Witch Dance – Let’s Go Camping!

My new book is inspired by a campground on the Natchez Trace Parkway, just south of Tupelo, Mississippi, called Witch Dance. At the entrance stands a sign which reads:

The very name conjures visions of eerie midnights, swirling black capes and brooms stacked against a nearby tree. The old folks say the witches gathered here to dance and wherever their feet touched the ground the grass withered and died never to grow again. Impossible? Maybe so, but look around. Look for a hidden spot where no grass grows.

The sign and the place bring to mind one of my favorite authors, poet Jack Prelutsky. One of his poems, The Witch, inspires wild imaginations of scary witches. 

She comes by night, in fearsome flight,
In garments black as pitch,
the queen of doom upon her broom,
the wild and wicked witch

Another tale of Witch Dance that I find interesting is the story of a group of Chickasaw Indians who lived on the spot and were massacred by the hostile Creek Indians. Legend has it the Great Spirit turned the soil the color of blood, cursing it for all time. That is why the ground is red in Mississippi.

If you’ve ever read any of my books, you know I always look for the connection between the place, the truth, and the legend.

The result of the above is my book Witch Dance. Here’s the blurb:

Just south of Tupelo, Mississippi on the Natchez Trace lies a place of mystery called Witch Dance.

When Thomas and Margaret Speedwell took their twins to Witch Dance for a weekend camping trip, they never imagined they would be pulled into a vortex of witchcraft, tragedy, and karma. One of the girls goes missing; the other won’t say what happened on the other side of the hill.

The tragedy pulls together a cast of characters from Margaret’s childhood and beyond – Choctaw and Chickasaw Indians, Toltec ancestors, the extinct Hopewell tribe.

With the help of a childhood friend, a concerned newspaper reporter, and visions by a strange old woman, a two-thousand-year-old mystery begins to unfold, uncovering missing children throughout generations. Who is taking them? Could it be the infamous witches of Witch Dance?

Grab a copy at Amazon.

I didn’t mean for it to happen, but sometimes synchronicity takes over. I believe instances of synchronicity are the way you know you’re on the right path. They happen frequently in my life.

The opening chapter of Witch Dance starts August 25, 2018, which is a little easter egg for my family, as August 25th was my mom’s birthday. The story takes place over three weeks (and 2000 years) and ends Sept 15 – Release Day!

Coincidence?

witch dance cover

 

Book Characters

One of the funnest parts of writing is creating characters. I don’t know that anyone remembers every character, but after spending so much time writing, an author will definitely remember all of them for all time.

In the beginning, a writer wonders what they look like? How do they respond to stresses? What makes them do what they do? Sometimes they change looks in the middle of writing the book. My favorite is: What recognizable quirky trait do they have? Do they always run their fingers through their hair? Do they bite their fingernails? Do they laugh awkwardly when they’re nervous? Many of my characters in past books were based on people I know, but it’s also fun creating a person out of thin air!

If my character isn’t someone I know, once I have a pretty firm grasp on how they look, I roam the internet looking for them. If I was casting a moving and everyone in the world could act, I would be the best casting agent ever!

 

witch dance cover

My coming book, Witch Dance, is about a late-thirties couple with two kids. The cast includes the wife’s childhood friend and his grandmother. Also in the story, is the grandmother’s friend.

The secondary story takes place 2000 years earlier with some indigenous tribal people in the same area.

The main focus of the book are witches from the same time period who make an appearance in current times and cause havoc for my late-thirties couple.

 

 

 

 

 

 

margaret speedwell

One of the premises of the book is the late-thirties woman is a doppelganger for one of the 2000-year-old Indians. So, you know she needs to look Native American. That’s pretty easy. Here she is:

 

 

emily and sarah

The problem started when I wrote her children as young blondes before I had a solid idea in my head about momma’s looks, and then my book-cover designer subsequently created the cover above with a blonde girl on it. Well, if momma looks Indian, where did these blondes come from?

 

 

 

Thomas Speedwell

I searched and searched for their lawyer daddy and found him here!

What a good looking family, no?

 

 

 

 

 

 

rich martin

 

Now for the woman’s childhood friend.

He is a newspaper reporter, never married, still lives with his grandmother, and I pictured him in my head as an uber-dork. How about this? Minus the typewriter…or maybe not.

 

 

 

 

grandma ivyHis grandmother is everybody’s favorite grandmother, whose house smells like cornbread and sweet tea. She has the most heartwarming blue eyes. This is Grandma Ivy.

 

 

myrtle

Her friend is named after a lady who lives down the road from me in real life. I’ve never met her, but I drive by her house on occasion and see about one hundred goats in her yard. One day, I mentioned the property with the goats to a friend, who said, “Oh, you must be talking about Myrtle Brooks.” The name stuck with me, and I knew I’d use it in a book someday.

 

 

 

Salina

Finally, I had to find a young Indian girl from 2000 years ago. Here she is:

It was so much fun casting my novel. I don’t know who any of these people are. I just stole their pictures from the Internet. If we ever make my new book into a movie, I’ll have to go back and find out who they are, because they definitely have a job!

