Appalachian Journey Series | Brown Mountain Lights Series - by CC Tillery



She thinks the sun comes up just to hear her crow...

Ww bestseller
Whistling Woman is a bestseller and we can't help but crow a little bit. Look at this:

It's a little hard to see there, but for Kindle in literature and fiction, southern fiction, historical fiction Whistling Woman has been at the top of the list since yesterday--and maybe even before that. We just happened to find it yesterday and boy, howdy, did we do some crowing over the phone! We knew the sales had been steadily increasing since the second week of September but we had no idea we'd hit number one! Yippee!
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A little Hot Springs love...

Christy and I were in Hot Springs this past weekend for our first reading of Whistling Woman. We were lucky enough to stay in the Chestnut Log Cabin--thanks, Melanie, for accomodating us on such short notice!--and we met some incredible people while we were there.

Ike Lassiter greeted us when we arrived at the Hot Springs Welcome Center. Ike is the president of the Friends of the Hot Springs Library, and he's a wonderful, kind man. We were nervous but he answered all our questions about how long to read and suggested several things we
 might want to talk about. He and his wife Sally even took us to dinner after the reading! Sally steered us to Penland & Son in Marshall and when we went on Saturday, the owner bought 5 copies of the book to carry in her store.

At the reading, we finally met Melanie Prater, the owner of the two cabins we stay in whenever we're in Hot Springs, Trailside and Chestnut Log (our favorite!). Up until then, we'd communicated with Melanie through phone calls and e-mail and it was a definite pleasure to meet her in person. We stayed at Trailside the first time we went to Hot Springs to do the initial research on the book and then the next two times, we've stayed at Chestnut Log Cabin. It's our favorite because it reminds us of our grandmother's (Frances Ann or Jack as she was called in the family, Bessie's youngest sister) house where we spent quite a bit of time as kids. It's a lovely, cozy retreat that's perfect for editing, plotting, or just sitting on the front porch watching the world go by.
Deb Linton, the first librarian we ever talked to at the Hot Springs library, was also there. Deb was a tremendous help on that first research trip to Hot Springs. She pointed us in all the right directions and invited us to the reunion of the Dorland-Bell Institute (Aunt Bessie's alma mater) at the Dorland-Bell Chapel.

We also met Carol Dixon, an aspiring author herself, who was kind enough to arrange for us to meet Miss Hazel the next day. Miss Hazel is 90 years old and the unofficial Hot Springs librarian. Until a few years ago she used to take daily walks around the town and I can't tell you how many people told us we needed to talk to her. Unfortunately, we always seemed to just miss her, so Carol called her on Saturday and arranged for us to go to Miss Hazel's house. What a fascinating woman and a great pleasure to finally meet her!

After Miss Hazel, we walked around Hot Springs, checking to see how the book was doing in Bluff Mountain Outfitters (not sold out, but close!) and ArtiSun Gallery (sold half the copies they'd bought!). At ArtiSun, we met Kalynn Dresser who had liked the Whistling Woman page on Facebook just the week before. If you're ever in Hot Springs, you have to go by ArtiSun to see the work of all the local artists, craftspeople, and of course, writers like us! You should also try their scones (I had raspberry)--melt-in-your-mouth-delicious!

On Sunday morning, we went to Smoky Mountain Diner for breakfast before heading home and who should come in but Ike and Sally. I have to tell you, we're seriously thinking about hiring Sally as our publicist! She has some terrific suggestions and while we were at the diner, with Sally's help, we sold three books!

All in all, it was a productive, fun weekend--and we can't wait to go back! Hot Springs always gives both of us a feeling of homecoming, as if we're visiting with long unseen family and friends. We'll definitely miss it when we have to move our research trips to the Old Fort/Black  Mountain area for the next book, Moonfixer...but it can't be helped since that's where the next part of Aunt Bessie's life happened.

We have, however, decided we'll definitely go back to Hot Springs and the Chestnut Log cabin to do the edits. We can't give up our home-away-from-home or the wonderful friends we've made there!

Our apologies if we left out anybody. Our minds, even when working together, are not quite as sharp as they used to be. Plus, we were having such a good time, we forgot to even take pictures, much less notes!

Our first reading!

Christy and I will be in Hot Springs tonight at the Hot Springs Welcome Center at 7:00. Can't wait to meet all the people and share a little bit of Whistling Woman. Come join us!
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Art imitating life or the other way around?

Couldn't help but think of Whistling Woman when I read this rescue story on the Animal Rescue Site. Don't know if it's life imitating art or the other way around since the story in the book about Miss Cordy and her pet hen was based on a true story. imitating art imitating life?

