Tag Archives: Blue Ridge Mountains

Inspiration Behind YA Fantasy The Hunter’s Moon (Secret Warrior Series)


Although The Hunter’s Moon (Book 1, Secret Warrior Series) is my first venture into the young adult genre, I’m an award-winning, multi-published author in historical, paranormal, and time travel romance. I was inspired to create this new series partly by my teenage nieces, Lizzy (the story is dedicated to her), Sara, and daughter Elise. We’ve watched many YA movies and TV programs together and had book discussions. They urged me to embark on this journey.

Blue Ridge Mountains

I pondered the concept behind Secret Warrior for years as it gradually took shape in my mind. My love of history, fantasy, and fascination with the mountain people and Native Americans is at the heart of the series. Living in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia surrounded by mountains veiled in mist and mystery lends itself well to creating the characters and setting for YA fantasy romance, The Hunter’s Moon, and the stories that will follow. Some of the characters and creatures are based on lore I’ve learned. Others appeared to me, as characters have a way of doing. A great deal of research and intuition went into writing The Hunter’s Moon. Next in the series is Curse of the Moon (release date TBD). I purposefully kept these stories to novella length so they would come out faster, which means eBook format only. The Wild Rose Press is publishing the Secret Warrior series.

Pre-order links for The Hunter’s Moon are up at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. The official release date for the story is December 14th.

SECRET WARRIOR--THE HUNTERS MOONStory Description:

Seventeen year old Morgan Daniel has been in the witness protection program most of her life. But The Panteras have caught up with her and her younger brother. Her car is totaled, she’s hurt, and the street gang is closing in when wolves with glowing eyes appear out of nowhere and chase away the killers.

Then a very cute guy who handles a bow like Robin Hood emerges from the woods and takes them to safety at his fortress-like home.

And that’s just the first sign that Morgan and her brother have entered a hidden world filled with secrets.

Excerpt:

“Should we stay, or go while the smoke lasts?” The cloth muffled her voice.

“You can hardly walk.”

She couldn’t argue that point. Neither could they wait to be found. “The Panteras won’t give up until we’re dead.”

“Maybe they think we are,” he argued under his breath.

“Maybe.”

She suspected Mateo would demand a body, even a charred one. Make that two. She and Jimmy didn’t have much choice, though, other than to crouch in dread while the fire crackled.

“Next birthday, I want an AK-47.” He nudged her. “Look.”

She fixed her blurry gaze on what appeared to be a black wolf emerging from the trees. The creature was larger than she’d thought wolves were, and she’d understood none remained in these mountains. They were all farther north or west. Somewhere else.

Apparently, she was misinformed.

th_Wolf_1Judging by its size, she guessed this was a male. He stopped before their hideout. Eyes the color of red coals surveyed them before he turned and darted down the trail she’d spotted.

“Holy cow, Batboy. Did you see that?” she whispered.

Jimmy didn’t reply. He prodded her again.

She stared at the big brown and gray wolf that took the black one’s place. Where on earth had he come from?

The beast turned its furry head at her and Jimmy. His eyes shone with a luminous light, like fireflies…

Paranormal Account from the Shenandoah Valley


The Blue Ridge Mountains

This fascinating story is taken from Shenandoah Voices, Folklore, Legends and Traditions of the Valley by late author and historian John Heatwole.

Brock’s Gap~

“Up in the Brock’s Gap region (of the Shenandoah Valley) the old resident’s referred to the rest of the world as “out.”  It was not uncommon to hear the phrase, “people would come along from out.”

In the old days, the rest of the country was well served by the Valley Pike and other well maintained thoroughfares, but the Gap and its scattered homesteads remained isolated beyond the first rise of the Allegheny Front (*Mountains).

The hamlets of Fulks Run, Criders, Bergton and Dovesville were oases of social contact, as were a few churches here and there, but the people in the Gap were pretty self-sufficient.  Before electricity came into the area, moonless nights smothered the hills, hollows and mountains…making the faint glimmer of candlelight in a window way off a welcome sight to a late-night traveler.

It’s not surprising that some wonderful ghost stories have come from this area.  Unusual happenings were woven into stories that were told and retold…long winter nights found rapt listeners gathered around a glowing fire or warm stove to be thrilled by a story-teller.”

****

Ghost story:  “One young girl of the Crider’s area was told that she could take the horse and go to meet her mother and sister who were returning from a trip to “out” late one night.  Her path took her to a neighbor’s farm gate where she dismounted, opened the gate, led the horse through and then re-latched it.  As she climbed back on the horse, she heard something coming from the direction she had just come.

