Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Trick or Treat!

It's Halloween and we're on our way to the beach! Yippee! To speak at the Business Professional Women's Symposium at the Outer Banks. The weather is to be warm and sunny for this almost November Day ... and I hope to fall in love with another part of North Carolina!

No tricks in the wind ... only the treat of a lulling ocean, a blue sky, and a new place to dream about going back to ...

I look forward to talking to the many bookstores Michael has mapped out for us and the women of the BPW.

I'll report back this weekend!

Blessings to you and yours.

Monday, October 30, 2006

How Bad Do You Want It?

I want to talk about a message I received yesterday... actually, it was part of this blog from a wonderful person named, Dale. The message to me was ...

Writing is the easy part. I think each part gets harder and more frustrating. Writing is like singing--everyone wants to, many try, but few are good, and rarely is one successful. Book promoting is, without a doubt, the hardest part and can get expensive before it pays off. I've read 98% of P.O.D. (print on demand) authors never make any money. The two biggest limitations for me are time and money. - Dale

This writer is correct on many counts ... The analogy between writers and singers is a good one. Writing is a craft, just like singing. Good singers spend most of their lives perfecting their voice and their technique, same with a good writer. It takes years of due diligence. A professional singer must practice ... a writer must essentially write every day.

I spoke on a panel yesterday ... the WGOT Annual Meeting presented a panel to members and the public on marketing and publicity ... "What Do You Do After You Write The Book?" The task is daunting, and I don't mince words about it. It is--daunting. It's overwhelming at times. But you MUST get used to the idea of promoting your work as part of being a writer. There's no way around it, unless of course, you just want to publish for the hell of it and you don't care if the book sells. But most writers ... want to sell their work. And like any other product made in America ... you've got to get involved in the marketing aspect.

It can be expensive ... gas, paper, printers, advertising, a publicist ... let alone the time involved ... it's tough. NO doubt about it. Create a budget ... and before you even finish your book, sit down with your spouse or significant other and talk about this. Create a marketing plan. You may be lucky enough to have a publisher that will chip in some bucks toward your publicity ... but as Dale is referring to P.O.D., or the self-published author ... there are web sites dedicated to helping these authors. Dan Poynter's web site is fantastic. Another is the Publicity Hound. And Book Promotion 101. Get on the Internet ... research it! Find something nobody else has found!

And yet, if you have decided that writing is your passion, it's what you want to do with the rest of your life ... then let's face it ... promotion is part of your impending success. You're going to have to deal with it eventually. Not every writer has the same resources. (Not everybody has a husband like mine. :-) Don't put it off ... network, get ideas from other writers, find inexpensive ways to promote yourself. Learn how to write a News Release, get free publicity when you can.

But I want to say that you can't believe everything you read when it comes to percentages and statistics ... Who writes that stuff? Self-publishing and P.O.D. is popular these days because writers don't want to be told they can't get their work published. They'll do whatever it takes. They're willing to take that RISK! And they ARE making money, I assure you!

Time and money can be huge limitations. And you can negatively allow them to affect your writing. Just don't let them stop you entirely.

How bad do you want it?

I went to a Biz Life luncheon at $30 a plate today, just to hear the world-famous Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole, President of Bennett College. She was the guest speaker for this Movers & Shakers luncheon. I paid the $30 because I heard her speak this past January and was deeply moved. I want to speak with the passion she delivers. I want to learn from her ... I wanted to be moved again and was willing to pay for it.

She was everything I anticipated, once again. Dr. Cole's message is one of SERVICE. Her concluding statement made me cry. Speaking to a crowd of 500+ people, all successful business people, she said, "Since you've made it to the top, you BETTER turn around and LIFT somebody up!"

I'm not sure where I am in the scheme of things when it comes to success, that's for sure. I know I don't have all the answers. But I do know this ... I'll never give up. And if I can take a few along with me ... so much the better.

Blessings to you and yours.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Booth Review

Just when I think ... it can't get any better ...

First a rant ... for all those who filed past my booth and said, "I don't have time to read," ... I want to say turn off the TV, and pick up a good book!

Okay ... that's done. On to the blog.

The past two days ... a grueling 6:30 a.m. to after 10 p.m. workdays ... all spent in a booth at the High Point Junior League's holiday shopping extravaganza ... and it absolutely ROCKED!

But let's start back on Thursday ... RF Microdevices ... sometimes you chock it all up to a learning experience. I'm sure the company is a wonderful place to work, the buildings are clean and beautiful, the grounds nicely landscaped, the people bright and cheery. But a word to the author-promoting-book wise ... HEALTH FAIRS are NOT a place to promote your book. (Unless you write medical stuff.) It's just not a place to sell FICTION!

First, it wasn't open to the public.

And second, employees weren't swarming into the frigid cold outside tent, and the few who did show up ... came to pick up free information, fill a bag with pens, refrigerator magnets, and free medical information. Employees drank hot chocolate, were glad to be away from their desks, and got their blood pressure taken.

Fact is, nobody comes to a health fair intending to buy a book! I sold three books and left early. Just not a venue for book promotion, that's all.

AND YET ... the next day we entered Providence Place in High Point (the old Belk's store in the mall) and set up our booth. By this time, we weren't expecting much from Thursday's "booth" experience.

But by Friday's end we had sold over 40 books! The venue was perfect. Small, intimate, great clientele. (Because it was a fundraiser for the Junior League--the public had to pay to enter, meaning they came with buying intentions!) The vendors were classy, no junk. The booths were spacious and I met so many great folk. The contacts were amazing! Networking ... the avenue to the stars. I met several women who were interested in me speaking at their groups or book clubs.

