July 2022 – HISTORY OF THE SMOKIES

“It is good and right that we should conserve these mountain heights of the old frontier for the benefit of the American people.”   – F. D. Roosevelt

On September 2, 1940, Franklin D. Roosevelt stood at Newfound Gap, with a foot on each side of the Tennessee and North Carolina State line, and dedicated the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  A tremendous amount of vision, work, time, money, and dedication was needed to make this dream a reality. Before the Smoky Mountains could become a national park, many men and women worked with tireless zeal and vision, often playing out unknown and unsung parts to make the mountains what we know and love today.

Although the Smoky Mountains were first settled in the 1700s, the idea to create a national park didn’t begin until the late 1890s when a few farsighted people began to push to create a park in this area like those that had been created out west. The original idea for a park came from Ann Davis, a wealthy Knoxville woman who had visited parks in the west and returned asking why we couldn’t have a national park in the Smokies, too.

The drive to create a park grew in the 1920s, and most of the early supporters lived in Knoxville, Tennessee, and Asheville, North Carolina. Competitive at first, the two groups later joined ranks and began pulling together for the park to be located between the two cities. In May of 1926 a bill was signed into law by President Calvin Coolidge to provide for the establishment of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This bill allowed the Department of the Interior to assume responsibility for administration and protection of a park in the Smokies as soon as 150,000 acres of land had been purchased of the 520,000 acres of selected parkland.

That’s when things got really interesting. Since the government was not allowed to buy land for national park use, the former political boosters had to become fund raisers. Money was appropriated by the TN and NC legislatures but the rest was raised by the people and through private donations. The next challenge was attaining the land. Unlike earlier parks created in the west on vast tracts of lands already owned by the government, these eastern lands in Tennessee and western North Carolina were privately owned. Eighty-five percent of the land was owned by logging companies and the other 15% by farmers, individuals, and businesses – none of whom felt eager to relinquish their property. However, the lands were finally purchased and in 1934 the deeds for all the parklands were transferred to the federal government, who formally established the Great Smoky Mountains as a national park on June 15, 1934.  Much of the building of the park’s bridges, and structures were done by the CCCs in the 1930s and early 1940s.  And in September, 1940, the park was formally dedicated at Newfound Gap by President Franklin Roosevelt.

Even before the park became a reality, early settlers were helping to make the mountains known – literally by first coming here. Perhaps you, like myself, can trace your ancestry back to some of the first settlers to Tennessee or North Carolina and maybe back to some of the first settlers to the Smoky Mountain region.

The first pioneer families came to the Gatlinburg area about 1806, to the Cades Cove valley in 1818, and to the eastern Cosby region even earlier. On the North Carolina side of the mountains, the first white settlers arrived in the Bryson City area in about 1809 and in the Cataloochee Valley about 1814. These forerunners paved the way for more settlers who soon followed.

Martha Ogle is believed to be the first settler to the Gatlinburg/ Smokies area, then called White Oak Flats in the early 1800s. A recent widow, she came with her family to start a new life in what her late husband had described as a “land of paradise.” These early times in the 1800s were difficult in this rural area and it took hard work to survive and thrive.  As families like Martha Ogle’s came into the wilderness and carved out homes and lives, others followed, including Reagans, Whaleys, Trentams, and Bales … and Radford Gatlin, for whom Gatlinburg was named.

John Oliver and his wife Lucretia Frazier Oliver  were the first permanent settlers in Cades Cove. John came from a respected family in upper east Tennessee near Elizabethton.  Lucretia had been a bound girl, orphaned out to another family to raise before being courted by John. They married in April, 1812. But their early marriage was interrupted by the War of 1812. John marched off and served under the command of General Andrew Jackson in the Horseshoe Bend area of Alabama.  After he returned, the couple lived for a time in Carter County, where John worked as a collier, struggling with hard times, before the opportunity came to migrate to Tennessee.

The Olivers, along with Joshua Jobe, who initially persuaded them to settle in the cove, traveled 125 miles from Carter County to Cades Cove, a journey that took 8 to 10 days then with no roads and only Indian trails to follow. Lucretia had a small baby when they left and she was pregnant with a second child. It must have been a very difficult trip. Like Martha Ogle’s family, the Olivers probably came with little more than the clothes on their backs, a rifle, a good ax, knives, utensils and dishes, a skillet and Dutch oven, blankets and other necessities. The cove was not cleared when they arrived, and bears, mountain lions, panthers and other kinds of wildlife permeated the forest.

