A Long Time Coming: Clearing the Name of Long-dead “Witches”

In my recent release, The Witch of Roan Mountain, one of the main characters is a ghost. Delphine, a woman accused of witchcraft and hanged, was convicted on very flimsy charges and seeks the help of a living woman to clear her name. Set in the mountains of Western North Carolina, the book is the story of how one doomed love affair is the only thing that saves a contemporary love affair.

Over the centuries, thousands of women were jailed, convicted and executed for witchcraft. The definition of witchcraft varied widely and was often just a way to get rid of an inconvenient or unconventional woman.

If you’ve read Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, a play that focuses on the Salem Witch Trials in 1692, it’s easy to see how flimsy some of the charges were and how many of these persecutions were motivated by elements other than religion. Often they were no more than personal vendettas, a quick way to get rid of a rabble-rouser or homewrecker.

Recently, some jurisdictions have begun clearing the names of women executed for witchcraft.  You can read about that here or here. It fascinates me that hundreds of years later, some people are determined to exonerate women they never knew. I like to think that the women know they’ve been cleared, set free, absolved of the horrible crimes they were executed for committing, that their spirits can finally be free of the shame that must have been overwhelming to bear.

In The Witch of Roan Mountain, I explored the themes of persecution based on personal vendetta and how dangerous it could be if you were an unconventional woman living alone in the wrong place at the wrong time. While I couldn’t find any actual witches in the North Carolina counties I wrote about in these books, there were some witch trials in the eighteenth century, just a little more than sixty years before the Civil War.

The one thing I took away from all the research I did for the book was this:  Any time a society becomes too short-sighted and too intolerant, bad things can happen. Quickly. Even though we’re not persecuting witches these days, the history is still relevant.

I hope you enjoy the book. You can buy it here for $0.99. There’s an excerpt below.

WitchOfRoan

I’d love to talk witchcraft so if you have any comments or discussion items, post them in the comments. I’ll be checking in all day!

Be sure to check out the other authors on the Paranormal Love Wednesday Blog Hop. There are some fantastic ones participating this week. Click here for the list.

Happy Reading, Y’all!

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Maeve decided to start with an easy hike. It had been years since she’d roamed these mountains and the gym work-outs she’d done in Atlanta didn’t even come close to getting her into the shape she was in when she lived here. The Roan Mountain Gardens trail was just what she needed. Easy and quickly rewarding. She tossed her things in the passenger seat of the Volvo and drove down Jane’s Bald Road.

She turned at Carver’s Gap and followed the winding road up toward the gardens. After stopping at the kiosk, paying the usage fee and putting the hang tag on her rear-view mirror, she steered her Volvo sedan into a parking spot. The parking lot was empty. Too early for the fall foliage peak and too late for the summer riot of Rhodendrons, Maeve had the place to herself. She grabbed her water bottle and a small daypack from the trunk and headed toward the paved trail that led to one of the best views anywhere.

Because it was still early, most of the boreal forest leading to the overlook patio was still shrouded in mist. Maeve took her time winding through the moss-covered trees, savoring the rich earthy smell of the soils and the beautiful, vibrant greens of the plants. As she walked, the fog began to lift and disperse, allowing the sun’s light to penetrate through the trees in watery stripes.

She had no idea why she’d stayed away so long.

It was eerie being alone up here. Even though she’d been on this path dozens of times, this was the first time she’d been by herself.

In high school, it had been one of her favorite places. She and Campbell used to come up here and picnic. Kiss. Make love. She smiled at the memory.

Campbell Hyatt. Her first love.

He was still in town. A sheriff’s deputy. Single, no kids. Granny kept up with him and Maeve suspected that the old woman still fostered dreams that Maeve would come to her senses and marry Campbell.

It was too late for that. By a decade.

Campbell would always be a small-town boy. He’d never leave Avery County. The place, with its towering green mountains and ice-cold streams, was as much as part of him as the blood running through his veins.

Maeve got out of the county as soon as she had a chance. Undergraduate degree at Clemson University and then law school at Wake Forest. As soon as she’d graduated, she was off to Atlanta to work for one of the best criminal law firms in the South.

She’d planned to stay with Palmer, Norris, Howard for the rest of her career.

Until she’d let her ethics get in the way.

She had blown a big case. A case she could’ve won, should’ve won. But she just couldn’t compromise her principles.

