In the Stack

 

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My latest book stack. In the foreground are the three I just read, in the background are my anticipated reads.

 

I’d like to thank my book club for bringing diversity into my reading life. It might surprise you to learn that as a writer of southern women’s fiction I am a huge fan of reading mysteries, and I can trace that all the way back to my Nancy Drew days. Right now my favorite stories on the telly as they would say in my favorite genre are British mystery series like Father Brown, Miss Fisher, and Midsomer Murders.

While I have also read a ton of women’s fiction over the years, the book club I’m in has brought before my eyes, dystopias, biographies, dark fiction, historical fiction and the list goes on. I am richer for it, not just as a writer but as a human. After all one of the great joys of books is exploring new worlds, ideas, and possibilities we would never encounter in our everyday lives.

Books or at least pamphlets, inspired schisms in the church, revolutions in countries and other world-changing events. I’m not saying anything that earth shattering is in my current stack, but from every book I read, fiction or non-fiction I gain a different perspective on humanity and expand my own empathy towards others and ideas on living.

No matter high-tech this world becomes or how pervasive social media becomes, books will have an enduring place. Social Media has the power to spread messages, true or false in lightning time, but the messages are just the headlines, not the in-depth examination of the human condition or revolutionary ideas. Books are where we can explore and understand. A book must hold up to much more scrutiny as to the validation of its facts and examination of its ideas.

We, humans, have a primal need to express our thoughts and communicate our ideas and we use a wide variety of art and media to do so. To me, books are the most important form we have. The one invention of the printing press centuries ago has allowed words and ideas to be shared through time and we have not stopped sharing words around the world since.

No matter if your stack sits on a bedside table as mine, or in a queue on a digital device, keep stacking and keep reading, you will be richer for it.

Redesign Time

 

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My new look

All women know there is nothing like a new hair-do or a new outfit to make you feel renewed and spiffy. I discovered today that applies to website design as well. I have spent the last few hours redesigning my page so I can add new content in hopefully a user-friendly way. (Y’all will have to let me know what you think.)

Even with a template to work with, I found it difficult to make decisions. I tried several templates before I played around with this one called ficitve long enough I got the colors and the placement of items the way I had envisioned. Not bad for a self-taught techie.

Experts talk a lot about the importance of branding for authors and I hope this color palette says beach and lowcountry to those who view it. The lowcountry is a setting, but it is also a character in my stories. To me, the palette of the lowcountry is blues, greens, and browns. I hope my books are beach read enjoyable and I am happy to report not only has that been a comment in reviews from readers, it is also a key phrase to find my book on Amazon. Seriously, a friend sent me a screenshot of her beach read search and my first book popped up on the first page.

So I hope you will enjoy my new look as much as I do, I have that swing my hair and look at my reflection in the glass feeling I get after I visit my stylist Mallory at the salon. I may just float out into the kitchen to take on my next task, finding something for supper.

 

 

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.

 

 

Picture Perfect Panel

 

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Myself with fellow women’s fiction authors, Christine Nolfi and Pamela Poole at Fiction Addiction in Greenville, South Carolina.

May 12th was the day I consider to be the first anniversary of my first book as published. May 13th, I added another first to my list in this author journey. I was part of a panel of women’s fiction panel at a wonderful bookstore, Fiction Addiction in Greenville, South Carolina.

I have done book signings and book clubs, but this was the first opportunity I had to collaborate on an event with fellow authors. writing is a solitary pursuit and while I am very comfortable with that, it was refreshing to spend time with others who are traveling a similar path.

I particularly enjoyed the car ride up and back with my mentor and publisher and fellow author Christine Nolfi. Christine is well ahead of me on this path and she was kind enough to share her wealth of experience with me and encouraging words for my journey.

Every time I have done an event I realize that interacting with readers is one of my favorite things in an author’s life. I am sometimes surprised by that because before I got serious about my writing life I fantasized that I could hide out in a cabin by the sea and just send my books out into the world without me. I get a little nervous before an event but after, I am exhilarated and energized. I think I may be an extroverted introvert.

I love that all of us on the panel had a Charleston connection, two of us live here, one was born here and would love to live here again. I was also fascinated by how different each of our writing processes were. We had great questions from the host and the audience. The flow was natural and we shared laughter and a love of storytelling. Like our stories in women’s fiction, we embodied what makes the tribe of women strong. Women supporting women makes for a better journey for all.

Appropriate to ponder on this Mother’s Day. Enjoy the day y’all! Celebrate the women in your life, not just your mother. Most women, regardless of whether they have given birth nurture and uplift others, that I believe is the silent oath we take to be part of this tribe of women. I find southern women in particular, view this as a mandate and execute it with finesse, elevating it to an art.

Woman alone is strong and capable, women together are a force beyond reckoning. I love my fellow man, but I am thankful every day to be a woman.

 

 

 

Author takes a Field Trip

 

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Historic Cemetery at St. Helena’s in Beaufort South Carolina

Usually, when I take a field trip I am accompanied by twenty plus, rather excited, six-year-olds. This time I had a good friend as a companion to take a day trip to the charming and historic town of Beaufort South Carolina.