It was hard to believe Saturday's sales could outdo Friday's ... but they did! The "headlining" speaker at lunch ... I spoke to a room full! Over 90 women, bought tickets at $15.00 a pop to have lunch and hear this ole' Southern Fried gal speak. It brought tears to my tired eyes a couple times ... but Dena--you would've been proud of me, I made them laugh! Really, they were a great group of women, easy to talk to, the response warmed my heart ... by the end of the day ... another 60+ books sold!

A total of over 100 books sold in three days! Yeah ... we worked our butts off, but the pay off?

Huge, Mama.

It's near the end of October ... we've gone over our projected numbers of books sold! Southern Fried Women is still going strong and it keeps gaining momentum ... all because Michael and I think outside the box. We throw a lot of stuff up against the wall. Some sticks. Some doesn't. We market and promote the book, all while trying to find time for me to write. It equates to 7 days a week ... long hours ... but here's the difference:

It's our time. Our business. We work it ... our way. Take note writers. I realize not everyone can or will do the type of diligent and consistent marketing we do. But one thing you have to realize ... you MUST get out there, speak to people, talk to bookstores, find ways to get the word out about your book on a regular basis. I've said this before ... writing is the easy part.

It's what comes next that will take away your sleep and turn your hair gray overnight. But I would NOT trade what I do ... for anything. I'm a writer. It's part of the job.

Speaking of writers ... a plethora of women filed past my booth and proclaimed their desire to "write a book." None of them had the first clue of how and where to start. I encouraged these onlookers to stop talking about it and join a qualified writing group, take writing classes, attend a conference, go to the Internet and research, but the best way to start writing ... is ... to start writing! And to read. Turn off the TV and read. Set priorities, give up unnecessary wastes of time, and start writing!

Are vendor booths a good thing? Few are. Very few, in my opinion ... but this one, the booth at the Junior League, kicked butt! Yes, I'd say -- very successful.

Just when I think it can't get any better ...

it does.

Blessings to you and yours.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

My Calling

Is it that simple? Do people have "callings?" Does it sound preachy? (God forbid.) "Callings" are not an easy life. People take a lot of sh... okay, I'll be sweet ... FLACK for a "calling."

But, I have been called--to the life of writer and speaker. No other time in my life have I been surer of that fact, than the past two days.

I spoke Tuesday at the Winston-Salem Rotary, a larger Rotary group of men and women, approximately 200 strong in the audience. This prestigious group of dedicated and long-term Rotarians opened their hearts to me. I’m always a little hesitant before giving the speech, COMING OUT OF THE DARK AND INTO THE LIFE OF A WRITER, because I do lay my soul open for all to see … and some of it isn’t pretty. However the speech is inspirational and uplifting. Tuesday, I bore witness to that fact.

Several Rotarians greeted me as I finished my presentation and walked down the steps to proceed to my book-signing table. They wanted to shake my hand. They relayed how the power of the message moved them. Several prominent businessmen in the group wanted a copy of the speech. But one Rotarian stands out in my memory. A black man, distinguished, tall and handsome, he stood in his beautiful suit with pools of tears in his eyes. He shook my hand with vigor and said he’d been going through some trying times. That my speech blessed him and inspired him.

I was touched beyond words. I hugged him. I had to. It’s all I know how to do to respond to a statement like that.

The line formed for signing books. Many bought multiples, and nearly every person wanted to shake my hand, touch me, and tell me they appreciated my speech. Or they marveled at the way God had brought me to this place in my life.

I thought about it later. I’m constantly inspired myself, because I oftentimes feel like I’m in an out-of-body experience. Like I’m watching this all happen from a distance. At times, I’m blown away by the magnitude of the response to the speech. Riveted to their seats, audiences lean in and listen intently-- this country girl has something so vastly different to say from their normal weekly presentations.

I realize I'm not the only woman with a story to tell. And so many have gone through things I haven't ... like dreaded diseases or losing loved ones close to them. But this is a story nobody's heard. Something different. My story. A speech that until now, few if any, have stood at a microphone and spoken the words.

Today, I spoke to the Randolph Rotary in Asheboro. A smaller group, but a wonderful group of Rotarians. They too welcomed me with open arms and yes, the response mirrored the response of the Winston-Salem Rotary. This group has positively affected the lives of so many--within our borders and outside the U.S. Small but mighty, the Randolph Rotary is a shining example of Service Above Self.

Months ago, before writing this speech, I contemplated long and hard its content. I read and reread the quote by Harlan Ellison – “It is not enough to love literature, if one wishes to spend one’s life as a writer. It is a dangerous undertaking on the most primitive level. For, it seems to me, the act of writing with serious intent involves enormous personal risk. It entails the ongoing courage for self-discovery. It means one will walk forever on the tightrope, with each new step presenting the possibility of learning a truth about oneself that is too terrible to bear.”

And yet, Harlan Ellison also said, … “You cannot discourage a real writer … break a real writer’s hands, and s/he will tap out a story with feet or nose.”

And so … I wrote the speech, COMING OUT OF THE DARK AND INTO THE LIFE OF A WRITER. I'm nobody special. I know that. But I also know I have a destiny.

To write great stories. To speak and inspire the masses with the story of my life. This is my calling.

And the past two days … validated it.

Blessings to you and yours.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

West By God Virginia

Take me home ... country roads. It's a song near and dear to my ole' hillbilly heart. Sunday started early. At the crack of daylight, Michael and I headed for peak season--Fall color in the mountains of West Virginia, and the West Virginia Book Festival.

The weather grew colder leaving our blessed Carolina sunshine. But the breathtaking landscape around Fancy Gap, Wytheville, and Bland, Virginia on the way to the rugged Appalachian mountains of WV is something to behold. The color was magnificent. In my mind, I saw my dad as a young man with his red and black plaid wool coat, his hunting cap, and his rifle by the door. He was ready to hunt a few deer, maybe snag a squirrel or two ... "Good eatin', " he'd say. My blood warms every time I travel back to the land of my birth.

