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Another Excerpt from "Sovereign Oak"

I'm currently editing a historical novel I've written tentatively titled "Sovereign Oak" that's set in the mountains of Western North Carolina and takes place within walking distance of my house. The novel covers three historical events that took place between the late 1700s and the late 1800s, and those events set the stage for a fourth part that's set in the present day. It's a little over 96,000 words and I still have some editing to do before I began the search for a publisher. In any event, here's a short excerpt from a part about the drought of 1845, which led to a push to extend rail service up into the mountains. The drought really happened, but the characters mentioned here are fictional.

The spring of 1845 started out like most springs begin in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The first of the six spring pseudo seasons, Fool’s Spring, was relatively mild and brief. Second Winter wasn’t bad at all; it turned chilly for a few days, but it never dropped below freezing and no snow fell. The Spring of Deception was hotter than normal with temperatures reaching the mid-eighties and no rain. Third Winter, if you could call it that, saw high temperatures in the sixties and lows in the mid to upper forties, and because of the warm air and the lack of moisture, there was no frost. Yellow dust fell and covered most everything, and wreaked havoc on allergy sufferers, during The Pollening. You could wipe off a chair on the front porch, walk away for an hour or so, and when you came back you had to dust the pollen off again to avoid a pollen stain on the back of your pants or your dress. The one comforting thought for those suffering with runny noses, sneezing, and sinus headaches was knowing that The Mudding would come soon and wash away the pollen and usher in the arrival of Actual Spring. But in the spring of 1845, the suffering that began during The Pollening didn’t end. It was just a prelude to what was to come.


Colin’s primary cash crop was corn, but this year, he was going to add small patches of wheat and cabbage to diversify his crops and test which was easier to grow and proved to be the most profitable. In preparation for planting season in April, he ordered and paid for the seeds in early March, and he picked them up a few weeks later. He planned to plow his fields as soon as The Mudding ended and the soil dried out a bit, so he could get the seeds in the ground by mid-April and let the April showers work their magic.

But The Mudding never ended … because The Mudding never began.


March eighth was a Saturday. Colin and Annie heard rain pattering on the roof of their cabin, which made it a good morning for them to stay in bed for as long as they could until John Patrick awoke and demanded their attention. Sleeping in was a treat they rarely got to enjoy.

“I love the sound of the rain,” Annie said as she gently rubbed Colin’s cheek. “It’s so soothing. I could just lay here all day and do nothing; well, at least until John Patrick wakes up.”

“I know,” Colin said as he rolled onto his side to face Annie. He reached up with his hand, pushed her hair away from her face, leaned forward, and kissed her. “Let’s just lay here and enjoy it for as long as we can.”

Annie smiled and squeezed his hand.

By mid-morning, the sound of the rain hitting the roof stopped, and a short time later the sun came out. Neither Colin nor Annie nor John Patrick would ever hear the sound of rain falling again.


On April 4, 1845, the Mecklenburg Jeffersonian newspaper reported that there had been no measurable rain in over a month. “The consequence is a cloud of dust almost dense enough to suffocate,” it said. According to the Charlotte Journal, no rain fell again until September 5, 1845, too late for crops that should have been in the ground and growing months earlier. Normally, by that time of the year, farmers had already started harvesting their corn crops. This year, they hadn’t even planted their fields. It was the worst drought to hit the region in many years and it resulted in food shortages throughout the Carolinas. Those who suffered the most were the ones who lived in the mountains.

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Excerpt from "Sovereign Oak"

For the past several months, I've been working on a historical fiction novel set in the mountains of Western North Carolina where I live. I've tentatively titled it Sovereign Oak. I've finished a fi


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