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We had the best time at the Bluff Mountain Festival in Hot Springs this past weekend! Nice weather–look at that beautiful sky!–live bluegrass music, lots of readers, some known and some new. This is a special festival for us because it’s the first one we ever attended, instilling in us a love for these events. This past Saturday was the fourth time we’ve participated and although you might think attending the same festival in a town as small as Hot Springs year after year would get old, all we can say is it doesn’t. Every time we go, we come away surprised, inspired and happy.

We started off the day selling our first books before the festival even started then moved on to have a record number of sales before lunch. This was a complete surprise for us as usually this festival is slow in the mornings and we make the majority of our sales during the afternoon. But this time, we broke our top sales record before noon.

Things slowed down a bit after lunch but the readers kept coming and by the end of the day we’d sold completely out of Whistling Woman and Through the Brown Mountain Lights! I won’t say it’s getting old in the case of Whistling Woman, since we’ve sold out of it at other festivals we’ve attended, but when we realized we’d sold out of Through the Brown Mountain Lights … well, I’ll just say there were multiple happy dances going on, in our heads, of course. And by the end of the day, despite the fact we couldn’t get our Square to connect so we could accept credit cards, we’d not only broken our all-time sales record, we shattered it. More happy dances!

But as always, the best part of the day was seeing our readers, both the ones we’d already met and the new ones, talking to them about the Appalachian Journey series and introducing them to the new series. We can’t even begin to tell you how much the favorable response inspires us to continue writing. We’ll definitely be keeping that feeling close as we finish the next book in the Brown Mountain Lights series.

This year, while there were fewer vendors at the festival, there was a much larger crowd. We saw some family members we’d met before and also met some new ones (a huge thank you to our ever supportive reader and cousin many times removed, Mary Paris Merriken) which we always enjoy. We had people who came specifically to the festival to see us and get books signed and people who came to buy print books even though they had already purchased the series on Kindle.

All in all, it was a wonderful day and though we enjoyed the new sales record and the sellouts, we have to say, the best part was the reunions with known readers and family members and meeting new ones. And once again, we have to say it, we are so blessed to have all of you in our corner!

Oops, I almost forgot, be sure to watch our CC Tillery Facebook page this week. We’ll be announcing a give-away!

We’re continuing on with festival season and this past Saturday, June 3rd, we participated in the Gold Festival in Old Fort, NC. It was a beautiful day with temps in the low 80s and a nice breeze, comfortable enough that we didn’t have to resort to the improvised “air conditioner”. Although this is a relatively small festival, the turnout was fantastic and we had a fun day chatting with artisans, meeting readers, selling and signing copies of our books, and listening to live music while watching people pan for gold in the mountain stream that runs behind the Gateway Museum.

We always love feedback from our readers and a highpoint of our day was when a reader who bought the Appalachian Journey books at the Donut Festival in Marion a couple of weeks ago stopped by to tell us this series has become her favorite, that they made her laugh and cry and touched on all emotions, and she wished she could find more books as well written as ours.  Another highpoint was when Becky Bussert, co-owner of Smith’s Old Country Store in Black Mountain (the very store we always walked to when we visited our grandmother) came by to talk about placing our books in her store and showed her fabulous retail skills when she pitched the books to passersby.

And I guess all our faithful readers know what’s coming next … I know we say it a lot but it’s so true, we have the most awesome and inspiring readers!

Since the area is so beautiful, we wanted to take pictures to share with our readers. The first one below was taken on the drive to Black Mountain/Old Fort. It’s easy to see why they’re called the Black Mountains and look at that gorgeous sky. Next shows a group of people at the stream panning for gold. The third is one of the bands, which was awesome – the singer’s voice reminded me of  Stevie Ray Vaughn. And the last is of some women line dancing to Bob Dylan’s “Rock Me Mama”.  Never have I connected Bob Dylan to line dancing but, dang, they were good.

Next up: Bluff Mountain Festival in Hot Springs, North Carolina, this Saturday, June 10th. Hope you’ll stop by if you’re in the area! Oh, and we’ll have free audiobooks to give away so look for the announcement on our CC Tillery Facebook page!