They wintered in an abandoned Cherokee hut until Jobe returned in the Spring of 1819 with other settlers and a herd of cattle in tow. He gave the Olivers two milk cows to ease their complaints but it must have been a hard, scary first winter for them. With warmer weather, they built a crude first home, and later a larger cabin. They cleared land for crops and fruit trees, built barns, corncribs, and fences. They raised nine children in their small log cabin. The Oliver cabin you visit, when in Cades Cove today, was built by John Oliver as a “starter“ house for their son when he married. The original Oliver cabin actually lay about 50 yards away and no longer stands.

Cades Cove actually belonged to the Cherokee Nation prior to 1818, who hunted and fished in it, so in a sense the land wasn’t really open for settlement when the Olivers came. However, a year after the Olivers arrived, the Cherokee released their claim to the land through the Calhoun Treaty, opening the door for more settlement. Other families soon followed in the 1820s … the Tiptons, Shields, Burchfields, Cables, Sparks, and Gregories. They gradually established churches, the first grist mill, and schools. Each family provided for their own and all joined in for common celebrations, gatherings, church and school events, funerals and weddings.

Most of the earliest settlers to the North Carolina areas, that are now part of the Great Smoky Mountains, came to the Oconoluftee area near Cherokee and to the Cataloochee Valley in Western North Carolina. First settlers to Oconoluftee were Jacob Mingus, who built Mingus Mill, Ralph Hughes, Abraham Enloe and others. In Cataloochee the Caldwells, Palmers, Cooks and Messers were early arrivals, and despite its remote location, the Cataloochee area grew and prospered more than other early mountain settlements.

It’s hard to believe that all the area of the Smokies, thought to be 200-300 million years old, was once wilderness and only primitively inhabited when you visit the park today. We too often forget the love, dedication, sacrifices, and work of hundreds of men and women of earlier times who struggled to settle this once vast wilderness and who fought to help the mountains become a national park. Today,  the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in America and over ten million people visit it every year. There are over 800 miles of trails for hiking or horseback riding and 70 miles of the Appalachian Trail pass across the mountains. The park maintains over 80 historic structures including log buildings, churches, schoolhouses, barns, and working grist mills. In addition, there are 20,000 kinds of animals, birds, plants, ferns, mushrooms, flowers and other natural species in the park. It’s a true treasure – and it’s right in my own back yard.

Note: All photos my own, from royalty free sites, or used only as a part of my author repurposed storyboards shown only for educational and illustrative purposes, acc to the Fair Use Copyright law, Section 107 of the Copyright Act

June 2022 – ALL ABOUT SCRAPBOOKING

I noted when looking ahead at upcoming June holidays that May 7th is NATIONAL SCRAPBOOKING DAY…. So I decided to research that subject and write about it for my blog this month.  The holiday, initially created in 1994, is always celebrated on the first Saturday in May to “showcase scrapbooking.” The holiday was designed to introduce people to the craft and hobby of scrapbooking and even to define the art.

What exactly is scrapbooking by definition? It’s basically an activity that involves putting together keepsakes, photos, and other memorabilia into books, notebooks, diaries, and traditional scrapbooks of all kinds, and it is usually done in an organized and creative style or manner. The goal in part is to display special memories and to help people replay their individual life experiences.

Scrapbooking began in England before coming to the United States. The first scrapbooks emerged in the 1400s in personal diaries and booklets as a way to compile recipes, thoughts, poems, and quotations. The practice grew more with the invention of the printing press in the 1440s, and scholars soon used the scrapbooking idea as a way to preserve academic studies and later artwork and other written accounts on particular subjects. Ladies soon began to scrapbook, too, in order to save keepsakes, thoughts, and mementos. In the Victorian era, the practice of scrapbooking began to really grow with the invention of photography and the industrial printing press in the 1800s. Greeting cards, postcards, calling cards, family photos, and a variety of keepsakes began to be saved and preserved in scrapbooks, and the use of the word “scrapbook” evolved then, too.

In the twentieth century, with the development of the camera, like the early Brownie, allowing individuals to make their own photos, scrapbooking albums became even more popular. Old photos and records, often kept in family Bibles, began to be recorded and kept in other keepsake books. Mark Twain, a writer and inventor, actually created and patented a self-pasting scrapbook in 1872 and a variety of different scrapbooks followed. Brides soon began creating wedding scrapbooks, and individuals and families began to create family photo albums, school memory books, and travel books. In the 1940s, baby scrapbooks began to emerge, providing a place to save baby and toddler photos and to record early “baby life” notes.

