A Saturday Road Trip

 

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Hwy 17, the road to all places Coastal South Carolina

 

It’s a Lucky day and not just because it’s St. Patrick’s Day. I woke up a little giddy with anticipation for all this Saturday holds.  Having completed my report cards and put on the class play, this weekend is a rare school task-free weekend and I have big plans.

It’s a lovely day for a drive up the coast to Pawley’s Island where I’m dropping off signed books for the bookstore My Sister’s Books. I have done an author event at their store before and I can’t wait to browse their shelves. They have a combination of new and used books and I fully expect to find a treasure or two.

Yes, I could have shipped the signed books to them, but then I couldn’t enjoy the browse. Plus, I have set up a meeting with a bookstore owner in Georgetown and I hope that will result in a possible signing event and/or my books being present on their shelves. Wish me luck, although I feel the auspices of the day will carry it. At the very least I’ll get to browse in a new-to-me bookstore and that will be worth the stop in and of itself. I should also get to poke around some other shops between Pawley’s and Charleston as I work my way home.

How will this book lover cap off this lovely day? An oyster roast with friends of course! I already have my chili contribution marinating in its seasonings. I have my gloves and shucker ready on the counter. I can almost taste the salty sea as I think about it.

Anticipation for the day is a good thing. Everything on my agenda today I am genuinely looking forward to. I hope it plays out as idyllic as it does in my mind. Even if there are a few monkey wrenches thrown in I’ll be wear’n my green and channeling the ancient Irish blood that courses through my vein. I have to believe that the wind will be at my back and the road will rise up to meet me.

Have a happy St. Patrick’s Day and may your Saturday be filled with moments that make you smile.

 

From Scribbler To Writer

 

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Me at around age 2 or 3

My Daddy has been taking a large collection of slides and changing them into digital photo files. I’m sure those born after 1975 are probably scratching their heads as to what a slide is. I used to love when we would set up the screen and the projector with a loaded carousel and click our way down memory lane.

Daddy emailed this picture to me and I saw my teacher-self and my writer-self in their incubator stage.  How excited I was to be writing with chalk, another instrument of the past. As a leftie, I struggled with proper penmanship for years, but I would enthusiastically write and draw despite the legibility.

Fast forward to the world we are in today and I really worry about the current generation of young children who spend too much time on electronic devices and not enough with paper, or boards and writing tools. There is a lack of fine motor development and literacy development that is becoming a growing problem. Scribbling is such an important part of brain, motor and literacy development and children need to time to do it.

I have a passion for writing, but I also had a childhood rich in literature and ample opportunity to write at many developmental stages. I wonder if subsequent generations will be as literate as those of us who came before them. What will society and humanity lose if they are not?

If I could speak directly to parents of pre-schoolers I would preach to them to shut off the devices, visit the library, set up a dry erase board and get a pile of scrap paper and immerse their children in literacy. It will ensure a richer future for their child and also make their school experience more successful.

I believe that what elevates a culture, what keeps a culture going is its arts and literature and I fear America is falling short compared to our European counterparts. As a first-grade teacher, I view the two most important parts of my job are to turn students into readers and that they develop a love for reading and writing that will stay with them for a lifetime. As a writer, of course, I want people to buy my books, but I also love that my books are in libraries, because most of all I want people to read and enjoy my stories.

My passion for books, reading them and writing them is my soapbox and I could go on for days about the virtues of both. It was nice that this vintage photo slide reminded me that passion is deeply rooted in my beginnings.

 

 

The Trick of the Title

WP_20160213_002I have a meeting this Monday with my cover designer and I have a vision for the art in my mind. Sounds like it should be an easy meeting, right? If I could say with certainty what the title is going to be. . . I have forty-eight hours to figure it out.

This book is a prequel to the trilogy I completed last year. The story itself came to me with clarity. The title has been somewhat elusive, although, I do have a working list. This novel like all the others so far is set here in the Lowcountry of South Carolina. So much of the evocative landscape plays an inspirational role for my heroine and I want that reflected in the title. However, the Lowcountry and the coast, in general, are so inspirational many of the key words I initially came up with to incorporate were in so many other titles I had to go back to the drawing board.

I came up with one title, I really liked, then my editor pointed out that it implied a tongue and cheek, humorous book. This didn’t mesh with the interior. This is a story of love, loss, redemption, forgiveness and confronting truths. I don’t want a title that might mislead a reader. Although I have tucked that title away for a truly lighthearted story for down the road.

So from a list of about twenty ideas, I have narrowed it down to about eight contenders. At best, I will narrow it down to one by Monday, or at least the top three to share with Chris, the designer, and get his take.

When we name a book, a business or even a child, we have to think about how that book, business or child will be perceived by the world based on that name. Let’s face the facts, even if Trixie (No offense intended to anyone named Trixie) has a degree from M.I.T.,  on introduction we might assume she is a flighty sort. That’s just human nature. A business’s name must convey a sense of what they sell or an aesthetic that will resonate with buyers. A book title should relate to the content and intrigue a reader enough they will read the back cover synopsis.

Perhaps once one becomes a name recognized author to a reader then the title is of less importance. I will read anything by Peter Mayle, regardless of title. But I bet he or his editor work hard to get just the right title, all the same.

Shakespeare has his famous line about what’s in a name, he understood the weight a name can carry, he understood human perception based on a name could have a bearing on reality. He also understood that what really mattered wasn’t the name but the essence of the object or person.  A book’s content is its essence and in theory, should not be judged by its cover. The reality is the cover and the title will be judged, so care should be taken with it.

Wish me well while I wrestle with this decision, hopefully, this spring, when I do a cover reveal, you will smile and say, “Oh, what a great title!”

 

 

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!