This Kindle e-book, regularly priced at $7.99, will be free on Amazon November 15-17, 2018.
As I hear it, summer romances are usually bittersweet. Mine was. They begin with a surprise, evolve into passion, turn sad and desperate at summer’s end, and then in spite of promises and best intentions, they often fade away. Perhaps the two lovers in Mountain Song will beat the odds.
David Ward lives in the Montana mountains where his life was impacted by his medicine woman grandmother and his utilitarian grandfather. Anne Hill suffered through childhood abuse and ultimately moved in with her aunt on the edge of a Florida swamp. Their summer romance at a mountain resort hotel surprises both of them. But can they make it last after the initial passion wears off and they return to their college studies far apart from each other especially after an attack on a college street changes Anne forever?
The settings in this book are real. The mountains are those of Glacier National Park in northwestern Montana. The swamp is the notorious Tate’s Hell Swamp along the gulf coast in the Florida Panhandle.
The First Presbyterian Church in Tallahassee is the capital’s oldest building in continual use. It was dedicated in 1838. Atypical in the South, the church accepted slaves as members who sat in a balcony that runs along three sides of the sanctuary’s “second floor.” Earlier, the church served as a refuge during the Seminole Wars and then, in the 1960s, as a leader in the civil rights movement.
I was a member of this church during my K-12 years in Tallahassee. My brothers and I were also members of Boy Scout Troop 101 sponsored by the church during those years. All three of us became Eagle Scouts, so it saddens me that the church at some point ended its association with scouting. It also saddened me when a large number of members who disagreed with the church’s civil rights stance split off during the mid-1960s and formed a new church.
The church is on the National Register of Historic Places where its Gothic Revival architecture is noted. The foundation included rifle slots that, by now, have probably been covered over. In contrast, solar panels now provide a portion of the church’s power and were–in 2010–considered the county’s second-largest solar panel array.
My father, Laurence, wrote the church’s sesquicentennial booklet of poems called “The Future of Old First in 1982.” He had, in earlier years, been a deacon, elder, Cub Scout pack leader, and explorer post leader.
The photograph shown here was taken sometime in the 1800s:
The church as it appears today, with the Methodist Church in the background and the church’s education building on the right hand side of the picture:
I don’t know if the church ever rings the bell in the steeple these days. At some point, the steeple was renovated and those of us attending Sunday school classes were allowed to ring the bell on Sunday mornings. The bellrope was accessed through a trap door above the balcony pews just above the church’s narthex. Everyone wanted to ring the bell! We loved it for its old fashioned sound, a sound out of history.
The Kindle edition of Lena, the third novel in the Florida Folk Magic trilogy, is the prize in an Amazon sweepstakes that runs through August 22. Four copies are available. The winners will be selected at random when the sweepstakes ends and sent to those with the winning entries by Amazon. There’s no purchase necessary. Entrants will be asked to follow my Amazon author’s page which is something I know you want to do anyway. Click on the book cover to go to the sweepstakes page.
The Kindle edition of Mountain Song, a Montana novel with a few scenes in the Florida Panhandle, is Free on Amazon between August 16 and August 20. David, who grows up on a Montana sheep ranch and wants to spend his life climbing mountains, meets Anne Hill from Florida who is a child of the state’s swamps and blackwater rivers. They meet as seasonal hotel employees at Glacier National Park. A summer romance begins. But will it last?
The Kindle edition of At Sea, a Vietnam War novel and the sequel to Mountain Song, is free on Amazon between August 18 and August 21. David is assigned to an aircraft carrier serving on Yankee Station off the coast of Vietnam. This book was inspired by my time aboard the carrier USS Ranger (CVA-61).
When Lena, the third book in my 1950s-era Florida Folk Magic trilogy was released several weeks ago by Thomas-Jacob Publishing, I said, “Okay guys, the series is a trilogy, so y’all quit pestering me about another book.”
The series addresses the racism of the Black/White culture in the Florida Panhandle at a time when the state had a lot more Klan activity, lynchings, and firebombings than most people outside the area knew about. Snowbirds came down from the northern states and eastern Canadian provinces in droves for the sunshine state’s beaches and other attractions in the peninsula. For the most part, they didn’t know that the peninsula had its nasty problems and so did the panhandle.
I grew up in this culture and was very much aware of the KKK because they visited my minister’s house, the houses of my friends, and put on rallies and parades. I had liberal parents and went to a relatively liberal church, the first white church in Tallahassee that invited African Americans to its worship services. In those days, whites poked fun at hoodoo–I guess they still do–but I had a good teacher named Flora who worked as a maid at a friend’s house around the corner. She introduced me to great food, the ways and means of the other side of our two cultures thrown together, and many truths.
The result is my trilogy of three novels. In Conjure Woman’s Cat, Eulalie–who is modeled after Flora–seeks justice for an assaulted Black girl when the police take no action. In Eulalie and Washerwoman, Eulalie battles against an evil conjure man who’s in league with the police and the town’s movers and shakers. In Lena, Eulalie goes missing and is presumed dead, leaving her family and her cat Lena in a state of confusion as the KKK threatens the town.
