Monday, January 29, 2018

Evergreen: The Beautiful Witch of Moonlight Ridge

Evy steered Willie T. and me over to the fireplace and we sat on the ancient looking cane bottom chairs, gazing into the dancing fire. The fire sure felt good after being nearly froze to death, tromping around out on the mountain all day. I could have gone sound asleep sitting up, right there in the chair. Willie T. kicked his legs back and forth, tapping the chair rungs with his feet. “We need to get out of here and head home, you know it?” he whispered nervously.“We need to take Erskine with us and skedaddle. Thangs is gettin’ weird.” 

Evy looked at me, then at Willie T. “Wait a bit,” she said in a soft, quiet voice. “I tell you a story.” 

Erskine made a noise behind us, and I turned around and saw that he had his clothes on and was sittin’ on the side of the bed, pulling on his brown leather work boots. When he saw me looking at him, he smiled and said, “I feel a little light headed, yet.” He stood up and ran his hands through his hair, causing it to fall into its normal uncombed arrangement. He stretched his arms over his head, then laughed and said, “Now people’ll be sayin’, ‘Erskine, you act like a tree fell on you!’ ” 

Willie T. twisted around and glared. “Everybody’s been sayin’ that already!” he chuckled. 

Erskine joined us in front of the fireplace and stood behind the chair where Evy was sitting, and you could have knocked me out of my chair with a feather when he leaned over and kissed her on the cheek!

 “So, then! Tell us that story,” he said.

 Evy drew a slow deep breath, and spread her hands like she was showing us the scene where her story took place. “It snowed early, that year. Cold moon, high in d’ sky, Harvest done come, and de witchin’ season about. An’ de man come ridin’ up in the moonlight, jus’ like always. Horse hooves clatterin’ on the hard road. Horse named Beauty, and de girl he love named Bessie. Daughter of ol’ Solomon Penny, landlord of th’ stage coach stop. Man on de horse a white man, highway robber name’ Tom Weaver, come ev’ry night to give his sweetheart a kiss . . . and sometime silver coins and jewels he stole off de stage coach.” Evy paused and touched one of the ruby earrings she was wearing. “Snowflakes be fallin’ soft on the mountain, early. This time, when Tom Weaver ride up to de place, militia be waitin’ for him for the bounty on his head. Bessie, standin’ at the window, see him shot dead on de groun’. Ol’ Solomon run out de house, hold up his hands to stop ‘em from shootin’. Dey shoot him dead right beside Tom Weaver.

“Militia mens take the body of Tom Weaver away, to get they bounty money from the governor. Leave ol’ Solomon Penny there on the ground in th’ bloody snow. “ Evy sighed. “Bessie bury him herself, behin’ the stage coach stop, an’ she carryin’ Tom Weaver’s baby. Tore de ruby earrings from her ears, thowed ‘em on the bloody snow. Leff’ the stagecoach stop, move up here to de bluff where nobody dare to touch her, evermore. Talk go aroun', said Bessie a witch. Ev’rybody ‘fraid to bother her.”

 Evy sighed again and sat up straight in her chair, smoothing her skirt with her hands. I felt like a big empty hole had come up, all of a sudden, in my chest. “Man led the militia, Holbert Tucker. Clyde Tucker’s mean ol’ great-gran’daddy.” Willie T. and Erskine and I all looked at each other. “Huh!” Erskine huffed. Willie T. was busy wiping his cheeks on his coat sleeve. After a while, Evy continued. “Clyde Tucker ain’t no bad man. But Safina Weaver? No … she won’t forget.” Erskine looked like he was studying the situation. “Well, I’d say that was a long time ago,” he said. 

“Long time ago,” Evy agreed, nodding her head. “But de memory still in de blood.”

Excerpt from
The Witches of Moonlight Ridge

Photograph from the Hugh Mangum Collection Used with permission from David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library Duke University

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving from Moonlight Ridge

Thanksgiving Day came, cold and bright. Our little kitchen was crowded and cozy, everything smelled right spicy, and everybody was in a holiday mood, talking and laughing over the delicious feast.