Now she was back where she started. Avery County, North Carolina. No job, no plan. No direction. But she wouldn’t be here for long. It was too small, too confining.

Maeve took a deep breath and tried, for the thousandth time, to relax. Chill. To not think about the Juris Doctor she’d worked so hard to get only to piss away less than ten years later.

She rounded the corner and the view cleared her mind instantly.

Spreading out in front of her were the green folds of mountains and the crisp tucks of valleys for as far as she could see. Some of the trees, especially the ones high on the ridges, were beginning to turn yellow. Fall was on its way and would light these mountains aflame with color.

She sat down on a bench and pulled her water bottle and a granola bar from her daypack.

Maeve heard the woman before she saw her. A childhood spent in the woods had given her sharp ears. There was no mistaking the soft footsteps on the fallen leaves coming toward the bench as those of a woman.

When she looked up, she was shocked.

Staring back at her was the one woman she ever expected to see.

*****

I’d known that she was coming. I’d felt it in the wind, the trees, the change of the seasons. We were tied together, she and I, and she was the only one who might be able to help me. I’d prayed for her to hurry.

Even dead women pray. Probably more than the living ones.

The woman on the bench was small, tiny. Fragile. More like a teenager than a woman. Long blond hair pulled back off her oval-shaped face. The most remarkable thing about her was the way her blue eyes were as sharp as icicles.

It worried me. I’d waited a long time for her to come home and now, looking at her from behind the trunk of a balsam tree, I wasn’t sure she was going to be able to help me.

She wasn’t like her granny. Where her granny was mostly gristle and vinegar, this girl was cotton and clouds. I was terrified that I’d wasted all my energy to get up here just to find I’d been wrong.

I wasn’t sure she’d even be able to see me. Not at first. It might take her awhile to believe I was real. Well, mostly real.

I eased out so that I was standing on the pathway. She turned immediately. I put all my energy into making myself visible. It felt strange. I’d spent so many years hiding and now I was trying to do the opposite. I bit my lip and concentrated as hard as I could.

Her eyebrows went up.

She saw me.

That fast.

Maybe I was right in waiting for her. She had the gift.

“I’m Delphine,” I said. It took all the energy I had to mutter two words. Back when I’d been alive, I could talk all day without flagging an inch but now it was exhausting.

The woman nodded. “I know who you are.”

“Help,” I muttered. “Need help.”

And then I faded into nothing.

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The Witch of Roan Mountain: Haunting a Mountain Near You Soon

My latest novella, The Witch of Roan Mountain, comes out October 7 and while I try very hard not to have a favorite book. . .

It’s set in the mountains of North Carolina. I am a native of Appalachia and while I’ve been fortunate enough to live and travel all over the world, home is home. I think that’s why this is my favorite book so far. It’s all about rediscovering home, something I did in my mid-thirties that changed my life.

The book is a mixture of historical fiction and contemporary romance and it gave me the opportunity to research interesting things like what my county was like during and immediately following The Civil War. I learned so much about a place my ancestors have called home since they left Scotland in the late 1780s.

I have such a strong connection to the land and the people. I can’t explain how much comfort that gives me.

WitchOfRoanPre-Order Here for only $0.99

Roan Mountain is a real place. It’s one of the most beautiful places in the world and I’m not just saying that because I live here. It really is. Delphine, the witch in the book, is a mashup of several legends and ghost stories with some touches of my own.

roan mountain o

If you ever get the chance to visit, take it. And call or text me so I can meet you at the top. I’m always looking for an excuse to leave the laptop behind and take in the view.

Happy reading and I hope you enjoy the book. It’s on sale for $0.99 during the pre-order. It’s out October 7 so download a copy and be ready for some scares, some heat and some homecoming realizations.

Searching for a Little Paranormal Inspiration

Yesterday was release day for An Officer and A Mermaid. It’s still on sale as of this posting for $0.99 or Free for Kindle Unlimited Subscribers. You can find it here:

http://goo.gl/#analytics/goo.gl/NTpkYR/all_time

Guess what that means? As a full-time writer, it means it’s time for me to get serious about the next manuscript. As part of the Blazing Indie Collective, the same wonderful writers who created the Falling In Deep collection that included An Officer and A Mermaid, I’ll be releasing a witch themed novella in October. Several members of the Paranormal Blog Hop are part of the collection, too. You can read their blogs here:

http://paranormallovewednesdays.blogspot.com

So many great witch stories, so little time.

