Cut and Polish will lead to Shine

 

Screen Shot 2017-05-27 at 2.08.56 PM

Notes from my editor

In the last year, I have written several posts about my favorite parts of the author life: cover design, meeting readers, and of course writing stories. Today I am working on one of my least favorite parts.

If the picture didn’t clue you in, it’s editing. I am not opposed to a professional correcting, cutting, adding. I am fairly global in my approach to writing, I am all about the story, I admit (and I’m sure to disappoint the grammarians out there) I have a hard time focusing in on the details such as when I should use an em-dash. I am grateful there are people who not only focus on such things, but they have a passion for it. The only time an edit upset me was when the editor didn’t recognize a certain character did not use contractions when they spoke. The character was an older southern woman whose diction was drawn out, naturally she wouldn’t say wouldn’t, she would say would not.

No, I hate editing, because it is so tedious. I also find with all the lines and color changes in an edit it is difficult to see the story and how those changes might impact it. However, I understand that all that cut and polish is what makes my story truly shine.

Of course, it has not escaped me that I’m blogging about editing rather than jumping into the task of reviewing the edit. I am well aware of my own avoidance tactics. I love when I get to pages with very little red or blue notations. As much as I say I don’t care about the grammar details, I give myself an “atta girl” when I come across those pages. I was not an English major in college, although I had an excellent senior high school English Teacher, Mrs. Dever and my freshman English professors in college were impressed with the skills she sent me with.

I want my work to be quality, I am humble enough to recognize it will always take the help of others to bring it to that level. Again I see how an author does not stand on their own, it is the quiet support team behind the scenes that elevates the work.

So, I can’t shirk my task any longer. I hope I will not be cross-eyed by the time I’m done. I know my brain will be wrung out. I also know the clarity and luster of The Soul Believes It will make the effort worthwhile.

 

Introducing The Soul Believes It

 

The Soul Knows It Cover for Bookmark

Chris Berge of Berge Designs does it again! The cover art for book three captures the soul of this book.

Book Three now has a cover and once again I’m in awe of my cover designer Chris Berge. In The Soul Believes It, Lizzie discovers a letter and a family secret, that challenge her beliefs about family and where she comes from. This cover captures the essence of that.

The lowcountry is blessed to have live oaks, dripping with silvery, lacy Spanish moss. When I think soul, this tree comes to mind. If you are ever in the area, a visit to the Angel Oak tree on John’s Island (On the way to Kiawah and Seabrook), will prove it.

These trees are the east coast’s version of the Redwood forest out west. Live oaks are iconic on the campus of my alma mater, College of Charleston. Last year when one fell, alumni along with Charleston residents grieved. I was thrilled to read that much of the wood was salvaged so it could be transformed into items for sale. The proceeds going to the college’s scholarship fund. I have to think Shel Silverstein would appreciate this giving tree.

These trees bear witness here in the lowcountry. They give us shade against the brutal summer sun. The sight of the moss fluttering in the sea breeze, whispers, “You are home.” They’re solid, long-lived. They will be here long after we are gone.

Just like these poetic trees, our souls bear witness to our lives and stand solid if we only anchor ourselves to them in times of turmoil. Our souls can be shattered to their core and our beliefs can be challenged and possibly changed, but at the core, our souls are the essence of who we are and that gives us what we need to believe.

I hope you will enjou reading the third installment in the lowcountry home series. The book will be out in June. For now, let the cover intrigue you and inspire you to do some soul searching of your own.

 

 

Cover takes Award

 

2017-03-10 (2)

A portion of a post I shared on FaceBook

Fortunate is an understatement when I was introduced to Chris Berge of Berge Designs. He is truly a talented designer. He does book covers, Logos and all other kinds of design work for authors and businesses. I am thrilled to share that his design of my first book’s cover won in its category at the Spark Awards 2017.

I am completely biased when I say, I understand why. I think it is eye catching and conveys the book’s relationship with the South Carolina Lowcountry. For a debut novel, it is doing quite well and I totally credit this cover for getting people to read it.

I have said before that it vexes me that as a society we judge a book and just about everything else by its cover, this is one time I am glad for the judging.

Recently I had the pleasure to sit down with Chris over breakfast to begin the process for book three. I enjoy hearing about his family and sharing what’s gone on in my teaching and writing world since we last spoke. Once we are caught up we start talking cover and I so appreciate how it becomes a collaborative process. I share the story, Chris takes notes and asks questions and we bounce around some ideas. I love that he is open to my suggestions and always comes up with a product beyond my expectations.

