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Sorry we’ve been AWOL for so long but we’ve been busy writing the second book in our Brown Mountain Lights series, tentatively titled Searching for the Brown Mountain Lights. More on that later …

First, I want to share some news with our awesome readers. Our  publisher who did the French translation of Whistling Woman, Les deces arrivent toujours par trois, asked us to participate in a free giveaway to French readers. The book will be available free for a short time starting on November 6th. So, if you’re fluent in French or know anyone who is, you might want to check it out, and to our French readers who have made the book so popular, thanks so much! Like all our readers, we are blessed to have you!

Christy and her husband came over the mountain last week and spent several days so Christy and I could visit various libraries in the area. That’s the beautiful Burnsville library in the picture. It had been a while since we’d done this and we were thrilled to find most of the libraries already had copies of our books, including Through the Brown Mountain Lights, the first book in our Brown Mountain Lights series. We were even more thrilled to find out they had ordered them after receiving several requests from their patrons to stock the books.

We also visited several stores and were pleased with the interest they showed in displaying and selling our books. Not just bookstores but hardware stores, general stores, and stores that cater to area tourists.

We’re happy to say, we are now available in lots of area libraries and various stores around western North Carolina. We’re putting together a list for our website where the books are available and will post that in the near future.

On Wednesday afternoon, we went to Aunt Bessie’s cabin on Stone Mountain. It now belongs to David Gilliam (relative of the Possum Gilliam we write about in the Appalachian Journey series). He and Becky Bussert, owner of Smith’s Old Country Store in Black Mountain (who also sells our books) had arranged a get-together for us with several people or relatives of people Daddy knew while he lived with Aunt Bessie and Uncle Fletch. It was incredible to finally put a face with the stories we grew up hearing and to hear more stories and see the house where we visited our great aunt when we were children. David’s brother Jake, who built the cabin and is now deceased, kept in mind the old house and it looks very much as it did when we were kids. David now rents it as a vacation rental cabin and, according to the guest log, it’s very popular. We wondered if anyone ever hears the slave ghosts Bessie heard but forgot to ask David.

In the picture: Becky Bussert, Janice Means, David Gilliam, Joyce and Lawrence Elliot (Uncle Fletch was his uncle). Lawrence’s sister, Lois, was also there but had to leave early.

Why, you may ask, are you running around western North Carolina instead of writing? Well, that would be because we finished writing the second book in our Brown Mountain Lights series and decided to take a little break before we dive into the hard part, editing, editing, editing and polishing until we have the final draft ready to publish. We’ll announce its release here and on our CC Tillery Facebook page, so stay tuned!

That’s it for now. Have a fabulous weekend, everybody!

 

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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!

 

We had a great time at the 2nd Annual Carolina Donut Festival this past Saturday, May 20th, in Marion, NC, hosted by Mr. Bob’s Donuts. (If you haven’t tried their donuts, you really should – absolutely the best we’ve ever tasted.) Marion’s beautiful downtown Main Street was lined with vendor booths and thousands of attendees throughout the day. Although the temperature got hot as the day went on (upper 80s), we were blessed with a cool mountain breeze and a portable air conditioner built by Christy’s husband Steve out of a cooler and batteries. As always, we had fun meeting and visiting with readers but an added bonus was receiving invitations from three different organizations to do future presentations.

So far, we’ve met quite a few people who have seen the Brown Mountain lights, two of whom said the ones they saw were amber in color, and one man, a historian, telling us they were different colors. We really love the mystery surrounding these lights and are fascinated hearing these stories, and hope to hear more as we go along, especially when we get to the Morganton Historical Festival this fall.

A bit of history about Marion:  It was founded in 1844 and named in honor of Brigadier General Francis Marion, an American Revolutionary War hero whose flare for guerrilla warfare earned him the nickname “Swamp Fox”.  It’s motto is “Where Main Street meets the mountains” and that couldn’t be more apt. It’s a gorgeous town, surrounded by green mountains and blue sky.

donutfestival7Next up: The Gold Festival in Old Fort, NC, on Saturday, June 3rd. Come join us for what promises to be a fun event. They’re even going to be panning for gold in the mountain stream behind the Gateway Museum!  panning for gold

We’ve had a pretty eventful past week. On Saturday, the 29th of April, we participated in the Pioneer Day Festival in Old Fort, North Carolina. Although the temperature reached into the 80s, it was a breezy day which made it seem cooler and was very comfortable. RoAnn Bishop, the museum director and event coordinator, placed us in the same spot we had last year, behind one of the log cabins on the museum property, across from the amphitheater where live bands performed throughout the day, and within eyesight of the beautiful burbling creek. A local radio station came by for an interview which prompted several people who knew Bessie and Fletch, and a couple who knew our dad, to come by and introduce themselves. This is one of our favorite festivals due the Civil War reenactments, music, food, friendly attendees and festival staff, and a gorgeous view. There was even mining for gold in the creek. But best of all, spending time with readers old and new. We were thrilled to receive invitations to several other festivals in North Carolina which we plan to attend. If you haven’t visited Old Fort, I’d recommend a trip. Although it’s a small town, it’s filled with history and beautiful views, and is one of the most charming towns we’ve visited.

