Durham’s Eyrie and the Howard (Steamboat) Mansion

MoorishRoomSmCrop
Howard Mansion Living Room

Something I discovered while writing Q&A’s and answering comments during the last month’s book tour for This Madness of the Heart was how fascinated people are by how an author gets from general ideas to a finished story. For me, one huge part of preparing to write is setting up locations–almost as if I were preparing to shoot a film: that means deciding exactly where the book’s action will take place. Not just Appalachia, but a particular ridge, and a particular holler, with a river and a mine and a town with streets and businesses. Not just a college, but a college with its own unique personality and reason for being, with its own history. And not just a big old house, but an architecturally viable and complex one, with its own history and odd little quirks.

So when I decided that my ill-fated college founder was going to build himself a house, it had to be one that worked–on all those levels.  Durham’s Eyrie is that house:

The house rose like a fortress from the hillside, surrounded by ancient tulip poplars. In the distance, under the eaves of the forest, I could see the family crypt. But the house itself held my eye, as always. Red brick towers and turrets, peaks and gables rose from a limestone foundation into three stories of massive wall. Decorative chimneys towered above the slate roof, and relief sculptures carved in red sandstone flowed up the main shaft. Moorish columns flanked the broad entryway above the front steps, framing the jewel-like stained glass doors.

But how did I get from “I need a big old house,” to the house I just described? Well, first I knew it had to be Victorian, because that was the time period when Obadiah would have been setting up housekeeping. Second, no self-respecting coal baron–and particularly not one fleeing a curse–would built a light, airy, clapboard Painted Lady: he’d build a castle.  Once that was decided, all I had to do was start doing research on Victorian mansions . . . stone mansions. I didn’t want to go far afield in my research, because I wanted something authentic for the area. And since I was in Louisville at the time, that’s where I started looking.

Howard Mansion, photo 1900
Howard Mansion, photo 1900

Enter the real-life Victorian mansion built by the Howard family of Ohio River shipyards fame and located on the northern bank of the Ohio. You can see it set back from the Jeffersonville, Indiana waterfront, right across the river from Louisville. Durham’s Eyrie would have been built around 1880, ten years before the Howard home, so the period was right, and I was already familiar with the house. Add a few blast screens to cover the oversized windows, and the building could almost withstand a siege. What more could I want? In the end, except for its location, the Howard house reinvented itself almost exactly as Durham’s Eyrie–at least on the outside.

Laura-EdmondsHoward-1904
Edmonds and Laura Howard 1904

By the way, the “Howard Home”  (as it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places), was built in 1890 by Edmonds J. Howard of the Howard Shipyards family. Today it welcomes visitors as the Howard Steamboat Museum, featuring displays from the shipyards and  Howard family history.

HowardBoatyards1901
Howard Boatyards 1901

Anyway, with the house selected, I needed photographs so I could play around with visual details as I wrote. So I went, camera in hand, to ask the Howard Museum docents if they would let me creep around places tourists didn’t normally go, so that I could get an idea of the house’s layout for my book . . . and they very kindly took me all around, even onto the third floor and into the attics. Unfortunately (for my purposes), much of the house is now used for the steamboat displays and looks little like it did when the family lived there, so I’ve supplemented my own photos with some turn-of-the-century photos from The Howard Steamboat Collection at the University of Louisville.

And . . . the stained glass doors described in Madness are not from the Howard house, but from the Old 851 Mansion in Louisville.

 

Fanlight

So follow me now on a virtual tour of the original inspiration for Durham’s Eyrie. Below is the main entrance, with the original beveled glass. As I just said, for This Madness of the Heart I changed the doors to resemble the ones at the Old 851 Mansion since the Howard glass doors weren’t stained glass.

Howard Mansion front door
Howard Mansion front door
Old 851 Mansion
Old 851 Mansion

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fanlight

The main entrance of the Howard mansion faces the stairway leading up to a landing and on from there to the second floor.  In Durham’s Eyrie, Jack’s magical stained glass window was on the landing where the red and gold glass is in the photo.