In the 1960s, the introduction of color film made scrapbooks more “colorful” and as the 1970s began, scrapbooks with pull-up plastic pages emerged, inexpensive and soon very popular. Photos and memorabilia could be placed on the page and the plastic sheet sealed over all. My mother never did much with scrapbooking, putting most photos into boxes and drawers, but I loved it and started scrapbooking when J.L. and I got engaged and planned to marry.

The photo example here is from one of our early scrapbooks, with pictures of J.L. and I signing the register to get our marriage license downtown at the Knox County courthouse in Knoxville, Tennessee.

I began to document our lives through scrapbooks in those early years, as a way to tell and remember our story together. I tried to write notes to tuck into the albums with the pictures, recording the who, what, when, where important data, and often adding fun news articles, little keepsakes, or other memorabilia on each scrapbook page. It was fun and I love looking back at those early years in our marriage … at photos of our first apartment, first house, times with friends and with our families.

When the children came I made baby albums for each of them. These were big books with places for birth certificates, a place to list visitors to the hospital and baby gifts, fill-in pages for the family tree, pages for footprints and hand prints, weight and height charts. They also included an assortment of fill ins for baby “firsts” and memorable moments, and places to paste in photos of baby’s first home and other specific pictures. There were slots for keepsakes, too, like early birthday cards, baptism records, and art, with the back of the book filled with 8×10 photo sleeves for more pictures. I, admittedly, had many sentimental moments today looking through those books to write this blog.

Later, when our two children’s school years began, I bought these cute and colorful “School Years” books to continue recording their young memories. There are pages for every school year from first grade to eleventh grade, where I put their school photos each year, along with their teachers’ names, height, weight, school friends, awards and achievements, and special activities. I noticed today in Max’s book that he said in first grade, that when he grew up, he wanted to be an artist … And he is, an artist and an art teacher. Kate said she wanted to be an actress in first grade, two years later an artist, later a writer, and for several years a fashion designer and buyer. Perhaps now as a media librarian she’s been able to act out several of those roles!

A friend of mine said once I was “scrapbooking” before it became a popular craft and I probably was. By the 1990s, though, the “scrapbooking” craze sort of hit in America with scrapbooking stores, courses, scrapbooking magazines and even scrapbooking events, like quilting bees, where women met to work on their scrapbooks together. An extensive array of scrapbooking materials became available then, too, and still are available … but I just continued making my own books in my own way with clip-outs from magazines, quotes I liked,  and saved memory items like tickets from a theatre event, a special greeting card, or a newspaper article clipping.

For those who want to get into scrapbooking, there are many helpful websites you can check out full of ideas. One well-known one is scrapbook.com. Additionally, there are many YouTubes that show and teach visually “how to scrapbook,” chocked full of creative ideas. There is also a great “Everything About Scrapbooking” page online with a Step-by-Step Guide to making a scrapbook if you’re interested in a how-to article. However, you shouldn’t decide you’re not creative or gifted enough to scrapbook.  You really don’t have to be. Keep in mind people have been finding ways to scrapbook and save their photos and stories since the 1400s, and you can, too. It is a wonderful gift you can give yourself to organize your photos into special books with names, dates, and places  you can enjoy for years as “Memory Books” of your life.  These scrapbook albums will be a legacy for your children, too.

J.L. and I have been “scrapbooking” now for over 50 years of our marriage and our books are all kept in a downstairs bookshelf that once held our record albums. You can see that shelf in an earlier picture. One of my summer tasks will be to sit down and put the last batch of photos I had printed into scrapbooks. Then I need to decide which photos in my “online photos” I want to print and keep, dumping the rest. I know most people retain photos totally online today … but I think they miss a lot of pleasure only keeping their memories that way. I still love having something tangible I can look at, layered with all my little notes and extras, like bookmarks, newspaper articles about my books, pictures at book signings, photos of our hikes, explorations in the parks and outdoors, memories with friends, holiday gatherings, and more. My scrapbooks truly are J.L.’s and my life story, filled with all our special memories and adventures.