There's something about it. Something that draws me. As much as I love North Carolina and have no plans to ever leave it, the hills of West Virginia bring me much comfort. Autumn being my favorite season, it was a great reason to head to Charleston.

The best part of the book festival was meeting Rhonda White and Ross Ballard. Two great WV writers. Their love of words and books mirrored my own. Rhonda writes medical thrillers and Ross? Well, Ross is a man of many talents. He is also an actor and producer, I think I may be seeing Ross in the future about putting my book on tape/audio/cd. Rhonda, if I didn't know better, I'd say she was my long-lost sister ... I'm sure we'll meet again. Maybe for a tall, cold one. What do you think, Rhonda?

I sat at the West Virginia Writers table for a couple hours, signing books, greeting passersby, and speaking to other writers about the writing process and my book. A satisfying and relaxing trip, I'm looking forward to coming back in December and my speech at the Vandalia Rotary in Charleston.

My cousins popped in later in the day, they were a sight for tired eyes! I loved seeing them again. Mick and Donna, Charlie, Denise, and Debbie ... a great time with the kinfolk, and dinner at a fabulous Charleston Italian Restaurant. The Samples family has been a great supporter of me and my work ... I am ever grateful to them.

Traveling back home Monday morning, we stopped at Tamarack. Look it up. It's a great tourist stopping point on 77 South. They're carrying my book! Southern Fried Women can be purchased at Tamarack! Thrilled, I dubbed the short mini-trip to WV ... a total success!

If you ever get the notion to really see the beauty of the East Coast Mountain ranges ... they can be found in Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, and West, by God, Virginia ... because it is ... a mountain range made by the hand of God. I know they're not the Rockies. But the Appalachian mountains have their own unique appeal, climate, and people.

And, by God, I'll go every chance I get.

Blessings to you and yours.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Oprah and Rita

Oprah came to Greensboro this week-end. And so did Rita Rosenkranz. Oprah came to an event at Bennett College ... Rita?

Well, Rita came to Greensboro for the Writers' Group of the Triad, UNCG, and so many writers in the triad ... wanting to hear from a real live New York Literary Agent ...

Michael and I picked Rita up at the airport, toured her around Greensboro, and took her to dinner where members of the WGOT board and a few others gathered at the OHenry Hotel's Green Valley Grill. We toasted and hosted this prominent figure of the Industry.

Rita will speak Sunday Evening from 2-4 pm in the auditorium of Weatherspoon Art Gallery Corner of Spring Garden and Tate Streets. Although Rita is a non-fiction literary agent, she is connected with many writers, agents, editors, and publishers in the industry and will answer questions about fiction, short stories, memoirs, writing for children, etc.

The day was filled will endless sunshine, warm autumn breezes blew over Dixie today. A great day. Because how many women like Oprah come to Greensboro? Not many ... but hey ...

... Rita Rosenkranz is in town too.

Blessings to you and yours.

Oh … To Pee In My Own Potty

Ain’t it the truth ladies? Do you not hate public toilets with gaps in the doors? Wide enough for every four-year old to peek through! Or the Rest Areas where you have to walk a half-mile up a hill to stinky toilets? And why is there always a line? Then there’s McDonalds … where you never plan to eat, just a quick stop to use the facility and they look at you like … “Hey! You ought to a least buy some fries if you’re gonna use our toilet!”

I won’t even mention the truck stops and gas stations where the same sex toilets are so nasty you walk in and walk right back out swearing you’ll pee in your pants before spending two seconds in there. Used condoms on the floor, unflushed toilets, lids up … sorry for this sexist statement, but my husband agrees … men are pigs when it comes to public toilets. Searching frantically in my purse for antibacterial gel, I run to the car. Off to find a clean bathroom, even if it’s a hotel lobby somewhere … at least those are usually clean. And Lord knows, I’m no prude …I ’ve done my share of squatting in the woods, but I’ll take that over a filthy restroom any day.

Sigh. It’s a female curse. A literal road hazard.

Thank God, for my patient husband. Middle age will not allow me to wait long before I’m hollering … “I gotta pee … NOW!”

Anyway … after one too many stops on the way to Asheville, we finally landed at our last destination before going home. I’m dead-dog tired.

Malaprops. A bookstore that will make your head spin. The place is amazing. I presented my offering to the goddess behind the desk, in hopes she would catch a glimpse of the halo above my head and realize I’m worth a read … and possibly a book signing! We’ll see … I’ll let you know.

Asheville is the coolest town. Shops, cool bars, and neat restaurants. All in the backdrop of the mountains. Breathtaking. The leaves looked brighter in North Carolina, maybe because we were on our way home.

I arrived safely back in Archdale to 237 emails. I’m sorting through them … but all I can say at the moment, is it’s so good to be home, I nearly hugged my toilet.

Blessings to you and yours.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Farewell To Memphis, For Now

A trolley car took us from our hotel to downtown … Beale Street, again ... and the Gibson Showcase. Gibson … guitars. Ring a bell? They make Gibson guitars there … needless to say; Michael was in “hawg” heaven. My husband, having taught guitar, plays beautifully and is in the market for a new one … but that $2,000 item is going to have to wait a few more months.

Dressed to the nines, we went to what we thought would be a killer party. Crowded, about 300 authors/spouses/whatever showed up … but only for a buffet dinner. (We were way overdressed … I suppose T-shirts and blue jeans are okay no matter who you are and where you go these days … I’m just a little old fashioned, I suppose.)