I know you’re waiting for some pictures of the witches, but they seem to change shape/age/etc. frequently, so I couldn’t nail them down. Sorry. If we make the movie, they may have to be CGI.

Pick up a copy of Witch Dance and let me know if I nailed it! I’m sure I did!! And let me know if you find a pictures of my witches. 🙂

 

WITCH DANCE IS HERE!

witch dance cover

pre order

amazon-logo_transparent._CB303899249_

 

WITCH DANCE is now available for pre-order at Amazon.

 

If you’d like a sneak peek of the opening chapter of WITCH DANCE, click here.

Please forward this to your friends and family, and watch for my coming television special about Stuckey’s Bridge this October on “America’s Most Terrifying Places” on the Travel Channel!

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Witch Dance Pre-release

I’m so excited about my new book, Witch Dance! It’s in the final stages of editing and will be available for pre-orders very soon. I’ll post the link here as soon as it goes live. The official release date is September 15th and will be available in ebook and paperback at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Create Space, Kobo, Sony, iBooks, and other online retailers. There will also be a blog tour and a Facebook release party, so stay tuned.

 

witch dance coverWitch Dance

Just south of Tupelo, Mississippi on the Natchez Trace lies a place of mystery called Witch Dance.

When Thomas and Margaret Speedwell took their twins to Witch Dance for a weekend camping trip, they never imagined they would be pulled into a vortex of witchcraft, tragedy, and karma. One of the girls goes missing; the other won’t say what happened on the other side of the hill.

The tragedy pulls together a cast of characters from Margaret’s childhood and beyond – Choctaw and Chickasaw Indians, Toltec ancestors, the extinct Hopewell tribe.

With the help of a childhood friend, a concerned newspaper reporter, and visions by a strange old woman, a two thousand year old mystery begins to unfold, uncovering missing children throughout generations. Who is taking them? Could it be the infamous witches of Witch Dance?

 

A to Z – G is for GW Spencer

a2z-h-smallA to Z Blog Challenge

G is for George Washington Spencer

GW was my 3rd great grandfather. He was a Confederate soldier in 1862, but in the 1860 census, he was listed as a school teacher.

He was born in June of 1829 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama to Rev. William Saladin Spencer and Martha Didama Gross. He was the 10th of 11 children, with only 1 girl in the bunch. His father died in 1841 when GW was only 12 years old.

geo wash spencerIn 1858, he married Nancy Virginia “Jenny” Holdcroft in Kemper, Mississippi, and the union produced 7 children, 5 girls and 2 boys. They made their home in Newton County, MS.

There was no organized education at the time, so communities usually gathered money and asked someone to educate their children. GW stepped up to the challenge for a moment.

When the war began, he enlisted 1 Mar 1862 with Co. B 35th MS Infantry. He was sick most of the war due to a leg infection and was medically discharged 10 Jan 1864. The family story is that his wife went by horse and wagon to pick him up from a Confederate hospital.

Following the war, he didn’t go back to teaching. He is listed on census records as a farmer until his death 22 Jul 1901. He is buried with his wife in unmarked graves at Hickory Cemetery in Newton County, Mississippi.

A to Z – F is for WT Fisher

a2z-h-smallA to Z Blog Challenge

F is for WT Fisher

WT stands for William Thomas Fisher. He was my 3rd great grandpa. He was born 5 Jun 1819 in Alabama to Southy Fisher and Elizabeth Butler. It seems he was the only boy with three younger sisters. His sisters were all born in Mississippi quite a while after he was born, so there may have been some unrecorded children who died young in the family.

 

William T. and Ann Eliza (Butler) FisherIn 1846, WT was involved in a shoot out at the Brickyard, which was a mustering point for soldiers in the Mexican-American War. The owner of the Brickyard was a man named Shumate and his wife Muggie. There was a disagreement with WT’s dad, Southy, over the ownership of the Brickyard.

There were many incidences between the men at the Brickyard, but on this particular occasion, the Fisher boys came around armed and ready for a fight. It wouldn’t be a quick fight as each was armed with a Flintlock single-shot weapon that took time to load and fire.

When the Fishers made their presence known, Shumate and Muggie loaded their guns and came out of the house. Shumate had a single gun. Muggie had two.

Muggie was the first to fire and took down Southy. WT shot back and missed. Muggie tossed away her empty gun and fired at WT with her second gun, taking him down. Neither of the Fishers were dead, only injured. Shumate, frightened by the gunfire, dropped his weapon and ran. Muggie grabbed his discarded gun and fired at her coward husband, killing him instantly. This perhaps wasn’t the best move as Southy still had a loaded weapon. He fired at Muggie, killing her before she could reload.

Obviously, the Fisher clan wasn’t one to mess with.

1858 was a year of change. WT was 38 at the time. His mother died 19 April and his father died 24 July. I can’t imagine losing both parents so closely together. His father left everything to him in his will, only leaving the daughters $5 each, but leaving WT the farm, the animals, the numerous slaves, everything.

