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
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 ,
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. Columbus, Ohio
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.