On Monday, I went with my family to a promising location. Roan Mountain, the second highest peak East of the Mississippi, has lots of ghost stories associated with it. There’s the location of the old Cloudland Hotel, the legend of the singing angles and the story of Jane’s Bald.

When we reached the top, a witch story just plopped into my head. Somewhere between the Cloudland Hotel site and the Enchanted Forest, I had the beginnings of a story quite different from the ones I’ve heard my entire life. It’s going to be historical, spooky and romantic. A little gothic. Yum.

As a writer, it’s easy to get chained to my laptop and ignore the world around me. I’ve spent more hours in yoga pants than is allowable under the law. Sometimes inspiration is OUT THERE.

I’m so glad I went to Roan Mountain. Now, if y’all will excuse me, I have a spooky book to write.

I’ve Been MIA. Again.

I’ve been missing y’all. It’s been a very busy summer. Writing, traveling. Writing. Writing. Mostly writing.

But today is THE DAY!

An Officer and a Mermaid, a novella I wrote as part of the Falling in Deep Collection, is LIVE!

It's Live!

You can buy a copy here:

http://goo.gl/NTpkYR

It’s on sale for $0.99 so get it while it’s at the lower price. I have no idea when it will increase to the regular price of $2.99.

In addition, I’m having a Facebook Party tonight! I have lots of special author guests lined up and we have some fantastic prizes. It’s from 7-10 EDT so please stop by and BRING YOUR FRIENDS!

Here’s the link to the party:

https://www.facebook.com/events/492536270897216/

I hope to see you at the party tonight!

Enjoy An Officer and a Mermaid and please let me know what you think about the book by leaving an honest review.

Hugs,

Blaire

Mermaid Love Blog Hop

Hey y’all,

I’m thrilled to be part of the Paranormal Love Wednesdays Blog Hop. Be sure to check out all the other participating authors here:

http://paranormallovewednesdays.blogspot.com/

It’s FINALLY summer in my little corner of the world and I’m all about mermaids.

My mermaid novella, An Officer and a Mermaid, launches on July 21. It’s part of the Falling In Deep Collection and I can’t wait for y’all to read it along with the fourteen other novellas by award-winning, best-selling authors. I’ve read several of the stories already and they are ROCKING FANTASTIC.

Here’s a short excerpt. If you can’t wait until July for more (which I *really* hope is the case), I’d love to have you on my street team, Blaire’s Belle’s. Once you join, you can read the whole first chapter. Blaire’s Belles get first peeks at covers, excerpts and cool exclusive contests and prizes.  Join us here:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/422523621249428/

And now for a sneak peek at An Officer and a Mermaid

*****

2015, Somewhere in the Caribbean

This was drowning.

He’d always wondered what it felt like.

All those classes, first as a lifeguard and then as a Coast Guard Officer. Hours and hours of facts and figures. Strategies and advice. The bulk of his life spent on or near the water and he’d had no idea.

The training had all been bullshit.

The instinct to breathe was stronger than anything Dylan had ever felt. It was a desperation beyond words. His brain was in overload, the primitive part of it screaming at him to breathe. Demanding oxygen.

He fought the urge because he knew one breath would seal his fate. If it wasn’t sealed already.

Eighty-seven lousy seconds. One minute and twenty-seven seconds. No matter how it was sliced, that’s what the experts said. In eighty-eight seconds, the brain switched to auto-pilot and forced a person to inhale whether it was in the best interest of the attached body or not.

Everything boiled down to less than a minute and a half.

******

If you’d like to read An Officer and A Mermaid, it’s only $0.99 on preroder and it will be sent to your KIndle on July 21, 2015. Here’s the link:

http://goo.gl/YgwiHl

Thanks for checking out the blog hop and I hope you have a mermaid-filled summer!

Where the Heck Have I Been? Your Guess is as Good As Mine . . .

We’ll get back to the story structure blogs soon but I’ve been swamped lately.

I’m on deadline for two totally different projects. And guess what? Both projects have to be submitted to the editors on June 1.

June 2 will be a national holiday. Just kidding. For me, it will be a day in which I read without guilt, eat regular meals and sleep for at least 12 hours. It will be the best day ever.

But I have an exciting break in the middle!

Along with hundreds of other authors, I’ll be at Romantic Times 2015 in Dallas from May 12-17.

