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 for the pre-release price of only $0.99 until the release date, Sept 15.

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 (It’s on pre-order until release date 9/15 for only $0.99) 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. 🙂

 

Awards and such

Occasionally, I write blogs about a coming book or an historical character I’ve been bringing to life. I guess I’m always in the moment or in the future. I seldom take time to reflect upon the past.

As I was moving items from my old computer to my new computer, I was glancing through some old folders on my desktop, and I realized I usually don’t brag about milestones or awards.

Let’s change that!

**Brag mode: On**

oc awardMy very first book was Okatibbee Creek. It’s the story of a woman who survived the Civil War, though dozens around her perished, either through illness or war. In 2013, the story won the Bronze Medal in Literary Fiction at the eLit Book Awards. It also received Honorable Mention in Regional Literature at the Great Midwest Book Festival.

 

book-contest-semi-finalistAlso in 2013, my book Elly Hays received Honorable Mention in General Fiction at the Great Midwest Book Festival, and the cover (my design!) placed as a semi-finalist at Authors dB Book Cover Contest. In 2014, it was named as one of the 50 Indie Books Worth Reading at Indie Author Land.

 

 

Web-Seal-Hoffer-Award-FinalistOne of the best awards also came in 2014. My book An Orphan’s Heart was a finalist in the Eric Hoffer Awards! I was so happy about that one, even though the story didn’t go on to win the top prize.

 

 

 

 

stuckey_s BridgeThe best is yet to come. It’s not an award, but it’s definitely cool. My book The Legend of Stuckey’s Bridge will be featured on the Travel Channel in October on a show called America’s Most Terrifying Places. I’m super excited about that!!

**Brag Mode: Off**

 

 

 

 

 

 

witch dance cover smallOkay, back to the present.

I’m currently in final draft for my coming book Witch Dance. It will be available for pre-order August 1st, and the official release date is September 15th. Sometime between now and then, I’ll get organized with a Blog Tour and a Facebook Release Party. More details as I get them together.

Thanks for indulging me in this nostalgic journey. I guess it’s good to step out of the present and look back with gratitude at how awesome life really is.

If you’d like to check out any of those books, click on Lori’s Books at the top of this page to find out more or pop over to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or iBooks. Okatibbee Creek is also available on audiobook at Audible.

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Lori Crane is a bestselling author of historical fiction and the occasional thriller. Her books have climbed to the Kindle Top 100 lists many times, including “Elly Hays” which debuted at #1 in Native American stories. She has also enjoyed a place among her peers in the Top 100 historical fiction authors on Amazon, climbing to #23. She resides in greater Nashville and is a professional musician by night – an indie author by day. 

Self-realization Meets Fiction

Soooo, I’m going on a personal level here that makes me super uncomfortable. But, what do they say? Truth is better than fiction?

download

I’m working on a book where my married heroine is debating having an affair with a man she knew from her childhood. The angel on my shoulder doesn’t want her to do it, because I want her to be an upstanding woman with deep integrity who puts her husband and family first.

The devil on my other shoulder thinks it will make a great side story to an all ready intense book.

cartoon_devil.gif

 

So, I dug deep in my gut and examined my own standards to make the decision.

I’ve always said I wouldn’t consider an affair because I would never put my husband in an embarrassing situation. I have far too much respect for him to ever purposefully do that. But this morning, I had a revelation! I not only think and feel that for HIM – I have my own personal reasons for ME!

I come from an abusive past and find it hard to let people close to me. This includes men. I can’t open that door to trust and intimacy without a lot of emotional pushing and pulling. And that is definitely not a one-night fling sort of process.

Back to my heroine. If she feels like I do (and they always do, don’t they?), she wouldn’t have the affair, because she couldn’t be intimate with someone without first trusting them. Since the man knows she’s married, the relationship would be built on dishonesty. That’s a rocky start. The affair would go nowhere and the friendship would certainly end badly. My poor heroine. I don’t want that for her with all the rest of the crap going on in this story. Maybe we’ll stick with sexual tension and not let it progress farther. Let’s see if my personal beliefs come out in this story. If they do, you’ll know the truth about their origin. Shhh. Don’t tell anyone.

angel_and_devil_on_shoulder-t2

Of course, these characters always have minds of their own, so we may find her in a moment of weakness.

We’ll see what happens….

 

The Backstory of “An Orphan’s Heart”

I wrote the wrong book!