“Someone come a runnin,’ was a man a comin’ up the road a runnin’.”

He was coming fast and she was scared.  She kicked her horse into a gallop.  As she looked back over her shoulder she saw the “man” run through the closed gate as if he were made of air.  “I flew out,” she said, but it seemed to make no difference—he was gaining on her.

“When I got to the top of the hill he was about two steps behind me.  He grabbed the horse by the tail, and she kicked up, and away she went as hard as she could run!”

That did the trick and the pursuer disappeared in their dust.

“I don’t know what it was.  It wasn’t no human; no human coulda kept up with that horse!”

The woman who was once the girl in the preceding story also related her father’s brush with a demon.

“My daddy seen one, one time.  He was comin’ home after dark from Casper Turner’s.  Saw what looked like a man layin’ on a fence; had eyes like fireballs!”  Her father had a gun with him, and he shot at the demon.  The thing fell off the fence and started making a noise that made the man think he should be getting away from there.  “Had run down from the mountain.  He was scared to death.”~

I would be totally freaked out.

Old-Time Cures and the ‘Granny Women’


Old Home in the Blue Ridge Mountains (Old home in the Blue Ridge Mountains—image by my husband, Dennis)

About the Granny Women: Historically, they were elderly women from ‘back in the holler’ reputed for their healing and midwifery abilities. The term is often associated with ‘Appalachia.’  However, I don’t know anyone who actually lives in Appalachia. We refer to the specific mountain ranges, the Alleghenies, the Blue Ridge, or the Smokies…but I digress. In a time and place when doctors were few or nonexistent and no one had the money to pay them anyway,  the Granny Women were relied on for the wisdom and practices passed down to them by the hardy females who’d gone before them. Sure, a generous dollop of superstition and white magic was mixed in with their practical herbal remedies, but they did a lot of good. In the Shenandoah Valley and surrounding mountains, these women were invaluable. Some of my friends with deep ties in the holler (or gap) remember their family calling in the Granny Woman when they didn’t know what to do for an ailment or injury. One of them had a grandmother who was the Granny woman. Officially, these women are no longer with us. Unofficially, they are.

I recently learned more about the Granny Women after reading The Red Flannel Rag, by Peggy Ann Shifflett, a fascinating book about life in the Alleghenies. Hopkins Gap, where Ms. Shifflett grew up, is just a hop, skip, and a jump from our farm in the Shenandoah Valley, and yet, how different is the world she brings to life. Some of these customs and practices were known in the valley–still are with the real country folk–but many are unique to this more isolated mountain community. The little elementary school Ms. Shifflett describes being bussed to from Hopkins Gap is the same school my children attended, and their father before them, now replaced by a far larger modern structure. Much is gained, and lost, in our modern era. The author also happens to be the aunt of my friend, Sandy, who grew up with many of the old ways. Sandy’s widowed grandmother made moonshine to keep the family afloat, but that’s another story.

Log Cabin, Cabin, Hillbilly, Forest, Log, Appalachian Mountains, Rustic, Tennessee

(Mountain cabin, royalty free image)

Before taking a closer look at the Granny Women, I’d assumed they mostly used herbs and other old-time remedies to cure, but they were also very into white magic. In a section of The Red Flannel Rag entitled Witches and Granny Women, Ms. Shifflett explains the widespread belief in and dread of witches among the mountain people (parts of the valley too, I add). The bad witches, she says, were just called witches and the good witches were referred to as Granny Women or Healers. These women used their powers not only to cure illness but to remove an evil spell cast by a witch. The lengths Granny women, and other fearful souls, went to in order to avoid being cursed or rid oneself of an evil spell boggles the mind. For example, when brushing your hair, or trimming a baby’s fingernails, care must be taken to collect and burn every remnant or a witch might come into your home and take these personal leavings to cast a spell on you or your infant. And if a bird were to snatch your hair and use it to build a nest, you will have a headache until you find and destroy that nest. It’s a whole other mindset.

old log cabinMs. Shifflett describes incantations and instructions given for everything from ridding oneself of freckles on May Day to detecting and thwarting a witch. Here’s one: Make a three-pronged pitchfork red-hot and poke it through the bottom of a chair then pull it out.  If at any time in the future a suspected witch sits on that chair and can’t get up, then he or she is definitely a witch. Another ploy is to lay a broom across the doorway, as though its fallen. A witch will not step across a broom to enter a house. However, it was believed they could change themselves into a snake and sliver in through the keyhole, or transform into a cat and enter through the rafters, so then you have another problem. The lore, beliefs, and superstitions among mountain people is a class in itself. Some of the treatments have practical herbal applications, but much falls into the realm of magic or faith healing. If you believed the ritual employed by a Granny woman would cure your ills or break an evil curse, then maybe it could, that whole mind/body connection thing.