I also love that he is local. This makes it possible to sit down at a table together. It also means he truly understands what a Lowcountry feel means. He lives it every day.

So I am tooting our horns, I am so pleased for him to get this recognition. I also like that I will garner some exposure from this as well. I am also so glad we will have a long collaboration ahead as I grow my titles. What a great way to wrap up this week!

 

 

Cover Girl

WP_20160213_002

Covers are to books what clothes are to people. While I loathe to admit this, it seems that it is human nature to make judgments based on visual data. I have certainly read plenty of books with unremarkable covers, but I have discovered books and authors simply because something about the cover caught my eye.

Visual Literacy has quickly become high octane in our on-line multi-media society. (Think Pinterest and Facebook). There is so much out there to distract and demand attention and you have seconds to draw someone browsing to your book. No pressure…

Next week I’m meeting with my very talented cover designer, Chris Berge of Berge designs here in Charleston about the cover for book three in my Lowcountry Home series. I am so blessed to have such a great designer and meeting to discuss ideas has quickly become one of my favorite parts in the publishing process.

We have it fairly easy this time around in the sense the parameters for this cover are set. We know it will be in the same style as the first two. It is the nuances we need to discuss. Plus it’s a great excuse to meet for breakfast. Did I mention I am really looking forward to this?

I am far from ever being a model, but I can say I am a cover girl.

 

Stepping onto Hallowed Ground

 

v__2a0c

My first book in the new section at the Mount Pleasant, South Carolina library.

The library has always been a magical place to me. Where else can you travel the world or travel through time for free.  If I think about it, I am not really sure how come I didn’t become a librarian. School library or public library, growing up in a nomadic military family, no matter where we moved there was a library full of familiar friends and new ones waiting to be discovered.

Do you remember the wonderful albeit slightly musty smell of a library book. I loved writing my name on the card and I was a little sad when we went to electronic scanning. Although technology has made our libraries better able to serve our needs. I love how the libraries now can search for a book title on the computer and get it delivered to your branch even if it has to come from another state.

Libraries to me are hallowed ground. They are an important piece of the foundation that forms a great society. Any member of our community can use the resources of the library to expand their learning, grow in their understanding of others and discover the possibilities, all they have to do is walk in the doors. You can feed your soul with the classics or your favorite genres. You can go back in time or see the world from a completely different perspective just by the selections you make from the shelves.

I love to browse the shelves and discover authors and series. While I do try to buy quite a few books to support fellow authors I am so glad that purchasing is not the only access point for literature. Some things in life should be free, just part of basic human rights and I think access to literature is right up there with clean air and water.

So needless to say one of my goals as an author was to have my books in the library. What made the achievement of this goal all the sweeter was not knowing and having a friend discover my book there on the shelf of our local library. The joy I felt in that moment will carry me for months to come. I think all authors on some level have achievements in mind that are the benchmarks for success in their writing life. First is just getting your book published. Maybe you want to get your book available on audio books. Perhaps you want to be on the bestseller’s list. Maybe you want the literary critics to take notice and like your work.

I think all authors on some level have achievements in mind that are the benchmarks for success in their writing life. First is just getting your book published. Maybe you want to get your book available on audio books. Perhaps you want to be on the bestseller’s list. Maybe you want the literary critics to take notice and like your work.For me I want people to read and like my stories and feel connected to my characters. I would love to have someone like Reese Witherspoon be the voice for my audio versions and I want to see my books in the library.

Being in the library means more to me than any commercial success or recognition, although as I grow as an author, I hope those things might come. For now, I am more than content to be on the library’s hallowed ground.

 

Time for a Quickie? Here is a Reveal

 

front-cover-apple-bn-the-heart-knows-it

Cover for book two!

Just a quick post to share the excitement of book cover number two! In a few weeks, the second book in my lowcountry home series will launch and I find I am just as giddy as I was about the first book.

Once again, Chris Berge of Berge Designs has translated my vision, better than the sum of its parts. He is truly talented and I am one lucky author to get to work with him. I also love that he is local here in Charleston. He truly understands the beauty and magic of this place we are blessed to call home.

I hope y’all like it as much as I do!

 

Savannah, SIBA and a Southern Girl

 

wp_20160917_008

The Southeastern Independent Booksellers Association in Savannah, September 2016. Bublish featured my book and I met booksellers by offering them the Southern Living Cheddar-Pecan-Cranberry biscuits out of a sweetgrass basket. Wearing pearls  of course!