Jack’s stained glass glowed above a daybed, filling the landing like a half-remembered dream. Mythical birds and flowers intertwined in a jeweled mosaic through fantastic trees, dappling the dark stairs with their bright shadows. Fragile, delicate, glorious, this window Jack had fashioned for Viola rivaled Tiffany at its height. We stood silent, worshipers at a shrine.

Stairs-sm2
Main staircase from front door
UpperStairs-sm
Looking down at landing from 2nd floor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fanlight

The room where Viola entertains guests (and torments college administrators) is a combination of several Howard rooms, including the  room at the top of this page. There’s a period photo of the parlor below and an alcove in the dining room–which inspired the “cherries” in Viola’s windows.

My tale of high tea at Durham’s Eyrie floated through the air around us as I painted Probeck’s predicament amongst the tea cups, his stunned face splashed red with the light of the cherry windows. I enjoyed the afternoon all over again, and this time I didn’t have to choke back the laughter.

HowardParlor
Howard Parlor 1905
Howard_DR_Side2b
Dining Room alcove with cherries

 

Fanlight

Viola’s library is partly based on this old photo of the Howard library, although, since no bookcases have survived in the house, I used other Victorian libraries as models as well. Viola’s desk is based on this handmade original from the Howard mansion.

He led me straight to Viola’s library, a handsome room lined with glass-front bookshelves that doubled as her office. Viola beamed at us around the gilded oak leaves and acorns festooning her heavy carved oak desk. The giant secretary towered over her, transforming her for a moment into a bright-eyed child rather than the matriarch she was.

HowardLibrary
Howard Library 1904
Howard Library 1905
Howard Library 1905
Howard_LibraryDesk2a
Viola’s Desk

 

Fanlight

Here’s another view of the dining room (with cherry window), and the masculine domain, the smoking room.

HowardDiningRm_1905-2
Howard Dining Room1905
SmokingRoom2sm
Smoking room

Fanlight

You can see the master bedroom (Viola’s) below, both in my recent photos and the 1905 versions:

View into the bed-sitting room
View into the bed-sitting room
Master bedroom dressing room
Master bedroom dressing room

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1905 view into the bed-sitting room
1905 view into the bed-sitting room
1905 master bedroom
1905 master bedroom
1905 Master bedroom tower
1905 Master bedroom tower

 

Fanlight

The bathroom and water closet . . .

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Fanlight

The third floor isn’t open to the public–or at least it wasn’t in the mid-90’s when I visited. Below are the bedrooms, including the tower bedroom I used as a model for Djinn’s room at the Eyrie.

Djinn only stared and then led the way to her room, an attic tower with folded shutters and a round ribbed ceiling. Djinn walked over to a heavy roll top desk, pulled out a large sketchbook, and started drawing with quick, fluid strokes. The soft scratching of her pen was the only sound I heard. Even the house had ceased its creaking.

3rd floor tower and bedroom
3rd floor tower and bedroom
3rdfloor3
Djinn’s desk and tower bedroom
3rd floor bedrooms
3rd floor bedrooms

 

Fanlight

And last, the attics . . . hobby horses, bicycle frames, and a stuffed owl!

Howard_AtticOwlBike
Stuffed owl and bicycle frame
Howard_AtticHobbyHorses
Hobby horses

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fanlight

I hope you enjoyed your tour! Any details I didn’t explain probably came out of my own teeming imagination.

 

 

 

 

 

This Madness of the Heart free for blog Tour!

Our month-long virtual book tour is ended, but please check out any of the sites below to read the posts. (I’ve spent hours and hours answering questions and writing posts!)

Congratulations to momjane, winner of the $25 gift certificate!

And thanks to all of you who made this tour a success–especially the fantastic ladies at Goddess Fish Promotions!

 

BlogTour

Reviews for “Madness”!

Reviews of This Madness of the Heart are coming in, and they’re all great! Here’s what we have so far:

WIdget_Madness_Eagle

Kathleen Eagle, New York Times Bestselling author of Sunrise Song:

“This Madness of the Heart is a wild ride through the dark hills of eastern Kentucky with Miranda Lamden, a professor of religion who spends her spare time studying arcane spiritual rituals—if not participating in them herself. In the end, Miranda’s own spiritual gifts are all that keep her alive in the storm of hate and violence flooding her mountain community. Yeatts fields an engaging cast of characters, and throughout she weaves a haunting pattern spun of the Appalachian wilderness and its people. The plot twists kept me guessing, all the way to the very satisfying ending. Fans of Joyce Carol Oates and Nevada Barr should relish this new series, and I look forward to more—the sooner the better!”