(Image of cabin in the Smokies)

Shenandoah VoicesFor a more in-depth exploration of the subject, read the book. I also recommend late Shenandoah Valley author and historian John Heatwole’s wonderful collection of Folklore, Tradition and Legends of the Valley entitled Shenandoah Voices. Mr. Heatwole interviewed older mountain and valley people to record this valuable resource before his death. I often refer to his collection both for the herbal lore and superstitions. Again, some are quite useful practices, others fall into the realm of fancy, unless you believe a witch can change herself into an egg and float across the stream and this worries you. Then I refer you to the time-honored ways and herbs for protection against spells. Which brings me to our next topic:

Acifidity bags: Small cloth bags worn on a string around the neck containing a mixture of chopped roots and/or spices having a strong disagreeable odor. The purpose of these bags is to ward off illness or evil. I asked my friend (mentioned above) what she remembered about acifidity bags. Sandy said her grandma (the moonshiner) made up these bags when she worried a witch had put a curse on the farm and hung them around the kids necks and put them in the hog pen to protect the pigs. Her grandma was dirt poor (likely used feed sacks to make the bags as they came in printed cotton cloth) and Sandy didn’t think she bought anything special to go in them, that she’d have filled the bags with whatever herbs she could gather, and they stunk like rotted wild onions or garlic. Children, and even pigs, wore these bags around their necks to protect them.

IMG_5998

(Image of the Alleghenies  by my husband)

Another friend, Jana, whose husband, Jerry, grew up back in Nelson County, Virginia, an extremely isolated region where they experienced a terrible flood in 1968, also had to wear these bags around his neck. Neither Jana nor Jerry remember what went into the bags, only that they stunk to high heaven to ward off anything and anyone who might cause harm to the children. There’s a pungent spice called Asafoetida, but it’s not native to the United States and has to be imported. If mountain or country women had access to a drugstore and could get asafetida, then likely that’s what they used in these bags, if not, they improvised. But I suspect the term acifidity is a corruption of asafetida, and before its introduction into America, these bags would have been called something else. Maybe just medicine or charm bags. Putting herbs, spices, or amulets into bags worn around the neck is an ancient practice.

From an article entitled: What’s in your Acifidity Bag by Bev Walker

“According to the book “Healing Spices,” asafoetida was endorsed by the US Pharmacopedia as a remedy for the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic that killed almost 100,000,000 people globally and claimed tens of thousands of American lives per week for two years. The putrid smelling spice was stocked by pharmacies to be draped around the neck inside acifidity bags in an attempt to deflect the deadly strain of influenza. Naturally, the word “flu” struck terror in the minds of generations to follow, and the smelly cure-all medicine bags appear repeatedly throughout history whenever an outbreak of potential epidemic illness or disease occurs. Babies and school-aged children were forced to wear acifidity bags during outbreaks of polio, measles, and during the winter to stave off influenza.”

***An interesting article on Appalachian Healing Traditions

Paranormal Account from The Shenandoah Valley of Virginia–Beth Trissel



This fascinating story is taken from Shenandoah Voices, Folklore, Legends and Traditions of the Valley by late author and historian John Heatwole.

Brock’s Gap~

“Up in the Brock’s Gap region (of the Shenandoah Valley) the old resident’s referred to the rest of the world as “out.”  It was not uncommon to hear the phrase, “people would come along from out.”

In the old days, the rest of the country was well served by the Valley Pike and other well maintained thoroughfares, but the Gap and its scattered homesteads remained isolated beyond the first rise of the Allegheny Front (*Mountains).

The hamlets of Fulks Run, Criders, Bergton and Dovesville were oases of social contact, as were a few churches here and there, but the people in the Gap were pretty self-sufficient.  Before electricity came into the area, moonless nights smothered the hills, hollows and mountains…making the faint glimmer of candlelight in a window way off a welcome sight to a late-night traveler.

It’s not surprising that some wonderful ghost stories have come from this area.  Unusual happenings were woven into stories that were told and retold…long winter nights found rapt listeners gathered around a glowing fire or warm stove to be thrilled by a story-teller.”