Tennessee Humanities didn’t have a program or even a welcome, just the obvious … tables and balloon centerpieces, an open bar, and a long table of catered food. And I didn’t see anyone I really knew or recognized. The bigger name authors, to my knowledge, didn’t show up. But I suppose … maybe that’s a good thing. The rest of us schmoozed with each other … it was fun for a while, but I was ready to head out early.

Another walking trip up Beale, loud blues and jazz bellowing out from a dozen bars, parties of all ages, even a bridal shower party in pink shirts and cowgirl hats (a bridal posse) … strolled down the street. But it was time for another trolley ride to the hotel and sleep for me …

I’m such a party animal … zzzzzzzzzzz

This morning we headed back to Knoxville … up at the crack of oh, I don’t know … eggs in a pan for me … pancakes for Mike … yet another Cracker Barrel knock-off. Some Cracker Barrel wanna be. It was okay … hot food and a shot of coffee to our bloodstream … a necessary evil when you’re looking at putting 400 plus miles behind you in one day.

Traveling to Knoxville … Sunday … football all the way … (my headsets were glued to my head, tuned into my I pod … Fleetwood Mac, Allison Kraus, and Bruce Springstein.) The road ahead-- due East. I 40 looks the same in every state it crosses. Arriving at our last hotel for this trip, we prepare for one last stop on Monday morning.

The Mama bookstore of them all … Malaprops in Asheville, North Carolina.

Stay tuned …

Blessings to you and yours.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Elvis Is Everywhere, Man

The tour started at 10:30. A shuttle over to the grounds, the house looked small. A small Southern farm plopped down in the middle of the busy streets of Memphis. Compared to the mansions of the “stars” of today, the house was no bigger than some I see around Greensboro. But Elvis loved it. As materialistic as you think he was, he really … wasn’t.

The tour (self-guided) was crowded, but I enjoyed it -- immensely. Strolling around and through his home was surreal. I wondered if he could see us, invading Graceland, and if he’d rather that we … not.

But … the first glimpse of the inside, (think avocado green, orange, shag carpet, red velvet, white fur beds, and eight track tapes) totally 60s and 70s d├ęcor, was in a word … TACKY. But that was the period of the day we lived in back then. We were all tacky. Every last one of us. Elvis was just a little more flamboyant about his tackiness. He loved his home. You could feel it.

The man had more money than Donald Trump … he could’ve sold and bought homes all over the world. Each one a little bigger than the last. But not Elvis. Memphis was home to him. The poolroom, the stables, the jungle room, (oh Lord, it looked like a bunch of wild animals had been laid to rest in there, their skins covering the gaudiest looking furniture I’ve ever seen in my life.) But it reflected a life so far removed from the mainstream.

The whole house and grounds is now a national landmark. Can you imagine how Lisa Marie must feel; knowing her family home is a national landmark? Her home, a virtual museum? But Elvis represents a generation of men and women; some of us still babies when he made his first hit record. I remember him best as a man recreating himself in the 70s in Las Vegas, white leather jumpsuits, sweaty faces, and middle-aged spread. Yet Elvis was more than that. A gifted musician, a philanthropist, a giver of cars/homes/help, he wanted to be loved as he loved, adored as he adored others, and needing peace ... he went back to his roots ... his first love of Gospel and Country and Blues ... and Graceland.

I don’t think people like Elvis were ever meant to see old age. Elvis, John Lennon, Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Natalie Wood … I don't believe these beauties could handle aging. They were here for their time. A short time, but it revolved around them at the height of their careers and the prime of their lives. When they were the most beautiful. And when their lights went out, the world stood still for a moment. The rest of us ... remain to age.

Elvis lives everywhere … today … you can see it in the mourners filing past his grave. A beloved man, his music – groundbreaking … his life – a legend. (Note to tourists ... please do the rest of us a favor and DON'T take your children under 18 to Graceland. They don't understand it, and unless they behave, they ruin the moments for the rest of us who pay to see it!) But then of course, I believe that applies to taking children ANYWHERE in public. Another blog subject for another time ... perhaps.

A quick stop at Burke’s Book Store in Memphis (close to downtown.) Another older store, but quick with character as soon as you enter. Thousands of titles, established and easy to find, I felt at home immediately. I gave my book and press kit to a kind manager, who seemed … rather interested … I guess.

He was friendly, that was good and I can only hope this awesome store orders my awesome book. But only God will know that, in the end. They did, however, steer us to a great place for lunch … Huey’s! A local lunchtime bonanza. Sandwiches, burgers, red beans and rice, lots of great stuff. A local favorite, the place was packed.

Tonight … I’m off to a gala event for authors at a fancy/schmancy place on Beale Street. Tomorrow morning … we head back to Knoxville, and then home. I’ve not opened my email in a week. God help me.

Blessings to you and yours.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Hey, Y’all

I felt like crap the morning of my presentation. Nervs? Who knows. Maybe the time change. Memphis is an hour behind Greensboro and I wasn’t taking to the spicy food well. So we got dressed and headed to the festival early. I had hoped to feel better before my talk at 2:00. We ducked into the Marriott and the Magnolia Grille for lunch, and who do you think sat at the table next to me? Rolled in sitting in a wheelchair, I thought perhaps she’d broke her foot or something, but managing to get seated just fine, she giggled like a school girl. Lee Smith!

I thought about going over, just to say "hey." (I’m sure she didn’t recognize me.) But I felt … well, like she needed her space. And I wasn’t quite up to schmoozing … so I let the woman and her friend eat in peace. Two other gentlemen joined them later, but Michael and I relaxed and enjoyed our own lunch before heading to the festival.

