Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Bringing Witches to Moon Lake Library

  And still of a winter's night they say

When the wind is in the trees . . .

The perfect pre-Halloween gathering: Monday night, October 29th, I read from "The Witches of Moonlight Ridge" to a wonderful audience gathered at the Moon Lake Community Library, on a dark and delightful night in Mentone, Alabama. Thanks so much to library staff and visitors! 

Evy, the beautiful witch of Moonlight Ridge

There she stood right before us, almost close enough to touch. And she was beautiful. She wore a long black skirt and a ruffled cotton blouse. Her black hair was tied with a red ribbon. And she wore one red earring.

"Who are you?" Erskine breathed, sounding like he couldn't find his voice.
There wasn't a sound, except the wind rustling through the dry autumn leaves.

“My name’s Evergreen,” she said. Her voice sounded like music. “Folks calls me Evy.”

Willie T.’s face broke into a wide grin, and he stepped toward the strange girl with his hand stretched out like he was going to touch her to see if she was real.

Willie T. couldn’t take his eyes off the pretty girl, whatever she was: ghost or human, one or the other.
“Do you live around here somewheres?” he asked.

She tipped her head slightly toward the woods and added, “Over on Cat Bluff.”

“Gyaah!” he exclaimed. “Up there with the panthers and the bob cats, and whatever and all? I didn’t know nobody lived up there! You ever seen a panther?” he asked, narrowing his eyes at the strange young woman.

“I seen plenty,” she answered. “They ain’t bother us none. We ain’t bother them.”

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

New Review of "The Witches of Moonlight Ridge"

Thanks so much to the very talented Alabama writer, Mike Burrell, author of  the newly published novel The Land of Grace, for this review. Here's what Mike had to say about The Witches of Moonlight Ridge:

The setting of Moonlight Ridge is a pervading force in this charming novel. It’s a believable setting, filled with loving parents and happy, adventurous children. But it’s also a mysterious land of ruins, a magical forest, witches, sinister lawmen, KKK, monsters, all swirling in history, legends, and myths that its characters can almost reach out and touch.

The timeline of the story is also important in that the tale unfolds back in the 
1950s in a Tom Sawyer/Huckleberry Finn kind of world when parents didn’t hover over their children and think it necessary that every movement of their children be somehow supervised. An example is when the grandmother prepared a picnic lunch for the children and told them to go find the cat, knowing they would be wandering the woods all day. I’m not sure this could happen today, and I can almost hear readers wonder “where are the parents?”

The first-person narrator, Lily Claire, is a young girl. She’s convincing in her narrative and the wonder she finds in the world around her. She is drawn so deftly that at no time does the author intrude on Lily’s story. Her sidekick is her cousin, Willie T. All of the characters are sharply drawn, and the dialogue artfully rendered so as to project regionalism without implying ignorance. My favorite character, and the most complex member of the cast, is Erskine Batson, the garbage man/reluctant school teacher who falls in love with the beautiful witch, Evy. 

A delightful and charming story for the young reader as well as certain seventy-two year old men who enjoy a little magic mixed with memories of a rural childhood.

About - Mike Burrell

Monday, July 23, 2018

The Highwayman of Moor's Gap

Here's how our fourth grade teacher, Erskine Batson, first told us about the Highwayman -  

“This place is full of history,” Erskine told us, shaking his head a little. “Surprising that nobody seems to talk about it.
“As the story goes, Uncle Jasper says there was a famous robber that hid out in these woods. He robbed the stage coach on several occasions, and always got away with it. Rode a beautiful Andalusian horse he’d bought from the Moor, the inn keeper. For years he pestered travelers on this road, stole gold and silver coins and jewelry.
He finally got caught. A troop of soldiers was layin’ for him out here in the woods, one night. Shot him right here, in front of the inn.
“They called him the Highwayman,” Erskine added as he snapped the stem off a dead weed and started scratching the back of his head with it.
“Uncle Jasper says he’d never harmed a soul. Stole a bunch of loot, though. President James Buchanan hisself had put out a warrant for our Highwayman, put a bounty on his head, because of this being an important travel route down through here to the southern shipping ports.”

It seemed to me like Erskine’s tale had finally jogged something loose in my brain. 
“The Highwayman? I’ve heard Papa Jasper sing that song about the Highwayman! It’s a sad song.” 