On Tuesday, May 2nd, we were invited to the Noon Book Club at the Morristown-Hamblen Library in Morristown, Tennessee to speak about the first book in our Appalachian Journey series, Whistling Woman. (The picture on the left is the  room where we met. All the rest are of Frontier Day in Old Fort,) The ladies couldn’t have been nicer or more inspiring to us and we enjoyed spending time with them and eating the delicious home-made dishes they prepared for the covered-dish luncheon. We received great feedback, which means more to us than we can express, along with interest in the remaining books in the series and our new Brown Mountain Lights series. An added bonus: the library wanted the books for their system and invited us to a book signing in August which we’re looking forward to.

Next up: a presentation at the Old Fort Branch Library on Thursday, May 11th at 5:30, where we’ll talk about our Appalachian Journey series. Ashley Salazar, branch head of the library, stopped by our booth and told us there’s been much excitement about our presentation with several asking if they can share stories with us. We’re really thrilled about that. Who knows, maybe it will lead to a future book…

And on Saturday, May 20th, we’ve been invited to the Donut Festival in Marion, NC, sponsored by Mr. Bob’s Donuts. If you haven’t tried them, you’re missing out on something: they’re delicious. There will be over 100 vendors, including donut makers, regional artisans and nonprofit organizations. The festival will feature a 5K dash, car raffle, donut pageant and donut eating contest. Best of all, the proceeds go toward supplies for the local schools. This will be our first time at this festival and we expect to have a great time there. If you’re in the area, we hope you’ll stop by!

 

Moonfixer, book 2 in the Appalachian Journey series, begins with Bess moving with her new husband Fletcher Elliott to Old Fort, NC, where they lived with Fletch’s parents until they bought 400 acres of the Zachariah Solomon Plantation on Black Mountain.

Cyndi and I recently paid a visit to Old Fort and Black Mountain to try to get a feel for what Bess first saw in this beautiful area of the Appalachians. Since Bess and Fletch arrived by rail, our first visit was to the Old Fort Train Station and Railroad Museum, home of the original train depot. This museum is easy to find as the main locus point is a tall arrowhead sculpture standing beside it.  We toured this building which looks much as it did in the early 1900s with original walls showing graffiti dating to 1886 and period railroad artifacts. Of particular interest is a large table model old fort train depotshowing the route the train traveled, winding its way through and over mountains. To arrive in Old Fort, Bessie’s and Fletch’s train ride would have taken them though seven hand-dug tunnels and nine miles of track across the Gap (the Eastern Continental Divide is at the top of the Gap) and the Swannanoa Tunnel, 1800 feet long and the longest tunnel on the route at that time. Greeting them would be a manmade geyser, signaling the start of the long climb to Asheville. A disappointment for us was that we weren’t able to visit the geyser since it was closed for repair.

(A winter picture of the museum with the arrowhead statue is shown above.)

We chatted with the docent who knew some of Bessie’s and Fletch’s kin who still live in the area and toured the railroad car which, compared to today’s standards, seemed so bare and uncomfortable. As we walked through the museum and along the wooden platform leading to the car, I could imagine Bessie stepping off the train and looking about, wondering what her life would be like in these mountains.

From there, we went to the Mountain Gateway Museum and Heritage Center where we watched a short video about the construction of the railroad tracks over the mountains, after which we toured the museum, which has an interesting wall depicting pictures with descriptions of herbs used as medicines for different ailments. Since Bessie was a healer and used herbs, an art she learned from her Cherokee grandmother, we found this fascinating. We fell into a conversation with its docent Peggy Silvers who gave us some interesting background about the Copperheads and other secret societies of Western North Carolina and MountainGatewayMuseumafterward emailed us her research about these, including the Red Shirts, which we write about in Moonfixer. Upon leaving, we noticed two log cabins on the property and enjoyed visiting those.

(This is the museum and here are the two log cabins.)mountain gateway cabins

Then it was onto and up winding Black Mountain to Stone Mountain Baptist Church, to visit the graveyard where Bessie and Fletcher are buried, along with Fletcher’s parents, siblings and a host of relatives. This is the church Bess and Fletch attended, and standing there, looking up at the stately white steeple against the beautiful cobalt sky, time slipped away and I wondered if Bessie knew we were there. I suspect she did.

Outside the church is a fountain offering fresh, clear spring water which tastes sweet but is very cold. The graveyard is large and rambling and (I found) somewhat comforting. Graves are marked with monuments elegant and elaborate to simple headstones and even odd-shaped stones. As we walked along, we were thrilled to find graves of people we’ve written about who we feel are old friends. It pleased us to see someone had put fresh flowers on Bess’s and Fletch’s graves. One thing we have learned is that stone mountain baptist churchthey were a well-loved couple.

(Although this picture of the church is dark, it shows the steeple quite well.)

We plan to return for another tour to visit the geyser and Black Mountain Museum. But walking along these paths, going up and down Black Mountain, I wondered if we actually do live in a dimensional world, as some scientists claim, where we might possibly at one particular moment have been walking beside Bessie as she made her way to the Crooked Creek Schoolhouse or Stone Mountain Church. Or perhaps she was with us in spirit, as we often feel she is. I like to think so. Aunt Bessie has been an important part of this journey Cyndi and I are on and we really hope to do her justice by writing the best books we can about her very interesting life and kindly deeds.

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