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Saturday, March 26, 2016

Appalachia Witch Series by Gerald Costlow @RebeccaJVickery #paranormalromance #witches

Anna was having a bad day. The goat gave only half the milk it usually did that morning, a crow flew from left to right across her path as she walked down to the stream, and she tripped on the way back, spilling one of the buckets and bruising her knee. On top of that, the bees were also having a bad day and she was stung several times while gathering honey, in spite of singing the proper calming charm.
 (A Distant Call, 1st in Appalachia Witch series)

And thus begins my first story in the Appalachia Witch series, set in the 1920s somewhere in East Tennessee in the ridges and hollers of the Appalachia foothills. The imaginary town of Smithville is nearby, and it's a long train ride from there to Knoxville. But to go by the slice of daily life above, it could have been set in any pre-industrial society or frontier. Life for people scraping out a living from marginal land has not changed in millennia.

As the twentieth century began, paved roads and electric lines and telephone wires passed by the folks on the ridges and hollers of Appalachia.   The stereotype of the lazy, clannish, uneducated moonshiner took hold. The word "Hillbilly" began to reflect this. The mountain clans became social outcasts from proper society. A boy from back on the ridge would face huge barriers to courting the daughter of a rich store owner in town.

She sighed. "You don't know what bouquet means, do you? It's a French word I learned at the finishing school. It means 'a bunch of'. I'm just suggesting that maybe if you showed father you were trying to earn more of an income, he'd give you permission to court me."
He let go of her and went over to sit on the bench they'd dragged into the shed. She wondered if she'd hurt his feelings. That was the last thing she'd ever want to do.
            "Jo, honey," he said, "if having a steady income would get your Pa to let me marry you, why I'd work two jobs and be a happy man. Trouble is, he's set on you moving up in the world. You're all he has left since your Ma died, so I don't blame him one bit. He's not about to let some hillbilly with an eighth grade education court his daughter."
(Deal with the Devil, 2nd in the Appalachia Witch series)

My family came from back on the ridge. I only know it from stories and family reunion visits, since my Grandparents moved North after the Great Depression along what was known as the "Hillbilly Highway" into Columbus, Ohio, to work the steel mills. When I decided to place a series of stories in this world, I had the tales told by my family to go by.

And when I decided to add a touch of the supernatural, I had other family tales to draw upon. People back on the ridge plant by the phases of the moon. Their medicine chest contains roots and herbs and home remedies. A bad omen is taken seriously. There are places and creatures back in those mountains they still talk about in whispers. But mostly, no matter how spooky or magical it got, these remain stories about special people struggling to make a life for themselves.

She did have the honor of watching him learn his first lesson about the limits of their Talent when he got tired of mind-shouting to the birds and squirrels and tried it on a bee working a field of flowers. Billie came yelling and running toward her, waving his arms while several angry bees chased this rude upstart down the road.
Liz stifled her laughter and began humming the soothing charm spell she'd been taught while using her Talent to project peaceful thoughts of a hive going about its business. Mollified, the little stinging warriors buzzed off.
            She turned to address Billie, hiding behind her skirts. "You're lucky they weren't yellow-jackets. Wasps will send the entire hive after you. The next time I tell you to be careful, you bee careful…get it?"
            He groaned at the pun.
 (Crazy Jack, 3rd in the Appalachia Witch series)

The thing I enjoyed most about writing this series was being able to create characters that came to life, and over the course of time we watch them grow and learn and produce a new generation to carry on. I'll leave you with a picture of my Grandma when she was a pretty young teenager, sitting on the front porch of their cabin back on the ridge and a link to the VTP books on Amazon. 




  1. Gerald,
    I love your Appalachia Witch series, and look forward to more tales.

    Enjoyed your behind the scenes of how your stories came about. Old stories and folklore make the best backdrops for tales. Great photo of your grandma, also. :)

    1. Morning Karen and I'm glad you like the series. I have a lot of fun with these and I hope it shows. I try to pack a laugh or two as well as a surprise into each one of them.

  2. Good morning, Gerald. I enjoyed reading your excerpts for I know whereof you speak. My husband and I lived in Sale Creek in East Tennessee for four years (between Soddy Daisy and Dayton) and I was a counselor in the high school so I have had personal experience with the families there. Some of my stories reflect that setting and unique culture. Your stories are a true reflection of them and you are correct in saying that nothing has changed about their lifestyle and mindset and I don't believe it ever will.

    1. Thanks Linda. I hope my admiration for my hillbilly roots comes through, along with a realistic look at their admitted faults. For instance, prohibition and the explosion of moonshining really created problems in their culture.

    2. Yes, Gerald, you showed respect for this part of our country as I did when I lived there and since. It was so gratifying to help some of these students be the first in their families to graduate high school. It would be interesting to hear the stories you have heard from your ancestors. I hope you will continue to write about this isolated and often misunderstood part of Tennessee.

  3. I liked this snippet from A Distant Call. Even though I live in the city, I am very familiar with the hardships of the people who live in Appalachia. They still live the same way and are too proud to accept charity for the most part. They are a proud and hardworking group of people who generally do not trust "outsiders". I like that you captured their superstitious beliefs in this snippet.
    I liked Crazy Jack, but I haven't read the others in the Appalachia Witch series yet.
    I wish you all the best, Gerald...

    1. Thanks and yes, my Grandparents certainly had superstitious beliefs galore, some probably carried over from the old country or the natives that they shared the mountains with in the past. And they firmly believed in signs. My Grandma in particular would have dreams and premonitions that almost always came true.

  4. It's wonderful when we, as authors, have a vivid memory of our growing up and also that of our family. I was born in a house with no running water---outhouse and pan on porch for "washing up,",and truly well into the Twentieth Century, rural folks..like us...lived as our ancestors did--kerosene lanterns and wood stoves. Thankfully, my daddy got a job with an oil company at the end of WWII so we left and roamed West Texas for 6 years...living in whatever we could find for the five of us and our sole belongings in the trunk of a 1940 Ford. You write so well, and I learned a little more about those mountain people.
    Good job, Gerald, and much luck with your novels and short stories. You are good.

    1. Thank you very much. High praise from a great writer herself. My only trip out West was doing basic training in San Antonio one hot July. I always thought the problem with all those Westerns was that the blasted heat you folks endured simply doesn't come through the screen.

    2. Oh, geez. Basic training in San Antonio in July. You survive that, and you are "one tough hombre." That's cowboy talk. I have degrees in science and have never talked like that! But true..that blasted heat does not come through. That's certain.Good post, Gerald!

  5. My Dad's family is from East Tennessee, too. Dad came to the Northeast to work, but he retired in Tennessee. I love stories set there.


    1. Thanks for stopping by! I love even writing how folks from there talk. It's not like the "Beverly Hillbillys" at all.


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