****

Ghost story:  “One young girl of the Crider’s area was told that she could take the horse and go to meet her mother and sister who were returning from a trip to “out” late one night.  Her path took her to a neighbor’s farm gate where she dismounted, opened the gate, led the horse through and then re-latched it.  As she climbed back on the horse, she heard something coming from the direction she had just come.

“Someone come a runnin,’ was a man a comin’ up the road a runnin’.”

He was coming fast and she was scared.  She kicked her horse into a gallop.  As she looked back over her shoulder she saw the “man” run through the closed gate as if he were made of air.  “I flew out,” she said, but it seemed to make no difference—he was gaining on her.

“When I got to the top of the hill he was about two steps behind me.  He grabbed the horse by the tail, and she kicked up, and away she went as hard as she could run!”

That did the trick and the pursuer disappeared in their dust.

“I don’t know what it was.  It wasn’t no human; no human coulda kept up with that horse!”

The woman who was once the girl in the preceding story also related her father’s brush with a demon.

“My daddy seen one one time.  He was comin’ home after dark from Casper Turner’s.  Saw what looked like a man layin’ on a fence; had eyes like fireballs!”  Her father had a gun with him, and he shot at the demon.  The thing fell off the fence and started making a noise that made the man think he should be getting away from there.  “Had run down from the mountain.  He was scared to death.”~

May in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia–Beth Trissel


COVER FOR SHENANDOAH WATERCOLORS NONFICTION BOOKThis excerpt is from my nonfiction book about gardening and country life, Shenandoah Watercolors, a 2012 Epic eBook Finalist, available from Amazon in kindle, and now paperback with lovely photographs taken by my talented family.

May

“The quality of mercy is not strained,

It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven,

Upon the place beneath; it is twice blessed;

It blesseth him that gives and him that takes…”

~William Shakespeare

the meadow and woods above our farmThe heavy rain has given way to a misting drizzle, but streams of water pour down from the hills and make new ponds and creeks. It’s chilly with that raw wet feel. This spring is awash in moisture and amazing after last summer’s searing drought. I’m struck by the intense beauty around me, and I thought I was already seeing it, but it’s so much more somehow. The grass seems to shimmer, yet there’s no sun out today, and the meadow is so richly green it’s like seeing heaven.

Our barnyard geese are enraptured, as much as geese can be, with all the grass. If there’s a lovelier place to revel in spring than the Shenandoah Valley and the mountains, I don’t know it. Narnia, maybe.

Dark hollow falls on Skyline drive, Shenandoah national parkI’ve been thinking about my favorite places. The pool I like best lies in the woods near a place called Rip Rap Hollow in the Blue Ridge Mountains. A splendid falls cascades up above, but I like the pool far more. We always meant to go back, but never have. The cold water ripped through me like liquid ice and is as clear as melted crystal.

I could see the rocks on the bottom, some slick with moss, others brown-gold in the light where the sun broke through the leafy canopy overhead. Trout hid beneath big rounded stones or ones that formed a cleft, but the men tickled them out to flash over the flat rocks strewn across the bottom like a path. Drifts of hay-scented fern rose around the edges of the pool, warming the air with the fragrance of new mown hay, and made the shady places a rich green.

Now, that’s a good place to go in my mind when I’m troubled. The problem with cities is that people don’t learn what really matters. Don’t really feel or know the rhythms of the earth. When we are separated from that vital center place, we grow lost. Sadly, most people will never know what they are lost from, or where they can be found.~

moms-kitten-gosling-pic***Goose update. We spotted four new goslings yesterday.

*Images of the meadow and wooded hills above our farm taken by daughter Elise, Dark Hollow Falls in the Blue Ridge Mountains, a royalty free image, Kitten and baby goose taken by my mom, Pat Churchman

 

For Lovers of Gardening and Country Life (And Wannabes)


My award-winning nonfiction book, Shenandoah Watercolors, is free at Amazon Monday May 14th–Wednesday May 16th.  Written in a month by month journal style, Shenandoah Watercolors follows a year in my life on our farm in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

Excerpt from May:

“The quality of mercy is not strained,

It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven,

Upon the place beneath; it is twice blessed;

It blesseth him that gives and him that takes…”

~William Shakespeare

The heavy rain has given way to a misting drizzle, but streams of water pour down from the hills and make new ponds and creeks. It’s chilly with that raw wet feel. This spring is awash in moisture and amazing after last summer’s searing drought. I’m struck by the intense beauty around me, and I thought I was already seeing it, but it’s so much more somehow. The grass seems to shimmer, yet there’s no sun out today, and the meadow is so richly green it’s like seeing heaven.