 

WIdget_Madness_McKenzie2Nancy McKenzie, award-winning author of Queen of Camelot

“Kudos to Blair Yeatts for an absorbing read and an original thriller with intriguing characters and hair-raising plot twists. Protagonist Miranda Lamden is quite fascinating.  Madness explores the genesis of hate and the power of forgiveness in a small college town in eastern Kentucky’s hill-country, where a haunting spirituality—both Christian and pagan–drives this fast-flowing mystery to an electrifying close. But beware: pick it up and you won’t be able to put it down–I couldn’t!”

 

WIdget_Madness_Godwin

Gail Godwin, New York Times Bestselling author of Evenings at Five:

“Blair Yeatts can certainly write!”

 

MidwestImage

Midwest Book Review:

“Evangelical religion, supernatural forces, and romance seldom collide under a single cover, but This Madness of the Heart combines all three and more in a gripping piece that holds the rare ability to grasp and attract reader attention from more than one direction . . . Mood and setting are exquisitely placed throughout the story . . . the plot moves deftly with the skill of a thriller, the stealth of a cat, and the fine-tuned precision of personalities well developed.

“The result is a blend of supernatural thriller, romance, and mystery that will thoroughly engross anyone looking to break free of genre reads with a powerful journey through competing spiritual perspectives.”

 

SPR-WIdget2_Madness

Self-Publishing Review:

“Yeatts is an engaging writer, a fun narrative voice . . . great at establishing setting and individual characters. The hints of paranormal phenomena are intriguing throughout . . . The mood combines gothic with the present day, giving it a feeling of “True Detective” (first season), in which backwoods religion and real supernatural phenomena collide – a world where anything can happen. Professor and paranormal investigator Miranda Lamden is an exciting basis for a series . . . the rock through it all.”    4_Stars-

 

ApLogo2a

To write in dialect or not?

 

57cfffc67d21fe33ce36e94028ca2a1bWhen I began to write This Madness of the Heart, I was faced almost from the first paragraph (well, actually the second) with a choice: to try to write Appalachian mountain speech as I’ve heard it, or use common American English. I experimented with both, and there was just no contest. I had to try the dialect.

Yes, writing dialect can make 05675ad73208178a0c6c7e8a8d68481aconversation harder to read, and it alienates some readers. I even had one reviewer accuse me of showing contempt for the region by writing incomprehensible dialect. And, of course, writing in dialect is much harder than writing straight English prose.

But what happens to the gentle man from my childhood whose voice still rings in my ears, if instead of the following remarks spoken in dialect . . .

“My head’s a-spinnin’ so even God Almighty couldn’t say what I’m a-feelin’ one minute t’ the othern’n. First I’m fit to bust Jasper in the jaw fer creatin’ sech a hardness amongst the good folks o’ this town; then I’m nigh t’ bustin’ int’ tears o’er pore Welby; then I’m a-studyin’ on oilin’ up the ol’ shotgun and featherin’ int’ Jasper fer what he done t’ Delmar Peabody!”

. . . he should say this instead?

“My head’s spinning so fast even God Almighty couldn’t say what I’m feeling one minute to the next. First I’m about to bust Jasper in the jaw for creating such hardness among the good folks of this town; then I’m about to bust into tears over poor Welby; then I’m thinking about oiling up the old shotgun and laying into Jasper for what he did to Delmar Peabody!”

For me, the man’s heart disappears, along with the huge warmth of his presence.

Original caption by photo Earle Palmer_Goode “Preacher” Hash

And Sheriff Lyle Embry, with his laidback drawl—what would he be, if instead of these words . . .

“Dad blast it all t’ hell n’ back ag’in, Herbert! Don’t be a- pitchin’ it int’ the woods that-a-way as soon as I go a-turnin’ my back! Dig yerself a hole an’ cover thet trash plumb over with dirt! Lookit how yon trees is all gormed up an’ benastied now!”