Not enough coffee and way too confusing for me to figure out. It's a cute story though and the story in Whistling Woman is cute too, although the ending was a bit gruesome.

Speaking of Whistling Woman, it's still on sale for .99--simply because I haven't had time to get on Amazon and change the price back. Fair warning, I could do it any time so...get it while it's on sale! You'll be glad you did!

And also, take a second to click on the button on the Animal Rescue Site to help feed the shelter animals. You'll be glad you did that too!
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Twelve Days of Old Christmas Sale!

Starting today and continuing for the next eleven days, Whistling Woman can be had for your Kindle at the amazing price of .99! So, for all those people out there who received new Kindles for Christmas--like me!--and want a good read for not much money--also like me!--because they are, as my niece Meghann says, Scrooge-alicious--yep, that's me! Just call me Ebenezer, Jr.--head on over to the Amazon Kindle Store and download your copy of Whistling Woman. It's a steal at less than a buck!

Happy Holidays to all--and God bless us, every one!
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A Special Old Christmas Celebration with Whistling Woman!

CC Tillery has some big news to share! But first, a little backstory--toward the end of our book, Whistling Woman, the family celebrates Old Christmas, with Papa and Bessie telling Thee the meaning and the myths behind the holiday. The following is an edited section--no spoilers here!--from Chapter Twenty-one, Winter 1900, entitled, Breaking up Christmas:

Papa is talking to Thee:

“Ya’ see, boy, midnight tonight is when the baby Jesus was first presented to the world. That was when the three Wise Men arrived at the stables where Mary and Joseph had taken shelter so Mary could have her baby. The Wise Men had traveled for miles, following the light of a single star, because they wanted to honor the birth of their Savior. When they showed up and offered the gifts they’d brought, all the animals in the stables woke up, adding their praise to that of the three Wise Men and the angels singing up above. And to this day, they say if you go out right at midnight and stand quietly, you can hear the animals praying, and some say if you can get a look at them, you’ll see them kneeling, too. Don’t know how true it is, but I’ve heard tell that the wild animals out in the woods and up on the mountains wake, stand up, and then lay back down on their other side.”

I looked at Thee, his eyes wide and filled with love, and knew right then and there that not only could I forgive Papa, I had to for the sake of my family.

Loney, who loved Christmas, sat in the chair beside Papa with a nearly completed quilt top spread across her lap. She’d heard the story many times, but when Papa started telling it, she stopped sewing and listened as raptly as Thee. When the story was finished, she smiled and asked, “Have you ever seen the animals pray, Papa?”

“Can’t rightly say I have, but I’ve heard tell of people who sneak out at midnight and have seen it. ’Course, there’s folks who say it’s bad luck to go looking for the signs of Old Christmas, that if you do, something bad will happen to you. I don’t think that’s so, though, since the people I talked to that claim to have seen and heard it all looked hearty to me.”

“But if you just happen to be out and see a sign, then it’s all right?”

“Sure it is but why would a person be out in the barn at midnight?”

Playing along, Loney said, “Maybe they were late getting home and had to put their horse in the stable before they could go to bed?”

Papa laughed. “Could be, Loney, but we’re all safe at home, as most people are on a cold winter night, so I guess we’ll stay right here and let the animals and alder bushes do what they do without us.”

“The alder bushes?”

Papa winked at Thee. “Did I forget that part? Well, Loney, the animals aren’t the only ones who honor the birth of the baby Jesus. The alder bushes do, too. Right at midnight on Old Christmas Eve, no matter how cold the night is or how much snow’s on the ground, the alder bushes burst into bloom and some say they even sprout new branches. I’ve also heard it said that if you listen closely, you can hear the bees roar in the bee-gum, as if they wanted to swarm.”

Thee stood up, leaned on Papa’s knee and said, “Can we see the animals, Papa?”

“Maybe in a few more years, when you’re old enough to stay up until midnight but not this year, boy. This year, I’d say you’ll be fast asleep by the time midnight rolls around. Why, you already look like its long past your bedtime and here it’s barely gone dark. It’s a long time till midnight.”

Thee’s little face crumpled and Papa patted his head. “Tell you what, Thee, if you can keep your eyes open till then, I’ll take you out to the barn myself and we’ll see what we can see.”

Clapping his hands, Thee jumped up and down. Jack chortled and did her best to slap her tiny hands together, too.

“But Papa, what if it is bad luck?” Loney asked.

“Pshaw, girl, I’ve talked to lots of people who say they’ve seen just such a thing and they were all living and breathing when they told me.”

