfold. All in all, it was a very good day for us and our books.
We enjoyed some great music, including a man in a kilt walking around playing the bagpipes, and one storyteller who entertained us with stories about the history of Old Fort. We loved hearing him tell about the great flood of 1916 which we wrote about in Moonfixer
The festival offered many interesting demonstrations of everyday life during the Civil War era. Everything from basket weaving to quilting to grinding corn into corn meal like they used to do it. So glad I can go to the grocery store and buy corn meal whenever I want cornbread! And lots of people were there dressed in period dress. All of that was great since we will be writing about that time in our new series, the Brown Mountain Lights Series.
In between the re-enactments of the Civil War battles, there were a lot of soldiers walking around carrying muskets. Several times during the day, the re-enactors performed a 21-gun salute using their muskets, which was as loud or louder than the cannon, pictured to the right, and which always managed to catch us by surprise. After the second time, we learned there would be two more volleys following the first which allowed us to brace ourselves. That first volley got us every single time though!
The best part for us was that we had time in between all this to discuss the new series and brainstorm on the characters, the setting, the conflict for the first book, and the paranormal aspects and how they’re going to work.
We’re excited about the first book in this new series, and after Saturday, it’s beginning to take shape in our minds. We’ve already written the first two chapters (only a rough draft, they still need a lot of work!) and are looking forward to bringing it to you, our amazing readers, as soon as we possibly can. Stay tuned!
Just a quick post to let everyone know we’ll be selling and signing books in the Appalachian Journey series at Old Fort Pioneer Day this Saturday, April 23rd from 10:00-5:00. Looks like a fun day in the mountains with beautiful weather predicted. This festival offers something for everyone: bluegrass music, crafts demonstrations, Civil War reenactors, antique cars and equipment. For the kids, there will be storytelling, games, animals, wagon rides and more. Not to mention a variety of food! For more info, check out this article in The News-Herald.
If you’re in the area, we hope you’ll stop by and visit. We would love to personally thank our fabulous readers who have taken this series far beyond what we ever expected and who continue to keep these books on bestseller lists.
We spent last weekend in beautiful Morganton, North Carolina researching the new series–and enjoying some really awesome scenery, including Brown Mountain, Table Rock, and lots of historical buildings in downtown Morganton. It’s an amazing place and we met some very helpful and informative people who helped us get a feel for life in the town and around Brown Mountain in the 1850s which is where and when the first book of our next series takes place.
This one is going to be a little different from the Appalachian Journey series … it’s still historical fiction with a touch of romance–well, maybe more than a touch, we haven’t exactly figured that out yet!–with a bit of paranormal thrown in. We’ve been trying to decide what genre it will fall under but haven’t had any luck yet. Historical Paranormal Fiction? Paranormal Historical Romance? Whatever, think Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series only in 19th century Appalachia.
Anyway, back to our research trip. We’ll start with the town of Morganton, First up, we visited the Chamber of Commerce/Visitor Center and met Ed Phillips, the town’s Director of Tourism. Ed was very welcoming and helpful (the same can be said for all the people we met). He’s directed several symposiums on the Brown Mountain Lights and knows quite a bit about them, the legends behind what causes them, and the general area (most of which we’re keeping under our hats for now since we don’t want any spoilers to get out about the series).
Ed also directed us to the historical Morganton Courthouse, a gorgeous building, and told us to see Joan Malloch, the President of the Board of the Morganton Historic Foundation. Joan walked us through the building and shared numerous stories about its history and some of the notable trials that took place there. She also told us about the Charles McDowell, Jr. House which still stands on the grounds of the Quaker Meadows Plantation–no pictures of that. That’s the courthouse to the left. Isn’t it gorgeous? Wish we had gotten a picture of the winding staircases on both sides.
After we left the courthouse, we went to the Morganton Historic Museum and talked with the people there and then the Burke County Public Library’s North Carolina Room where we met Dottie Ervin who was extremely knowledgeable about the history of the town. She spent a long time pulling files for us to look at and told us about Demon’s Hill where they used to hang people. The library and the grounds surrounding it are … I’m running out of words …beautiful, gorgeous, stunning … how about breathtaking?
And finally, after all that, we drove up to the overlook to see Brown Mountain. That’s it on the left, on the right of the “V” in the mountains. It was right at sunset, so we didn’t get to see any lights, and truthfully, we weren’t sure we wanted to see them after hearing the legends. (Some people believe whenever the lights are seen, people disappear. Yikes! Don’t want that –we have a book to write!) The picture on the right is of Table Rock. Sorry it’s not very clear! We were in a moving car when we took it!
And that about sums up our weekend in Morganton, except to say we spent a lot of time talking about the book, we know our protagonist’s name and the names of the sisters who find her on Brown Mountain and take her in, and we have the time, setting and a tentative outline for the first book. And we also have an opening we both love, so now, all we have to do is start writing. Fingers crossed it goes as well as our trip to see the setting.
For those fans of our Appalachian Journey series, we’ll continue with our readers’ favorite themes, herbal medicine (as well as other forms of medicine practiced at that time), Native American legends and culture, and stories about the Appalachian mountaineers along with historical events of the time. Stay tuned for updates!