Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Sneak preview of "Riverbend"

A few weeks ago, I promised that you would meet Damaris, the heroine in my WIP, "Riverbend." I think the best way to do this is to let you read the first chapter, which introduces Damaris and her astonishingly brief courtship. Here's the link: Riverbend

I read the chapter to my writers' club last Sunday. I was nervous because we have some very talented writers. I wanted feedback and especially to know if they thought the chapter -- or the opening paragraphs -- were enough to draw the reader into the story.

I have lived with Damaris in my head for many years now. I tried to make her a secondary character in another novel, but she was too strong. She wanted to tell her own story ... oh, here she is now.

I read the chapter and hated it.

Hated it? Why?

It reminded me of that terrible day I was forced into that loveless marriage with Matthew Pope. I was only sixteen and didn't dare defy my Papa, but I soon wished I had. The only reason I obeyed is because I thought, as Mrs. Pope, I would be the mistress of a big plantation. 

Yes, Riverbend. But that didn't happen, did it.

No, my first discovery was that Riverbend already had a mistress, the slave Zoe. And she became my mortal enemy, although I was no threat to her until... (Shudders)

Was Zoe really a witch?

For awhile, I thought she had cast a spell on me, but I was able to overcome it. The other slaves certainly thought so. They hated her as much as I did.

What a terrible life you had, almost a captive on that farm, with only your son Matty for company.

(Smiles) It wasn't that bad. Both Zoe and Mr. Pope ignored me as worthless so I was free to do as I pleased. And I had Matty, until his father took a sudden interest in his education. That's when Simon came...

Ah, Simon. Wait--don't leave now!

I told you she was shy. There are some things she doesn't like to talk about, such as her elopement--a very dangerous step in that day and time, when a divorce was hard to obtain. She had to love Simon very much to give up her chances of ever seeing her son again.

Again, here's the link to the first chapter: Riverbend  Please let me know what you think. I welcome all comments.


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Our Anson County Writers' Club, along with the Union County Writers'  Club and South Piedmont Community College (and a lot of help from the Anson County Arts Council, local businesses and foundations), held the fifth annual Carolinas Writers Conference last Saturday.

This was the culmination of a full year of contacting authors, selling and preparing ads for our program, and doing a lot of advertising. We had a wonderful full day of author talks and workshops, followed by an evening of story telling.

I got there at 8 a.m. and returned home around 10:30 p.m. Jim  was waiting up and patiently listened to me as I raved about how great it all was.

In two weeks, we will begin preparing for next year. Or not.

The question is: Do we really need to go through all this work and expense to attract so few people?

I was pondering this question when I ran into our pastor at Walmart this afternoon. After talking for a bit, we got on the subject of church attendance. He said that he once got to his small country church to find only one member there.

He held the service for that one devoted parishioner.

My feeling is that if the people who came were satisfied and expressed a desire to co me again, we should do it.

Now, I need your help. What is the best way to get the word out about this event? Here is what we did:

Posters in libraries, high schools and colleges
Newspaper articles
e-mail blasts
Asking friends to re-post on their Facebook page
Banner ad on N.C. Writers' Network website

One attendee said we should have a conference Fan page on Facebook. Sounds like a plan.

The local newspaper wrote a great article (check it out! lots of pictures!). I'm going to send the link to all the attendees who shared their e-mail address and ask them to tell their friends if they felt the conference was worthwhile.

Because I think word of mouth is the best advertisement.

If you can think of another way we can advertise this, please leave a comment.

This great opportunity is too good not to share with as many writers as possible.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

My long love affair

I confess -- I've been having an affair that has lasted over  half a century. Vibrant, passionate, and ongoing.

Yes, I'm  in love with my library.

Always have been. Oh, the cities and the buildings have changed over the years, but the pure essence of library has stayed constant.

I first recall piling into the car (or taking the bus if Dad wasn't home to drive us) and going into town from our home in the country. Shopping, stopping for a soda at Eckerds Drug Store, all were fun, but the highlight was going to the library and filling our arms with books. I started with picture books and graduated to the Bobbsey Twins (Bert and Nan, Freddie and Flossie), The Wizard of Oz, all the Nancy Drew and Tarzan books, and so on. Sci-Fi kept my interest as a teenager (Asimov and Bradbury), and then I moved on to historical romances (which were pretty tame by today's standards).
There was a small library right next to the elementary school. On Fridays, our fifth grade teacher, Miss Artello, took us there to get a book or books.  Then we either put our heads down while she read to us, or read our own books quietly while Miss Artello read hers. My favorite day of the week. In the summer I rode my bike to the library and took out as many books as the basket would hold. My ambition was to read every book in the tiny building, but as the books kept changing out, I never made it. Oddly that library is still open today although the school has long since closed.

In high school, my friends and I would study in the library on the Kent State campus and pretend we were college students. And when I was doing research for my graduate classes at the University of Buffalo, I enjoyed sitting in the carrel and knowing that not only did books surround me, they were stacked in the floors above and below me. I can't hear the word "stacks" without thinking of those thousands of volumes.