Shortly after the death of his parents, the family story is that he rode to North Carolina where his family was originally from, and he brought back a bride. Ann Eliza Butler rode back to MS with WT on horseback. She was 15 years his junior. Since his mother’s name was also Butler, I feel they may have been cousins or something, but I haven’t been able to make the connection.

I guess there wasn’t enough help at the farm and shortly after the marriage, WT went to Mobile to buy a slave to help Ann in the kitchen. While he was there, he noticed a small black boy with light patches of skin. He asked the slave traders what they were going to do with the boy, who was about 5 years old. The traders said they would throw him to the sharks on their way back. WT brought the boy home and raised him. The boy’s name was Charlie “Fisher” and he stayed at WT’s side even through the Civil War. Charlie drew a pension from the war until his death in 1928.

At the end of the Civil War, WT not only freed Charlie, but also gave him 80 acres of family land on Fisher Road in Zero, Lauderdale County, Mississippi, where Charlie’s descendants live to this day.

In 1860, before the war began, WT was imprisoned at Mississippi State Prison in Jackson, Mississippi for killing a man named McGinnis in his corn crib. The story is that McGinnis was caught stealing, but the belief is that it was a card game gone wrong and WT caught McGinnis cheating and shot him. WT was forced to sell off a lot of land to pay off the judge and lawyers to try and stay out of jail, but he served time anyway. When the war began, he was release to serve in the Confederate army and joined as a Captain.

During and following the war, WT and Ann had 11 children, 5 girls and 6 boys.

fisher william thomas headstone, callies fatherWT died at the age of 62 on 13 May 1882. He is buried in the family cemetery on Zero Rd.

His wife Ann died in 1910 at the age of 75 and is laid to rest next to her husband.

A to Z – E is for Elizabeth “Elly” Hays

a2z-h-smallA to Z Blog Challenge

E is for Elizabeth “Elly” Hays

Elly was born in North Carolina in 1774 to Nicholas Hays and Ally Steele. It’s been very difficult finding a paper trail of her young years. The first I’ve found is her marriage certificate 20 Dec 1790 to James Rodgers Jr, which is signed by her brother Samuel Hays. This is in Greene, Tennessee. All of the family records bounce back and forth between Tennessee and North Carolina, so I suspect the state border was blurred at that time.

Once she married, the paper trail becomes clearer.

She gave birth to Elizabeth in 1791, Hays in 1793, a female who is listed in James’s will as “my deceased daughter” in 1794, Absolom in 1796, Margaret Peggy in 1797, Susannah in 1799, Harvey in 1800, Martha Ellen “Ellie” in 1801, Polly in 1806, Napoleon Bonapart in 1808, and Andrew Jackson in 1810, and finally, Lavenia in 1819.

clarke-in-alabamaIn 1811, the family, yes, all thirteen of them (Lavenia wasn’t born yet), moved by wagon from Tennessee to Clarke County, Alabama. At the time, Alabama was part of the Mississippi Territory as Alabama did not become a state until 1819. The area was a wild frontier, filled with the Creek Indians who were causing all the mischief and death they could to keep the white man from encroaching on their land. This was also a few months before the War of 1812 began. In the south, the war was between the Americans and the Indians, who were armed by the British.

The family suffered through serious harassment by the Creek Indians. Their livestock was raided and it is reported their home was burned to the ground. This was at the time both of her older sons, Hays and Absolom, were off serving in the Mississippi Militia and were not home to help.

When the boys were discharged in 1818, Elly packed her family and moved west to Lauderdale County, Mississippi, to the land of the gentle Choctaw Indians.

Following her husband’s death in Mississippi in 1826, Elly moved back to Alabama and lived with her eldest daughter, Elizabeth.

An abstract of her husband’s will is as follows:

WILL OF JAMES RODGERS

Copiah County, Mississippi, August 7, 1826 – Page 180

Orphans Court.

In the name of God Amen, I James Rodgers, doth find myself weak and infirm in bodily health, though strong in recollections and understanding doth therefore recommend my soul to God, my body to the Grave and my worldly effects to be deposed as follows–

 To my dearly beloved wife Elly Rodgers

 My oldest daughter Elizabeth Matlock

 My Eldest son Hays Rodgers

 William H. Wilson, the husband of my daughter and deceased, I give $1.00,

 My son Abslum Rodgers

 My daughter Peggy Rodgers

 My daughter Susanah Rodgers

 My daughter Ellie Kirk

 My son Harvey Rodgers

 My daughter Lavina Rodgers

 My daughter Polly Hendricks

 My son Bonapart Rodgers

 My son Jackson Rodgers

Lastly I, constitute and appoint my son Hays Rodgers and John Deaton, Executors.

 

 

Elly died in Grove Hill, Clarke County, Alabama in 1839.

The exact date of her death is unknown. Her burial place is unknown.

Elly is my 5th great grandmother.

41n6zHpRqRLI wrote a book about her called “Elly Hays.”

It’s available at Amazon. Click here.