Lena is available in paperback and e-book from multiple online sites. Eulalie and Washerwoman and Conjure Woman’s Cat are also available as audiobooks via Audible and Amazon. All three books can be ordered by bookstores from their Ingram catalogs under traditional store purchasing options.
The audiobook edition of Conjure Woman’s Cat received the prestigious Red Earphones Award from AudioFile magazine. Click on the earphones graphic to see the review. Click here to see AudioFile’s review of Eulalie and Washerwoman.
The River Styx, a Florida river that meanders through Liberty County in the Panhandle before emptying into the Apalachicola River, has such a tempting name, I couldn’t help but mention it in my Florida Folk Magic Series. It made a nice contrast to Florida’s so-called Garden of Eden near the town of Bristol. As an author, I enjoy unique place names and myths that figure nicely into a story.
Heres a picture of the river from the state’s Florida Memory archive. You can tell by looking at it that I’m going to like it. So does the alligator in my story.
Are you tempted to take your canoe and head for, say, White Oak landing, and see the river up close?
“In practice, because of the difficulties in containing bees, a small proportion of any honey will be from additional nectar from other flower types. Typical examples of North American monofloral honeys are clover, orange blossom, blueberry, sage, tupelo, buckwheat, fireweed, mesquite, and sourwood.” – Wikipedia
In Florida, honey producers are as protective about their Tupelo honey as Georgians are about what can be called a true Vidalia onion. I mention white Ogeechee Tupelo trees in my books because they’re a major tree along the Apalachicola River in the panhandle section of the state. They’re a primary source for Tupelo honey and, less well known, as a source of pecan-sized fruits which taste like limes (sort of) and make a pleasing drink and some great preserves.
Tupelo honey, which I thought was the only kind of honey on earth when I was growing up, is light-colored and has a slightly floral taste and (kind of) smells like cinnamon. When I mention it outside of Florida and southern Georgia, most people have never heard of it. Being old fashioned–or possibly just old–I remember buying honey in boxes where you got a giant slab of honeycomb which I thought was the best part. Now we get strained honey at most stores. What a loss.
Here’s a great picture from Florida Memory showing Tupelo trees along the Apalachicola River:
I like the passage in Florida’s Wetlands, Volume 2, about the Tupelo: “Like cypress, Ogeechee tupelos are practically immortal. They can live for hundreds of years and they keep replacing their stems, so they need not reproduce frequently.” Old trees carry the land’s stories if you know how to listen. You can find these trees most often in floodplain swamps, as shown by this photograph from the Florida Natural Areas Inventory (FNAI):
In Florida, you’ll find these trees primarily in panhandle swamps near the Apalachicola River. This is where a fair amount of Tupelo honey comes from. For those of us in Tallahassee, that was close enough to have a constant supply of quality honey.
In the 1950s retired lawyer and Republican candidate for governor Elvy Edison Callaway opened his Garden of Eden Park along the highway in the Florida Panhandle town of Bristol. Callaway believed that God had created man in the delta of the Apalachicola river, which split into four rivers, just as the Bible describes four rivers leading out of Eden. – Atlas Obscura
Florida’s Garden of Eden park near Bristol in the panhandle west of Tallahassee is long gone, though in its memory, there’s still a Garden of Eden Trail in the Nature Conservancy’s Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines Preserve:
According to the Conservancy, the “Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines Preserveprotects one of the rarest of habitats: steephead ravines and streams. The Apalachicola River and Bay region is one of five biological hotspots in North America; it is unique to Florida and home to a disproportionate number of imperiled species. The preserve’s longleaf pine sandhill uplands have undergone a complete transformation over the past 30-years: the groundcover restoration techniques developed at ABRP are currently being used across the southeastern U.S.”
Nearby Torreya State Park , (north of the Bluffs and Ravines Preserve) and also at Bristol, makes for a great side trip.
The 3.75 mile trail leads to Alum Bluff overlooking the Apalachicola River. If you’re new to Florida, or live in the peninsula region, the sheep head ravines, longleaf pines, and sand hills are a sight to see.
Fortunately, a lot of restoration work has been going on there, including the introduction of wiregrass plugs and pine seedlings. Ensuring the preservation of the endangered Florida torreya and Florida yew trees is still in doubt. I hope we don’t lose them.
I took a dim view of the park and the Eden theory when I was growing up in nearby Tallahassee. However, as a writer of a trilogy of magical realism novels set near the trail, the site and and its potential symbolism have been a great way to add myths and local color to the novels. And, as an environmentalist, I’m happy with the Nature Conservancy’s protection and proactive restoration work on behalf of this unique environment.
In addition to the conservancy, groups like the Torreya Guardians are also working to save the Torreya tree. Among other things, experiments that appear to have promise include planing seedlings in a variety of environments (not necessarily in Florida) to see if healthy trees can be created and subsequently returned to their natural environment.
