Appalachian Thursday – A Tour of Beverly, WV

The first copies of The Right Kind of Fool starting hitting mailboxes this week! If you have yet to get your copy, I thought you might like a tour of the story’s setting while you wait!

The first photo is downtown Beverly and all of those buildings were there in 1934 when Loyal and Rebecca walked along the street. The bank is on the corner and there’s the store where Loyal admired a window display.

The Randolph County Jail had moved to Elkins by 1934, but I put Sheriff Virgil White’s office in the old building.

The Odd Fellows Hall shows up several times and Creed makes the obvious joke about being odd enough without joining a club to prove it.

The downtown square is the scene of a pageant reenacting the Civil War Battle of Rich Mountain–the thing the town is probably most famous for.

It’s SO much fun walking around inside the settings for my stories. I’m now totally hooked on writing stories in REAL places I can visit. And maybe you can, too!

Have you ever visited West Virginia? Tell me where you’ve been and maybe I’ll set a story there!

Appalachian Thursday – A Tour of Beverly, WV

The first copies of The Right Kind of Fool starting hitting mailboxes this week! If you have yet to get your copy, I thought you might like a tour of the story’s setting while you wait!

The first photo is downtown Beverly and all of those buildings were there in 1934 when Loyal and Rebecca walked along the street. The bank is on the corner and there’s the store where Loyal admired a window display.

The Randolph County Jail had moved to Elkins by 1934, but I put Sheriff Virgil White’s office in the old building.

The Odd Fellows Hall shows up several times and Creed makes the obvious joke about being odd enough without joining a club to prove it.

The downtown square is the scene of a pageant reenacting the Civil War Battle of Rich Mountain–the thing the town is probably most famous for.

It’s SO much fun walking around inside the settings for my stories. I’m now totally hooked on writing stories in REAL places I can visit. And maybe you can, too!

Have you ever visited West Virginia? Tell me where you’ve been and maybe I’ll set a story there!

A Visit Home

Last week I traveled to the family farm in WV. While there I attended a one-day writers’ conference, celebrated my baby brother’s birthday, enjoyed some good family time, and researched my 2021 novel (more about that later!).

It’s always good to go home–especially in October when the mountains are drop-dead gorgeous. Although I live in NC now, I always think of the farm as “home.” Regardless of where you now live–where’s “home” for you?

Guest Post on AppalachianHistory.net

Today I’m sending you off to check out my guest post on Dave Tabler’s Appalachian History site. Throughout the month of October, he’s hosting a fun, spooky series of post all about Appalachia and I’m delighted to be participating.

Dave created this awesome graphic for an Appalachian superstition related to black cats crossing roads. Click through to learn more!

Dave’s site is a gold mind of story ideas about my favorite mountains. Sometimes I get on there, choose a topic to search, and follow the stream-of-consciousness path that unfolds. Oh–the stories I want to write!

Read my post, yes, but then take some time to just poke around. You’re going to find all kinds of interesting tidbits! I promise!

Appalachian Thursday – Where Are You From?

When people ask me where in West Virginia I’m from, it’s a bit of a dance. I generally say, “French Creek.” Then, when they give me a blank look, I say, “the nearest town is Buckhannon.”

Mom and me failing at taking a selfie
on Main Street in Buckhannon, WV.

Rarely, does a light bulb switch on. Then I add, “the nearest towns anyone has heard of are Clarksburg . . .” no glimmer. “Fairmont . . .” nothing. “Well, Morgantown is an hour to the north.” Ah-ha. People have heard of West Virginia University.

So, my hometown is hard to find on a map. (It’s hard to find while driving on Rte. 20 in a car, but that’s not the point.) The thing is, there are much harder places to find with MUCH stranger names.

Places like:

  • Onego – Near Seneca Rocks in the eastern panhandle of the state, this town’s name is often mistaken for something Native American. Nope. It’s One – go. Apparently there was a narrow road where only one wagon could go through at a time.
  • Mountain – This town is near Spruce Knob (the highest point in the state). Originally, it was called Mole Hill. But the residents decided to make a mountain out of a mole hill. Literally.
  • Paw Paw – So far east it’s almost in Maryland, this town is named for the Paw Paw fruit native to WV. And yes, there’s a Paw Paw High School.
  • Hundred – I love this one. It’s named for settlers Henry Church and his wife. So why isn’t it called Church or Henryville? Because he lived to be 109 and she lived to be 106. Now that’s worth naming a town after!
  • Pie – This town is near the Kentucky border and was allegedly named by the post master who liked . . . pie.
  • Odd – To wrap up this list we have a town in the southern part of the state near I-77. Rumor is the townspeople chose that name because they wanted something . . . unusual.

Gotta love the mountain state!

An Election Day Launch

There’s this thing in the publishing industry whereby books almost always release on Tuesdays. There are multiple theories as to why this is including:

  • Tuesday is a slow sales day and needs the boost of new releases.
  • The NY Times bestseller list is based on sales from Tuesday to Monday (hmmm, I sense a chicken or the egg question here).
  • If a book released on Tuesday is selling well, stores can order more before the weekend.

Throw into all of that the fact that books often show up in stores BEFORE the official release date and it’s enough to make an author’s head spin when it comes to deciding when to launch a new book.