“Um hm,” Erskine agreed. “He sang that song for me just a few days ago, when I was pickin’ at him for information. It’s a sad tune, all right. But the song was originally copied from a poem written by an Englishman named Alfred Noyes, about a robber highwayman in old England. But it’s so close to the same story that happened here, Uncle Jasper says when he was a boy, everybody thought the song was written about the Moor’s Gap highwayman. The poem, too. A strange case of coincidence. King George’s army killed the highwayman in England, and it was the local militia killed our highwayman here on Moor’s Gap Road. Shot him dead, with his sweetheart lookin’ on.”

Erskine sighed and turned to face me and my cousin.

“The moral of the story is, crime doesn’t pay,” he concluded.

The Witches of Moonlight Ridge

Friday, June 22, 2018

Ah minna hoe!

"Ah minna hoe! Ah minna hoe!" 

Can you translate these mysterious words into everyday English? When you read  Sweet Music on Moonlight Ridge, you'll know just what it means! 

Then, to continue the adventures and revelations, read The Witches of Moonlight Ridge, and find out how the legend and tragedy of Alfred Noyes' poem, "The Highwayman," is linked to the 1950s Alabama backwoods.

You may also meet the three weird sisters who are rumored to haunt the mysterious place called Cat Bluff, situated high above Moonlight Ridge and the pleasant town called Eden.

And what about that dog?

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

On the Trail of Treasures and Secrets from the Past

The first day of May in Montgomery, Alabama was such a beautiful day for me and my personal chauffeur, Susan Hoke Cleveland! We visited the Alabama State Archives for a day of research and a bit of sight-seeing. The Archives building and the research library are wonderful places to visit. 

The Alabama Department of Archives and History was established on February 27, 1901. According to the enabling legislation, one of the purposes of the department was " The collection of materials bearing upon the history of the state and of the territory therein from the earliest times." 

Here I am with a bust of one of my heroes, George Washington Carver. George Washington Carver was an American botanist and inventor,  one of the most prominent scientists and inventors of his time, as well as a teacher at the Tuskegee Institute.

And here I am with Booker T. Washington. Booker Taliaferro Washington was an American educator, author, orator, and advisor to presidents of the United States between 1890 and 1915.

In one of the meeting rooms, Susan and I discovered a beautiful quilt collection. 
This quilt is called "Feathers and Flowers." 

My purpose for visiting the archives was to do research for the book I'm currently working on, historical fiction based on events taking place in Birmingham in the early years of the 20th century. The beautiful, indomitable, and intrepid protagonist of this novel is my always kind, always fun-loving, adventurous grandmother, born in 1890, who was instrumental in shaping my views on justice, fairness, good times, and good literature! 

My grandmother, Dovie Mullins Satterfield.

Check back for news and updates as the plot thickens.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Quotes from Quotable Folks


Image result for cassandra king

             “Some might say we lose ourselves in a good book. In truth, we find ourselves."         — Cassandra King


Image result for Somerset Maugham


Emmet Fox

“There is no difficulty that enough love will not conquer: no disease that love will not heal: no door that enough love will not open...It makes no difference how deep set the trouble: how hopeless the outlook: how muddled the tangle: how great the mistake. A sufficient realization of love will dissolve it all. If only you could love enough you would be the happiest and most powerful being in the world...” 
— Dr. Emmet Fox


Image result for robert mccammon

“We all start out knowing magic. We are born with whirlwinds, forest fires, and comets inside us. We are born able to sing to birds and read the clouds and see our destiny in grains of sand. But then we get the magic educated right out of our souls.” - Robert McCammon


Image result for w Somerset maugham

“If you'd ever had a grown-up daughter you'd know that by comparison a bucking steer is easy to manage. And as to knowing what goes on inside her - well, it's much better to pretend you're the simple, innocent old fool she almost certainly takes you for.”                        - W. Somerset Maugham


Related image

Image result for Nora Ephron quotes "Above all, be the heroine"

— Nora Ephron


"You can never be wise and be in love at the same time." — Bob Dylan


Ivan Doig

"Childhood is the one story that stands by itself in every soul."   Ivan Doig


"I've found that a song can be more effective than a 400-page textbook."
- Buffy Sainte-Marie


Image result for Dennis Covington quotes

"Mystery is not the absence of meaning, but the presence of more meaning than we can comprehend."   Dennis Covington 


To share your favorite quotable quote, leave a comment below.

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