Note: All photos my own, from royalty free sites, or used only as a part of my author repurposed storyboards shown only for educational and illustrative purposes, acc to the Fair Use Copyright law, Section 107 of the Copyright Act

May 2022 – THE GLORY OF SPRING

The three  months of Spring are March, April and May. In spring the days grow warmer, longer, and the flowers bloom. Many animals that have hibernated come out and dormant plants begin to grow again. The grass greens and the leaves bud and burst out in soft yellow green and fresh rich color after the dormant winter. Animals have babies, birds hatch out of their eggs and baby birds learn to sing with their parents, all rejoicing in this glorious time of year. Spring is the season of refreshing, rebirth, and rejuvenation. A lovely quote says: “Spring adds new life and new beauty to all that is.”

I know spring comes at different times in different parts of America and at various times around the world. But here in Tennessee, spring begins in March, with the days beginning to warm into the sixties and even seventies, along with occasional cold spurts. In March, East Tennessee still might have an occasional reminder of winter—a week of icy days or an unexpected snow. By April and May the cold spells begin to diminish and don’t last long. The old Timers gave these Appalachian cold spells specific names, mostly coinciding with trees, shrubs, and flowers in bloom at the time: (1) Redbud Winter in early April; (2) Dogwood Winter in late April, (3) Locust Winter in early May; (4) Blackberry Winter in mid-May; and (5) Britches Winter in late May.

Many cultures celebrate the return of spring—often with events and festivals or with gatherings at parks or outdoor settings. Daffodils, the March birth flower, begin to pop out all over the East Tennessee valleys and yards as spring arrives. Daffodil shows and events celebrate spring coming to the area and the daffodils planted along much of the Pellissippi Parkway in Knoxville begin to bloom out. Maria de la Luz Compere spearheaded the planting of at least 1.7 million daffodil bulbs along the Pellissippi Parkway, leaving everyone a beautiful legacy to enjoy. Wordsworth wrote: “if one daffodil is worth a thousand pleasures, then one is too few.” This could well be the motto of many around Knoxville, where I live, because the yards, gardens, and roadsides are thick with daffodils of all colors and types as March comes to our area of the world. Daffodils are not the only flowers to bloom in March, even if the most prolific. Other early flowers begin to pop out in the yards and beds, like snowdrops, crocus, and then the blooming shrubs and trees—like yellow forsythia, white flowering pear trees, and the gorgeous magenta pink tulip trees with their cup-shaped blossoms.

In April more flowers begin to appear … and in Knoxville this is the month when the Dogwood Arts Festival begins. This annual festival has been going on in Knoxville since the 1950s when several Knoxville communities, with a lot of dogwood and redbud trees, created “Dogwood Trails” to showcase their neighborhoods. Driving along the blazed trails, you could enjoy all the trees, daffodils, tulips, and other blooming flowers and shrubs. Over time, getting into the spirit of the event, people all over Knoxville began to plant even more dogwoods, redbuds, and blooming trees. In 1970, the Dogwood Arts Festival started, and the entire month of April is now spotted with art-related and cultural events. One of the original dogwood trails winds through my old South Knoxville neighborhood where I grew up and several others are located close to the West Knoxville neighborhood where I live now—especially the Sequoyah Hills trail that opened in 1955.  One of my other favorite April flowering trees on this trail, in addition to the dogwoods, are the Kwanzan cherry trees with their pink, fluffy, double blooms.

I think April is the richest time for flowers. So many varieties begin to pop out in this month. Every day when I take my walks around the neighborhood I see more shrubs, trees, and flowers in bloom and I love watching the trees grow greener and more lush every day.  Tulips, creeping phlox, iris, candytuft, and even some early pansies begin showing off in April and, in the Smoky Mountains and rural woods and fields, the wildflowers begin to appear, bringing tourists flocking to our mountains with their cameras, eager to see the trillium, wild violets, bloodroot, lady’s slippers, and other beauties.

The month of May brings even more spring flowers and more spring events. I remember May Day celebrations at school when I was a girl, with the May pole and various outdoor contests and events. To me the end of April and early May are always “Azalea Time, ” too, and the azaleas have been glorious this year. No freezes came in Knoxville to nip their early buds and I don’t think I have ever seen the azalea more beautiful—and in so many different colors …  pinks, white, reds, salmon, lilac, and magenta. More  outdoor yard work begins in May, too, as many people around East Tennessee start putting in their gardens and planting more flowers to enjoy, feeling safe,  at last,  from the chance of freezes and more cold snaps.