And then, there are those of us lucky enough to have books releasing on election day 2020. Boy howdy. Talk about throwing a wrench in the plan!

So what’s an author to do? Well, this author is celebrating the launch well AFTER the election with a special Zoom event. Especially since this year’s election promises to drag on beyond the morning after! Here’s hoping things will have either died down or book lovers will be ready for something different by November 19.

Sign up for this free event with limited attendance TODAY!

Appalachian Thursday – Still Time to Vote

Next week we’ll get back to fun stories and information about Appalachia. This week, I’m reminding you that you can continue voting for me for Best Author in the Best of West Virginia poll through October 11 (you can vote daily). THANK YOU to everyone who’s already been voting and for everyone else? Here’s hoping you can spare a few minutes to chime in.

P.S. Vote for my friend Dale Hawkins for Best Chef. Because he IS!

Booklist Starred Review!

Have I mentioned that the hero of my new story is deaf? Loyal Raines is a 13-year-old growing up in 1930s Beverly, WV. And he’s deaf. He attends the WV School for the Deaf and uses sign language but I’m betting there wouldn’t have been too many people around back then who knew ASL.

I really enjoyed working sign language into the story. My second grade teacher taught us some–I can still sign the alphabet and every time “Do You Hear What I Hear” comes on during the holidays I want to sign “shepherd boy,” along with it.

Writing the story also made me much more aware of the challenges the deaf community faces. Loyal can read lips, but not everyone’s lips are easy to read. Facial hair gets in the way. People put their hands over their mouths or turn away when speaking. Slowing down and carefully enunciating things can actually make it harder to read lips. Plus, it requires a level of concentration and focus that’s tiring.

So having worked all that into the story, I was beyond delighted when I saw an early review from Kate Campos at Booklist. First of all, she gave the book a starred review (!!). Second, she used the word “brilliantly” which has earned me points around the house. But most of all, she celebrates my deaf hero and the use of sign language in the story.

So, with a nod to September being Deaf Awareness Month, here’s a snippet from the review:

“Thomas returns with an uplifting novel that strikes all the high points of redemptive love and coming of age within an historical murder mystery. Set in West Virginia during the Great Depression, this father-son tale affirms the challenges facing the deaf community. Thomas brilliantly incorporates the use of sign language throughout the novel and infuses sparkling energy in her depiction of her characters’ growing understanding. She writes with compassion and honesty as she appraises the gifts of hearing and of being heard, and offers a fresh look at the nuances and the importance of emotional intelligence.”

As Sheriff Virgil White might say, “That dog will hunt!”

Appalachian Thursday – Favorite WV Authors

On Monday I shamelessly asked you all to vote for me to be named Best WV Author for 2020. And while I really crave that title, I’m pretty aware that I’m NOT the best WV author. So who is? Well, there are quite a few to choose from. Check out the following and you choose (except I still want you to vote for me!).

  • Chris Fabry – I love Chris’ stories and the fact that he’s a WV native is just the icing on the cake. I like so many of his, but a recent favorite is The Promise of Jesse Woods.
  • Denise Giardina – Denise was Best WV Author in 2019. She grew up in a coal camp and her best known work is likely Storming Heaven about the battle of Blair Mountain.
  • Heather Gilbert – Heather lives in southern WV and writes Viking fiction and cozy mysteries with a sense of humor. Check out her clever Barks and Beans Cafe Mystery Series.
  • Patricia Harman – I got to meet Patricia at the WV Book Festival a few years ago. A midwife in real life, you know her stories about midwives will ring true! Start with The Midwife of Hope River.
  • Jeanette Walls – Her 2006 award-winning memoir The Glass Castle has sold over a million copies and shares the details of her often erratic upbringing in Welch, WV, (I dare you to find it on a map.)
  • Roseanna White – Roseanna writes mostly historical Christian romance and there are LOTS of good stories from which to choose! I especially like the Codebreakers starting with The Number of Love.

There are plenty of others–Pearl S. Buck, Jayne Ann Phillips, Homer Hickam, Ann Pancake, Stephen Coonts, and Craig Johnson (of Longmire fame). But we’ll leave the list here for now. And best or not, vote for ME!

Who’s your favorite author from YOUR home state?

Vote for me in 2020!

It’s election season and I know we’re all tired of being told who we ought to vote for. But maybe in this instance, voting can be nothing but fun!

I’ve been nominated in WV Living magazine’s Best Of series for 2020. Yup, I have the chance to be voted Best WV Author! And, let’s be honest, I unashamedly WANT this title. President? Yeah, that’s important. Governor, senator, mayor–yeah, yeah, choose wisely.

But while you’re pondering who to vote for (and how to do it!) here’s an EASY one for you. Vote for me to be named Best WV Author. My platform is simple–I promise to keep writing books that celebrate West Virginia. And I promise to be over-the-top excited if I win. PLUS–you can vote more than once and do it online. Now who doesn’t want THAT chance in 2020?

There. That’s my campaign speech. I’m pretty sure I won’t actually have any power to affect your daily life but you’ll make my year!

Here’s the scoop: WV Living magazine is highlighting the best people, places, and things that West Virginia has to offer. You can vote from September 21-October 11. Vote by clicking the categories and selecting your favorites from the final ballot. You can vote once per day per category. The winners will be announced in the winter issue of WV Living magazine.

Thank you for your vote.

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