My idea was to write about the wild adventures of a young woman traveling alone across the deep south in the late 1800s. Imaging steam trains and covered wagons crossing the “wild west,” encountering gentlemen who were not always gentlemen, accommodations that were less than luxurious, and money non-existent following the Civil War. Now, place a young girl fighting for survival in this rough and tumble world. That’s what I wanted to write.

Didn’t happen!

I ended up writing an emotionally deep love story that made people cry. It wasn’t the story I set out to write. When I finished it and sent it to my editor, I told her I wasn’t happy with it, but it just sort of wrote itself, and I wasn’t sure what to do with it. When she returned the manuscript to me, she said, “I think you’re a lot closer than you think. It’s a beautiful story.” After living with it for a few months, I decided to leave it alone, allowing it to be what it was, and ended up with 92% of the Amazon reviews being three, four, and five stars. It just goes to show you, you never know what the public is going to like.

51w5TKRgkCL._UY250_An Orphan’s Heart is about a young girl from Mississippi who at the age of nine lost her parents to typhoid, during the Civil War. She was subsequently shuffled from family member to family member through her teenage years, ending up in Alabama. When she became a young women, she traveled to see her brother in Texas and fell in love with a young man there. The love doesn’t last long…you’ll have to read the book.

The heroine is a real person. She is my cousin, Martha Ellen Rodgers, simply known as Ellen. She was raised by her aunt Mary (my 3rd great grandmother). I’ve taken the family events, census records, newspapers, train schedules, cover wagon trails, and social events and weaved them into a story of love – NOT a story of adventure, darn it. She was a very brave young woman, surviving things we can only read about.

An Orphan’s Heart is on sale for $0.99 on Kindle at Amazon through March 22. If you like a tear-jerky (is that a word?) tale about a different time and place, give it a try.

Saturday Snippet and Sale

51-lUHhsD7L._UY250_Okatibbee Creek (pronounced oh-kuh-TIB-be) is the story of Mary Ann Rodgers Carpenter Jolly and her trials and tribulations in Mississippi during the Civil War. As her brothers and husband went off to war, a deadly typhoid epidemic swept through the county and decimated what was left of her family. Following the loss of so many loved ones, including both parents, she took in her orphaned nieces and nephews and focused on survival. When the war finally ended, she had to pick up the pieces of her shattered life and begin anew. But how?

Okatibbee Creek is a real place. The characters are real. The events are real. The book will leave you crying and cheering. It is written in first person, present tense, diary-style, allowing you to see inside of Mary Ann’s heart and experience every emotion she felt.

The Kindle version of Okatibbee Creek is on sale at Amazon March 4-8 for only $0.99!

The following is a snippet of the scene when Mary Ann received word that her husband had been killed in the war.

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When I reach the bottom of the stairs, I see him. I do not recognize his face, but I recognize his clothing. He is a Confederate soldier. He is standing in the open doorway of the store with the gray, cloudy sky at his back. He is dressed in a wrinkled gray uniform with a dirty yellow cummerbund. His trousers have holes in them, with mud caked around the bottoms of his pant legs. His jacket is missing some buttons, and he looks quite thin and weary. He is wearing shoes that are covered in red Mississippi mud and probably have no soles on the bottom. He is holding his tattered hat and a piece of paper in his dirty hands.

“Hello, sir, what can I do for you?” I ask as I approach.

“Hello, ma’am.” He nods. “Are you Mrs. Carpenter?”

“Yes, I am. And who are you, may I ask?”

“Private Joseph Brown, ma’am. Captain asked me to deliver the latest casualty list to you in person.” He holds the folded piece of paper toward me and looks down at the floor, like a child in trouble for doing something wrong.

“Why are you delivering this? It usually comes by a mail carrier,” I ask as I reach for the paper. I look at the boy’s face. He nervously avoids my eyes and keeps staring at the floor.

“Why are you delivering this to me?” I repeat.

“I promised I would. I’m sorry, ma’am. Goodbye, ma’am,” he murmurs, and backs out the open door.

I look at the piece of paper in my hand for a long time, wondering if I can open it. I don’t know whose names are on this paper, but I suspect the worst, and I don’t want to read it. My eyes sting with tears as I dread a simple piece of paper. I try to unfold it, but my hands are shaking, so I stop and hold it to my chest. I take a deep breath.

Martha Jane stands behind me, not saying a word or making a sound.

“Martha Jane, will you please go upstairs and mind the children for a few minutes?” I ask her.

She nods and quietly heads up the stairs.

