Office Hours

 

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My work area

One of the advantages of living in the South Carolina lowcountry is the proximity of the beach and each season I seek the sand and surf for different purposes. For example, in the winter I love to walk, think, process, and reflect. In the summer I set up my office hours.

A writer never really takes time off, your brain is always contemplating stories and characters, consiously or subconciously. Teachers on the other hand have what some consider the gift of summer, but what teachers know to be comp time for the many hours we work beyond our contracted hours. As both an educator and a writer, I spend a lot of hours working. That could be teaching, private tutoring or my author life and I enjoy it. Too much down time and I get a little antsy. Too little and I crash and burn and that what has me savoring this summer.

I have learned from past summers, if I schedule too many tutoring students, I don’t feel rested for the next school year. Plus, as my writing career continues to grow it needs more of my work time. I also know my time at the beach is non-negotiable, it is a must.

See beach time is more than relaxing, it is time set aside to read without distraction. If you read anything touting advice for writers, a given on the list is to be an avid reader. I have been a devourer of books before I began school and always have a stack calling my name.

During a typical school year I manage to read a book or two a month but in the summers I can read several books in a week. To keep that pace, my office hours on the sand are a committment to reading. The average person might think I’m loafing, but I can clearly make the case that I’m working dillegently. At least that is my story and I am sticking to it!

So with my toes in the sand, skin buffeted by the breeze and ears filled with the waves lullaby, I can spend several hours soaking up the beach and the literature on my knee. These are office hours I can enthusiastically fill. From one of my favorite Cole Porter songs, “Nice, gig if you can get it.”

 

Cut and Polish will lead to Shine

 

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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

 

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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

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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

 

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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

 

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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!

 

Anticipation

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The first four books of my summer reading stack!

I am a year-round reader, but in the summer, I truly devour books. I can easily read multiple books in a week and I go through withdrawal when every August I have to slow the pace as I get back to the rhythm of a school year.

Here we are at the beginning of the summer and I am ready to dive in! You probably looked at my first four titles and thought, “Whoa Nellie, those are some eclectic picks!” and you would be absolutely right. Three of them are the next three months of book club selections and one was highly recommended by a friend and is written by a fellow debut novelist and I feel very inclined to support it.

I have a few favorite genres, mysteries and historical fiction topping the list and if I can get into a mystery series set in a time period, like the middle ages or the twenties, then I am in reader’s paradise! I do think it is important to be a well-rounded reader so I also enjoy contemporary women’s fiction, the more southern the better, and I enjoy reading about historical figures. I have also enjoyed some science fiction/fantasy works over the years.

One of the things I love about my book club is the selections are varied and some have been challenging reads, due to subject matter or genre. However, even if I found a book challenging to read, I have never reached the end of a book without learning something as a writer. As a reader I have learned to appreciate genres I might have passed by otherwise.

I love how a book can transport us through time or introduce us to a new place. I love when I fall in love with the characters, particularly in a series when you can re-visit them again and again. I have found myself a bit angry at an author when they have chosen to end a series.

Reading is a gift that lasts for our lifetime. I can’t imagine what it is like to not know how to read or to not enjoy it. As an educator I am horrified that there are people who choose not to read. In my classroom I view as my prime objective to not only help students fall in love with books, but to turn them into lifetime readers.

I’ll admit that is more of a challenge in these modern times with social media and technology demanding a chunk of our free time. You know that age old question about what would you want with you on a desert island? One of my items would be a never-ending library. Food, water, shelter, sure! But books to occupy my mind are a must have.

Happy reading my friends!

A Feast For The Eyes

Feast for the eyesImages are in many ways as impactful as words.  In this age of multi-media and technology constantly at our fingertips, we are bombarded daily with images. Some draw us in. Some tell us  a story, think iconic photos in news stories.  Some manipulate us as consumers.  In the educational world we call these images visual literacy.

One site that has made us visually literate is Pinterest. It gives us a place to seek inspiration and collect images by categories and themes.  Sometimes an image sparks the idea. Other times the idea drives the collection of the images.

That is what happened with five of the boards I have created. I had written my novel, The Eyes Have It and I hope the scenes I described helped readers paint the pictures of my beloved lowcountry in their minds. I wanted to create some boards that showed how I see the lowcountry. How I see the natural beauty as well as the charm of Charleston and the surrounding communities. I also wanted to share the food that is such a part of  lowcountry culture and hospitality.

Madison Avenue has long understood the psychology of images. Now people use them regularly on blog posts, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I am sure that there are many more sites where images are essential, that this still learning the social media world writer is unaware of.

I find image searching a relaxing pastime. It helps me flesh out my ideas. It helps me dream of possibilities. It is a communication tool that has no language barriers, although I am sure there could be some cultural confusions.  Images help us connect with the world. Technology has made our world smaller. It has also given us the tools to make our personal worlds expand exponentially.

A feast for the eyes, a set of images can inspire, teach, and connect you with our world. They can also leave you hungry for some shrimp and grits with a hot buttered biscuit!

Captivated by a Cover

unnamedMy heart skipped a beat when I saw the final design.  I have to say I was giddy with delight at the surreal experience of seeing my debut novel’s cover.  I was blessed to work with a fantastic local designer, Chris Berge of  Berge Designs.  He really listened to my vision and incorporated his know-how to bring us to the final product.  I hope it will inspire readers to pick it up and get to know my main character Lizzie. I know I fell in love with her story all over again when I first glimpsed the cover.

I knew the cover was one of the most important components of the book. I have only seconds to capture the attention of a browser. It was important to me that this cover reflect my other main character in this novel, the beautiful and magical South Carolina lowcountry, the place I call home.  I have been in love with this place since I arrived as a teenager. Yes, even in these pollen hazy days, It literally has been snowing pollen so thick, you see footprints on the sidewalk. I wanted this cover to pay homage to the lowcountry water, marsh and sky and that is what inspired the color palette.  This place is an elixir of healing for my Lizzie, and Chris really captured that with the lowcountry seeping through her scarf.

I know we are cautioned not to judge a book by it’s cover, but please judge away!  I am confident you will be captivated.  I have found some of my favorite authors simply because I was drawn in by their covers.  That is not to say, I have not also picked up a book on recommendation despite the cover.  But an eye catching cover is a definite hook. In my very biased opinion, I think this cover is a winner.

I can hardly believe that a little over a month from now, this book will be released as both an e-book and a print book, with an ISBN number, a bona fide novel!

I want to thank y’all for following me on this journey and encouraging me every step of the way.  I can’t wait to share the story of Lizzie with you.