Category Archives: Celtic culture

Like a waterfall


I’m in the Zone, folks. It’s finally come together. I’ve achieved cruising speed on my latest wip, as ideas, dialogue, and action are flowing onto the laptop like a waterfall. My characters and I are finally on speaking terms, even to the point where they nudge me to point out what I need to have them say and do next. Man, what a feeling. This is what writers live for.

Gone are the gruesome hours of agonizing over the major plot points. You know what it’s like: The protag can’t do that. He wouldn’t react that way. And why the hell would our villain do that? She’s not stupid.

And so on. I’m almost in that other-worldly state you see in movies about painters, song-writers, and authors where they’re possessed by their muse, and their wip just flows out of them in a burst of feverish activity. That’s not the way it really works, but you get the idea. Rent Moulin Rouge ( the one with José Ferrer, not Tom Cruise’s first ex) to see what I mean. Great movie. Lousy role model for writers.

Anyway, my latest wip is about Appalachian folk magic in an urban setting. So far, it’s been a blast. Here’s the list of books I’ve read or re-read as background:

Cracker Culture Grady McWhiney
Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America David Hackett Fischer
At Home in Dogwood Mudhole Franklin Sanders
Grammatical Man Jeremy Campbell
The Story of North Carolina Dr. Alex Arnett
The Other Irish Karen F. McCarthy
Our Father’s Fields James Kibler
The Making of a Cop Harvey Rachlin
A History of the South Francis Simkins & Charles Roland

And last but certainly not least:

The Golden Bough Sir James George Frazer

Underlying all this research is a bit of family history you probably wouldn’t believe, but which I’ll discuss fully once the book is out. Then there are my excursions into Charlotte’s extensive creek walks at weird hours. One thing that’s always fascinated me is how familiar things transform come nightfall. More on that later.

Further updates to follow. Right now, it’s time for bed. Yes, it’s been that intense.

David Holt’s State of Music

Frank Stasio of North Carolina public radio interviews David Holt about his upcoming special on the music of western North Carolina. There’s a great slide show accompanying the interview you don’t want to miss.

And don’t forget: David Holt’s State of Music premieres Thursday, January 29. It promises to be a wonderful introduction to mountain music.

Celtic Influence in the South


Fiona Ritchie, founder, producer, and host of NPR’s award winning The Thistle & Shamrock Celtic music program signs copies of her book, Wayfaring Strangers:  The Musical Voyage from Scotland and Ulster to Appalachia.

I am a long-time fan of Fiona’s show ( and have fallen in love with her honey-like burr!). Thistle and Shamrock is a tradition at our house on summer evenings, when we lounge on the back porch with the radio tuned to her weekly presentations of Celtic music. There’s usually something smoking on the grill as we listen.

So my wife and I attended the Charlotte Folk Society’s program last night featuring Fiona with her Wayfaring Strangers co-author Doug Orr. The two provided background on the Celtic roots of Southern music, and the musical duo Little Windows (Julee Glaub and Mark Weems) performed the songs. It was a wonderful evening, and I was glad to stuff a five into the hat when it came my way.