Recipes from
"The Witches of Moonlight Ridge"

Hoppin’ John

½ pound bacon, diced
1 medium onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp chopped parsley
Black-eyed peas, cooked and drained
Salt to taste (1 tsp salt for 2 cups dried black-eyed peas)
Cooked white rice

Sauté diced bacon, chopped onion, and chopped celery until onion and celery look translucent. Drain grease. Add garlic, parsley, and cooked black-eyed peas, simmer until peas are tender but not mushy.
In a large pot or bowl, gently combine peas and cooked rice, or serve peas separately over mounds of cooked rice.
Note: Before cooking dried black-eyed peas, sort through them thoroughly for tiny pebbles or other debris, then rinse and drain.
Note: Cooked ham, chopped, can be used in place of bacon. 

Raisin Biscuits

2 ½ cups unbleached self-rising flour
1 egg (optional)
Small pinch of salt
1/3 cup butter
¾ cup milk
1 tbsp unbleached sugar
1 ½ cups raisins

Preheat oven to 450°.
Sift together flour, pinch of salt, sugar. Cut butter into the flour mixture. Beat egg and add to the milk, stir into flour/sugar mixture. Add raisins. Turn onto well floured board, knead gently, using more flour if necessary for a smooth dough. Cut with small biscuit cutter and bake at 450° for approximately 15 minutes.

Persimmon Pudding

3 cups persimmons
2 cups buttermilk
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 ½ cups unbleached sugar
3 eggs
1 ½ cups unbleached all purpose flour
½ tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda 1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg ½ tsp ginger

Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease a 4 x 8 x 12 inch pan with 1 tbsp butter.
Puree 3 cups persimmons, which will yield 2 cups puree. Combine puree with buttermilk. Beat stick of butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time. In a large mixing bowl, stir the puree into the butter/sugar/eggs.
Sift all dry ingredients together and fold them into the persimmon mixture. Fill baking pan with mixture, place the pan into a larger pan and fill the larger pan halfway with warm water.
Bake uncovered for 1 ¼ hours or until the pudding is firm in the center and has pulled away from the sides of the pan, and a knife inserted into the center of the pudding comes out clean.
Serve hot with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

How to puree persimmons: Remove skins from ripe persimmons. Persimmons can be mashed through a colander, and seeds will be removed and left in colander. If using a food processor, remove seeds before processing.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Moonlight and Witches at North Shelby Library

October 24th at the North Shelby Library

On Tuesday evening I was honored to present a Moonlight Ridge program at the beautiful North Shelby Library. We had a lively discussion about magic, mysteries, childhood adventures, and Halloween happenings. It's always such a pleasure to connect with readers who find delight in Lily Claire and WillieT.'s extraordinary escapades and recall unique childhood memories of their own. 

Thanks to Michelyn Reid for inviting me to North Shelby County, for the warm hospitality, and the enjoyable get-together.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Evergreen, the Beautiful Witch of Moonlight Ridge

The first printing of The Witches of Moonlight Ridge is all sold out. Second printing is here, just in time for holiday gifting. An added feature: a beautiful photo of our mysterious Evergreen, AKA Bessie Penny, thanks to the Hugh Mangum Collection and the generosity of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Duke University.

Here's my poem about the beautiful witch of Moonlight Ridge.

Rain Crow
At times she wondered how it all would end
even after she must have known it was ended.
Sometimes when the wind blew, bringing rain again,
she cast her dreams aside and flew herself away.
Some say she lived alone against the dark side of the mountain,
some say her madness came from what she knew of flying.
But she always cried before the rain began,
from the darkness and the broken heart and the fever of dying.
I heard the rain crow just before a cold rain swept
down from shadows and across the cold grey morning.
A chill was in the air and the rain crow’s song sailed,
lost and lonely and full of old dreams like a bird’s wings
touched by mist and magic and dark dreams folding.
Some say she kept her secrets, alone across the forest flying.
Some say she calls the rain, she calls the rain,
from her own soul to cool the madness and the fever of living.
© Ramey Channell 2017

Monday, June 12, 2017

Witches and School Teachers at Leeds Library

The whole town's talking about those "wayward sisters" up on Moonlight Ridge! But our favorite 4th grade school teacher, a young man named Erskine Batson, gets most of the attention and adulation here at Leeds Jane Culbreth Library!

What's Erskine's secret for capturing the hearts of readers, students, and one mysterious lady on Moonlight Ridge?

