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!

 

Savannah, SIBA and a Southern Girl

 

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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!

 

The Beginning of the End

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I’m finishing up the last two chapters of the second book featuring my heroine Lizzie and I find myself a little melancholy. I don’t like saying goodbye to these characters who have been living a rich and active life in my mind for the past several months.

Now there is one more Lizzie book planned. I have imagined a trilogy  through which to share her life, so it really is only goodbye for now. I imagine when I get to the end of the third book I might need some grief counseling.

I have experienced this melancholy before. The last few weeks of high school and college were exciting but also sad. Moving on is necessary for growth yet we grieve for the loss of the way things were. Over time I have come to understand when one chapter closes a new one begins (literary illustration intended). Not so tongue and cheek let me continue with the thought that our life is a blank book and we get to write the pages. Hopefully that means we have volumes of what comes next before our final the end.

In other words and ending is just the beginning of what comes next. I am comforted by the fact I will live with these characters through a third book and I suppose they will live in me forever. This cast of characters are special in the sense they are the first ones I have shared with the rest of the world.

In a few days I will send this off to the editor and in a few months I will share this next part of Lizzie’s story with the world. For now, I will keep Lizzie and her loved ones close to my heart.

 

Mastering My John Hancock

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Yes, after practicing on an envelope, I practiced on my proof copy.

I am a south paw, so penmanship has always been a challenge for me. Add in the fact I have spent the last twenty-three years teaching Kindergarten and First Grade, in other words printing on a daily basis, I have some nerves about signing books. I recently had a conversation with an older student I tutor about using the phrase, Let me put my John Hancock on that or Do you need my John Hancock. She had just finished studying the American Revolution and knew he was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Imagine the nerves those men must have felt signing their names. How marvelous that John Hancock’s name has become synonymous with signature.

I hadn’t thought too much about it until my book came out in print and I had multiple people asking if I would sign them. Then it occurred to me, what will I write, beside my name? My name by itself seemed to0 bland. Another decision to make.

Then I wondered what kind of pen to use. I almost emailed an author I know, but was embarrassed to ask such a question, so I stood for a while in the pen aisle of a big box store.  I narrowed down to fine tip. Then I found one that promised no bleed through.  My friend Sally recommended a smear test, so as we sat at a bar during a friend’s fortieth birthday celebration, I wrote on an envelope and immediately ran my finger across, good news no smear!  Pen selected.

I tried out several messages, like Happy Reading!  Lowcountry dreams, but I decided to  incorporate my LLC name, since it will tie into my author brand and go with all the books I plan to publish in the foreseeable future. So Wishing you Palmettos & Pearls it is.

I had the thrill of signing a copy that my friend Dodie purchased and then brought to me to sign. She will always be part of the memory of my first autograph.  My first public signing will be on May 24th, so I have some time to practice writing all that in cursive. I anticipate at some point book signing will become second nature for me, but for now it a thrilling, new part of my author life.

 

Author is to Book as Mother is to Child

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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

 

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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!

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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!

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.