I got away this weekend to the Blue Ridge Mountains of North
Carolina. It always does my heart good to drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway and
be surrounded by forests and views across miles and miles of mountains.
A change in scenery and a change in altitude can clear the
head and breathe new life into a person. A change in altitude can create a
change in attitude. That’s what this weekend’s trip to Asheville did for me.
A special cousin of mine who lives in California got married
in Asheville on Saturday. It was my first opportunity to meet her husband, and
I feel very good about this match. The wedding was beautiful and the associated
festivities were wonderful. It was an honor and privilege to witness Melissa
and Marty’s exchanging of vows and their happiness and respect for one another.
Asheville is an eclectic city, rich in history and natural
beauty. The change in scenery and altitude, along with the blessing of
attending the wedding of two such special people, was just what I needed. Driving
south on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and then taking US-276 by Looking Glass Falls
was a perfect way to end the weekend.
I came home with my batteries recharged, ready to plunge
back into my writing and playing the dulcimer.
Until my next blog
I hope you have a good book to read.
I’m reading Montauk, by Nicola
If you’re a writer, I hope you have
productive writing time and your projects are moving right along.
Thank you for reading my blog. You
could have spent the last few minutes doing something else, but you chose to
read my blog.
Let’s continue the
What recharges your batteries and refreshes you for the
January is over, so it’s time for me to “fess up” about how I spent the month. Perhaps a better way to say that is “what I accomplished.” In my January 8, 2018 blog post (2018 Reading, Writing, & Living Plans) I felt I needed to be accountable to my blog readers. In order to do that, I said I’d set monthly writing goals. For January, I set a modest goal of adding 2,000 to the scenic plot outline for my historical novel, The Spanish Coin.
For starters, I failed miserably on reaching my 2,000-word goal. What I did, though, was brainstorm about story location. I continue to wrestle with what direction to take in re-writing my historical novel manuscript. The working title remains The Spanish Coin.
Historical novel progress
In January I settled on a location for the story. At least, I hope I will not change from this latest locale. I did some 1700s research on the place and worked on the story’s timeline. Location plays an important role in historical fiction. The era for the novel is the 1760’s, which is a decade earlier than my original plan.
Spanish Coin location reveal
Curious about the story’s setting? The Camden District of South Carolina. Choosing a location for the story has freed me to proceed with the outline.
Goal for February
I tend to write detailed outlines, so I’ll go out on a limb and set a goal of 6,000 words for February.
I got my concentration back and had fun reading in January. I read what I wanted to read instead of tying myself down to any particular reading challenge.
That said, I picked up the rules for the 2018 reading challenges for the public libraries in Harrisburg and Mint Hill (I couldn’t help myself!), but I don’t plan to let them dictate what I read. With 500+ books on my “want to read” list, though, I might meet those two challenges without really trying. Incidentally, even though I read seven books in January, my “want to read” list had a net gain of 39. I realize this is not sustainable. I would have to be a speed reader and live to be a centenarian to finish my ever-growing list.
52 Small Changes: One Year to a Happier, Healthier You, by Brett Blumenthal
The book title says it all. I took note of the suggested change for each week. This week seems like a good week to start, since I didn’t begin in January. This week’s small change: Drink enough water to stay hydrated. I’m told I should drink approximately 80 ounces of water every day. Since I normally drink less than half that amount, this constitutes more than a “small” change for me.
The Rooster Bar, by John Grisham
This latest John Grisham novel took a little different tack from his earlier books in that The Rooster Bar is about a group of law school dropouts practicing law without licenses. I found it to be more humorous than other Grisham novels I’ve read, but it was still full of suspense.
Perennial Seller: The Art of Making and Marketing Work that Lasts, by Ryan Holiday
I blogged about this book on January 22, 2018, so I direct you to that blog post if you missed it: (Works That Last.)
The Last Castle: The Epic Story of Love, Loss, and American Royalty in the Nation’s Largest Home, by Denise Kiernan
I’ve been reading so many novels the last couple of years that I’d forgotten how long nonfiction book titles tend to be. Or maybe it’s just the three I read in January.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book about the Vanderbilt family and the Biltmore Estate. Living in North Carolina, I have toured the Biltmore House four times. The first time was on a sixth grade field trip. Motion sickness on the bus as it wound around the endless curves on old US-74 east of Asheville is my main memory from that day, but I digress.
My other visits to the Biltmore Estate have been very enjoyable. Reading this book made me want to plan another trip to Asheville and tour the mansion again. It is a delightful book.
Before We Were Yours, by Lisa Wingate
This novel was inspired by the shocking history of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society during the first half of the 20th century. It is a gripping story and is expertly written. It is not a happy read, but I highly recommend this book.