I worry that we’ve become too much a sedentary world … not getting out to see the beauty of springtime and nature, no longer walking the trails in local parks, or even around the neighborhoods where we live to see all the flowers, to stop and study them, sniff their perfume, enjoy their beauty. Before May is over—and spring is past—get out to enjoy the beauty of this time of year. There is a rich sense of hope that touches you in the spring, a sense that more is possible.  L.M. Montgomery wrote: “Nothing seems impossible in spring.” And whenever we see flowers coming back after a harsh cold winter it breeds hope in us, too. If you’ll let it, spring will make your heart sing with new hope and vision. I love Robert Orben’s words: “Spring is God’s way of saying, One more time!” … Blessings to you.

See you in June…

Note: All photos my own, from royalty free sites, or used only as a part of my author repurposed storyboards shown only for educational and illustrative purposes, acc to the Fair Use Copyright law, Section 107 of the Copyright Act

April 2022 – ABOUT OUR NEW DEVOTIONAL BOOK

My husband J.L. and I have a daily devotional guide publishing this month called A JOURNEY OF WORDS. You might ask what exactly is a day-to-day devotional and why does anyone need one?

In general, a daily devotional is a Christian religious publication that provides a specific spiritual reading for each calendar day. Reading a daily devotional, along with time in the Bible and in prayer, is one way to give love and honor to God.  It’s also a way of remembering to give God a priority in your life every day. It is hard for faith to stay strong or grow without spending quality time with God. The Bible teaches: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth…to be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work” [II Tmothy 2:15, 21].

We can rarely grow in knowledge in any subject area without study. A strong knowledgeable faith doesn’t simply fall on us or happen without effort. It comes by giving disciplined, committed time and study to increase in wisdom, understanding, and expertise—just like growing in knowledge in any other subject area. When you spend quality time with God you’ll not only gain more spiritual wisdom and understanding, you’ll grow into a closer, deeper place of faith. Studying to grow in God always has big rewards and blessings. Even the best of church services only offers a small window of time once a week for spiritual growth. And just as one meal a week won’t sustain us physically, one spiritual meal a week won’t either. Spending time with God every day is a needed discipline, good to cultivate, that helps you learn to lean to God to direct your life and path versus learning to your own understanding and the world’s voice and persuasion {Prov 3:5-6]. Joyce Meyer wrote: “If you make time with God your first priority, everything else will fall into place.”

In a spiritual sense, the word “devotion” in itself refers to the deep love and commitment we give to God in our lives, in time, study, and prayers.  If you’re devoted to someone you don’t simply care about them in a part-time, lackadaisical way, you care about them in a full-time, loving, committed way. As an extra plus, when you’re fully committed and devoted to God, He in return is totally devoted to you. Charles Stanley wrote: “God takes full responsibility for the life wholly devoted to Him.” It’s comforting to realize devotion to God is always lovingly returned. That isn’t true of many things and people we give our love and commitment to.

A daily devotional isn’t essential in order to grow in faith, but it can be a help, along with time in church,  prayer, and Bible study.  Spending time with God benefits every aspect of your life, draws you closer to the Lord, refreshes your soul, gives you guidance for your life, and restores your peace, health, clarity and joy—always a win-win situation. A sweet quote by Elizabeth George says: “The more time you spend with God, the more you will resemble Him.” We do become more and more like those we associate with, for the good or for the bad. “The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best.”  [Epictetus] We can be assured that spending quality time with God will always call forth our best.

Our devotional guide, A JOURNEY OF WORDS, is built around the concept that a single word is powerful and when meditated on, can open doors for good and needed change. Many Christians choose a “Word for the Year” to inspire positive growth and thought all year long, but we decided it would be positive—and fun—to have an inspirational word to think about for every day of the year.  Each of our daily devotions starts with a “word for the day” and a quote for the day using the day’s word, followed by a devotional teaching linked to that word, and closing with a short prayer and a scripture containing the word again. J.L. and I alternated writing the devotions throughout the book, one day by J.L., one day by myself … and we hope our daily guidebook will help to enrich your faith and impact you for blessing and good.

To close, here is one of the devotionals I wrote that you will find in the book—for April 1st, the publication day for this and my other two spring novels. If you would like an autographed copy of this book, go to our website under Contacts at: “Order Autographed Copies” and you will find two ways you can get this new devotional – and any of our other books – shipped directly to your home. The link is: https://linstepp.com/order-autographed-books/

Have a wonderful April … and a blessed Easter season, … Lin

APRIL 1 – The Word for the Day is “Shower” 

Quote for the Day:

“God made us for one reason: so He could have fellowship with us. It wasn’t that He was lonely or needed us but He made us so He could shower His love upon us.” -Billy Graham

All of us, at one time or another in our lives, have been caught out in a shower. Generally, when this happens we hustle to get in out of the rain. Yet it is often joyous to watch a shower out the window, especially a needed one. It seems as though the branches of the trees seem to reach up to welcome the rain and one can almost hear the grass sigh as it is soaked deeply with the rich, needed rain.