(I relished the fact that I was sitting just feet from one of my all time favorite authors, a legend in these parts. Lee Smith. Sigh. She may never recognize me, but I'll always enjoy seeing her--even from a distance.) My point is, you just never know, aspiring authors, who you’re going to see at conference/trade show/book festival. Take Note!

A 2:00 p.m. presentation, a panel with Melinda Rainey Thompson, author of SWAG. We were given the topic, The Truth and the Fiction about Southern Women for the hour. Melinda and I both felt we’d have no problem coming up with enough material to wow our audience. Melinda went first, spoke graciously about how she developed the book, its content, and about the Southern woman from her point of view. Then she read from her non-fiction book, SWAG - Southern Women Aging Gracefully. It speaks to the hearts of so many women at various ages and times in their lives but especially the Southern woman. The chapters and her lists of everything Southern, stand alone, and are humorous yet thought provoking. I loved it. I bought a copy and took it back to the hotel to devour it. A great read. It should be on every woman's book shelf.

Thing is, Melinda and I worked very well together. We had the Southern woman, truth vs. fiction (a fine line, don't you know it) all sewed up! An audience of over 50 people, laughed and cried with us … an experience I’ll not forget anytime soon, I assure you.

I spoke next, read from Southern Fried Women, and the reaction and response thrilled me to the bone. When mentioning my novel, Televenge, the ooo’s and ahhh’s were the same as always. The response to my constant pitch of my novel is now universal. I swear. The same everywhere I talk about it. It's on its way, folks. I'm finding time to work on it ... no matter how busy I am.

But then, the real excitement had just begun. After speaking we were to head to the tables in front of the building. The weather was perfect. Sunny, blue, warm skies and no wind. The crowds mixed and mingled in and out of the buildings. As I walked through the grand lobby where the books of all the authors were being sold, someone grabbed my arm! "Ms. Cable, you’ve sold out of all your books, do you happen to have any more with you?"

Shock!

Michael had watched woman after woman pick up my book that morning and buy it. After finding we were down to 0 books, he ran to the car and then back into the building with books under his arm to supply the table. Twice!

I signed books and festival posters, and later went to dinner happy as a pig in … well … let’s just say barbeque!

Speaking of bbq … another evening walk to Peabody’s (the hotel with the ducks) okay … look it up … and then dinner at a restaurant you’d never know existed except someone said to go. Rendezvous. Exclusive, sultry, smokey, secluded, and very, very Memphis. You have to find the alley it’s in first. No sign, no storefront. No presence … not until you walk down a flight of stairs and enter a world from another time. Waiters, all older African-American males … white shirts, black bow-ties, aprons, and big smiles … dry-rub barbeque ribs, beans, slaw, roles and a pitcher of ice-cold beer! It wasn’t long and we realized we got there just in time. The wait for a table soon became an hour long. The rich folk who stay at Peabody's had found the alley.

But the wait is worth every tasty morsel. More spicey food for my tummy, but I figured it might be a while before getting back to Memphis, so I dug in with all ten fingers. Later that evening I decided to only eat light the next few days … I’d had enough pig for one week.

Hey, Y’all … go to Memphis! It’s an experience nobody should miss! At least once in your life … travel to the land of Elvis, the Mississippi River, cooked pig, and home of the Blues. It’ll do your ole’ heart some good.

Tomorrow, Graceland … in all its glory.

Blessings to you and yours.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Walkin’ On The Beale

After breakfast at Cracker Barrel, a chemical spill on I-24 West, dead stop traffic, lots of backpedaling, and a 45-minute detour through the countryside around Nashville, Michael and I finally arrived at Lightning Source and Ingram. An 11 a.m. tour through the facility (and omigosh, what an amazing facility) lasted over an hour. Lightning Source (my distributor owned by Ingram) … talk about high-tech! Thousands and thousands of square feet of space, taking up several blocks, prints and distributes even more thousands of books each year for publishers all over the country.

(Lunch at Hardees-yippee-how original) and a quick trip to Ingram to meet book buyer/author, Alethea Kontis. She has a new story in the latest issue of InterGalactic Medicine Show, an online magazine by Orson Scott Card http://www.intergalacticmedicineshow.com/ and edited by my close friend, Ed Schubert. Ed hooked me up with Alethea and after reading her awesome story, Small Magics, I had to meet her. It was no surprise to learn she was on her way to Memphis for the Book Festival, as well. Her new book Alpha Ooops!, a children’s picture book, is a scream … beautifully illustrated … fun!

The Tennessee landscape rolls from the Great Smokey Mountains to miles of white-crusted cotton fields. Acres of cotton, large farms all butted up against the Interstate. It’s a sight to see--a picture of the old South. My mind fills with story. I see the character and his mule … my plot thickens … hmmm … I take notes on the way to the next book store stop. The old man, his hair blends with the cotton, tells me about his mule … I’ll talk to him from time-to-time on this trip.

We arrive in Dickson, Tennessee. The little town reminds me of a tiny Asheville. Volume One Book Store is 30 miles outside of Nashville and appears to be more of a Hallmark Card Shop on the outside. But on entering, it’s a book lover’s paradise. An older store, yet one of those places you could loose yourself in. A store where browsing is involved. Here you stay all day and forget the time. With smiling faces, they took my book and press kit, promising to let me know if they’re interested in a book signing … I walked away, again satisfied, having met yet another book store owner.

(Note to writers: You don’t meet “owners” in Barnes & Noble, that’s for darn sure. It’s nice to meet the real decision-makers instead of employees who “have to send it to Corporate first.” Gotta love those independent book stores! And yes, Dena, they have cats! Especially the older stores, there's always a cat sprawled out over a book case or at the register counter. A fat cat that gives you that Mae West look and purrs, "For an extra dollar you can pet me. Go ahead, I dare ya.")