Libraries hold more than books, now. You can check out talking books, music CDs, and movies for free or a nominal fee. There are classes in computer literacy, programs featuring guest authors, even exercise groups. No one shushes you any more and the silence has been replaced by a low murmur of people exchanging computer tips or recommending the latest novel.

I have two e-readers, one for each of the major book sellers. I download books almost every day. But we still go to the library weekly. (The picture above shows part of the garden outside.)

 As I unload my shopping bag of its plethora of books,  Jim makes the same joke, "We  brought back your library." Then we select more books, go home and relax in our favorite chairs, and open our latest find. The library books are first choice, the e-readers are backup in case I run out and the library is closed.

Closed. I can't even imagine it if the library were to close, not just for a holiday or weekend, but permanently. Some say it will happen.

I hope not in my lifetime.

And so I celebrate National Library Week -- and celebrate a love that has lasted a lifetime.


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

How important is social media to a writer?

The afternoon is half gone, and I have spent it all on Twitter, Facebook, and now blogging.


For one thing, I wanted to remind people of the Carolinas Writers Conference, coming fast now--April 20. We had our last planning meeting this morning and we're as ready as we can be. For my readers who say, "Oh, I'm not a writer," let me add that the morning session is author talks, and will be of interest to anyone who likes to read. We have four great authors with four disparate topics.

Also that evening, Back Porch Stories will return to the Ansonia Theatre. Come on down and listen to three story tellers spin their verbal magic.  (Details on BPS and the conference are at www.carolinaswritersconference.org

To get this news out, I posted on my Twitter account, a writing loop, and both Facebook accounts.

Wait--both Facebook accounts?

Yes. I have one that I use to connect with friends and family. I try not to bore them with my writing life, so I seldom  post about my books or writing activities there. I personally don't believe that Facebook is a place to push your business, political beliefs or other agendas. In fact, I'm getting kind of tired of scrolling through posts on getting stuff free, fashion, snarky cartoons (I mean the snarky ones, I love most cartoons and frequently share them on my page) and all the other junk that clutters up the page. I don't mind posts that raise awareness, but those that say "Type 1 in the comment box and see what happens to the picture" really turn me off. Frankly, I've tried and nothing happens. Big waste of time.

So.... that brings me to my second Facebook page, which is a fan page and is strictly used to promote my books and share posts about writing. It's tricky to remember to sign out of one and sign in to the other, so sometimes my fans may see a comment about a restaurant I've visited and my friends may yawn, "OMG, she's pushing her durn book again."

After posting about the conference I posted  (on both FB sites) about the Carolinas Romance Writers meeting I went to on Saturday. Mostly because I was in a picture--way in back, but you can make me out--so I wanted to share that with friends AND fans.

Oops, I forgot to Tweet it. But I did remember to Tweet the conference.

So what is the purpose of all this, you might well ask? And why is it important to me, as a writer?

It's called building a platform. It's letting people know I am a writer, and I am serious about my craft. It's letting readers know about my books and me letting people know about books I love (yes, I am on Goodreads, too).

It's letting people get to know me, and letting me get to know you.

It's all about connections.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Everything in its season

I bought this orchid at a post-Easter sale last year. Never having had much luck with potted plants, I thought we would enjoy the blooms, it eventually would die, and I would throw it away -- repeating a pattern that has held true most of my life.

But here it is! Blooming for a second Easter. My African violet is also continuing to produce pretty purple flowers after refusing to bud for over five years.

Can it be I have suddenly developed a green thumb?

It is a little like my writing life. For years I've had stories tossing around in my brain, but never put them down on paper.  Then one day, I decided it was time. Who knows why? The suns and stars were in alignment, the season was right.

The analogy stops here. Plants are predictable. A tulip bulb does not arbitrarily send up a daffodil. But a writer can bloom in any color or design she wants. She can place her story in the past or the future. She can plant it in reality or draw from her imagination and build a whole new world.

My first book (alas, unpublished) was historical fiction. Then I wrote two contemporaries that sold, and self-published a third. But the first book, like a plant struggling to reach the sun, continued to call to me. I took another look and decided its flaw was that it was two stories in one. As carefully as a team of surgeons separating conjoined twins, I divided the book in half. The result is Riverbend. (The other twin is resting comfortably, thank you, and will get my full attention later on.)

I asked for help in naming my male character. Thanks for all the suggestions. I wavered between Julian and Simon, but finally decided Simon was the better fit. A keystroke replaced the temporary name I was using and Simon appeared as if he had always been there.

I have a  name for my female protagonist: Damaris. It's the name of a childhood friend, and when I started writing, it popped into my head and stayed there. Maybe I'll bring her around next week and let you meet her. She's shy, but very sweet. It's such a shame she is married to someone one else--Simon would be perfect for her.

Maybe I can do something about that.