Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Voice I'm Hearing by Vicki Lane

Vicki Lane is the author The Day of Small Things and of the Elizabeth Goodweather Appalachian Mysteries which include Signs in the Blood, Art's Blood, Old Wounds, Anthony-nominated In a Dark Season, and Under the Skin. Vicki draws her inspiration from rural western North Carolina where she and her family have lived on a mountainside farm since 1975. Visit Vicki at her daily blog, her website, or on FACEBOOK. .
 
 


















THE VOICE I'M HEARING
BY
VICKI LANE



I have waited most of my life for God Almighty to speak unto to me – to maybe lean out from a dark thundercloud and roar down a mighty command, or to talk in tongues of fire from a bright red maple in the fall, or maybe whisper in my ear on a still and starry night. I have listened and prayed and listened some more but He ain’t spoke, not once. Just now, I think as I lay in my hidey hole near the springhouse and hark to the cruel sound of the whip, the weeping of the women, and the whimper of Aunt Lolie’s babe, just now would be a good time for Him to commence.

***

This is the voice I’m hearing these days – the voice of a mountain girl in Madison County, NC, caught between the various factions during the Civil War – “the Late Unpleasantness” as an aunt used to say. My mountain county was divided – there were few slave owners and many folks wanted no part of either side, North or South. Some enlisted for the Confederacy; some fled to nearby Tennessee where Union troops could be found; many simply stayed home, trying to avoid conscription by either side.

 

My county avoided the big battles. But the war took its toll in other ways and the Shelton Laurel Massacre is still remembered around here.


 

 

It began, according to the histories, in January of 1863, when fifty armed and desperate men from the community of Shelton Laurel (also known as Sodom) entered the county seat of Marshall in search of the essential salt which they, as suspected Unionists, had not been allowed to buy. They ransacked stores and plundered homes -- even pounding up the stairs of Confederate Col. Allen's house to rip blankets from the beds of his sick children.

Retaliation was swift; a few days later a troop of Confederate soldiers made its way to Shelton Laurel in search of the raiders. The result was the Shelton Laurel Massacre, in which 13 men and boys (some as young as 13 and 14; most, if not all, non-participants in the raid) were rounded up and executed. Women, some elderly, were tied to trees and whipped when they would not say where their men were; an infant was laid in the snow in an attempt to force the wretched mother to name the raiders and their hiding places.


Civil war -- brother against brother, neighbor against neighbor. The families of the victims of the massacre knew the killers. And for years, bitter resentment simmered, breaking out now and then in private vengeance. Over a hundred years after the Civil War and the Shelton Laurel Massacre, our county still was known to many as "Bloody Madison.

 

This is the story I’m trying to tell.

 

My journey as a novelist began in 2000 when I took a writing class…. Signs in the Blood, my first Elizabeth Goodweather book, was published in 2005, more followed. With the publication last year of Under the Skin, my sixth novel, I found myself ready for a change of direction and, as well, for a bit of a hiatus . . . an escape from the pressure of a deadline, a time to recharge the batteries.

 

And I wanted to stretch myself a bit – to move away from the murder mystery which, with my amateur sleuth, was becoming a little embarrassing – the dread Jessica Fletcher syndrome – ‘What, she’s found another body?’ 

 

But I wasn’t ready to move from the setting – my beloved mountains. The problem was, as I was recently reminded, in how to find the universal in the local. I think that the Shelton Laurel Massacre is perfect for this, the event that is both the culmination of other events and the catalyst for others yet to come.

 

Just now, in this contentious election season, I find myself marveling at the things that divide us as a nation, wondering how people I personally know to be good and decent people can think so differently about the issues at stake in the election. And I realize that these are the same questions the folks of Madison County had way back then, that the story of a long ago, local tragedy can speak to timeless and universal questions.

 

I’m writing without the safety net of a contract – or the goad of a deadline. And I don’t know when it’ll be finished – or, indeed, if it’ll be published. There are no guarantees. But I believe this is the story I’ve been called to tell.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

22 comments:

Kaye Barley said...

