Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Dismal River

If you know me, you know I write historical fiction, dark (with a smidge of dark-funny) historical fiction set in Appalachia that tries to answer this question:

How did people maintain hope when life seemed so hopeless? 

I realize that sounds like a terrible and pessimistic question to ponder, but I have a good reason to ask it.  When I began doing genealogical research about years ago, I was shocked that one generation was poorer and less educated than the one before.  I think the thing I hoped to find when I began researching my ancestors was evidence of someone like me.  Instead, I found plenty of evidence of the things that are supposed to be only stereotypes of Appalachians: poverty, lack of education, and a tendency to partake in the moonshine.

Instead of writing about my family in the towns they lived in, I prefer to create fictional towns that exist near real places and tell fictional stories of what could have happened, especially when there's no evidence of what actually did happen. 

I'm currently researching coal towns in Buchanan County, Virginia, that were in operation from 1940-1960.  When I was looking on a map for the location of these mines, I couldn't believe what I saw on the map.

The actual river that runs through the region is Dismal River.  Dismal River.

I couldn't have chosen a better name.  This restores my faith that there was someone in that region at some point in time (even if he or she wasn't in my family) that shared my dark sense of humor and love for language and decided on that name with a smirk on his face.  

* * * * *

I apologize for my extended absence.  I am taking two graduate classes, one of which is a grant writing class where I am attempting to acquire funding for my research.  It's turning out to be a part-time job.  The problem (besides the huge volume of chapters to be read every week) is the fact that I don't have a solid plan for my research, so my work for this assignment is more than doubled because I also need to document my plan (and figure out what it is).

I will probably only pop in two or three times a month until the end of April.


  1. Rivers are usually a welcome sight. Unless it's a river leading to hell or something.
    Focus on your classes and grant writing!

  2. Maybe it is a river leading to hell....

  3. Dismal River is a great name. Hope your classes are going well. I think people hang onto hope more than not.

  4. That's a pretty brilliant name, I'm sure I could never have come up with something as clever as that. :-)

  5. Dismal river . . . that is seriously wonderful, clever, sad and yet funny . . . good name.

  6. Dismal River sounds like a great name. Nice post.

  7. Yeah, I like the notion that somebody named that with their tongue firmly in cheek. Best of luck with your classes and research!

  8. Dismal River is a great name! Good luck on your graduate courses. Hope to see you back by the end of April. :)

  9. I like creating fictional places too. They can range from realistic, to way out.