Cover to Cover, a little book store in Arlington, a suburb of Memphis, already had my book on their shelves! Thrilling! I felt so honored and the owner, a sweetheart, inquired as to a book signing in the Spring.

Off to Memphis, a quick look-see at the Convention Center and the set-up of the Book Festival, a check-in to our hotel, and then a hop, skip, and a boogy down to Beale Street. “Walkin’ on the Beale …” I get goosebumps thinking about it. What a place of history. Memphis is all about two things in my estimation. Music and barbeque.

The weather--cold and a bit raw, and the street not as crowded as anticipated. But the atmosphere, the home of the blues, drew me in. The bars, the lights, the sounds of the music echoing out to the street, a street (only two blocks long) where there are only pedestrians and no cars … it’s soothing to the soul. Dinner at Hardrock, too tired to go any further, we caught a cab back to the hotel.

Tomorrow it’s an amazing journey into the world of an author at her first invitation to speak at a major book festival! Stay tuned.

Blessings to you and yours.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Schmoozing

Writing, it has been said of late, is the easy part. It’s what you must do after the book is done that can be a real bitch! Schmoozing … a process of interacting with the industry. Authors MUST learn this ancient art. A necessary piece of the public relations puzzle in book promotion!

Most hate it … I enjoy it. Never having a shy bone in my body, I’m very much at home meeting new people. But if you’d rather slit your wrists than leave the comfort of your computer desk, then you need to find a way to motivate yourself … have deep pockets to hire it done … or hope your publisher thinks you’re the next J.K. Rowling and your book will outsell the Bible while they throw all caution to the wind and spend umpteen thousands of dollars to promote your work. Well, hmmm, I suppose it’s the dream of all authors … but unfortunately, not the reality. So buck up literati, learn how to smile, put on some nice clothes, take a speaking class, network and get out there!

And here’s the thing, new authors … even if your publisher agrees to put you on the road, making your connections for you, bookstores, TV appearances, radio spots, etc. it’s usually not for more than two to three weeks. You have little input, and when that blitz is over … it over. The rest is up to you. Be prepared to put your own publicity plan into motion. Two, three, even a month of constant publicity is not enough. Sorry to burst your bubble. Enough said.

We left North Carolina at 7 a.m. Our first stop on the way to Memphis landed us in Knoxville. Carpe Librum … classy, older store. I met the two owners just briefly. Friendly and welcoming I felt a warm sense they were truly interested in my book … they seemed to recognize the cover and both owners appeared to be very supportive to authors. I noticed many new titles on their shelves … the store was polished, yet a place where I imagined many in the community relaxing or searching for their next interesting read. I look forward to visiting that store in the future. Busy street, great store front, all around fantastic store.

A bonus store, one we didn’t have information on, but noticed across the street … Hargreaves … a new store only 8 months old. Their titles are not all the same as Carpe Librum, but the store owners were pleasant, even their dogs – two Corgi’s whose names escape me. They (the store owners, not the dogs) took my information with enthusiasm. (A press kit made up especially for this trip.) They said they would read the book and contact me … I’m happy with that.

Speaking of “shops around the corner,” we went in search of our next bookstore, The Shop Around The Corner (conjures up the You’ve Got Mail movie, doesn’t it?) … but alas, it was nowhere to be found. Either gone out of business, or so well hidden only the locals know of its location. NOTE to authors … if you’re seeking out the next bookstore to visit, check the web. If they don’t have a web site, chances are they’re not in business or haven’t the first clue as to promoting their store (or you.)

Off to Athens, Tennessee and in search of Village Book Shoppe. Two sweet ladies behind the counter, one the owner … seemed somewhat interested. Kind of hard to read, but the store was bright and friendly, and I always come away with high hopes.

Next stop on Wednesday was A Novel Idea … a store in Chattanooga. Great location, college area, quaint shops and at first, I wasn’t sure if it was just a store that sold only used books, but upon entering I could see they had a new book section. Great old store with lots of character. High ceilings, old plank floors that creaked, and a sweet storeowner that worked her own counter. (I love that.) I shook her hand …

“I’m on my way to the Southern Festival of Books in Memphis, stopping by book stores on the way, I’d like to introduce myself and my book …”

“Oh yes, I’ve seen this somewhere … were you at SIBA?”

“Why, yes …” And the conversation is off and running! You can do this too!

The next bookstore involved a trip up a winding, rather scary (yet beautiful) road on a side of a mountain to a town called Signal Mountain in search of Wild Hare Books. Owner, Judy, greeted Michael and I with a bright and cheery hello and a smile. Her tiny store was an obvious force in her community. My eyes immediately caught sight of the shelves for Southern writers! … and we clicked. I anticipate hearing from Judy in the future!

Lunch at Corkys Barbeque in Knoxville (traffic was horrible in Knoxville.) Corkys’ bbq … okay … certainly wasn’t Carter Brothers. Dinner … not worth mentioning … fast and cheap we were too tired to care and just crashed at a fast Italian food place before following bread crumbs back to our hotel and falling into bed.

Tune in tomorrow for the next days adventures of Mike and Pam’s trip to the wilds of Tennessee and the even wilder hunts for book stores! And then there’s the trip to Ingram and Lightning Source … What a tour!

Blessings to you and yours.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

On The Road Again

Finally, access to the Internet, but alas, cannot get into my email until I get home … I shall start at the beginning of this journey …

Last Wednesday morning early … breakfast at Panera on the run! On the way to the Southern Festival of Books in Memphis, Tennessee I closed my eyes. Leaving North Carolina I felt like Loretta Lynn … there she was, in the back seat of the ’53 Chevy, Doolittle is driving in the front, her arms are around Doolittle’s neck, kissing his cheek … “You want me to look for the radio towers, Doo?”