Loney picked up her needle and started working on the quilt top again. “Wouldn’t that be a lovely thing to see, all the animals honoring Jesus like that?”  She looked down at Thee and smiled. “I think it might be worth taking a chance on some bad luck, don’t you, little man?”

Thee nodded and clapped his hands again. “Tell us some more, Papa.”

“Why that’s all I know to tell, boy. Maybe Bess knows more.”

Thee ran over to me where I sat on the sofa. “Tell, Bessie, tell.”

I smiled at him and ruffled his hair. “I’ll tell you what else happens during the twelve days of Christmas, Thee, but it’s about people, not about the animals.”

He looked doubtful but sat down at my feet, prepared to listen.

“There are some things you shouldn’t do, like lend anything to anybody during the twelve days of Christmas because if you do you’ll never get it back.” I pointed to the fireplace. “You see how the ashes are piling up in the hearth over there? That’s because it’s bad luck to clean them out during the twelve days. It’s also bad luck to wash your bed sheets until Old Christmas is over.”  I leaned down and sniffed at Thee. “Good thing we only have one more day, else we wouldn’t be able to stand the smell.”

Thee giggled and dramatically sniffed the skirt of my dress, wrinkling his little nose.

“Tonight is Old Christmas Eve and at midnight people everywhere will be breaking up Christmas.”  His face crumpled again and I went on hurriedly, “That’s not a bad thing. What it means is most people will drink sweet cider and burn a piece of cedar or pine in the fire as a way of saying farewell to the season.

“Do they have to break it because it’s old?”

I smiled. “No, sweetie. You see, some people believe the twenty-fifth of December is the day when the baby Jesus was born and the sixth of January is when He was first presented to the three Wise Men and to the world. But a long time ago, most people believed the sixth was the day when He was truly born and that’s when they celebrated so that day came to be known as Old Christmas. There are twelve days between the two dates, from December 25th, the ‘new’ Christmas, to January 6th, the ‘old’ Christmas, and that gives us the twelve days of Christmas. During those twelve days, people have what they call Breaking Up Christmas parties. Tonight’s party is at Aunt Belle’s house and there will be lots of sweet cider to drink and music for dancing.” I leaned down. “And I’ll tell you a secret if you promise not to tell. Promise?”

He nodded.

I bent down and whispered, “Aunt Belle is planning on having a small fire in the street outside her house right at midnight so that people can burn a piece of cedar or pine to officially Break Up Christmas. Don’t tell Papa though, or he might have to arrest Aunt Belle.”

Thee laughed and whispered back, “I won’t. Can I go and see the fire?”

“If you do, how will you see the animals in the barn when they kneel down to pray?”

He frowned. Uncle Ned boarded his horse at the town livery stables so Aunt Belle didn’t have a barn or any animals he could spy on to see if they really did pray at midnight.

I took his chin in my hand and lifted it to give him a kiss. “Why don’t you stay here with Papa and Loney, and if you can stay awake, Papa will take you out to see the animals. You can see a fire in the fireplace any old time and Roy and I will be sure to burn a piece of pine in Aunt Belle’s fire to break up Christmas for you.”

Roy came in from the barn, bringing the crisp smell of winter with him. “You about ready to go, Bessie? I’ve got the horses hitched up and they’re champing at the bit.”

I stood, lifting Thee with me. “You keep those eyes open tonight, Theodore Norton. I want to hear all about what you see tomorrow.”

He put his arms around my neck and hugged me, whispering, “I will, Bessie,” in my ear. I squeezed him before kissing his cheek and setting him down on the floor.

Walking over to Papa, I kissed Jack on the top of her head first then bent further in to kiss Papa’s cheek. I turned to Loney who set her quilting aside and stood up.

“Have a good time, Bess.”  She stepped forward and kissed my cheek, which surprised me. Loney wasn’t usually given to outward signs of affection.

I took her hand and squeezed it. “You sure you don’t mind staying home with the babies? I can stay and you can go to the party if you want.”

She smiled. “I don’t mind a bit. You know how much I enjoy taking care of them. You and Roy have fun.”

I hugged her goodbye. At the door, I turned and looked at my family and the strangest sensation washed over me, as if I stood far away, seeing them in a dream. I could feel their love for me, just as I could mine for them, but there was a distance there, a deep chasm keeping them from me.

Now for the big news, in honor of Old Christmas, and as a way of saying thanks to everyone who's been involved with this book for the last four years, Christy and I decided to have a special 12 Days of Christmas sale. That means from December 26, 2011 until January 6, 2012, you'll be able to download the Kindle version of Whistling Woman for only 99 cents!

