Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Speaking of Southern...Names

Speaking of Southern…Names

What’s in a name? Well in the South it’s everything. It precedes a person and tells others a little (or a lot) about the background of the person and about his or her family. Names in the South are weights, and those weights can be positive or negative. It’s really hard to explain to people from other areas of the country just how impacting names are below the Mason-Dixon Line.

First of all, if you’re born with one of those my-family-signed-the-Declaration-of-Independence surnames, well…aren’t you one of the lucky ones. A good name in the South opens doors and gets you respect like you wouldn’t believe. Admittance to the right private country clubs (ones that most people have never even heard of), seats on prestigious boards, and invitations to all the happening parties are at your disposal. So…if you have one of those venerable last names like Rutledge or Harrison or Jefferson…well, “Bless your heart” (Prolific Insincere Southern Statement—P.I.S.S.).

But you just cannot rest on your laurels and hope that you are born into the “right” family. You’d better hope that your parents have the good sense to bestow a proper given name also. In the South, that starts with looking at your ancestors. And the best place to begin is with your mother’s maiden name. Yes, people…in the South, our sons’ and daughters’ first names frequently come from their mothers’ maiden names. It’s where we get unusual first names like Drayton, Ashley (now overused), Smith and Tradd. And, of course, it’s always okay to use simple, respectable ancestral first names like James or Thomas or Mary or Elizabeth. Just stay away from names like Kylie or Apple or Rocket (they’re so Hollywood—and so looked down upon by snooty people you don’t care about).

Finally, if you’re lucky enough to end up with a name like James Jefferson Middleton or Elizabeth Anson Rutledge, it’s acceptable for your family to give you an approachable nickname. Try Sissy or Skippy or Peaches or Beau, for example. They must be an equal part Southern and an equal part cute to make it through the Southern name police.

And then there’s the other part of the South—the people who make up the majority of the population—some would say…the real people of the South—people with names like Skeeter and Shrimp and Queenie and Flossie—people who don’t give a rodent’s rear about those private country clubs or those prestigious charity boards. They are the people who won’t bother saying, “Bless your heart.” At the first hint that you’ve let your illustrious Southern name go to your head, they’ll just say, “’Prolific Insincere Southern Statement’ off!”

Monday, January 20, 2014

Book Signing is Fun (and a lot of work)!

Book Signing is Fun (and a lot of work)!

So…what’s it like to do a book signing? In a single word—fun! Oh, don’t get me wrong. It’s not like…going to the movies fun. It’s more like going to a picnic with all your friends fun.

At the movies, you just show up. They have all the entertainment lined up. They have the seating, the popcorn, the soft drinks—everything. At a picnic, YOU create the fun. You bring the tablecloth, the picnic basket, the wine, the food. You think of the games and entertainment. Heck…you ARE the entertainment—you bring the balls, or the horseshoes, and the Frisbees. You set it all up and then have fun with your friends. It’s a lot of work.

Book signings are like that. They are a lot of work—before you ever sign one book! Yeah, your host will probably have the desk and the chair (but I’d always ask—just to be sure). They may even order the books ahead of time. But again, you need to touch base to make sure this is true and talk about just how many fans you expect might show up. You wouldn’t want to be caught with too few books—or too many.

To make your book signing organized, think ahead about what you may need. If the book store is going to collect the money, you may not need to worry about the moola; however, many book signings today are held in libraries, specialty stores, restaurants, clubs, book fairs, etc. If a signing is held in such a venue, you will need a box or zippered bag to hold the bills, and you will need change…lots of it. Oh, and BTW, I like to bring my gorgeous niece along to collect the cash, so that I’ll have more time to talk to my readers.

 You’ll need several pens—and try them out before you begin your signing. Many authors like to use colors other than black to make their messages and signatures stand out. Personally, I prefer black. It’s just hard to mistake a signature from type.

If your book is available digitally, try ordering some rack cards to sign for e-book customers. It’s a way for them to participate in the signing, as well. For myself, I no longer buy print books if digital books are available. I’m a bibliophile, but I love reading at night from my Kindle that much! I also bring stands for my rack cards, my business cards and one for a book (to display). Your table will look better if everything isn’t resting “dead” flat on the table.

I also purchase “Local Author” stickers and “Autographed Copy” stickers. To me, they are dimensional decorations for the covers and make them pop to the customer—especially if you are leaving stock in the store for sale. It’s totally unnecessary, but I also like to have a very small, short vase with a few live flowers in it—just because that’s how I roll.

I also have a really nice sign that I display on an easel that says, “Book Signing Today!” You can put it outside the shop to draw customers. My sign has my name and a tag that says, “Authentic Southern Fiction” to let customers know what I write so they’ll know whether or not the book might be their cup of tea.

Finally, when you sign, try to keep your message as personal as possible. It’s very interesting to talk to fans, so chat them up if there’s time and try to use something you discussed in your conversation in your message to them—personalize it. Even if there’s not time to get to know your fan, you can say something like, “It was great meeting a fellow reader at “Random Shop Here,” and I wish you many smiles as you turn the pages of “Your Book Here.”

Book signings are fun in general—all the excitement and anticipation—and sometimes even the wine and cheese. But the most special part of the signing will be meeting your readers. They are extraordinary people who are committing their money and time to you. Though book signings are fun, they should also fill authors’ hearts with gratitude. Mine is bursting.

Monday, January 6, 2014

From Writing Break to Breakneck Writing

From Writing Break to Breakneck Writing

Sometimes a writer just has to take a break. And I did over the Christmas holidays. Sort of. Life has been a whirlwind since the release of Bikers and Pearls with all the promotions and blog tours. And then I had another book due right after the big push for Bikers and Pearls, so I also had to work on that. In the middle of it all, my readers wanted to hear more about two of the secondary characters in Bikers and Pearls, so, of course, I’m going to make my readers happy, so I started writing Jenna’s and Hogan’s story. What fun that has been.

I worked on it until the week before Christmas and then realized I’d fallen behind in the “life” stuff, so I closed my laptop and started doing the Christmas thing, baking cookies and treats, wrapping gifts, decorating, going to parties and visiting friends and family. You know, Christmas stuff.

Every night, however, when the whole house was quiet, and nothing was stirring, not even a mouse, I hopped into the heads of my characters and plotted what they were going to do and say when I opened up that file on the new Summerbrook novel. I came up with some really great ideas and plot points and hoped I wouldn’t lose them in the interim before I started writing again. I was worried.

This morning my worries were alleviated. I opened up that file I had not touched since the week before Christmas, read the previous whole chapter where I’d left off, and started typing. And you know what? It was all there. All the voices, thoughts, and actions I had imagined for my characters were still there, waiting to be typed.

The break had invigorated me, given me time to choose the correct moves and plot twists for my new book. And I had had sufficient time to think about those things, so there was no concern or trepidation about writing myself into a corner. The book was plotted and finished in that break. All I have to do now is get it on paper (or really, on my computer screen). This morning when I opened the file, the words came faster than I could hardly type. I went from a writing break to writing at breakneck speeds!

So, for you writers out there, if deadlines allow, you can take a short break with little or no consequences if you keep actively making decisions about your plot and characters during the break. And for you readers, I cannot wait for you to read about the laughs and perils that await Jenna and Hogan!

I hope you all had a marvelous Christmas break! Now, let’s get back to what we love—stories that inspire and entertain!