Mike I hit the road again, but my eyes were not searching for radio towers … we were following the route for bookstores!

I had hoped to blog from the road, but our little laptop is not built for wireless … and these days that’s about all the hotels have available. So not only could I not blog, there was no checking email either. The Sleep Inns on our route don’t have business centers in the lobby … and though we attempted to slip into other hotels and use their computers, they’ve caught on. Nowadays you have to use special codes/room keys/whatever … But I decided to “blog” on my computer’s Word program, then convert it to my real blog when I get access to the Internet … “There’s more than one way to skin a rabbit!” (Sorry, Dena, it’ an old saying from way-back.)

Productive and enlightening, public relations work is something every author needs to master. It’s all part of selling your work to the masses …. that integral piece of the puzzle in building your platform, making friends with your “fans,” finding your way in the literary jungle. And it starts with … drumroll …

Behold, The bookseller!

They may need you, but believe me, you need them!

Let’s put the big boys aside for a moment. Barnes & Noble, Borders, Walden Books, Booksamillion, Joseph Beth, etc. and let’s concentrate on the little dudes. The independents. “The Shop Around The Corner.” Those struggling store owners that spend literally 60 to 80 hours a week … making their stores work … hoping to break even … wanting to succeed … all while competing with the big boys. Authors, take note. It’s the independents that hold your hand, and if they love your work, THEY know how to get behind an author and sell their books.

We all want to have our books showcased at the front door by the big boys, there’s no doubt about that. But the independents work just as hard, maybe harder. Little independent store owners work round the clock and they also deserThey ve to be noticed—maybe more so.

So support your local independent bookseller. They don’t run their stores on “New York City Corporate Policies” … they run their stores with their hearts.

More tomorrow on our “blitz across the South!”

Blessings to you and yours.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Fem Energy

Oooo-baby-baby ... did I just coin a phrase? All I know is that dinner tonight was high Fem Energy! Lisa Wynn ... co-owner of the Greensboro based, high energy, entrepreneural group Hell on Heelz--owns Artisans Tea Company, Artisans Press, and writes great non-fiction. Brenda Shropshire ... co-owner of Hell on Heelz, Trainer to the "stars," and ... Dena Harris - What? You read my blog and don't know who Dena Harrs is?

Shock.

Okay ... www.denaharris.com ... go there for writer extroidinare.

My point is this ... We four women ... 3o something, 40 something, and moi --50 something ... sat at a table and plotted a game plan for the success of a new book ... a book of the highest quality ... a kick-butt book for ladies who want to see their dreams fulfilled. Written by Lisa and Brenda, this book will knock the socks of the rest! ooo-wee baby! Fem engery at its highest level! Look out Today Show ... here they come ...

Today, we got a taste of the energy exuded from the all-male, testosterone-filled, board rooms across America. Only it was over coffee at Panera. No expensive briefcases, but our bags are great Prada knock-offs. No Piere Cardin three piece suits on our mature feminine physics, but you won't see any trashy polyester on us either. It was one for all and all for one! The ideas flew around the table!

Confidence abounds with women like this ... it's catching ... it's amazing ... it's magic.

So watch out Literary World ... there are some new girls on the block ... and they're not messin' around. And to prove it, here's a quote from the soon-to-famous (mark my words, world) Lisa M. Wynn ... “Follow the path of the unsafe, independent thinker. Expose your ideas to the danger of controversy. Speak your mind and fear less the label of ‘crackpot’ than the stigma of conformity.”

See what I mean? These women are forces to be reckoned with. Take my word for it.

I'm off to Memphis in the morning ... the book tour is in high gear ... I plan to blog on the road ... so stay tuned!

... as long as my fem engery doesn't give out.

Blessings to you and yours.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Breakfast With Friends

I love to eat out. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing better than a great home-cooked meal. But slaving away in the kitchen day after day wears on a body. So once or twice a week, Michael and I eat out. My favorite meal to dine away from home is breakfast. Whether it's a sausage biscuit from Bojangles or a lavish spread of french toast, bacon, and fresh fruit at the Village Tavern, it's a great way to start the day!

Saturday morning, however, the friends of Archdale Library gathered together and spread a table in the library fit for any hungry Southerner! I don't know who made the quiche, but it rocked, as far as I was concerned. After filling our tummies, a panel of five authors spoke to a nice-sized crowd. The interest in our books sparked great conversations and many in the audience were aspiring authors. Our little Archdale Library is a special place of retreat for many in my small community. The library sits amidst a rolling landscape of large trees and manicured lawns, but the support it gives to local authors is commendable.

Sunday ... Bob Evans was the meeting place ... our dear friends Blair and Dena met us for the pig-out breakfast feast. We plan and dream about the future with these precious ones. Dena Harris, writer extraordinaire, http://www.denaharris.com/, and I plot and plan our next move in the literary world. Together, we lend great support to one another. It's been that way now, for the past 2 and half years ... and I expect to be around when she wins the Pulitzer someday.

We're off to Memphis this week, and the Southern Festival of the Book. I'll keep you posted. Of course, when we're on the road ... I long to come home. Home is where I work best ... writing ... sleeping ... and of course run out for breakfast whenever I can manage it!

Blessings to you and yours.

Friday, October 06, 2006

A Memorable Evening

It's like the day after Christmas ... so much excitement, the build-up, the planning, preparation, practice, and then ... it's Showtime!

The night took my breath away. Is this any hint as to how one must feel on opening night on Broadway? Maybe just a little, I suppose ... but for me ... it might as well have been ...

The stage was a church altar, the music pit only one piano with a very accomplished composer. The audience ... friends--family. The crew--Michael, and Steve the light and soundman. The cast ... (sigh) just me. And, of course, Rose at the piano.

