Music, identity, and the teenage heart

Record and iPod

I just finished Whiskey Bottles and Brand-New Cars, a 2017 biography of Lynyrd Skynyrd by Mark Ribowski. I was 14 when the core of the band died in a plane crash on October 20, 1977, the real “day the music died” for my generation. I’m familiar with the broad strokes of the Skynyrd story, and even once saw the Rossington-Collins Band, one … Read More

Serendipity, Saragossa, and Moonshine

Moonshiner 1904 title card

When first pondering the story that would become The Fairies of Sadieville, my initial idea was one of form. I’d just read Jan Patocki’s The Manuscript Found in Saragossa and seen the Polish film adaptation, The Saragossa Manuscript. Both novel and film are “nesting” or “frame” stories, in which a tale is told within another tale, which is told within another … Read More

Finding the rhythm of another time and place

ancient writing

While revising The Fairies of Sadieville (available in two weeks!), my editor pointed out that some dialogue, for a subplot set in prehistory, sounded a bit too “modern.” When I stepped back and looked at it objectively, I had to agree. I had these primitive people speaking with the cadences, and more importantly in the syntax, of modernity. It was deliberate, since as always, I don’t want … Read More

Dark as a Dungeon: the music of the miners

Dark as a Dungeon CD

Part of The Fairies of Sadieville takes place in 1915, and involves two specialized occupations: making silent movies, which I’ll cover elsewhere, and coal mining. Sadieville is a new coal boom town, and I was determined to get it right. I did a lot of book research on it, to get accurate technology and terminology, but to get the feel, I turned, appropriately, to … Read More

Why fairies?

Don't look in the hole

One of the most basic questions I get about the Tufa series, which concludes in April with The Fairies of Sadieville, is also one of the hardest to quantifiably answer: Why fairies? It certainly wasn’t an obvious interest. I grew up in a tiny Southern town, surrounded by friends and family who had no time for matters of imagination. And even … Read More

On Themes and the Tufa, Part 2

Coffin stayed in Tennessee

See part 1 here. When The Hum and the Shiver proved successful enough to warrant a sequel, I wanted to advance the themes as well as the story. I decided that the central recurring character would be the place, not Bronwyn Hyatt. Cloud County and Needsville held many other characters I felt could (and subsequently did) carry their own novels. I’ve said … Read More

On Themes and the Tufa, Part 1

Museum of Appalachia tools

When I wrote the first Tufa novel, The Hum and the Shiver, I had no plans for a series. I wrote it on spec, without a contract, just prior to the release of my first novel, The Sword-Edged Blonde. In that first Tufa book, I had a very particular, self-contained story in mind: circumstances force Bronwyn Hyatt to decide how … Read More

Reader Question: Writing from a Woman’s POV

Catamount Cup and Wisp Book

Reader Jane Payne (a name I just may borrow for a character) asked on my Facebook author page: “Writing POV for female characters. You do well! Is it challenging?” First, thank you for the compliment. I appreciate that a lot. Is it challenging? I can’t deny that it was at first, mainly because I expected it to be. We’re taught … Read More

Why I Want WONDER WOMAN to be Awesome

Wonder Woman

So the advance word on the Wonder Woman film is good, and that’s a relief. I’ve found every other DC movie to be heartless and cruel, so I was seriously concerned that they’d screw this one up as well. But, as I said, the advance word is good. And that same advance word comes with a now-typical response from crying … Read More

Guest post: Robyn Bennis on the Uselessness of Writing Advice

Guns Above cover

I firmly believe that all good writing advice is generalized to the point of uselessness by its third retelling. You know the sort of advice I’m talking about. It takes the form of the tired maxims your critique group can’t stop themselves from repeating, the literary platitudes from a once-great author whose work began to flag about the time they … Read More