Showers of blessing fall in our lives, in big and small ways, not just occasionally but every day. Sometimes we are mindfully grateful of them and stop to thank God and give Him praise. Other times we run on along our way, almost seeming to take God’s rich blessings for granted. When Jesus healed the ten lepers, only one returned to thank Him [Luke 17:11-18]. Although we get busy and often forget, we know we should thank God daily for His blessings. He is so good to us. The Word reminds us that ‘a faithful man abounds with blessings’ [Proverbs 28:20]. Every day we should always be grateful to God for His love and goodness.

I love the concept in the Bible that ‘God will cause the showers to come down in season on us and that there will be showers of blessing’ [Ezekiel 34:26]. As the rain showers come to bless the earth, God’s showers of blessing and love come to enrich and bless us. “O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good; for his mercy endureth forever” [1 Chronicles 16:34].

Prayer:
With thankful hearts we offer gratitude today for the showers of blessings that come to us from God our Father.

Scripture of the Day:
“I will cause the shower to come down in his season; there shall be showers of blessing.” – [Ezekiel 34:26]

Note: All photos my own, from royalty free sites, or used only as a part of my author repurposed storyboards shown only for educational and illustrative purposes, acc to the Fair Use Copyright law, Section 107 of the Copyright Act.

March 2022 – PLACES INSPIRE STORIES

Readers often ask me where I get the ideas for my books. In looking back at over twenty published novels now I think my main answer would be that “places inspire my stories.”  It is often while traveling around East Tennessee, hiking in the Smokies, or visiting the beach in South Carolina when ideas for books slip into my heart and mind. Suddenly in those moments I can see book characters walking around in my thoughts, the concept of a new story drifting to life.

Often odd or humorous things I see morph into a new story idea or past memories of loved places wind their way into my books.  For example, we often took our son to a mountain camp to work as a counselor, and the memories of that Smoky Mountain camp inspired Buckeye Knob Camp that found its way into my first book THE FOSTER GIRLS and into several novels later.  On a trip to the mountains one day, two boarded-up country stores made me sad, with their forlorn, dilapidated appearance, and they inspired, in part, the storyline for my book HAPPY VALLEY, where a character camping at Abrams Creek Campground gets the idea to build and open a store in the valley.

Many times, when visiting in a place that charms and deeply appeals to me, I find myself wishing I could bring others to visit there, too – seeing the same beauty and all the interesting things I see.

On a visit with my husband to Dandridge, Tennessee, a small town on Douglas Lake not far from the Cosby side of the mountains, I found my mind returning often to that little city, steeped in history, and one day a storyline set in Dandridge popped into my mind. I laughed when I first thought of the idea that became EIGHT AT THE LAKE, publishing on April 1st, because the story also answered an ongoing reader request. Over and over readers said to me, “Write another book with a lot of children in it like your book FOR SIX GOOD REASONS, Lin.” Of course I usually answered that many of my books have children in them. But fans would reply, “But not with a lot of kids like in FOR SIX GOOD REASONS.” They were right in that observation. In that novel Alice Graham, a social worker, finds herself trying to place six children who lost their parents in a fatal car crash. Having known their parents well and being unable to find anyone to take all six children, Alice ends up taking them in herself.

Perhaps this ongoing request fired the idea for the eight children, in EIGHT AT THE LAKE, being raised by Ford McDaniel. Ford is a local veterinarian in Dandridge and part-owner with his father of Sycamore Lake Resort. Quite frankly, Ford has many days himself, when he wonders how in the world he ended up with eight kids to raise.  My other major character in this book, Samantha King, grew up in Dandridge at a lovely old Bed & Breakfast belonging to her Aunt Dixie. She and Ford McDaniel have nothing in common. Samantha is a well-known storm chaser and meteorologist with a national weather channel in Atlanta. She travels constantly across the U.S. covering storms, her world an exciting one compared to Ford’s life in a small, quiet town in rural Tennessee.  The only reason Samantha is in Dandridge at all is to recover from an accident, and she is already champing at the bit to get back to work as the story begins.