I’m bunking with one of my besties who’s also an author, Margo Bond Collins. You should totally google her. She’s fantastic.

I’ll meet with my agent, my editors and lots of old and new friends.

The best part? READERS! I will get to touch base with lots of readers I might not get to meet in person otherwise. So  excited.

If you’re going to be in Dallas stop by and say hello. I’d love to meet you.

Margo and I are planning a scavenger hunt for swag. We’re going to have SO MUCH FUN.

If you can’t make it in person, be sure to follow me on Twitter, @blaireedens. We’ll use the hashtag #RT2015. We’ll post lots of photos of the readers, the writers, the food and the COCKTAILS!

I may even wear my purple cowboy boots AND eyeliner.

See you in The Big D!

Story Structure II: Stirring Up Trouble or The Inciting Incident

This is the second installment of my series on Story Structure. If you missed part I, you can check it out here:

https://blaireedensromance.wordpress.com/2015/04/08/story-structure-i-the-rules-of-baseball-and-the-rules-of-stories/

As soon as you’ve gotten a your slice of life just the way you want it, you need to think about element two:  The Inciting Incident.

Before we dive into the technical stuff, let’s talk about conflict and how it relates to stories. Conflict DRIVES the story. Regardless of genre, you need conflict. Stop for a second and think about conversations you have with friends and family. The vast majority of them have CONFLICT. You just don’t always think about it that way.

Here are some examples from conversations I’ve had recently:

“My boyfriend is so lazy. He won’t even mow the grass!” Conflict: Sister needs lawn mowed. Dude says no. Conflict.

“Little Johnny won’t eat his carrots and I’m tired of forcing him to eat them.” Conflict.

“My car won’t start and I’m late for work.” Conflict.

See what I mean? Conflict is everywhere. In relationships, parenting, even mechanical devices.

So back to The Inciting Incident: It needs to introduce a conflict. It’s the conflict that gets the ball rolling, puts the story in action That doesn’t mean it has to involve hand grenades or avalanches. It can be simple. Inciting incidents are EVEN BETTER when they put two characters at odds with each other because then, you’ve also created TENSION. You don’t want to make everything easy for your characters. Whether it’s the cattle drive in Lonesome Dove or Jamie and Claire getting together for good in Outlander, if everything is easy, you don’t have a story.

Take the first example above, “My boyfriend is so lazy he won’t even mow the grass.” That, as simple and everyday as it sounds, can be an inciting incident. Let me show you how.

*******

Molly O’Shannon leaned on the greasy counter of the Waffle House and took a deep breath. “Earl won’t even mow the grass. It’s nearly waist high. My mother is going to have a heart attack when she sees the way the place looks.”

Tamara stopped wiping the bar and looked at Molly. “Didn’t you promise her you’d keep the place up?”

Molly nodded. She had promised. When her mother had moved in with her Grandmother Sarah, she’d given Molly the opportunity to live in the house on two conditions: pay the utilities and keep the place looking nice. The cottage was perfect. Just the right size, just the right location. Molly loved the house and by not paying rent, she was able to save some money each month.

It had been heaven until she’d caved and let Earl move in. Worst mistake of her life. The power bill doubled so she had to stop paying her neighbor to help her with the grass. She’d bought a used lawnmower and showed it to Earl. So far she hadn’t heard the first sputter of the engine.

She’d been trying to summon the nerve to throw Earl out on his ass for weeks. So far, she’d come up empty.

“I’ve got to get it mowed before she comes to visit this weekend.”

“I’ll bet Henry would do it for you,” Tamara said. A smile curved the corners of her mouth. “He’d do anything for you. You know that.”

Molly shivered involuntarily. Henry. Six feet two inches of raw man. Maybe he was the solution to both problems. The only problem was that she knew he’d demand payment. And not of the financial variety. She shivered again. Maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea after all.

She shook her head and cleared the image of Henry from her mind. His fees were too high. High enough to break a girl’s heart. Molly wasn’t doing that again.

******

Inciting incident: The grass has to be cut. Simple as that. But see how it got the ball rolling? See how it introduced other conflicts that have to be resolved? No hand grenades. No avalanches. Just knee-high grass, a lazy boyfriend and a heartbreaking heartthrob.

Think about some of you favorite movies and books. Identify the inciting incidents and make note of how they spur the story into action.

Questions? Comments? Let me know below.