If you live in the Florida Panhandle or are going there for a visit and want to see visit the trail, Florida Hikes as a brief overview here.
After a bit of back and forth with the printer and several proof copies, we finally have the cover for Lena coming out in good shape. We were starting to wonder if it had gotten hexed. We plan to release this final novel in the Florida Folk Magic Trilogy on August 1. As a Leo, I approve.
You can see the book’s trailer on my website and also on YouTube. As usual, Thomas-Jacob Publishing has done a great trailer and a wonderful cover. The artist who did the covers for the first two books in the series was unavailable. We are pleased that Fajar Rizki created cover art in the spirit of the art used for Conjure Woman’s Cat and Eulalie and Washerwoman.
Book Description:When police chief Alton Gravely and officer Carothers escalate the feud between “Torreya’s finest” and conjure woman Eulalie Jenkins by running her off the road into a north Florida swamp a long way from town, the borrowed pickup truck is salvaged but Eulalie is missing and presumed dead. Her cat Lena survives. Lena could provide an accurate account of the crime—the tanker truck, the dead man in the trunk of the squad car, and the fire—but the county sheriff is unlikely to interview a pet. Lena doesn’t think Eulalie is dead, but the conjure woman’s family and friends don’t believe her.
Eulalie’s daughter Adelaide wants to stir things up. The church deacon wants everyone to stay out of sight: he fears reprisals since it’s hard to tell the difference between the police, city fathers, and the KKK. Lena teaches Adelaide rudimentary spell work—how to hex the chief of police and how to read the possum bones to find Eulalie’s fiancé Willie Tate who’s working down on the coast and tell him to come home. There’s talk of an eye witness, but either Adelaide made that up to worry the police or s/he is too scared to come forward.
Then the feared Black Robes of the Klan attack the first responder who believes the wreck might have been staged and Lena is the only one who can help him try to fight them off. After that, all hope is gone because if Eulalie is alive and if she finds her way back to Torreya, there are plenty of people waiting to kill her and make sure she stays dead.
A Facebook friend asked why this is the final novel in the series. My answer is simply that I don’t want to push my luck. Another Facebook friend grumbled about having to wait until August 1. Sorry about that, but it’s nice to have prospective readers chomping at the bit.
Authors like me who infuse local color–legends, myths, ghost stories, oral history–into their stories are always on the lookout for books and sites that lead them to more good stuff
Historian Dale Cox who lives in the Florida Panhandle has done more than his fair share of capturing local history and local color in books and websites. This book Two Egg, Florida: A Collection of Ghost Stories, Legends and Unusual Facts is a good example of the kind of resource I look for.
I grew up near Two Egg, saw it numerous times, and knew about half the tales and facts in this book before I bought it. But Cox’s research helps nail everything down, providing new wrinkles I wasn’t aware of as well as tales I hadn’t heard.
Since I write magical realism, I see the location and its legends almost like one of the characters. Of course, my human characters treat the myths and legends as real because that’s how magical realism works.
They really believe Bellamy Bridge has a ghost, that there might be some truth in the notion that the bluffs along the Apalachicola north of Bristol might have been the Biblical Garden of Eden, and that Two-Toed Tom and the Swamp Booger are out there in the dark waiting for an ignorant person to stumble into their clutches.
My library includes many books like this one by Dale Cox, and for the realism side of my novels, books about north Florida’s flora and fauna and history. Sometimes the research is even more fun than the writing.
Watching down on creation from the great sanctified church in the sky, I’m sure you are spry enough again to sing and dance in a ring shout circle, and re-conjure your memories of a life well lived.
As you watch us muddle through our days, perhaps you notice this old writer whom you once knew as that white boy around the corner who stopped by daily to see his best friend in the house where you worked as a maid in Tallahassee. Because my friend’s parents were frequently absent due to work, volunteer, and church schedules, you were the stern ruler of that household from dawn to dark.
In those days, I saw you as the heart and soul of that home even though our flawed traditions wouldn’t allow you to walk in through the front door. I loved and respected (and sometimes) feared you then, but I was not allowed to tell you so. After my mother and my grandmother, you were the best cook on the planet, but Southern booking wasn’t the best of what I learned from you.
I learned about faith and forbearance and streetwise savviness in a dangerous world along with the value of humor and tall tales as antidotes to the slights and terrors of the day. In those days, perhaps you saw me as part of the fair number of kids who hung out around that house and the woods behind it and had no way of knowing whether I’d end up in reform school or the priesthood. Well, I guess you knew I wasn’t destined to become a priest!
Like the children who lived in that house, Flora, I went off to college and then into the Navy and then into a life a thousand miles away. I’m sorry I lost track of you then. I wish I had hugged you goodbye before I went off into the world.
Now, as Lena, the third novel in my Florida Folk Magic series is nearing its release date, I want you to know that the book’s acknowledgements tell my readers you are my inspiration for Eulalie, the conjure woman who is the heart and soul of the series. Thank you for everything you taught me and my apologies for everything I have forgotten.