Our barnyard geese are enraptured, as much as geese can be, with all the grass. If there’s a lovelier place to revel in spring than the Shenandoah Valley and the mountains, I don’t know it. Narnia, maybe.

I’ve been thinking about my favorite places. The pool I like best lies in the woods near a place called Rip Rap Hollow in the Blue Ridge Mountains. A splendid falls cascades up above, but I like the pool far more. We always meant to go back, but never have. The cold water ripped through me like liquid ice and is as clear as melted crystal.

I could see the rocks on the bottom, some slick with moss, others brown-gold in the light where the sun broke through the leafy canopy overhead. Trout hid beneath big rounded stones or ones that formed a cleft, but the men tickled them out to flash over the flat rocks strewn across the bottom like a path. Drifts of hay-scented fern rose around the edges of the pool, warming the air with the fragrance of new-mown hay, and made the shady places a rich green.

Now, that’s a good place to go in my mind when I’m troubled. The problem with cities is that people don’t learn what really matters. Don’t really feel or know the rhythms of the earth. When we are separated from that vital center place, we grow lost. Sadly, most people will never know what they are lost from, or where they can be found.~

***FREE kindle at Amazon. Also available in print with lovely photographs taken by my talented family.

“This is perhaps the most beautifully written memoir I’ve ever read. Its lovely and languid descriptions of the picturesque valley, the farm and gardens are equaled only by the charming and funny descriptions of the antics (and conversations!) of the farm animals. What a joy this is to read…” Amazon Reviewer C. G. King

Herbal Cures and the Granny Women


Recently my seven year old niece, Cailin, was in my care and coughing her head off with the latest respiratory ‘thing.’  So I took some flannel (formerly an infant burb cloth) slathered it with Vicks Vapor Rub, folded the cloth so it wouldn’t stick to her shirt, and laid it on her chest.  This way her skin is protected  in case she’s sensitive to the rub–I broke out in an itchy rash last year.  Then I laid a warming pack filled with rice that can be reheated in the microwave and is cushioned by fleece against her shirt/chest and wrapped her in a blanket, periodically reheating the pack.  After this, I got out the Olbas oil and anointed her temples, added a few drops to a basin of steaming water for her to inhale.  Although complaints of ‘it smells funny’ and ‘stings my eyes’ — ‘close them,’ I answered, and other arguments arose, her coughing eased.  I’d done the same thing I reminded her last week for her cousin, my seven year old grandson, and it greatly lessened his cough.

I told her she’d come to the ‘Granny Woman’ who used herbs and old-fashioned remedies to cure.  Her eyes widened at that. To emphasize my point, I went into the sun space and picked a handful of the ‘Vicks’ plant, Plectranthus purpuratus, a pungent mentholated herb given to me years ago by an old mountain woman who swore by its powers.  Easily rerooted, I’ve kept it going and used it myself–just smelling the leaves opens your head–but Cailin was a little put off by the powerful aroma and glad I wasn’t making a concoction from this, or the mustard plaster I’d told her about.   Later on, though, my sister said how vastly impressed Cailin was, declaring I knew lots of stuff about how to make you better.   Even prattled away to the doctor about her amazing Aunt Beth who now probably thinks I’m a quack.

  Back to the Granny Women, historically, they were elderly women  from ‘back in the holler’ reputed for their healing and midwifery abilities.  The term is often associated with ‘Appalachia.’  However, I don’t know anyone who actually lives in Appalachia.  We refer to the specific mountains.  But I digress.  In a time and place when doctors were few or nonexistent and no one had the money to pay them anyway,  the Granny Women were relied on for the wisdom and practices  passed down to them by the hardy females who’d gone before them.    Sure, a dollop of superstition, and at times, a little white magic, was mixed in with their practical herbal remedies, but they did a lot of good.  In the Shenandoah Valley and surrounding mountains, these women were invaluable.   Some of my friends remember their family calling in the Granny Woman when they didn’t know what to do for an ailment or injury.  Officially, these women are no longer with us.  Unofficially, they are.  And many know far more than I.

An interesting article on Appalachian Healing Traditions.  For more on the real Vicks Plant click the above link.

*Cailin with kitty Pavel (a little sticky from something) image by daughter Elise

*Old mountain house in the Blue Ridge, image by my husband Dennis.