The King of Lies, by John Hart
This was the January book choice of the Rocky River Readers Book Club. The novel is set in Salisbury, North Carolina, so I was familiar with some of the streets and buildings referenced in the book. It’s fun sometimes to read a book set in a location you have visited.
I though Mr. Hart could have omitted some of the “woe is me” theme in the first third of the book. The narrator’s whining about the wealthy people in this small town got old after a while. If you’ll hang in there, though, you’ll probably get so involved in trying to identify the killer that you’ll get to the point you can’t put the book down. You’ll think several times that you’ve figured out the villain’s identity but, chances are, you haven’t.
Nightwoods, by Charles Frazier
This novel has been on my “to read” list for several years, so I felt a sense of accomplishment when I finally read it. It is set in the mountains in western North Carolina.
Nightwoods is a tale about a woman who unexpectedly “inherits” her deceased sister’s twin boy and girl. The children give their aunt/new mother a challenge every day – and then her late sister’s widowed husband/killer comes to try to get the large sum of money he thinks the children took with them. The children are wild and uncommunicative. Add to that the fact that the aunt has no idea why her ne’er do well ex-brother-in-law has suddenly shown an interest in his children and has come to hunt them down.
What about December?
I just remembered that I never did blog about the books I read in December. They were a mixed bag of novels: The Quantum Spy, by David Ignatius; Hardcore Twenty-Four, by Janet Evanovich; and The Secret, Book and Scone Society, by Ellery Adams.
David Ignatius’s political thrillers never disappoint me. The Quantum Spy was no exception.
The last two Stephanie Plum novels by Janet Evanovich disappointed me. I used to eagerly await her annual next installment of these funny novels, but “Twenty-Three” and “Twenty-Four” were too predictable.
The Ellery Adams novel is an entertaining read about four women who want to form a friendship, but each one is required to reveal a secret about herself before they can truly trust one another.
Until my next blog post
I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading Fighting to Win: Samurai Techniques for Your Work and Life, by my fellow-blogger David J. Rogers; The Salt House, by Lisa Duffy, which was recommended by my friend Karen; Beartown, by Frekrik Backman, which is the February pick for The Apostrophe S Coffee Chat online book community; and The Woman in the Window, by A.J. Finn. That’s about one book too many for me to read at the same time, but they are different enough that I’m not getting the story lines confused.
If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time.
If you subscribed to my mailing list last week, you renewed my faith in mankind. Thank you, Vicki, Colby, Katrina, and Glen!
In case you haven’t signed up for my mailing list, you have another opportunity to do so using the fill-in form below. I appreciate it!
Although the name of my vintage postcard book is The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, one of the chapters is about the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Qualla Boundary. One of my blog posts in August was about the Eastern Band Cherokee Indians. Their land is the Qualla Boundary.
In today’s post I want to share 10 things I learned about the Great Smoky Mountains National Park as I did the research to write my vintage postcard book.
1. Great Smoky Mountains National Park is located in Swain and Haywood Counties in North Carolina and Blount, Sevier, and Cocks Counties in Tennessee.
2. A gap is a low point in an Appalachian Mountain ridge. Gaps are called notches or passes in other parts of the United States.
3. A new gap in the Smoky Mountains was discovered in 1872 more than a mile from Indian Gap. The newfound gap was aptly named Newfound Gap.
4. Although Clingmans Dome is the highest peak in Great Smoky Mountains National Park at an elevation of 6,643 feet, Mount LeConte is the tallest mountain from base to summit in the Great Smoky Mountains. Mount LeConte’s elevation is 6,593 feet, and it rises 5,301 feet from its base to its peak.
5. When a grassroots effort to raise $10 million to save the Great Smokies from logging came up short, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. donated the $5 million needed.
6. President Franklin D. Roosevelt allocated $1.5 million in federal funds to purchase the last of the land wanted for Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
7. President Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 1940.
8. It is illegal to willfully get within 150 feet of a black bear in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
9. Newfound Gap Road (US-441) tunnels under itself at one place, forming a helix.
10. Much of the forest in Great Smoky Mountains National Park has been ravaged by the balsam woolly adelgid, an insect imported from Europe.
Want to know more about the Great Smoky Mountains? Look for my vintage postcard book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. It can be purchased online from Amazon or at some wonderful independent bookstores. If your favorite bookstore does not have the book, please ask them to order it from Arcadia Publishing and The History Press. It is also available for e-readers.
I was delighted a couple of weeks ago to find my book still prominently displayed at Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar in Asheville, North Carolina. This fabulous bookstore is located in the Grove Arcade Building, an iconic 269,000-square-foot downtown Asheville destination built in 1929. An image of a matte-finish postcard of the building is included in my book.