I was given a great opportunity this weekend to participate in the SIBA (Southeastern Independent Booksellers Association conference. It was set in Savannah, the sister city of Charleston, an easy two hour and fifteen-minute drive. I have been working with Bublish  as an author to learn about the industry as well as utilize their fantastic tools to build my author platform and share content across social media. Now they are also my distributor. Bublish had a table at the conference and featured multiple authors and titles. With southern booksellers the target audience, it was a natural fit for a southern women’s fiction author to introduce herself.

So I baked the cheddar-pecan-cranberry biscuits I make every year as gifts for loved ones at Christmas. It is a Southern Living recipe and much loved by anyone who has ever eaten any. I found cocktail napkins that coordinated with the colors in my book cover and I packed up my lowcountry sweetgrass basket with a monogrammed linen tea towel. I even polished a silver mint julep cup to place my cards in. I ironed my bright Escapada dress  and set it out with my monogrammed Stella and Dot necklace along with my long strand of pearls. I set the alarm and crawled into bed.

Leaving the neighborhood I felt like I was the only one up and about so early on a Saturday morning. As I made my way south of Charleston, the sky lightened to reveal a swirling misty fog. I had a momentary flight of fancy, imagining I was crossing through a magical rift between the realm of reality into the realm of a fairyland for authors.

It had been several years since I had ventured down Highway 17 south to Savannah and I had forgotten how beautiful the vistas across the ACE Basin were. Driving through Jacksonboro I was sad to see the Old Edisto Motel is still vacant and reminisced  of driving out there during Shad Roe season with my friend Robin to eat the best hush puppies I have ever had. (Seewee Restaurant in Awendaw makes hush puppies that can rival). As I arrived in Savannah, I was once again enamored of this city with its squares and tree-lined streets.  I was nervous but excited to participate in my first trade show as an author.

What a fabulous experience! The biscuits were a hit and gave me a great way to talk a bit about my character Lizzie and her fictional business, The Biscuit Box. I met booksellers from multiple states as well as folks from our own Charleston paper, The Post and Courier and a reporter from Publisher’s Weekly. I also met fellow authors and one who is also a radio host. She offered to do a radio interview with me , so that will be another first I will share with you hopefully soon!

I left with The Eyes Have It having a lot of potential new outlets to reach readers. I also was given many free books from other authors and a slew of contacts. This girl was exhausted and exhilarated. If I was going to give myself a tip, it would be to have someone go with me, mainly to drive home.

The drive home was filled with bright sunshine, electric blue skies, and puffy white clouds. The mystical, mythical world of author meeting booksellers was now part of reality. This southern girl is blessed to see her dreams coming true!

 

Author is to Book as Mother is to Child

WP_20160507_002

The Eyes Have It:I had to see what my book looked like on my book shelf of keepers

I had the thrill this weekend of holding the print proof of my first novel The Eyes Have It in my hands for the first time. It was very timely with Mother’s Day weekend. I even had the audacity to place it on the bookcase shelf I reserve for my “keeper” books. Those are books that I loved so much I want to read again or that I have an emotional connection to. There are just some books you don’t want to pass on.

So I was thinking about how I am like the mother of this book. I conceived the characters and the plot. I incubated it and nurtured it to grow into a full-fledged story.  I struggled through it’s growing pains of editing and formatting. Now I am the proud mama watching as it leaves the nest and faces the big wide world, wanting so much for it to succeed and be loved.

Much like parents of human children, I did not do this alone. Instead of pediatricians, other parents, educators and the community. I had mentors, family, friends and a group of professionals to guide me and collaborate with. Much like a first time parent, I have high hopes I will be even better with the second one.

So on this Mother’s Day weekend 2016, I want to take a moment to just bask in the sunshine of this achievement. I am also thrilled my mother Mary has been with me every step of the way on this journey, her love has shaped me. I love you mama!

Palmettos and Pearls

 

Palm & Pearls BW Logo FINAL

On this journey from writer to author, I have read a lot about the importance of writers to think about their art as a business. I am sure I am not the only one who finds this a bit bewildering and uncomfortable. Surely a writer’s focus should be solely on the storytelling and all of the other bits and pieces that get your book to the readers will somehow just happen. When you think author don’t you think of that person holed up in a cabin somewhere, pounding out the stories and sending them via mail to the publisher that makes the rest all happen?