Vicki, Welcome!!! I always love having you here and I was especially interested in knowing what you might be working on right now.

This sounds fascinating and right up your alley. I'm proud of you for listening to that voice.

dleisert said...

Sounds perfect for you. I am confident that I will one day display my own well read copy.

Ms. A said...

Sounds like quite an interesting story to write!

lil Gluckstern said...

War is so painful. I look forward to your next book.

Brian Miller said...

this is very cool...i think this would be a great time period to study and write on...and poignant for where we are as a nation as well....very cool vicki....def look forward to this one...

Martin said...

So, this is what you're up to. I just know that this story will be researched and written with a passion, Vicki. I wish you every success.

KarenB said...

That sounds like a wonderful book in the making with another of your incredibly vivid characters starting it off. Such resonance a story like that can have, down through the years and also illuminating some of our own time. I am looking forward to reading it.

Eileen Reilly Nephin Bish said...

As a student of history and a historical re-enactor of the civil war era...I will be looking forward to your take on this troubled time! May the writing flow smoothly and may the muses be with you....perched on your shoulders if you will!!! All the best!

Vicki Lane said...

I've been thinking about this subject for years now -- but wasn't sure what I could bring to it that was new. The girl will be one of several voices and through various points of view, I'll explore what make good people do terrible things.

Brenda Buchanan said...

I applaud you for taking on this story of loss and pain, and whatever lies on the other side of it.

Those themes are indeed timely in this era of political rhetoric that threatens to divide communities from within.

Your writing is so evocative, your characters so full, I have confidence this book will find a publisher. I will look forward to reading and savoring every sentence.

Brenda Buchanan in Maine

Anonymous said...

This is indeed North Carolina Day! Be sure to join me and pay a tribute to NC's Star Liz Squire today at www.crimewriters.blogspot.com Thelma

Linda@VS said...

I've been hoping you were working on another book, and that first paragraph of your post is enough to let me know I'll want to read this one, too. Looking forward to it!

Wayfarin' Stranger said...

I'm looking forward to it, Vicki. I still haven't made it to Sodom Laurel but maybe I can get that in before your book is published. Jim

Earl Staggs said...

A fascinating and provocative story, Vicki, one that needs to be written, and I can't think of anyone more suited to write it than you. I have no doubt I'll see it in print some day.

NCmountainwoman said...

I love the bits of the girl's voice and thoughts. I've read about the Shelton Laurel massacre and I can't wait for you to get the book finished. And I don't want to hear "IF" it's finished. Having given us a tiny taste, you have made a contract with your faithful readers.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Vicki, I understand exactly what you mean by writing the story you were called to tell. I have a manuscript like that, and it sure doesn't fit neatly into a genre or a trend. They may be a hard sell, but those are the kinds of stories I love to read. I already want to hear more from your North Carolina mountain girl, so I wish you the best of luck.

Thanks for featuring Vicki on your blog, Kaye.

Star said...

Good luck with your new venture Vicki. Don't desert the other characters though. I for one would miss them terribly if they didn't make another appearance.

Victoria said...

I've been wondering if you were writing another book and hoping that you were. When I was reading the excerpt I could hear that girl's voice as clearly as if she were standing next to me.

I think this would be your best work to date and I sure hope it gets published!

Reader Wil said...

Good on you, Vicki! You must never stop writing. You will feel empty if you did. War is always hell. We read daily about Syria and the fact that their president won't give up and retire. But we mustn't interfere, like we did in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Good luck Vicki with your new book!

cmgrob said...

Having come to your writing only recently, I was sad to see that your initial series had come to an end... Your characterizations and area descriptions were my favorites - this story seems to be a perfect venue for exploring those. Thank you for including all of us in your efforts - after a lifetime of other things I find myself drawn back to my old love of writing and see you as an inspiration.

Vicki Lane said...

Thanks for the encouragement, all of you.. I'm excited about this book and hope the voices keep talking to me!

Pat Browning said...

Beautiful post, Vicki.Good luck with your story.
Pat Browning