 

Penland & Sons' front window

Penland & Sons’ front window

We had a terrific time at the Madison County Arts Council’s Holiday Sale this past weekend but one of the best things happened before the sale even began. A little backstory: When Whistling Woman was released in print, way back in 2012, we went by Penland & Sons Department store in Marshall and the owner bought six books. As each book came out, we kept saying we needed to go back and see if she wanted the other books in the series. But for some reason, we never made it back until last Friday afternoon before the holiday sale in Marshall.

Georgette Penland Shelton

Georgette Penland Shelton

We were very sorry to hear the owner had passed away but her daughter, Georgette Penland Shelton, had taken over for her mother. To our surprise, we found that Georgette had been buying our books off the Internet and keeping them in stock because they were so popular. She even had three of them displayed in her front window and told us she would have had all four out there but she was out of Wise Woman. She was almost as happy as we were that we happened to stop by and bought enough books so that she had six of each in the series.  And we hadn’t even set up our table at the holiday sale yet!

MCAC's Holiday Sale

MCAC’s Holiday Sale

After that, we went over to the festival and set up our booth. Then we walked over to Sweet Monkeys for an early dinner before we headed back to the sale. That’s us chatting with a reader and trying to stay warm. It was cold in there! The vendor across from us came over and told us she had bought all four books at the Mars Hill Heritage Festival in October to give to her stepfather for Christmas but had started reading Whistling Woman and liked it so much she decided to read all of them first before she gave them to him.

Spring Creek

Spring Creek

The next morning after a peaceful night’s sleep in our cabins (that’s the view from the back deck of Spring Creek–yep, the very same creek that is featured in Whistling Woman) we went to our favorite restaurant in Hot Springs for breakfast, the Smoky Mountain Diner. It was, as always, delicious but the think we liked most was finding a picture of our great-grandfather on the wall. It’s the second one on our “Meet the Characters” page with Great-grandpapa John in all his glory.

A couple of other great moments came at the sale later that day. A reader stopped by to tell us she had read the whole series and wanted to thank us for writing about a strong woman. Another was when a documentary film maker stopped by and said he’d heard about our books and wanted to read them. He bought Whistling Woman since it takes place in Hot Springs and Madison County is where he was currently filming.

But the absolute best moment of all was when Andrea (who was also our waiter the night before at Sweet Monkeys in Marshall) stopped by to buy Beloved Woman and told us her Appalachian History professor at University of North Carolina Asheville had our book on a list he gives out to all his students of recommended reads. First a Social Studies teacher and now a university professor. You can just imagine how thrilled we were to hear that!

Penland & Sons Interior

Penland & Sons Interior

Like I said it was a terrific weekend with lots of high points for us. Hope yours was the same. I’m going to leave you with a picture of the inside of Penland & Sons Department Store in Marshall, NC. If you’re ever in the area, stop in. It’s a beautiful store with tons of unique and interesting items.

We had a great time at Woodson Branch Nature School on Saturday, October 29th. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect while we got the chance to meet readers, sign copies of our books, and enjoy the enticing smell of a chili woodson-barncookoff.  In between meeting the attendees, we also talked about and resolved issues with our new series, the Brown Mountain Lights series, which is close to being finished. We hope to give our readers a glimpse of the beautiful cover very soon so watch for it!

Fall in the mountains is our favorite time of the year, and surprisingly the drought hasn’t affected the color of the trees which are woodson-treesbeautiful, even more so when  silhouetted against a fall cerulean sky.

Afterward, we drove down the mountain to Hot Springs to have dinner at our favorite diner, then walked to Bluff Mountain Outfitters, where we found out our books had sold out and were more than happy to sell more of the books to them. If you ever visit Hot Springs, be sure to stop in at Bluff Mountain. They cater to hikers hiking the Appalachian Trail and it’s a great place to hang out or shop. On our way out the door, we met the largest dog we’ve ever seen, a 2-year-old Great Dane named Briggs who was friendly and so adorable Christy wanted to take him home but couldn’t convince the owner to give him up. woodson-great-dane

Before leaving, we visited Springbrook Cabins in Hot Springs to talk about booking an overnight stay when we plan to attend the Christmas festival in Marshall on December 9th and 10th. If you’re in the area at that time, we hope you’ll stop by and say hello. Christy took a picture of the trees outside the woodson-hot-springsoffice there, which were too pretty to ignore.