You’ll find a synopsis of the book on the front page of my website at: www.linstepp.com, but an unmentioned aspect in that synopsis is that this happy, fun-filled story will take you visiting in downtown Dandridge, Tennessee, and to many charming places that really exist around the Douglas Lake and Great Smoky Mountains area nearby. A reviewer once wrote: “Lin Stepp’s books take me to a new place in the mountains in every book” and that’s always what I try to do with every new story.

In 2019, I also took readers to our favorite spot at the South Carolina coast to Edisto Island. We have been vacationing at Edisto Beach as a family since the 1980s, and for several years I’d been saving materials and scribbling down ideas for Edisto stories even before I approached my editor about writing a book series set there.

Whenever I go to Edisto, A small island halfway between Charleston and Beaufort, I always return so refreshed. The sounds of the waves and gulls, the feel of the warm sunshine, the quiet of the island bring me such peace. And one day—walking up the beach—I imagined that island setting doing the very same for Claire Avery, a young widow who had lost her husband, and for her two small daughters, Mary Helen and Suki.  All my mountain books are stand-alone novels, but for this book I knew right away I wanted to also write follow-up stories about Claire’s daughters, too. It was a joy and pleasure to write all three books in my Edisto Trilogy and readers loved them. So it was easy to embrace the idea later for a new beach series as it floated into my mind one day while walking along a quiet stretch of beach at Botany Bay—and looking toward the Deveaux Bank and the North Edisto River.

Old maps call the small island at Edisto’s north end, Botany Bay Island, and it took only a small jump of my imagination to imagine a lighthouse and inn sitting there.  The entire island had been separated from the mainland of Edisto in Hurricane Gracie and now could only be accessed by boat—a perfect spot for my story idea of four sisters growing up at a lighthouse.  Since the name Botany Bay is now so associated with the Botany Bay Wildlife Preserve, I decided to call the island Watch Island in my book, using one of its old names from the past, and I decided to name my fictitious lighthouse after the Deveaux Bank bird sanctuary nearby and after the equally fictitious Deveaux family, who had been keepers at the lighthouse since its earliest days. Not living as close to Edisto as I do to the Smoky Mountains, I gathered more research online, bought history books about the Lowcountry and Edisto, and made extra visits to South Carolina to work on developing the concept for the four books that will be in this new series.

I think readers will love these new coastal books and will enjoy coming to visit the Deveaux Inn and Lighthouse in the first book titled LIGHT THE WAY.  It is Burke’s story, the oldest of the Lighthouse sisters. Her heart has always called her to stay on the island, which has belonged to the Deveaux family for six generations, and she has always helped to run the inn and keep the light. You can read the synopsis of LIGHT THE WAY on the front page of my author’s website at: www.linstepp.

I hope you’ll enjoy taking a trip to the South Carolina coast in the first book in the Lighthouse Sisters series LIGHT THE WAY and also in visiting the mountains and Dandridge in EIGHT AT THE LAKE.   “Where are you taking me next year?” one of my readers asked recently. The answer is to Cherokee, North Carolina, in a rich new Mountain Home story titled SEEKING AYITA – and also back to the beach again for the second of the Lighthouse Sisters books titled LIGHTEN MY HEART.

Happy Spring … See you in April … And don’t forget to read my March newsletter, too, at: https://linstepp.com/media-2/

 

Note: All photos my own, from royalty free sites, or used only as a part of my author repurposed storyboards shown only for educational and illustrative purposes, acc to the Fair Use Copyright law, Section 107 of the Copyright Act.

February 2022 – THE MONTH OF LOVE

We often think of February as “the month of love” because Valentine’s Day always falls in the middle of the month on the 14th. People swap cards, candy, flowers, and gifts—and the stores are filled with Valentine displays. But where did these traditions come from?

Most sources suggest that Valentine’s Day originated as a feast day to honor Saint Valentine of Rome, a priest and early Christian martyr. Pope Gelasius first originated the Feast of Saint Valentine to remember the date of the priest’s death and to honor the good works and miracles performed in his life. On a romantic note, Valentine secretly married young couples when the emperor in his lifetime prohibited young marriage, believing unmarried soldiers fought better. Another legend says Saint Valentine wrote the first valentine greeting to the daughter of his jailor before his execution, signed “Your Valentine.”