Enjoy and a very happy holiday season to everyone!
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At long last, Whistling Woman is available on Kindle!

Finally, after weeks of editing, formatting, re-editing, and re-formatting, Whistling Woman is available as an e-book on Kindle! A lot of work, but well worth the effort and I have to say, Kindle Direct Publishing is amazing. Christy and I sent the file yesterday afternoon at around 4:00 and it was posted for sale in about 2 hours. Whew! They work fast!

So, click here (or on Whistling Woman above) to get your copy today for only $2.99 and enjoy it on your Kindle. Meanwhile, we're going to be tackling Smashwords for the rest of the e-book readers. Wish us luck!
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A whistling woman and a crowing hen...

One of the stories in Whistling Woman is about Miss Cordy and her pet hen, Elsie. I have no idea when we first heard it from our dad, but it seems like I've known it all my life. That story and the woman it's about just seemed to fit right in with the plot so we had to include it. Not only that, it fit with the picture we decided to use for the cover, a picture painted by our dad, John Tillery, that was inspired by the story he told us as kids.

I'm not going to go into the story here--you'll have to read the book when it comes out!--but I am going to show you the cover--or the tentative cover. We've been working on this for a while and I'm still not sure if we've got it right but this is what we have for now. Of course, it could change. Not the picture, but the font (fixed that!) and the way the painting is positioned.

Take a look:

And there you have it. What do you think?
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Walking in the footsteps of our ancestors...

Chestnut log cabin 010
Christy and I just spent three wonderful days in Hot Springs doing the final edits on Whistling Woman. We stayed at a lovely little cabin right on the Appalachian Trail and a short five-minute walk from town. Surrounded by trees, we read the manuscript out loud, made changes--there weren't that many!--and enjoyed imagining Aunt Bessie walking down Bridge Street when she was a young woman. She was twenty-one when she moved with her new husband Fletcher Elliott to Old Fort where they lived with his parents until they'd saved enough money to purchase some land of their own. But that's another story, or as Paul Harvey said, "the rest of the story!"

A few more pictures to give you a feel for the place!
Hmm...I guess I should've added captions. Going from the top row, left to right, that's the cabin from the road, the front porch where we worked on the first half of the book, the dining room where we moved when the weather got cold the next day to do the second half of the book, the living room, the kitchen, and the little sun room.

The cabin was perfect and we both hope to go back when we start promoting the book. And, of course, the town of Hot Springs, as always, made us both feel as if we were walking in the footsteps of our ancestors. Not just Aunt Bessie, but Papa, Mama, Roy, Loney, Green, Thee, and Frances Ann, or Jack as my great-grandfather called her. They were all there back in the 1890's and early 1900's when the book takes place and every time we visit, it's almost as if they're standing there welcoming us home with open arms, especially Papa and Bessie.
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Why Whistling Woman?

"Your father's right," she said.  "Mockingbirds don't do one thing but make music for us to enjoy.  They don't eat up people's gardens, don't nest in corncribs, they don't do one thing but sing their hearts out for us.  That's why it's  a sin to kill a mockingbird." - Miss Maudie to Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

That's one of my favorite quotes from my favorite book and movie.  In the movie, Atticus is the one to speak it to Scout, Jem, and Walter Cunningham, but in the book, it's Miss Maudie speaking to Scout.  Of course, it really comes from Harper Lee's talent and heart and that quote describes her book perfectly...which is exactly what Christy and I tried to do when we started the book about our great aunt's life in the mountains of North Carolina.

We'd heard stories all our life, both from our dad and from great aunt Bessie when she was still alive, about a life that to us was nothing short of amazing.  The stories are many and varied, but in a nutshell,  Aunt Bessie lived life her way.  Christy and I encouraged our dad to write them down, but he says he's an artist--he paints--not a writer so we knew it would be up to us, the writers in our family.  Those stories are too precious to let them die.

When we decided to write the book--and hopefully do justice to the stories and our great aunt's life--we of course thought of Ms. Lee's masterpiece and the old southern saying that she used for her title, 'tis a sin to kill a mockingbird. That adage describes her book to perfection and so, emulating our favorite author, we started searching for just the right saying for our book. When we found it, we knew it right away.

"A whistling woman and a crowing hen never come to a very good end."

It means to be who and what you're meant to be.  That saying not not only gave us the title of the book, Whistling Woman, it also fit the main character and gave a hint of what the book was about.

Many thanks to Harper Lee for writing what we both consider the quintessential book and for giving us the idea to go looking for a quote that would describe our book as perfectly as hers describes To Kill a Mockingbird.