Well friends, the publishing world has been going through a metamorphosis that I seem to have entered mid-change. There are lots of voices out there and now multiple paths available to the bookshelf, physical or cyber. I have decided to stay out of the debate, I believe writer’s need to find the path that works for them. However, like anything worth doing, I have found that regardless of the path you take, there are certain things all writer’s need to do on their journey.

I have spent a lovely career in education and still have a few years left, but that does not mean I can think of my writing as a hobby or even a part-time job. I need to view it as my second career and everything I do now to build it will help me transition into it as my sole career. So I need to treat my writing as a professional, which means branding, marketing and LLC incorporation are subjects I have had to study.

I am fortunate to be taking this journey at a time when there are many resources and I highly recommend bublish.com if you are not already familiar with all they do to support authors on their journey. For the most part the community of writers is full of mentors.  One thing I decided was I needed to establish a Limited Liability Corporation so that finances for my writing could be separate from my personal finances. I wanted to chose a name that also went along with my “branding” of my writing to express my genre. If I could name my genre it would be Southern Women’s Fiction.  I have yet to find that category listed among sub-genres. The closest ones are: women’s fiction and contemporary fiction. So with Southern Women’s fiction and the setting of the lowcountry in mind, I began my quest for a name.

I googled possible names and had to scratch out a few that were taken. I was left with about half a dozen possibilities. From the start Palmettos and Pearls was on the top of my list but I toyed with a few others. Then I narrowed down and had a few friends give their feedback. Palmetto’s and Pearls won hands down. They all said it was more me than the other contenders. So I got on Legal Zoom, another marvel of the modern world, and processed my paperwork.

In this age of images I knew a name was not enough. I needed a logo, that could go on every book cover and on all my business paperwork. I originally wanted a tree wearing a pearl necklace but we could not seem to get it just right.  The final logo I think is reminiscent of a modern pearl statement necklace, and after all this is contemporary fiction I am writing . The Palmetto tree is an iconic symbol in these parts and just like that I have my own business with it’s own logo.

I am constantly learning on this journey and I hope my logo will grow be synonymous with my author brand. Who knew when I set out to become a published author I would be creating a business. I truly did envision a quiet beach house where I could hide away from the world and just write. I like being in the driver’s seat and I am thankful for the many who have gone before for sharing their knowledge as I chart my road map. I can’t wait to see what I learn at the next stop.

 

An Author is Born!

WP_20160412_001

http://ow.ly/10zgaIMy before 6 a.m. capture of the Amazon listing

It seemed to happen in an instant. Monday night I went to bed a writer aspiring to be an author. Tuesday I woke up as a published author.  It was thrilling, surreal and I am sure one of the top ten moments of my life so far. This is a monumental milestone and a great moment to reflect on the journey.

The truth of the matter as I have been headed for this moment since I attempted to write an antebellum drama in the fourth grade. I was drawn down different paths over the years and periodically dabbled in the writing, somehow always being drawn back. The journey became a serious trek about two almost three years ago.

I have always been a long range planner, I like to know what things will be like not just a day or a week from now but a decade or so ahead. Now, I have learned the hard way, that plans change on a dime and paths get redirected, but I still like a long range framework to work from. So almost three years ago when I realized I was a decade away from ending my teaching career I began to fret. Did I need another degree to do what came next?  What were my options. A good friend reminded me I loved to write. I did love to write, but could I be disciplined with it?  Could I write things other people would want to read? How in the world did you get published?  There were so many questions, but I was hooked.

Enter another friend who has experience and know how and with a few meetings over coffee, I was given a direction to begin my journey, I launched a blog page, and I wrote some novels. I investigated paths to publishing, I learned about covers . . .the learning curve has been steep. I have been grateful for the many people who have supported me along the way, by sharing knowledge, reading my work and giving me feedback and editing, editing, editing! I learned about pre-orders and launch dates and pricing. I have the book on an introductory special of just $2.99!  Here is the link to my pre-order page if you want to check it out, http://ow.ly/10zgaI

 

This journey is far from over. I have reached the first goal. This is not the end of the road, it is just a mile-marker on the rest of my life trip. Excited, awed, humbled, blessed, these are just some of the ways I feel at this juncture. I am in this for the long haul, but for a moment, I want to stop and breathe deep. I want to savor this moment. Even though it took an instant to make the change from writer to author, it has taken dedication and work to bring that instant about. Savor your accomplishments and enjoy your journey!