And yet ... the night was the most memorable evening of my life.

I felt swept away ... up and away into the stories, the music, and then I sang. Oh yes, you heard me right. I sang. A cappella, no less. But in order to do that, I had to go back in my mind ... into the dim mists of time to a place of tabernacle and tent revival days. And though Rose said I'm a Contralto, a voice range many singers would LOVE to have ... I just sang in the manner of my childhood. The days my sisters and I would play church on our back porch steps ... sing our hearts out. To the only songs we knew. Gospel.

And ... it worked. At least that's what my critics said. A few asked me afterward at the reception who my voice teacher was. I laughed good and hard.

Rose played like an angel. Her performance--flawless. She glided across the piano with the skill of those who play at Carnegie Hall. The result was a tearjerker.

"Not long enough!"
"Amazing!"
"A professional performance of the highest quality!"

.... some of the comments afterwards. Ah, shucks, folks. I'm speechless.

And then came the invitations ... to perform at Southern Pines, and other notable venues. It’s something to think about.

And then from an all-time high to arriving at the Jamestown Library this afternoon to an audience of 0. Zero. Zip. Nada. Nobody showed. So, Mike and I toured the historical library, bid farewell to the gracious and sweet librarian who booked us, offered to return on a better day, and headed home. To prepare to speak again tomorrow. To hopefully, a room full of beating hearts.

Oh, the highs and lows of a being an author who speaks. You just never know. One night the place is packed, jammed to the rafters, the crowd is amazing ... and then the next day ... you wonder if the world has come to an end.

Who knows ... memorable evenings carry you through good times and bad. Abundant fans and sparse crowds of two. It's always a risk ... every word you write, every time you step out the door. But it's worth every second of it.

I wouldn't trade this life, this series of memorable evenings for anything ...

Blessings to you and yours.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Need of Rotary

Yesterday I spoke to a room full of Rotarians in High Point, this time a different group ... FurnitureLand Rotary. Appropriate, as High Point is the furniture capital of the WORLD. (Twice each year the world comes to High Point for the Spring and Fall Furniture Market.) Just a tid bit of information ...

But this group of business people welcomed me and listened intently to my speech. Afterward, the book sales were once again astonishing ... enough so, that I gave 20% of the proceeds back to the Rotary for their fund raising campaign. It's a great feeling to give back ... it's as satisfying as selling the book to me. (Oh yeah, right ... I hear your comment ...)

Believe it or not, it's true ... and if you ever get the chance to hear my speech, COMING OUT OF THE DARK AND INTO THE LIGHT OF A WRITER, you'll understand why. Why it is that giving back is important to me. If you have ever been in need, you know what I mean.

Consider yourself lucky if you've never gone without. Consider yourself blessed. It's great to have and not want for much. Most Americans fill that category. But the Rotary, I'm finding out, have many honorable causes and helping those who are down on their luck, in need of a helping hand, or searching for their next meal ... are usually among the list of causes the Rotary raise funds for.

Many of the characters in my stories have great needs. Out of that need a writer can create great conflict and resolution. To reach back into my past and remember those feelings, emotions, and moments of desperation ... I have a treasure chest to draw from.

I only wish I knew about Rotary back then.

Blessings to you and yours.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Regal and Raw

I spent yesterday afternoon practicing at the church where I'll be performing with Rose Lindsay Pfaff ... Southern Fried Women, the musical ... IF AT ALL POSSIBLE, YOU MUST COME HEAR THIS! An amazingly beautiful presentation, Rose brings absolute tears to my eyes each time her fingers float across the piano. My rough, raw, Southern stories mixed with the elegant and regal music of Rose Lindsay Pfaff is nothing short of ... magic.

I cannot describe to you the overwhelming gratitude I possess for people who have come together to make this coming Thursday night's performance a success! The list is endless. So many have donated, time, money, food, and endless hours of preparation.

I'm convinced it's not their love for the arts, but because so many of them know and love Rose Lindsay Pfaff. It seems, all Rose needs to do is ask and people respond! Therefore, my thanks to her for picking up the book and reading these stories ... I cannot thank her in a simple email, thank-you card, or blog. All I can do is my best work for her. She directed and choreographed this production. She, along with the Books and Arts committee of the Women's Professional Forum, produced it. And it's amazing.

I feel myself entering a new realm ... and I wonder if other authors ever feel that way. I don't always know where this life is taking me, this life of writer, speaker, author ... Most of the time it's grueling work, nose to the grindstone, days and nights alone at the computer ... for months at a time. But occasionally, the sun comes out and we see the fruits of our labor.

This Thursday evening, I am but a small part of a beautiful presentation that bears the title of my book. Of course, I read clips, bits, and pieces throughout, but it's the music ... the glorious music that's been lovingly placed around the words that has made me proud to be a part of such a production.

I'm realizing the vast congregation that love the Southern culture and it's unique speech, music, and the lives of their ancestors. I watch folks cling to it as I speak to them about the Southern woman and those she loves. I observe it in their eyes, and the more I speak it is the one thing that's confirmed to me over and over again. The South is not only a place to live; it's an art form, a culture unto itself, a way of life that will never die.

It will never die, because of the writers who write about it. And because of the musicians, like Rose, who keep the old songs of the South alive. A blend of regal and raw, like nothing you've ever seen.

October 5th, at 6:30 p.m. promises to be another page in my memory book. I hope you'll make it out to Holy Episcopal Church on Greene Street in Greensboro for this event ... but if not ... stay tuned ... because there will be a DVD in the future!

"Lord, Lord ... who'da ever thought, this ole' barefoot, poor, hillbilly gal would end up readin' her stories center stage? mmm-mmm."

Blessings to you and yours.