Erskine Batson . . . "with one year of college under his belt, the mystifying habit of walking around in the woods cussing and reciting poetry, and every day free to do as he pleased, except Saturdays when he drove the worse-for-wear Eden garbage truck" . . . is a true Renaissance Man.

And how did he survive when the huge tree fell down on top of him during the violent wind storm on the mountain?

You can learn all about our unconventional 4th grade teacher, and plenty of other mysteries on the mountain, in The Witches of Moonlight Ridge.

Friday, May 12, 2017

"The Witches of Moonlight Ridge" Book Review


Reviewed by Susan Sewell for Readers' Favorite
The Witches of Moonlight Ridge (The Moonlight Ridge Series Volume 2) by Ramey Channell is a charmingly delightful southern tale. Autumn has arrived at Moonlight Ridge, and Lily Clair and her cousin Willie T. are excited about starting fourth grade. They are happy that their teacher is the lovable and jolly Miss Tomkins. Sadly, a week after school begins, tragedy strikes. Miss Tomkins has an accident and is unable to teach. However, Miss Tomkins's successor, Erskine Batson, the driver of the Eden garbage truck, is a fascinating replacement. Erskine is teaching them many strange subjects, such as Music Theory and the Science of Archaeology. But for Lily Claire and Willie T., not all of his lessons into the strange and mysterious stop in the classroom. In a chance meeting with Erskine at a stagecoach stop ruins, the three experience bizarre and inexplicable events that have them questioning whether the place is haunted. But what is haunting the old ruins and the woods around them, ghosts or witches?

The Witches of Moonlight Ridge is a stunningly entertaining southern fiction novel. The arcane knowledge of the mountains and the superstitions of its people are infused within the story, giving it an eerie aura that charms the reader and lulls them into believing the mysterious and inexplicable. With its spooky ambiance, it is the perfect book to curl up with and read on a windy fall night at Halloween. This delightful sequel reprises the characters from Moonlight Ridge and adds a few more eccentric and colorful individuals. All of the characters are multi-faceted and complex. Erskine Batson is a prime example, with the words of Shakespeare and Pythagoras's equations spilling from his lips during the week, and doing garbage runs for Eden on the weekends. He is my favorite character, and I enjoyed his tolerance and participation with Lily Claire and Willie T. and their escapades. This is a sensational novel that will enchant and delight readers from the ages of ten on up to a hundred!

Monday, April 3, 2017

"Sweet Music on Moonlight Ridge" Review


 by Susan Sewell for Readers' Favorite
     Sweet Music On Moonlight Ridge (The Moonlight Ridge Series Volume 1) by Ramey Channell is a captivating and charming novel set in Alabama in the nineteen-fifties. Lily Claire and Willie T. are cousins; their mothers are sisters. They were born on the same day, at the same time, in the same hospital, and in the same room. Granny declared that because their mothers brawled with each other during their delivery, the two cousins were marked with a lifetime of squabbling. 
     Although they do have their skirmishes, Lily Claire and Willie T. are rarely separated and are adept at causing devilment. Performing a rain dance that ruins a perfectly sunny day, or following a treasure map they find from an unexpected source, Lily Claire and Willie T. live in a world that is simple yet complicated. There's rain and sunlight, birth and death in their world, and no matter what they did on the mountain, they did it together. Keeping their eyes out for the wolfeener, the awfullest scary booger on the mountain

     Sweet Music On Moonlight Ridge is a humorous and delightful tale about Lily Claire and Willie T. and their childhood escapades on Moonlight Ridge. It is an enchanting story depicting a child's perspective of her world and how she perceives the magic in the normal and the strange occurrences she and her relatives encounter. Ms. Channell captures and embodies the mountain's otherworldly essence that is hidden just beyond the veil and blends it with the love of hearth and home. Despite the fact that the lives of the characters are fraught with hardship, they confront it with courage and strength. Lily Claire and Willie T.'s exploits are entertaining and humorous, capturing the reader's imagination. This bewitching narrative reaches deep into the soul where the longing for family and community resides. This is an incredible story that brought back fond memories of my own childhood. I laughed, loved, and cried through Lily Claire's and Willie T.'s antics. It is an amazing novel and I am so glad that I had the opportunity to read it.

      Lily Claire and Willie T. spend their days exploring the untamed and mystical world of the mountain they live on. What can possibly happen?

-Susan Sewell