. . . he said this?

“Doggone it all to hell and back again, Herbert! Don’t pitch it into the woods that way as soon as I turn my back! Dig a hole and cover that trash over with dirt! See how those trees are all spattered and nasty now!”

Perhaps only my own memory would be violated. Maybe the reader wouldn’t care one way or the other. But for me the closeness of the mountain people I’ve known would be lost in the tidying up of their speech to fit a more common mold. The scent of mountain air would disappear.

4679c66b8b81ea1b1b55fb3e755fa243

I do know that writing in dialect was extremely difficult for me. I couldn’t just rely on memory. I listened to recordings and studied academic verbatims. I studied the various ways Appalachian dialect is written down, and the variations that exist among people with different degrees of access to television and urban culture. Check and double check. Write and read and listen. Return to recordings of mountain speech, letting it roll over me again and again.

No, I couldn’t have written Madness without dialect. It seems to me that much of a people’s soul is carried on their speech. Regional speech patterns flow with the rich silt of blood and flesh, history and struggle, life and death.

How could Carter Bayless say any less than this?

“Thus saith th’ Lord God, I be a-makin’ th’ sun t’ roll down th’ sky of a noontime. I’ll be a-bringin’ dusky-dark ont’ the earth in th’ midst o’ day. I’ll be a-turnin’ yar cornivals t’ mournin’ an’ yar ditties t’ dirges. Ye’ll be a-fallin’ broke an’ ruint int’ yar graves an’ niver rouse agin!”

If you read This Madness of the Heart and have an opinion, I’d be delighted to hear it!

5f669d98d8ae36869395e75958b543f8

 

This Madness of the Heart goes live!

TMOTH-Cov_Sm

This Madness of the Heart (e-book edition) goes live  today!

Download it for yourself on Amazon at:                                    http://www.amazon.com/Madness-Heart-Miranda-Lamden-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B01DEC2GOS/

Or through Smashwords at:  https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/624868

Or almost anywhere e-books are sold online!

And don’t forget, the paperback goes live May 1st–and the Goodreads Giveaway has just begun!

So many chances to enjoy the first book in a thrilling new series! Here’s a quick quote from Midwest Book Review‘s rave about This Madness of the Heart:

“A blend of supernatural thriller, romance, and mystery that will thoroughly engross anyone looking to break free of genre reads with a powerful journey through competing spiritual perspectives.”

Click to read 3 sample chapters:   http://blair-yeatts.com/index.php/this-madness-of-the-heart/sample-pages/

Download your copy today!

Who Is Miranda Lamden?

Who is Miranda Lamden? As the main character in Blair Yeatts’ new gothic mystery-thriller series, she deserves an introduction. If you were to come across her on campus at Obadiah Durham College, she’d resemble many other 30-something university women–tall and athletic, with a flyaway tangle of long dark hair, and an apparent preference for denim and comfortable shoes. Large eyes, prominent cheek- and jawbones, and a wide flexible mouth lend her a striking appearance, but not conventional beauty.

When Miranda isn’t teaching religion and philosophy to college students from the backwoods hollers of Kentucky where coal once ruled, she’s out gathering material for scholarly books on folklore and obscure religious practices. This Madness of the Heart opens in the midst of a worship service in one of Appalachia’s remaining snake-handling churches, where Miranda is struggling with a momentary lapse in concentration.

Snake-Handling, Lejunior, KY, 1946. Photo Russell Lee
Snake-Handling, Lejunior, KY, 1946. Photo Russell Lee

Miranda normally keeps her balance in situations like this with techniques developed by the discipline of phenomenology. Depending on whom you talk to, phenomenology is a philosophy, a psychological theory, a research technique, or a combination of all three. Very simply speaking, it has one core idea: human perception of phenomena in the world (how we experience life) is subjective and finally knowable only by the one who is experiencing it. Out of this basic conviction comes the idea of the researcher as participant observer. This is someone who does his or her best to leave behind all personal prejudices, the many invisible lenses that make up a person’s worldview—to bracket them, shut them away into a closed compartment of the mind. When this is done successfully, the observer is free to merge into the mindset of the people being studied, taking on their responses and perceptions without judging them by his or her own standards. Questions of truth do not arise, nor does “truth” have a place in a phenomenologist’s working vocabulary.