I walk outside across the wooden porch and down the two stone steps onto the ground. I walk across the dirt road that is now filled with puddles of red mud from the rain. I keep walking straight ahead. I walk into the overgrown field across the road. I walk with purpose, with determination, like I have somewhere important to go. I want to run. I want to run away and never come back. I keep walking.

In the middle of the field, the thunder sounds above my head. I stop and look up at the ominous clouds that are almost as threatening as the piece of paper I hold in my hand. My hands are shaking as I slowly unfold it and smooth it open. My stomach feels like it has a hole in it. My eyes fill with tears. My hands are now trembling so violently, I almost can’t read it. The name at the top is the only name I see.

“Carpenter, Rice Benjamin: killed in battle 31 December, 41st Mississippi Infantry, Co C.”

Drops of water fall onto the page, but I can’t tell if they are raindrops or teardrops. Even God Himself is crying.

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Rodgers, Mary Ann Rodgers Carpenter JollyOkatibbee Creek is available March 4-8 for only $0.99 in Kindle at Amazon. Paperback and audiobook are also available. It is the first of three Okatibbee Creek Series books, but they are stand-alone stories. The second is An Orphan’s Heart. The third is Elly Hays.

Okatibbee Creek was the bronze medal winner of the 2013 eLit Book Awards in literary fiction. It also received honorable mention in the 2013 Great Midwest Book Festival for regional fiction and was a nominee in the 2013 Global eBook Awards for historical fiction. It was also awarded Five-Stars at Readers’ Favorite.

Saturday Snippet – Catherine Culpepper

The following is a rough draft of my current work-in-progress, The Culpepper-Fairfax Scandal. Catherine Culpepper is nineteen years old, and her rich father, Lord Thomas Culpepper the baron of Thoresway, has just died. For two decades, he had been living in London with his mistress and had left everything to the mistress in his will, but Catherine’s mother had the will suppressed. This scene takes place at the probate hearing at Westminster.  Thanks to her mother, Margaretta, and her uncle Alex, Catherine inherited nearly everything.

We’ll make due with a painting of Catherine until I can get a proper book cover made. 🙂

LadyCatherine

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When the proceedings ended in Catherine’s favor, Margaretta and Alex attempted to whisk Catherine from the courtroom, but they were met at the door by a crowd of enthusiastic well-wishers and more than a few gentlemen of questionable intentions. Catherine had just inherited more wealth than she could ever dream of. Not only was she now the sole owner of Leeds Castle, she also held manors and lands in Sussex and Essex, and was one-sixth owner of the proprietorship of the Virginia Colony. The crowd’s din grew as they attempted to get closer to the wealthy heiress. Pushing and shoving toward her, people reached out to touch her, to take her hand, to gain her attention and her favor. When the family emerged from Westminster, Alex hailed their coach, but when he turned back for Margaretta and Catherine, they had been separated from him by a sea of bodies. Margaretta reached for her daughter’s hand to pull her through the crowd, but their fingers were inches away from each other’s as Catherine was pushed back by the crowd, away from the protection of her mother and their waiting carriage.

“Catherine!” Margaretta called.

Catherine heard her mother’s call but couldn’t see her over the heads of the people surrounding her. She attempted to turn, but a growing throng of people blocked her way. Someone was standing on the hem of her gown, stifling her movement, lest she rip her skirts. Her mother called for her a second time. Her heart began pounding as she heard the panic in her mother’s voice and suddenly realized she might be in a dangerous situation. The crowd was growing riotous, pulling at Catherine’s clothing and her hair. Her honey-colored curls fell to her shoulders as her hairpin was snatched from her head, taking with it a handful of hair. She cried out for her mother, for her uncle, for anyone to save her from the melee. It was then that she felt a strong arm around her waist and another under the back of her legs.

“I’ve got you,” he whispered in her ear.

She was scooped into the arms of a savior. She buried her face into his shoulder as he pushed his way through the crowd toward the waiting carriage. When she was gently placed onto the seat in the carriage, she smoothed her hair from her face and lifted her eyes to look at her uncle. But her savior wasn’t Uncle Alex.

Before her stood a striking man whose brown eyes bore into her own, his dark curls falling over his brow, his full lips begging to be touched. Their eyes locked as if time stood still. He then nodded to her and quickly closed the carriage door, disappearing into the crowd.

Uncle Alex yelled for the driver to make haste, and the carriage sped away from the scene, the wheels bouncing on the rough cobblestone street.