After leaving the Biltmore Estate on December 12, 2014, I went to downtown Asheville and visited Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar. I knew my vintage postcard book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, had been available there since the week it was released in August.
Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar is an intriguing combination of old and rare books and hot-off-the-press books shelved and otherwise displayed on and around interesting pieces of furniture. There are cozy little areas where friends can meet for drinks and quiet conversation and chairs in corners where readers can sit and escape into the pages of a good book.
Seven copies of my book were on a shelf in the Western North Carolina section, a copy was on display on a table with several other Arcadia Publishing books, and one copy was on display on an end cap across from one of the bars! Wow!
Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar is located in the Grove Arcade. I included a postcard of the Grove Arcade in my book. It has quite an interesting history. It was built by Edwin Wiley Grove, who also built The Grove Park Inn. He made his fortune selling Grove’s Tasteless Chill Tonic.
The Grove Arcade fills a city block at 269,000 square feet. It opened in 1929 with shops and offices. The federal government took over the building during World War II, but in 2002 it was restored to it’s original beauty and elegance and is again home to a variety of shops and offices. After researching it while writing my book, it was a thrill last Friday to get to see the building and enjoy several of the stores there.
As the sun was setting over the Blue Ridge Mountains, we (my sister/trusty photographer and I) returned to Lake Junaluska for the night and a performance of Handel’s “Messiah” by the Lake Junaluska Singers and an orchestra.
After my cousin suggested that The Wrinkled Egg in Flat Rock, North Carolina would be a good place for my book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina to sell, I passed that information on to Arcadia Publishing. The sales department followed up with Virginia and she ordered a dozen copies for her store! I dropped by The Wrinkled Egg on Tuesday afternoon, although the fog was getting thicker by the mile and I hesitated to leave the interstate. Virginia was not in but I enjoyed talking to Patty. My book had not arrived, but I hope it will be available there before Christmas.
The Wrinkled Egg is a quaint gift shop in lovely Flat Rock. Across the street from the famous Flat Rock Playhouse of North Carolina, the shop is in a perfect location for the convenience of shoppers and visitors to this village that is tucked away in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Perhaps you’ve heard of Flat Rock. Carl Sandburg and his wife bought a farm there and lived out the last years of their lives there. Their home, “Cannemara” is a State Historic Site and is open for tours. Plan a trip to Flat Rock, where you can visit Cannemara, take in a play at the Playhouse, and shop at The Wrinkled Egg!
My two-day trip to Tryon, Hendersonville, Canton, Asheville, and Flat Rock was an energy booster for me. It was my first opportunity to visit the area covered by my vintage postcard book and see my book on store shelves there. I enjoyed meeting bookstore owners and employees and it was indeed a thrill to see my book on the shelf at several stores!
I visited the Blue Ridge Parkway Visitors Center near Asheville on Tuesday. How I have missed it for all these years is a mystery. I love driving on the Blue Ridge Parkway!
The visitors center cannot be seen from the road. It is located about five or six miles south of the Folk Art Center — one of my favorite places in the mountains — and adjacent to the parkway headquarters. The building is eco-friendly. It is difficult to tell in the photograph, but grass and weeds are growing on the sod roof! It reminded me of a storybook I had as a child that had a drawing of a house with a cow grazing on the roof. I want to return to the visitors center next summer and see what the roof looks like then.
Imagine my surprise when I walked into the bookstore/gift shop in the visitors center and found my book displayed on the shelf! I did not know the visitors center had my book in stock. Since there was only one copy, the employee said, “I guess the rest of the copies have sold.” I don’t know how many copies they started with or when they received the book. I hope they will restock it!
I want to stop by the visitors center again on my next trip to Asheville. I was on a tight schedule on Tuesday and did not have time to look at anything but my book.
It was a treat on Tuesday morning to spend an hour or so at Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe in downtown Asheville, North Carolina. Alsace had invited me to come by and autograph copies of my vintage postcard book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. I met Alsace and Malaprop’s owner, Emoke B’Racz. Erin retrieved some of my books out of the window and the ones on display in the regional books section so I could autograph them.
My book was prominently displayed, which was a thrill. Malaprop’s is the quintessential independent bookstore. It has a great atmosphere and welcoming staff. I told them I wish we had a bookstore like it in our area. After following Malaprop’s website and receiving their weekly e-newsletters for several months, I was glad to finally get there in person. I could have easily spent the day there.
If you ever get to Asheville, be sure to visit Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe at 55 Haywood Street. It is a book lover’s heaven!