This week, we’re in Florida visiting our dad (the storyteller behind the Appalachian Journey series), while working on the first edit of the first book in our new series, tentatively titled Through the Brown Mountain Lights. The book will take place during the Antebellum period in the Appalachian Mountains and, like our Appalachian Journey series, is filled with herbal medicine, Catawba folklore and a bit of romance wrapped around historical facts. We’re adding a different twist to this one (think Outlander meets Cold Mountain) and hope our readers will enjoy it as much as they have the Appalachian Journey series.  We’ll announce the release on our CC Tillery Facebook page so stay tuned!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

bluff-logo-sun-three-e1422398509759

For the fourth year in a row, Christy and I (aka CC Tillery) will be at the Bluff Mountain Festival in Hot Springs, NC this Saturday. We’ll be there from 10:00 a.m. till 4:00 p.m., enjoying the music, the delicious food, the awesome arts and crafts and of course, selling and signing books! Bluff Mountain Festival is a wonderful event held on the grounds of the Hot Springs Resort and Spa and it’s one of our favorites. It was the first festival we ever attended as CC Tillery and we  always come away from it with many wonderful memories of seeing old readers, meeting new ones, and talking to all the people who stop by our booth.

For more information and a list of the musical acts and when they’re performing, click on the picture or the link above.

And if you’re in the area this Saturday, come on by. We’d love to see you!

In researching our next book, Beloved Woman, Cyndi and I are discovering lots of interesting historical facts that aren’t well-known. Did you know that during WWI, there was a German internment camp in Hot Springs, NC? Erected on the grounds of the Mountain Park Hotel (now Hot Springs Resort), it held 2200 prisoners. Supervised by the Department of Labor, these men weren’t considered prisoners of war but rather enemy aliens because they were the civilian officers and crew of German and Austrian commercial ships that took cover in American ports when Great Britain declared war on Germany in 1914 for fear of being attacked crossing back over the ocean.  The officers stayed at the hotel and lived a comfortable lifestyle with heated rooms and electricity while the other aliens resided in barracks built on the grounds of the hotel. The officers played tennis and billiards and bowled in the hotel’s bowling alley while their men busied themselves building two small German villages and chapels out of driftwood from the French Broad River, debris from the Great Flood of 1916 and Prince Albert tobacco tin cans. They even built a german encampment 2carousel with chain-suspended chairs that played music as it turned. 

I’ve placed 2 pictures of these lovely, rustic buildings within this post. In the one to the right, you can see one of the chapels in the background.   

Although the citizens of Hot Springs were wary at first, they soon realized these men posed no danger and allowed officers escorted by guards to have dinner with them and speak before students of the Dorland Institute. A 35-member German brass band played concerts on Sunday afternoons, attended by people from Hot Springs and beyond. Some of the officers’ families moved to Hot Springs and visitation was allowed between the officers and their families in Hot Springs and at the hotel.

The only real discord arose when the citizens realized that the aliens ate better than they did, having meat twice daily while they were bound to honor meatless and wheatless days. Once the DOL learned of this, they required the aliens to observe meatless and wheatless days as well.

german encampment 3In 1920, the government transferred custody of the aliens from the Department of Labor to the Department of War, at which time the DOW decided to send them to a prison camp in Georgia where they would be required to perform labor beside real prisoners of war building roads. No one wanted to leave and a case of typhoid broke out among the aliens – many suspecting they deliberately drank contaminated water so that they could stay.

In the picture above, you can see the detail that went into these small houses. Each had a matching gate and walkway and the aliens heated them with furnaces they built from cast off bricks and stones. One had a miniature widow’s walk and the spindles on one porch railing were made from empty thread spools.

All in all, the people of Hot Springs were proud of this camp and treated the aliens well, so much so that they did not want to leave.

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)

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.

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