Blog, Link, Post, Share, Like, Tweet, Repeat

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When I started writing novels five years ago, I had no idea how much time I’d spend using social media and other digital means of communication in order to promote my books.  I’m still not exactly sure what Twitter is all about, but as I mentioned in my last post, I try to learn from my favorite authors and my writer friends, and attempt to do the things that they do.  So please don’t tell anyone.  Let’s just let everybody think I’ve got it all figured out.

Texting makes complete sense to me, but with Twitter, there’s this whole other system of abbreviations, hash tags, and other elements that I can’t quite wrap my head around.  Am I tweeting to the world at large?  If so, that puts significantly more pressure on which 140 characters I choose.  I did learn how to tweet a photo from my iPhone while at a book signing event with two other authors. They also taught me how to use the Square with my iPhone to accept credit card payments for book sales, when I don’t have a book seller handy to take care of that for me.  So I’m learning.

I always thought of myself as technologically savvy, having worked for three different software companies, early in my career, but it’s a whole new world out there now.  When I walk up to my car, it automatically unlocks for me.  I get in and push the starter button, and the seat moves forward to the exact position it knows I like.  Then I push one button on my steering wheel and tell my car to “call Patrick.”  It responds with, “Patrick, mobile, dialing.”  When he answers, I just start talking.  I never even have to take my phone out of my purse.  But the best part is the GPS.  The nice lady in the GPS tells me to “prepare to turn left,” and then “in 300 yards, turn left,” and when I reach the intersection she tells me, “turn left,” just in case I hadn’t understood her the first two times.

Being a control freak by nature, it’s difficult for me to blindly follow what my GPS tells me to do.  So when going somewhere completely new, I usually look up the address on Google Maps, and drag the little yellow man down to the street view so I can take a look around and become familiar with the area.  And if that’s not enough, which it isn’t, I usually print out both the directions and the map.  I hate being late, so while these measures may seem extreme, I have a pretty decent track record for being on time.  Sometimes, the printed instructions and the GPS disagree.  When that happens, I usually go with the printed directions.  But that clearly irritates the GPS, because the moment I make a turn she hasn’t directed me to make, she says, “route recalculation,” and I’m sure I detect a note of petulance in her voice.

I am constantly amazed by the tools at my disposal now days, but keep in mind that the first IBM computer I used was the size and shape of an upright piano, complete with a bench, that spit out long streams of ticker tape with holes punched in it.  The tape was automatically wound around two spindles, and when I removed it from the posts, I had to put a rubber band around it to prevent it from unrolling.  it was then manually dated and tossed in a box with all the other paper bow ties.  Mind you, I was VERY young at the time.

I do not fear technology, but rather strive to bend it to my will.  Sometimes it just takes a few tries.  Now I’m going to publish this blog post, link it to a Facebook post, share it on my Facebook author page, and like it, maybe in both places.  I might event tweet it, who knows.  Anything is possible these days.

 

 

Shadow of a Smile

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Last Sunday, June 22, 2014, I launched my third novel, Shadow of a Smile.  The launch party, held at Ippolito’s Italian Restaurant was a blast. I happily signed books one after the other.  Now that many of my friends and family have already purchased their copies, I have to begin the daunting task of marketing it to strangers.  Friends and family will buy the book because they like me and want to offer their support.  But marketing the book to strangers is a bit more difficult.  The book must stand on its own merits, of course, but first, readers have to know it exists.  That’s the tricky part!

Last year, when I launched In Her Keeping, I was two days away from back surgery.  I had hobbled into the bookstore, and parked myself in a comfy chair with an ice pack tucked in behind me.  It was sort of like I was the Queen, because if anyone wanted to talk to me, they had to come over to the table where I was seated.  I was also fairly heavily medicated, to manage the pain.  But if the photos taken at that event are any indication, I had a lovely time.  This time, I’m in excellent health, pain free, and ready to sign books every chance I get.

As president of the Atlanta Writers Club, I’ve had the opportunity to meet many of our local and regional authors.  As I launch my novel, several other southern female authors are also launching theirs.  And while they’re all many years and many books ahead of me in their careers, observing their process has been a great learning experience for me.  I truly admire these women, Patti Callahan Henry, Karen White, and Mary Kay Andrews, not only for their writing, which is marvelous, but for their ability to attract such a huge following.  They each make a dozen or more appearances, and pack the house at every stop.

I look forward to my book signing events in Oregon in July, when I go out to visit my dad, and to participating on a panel of authors at the Decatur Book Festival over Labor Day weekend.  Armed with my poster, easel, business cards, post cards and a box of books, I’ll head out to promote my work in a wide variety of locations this summer.  In recent months I’ve signed books in a plant nursery and an antique shop, and have been a guest author at several book clubs.  I truly enjoy meeting my readers and talking about the writing process as well as the books.  I hope that you’ll pick up a copy of my book, consider posting a review on Amazon, and if you’re in the Atlanta metro area, I hope you’ll invite me to your book club.

The following is the back cover text for Shadow of a Smile:

Following the untimely death of her mother in 1992, thirty year-old Meredith Springfield learns the shocking truth about her origins, the father she never knew, and the mother whose life was very different than it appeared.  When the attorney who prepared her mother’s will delivers Anastasia’s personal journals along with the keys to a trust fund Meredith never suspected she had, she and her boyfriend Derek embark upon a journey from Chicago to Los Angeles in search of answers, and to carry out Anastasia’s wish to have her ashes scattered in the Hollywood Hills.

In 1960, at twenty years old, Anastasia left her parents and the cold mid-western winter behind in Milwaukee and drove her powder blue Ford Fairlane down Route 66 all the way to Los Angeles, certain that’s where all her dreams would come true.  Just two years later, Anastasia is forced to retrace her steps, traveling back to Milwaukee with her dreams already shattered, a broken heart, and a daughter she would have to raise alone.

