Misha Crews

Love stories about old houses and family secrets.

Is anyone else happy that September has finally arrived? Of course, we’re a week into it, and here in Virginia the temperatures still feel like August (hello hot and muggy!). But it won’t be long before the air is cooler and the leaves are changing. The local farmers market already has pumpkins and apple cider for sale, and Halloween decorations are prominently displayed in the stores. As the poet says, “By all these lovely tokens, September days are here.” And speaking of poets, here is one of my favorite September quotes, penned by poet Helen Hunt Jackson:

“By all these lovely tokens, September days are here. With summer’s best of weather and autumn’s best of cheer.”

Helen Hunt Jackson

So what are your favorite tokens of September?


At some point in my writing journey, I took a side-trip into the world of folklore and mythology. The result is known as Ha-la, which is the totally made-up mythology belonging to the town of Angel River, and its surrounding countryside. Here is the first glimpse into the history and practices of our little town’s traditions.

History, both real and imagined

First, the real history:

The addition of Ha-la to the Angel River series was first inspired by a documentary called Hex Hollow, which I caught on Amazon Prime one blustery afternoon. The documentary follows events that led to a 1928 murder in Stewartstown, Pennsylvania, and tells the story of Powwow (also known as Brauche or Braucherei), which is a folk magic and healing practice that evolved when Europeans migrated to North America in colonial times. These people, known mostly as “Pennsylvania Dutch,” were German speakers. (They’re called “Dutch,” but this term is a mispronunciation of the word “Deutsch,” which means German.) Powwow has its roots in Christian beliefs and is still in practice today.

A barn bearing a Pennsylvania Dutch “hex sign.” You can read more about it here.

And now, the imagined history:

Well, of course, my writer’s mind was fired up at the thought of a such an intricate belief system evolving in the U.S. before and after the Civil War, and it seemed like Angel River needed exactly this kind of lore and tradition to deepen its roots.

My maternal grandmother’s family emigrated from Holland, and so I decided that Angel River’s folklore would be Dutch instead of Deutsch. In researching, I found that one of the Dutch words for heal is helen, which was the name of my beloved aunt. And since human beings are slangy creatures, I knew that as the tradition evolved, the name would be shortened. And so, Ha-la was born.

Signs and symbols

Ha-la has several elements which have appeared at different times in the Angel River books. The one which has probably been mentioned most frequently is the seven-pointed star, also known as a heptagram. The symbol has many uses in real life, including representing the Biblical seven days of creation, which is how it’s used in Ha-la. If you were to take a drive through the fictional town Angel River, you would see this symbol on houses and barns throughout the countryside.

Design found on Pinterest.

There is more to the invented folklore and history of Angel River, which I’ll share in blog posts from time to time. In the meantime, of course the best way to get to know about it is to read the books, which you can find on Amazon, as well as in my shop.

In the meantime, what do you think of Ha-la so far? Do you have any questions or elements that you’d like to see in future posts, or future books? I hope you’ll let me know in the comments.

Hugs and happy reading,



My latest novel, Sweet Music, is centered around a music shop that has been owned by the Sullivan family for generations. Here’s something fun I found out when I was researching the story.

In 1888, Washington, DC was actually the hub of the burgeoning recording industry. Columbia Phonograph Company, who had franchising rights for Thomas Edison’s phonograph, had initially marketed the invention to congressmen and business executives. It was, in fact, and early version of the Dictaphone. During the session of Congress, between fifty and sixty machines in the capital city by senators and representatives.

627 E St. NW, Washington DC. The building still stands, and can be seen on Google Maps.

But the phonograph never really caught on as office equipment. Instead, Columbia executives decided to focus on the entertainment industry. To quote a 1995 article in The Washington Post:

“Coin-in-the-slot phonographs, the earliest version of jukeboxes, were proving enormously popular at arcades and exhibitions, the first time that many Americans had seen or heard of Edison’s invention. For a nickel apiece, as many as 10 passersby could listen through rubber tubes (primitive earphones) to a two-minute rendition of a Shakespeare soliloquy or the Gettysburg address. But now the public demanded music instead of talk, and Columbia answered the call.”

Eventually, Columbia Phonograph Company moved out of Washington. But as someone who grew up in and around DC, there’s something fun and magical about thinking of that city as the home of popular music.

At the bottom of this post is a recording of the type which would have been recorded at the Columbia Phonograph Company. (If you are reading this in an email, the video preview might not show up, so please visit my website if you’re not able to see it.)

In Sweet Music, Josie Sullivan fights to save her family music store. At the same time, she struggles against her attraction for Pete, the new guy in town. Can Josie and Pete solve the mystery of a local legend, a hidden room, and a suspicious death? Can Josie find the strength to fix her past mistakes and step into her mother’s shoes? Can their chance encounter become true love, or will their song remain forever unfinished?

If you’ve read Sweet Music, I hope you’ll let me know in the comments. And if it’s on your TBR, let me know about that too! ♡

And in the meantime, I’ll leave you with this question: What was the first record you ever listened to?


This rendition of When Summer Comes Again by George H. Diamond was recorded on a wax cylinder in 1893. This is an example of the kind of recordings made in Washington, DC at Columbia Phonograph Company. Who knew that the nation’s capital was also the home of “Top 40” music?