For those of you who are Pat Conroy fans, this was his stomping ground and they have opened the Pat Conroy Literary Center in his honor. I enjoyed seeing his writing desk and being able to peer at some of his handwritten work. I’m blown away that he wrote all his novels by hand. The digital age did not turn him into a keyboard writer and as you look at some of the artifacts from his life, maybe we are the richer for it. Modern Day authors may not have as many artifacts to leave behind as legacy. While there, I picked up a list of upcoming classes being offered for writers and I am excited to say I got registered for one that will only have 12 participants. I hope this will be the first of many I will get to participate in.

I took a little bird walk from the purpose of my post to share about the Pat Conroy Literary Center, but I felt compelled to share it and encourage you to visit. The real purpose of the trip was the need to authenticate some scenes for book three, I wrote them from memory, but I had not been to Beaufort in a decade and one thing I don’t like as a reader is when an author messes too much with the reality of a place.

Most people might find it a bit odd that I would want to drive a little over an hour to stand in a cemetery walk along the waterfront and drive past an inn. Luckily my friends accept my eccentric side and one was even willing to go along for the ride. Beaufort is a beautiful southern belle of a town on the Port Royal Sound and celebrated its 300th birthday back in 2011. Its grid plan of streets makes it easy to navigate and we quickly located the church.

Once I stepped through the gate and into the cemetery that surrounds the church, I was relieved to find my memory was accurate and I would not need to re-write that scene. We slowly meandered along the path through the cemetery and around the church. We met the deacon of the church who was welcoming and willing to share information. We were intrigued by the ages and dates on the stones and the various styles and designs of markers. A little further along we met a helpful groundskeeper. He encouraged us to go into the church and see the docent on duty, which we did. The docent gave us a tour and shared historical information about the building and the congregation.

One thing I had been looking for in the graveyard was if any of the stones had the names from my book. If so, I planned to change the names I used in the book out of deference to any descendants. The docent had a directory so very quickly, we were able to verify the surname I was looking for was not on any of the stones. The names in the book could stay intact.

We went on to drive by the inn, walk along the waterfront and meander the shops on Bay Street, before breaking for lunch. Then our last stop before heading home was the Pat Conroy Literary Center. Beaufort is a gem and I regret I have not been there more often. Hopefully, with the classes for writers, it will become a more frequent place for me to hang out.

Now that I am back at home base, I look forward to returning next month and I am inspired to plan some more field trips around our lovely state. Have map, will travel, who knows maybe a place will inspire the writing for a whole new book.

 

 

 

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.

 

The Big Lesson In A Day About Small

 

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On Small Business Saturday, this was the place I did a book signing.

The Small Business Saturday after Black Friday has been gaining momentum in the past few years. I try to make a habit to shop in non-corporate  stores as much as I can and in Mount Pleasant we are blessed with some wonderful small businesses. Unfortunately, we don’t have an independent bookseller, although there are a few in the wider area. We do have a Barnes and Noble and I do patronize the store, I appreciate the teacher discount card and the fact that I can have a decent browsing experience. At one time I knew one of the managers by name, we had worked on a joint project together, but she is no longer with the company . While the employees are generally helpful, they don’t know me from Adam and there isn’t a connection.

Contrast what I observed in My Sister’s Books in Pawley’s Island. This store is an interesting place run by sisters. They only deal in paperbacks and audio books. There is a mix of new and used and it would literally take days to browse all the shelves. As I sat by my signing table I was struck by how many customers the owners greeted by name. It was obvious they had many regular and long-standing costumers who loved to trade in books, buy books and talk books. I also observed a family with husbands, wives, and children, spending their Thanksgiving at the beach, come in and all family members found a book or two. So many readers! I met a mystery author a children’s author and a photographer who had a book of stunning photos all taken at Pawley’s.

I met a mystery author, a children’s author and a photographer who had a book of stunning photos all taken at Pawley’s. We had all been invited to celebrate the Small Business Saturday. I even managed to shop for a few books while I was there. I enjoyed answering questions about my book and why I got into writing. I also enjoyed discussing other books and genres with readers. It was truly an enjoyable experience.

The big lesson I took away from the experience is the connections small businesses can make with customers makes the business so much more than buying and selling. The owners of My Sister’s Books are truly passionate about reading and they know what their customers want. I saw one of the sister’s go and pull a book for a customer and saw the delight of that customer to be treated so personally. I would hope the employees a the big box bookseller would also be passionate about books.  I know they are locals who are glad to be employed, but I get the sense their enthusiasm or drive to know their customers is lost in the corporate mindset they are trained with.

I think in the times we are living in, the only way to improve the state of the world, our nation, our state, our community and even our neighborhoods is through personal connections. Not through social media, but face to face contact, sharing our interests and our passions. Getting to know each other on a more intimate level, so we can have empathy and understanding for each other. I know if I had a choice between two businesses and one of them had gone out of their way to be friendly, or remember me, or to treat me as a person, not a dollar sign, that is the business I will return to again and again.

Small things add up to big things and do I dare say, could change the world.