Shadow of a Smile takes the reader on two journeys across historic Route 66, from Chicago to Los Angeles, and back.  The first follows Anastasia to 1960 Los Angeles and the beachfront hotels where she would meet the man of her dreams and take to the stage for the first time.   The second, thirty-two years later, takes Meredith and Derek on a journey of discovery that has a greater impact on their lives than they could ever have imagined.

Once Anastasia is gone, and her carefully hidden secrets are revealed, Meredith gains a new perspective on her own choices, and must come to terms with the grey area between what our hearts desire and what is right.   Shadow of a Smile is a story about family secrets, the choices we let our hearts make, and living with the consequences.

 

In Her Keeping

My new novel, In Her Keeping will go into publication in about two months.  It’s a story about a woman who finds an outlet for her unfulfilled maternal instincts by raising tiger cubs in a sanctuary in North Carolina.  More details to come in future posts, but I wanted to share my inspiration for the novel.

There are more tigers in captivity in the United States than there are in the wild on the entire planet.  Their numbers are shrinking quickly in the wild due to loss of habitat and the extreme cruelty and waste brought about by poachers.  At first blush, the idea of having your picture taken with a baby tiger, and actually holding it in your lap, sounds like a very exciting experience, and it is.  However, if you dig a little deeper, you’ll find the rest of the story isn’t always quite so exciting for the animals.

On my 53rd birthday, I had the chance to spend thirty minutes in a cage with a twenty-pound tiger cub named Meka.  She was a perfect miniature version of the three, four and five hundred pound cats living on the property.  When I held her on my lap and fed her a bottle, my heart at once soared and shattered.  It was an amazing experience, one I’ll never forget, but I also realized that gorgeous animal would have to spend the rest of her life in a cage.  Though we paid a significant sum for our thirty-minute encounter, I took comfort in the certainty that she wasn’t bred for the sole purpose of generating revenue.  She was the result of an unplanned pregnancy.  They don’t breed big cats at this particular sanctuary; they rescue them, and provide a safe and comfortable environment for them to live out their lives.  Their desire is not to contribute to the problem, but rather to try and clean up the mess that has already been created, and provide the best life possible for these animals, given the circumstances.

Let me just say, that I have nothing but respect for the people who maintain accredited sanctuaries, and devote their time and energy to caring for these animals.  I believe that the sanctuary I’m referring to here is one of the good ones.  Two professional zookeepers closely supervised our thirty-minute encounter with the tiger cub.  In the weeks that followed, my research led me to articles suggesting that any interaction with the cubs may be inappropriate.  But I believe there are degrees of appropriateness.  This cub was healthy, well cared for, and she was eight weeks old. We had a short, supervised visit with her.  Compare that to other places where cubs are being taken away from their mothers at just three weeks old and set up in displays at the mall where they are passed from one stranger to another all day long.  I think most people would agree that’s inappropriate.

The inhabitants of this tiger sanctuary were retired from the circus, or rescued from people who thought they would make nice pets until they grew up and became too difficult to handle.  Some of them were rescued from “tiger farms” where cubs are bred for the sole purpose of being “pimped out” for photo opportunities.  But when these cubs get too big and are of no further use, they are often locked up in dark basement cages and left to starve to death.  Then their body parts are sold on the black market to be used in traditional Chinese medicines and their pelts are sold for home décor.

The plight of tigers in captivity in the United States is something most people are unaware of.  It’s an unfortunate result of shortsightedness and uninformed decision making over a long period of time.   Sadly, unless something is done, these magnificent creatures will soon disappear from the world entirely.  That loss will be significant.

Into My Shell

As an emerging author, my confidence in my writing is like a very thin shell around a pink and featherless creature.  I’m making progress, no doubt, but the truth is that it would still be very easy to crack the shell and smash the tiny embryo inside.

I self-published my first novel, Give Me Liberty, in 2010 and am about to be traditionally published for the first time with my second novel, In Her Keeping, which is scheduled for release in August of 2013.

Becoming a writer had always been a dream of mine, but I had no idea what I was really getting into.  It never occurred to me how personal my writing would be, and how difficult it would be to share it with the world.  I write fiction, so it’s not as though I’m giving away all my intimate secrets or anything, but when the words come from your very own heart and mind, no matter what the story is about on the surface, it is personal.  Every fictional character contains at least a tiny piece of you.  Sure, your characters are people who don’t exist, in theory.  And if they do, the names have been changed to keep you from getting sued. But as fiction writers, much of what we have to draw upon comes from inside our heads. Our writing is sprinkled with bits of memory and experience.  We can’t really help it.

I never had children.  I always wanted to, more than anything, but it just wasn’t in The Big Game Plan for me.  And though what I write is fiction, my first book was based on my late mother, the protagonist in my second book is a woman who can’t have children, and the one I’m working on now is about a woman who learns the truth about her past when she loses, yes, that’s right, her mother.  So do my fictional characters contain any part of me? You be the judge.

I really do have a point here, and it’s this: writing is very personal work, and while the purpose of becoming a novelist is presumably for other people to read what you have written, that part of the process can be very scary at first.  Readers have opinions, and I’m not deluded enough to believe that everyone will love what I’ve written, even those readers who love me.  I formed my writing from a blank page, nurtured it, groomed it and finally prepared myself to share it with the rest of the planet  It’s like my baby, and no one wants to be told their baby is ugly, but that’s the risk you have to take as a writer.  I need to believe in myself and have confidence in my writing in order to be successful.  So my task is to develop a protective shell that will provide a safe environment in which I can carry on with my work.

 

 


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