screen-shot-2013-02-19-at-9-54-09-pm

The training required before anyone can claim to be a participant observer is intense. It’s not so much a question of learning objectivity, but of simultaneously observing whatever exists to be seen, along with mastering the skill of taking on the intellectual/emotional/spiritual mindset of the culture being studied. Such research requires lengthy periods of trust-building and on-site experience in understanding how an unfamiliar people think and feel.

gary-larson-1984-far-side-anthropologistsIn the first chapter of Madness, Miranda lets her mind wander, and relaxes her bracketed self. She has become comfortable enough with her hosts (and sufficiently tired) that she forgets to approach their worship as a disciplined participant observer. She becomes vulnerable to her personal fear of snakes–an almost unforgivable error, considering her years of phenomenological study and her many published books on the spiritual experience of cultures around the world.

When Madness opens, Miranda is gathering material for a new book on Appalachian folklore and superstition.

Mountain

As a female professor in a small private college in the patriarchal backcountry of southern Appalachia, Miranda walks a fine line between her feminist principles and the gender roles expected of her by her neighbors. But apart from her own skills at protective coloration, Miranda hails from a conservative Virginia family. She knows the social drills, and where the Rubicon’s crossings lie–valuable know-how when it comes to informal PR for her relationship with artist Jack Crispen. She faces an even more delicate balancing act with her own obvious spiritual gifts and the closed-mindedness of most of her friends and colleagues. Her personal beliefs (when she admits to them) tend toward what she calls panentheism–not pantheism, or belief in many gods–but belief in the presence of deity in all of the created universe.

Release Dates Set!

TMOTH-Cov_Sm

BlogDates2

Order the e-book of This Madness of the Heart

 for $5.99 on April 15th!

ApLogo2a

on Smashwords at:

 https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/624868  

and Amazon Kindle at:

http://www.amazon.com/Madness-Heart-Miranda-Lamden-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B01DEC2GOS/

ApLogo2a

Paperback goes live on May 1st for just $12.99

on CreateSpace and Amazon!

Gothic Mysteries in Appalachia’s Haunted Coalfields

Welcome to author Blair Yeatts’ blogsite, home of the Miranda            Lamden Mystery series!

(We’re still under construction, so come back often!)

Coming in Spring of 2016, This Madness of the Heart, first volume in an intoxicating new  series of gothic mystery-thrillers!

TMOTH-Cov_Sm

Bad religion can be deadly. So Miranda Lamden, small-town religion professor, discovers in This Madness of the Heart. The dark hollers of Eastern Kentucky offer fertile soil for shady evangelist Jasper Jarboe, new president of Grace and Glory Bible College, as he beguiles the small mining town of Canaan Wells with his snake-oil charm.

When Miranda isn’t teaching at Obadiah Durham College, she’s investigating paranormal phenomena—or enjoying a turbulent romantic relationship with backwoods artist Jack Crispen. JJ’s inquisition-style gospel has alienated her long since, but when he announces his plan to transform her forest home into an evangelical Mecca, complete with neon cross and 40-foot Jesus, Miranda girds her loins for war. But JJ isn’t finished: he goes on to launch an attack on her friend and fellow faculty member Djinn Baude with an avalanche of vicious rumors. Not only does he accuse her of demonic communion with the old Voudon witch whose curse killed the college’s founding family, but he also smears her with insinuations of lechery and vice.

With JJ’s urging, hate boils over into violence and tragedy, sweeping Miranda up in its flood. One death follows another as a miasma of evil overwhelms the tiny community, and only Miranda can see clearly enough to halt its spread.

This Madness of the Heart is the first in a new series of Gothic mystery-thrillers featuring Professor Miranda Lamden, whose spiritual gifts have drawn her beyond university walls to explore the mysteries of other world beliefs. Her unique vision brings her into repeated confrontations with evil, where too often she finds herself standing alone between oblivious onlookers and impending disaster.