One of the major themes in the Appalachian Elementals series is family. It was central to Cleaning House, to Mama, Me, & the Holiday Tree, and is central to Keeping House, my current work in progress. Family is also, like in many cultures, central to Appalachia. We’re traditionally close-knit, though that has somewhat changed over the last few generations. That said, I might, at a later date, take a closer look at Tess and Roslyn Rhodes’ generation (meaning write a story where they’re the MCs, but that’s for another day since I’m currently neck deep in #NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).
When Cleaning House was a rough draft, I scrawled out the Rhodes’ family tree as it relates to Cent and her cousin, Aubrey, adding details like birth/death dates, where the magic derives from in each family member, if there’s any magic at all, and ended up with four-five generations (depending on your take), going back to Cent and Aubrey’s great-great-grandmother Amadahy, a fictional member of the North Carolina Cherokee tribal rolls (one of my own ancestors, six generations back, is listed on those same rolls, I’ve been told).
Anyway, that initial scrawl to set down a lineage has become the graphic below, an actual family tree.
Creating the family tree helped bring the characters to life, to give them roots. It helped me determine how they might have thought, their experiences, how things developed between generations and, more specifically, where things have gone wrong.
Knowing where Cent’s past generations were located is central to her story. Why? Because Cent’s lived 102 lives and in all of them she’s been drawn to Embreeville Mountain where her soul mate, Stowne, lives as the mountain’s elemental spirit. Cent’s almost as tied to the mountain as Stowne is.
You’ll see how this runs together in the excerpt from Cleaning House below. In the excerpt, set in 1952, Cent’s living on the family homestead as 52-year-old Centenary Washburn. She’s a neighbor of Tess Rhodes and her family and speaks affectionately about Tess in the excerpt. Centenary Washburn, I must add for context, is dying from lung cancer.
Tess, if you’ll look at the graphic below, is Cent’s great-aunt in the here and now, and Rosyln Rhodes, now deceased, is Cent’s grandmother. Small world, huh?
How’d that happen? Genetics don’t carry across the veil between life and death or between lives, but other relationships do. And Cent was steered again back to Embreeville Mountain for a reason which you’ll learn during the course of the series.
And how does Aubrey fit into this? Well, as Cent’s first cousin, his lineage is very similar, as cousins always are so I show this through his father, who was Roslyn’s son.
Here’s that graphic to help you along.
Ah, yes, magic runs through the Rhodes’ family in many forms. And why don’t the Rhodes’ women change their names when they marry? Any man who marries a Rhodes’ woman knows going in that he’s marrying into something that defies time and tradition, and that he might take part but must not interrupt the flow.
And, last but certainly not least, here’s that excerpt from Cleaning House to further this multi-lived interweaving that creates magic on Embreeville Mountain.
Cent speaks first here.
“But this land…”
“Yes, there is that.” Stowne kissed her palm. “It must be handed down correctly.”
“I have been thinking about that. What about Tess and Roslyn Rhodes?”
“Yes. I saw Tess dancing with Kinnon Byrne under the last full moon, outside the circle sands. They would take good care of the property. Roslyn too, but I cannot see her future enough to know where she will land.”
“Tess and Kinnon?” Cent’s laugh strangled beneath a cough that left her gasping. “She’s a wild doe, and he ain’t much of a hunter.”
“I see Kinnon in Tess’ future. Opposites often make the best pairings, and until that time, she has Roslyn to help her.” Stowne scooted closer. “Yes, Tess and Roslyn. They will know best how to care for it and will work with Rayne and Pyre to protect things.”
“I know.” Cent took Stowne’s face into her hands, pulling them up to kiss them firmly on the mouth. “All right. Tess and Roslyn it is. I’ll have the documents drawn up and made legal.”
A dozen handmade holiday ornaments, that’s all, but it might be an impossible task.
Centenary Rhodes and her mother are at constant odds. It’s one of the many reasons Cent left home when she was eighteen. Mama’s difficult for anyone to manage, but now that Cent’s back home, she has to try. Mama, however, won’t acknowledge who Cent’s become, even though she’s repeatedly been shown the truth.
It’ll take more than popcorn strings and paper snowflakes to heal the rift that’s formed between Cent and Mama. It’s going to take bushels of patience, heaps of magic, and assistance from everyone on both sides of Embreeville Mountain to reset the Balance between them.
But with Yule and Christmas just around the corner, it might already be too late.
Mama, Me, and the Holiday Tree is available for preorder in both print and ebook formats. And the ebook format is only $.99 for a limited time!