Europeans, and especially the British, began to pick up on the concept of Valentine’s Day sending love notes and soon, also, candies to their sweethearts, probably as early as the 1400s-1500s. However,  the day didn’t become popularly celebrated until the 17th century.  By the 1900s, ready-made cards began to replace love notes and letters with new advances in printing and mailing. Cupid became associated with Valentine’s Day on early holiday cards. The Roman God Cupid, or Eros in Greek mythology—the God of Love—supposedly played mischief among humans by shooting his golden arrows to incite love in his victims. Many early Valentine’s cards showed the child caricature version of Cupid shooting out his love arrows, like on this old Victorian Valentine card.

In America, we started exchanging Valentine cards in the early 1700s and 1800s, and today approximately 145 million Valentine’s Day cards are sent or given out every year. The stores in America are already full of Valentine cards and gift displays. And in the schools, children swap Valentine’s Day cards and often create homemade cards in the classroom.  In addition to all the general cards for the Valentine holiday, there are a huge assortment of individualized cards geared to “my wife,” “my husband,” “my sweetheart,” “my friend,” “my son,” “my daughter,” and more. Cards are available for nearly everyone on a person’s family and friends list. I even saw a card “from your dog,” and some cards even play love songs.

Specialty candies fill the store racks for Valentine’s gifts, too. There are boxes of chocolate candies packed in pretty heart-shaped boxes and many specialty candies are shaped like hearts. Conversation hearts or candy hearts with little messages on them, like “sweet talk,” “hug me” and “love u,” began back in the mid 1800s when a Boston pharmacist invented a machine to make it easier to mass-produce lozenges. The pharmacist then shifted his focus from medicinal lozenges to candy, founding what would become the New England Confectionery Company or Necco. From this beginning messages on hearts evolved and the new colorful “conversation hearts” became a great success from the 1900s to today, with Necco becoming the leading manufacturer of the hearts. Today some hearts even say “text me.”

Of all the flowers sent out at Valentine’s, roses are the most popular.  One study in 2021 found that people spent $2 billion dollars on Valentine flowers—the most on roses.  Sources suggest the tradition of giving roses at Valentine’s Day began in the 1700s with Lady Mary Montagu, a British Ambassador’s wife, who wrote home to friends from Turkey—excited over learning the “meanings of flowers.” Roses quickly became linked with romantic love, especially the red rose standing for “love and passion.”

With February and Valentine’s Day associated with love, the question comes up: “What is love?” Definitions usually say it’s ‘an intense feeling of deep, constant romantic affection’ and ‘an affection linked with strong physical attraction, passion, and devotion.’  Of course, there are aspects of love in friendships, family, and in other personal ties—but it is “romantic love” that is celebrated most at Valentine’s Day. Multiple studies have looked at what attracts couples to each other, causing them to have a romantic or love attachment. Much of the “biology of love” can be explained by chemistry. That romantic attraction or “zing” arises from hormones, stemming from the brain, not from the heart as we often believe. These hormones kick up lust, attraction, and a desire for attachment—that feeling of “falling in love”—which can hit you hard with an assortment of hormones rushing into play.

Several other factors contribute to the likelihood of a couple developing a bonding love relationship—like proximity, people living near each other or interacting often, along with physical attractiveness and the “matching phenomenon.” The latter is the tendency for people to be drawn to and to choose partners who are good matches in attractiveness and in other similar traits like intelligence, age, income, or education. Like the old saying “birds of a feather flock together,” and research has shown that couples are more likely to pair up with others who share similar looks, attitudes, interests, beliefs, and values. People also tend to be most attracted and comfortable with others similar to themselves, somewhat disputing the “opposites attract” theory.  The entire psychological subject of how attractions form is fascinating to read about. Basically, though, we all seek to be liked and loved.

Once a relationship forms, it tends to have certain common elements: aspects of passionate and emotional love, intimacy and liking, the enjoyment for each other’s company, and affectionate companionate love, along with trust, understanding, and caring.  An interesting phenomenon occurs as couples spend extensive time together.  Atoms interchange between them and the atoms recognize, and are drawn to each other again, when the loved partner comes into proximity. Love is truly a science and a mystery and like the old song ‘a many splendored thing.’

Many sweet and beautiful theories abound about love—and hundreds of songs have been written about the joy and wonder of falling in love and about the hurt and heartache of love gone wrong. As Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote we tend to ‘love another, not only for who and what they are, but for who we are and become when we are with them.’

Happy Valentine’s Day this month…. I hope the sweetness of love has touched and enriched your life.

See you again in March … Lin

Note: All photos my own, from royalty free sites, or used only as a part of my author repurposed storyboards shown only for educational and illustrative purposes, acc to the Fair Use Copyright law, Section 107 of the Copyright Act.