Christy and I were in Hot Springs this past weekend for our first reading of Whistling Woman. We were lucky enough to stay in the Chestnut Log Cabin–thanks, Melanie, for accomodating us on such short notice!–and we met some incredible people while we were there.

Ike Lassiter greeted us when we arrived at the Hot Springs Welcome Center. Ike is the president of the Friends of the Hot Springs Library, and he’s a wonderful, kind man. We were nervous but he answered all our questions about how long to read and suggested several things we might want to talk about. He and his wife Sally even took us to dinner after the reading! Sally steered us to Penland & Son in Marshall and when we went on Saturday, the owner bought 5 copies of the book to carry in her store.

At the reading, we finally met Melanie Prater, the owner of the two cabins we stay in whenever we’re in Hot Springs, Trailside and Chestnut Log (our favorite!). Up until then, we’d communicated with Melanie through phone calls and e-mail and it was a definite pleasure to meet her in person. We stayed at Trailside the first time we went to Hot Springs to do the initial research on the book and then the next two times, we’ve stayed at Chestnut Log Cabin. It’s our favorite because it reminds us of our grandmother’s (Frances Ann or Jack as she was called in the family, Bessie’s youngest sister) house where we spent quite a bit of time as kids. It’s a lovely, cozy retreat that’s perfect for editing, plotting, or just sitting on the front porch watching the world go by.

Deb Linton, the first librarian we ever talked to at the Hot Springs library, was also there. Deb was a tremendous help on that first research trip to Hot Springs. She pointed us in all the right directions and invited us to the reunion of the Dorland-Bell Institute (Aunt Bessie’s alma mater) at the Dorland-Bell Chapel.

We also met Carol Dixon, an aspiring author herself, who was kind enough to arrange for us to meet Miss Hazel the next day. Miss Hazel is 90 years old and the unofficial Hot Springs librarian. Until a few years ago she used to take daily walks around the town and I can’t tell you how many people told us we needed to talk to her. Unfortunately, we always seemed to just miss her, so Carol called her on Saturday and arranged for us to go to Miss Hazel’s house. What a fascinating woman and a great pleasure to finally meet her!

After Miss Hazel, we walked around Hot Springs, checking to see how the book was doing in Bluff Mountain Outfitters (not sold out, but close!) and ArtiSun Gallery (sold half the copies they’d bought!). At ArtiSun, we met Kalynn Dresser who had liked the Whistling Woman page on Facebook just the week before. If you’re ever in Hot Springs, you have to go by ArtiSun to see the work of all the local artists, craftspeople, and of course, writers like us! You should also try their scones (I had raspberry)–melt-in-your-mouth-delicious!

On Sunday morning, we went to Smoky Mountain Diner for breakfast before heading home and who should come in but Ike and Sally. I have to tell you, we’re seriously thinking about hiring Sally as our publicist! She has some terrific suggestions and while we were at the diner, with Sally’s help, we sold three books!

All in all, it was a productive, fun weekend–and we can’t wait to go back! Hot Springs always gives both of us a feeling of homecoming, as if we’re visiting with long unseen family and friends. We’ll definitely miss it when we have to move our research trips to the Old Fort/Black Mountain area for the next book, Moonfixer…but it can’t be helped since that’s where the next part of Aunt Bessie’s life happened.

We have, however, decided we’ll definitely go back to Hot Springs and the Chestnut Log cabin to do the edits. We can’t give up our home-away-from-home or the wonderful friends we’ve made there!

Our apologies if we left out anybody. Our minds, even when working together, are not quite as sharp as they used to be. Plus, we were having such a good time, we forgot to even take pictures, much less notes!

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