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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!

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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!

the world hasn’t ended which means I need to finish my Christmas shopping! Not that I thought it really would end but still, you never know, do you? And the day isn’t over yet so I think I’ll wait till tomorrow.

Anyway, with all the dire predictons about the end of the world, I spent the last couple of days doing something I enjoyed instead of cleaning house or shopping for Christmas presents: I’ve been researching and believe me, that is something I never thought I’d hear myself say…er, see myself type. I used to hate research so much that I avoided it if at all possible. I mean to the point that it impacted the type of books I wrote. Why write historical with all that nasty research when you can write paranormal and make all that stuff up?

John Warren Daniels

John Warren Daniels

But that changed when Christy and I started doing the research on Whistling Woman. I’m pretty sure it’s because we were researching people who we knew or people who, like that butterfly in the rain forest, may’ve only gently flapped their wing and it sent a ripple through our lives by way of our ancestors. People like our great-grandfather, John Warren Daniels, one of the main characters in Whistling Woman. Isn’t he a handsome devil? Whistling Woman was a four year labor of love and most of those four years were given over to research. We knew we had to get the background and historical facts right and so we buckled down with our computers or traveled to Hot Springs, Marshall, and various other points in Madison County and talked to a lot of people who were all very helpful.And now, we’re getting ready to do it all over again with Moonfixer, the second book in the Appalachian Journey series. Only this time, we’ll be traveling to the Broad River section of North Carolina and though we’ll still be walking in the footsteps of our ancestors, we’ll also be walking in places we’ve been before; Black Mountain, Old Fort, Stone Mountain, the graveyard at Stone Mountain Missionary Baptist Church (click the link for a wonderful picture of the church from the Majdan Family History page) where many of our characters are buried.

Strangely enough, I find myself looking forward to it–which is how I ended up spending what could’ve been the last two days of my life doing research. Who would’ve ever thought I’d enjoy every minute of it?

One of the things Christy and I did while we were in Florida last week visiting our dad was to plot out the sequel to Whistling Woman, Moonfixer. Moonfixer is the nickname Aunt Bessie was given by the mountain people in the Old Fort/Black Mountain area where she and Uncle Fletcher went to live after they were married. They called her that because she was tall for a woman and according to our research and our dad, a “moonfixer” is someone who’s tall enough to reach up and “fix the moon.”

While researching the word, we found references on NBA.com to Earl Lloyd, the first African American to play in the NBA:

“When NBA pioneer Earl Lloyd was a freshman at West Virginia State in the late 1940s, he was the tallest man on campus. At 6-feet-5, it wasn’t uncommon for Lloyd’s friends to jokingly ask him to “fix the moon,” so that the night might fall just so as they went out on their dates….Detroit Free Press.

And we also found a reference to a “Steampunk character with a slight manga style” called Moon-fixer. From Art Flakes (if you click the link, you’ll also get a picture!):

“If you have a bad moon rising, she will fix it right away, so it makes no harm at night.”

We’re still researching as we’ve yet to find where the term originated from but we knew right away it was perfect for the title of the book that will tell about the next part of Aunt Bessie’s life.

001This is one of the first paintings I remember Daddy painting, it’s the back of Aunt Bessie’s house on Stone Mountain (sorry for the color, I really need to take some photography courses!). Daddy has many stories about Aunt Bessie’s time in the Old Fort/Black Mountain area–even more than he had about her time in Hot Springs–because he actually lived with her and Uncle Fletcher for a while. And his brother, our Uncle Ken, has gotten in on the act, emailing us his memories and stories of Stone Mountain, too.

This promises to be a fun book for us, not only because we’ll get to spend time in an area we loved as kids and we have lots of family stories to revisit, but also because part of it will take place during the early years of the 20th century, a very interesting time in history. We’re not sure of the exact time span of the book yet–perhaps the next 30 years?–but we do know it’s going to require quite a lot of research. After all, think of all the changes, electricity, telephones, just to name two, and then there’s the historical events, the first world war, the Spanish flu pandemic, women winning the right to vote, etc. Although, most of that didn’t affect Aunt Bessie’s life up on Stone Mountain, she was too busy teaching in one-room schools and establishing a home for her and Uncle Fletch on the 40 acres of the Zachariah Solomon plantation they puchased for their house–the one Christy and I visited many times as children.

And yes, like the title to this post says, there are magic quilts, white lightnin’, and things that go thump in the church…not to mention ghosts, bootleggers, revenuers, and dead men wielding knives!

Couldn’t help but think of Whistling Woman when I read this rescue story on the Animal Rescue Site. Don’t know if it’s life imitating art or the other way around since the story in the book about Miss Cordy and her pet hen was based on a true story. Hmm…life imitating art imitating life?

Not enough coffee and way too confusing for me to figure out. It’s a cute story though and the story in Whistling Woman is cute too, although the ending was a bit gruesome.

Speaking of Whistling Woman, it’s still on sale for .99–simply because I haven’t had time to get on Amazon and change the price back. Fair warning, I could do it any time so…get it while it’s on sale! You’ll be glad you did!

And also, take a second to click on the button on the Animal Rescue Site to help feed the shelter animals. You’ll be glad you did that too!

Christy and I just spent three wonderful days in Hot Springs doing the final edits on Whistling Woman. We stayed at a lovely little cabin right on the Appalachian Trail and a short five-minute walk from town. Surrounded by trees, we read the manuscript out loud, made changes–there weren’t that many!–and enjoyed imagining Aunt Bessie walking down Bridge Street when she was a young woman. She was twenty-one when she moved with her new husband Fletcher Elliott to Old Fort where they lived with his parents until they’d saved enough money to purchase some land of their own. But that’s another story, or as Paul Harvey said, “the rest of the story!”

A few more pictures to give you a feel for the place!

   

   

 

Hmm…I guess I should’ve added captions. Going from the top row, left to right, that’s the cabin from the road, the front porch where we worked on the first half of the book, the dining room where we moved when the weather got cold the next day to do the second half of the book, the living room, the kitchen, and the little sun room.

The cabin was perfect and we both hope to go back when we start promoting the book. And, of course, the town of Hot Springs, as always, made us both feel as if we were walking in the footsteps of our ancestors. Not just Aunt Bessie, but Papa, Mama, Roy, Loney, Green, Thee, and Frances Ann, or Jack as my great-grandfather called her. They were all there back in the 1890’s and early 1900’s when the book takes place and every time we visit, it’s almost as if they’re standing there welcoming us home with open arms, especially Papa and Bessie.

Chasing the Brown Mountain Lights

Into the Brown Mountain Lights

Seeking the Brown Mountain Lights

Through the Brown Mountain Lightss

Brown Mountain Lights Book 1

Wise Woman

Appalachian Journey Book 4

Beloved Woman

Appalachian Journey Book 3

Moonfixer

Appalachian Journey Book 2

Whistling Woman

Appalachian Journey Book 1

Madchen, die pfeifen

Whistling Woman (German)

Les deces arrivant toujours par trois

Whistling Woman (French)

Christy Tillery French Cynthia Tillery Hodges